Cannibals and Caverns Plot in Scarterra | World Anvil

Cannibals and Caverns

The short versions of this adventure is that the PCs are following the trail of a cult of cannibals before they can ritually eat a young priestess.    

My Intended Purpose

  For Adventure April 2023, I got an honorable mention for my one-shot adventure from no less than Janet herself. I made an adventure to introduce my RPG system and Scarterra as a setting to new players with rookie characters.. For Adventure April 2024, I'm writing an adventure for seasoned players with more advanced characters, similar but not identical to something I actually ran for some seasoned players.   For this adventure, it is recommended that the player characters be built with the heroic standard build (40 freebie points), and probably have at least two or three previous short adventures under their belt.  

Adventure Set-Up

  This adventure assumes the PCs respect the goddess Khemra and her followers.  
The PCs defeated a villain and captured a large eclectic treasure hoard. This treasure hoard included an elaborate woodcutting made of Silverwood depicting the most famous victory of the Redshaft dwarf clan. The heirloom piece of art would be worth a lot to the Redshaft Clan from the land of Meckelorn, and it would be worth very little to anyone else. The PCs come to the reasonable conclusion, "Let's give this to the Red Shaft Clan, and collect a big reward!"
Crude Red Shaft Sigil by me
  The Red Shaft Clan is politically influential and are one of the most powerful and respected clans in the Dwarf Kingdom of Meckelorn. If you are playing a political game, the reward can be a political. Otherwise, the Red Shaft Clan can gift the players a pile of gold coins or a bag of gems.   A lot of dwarf craftsmen work their trades in human lands but they still winter in Meckelorn.  
Cregor Redshaft by Eron12 with Hero Forge
The PCs travel to Meckelorn with one of the caravan of dwarves returning home (with many barrels of the finest human-made beer). The PCs even bought a lot of beer of their own to share, so they could make some friends if and when their reputation as adventurers doesn't open doors for them. The PCs are also traveling in the caravan with Creigor Redshaft, a dwarf ranger they once worked with to take on a marauding group of orcs a few months previously.
The PCs return the art to the Redshaft Clan, collect the reward, the Clan throws them a nice dinner party. The PCs can try to forge some new connections, play tourist in Meckelorn's capital, and/or do some shopping. Maybe the Game Master should have a merchant aggressively try to sell PCs some Faux Torches. You know, just in case.
me with Midjourney
  The Scarterran New Year's Observances are coming fairly soon. The Dwarf Kingdom of Meckelorn has a lot of territory above and below ground but at they onset of winter, the board up a lot of their homes and workshops and bring most of the surface population below ground for the coldest winter months.  
Dwarf Khemra Icon #1 by Me using Nightcafe to generate gold jewelry
The Sóleið, (Dwarf Khemra priesthood) invite the PCs to the closing ceremony for the Sunfire Mountain Temple, the most important temple to Khemra in dwarven lands. It is being closed for the winter and the entire population of the surrounding village Village of Sunfire Mountain and all the other villages in the area are boarding their houses and packing to go underground for the winter.
  Creigor Redshaft is nearby helping the dwarves ready their fortress in the nearby Kryssentra (better known as Bloody Pass) for winter, one of the few places the Meckelorners occupy year-long above ground.   Among other members of the The Sóleið that the PCs meet is Krogresli, an adolescent dwarf girl who happens to be Eclipse-Touched which means she is a favored soul of the goddess Khemra. Eclipse-Touched are so rare that Khemra's faithful practically treat them like royalty.  
Great things are expect of Krogresli. Despite her young age, she already shows great talent as a blacksmith and is a neophyte divine spell caster with a natural talent for Crafts magic. Everyone expects great things from her in the future, and they definitely do not expect her to get abducted by mutant cannibals.
Krogresli by Eron12 with Hero Forge

Preamble: "Ghoul Attack!"

  A general alarm is sounded, and the PCs and Creigor Redshaft respond out of curiosity or concern. They quickly find out that several orc ghouls were spotted nearby. They killed a few dwarf civilians and drove many others away.   Hopefully the PC will want to go after the ghouls without much prompting. If the players don't take the bait, a local dwarf leader can offer the PCs money to help take down the ghouls.   The PCs and Criegor have to travel at least a day to find the ghouls. Maybe a couple days. The PCs may or may not be traveling with some nameless dwarf soldiers ("redshirts") and some llamas or mountain donkeys.  
by me with Midjourney
The ghouls are undead orc warriors making them a bit stronger than normal ghouls. The Game Master can add as many ghouls as he deems necessary. There should be enough of them that they are a legitimate threat that the local dwarves cannot easily handle themselves, but not so many that the ghouls will be a serious threat to the PCs.
  Scarterran ghouls are not mindless brutes, but they aren't geniuses either. They will use basic strategies and attempt to set up simple ambushes. Because of their good hearing and sense of smell, they will hard to surprise. If the PCs are upwind of them, the ghouls can have enough forewarning make simple preparations.   Like most ghouls, these ghouls do not have ranged attacks. If the PCs are clever and/or roll well with their tracking and related rolls, they can force thetheir enemies into a position where the ghouls have to charge them across while being shot at by ranged attacks. The nameless dwarf soldiers with the PCs are happy to stick with crossbows and let the PCs and Creigor handle the close-quarters fighting.   A Ghoul's bloodlust is stronger than its sense of self-preservation, but the ghouls will attempt to flee if it becomes blatantly obvious that they cannot win (for a ghoul "winning" means killing anyone, not all the enemies). Any ghoul that flees is a liability later requires Creigor to track them down.   Orc Ghoul Stats  
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Willpower 3   Strength 7, Dexterity 3, Stamina 6, Charisma 1, Manipulation 2, Appearance 0, Perception 3, Intelligence 2, Wits 2   Abilities: Alertness 2, Athletics 3, Brawl 4, Dodge 3, Investigation 1, Stealth 2, Survival 1 (+1 tracking)   Health levels: OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, -1, -3, Destroyed   6 dice soak pool   Ghouls do not suffer penalities for fighting unarmed against opponents with melee weapons.
  The ghoul hunts needs to take up a least a full day counting the trip back home. Maybe a couple days, a week at most.   If anyone is bitten by a ghoul, the chance of getting ghoul fever is very low, but the chances can be zero if they are treated with Purification ●●● with a week or two of infection, the chances become zero. If none of the PCs have Purification ●●●, The Sóleið have a Purificationist on their staff and are happy to provide their services for free, but there is a bigger problem.   Once the PCs and their allies return they find out that while they were running around fighting ghouls, morlocks backed up by expendable zombies abducted Krogresli.   There were guards present and they destroyed several zombies and took down a Morlock or two, but they were not able to prevent Krogresli's kidnapping. A couple of the Sóleið Dusk warriors died in the effort.  

Lets talk about Cannibals...

