Your players have just reached the end of their first major plot arc, you suddenly have a lot of planning to do, and while you reach for ideas for next session, your group have a few plans of their own to execute. And maybe it all goes well, maybe they know exactly how to spend their hard-earned cash, or have some personal loose ends to tie up. And maybe you spend a session staring blankly at each other. What fortune for you that the ground has begun to quake, and skies in the east have begun to blacken.
Presented below is a short dungeon for 4-6 level 5 players, and as in all Dungeon Situational articles presumes Dungeons & Dragons 5e, but can be readily adapted to other levels or systems in a high-fantasy setting. This adventure is presented without a map, but can easily be mapped using the descriptions given, and random encounters can be placed in specific locations rather than stumbled across.
The Volcano Walked
The elementals that wander the planes of existence are like the beasts of the material world, dull witted, and wildly varying in size from the small to the massive. Who knows how long The Basalt King lay slumbering amidst the Black Horizon mountain range, now it slowly ponders towards the mighty city states of Treeg and Valdun, billowing ashen clouds and raining fire from the slopes on its back. What plucky band of fools would dare to scale the beast and halt its advance?
Entering The Dungeon
The players have a few options for entering this dungeon, but should always be a challenge. Should they attempt to attack the Basalt King’s legs to halt its advance, this should result in a lethal counter attack from the vast elemental, and it may be worth remarking on the failure of armies to assault it head-on. As the King is approaching slowly, it is strongly advised the characters are prepared, carrying health potions, and of course finding ways and means of resisting fire damage where they are able.
Approach: No matter how the party approach, fire is perpetually raining upon them. When they come within 1 mile of The King, target a random number of characters to make dexterity saves at DC 12 or take 2d10 fire damage. Repeat this at least twice as the party draw closer, possibly more if they are delayed for any reason, or less if they have found a means of approaching at high speed.
Climbing: To climb a leg will require at least two DC 12 Athletics checks per character, skilled athletes can help by dropping ropes. Each leg is approximately 300 ft high. Climbing will bring the party to the Belly of The King.
Flying: If the party secure a means of flying to the King and are struck by fire they are likely to fall. Flying will bring the party to The Slopes or Crown of The King.
Belly of The King
Labyrinthine chambers riddle the walking volcano, you may choose to map them, or simply rely on a DC 13 Navigation check, including at least one random encounter, another if the party fail, and on a second failure the group arrive in the wrong location (see below). For a random encounter roll 1d8:
1 – A fire elemental forces its way from a crack in the wall to fill the passage, and slowly approaches.
2 – Lava seeps openly through cracks in the walls, easily dodged, but the heat is unbearable. Each player gains a level of exhaustion.
3-4 – Smoke floods the area, players must succeed on a DC 14 constitution check or gain a level of exhaustion.
5-6 – A pair of wandering Orogs (demon-blooded orcs) approach, there is space for the party to hide if they choose not to attack.
7 – A dead end, or perhaps the way is suddenly blocked by shattering stone and a shower of molten rock. Repeat the navigation check.
8 – The passage is steeply inclined, near vertical, and the walls are hot. Reroll the d8, odds the passage goes up, evens down, and multiply the result by 5 for the distance.
There are 3 exits to The Slopes, 2 exits that lead to the legs, and finally one into Caldera. If the group are lost roll 1d6, 1-3 leads to The Slopes, 5-6 leads to the right and left leg respectively, and 6 leads to the floor of Caldera.
Navigating the steep slopes of The Basalt King is highly perilous, affording little to no quarter or opportunity to rest. Lava rolls down the sides, flocks of magma mephits wheel through the sky, and great, monstrous orcs patrol. Begin by rolling a random encounter (1d6) as soon as players arrive and a second before they reach any location, if they attempt a short rest roll 1d8 instead, where 9-10 results in a peaceful hour to recover. Traversing the Slopes requires at least one player who has not yet made the check to make a DC 13 athletics check, rolling another encounter on a failure.
1-2 – 2d4+2 Magma mephits attack from above.
