A Dirty Way In (3.5e Quest)

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A Dirty Way In[edit]

Intended for four level 2-4 adventurers.

That most essential character of the fantasy city, the nameless guardsman, is often an expository NPC, but in this quest, the players approach the guards as enemies. Not as hostile enemies with ill intent, but rather as living, breathing obstacles to their true goal. This should awaken the moral roleplayer in your players.

The quest is designed with the city of Redford and the campaign setting of Years of Gold in mind, but the ubiquity of guardsmen in fantasy makes it extremely easy to adapt to any city location with a sewer and corrupt nobility.

  • Prep Time 30 min
  • Play Time 1-2 hours


Easily forgotten, yet all-important.

A short dungeon crawl preceded by a longer, roleplay-heavy investigation. The focus is on neither of these alone, but rather the dynamic: fashioning a plan, building up tension, the releasing it in a burst of action. The mood is up to you, but the quest works wonders with a somewhat darker feel to it.


The Gateguard of Redford, once the proud defenders of city grounds, has long ago fallen into ruin: the riches of the nobles bribed most of the soldiers, and their hired blades took care of the rest. Now, the Gateguard answers to the highest bidder: of the two Gateguard headquarters, the northern one unofficially belongs to the Von Leavens, while the southern one is in the pockets of the foul Von Gutherberg family.


  • Even the corrupt nobles of Redford have become displeased with Alexander von Gutherberg - they want him gone
  • Lucas Hayworth, the sheriff of Redford, wants the party to apprehend Alexander and bring him to justice, albeit alive
  • The characters receive a mysterious demand to kill Alexander for payment, sent by the done-with-life noble himself


The quest is in two parts: first, the party must come up with a plan to assault the well-defended guardhouse, and gather enough intel to pull off their plan; then comes the assault, where the actual dungeon crawl/assassination takes place.


Stage One: Planning the Attack[edit]

The guardhouse is manned by sixteen Gateguard soldiers along with Alexander von Gutherberg, the leader of the soldiers (his infamous family name, received through marriage, leveraged him the position). Attacking head-on would be suicide (EL 10; if the characters could manage this, increase the class levels of the guards and Alexander accordingly). Instead, the players have to be clever about it.

Due to the general corruption and laziness of the Gateguard, only a third of their numbers (five or six) are out on duty even in the busy morning and evening hours. At night, the guard sleeps (except for Alexander and whatever poor saps he's forcing to drink with him), but will be quickly roused if a fight erupts.

Alexander himself doesn't sleep at the guardhouse, instead retreating to a private, well-guarded residence for a few hours of sleep during the day. He spends almost all his time drinking and wasting time in the guardhouse. He can be assassinated on the street while moving from location to location, but getting the route can be difficult, and he moves with a bodyguard of Gateguard soldiers (around four to six).

The players can assault the guardhouse through whatever plot they wish, but two obvious ones spring to mind: entering through the dilapidated sewer system that the guardhouse lavatory deposits to, or quickly rushing through the hallway of the building, taking out Alexander, then descending into the sewers to escape. Both plans have their dangers (and the party better deal with Alexander quickly), but should be allowed to work, along with other clever ideas.

Various skills can be used to glean information about the guardhouse, its daily operation and the sewer underneath it. Diplomacy, Gather Information, Intimidate and Knowledge (local) can provide the following information, provided the players direct the questions to the correct people (their best bet are drunken soldiers, workers of the guardhouse (cleaners, prostitutes etc.) and even sewer maintenance).

Diplomacy, Gather Information, Intimidate and Knowledge (local)
DC Result
10 Redford has two larger guardhouses and several smaller ones integrated into the city wall.
15 Alexander von Gutherberg, a relative-by-marriage of the Von Gutherberg lineage, is the alcoholic, corrupt captain of the Gateguard.
20 Alexander spends almost all his time in the main guardhouse, drinking away his life; he only leaves to sleep a few scant hours at midday, protected by several soldiers (a check this high gives a +5 to +10 insight bonus to further checks, depending on the circumstances).
25 The sewer system running underneath most of Redford has a branch directly under the guardhouse (a check this high gives a +5 to +10 insight bonus to further checks, depending on the circumstances).
30 The guard is most active during the early morning and late evening hours, when the merchants enter and leave the city (a check this high reveals the sewer entrance location).

