The Mysterious Peaks of Baranthar

The Mysterious Peaks of Baranthar

Baranthar cover

A Pathfinder compatible adventure module for four to five 5th-6th level PCs.

Author:‭ ‬Mike Myler
Artists:‭ ‬Neil Myler,‭ ‬Ramon Lucha
Cartography and Layout:‭ ‬Neil Myler

Introducing the Story

Phot's Journal is a fat,‭ ‬weathered tome bound in black leather and clasped shut with a modest brass lock.‭ ‬Although originally procured by PCs during‭ ‬The Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill‭ ‬adventure module the journal could be found in any treasure chest the party plunders.‭ ‬Written on the last page are the half-orc's final words and they read as follows:

I fear that my end is near.‭ ‬Should anyone ever read this,‭ ‬know that the quest of Phot Fangjaw goes unfinished.‭ ‬The spawn of Grualroth still infest our realm and whatever that unholy beast's foul machinations are remain hidden from those who would oppose him.‭ ‬Please,‭ ‬for the good of all,‭ ‬I beseech you to dispatch whatever authorities are able to the Baranthar mountains.‭ ‬It is said that inside the third highest peak of the range another of that fiend's offspring keeps its lair.‭ ‬My time on this plane has come to an end and I join my god Rankar in the Endless Duel to redeem my kind.‭ ‬Do not allow my legacy to go unfini‭__

Book-BakinqaA more thorough reading of the text requires a week or more‭ ‬-‭ ‬it is a tome of impressive size and Phot's grasp of the Common tongue is rather awkward in the beginning.‭ ‬The first character who reads the lengthy book from cover to cover receives a permanent‭ ‬+1‭ ‬miscellaneous bonus to Knowledge‭ (‬history‭)‬,‭ ‬Knowledge‭ (‬nature‭) ‬and Knowledge‭ (‬planes‭) ‬checks.‭ ‬The journal speaks mostly of the ranger's exploits destroying the kin of the demon Grualroth‭ (‬an evil freed by his own foolish actions as a novice adventurer.‭)

For decades Phot traveled across the world chasing the fiend only to find more of its grotesque children,‭ ‬all befouling nature wherever they dwelt.‭ ‬His travels have taken him across treacherous continental waters and throughout the realm,‭ ‬speaking of a great variety of exotic devices,‭ ‬peoples,‭ ‬magics and creatures.‭ ‬Predominantly concerned with the plague spreading from his own mistaken doings,‭ ‬the ranger's writings focus on his quest to destroy Grualroth,‭ ‬these being the most important points:

  • ‭ ‬Very little is revealed about Phot's youth,‭ ‬only that he was a half-orc cast out from a war-like tribe as a child,‭ ‬forced to learn self-reliance and made to fend for himself during adolescence.
  • ‭ ‬Phot does not enumerate on exactly how he is responsible for the fiend's presence on this plane of existence but claims that the site of Grualroth's manifestation was quite thoroughly destroyed.
  • ‭ ‬Grualroth is a demon of extroardinarily devious cunning and has grown in power after every encounter.
  • ‭ ‬The fiend has bedded with animals,‭ ‬humans,‭ ‬goblins,‭ ‬sahuagin and numerous other creatures.‭ ‬Some of these pairings are not only unholy but defy the very laws of nature and seem to have little rhyme or reason behind them.
  • ‭ ‬Phot had acquired a strange irridiscent spear from another continent that is reportedly not of this world‭; ‬rumors of others like it were part and parcel with the unique weapon.
  • ‭ ‬Another of the demon's children lives in the third highest peak of the Baranthar Mountains.
  • ‭ ‬Phot suspected that this could be another important site of power for Grualroth given its remote location.
  • ‭ ‬His life ended from a strange necrotic disease inflicted in his last battle with the demon and Phot ignored his allies‭' ‬pleas to seek powerful healing magics to cure it before continuing his quest‭ (‬to his peril‭)‬.
  • ‭ ‬The ranger's varied travels present an excellent opportunity for GMs to introduce additional plot hooks for their own designs.

‬Should this fail to entice the PCs inform them that the journal claims the treasure hoards of Grualroth's spawn to be particularly vast‭ (‬Phot was looking forward to acquring far more powerful enchanted armaments after sacking the grand hoard sure to hide in the distant peaks‭)‬.‭

If your party has not played through‭ ‬The Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill‭ ‬adventure module,‭ ‬while traveling towards the Baranthar mountains they hear tales of a strange frog monster's recent destruction in the Zeranoth Swamps‭ (‬the adventuring party responsible soon disbanded.‭)

 

Skarvass‭' ‬Outpost

Traveling towards the Baranthar Mountains takes a minimum of two weeks and the temperature drops as steadily as the pitch of the ground rises.‭ ‬Fruit bearing trees and oaks thin out as more of their evergreen cousins cover the countryside and as the party reaches the final outpost of humanity before the barren white of the mountainsides,‭ ‬they see the tree line grow sparse a few miles out from Skarvass‭' ‬Outpost.‭ ‬Read the following:

A half dozen squat houses of stone can be seen farther on up the seemingly endless hills that skirt the base of the Baranthar Mountains.‭ ‬The peaks far above remain shrouded in snow storms but during sunrise the days before they caught a troubling red hue before being engulfed again in the white tempests.‭ ‬The cold climate has grown even chillier and you feel that on occassion the wind itself howls.‭ ‬The smoke stacks bring a sense of warmth and urgency to the last few miles but as you approach the very few townsfolk passing through glare at you with skepticism and doubt in their hard worn features.‭ ‬The one friendly feature of the hamlet is a quaint well-crafted sign on the central structure adorned with a squat man drinking from a flask,‭ ‬and unlike the other buildings surrounding it there are numerous metal chimneys jutting from its roof.‭ ‬In the distance you can see the evergreen woodline thin out before the snowy steppes of the massive mountains that dominate the landscape.

