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Iron DM 2009 - all matches

Nifft

Penguin Herder
humble minion, you have crafted a tight, cohesive story around six ingredients, with some very clever ingredient interpretation. I love the setting elements, it's got parts that are usable in many campaigns, and the mysterious plane-shifting shadow-tree is both evocative and mechanically useful.

Thasmodious, your narrative rambled a bit, and there are some gaping holes in the story that need filling. And yet you won. Let's look at why.

- - -

[h3]Elven Mayor[/h3]
Thasmodius gives us an elven mayor. He's central to the plot.

humble minion -- you gave us a half-elven "mayor", and that's being generous. Mayors are in charge of cities, not markets. If I'd given "half-elf" as an ingredient, this would have been a very creative. But honestly, the half-golem aspect waaaaaaay overpowers any residual elfish qualities this "mayor" might have had. If I used your adventure and asked my PCs afterward what they thought of the "elven mayor", they'd give me blank stares. Nothing about him says "elf", and very little about him says "mayor".

[h3]Critical Hits[/h3]
Thasmodius used critical hits in their literal, mechanical sense. I don't find their use to be vital to the plot, and that's costing you points -- all the parts dealing with "critical hits" could be removed, and the adventure would run the same, so you haven't done a great job making them important.

humble minion, your interpretation "critical hit" would be a very creative use of the term, and I like creative uses, but it doesn't actually happen. The critics are prevented from declaring anything a hit because the crowded theater has been set on fire. If the ingredient were "critical flames" or "burning criticism" you'd have scored a home run. But you're not actually using the ingredient, even by the most liberal interpretation.

[h3]Magic Fruit[/h3]
Good use by both of you. humble minion, your Blood Orange is brilliant. Thasmodius, your magic fruits are good plot devices.

[h3]Evil Puppets[/h3]
Good use by both of you, mostly. Thasmodius, I love the image of evil puppets dropping from the twisted branches of a giant corrupt tree. humble minion, your Mr Sticks is integral to the plot and could have been a great NPC... but as written, the PCs aren't going to interact with him, and probably aren't even going to notice him until it's far too late for them to detect his Evilness.

[h3]Mace of Blood[/h3]
Thasmodius gives us a corrupted artifact, and it's central to the plot. It interacts with the fruit and the puppets, and your translation into 4e grants it interaction with critical hits.

humble minion, your mace of blood is integral to the backstory of the brilliant Blood Oranges, but it's not something the PCs will interact with. It's technically in the adventure due to the backstory, but it's more of a clue to the magical fruit than it is a thing in and of itself. Excellent integration with the magical fruit, not so good integration with the plot.

[h3]Stellar Pathway[/h3]
Thasmodius, I don't see how Sigil was related to "stellar" -- the pathway twisting due to star-spawn would have been sufficient. Sigil was an unnecessary addition, and frankly got in the way.

humble minion, I like the image of your stellar pathway, but what happens if the PCs decide to travel to the tree during the day, when it actually exists on this plane? It's a reasonable decision, and negates the ingredient entirely.

- - -

humble minion: if my ingredient list had contained Vampire, Half-Elf, and Shouting Fire In A Crowded Theater, you'd have won. But in the end, the elements you highlighted weren't the ingredients. I applaud your clever interpretation -- it's something I favor -- but you do need to focus on the six ingredients before throwing other stuff in. I like how tight your plot and backstory are, but I don't like how linearly it will play out, and I hate how small a part the PCs would play in the plot's unfolding. What if there's a Bard (or a player who is a ham) in my party? What if he wants to perform for the competition? That's the kind of party that such an adventure seems to call to, but who might be most frustrated by the lack of options for participation. In summary: excellent set-up, excellent setting, execution needs work.

Thasmodius: I don't need to be told how I can be flexible in using various elements. I'm an arrogant bastard, and I will use everything exactly how I want. If this is the kind of crap thinking that 4e encourages -- nah, who am I fooling, I love 4e. But my point is: such passages are wasted space. Instead, focus on telling me when time is of the essence, or what might tend to lead the PCs towards the plot element, rather than telling me when they're allowed to stray from the plot. In summary: good set-up, excellent setting, good execution.

- - -

Thank you both. With more practice under your belts, I think you'll both be capable of excellence across the board.

Thasmodius advances.
 

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Helena Real

Explorer
Vengeance is Mine

"Vengeance is Mine"

Introduction
An unknown disease seems to affect villagers, nobles and commoners at random. The Realm’s security and survival is threatened, since no cleric (nor prayer of any kind) has been able to contend the plague, much less stop it or even heal the already sick. Although it hurt him to do so, the current Ruler of the Realm had to make a very difficult decision: declare the harbour city of Foire—one of the largest and most prosperous of the Realm—in quarantine until further notice. Moreover, in order to reinforce and maintain the declared state, the Wizards of the White Tower gathered their forces in order to create a magical matrix which prevents any creature from escaping Foire. Thus, the Heroes found themselves trapped under magic and surrounded by the undead...

Background
Not so long ago the Heroes venture themselves deep into the Steel Mountains, north of the Realm, in search of adventure and bounty. In their path they encountered all sorts of monsters and threats, until they found what they were looking for: the treasure hoard of Akarium, a great wyrm. After a long and bloody battle, the Heroes defeated the serpentine monster and took its treasure as reward. What they did not know, however, was that they were buying it with a much higher cost than expected. One of the sleeping hatchlings of Akarium, Berthaazir, hatched just in time to see his mother slain by the Heroes. Knowing that he was much too weak to make a stand againt the Heroes, Berthaazir sworn to himself to bring his mother back from the Underworld and exact his revenge from Akarium’s murderers.

In his journeys, the young wyrmling found a powerful necromancer, Dirkûn, who empathized with the creature’s desire for revenge. For his own twisted reasons, the wizard instructed the dragon in all sorts of magical knowledge. Soon, however, Dirkûn discovered that Berthaazir’s only strive was to learn about anything related to summon the spirits back from the dead. As a result, the necromancer redoubled his pursuit in order to help his young apprentice. Sadly for the dragon, one of the last rituals turned against the wizard, destroying him in the process. The whole sancto-sanctorum of the wizard was obliterated and Berthaazir was left with only one clue: the Jar of Steam.

According to the wyrmling’s reading of his teacher’s notebook, an artifact called the Jar of Steam was the only way of bringing a spirit back from the Underworld. The text, of course, was only an incomplete and false version of the truth. The Jar was indeed designed to rob the souls out of the living, turning them into savage, blood-thirsty monsters craving for living flesh. In the blink of an eye, Berthaazir’s desire for revenge turned into an unending plague that cannot be reverted—or that is what everyone thinks.

The truth is that the Jar was created by the very same Queen of the Dead, aeons ago. His son, the Lord of Life, foreseeing the madness of this artifact—which could potentially kill the whole world of the Living—designed an antithesis to it: the Flying Dagger of Life. Only the Dagger possesses the power to crack open the Jar and free the souls trapped inside it. It is up now to the Heroes to find the Dagger and finish the Plague.


Act I: Trapped Inside the Walls

The Heroes begin the adventure in the “Hog’s Father” Inn, one of the largest and most famous accommodations in the Realm. Their staying turns suddenly into a nightmare, as the Royal Edict finds them inside the city walls, and no excuse or use of force that the PCs could muster will help them to get out of the city. Try to give them as much a sense of dread, horror and a powerful sense of urgency: it doesn’t matter how powerful or resourceful they think they are, there is no way they can stay in the city and survive. Either are they going to fall to the hands of the undead horde or they will be the next victims of the Plague.


Scene 1: The Maddened Innkeepers
At the end of the day after the quarantine announcement, the Heroes return to the Inn where they are staying, most likely disappointed and/or furious about the news about their state inside the city. Not long after they arrive to the Inn, the Heroes will notice that something strange occurs: although it is not that late, there are no patrons drinking and enjoying the hearth. Moroever, the innkeepers and barmaids are nowhere to be seen. After a few moments, a strangely slow and clumsy barmaid appears, launching after the Heroes’ brains. Not long after this first attack, the inn turns into a battlefield againt the undead. The Innkeepers’ couple, the barmaids, and even some of the patrons launch against the Heroes, desperately fighting against them. In the blink of an eye, a candlestick turns over and a burgeoning fire starts to consume the Inn. The Heroes only escape is secret passage into the old city dungeons.


Scene 2: The Old City Dungeons

The long-forgotten, apparently never-ending mazes of underground corridors, remnants of the old city foundations, are an ample source of enemies and dangers for the Heroes. Nevertheless, the most important encounter is one beneath the Tower of Wizardry. There, the Heroes have a chance of expanding their knowledge of the Plague, thanks to a old grimoire, guarded by a pair of Golems. The grimoire contains a riddle about the Jar and the Flying Dagger and, most importantly, about how to find the Dagger The riddle goes like this:

In ancient times, a mother a Jar made
His son dreading the fact a Dagger forged
One the soul's traps
The other the trap destroys
One silent as the grave
The other by talons like steel guarded.



Act II: The Quest for the Dagger
After escaping the City, the Heroes have only a few leading clues to the Dagger. Depending on the DM, others could be given in order to point the direction. However, the only way to find the Dagger is that the Heroes prove worthy of it to the Lord of Life’s eyes. For this reason, it is important to design a series of encounters where the Heroes can prove their mettle, prowess and honour when facing the Lord of Life’s tests. The Hunt for the White Stag, the Quest for the Holy Grail and others can serve as models for this Quest. Notwithstanding, the most important part of the story in this act is to face the Heroes with a monster with “talons like steel”. After the creature’s defeat—but before its death—it will offer the Heroes the Flying Dagger of Life in exchange for the forgiveness of its Life. Only then can the Heroes try to defeat the Unending Plague...


Act III: Revenge is Sweet...
With the Flying Dagger of Life in their hands, the Heroes are now able to pursuit Berthaazir. Their path, however, is blocked by the different traps and servants of the dragon-mage. Moreover, as soon as Berthaazir detects that the Heroes have the Dagger will command its troops to try to take it from them. Henceforth, their tactics will become focused in nly one thing: try to take away the Dagger from the Heroes and deliver it to their Master.


Final Encounter: The Dragon-Mage Reveals
In the final encounter, it is important to create a mood of angry desire for revenge: Berthaazir hates the Heroes, blaming them for his horrorific life, where he had to grow without a mother, to lose his only figure of love and respect as a result of his quest for his lost mother, and finally his soul, after acquiring the Jar. All in all, try (as a DM) to make the Heroes feel somehow guilt for their past actions, prior to the bloodshed.


Conclusion
The only possible victory for the Heroes is a phyrric one: in spite of the fact that they will almost for certain stop the Plague and save hundreds—if not thousands of Life—most probably only they will know that the hundreds of deaths the Plague caused was a direct result of their previous actions.


Ingredients
Inside the Walls: The Heroes begin the adventure inside the city walls of Foire. The first act of the adventure draws from this ingredient in order to create a claustrophobic atmosphere.

Flying Dagger: The Flying Dagger is a fundamental component for the adventure’s development. It is the only way the Heroes have to stop the Plague.

Childhood Avenger: Berthaazir, the young dragon-mage, is the childhood avenger of his mother’s death at the hands of the Heroes.

Talons like Steel: An element that connects the adventure in general, it appears in various occasions: first, as a part of the prophecy in the old grimoire and then physically present in the Lord of Life’s guardian of the Dagger.

Unending Plague: An unexpected side-effect of Berthaazir and his master’s magical pursuits in the world of the Dead, it sets off the adventure and sets the mood for a large part of the sense of urgency.

Jar of Steam: The artifact that created the whole scenario for the adventure, is a powerful and treacherous magical item, which plays with the wishes of its possessors.
 

Sparky

Registered User
Apples, peaches, pumpkin pie,
Eat them and you’ll cry, cry, cry.
In the alley, in the sky,
Like a dagger fly, fly, fly.
Find your sweetheart, find him nigh,
Through the window spy, spy, spy.
If he’s faithless, if he’s sly,
Stab him in the eye, eye, eye.
Never, always never, lie.
Never, always never, lie.
Never, always never, lie.
Apples, peaches, pumpkin pie.

--- A childrens’ rhyme from Niadelaar*


Woes in Niadelaar
A D&D 4e adventure for 3-5 players of mid-heroic tier.

People are falling ill in Niadelaar. That’s nothing new, really. People have always fallen ill in Niadelaar -- it is a miserable, smelly, low-lying, backwater province with a history of trickery, deceit and betrayal that stretches back to the village’s founding. A fine place for adventure and adventurers!

Niadelaar was founded by Zvarten Jacobus, a notorious thief who bribed, bullied and blackmailed his way into the aristocracy. He earned a title and, to his chagrin, a fief in a swamp infested by a murder of pestilent harpies. Determined to further spite the Crown for this slight, Lord Jacobus decided to make his dream of respectability happen at any cost. By the time Lord Jacobus died, Niadelaar was well-established and – using the methods the crafty thief adopted to drain the swampy land – growing.


Campaign Info
Today, there is no proper Lord in Niadelaar. Lord Jacobus was never able to produce an heir. The Crown was especially pleased to be free of that entanglement and allowed administration of the fief fall to the Church. The Church viewed Niadelaar in the same way the crown did, as a dumping ground. Forty years ago, the Church has assigned rabblerousing Father Frerik to this remote backwater parish and the young man found he liked the village, its people and its freedoms. Once a year the Church sends an official to check in on the parish (and collect tithes).

These days the village pretty much fends for itself on the edge of civilization. The people of Niadelaar are stubborn, hardy and untrusting. Niadelaar can be placed in any marsh-, fen- or bog-like area where you’d find windmills and where ‘peat cutter’ would be a common occupation. Peat is, in fact, the chief export of Niadelaar, and its primary source of fuel and building material. If your setting is in warmer climes, adobe construction would be a suitable, but not ideal, substitute.


In a Nutshell
The ghost of a harpy queen, Talons-like-Steel, murdered over a hundred years ago by the founder of the remote village Niadelaar, has returned to seek vengeance on the village. Through dreams and visions, the ghost harpy has manipulated a young woman, Morja, into doing her bidding. ENTER: The PCs.


Getting the PCs to Niadelaar
A selection of hooks to get the PCs into the troubled village. Mix and match.

· Devotees of Ioun may wish to make a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Saint Kennis, creator of the Flying Dagger of Niadelaar.
· The PCs are sent to collect Niadelaar’s annual tithe and to collect and to deliver some mail.
· PCs stop in on the way from A to B.
· The Crown is considering reestablishing Niadelaar as a fief and sends the PCs and some Crown officials to survey and evaluate the village.
· PCs discover a strange steely harpy talon and are directed (or drawn) to Niadelaar.


Adventure

On the Road
The road to Niadelaar crosses bleak, gray-green moorlands (or marsh, fen or bog). The road is somewhat well-traveled. If they’re travelling along a trade route, the PCs should see caravans of wagons loaded with earthy-smelling peat bricks headed the opposite direction. Any wagons headed toward Niadelaar will be carrying foodstuffs. Inquiring PCs will learn that Niadelaar needs to import a substantial portion of its food because the crops that grow in the area are often diseased. Closer to Niadelaar, windmills dot the countryside.

Niadelaar itself is a low-slung village with several windmills. Almost all of the buildings are built from peat cut into slabs and stacked. The buildings are butted up against one another. If not for the windmills, this might look like an extra lumpy part of the moors. The whole village smells earthy and damp. The smell is mostly pleasant, but makes frequent forays into both ‘mildewy’ and ‘like-death.’ When the PCs arrive in Niadelaar, things are mostly normal. Mostly.


At the Red Rose
At the Red Rose Inn the PCs might learn:
· Something strange happened at the graveyard.
o Tomb of Jacobus (Niadelaar’s founder) attacked.
o Attacker was Sem, a peat cutter. Sem is sick with the Singing Sickness.
o Not normal behavior for the sick man, or for Singing Sickness.
o Sem is at the Shrine.

If the PCs do not have a talon, they should find one sitting in the open on the tavern floor, amidst the rushes on the floor. The talon is cold to the touch, powdery and hard like metal. Any regular patron who sees or is shown a talon will recoil, make a holy sign and tell the holder to take it to the Shrine.

· Morja, a barmaid or servant, seems particularly upset at the PCs having a talon.
o VERY observant PCs will note that her dismay is different.


On the Street That Very Night
The PCs might see:
· A villager, Juriaan, wandering in a strange, lurchy fashion down the street (he is dominated).
o If the PCs stop Juriaan, he makes conversation, but seems distracted, sickly and disoriented. If needed, an Insight check will reveal that Juriaan is not drunk (easy DC).
o Gets angry if pressed and tells the PCs to mind their own business.
· Left to his own devices, Juriaan lurches to the graveyard and attempts to batter his way into the tomb of Jacobus. He makes basic attacks against the tomb door.
o If approached at the tomb, Juriaan attempts to flee. If caught he begs for help, asking to be taken to the Shrine.
o Juriaan isn’t hard for the PCs to subdue or kill. If the PCs do subdue or kill Juriaan, as he loses consciousness, they momentarily feel a scalding breeze (no damage).
o If the PCs seek help for Juriaan, they are directed to the Shrine.
o If the PCs flee the scene, a witness reports them to Father Frerik and he visits them at mid morning (or before they leave town) to reproach them for leaving the villager (mildly if they left him alive, angrily if they killed Juriaan). But mostly he wants to ask the PCs for help (offers reward if it seems they’re the type who need a reward – Shrine has a variety of Wondrous Items, Father Frerik can perform Enchant Magic Item at level 6). He asks them to accompany him to the Shrine, they can talk on the way.


At the Shrine
Father Frerik is a gentle, soft-spoken man. He seems worried about the strange turn of events. If the PCs haven’t learned of any strange events, he fills them in on the two attacks on Jacobus’ tomb by people who’d succumbed to Singing Sickness, Sem and Juriaan. He’s worried that the village’s food stores, thought to be clean, are tainted with the disease that plagues the earth nearby (they’re clean, easy-to-moderate Nature checks). He’s especially troubled by the strange behavior of the two most recent cases.

If the PCs wonder aloud why anyone would want to live in such a remote, terrible, disease-ridden cesspit, Father Frerik laughs and tells the PCs that the citizens of Niadelaar like their freedoms, freedoms from demanding Lords, freedom from the Crown’s taxes.

Sometime during the visit, the PCs will meet Father Frerik’s precocious acolyte, Katrien. The young girl is very composed and serene, eerily so. She doesn’t speak much, only if prompted. Father Frerik seems very proud of her. She tells Father Frerik that two more villagers have been brought to the Shrine with Singing Sickness. They are Viona, the Innkeeper’s wife and Menno, a young peat cutter. Viona is accompanied by Morja.

PCs may notice (in order of increasing difficulty to detect):
· Morja is stiff and formal. (easy DC)
· Father Frerik looks sad when he looks at Morja. (easy DC)
· Morja looks puzzled to see Menno. Worried. (moderate DC)
· Morja’s face contorts briefly with rage when she sees Katrien. (hard DC)


What’s Happening
Morja, some time ago, came into possession of a steely talon. These talons are found from time to time in the peat cut from the surrounding bogs, remnants of the village’s brutal founding. Most villagers find the talons unsettling and comply with the Church’s (Father Frerik’s) request to bring them to the Shrine when they are discovered. Morja, embittered at Father Frerik, and strangely, not unsettled by the talon, kept it. The talisman gave her visions at night. Dark, violent visions of vengeance.

Morja grew obsessed with the talon and the visions it granted her. She longed for vengeance against the people she blamed for her fall from grace as Father Frerik’s acolyte. She had been his favorite once. That privilege was that self-righteous brat Katrien’s now. Eventually the visions communicated to her how she might exact her revenge. Guided by dark visions, Morja created an earthen jar with mud and ashes from the site where Niadelaar’s founder Zvarten Jacobus had burned the harpy queen, Talons-like-Steel over a hundred years before.

After cutting her hand with a steely talon and bleeding into the jar, Morja whispers the name of the harpy queen and the name of the person that Morja wants the harpy queen to attack. The smoldering rage of the ghostly harpy queen boils out of the jar in a burning mist that seeps into the walls and travels swiftly to the target of Morja’s ire. Talons-like-Steel has 1 hour to find her target and deliver her Dominating Kiss, thus inflicting a special Singing Sickness on them – one that when they succumb, will allow her to dominate them. When a victim succumbs to Singing Sickness, Talons-like-Steel can dominate them for 1 hour. They harpy queen’s plans are her own and she has not shared her actual goals with Morja. Nor will she.

Morja has 6 people on her ‘hitlist:’
· Sem
· Juriaan
· Viona
· Sjors
· Katrien
· Father Frerik
NOTE: Menno is not on this list, he’s got regular Singing Sickness

Sem, Juriaan, Menno, Viona, Sjors and Morja are around the same age. They were all children together, half-raised by Father Frerik after a terrible fire orphaned all of them. Sadly, orphans aren’t terribly rare in Niadelaar. Morja was Father Frerik’s favorite, he chose her as his acolyte. The others teased her incessantly about Father Frerik’s attentions and Morja, an impulsive girl, attacked and hurt Sem. She was unrepentant, maintaining that she was defending Father Frerik. He suspected (correctly) that she wanted revenge on the other children more than she wanted to defend Father Frerik. Because she was entirely unrepentant, Father Frerik dismissed her from his service.

She has wanted revenge on them all since her childhood.


More Clues for the PCS
If the PCs haven’t worked out that Morja is behind the strange Singing Sickness:
· Morja has a gash on her palm that the PCs notice. She tries to keep this concealed.
· The next day, when they see her next she has another gash on her other hand – so now both hands are gashed.
· They can find a much-folded, much-handled note with the names of Morja’s targets on it. Depending on how much time Morja has had to summon Talons-like-Steel, some or all of them will be sick.
· If the PCs show the note to Father Frerik, he will be able to discern that these are all people that Morja might blame for their falling out.


At Morja’s Place
If the PCs suspect Morja and seek out her home, they find a small, messy, one-room place.
· It smells metallic (like blood, steel).
· The room’s small table has drops of blood on it.
· A trained Arcana check to Detect Magic (moderate DC) reveals a trace aura in a concealed alcove behind a bookshelf.
· A Perception check (moderate DC) reveals a piece of the peat brick behind a shelf that sits differently than the rest.
o The peat sits differently because it is only a relatively thin plug that covers a secret alcove within the wall.
o Within the alcove is the Jar of Steam.

· If Morja suspected the PCs were on to her, the Jar is not here.
o It’s at the Inn, hidden hastily in plain sight on the wall behind the bar with bottles along it. A Perception check (moderate DC) reveals its presence.
o Morja might have simply feared the PCs were on to her and moved the Jar. Use this if the PCs are freaking Morja out, or if they need some help finding the Jar and moving the plot.

NOTE: If the PCs just aren’t getting it, lower the Perception DCs to sniff her out. Or, alternately, have Morja somehow discern Talons-like-Steel’s plan to annihilate the whole village and approach the PCs herself, asking them to stop Talons-like-Steel.


Morja’s Next Steps
Barring DM intervention because the PCs are stuck, Morja’s only goal (she’s obsessed) is to finish punishing those she blames for the life she didn’t get to spend with Father Frerik. She has to be within Niadelaar to use the Jar, so she won’t flee. She can only use the Jar once a day, so she needs two more nights to infect the two remaining people on her hit list (she infected Sjors the night before the PCs came into town). She will move the Jar again if she needs to, but each suspicious move might draw the PCs down on her.

If Morja is confronted and does not have the Jar she will flee Niadelaar. If the PCs run her down she surrenders, seemingly meekly. If she is confronted and has the Jar and can summon Talons-like-Steel, she does so and speaks the name of one of the PCs (the dimmest looking one) and flees under cover of the steam cloud. If she can’t summon Talons-like-Steel (because she has already used the power), she will break the Jar and flee under the concealment of the steam and let the PCs deal with Talons-like-Steel. Breaking the Jar will cause it to summon Talons-like-Steel immediately (close burst 1 steam and all). All of Talons-like-Steel’s powers will be refreshed.


