Welcome to “High Caves Drifters” -- a flexible and easily randomized cavern crawl for Swords and Wizardry: Light. This is NOT an officially licensed S&W Light product.
(Swords & Wizardry: Light is Copyright 2016 Erik Stiene in association with Frog God Games, LLC. Based on Swords & Wizardry system created by Matthew J. Finch. All rights reserved.)
How To Use HCD: this adventure is designed to have the maximum flexibility for impromptu games, and especially as demonstration or introduction material for use at conventions. Complete cartography is included, to be used in parts or as a whole, as time allowances or intent dictates. A generalized background and adventure hooks are provided for quick impetus and transitions into gameplay. Sample, variable encounters are also laid out for GMs use and discretion. Finally, suggested treasure for varying encounter levels is include for GM convenience. The intent of this product is to allow GMs to present a SWL adventure highlighting the concept, rules and enjoyment of an OSR roleplaying game experience -- with the least amount of preparation and complexity.
Introduction. The High Caves have long been the best known entrance to the enormous adventure site typically referred to only as “The Mountain.” The Mountain, and its associated ‘Mega-Dungeon’ is the potential source of countless adventures of exploration, heroism, and power-hungry greed. Often considered to be the ‘easiest’ locale in the area (sometimes a greatly underestimated one), more importantly the Caves is one of the easiest to reach and enter. Quite low on the southeast side of The Moutain, the Caves acquired its name due to the frequently used path to its dual entrances -- a long, narrow ridge-path that gradually rises over the course of a quarter-mile to a height of about 100 feet above the base of the slopes. Two distinct cave entrances breach the rock face, each entering into distinct and connected cavern complexes within the High Caves. The caverns here hold a widely varying array of inhabitants, including creatures that may not normally dwell in such close proximity. All these monsters are dangerous, some of them very much so, and many a group of explorers have strutted into this place straight to their doom. Most interesting is the fact that no matter how many foes are defeated here, or how many groups of explorers venture here -- the denizens of the High Caves replenish themselves with alarming speed, and in some cases with drastically more deadly replacements. The source of this turnover is at best speculated, but is presumed to be from pathways further into The Mountain.
Reasons to Explore (Adventure Hooks)
1. ‘The Lost Boy’ -- a wealthy merchant (Dormand), visiting the town of Bedsode on business, has misplaced his son. Forenne, an entitled, somewhat arrogant youth had always dreamed of a life of adventure. When his father was otherwise occupied, the boy appropriated some of the family’s hired mercenaries to accompany him on a ‘grand adventure’ in the High Caves. Predictably, none have returned in nearly a week, and the merchant (in a panic) has sought out professional adventurers to find and return his son. The merchant is offering enough gold to make the arrangement difficult to refuse. True heroes shouldn’t be able to refuse anyway....
2. ‘The Mouth of Magnificence’ -- a strange tale has recently emerged from the explorations of the High Caves. Two separate, yet uncorroborated, stories have circulated as far south as Thryce concerning a mystical ‘Mouth’ appearing in the Caves lately. It is unknown whether this Mouth is a magical effect or a creature of some sort, but upon its appearance it allegedly spews “gouts of fabulous treasure” about its general vicinity before mysteriously vanishing. Other creatures within the Caves seem to be drawn to this Mouth, increasing the hazard greatly -- but those who survive can scoop up “armloads of wealth” for their effort. This grand treasure has yet to surface, but the multiple reports still provide ample incentive to other explorers. Haste must be used if the ambitious wish to capitalize on this fortuitous and dangerous curiosity.
3. ‘To Boldly Go...’ -- a recent geologic event has drawn increased interest in the more ‘common’ entrances to The Mountain and its dungeons. Months ago, a massive landslide (shortened to “The Slide” by many) has drastically altered some of the geography and connections within the dungeons nearest to the surface. These dungeons are collectively called “The Upper Halls” and are a junction point for multiple pathways deeper into The Mountain. The Slide has closed some of these passages, opened others, and changed the course of yet more -- these changes in the Upper Halls beckon to explorers seeking new paths to travel within the dungeons, and new areas to be explored. The earliest to arrive are likely to be the ones to profit most from these developing events.