‬The denizens of the outpost avoid the adventurers for the most part and are rude to them when approached,‭ ‬telling the party to go speak with Skarvass and to keep their noses in their own business.‭ ‬If persisted they claim that adventurers are no good for the outpost's fortunes and that the lot of them to come through on their way to Vornskall Pass have never been seen again.‭ ‬Skarvass is a different matter entirely.‭ ‬Whenever the party approaches the central building,‭ ‬read the following:

A dwarf in a forger's smock with soot covered goggles bursts out of the doorway of the central building with a shield in one hand yelling,‭ "‬FIRE IN THE HOLE‭!" ‬as he dives for cover behind some nearby barrels.‭ ‬A massive fiery explosion erupts from the doorway and billowing smoke rushes into the sky from the various brass and copper pipes on the top of the sturdy stone dwelling.‭ ‬With surprising dexterity the stout dwarf grabs a flask filled with cyan liquid from a compartment in his shield and hurls it towards the flames.‭ ‬A blast of cold blows out of the building,‭ ‬accompanied by an imploded boom as the fire is instantly extinguished.‭ ‬The hardy alchemist picks himself up and bats the dust and grime off his person before turning to address you,‭ ‬bowing slightly and saying,‭ "‬Welcome to my outpost.‭ ‬I'm Skarvass the Alchemist‭!"

dwarf5colorUnlike the people under his protection,‭ ‬Skarvass is polite to a fault and acts as though nothing is amiss and explosions like this are commonplace‭ (‬which is why he lives in the middle of nowhere‭)‬.‭ ‬While the top of his home has recently been on fire,‭ ‬most of the living quarters‭ (‬as well as the valuables‭) ‬are below ground and he offers the party free food and lodging before they continue on their journey.‭ ‬The dwarf is not particularly interested in their success or well-being however,‭ ‬merely their coin.‭ ‬Selling supplies to groups heading up the Baranthar mountains provides the outpost with the gold they need to import essential goods otherwise unavailable to the hamlet.‭ ‬Given his skills and talents Skarvass is well equipped for a trade and encourages sales with a‭ ‬30%‭ ‬discount.‭ ‬The dwarf insists that they purchase his specialized,‭ ‬one-of-a-kind‭ ‬Acclimation Solution for‭ ‬50‭ ‬gold pieces each.‭ ‬When taken,‭ ‬the potion grants a‭ ‬+5‭ ‬bonus to Fortitude checks to resist the effects of higher elevations and the effect has a duration of‭ ‬6‭ ‬hours‭; ‬replicating the concoction is possible but requires a Craft‭ (‬alchemy‭) ‬check‭ (‬DC‭ ‬22‭) ‬and requires‭ ‬40‭ ‬gold pieces worth of materials.‭ ‬Any dwarf‭ (‬or alchemist‭) ‬in the party are offered an infused extract from his repertoire as a matter of professional courtesy.

Skarvass Grimdrahk CR 4

XP 1,200
Male dwarven alchemist 5
NG medium humanoid (dwarf)
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60ft.; Perception +7

DEFENSE
AC 17, touch 13, flat-footed 15 (+4 armor, +2 shield, +2 Dex, +1 deflection)
hp 41 (5d8+15)
Fort +7, Ref +6, Will +2

OFFENSE
Speed 20 ft.
Melee morningstar +5 (1d8+1)
Ranged bombs +7 (3d6+3, Range 20 ft., 8/day) or mwk light crossbow +6 (1d6, Range 80 ft.)

STATISTICS
Str 13, Dex 14, Con 16, Int 16, Wis 12, Cha 11
Base Atk +3; CMB +4; CMD 16

TACTICS
Skarvass is a stalwart warrior, and isn't afraid to get into the thick of things. He prefers to use his bombs and gets into his extracts only if the need calls for it.
Feats Shield Proficiency, Point Blank Shot, Master Alchemist
Skills Appraise +7, Craft (alchemy) +13, Craft (armor) +7, Craft (metalworking) +7, Craft (tools) +7, Craft (weapons) +7, Heal +9, Knowledge (arcana) +8, Knowledge (nature) +8, Perception +7, Profession (merchant) +7, Spellcraft +11, Survival +9, Use Magic Device +8
Languages: Common, Dwarven
SQ: Alchemy, Bombs 3d6, Brew Potion, Mutagen, Throw Anything, Poison Resistance +4, Poison Use, Swift Alchemy, Discoveries (Frost Bomb, Infusion)
Extracts Known
1st 5/day ant haul, bomber's eye, negate aroma, stone fist
2nd 3/day elemental touch, fire breath, perceive cues
Gear masterwork morningstar, heavy crossbow, masterwork light crossbow, 50 crossbow bolts, masterwork chain shirt, masterwork heavy shield, masterwork Alchemist's lab, ring of protection +1, 2 potions of cure moderate wounds

‬There isn't much to be learnt in Skarvass‭' ‬Outpost save that any journey up the mountain needs to get underway soon or the weather will mean death to any traveler unlucky or foolish enough to chance the seasonal snows.‭ ‬When asked about others passing through the settlement he nods,‭ ‬confirms they came through‭ (‬and were extremely pleased with all of the items they bought‭) ‬and that he's sure they found whatever they sought on the slopes,‭ ‬arriving safely at their destination on the other side.‭ ‬Once Skarvass knows they intend to reach the peaks of Baranthar,‭ ‬the dwarf does tell them that snowstorms have raged there obscuring the mountaintops the past few years so the journey is sure to be difficult.‭ ‬He does note that on the plus side,‭ ‬Vornskall Pass is the only way up the mountain so the likelihood of getting lost is remote.‭

 

Vorn's Gorge CR 6

After a week of traveling into the mountain range, read the following to the party:

The beginning of your trip has been an arduous journey up the foothills into the snowy canyons and valleys that make up the only passable route through the mountain range. After another frigid night of hard sleep the sun rises, the same forebidding red hue suffusing the distant peaks before the snow storms begin again, covering the mountaintops in a sheet of frozen winds. The effect is doubly chilling as the occasional gale seems to carry a scream of torment before being swallowed by more elemental gusts.

