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Iron DM 2009 - all matches

phoamslinger

Explorer
Round 1, Match 8: ElectricDragon vs Iron Sky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adventurer
Devouring the Dragon’s Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

L,

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

-Galdorrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CleverNickName

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mehen, the Scarab Dragon
Huge Dragon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Answer: heart)

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

(Answer: a lute or violin)

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

(Answer: a shadow)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Nifft

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

Let's hit the ingredients first:

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

Still Beating Heart
Fine element use all around.

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

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

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

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


Now, for the particular criticisms.

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

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


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

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

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

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

- - -

The winner of this match is InVinoVeritas.
 

Radiating Gnome

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

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

-rg
____
 

Thasmodious

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

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


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

Cast of Characters

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

Wulf Ratbane

Adventurer
Iron DM R2M2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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phoamslinger

Explorer
R2M3 Wik vs. Atras

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


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

Radiating Gnome

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

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

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

So, lets talk about ingredients.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wulf
wins. See you in the finals.


-rg
 
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