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The Thing in The Pit

This encounter is intended for 3-5 characters of 2nd level and makes use of current playtest/5th Edition data as of July 6th 2014


This one is a quickie: a room I designed for a one-shot dungeon crawl that unfortunately got passed over. Some of the party will be forced to fend off the slapping appendages of an abhorrent otherworldly creature, while the rest of the team attempts to breach the entrance to the dungeon before the lot of them are crushed. Make certain to have a player character on hand who can pick locks – or else this encounter is far from being fair.

Map

                                

Features of the Area

    Terrain: Each large block of dungeon floor is 10 feet by 10 feet. Any 5 foot squares marked with a star are considered difficult terrain

   The Pit: This yawning chasm reaches far down into the Underdark, where a massive, amorphous beast from the Far Realm is trapped. The drop is 20 feet where tight cracks and crevices leech deeper into the ground. The elastic tentacles have wormed their way up through these openings. Because the uneven walls of the pit provide good handholds, no check is necessary to climb back up (the writhing tentacles may pose their own challenges, however)

   Treasures: The locations of the two treasure caches are indicated by gold sunbursts on the map (see “Rewards” below)

   Exit Door: This sturdy steel door is a half-foot thick and incredibly heavy. It is shut up tight by three identical locks. Passage to and through the door is blocked by a toppled over column (see below).

      •Each lock requires a DEX DC 10 check to open, and some appropriate lock-pick must be used (a set of Thief Tools would suffice, and Proficiency in such tools grants advantage as normal). 

   Broken Columns: One of these collapsed columns has fallen in front of the locked exit door. With the stone ruins blocking the way, it will be impossible to unlock the door.

      •The column is very heavy, and another party member will be needed to lift it, if not completely move it out of the way. A STR DC 10 check is sufficient to lift the column up, allowing access to the lock. This same character can keep the column elevated for several rounds without having to make another check, but must use their action on their turn to do so. A STR DC 15 check will allow the character to shove the column aside and out of the way for good.

Monsters

The otherworldly abomination is far too massive and durable to be killed by a few paltry, low-level heroes. Fortunately for them, the beast cannot drag its squamous bulk through the caverns below to reach them. Instead, it has extended several of its slimy, mouth-covered tentacles to probe for prey. Though each individual tentacle can be destroyed with some ease, more will take their place, and the creature itself will take little damage. Is the monster regenerating these tentacles, or does it just have a near inexhaustible number on its body? That’s a question bets left unanswered.

•x(# of PCs) Tentacles (40 EXP each)

__________________________________________

     Beast Tentacle (Medium Aberration – Limb)

AC 12 (Vulnerable: Slashing)

HP 8

   Available Actions:

Slam  (Within 15 feet of any part of the pit; one creature) +3 to hit (1d6+3 bludgeoning damage); automatic hit and +1d6 bludgeoning damage if target is already restrained

Trip  (Within 15 feet of any part of the pit; up to two creatures) DEX save DC 12 or target(s) are knocked prone

Ensnare (Within 15 feet of any part of the pit; one creature) +4 vs. STR or DEX (target’s choice); on hit target is restrained and may attempt the check again to escape as an action. A tentacle that has ensnared a target in this way may deal it 1d6+3 piercing damage as an action

   Traits:

•Each time a beast tentacle is destroyed, roll 1d4-1 (minimum of 1) – a new tentacle replaces it after that number of rounds has passed.

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Tactics

The tentacles have supernatural blindsight, and the best has enough intelligence to try and interrupt any character attempting to escape. Otherwise, they try to kill and eat every PC (like you do, when you are an amorphous beast)

Rewards

In the nook in the north part of the room, the skeleton of an unfortunate explorer (wounded by the beast and unable to escape) is crumpled against the wall. Amid the ragged ruin of bones and torn clothes are x1 Healing Potion, a silver ring worth 10 gp, and three raw, uncut gems worth a total of 100 gp