Snow covered rock walls extend into the sky on either side as you round the bend of Vorn's Gorge and notice patches of mottled brown and tan fur strewn across the ground. The sickly tufts of hair lead towards a set of caves perhaps twenty feet above the canyon floor, accentuated by sparing blots of dried blood.

The mountaintops are protected from divination magics and any PC using a spyglass to see the peaks has their vision hampered by a miasma not unlike a heatwave. Should they follow the trail up into the caves, they encounter two diseased (and fiendish) dire wolverines (which they may realize from successfully scrutinizing their tracks with a DC 18 Survival check) that attack immediately. If they choose not to explore the monsters' den and continue on, the creatures wake up soon after and follow the party's tracks, engaging the PCs in combat one night while they rest. Read the following description before rolling initiative (but make sure to give PCs with the animal empathy ability an opportunity to negotiate a peaceful resolution):

The shaggy beasts before you are twelve feet long from tail to enormous snout and although lean must weigh thousands of pounds. Their fur is mottled and patched, the exposed skin ripe with gangrenous yellow sores that ooze puss and blood. Huge canine teeth as decayed and disgusting as the diseased flesh of the accompanying maws look as sharp as every as they bare their fangs and growl menacingly at you.

Fiendish Dire Wolverines (2) CR 5

XP 1,600
N Large animal
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Perception +12

DEFENSE
AC 16, touch 12, flat-footed 13 (+3 Dex, +4 natural, –1 size)
hp 37 (5d8+15)
Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +2
DR 5/good; SR 10; Resist Cold/Fire 10

OFFENSE
Speed 30 ft., climb 10 ft.
Melee 2 claws +6 (1d8+4), bite +6 (1d6+4)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks rage, smite good 1/day (swift action, +5 dam vs. good until target is dead)

STATISTICS
Str 19, Dex 17, Con 14, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 10
Base Atk +3; CMB +8; CMD 21 (25 vs. trip)

TACTICS
These desperate animals have a pack mentality and attempt to flank if possible. They smite on their first attack, regardless of the target, and fight until they die with a drive only starvation can grant.
Feats Improved Initiative, Skill Focus (Perception), Toughness
Skills Climb +12, Perception +12

SPECIAL ABILITIES
Rage (Ex) A dire wolverine that takes damage in combat flies into a rage on its next turn, madly clawing and biting until either it or its opponent is dead. It gains +4 to Strength, +4 to Constitution, and –2 to AC. The creature cannot end its rage voluntarily.

vorn's gorge map

Inside of the dire wolverine's lair the PCs find the long dead remains of an adventurer, their age and race impossible to determine. The only item that is still intact is a Mimetic Crossbow.

Mimetic Crossbow

Aura faint transmutation; CL 5th
Slot none; Price 22,770 gp; Weight 4 lbs.

Description This +1 light crossbow is crafted from beautiful oak covered in woven runes that pulse cyan energy when bolts are fired from the weapon. On a successful hit with a Mimetic Crossbow the wielder may activate the weapon's enchantment, forcing their target to make a Will save (DC 13) or suffer a -5 penalty in ranks to a chosen skill (named before the Will save is made), inferring 5 ranks in the same skill to the wielder (if in class for the wielder they receive a +3 bonus should they not already have ranks in the skill). Should the target have no ranks in the skill chosen, this has no effect. This enchantment ends as soon as the wielder makes a skill check in the chosen skill or after five rounds have passed.

Special: The maximum number of ranks in a skill that can be transferred between user and target is limited to 5. Should the target have ranks in the chosen skill less than 5, all of them are removed and granted to the wielder. The beneficiary of this enchantment may not have more ranks in a skill than normal via this enchantment (the target still suffers the penalty in skill ranks regardless of the bonus received by the user). If the target's ranks in a chosen skill are reduced to 0, they lose the class bonus to the skill as well. No more than one skill can be affected by a Mimetic Crossbow at a time.

CONSTRUCTION
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, borrow skill; Cost 11,385 gp

Map of Baranthar


Forging New Paths:
If the PCs decide to trek across the rocky crevices of the Baranthar Mountains rather than the beaten path, it'll take them a considerably long time to do so without substantial magical aid. Using a retinue of fly spells (no less than 2 a day for each party member) they can reach the Slopes of Madness without too much difficulty, but flying higher up the peak is extremely difficult (see the Shrouded Mountaintops sidebar for details).

The most mundane approach requires eight climb checks (two per day) to ascend the rocky mountainsides, each interceded by an acclimation check against fatigue (see the Mountain Travel entry in the Environment section of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook for more information on elevation rules.) Even then they must climb the Slopes of Madness, as ascent outside of the deep crevice is nearly impossible because of the raging snowstorms (the DC for climbing outside of the slopes begins at 35 and increases by 2 for every 100 feet climbed). Any of these Climb checks can be negated by the use of a spider climb spell or similar ability that grants a Climb speed and lasts 30 minutes or more (the exception to this rule is the Slopes of Madness).

 

The Thickskins of the Baranthar Steppes CR 5

The first two days of hiking and climbing up the snowy slopes of the Baranthar Mountains sees little sign of any wildlife and after breaking camp the next morning the PCs get the uncanny feeling that they are being observed. The steep and varied hills offer only one path to climb up the mountains, a walled-in pass about forty feet wide. A small pile of snow is disturbed a few feet from one of the sides of the deep valley and beside it are a set of tracks. A successful Knowledge (nature) or Survival check (DC 19) reveals that they belong to some kind of large humanoid that must have leapt down from above (a result of 23 or higher tells the PCs that they belong to a group of multiple ice trolls moving in single file).

