Roleplay opportunities in a mine (level 2)

jayoungr

Explorer
So I need to have an adventure ready to run at a birthday party in a couple of weeks. The PCs are level 2 and will be exploring a long-disused mine. I want to have opportunities for combat, exploration, and roleplay in the adventure. Combat and exploration seem easy in this case--I'll toss in a few hazards or puzzle rooms, and maybe some rust monsters. But roleplay is going to be trickier, so I thought I'd turn to the community here and see if you have any ideas.

The obvious solution is for someone to have gotten into the mine from the Underdark, but I have a couple of caveats about that. First, the players will be mostly 13-year-old girls, so I don't want to get too graphic or edgy. Second, this is a follow-up to a session I ran last spring, and the "birthday girl" is probably the only returning player. She is running a drow rogue, who will be the only drow PC, so anything involving drow is going to affect that character disproportionately.

Oh, and I gave her brother a copy of the Starter Set for his birthday last spring; it's safe to guess that the whole family has probably looked at Lost Mine of Phandelver, so I can't really borrow anything from that adventure.

So, can anyone suggest roleplay scenarios, or do you know of any other mine-related adventures I could borrow from?
 
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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Well the obvious answer is the mine connects to some Dwarven community (disused because the ore is tapped out - so now it's a home to nasties that have started harassing the Dwarves?) - perhaps they encounter a raiding party that's trying to deal with the same problem they are? Perhaps there's some argument over who wants to get the glory?

Drow vs Dwarf might be an interesting dynamic? (and if there's another Dwarf in the party, perhaps they're some cousin to one of the raiders?)
 

MarkB

Hero
One suggestion: The ghosts (or at least spirits - actual Monster Manual ghosts might be a little tough at 2nd level) of two miners are still inhabiting the mine. Each claims to have useful information for the party in return for helping them move on to the afterlife - but each one claims that the other is lying, and is actually the spirit of one of the invaders who killed the miners. By questioning both spirits and investigating the mine, the PCs must deduce which of them is telling the truth.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
A social interaction challenge (because combat and exploration are roleplay!) might be the ghost of a miner who died in a cave-in who isn't aware of it. If the PCs can figure out what happened and explain it to the ghost, he or she can move on to the afterlife. If the PCs are successful, the miner shares with them a tunnel that serves as a useful shortcut around a dangerous area (perhaps a cave filled with odorless, explosive gas) and/or leads to a cave that contains a treasure.

Edit: Dang! [MENTION=40176]MarkB[/MENTION] upstaged me!
 

toucanbuzz

Explorer
1. Dungeon Magazine #134, "Home Under the Range." Was running Age of Worms and this was in the magazine. Fun adventure. Even if you can't find a copy, could homebrew your own. Premise:[sblock] it's a cowboy/cowgirl herding session. Dwarves are excavating to the site of a fallen hero to recover her artifact hammer and bury her bones with her ancestors, but they can't because tieflings, using magical darkness, keep ambushing them. Unknown to the dwarves, when the dwarf hero collapsed a cavern upon her and a demon, the demon survived, albeit trapped. The demon sent a magical servant for help, and it gathered the demon's progeny. The dwarf's first caravan of these beetles was ambushed, so they are forced to get outside help to aid the excavation site. If you can find it, probably fairly easy to convert. If not, could make up your own herding rules, unique encounters that aren't all necessarily hack n slash such as mushroom grove that distracts them (and some sentient mushrooms that try to eat beetles only), and so on.[/sblock]

2. Some brainstorming non-combat ideas off another forum.
 

Sadras

Explorer
Whenever I think of low-level and mines I think of the Nashkel mines in the Baldur's Gate I PC game.

Good times. :)
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
For RP in that sort of situation (i.e., not one I can easily drop an NPC into), I will often bounce that ball into the court of the PCs. I might start with them setting up camp next time they take a long rest and ask them questions like “what to do you do before you rest?” or “what do you talk about?” If I need to lead them, I might say something like “You notice an old, broken statuette and it reminds you of something in your past. What is it?”

I find that all it takes is one person to really get into it to pull the rest of the group into some good RP.
 

S'mon

Legend
A friendly but eccentric ghost? A dead miner?

Running Stonehell Dungeon - the Cursed Mine area recently, there was a helpful dwarf ghost miner who was a cool NPC.

