The Caverns of the Iconoclast - A D&D Adventure

What Edition?

The following D&D Adventure can be run in any edition of Dungeons and Dragons with very little modifications needed from the DM to make it an interesting and memorable adventure.

When doing skill checks simply use the appropriate skill from the edition you are running.

What Level?

I recommend at least level 5, regardless of what edition you are running this in. The DM should see fit to modify monsters or add extra monsters to suit the actual level of the PCs, and their power level (higher than normal stats, magical items, etc effect power level).

Back Story

The Caverns of the Iconoclast was once the home of a reclusive wizard named Xorek, who later in life achieved lichdom and became a demilich - and had many clones of himself, which also achieved lichdom. At that time in Xorek's life he was focused on attacking various religions, destroying their religious artifacts, artwork, shrines and temples - and he would purposely misrepresent himself as a powerful cleric sent from the gods in order to overturn religions and cause people to rebel against the religions, thus destroying a lot of the temples and shrines in the process without Xorek having to personally do all the dirty work.

Within the caverns Xorek stored a number of broken religious items, many of which were magical in some nature and are still valuable - especially if they could be repaired. He also stored a variety of gold and silver items there, taken from various temples. There is plenty of valuable items there, both mundane and magical.

During his time there, Xorek also made a number of portals which allowed him to travel to distant kingdoms. As such any group of adventurers who manage to clear all the traps and monsters that now roam the caverns would not only have a good headquarters for adventuring, but also a valuable way of traveling from kingdom to kingdom.

PCs who successfully make a History or even a Religion check (or an Intelligence or Wisdom check in 1st Edition) will have heard of Xorek and will know a little about his back story and the Caverns of the Iconoclast. Depending on how good their roll is the DM can decide what additional information they want to provide.

Possible Adventure Hooks

  • NPC asks if the adventurers are in town to try their luck at the Caverns, as the locals are well aware of it and it attracts adventurers regularly.
  • A priest approaches the PCs and asks if they could retrieve a religious item said to be in the Caverns.
  • A wizard returns from the Caverns, with their entire party killed by the traps. He regales them with how they managed to avoid 2 of the traps before most of his party was impaled and killed by the 3rd set of traps. He decided to not go any further after that. For a small fee he offers to use Dimension Door so the party can avoid the first two traps.

The Entrance + Traps

Getting into the caverns is arguably the most dangerous part, unless the party has a skilled trapper. Each of the cavern entrances (regardless of what kingdom you are entering from) is guarded by the five following traps which must be avoided or removed in some manner.

Layout of the caverns and their entrances is up to the DM, but the order of the traps should stay constant.

Trap #1. Blast Marks

The floors and walls of the cavern are marked with various burnt and blast marks, suggestive of Fireballs (appropriate skill check to recognize they are not actually from a Fireball, as the individual blast marks are too small). Three tiny alcoves and cracks in the ceiling suggest there might be something up there lurking, but PCs would need either a Light spell or need to levitate up to the ceiling to look closer to determine what is up there. A skilled climber or someone with a ladder could also get up there to have a look.

Venturing under the alcoves or cracks causes a fiery ray of energy to shoot out of the alcove, dealing 5d6 fire damage to the person who triggered it (save for zero damage). As such, walking under the alcove to have a better look will trigger it, as would climbing up there and peeking in. Staying in the same location will trigger a second shot of the ray at the end of the PC's turn if they did not move out of range.

The way around this is to use a mirror or reflective surface to look closer at the three devices, preferably attached to a 10 foot pole. A trapper can then use the pole or similar long item to try and disable the device, while using either a light spell or a mirror to see it while they work.

It is possible to use a shield or similar object to protect a PC from the rays, but doing so will leave a hole in the item and ruin it permanently. Magical shields/etc can also be ruined this way if they fail an item saving throw.

Even if temporarily disabled, these traps will later reset themselves every 24 hours.

Trap #2. The Flooded Cave

This part of the cave slopes downwards into a flooded section and the water is murky and dark - Infravision, Lowlight Vision, Light spells, etc will not work in this murky water. However a Purify Food and Water would decrease the murkiness, although not completely. Appropriate skill checks will be needed to swim through, with negatives if the swimmer cannot see.

