10 Atypical Caves

Not all caverns are stuffed full of monsters, traps and other hazards. In a prolonged exploration into the deep, dark places of the world, the PCs will discover and explore many caves and caverns. Some will be unremarkable; others will have interesting features or layouts.

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)


Use the cavern descriptions below as campsites, encounter areas or as nothing more than cavern dressing. The descriptions have been designed to read aloud to your players.

  1. This long, thin cave is barely 15-foot wide, but at least 30-foot high. A narrow ledge slopes steeply upwards towards the ceiling, but disappears into a narrow opening in the wall. A light covering of rubble obscures much of the floor, but here and there it has been pushed aside into small piles. Another exit at the far end of the cave continues onwards.
  2. A dense field of lofty, slender stalagmites fills the cavern. A narrow trail twists and turns through the stone forest; in several places, stalagmites have been deliberately smashed to forge a way through. Rubble lies heaped up against the pathway, creating the illusion of a sunken lane passing through a forest.
  3. The sound of gentle rain fills the air. A pair of deep pools of crystal clear water, separated by a low, narrow ledge of polished stone, dominates this vast cavern. Water drips from a forest of stalactites hanging from the 40 ft. high ceiling. Some of the stalactites are so long their tips nearly brush the surface of the water.
  4. The floor of this cavern descends through a natural set of three wide steps covered with loose rubble. A pool of clear, still water fills the lowest level of the cavern. Tiny albino fish swim through the pool’s depths and small insects flit about its surface. Beyond the pool, two passages lead away into darkness.
  5. A chasm, roughly 15-foot wide and of unknowable depth, cuts across the cavern. A slender stone bridge once spanned the gap, but its central portion has crumbled away. The bridge has no railings and is essentially a length of thin, flat stone seemingly grown from the chasm wall. (Perceptive PCs will no doubt realise the stone bridge was created by magic)
  6. A smooth, glistening stone column easily ten-foot in diameter rises from the cavern floor. Water oozes down the column, which has almost reached the cavern ceiling 20-foot above. Rubble covers the surrounding ground. Stone stumps thrusting up from the floor suggest many smaller columns once surrounded the remaining giant, but someone—or something—has smashed them to pieces.
  7. The ceiling of this cavern is dangerously unstable. Dust sifts down from above and rubble covers the floor. Occasionally, the ceiling groans as the stone shifts and settles. In one part of the cavern—near another exit—part of the ceiling has already collapsed. The fallen rubble has formed a high natural breastwork of sorts and almost blocks the exit.
  8. The muddy floor in this cavern slopes steeply upwards toward three exits piercing a rough wall down which splashes a small waterfall. Dirty water runs from the overfull pool at the waterfall’s base down the sloped floor. The mud is thickest at the base of the slope. The going is difficult and dirty.
  9. Much of this large cavern’s floor has collapsed into a rubble-filled pit. Small pinnacles of yet stable rock thrust up from the rubble, providing determined adventurers a means of continuing their exploration. The pit is deep; a fall from a rocky pinnacles results in a 30-foot fall. Four obvious passageways intersect this cavern although only three are easily accessible via the stone pinnacles. Perceptive explorers spot a fifth, rubble-choked exit in the pit.
  10. Great cracks cut through this cavern’s ceiling. A faint breeze and the stench of rot and decay emerges from these cracks along with long, flaccid roots. The roots reach all the way down to a network of small streams cutting through the cavern floor. The streams are sluggish; mould and lichen covers their steep banks.

This article appears in 20 Things #11: Dark Caverns.

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