The Unknown Catacombs

This is a solo adventure played using Swords & Six-Siders, a rules-lite OSR fantasy game that uses a six-sided die for character creation and resolving all actions. Swords & Six-Siders fortunately does not include mundane and time-consuming details such as paying for equipment and accommodation or keeping track of encumbrance. Combats were also quick to resolve compared to most other games that I’ve played.

When I needed an answer to a question while playing I used Sophia Brandt’s Miso game, which is available for free on her blog. Basically, you come up with two or more answers to your question and then roll dice. The die with the highest number provides your answer.

To generate the dungeon randomly during play I used the Dungeon Generator Version 4.1 available for free on the Tabletop Diversions blog. This generator uses playing cards and dice to generate the corridors and chambers of a dungeon. I modified the generator to include caves.

Before starting play I created a set of random tables for monsters, chamber or cave content, traps, and treasure. My table for chamber content was as follows:

  1. Empty (treasure on a roll of 6).
  2. Monster (treasure on a roll of 3-6)
  3. Monster (as above)
  4. Trap (treasure on a roll of 4-6)
  5. Unusual (treasure on a roll of 6 unless otherwise suggested by DungeonWords and/or Rory’s Story Cubes)
  6. Unusual (as above)

If I rolled the result of ‘Unusual’ then I determined the chamber content using Rory’s Story Cubes (the basic set, the Voyages set, and the Mythic set), and the D30 version of DungeonWords from Risus Monkey. Unfortunately the link to Risus Monkey no longer works, but it wouldn’t be too difficult to create your own random tables of dungeon-appropriate words. I will probably do so soon.

Monsters for the adventure were sourced from the Swords & Six-Siders rulebook and from the Monster Listing for Swords & Six-Siders on the Wizardawn website.

Yost

The walled town of Yost stands on the edge of the Wild Hills, not far from the complex of underground tunnels and chambers known as the Unknown Catacombs. Who or what built the Catacombs is a mystery; they were already there before Yost was founded. Numerous adventuring parties have met in Yost in The Blue Flagon inn, and have set off to explore the Catacombs. If any of the adventurers survived then they did not return to Yost to tell of what they found.

The Adventurers

Six novice adventurers have arrived in Yost with the intention of exploring the Unknown Catacombs.

Bertrada Dimburrow

Bertrada is a halfling sorceress, highly intelligent but very shy (she has a Charisma of 1). Her shyness is the result of her being treated with distrust and scorn by the other halflings of her native village of Smalloaks; it is unusual for a halfling to learn magic. Her spells are Illusion and Grease.

Durikida Dragonaxe

Durikida is a dwarven warrior woman. She is strong but taciturn (her Charisma is also 1). Her most prized possession is her hand axe which is inlaid with the image of a dragon in silver.

Irulana

Irulana is a dark-haired woman and a myrmidon, an adventurer whose skills combine those of a warrior with the spells of a sorceress or a wizard. Her spell is Sleep, and she can speak Kobold. She wears a chain mail hauberk and her favoured weapons are the sword and the longbow.

Symar

Symar is a wizard who wears travel-worn grey robes. His spells are Magic Eyebeam and Turn Undead, and he can speak Goblin.

Tarik

Tarik is an elven thief, an adventurer of great agility but poor constitution (his Constitution is 1). He will check the Catacombs for traps while the party explore.

Tarren

Tarren is a warrior. He once captured an orc from whom he learned the orcish language. He wears a suit of plate mail armour and wields a sword, but keeps his other hand free to hold a torch.

The Blue Flagon

The adventurers arrive at The Blue Flagon. It is a two-storey timber building of a somewhat worn appearance, though the hedges around the garden are well-groomed. They also find that the beer is of the best quality. The barkeep tells them that the name of the inn comes from an heirloom that has never left the building, a blue-painted clay flagon. After a good meal the adventurers retire to their rooms on the first floor, which are rather cramped and feature crude mattresses of straw.

The next day they have breakfast, and Bertrada, Irulana and Symar memorise their spells. Then they leave The Blue Flagon and a small crowd of sightseers accompany them to the Hill Gate in the stone wall of the town. One man yells out that they will never return to Yost if they set foot inside the Catacombs.

The Wild Hills

They leave the farmlands around Yost and travel up into the Wild Hills, following a well-worn trail trodden by the many adventurers that came before them. The Wild Hills are bleak and forbidding, and sparsely wooded compared to the countryside around Yost.

