The Caves of the Unknown

The other dungeon by THE KEEP

We are enticed by the spot on the map, the entrance to the Caves of the Unknown, what lies beyond Gary Gygax explains is hidden by illusion and no player may discover it’s entrance, no matter how they might search, until the Game Master is ready to reveal it. The Caves of Chaos also lure us into the unknown with Map Key 51 which is a blocked tunnel. Well, it need not be blocked any longer for with this map the GM is provided with a cavern full of mushrooms and much more.

The scale of the dungeon map is the traditional 10 ft per square. The green squares on the dungeon map correspond to the original wilderness map grid. So the red square indicates the approximate underground location of the Cave of the Unknown.

Underground Location of the Cave of the Unknown relative to the surface map
Underground Location of the Cave of the Unknown relative to the surface map

This is just one possible interpretation of the Caves of the Unknown. The caves have basic descriptions and the intention is that the Game Master should supply their own Monsters and Treasures. Alter anything you like, it’s your dungeon.

Cave of the Unknown
Cave of the Unknown

The following are descriptions of the numbered caves on the Caves of the Unknown map.

The Map shows the above ground contour line of the hill and the tree line. The trees have very thick wood trunks as they are hundreds of years old and some of them are 75 to 100 feet high. 500 feet Up hill There is concealed among the trees the entrance to another Cave at J. It cannot be seen from the entrance to the Cave of the Unknown because it is hidden in the woods.

Map Key

1. Entrance to The Cave of the Unknown

The caves once contained a Temple of the Bordermen, the ancient people who once lived in this land, but upon their defeat an Evil Chaos Cult despoiled it and now the Caves of the Unknown are a place of evil. Yet even the Priest of the Temple of Evil Chaos (see Map Key 59, page 22 of KotB) does not know the secret of entering the Caves of the Unknown for in the distant past factions within the cult nearly destroyed one another and the knowledge has been lost.

At the cave entrance a low mist flows from the cave and across the ground, a magpie calls in the distance, this is a lonely and foreboding place. You stumble across something on the ground. Reaching down, you see that it is a bone, it looks gnawed. The cave entrance is 20′ wide and 20 feet high. Just inside you can see a carved figure of what can only be a devil. It is carved in such a way that its raised claws reach the ceiling above your head. It looks quite threatening since it is scowling and its open mouth is full of fanged teeth.

GM – If a Detection spell is cast the carving is determined to be of Chaos, it is a watcher and will let out a warning howl which may bring wandering monsters if anyone of Lawful Alignment should try to pass by it. The Watcher also prevents anyone from stepping across the threshold if they do not know its secret, an invisible barrier is created which blocks entry and protects the Watcher. However, if a bone is placed in the mouth of the carving, it will be silent. (It can’t talk with its mouth full.)

The Priest of the Temple of Evil Chaos has been flummoxed by this simple trick and so devious is his mind that its simplicity continues to stump him. Embarrassed by this failure, he has forbidden any of his lackeys to attempt an entry here citing unknown dangers.

If the players linger here long, a Magpie will appear from the forest and land nearby. It will attempt to engage the players in conversation and tell them the secret of entering here if they treat it well, before flying off. They may indeed have to trade some shiny trinket to line its nest and gain its trust.

2. Entrance Tunnel

The floor is covered with the dense fog 12″ deep. With each step it swirls away revealing a smooth stone floor. The tunnel leads off into the darkness and the light of the entrance, which once shone so brightly, is now fading into shadow. It would be a good time to light a lantern or torch. The walls drip with water, and the air is humid and hot. There is an unfamiliar odor too, which is pungent and unpleasant. The last 10′ of the tunnel the walls, floor, and ceiling are smooth. Here, crushed bone may be found upon the floor.

GM – if the walls are touched they are cold and wet, but the floor is warm to the touch. The last 10 feet are where the blocking stone (controlled from the Old Guardroom) lowers to the floor.

3. Old Guardroom

The tunnel from the entrance leads to the Old Guardroom. On the floor are some black arrows. There is an enormous lever in the floor which has the wooden pole broken off. There are three exits, one leads straight ahead, one up a rough hewn stone staircase, another staircase leads downward. The mist flows down the stair. The staircase leading downward has hot air coming up it. The air flows across the room and up the other stairwell. The walls drip with moisture. The unfamiliar and pungent odor seems to be coming from the tunnel straight ahead as it is pulled into the Old Guardroom. That air seems cooler and fresher and the faint sound of water running can be heard. The floor of this tunnel slopes downward but the incline is not severe.

