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Spare Parts: Play Through

Spare Parts: Play Through

We’ve been exploring tips and methods to steal from existing products to make your home game better. If you’re just joining us, catch up here.

The Scarlet Citadel megadungeon has been our template for how to do it, but the principles in this series can be used with any adventure. This time, we’re investigating the Dwarven Barracks in detail.

The Dwarven Barracks lie on level 3 of the Scarlet Citadel. Full of trollkin and clacker beetles, the entire level is available for free on Roll 20, so you can set up a game and read along even if you don’t have the book.

Stealing the Dwarven Barracks for Your Game

Level 3 is divided into two distinct halves, just as the upper levels were. You can pull the entire level or either half as a standalone dungeon in your home campaign.

Connection Points

The connection points to be aware of are:

  • the stairs that lead up from Area 301,
  • the tunnel between Area 318 of the Dwarven Barracks and Area 319 of the clacking caverns,
  • the underground river in 329, and
  • the holes in the floor in Areas 317 and 331 that lead to level four.

Change any of these that you don’t like. Remove the stairs and tunnel to keep a section contained or redirect them to your own creation.

The river requires a tad more consideration. It flows past a shrine to Charon, the patron of rivers. To remove it, just get rid of Area 329 entirely and wall off or connect Areas 325 and 330 with a simple tunnel. Alternately, declare the river constricted and unnavigable, dry from a cave-in, or link it with an underground river that leads anywhere else you want it to go.

The Barracks

The Dwarven Barracks can be further subdivided and repurposed. The trollkin occupy Areas 301–306 and 310–318. Rather than being keyed to specific rooms, use a roster to specify units that can challenge the characters in waves. The roster can represent trollkin marauders in a forest or village raiders. The roster table already has the challenge of each group calculated for maximum utility. The trollkin stay out of the tombs in Areas 307–309, but for repurposing, you don’t need that restriction.

You can also pull these three chambers out and use them anywhere, such as a mountain cave system or an abandoned dwarven city. Packed full of magic items and vengeful wights, it’s a ready adventure site. However, reconsider the history of Chansar the Pale and his circle of followers to better link to events in your own campaign.

The gauntlet of Area 310 is worth using on its own. This deadly corridor is lined with arrow slits and has three different traps to slow or stop the players’ progress. Remember the passive Perception mechanic from the introduction to make gameplay here livelier. Roll for the trap against the characters’ passive Perception scores, adding the DC for detecting the trap minus eight to the roll. If the roll exceeds their scores, tough luck!

A good puzzle is hard to find, and the door to Area 315 offers a very stealable one. It cleverly requires both successful ability checks and an item located elsewhere in the barracks. This is a good way to appeal to different play styles of your players.

Before we leave the Dwarven Barracks, take note of the stat block for the CR 5 dire owlbears that the trollkin keep. We all need a stronger owlbear in our games, don’t we?

The Clacking Caverns

In the clacking caverns, we have stat blocks for the clacker beetle soldiers (CR 1) and swarms of clacker beetles (CR 3). These might seem like lightweight monsters for 5th-level characters, but the book notes that there are unlimited numbers of them, and provides advice on attacking characters in waves to give them the feeling of pressure. This tactic works with any wave of monsters anywhere.

The dwarves used the caverns to inter their heroic dead, and that gives us five more tombs to steal and place near the previous tombs if we wanted to focus on that aspect. The tombs contain a variety of traps, guardians, and treasure. A delve into the tombs on this level would make an enjoyable session with a mixture of exploration and combat.

The floating pools in areas 320 and 321 are a genuinely weird phenomenon that curious players should enjoy trying to figure out. The pools are extensively explained and swipeable to place in a dungeon or cavern of your own.

Each pool links to the open sea, and the characters can travel back and forth through them (assuming they can find the right spot again in the open ocean!). As written, there are monsters and treasure (and the crushing pressure of the depths) waiting for explorers, but you can link these to any nautical site you like!


The Dwarven Barracks combines a classic fortress-style map, multiple tombs, multi-spatial weirdness, and overwhelming hordes of insects in a modest-sized area. The ties between each of these aspects can be cut without too much trouble. Tweak the history or replace it entirely, rearrange the map as needed, and you’re most of the way there.

The structure of the Scarlet Citadel as a whole looks very different after examining it closely to see what small parts can be broken out. If the dwarven tombs could be isolated into a solid night’s play on their own, imagine what challenges await the party that takes on the entire dungeon. I’m certain their players will enjoy fighting past the trollkin only to get the bends in a floating pool while trying to escape a sea of clacker beetles.

Don’t Forget the Monster Lookup!

For ongoing inspiration, head over to the Kobold Press monster lookup, enter “underwater” in the terrain box, and it will return results from the Creature Codex and all three Tome of Beasts books (1, 2, and 3!). A good stat block is always useful thing, but the inspiration that a monster’s lore can spark is invaluable. Every good monster has an adventure in it.

about Andy Dempz

Andy Dempz was a Red Box kid who took a twenty-five year break from the hobby and returned to 5e. He has written for multiple D&D Adventurers League campaigns, DMsGuild, and Kobold Press. He lives in the biggest small town in the midwest, Ann Arbor, Michigan, with two children, two dogs, and two 3D printers. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndyDempz.

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