For a possible wilderness encounter I’m using the rule from Labyrinth Lord, which has an encounter occur on a roll of 1 or 2 of a dice 6 while travelling through hills. Only M0 monsters, or monsters of the weakest level, can potentially be encountered.

Wild Hills encounters (d4):

  1. Centipedes, Giant (1d6+1)
  2. Goblins (1d6+1)
  3. Kobolds (1d6+1)
  4. Ravens, Huge (1d4+1)

There are six kobolds 180 yards from the adventurers. They have 5, 4, 4, 3, 2 and 1 hit points. I decide that they are hostile and will try to ambush the adventurers in a narrow gully. Each adventurer can make a Wisdom check to see the kobolds. I start with the adventurers with the highest Wisdom.

Tarik and Symar fail to see the kobolds but Durikida sees them.

Kobolds

The adventurers enter a narrow gully strewn with large boulders. Durikida sees a kobold dart behind a boulder and shouts a warning to the others. The party comes to a halt.

The gully is deathly silent. Irulana and Tarik set arrows to their longbows, and Tarren loads a quarrel into his crossbow. But all the adventurers can hear is their own heavy breathing. How many kobolds are there?

The kobolds cannot surprise the adventurers and the adventurers have the initiative.

Suddenly they hear scrabbling sounds all around them and the kobolds attack. Three of them come from each side of the gully. They are armed with short spears that they can thrust or throw.

Irulana’s arrow misses one of the kobolds, but Tarik’s arrow hits one and badly wounds it. Tarren’s quarrel kills another of the kobolds. Symar casts Magic Eyebeam and kills another of them. Bertrada casts Illusion, causing the image of a huge red dragon to swoop down out of the sky and breathe fire at the four remaining kobolds. They run away yelping with terror.

Can the wounded kobold keep up with the others? I use Miso. D6: It can. D10: It can’t.

Impelled by fear the wounded kobold manages to keep up with the others. Soon they have all disappeared from view. The illusion of the dragon fades away. There is nothing of any value on the corpses of the two dead kobolds.

Nightfall

The adventurers continue on down the gully and come to a copse of stunted trees. It is now getting dark and they gather firewood and make camp for night. They have a meal of wine and rations and then lay out their bedrolls to get some sleep.

The Unknown Catacombs

The next day they wake early and eat some more of their rations. The magic-users prepare their spells again. They travel on through the hills and come to a wooded valley. At the end of the valley is a cave. Tarren lights a torch and they enter the cave, which they find is the entrance to the Unknown Catacombs! The cave narrows to a rocky tunnel which leads to a flight of stone steps. The form their marching order.

The steps lead down to another tunnel of masonry construction. The tunnel ends at a door of moldy wood. Tarik carefully opens the door. Beyond is a large chamber.

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1: Entry chamber

The entry chamber appear to have once served as a guardroom or barracks; it is full of the rotten remains of wooden items of furniture such as tables and beds. All the doors around the walls are of rotten wood. They go through the door in the north wall.

The chamber beyond is “Unusual’ so I roll on Rory’s Story Cubes and DungeonWords to determine what’s inside.

Story Cubes: Book, bowl of hot food, fish, minotaur, shrine, stoned face

DungeonWords: Rats, warning

2: The Shrine of the Minotaur

They enter a small chamber with two doors in the west wall and one door in the east wall. In the northeast corner there is a man-sized bronze idol of a muscular man with the head of a bull, a minotaur. Incense burns in a brazier beside the idol. A clay bowl has been set before the idol, and ordinary rats are eating from it. They squeak and scurry away as the adventurers approach and Tarren thrusts his torch at them. The bowl is full of fresh meat and fish. On the wall next to the idol is written a warning: “Beware of the bull-headed god. Make an offering here or incur his wrath.”

Symar says that it can’t hurt to leave a little of their rations in the bowl. After all, these Catacombs are another world and they never know what will happen. The other adventurers agree.

After they have left some rations in the bowl, they notice that the incense is making them feel light-headed.

All of the adventurers must make a save versus poison or have a -1 to hit for the duration of the next combat or for the next ability check. All the adventurers except Tarren fail the save.

They leave the room by the right-hand door in the west wall.

They enter a corridor that turns left, passing two doors which they find lead back into the entry chamber. The corridor turns right and then turns left again before ending in a flight of steps leading down. The architecture of the Catacombs makes little sense; perhaps the dungeon is not yet complete, or perhaps whoever built it was simply mad. They head down the steps.

