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Find Bargleby Trevor Holman from Threshold Magazine issue 8
A Karameikos adventure for Basic level characters
by Trevor Holman
Bargle chanced a backward glance as he fled for his life and finally realized he wasn’t being pursued. Hardly believing his luck he knew there was little time, he needed to move quickly. The death of the cleric was sure to bring unwanted attention to his activities, and the warrior had seen him! He had to fulfill his oath first with the goblins to avoid the curse of the blood scroll. That will be easy enough, he thought, he scribed the terms himself. He still wanted the book though, the book hidden in some forgotten chamber of this forgotten complex. But why had the cleric been after him? Something to do with that cursed sage in Threshold?
He had devoted almost 2 years to finding this place and the key to unlock the book; he made sure that only he knew the book was within this underground complex. He also knew the goblins, with whom he had struck the deal, were close to breaching the inner chambers. The complex itself had suffered collapses in a number of tunnels but the map displayed the tunnel, it only had to be cleared.
Bargle made his way to the corridors being cleared. He was back in control of his own mental facilities now. Some goblins were chipping away at the debris still within the tunnel; others looked up as he entered. Bargle quickly eyed the one he was searching for.
“You are to go and collect the rest of your tribe, it is time.” Bargle said.
The goblins all gaped at him as if trying to comprehend what he had just said. “It is time, master?” asked the goblin almost in disbelief. His gaping maw, which was eventually a smile, didn’t improve his already nasty visage.
“Bring them back as soon as you can,” explained Bargle in a calm and collective voice. “I will have the rest of you continue to dig while they are en route.”
Bargle caught the eye of his henchman, Stiles, who was supervising the digging. The confused look on his face caused Bargle to rethink the events that had forced him to hasten his plans. Should he inform Stiles of the impending danger to their discovery -That one of “them” had escaped?
Turning back to the goblins, “You must fulfill your promise however before anyone arrives or else the curse of the blood scroll will fall upon you all.” He made sure his gaze fell on each of them.
The statement; combined with the fact that the whole tribe was coming to take over the complex as agreed to and bound by the oath Bargle had made with their goblin chief had the effect he wanted. The remaining goblins quickly bent their backs to the work at hand with a new enthusiasm. Bargle knew that it would take a small army to root out the goblins once they were established here.
At this point Stiles stepped forward. “My lord?”
Bargle pulled him away from the goblins to speak. “Find the book,” he commanded sternly. “I must leave, and when you find the book return to me at castle Mistamere. Any other treasure you find will be yours.”
Stiles’ eye opened wide at that. “Yes my lord” he said most enthusiastically and began ordering the goblins to hasten their work.
“Pathetic!” Bargle had little hope the book would find him through Stiles.
Assuming Bargle escaped in the introductory adventure of the Basic D&D rulebook this adventure takes off from there. The solo adventure can occur as well, thus discovering the presence of the goblins behind the secret door or the solo adventure of the Basic Rulebook can be made part of this adventure and now the adventuring party (hired by the town clerics to avenge Aleena’s death) has quickly come back to deal with Bargle, believing he is still there.
The adventure itself is designed for 4-6 characters of 1st-2nd level.
Background and Synopsis
Bargle has been searching for a magical tome, the Book of Knowledge and Wisdom, which he caught wind of from an old sage in Specularum. The book was described as a large tome, bound in leather and metal casing with a skillfully crafted magical lock requiring a key. A wizard of little repute was in possession of the book but knew not what he had, unable to open it without the key1.
At great risk, Bargle had found the key to unlock the book, and also discovering the location where the book is hidden; only to find the complex had suffered a number of collapses. He quickly made a pact with a tribe of goblins to clear out the debris. In exchange for magical assistance against intruders, the goblins would clear out the debris and afterwards occupy the complex, build defenses, and otherwise protect it. That this lair would be extremely dangerous for the surrounding area was not Bargle’s concern.
Currently the goblins help guard and dig clear the corridors. Bargle has promised to help them becoming established in their new home and will undoubtedly call upon them in the future if the need arises.