Edit: I see most of the thread has the same idea LOL :D
 
The obvious solution is for someone to have gotten into the mine from the Underdark, but I have a couple of caveats about that. First, the players will be mostly 13-year-old girls, so I don't want to get too graphic or edgy. Second, this is a follow-up to a session I ran last spring, and the "birthday girl" is probably the only returning player. She is running a drow rogue, who will be the only drow PC, so anything involving drow is going to affect that character disproportionately.
There’s a knocking sound coming from the walls. At first it’s faint but gradually the rogue realizes its a type of Thieves’ Cant used by prisoners to communicate without their captors realizing it. Who is the originator of this knocking sound, and are they indeed held captive? A down-on-her-luck kobold who picked up some Thieves’ Cant And wants the PCs to aid her on a quest? A lost elven mage-thief hiding from monsters who occasionally weaves in a minor illusion or prestidigitation into her knocking to make it seem spooky? Is it actually a ghost? Are they telling the truth about who they are? Maybe the “knocker” can provide the PCs with clues when they’re stumped, play on their heart strings, or provide comic relief?
 
I do not have suggestions for what to hit them with, but I would suggest making the characters 3rd level, rather than 2nd. That way all of them will have a subclass already and not feel less useful than characters who already have their starting abilities before 3rd level. Plus, 3rd level characters are more likely to survive the mistakes a new player can make.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I do not have suggestions for what to hit them with, but I would suggest making the characters 3rd level, rather than 2nd. That way all of them will have a subclass already and not feel less useful than characters who already have their starting abilities before 3rd level. Plus, 3rd level characters are more likely to survive the mistakes a new player can make.
Given the players are 13 and generally newbies, I think there’s no need to over think it! :)
 

guachi

Villager
B10 Night's Dark Terror has a short encounter involving a mine. It's a side quest so it's not part of the main story and could be used basically anywhere.

Premise: Gnome and some dwarves can't go back into a small mine because there's a big nasty spider attacking them. Also, at the other end is a small group of orcs.

PCs encounter some traps, including some very small silver living statues. The spider lurks throughout the dungeon and it's beady eyes can be seen until it attacks! Also, the PCs can free some dwarves tied up by the spider in its web.

The orcs can be encountered on the other side of the mine and have their own entrance (unknown to the gnome and dwarves) so if the PCs are clever enough they can drive the orcs out without having to fight them.

EDIT: Checking the actual adventure - the series of encounters is all of 1 2/3 pages with the map maybe being 1/2 a page. The entire adventure is a marvel of page economy.

It turns out it's two gnomes and a dozen dwarves. They don't know about the spider but they do know about the orcs. Four dwarves and one gnome are missing. There is a fragment of a web that is numb to the touch. The orcs worship the shroud spider but fear it.

The social encounters are whatever interactions you want with the one remaining gnome and 8 remaining dwarves. There are some exploration encounters in the mine - paralyzed orc, old workfaces, a roof that collapses, yellow mold, an unsafe floor.

Encounters:
- The dozen one foot tall silver living statues.
- An ochre jelly
- Shroud spider lair (spider might not be there) with a skeleton with treasure - a silver and gold belt.
- Spider food store with web-shrouded bodies - two orcs, two dwarves, and one gnome
- Smaller caverns with orcs
- Orc lair with remaining orcs. Lots of treasure.

That's it. It turns out it's probably more than the 6-8 encounters you'd want in a day if only because the shroud spider and orc lair can be quite tough. But if the PCs were level 3 or the numbers of orcs reduced and the spider less threatening (It's 5HD and 28 HP, which is a lot for Basic D&D) it should be doable.

Good mix of encounter types. Good fun!
 
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5ekyu

Adventurer
First, my go to answer for "what should i" questions is always "look at the PCs - character background, class and race - pick one element from each that you can use to reach the next whatever you are seeking. In a party of four PCs that gives you an even dozen aspects to draw on.

Drow superior darkvision - messages on the walls that only that can see? mystery to solve?

now given this "First, the players will be mostly 13-year-old girls, so I don't want to get too graphic or edgy. " i confess when i think of 13 yo girls and modern sense i think "not too edgy" seems way out of place - recalling my own niece at 13. But hey, lets run with something approaching a desire for stereotypical "cute".

Find a wounded creature of special that died just inside the mine entrance that crawled in thru an opening. Show by various means it was bringing back a kill. Show it was wounded in some horrible way... bear trap gnawed off its own leg, poisoned etc. Have clues point to its lair being further in and to hunters still being in pursuit tracking. (I would introduce the hunters before this encounter - show them to be jerks.)

