Side Quests - Volume 1 contains:
Elves have appeared in Rybalka and are on the search for something ancient. Will the PCs uncover their plot, try to stop them, or join them?
Table of Contents
- 1.1 CONTAGION
- Adventure Background
- Adventure Synopsis
- Adventure Hooks
- Part One
- Part Two
- Part Three
- 1.2 GIANTS' CAVERN
- Adventure Background
- 1.3 SERPENS SANGUIS
- Adventure Background
- Adventure Synopsis
- Adventure Hooks
- New Magic Item
- 1.4 TURN AGAIN, TURN AGAIN
- Adventure Background
- Adventure Hook
- The Caves
- 1. Entrance
- 2. Ovoid Space
- 3. Guardian
- Loop – Various challenges
- 4. The Forgotten Treasure
by Will Myers
A 3.5/Pathfinder Side Quest for 4 PCs of level 5-6
The Elves of the Silent Forest have had almost no contact with the outside world in the last two thousand years. Any time they have to interact with other societies, they will send shape-shifted spies in order to determine the strengths and weaknesses of those societies. Only once those attributes have been decided will the Elves send in a representative.
As organisms do, they evolve in relation to their environment and through natural selection the strongest organisms survive. This has now happened in the Silent Forest and something has evolved that is particularly good at killing Elves. These creatures have developed abilities that allow them to circumvent the abilities that Elves possess.
The Elves of the Silent Forest know of an item that they believe is buried under the Rybalkan church of the God of Warriors due to them having a spy in Rybalka. They hope this item will help them defeat this new threat that plagues the Silent Forest.
The Elves have had their Rybalkan spy place a magical item in the stream that feeds into Rybalka to curse the town in order to draw any heroes out of Rybalka. Once that occurs, a team of shape-shifted Elves that appear as Vikmordere warriors will enter the town, using the confusion and fear of the Vikmordere to break into Rybalka Cathedral and try to find the item they need.
The PCs will follow the clues out of town to the north for half a day toward the Dark Wood. There they will encounter a band of real Vikmordere warriors who are investigating the false band of warriors, the Elves, and could come into conflict with the PCs.
The PCs will find the Flask of Curses in the stream. Removing it will prevent the curse from continuing in Rybalka after another day, but the curse will have to be removed from the villagers. After finding the Flask and dealing with the Vikmordere, the PCs will begin their return to Rybalka to be met with a messenger telling them of the “Vikmordere” attack on Rybalka and their breaking into the cathedral.
Upon returning to Rybalka, the elves, still disguised as Vikmordere, will be found in or around the cathedral. The PCs will either need to be very diplomatic, which will be difficult due to their foes appearing as Vikmordere but still being Elves, or combat will ensue. At no point will an elf drop its disguise before death.
- The PCs notice that Quorron has been doing sub-par work lately. Items that he creates or repairs are of a lower quality than usual, due to the curse. Being that Quorron is a stalwart perfectionist, he is angry at the downward spiral the town seems to be in.
The PCs are summoned to the Mayor’s office because Mayor Leonid has fallen victim to the curse and is afraid that some of his political enemies are out to get him. He wants the PCs to find out what’s happening and why.
Sage Yuri Statel believes that the curse can be removed with a mixture that requires the bark of Cheldwood trees. The trees grow to the north, near the edge of the Dark Wood and he would like the PCs to retrieve some of the bark for his potion.
The PCs notice that their own skills have started to suffer because of the cursed water. They may decide on their own to do some investigating.
The hunters employed by the village start having bad luck. The animals seem to always spot them and run away. The few times the hunters are able to get off a shot they end up breaking their bow strings or slip and fall down steep embankments. The hunters ask the PCs for help, for the good of the town.
Description for the Players
It started with some of the townsfolk having minor mishaps such as bumping their heads on things and falling down stairs, but whatever is affecting the town has spread and is now causing problems for everyone: Rybalka is under a secret attack. This attack must be foiled or Rybalka may be cursed forever!
For almost two weeks now, things have gotten bad in Rybalka. Everyone seems to have bad luck. The quality of goods and services are dropping rapidly. Even Quorron, a stalwart of the community, is affected. Something must be done. You may be the town’s only hope.
The PCs can do some investigating around town, making Intelligence and Perception (both DC 15) checks to determine that the only two things all of the victims has in common is that they all live in Rybalka and that they all drink the same water. People new to Rybalka (less than a week) seem to be unaffected by the curse, but they will be once they have drunk the water for more than a week. A PC with the Heal skill can make a DC 15 skill check, but other than various mild maladies, such as bumps, bruises, or broken bones; there are no physical indications of disease.
Sage Statel can find no magical cause of the problems that are plaguing Rybalka. This is because while the cause is indeed magical, the source is not in town. He believes that the problem can be cured alchemically, but he needs the bark of the Cheldwood tree in order to make his mixture. With the Cheldwood trees being so close to Dark Wood, Yuri is hesitant to gather the ingredient himself.