One of the water basins in the eastern section of the dungeon is home to the formation of some uncut precious stones. A STR DC 10 check (advantage if a dagger, prybar, or other tool is used) will free the gems, which can be sold for 50 gp

 

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Sanctum of the Fiend of Possession

This encounter is intended for four 3rd level characters

     Concluding this series of encounters based on my old defunct Neverwinter game is the ultimate boss fight. Since the goal of the dungeon was investigating a cult’s plot to possess citizens with the spirits of evil outsiders, I figured the most fitting final encounter would be with a creature that is eager to possess the PCs. Originally, I paired this fight with a language substitution puzzle that could be uncovered using a series of scattered notes (your favorite “tell the story with journal entries” gimmick, from System/BioShock games). The recovered notes would reveal a key to the puzzle, allowing players to translate a magical glyph system that they would then apply to scribing a summoning circle in order to bind the Devil they were fighting. My notes were incomplete and relied on some specific circumstances so I eschewed them for the sake of this write-up.

     As before, I make references to people, places, and organizations in Neverwinter; swap these out for entities from your own campaign world where necessary.

Story Background

     Understanding the circumstances of this encounter requires a little setup. Any of these plot elements can be reworked or discarded as need be, but for brevity’s sake I’ll transcribe the situation as it was planned in my game. Beneath the House of Knowledge were a series of crypts and archives that housed ancient books, scrolls, records, manuscripts and relics. Alongside these were the bodies of priests and acolytes who served the temple in life – now comfortably resting between stacks of books in death.

     Loremaster Atlavast; the last Oghman priest to have survived the cataclysm makes his home in these crumbling archives, navigating through the sewers beneath the city when he needs to make trips above-ground. Eccentric, jealous, and more than a little snooty, Atlavast kept to himself, seeking only to preserve the knowledge that survived disaster beneath the temple’s crumbling façade. 

     But ever paranoid, Atlavast was quickly made aware of the Ashmadai cult’s infiltration into the refugees living in the temple above. He began a one-man guerrilla campaign against the cultists; using old spells and traps of his own devising to discourage them from exploring the lower levels of the House of Knowledge. He began to research devils and their other fiendish kin in order to better combat his enemy…and this was his undoing.

     In a moment of uncharacteristic boldness he read from a tome in the “Dangerous Books” wing of the archives. Lurking in the pages was a spectral possession devil named Xamzael that was freed from its prison between the covers when Atlavast read from a forbidden passage. The creature immediately possessed the priest but was denied access to the surface due to ancient wards placed on the the door to the archives, trapping it there. 

     Vaguely aware of the Ashmadai thanks to its limited ability to read Atlavast’s thoughts, the devil uses its host to find a means of escaping, and has even constructed a summoning circle to call more of its brethren into the mortal plane to help. Were it to escape, the devil would happily join the Ashmadai forces in conquering the city…with the expectation of becoming Neverwinter’s new infernal king, of course.

Tactics

Much of the flow of this fight is dictated by this devil’s particular qualities, so read its stat-block carefully and get a feel for how it orchestrates the battle. Xamzael will do its best to avoid direct confrontation with the PCs at all costs. It’s first action is to attempt to possess the nearest and hardiest available target; using the host as both weapon and human shield.

The fiend begins combat with a random devil arleady summoned, and Invisibility cast on itself if it is aware of the PCs incursion. Xamzael will prioritize summoning more help when his follwers are killed. He can use the summoning circle even while possessing a foe. 

Summoning Chart


Map


Features of the Area

  Illumination: Between the menacing red glow of the summoning circle and the flickering candles positioned about the room, the chamber is filled with dim light.

  Book Stacks: Each wall (Including those around the square columns in the center of the room) is covered in rickety shelves containing moldy old tomes. Some are ancient and forgotten spellbooks, some merely treatises on the magical arts, still others tertiarily related to the craft of wizards (such as accounts of a city’s “Mage Laws” or ledgers of the names of individuals burned for “witchcraft”).

There are eight and a half foot tall, free-standing bookshelves as well. A Moderate STR (Athletics) check could be used to topple the case over, dealing 1d6 bludgeoning damage and potentially trapping a target if they are not strong enough to remove the fallen shelf.

