Today is the feast of St. John the Cave Dweller and tomorrow is an interesting feast — the Veneration of St. Peter's Precious Chains. St. John was a hermit from Constantinople who forsook his parent's wealth to become a monk. The chains are those worn by Peter when he was freed from jail by an angel (Acts 12:1-19). What I found inspiring about St. John was the imagery found in the following hymn:
Denying the world and the things thereof, O righteous Father, you took hold of the Gospel and followed it in accordance with the Gospel's precepts. Living in your cave as it were mystically in Paradise, you slew the man-slaying dragon by your hard life of privation of all fleshly comfort. Wherefore, as you dwell now in the Heavens, O blessed John, pray that we be granted great mercy.
In a fantasy setting where sin is personified, an analogue for St. John slays an actual dragon and St. Peter's Chains can become a magic relic. Thus inspired, I came up with the following:
The Cave of St. Ion
This map is meant to be either placed in the wilderness or in a remote part of a dungeon. It was once the dwelling place for the hermit St. Ion. At one time this was a place of pilgrimage, but has long since been forgotten and lost.
- Cave Entrance. The opening of this cave looks like the maw of a great beast. Indeed, the legend surrounding St. Ion states that he defeated a great dragon and then spent the rest of his life living either inside the dragon's lair and in some versions, the dragon itself. All the shaded areas of the map are covered in calcified scales — as if this cavern complex might be a mold that would create a very large statue of a dragon lying on its stomach. Each of these scales has either an icon, letter or word carved into them. When read top to bottom, these scales are full of holy writings and poetry.
- Guard Dog. Chained at the location marked 'A' is a Dire Wolf (AC: 6, HD 4+1, hp: 23, ATT: 2d4, Mv: 150(50), S: F2, M:8). The chain is 20' long. When the party enters into this room, the Dire Wolf will attempt to attack, growling, whimpering and barking in frustration if the party stands out of the range of its jaws. This is done on purpose as a distraction. The bugbears that now make these caves their lair will ambush those that are occupied by the Dire Wolf. Should the party be distracted by the wolf, the bugbears will get an additional +1 to their surprise roll (1-4 on a d6).
- Dog Pen. This cavern has been converted by the bugbears into a kennel. Currently there is a female Dire Wolf (AC: 6, HD 4+1, hp: 23, ATT: 2d4, Mv: 150(50), S: F2, M:8) with 3 nursing pups (AC: 7, HD 1+1, hp: 8, 8, 5, ATT: 1d4, Mv: 120(40), S: F1, M:8) behind a makeshift locked gate guarded by the "dog trainer" (bugbear AC: 5, HD 3+1, hp: 12, ATT: 2d4, Mv: 120(30), S: F3, M:9)
- Stockade. There are several shackles and chains drilled into the floor for the purpose of keeping prisoners and punishing any disobedient bugbears. The proximity of the Dire Wolf in room 2 and the fear that the bugbears have for what lies in room 9 helps make life miserable for those forced to sleep here. Currently, there are two prisoners. One is a recalcitrant bugbear (AC: 5, HD 3+1, hp: 12, ATT: 2d4, Mv: 120(30), S: F3, M:9) who has killed the second prisoner (a dwarf) for food.
- Failed escape. This part of the cave is very low and narrow and cannot be reached by the bugbears. In an attempt to escape his captors, a gnome crawled here in hopes of sneaking out when the bugbears were off on one of their raids. Unfortunately, he died of his wounds before he had a chance to make good his escape. An 800 gp gem can be found hidden on his corpse.
- Guard Post. There are always two bugbears (AC: 5, HD 3+1, hp: 21, 20, ATT: 2d4, Mv: 120(30), S: F3, M:9) who stand guard here, keeping watch on room 1 through the narrow cavern that connects to the two rooms. They will not immediately attack, preferring to warn the rest of the bugbears and then lie in ambush.
- Main Sleeping Area. This cave is full of dirty animal skins and discarded bones and smells strongly of goblinoid. At any one time there will be 5-8 bugbears here (AC: 5, HD 3+1, hp: 13, 16, 23, 8, 15, 13, 16, 15, ATT: 2d4, Mv: 120(30), S: F3, M:9).
- Big Boss. This cave has been claimed by the bugbear leader (AC: 3, HD 4, hp: 30, ATT: 2d4+2, Mv: 120(30), S: F4, M:9). He has made a make-shift throne out of bones (close examination will indicated Ogre or Hill Giant). He will be here along with his lieutenants (AC: 5, HD 3+1, hp: 25, 23, ATT: 2d4, Mv: 120(30), S: F3, M:9). In three trapped chests (poisoned needle) are 3000 cp, 3000 sp, and 3000 gp.
- Resting Place of the Saint. This small cavern is covered in religious iconography. Anyone of either Neutral or Chaotic alignment entering into this space will be confronted by a ghostly figure. Those who fail their save versus spells (Chaotic creatures save at -4) will run in terror as if affected by the spell Scare. The secret door marked on the map is a reliquary containing a bronzed skull with a holy symbol carved into its forehead. The skull cannot be moved. Should anyone with a Lawful alignment try to move the skull, they will hear a voice saying, "I do not wished to be moved. I belong here. So, I will stay." Should the appropriate holy symbol be placed into the carving on the skull, the secret door will open.
- The Chains of St. Amethor. This hidden cavern is also covered in religious icons, depicting the imprisonment of St. Amethor as well as his emancipation by an angelic figure. The southern tunnel is blocked by a cave-in. It will require 48 man hours to clear. At the center of the room is another reliquary which contains a single set of shackles and chains. They radiate of magic. If worn, they act as a Ring of Free Action. There are seemingly random letters carved into the links of the chain. If arranged in an 'S' pattern, these letters read top to bottom form a religious poem. When said out loud while wearing the chains, the wearer is able to cast Dimension Door once per week.
Very cool! I like how you make the mythic qualities immanent in the imaginary space.
..or in plain English, just good gaming fun.
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