Once the last tunnel blockage is removed, access to the remaining unscathed chambers is possible. The player characters will actually reach the goblins as they have just breached the blocked tunnel, a fist sized hole will show a passageway beyond. Assuming the PCs fight their way through the goblins, Stiles and other obstacles in the complex they will find the book, however, they will have no way of opening it without the key. They will find clues left behind by Bargle in his haste to leave that will allude to the nature of the book, however, and to the goblin tribe that will soon come to claim the complex as their own.
Bargle has more than one henchman. A thief in Threshold has been instructed to find out if the book had been found and to steal the book if necessary, creating more dislike for the wizard should he fail. Ultimately this will lead the party to continue the adventure against Bargle in the DMG Basic Rule book (or “Kill Bargle!” from Dungeon issue 150).
Ideally, in this campaign, Bargle survives and becomes a thorn in the side of the party and maybe particularly in one of the party members (i.e. the warrior who initially explored the dungeon and completed the solo adventure). Maybe a prudent DM would never even allow killing off this main character but rather having him around, causing as much pain and mishap as possible? DMs should play Bargle with genuine cunning and genius. In his early career, Bargle is seeking magic and knowledge, but he is neither stupid nor suicidal.
The Dungeon Map
The map includes the passageways and chambers of the introductory adventure walk-through from the Basic Rule Book, this was a simple map based on the reading. The solo map is also included to show how it links to the rest of the complex, allowing the present adventure to be played as a whole if none of the party has run the solo adventure.
Overall, the complex has suffered a number of cave-ins towards the back which Bargle has the goblins clearing out. These areas of digging are rough and almost tunnel like; even a dwarf would have to bend slightly to get through. The benefit to the characters is that sound is somewhat deadened. However a fleeing goblin will retreat to this area to warn the others. Stiles is amongst the goblins in this area. The secret doors in the back part of the complex have all shifted slightly and will be easy to spot, however they may be difficult to open.
Image: Adventure Map
Areas from the Red Box
Areas #1-6: on the map are from the introduction in the D&D Basic book. The only area that might be of specific note is area #4 where the ghouls are. They may be treated as wandering monsters as well.
Areas #7-13: are described in the solo adventure of the D&D Basic book.
There are three main entrances into the rest of the complex, two at area #14 and one up from area #4. The doors are heavily barred from the opposite side, as well as locked. Characters could hack through these heavy doors however the noise will attract attention.
Area #8a (treasure room): The secret door can be forced open quick enough to possibly surprise the goblin guard there, but he is alert.
14: GUARD POST
A couple of torches light this area where a lone goblin stands guard watching the barred door. (Note: there are no other torches in the corridors beyond this point.)
The occupants of the complex are unaware of this secret door and have become alert to intruders just recently. He can be surprised normally or with a bonus if the party can come up with a plan to increase their chances. Unless surprised, the goblin will run as fast as he can to warn the others.
Goblin (1): AC 6, HD 1-1, hp 4, MV 90’(30’), short sword 1d6, ML 7, carries 12 cp.
This room and passage have been avoided by the goblins as a giant spider lives here. Clearly she has been successful and has nabbed a couple of goblins for a meal. The invaders now feed the creature small animals to “confine” her to her lair and webs; they have trained the spider to expect her meal at a signal. Bargle figured he might as well put her to use guarding the passage. To do this any goblin running by will tap the webs to alert the spider which will come and get her meal. This will give the spider the 1-4 chance to surprise the characters.
The corridor branches to the right and you can clearly see webs semi blocking the passage straight ahead. The room itself was once a kitchen. Rotted tables and dented pots and pans litter the floor. Webs are thick here. There is a huge oven/fire pit against the far wall as well as a cistern full of murky water. The room is damp with harmless mold growing in places. Bones of small animals and two goblin corpses cover the floor near the fire pit/oven. The stench is almost overwhelming.
If the spider kills a character, it will drag that character back into the room if in the corridor, and try to pull the corpse up the chimney where it hides its food. Another corridor leads from this room however it is blocked with rubble and debris from a cave in. If a person searches the corpses they will find 23 cp and 14 ep.
