20 Abandoned Dwarf-hold Encounters

Ancient–and often abandoned–Dwarven strongholds have been a staple of the fantasy genre ever since the mines of Moria captured the imagination of readers, and perhaps for even longer. There’s something about the great stone halls of the Dwarves, delving deep below the surface of the earth, bedecked in the faded grandeur of a one mighty race that speaks to the typical role-player and is–of course–pretty much tailor made for dungeon delving.

Below is a D20 table of people, creatures and events that your PCs might encounter whilst exploring the dark passageways and cobweb strewn chambers of an ancient Dwarf stronghold.

Please note: Each of these would benefit from a bit of elaboration by the GM, nor do they apply specific game mechanics.

No.Description
1A crumbling statue of an ancient Dwarf hero stands as a reminder of the proud heroes that once occupied this place, in one hand he holds an axe whilst the other points towards the entrance of the once grand structure.
2A group of D6 Dwarven adventurers are exploring the passageways, each of them is equipped for spending a prolonged period underground. The leader of the party has ancestors who once occupied the abandoned stronghold.
3The walls of this chamber are covered in crude chalk drawings and the remains of several crushes cots attest to the fact that this was once a nursery of some sort.
4The broken remnants of the statue of a Dwarven forge god are strewn over the uneven floor. Old, dried blood-stains and damage to the walls and statues attests to a fierce combat having been fought here long ago.
5The characters enter a series of seemingly random tunnels, branching off from the main thoroughfares of the Dwarven Hold. These tunnels seem more naturally and rounded, in contrast with the strange lines and angles of the previous corridors. This area is the lair of a purple worm, for each hour the PCs spend in it's domain there is a 1 in 6 chance they attract it's attention, this rises to a 3 in 6 chance if they're particularly noisy.
6A group of 1D6 goblins are scavenging in this area, they aren't much threat to a group of armed PCs and will most likely flee if challenged. However if attacked, the noise they make pretty much guarantees that something else will come to investigate.
7A hole in the wall of this chamber leads to one of the many thin shafts that bring air from the surface to the stronghold, the air current will extinguish any unshielded lantern bought into this area.
8The chamber is covered in thick webbing and will be difficult to cross unless the webbing can be removed or burnt away, there is a 50% chance that there is a spider swarm or a giant spider (50% chance of each) in the web when the heroes enter.
9This area is criss-crossed with rusted–but still functional–metal tracks that would have once carried Dwarves to and from a mine-face.
10A tiny door (fair too small for even a Halfling) in the wall of this chamber leads to a small alcove where a shrine to the ancestors was housed, there is a 50% chance that the shrine is undisturbed and may contains offerings made long ago.
11A flock of bats, harmless but startled by the PCs progress briefly fill the chamber as they seek to find a quieter resting place.
12A shining golden helmet hangs in mid-air in the centre of this chamber. In-fact the helmet is a lure used by the 1D12 giant spiders that have made their home here, hanging it from almost invisible threads of webbing to entice explorers and scavengers into their grasp.
13The walls of this chamber and the bones lying here are scorched black by some sort of magical conflagration, anyone capable of sensing magic can still feel echoes of the heat and pain that were summoned into existence by the Dwarves enemies. Anyone lingering in this room will occasionally hear screams or feel sharp (but non-damaging) stabbing pains. The spirits of the Dwarves killed here cannot rest, if given a decent burial the spirits will point the PCs towards a magical hammer, covered in blackened soot (but still usable and with magic intact) before departing for the afterlife.
14The sound of distant, primitive drumming echoes through the corridors.
15The forgotten remnants of an ancient Dwarven forge, although much of the finery has been looted or rotted away, a deligent PC can find some salvagable Blacksmith's tools and some serviceable weaponry here. If the forge could be restored then it would be capable of producing great wonders, its flue may also offer a way to the surface for those mad enough to climb it.
16A dust covered mine cart lies here, tipped over on its side. Most of the items in it have been looted or were taken as the mine was abandoned, however, a PC looking though the dust can find some miners tools and 1D3 gems in a small sack pushed down into the bottom of the cart.
17A half-mad survivor of the original attack on the Dwarven Hold has made this part of the ruins his home, driven mad by the bloodshed that he saw the Dwarf survives by eating cave moss and goblins, spending most of his time pointlessly trying to seal the dungeon and attacking anyone he perceives as being in league with the ancient enemy.
18The rotting remains of a huge, heavy bound book written in Ancient Dwarven lies half-burned amidst the remains of a shattered stone lectern. The book details the final last desperate defence of the stronghold, it may also offer some hint as to the nature of the ancient enemy.
19The heroes encounter a group of 1D12 Troglodytes who seem to be stringing up dead animal and bones around the walls of this tunnel. They are part of a small tribe that worships/fears the Purple Worm, they leave these offerings in the hope that they will be spared it's wrath.
20A pile of rotting wooden and stone items in the centre of this room were once formed into a barricade by the Dwarven defenders against enemy forces, their bones litter the floor around the crumbling barricades, attesting to their failure.

