“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.”
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kubla Khan
- Vrae’ree Everhurden, 2nd Level Drow Elf Wizard
- Fo, 3rd Level Human Monk [Faction: Lord’s Alliance]
- Brûne, 3rd Level Human Paladin
- Therivol, 1st Level High Elf Fighter
- Abernacky, 1st Level Human Fighter [Faction: Lord’s Alliance]
Throughout this blog post you will see red and black text. The red text is my Dungeon Master voice discussing game mechanics, rules, and such. Also, if you are one of the awesome players who sits at my table then please send me a message on Facebook saying “Karst” to earn one point of inspiration. Thanks for reading the blog! And remember, sometimes I add extra information in the blog post. If it’s here then you can use it at the table!
While in the employ of Lord Dagult Neverember, the Company traveled from the city of Neverwinter south towards Waterdeep. Their first stop was at Phandalin to deliver a precious relic to one of the newly formed churches. Ultimately, they intend to end their journey in the far South at Greenest. On the way, they interrupted am ambush on the High Road. Then they hardly had time to rest when a second attack came from the West. During the battle, Fo accidentally fell into a sinkhole that landed him in the Karst caves.
Most caves are formed by the dissolving of bedrock by underground water. Such caves are called solution caves. They are part of a unique kind of landscape containing sinkholes, sinking streams, and springs. Water that seeps through the soil enlarges the widest cracks in the underlying bedrock. As the soil subsides into the largest of the growing openings, surface depressions gradually form, which are called sinkholes. As sinkholes enlarge, greater amounts of water are funneled into the widening cracks below them. With time, the fastest-growing cracks become caves. Most underground water emerges as springs in nearby valleys. If a cave grows large enough, its ceiling may collapse, forming other sinkholes. As fate would have it, that is how The Company discovered the Karst caves.
The Company spent about two hours moving the crates and supplies out of the cave and to the surface eight feet above with the assistance of a block and tackle attached to the Alliance wagon. After everything of clear value was removed from the cave, they sent the Merchant wagon with the Wainwright’s family on towards Waterdeep. Tad, the other wagon driver, took control of the wagon and Deiter accompanied to serve as a guard. Fo and Abernacky buried the corpses of the two Dragonclaw TIAMAT Cultists in shallow graves just off the High Road. The rest of the Company found a suitable area for making camp away from the sink hole and the High Road, and settled in for a much needed rest. During this time, Therivol arrived and was able to find the party due to instructions given from Deiter.
I rolled for possible encounters from the creatures in the Kurst Caves for the two hours. I assigned a 25% chance of discovery. The dice reflected that the Company was not interrupted by any enemies during their looting. Also, the players decided to take a Long Rest to recover their hit points and abilities. The Elves were able to get ample “sleep” in four hours due to their ability to use Trance, but to benefit from the Long Rest they needed to spend the next four hours doing other low impact activities. During their resting time of 8 hours, I rolled for possible visitors to the sink hole room. I assigned a 25% chance again and was successful on 5 of the 8 rolls.
Therivol has been in Waterdeep, and has some news from the South. Waterdeep is in a state of turmoil. Drow have been making raids into the city using secrets pathways from under the city. Rumor has it that they are using Undermountain as a base of operations. Also, the Magister (a powerful Drow Priestess) has declared that she will have the heads of the Lords of Waterdeep before the Solstice on the 20th of Kythorn, only a tenday from now.
The Company broke camp in the morning after a short breakfast and some planning. Vrae’ree suggested that they continue their journey and avoid the caves all together. However, Fo argued that this was a base of operations for the enemy that needed to be cleared out. The monk explained that they should raid the caves, rob the enemy of anything that might be a resource, and destroy anything that couldn’t be removed. By hitting the enemy’s supplies and resources, the enemy will be weakened. The Company agreed to Fo’s reasoning and got ready to enter the caves.
Fo and Therivol donned the outfits of the Dragonclaw Cultists. The heavy black cloaks and thick leather masks felt odd, but they would serve as excellent disguises going forward. Brûne put on one of the emerald cloaks from the Wild Elves who attacked them the day before on the road. And Vrae’ree needed no disguise. He was Drow, and Drow were expected to be seen overground. Perhaps, if luck prevailed, he could use this fact to his advantage.
The Company slowly approached the sink hole, sending Fo ahead to scout. He noticed that the edges of the pit showed recent footprints. All of them appeared to be made by Kobolds. He gestured for the others to come close, and they listened. They could clearly hear the “meep, meep, meep” language of Kobolds below. Vrae’ree translated for the Company whispering that they were sentries assigned there because someone had discovered the cave-in. Because the supplies were missing, these Kobolds were assigned to guard duty. They are bored, annoyed of the assignment, and anxious to be relieved of duty. After a short discussion of tactics, the Company made their move, jumping down into the cave in an aggressive assault.
