Labor Day Adventure: Gold Digger
This Labor Day themed adventure is for the older kids…
Stopping at the Frogsmead Inn & Tavern for some well-earned rest, you find the main room full of tables, but no guests. Seeing you enter, a heavy-set dwarven woman behind the bar welcomes you with a drink and a song. In a matter of moments, you feel a little dizzy, then you find yourself dancing, following the innkeeper’s sing-song instructions. Mere minutes later you realize you’re under a spell (Geas) and you’re compelled to go down the stairs into the basement to join the other miners busily excavating a rich vein of gold ore.
Laboring away in the darkness, you and the others have no experience with mining and you have created a death trap… an unsupported tunnel with no ventilation.
A few days into your forced mining, a minor quake brings the roof down cutting off your way back to the inn’s basement. Fear of certain death breaks the spell and you are free once again. Exploring the tunnel you find that a new section of cave has opened up. You can feel a cool breeze on your face coming from somewhere below.
The Villan: Marigold Silvertongue
A retired adventurer, Marigold the Dwarf Bard bought herself an inn never knowing that a cavern ran just feet under the basement floor. When the floor of the basement collapsed into the cave and she found a rich deposit of gold, her greed got the better of her. Now she uses her bard magics to keep a small group of strong men slave to her will.
Vaine and filled with regret for retiring so young, Marigold seeks to fill the hole in her heart with gold.
This is a resource and exploration challenge with lots of opportunities for role-playing. Below you will find a series of potential obstacles, dangers, and resources. To keep the tension up and the characters moving, I recommend setting a countdown timer. Either every 10 minutes of game play or ever 6 turns, another quake will occur. Each quake is worse than the last and the characters will start taking damage from falling rocks as the quakes get worse.
If they can’t find their way out in time, they may become trapped in the Underdark or worse.
The party is fully equipped for a long day of mining. Marigold has supplied the miners with everything they need for a full day of mining. All of the basic equipment can be found in the standard rule books.
Individual Equipment (per party member)
1 Mess kit
1 days’ worth of Rations
50 feet of Hempen rope
1 Miner’s Pick
1 Light Hammer
1 Iron pry bar
1 Basket (Heavy duty)
1 Pair of boots
1 Set of common clothing
1 chest, small. Contains gold ore.
2 Bullseye lanterns (12 hours of oil)
2 Sticks of chalk
10 Iron Spikes
1 Pole (10-foot)
1 Rod of Transmute Rock to Mud (see below) with 1d4 charges
Transmute Rock to Mud. Nonmagical rock of any sort in the area becomes an equal volume of thick, flowing mud that remains for the spell’s duration.
The ground in the spell’s area becomes muddy enough that creatures can sink into it. Each foot that a creature moves through the mud costs 4 feet of movement, and any creature on the ground when you cast the spell must make a Strength saving throw. A creature must also make the saving throw when it moves into the area for the first time on a turn or ends its turn there. On a failed save, a creature sinks into the mud and is restrained, though it can use an action to end the restrained condition on itself by pulling itself free of the mud.
If you cast the spell on a ceiling, the mud falls. Any creature under the mud when it falls must make a Dexterity saving throw. A creature takes 4d8 bludgeoning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
NPC's (Other Miners if Needed)
10 Cave Encounters
Thanks to 2minutetabletop.com for this set of encounters. Head over to Troy’s page to get complete details for any of these encounters.
- The party comes to a basilisk lair, their torchlight allowing them to see into its eyes.
- The cave transitions into the mouth of a great beast, hungry for careless travelers.
- A vertical tunnel cuts through a chamber, seeming to repeat endlessly.
- The tunnel ahead is flooded and something invisible is lurking in the water.
- Mirrors of polished stone line the cavern’s walls. There is something unusual about the reflections.
- The party drops into a tunnel that seems to travel in a wide loop.
- A living colossus is being carved by faithful undead and it wants the party to join their ranks.
- The party stumbles into the lair of creatures with control of the stone itself.
- A raging monster threatens to crumble the cavern’s supports.
- A group of Duergar explorers breaks through the cave wall, stunned to discover real surface-dwellers.