The PCs Get the Jar, Now What?
The PCs have followed all of your excellent clues and recovered Morja’s Jar. Now what do they do? There are three chief contingencies to prepare for:

· They break the Jar
o Let them break it.
§ Breaking the Jar will cause it to summon Talons-like-Steel immediately (close burst 1 steam and all).
§ If Talons-like-Steel can immediately use her Ghostly Kiss, she does so. If not, she uses her Ashes to Ashes power to dissipate into the walls and make for the Tomb. After the Jar breaks, she has an hour. This is her last shot at getting the dagger out of the village!

· The PCs use the Jar to summon Talons-like-Steel.
o Same as breaking the Jar, except they can command her to attack an individual.
§ If they do not, Talons-like-Steel acts as above.
§ If they do, Talons-like-Steel travels as close as she can to the target, attacking if she is able.
· If the target is not in Niadelaar, Talons-like-Steel moves to the place in Niadelaar that is as close as possible to that person. After doing so, she is free to do as she pleases for the remainder of the hour she is summoned. She will use Ashes to Ashes to travel swiftly through the village. She is likely to use her Dominating Kiss on a hapless villager of her own choosing and vanish hoping to be summoned again.

· Morja recovers the jar from the PCs, she wasn’t finished exacting her revenge.
o Cat and mouse with hiding the Jar, the village isn’t huge and folks are bound to know something’s up by now.
o The villagers may come down on Morja’s side ‘against the outsiders,’ or they may come down on the PCs’ side, ‘against that nutter, Morja.’ Or a mix of the two.
§ Good opportunity for a skill challenge mixing of physical skills for the actual chasing and mental skills for navigating any social obstacles.


They Didn’t Get the Jar
The PCs didn’t take the bait or didn’t see the clues. They didn’t get Morja’s Jar. She hid it too well. Or she infected all of her intended targets. Since she’s done, she hides the Jar in the hidey-hole in her home, or, if she really fears the PCs nosiness, she buries it outside town.

REPEAT NOTE: If the PCs just aren’t getting it, lower the Perception DCs to sniff out the Jar. Or, alternately, have Morja somehow discern Talons-like-Steel’s plan to annihilate the whole village and approach the PCs herself, give them the jar asking them to stop Talons-like-Steel’s plot (which they start by breaking the Jar or summoning Talons-like-Steel).


Talons-like-Steel’s Plot
The harpy queen wants to burn the village down. This won’t be terribly difficult. The whole village is built out of fuel. Incidentally, this is why a setting in a warmer clime using adobe construction is less ideal than a setting that uses peat. Peat bricks are used as fuel. As in for fires. Talons-like-Steel wants to burn Niadelaar to the ground and then piss on the ashes. If she had a body to do so, she would. Harpies are crass like that.

In order to have free rein in the village Talons-like-Steel needs to get Zvarten Jacobus’ Flying Dagger out of the village. The dagger repels both living and undead harpies and is especially harmful and repellant to Talons-like-Steel. It was crafted from her own severed hand after all.


A Brief Expository Digression
In his campaign to establish his unsavory new fief, Lord Zvarten Jacobus found that he would first have to rid himself of a rather more than irksome infestation of harpies. He didn’t have the resources to assault them head on, so he did it the very, very hard way – he attempted to seduce the harpy queen, Talons-like-Steel. At any cost, right? He fell, instead, under her spell. She in turn fell for him. Though in a moment of candor, he admitted to his beloved his intentions, to seduce her and then kill her and her kinfolk. Talons-like-Steel didn’t take the news well.

Her subsequent attack on Zvarten broke the spell she had over him and he escaped, barely, the harpy queen’s severed talon still clutched and twitching, around his neck, her excoriating cries burning after him – literally.

Zvarten retreated to the bosom of an old ally, Kennis, a famed Cleric of Ioun. Kennis tended Zvarten and the two devised a plan. They crafted (Kennis mostly, but with Zvarten’s fiscal support) a flying dagger, unique in all the world. Kennis was surprised, and somewhat dismayed, by the results – an intelligent dagger that would, at need, protect Zvarten like a jealous lover and spirit him away from danger. It also had a devastating, repelling effect on harpykind. Armed with that dagger and Kennis’ support, Zvarten was able to annihilate the harpies. He burned their bodies and the ash spread out over the land.

Talons-like-Steel burned last, cursing the deceitful Zvarten with her last breath, “The ashes of my people will be like salt to this earth, and the ground will yield only my spite for you. And as the ground will never yield its bounty to you, so shall your own seed never grow.”

Lord Zvarten Jacobus was the first and last of his line. He died without issue and his fief passed into the hands of the Church through Kennis who, with some appreciation for what the dagger he’d created would do to keep Niadelaar safe, interred it with his friend. He established a small temple in the village and spent the remainder of his days in study, writing papers and trying to duplicate his results with the Dagger. He was canonized after his death by the faithful of Ioun for creating the Flying Dagger of Niadelaar.


Back to Talons-like-Steel’s Plot
It is very painful for Talons-like-Steel to be anywhere near the Flying Dagger. The summoning ritual blunts the pain for a short while, but only long enough for her to cause mischief, not rampant destruction. And rampant destruction is all that will do for Talons-like-Steel. Each of the NPC victims of her Dominating Kiss will eventually succumb unless the PCs intervene (by tending the sick with awesome Heal checks and beating the disease back, or by getting the Jar away from Marja before she can infect everyone on her list).

By the time the PCs arrive in Niadelaar, two victims (Sem and Juriaan) have already succumbed, two are one failed check away from succumbing (Viona and Sjors), and two have yet to be given the Dominating Kiss (Katrien and Father Frerik). Depending on how the PCs play it, they may act to keep Viona and Sjors from succumbing, or they may let Katrien and even Father Frerik fall sick and succumb to the harpy’s domination.

Talons-like-Steel used her first puppets to attack the tomb, hoping to use force to bully her way in and take the dagger that way. That didn’t work out. So her next puppets will try to find and steal the key to the tomb (it’s in Father Frerik’s office). If the PCs do not intervene, Sjors will open the tomb and then has to contend with the Flying Dagger of Niadelaar (he is ill equipped to do so). Katrien and Father Frerik are better suited to beating the Dagger.

Father Frerik is a Cleric of the PCs level. Little Katrien is an Avenger of the PCs level minus 2.

NOTE: If the PCs have broken the Jar or otherwise forced Talons-like-Steel’s hand (her one remaining hand), then she will make for the tomb herself and brave the Dagger’s painful warding.


The Tomb
Zvarten Jacobus’ tomb is protected by the Flying Dagger of Niadelaar. The Dagger was commanded by Zvarten on his deathbed to protect him and so the Dagger has since. Zennis insisted that no one disturb the dagger, but it was a touchy thing convincing the Dagger that preparing Zvarten’s body for the funeral was a friendly act. It was doubly trying to get Zvarten into his sarcophagus. Eventually that task was left entirely to Zennis. What mourners there were mourned from a safe distance.

The Dagger is no less vigilant now than it ever was.

If one of Talons-like-Steel’s dominated puppets succeeds in opening the tomb, the Dagger is, at first, happy to see someone. When the puppet tries to grab the Dagger, it quickly grows angry, attacking immediately. The Dagger must stay in the six squares that contain Zvarten’s sarcophagus. If it is pushed or batted outside of those six squares it returns immediately to its sheath at Zvarten’s side inside the sarcophagus.


Bonfire
The adventure should in two slightly different flavors of the same ending. Those flavors are, If the Jar is broken or if Talons-like-Steel disposes of the Dagger.

If the Jar is Broken
If they are near the Tomb, Talons-like-Steel immediately attempts to use her Ghostly Possession power on one of the PCs. If her attack is successful, she uses the PC as a puppet just like all the rest – to get the Dagger out of the Tomb and out of Niadelaar. If it is not she uses Ashes to Ashes to move through the village to the Tomb where she will lay in wait for up to half-an-hour for someone to Possess (preferably a hardy PC). If no Posession target presents itself Talons-like-Steel will enter the tomb and suffer the Dagger’s auras. She is a match for the daggers Defenses and bats it away quickly. She opens the sarcophagus, takes the dagger and now has to begin the slow march out of the stony prison.

It will take her 5 turns to get adjacent to peat so she can use her Ashes to Ashes power to travel quickly through the walls, to the edge of town. If her hitpoints drop to 50 while she has the Dagger she will throw it as far as she can and then attempt to Possess another someone who can get it the rest of the out of Niadelaar.

The Dagger is Disposed Of
As soon as the Dagger is clear of Niadelaar, Talons-like-Steel roars in triumph and the rise where the harpies were burned bursts into flame. In the center of the rise is a wholly different (Solo version) Talons-Like-Steel. This one is fire resistant and can lob fireballs in addition to her other attacks.

She attacks the PCs, but focuses her attacks on the on village. Each quadrant of the village has 50-100 hp. This is a combat ‘skill challenge.’ The PCs need to contain Talons-like-Steel, fight her and banish her. The dagger will still hurt her, but it no longer slows her. If a PC recovers it and approaches, she will attempt to take it and throw it as far as she can away from her.


Resolution
If the village or Talons-like-Steel gets to 0 HP the Harpy blazes up a huge incandescent torch of victory or agony (depending) and then explodes into a shower of sparks (burst 10, 1d12+8 fire damge).

If the PCs have managed to keep the total damage to the village above 2/3 of the village’s total HP, they are very successful. Between 1/3 and 2/3, they are reasonably successful, beneath 1/3 then they fail. If they wish, they can redeem failure by helping to rebuild the town, heal the burned, sick.

If the PCs are very successful, the Dagger may choose one of them as its new wielder. It has a 25% of doing so if the PCs are only reasonably successful. The remainder of any treasure due them comes from the store of items and services offered by Father Frerik, if he’s alive.

If the PCs shortcircuit the adventure, Talons-like-Steel will try again, she's not particularly patient, but she'll manage...


Items and Adversaries

Jar of Steam
Marja’s Jar behaves like a normal Jar of Steam, with a change. She created the Jar of Steam as a means of summoning the Harpy Queen, Talons-like-Steel. She made the rough earthen pot from ash and earth dug from where Jacobus burned the harpy witches. Using the talon she found, Marja scrawled arcane symbols into the surface of the pot. These symbols are what allow the summoner to speak the name of a target to Talons-like-Steel’s vengeful ghost. Once a day the jar can be used to summon Talons-like-Steel.

The jar is otherwise like a normal Jar of Steam (fills an area - close burst 1 - with steam, provides concealment, burns those in the zone that did not activate it).


Flying Dagger
This is the Flying Dagger of Niadelaar. This dagger gives its wielder protection from harpykind – living and undead – and specifically the harpy queen Talons-like-Steel. It was made from Talons-like-Steel’s severed claw by Jacobus’s ally, Saint Kennis. It also acts as a ward against Talons-like-Steel and harpykind, keeping Niadelaar safe from Talons-like-Steel’s wrath.

Flying Dagger +2, Intelligent Item
Body and bane of the Harpy Queen. When flying the dagger sings to itself in a soft, raspy voice. When attacking, its song becomes shrill and screechy.
Weapon: Dagger
Enhancement: +2 attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +2d8 damage
Property: Aura (Harpy Bane): Harpies who begin a turn adjacent to the dagger take 5 damage and are slowed. If Talons-like-Steel begins her turn adjacent to the dagger, she takes 10 damage and is slowed.
Power (Encounter): Minor Action. Speak the command word and toss the dagger into the air. The dagger flies into the air behaves as a sentient Cloud of Daggers (PHB 159). The dagger moves at your Speed and moves during your Move Action, attempting to stay adjacent. You cannot be flanked by someone standing in the square the dagger occupies. If the dagger does not stay adjacent, it returns to its sheath. While under this power, the dagger may be attacked in an attempt to knock it out of adjacency. Use these defenses to determine the success or failure of an attack on the dagger. AC 25, Fort 21, Ref 25, Will 23
Power (Encounter): Minor Action, Personal. Speak the command word and hang on tight. Until the end of your next turn, you gain a fly speed of 7, and you can hover.


Summoning Ritual
The foci for this ritual are the Jar of Steam and a harpy talon. The ritual caster cuts her palm with a harpy talon and bleeds into the jar, speaking the name of the Harpy Queen ‘Talons-like-Steel.’ After speaking the Harpy Queen’s name, the summoner smears the blood from her hand around the jar and speaks the name of her intended target. The runes around the jar will glow and the Harpy Queen, after being summoned, will move with all speed to the intended victim (using her Ashes to Ashes power if possible). If no target is spoken, Talons-like-Steel is free to do as she pleases (for the duration of the ritual’s effects – 1 hour). At the end of an hour, the ritual will end and the dagger’s aura will drive Talons-like-Steel’s spirit away.


Advanced Singing Sickness
An ailment found amongst the inhabitants of Niadelaar, those afflicted become disoriented and feverish, often describing singing that no one else can hear.
Disease Track
· The target is Cured.
· The initial effect’s penalty becomes –1.
· Initial Effect (sickness starts here) The target takes a –2 penalty to attacks and checks until cured (or dominated).
· The target is weakened.
· Final State (+12 vs Will)
o Hit: The target is dominated and does Talons-like-Steel’s will.
o Miss: The target is dazed.

Attack: (as Talons-like-Steel’s Dominating Kiss)
Endurance/Heal Check: Improve DC 23, maintain DC 18, worsen DC 17 or lower (it’s meant to quickly progress on NPCs lower leval than the PCs and to scare and inconvenience the PCs)

Normal Singing Sickness has lower DCs and doesn’t have dominate as a possible Final State. Regular Singing Sickness is caused by ingesting the still pestilent remains of the harpies that were burned in Niadelaar decades ago.

In 4e diseases follow a ‘Track.’ Endurance checks, or ally’s Heal checks, move the disease along the track (up or down) until the disease is Cured or in its Final Stage. Once in its final stage, a disease can usually only be removed by a Cure Disease ritual.



Dramatis Personae
Frerik, Priest of Ioun (Human male, mid sixties)
Marja, Fallen Avenger (Human Female, young woman, early twenties)
Katrien, New Avenger (Human Female, pre-teen)
Sem, First Victim (Human Male, mid twenties)
Juriaan, Second Victim (Human Male, mid twenties)
Viona, Third Victim (Human Male, mid twenties)
Sjors, Fourth Victim (Human Male, early twenties)
Menno, Fifth Victim (Human Male, mid twenties)
Talons-like-Steel (Undead Harpy Female, ageless)
Zvarten Jacobus (Human Male, dead)

Locations
Niadelaar, a remote farming village
The Red Rose, an Inn in Niadelaar
Shrine of Saint Kennis, a Shrine of Ioun

[sblock=Dutch words]I liked the use of Jamaican words and names in Some additional Dutch names and words if you want to continue the flavor

Male
Adlar (eagle)
Caspar (treasure bearer)
Dries (man, warrior)
Frerik (peaceful ruler) used for the Priest
Ignaas (unknowing)
Jacobus (supplanter) used for the village’s founder
Jurriaan (earthworker, farmer) used for a victim
Karel (man)
Menno (might, strength)
Sem (mark, name, signature, stigma) used for a victim
Sjors (earthworker, farmer) used for a victim

Female
Angelien (angel, messenger)
Ans (favor, grace)
Heleen (torch)
Katrien (pure)
Marja (obstinancy, rebellion)
Roos (rose)
Sanne (lily)
Sterre (star)
Theresia (harvester)
Viona (vine) used for a victim

Other
Adelaar (eagle), inspiration for name of Niadelaar, a reference to the eagle-ness of the harpies
Kennis (knowledge), use for Saint’s name if Niadelaar’s church is dedicated to Ioun
Maan (moon), use for Saint’s name if Niadelaar’s church is dedicated to Sehanine
Bouw (construction), use for Saint’s name if Niadelaar’s church is dedicated to Erathis
Zvarte (black), modified to be the first name of the village’s founder[/sblock]
Ingredients
Inside the Walls
· The harpies from Talons-like-Steel’s tribe in the walls of Niadelaar
· The Jar in Morja’s home
· Talons-like-Steel herself as she uses her Ashes to Ashes power to move through the village

Flying Dagger
· The Flying Dagger of Niadelaar

Childhood Avenger
· Morja, a former Avenger in training (acolyte of Father Frerik), driven by her desire for revenge and her resentment of her childhood foes precipitates the whole adventure
· Katrien, a young Avenger in training (acolyte of Father Frerik).

Talons like Steel
· The name of a harpy queen who is the chief villain in the story.

Jar of Steam
· The Jar Morja created to summon Talons-like-Steel.

Unending Plague
· The ongoing plague that Talons-like-Steel inflicted on the village of Niadelaar, no crops can or ever will grow – the village will always have to import food.




* Mysteriously absent from the village's travel brochures...
 

phoamslinger

Explorer
ElectricDragon and Iron Sky, your ingredients are

Bloody Dungeon
Comet
Agressive Moneylender
Sleeping Death
Patchwork Golem
Shocking Arrows


have fun!
 

Radiating Gnome

Adventurer
Judgement, Round 7, Felipe Real vs Sparky

So, you've seen Iron Chef, right? Or at least you understand the concept. A group of cooks are given a platter of ingredients that they must use to create a meal for the judges.

Let's imagine, in an Iron Chef competition, the contestants are given Eel as one of their ingredients. It's a tough ingredient, to be sure -- hell, most of us have never eaten eel (except perhaps as sushi), and would have no idea how to prepare it. But, the contestants are supposed to be inventive and expert, and they go to work.

Now, lets imagine one of the contestants decides to bake a cake, and rather than acutally use the Eel in the cake, he just drapes the eel across the top -- or, even better, he just shapes the cake like an eel and frosts it with eel-colored frosting, tossing the actual eel down the garbage disposal. "It was too hard cooking with Eel, so I baked a cake and named it Eel. Do I win?"

Now, that's an exaggeration of what I'm seeing in this round, but it's not much of one. Bottom line, the competition is about the ingredients, and it's possible that my judgement in the fourth round for CleverNickName undermined the importance of the ingredients -- so lets make this clear for future rounds.

The Ingredients, and how they are used, are the primary piece of this competion. CleverNickName had the better round, IMO, despite the problems with a couple of his ingredients.

Obviously, not all ingredients are created equal. And that's why we judge these entries in head-to-head rounds -- you both have the same ingredients, and one of you will advance. This round had a pretty challenging set, no question.

Anyway, enough posturing, lets get to the tale of the tape: Vengeance is Mine by Felipe Real vs Woes in Niadelaar by Sparky.

Ingredients:

Inside the Walls.
In Vim, we have the Pcs trapped within the walls of the town . . . but they're not really, they're trapped by the magical matrix used to enforce the quarantine . . . and even then, that doesn't seem to extend below ground. Even worse, while the PCs delve below ground and search for the flying dagger, the second act starts with "After escaping the City" . . . .but wait? When did they do that? They were just getting the riddle about the dagger two lines above, when did they escape?

As for WiN . . . .the jar is stashed in the peat wall, yes. That works, but it isn't very interesting. The entry also claims several other lousy excuses to cover this ingredient -- Talons-like-Steel moves thorugh the walls, isn' inside them, for example.

So, they're both pretty weak. WiN's use is a little better, so advantage WiN.

Flying Dagger - In WiN, we have an artifact called the flying dagger, and it does actually fly, and it is a dagger. It has nominal connection to the plot, but it's not super.

ViM, on the other hand, has an item called the flying dagger, but as far as I can tell from the entry, it's neither flying nor a dagger -- just a dingus that is needed to fight off the plague. It could have been the "Strappy Sandal of Life" or the "Gnawed Number 2 Pencil of Life" for all the difference it makes in this entry.

So, again, advantage WiN.

Childhood Avenger
This is another tough ingredient -- many of them in this list were pretty tough. I'm not very excited about how either entry used it, though. In ViM, the big bad is avenging the death of it's mother . . . in WiN, Morja is avenging herself on those who replaced her in the service of the local priest. Both cover the bases, so this ingredient got better treatment than many, but I'm not giving either entry an advantage on this one.

Talons Like Steel. Not sure what to say about this one. Using the ingredient as the name of a character -- especially a character that does not have talons that are like steel (in the case of WiN) really doesn't cut it. The steel talons that turn up in and around the town like arrowheads are a weak but workable treatment for the ingredient.

Meanwhile, in ViM talons like steel show up as a line in a prophecy, and then . . . . okay, this one I just have to quote:

"the most important part of the story in this act is to face the Heroes with a monster with “talons like steel”. After the creature’s defeat—but before its death—it will offer the Heroes the Flying Dagger of Life in exchange for the forgiveness of its Life."

So . . . this entry doesn't even pick out the monster for us, just says make sure it has those talons. Really? Whose creative powers are we judging here, anyway?

Ahem. Anyway, advantage WiN.

Unending Plague
-

Yeah, both entries had diseases. ViM, actually has a plague that is sort of important to the setting of the adventure. WiN, on the other hand, isn't really a plague at all -- a magical disease that isn't transmittable from one victim to the next doesn't quite qualify as a plague. The other problem with both is that neither disease is unending. Anyway, ViM actually has the advantage here.

Jar of Steam. At least the jar of steam in WiN is a jar that actually produces steam, among other things. ViM doesn't quite get that far -- once again naming the item "Jar of steam" isnt' quite the same as actually making it's jar-of-steam-ness important to the adventure.

Anyway, at this point, having worked through the ingredients, there's a solid advantage for WiN here.That advantage bears out through the other parts that are important, mostly because of the weaknesses in ViM, not particular strengths in WiN.

For example, the hooks in ViM describe a whole other adventure or series of adventures that the heroes have been on . . . but what if my PCs have not played that adventure? This isn't just something class specific, like "one PC must be a Paladin" -- this indicates that the adventure MUST follow a previous one. very hard to just drop it into my home game.

ViM also lost ground on the the evocative writing/creativity front -- a prime example of which is the quote I grabbed above. It's one thing to handwave some minor encounters on the way to the big stuff in your, but in ViM we have a couple of acts where the key, important encounters and opponents are not even named or described for us -- the reader must come up with them on his or her own. Maybe, in a quick blurb to another DM to help them get started on a home game, you can get away with that, bur Iron DM is about showcasing your talents . . . so you really need to show them off.

Meanwhile . . . the whole plot in WiN goes back to some lord trying to seduce a harpy? And the two of them seduce each other? Improbable doesn't really cover it. Nevermind the confusion about who seduces who . . .they're both seduced, but the Talons finds out what the lord's planm had been, and she goes ballistic? really ? I thougth she had been seduced, too? It just doesn't work for me.

I'm feeling espcially cantankerous after this round. In the previous round, CleverNickName blew off a couple of ingredients -- he suffered for it, but he also produced some wonderful, creative, surprising uses for the others. In this round, both contestants are not paying enough attention to the ingredients and making them an intrinsic part of the adventure. What both entries lacked for me was that creative surprise and excellence that helped CNN get past his shortcomings in that entry.

So, anyway, Sparky advances. Now I need a drink.

And to everyone else . . . if you get dealt Eel, cook with the eel. And make it taste like pizza.

Felipe_Real . . . . I wanted to say one last thing -- I have been very hard on both entries here, but it's clear to me that you're not working in your mother tongue, and I have to say that I don't think I could have pulled anything like what you did out of my butt in any of the other languages my resume says I can speak a little of. I think it's very cool of you to enter, and I think that a less challenging set of ingredients might have given you a better chance.
 
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Sparky

Registered User
Per Nifft's suggestion, attached are Talons-like-Steel and Talons-like-Steel (Solo).
 

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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
The Children of Death

Their father flies through the skies,
As beneath, the world dies.
From his slumb'ring breast they sail,
And from every house the women wail.
The world heaves as they strike,
And from the craters spreads their blight.
In their time, they awaken,
Dreaming of lives torn and souls taken.
They walk and whisper and lean into the wind,
While mad prophets mumble of a world's sin.
Death slumbers in His icy tomb,
As His hungry brood fall from its womb.
For a hundred generations Death's comet drifted between the worlds of distant stars,
And for a generation of man, His wayward Children shall reap ours.

-found on a roughly 2000 year-old tablet from the ruins of Aerkhan. Discovery by Reevus Chim, renowned halfling author of To Awaken Death; An Archaeologist's Guide to the End Times.

