Stronghold of Darkness

From Darfuria

A small dungeon for 6-8 1st to 4th level characters.

The Stronghold of Darkness was written and designed by Richard before he gave up D&D and gave away his characters in 1984. He gave this adventure away too. It was played before he gave it away and has been completed successfully twice since then, with one total party wipe also occuring.

A lesson learned from the party wipe is that players may need to proceed with caution once they are inside and should try to not take on more of the guards than they can handle at the beginning of the dungeon. For a party of entirely first level characters, that can certainly prove to be rather tough.

It can be played as a stand-alone adventure. This dungeon is also incorporated into the adventure Trouble in Tieli for the chapter Aquarius, where the party needed to find and then transport a large stone font back to Tieli, which was not especially easy.

There is a lot of vagueness for DM improvisation, e.g. for the exact makeup of monetary treasures and gems. Feel free to adapt encounters and treasure to your party.

A sequel to this adventure exists, called Legacy of Ukneasnidn, which is somewhat higher level.

Background of Dungeon (DM only)

Many years ago to the east, a newly formed religious sect, combining the skills of the fighter, magic user and cleric using strong religious ideals and the favour of their lawful evil god, decided to send to the west a party to find a suitable spot where they would build a stronghold, temple and refuge for important rituals and for retreat to in bad times. They built their stronghold on top of a hill, a respectable distance from the village of Tamreel.

You will need: PHB, DMG, MM, FF.

The combat and saving throw matrices in the DMG are not very good. Here are the Combat Tables and Saving Throw Matrix we use.

Note: all doors in the dungeon are unlocked unless stated otherwise.

Rumours gathered by party in tavern in Tamreel

1. The party find out there has been a building constructed on a hill top about 16 miles north of the village.

2. Rumours say it was built by strange hooded robed folk from the east.

3. On some nights large fires have been seen on the hilltop, and strange eerie wailing has been heard coming from the hill.

4. Some have tried to investigate before, but those that enter the gates never return.

List of rooms and encounters

Note: the monsters encountered in this adventure can be found in the Fiend Folio or the Monster Manual.


Note: all stairs marked with a * lead up onto the battlement walkway.

1. Entrance Gates: When the gates (which are black with spikes set in the top and 20' wide and 20' high each) are approached from the outside they will swing open and will remain so until all the party are in the entrance courtyard, then they will swing shut and not be openable from the inside until the doors to area 2 have been opened and shut again.

2. Entrance Hall: The main double doors to the south are black with an inverted silver pentagram on the south side of the doors (which are unlocked). In the four corners of the room is a pillar in each. If one of the party in the room does not go to the pillar B within one turn and press the button in the secret compartment, guards (who have been watching through spy holes in the east and west walls) will enter through the secret doors (to the east and west) and attack the party. The number of guards depends on the size of the party. For guards available, see guard room 4. When the button in B is pressed a section of wall A revolves revealing a staircase going down. To the east at the top of the staircase is a small 1' ledge going around to the secret door C.

3. South West Courtyard: In one corner are 10 large barrels (2 empty, 7 full of oil, 1 full of fetid water). If any of the barrels are moved, 7 giant rats will emerge and attack (AC7, HD 1-4 HP, Attacks 1, Dmg 1-3, HP 4,3,1,4,2,1,3). Along the west wall are hovels for 4 norkers armed with clubs (AC3, HD 1+2, Attacks 2, Dmg 1-3/1-6, HP 8,7,6,10). In the hovels are 216gp and a gem worth 124gp.

4. Guardroom: 1 human fighter, 2 large leader orcs, 7 orcs. Tobril - Aln: LE, AC0, Lvl 3, HP 24, STR 17, INT 9, WIS 7, DEX 16, CON 15, CHA 12, +1 longsword, platemail and shield. Leader orcs AC6, HD 1+4, HP 12,11. Orcs AC6, HD 1, Attacks 1 (by weapon), HP 5,4,8,5,6,8,7. All orcs are armed with longswords except leader orcs who have double handed swords and attack at +1 to hit and +2 dmg due to 18 STR. There is a large table with ten chairs around it in this room as well as a small sofa and a chair in the southeast corner. The guards who have not been alerted to area 2 will be in this room, sitting at the table. Tobril also has on him a pouch with 73gp, a key to room 5 and a potion of healing. Each orc has 2+8d6gp on him.

5. Tobril's Bedchamber (locked): In this room is a bed along the west wall, a washstand in the southeast corner and a locked chest against the east wall. There is a small key in a secret compartment under the bed that will unlock the chest. In the chest are 3857gp and under that in a secret compartment is a jewelled dagger, not good for combat but worth 500gp.

