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A low-level dungeon delve where the adventurers must overcome an entrenched group of kobolds and their traps. Includes a battle map, kobold tokens, and stat blocks for D&D 5E.

Not an hour ago, the report of sounds within the sealed vault came in. Shortly after, those that went to investigate the possible breach clambered back out, bruised and reeling and spitefully naming the perpetrators: kobolds. A group of them has infiltrated the vault and is attempting to make off with whatever contents they can fit through their tunnels.

The kobolds have clearly been preparing for some time. Their tunnels weave between the walls of the vault’s interior into almost every chamber, and their traps now litter the rooms. The only section they have not breached is the innermost vault, owing to the enchantments of its construction. But they are working on the mechanisms and making swift progress. Someone needs to deal with them quickly, or the kobolds will leave nothing but an empty chamber behind.

If a group is willing to undergo the task of driving the kobolds off, they are shown a crude diagram of the vault’s locking mechanisms and instructed on how to open them. One of the vault guards is also sent with them. He is skilled enough to keep himself alive but is tasked with helping guide the party through the vault, not to lead them in battle. Of course, it is no secret that his primary role is ensuring that they do not think to abscond with anything they find. Unfortunately, there is very little specific information to give about the kobolds themselves, save for how quickly and expertly they have gained control of the vault.

The Dwarven Vault

You enter into a chamber constructed from rough-hewn stone bricks and a matching, paved floor. It is mostly featureless, favoring function over form, but the distant wall does draw your attention with a towering door that completely blocks the way. Everything is silent and the air is expectedly heavy for being underground, yet the room is surprisingly warm.

Orange light floods in as the door grinds open, shaking the ground as it moves. The chamber beyond is far larger, with a doorway heading in each direction and an even greater crank standing in its center. Around the crank bubbles a moat of lava. It illuminates the room with dry warmth and blocks off all but one pathway. As you peer around, you see areas of minor damage such as small piles of broken stone and fallen ceiling tiles, yet still no sign of movement.

The inside of the vault is a set of chambers built around the mechanisms that protect its most valuable contents. These create the path by which the party must reach the final room. But the kobolds are more than aware of how these machines work and have set traps along said path.

Kobold tunnels. As part of their infiltration, the kobolds dug tunnels that branch between the rooms of the vault, allowing them to move more evasively and efficiently between them. These tunnels are roughly 2 feet in diameter, allowing for a Small creature to fit through, or a Medium creature if it squeezes. The entrances to these tunnels are all disguised behind piles of rubble, loose bricks that the kobolds can quickly move, or some other form of cover. They often also use additional, similar features repeated near the tunnel entrances to distract anyone looking for them. A character that succeeds on a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check is able to see particular discrepancies, such as rubble that has been intentionally placed or bricks that have had their mortar filed away.

For a full explanation of how the cranks, gates, and lava all function, refer to our release article for the ‘Dwarven Vault‘ dungeon map!

Dwarven Vault - Large preview

Map & Asset Downloads

This encounter might have been designed with our Dwarven Vault battle map in mind but its story, traps, and kobolds can work in almost any setting. We have other dungeon maps, assets for constructing your own, and even tokens for various traps. We also have a handbook dedicated to running kobolds (and goblins) that covers their behavior both during and outside of encounters, use of traps, and even 10 other example encounters you might like!

Kobold Traps

To hold off those looking to stop them, the kobolds have constructed an array of traps throughout the vault. These hidden hazards range from dissuading anyone from continuing beyond the entrance chamber to actively harming those that make it deeper inside. The traps themselves are dangerous on their own and are always accompanied by an attack from a nearby kobold.

Blinding Powder

A tripwire connects to a pouch of powder that pours over an open flame when the trap is triggered. The powder reacts violently to the fire, creating a blinding flash of light.

Trap placement. A small, open pouch of powder hanging amidst cobwebs, several feet above a torch sconce or other flame, or the entrance to a room. A character that succeeds on a DC 14 Wisdom (Perception) check spots the pouch.

