Just last week, I wrote up a massive, 48-page (11,000 words) document on the Gatetown of Torch in the Outlands. My Saturday group, the Bloody Bunch, is currently “having a ball” in this wretched town, searching for a mysterious item known as the Soulbox. Supposedly, the Soulbox contains the mental facilities of the long-dead beholder Stzubnuk’moech’k (you can call him “Chuck”). And only Chuck knows the cause behind the recent Freezing of the Prime Material.
The Serpent Azazel, a former archdevil, directed the Bloody Bunch to Traz, claiming he has it. Traz lives in a cave on the Pyroclast-ruined anti-Spireward side of the Spire Maygel. Traz is in league with Tiamat’s Chosen, a nasty thieves guild that deals with devils. Regardless, the true leader of Tiamat’s Chosen, Bantrice the Potter–a red abishai in disguise–commanded Traz to protect the artifact while awaiting the opening of the gate to Tiamat’s citadel in Avernus. The temporary gate opens during an event known as Maygel’s Crescendo which occurs when the active volcano is at its most violent.
Oh, by the way, Traz is an adult red dragon.
Traz’s cave is recommended for a party of five 15th-level characters. Characters that are immune or resistant to fire will have an easier time in Traz’s cave than those who are not.
The adventure hook presented above is very specific to my players. Thus, your characters may have reasons of their own for taking on Traz in his lair. Also, Traz’s lair can be placed anywhere, and not just on Spire Maygel in Torch.
The characters could be assisting local villagers with a “little dragon problem”. Or Traz could be holding another artifact of import instead of the Soulbox. It’s possible that the characters were contacted by Viaza’s followers who believe she may still be alive and somewhere in the dragon’s den.
Traz’s Cave – Major Features
Traz’s cave lies in a vent on the pyroclast-ruined side of Spire Maygel in Torch. The entrance itself is a large 120-foot wide cave surrounded by the bones of dead red dragons, Traz’s parents and siblings. If you’re wondering: Yes, he ate them.
Intense heat radiates in and near the cave. Use the Extreme Heat rules on page 110 of the Dungeon Master Guide each hour the characters are within 300 feet of Traz’s cave.
In addition to the natural dangers of the cave, Traz’s cave is an adult red dragon’s lair and is subjected to the dragon’s regional effects.
The majority of the cave has 60 foot high ceilings. However, the ceilings over the magma lake are 100 feet high. The narrow passages on the north and northwestern end are tighter, as low as 4 feet high at some points.
With Maygel’s Crescendo approaching, small earthquakes are common. Once every 1d12 + 3 minutes, a tremor occurs. When a tremor occurs, roll 1d10. On a result of 1-7, the tremor is minor and the characters are unaffected. On a roll of 8-9, a major tremor occurs, lasting for 3 rounds. Each round the tremor continues, at the start of their turn, creatures on the ground must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or fall prone. In addition, rocks and debris tumble down the mountainside and from the ceiling of the cave. On initiative count 20, the sliding rocks make an attack roll against each creature that isn’t behind cover with a +3 bonus on the attack. If a creature is hit by rocks, it takes 7 (2d6) bludgeoning damage. Finally, on a result of 10, a severe earthquake occurs and lasts for 5 rounds. The effects are the same as a major tremor, except the DC to avoid falling prone is 15 and the rocks hit with a +5, dealing 14 (4d6) bludgeoning damage on a hit.
All of the water in and around Traz’s cave is boiling hot. Any creature that touches or attempts to wade through the water takes 7 (2d6) fire damage.
Another side effect of the boiling water is its steam. The air over any water in the cave is heavily obscured and any area within 30 feet of the water is lightly obscured as well. Any creature passing through steam must also succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or take 7 (2d6) fire damage.
Lava and Magma
The biggest natural danger in Traz’s cave is the magma itself. The magma is very difficult to move through. Near the lava’s “shores” a creature must spend 4 feet of movement to move 1 foot through the lava. Towards the center of the magma pools, the lava can be as much as 30 feet deep, requiring that a creature swim its way through with a similar penalty to movement. Traz and the fire elementals of his cave suffer no penalty when swimming through magma and lava.
When a creature touches the magma, it immediately takes 22 (4d10) fire damage or 55 (10d10) fire damage if it is completely submerged. If a creature remains within the magma, it takes an additional 55 (10d10) fire damage at the start of each of its turns. Any flammable, nonmagical object that the creature is wearing or carrying is immediately destroyed by the magma. Metal items are also quickly destroyed by the magma’s intense heat. A weapon takes a permanent and cumulative -3 penalty to damage rolls as long as it is submerged in the magma. If its penalty drops to -5 or less, it is destroyed. Nonmagical ammunition made of metal that hits the lava is destroyed on contact. Nonmagical armor worn by a creature submerged in lava takes a permanent and cumulative -3 penalty to the AC it offers. The armor is destroyed if the penalty reduces its AC to 10 or less.
