Paizo’s “The Emerald Spire” for 5th Edition, Part 2

Late last year, Paizo Kickstarted a superdungeon called “The Emerald Spire“. Along with the characteristicly beautiful production value and stunning art, each of the 16 levels of this detailed module has its own fold-out map in the style of Paizo’s other excellent flip-maps, making it a very easy crawl to run.

I recently decided to host a series of all-day “Retro 80s” Game Days for my players who never had the opportunity to come home from school on Friday afternoons and game non-stop until Sunday night, fueled on little more than Mountain Dew and Cheetos. Since I had backed the Kickstarter at a level where I received all eight double-sided maps as well as the campaign cards, I decided to convert “The Emerald Spire” to 5th edition to use as my old-school dungeon crawl.

The module’s base of operations, Fort Inevitable, requires little conversion as most of the conflicts there are political rather than physical. The dungeon’s levels are designed to equal the PC levels, meaning at 1st level the characters should be able to take on level 1, and by 8th level they should be able to handle level 8. As my players started at level 3, I needed to increase the power of each level a bit.

Below you will find some of my conversions for Level 2, “The Cellars”. You will not find detailed information on the Emerald Spire. If you aren’t running “The Emerald Spire”, you may still find these new monsters, house rules, spells, and traps helpful for your personal campaign.

Level 1 “The Tower Ruins”
Level 2 “The Cellar”
Level 3 “The Splinterden”
Level 4 “Godhome”: The majority of this level is roleplaying oriented. Should combat break out, the stats for the associated monsters from the 5th ed Monster Manual work well.
Level 5 “The Drowned Level”
Level 6 “The Clockwork Maze”

New Monsters and Traps

Star Spiders (CR 2)
Cleric Lich, Minor (CR 4)
Poison Spike Pit Trap
Spider Pit Trap Variant
Crushing Stone Slab Trap
Skeleton Cage Trap
Haunted Gate Trap

Alternative Falling Damage

I believe falling damage is far more lethal than the game rules recognize; this probably comes from my years as an RN. This rule may not be for everyone and is included for playtest use only, so use with caution. If you like your falling rules simple, stick with the 1d6 per 10′. If you want to make them a little more deadly, either increase the die to d8s or d10s, or make it per 5′ instead. This rule makes a monk’s slow fall feature, the feather fall spell, jump spell, enhance ability spell, and similar effects significantly more useful.

House Rule Falling

4 (1d6) bludgeoning damage per 5’ to a max of 80 (20d6) at 100’.

Creatures can purposefully fall (jump down) a number of feet equal to their running long jump distance without taking damage (typically equal to your Strength score). Purposeful falls greater than a creature’s running long jump distance require either an Acrobatics or Athletics check, or a Constitution saving throw with a DC equal to 10 + 1 per 5′ fallen. On a failed check, the creature takes 4 (1d6) damage per 5′ fallen, falls prone, and becomes stunned for 1 minute. Characters may make a Constitution save at the end of each round to remove the stunned effect. The check is made at the same DC as the fall. On a successful check the creature takes half-damage, lands on their feet (or rolls to their feet), and does not become stunned. A monk may reduce this damage further by using their Slow Fall class feature.

A creature that falls unexpectedly, such as from a pit trap or by being pushed off a roof, must make the above saving throws at DC 15 + 1 per 5′ or suffer the same effects.

A creature that falls (purposefully or not) greater than three times their running long jump distance takes 1d6 damage per 5′ and automatically fails the above saves. They remain stunned for 1 minute (if they are still alive) and may not make additional saves to remove the effect. Your DM may allow a DC 25-30 skill check or saving throw to reduce some of the effects.

Falling/diving into a depth of water greater than half the distance fallen reduces the DC by 5. Characters with an innate swim speed may dive from as high as 3 times their running long jump distance before making a save, and 5 times before failing the save automatically. A human with a 10 Strength diving off a 30′ cliff into 20′ of water makes the save at DC 11 instead of 16. A locathah with a 13 Strength may dive from as high as 39′ without making a save (I would round it to 40), and 65′ before failing the save automatically.