Stage Two: In for the Kill[edit]

Guardhouse Sewers.png

All through the sewers there are ladders leading in and out of the sewage, as well as out of the sewers (check map); under normal conditions, the players enter the sewers from the eastmost part of the southern sewer. It takes 10 feet of movement to ascend or descend one of these ladders. Descending into the sewage with open wounds or getting sewage in one's mouth exposes that character to filth fever (Fortitude DC 11, incubation period 1d3 days, damage 1d3 Dex and 1d3 Con).

NOTE: Whenever coordinates are present, alphabets are vertical and numbers are horizontal.

A1 - Southern Sewer[edit]

The smell of human filth violates your nostrils as you descend into those parts of Redford most would rather forget. The sewer is wider than you expected, but the vaulted red-tile ceiling is claustrophobically low: even a man of average length would have to stoop here. To the west, the tunnel continues into darkness; to the east, the tunnel terminates into an archway that plunges into the sewage. Absolutely filthy water gurgles by between walkways. At least it's moving.

A series of 20ft.-wide tunnels with a 10ft.-wide stream of sewage (5ft. deep) and two 5ft-wide walkways (1ft. above sewage), 5ft. high (check map). Northern gates block the running of water, locked (hardness 10, 60 hp; Strength DC 30 to burst).

A2 - Ruined Living Room (EL 3)[edit]

Most of Redford is built on older Redford. So too here: this must once have been the living room or hall of a mansion in ages past, but now has been rediscovered and quickly forgotten about. A great, sewage-filled crack, perhaps from some past disaster (natural or magical), runs through the middle. Piles of rubbish rise in the corners and a thoroughly rotten bookshelf leans against the wall near you. A massive, rusted valve pokes from the back of the room.

Partial 25ft.-by-35ft. room (check map), 5ft. high. Piles of rubbish (A5, C1, D5, F3) that count as difficult terrain. A bookshelf (G4-5) with nothing but mold in it. A stream of sewage 3ft. deep (check map). A massive valve (A2) that opens the gate in the southern sewers; three consecutive Strength DC 12 checks must be made to work through the rusty, heavy piece of equipment.

Ten dire rats make the sewage and the cracks of the walls their haunt. To notice them in time, a Spot DC 18 is required; otherwise, the rats surprise the party. The rats attack viciously but like the cowards they are, retreat if facing heavy opposition: if half of their numbers go down, the rest make their escape.

A3 - Maniac Nook (EL 4)[edit]

Beyond the gate the sewer makes a small detour, with a platform to the east. There might once have been a ladder to the surface here, but the ceiling has collapsed into a pile. More worrying than weakened masonry, however, are the haunted souls that have made the platform their camp: three sick-looking, rag-wearing men, picking clean the body of a fourth. Two feral dogs whimper and growl in the corner, with one of the men hacking at their direction with a short sword every now and then. When one of the dogs howls at you, the men turn their eyes to your direction - and attack without hesitation.

25ft.-by-30ft. room, of which two-fifths is sewage (5ft. deep) and the rest is platform (1ft. above sewage), 5ft. high. A pile of collapsed red tiles (A4-5, B4-5), several rags arranged into beds around an eaten corpse in the south end of the platform. Three diseased, maddened lowlifes (changes: AC 11 (no armor), longspear +3 melee (1d8+3/×3), throwing axe +2 ranged (1d6+2), filth fever—weapons, Fortitude DC 11, incubation period 1d3 days, damage 1d3 Dex and 1d3 Con) that got stuck in the sewer and their equally maddened dogs (treat as wolves) attack the party to feast on their flesh.