Brûne lit a torch, and held it in his off-hand, the shield still strapped to his forearm securely. Fo and Abernacky lit torches as well, tossing them down into the cave below. They hit and set embers scattering through the darkness, lighting up the room. They heard the Kobold shout out in surprise at the sudden gout of light.
All five dropped into the cave, taking the four Kobold guards by surprise. The wee creatures scrambled for their weapons but the effort was futile. Fo jumped forward and landed killing blows with his unarmed strikes. Abernacky caved in one of their heads with his warhammer, but not before losing his grip on his handaxe, sending it flailing across the room.
I called for DEX saving throws to jump down into the cave and land safely. I set the DC at 10. Everyone made their saving throws EXCEPT for Fo, the Monk. His player rolled a ONE. I informed the player that Fo landed badly and twisted his ankle. However, Fo had a point of inspiration so he spent it to negate the bad roll. See, inspiration can be useful!
Therivol slashed one across the throat with a longsword, sending it reeling to the floor gurgling. With his other longsword, he gashed a second across the chest. Vrae’ree spoke words of magic, hurling a burning speck from his hand. The speck ignited in midair, turning into a bolt of fire. The Kobold’s eyes widened, and it squealed as the Flame Bolt streaked past it and exploded against the cave wall.
Our wizard player was having a rough night with his to-hit rolls. I’ve considered adding a House Rule that ranged attack spells of 3rd level or lower can be used with an Arcane Focus to give the wizard an advantage roll on attack rolls. I’m not sure how this would affect the system but since NPCs and Monsters would get the same benefit, it might be something I will try. What do you think? Leave a comment below.
The Kobold grabbed its sling and shot a bullet at Vrae’ree. Brûne stepped forward, bringing up his shield in front of the Dark Elf. However, Fo ran forward and jumped in front of the bullet, deflecting it with his staff. Landing in front of the Kobold, he hit it several times. The creature was dead on the first strike, but the Monk kept hitting the small beast until its lifeless body finally slumped to the floor.
Having dispatched the Kobolds quickly, Brûne started dragging their bodies to the back of the cave to hide them out of sight. Before each body was moved, however, Fo and Abernacky made sure to check the small creatures for anything of value. All that was found was a set of crude bone gaming dice, some scraps of rotting meat, and some bits of brown leafy vegetables. Their weapons were not the normal crude weapons made by Kobolds. They were well made, and matched those carried by the Kobolds who had raided on the High Road previously. Four spears, two bows, two quivers of twenty arrows, a two slings were laying on the ground where the Kobolds had been playing dice. A small pouch containing tiny sling bullets was found, as well.
After regrouping, the Company decided to squeeze through the narrow fissure and follow the tunnel West. They discovered that the Karst Cave network was a series of interconnecting passages, rooms, and domes. Each formed from the limestone rock being dissolved. The passages are called fissures or fissure passages. The Company founded that the passages were straight, narrow and had formed along the joints in the rocks. Their Drow companion pointed out that the passages were much deeper then they are wide. In Karst Caves, the fissure passages have been filled with silt and mud. They found as they walked through, in most cases, they were not walking on the floor of the cave. They were walking on silt or mud which filled the lower portion of the passage. This mud is known to be several feet deep in many places, according to Vrae’ree. They proceeded with caution.
Brûne and Fo ignited torches as they proceeded into the dark passage. They noticed that the muddy floor was marked with the traffic of Kobolds making it obvious that it was a well used path. Therivol pointed out a small stone plate on the wall marked with Dwarven Runes. After wiping away the grime, Vrae’ree was able to explain that it was a waypoint marking often used by Dwarves in their mines. It simply stated, “Go West then South.” It had a clan marking of two crossed hammers.
The passage was narrow, so they had to walk single file. They set the marching order with Vrae’ree in the middle and Therivol in the rear. Brûne and Fo walked in the front, allowing their flickering torches to light the way. It cast flickering, dim light that cast shadows around them but it was better than the alternative of total darkness. As they advanced, they could smell the rank stink of unwashed flesh. Brûne identified this a simply “Goblin stink” and Vrae’ree confirmed the fact.
They walked through the passage West for perhaps ninety or a hundred feet, and then saw a small opening about twenty feet ahead of them. The passage widened enough for them to spread out two by two. Abernacky pointed out the smell of manure, commenting that it smelled like a horse barn. They also heard the sound of metal jolting against stone from time to time, and a guttural grunting. While everyone else prepared for the prospect of another battle, Fo sneaked forward to peer into the next cave.
