Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Abyss Gazes Back


This adventure is intended for five players of 5th level (using D&D 4th Edition) or 4th level (using D&D Next playtest rules June 2013 Release)

The trick with finding a large lode of a rare and valuable mineral (especially one as coveted as Mithril) is keeping it a secret while you mine it. This week’s encounter brings the heroes into a “lost” mithril mine in search of treasures and historical trinkets. The only (surface) entrance into the mine is through an encoded teleportation circle – a security measure that kept it safe for a very long time.

But while dwellers above never managed to find the mineral trove, those that lurk below have known about it for quite some time…

The PCs have come across the “code” for activating a linked portal found in a now defunct section of a dwarven mine. Perhaps this information was given as a reward, found in the library of an evil lich, or plucked from the skeletal hand of those lost in a failed expedition. Either way, the dwarves of this community lost access to their most valued treasure: a nearly untapped lode of raw mithril. Whether or not the players share this with the dwarves is up to them (perhaps they are being employed but the leaders of this clanhold or thaig to explore the mine and deem it “safe.”

Whatever the case, the only way in is by incanting the magic words and drawing the required symbols to activate the portal. Everything seems to go fine…but unbeknownst to the party, there were a few errors in the scribing of the instructions.

A Neverwinter Night
This adventure was originally written with the Neverwinter Campaign Setting in mind. As such, the 4th Edition rules incorporate monsters from that source, though subbing them out for any aggressive subterranean Lurker/Artillery combo will suffice.

If you are using this encounter in a Neverwinter/Forgotten Realms game, it likely takes place under the cavernous halls of lost Gauntlgrym, or in chambers adjacent to The Chasm. In this case, you will likely wish to add one of the Plaguechanged themes from page 95 of the campaign setting book to the nothics. Likely, these lower mines have themselves been warped by the Spellplague, and strange properties may effect the mithril found here.

Plot Text
Something is definitely wrong. The harmonic thrum of the teleportation circle is now growling dissonantly. Everything was done perfectly – the words were spoken, the hand motions made, the sigils drawn properly into the runes… there is the expected flash of light as the portal activates, and then you feel nothing below you.

You crash to the ground, having dropped a mere two feet, but losing your footing and orientation. Wherever you are, it’s dark…very dark. The air around you is cold and unmoving, dampness presses against your skin and off in the distance is a faint silver glow. The emanating light is coming from the rocky floor beneath you. As your eyes adjust, you can see its source, a vein of pure mithril.

What you don’t see are your friends. Did they teleport along with you? Were they left behind? Did something…worse happen?

Before you can investigate, a reptilian shriek shatters the grave quiet of the cavern. There’s something out there.


A high-res poster of this map is included in theVaults of the Underdarkmap pack.

Features of the Area

    •Illumination:The faint glow from the pure mithril gives off dim light in any 10 feet (2 squares) from a mithril vein (visible on the map as silvery swaths on the ground). Otherwise there is no natural light in the mine. A pair of everburning candles sits on the desk in the foreman’s office.

    •Rubble: These sections discarded equipment, wrecked and abandoned barrels, overturned carts and debris count as rough terrain. A close inspection with Perception/Intelligence (Search) Moderate DC, reveals 1d100 gp worth of raw mithril among the wreckage of each debris pile (seven piles total).

    •Foreman’s Office: Still warm and inviting thanks to the everburning candles on the desk, this small room comprised the office of the mine’s work director. His ledger and logbook contains mostly the boring minutiae of running a mine: weights, measures, shift schedules, etc. if a PC is insistent on poking through the books, they will find that a large load of mithril was exported to a hidden location not far away for “safe keeping.” The logbook includes either a treasure map or a riddle that points to the cache’s location. Obtaining this trove of unprocessed mithril would give the party an additional treasure of no small value.
    Also in the office is a locked (Moderate DC) treasure chest containing a few changes of clothes (now moldered with age), and a magical armor of the appropriate level.
    At your discretion and for an increased challenge, the chest might also be trapped, with a dead nothic nearby as a hint to what kind of security measures the chest employs.

    •Teleportation Circle: This is where the PCs were supposed to arrive when entering the hidden mine. They can escape using the same encoded magical incantations, though they will suffer the same discombobulated arrival on their return trip (which will likely be more meddlesome than disastrous. An Arcana/Intelligence (only if trained in Magical Lore) Moderate DC check will fix the malfunction, allowing for normal use of the portal.

    •Exits: The southern corners press on to 10 foot wide corridors leading off into different directions and other passages in the cavern system. Where they lead is up to you.


