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Iron DM 2009 - all matches

Wulf Ratbane

Adventurer
THE KING MUST DIE
Iron DM Round 1 Match 1
Slaad
Wind Skerries
Reticent Constable
Constitutional Monarchy
Original Skull
Holy Avenger

SETUP
This is an adventure for one Paladin PC (and such companions as may accompany him). Ideally, this adventure can serve as an Atonement for a paladin who has failed to live up to the lawful component of his alignment. The quest will show the paladin that it’s not always possible to “do good” while upholding the Law—and sometimes that’s all right.

You can also use this adventure for other paladin-themed quests: the search for his mount, or for his holy sword.

BACKGROUND
Valedon is a constitutional monarchy, with executive powers vested in the regent primarily in the form of a veto; the regent’s Council of Lords conducts and organizes the day to day functions of the state, each keeping in mind the needs of their own subjects as well as the needs of the state. Regent and the council members alike are sworn to uphold and defend the constitution, and each willingly accepts a geas to guarantee their good conduct. Indeed the constitution itself is a powerful magical artifact, the focus for this compulsion.

Valedon’s contains strict provisions for the order of succession, and for many, many generations this has staved off the typical bickering and politicking of the noble families. The regent serves until his or her death; and, if married, the regency passes temporarily to the spouse, who may (by death or abdication) pass the succession to the oldest of his or her natural children. The interim regent may even remarry, and perhaps establish a new line of succession.

The “current” hereditary ruler of Valedon, King Valos himself, was a wizard of great ambition—but only middling skill. When Valos fell ill many years past, none could guess that the cause was a summoning gone awry. Valos had unwisely attempted to bind a blue slaad to his service. Valos —or at least, to drive it away. Unfortunately, it was too late: Valos was infected with slaad fever.

The king’s strange affliction manifested much like a typical palsy, with the king becoming more and more withdrawn until he finally fell into an irrevocable catalepsy. Unaware of the nature of Valos’ illness, but sensing an opportunity, the queen and her lover, High Constable Claudius, kept Valos’ illness a secret and did not summon the priests to tend his illness until they were certain it was too late.

Thus, there was noone at hand to tend the king at the moment of his final transformation: Valos became a green slaad. The ensuing rampage of ur-Valos was brief; he was banished to Limbo after the arrival of the high priest.

This has caused a bit of confusion with regards to succession. Valos (now ur-Valos) is not, technically speaking, deceased, and as far as the Law is concerned, he (or it…) remains the rightful ruler of Valedon.

Claudius and Gertrude do not know the nature of Valos’ disappearance. Nevertheless, they conspired to cover it up—they certainly needed a body if they were to claim the king’s death. Claudius “procured” the corpse of one his guardsmen (slain during ur-Valos’ rampage) to stand in as the body of the king. To foil the High Priests, Claudius literally swapped heads from one body to another, making certain that both the body and the facial features, though severely mangled, might pass muster.

CAST OF PLAYERS
Gertrude—the interim regent of Valedon, wife of the dead king
Claudius—High Constable of Valedon, commander of the armed forces, now husband of Gertrude
Horatio—a high priest of Law
A trio of Inevitables: Lawbinder (a Zelekhut), Oathkeeper (a Kolyarut), and Deathstalker (a Marut)
ur-Valos—the former king of Valedon, now a green slaad

THE FIRST TASK
The quest begins with a powerful appeal, directly to the paladin, from the forces of Law. Lawbinder, the centaur-like Zelekhut, will appear and address the paladin directly. Sent by the Powers, Lawbinder will announce to the paladin, “The Law must be followed. Alight, and come with me.” Lawbinder is willing to serve as a mount for the paladin.

Lawbinder is not very forthcoming, seeking primarily to transport the paladin to Valedon where he can set things right (via planar travel from a higher power, or more mundane means if you place Valedon within a few days’ travel).

Lawbinder will explain to the paladin that powerful magics (forbiddance, among others) prevent him from entering the Manor, and that the paladin must act as his agent on this matter.

The paladin’s first task will be to enter the Manor, where he will first be granted audience with the High Priest Horatio. Horatio will explain the death of the king, perhaps express some reservations about the incident (and in particular the Queen’s short mourning and rapid engagement to Claudius). He will further explain that all attempt to cast speak with dead on the corpse have failed (but he is willing to try again for the paladin to witness—the spell will fail, as the corpse is not intact). Horatio will explain the constitution as necessary.

The paladin may also speak with the Queen and with Claudius, both of whom will be evasive, but extremely careful not to lie. Claudius is particularly reticent, suspiciously so; if pressed long enough, he will default to a story that he knows well (and truly), and describe the slaad attack, and might linger a bit too long and dramatically over the death of his men; a Sense Motive check may tip the paladin off that something is not right—if the player needs a “strong clue” then the body count simply won’t add up. More subtly, an inspection of the guards’ bodies in their crypts may reveal that the one corpse has had its head replaced with another (these neck bones are ripped apart, these neck bones have been cut cleanly through).