GM – The black arrows are of Orc manufacture and their tips are covered with poison (paralyzation). The lever can easily be moved left using the remainder of the wooden pole. It moves a blocking stone which lowers into the entrance tunnel and shuts. However the lever is very hard to move to the right, and requires a check (as if opening a door) to move it. If successful, the blocking stone will retreat into the ceiling. Only one check may be made per turn.

4. Mushroom Tunnel To The Underworld Forest

The dank cool tunnel leads into the darkness descending some 50′. After a short distance the pungent odor begins to become much stronger, almost overwhelming, and a vast cavern is revealed. Your lantern shows a rather rickety looking old rope and wood bridge about 75 feet long. It spans a crevice in the floor, into which water is pouring from an underground river, covering the bridge in a wet mist. The atmosphere is very damp. You can’t see very well across the crevasse but it appears that giant mushrooms are growing there, some as high as 40′ tall, which means the cavern ceiling is at least 20′ taller.

GM – The bridge can only support the weight of one Human or Elf at a time, or two dwarfs, or two haflings. It sways horribly as anyone attempts to cross it, and the wooden planks are slippery. It is just possible to walk carefully across the bridge, but running would require a saving throw to avoid falling off the bridge and into the crevasse.

5. Crevasse

On the other side of the bridge someone has driven a spike into the rock, a rope is attached to it which hangs over the side of the crevasse. There is something heavy on the end of the 20′ rope. If the rope is pulled up a large iron strong box (A) is attached to the end of the rope, and beyond that another 10 ‘ of rope with a frayed end. 100 feet below in the dark lies another iron strong box (B). That one has a large dent in it from being dropped.

GM – Strong Box (A) contains ____, Strong Box (B) contains ____.

6. Underword Forest – Path To The Despoiled Temple of the Bordermen

The boles of the Toadstools in the Underworld Forest are as hard as Oak. Brown and Grey Moths come and flutter around lamps and torches. They may put out a torch on a roll of 1-2 d6, and a candle on a roll of 1-4 d6 per turn. The mossy floor muffles your steps.

GM – Anyone displaying a torch, or lantern will attract ____ drawn to the light. No surprise is possible for the Monster(s) but the Character’s may be surprised because the thick mossy ground muffles approaching footsteps.

7. Stairway To The Roots Of The Great Oak

The stairwell which ascends from the Old Guardroom rises upward some 25 feet to a chamber which has been carved out of the inside of the roots of an old tree whose bole is some 30′ across. A narrow circular wooden stairwell has been hewn out of the inside of the tree and it ascends upward. The stair is only wide enough for one person to pass. The hot moist air from below is ascending up the inside of the tree, which means it is acting as a chimney, there must be a hole somewhere above.

If the stair is climbed it rises 50’ to a small watch chamber within the tree. Through a series of small holes it is possible to overlook both the Keep and its lands far to the South, and the ravine to the East. The holes are big enough for a Halfling to squeeze through and a rope could be lowered to the forest floor 40-50 feet below.

8. Stairwell From The Old Guardroom To Caverns Below

Hot humid air rises up this stairwell, and the walls drip with moisture. A soot blackened Orc skull lies upon the stair 10 feet down which if un-noticed, will be kicked and fall 1-2d6, tumbling down the stair, and alert those below that someone is coming. However a lit torch will do that task just as well. The red marble stone walls are cool but the floor is warm to the touch.

The stair descends 50 feet where a dismembered human skeleton hangs from the wall in a niche. It’s arms and upper torso hang while the remainder of the remains have fallen to the floor of the niche and stairway. Faint runes are scratched into the wall here in a variety of different hands, some Orcish, some Common:

Orcish: It was too large to get down in here, luckily.
Orcish: Ate my own hand yesterday… illegible… the other to escape.
Common: If you read this the threat to the Keep is real.
Common: The Orcs took the others to their deaths, screaming from below, I wish it would stop.
Common: 35 days without food, light, or water. If I don’t die first I might be able to slip out of these manacles.
Common: One of them Orcs bit me so I bit him back.

The walls, ceiling and floor of the stair below are black with soot as if there was a fire and the stair acted as a chimney.

GM – There are several connected rooms separated by stairs and these were once rooms for the guards and prisoners but are now mostly empty.

9. Guard Alcove

This room is blackened and blasted. The charred remains of burned wood benches and a bucket lie in splinters. On the ceiling and walls are dark stains, dried blood, and such. Clearly a magic fireball was released here recently. Part of the polished marble facade of this room has fallen away revealing rough granite behind it.

