RPG Adventure Hook: Spelunking for Beginners

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This week, are those stalagmites or stalactites? The answer is neither…

The cave sat, dark and dank after the spring rains. Fresh mud made trudging through a chore at times. The air was earthy and thick. The drow had come this way for certain, there’d been no branching paths or pits for them to slip into… and here and there the mud had been disturbed, marred by strange, spindly tracks. They couldn’t be far now. And when the light from the torches was banished by an unnatural darkness full of the sound of rustling cloaks–well that was a sure sign the drow were here…

This Adventure is meant for players of 4th-5th level.

The PCs run across a ransacked dwarven caravan. The wagons are in ruins, and the surviving dwarves beg the heroes’ aid–a band of drow have seized the goods and a number of the dwarves who were a part of the caravan. With a little bit of luck, and a whole lot of haste, the players might be able to catch up to the drow and rescue the dwarves before it is too late. And what could go wrong pursuing the drow into the caverns beneath the earth…

High heroics await the PCs after they come across the remains of a drow attack on a caravan of dwarves. After rendering aid to the survivors, they learn that a band of drow attacked their caravan, stole their goods, and kidnapped their people. The dwarves offer the heroes a cut of their caravan’s loot if they can chase down the drow.

The drow are not hard to find. They were relying on haste to be their ally, so the PCs easily track them to a cavern where they have taken refuge…but all is not as it seems. A small rear guard of drow wait just inside the cave mouth, and though they may ambush the PCs they quickly surrender–they are more interested in escaping with their lives. If spared, the drow tell them about an even greater danger lurking further in…

As the PCs explore the caves, they’ll learn that not everything is what it seems. They can rescue the dwarves from a group of giant (and hungry) spiders, as well as discover what lurks at the heart of the cavern, hungry for blood…

Read on for more details, or skip below for all the stats you’ll need!


(Cara)vans Warped Tour

The Glittering Gem Trading Company was about to have its fortunes change. Owned and operated by Varlo Jeth, Dwarven Entrepeneur Extraordinaire–the caravan recently came into possession of some exquisite silk after Varlo’s best friend (and captain of his guards) Ivonne “Vonnie” Hammerskull rooted out a nest of giant vermin. The two agreed to take their newfound merchandise cross-country to sell (perhaps they are headed for the docks at Orast).

However all that changed when a band of drow attacked their caravan while en route and made off with the silks, their food, and several of the guards. Vonnie and her second-in-command fought a desperate last-stand, but were badly injured and left for dead. Now those two dwarves are all that remain and when the PCs wander across their cavern, they are in bad shape.

A quick DC 10 Medicine check will get them back on their feet, as will any kind of healing magic. The dwarves are grateful for any aid the PCs can provide, but upon noticing the state of the caravan will despair. Vonnie takes charge of the situation, offering the PCs a cut of the loot if they can retrieve their missing goods and, more importantly, their missing people.

She seems guarded here–but a DC 12 insight check will reveal she’s more worried about the people than the goods–in particular, Varlo, whom she has grown quite fond of during their journeys together. She has plans.

The PCs have no trouble tracking the drow. They were carrying prisoners, it has been raining recently and the mud is thick (though not enough to be difficult terrain just yet), and they were making no particular effort to hide themselves, making all haste for the safety of the caverns nearby…

Drown and out

The PCs follow the trail of the drow to a nearby cavern. Inside the cave mouth the air is dank and earthy. Light spills in, but hiding away from it are a small rear guard of drow. 6 of them wait, hidden in the shadows and alcoves (DC 15 to spot them). When the PCs wander in, they immediately hit them with the old one two punch: the first drow to act casts darkness, attempting to isolate one or two of the PCs, and the second one to go follows up with a faerie fire on those caught out of the darkness. The remaining drow attack the outlined players with their crossbows and then close for melee.

However, these drow are not in it for the long haul. They will not fight to the death–as soon as two or more of them have died, they will yield, surrendering to the players. If spared, they explain that they were tasked with giving the prisoners to Lolth’s children, which they did, but as they finished, they heard screams from their fellows and opted not to investigate. They were waiting for darkness to try and get out of the cave when the PCs came along.

Additionally, if the PCs spare the drow, they will tell them about a secret cache of treasure–a hidden alcove in the next corridor contains a small store of potions that were meant to be used by priestesses of Lolth in times of need. The drow won’t risk their goddesses wrath, but assume the PCs don’t care–inside the alcove are three potions. Two greater potions of healing, and one mysterious potion that seems to be made of liquid mist. A DC 13 Arcana check reveals that it grants a spider’s senses to whomever drinks it–namely the imbiber gains blindsight out to 30 ft. And darkvision if they don’t already have it. The effect lasts for 1 hour.

