Fantasy Campaign - The Bolt Hole

7 Jun 2020

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Session idea: The Bolt-Hole

"Bolt Holes" are human slang for the refuges some elves fled to during the Iron wars. Human rebellions were not unknown even before the Iron Wars, and many elves found it helpful to have a safe refuge they could flee to at short notice, to await rescue. They also proved useful if the political games between the houses turned mean, which occasionally occurred.

The "bolt holes" are often a source of great wealth for those who find and open them, but as they were also often heavily magically trapped, this is dangerous work indeed. And worse, sometimes they will find the original occupants very much still alive and angry at being awoken after so long...

You could use this scenario for my fantasy campaign in other campaigns as well, perhaps changing the elves involved to some other suitable race - perhaps vampires?

Set Up

The PCs learn one way or another of a rumored bolt hole located deep in the wooded hills, goblin country – a several day journey just to get to the general area, plus no doubt some time to spend searching.

The bolt-hole itself is very well hidden, required a success at -10 to find, one roll per day of searching.

While searching, local goblins will be a constant threat. A given day of searching will run into goblins on a roll of 9 or less. The number of goblins Roll 1d6 for each PC involved – on a 1-2 add one goblin, 3-4 add two, 5 add three, 6 subtract one. The goblins will be armed typically, and are mainly interested in picking off stragglers, and will often flee if they take a few casualties.

The bolt hole, when finally found is an obviously artificial marking located on a large stone in the hillside. Readers of elven will recognize it as the old elvish rune for "Heron". The rune is about hand sized. At GM's choice it will open at touch, or will require some sort of arcane opening spell, the ancient elvish word for "Heron" (the elves assuming human rebels wouldn't know such a thing), etc.

Once activated, a crack outline of a door will appear, and slowly sink into the ground, exposing a two yard wide by two yard high passage way. Depending on how the door was opened, the passages beyond will either be dimly lit by a series of enchanted stones in the ceiling, or will be dark if the enchantment was forced.

Inside the Bolt Hole

Approximately 10 yards down the smoothly hewn tunnel the way is blocked by a stout ironwood door (DR5, HT20) magically locked (password). After breaching the door somehow, the PCs will reach the main protection of the lair another 15 yards down the tunnel.

Inside a 10 yd wide circular room, sits a statue of a seated humanoid, roughly man-sized with no features. An ironwood pedestal sits in front of the statue, with a small orb mounted on top. The orb is in the exact center of the room.

Cast on the orb is 'Detect Foes' at skill 16. If foes are detected, the orb will shatter and the statue (golem) will activate, taking 2 seconds to activate.

Golem: ST 20, DX 11, HT 14/30, IQ 8, speed 6, DR 4, attack (11 skill) 2d-1 dmg (crushing)

Another ironwood door at the back of the room blocks further passage. If the PCs somehow avoid the orb, but damage the door in any way the golem will activate and attack.

Traps can be placed on walls/floors to block progress. Each will be marked with a set of three symbols, and the correct one must be touched to disarm the trap. They're intended to be obvious to elves which is correct (i.e. one of the three will be obviously not like the others) and PCs with a knowledge of elven culture should be able to guess with a successful skill check at -3. Setting off the trap delivers a nasty touch-bases spell at skill 16 (rotting death, burning death, etc). Scale appropriate to the PCs.

The passage from the golem room splits after about 15 yards, with a side passage leading the larder. In side the larder, PCs will find enchanted (and trapped?) chests filled with rations and elven wine. The chests themselves are enchanted to preserve any items placed within, and are made of ironwood decorated with elvish carvings. They are heavy and bulky.

Continuing from where the passage branches, the PCs will encounter yet another trapped ironwood door leading to the main living area. This is a large (30 yard diameter) circular room sparsely furnished with tables and chairs, moldy couches around a simple fireplace. A large pentagram is centered in the room, and racks of shelves stand to one side, mostly bare (add books/scrolls/other items as desired loot).

At GM's discretion, the couches may contain sleeping elves - kept in a state of suspension via the pentagram (see 'the occupants' below).

Two regular doors lead away from the living area to a well and a latrine area. A third ironwood door leads to the treasure/armory. This door should be magically locked and trapped. See "Loot Time" below for ideas of what it may hold...

Loot time

The will be two possible sets of loot – one for if the bolt-hole is currently occupied – either by a live or dead elf, or one if it's empty. Presumable the occupants would bring many valuable items with them. If empty, they would still likely hide some goodies there so they'd be sure to have some wealth if forced to flee without time to pack.

All items, with the exception of the gems, are recognizably elvish in nature, which makes them impossible to sell just anywhere, or even to have appraised. If the PCs approach a random merchant to sell the items, he will likely react extremely negatively, perhaps even alerting the guards. They will need to find a collector for such items...

If Empty - ideas of loot to be found - scale based on traps/guards to overcome...

  • Small bag of gold coins and gems – hidden in the main living area, -2 to find. Includes seventeen elvish coins and three small gems. Full value is $3,000 – but they'll be difficult to sell, not many people can afford such things, and the coins will be considered cursed by the less knowledgeable. Perhaps they are...
  • Set of elvish ironwood split armor, enchanted (+2 DR, 25% lighter)
  • Two elvish bows (ST 12 compound bows, enchanted +1 accuracy)
  • Four quivers of elvish arrows (enchanted?)
  • Two small (20 lb) barrels of elvish wine – enchanted for freshness
  • 120 days of elvish rations – enchanted for freshness
  • 3d6 elvish books. On a roll of twelve or less, the book is of poetry or fiction, and worth $100x1d6 to a collector. One a roll of 13-16, the book is magic, and worth 2d6 * $300 to a collector. On a 17 the book contains extremely rare magic, and is worth $20k or more. On an 18, the book contains rare black magic – and may be fatal to the handler...

If Occupied – in addition to the above:

  • 1d6 additional small bags of gold and gems, each worth approximately 2d6 * $100.
  • 2d6 random potions
  • an additional 1d6 books – but with these ranges (
  • The equipment of the occupants.

The Occupants
If the bolt hole is actually occupied, the elves will either be magically asleep, or will be long dead. If asleep, they will be awoken by the "front door" being forced, or if any of the various traps are set off. When awakened, they will be unable to act for 2d6 rounds, and will be disoriented for another minute or so afterwards (HT check starting at 30 seconds to come out of).

The will be at least one elf, plus one for every two PCs (GM can adjust up or down depending on how much challenge he wants to give the PCs). They lay upon ornately carved wooden couches in the center of the main living area, fully armed and armored. For stats, use the Elven Battle Mage template for the leader, and then Elven Warrior for the remaining elves.

They will fight to the death – unless presented with an opportunity to escape and the battle seems to be going poorly, in which case they will flee into the hills and try to make their way south to the coast or to another bolt hole they may know of.