  Long time fans of Scarterra have probably already heard or read about Cannibal Sickness and the umpteen child articles of Cannibal Sickness, but here is the cliff notes version for newcomers.  
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A Scarterran that eats mortal flesh risks contracting Cannibal Sickness. A Scarterran that makes a habit of regularly eating mortal flesh is guaranteed to contract Cannibal Sickness. They become addicts and suffer withdrawals if they go too long without eating mortal flesh.  
Cannibal Sickness is a curse with beneficial side effects. Cannibals find their bodies, minds, and spirits mutated by the Cannibal Sickness, but some of these mutations make them stronger. Humans with Cannibal Sickness typically turn into ogres, usually becoming big and ugly but also very strong and resilient. The other races manifest cannibal sickness differently.
by me with Midjourney
  Dwarf cannibals usually become jormangers. Jormangers are slightly stronger than the average dwarves, but they are much more resilient, both against physical damage and against various physical hazards such as poison, asphyxiation, and disease. They also have their senses sharpened underground, but they are somewhat pained and disoriented by bright light. The insanity is slow to manifest, and usually leads to jormanger's natural dwarven stoicism morphing into a deep ennui and complete lack of empathy.
If jormangers have children with other jormangers, eventually they will produce full-blown morlocks. Most Jormangers that survive long enough eventually find and join a morlock tribe. Most morlocks are happy to take in fresh blood because they would become hopelessly inbred otherwise.
by me with Midjourney
  Gnome cannibal mutate into ollums. Ollums are heavily inspired by Gollum from the Lord of the Rings, but since they are gnomes, the "g" is silent. Ollums gain enhanced strength (by gnome standards at least). More impressively they gain powers of enhanced mobility and stealth.   Ollums are so rare that it is not really an option for ollums to band together. Gnomes are very social creatures by nature, and ollums are still gnomes at heart. Being forced to isolate socially, ollums tend to become very crazy very quickly.   Most gnomes are used to playing the role of sidekick and evil gnomes are no different. Ollums that survive long enough usually end up as sidekicks or flunkies to more powerful villains, often other cannibals.   Ollums are loathsome creatures, but they are damn good at talking people into not killing them. Scarterran gnomes are very good at reading and responding to subtle social cues which is why they have a reputation for having silver tongues. Ollums have a dark reflection of this talent that is so powerful that it borders on telepathy. Ollums can figure out whatever a person wants most and find a way to offer it.   Skin changer witches (unisex term) are the rarest and most feared type of cannibal mutants in Scarterra. Skin Changers occur when a mage becomes a cannibal or when a cannibal becomes a mage.   Most cannibals are not picky eaters. They usually target vulnerable people that will probably not be missed, some even rob graveyards. Skin changer witches have more rarified tastes. They want to eat the flesh of those of royal blood, or the seventh son of a seventh son, or someone who is Eclipse-Touched...   Periodically, skin changer witches get a craving to eat a particular mortal and then receive a vision or sign telling them where to find this particular mortal and another vision telling them when is the best time to consume this meal. Skin changers prefer to eat young people.   With each ritually consumed meal, the skin changer gains power. This is in addition to power gained the "normal" way: study, practice, and experience. In this matter, skin changer witches are extremely powerful. So powerful that they almost invariably end up in charge of whatever band of cannibals they are a part of.   Dhorgorlun the main villain of this story blurs the line between dwarf jormanger and full morlock but he is also a skin changer that has eaten a lot of weird creatures, so he is so mutated, he barely looks like a morlock at all.
  If the players are not already familiar with the basic lore of Cannibal Sickness, the Game Master can tell the players about the basics because this is something almost all Scarterrans have at least heard campfire stories about.   If a character rolls Intelligence + Hearth Wisdom (difficulty 8), or Intelligence + Arcana (difficulty 6) and get a good roll, the Game Master can share more detailed information about the common strengths and weaknesses of jormangers and ollums. Basic Jormanger information can be shared with one or two successes. Ollums are much rarer and thus less well-known, so basic ollum information can be shared with three or four successes.    

Act One, Rescue Operation Begins

Collme the ollum by Eron12 with Hero Forge
The Sóleið guards were not able to prevent the kidnapping, but they were able to capture one of the attackers alive, an ollum named Collme. It is up to the Game Master if he wants the PCs to interrogate Collme, or if the allied dwarf NPCs take care of the interrogation before the PCs get there. Either way, the PCs will get the following information.
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Collme has been serving a band morlocks as a scout and spy for some time, but she has no loyalty to them. She will not hesitate to rat them out to save her own skin.   Over interrogation Collme reveals that the bad guys leader is a skin changer named Dhorgorlun. A wizard of the rune casting wizarding tradition and a master Necromancer who has some talent in Transmutation and Illusion as well.   Dhorgorlun plans to eat the Krogresli at dawn of the new year.   They took Krogresli into the near empty Bloody Pass and entered one of the gateways to Scarnoctis there. Scarnoctis being a vast subterranean realm below Scarterra roughly analogous to the Hollow Earth of late 19th century/early 20th century science fiction or the Underdark of the Forgotten Realms setting.
  There is a ticking clock with a very concrete deadline. If no one rescues Krogresli before dawn of the new year, there will be nothing left to rescue. Because of the remote location they are in, the only characters strong enough to deal with this problem that can summoned in time are the PCs and Creigor Redshaft.   Collme knows where the morlocks' closest lair is, and is willing to take the PCs there if they promise to spare her.  

Underground Survival

  The Sóleið can equip the PCs with plenty of travel rations, torches, lanterns, and lantern oil. If the PCs have a Bags of Holding they can pack lots of water too. If they don't have a magical means of packing on extra gear, the PCs are going to have to collect water as they go.   If one of the characters is an arcane conjurer with the "Create Element" spell, the PCs can probably conjure all the drinking water they want.  
There is lots of water in Scarnoctis, but not all of it is drinkable. If one of the PCs has Purification ●● they can easily purify any water they find. If one of the PCs has Purification ● they can quickly find out if water is safe to drink or not. Otherwise they are going to have to boil water or someone is going to have to roll Perception + Survival 7 to find drinkable water. Either way that will take time.
by me with Midjourney
  Light is another issue. Unless one of the PCs is a kalazotz, none of the PCs can naturally see in the dark. It's easy enough to carry a torch or lantern but that occupies a hand that could be holding a shield or casting spells.   Scarnoctis has many wide open caverns but it also has narrow spaces. In narrow spaces keeping torches and lanterns in close quarters risks people getting accidentally burned or risks the party consuming the areas oxygen too quickly.   If a PCs is an invoker, they might have the light spell. Otherwise, someone with Divine Crafts ●●● can mimic the light spell by making an object glow or someone Divine Augmentation ●●● can mimic the light spell be making a person glow. An arcane Transmuter can cast dark vision if they know the spell, which is not quite as helpful as light (because it is monochromatic) but also has the advantage of not having light give away one's position to enemies.  
by me with Midjourney
If one of the PCs is an arcane conjurer or divine Spirit summoner they can summon torch Spirits.   All these magic forms of illumination will take up mana or quintessence, and when it is difficult to stop and rest, mana and quintessence becomes a finite resource.

How will Collme behave?

