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Quick D&D Dungeon Encounter: The Baffling Basement of Bertie Bigglesby

 

It’s the first Side Quest of the new year! What better way to spend it than by taking a rat-clearing job from an elderly gnome? It’s a tried and true trope of many games to have entry-level adventurers fight vermin in someone’s basement, and I wanted to add my own spin. Plus, this map is constructed in such a way that game masters can expand it further, turning it into a much longer adventure! With that, I’d like to present this month’s Quick D&D Dungeon Encounter : The Baffling Basement of Bertie Bigglesby.

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Reference Resources Needed

Quick D&D Dungeon Encounter:
The Baffling Basement of Bertie Bigglesby

For Adventurers level 2 to 3

History

Bertie Bigglesby is an institution in the town of Halaway. This spry 397-year-old gnome has outlived three husbands and jokes she could outlive a fourth. In truth, her wits have begun to leave her in her advanced age, and she occasionally claims she hears noises when none exist. Recently, her claims of noises coming from her ancestral home are more than imaginary — a tribe of Underdark troglodytes discovered a passage to the surface via Bertie’s long-forgotten sub-basement. The subtle commotion over the last few weeks drives Bertie to enlist the help of “local kids”, i.e. the adventurers, to take care of her “rat problem”.

Overview

Bertie’s home has been in her family for generations, and in fact, sits upon a stone vault system built by her ancestors. The old passageways have been sealed for centuries, and even Bertie is unaware that it even exists. The only hint she has is the boarded-up stone door in her cellar. Beyond, the cellar extends in narrow hallways, crossing a precarious pit that descends to the Underdark, and ends with a magically sealed door. Solving the runic puzzle unveils an old tomb belonging to Bigglesby’s ancestor, as well as another descending staircase. Standing in the way of exploration is the Ur’guluk tribe of troglodytes, monstrous denizens of the Underdark who plan to raid the surface from Bigglesby’s home. Refusing to aid with Bertie’s plea will have unfortunate consequences for the town of Halaway.

Plot hooks

  • Bertie has known one member of the party since they were a child and specifically asked for their help.
  • Bertie’s neighbor asks the adventurers to “check in” on Bertie, as she’s been “acting unusual” as of late.
  • A hand-written flyer in the local tavern reads “In need of able-bodied young’uns to hunt pests in basement — Come see me (Bertie) for work”.

The home of Bertie Bigglesby

Adventurers easily find the home of Bertie Bigglesby near the center of town — easily two stories tall with a solid stone foundation. Bertie knits in her rocking chair outside during pleasant weather and greets the adventurers like they were her own kin. As long as the adventurers clean their boots off beforehand, she welcomes them into her home. 

Roleplaying Bertie: Bertie is a lawful good female gnome of advanced age (non-combatant). She treats everyone like family, considering she’s old enough to have been present for the birth of near everyone in town. While still capable of tending to her home and needs, she does have “scatter-brained” moments from time to time. Bertie is confident in her actions, though new ideas or differing opinions tend to confuse her, as she often cites “the old ways are the best ways”. 

Bertie’s home is a stunning piece of architecture, combining human amenities with gnomish sensibilities — taller ceilings for less diminutive guests matched with tiered floors to allow Bertie to maximize her space. Almost every piece of furniture is antique, though not a spot of dust is visible on any surface. If asked about the history of the house, Bertie responds with pride: “it was gifted to my thrice-great gran’ma Beryl Byggles for deeds she performed for Halaway back in the old days”. 

After an offering of tea and baked goods, Bertie announces that she has rats in her basement. She offers to pay 1 copper piece each now and one silver piece each once the job is done. Any attempt to ask for more money automatically fails, though she is susceptible to compliments, offering dinner or more baked goods afterward. 

Once the adventurers agree (reluctantly or not), she guides the party to the basement door. She says “Now, those rats have been nibbling at my stores and I hear them scrabbling around the stone walls. Feel free to move the shelves if you need to. Happy hunting!”.