The real danger is currents under the water at the halfway point to the far end of the flooded section of cavern. The currents are caused by rotating fans which deal 4d6 damage to anyone sucked into them. PCs who fail their swim checks are sucked into the fans, and will suffer negatives if they do not know the fans are there. (If an ally swims back and tells them, they can hug the wall and gain bonuses to avoid the fans.)

The fans can be disabled by a trapper, or they can be jammed up by ramming something large into them (a proverbial wrench stuck in the cogs), preferably something large like a great axe.

At the far end the caverns slope back upwards into an airy section thick with moss.

Optional - The moss may be of a glowing phosphorescent variety which provides light equal to a candle, which may be useful later but have a shelf life of 1 week unless cared for by someone with an appropriate skill (eg. Agriculture, Knowledge Nature, etc). If the moss dies it is no longer useful.

Trap #3. The Sticky Spikes

Large rough hewn stairs have been added to this section of tunnel leading upwards, with 21 large wide steps total. Each of the steps have been painted Red, Blue or Yellow - in that order.

Stepping on the wrong steps will trigger a spike trap that deals 3d6 damage from multiple spikes and is sticky (see the Web spell for additional effects). Avoiding the spikes can be done with a successful saving throw (zero damage) or by successfully guessing which steps to skip or jump over.

Trying to jump over 2 or more steps at once requires a successful skill check.

  1. Red - Normal
  2. Blue - Normal
  3. Yellow - Sticky Spikes Trap
  4. Red - Normal
  5. Blue - Normal
  6. Yellow - Sticky Spikes Trap
  7. Red - Sticky Spikes Trap
  8. Blue - Normal
  9. Yellow  - Normal
  10. Red - Sticky Spikes Trap
  11. Blue - Normal
  12. Yellow  - Sticky Spikes Trap
  13. Red - Normal
  14. Blue - Sticky Spikes Trap
  15. Yellow  - Normal
  16. Red - Normal
  17. Blue - Sticky Spikes Trap
  18. Yellow  - Normal
  19. Red - Sticky Spikes Trap
  20. Blue - Normal
  21. Yellow - Sticky Spikes Trap

A trapper can disable each of the traps individually, or the traps can also be triggered with a 10 foot pole with 100 pounds of pressure. Any object weighing 100 lbs or more triggers the trap. Once triggered, the PCs can choose to jump over the steps they know to be trapped.

PCs who weigh less than 100 lbs (including all their gear) can go up the steps without injury.

Herding a flock of chickens up the stairs will not trigger the spikes, but a herd of pigs who weigh enough would work.

Trap #4. The Side Splitting Laughing Gas

When passing through this section of caverns the DM should ask the PCs to each roll d20s and place their roll in front of them. The DM should then note which characters would have failed a poison saving throw.

Three minutes later the PCs will begin to be effected by the Poisonous Laughing Gas, which deals 2d6 damage to anyone who failed their saving throw.

Any players who roleplay their characters with lots of giggles and laughter should be awarded bonus XP.

Trap #5. The Stone Block of Death

The squished remains of bones, armour and other items lay on the cavern floor ahead. There are obvious seams in the ceiling, but no visual way of determining how to trigger the stone block into falling.

Anyone who triggers the stone block while crossing beneath it takes 6d6 damage and begins to crush their lungs. The stone block then retracts back into the ceiling a minute later, so if trapped under it the PC may suffocate to death from their lungs being crushed during that minute of time.

In truth the stone block is only triggered by those people who are cowards. (Optional - The DM can have a riddle or poem scrawled on a nearby wall indicating the bravery and cowardice are clues to crossing it.)

  1. The first person to volunteer to cross the space is clearly brave and thus gets past it for free provided they did not try to do it cautiously, slowly or quickly. If they did, they still count as a coward.
  2. The second person gets a Wisdom check to get a clue as to the possible manner to cross it, otherwise the DM should ask them to describe how they cross it. If they describe themselves doing it cautiously, slowly or running across, then they are a coward.
  3. Additional people going through also get a Wisdom check to get a clue. Likewise if they describe themselves doing it cautiously, slowly or running across then they get squished.
  4. The last person to cross is automatically a coward.

