Thursday, July 22, 2010

Creature Comforts – Caverns

In the dark, in the places below the ground, there are often few opportunities for creature comforts. The Underdark can be a harsh place, full of dangerous terrain and even more dangerous creatures. However, the world below ground can also protect from the whims of Mother Nature. It is perhaps inevitable, then, that some groups have sought to grow their communities underground. Such communities find significant challenges, but even so, such communities will also find a number of creature comforts to make living a little bit easier. As we continue our series, here are a few creature comforts you might find within the caves and caverns of the Underdark.

Candle Clock

The candle clock is a time piece. While sundials are relatively common and easy to find aboveground, they are impossible to use underground. The candle clock is designed to tell time underground. The candle is molded out of wax or tallow that burns at a specific rate. Usually fairly large, the candle is marked so as to indicate the hour. Before the candle burns down to nothing, a similar candle is put into place. The candle requires a relatively breeze-free location to avoid influencing the burn time. At the same time, the candle clock needs to be replaced regularly or it ceases to become accurate. Properly used, a candle clock can help visiting above ground dwellers maintain their sense of time, even in the eternal darkness of the caverns below.

Game Rule: A hero that sees a candle clock gets an immediate +10 to Dungeoneering checks to determine the time. If the hero already has experience with the candle clock, the hero is granted an automatic success when determining the time.

Mineral Bath

Caves are full of minerals, and nothing soothes an aching body better than a mineral bath. Whether the source of the minerals is a natural pool, or pulverized cave formations dumped into a traditional tub, a mineral bath is certainly a creature comfort. Caves with pools heated geothermically, are ideal; but water can be heated up in a number of ways and brought to an ordinary tub.

Game Rule: A hero that takes an extended rest and spends at least 1 hour in a Mineral Bath gains 1 extra healing surge that can be used before the hero’s next extended rest.

Mushroom Garden

A small hobby garden can always be a creature comfort, regardless of the environment, and caverns are no exception. It goes like this: Where there is a cave, there are bats. Where there are bats, there is guano. Where there is guano, there is fertilizer. Obviously, without sunlight, green plants won’t grow in a cavern. However, mushrooms and other fungi grow wonderfully within guano enriched topsoil washed down into the cave’s mouth. Cultivating a small mushroom garden in an underground community is a quiet creature comfort that is overlooked by many. As a bonus, the mushrooms can be harvested for food, healing, or alchemical preparations. Such gardens can also provide trading income for the community.

Game Rule: A hero that spends at least one hour quietly working a mushroom garden during an extend rest, grants an additional +2 bonus to Heal checks to himself or an ally throughout the next day. A hero that maintains a residence with a mushroom garden, may harvest that garden three times per year. Each harvest can yields 10d10 GPs worth of mushrooms and fungus.

As a DM, you might consider planting a few of these creature comforts within the Underdark communities your adventuring heroes might discover. Be sure to add interesting variants for communities that are comprised of exotic creatures such as Drow, Mind Flayers, or Beholders.

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.


  1. Anonymous4:50 PM

    These remind me of a lot of Dragon articles during the 2nd and 3rd edition eras, filling in the tiny gaps in the adventurer's world, and giving cool, optional game rules for that stuff. Well done.

  2. @Jason. Thank you! Being a compared to classic Dragon or Dungeon magazine material is high praise, indeed. Glad you're enjoying the series!