I want to try something a little different with today’s free dungeon encounter. Normally, I write up a little narrative to explain the “why’s” and “how’s” of some maps, like with Bertie Bigglesby or Spellzog’s. Instead, this buried archive space is designed so that it can be inserted into an existing D&D dungeon without much work. I’ve been in situations where the party utterly annihilates floor one of a two-floor dungeon, and need another space to explore because I didn’t anticipate them reaching the end so quickly! Aside from some encounter suggestions and traps, this map is setting-agnostic. I hope you enjoy today’s encounter, and if this is a popular idea, I might make a small series of modular dungeons!
If you’re new around here, we post a monthly Side Quest, which are short, free TTRPG encounters with corresponding maps that can be easily threaded into an ongoing or one shot campaign, allowing busy DMs to throw in a random encounter at the drop of a hat. Our Adventurer Level 2 tier on Patreon allows patrons to pick the game system, theme, and name a character or two in an upcoming Side Quest. We create a free adventure around their idea, and now everyone gets to enjoy this free dungeon encounter! Plus, Patrons receive a downloadable version of all our Side Quests.
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Reference Resources Needed
Dice Spotlight: Inkwell
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Free Dungeon Encounter: Buried archives
Chambers in the archives are made of reinforced stone and mortar and reach up to 10 ft. tall. Low tunnels that lead to rocky caves punctuate certain areas within the structure, with rooms that reach 8 ft. tall. Hanging metal braziers filled with oil provide light, otherwise, rooms are dark. Doors in the archives are unlocked unless otherwise noted.
T1. Entry Hall
“High stairs lead down to a polished stone floor covered with dust. Nestled into the corner by the staircase hides a tall bookshelf holding several dusty tomes. Most appear in a script not seen in the last 500 years, yet the books, despite a layer of dust, seem mostly new. Two closed double doors stand to the north.”
This 20 ft. by 20 ft. room is one of the entrances to the archive, though others are no longer accessible due to poor structural integrity.
Magic books. Despite the dirt and grime, books within the archive are still in good condition, thanks to an enchantment placed upon them years ago. However, books removed carelessly from the archive deteriorate rapidly and become worthless. To keep the value of the books, a monk from the archive’s order must reinforce the enchantment within 24 hours of leaving the archive. Convincing the monks to let the books go is another matter entirely.
Bookshelf. The bookshelf here holds 4 books of value, each worth 50 gold pieces if sold. Everything else, while informative, wouldn’t sell for any real amount.
T2. Collapsed Hallway
“Light shines from 5 ft. deep alcoves in the wall that hold standing braziers and little else. At the end of the hallway, massive amounts of rocks litter the floor and prevent progress.”
Tunnel. The third alcove to the east hides a rough tunnel. Anyone succeeding on a DC 10 Intelligence (Investigation) or Wisdom (Survival) recognizes that much of the stone supports have bite and claw marks on their surfaces.
Floor Traps (t). Small, nearly imperceptible magic runes hide on the floor, covered by bits of rubble and dust. Any creature that steps upon a section of floor with runes must succeed on a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw or take 2d8 fire damage. Spotting the runes requires a successful DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check, and while conventional means cannot deactivate the runes, athletic characters may jump between safe spots on the floor.
“Bare stone and bits of mortar litter the ground around the aperture leading deeper underground. A small fork in the path splits the way, with echoes of odd staccato clicking noises can be heard coming from the south.”
A small colony of Kruthiks made this section of tunnels their home. 3-6 Young kruthiks and 1 adult kruthik patrol the area and attack any intruders that enter. They use the massive chasm in the center of the main room as access to their lower hive area, which also has connections to the Underdark. Creatures that fall into the chasm plummet 60 ft. and suffer 6d6 bludgeoning damage. The kruthik are intelligent enough to use the chasm to their advantage and will attempt to push creatures in. If the characters create any noises louder than combat, the kruthik in room T4 come to aid their allies.
Side cave. This small tunnel offshoot holds the remains of a few investigators who found the kruthik before the adventurers arrive. Searching through the rubble and remains yields an intact dungeoneer’s pack, but not much else.
“The kruthik tunnel leads directly into another worked stone room. A heavy bookshelf lies askew on the floor, its contents strewn about the room. Two reinforced doors to the north and west remain shut, though a kruthik furiously claws at the northern door.”
2-4 Young kruthik and 1 adult kruthik guard this room and attempt to breach the doors to the north. Fortunately, a barrier enchantment placed on the door prevents them from entering T5.
Ensorcelled door. The northern door is under a spell similar to arcane lock, except that the protection extends to the walls of this room, preventing anything from burrowing through.
Bookshelves. Searching the bookshelves reveals 3 items from the random trinket tables and four books worth 50 gp each.
Side room. Two dim torches light this 10 ft by 15 ft room. A single bookshelf sits against the far wall, filled with useless knick-knacks. A successful DC 14 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals a carved insignia behind the bookshelf. On the wall behind the bookshelf hides a carved insignia written in common that reads “knowledge is illumination”. This phrase unlocks the ensorcelled door in the main room.
T5. Academic Research
“Dust lines the stone tiles that stand in this darkened hallway. The rockfall closed any path to the east, though three doors are accessible to the north, west, and south. Despite the mess caused by the collapsed ceiling, the suits of armor are spotless.”
Suits of armor. Four suits of quality armor stand at attention beside the doorways leading north and south. Upon closer inspection, each has runes carved on the insides of the armor, preventing dirt or rust from forming. Each suit is an armor of gleaming (scale mail) (from Xanathar’s Guide).
Northern chamber. Twin bookshelves sit opposite each other, while a small plinth holding an immobile brass bowl resides on the floor in this 10 ft. by 15 ft. room. The bookshelves hold a small packet of incense but little else of value. The bowl contains ash and emanates a mild enchantment aura if perceived using detect magic. Any creature within the room that breathes in smoke from burning incense within the bowl receives the effects of a bless spell that lasts for 30 minutes. Creatures may only receive this enchantment once per day. Burning books within the bowl causes each creature in the room to become afflicted by the bane spell for 1 hour.
Southern chamber. A large workshop-like table sits against the far wall in this chamber, while a smaller shelf holding various alchemical solutions resides nearby. The shelf holds enough ingredients to brew four healing potions or one greater healing potion. Creatures may use the tools on the table as if it were alchemist’s supplies, and any health potions created here reduce their preparation time significantly. The time to create one healing potion is 6 hours, while a greater healing potion requires 12 hours. However, there is a small chance that potions brewed here do not come out as planned. Roll a d12 for each brewing attempt: on a 2 or higher, the potion comes out as expected. On a roll of one the health potion instead becomes a potion of poison.
“Weak light emanates from the wall sconces and illuminates a stone carving on the wall. Opposite from the carving, another crude tunnel opens into dark caves beyond.”
The final stretch of the tunnel leads from the last intact room through another hollowed-out section of earth to a stone stairwell that leads directly up. Two large doors to the south of the stairwell open to reveal the other side of the collapsed tunnel from T2.
Wall carvings. The wall carvings here depict the original goals of the archive vault: preparing young minds for the rigors of academia. However, much of the details are worn and difficult to decipher.
Kruthik ambush. 3-6 young kruthik and 1 adult kruthik lie in wait several feet beneath the dirt floor of the cavern. Once they sense the footfalls of any characters, they burrow up through the earth and attack.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s free dungeon encounter in the archives! Please feel free to share your thoughts on my free Dungeons & Dragons one shot in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Discord! If you’d like access to more maps and content, including downloadable PDFs of our adventures, check out our Patreon. We’re able to do what we do because of all our amazing Patrons!