Various spells can also be used to cross the trap, such as Remove Fear. Any spell that boosts bravery or courage or morale will also prevent the trap from triggering.

There is no way to disable this trap. Any trapper who succeeds their check will learn that the trap is triggered through some unknown means. Any objects placed under the stone block will be crushed flat.

The Portal of Hopelessness

Now that the PCs have reached the inner caverns, they reach a glowing purple portal with swirling motes of lavender, white, grey and black within the more vibrant grape purple of the magical portal. The sides of the portal are carved from stone and show people destroying religious artifacts.

Any person passing through the portal will be struck with a feeling of hopelessness, temporarily believing that there are no gods. PCs do receive a saving throw, but Magic Resistance does not work on this magic as they willingly went through the portal and did not attempt to resist the magic.

PCs so affected will automatically submit to the demands of others, surrender without a fight, flee in the face of danger, and otherwise behave as if there is zero hope. (Remind the players that they get a XP bonus for roleplaying accordingly.) Even if players do not wish to cooperate, PCs with zero hope will do nothing 25% of the time and flee 25% of the time.

The feeling of Hopelessness can be countered by any spell effect that gives a character more hope in the spell description. eg. The 2nd Edition "Emotion" spell can be used to counter this effect. If such a spell is cast in advance before going through the portal, the effect will be negated.

The spell effect wears off after 10 + 1d10 minutes, or until countered or dispelled.

The Inner Caverns

The PCs have arrived in the main chamber in the center of the caverns, which is large and spacious, with walls and a domed ceiling that have been clearly cut to make the place more sophisticated looking, with columns cut around the outer circle of the cavern. Between the columns are a series of 8 smaller tunnels which lead to other sections of the Inner Caverns.

In the center of the domed cavern is the Portal of Hopelessness, which is identical and leads back to the entrance cavern.

Within the main chamber is a group of 5 or more Drow Slavers. They drow immediately (in Common tongue) demand that the PCs surrender to them. Any PCs who resist will be shot with hand crossbows loaded with Drow sleep poison. Any individuals who are resistant to poison or immune will have nets tossed on them until they are captured. Failing that, the drow will club them into unconsciousness.

For every 5 Drow Slavers present, one of them should be a wizard armed with Sleep or Deep Slumber spells (Deep Slumber is a more powerful 3rd level spell which causes targets to fall asleep and effects more HD).

If the drow capture everyone, they place them in cages and take them through tunnel #1, which has a portal that goes to the Underdark (or some equivalent location where drow can be found in your campaign world).

Tunnel #1. To the Underdark

Within this tunnel the PCs should encounter 5 or more Drow Slavers. If the PCs proceed cautiously and quietly they should be able to ambush the drow. If they do not however, the drow slavers should be expected to ambush the PCs.

The drow in this tunnel have gathered together a pile of gold and silver religious icons and similar valuables. Amongst their loot should be 1 broken magical item, which will need repairs before it can be made whole again.

Within this cavern will be a portal that goes to the Underdark, but has no effect on creatures going through it to the Underdark... coming back however, the person passes through the Portal of Hopelessness again and ends up in the main chamber again.

If the PCs thoroughly search these tunnels they should find a broken piece of a silver medallion with ancient symbols on it that a wizard may recognize as necromancy symbols. This is 1 piece of 8. It does not detect of magic, although it is magical.

Tunnel #2. The Dragon's Lair

This tunnel contains the burnt corpses of drow. If the PCs continue they will find a slumbering red dragon of a size that should provide a suitable challenge for the PCs, with a large cavern serving as it's lair.

If the PCs provide a challenge lasting more than 3 rounds, the dragon should spend the 4th round collapsing the tunnel so that the only means of escape is through the portal - which takes the person to a volcanic island. Returning means going through the Portal of Hopelessness and back to the main chamber.

Once that is done, the dragon will drink a Haste potion hanging from around its neck and use their full power to kill any spellcasters first.

The dragon has amassed a sizable hoard which includes various religious items, and also religious coins. The only magical items are a few potions the dragon may decide to use during the combat.

If the PCs thoroughly search the dragon's hoard they should find a broken piece of a silver medallion with ancient symbols on it that a wizard may recognize as necromancy symbols. This is 1 piece of 8. It does not detect of magic, although it is magical.