6. Guard's Dormitory (unlocked): Against the north wall is a table with five chairs around it. On the table is the half-eaten remains of some horrible orcish meal. Along the west wall are two footlockers full of typical orcish belongings. Along the south wall are three double bunk beds and a fourth along the east wall, total sleeping capacity 8. In one of the east bunks is hidden a pouch containing 64gp. In the southeast corner is a loose stone slab covering a small hole filled with coins (860gp).

7. South East Courtyard (locked): A well stands opposite the locked door. In the southeast against the wall is a hovelish pile of rubbish, home for a gambado (AC6, HD4, Attacks 3, Dmg 1-8/1-4/1-4, HP 26). It will lie in wait appearing as a skull with the rest of the rubbish until a creature is near enough, then it will spring and bite. Thereafter it will stand and attack using a bite/claw/claw routine. In its lair are 1119gp and gems worth a total of 1000gp.

8. Store Rooms (locked): (a) This store room is filled with provisions, food of various descriptions, skins of wine and water, etc. (b) This store room is filled with various equipment and supplies for castle maintainance - paint, rope, torches, lanterns, timber, tools, etc. The connecting door is unlocked.

9. More Store Rooms: This store room is very similar to 8(b) but is larger and also contains three barrels (2 oil, 1 water) and four large sacks of grain.

10. Sky's Ascent (unlocked): All the walls have been painted black. The room is otherwise bare except for a large spiral staircase in the centre of the room which goes up into a large circular hole in the ceiling. There are four pillars surrounding the hole. All of the other three doors in the room are locked.


11. Blednim's Bedchamber (locked): Blednim is absent from his room as he is in Sky's Circle (Level B). In the southwest corner is a bed with a flat topped chest next to it. On the chest is a candle and the book he is reading (Where It Hurts - a collection of vulgar poems based on the torturing techniques of bugbears). In the chest is an assorted collection of robes and clothes. The chest has a false bottom beneath which are 3208gp and Blednim's spellbook, which contains Shield and any other 1st level magic user spells of the DM's choosing. The shaded circle is a footstool and the two unshaded circles are 3' high ornate metal burners. Against the east wall is a desk and chair. On the desk are quills, inkpot, blank parchment, etc. In a secret compartment at the back of one of the drawers is a scroll of two 5th level clerical spells - Flame Strike and Cause Critical Wounds. Against the north wall is a wardrobe containing clothes. The wardrobe however has no back and instead there is a secret passage leading to room 12.

12. Rawlot's Bedchamber (locked): Rawlot - Half Elf, Aln: LE, AC2, Lvl 1/2, HP18, STR 16, INT 17, WIS 15, DEX 18, CON 16, CHA 8, 1st lvl cleric/2nd lvl fighter, +3 to hit with missiles, chance to surprise, armed with +2 longsword and dagger (concealed) which he can also attack with at -1 to hit due to DEX 18, +1 dmg due to STR, +2 leather armor under robes, 3 x 1st level spells: Cause Light Wounds (x2), Command. On seeing any intruders he will go through the backless wardrobe in the southeast corner and through the secret passage to 13 to get Seertat. In the northwest corner is a bed with a flat topped chest next to it. On top of the chest is a candle in a silver candlestick (worth 20gp). In the chest are clothes and robes.. In the centre of the room is a luxurious sofa with a footstool in front of it. The bottom of the sofa can be removed and inside is 3876gp. The two unshaded circles are burners. There is a desk against the south wall, on which are quills, blank parchment, inkpots, etc. There is a tapestry on the west wall of a torchlit procession through a dead forest. Behind the tapestry is a secret passage to room 11.

13. Seertat's Bedchamber (locked): Seertat - Half elf, Aln: LE, AC4, Lvl 1/3, HP23, STR 17, INT 13, WIS 14, DEX 17, CON 12, CHA 11, 1st level cleric, 3rd level fighter, studded leather armor under robes, +1 LE double handed sword (+2 vs good alns), +1 to hit and +1 dmg due to STR 17, also has a concealed dagger. The room is identical to 11 with bed, chest and candle, sofa, stool, burners, desk and chair. Under the bed is a loose stone slab with 3704gp beneath it. The wardrobe is backless and hides a secret passage to 12.

14: Here are two barrels of oil, one barrel of wine and three sacks of rotten grain.

LEVEL A (first level up)

1. Tower Guardroom (reached by going up the stairs in room 10, Sky's Ascent): There is a railing running from the centre of the room to the south to stop people falling down the spiral stairway shaft. Next to the railing is a table and chair. On the table is a candle, a quill and an orcish crossword book. To the northwest is an armchair next to a locker containing two longbows, a crossbow and many scores of bolts and arrows. To the northeast is a ladder leading to a trapdoor in the ceiling. There are four arrow slits to the north, south, east and west.