  Tables and Chairs: Worn out tables and chairs occupy the north side of the room. Once these were used for scholars studying the potentially dangerous tomes around them. Age has worn the furniture down, and the surfaces are caked with cobwebs and dust.

  Summoning Circle: This circle is a weak gateway to the outer planes. Xamzael has been using it to call forth lesser fiends to do his bidding. He need only spend an action to loudly incant in a foul language while adjacent to the circle in order to call forth a random devil (see the chart above). Once the circle has been used it will require an indeterminate time to recharge. 

Roll 1d6: on a 5-6 another devil is poised, ready to pass through into the material plane. This will be apparent to the PCs: the creature’s growls can be heard through the veil between worlds and the glyphs of the summoning circle itself glow with a pulsing red light.

Any spellcaster who expends a 3rd level spell slot and succeeds on a Hard Intelligence (Arcana) roll can disable the circle, closing the portal for good.At your discretion, appropriate spells like Protection From Evil might also close or disrupt the circle as appropriate. 

Monsters

Imp (pg. 26)

Lemure (pg. 27)

Spinagon (pg. 29)

x1 Possession Fiend/Xamzael (See below)

Rewards

Originally, the destruction of Xamzael was required to free Loremaster Atlavast, and the reward for this harrowing battle was acquiring a new ally. The needs of your campaign will dictate an appropriate compensation: the room is filled with scrolls, old spellbooks, and rarities. New spells, a tome sought after as part of a quest, treasure maps, or even some secreted away relic would all be suitable. 

New Monster

                                           


 

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The Pen is Mightier

This encounter is intended for three characters of 4th Level

     I’m mining my old 4th Edition Neverwinter Campaign Setting game yet again for this week’s encounter. I was really proud of the concept behind this one, and thought it might place some interesting choices in the hands of your PC’s, as well as provide them with a nuanced little set-piece combat. Like the other encounters in this series, I’m referencing plot and organizations from the Neverwinter (and thus, Forgotten Realms) campaign setting, but adjust whatever you need to suit your own campaign world and circumstances.

Setup

     Devil’s in the D&D world are the more conniving and long-sighted of the two breeds of infernal outsider. Thus, one of the Ashmadai’s plots in Neverwinter aims to conquer the city through the “long-game” should their other efforts fail. Because in recent years the city has been beset by very immediate disasters and the practical necessity for rebuilding; much of the city’s records, legal files, and historical texts have been abandoned. Most were destroyed during the catastrophe and the destruction it wrought on Neverwinter castle, but the House of Knowledge stored many such documents. A wealth of scrolls and books dedicated to municipal bureaucracy still survives down in its underground archival stacks. 

     It’s hard to say just which Ashmadai mastermind got the idea, but the cultist have been hard at work digging through these documents. They have set aside a chamber where some of the more learned and treacherous Ashmadai are hard at work forging, editing, splicing, and re-writing all day long. The goal is to manipulate the city’s records and history, so that when order is finally restored and judicial disputes over lands, inheritance, and succession commence, many such battles will end in favor of the cultists and their allies. Because few in Neverwinter have had the time to think of securing these documents the cultists have free reign to literally re-write the city’s storied history.

     The chamber in which the cultists are forging documents is part of the lower levels of the House of Knowledge. Hard at work, these cultists are unlikely to hear the PCs approach unless they have been tipped off to the presence of intruders (in which case one of the thugs will stand guard outside).

Flammable Objects

     There are some singular drawbacks in being innately talented with destructive pyromancy while working in a library. That’s a limitation that your players might be able to capitalize upon. The cultists will NOT make any attacks that deal fire damage/will forgo additional fire damage while near flammable documents (these areas are labelled with red “X”s on the map).