Spidey-sense is tingling

At the end of the next corridor is very obviously the room where Lolth’s children await. It is a large cavern and is full of webs. Lurking in the ceiling are enough spiders to warrant burning the cavern to the ground. Leading them is Galraunath, a monstrous spider that has been warped and twisted by the “favor” of Lolth. Accompanying her are two more Giant Spiders, and 4-6 Giant Wolf Spiders.

The spiders lurk hidden up in the shadows of the ceiling (DC 18 to spot), and can use their web sense to determine when the players are walking across their rooms. The Giant Spiders attempt to web their foes, while Galraunath uses her darkness to ensure that the PCs have every disadvantage. They attack as a pack. If you want to spice up this encounter, describe the writhing mass of spiders on the ceiling, and add in a swarm of spiders (or 2).

Also in here are the prisoners. They have been wrapped up in webs, and have been paralyzed by spider venom, but have yet to become a feast for the spiders. They are grateful to be rescued–and a relieved Varlo will look around, almost in a panic as he asks the adventurers if they know of Vonnie’s fate. He says they heard the other drow take the goods into the next cavern, and there was some fighting, but the fighting died down after a bit.

The dwarves are unwilling to go beyond, and instead return to the surface (they are injured as well as poisoned, no fun for anyone). Though they will point out the handful of gems littering the cavern (worth approximately 500gp per player).

The Disadvantages of Cave Diving

Assuming the PCs push on in pursuit of the stolen silk, et al. they follow to the massive cavern adjoining the spider’s room. This has a high ceiling (60 ft., to be precise) and is littered with stalactites and stalagmites.

Naturally the majority of these are piercers and darkmantle. Waiting near the center of the cavern is a roper. All of the creatures lie dormant as the PCs approach, though as soon as at least two are within 50 ft., of the Roper, it awakens, lashing out with its tendrils. The path to the roper is littered (on the ceiling) with piercers (its children). There are four piercers waiting near the roper, and they will fall on any PC that is either dragged or that moves underneath one of them.

Additionally a flock of 4 darkmantle lives in this cavern, they have a symbiotic relationship with the roper/piercers and will join in the attack. Before the roper awakens, the darkmantle will descend on the PCs, creating an aura of darkness around them as they attempt to attach to the heads of erstwhile PCs.

This might be a hard fight–but when the players prevail they will find the stolen goods. They can also retrieve the dead bodies of many of the drow raiders (who have been killed by the creatures that live in here), and retrieve 10 sets of weapons and armor, none of which is magical (if your PCs go for that sort of thing).

Upon returning to the caravan, the PCs are welcomed warmly, and offered a cut of the haul as reward. Feel free to determine an appropriate amount, we recommend 800gp per player. After this, especially if the PCs bring back an unharmed Varlo to a healed Vonnie, they’ll have made some friends for life, who can always be counted on to be an extra hand in need, or for a discount on goods and services (as much as a dwarven merchant can provide, anyway).

 


Roper

Large monstrosity, neutral evil 

Armor class 20 (natural armor)
Hit points 93 (11d10 + 33)
Speed 10 ft., climb 10 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
18(+4) 8(-1) 17(+3) 7(-2) 16(+3) 6(-2)

Skills Perception +6, Stealth +5
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 16
Languages —
Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)

False appearance. While the roper remains motionless, it is indistinguishable from a normal cave formation, such as a stalagmite.

Grasping Tendrils. The roper can have up to six tendrils at a time. Each tendril can be attacked (AC 20; 10 hit points; immunity to poison and psychic damage). Destroying a tendril deals no damage to the roper, which can extrude a replacement tendril on its next turn. A tendril can also be broken if a creature takes an action and succeeds on a DC 15 Strength check against it.

Spider climb. The roper can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.

Actions

Multiattack. The roper makes four attacks with its tendrils, uses Reel, and makes one attack with its bite.

Bite. Melee weapon attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 22 (4d8 + 4) piercing damage.

Tendril. Melee weapon attack: +7 to hit, reach 50 ft., one creature. Hit: The target is grappled (escape DC 15). Until the grapple ends, the target is restrained and has disadvantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws, and the roper can’t use the same tendril on another target.

Reel. The roper pulls each creature grappled by it up to 25 feet straight toward it.


