Next entry in the “dungeon locations” series, is cave pools. Which are so stereotypical and classic that in fact players barely react to them.
My players did in fact wander into a large, cavernous space with a knee-high resplendent pool of water. The encounter they had was memorable (a worm drake, defeated with a purify food and water on the pool), but the space itself could have been improved, I feel. In fact, the open nature of the cave kind of dulled the tactical aspect of the combat and did not provide much for the players to hang on to in terms of imagination or narrative.
With that, I got to thinking what descriptions would have improved this type of space, and what would have made the players stop, look and use their surroundings.
This table tries to answer the questions that sessions prompted, so that your cavern pools may provide intrigue, mystery and tactical opportunities. Personally, I would combine it with some of the early spaces of the incandescent grottoes.
|Dice||Overall space||Water||Walls||Additional feature|
|1||An opening dotted with stalagtites and stalagmites so large they touch in spots.||transparent, clear.||Wet limestone that has been smoothed over centuries. Yellowish.||The floor of the cave, underwater, is covered in small clams.|
|2||A natural cave with man-made steps leading into the pool. At the center of the space, 6 marble columns are arranged in a circle.||Bubbling, sulphur smell in the air.||Black volcanic rock, jagged. Easy to climb, but also painful to grab. Many crevaces and hiding spots.||feels like being in a sanctuary in a storm.|
|3||A cave with irregular rock formations as a ceiling, making some points hundreds of feet high and others requiring crawling||Silvery, highly reflective, once light is shone on it.||20-ft long, 2ft-deep claw marks on the eastern wall left from an ancient giant beast.||The water will rise by 1 foot per character entering the pool.|
|4||Sloped floor and celings. Very small entry space, very large pool.||A purple powdery substance deposits on the water surface, emitting a glow. Deep in points.||Black ivy covers the walls. It feeds on darkness and despair.||An opening at the bottom of the pool reveals a rusted mechanical gear covered in algae. More interlocking gears lie deep in the rock.|
|5||A cavernous space with rock formations ensuring a narrow path across.||The water is highly viscous and dark, petroleum-like.||3 natural cave walls and one made of slabs of flagstone carefully engineered to lie at an angle.||The space is engulfed in a magical darkness that may only be dispelled.|
|6||The cave is the shape of an enormous hand, as if a colossus was entombed into a mountain. Broken sight lines.||The water is rich in minerals and iron. It will stain the skin.||The rock features of the cave walls can slowly shuffle (over hours) to force the party off their path.||Depending on the time of day, the water changes colour and properties, roll on the second column every 12 hours.|
|7||More of a large hall than a cave. Perhaps it belonged to some ancient fortress that ended up partially flooded and underground.||No pool per se but a wet sandy bottom that releases water when stepped on.||A small waterfall runs on the eastern wall. Itreplenishes the pool and hides a deep pit at its bottoom.||1d6 crates of supplies left by a previous party. Some crates are infected by a mould.|
|8||A circular cavern formed around a giant stalagmite in the center, with water dropping from the rock above. Water surrounds the stalagmite.||A pool created by a geyser that releases a strong blast of water every few hours.||The walls are lined with glowing crystals of various colors and properties.||A thick fog rises above the water. In it, will ‘o wisps dance along an ancient path, dangerously illuminating the way|
|9||A long, narrow cave tunnel with high ceiling.||Despite being a pool, the water is not still. Strong vortexes and currents are animated by the ley lines in the ground.||One of the walls curves in to reveal some kind of natural refuge. The top of this small space has dark marks, as if a fire had regularly been lit under it.||One sip of the water wil satiate an adventurer for the day, but cause a mighty headache afterwards.|
|10||A cave lined with cracks in the rock from which earth, mould and worms come through to pollute the water.||The water is covered in lilies and other plants that survive despite no access to light.||The walls aren’t made of rock, but of chitin.||A tombstone lies in a crevace. “Her…li.. Gax… Pois… ro…cer”. |
Touching the tombstone will make the grave collapse and open a passage below.