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Iron DM 2009 - all matches


Sow the Seeds, Reap the Harvest
An adventure for 5 characters of 3rd level

Aeons ago, one of the first spirits to walk the earth died. The body decomposed, creating a valley of rich, fertile soil, which would grow crops with amazing quality. And in that valley, the Reagen family made their legacy.

They built a plantation in the valley, growing tabacc of tremendous reputation. Throughout the nation, Tearglen Tabacc was known as a brand of wealth and quality, and it lined the pipes of the most influential lords and merchants. The town of Tearglen grew; many workers were needed to run the plantation, and other labourers found work abundant in the booming town.

Young Lord Arthur Reagen had taken over the plantation following his father’s death. A handsome young man, he soon married a beautiful young lady from the nearby city of Castilla. Lord and Lady both were a vision to behold, and they looked a fairytale couple. Or so it seemed.

Lord Reagen had chosen his wife poorly. Mellandre was a student of the arcane arts, but she had been expelled from her school. She lacked the discipline to apply herself solely to her studies; she wanted power and wanted it quickly, with little effort on her part. Left with no future in magic, she sought to improve her social standing through marriage.

Her temper and demeanor surfaced shortly following the marriage, and Lord Reagen discovered, to his dismay, that he hated Mellandre. And she, in turn, hated him right back. The noble family bickered and fought, first in private, and later, in public. Finally, the Women’s Circle of Tearglen had to step in.

The Women’s Circle was charged with taking care of household disputes, and even the Lord and Lady were not above their counsel. They interviewed both parties, and came to their decision; Lady Mellandre Reagen would become an obedient housewife, while Lord Arthur Reagen would grant his wife three boons.

The Lady asked for a protector, for she often liked to walk in the woods. She asked for fine jewellery, befitting her station. And she asked for a grand ball, with music, food, and all sorts of important people in attendance. The Lord, being petty and snide, twisted her requests; he gave her a barely-civilized ogre bodyguard, a finely carved wooden amulet, and agreed to host a party in honor of his birthday.

Furious, Lady Mellandre realized she could not appeal to the Council. But that night, in her dreams, she was touched by the voices; the earth spirits spoke to her, whispering that they held the solution to her problems. For the wooden amulet bestowed to her was, unbeknownst to her husband, the Amulet of the First Spirits, a powerful druidic amulet that channelled the voices of the powerful spirits bound to the plantation’s soil.

She, with her ogre bodyguard in tow, traveled out into the forest, and the whispering voices led her across a log bridge over the river and into a serene clearing with a low, flat rock in the center. There the elemental spirits appeared to her, speaking the will of the first spirits. They could make the young Lord fall deathly ill, if she provided them with the very stuff of life; blood. The elemental weirds spoke to the ogre too, binding him to do the lady’s bidding on pain of death.

Under cover of night, Lady Mellandre and her ogre stole many small animals from the local farms and sacrificed them in the forest grove. The elemental weirds went with them, using their magic to obscure the trail. Steadily, night by night, Lord Reagen’s health declined. At first, merely a mild headache or an upset stomach troubled him, but the symptoms became more severe. He found that walking tired his limbs quickly, and his complexion grew pale. Regardless, he would host his ball; it was one of the boons, and he did not want to give any impression of dodging them, twisted though they were.

On the day of the party, Lady Mellandre and her ogre kidnapped a young woman, Salacia Bennet. What better time to complete the ritual than on the eve of the party, where Lord Reagen’s demise would be so public? She would be the sole heir to the plantation and the Reagen family fortune, and she could not be blamed, sitting at his side the whole night. While crossing the log bridge, however, Mellandre lost her footing, and her backpack full of ritual components and books fell into the river and floated downstream.

Furious, Mellandre could do nothing but tie Salacia to a tree and return to the plantation with her ogre. If she wasn’t at the party, that would raise all sorts of suspicion. She would have to spend the next day gathering more components and preparing to finish the ritual. Tomorrow, then, Arthur Reagen would die.

Adventure Summary:
The adventurers have all been invited to Lord Reagen’s birthday party. The Lord’s idea of a joke is to invite adventurers as important people to spite his wife. The party is a stately affair, with live music and fine food, though Lord Reagen seems to be a man of poor constitution. A good insight check can determine that the man is sick.

Mellandre, for her part, is every bit the doting lady. She expresses concern for her husband, and is polite to the adventurers. She is careful to hide her displeasure at their appearance, though if any of the PCs are finely dressed, she will pay more attention to them.

If the PCs ask around, various party guests can fill in details of how the Lord and Lady used to fight, of the three boons and the twists the Lord made, and how the plantation is growing more successful every year. Some of the guests mention that livestock has been going missing, though the general opinion is that careless farmers are responsible.

If confronted about the boons and his twists, the Lord denies any malice in his twists:
“What better protector than a loyal ogre? What bandit or forest beast in their right mind would take on so ferocious a foe?”
“Finely carved wood makes for a distinct, unique jewellery, truly a testament to Mellandre’s singular beauty.”
“Isn’t this a fine party, no matter the reason? Fine music, choice food, and good company.”

Lady Mellandre will pay lip service to these reasons, if confronted, but only a moderate insight check is required to note her genuine displeasure.

The party will last well into the night, and Lord Reagen will put up the adventurers in rooms in his manor house.

In the morning, they are all summoned to Lord Reagen’s study on urgent business. He informs them of Salacia Bennet’s kidnapping, and asks them to find her, offering a generous reward for her recovery. Lady Mellandre, at this point, is in the plantation’s cellar, finding replacement ritual components.

The adventurers can follow a few leads at this point. The obvious lead is the Bennet house, where the young woman’s parents are too distraught to be of any help. Salacia’s older brother, Mat, will talk to the PCs. Salacia visited at the mill, where he works. He thought he heard heavy footsteps outside shortly after she left. If the PCs have not heard about the animals disappearing, Mat will mention this too.

The adventurers can search the mill and the surrounding area. The only clue present is that the cobblestones nearby have recently been washed by water (the work of a water weird). No bucket can be found, nor can any tracks be found. Anyone trained in the arcane arts might be able to detect the magic.

The adventurers can investigate the farms where animals have gone missing. One farmer swears he saw a huge, hulking brute at least twenty feet tall snatch one of his sheep in the night, though he saw it from his window after having a mug or two. A farmgirl named Liselle heard strange noises in the woods while she was dallying around with Oliver in the forest. One of the farms has had a patch of ground near where the sheep graze turned to mud (work of a water weird).

The adventurers might also hear that Old Jed found something washed up on the shore of the river early that morning. If they track him down, he shows them the soaking wet backpack he hauled from the river, which despite being out of the water, is still soaking wet. Once opened, the bag releases a trapped water weird, who tries to fight its way free.

Looking at the bag, it clearly housed some ritual components, and there’s a waterlogged tome which still retains some legibility; it contains the ritual Mellandre is using to sicken Lord Reagen. Old Jed mentions that the only place the backpack could have fallen into the water is a log bridge up the river. If pressed or persuaded, he mentions that he thinks the backpack belongs to Mellandre; Old Jed is reluctant to put the adventurers on her trail in case he’s wrong.

If the adventurers decide to go to the plantation and confront Mellandre about her missing bag, she will try to lure them into the woods where her ogre can deal with them quietly. If they won’t come with her, she and her ogre will attack. She plans to tell everyone the adventurers attacked her.

Otherwise, the adventurers can make their way to the clearing, where they find the sacrificial grove. If they made it to the clearing before nightfall, Salacia is alive, tied to one of the nearby trees. If they show up the following day, or during the night, Salacia’s body is nowhere to be found (the ogre ate it) and the stone altar is awash with drying blood. If the adventurers arrive directly at nightfall, they will find Lady Mellandre performing the rite, and can interrupt the ritual.

Once the adventurers have investigated the clearing for a few minutes, the elemental weirds gather their strength and attack, trying to repel the intruders.

If the adventurers rescue Salacia, she can tell them who kidnapped her. If they were too late, the ogre’s footprints are easily followed here in the soft soil of the woods.

The adventurers press on to the plantation to confront Lady Mellandre and her ogre bodyguard. She will fight ferociously, especially if Salacia has been rescued, and will give nor offer no quarter. She stands to lose everything if the adventurers live.

The Elements In Use:
Plantation - The adventure is set on and around the Reagen family tabacc plantation.
Soaking Backpack - The backpack provides an important clue, pointing to Mellandre's involvement.
Ogre Bodyguard - Mellandre's ogre bodyguard fits the description quite nicely.
Three Wishes - The three boons granted to Mellandre by her husband are the three wishes. The wishes themselves also become some of the elements; the ogre and the symbol, in particular.
Elemental Weirds - The elemental weirds serve as messengers and agents for the first spirits. They also obscure the tracks, and one hides in the soaking backpack.
Symbol of the First Spirits - The wooden medallion given to Mellandre is the symbol. Also, the fertile valley itself could be seen as a symbol of the first spirits.

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Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
Bakra's Bond
A 3.5 Edition D&D Adventure

This adventure is designed for a party of 3 to 5 characters, of relatively low level (about 2nd - 5th level.) The party must be capable of using divination magic, whether by spell or magic item.

Doti Island is an elongated, fertile patch of farmland in the middle of a large, fast-moving river, about twelve miles away from the king's own castle. This island is home to several small farms and a large sugar plantation, all of which are important sources of revenue for the kingdom. On Doti Island, sugar cane is grown and harvested, and its sap is crushed and boiled into molasses. A portion of this molasses is fermented and distilled into rum.

Each year when the first new batch of rum is ready to drink, the plantation owner will host a feast. This celebration is known as the Festival of the First Spirits: a specially-marked barrel of rum is rolled out in front of everyone and tapped, and gallon after gallon of rum is served. Specially-minted coins bearing the same marking as the cask (known as the symbol of the first sprits, a quartered circle) are given as party favors, and a large white flag bearing the symbol is flown from the roof of the plantation owner's mansion. Years ago, when the tradition first started, the feast was a gesture of kindness, a way for the plantation owner and foremen to reward the serfs for their hard labor. Over the last ten or fifteen years, however, the feast became a pretentious and aristocratic gathering of the kingdom's upper crust. Only the wealthy rum and sugar merchants, guild leaders, and rulers of the kingdom are invited now, and the serfs must cook, serve, and entertain them...if the serfs get invited at all. The serfs regard that symbol of the first spirits as both a curse and an insult.

The villain of this story is the plantation owner, Bakra Myal. He is an overbearing slave master and evil wizard in disguise, with aspirations of one day killing the king and assuming his throne. He hides his cruelty and greed from the public eye, using more subtle Enchantment spells to draw the important and affluent people into his web. Now that the king has finally accepted Myal's annual invitation to the festival, he has his chance: Myal has brewed a powerful elixir that will bring all who taste it under his control, and has swapped it for this year's "first spirits."

The Party's Involvement
The adventure begins when a member of the party uses a divination spell or magic item. The spell misfires, causing the caster to collapse into a trance-like state. The character will receive a vision of a beautiful woman standing on a lake of pure water, somewhere in an underground cave. The woman in the vision calls out to the character, and speaks the following clue:

Seeker of the unknown! Evil has arisen in the east, an evil which will soon consume the realm and slay all you know and hold dear. Find me where the sugar grows, in the north cave of the south hill on the west shore of the eastern island.

At the end of the vision, the character wakes from the trance. Inexplicably, the character is completely soaking wet as if (s)he had been plunged into the river.