A 4th Edition D&D adventure for 4-6 20th level adventurers. This adventure makes a great transition to Epic levels.

In this adventure, the PCs contract a mysterious disease, track down the powerful comet-spawned undead monstrosity that created it, track it to the dungeon where a loan-lich has captured it, break into his dungeon and kill it.

While there, they free an imprisoned golem-maker who presents them with a decision: "procure" the lich's weapons to power a giant golem and divert the comet away from the world OR use the golem-maker's connections to a certain goddess to awaken Death and convince him to steer his potentially civilization-ending comet away from the world.

On a mechanical note, whenever a skill challenge or check is referred to, the DM may use whatever system they are comfortable with to resolve it (straight role-play, skill checks, DMG 1-2 skill challenges, Stalker0 systems, etc). The difficulty just gives a rough idea of how hard the challenge is(for setting DCs, attitudes, or what have you). Most DMs handle skill interaction a bit differently, so what I have listed is guidelines.

-Introduction-

Dark omens are writ in the entrails of every augury, bleak words are spoken in the proclamations of every prophet, and hushed, fearful words reach every ear.

Winter has come in the middle of summer. The sun dims. A silver comet has appeared in the skies and with it prophecies of doom from the tongues of ancients of every race. The very stars fall in the comet's wake and rumors speak of unstoppable walking horrors that the falling stars awaken.

Even the gods are fleeing to their domains in the Astral Sea, taking many of their greatest servants with them while the common priest and paladin wonders if the divine powers they use to shield their flock from the dangers of the untamed world will soon fail. The world itself seems to near its doom, but if a band of heroes could somehow reverse it, their names would resound in the epic legends of the ages.

-Background-

The Town of Nostradus
Nostradus is a small town that can be situated almost anywhere in the game world where a number of neighboring towns might form a small kingdom. The town itself is situated around a two-hundred foot tall pinnacle of black rock known as the Ancient's Tower that juts up from the flat plains(see below). Aside from the Tower, the other major distinguishing feature is the sprawling metal scrapyard and the large metal building called Patchwork's Foundry just outside of town(see below). The town circles the Ancients Tower, its buildings and roads largely constructed from the rocky debris of the tower, giving the town a dull, bleak look.

The population's attitude is grim at best, apathetic at worst. Winter came a full month before harvest and their crops were devastated. The local priests that aren't calling for repentance have either given up hope and abandoned their temples or are preaching empty words of hope they don't really believe. Trade has almost completely stopped due to the early winter, plagues, and the rumors of Death's Children(see below) roaming the wilds.

To top it all off, a plague called the Sleeping Death has struck the town, visibly ravaging those who contract it while they sleep. Many in the town have taken to not sleeping in an attempt to slow down the disease, leaving them sleep deprived and exhausted. The disease is nearly always fatal.

Death's Children
Death's children are powerful undead creatures that form out of the interaction of the slumbering primordial energies of Death and the raw materials of the comet in which he rests. After formed, they initially slumber with Death, but as the comet nears a world, pieces of the comet break free and fall to the world, some containing Children.

After striking the world, they eventually awaken and begin killing in whatever form their particular manifestation of Death happens to take. The party encounters several over the course of the adventure, the most important of which is the Sleep Taker, who kills primarily by creating the disease Sleeping Death.

The others are the Dreaming Martyr that attacks the PCs in their sleeping/meditating dreams if they take an extended rest and the Scythed Piper that the PCs face on the way to Nostrodus, and the Grim Keeper who they encounter if they open the wrong cell in the Ancient's Tower.

Mechanically, all are level 21 Solos.

The Ancient's Tower
The Tower is believed to once have been a massive tower that partially collapsed in some ancient cataclysm. Over the centuries, the descendants of the local Earl, Josen Farington, have excavated much of it, far more than they needed in fact, but the sturdy black granite they excavate has become a primary trade good for Nostradus. Recently, the Faringtons – like many of the neighboring lords in recent times – have fallen deeply into debt to self-titled Lord Komē the Immortal(see below).

Lord Komē's personal touches largely consisted of transforming the upper part of the Tower into his own dungeon, filled with cells and bloody torture rooms. The very upper levels contain warded cells for his most dangerous prey. These cells are denoted by a ornate arrow symbols and glyphs of silver inlaid into the wood of the doors and the stone of the walls around them. The doors are ritualistically enchanted and reinforced so they are practically unbreachable unless they are touched with lightning(from any source) – at which point they open immediately.

The rest of the dungeon has hundreds of prisoners, some locked away in cells, others chained to walls, many still alive after being racked, flayed, or simply bled. Almost all have the Sleeping Death.

Patchwork's Foundry
The building is made from bolted and/or welded bits of scrap metal from Patchwork's scrapyard. It has three large smoke stacks that are always burning while Patchwork(see below) is present. On the scrapyard and roof of the foundry are a veritable forest of lightning-rods of all shapes and sizes. Patchwork uses a ritual to trap the lightning that they draw and animates his golems with it.

Dozens of small golems constantly roam and sort the scrapyard while others guard it against potential thieves and yet others live entirely inside the Foundry itself, helping Patchwork craft more golems. Despite their rough, cobbled-together appearance, his golems are extremely well-made and reliable and until recently, Patchwork made a decent living selling them.

Patchwork
Patchwork is a human male in his thirties with a talent for metalwork and golem-crafting. When in the Foundry, which was passed down to him by his father, he always wears threadbare and often-patched overalls held together here and there by wire. He has stylish blond hair, a charming smile, an often not-so-charming belief that he is the gods' gift to women, and is generally irrepressible.

When not pursuing females of whatever race or filling orders for golems, he works on his secret project – the massive Patchwork-family golem that his father started building in a large cavern beneath the Foundry and that Patchwork has been tinkering with and building since he could walk. It is roughly humanoid, 80' tall, tremendously strong, and can fly – or could if he could find a lightning power-source small enough and strong enough to power it. Aside from women, nothing catches his eye and interest like the flicker of lightning.

At the start of the adventure he is in prison for failing to pay his “taxes” to Komē, due in-part to the recent lack of business, purchasing the finishing parts for his massive patchwork golem, and his recent ill-fated trip to track down the demigoddess Eros and seduce Her before She leaves the world for good. He contacted her, managed to arouse her interest, and set up a meeting point. When he returned from the trip to check up on things before setting off to meet Eros, he was taken by Komē's mercenaries and thrown into Komē's dungeons for not paying his “taxes”. While there, he contracted the Sleeping Death as Lord Komē dragged the magically-bound Sleep Taker past him.

Lore Komē the Immortal
Lord Komē inherited a decent amount of wealth when his father “mysteriously” died and Komē took over his father's business. He sold the business and used his ambition, cunning, acumen, and more than a little intimidation to create a thriving moneylending business. Over time, he expanded to the point where nearly any loan made within several days travel of Nostradus was made through him. Most major businesses and almost all the noble families in the area deeply in his debt. Several let him openly rule their lands, others sold them to him to pay off their debts, and the rest are little more than puppets. Regardless, his opinion of himself is great enough that he now calls himself a “lord” and his loan payments “taxes.”

Komē's real ambition had little to do with money or land, however. He used his vast profits to acquire several powerful magical items – especially a powerful bow and a quiver of rare and extremely powerful lightning arrows – he hired powerful mercenaries to guard him and protect his hold on the nearby kingdoms, and, most recently, he paid an exorbitant sum to an other-planar cabal to turn him into a lich and also grant him additional tremendous powers. The rituals that did so were expensive , made even more so by the size of his phylactery – the entire Ancient's Tower.

After the ritual, he appended “the Immortal” to his name and began to indulge openly in his previously secret sadistic fetish – hunting down and capturing “prizes”, various intelligent creatures that he hid away and frequently tortured. After taking over most of the Ancient's Tower from the Faringtons, he turned the higher levels into his own personal dungeon.

When the comet appeared in the skies, he set out to find more exotic prey; the Children of Death(see Children of Death, above). He has captured several, including the Sleep Taker, and imprisoned them in the highest chambers of the Ancient's Tower(see Ancient's Tower, above).

Physically, he appears as a tall, gaunt man with burning blue eyes and thinning silver hair. His skin has not yet decomposed since his lich-dom, but looks stretched over his skin. He always carries his great bow and his quiver of lightning arrows. Personality-wise, he is sarcastic, sadistic, and cruel. His is highly intelligent, but his recent immortality has left him fearlessly arrogant to the point of hubris. He literally doesn't even fear the gods and believes that now that they are leaving the world, there is nothing left in the world that could even hope to face him.

His recently created “family crest” flies on banners all over Nostradus and the Ancient's Tower. It is divided into four quadrants of black and yellow, bearing the comet, a tower, a lightning bolt, and a drop of blood.

Mechanically, he is a level 25 Solo.

At the start of the adventure, he is out hunting for another Child to add to his collection, but returns to Nostradus not long after the PCs break into free Patchwork(see below).

Hooks:
1) The PCs have all caught the Sleeping Death. This is recommended as it alone should get them motivated to track down the Sleep Taker, but if not, feel free to consider either of the two hooks below as well.
2) As an earlier quest reward the PCs may have been given a small but useful scrap-built golem as a reward. It has broken down and they find that Patchwork is the creator (and, of course, that he lives in Nostradus). Alternately, an NPC might have purchased several of Patchwork's golems that have since destroyed or have broken down and they would like the PCs to take them (via bags of holding or the like) to Patchwork to have them repaired.
3) Any divine characters are aware that their gods are withdrawing from the world/fleeing from the comet(see note below) and as such the PC are in danger of losing their powers if the comet is not somehow diverted. Any divination rituals will reveal (vaguely) that Nostradus holds a potential key to sending the comet away.

Note: The Gods fear of Death – Death's icy tomb was found by the gods floating through creation not long after creation Was. It was already ancient. One foolish god awakened Death and sought to challenge Him and Death destroyed the god utterly with a just a touch. Since then, the gods flee to the Astral Sea whenever Death's Comet nears their worldly domains, just-in-case Death wakes.

-Bullet Point Adventure Summary-
0. Hooks
1. Players travel to Nostradus.
2. Reach Nostradus, learn of Lord Komē's capture of Children of Death and of Patchwork being taken to the dungeons of the Ancient's Tower.
3. Assault/infiltrate the Tower to kill the Sleep Taker and free Patchwork.
4. Return to Patchwork's Foundry, learn of Patchwork's family golem and of Patchwork's chase of Eros, then come up with a plan.
5a. Get Komē to attack them and/or come up with plan to steal arrows and do so
6a. Use pilfered arrows to activate Patchwork's Golem, then use it to divert Comet and/or kill Lord Komē
5b. Follow Patchwork to Eros.
6b. Travel with Eros to Death's Comet so Eros can try her hand at seducing Death, awakening him, then convince Death to take his Comet elsewhere.

-The Adventure Begins-

1. A Plague on Both Your Houses
The PCs have all caught the Sleeping Death in whatever town or city they are in. Divination rituals and/or Moderate Arcana, Religion, or Heal checks will reveal that the disease cannot be cured until the original creature is killed. (Note, this can be incorporated into the investigative skill challenge below if desired).

Note: If the PCs take an extended rest at any point, they will face the Dreaming Martyr(see Wake the Dead encounter). Also, remember to resolve the effects of the Sleeping Death:
<Recovery: Not possible while the Sleep Taker lives.>
<Initial effect: The creature loses 1 healing surge that cannot be gained back by any means while the Sleep Taker lives.>
<Each Worsen result: The creature loses 1 healing surge, as with the initial infection. If the creature drops to 0 healing surges, it dies and cannot be raised while the Sleep Taker lives(see Sleep Taker encounter).>
Improve DC: -, Maintain DC: Endurance 30 or more, Worsen DC: Endurance 29 or less.

An Easy investigative skill challenge in the town or appropriate ritual will reveal that the first person in the city to catch it came from a small nearby village a few hours away.

Note: At any point until the PCs reach Nostradus, the DM may pit the PCs against the Scythed Piper, one of the Children of Death. The fight takes place in a large road-side mass grave near an abandoned town(see Skythed Piper Encounter).

At the village, they find the last survivor dying in the middle of the street. She utters: “a horrible, lurching, wispy creature staggered through town and touched little Millie... they all started dying in their sleep... twisted, wretched deaths...” If the PCs make a successful Hard Heal, Diplomacy, Bluff, and/or Intimidate check, they can get her to hold on long enough to point out the direction the creature headed off to (the road to Nostradus) before she dies, her body contorting hideously as she does.

Otherwise, PCs can attempt to track the Sleep Taker (Moderate Perception checks). If all else fails, an exhausted-looking young women gallops up the road that they can talk to. She is fleeing to a bigger city, looking for a cure for the Sleeping Death. If they ask, she is fleeing “what's left of Nostradus and that monster Lord Komē” and hoping there's a cure in a bigger city. She will not talk long as she's anxious to move on to the city.

The PCs may travel the remaining 25 miles to Nostrodus by whatever means appropriate to them.

2. The Prophecies of Nostradus
When the PCs arrive at Nostradus, they will find the people somewhere between desperate and despondent and they are generally fatalistic. An old man staggers through town babbling about the end of the world. Those few townsfolk that don't have Sleeping Death are mostly holed up in their houses to keep from catching it.

Players looking for information enter an Easy skill challenge. Failure draws attention to the PCs and encounters in the Ancient's Tower will be slightly harder(see In the Halls encounters).

* Several young women affirm that Patchwork is easily identifiable when mostly-naked by his tattoos, but blush and won't say what the tattoos are - or where exactly they are.
* Patchwork is a renowned womanizer that supposedly went off to chase after the demigoddess Eros. He supposedly hasn't returned yet.
* Patchwork, and his father before him, were said to have some secret project at the Foundry, but no one has ever determined exactly what it is.
* Patchwork's Golems are “world renowned” and people come from all over to have him build them.
* Lord Komē isn't actually a lord, but the real Lord, Lord Farington is deeply in Lord Komē's debt and so gives him practically free reign in Nostradus.
* Lord Komē arrived with a group of strange figures in robes that magically flew all over the outside of the Ancient's Tower. Not long after, Komē started calling himself “the Immortal” and is rumored to have gained dark powers.
* There used to be rumors that Lord Komē kidnapped local villagers, but now he blatantly takes whoever he wants into the dungeons of the Tower. None ever return and rumors say he does terrible, bloody things to them and even eats the bodies.
* Lord Komē has an array of powerful mercenaries that do his bidding and protect him, but on his own he carries a massive bow with lightning arrows, and can fly through some unknown means.
* The Comet is a prophesied sign of the end of times and even the gods are fleeing the world to escape what's coming. It is said Death itself slumbers on the comet.
* The Children of Death are the means by which the Comet's doom will destroy all civilizations.
* The Sleeping Death has struck ¾ of the villagers. Many people take herbal concoctions to keep themselves awake since it only seems to get worse when you sleep.
* Lord Komē has moved on from kidnapping villagers to capturing the Children of Death and even they never return from the dungeons of the Ancient's Tower.

If the PCs head to Patchwork's Foundry, they find a note pinned to the front door that reads:
Taken to the Ancient's Tower for failure to pay Lord Komē's taxes.” If the players try to break in, they are warned to stop by several of Patchwork's guardian golems. If they persist, the guardian golems battle them(see Patchwork's Scrapmetal Mishmash encounter). If they do break in, they see simply the inside of the foundry unless they make a DC 35 Perception followed by a DC 35 Thievery check to find and activate the hidden catch that opens the door to the cavern beneath the Foundry where Patchwork's massive family golem is.

After they have spent some time gathering information and/or searching the Foundry, they are approached by Lord Farignton – a disheveled, balding middle-aged man with once-fine but now threadbare clothing. He leads the PCs to a secluded place and pleads that they find a way to eliminate Lord Komē, not only because of the terrible things it is said he does, but because he has taken over the Ancient's Tower, converted it into a massive dungeon, and is practically ruling Nostradus. Lord Farington and others were planning to band together and take him out, but not long after Lord Komē began calling himself the Immortal, some tried and he killed them all single-handedly.

He also lets the PCs know that Lord Komē is out of the town hunting, so if they wish to get into the Ancient's Tower, now is the time.

3. Tower Defense
At this point, the PCs should be ready to attempt to infiltrate and/or assault the Ancient's Tower. If they ask, Lord Farington can show them a secret way into the base of the tower, but they are on their own once they are inside. Alternately, they can assault the mercenaries at the front gates and fight their way in(see Bill for the Gates encounter).

Inside, the Ancient's Tower is mostly empty, dark as night, and labyrinthine. The characters must make 5 Moderate Dungeoneering checks to find their way all the way to the Sleep Taker. On the first 2 failed checks, they run into patrols of Lord Komē's mercenary guards(see In the Hallways encounters). After they fail 3 or more, even if they succeed at a subsequent Dungeoneering check, they must make Moderate Stealth checks or run into another patrol.

After they make 3 successful checks, they find the dungeons that take up the bulk of the Tower. Cells, mass and private, are everywhere. Dead or dying people – whether from torture, starvation, or Sleeping Death – litter the area; lying in cells, dead in the hallways, chained by hands or ankles to the walls, rotting in heaps. Here and there are torture rooms with all sorts of torture devices and all have a rusty grime of dried blood and a charnel stink.

After 4 successful Dungeoneering checks, they find Patchwork(whether they were looking for him or not). He is chained to a wall in a hallway they are passing through, weakened but not broken. He is wearing only a grimy, tattered loincloth. Clearly visible are the ends of four arrow tattoos, two on his on his lower abdomen and two on his thighs, all disappearing under the loincloth. If there are any female PCs that are looking at his tattoos, he winks at them and says “Haven't seen you around much, come here often?

He grins at the PCs and says(in a British accent if the DM can muster one), “Name's Patchwork, pleased meet you. You chaps don't look like Lord Komē's usual riffraff. I'm going to go out on a limb and say you aren't supposed to be here. If that's the case, jolly good! How's about you take these chains off and let me out of this bloody dungeon!

If set free, he says he can find his way out of the Tower on his own “since I supervised the golems that helped excavated far too much of it” and will meet them back in his Foundry.

If asked about the Sleep Taker, he shudders and points them in the right direction (+2 on the next Dungeoneering check). “Lord Komē dragged that nasty bloody thing past me a few days back. Haven't slept since 'cause of the nightmares, but from watching what happens to the poor chaps stuck in here with me when they sleep, probably a damned good thing.

If they ask him to come with to find the Sleep Taker, he refuses. “No bloody way I'm going near that thing again. I'd rather die by falling into a fire and lighting my bloody tattoos on fire.”(with a suggestive glance to his tattoos and another wink to any female PCs).

If they fail to tell him where they are going next, he asks. When they tell him, see above.

(Deus ex machina notice) If none of the PCs have any lightning keyword powers, Patchwork stops before he leaves, pulls out a piece of metal from tucked into a fold in his loincloth and hands it to one of the PCs (female preferably) and says, “Take this, for good luck. I insist.” It is a charged lightning rod that he uses to power his smaller golems. It has 2 charges.

When the PCs finally find the top Cells, they find two identical doors, each warded with inlaid silver runic arrows and other sigils in the doors and walls. The doors and walls are magically warded and extremely tough, pretty much immune to anything the PCs can throw at them. If the PCs apply lightning from any source to the wards, the doors open. Each one holds a different Death's Child. They have a 50% chance of opening the one with the Sleep Taker(see Take Back the Night encounter), otherwise they open the one with the Grim Keeper(see Celling Your Soul encounter).

As soon as they kill the Sleep Taker, the Sleeping Death disease is instantly healed(though any lost surges are gone until an extended rest is taken). This is true for everyone in the world who has it.

If the PCs have already fought at least one patrol, they may escape from the tower afterward uneventfully. Otherwise, they encounter one patrol on the way out(see In the Halls encounter).

4. A Patchwork Plan
When the PCs return to Patchwork's foundry, they find him there, clothed in his patchy overalls and linen undershirt, goggles on his head as he tinkers with a golem.

So, what's the plan now, chaps? Gonna stop the comet and take out Lord Komē while you're at it?

In the following conversation, he mentions that he might have “just the tool for the job” and shows them the Patchwork family golem below the Foundry. One problem – it doesn't have a power source.

The golems run on lightning, stored in the cylindrical bases of the lightning rods on the roof. This one needs more than what the ones I've managed to make can hold. What we need is a similarly sized object that holds a damn lot of bloody lightning. On top of that, I need five of the buggers. But if that works, I figure we could fly this thing up there and just push this comet away so it goes and bothers someone else. Maybe come back and teach Lord Komē a thing or two while we're at it.

He also brings up that he has a hidden rendezvous with Eros and they could always come along to meet with her “after I've done my part,” and see if she knows of some way to stop the Comet. “She is a bloody demigoddess after all.” If they ask how he managed to get her to meet with him he simply says, “you have to promise some pretty outrageous things to be shocking Eros, she is the demigoddess of love, mate. Let's just say I got her attention.

While the PCs are discussing what to do, Lord Farington arrives to tell them that Lord Komē is arriving. He leads them outside and they can see Lord Komē flying unassisted towards the top of the tower, the flicker of his lightning arrows in their quiver clearly visible. Farington tells them that they probably don't have very much time to make a decision before Lord Komē comes looking for them.

Farington and Patchwork will help them come to one of the following two decisions:

a) Somehow get five of Lord Komē's lightning arrows to power the Patchwork family golem, then use it to fight Lord Komē and/or push the comet elsewhere.

If the players happen to have lightning arrows of their own, Patchwork tests them and finds that he needs “more powerful ones” (mechanically, +6 needed).

b) Use Patchwork's rendezvous with Eros to see if she can somehow help them deal with the Comet.

At this point, the plot splits, depending on which decision the PCs make (and possibly the party splits as some do each).

5a) Arrow Catchers

If the PCs decide to go for the arrows, they basically have three options.

1) Kill Lord Komē. This may be possible, but unless they can somehow sneak in an extended rest it is highly unlikely.
2) Fight Lord Komē with the intent of “collecting” 5 of his arrows, then fleeing.
3) Attempt to sneak into the Ancient's Tower, find Lord Komē's chambers(that he is possibly currently in), look for a stash of arrows and steal the necessary arrows.

Note: If at any point the PCs manage to kill Lord Komē, they may make Moderate Arcana checks. If they succeed, they determine by the manner of his death that he is a lich and will return unless they can find and destroy his phylactery. With this knowledge, if they take the time to examine the Ancient's Tower, with Moderate Arcana checks they can analyze the dweomer on it to determine that it is his phylactery and must be destroyed if he is to be slain.

Farington and Patchwork are dubious that the PCs can take on Lord Komē – since he did “somewhat casually capture two of Death's Children”. Farington does affirm that Lord Komē's arrows can still be used after they've been fired. He also has hear they have a curse on them that harms anyone but Lord Komē that tries to fire them.

If they fight Lord Komē (see Komē Gets Some encounter), presumably they will get the arrows, either by killing him and grabbing a handful before Lord Komē's body and belongings returns to his phylactery or by getting shot by/otherwise collecting 5 Lightning Arrows. If they flee to the Foundry, Lord Komē laughs and lets them. He floats leisurely after them, taunting and mocking them to come back and fight once they are inside.

If they instead try to sneak back into the tower, they must succeed at a Hard skill challenge to distract Lord Komē remaining guards, avoid them and Lord Komē, find his chambers, break the arcane wards into Lord Komē and on the chest that holds his extra arrows, then escape as Lord Komē rushes back to his chambers (warned by his rituals that his room is being broken into). On failures they run into patrols (see In the Halls encounters). On a total failure, they run into Lord Komē(see Komē Gets Some encounter).

6a) By Your Arrows Combined...
When they return to Patchwork's Foundry, they are pursued by dozens of Lord Komē's guards (and Lord Komē if he is still alive) and quickly head with Patchwork into the cavern. There, they must simultaneously place the five arrows into their respective slots, which happen to be positioned in difficult-to-get-to places around the golem. Patchwork and Farington's will help if there aren't enough PCs – aided by a couple of Patchwork's little helper golems if there really aren't enough PCs. As soon as they do, gears grind in the golem, doors open in the golem, and they can head inside to control it.

