Populating the Dyson Mega-Delve Part 1: The Dwarven Outpost

This is the first part of the “Populating the Dyson Mega-Delve” series. In each session, I’m taking Dyson Logos’ Mega-Delve and filling it with my own monsters, traps, and diversions.

Here’s what this edition covers:

  • Introduction to Dyson Logos’ Mega-Delve map: the Dwarven Outpost.
  • What we learned from Dyson’s description.
  • How I interpreted the information (plus a new monster).
  • Area descriptions for the Dwarven Outpost map.

To see and download the Dyson Mega-Delve yourself, check it out here: The Dyson Mega-Delve.

Note: Unfortunately, I won’t start off this series by sharing the introduction maps, namely the two Giants Citadel maps. I might go back and write them up at a later point, but for now, I need to create notes on where my players actually are in the mega-delve.

 

The Dwarven Outpost

After pushing their way through the tunnels below the Giants’ Citadel, my players’ characters have made it to a series of caverns just to the north of the stone giants’ home. Dyson calls this map the Dwarven Outpost.  This one has some pretty neat descriptors, too:

When the dwarves loaded up their Earthships and abandoned the city above, they intended to take all the clans that lived here with them. But in the months leading up to their departure there were disappearances from the city. Religious fanatics, young idealists, and some struck by pure greed from their time in the mines were among those who went missing.

These self-exiled dwarves hid themselves away in the deep mines where they built a small outpost to live in. In the years right after the departure from the city, they went back to the sprawling empty halls, but eventually returned here where they were less haunted by the echoing empty halls of their decisions, and where they had a small enough settlement to be able to defend properly with their restricted numbers.

For that is what they do now – they defend. Their settlement is besieged by thin and loathsome humanoids with pitch black skin and not a hair on them. Foul rubbery and cold-blooded things that haunt the darkness and are invisible to infravision / darkvision, requiring lamps and torches to be kept lit to find them. They have formed some sort of nest or hive just south of the dwarven settlement, but the dwarves lack the manpower to clear it out.

Some pretty wild stuff, right?

 

Duergar not Dwarves

One of the big changes I have to make here is that it’s duergar in the outpost and not dwarves. After all, they were the ones the PC’s were dealing with last. Sure, I coulda jammed in some regular ol’ dwarves, but I thought making this outpost home to the evil, deep dwarves was much more fun, especially since the PC’s just had kind of a lousy time with the ones in the city to the south of the Giants’ Citadel.

Going with Dyson’s story, the duergar were left behind by their comrades when the kruthik hordes from the Hematite Mines and Dwarven City next door started making trouble. They didn’t block off the old secret tunnels leading below the Giants City, though. However, the strange creatures that’d been slowly tormenting the duergar just south of this eastern outpost made it impossible to escape.

 

The Nightmare Stalkers

The nightmare stalkers were a lot of fun to create and kind of fit in with the overall story anyways. The duergar were eating the black cap mushrooms in the caves south of their outpost. Then, when they slept, they dreamed of these horrible black beasts. Soon, their nightmares became reality and up sprouted the nightmare stalkers, short, simian-like beasts with huge gaping maws and a vicious hunger for duergar flesh.

Here’s an image (drawn by me!) and their stats:

nightmare-stalker-small

Nightmare Stalker

Medium plant, chaotic evil


Armor Class 13 (natural armor)

Hit Points 30 (4d8 + 12)

Speed 25 ft.


Abilities Str 14 (+2), Dex 10 (+0), Con 16 (+3), Int 6 (-2), Wis 10 (+0), Cha 10 (+0)


Skills Stealth +2, Perception +2

Damage Immunities poison

Senses truesight 120 ft., passive Perception 12

Languages none

Challenge 2 (450 xp)


Sun Sickness. While in sunlight, the nightmare stalker has disadvantage on ability checks, attacks rolls, and saving throws. The nightmare fungus dies if it spends more than 1 hour in direct sunlight.

Darkvision Invisibility. Nightmare stalkers are invisible to darkvision and can only be seen if lit up by a torch, sunlight, magical light, or any other light source.

Actions

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage plus 18 (4d8) psychic damage. Any creature bit by a nightmare stalker must make a DC 10 Wisdom save or become frightened for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.

 

Labeling the Map

Beyond the outpost and the nightmare stalkers’ “birthing grounds”, I pretty much had carte blanche with the rest of the map.