High Priest Juriendor does not know what is causing the town’s malady and has been praying for guidance for over a week with very little response. He continues to lead services at the church of the God of Warriors which seems to console the townsfolk but offers them no relief.
1A. Dire Boars
Three hours outside of Rybalka, the party will cross paths with a small herd (7 total, one adult male, one adult female, one adolescent male, four juvenile) of dire boars. These boars are more aggressive due to the plants and fruits they’ve been eating that have been tainted by the cursed water. Normally, they would challenge but avoid any people but their increased aggression means that combat with the adult and adolescent male (treat as a standard boar) is inevitable. The female will move away with the juveniles, but will fight to protect her brood if necessary.
1B. Vikmordere Warriors
After five hours of travel, the party will be near the source of the trouble, the submerged Flask of Curses.
As you continue your trek north, the sun reflects off of the snow and a gentle, cool that emanates from the Dark Wood blows over you. The sound of the stream has grown louder as the waterway has widened. There is a smell lingering on the breeze; an acrid smell that makes your nose twitch. It fills your mouth and makes you cough.
In this area is a small party (five warriors plus Kampe) of Vikmordere warriors. They will hide in the woods (Spot/Perception DC 25) and watch the PCs, but will not attack unless confronted.
If the Vikmordere are spotted and approached peacefully (treat starting attitude as indifferent), they will explain they are searching for proof of another group of Vikmordere that was spotted heading toward Rybalka.
The leader of the Vikmordere party is Kampe, who is an able hunter and warrior. He will tell the party that one of his scouts saw another party of “rogue Vikmordere” moving toward Rybalka when there are not supposed to be other parties in the area. He will also make note of the water in the stream, which has grown darker the further along the party travels. If there is no conflict, the Vikmordere will head back to their land and report their findings.
If the Vikmordere party is not found, they will observe the PCs and eventually follow them back to Rybalka.
2A. Stream Crossing
North of where the party has met the Vikmordere, the stream has become a black sludge and only the swiftness of the current has kept it from clogging the streambed altogether. If tasted, the water has a very bitter taste to it, causing the taster to gag. If drunk, the water will induce nausea for 1d4 hours.
As the stream widens and starts to wind its way further up the hill, turning toward Dark Wood, there is a fairly large, simple wooden bridge that is in need of slight repair. On the north side of the bridge, the water is still clear.
Under the bridge (Spot/Perception DC 20) is a long-necked golden vase, with a silver stopper tied to the neck with twine. If the vase is retrieved, any party member that can read Elven or uses a spell that accomplishes this can tell that the script is Elven and identifies the vase as a Flask of Curses. The script also describe the type of curses the Flask is producing. If detect magic is used, the vase will radiate as moderate conjuration.
Removing the vase from the water will prevent un-cursed villagers from being cursed, but will not remove the curse from those who are already affected. Anyone who looks into the open mouth of the vase or drinks water from the vase is subject to the spell bestow curse and takes a -4 penalty on attack rolls, saves, ability checks, and skill checks until they can have the curse removed. Using the stopper on the vase prevents anyone from being cursed until the vase is opened again.
Once the vase is recovered, the party can return to Rybalka.
2B. Barking Up the Tree
The Cheldwood trees line the stream on the north side of the bridge. The bark is particularly brittle, so a DC 25 Knowledge (nature) check will provide the number of pieces that Sage Statel requires.
Cheldwood trees, however, have a defense mechanism. When threatened, Cheldwood trees that are close together each release a different compound which, when mixed together in the air, creates a sleeping gas. A DC 20 Fortitude save negates the sleeping effect, but causes dizziness for 1d4 rounds. A failed save puts a PC to sleep for 1d4 hours and upon awakening, causes dizziness for 1d4 hours.
On the return trip to Rybalka, about an hour from town, the party meets up with a messenger from town. Stopping for a moment to catch his breath, he finally speaks.
I found you! While you’ve been gone, a bunch of Vikmordere entered Rybalka and made their way to the cathedral! They’re keeping anyone from going inside and there are sounds of wood breaking! The village guards can’t get through! They need help!
The party can begin hustling back to town. Unless the DM wishes to have more encounters, nothing more happens.
The party enters Rybalka to find it in a state of chaos. As they near Rybalka Cathedral they learn that Vikmordere (actually Elven warriors and magically disguised, total number 8 plus 2, who are inside the cathedral), have surrounded the sanctuary and destructive noises can be heard from inside.
Mayor Leonid and a handful of guards (equal to the number of PCs) approach the PCs and brings them up to date, not that there’s much new to report.
I’m glad you're back! Those heathens ambushed some of our guards and have taken over the cathedral! I tried to talk to them, but they won’t answer! All they do is stab at people with those spears! Do something!
The PCs can attempt to talk to the Elves (treat initial attitude as hostile), but this won’t accomplish much, other than threats and a possible poke in the ribs with a spear. Anyone can make a DC 20 Speak Language/Linguistics or DC 25 Listen/Perception skill check to figure out that the “Vikmordere” are speaking with an odd accent. A second DC 20 Speak Language/Linguistics or DC 25 Listen/Perception check will determine that this accent is Elven. Anyone who speaks or understands Elven makes these checks automatically.
