Table of Contents
- Adventure Background
- Adventure Synopsis
- Adventure Hooks
- Mission Briefing and Journey
- Northern Pass Trading Company Camp
- To the Ruins
- The Ruins of Gilead
- To The Temple
- Aravax’s Temple
- The Fate of the Northern Pass Trading Company
Author: Jeffrey Gomez
Creative Directors: Jonathan G. Nelson & Stephen Yeardley
Art Director: Jonathan G. Nelson
Editor-in-Chief: Mike Myler
Editors: Jonathan G. Nelson, Will Myers
Graphic Designer: Justin Andrew Mason
Publisher: Jonathan G. Nelson
Cover Artist: Darran Caldemeyer
Interior Artists: Jacob Blackmon,
Cartography: Justin Andrew Mason
Web Layout: Jonathan G. Nelson
Playtesting: Josh Gantt, Randy Hall and Ron Hampton
Following the discovery of ruins on the jungle island of Gilead, the Northern Pass Trading Company dispatched a treasure hunting team to investigate the area and bring back any rare and valuable artifacts. At the head of this expedition they placed Henry Beckett, seasoned explorer and scholar of the arcane, and as his guard they assigned Bethany Tisbury, a fearsome fighter and experienced hunter. With twelve additional adventurers and mercenaries, this expedition represented a major investment for the struggling company.
Four weeks into the exploration, Henry discovered an ancient idol buried within a collapsed structure at the heart of the city. Solid gold and studded with glistening rubies, the idol captured the minds and imaginations of all who viewed it. Fearing the greedy eyes and impure hearts of his companions, Henry quickly sequestered the idol within his tent.
Then the dreams began.
Long ago, the demon Aravax instilled rebellion and unrest in the city of Gilead. For his crimes he was imprisoned within a golden idol, buried within the city for a millennia—now unearthed, Aravax corrupted the minds of Henry and the explorers from within his gilded prison. Arguments became brawls, knives were pulled during meals, and eventually one adventurer was found dead in the ruins, a pickaxe pinning his skull to an ancient wall; mirroring the collapse of Gilead so long ago, the explorers turned on Henry and each other in a desperate attempt to gain the idol for themselves.
During the bloodshed the now mad Henry fled for Aravax’s temple at the whispered urgings of the trapped demon. He now waits for a full moon, when he can free Aravax from the idol and claim the purified gold for himself. Back at the camp, Bethany Tisbury, the lone victor of the slaughter, combs through the remains of her peers and desperately searches for the missing treasure.
As the moon waxes, a group of adventurers make their way through the jungle towards the ruins of Gilead...
The PCs reach the campsite in the early afternoon after a long voyage to the island of Gilead, finding the grounds to be a ruined mess of blood and violence. Before investigations can commence, the adventurers are accosted by the mad and babbling Bethany Tisbury. A fighter of no little skill, Bethany rambles on about golden idols, dreams, demons, and voices in the night before turning her bow on the party. If they survive, the PCs have the choice of either killing the mad guard or simply subduing her in hopes that a cure for her greed-induced delirium can be found.
The events of the explorers’ final days can be deduced from various clues around the campsite. Henry’s journal reveals that he has taken the cursed idol to Aravax’s temple, and that he plans on releasing Aravax and "cleansing" the gold that very night. Unfortunately, the only map to Aravax’s temple is hidden in the symbols and runes at the dig site, and the PCs must journey there to proceed.
After fending off the guardian constructs at the ruins, the PCs find the city map and head to Aravax’s temple. They make their way past ancient traps to the temple’s core where they find Henry completing the ritual. After subduing or killing him, the PCs have two options. They may choose to return the idol to its original resting place, sacrificing the treasure but imprisoning Aravax once again—or they may complete the ritual, slaying Aravax as he emerges and then claiming the gold for themselves. Either way, the insanity is lifted and Bethany and Henry comes to their senses (if they still live).
There are a range of hooks available to get your players interested in The Ruins of Gilead; Choose a hook that best fits their motivations and most closely ties into their personal goals and backstories.
The PCs have been hired by the Northern Pass Trading Company to investigate a loss of magical contact with the Gilead expedition. The adventurers share no personal connection to the events, but are under contract to find and help the explorers. This hook is an excellent way to bring together parties who have never met before, and it is likely to motivate those interested in receiving a reward and improving their standings with the company.
The PCs are investigating a series of increasingly disturbing magical correspondences from Bethany Tisbury, a cousin to a member of the party. Bethany’s final message was nothing more than incomprehensible and paranoid rambling, and no further messages have come. Motivated by concern for their kin, the PC has gathered a few capable friends and now seeks to save Bethany from an uncertain fate.
The party has acquired a map to the Gilead ruins from a different source (perhaps a library or ancient chest) and now seek the treasure contained within; they arrive at the explorers’ camp without any knowledge that an expedition is taking place. This hook appeals to active treasure seekers who make their own paths.
The PCs are on a expedition of their own, representatives from Goldwood Explorations to investigate the recently discovered ruins of Gilead. The Northern Pass Trading Company’s expedition is a rival group, and the party are under instruction to disrupt the explorers in any way. The curious and reputation-driven members of the group should be drawn to this hook, and it provides the opportunity to weigh professional goals against personal morals.
Mission Briefing and Journey
Carefully set the stage for the players, delivering only the information that their characters would know based on the hook you have chosen. Those associated with the Northern Pass Trading Company may know more about the expedition, while those unfamiliar with the organization may not even know that an exploration of the Ruins has been attempted. Any who are familiar with Bethany Tisbury know that her verbal correspondence, delivered magically on a weekly basis with the help of Henry, took on a darker tone before ending completely.
If the PCs work for Goldwood Explorations, they are aware of the Northern Pass Trading Company and its expedition but unaware of any difficulties with the team.
The Plight of the Northern Pass Trading Company
A bit of background is necessary to understand the importance of the Gilead expedition to the Northern Pass Trading Company. Those familiar with the company are well aware of financial troubles, a string of bad investments, and growing competition from shady institutions.