ExamplesA human fighter with a 15 Strength may purposefully drop 15′ without taking damage. If he tried to drop 30′ off of a cliff and failed his DC 16 Athletics check, he would take 24 (6d6) damage, fall prone, and become stunned. A 3rd level halfling rogue (thief) with a 10 Strength and 18 Dexterity may purposefully drop 14′ without taking damage thanks to her Second Story Work class feature. If she succeeds on a DC 18 Acrobatics check after purposefully dropping 40′, she will take 16 (4d6) damage, roll onto her feet, and not be stunned. If either character falls into a 40′ pit trap, they would make their checks against DC 23 to take only 16 (4d6), or 32 (8d6) on a failed check.

Level 2: The Cellars

Webs: Any map spaces containing webs are considered difficult terrain unless cut or burned. Each 5’ square of webbing has AC 12; HP 15; vulnerability to fire damage; immunity to bludgeoning, poison, and psychic damage. If a web takes fire damage, it catches on fire and burns for an additional 1d6hp per round. At the end of each round the webbing is on fire, the DM may determine that the fire spreads to an adjacent square. Creatures caught in webbing that is on fire take 1hp of damage only if they are unarmored.

Star Spiders

Medium, Neutral Evil

Armor Class 15 (natural)
Hit Points 30 (4d10+4)
Speed 40’, climb 40’
Initiative +4

Str 12 (+1) Dex 16 (+2) Con 14 (+2) Int 5 (-3) Wis 14 (+2) Cha 7 (-2)

Skills Athletics +3 (advantage on climb), Perception +6; Stealth +6
Senses Darkvision 60’; Blindsight 30’; Passive Perception 16
Languages Common (understands, can’t speak)
Challenge 2 (450xp)

Spider Webs. Star spider webs are especially strong and sticky. See Attacks below
Spider climb. Star spiders can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check. If forced to make a check due to grapples, spell effects, etc, they have advantage on Athletics checks to climb.
Web Sense. While in contact with a web, the star spider knows the exact location of any other creature in contact with the same web.
Web Walker. The star spider ignores movement restrictions caused by webbing.

Innate Spellcasting (DC 12)

3/day: obscuring mist
1/day: gaseous form

Bite. +5 to hit, reach 5’, one target, 1d8+3 (7) piercing. DC 12 Constitution save or take 2d8 (9) poison damage and becomes poisoned for 1 minute. The target may repeat the save at the end of each of their rounds to negate the poisoned effect. If target has the poisoned condition from this attack and fails a second saving throw against a second bite attack, or the poison reduces the target to 0 hit points, the target is stable but becomes poisoned for 1 hour even if healed above 0 hp. The target is also paralyzed as long as they’re poisoned in this way.

Web (recharge 5-6). +5 to hit, range 30/60’, one creature. Hit: The target is restrained by webbing. As an action, the restrained target can make a DC 15 Strength check, bursting the webbing on a success. The webbing is too sticky to escape using Dexterity checks. The webbing can also be attacked and destroyed (AC 12; HP 10; vulnerability to fire damage; immunity to bludgeoning, poison, and psychic damage), though if attempted in combat, a missed attack roll hits the target instead.

Poison Spike Pit Trap

10’x10’x10’ pit trap with poisoned spikes crudely set in the bottom.

DCs to Detect
DC 20 Perception check to notice the lack of tracks over the area.
DC 15 Investigation check to confirm there is a trap.


Four well-oiled trap doors cover a 10’x10’x10’ pit trap with poisoned spikes crudely set in the bottom. When stepped on by any creature weighing 50lbs or more, the trapdoor drops them into the pit.

Anyone falling into the trap must make a DC 20 Acrobatics check. A failed check results in 2d10 (11) piercing damage from the spikes. A successful check instead results in 2d6 (7) bludgeoning damage from the fall. If the target takes piercing damage from the spikes, they must also make a DC 12 poison save or take 2d8 (9) poison damage and become poisoned for 1 minute. The target may repeat the save at the beginning of each round to negate the effect. Otherwise the poison is the same as the spider poison above (ie: if the poisoned condition is gained from the spikes and then the target fails a poison save from the spider, they become paralyzed).