Tunnel #3. The Hallways

These tunnels have been cut into 10 foot by 10 foot hallways. The perfect size for 1 or more Gelatinous Cubes. The PCs should find the acid dripping remains of drow skeletons in various locations in the hallways.

Various chambers within these hallways contain a small library containing mostly journals and diaries, a study, a kitchen, a latrine, bedrooms, etc. Anything not made of metal, bone or stone has been destroyed by the Gelatinous Cubes.

If the PCs thoroughly search the library they should find a broken piece of a silver medallion hidden inside a journal with ancient symbols on it that a wizard may recognize as necromancy symbols. This is 1 piece of 8. It does not detect of magic, although it is magical.

Tunnel #4. The Seaside

The drow have captured a number of owlbears and keep them in cages and drugged with drow sleep poison. The portal in this cavern is larger and wider, and goes to the seaside, so the owlbears don't appear to be from that region. The drow have been using the portal to stage slaver raids against villages that are near the seaside.

If the PCs are cautious and smart, they can release the owlbears and wake them up to attack the 5 or more drow that also dwell in this cavern.

A handful of small sailboats are placed in rows near the portal and can be fit through easily and carried through the cavern to the seaside. Some of the boats are best described as "decorative pleasure boats" and are quite valuable.

If the PCs thoroughly search the largest of the small sailboats they should find a broken piece of a silver medallion hidden in a small compartment inside the mast with ancient symbols on it that a wizard may recognize as necromancy symbols. This is 1 piece of 8. It does not detect of magic, although it is magical.

Tunnel #5. The Mists

This tunnel contains strange mists that come from the portal and the drow have blocked the entrance with stone rubble to try and stop the mists, but have evidently given up. The mists limit sight to 5 feet in all directions, making missile combat almost impossible and giving full concealment to anything within the mists. The cavern also contains a pet displacer beast that belongs to the leader of the drow, which has become accustomed to the mists and has superior smell and hearing, thus allowing it to attack anything within the mists.

If the displacer beast is hungry (50% chance) it will try to attack and kill the weakest looking members of the PCs - especially if they wander off from the group in the mists. The beast is also quite smart and will know when to hide in the mists and avoid trouble. If the displacer beast is not hungry, it will wait for its master to be present before attacking.

Using spells and magic do not seem to effect the mists itself. They detect of necromancy and alteration magic, which is rather unusual. Dispel Magic temporarily gets rid of a bit of mists, but quickly fills in that space with more mists in 2 rounds anyway.

The portal in this library can go to a kingdom or location of the DMs choosing, but ideally it should go to Ravenloft. Any PCs who go to Ravenloft through the portal can return via the Portal of Hopelessness to the main chamber, making it one of the few ways to travel safely back and forth to Ravenloft.

If the PCs thoroughly search the walls of this cavern they should find a broken piece of a silver medallion hidden under a rock near the west most wall with ancient symbols on it that a wizard may recognize as necromancy symbols. This is 1 piece of 8. It does not detect of magic, although it is magical.

Tunnel #6. The Great Library

Not everything Xorek took was destroyed or broken. This tunnel leads to a great library which contains a great number of books from every culture and language, with all the books being at least 1300 years old. The library is three stories tall with stairs going to the 2nd and 3rd levels. Some of the stairs have collapsed and fallen apart with age.

To guard the books from intruders however, Xorek enticed multiple Mimics to live there and transformed them to resemble large books. The Book Mimics present themselves as looking like more expensive spellbooks in obvious locations that are readily spotted, and lay in wait for any wizards foolish enough to try and read them.

The portal in this library can go to a kingdom or location of the DM's choosing.

Many of the books within the library would be valuable to historians.

If the PCs thoroughly search the library they should find a broken piece of a silver medallion hidden under the broken staircase with ancient symbols on it that a wizard may recognize as necromancy symbols. This is 1 piece of 8. It does not detect of magic, although it is magical.