Refusing Bertie. If the adventurers decide not to take Bertie up on her offer and leave, Bertie’s home mysteriously burns down one week later. Though the old gnome survives, the event leaves her broken. The only thing she says is “there were so many, coming from the basement…”. The town of Halaway is subsequently raided by the troglodytes over the next months with many casualties.

General Features

The cellar and vault beyond is made of mortared stone. Rooms have 12-foot high ceilings and doors are made of metal-reinforced stone. Most rooms have no light unless otherwise mentioned. 

quick D&D dungeon encounter
B1. Basement

Stone stairs descend 10 feet into the damp basement below. Two torches hang on the walls of the room and provide flickering light. Shelves holding dust-lined jars and crates topped with stacks of old tools dominate the space. 

Stone door. Torchlight illuminates the top of a doorframe hiding behind stacks of root vegetables. Pulling aside the clutter reveals a stone door barricaded with old timber planks. If asked about the door, Bertie replies “That old door simply leads to a collapsed root cellar my gran’da blocked off years ago. Nothin’ in there but dirt and old smashed taters.” Any attempt to pull the wood planks off requires a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) check. Once removed, the door pushes open with minimal effort and leads not to a collapsed cellar but deeper underground.

Hidden entrance. Searching for rats requires a DC 10 Wisdom (Perception or Survival) or Intelligence (Investigation) check. Success reveals old rat spoor, but nothing left recently. More importantly, success allows characters to spot crumbled mortar piled up behind the far shelf. Pulling the shelf aside unveils a rough hole in the stone wall large enough for a medium-sized creature or smaller to squeeze through.

B2. Exhumed hall

Crawling through the hole leads to a 15 ft. by 25 ft. stone hall with a pillar separating the space. Moldy remnants of tapestries hang threadbare from the walls or lie in piles on the ground. None have discernable iconography, though the colors of blue and green are visible. A single stone door sits on the opposite end of the hall. Pressing an ear against the door allows the adventurers to hear muffled movement on the other side. 

B3. Makeshift stable

Troglodyte raiders use this hallway as a makeshift stable to prevent their domesticated rust monsters from wandering loose. Two rust monsters graze upon cast-off iron armaments while a single troglodyte watches from the far door. Searching reveals that this room held armor stands which now have become lunch for the rust monsters. There is nothing of value in this room. 

B4. The chasm

A square-shaped hallway leads to a precarious 5 ft. wide stone bridge that crosses a massive chasm. The troglodyte tribe used this room to ascend from the Underdark and stage their raids. Four troglodytes patrol this area, with three skulking around the square hallway, and a fourth guarding the door leading deeper into the cellar. If the adventurers make excessive noise when opening the stone door in B1, the troglodytes hide and ambush the party.

Slippery walkway. The footfalls of multiple troglodytes have caused this bridge to become covered in a thin layer of slime. Any non-troglodyte creatures that move across the bridge at full speed must succeed on a DC 11 Dexterity saving throw or fall prone. Failing this check by 5 or more causes the creature to slip off the edge, potentially plummeting into the chasm below. 

Secret door. A door hidden in the wall of the hallway is visible with a successful DC 18 Intelligence (Investigation) check. Further searching reveals that the door cannot open from this side. 

Treasure. Searching the pouch of one fallen troglodyte reveals a moist bundle of yellow moss that if consumed, acts as a potion of healing.

B5. Troglodyte den

This L-shaped chamber is the current hideout for the troglodytes. Piles of odorous refuse lie heaped around the edges of the room and viscous filth covers the walls. Two weapon racks rest against one side, loaded with simplistic javelins with which the troglodytes arm themselves. Beyond the filth, the hallway stretches with two alternating alcoves on either side of the space. An 8 ft. wide stone door sits at the end of the hall — writing etched upon its surface. Six troglodytes armed with wood javelins and one rust monster reside all along the room as they attempt to decipher the writing on the door. 