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Collme's RPG stats and her tragic backstory can be found at this link.   Collme is not going going to go full Gollum/Smeagol but she is likely to mutter and talk to herself a lot (usually in Gnomish). She speaks Common, Dwarven, and Gnomish fluently and she knows a few common words and phrases in other languages. Collme is insane but she is still a gnome, so even her ramblings are fairly articulate and usually show proper grammar.   Collme is literally so schizophrenic with so many contradictory thoughts and impulses that she is functionally immune to mind reading magic. Collme is not immune to magical compulsions but resists them as if she had Willpower 10.   Collme is very good at both telling lies and spotting lies. If the PCs promise to spare her after she helps them, but are planning to kill or imprison her anyway, she will probably know.   Collme will generally lead the PCs in the right direction but she will "accidentally" forget to warn them about any dangers or hazards they face.   Presumably the PCs will keep Collme's hand's bound but not her legs though they can shackle her legs every time the group stops to sleep. Collme will slip away given any opportunity.   Collme is a bit of an escape artist, but the dwarves' provided the PCs with superbly constructed manacles. Collme probably won't be able to slip her bonds unless she is left unsupervised for an extended period of time. If dramatically appropriate, the "Rule of Cool" can trump the "Rule of Realism" and allow Collme to pull off an unlikely escape during the third act climax.   Collme has a chameleon-like ability to change color to blend in with her surroundings. Almost all ollums have this ability, but ollums are so rare in general that most Scarterrans barely know anything about ollums, so the PCs probably won't know about the chameleon ability unless they got three successes on their aforementioned lore roll.   Collme can excrete sticky slime at will. This makes her a good pickpocket but it also lets her climb walls like spiderman though this is not really feasible while shackled. The PCs need to roll at least four successes on a lore roll to know that ollums can commonly do this.   Experienced players with level one Divination theurgy or the "Detect Magic" arcane spell know that magic spells and effects leave a lingering aura.   None of Collme's ollum powers are actually magical, so they don't show up with a detect magic effect. If the PCs cast a buff spell on her (even a minor one like "Endure Elements") and keep renewing it, this means Collme will produce a faint magical aura that the PCs can track down if she runs away. Hypothetically if they cast an illusory disguise on her, this will also nullify her chameleon power.   Collme has a distinctive and unpleasant aroma. If one of the PCs is a kobold or has a loyal canine companion or similar animal sidekick with a good nose, the PCs can track Collme by her scent if she runs away.   If Collme is treated relatively well, and the PCs actually let her go when they catch up with the morlocks, she will immediately run away perpendicular the PCs and morlocks. If Collme is treated badly or suspects the PCs are not to let her go, she will join the final battle on the morlocks' side.   Collme has a lot of unusual special abilities but none of her abilities make immune to being stabbed with a broad sword, so her only chance in combat is fighting dirty.   Collme is nimble and strong enough to try to strangle someone with her own manacles if necessary. She can also strangle someone with her freakishly long and strong fingers, bash someone with a rock or fashion a crude shiv. If people are dropping in battle, she can pick up a weapon from one of the fallen or filch a dagger off of someone's belt while they are focused on something else.   If Collme gets mad at the PCs, she will probably pick one individual character to be the focus of her ire and attack that character. She especially likely to harbor resentment for any untainted gnomes in the party or anyone who repeatedly casts magic spells on her.

How to Use Creigor

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Creigor is a guide. Since it is unlikely that a party of PCs used to adventures on the surface of Scarterra is not going to be well reversed for spelunking in Scarnoctis, Creigor is there to give them a leg up on navigating the dangers of that realm or at the very least, give them someone who can track target's underground. Creigor can fight decently well though probably not as well as the PCs' party or at at least the party's best warrior.   The PCs are supposed to be the stars, not the Game Master characters. Creigor should be helpful when needed but fade into the background when not.   That said, if one of the players is up to it, he can play his normal character and play Creigor or if you have a temporary extra player, that player can borrow Creigor. Then you can Creigor be a little more proactive with Creigor's roleplaying. Creigor Redshaft has stats in the sidebar of his article viewable via the hyperlink.

Tracking the Bad Guys

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Collme is of course completely trustworthy and would never lead the PCs astray.   The PCs are also traveling with Creigor Redshaft who is a very good tracker is very knowledgeable about the world of Scarnoctis and its wonders and dangers.   As long as Collme and Creigor are in general agreement on which way to go, the PCs can be reasonably certain they are on the right track.   Krogresli may be a damsel in distress, but is strong willed and level-headed. She is not going to openly defy her captures, but she will quietly defy them at every opportunity.   She will occasionally scratch arrows into the cave walls along with her initials or drop trinkets and hints to point any-would be rescuers in the right direction.   The morlocks are native to Scarnoctis, but they are are not immune to the hazards of the realm. Also Dhorgorlun doesn't have a whole lot of restraint and will pick a lot of fights unnecessary if the thinks he can eat or necromantically bind the corpses of his foes.   At some point if the bad guys have to fight other Scranoctans. Dhorgorlun usually has his zombie minion take point, and zombies are very hard to reanimate a zombie for second time so he is going to leave behind a trail of mangled zombies that will it easier for the PCs to follow him.   If the PCs have someone with a Detect Magic ability and they roll very well, they might be able to follow the necromancer's trail by the residual aura left by his spells or even by the zombies if the PCs get close enough.   If the players come up with a clever out of the box way to pick up the trail, the Game Master should try to reward their ingenuity.
  Morlock Misdirection Mischief  
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The morlocks are not bothering to hide their tracks all the time, but they are making special effort to hide their tracks at every crossroads or underground intersection, so that can cause complications.   Scarnoctis has a fair number of underground rivers and streams, and the Morlocks are likely to use at least one to try to disguise their scent. Even if the PCs don't have a bloodhound among them, a lot of Scarnoctan monsters track prey by scent and some of them wouldn't mind snacking on a morlock.   The Morlocks are a little too arrogant to expect trouble from their "helpless and terrified" prisoner who has not yet shown any signs of fighting back, so they aren't watching Krogresli as closely as they should. Intersections are a good place her to leave clues for the PCs to find.

Traps left behind by the Morlocks

  The morlocks will take some steps to try to hide their trail but they cannot resist setting up booby traps which actually makes them easier to track since an absence of booby traps implies an absence of morlocks.   Also, setting booby traps takes times and lets the PCs gain ground on them, but setting traps is something they cannot easily resist doing.  
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Morlocks may be irredeemably corrupt, but they are still descended from dwarves. Morlocks still possess the dwarves' innate talent for metal and stone work combined with a total lack of compassion and brutal hunger. This means morlocks are very good at making terrifyingly effective booby traps.   Morlocks are perfectly capable of making traps that drop things from the ceiling, but most Morlock-constructed traps are floor based. They are usually intended to mangle an opponent's feet or break their legs, so that they can be captured and eaten later.   If the player characters are seasoned characters they probably have a magic healer in their party or else they have a large stash of healing potions, but every trap tripped is probably going to inflict at least three levels of lethal damage, so if the PCs are sloppy or unlucky they can quickly can burn through the party's finite supply of healing magic through attrition.   If the PCs are not expecting a trap, spotting a trap is going to be Perception + Alertness base difficulty 9 for whoever is on point. If the PCs are expecting a trap, it's difficulty 8 if the party is maintaining a relatively fast pace or difficulty 7 if the PCs are maintaining a relatively slow pace.   Reduce the difficulty by -1 if the person on point is a dwarf (for their innate stone sense). Once the PCs spot or triggered two or fhree morlock traps, they will figure out the Morlock's general tendencies, reduce the difficulty to detect further traps by -1.   Collme does not know where the traps are, but she has seen the morlocks place enough traps that she can make educated guesses where they are likely to be. She can spot traps at difficulty 6, but she won't tell the PCs where they are unless they are very persuasive, or they put Collme in the front of the group.   Once spotted, a trap can be disarmed or safely sprung with a Dexterity + Disable Device roll (difficulty 5), Dexterity + Engineering roll (difficulty 7) or a Dexterity + Crafts roll (difficulty 9). One success is all that is required. Or in some cases, once spotted, the character can just jump over or walk around the trap without disarming or springing it.

Speed and Attrition

    The Game Master should never let the players forget that they are racing a ticking clock.   The bad guys have a day's head start, two days head start at the most. You can adjust things up or down, but I recommend giving the PCs 3-6 days as a deadline from the start of the chase to the dawn of the new year. If the chase runs too long, you the sense of urgency. If the chase runs too short, it becomes a little implausible that the Meckelorners have not already mapped out, pacified, and claimed the area that the PCs are tromping through.  
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The morlocks do not know that the PCs captured Collme or that Collme has snitched on them. They assume Collme ran away or died, so they don't know that their exact escape route and lair was compromised, but the morlocks are making an educated guess that someone is trying to come after them.   Morlocks have the same general endurance that dwarves do, and they can cover a lot of distance underground in a single day. They know the area they are in far better than the PCs do, but the morlocks are not force marching or traveling at double time. They are carrying a lot of gear with them which slows them down a little bit as does the aforementioned trap setting.   All these factors will give the PCs the chance to gain ground on them if they move faster.   The PCs probably don't want to never rest, but they should endeavor to rest as little as possible.   This means the PCs are going to have make a lot of Fatigue and/or spend temporary Willpower points to negate failed or botched fatigue tests.   Even if they rest a bit to avoid fatigue, the PCs are probably not going to rest fully enough to recover too many Willpower points, so players need to be careful to conserve this. Ditto for spellcasters with regards to their quintessence and mana pools.   The PCs main challenge is not whether or not they can find the bad guys, but how quickly they can find the bad guys and how tired and exhausted will they be when they get there?

