I’ve mentioned previously that I use Campaign Cartographer to make maps for my games. I had a bit of free time mid-week and stumbled onto this tutorial. The following post is the result of a bit of doodling, along with some prep for my group.
The name of the titular character comes from my dear friend Mike’s Fantasy Hero campaign from the early 1990s. As was often the case with that game, certain elements have stuck with me over the years.
My group has been doing quite a bit of river travel of late. I’m not big on completely random encounters but sometimes I need an interesting little drop-in, to keep everyone entertained. This was the case with The Final Rest of Grondo Ri.
At the end of last session, the PCs completed an objective. I’m not entirely sure where they will head off to. However, I’m fairly certain that they’ll be traveling by riverboat. I also know that wherever they head will be a journey of at least a couple of days. Rather than just handwave the travel, I decided to have something interesting for them to encounter.
Hard to say whether they take the bait or not. It’s possibly that they will pass right on by. That said, I’ve found that if I keep a few encounters like this on hand, I tend to be more prepared for things coming at me out of the blue.
As I have mentioned previously, my intention for this blog is to provide GMs bite-sized source material. Hopefully some of you will find something that you can plug into your game and run with. These will likely never be full scenarios, just enough to get the juices flowing and set you on the path to adventure.
Grondo-Ri was an orc shaman who lived roughly 100 years ago. He was cruel, even by orc standards, and lead his tribe with an iron fist. The brute was infamous for leading raids against the dwarves of Khared Draz and even successfully moved his people into some former dwarven territories.
It’s unlikely that the PCs will have ever heard of this fellow prior to this encounter. However, he was fairly notorious in the region. It should be relatively easy to dig up lore about him after the fact.
While historical accounts of Grondo-Ri exist. There is no mention of whatever became of him or his tribe. Lost to the sands of time is the fact that the orc was killed by his own people.
The tribe had taken up residence in an abandoned dwarven outpost near Dhag Ladur. Intoxicated by frequent victories, most of the tribe followed the shaman blindly. However, there were some among them who felt that a change was needed. Tribal elders disagreed with the acts of cruelty they had witnessed and felt that the spirits of their ancestors demanded a change.
Following a skirmish with a band of mercenaries from the human settlement of Sarburg, Grondo-Ri received minor wounds. Seeing this as their opportunity, the elders poisoned the poultices used to treat the shaman and allowed him to die.
The mummified body of the tyrant was entombed in the southwestern corner of the complex. They then completed their coup by convincing the rest of the tribe that they could communicate with the shaman from beyond the grave. Holding elaborate rituals around a large brazier, the elders would claim to receive direction from the fallen leader. They had succeeded in wresting control of the tribe.
However, something unforeseen happened. One day, whether by pure coincidence or spurred on by the restless soul of the shaman, the earth shook. Despite having been expertly crafted by dwarves, the subterranean complex started to collapse. Pillars crumbled and ceilings failed, until the entirety of the orcish tribe lay dead and buried. There, in the dust and rubble, the mummified body of Grondo-Ri awoke.
1. The Shore
The shore is indeed muddy here. PCs will have difficulty walking anywhere on the beach proper and until they make their way into one of the cavern passages.
Various bits of junk have washed up along this stretch and you should tell the players that they can make out the shape of items just under the mud. For any characters wishing to dig through the mud to investigate, roll a d10 and consult the following table to tell them what they’ve found:
1. A Bottle of Rum
2. Purse with d10 gold coins
3. Broken Necklace
4. A Lone Sock
5. Table Leg
7. Piece of Chalk
8. Broken Lute
9. 10’ Pole
A giant freshwater crab has been using the stretch of beach to hunt and is lurking in the water nearby. If the party spends more than 5 minutes on the beach, the creature will attack. Adjust the crab’s difficulty (or possibly add other crabs) as you see fit, depending on your party and their capabilities. Due to the mud, the beach area should be considered difficult terrain for the PCs to move around in. The crab will experience no such hindrance.
Should the party defeat the crab, close inspection of its carcass with reveal a silver dagger with a pearled handle that had been buried in its shell during some previous encounter.
2. Pool Cavern
This pool is fed by a freshwater stream and is considerably more clear than the water back in the river. It is roughly 20’ deep.
The item in the pool is actually a jewel encrusted goblet that once belonged to a dwarven clan leader. It was looted by the orcs under the leadership of Grondo-Ri and came to rest at the bottom of the pool after the collapse of the complex.
The goblet is worth a substantial amount of money but would require someone to strip down and fetch it unless the PCs can come up with another means of retrieval.
3. Mushroom Cavern
There is nothing of note in the cavern aside from the mushrooms. Despite the odor, they are edible and tasty. If harvested, the large mushrooms will effectively produce the same amount of light as a single torch.
Once removed from the cavern, the mushrooms will lose their glow and edible properties within 1 day.