     That said, accidents (and clever players) do happen. If documents catch fire, one of the cultists will cease their attack in order to save the crisping parchment in question. Their next action will be spent dousing the flames even if this means risking an attack of opportunity. After completing this task they will rejoin the battle. If the damage is extensive (catching fir to an entire bookshelf) then they will attempt to salvage whatever they can from the ruin (this will require their next three actions). If the cultist is attacked while attempting to preserve these artifacts, it will be made clear to him/her what the greater threat is.

     While attempting to save damaged documents, attacks against cultists have Advantage and their saving throws are made with Disadvantage.

Tempting Literature

     Following combat, your players will have an interesting choice on their hands. Among the projects on the table is a near exact copy of a will and accompanying deed to one of the mansions in the Blakelake District. The cultist working on this forgery didn’t have time to fill in the name of the beneficiary – leaving the mansion’s fate up to the players. The document is legal and binding (for all intents and purposes) and could easily be used to allow the PCs to obtain the property with little effort.

     It’s up to you whether or not the PCs get away with this morally unsound acquisition. The more interesting choice is to allow them to enjoy their new hideout for a time – before an heir to the manse arrives in Neverwinter seeking to reclaim their family estate. What stake this newcomer has in the city, and what allies they might have at their disposal, could make this a difficult situation to navigate.

     You have a number of option to resolve this contested ownership. A hearing before the city’s ruler Lord Neverember could become a tense legal battle (with the forged will being the key to victory), or a bloody clash in trial by combat. Devious parties might attempt to remove their rival through treachery or assassination. Good aligned PCs might cede the land without dispute and find a grateful heir happy to reward them for preserving the mansion from falling into Ashmadai hands. Perhaps the returned inheritor is among the cultists, and despite their efforts, the estate still serves as a cult headquarters. 

     You might instead tempt the party with any number of other rewards acquirable through manipulation of legal documents that the Ashmadai were busy forging – from glory in the annals of Neverwinter’s history to rights to titles or lands outside the city.

Map

       

Features of the Area

     Lighting: Candles on the table and torch sconces on the walls provide a greasy brightness to the room.

     Table: The large table in this room is covered in parchments, ink wells, quill pens, thin knives, and other implements of forgery. The table itself extremely heavy (and was likely constructed inside this room. It would take at least three PCs accomplishing Easy Strength checks in the same initiative turn to overturn it.

     Bookshelves: Five of these 6.5 foot tall wooden shelves line the walls. They are buckled and warped, and are beginning to show their age. Each is crammed full with scrolls, folios, vellum sheets, books and bundles of loose paper, all carefully organized. Their contents are highly flammable. Overturning the shelves themselves requires a Moderate Strength roll. Should a shelf fall on one of the combatants, they are considered Restrained until they can make a Moderate Strength or Dexterity roll as an action to shimmy out from under the obstacle.

Monsters

x1 Cultist of Azmodeus (Storm Over Neverwinter pg. 7)

x2 Branded Zealot (Storm Over Neverwinter pg. 6)

x1 Ashmadai Thug (Storm Over Neverwinter pg. 4)

To accomodate four players, add an additional Branded Zealot


 
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Posted by on March 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Hustle and Flow (Part 2)

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

Back again for Part 2 of this linked double encounter! Last time, the players explored a mostly-abandoned temple to the elemental lord of fire, Imix. Having found a forgotten artifact of power crafted in praise tot he vile Primordial, they triggered the being’s anger, and its servants began a catastrophic release of lava into the chambers of the temple. Now the PCs must grab up their loot and make tracks out of the dungeon before they are swallowed up in molten rock!

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.

Many of the creatures now occupying this space are potent foes that are very challenging for a party of this level. That’s on purpose: the PCs are heavily encouraged to flee, rather than stay and fight all the monsters that have seeped into the temple. Besides, there is always a chance that a few of the magma beasts will pursue them to other areas o the dungeon.

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 can burst through the walls. This section of the dungeon is more difficult to navigate now due to falling debris as seismic activity is triggered by the agitated lava. Magma beasts and lava flows are seeping through the walls to impede the player’s progress as well. It is now a race against time over obstacles, rubble, and newly arrived foes, to get back to the more secure chambers of the dungeon.