Now the game is afoot to get to the lair before the hunters - especially if "bringing back a kill" is something done for "young newborns" or for males while the wife is "nesting" etc.

Make the creature "special and intriguing" in its own rights.

How do they want to approach the varmint and lair? How do they want to interact with hunters? etc
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Taking inspiration from the Kickstarter-funded movie Dragon Mountain (trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsG3XShs7JE).

If this is a one-off, use pregens with all characters being humans or dwarves. But you could also use their existing characters, come up with some reason they are in the mine (perhaps they were hired to root out who has been sabotaging mining operations).

The session starts after a mine collapse. If pregens, the party is trapped together and need to find a way to work together and escape. Otherwise, the party finds itself trapped with a small group of dwarves and humans.

The mine is owned by a powerful human empire that employs Dwarves to operate it. Due to the empires hegemony, territorial disputes, and insatiable need for material, there have been occasional hostilities between it and many of the dwarven clans. The dwarven minor harbor enmity towards and mistrust of humans.

One of the dwarves (either NPC or a player if using pregens) is a member of a rebel group deemed a terrorist organization by the human empire. S/he is responsible for the collapse. It was not intended that anyone would die. The intent was only to disrupt operations. But s/he did not know about a number of secret passages and rooms that the humans had created, which weakened the structural integrity of the mine. The humans took measures to make the mine easily collapsible should the dwarves turn against them. This dwarf will be unfamiliar and suspicious to at least one of the other dwarves as s/he is not from their clan and new to the mine. This dwarf is also the only one who knows how to run the mining machines (see below).

The collapse opened the mine to part of the underdark and to the lair of a subterranean beast that feeds off of metallic minerals. The party and NPCs should see it as an existential threat that causes them to work together. You could reskin an ankheg or rust monster (or several). There should be non-combat options if the players want to try that. In the movie, the creature was not evil, just a beast, and it was after their oil not to eat them. They were able to distract it with "food" and also make away with some of its eggs giving the minors much needed food. This was after combat weakened it. So you can have a bit of both or just play it as a combat threat.

One of the humans (NPC or pregen player) knows of some secret passages that can provide shelter, make escape easier, etc.

In the movie the steam-punk them added much to the movies flavor. It created a resource challenge and getting them to work and keep working were important for light and for possible escape. For D&D you can make these machines or magic devices. Light might not be so important if you are playing with a lot of dwarves, but if many of the party do not have dark sense, the fear of having no light source can make it important to keep the machines fueled and running. I would say that you have challenges to: (1) keep light sources fueled, (2) run machines that bring in fresh air and remove dangerous gases (if the party doesn't get these running they will eventually suffer levels of exhaustion until they die), (3) communicate with the outside world (which will give them invaluable tips to succeed).

Getting the parts and fuel for the machines should involve clearing rubble, skill challenges, avoiding the dangerous creatures in the mine with them. Some parts should be locked in secure storage rooms and safes that require puzzles to solve, locks to pick, etc.

If you want something more fun house with more in-your-face puzzle challenges, the collapse instead reveals an ancient dwarven tomb, which may provide a route back to the surface, but only if they solve the puzzles, avoid the traps, and defeat the undead challenge. But I like the flavor of the escape the mine by putting together machines by avoiding strange beast. Any puzzles I would try to work into putting the machines together. Perhaps the machine to communicate with the outside world was meant for high-level management only and no one who can operate it survived. To operate it you must solve a puzzle meant to keep the average minor from ever using it.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Another option would be to have a cowardly NPC tag along. They claim to know secrets about the mine, or are perhaps sent along to make sure the PCs report back honestly. Perhaps they inherited the mine and need to do a survey and will reward the NPCs for cleaning the place out. It could even be more than one NPC, depending if you want them to slowly disappear during the adventure (probably to be rescued later).

They are non-combatants who simply defend themselves or run away during fights (potentially getting lost and/or trapped in a web somewhere). They are primarily there to add comic relief or possibly a villain. They could be truly helpful and just afraid of their own shadow or they're secretly leading yet another group of hapless adventurers to their doom. Either could be fun.

Anyway, good luck!
 
I want to co-sign the "Ghost" suggestion, I LOVE "Ghosts in a mine" encounter.

I've run for that age group before in after school programs. And while I hate to stereotype, I will say that the "13 year old girl" demographic has, in the past, responded very well to any plot hooks revolving around rescuing/helping some kind of unusual animal, which can be kept as a pet for the rest of the adventure.
 

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