4d4 Black Dragon's Lair
by Creighton Broadhurst
June 25, 2019
Black dragon lairs are fearsome, terrifying places into which only the bravest adventurer dare tread. A dragon’s lair should be so much more than just a cave stuffed with treasure.
Use the tables below to add depth and verisimilitude to the black dragon lairs in your campaign.
Black Dragon Lair Features
A black dragon’s lair is rarely nothing more than a cave stuffed full of treasure. Black dragons are wily, cunning and in-tune with the surrounding environment; their lairs should reflect their intrinsic connection with the surrounding swampland and marshes.
- A large pool of fetid, dirty swamp water covers the floor in this area. In places, the water is almost ten-foot deep; sometimes the dragon bathes here.
- A wide swath of deep, glutinous mud covers the ground. The mud smells noxious and is thigh-deep in places. If the dragon has recently passed by here, its tracks are visible in the mud.
- A tangle of roots grows down through the ceiling and quests almost all the way to the floor. The roots form a thick curtain of sorts and obscures whatever lurks beyond. Things might live in the roots or perhaps the dragon has interwoven pieces of metal in the fibrous growths. Incautious PCs passing through the roots cause the broken shields, bits of armour and so on to jangle together.
- A sinkhole pierces the lair’s ceiling; mud, fetid swamp water and the occasional swamp denizen fall into the hole and end up in the dragon’s lair. Faint light filters down through the sinkhole dimly illuminating the surrounding area. If the sinkhole is wide enough, the dragon may use it as a secondary way into and out of its lair.
Black Dragon Lair Dressing
Black dragon lairs are different to normal dungeons. Consequently, the minor pieces of dressing should highlight this difference. Signs of previous exploration—dropped and broken equipment, the splintered, burnt corpses of previous adventurers and the like—will also be visible.
- Gouges in the wall show where the dragon has sharpened its claws. Clever characters can use the marks to estimate the dragon’s size.
- Pitted bones cover swaths of the floor. Many show the tell-tale marks of acid; others are crushed and smashed.
- Small pools of stagnant water fill hollows in the floor.
- A thin sheen of mud covers the floor; the bones of several creatures—perhaps lizardfolk, crocodiles or the like—jut from the glutinous paste.
Treasures & Trinkets
Dragons are renown for their vast treasure hoards—it’s one of the main reason adventurers seek their lairs. While much of the hoard likely comprise coinages and the like, inevitably other interesting objects—of a variety of values—are mixed in with the rest.
- A spear rests upright against a wall, chest or other large piece of treasure. Its shaft is fully ten-foot long and its point is long and tapered. Several tribal charms—feathers, strips of snakeskin and the like—now caked in dried blood hang from the haft.
- A book entitled, “Vilimzair Aralivar: His Amazing Life” lies open on an upturned chest. The book’s title is embossed in gold leaf and the pages are rendered in beautiful, flowing elven script. The book details—briefly—the life of the legendary pirate-bard Vilimzair Aralivar and his motley band of inept followers.
- A black-stained hardwood mask of a leering crocodile face leans against a pile of coins. The mask has lost the straps that once held it to a warrior’s face, but is an excellent example of a local lizardfolk tribe’s war masks.
- A muddy silver mechanical bird lies on its side at the bottom of an ornate, blood-splattered silver cage. The bird has tiny red, glimmering eyes crafted from flecks of ruby. The bird’s key still nestles in its chest; turning the key activates the bird which then sings and flutters its wings.
Black dragon hoards can be immense in scope and value. Among the treasures and trinkets, however, most dragons have also accumulated objects that might not fall under the traditional heading of treasure, but which are interesting and flavoursome none-the-less.
- Pieces of broken and splintered wood lie intermingled with the dragon’s hoard. All are rotting and decayed.
- Skulls of the dragon’s slain enemies are set about its hoard atop decaying wooden stakes or spear shafts driven deep into the ground.
- A rotting barrel partially sunken into the mud holds several weapons including two spears, a rusting longsword and a longbow without its string.
- A chest lies amid the dragon’s hoard; its lid has long since been snapped off, but the dragon still uses the chest to hold treasures which might be ruined if they got muddy or wet.
The material in this article appears in 20 Things #39: Black Dragon’s Lair, which is available here at the Raging Swan Press shop.
Members of our Patreon campaign get 20 Things #39: Black Dragon’s Lair free as a thank you for their awesome support. Join today!