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Hustle and Flow (Part 1)

16 Mar

This encounter is intended for five player characters of 6th level

Inspiration for this encounter came from a couple of sources, mixing together into a delicious magma stew. For one, working on a play that centers around a catastrophic volcanic explosion got me thinking about lava as an obstacle (and any kid has likely toyed with this notion before – if the game “Floor-Is-Hot-Lava” is as widely played as I assume). I was also taken with the rather simple but compelling notion of a trap/environmental obstacle having stages of threat that are keyed to the initiative track: a convention used to great effect in Dungeon Crawl Classic’s “Tomb of the Savage Kings.” (Though it certainly wasn’t invented in that adventure).

I’m writing this up as two linked encounters: Part 1 is the exploration of the space prior to the eruption of lava, and Part 2 the flight to escape. Clearing out the dungeon thoroughly on the way in won’t make much difference when lava monsters begin pouring (literally, due to their viscosity) out of the ceiling!

These encounters presume the machinations of Imix, the Prince of Elemental Fire depicted in Monster Manual 3 (pg. 112). If the Primordials have no place in your campaign, sub Imix out for another powerful entity or deity tied to fire and/or chaos.

Setup
The PCs are exploring a section of dungeon dangerously close to a volcano, lava flow, planar nexus of fire, or any other place in which pyroclastic material threatens to burst through the walls (spoiler alert: it will). This section of the dungeon is difficult to navigate though not heavily populated. But when exploring a room rife with treasure (or stumbling into the chamber next to it) they inadvertently trigger a lava flow to burst in and begin filling the chambers. This will mark the end of the first of these two linked encounters. At that point, it is a race against time over obstacles, rubble, and newly arrived foes, to get back to the more secure chambers of the dungeon.

“Secure” being the operative word…this is, after all, a dungeon.

Background
This section of the dungeon was once the temple to a wrathful cult of Imix, a terrifying primordial consumed by ever-burning fire, endless rage and unbridled hatred. Despite being trapped outside the Material Plane by the Gods, Imix still carries out his deeds of wanton destruction through agents and cults in the world. This particular cult displeased him with repeated failures, and so he influenced a number of magma beasts to trigger a minor eruption, burning all the cultists to death.

What remained was their prized possession: a weapon that consumes with fire and sews chaos wherever it is wielded. Imix wants this weapon back in the hands of his servants but has failed to accomplish this thus far. His underlings slumber in the rock nearby, and if the object is disturbed, his wrath would be great indeed.

Map

20130316-163916.jpg

Features of the Area

  • Chasm – This pit is 2 squares (10 feet) across and 8 squares (40 feet) deep (a 4d10 fall). Fortunately the sides of the pit are jagged, with frequent handholds, requiring only a DC 12 Athletics check to climb. Should lava begin to flow into the squares of this chasm, they fill both vertically and horizontally, meaning an unlucky adventurer might be climbing up out of the pit while molten rock licks his/her heels.
  • Doors – These are all normal, wooden doors. Wear and tear has eaten away at the locks of all but one of the doors (indicated on the map).
  • Secret Door (indicated by a red “S”) – This door swings easily on a rotating hinge if ample pressure is applied Hard Perception check to detect. Can be opened from either side.
  • Rubble and Debris (Indicated by a square containing an “X”) – Rough Terrain.
  • Statue of Imix – This statue stands almost as high as the dungeon’s ceiling and depicts Imix: the Primordial Lord of fire and rage. During the second phase of this linked encounter, a Magma Brute flows up through the ground and suffuses itself with the statue, giving the magma creature a solid form and appearing to animate this otherwise mundane if disturbing sculpture.
  • Altar – This altar seems to be made of the petrified remains of several humanoids bound together and burned to death. Heat emanates from the altar. Upon it is an artifact weapon of great power (see the “Loot” section below). In addition to this, there are 200 gp worth of gems, coins, and valuables still littered around the altar.

Treasure
The main loot found in this section of the dungeon is the holy artifact of Imix. Use any magic weapon with the “Fire” keyword that is particularly powerful for your player’s level/loot schedule to represent this (it is supposed to be a rare and coveted item, and thus, somewhat more unbalancing than other loot. Take this into consideration). Add the following additional ability (which is perhaps unknown to the PCs until it triggers):

Trigger: An attack roll is made and the d20 comes up “1”
Close Burst 3 (All creatures i burst, including the wielder) 2d10 Fire Damage (Any immunity/resistance the wielder possesses against Fire damage is ignored)

Recommended Item: Flame Tongue Weapon (Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium pg. 26)

Tactics
The Volcanic Dragons are brothers and sisters from the same clutch. Though dragons are typically solitary these three found a strength in numbers and a joy in threatening their foes using the strength of numbers. They will happily come to one another’s aid, but abandon their kin; seeking to hide and later ambush their opponents if seriously wounded. The dragons are inexplicably draw to this place – a vague calling on the part of Imix.

The zombies are the unfortunate cultists who displeased Imix and are now trapped here to hopefully serve with more distinction in death than they did in life. Their charred and now ash covered forms should call to mind the body casts made from cavities discovered in the volcanically brutalized ruins of Pompeii.

The zombies are used to working in tandem with one another, and do so instinctively. That said, they are not affiliated with the dragons, and any cooperation on their part is purely accidental. Indeed, each party might attack one another just as soon as they would attack the PCs.

Monsters
x3 Volcanic Dragon Wyrmling (Monster Manual 3 pg. 72)
x3 Grasping Zombie {G} (Monster Vault pg. 293)
x5 Zombie Shambler {S} (Monster Vault pg. 295)
x2 Magma Infused Zombie {M} [Use the stats for the “Chillborn Zombie” (Monster Manual pg. 275) but replace “Cold” damage with “Fire” damage. This zombie spatters its foes with hot, fast-hardening magma that weighs them down and pins them in place for further attacks from the creature’s burning arms.]

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