Avalanche 400ft/RoundHeavily Armored 20ft. (Run x3)Dwarves 20ft. (Run x4)Regular 30ft. (Run x4)
Round 1-2000+60+80+120
Round 2-1600+120+160+240
Round 3-1200+180+240+360
Round 4-800+240+320+480
Round 5-400+320+400+600
Round 60+400+480+720
Round 7+400+460+560+840
Round 8+800+520+640+960

As the party stops to examine the tracks (or pass by them obliviously) an avalanche is triggered and they are forced to run farther up the valley. Because the avalanche is not natural and set off by the ice trolls, it counts as a Gargantuan creature and PCs in the bury zone only take 6d6 on failed Reflex save (DC 17, half on a successful save) should they fail the Perception check (DC 18) to perceive the hazard and outrun it. It begins 2000 feet away from the party and moves 400 feet per round, slowing to a stop after eight rounds. Any character within 1d6x30 feet of where the avalanche ends its movement is in the slide zone. To ease the process for DMs, the table above gives a breakdown of character and avalanche movement (see the Avalanche entry in the Environment section of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook for more information).

The Thickskin's village is about 1,000 feet from where the party finds the tracks. Read the following as they dig themselves out of the snow:

The eerie howling winds die down momentarily and gazing at the cliff face before you yields a series of dozens of structures made out of ice clinging against and worked into the rock face. The ugly faces of countless ice trolls peer out from some of the windows before you realize that there are dozens of the beasts standing in the snows around the valley.

They fare no better than the wolverines; many are emaciated and though they lack sores there are no shortage of balded skin. One of them screams out something in their native tongue ("We feast on human tonight!") and although you may not speak the language you definitely hear 'human' and the reaction of the speaker's counterparts is most definitely not encouraging. Their roars reach a deafening pitch that isolates the sounds of screaming on the winds and for a few brief moments the peaks of the mountains in the distance seem to turn the red color of blood.

As you brandish your weapons and prepare to make these monsters work for their meal one leaps from out of a snow drift, landing between you and the advancing ice trolls while screaming, “Nooooo!”  in common as he tackles the lead monster. A brief and angry exchange occurs before the demagogue is brutally slapped aside by the enigmatic figure and the crowd of gigantic snow dwellers calms considerably (if not happily). He turns to you and says, "Outsiders.Tell us your business or be our feast. The choice is yours."

The leader is a ranger by the name of Xyrk. In short order he asks the party what their purpose for being so high in the mountains is. Whether they lie or not, he attempts to intimidate them anyway as Xyrk believes humans to be tricky. Revealing their true reasons for climbing the Baranthar Mountains changes the disposition of the tribe to Friendly rather than Unfriendly (after a thorough questioning where Xyrk directly asks who Phot worshipped and skims the journal himself).

If successfully lied to, Xyrk demands that the party remove whatever curse extends from the mountaintops under pain of death (assuring that he will follow them in the snowy cliffs and any attempt to flee will be met with the full force of his finest warriors). With their aligned goals the party gains the favor of the tribe and are offered lodging and some meager food (including a very little portion of, while not human, still unrecognizable meat). Before they venture towards Vornskall Pass, Xyrk explains the following to the party:

  1. Many seasons ago the peaks became blotted out by vicious ice storms that never cease.
  2. In the past few seasons, the glimpses of the mountaintops gained by the Thickskin hunters were disturbing and they claim the peaks turned the crimson color of blood. They believe this to be an omen of terrible portence.
  3. Soon after the storms began, other tribes across the mountain range lost many of their own. It was assumed that they simply left their homes to pursue mercenary work and more abundant food sources.
  4. This past season the normally disparate tribes have banded together to form a village because game is scarce and their own members have been disappearing.
  5. First it was a few outlying hermits but then their eldest druid was taken. Soon after their shaman and then their magii inexplicably disappeared, leaving Xyrk to protect the tribe against whatever intelligent threat is destroying the Thickskins.
  6. Food has grown scarce and what fauna remains is strangely diseased and unfit for consumption, leaving the Thickskins with no food source and unable to sustain themselves.

So It's Come to This: Ideally this encounter doesn't end in combat, but should the PCs end up facing off against the Ice Trolls, a total of 30 engage them (in groups of six at a time, increasing to 8 when only 15 of the creatures remain). Xyrk is the only one among the settlement that does not fight to the death, choosing to flee and harry the party on the remainder of their journey, doing his best to kill them when the opportunity presents itself.
Ice Troll CR 4

XP 1,200
CE Large humanoid (cold, giant)
Init +4; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +9

DEFENSE
AC 17, touch 13, flat-footed 13 (+4 Dex, +4 natural, –1 size)
hp 45 (6d8+18); regeneration 5 (acid or fire)
Fort +8, Ref +8, Will +2
Immune cold
Weaknesses vulnerable to fire

OFFENSE
Speed 30 ft.
Melee battleaxe +7 (2d6+4, Crit x3), bite +2 (1d6+2), claw +2 (1d4+2) or bite +7 (1d6+4), 2 claws +7 (1d4+4)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks rend (2 claws, 1d6+6)

STATISTICS
Str 19, Dex 18, Con 16, Int 9, Wis 10, Cha 7
Base Atk +4; CMB +9; CMD 23

TACTICS
If forced into combat they are wary, taking their time to whittle down the party (only six at a time); they want to know who earned their meat when the combat is done. They won't flee and continue fighting until disabled.
Feats Intimidating Prowess, Lightning Reflexes, Skill Focus (Perception)
Skills Intimidate +7, Perception +9, Survival +4
Languages Giant


Xyrk CR 5

XP 1,200
Male ice troll ranger 2
CE Large humanoid (cold, giant)
Init +4; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +9

DEFENSE
AC 17, touch 13, flat-footed 13 (+4 Dex, +4 natural, –1 size)
hp 61 (6d8+2d10+24); regeneration 5 (acid or fire)
Fort +11, Ref +11, Will +2
Immune cold
Weaknesses vulnerable to fire

OFFENSE
Speed 30 ft.
Melee battleaxe +9/4 (2d6+4, Crit x3), bite +4 (1d6+2), claw +4 (1d4+2) or bite +9/+4 (1d6+4), 2 claws +9 (1d4+4)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks rend (2 claws, 1d6+6)