The PCs then can use the Golem to battle Lord Komē and his mercs(see Patchwork Family Golem stats and rules). After/instead of fighting Lord Komē, they may just decide to outrun him and fly to the comet. Whenever they decide to head to the comet, read the following:

The golem rumbles and shakes as it ascends, leaving Nestradus far behind. From your shared view out the golem's eyes, you see the skies slowly fade from the fading blue of the day to pure black. The stars shine brighter than you've ever seen them and Death's Comet seems to hang suspended in the black like a massive weeping ball of ice. Pieces of it constantly break, falling around you and some shattering on the golem's thick metal skin as the Comet looms larger and larger before you. Finally, you reach it, arms extended and breaking through the thin, nearly vaporous layer on the outside to the harder ice beneath. With your combined focus, the golem strains, metal creaking as it slowly adjusts the comet's course. An hour later you sit and watch as the comet speeds away, the icy debris of its tail sparkling in the sun and tinkling on the golem like frozen rain. It is done.

The PCs may then return and deal with Lord Komē if they haven't already. If they kill/killed him they may use the golem to easily pull apart the Ancient's Tower (hopefully after they empty its sprawling dungeons!), ridding the world of Lord Komē. If they failed to make the Arcana checks to realize that Lord Komē is a lich and the Ancient's Tower is his phylactery, they will find out in 1d10 days when Lord Komē returns(when it is up to the DM to decide if Lord Komē flees to become a recurring villain or takes them on so they have another crack at discovering his secret).

They may also use it the Patchwork Golem to hunt down and kill any of Death's Children that still walk the world. The arrows power the Golem for ten days, after which they are drained to nothing and new ones are needed. The arrows cannot be removed once placed inside the golem.

If desired, the PCs can still escort Patchwork to his meeting with Eros, though she simply smiles and waves at them after Patchwork leaves the wagon, then rides into the sky.

Fin!

5b) Eros Catchers
The PCs sneak through a tunnel that leads out of the cavern beneath Patchwork's Foundry, coming out a mile from Nostradus. From there, Patchwork can lead them to the crossroads a few miles away where Eros is waiting for him.

When they arrive at the crossroads, read the following:

A luxurious, gilded round gypsy wagon with two strong white horses sits beside the barren crossroad. The rear window of the carriage is open and a young woman's voice sings the most beautiful song you've ever heard, though as you listen to the lyrics, the most stern and stout amongst you blush at what it describes.

Patchwork grins and turns to you. “If you fellows don't mind, I'll be going on ahead to, er, warm her up for you. Give me an hour or so to fulfill my promises to her and she'll be more than happy to listen to you.” Patchwork heads around to the front of the carriage, you hear a door creak, then there is a squeal of feminine delight followed by a gasp and suddenly the carriage door and windows slam shut.


Two hours later, the door opens again, Patchwork struts out, eyes wide, skin flushed, and wearing only jaunty grin, a loincloth, and his tattoos. “She's ready for you.”

When the characters enter:

Though the size of a wagon on the outside, inside it is a luxurious palace of white marble gleaming in otherworldly golden sunlight. Luxurious red cushions and flimsy silk hangings are everywhere and small fountains burble and splash. The most beautiful woman you've ever seen lays on a massive bed covered with a thick, rumpled maroon blanket stitched with gold cloth. The white silk sheets beneath are draped about her in such a fashion that they always seem to be on the verge of falling off the strategic areas they hide, but never quite do.

Eros, though pleased by her encounter with Patchwork, is a highly jaded being. She will tell the PCs of the Gods reason for leaving (fear of Death awakening and unmaking them), but that for her the world is mostly so dull anymore, so lacking in interest or challenge that she doesn't care if Death awakens. Any attempts to get her to help them will fail due to it not being interesting/challenging/etc (excepting utter PC brilliance that the DM can't refuse).

If they suggest she attempt to seduce Death, however... Note: If none of the PCs think of it Patchwork can suggest it as an off-hand comment.

6b) We Who Are About To Die, Seduce You!
She immediately brightens at the idea of such a challenge and risk and, with a delighted laugh snaps her fingers. You find yourselves crowded into her gypsy wagon, staring out the now-open front as the horses gallop into the sky. Moments later, the stars shine around you and the comet looms before you, like a massive geode crystal of burnished silver. You pass through the veil of mist surrounding the body of the comet as though you are flying through clouds and come to land on its frozen surface.

Eros steps out onto the bench, then onto the surface of the comet and, as she does so, motions for you to stay inside. “It is death for a mortal to even touch the surface. Remain there, I will awaken Death.”

She begins to dance and sing, a seductive, undulating dance that captivates you. The song is hypnotic, and its all you can do not to rush to her and throw yourselves at her feet. A minute later the wagon shakes and the surface of the comet ripples, flecks of disturbed ice shaken from the comet's shell like a million tiny diamonds drifting in the air.

Eros goes silent as a shadowy figure rises from the mist nearby. It resembles a figure in a deep cowled cloak, but it is hazy, its substance swirling with the dust and ice of the comet. When it speaks, the sound reverberates up through the souls of your feet and sound in your bones as the ice hanging in the air vibrates with every syllable.

-Why have you come-

Eros says nothing, but smiles and dances.

-Why have you come-

Eros hesitates and then stops.

-Why have you come-

The PCs have a chance to explain why they have come. Death has been slumbering for millennia and, in his slumber, is one of the primal forces that keeps the universe going. He is, however, unaware of the course of his comet and the creation and behavior of his Children.

It is an Easy skill challenge to convince Death to change the course of his comet: it matters little to him where it goes, so it is fairly trivial.

Death does not move or speak for a moment. The sensation is subtle, but you feel a slow shift. When you look back at the world, you get the subtle sensation of it diminishing at an almost imperceptible rate, like the movement of the minute-hand on a clockwork timepiece.

It is a Moderate skill challenge to convince Death to deal with his Children: he never intended to create them in the first place, they just formed as a byproduct of his Presence.

Death looks up and the comet rotates until the world seems to loom over you. The suspended ice and mist ripples and a voice sounds in your body. -Done-

It is a Hard skill challenge to convince Death to destroy Lord Komē. The main reasons that might appeal to Death(and that he might noticeably react to) are Lord Komē's hubris (the title of the Immortal) and/or the fact that Lord Komē is a lich(if the players have somehow determined that). Anything else is pretty much irrelevant to him.

Suddenly you are all standing outside Patchwork's Foundry. Lord Komē stands staring at it, the remains of Patchwork's guardian golems littering the ground at his feet. He slowly turns to see you, but his eyes focus on Death. Death doesn't move, but is suddenly standing before Lord Komē, as though the world moved and not Death. Lord Komē sneers as he stares down Death, but slowly the sneer fades, replaced by a slowly-growing look of horror. Then Lord Komē's eyes widen and his mouth opens in a silent scream that goes on for long seconds. A moment later Death and Lord Komē are utterly gone, leaving you alone with Patchwork outside his Foundry.

If the PCs do not succeed at the final challenge, Eros will return them instead. They may jump to 5a) and take on Lord Komē. If so, jump to that section, skipping any part related to the comet(and the Children of Death if they also succeeded at that part).

Fin.


When your players have completed the adventure, read aloud:

The sun shines a little brighter and the winter air warms. Birds chirp and the animals return from hiding. The Gods return from hiding and prayer and psalm again fill the temples. Death's Children are a quick-passing nightmare as the comet fades away in the skies. And through every city and town you pass, the people call your names; the Doombreakers, the Blight-chasers, the God Bringers.

Elements
Bloody Dungeon - The majority of the Ancient's Tower. Also, how Patchwork refers to the place. The Blood and the Tower is also on Lord
Komē's crest.

Comet - The tomb of Death as he slumbers. Also on
Komē's crest. Komē's name is also derived from the root of the latin word for comet.

Aggressive Moneylender - "Lord"
Komē, who used the wealth gained from it to literally buy immortality and power(and neat stuff like Lightning Arrows).

Sleeping Death - Death Himself who sleeps on the Comet. Also the name of the disease the PCs are infected with and trying to cure. Also what happens to any players that die in the Wake the Dead encounter that happens if they take an extended rest.

Patchwork Golem - Patchwork is the name of the town's golem builder. Also the name of his family Golem, one possible way to eliminate the treat of the comet. Also the physical description of the scrap-metal golems Patchwork puts together.

Shocking Arrows - The arrows needed to power the Patchwork Golem, conveniently
Lord Komē's weapon of choice. Also Patchwork's naughty tattoos. Also, Patchwork's "shocking Eros", the main reason they have access to the demigoddess (and yes, I know Eros was male in greek mythology, I just "re-flavored" him a bit).
 

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Since I didn't post them before, here are the Encounters mentioned above:

Wake the Dead
When the PCs take an extended rest, the Sleeping Martyr strikes. The PCs find themselves in the small village on the way to Nostradus and the Sleeping Martyr appears at first as the woman who died there, head down and arms held straight out to the sides.

As the PCs watch, the woman dissolves away, leaving a figure cloaked in thick layers of tattered rags, head hidden by moth-eaten, threadbare scarves. It looks up, yellow eyes glowing in the slit between the wrappings that hide its head. Kill me, if you can, it whispers, the voice but a croak. Then combat is joined.

The map is a small abandoned village. The PCs start in the town square with small buildings all around. The Sleeping Martyr stands 5 squares away, next to the town well. The PCs do not realize it, effectively, they and the Martyr hay fly and they have the phasing quality(since it's all a dream). If a PC takes a minor action they can make a Moderate Insight check. Success gives them access to fly and phasing. For each PC that has made the check, all others get +2 to their checks.

The Martyr urges the PCs to kill her in different ways throughout the fight since any damage she takes increases the damage she can deal to the PCs.

Any PCs that die in the battle stay dead, as does the Sleeping Martyr if they kill her.

The Martyr's shtick: Every time she is hit by an attack, she gets an extra dice of damage that she can apply to one of her attacks the next round. Her attacks tend to drop her defenses, grant OAs, etc in return for extra damage output.

Enemies:
The Dreaming Martyr, Level 21 Solo Brute

The Skythed Piper
As the PCs travel, they come across an abandoned town. Along the side of the town, near the road, is an open mass grave, a 1 square deep 3x12 square pit full of bodies(difficult terrain). The edges are sloped so no checks are required to enter or exit(though they are also difficult terrain).

Just past the graveyard is the 15' tall wall that is 50 squares long, essentially setting a boundary one one side of the battlefield. Other than the wall and the pit, scattered rocks and trees are the only terrain features.

The Skythed Piper's shtick: The Piper summons 1d10 souls from the dead of the graveyard as a minor action every round, then uses his Skythe's close-burst attacks to lay into the PCs. His soultorn minions attack slides enemies so they attack anyone outside Piper's reach to push them into his attacks (imagine malefic spirits dragging PCs towards a giant bone-pipe playing, soul ripping, skythe-wielding skeleton).

Enemies:
The Skythed Piper, Level 21 Solo Controller

Patchwork's Scrapmetal Mishmash
Patchwork's scrapyard is a dangerous place. The battle takes place in and around variously shaped and sized mounds of sharp metal scrap fill the area, including stacked next to the walls of the Foundry itself. They are difficult terrain that costs 3 squares of movement instead of 2. 2-3 square wide paths wind through the stacks, with occasional 3x3 to 5x5 cleared out areas, including the area just outside the Foundry itself. For creatures moving into any square adjacent to one of the stacks, it takes 1d4 damage while moving through the stacks themselves deals 1d8 per square. Roll that damage for each move/forced move together. For example, if a creature moved or was pushed through 5 squares adjacent to a junk pile, it would take 5d4 damage while if it moved through the pile itself, it would take 5d8.

The golems are somewhat aware of this fact (as aware as a golem can be) and use it to their advantage.

Patchwork Guardian Golem's shtick: The Guardians hit hard and have push attacks that send players flying through razor-sharp piles of debris. If enemies are out of reach, they grab large pieces of jagged metal and hurl them at their enemies. They also grab PCs to keep them from escaping as they pound on them. They take half damage from the debris.
Helper Golems shtick: These lurker minions scurry in and out of debris piles, knocking PCs prone or dragging them into the sharp scrap. They take no damage from the scrap.
Flitter Golems shtick: These artillery minions charge up on the lightning rods and send bolts of lightning at the PCs, focusing on ranged/flying targets.

Enemies:
4 Patchwork Guardian Golems, Level 20 Elite Brutes
6 Patchwork Helper Golems, Level 18 Minions(skirmisher)
6 Patchwork Flitter Golems, Level 18 Minions(artillery)

Bill for the Gates
The gates to the Ancient Tower are guarded by a squad of Lord Komē's guards and one of his captains. The terrain is a 5 square wide path between massive blocks of black stone(4-8 squares tall). 6 squares of stairs(difficult terrain) lead to the front gate where the enemies wait. The gates are six squares wide and one is cracked open enough so there is a 1 square wide passage in and out.

The guards have two traps set up at the base of the stairs, blocks of massive stone rigged to fall onto whoever stands at the base of the stairs when the guards hit a trigger. Each trap has a trigger set where the gates meet the tower wall that activates the trap on its side. As a minor action on any guard's turn while adjacent to a trigger, they can activate the trap, dropping a giant 2x2x2 square of stone on the PCs at the top of the stairs(see the trap below).

The guards fight hard, but the last one or two will flee through the gates and close them behind them. The gates are strong (All AC/Fort 30, 250hp), but the PCs should be able to get through it easily. The guards warn others in the tower, increasing the difficulty of the In the Halls encounters, below.

The various mercenaries are fairly simple and straightforward in what they do, as exemplified in their roles. They are fairly vanilla, in part due to the fact that particularly unskilled (or unlucky) groups might end up fighting a lot of them.

Enemies:
Mercenary Captain, Level 20 Elite Soldier(Leader)
Mercenary Wizard, Level 18 Controller
2 Mercenary Archers, Level 18 Artillery
2 Mercenary Axemen, Level 18 Brutes

In the Hallways
These encounters can take place anywhere you might find in a tower; a series of parallel narrow passageways, large multi-level chambers with side passageways, etc.

If down to the last 1 or 2 enemies, they will flee. If they escape, move to the increased difficulty encounter.

The composition depends on whether the difficulty has been increased, either due to failed infiltration checks or an assault on the gate. The DM can roll randomly(d6) or select on as appropriate for the location. Hard adds +1 of each type in the encounter.

The Trap: The trap does a pile of damage, knocks any PCs it hits prone, and restrains them until they can make an escape attempt against it(squeezing/muscling out from under the rock).

1: 2 Mercenary Wizards, 2 Mercenary Swordsmen, 2 Mercenary Axemen.
2: 1 Mercenary Wizard, 1 Mercenary Swordsman, 4 Mercenary Spearmen.
3: 2 Mercenary Swordsmen, 2 Mercenary Spearmen, 2 Mercenary Archers.
4: 2 Mercenary Axemen, 2 Mercenary Swordsmen, 2 Mercenary Assassins.
5: 3 Mercenary Archers, 1 Mercenary Swordsman, 2 Mercenary Assassins.
6: 1 Mercenary Wizard, 1 Mercenary Swordsman, 1 Mercenary Axeman, 1 Mercenary Spearman, 1 Mercenary Assassin, 1 Mercenary Archer.

Take Back the Night/Celling Your Soul
These two fights take place in exactly the same location. The cells are located at the top of a T intersection. Just outside the cells is a 5x5 square area empty area, with three 3 square wide hallways leading away. Once the rooms are open, the runes are magically reactive and any non-untyped damage that hits them causes a backlash, dealing 2d10 damage of the same type as the damage the attack that hit them to anything in close-burst 5.

Take Back the Night
The Sleep Taker's shtick: The Sleep Taker has several abilities that only work on people with her Sleeping Death, including a huge aura attack that forces PCs to make an immediate Endurance check against the Sleeping Death every time she hits them with it. She also has a few other necrotic/poison disease themed powers and can step into diseased PCs as a recharge power, forcing them to take half the damage done to her and exposing them to a variety of nasty attacks against them until they save and expel her.

Enemies:
The Sleep Taker, Level 21 Solo Lurker

Celling Your Soul
The Grim Keeper's shtick: The Grim Keeper is an armored juggernaut that has attacks that let him push PCs, charge them, and pin them against walls. His attacks also has a dominating gaze attack teleports the enemies he hits with it next to his main target and gives his dominated target bonuses on attacks against allies.

Enemies:
The Grim Keeper, Level 21 Solo Soldier

Komē Gets Some
This fight might take place in a variety of locations, depending on when the PCs encounter Lord Komē. It might be in the Ancient's Tower if they've snuck in to steal his arrows and fail, it might be in the town if they head out to face him, or it might be at Patchwork's Foundry. If appropriate, he might have a group of mercenaries with him (a group from In the Hallways, standard or hard as appropriate).

Lord Komē's shtick is pretty much to fly at maximum bow range and rain lightning arrows an the party. If brought down, he uses a close blast push attack to knock enemies away and repeats.

Lord Kom
ē, Level 25 Solo Artillery
+1 In the Hallways group, if appropriate

The Patchwork Family Golem
The Golem itself isn't exactly an encounter, but it might be used to fight Lord Kom
ē so it is relevant. When the PCs are in the golem, it has its own movement, defenses, and hitpoints. However, with PCs in it, they roll initiative separately and on their turn treat it as their character for using powers(as if the PCs were all sharing the same body but on different initiative counts). They use all their own modifiers for attack and damage, though melee attacks add +2d10 damage. The Golem itself doesn't act without a pilot/pilots.

The Patchwork Family Golem, Level 30 Solo Brute.


As an aside, if the PCs attempt to attack Eros, she simply disappears and the PCs have made a very powerful enemy. If they attack Death, they die quickly, painlessly, and permanently.

I jotted down the various creature's "shticks", but the thought of creating, editing, and copying 15 paragon/epic level monsters from Adventure Tools to here seems daunting. Especially since I've already put far too many hours into this already.
 
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ElectricDragon

Explorer
Utreyal’s Revenge

Plot Hooks:
• The party has used this town as their base for many adventures and most if not all are from this town. Some of the background information should already be available to the party members. Fill them in without rolls on most of the information listed in the Town of Utral section. Exceptions being the disappearances of the townsfolk, the wizard’s proclamation, and the strange figure limping through the ruins. These will be picked up as written.
• The party is passing through this crossroads-town on their way to bigger and better things. Use the adventure as written except the party is taking a break on their long trip to the city rather than meeting at the pub to discuss what they will do next.

This is an adventure for four characters of about 6th level, uses the 3.5 rules set, and a generic setting. It is important that the party has a good mix of character classes including one of the following a bard, a rogue with good information gathering skills, or some type of Knowledge specialist. A cleric with the ability to turn undead would be helpful, but is not necessary. Make sure at least one party member has generous writing supplies.

WIZARD’S PROCLAMATION [Read this each time the crier appears]:
From Lord Arcturus, High Mage of Kerthbor,
Let it be known that a comet is predicted to appear in the night sky, lighting it up like mid-day for several weeks. Local hedge mages, and so-called wisewomen have begun to sell protective charms against the effects of the comet.
Charlatans, all, the comet will not come close enough to harm anyone. This comet has visited us nearly 15 millennia ago and then it did come close enough to cause concern; but this time there is no reason to worry.
So says the High Mage of Kerthbor, Lord Arcturus. Heed all and obey.

Town of Utral
Party has gathered after their last adventure in the local pub, the Roost, to discuss plans for future exploits.

Encounters
1. Karl, an old human, bent and slow, walking with a silver-tipped cane, dressed in expensive clothes, with puffy cheeks and bloodshot eyes, enters the tavern and comes straight up to the party. As soon as he comes within 10 feet of them, he begins blasting them with accusations of unscrupulous crimes against him by whisking away certain people that owe him money. He won’t have it. The party has no right to rob him of his rightful profit. If they don’t stop, he will have to take action and the law is on his side. He refuses to give particulars about who is missing or how much they owe and storms out.
Should the party attempt to start combat, the bartender comes over and pleads with them to start nothing in the bar, and the waitress whispers to one that the party doesn’t really want trouble with Karl the Moneylender. He has connections with the mayor, the duke, and even the king.
2. At this time a crier comes into the tavern and recites the wizard’s proclamation, then leaves.

Party Actions:
Gather Information (DC 5*) or Knowledge (local, DC 10):
Talking with the bartender or waitress) allows the character to know that many townspeople have gone missing lately for no apparent reason. How many disappeared is unknown, but most lived in outlying areas far from neighbors or other witnesses. A few people who live in town have also vanished, chief among them Charlie, the town drunk who last claimed to have found a hidden chamber in the dungeons beneath the ruins of Skull Keep. Everyone warned him to stay away from that cursed place, the bloody dungeon itself, but he said he slept there and kept mighty dry and warm, so no way.
*Note that this Gather Information check takes only 10 minutes as opposed to the normal 1d4+1 hours, but it covers only those in the bar at this time.

Bardic Knowledge (DC 10) or Knowledge (local, DC 15):
Local legends claim that on nights of the new moon; zombies, ghouls, and worse things gather in the dungeons of that dreaded place. Childhood stories tell of bad children being taken away by these undead never to be seen again and that especially bad kids are visited by Bloody Utreyal himself to become some of his undead army.
The dungeon beneath the ruins of Skull Keep gained its bad reputation nearly 2,000 years ago from a necromancer who set up shop there and experimented first on the town's graveyard then on the townsfolk themselves to produce many new kinds of undead hoping to build an army and take over the countryside and set himself up as king. Utreyal the Royal he was called, Bloody Utreyal and Dark Utreyal also.
The rumors about strange kinds of undead are very prevalent in this area, most show up out of nowhere with powers and abilities unknown in common undead with no vile necromancer, undead lord, or evil cleric to claim credit for the event.
The Skull Keep ruins lie on a hilltop at the north edge of town, not 5 minutes walk away from the bar.

Gather Information (DC 15):
The character gains all the information listed above as well as that the number of people missing is up to 11: 3 farmers who live alone in the north, a sheep-herder’s son, 4 farm-hands working in the fields, a horse messenger riding to the wizard’s tower, a travelling merchant who has always been in town this time of year, and the town drunk, Charlie.
The wizard’s proclamations are posted on the mayor’s door, on the window of the general store Keragin’s Staples, and even on the bar’s, the Roost, bat-winged doors.
A strange figure has been seen at night wandering around the ruins of Skull Keep. Just shadows really as no one got close enough to see what it really was. It seems to limp badly and swing its arms widely as if balance were a great problem.

Encounters
1. During this time taken to gather more info, Karl returns promising that he will get to the bottom of this even if he has to hire magical diviners to find out where the party has spirited away his livelihood.
2. The crier also makes two or three appearances repeating exactly what he said before. This happens more as a background event than an encounter. Questioning the crier will get no results as all he knows is what he has been told to recite.

Timing:
Party takes lunch break.

Skull Keep
Above Ground
The clues should lead the party to search this area. Above ground there is nothing but large piles of stone rubble that were roughly shaped like a skull at one time. It now resembles nothing more than shapeless ruins. There is one uncovered entrance to the dungeons, partially blocked by rubble. It is a set of worn stone stairs spiraling down into darkness. It is easily seen, Spot check (DC5) due to the many footprints leading to and from it.
Survival (DC 15) for someone with the Track feat: Success notices that one set of footprints is unevenly spaced with one foot larger than the other. This set also enters and exits the stairway many times, but while the other prints always go toward the town, these prints always head toward the north away from town.