LEVEL B (second level up)

1. Sky's Circle (top of tower, reached by A1): The tower top is a 20' diameter circle with 2' thick battlements around the circumference. There is a trapdoor to the northeast and strange circular patterns and runes cover the floor. Standing in the centre of Sky's Circle is Blednim. Blednim - Half elf, Aln: LE, AC1, Lvl 1/2/3, HP27, STR 18/50, INT 14, WIS 16, DEX 18, CON 16, CHA 10, 1st level magic user, 2nd level cleric, 3rd level fighter, +1 studded leather armor under robes, +1 ring of protection, armed with a +1 to hit +2 dmg double handed sword (+1 to hit and +3 dmg from STR additionally), 4 x 1st lvl cleric spells (Cause Light Wounds x2, Cause Fear, Detect Magic), 1 x 1st level magic user spell (Shield). He also has a scroll of Flame Strike, a potion of extra healing with 3 doses and a potion of speed with 4 doses. One of the stones in the battlements can be removed and behind it is a small box (unlocked) with a Fire Trap spell cast on it. In the box is a red crystal on a gold chain. The crystal constantly eminates light of the strength of a torch.

LEVEL 1 (first level down)

Note: this level is the living/sleeping/meeting area for the sect in times of seclusion. The spiral staircase at the north end of Level 1 go down to Level 2 and continue on down to Level 3.

1. Sleeping Quarters: The walls of this room are lined with double bunk beds, total sleeping capacity 26. In the centre of the rooom are two 20' long tables each with a number of chairs around them. In times of crisis when the stronghold is used as a safe retreat for the sect (The Servants of Darkness) this room is used as a general sleeping area for sect members.

2. Conference/Meeting Room: In the centre of the room is a 4' diameter pillar going from ceiling to floor and piercing the centre of a 28' diameter table, around which are 30 chairs. Sitting on the table with their backs against the pillar are three grimlocks (AC5, HD2, Attacks 1 (by weapon), armed with battle axes, HP 8, 13, 15, XP 44, 54, 58). The grimlocks are carrying a total of 25gp.

3. Living Area: In this room is a large fireplace in the west wall. The room is filled with armchairs and a very large sofa. There is a table with chairs in the southeast corner. The two unshaded circles are large burners and there is an ornamental (still usable, value 600gp) human sized suit of plate mail behind the sofa. Sitting on the sofa are two grimlocks (AC5, HD2, Attacks 1 (by weapon), armed with longswords, HP 8, 16, XP 44, 60). The grimlocks are carrying a total of 18gp.

4. and 5. Store Rooms: Two long thin rooms with walls lined with shelves and rows of barrels down the centre. These rooms contain provisions and equipment.

6. Grell's Lair: This is a cavern with roughly hewn rocky walls. All of this area, i.e. everything on the other side of door A, is of this nature. In the northeast corner is a dark, dank pit, approximately 300' deep. This connects the grimlock lair to the dungeon, as does area 7. Both of these pits are inaccessible by humans and the like but grimlocks use them as routeways with little difficulty. Also lurking above is the grell (AC4, HD5, Attacks 11, Dmg 10 x 1-4, 1 x 1-6, Special: paralyzation, HP32, XP 1000). Three feet down the pit is a ledge on which is a chest containing 824gp.

7. Second Pit: See 6.

8. Firetoad's Lair: A bare room with three smooth stone walls, with the western wall of roughly hewn stone. Along the base of this wall are small stones and rubble. In the southwest corner sitting on its pile of treasure (760gp) is a firetoad (AC10, HD4+1, Attacks 1, Dmg fireball (does dmg equivalent to hit points left), HP 30, XP 315).

9. Empty Room: There is a tiny piece of parchment stuck to the ceiling, which is very easy to miss. On it somebody has scrawled in Elvish: "Tit". Characters will need to climb up somehow to be able to decipher this word.

10. Uncompleted Room: In the southeast corner is a large pile of rubble which serves as home for a hook horror (AC3, HD5, Attacks 2, Dmg 1-8/1-8 (claw/claw), HP35, XP265). Inside its hovel is its treasure - 318gp and a bejewelled necklace worth 1400gp.

11. Another Uncompleted Room: The south wall is roughly hewn and there is rubble along the base of the wall. There is nothing of interest here.

LEVEL 2 (second level down)

1. Keeper's (Lord Khairnar) Bedchamber: This room has a large double four poster bed in the northwest corner with a chest next to it. The chest has a candle in a gold candlestick (48gp) on it. Against the west wall is a desk and chair. On the desk are quills, parchment, ink, blotters, etc. On the east wall is a large fireplace faced by two armchairs and a sofa. The two unshaded cicles are burners. There is a secret door in the north wall. There is a secret compartment in the back of the fireplace in which is a chest containing 4208gp, three gems (500gp, 200gp, 100gp) and Lord Khairnar's spellbook, which contains each spell he has memorised and any others of the DM's choosing.

