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Monday, January 23, 2023

The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave #24: Smuggler Catacombs

This is an installment of a new adventure for Holmes Basic D&D. You can find the Introduction to the dungeon here: Area 1.

Each entry includes part of a "pointcrawl" map showing the area & any exits, which include links allowing you to navigate the dungeon:

Area 25


(H = ladder down)



Area 21

24. SMUGGLER CATACOMBS. This is where ordinary smugglers without families were once laid to rest. The area includes an entry stair, an antechamber, and four sets of tunnels leading to ossuary chambers.

Entrance. The only way into this area from the greater cave complex is via the secret door in the north wall of Area 23, which opens on to a 10 foot square landing. The north side of the landing opens onto a set of stone steps going down 20 feet to another landing of the same dimensions. 

Skull-Covered Door. Strikingly, the three walls of the lower landing are covered with a multitude of elongated, pointy-toothed skulls (from seals and sea lions), adhered to the walls with a shell-based lime plaster. The north wall of this area actually contains secret door, which can only be opened by depressing two catches, each inside the mouth of a different skull. This will require placing a hand inside each of the correct skulls and pushing hard (13 strength required). Once inside, the door will slowly swing shut again unless held or propped open.

Antechamber. Beyond the skull door is a square chamber, 50 feet to a side, with a large square stone block (10 by 10 feet, 4 feet high) in the center of the chamber and two doors on each of the east and west walls. 

In the southeast corner is a set of shelves holding folded burial shrouds, and in the southwest corner is a tightly-lidded stone bin that is half-filled with lime, rock-hard with age.

Resting Block. The large block, which is covered in polished marble tiles, is where the newly deceased were briefly left in repose prior to interment. The tiles are all smooth squares, large in size (2 by 2 feet), except for rectangular tiles encircling the top edge which are etched with a skull motif. On the north-facing side of the block, the center tile at floor level can be removed to reveal a space within the block with a ladder leading down to Area 25.

Doors. The four doors, two east and two west, are each made of bronze, and locked (there are two keys that can open these doors, one in Area 5 and one in Area 21). If opened and then left unattended, each door will slowly swing shut and re-lock.

Tunnels. Each door leads to a catacomb tunnel having the same dimensions: 10 feet wide, 10 feet high and 100 feet long, ending at another bronze door, also locked.

Resting Niches. Carved into the north and south walls of each tunnel are resting niches, where bodies were left for a longer period of time as they decomposed. These are placed every ten feet, for a total of twenty per tunnel. Each contains three shelves, of which 0-3 (1d4-1) are occupied by what appears to be body-shaped bundle, for a total of 20d4-20 bundles per tunnel. Each bundle is wrapped in a crusty, lime-coated shroud.

Skeletons. Removing the shroud from a bundle will reveal a skeleton with shiny green eyes. The skeleton will not animate unless further disturbed, but whoever removed the shroud or is within 5 feet must save versus magic to avoid falling asleep from gazing at the eyes. 

Each eye is actually a rare green eye agate from a far off land to the north, and worth 100 gp (and optionally will increase hit point recovery while sleeping; see Area 3). The agates were placed in the skeletons to promote restful slumber for the dead, but the energies released by the destruction of the wizard's tower interacted with the gems to endow the skeletons with a form of self-protecting animation.

Damaging a skeleton or removing an agate will, after one round, cause 1d6 skeletons in the same tunnel to animate per round, until all skeletons in that particular tunnel are animated. At this point, the restful slumber has been disturbed, and characters do not need to save versus sleep.

These skeletons will relentlessly pursue any intruders that remove any agate from the area, until the agate is returned to them. Otherwise, they will only pursue intruders to the entrance to Area 24.

Agate Skeleton (20d4-20 per tunnel): DX 10, AC 7, HD 2, hp 9, AT 1 bony hands for 1d6, SD when at rest, gazing at eyes causes sleep (save versus magic); when animated, turned as a ghoul.

Ossuary Chambers. Each tunnel ends in a bronze door leading to a smaller square chamber, 20 feet to a side, which were the final resting places for the bones of deceased smugglers. 

The walls are also lined with shelves carved into the stone, but here the shelves hold ossuaries consisting of small coffin-like boxes made of stone, heavily lidded, and fixed in place on the shelves. If a lid is removed, the ossuary will either be found to contain old bones or be empty.

While many of the ossuaries are filled, in aggregate there is sufficient space to hold all of the bones of the skeletons remaining in each tunnel. If the bones of a skeleton are carried to a chamber and placed in an ossuary within one round of being disturbed, it will not animate and the agates in its skull can then be safely removed.

Chronologically on this blog, the previous installment described Area 23 and the next posted installment will be Area 25.

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