View Full Version : Tunnels - how to make them more interesting?

2021-01-18, 02:59 PM
My players are crossing grasslands that are inhabited by alpaca herding nomadic halflings. The alpacas have been disappearing, and sinkholes appearing. My players do not yet know that the sinkholes and missing alpacas are because of ankhegs. They have jumped into a sinkhole and found a tunnel (left by an ankheg). Eventually this tunnel will lead to an abandoned church with stained glass monster prisons, and a man who controls the ankhegs, with a goal that links into the overarching story.

My question - how do i make the tunnel they are in interesting?

2021-01-18, 03:06 PM
Put interesting stuff in the tunnels. Maybe the ankhegs have been snatching some people too, or have burrowed into kobold lairs and the kobolds are fighting the ankhegs. Basically add a second dimension.

2021-01-18, 04:46 PM
Dripping ichor. Think of the tunnel scenes in the second season of Stranger Things. Something living burrowed and has MAINTAINED a massive portion of the tunnels. They do this with secretions to support the loose dirt.

Find dung and animal parts. This way the PCs can identify the diet of the unknown creatures.

2021-01-19, 12:46 PM
Shed insect exoskeletons... only bits of it. Finding a fragment of a mandible bigger than your forearm will make an impression, thatís for sure.

2021-01-19, 01:09 PM
The tunnels might not be stable in some areas. Sliding landmasses, collapsing ceilings, muddy floors or a chasm they have to cross.

Some other natural phenomenon they can wonder about, like the roots of a tree sprouting along the wall, or a small number of animals, like moles.

A superstitious farmer looking for treasure who thinks the characters are some kind of underground fairy?

2021-01-19, 05:18 PM
Problem: long, straight empty hallways make for boring encounters.

So the question is, what do you do to the tunnels to make them not that?

An easy one is introduce curves. A snakey tunnel creates Windows of visibility PCs and monsters can both try to take advantage off. Side tunnels that create alternative paths serve a similar function.

Another are hazards, such as pits of mud, crumbling bits of ceiling, clumps of roots from above that interfere with arrows or tall characters. places where the tunnel get narrow enough a roll is needed to push through. Theyíre not likely to be hidden (or at least well hidden), but theyíre still traps combatants need to maneuver around.

You can also have creatures with burrow speeds move through the walls, at which point places where the walls/floors are covered in stone and which they canít use become tactically important. Confined spaces also make things with small AoEs like lightning bolt more potent.

2021-01-19, 09:30 PM
Ankheg hunters, looking for ankheg shells to be sold to a traveling armorer who will be in the area for a short time.

A young dragon. The Ankhegs have burrowed into itís lair. Itís strong enough to deal with a few ankhegs, but not a co-ordinated assault. So it is trying to get out of the dungeon with its meagre hoard.

Fugitives from the evil underground race of choice looking for a hiding place from their persecutors.

Religious fanatics trying to reclaim the chapel.

Sentient llamas or llama centaurs trying to figure what is happening to THEIR alpacas. (In the Andes farmers use llamas as guard dogs to protect flocks of alpacas. Llamas are perpetually grumpy, protective, paranoid and unpredictable so just use that as your basis for any encounters).

All of these can be spun as combat encounter, diplomatic encounter, trade opportunity or allies depending on you and your playerís whims.

2021-01-20, 04:27 PM
Also, time warp the boring bits. "You follow the tunnel for about an hour and then you hear..."

2021-01-26, 08:57 AM
Maybe add certain clues to help the player figure out the tunnels are used by Ankhegs? Something like a Bullette carcass with evidence of a fight having taken place. A successful investigation check could reveal remains of chitin or an antennae.