The characters will experience this same vision each time they use divination magic. The DM should make each subsequent vision to be more extreme than the next, to help build a sense of urgency.

The location described in the vision is obvious to everyone in the kingdom; the rum (and its festival) are practically legendary. For non-residents, a DC 10 Knowledge (Local) or Gather Information check will give them the location of the island.

Bakra Myal, the Plantation Master
Human Wizard 9

Neutral Evil

Myal is a middle-aged, balding, and thin-looking man, with the look and demeanor of someone who tries too hard to impress others. He talks too much, uses intelligent-sounding words, wears expensive clothing, etc.

Myal specializes in spells that allow him to manipulate and control others. His spell catalog contains mostly Enchantment spells, his personal favorite being dominate person. Through the use of magic, he surrounds himself with powerful people and affluent friends, but he is no fool...he knows that the "friends" he gains through this means are little more than puppets.

Rahtid the Terrible
Ogre Barbarian 7

Chaotic Neutral

Rahtid is Myal's bodyguard, a dominated and polymorphed ogre barbarian. Before he was captured by Myal, Rahtid was a powerful leader of his tribe's army...now, he has been reduced to little more than a puppet. Myal uses him to do many of the unpleasant tasks around the island, often changing to ogres form several times in one day to create disguises. A few of Myal's favorites:

"Rahtid," Myal's bodyguard (a male human bodyguard);

"Cyalla," Myal's wife (a beautiful human female);

"Flense," Myal's pet wolf (a dire wolf);

"Shayla," Myal's teenage daughter (a young human female).

Myal controls Rahtid though a very powerful magical talisman. This iron talisman, cast in the shape of a quarted circle, is always around Rahtid's neck no matter what form he is polymorphed into. The amulet gives Myal the ability to mentally dominate and change the appearance of any creature that wears it.

If the talisman is ever removed, Myal's control over the ogre will be broken, and the polymorphing spell will be dismissed. The former bodyguard will turn on Myal, and exact his revenge for nearly twenty years of mistreatment.

The Cooyah
The island is home to four powerful and benevolent spirits known as the Cooyah. They are not actual spirits; they are elemental creatures known as "weirds" in other lands. These elementals are as old as the island itself, and they care for and protect the natives of the island as if they were their own children.

For years, these elemental spirits have served the islanders by keeping the island fertile and giving them special insight into farming techniques (such as telling them when to plant, what days to harvest, and how to rotate their crops.) With the help of the Cooyah, the islanders became very successful farmers. But in the twenty years since the plantation was built, they have watched their children suffer more and more under the oppression of the plantation's success.

When Myal began hatching his plan to overthrow the kingdom, the Cooyah foresaw unbelievable suffering in the future...not only for their island children, but for the entire kingdom as well. The Cooyah know that Myal will be a terrible and tyrannical ruler, who will bring only war, famine, and death.

Part One: The Cooyah
On the west shore of Doti Island, there are two rocky hills, side-by-side. And true to the wierd's vision, there is a cave opening on the north side of the southernmost hill. The cave is home to various vermin and animals common to the area: bats, rats, spiders, centipedes, and beetles.

Eventually the cave will lead the party to the Cavern of the Cooyah...a large, dome-like chamber with a large pool of water in the center. As they enter, the beautiful woman from the vision will emerge from the pool and beckon for them to come closer. As they get within range, she will speak:

We are the Cooyah. Heed us, and know the truth. Our children suffer under the oppression of their masters, their dignity has been sold, their prosperity stolen, and their good health poisoned, by those who enslave them. Do this task, and heal their wounds!

The sugar that is not yet sugar
holds a curse that is not yet a curse.
Find the spirit that is not a spirit,
and spill its blood that is not blood.

Go now, and seek my sister Cooyah, who dwells in the tallest tree on the tallest hill of this island. She knows the path you must take and the place you must find.

By my touch, you will know your enemy, but do nothing until you have spoken with my three sisters and completed our tasks!

At the conclusion of her monologue, the weird will reach forward and touch one of the party members lightly on the shoulder. Immediately the character will become completely drenched with water from head to toe. The weird will then nod, then vanish into the pool of water.


The "sister" that the Cooyah was referring to is an air weird, who lives atop a magical tree on the highest part of the island. The magical forest is home to several dangerous plants and animals native to the island, such as assassin vines and panthers.

The tree that the party seeks is clearly visible from anywhere on the island. It is an enormous oak tree, far larger than any tree in this area could naturally grow. Climbing the tree requires a DC 12 climb check. At the top of the tree (60 feet up), the branches are tightly woven together like the nest of a bird. Within this "nest" is a swirling pool of mist and vapor. As the party climbs the tree and looks upon the pool, a beautiful woman made of mist will rise from the pool. She speaks with a whispery, airy voice, like wind blowing through trees.

We are the Cooyah. Heed us, and know the truth. Watch for the symbol of the first. Where you see it, know that the touch of evil is not far away! In your travels, you will find a white door with white hinges, but no handle. At this door, speak the answer to this riddle.

I dreamed I saw a fairy's dance,
Upon the midnight sky.
Where lights, like lantern's grew,
Without a whim, or a why.
Amid their joy,
Amid their dance,
I came running into their midst.
But with nar'ry a sound,
They drew away,
And fell into the mist.
Oh, I saw them again,
But only from very far.
Dancing in the air at night,
Like tiny lanterns, or tiny stars.

(Answer: firefly.)

Go now, and seek my sister Cooyah, who dwells among the stones on the eastern side of the island. Only she knows the secret of your enemy's doom!

And with that, the creature descends into the pool of vapors. As with the other weird, the elemental will only repeat the riddle again if summoned, and will scold the party if they delay too long.


This other "sister" is an earth weird, who lives at the bottom of a gravel pit on the east side of the island. This part of the island is home to many different reptilian creatures who bask on the sunny, bare patches of rock: snakes, lizards, and the occasional wyvern can be found here.

As the party approaches the gravel pit, the rocks and sand within it begin to churn. The form of a beautiful, brown-skinned woman will emerge from the pool of earth, and begin to speak.

We are the Cooyah. Heed us, and know the truth. Your foe has great power, and has powerful friends. Alone, you have no hope of defeating him...he will rise to power, and he will bring death and destruction to all people of the realm.

Find his closest companion, the one who never leaves his side. Break the seal he carries around his neck, and free the monster it binds. Only then will you gain a powerful ally, one strong enough to defeat your foe.

Go now, and take these three riddles with you to the lair of your foe. The time is at hand!

Part Two: The Festival
By now, the party's task should be clear: they must destroy the barrel of rum before anyone drinks it, they must find Myal and his "closest friend," and then they must remove the symbol from around the bodyguard's neck.

When the party enters the plantation, the plans for the festival are well underway: guests have already began arriving, and the king and queen themselves are expected in the morning. Myal is a quintessential host, mingling with his wealthy guests and important friends, with his "beautiful wife" by his side. Depending on the party's actions, he will either welcome them to the party (if they act politely, put on pretenses, or throw their money around) or have them thrown out (if they cause a disturbance or behave rudely.)

Clever players will know to "work the crowd" a bit, pretending to be guards, old friends, or family members of Myal in order to get close to him (and close enough to that keg to destroy it.) The DM should have fun with this part of the adventure...it is the perfect opportunity to introduce new and interesting NPCs, discuss the politics of the realm, drop rumors of faraway lands and treasures, and so forth.

As the party mingles, Myal watches them closely. He changes Rahtid's form several times throughout the evening both to make himself look like he has many close friends, and to make it less obvious to the party that he has a controlled "pet" ogre. Ultimately, though, one of the player characters should notice that no matter who is on Myal's arm, they are wearing the same talisman around the neck. More astute players may notice that Myal's wife and daughter never appear in the same room at the same time, even when good manners would require it (while dining, for example.)

Once the party figures out the nature of Myal's bodyguard, their host and his companion will excuse themselves from the party and head into the plantation house. They will not come out again until the king arrives and it is time to tap the keg.


The plantation house is a large wooden structure with approximately twenty rooms. It should me mapped out in the style of a Haitian plantation house, with numerous windows and high ceilings.

The cask of the first spirits, which has been laced with the powerful domination potion, can be found in the basement...it is heavily guarded by Myal's dominated policemen (2nd level human fighters.)

As the party explores the plantation house, one member of the party will begin to get "signals" from the water weird. His or her clothing will grow more and more damp, the closer they get to their quarry. In this way, the elemental weirds will guide the party to the keg and to Myal's lair. By the time the party finds the keg, for example, the character and all his gear will be completely soaking wet.

Myal's lair is on the top floor of the mansion, hidden behind a magical door. The door is white with white hinges, and carved with a repeating pattern of quartered circles. The door is locked by an arcane lock which opens if the password is spoken ("firefly.")

Inside, Myal and Rahtid can be found, preparing the final ingredients for the magical potion. They attack the intruders furiously...Rahtid fights to the death, but Myal attempts to flee if he takes any damage.

Use of the Ingredients
Plantation: while the adventure takes place on a plantation, this ingredient is more than just a backdrop. All of the names of the NPCs are taken from the Jamaican dialog and slang, the villain is a caricature white slave owner, all of the workers are an oppressed lower class, etc.

Soaking Backpack: the water weird guides the party through dampness. Every time someone is "touched" (receives a vision or guidance) by the water weird, he or she is drenched with water.

Ogre Bodyguard: Myal has captured and dominated a powerful ogre named Rahtid, who he now manipulates to be his bodyguard (among other things.) Near the end of the adventure, the party must break the magical bonds that hold the ogre in order to defeat Myal.

Three Wishes: Every faction in the game has three desires, or "wishes." Myal thirsts for magic, wants to rule the kingdom, and secretly longs for companionship (as evident in his bizzare relationship with his captured bodyguard.) The Cooyah want to lift the oppression of the islanders, restore the rightful king to the throne, and prevent the invasion of a friendly territory. The party wants to help the Cooyah and protect their homeland from invasion, but they also want to be able to cast divination spells normally again.

Elemental Weirds: The benevolent faction in the game is the Cooyah, a trio of elemental weirds. Using their unique divination skills, they draw the party to the island, guide them to the voodoo priest's lair, and reveal how to defeat the villain.

Symbol of the First Spirits: The "first spirits" refers to the first batch of rum created on the plantation each year. When that first cask is ready, it is branded with a special symbol, and served to all of the guests at a week-long festival. That symbol eventually became the plantation's trademark, and appears in several places throughout the adventure. The talisman of binding, which Myal uses to enslave his ogre bodyguard, is cast in the shape of this symbol.

Pronounciation and Glossary
Bakra (BAH-krah): Jamaican for "master"
Cooyah (COO-ya): Jamaican for "look upon"
Doti (DOUGH-tea): Jamaican for "earth"
Myal (my-ALL): Jamaican for "wizard"
Rahtid (rah-TEED): Jamaican for "surprise" or rage

Radiating Gnome

Well, I didn't find this round as hard to judge as the last, but you two have definitely made me work for it. I find that I have a favorite that has some glaring, hard-to-forgive holes . . . . so, lets dig in and see where an analysis takes us.

There were some strokes of near genius here, and some pretty severe disappointment.