A creature whose hit points are reduced to 0 from the magma is completely dissolved. The creature can be restored to life only by means of a true resurrection or wish spell.
The lava exudes extreme heat as well. Checks made to avoid exhaustion due to Extreme Heat start at DC 10 when within 30 feet of lava. And a creature that starts its turn within 5 feet of lava automatically takes 7 (2d6) fire damage. Furthermore, flammable objects in the same range that aren’t being worn or carried ignite.
The creatures immune to fire that live in Traz’s cave use the lava to their advantage. Fire immune creatures will hide in the lava, which offers full cover, then work to push those that aren’t immune to it into it. Traz especially loves to do this (see Traz’s Tactics below).
Traz’s Cave – Locations and Encounters
There are nine major locations within Traz’s cave.
Note: I’ve included adjustments for my own group, the Bloody Bunch, in red. The Bloody Bunch has seven members, is extremely well-equipped, and played by very experienced players. Feel free to use the adjustments in your own game, but understand that the combats will be a whole lot deadlier if you do.
The entrance to Traz’s cave is guarded by a pair of fire giants named Dalbar and Brigar. They are the first line of defense against intruders and will fight to the death to protect Traz’s lair.
Bloody Bunch Adjustments. The fire giants are on saddled rocs and are equipped with rings of feather fall. They take the fight to the outside of the cave, using the rocs to keep themselves out of range of the characters, but close enough to use their rocks.
Unsurprisingly, geysers of scalding hot water regularly take place in the Geyser Cave. On initiative count 20, a creature over or within 5 feet of the water must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 14 (4d6) fire damage and be knocked prone, or take half as much damage on a success and isn’t knocked prone.
The hot waters in Traz’s geyser cave make it difficult to see dangers within the cave, as well (see Steam and Boiling Water above).
Within the extreme steam and boiling waters of the geysers emerge two types of elementals: three steam elementals and three water elementals. Treat steam elementals as air elementals. And the water elementals are scalding hot. When either elemental type enters another creature’s space using its respective Air Form or Water Form traits, it deals 5 (1d10) fire damage in addition to any other effects. Plus, both types of elementals’ slam attacks deal an additional 7 (2d6) fire damage on a hit, and the elementals’ respective Whirlwind and Whelm attacks deal an additional 7 (2d6) fire damage against those who fail their saving throws.
Elementals aren’t known for their Intelligence. They attack the nearest creature they can. The water elementals will try to Whelm opponents and drag them back into the scalding water. The air elementals seek to catch as many characters as it can with their Whirlwind attacking, potentially tossing the characters into the water as well.
Like most creatures in the cavern, the elementals are loyal to Traz. Since they are not native to the Outlands, they have no fear of death and will fight until destroyed.
Bloody Bunch Adjustments. Add an additional elemental of each type or two fire elementals. Fire elementals will use their fire form to catch as many creatures on fire as possible, ignoring attacks of opportunity.
Traz keeps animals and humanoids he captures from surrounding towns on the 40-foot high platform on the western edge of the cave. There are 3 cows, 6 goats, and 4 commoners in this cave. There are no bars holding in the livestock. The height of the cliff is enough to keep them in. Even if they did try to climb down, there are six hellhounds resting at the bottom of the cliff, eager to eat anything that tries to escape. The hellhounds are tended to by an azer named Omath. Omath is a gladiator with the following changes to its stats:
- Omath’s AC is 17 (natural armor, shield).
- Omath is immune to fire and poison damage and is immune to the poisoned condition.
- He speaks Ignan.
- A creature that touches Omath or hits him with a melee attack while within 5 feet of him takes 5 (1d10) fire damage from his heated body.
- When Omath hits with his spear or shield, he deals an extra 3 (1d6) fire damage.
- Omath sheds bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet.
- Omath’s alignment is lawful evil.
Omath commands his hellhounds to attack first, using his spears at range (he has three he can use). When he is down to his last spear, he charges using his shield bash, targeting those having the most trouble with the hounds first. If Omath is reduced to half his hit points or less, he retreats to the magma lake platform to alert the salamanders and hobgoblin army.
If the characters rescue the slaves held captive in the livestock pens, they are grateful and may offer a reward for returning them to their nearby villages.