Here’s how I labeled everything, starting with the PCs’ likely entrances to the south, then numbering everything “following the left wall” like they tend to do.

the-dwarven-outpost-small

The Areas from Dyson’s Notes

According to Dyson, the duergar would take up areas 14-24. And the nightmare stalkers were going to be mostly in 7, maybe in 6 and 5, too. But, I knew I didn’t want it all to just be duergar, nightmare stalkers, or the odd kruthik. There had to be some other neat stuff here, too. Otherwise it’d get boring fast.

Abandoned Quarry

Areas 12 and 13 seemed like the perfect place where this particular group of duergar were mining, either another hematite mine or perhaps bloodstone, which I recently learned is derived from hematite in real life. And both types of stones are in the DMG valued at 50gp and 10gp respectively.

Of course, since the duergar are too afraid to leave their camp, it’s probably fallen into ruin. I imagined a plucky xorn (or two as it turns out) found its way there and was slowly eating its fat, waddling way through all those precious gems. I might even throw in a few rust monsters, too, just to be really devious.

Appraiser’s Offices

In addition to the abandoned mines, I saw 9-11 as the appraisal and storage areas. This is where the pit bosses made their offices and expected everything brought to them first. Chances are they boogied once the going got tough. I considered putting traps here, but in their rush, they probably didn’t have time to do anything like that.

Side note: undead in abandoned places are always kind of a bore and done to death anyways. Sometimes vacant is scarier.

Sinkhole/Mud Room

Area 8 is an interesting room for sure. It’s connected to the Delve’s “Under the Mushroom Cavern” map by a massive, mud-filled sinkhole. That’s what that tunnel heading east is. If each gradation is 10 feet, then we’re probably talking at least 100 feet worth of climbing through mud at a steep angle.

My PCs are currently trying to head east, too, so I didn’t want to make this easy for ’em. I awarded the sinkhole a DC 25 Strength (athletics) check to climb up the mud hole, a task that none of them are really capable of.

Not without some creativity, of course.

But where did the sinkhole come from?

The “Under the Mushroom Cavern” map is just outside of an ooky-kooky abandoned cutlist temple. My thought was that the temple was managed by a beholder. And one day a planetar, who wasn’t feeling the whole “evil temple under the earth” thing, showed up and created a ruckus. The two battled, and in the end, the much more powerful planetar smote the eye-ball monster so damn hard it buckled the very the earth below it, instantly creating the sinkhole and burying the aberration at the bottom of it.

The beholder, pinned and dying, dreamt up a horrible spin-off beholder: a death kiss (Volo’s Guide to Monsters, p124) which now lingers in the cavern above. Once it finally kicked the bucket, the beholder continued to get buried under the mud. Eventually this spawned freaky gas spores. 

If you aren’t familiar with gas spores, those are the fungi in the Monster Manual that look like green beholders. Deal a single point a damage and pop! You’re poisoned and diseased. Pretty nasty.

And that’s what my players saw when they ran into in area 8 just recently: eight “beholders.”

Steeder Caverns

Finally, I had areas 2-4 to populate. Continuing with the abandoned industry theme, I thought those caves might be the ideal breeding grounds for the steeders the duergar used as pack animals in their mining operation. After all, the nightmare stalkers only care about duergar flesh. So left unchecked, the females probably went to town and laid a bunch of eggs.

Hope you aren’t afraid of spiders!

 

The Dwarven Outpost Basics

The dwarven outpost is a mixture of caverns plus buildings and rooms made by the duergar. Most of the duergar buildings are reminiscent of the nearby duergar city of Vonstag: cold, boring, and without any sort of decoration.

  • Ceilings. Most of the caves have 15-foot high ceilings and are made of solid rock. They’re totally uneven, too, typically sloping and coming together at funky angles. The chamber ceilings are about 10 feet above the floor near the walls, but they can be as much as 30 feet high in the middle. At the duergar encampment, the ceilings are 10-feet high to reflect the diminutive stature of its residents.
  • Doors. Doors here are made from stone slabs balanced on central pivots that create openings about 3 feet wide. There’s no light in the caverns or encampment as the duergar are afraid of alerting the kruthik in the hematite mines the next map over. Speaking of…
  • Heat. Any sort of heat created in this area might alert the kruthik to the presence of life, especially fireballs and flame-based spells.  Even a torch can send the foul reptiles burrowing in that direction. If any kind of fire is brought into the encampment, the duergar will go wild and fight to put it out. Use the following chart to see whether or not kruthik show up:
    • Torches or similar small-sized fire. 10% chance that 1d3 adult kruthik (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, p 212) show up.
    • Campfire or similar medium-sized fire. 25% chance that 1d6+1 adult kruthik show up.
    • Fireball or similar large-sized fire. 50% chance that 2d6+2 adult kruthik show up.

