AoW prelude - The Mine Office side trek

Age of Worms Adventure Path

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Like many other people (it seems), I decided to use Chris Wissel's development of the ruined mine office as an introductory set of encounters for the Whispering Cairn. Chris's original thread has now moved off into the Archives, though, and was (by his own admission) "whipped up pretty quick." I tidied up his creation, incorporating some of the text from the Wormfood article in Dragon #333, and would like to present that here for other DMs to make use of.

I'm worried that use of the Dragon text might involve some copyright issues, and would welcome anyone's feedback on this. I'm putting the material in a separate post, so a moderator can delete it, if necessary (and hopefully tell me how I can re-present it without infringing copyright). To make it clear, this material was originated by Jason Buhlman and Chris Wissel - I just edited it. Oh, and I bumped up Ugloop's hit points a bit!

As an aside, it's good to see that Chris has graduated to the pages of Dungeon, with "Wingclipper's Revenge" in #132. Congratulations!

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Located on the outskirts of the Diamond Lake community, a ruined mine office and dwelling sits unoccupied, without an owner. This crumbling office is the site of the PCs’ first meeting in “The Whispering Cairn”. The previous owner of the building, the mining manager Ulgo Fant, abandoned the place more than fifty years ago when his mine ran dry. When he died over a decade ago, the property was left without an owner. Few have bothered to visit this wreck since its abandonment. Young children from the town often come up to the building on a dare and a few years back an inexperienced thief took up residence here before moving onto more lucrative trade routes.

If the PCs want to use the ruined mine office as their base of operations, they’re going to have to win it from the creatures that have squatted there – including a small band of goblins led by their shaman, Ugloop. These goblins have been wandering the Cairn Hills for weeks, completely lost and cut off from their tribe, trying to avoid the daily garrison patrols. They have holed up in the building until their leader, Ugloop, can figure out what to do. With the exception of the shaman, the equipment used by the goblins is rusty and in disrepair, and is valued at a fifth of the normal price (DC 10 Appraise check). There are also a few infestations that must be dealt with to make the place safe.

The Yard (EL 1)

A modest dwelling squats upon the crown of a small hill. While the rough stone walls of the first floor look mostly intact, the second floor has completely collapsed. A half height wall rings the house, but it too is in a state of severe disrepair. Rubble and dense weeds choke the yard, and a twisted, dead tree stands in the south-west corner.

The entire yard is considered difficult terrain, except for the small path leading up to the building. Clearing the yard requires 20 total hours of work and makes the yard normal terrain. Behind the building, a stone well rises up out of the weeds. Although the bucket is gone, the water is clean, if a bit brackish. In the back, the remains of a wooden outhouse lie in an unrecognizable heap.

Creatures: Hanging around the tree are three stirges that have caught the scent of sweat and blood inside the mine office and are waiting for it to come out. They have been waiting too long, however, and are now ravenous. They attack anyone who comes into the yard.

Stirge (3): hp 5 each; Monster Manual 236.

The Building

Made of smooth stone blocks, this building stands in shambles. Thick vines creep up the side and most of the windows are broken. The front door hangs open, barely on its hinges under a sagging and partially collapsed porch.

Part of the front porch has collapsed but it still allows entry to the building. The two exterior doors are damaged but are still sound and easily repaired with an hour’s worth of work and a successful DC 15 Craft (carpentry) skill check. The locks on the doors are rusted beyond repair and must be replaced (see page 128 of the Player’s Handbook for prices). The walls and doors have the following statistics.

Wooden Doors: 1½ in. thick; hardness 5; hp 15; Break DC 18.
Stone Walls: 1 ft. thick; hardness 8; hp 90; Break DC 35; Climb DC 20 (15 with vines).

The First Floor

Small mounds of debris litter the floor of the building’s interior. Loose stones, dead weeds, and grime cover virtually every surface. Paintings must have once adorned the place, as indicated by the particular stain patterns marring the walls. The only light comes from thin shafts sneaking in from outside, illuminating clouds of dust dancing through the stale air.

The first floor of the manor consists of five chambers.

Living Room (EL 1)

The largest chamber on the first floor is the living room, part of which has completely collapsed. A staircase, choked with debris, leads to the remains of the second floor.