I draw an Ace of Hearts, so the steps lead to six caves.

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3: Orcs in a cave

The four orcs in the cave have 7, 4, 2 and 2 hit points. They attack immediately. All of the adventurers with the exception of Tarren have a -1 to hit, due to the effect of the incense in the minotaur shrine.

The steps lead down to walls of natural rock which open out into a large cave. The cave is beautiful, with stalactites, stalagmites and columns along the walls. They have little time to dwell on such attractions, however, as four orcs are advancing to attack them. Their skin is a brownish-green and they have pig-like snouts. They wear dirty mustard yellow tunics over their leather armour, and carry axes, spears and shields.

The adventurers have the initiative.

Symar casts Magic Eyebeam, badly wounding the largest of the orcs. Tarren fells the second largest orc with a single thrust of his sword. The largest orc kills Symar. Tarren kills the largest orc and Bertrada throws a dart, killing another orc. The last orc fights to the death and kills Tarik before being killed by Tarren.

Bertrada retrieves the two darts that she threw at the orcs.

No treasure was rolled for this room but were the orcs carrying small amounts of treasure? I consult Miso. D6: Yes. D8: No.

The orcs weren’t carrying anything of value.

The adventurers debate what to do next. They have lost two members of their party, but they decide not to return to Yost until they have found some treasure. Also, they find that the light-headedness caused by the incense in the minotaur shrine has now worn off.

They divide the rations and wine of the two dead adventurers. Irulana takes Tarik’s 10 foot pole and other dungeon-exploring equipment. Bertrada takes Symar’s three darts and Irulana takes his spellbook. The party form a new marching order; Irulana will now check for traps and she and Durikida will go first, followed by Bertrada and Tarren.

4: Empty cave

The next cave is small and empty. They take the exit tunnel on the right.

5: Mushroom men

Treasure: two violet garnets worth a total of 270 gp.

The mushroom men have 7, 6, 5, 5, 4, 3 and 2 HP. They are positive in their attitude towards the adventurers and may possibly help them.

They enter another large cave where there are seven strange beings. They are about man-sized but look like huge, purple toadstools with arms and legs. Their skin is spongy and they have only two fingers and a thumb on each hand. They have dark purple eyes with no pupils but no noses or mouths that the adventurers can see.

The mushroom men approach the adventurers cautiously. They do not seem to be hostile.

I decide that instead of releasing their ordinary poison spores the mushroom men will release their telepathy spores (as with the myconids in Monster Manual II (1st Edition)). They will attempt to communicate with the adventurer with the highest Wisdom, who is Durikida.

The mushroom men walk up to Durikida and release their spores.

As in Monster Manual II Durikida must fail a save versus poison in order to enter into telepathic communication with the mushroom men. She fails the save.

Durikida is not hurt by the spores, and she can hear the voices of the mushroom men in her mind.

The mushroom men inform her about the contents of the next three caves.

The fourth cave is inhabited by seven living stalactites. Treasure: 125 gold pieces and a silver necklace jewelled with green chrysoberyl worth 1,000 gp.

The fifth cave is the lair of an ochre jelly. Treasure: 946 gold pieces.

The sixth cave is an ‘Unusual’ chamber. It contains no treasure.

Story Cubes: Octopus, shrine

DungeonWords: Phasic, sanctuary, stores

Durikida thanks the mushroom men for their information. She tells the other adventurers about what she has learned.

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The other three caves

If they return to the small, empty cave they will find that the tunnel on the left leads back to the man-made part of the Catacombs. There are three other caves beyond this cave, and none of them have any other exits.

The tunnel entrance in the east wall of this cave leads to another cave inhabited by seven living stalactites who are lurking on the ceiling. These monsters can drop down onto someone and attempt to impale them. On the floor of the cave there is a corpse which is wearing a valuable necklace.

The tunnel entrance in the west wall of this cave leads to another cave inhabited by a huge, shapeless monster. This monster feeds on the flesh of humans and mushroom men, but much prefers the former. The monster recently moved into the cave from another part of the dungeon. The mushroom men think that this kind of monster can only be killed with fire; they have seen adventurers kill another of its type with torches. This cave also contains a large pile of gold coins. The monster has recently devoured a dwarf who entered the cave, but it will be hungry again soon.

The tunnel at the end of this cave leads to the shrine of a strange aquatic deity with tentacles. The cultists store torches and other items in the cave. The mushroom men have just returned to their home cave so they do not know if the cultists are in the cave at present. The cave is unstable in space and sometimes becomes a gateway to the lair of the deity.

