This is a FREE adventure for 3-5 1st Level Characters available to use for 5th edition campaigns.
I’m a big fan of Dyson Logos’ awesome maps. If you’re not familiar with Dyson yet, he’s an old-school cartographer who just did the maps for Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. He’s also got a site where he churns out, like, 2-3 awesome maps per week.
The only problem is… he doesn’t populate them!
That’s where I come in.
If you like this adventure, you can get the PDF on my Patreon. It’s only $3 per month to get this plus more than 70 PDFs.
The Travellers Caves
Dyson’s latest map is a simple, 6-8 room cave complex he’s dubbed The Travellers Caves. Here’s his description:
The Travellers Caves are a small complex of winding multi-tiered caves and chambers which bear the evidence of several previous tenants over the years – from animal scat and hair to old broken boxes and cold, quiet campsites.
One narrow passage leads down from the complex into deeper caverns…
Short and sweet, with plenty of room left for interpretation.
I’ve added in the room numbers here with descriptions to follow. The numbers assume that the characters enter from the staircase at the northeast corner of the map and mostly follow the left wall.
The map is keyed up for a party of first-level adventurers and should take them to level two if they fight all of the challenges.
Dyson’s map is free for you to use commercially and personally. However, my notes on the map are for your personal use only.
Unless otherwise stated, here are the general features for Dyson’s Travellers Caves:
- Ceilings. Tunnels are 10 feet high and caverns are 30 feet high.
- Walls. The walls are hewn stone.
- Floors. All floors are smooth, natural stone.
- Light. None unless otherwise indicated. The boxed text assumes that the characters have light sources or darkvision.
- Stalagmites. Found in many of the natural caverns, these spires of rock rise up from the floor and can be used for cover.
All the encounters listed here are keyed to the map of the Travellers Cave (image above).
1 – Caves Entrance
The stairs at the northeast corner of the map descend from a small cave entrance in a hillside roughly 300 feet from a well-traveled road. Read this text block the first time the characters enter the caves:
Descending into the caves, the first thing you notice is the dull smell of garbage. There are broken boxes, glass, and bits of animal scat in this narrow nook.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing of any value here. This nook is where many travelers have stayed to get out of the weather, rarely venturing any further into the caverns.
2 – Slippery Slope
Mud cakes the floor of this cave, runoff patterns sliding southward past a large stone column.
Walking within 5 feet of the edge of the cliff can be somewhat treacherous. A character that gets too close must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity save or lose their footing and slide down into the pit 10 feet below taking 1d6 bludgeoning damage from the fall.
In addition, the bottom of the cliff is heavily infested with centipedes that live in the cool mud. There are three swarms of centipedes here that attack anything that disturbs their territory.
If characters search the mud with a successful DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check, they can find the remains of the last unfortunate soul that slipped and fell off the cliff. The skeleton has a small pouch containing 18 copper pieces, plus a small gold bracelet worth 25 gp. The bracelet has the inscription “To Delmar, Thanks for All Your Words” carved into it.
3 – Mud Mephit Pool
The mud from area 2 piles heavily in this room. So much mud, in fact, it’s attracted the attention of a gaggle of mephits.
The floors of this room aren’t easy to traverse and count as difficult terrain.
The mud in this room is nearly knee deep, sucking hard at your boots as you march.
There are four mud mephits hiding in the mud. If the characters weren’t quiet entering the room, the mephits remain motionless and try to surprise the PCs. Careful PCs might hear the mephits complaining from an adjoining room with a successful DC 14 Wisdom (Perception) check.
4 – A Warning
The ghouls from area 6 left warnings to those who dare trespass into their territory. Four skulls hang from the ceiling at the base of the steps leading from area 1.
With bits of flesh still clinging to the bone, four humanoid skulls hang from the stalactites above. It doesn’t take a lot of wisdom to know that these skulls are warnings: “Don’t go any further.”
Not only are the skulls warnings, but they’re traps, too. If anyone pulls on the rope holding the skulls in place, the stalactites break off. Avoiding the falling stalactites requires a DC 15 Dexterity save. Otherwise, anyone standing under the trap when they fall takes 1d6 piercing damage. A character can notice the trap with a successful DC 12 Intelligence (Investigation) check.
5 – Rump and Yurk
The ghouls keep this cavern guarded with a death dog named Rump and Yurk (it’s one death dog with two names). If the characters triggered the trap in area 4, then Rump and Yurk will stay hidden behind a cluster of stalagmites.