Ultimately the paladin’s task in this section is to reuinte the original skull from the guardsman with the “fake” king’s corpse, so that speak with dead will function correctly. At this point, through questioning, the corpse can reveal that it is not, in fact, the corpse of the king, but rather that of a lowly guardsman (killed by ur-Valos).

Under questioning, Claudius and Gertrude will truthfully admit that they had nothing to do with the disappearance of the king, and they both truly believe him to be dead. Under the laws of Valedon they are guilty of a minor crime at best (tampering with a body). There is, however, the matter of their attempt to subvert the constitution…

The paladin should return to Lawbinder to report.

THE SECOND TASK
When the paladin returns to Lawbinder, he will be greeted instead by Oathkeeper, a kolyarut. Oathkeeper will announce himself, concluding “Oaths must be kept. Draw steel, and return to Horatio.”

When the paladin returns to the Manor, he will be greeted directly by Horatio, who is surrounded by the angry, grieving families of the slain soldier, all demanding justice. Horatio will briefly explain that Claudius has fallen ill, wracked with pain for his attempt to subvert the constitution. In the interim Horatio has determined that ur-Valos yet lives, and is the rightful ruler of Valedon— unacceptable! And yet, they are all bound by the word of their constitution.

Horatio will explain that Valos, ur-Valos, whoever or whatever he is, is liable for the deaths he caused, and must be brought to justice, tried, and executed—which result will neatly solve their succession problems as well. There before the grieving families, Horatio will task the paladin with a Quest: “Will you undertake this holy mission and avenge these people?”

Whether or not the paladin accepts the Quest, when he returns to Oathkeeper he will be greeted by both Lawbinder, Oathkeeper, and now Deathstalker, the marut, who stretches out his hand to the paladin. “I speak for Death, who speaks last for all. Come with me.”

Deathstalker will plane shift the paladin and the other inevitables directly to the howling chaos of Limbo.

THE THIRD TASK
The paladin and Deathstalker arrive on a floating island of intricate clockworks. Small modrons can be seen scurrying to and fro among the gears, making adjustments and repairs. The island has a giant metallic sail of sorts, and multiple sculls, all powered by clockworks that lead back to an enormous clockwork key. Deathstalker grabs the key, sets his massive shoulders to work, and begins winding the key. “Our craft has been made ready. I will wind the skerry,” he advises, “You… You repel boarders!”

While Deathstalker winds the skerry, the skerry begins moving through the howling winds of Limbo. The DM should balance this task so that it is “harrowingly difficult” for the paladin. The two lesser inevitables will assist the paladin as chaos beasts and slaadi literally appear out of the chaotic soup to attack. Oathkeeper the Kolyarut fights with two swords: a holy avenger and a righteous avenger (the axiomatic counterpart of a holy avenger). He will loan one of these swords to the paladin.

For each round that the marut spends winding the key, the skerry will be powered for one round as the key unwinds. Thus, even Deathstalker may come forward to help at times, provided he has banked enough rounds of winding to keep the skerry powered and moving forward.

The last few moments of the trip should be the most harrowing, with Deathstalker completely tasked to keeping the skerry moving forward through intensifying winds. A huge rock will suddenly loom out of the mists and the skerry will crash into it.

The paladin has landed on the rocky home where ur-Valos now dwells. It should be obvious where to find ur-Valos, “There! Just up the hill!”

His den should be marked with something foul.

At this point, swarms of slaadi should descend on the group. The inevitables will all together press the paladin to move out immediately and carry out their task. “Bind fast the Law!” “Keep the Oath!” “Speak for Death!” They will make a path for him to break free and seek out ur-Valos.

Single combat will ensue. ur-Valos will not be taken alive, though the DM is free to contrive a way in which this is possible.

At the moment where ur-Valos is finally vanquished, the paladin should be returned to the Prime Material plane—either through a friendly plane shift or even a hostile banishment.

DENOUEMENT
It will be clear to Horatio and the others of Valedon if the quest is successful. The paladin should witness (perhaps unsatisfactorily?) the smooth workings of Law as the succession falls neatly into place: Gertrude and Claudius will rule.

It is left to the DM to find some suitable reward for the paladin if mere atonement does not suffice.
 

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Radiating Gnome

Adventurer
(business road trip was cut short by unseasonably bad weather. Here's your report!)

I have to say, stepping out and judging my first Iron DM round is daunting -- and the caliber of the two contestants on my scales makes that doubly daunting. I have towering respect for both of you.

But enough kissing butt -- on to the judgment.