Giant Black Widow Spider (1): AC 6, HD 3, hp 14, MV 60’ (20’) or 120’ (40’) in web, AT 1 bite, DM 2-12 + poison, ML 8
16. GOBLIN BARRACKS
The room is filthy and you can see a number of bundles on the floor. You can see the bundles slowly fall and rise and realize they are sleeping goblins. In the far corner is a rotted pile of broken wood that was once cots for the original inhabitants. Smashed chests also litter the corner.
The sleeping bundles are goblin workers that are resting. They take turns as guards, and digging the tunnels for Bargle. They have been working hard and they are used to the door opening and closing so they will actually sleep right through someone coming in that remain fairly silent. They can be easily dispatched if that is the player character’s intentions. If captured, they have no information to give accept that they dig for Bargle and his henchman. They will also tell of the promise Bargle made to bring their tribe here.
Goblins (6): AC 6, HD 1-1, hp 5, 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, MV 90’(30’), DM short sword 1d6, ML 7, each carries 2d12 cp, 1d4 ep.
17. CAPTAIN’S CHAMBER
The door has been left ajar and the room in general is much tidier than the previous barracks despite the fact that it looks to have been ransacked recently or, as if someone left in a hurry. There is a sleeping cot in one corner and a small writing table with a few papers strewn about.
This was Bargle’s room, abandoned in a hurry. The various papers on the desk cover supply manifests, other documents of daily administration, and the blood scroll (which Bargle did not deem important to take as he had fulfilled his end of the bargain). The scroll describes the simple agreement between Bargle and the goblins, allowing the goblins to have the complex for their digging the tunnels. The scroll radiates magic and will actually curse the party breaking the oath contained thereon. Should the party decide to destroy the scroll; the curse of the scroll will hit the party (curse of DM’s choice, save for half damage).
There is also a flat sheet of parchment that has fallen behind the table that the party will find if they search carefully. The paper contains notes which describe the book Bargle was looking for, as well as a general indication of where to find it (this complex).
The tunnels themselves are just big enough for goblins to walk through slightly bent. Human-sized creatures will need to crawl. It is not quite possible to look straight down through the tunnels and to the other side. At the first tunnel a muffled digging sound can be heard, however it seems distant.
At the end of the first tunnel is a portion of intact corridor with a branching passageway blocked by debris and newly dug rock and dirt deposited there. The sound of digging becomes louder as the players crawl deeper into the passageway; and voices of goblins and a human can be heard, though these too are muffled by the rugged passageway of another tunnel.
At some point a goblin will stumble into the area from the second tunnel carrying a basket of debris to dump if the party is still undetected. If the goblins and Stiles are aware of the party they will set up a trap in the last tunnel, ready to pounce on anyone coming out of the tunnel at area #19.
Goblin (1): AC 6, HD 1-1, hp 4, MV 90’(30’), DM 1d4, ML 7, carries 14 cp.
19. THE LAST DIG
Unless previously alerted, a small group of goblins and Stiles will be here as they have just broken through to the intact corridor beyond.
Torches align the wall, a partially uncovered door sits to the left, and several goblins, and a human, are busy filling baskets with rock and other rubble. As you come out the tunnel they turn to you and the human looks at you most comically and says, “Who the bloody hell are you?”
Stiles will not share any treasure, thinking that is what the party is there for, and attacks with the goblins if no good explanation of their presence comes from the party. Any mention of looking for Bargle will prompt Stiles to attack. Stiles might be a little slow in the head but he usually arrives at the right conclusion that if Bargle knew someone was coming and did not bother to tell him, it bodes evil for him. If the battle goes ill for Stiles he will back down and parley if he can. He will mention the book but he does not know any more than that. He will also mention that fact that he was promised whatever treasure was found. Stiles does not have to be loyal to Bargle, he wants to live. He might even be willing to join the party if played right.
The digging party has broken through and a hole the size of a fist can be seen in the end of the tunnel. It will not take the characters long to finish the job and continue the search for the book.
Stiles: F3, AC4 (chainmail), hp 14, DM 1d8, carries ring of protection +1, long sword, 34 gp, 16sp, 1 gem worth 100gp.