Ideally with that awesome weapon in hand, too!

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
Hustle and Flow Part 2

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

•Lava Flows – Origin squares for the lava that is seeping into the room are indicated on the map. For the lava’s behavior, see “Lava Flow” below.

•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. The PCs can swipe up 2d20 worth of valuables with a “move” action, and 2d10 with a “Minor.”

Lava Flow
Once the PCs have disturbed the altar, this entire section of the dungeon threatens to fill with piping hot lava.

Hazard – Lava Flow
Attack: Any creature that starts its turn in or enters each square covered in lava takes 1d6 fire damage.
Countermeasures: It is possible to use spells with the “Cold” keyword to negate squares of lava flow (DM discretion).
Aftereffects: Squares continue to burn for up to five minutes, after which they begin hardening into stone (treat as rough or blocking terrain, DM’s discretion)

Initiative 15: Each lava flow expands in Burst 1 from a square furthest from its origin (or at its origin if no other squares are available.) Squares already filled with lava or containing blocking terrain (walls, columns, etc.) are ignored.
Initiative 10: Each lava flow expands in Burst 1 from a square furthest from its origin. Squares already filled with lava or containing blocking terrain (walls, columns, etc.) are ignored.
Initiative 5: Rubble falls from the walls and ceilings as the chamber becomes unstable: Place three squares of rough terrain on the map adjacent to another square of rough terrain. If a PC occupies that square, make a +7 vs. REF (2d6+4 dmg) attack against them.
Initiative 1: Each lava flow expands in Burst 1d2 from a square furthest from its origin. Squares already filled with lava or containing blocking terrain (walls, columns, etc.) are ignored.

Tactics
These creatures are doing their best to stop the PCs and ensure they will drown in the endless flow of lava. They are more concerned with hampering the movement of the PCs as a group than doing damage or dropping any one PC. As such, feel free to have the creatures make trip attempts, close doors, block door, or destroy any makeshift bridges or other objects the characters may have aiding them in their escape.

While the Magma Claws and the towering Magma Brute simply pound their opponents, the Magma Strider will likely lie in wait for anyone passing through the secret door and charge back and forth through the party, daring a victim’s allies to attack it and risk burning. If the PCs opt for another route, the strider will wait to chase down any stragglers, hoping that dropping the last man/woman in the column will halt the group.

A few of the magma beasts are particularly potent against characters of this level (despite being “first generation” monsters). Remember that the goal here is to flee the crumbling temple, not to kill all the monsters as usual. Don’t be shy about giving full experience, even though the players might have never harmed a single beast. The challenge here is survival, and is best represented by just handing over the standard EXP for a not-so-standard encounter.

Monsters
x1 Magma Brute (Monster Manual pg. 183)
x1 Magma Strider (Monster Manual pg. 182)
x2 Magma Hurler H (Monster Manual pg. 182)
x3 Magma Claw C (Monster Manual pg. 182)
x? Any creatures not destroyed when the PCs entered the dungeon remain

 
 

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Hustle and Flow (Part 1)

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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Grave of the Black Jarl

This encounter is intended for five Player Characters of 6th level

     It’s been a while since I’ve visited my favorite opponents – the undead. And on top of that I wanted to give my (Ahem!) Dwarven Forge set pieces a go at representing the map. Thus we have the following small section of a dungeon (or even a self-contained, “random encounter” style locale) occupied by the unquiet spirit of a cruel northern lord and his nefarious henchmen – faithful unto death. Also I just REALLY love using the viking version of a title; a fact I was reminded of thanks to a revisit to Skyrim and a run at a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure.

Setup
Though his true name is lost to history, “The Black Jarl” earned his title through betrayal, aggression, cruelty, and the macabre scarring left on his body after a conflict with a wizard. Raids and dirty deals made him an affluent man who jealously guarded his treasures, and many of these items were to be buried with him, along with his bastard son (A promising warrior who succumbed to a plague at age 16), several of his closest Thanes, and an ornate statue built in an idealized likeness of the Jarl himself. Before his death the Jarl swore that he would crawl out of his tomb and strike down any who dared to abscond with his possessions. In this, the Jarl was not false.