Tunnel #7. The Scrying Eye

This round cavern contains an abyssal beholder from Xorek's explorations of the various planes, a Crystal Ball (broken) that was used for scrying, and several pentagrams on the floor. Everything in this chamber is covered with dust, so much so that the beholder looks like a dusty stone statue, and the chalk pentagrams on the floor are impossible to see. The beholder is trapped in suspended animation within its pentagram. Getting too close to the beholder can cause the chalk pentagram to get smudged and free it from its prison, at which point it will awaken and attack immediately.

If the combat lasts longer than 3 rounds, the Abyssal Beholder will go through the portal to return to its home in the Abyss, which is where the portal goes to.

There are signs that the drow walked into this chamber, but then walked out of it. Perhaps they took one look and thought better of it?

The Crystal Ball can be repaired and used for scrying.

If the PCs thoroughly search the library they should find a broken piece of a silver medallion on a dusty table near the Crystal Ball with ancient symbols on it that a wizard may recognize as necromancy symbols. This is 1 piece of 8. It does not detect of magic, although it is magical.

Tunnel #8. The Morgue

The entrance to this cave has been blocked by stone rubble by the drow. It would take about 10 minutes of moving rocks about to clear a section large enough for the PCs to crawl through.

Xorek kept many of his undead experiments in this cavern, with various bits of them preserved in jars of wax and chemicals. The PCs should find a number of undead creatures, mostly zombies and skeletons, laying about on wooden tables. If they are smart, they should destroy them all immediately.

If they delay, the Undead Mindflayer takes notice of them and decides to attack. The undead mindflayer has all the abilities of a normal mindflayer, plus the ability to command undead creatures at will as a bonus action. It orders all of the undead creatures to attack.

Even if the PCs do start destroying all of the undead they see, they should only destroy half of them before the undead mindflayer notices it is no longer alone.

The portal in this cavern goes to a huge cemetery near a large metropolis. Xorek would steal corpses from the cemetery using the portal.

If the PCs thoroughly search the morgue they should find a broken piece of a silver medallion stuck to the bottom of chair with some glue with ancient symbols on it that a wizard may recognize as necromancy symbols. This is 1 piece of 8. It does not detect of magic, although it is magical. 

Sprinkle Mundane Artifacts About

The DM running this adventure should sprinkle mundane (non magical) objects around the caverns, mostly made of gold, silver, gems and clearly valuable despite being broken.

Magical items should be kept to a minimum and always broken. The cost of the mundane items should help pay for the repairs to the magical items, but if the PCs choose to repair all the magical items then the cost of the repairs should actually be more than all the gold value of the mundane items they recovered.

Thus PCs will either need to decide which items to repair, or to repair all of them and lose gold in the process.

The Bonus Optional Superboss

If the PCs manage to find all 8 of the silver medallion pieces, the medallion can be repaired with a Mending spell.

If the party then takes the silver medallion to the portal and finds a specific round section on the side of the portal, they can unlock and open a staircase in the floor.

Unlocking the staircase releases a Xorek Clone from suspended animation, where it has been waiting for centuries. This version of Xorek is a powerful lich which likes to use a combination of necromancy and chronomancy (time magic) spells. He will use spells like Haste, Slow and various spells causing instant death, ability damage and debilitating effects. Any battle with him should feel extremely unfair for the players because he clearly outmatches them.

(For more about Chronomancy, I recommend reading the 2nd Edition AD&D Chronomancer book.)

The PCs are not necessarily meant to fight Xorek. He is an optional Superboss. If they are smart, they could just run through a portal and avoid him.

Note - Unlike normal liches, Xorek does not have a phylactery. He doesn't need them because his solution was to make multiple clones of himself, each of which have reached lich, demilich or greater status. Many of his clones stay in a state of dormancy until activated.

If however they manage to defeat him, they should find the following in the chamber below:

  1. A command word that turns off all the traps and removes the effect of the Portal of Hopelessness.
  2. A collection of broken magical and mundane artifacts. The DM is encouraged to determine the magical items ahead of time, as Xorek would certainly use any useful items in combat.
  3. A large spellbook containing a variety of spells, including Necromancy and Chronomancy spells (note - some Chronomancy spells should really be limited to Chronomancers only and not allowed to normal wizards).
  4. Gold, silver, gems, etc.
  5. Optional - An item or clue leading to another quest, possibly another lair that belongs to another clone of Xorek.

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