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D&D General Age of Worms - Three Faces of Evil Railroad (Spoilers)

TheSword

Legend
So looking back at the Three Faces of Evil chapter of Age of Worms I have a read a lot of the criticism. Firstly the campaign doesnt make sense - there are many inconsistencies of motivation of the three factions of the cult of the Ebon Triad and other NPCs like Balabar Smenk. Secondly the adventure is pretty much a railroad. Three areas tackled one at a time from the same area and the adventure finale happens when the third one is complete. The cult lairs dont really relate to the town above and feel like a missed opportunity.

With that in mind I've made some alterations to the structure of the adventure and the hooks. I'd be really interested people feedback on the changes and whether they make sense. For reference the campaign is set in the Forgotten Realms with Daggerford standing in for Diamond Lake I have a party of four. A dwarf paladin of Tyr; a human rogue who is a member of the local garrison; a dwarf transmuter; and a human cleric of Helm. The Whispering Cairn chapter went well. The PCs killed Filge and Burnt down the observatory recovering the worm sample and the letter to Smenk. They also successfully explored the cairn and have returned to Daggerford with a fair amount of treasure. The party have formed the strongest relationship with the local wizard Allustan, to whom they sold a baby owlbear. I had already planted a few seeds on a previous visit to Daggerford.
  1. The local wizard Allustan was concerned about break ins as two passing wizards have been robbed. (The rogue arranged for some soldiers from the garrison to earn some extra gold guarding his house)
  2. The local temple of Ilmater was broken into and several items were stored from their vault. They have been very quiet about what was taken.
I changed the three temples in town. Heironious to Helm (to match the PC priest), St Cuthbert to Ilmater; and Wee Jas to Kelemvor. Other than that Daggerford is Diamond Lake as written just with a town wall and a river instead of a lake.

There are several rumours circulating town when the PCs return at the start of the chapter
  1. The guards the rogue arranged to watch Allustan's house were pulled back to the garrison due to a number of desertions.
  2. Almost a dozen guards have deserted over the last ten days or so from the garrison. Mostly they are a bad bunch and responsible for two thirds of the garrisons disciplinary cases. No one at the gates saw them leave.
  3. Farms surrounding the town are abandoned, no sign of the inhabitants.
  4. The previous high priest of Helm, Father Keoghtom, was cast out of the Temple as a heretic by the orders of the Church Heirarchy in Waterdeep. His replacement Father Theldrick conducted the inquiry and cast the old priest out. He then disappeared. Theldrick informed the temple that Father Keoghtom had gone senile following his excomunication and wandered off into the hills. (Keoghtom was the PC priests mentor).
  5. Tidwoad the jeweller is desperate for gems to sell. In particularly amethyst, jet and carnelion.
  6. Tidwoad the jeweller is desperate for gems to sell. In particularly amethyst, jet and carnelion.
The adventure begins properly with bells ringing in the night.

When the priest visit reports to Theldrick about the disappearances at the Garrison, Theldrick berates the PC for involving himseff and the church with grave robbing, murder and arson. He states that he has been having them watched (appropriate for Helm but not in the spirit of the god of protection). He points out that Necromancy is not illegal in Daggerford and that several council members want to see them punished for their crimes. Theldrick asks for the PCs oath to Helm not to leave Daggerford until the council has made its decision.

Brother Randolph a perambulating priest of Helm that supports the farmsteads and villages in the area has returned to town after searching the hills. He is convinced Keoghtom is true to Helm and searches the hills for him. He has seen the abandoned farmsteads. He intends to travel to Waterdeep and petition the Temple Heirarchy to understand Keoghtom's heresy.

The Garrison Sergeant that authorised the rogue's leave of absence to explore the Whispering Cairn needs her back. He agrees to keep her return quiet for a few days so she can explore the defections but she should keep a low profile.

At the end of the PCs first night in town the bells start ringing all across town. The Govenor Mayor Lanod Neff (Allustan's Brother has been killed in the night) Guards arround the house saw nothing but it was a new moon and the house was dark.

The monthly council meeting is called forward to elect a new Mayor. The PCs are expected to attend to consider their case. Allustan asks them to accompany him as he was made an councillor-adjunct by his brother with a seat on the council, he just rarely attended. At the council several matters are discussed that the PCs were partly aware of. Disappearances, defections, the murder of Neff, and the PCs burning of the observatory. Balabar Smenk wants them arrested and convicted. Theldrick is not much help. The PCs get the chance to make their case. They can either convince the council on their merits or at worst case Allustan will lie and say his brother appointed him to deal with magical threats to the town and that the PCs were acting on his direct orders. Smenk's connection to Filge is revealed either by the PCs letter or following questioning. Theldrick demands the garrison reduce patrols in the countryside to properly guard the town gates and prevent further defections. Most of the watch is also directed to the gates as the only way in and out. Only Theldrick knows that he has his own ways of getting in and out of the city.