Beneath the Ruins of Skull Keep, the Bloody Dungeon
Entrance Chamber: After several turns, enough so that most will be unsure of direction (5 ranks of Survival negates this disorientation), the steps end in an uneven flagstone floor with moss growing in the cracks between the stones. The overall flooring is slippery, requiring a Balance check DC 5 if moving more than half speed, and a Balance check DC 15 if running, failure means the character slipped and fell prone. There are three places where light streams in from above, holes in the ceiling of about fist size that offer shadowy illumination throughout the first chamber during daytime. At night, the areas below the holes provide shadowy illumination while the rest of the room is dark. The room is about 40 feet square with four corridors leading out of it in the middle of each wall. One corridor is completely blocked by rubble from a partial collapse of the ceiling. Two others lead on an incline down several yards and then they too end in piles of rocks. The fourth tunnel is clear and has footprints leading from the stairs from ground level all around the room and into and out of this clear hallway. In one corner of the room between two of the blocked tunnels, lies a makeshift bed of cast-off rags and torn blankets. A Search check DC 5 reveals that Charlie hid his stash of money under his “bed” in the form of 12 cp and 1 sp as well as a half empty bottle of rot-gut whiskey (Fortitude DC10 or spit it out immediately for anyone drinking some, Fortitude DC15 or sickened for 1 hour, after 10 minutes if not spit out (sickened: –2 penalty on all attack rolls, weapon damage rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks).

Hallway: This corridor meanders curving left then right then back again until it ends in an open rotten wooden door once strengthened with iron bands, now no more than a large piece of firewood leaning against the wall.

Second Chamber: This room is the same size as the former room and also has four exits, but other than the doorway the party used as an entrance, the other tunnels are blocked by piles of rubble. In several places, the flagstones of the floor are missing and moss covers the area. A Search check DC 15 reveals a skeletal arm and hand sticking out of one pile of rubble and finds one 5-foot by 8-foot section of wall, inscribed with strange runic glyphs that the party doesn’t recognize as belonging to any of their known languages. A rubbing of the area will take 20 minutes and requires at least 20 sheets of paper of some type, a writing instrument, and ink or coal. A copy of the writing will take 1 hour and requires at least 20 sheets of paper of some type, a writing instrument, ink, and a bright light. Any encounter interrupts any rubbing or copying process and it must be started again (where it left off) after the battle is over.
DM’s note: The wall with the etchings is also the outside of the phase door.

Encounters
Roll 2d6 every 10 minutes in the area.
2. The patchwork golem (see new creatures below) steps out of the phase door and attacks the party to subdue. It concentrates on the nearest party member until that person is unconscious; then, ignoring the other party members scoops the fallen one up and disappears back through the phase door. Note to DM’s it is important that the golem escapes this time, so if things are going badly for it, have it retreat early without a captive, though this goes against its programming, it is imperative to the story. The party has one chance to make a Listen check (DC 10) as the golem leaves, use the party’s best listener. A successful check reveals the series of knocks to enter the phase door. At this time though don’t reveal this information to the party, let them remember it later when they know about the phase door spell. Now it just seems that the golem appeared out of thin air and disappeared the same way. This encounter only happens once, after then it is counted as: No encounter.
3. 2d4 bleeding hearts (see new creatures below) charge from the direction of the stairs.
4. 1d10+10 dire rats charge out of the nearest pile of rubble and attack.
5. A shadow silently begins attacking someone in or near shadows.
6. A sleeping death (see new creatures below) seeps through the cracks in the walls and attacks the party.
7. 1d3+2 wights claw their way out of the ground where there are no flagstones and attack the party.
8. 1d10+10 dire rats charge out of the nearest pile of rubble and attack.
9. 1d2 wraiths come through the walls and attack the party.
10. 3d4 bleeding hearts (see new creatures below) charge from the direction of the stairs.
11. 1d3+2 wights claw their way out of the ground where there are no flagstones and attack the party.
12. A shadow silently begins attacking someone in or near shadows.

Though the party should not be able to visit the area at this time, the final room of the dungeon is described below.
Interdimensional Chamber: This is a round room approximately 50 feet in diameter with bodies lying everywhere, but most are asleep instead of dead. The wizard who created this chamber lies here, but his heart did not survive the initial subduing and he died long ago and is just shards and bone dust now. In this pile of bone dust can be found a dagger +1 and a ring of protection +2 (Search DC 18). A drawback is that the room can only suspend animation on 50 people at a time, so new ones release older ones randomly once the maximum is reached. The ancient town originally had a population of 45 at the time of the comet and some have been released to wander about the interdimensional chamber looking for a way out. The missing townsfolk are also here asleep. Five of the original townsfolk are awake and wandering about. If and when the golem exits, these five (or 6 if a party member is captured) will discover the method and means of escape. The phase door is set to operate on a series of knocks, 4 then 3 from the inside and 2 then 2 from the outside. It has unlimited uses left, but will be destroyed when there are no longer any living creatures within the interdimensional chamber. Once the golem exits, any conscious creatures inside can then exit also by repeating the series of knocks. They will wait until they are sure the golem is gone before trying this, so none of them exit at this time.
The chamber also heals the guardian of any damage sustained. This process takes 10 minutes. The golem will await nightfall to exit again

Back to the town of Utral
Gather Information (DC 10):
Only the wizard has a chance to decipher the writings discovered by the party. He has an immense library of ancient texts that could help him.
Decipher Script (DC 29):
This will partially translate the document as follows: it mentions a “comet of destruction,” a “town of sleeping dead” and a “protector of the dead.” To be properly translated a library of ancient languages is required.
Other skills (such as various knowledge skills) might or might not provide information, at the DM’s choice, based on whether the skill has ties to the situation at hand.

Encounters
1. Crier again, exactly as before, maybe a little more tired and a little hoarse.
2. Karl appears, and states, “I warned you.” And his thugs attack the party from all sides at once while Karl fades away into an alley.
Thugs
6 Humans; Warrior 5; AC 14; hp 27 each; Init: +6; Spd: 30 ft.; Att: short sword +8 melee (1d6+2/19); F: +5, R: +3, W: +1; Str 15, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 8; Feats: Blind-Fight, Improved Initiative, Weapon Focus (short sword).

Timing:
Party takes dinner break and beds down for the night or pushes on to deal with trail rations and sleeping bags instead.

Encounters
The party will have one encounter on the way to the tower and another one on the way back to town, no matter if they ride horses or walk. Roll randomly or choose from the table below; once an entry is used, do not use it again.
Roll 1d4
1. 2 Ancient town guards, plus sergeant:
[Each of these three humans wears strange armor made of leather. Instead of the normal leather trousers normally associated with leather armor, these men wear pleated leather skirts with studs. Each has sandals with leather bindings that wind up their legs to their knees. They all wear copper-colored helmets and one has a crest of some reddish material on top of his helmet. All have a short sword on their side in scabbards and carry a long spear.] DM’s note: The weapons carried by these humans are made of copper and bend on a natural 2 or 3 and break on a natural 1. It takes one round to unbend a sword.
These humans in both the first and second encounter speak a language unknown to the party and comprehend languages only partially alleviates the problem as some words are not translated (because they are the same words just pronounced differently). Tongues allows normal communication. The language is an ancient form of Common, like the difference between English and Old English. Bonus xp for ending this encounter without killing the town guards: 500.
2 Humans; Warrior 3; AC 13; hp 19 each; Init: +5; Spd: 30 ft.; Att: long spear +6 melee (1d8+3/x3) or short sword +5 melee (1d6+2/19); F +5, R +2, W +1; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 8; Feats: Blind-Fight, Improved Initiative, Weapon Focus (long spear).
1 Human; Warrior 6; AC 14; hp 39; Init: +5; Spd: 30 ft.; Att: long spear +10/+5 melee (1d8+4/x3) or short sword +9/+4 melee (1d6+3/19); F +7, R +3, W +3; Str 16, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8; Feats: Blind-Fight, Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (long spear).
2. Ancient town shopkeeper:
[This man wears a white tunic and a toga over it. His feet are sandaled and he carries a dagger almost hidden in his robes.] The dagger is copper, see DM’s note above for melee modifiers.
1 Human; Commoner 2; AC 10; hp 5; Init: +0; Spd: 30 ft.; Att: dagger +1 melee (1d4/19); F +0, R +0, W +0; Str. 11, Dex 10, Con 11, Int 10, Wis 11, Cha 10; Feat: Dodge; Loss of xp for killing shopkeeper: –250.
3. Sleeping death attacks (see new monsters below).
4. 8 Bleeding Hearts attack (see new monsters below).

Tower of Arcturus
The wizard’s tower is also to the north of town, just 10 minutes away by horseback, walking will take 30 minutes. The dirt road leaves town to the east and slowly curves around until it is heading north after widely passing the ruins of skull keep. Then the road goes straight up to the stone tower and ends there. Flowering bushes line either side of the road for the last 20 or so feet up to the tower.
The tower is square and 30 feet on each side; it rises high into the air leading one to believe that it has at least 4 stories as well as a battlement on top. By craning one’s neck, several siege engines can be seen sticking out between the battlements. No windows are apparent on the first floor, but arrow slits pierce the walls higher up. Two gargoyles (statues, not monsters, or are they?) perch at the corners on a ledge about halfway up the tower’s side.
A single iron door bars entrance to the tower in the center of the wall at the end of the road. The door is equipped with a large iron knocker to announce visitors. Anyone using the knocker must make a Dex check (DC10) to jump out of the way as the door immediately swings outward (failure results in 1d3 damage from the door hitting them in the face) and a deep voice rings out “Come in. Make yourself at home. I’ll be right with you.”

First Floor: A stone door on one wall is marked with the word “Private” in common and a set of wooden stairs leads up to the next floor opposite it. The room is furnished with several divans and end tables. An unseen servant automatically brings drinks (wine) on a tray to each visitor. This room is lit via an ingenious chandelier of torches hanging unside down from the ceiling’s center enchanted with continual flame spells.
When the party enters, a purple-robed mage walks down the stairs and motions for them to sit. He begins explaining immediately.
“There is no worry; this comet shows up every 15,000 years. The last time it visited, it came so close it devastated large swaths of the world, volcanic explosions, earthquakes, and tidal waves destroyed much that was around back then. This time it will not come so close though, so go back to your homes and rest assured that nothing bad will happen because of the comet. I assure you of this. Now please leave.”
The mage goes through his speech despite interruptions, waves away the party and turns to go back up the stairs. If any party member tries to interrupt the mage that party member gains a save versus Will DC 20 to notice that this is an illusion. If a party member tries to physically stop the mage (by grabbing his shoulder, for example) another save versus Will is allowed for each party member with a +2 circumstance bonus to notice that that party-member’s hand went right through the mage and he must be an illusion.
At the top of the stairs, the mage fades away into nothingness and by then it will be apparent that the mage was an illusion to all party members, no save required. This was a programmed illusion.

Second Floor: The stairs pass on by this level, continuing their way up the tower with only a small landing at the door. The door on this level leads to the laboratory where the wizard is currently at work. Describe this lab as a normal “Mad Scientist’s” lab complete with long tables, beakers, retorts, cabinets filled with bottles, strange smells, etc. There are three arrow slits on each wall of this room as well as two torches in sconces on each wall set in-between the arrow slits.
“What are you doing here? Didn’t I explain about the comet below? You have nothing to worry about, so go away and leave me to my work.” Arcturus blasts at the party once they enter his lab.
Once the party shows him the rubbings/copies and explains things; Arcturus becomes slightly more accommodating. He leads the party up the stairs past the third floor to his library on the fourth floor.
He spends twenty to thirty minutes rummaging around in his books and scrolls and finally settles on two scrolls, a book and a pile of clay tablets which he dumps on the table. An hour of studying and hmmm-ing and a-hah-ing, and Arcturus looks up smiling.
“I’ve found it. Here is what that stone says: When the comet last came to our world, nearly 15,000 years ago, a wizard of some note predicted that it would destroy the world and kill everybody. So, he devised a plan to put his town to sleep in an other dimensional area for protection until the devastation caused by the comet had stopped. He also made some type of quickly-thrown-together automaton as a guardian to awaken the townsfolk when the time was right. It seems that he came up with a decidedly different version of the temporal stasis spell that could be easily broken by the automaton. He put the spell to effect inside some sort of extra-dimensional chamber to automatically affect any unconscious creatures. He claims to have made some sort of ‘shocking arrows’ that the guardian could use to awaken the townsfolk. The townspeople called the proposed spell, ‘the sleeping death’ and many refused to go along with the mage’s plan.”
DM’s note: At this time make sure the party recalls the patchwork golem’s bow, quiver, and arrows.
“Unfortunately, there is no mention of whether this plan worked or not. It seems that maybe the stone could be a marker for the entrance to the interdimensional chamber; but that’s your only hope of finding it. Was there nothing else inscribed on that wall?”
“Also, time is running out, as the comet will show up tomorrow night and that automaton might not come out of the room again for another fifteen millennia. You had better hurry back to the ruins to find the missing people or else all will be lost for at least our lifetimes.”

Third Floor: The stairs stop at this level and another set of stairs continue up the tower on the other side of the room. There is no door, just lines of bunks with footlockers at the end of each bunk on one side of the room and a kitchen complete with fireplace and a small wood stove on the other side. Currently there are four guards here, three playing knucklebones at a small table lit by an oil lamp and a fourth asleep on a bunk. Each bunk hides underneath it a chamber pot. There are two arrow slits on each wall of this room as well as a torch in a sconce on each wall.

Fourth Floor: The stairs pass on by this level, continuing their way up the tower with only a small landing at the door. The door on this level leads to the library, a large room with bookshelves covering each wall from floor to ceiling. The shelves are crammed with all manner of books, scrolls, and even clay tablets. In the center of the room is a table, also loaded with books, scrolls, and a few tablets as well as an ink well with a feather quill sticking out of it. There are three arrow slits on each wall of this room as well as two torches in sconces on each wall set in-between the arrow slits.

Battlements: 8 Ballistae: 2 facing each cardinal direction. Two soldiers man the tower top at all times. In one corner there is a rope that goes through a hole in the floor all the way down to the living quarters to a bell that, if rung, will summon reinforcements to the tower top.

Basement: This is Arcturus’ private quarters and contains a bed and night table as well as chamber pot, washing stand, basin and a dressing screen. This room is lit with a glowing metal globe that floats in the air beside the bed that gives the equivalent of a continual flame spell.

Timing:
The party spends most of the day listening to both his illusion’s and Arcturus’ own lecture. They can bed down outside the tower (Arcturus will not offer to let them spend the night). Or push on back to town and sleep there. In either case the night is uneventful. (Exception, if the party chooses to go back to town, they will have an encounter on the way as described above, otherwise the encounter happens on tomorrow’s trip).

Back to the Bloody Dungeon Again

It will take the party 10 minutes by horseback or 30 minutes on foot to make the journey from the wizard’s tower to the ruins of Skull Keep whether they keep to the road and ride/walk to Utral first or leave the road and head overland to the keep, as the road is worn and smooth as is the path from town to the keep, while the terrain between the road north of town and the keep is rough and rocky and generally is uphill.

Utral Redux
A stop in town alerts the party that another two people have gone missing. The bartender and most of the rest of the town are nearly hysterical now.

Encounters
1. The crier can be heard spieling out his memorized statement.
2. Karl makes another appearance, this time with thugs backed by mages.
“You won’t get away with destroying my business! Get ‘em boys!”
Karl’s thugs charge from the shadows all around the party, the spellcasters have taken cover behind barrels and gain a +4 cover bonus to their AC in addition to that listed below.
4. Thugs (as above)
2 Humans; Sorcerer 3; AC 16; hp 10 each; Init: +6; Spd: 30 ft.; Att: dagger +1 melee (1d4–1); F: +2, R: +3, W: +3; Str 8, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 15; Skills: Concentration +9; Feats: Improved Initiative, Skill Focus (Concentration); Spells/day: 6*; Spells Known: 1st: magic missile, sleep, mage armor* (already cast).

Bloody Dungeon Redux

A sleeping death meets the party as they enter the stairway
Once the second underground chamber is reached, the golem again steps out of the phase door to attack the party. This time it does not retreat.

Encounters
1. Sleeping Death (see new monsters below) and two Bleeding Hearts (see new monsters below)
2. Patchwork Golem (see new monsters below)

Epilogue:
DM’s note: have the party now recall the series of knocks on the inscribed section of wall previously used by the golem when it disappeared. Intelligence check, highest result remembers first.
Using the arrows, the party can easily free most of the ancient townsfolk as well as the newly captured townsfolk. This should use up all the arrows. There are two released ancient townsfolk in the interdimensional chamber that watched the golem and know how to open the door from the inside. Let the party try to exit for a while first, to no avail. Let it sink in that they may have trapped themselves in an otherworldly chamber with no means of escape, no food, no water, and 50 other people before allowing the awoken ancients to provide the fix.
The mayor of Utral offers the party 100 gp each for their help in finding and releasing the townsfolk. As this nearly empties the town’s coffers, nothing more can be negotiated.
The ancient townsfolk will need to be retrained but should provide the party with a pool of easily accessible and loyal followers/hirelings/cohorts. Other than the dagger and ring found earlier, this is the treasure for this adventure.

New Monsters

BLEEDING HEART
Medium Undead
Hit Dice: 3d12 (19 hp)
Initiative: +5
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 15 (+1 Dex, +2 natural, +2 heavy steel shield), touch 11, flat-footed 14
Base Attack/Grapple: +0/+1
Attack: Scimitar +2 melee (1d6+1/18–20) or claw +2 melee (1d4+1 plus bleeding touch)
Full Attack: Scimitar +2 melee (1d6+1/18–20) or 2 claws +2 melee (1d4+1 plus bleeding touch)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Bleeding touch
Special Qualities: Damage reduction 5/bludgeoning, darkvision 60 ft., immunity to cold, undead traits
Saves: Fort +0, Ref +1, Will +2
Abilities: Str 13, Dex 17, Con —, Int —, Wis 10, Cha 1
Skills:
Feats: Improved Initiative
Environment: Temperate plains
Organization: Solitary, troop (2-12), or army (15-60)
Challenge Rating: 4
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral evil
Bleeding hearts are the animated bones of the dead, in the chest cavity, a desiccated heart beats incessantly. Bleeding hearts are mindless automatons that obey the orders of their evil masters.
A bleeding heart is seldom garbed in anything more than the rotting remnants of any clothing or armor it was wearing when slain. A bleeding heart does only what it is ordered to do. It can draw no conclusions of its own and takes no initiative. Because of this limitation, its instructions must always be simple. A bleeding heart attacks until destroyed.
COMBAT
A bleeding heart attacks until destroyed with no concern for its own well-being. It uses no tactics and only attacks head-on. It will use a weapon if it has one but will not pick up discarded or lost weapons unless ordered to do so by its creator.
Bleeding Touch (Su): The touch of a bleeding heart causes wounds to bleed for the next 10 rounds. Each touch of a bleeding heart makes a bleeding wound that deals one point of damage each round for the next 10 rounds. This damage stacks, so that someone hit three times will take 3 hp damage at the beginning of the next round in addition to any damage he might take later in the round. A Heal check DC15, or any type of cure spell immediately stops the bleeding from all wounds suffered from a bleeding heart.
Ecology: This is the rank and file soldier created by the dark necromancer, Utreyal. Most of these creatures were created from skeletons stolen from graves. Thankfully, few of them still remain active.

PATCHWORK GOLEM
Large Construct
Hit Dice: 8d10+30 (74 hp)
Initiative: –2
Speed: 20 ft. (4 squares)
Armor Class: 17 (–1 size, –2 Dex, +10 natural), touch 7, flat-footed 17
Base Attack/Grapple: +6/+15
Attack: Slam +10 melee (2d6+5), or shortbow +3 ranged (1d3+shock)
Full Attack: 2 slams +10 melee (2d6+5), or shortbow +3 ranged (1d3+shock)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Missile weapons
Special Qualities: Construct traits, damage reduction 5/adamantine, darkvision 60 ft., immunity to magic, low-light vision
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +3
Abilities: Str 21, Dex 7, Con —, Int —, Wis 11, Cha 1
Skills:
Feats:
Environment: Any
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 6
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
A patchwork golem is a type of flesh golem that can be made from any type of humanoid creatures and a giant’s torso, stitched together into a single composite form. No natural animal willingly tracks a patchwork golem. The golem wears whatever clothing its creator desires, usually just a ragged pair of trousers. It carries a bow and a quiver of special arrows (see below). It stands 6½ feet tall and weighs almost 350 pounds.
A patchwork golem cannot speak, although it can emit a hoarse roar of sorts. It walks and moves with a severe limp, and swings its arms widely as if not in complete control of its body.
COMBAT
Missile Weapons: The patchwork golem carries a bow and quiver of special arrows. It can use them but is sadly deficient in their use due to its different-sized arms. The arrows are old and have degenerated badly, so they now do only 1d3 damage. Their special property is still intact though and delivers a shock that causes 0–1 point of damage and makes the target suffer a –1 to attacks for the next round. The shock is intense enough to be felt even if it does no damage. The golem has 50 of these arrows. These arrows also break the temporal stasis-like effect upon anyone in the interdimensional chamber.
The golem does not use its bow and arrows at all, reserving them to awaken those under the sleeping death.
Commands: This golem has been prepared with 2 separate commands.
1st: When the comet is gone, release the townsfolk.
2nd: When the comet nears; round up all townsfolk and subdue them and carry them through phase door to the interdimensional chamber and lay them down in an empty space. Persons unconscious in the chamber are subjected to a special form of temporal stasis that can be broken by special shocking arrows enchanted for the purpose.
Unfortunately, something went wrong and the first command was ignored. Maybe the golem could only remember one command at a time, maybe the wizard that enchanted it did something wrong in the creation process, maybe the wizard’s command was somehow convoluted, or maybe the comet itself changed the golem’s programming. In any case none of the ancient townsfolk were set free after the comet left.
Immunity to Magic (Ex): A patchwork golem is immune to any spell or spell-like ability that allows spell resistance. In addition, certain spells and effects function differently against the creature, as noted below.
A magical attack that deals cold or fire damage slows a patchwork golem (as the slow spell) for 2d6 rounds, with no saving throw.
A magical attack that deals electricity damage breaks any slow effect on the golem and heals 1 point of damage for every 3 points of damage the attack would otherwise deal. If the amount of healing would cause the golem to exceed its full normal hit points, it gains any excess as temporary hit points. For example, a patchwork golem hit by a lightning bolt heals 4 points of damage if the attack would have dealt 13 points of damage. A patchwork golem gets no saving throw against attacks that deal electricity damage.
Construction
The pieces of a patchwork golem must come from humanoid corpses that have not decayed significantly, except the torso which must come from a giant. Assembly requires a minimum of six different bodies—one for each limb, the torso (including head), and the brain. In some cases, more bodies may be necessary. Special unguents and bindings worth 350 gp are also required. Note that creating a patchwork golem requires casting a spell with the evil descriptor.
Assembling the body requires a DC 12 Craft (leatherworking) check or a DC 12 Heal check.
CL 8th; Craft Construct, animate dead, bull’s strength, geas/quest, limited wish, caster must be at least 8th level; Price 10,500 gp; Cost 5,500 gp + 400 XP.


SLEEPING DEATH
Medium Undead (Incorporeal)
Hit Dice: 5d12 (32 hp)
Initiative: +7
Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares), fly 80 ft. (perfect)
Armor Class: 15 (+3 Dex, +2 deflection), touch 15, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +2/—
Attack: Incorporeal touch +5 melee (1d6 plus energy drain)
Full Attack: Incorporeal touch +5 melee (1d6 plus energy drain)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Create spawn, energy drain, wail
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., incorporeal traits, +2 turn resistance, undead traits, unnatural aura
Saves: Fort +1, Ref +4, Will +6
Abilities: Str —, Dex 16, Con —, Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 15
Skills: Hide +11, Intimidate +10, Listen +12, Search +10, Spot +12, Survival +10 (+12 following tracks)
Feats: Alertness, Blind-Fight, Improved Initiative
Environment: Any land and underground
Organization: Solitary, gang (3–5), or swarm (6–11)
Challenge Rating: 7
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always lawful evil
Advancement: 6–10 HD (Medium)
Level Adjustment:
A sleeping death looks much as it did in life just before its death, usually cut, bruised, and bloody and it can be recognized by those who knew the individual or have seen the individual’s face in a painting or a drawing. A sleeping death is roughly human-sized and is weightless.
COMBAT
In close combat a sleeping death attacks with its mind-numbing wail and its burning, life-draining touch. It makes full use of its incorporeal nature, moving through walls, ceilings, and floors as it attacks. It usually ignores sleeping victims until awake and aware ones have been taken out.
Energy Drain (Su): Living creatures hit by a sleeping death’s incorporeal touch attack gain a negative level. The DC is 14 for the Fortitude save to remove a negative level. The save DC is Charisma-based. For each such negative level bestowed the sleeping death gains 5 temporary hit points.
Create Spawn (Su): Any humanoid slain by a sleeping death becomes a sleeping death in 1d6 rounds. Spawn are under the command of the sleeping death that created them and remain enslaved until its death. They do not possess any of the abilities they had in life.
Unnatural Aura (Su): Animals, whether wild or domesticated, can sense the unnatural presence of a sleeping death at a distance of 30 feet. They do not willingly approach nearer than that and panic if forced to do so; they remain panicked as long as they are within that range.
Wail (Su): A sleeping death usually begins combat with its wail, a sonic attack that numbs the mind causing unconsciousness in a 30-foot radius. The sleeping death can use its wail only once per day. A Fortitude save, DC 14 is allowed to partially negate the wail’s effectiveness, successful saves means the victim is only slowed for 1d4 rounds. The save DC is Charisma-based.
Ecology: This particular type of undead was created by the dark necromancer, Utreyal, in his experiments on local townsfolk in his bloody dungeon.
 