I was keenly interested to see what was done with this ingredient, given that most D&D style fantasy is feudal in flavor . . . the plantation is a sort of 17th -19th century social unit (very much a descendant of the feudal structure), and it could force a very different setting. In Sow the Seeds, Reap the Harvest (SSRH) and in Bakra's Bond (BB), we find the setting for the entire adventure is the plantation, in the first case a Tabacc plantation, in the second a sugarcane/rum distilling one. There are strong similarities in the way this element is used in both -- and both use a grand ball of sorts (in a very gone-with-the-wind way) as an important plot point in the adventure. I find that Bakra's Bond gets more mileage out of the setting, though -- and there is an element of reflected excellence in the way BB uses the spirits that makes the setting work so well for this adventure, so I'm giving a small advantage to BB here.

Soaking Backpack. Here's an ingredient that I expected would give the writers fits to use in a developed, Iron DM-worthy way. This seems to be the most striking failing I found in BB overall -- in the final accounting, despite the thin argument made by the author, there IS no actual soaking backpack in the adventure -- unless you count the backpack we presume is worn by the character who is using divination magic and is guided by the weird. But, since the entire character is soaking at that point, and the backpack is only soaking because everything is, I think it just doesn't count. So, no dice there. SSRH didn't do much better, but at the very least there is a backpack, and it's wet. The usage was weak and easy to pull out without any impact on the adventure, but at least it was there. And, if contact with the water weird makes the pc wet, why doesn't something else happen when they encounter the air and earth weirds? Advantage SSRH.

Ogre Bodyguard. Both adventures have them, but I think we can all see that Rhatid the terrible is far more interesting and developed. Big advantage to BB.

Three Wishes This is admittedly a real anchovy of an ingredient -- you want to avoid the genie in a bottle cliche, but it's sure hard to come up with something that fulfills this ingredient without being a cliche. Once again, BB's summary of ingredients at the end of the entry is trying to staple a veneer over the fact that there really are no "three wishes" in this adventure. Citing that all of the factions/characters in the story are developed enough to have three motivations does a fine job pointing out the strengths of the adventure, but it doesn't quite qualify as a implementation of this ingredient. SSRH has the "boons" that Mellandra is granted, and that usage is REALLY weak . . . . in large part because those three boons are not really a part of the adventure but of the backstory that leads to the adventure. I mean, the ingredient's there, in the shadows, but because it's only directly a part of the background for the adventure, it isn't really a necessary part of what the players experience directly -- they could play through the entire adventure without knowing that Arthur had granted three twisted wishes to his wife. There's a caution here for others -- writing an adventure is more than writing the background story that leads to the adventure, and your ingredients are better used in the adventure than if they only appear in the background. Still, I have to give an advantage to SSRH for actually using the element.

Elemental Weirds - Once again, BB has used a monster well -- in this case weaving the renamed weirds into the story as guides, allies, and adventure hook, all in one. SSRH has weirds in it, but they're an episodic obstacle, not as well woven into the adventure.

Symbol of the First Spirits. Again, both entries make use of this ingredient, but the inspirational use in BB is hands down super cool. It becomes a connected part of the plantation setting, demonstrates in an excellent way one of the best techniques of the successful Iron DMs (using unexpected definitions of words in ingredients) while totally satisfying the expectations for the ingredient. BIg advantage to BB.

So, overall . . . . BB has a couple of glaring holes, and a couple of true gems. SSRH doesn't have anything that rises to the quality of BB's good ingredients, but at least covers all the bases. I'm torn about how to decide on ingredients overall -- how does excellent use of some ingredients balance against only paying lip service to others. I'm going to call it a wash.

Which I feel safe doing, because I think that other elements of the two adventures will help extend a gap.

Usability -- Both should be relatively easy to drop into an existing campaign -- either the hijacked divinations or the invite from a noble to a grand event work passably well -- and the minor requirement that there be a party member capable of some divination magic is not an unreasonable expectation in 3.5 D&D.

Presentation -- At the risk of punishing us all with the idea that longer entries = better presentation, BB is a much more complete, more evocative, more interesting adventure at this stage. I find it's conceits more believable than those of SSRH, and the added element of the touch of jamaican language gives the entry a flavor advantage over the other.

SSRH has some story weaknesses that really left me frustrated. For instance, the background gives a great deal of importance to the Women's Circle that has the power to force a settlement between Lord and Lady, but they disappear in the background and have no influence in the rest of the adventure -- which ends up being a fairly generic kidnap and rescue story.

Originality -- hands down I need to give this one to BB. The Spirits as Rum, the excellent use of the Ogre and the Weirds, and the whole package is a stronger, more interesting, and more original adventure. And also, as much as I must trash talk BB for not really including the three wishes, the idea that each of the NPC factions has multiple motivations points to some better-than-cardboard characterization. I'm not entirely sure that all three motivations/desires are there for each faction, but the hints are there, and that's unusual enough. (I'll caution you, though, that it's practically never a good idea to tell the reader or the player what their motivations/desires are. )

The Last Dregs

Overall, as much as the practically missing ingredients sticks in my craw, I think it's pretty clear that Bakra's Bond is the stronger entry here. But, as a parting thought, let me emphasize that it's still a narrow thing. Had the two weak ingredients had even ordinary inclusion in the adventure, this would have been an easy choice -- and had SSRH been just a little stronger (maybe capitalizing on ingredients you slighted), it could easily have taken it's complete use of the ingredients to the second round.

I think, CleverNickName, you should keep doing what you're doing well, but if you expect to take your game beyond the second round, you're going to have to do better with the ingredients, too. Don't settle for lip service.

But, with that, CleverNickName advances.
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The Killing Joke
A system neutral side-trek for low level PCs.

Paddlewise is a pleasant halfling community along the Emerald River. They make their living fishing in the river, as well as trading goods up and down the river. The challenge is that the Emerald River is named due to its near placid current, allowing a slight green muck of scum to settle on the top. Which means that the crocodiles that live in the Emerald River have a great camouflage. The halfling boaters and fishers would be at the crocodiles' mercy, were it not for the Trollers.

The Trollers are a trio of migrating troll brothers that arrive every season to fish for crocs. By using large iron hooks on sturdy chains, the brothers run down the riverbank, trolling the hook through the water. A croc will get snagged, and the trolls drag the reptile ashore with their great strength to make sport of slaying it. The halflings offer aid, extra food, and other amenities to the trolls in exchange for their efforts, and additional protection of the community. It's a happy relationship.

Until Paddlewise's trolls started being murdered. With crocodile spawning season over, the river will be teaming with toothsome beasts, and the halflings need help.

Scratching a small-sized back: the PCs need to travel along the river, aid by the Ioun priest, or some sort of divination or lore (which can be granted by the Stone of Ioun's usage). In exchange, they are requested to help out the village.
Home Sweet Home: A halfling PC may be from Paddlewise.
The Obvious: A request for help.

Part I: Dark Humor

Before the PCs arrive to Paddlewise, they will stumble upon a grizzly sight. The well preserved remains of a troll can be found. It would appear that only the front of the troll was scorched by what looks like acid. A small sized footprint has been branded into the troll's skull, and the left foot of the troll is missing.

Paddlewise looks relatively normal for a river-going halfling community. Small houses on stilts to accommodate when the river floods, several docks where fishing halflings perch. Two things are of note. First, the docks are crowded with boats, the place full of loitering and anxious halflings, and there's no room on the docks given the crowds with fishing poles in the water. The second is that there is a building with a tall tower attached, its size odd given the otherwise small construction of the halfling-sized buildings. Even stranger: given that all the buildings are on stilts, the players can see beneath the tower, and in the center of said tower, a broad, square stone juts from the earth, up into the tower.

It takes very little to discover the talk of the town - Paddlewise's halfling notice new comers, and are all too willing to talk about everything under the sun, and openly volunteer that their trolls are in dire trouble. Characters are steered towards the temple of Ioun - the building with the tall tower.

Despite the size of the temple, only two work within: the priest Abbot Taleteller, and his acolyte. As they are greeted, the players can hear cries of "Abbot!" it a guttural voice from the direction of the tower, which send the acolyte running. The Abbot invites the PCs along before going.

The PCs arrive within the Tower, to discover that the tower obscures a great monolith fo stone, with runes carved into every surface. At the very top of the monolith is a large bed.

The Abbot explains that in the bed is Gruck the troll, who arrived two days ago and begged for sanctuary. He was terrified, and his condition has worsened. There was no place large enough to place the troll except atop the stone. Trolls, rarely ever stressed or scared but for brief (and often lethal) instances, they are drastically effected by it. In Gruck's case, he suffers from stomach ulcers, the acid burning away at his insides. Abbot has been treating him, but so far has not been able to get from the troll any useful information besides the fact the troll's two brothers are dead, and he is scared witless, paranoid. As this is explained, Gruck peers over the edge of the bed from beneath the covers.

Interrogating Gruck is very easy. Any success at intimidate or diplomacy will get Gruck to spill his guts. Just before he and his brothers migrated north last year, they crossed paths with a halfling bard. The bard, Gabby Talltale, had a scorching wit, and feeling safe given the agreement between Paddlewise and the trolls, proceeded to mock them mercilously. To which the troll brothers beset upon the halfling, tearing her to pieces, eating or playing with the remains. The first night of their arrival this year, Gruch explains that he went off to releave himself, before returning to find the ghost of Gabby Talltale, telling his brother Lutch a joke. To which made Lutch laugh so hard and so long that he began to vomit on himself, over and over, until he was no more. Gruck fled, seeking a holy man to protect him, since "Undead don't like godmen". So far, he's been safe on consecrated ground, while his brother Flutch was killed (the troll corpse the players found).

However the players react, Abbot will beg them for help. Regardless of the trolls' actions, Paddlewise needs the crocs weeded out. If they accept to help stop Gabby Talltale before she finishes her revenge, Abbot then consults the monolith. The Stone of Ioun is a great relic, one that can assist in divinations, research, and other such knowledge. It was the Stone that directed Abbot to the Trollers. Abbot learns from the Stone that the only remaining piece of Gabby Talltale is her foot, which fell into the river, drifted down current until it became lodged in the river delta at the river's mouth. If the PCs can recover the foot, and bury it on consecrated ground, Gabby's spirit would be put to rest, given a proper buriel.

Part II: Down a creek without a paddle...

Reaching the river delta from land is possible, but with the waters rich with crocodiles, they would have to swim across at the last leg. It is better to reach it by boat. The only halfling willing to boat down the crocodile filled waters is Potuck MuckRudder, an uncouth, surly, tobacco chewing halfling boater.

The trip down the river is treacherous, given the crocodiles, presenting at least one thrilling battle before reaching the delta. The challenge of the encounter is less slaying the hungry reptiles and more protecting the little boat from being smashed in the tussle.

The river delta is mainly comprised of gunk, dense algae, silt, sediment, and halfling boat debris that has drifted downriver. However, the delta is the territory of an onnery two-headed croc named Toothy Jack. Toothy Jack is none too interested in letting the PCs dig around his delta, where his harem of female crocs have been overseeing Jack's broods.

After contending with Toothy Jack and his harem, the PCs will eventually find the mummified severed foot of Gabby Talltale.

Part III: The Punchline

On the trip back to Paddlewise, the Gabby Talltale appears before the PCs. She is composed of her incorporeal pieces which look to be patchworked together, except for her missing left foot. Gabby is not pleased that the PCs are trying to prevent her revenge, but buriel (and recognition) play to the angry ghost's pride. Instead of overtly fighting the PCs, Gabby challenges the players to a joke-telling contest. If they can make her laugh, she will not hinder their trip. Engage in a skill challenge, or use charisma or whatever appropriate social stat. Or, allow the players to each come up with an appropriate joke, gauging the other player's responses.