Goblin (5): AC 6, HD 1-1, hp 6, 5, 5, 4, 4 MV 90’(30’), DM Shovels/Pick Axes 1d6, ML 7, each carries 2d12 cp and 1d6 gp.
Rusting blades, rotted spear shafts, warped bows with rotted strings, a couple of rusted pieces of armor and other debris litter this room. A rotted quiver partially hanging from the wall has spilled a number of arrows (12) to the ground. The arrows, aside from dust, are in excellent condition. Three hideously malformed and rotted corpses amble slowly towards you as you search the room.
There is nothing of value in this room except the arrows, which are magical +1.
Zombies (3): AC 8, HD 2, hp 8, 7, 6, MV 90’ (30’), AT 1 claw, DM1-8.
21. TRAINING ROOM
This room is nearly empty except for two rotted fighting posts in the center of the room. It was obviously a training room at one time.
22. SUPPLY ROOM
Old barrels line the walls along with shelves of materials. It appears to have been a storage or supply room. Almost everything is rotten. As you hold your torch high to see all, you quickly notice movement in the far corner.
There are two giant centipedes in this room. One is moving away amongst the shelves and barrels and the other is clinging to the wall above the door as the party walked in. It will drop down on the first person it can, attacking by surprise unless the party has taken precautions. One half rotted crate contains 20 iron spikes, another half a dozen unused extremely dry torches. Lighting these will cause them to burst into flames very fast, causing 1-2 pts of damage to the person lighting them.
Giant Centipedes (2): AC 9, HD 1/2, hp 3, 2, MV 60’ (20’), AT 1 bite, DM Poison, ML 7
23. GREAT ROOM
This room appears to have been a great room or council room. A large table that still stands in the center of the room is covered by ages of dust and debris. The chairs have rotted and fallen into disrepair. A large fireplace sits behind the table head.
There is nothing of value in this room. The collapse has made the stonework of this fireplace very unstable and any searching and poking around will cause it to collapse on the person causing 1d6 points of damage. Allow a saving throw vs. Paralysis/Turn to Stone to avoid the falling stone. A dwarf will be able to tell upon examination that the stone is unstable. The secret door in the northeast corner is -1 to find due to the risk of falling debris.
24. COMMON ROOM
Entering this room causes a racket as your light glints on bleached bone. Three skeletons armed with short swords, tattered clothing hanging from their bones, move towards you with reckless abandon each skull issuing a silent scream of disdain for the living…
The room was a common room of some sort; everything has been smashed or destroyed leaving only splinters of rotted wood everywhere. The secret door leading to area 25 has partly rotted away making it +1 to find.
Skeletons (3): AC 7, HD 1, hp 6, 5, 5, MV 60’ (20), AT 1, DM 1-6
25. A WAY OUT
The passage leads to a flight of stairs going up.
Up to the next landing the party will disturb a nest of stirges. They will attack immediately. Searching their nest, the stirges have collected a few trinkets it appears. A golden earring worth 15gp and a silver signet ring worth 25gp by itself. This ring was long lost by a local prominent family in the town, (the party will easily recognize whom it would belong to). If returned, the family will give the players 350gp.
Stirges (5): AC 7, HD 1, hp 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, MV 30’ (10’) Flying 180’ (60’) AT 1, DM 1-3, ML 9
The passageway continues up another flight of stairs and you can feel fresh air coming in from a opening to the outside. The door is of rock and at one time was perfectly balanced, however now it has shifted and looks extremely heavy.
It will take a combined strength of at least 40 points. to move this stone enough for characters to pass through.
26. WIZARD’S BED CHAMBER
Upon entering this room you see a collapse in the far corner, a smashed bed and rotten furniture.
Searching the room will result in the finding of a small trap door in the floor that will be easy to discern. Underneath this door is a small recess dug into the floor and a partially covered chest! The chest is trapped with a blade trap causing 1-2 points of damage. The poison on the blade has long dried and lost its potency. It appears the bottom of the chest has been under some water at one time as it is partially rotted. However, the chest is full of coins and a large book, 2 vials of liquid that are potions. One is strength, the other a potion of healing with 2 doses. There are 156 cp, 75 sp, 45 ep and 40 gp. Also a small oiled pouch with 25 pp in it and 3 gems each worth 100 gp.