Bloody Bunch Adjustments. Replace Omath with an efreeti named Salma. Like Omath, Salma keeps her distance, hurling flame at the characters. She, too, will flee when her hit points drop below half.
Magma Lake Platform
Near the center of the cavern surrounded by magma is a platform just slightly above the magma pool. This cavern is well guarded. There are three salamanders here, each carrying a shield (their adjusted AC is 17). One of the salamanders is the leader named Imith and has 144 hit points. The salamanders command a small army of hobgoblins. There are two units of ten hobgoblins–nine normal hobgoblins lead by one hobgoblin captain each. The hobgoblins are accustomed to the extreme heat of the cavern and do not suffer ill effects from it.
The salamanders and hobgoblins are well trained and ready for combat. The salamanders act as defense, spacing themselves 20 feet apart, forming a line. They then use Dodge while the hobgoblin’s attack. If a creature tries to run past the salamanders, they use their opportunity attack to hit with their tails and grapple the creature.
Meanwhile, the hobgoblins fire their longbows at the characters attacking the salamanders, using their Martial Advantage to deal extra damage and gaining the benefits of their nearest Captain’s leadership. The captains protect themselves with Dodge and stay behind the ranks.
Should the characters push through or defeat the salamanders, half of the hobgoblins take defensive positions with their shields and longswords while the back ranks continue to use their longbows.
Once the captains use up their leadership, they draw their greatswords and approach, targeting the most dangerous melee combatants first.
The hobgoblins know to take out ranged attackers first, especially magic users that can use area of effect magic. They keep 5 feet between themselves, too, offering maximum protection from areas of effect attacks.
If Omath from the livestock pens ran back here, he has already alerted Imith and the hobgoblins and is now on his way to alerting Traz himself.
They all fight to the death.
Bloody Bunch Adjustments. Add an additional unit of hobgoblins (nine hobgoblins plus a captain) along with a hobgoblin warlord assisted by two hobgoblins and one additional salamander. The hobgoblin warlord uses its javelin against particularly dangerous foes (he has eight he can use). He then ducks behind his hobgoblin assistants who dodge and grant him half-cover.
At any given time, magma mephits, fire elementals, magmin, and other dangers from the Elemental Plane of Fire swim and relax in Traz’s pool. They will not attack unless provoked (although, you might toss in additional encounter if your players are having an easy time of it).
In addition, if Traz is alerted to danger, he will dive into the pool and hide in the magma (see Traz’s Tactics below).
A 20-foot wide vent over the center magma pool rises 200 feet out of the cave and into the sky over Torch. Traz can use this vent to escape if he needs to, but rarely does–his arrogance and anger usually gets the better of him.
Tunnels and Ledges
The tunnels and ledges surrounding the magma lake are traversed only by the mephits and kobolds that toil there. Most are cowardly, and keep their distance from danger, although, one shouldn’t put it past them to attempt to push characters into the magma.
The fractured path can be traversed with successful jumps, although there is always a 10% chance that one of the stones sinks under the weight of a creature (even if it’s been used by another creature). If the creature is large, the chance increases to 30%. When a stone sinks, the creature is instantly subjected to the effects of the magma (see above).
Viaza was a drow priestess of Lolth who ruled over the drow temple in the Blood Marshes. On a return trip from pillaging a local village, Traz captured Viaza and brought her to his cave. Viaza has been Traz’s prisoner for six years now and has been driven insane. Using magic to turn himself into a humanoid, Traz regularly impregnates Viaza. She gives birth to his eggs, which she places and cares for in the nest. She believes she loves Traz and it is her destiny to raise his children.
Viaza never leaves the nest. She will fiercely defend her eggs, flying into a blind rage to protect “her babies”. Her insanity has robbed her of her ability to cast spells and summon demons and she wears no armor (AC 12). Her only weapon is a sharpened obsidian rock (treat it as a dagger). She suffers from one level of exhaustion when discovered.
If Omath (see the Livestock Pens) has alerted Imith then Traz, he will stay by Viaza to protect the insane drow on Traz’s orders.
Traz’s red dragon wyrmlings wander around the cave and swim in the magma lake. If there is a danger, Traz escorts the children to his hoard room where they are instructed to hide. The oldest, a half-dragon drow named Komez keeps watch over the wyrmlings. The wyrmlings have black and red scales with light, white fur, signifying their half-drow heritage.