The cave was dome-shaped and rather large. It appeared to be a kennel or a stable. There was a small ledge that was high enough to act as a natural table. Tacks and saddles were layed out on the ledge along with different sized saddle bags. The floor was littered with dung and hay. Nearest Fo were four smallish ponies, large enough to be pack animals. They were tied off by ropes strung around their necks and hammered into the wall with pitons. Across the room were three large sleeping dogs, possible Wolfhounds by breed.
The group moved slowly through the cave, heading towards the center of the room. They noticed that there was an cleft in the Southern wall large enough for a human to walk through. Brûne shined his torch in that direction and confirmed that their was a narrow passage heading South and then Southwest. There was also a larger opening to the West. Fo shined his torch to reveal a widening tunnel that drifted off into the darkness to the West. They did notice that tracks in the mud and silt of thecave floor displayed that their was more foot traffic going South than that going West in the cave.
The Company whispered among themselves, suggesting the next move. Meanwhile, one of the dogs snuffled and opened a lazy eye. It noticed the people in the room, and let out a single bark. Sitting up, it started to wag its tail. The other two dogs did the same, their tongues lolling out of their mouths. Abernacky and Fo used their knowledge of Animal Handling to comfort the dogs, while Brûne assisted by tossing them a few hunks of jerky. The dogs happily accepted the gesture, and gobbled up the treats provided by their new friends.
This encounter was a role-playing situation. I asked the players to describe in details how they were going to approach the dogs. They used a Ready Action to make Animal Handling rolls if the dogs woke up. They did a good job of role-playing the situation. I had them make DC 15 Animal Handling rolls but when Brûne’s player stated he was throwing jerky, I gave a +5 conditional bonus to the rolls bringing the DC down a step to 10. So guess what guys, if you’re one of the players at my table, and you’re reading this post please send me a message on Facebook that says “DOGS” and you’ll get a point of inspiration. Good job, team!
Heading to the Western passage, they found that there was a four or five foot ledge where there were once steps but erosion had eaten them away. They each climbed the ledge and entered the narrow passage. Here they found that the floor was no longer muddy. It was now hard, wet stone . After walking about what they guessed was 120 feet to the West, the passage began to slowly hedge Southwest for another sixty feet. At that point they could see another man-sized opening in the passage that appeared to lead into a grotto.
The grotto was cut in half by a huge stalagnat column that formed a wall down the center with flowstone at the base. Essentially, a stalanat is a barrier formed when a stalagmite and a stalagmite join. Narrow passages led to the North and the South, but the Company was able to theorized that both paths probably joined behind the naturally formed wall. They decided to continue to go South, assuming that it would return them to their Western route.
As they proceeded, Abernacky pointed to the wall, revealing a second panel with Dwarven Runes. After the grime was wiped away, they were able to see that it showed the rune for “Elevator” or “Freight Elevator” and simple stated “WEST.” After reading this and discussing the signifigance briefly, they continued to follow the narrow passageway. It seemed to gradually angle west then southwest for roughly seventy feet before opening into the grotto again. They could see that the ceiling reached a height of perhaps fifteen feet above, and stalactites covered the ceiling. The pointed pieces of jutting rock dripped slowly, covering the floor with wetness. Moss grew abundantly here, covering most of the floor and some of the walls.
“Moss?” said Abernacky quietly. “Strange.”
“It’s because of a bacteria that contains chlorophyll,” explained the Drow Elf as he glanced around the grotto. “This would make a perfect farm for harvesting feed for animals like rothé.”
Fo took some time to investigate the moss, using his skills in herbalism. Brûne helped him. They determined that it was in fact an edible moss that could also be used as a poultice.
Then they all stopped talking as they heard the sound of stone grating on stone. It sounded like someone dragging a cinderblock across flagstone. The sound echoed for about five seconds, and then drifted away.
“Secret passage,” said Fo.
Vrae’ree nodded. “Secret door.”
They all prepared for battle, fully expecting something to lurch from the shadows at them. Seconds passed, and then after about a minute, they started to relax.
“Did you hear that?” said Abernacky. His voice cracked just a little.
Everyone stared over at the soldier. They had no idea was he was talking about.
Therivol raised an eyebrow. “You mean the stone on stone?”
Abernacky scowled and shook his head. “No, Elf.” He spat the word. “I meant the voice. It said something like ‘dirty dwarfs’ or ‘filthy dwarfs’ just a moment ago.”
Fo shook his head. “Didn’t hear it. Where’d it come from?”
Abernacky shrugged. “Everywhere at once.”
Just then, Therivol pointed back the way they had come. “Look!”
There in the passage behind them was a swirling cloud of smoke, or maybe mist. It seemed to fill the narrow passage, clinging to one place. However, it seemed to swirl and billow almost as it were a living thing.
They all exchanged glances, wondering the same thing. What was this mist, and was it a threat?