 

Area Descriptions

Now that I had the ideas laid out for each of the areas, here’s how the individual areas shaped up:

1 – Southeast Tunnel

Just a shroomy tunnel leading from the northern part of the Giants’ Citadel. Nothing to see here!

2 – Central Tunnel

Again, nothing out of the ordinary here. Just a way up into the Dwarven Outpost from the Giants’ Citadel below.

3 – Southwest Tunnel

Here come the first hints of the steeders.

  • The first encounter with the steeders is an easier encounter. Four groups of steeder babies aka spiders swarms (Monster Manual, p338) accompanied by two male steeders (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, p238).
  • Although the spider swarms aren’t inherently violent, the male steeders will see any entering this part of their caves (or any other for that matter) as a threat, and work to defend their territory. The swarms will then follow suit. Ewww! Get ’em off! Get ’em off!

4 – Steeder Cave

Here’s where the real mess happens.

  • This cave is a lot taller than the others, roughly 50 feet in height. There’s a nook at the top where the female steeder (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, p238) hides and lays her eggs. And she ain’t having any sort of invaders comin’ up in her house, nuh uh!
  • Every inch of this cave is covered in icky spiders: six male steeders and seven spider swarms. I get chills just thinking about running this encounter!

5 – Dead Slaves

Between the steeders and the nightmare stalkers zone are the remains of slaves who fancied an escape but got ate. By what? Probably both the spiders and the fungus, to be honest. Being slaves, they have nothing of value on them. However, this is a good chance to make PCs paranoid with hints at undead.

6 – Crazy Slave

Hidden around the bend and covered in spider bites is a slave who’s on his last hit point. He mutters to the PCs “burn… burn the darkness… before it devours you…” referencing the nightmare stalkers in the next cave over.

  • My players’ characters are pretty nice guys, so they might try to save this guy. In that case, a backstory is necessary. He’s definitely a commoner of some sort and down to 1 hp.
  • A greater restoration spell will cure his madness. He’ll identify himself as Rojer from Ten Towns. Even with his madness cured, Rojer will still be somewhat melancholy, having lost his entire family in the mines. Oh, and he hates duergar. Naturally. So have fun running that while going through the duergar encampment!
  • To make things fun, Rojer could offer up a quest to help him find his last living relative who he’d last heard was in Baldur’s Gate. Reward? How about a family heirloom treasure map!

7 – Black Caps

This is the big nasty encounter. The one that has all the marks of “you should probably avoid this if you want your character to live” on it. This is where the black caps grow and the nightmare stalkers emerge from the soggy ground below.

  • The nightmare stalkers aren’t interested in anyone that has not previously eaten a black cap mushroom then slept. However, they will offer up black shrooms to anyone coming in here to try to create new stalkers with all new cravings.
  • If a PC does eat one of the black caps and sleeps, then the nightmare stalkers will develop a taste for that particular PC’s race. Currently, in my campaign, one of the tieflings ate a black cap mushroom. And there’s two tieflings in the party! Muahaha…
  • There are ten nightmare stalkers (see above description) in this room. With their bite attack dealing 23 damage in a single turn plus a Wis save on top of it, this could turn into an ugly fight. However, my players have a proclivity for lobbing fireballs at everything. And since these guys are so squishy, they’ll probably be fine.
  • However, don’t forget: the kruthik sealed off in the mines next door are drawn to heat!

8 – Mud Pit

Here’s where the dead beholder rests and its gas spore spawn rise from its grave. The ceilings are about 50 feet high towards the center in here, by the way.

  • There are eight gas spores (Monster Manual, p137) in this room. They look like beholders, so be sure to use beholder tokens to represent them to really spook your players.
  • This makes for another great chance for the PCs to use fireballs as a quick fix. Heck, mine did. They’re gonna pay for that…
  • The dead beholder’s rotting corpse is found under the mud. PCs can discover it with a successful DC 20 Intelligence (investigation) check. It’s got three magic rings on its eye stalks: a ring of swimming, a ring of mind shielding, and a ring of evasion.
  • Climbing up the mud pit into the Under the Mushroom Cave map is an extremely difficult task and takes a DC 25 Strength (athletics) check to succeed. Plus, it’s nearly 100 feet at a sheer angle. Probably worth an XP bump if the players figure out how to do it.