Like many powerful red dragons, Traz keeps an impressive hoard. Unfortunately, the majority of the gold and coins there have melted from the heat, creating a bed of soft, golden sludge that’s blazing hot to the touch. A creature touching the gold takes 10 (3d6) fire damage. Should the characters discover a way to scoop up the gold, there are roughly 45,000 gp worth of melted gold coins to be found here. In addition, the characters can find gems, art objects, and magic items within the golden mess. Use the Treasure Hoard: Challenge 17+ table from the DMG to determine what they find.
In the off-chance that the characters catch Traz by surprise, they discover the adult red dragon resting on his hoard. The ceilings are high enough here (60 feet high) that he can fly over them and retreat to his magma lake where he prefers to fight (see Traz’s Tactics).
Bloody Bunch Adjustments. Traz keeps the Soulbox here.
If Traz knows that his lair is under siege, he’ll slide into the magma pool ahead of time and patiently wait for the trespassers to come near. When hiding in magma, Traz keeps himself completely covered, using his 60 ft. blindsight to detect enemies. Furthermore, the steam from the water touching the magma lake imposes disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks.
Traz will make his move the moment the characters attempt to cross the Natural Stone Bridge. Whenever Traz emerges from the magma, he is covered in hot magma until the start of his next turn. When covered in magma, a creature that touches Traz or hits him with a melee attack while within 5 feet of Traz takes 10 (3d6) fire damage. And Traz’s claw and tail attacks deal an additional 10 (3d6) fire damage. Plus, he ruthlessly flings magma as he rises. Each creature within 10 feet of Traz when the dragon emerges from the lake must make a DC 22 Dexterity saving throw or take 21 (6d6) fire damage on a failed saving throw or half as much damage on a successful one.
First, the dragon blasts as many as he can with his fire breath, then dives back into the magma, creating a shower of molten rock as he goes. While in the magma, he immediately goes for the tremor lair action.
Depending on how clumped up the characters are after that (and whether or not he has his breath weapon available), he may reemerge, use his Frightful Presence, then attempt to grab one character in his mouth and two in his claws (make grapple checks against each character). From there, Traz dives headfirst into the magma. While a creature is held under the magma, it is blinded, restrained and subjected to the effects of the magma (escape DC 22). Plus, his dive causes another explosion of magma. Creatures within 10 feet of Traz when he splashes into the pool must make another Dexterity saving throw as noted above.
If Traz is feeling particularly nasty (ie, the characters have done considerable damage to the lair already or hurt Viaza and/or his children) he may just bullrush the bridge itself. If Traz uses 20 feet of his movement to charge the bridge, have Traz make a DC 25 Strength check. On a successful check, a 15-foot long section of the bridge shatters. Each creature on that section of the bridge when it shatters tumbles into the magma below. If Traz fails his check, each creature on the bridge must still make a DC 22 Dexterity check or fall prone. A creature that fails its check by 5 or more falls backward into the magma regardless.
Traz has blindsight out to 60 ft., so he continues to use his lair actions while “drowning” foes so long as he can detect them (the bridge is only 30 feet above the magma). He’ll use his Wisdom (Perception) to detect those who may try to hide from him. If the remaining characters are spellcasters, he’ll target them with his toxic cloud. And for slow-moving melee combatants, he’ll target those with his magma geysers.
Once a creature in Traz’s clutches is obliterated, Traz will lurch back to the surface, flinging another round of magma as he rises, and attack again, using his fire breath if it’s available, or grabbing another clump of characters if it’s not.
If that’s not bad enough, while over the pool of magma, Traz can use his action or legendary action to fling a 15-foot cone of magma with his tail. Each creature in the area must succeed on a DC 22 Dexterity saving throw or take 16 (3d10) fire damage.
And if Traz uses his Wing Attack while over the pool of magma, any creature that fails its Dexterity saving throw takes an additional 10 (3d6) fire damage from the blast of heated air.
While emotional and temperamental, Traz knows the danger that spellcasters pose. He immediately go for spellcasters first, especially those that aren’t immune to the effects of his magma pool. Creatures that can fly or have powerful ranged attacks come next. Because his cave offers him so many advantages against melee combatants, Traz knows to leave those for last.
Traz is a nasty fucker. Because of the extreme nature of his tactics and the dangers his lair poses, Traz’s Challenge Rating is 20. Furthermore, it is recommended that only an experienced party go against Traz in this way, as he can easily TPK a group of novices.
Bloody Bunch Adjustments. Every time I throw at BBEG at the Bloody Bunch, they kick its ass. So I’m pulling out all the stops here. For them, Traz is an ancient red dragon instead of an adult red dragon but uses the same techniques. His CR is 26.
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Thumbnail art by Paizo Publishing.