If the players succeed, Gabby allows them pass. If not, she harries their journey - possessing the slain crocodile corpses, possessing a PC and running into the river, attempting to steal her foot, or attracting wandering monsters.

When the PCs reach Paddlewise and conduct the funeral ceremony of Gabby's foot, they can engage in a challenge to get Gruck out of bed. This should be fairly difficult, but after a few intimidates, diplomacies, and religion checks assuring Gruck the ghost is gone, the troll will get out of bed and go outside of the temple's grounds (only if the PCs and Abbot accompany him). Gabby's soul is at rest, and since she does not attack, Gruck profusely thanks the PCs (with lots of hugs and slobbery troll kisses) before returning to bed for his ulcers. Abbot thanks the PCs and offers them towels. The halflings rejoice, hail the players as heroes, and a fish banquit is in order.

River Delta: The resting place of Gabby's foot, and Toothy Jack's territory, at the mouth of the Emerald River.
Severed Foot: The foot of Gabby Talltale, the McGuffin necessary to save Gruck and Paddlewise.
Monstrous Bard: Gabby TallTale. Being a ghost, she's a monster. But her appearance (and what she does to the trolls) is also monstrous.
Brutal Slayings: The description and state of slayed troll remains are quite brutal.
Bedridden Troll: Gruch is bedridden, both from his severe ulcers. He is a troll, and also fishes by trolling.
Ioun Stone: The Stone of Ioun within the Paddlewise temple is a monolith covered in runes, useful for divinations. Said to be blessed by Ioun, it has powers of knowledge and wisdom.
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Penguin Herder
humble minion vs. Thasmodious, your ingredients are:

Stellar Pathway
Magic Fruit
Elvish Mayor
Critical Hits
Evil Puppets
Mace of Blood

Start your engines!


First Post
The Brutal Bard of Trasa

After weeks of stumbling through the woods and the mountains, you have found a pleasant seeming village built around a river delta, but all is not as it appears in this sleepy little town...

A 4th Edition adventure for five level 10 characters.

The village of Trasa, located on the river Bradlichi, has been met with hard times. Known for nothing of interest, it sits largely ignored by nobles; the town has grown self-reliant enough to fend off a random passing goblin or orc group. When a Troll came, that was another matter altogether. The troll nearly caused the starvation of the town three winters ago when it killed two of the strongest defenders of the town, and it took nearly all of the town's food. When it came back in the spring, it was surprised by a Half-Orc Bard that had been hired by the mayor to remove the troll problem. Braeden, the Half-Orc Bard, removed the problem, but the cost was terrible: he demanded the five prettiest woman in town to accompany him on his travels. After he had been gone for 8 months, he returned with a newborn child and a demand for the five prettiest women in town. This time the townsfolk fought back, particually the husbands of the women he had taken the first time. Sadly, none were a match for the monsterous Bard, and he brutally slayed over 80%of the adult males of the town, and took all of the women of child-bearing age.
Character Introduction

You have been contacted by a young boy: Owen, a small twig of a boy just barely ten years old, who is in desparate need of heroes. His village, Trasa, on the delta of the river Bradlichi, has been attacked by a most powerful half-orc. He left for help when five husbands of wives who had been taken by this half-orc were cut down, but he heard the screams and cries for a mile while he ran towards the nearest city. He needs someone who can bring justice to this monster and hopefully save his town.

If your players are not moved by this hook, then you have some seriously non-heroic characters; I recommend feeding them to Tiamat. If they agree to follow Owen to his town then describe the scene:

The town is in ruins... nearly half of the village is still smoldering from the fires of what used to be houses. Prepubescent girls and boys are busy digging graves for what appears to be adult males - despite most being barely recognizable as such.

Encounter 1: Role Playing
A Perception check of 20 reveals that the only women in the town are all quite elderly, and are only able to help by trying to comfort the smallest children.
Talking to any of the coherent people in the town reveals the history of the toown's troubles as well as the fact that the Half-Orc began killing villagers that attacked him when he demanded new women to take away, and that he didn't stop hacking at the bodies until forced to fend off another attempted defender of the town. When the first three waves of abled-bodied men were brutally killed, he pulled some gems from a pouch that circled his head, and he began a strange sounding song. When the song was finsihed all of the women of child-bearing age literally dropped what they were doing, some even dropping held babies, and followed the Bard out of town.

Encounter 2: Skill Challenge
There is no opportunity for purchasing gear in this little town, so the heroes should be prepared to move out, trying to track the Bard at this point. Finding the tracks of all of the women in town is trivial, but the party is met with a challenge at the river, where severed ropes and crushed reeds indicate a boat was waiting at the end of the tracks for the villian. The heroes will need to follow the river and decide which path to take at the delta. This can be run as a Complexity 1 Skill Challenge with a DC 24 on Perception, Nature and History to reward Successes for noticing a hidden trail or knowing the history of this area; 19 DCs in Athletics, Acrobatics, Dungeoneering and Insight provide +2 bonuses to any checks for pushing the group harder, getting over/around tricky obstacles or understanding the way a Half-Orc may think. Sucess in this Skill Challenge prevents the Bard from arming his minions, Failure means the women are armed when the heroes arrive. In either case, if the players do not come up with a means of travelling by river, they must all make DC 20 Endurance checks, and each character that fails that check loses a healing surge. If more than half of the party fails this check, it counts as a failure.

Encounter 3: River Delta Combat
When the party reaches the Bard's keep down the river, they are confronted by a group of undead set to defend the Bard while he completes a ritual that permanently binds his hostage's minds to his will. These are made up of skinned victims of the Bard, severed feet of the victims, and two ghosts who are unable to depart the area. This is a level 13 encounter and the monster are in Open Grave. The undead fight to the re-death.
5 Skins of dead women (Forsaken Shell at level 11)
2 Drowned Ghosts
6 Severed Feer(Lich Claws at level 14)
Encounter 4: Role Playing
Once the entrance to the keep is secured, the party enters to see a strange sight - a troll, strapped to a bed with crystalline stones circling his head. His legs dangle off the end of the bed, with a stream of foul smelling green liquid pouring constantlly on the ends of his legs - at the ankles. His arms are resting off the side of the bed, the wrists smoking as they rest inside bowls of the same liquid. A Nature check of 19 reveals that this is Acid, keeping the troll for regenerating his appendages. An Arcana check of 25 reveals that the stones around the Troll's head are Ioun stones - keeping the troll alive while resticted in this situation. A DC 20 check reveals a troll foot on a shelf, the ankle also resting in a bowl of acid. The players can rouse the Troll from his stupor with a DC 25 Heal check or any healing power. If they choose to help the troll, he is too weak to assist in the battle, but he provides the PCs with the location of the traps in the Bard's inner sactum as well as knowledge of the Bard's mind-bending abilities, granting the party a + 2 bonus to saves against his powers. If the players instead choose to kill the troll, they may do so without penalty - it is a troll. Either way, they can avail themselves of the Ioun stones that circle the troll. There is a clear spindle and a dark blue rhomboid that keep the troll aware of his suffering and alive without any sustenance. If the troll is allowed to live, he will be well enough to walk away by the time the players finish the fight. He is grateful enough to help the players in any way he can. He claims his severed foot if he survives.

Encounter 5: Battle the Monsterous Bard
The final encounter is the battle against the Half-Orc Bard. If the players had success in the skill challenge, then the women of the town are not armed and will not attack the players. If they took too long to track down the Bard, the women have been instruccted to attack and otherwise impede the players. The villian has managed to set up his traps already, and will steer players into them as much as possible. He has three Ioun Stones orbitting his head, a pink and green sphere (granting him a +2 to Charisma), a pale lavendar ellipsoid that can absorb 1 level 3 encounter power and 1 level 1 encounter or at-will power and a vibrant purple prism that allows him to use Bigby's Icy Grip (level 5 Daily Wizard power)

Braeden, Monsterous Bard

Level 13 Solo Controller (Leader)

Medium natural humanoid

XP 4,000

Initiative +9 Senses Perception +14
Mindbender's Hum aura 1; enemies that move into or start their turn in the aura are slid 1 square.
HP 460; Bloodied 230
AC 27; Fortitude 25; Reflex 25; Will 29
Saving Throws +5
Resist: 1 Level 1 Power, 1 Level 3 Power (once each)

Speed 6
Action Points 2

m Commanding Strike (at-will; standard) • Weapon
+18 vs AC; 1d10 + 6 damage, and the target is slid 1d4
C Braeden's Chant (at-will; standard)
Close Blast 3; +17 vs Will; 1d10 + 6 damage, and pushed 2 squares, if pushed into any creature, the target and othe creature are knocked prone
C Word of Command (recharge 6; standard) • Psychic
Braeden assaults your mind, making you do his bidding
Close burst 5; +15 vs Will; psychic damage, and target is dominated (save ends) .
C Majestic Song (recharge 6; minor) • Healing
Clost burst 10; Braeden heals 10 hit points and slides 2 squares. All of Braeden's allies gain 5 temporary hit points and slide 1.
C Monsterous Burst (encounter; standard; recharges when first bloodied)
Close burst 2; targets enemies; Braeden slays an adjacent ally and uses the death to damage those who oppose him.; +15 vs Reflex; 4d8 + 6 necrotic damage, the target slides falls prone, and the target is blinded (save ends). Requires adjacent dominated enemy or ally - that target is reduced tto zero hit points.
C Braeden's Brag (recharge 5 6; standard) • Fear, Psychic
The Bard gives brutal details of his atrocities, weakening your resolve to engage him.
Close burst 5; +15 vs Will; 1d10 + 6 psychic damage, and ongoing 5 psychic damage and the target is dazed (save ends both)
Bardic Enchanting (encounter; standard; recharges when first bloodied)
Braeden's charm affects time itself, allowing him to act faster than those around him. For the rest of this round, Braeden gains a +2 bonus to all defenses. In the next round, Braeden acts twice, at initiative count 30, and his original initialive. At each of these counts, he gets to perform a standard action, a move action, and a minor action. In the round after that, he acts normally at his original count in the initiative order
Alignment Unaligned
Languages Common
Skills Arcana +14, History +14, Insight +14, Streetwise +19
Str 16 (+9)
Dex 17 (+9)
Wis 17 (+9)
Con 20 (+11)
Int 17 (+9)
Cha 27 (+14)
Equipment Rapier, Implement, Wand, Green Ioun Stone, Pale Lavendar Ioun Stone, Vibrant Purple Ioun Stone (Bigby's Icy Grasp)
© 2009 Wizards of the Coast LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All rights reserved. This monster statistics block has been generated using the D&D Adventure Tools.