D&D 4th:
x4 Nothic Mindwarp (Neverwinter Campaign Setting pg. 95)
x2 Nothic Plaguegazer (Neverwinter Campaign Setting pg. 94)

D&D Next:
x7 Nothics


The nothic make use of the shadowy environment and their predilection towards stealth to make quick strikes against the PCs, blasting them with their gaze attacks or swiping with their claws, then ducking away to hide around a corner. They will try to keep the PCs separated and uncoordinated, keeping two nothics on particularly weak targets, alternating which attacks and which hides. They will take their time to double back or circle around through the maze in order to strike unexpectedly.

Consider granting additional experience equivalent to a level 1 monster to account for the initial advantage the nothic’s have in attack their dispersed foes.

Most of the mithril in this mine is inaccessible (since it has yet to actually be mined) but clumps of ore can be found in the wrecked carts and barrels. Selling or trading these might grant the party the equivalent of a monetary treasure parcel (or us the guidelines for random value described in the “Rubble” entry above.)


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Look, I know, RPG’s – “Games of the Imagination” – I get all that. All you should need is a pen and a character sheet. But I love props, scenery, miniatures and other gaming toys. LOVE them. I think most gamers tend to be very visual people, and that’s why Dry-Erase-Grid-and-Minis is the way most groups run their game – whatever the preferred system happens to be.

But for me, that isn’t enough. Miniatures help us resolve the distracting dissonance of spatial minutiae so that we can shove our way to the story and action without interruption. I love that about them. But why not go all out with 3D terrain and dioramas to help all the players agree upon “what this inn looks like”? It might take some of the heavy lifting away from the player’s imagination and agency, that’s true – but it also strengthens the shared experience and helps to limit player confusion about what is going on and where those barrels of pitch are relative to the minotaur cultists. A clear “stage” picture can also inspire creative choices – I might not have considered swinging on a chandelier until I saw your carefully constructed toothpick chandelier hanging over the dragon’s head(s).

I always envied the “Warhammer 40k” and “Warmahordes” guys for their piles of miniatures and fancy terrain pieces. But I had to face the facts: I lacked the talent (and more importantly, the money) to scrape together the resources necessary to carve out my own 3D dungeons and structures.

Or so I thought.

My expensive yet rewarding delves into the world of Dwarven Forge terrain pieces was just not sustainable. I had enough 3D dungeon terrain to get started, but I needed more: more generic, flexible pieces as well as specific dungeon dressing. I needed longer hallways, narrower passages. I needed items that DF – for all it’s quality and awesome products – did not always have available. I needed to start a few DIY projects.

Enter the Hirst Arts Castle Molds. Silicon molds for use with common hobby plaster, you can use and re-use these to cast your own 3D dungeon components. It’s more work of course, since you are required to craft, assemble and paint your own construction materials – but that alone is incredibly rewarding.

I’m extremely amateur here in the world of table-top modeling, but wanted to share a few of the pieces I’ve been working on. This entry-level sort of stuff still looks good and is endlessly useable in your game. If you’ve been kicking around the idea of trying a few such projects I encourage you to dig in – to get terrain that looks half-way decent is not as hard as it seems.

•I started off my foray with a few simple 1×1 columns. I needed them for an upcoming session, and they turned out pretty well. A simple place to start.


•My Dwarven Forge sets were great for establishing some fancy rooms, but I found myself in need of a few long hallways as well. The challenge with 1 square wide halls is that most miniatures pop off their base on the sides (weapon hands extended, tentacles dangling, bulgy monster muscles, etc.) – making a single square width a tight fit. To make my narrow hallways more useful in play I slipped a half-tile next to the floor tiles. Technically a 1.5 inch wide hall, but infinitely more practical for the table.


•I wanted to try my hand at something a bit more complex, so next I made a 2×2 floor tile with an arcane ritual circle on it. A little sloppy, I admit, but from far back it gets the job done. A nice clean stencil would have made this turn out a lot better.


•Next I went…a little…crazy. I’d seen cool use of small lights in newer Dwarven Forge Catacomb sets and was inspired to try my hand at integrating cheap, battery powered tea-lights into minis terrain. Thus I came out with a large brazier and hearth/forge. I’ve yet to get a chance to use these in play, but I was pleased by how they turned out.