I think this early match provides a great example of some of the challenges inherent in the Iron DM system, and can make an instructive example of some choices stack the deck against contestants. What we have here are two entries, both of which are using the ingredients with varied success; but one of the two manages to tell a story that includes the ingredients on a much smaller scale. That concise scale provides a distinct advantage in some of the other elements of the challenge.

In the case of Breath of Chaos (BoC), we have a small campaign -- a series of 5 episodes that read like they are intended to each take about a session of play, and they will require some fleshing out for any DM to use. This broader scale makes it easier to bring the disparate ingredients together as just subsequent episodes -- but in the end the entry sacrifices some of it's ability to be detailed, evocative, and exciting. Summaries lose their punch -- concrete details grab us by the short hairs.

The King Must Die (KMD) is not a short adventure, by any means, but it could probably be squeezed into a single session, maybe two, depending upon the scale of some of the combat encounters. By using a smaller scale canvas on which to create the adventure, this adventure writeup can spend more time on the details and the writeup is more evocative.

That element alone isn't decisive, but since this is the very beginning I'll offer this up as a piece of advice to new Iron DM contestants -- tighten your entries, make your scale a small as possible and spend some time making it sing so the entry can come alive in the reader's mind.

The Ingredients.

Neither entry knocks all of the ingredients out of the park, but that's not unusual -- especially given some of the ingredients that this round included.

Slaad -- both entries used the slaad as important bad guys and instigators. This ingredient is a wash.
Wind Skerries -- This is one challenging ingredient, if only because it's not something that exists in a monster or setting book somewhere -- I had to go study up on Wikipedia and other online sources, and I'm sure others did, too. But the very nature of this ingredient means that, naturally, it has the ability to carry extra weight in the challenge. Unfortunately, there isn't that much distinction between the two implementations -- they both provide a setting for a part of the adventure, etc. I will admit, though, that I'm tickled by the use of "wind" to mean "windup" in KMD. Minor advantage to KMD.
Reticent Constable. Meh. Neither use of this element really sings to me. The Warden/Constable in BoC makes for an interesting side trek/interlude in the main adventure, which makes him something that the players will actually encounter; I'm not sure that the PCs will actually interact much with the constable in KMD. He's part of the background and setup, and might be around in some of the scenes at the very beginning and end, but he's quite the same sort of direct participant. Minor advantage to BoC.
Constitutional Monarchy -- This is another ingredient I was really looking to see what it might inspire for both entries. It is interesting to me that both adventures involve a question of succession in a constitutional monarchy, thwarted in both cases by an unusual circumstance involving the slaad. Neither entry really made this a significant part of the adventure, so we'll call this one a wash, too.
Original Skull -- In BoC, there are two skulls -- the goddess slaad's skull that is the setting of the final episode, and the skull of Morley required to defeat the slaad and to return the nation's patron spirit. In KMD, the skull is really a head, not just a skull that has to be restored in order to speak to the dead guard. Even though this is a head, not a skull, I'm inclined to ignore that evasion because the head/skull feeds the Hamlet homage that this entry is toying with. I like the skull dungeon, and I like the hamlet-y head, so we're going to call this one a wash, too.
Holy Avenger - This one should have been just about as easy to work in as the Slaad -- obvious handles to bring this into the story. In BoC, the holy avenger is something that the PCs must quest for and use to defeat the final enemy; that's pretty much the sort of use we would expect. But in KMD, the appearance of the holy avenger seems to be an out-of-place afterthought. The setup for the whole adventure -- that this is meant to serve as an object lesson in the "lawful" part of "lawful good" creates some serious expectations for me. I'm expecting that there will be some clear standoff between the two -- with the inevitables creating the situation where the law must be honored before the good. In that setting, the Holy Avenger almost seems like it would be the tool of the opposition. Instead, it's part of a matched set -- the holy and righteous avengers -- and we're told that the paladin PC is given "one of them" but not even which one. It's also possible to read the adventure with the Paladin serving the role of "holy avenger" -- he is called upon directly to avenge the dead guardsmen -- but I found that also very problematic in an adventure that is meant to be putting law and justice ahead of all other concerns. Revenge is not lawful, it is not judicious; it's personal and emotional and chaotic, and my sense is that the command to bring ur-Valos to justice was replaced with a commandment to avenge the slain people to create this second reading of holy avenger . . . . but I find that out of place. It's possible that with some broader explanation the role of Horatio as the voice of the people and the "good" could serve as a counterpoint to the voice of the inevitables, the law -- but I don't see that developed in this particular writeup. I think that in KMD there is ambition to reach beyond the obvious use for Holy avenger that don't pan out, while the usage in BoC is predictable but it works. Advantage BoC.

At this point, based solely on the ingredients, I'm giving a slight advantage to BoC. But I think that's where things start to turn.

