• Mark S. Cookman

20 Things to Find in the River Pirate's Hideout


Well, against all odds we've made it once again to Friday. Before finishing off this week's river theme, I'd like to take a moment to discuss today's pictures. This place is named Cave-In-Rock and it is located on the northern side of the Ohio River at Cave-In-Rock, Illonois. It has a fascinating history and if you ever get the chance to visit there, I highly recommend it. Cave-In-Rock was once the temporary home to a number of river pirates and stories say that the Harpe Brothers, often touted as America's 1st serial killers, also may have stayed there.

Regardless of its place in American history, I thought Cave-In-Rock might be the perfect setting for a D&D river pirate hunt to end. To that end, here are a couple more pictures of the cave to provide some perspective and a map of the area around the real Cave-In-Rock. My hope is that you find this a fun setting for something in your campaign, as well.

This is the inside of Cave-In-Rock, near the back of the cave.

This is looking back out of the cave from the same spot.

Here is a map of the area. Click on it to open a google maps page.

Finally, here are the 20 Things to Find in a River Pirate's Hideout. As always, I hope that you can find something useful and fun for your RPG group in all of this. Happy Gaming!

  1. A pile of broken bottles, jars, and ceramic items of all types surrounding, but mostly behind a small crate where 6 unbroken items sit in a line. Apparently breaking pottery is a past time.

  2. Crates of various ill-gotten goods ranging from bottles of alcohol to bolts of textiles and other sundry items for settlers or explorers. Most of the stuff here has no great value; example items are shovels, picks, brooms, rakes, simple clothes, and shoes.

  3. Piles of bones from both animals cooked for meals and various victims killed for their goods lie at the back of the cave. Some joker has put candles inside four of the skulls and they are apparently used as lanterns.

  4. A well-used firepit with 2 iron spits for cooking meat and a sturdy iron support for hanging a large pot over the firepit.

  5. A large area of the cave floor at the back has a number of burlap sandbags laid directly over the rocky ground. On top of the sandbags is a 3 inch layer of hay and on top of that are a number of bedrolls.

  6. Directly in front of the cave entrance there is a massive bloodstain from the numerous victims that have been tossed off the top of the rock after giving everything else over to the river pirates.

  7. A small writing table and chair sit quietly beside the sleeping area. Five identically-worded messages in a cramped script with directions and instructions to "come meet here to discuss a rewarding opportunity". It appears these messages were never sent.

  8. There are six wall sconces, three on each side of the long entrance tunnel, but only the second set have torches in them and they have not been lit. Remnants of used torches can be found in the firepit.

  9. Three sets of iron shackles lie in a pile on the floor, apparently discarded. One of them is covered in a massive amount of dried blood.

  10. Two large tapestries are hung near the back of the cave. One depicts a "vigorous" forest party with satyrs and nymphs; this one has circles and nasty graffitti on it. The second has been hung backwards and the back is being used as a "chalk board". Plans detailed on the back of the tapestry show a future target of the gang.

  11. A small trunk containing 5 different high-quality wigs and a full disguise kit. The lid of the trunk has a 1 foot square silver mirror in it.

  12. Tightly bound and gagged, lying under a large, nasty-smelling tarp covered in filth and bloodstains are seven living captives. Four are young women and three are children. All are too terrified to speak; it is clear that they all have been both physically and mentally abused.

  13. Three large, leather-bound tomes sit in a pile just inside the cave entrance. If detect magic is cast, they do radiate faintly of magic. Two of the tomes have been destroyed because numerous pages have been torn from them, aparently at random. The last tome is a 4th level wizard's spell book. The river pirates use the pages of these books for toilet paper.

  14. Rolled up and stored in the drawer of the writing desk is a detailed map of the surrounding area with other caverns, an abandoned mine, and nearby monster lairs marked on it.

  15. Around the firepit are boxes, crates, piles of molding pillows, and a few bales of hay. Sitting upon one of the crates are both a flute and a mandolin; both are excellent condition.

  16. Also near the firepit are both flint and steel, as well as the remnants of six clerical scrolls, which have been literally torn into pieces in order to use the parchment for kindling.

  17. Behind the crates of spoils is a small trash pile of rusted metal objects of various sorts: broken tools, wrecked chainmail, a spilled keg of nails, etc.

  18. Old graffitti written on the back of the cave wall in bloody letters roughly 2 feet tall reads "This was the lair of Zulkaz the Troll, but we slew him and burned his remains". Beneath this are five signatures that you cannot read.

  19. A small chest near the sleeping area contains a number of pieces of laboratory equipment carefully packed for travel. Some of the items in the chest include some glassware, two small scoops, an hourglass, a scale, a funnel, and a mortar and pestle.

  20. A small leather backpack containing moldy bread, a bone comb, a hand ax, an ornate snuff box with silver trim, a small mirror, a bar of soap, a smoking pipe, a 10" long oaken stake, a thick wool cloak, and 16 silver pieces.

#treasure #horror #rpg #pirates #dmadvice #gmadvice #pirate #dnd #DnD

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