Deszraul's Hold at a Glance
by Creighton Broadhurst
November 21, 2019
Hidden deep in the hills, Deszraul’s Hold has a sinister reputation. The medusa Dezraul claims the caves and evidence of her fell powers—a bewildering array of uncannily lifelike stone statues—stand about her gloomy domain. All that remains of adventurers daring to face the cave’s snake-headed mistress, the statues are a salutary warning on the dangers of facing a medusa in her lair. But does Deszraul still lair within? Has a band of savage, merciless bandits fallen under her sway?
(Only you--the GM--can decide!)
What Has Gone Before
The wooded forests and hills to Languard’s east have long been a haven for bandits, brigands and other outlaws. The forest’s wild reaches have long stymied the duke’s attempts to winkle out the lawless folk dwelling beneath their boughs.
A score of years ago, the medusa Deszraul Valos fled into the hills. Coming from the far east, she was fleeing the wrath of an adventuring party—the Crusaders of the Burning Light—intent on slaying her. She found a small, hidden cave network and made it her own. The caves once housed a family of dwarves prospecting in the region and it suited her to dwell therein. Inevitably, word of a terrible creature dwelling in the hills trickled down into the civilised lands to the west. Many adventurers have subsequently tried to make their names by slaying the cave’s snake-headed mistress, and over a dozen have since fallen prey to Deszraul’s stony gaze.
Option 1: Deszraul Lives!
While Deszraul has been attacked by several adventuring bands over the years, none have managed to overcome the medusa. The remains of these adventuring bands litter the cave’s outer reaches. A survivor of one such ill-fated group, Auni Hellikki (NG female human fighter 3), recently staggered into Languard and gasped out her story over a half-dozen of ales. Thus, do the caves comes to the party’s attention.
Option 2: Deszraul has Minions
Deszraul yet dwells in the caves, but a few months ago a gang of bandits staggered into the caves after being driven away from a merchant caravan by an adventuring party travelling with the traders. Deszraul saved the bandits from the adventurers’ depredations and they have since thrown in their lot with the medusa. For her part, Deszraul likes having minions; they bring her treasures and she rarely has to leave the caves. For Deszraul, life is good. The emboldened bandits have begun more frequent raiding and have come to the attention of the local authorities who are casting around for a suitable group of adventurers to stamp them out.
Option 3: Deszraul’s Dead
Deszraul is dead, slain by adventurers. Her lair has been fought over and claimed by many groups since them. (This background gives the GM the most flexibility in stocking the caves as desired).
Notable Locations at a Glance
Much of the cave system’s features depends on what or who dwells within. Use the notes below as a starting point, and modify them as necessary to complement your design.
- Main Entrance: Two life-like statues watch over the cave complex’s main entrance, from a raised escarpment. These statues are the PCs’ first concrete clues that something terrible lurks in the caves.
- Cramped Steps: This secondary entrance to the caves is clear of suspiciously detailed statues.
- Cave of Statues: This large cave comprises the bulk of the outer caverns. Over a dozen life-like statues—adventurers who once challenged Deszraul—are scattered about the area.
- Cavern of the Two: Here stand two statues—these unfortunate adventurers were the two who made it furthest into Deszraul’s lair. Their progress availed them naught.
- Unfinished Chamber: The dwarves who built the complex’s inner chambers did not finish this large room before departing for a new home.
- Sloped Passageway: This slightly sloped, low-ceiling passageway leads up to a set of curving steps. This passageway runs under parts of area 4.
- Short Staircase: This curved staircase descends about five feet. It is designed for defence, and hard to fight on.
- Barracks: This large, dry chamber serves as the barracks for any large group of individuals dwelling in the caves. If no such group lairs in the cave, the bedrolls and suchlike are old, musty and dusty.
- Deszraul’s Lair: This chamber is/was Deszraul’s private lair. If she, or a group of intelligent creatures claims the caves, they use the secret door in this chamber to attack interlopers from behind. They can also use the secret door to flee their enemies if the PCs seem too mighty.
Want to add the Deszraul's Hold to your campaign? Dungeon Backdrop: Deszraul's Hold by Creighton Broadhurst (cartography by Dyson Logos) is available in 5e, Pathfinder 1 and System Neutral/OSR editions.
About Dungeon Backdrops
You are a GM, but you are busy. You want to write your own modules, but you just don’t have the time. And you don’t want to use commercial modules. You want to make your campaign your own. That’s where the Dungeon Backdrop line comes in! Each Dungeon Backdrop presents a fully fleshed out and lovingly detailed self-contained dungeon ready for you to use as you see fit. Stock the dungeon with your own monsters (and—perhaps—their treasure), decide their back story and you are good to go.
Every Dungeon Backdrop is carefully designed to be easily inserted into almost any fantasy campaign and is compatible with virtually any fantasy roleplaying game. Dungeon Backdrops: we describe the dungeon, you add the monsters (and the treasure).