Usability -- Both adventures has hooks -- BoC's are more generic -- your PCs are called to serve or happened to be on hand, etc. The KMD one is much more specific -- but I find that I like that specificity -- the promise of an adventure that could be used in this very specific way (to provide a paladin-centered lesson in the tension between Law and Good) is a lot more interesting to me, even if the ways to use it are a bit more rare. I feel a lot less need to develop the ideas in KMD beyond the synopsis here before running it, too -- and this is where it's relative brevity does it some good service. BoC is expansive, and to use it in my campaign I would need to take each episode and develop it beyond what we're given. Advantage KMD.

Presentation. Again, KMD has a slight advantage here because it does not need to cover so much ground. Dramatic moments and key dialog presented in the entry help flesh out scenes and bring them alive for me reading it.

Originality. Both entries have cool, original ideas. As I've said, I like the idea of the final episode taking place in the regenerating skull of the slaad goddess in BoC. Most of the rest of BoC seems pretty much what I would expect, though -- not a lot of surprises there.

KMD has a setting that is almost as cool (the windup skerrie), but over the rest of the adventure matches up pretty well with BoC for originality. And that brings me to the interesting Hamlet element of the adventure.

As a judge, I'm sure I'm drawn in unconscious ways to the Hamlet homage in KMD because of my own educational history (waaaay too much literature and creative writing). But, while I'm drawn to that element, I find it's use flawed and incomplete, and almost enough to make it a negative in this entry rather than a positive. Almost.

[So, for those of you who fell asleep in English Lit, here's the wikipedia article about Hamlet. (Hamlet - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) Note the names of key characters (Gertrude, Claudius, Horatio), the importance of ghosts (i.e. speak with the dead), and so on.]

I love that the Hamlet stuff is there. I even appreciate that it's totally beneath the surface, and that there's no reason that a group playing the adventure would need to know that the element is there. But I'm disappointed that there wasn't much reward for noticing the parallels. This is problematic because the Hamlet story and this adventure are about very different things, from the outset. KMD declares that it's about the primacy of law over good; Hamlet is about the agony of being a thinking man in a world of action, among other things. Hamlet's "to be or not to be" is about trying to decide if he should avenge his father's murder -- and again, revenge is by it's nature not a lawful act. There are some thin thematic similarities, but they fall apart pretty quickly.

(I was frankly relieved not to detect hints of another literary ghost story in the appearance of three inevitables -- did I miss something there? I was looking.)

I'm not sure what the reward should be. It might not be tangible, in-game reward. But there ought to be something, even just an inside joke, for the player who manages to spot the homage to Hamlet going on. Instead, the story just starts there and moves quickly away from Hamlet to serve it's own purpose, leaving me to wonder if it would have been stronger WITHOUT the Hamlet elements stirring things up.

Last Call..... This one is a tough call, at least for me. I find things to like about both entries, and problems in both. BoC is spread more thinly, and has fewer problems. KMD is more interesting and evocative for me, but deeper flaws. In the end, I'm going to give the nod to Wulf and The King Must Die -- I find his entry captures my interest more, and has me more engaged and eager to run it for players than Breath of Chaos does. It's a very near thing, but that's where my judgement falls.

So, Wulf advances.
 
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phoamslinger

Explorer
Match 2, Brent_Nall vs Wik

your Ingredients are:
Bank Vault
Dry Well
Desperate Housewives
Haunted Swamp
Rogue Hydra
Potion of Fiery Breath


you have until 6pm Eastern on Sunday. go!
 

Wik

First Post
Do I post my finished product here? Or elsewhere? I'm about one quarter done, and taking a break. (It's hard!)
 

Wik

First Post
In Grog We Trust

In Grog We Trust
a Fourth Edition D&D adventure for 5 PCs of 9th level

Background

The triplets Isabella, Francesca, and Katriana had always been self-serving, though they were able to disguise their black hearts with their angelic good looks. Living in the arid Dovestown, the women sought power and joined the ranks of of the Palomas Rojas, a collection of arcane students dedicated to the protection of Dovestown.

The triplets soon grew tired of benign scholarly pursuits, and each married roguish sailors (some would say pirates in hushed tones) and grew wealthy from pirate gold. Soon, they desired even more power, and when they learned of a Palomas plan to cast a magical ritual that would cause the dried-up town well to draw water once more, the Triplets sprung into action. Modifying the ritual scroll at the last moment, the contents were read, causing the well to become a corrupting influence that destroyed the Palomas and caused brackish water to seep from the very earth. Dovestown was swallowed by a fast-growing swamp that forced the townsfolk to move to the rocky shores.

The new Dovestown soon turned into a haven for pirates and criminals, since the swamp (haunted by the spirits of the Palomas) deterred all access to the town except by sea a rough sea. The husbands of the triplets seized power, and ran the pirate haven for a decade before "disappearing" themselves.

The Three Housewives of Dovestown have ruled jointly for the last 15 years, quelling the revolutions of the townsfolk and manipulating the pirates against one another to maintain power. And then the PCs arrive.