The book is the wizard’s spell book and unfortunately many of the pages are ruined. However, a few spells can be recovered, with careful handling. The book was wrapped in an oil cloth so the damage is limited to the part that was submerged. Four first-level spells and three second level have been preserved (DMs can choose the specific spells to fit their campaign).
27. WIZARD’S STUDY
Entering this room you see a huge collapse in the far corner; a partially covered and damaged fire place, tables and shelves smashed and destroyed along the collapsed wall. Broken glass litters the floor. A huge rock has fallen from the ceiling and you can see a skeleton partially buried underneath it. There is a translucent figure of a human that appears to be working around some other tables and shelves.
Seeing the ghost the characters must save vs. fear (spells) or flee the place for 1-4 turns. The ghost of the wizard is harmless. It will not acknowledge the character in any way. Nor will the characters be able to communicate with it. On one of the partially collapsed shelves is a large book - dust covered, but well preserved and intact. It is metal bound with a lock. If the characters have found any clues about the book they will recognize it immediately. The book cannot be opened without the key Bargle has. The book cannot be burned or ruined without high level magic. This is the Book of Knowledge and Wisdom. Unable to open it, the wizard simply put it on the shelf with the rest of the books not even knowing what he had.
28. STATUE CAVE
The secret door moves hard.
You hear the soft drip of water further on and as you turn the corner a glimmering statue catches the light of your torches and lanterns. The statue is of a woman, however almost clear, and as if made of crystal. As the light plays off the statue’s features you can see it is the same woman as in the front entrance of the complex. The dais she stands on is in the middle of a pool of water within a fountain base.
The statue is a water weird. Having heard the characters passing through the secret door it assumed statue shape quickly. It has lived off the life force of rodents for so long it can barely contain itself in this form anticipating a feast. If the characters are truly observant they may see the eyes actually move or believe they see them moving. The old wizard had captured this weird and kept it here for studies. He would “feed” it regularly but never did he get too close. While dangerous, this weird is relativity week. If the players get close enough to see what is in the fountain, they are too close and the weird attacks. The pool is only 4 feet deep but clear and water drips from the ceiling to keep it full. The bottom is littered with small rodents and even human skeletons. There is no other treasure.
Water Weird (1): AC 5, HD 3*, HP 12, MV 60’(20’), AT 1 DM 1 + drowning.
Appendix: The Book of Knowledge and Wisdom
The Book of Knowledge and Wisdom, found in Area 27 of the dungeon, is an artifact crafted by the immortals themselves to store all the knowledge and wisdom they possessed. It can be read by only one individual at a time and the contents of the book change to match its reader’s comprehension and ability. It is never the same. A single person can read this book his whole life and continue to learn from it.
The book imbibes the reader with wisdom and knowledge at a rate of 1pt. per game year, alternating each year between wisdom and intelligence. For example: reading the book for two years adds 1 point to each basic ability). This requires the reader to spend at least the number of hours equal to their intelligence and wisdom combined per week reading and studying the book. It is a large book weighing 20 lbs.
The one who possesses the key is considered the “reader”; without the key the book is impossible to use. Once a person starts reading the book he is bound to it. If the key is given to another or stolen or lost, the original reader will slowly be driven mad, losing all wisdom and intelligence at the same rate he gained it, but never stopping, eventually reducing wisdom, and intelligence to nothing. The book cannot be left open after reading. The reader will always close it thus locking it, desirous of keeping his knowledge secret and safe.
There are only a few sages throughout the lands that would have any detailed knowledge of this book. Many will have heard of it though. One was made silent by Bargle. It is a wonderful and frightening artifact. It is valuable to a point but without the key the players will be hard pressed to find a buyer in any small town or village that would only give more than 100 gp for it, especially if they do not know what it actually is. Do not let the players know what they have come into possession of without considerable seeking of knowledge. This can be an ongoing subplot if the characters decide to keep the book. Bargle has the key and if Bargle finds out they have the book he will do everything in his power to obtain it.
Frank Mentzer, Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, TSR, 1983
1 See the full description in Appendix: The Book of Knowledge and Wisdom