The council ends with the selection of a Mayor. Smenk is the richest mine owner. Ragnolin Dourstone supports him reluctantly (blackmailed). Zalandra from the Emporium supports him (largest customer). Sheriff Cubin supports him (Bribed). Suprisingly Theldrick supports him on the pretense that he is the most successful mine owner and the town needs stability (Really just part of a bargain Smenk made with the cult). The churches of Daggerford always vote as a block so the priest of Ilmater supports Smenk too.

However the priest of Kelemvor refuses to vote with the others in a break from tradition due to Smenks association with a necromancer. The four other mine owners refuse to support him. The garrison commander Trask abstains as is his policy not to intefere with interna town matters. Finally Allustan refuses to support him. All but commander Trask all vote for Luzanne Parrin. Brought to a tie, Smenk tries to claim that Allustan isnt a council member because he was appointed as special advisor and asks the council to have him removed. Allustan would not be able to vote in such a motion. However Allustan points out that only a major can appoint or remove a sepcial councillor. Tilgast as the oldest member confirms that this is the case and in the case of a draw the council defers the decision by one week. Smenk leaves enraged, as does Theldrick. The aim at this point is for Theldrick to be an absolute S.O.B but not to do anything to make them think he is evil, per se. Just corrupt.

After the meeting the Garrison Commander summons the rogue. He appoints her as a special liason between the Garrison and the town, citing the unusual occurances. Allustan has requested urgent assistance after investigating the worm they found at the observatory. The commander also wants the PCs to investigate the farm disapperances - barefoot humanoid tracks leading back to town. He also has found a copy of a chapbook called the Way of the Ebon Triad in one of their rooms. The commander thinks something untoward is linking the defections. The PCs also know something is amiss in the Dourstone Mine.

If they aquit themselves well. After the council meeting the Church of Ilmater will be more accessible. The high priest will confide her reluctance to support Smenk, but that Theldrick has promised extra guards following the break in. Several items were stolen, relics of three churches Bane, Myrkul and Bhaal that the church has secured in their vault. The church suffered the prensence of their evil in their temple for that is the way of Ilmater, to suffer that which others cannot.

If amenable, Smenk may reach out the PCs to try and find Merrovin Bask who the PCs separated from Kullen's gang and beat up to find the location of the bodies in Whispering Cairn. Merrovin has gone missing and Smenk wants him back. Smenk will approach the PCs and say that he thinks someone his targeting his peope. He will be very cagey but will mention the old mine outside of town. After the two temples are defeated. Smenk comes to the PCs with brusies on his neck and throws a strangler on the table sent by the Faceless one. He will explain about the cult but in such a way as to make him a victim. He will explain that the Faceless one paid him for the shipment in amethysts. Giving them away as if they were nothing.

The three temples are not connected to the temple with locked doors, but instead with two way portals - a brazier into which powdered dust is flung. Jet for the Arena of Bane. Carnellion for the caverns of Bhaal. The laboratory of Myrkul is hidden behind a cunningly hidden door. The brazier there is not magical and nothing they throw in the brazier will work. There are two deserters (now cult guards) guarding the catherdral. If interogate they can reveal information about the arena of Bane.