Act Two: Spiders again?

by Me using a popular meme template
My previous Adventure April entry had a giant spider as the final boss monster.   This adventure has spiders too, but it's a different species of spider.   Between the PCs and the morlocks there are two spider based obstacles. These spiders are a fair bit smaller but there are a lot more of them
  At some point they will have to cross a cavern full of drop spiders and at some point they will have to cross a cavern claimed by Psychic Spiders.   Drop spiders are a common threat in Scarnoctis, and Creigor has dealt with them multiple times before. He can at least tell the PCs what to expect.   Psychic Spiders are not well-known, so it is highly unlikely that the PCs and/or Creigor will recognize the danger signs early and the PCs will have a fairly difficult fight on their hands. The fight will against Psychic Spiders will probably be almost as difficult as the fight against Dhorgorlun and his cronies.  

Drop Spiders

Drop spiders are about the size of a chihuahua, that is big for an ordinary spider but rather small for a "giant spider".   Drop spiders are ambush predators that like to hang from the ceiling in very spacious caverns. If suitable prey walks beneath them, and then silently drop down and attack. Drop spiders make "wings" out of webbing to glide. These wings won't slow their fall much, but it will let them aim their fall quite accurately. Drop spiders are very fast on the drop, but they are much slower when scuttling on the ground or climbing up walls.
by me with Midjourney
  In-Game Effects of Drop Spiders  
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Simple rolling Dexterity + Dodge is not likely to help unless you get an phenomenal roll since drop spiders fall as a swarm so dodging one will probably put you in the path of another.  
A target hit by a single drop spider needs to soak the two levels of lethal damage (full soak with normal armor). If any damage is unsoaked, the target then needs to soak three levels of bashing damage from the spider's toxin (soakable with Stamina only).
  That is pretty survivable, but a clumsy or unlucky character might get hit by four or five drop spiders. Drop spiders are parasites more than they are predators. Once a drop spider gets a good draught of blood, it's full and will leave a target alone. If a character is unlucky enough to be knocked unconscious, they may end up being swarmed and this could kill something potentially but since drop spiders are slow when crawling on the ground, their companions should be able to defend their unconscious body .
  Assuming Creigor is still alive and is not suffering from fatigue he will probably say something something along the lines "Hey, this cavern is suspiciously likely to have drop spiders in it, maybe we should take precautions."   He will point out that when traveling alone, he normally avoids drop spiders by either going around or running as fast as he can. He will double back and look for a path around, during which time the PCs/players can talk about what they want to do.   If they manage to shine a line down the chamber, they will find two mutilated corpses of orc zombies in the middle of the chamber.   Once the players are done discussing things, Creigor will return and say there is no feasible way around the spiders. The players/PCs are ecouraged with their own out of the box solutions, or they can just try to run really fast.   You can run really fast (Criegor's solution)  
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If every member of the party gets three successes on Dexterity + Athletics difficulty 6, they can sprint across the cavern without taking a spider bite assuming they have the normal speed ratings of 20.   This is difficulty 8 for characters with a speed rating of 15 (such as gnomes) and difficulty 5 for characters with a speed rating of 25 (such as satyrs).   Characters benefiting from Transmutation spell "Fast Movement" or are creating a similar effect with Divine Augmentation ●●● make this roll at -2 difficulty.   Add +1 the difficulty if a character is wearing heavy armor or otherwise carrying an above average amount of gear.
  You can tank the hits  
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At a brisk walk, a character is likely to be hit by three or spiders at most. Two levels of damage is not too hard to soak with decent armor. If someone in the group has Divine Crafts ● or you have an arcane caster with the spell spell "Simple Magic Armor" characters can get a bonus soak die for a scene to make tanking the hits even easier.   If every character in the party has a shield or the party has access to some simple building materials, the party can improvise a Roman tortoise and simple walk through while the spiders rain down on their shield(s).   If a character rolls Intelligence + Hearth Wisdom (difficulty 8, or 7 if they are a dwarf, kalazotz) they can cook up an antidote to the spider's toxin and gain a bonus soak die per success rolled. These bonus soak dice only apply to the toxin, not the spider bite.
  You can trick the drop spiders  
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Drop spiders are very fast when dropping but they are very slow when climbing back to the ceiling.   If the party can trick the spiders into dropping against a false target, or have one very fast or durable party member try make them waste their drop, the spiders namesake drop attack will be wasted. Then the party can walk across the cavern safely while most or all the spiders are slowly scuttling to reset their ambush.   This is how the morlocks got past them. They used a couple zombies to trigger them. The zombies didn't have any edible blood, so the spiders just slunk away frustrated and hungry. The morlocks did not want to kill the drop spiders, just in case they were followed. This is why there are discarded zombie husks in the cavern.
  You can kill the drop spiders  
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The spiders are small and positioned at an awkward angle for PCs shooting at them, but the spiders cannot dodge at all. A single spider can be shot with an arrow or crossbolt at difficulty 8 (assuming the party has some means of illuminating the ceiling). A single hit is enough to kill or cripple a spider.   If there is an invoker in the party, a wide area invocation blast will kill or drive off a lot of spiders.   If the party is carrying alchemist's fire, you can rig the same effect by rolling Intelligence + Survival to improvise some sort of alchemist's fire delivery system to splash the ceiling, then ignite it with a torch or candle.   The cavern has about fifty spiders in it. The PCs only have to take out twenty in order to clear a safe path through the chamber.   After they are on the ground, the spiders abilty to fight back against humanoids targets with a melee weapons is fairly low. They only have three dice to attack or dodge the PCs, and one solid hit will kill or cripple them. You don't have to roll out the damage, if the PCs hit a drop spider, they can just take it out automatically.

Psychic Spiders, the Penultimate Threat

    Psychic Spiders are a complicated breed. Psychic spiders feed on animals, and don't normally attack people....most of the time.   Female psychic spiders need to feed on the psychic energy of intelligent creatures when it its time to lay a clutch of eggs. Then they release their eggs into the Astral Plane. Later the little spiderlings will re-enter the material plane hundreds of miles away. No mortal Scarterran has seen this no one understands how Psychic Spiders reproduce. They just seem to appear out of nowhere in random places.   Male psychic spiders will spin what is known as "webs of madness" which weaken the resolve of intelligent creatures that touch them and send out a psychic beacon to alert female spiders to potential intelligent prey to their presence. Male psychic spiders have no biological need to hunt intelligent prey, they do this solely to attract mates.   How did the Morlocks deal with Psychic Spiders?   The PCs will probably never learn this but this snippet is here if one of the players asks.  
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The Morlocks deliberately chose a lair near the Psychic Spiders as a defense mechanism.   Morlocks are immune to the effects of the Webs of Madness, but they are vaguely aware of what it does to other mortals and they are vaguely aware that non-morlocks exposed to the webs frequently attract spiders hunting them later.   The Morlocks made a fairly obvious path through the webs. Morlocks are immune to the effects of the Webs of Madness but they are aware of the effects on other mortals so they actually shielded Krogresli from the webs by stuffing her into a burlap sack and carrying in the middle of the group. Dhorgorlun didn't do this out of kindness, he did this because he didn't want giant spiders trying to poach his dinner.