Bones litter the ground here, cracking under your feet. The stench of death hangs heavy. Once the room opens up a little, you immediately notice two pairs of glowing eyes in the darkness.
Rump and Yurk fight to the death.
6 – Ghoul Chamber
The smell is unbearable. And it’s clear to see why: carcasses fill the room. And in the center of it all, gobbling the flesh from the bones of what could be an animal (or humanoid) are three hairless, vacant eyed gray-skinned humanoids. Once they see you, they hiss, exposing their freakishly long tongues, then charge at you.
There are two ghouls here. They will fight to the death, driven by the compulsion to eat the flesh of the characters.
Among the carcasses are the discarded goods of those the ghouls have eaten. The characters can find a total of 2,400 cp, 1,200 sp, and 110 gp. Plus, they can find a silver ewer worth 25 gp, a cloth-of-gold vestments worth 25 gp, and a brass mug with jade inlay worth 250 gp.
7 – Prospecting Pit
Long ago, a pair of Dwarven prospectors thought they’d stumbled on the motherlode in this cave. Turns out, however, that what they thought was gold was just yellowish quartz, hardly worth the effort to dig.
A large pit clings to the north side of the room. Old abandoned ladders and scaffolding are all that remain of what was probably once a mining operation.
Just as the dwarves discovered years ago, the characters will discover that there’s hardly anything of value of here.
8 – Ochre Jelly
Between flights of stairs, the passage opens up into a small cave. There, feasting on mushrooms, you discover what looks like a creature the color of yellow mud.
An ochre jelly has crawled up from the lower caverns, attracted by the ghouls’ feasting cave. It stopped midway to feed on mushrooms just at the top of the steps. Once it notices the characters, it will attack, hoping for a bigger meal.
If you’re not sure where to fit in Dyson’s Travellers Map into your adventure, here’s a few ideas to get your players’ characters moving in the right direction.
- A gang of ghouls has been tormenting a local village. The villagers are offering a reward of 100 gp if the adventurers can help get rid of them. They believe that the ghouls are haunting an old cave known as the Travellers Cave. They can show the characters the way but are too afraid to go in themselves.
- Three months ago, an author and world traveler named Delmar Buckles vanished walking along a road from one major city to another. His publisher believes Delmar ran off with his advance and wants to know what happened to him. The characters start their adventure investigating at a local village where they learn that Delmar stopped there two months ago. Some suspect he may have stopped over at the Travellers Caves when the weather turned bad. Turns out Delmar actually did stop at the Travellers caves. However, he slipped over the edge (in area 2), and busted his head.
- While traveling along a busy road, severe weather breaks out. The only refuge from the downpour is a nearby cave a few hundred feet from the edge of the road. The characters can hide out in the caves overnight. However, that night, they hear strange sounds coming from deeper inside the caverns.
Thanks for reading!
If you’re looking for a nice introductory adventure for first-level adventurers that could lead to more (ie the stairs going down to the lower caves), this is the perfect place to start.
And if you’re a Dungeon Master dying for some awesome maps, be sure to check out Dyson’s maps. They’re outstanding! And most are available for both personal and commercial use.
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See you next time!
5 thoughts on “The Travellers Caves | New Adventure for Fifth Edition (3-5 1st Level Characters) (Updated 10/17/19)”
Thank you so much for this post! I was looking for a little cave-based inspiration and your great ideas and easy tone has me really excited about this aspect of my new campaign – greatly appreciated!
Heck yeah! Have fun.
I think I will use this in a campaign in some sort or way. I’m new to being a DM in 5e and like to stick to the book. I would therefore use the encounter multiplier on p. 82 in DMG. When paired with XP thresholds by character level on the same page two of the encounters would be deadly, one even insanely so. The three ghouls will have a combined XP of 600 (already considered deadly with 5 first level charachters). Since they are three they should, according to the encounter multiplier, be multiplied by 2. That will bring the modified XP up to a whooping 1200 while the threshold (again the 5 first level charahters) for an deadly encounter is 500.
What are you thoughts on this? Do you even use the encounter multiplier?
Yeah, this one probably runs a little high. Both the ghoul and swarm encounters involve most unintelligent creatures that lack ranged attacks, so while tough, they can be dealt with a little easier than say a bugbear or goblin. You might drop one monster from each encounter to level it up, or even replace the ghouls with zombie stat blocks.
Thank you so much for this! I plan on using this in my next session, as a set of caves that forms the only way out of an underground village, so my players will ascend rather than delve deep into the caves.