10 Cave Treasures
This is a gold mine and other natural treasures exist for those courageous enough to seek them. Here are a few items that the characters may encounter along the way.
Animal / Monster Nest – eggs, feathers, shiny objects from some unknown species.
Fossils – a rare and beautiful fossilized shell the size of a plate has been exposed in the rock of the cave wall. A researcher, alchemist, or mage, would pay handsomely for it.
Mineral veins (gems) – amber, amethyst, aquamarine, azurite, banded agate, bloodstone, carnelian, coral, diamond, emerald, garnet, hematite, iolite, jade, jasper, jet, lapis lazuli, malachite, moonstone, obsidian, onyx, opal, peridot, quartz, ruby, sapphire, sardonyx, spinel, tiger’s eye, topaz, tourmaline, turquoise, zircon.
Value: d100 x 10 gp.
Mushrooms/Fungus – a character with knowledge of alchemy, medicine or magic will recognize this as a valuable and rare bio-luminescent component.
Value: 1d6 x 10 gp
Miner’s Stash – Apparently you weren’t the first to discover the gold deposits in this cave. A small chest of gold ore sits next to a long abandoned campsite.
Value: d100 x 10 gp
Pool of Mercury – Shining like a silver mirror, a small pool of the supper heavy liquid metal has collected in a pool. Now you just have to figure out how to carry it.
Value: Value: d100 x 10 gp
Remains of Adventurer – Most of his equipment has rotted or rusted away, but one finely crafted dagger lays shining, untarnished, on the floor next to his remains.
Remains of Monsters – The intact carapace of an Umberhulk lies in a corner of its lair. The creature died long ago and only its super hard exoskeleton remains.
Underground Lake – The light of your torches reveals that the floor of the lake is lined with semi-precious crystals. It requires spending several minutes of carefully prying to free any.
Value: 1d10 x 10 gp
A Map – Unrolling this leather scroll, you find it is a detailed map. There are notes in both Dwarvish and Common in various sections.
Running the Gauntlet
After the characters have been exploring for a while, the cave will begin to shake violently. The characters will need to find an exit before the entire cave collapses. I recommend viewing Matt Colville’s video Skill Challenges! Running the Game #21, which is embedded below. Skip to 5:55 for mechanics of how to run the skill challenge.
The characters must pass 3 skill challenges before they fail 3 skill challenges. Each round, one player chooses a skill they have not already used and they roll using that skill bonus against a DC of 10. Feel free to increase or decrease the DC depending on the level of the characters. Each character gets one helping action during the gauntlet, which they can use to give another character advantage on their skill check.
The DM will describe how the characters choice of skill and the result of the dice roll impact them in their race to escape the cave. Listen to the beginning of Matt’s video for inspiration on how he uses description to convey the excitement of a skill challenge.
Skill Check Descriptions
Here are some example descriptions for various skill check successes and failures. A character can only use each skill once for the skill challenge.
Before the Roll: Running full speed over the rocky, uneven terrain, you see a deep hole in the cavern floor.
Success: Planting one foot firmly, you leap over the hole.
Fail: You try to leap over the hole, but the edge crumbles under your foot. Your fall into the hole, twisting your ankle painfully. You pull your foot free and…
Before the Roll: Following the wall with your hand, your fingertips detect an odd regular pattern carved into the wall.
Success: What at first looked like natural groves in the wall are symbols, well worn with time. You can’t make out the language, but you detect the faint outline of an arrow to an arch. The exit must be this way.
Fail: Indecipherable runes are carved in the wall. Time has worn them down too much to read in this dim light. Perhaps if you have the time to study them carefully you could figure out what they were, but the rumbling of the cave reminds you that time is against you.
Before the Roll: The cave has narrowed dramatically. You quickly strip off your backpack and begin to squeeze through the narrow passage, small, loose rocks and sand rain down from the cave roof.
Success: With just a few minor scrapes, you manage to quickly pull yourself and your gear through the narrow passage.
Fail: You have misjudged the size of the opening. Forcing your way through, you are badly scraped up and some of your gear is stuck on the other side of the passage.
Before the Roll: Water forms a large pool in the passageway. the water is deep and still.