Spider Pit Trap Variant

Two star spiders are resting in a small alcove near the top of the pit. When prey falls in, one spider will close the trap door and seal it with webbing, while the second will attempt to poison the target.

The webbing is not ideal for sealing the trapdoor but does prevent it from opening by weight unless the target is 300lbs or greater. A DC 15 Strength check will open the trapdoor, though anyone attempting to do so without proper precautions must succeed on a DC 10 Acrobatics check or also fall into the pit.

Crushing Stone Slab Trap

5’x5’x2’ platform sits in the middle of this room with a single chest sitting on top. There is a brass door handle set into a 1′ x 1′ recess next to the chest.

DCs to Detect
DC 15 Perception check to notice the 1” space between the walls and the ceiling.
DC 20 Perception check to notice a hair-thin fissure around the base of the chest.
DC 20 Investigation check to realize the space between the ceiling and walls, as well as the medallions, are a trap.

Examining the chest from the outside will not reveal a trap since the triggering mechanisms are inside the chest itself.


Chest requires a DC 15 Lockpick check to open.

After the first attempt to pick the chest’s lock (whether or not successful), or if the chest is damaged, or if the brass handle in the 1’ square hole next to the chest is turned, the chest retracts into the pedestal and the ceiling drops onto any creatures in the room. The ceiling stops just above the platform, allowing a 2’ space where characters might survive.

When the trap is triggered, every creature in the room must succeed at a DC 15 Dexterity save or take 4d10 (22) points of bludgeoning damage and become stunned for 1 minute; Small creatures such as halflings and gnomes gain advantage on this save. Large creatures make the save at disadvantage. Whether successful or not, all creatures in the room become prone.

The trap is reset by turning the brass handle set into the floor, or activating a set of levers above the false ceiling (the actual ceiling is 5’ above the false one in its starting position.

Skeleton Cage Trap

A 10’x10’x10’ cage is suspended above a false ceiling. Inside the cage are two animated skeletons loosely suspended in harnesses.

DCs to Detect
DC 15 Perception check reveals the trigger plate, now slightly rusted and warped.

When triggered, a 10’x10’ steal cage drops from the ceiling. Inside the cage are two skeletons suspended by leather straps. Each of the skeletons may take an action to cut themselves loose, or attack any creature inside the cage within reach.

Any creature attacking through the cage bars attacks at disadvantage.

A Small creature can attempt to wriggle through the bars with a DC 15 Acrobatics check.
A DC 22 Strength check is required to lift the cage enough for creatures to escape.
A DC 25 Strength check is required to bend the bars far enough for a Medium creature to attempt a DC 15 Acrobatics check to escape.

Haunted Gate Trap

This gate has two locks—one for the box and one for the lock inside the box which connects a pair of chains to a sliding restraint bar.

The lockbox is old and rusted, requiring a DC 20 Lockpicks check to unlock. The interior lock is so jammed with rust that it is unpickable. The PCs have several options:

Alchemist acid poured into the lock will eat through the rust in 5 rounds. This will allow the lock to be picked with a DC 20 Lockpicks check, but the residual acid will damage the lock picks, causing subsequent checks to be made at disadvantage until fixed or replaced. Smart players may wash the residual acid out of the lock to prevent the damage.

A DC 20 Strength check will break the rusted mechanism and allow the lock to be opened.

The lock has AC 19 and 5 hit points. It is immune to poison and psychic damage, but acid and lightning attacks are made with advantage.

Note: In 5th ed, objects have high AC in place of the hardness trait used in previous editions. You may “hit” the lock with an axe, but it may not be at the right angle or strength to damage it.

Haunting Trap (magical)

Incorporeal, ghostly arms reach for any creature stepping within 5’ of the haunted gate.

DCs to Detect
DC 15 Perception or Investigation check to notice runes along the gate’s metal frame.
DC 15 Arcana or Religion check to decipher the runes as a trap.
These checks can be made (or compared to Passive Scores) once the characters are within 10’ of the gates.

