The Hinterlands, pastoral fields, and woodlands, with ruins and lingering shadows, lies beyond the safety of the village. The Hinterlands Caves, a fantasy rpg starter dungeon, is located a few hours from the nearest village and has been a known lair for orcs, brigands, smugglers and dark cults in the past. Now evil stirs again in the wilderness, shadows draw closer, and the village faces ruin unless heroes answer the call to action.
Cave Areas and Secrets
Brigands and bandits use the caves to assemble, rest and split plunder before leaving to raid elsewhere. Leaderless or stupid thugs may feel safe here and can be taken by surprise. More cunning brigands are harder to surprise and may be led by a bandit lord with connections to local villains, foreign lord, and even darker powers. Possible evidence found in the caves includes maps, notes of names, and sometimes written orders. Dealing with the bandits may be the first chapter in a larger story.
Smugglers use the Hinterlands Caves for moving stolen goods and other contraband between the settlements in the region. Evidence includes stolen city guard uniforms, forged trade manifests and contracts and maps.
Orc warbands use the caves serving a dark lord in a faraway land. The orc lair includes stolen goods and the remains of missing villagers. The orcs may also have crude maps of the region, including outlying farms, meeting places with local allies and perhaps a curious list of villagers. These villagers may be targeted for assassination by the orcs’ master or are perhaps collaborators.
A necromancer has set up a lair in the caves to work in peace and prepare for greater things. The necromancer is smart and knows the caves’ location is known to the villagers and thus has no intention of lingering longer than necessary. Items of interest include research notes, background notes on the necromancer’s associates and enemies, and maps of the location of interest to the necromancer.
Once the caves were used for burials, and now perhaps centuries of neglect and recent desecration has turned lingering loss and regret to hate for the living and the dead walk again. Items of interest are the bones of the dead, residue from foul rituals and perhaps a hidden cache left behind by dark cults.
The ritual site, with a crude statue of a blasphemous god and a faint pentagram on the cave floor surrounded by niches in the walls, is a near-forgotten relic of dark lingering power. The site’s precise function is unknown, but various cultists, necromancers and even orc shamans seek to tap its potential.
What Happens Next?
This post ties into my previous posts about starting new rpgs and designing starting areas. So what happens next? Anything you want, which is the whole point. Either create a new adventure from scratch or use the established story hooks and tie them to the next adventure, like an adventure path or a campaign.
Remember to recycle and reskin ideas, maps, monsters, and whatever you have created. This both saves time and gives you twists you never would have thought of if just create everything from scratch.
- Your First Dungeons and Dragons Game
- Your First Pathfinder RPG
- Create Dungeon Adventures For Fantasy Roleplaying Games
- Creating Fantasy Roleplaying Game Adventures
- Create Fantasy Roleplaying Game Campaigns
The Reading List
For a different map, consider looking at Dyson Logos’ interpretation of the Caves of Chaos, the dungeon originally from the Keep on the Borderlands.