A = Undead Battle Encounter
B = Roleplaying Encounter
C = Braeden Battle Encounter
T = ankle slicing traps (+16 vs Reflex, 2d10 + 10 damage and slowed (save ends), on a critical hit, foot is severed, you take ongoing 5 damage and are slowed until Remove Affliction can be cast during an extended rest.)​

  • River Delta - location and source of some undead
  • Severed Foot - the Troll's condition and risk of traps.<LI goog_docs_charIndex="11016">Monsterous Bard - the villian of the story monsterous in both race and behavior.<LI goog_docs_charIndex="11034">Brutal Slayings - the result of the Bard's action, payment for his troll removal service.<LI goog_docs_charIndex="11052">Bedridden Troll - the way the Bard was introduced to the town, and a chance to roleplay something non-standard late in the adventure.
  • Ioun Stone - Rewards from killing the Bard, as well as his means to torment the troll and protect himself in battle.
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and the winner is…

different judges look at different things. my focus is almost always on the ingredients more than anything else. playability or usefulness is usually a wash and overall story or the feel of the scenario is extremely subjective, so I only count down on it if the story seems trite or contrived. hooks and formatting are always nice, but I’m not as picky about such things as some other judges have been. I figure that the DM will either steer his players into a setting or not. and someone who wants to win an Iron DM is going to put the best, most presentable face on his or her entry as they can. so you generally never get extra points out of these types of things with me and I tend to gloss over them.

it really does come down to the ingredients and more importantly, how those ingredients connect to the other ingredients. if you made a chart with ingredients 1-5 up the y axis and ingredients 6-2 along the x axis, there are 15 possible connections between 6 ingredients. which really means that there are thirty connections. maybe the river delta doesn’t have a connection to severed feet, but the severed foot stops flowing downstream when it gets to a river delta (a one way connection, so one of two possible). or maybe the bedridden troll ate the bard, making her monstrous and then the monstrous bard is what put the troll into the bed (going both directions, two out of two – much stronger!)

when I put the ingredients out there, several of them immediately jumped together pretty naturally: severed feet, brutal slayings, a monstrous bard, a troll (bedridden or not). so it was really the last two ingredients that I figured were going to be the make/break points. what would you do with the river delta, the ioun stone, and the bedridden nature of the troll. how would these be worked in and how strongly would each ingredient be connected to the other five?

individually (and taken out of order, because…)
the Monstrous Bard: Rechan had a halfling bard who, even before she became an undead, sought out and tormented the trolls who were providing a useful service for the community. so even though she later became a monster, she was not a good person to begin with. Atras has a half-orc who will eventually destroy a village, abuses and kills its inhabitants, turns their feet into bizarre undead monsters, and has a troll kept prisoner and tortured in his lair, just because. both bards are very bad people, but which one had to be a bard? Atras, your bard sang the people into dominion, but it could just as easily been a wizard, priest, warlock, sorcerer, or other class casting similar spells for similar effects. . bards aren’t just singers, although that’s how they are most typically played. Rechan’s bard used “scorching wit” and comedy to attack the troll brothers, which struck me as a very bard-like way to go about things. plus the “riddle contest” at the end was an excellent encounter, although I usually consider skill challenges to be “roll-playing”, which is not a compliment to the system. I would rather be stumping the players themselves and making them THINK. but Rechan’s bard as a bard was a much stronger entry.

the Bedridden Troll: I thought it was interesting that you both used acid as the reason the troll couldn’t get out of bed, either from an upset tummy or by being tied down and actively prevented from recovery. but troll regeneration is tough stuff, and Rechan’s troll’s case of stomach acid seemed a bit weak. and are we suggesting that a cleric who has risen to the rank of abbot doesn’t have the cure spells to fix a bad case of heartburn? per the story, Gruck ran away while Gabby was finishing off his brother, so she hasn’t used her “wit” on him yet. so he might have been a frightened troll, but not really enough to be confined to a bed. point to Atras.

I don’t want to repeat my last harsh criticism of a player’s entry, but unfortunately, those were the two strongest ingredients in Rechan’s entry. all of his other ingredients were either replaceable or not that impressive an interpretation.

the Severed Foot of the bard, why not replaceable with a hand or her head? and why was the foot missed from the troll buffet in the first place? NEVER toss an ingredient into the mix as a mcguffin, a generic THIING that drives the plot around it. you’re in effect making one of the ingredients generic and that will only hurt your entry.

with the Brutal Slayings, I asked my young son how to kill trolls and he said “burn ‘em”. I asked with what and he told me “fire or acid”. so any adventurer who’s ever killed a troll has probably seen a trollish acid or burn victim. the evidence of Rechan’s brutal slayings could be considered commonplace, not extreme.

the River Delta sort of works as a place where the foot might have slowly come to rest, but might not a pool or waterfall or just ‘down river’ worked as well? the delta as a tie-in for crocodiles which then tied the troll brothers “trolling” helped some, but now the crocodiles are starting to take over a strong place as a seventh ingredient (which they were not), especially with the fight with Toothy Jack. I would not have put crocodiles as an ingredient into a competition like this because it would have been too easy a tie in to the River Delta, but they play a big part in Rechan’s entry. logically, River Delta becomes swamp or marshland before entering the sea, so crocodiles were not a problem in and of themselves, but I would have put other swampy creatures in there to offset, will-o-wisps, giant leeches, quicksand, etc. as it was I felt “Crocodile” actually replacing “River Delta” in the overall context and after that River Delta became easily replaced. so I felt I had to give this one a no-pass.

and that brings us to the last, the Ioun Stone. I like thinking out of the box. when I originally printed the list, the magic item was a Ioun Stone of Steadfastness, but at the last minute I decided to make it a generic item, just to open up a little creativity. Rechan’s Stone of Ioun took that way, way too far. Ioun Stones are little gems that float around your head and give you some MINOR advantage. I was wondering what minor advantage the stones might give that would be story turning. in other words, without the Ioun Stones, the story would not have been the same (or it might not even have been possible). this was clearly the case when Atras used the Iouns to keep his troll barely alive and barely conscious. without the stones’ effects his bedridden troll might have died. I had a hard time understanding *why* his monstrous bard was using the magic to keep the troll alive until I remembered *he was a monstrous bard* and didn’t need a reason to torture a troll. so the Ioun Stone strengthened the Bedridden Troll, which emphasized the Monstrous nature of the Bard (nice connection string there!).

instead Rechan built an artifact around the idea of a Stone of Ioun to guide the players along. shaky, but not bad until I went and looked up Ioun:

Ioun is the god of knowledge, skill, and prophecy. Sages, seers, and tacticians revere her, as do all who live by their knowledge and mental power. Corellon is the patron of arcane magic, but Ioun is the patron of its study. Libraries and wizard academies are built in her name. Her commands are also teachings: Seek the perfection of your mind by bringing reason, perception, and emotion into balance with one another. Accumulate, preserve, and distribute knowledge in all forms. Pursue education, build libraries, and seek out lost and ancient lore. Be watchful at all times for the followers of Vecna, who seek to control knowledge and keep secrets. Oppose their schemes, unmask their secrets, and blind them with the light of truth and reason.

I found that online and it’s a direct quote out of the 4E PHB. I don’t have a problem with you guys writing 4E adventures and calling them that, I just don’t care to play them is all. Rechan proposed his adventure as non-edition specific, but when was Ioun deified? for certain in 4e, was there an earlier edition? I always figured he was another inventor/ mage like Tenser or Bigby. suffice it to say, trying to avoid the appearance of being a 4E adventure, and then finding a 4E deity implied did not add to Rechan’s entry. nor did it detract. it just annoyed.

If Rechan’s Stone of Ioun, a huge artifact of the deity had related somehow to “knowledge, skill, and prophecy” it might have worked. if Rechan had played directly of other parts of the in-book description it might have worked. but instead it was given divination and worse, because the abbot was able to read or communicate with it somehow (did it speak to him?) it became a deux ex machina device within the story, telling the players exactly what they needed to know and do to win the game (which then took me back to my theory that 4E leads to facile gaming – just my opinion and observation, but not something I care to argue here). I won’t quote Wikipedia on the idea of deux ex machina in literature, but it’s not complimentary. if the Abbot had come forth with a prophecy, or maybe directed the players to a library to research how to quell a restless ghost or something like that, it would have made it the Stone of Ioun. but now, it could just as easily been the Stone of Thor, the Stone of Bast, or the Stone of Yog-Sothoth and the players would not have known the difference (ok, maybe not that last one).

so Rechan had one strong ingredient, two sort of weak ones, and three that just didn’t impress at all. some other considerations. what did the River Delta have to do with the Brutal Slayings, or with the Monstrous Bard, or with the Stone of Ioun? other than sitting on it, how did the Bedridden Troll connect to the Stone? What was the link between the Stone and the Slayings? like I said earlier THIRTY possible connections criss-crossing over the space of an adventure (which is hard, but not impossible. thinking about it I came up with an idea for an adventure that cross connects every which way, using precisely these ingredients. if there’s curiosity, I’m tempted to write it up as an example.

regarding Atras’ ingredients, your Monstrous villain was definitely a bad, bad person, but beyond the domination song and his combat powers, he didn’t strike me as terribly Bard-like. the Brutal Slayings, might not have been all that brutal - clearly a high level NPC going up against a town of minions will have an easy time of it. but in the eyes of those minions, it would have been pretty horrific “one hit and he killed Charlie”, so I inferred that it would work, especially when the NPCs relayed the story back to the adventurers. I liked your usage of the Severed Foot as another monster type and even more, that at the end of the adventure after the party has been fighting monstrous feet all along, that the traps of the Bard would then remove THEIR feet, making everything quite personal, was an original idea. your River Delta as a river delta was a bit weak, but you put a Skill Challenge there. I started to see it as an analogy or metaphor, that as the river branched but eventually ended up in the ocean, so too might the adventure have branched to various encounters but still arrived eventually at the half-orc, based on how well they did their skill checks. I would have liked to have seen (or at least seen suggested) a few more alternate branching results beyond a simple pass/fail. so this ranked as not completely weak, but not as strong as it could have been.

why did you put the Troll there? if it was Just Because, then it was a weaker ingredient than I read it to be. but your usage of the Ioun Stones was perfect and justified my making that ingredient less confining: just enough to keep the troll alive and aware. just enough to give the Bard a slight edge, to grant him a minor combat ability, and let him be just a bit more survivable in the final fight.

your ingredients had a few better connections, but also no where near to thirty. how did the Stones relate to the Slayings, the Feet, or the Delta? how did the Delta relate to the Bedridden Troll or the Slayings? etc.

after you finish writing, if you have time, you should always go back and ask how did this relate to that? what’s the connection between these two? how do these two ingredients cling together? if I swapped another “x” in place of this ingredient, would it change the story or not? and you should be doing it for the ingredients that don’t obviously flow together. for example: a River Delta eventually flows into the sea. maybe sea pirates or a trading port that would have made it NECESSARY that the story took place on a River Delta. maybe upriver is roaring rapids which means the only place the story could take place HAD TO BE where the water slows down. maybe the Troll was a SCRAG and had to be near the ocean, therefore the setting had to be the river’s mouth. or something else. doing this kind of an analysis and then tweaking your submission will usually end up giving you a much tighter entry on the following rounds.

at this rate, based on my main criteria, Atras had it pretty solidly as a win (was that vague enough to keep you wondering?). but I also had some comments on and issues with the overall stories and the fact that Atras used 4E, whereas Rechan tried for a more generic feel (based on earlier comments I’ve made).

Rechan, I LIKE halflings a lot and it would be fun playing in your halfling community. there was a lot of personality in the names of the various NPCs and the crocodile bad guy at the end which I liked. but the rest of your story kind of fell flat. Gabby Talltale is a villain whose death was not unjustified, yet she comes back from the dead and now she’s putting her community at risk and is tormenting the trolls who as a judge, I do not see as being ‘evil’ creatures. yet the whole mission resolves around putting her foot into hallowed ground so that she can be “at peace”. what she deserves is not peace, but an exorcism to send her restless spirit to its just reward - sending her to the fiery realms below would have been a happier ending.