STATISTICS
Str 19, Dex 18, Con 16, Int 9, Wis 10, Cha 7
Base Atk +6; CMB +9; CMD 23

TACTICS
Xyrk picks and chooses his targets with a hunter's instinct, attacking the most powerful character first. He flees when reduced to 10 hit points or less; afterward he returns again and again to attack the PCs either during the battle with his people (should it continue that long) or while they continue their ascent.
Feats Intimidating Prowess, Lightning Reflexes, Skill Focus (Perception), Power Attack
Skills Climb +8, Heal +4, Intimidate +7, Knowledge (geography) +4, Knowledge (nature) +4, Perception +11, Stealth +5, Survival +9,
Class Abilities 1st Favored Enemy (Animal), Track, Wild Empathy, Combat Style (Two-Weapon Fighting)
Languages Giant

thick skin map

Revealing Phot's unfinished legacy rewards the adventurers with additional insight into the mysteries inthe peaks above along with the remaining belongings of an adventurer that became 'lost' in Thickskin territory (antitoxin, masterwork studded leather, masterwork buckler, masterwork shortbow with 20 arrows, short sword, eyes of the eagle, masterwork thieves' tools, two potions of cure moderate wounds and 420 gp).


The Shrouded Mountaintops
: Any attempts to magically perceive the area fail and an intrepid adventurer that flies to survey directly must succeed five increasingly difficult Fly checks (DC 14 + 3 per previous check) as they approach the peak. It is unlikely they can succeed at these checks due to an enchantment set by Grualroth years ago that shrouds the mountaintops in a constant snow storm. Should a PC manage this impeded flight and reach the peak, read the passage at the end of the Yalroth's Lair section.

 

The Slopes of Madness      CR6

After the PCs have left Thickskin territory they must climb an infamous and impossible crevice fraught with icy dangers. Read the following:

The next several days of grueling hikes up snowy passes are far less eventful. After a week of arduous travel you find yourselves standing at the bottom of a massive crevice that rises far into the whited out sky. The whole of the truly gargantuan trench is twenty feet wide at it's narrow base, and the far end is blocked by hundreds of tons of ice and snow. It's too great an incline to traverse without specialized equipment or uncanny skill, a sheer rise up into screaming winds. The region is unlike any other and unique to the Baranthar Mountains, known throughout the realm as the Slopes of Madness.

Pylons of ice sweep crisscross between the walls of the miles high chasm, connecting in swirling eddies and myriad sheets that glitter in the few rays of light that cut through the gloom of the ever present snow storms hiding the ominous mountaintops. A thunderous boom can be heard from farther in and a massive column of ice slams into the floor of the crevice, bringing down countless tons of snow as the cacophonous crash rebounds into the sky.

Soon after the snow settles the winds rush back through the frozen architecture, howling and screaming with an intensity and authenticity that grates the very soul. Examining the daunting climb before you more carefully, you can see that while some of the crossbeams and planes of ice above are as wide as a man or a street, many are as thin as a sheet of parchment and telling the difference may be as dubious as the ascent itself.

A successful Knowledge (history) check (DC 24) or Knowledge (geography) check (DC 18) reveals that the suspected origins of the Slopes of Madness (which are half a mile wide at their base and perhaps two miles high) are fraught in the battles of the divine against nearly omni-potent magicians. Every season the structures reappear in exactly the same configuration as the year before. While no overt magic has ever been witnessed, there are a myriad of inconclusive theories as to how this anomaly continues.

Climbing the Slopes of Madness is incredibly difficult no matter how the party goes about it. PCs using more mundane methods require four Climb checks (DC 16 using equipment or DC 20 without) and three Perception checks (DC 15) to discern what handholds will support weight. This arduous challenge takes about six hours.

slopes of madness

Ascending via flight from magical or natural means requires four Flying checks (DC 16) or Acrobatics checks (DC 24) as well the three Perception checks (DC 15) to avoid falling heavy snow drifts and gales from hidden air channels.

A PC that fails any of these checks by 5 or more may accidentally cause a deluge of ice. Give any falling or imperceptive characters a Reflex save (DC 12 + the value they failed the skill check by) to mitigate the catastrophe. On a successful save only minor hazards fall, dealing 3d6 bludgeoning damage to anyone within the crevice (Reflex save DC 18 for half). On a failed save, the faulted PC suffers 2d6 damage directly and anyone within the crevice takes 3d10 bludgeoning damage from a deluge of falling ice (Reflex save DC 20 for half).


Atypical Ascent:
Are your players tired of simple skill checks? Want something different? Are they stacking their dice anyway? Good. In lieu of a skill check give players the opportunity to instead ascend the Slopes of Madness literally using their dice. Have a player take a set of polyhedral dice and line them upsequentially (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12) and then begin to count down from 10 seconds. Anyone who manages to stack the dice (in order, so a d12 below a d10, a d8 above the d10 and below a d6 and so on) and balance them successfully under the time limit gains a +5 bonus to their Climb check for that leg of the ascent and on a failure they suffer a -5 penalty to their Climb check. This gets progressively harder as the tests continue and the time limit shrinks by one second for every two additional 'checks'. Alternatively you can raise the stakes and declare that a success or failure in a stacking test takes the place of a Climb check entirely.

This takes the PCs halfway up the Slopes of Madness; there they find a tunnel in the rock face that leads to a deep, uninhabited cave after 120 feet. This is the party's last opportunity to rest safely before continuing the final step of their journey to the Baranthar Peaks. Read the following as day breaks the morning after they rest:

As day breaks the snow storms wain and the eerie, screaming howls of wind die down as you look out onto the treacherous Slopes of Madness to witness a foreboding sight. The countless ice pylons that criss-cross the crevice are coated in a red hue the color of blood. The unnatural display shocks you before the momentary respite from the snowstorms ends and once again the sky is filled with nothing but motes of white.

The sunrays reflecting off the distant peaks hidden behind the wall of the crevice cause the effect but if your players are not curious yet, use this as an opportunity to reinforce how unnatural the phenomena is. Give PCs a Perception check (DC 12) to realize that the air is growing quite thin and soon they will be fighting to breath.