The Northern Pass Trading Company is a failing organization. Plagued by bad luck and aggressive competition, this once prestigious company has found itself in massive debt; the expedition to Gilead represents the Northern Pass Trading Company’s last attempt to secure enough capital to continue operations. If this enterprise fails, then the institution will certainly have to shutter its doors and concede the field to younger, more morally ambiguous adversaries.
The PCs have each signed a contract with the Northern Pass Trading Company. It is their mission to investigate and help the missing expedition, secure any valuable relics, and return to the company with news, tasks which will pay 1,000 gold pieces to each adventurer upon return. However, the party understands that if the expedition is a complete loss, the Northern Pass Trading Company will likely lack the capital to fully pay them for their services.
If the adventurers have been sent by Goldwood Explorations, they are aware of the Northern Pass Trading Company’s financial difficulties and are provided with some context for their mission, but they are unaware of any issues with the Gilead expedition. The party is sent to Gilead to retrieve any artifacts, especially those of a magical nature, and to disrupt the workings of the Northern Pass Trading Company. The second, at least, should prove relatively simple.
You represent Goldwood Explorations, a relatively recent player on the field funded entirely by the incredibly wealthy Goldwood family, who made their wealth in piracy only a few generations ago. Goldwood Explorations has aggressively searched for rare and magical artifacts, with a focus on those which extend life and grant unusual and extraordinary powers. They have a reputation for shady dealing, bribery, racism against non-humans, and a lack of respect for a staked claim. Thus it is no surprise when you are assigned to the Gilead ruins with explicit orders to disrupt the Northern Pass Trading Company expedition whenever possible.
The adventurers are to be paid 1,000 gold pieces each for investigating the ruins and bringing back any valuable artifacts, with a 500 gold pieces bonus per person if the Northern Trading Pass Expedition is a failure.
Journey to Gilead
The journey is long and arduous; a choppy boat ride across a violent sea brings you and your crew to the island of Gilead, where black and foreboding cliffs attempt to repel you. You row ashore, unload your gear, and wave goodbye as the ship continues onward into the mists. The next vessel shall not arrive for at least week.
The party is deposited on the beach just before noon, with a map and directions to the Northern Pass Trading Company’s camp.
Timing is very important in this adventure, so mark down any time spent on the beach. Throughout the adventure, travel will be indicated in both distance and estimated time it takes for an average party to travel this distance by foot.
Once they have collected themselves, the PCs will likely head straight into the jungle.
For a time you struggle through dense, unmarked foliage, following vague landmarks and confusing directions to reach the camp. It is just before noon, and the heat and humidity are overwhelming, the jungle itself dark and oppressive. A cacophony of noises—including screeching monkeys and bird calls—echoes in your ears and makes hearing difficult. You find yourself constantly tripping over vines and roots which seem to leap into your way and obscure your vision. Low levels of panic creep into your throat, a shallow reservoir of adrenaline pushing you forward.
After two miles (or an hour’s travel through the dense foliage) the PCs suddenly stumble across a human corpse splayed across their indefinite path—he lies clutching a bloody throat that appears to have been ripped out. From his brown and rugged garb, it is clear that this is the dead remains of an explorer from the Northern Pass Trading company. A trail of blood leads from the corpse and into the jungle.
If the adventurers choose to follow the trail of blood, they come across a second corpse face down in the dust after only twenty five feet. A dagger is stuck into the corpse’s side, and a large chunk of human flesh hangs between his teeth. His clothes and face are covered in a thick layer of dried blood—a DC 10 Heal check confirms that only some of it his. These explorers appear to have been dead for about a week, but the animals and insects of the jungle have strangely left them alone.
There is little to be done for these explorers, and they have no valuables to be taken. If the party has some way of speaking with the dead, then they will be able to confirm that this scene played out exactly how it looked: two explorers from the Northern Pass Trading Company fought in the jungle. One tore out the throat of the other and received a dagger in the gut for recompense. The spirits reveal that they fought over a great golden prize, but other information is difficult to ascertain.
Within another quarter mile (or five minutes travel in the dense jungle) the adventurers reach the camp. If they have not taken too much time with the corpses, they arrive at one o’clock in the afternoon. Keep careful track of the passing time, as it becomes crucial to stopping Henry.
Northern Pass Trading Company Camp
You exit the jungle abruptly and find yourself in the clearing that has recently played host to the Northern Pass Trading Company’s team. Their campsite is in shambles—of the dozen tents in a large circle, only four remain standing. The rest have been torn down violently or trampled in chaotic brawls. Several tents are riddled with arrows or large gashes, and one has been burned to the ground. All are splashed with copious amounts of blood.
The corpses of seven Northern Pass Trading Company explorers litter the ground; most wield weapon of some sort, and a look of inconsolable rage is frozen on each of their faces. Two corpses are locked in a grapple, each with a knife through the other’s guts. Another appears to have been cut down as he fled weaponless into the jungle, and a few feet away a body lies still, cut cleanly in two with his murder’s greatsword lying nearby. Scattered among the corpses are bowls, spoons, mush, and other culinary tools—the half-eaten remains of a dinner from many nights ago.
With a DC 20 Survival check the PCs determine that this fracas happened three to four days ago. The corpses have been handled and moved around a bit since then, but there have been no attempt to bury them. Strangely, the animals and insects of the jungle appear to have left these bodies alone.
With a DC 20 Heal or Knowledge (local) check the PCs make a few notes about the explorers’ unusual physiognomy. They all have unusually pronounced cheekbones, are missing clumps of hair, and have lost teeth. Some even appear to be in the process of growing new, needle-like fangs, though these have fallen out of their now empty gums.
Shortly after the adventurers enter the camp and examine the mess, Bethany emerges from the jungle. She enters into the clearing, but keeps as much distance between herself and the PCs as possible.
As you continue investigating the campsite, a dark shape shambles out of the jungle—it is immediately clear that there is something wrong with this woman. Six feet tall and sporting torn leather armor and a bow, she drools and licks her lips as she shuffles forward. Her dark green eyes dart madly between you, carefully weighing your armaments, strength, and intentions. Several freshly healed wounds are present on her face, neck, and arms.