DCs to Disarm
DC 15 Arcana or Religion check will disarm the trap, but the check must be made within the 5’ triggering range.
Dispel magic will automatically disarm the trap.
Spare the dying will suppress the trap for 1 hour and can be cast outside of the triggering range.
One use of Turn Undead will suppress the trap for 1 day.

Once a living creature steps within 5’ of the gate, incorporeal arms reach for all targets in range. The effect lasts as long as a living creature is within 5’.

Spectral Arms: +5 to hit, 2d8 (9) necrotic damage and target makes all attack rolls and ability checks at disadvantage for 1 minute. Spectral arm attacks are made with advantage unless the target is protected by magical armor, mage armor, shield of faith, protection from good and evil, or a similar effect.

Lich Cleric, Minor

Medium undead, Chaotic Evil

Armor Class 17 (natural, shield of faith)
Hit Points 43 (5d8+15)
Speed 30’
Initiative +3

Str 14 (+2) Dex 14 (+2) Con 16 (+3) Int 12 (+1) Wis 16 (+3) Cha 17 (+3)

Saving Throws Int +4, Wis +6, Cha +6
Damage Resistances piercing and slashing (from non-magical weapons), psychic
Damage Immunities cold, necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned, stunned
Vulnerabilities bludgeoning (from magical weapons only)
Skills Arcane +4; Intimidation +6, Perception +3; Religion +4; Stealth +8
Senses Darkvision 60’; Passive Perception 13
Languages Common, Draconic, Undercommon
Challenge 4 (450xp)

Drink Death. Heals 2d10 (12) hit points when the lich cleric reduces a creature to 0 hit points.
Death’s Blessing. All undead allies within 30’ of the lich cleric are affected as if by a bless spell.
Unnerving Gaze (recharge 5-6). As a bonus action, the lich cleric can force all living creatures within 30 feet to make a DC 13 Wisdom save or become frightened for 1 minute. The creatures can make an additional save at the end of each of their rounds to negate the effect.

Spellcasting. The lich cleric is a 5th level caster. His spell casting ability is Wisdom. It has the following spells prepared:

Cantrips (at will): guidance, mending, sacred flame, thaumaturgy
1st Level (4 slots): command, inflict wounds, mend undead, shield of faith
2nd Level (3 slots): hold person, spiritual weapon (longsword)
3rd Level (2 slots): mass mend undead

Multiattack. When the lich cleric attacks with sacred flame, it may also make an attack with its longsword.

Longsword. +5 to hit, reach 5’, one target, 1d8+2 (7) slashing, plus 1d8 (5) necrotic damage
Sacred Flame. DC 13 Dex save, range 60’, one target, 2d8 (9) fire damage
Inflict Wounds. +6 to hit, reach 5’, one target, 3d10 (15) necrotic (+5 dmg if cast at 2nd level, +10 at 3rd)
Spiritual Weapon (longsword). Bonus action (move 20’, attack); +6 to hit, range 60’, one target, 1d8+3 (7) force (+5 dmg if cast at 3rd level)

New Spells

Mend Undead
1st-level necromancy
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V
Duration: Instantaneous

An undead creature of your choice that you can see within range regains hit points equal to 1d4 + your spell casting ability modifier. If the creature dropped to 0 hit points within 1 round of casting this spell, the undead creature reanimates. This spell has no affect on living creatures or constructs.
At Higher Levels. When you cut this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the healing increases by 1d4 for each slot above 1st.

Mass Mend Undead
3rd-level necromancy
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V
Duration: Instantaneous

Up to 6 undead creatures of your choice that you can see within range regain hit points equal to 1d4 + your spell casting ability modifier. If an undead target dropped to 0 hit points within 1 round of casting this spell, the undead creature reanimates. This spell has no affect on living creatures or constructs.
At Higher Levels. When you cut this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the healing increases by 1d4 for each slot above 1st.


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Rich Howard's obsession with gaming started 35 years ago when his older brother finally let him invade his AD&D game. Since his first sleep spell, Rich has wandered the world of roleplaying, board and computer games as fascinated with their potential to teach and inspire as to entertain.