Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Random Lairs for the Wilderness Sandbox

Whew, been a while since I've contributed anything here, too bogged down with real life work and gaming I guess. I've had this list for a while now, but I wanted a new illo to accompany it. Here we see our brave heroes stumbling back to civilization only to be set upon by owlbears. I think Dan has a recap of the actual story (and it's pretty damn funny really) so maybe I can dig it up and post a link. I certainly hope the d20 lair list can be of use for your sandbox games.

UPDATE: Here's the link for the original story from our campaign.

My campaign does a fair bit of wilderness exploration and since I find myself making up lairs on the fly from time to time, I thought it might be fun to make Ye Olde D20 List of Lairs. This list is specific to an area that is mostly wooded hills, but once could tweak it for use in other terrain types. So the next time your party stumbles into that group of Owlbears that just happened to be near their lair, you’ll be able to describe something that’s a little more in depth than “you find the monsters’ lair”.

1. a  small cave hidden at the base of a hill, 1-2 on a d6 indicates a deeper complex lies within, unbeknownst to the creatures lairing here.
2. a group of deadfall timber, oaks and the like, blown down by a windstorm many years ago, visibility very limited and dangerous to approach (-1 penalty on surprise for PCs and very short encounter range if monsters are present).
3. a series of overhanging cliffs beside a small stream creating a few very shallow caves (d4 in number), the stones and grounds in and around this lair are covered with moss, PCs being unaccustomed to the location must check DEX or fall when hit in melee.
4. a forgotten village, wiped out by plague several generations ago (d6 hovels remain extent), a cellar in one of the structures holds hidden secrets (treasure, map, weapon stash, etc. as determined by DM).
5. a lost wagon train (d4+ 2) , the ruined carts may have been circled or turned over in a last ditch defense giving any defenders present superb cover (-4 to AC) against missiles.
6. an abandoned burrow of some extremely large animal sits on a hillside overlooking a grassy plane, the hillside is riddle with large boulders making it easy to sneak up to the burrow entrance.
7. the ruins of an old abbey, 1-2 on a d6 indicates an extensive series of catacombs beneath, otherwise a simple cellar.
8. an old mining camp beside a stream where a few odd nuggets of gold were once found (1-2 on a d6 the stream is still a valuable, untapped resource), a d3 foundations of simple wooden structures remain.
9. a dense thicket of undergrowth, considerably taller than a man growing on the side of a rock-strewn hill. PCs suffer a -2 to surprise if there are monsters in the lair due to the lack of visibility. Any encounter will begin at very close range (5-15 feet).
10. the lair is transitory, probably only established within the past few days, consisting of a few small bed areas in the tall grass of a meadow. If the monsters are of a large size and there are any present, the encounter will occur at a good distance beyond the norm allowing for an extra round or two of missile fire.
11. a small island in the middle of a creek or river, accessible due to rocks and stone that create rapids around the island.
12. the ruins of a homestead, long abandoned, only a single building remains intact (roll a d6: 1-2 barn, 3-4 the house, 5-6 storage shed). A cellar may be present that remains unexplored (1-3 on a d6).
13. a natural rock formation surrounded by tall oaks, monsters if present use the rocks as a lookout post making surprising them unlikely. This vantage point allows them to spot intruders at a distance and either prepare a defense or withdraw.
14. a series of caves, high on the wall of a river gorge or box canyon. These may be assailed from above by rappelling down if the party has such equipment and skill. Otherwise the climb up is a long one and intelligent monsters if present may enjoy a number of rounds of missile fire dependent on the speed of the party (Move 10=6 rounds, 20=4 rounds, 30=3 rounds, 40=2 rounds). One of the caves as an unexplored deeper complex on a 1-2 rolled on a d6.
15. a natural ditch or gulley on the side of a forested hill or meadow. Monsters if present are afforded and early warning unless PCs are extremely cautious and will gain a surprise bonus (-2 to PC dice) or flee if faced with an overwhelming force. This gulley is long and deep enough to allow the monsters to escape without being seen 50% of the time.
16. a small, abandoned hill fort built in ages past, the structure is still very difficult to negotiate due to its single zig-zag entrance which remains a formidable obstacle if the monsters are present and intelligent enough to utilize its defensible features. There may be a more modern keep or tower, now fallen into ruin perched on the crest of the hill (indicated by a 1-2 on a d6). An unexplored complex is found at the top of the hill on a 1-2 rolled on a d6.
17. a rocky outcrop jutting out from a low hill, it is littered by ogre-sized stones scattered across the forest here. Massive hemlock trees grow amongst this rough stretch of ground, their roots intertwining with the large rocks to create d6+1 rooms. Due to the confusing terrain, the monsters if present enjoy a +2 benefit to both surprise and initiative.
18. the ruins of a wizard’s tower, demolished and abandoned in a long forgotten age. A secret trapdoor beneath a flagstone has escaped the view of the monsters and a set of stairs spirals down into the darkness below. Roll a d6 and on a 1-2 this is a very small dungeon, perhaps a room or two, a 3-5 indicates a substantial complex, a 6 indicates a massive, multi-level dungeon.
19. an abandoned orchard or vineyard, remains here among the encroaching forest. There may be substantial rations available here dependent on the season.
20. a large series of caves (d6+2), excavated in the side of a rocky cliff or hillside by some forgotten group of industrious mining humanoids in a forgotten age. One or more of the caves (indicated on a 1-3 on a d6) may hold a hidden, unexplored complex.

As promised, here's a PDF that I've placed on Google Docs for easy access. Enjoy.