Adventure Start

The PCs are hired by a governor of a coastal colony to lead the Eva Maria - a treasure ship laden with gold, silver, and gems - to the "mother kingdown" to the south. They must take the ship across serpent-infested, stormy waters that are home to numerous pirate kings. The Eva Maria is a "vault ship", with the cargo hold protected by numerous magical and mundane traps - some the PCs are aware of, and others they are not.

Run as many or as few encounters along the way as you wish, though at least one should be against pirates to foreshadow the events to come in Dovestown. (As a fun sidequest, you could introduce a plot element where the PCs have to avoid a pirate in the town who recognizes them from a previous encounter). At the bare minimum, use this time to introduce the ship's crew to the PCs (most crewmen are minions, though at least a few should be companion characters a few levels lower than the PCs themselves).

The adventure begins when the Eva Maria is hit by a massive storm. This is a skill challenge, with the degree of success or failure indicating how many crew members survive the wreck - complete failure indicates only the PCs survive. In any case, the ship is nearly ruined, and only through extreme luck are the PCs able to guide it towards the lights of Dovestown.

Dovestown

When the PCs arrive in Dovestown, they learn of its nature - a ramshackle collection of huts ruled over by The Housewives of Dovestown (corrupt arcane triplets), and various pirate lords. The town is filled with brothels, gambling halls and the like - as well as various shipwrights. The town is built on a raised series of rocks at the mouth of a bay - the lower land around the bay consists of a foetid swamp that echoes with the mournful cries of ghosts, and is blanketed in perpetual gloom and darkness.

The Pirates do not recognize the Maria, and if the PCs wish to keep things that way, they must hide its true nature. The best way of doing this is to masquerade as pirates, mingling with the pirates in two ongoing skill challenges - one to maintain their masquerade, and one to fix the ship without letting corrupt shipwrights view the cargo hold or the traps that guard it.

During this time, the various men-at-arms of the Housewives (see below) begin investigating the ship. There are a few small fights here, as the PCs battle pirates and the servants of the 'wives. In addition, the PCs should learn of the oppressed townsfolk that are bullied by the evils in the town, and learn of the magical nature of the swamp (and how it is a new addition - less than 30 years old).

The Housewives

The housewives are triplets in their early forties, and each is stunningly beautiful - if outright evil. All are sorcereresses of considerable power, and treat their arcane familiars in the manner that some celebrities treat accessory poodles. All have poor, squiggled hand-writing, and the PCs should get a chance to observe this writing at least once in the adventure.

Isabella: red-headed with green eyes who favours green dresses. She carries a jewelled wand at her side, and is the only sister to refrain from expensive cosmetics. However, she has a love of perfumes. Her familiar is a small Caiman Crocodile. She is a master manipulator, and controls those around her with guided words and charming magic. Her men-at-arms are Green-cloaked thugs who use large weapons (8th level brutes).

Francesca: A brunette with blue eyes who favours blue dresses. She carries a staff, and always wears gaudy makeup. She is incredibly vain, and the most sexual of the three, using her body to manipulate the men around her. Her familiar is a spitting cobra. Her attractive men-at-arms are all former (or current) lovers, and wear blue tunics and carry crossbows and short swords (8th level skirmishers).

Katriana: A blonde with grey eyes who favours yellow dresses. She carries a dagger, and always wears her hair in intricate patterns. She is the most petulant of the triplets, pouting to get what she wants. Her familiar is a boa constrictor. Her men-at-arms are all opportunistic pirates that have varying costumes (Katriana likes to dress them up like dolls, using her "expert" fashion sense). They are 8th level artillery.

Invitations

The PCs are invited by the housewives (seperately) to dinner parties by hand-written letters (giving the PCs a chance to see the housewives' horrid handwriting). Each housewife invites different PCs - whomever excites their sensibilities. Each makes the same offer - the treasures of the Eva Maria in exchange for a position as "king" of Dovestown. The PCs soon learn that each Wife wishes to become sole queen of Dovestown. If they wish, the PCs can even play the wives against one another, in a skill challenge. The better they do on the skill challenge, the fewer men-at-arms they must face in subsequent encounters.

Exile

Eventually, the wives seize the Eva Maria. The PCs cannot rescue the ship, and are encouraged by their crew to hide in the swamp and plan a rescue later. The PCs are not followed into the swamp.

While there, they meet several townsfolk who are members of a resistance movement. Most consist of the wives of men press-ganged into service on pirate ships or the housewives' conscripted militia. These townsfolk beg the PCs to investigate the heart of the swamp - hopefully finding something to indict the corrupt rulers. They believe the oppressed townsfolk will stand up to the housewives if only given a cause or opening.

They also inform the PCs of the nature of the swamp, how it sprang up one night when the Palomas Rojas sought to fix the dried-up well with a magic spell, and of the Palomas ghosts that now haunt the place.