Once leaving the cave and continuing upward the party enters a Low Peak elevation zone and must succeed on Fortitude saves every hour (DC 15 + 1 per previous check) or be Fatigued until they descend to a lower altitude [see the Mountain Travel entry in the Environment section of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook for more information on elevation rules]. To continue the ascent, two more Climb checks (DC 18 using equipment or DC 22 without) and one Perception check (DC 18) are required over the three hours of climbing left (meaning that three more Fortitude saves against acclimation are needed before the party reaches the top of the Slopes of Madness.)

 

Vornskall Pass CR 6

With the Slopes of Madness behind them, the PCs have one last perilous area to traverse before reaching the third peak. The top of the ridge between the fourth peak and the third is known as Vornskall Pass for the path beaten out of it ages ago by some ranger otherwise forgotten, and another Fortitude save against acclimation is required as they reach this area. It is fifteen feet across at its widest, ten feet at the narrowest and follows the curved contrails of the ridge. Statues are arrayed on either side every twenty feet at the center of the pass. Three gargoyles completely covered in snow hide among them waiting to ambush the party. Read the following:

An hour after exiting the cave and continuing the arduous ascent up the Slopes of Madness you come to the second wonder of the Baranthar Mountains: Vornskall Pass. A dozen statues stand at attention at the point of the trail halfway between the fourth and third peaks. The first four of the sculptures and most of their counterparts can still be recognized, predominantly dwarven warriors rendered in granite with exquisite detail. Three of the statues and the areas of the heated path near their bases are whitened by the snows that envelop the range, turning them into small pillars jutting out of the hilltop. Were it not for the fierce snow storms that rage all around you, the view would be a breathtaking vista but instead you perceive little more than a blanket of gray with the occassional red shadow of the peaks looming in the distance. The sculptures stare impassively as you once again are disturbed by the sounds of screaming that seem to ride along the winds of the Baranthar Mountains.

The fifth, seventh and ninth statues are gargoyles and unlike the real sculptures they do not radiate any kind of magic. Once the PCs have passed two of them, the trio attacks. If the party remove the snow from the gargoyles, they are worn and largely without features and use their Freeze ability requiring a successful Perception check (DC 31) to recognize them for what they are.

Gargoyles (3) CR 6

XP 1,200
CE Medium monstrous humanoid (earth)
Init +6; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +5

DEFENSE
AC 16, touch 12, flat-footed 14 (+2 Dex, +4 natural)
hp 42 (5d10+15)
Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +4
DR 10/magic

OFFENSE
Speed 40 ft., fly 60 ft. (average)
Melee 2 claws +7 (1d6+2), bite +7 (1d4+2), gore +7 (1d4+2)

STATISTICS
Str 15, Dex 14, Con 16, Int 6, Wis 11, Cha 7
Base Atk +5; CMB +7; CMD 19

TACTICS
The gargoyles remain hidden, and are granted an additional +6 circumstance bonus to their Stealth checks from the snow. Once the PCs are in position, they enter melee combat to grapple and then separate the party by dropping them off the side; should the PCs become separated from one another entirely, the Gargoyles will bull rush or attempt to finish them off with melee attacks. Once two of the gargoyles have died the last will attempt to flee to Yalroth to warn him of the dangerous trespassers.
Feats Hover, Improved Initiative, Skill Focus (Fly)
Skills Fly +12, Perception +5, Stealth +11 (+17 in stony areas); Racial Modifiers +2 Stealth (+6 in stony environments)
Languages Common, Terran
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Freeze (Ex)
 A gargoyle can hold itself so still it appears to be a statue. A gargoyle that uses freeze can take 20 on its Stealth check to hide in plain sight as a stone statue.

vornskall pass map

While the sides of the mountain are extremely steep, the runoff of the snows that melt against the statues make small platforms and a more readily climbable surface should a PC find themselves flung off of Vornskall Pass. When a character is pushed off the ridgeline,  roll 1d6+2 – this is the number of 5-foot squares they are knocked away from the heated path, down onto one of the frozen platforms. Getting back up the sides to the warmed walkway requires Climb checks (DC 20), the exact number of which is chosen by the GM and determined by how far they fell from the trail.

Once the gargoyles have been dealt with the party find little else. If there is a dwarf among them, their Stonecunning gives them a Perception check (DC 18). Inside the last statue, the base has ancient illegible dwarven runes but upon the touch of a dwarf the panel flips around and reveals a belt of dwarvenkind. A thief may also perceive the hidden compartment as well as a frost fangs trap that erupts from all of the real statues in a 15 foot burst (but only activates when triggered by a non-dwarven creature). Give the PCs another Perception check (DC 20) to realize that the howls born on the wind are most certainly not natural – what they could be is still hard to difficult to determine, but they are certainly not mundane.


Frost Fangs Trap     
CR 7
Type mechanical; Perception DC 25; Disable Device DC 20
EFFECTS
Trigger location; Duration 3 rounds; Reset none
Effect jets of freezing water (3d6 cold damage, DC 20 Reflex save for half damage); multiple targets (all targets within 30 ft. of a statue)

Vornskall's Pass ends after another two hundred feet, leaving the PCs to traverse snows once again. After another hour of travel up an icy ridgeline the party reaches the base of the third peak (and must make another acclimation check). Read the following:

A cavernous entrance fifty feet across looms from out of the snow above as you reach the top of the trail and leads into a tunnel ascending upwards for hundreds of feet. The barren rock face is bereft of any life and the only sounds you can hear are the strange howling winds from the powerful snowstorms battering the entrance. Every few moments the howls seem to come from everywhere at once and you have the sensation that you are truly not alone on the mountaintop. The tunnel continues for some time, curving at points as you continue to rise in elevation while still within the confines of the Baranthar mountains.

