20 Things to Find in a Smuggler’s Lair

Smugglers often lurk in hidden, isolated caves. Such locales provide the perfect base from which to pursue their nefarious profession. However, such places are rare pristinely tidy and without points of minor interest to exploring adventurers.

A Lonely Beach by Matt Morrow

A Lonely Beach by Matt Morrow


Use the table below, to determine what the PCs find:

  1. A discarded sack lies against one wall; grain—now rotten—spills from a rip near its base and covers the floor. Footprints are evident in the grain and could give the PCs a clue about who has recently passed this way.
  2. A crude map depicting the coastline and showing several little known isolated coves and sea caves covers one wall. Drawn in chalk, the smugglers try to rub it out if they know they are being attacked as it shows the locations of several of their secret caches.
  3. This area smells of sweat and faeces. Several sets of manacles are affixed to the wall with iron chains running through loops driven deep into the stone.
  4. Several sets of wet, homespun clothes lie draped over several natural folds in the cavern wall. Damp from immersion in the sea, the clothes are encrusted with salt.
  5. A pile of fishing nets fill one corner of the cavern. Bits of seaweed cling to the sodden nets and a small puddle of saltwater has gathered below them.
  6. A carving of a sailing ship running under full sail before a raging storm covers one cave wall. The carving has obviously taken hours—if not days—of skilled work and cleverly uses the rock’s natural folds to depict the storm clouds.
  7. The tang of salt and the smell of smoke hang heavily in the air.
  8. A half-full barrel of fresh(ish) water stands against one wall. A small bucket—really nothing more than an oversized tankard—perches atop the barrel’s lid.
  9. Three barrels holding salt water, but without their lids, line one wall. Two of the barrels hold nothing but water while at the bottom of the third lurk several crabs destined for the smugglers’ stew.
  10. An old, rusted harpoon leans against one wall; faint carvings of cresting waves decorate half of the weapon’s shaft.
  11. Several niches pierce the walls; the entrance to each is obscured by a tarpaulin nailed to the wall with several pitons. Investigations reveal the niches serve as cramped, uncomfortable places for the smugglers to rest.
  12. A large, haphazard pile of driftwood—destined for the smugglers’ fires—fills part of this area. The wood is sodden and difficult to light.
  13. A small shrine dedicated to the goddess of the sea and storms fills a small wall niche; half-burnt candles and a few coins serve as votive offerings to placate the goddess and her capricious moods.
  14. The smugglers use this hole in the floor as a dump of sorts. The hole is linked to the sea and tidal; thus rubbish does not build up too much. However, fish bones, bits of shredded cloth and other rubbish cover the surrounding floor. A small cat—pet to one of the smugglers—lurks here playing with a mouldering fish corpse. It hisses at intruders.
  15. Here the floor level changes dramatically. The smugglers have built a rickety wood stair out of planks salvaged from a wreck. Although basically sound, the stairs creak if any great weight is placed upon them; this sound could warn any smugglers lurking nearby.
  16. An empty wineskin lies discarded on the floor; the faint smell of acidic red wine emanates from the skin.
  17. The furniture here—a table, two benches and a high-backed chair—are all expertly crafted from driftwood. Although they have no real value, a gullible eccentric could pay perhaps 20 gp for the set.
  18. A ship’s lantern hangs from the ceiling at the end of a short chain. In turn, the chain is wrapped around a jagged rocky outcrop which causes the lantern to sway gently. Three flasks of lamp oil lie against the wall.
  19. Some acoustic fluke fills this section of caves with the sound of crashing surf, making conversation difficult. However, the pounding of the waves against the cliffs also makes it much easier to sneak about quietly.
  20. Several strange, almost sinuous outcroppings of rock protrude from one wall. From one angle, they look a little bit like tentacles—as if some terrible aquatic beast of the deep had been petrified in some way and melded into the cavern wall.

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20Front_#4_220This article appears in  20 Things #4: Smuggler’s Lair, which is available now. It will also appear in GM’s Miscellany: 20 Things II, available in March 2017.

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