A horror-themed encounter for 3rd-level parties in D&D 5E, with battle maps and monster tokens included!
This encounter is Part 2 of 3 in our series for the Eisenstein Mining Compound. Be sure to refer back to Part 1 to learn about all the different characters in the Compound, with their varied relationships and motivations.
The party’s arrival in the mining compound and likely visit to the Steaming Steps will cause a buzz between Yorick Brenna and Emil Eisenstein. Not long after, Emil will ask to see them in the Steps. He will anxiously explain the mine’s current plight and ask for the party’s assistance in removing the creature within. He will also emphasize the importance of doing so quickly and quietly, so as to not dissuade the Alabors. Should the characters accept, he will direct them to speak with Pelion Thelerean.
Between Emil and Pelion, the party can ascertain what has transpired. Roughly a dozen days ago, a group of tunneling miners broke through the wall of a buried ruin. They were able to see a room beyond, adorned with symbols that hummed and glowed a pale blue. They were, naturally, unwilling to enter. Emil recognized both the danger and opportunity and sent word for a group of researchers to come to Eisenstein.
Pelion is the leader of those researchers. He and his team arrived and quickly ventured inside, hoping to discover secrets of an area they previously thought long-uninhabited. Instead, they were attacked. Something lashed out from the dark, extinguishing their torches and injuring several of the group before they could escape. Pelion will joke that they would have loved to study the creature alive, though its corpse will have to do.
In addition to the monster’s destruction, Pelion will request the characters locate two items within the tunnels:
- Theodore, the researchers’ canary. As certain pools and fissures within the mountain are toxic, they needed to take the bird to detect gases. Regrettably, he was left behind in his cage when they fled.
- The medallion of Gerim, one of Pelion’s team. Gerim is a half-elf man, still shaken and distant from the ordeal. His medallion is an identifying symbol of his station among the researchers and is invaluable to him. He claims that it was torn off when the scuffle began.
Finally, the characters will be given directions to the tunnel in question.
Into the Tunnels
A rectangular, carved tunnel leads you into a nexus chamber within the mine. Cart tracks lead to a turntable in the center, while a storage area and makeshift overseer’s office extend to your right. Untouched pillars remain between each pathway, acting as supports for the ceiling. Sparse lanterns cast uneven light throughout the room. The air inside is warm and humid, a stark contrast from outside, and is filled with an acrid stench that burns the inside of your noses. In the distance, you can hear a faint, echoing, chirping.
The entrance to the mine is abandoned and eerily empty. There is little for the characters to find here, though they may investigate the paperwork left behind on the Overseer’s desk. These will include orders relayed through the Overseer to the miners, many of which are harsh and show Eisenstein’s detachment, as well as emphasizing his anxiety over the Alabors’ visit. The most recent will include Emil’s frustration over the situation and the attack on the researchers, with a clear focus on how much it inconveniences him.
DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) check…
You believe you can identify where the bird’s chirps are coming from. Following the sound takes you along a minecart track to the right, between where two pools of water hiss and steam. You look to the side and notice a small box cage, partially submerged in the mud beside a pool. In its corner is an exasperated, golden-feathered bird that tweets at you loudly.
Theodore was left behind in the researchers’ escape. He is one of the canaries that the miners would use to identify if the fumes in the cave had become toxic, lovingly named by the research team. Pelion’s request and the danger in the tunnels should prompt the party to take Theodore. He will have an important role in the next encounter.
If the characters fail or do not make this Wisdom (Perception) check, they can find Theodore by listening to the sound’s direction change as they move.
DC 12 Intelligence (Nature) check…
‘Theodore’ is a female canary.
This detail is included to lighten the party’s mood and relieve tension, as well as building attachment to Theodore. It will help to increase the impact of the following events.
Danger in the Dark
The shafts bring you to a natural fissure that cuts through the mountain’s stone and descends into mist below. A wooden walkway runs along its side, with a crane mechanism that stands beside a bridge crossing the gap. The tunnels continue on the other side.
Theodore tweets as you move closer. He hops in his cage before pausing. In the silence, a faint shuffling can be heard beyond the fissure. It sounds like movement, rustling and scraping. Then, suddenly, a screeching cloud of bats erupts from the tunnel ahead, swarming you and sending Theodore in a chirping panic.
The encounter begins with three swarms of bats, though the characters will still hear the same movement deeper in the tunnel. After the first round of combat, the sound will draw much closer. Roll initiative for an additional three dretches that will then charge the party.
Once the combat is over, the character holding Theodore’s cage will notice that he is no longer there, despite the bars being far too small for him to escape. As they look around, read the following:
Your eyes flick around the room, landing on one of the bodies of the larger creatures and the golden bird that hops over to it. Theodore seems to inspect the body, cocking his head to one side and chirping again. He pecks at the side of its head. Then, in a single, swift movement, Theodore’s neck extends in a slick tendril that plunges into the beast’s eye. It burrows through, the rest of the bird following it. The creature spasms and writhes. Its body twists before jolting to its feet, its breathing heavy and joints contorting. Gnashing teeth protrude from where its eye once was.
The party must then face the mutated dretch, created from the body of one of the slain dretches. It will attack wildly and fight until it is slain, using its mutated abilities to try and consume the characters as its next victims. One of these new abilities is a powerful fire absorption which is sure to catch out any players attempting to make use of their own knowledge of the creature’s inspiration.
Map & Token Downloads
You can find all of our maps for the Eisenstein Compound and its mines below…
And don’t miss David Wilson’s cute and creepy tokens! Right-click > Save them and drop them into your VTT, or print them out using our guide: How To Print Maps & Assets To Scale With GIMP.
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