They give the PCs ten bottles of "magical grog", that will help the PCs breach the unnatural darkness that cloaks the swamp.

The Magic Grog

Each bottle of "magic grog" has enough doses for two drinks. A PC who drinks the grog gains the power to breathe fire in a close burst 5 as a minor action. This fire is able to breach the magical darkness of the swamp. However, the grog is alcoholic in nature, and PCs must make escalating Endurance checks as they drink the grog to prevent becoming drunk (-2 on all skill checks and attack rolls).

The Swamp

The swamp is magical in nature, with a darkness that cannot be breached by natural lights or sunrods. This darkness is such that even darkvision is muted - PCs with low-light vision can only see for 10 feet, while darkvision allows sight to a range of 20 feet. The magically-created vegetation in the swamp, though, is unnaturally dry (the land is naturally arid, after all), and if it catches fire, will provide light for several rounds (and could be used as a torch). Any vegetation caught in the fire provided by magical grog will instantly light.

The PCs move through the swamp, encountering many abandoned town buildings and fighting off swamp creatures (like snakes and alligators) as well as the arcane shades of the Palomas.

The Well

The PCs find a dry patch in the swamp, home to a dried-up well that has a dull red glow. The whole place hums with arcane energy. The PCs find numerous creatures that seem to consist of multiple beings fused together (a snake and an alligator combined; a half-drake, half-bird; or whatever else your cruel GM imagination comes up with). The ghosts here frantically try to reveal to the PCs the wives' betrayal, and if the PCs search the area, they find an old ritual scroll.

The scroll is obviously written in the wives' handwriting they recognize from earlier, and a reader trained in Arcana realizes it is a water-summoning ritual modified to slay the readers of the scroll upon completion. Obviously, the Palomas did not know this when casting the spell, and were killed - but also failed in the original water summoning ritual, causing the creation of the swamp but not the filling of the well (which remains dry, though corrupted by magic).

With the evidence they need to indict the housewives, the PCs return to Dovestown, no longer harrassed by the ghosts.

The Eva Maria

The PCs meet up with the women of the resistance and reveal the modified ritual. The resistance begins to move and convince the townsfolk to rise up, and informs the PCs that the Maria is occupied by the housewives.

The PCs make their way to the Eva Maria, currently being forced into by conscripted soldiers in a manner similar to the final scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (a nervous man enters the ship, and gets torn to pieces by various traps). The PCs force or sneak their way onto the ship, and try to repel the numerous boarding men-at-arms. In this battle, the PCs should know the location of most of the ship's traps and effects, giving them a distinct edge in the fight (which can be made up for with larger numbers of foes - the more to get chopped up by traps!).

Eventually, the pirate ships are set ablaze, and enraged townsfolk (alerted of the Housewives' betrayal by the resistance) storm the wives' manors. The Housewives, realizing their plight, desperately flee into the swamp.

The town is swarmed by townsfolk, with the conscripted militia turning on fleeing pirates and setting fire to brothels and gambling dens. The resistance asks the PCs to kill the housewives, once and for all.

Final Confrontation

The PCs chase the wives through the swamp, realizing the ghosts are channeling the wives towards the dried-up well. Once there, the PCs arrive just in time to see the wives forced against the back of the well by dozens of howling ghosts. Upon touching the well, the women grab one another... and stick together. In terror, they realize their familiars have stuck to them as well.. and their bodies begin to slowly gel. They morph together, eventually turning into a three-headed form similar to a hydra.

This beast has a crocodilian body (from Isabella's caiman), long serpentine necks (from the Katriana's boa), and can spit globs of poison (from Francesca's cobra). The beast has three heads, with each head a reptilian version of one of the wives.

This maddened beast screams destruction to Dovestown, and breaks free from the influence of the well, heading towards the town. The PCs must stop it.

The fight should be against an 11th level solo monster similar to a hydra. The aquatic terrain should favour the beast, and many minor amalgam creatures created by the well ( 10th level minions) battle the PCs as well. If the PCs still have magic grog, they can use it to harm the hydra, which is vulnerable to fire.

Denoument

With the death of the Hydra, the ghosts' of the Palomas Rojas are appeased, and they fade from the swamp (as does the magical darkness). However, the swamp remains, as does the curse of the dried well at its heart. The pirates are chased from Dovestown, and the women of the resistance are reunited with their husbands. The Eva Maria is given the attention of the townsfolk, and promptly fixed, allowing the PCs to carry on their way to the mother kingdom and gaining their reward from the king.