Atras, the map was a nice visual and helped visualize how the traps would work, but it was not really needed unless you just felt like adding it. some of your ingredients needed a bit more work, but I found your bard to be more Monstrous, and stopping him (instead of putting him to rest) to be a better story overall. plus you used the rest of your ingredients better. I was just kidding about the 4E thing. it’s really not that big a concern with me compared to the other parts of the competition.

so the 4E adventure, The Brutal Bard of Trasa wins! Atras advances to the next round.
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Bitter Fruit

An urban side-trek adventure for 9th level PCs, using 3.5e rules.

Adventure background

The adventure takes place in the city of Manath, but is adaptable to most ‘conventionalish’ campaign settings. It requires a good-sized city with a bardic college, a treed, predominately elven district, and a supply of wealthy fad-driven fops with more money than sense.

For many years, the guiding spirit behind Manath’s Elven Quarter was Kei’ree Twilight, a powerful druidess who kept alive a little piece of wilderness in the heart of the growing city. Kei’ree’s home was the Twilight Tree, a huge enchanted swamp willow that only exists on the Prime Material plane in the hours of darkness, while during the daytime it exists in the Plane of Shadow. This was Kei’ree’s downfall – recently, during the Tree’s time on the Shadow Plane, she was attacked and killed by an exceptionally powerful vampire.

Kei’ree’s chief acolyte, Girael Starsong, was also slain in the attack on the Tree. However, he arose as a vampire the next night - the master vampire desired a minion to do his will in Manath, but chose the acolyte over Kei’ree out of fear of her power as a potential rival.

The PCs get involved just as Girael’s plans are set in motion.

Hooks: The PCs are in the city and want to buy potions (healing, barkskin, neutralize poison, etc) for their next adventure. A Gather Information or Knowledge (local) check (DC15) will reveal that in the Elven Quarter, magical fruits are grown that contain the same effects as conventional magical potion or oils. If the PCs go to purchase potions there, they’ll meet Kerreth of the Strings. PCs visiting elven acquaintances in Manath will also find them in the Fruit Market, where they can meet Kerreth.

Alternatively (though less ideally), if the PCs have contacts or friends among the Manath nobility, they will most likely hear about Kerreth’s spectacular new puppet show through one of them. Or if one of the PCs is a bard, on visiting the bardic college they could get dragged into the arguments as to whether or not Kerreth should be permitted to perform in the Great Theatre, through the strongly-held opinions (one way or the other) of friends or mentors in the college.


The Elven Quarter is an anomaly in Manath – a piece of seemingly untouched wilderness nestled in the heart of the city. The residents live almost exclusively on platforms high in the trees, connected by rope bridges. The Quarter thrums with the magic of Kei’ree Twilight. It is her power that cleanses the waters of the Manatine River as it flows through the Quarter (the district immediately downstream of the Elven Quarter is the most sought-after location in the city, due the purity of the river water and general lack of smell), and her power that created the plants that provide the Quarter its main source of income. Scattered around the quarter are fruit trees enchanted by Kei’ree so that they bear magic fruit, equivalent in every way to druidic potions (magic fruit must be harvested on precisely the correct day by a druid otherwise they have no special powers – just in case PCs get greedy…) The Quarter (Kei’ree insists that the proceeds are used for common benefit) sells its fruit in a flowered market clearing by the riverbank. Magic fruits are sold from a polished, flattened boulder of natural marble by young elven druidic acolytes, while less expensive non-magical (but still delicious) fruit change hands in vast bundles, along with fresh flowers and various bits and pieces of elven craftsmanship.

In one corner of the clearing squats a blasted, hollow dead tree, surrounded by a blighted patch of dead earth and blackening plants and terrible chlorine reek. If the PCs enquire, they will learn that this is the home of Jinthalee Laughingstream. Once a renowned, joyful adventuring hero, he was horribly mutilated by acid in a battle against Juiblex’s cultists, and lost several limbs and most of his face. His adventuring companion, a human wizard, did his best to repair the damage by turning Laughingstream into an iron half-golem (MMII). This gave Laughingstream back his limbs, but took a terrible toll on his mind and spirit (-6 to Int and Cha will do that to you). Joyless, sullen, and broken, he retired back to his home in the Quarter, feeling his life wasted and his achievements meaningless. Kei’ree took pity on him – while she retained the spiritual leader of the Quarter, she saw that Laughingstream took on the title of Mayor, and responsibility for protecting the Fruit Market in the hope that he would find purpose in this. She also created a new variety of magical fruit for him – the Blood Orange. This fruit, when crushed, releases juice that acts in every way equivalent to human blood. When applied to the Mace of Blood Laughingstream took from the slain slime cult leader, it allows him to use it to its fullest potential – Kei’ree’s way of granting Laughingstream some measure of victory from that disastrous fight. Laughingstream is too heavy to dwell aloft in the Quarter, and his poisonous exhalations blight the landscape surrounding him, so he stays enthroned here in his dead hollow tree as much as possible, lost and distant.

If the PCs (or an NPC) cause trouble in the Market, it’s Laughingstream who will emerge to restore order – a task he will perform glumly, passionlessly, and with unnecessary force. He is an elven iron half-golem and a 9th level fighter, who wields the Mace of Blood. As a half-golem he is immune to all magic and supernatural abilities with a few very specific exceptions, so by DM fiat I’m saying this includes immunity to the Mace’s alignment-modifying effect as well (the nature of this effect is not spelled out in the DMG anywhere I can see). Kei’ree wouldn’t have let him wield it otherwise. His alignment is N.

The other standout personality in the Fruit Market is Kerreth of the Strings. Kerreth is incurably good-natured, friendly, enthusiastic and optimistic – he’s a genuinely nice person, although he is decidedly simple and mentally/emotionally childlike, and his stammer, hunched back and lopsided face tend to put some people off. He’s a passably well-known figure around Manath, earning his keep performing streetside puppet shows for whatever spare change gets thrown his way. He’s no bard (game-mechanically he’s an expert), but he loves exciting stories of heroism, so he’ll probably recognize the PCs from tavern tales, and come right up to them and strike up conversation. Mostly he’ll want to tell the PCs how wonderful they are, bask in their glory a bit, show them his puppets (Patches, Mr Sticks, Sir Roderick, Fatbelly, and Ring-a-ding), and put on a short puppet show for them. Those who accept now or later will find that Kerreth’s skill in manipulating his puppets is extraordinary, but the puppets themselves are rather crude, his presentation marred by his speech impediment, and the stories he tells are rambling and directionless. But the sheer joy he takes from performing makes up for it.


Once the PCs leave the Quarter and spend a bit of time in the city, they’ll become aware of Kerreth’s name being on every set of lips. Twice a year Manath’s bardic college puts on a performance in the college’s Grand Theatre, where some of the most talented performers in the city will display their skills in front of the cream of society and a selection of ordinary citizens (selected by raffle). This can be a massive boost to the career of a young bard, and being called on to perform is an eagerly sought honour.

This year, a huge public outcry is pressuring the College into naming Kerreth as one of the performers. Girael is behind this. The Bardic College library contains old tomes of lore that give away some of the secrets of his vampiric master, and he’s been ordered to destroy them. The library is warded against the undead, so he can’t enter directly, and he doesn’t like his chances at dominating strong-willed, magic-savvy bards to do his dirty work, so he’s using Kerreth as his stalking horse. Instead, roaming around the city in the form of a dog, Girael has dominated a selection of street gang leaders, barmen and drunken slumming nobles, and ordered them to spread the word about how talented Kerreth is and how he deserves to perform at the Grand Theatre. The bards resist the idea, however, and driven by Girael’s manipulations, things get ugly.

The PCs can weigh in on either side of this debate. Kerreth himself is harmless and sympathetic, and if the bards continue to resist the idea, they increasingly look snobbish and out of touch with the appeal of a ‘common man’s performer’. On the other hand, perfectly innocent bards are getting roughed up by thugs in the streets (the PCs should have the chance to intervene in at least one of these attacks, in order to win the trust of the bards). Girael’s dominated nobles (and other nobles, sensing which way the winds of fashion blow) will threaten to withdraw financial patronage.

Kerreth trusts the ‘heroes’ implicitly (he trusts ALL heroes implicitly, but the PCs happen to be the ones on hand), and if the PCs protected bards against attack earlier then the bards will trust them too. They will likely be approached by a senior bard to act as mediator before things get out of hand. Some angry bards might need to be mollified if Kerreth is to perform, or else a separate performance solely by him might be an acceptable compromise, but one way or another, Kerreth should perform at the Grand Theatre – Girael’s pawns will not be satisfied and will keep increasing the tension until that happens.


Girael knows that someone in the College will likely suspect magical manipulation of the situation, so he has taken some care. His plan involves Kerreth’s puppets. Mr Sticks, a loosely-connected manikin of dried bits of wood, is actually a bogun (Spell Compendium) created by Girael. Mr Sticks is NE (created by Girael post-vampirism) and malicious, and his temper has not been improved by having bits of string tied around him and been ordered in no uncertain terms by his master to act like a puppet until inside the Grand Theatre. Mr Sticks will not detect as magical (he is a creature), and Detect Evil is not a bard spell, so Girael hopes his agent can remain undetected even if the College is suspicious. Another of Kerreth’s puppets, Ring-a-ding, is hung around with dozens of bits of shiny, jangling scrap metal, coins, nails, bells, etc. On Ring-a-ding, Girael has hung eight hollyberry bombs from a casting of fire seeds from one of Kei’ree’s scrolls. These have been wrapped in thinnest, polished lead foil to prevent their magic being detected, and will appear as perfectly ordinary lead shot unless a DC35 Search check is made. Kerreth himself has no inkling of any of this, has no magic items, and is CG.

Backstage, during Kerreth’s performance, Mr Sticks will untie himself from his strings while Kerreth is using other puppets, retrieve the hollyberry bombs, and sneak off into the College to plant the bombs in the library. Girael, lurking on the roof in the form of a bat, will be watching the stage through the eyes of one of his dominated pawns in the audience.

At this point, Kerreth will decide he needs Mr Sticks for his story once more, and will be distraught to find the puppet missing. The mood will get ugly, fast. Kerreth’s fans (dominated and otherwise) will accuse the bards of playing a cruel trick on a simple man by stealing Mr Sticks. If the PCs don’t intervene and take charge of the situation (as the only ones that everyone trusts) there will be bloodshed. If the PCs don’t think of it, one of the bards will cast Locate Object, which will fail to find Mr Sticks. This is of course because he is a creature and thus unaffected, but the explanations most will jump to is that Mr Sticks has been destroyed or taken far away. Kerreth’s fans are not going to like either explanation.

When Mr Sticks has finished laying his bombs, he tries to sneak back into Kerreth’s puppet case, but decides he is likely to be discovered amid the commotion around the stage, so goes and stashes himself in an obscure corner of backstage where he has been ‘misplaced’ by Kerreth. A DC 25 search check backstage will find him, and he can be returned to Kerreth in time to avoid a riot.