The PCs can make a plan to take out the Elven guards and it will be standard combat, with Mayor Leonid and the remaining Rybalkan guards helping out where they can. The Elven guards have no spellcasters among them and the only two spellcasters are the two inside the cathedral.
As the battle outside the cathedral winds down, the doors of the cathedral will fly open and a villager will come running out in a panic, followed by an Elven sorcerer disguised as a Vikmordere shaman. The villager will be nonsensical if questioned, talking about the evils that the Vikmordere inside are committing and how powerful they seem.
The “villager” and the “Vikmordere shaman” inside the cathedral are the last of the Elves and will try anything to escape. As they are both spellcasters, they will have various means of distraction. The villager tries to make a stealthy retreat as the shaman commands attention. The shaman will fight if necessary, but only long enough to provide a distraction for his partner to escape.
If the shaman is captured and questioned, he will drop his disguise and appear in his Elven form, hoping to give his comrade time to get out of the village.
"I am Myhal Melithaltindre, Protector of the Leaf. I have come to your land because my Queen Warden sent me here to claim an object, the Menalpaur, which we believe was hidden by the Vikmordere in this building some time ago. We had hoped that the object would help us against our current plight: the Edhelgurth."
"We Elves enjoy certain advantages over you humans, but something has grown within our forest that has advantages over us. Our fear is that the Elven race will be wiped out entirely. And if that happens, I cannot believe that the Edhelgurth will be content with us. Your lands are ripe with prey."
"Sadly, we could not find the artifact. Perhaps it is a sign from Naneth that our time has come. Regardless, my mission has failed and I am yours to do with as you wish."
Myhal surrenders himself to the PCs custody. There are rumblings from the gathered townsfolk that he should be executed immediately, but Mayor Leonid silences them and has Myhal taken away to jail until he can decide what to do with Myhal.
When the PCs enter the cathedral, they find large holes chopped through the wooden floor of the cathedral and the dirt below dug up. As they near the back of the cathedral they find Juriendor alive but unconscious. When he wakes (DC 12 Heal check or any healing magic), he will tell of how the two Vikmordere burst into the chapel and asked him where the “Menalpaur” was. When he said that he didn’t know, they translated “Menalpaur” into “Heavenly Fist.” When Juriendor still didn’t know, they said he served no purpose and knocked him unconscious. There is no sign that anything was found in any of these holes, so perhaps the Elves were misinformed or maybe the Menalpaur was taken earlier by someone else.
The Elven plot has been resolved (for now) and the people of the village are safe.
Sage Yuri Statel begins making his home brew with the Cheldwood tree bark, assuming the PCs brought some back. High Priest Juriendor, once healed, will help with this process and administering the draught to the villagers.
The PCs may keep the Flask of Curses, destroy it, or sell it to Sage Statel for 100 gp.
1.2 GIANTS' CAVERN
by Stephen Yeardley
A 3.5/Pathfinder Side Quest for 4-6 PCs of Levels 8-11
A distraught but angry and determined cleric is looking for a group to work with her to recover the bodies of her former allies and a specific weapon which was the cause of their deaths. However, she needs reassurances that she won't be cheated and demands a heavy deposit for her information, which will lead to greater rewards.
The priestess Tonttu Pappi is the last of a party of adventuring gnomes from Pradjna. They had come in search of a lost giant's greatsword rumored to be in a cave in a cliff on the shores or the Serpent Lake, many miles north west of Rybalka. The party, 5-strong in total, had found the spot they were looking for, but fell foul of a trap as they entered the cave and suffered heavy damage. Before Tonttu Pappi could heal the party, they were attacked by the very darkness of the cavern itself; Pappi, finding herself scared out of her mind and unable to decide what to do first, cowered as far as she could from the events going on around her. First the party's wizard, Lumota, seemed to dissolve into a thick, black mist, adding to the enveloping night that surrounded them. Then the main fighter, Suojata Sulku, fell under the weight of the cloud, quickly followed by the last two party members, the twins Ennen and Jalkeesi Sinun, a monk and rogue respectively. Tonttu Pappi suddenly had a moment of lucidity and managed to do two things; cast wind walk to flee and finally properly hear the eerie tune that echoed softly around the cavern for what it was - a trap!
Pappi is now certain that to re-enter the cavern on her own will mean her death - she makes no bones about that. But she wants to recruit a party to try and recover the bodies of her comrades, the giant's sword and, if possible, deal with both the darkness and whatever was playing the devastating tune. The party may well scoff at having to pay the deposit or submit to the spells when it is clearly helping Pappi out; but she will state that apart from the bodies and the sword, the PCs can keep everything else they find, including the items her allies held. The deposit is to confirm that they will bring back the sword, which is her main concern.