Traversing the Webs of Madness

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If a character rolls Perception + Animal Ken (difficulty 9) they might notice a warning sign. "Why are this many spiderwebs with zero spiders in them.   Psychic webs produce a very faint magic aura. A magical diviner need at least four successes on a Detect Magic roll to spot it.   Chances are the PCs aren't taking crazy precautions against the webs, but the players are probably paranoid enough to take modest precautions.  
by me with Midjourney
If a PC marches through the webs heedlessly, the characters need to make a Willpower roll (difficulty 8).   If a PC plods through like a normal person taking basic precautions to minimize getting too many spider webs on them, they need to make a Willpower roll (difficulty 7).
  If a PC manages to only touch a tiny bit of webbing for short periods of time, they need to roll (Willpower 6)   If a PC takes extreme effort to not let the webs touch them at all. The character does not need to roll Willpower at all, but this probably means the character is moving very slowly.   If the PCs opt to burn a path through the webs, that's certainly possible, if they are using magical fire they are probably also burning their characters' quintessence supply. If they are using mundane fire, they could easily exhaust their supply of torches, alchemists fire or whatever consumables they are carrying.   Also, non-magical fire eats up oxygen very fast (magical fire eats up oxygen fairly slowly). If the PCs really go crazy burning webs, someone might need to roll Wits + Survival to create a path for the party to use before they use up all their breathable air (unless they have the create element spell in which case they conjure oxygen into the cavern).   What happens after the Willpower roll?  
A character that botches his/her Willpower roll is going to turn into a frightened angry mess inside ten minutes.   Any character that failed his/her Willpower roll outright is going to be psychically tainted, but the effect is so subtle that the character probably won't realize it, even if the player knows what is happening.
  A character that got one or two successes on their Willpower roll will not suffer any ill mental effects, but they will appear on the spiders' collective radar.   For characters who fail the willpower roll, the webs will slowly bring out a character's worst personality aspects. If the character has no obvious inner demons, you can run with general fear and despair because the characters are on a difficult and exhausting quest in a scary and unfamiliar location.   If the players really like deep roleplaying immersion you can really make milk this for all its worth. If the player's don't enjoy this sort of thing, you can simply have the players spend a minute or two describing in broad terms about how their character's negative traits manifest the psychic taint and the other characters explain how they react in similar sweepingly broad terms.   If the players make a good effort of roleplaying confronting their personal inner demons, the Game Master can reward the player with a strength of will character arc at the end of the adventure.   Creigor is just as potentially vulnerable to the webs as the PCs are. Collme is so perpetually miserable and confused that the Webs of Madness cannot affect her, though it is up the Game Master's discretion of whether she can attract hungry Psychic Spiders for the next phase.   Depending on when the PCs trigger the Webs of Madness, it could be hours or even days between the point where the PCs trigger the Webs and the point where they attract the Psychic Spiders.   If the entire party either doesn't touch the webs at all or if everyone gets three successes on their Willpower roll, then the party is effectively invisible to the Psychic Spiders. Otherwise they will eventually have to fight some psychic spiders.   Alternatively, even if the PCs avoided the Webs of Madness entirely, the Game Master can simply decide that Collme's batshit crazy brain somehow attracts the spiders anyway.

Physically Fighting the Spiders

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To get the combat stats, click on any one of the Psychic Spiders hyperlinks and check out the sidebar.   There should probably be between one and three females and between three and six males depending on how hard you want to make the fight, and how well the PCs navigated the webs of madness.   In playtesting, Psychic Spiders are not pushovers. I recommend only throwing in three females if the the PCs are combat monsters who routinely steam roll over their fight scenes.   The females will try to attack any character suffering from the Webs of Madness (such targets take double damage from a female's psychic attack), or barring that, they will attack the most vulnerable seeming character.   The males will run interference to defend the females and/or try to soften up or distract the females' targets.   A female spider will run away once she has been severely wounded or she has inflicted three points of mental attribute damage in total (enough to lay a clutch of eggs). The female spiders will give up and leave if the PCs manage to fend them off for several consecutive rounds.   The male spiders will fight to the death as long as there is one female spider still fighting. If every female spider dies or withdraws, the remaining males will withdraw too.   It is not obvious to casual observers whether a spider is male or female (no one wants to look that close at a spider's genitals), but among psychic spiders, females are much larger than males and the PCs will probably notice the smaller spiders seem to have little regard for their own safety while the larger spiders are fighting more conservatively.

The Unluckiest five Days of the Year

  Dhorgorlun eats Krogresli, Eclipsed Caste Dwarf at the dawn of the new year.   The last five days of the Scarterran calendar coincide with anniversary of the the Divine Rebellion. During these five days, there is a cosmic bad luck effect over all living creatures. Details below. Most, if not all of the chase sequence will take place during these five days.  
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During these five days, the entire world is subject to bad luck. In game terms, any dice roll of "2" is treat as a "1". The bad luck applies to physical rolls and spell casting, but not damage rolls or soak roll, nor social rolls, or "lore rolls".   This bad luck also applies to the morlocks (and Psychic Spiders).
  In most non-emergency situations, most Scarterrans and Scarnoctans will hole up in their homes during the unlucky and do as little as possible. Even animals feel the bad luck effect and will instinctively retreat their lairs most of the times. Female Psychic Spiders ready to make eggs are an exception because they have very few opportunities to hunt intelligent prey.   Once the morlocks make it to their lair, they will stay there and wait rather than keep running, even if they somehow become aware that the PCs are pursuing them.  

Act Three: A Climactic Fight in an Exotic Location

  All the difficulty numbers given below assume the unlucky effect is already in play. In the PCs somehow catch up to the Morlocks before this happens, adjust accordingly.

Where are the Morlocks holed up

  (it's surprisingly bright and cheery)  
by me with Midjourney
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Scarnoctis is dark and barren realm that relies on the detritus of Scarterra and Scaraqua dotted with hundreds of life stones.   Life stones act as miniature suns and will provide, heat, light in small areas and will also support tiny little biomes full of underground plants which can then support more advanced animal life.   The morlocks found a series of caverns around a life stone that were occupied by igundans. They killed and/or drove the igundans away and claimed the caverns for themselves.   The series of chamber is dimly lit enough that characters do not need a torch or magical light source to see, but the area is not so brightly that it will impair morlocks' sensitive eyes.   The area is also warm and pleasant all year long, even in the depths of winter. The area smells loamy, but it is perfectly safe and there is plenty of breathable air.   If any of the PCs are Plant theurgist, their players were probably unhappy that they had no plants to work with for all Act 1 and Act 2, but now they can make up for lost time. The area is full of many lush plants, especially viny plants. If one of the PCs is a theurgist with Plant ● or Plant ●●●● there are plenty of plants to work with (though there are no trees or tree-like entities). A lot of the plants are edible (and delicious) but the morlocks mostly only eat fruits, starches, and vegetables as a last resort and they've killed so many people lately that they have plenty of meat.   They probably let Krogresli eat whatever local flora she wants. Krogresli is of the Heart's Fire dwarf clan, so her parents taught her a lot about which underground plants are good to eat and which are not.   The area is rich in reagents but that won't matter until after the battle.