The halls of his tomb are walked by the restless spirit of his bastard son, and guarded by the animated corpses of his men. Even the Jarl himself does not rest easy, waiting with sword clutched in hand, eager to strike down and consume the life force of the first intruder foolish enough to enter his resting place.

Map
20130123-232902.jpg

Features of the Area
Light: The statue chamber is in dim light due tot he glowing gems placed in the eyes of the Jarl’s statue. Otherwise, the tomb is utterly dark

     Hidden Niches: These small chambers beyond the wall are where some of the Jarl’s Thanes were buried. Their flesh rotted away, yet their arrogance, cruelty,and the Jarl’s will kept their spirits tied to their skeletons. The wall here is purposefully weak and thin – though this is not apparent at first glance. A skeleton can use a Standard Action to destroy a 1 square section of the wall. Spotting the weakness in the walls is a Moderate Perception (Be aware that a PC’s Passive Perception score may beat the DC) or Easy Dungeoneering check (The PC must specifically be looking at the walls).

     Sarcophagus: This heavy stone casket features a stylized bas relief cover depicting the young man laid to rest inside. Of the body; only a brittle and immobile skeleton remains. However a healthy treasure parcel has been placed within the sarcophagus – including a handsome scramasax (+1 Short-sword) that would easily sell for twice its normal value: due to the masterful craftsmanship, gilding, enameling, and other decorative elements.

     False Secret Door: This wall appears odd (Perception DC 8) at first glance. Most PCs will assume it is a hidden door, and attempt to jar it open – eager for the treasure inside. It is in fact, a trap. Heavy stones were very loosely lined up against bare dirt, and if jostled, they will cascade down, burying anyone in front of them. NOTE: Only the squares indicated in red on the map are targeted.

Trap – False Secret Door
Immediate Reaction
Trigger: The wall is jostled or pushed against with a little force
Target: 2×2 squares in front of the wall
Attack: +10 vs. REF DMG: 1d8+6 and the target is knocked prone and restrained until they succeed at a Hard Athletics or Acrobatics check (Move Action)
Countermeasures: A PC using a reach weapon or long pole can spring the trap with a Hard Thievery check.

     Statue: Towering above the PCs is this 25 foot tall stone edifice fashioned in the image of the Black Jarl himself. It’s purpose was likely to serve as both tomb marker, ward against nefarious spirits, and a demonstration of the Jarl’s wealth and pride.

Though made mostly of a well worked, dark stone, there are strategically placed gems embedded into the statue. Most notably the eyes, which are large, glowing, red gems. These treasures have a minor magic to them, as they were formed in the Elemental Chaos before finding their way in to the hands of a craftsman. Each is worth 1,200 GP, making this a significant treasure parcel if the PCs can pry the gems free. Additional baubles of hematite and jade can be chipped out, adding another 400 GP to the total.

Climbing the statue is an inconsistent endeavor – some sections afford natural handholds, or else decay has made the surface easier to grasp. Yet in some places the stone is still smooth and permits no good surface to grip. A Moderate Athletics roll is required to scale the structure.

PCs keeping a close eye out might find a secret compartment built in to the back of the statue. This niche contains an additional treasure parcel – a last-ditch hiding place for some of the paranoid Jarl’s prized possessions.

Monsters
x6 Skeletons (Monster Manual pg. 234) [T]
x1 Wraith/Bastard Son’s Spirit (Monster Vault pg. 284) [S]
x1 Battle Wight/The Black Jarl (Monster Manual pg. 262) [J]

Tactics
The first thing the PCs will see are two skeletons at the end of a long hallway. These two await their approach, and might move forward a few squares if attacked from range. The remaining skeletons will wait until the PCs pass by or stop nearby to ambush them. They can hear what is going on outside the walls perfectly, and though they do not share senses, the Jarl can subtlety control them from within his tomb, allowing you to time their entry to greatest dramatic effect.