9 – Tool Shed

This room was where the duergar stored all their tools. Many of the bigger tools have been taken by the duergar to use as weapons against the kruthik and nightmare stalkers. Both this room and the appraiser’s office make good spots for the PCs to hide out while taking a short or long rest.

10 – Appraiser’s Office

The appraiser worked out of this office. When the kruthik attacked, he managed to escape back to Vonstag.

  • In his haste, the appraiser left a bag of gems he’d pilfered from some of the digs. He tucked the bag in a crack in the wall behind a stack of stone tablets. A successful DC 15 Intelligence (investigation) check will reveal the bag. Inside are two tigers eyes worth 10gp each, a jasper worth 50gp, and a tourmaline worth 100gp.

11 – Lockup

This room is where the duergar diggers stored the good finds, those the appraiser didn’t pilfer, that is. Unfortunately, the xorn from 13 got in here and ate all the good stuff. Those darn xorn!

12 – Large Natural Cavern

The entire reason for this camp offshoot is here in this cavern. This is where the duergar dug up bloodstone and other precious stones. Unfortunately, since the duergar evacuated, a lot of the good stuff is gone, gobbled up by the xorn in area 13.

  • If the PCs are patient and spend at least an hour digging, there’s a 10% chance per each digging character that they will find bloodstone worth 50gp. PCs can dig without penalty for a number of hours equal to their Constitution modifier. For each hour spent digging past that, a character must make a Constitution saving throw at the end of the hour. The DC is 10 + 1 for each hour spent digging. On a failed saving throw, a character suffers one level of exhaustion.

13 – Gem Cave

This room is still fat with bloodstone. Unfortunately, a pair of gluttonous xorn are having a veritable buffet here. And they won’t take too kindly to anyone trying to steal their yum-yums!

  • The two xorn (Monster Manual, p304) are eating the gemstones and will attack anyone who tries to take them from them. Otherwise, they’re pretty chill.
  • There is approximately 25 pounds of bloodstone to be found here. If the PCs were to somehow find a way to get out of the dungeon with all the bloodstone, they could be looking at nearly 62,500gp worth of bloodstone.
  • Yeah, it’s excessive, but I plan on making the PCs’ lives hell for a very long time, so in my mind, it’s totally worth it!
  • Also, in a real economy–okay D&D is far from a real economy, but I digress–it’d be a pain in the ass to try to move all those gems.
  • To make it really fun, I could even make identifying the gems a DC 20 Intelligence check, with anything less than a 20 saying “eh, they don’t look like they’re worth much.” And then they just leave ’em behind.
  • Yeah, I’m an evil DM.

14 – Outpost Central

The outpost is where the duergar have holed up hoping to find some miracle to save them from this rock/hard place situation they’re in. And here come some adventurers! Hooray!

  • For all the duergar (Monster Manual, p122) in the outpost (there are sixteen total not including the mind master and his concubines in area 20) use duergar stats from page 122 in the Monster’s Manual but give them AC 10 and take away their javelins. For all intents and purposes their pick axes work the same as a war pick. Finally, adjust their challenge rating to 1/2 (100 XP).
  • The way into the duergar outpost from area 8 is loosely guarded by three malnourished duergar without any armor wielding pickaxes.
  • The duergar are desperate to get out of the outpost and will do anything they can to get the PCs to help them escape. That includes bargaining with the stash of gems they have hidden in the barracks in area 17.
  • If the PCs use any sort of fire, the duergar will attack the PCs to squash the fire out of fear of another kruthik attack.
  • One of the duergar, Marnak (LN male duergar) has become the defacto leader of the group. He’s somewhat more reasonable than the rest and will explain the situation to the PCs. He can also give the PCs information on Luthak in area 20.

15 – Quarantined Barracks

Some of the duergar that grew tired of eating the black caps decided to try kruthik meat from the few they’d managed to kill. Unfortunately, the kruthik are tainted by the waters below their lair and carry all sorts of nasty diseases.

  • The duergar barricaded the barracks from the outside. While the duergar in the outpost advise against going in, the PCs can force their way in.
  • Three duergar lie ill in their beds. Each is a non-combatant and has only 1 hp left.
  • Their ailment can be cured with the help of a lesser restoration spell. However, the other duergar still won’t trust them.

16 – Mess Hall

Looks like kruthik and black caps weren’t the only thing on the menu. There are signs of cannibalism here. Some duergar. Mostly slaves, though.