There is a Gravity Anomaly

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The area is not just any life stone cavern, but the area is a center of a magic font of primal elemental earth energy which also makes the gravity anomalous.   The general vicinity has roughly the same gravity that would be normal on Mars or Luna, not Earth. Characters effectively weigh less than half what they normally do.   Characters run faster, jump higher, and throw things farther than they normally would. But if the characters cannot acclimate well, their center of balance is going to be a little bit off, causing them to trip and bump into things more often. Athletics and dodge rolls are going to be +1 difficulty.   Have all the characters roll Wits + Athletics, difficulty 8 at the start of the encounter. Players that have 2 or more successes can acclimate quickly. The morlocks and Krogresli have been in the chamber long enough to adapt.   Due to the lighter gravity, any character that is hit in battle is likely to be knocked down or knocked back by any blow that lands, even if it is parried or soaked. Characters need to roll Dexterity + Athletics reflexively to keep on their feet. Difficulty depends on how hard they are hit. Even if characters keep on their feet, they are probably going to have several backsteps every time they are struck, so it is likely that all the combatants on both sides are going to rapidly become spread out rather than everyone clumping.

How the Combat is likely to play out

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Who has the lowest Wits + Stealth in the entire group should roll against difficulty 7. If they get at least one success, assume the party can get relatively close to the bad guy's lair without immediately tipping the morlocks off.   This PCs can take a couple rounds to load crossbows, drink potions or cast buff spells, etc. If the players milk this for too long, make them roll Wits + Stealth again (difficulty 8 this time) to avoid tipping the villains.   The entrance to the chamber is boobytrapped, but by this point the PCs are probably going to have their guard and probably spot the trap pretty easily. Because the morlocks want to be able to enter or exit the chamber, there is a safe path around the boobytrap and the PCs can probably find and locate this safe path. Or they can disarm the trap.   The default setup for the final fight will involve Dhorgorlun, one rank-and-file morlock per PC, one morlock ghoul, and three zombies.   If the PCs are the not super great warriors, or they really got roughed up by the Psychic Spiders, the Game Master can drop the morlock ghoul to make the fight easier.   If the PCs are especially powerful, the Game Master can add more zombies or more rank-and-file morlocks to make the fight tougher.   Chances are that the PCs' spellcasters are down on some mana and quintessence and that few if any of the characters have a full tank of Willpower points.   Note that the Dhorgorlun and company have also had their own share of obstacles, so they shouldn't have a full tank of gas either, especially if the PCs negotiated the obstacles well and closed the distances especially quickly.   The morlocks' reaction   The PCs are probably morlocks are probably not asleep, but the morlocks are probably still caught by surprise, in which case they are lounging about the cavern unconcernedly. Even if some of them are asleep, morlocks usually sleep with their armor and weapons on.   The zombies and ghoul are on standing orders to kill anyone who is not a morlock or Krogresli, so they will immediately once the PCs are spotted.   Once alerted to their presence, the morlocks will try to take down the PCs with clinical precision. The morlocks are not cowards, but neither are they fools. They will use undead minions, the terrain, or anything else to keep between them and attackers.   How the main villain will fight  
Dhorgorlun full stats are available on his hyperlink. When Dhorgorlun intially kidnapped Krogresli while wearing an illusory disguise to mimic a rank-and-file morlock. He will not bother changing his appearance in this fight and will stand out like a sore thumb due to his skinchanger mutations.
by me with Midjourney
  The villain is a reasonably good fighter in melee, but he doesn't have any magical gear or buff spells, so he is not likely to win a fight on his fighting skills alone, particularly if two PCs engage him at once. He will rely on his magic and generally only use his weapons to try to parry incoming attacks.   IF the PCs clump together in one place (or they all enter the chamber at once and do not surprise the morlocks), Dhorgorlun will probably open up with the spell "Waves of Pain" as long as he can cast it without hitting his own morlocks (zombies are immune not that Dhorgorlun cares about them).   If Dhorgorlun feels threatened by a particularly PC, he will cast "Enervation" at them which inflicts aggravated damage which can be dodged or soaked like any other attack but is very hard to heal magically. Targets killed by aggravated damage make bad eating and are somewhat difficult to reanimate. If Dhorgorlun thinks that he is winning, he will probably use Blindness as his main attack instead of Enervation so he doesn't ruin the meat.   If the PCs and morlocks get in an archery fight, the cavern has enough plantlife that it is very easy for both sides to secure light cover. If one of the PCs stays at the chamber entrance, they can gain heavy cover at the chamber entrance by shooting around the corners.   The morlocks (and Dhorgorlun himself) are armed with falchions and heavy crossbows as their primary weapons. They have cutlasses and daggers as back up weapons. They can also inflict lethal damage with their teeth if they grapple with someone, but this normally a desperation play. They are wearing medium armor.   The morlocks will never surrender, and will fight to the death if cornered. That said, if Dhorgorlun is slain, the morlocks will probably try to flee if given the opportunity.   Rank and File Morlock Stats
by me with Midjourney
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Willpower 5 Dexterity 3, Strength 4, Stamina 4, Appearance 2 ("Inverse", Charisma 2, Manipulation 3, Intelligence 3, Perception 3, Wits 3 Abilities: Alertness 2, Animal Ken 2, Archery 3, Athletics 2, Brawl 3, Crafts 3 (metalworking), Dodge 2, Hearth Wisdom 1 (+1 Scarnoctis), Intimidation 2, Investigation 1, Medicine 1, Melee 3, Stealth 2 (+1 Scarnoctis), Survival 3 (+1 Scarnoctis) Health Levels: OK, OK, OK, -1, -1, -3, -5 Rare Abilities: Engineering 2 (+1 traps)   Morlock Traits: -Morlocks can see in the dark perfectly, partially uses their noses to help them "see".   If unexpectedly exposed to a bright light (from a magic effect or alchemical flare), they suffer a two-dice penalty for three rounds minus successes rolled on a reflexive Wits + Alertness roll. If unexpectedly exposed to a nasty smell (a metaphorical or literal stink bomb) they suffer a one-die penalty for three rounds minus successes rolled on a reflexive Wit+Alertness.   In the presence ongoing bright light (ie sunlight), they suffer a one-die penalty.   -Morlocks can inflict Strength +1 lethal damage with their bite attack   -Morlocks climb at -2 difficulty.   -Morlocks heal at twice the natural healing rate, and are hardier than normal dwarves (reflected in their stat lines already).
  Zombies   Dhorgorlun makes a lot of zombies, but he also goes through zombies pretty quickly because whenever he faces trouble, his first instinct is to throw a zombie at the problem.   Also, any corpse the bad guys create can be either food or an undead minion, not both, so this limits the bad guy's undead reserves.   It takes at least ten minutes to reanimate a new zombie, so Dhorgorlun will not be creating new reinforcements in the middle of a battle.   The zombies are intially under orders to kill any mortal who enters the caverns who is not a morlock or Krogresli, Eclipsed Caste Dwarf. If Dhorgorlun is targeted by more than one PC at once, he will shout new orders to attack whoever the strongest seeming attacker is.   After Dhorgorlun is slain, his zombie minions will keep following their last order to the letter until it becomes impossible than they will enter into a state of torpor.   Morlock Ghoul   If a ghouls is made from the corpse of a cannibal, they get get free upgrades. Morlocks are not morally opposed to reanimating the corpses of their own and Dhorgorlun has one. Ghouls are hard to restrain in peace time. Most undead follow orders to the letter, but ghouls take orders as guidelines, so Dhorgorlun only has one ghoul with him.   It will probably head straight for attacking the physically largest of the PCs unless one of the PCs moves to intercept in which case the ghoul happily fight anyone who volunteers to fight it.   As a former morlock, this ghoul retains more its past life's memories and skills than a garden variety ghoul. It wears armor and fights with falchian. Basically, this one ghoul fights like an extra strong/extra resilient Morlock.   As an undead creature, the ghoul Morlock can be harmed by Healing magic or temporarily turned Purification. Healing magic is probably the most effect means of taking it out because such magic bypasses soak rolls.   Morlock Ghoul Stats Strength 6, Dexterity 3, Stamina 5, Charisma 1, Manipulation 2, Appearance 0, Perception 3, Intelligence 2, Wits 2   Abilities: Alertness 3, Athletics 3, Brawl 4, Dodge 3, Investigation 1, Melee 3, Stealth 2, Survival 2 (+1 tracking)   7 dice soak (combining armor with natural resilence) Health: OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, -1, -3, Destroyed Ghouls do not suffer penalties for attacking armed opponents and they can parry melee attacks with their bare hands at no penalty. -Ghouls carry ghoul fever. -Ghouls inflict lethal damage with their punches and kicks. Their bites inflict Strength +2 damage, but they need to intiate a grapple to do it.     Igundan Zombies  
by me with midjourney
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The igundans are "tier three" zombies with the agility, mobility, and toughness upgrades, reflected in their stats below.   Strength 3, Dexterity 5, Stamina 5, Charisma 1, Manipulation 1, Appearance 0, Perception 1, Intelligence 1, Wits 2 Abilities: Athletics 4, Brawl 4, Dodge 2   Living igundans alternate between moving on all fours and standing upright. The zombified versions stay on all fours all of the time except when attacking where they alternate between swiping with their front claws and biting. They have a base movement rate that is double a normal human and can scuttle on walls or over obstacles without slowing down.   The igundan zombies are unarmed but, they can parry melee attacks with no penalty. They are very fast and agile, but don't hit especially hard. They only inflict their base strength in lethal damage.
  Krogresli   Morlocks have no real empathy, and their sense of self preservation is below that of a normal person, so it wouldn't even occur to them to use Krogresli as a living shield or a hostage.   Krogresli is tied up but she is not going to waste her moment. She has adjusted to the lower gravity and is prepared to roll/bounce to the nearest PC, even if she takes a few levels of bashing damage in the process.   If she cannot bounce towards a PC, she will try to slice through her ropes with a sharp rock, even if she takes a bit damage in the process.   If untied, Krogresli will stick to the closest PC and will use her one dot of Crafts magic to enhance the armor and then weapons of her would-be rescuer(s).



