First Part of The Murky Cellar

In this series of slowly adding to the dungeon and encounter The Murky Cellar I’ve added descriptions of the first area. The cellar itself.

Theme & Intro

I did design the cellar to be used as an introduction to my new players and to give them an easy way of getting into roleplaying games and a first taste of combat. It is intended to be old school dungeon crawling.

The Murky Cellar should feel like a dungeon encounter that makes the player feel like an uninvited guest exploring a cold murky cellar. It is rather low fantasy – and intended for new players needing to get their first combat encounter going.

The encounter is system agnostic, so use stats and mechanics from whatever system you are using.

Also adjust the number of goblins to suit your group and your level of difficulty. For my group of players I aimed to have 2 goblins per player at the most.

The Manor of the Silvermanes

For many years the manor was the home to a noble family, The Silvermanes. They ruled the area surrounding their manor  and for a long time they ran several farms and even a profitable silver mine. Some decades ago a terrible disease plagued the region causing most of the people left the region in fear of the disease. The Silvermane family unwisely decided to stay braving the disease. One by one they contracted the deadly disease. The family head buried their dead in the family crypts below the manor. Finally the last lord, Ruric Silvermane, locked himself down in the crypt as he felt the disease take hold of him.

The Silvermanes and their land was soon forgotten and as time passed the manor decayed and crumbled. In the last decade various goblin clans moved into the cellars below the manor. They have been unable to open the entrance to the family crypts. The goblins have dug a passageway from the cellar into the nearby cave system.

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Room Descriptions – The Cellar

1. The Stairway

The stairs spirals down into the darkness, the only light comes from whatever the players bring. The stairway leads down to an old wine cellar. The narrow passage east is lined on the north and south by inset shelves. The stone walls are damp and slimy.

Trigger – as soon as the player reaches the bottom of the stairs, roll 1D4. That is how long they have before 1D4 goblins turn up from their lair to investigate. I suggest you roll the D4 openly to add a little suspense. Something will soon happen…

If the player sneaks or moves stealthy, they will remain undetected. If they cause any ruckus the goblins will be prepared for them and spring an ambush…

2. The Manor Wine Cellar

From the narrow passage it opens up into a larger cellar. Two large broken ale barrels dominates the center of the room and the broken remains of wine shelves line all four walls. A large double stone door sits in the eastern wall. Wooden debris is scattered all over the room. Several unlit oil lamps hangs in chains from the domed ceiling. There is a strong musty smell down here of sweat and possibly urine.

As the players move further into the room, they will also become aware of stairs in the western wall leading down. It is only a couple of steps down, half a floor or approx 5-7ft.

Creatures:

Depending on the trigger in the previous room, the goblins is likely to appear from the stairs. It is a generic fight with the goblins having a low damage output and health (max dagger damage). Combat here will alert additional goblins (In 1D4 rounds another 1D4 goblins arrive).

In my initial play test I let the goblins spawn until the players moved down into room 3, to put a little pressure on the players. They quickly realized they needed to advance quickly. This makes the encounter a little bit more than just a standard combat.

Treasure:

Most of the wine in the cellar has already been looted but a persistent search could yield results. Difficult perception checks required to find 1D3 bottles of fine brandy. Could be valuable to the right buyer.

3. The Goblin Lair

The small staircase leads to a large room. It is unclear what it was once used for as there are now debris and straw mats all over the floor. A number of chests and barrels is in north east corner contains goblin supplies. Lines are strung across the room from which various small dead animals are hung. The smell of goblin is prevalent in this room. A closed heavy wooden door is in the western wall.

The smell of urine and feces is stronger near the hole. The smell comes from the goblins privy (area 10).

The wooden door is blocked from the other side (see area 4)

Creatures:

The goblin clan sleeps and eats here.

5 filthy flea ridden goblins is in here and when they heard the combat from the wine cellar they prepared for a fight. They will attack en masse and try to swarm the first player that enters. When half their number are killed or incapacitated they will either try to flee towards the cave tunnels or beg for mercy.

Note that regardless of the amount of goblins spawned in the previous room there are 5 goblins left.

Combat twist – the lines that the goblins have stringed across the room to dry meat will act as hinder for a human sized character, only half movement allowed. Goblins, halflings, dwarfs and other small folk moves as normal.