Success: Knowing the dangers that lurk in underground lakes and pools, you quickly locate a set of hand holds along the wall. You carefully climb along a narrow ledge to the other side.
Fail: Trusting your strong swimming ability you dive in knowing your momentum will carry you to the other side. You quickly exit the pool on the other side but soon realize some of your gear is lost in the dark depths of the water below.
Before the Roll: You stop for a moment to catch you breath. Ahead lies three paths. You quickly investigate them to see which is your best route.
Success: Taking a moment to investigate, you notice that one of the passages is sloping up and has a slight breeze. You make your choice and begin running as fast as you can over the uneven cave floor.
Fail: You take a few seconds to investigate the two passages. Rumbling sounds coming from one of the tunnels sends you racing down the other way. You quickly find yourself at a dead end. You backtrack and choose the other path having lost precious time.
Before the Roll: You take a moment to catch your breath. Looking down you notice little bits of leaves. You must be getting close to an exit.
Success: Reaching out with all of your senses, you smell rotting leaves on the breeze and you hear the faint sounds a bird. Somewhere up ahead is a way out.
Fail: Leaves? How would leaves get this deep into the cave? Struggle as you might, the mystery of how they got here illudes you. Not wanting to waste more valuable time, you push forward.
Before the Roll: Is that the sound of running water?
Success: You press your body against the wall as a torrent of water comes rushing through the cave. You manage to keep your drip on the wall waiting out the flash flood. After several minutes, the water stops as quickly as it started.
Fail: A flash flood takes you by surprise. Water rushes through the cave. You struggle and grab the walls of the cave, but you are swept back down the cavern. The water swirls disappear into a crack in the cave floor leaving you exhausted and deeper in the cave.
Before the Roll: Racing ahead of the vines, you turn the corner and find a cubby hole in the wall. This may be your chance. You hide in the shadows and hold your breath.
Success: You hear the vines moving along the wall. After the sounds pass, you peek out and see your chance. You double back and find the way is clear.
Fail: The vines close over your hiding spot. You force your way through regretting the time this has cost you.
Before the Roll: Wind blows from two different passages. You must make a choice and make it fast.
Success: Smelling the air coming from both tunnels detects the faint order of the forest coming from one and only a dank wet odor from the other. Following the smells of the forest, you push forward.
Fail: You follow the tunnel with stronger wind for several hundred feet before it ends abruptly and a sheer drop. Throwing a large rock into the inky void you hear it strike the wall twice. Then many seconds later you hear a faint sploosh as the stone hits the water far below. Backtracking, you have lost precious time.
Success (Zero Fails)
Bright sunlight streams through the forest canopy above. Looking back at the cave entrance you are impressed at how easy it was to escape. If it weren’t for the spell you were under, you could have escaped the first day. Now there is just the small matter of finding the local sheriff and paying a visit to the Inn Keeper.
If you’re really lucky, you will get all your gear back and get to keep the treasure you pulled out of the mine.
Bright sunlight streams through the forest canopy above. Looking back at the cave entrance you let out a long sigh of relief. You regret not being able to get all the treasure and equipment out too. Maybe you will come back with the proper gear and explore the cave, but that will have to wait until after you deal with. a certain Inn Keeper.
Failure (Zero Success)
Another violent quake hits. Rocks fall, pummeling you. Coughing on the dust, you look up to see a single ray of sunshine flowing through a crack in the rock above. So close… You stand up to get a better look and rocks shift under your feet, then you are falling. You hit the solid ground as rocks continue to rain from above. Once again everything is slient. Looking around you notice two things… There is a faint glow coming from fungus growing on the walls of the cave and you are surrounded by a Drow hunting party.
Welcome to the Underdark.
The quakes finally stopped. You can see a single ray of sunshine flowing through a crack in the rock above. You’re so close… After days of digging, exhaustion, and hunger, you finally break through the solid stone wall. Bright sunlight streams through the forest canopy above. Looking back at the cave entrance let out a long sigh of exhaustion.
You get your bearings and find your way to the road. A couple of hundred yards away, you find yourselves back in front of the Frogsmead Inn & Tavern. Smoke rises from the chimney and the smell of food fills the air. Several horses and wagons are parked out front and you can hear the sounds of conversation coming from the open door.