•This large room (still in progress at the time of this writing) was originally an ambitious project to recreate an old 2D dungeon map I had into fully realized 3D. It dawned on me, however, that all the narrow rooms and tight corners (as well as the fact that this single chamber alone took hours to construct) meant this was probably more time consuming than it was worth. Not to mention the difficulty of transport! Though sturdy enough for table play, these plaster models need to be treated with some care as they are rather fragile. It makes the bigger pieces more susceptible to chipping and damage. Thus I settled for having a spacious, elbow shaped chamber.


•The sacrificial altar was much more of an experiment. I had seen a few “how-to’s” on Youtube regarding budget terrain that made use of old packing material. One of the few upshots of my dayjob is that packing foam and bubble wrap are in abundance. Taking this particularly interesting piece of porous black foam, I decided to try carving it into a raised dais. The upside is that this material is malleable enough that you can slide the base of most miniatures into it – allowing minis to stand on the narrow steps I hewed into it with an exacto knife. The problem is that the sides did not take paint very well. Ultimately it would have looked better if I had chopped up the edges of the surface to give it a more worn, stone appearance.


….and in back….


All that said I was happy with how gross a quick dry-brushing job made the altar look! Drippy, disgusting, head-blood!

I’ll likely post future projects here as they get finished up. Next up is a two story guard tower: just as soon as I can figure out an easy way to get stairs/ladders working without needing to procure a new mold set….

3D Terrain Craft Corner

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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Fungal Lake Dead-Drop

This encounter is intended for use with either 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons or the July iteration of the D&D Next Playtest. 4th Edition: Five players of 6th level / D&D Next: Five players of 5th level

Every environment needs water for living creatures to survive – and even the warped beasts of the Underdark are no exception. The presence of a small but significant freshwater pond not far from a surface entrance into the depths of this subterranean nightmare world causes alarm to most. For adventurers, it means opportunity.

This encounter was originally written for my now defunct Neverwinter game, and as such, references an organization related to that campaign setting. None of that flavor is necessary to run the encounter, however. The situation has the players meeting shady, possibly hostile criminal elements for a trade or deal – in a location that is even more dangerous and alien. Unbeknownst to either party, they are stepping into the home of a colony of Myconids – one of the Underdark’s bizarre inhabitants. The fungal monsters attack both sides as interlopers; but whether or not this ruins the deal is up tot he players.

Agents of the Drow spy network, The Bregan D’aerthe, have approached the players through their surface contacts in Neverwinter regarding a bit of business. Perhaps the Drow have information the players desperately need and are willing to pay for, maybe they have acquired (or seem to have acquired) knowledge or an item the mercenary Drow are after. Whatever the case, a meet is scheduled near a large pond in a cavern not too far from the surface (A site used by Bregan D’aerthe agents to pass secret messages and materials). Strictly speaking, this will require the players to go into the uppermost reaches of the Underdark – a dangerous proposition. They will need to decide whether or not the benefit outweighs the risk (And in order to prod them into the deal, there should be a clear and significant reward).


A high-res poster of this map is included in theVaults of the Underdarkmap pack.

At the Start of Combat: Position the Myconids throughout the cavern near regular giant mushrooms. They have been lying in wait the whole time, camouflaged among the unanimated fungi.

The PCs and Drow begin (most likely) at the opposite shores of the pond.

Plot Text
The erie glow from the mushrooms and the shimmering of fluorescent algae off the water hasn’t stopped being unnerving to you even after waiting half an hour. In the Drow’s defense, if this were an ambush or a trick, they would have sprung it by now…unless of course the plan was to make you die of boredom. Finally you ear a singsong voice call out “Sorry we took so long, dangerous voyage, this one.”

A petite, female Drow woman rounds a corner in the caverns on the opposite side of the pond. You note how unnerving it was that you never heard her footsteps echoing in this enormous cavern. Slinking out of the shadows behind her are two male Drow, each clad in dark armor with sword at his side. “I know what you’re thinking but calm down, surface-dwellers. We’re here to deal. Think about it, if we wanted you dead would we bother with theatrics?” The Drow and her party approach the banks of the pond on their side and beckon for you to do similarly.

The specifics of the meet will depend on your campaign. Regardless, the players actions during the negotiation will determine how the drow act during the pending combat. If the players come off rude and uncooperative, or worse, if they are too cooperative int eh proceedings (not down bidding the drow, showing any sort of weakness, seeming indecisive or amateur) then the Bregan D’aerthe agents will use the battle as an excuse to slay the players and take what they were offering in trade.

However, if the players impress the drow, they will serve as an ally in the ensuing battle, hoping that the unexpected skirmish doesn’t sour their deal. Should the players successfully intimidate or wound the Drow before combat begins in earnest, they will cut their losses, and seek to flee if possible.