(GM's note: the deposit may well be a sticking point, but Pappi will insist. It will be returned as soon as the sword is handed over. She is willing to undergo any magical check to show she is telling the truth. Also, 15,000 gp is just a suggested amount. Feel free to make the actual amount something suitable for the party's current wealth. The sword the gnome party was looking for is a Shifter's Sorrow; the gnomes have a wererat problem.
At the top of the shaft
The nest is actually a vicious collection of barbed branches and sticky, sap-covered tree trunks, all designed to slow down entry into the shaft. It is also now the home of a gargantuan 32 HD assassin vine.
Climbing down the shaft takes a Climb DC 20 roll at the top, at each trap and half way down. It is approximately 80 feet deep. There are natural handholds to help with the climb, but they are slick with mud in many instances.
Within the shaft
The shaft has two traps in it, one about 15 feet down and the other about 40 feet below that.
The first is an energy drain trap. It can strike anywhere across the shaft.
The second trap is a mage's disjunction trap. Its burst effect reaches 40 feet up the shaft and partially down the steps, but not into the main cavern and therefore doesn't the items that the former allies of Tonttu Pappi were carrying.
Base of the shaft
At the base of the shaft is a huge pile of bones, made up of the dozens of creatures that have fallen foul of the assassin vine and the traps and have then been stripped bare by various passing oozes, jellies and cubes. If anyone falls down the shaft, all this acts like a poisoned spiked pit trap.
There are 33 steps from the base of the shaft to the sandy shore of the underground river, each 10 feet wide. Three events will occur along them.
The first person that stands on the 10th step finds that the bones at the base of the shaft, unless destroyed, form into what appears to be a huge chimera skeleton, due to there being at least three heads, at least four legs with clawed feet, and several horns. Use the stats given for the PAthfinder version, but stress the multi-headed, multi-limbed nature of the beast.
The first person that steps around the final bend finds themselves face-to-face with a gang of 5 wraiths. These creatures are under the thrall of the dread wraith in the main cavern. They are the restless spirits of Tonttu Pappi's former companions and another unfortunate, a dwarven ranger who paddled down the northern stream in the beached canoe and fell foul of the wraiths and dread wraith. They will swarm the first PC in an attempt to weaken her or him, then move on.
On reaching the bottom of the stairs, the PCs will hear a haunting melody playing across the water. It is a foul trap, sowing confusion and fear across whole parties. This is actually two CR 5 traps that occur simultaneously. The spells are accompanied by a haunting tune that drifts around the whole cavern and insidiously filters into a living creature's brain. This is because the main physical piece of the device is a small music box. If the Disable Device roll is exceeded by 10, this box can be taken away as treasure and re-used elsewhere. It is worth 10,000 gp as part of the overall cost of a trap containing this component.
The water of the cavern lake is 5 feet deep and very cold, actually below freezing, although the movement of the flow is just enough to stop the lake from solidifying in all but the coldest weather. An unprotected character in the cold (below 40° F) must make a Fortitude save each hour (DC 15, + 1 per previous check) or take 1d6 points of non-lethal damage. A character who has the Survival skill may receive a bonus on this saving throw and may be able to apply this bonus to other characters as well. A character who takes any non-lethal damage from cold or exposure is beset by frostbite or hypothermia (treat her as fatigued). These penalties end when the character recovers the non-lethal damage she took from the cold and exposure.
As soon as the PCs touch or start to cross the water in anyway, the dread wraith will attack. It appears to be an unnatural cloud of dense, black fog, sucking all the welcoming and protective light from the surrounding area. Deep within the cloud are two crimson embers that barely give off a glow; the creature's eyes. It is staggeringly fast as it charges into battle, striking out at arcane spellcasters first (wizards, sorcerers, bards) before targeting the most martial member of a group, then directing its blows those with low Fortitude saves (usually rogues) before finishing off the party.
Scattered around the beach that the canoe is on are the belongings of the 4 former member of Tonttu Pappi's party and the slain dwarf. All potions and scrolls have been spoiled, so aren't listed.
If the PCs return Rottotappaja to Tonttu Pappi she will do everything in her power to ensure they are cured and restored in every way before promising her support at every turn in the future. In fact, she will be so impressed with the party, she will ask if it wants to go on the wererat hunt. But that's another tale.
However, if the PCs decide to keep the sword, they will earn the eternal emnity of the gnomes of Pradjna and can expect regular and increasingly frequent visits from gnomish representatives aiming to take Rottotappaja from them. If the PCs sell it on, they will still be hunted down and made to pay a heavy price.
1.3 SERPENS SANGUIS
by Jonathan Nelson
A 3.5/Pathfinder Side Quest for 4 PCs of levels 9-11
Serpens Sanguis was once a powerful cult of wizards whose members preached word of the true gods of antiquity, the dragons.
A conclave of these dragon-worshipping wizards constructed a complex in a series of caves hidden within a small mountain. They required a safe haven from the harsh and at some times downright violent opposition to their existence.
The wizards prepared for the inevitable incursions by their opposition, and built a secret entrance to the lower conclave caverns, then constructed an enormous life-like statue of a dragon and placed it over the secret door. Adding magical effects permanently created a deterrent for any would-be intruders in the form of a mist/smoke breathing wyrm.