From your briefing you guess that this is Bethany Tisbury, the woman in charge of security for the expedition—it appears that she has failed terribly in her post.
Bethany’s hair has mostly fallen out, only leaving a few lengthy brown strands. Her bones appear to be growing unnaturally at the elbows, shoulders, and cheeks, protruding from the body in rough and dirty patches. These areas are red and pus-ridden, and Bethany scratches and tears at them subconsciously.
Bethany mutters to herself and stalks the campsite, brow darkened in thought. As she speaks, a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth clash loudly together making her words slightly garbled and alien.
With a DC 15 Perception check, the PCs overhear Bethany’s initial mumblings.
"They have come for it, yes, that much is clear. Perhaps, like the others, they will attack first. Must be cautious, must be very cautious. Can’t lose our prize, not after all this killing. We all wanted it, but I will get it. But maybe they can help us."
A gleam enters Bethany’s eyes, and she calls out in a slightly more sane tone, "Friends, can you read Common? I will help you find it if you can tell me what this says."
Bethany produces a leather-bound, bloodstained book and tosses it into the center of the camp. Keeping her hands on her bow, she indicates that the adventurers should retrieve the item.
Speaking with Bethany
Bethany is a former barbarian, a once feral human who spent her youth in the untamed wilds far from civilization. When the Northern Pass Trading Company investigated rumors of a dragon near her tribe, she was immediately drawn to the adventure that the trading company promised. After she assisted the trading company in slaying the dragon and looting his hoard, Bethany begged her elders for permission to go with the strangers. When they denied her, she left with the explorers anyway and took the "civilized" name of Bethany Tisbury. Over the past twenty years Bethany has grown more senior within the Northern Pass Trading Company, witnessing the slow demise of the organization with great sadness. She had great hopes for the Gilead expedition and worked closely with Henry in making it a success.
Now Bethany is mad with desire for the golden idol and infected by Aravax’s curse; she has lost all sympathy for her peers and for the company to which she devoted her life. When the fighting broke out in earnest, Bethany went directly to Henry’s tent in search of the idol, only to find the tent empty. After entering the melee and emerging victorious, she ransacked Henry’s tent for the relic or clues to its whereabouts, finding only his journal. Unfortunately Bethany never learned how to read Common during her years in civilization and the book torments her with its hidden secrets. With her former allies dead, Bethany has been attempting to discern Henry’s location by other means, but the arrival of the PCs means the renewed possibility of deciphering the text.
In speech, Bethany is quite obviously insane: she talks to herself, admits to killing the others, and mumbles constantly about the missing gold. She does not acknowledge anything unusual about her bony protrusions or other demonic features, but scratches at them incessantly. With a DC 13 Knowledge (planes) check, the adventurers determine that she is afflicted with some demonic curse.
Bethany desperately attempts to convince the PCs to read the last few entries of the journal to her, hoping that it will give her some clue as to the idol’s location. She hesitantly gives basic explanations of what has happened over the past few days if the adventurers demand it. This includes ramblings on golden idols, demons, Henry, and the ruins. Bethany hesitates frequently while speaking, unsure of exactly what to say and attempting (poorly) not to incriminate herself. When the promise of information does not suffice, she resorts to threats.
Bethany stays at some distance from the PCs, always keeping the corpses in between her and them. She promises to work with them to find the idol, though a successful DC 12 Sense Motive check reveals this to be a lie.
If the PCs Ask:
"What happened here?" or "Why is everybody dead?"
"We . . . fought over it. A golden idol. A treasure. Henry found it in the ruins, but he was going to flee with it—I have saved Henry’s life many times, and by right it should belong to me. The others could not be trusted and they bickered like animals over it. Swords were drawn, but my bow ended many a traitor’s life." A wicked smile flickers over Bethany’s face before she remembers where she is. Then she adopts a look of stern resolve. "Kill them before they kill me. They were going to kill me, as they killed each other. Somebody else would have gotten the idol, but it’s mine. And now Henry has taken it somewhere; but it does not matter. Help me read the journal, then leave."
"Why should we help you?"
Bethany gnashes her teeth. "Read the journal and I shall let you live! Do you not see the power that Aravax has given me to pursue his idol? Read the journal or I shall strike you down where you stand." She pauses for a moment, collects herself, then proceeds more slowly. "Perhaps we can split the prize, you and I. Perhaps we can both share it? You help me find it and we both get the gold."
"Where is Henry?" or "Where is the idol?"
Bethany’s brow furrows in anger. "Why would I be here if I knew that? The answers must be contained within the journal—in any case, that answer is for me alone. Read it quickly, for my patience wears thin!"
"Where are the ruins?"
Bethany’s eyes narrow. "Why do you need to know? I ask you for the contents of the journal, not for help in finding Henry. Why should you need to get to the ruins? Is Henry there? I have checked many times. You shall not find the idol within those walls." Then, realising that she should not antagonize the adventurers further, she gestures her head. "Follow the marks on the trees, half a mile to the east. You will find the ruins. Now what does the journal say?"
"Where is Aravax’s temple?"
Bethany seems confused for a second. "Aravax? The voice in the night? The one who shows me my enemy’s thoughts? The one who even now urges me to..." She shakes her head as if to clear her thoughts. "I know of no temple to Aravax. Has Henry gone there? Is that what it says in the journal? Is that where he has taken the idol?"
"What is wrong with your face?"
Bethany continues itching at the bones protruding from her cheeks, unconsciously peeling long strands of skin from her face. She spits blood, then wipes her mouth before answering. "Me? Nothing is wrong with me. Not for long anyway. "
If a PC moves closer or makes a threatening gesture:
Bethany raises her bow. "Come no closer! I have killed many for this prize and I will not hesitate to kill another! Read me the journal and I shall let you go." She pauses. "He whispers of your true motives, that you have come for the idol. You shall not have it. Read the journal, then turn and walk into the jungle."
If the PCs read more than half of the journal silently or quietly enough that she cannot hear:
"Enough! I see you turning the pages! Tell me what the words say or I shall fill you full of arrows! You shall not have the idol!" Bethany raises her bow menacingly, but does not shoot—yet.