 

Yalroth's Lair CR 8 and CR 3

Traveling through the tunnels takes the PCs an hour of wary walking, accompanied by the sensation of howling not originating on the winds. When they reach the end of the tunnel, read the following:

The smell of decay breaches the senses before the tunnel opens into a massive chamber a hundred feet high and across, strewn with rocky outcroppings scattered throughout the walls and the roof of this hollowed out gas pocket, which has been converted into a lair for some creature. The bones of innumerable creatures of a staggering variety litter the ground, covered in frozen gristle and bits of meat. The carcass of a half eaten horse stares at you from the center of the cavern and a huge bed of straw twenty feet across lays unoccupied in a corner near a huge pile of femurs.

Yalroth hides within on the far side of the chamber, clinging against the roof and waiting to ambush the PCs. He begins combat by throwing a stone enchanted with his darkness spell-like ability before abducting the PCs one at a time, splitting the party and taking them out as he sees fit.

Yalroth CR 8

XP 1,200
Male half-fiend yeti barbarian 2
NE Large outsider (native)
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft., scent; Perception +10

DEFENSE
AC 24, touch 14, flat-footed 21 (+3 Dex, +8 natural, +2 leather, +2 deflection, –1 size)
hp 45 (6d10+2d12+26)
Fort +10, Ref +8, Will +7
Immune cold, poison; Resist Acid/Electric/Fire 10; DR 5/magic; SR 19
Weaknesses vulnerability to fire

OFFENSE
Speed 50 ft., climb 30 ft., flight 100ft. (good)
Melee bite +15 (1d6+10 plus 1d6 cold), 2 claws +15 (1d6+7 plus 1d6 cold)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 8th; concentration +9)
1/day desecrate, unholy blight
3/day darkness, poison
Special Attacks frightful gaze, rend (2 claws, 1d6+6 plus 1d6 cold)

STATISTICS
Str 23, Dex 16, Con 17, Int 13, Wis 14, Cha 12
Base Atk +8; CMB +15; CMD 28

TACTICS
Yalroth hides in a crevice above and behind the doorway to the chamber and explodes out if perceived but otherwise charges and rends the physically weakest of the party (preferably a spellcaster) simultaneously triggering a rockfall trap and cutting off the PC's only route of escape as he launches himself from his hiding place. The next turn he will grapple his prey (if able) and take to the air, throwing them bodily the next round into the next weakest target before engaging their more formidable combatants directly after using his darkness spell-like ability. Yalroth then continues to hide in the darkness globe and utilize spell-like abilities before entering a rage to sustain combat. Play it very smart here – they are trapped on this half-fiend yeti's home turf, and Yalroth will go to great lengths to avoid being targeted if the PCs prove to be efficacious. Once he truly has lost the advantage, he will attempt to grapple a PC and fly them back into his alcove, attempting to disable them and then doing the same to the next available target.
Feats Cleave, Great Fortitude, Power Attack, Flyby Attack
Skills Climb +25, Fly +7, Intimidate +12, Perception +13, Stealth +3 (+11 in snow); Racial Modifiers +4 Stealth (+12 in snow)
Languages Aklo, Common
SQ Fast Movement, Rage 9 Rounds/Day, Rage Power (Renewed Vigor: standard action, heals 1d8+5), Uncanny Dodge
Gear amulet of mighty fists +1, ring of protection +2, masterwork leather armor

SPECIAL ABILITIES
Cold (Su) A yeti's body generates intense cold, dealing 1d6 points of cold damage to any creature that contacts it with a natural attack or unarmed strike, or whenever it hits a foe with its bite, claws or rend attack.
Frightful Gaze (Su) Creatures within 30 feet that meet a yeti's gaze must succeed on a DC 15 Will save or stand paralyzed in fear for 1 round. This is a mind-affecting fear paralysis effect. A creature that successfully saves cannot be affected again by the frightful gaze of that yeti for 1 day. The save DC is Charisma-based.
Smite Good (Su): 1/day, Swift Action as a 4th level Paladin.

RAGING
hp 61; Fort +12, Ref +8, Will +9
Melee bite +16 (1d6+12 plus 1d6 cold) 2 claws +16 (1d6+8 plus 1d6 cold)
CMB +17; CMD 30

Yalroth's lair map

Inside of the bedding of straw is a Mirrored Club, a random minor magical wondrous item and a sturdy sack of 3,400 gold pieces.


Marizz's Mirrored Club
Aura moderate transmutation; CL 8th
Price 25,080 gp; Weight 3 lbs.

mirrored clubDESCRIPTION
Inlaid gold and tough black leather are wrapped around the hilt of what is truly little more than a club. The substance this simple weapon is made of, however, is extremely unique. It appears as though it is made of quartz or another hyaline substance and reflects light at an indeterminable number of angles at odds with the smooth hard contours of the crystal. This weapon is a +2 club that twice per day in reaction to striking a creature with damage reduction that can be overcome with bludgeoning, cold iron, piercing, silver or slashing, casts versatile weapon (as an immediate action) with a duration of eight minutes. This consumes one nonrefillable charge, of which there are 26.

HISTORY
This particular weapon belonged to a warrior named Marizz. Often chided for his lesser intellect, he possessed surprising wisdom and an implacability to succeed at any given task with the focus of his mind and the discipline of his body. During a brutal duel with a rival that raged for days across the planes, he finally subdued his foe on the peaks of a mountain range on some distant realm of mortals, only to fall to dead from his own wounds soon after.

CONSTRUCTION
Requirements Craft Magic Arms and Armor, versatile weapon; Cost 12,540 gp

After the cavern has been thoroughly searched read the following:

A doorway on the far side of the entrance, tucked behind a rocky outcropping some forty feet up the wall, leads into another ascending curved tunnel. As you travel upwards for what seems like forever the howls from the wind outside intensify as though hundreds of souls wailed at the peak. It ends near a discreet doorway to the apex, the walls on either side covered by numerous tools of pain slick with frozen browned ichor, a large, empty bucket coated with dried blood resting casually against the stone. Walking out onto the mountaintop your eyes are greeted by a sight that fills you with a melange of disgust and disbelief.

