I’ve been thinking about a new setting for my OD&D/White Box games (but pretty generic as far as fantasy goes), one where the PCs explore a large exposed crag of rock with cave entrances at varying heights. The higher elevation caves will be more dangerous than the lower caves. The latter would be inhabited by the usual low-level fodder, from paths that switch back up the crag face. The higher levels would be only accessible to flying creatures (or high-level thieves or mages) or from secret passages in the lower caves. So your basic reverse mega-dungeon. I envision it as about a half league at its base and about 3,000 feet high at its peak. That is big enough that you could run a whole campaign there, but you could also run one-shot adventures based on individual caves. I made a rough sketch in my gaming notebook:
Xirjan’s Folly is a massive crag of rock thrust up from the tundra on the edge of Amand’s northern frontier, a day’s ride from Fort Pike. It is the result of a magical battle a millenia ago, from which the Arch-Mage Xirjan emerged triumphant, but in doing so laid to ruin the inhabited lands for many leagues around the site of the battle. The exposed rock revealed a myriad of caves and tunnels, and over the centuries these have become home to bandits, brigands, humanoids, and dragons – some say there are even more sinister creatures in the upper recesses. Rumors abound of vast treasure hoards and magical artifacts, but few who dared explore the crag have returned.
Here is a collection of rumors I came up with, not all will be true or some may be partially true:
- There are secret entrances to some of the lower caves in the surrounding lands.
- A dragon resides in one of the upper caves, but has not been seen for many years.
- Vampires in bat form fly near the caves at night.
- A necromancer is conducting experiments on humanoids that dwell in one of the caves.
- “Bart’s Band” are a group of bandits that waylay travelers in the area. They don’t live in the caves, but know some who do and have a map of one of the caves.
- Thieves with connections to brigands housed in the caves might be operating covertly in Fort Pike.
- A pool in one of the lower caves is said to cure disease.
- The ghost of Xirjan haunts the caves.
- Some of the lower caves conceal entrances to the Underdark.
- Hagar the Mad entered the lower caves with a squad of mercenaries and none returned. He was carrying the Spear of Alexus.
- Xirjan is said to have hidden magical treasures in the crag.
- Grimace the Thaumaturge is said to have spied some of the caves with his crystal ball.
- Jora the merchant had his wagon stolen last week near the crag.
- A tribe of giants lives in the crag.
- Magic still remains from the battle and some say it has strange effects on the caves and those who enter them.
- On the full moon were-creatures head for one of the caves.
- A curse is said to affect those who remove enchanted items from the crag.
- Sithus the Wise entered the upper caves with a retinue of hirelings and never returned. It is said he had a Staff of Wizardry.
- An oracle is hidden in one of the lower caves.
- A band of Dwarves is exploring the lower caves in search of gold.