If the PCs finish reading the journal to Bethany:
Bethany stares far in the distance as she mumbles to herself. "To the city ruins. Unlock the obelisk. Find the temple. Kill Henry and remove Aravax from my idol. Kill Aravax. Take the idol and leave." She nods slowly and her eyes come back into focus on the PCs—her breath quickens and a look of determination crosses her face.
Bethany is paranoid and driven to retrieve the treasure for herself at any cost, having already murdered many of her friends and companions for the opportunity—the death of handful of strangers means nothing to her. She ultimately attacks the adventurers if any of a few conditions are met:
- When they read to her Henry’s final journal entry, now having all that she needs from them.
- When they refuse to read the journal to her. She attacks them as soon as the PCs read more than half of Henry’s journal to themselves.
- When she senses multiple lies, or as soon as she is attacked.
- When any of the PCs move within twenty feet of her, or when she is the target of any spells.
If any of the above conditions are met the adventurers can determine that Bethany has had enough and is about to attack with a DC 12 Sense Motive check. Any PCs who succeeds in this check may act in the surprise round with Bethany. After the party make or fail the Sense Motive checks, Bethany raises her bow and combat begins.
Henry’s journal is fairly new and appears to have been purchased for the purpose of logging the expedition. The first dozen entries detail the uneventful journey to the ruins and the setting up of camp. The next score describe clearing the ruins, and the discovery of various archeological relics, though nothing of real value. Then, thirty three days into the expedition, the writing changes dramatically both in content and in tone.
Below the final entry is Aravax’s symbol, an open eye with two curling horns.
The PCs are well aware that the full moon rises tonight at sunset at six in the evening. If they reach the temple before six in the evening, they might stop Henry from completing the ritual and summoning the demon Aravax.
As combat begins, Aravax’s power flows through Bethany’s fallen companions.
A dim purple wave rolls over the dead explorers. Eyes flutter open, legs spasm, and fingers contract with dark energy. Despite fatal wounds and missing limbs, the seven corpses strewn on the floor twitch to life and begin crawling towards you.
These anklegrabbers enter combat normally, rolling initiative with all other combatants. They do not act on any surprise rounds.
Understanding that Bethany is under the effect of some curse, the PCs may choose to subdue her instead of killing her. They are particularly likely to spare her if an adventurer has been established as her relative in the adventure hook. If they do not subdue her effectively, she breaks free and follows the PCs through the jungle, attacking before they reach the temple.
If the PCs kill Bethany, her corpse loses its demonic aspects over the course of a few seconds—the bony protrusions recede and her needle teeth break and fall out. Unfortunately, the lost hair and human teeth do not grow back, but the corpse looks far less threatening than the living Bethany.
Investigating the camp
In addition to food, tools, and standard campsite fare, a wide range of armor and weapons can be found at the dig. These include several mundane daggers, clubs, slings, light crossbows, shortbows, leather armor, and hide armor, as well as a masterwork rapier, masterwork greatsword, masterwork longbow, masterwork chainmail armor, and masterwork studded leather armor. None of these items has been hidden, and they may all be found with 10 minutes worth of searching.
There are a wide range of small stone carvings and other items of archaeological importance. However, the PCs are unable to discover anything of monetary value, and may guess that the expedition had not uncovered anything worthwhile until the idol.
There are two small lockboxes to be found at the campsite, each about the size of a fist. They contain the precious possessions of two Northern Pass Trading Company explorers who are now deceased; the first lockbox is enameled with ivory and the second is inlaid with silver.
To the Ruins
On the east side of the camp, a few notches in the trees seem to indicate a path. As these are the only road signs available, the PCs may correctly assume that this route through jungle leads to the ruins.
The path to the ruins is not at all well marked, with the occasional cut in a tree acting as the only signposts. With the death and chaos of the campsites still weighing heavily in your minds, the jungle seems far more foreboding. The canopy blocks out the sun, and strange noises and movements in the underbrush set your teeth on edge.
The PCs should designate a single tracker to lead them onwards. With a DC 20 Survival check, the party successfully makes their way down to the ruins in half a mile (or fifteen minutes). If the adventurers fail this check, they stumble off the road and disturb a gilead wasp’s nest. After disturbing the insects they make their way back to the path and reach the ruins within one mile (or half an hour) of departing.
The Ruins of Gilead
A large, mostly intact stone archway heralds the entrance to the city of Gilead and forms a break in the crumbling wall that looms out of the foliage. Dark green vines almost totally obscure the bas reliefs and intricate designs covering the massive blocks. The image of a snake fighting a panther is carved into the archway’s keystone, each animal bearing a mortal wound. A rotting corpse is pinned to the city wall by a pickaxe through the skull.
Beyond the gate the jungle foliage has been cleared from the city’s main thoroughfare. A long, straight cobblestone road is visible beneath patches of earth, flanked on either side by fallen statues and pillars. Beyond these ancient symbols of glory rest the ruined foundations of stone buildings, though due to their state of decay it is impossible to tell what they were once used for.
Half a mile down the main thoroughfare, a black monolith sits in the center of an open area. From this point, the path breaks off in three directions, and the PCs gain the impression that this distant crossroads may be the city square.
The city has been thoroughly scavenged across the millennia. The gold and relics of Gilead have long ago been carted off and sold by other lost and forgotten peoples. Even the Northern Pass Trading Company’s explorers have had no luck, with Aravax’s idol being the first real find. Despite any amount of searching, the PCs find nothing of monetary value.
The City Center
A twenty foot tall obsidian slab looms in the center of the city. Its face is engraved with hundreds of runes and symbols, and the PCs immediately begin seeing complex and diffuse patterns. Near the base of the obelisk on the southern side is Aravax’s symbol, ringed with six small opals.
Despite any searching, no other symbols of Aravax can be seen.
Surrounding the obelisk are thirty six pedestals, each about the height of a man. For any Medium size or smaller creature, it is impossible to see over the tops. In unnerving contrast to the rest of the ruins, these round marble stones appear clean and undamaged, arranged in an sterile grid formation.