Two of the maniacs wield clubs (a broken red tile for one and a length of rusty pipe for the other) while one still has his longspear; this makes him the de facto boss of the bunch. The two dogs charge to the water's edge and maul away at waterbound foes, while the spear-wielding maniac skewers them from afar. If and when the characters get ashore, the club-wielders join the fray. The maniacs are far too insane to stop the fight, but the dogs will run away if taking too much of a beating.

A4 - Northern Sewer (EL 4)[edit]

Sometimes, the light leads to nothing but trouble.

(horizontal part) The sewer looks much the same as elsewhere, although to your left the ceiling has given way and the tunnel ends into a wall of broken supports, red tiles and human waste. The tunnel before you continues for a while before terminating into an archway that dips below the sewage's surface.

(vertical part) The sewer is thoroughly ruined here as well - has Redford suffered from an earthquake in the past, or is the construction truly this shoddy? What might once have been a ladder to the surface is now a dilapidated mess, and at one point the walkway gives way to a cavernous hole.

A series of 20ft.-wide tunnels with a 10ft.-wide stream of sewage (5ft. deep) and two 5ft-wide walkways (1ft. above sewage), 5ft. high (check map). The remains of a ladder (15ft.-by-5ft. indent on south wall) with the entrance to the surface blocked. The archway that plunges below the water in the north leads to the maniac camp (check arrow on map). A crazy, mischievous sorcerer patrols the hall, talking to himself and delighting in terrifying those he happens upon with illusions.

The sorcerer prefers stygian masses of flesh and tentacled horrors in his illusion-weaving. The players can get through the sorcerer's illusions and question him, but he has no idea about the goings-on outside the little part of the sewer he's willfully stranded in. He lies out of habit - poor lies, too - and giggles when he's found out. He can warn the party about the maniac camp further in the sewers, as well as about their assassin vine trap.

A5 - Ruined Dining Room[edit]

More of the ruins under the city here. This place looks like a dining room, although one you wouldn't like to eat in. The rotten, round table in the middle of the room still houses the remains of petrified, moldy food, the original form of which you can only guess at. Stairs, both intact and broken, surround it, with a few more broken ones pushed against the corner. Two armoires brood in the back corners, hemming an old fireplace between them.

30ft.-by-15ft. room with two 10ft.-by-5ft. alcoves, 5ft. high. Massive round table (B3-4, C3-4) with spoiled foodstuffs on it, along with tarnished silver cutlery (worth 100 gp). Two armoires (one in each alcove), the left one containing cheap plates, wooden spoons, several pots and pans and a whiteware dish (worth 50 gp), and the right one containing several aprons, dishcloths, bottles of cheap wine (long since turned to vinegar) and a half-full bottle of gin.

A6 - Ruined Cupboard[edit]

This rooms looks to be the remains of a large cupboard. It's entirely possible that the entire area of this part of the sewer was once the ground floor and basement of a particularly brobdingnagian mansion, but it's been fairly thoroughly wasted. So too here: most of the furniture has either rotten away or been stolen, except for a stubborn shelf, green and blue with mold, sitting in the end of the room. The back wall has given way to a lit room beyond: you can just peak moving figures from the wide crack.

10ft.-by-25ft. room, 5ft. high. Low, moldy shelf (E1-2) with several broken vases and art objects (worthless) on it. The path to the maniac camp is the result of the wall crumbling inwards: the actual "doorway" and its immediate vicinity (A1-2) is difficult terrain, and the "doorway" itself is very narrow (2.5ft. wide), further hampering passage.

A7 - Maniac Camp (EL 4)[edit]

(approaching from northern sewer) The brick of the walkway turns to earth and mud as you approach the end of this part of the tunnel. Kicking the earth reveals that it's a thick layer covering the original walkway. There's a lot more vegetation here than in other parts of the sewers as well.

