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While traveling through the wilderness as the sun is about to set, you spot someone camping not far from the highway. If you go in for a closer look, you see a rough-looking man, unkempt and poking at the fire with a stick, until he senses your approach and leaps to his feet.
“What do you want?” he asks with a tremor in his voice, appearing ready to flee at the slightest provocation. Should you greet him calmly and assure him you mean no harm, he calms down.
“I thought you were something else,” he mutters sitting down once more. He extends an offer to join his humble camp, and should you accept, he will tell you why his nerves are frayed.
“I’m a thief and a scoundrel,” he explains without shame. I used to operate with a bunch of like-minded lads, and we’d go around the land looking for stuff to steal. We made a pretty good living, until a few weeks ago.
“We heard of a legend about an old shrine that had been built under a barrow, forgotten out in the wilds. There were some strange earthen monsters protecting it, but we fought through them and found what we were looking for.
“A small gold figurine sat on the outstretched hands of a statue, probably worth more than all the loot we’d stolen for the past year combined. We celebrated, getting blind drunk that very night. When I woke, I had the horrible feeling I’d had dreadful nightmares all night, but I couldn’t remember anything specific.
“I don’t know to what god that shrine was built, but every few nights for the last three weeks, one of our gang didn’t wake up. Their faces were twisted in fear, as if something had scared them to death.”
Your host takes a long swig of some strong liquor, before composing himself to speak further. “I’m one of the last from our gang who’s still alive and sane. The others are either dead, or ran away screaming. I have no intention of going out like they did. I haven’t slept in three days, and I won’t until I get this cursed figurine back to the shrine and hope that fixes things.
“Honestly, I’m exhausted and I don’t know if I can do this on my own. Those earth-creatures were kind of nasty and if they’ve returned, I doubt I’ll be able to fight my way through them. You look like an experienced traveler; could I ask you to get me into that shrine? I’m trying to undo the trouble I started. Yeah, I’m a thief, but I don’t think I deserve to go out like that.”
If you agree to help this man atone for his crime, he offers you his thanks. “The name’s Morgan. The shrine isn’t far from here. Let’s get this over with.” He douses the fire and if you follow, he leads you away from his camp in the twilight, over some terrain covered in sparse vegetation.
You travel for nearly half an hour, and in the dim half-light of the early evening you come across a narrow gully with rocky walls. Morgan draws a dagger and tells you to be wary, for this is the place near where he acquired the cursed figurine.
“There are stairs down along the east and west walls of this place,” he whispers. “We just have to go to one of them, which go down to a series of tunnels that lead to the shrine.” Just as he finishes speaking, you hear someone jump out at you from behind a pillar of rock in the center of the gully. A few more follow him, rushing straight for you with swords and daggers drawn!
“Give it to me!” screams the one in front, coming right for Morgan! “We have to stop the voices talking in our minds!”
“Lann, you’ve gone mad!” Morgan shouts, even as he backs away. There’s no time for further talk as you are forced to defend yourselves from these mad ruffians!
Should you survive, Morgan tells you that they were part of the crew he was with. “The poor bastards were driven mad. I guess the figurine spoke to them, telling them where to find me? This cursed thing has to go back right away!” He goes to the walls of the gully and looks around until he finds the stairs down.
If you follow, you soon find yourself in a small network of caves that appear to have been carved by people long ago. As you wander around, you see signs of former habitation, and sense a feeling of disquiet around you. Soon, you notice some of the walls are moving! Earth elementals emerge from the stone and dirt, layered with clumps of roots and soil as they flail at you!
“Hold them off while I return this thing to the shrine!” Morgan yells. If you survive the fight, you quickly find Morgan has entered a chamber with a statue that seems to be surrounded by a pond filled with blood-red water. Morgan places the figurine back on the statue’s extended hands, and immediately there is a sense of relief in the tunnels.
The remains of the elementals seep back into the ground, and Morgan staggers towards the stairs.
“Thanks for the assist,” he mumbles as he staggers towards the stairs. “I wish I could repay you… wait, I have an old stash not far from here. You can take it, I owe you that much at least. Let’s head back to my camp and rest up.”
The next day, Morgan gives you directions to his stash before he packs up, then waves farewell, telling you he’s going to find a quiet place to sleep for a few days. If you follow his directions, you soon find a small chest buried behind a dead tree. Inside is a pile of gold coins and a few gems, a fine reward for your assistance!
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Inventor of the SabreRPG system (which we love), Steve's the wonderful GM who hosted many fantastic campaigns for the Seafoot family. He's been writing, illustrating, and publishing his own books for over a decade, and is best known for The Aielund Saga. We're so glad to have him on our team writing these fantastic adventure modules, as well as Adventurer's Guides. His experience as both writer and GM makes him incredible at what he does, and we think you'll agree when you read his work!