Wandering Monsters — Dragon Lair

Today, we travel into one of the deepest and most dangerous caverns an adventurer can ever find herself: the dragon lair! This week’s map is very simple. It’s a big place to have an enormous, tough fight, worthy of a whole adventure or as the end to a lengthy campaign. I’ve made sure there are actual dragons to fight in this lair and I hope the tactics I provide do them justice.

One thing I will note for this entry is that I’m not providing a treasure entry. I’m doing this for a few reasons. First, dragon hoards are usually quite large and listing every item would take up a lot of space in this entry. Second, a lot of the items in hoards tend to be very interesting and descriptive such as a lute engraved with the images of annis hags dancing with charmed men or a statuette of a legendary hero lofting the slain head of a foe. These kinds of objects take up even more space that this little blog post just can’t spare. If you want really interesting item descriptions, check out the works of Richard Pett. That guy is a master of descriptive treasure! Finally, a treasure hoard such as this is the perfect place to throw in that weapon or magic item that a player has been seeking. Taking the time to customize a treasure hoard for a campaign or a group of players is really fun so I encourage everyone that uses this map to do so! Without further ado, let’s dive into the dragon lair!

As always, many thanks to the Pyromancers dungeon painter tool for helping me create this week’s map.

Dragon Lair

The thunderous sound of water roars throughout this massive cavern. A large pool, almost the size of a small lake, fills a large portion of the chamber.

Click on the map for a full-size version.

This lair lies deep underground, 200 feet beneath the surface. A river flows from the surface above, crashing down into the enormous underground pool within. The large cavern connects to other small, distant caves via natural tunnels. The lair is a suitable home for any manner of dragon, but dragons more suited towards earth or water, such as black chromatics, copper metallic, or sea imperials, are more likely inhabitants.

Lair Features

The lair rises to a height of 80 feet with a large opening in the ceiling above the pool of water. The constant sound of crashing water imposes a –10 penalty to all auditory Perception checks in the lair. During the day, enough light pours in from above to fill the lair with dim light. A cliff stands 40 feet high on the western side of the cavern. Climbing up on this cliff requires a successful DC 15 Climb check.

Encounters

The following encounters can take place here.

Encounter Challenge Rating Creatures
Dragon Hunters CR 7 DeserterVC, guard mageVC, sentinelVC, war singerVC
Underworld Lair CR 11 Adult underworld dragonB3
Corrupted Crystal CR 15 NE ancient crystal dragonB2
This week’s Encounter Table makes use of Bestiary 2, Bestiary 3, and Villain Codex.

Dragon Hunters (CR 7)

A band of monster hunters recently entered this lair and slayed the resident young brine dragon. The group convinced the locals that the dragon was plotting nefarious acts to learn the location of its lair. Having done the deed, the greedy quartet now sits around resting up and counting their coin, planning to leave at the next sunset. The guard mage rests up on the cliff while the other trio are on the ground.

When the PC enter the lair, the group is quick to take arms to defend their loot. They try to dissuade the PCs from nearing by telling of their recent feat or by bribing them with a relatively small portion of the hoard. If the PCs won’t leave, the hunters attack. The deserter and the sentinel rush in first to give the war singer time to start a raging song. The guard mage tries to protect the rest from the perch above.

Underworld Lair (CR 11)

The cavern is home to an underworld dragon that rises from slumber every decade to demand tribute from one of the neighboring kingdoms. Having rested here for many years, the dragon has modified the cavern to accommodate her needs and she has dug a tunnel deep beneath the pool to reach active magma further below. The pool is instead filled with lava and the waterfall constantly crashes against the molten earth, filling the entire lair with thick steam. The dragon has no trouble seeing through the steam thanks to her smoke vision and she tends to slumber in the pool most of her days.

The dragon suffers no intruders to her domain and is quick to attack if she detects anyone in the lair. She tries her best to burrow beneath the trespassers and ambush from below. The dragon prefers hit and run tactics, assaulting quickly from beneath the ground or from the air before returning underground or diving into the lava pool. When she can, she makes use of stone shape to tear away the ground beneath the intruders, causing them to fall into the pool or off of the cliff. She defends her lair to the death, offering no quarter. The only way to escape with one’s life is to leave others behind as a distraction.

Corrupted Crystal (CR 15)

A large, alien crystal feel to the ground millennia ago, piercing the ground and creating the large cavern. Here, the crystal slowly grew, poisoning the world around it and creating a poisonous area of twisting energy for miles. Over the years, those who learned of the crystal treated it as a god, bringing riches as tribute to the mysterious object. The crystal rests at the bottom of the pool, content to let any do as they wish in the lair. Even those that wish to steal from the massive piles of wealth littered throughout are left undisturbed. Any who attempt to destroy the corrupting influence of the crystal, however, learn that it is truly alive, as it lashes out in the form of a great dragon.

As soon as it perceives a threat, the crystal lurches to life and blasts all it can with the imperceivable energies and shades of its prismatic spray. As best as it can, the crystal uses its alien knowledge to fill the minds of its attackers with horrible imagery and unspeakable thoughts through the use of its spells like color spray and phantasmal killer. Additionally, it hums at an intolerable frequency, melting the air around those it perceives as lumbering or sluggish, with the use of its breath weapon. When it cannot keep its distance, the crystal doles out all of its might against the attacker that appears physically weakest and working its way up to the mightiest. It recognizes the incantations and whispering of spellcasting and does its best to stop mages and priests by preparing to interrupt them with blindness/deafness, filling their senses with haunting landscapes or dissonant murmurs. The crystal does not stop, even after destroyed. Its shards are scattered to the winds, growing in other parts of the world. They all know when one falls and once one does, they begin to hum and resonate in the old tones that shook the world long, long ago.

That’s it for this week! If you use the dragon lair in your game, let me know!  If you have any request for a future Wandering Monsters, please drop me a line at KnowDirection@hotmail.com.

Luis Loza

Luis Loza is a freelance writer from Lincoln, Nebraska. He has written for Paizo Inc, Legendary Games, Rogue Genius Games, and more third-party publishers. His hobbies include gaming both tabletop and video, making jokes, obsessing over time travel, taking naps with Hugo the cat, and walks with Heather the wife. He is eternally plagued with a hunger for tacos.

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