10. Waiting Room

Several wooden benches are stacked here. On one is a small leather sack of Dwarf manufacture, perhaps left in haste by its owner. It contains a clay pipe, tobacco, and a small box once containing a hot coal. This room has an apprehensive feeling to it.

GM – Here those foolish enough to join the Chaos Cult once waited to take part in their initiation rite.

11. The Chamber of Red Marble

The finished stone facade of this room is of red marble, the stair passes below the level of the floor.

12. Chamber of the High Priests

Twelve ancient statues of Chaos Cult Clerics ring this room. They are sculpted from marble, and are carved wearing cloaks, They are made overly tall so that they loom impressively over Medium and Small sized creatures. The hands of each are clasped. The room has a feeling of dread about it. Only the lower part of the faces are visible under their hoods, and all are scowling. This room is domed and carved with red and black marble as if it were a web; at the center of the roof is a large sculpted spider. Its 8 eyes are jeweled, worth ____.

GM – On the floor are fresh Orc Tracks, and a trail of dried blood drops which lead North. Those not of Chaotic alignment will feel threatened and hear tormenting whispers. This is an evil place.

14. Alcove of The Penitent

This room is empty.

15. Chambers of the Unworthy

The stairwell leading to this subterranean area, rooms 15, 16, 17, and 18,  drip with water, at the bottom of the stair the rooms are filled with 3 feet of murky water. The walls of these rooms show that the water level has risen and fallen several times. A black mold grows on some of the walls.

16. Purification Chamber

This chamber contains an Iron Maiden, strangely it has no spikes on the inside. The head is cast in the shape of an old Hag with spiders in her hair and fanged teeth. The lower half of the Iron Maiden is rusty looking, but the hinges which open and close it are not seized.

GM – Those of other alignments, are changed to Chaotic by the Magic Iron Maiden which is still in this chamber. If anyone is placed within, and the door shut it will not open for 1d6 rounds thereafter while the transformation takes place. Those imprisoned within must make a Saving Throw v.s. Magic each round to avoid having their alignment changed. If they pass the saving throw and reject the alignment change each round the Iron Maiden pierces them with magical spikes causing 1d6 damage. At the end of the period of locking, or if the alignment of the Character is changed, it then unlocks allowing it’s victim to escape.

The Iron Maiden is bolted to the floor and cannot be removed.

17. Chamber of Pain

There is a brazier here and branding iron (submerged) once used by Chaotic Clerics. It bears a forbidden symbol of the Chaos Cult

18. Chamber of Confession

Scrawled on the wall here is Orcish Graffiti:

How many dwarfs does it take to light a torch. Three, they don’t burn well.
Elf Eater was here.
Bilgegut has worms.

GM – Those whose alignment could not be changed by the Magic Iron Maiden were kept here under guard. Any who enter this room are compelled to answer any question put to them truthfully.

19. Hall of the Worthy

This is a lavishly appointed chamber of red and black marble. Ebony benches with red satin cushions are now torn and spoiled. The walls of this chamber are filled with hieroglyphic carvings.

GM – Only a Cleric or Wizard may decipher what is written here with Read Magic. The walls of this chamber are filled with hieroglyphic carvings which proclaim the ambitions of the Chaos Cult High Priest. All peoples will be ruled over by the Priests. Their followers will be rewarded with wealth and power beyond measure. There is a Glyph of Warding here vs. those of Lawful alignment.

Those of Chaotic Alignment were allowed to gather here in this hall prior to being assigned to their duties, given audience with the High Priest, attending a ceremony, etc.

20. Test of Faith

This stair leads to the Hall of Scrolls.

GM – The stair is a trap designed to catch the greedy and hasty, it turns into a slide and drops anyone on the stair into a chute to level 2.

21. Robe Room

Here are racks of woolen robes dyed black with maroon hoods, the vestments of Temple of Evil Chaos. They are somewhat moth eaten with small holes, but serviceable.

22. Resting Room

This room once contained beds but now are splintered wood. The mattresses of straw are torn apart and scattered across the floor.

23. Inquisitors Room

Here is a desk and ornate wooden chair, across from which are benches. There is a piece of paper on the desk, quill, and an inkwell. If anyone enters the room the quill will dip into the ink and begin to write.

GM – It seems harmless enough but the quill is magic and it writes down the names of those in the room. What is is doing is writing a magic scroll which will harm those whose names are on the scroll.

24. Clerks Room

There are benches here, quills, and bottles filled with black liquid (ink). Papers lie scattered over the floor.