What the wizards did not expect is the terrifying creature Crucianus, which arose from the underworld lake within the very center of the Serpens Sanguine cavern. This maniacal creature was cunning, malevolent, and obtained its sustenance through the forced suffrage of others.
Possessing extremely powerful psionic and metamagic powers, Crucianus dominated all that lived within the conclave, forcing them to fight amongst themselves. This generated jealousy, anger, and hatred, all of which the abhorrent creature channeled into the creation of the Orb of Despair, a magical item capable of feeding a vicious cycle of negative energy. This provided a source of sustenance upon which Crucianus greedily fed. After just a few short weeks of the introduction of the Orb of Despair, the wizards had completely destroyed their home and slain those they had once called friends and comrades. One particularly powerful wizard, driven to madness and forced to slay her husband was the sole survivor. The woman, her mind utterly destroyed begged the dragon gods for deliverance from this world. After many days of praying the wizard finally drowned herself in the water of the lake.
The creature Crucianus, finding no further sustenance here, withdrew to the depths of the lake, entering a hidden dimensional conduit and returning to the realm from whence it came.
Fifty years have passed since these events occurred, and the members of Serpens Sanguis in the form of tormented undead wizards now roam the conclave caverns. They are tied to a physical existence through their eternal suffrage, a curse manifested by their unwillingness to forgive one another, even in death.
The PCs have heard tales of a dragon lair nearby and come seeking treasure. Instead they find a secret conclave of undead dragon-worshipping wizards protecting a powerful magical item created by a malevolent entity of antiquity.
The entry cave provides a brief puzzle for the PCs to figure out before discovering the dragon is only a statue with magical enhancements. A brief search reveals the trapped secret entrance to Serpens Sanguis.
The door to the sanctum is protected by a magical spell which summons the sanctum’s guardian, a young red dragon which the PCs must dispatch in order to proceed.
Stairs descending into the cave proper are magically trapped and the upper chambers are flooded with foul gases from below possibly nauseating the party. Those that fall from the stairs, fall to their death.
The main chamber contains a large underworld lake of unknown depth. A path skirts the lake’s edge on both sides leading into a smaller cave on the far side of the lake. A few corpses can be found in the area and treasure retrieved.
On the other side of the lake are the ruins of buildings, one of which contains the Orb of Despair, hidden among the rubble. Perhaps the Orb can shed some light on the state of things within Serpens Sanguis and the possibility to set things right and lay the dead to rest.
To put the wizard’s souls to rest the PCs must destroy the Orb of Despair. Once this is done, the undead members of Serpes Sanguis turn to ash, removing the long held curse on the souls which once called these secret caverns home.
Once the foul curse has been lifted there is much to plunder in the form of gems, gold, and magic items. All of the magic items have draconic symbols and markings leading the PCs to believe a dragon really did once frequent these caverns.
The PCs have heard rumors of a cave containing an ancient dragon’s treasure hoard hidden somewhere in the surrounding mountains.
If the PCs require additional motivation, it could come in the form of...
- A rival adventuring party taking up the quest
- A local entrepreneur offering to fund a quest in search of this long lost treasure hoard. (Perhaps he or she is actually a member of Serpens Sanguis attempting to locate the local conclave which ceased communication with the rest of the sect many centuries ago.)
- An attack on the local village which appears to have been made by a dragon which in turn gives rise to ancient stories of the dragon cave in the mountains. (The fire was in fact caused by a dragon, but it was only a very young red dragon which recently learned how to breathe fire. The naive wyrmling was simply testing out his new talent in the middle of the night on the local town as it seemed as good a place as any.)
- A local villager disappears. Rumors persist of a dragon who lives in the nearby mountain and snatches up travellers for dinner once or twice a year. (The villagers actually slipped and fell off an embankment and into the river, washed far downstream and located by the time the adventurers return from their quest.)
1. Dragon Cave Entrance
This cave entrance is fairly large and shows signs of heavy use. Large claw marks mar the ground and walls of the cavern.
If the PCs search the ground further they will find that the marks stop just outside the cave.
2. Dragon Guardian (Statue)
The cult constructed this statue to protect its inner sanctum from intruders. Although the dragon statue does have some offensive measures in place, it was primarily designed as a deterrent to any inquisitors from the nearby town.
Firstly, the statue is crafted as a lifesize dragon by skilled hands and painted by equally skilled artists. Each scale is painstakingly painted with such detail that only one well educated in the lore of dragons would be able to spot it as a fake and would need to be within 10’ of the statue. Permanent illusions have been placed upon the dragon to create eyes which open and close, and smoke/mist which rises from the nostrils and mouth of the beast. Since the statue itself is real, these illusions are very difficult to detect without magical means (Spot/Perception DC 40).
Secondly, hundreds of permanent magic mouth spells provide snoring, growling, and even a series of questions and automatic responses to the PCs (all predetermined so nonsensical answers or questions from the PCs will receive pre-programmed responses immediately revealing that something is amiss.)