Spilling blood on the symbol of Aravax is a free action. The PC must either already be wounded, or draw blood from himself with a sharp instrument in hand. When blood is spilled on Aravax’s symbol, one of the six opals surrounding the symbol in the obelisk begins glowing bright red.
When blood is spilled on one of Aravax’s symbols, a random pedestal in the city square lights up. It glow red in sympathy with the obelisk, projecting a symbol of Aravax a few inches above its top. When blood is spilled on this pedestal, one of the opals in the obelisk lights up, and a different random pedestal begins projecting Aravax’s symbol.
To determine which pedestal lights up, roll 2d6. One d6 determines which of the six columns the pedestal is in, and the other d6 determines which of the six rows the pedestal is in. If the dice choose a pedestal that has already been activated, roll again.
However, the guardian spirits of this place do not take kindly to those touching their ancient relics. When blood is first spilled on the obelisk, the entire obsidian slab begins to glow dully red. A single guardian spirit appears outside the grid of pedestal, and combat begins. Every round for ten rounds an additional guardian spirit appears as if summoned on the guardian spirits’ initiative.
Guardian spirits appear as glowing columns of light comprised of half a dozen white and green orbs. The people of Gilead created these constructs to protect against any attack from outside forces, and designed them to attack only those lacking the blood of the Gilead people. Incapable of understanding the PCs, these guardians are unmoved by attempts to communicate and single-mindedly attack the intruders.
As soon as six symbols of Aravax have been bloodied and all six opals have been lit, all guardian spirits instantly vanish and the glow dissipates from the slab. A massive map appears on the southern face of the obelisk.
If all ten guardian spirits are killed before the map to Aravax’s temple is found, then the PCs can continue to activate the pedestals unmolested.
To The Temple
After receiving the correct map, the PCs leave the city center and begin their long trek to Aravax’s Temple. The path is marked occasionally by ruined pillars, so the adventurers must rely on their wits to find these long abandoned signposts within the dense jungle foliage. The PCs travel far in reaching the temple, and their journey is divided into two sections.
First Half of the Journey
The PCs should designate a single tracker to lead them onwards. With a DC 15 Survival check the party proceeds according to the path, and arrive at the halfway point within three miles (or one and a half hours).
If the adventurers fail the DC 15 Survival check the leader of the pack leads them perilously close to a poisonous jungle snake camouflaged in a nearby branch. The snake attacks the leader during a surprise round, though any PC that makes a DC 20 Perception check are also able to act in the surprise round.
The fight with the jungle snake will likely be short and one sided, though the effects of the snake’s poison are severe. In many ways this encounter is more a hazard than a combat, and does not necessarily need to be drawn on a grid.
After the combat with the jungle snake, the PCs find the correct path and make their way to the halfway point within four miles (or two hours).
Whether or not the snake is encountered, the journey begins to take its toll on the PCs.
The jungle bristles with hatred and your eyes rove the dense foliage frantically for enemies—every tree and rock seems fraught with dangerous possibilities. Many times on your journey you feel eyes glaring at you with unbearable loathing, only to spin around and find only your allies.
Second Half of the Journey
Again, jungle closes in around the PCs; the adventurers should designate a single tracker to lead through the second half of their journey to the temple. With a DC 15 Survival check the party proceeds according to the path, crossing a wide river at a shallow section, walking 3 miles, and arriving at the temple (within one and a half hours).
If the tracker fails the DC 15 Survival check, then he accidentally leads the PCs astray. After two miles (or an hour of walking) the party comes to a river but sees no easy way to ford it.
You find your path suddenly blocked by a wide and swift moving river, its muddy waters churning with hidden rocks and tree roots. Although the prospect does not seem appealing, you are certain that your destination lies on the other side of this barrier. Thirty feet of opaque brown liquid separates you from your target, and you must find a way to cross before the sun sets and the moon rises.
The river is 30 feet wide. Once per round, a character in the water may attempt a DC 10 Swim check to move across the water, but when a character ends their turn in the river, they are swept 15 feet downstream, no closer or farther from either bank.
Unfortunately for the party, the opaque waters are infested with piranhas. When a character ends their turn in the river, these yellow and red striped fish make a flat-footed melee attack (+6, 1d4 piercing and slashing damage plus 1 bleed). The bleed damage stacks with itself, and characters crawling out of the river may find themselves quickly bleeding to death.
There are, of course, a multitude of ways to deal with the river and the piranhas, or at least mitigating the risk. Below are a few examples, but encourage any other creative methods.
- The PCs may attempt to search for a safer place to cross. With 20 minutes of searching and a DC 20 Survival check, the party comes across a more languid and slower flowing section of river. In this section, the Swim DC of the water reduced to 5.
- The PCs may attempt to construct some sort of bridge across the river. With 20 minutes of work and a DC 20 Survival or Knowledge (engineering) check, the adventurers may build some structure to help them continue. However, the structure is not entirely sturdy; anyone that fails a DC 10 Acrobatic check while crossing falls into the water fifteen feet from the river’s bank.
- The PCs may attempt to kill the piranhas with some sort of area attack or poison. If they succeed, the waters clear for a full minute before more piranhas discover their fallen brethren and decide that cannibalism is not so bad. The waters churn with blood and frenzied fish, returning to their original infested state after 10 rounds.
- The PCs may secure a rope to the opposite side of the crossing and toss it to any attempting to swim, providing a +5 circumstance bonus to the Swim check.
Once the entire party is across the river, the remaining trek to Aravax’s temple takes an additional two miles (or one hour).
Approaching the Temple
Far removed from the city proper, Aravax’s temple stands over thirty feet tall, its zenith just peeking above the canopy. Thick green vines and grass cover the ziggurat, and a fallen, rotting tree has shattered itself on the stones of the temple roof. The entire building appears dark and massive, a testament to some evil and unstoppable force.
It is immediately apparent that somebody has been here recently. The vines that once covered the entrance lie in a heap, cut cleanly with a sharp blade. A bloody handprint is smeared on the wall.