When Girael sees Mr Sticks has returned, he will trigger the berry bombs. The library (situated above the theatre) will start to burn. Unless one of the PCs has Scent, this will remain unnoticed until the books are well alight, when smoke starts seeping through the ceiling and the rope supporting the massive Theatre chandelier begins to smoulder. Once the alarm is raised, Girael will use his remaining pawns in the audience to hinder as much as possible any attempt at firefighting or rescue. Some will scream and go hysterical and make nuisances of themselves, some will throw themselves bodily at the doors trying to push them open (the doors open inwards, so cannot be opened until these people are restrained), other may attack any nearby bards, etc. The PCs must prevent the chandelier falling on the audience, get the doors open, rescue as many people as possible, and subdue the violent ones, all amid rising heat and a rain of flaming embers (and blazing pages from the library). Girael will do his absolute best to get all his pawns killed in the blaze so they can’t answer questions later. Kerreth will die unless the PCs save him, and the library will burn unless the bards succeed in getting the PCs help to preserve it.

Mr Sticks is the weak point in Girael’s plan. He will abandon his guise as a puppet and flee the fire in terror, and his +10 Hide modifier will not likely be enough to evade the PCs Spot checks when moving at full speed. Mr Sticks only wants to escape, and will not even try to fight.


Mr Sticks will likely be the PCs best clue as to what happened. Questioning Kerreth (gently – any attempt at Intimidate or harshness makes him cry unintelligibly, assuming this interrogation is not taking place via speak with dead) or a DC30 Gather Information check will reveal that Laughingstream made Mr Sticks for Kerreth. This is true, although it happened long before Girael ‘borrowed’ Sticks from Kerreth to animate him. Kei’ree, noticing Kerreth’s unalloyed adulation of the ‘great hero’ encouraged Laughingstream to spend time with him in the hope it would awaken Laughingstream from his gloom. It didn’t work – Laughingstream made a desultory effort (hence the poor workmanship on Mr Sticks), and then lapsed back into nihilistic misery. Any attempt to detect Mr Sticks magically, however, will fail. As soon as he was spotted he lost all value to Girael, who burnt him to ash to cover the trail.

A motive will also suggest itself. The surviving bards, if asked about Laughingstream, will recall that Laughingstream once brutally beat a young bard called Merbenna, who was picking pockets in the Fruit Market while down on her luck, and who was unwise enough to pull a knife when caught. Merbenna would have died if it weren’t for the intervention of Kei’ree, and it took her months to recover from her injuries. Once she did recover, however, she devoted a large portion of her energy into vicious lampoons, parodies and slander of Laughingstream. Merbenna, as it happens, is one of the bards who died in the fire at the Grand Theatre (Girael will ensure this happens via one of his pawns, if necessary)

By this stage, the PCs will likely want to speak to Kei’ree. Any of the druidic acolytes around the place will be able to tell them that she lives in the Twilight Tree, a vast and shadowy swamp willow that only exists in this world from dusk until dawn. The path to the Twilight Tree is the most eerie in the Elven Quarter – cool and misty even on sunny days, the dense canopy hiding the sun and the silence broken only by the croak of frogs, the buzz of insects and the trickle of sluggish water. Long streamers of thick moss hang from the slippery old rope bridges along the way. When the path is taken at night, softly glowing points of light drift and flit among the trees. These are Girael’s will-o-the-wisps, and they will come to his defense if he calls them.

Kei’ree is dead, of course, so Girael will receive the PCs while explaining that Kei’ree is on another plane at the moment (true) and didn’t say when she’d be back (also true). Girael will do everything possible to direct the PCs suspicions onto Laughingstream – while doing his best to appear reluctant to do so. Reluctant confirmation of the Merbenna story; grudging admission that Laughingstream’s golemification damaged his mind; yes, his mace is an evil cursed thing, etc, etc. He will urge restraint, but not too hard. Not only does he need a scapegoat, but Laughingstream is the most powerful warrior in the Elven Quarter, and Girael is a little afraid of him. Girael trusts to his Ring of Mind Shielding to avoid detecting as evil, but is worried about detecting as undead. As such, when the PCs arrive, he takes care that they see him eating a large, juicy Blood Orange (the only solid food his vampiric metabolism can cope with) in an attempt to look alive. He’ll offer them a some fruit as well – a DC35 Spot check will notice that there are no other Blood Oranges on the platter he offers to the PCs, a DC 25 Heal check (or Scent) will detect the smell of blood, and a Knowledge (nature) check will notice something peculiar and unnatural about the Blood Orange.

Laughingstream will not come quietly. He is the mayor and lawkeeper of the Fruit Market, in his mind. He will not submit to arrest nor interrogation. If PCs lay hands on him he will fight, if they react with deadly force he will fight to kill and not step back. He genuinely doesn’t care if he lives or dies. If the PCs investigate Laughingstream’s tree home, which he will not permit them to do if he is alive and aware of it, they find evidence of a truly miserable life. Laughingstream does not sleep; he has no reading materials, clothes, decoration or personal possessions barring a simple chair and a few rags and tools for maintaining his armour and weapons. A knowledge (arcana) check will reveal that half-golems do not need to eat, which should make the PCs wonder about the pile of rotting Blood Orange skins discarded against one wall. A DC20 Diplomacy check directed at any druidic acolyte other than Girael will learn the true nature and purpose of the Blood Oranges, which will hopefully make the PCs wonder about Girael, given that they saw him eating one.


Eventually, the PCs should put enough clues together to get suspicious of Girael (unless, of course, they fall for it completely, kill Laughingstream for him, and call it a day). His façade will not stand up to scrutiny when subjected the sort of divinations that a 9th level party has access to. To reach him, they’ll have to assault the Twilight Tree at night, because he’s on the Shadow Plane the rest of the time.

Girael is an elven vampire 10th level druid. Unlike most vampires, his Children of the Night ability allows him to summon 1d3 will-o-the-wisps rather than wolves. One of these wisps will flit back invisibly to warn him if hostile PCs are heading his way, allowing him to prepare. He will fight using ranged and guerilla tactics from Kei’ree’s sanctum in the Twilight Tree – he will used summoned swarms to chew through rope bridges as the PCs cross them, dropping the party into neck-deep swamp where lurks a summoned giant constrictor with animal growth cast on it. He’ll use Spike Growth and Snare and Entangle and Obscuring mist liberally, while the will-o-the-wisps strike and fade away. When the PCs finally close in on him, he’ll use everything he has left – including wildshaping into a giant octopus, grappling PCs into the swamp, and jetting off to drain them dry. He will fight to the death – Girael died on the floor of Kei’ree’s sanctum and has no coffin to regenerate in, so once he’s gone, he’s gone. But the vampire that started it all is still out there somewhere…


Stellar Pathway: The road to the Twilight Tree, illuminated by the dancing starlight motes of Girael’s will-o-the-wisps. Also, the pathway to bardic/showbiz stardom that Girael sets up for Kerreth of the Strings.

Magic Fruits: The potions created in the Elven Quarter, in particular the Blood Oranges

Evil Puppets: Mr Sticks, Kerreth’s puppet who is also Girael’s bogun. Beyond this, Girael is the puppet of the nameless, ancient vampire that originally slew Kei’ree Twilight and turned Girael himself to vampirism, and some of Girael’s dominated street gangers are certainly evil as well.

Critical Hits: Girael’s mental manipulation of Kerreth’s audience turns Kerreth's puppet show into a hit among the critics.

Elvish Mayor: Jinthalee Laughingstream, the once-hero half-golem and object of Girael’s frame-up.

Mace of Blood: Laughingstream’s grim weapon, and the reason that Kei’ree created the Blood Oranges in the first place.

Radiating Gnome

Match 7: Felipe_real vs Sparky

Here are your ingredients. You have until 12:15 pm EST on Thursday.

Inside the Walls
Flying Dagger
Childhood Avenger
Talons like Steel
Unending Plague
Jar of Steam


First Post
Master of Puppets
A site-based adventure for 4-6 mid to high Paragon tier PCs.
Notes on the Presentation: This is mostly a site driven adventure, not a plot driven one. It is intended for the PCs to have different avenues to complete the adventure and the DM is encouraged to flesh out various areas of the city for the PCs to explore, rewarding them with information and clues that can help them when they finally confront the villain. Notes on expanding the adventure are covered under the relevant sections below.

Ley lines spread across the world, binding all things together. Great magical power exists where these lines meet and cross. At some of these intersections grow the First Trees, the World Trees, which bear the Fruit of Life and root the conterminous planes. It is at such an intersection that the Eladrin city of Tir Tara was raised, a sacred First Tree at the city's very heart. Ancient texts speak of the Crystal City as a hall of learning, a jewel of the Feywild. For centuries scholars from the mortal races were welcomed within its sacred halls and the city was a testament of peaceful cooperation between elves, Eladrin and the mortal races. Then, inexplicably, the city disappeared, as if torn from the world. The fate of Tir Tara remains one of the great mysteries of the Age. The site where the city stood remains a blight across the parallel planes of the Feywild, the Shadowfell and the material world. No plant or living creature can thrive there and every effort to restore the once hallowed ground has failed. Worse, a foul taint lies at the heart of where Tir Tara once stood, spreading its corruption slowly along the ancient ley lines that was once the source of the city's ancient and powerful magic, birthing aberrations and other nightmares and twisting the natural order.

DM Background – the Fate of Tir Tara
The fate of Tir Tara is a secret known only to the denizens that have been trapped within the city since its doom. A number of the city's prominent citizens fell under the thrall of the Illithid Malfannen. With pawns in place, he replaced the mayor of the city and took possession of the Mace of the First Willow, the artifact of rulership. Corrupting it and poisoning the sacred First Tree with foul, aberrant arcane rituals, he severed the tree and the city bound to it from the natural world. Tir Tara exists beyond space and time, the tree rooting it to the Far Realm and twisting everything within its borders. Malfannen sees this as an eternal paradise where he rules as a god and the people of the city are his thralls, slaves and playthings.

The skeleton plot of this adventure is summarized below:
1. The PCs meet Aradon and agree to help
2. The PCs travel to Sigil and seek out the portal to Tir Tara
3. The PCs face a nightmarish journey to reach their destination.
4. The PCs explore the city and attempt to solve its mysteries.
5. The PCs confront Malfannen at the corrupted heart of the city.

The Hook
For centuries Aradon, the former mayor of Tir Tara, was tormented into madness as the plaything of Malfannen. When Malfannen grew bored of him, Aradon was imprisoned and forgotten. He escaped and found a way out of the city, a portal to Sigil, City of Doors. From there, he found his way back to the material plane. Even insane, Aradon feels the connection to the ancient city at his core and will do anything to wrest it from the clutches of the Ilithid. He has spent some time gathering fruit from another of the First Trees (he has 20 pieces). He believes these can restore the poisoned tree at the heart of the city. He comes to the PCs for help in one of the following ways:
1. If the group has any elves or Eladrin (or other fey origin), Aradon has learned of these powerful heroes and sought them out to aid him. He can approach the party in a town or, more likely, the wilderness. If the PCs are already involved in planar adventures, he could seek them out in Sigil. Any PC with a connection to the fey knows the background presented above with a successful (easy) Knowledge: Arcane check.
2. If the group has no PCs of fey origins, the meeting is more random, but Aradon can see the PCs are powerful and tries to enlist their aid. Here he would be most likely to find them in Sigil or stumble upon them in the wilderness.

If the PCs agree to help, or follow out of curiosity, he will lead them first to Sigil, then to Tir Tara. If the PCs do not have the means to reach Sigil, Aradon can lead them to a site that does. This could be a nice side-trek itself. The PCs may have to negotiate with a cabal of druids guarding an ancient grove, or traverse a dangerous cavern to reach the portal.