20 Random Fumbles and Misses

We’ve all been in this situation at one point or another, you’re fighting your way through hordes of goblins or you’re defending an ally, when the dice desert you and the dreaded fumble is rolled. These can be challenging for GMs to come up with on the fly, especially if they occur unexpectedly.

Below is a D20 table of descriptions that can be used when an unexpected fumble occurs.

Please note: Each of these would benefit from a bit of elaboration by the GM, nor do they apply specific game mechanics.

No.Description
1Your opponent strikes you on the side of your head causing your vision to blur and your own attack to miss.
2The enemy blocks your attack with their own weapon sending your weapon flying from your hand.
3Your enemy hurls dust or mud into your face, throwing you off your game and causing the attack to miss.
4A glint of sunlight shining off your foe's weapons and armour momentarily blinds you, allowing them to dodge your attack.
5Sweat from your exertions drips into your eyes, causing your vision to blue for a few moments, your adversary takes advantage of this and sidesteps your attack.
6Recent events have caused you to neglect your weapon maintenance, a dull clang is your reward as your blunted weapon fails to penetrate your opponents armour.
7Your opponent lashes out with a foot, causing you to instinctively jerk bacwards, you avade their dirty trick but miss with your own attack.
8At the last moment your enemy sidesteps your attack and your weapon thuds into the ground.
9You slip on a damp patch of ground causing your attack to go wide.
10Your opponent throws themselves backwards at the last moment, your weapon slices a shallow cut in their clothing.
11Your adversary reveals a hidden small weapon, whipping it out and parrying your blow.
12Lighting conditions cause you underestimate how far away your opponent is and your strike falls short.
13Your weapon slips in your sweaty hand, throwing off your aim.
14A previously unseen opponent bursts out of the shadows, you raise your weapon to block this new attack but are unable to press your advantage on your previous
15You step forward to deliver a punishing strike to your opponent but your foot sinks into a pothole causing you to stagger and miss your target.
16The ground below you is slippery and you struggle to maintain your balance, forfeiting your attack.
17A stray blow from a nearby conflict causes you to duck and parry, busy defending yourself you're unable to lash out at your opponent.
18Your enemy lashes out with their foot, aiming for your midrif, you duck back dodging the treacherous blow but it causes your own attack to miss the mark.
19Your enemy slices your forearm, sendin your weapon flying from your grasp.
20Your opponent's armour seems to turn aside the force of your blow.

20 Port Town Encounters

Port towns are a hotbed of activity, most of which is centred around the sea since that’s where most people make their livelihood.

Below is a D20 table of random encounters that can be used to inject some life into the coastal towns and villages in your campaign.

Please note: Each of these would benefit from a bit of elaboration by the GM, nor do they apply specific game mechanics.

No.Description
1There is a cursing and swearing as a man unloading a boat drops a crate of fish and it spills all over the docks.
2A group of children are sat at the waters edge throwing stones, they've seen everything that has occurred in the area during the day and might be persuaded to part with the information.
3A smuggler runs through the dock area, leaping over crates and upending barrels as he tries to flee from the pursuing town guard.
4A battered ship limps into harbour, it is barely afloat and shows signs of having been attacked. Anyone speaking to the crew find out that their vessel was set upon by a pirate vessel flying the banner of a red skeletal hand.
5A bumper crops of fish have recently been hauled in, forcing down prices.
6High winds have roused the sea into a crashing frenzy of waves that lash the harbour, most locals have retreated to the safety of their homes or a tavern to wait for it to blow over, giving the dock area an eerie deserted feel.
7A local peddler is attempted to sell a seal-skin that he claims was taken from a Selkie, a creature that looks like a large seal but can become human by removing it's seal-skin coat.
8A ship's captain has a cargo if wine barrels that he needs loading, he's looking for some cheap labour willing to do the job in a hurry.
9The sound of a cannon rings out as a local sea-fortress marks the hour.
10A group of local folk are busily throwing wreathes of flowers into the sea, mourning the deaths of a boat of their kin lost in a recent storm.
11Due to a recent rise in smuggling there is a higher concentration of guards than normal in the port, causing great annoyance to the merchants as every consignment is being stopped and searched.
12A ship's Captain chases a bedraggled man clutching a red stone off his ship, the man attempts to bargain with the Captain claiming that he desperately needs passage, but it is to no avail.
13A small fleet of ships is gathering in the harbour, planning to go and hunt the dread pirate Robert Rawbones.
14An agitator loudly protests the recent rise in import taxes, a crowd is gathering around him and it wouldn't take much for this scene to turn into a riot.
15An old, mutilated sailor sits by the dockside staring wistfully out at the sea, for a few pennies he'll tell a story from his extensive store of old naval tales.
16A group of young sailors enjoying some shore-leave stand clapping one of their fellows as he plays a medley of popular sea shanties on his harmonica.
17A crowd of people are working on the shore to carve up and cart away the body of a large whale that washed up recently, scars along it's side attest to a terrible sea battle.
18A merchant stands beside a small stall that claims contains the body of a mermaid. For a small fee, passers by are allowed into the stall to view the shrivelled, preserved body of a creature resembling a combination of small monkey and fish.
19A group of merchants have arrived from a foreign land bringing unusual foods and trinkets with them, they unroll their wares from carpets at the dockside, to the astonishment of the locals.
20A fist-fight erupts between two groups of inebriated sailors, if nothing occurs to prevent it, after a few minutes the town guard turn up and break up the fight, dragging the worst offenders away to the town drunk-tank.