Hundreds of ice trolls are strapped into wicked and disturbing devices of torture, their flesh rent asunder and bared to the elements. Many are unconscious but dozens howl in pain as their blood pools below the nefarious restraints, washing the entire top of the mountain in an everflowing river of crimson. Some are twisted into cruel parodies of geometry by huge monstrosities of black iron and steel, their very bones reknit to the horrible contortions that lock their bodies in place. Others are pinned under massive stones and lumber with strategically placed spikes turned by a sinister crank above to remove the scabs that form against the sharp metal chaffing them. The field of moaning captives is as great in number as the means of their tortures are varied. Gazing away from the gruesome sight and towards the other peaks you can see clearly through lanes of air unaffected by the howling storms. They offer similar sights and piteous roars of lament, meaning that the victims must number in the hundreds.

mystery of baranthar peaks

What the PCs choose to do with this mess of tortured (evil) souls is entirely up to them, but it should be stressed that allowing the blood to continue to flow is not advisable. The captive monsters can easily be convinced not to feed on intelligent creatures if any of the PCs speak Giant or have another way to effectively communicate with them. Freeing the other ice trolls on separate peaks requires some considerable traversing (five Climb checks DC 18) or flight and no less than an hour of unlocking or sundering the devices on each mountaintop. Leaving the ice trolls in the devices is an undeniably evil act but a quick death by fire ends their torment and the threat of Grualroth's designs in one fell (if harsh) swoop.

Any solution that ends the rivers of blood from flowing down the Baranthar Mountains counts as a Challenge Rating 3 encounter when rewarding experience.

 

The Apex of the Baranthar Mountains CR 6

Seen through the clear lanes of dead air between the peaks it becomes clear that the source of the unnaturally potent and persistent snow storms lies within the apex of the Baranthar mountain range. These airways offer safe routes to reach the nexus of the snowstorms for characters with access to the fly spell, but the ice trolls can easily be convinced to carry the party there after being freed from their torment.

Atop the highest peak there is a tunnel opening to an unnaturally smooth staircase extending hundreds of feet below the zenith. Three traps are hidden along the way located every 100 feet; a Flame Strike Trap, a Falling Block Trap and finally a Fireball Trap. The Falling Block Trap is particularly troublesome for anyone leaping forwards rather than backwards to avoid it (the Reflex saving throw is at an additional +4 difficulty to avoid jumping forward rather than backward). The Falling Block moves down the stairway at a rate of 40 feet a round and deals 3d6 points of damage to anyone it hits before resting after 90 feet of travel (forcing anyone fleeing it to blunder into the Fireball trap). At the end of the tunnel, read the following:

The tunnel ends in a roughly hewn granite chamber covered in runes that seep with a strange black and red energy at odds with the grey stone walls. Compared to the demon spawn's lair it is a small affair, only fifty feet across and high. Rather than an unfinished meal, the center of the room is dominated by a circle of magic that pulses with the same energy infused in the walls at uncomfortable, irregular intervals and is no less necrotic than the lifeless eyes of the corpse in the half-fiend's cavern.

cave-7Grualroth's expanding magic circle against good radiates strong auras of abjuration, conjuration, divination, necromancy and transmutation (in other words, it is quite potent and should be handled carefully). A successful Spellcraft check (DC 16) tells the PCs that disabling this potent enchanted circle of evil requires five successful dispel magics (against Caster Level 12th) cast within 60 hours of one another. Should the party lack the resources to accomplish that (or the patience), physically destroying the circle is also effective, but if their Spellcraft check exceeded 21 they know that this immediately informs Grualroth that someone has tampered with one of his magical sites (and although he deigns not to respond to this immediately, it does mean that the demon's attentions will turn towards the party much earlier than otherwise).

After destroying the magic circle against good through mundane or magical means, the unnatural snow storms outside immediately cease and natural weather patterns reassert themselves (and in the event of a physical-based resolution, the PCs are briefly assaulted by an anguished psionic scream). The torture devices and countless pints of troll blood meet the frozen winds and freeze, quickly turning dark brown and some of it even flaking away immediately in the furious drafts. The end of this enchantment also turns the peaks back into a High Elevation zone and the PCs must make a Fortitude save (DC 16) or suffer from altitude sickness (see the Mountain Travel entry in the Environment section of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook for more information on altitude sickness rules.)

The snowstorms have ended however and a simple glide, fly or featherfall spell quickly brings the party into lower elevations, but they may descend to a Low elevation within 5 hours with a successful series of five Climb checks (DC 13).


Flame Strike Trap 
CR 6
Type: magic; Perception DC 30; Disable Device DC 30
Trigger proximity (alarm); Reset none
Effect spell effect (flame strike, 8d6 fire damage, DC 17 Reflex save for half damage); multiple targets (all targets in a 10-ft. radius cylinder)

Falling Block Trap CR 5
Type mechanical; Perception DC 20; Disable Device 20
Trigger location; Reset manual
Effect Atk +15 melee (6d6); multiple targets (all targets in a 10-ft. square)

Fireball Trap CR 5
Type magic; Perception DC 28; Disable Device 28
Trigger proximity (alarm); Reset none
Effect spell effect (fireball, 6d6 fire damage, DC 14 Reflex save for half damage); multiple targets (all targets in a 20-ft. radius burst)

 

What Now?

The quickest route down the mountain leads to an idyllic region of foothills that uses a series of complicated dams and acqueducts to irrigate hilltop farms and support a burgeoning walled town. A Knowledge (geography) check (DC 15) recognizes the settlement as Collbrook, a steadfast hold and the nearest collection of civilized folk for hundreds of miles. Heading back to the Thickskin Tribe and Skarvass' Outpost is an option of course, but it should be noted that now there are far more (hungry) ice trolls throughout the mountain range, and only those on the mountaintops agreed to stop eating people. If the PCs do choose to doubleback, the people of Skarvass' Outpost thank them for the warning and their efforts to cleanse the region with 800 gold pieces and quickly abandon their hamlet afterward.