There is little to do outside the temple, and the PCs may proceed inside without issue.
The First Chamber
The interior of the temple is cramped and smoky. Distant whisperings mix with the rushing of air and crackling flames. Somewhere deep within the temple a reservoir of liquid slowly drips, the sound echoing off the walls in the stifling room.
The large tan stones that make up the temple have fared somewhat better than the stone in the city and show fewer signs of decay. Although the paint that once adorned this building has long since disintegrated, spiraling carvings cover the walls and floors.
The walls of this room depict great massacres and combats. Along the ceilings and floors, arguments erupt into fights and family members slaughter one another in vivid bas relief. Torches smolder in wall sconces, providing just enough light to make out the carved faces expressing various degrees of anger and fear.
A blood red wall of force blocks further passage. To either side of the wall, Aravax’s symbol looms beside a short scene. In the scene, a man is blocked by an impenetrable wall. He cuts his own hand and attempts to walk through the wall, but is blocked again. He then covers himself in the blood of another and successfully walks through the barrier.
In order to pass this blood red wall of force (CL 20th), the adventurers must cover themselves in one another’s blood. Each adventurer must be covered in at least 10 hit points worth of blood from another living being. This typically means the blood of fellow adventurers, but 10 hit points of animals may be found (smaller creatures not worth an entire combat scene) in the jungle with a DC 15 Survival check for every twenty minutes of searching. Slashing or piercing damage is the best way to procure the blood, but other methods may suffice.
If an adventurer does not have any blood on him from another creature, then the barrier feels like a stone wall. If a PC is partially covered with the blood of another (say, a dab from a pinprick or 5 hit points worth of blood), then the barrier gives just a little. It continues to give more with more blood, until the adventurer is coated with the appropriate amount.
Beyond the blood red wall of force, the passage way splits into three corridors. The center corridor dead ends abruptly at a massive stone block. The left and right corridors each dead end after 30 feet where a heavy lever sticks out of the floor.
With a DC 20 Perception check, the adventurers determine that the block in the center corridor is meant to raise when some mechanical prerequisite has been met. Even if the PCs discover the secret doorway, they are unlikely to be able to lift the ten ton block out of the way.
When both switches are flipped, the immense stone block lifts up and reveals the hallway to the center of the temple. The two levers are far too heavy for mage hand, but may be pushed or pulled regularly or by other means.
When the switch at the end of the left corridor is flipped, a wooden wall (break DC 21, hardness 6, 30 hit points) falls 10 feet from the end of the hallway, trapping any within the last 10 feet of the corridor (though it may be lifted back into the ceiling with a DC 21 Strength check). Any adventurers adjacent to the falling wall may make a DC 19 Reflex save to move 5 feet in either direction. Human blood pours from the ceiling and fills the sealed room within two rounds; any creatures contained within must make a DC 16 Fortitude save or become sickened for one minute. When the room is filled, they begin drowning.
An amount of blood pours from the ceiling equal to the volume of the sealed room. When the fallen wall is broken the blood spills out into the corridor and forms a 1-inch deep pool of blood that the PCs walk through.
This entire blood trap takes a DC 30 Perception check to notice and a 30 Disable Device check to disarm.
The switch at the end of the right hallway activates a lacerating pit trap.
If a PC makes a DC 20 Reflex save, they jump clear and falls prone adjacent to the pit. The walls of the pit have a Climb DC of 20, while the corners have a Climb DC of 15. A rope reduces the Climb check to 0 due to the proximity of the walls.
The bottom of the lacerating pit trap is filled with shards of broken glass. As long as a creature is at the bottom of the lacerating pit, they are continually cut by hundreds of painful shards and take 1d6 bleed damage.
Once both levers have been activated the stone slab at the end of the center passageway rises, exposing a hall to the center chamber.
If the adventurers have proceeded according to schedule and not taken any long breaks, then they arrive before sunset (which is at the same time as the moon starts to rise). If they have arrived after moonrise, proceed to the Arrival After Moonrise chapter.
Arrival At or Before Moonrise
The center of the temple is lit with dozens of torches set in wall sconces across the room. This room is built like a small amphitheater, the centerpiece a sacrificial altar—upon it sits the idol, which radiates a smoky heat.
Henry paces anxiously around the center of the room, watching a crack in the ceiling to the sky and waiting for the full moon to rise. He is dressed in a long black robe that flourishes overdramatically as he walks. The right side of his face is caked with blood, and his eyes are so bloodshot that the white has been nearly replaced with red.
Henry suffers from the same demonic affliction as Bethany—his hair is completely gone, and his cheekbones now protrude from his face in rough red patches. Henry’s teeth have been replaced with hundreds of needle-like fangs which he picks at with bleeding fingers.
Aravax’s idol rests on a low pedestal in the center of the room. It exudes a dark malevolence, and the ruby eyes seem to glow with dim light that refracts the torchlight in dancing red patterns against the walls.
The PCs are instantly captivated by the idol and drawn to it. As long as Aravax is contained within, any creature adjacent to the idol gains fast healing 1 and a +1 morale bonus to both attack and damage.
With a quick DC 14 Appraise check, the party determines that the idol is worth an incredible 24,000 gold pieces—a price well worth killing for. Even Lawful Good PCs should consider how much good they could do with that much money, and what kinds of risks might be worth the reward.
Upon noticing the adventurers, Henry stops in his tracks; he is not expecting intruders, and is uncertain of exactly what to do. This hesitancy allows for a bit of back and forth between the PCs and Henry if they speak quickly, but if they do not address him within a few seconds, he casts shield on himself (expecting to kill Aramvax in a few hours, Henry already has mage armor active) and then attacks.
Henry is a middle aged human, a seasoned adventurer with a thirst for knowledge and a drive to better society through his discoveries. He has been on a wide range of expeditions of various success and consistently provides a positive and upstanding role model for his subordinates. When the Northern Pass Trading Company considered candidates to lead this expedition, Henry was the obvious choice.
