In the deep, hidden places of the world where darkness rules, lurk dangers beyond the wildest nightmares of most who dwell in the sunlit uplands of the surface. Only the bravest and most skilled adventurers dare to invade the realms of the depraved duergar, the insane derro or the spider-worshipping drow. Beyond these terrible threats lurk the predators of the wild lands chief amongst them the feared purple worm and the implacable roper.
Characters exploring the lightless depths of the Ebon Realms will no doubt often come across the denizens of the place. While some encounters will be deliberate on the PCs’ part, some will be wholly random and unexpected. Almost all will end in battle.
Running a campaign or extended adventure in the deep places of the world, though, requires extensive preparation and planning if it is to be more than a series of boring random encounters. Use the table below, to generate the basic details of an atypical random encounter.
- Beyond Ruin: The boundaries between the Material Plane and the decaying expanses of the Abyss are weak within this cavern. Leaching through the walls is a horrible brown sludge made up of rotting souls corrupted by a fiendish taint. Revelling in this chamber is a daemon-touched rust monster called Blight’s Kiss. He is jealous of his realm and defends it to the death.
- Death From Below: As the PCs move through a large cavern, a hungry purple worm senses their presence and swiftly moves to attack. Characters succeeding on a DC 25 Perception check sense something large burrowing beneath them, one round before the purple worm bursts forth. (Related article: 20 Things to Find in a Purple Worm’s Stomach).
- Enemy Within: The PCs meet the svirfneblin rogue, Arumlen Stoneheart. Sadly, this benign gnome scout has recently fallen prey to Eirmurh Alymm, an advanced intellect devourer. The intellect devourer is in search of a new body and the arrival of the PCs provides it with the opportunity it has been seeking.
- Mercenaries of the Ram: The PCs meet a small band of mercenary minotaurs hunting for their hated enemies—troglodytes. The minotaurs are hunting the Black Spear troglodyte tribe. The two groups have been engaged in a war of skirmish and ambush for many years. Recently, the troglodytes’ superior numbers proved decisive, resulting in the slaughter of the minotaurs’ women and their destruction of their home. The minotaurs are ferocious warriors happy to slaughter weak-looking parties. However, their goal is to slay troglodytes and thus they do not immediately attack numerous or obviously-strong parties. In fact, they may even temporarily ally with the PCs, if they are also fighting trologodytes.
- Pillar of Twisted Glass: Nearly two hundred years ago, Safraz Akram, a djinn noble, struggled with the efreet Shani-el-Sharnassa across the planes. In a final gambit, Safraz ordered his sand mephit allies to envelop the blazing efreet, fusing them together as a massive, twisted pillar of glass. Unable to destroy the glass obelisk binding Shani-el-Sharnassa, Safraz hid his rival in a forgotten cavern deep in the earth.
- Strands of Terror: The PCs stumble into the lair of Deravnix a gigantic, elder roper. This old and canny hunter has established himself in a cavern featuring a wide, deep chasm and waits for prey to come to him. Although evil and depraved, he enjoys speaking with those that have fallen into his grip
- Taken for a Ride: The PCs discover a small mining operation. Abandoned by its duergar owners forty years ago, when an insane derro animated the mining equipment on a whim and turned them against the duergar, the area still possesses a threat to explorers. As the PCs explore the tunnels, they come across a junction cavern used as a tools storage site and switching area for the mine’s ore carts. The ore cart and tools are animated objects.
- The Bleeding Lens: This cavern houses Kihsa, a woman cursed to bear the form of a medusa after she destroyed an ancient temple-library dedicated to the goddess of knowledge. Kihsa fled underground, chased as an abomination by her community, and lairs here, researching methods of regaining her natural form. Kihsa’s monstrous visage is framed by writhing, barbed scorpion tails and her gaze transforms creatures to flawless glass.
- The Last Nail: Last Nail is the blade made famous by Nornell the Havoctide on his bloody rampage through the Ebon Realm and the Bleeding Nights of slaughter in the lands above. No ordinary weapon, Last Nail is a vampiric mimic who devoutly worships battle and blood. His obsession holds him to the extent that he takes the form of a rust-coloured weapon and yearns to be wielded in sanguinary battle-feasts.
- Whispers in the Dark: A small hunting band of derro lurk in this cavern. In the main, the cavern is quite ordinary, but in one corner phosphorescent mold has grown over the skeleton of a fallen minotaur warrior. The leader of the derro, Jvix, enjoys using his powers to give the skeleton a semblance of life. He hopes this will draw travellers into the cavern so that his minions can launch their ambush.
Need these encounters quickly? These summaries are based on a selection of those presented in Caves & Caverns designed by Creighton Broadhurst and David Posener. Each comes ready to go with all relevant stat blocks, descriptions of the caves and more.
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David started gaming with the book Grey Star the Wizard, circa 1985, back when we eschewed that dice business and goddamn STABBED out random numbers. The next year, he received the D&D Basic Set red box as a birthday present and has been gaming ever since. His GMing style has been likened to a horrible Frankenstein combination of historical epic, gritty survival horror and Flight of the Concords-style song-filled whimsy. He is yet to live down naming a NPC “The Crimea Reaver”.
David adores his long-suffering wife and two sons who, frankly, have no idea what he’s talking about most of the time. David is based in Sydney, and his work as a Logistics Consultant, much to his disappointment, contains fewer undead-filled warehouses and demon-possessed forklifts than he was led to believe.
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