GM – It appears as though the clerks were copying manuscripts when they were interrupted so long ago… There is a note among the passages on the floor, a secret note, “Which side are you on?”

25. Hall of Scrolls

This room is in disarray but many scrolls and other papers are still here in racks. It looks as though the scrolls were rifled through and discarded upon the floor. Undoubtedly there is something of value among the scrolls here.

GM – There should be a map to a legendary treasure such as a magic lamp, and or magic scrolls, which might be of use to the players and lead to further adventures.

26. Questor’s Room

This room is well, if plainly, appointed with a large table in the center of the room, surrounded by benches. The walls have oil lamps hanging from iron fixtures. The main interest is the table’s top which is carved with a Regional Map of the area. The floor has a few scattered papers, some of which show the footprints of Orcs.

GM – This room was once used by a Temple of Evil Chaos Priest to plan and send his minions abroad on Chaotic quests. The writings  contained in the papers on the floor reveal 2-3 locations where the chaos-doers were sent on their secret missions. “Two sent to the Keep to deal with the traitor and deceive the lord there, one sent East to appeal to our Brethren, one sent North to recruit warriors to our cause, two sent West, to deceive our neighbor. The purpose seems to have been to weaken the resistance of the surrounding area. One writing says, “It has come to the attention that some have left us and joined our rivals, they must be found and killed as an example, discipline must be maintained.” The papers may be 25 to 30 years old.

27. Hall of Gathering

This room contains a well, now dry, which is a shaft to level 2. The roof is domed similar to room 12, but there is only a web here across the ceiling, and jewels where stars would be worth ____.

28. Temple Priest’s Waiting Room

This room is a jumble of Orc and Elf corpses lying where they fell in a battle. Now skeletons, their rotting clothing and rusting mail falls from their bodies.

GM –

29. Prisoner Alcove

There is a single iron ring in the middle of the floor to which prisoners were chained while waiting to meet their fate.

30. Old Worm Tunnel

Here a tunnel has been carved from the rock by some subterranean beast. It descends at a fairly steep incline 80 feet downward.

31. Sloping Tunnel Entrance to the Level 2 Worm Tunnels

This leads to Level 2’s Giant Worm Tunnels.

32. Mushroom Forest – Bloody Stair

Hot humid air rises from the dusty red marble stairwell whose steps are covered in ichor, bones, bits of armor, and a few swords and daggers of Elvish Manufacture. The ichor on the steps is sticky, and dark green – bug guts most likely. Cobwebs hang down the stair from the wall above in the Mushroom Cavern.

33. Mushroom Forest – Spider Glade

Cobwebs are strung from the ceiling of the cave to the tops of the Mushrooms here. Long dead and dessicated cobweb wrapped corpses dangle and swing in the breeze coming from 32, the Bloody Stair.

34. Mushroom Forest – Spider Gloom

Large dusty cobwebs are strung from Mushroom top to Mushroom top here. Cobweb wrapped corpses dangle from the web, long dead it would seem.

35. Mushroom Forest – Spider Gloom

Here in the gloom large and stick cobwebs are strung out between the Mushroom Trunks. A corpse of an unlucky Goblin hangs here, bound in cobwebs and sucked dry.

36. Mushroom Forest – Fork in the Path

37. Mushroom Forest – Spider Carving

There is a spider carved into the rock here Between its fanged mandibles is its mouth, an open hole. There is something shiny inside.

GM – Inside the spiders mouth is a hand sized ring, which if pulled, release the secret door. However, the spider head will bite anyone who is not Chaotic and inject poison.

38. Mushroom Forest – Fork in the Path

39. Mushroom Forest – Despoiled Temple of the Bordermen

An old worn path winds crookedly through the Forest until at last the broken and falling stones of an old Temple can be seen carved out of a natural rock formation at the end of the cavern. Towering Menuhin nearly  reach the ceiling yet they have been despoiled. In their sides niches contain skulls whose jeweled eyse glitter in lantern or torchlight. The skulls are are loosely placed in niches in the rock but the gems must be pried out and worth ____. The floor is littered with bone and the skulls of Temple of Evil Chaos victims long departed.

51. A tunnel is here which someone has blocked with rock, if the rock were removed who knows where it might lead? the Caves of Chaos of course, KotB, same map key.

J. A cave entrance on the surface to the Caves of Chaos.

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Greg MacKenzie is the author of the novella Seven Crows a Secret, the Fenris 2d6 role playing game, adventure modules Gloomland, and Wildwood, as well as countless other adventures.

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