Trigger. The tripwire stretches across a doorway or hallway, 3 inches above the ground. A character that succeeds on a DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) check notices the wire, while a successful DC 14 Dexterity check using thieves’ tools disables the tripwire without setting off the trap. A character without thieves’ tools can attempt this check with disadvantage using any edged weapon or edged tool. On a failed check, the trap triggers.

Effect. The powder is released and reacts with any open flame that it touches, such as a torch sconce, held torch, or pool of lava, sparking with a bright light. Any creature within 30 feet and that can see the reaction must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or be blinded until the end of their next turn. If the powder reacted against a small, nonmagical flame, such as a torch, the flame is also extinguished.

Webbing Blastbox

A bomb is rigged to produce a concussive blast that also spreads adhesive webbing in its radius. It triggers from a wire connected to a moving mechanism being pulled taught.

Trap placement. A wooden box, 6 inches on each side, is hidden beneath a pile of smaller objects, such as rubble or coins. A character that succeeds on a DC 14 Wisdom (Perception) check notices the stack and may see a corner of the box inside.

Trigger. A wire connects the box to any mechanism that a target would move; a crank, lever, or door, for example. The wire itself is hidden under debris or sand. The movement of the mechanism pulls the wire taught and triggers the blastbox. A character that succeeds on a DC 14 Wisdom (Perception) check notices the wire, while a successful DC 14 Dexterity check using thieves’ tools disables the tripwire without setting off the trap. A character without thieves’ tools can attempt this check with disadvantage using any edged weapon or edged tool. On a failed check, the trap triggers.

Effect. The blastbox detonates in a concussive blast with a radius of 15 feet, carrying debris and adhesive webs. Any creature in the area must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or take 3 (1d6) thunder damage and 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage, be thrown 5 feet away from the box, and be restrained in webs if they are not thrown out of the radius of the explosion. On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage and is not thrown or restrained.

The webs are difficult terrain and lightly obscure their area. A creature that starts its turn in the webs or that enters them on its turn must succeed on a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw or become restrained in them. A creature that is restrained in the webs can use its action to make a DC 13 Strength check, freeing itself on a success.

The webs are also flammable. Any 5-foot cube of webs exposed to fire burns away in 1 round, dealing 5 (2d4) fire damage to any creature that starts its turn in the fire.

Kobolds are often used as an enemy force for beginner parties, who are unlikely to survive a dip into molten lava. Fortunately, even should the blastbox propel a character over a lava pool, the webs are likely to catch them before they fall in. This prevents the victim from taking the massive burning damage but creates urgency in safely freeing them from the webs before they burn away.

Oil Jar

A jar is filled with flammable oil that coats either a surface or an unsuspecting target, priming them to be ignited by a follow-up trap or attack.

Trap placement. The 3-inch-radius, spherical jar is loosely attached to the ceiling, connected by a wire to a nearby door or a snare trap. Alternatively, the jar may also be suspended above a target surface, such as a wall or section of the floor. A character that has a line of sight to the jar and that succeeds on a DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) check spots the jar and its connecting cord. 

Trigger. Opening the door that the jar is connected to causes the wire to be released. If the jar is connected to a snare trap, it is released a moment after the snare is triggered.

Effect. When released, the jar swings down towards the open doorway at a height of 3 feet. If it is triggered by a snare trap, its height is adjusted to target whatever is caught in the snare. Creatures in the path of the jar’s swing must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw in the order that it would hit them. The jar breaks against the first creature to fail their saving throw, coating them in oil.

Alternatively, if the jar is intended to coat the ground, it is simply allowed to drop and break on the floor, coating an area in a 5-foot radius.

If a creature or surface that is coated in oil takes fire damage, the oil catches fire. A creature that is on fire takes 3 (1d6) fire damage at the start of each of its turns until someone takes an action to douse the fire. If a surface is burning, any creature that starts its turn in the flames or that enters the area on its turn takes 3 (1d6) fire damage.