Random Things: Embarrassing Adventurer Antics

10 Embarrassing Adventurer Antics

It’s a familiar scene, your adventurers have just rolled into town after mostly surviving a terrible dungeon. Songs will be sung, ale quaffed and fallen comrades lamented. Often these scenes are handled off-screen, but potentially this is missing out a source of fun/adventure–after all–think about how much trouble rowdy celebrants get into in the real-world and that’s without the powers of adventurers.

Below is a D10 table of potentially embarrassing antics that your hungover PC could wake up to find out they were involved in.

No.Description
1Someone has defaced the statue of a local dignitary, inventively using mud and dung to give them a large beard and moustache.
2Several barrels of ale were stolen from a local tavern, they were found a couple of streets away drained of their contents.
3The son/daughter of a local noble claims to have been visited in their budoir by a dashing young adventurer.
4A pig was dressed in a stolen nobles wig and released into the main street, leading to much chaos and hilarity.
5The town/city guard are currently looking for an adventurer (matching one of the PC's description) who assaulted one of their officers after they tried to arrest then for urinating into a public fountain.
6Authorities are looking for a person responsible for menacing a nearby halfling settlement, the inebriating person rampaged through the settlement claiming to be a giant.
7The Thieves Guild have placed a bounty on the head of one of the PCs after they drunkenly interfered with the operations of one of their operatives, leading to the operatives arrest by the guard.
8The PC is wanted for questionning concerning damage to a local tavern when a bar brawl got out of control.
9The PC wakes up a in a farmer's barn wearing a jester's hat with a sat full of live frogs lying next to them.
10A person matching the description of one of the PCs was heard proclaiming the short-comings of a local person of influence, whilst drinking ale and playing a drum in the town square.

Random Things: Village Tavern Rumours

Tavern Rumours

What could be a more archetypal RPG scene than a group of adventurers re-grouping in an isolated village tavern, to plan their next move and soak up some local flavour? Below is a D10 table of random rumours that a PC might hear at a tavern, these rumours may lead to further adventures down the road or are perhaps just talk.

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Random Things: Local Beliefs & Festivals

villager.pngLocal Festivals

These random things articles are designed as quick idea generators for time-pressed GMs who want to inject some additional details into their game. Isolated villages and towns inevitably develop their own traditions and customs, these can add a lot of flavour to an RPG but are often sadly ignored.

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Random Things: Jungle Trinkets for D&D 5E

These random things articles are designed as quick idea generators for time-pressed GMs who want to inject some additional details into their game, in this article we’re looking at trinkets again. Trinkets were one of my favourite things about character generation in D&D 5th Edition; essentially each character starts with at least one, a small item or curiosity that has some odd property or something strange about it, it’s not a powerful magic item, just something interesting that could spur conversation and plot. Although this article was inspired by D&D 5E the same mechanic can be used in pretty much any game including OSR titles.

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Random Things: Street Vendors

cart-1200940_960_720Street Vendors

These random things articles are designed as quick idea generators for time-pressed GMs who want to inject some additional details into their game. Street vendors are often seen in smaller settlements in fantasy RPGs where there are no established markets, selling their wares from wooden carts or in simple crates at the side of the dirt paths that serve as the main throughfares, however they can also be found in larger settlements, either trying to dodge taxes or perhaps they simply can’t afford a pitch on a more prestigious market.

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Random things you might see in a strange port

Our random things articles are designed to give quick hits of inspiration for time-pressed GMs who want to inject some additional details into their game, when you’re stuck for a detail roll 1D20 on the table below for an idea. Although these articles are mostly fantasy-based in nature we’ve strived to keep them generic enough that they can be used with most games.

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Frost-covered Trinkets for D&D 5E

These random things articles are designed as quick idea generators for time-pressed GMs who want to inject some additional details into their game, in this article we’re looking at trinkets again. Trinkets were one of my favourite things about character generation in D&D 5th Edition; essentially each character starts with at least one, a small item or curiosity that has some odd property or something strange about it, it’s not a powerful magic item, just something interesting that could spur conversation and plot. Although this article was inspired by D&D 5E the same mechanic can be used in pretty much any game including OSR titles.

Continue reading