17 – Barracks

While the three sick duergar lie dying in the quarantined barracks, the remainder of the encampment sleeps here.

  • The bag of hematite that the duergar might bargain with is hidden in this room.  A successful DC 17 Intelligence (investigation) will reveal the gems hidden in a secret compartment at the top of one of the bed posts. The gems are mostly hematite stones worth 500 gp total.

18 – Antechamber

This was the waiting area between the outpost central and the pitboss’ office. Because the duergar lack any sort of artistic credence, it’s mostly a bare, plain room save for a simple stone bench.

  • Pitboss Luthak keeps both doors in this room locked. A successful DC 20 Dexterity check will open the lock. The door can also be broken open with a successful DC 20 Strength (athletics) check.

19 – Lounge

A step up from area 18, this room has a small stone table, too. But otherwise totally boring.

  • Pitboss Luthak keeps both doors in this room locked. A successful DC 20 Dexterity check will open the lock. The door can also be broken open with a successful DC 20 Strength (athletics) check.

20 – Luthak’s Office

When the kruthik attacked, Luthak  holed himself up in his office with three select duergar ladies who aren’t exactly crazy about the arrangement. He’s turned a corner of the room into a bed and even dug a privy off to one side. For that reason, the entire room reeks.

  • Pitboss Luthak is a duergar mind master (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, p189). If he suspects someone is breaking into his office, he’ll command the three duergar women to protect him (they have the same stats as all the other duergar in the outpost), although not happily. Then, he’ll reduce and hide, hoping that he isn’t found in the coming fray.
  • The PCs might notice that the duergar women don’t wish to fight. A DC 10 Wisdom (insight) check reveals this.
  • Luthak keeps both doors to his office locked. A successful DC 20 Dexterity check will open the lock. The door can also be broken open with a successful DC 20 Strength (athletics) check.

21 – Meeting Room

Like area 18 and 19, this room is pretty spartan. A giant stone table with benches lining either side is all that’s here.

  • Pitboss Luthak keeps both doors in this room locked. A successful DC 20 Dexterity check will open the lock. The door can also be broken open with a successful DC 20 Strength (athletics) check.

22 – Armory

All of the armor and weapons were taken here when the majority of the duergar fled following the kruthik incursion. All that’s left is used by the guards in area 23.

23 – Guard Post

The duergar take turns in the encampment on Marnak’s instructions,keeping an eye out the arrow slits for any kruthik that might breach the entry in area 24.

  • Three duergar are stationed here. Unlike the other duergar in the encampment, they are wearing their scale mail (AC 15) and are armed with heavy crossbows. They’re tired and hungry, though, and won’t put up a fight unless they absolutely have to.
  • The duergar were instructed by Marnak to not allow anyone past the entry, but these guards are pretty easy to persuade.

24 – Entry

The western entry to the outpost is something of a disaster. Here is where the duergar have fought against the kruthik tooth and nail. Their scratch marks mar the stone nearly everywhere and there’s even signs of where they’ve emerged through the raw, uncut stone.

  • The western door into area 25 is barricaded with stone tables, furniture, and anything else the duergar could find. It will take the PCs roughly 10 minutes to clear it all away. The guards advise that the PCs cover it back up once they are through. They won’t warn the PCs about the trap in 25, though.

25 – Into the Hematite Mines

This passage shows even more signs of battle between the duergar and the kruthik. However, it’s eerily quiet. Only the sound of dripping water echoes through the abandoned mine shafts. Lanterns which once hung from the ceilings along the narrow paths were torn down and smashed. What happened here?

  • The duergar from the outpost set a trap in this area. The PC’s can notice it with a succesful DC 15 Intelligence (investigation) check. Otherwise, anyone standing within 10 feet of the first small tunnel branch must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 4d10 bludgeoning damage. Furthermore, the way into the area 24 is completely buried under the rubble.

 

And that’s it!

Some pretty cool story angles here. But I can’t take all the credit for it. It’s definitely Dyson Logos’ inspirational maps which helped lead the way.

Again, if you haven’t already, check out his site: Dyson’s Dodecahedron. And if you like that stuff, definitely support him on Patreon where he puts out like 15 maps a month. No joke!

My PCs and I get together again on Friday. So depending on which way they go–up through the sinkhole or west into the hematite mines–will determine which map I populate next.

Finally, be sure to check out my daily monsters series where I create new monster variants every day.

See you next time!

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