Ingredient Listing:
Desperate Housewives: The Housewives of Dovestown are the obvious ingredient; they become increasingly desperate for sole power over the town (and control of the treasure in the Eva Maria). They also become desperate to escape Dovestown, at the end of the adventure. In addition, the women of the resistance, who seek to rescue their conscripted husbands, could also be classified as "desperate housewives".
Bank Vault: the heavily-trapped Eva Maria, housing a large cache of silver and gold, is the bank vault in this adventure.
The Haunted Swamp: Obviously, the swamp that surrounds Dovestown. It is haunted by the ghosts of the Palomas Rojas.
Dry Well: The well in the centre of the swamp, which was created by the Wives and which in turn created the swamp.
Rogue Hydra: The beast the housewives become in the end, from their interaction with the dry well. It becomes "rogue" on it's course back to Dovestown, as it breaks free from the influence of the Dry Well.
Potion of Fiery Breath: The magical grog.
 

Nifft

Penguin Herder
Round 1, Match 3 -- Ingredient List

InVinoVeritas v Pour

Flying Monastery
Granite Shield
Vampiric Saint
Never Ending Passion
Chained Demon
Flaming Frying Pan of the Master Chef

Aaaaaaand... Go!
 

AntiStateQuixote

Enemy of the State
Match 2, Brent_Nall vs Wik

your Ingredients are:
Bank Vault
Dry Well
Desperate Housewives
Haunted Swamp
Rogue Hydra
Potion of Fiery Breath


you have until 6pm Eastern on Sunday. go!

All the King’s Women
A D&D 4th Edition adventure for level 13 heroes

The Fellswamp is a dark and dangerous blight on the southeastern border of the Principality of Edmund. The people of the Principality have wisely avoided the swamp for generations as it is known to be haunted by various spirits and beings of the Feywild. Now the evil of the swamp reaches its swirling tendrils into civilization, and Prince Jorum Edmund calls upon the heroes of his land to put a stop to the terror.

Background
Some years ago Skarlmarga, a mighty troll, arose as a new king in the swamp. He gathered the trolls, ogres and other beasts of the swamp under his banner. He scratched out a kingdom of sorts on the eastern edge of the swamp where his soldiers and minions have managed to hold back the restless spirits of the central and western part of the Fellswamp. Skarlmarga has kept a reasonable peace with the Principality of Edmund, finding easier prey for his people among the goblins and orcs of the hills to the east.

A new threat has appeared in the Fellswamp. Skarlmarga and his soldiers are hard pressed to maintain his rule as many of the troll king’s people have died under the teeth and claws of the terrible beast that threatens them. Skarlmarga’s chief advisors, a trio of hags, have taken it upon themselves to seek help among the humans of the Principality of Edmund.

Adventure Synopsis
The adventure begins when Prince Edmund calls the heroes to his court and charges them with uncovering the cause of the disturbances in the village of Aichen near the Fellswamp and bringing peace to his people.

In Aichen the PCs hear of three children who have disappeared and of several bloodily failed attempts to track them into the Fellswamp. In reality the three children and their mothers have been kidnapped by ogres and taken to Skarlmarga’s hold on the far side of the swamp, and the three hags have used their magic to take the place of the missing women in the village.

In the guise of distraught mothers of missing children the hags will attempt to pass information about the dangers in the Fellswamp to the heroes. An unusually formidable hydra disturbs the peace in the swamp and is the cause of the recent problems there.

The heroes may uncover the hags’ treachery, in which case the hags will plead for help or flee into the swamp or die under the swords of the PCs. In any case, the heroes should have some information from their encounters with the hags that lead them to investigate the goings on in the Fellswamp.

The trek into the swamp could go several ways. There are numerous encounters with undead and Fey creatures as the heroes make their way either to the lair of the hydra or to King Skarlmarga’s hold. In either case the heroes eventually learn some details about the hydra. It is a creature from the Elemental Chaos that rampages periodically through the Fellswamp, destroying everything in its path before slipping back to its home.

If the heroes managed to make peace with the hags, they will be useful allies in navigating both the Fellswamp and King Skarlmarga’s lands. With or without the help of the hags the heroes learn of King Skarlmarga’s wholly justified, but neurotic, fear of fire. He maintains a massive treasury in his keep where he stores various items of value and power. A well guarded and booby trapped vault holds a handful of fire-based magic items including potions of fiery breath.

Encounters with the hydra and information gathered from the trolls reveal the hydra to be particularly resilient and resistant to most damage types, but it is vulnerable to fire. Through stealth, force or negotiation, the heroes should attempt to acquire the potions of fiery breath from King Skarlmarga for use against the hydra.

The hydra itself exists in both the Elemental Chaos and the World at the same time. It projects its body into the World periodically through a portal in the middle of the Fellswamp. The portal is a deep hole on what appears to be a desert island in the midst of the verdant and putrid swamp.

Eventually the heroes track the hydra to the portal. While fighting the hydra the heroes should recognize its link to the Elemental Chaos. Destruction of its body in the World will not end its menace and the heroes must travel through the portal to its lair where, in a final climatic battle, they can bring the creature down with the help of fire magic.

