Help with an underdark encounter


Advice


Setup: a huge cavern in the Underdark with immense stalactites hanging down from the ceiling. One stalactite contains the dungeon (it's a small one, just a few rooms). You reach it by a rope bridge that extends from a tunnel entrance up near the cavern roof, a couple of hundred feet above the floor.

The cavern floor is partly filled with stagnant water. Half submerged can be seen the immense skeleton of a truly titanic humanoid. It is, in fact, the corpse of a thanatotic titan. The titan is truly dead, but its malign influence pervades the waters. The stalactite-dungeon was the base of a powerful mystic theurge who wanted to study the dead titan and the local ecosystem without getting his feet wet.

An advance team of paladins has established a bridgehead at one end of the rope bridge. They're not going inside, though, because (1) they suspect (correctly) that the place will be full of puzzles, traps and illusions; and (2) they also suspect (correctly) that once the PCs reach the McGuffin, all hell may break loose.

The 9th level PCs have to trek a bit across the Underdark, rendezvous with the paladins, and enter the dungeon. I have the dungeon part mostly ready, but could use some suggestions about the outside.

1) What's a good name for an Underdark cavern where the remains of a dead god are very slowly dissolving into a fungal swamp?

2) What sort of unpleasantness might come flapping or floating up from the swamp while the PCs are on the rope bridge? Right now I've got "a couple of vrock demons" or "a couple of advanced harpies with the Fungal Creature template", but neither of those are really moving me. PCs on a rope bridge should present some interesting tactical options, especially since only one of them has flight capability.

3) Any suggestions for making the paladins sympathetic? Both players and PCs are not fans of paladins and will certainly end up betraying them to gain the McGuffin. I'm okay with that but I'd like to give them a twinge. "Paladins are helpful and nice" won't do much -- the PCs will accept the Cures and betray them anyway. Any ideas?

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.


For creatures...

Firstly, Will-o'-Wisps are always fun creatures to include in swamps, even subterranean swamps. And since they have natural invisibility, they could invisibly approach, attack the PCs, then retreat when things go south... and return again after healing up from whatever might be around that provides them with Fast Healing 5. They're immune to magic and generally just annoying things to fight, and they're technically aberrations.

However, "stuck on a rope bridge" tells me that one of the most fun - and rude - things you can leverage against the PCs is Bull Rush. With that in mind, a high Strength monster (or monsters) could Bull Rush your PCs off the bridge one by one with flyby attacks or the like.

There's also this Dracolisk which looks really fun.

The Gryph might be a sick and twisted thing to use as well, and you can have a veritable flock of them thanks to the low CR.


Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
1) What's a good name for an Underdark cavern where the remains of a dead god are very slowly dissolving into a fungal swamp?

The bonemere.

Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
2) What sort of unpleasantness might come flapping or floating up from the swamp while the PCs are on the rope bridge? Right now I've got "a couple of vrock demons" or "a couple of advanced harpies with the Fungal Creature template", but neither of those are really moving me. PCs on a rope bridge should present some interesting tactical options, especially since only one of them has flight capability.

So if you're considering two Vrocks, I'm guessing somewhere around the CR 11 range is what you're looking for.

How high is the drop? If it's not too high, maybe have something reach up to the party. Put the giant template on the Hangman's Tree (fluff it as some kind of underdark plant) growing out of the murk, and be just tall enough to grab at characters as they pass across the rope bridge. A round afterwards, the jostling of the hangman's tree causes the waters below to "burp", releasing a cloud of noxious gas and agitating the corrupted insects feasting on the decay and forming a pair of Hellwasp Swarms.

Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
3) Any suggestions for making the paladins sympathetic? Both players and PCs are not fans of paladins and will certainly end up betraying them to gain the McGuffin. I'm okay with that but I'd like to give them a twinge. "Paladins are helpful and nice" won't do much -- the PCs will accept the Cures and betray them anyway. Any ideas?

Give the villain a hostage who is a close family member of one of the paladins, preferably a child or spouse. This will add more reason why the paladins are keeping their distance, while also humanizing them if and when a betrayal occurs (it wasn't just about the McGuffin)


Dasrak wrote:


The bonemere.

Boom! Got it in one. Thank you.

Quote:
So if you're considering two Vrocks, I'm guessing somewhere around the CR 11 range is what you're looking for.

8 to 11, yah.

Quote:
How high is the drop? If it's not too high, maybe have something reach up to the party. Put the giant template on the Hangman's Tree (fluff it as some kind of underdark plant) growing out of the murk, and be just tall enough to grab at characters as they pass across the rope bridge. A round afterwards, the jostling of the hangman's tree causes the waters below to "burp", releasing a cloud of noxious gas and agitating the corrupted insects feasting on the decay and forming a pair of Hellwasp Swarms.

I see the drop as too high for a tree -- at least 100' -- but hellwasp swarms are a definite possibility.

Tactically, what I want is for the rope bridge to be rickety so that moving quickly along it requires an Acrobatics check, and also so that having more than 2 PCs at a time is problematic. So they can't just rush to the dungeon and enter it. They'll have to figure out how to deal with the attackers while moving carefully forward.

Quote:
Give the villain a hostage who is a close family member of one of the paladins, preferably a child or spouse.

I was unclear -- the dungeon is closed up and running on autopilot. So, no villains.

Doug M.


Given that terrain description, I definitely suggest either bull rushing flying creatures, ranged creatures, or Dasrak's very cool suggestion. Indeed, you could have flying creatures bull rush the party into the bog below, deal fall damage, then have creatures that attack whoever is down at the bottom. Lots of tactical depth to deal with from that. (This could be a rare opportunity to use both flying creatures and water creatures, in fact!)

And as I said, Dasrak's idea is cool beans.


Consider some creature(s) willing and able to climb along the underside of your bridge ... who are all too happy to encourage the bridge to rock around and use the bridge for cover.

And a question, are they likely or able to Fly out to the dungeon and ignore the bridge option altogether?


This actually sounds like a good location for a Haunt.

Perception 20 to hear a 'cry from above' to get a warning 1 round before the haunt starts.

The haunt itself is triggered by anyone reaching the middle of the bridge. The haunt is a reenactment of the Titan falling into this pit and his last struggles before death.

1st round: Each of you can see a humongus humanoid in tattered and burnt armor falling into the ravine below. The tremors from him crashing into the pit threaten to shake you in as well." Everybody makes a DC 15 reflex save to avoid 1d4 dex drain and being knocked to their knees.

2nd round: the Titan below bellows your name and curses your treachery! DC 16 will save to avoid 1d6 wisdom drain.

3rd round: The dying Titan calls forth a magical vortex attempting to draw everything around him into it. DC 17 fortitude save to avoid 1d8 con damage.

4th round: the ground collapses sealing the mad titan below.

Give the haunt enough HP that it probably survives 1 channel. Say 25 hp?

As for the Paladins: Make the front door a solid block of Stone inscribed with a riddle written in Aklo and a shrine to Iomedae. The answer to the riddle is to defile the shrine by crossing out Iomedae's eyes. Doing so makes the shrine intangible to the defiler. Of course any Paladin that did that would lose his abilities until he atoned.

"If no crime can be committed in Iomedae's sight, what must you do?"
Any sort of harm done to the eyes works. Simply covering them does not.

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