Wandering Monsters — Dark Caverns

On this Fighting Friday, the monsters wander deep into the earth. This week’s Wandering Monsters features an all-too-familiar location, the dark cavern. Caves and underground locales are all the rage when adventuring as they hold the creepiest creatures, strange plants, priceless ores and treasures, and occasionally, a dragon! Get your spelunking gear ready as we head into the dark cave.

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

Dark Caverns

The smell of damp rocks and mildew permeate throughout this cave. The sound of rushing water echoes from within.


Click on the maps for full-size versions.

The dark cavern lies in the wilderness, just outside of a local village or city. A river runs directly above the cavern. Some of the river flows into the cavern below.

Cavern Features

The ceiling height of the cavern varies from chamber to chamber and is noted in each area’s entry. The walls of the cavern are all made from natural stone with flakes of opal throughout. The opal flakes are too small to have any value, but reflect light easily. Any light within 60 feet of a wall is reflected in the flakes, making sneaking through the caver somewhat difficult. Creatures within 60 feet of light receive a –4 penalty to Stealth checks. The ceilings of the tunnels connecting the chambers are typically 12 feet high. The chambers are all dark except when noted. The loud sound of rushing water roars throughout the cavern and imposes a –2 penalty to all auditory Perception checks in the cavern.

1. Entrance Chamber

The ceiling in this chamber is 15 feet high. The main access to this cavern is through this chamber. The entrance tunnel connects to a larger network of tunnels and caverns.

2. Main Chamber

This chamber rises to a height of 50 feet in the center. A 10-foot wide hole in the ceiling allows light and water from the river above to pour into the chamber. The roar of the waterfall imposes a –8 penalty to all auditory Perception checks in the cavern. The pool of water in the center is 10 feet deep. Creatures in the pool must succeed on a DC 15 Swim check every round to prevent the current from dragging them 20 feet towards the waterfall chamber. During the day, the light from above is enough to fill the chamber with normal light. This light varies with the weather. The room is filled with bright light on sunny days and dim light on cloudy days. If the chamber is filled bright light, the exceptionally bright reflection from the walls dazzles creatures in the chamber unless they have a mean of diminish the effect of the light in some way.

3. Waterfall Chamber

The ceiling in this chamber is 20 feet high. The water from the main chamber continues into this chamber, cascading down to a precipitous drop 200 feet below. The roar of the waterfall imposes a –4 penalty to all auditory Perception checks in the cavern.

4. Side Chambers

These smaller chambers are interconnected by a wider set of tunnels. The ceiling in the tunnels and the chambers is 15 feet high. The chambers vary in use depending on the cave’s inhabitants. The middle chamber is the most important and the location of the encounter’s treasure. For the duergar, this is their sleeping quarters. The drakes keep their main nest in this chamber. The allip has an emotional attachment to this chamber. The northern chamber serves as a holding chamber for any slaves captured by the duergar. The southern chamber is generally unused.


The following encounters can take place here.

Encounter Challenge Rating Creatures Treasure
Allip Haunt CR 4 Advanced AllipB3 Silver ring worth 500 gp. If the allip is slain, its influence converts the ring into a ring of sustenance.
Drake Nest CR 8 2 advanced river drakesB3, 6 river drakesB3 1,500 gp, 500 gp in gems and jewelry, mwk longsword
Duergar Lair CR 12 4 dark spitter beetlesMC, duergar captainMC, 3 duergar lieutenantsMC, 4 duergar sergeantsMC 186 gp, +1 shortbow mwk half-plate, potion of invisibility, potion of remove fear, 4 potions of cure moderate wounds, scroll of stabilize
This week’s Encounter Table makes use of Bestiary 3 and Monster Codex.

Allip Haunt (CR 4)

Sometime ago, a local resident and her lover located this cavern, accessing it from the opening in the ceiling of the main chamber. The cavern became a secret meeting place for the two. After dozens of trysts within the tunnels, she eventually learned of her lover’s infidelity. In a mad rage, she murdered her lover. Over the following months, her guilt consumed him, driving him mad. She eventually chose to take her life in the cavern, the last bastion of their former love. Afterwards, in her mad anguish, she rose up as an allip that haunts the cavern. It now spends its time solemnly in the side chamber, staring at a carving in the wall left during a romantic visit.

The allip does not immediately attack when noticing visitors to the cavern. So long as the PCs keep from the side chambers, the allips leaves them alone. If the PCs approach the side chambers, it hides inside the walls and watches. PCs that leave the allip’s treasured engagement ring alone are ignored as well. If the PCs attempt to take the treasure, it flies into a rage and attacks. Once upset, the allip will attack the PCs until they flee the caverns. At your discretion, one of the PCs may resemble the allip’s former lover. In this case, the PCs may have a chance at forgiving the allip and putting it to rest. Failure results in the allip’s attack.

Drake Nest (CR 8)

A rampage of river drakes reside within the cavern. The flock consists of an alpha male and matriarch advanced drake with six other ordinary drakes. During the day 1d4 drakes are out hunting and return in the evening through the hole in the main chamber. Four drakes rest in the main chamber and the other two relax in the waterfall chamber. The matriarch currently spends her whole time in the nest incubating her latest egg. The alpha sits just outside of the nest, defending the matriarch.

If the nest is under attack, the alpha lets out a horrific roar which calls back any drakes that are hunting. They return within 1d6+1 rounds. The alpha then lunges forward, attacking from the ground. The remaining drakes take flight and surround the attackers, doing their best to force the intruders off of the waterfall. When brought to fewer than half his hit points, the alpha takes flight and attempts to lure the intruders away. All of the drakes fight to the death to defend the cavern. The matriarch stays with the nest until the last possible moment, intending to defend its young.

Duergar Lair (CR 12)

A band of duergar has taken residence in the cavern as a checkpoint for a slave network. Similar duergar checkpoints dot the countryside, moving slaves throughout the countryside. The captain, two lieutenants, and two sergeants are in the main chamber relaxing. There is a 30% chance that these five are asleep in the side chamber. The remaining lieutenant guards a number of slaves in the side chamber. The other two sergeants patrol the caverns as well as the greater tunnel network on their spitter beetles. There is a 20% chance that these guards are in these caverns. When they are, the two take 20 minutes to complete a circuit of the area before moving on. The remaining beetles rest in the waterfall chamber.

If there are intruders, the captain and his sergeants take the frontline with the lieutenants attacking from a distance. The captain takes on any obvious warriors or leaders while the sergeants try to swarm spell casters, using the beetles to help. The two lieutenants try to ready attacks against any remaining spell casters to interrupt their spells. The third lieutenant continues to guard the slaves and acts as the last line of defense against anyone attempting to reach the slaves.

That’s it for this week! If you use the dark caverns 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 developer at Paizo, working on the Pathfinder Lost Omens line and formerly on Campaign Setting and Player Companion lines. He's done freelance 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 Nova his cat, and walks with his wife. He is eternally plagued with a hunger for tacos. Consider checking his material on his Patreon at patreon.com/luisloza