Thirdly, appropriate offensive spells (based on dragon color and determined by GM) are poised to target the PCs immediately following the first question if not answered correctly. This is designed as a final deterrent to potential invaders.
A huge dragon, mist or smoke rising from its nostrils sleeps comfortably sprawled out upon a large stone platform before you. The dragon opens its eyes and looks you over. “Who dare disturbs the slumber of the great Serpensanguis?”
If the PCs answer “Ssssss” (like a snake hissing) the magical incantations performing the show will cease and the secret door hidden under the dragon’s tail will slide open, trap disarmed.
If the PCs answer incorrectly or do not answer within a round, a single spell (GM’s choice and appropriate for color choice of dragon) will discharge upon the party and the dragon will roar so loud it deafens the PCs for a moment.
After the final offensive spell is discharged the PCs will no longer be in danger (unless the GM decides otherwise) and may proceed to investigate this area further which may lead them to discover area 3.
3. The Dragon’s Secret Door
The secret door to the outer sanctum of Serpens Sanguis is located underneath the dragon on a section of the tail. A small panel located here will open if pressed gently and the words “Serpens Sanguis Aeternum” are uttered. The PCs may then progress inside the tail of the hollowed out dragon statue, down through the foot and into the stone platform, emerging on a stairwell in the caverns below, the hidden sanctuary of Serpen Sanguis.
If the words are not spoken, the panel will still open, but instead a trap will be instantly triggered effecting anyone standing on the stone platform which holds the dragon statue.
4. Entry to the Sanctum
After passing from the dragon statue down the stairs into the caverns the PCs enter a perfectly square (20’x20’) room made from solid stone. Before the PCs is a large stone door, the final entry into the inner sanctum of Serpen Saguis. A dragons claw is imprinted upon the door with a red human handprint in the center. Those with ample knowledge (Perception/Spot DC 15 or Knowledge: Arcana) will discern that the dragon print is in fact real (as is the human print). The door is not locked, but it is trapped. To safely open the doors one must press their hand into the human sized indentation and speak the words “Verba vero mea spondeo rerum dominos, dracones” which translates to “My allegiance I pledge to the true lords of the world, the dragons”. If anything else is spoken aloud whilst a hand is inserted into the indentation, or the door is otherwise tampered with, a trap will be triggered, summoning the dragon. Combat with the dragon will be very dangerous considering the close quarters.
After the dragon has been slain, or the trap has expired, the PCs are able to open the door and proceed.
The large stone door slides open, revealing gray stone stairs descend into natural caverns. Warm air rushes up from below, carrying the strong stench of stale death, threatening to drive you back the way you came.
The intense odor of death which culminates and builds within this area is so strong players must succeed on a Fortitude DC 20 or experience extreme nausea making movement near impossible. Take in mind that remaining in this area with the stone door open may result in door’s trap being reset and triggered again. Of course, by closing the door the PCs will be sealing themselves in with the nauseating fumes and will grow increasingly ill the longer they remain here. Those that succeed on the Fort save still experience the normal effects of nausea as detailed below.
If the PCs wait in this area for 1d6+10 minutes (note the trap reset time), the air will clear and they will be able to progress down the stairs without the nauseating effects.
The stairs which descend into the inner sanctum are made from gray stone and wrap neatly around the existing cavern walls. There are no handrails on the stairs and permanent grease spells in place along the first two levels. If no one in the party has dispel magic they will have to risk slipping and falling into the depths of the cavern which is certain death at this height.
5. Underworld Lake of Despair
After descending the stairs the PCs enter the inner sanctum of Serpens Sanguis.
The stairs finally empty into a vast cavern, the ends of which you cannot see. The entirety of this cave is dominated by a large underworld lake, the light which reflects from its surface reveals it to be a deep murky gray-green coloration with tiny waves rippling across its surface. Something floats out near the center of the lake, although it is hard to see what it is at this distance.
The walls of this cave are painted with twisting murals of great dragons covered in arcane symbols. Portions of the arcane writing glow, giving off just enough light to safely skirt the walls around the edge of the lake without a light source.
The devout once used this lake as a scrying tool to seek out dragons in the area and channel their prayers in the form of magical energy to their draconic lords. The remains of a small wooden boat can be found at the lake’s edge along with three skeletons, one of which appears to tightly grip the pebble-covered shore with its finger bones. A golden necklace is twisted many times around this skeletons neck. If the skeleton is poked or prodded nothing happens, but if the necklace is removed the spirits of all three skeletons begin to drift across from the other side of the lake, approaching the PCs at full movement speed.
Floating in the center of the lake is a bloated corpse. Somehow psionic and magical manipulation accidentally caused this corpse to become immune to decomposition. The corpse wears a Ring of Wizardry III. If the corpse is touched it springs into action, suddenly screaming and levitating above the lake, howling in agony.
6. Serpens Sanguis Sanctum (Ruins)
The ground in this cave is completely covered in rubble. Large pieces of residential structures litter the ground. This cave is even wider than the lake cave, providing ample room for whoever once lived here. Amidst the rubble are the scattered remains of humans, most of which are wrapped in tattered robes decorated in arcane symbols and draconic writing.