Nifft

Penguin Herder
Round 2, match 1: CleverNickName vs. InVinoVeritas

Your ingredients are:
Bottomless Pit
Still Beating Heart
Dragon Slayer
Interrupted Communications
Beetle Swarm
5 Quaal's Feather Tokens



May the muse be with you.
 

phoamslinger

Explorer
Round 1, Match 8: ElectricDragon vs Iron Sky

before I get started, I do want to mention that 12 pages is a bit much to read through, Iron Sky. I like completeness compared to having to fill in the blanks, but try to not go quite so overboard in future rounds.

Ingredients
Bloody Dungeon
Comet
Agressive Moneylender
Sleeping Death
Patchwork Golem
Shocking Arrows

each of you have the various ingredients in your stories, but how did they connect to each other?

Electric, how did your moneylender connect to the golem? why did the golem come out because of the comet? why was it a ‘bloody’ dungeon, other than the rumors and back history calling it that? what would happen if I replaced the Patchwork Golem with an Iron Golem, or a Flesh Golem? would it have had any impact on the overall storyline?

Iron Sky’s entry I liked much better. I’ve mentioned in previous comments that I like connections; let’s see what jumps out…

IS’s patchwork golem is a mish-mash of mechanical parts that have been assembled over generations (and therefore, because it was constructed over generations, it is a patchwork affair). the dungeon is the site of ongoing violent tortures (so bloody fits). the Arrows are electrical and will be necessary to energize the Golem, which will be needed to stop the Comet, which is bringing the Death, the children of whom have caused the Sleeping sickness that pulls the party into the game, and which has been brought into the story by the Moneylender who owns the Dungeon and the Arrows. as I look back at the ingredient list Iron Sky’s adventure seems to tie them all integrally together and if one of them were swapped out with another item, it would be necessary to change the story to accomodate.

ElectricDragon’s items are there, but they're just dropped into a story setting without really being a required part of the story. the moneylender could as easily be an irate constable blaming strangers for the disappearances as a moneylender. why were those who disappeared the one’s who owed him money? where were the connections between the other ingredients?

Iron Sky, despite the length, I found The Children of Death to be the better entry by quite a large margin. the round is yours.

ElectricDragon, a Background Section at the start of your entry might have helped some. I felt like I had to keep looking for why the adventure was taking place and what was the trigger. was it the comet? the moneylender? something else? you had a lot of detail in your entry, but Iron DM’s are really not so much about the little details like the room by room descriptions or the stat blocks, they’re about making the six core ingredients into the six CORE ingredients that are UNREPLACEABLE by other, similar types of items, and are present BECAUSE the other five are dependent on them for their own inclusion in the storyline. I guess you could say it’s more about the story arcs than anything else.

it’s kinda long, but Iron Sky made the connections that won him this round.
 
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InVinoVeritas

Adventurer
Devouring the Dragon’s Heart

An adventure for 4-6 characters of level 2-4, using 3e/3.5e rules. A copy of Draconomicon is recommended. The party is expected not to have strong transport capabilities yet, such as flight or teleportation. Furthermore, the adventure will test the party’s capabilities at survival using more common gear, such as ropes, pitons, and other such equipment. A rogue or other expert climber will be very valuable to the party. At the conclusion of a successful adventure, the party will have a powerful friend who can be a source of future adventures.

The party starts in the coastal village of Balamore. The land offshore is craggy, with lots of islets, odd currents, sea caves, and a large whirlpool on the shore of a small uninhabited rocky island, called Corryvlinthax.

This can be adjusted to be any coastal location with a rocky shore and low population.

While the PCs are in town or nearby, they notice what looks like a silvery-golden cloud out over the water. The cloud approaches the shoreline, and it becomes clear that it is a swarm of flying scarabs!

The beetles involved are hoard scarabs, golden and silver beetles typically living with dragons among their hoard (See Draconomicon). They attack the party, searching for food. The total number of scarabs involved should depend on the party strength; a party at level 2 should face about 10 individual scarabs, while a party at level 4 should face a single hoard scarab swarm.

Upon defeat of the swarm, it becomes clear that a carrier pigeon was caught by the swarm during the battle as well. The pigeon is carrying a note:

L,

The beetles have begun to emerge. I fear that they may finally be overwhelming old Corry. I have a plan, but I dare not get too close—they will eat me alive, for certain. We need someone—most likely a group—of stout-hearted souls who would brave the depths to finally rid us of the menace once and for all.

-Galdorrow

The villagers can tell the party that Galdorrow is an old fisherman who is down on his luck. He can usually be found in the tavern these days, just like now. A grizzled, white-bearded old human with what looks like a perpetual sneer on his face, Galdorrow is surprised at first, not expecting his old friend to be able to pull a group of adventurers together so quickly, but when he is told that his carrier pigeon did not make it, he swears and complains that the beetles are getting stronger. If asked about his “old friend” L, he waves it off, saying that L can’t help now, but the party can.

In truth, Galdorrow is a Young Adult Bronze Dragon. He has always been a homebody among his kind, never having ventured far from his birthplace at Corryvlinthax. Having always been a taciturn sort preferring a quiet life, he has not bothered to learn magical communication techniques or added such items to his hoard. In addition, he stays here to keep guard over the terrible hoard scarab plague at Corryvlinthax. He fears getting too close to the scarabs, but also fears leaving the area and coming back to swarms upon swarms of the beetles devouring everyone and everything.

He invites the party back to his home, an old fishing boat he calls Dragoneye. There, he explains the problem of the beetles, pulling a dead specimen beetle in a jar off the shelf to explain.

Hoard scarabs are typically invited into dragons’ lairs to take up residence among their coins, Galdorrow explains. Their silver and gold carapaces make them blend in well, and since they are supposed to lack the strength to burrow into dragon hide, they are safe, and get their hide cleaned by them as well. But these scarabs are different. He doesn’t know why, but these scarabs are able to burrow into dragon flesh and kill them. That’s where the swarms are coming from—Corryvlinthax, the whirlpool. Corryvlinthax isn’t just a swirling drain next to a rock. It is a dragon. Or, was a dragon. Corryvlinthax worked out a way to keep the swarms from traveling from dragon to dragon and killing them all like a plague. Since the swarms don’t normally leave their host until after it dies, Corryvlinthax combined his transformation into a guardian with a connection to the Elemental Plane of Water. Normally, when a dragon ends his life and becomes a guardian, his body dies and turns into a large expanse of land. However, by shunting off part of his existence to the Plane of Water, he both kept his body alive but extended his existence to infinity. As a result, the scarabs would feast on his body forever, and never harm another dragon—or anything else. Corryvlinthax transformed into a small island, and a whirlpool that extends all the way past the bottom of the sea and into the everlasting ocean.

Since the beetles are now escaping the whirlpool with regularity, Galdorrow needs the party to go down that whirlpool.

Deep inside the whirlpool should be a chamber. Think of the mouth of the whirlpool as the dragon’s mouth, and once down the neck the area should open up before continuing into the depths to infinity. The upper parts of this chamber should be dry and filled with air, as bronze dragons always require a dry living chamber above an underwater entrance. Somewhere in this chamber should be the heart of the dragon, kept alive. Hoard scarabs aim for the heart of their host, so they should be congregating there. The heart needs to be poisoned to destroy the main nest. With the death of the heart, it will kill the rest of the living body of the dragon, but the destruction of the nest of beetles is necessary.

Only recently has Galdorrow found the way to safely get into the chamber. He presents the party with a small box. Inside, there are five feathers. The first feather, he explains, is how to get to the whirlpool. Since the party must head down the whirlpool, no captain will set sail for it and lose their ship. The first feather will transform into a giant swan boat, which can take the party to and down the whirlpool. The second feather will transform into a giant fan—this will both bring the boat to the whirlpool, and disperse any swarms that may emerge from it. The third feather will then save the party’s life. While being sucked down the whirlpool, at the point where the neck meets the body, the boat will scrape against the walls of the downward tunnel. The third feather will act as an anchor, and stop the boat in mid-descent as it scrapes against the hall. The party should be able to climb down into the chamber from there. The fourth feather will poison and destroy the heart. The heart must be cut open and the feather thrust inside. There, it will transform into a giant tree, destroying anything inside the heart. Once this is done, and the beetles’ nest is destroyed, then the last feather can turn into a bird, which will fly out and let him know the beetles are dead. Galdorrow promises to come fetch the party at that time.

The party can take some time to prepare; Corryvlinthax has five vials of alchemist’s fire available, which will prove useful against swarming beetles. Standard equipment from the PHB is available in the village for purchase. If anyone suspects why he has so much knowledge of dragons, he simply says that one can learn a lot listening to local legends for over 60 years.

Travel to Corryvlinthax is as suggested, with the party creating a swan boat and taking it to the whirlpool. While aboard, a cluster of three swarms emerge from the whirlpool and head for whatever food they can find, especially the party. Use of the Fan Token will disperse the swarms, forcing them back into the sea to drown.

The party must prepare for the trip down the whirlpool. Everyone must find a way to brace themselves to the boat; any party member not tied or otherwise braced to the boat must succeed at a Balance or Tumbling check of DC 25 or be knocked out of the boat, into the water, and fall into the depths. The swan boat enters free fall at this point. There is then a jarring crunch as the boat strikes and slides down the wet, slick walls of the whirlpool neck. All party members must succeed a Balance or Tumbling check of DC 20 or take 2d6 damage from the jostling about. Using the Anchor Token at this point will stop the boat’s descent; they only have two rounds before falling into the chamber below. The Anchor Token will fasten the boat to the wall, allowing party members to climb down into the main chamber. Using knotted ropes and pitons will make the Climb checks easy at this point.

The inside of the chamber resembles the inside of a giant, stone ribcage about 90’ in diameter. The whirlpool becomes a waterfall that descends through the center of the chamber, down about 100’, into a pool 30’ in diameter, which forms another whirlpool which continues its descent to the Elemental Plane of Water. Occasionally, a Water Weird can be seen emerging from the water, but does not attack anything on land. If anyone or anything lands in the pool, the Water Weirds attack and the whirlpool will suck anyone down forever. Also emerging from the pool are a series of glistening, greenish tubes. They lead and connect up to a large, green pendulous pulsating organ about 10’ across and hanging 20’ above the chamber floor—the still-beating heart of the dragon Corryvlinthax.

The chamber is filled with hoard scarabs. They buzz around, and new ones emerge from the tubes by chewing their way out. The tubes fill with water and quickly reseal behind them, healing. The ground is covered with the bodies of dead scarabs, and the air in the chamber has an odd, acidic quality, smelling of chlorine and too many insects. The party must fend off the beetles as someone climbs up to the heart, cuts open a section (The heart has Hardness 2, 5 HP, immune to bludgeoning) and inserts the Tree Token.

Upon insertion of the Tree Token, the tree sprouts into being, poking itself through the walls of the heart and sending it crashing to the floor. Thousands of beetles and larvae incubating in the heart are smashed, and the tree and heart begin to get pulled into the whirlpool. The tree stops its descent by its sheer size. There are still a few beetles around, but it should be easy to dispatch the remaining scarabs without much trouble.

The party should send the Bird Token at this time. After 10 rounds, the chamber begins to fill with water, slowly. The water level will start expanding to fill the floor of the chamber over rounds 11-16, covering an additional 10’ radius per round. Then, the water starts to rise in the chamber at a rate of 1 foot per round. PCs can climb the walls or the tree to stay out of the water. Galdorrow arrives fifteen rounds after the Bird Token is sent. In dragon form, he flies down the whirlpool, introduces himself, thanks the party for their help, and helps them slip into a leather harness he wears to pull the party out of the whirlpool chamber. Any remaining beetles eventually drown.

Galdorrow takes the party to a nearby island. He then explains to the party that Corryvlinthax was his grandfather. Although he is sad that he had to be killed, at least it is to end the menace of the scarabs, and that he can finally rest in peace. He explains that he had been living in Balamore as the guardian to Corryvlinthax, and that he, and all the Bronze Dragons, will regard the party well. He offers them a reward from his hoard (he keeps it on the island). He offers to fly the party back to the mainland at night when he won’t be seen, and return to his simple fisherman’s life, until the Bronze Dragons need the party’s help again.

L (the person Galdorrow was originally trying to contact) can be anyone the DM wishes, from another dragon, to a master wizard, or anything else. Having Galdorrow send the party to L can be the next adventure source and tie into the campaign that the DM has prepared.

Interrupted Communications in the wake of a Beetle Swarm attack lead the party to discover that the beetles are Dragon Slayers feeding off a Still Beating Heart in a Bottomless Pit. The party must use 5 Quaal's Feather Tokens to successfully end the beetle menace.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
The Heart of A’nun
a 3.5 Edition adventure for 10th-12th level characters.

Introduction
The adventure takes place in a desert kingdom with a culture based on that of ancient Egypt. The people of this kingdom serve the Pharaonic pantheon, and these gods play an important role in the people’s lives. It is assumed that the characters are active members of a small community there, and that they have earned a reputation for heroic deeds.

Background
The farming fields along the Nile River are among the most reliable in the Known World, providing all of Egypt with both food and valuable export. But this year, the crops are failing. Scarab beetles, in unseasonably large numbers, have been descending upon the fields from the west, and are devouring the barley and wheat before the grains can mature. The Council of Isis, a group of nature-based clerics and druids, suspects these swarms of beetles to be an unnatural occurrence. They believe that Khepri, the God of Beetles, has become angry and is punishing them.

Eyewitnesses report the swarms of beetles flying in from the west, from the vicinity of Siwah. The Council of Isis believes that the plague of beetles could be stopped by offering the proper sacrifices to appease Khepri. By the order of Pharaoh, a messenger was sent to Siwah with orders and instructions to perform the sacred rites. But three weeks have since passed, and no word of reply has been received.

The lack of communication with Siwah is most troubling to Pharaoh. The oasis of Siwah is an important garrison for the kingdom, guarding the western mountains from the monstrous hordes beyond. Pharaoh fears an invasion is imminent, and has begun preparations for war.

The situation is growing desperate. If the plague of beetles is not stopped before the harvest moon (one week from now), the harvest will not be sufficient to refill the grain storehouses and famine will wrack the land. And if Siwah has been besieged, the entire kingdom’s western flank lies unprotected.

DM Information
The swarms of beetles and the lack of communication with Siwah are both the work of a greater mummy. In life, she was known as A’nen the High Priestess of Khepri. She was an exceedingly wicked woman who feared her final judgment...so upon her death, she ordered her priests to embalm her without her heart.

Mummies in ancient Egypt were embalmed with their hearts still in their bodies, since it was believed that the heart was the seat of the soul. In the final judgment, the heart would be weighed on a scale with a feather, and hearts that were found to be heavy with sin were fed to the monster Ammat. So by having herself embalmed without her heart, A’nen has made herself exempt from judgment and will live forever...but as a soul-less, undead monster. If her heart is found and returned to her body, she will immediately pass to judgment and be destroyed.

Now an undead monster, she awoke from her tomb and returned to her followers at the temple. She has been driven insane by the dark powers that grant her life, and in her madness she has determined that all of the world shall be chattel for her god’s children. She intends to raise an army of beetles to devour all of Egypt.

Calling upon the darkest magic of the Underworld, she has created a monster that is part dragon and part scarab...the Scarab Dragon. This abomination spews forth droves of scarab beetles, which A’nen collects around herself as if they were her own children.

The first victim of her plan was the outpost of Siwah. She sent her swarms of beetles into the town, where they destroyed the bridge that connects the town with the rest of Egypt. Trapped within their outpost, the people of Siwah fell quickly to the overwhelming flood of beetles, before they could even send a distress call.

Emboldened by her success against Siwah, A’nen now turns her eyes to the fertile Nile River Valley.

ACT I, SCENE I: An Offer They Can’t Refuse
The party is contacted by the Council of Isis, and asked to attend a special meeting. The council, mostly druids and clerics, has heard of the characters’ heroic deeds, and would like their help in solving a matter of great importance to the kingdom. At this meeting, they will also be joined by the chief magistrate of Pharaoh...a highly unusual occurrence. (Pharaoh is regarded as the embodiment of Ra, and normally has little interest in the affairs of the other gods.)

At this meeting, the Council of Isis will ask the party to carry a special satchel of incense, oils, and other sacraments to the far oasis of Siwah. They are to find the temple of Khepri and perform the sacred rites to appease the god, and hopefully stem the plague of scarabs before famine wracks the land.

The magistrate offers assistance for the task, including fast chariots, guards, and provisions for the three-day journey, but on one condition: the party is to report back to Pharaoh at regular intervals along the way, and raise the alarm at the first sign of invasion, siege, or enemy occupation of Siwah.

As a reward, the Council offers each member of the party free services at the Temple of Isis, where they may receive free food, shelter, and healing for seven years. The magistrate offers them dominion anywhere within the Pharaoh’s lands, where they may found their own city, raise their own army, and rule their own dominions as an extension of Pharaoh’s own arm.

The offer is more of a formality; the word of Pharaoh is law. The party can always refuse the offer, but if they do, they will be imprisoned for defying the will of Pharaoh.

ACT I, SCENE II: Journey to the Oasis
The party will be given all of the horses and chariots they need for the journey. In addition, they will be given five quaal’s feather tokens (birds), to send word of their progress and the state of Siwah. They may request up to 500 gp worth of other provisions and supplies, but anything beyond that must be paid from their own pocket.

Accompanying the party on their journey are five of Pharaoh’s own guards (5th level human fighters), and priest of Isis named Hem-Netjer (9th level human cleric) to perform the ritual once they arrive. Use the stats in the DMG, pages 115 and 117, for the cleric and fighters.

The journey to Siwah takes three days. Along the way, they may randomly encounter traveling merchants, bandits, and monsters. At least once along the journey, they should be attacked by at least one swarm of scarab beetles (see the Appendix for stats.) The beetles fly in from the direction of Siwah.

After the battle, Hem-netjer will capture one of the beetles from the swarm, and use it as a focus for a spell. (If the party is curious about the spell being cast, a DC 20 Spellcraft check will reveal that it is a scrying spell, with detect evil.) At the completion of the spell, Hem-netjer will recoil in horror and squash the insect with his fist.

After feverishly muttering spells of protection and prayers of praise, the priest will inform the party of great danger to the west. This plague of beetles did not come from Khepri, but are the work of a fallen priestess of Khepri...one who was put to death seven years ago for heresy. She has somehow discovered a way to subvert the power of her god, and defied the natural order of death and judgment. Now, she has created a terrible monster beneath the ground, and plans to unleash it upon the kingdom at the next harvest moon.

The priest will work other divination spells, trying to divine the nature of the monster and the dangers that they will face. He instructs the party to send word to his temple, and to leave him undisturbed in his tent as he works. A few hours later, he will emerge with the following prophecy:

The One Who Returns, the Heartless One, plans her wickedness from her temple to the west. Her name is A’nen, and she has turned her eye to the fertile Nile valley.

The One Who Returns is guarded by a beast unseen by this world, a dragon stolen from Khepri’s own right arm. Its name is Mehen, and it will devour all that stand between its master and the fertile valley of the Nile.

From the east, from the Cradle of Isis, a group of heroes stand against the A’nen and Mehen. They have lifted the Arm of Ra from the bottom of the pit, and they have stolen the still-beating heart of the fallen one from her defiled resting place. With the Arm of Ra, they will slay the dragon Mehen, and with the still-beating heart, they will send the One Who Returns back to her final judgment.


Eventually, at the end of their journey, the party will arrive at The Bottomless Pit, which lies outside of Siwah.

ACT II, SCENE I: The Bottomless Pit
The Bottomless Pit is a great sinkhole that blocks the western pass. (It is well-known to all who have traveled to Siwah; the guards and priest who accompany the party will know immediately which pit is being referred to in the prophecy.) It is about eight hundred feet across, with sheer cliffs that descend more than three hundred feet into the jagged limestone rocks below. Normally, there is a large wooden bridge that spans the chasm...but the bridge is missing. A DC 15 Knowledge (nature) check will reveal that the bridge was destroyed by insects (beetles).

The guards will instruct the party to send word to Pharaoh about the damaged bridge. The priest will cite the prophecy, and explain to the party that the keys to the destruction of A’nen and the dragon lie at the bottom of the pit.

It is assumed that a mid-level party of adventurers could reach the bottom of the pit easily enough with magic. If they decide to scale the cliffs, they will need to make 30 Climb checks at DC 18. At the bottom of the pit are three distinct features: a large cave opening to the north, a burial tomb to the west, and a deep pool of water in the center.

The pool of water is roughly thirty feet wide and infinitely deep: the shaft of water extends several hundred feet into the limestone, before ending in a gate to the Elemental Plane of Water. The pool is flanked on all four sides by statues of the evil crocodile god Sobek. It is a drowning pool, a place where human sacrifices to the god were made...all of the statues bear written warnings about disturbing the pool and incurring the wrath of Sobek, about those who enter the pool shall never return, etc.

ACT II, SCENE II: The Limestone Caves
The cave leads to a system of natural limestone caverns. These caverns are infested with monstrous scorpions, giant snakes, and other denizens of the area. In the rear of the cave, however, is a well-fashioned brick wall into which has been set a sealed stone door. Beyond the door is a 20’ x 20’ square room with an altar dedicated to Ra in its center. Over the altar is an enormous stone statue of Ra, his outstretched wings covering the altar.

The statue is actually a stone golem (use the stats in the SRD for a CR 11 stone golem). It is keyed to attack anyone who approaches the altar without first reciting a long-forgotten prayer to Ra.

Atop the altar is a gleaming khopesh.
[SBLOCK=The Arm of Ra]The Arm of Ra
holy dragonbane khopesh +3
This khopesh is made from gleaming bronze, with brass fittings and silver inlay. It is forged with a wing motif, and engraved with a delicate feather pattern. The sword deals +2d6 points of sacred damage to all evil opponents. Against dragons, the sword’s bonus improves to +5, and deals +2d6 points of damage. Against evil dragons, these bonuses stack.

Because of its hook-like tip, it can be used to make disarm attacks. When using a khopesh, a character gains a +2 bonus on opposed attack rolls made to disarm an opponent.[/SBLOCK]

ACT II, SCENE III: The Tomb
The burial tomb is decorated with images of the beetle god Khepri. It appears to have been unsealed recently. The halls and chambers beyond the gate are guarded by several mummies, golems, curses, and boobytraps. In the rear chamber, behind a hidden and sealed door, is a grand burial chamber. According to the hieroglyphics on the door, the tomb is that of A’nen, High Priestess of Khepri.

The sarcophagus in the chamber is empty. Lying nearby on a wooden shelf, are the canopic jars of A’nen. Normally there are four jars: one for the lungs, one for the liver, one for the stomach, and one for the intestines. Here, there is a fifth jar...which contains a human heart. The disembodied heart continues to beat from inside its alabaster jar.

[SBLOCK=The Still Beating Heart of A’nen]Still Beating Heart of A’nen: This powerful artifact appears to be a canopic jar of alabaster, in which lies a beating human heart. It detects of overwhelming Necromancy and Evil.