Piercer

Large monstrosity, neutral evil 

Armor class 15 (natural armor)
Hit points 22 (3d8 + 9)
Speed 5 ft., climb 5 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
10(+0) 13(+1) 16(+3) 1(-5) 7(-2) 3(-4)

Skills Stealth +5
Senses blindsight 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 8
Languages —
Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)

False appearance. While it remains motionless, the piercer is indistinguishable from a normal stalactite.

Spider climb. The piercer can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.

Actions

Drop. Melee weapon attack: +3 to hit, one creature directly beneath the piercer. Hit: 3 (1d6) piercing damage per 10 feet fallen, up to 21 (6d6). Miss: The piercer takes half the normal falling damage for the distance fallen.


Galraunath, servant of Lolth

Large beast, unaligned 

Armor class 14 (natural armor)
Hit points 45 (7d10 + 7)
Speed 30 ft., climb 30 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
18(+4) 16(+3) 12(+1) 2(-4) 12(+1) 4(-3)

Skills Stealth +7
Senses blindsight 10 ft., darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages —
Challenge 2 (450 XP)

Spider climb. The spider can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.

Web Sense. While in contact with a web, the spider knows the exact location of any other creatures in contact with the same web.

Web Walker. The spider ignores movement restrictions caused by webbing.

Innate Spellcasting. Galraunath’s innate spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 12). She can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:
At will: dancing lights
3/day: darkness

Actions

Bite. Melee weapon attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 8 (1d8 + 4) piercing damage, and the target must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw, taking 13 (3d8) poison damage on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one. If the poison damage reduces the target to 0 hit points, the target is stable but poisoned for 1 hour, even after regaining hit points and is paralyzed while poisoned in this way.

Web (recharge 5-6). Ranged weapon attack: +6 to hit, range 30/60 ft., one creature. Hit: The target is restrained by webbing. As an action, the target can make a DC 12 Strength check, bursting the webbing on a success. The webbing can also be attacked and destroyed (AC 10; hp 5; vulnerability to fire damage; immunity to bludgeoning, poison, and psychic damage.


Giant Spider

Large beast, unaligned 

Armor class 14 (natural armor)
Hit points 26 (4d10 + 4)
Speed 30 ft., climb 30 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
14(+2) 16(+3) 12(+1) 2(-4) 11(+0) 4(-3)

Skills Stealth +7
Senses blindsight 10 ft., darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages —
Challenge 1 (200 XP)

 

Spider climb. The spider can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.

Web Sense. While in contact with a web, the spider knows the exact location of any other creatures in contact with the same web.

Web Walker. The spider ignores movement restrictions caused by webbing.

Actions

Bite. Melee weapon attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) piercing damage, and the target must make a DC 11 Constitution saving throw, taking 9 (2d8) poison damage on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one. If the poison damage reduces the target to 0 hit points, the target is stable but poisoned for 1 hour, even after regaining hit points and is paralyzed while poisoned in this way.

Web (recharge 5-6). Ranged weapon attack: +5 to hit, range 30/60 ft., one creature. Hit: The target is restrained by webbing. As an action, the target can make a DC 12 Strength check, bursting the webbing on a success. The webbing can also be attacked and destroyed (AC 10; hp 5; vulnerability to fire damage; immunity to bludgeoning, poison, and psychic damage.


Giant Wolf Spider

Medium beast, unaligned 

Armor class 13 (natural armor)
Hit points 11 (2d8 + 2)
Speed 40 ft., climb 40 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
12(+1) 16(+3) 13(+1) 3(-4) 12(+1) 4(-3)

Skills Perception +3, Stealth +7
Senses blindsight 10 ft., darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13
Languages —
Challenge 1/4 (50 XP)

Spider climb. The spider can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.

Web Sense. While in contact with a web, the spider knows the exact location of any other creatures in contact with the same web.

Web Walker. The spider ignores movement restrictions caused by webbing.

Actions

Bite. Melee weapon attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 4 (1d6 + 1) piercing damage, and the target must make a DC 11 Constitution saving throw, taking 7 (2d6) poison damage on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one. If the poison damage reduces the target to 0 hit points, the target is stable but poisoned for 1 hour, even after regaining hit points and is paralyzed while poisoned in this way.


~Happy adventuring!

  • BClement

    This is like an evil episode of Oprah: “You get Disadvantage, and YOU get Disadvantage, and YOU get Disadvantage!”

    You’re a bad, bad man JayArr…my players are going to hate caves after this one.

    • Jay Arr

      I may have been chortling that to myself while writing this up…