Each of these skeletal forms is actually a Lich Shade and will rise from the ground and attack if approached. If any of the PCs speak Draconic and attempts to use speak with dead, the lich will stop for but a moment to reveal a portion of the history here, and then began to rant and rave about plots and murders, finally reacting with violent rage and once again attacking the PCs.
On the back wall of this cavern is another large passage, completely blocked by rubble from a massive cave-in. It is not possible to proceed any further into the complex. GMs may allow PCs to find a way inside and expand on this location should they wish to extend the adventure or perhaps drop a nice hook for their next adventure.
PCs searching through the rubble in this cave may find a number of trinkets, historical artifacts, or magic items. Use the table below to determine what is found.
|Search DC||Treasure Found||Information|
|10||2d10+10 gold coins||Minted with dragon heads|
|15||Bag of Holding 50lbs.||Filled with spell components|
|20||Amulet of Natural Armor +3||Crafted from dragon bone|
|25||Rod of the Dragon*||*detailed below|
|30||Orb of Despair||Quest Item (detailed below)|
If any living creature touches the Orb of Despair, it summons the twenty tortured souls (Lich Shades as above) bound to the orb to the area. They will arrive at the rate of one creatures every 1d6+2 rounds which will mercilessly attack those that possess the orb until it has once again been freed from the hands of the living.
To put the wizard’s souls to rest the PCs must destroy the Orb of Despair. Once this is done, the undead members of Serpes Sanguis turn to ash, removing the long held curse on the souls which once called these secret caverns home.
Once the foul curse has been lifted there is much to plunder (GM’s option) in the form of gems, gold, and magic items. All of the magic items have draconic symbols and markings leading the PCs to believe a dragon really did once frequent these caverns.
New Magic Item
The Orb of Despair
The Orb of Despair was left in Serpens Sanguis Sanctum by the horrific creature Crucianus when it left to return home. The wizards of the sanctum are unable to be put to rest and continue to relive the events of their past day after day because of the existence of this horrible cursed orb.
If this orb is found and handled by any living creature, it summons the twenty tortured souls bound to the orb to the area. They will arrive at the rate of one creatures every 1d6+2 rounds which will mercilessly attack those that possess the orb until it has once again been freed from the hands of the living.
The orb itself can easily be crushed between two large stones or obliterated with a warhammer. The blast of negative energy will make all affected feel apathetic and lethargic for a full 24 hours at which point the effects fade. The undead on the other hand will immediately be freed from their torturous prison in the world of the living, their bodies collapse in piles of ash throughout the cavern and the curse of this sanctum has been lifted.
The PCs may continue to explore the sealed passageway and the depths of the lake (perhaps the dimensional conduit as well), or they may simply return to the nearby town informing the authorities of the existence of this place. Or perhaps the PCs wish to claim this place for themselves as a base of operations and safehold for their acquired treasure. They’ll obviously have to do something about the dragon guardian spell at the front door, but cleaning up the rest of the place shouldn’t be too tough... or so they think.
1.4 TURN AGAIN, TURN AGAIN
by Stephen Yeardley
A 3.5/Pathfinder compatible adventure for 4-6 PCs of Levels 8-12
When the gods and demi-gods were young, fresh and inexperienced, they were often taken in by the duplicitous nature of some of their "worshippers", falling for flattery and deception from those who were a little more "worldly-wise". So some of the newer demi-gods devised a series of chests (not just one, as Juriendor believes - he has found out about the one which best matches his alignment, which GMs can decide best fits their campaign) that responded to the actual nature of the person opening it, thus revealing their true selves. These chests were filled, placed in a hidden and challenging spot and watched by two of these deities - to ensure fair play - for when experienced followers, who a particular deity wanted to help develop further, came along. Once a follower had proved himself to be true or otherwise, he was never able to find the chests again; the test had been passed or failed as appropriate and that was that.