Treasures:

Scattered around the floor are 3D6 copper coins, lizard and rat meat. The goblin supply crates contains:

1D4         Contents

  1. A small weapon – dagger, club, short sword etc
  2. A light piece of armor – leather boots, leather cap – smelly and nasty
  3. Goblin Rations – dried mystery meat (most likely rat or lizard)
  4. Treasure – A potion, some coins or a cheap gem.

4. Goblin Chieftain’s Room

The door is barred from the inside. The spineless chieftain Olegg Birdmuncher and his bodyguard blocked the door with debris. The players will have to manage a strength check to force the door open. Two characters will fit working the door at the same time.

Creative players might use debris to create a battering ram or similar. Reward creativity!

As the players bash down the door, the two goblins that barred the door are flung to the floor (giving the players initiative).

The smell of decaying meat in here is almost overpowering. Like the previous rooms the floor is littered with debris and broken shelves. Along the west wall are three big cadavers strung up on the wall in various state of decay. A big meat cleaver is stuck into one of them. Slabs of cut meat are piled around them, A rather fat wide eyed-goblin wielding a metal staff watches the players in horror as they enter. Some makeshift furniture are arranged in the northern part of the room, including the chieftains treasure chest.

Creatures:

The Goblin chieftain Olegg Birdmuncher will fight to the death if the player’s attack along with his two bodyguards. Give Olegg double HP and double damage compared to normal goblins. His two body guards should also have a slightly higher damage (+1?) and 20% more HP.

Treasure:

  • Olegg’s Staff – A long 1.5m iron staff. Closer examination reveals that one end is cut as a hexagon. Leather straps and bird feathers adorn the top. Olegg found this staff in the cellar when they moved in. It is actually the “key” to the double door in area 2.
  • Olegg’s treasure chest – It is trapped. If a player opens the chest without succeeding with a perception/detect traps it will trigger. As the lid is opened rusty nails spring out from the lid doing 1D3 HP. Metal gloves fully protects the opener. Inside are a dozen small colored rocks that Olegg found pretty. An ebony flute, two empty but beautiful wine bottles. 4D6 copper coins and 2D6 silver coins.

And that is all for today. The caves and the crypt will be added to next…

Updated Murky Cellar Map

After my first play test of the Murky Cellar, I discovered that I had to make a few changes to better accommodate the combat and encounter I wanted.

I’ve increased the passages from 1 square to 2 squares to make it less narrow. Narrow could be interesting for specific claustrophobic encounters.. Secondly I moved the opening to the cave from the first cellar room to the second. In my encounter I allowed the dice to spawn new goblins coming from room 3 and move up to room 2 to stress the player in their combat a little. Having the hole there served more as a distraction at this point.

Finally I also added a stream to the natural cave for the goblins to find some water…

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Sadly the play test encounter resulted in the party fleeing the cellar… I will have to work on the balancing of the encounter.

Stay tuned…

The Murky Cellar

I now have the Murky Cellar mapped out for the Forest ruin that I plan to run later this week as part of an introduction to Pathfinder RPG. I wanted an easy low fantasy combat encounter to run where I could introduce gradual challenge to test out the rules for me and for my players. I was really not impressed with the scenario that comes with the Pathfinder Beginner Box… mixed monsters, way too much treasure and magic items. I prefer the players not being able to upgrade their gear after the first encounter to max.

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Building the cellar using Dungeon Tiles. Minis are from Pathfinder and the Swedish RPG – Drakar och Demoner.

I originally drew it on regular grid paper and then did some slight editing in GIMP. Not 100% happy with the results. I want it to feel a little bit cleaner and perhaps work out a better method for adding grids to the dungeon.

When I mapped out the cellar using Dungeon Tiles, I realised that I’ve drawn the corridors and rooms slightly too narrow. I prefer to have at least the corridors two grids wide unless making a special nasty passage.

The Murky Cellar essentially consists of three different regions. The first original cellar, inhabited by goblins. A natural cave system that connects into the cellar in the south; and finally a crypt section where the family buried their dead and carried out a little bit of experimentation…

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The Murky Cellar –  I will redraw the map with wider corridors and slightly larger rooms.

I’ll be running the encounter with my group and post the full encounter with room descriptions and theme shortly after on the blog…

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Dungeon Tiles to bring the cellar alive.

Meanwhile – let me know what you think and feel free to leave comments, suggestions and ideas in the comments below.

Dungeonstone for 3D terrain?