Using The Map:
The map provided is courtesy of Tim Hartin of Paratime Design, and is the June 3rd, 2016 Friday Freebie Map (part of a weekly feature on his website and Facebook pages; highly recommended). As a quick introduction to SWL or as a convention adventure, this map may be a bit too large to serve those purposes. The map can be used in 3 versions....
1. As a Complete Whole. Best for maximized encounters and maximum rewards, this version allows for extended exploration, is ideal for hooks like ‘To Boldly Go...’, and may or may not include the passage (left and off the map) out of area 8a -- which leads to another level, and further into the Upper Halls as a whole. Those GMs wishing to end-cap the Caves can simply eliminate the passage leading out of area 8a off the map.
2. A Brief Endeavor. Start with the entrance at area 1. Eliminate the entrance at area 13. By eliminating 2 of the passages out of 8a (left/off the map, and up leading to area 12); removing the passage at the junction between area 9 and areas 3/4 (proceeding up and to the right to area 10); and remove the hole in the ceiling in area 9 (connects to the floor of area 16) -- The Caves will now consist only of areas 1 through 9. Good for use with ‘The Lost Boy’ hook, if a short intro to SWL is desired.
3. Moderate Delve. Eliminate the entrance at area 1. Remove the same passages as above, as well as the hole at areas 9/16, using area 13 as the entrance. The Caves now consist of areas 10 through 20. Good for the first 2 hooks, but not as useful for ‘To Boldly Go...’
ENCOUNTERS (drawn directly from the SWL rules; randomize or choose from the list -- alter numbers based on level and number of PCs)
1. Beetles, Giant Fire (1d6+1) 11. Rats, Giant (3d6+3)
2. Bugbears (1d6+1) 12. Skeletons (2d6+1)
3. Ghouls (1d6+1) 13. Spiders, Giant (1d3+1)
4. Gnolls (2d6) 14. Trolls (1d3)
5. Goblins (3d6) 15. Worgs (1d3+1)
6. Hobgoblins (2d6+1) 16. Wyvern (1, at entrance)
7.Kobolds (3d6+3) 17. Zombies (2d6)
8. Lizardmen (1d6+2) 18. Empty Chamber.
9. Ogres (1d3) 19. Empty Chamber.
10. Orcs (2d6+2) 20. Empty Chamber.
For those using Pocket Creatures, volume 1 and 2, feel free to incorporate these additional foes as desired.
Three Armed Squat (1d3) Morath Ogre (1)
Gelamorphous Cube (1) Cave Otter (1 or 2)
Osseinian Horror (1d3)
The High Caves have a long history of occupation and exploration, and as a result tend to have reasonably high chances for the discovery of incidental treasure. Individual GMs will certainly determine what kinds of treasure would be appropriate given the make-up of the group, and the context in which this adventure is presented. That said, here is a general guideline for handling treasure for this version of The High Caves....
Even in the absence of a combat encounter, a given area has a 1 in 6 chance of incidental treasure present. Areas where combat or a prevalent threat is present, there is a 4 in 6 chance of substantive treasure.
Treasure values function with a base of 500gp times the Challenge Level of the encounter. This number may need to be modified by individual GMs. The Trade Out chance is doubled in the Caves, as there is little reason for large piles of coins to be strewn about anywhere in this section of The Mountain. Magic items, even fairly major ones, are more common here than would normally be expected -- subject to the discretion of the GM (It is indeed truth that 11 years ago; the legendary axe Foryurd, weapon of Gyurion Raynor, was found haft-less, ownerless, and undefended -- sunk into the stone of one of these caves. None can say how this came to pass, but wild speculation abounds....).
Experience/Advancement -- Individual GMs will have to determine how precisely to award 'experience'. Partial use of the provided map should count as a single adventure. Full navigation of these caverns (and fulfillment of given quest goals) certainly could constitute credit as 2 adventures towards advancement for deserving PCs, at the discretion of the GM.
I hope you enjoyed this adventure summary, and that it may prove useful to you in your upcoming Swords & Wizardry Light endeavors. For those wishing to continue your adventures in the High Caves, the Upper Halls, The Mountain, and the vast Mega-Dungeon beneath it: all of this material presented is based on project I am currently creating, The Mountain Mega-Dungeon Campaign -- coming together level-by-level, week-by-week on Patreon (under my alias, Lastlaugh70). If you are so inclined please stop by, check it out, and consider becoming a patron. Thanks!