If any PCs are associated with the Northern Pass Trading Company, they are well aware of Henry Beckett’s outstanding record and proven history of positive leadership. This may weigh heavily on the party’s minds when they decide whether to kill or simply subdue the explorer. These excellent social and leadership qualities have all melted away after a week of contact with Aravax’s idol—Henry is now a madman, obsessed with gaining the gold for himself. He is well aware of the danger of the idol, and believes that the only way to take his prize safely back to civilization is to summon Aravax out of the gold and then quickly kill the demon himself. He is also well aware that he is going crazy, although this understanding does not affect his thought process. After bringing the gold back home, he plans on blaming the death of the expedition on wild beasts, selling the idol, and putting the whole thing behind him.
In conversation, Henry nervously glances at the idol and questions what the PCs are doing in the temple. He positions himself between the gold and the adventurers, attempting to deflect any accusations or blame while refusing to provide any real information.
If Henry hears the PCs before they reveal themselves:
Henry calls out "Is somewhere there? Hello? Bethany, is that you? Come no closer, I warn you, you shall not have the idol! It’s mine Bethany! Mine!"
If the PCs ask "Who are you?":
Henry glances between the adventurers and the idol, unsure of exactly what to do. "Henry Beckett. I’m Henry Beckett, lead explorer for the expedition to Gilead, owner of Aravax’s idol. Who are you? How did you hear about my treasure? I do not recognize you from our expedition."
If the PCs offer to help Henry kill Aravax:
"Ha! So you can then kill me? I don’t think so! Henry Beckett was not born yesterday. Henry Beckett knows a con when he hears one!"
If the PCs accuse him of murder or attempt to shame him:
Henry turns pale, obviously upset by his actions. Nonetheless, his voice is firm and resolute. "You don’t understand, they were going to kill me! They wanted the idol, they were madmen! You should have seen them, clawing at each other like animals. They deserved to die for their greed, they deserved to die for their envy. They coveted my idol, and I gave them what they deserved!
If the PCs tell Henry to surrender peacefully or step away from the idol:
"What? Of course not! You are in Aravax’s temple now! You are on my grounds! The idol is mine, you greedy fools. You think I can’t see it in your eyes? You think I don’t know you want it? Everybody wants my idol, but only I shall keep it."
If the PCs attempt to dissuade Henry from completing the ritual:
Henry’s brow darkens in cold anger. "You read my journal didn’t you? I knew it was a mistake to leave it behind. In any case, isn’t it obvious by now? Killing Aravax is the only way to end this and to take the idol for myself."
Henry fully believes that the PCs are here to take his treasure and interrupt the ritual. Despite nearly anything the adventurers say or do, he eventually attempts to kill them.
If Henry is brought down to 0 or fewer hit points with a lethal slashing or piercing attack while he is adjacent to the idol, then his blood splashes on the gold and Aravax is immediately summoned. Look below for details on the summoning of Aravax.
The adventurers may either subdue or outright kill Henry. If subdued, they need to figure out the best way to store or transport him for the final stage of their adventure. If not adequately subdued, he attacks the PCs at an inopportune time. If Henry is killed, then Aravax’s curse leaves him; his fangs fall out and shatter, and his demonic bony protrusions retract into his skin (Henry’s hair and teeth, however, do not regrow).
Dealing with the Possessed Idol
Once Henry is subdued or killed, the PCs have a choice to make based on the information contained within his journal—they can bring the idol back within the city walls, subduing its power and putting Aravax’s spirit to rest, or they can spill blood over the idol at the rise of the full moon to complete the ritual, hoping to claim the gold for themselves.
If the party chooses to bring the idol back to the ruins, the adventurers must begin the long trek back to the city. As the hours pass, voices are heard in the jungle, whispering of the treasure they are giving up. With a DC 20 Survival check, the trek back takes eight miles (or four hours)—during this time, a DC 14 Will save prevents 1d4 Wisdom damage as the voices burrow into the minds of the adventurers. If the PCs fail the DC 20 Survival check, then the trek back takes twelve miles (or six hours) and they must make two DC 14 Will saves. For each failed Will save, the adventurers are dealt 1d4 Wisdom damage.
As the PCs near the city walls, Aravax makes one last ditch effort to stop them. He attempts to dominate the carrier of the idol, taking control of the adventurer for 2d4+1 rounds (Will DC 19 negates). This is a supernatural compulsion effect. If Aravax successfully dominates the adventurer, the PC attacks and attempt to kill his companions until the domination wears off. During this time, the possessed adventurer gains DR 5/cold iron or good, resist electricity 5, and +2 natural armor. As long as he is carrying the idol, the possessed PC also gains fast healing 2 and a +2 morale bonus to both attack and damage.
Once this scene has resolved itself, the adventurers may place the idol anywhere they like within the ruins. Aravax’s whisperings end, and the idol grows cold and still.
Instead of bringing the idol back to the ruins, the PCs may choose to complete the ritual themselves. Once any adventurer spills blood on the idol after moonrise (taking 1 damage in the process), the summoning begins. The idol immediately ceases to provide its fast healing and morale bonuses.
The idol absorbs the blood like a sponge, ruby eyes gleaming like fire. From the golden mass a shadowy mist streams, coalescing behind you until it solidifies into the form of Aravax. The entire process, from the spilling of blood to Aravax’s arrival, takes only twelve seconds.
The PCs should feel free to take whatever actions they like within those twelve seconds.
Once summoned, Aravax immediately attacks. Refer to his stat block and description below.
Note that as long as Aravax is contained within, his idol cannot be destroyed; it has hardness 20 and 50 hp, but gains regeneration 5. If any piece of the idol is somehow separated from the main mass, that piece disintegrates into dust and the idol regrows that which is lost.
There are two other, less savory options for the PCS. If the party decides to take the still possessed idol back to civilization, they only have to make a DC14 Will save every three hours to avoid 1d4 Wisdom damage. Every 24 hours Aravax attempts to possess the adventurer closest to the idol as if they were heading back to the city. Hopefully the PCs quickly determine that this is not a great idea and resolve their problem another way.
If the PCs decide to leave the possessed idol in the jungle or temple without taking it to the city, it is eventually rediscovered and Aravax is summoned, leaving open an excellent hook for future sessions.