2. Keeper's Watch: This is a semicircular battlemented balcony built into the side of the hill on which the stronghold is built. This is reached by the secret passage from 1.

LEVEL 3 (third level down)

1. Entrance Hall: This is a square room with two doors east and west, double doors to the south and arcane symbols on the floor (including one large inverted silver pentagram).

2. and 3. Store Rooms: These rooms contain provisions essential to the keeping of the Great Hall of Darkness, e.g. black candles, rope, oil, etc.

4. Great Hall of Darkness: The room is a long hall, dimly lit and with pillars on the west and east sides. The colour scheme is distinctly black and there is a long red carpet running down the centre of the hall to an altar. There is a large black inverted pentagram at the end of the carpet. On either side of the altar there are large silver candlesticks (750gp each) with a black candle in both. On the top of the altar is a large silver unholy symbol (300gp). Beneath this is a loose slab that when depressed causes a secret panel in the front of the altar to slide back revealing an onyx box, which is locked and trapped with a poison needle. In the box is a strange conical shaped object (see picture below). Behind the altar is a large statue (see other picture below). There is a depression in the statue's forehead which is the hole for its horn (the strange conical object found in the altar). When his horn is inserted the statue will spread his arms wide and then the secret door behind him will open. This is the only way to open the secret door.

Also in the Hall is Lord Khairnar, the Keeper of the Hall. Lord Khairnar - Aln: LE, AC 0, Lvl 4/5/6, HP 52, STR 18/82, INT 17, WIS 16, DEX 16, CON 17, CHA 10, 4th lvl magic user, 5th lvl cleric, 6th lvl fighter, +3 chain mail under robes, armed with a +2 double handed sword (+2 to hit, +4 dmg due to STR in addition), wand of lightning (charges:12), a Ring of Grimlock Summoning, vial of extra healing (4 doses), scroll (DM choice or random). Spells - Clerical (5 x 1st, 5 x 2ns, 1 x 3rd): Cause Light Wounds, Cause Light Wounds, Cause Light Wounds, Detect Magic, Command; Hold Person, Hold Person, Slow Poison, Snake Charm, Resist Fire; Cause Disease. Magic User (3 x 1st, 2 x 2nd): Shocking Grasp, Sleep, Burning Hands; Web, Invisibility.

Strange conical object.
Strange conical object.


Statue behind the altar.

LEVEL 4 (fourth level down)

1. Room of Conflict: Both doors to this room are locked. The room is empty apart from the markings on the floor. If any of the lines are stepped on, a barbed devil (lesser devil) will appear and attack (AC 0, HD 8, Attacks 3, Dmg 2-8/2-8/3-12, HP 54, Special: save vs. wand or Fear, see Monster Manual).

2. Chamber of Treasures: The door is locked. In the centre of the room is a large pile of coins and gems - platinum, gold, electrum and silver; total value 16586gp. Two larger gems are actually ioun stones - dusty rose (+1 protection) and pearly white (regenerates 1 HP/turn). There are goldbugs among the coins - see the Fiend Folio p. 46. Lying on top of the pile is a long thin box, locked and trapped with a poison needle. In the box is a +2 Longsword of Wounding (refer to the DM's Guide). There are two small locked chests, one on either side of the pile. The two chests contain small useful magic items, altogether one for each member of the party, DM's choice.


Hall of Fame

Haraldez (TN male Wood Elf F1/MU1/T1), Kaareen Centaar (CN female Dwarf T1), Baron Von Ludwig (TN male Human D1), Micklemantis (NG male Gnome I1), Fessine Stargazer (CG female Half elf MU1/C1), Artois (CN male Half orc F1), Marri (CN male Halfling T1), Elva (NG male Half orc F1/C1) - they charged boldly forth and were overwhelmed and defeated in one of the first rooms. A total party wipe with no survivors. How sad. Micklemantis was a cool gnome illusionist and Elva was a brave fighter. DM'd by George and played by Graham and Theresa at Heavitree Road in 1988.

Felix, Meliya, Carmel, Mintor, Jenintar, Delfa, Jack - it seems as if they never encountered Blednim, although they successfully completed the whole dungeon. Bravo! Everybody was 1st level apart from Felix, who was 3rd/3rd. DM'd by George and played by Cliff and Sarah at a different house in Heavitree Road in 1992.

Aside from some rather complicated and unpleasant business involving an accident with a pouch of Dust of Sneezing and Choking, this adventure was fully and successfully completed as part of Trouble in Tieli. Hooray! DM'd by George and played by Dan in 2002.