For the first time, Elliot found himself pulled through a fairy door. He could tell he was in his homeland, but nowhere he had ever been. But when he called to the laughing voice, she responded. Apparently the party’s fates were now intertwined with this being, and at some point in the future, they’d have to choose between the fairy world and the “concrete world”.
Elliot awoke in a cold sweat. Actually, more of a hot sweat. He was prone on the floor in a room he didn’t recognize, surrounded by wisps of steam that he did not know were Mephit corpses. “How long was I out?”
The party had just vanquished a swarm of mephits, and was ready to continue. The room had a small niche against the south wall, with a door to the south and one to the west, and a suspicious stone wall to the east that was the same size as a door but blank. Examining the wall did reveal a hidden door, one that pivoted down the middle. Elliot forced it open and was greeted by a dozen malevolent smiles. Thirteen Magmin, alight and yelling “Fire, Fire!” in Ignan began to rush the door. The party funneled them effectively…the little beasts weren’t strong but everytime one was killed it exploded in a spray of lava. Elliot’s shield caught on fire, and Ander himself caught on fire, saved when Hugh pelted a waterskin at him like a balloon.
The party cut through the Magmin and made their way into the room. While investigating, there was a knock on one of the doors. It was a very distinct knock…’shave and a haircut…’ Elliot walked up and gave the response. ‘…two bits.’ The door opened, revealing kobolds…many kobolds. They chittered in Draconic until one came to the front. He introduced himself as Ogro, and pointed to Snaks, the commander. Ogro knew Common, and so would serve as translator for the rest of the group. The kobolds had made their way through the mine in a more traditional way, and revealed notes on the map they were carrying, which Ogro allowed Hugh to copy. They had come through about three chambers from the staircase leading back up, and stopped in the room they were in because every door other than the one that the party had just come through was trapped. Their plan was to go through the room where the Magmin used to be and head south and west to a region on their map where they thought a stairway down might be. The party geared up for a rest, but Ander, Elliot, and Boer went with the kobolds to scout. One of the other doors off of the steam room appeared to have something magical through it, so the group opted not to go through at the time. Another door was examined, one of the ones that the kobolds had noted as trapped. Elliot saw an intense magical signature off the door, and began trying to disarm the trap. The Kobold’s trapmaster tried to help, touched a crystal mounted in the door and disappeared. After about five minutes, he reappeared, explaining he had been teleported. The crystal in the door could be useful, but even with both Elliot and Boer trying to remove it the volatile item wasn’t coming out. The door was able to be opened though, into another empty chamber.
Another room behind an untrapped door in the steam room opened into a vertical shaft with a wooden platform in the middle. Elliot took a note of this room, it appeared that the party should be able to climb the fifty feet or so down to the next level without too much challenge, which would be safer than opening doors and seeing what monsters came out of them. With a plan figured out, the group returned to the others who were resting in a side corridor that was less warm than the rest of the complex.
While the others rested, Elliot spoke with Ogro. The Kobolds were descendants of Draconic soldiers who took part in the Great March, a massive invasion of Dracona intended to strike at the Folk empires when they were weakened after a series of wars with goblins. The Great March made it as far north as Glebhavern, but didn’t make it to Port O’Rock before winter. The combination of winter’s effects on cold-blooded lizards and the casualties they took stopped the March in its tracks, but the damage had been done. Ogro told Elliot of the travel the group had done from the west, where they were in lands over the mountains that used to belong to the Prelate, another Folk empire. Apparently the empires of the Prelate and the Abizerians were wiped out during the Great March, and all that was left was reconstructed city-states and ruins of castles. Port O’Rock, in part due to their xenophobia, was essentially the only Folk city left that hadn’t been sacked and rebuilt.
The next morning, the two groups assembled. First was the room with the magical signature. Elliot entered, and was tracked and shot by a magically autonomous mini-ballista. The bolt protruded painfully from his chest, but it ultimately didn’t stop him from, after a couple of attempts and a boost from Ander, grabbing the ballista from its mounting and taking it as a prize. With the ballista neutralized, the party was able to access the treasure chest in the middle of the room, filled with a cache of coins and jewels, as well as a ring and a wand. Elliot lifted the chest off its mounting and brought it back to the corridor the party had rested in, it was too heavy to take with them.
Not wanting to blunder on further, the group opted to descend through the ventilation shaft. The climb was mostly uneventful, though Elliot did have to catch Jethro after he slipped. The group walked through a mazelike set of corridors before coming to a room with an anvil, large forge, and three fire elementals working it. And they were not happy at being interrupted. The elementals were dangerous to touch and quite large, and when the kobolds charged they suffered heavy casualties. Thanks to magic attacks and magic arrows, the group was able to overwhelm and defeat the elementals, though not without taking some damage in the process. Ogro and Snaks were still alive, though they had lost a number of soldiers. Taking stock of the room, there was a chest near the anvil, and one ornately decorated door…
Every GM uses published materials at some point, whether they’re modules or the results of random tables. What’s important, no matter what these materials are, is that you take them and make them your own. Most of my dungeons in this game started out with the random dungeon generator from donjon.bin.sh, though leaving them as just random rooms, monsters, and traps ends up getting fairly repetitive. I will concede that dungeons in this earlier part of the campaign were closer to just being random, as was likely seen both here in the mines as well as the crypt in Glebhavern. That said, there was still leeway to make things more interesting that I tried to take whenever possible.
Take the kobolds. In the original generator, the horde of kobolds were intended to be a combat encounter, no doubt. In this world, though, kobolds are a PC race. What’s more, there’d be no reason for kobolds to be down the mine. Unless they themselves were adventurers…so now, instead of more faceless mooks to destroy, there’s an interesting social encounter, and some possibly recurring characters. Ogro and Snaks will almost certainly reappear later.
The kobolds also provided some human shields for the elemental attack. The fire elemental encounter was one of several where it became clear that the PCs could be potentially and severely outmatched. The kobolds softened that, but ultimately it still felt from the GM’s side of the screen that punches were being pulled. As the campaign continues, this is an issue that resolves, though not necessarily from increased skill. While 5e is better in this respect than many earlier editions, the fact is that low-level PCs are fragile, and the increased durability of those PCs by level 5 or so makes it a lot easier to throw hard encounters their way. Not only do they have a better chance of winning, (more importantly) they have a much better chance of surviving long enough to decide to run away. Later on, running away definitely happened. But that’s another story for another Adventure Log.
Header image by Caleb Cleveland!