Roleplaying Aradon
The former mayor has been driven insane by centuries of torment. He babbles incessantly, his flies wildly from mood to mood, raging in anger one moment and whimpering in fear the next. The scariest moments are those of complete sobriety. For short moments of time, he appears rational, explaining parts of what happened and pleading with the PCs to save his (or their) people from their horrible fate, before crying or breaking into some mad song. His ramblings can provide a number of clues to the PCs and help nudge them in the right direction when needed during parts of the adventure.

The City of Doors and the Stellar Pathway
Once in Sigil, the PCs can take the time to buy equipment or explore the city. The time spent in Sigil can be as short or long as the DM wishes. Aradon could lead them straight to the location of the door or they could face some challenges along the way. They might lose Aradon and engage in a skill challenge to chase after him as he bounds madly through the city. The door they need may have guardians or puzzles that need to be overcome.

Eventually, they arrive at a black, rune covered door tucked away at the end of a dark alley in some near abandoned corner of the city. The magical runes shift and writhe and a mad whispering tugs at the edges of the PCs’ consciousness. Aradon explains in riddle that they have to consume a piece of the fruit he gathered from a First Tree to be able to enter the portal (so they are connected to the First Trees, including the poisoned one). The fruit is powerfully magical and a PC consuming the fruit gains the benefits of an extended rest. Consuming the fruit also grants Aradon a moment of lucidity, where he explains in flat, deadened terms the horrors that await the PCs on the other side of the portal. He gives them each another piece of fruit, warns that it won’t have the same effect on them again, and tells them he thinks it is the key to curing the First Tree.

Stargate Jump
The PCs are hurtled seemingly beyond the cosmos, sights and sounds both beautiful and nightmarish flash past them as if they were falling through an expansive tunnel. Maddening, impossible monsters seem to coalesce out of nothing or float through the cosmos devouring worlds. The journey seems like it may never end, like they may fall forever when they see that they have gained the notice of a menagerie of nightmarish creatures.

Face the Things That Should Not Be
The DM should build an encounter with level appropriate aberrant creatures of impossible shapes (gibbering mouthers, chuuls, carrion crawlers, etc., but more warped). There are two facets to this encounter – a maddening, alien battlefield (the fight takes place in a shifting 3D environment) and the combat itself. The PCs feel as if they are hurtling across the cosmos, yet their ability to maneuver in this environment is limited. At the start of the encounter, when initiative is rolled the PCs are limited by the following negative effects:
* ½ movement rate, no double moves.
* No action point use.
* -2 to all physical actions, attacks, and damage.

By engaging their environment (initiating a skill challenge) they can try to overcome these limitations. This skill challenge runs concurrently with the combat, a PC can use their actions to fight or to try and advance the challenge. The SC is a complexity 2 (6 successes before 3 failures) utilizing their physical skills to overcome and master the alien physics of the battleground or their knowledge and mental skills to perceive the impossible geometry. Any critical hits scored during an attack count as a success in the skill challenge, scoring such a hit results from the PC gaining a bit of control in the confusing melee and delivering a perfect strike. Success ends the negative effects, failure does not. Aradon fights alongside the PCs and shouts puzzling encouragement or advice on how to deal with the twisted battlefield. When the fight ends, everything suddenly stops and the PCs are standing in a luxurious bedroom, with beautiful, but darkly twisted crystalline architecture. They have arrived in Tir Tara in the bedroom of an anonymous, and abandoned manse. Aradon cackles insanely then shrieks in fear and runs off into the perpetual night. If the PCs give chase, they quickly lose him.

The Mad City of Tir Tara
The city was once a glorious example of fey craftsmanship, its buildings worked from crystal structures rising from the grown, blended flawlessly with wood and stone. It was a magnificent sight. Now, its architecture has been twisted into a nightmarish mirror of its former self, the crystal is black and twisted, darkness pulsing from its depths, the stonework cracked and menacing, the wood twisted and rotting. The city is cloaked in a devilish fog that seems to be trying to coalesce into impossible shapes and take form. Everywhere in the city, the PCs are followed by insane whisperings. The servants of Malfannen walk the streets – elf and Eladrin thralls, foulspawn, and other creatures.

The city is rife with adventuring possibilities and the DM can spend as little or as much time letting the PCs explore the city as he likes. If the DM wishes to advance towards the end, Aladon can return and guide the PCs to some degree or if the PCs state their intention to find the First Tree and try and solve the puzzle, a skill challenge could stand in for a slower paced exploration of the city, with success leading them to their desired location and failure leaving them lost, down a dead end and faced with some foulspawn intent of bringing them to Malfannen. Some ideas for exploring the city:
* The PCs explore ancient libraries. If they can overcome the challenges and decipher the twisted, maddening lore, they can learn some of the secrets of the city, the First Tree, or the Mace, and get clues to how to restore them.
* The PCs could meet a group of rebels trying to oppose Malfannen and reclaim the city.
* They could tangle with a cabal of lesser mind flayers and their minions and find a secret pathway to the heart of the city.
* The PCs could try and uncover some of the ancient magic of the Eladrin, finding some deep treasure trove or repository of ritual magics.

At the Heart of the Matter
Eventually, the PCs will confront Malfannen and attempt to solve the puzzle of the city. This final encounter can be approached from a number of different avenues with a number of different outcomes.

Tatharen Mintaurë (Willow of the First Forest)
The sacred First Willow and the heart of Tir Tara. Everything in the city is bound to the tree, as it is to them. The tree defends itself with powerful guardians and as a last resort can uproot itself and fight as a treant. Malfannen poisoned the tree, using that connection to corrupt the city itself. The fruit the tree once bore, healing, restorative, magical, became black and twisted, and Malfannen used the poisonous fruit to extend his dominion over the denizens of the city, as any who consume it become thralls to the one who wields the corrupted mace.

Sapling Puppets
When threatened, the First Trees have a powerful defense. The tree twists its own branches and foliage around a piece of the trees fruit into the shape of a creature. These saplings act as puppets of the tree, tethered and controlled by long vines that extend from the upper reaches of the tree .
* Tree can create up to 20 such guardians at a time. 5 can be unleashed the first round the tree is threatened. 1d4+1 each round after. Any guardians slain can be replaced, up to the maximum of 20 and at the rate stated above
* Must remain within 50’ of its tree
* Resistant to all forms of damage except magical fire
* Critical hits with magic items or spells strikes the heart of the creature (the fruit), and destroys that guardian. Puppets killed in this manner cannot be replaced.
*The malicious saplings will converge on a downed foe and tear it to pieces, attacking until the enemy is thoroughly dead.

Pauren Mintathar (Mace of the First Willow)
Carved from the wood of the sacred willow tree that grew at the heart of Tir Tara and infused with life from its sacred fruit, Pauren Mintathar is an artifact of the ancient Feywild. It is inexorably bound to the willow and has always been wielded by the mayors of Tir Tara, binding the sacred tree to the city and its people. To corrupt the mace, Malfannen fed the artifact with Eladrin blood through ritual sacrifice. With it, he is bound to and master of the tree, and its guardians. The corrupted artifact feeds on blood now and has a twisted set of powers:
* Crit on 19-20
* Crit deals maximum damage and drains 1d3 healing surges from the target. If the target is out of healing surges, it deals extra damage equal to the healing surge value of the target.
* A creature slain by the mace becomes a thrall to its wielder in 1d4 rounds, with ¼ hit points.

The Ilithid can sense when the tree is threatened and, bound to it, can teleport from anywhere within the city to its base as a free action. Facing organized foes in this location, Malfannen fights to kill and enslave and does not toy with his opponents. He will fight to the death to protect his paradise as long as the city remains as it is. If the PCs manage to begin to heal the city, Malfannen will flee when he feels he is bested. He is master of this place and it bows to his influence in any number of ways. The DM should give him dramatically appropriate bonuses or abilities to simulate this effect.

If he is not with the PCs now, he shows up at a dramatically appropriate moment, lending some aid, shouting cryptic hints, bearing more fruit, or trying to wrest the mace from Malfannens hands.

The Fight for the City
Tatharen Mintaurë stands at the center of a ring of crystal arches in a wide courtyard inside the Palace that was once the seat of the nobles of the city. The tree is huge and can be seen from a number of vantage points around the city. The Tree will defend itself when approached by anyone not under the control of Malfannen and the mind flayer will come to its defense as well. The fight will be shaped by the PCs actions:

* If they can wrest the mace away from Malfannen it can be restored to its full glory by “feeding” it one of the fresh fruits Aradon had gathered. The change takes a round as Pauren Mintathar emerges from its corrupted slumber. It allows itself to be wielded by the PC who healed it, or any elf or Eladrin in the party. Once healed, it begins to restore the First Tree, a process that will take 5 rounds (as if feeding the fruit to the tree, see below for effects). As itself, it grants these powers to its wielder:
-The sapling guardians will not attack the wielder
-A hit with the mace scores an automatic critical to any aberrant creatures (it does not drain)
-An enthralled creature struck by the mace will be freed from this state
-The mace can be used as an implement by the wielder, regardless of what he normally uses

*Fighting the First Tree
If the Trees guardians are all defeated or Malfannen slain without the mace being restored, the Tree will uproot itself and fight as a Blackroot Treant, wielding the corrupted mace. The Tree fights to the death in this form, but will still consume fruits if offered. The fruit has the same effect on the treant as it does its guardians (see below)

*Healing the First Tree
If a PC reaches the base of the tree and offers a piece of the fresh fruit to the tree, it will consume it and the tree will begin to heal.
1st piece – the guardians become slowed
2nd piece – the guardians become weakened and immobilized
3rd piece – the guardians collapse, the corrupted fruit rots and falls from the tree
4th piece – the tree is restored and transforms in the space of a round to its former glory.
Once restored, the tree builds new guardians to fight with its healers and the mace is restored the following round, falling from Malfannens hands. It can be wielded by a PC, as above.

If the PCs are victorious, Tir Tara is restored to the material planes, and the Fey Court recognizes and rewards the PCs as heroes as they lay plans to rebuild and restore the once great city. The fate of the denizens of Tir Tara depends on the manner in which the PCs are victorious. If they heal the mace and the tree, the citizens are freed from their nightmares, although many of them are insane from centuries of torment. Healers will be able to help many of them. If the PCs instead slay both Malfannen and the corrupted First Tree, every resident of the city dies. They are bound to the fate of the tree. This includes Malfannen if he was not slain before the tree. The loss of life is terrible and leaves the PCs scarred in some way (up to the DM), but the Eladrin are grateful nonetheless that the torment of their kin has ended and a hole in the natural world has been restored. A new tree begins to grow at the heart of Tir Tara.

Ingredient recap:
Evil Puppets: the sapling guardians. Also, the mind flayers thralls (although not evil, but mindless)
Stellar Pathway: the nightmarish passage to the city
Mace of Blood: the corrupted artifact feeds on blood now
Critical Hits: several uses – a success in the skill challenge in the Pathway, the only way to destroy a guardian from the tree, an ability of the mace both in its corrupted and restored forms
Magic fruit – the fruit of the First Trees – used by the PCs to link themselves to the line and so navigate the passage to the city, also used to restore the tree or the mace. The corrupted fruit was used to extend the mind flayers dominion of the city
Elvish mayor – serves as the hook and guide to the adventure, fights with the PCs to save the city.
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