The adventurers debate what to do. They decide to go to the shrine cave first to fetch some torches that they can use to kill the shapeless monster.

6: The Shrine of Vobrilb

Are there cultists in the cave? D6: Yes. D6: No. I roll two 2s. I decide that there are only 1d4 cultists in the cave. There are three cultists (M0 men) and one cult myrmidon, a woman who is an M1 opponent. The cultists dislike the adventurers for intruding into their private sanctum. The cult myrmidon will attempt to deceive the adventurers.

The three male cultists have 6, 5 and 2 hit points. The myrmidon has 7 hit points and can cast the spell Mirror Image.

The adventurers follow the tunnel which leads to a small cave. They enter the cave as quietly as possible. There is a stone altar at the far end, carved in the shape of a being which has the appearance of an octopus with a vaguely human face. Four people are standing by the altar. Three of them are men dressed in ragged clothes, one of whom is holding a torch. The fourth cultist is a woman dressed in leather armour, with long blonde hair flowing out from under her iron helmet. The men are armed with spears and the woman is armed with a sword.

The adventurers are reluctant to attack the cultists without good reason. The woman turns around and sees them, alerting the others. She steps towards the adventurers with a look of anger on her beautiful face, which suddenly changes to a welcoming smile.

Sandrenna

The woman introduces herself as Sandrenna, and welcomes the adventurers to the Shrine of Vobrilb. Their deity is kind to weary travellers whether they travel by land or by sea. She invites the adventurers to rest for a while in the shrine.

Outwardly there seems to be nothing sinister about the cultists. The adventurers debate among themselves whether or not to accept her offer.

The myrmidon intends to drug the adventurers and sacrifice them to Vobrilb. Each adventurer may make a Wisdom check to recognise her deceit. All the adventurers fail the check.

The adventurers accept her offer. Sandrenna directs one of the men to fetch some bread and wine which is stored in an alcove behind the altar. The adventurers and the cultists sit down together in front of the altar. The bread is not stale or mouldy as the adventurers expected; rather it tastes delicious, as does the red wine. The adventurers feel their spirits lift and soon they are talking freely with the cultists and telling them of their adventures. Sandrenna congratulates them for killing the orcs, who are the enemies of all the other inhabitants of the Catacombs.

Soon the adventurers start to feel not just drunk, but drugged.

Each adventurer must make a save versus poison. Only Bertrada and Irulana succeed on the save.

Durikida and Tarren slump to the floor in a drugged stupor. Irulana feels the effect of the drug in the wine but she can still think clearly. She gets to her feet and casts Sleep onto the cultists. All four of them fall into a deep magical slumber.

Bertrada has also succeeded in throwing off the effect of the drug. She helps Irulana to drag Durikida and Tarren out of the cave and into the tunnel. They run back into the cave and Irulana picks up Tarren’s torch and the torch that was held by one of the cultists. She leaves Tarik’s wooden pole lying in the cave. Bertrada quickly runs to the alcove and takes four more torches from the cultists’ stores, just to be sure that they have enough fire to be able to kill the shapeless monster in the other cave.

Vobrilb

Irulana has already left the cave. Bertrada is hurrying to join her when the walls of the cave start to fade away. The shrine is becoming a gateway to the lair of Vobrilb and the floor is filling up with sea water. An enormous tentacle emerges from the water and tries to seize Bertrada.

Bertrada must make a Dexterity check to escape or she will be seized and devoured. She fails the check.

The tentacle seizes Bertrada, constricting around her so tightly that she cannot scream. The last thing she sees is the terrified expression on Irulana’s face before she is pulled down into watery darkness. The four cultists are also seized by more of Vobrilb’s tentacles. Vobrilb and the water fade away and the shrine returns to normal.

Irulana rests for a while in the tunnel before dragging Durikida back to the cave of the mushroom men. Then she returns for Tarren. They only have two torches with which to fight the shapeless monster.

With the assistance of a potion provided by the mushroom men, Durikida and Tarren soon recover from the effects of the drugged wine. Irulana tells them what happened to Bertrada and they rest in the cave for a while. Irulana is still shaken by the death of Bertrada, so Durikida takes the cultist’s torch and she and Tarren lead the way when they leave the mushroom men to go to fight the shapeless monster.

Durikida’s AC has been reduced from 6 to 5 as she is carrying her shield on her back in order to wield her torch.