Encounters
The Hags of Aichen
The encounter in Aichen begins as a skill challenge in which the heroes attempt to learn what’s going on. The DCs for most checks are easy or moderate, although a handful of hard checks associated with discovering the hags’ true identities should be thrown in. Success in the skill challenge can reveal several details about the situation:
  • The children were kidnapped by ogres
  • The ogres are in service to King Skarlmarga, a troll
  • Several forays into the Fellswamp have resulted in about a dozen deaths of the would-be rescuers falling to various undead and Fey creatures
  • There is a hydra on the loose in the swamp
  • The hydra is attacking King Skarlmarga’s people
  • The distraught mothers are hags in disguise: Giselda, Cowlinda and Ellestia in service to King Skarlmarga
  • The hags want the heroes’ help in destroying the hydra
  • The hags can become allies if the PCs work toward that end

In the Swamp
If the PCs have the hags to guide them then the journey through the swamp to King Skarlmarga’s hold takes six days during which they cannot take an extended rest unless they manage some way to hold off the environmental and undead menace that prevents such rest. During this time the heroes will fight off numerous (at least six) easy rated encounters against various undead and Fey creatures. The hags will fight alongside the heroes in these fights. Just before reaching the troll king’s lands a final hard rated encounter with many undead occurs.

If the PCs do not have the hags to guide them they must undergo a grueling, hard-rated skill challenge of survival and exploration in the swamp. Regardless of their preferred destination, the troll’s land or the hydra’s lair, they must make twelve hard-rated skill successes before reaching their destination. After every check, success or failure, the heroes will have an easy or moderate rated encounter with undead or fey creatures in the swamp. During this time the heroes cannot take an extended rest unless they have extraordinary abilities to withstand the environment and the waves of undead.

At the Troll King’s Lair
Once the heroes enter Skarlmarga’s lands they can find a safe place to rest either by winning the troll king’s confidence or simply finding an out of the way place to camp.

When the heroes reach Skarlmarga’s hold they have the choice of attempting to negotiate or attack. If they choose to fight then a handful of moderate difficulty encounters should get them into the troll king’s lair where they can fight the troll king and his minions in a hard rated encounter and eventually rescue the kidnapped children and their mothers.

If they choose to negotiate, a moderate to hard rated skill challenge ensues as they try to win the troll king’s confidence. If the hags are present and friendly with the heroes then the difficulty for negotiation skill checks (bluff, diplomacy, insight) is easy instead of moderate or hard. During this encounter the heroes can learn more about the hydra threat including its resistance abilities and its dual existence nature. The troll king will give the hostages back if the PCs will help him with the hydra menace.

The troll king will also reward the heroes for ending the hydra menace. He will give them access to his dreaded fire magic if they can win another hard rated skill challenge. They may also choose to fight or sneak their way into the vault to get at the potions. The hags will tell the heroes of these potions.

The Hydra Lair
The hydra lair is an empty desert island littered with rubble and other rough terrain in the middle of the Fellswamp. The heroes can make their way to the lair by succeeding on six moderate rated exploration type skill checks. If the heroes are friendly with the trolls then the difficulty for the checks is easy as they offer guidance and advice. After each skill check (success or failure) the heroes have an easy rated encounter with undead and/or fey creatures. The heroes cannot get an extended rest on this trip, as above.

At the lair the hydra waits in the deep hole leading to the portal. The moment any creature steps onto its island it leaps out and attacks furiously. The creature fights to the death knowing that it will reform on the Elemental Chaos. After the heroes defeat the hydra they track into its lair and discover the deep sandy pit which is a portal to the Elemental Chaos. Crossing over to the other side they can put the beast to rest forever.

In the Elemental Chaos
The heroes find the hydra revived and stronger with greater resistance to damage and greater vulnerability to fire. The creature uses the shifting terrain and dangerous pools of elemental energy to its advantage in a wide ranging fight over a massive, twisted battlefield that moves and shifts under their feet as the battle progresses. The hydra is level 14 solo creature with strong damage resistance and heavy fire vulnerability. There are four level 13 obstacles/traps on the battlefield which the heroes must contend with and can possibly use to their advantage.

Conclusion
The PCs earn xp for a major quest if they rescue the children and their mothers. Prince Jorum rewards them with a level 16 magic item.

If the heroes were friendly with the trolls and defeated the hydra, they earn another major quest xp award and a level 15 magic item from King Skarlmarga. Additionally, they may be able to forge a true peace between the Principality and the trolls.

If the heroes ignore the hydra and simply charge in to save the villagers without regard for the trolls’ problem, the hydra will eventually destroy all of the trolls and begin to drain the swamp of all life and energy. It will increase significantly in strength as its link to the Elemental Chaos and the destruction it causes in the World feeds it. The hydra will become a major (epic level) threat to the World that will directly threaten the Principality.
 


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