With my personal focus on creating interesting encounters I am drawn more and more to 3D terrain. Setting up a room or a series of rooms and presenting it to the players gives a really nice basis for environment creativity. The combat becomes more interesting as at least my players care more about the rooms and what they can do than just combating the enemies straight on.

After a little bit of investigation there seems to be to main manufacturer/suppliers of ready-made 3D terrain. Dungeonstone and Dwarven Forge, with the later being offered painted. There is a quite noticeable higher price on the DF set. Personally I love to paint minis so the unpainted will be perfect for me. I am curious about how they fit together though, if there is some kind of locking mechanism.

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Dungeonstone Advanced Set – unpainted

It is still to early for me to fork out the money for going 3D but I am definitely keeping an eye out. So far I’ve only seen limited amounts of reviews on the net. Perhaps it is more common to create and build your own terrain tiles. I can see this being a grpzo1001-1_500eat option if you own a 3D printer… Mmm the possibilities!

I am currently using Pathfinder Pawns minis together with a Pathfinder Flip mat that I draw using a dry eraser. I have the Bestiary Box and it gives a good assortment of basic monsters to choose from. I can definitely see myself expanding this collection to more types.

If you haveused either Dungonstone or Dwarven Forge, let me know how it works out for you!

The Forest Ruin

I used this encounter for my new groups first combat lessons. I wanted them (and me) to get a flow for the combat mechanics. As such we did not put effort into talking about why and where or how the players had arrived. Quite simply a combat encounter.

You are completely lost. The rain is pouring down almost horizontally, making it hard to see anything at all. Somehow you stumbled away from the road and ended up walking into a hilly area with a few trees sprinkled around. The rain grows heavier and you really need to seek shelter from the elements or you will catch a cold or worse. It is now starting to get dark as well making it hard to setup a camp. Up ahead on a hill there seems to be the old ruins of a house. As you get closer, you see that it must have been abandoned several years ago. Several walls are crumbling and most of the interior seems shattered and broken.

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The ruins appear to be abandoned and they will easily be able to seek shelter inside. Some of the walls have crumbled and makes for easy entry. There are plenty of dry wood from broken tables and shelves inside that can be used to fuel a fire. There is very little of actual value in the ruins.

Perception: A successful perception check will unearth several small footprints inside the ruins. These can be traced to a stone stairwell leading down into the darkness. A character that is a bit experienced with tracking or goblinoids will figure out that these tracks do come from goblins and that they are pretty recent. There is most likely goblins down the stairwell…

Treats: There is an old chest in the southeast corner beneath some rubble. Random item inside.

D4

  1. A weapon of sub-standard quality
  2. A piece of armor barly usable
  3. Supplies – a roll of rope 6 meters (20 feet)
  4. Nothing of value

The Goblin Attack

If the player decides to camp they better setup a watch. A party of goblins will sneak up from the stairwell and attack. If there are no watch, they will be in for a nasty surprise.

Use a perception check to see if they do wake up in before a goblin straddles them with a dagger on the throat… if you are nasty try out the damage to sleeping target, otherwise have something wake them up. Perhaps their mule detected the goblin, or one of them stumbles on the debris.

If they setup a watch, use D4 to determine during which watch they appear. Their numbers should match the player party. In my game of three players I used a 1D6+2 to determine numbers. Use your system’s goblins.. They should be pretty cowardly and aim to swarm a player if possible. When half their numbers are cut down, they will retreat towards the stairwell.

Our session…

In our game our merry band of heroes found the stairwell but decided to camp first and venture down in the morning. They did camp in the southwest room and before setting watch taking the time to create a fire and also create a makeshift barricade towards the other rooms. This gave them the advantage during the night ambush.

The group consisting of a knight, a squire/archer and a healer fared well against the goblins. I played out two waves of goblins and in the second wave the goblins managed to jump the healer and knocked her unconscious. Despite the low light use any penalties – we’ll save that for next encounter.

After the battle they never dared venture down the stairway, waiting for the morning first… also wanting to heal up and rest a little.

I drew up the encounter on grid paper and used Pathfinder Pawns 2D minis to help visualize the combat. This is something new for me as a DM but I think it did wonders. The players were much more keen to flank and maneuver around the enemies than I was used to making combat more fun and creative.

Down the Stairwell

I’ll post the map and encounters for the basement in the next post…