Regular roleplaying and your judgement of the drow’s response should be enough to adjudicate this encounter. However, if the players are eager to use their skills and social abilities, consider running this scene as a Complexity 1 or 2 Skill Challenge. Success means the drow serve as allies, failure will ensure that they turn on the PCs if able.

Primary Skills: Diplomacy, Bluff, Intimidate, Insight
Secondary Skills: Dungeoneering, Perception (If items are involved), Appropriate Knowledge skill (If secret information is being passed along)

The Bregan D’aerthe mercenaries will vary their tactics depending on their relationship With the players.
• Indifferent: A “better part of valor” approach, keeping away from the myconids and allowing the PCs to take the brunt of the beating when possible, though likely not attacking them. In this case, if an opportunity to steal what (or whom!) the PCs are bringing to the offering table presents itself, the Drow will take it, even if this means killing a single PC.

•Cooperative: If negotiations went well, the Drow will regard the PCs as comrades in arms, knowing that the conflict can be resolved quickly with teamwork. They will set up flanking maneuvers, attack targets the PCs debilitate, and offer covering fire. Combat might be another opportunity for the PCs to prove their trustworthiness, healing or aiding their “allies” in this skirmish.
All that said, the Drow are selfish by nature and as a result of their occupation. Don’t go overboard in their assistance.

•Hostile: If things went south, then the Drow might see the myconid attack as a perfect opportunity to get what they want without breaking a sweat. They will take pot shots at the PCs first, hoping the monsters will wear them down enough to be easy targets and recover whatever valuables they have, or making the pending interrogation that much easier.
The Myconid Guards move in immediately, using their Pacification Spores on the most physically imposing combatants (at least one of them will approach the Drow). The Sovereign and Rotpriest will move together, joined at the hip so that the leader can retain the benefits of the Rotpriest’s healing.

The Myconids all focus on a single target (one of the Drow, if you are feeling forgiving towards your players) attacking it together as a colony. The goal is to make bodies as soon as possible for the Sovereign to re-animate. Meanwhile, the Adults choose to hamper any combatant that deals a great deal of damage, stunning them if possible.

The battle is another opportunity to weigh the PCs competence. If they performed admirably, this might tip the scales in the PCs favor, proving to their perfidious business partners that they are not to be trifled with. Otherwise it might give the Drow an opportunity to strike or flee while the party is weakened or off balance.

4th: x1 Myconid Sovereign (Monster Manual II, pg. 164)
x1 Myconid Rotpriest (Monster Mnaual II, pg. 164)
x3 Myconid Rotslammer (Underdark) -Or- Myconid Guards (Monster Manual II, pg. 164)

x2 Drow Swashbuckler (Neverwinter, pg. 122)
x1 Drow Informant (Neverwinter, pg. 122)

D&D Next: x1 Myconid Sovereign (Against the Slave Lords Bestiary pg.58)
x2 Myconid Adult (Against the Slave Lords Bestiary pg.57)
x6 Myconid Juveniles (Against the Slave Lords Bestiary pg.57)

x3 Drow pg. 40 (The Informant replaces a short sword for Dagger, and adds “Invisibility” to her spellcasting list)


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Adventure Site – Dhunraven, City on the Wildlands

As you know, I use this blog as a repository for my old, forgotten, unused, untested, or well loved DMing materials. I always thought it was a shame that most DMs let all their hard work vanish into obscurity – so I decided to share my notes publically.

On a whim, I figured I would compile the map and notes I had left over for a previous 4th ed. game I was running with friends who have long since moved to various corners of the world. An easy addition tot he blog – I’ll just compile and reformat some notes, touch up the grammar, add a few stat blocks and that will be that.

Oh, and I’ll provide stats for those using the D&D Next playtest too.

And, you know, a few more NPCs while I’m at it.

Turns out it became a major project that I just couldn’t relent on until it was in decent shape. Maybe a waste of time, maybe some good exercise in writing adventure sites. Maybe I’ll come back to it. Hopefully you’ll get some use out of it! The document covers Dhunraven as an adventure site (think of it as a mini campaign setting that can be slotted into a much larger overall game).

Dhunraven is inspired by one of my oft mentioned favorite low-level generic D&D adventures: The Dead of Winter. Since it was locked away on the Character Builder disc that came with the ORIGINAL 3rd edition PHB it isn’t easy to come by, but I just might have a little link to help you out, in case you are interested in the source material.

File Download —> Castle Dhunraven – City on the Wildlands


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