Wherever the jar goes, the area around it is treated as though an unhallow spell had been cast with the jar as the touched point of origin. Furthermore, all creatures that are slain within 30 feet of the jar will rise 1 round later as an undead monster (as per the create undead spell.)

The relic cannot be destroyed by mortal means. It resists damage from all types of energy, and slowly regenerates itself when physically damaged. Even if the jar were smashed and the heart cut into ribbons, the pieces would slowly repair or regenerate themselves completely in just a few seconds.

The only way to destroy this artifact is to remove the heart from the jar and thrust it into the body of A’nen. This will complete the burial ritual that will send her soul to the Underworld for judgment, destroying the mummy forever.[/SBLOCK]

ACT III, SCENE I: The Temple of KhepriOnce they have collected the two relics from the pit, the priest will urge the party to press on to their goal: the outpost of Siwah and its temple.

The outpost of Siwah is completely destroyed. All that remains of the town and its inhabitants are stones, pottery, and bones. A DC 15 Knowledge (nature) check will reveal that the entire area was decimated by a swarm of insects (beetles), which ate all organic material in the vicinity and left behind only the bones of their victims.

The Temple of Khepri sits atop a sandy hill overlooking the ruin of Siwah. It is the only building in the area that appears to still be inhabited: lit torches flank its entrance, and clouds of incense rise from the smoke hole in its roof. For the temple, use the map on page 138 of “Deities and Demigods.”

Courtyard: Six priests are kneeling and chanting in this area, adding incense to a large bed of coals in the center of the room. Hundreds of scarab beetles scurry around them, but the priests do not seem to notice. As the party approaches, the priests cease their duties and attack. (For the priests, use the stats in the SRD for mummies.)

Antechamber: The antechamber is decorated with a raised motif of scarab beetles, and brightly-lit with torches. In the middle of the north and south walls, imbedded into the plaster, are gold and emerald scarab pendants worth 500 gp each (Search DC 15 to find the pendants.)

Chapel: At first glance, this chamber appears to be empty. Once the party has entered the chamber, A’nen (who waits in the Study) will pull a hidden lever that will cause all of the entrances into this room to slowly close. (It takes a full round for the doors to close, so the party will be able to choose which side of the door they wish to be on by the time the doors finish closing.) The doors remain closed for 1 hour, or until the counterweight is found and disabled (Search DC 25, Disable Device DC 20.)

Crawling on the 30’ high ceiling (Hide +22) is a huge black monster. The creature appears to be a kind of dragon, but with the wings, legs, and body of an enormous scarab beetle. It attacks on sight.
[SBLOCK=Scarab Dragon]
The scarab dragon is a Giant Stag Beetle that has been advanced to Huge size (20 HD), and then given the Half Dragon template. Its breath weapon is a swarm of scarab beetles.

Mehen, the Scarab Dragon
Huge Dragon

Hit Dice:
20d10+120 (220 hp)
Initiative: +3
Speed: 20 ft., Fly 40 ft. (average)
Armor Class: 25 (-2 size, -1 Dex, +18 natural)
Base Attack/Grapple: +15/+25
Attack: Bite +29 melee (4d8+14)
Full Attack: Bite +29 melee (4d8+14)
Space/Reach: 15 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Breath weapon, trample 3d6+14
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., immunities, vermin traits
Saves: Fort +20, Ref +7, Will +6
Abilities: Str 39, Dex 8, Con 23, Int 2, Wis 10, Cha 11
Skills: Climb +19, Hide +22, Listen +6, Spot +6
Feats: Awesome Blow, Great Fortitude, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Armor, Lightning Reflexes, Power Attack
----------------------------------------------------
Environment: Warm plains and deserts
Organization: Solitary (unique)
Challenge Rating: 9
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 8-10 HD (Large); 11-21 HD (Huge)
Level Adjustment: +3

Breath Weapon: a scarab dragon’s breath weapon is a 10’ x 10’ swarm of scarab beetles (use the stats in the SRD for a locust swarm.) The swarm appears immediately adjacent to the scarab dragon and attacks immediately. The swarm is not summoned or conjured, and therefore cannot be dispelled, dismissed, or hedged out by magic circle spells.

Immunities: immune to electricity damage, sleep, and paralysis.
[/SBLOCK]There is nothing else of interest in this chamber.

Meditation Chamber: This room contains six large earthen jars, each about four feet tall. Inside the jars, the party will find the dragon’s hoard of treasure: 26,500 sp; potion of blur, potion of darkvision, potion of enlarge person, arcane scroll of 3 spells (spider climb, levitate, spectral hand); divine scroll of 2 spells (stonetell, barkskin); helm of comprehending languages and reading magic; and five Quaal’s feather tokens (lanterns).[/I]
[SBLOCK=New Item: Quaal’s Feather Token (Lantern)]Like other feather tokens, each of these enchanted feathers has a power to suit a special need. Each token is useable only once.
Lantern: A token that transforms into a lit hooded lantern. The light from the lantern reveals all things as they truly are, as per the true seeing spell. The token lasts for 10 minutes.

Moderate conjuration; CL 12th, Craft Wondrous Item, major creation; Price 1,125 gp.[/SBLOCK]

High Priest’s Chambers: Each of these three chambers is sealed by a stone door. Unlike all of the other doors in this temple, the doors are completely smooth and undecorated. In fact, they seem almost unnaturally blank, completely devoid of any markings whatsoever.

If a true seeing spell (or one of the Lantern Tokens from the dragon’s hoard) are used on the blank doors, a hidden set of hieroglyphics will be revealed. Each door reveals a riddle.

Door 1: A red drum which sounds
Without being touched,
And grows silent,
When it is touched.

(Answer: heart)

Door 2: Dead and bound,
what once was free.
What made no sound,
now sings with glee.

(Answer: a lute or violin)

Door 3: Dawns away,
The day's turned grey,
And I must travel far away.
But I'll be back,
And then we'll track,
The light of yet another day.

(Answer: a shadow)

Each of these three chambers is empty, except for the very last one. Within the final chamber, the party will find a stone sarcophagus standing against the southern wall. It is completely empty, except for a nonmagical scroll of papyrus.

Close inspection (a DC 15 Knowledge (religion) check) will reveal that this scroll contains the traditional funerary rites for the dead...except that it has been modified. According to this scroll, the priests have been instructed to remove the heart from the body while it still beats, and seal it with powerful dark magic against death. The last rites have also been rewritten to awaken the dead, not to send the dead to their final judgment. In other words, if this funerary ritual were ever performed, it would create an undead monster that would live forever...unless the heart was to be returned to its body.

Study: In this large chamber, the party will find the beautiful A’nen. She is standing in the middle of the west wall, examining a large, detailed map of Egypt. She appears to have been waiting for the party. She will give a classic “gloating villain” speech, then attack without mercy.
[SBLOCK=A’nen, High Priestess of Khepri]
A'nen, High Priestess of Khepri
Greater Mummy (11th level human cleric of Khepri (Protection, Rune))
Medium-sized Undead

Hit Dice:
11d12 (71 hp)
Initiative: +1
Speed: 30 ft.
Armor Class: 22 (+1 Dex, +8 natural, bracers of armor +2, ring of protection +1)
Base Attack/Grapple: +8/+11
Attack: Touch +11 melee (1d8+3 and paralysis) or light mace +13 melee (1d6+5)
Full Attack: Touch +11/+6 melee (1d8+5 and paralysis) or light mace +13/+8 melee (1d6+5)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Damaging touch, despair, paralyzing touch, spells
Special Qualities: DR 15/magic, SR 21, domain powers (protection, rune), fire vulnerability, symbiosis, turn resistance 4, immunities, undead traits
Saves: Fort +8, Ref +7, Will +12 (cloak of resistance +1)
Abilities: Str 17, Dex 12, Con --, Int 12, Wis 19, Cha 16
Skills: Concentration +17, Diplomacy +8, Hide +9, Knowledge (arcana) +12, Knowledge (religion) +11, Listen +12, Move Silently +9, Search +12, Sense Motive +12, Spellcraft +15, Spot +12
Feats: Augment Summoning, Combat Casting B, Craft Wondrous Item, Extra Turning, Quicken Spell, Scribe ScrollB, Spell Focus (Conjuration), Still Spell
----------------------------------------------------
Environment: Any land or underground
Organization: Solitary (unique)
Challenge Rating: 13
Treasure: Double standard
Alignment: Lawful evil
Advancement: By character class
Level Adjustment: same as base creature +4
Magic Items Carried: Divine scroll of obscuring mist and inflict light wounds; strand of prayer beads (healing, karma, and smiting); cloak of resistance +1; bracers of armor +2; hat of disguise; ring of protection +1; light mace +2

Typical Spells Prepared
Save DC = 14 + spell level
Level 0: detect magic, guidance, mending, read magic, resistance, virtue
Level 1: bane, detect good, doom, entropic shield, obscuring mist, sanctuaryB, shield of faith
Level 2: darkness, desecrate, eagle’s splendor, enthrall, secret pageB, undetectable alignment
Level 3: animate dead, bestow curse, dispel magic, protection from EnergyB, searing light x2
Level 4: air walk, dismissal, divine power, giant vermin, spell immunityB
Level 5: insect plague (creates scarabs instead of locusts), planar binding, lesserB, still freedom of movement
Level 6: antimagic fieldB, word of recall

A’nen appears to be a beautiful, dark-skinned human female, approximately 30 years of age, with a supple build and almond-shaped eyes. She is dressed in the gown suitable of a high priestess of Khepri. Despite her comely appearance, she is insidiously evil undead monster.

COMBAT
A’nen avoids physical combat, preferring to attack with her spells from a safe range, while her symbiotic beetle swarm rushes forward. If pressed into battle, she attacks with her magical light mace +2[/I] and paralyzing touch.

Control Undead (Su): A’nen may rebuke or command the undead as a 15th level cleric.

Damaging Touch (Su): A’nen’s touch attack deals 1d8+3 points of damage to any living creature. The bonus damage is Charisma-based. She may suppress this ability at will.

Despair (Su): All living creatures who look upon A’nen’s true visage must immediately succeed at a DC 18 Will save or be paralyzed with fear for 2d4 rounds. Whether or not the save is successful, that creature cannot be affected again by A’nen’s despair ability for 1 day. The save DC is Charisma-based. A’nen typically hides her true appearance with her hat of disguise.

Fire Vulnerability (Ex): A’nen takes double damage from fire attacks unless a save is allowed for half damage. A successful save halves the damage and a failure doubles it.

Immunities: A’nen is immune to cold, polymorph, and mind-affecting attacks.

Mummy Rot (Su): Supernatural disease – touch, DC 24 Fort save, incubation period 12 hours; damage 1d6 temporary Strength and 1d6 temporary Constitution. This illness continues to progress until cured or until the victim reaches 0 Constitution and dies. An afflicted creature that dies shrivels away into sand and dust that blows away into nothing at the first wind unless both a remove curse and a raise dead spell are cast on the remains within 6 rounds.

Paralyzing Touch (Su): A living creature struck by A’nen’s touch attack must make a DC 18 Fortitude save or be paralyzed for 11 rounds.

Symbiosis (Ex): A’nen’s body is home to a swarm of scarab beetles (see below). The greater mummy is immune to the beetles’ bite damage and distraction attacks.

Undead Traits: Immune to mind-affecting effects, poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, and disease. Not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, energy drain, or death from massive damage.

Skills: A greater mummy has a +8 racial bonus on Hide, Listen, Move Silently, Search, Sense Motive, and Spot checks.

For more information on the Greater Mummy, refer to pages 159 thru 161 of “Deities and Demigods.” [/SBLOCK]
[SBLOCK=Giant Scarab Beetle]
When A’nen casts her giant vermin spell, she will create a giant scarab beetle from one of her symbiotic beetles. For the giant scarab, use the stats in the SRD for a Giant Stag Beetle. [/SBLOCK]
[SBLOCK=Scarab Beetle Swarm]
For all scarab swarms, use the stats in the SRD for a locust swarm.

Note that scarab swarms that are summoned by A’nen’s insect plague spell will have a +4 enhancement bonus to Strength and Constitution, thanks to her Augment Summoning feat. This gives each swarm +12 hit points and a +2 bonus to Fortitude saves.[/SBLOCK]
On the round after combat starts, and every third round thereafter, one of the doors to the Junior Priests’ Quarters will open. A swarm of beetles will emerge to join the battle.

A’nen fights with confidence, knowing that she cannot be destroyed as long as her heart remains safely buried far away. If she sees the heart, however, she will fly into a rage and attempt to recover the heart at all costs. She will fight until destroyed.

If reduced to 0 hit points or less, she collapses into a lifeless pile of bones and bandages. She will rise again in 1 hour at full strength, unless her heart is removed from the canopic jar and placed within the remains. Once this is done, her soul will be torn from the world and sent to judgment in the Underworld...both the artifact and the mummy will be forever destroyed.

Junior Priest’s Quarters Each of these small locked chambers contains a swarm of scarab beetles. (Use the stats in the SRD for a locust swarm.) The room contains nothing else of interest.

Conclusion
With the destruction of A’nen, the party will have stopped the plague of locusts, and ensured the safety of the western border of the kingdom. Hem-Netjer will perform the ceremony to appease Khepri, and the god will restore the damaged crops to Egypt.

The party will be rewarded with free services of the Temple of Isis for seven years per their agreement, and Pharaoh will appoint them rulers over Siwah and its surrounding lands.

Use of the Ingredients
Bottomless Pit: the setting of the second part of the adventure. It is a great sinkhole that lies between the far oasis of Siwah, that cuts it off from the rest of the kingdom. Due to a gate to the Plane of Water located at the bottom, it is truly “bottomless.”

Still-Beating Heart: the canopic jar of A’nen, which is the key to her destruction. Greater Mummies are essentially the divine answer to the lich, and the canopic jar is the equivalent of the lich’s phylactery.

Interrupted Communications: All communication with the western outpost of Siwah has stopped for some reason, and Pharaoh has called upon the party to investigate and send word.

Dragon Slayer: The Arm of Ra is a magical “dragon slayer” sword, hidden at the bottom of the pit. It is the key to vanquishing the Scarab Dragon.

Beetle Swarm: Beetle swarms are the key of the plot. Beetles are also responsible for the interrupted communication with Siwah (the beetles destroyed the bridge across the bottomless pit, cutting Siwah off from the rest of the kingdom.) The villains of the story have a strong link to beetles: one is a greater mummy with a symbiotic swarm of beetles, and the other is a half-dragon beetle that breathes swarms of beetles instead of lightning.

5 Quaal’s Feather Tokens: The party is given five feather tokens (birds) with which to send word of their mission and their progress. Furthermore, there are five new kinds of feather tokens (lanterns) that the party must make use of in their mission.


Appendix
A few extra bits and pieces of information that the DM might find useful when incorporating this adventure into his game.

[SBLOCK=Khepri, God of Beetles]
Khepri appears as either a large scarab beetle, or a man with the head of a scarab. He is responsible for pushing the sun across the sky every day, and rolling it safely through the Underworld every night. He is revered as a god of protection, the creator of magic, and the bringer of safe journeys.
Symbol: a scarab beetle
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Domains: Law, Protection, Rune, Travel
Favored Weapon: light mace
[/SBLOCK]
[SBLOCK=Glossary and Pronunciation Guide]
A’nen (ah-NEEN): means “to bring back” in Egyptian.
Hem-netjer (him-NET-jeer): means “servant of the gods” in Egyptian.
Khepri (KEP-free): the Egyptian god of scarabs.
Khopesh (CO-pesh): an Egyptian sword with a bent tip.
Mehen (mee-HINN): an Egyptian serpent-dragon, protector of Ra and one of the guardians of the gates to the Underworld.
Siwah (SEE-wah): the name of a town in ancient Egypt; the name means “Far Oasis.” [/SBLOCK]
 
Last edited:


Nifft

Penguin Herder
Quite a spread of PC levels for the entries in this match, and quite a spread in entry length. Also, I had to look up a bunch of stuff, in my 3.5e books, and on Wikipedia.

Let's hit the ingredients first:

Bottomless Pit
CNN: Quote, "a mid-level party of adventurers could reach the bottom of the pit easily", unquote. That's no bottomless pit. The pool of water nearby where the PCs are? Sure, that could kinda be a bottomless pit, and it has a cool description, but it doesn't figure in the story. It's just window-dressing.
IVV: The bottomless pit is again a pool of water, so it could be quibbled that it's not much of a pit, but it is bottomless, and it is a plot-point. It's connected to the tree-token, the beetles, and it's a still-beating heart disposal unit.

Still Beating Heart
Fine element use all around.

Dragon Slayer
Not great element use here.
CNN: The sword isn't bad in itself, but it's just kinda there.
IVV: The beetles could kill dragons, but so far, they're merely dragonnibblers.

Interrupted Communications
Plot hook in both cases. Poor use -- only technically in the story. IVV has the edge by having the communication interrupted by a beetle swarm.

Beetle Swarm
Good use in both entries.
CNN: I love the beetle-dragon's breath weapon. Very evocative.
IVV: Creative riff on a monster I'd never heard of before. Plausible patron-bane (i.e. good excuse for why the big damn dragon doesn't just go fix the problem himself).

5 Quaal's Feather Tokens
CNN: The tokens you gave out weren't necessary to the plot, nor connected well to the other elements of the scenario.
IVV: Stellar use of five classic tokens.


Now, for the particular criticisms.

InVinoVeritas, I don't have a good feel for how your cavern ought to be laid out, which parts go where exactly. But the parts that are there are very nice.

The use of a tree token to "poison" the heart makes no sense, but I'm willing to overlook that, simply because in every group I've ever been in, someone always tries to cause a fatality with a Quaal's Feather Token (Tree). And it always works (once).


CleverNickName, the stat blocks don't really help. Especially the ridiculous bits, like some of the 20 HD dragon-beetle: he has up to 23 ranks, his size penalty is -8, his dex gives him another -1, yet he has a +22 Hide check? He has no Climb speed, but he's on the ceiling?

The one question I wanted answered about the mummy priest was: how hard is it going to be for the PCs to wrestle her still-beating heart back into her body while she's still kicking? It might not occur to the party that they can defeat her (even temporarily).

You brought up the classic Anubis heart-vs-feather weighing thing. You had five feathers and one heart as ingredients. I'm very sad these things weren't brought together. I mean, imagine the look on his jackal face when a giant goddamn tree sprouted from his scale.

From the Pharaoh's sword-point "adventure hook" to the NPC priest who tells the party exactly what to do, I feel the plot is a bit heavy-handed in keeping the PCs on the rails.

- - -

The winner of this match is InVinoVeritas.
 

Radiating Gnome

Adventurer
Here's the list: Wulf vs. Thasmodius, R2M2

Invisible Tavern
Golden Zipper
Forgetful Apprentice
Contest Winner
Flying goblin
Arrow of Evil Undone

-rg
____
 

Thasmodious

First Post
Past Deeds
A short side-trek for 4-6 mid-upper heroic characters​

Background
Legend has it that the bejeweled Arrow of Evil Undone was gifted to a great warrior of Bahamut by the fabled craftsman Angulus and consecrated in the sacred pool that lies at the heart of Bahamut’s temple in far off Khalzyr. The blessed arrow, the story goes, was used to slay a demon-lord of the ancient world, bringing peace to the land of the First Kings. The sacred arrow hung in a place of honor above the throne before that kingdom fell into ruin. The relic was lost to the ravages of time.


Centuries later, a private collector of antiquities and a wizard of some renown, holds a contest to entertain his idly rich friends, luring groups of adventurers to compete in a series of challenges for a prize taken from his collection. Priest of Bahamut and master craftsman Illian Moonstrider has learned that this collector claims to have the Arrow of Evil Undone and to be offering it as the prize in his upcoming contest. He has charged his apprentice, Burglecot, with scouring the countryside for servants of Bahamut powerful enough to win the contest and return the Arrow to the devout…

Cast of Characters

Burglecot – halfling apprentice craftsman. The halfling is forgetful to an extreme degree and rarely accurately remembers anything. The problem is that he does not recognize his fault and fills in the blank spaces in his memory with the needed, and fabricated, details. For example, he is unlikely to remember a name, but will call the person by another name, insisting that it is correct. Burglecot dresses sloppily in stained clothes and his eyes are hidden behind a mane of thick, untamed hair.

Golden Zipper – the faerie dragon whom the PCs must convince to guide them to the tavern. Golden Zipper is a nickname he earned there due to his coloration and flitting nature, having competed in the past. When he speaks, it is in short phrases punctuated by hisses and he is constantly flitting back and forth, his wings a blur, much like a hummingbirds.

Grishnak – the defending champion. Grishnak is a greedy, treacherous, nasty, one-eyed goblin who somehow sports a pair of functional wings. He is a crowd favorite and mischievous tavern patrons will encourage the PCs to ask him why he has wings, a question that is more likely to end with broken teeth rather than answers.

‘Bloated’ Boris – a great, boisterous, hugely fat man with an outrageous mustache that is nearly as thick as a tankard and is curled garishly at either end. He is the bartender and innkeeper at the Oasis. He seems very affable, but astute individuals notice a number of strange details about Boris - an unusual grace and quickness that belie his size; movements that are slight ‘off’, such as picking up a large barrel of ale without his arms seeming to flex, he freely converses in any language…

Rojas – eladrin wizard of some renown and a collector of fine antiquities. The Oasis is his establishment and home and he is the host of the contest. He is quite friendly and seems to finds everything amusing, easy grins bandied about at every opportunity. He has stark, silver-purple hair that sweeps back in spikes and his dress is opulent.


The Hook
Burglecot forgot to assemble a crack team of dedicated followers of Bahamut anxious to reclaim a sacred religious relic and now he is desperate, looking for the first armed group that doesn’t look likely to kill or rob him. He finds the PCs. The meeting could be on the road, a side-trek on a journey, or he finds them in town. Either way, he approaches the group thinking they have already agreed to help – “we have to get going, the contest starts in two days and we don’t even know where it is! Come on!” From there things likely get more confusing, but eventually the PCs can learn (eventually being however long the DM wishes to torture them):
* There is a contest with a prize that is a sacred religious relic
* A priest of Bahamut wants to return the item to his faith
* He’s willing to pay, handsomely
* The location of the tavern, the Oasis, is secret and hidden
* The contest is dangerous and challenging
* They have to find someone called Zapper or Clipper who lives in the woods

If the PCs agree to act as Illian’s agents, they can learn in town (with some decent information gathering) that Zapper is a faerie dragon named Golden Zipper who lives in a glade in the forest outside of town. He is generally friendly with the locals, as long as they respect the woods, especially the glade where he lives in the bough of a great oak tree.

Getting Zipper’s Help
Finding Zipper is not difficult (unless the DM wants it to be, of course) and in short order the PCs are standing at the foot of the oak tree negotiating with a golden-hued and hyper faerie dragon. Golden Zipper knows of the Oasis and years ago competed in one of the contests there, winning a magical feather token and freeing the oak tree bound into it, in which he know lives. He only competed to free his friend and will only help the PCs if he believes they serve their cause nobly and fully intend to honor their agreement with Burglecot and turn the relic over to the priest of Bahamut. After some discussion, Zipper will agree to guide them to the Oasis. If they treat him well and make a good impression, he will offer to join their team and help them in the contest. If the PCs do not have horses, Burglecot will purchase enough for everyone and they set off, following the faerie dragon as fast as they can.

The Oasis
The tavern itself is located on a demiplane Rojas created and controls. The actual structure of the tavern can be shaped at will by the wizard. The Oasis is a shelter from the mundane world, a place to house his extensive collection and entertain his friends. The tavern has a number of entrances, all hidden and spread across the world. Each entrance resembles a small roadside tavern, only one made invisible. These entrances are actually portals to the Oasis itself, if a command word is known. Anyone stumbling across the invisible wooden structure just finds an empty, long abandoned, ramshackle tavern on the other side of the door, and leaves with a mystery and a story.

The trip to the invisible tavern entrance moves at the speed of plot. When they arrive, Zipper speaks the command word and the group can enter and get their first glimpse of the ever-changing Oasis.