Remaining Obstacles

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Even if all the bad guys are slain, Krogresli isn't technically rescued until she is brought home safely.   Assuming the PCs won, it is probably still during the five days of unluckiness, and the PCs, Creigor Redshaft, and Krogresli are probably going to opt to wait in the (relatively) safe life stone caverns rather than risk the bad luck effects traversing the tunnels a second longer than they half to.   Obviously, the PCs don't want to eat any of the morlock's "mystery meat", but there are more than enough edible plants in the area to let the PCs and their allies survive here in relative comfort.   The party is going to have to take Krogresli back the same way they came. That means they are going to have to deal with the deal with the spiders and any other hazards they deal with again.   That won't be too bad because forewarned is forearmed. Also, the character are no longer racing a tight clock, so the PCs can take all the rest breaks they want to heal and recover. If they want to take several days eradicating every single trace of the Webs of Madness from their path, they can do so.   It is possible a few morlocks escaped and maybe Creigor probably wants to track them and wipe them out. The PCs may or may not care about this.

Immediate Reward

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The morlocks have well-made albeit scary looking steel weapons and armor. Krogresli is a blacksmith first and foremost. She wants to at least take Dhorgorlun's sword with her and melt it down later to make a mace for herself. This is a how a dwarf crafter conquers personal trauma, by melting it down and reforging it into a source of strength.  
Underdusk berries by me with Nightcafe
The area has a lot of vines of Underdusk berries, so named because they are colored like the setting setting but underground. Krogresli is fond of underdusk raisins, and she knows that underdusk berries can be fermented in "golden nugget wine" which sells for five silver pieces a bottle. The PCs can make fifty silver pieces just by harvesting the berries.
  The gravity anomally makes the area rich in various reagents for achemical and magical processes. Krogresli has a little bit of training in reagents lore, and she help the PCs harvest up 100 drams worth of common reagents. If any of the PCs are well-trained in reagents, they can pick up 400 drams of reagents.   The morlocks aren't carrying any money, but Dhorgorlun is carrying a fair amount of reagents which are practically money in the for Scarterran adventurers (a dram of reagents is usually worth a silver piece).   Dhorgorlun was personally carrying about 400 drams worth of necromancy reagents. There are non-evil ways to use necromancy reagents, but the PCs may or may not want to deal with these reagents.   Dhorgorlun also has about 200 drams of haber crystals on him which is something any adventurer can use without moral controversies.

Valuable Subteranean Real Estate up for Grabs?

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The final battle took place in one large cavern but the life stone nearby actually supports several caverns.   The series of caverns could easily grow enough food to feed a hundred people year round. If knowledgeable farmers managed the plants and the food was carefully rationed, this area could perhaps support more than three hundred people.  
With careful management, these chambers could allow upwards of 2000 drams of reagent harvested per year. Maybe another 500 silver coins worth of luxury good (underdusk berries, medicinal herbs, perfumes) can be sustainably harvested per year.
by Me with Midjourney
  The main difficulty in monetizing the chambers is that this is a remote area with lots of deadly spiders nearby. Maybe the Meckelorner dwarves will want to claim it, maybe it will make sense to try to return this territory back to the igundans who the morlocks drove away.   At this point dwarves and igundans are cautiously indifferent to each other. Maybe this can area can be shared between the Meckelorners and igundans and this can pave the wave to a long-term alliance like they set up with the kalazotz centuries ago.   The PCs/players can try to put a finger on the scale to decide what happens to this land (and possible finangle a share of the future profit). That is assuming the players/PCs are the sorts to care about the long-term repruccussions of their actions. If not, the players/GM don't have to worry about this at all.

Homecoming Award

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You can tailor the reward to what your PCs/players are interested in but it is the recommended that the PCs and Criegor each receive a magical item each worth about 1000 drams of reagents.  
by me with Nightcafe
Magical armor buckles are a good default (unless the PCs have them already). Everyone can get a +1 soak die, -1 difficulty armor buckle. Each buckle can even be individually decorated for the family or faction of each PC.
  Krogresli is Eclipse-Touched and Eclipse-Touched are important and rare. A Khemra affiliated messenger spirit might just materialize and hand the PCs their reward or create a mysterious miracle flash that creates a pile of magic items out of nowhere.   Khemra spirits are meticuluous and aren't likely to dish out the quest reward until after Krogresli is brought home safely, but even Khemra can bend the rules from time to time. If one or more of the PCs is suffering from a large amount of aggravated damage, so she can send a healing spirit to patch them up after the fight and said healing spirit might as well pass on the characters' material rewards at the same time.   The PCs will probably be given a warm welcome in Meckelorn and be invited back for a return visit whenever they want. New friends and allies are a reward in its own way.   The Sóleið kept Krogresli cloistered away for her protection for her whole life. Krogresli figures that if she can get this close to be eaten while in a "safe" location, she might as well take some risks.  
Krogresli will petition her handlers to let her relocate to a Khemra affiliated temple closer to the PCs, so she can broaden her ecclastical education in human or elven lands. She is likely to become a recurring character in your campaign and a life long friend of the PCs going forward.
by Eron12 with Hero Forge
  In any event, coming home with a Eclipse-Touched in tow will give the PCs street cred in heavy Khemra-worshipping circles.   Assuming she sees the PCs again later, Krogresli will show off her new mace and use the remaining steel to gift the PCs each with an ornate dagger. No magical powers, but with sentimental value.