The temple of Bane is actually beneath the temple of Helm. Theldrick is really a priest of Bane who has been enticing recruits from disaffected soldiers and town unworthies. They stay in the arena of Bane's barracks and receive supplies sent down the elevator to the cathedral by Dourstone and Smenk. They form the bulk of the cult and are their human agents when needed. I have replaced the boar with a max hp Basalisk because its more fun. Also added a series of portcullises that corral the basalisk to the arena. These are controlled at several points, including the platform above. The following links lead to the Temple of Bane. If confronted Theldrick will try to escape.
  • The cultists in the dourstone mine if interrogated could lead to the temple
  • Becoming suspicious of Theldrick and searching the temple of Helm could reveal the entrance to the Arena
  • The shortage of jet Tidwoad mentioned is a clue to opperating the brazier of Bane.
  • Mad Grallak Kur can offer crytic clues to location of the temple of Bane - "The Black Fist Wears a Steel Gauntlet."
  • Randolph will return after 10 days with an escort of Helm soldiers to arrest Theldrick as a liar and an apostate.
The entrance to the Grimlock caverns is in an abandoned mine that Smenk once used to dump bodies and for storage. The grimlocks broke through into the mines from their caves following Gralluk Kur's visions. It is their main route into and out of town without anyone knowing. The grimlock caverns are linked to the Cathedral by a brazier that uses powdered Carnelion. The following clues lead to the Grimlock caverns
  • Footprints lead towards the town but also towards the mine. These can be tracked with difficulty (DC 15) all the way to the mine.
  • Investigating Lanod Neff's house following the murder reveals muddy footprints, it is iron rich slag runoff.
  • Small amounts of red power can be found on the ground next to the brazier in the cathedral.
  • Tidwoad can confirm a shortage of carnelion gems... though he gets a shipment in the next day.
  • If the PCs get too close to the cult activities Grallak Kur sends Grimlock Rangers to take them, either to the temple of the bane if subdued or to his own caves if not. If killed the Grimlocks also have the iron slag runoff on their feet.
The entrance to the Faceless One's laboratory is behind a secret door though there is a normal brazier in front of it to maintain the illusion. There are three Kenku spell thieves inside the maze. I will ask the players to call out distractions using the whisper function. The maze will be used as a single encounter with sliding walls to isolate the PCs. This will be very effective with a VTT and line of sight I think. Should be a very creepy combat. Particularly for the wizard and rogue. Inside the lab is the Faceless one and Keoghtom who was taken by Theldrick. The faceless one is testing the process of worm embedding on the old priest using a potion of slow disease (a concotion of his own unique creation). The priest is conscious but very exhausted and near death. The worm can be seen moving under the old man's skin. After the Faceless one is defeated the old man tells the party that the worm imeddding can't be cured by normal means once the worm deep in the tissue. He has an ointment in his chambers that might help, it is potent against all diseases. Lesser restoration and paladin lay on hands won't cure the corruption at 4th level. (Only a lesser restoration boosted to 4th level or 25 points of lay on hands healing can cure the worms), or of course a dose of Keoghtom's ointment. The lab only has one more potion remaining enough to keep Koeghtom alive for six more hours. Keoghtom has a pot of his ointment in a book in his old office (Now Theldrick's). He will urge the PCs to save it for themselves and says that they will need it in the future. Including the potion. Clues to the Faceless One's Laboratory is as follows.
  • Grallak Kur says that "The Faceless One Lies Behind Deception" a clue to the fact that the Faceless One's lair is behind a hidden door, not the brazier.
  • The party may hear a grinding noise if they are in the temple when the Kenku enter or leave
  • Theldrick's journal states that he was told the Faceless One's brazier uses amethyst powder. There is no sign of amethyst powder in the alcove.
  • The Kenku Rogues will be sent to try and kill the party if they defeat the first two temples and haven't found the Faceless One's lair.
  • A dead body of a Kenku won't have amethyst's or any gems.
  • A captured Kenku will reveal the secret if persuaded.
  • If the party have a barbed strangler and travel through one of the portals then it will messilly explode as the animating magic reacts with the creature. Suggesting the Faceless one's servants dont use portals.
The Faceless One's death triggers the birth of the Ebon Aspect that now blocks their escape from the Cathedral.

As a final denoument. Unless the PCs made friends with Smenk. When the PCs reach the temple of Helm to find the ointment Smenk has sent the rest of Kullen's gang to get revenge on the party. At this point they should be easy to defeat.

The Adventure ends with the repeat Council Meeting. Without Theldrick the Smenk has 2 votes. Zalandra and Dourstone (1 if Dourstone is implicated in the cult). However the PCs can sway things the other way if they want. Their influence can persuade Allustan, the temples and even the Garrison commander which will be enough to swing the council to whomever they want. I wan the PCs to have an investment in the town... all the more rewarding when Ilthane returns to destroy it in chapter 6.

Anyway lots of thoughts there. Any feedback is much appreciated!!!
 

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GuyBoy

Adventurer
I’m not familiar with this campaign so it is hard to comment on specifics. Having said that, the level of work you have put in on making the changes for your group shows immense dedication.
 

TheSword

Legend
I’m not familiar with this campaign so it is hard to comment on specifics. Having said that, the level of work you have put in on making the changes for your group shows immense dedication.
I learnt from the best. Don’t worry though, this one isn’t for you so you’re not spoiling anything. I’d love to run the group through it, but I’ve already DM’d the first five chapters for Pete and his brother. While Ryan can’t remember what happened in a campaign 3 months after it ended, Pete never forgets!

It’s the same with Rise of the Runelords, I know Nick ran at least three or through chapters of it with you all. I’m just at the section with the Hillbilly ogres with my Leicester online group and I must say I’m having fun with the Graul farmhouse! It’s a shame these classic campaigns can only come once in a group. A bit like Pete missing Curse of Strahd, and me missing Night Below and Savage Tide.
 

GuyBoy

Adventurer
The Graul farmhouse is epic. Truly revolting.
I’m happy with the epic-ness rating of the two campaigns we are engaged in right now.
I keep hoping Night Below will get a revamp for the 50th Anniversary; I’d jump at the chance to run that again.
 

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