Arrival After Moonrise
If the PCs have arrived in the temple after moonrise, they are too late to save Henry and prevent the ritual; he has already spilled blood over the idol, and paid for his sacrifice with his life.
A large demon stands hunched in the room, painting the floor in runes with Henry’s blood and internal organs. A massive minotaur with red skin, spiraling horns, and intelligent eyes, Aravax purses his brow in concentration as he meticulously tears Henry’s corpse apart for components. His face is missing its lips, revealing thousands of needle-like teeth across which his two snake’s tongues occasionally glide. His body shimmers in the air with heat, and gives off the foul stench of sour blood.
The golden idol rests on a pedestal in the center of the room, saturated in crimson. The rubies are dim and cold, but the treasure looks wildly expensive.
With a quick DC 14 Appraise check, the PCs determine that the idol is worth an incredible 24,000 gold pieces—a price well worth killing for. Even Lawful Good PCs should consider how much good they could do with that much money, and what kinds of risks the might be worth the reward.
Note that Henry’s corpse has all the possessions that his stat block above denotes.
Aravax inscribes runes on the floor which solidify his return as a powerful demon, a process that takes all night. If for some reason the PCs do not attack until sunrise, he completes a set of runes that give him complete knowledge of his temple and the surrounding area. Armed with this information, Aravax seeks out the PCs and attacks.
It is difficult but possible to sneak in, take the now inert idol, and leave Gilead completely. Bringing the idol back to the ruins of Gilead does nothing, as Aravax has already escaped his prison. If the PCs simply leave Aravax to his own devices, the demon is free to complete his resurrection and becomes a powerful enemy for future sessions.
Of course, the party may also choose to attack Aravax, ending his curse once and for all.
When Aravax is brought to zero hit points or less, he is killed.
Aravax raises his head to the sky and howls. With painful sluggishness, his body dissolves into white ashes which float to the ceiling and condense into drops of blood. As the echoes of Aravax fade away, the room grows dim and quiet as the distant whisperings finally cease. The idol sits cold and grim on its pedestal, an unfeeling and uncaring witness to what has transpired here.
The Fate of the Northern Pass Trading Company
If Aravax is killed or the idol is returned to the city, the curse on Henry and Bethany is broken, and if still alive, they lose their demonic attributes. Disgusted with themselves and wracked by guilt, they want no part of the golden idol that brought so much pain and beg the PCs to lie about what happened at Gilead.
The party should feel free to take the idol and sell it, deliver it to the Northern Pass Trading Company, or split the prize with the company that hired them. The idol itself is worth 24,000 gold pieces, a magnificent prize for 4th level adventurers.
If the idol is kept from the Northern Pass Trading Company, the once prestigious organization is finished. Ruined by the loss of so many explorers and burdened by rumors of dangerous operating practices, the company dissolves with shame and in debt. The PCs lose any contacts and contracts they have with the company, and are only paid 500 gold pieces a person for their services.
If the idol is delivered to the Northern Pass Trading Company, then the exploration of Gilead is considered to be at least a partial success. The Northern Pass Trading Company is able to pay off its debts and organize its next expedition. If Henry and/or Bethany are still alive, they are offered their old posts, but both parties decline immediately. If left to his own devices, Henry Beckett commits suicide a month later, unable to come to terms with his nightmares. Bethany Tisbury disappears for a time into the jungle, makes peace with her demons, and returns a year later to join the Northern Pass Trading company once again.
Rewards and Recompence
The rewards and recompence for the PCs varies dramatically based on the path they have taken. The idol itself is worth 24,000 gold pieces, and if the adventurers keep the idol for themselves, they keep the entire sum.
The Northern Pass Trading Company has promised the PCs a sum of 1,000 gold pieces per party member for investigating GIlead and assisting the explorers. However, this sum is only paid if the idol is returned to the company. If the idol is kept from the company and the company is not aware of its existence, then the Northern Pass Trading Company declares bankruptcy and is only able to deliver 500 gold pieces to each party member. If the idol is kept from the company and the company is aware of its existence, then the Northern Pass Trading Company declares bankruptcy and refuses to pay the treacherous party anything.
Alternatively, the party may have been hired by Goldwood Explorations. If the party either delivers Aravax’s idol to them or keeps the idol’s existence secret from the company, then each party member is paid the full 1,500 gold pieces promised. If, however, Goldwood Explorations discovers that the idol was kept from them, then they shall pay the PCs nothing and send assassins and thieves to retrieve the gold.
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System Reference Document Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, based on material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook Copyright 2009, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Jason Bulmahn, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams. The Book of Experimental Might. Copyright 2008, Monte J. Cook. All rights reserved. Tome of Horrors. Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Authors: Scott Greene, with Clark Peterson, Erica Balsley, Kevin Baase, Casey Christofferson, Lance Hawvermale, Travis Hawvermale, Patrick Lawinger, and Bill Webb; Based on original content from TSR. Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide Copyright 2010, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Cam Banks, Wolfgang Baur, Jason Bulmahn, Jim Butler, Eric Cagle, Graeme Davis, Adam Daigle, Joshua J. 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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ultimate Magic. © 2011, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Jason Bulmahn, Tim Hitchcock, Colin McComb, Rob McCreary, Jason Nelson, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Sean K Reynolds, Owen K.C. Stephens, and Russ Taylor. Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Equipment (OGL) © 2012, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Dennis Baker, Jesse Benner, Benjamin Bruck, Ross Byers, Brian J. Cortijo, Ryan Costello, Mike Ferguson, Matt Goetz, Jim Groves, Tracy Hurley, Matt James, Jonathan H. Keith, Michael Kenway, Hal MacLean, Jason Nelson, Tork Shaw, Owen KC Stephens, Russ Taylor, and numerous RPG Superstar contributors Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Race Guide © 2012, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Dennis Baker, Jesse Benner, Benjamin Bruck, Jason Bulmahn, Adam Daigle, Jim Groves, Tim Hitchcock, Hal MacLean, Jason Nelson, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Owen K.C. Stephens, Todd Stewart, and Russ Taylor. 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