Future Story Hooks

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The PCs established something of a reputation among Meckelorn and Keeper circles. That means NPCs from these groups can offer the PCs opportunity (or bring them problems to solve) later. Either way, that's future adventures!   The Redshaft Clan is in the middle of their own ongoing quest to try to find out who killed their last clan elder and stole a bunch of relics. Creigor Redshaft was pursuing a rumor that the orc tribe involved was called the Tribe of the Three Boned Hand which has been making a power play against the other orc tribes in Scarnoctis.   Morlocks actually speak a gruff dialect of the Dwarven language as their native tongue. Morlocks are not particularly chatty, but they would have no reason to restrain their conversations around Krogresli, so she could have overheard something juicy which can plant the seeds of another adventure.  
by Eron12 with Hero Forge
For starters, Dhorgorlun is a member of Clan Mykrrún, and is part of the lineage of wisdomof Dyrik Mykrrún, the most vile and hated dwarf wizard in history. Dyrik was also a skin changer witch and a jormanger.   Dyrik was slain centuries ago, but his followers hope to resurrect him some day.
  Dyrik was a prodigious crafter of magical items and a lot of his artifacts remain forgotten and lost in remote places. The most coveted relic by Clan Mykrrún is Dyrik's original arm which has long been missing. It is probably an unrelated coincidence that a mystically powerful orc tribe that is on the rise has called themselves The Tribe of the Three Boned Hand...   If the Game Master wants to use Clan Mykrrún as recurring antagonists and/or have an epic quest to destroy Dyrik's lost relics, this is a good way to provide a springboard to get things started for these sorts of adventures.

But wait, there's MORE

  I created a narrative short story version of this same adventure Cannibals and Caverns, short story. I barely got the short story done by the Adventure April Deadline, but I hope to expand and polish the story further during the month of May.    

Adapting this Story to Your Campaign

  If the PCs don't care about the goddess Khemra or her followers?   Then Krogresli can be replaced with another dwarf character (or a kalazotz or a gnome character) that is part of a group that the PCs are sympathtic to.   Likewise, you can swap Redshaft Clan for another dwarf clan that fits your campaign better. Meckelorn alone has over 80 clans. As of the time of this writing I've detail eight clans, but I also created a a Dwarf Clan Generator to make it easy for me or anyone other Game Master to make a new clan quickly and easily.   You swap out Creigor Redshaft with another NPC that fits your campaign better. The only require is that the NPC guide know a lot about Scarnoctis. If one of the PCs happens to be an expert on Scarnoctis, than you don't need this character at all.   If it is not convenient for the PCs to be in Meckelorn near Scarterran New Years, than you can make the deadline some other auspicious date that happens to be near when the PCs are in the land of Meckelorn.   And if you don't want the PCs to go to Meckelorn, this story can be adapted to any dwarf nation.
Plot type
Chase and Rescue
Related Locations

Optional Story Add-Ons


The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend?

  Scarnoctis has more denizens than just dwarves and morlocks.   In his quest for power Dhorgorlun has killed many orcs, igundans, and camazotz and either eaten them or reanimated their corpses.   The local orcs, Igundans and @cama would love to see the morlocks get their comeupance.   Hypothetically, the PCs can try to reach out to the survivors of the morlock attacks and try to strike up a partnership. Details on how this might play out appear below.  
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At some point the PCs will find evidence of battles between morlocks and other Scarnoctan denizens and then use their dwarf ranger to track down the Morlock's enemies and the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Alternatively, they might find mangled survivors of Morlock traps that the PCs can theoretically help. If they provide magical healing to these victims, that would go a huge way to winning them over.   Adding third party factions can either add rich depth to this scenario or it can needlessly complicate things, besides the PCs and villain, you already have Krogresli the Eclipsed Touched Dwarf, Collme the Ollum, Creigor Redshaft the ranger and maybe adding more NPCs is unnecessary.   Another option is that the PCs can interact with various third party after Act Three is done and use this as the springboard for a follow-up adventure.   If the PCs are careful, they might to be able to recruit some of the morlock's many enemies as allies, but if they are undiplomatic, these third party groups might attack or flee from the PCs. There is also the downside that the PCs are on a tight clock and any time the PCs spend trying to win over new allies is time they are not spending chasing the bad guys.   If the PCs don't have someone capable of some form of translations magic or a PC that loaded up on obscure languages, communication with the third party factors is probably not very feasible.   Orcs and dwarves hate each other, but Dhorgorlun really likes making orc zombies and ghouls. The local orcs probably hate Dhorgorlun and his minions more than they hate the PCs.   If the PCs managed to make peaceful contact with the orcs, they might be able to talk a few orcs into joining them to help kill some Morlocks.   Camazotz and kalazotz hate each other. The dwarves have allied with the kalazotz and by proxy have made themselves enemies of the camazotz.  
Commissioned camazotzflying, grey background by Diana Rahfoth
  In general camazotz are belligerent by by their very nature and are even harder to negotiate with than orcs. That said, Dhorgorlun has been eating a lot of camazotz lately (which Dhorgorlun has done so he steal their power of sonar), so they probably hate Dhorgorlun more than they hate the PCs. If the PCs can win over even one camazotz, they now have an ally that is super strong, can fly and see in the dark.   Igundans are humanoid rat people dwelling in Scarnoctis are a bit of a wild card in that they are one of the newest intelligent races to show up underground, so they don't have much history with the other groups.  
by me with Midjourney
  Igundans normally believe that good fences make good neighbors and try to stay out of the way of other Scarnoctan factions, but Dhorgorlun and his cronies killed a bunch of them and drove the rest from their home to make their new lair.   If the PCs manage to peaceful contact with the igundans, the igundans are probably not going to join them to enact vengeance against the morlocks, but they do have superior knowledge of the local area. They can provide a map or detailed direction of all the catacombs the morlocks are haunting and they are one of the few groups in Scarnoctis that know the basic habits and abilities of Psychic Spiders. They also know how the weird gravity effects of the Third Act chamber operates and can warn the PCs about it.


  Dhorgorlun casts a lot of spells routinely and might accidentally create a feral elementals in his wake. These elementals might end up accidentally helping or hindering the PCs.  
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If a bunch of magic is cast in one place, the residual magical energy can pool and unintentionally can spawn so-called "feral elementals" which typically appear and disappear within a few hours or a few weeks at most. Scholars are not sure if elementals are "born" as "die" as new entities with very short life spans or if elementals are actually immortal and simply return to the Elemental Plane after they disappear from the mortal plane.   Common Elementals (aka earth, fire, water, and air) that are feral are usually not overtly hostile, but they are curious about the material world and are playful and they do not seem to know or care that their version of "play" can cause serious harm to living beings.   Twisted elementals are a different story. Twisted elementals made of anti-elements (dust, ash, salt, and vacuum) occur when a feral elemental is created in an area with supernatural taint. Twisted elementals are always hostile and will deliberately try to kill living beings.   Twisted elementals are sometimes called "undead elementals" because they frequently appear in the same places that undead are found. If Dhorgorlun creates a lot of undead minions in a single place, he might accidentally leave a twisted elemental in his wake.   Twisted elementals are nasty customers and the Game Master Master should probably not include them just for filler unless the PCs are combat bad asses, so the players are asking for a real challenge.   On an other hand, inverted elementals are indiscriminate and would be just as likely to attack Dhorgorlun and his cronies as they would attack PCs. If Twisted Elementals (or regular elementals) pop up in the Third Act Fight, they you have a three-way fight, not a two-way fight.   Whether common or twisted, elementals do have a side benefit of pointing a proverbial arrow in Dhorgorlun's general direction.


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