Vicious men stare at you from a room they've made their camp. They have the look of madness on them. The camp itself is simple, with a few beds made of discarded rags and twigs, a small, smoldering fire billowing acrid-smelling smoke, and a grate bridge running over another sewage stream. The smell here is even worse than elsewhere, if possible.

35ft.-by-20ft. room with a 10ft.-wide stream of sewage (5ft. deep; dry parts 1ft. above sewage), 5ft. high. A grate bridge (B2-3, C2-3). A haphazard camp with several beds and a tiny campfire. The inhabitants of the camp consist of three maniacs (changes: AC 11 (no armor), longspear +3 melee (1d8+3/×3), throwing axe +2 ranged (1d6+2), filth fever—weapons, Fortitude DC 11, incubation period 1d3 days, damage 1d3 Dex and 1d3 Con), two with throwing axes (four for each, and they save the last one for close combat) and one with a piece of furniture as a club. They use a naturally-occurring assassin vine as a relatively clever hunting strategy.

The assassin vine is located on the doorway and entrance (B7, C7), lying on the floor and not blocking the path until roused. When an unwitting target walks over it, it lashes out, hitting that person with a slam (and attempting a grapple if it hits). If a target is not grappled, it is moved 5 feet away from the vine so as not to be on top of it. The axe-thrower maniacs start pelting foes at this point, with the club-wielder laughing hysterically.

When the vine is damaged, it stops bothering with preferring intruders over the maniacs: after all, the only reason it hasn't attacked them up until now is that it's been well-fed. The vine grapples one of the maniacs if it can, and once it's managed to kill two (or two corpses are brought to it), it is pacified.

A8 - Lavatory Bottom[edit]

It doesn't take a lot of intelligence to figure out what you're currently underneath of. There's human feces lying on the floor in big piles. Who designed the sewer in such a way that the lavatory above doesn't deposit directly to the sewage? Six indents in the walls have six narrow passageways leading above. You can only hope you don't slip.

40ft.-by-10ft. room with six 5ft.-by-5ft. indents, 5ft. high. Each indent has a passageway leading into the guardhouse lavatory above it (Climb DC 10 to scale), and a pile of feces some 3 feet tall deposited in it; the piles are larger in the eastern end and smaller in the western end.

B1 - Lobby[edit]

The lobby of the guardhouse is furnished in a style that could be called "rustic indulgence". The furniture, which consists of benches in the atrium and paintings in the hallway, is simple but clearly expensive. The paintings depict what you assume are Redford nobles. You recognize a few of the more famous ones. A large, gold-framed picture of Thomas von Gutherberg dominates the middle of the hall. Even in an enhanced painting the man in ugly. At the end of a hallway there's a double door, flanked by four simpler doors.

10ft.-by-20ft. atrium with a 30ft.-by-10ft. hallway, 8ft. high. All doors unlocked. Two benches (atrium A1-2, D1-2). Paintings in hallway; mostly worthless, frames of the Von Gutherberg painting can be sold for 100 gp once the painting itself is removed.

B2a to d - Dormitories[edit]

The lavish elegance of the hall turns to crude simplicity in the dormitories. This room is clearly decorated by a soldier: the interior is stoic, with a bunk bed to either side and a window across from you. The room smells stingingly of sweat.

15ft.-by-10ft. room, 8ft. high. Two bunk beds (A1-B1, A3-B3). Each room contains the gear of the soldiers in it (four longswords, four light crossbows, four chain shirts and four heavy wooden shields) when they're not in use, pushed against the back wall and under the bunk beds. Each bunk has a small compartment under the pillow (Search DC 10 to locate).

B2a: the bunk compartments contain: west top: grooming gear; west bottom: a purse with 20 gp in it, a razor, a bar of soap; east top: letters from mother, a bar of soap; east bottom: a pouch of common herbs and spices, a dagger.

B2b: the bunk compartments contain: west top: a whip, a dagger, a vial of acid; west bottom: a bar of soap, a towel; east top: 2 gp in copper coins; east bottom: a bar of soap, a key to an unknown lock.