Creatures: The goblins inside the building should hear the commotion from the stirges (DC 8 Listen check) and the shaman, Ugloop, will nudge out a few guards to wait for the PCs in the Living Room. The shaman hides in the library/study until the attack is over. If the goblins hear nothing, they will be spread through the house in pairs, with the shaman inspecting the rooms upstairs.

Goblins (4): hp 5 each; Monster Manual 133.

Dining Room (EL 1)

Adjoining the living room is a sizable dining room. Any furniture that remains in the room is completely soiled and worthless.

Creatures: This room contains the “guard dogs” for the small band: two starving, tortured badgers that have taken to digging into the floorboards in frustration. They will attack anything that doesn’t feed them a scrap of food; even then, they will only pause long enough to eat it.

Badger (2): hp 6 each; Monster Manual 268.


The kitchen contains an actual fire pit, but the chimney is blocked and must be cleared before it can be used. A staircase leads down to a crude cellar. A DC 7 Listen check will notice ominous squeaking sounds coming from below.


The pantry, attached to the kitchen, has a number of empty and broken shelves along with two empty barrels.

Treasure: the barrels hold the treasures of the small goblin band: 8 pints of oil, 5 tindertwigs, 1 flask of alchemist’s fire, 50’ silk rope, 18 trail rations, 625 sp, 60 gp, 1 rose quartz (50 gp), 3 blue quartz (10 gp each).

Library/Study (EL 2)

Directly to the right of the living room space is what was once an office. The bookshelves and desk have thoroughly rotted and what few tomes and mine maps remain are ruined and illegible.

Creatures: The shaman, Ugloop, and his bodyguards are located here, and they fight to the death. After days and days of wandering and dodging the garrison and other dangers of the Cairn Hills, these goblins are desperate. Any taken alive will know nothing of the area, but they will have heard strange moaning and whispering coming from the hills.

Goblin (2): hp 5 each; Monster Manual 133.

Ugloop (CR 1)
Male goblin warrior 1, adept 1
NE small humanoid (goblinoid)
Init +1; Senses darkvision 60 ft; Listen +4, Spot +4
Languages Goblin
AC 15, touch 12, flat-footed 14
hp 13 (2 HD)
Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +1
Spd 30 ft (6 squares)
Atk masterwork morningstar +5 melee (1d6+3)
Base Atk +2; Grp -1
Combat Gear three potions of cure light wounds, potion of resist energy (acid)
Adept Spells Prepared (CL 1st):
1st (DC 12) – burning hands, sleep
0 (DC 11) – cure minor wounds, ghost sound, touch of fatigue

Abilities Str 14, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 6
Skills Concentration +3, Hide +5, Move Silently +5, Ride +5
Feats Alertness
Possessions combat gear, masterwork morningstar, studded leather armor, obsidian necklace (value 200 gp)

Basement (EL 2)

The cellar is partially collapsed, but stable at the current time. Along one wall, a crumbling wine rack still stands, although others have already plundered it, leaving a pile of empty and broken bottles at its base.

Creatures: The squeaking sounds are made by a nest of dire rats who have laired in the ruins of the basement. A number of non-combatant baby dire rats blindly root about a nest on the south wall, alongside a couple of badly decomposed bodies.

Dire Rat (5): hp 5 each, Monster Manual 64.

Treasure: The nest also contains a heavy wooden box, nestled under the debris, requiring a DC 10 Search check to find. The box contains an elixir of swimming, a scroll of burning hands, a scroll of animate rope, 340 sp, 82 gp, and a masterwork ivory-bound ledger worth 125 gp.

The Second Story

The second floor of the manor is in complete ruins. Although there is no roof in its current state, the floor prevents most of the rainwater from leaking into the first floor. It is possible that there could be more stirges up here, roosting.

The Tiny Crevasse

About 100 yards from the mine office there is a small crevasse surrounded by a littering of stones and rocks. It would be a great place to dispose of or bury bodies. Alternatively, there could be a cleric of Wee Jas nearby, wandering the hills and collecting the skins of dead animals, who might consider helping the PCs out with this kind of problem.

This looks really cool I am going to steal some of this and modify it. I want to create this as an interesting first session. Why would they be taking over the old mine office now?

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