This shadowy creature appears in the image of the Black Jarl’s bastard son, right down to the spectral scramasax that he swings as though it were a real weapon, instead of an extension of his dark essence. The Wraith moves through the walls of the complex, attack when convenient and ducking back into the nearest surface. His intention is to sew chaos, and he will likely attack the weakest target, any bloodied target, or even a different target each time. If a PC strikes the Black Jarl, that PC will then become the next target for the Wraith’s abuse.

The Black Jarl will make his Soul Reaping attack as soon as a PC is in range, but will then retreat tot h recesses of his tomb. He is not fleeing – but daring the PCs to enter his realm and face him in straightforward combat. If he is hit with a ranged attack he hisses that the PC is a coward, “unfit to walk in these halls of honor.” If the PCs start gaining the advantage over the skeletons, the Jarl changes tactics, rushing out and joining the fray while he still has allies to support him.

Treasure
Consider giving 2-3 treasure parcels for this chamber. It’s best used to help the party “catch up” on loot they might have missed out on because of encounters with creatures that typically would not have treasure on them, or to make up Skill Challenges that didn’t yield monetary rewards. You should at least account for 1,600 GP to account for the various gems that are embedded into the Jarl’s massive burial/warding statue.

Consider arming the Jarl with a worthy magic item that he has access to when fighting the PCs (this will in turn become their property if they can defeat the corrupted lord.)

 
 

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D&D Next / 5th Edition Fan Adventure!

So, a lot has happened since I went radio silent a few weeks ago:

Plans to work on a write-up for a full adventure in the Neverwinter game I am currently running fell through for the moment. Due to my theatre schedule/the holidays/time spent playtesting a game developed for N.A.G.A.D.E.M.O.N – and whatever else decided to get in the way. During that time I managed to play a bit more of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition playtest. Then I did some digging…

Turns out that other authors have been posting their homebrew playtest adventure content. This seems kosher with the playtest’s strict (and somewhat odd) regulations on what you can/cannot talk about due to the fact that these adventures don’t actually reveal any of the playtest information (instead referencing page numbers to mechanics that would require the player to sign-up for the playtest anyway). In light of that, and due to the fact that I might have actually finished writing my Neverwinter adventure BEFORE running it (A problem due to nosey players reading spoilers on this blog), I instead set out to write my own 5th Edition adventure.

Thus I give you “The Astral Conqueror of Sargodell Deeps.” Intended as a single-session foray into the rules, it’s not terribly complicated or difficult, but manages to fit in a variety of challenges. Whenever I write a one shot, I try to set a few goals or constraints for myself to make it interesting. In this case:

  • Create a more “traditional” dungeon crawl experience without it dragging on overlong
  • Try to fit the whole dungeon on a table at once
  • Use exclusive sets of Wizard’s of the Coast’s Dungeon Tiles (Oh Caves of Carnage, how I have kilted you…but no more!) without too much mixing and matching
  • Provide an opportunity to use some fancy new miniatures I picked up in a context that fits the adventure (Thus, the inclusion of the trebuchet, flying cultists, and our primary villain)
  • Try out a letter-substitution puzzle and dress it up as interpreting arcane runes (A simple puzzle that requires just enough brain power and effort to make you feel cool for solving it, without bogging down the adventure. And it makes you feel like a wizardy archeologist!)

The file is a tad large as I went overboard on the image quality for the artwork and maps.

As for plans moving forward, times are getting much busier for me, though when they finally die down I’ll get back to business as usual with weekly posts. I still intended to post that Neverwinter adventure – just as soon as I get around to writing it – but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that arriving any time soon if I were you.

In the meantime, check out the new adventure over on the Full Adventures page! Give it a gander and as always let me know what you think – constructive criticism makes for better adventures and content in the future. And if you are someone I know personally who is likely to be a player in a run through of this adventure, KEEP OUT! You’ll see what it’s all about soon enough.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2012 in Announcements, Not Playtested

 

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