3-4 – 2 orogs and an orc who carries 4 bottles of alchemists fire patrol nearby, it is possible to sneak past them. The orc also carries 2 potions of healing.
5 – Lava flows from above, a DC 9 dexterity check is required to avoid being touched by it, an athletics check of DC 14 is required to cross it safely, or roll again if the group choose an alternative route. Connecting with the lava or landing in it results in 2d10 damage, and a further 1d10 if they have to move out of it.
6 – Sliding stone causes creatures to slip, dexterity save DC 12 or take 1d6 slashing damage from the obsidian shards and be forced to find an alternative root. Roll again for those creatures who failed the save and any who choose to go with them instead of continuing without them.
Across The Slopes there are 3 entrances to The Belly of The King, an entry into the top of Caldera, and a path to Crown of The King.
Crown of The King
A high plateau, approximately 30 ft across, and ringed with stubby, pointed stone spires forms the head of The Basalt King. A small orc-made hut stands on the top, adorned with totems of scorched wood and obsidian.
An orc war chief and 3x orcs guard the Crown, and will fight to the death to protect it. The war chief wears a Ring of Fire Elemental command, and therefore is immune to fire damage, she knows about the ability to dominate fire elementals, but is seemingly oblivious to the spells it grants.
The head has an AC of 10, 300 hit points, immunity to fire and poison damage and the petrified effect, resistance to all other forms of damage, and further reduces any amount of bludgeoning, piercing or slashing damage received by 10. It automatically fails dexterity and intelligence saving throws, and automatically succeeds strength saving throws. Destroying the head halts the advance of the Basalt King but does not end its volcanic effect. The King settles slowly to the ground when slain, and will regrow it’s head in 1d4 X 100 years.
The orc hut has a harvest of amethyst in scorched sacks valuing 940 gold pieces. There are three pickaxes, along with a simple bed of furs, and a neglected greataxe.
The 100 ft diameter chamber opens to the sky about 130 ft above the floor. 50 ft above the chamber floor and approximately 70 ft wide is a horizontal flaming circle, entirely flat, and radiating heat. A player may make an arcana check DC 13 to identify a portal to the Plane of Fire. Approaching from above the players must succeed on a DC 16 dexterity saving throw or take 4d10 fire damage, or half as much on a successful save. After combat or a short rest near the portal, all creatures suffer a level of exhaustion.
A salamander circles the stubby pillars of rock across the floor, using them for cover, and 5 magma mephits lurk against the walls. They will work to protect an orc who is bent over a large book filled with black pages, hidden behind a growth of rock, and quietly muttering to himself. The orc uses the stats of an acolyte but will not join combat while the salamander and mephits fight. The orc must make concentration checks to maintain the portal. He may be persuaded to simply leave if told his war chief (see Crown of The King) is dead.
Closing the portal ends the volcanic effect of The Basalt King, but does not halt his advance towards civilisation.
A nature check of DC 14 will identify the geodes embedded into the rock, and spending ten minutes with jeweller’s tools, pickaxe or similar tool will harvest a total of 1270 gold pieces worth of amethysts.
Orogs and Orcs: The foot soldiers wield weapons of obsidian rather than metal, in addition they all have resistance against fire damage.
The Black Book: Studying the black book (see Caldera) for six hours and succeeding on an arcana check (DC in brackets) will bestow one of the following permanent advantages; (10) advantage on nature or arcana checks made to recall lore about the Plane of Fire and creatures native to it; (12) the spell Plane Shift exclusive to the Plane of Fire that can be cast as if on a spell scroll; (14) immunity to fire damage while you carry the book in one hand; and (16) the ability to summon a fire elemental as the item Brazier of Commanding Fire Elementals.
This series has so many more possibilities, but rather than me rambling about whatever I please, what would you like to see more of:
My Monastery, similar to My Warlock Pact, creating various temples, schools, and organisations that can lend some variety to your monk.
If your sick of playing/fighting the same old dwarves, I present other subraces and cultures, but mostly I will be keeping the beards.
Or if you’d rather some new rewards to tempt your players, a set of items that – in true ARPG fashion – give increasing bonuses as they are brought together.