Right now, the PCs see a large, open, rough wood tavern. Chipped planks of wood, a warm but splintery floor with questionable stains, hobbled together tables and stools, the Oasis looks like any number of taverns the PCs have plied their trade in over the years. It is packed with unsavory sorts, well armed (their adversaries). A rough looking minstrel plays a battered lute in the corner near a roaring fire. At other times the PCs may find the tavern lavish and extravagantly decorated, with Rojas catering to his well off clientele, or perhaps it’s a squat, smoky stone room where the popular defending champion is telling tales and being paid accolades by admirers.

The PCs can quickly make arrangements and express their desire to enter the contest. If the DM wishes to expand the adventure, a qualifying series of minor trials here would be a good way to do it, as would some time spent enjoying all the Oasis has to offer, meeting the interesting clientele and making a few fans of their own. The trials are as much to test the mettle of the competing teams as they are for the spectators to assess them, pick favorites and start betting.

The Contest
Setup: The contest itself takes place in what appears to be an expansive cavern under the tavern. Rows of stone bleachers ring a large field. The PCs are competing against three other teams. Burglecot does not compete, but Zipper may, if the PCs have endeared themselves to him. The defending champion, Grishnak, leads a small group of five grizzled goblins. Details of the other two groups are left to the DM, they are mostly window dressing. The only group the PCs are likely to come into conflict with is Grishnak’s. Each team is ushered into one of four rooms under the bleachers to prepare. The teams can hear the amplified voice of Rojas as he builds up the crowd explaining the story of the Arrow of Evil Undone and the rules of the contest, stressing the danger and death-defying obstacles the groups will face. The rules are simple – the first group to claim the prize and exit the ‘dungeon’ wins.

When the contest begins and the PCs exit the holding room, they find the field has been transformed into some kind of maze. The walls are made of stone, wood, brambles, seemingly anything and the PCs must negotiate treacherous paths while trying to advance to the middle of the field and locate the prize. They cannot see the other teams or the audience. As far as they can tell, they are in an enclosed dungeon environment of twisting corridors and deadly peril.

Running the Contest: Advancing the contest is handled with a skill challenge (10 successes before 3 failures) that should run in the background, the DM keeping track of progress. There are two ways to gain successes:

1. Skill use. Taking turns the PCs describe what they are doing to advance through the twisting dungeon maze utilizing their skills and other abilities in creative fashion. Each success counts as a success in the overall challenge, a failure counts as a failure. However, every two successes gained in this manner leads the PCs to face a seemingly random obstacle. Three such obstacles are presented below.

2. Obstacles. Successfully overcoming an obstacle counts as a single success in the overall challenge. The results of failing to overcome an obstacle are individual to that trial and do not necessarily include accumulating a failure in the challenge.

Three Obstacles
1. The PCs turn a corner and see a chamber ahead with a pedestal in the middle and an exit across the room. A series of small, foot wide slots lie at floor level along the other two walls. As the group approaches the pedestal, both exits disappear and a large number of unarmed skeleton minions drop from the ceiling, thirty in all. The skeletons attempt to grapple PCs by weight of numbers and then individual skeletons will pluck random items from the PCs gear. When a skeleton has grabbed an item, they move to the nearest slot and slide it through. Any slain skeletons reform the following round. There are two ways the skeletons stop coming – when the PCs are striped naked or they solve the puzzle located on the pedestal (puzzle details left to the DM).

2. The PCs come upon another wide chamber. The walls of this chamber are cloaked in darkness and no apparent exit can be immediately seen. In the middle of the chamber, however, is what looks like a large, clockwork contraption of some kind. When the PCs enter the room, the contraption whirls to life and moves under its own power, attacking the PCs with three deadly attacks – poisoned darts that fly from the body of the device, poison spikes that jam out and retract piercing those who get too close and a whirling lens that emits some kind of beam. Use the stats for a female Medusa Archer, reflavored to fit these trappings. The clockwork device has Resist 5 to all damage. The PCs can defeat the device through simple damage or by getting close and engaging in a skill challenge to disable it (6/3). If they instead wish to retreat from the room, the DM should inform them that they would have to backtrack for some distance to find a new route and that this would cost valuable time and set them back (give them a failure in the overall challenge if they choose to retreat). Any petrified PCs are individually eliminated from the contest, unless the party has the means to undo petrification and chooses to take the time. Petrified PCs are healed after the contest by contest staff.


3. After hitting a few dead ends, the PCs take a route that leads them to the edge of a long, 20’ wide hallway. Instead of a floor, however, there appears to be a very deep pit stretching off into the distance. A number of pillars each about as wide as two feet and at varying height and position relative to each other provide a treacherous path across this obstacle. PCs trying to assess the depth of the pit cannot find the bottom nor hear anything if they drop something down it. Crossing the pillars is a skill challenge (8/3) with the outcome dependent upon the degree of success:
Successful – the remaining PCs cross
Each failure – the PC making the failure has a chance to fall in some manner. A pillar may be a dead pillar, collapsing into the darkness when weight is applied or they may lose their balance or fall while advancing to another one. An acrobatics check of medium difficulty will let them leap to another pillar. Failing that, a successful saving throw will let them grab the edge of a pillar and hold on for dear life. A hard athletics check or help from a party member is needed to get back up. A PC who fails all this falls into the pit and is not heard from again during the contest (see below).
Challenge failure – if three failures are reached before at least 5 successes, the remaining PCs must turn back and valuable time is lost (a failure on the overall challenge). If at least 5 successes were accumulated, the PCs, except for the one who caused the final failure, reach the far side. The one who failed is stuck behind a gap that is too far to jump and most either turn back (eliminating themselves from the contest) or the party must come up with some other solution to get him across.


Any PCs who fall hit a magical field after 50' of free fall. It is a zone of darkness and silence that also applies a feather fall effect to anyone crossing it, the victim floating gently down another 30' where they are met by contest workers who explain they've been eliminated and guide them out through an exit and up to the stands where they can watch the rest of the contest.


Ending the Contest
Whether or not the PCs claim the prize depends on how the overall skill challenge plays out:
10 successes; 0 failures – the PCs reach the treasure chamber alone and claim the prize! However, Grishnak does not take his defeat well and either attempts to steal the prize later, pick a fight in the tavern, or follow them back and ambush them on the way back to town.
10 successes; 1-2 failures – the PCs are first to reach the treasure chamber, but just as they claim the chest in which the arrow rests, Grishnak and his gang reach the chamber and confront them. They attack the PCs to try and claim the chest. If the PCs have only suffered one failure, Grishnak has lost two of his gang to obstacles. Otherwise, they are a single goblin down.
>5 successes; 3 failures – the PCs make it to the chamber in time to see Grishnak and gang claim the box. He turns to them and snarls in Common, “stay right where you are or you die here today”
>5 successes, 3 failures – Grishnak and gang win without encountering the PCs.

If the PCs lose, they can attempt to gain the item through other means or accept the loss, which is what Burglecot suggests, thanking them for trying.

Wrapping it all Up
Victorious or not, the PCs are celebrated at the afterparty and are welcome to stay at the Oasis for a few more days. If they have the Arrow, they eventually return to town and meet Illian. He is ecstatic that the mission was successful and can only laugh at how Burglecot stumbled his way to a successful outcome. He rewards the PCs suitably (treasure parcels) and invites them to attend a dedication at the temple to Bahamut where they are honored (and proselytized to if none are of the faith). They have made a valuable ally and found an interesting place in the world that they can return to and seek further adventures. And they have a championship to defend next year.

Ingredient List
Invisible Tavern – the Oasis, invisible to the world, and its various entrances are literally invisible.
Golden Zipper – the Faerie Dragon that guides them to the Oasis and likely aids them in the contest
Forgetful Apprentice – Burglecot, apprentice to a master craftsman, and as forgetful as he can be.
Contest Winner – Grishnak is the defending champion, Zipper has won in the past, and the PCs may emerge as contest winners as well.
Flying goblin – Grishnak, the primary monstrous adversary of the adventure
Arrow of Evil Undone – the religious relic that is the prize in the contest and the reason for the PCs to enter it.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Adventurer
Iron DM R2M2

Invisible Tavern
Golden Zipper
Forgetful Apprentice
Contest Winner
Flying goblin
Arrow of Evil Undone

This adventure is for low-level PCs; in a “points of light” type campaign; this may be their first excursion outside the comfort zone of their home base. Certain elements of the adventure can be played from fairly frivolous to more darkly humorous, as the DM desires.

The Invisible Tavern
The adventure “begins” when the PCs are traveling, as the sun begins to set. They will first notice a glow on the horizon, which they will eventually make out as a roaring fire. Coming closer, they will see that the fire appears to be free-standing in a field, surrounded by dozens of folks sitting on barstools, gathered around tables, drinking and so forth. In fact the whole scene looks like a typical tavern scene—except, of course, that the tavern is invisible.

As the PCs investigate, entering the tavern and conversing with the folks inside, they will be approached by Wizen the Wizard who will answer their questions, explain the tavern, and enlist their help.

Wizen will explain to the PCs that the tavern was not meant to be invisible—it is in fact an unfortunate side effect of what should have been a standard abjuration spell. He was forced to give the proprietor a substantial discount. The mishap was caused by Wizen’s Forgetful Apprentice, a goblin named Skink, whose forgetfulness has caused the ruin of many of Wizen’s spells. The Invisible Tavern is simply the most visible (?) and lasting testament to Skink’s forgetful screwups.

Certainly it is unusual to have a goblin apprentice, Wizen will explain, but it was part of a peace agreement between the townspeople and a neighboring tribe of goblins: apparently Skink is a goblin of some stature or repute in his own village. Wizen has tried to rid himself of Skink and negotiate some other arrangement, but Skink’s tribe is not willing to take him back until Skink is a full-fledged wizard. (Which, perhaps not coincidentally, might never happen.)

Wizen believes that he has found a solution and will try to enlist the PCs to his aid. In his research, he has discovered the existence of Worgheart’s Academy. Worgheart, an aged goblin wizard of considerable talent, has established his academy on another plane (Feywild, Shadowfell-- Shadowfey?-- etc.) and he accepts only monstrous students who can pass his test. Each semester, there is a contest of skills, and the contest winner is accepted into the school.

Unfortunately, Skink is an idiot, and he’ll need some help if he is to win the contest and gain acceptance to Worgheart’s Academy. If the PCs accept, Wizen will invite them back to his tower (where they will meet Apprentice Skink) and transport them to Worgheart’s Academy.

Wizen will give the PCs one item to help them: an Arrow of Evil Undone. This arrow—meant to be a powerful but rather typical goblin slaying arrow—has instead been transformed by one of Skink’s “ accidents.” An evil creature struck by the arrow is affected by a powerful curse (Will DC17 negates): each time the affected creature rolls a d20 check, it must roll two d20’s and take the worst result. A goblin struck by the arrow receives no save. The arrow itself has proven nearly indestructible and can be retrieved after each combat, but its magical power is only usable once per day.

Wizen will explain privately that he’d hoped to use the arrow on Skink’s own warchief, but they’ve been at peace for many years and now he has no use for it. He might mention, perhaps wistfully, that it’s too bad the arrow couldn’t have been used on Worgheart—he’d even gladly keep Skink on as apprentice if it meant an end to Worgheart training up monstrous wizards…

Finally, Wizen will give the PCs a special token that they can snap or break to be instantly transported back to his tower.

Worgheart’s Academy
Worgheart’s Academy is what one expects from wizard’s academies these days—shifting stairways, talking portraits, headless goblin ghosts, and other strange creatures roaming the halls—except in a dark-humored, bizarro, shadow-fey version of the good-natured halls of such human institutions. The DM is free to flesh out Worgheart’s as he sees fit, but the action here is on Apprentice Skink’s Big Chance, a game the goblins call “Quittits” because of the frequent cries of protestation (and other profanities) that arise from the participants.

The Game of Quittits
The DM will want to prepare a dry erase board and 16 “columns” for the Quittits match. (see attached image).

The playing field is a grid of 9 squares by 9 squares (45’ x 45’). The grid is broken up like a chessboard with multiple black columns, each a cube about 5’x5’x5’. The ceiling is 20 feet high.

The game is won in one of two ways: either by eliminating the opposing team (an option preferred by the wicked goblin team) or by simply catching the “Golden Zipper,” in which case you win the game immediately.

The goblin team is far more interested in the first option and they will largely ignore the “Golden Zipper.”

Unfortunately for the PCs, Apprentice Skink will forget to mention most of the “rules” and will only mention them after the fact—after the opposing goblin team takes advantage. In fact it may simply seem that the goblins are making up the rules as they go along.

The Teams
Each team is composed of 1 or more Wompers whose job is to eliminate the opposing team, and 1 Brain Fuggler (an arcane caster) whose job is to harass and annoy the opposing team. The Brain Fuggler is given his choice of annoyances at the start of the game: a wand containing 10 charges of one of the following spells: ray of frost, daze, mage hand. The goblins will graciously allow the PCs to “choose first” and then they’ll take the remaining two wands. (Skink will apologize for forgetting to mention that rule.)

The goblin team’s Wompers are all “shifty” and will use a spring attack-like ability to move around and among the columns to harass the players. They will jump out, strike, and move away, with a full movement of 6 squares each round. Given the right circumstances (flanking, or the Golden Zipper’s dazzling shadows) they also get an additional +1d6 sneak attack damage.

The goblin team’s Brain Fuggler—a goblin named Mouth-Oil, an aspiring applicant himself—will quaff a potion of flying just as the match starts, so that he can fly above the fray to provide maximum annoyance—err, assitance.

There are no set team sizes, and if the PCs look particularly imposing, Mouth-Oil will announce, “I demand First Right of Overwhelming Whomping!” and recruit additional Wompers out of the crowd at the last minute. There will be no volunteers to join the PCs team. (“I forgot about that rule…”)

Neither Apprentice Skink nor the DM should feel obligated to mention the “Golden Zipper” instant-win rule to the PCs; the chances are pretty good they’ll figure that out on their own.

The enemy Brain Fuggler Mouth-Oil should be a tempting target for the Arrow of Evil Undone.

The Golden Zipper
The Golden Zipper is a tiny, golden flying ball, covered in short, curly hairy feathers. Who knows where it came from?—nobody’s asking.

The Golden Zipper moves each round on its own initiative count, but (a) it never goes ‘first’ in the round and (b) its initiative count changes each round. When the Golden Zipper crosses the playing field, roll 1d20 to determine where it starts and which column it will zip down. The Golden Zipper crosses the entire playing field in a flash.

The Golden Zipper will either “zip” or “unzip” a path of dark faerie dust through the column that it crosses. If the squares in the column are clear, the Golden Zipper will “zip up” the column, leaving behind a cloud of cloying dark shadow in every square it passes through. Any creature caught in this shadowstuff loses its move action (but can still move by using its remaining standard action, or take a standard action by not moving).

If the Golden Zipper crosses a square that already contains shadow, it will “unzip” the shadowstuff, leaving behind a square full of golden dust and fluttering, ash-like shadow particles. Any creature caught in this stuff is partially dazzled and/or blinded—they suffer a -2 penalty to attack rolls and are subject to sneak attacks as if they were blind.

If the Golden Zipper strikes one of the solid columns, it always makes a left turn and continues moving in that fashion until it reaches the edge of the playing field.

A creature that is actually in the path of the Golden Zipper takes damage (scaled if necessary for the Adventure Level—1d6 per two levels is a good rule of thumb).

A creature with a Ready action can try to catch the Golden Zipper as it enters its square. The Golden Zipper has an AC of 20 based on its small size and speed.

The game does not end until the “top of the round” when the Golden Zipper has a chance to “acknowledge” that it has been caught. If the creature holding the Golden Zipper is knocked unconscious, it will zip off on its way.

The Columns
The columns are 5’ x 5’ x 5’ and composed of some shadowy substance that mostly behaves like stone. They cannot be physically damaged or moved through, but you can easily push the blocks around. As a standard action, a PC can push a column five feet directly away from his own position (assuming there is nothing blocking the column, such as another column or the edge of the playing field). A Brain Fuggler with a wand of mage hand can push a column in any direction desired. (“Oh yeah! I forgot you could do that!” says Apprentice Skink).

A medium-sized creature can climb or jump onto the top of a column as a move action. A small-sized creature (such as any of the opposing goblins) requires a full-round action to climb onto the top of a column. Creatures on the top of a column are “above the fray” and not subject to any of the effects of the Golden Zipper, which only moves at the ground level.

Skink Victorious
Assuming that the PCs manage to overcome the Golden Zipper and the flying goblin Mouth-Oil to win the Quittits match for Skink, he will be declared the contest winner and accepted into Worgheart’s Academy.

At any rate, as honored guests, they will be invited by Worgheart himself to stay for a feast the following day and to avail themselves of the facilities, including any of the classrooms (where they may be able to craft some magic items, reduce magic items to their component residuum, etc.) and particularly to use the Great Library.

If it occurs to them (and Skink will inadvertently drop hints if it does not) the PCs may be able to use the facilities of Worgheart’s Academy (beginning with the Library, then the Magical Component Storage, then the appropriate Classroom, etc.) to “repair” the Arrow of Evil Undone. Of course Skink has no interest in helping the PCs on this particular task but he is so hapless that the PCs may be able to use him nevertheless.

The Arrow of Evil Undone is a potent magical item even in its unintended altered state. If the PCs desire to alter the arrow, they should be successful in that task. The PCs will have an opportunity to use the arrow on Worgheart himself, during the feast in their honor. Worgheart sits at the head of a long table full of goblin apprentices of varying skill. If a fight breaks out during the feast, it may take some time for the goblins to realize that it is anything other than the usual dinner pastime—indeed the DM may have a fight break out before the PCs act to give them cover for their actions.

Denouement
Assuming the PCs have seen some measure of success in their task, they will have made a useful ally in Wizen, who can provide them with the usual “friendly wizard” services. If the PCs were unsuccessful, Wizen will still be disposed to help them from time to time, but they may not get exactly what they bargain for if Apprentice Skink is still around to muck up the works.

Ingredients
Invisible Tavern-- the "visible" testament to the forgetful apprentice's mishaps
Golden Zipper-- the "zippy" golden ball that is the object of the Quittits match, it zips and unzips shadowstuff in its path
Forgetful Apprentice-- Skink
Contest Winner-- Skink (hopefully)
Flying goblin-- the opposing team's Brain-Fuggler, Mouth-Oil
Arrow of Evil Undone-- another of the forgetful apprentice's "accidents" and a useful tool to win the match and (perhaps) end Worgheart
 

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phoamslinger

Explorer
R2M3 Wik vs. Atras

your ingredients are
Leaning Tower
Blood Coral
Con Artist
Journey’s End
Inebriated Githyanki
Cloak of Soulbound Resistance


I trust by now you know I don't want any McGuffins or Red Herrings. the six should be core to the entire story. have fun with them. you have till 3pm Saturday due to the late posting.
 

Radiating Gnome

Adventurer
We've got a couple of strong entries here -- each has strengths and weaknesses, which just means that the judging is going to be interesting.

Past Deeds (PD) is the tale of a dungeon crawl competition played out in a cavern below a tavern . . and that phrase in itself begs for a third "vern" in the mix . . . too bad there couldn't be a wyvern deep in the cavern under the tavern. Right, Vern?

Invisible tavern (IT). is a spoof of something awfully familiar, but manages to create an interesting adventure with new things to discover.

So, lets talk about ingredients.

Invisible Tavern. I'm pretty sure no one thanked me for pulling this one out of a hat. ;) In PD, the tavern is actually one of many entrances to the demiplane that is the host tavern to the contest. The tavern entrances are invisible, of course, so the PCs need a guide to find it. In IT, the PCs discover the tavern in the middle of the field -- and the invisible-ness of the tavern is a direct result of the forgetful apprentice.

Frankly, neither of these is all that great -- they feel like the invisible nature of the ingredient is shoe-horned into the adventure. THey both connect to other ingredients, but I find the connection in IT to be slightly stronger -- the invisible tavern as example of forgetfulness in the apprentice, rather than being the reason a faerie dragon is needed as a guide. So, advantage IT.

Golden Zipper. In IT, the golden zipper is the analog of the snitch -- but it has it's own part to play in the checkerboard contest during the match. In PD, Zipper is the faerie dragon that serves as guide and ally. Again, the two uses are pretty close -- both have taken something that is not a zipper and simply named it zipper -- which is on the weak side, but forgivable given the ingredient. I find the use of the zipper as a concrete complication in IT stronger, though, that I do the use in PD. The faerie dragon could do everything in the adventure it's doing now with a name like Silver Snaps or Bronze Bedazzler -- the use of the ingredient is a bit more superficial in that case. Advantage IT.

Forgetful Apprentice. So, Skink (in IT) is responsible for the invisibility of the tavern, the creation of the mistake that is the arrow of evil undone, and the Wizen the wizards wants nothing more than to be rid of him. Skink makes life difficult in humorous ways through the contest, and the repetition of "oh, I forgot about that rule" made me laugh out loud reading this entry.

In PD, Burglecot is also responsible for the mess -- he was supposed to hire "good" adventurers, but waited until the last minute, and ended up taking what he could get (the PCs). But Burglecot is more just the hook than an integral part of the adventure -- he could just as easily been a totally competent apprentice, and the adventure would change very little. It's not terrible, but Skink is better. Advantage Wulf.

Contest Winner - Pretty much a wash ... the winner gets the prize, that's pretty straightforward. Again, IT is just a little better, though. in PD, the winner ingredient is either the previous champion, or the faerie dragon . . . or maybe the players. In IT, the plan is to make it Skink because that's what gets Skink out of WIzen's (and the player's) hair once and for all -- and, at that point in the adventure, after so many "oh, yeah, I forgot about thats" it's sure to be a more exciting win. Slight advantage IT.

Flying Goblin. I'm pretty sure you're starting to see the pattern. In both cases, there is an actual flying goblin. In PD, though, the fact that Grishnak can fly makes very little direct impact on the adventure (presumably he can fly over the last obstacle, but can the rest of his team? Or did he find another way around? ) In IT, the flying goblin is the equivalent of the Wanker (or whatever it's called in Harry Potter) that chases the golden snitch (golden zipper). Flying keeps him above the areas of effect created by the zipper's zipping. It's a little bit more clear, a little better developed use of the ingredient. Advantage IT.

And . . the Arrow of Evil Undone. And, actually, I'm not sure that either adventure has an advantage on this one. I like the one in IT better -- its a more interesting magic item, and it becomes an interesting item in the player's hands during the adventure -- and in a very real way (if the target fails his save, unless he's a goblin) he can be "undone". The Arrow in PD, on the other hand, is the dingus at the end of the contest, and could just as easily been the Dart of Missed Opportunities or the Bolt of Baffling Boners. Not quite as interesting, not quite as cool. So . . .yeah, I guess that one is also advantage It.

Looking back at all of those, it really makes the contest look a lot more lopsided than I think it was. I think in each case the ingredients were used better by IT, but the margins were not huge.

Overall, I would have loved to favor the 4e adventure over the 3e one, but there were some minor flaws, I felt, in the execution of the whole PD package. We have an example of what amounts to a bit of handwaving I don't think does you any good service in a contest like this -- like leaving the puzzle details to the DM in the first challenge. That challenge is one of the central elements of your adventure -- it's not just garnish, wandering encounters or something on the way to the adventure that you can just dismiss. I hope that was just a matter of running out of time to get the entry in, but it would almost have been better to make that another skill challenge -- it would not have drawn attention to itself as a hole. Overall, I think this could be a fun adventure to play, although I think the skill challenges that make up the contest needed a bit more polish.

I had real misgivings about the Harry Potter spoof when I started reading -- all right, I laughed first, then I had misgivings. But I think that the overall effect of the spoof does not, as I feared it might, undermine the fun of playing the game. We have a laugh at the reference, but players who have read harry potter have no advantage over players who have not in the actual contest, and in the end it reads like it would be good fun to play.

So, anyway, two very good entries this time, but one was (in my eyes) clearly stronger. Thanks both of you for your efforts, and spinning gold from some tough ingredients.

Wulf
wins. See you in the finals.


-rg
 
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