This is an adventure for the Castles & Crusades system however it can be used for an pre-4E D&D like system. Conversion notes are at the end.
In ages past the dwarves built great cities under the mountain. They mighty empire stretched far and wide and deep. All things pass and soon the dwarves fell. All that is left now are ruins from their past glory. This module has three separate adventures that deal with dwarven ruins in the Smoking Giant mountain. This is located on the edge of the Darkenfold forest, the setting of C1, C2. Those, being set in the forest, had a dark fairy tale feel. This one feels like a generic adventure. Do any fantasy games feature dwarves at the height of their power, instead of ruined halls and fallen empires? I wonder what the meme there is?
The first adventure is set in and near a dwarven bathhouse. These were common locations on the great roads the dwarves in the high places of the world. There is a short overland adventure that is connected to the bathhouse. The idea, I believe, is that this is integrated in to another adventure the party is journeying to. They make there way up a small ravine or canyon in the mountains. There’s a short wandering monster tables provided with a few environmental hazards that I found interesting, as well as some animal and humanoid encounters. I don’t humanoids in adventures; they feel generic and showing up on a wandering table makes them feel even more generic. In addition, I like my wandering monsters to be doing something. Hunting, sleeping, moving, etc. I think a brief description adds a lot to the encounter and can encourage role-playing opportunities. There are a couple of fixed encounters on the way up also. Bloodthirsty sub-humans are a nice touch. THAT’S what I want to see instead of humanoids. There’s also an encounter with a murderous giant boulder. Yes, a giant boulder that’s possessed by an evil spirit. It essentially consists of a giant boulder rolling down a slope and then rolling around some more. I suspect it plays much much better than it reads. The bathhouse proper really only has two encounters in it, and only one of those has to be hostile. In fact, it’s not really clear to me why everything past the second encounter is present. There’s not really much in the trick/trap category, or wandering monster inside the smallish bathhouse complex. It is supposed to have nine keyed encounters, however there’s really not much present. It feels like looting one of those empty ruins in Fallout. Realistic … but not necessarily a good time.
The second adventure is more of a traditional dungeon crawl, although a short one, in an old dwarven home. This is a brief twelve room dungeon with a couple of loops. I like these more complicated maps since they allow for player freedom and lend a sense of exploration. This one has five or six encounters in it, all of which are interesting. There are some demons, fungi, and undead. What’s interesting is that they are all mostly non-standard. For example, there’s a group of skeletons that animate in a certain room. Except it’s not just the skeletons, it’s all the bones. So the party can end up destroying the skeletons and still have some bones rolling down hallways following the party until they are destroyed. That’s cool. There are a few other interesting encounters like this one, both combat and not, scattered throughout this small dwarf domicile.
The last adventure is in yet another dwarven domicile. This one is more straight-forward than the last, really just a few rooms. The map indicates 14, however it’s really quite compact with only about seven or eight rooms, the rest being corridors and things. There are a couple of traps present, and really only two encounters, including the concluding one. There is some clever non-standard treasure hidden about, however the entire place smacks of a little too much realism .. and by that I don’t mean interesting. There are couple of environmental issues to be overcome and at least one freaky thing, related to the final boss, but it just wasn’t enough to hold me.
The last two adventures don’t have wandering monsters, since they are sealed up environments. Some rats or carrion eaters might have been nice though. There are a few non-standard magic items, which I appreciated. I like it when new things, both monsters and magic items, show up. I like the uniqueness and mystery that imparts. To be sure, most of the items found are mundane magic items, “sword +1” and the like, but the three new ones do show an ability to create unique environments.
Monsters can be used as is either right out of the adventure or pulled from your systems monster manual. The C&C versions are close enough to the D&D versions that it doesn’t matter. The C&C AC is on an ascending scale, but otherwise all you’ll need to do is compute XP, such as out of the 1E DMG. Skill checks in C&C are rated on a Challenge Level scale. To convert to 3.0/3.5 just add the value to 15 to get the DC. For pre-3E versions just use the characters skill checks for tracking, opening locks, etc. Or don’t use checks and role-play it out, which is what I do.