B2c: the bunk compartments contain: west top: an entertainer's outfit, a small tambourine; west bottom: a bar of soap, a razor; east top: grooming gear; east bottom: several pieces of toffee in waxpaper.

B2d: the bunk compartments contain: west top: nothing; west bottom: two bottles of cheap beer, a sap; east top: a flint and steel, a flask of oil, a short sword; east bottom: a bar of soap.

B3 - Great Hall (EL 5, EL 6 when soldiers get their gear)[edit]

You enter a hall both wide and tall, lit by torches and decorated with arms and armor: swords and shields hang from the walls. In the middle of the room there is a round mahogany table, polished to a sheen and surrounded by tall stools of similar make. A fancily-dressed man leans heavily on the table, nursing a goblet of wine and slurring to two soldiers who look uneasy even through their drunken state. The goblet clanks to the floor as its owner jerks his head up, fixing a bloodshot stare at [one of the players]. "You," he mumbles in a hoarse voice, and pounces like a wildcat.

30ft.-by-30ft. room, 10ft. high. All doors unlocked. Large round table (C3-4, D3-4) with a clay pitcher of spiced wine and several clay cups on it. Tall stools surround the table and a few are pushed into each corner. Nine sets of a heavy wooden shield and two longswords across it (three on northern wall and two on eastern, southern and western walls).

Alexander von Gutherberg spends his time in the great hall, drinking excessively with two of the soldiers. Alexander's long-lasting drinking habit means his heavy intoxication does little to hinder him, but his two compatriots are not so lucky (-2 to Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma; they're also not wearing their armors (AC 10) or weaponry (fight unarmed if forced) so they'll beeline to grab a longsword and a heavy shield from the wall).

Alexander wants his life to end, but in his perpetual drunken state means he still flashes back to his years of glory as a master duelist, and will fight to the death at the first opportunity. He fights using his normal "tactics", while the soldiers accompanying him come to his side and fight to their best abilities (which means not very well).

B4 - Storage and Kitchen[edit]

It's amazing how little infrastructure a guardhouse needs to function: this tiny room is apparently sufficient to perform as both a kitchen and a storage. The kitchen side (on your left) consists of a vegetable-filled table and a stove, while the storage (on your right) is little more than stacks of crates and a few barrels.

20ft.-by-15ft. room, 8ft. high. Table (A4) with vegetables (onions, potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots and garlic) and two large knives. A stove (C4) with a hotplate and a crude oven. Piles of crates (A1-C1) with clothes, replacement arms and armor, foodstuffs and soap in them. Two barrels (C2), one with water and one with spicy wine, sitting over a grate (leads to the sewer, but too small to usually fit through).

B5 - Lavatory[edit]

Now there's a smell you won't forget in a hurry. The lavatory of the guardhouse is absolutely filthy. Clearly someone has tried to at least keep the worst of the filth off the floor, but the soldiers clearly don't care much about hygiene. A line of buckets seems to serve a double function as a flushing system and as showers.

25ft.-by-10ft. room with ten 5ft.-by-5ft. stalls, room 8ft. high, stalls 6ft. high. Each stall has a wooden seat affixed to the wall (with a hole in the middle) and a narrow passageway into the lavatory bottom. Four buckets filled with water in the middle of the room.

B6 - Fountain[edit]

A thick pipe, its head fashioned into a crude fish, sticks out of the wall in this rather small room. It's pouring water out onto the floor at a steady pace, where it disappears into a grate with a gurgle. The water looks clean enough. A few empty buckets lie in the corner.

10ft.-by-10ft. room, 8ft. high. A pipe on the western wall dispenses water from the river Redford. There's a bolt on the lavatory side of the door, allowing people to be locked up into the fountain room (hardness 5, 10 hp; Strength DC 18 to burst). Alexander is sometimes, albeit rarely, locked up in here when he gets violently drunk; the players could glean out this fact and time their visit accordingly.

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