These are only some of the traps that the kobolds might employ. They can be mixed in alongside more traditional hazards, such as nets and collapsing stones. Likewise, you might notice that their positions and triggers are largely interchangeable and can be adjusted based on where in the dungeon they are placed. Swapping their triggers can also help keep the characters on their toes by making the traps less predictable.

You can add more traditional hazards, such as nets and collapsing stones, or refer to our ‘Greybanner Coliseum: Arena Traps and Hazards’ for more!

Elite Kobolds

A scratching sound echoes from beyond the revealed tunnel’s entrance, slowing as it draws closer. It proceeds tentatively, coming to the edge of what little light flickers inside. Your gaze is met by the appearance of reptilian eyes and snout, its mouth curling into a grin.

The group of kobolds sent to secure the vault’s contents includes elite units specialized in establishing control over territory. Their skills are beyond their common kin, emphasized further when given time to carve tunnels and set their traps. And they have had time to prepare the vault for interlopers. Even should the party make it past their traps, the kobolds themselves are still a worthy threat.

Kobold Blockbreaker

A kobold, larger than most, stands behind a powerful tower shield. What you can see of its body is covered in patches of thick scales that almost resemble stone. It wears leathers that hold together sparse, scavenged pieces of metal armor and carries a crudely fashioned war pick.

The kobold blockbreaker is the vanguard, protecting and clearing a path for those it leads. They are the most durable and most suitable for melee combat of their fellows, with a stronger physique and sporting armor constructed from whatever they have looted or stolen. Their war pick, meanwhile, works double duty for crushing foes and clearing a path through the dungeons and tunnels in which they delve. When ambushing targets, the blockbreakers defend their allies by providing cover with their shields. They stand firm until the others have retreated after their attacks. 

Kobold Scalesage

A kobold in layered cloth, with charms and talismans strung across its body. It raises a whip of leather cord as it looks up from beneath its hood.

The kobold scalesage acts as magical support to the others in its group. Its spells aid in the creation and repair of traps, in addition to offensive magic that the scalesage can cast from behind the protection of its blockbreakers. Kobolds’ naturally weaker forms, compared to larger races, also make the scalesages’ healing more potent, allowing them to keep their compatriots alive long enough to triumph or escape.

The scalesage’s spells have their uses on their own but are especially effective when combined with other traps or a larger ambush. The entangle spell can be used to hold a target within the effect of a trap and make them more susceptible to it, while the fog cloud spell can prevent creatures from seeing the trigger of a trap in front of them. Both of these spells can also be cast and forgotten if the kobold needs to escape, allowing the scalesage to remain safe and for the spell to last for its full duration.

Kobold Traptinker

The kobold’s belt is strung with pouches, tools, and other small, unidentifiable devices. Its eyes are enlarged through a pair of goggles, watching unblinkingly as its finger twitches towards a hand crossbow.

The kobolds’ foremost experts in constructing traps are designated as kobold traptinkers. They carry the equipment for creating whatever trap and trigger their environment allows, outfitting caves, dungeons, and ruins into the nightmarish gauntlets that kobolds are often known for. These items are also designed to give the traptinkers an edge in combat. They can hastily disrupt foes of any size, creating openings for others to attack or for themselves to escape.

In addition to the items and actions given in its stat block, the traptinker is the perfect creature to give all kinds of other tools to fit its situation. This can include flaming bolts that deal little damage on a hit but are able to ignite creatures covered in oil, such as from the oil jar trap, or bolts designed to snuff nonmagical light sources they hit. Emphasize the traptinker’s ingenuity and think about what else they might have whipped up for whatever encounter you’re using them in.

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About the author

Troy McConnell

Part-time DM and author of 2-Minute Tabletop's encounters, map lore, and characters. Basically, I write about all the campaign ideas that I don't have time to run. All with the assistance of my feline familiar, Wink.

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