4. Meeting Room
Before the collapse, the orcish tribal elders would use this room as a secret meeting place. After concluding their ceremonies in the shrine, they would access this room via the hallway and secret door (location #5). The bones in the room are actually the remains of two of the elders who happened to be here at the time of the collapse.
Since the water level dropped, two carrion crawlers have been exploring the caverns. Hearing the approach of the party, they have retreated to area #5. However, they are hungry and will immediately attack any party member who comes within 5’ of the fallen door.
If thoroughly searched, the room will yield the following items.
- 2d20 gold coins
- 1d10 silver coins
- An antique bullseye lantern
- 4 assorted gemstone
The entrance to this hallway was nearly blocked off by the collapse. However, if party members can squeeze through the first 5 feet, the remainder of the hall is in relatively good shape.
It should be clear to PCs that unlike the caverns, this passageway has been dug intentionally. Characters who would have such knowledge will recognize this as dwarven construction.
A set of stairs leads downward for 10’, before coming to an apparent dead end. The secret door leading into area #6 should be quite easy to find, as it was intended only to be a secret to those who were inside area #6.
6. The Shrine of Grondo-Ri
This is the room were Grondo-Ri was buried. The elders would perform their pseudo rituals here in order to convince the rest of the tribe that they were receiving guidance from their departed leader.
The jars and pots in the room contains all manner of herbs and concoctions. All of these are long past their usefulness. The bits of the shaman that were removed during the mummification process were also stored in these containers. However, they have long since turned to putrefied liquid and evaporated.
The sarcophagus is indeed lacking its inhabitant. However, an ornately designed staff is held within. The Staff of Grondo-Riis a roughly 6” tall iron-shod oak staff. It is topped off with the head of a horned beast. The staff will radiate magic if any party members happen to attempt to detect such things.
The exact properties of the staff are up to you and what would work for your game. However, I will give you some further lore about the item to help you make your decision.
- The shaman was quite charismatic and was never without his staff. One might speculate that they was something about the staff that made him seem larger than life to his followers.
- He was said to have wielded elemental magics; this was thought to be an ability imparted to him by the spirits of his ancestors but it’s certainly possible that some of this came from the staff.
- It is also possible that the staff itself was cursed. This could account for his turn to cruelty and brutality.
Grondo-Ri’s undead corpse has aimlessly wandered rooms #6 & #7 for decades. It is currently in room #7 and will attack in 1d4 rounds after the PCs enter room #6.
I’ve mentioned that Grondo-Ri was mummified after his death and I have also mentioned that he awakened in undeath after the collapse. All of that aside, it’s entirely up to you to decide what exactly he has become.
Since I’ve put this together without knowledge of what system you are playing or what power level your players possess, it’s impossible for me to fully define this encounter. In my game, I’m running this as a fairly low-level one-shot, though I think you could scale things up easily enough.
My suggestion would be to make him be a unique creature, so as to best keep your PCs on their toes. He cannot speak but he will approach the party with unbridled rage and make horrible guttural sounds as he attacks.
If you need to flesh things out a bit, I suppose you could mention the lifeless skeletons of some of the departed elders lying about the room. Then, at a certain point in the combat, Grondo-Ri could cause them to rise and fight. Whatever you like. Just have fun with it.
The contents of the coffers, sack, and books I will also leave up to you. My suggestion would be to make these rewards commiserate with the level of difficulty of the Grondo-Ri fight. One thought would be to have one of the books contain a couple spells that would be useful for one of the party members. The other could be a history book pertaining to something in your campaign setting, thereby setting you up for more adventures down the road.
Beyond the double doors to the north, the hallway is completely caved in. No amount of digging by the PCs will allow them to continue further.
How you use this is entirely up to you. I am merely trying to plant some interesting seeds for you to run with.
- Straight: You could run this as a straight random one-shot with no ties to any other part of your story. In this case, the party stumbles onto the cave complex, explores it and ultimately deals with the undead version of Grondo-Ri. Making their way out with whatever treasure they find; the party never looks back.
- Research: Perhaps the party was quested by some interested party to uncover whatever became of Grondo-Ri.
- Find the MacGuffin: Someone wants something located within the complex. It could be the Staff of Grondo-Ri, the jewel encrusted goblet in the pool, or some other item that you have decided to place there.
- Knowledge is Power: If word gets out of the party’s discovery after the fact, it could open doors to other adventure threads. A mysterious sage may wish to investigate the complex and uncover the embalming methods used on the orc shaman. Dwarves may travel to reclaim the lost settlement. A superstitious young orc leader may seek to reclaim the remains of Grondo-Ri, as a manner of ascending to power within his tribe.
- Cursed!: Rather than a straight fight, perhaps the undead orc places a terrible curse on the party, requiring them to go on yet another adventure in order to cleanse it.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read. If you find any use in all of this, please take a minute, and drop me a note. Until the next post. Good Gaming!