Funerary doors. Thick stone doors bar further progression. Carved upon the doors is an ancient form of gnome script. Characters who can read gnome see: 

One army advanced upon the ‘Way

Two days it took to ascend

Beryl Byggles fought for three days, made them pay

Buried on the fourth, brave to the bitter end

If no one can read gnome, the party can attempt to convince Bertie to translate it on a successful DC 12 Charisma (Persuasion) check. However, she absolutely refuses to cross the narrow stone bridge in B4.

The door is magically sealed, and any attempt to force the doors open fails. The only way to open the doors is to stand upon the runes nearby in order hinted at by the passage.

Floor runes. Four runes sit upon the ground in shallow alcoves along the room — each glowing with a dim blue light. Stepping on one causes a slight click, otherwise nothing else happens. 

quick D&D dungeon encounter

Pressing the runes in the correct order unlocks the doors (see solution above). Each rune has a number of angles corresponding to the order in which they need to be pressed. The first rune has one angle, the second has two, and so on. Once the correct sequence is found, the doors unlock with an audible click.

Treasure. One leather pouch containing four precious gems worth 25 gold pieces each hides within some rags on the floor. A small wooden box holds six lambent pink worms. Consuming one of these worms acts like a potion of climbing. Little else in the room is of any value.

B6. Byggles' vault

This long-forgotten vault belongs to an entombed ancestor belonging to Bertie. Cobwebs drape along the walls, ceilings, and stone coffin towards the back. A larger-than-life carving of a gnome warrior covers the surface of the lid. Looking upon their face, it bears a striking resemblance to the gnome woman upstairs. 

Treasure. There is little of value within the room itself, though the stone coffin’s lid may be removed with a successful DC 15 Strength (Athletics) check. Searching inside the coffin reveals a long desiccated corpse in rusted armor. In its possession is a platinum-plated armband worth 150 gold pieces, a pewter amulet worth 50 gold pieces, and a silver-laced shortsword. 

Secret door. The Byggles coffin hides a small switch that opens a small door into B7. Finding this switch requires a DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) check. Medium-sized creatures must crawl to progress through the entry.

Stairwell. A narrow stairwell leads deeper into the earth, though the air is dry and warm, unlike the previous chambers.

B7. Evergrowth shrub

Growing up from the broken flagstones of this small room is a pure white yet healthy-looking shrub with pale blue fruit hanging from its branches. The air within this chamber feels damper than the rest of the cellar. Any who cast detect magic on the shrub sense the school of transmutation about it. 

Evergrowth fruit. Plucking fruit from the shrub causes a brief yet intense light to flash from the stem. Creatures in the room must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw or become blind for 12 hours. Consuming the fruit causes the eater to gain the benefits of a long rest (regain all hit points, regain half of spent hit die, reduce exhaustion). Once picked, the fruit lasts one week before rotting. There are currently three pieces of fruit on the shrub, and 1d4 new pieces of fruit grow within one year. 

Alternatively, the fruit can be distilled into a potion that confers the same effects but without the expiration date with a successful DC 16 Intelligence check using alchemist’s supplies.

Secret door. The outline of a door is visible against the western wall. Pressing on the door causes it to swing open into a one-way exit into B4.

Epilogue

Bertie’s reaction to her newly-expanded basement is one of astonishment, though she is concerned about the troglodytes coming back. She still gives each party member one silver piece for the job, but adds on an additional 50 gold pieces each “for the trouble”. If the adventurers mention the tomb, her eyes begin to mist up as she recalls the story of her ancestor. 

From here, Bertie Bigglesby’s home may become the center of an exploratory force to uncover the secrets of the basement or to stage a journey to the Underdark. Either way, Bertie becomes the talk of the town, which she thoroughly enjoys.

Wrap up

And that ends our quick D&D dungeon encounter: The Baffling Basement of Bertie Bigglesby! Did your adventurers make a new friend and eat gingerbread gnome cookies? Will they use Bertie’s basement to explore further? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Discord to let us know how it went! 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!

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