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7: Ochre jelly

A short tunnel leads to a huge cave. They enter and soon see the monster which is moving slowly towards them. It is a formless mass of yellow sludge larger than a man. The sight of the monster stops the adventurers in their tracks for a moment.

The ochre jelly is an M2 monster with 10 hit points. It has the initiative. A torch does d6 damage.

In the ensuing combat Durikida is badly burned by the corrosive fluid excreted by the ochre jelly before Tarren succeeds in killing it with his torch.

Durikida has 2 hit points left.

They explore the cave and find the skeleton of the dwarf. At the far end of the cave, just as the mushroom men said, there is a large pile of gold pieces. They divide the 946 coins between themselves, with Durikida getting the extra gold piece as she has been wounded.

Durikida: 316 gp

Irulana: 315 gp

Tarren: 315 gp

They return to the cave of the mushroom men and rest before going to the cave of the living stalactites.

8: Living stalactites

The living stalactites have 6, 5, 4, 4, 4, 3 and 1 hit points.

The cave is about the same size as the mushroom mens’ cave. In the middle of the floor there is a badly decayed corpse, almost a skeleton now. Around the neck of the corpse a silver necklace jewelled with green gemstones glimmers in the light of Tarren’s torch. The corpse appears to be slumped over a sack which may contain more treasure. The cave is filled with stalagmites and many stalactites hang from the ceiling. The mushroom men told Durikida that there were seven living stalactites in the cave, but the adventurers cannot distinguish them from the ordinary stalactites. The mushroom men said that the creatures were not intelligent enough to use something as bait, so they are not necessarily located over the corpse.

Irulana says that she will make a run for it and try to grab the necklace from the corpse. She leaves her sack of gold pieces with the others and runs towards the corpse.

Irulana must make a Dexterity check to grab the necklace without being hit by a living stalactite. She fails the check.

She reaches the corpse and is striving to retrieve the necklace when a living stalactite drops onto her.

She must make a save versus petrification to avoid being impaled and killed instantly. She fails the save.

Irulana is impaled by the living stalactite and killed. The four-foot long monster begins to devour her.

Durikida says that she will try to retrieve the treasure and will use her shield to try to deflect the living stalactites. She runs towards the corpse holding her shield over her head.

D6 living stalactites will try to impale Durikida: two.

Two small living stalactite drop down but both bounce off her shield. Reaching the corpse she shudders at the sight of the living stalactite devouring Irulana. She retrieves the necklace and the sack from the corpse. She returns to Tarren. The sack turns out to be filled with 125 gold pieces. The silver necklace is jewelled with green chrysoberyl stones. They both now have a huge amount of treasure which includes Irulana’s coins. Durikida will keep the necklace.

Durikida: 536 gp

Tarren: 535 gp

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Leaving the Catacombs

They return to the cave of the mushroom men and bid them farewell. They leave the caves and go back up the steps to the entry chamber. They leave the strange underground realm of the Catacombs and return to the copse in the gully, where they camp for the night. They talk about the great contributions made by the adventurers who died, in particular of how Irulana rescued them from the deceitful cultists. The next day they return to Yost without incident.

Back at The Blue Flagon

They enter The Blue Flagon and sit down at a table for a hard-earned beer. The amazed patrons gather around them, and are astonished at their tale of kobolds, orcs, mushroom men, a shapeless yellow monster, and living stalactites. After they have had their fill of eating and drinking they go to their rooms for a long sleep.

Durikida spends the next two days resting and recovering from the wound that she received from the ochre jelly.

First level characters in Swords & Six-Siders recover one lost hit point per day of rest.

After she has recovered she and Tarren both buy sturdy wooden chests, locks and keys, so that they can store their gold in their rooms at The Blue Flagon.

As with the other items of equipment the cost of these items is not deducted from their funds.

Durikida then sells her silver necklace and uses the 1,000 gold pieces that she receives to pay for a week of training with a weapon master.

Durikida is now a second level fighter with 10 hit points.

She and Tarren wait for more adventurers to arrive at The Blue Flagon; when they do they will ask them to join them for another expedition into the Unknown Catacombs, which are now a little less unknown to the people of Yost.

 

 

3 thoughts on “The Unknown Catacombs

  1. What a great report of the quest these brave adventurers went on to.
    Too bad so many of them didn’t make it.
    Love your inventive way of handling the game and your style of writing.
    Exceptionally well done!

    Liked by 1 person

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