After many months of researching – both without and within sage’s homes and dusty clerical libraries – Juriendor has found the path to the Forgotten Sacred Treasure Chest and hopes you are able to follow it. Its return carries a fabulous bounty, whilst its contents will bring a fabled glory to each of you, one which will open doors for the rest of your life! Juriendor offers you a deal which is "to the benefit of all of us!" (See 'Cost')
The caves are set in a ravine that cuts through a shallow hill on the edge of an plain of semi-desert which is sandy and strewn with rocks. The entrance is not particularly hidden, but it would be fairly straightforward to mistake for a similar way into another series of small caves. Several of the others around here appear to have been lived in at some stage, although this isn't actually the case - the stone tendriculos sometimes drags bodies away and the possessions of these former adventurers are strewn about. If you want the PCs to wander around various possible caves before finding the actual one, there is a chance of finding non-metallic adventuring equipment as follows:
|Low Value||Medium Value||High Value|
|31-35||Bedroll||59-61||Backpack (no buckles)||73-74||Block and tackle (wooden)|
|36-40||Candle||62-64||Barrel (wooden sides)||75-76||Chest (large, wooden)|
|41-45||Chalk (1 piece)||65-67||Bridle (camel, leather)||77-78||Cleric's vestments (Evil)|
|46-50||Firewood (3 days)||68-70||Bridle (horse, rope)||79-80||Cleric's vestments (Lawful)|
|51-55||Flask (clay, empty)||71-73||Case (leather, map or scroll)||81-82||Flask, acid (clay)|
|56-60||Ink pen (peacock quill)||74-76||Holy symbol (wooden, good)||83-84||Monk's outfit|
|61-65||Jug (clay, empty)||77-79||Holy symbol (wooden, evil)||85-86||Musical instrument (drums)|
|66-70||Ladder sides (2, wooden)||80-82||Pouch, belt (leather)||87-88||Net (25 ft. sq., thin rope)|
|71-75||Ladder rungs (11, wooden)||83-85||Rope, hempen (50 ft.)||89-90||Rope, silk (50 ft.)|
|76-80||Mug (wooden)||86-88||Scales (wooden, merchant)||91-92||Saddle, pack (leather)|
|81-85||Oil (1 flask)||89-91||Sealing wax (wooden box)||93-94||Signet ring (bone)|
|86-90||Sack (empty)||92-94||Tindertwigs (2)||95-96||Spell component pouch|
|91-95||Signal whistle||95-97||Travelling outfit (silk)||97-98||Tent (canvas and leather)|
|96-100||Torch||98-100||Waterskins (2, leather)||99-100||Tools, artisan (wooden)|
The fact that no metallic or gem-based items are found may give the party a clue about what could be ahead of them.
No magic items are found during these searches, other than in front of the main caves. For whatever reason, the close links to deity-affected ground draws them away from this plane after 1d3+2 days. In fact the whole area has a strange, hazy feel to it if any PC chooses to concentrate and contemplate the area.
A Knowledge (the planes) DC 35 roll (-2 per hour spent in contemplation and concentration, as if research had been undertaken) allows the PC to realise that they can feel their alignment being tugged at, as if various forces are attempting to draw them away from and back to what they know, believe and trust in.
A Knowledge (nature) DC 35 roll (-2 per turn spent in contemplation and concentration, as if research had been undertaken) allows the PC to realise that the natural nature of what this type of terrain should be like is blurred and incomplete because of the closeness of other-worldly influences.
If a player asks to make a check using Knowledge (religion) and is successful against a DC 25 roll, this means the PC concerned has a minor crisis of religious conscience, similar to when moments of doubt make your life-time of future belief stronger, as other alignment-based ideas spring into his or her head. A Will save DC 12 plus the number of points the previous roll was exceeded by is required, otherwise the PC will lose some spells, the total number of levels of which are the same as the amount the Will save is failed by, starting with 1st level spells.
For example, if the PC makes the Knowledge (religion) roll with 28 (3 more than required), the Will save becomes DC 15 (12 plus 3). If the PC gets 9 for this save, it is failed by 6. Then they will lose 6 levels of spells, starting with 1st level spells and moving on to 2nd level as necessary.
A series of non-metallic adventurers items are scattered around the marked area from just 2 days previously. The stone tendriculos has absorbed any metal and gems as food sources, but has left the following:
+1 Leather armour
(All Lawful Evil)
+1 short bow
Leather quiver with arrows
Boots of Elvenkind
(All Chaotic Good)
Brass Dragonhide armour
Pipes of the Oasis (as Pipes of the Sewer but attracts 1d2 Locust swarms)
(All True Neutral)
Depending on the PCs' actions, these groups of items may rise up as 3 Animated Objects and defend “their find”; even in this state, they don't want others to succeed in overcoming the puzzle of the caves. They belonged to a trio of adventurers that was defeated at the entrance and because of the nature of the caves, each group of items has become infused with the alignment essence of their previous user. As such, they will now only work properly for something that has the same alignment. If a PC of the same alignment as them takes hold of them, they will go along willingly. If PCs of a different alignment to their own attempt to hold them, they will fight. If defeated as Animated Objects and taken by a PC of a different alignment, they become cursed items with the mirror opposite statistics to their beneficial statistics. A remove curse on each of the items overcomes these fairly easily, whilst dismissal on any set of items allows them to be used normally as the "spirit of alignment" leaves the items.
If the party leave the objects outside, they will wait until the PCs are overcoming the trials within the complex and follow behind them, waiting for their chance to attack again, probably in Area 3B, although they may wait in area 3 for a returning party. The Animated Objects may also encounter their former users in Area 2 if the party doesn't deal with them, in which case they will flee back out of the caves.
If taken by the party, these items will manage to break free and present themselves as Animated Objects at an unwelcome moment, just as the party reach Area 4. They will fight until half their hit points and then flee on that occasion, stalking the PCs from there on in.
If the items of clothing are closely inspected, a Knowledge (geography) or Knowledge (local) DC 25 roll reveals them to have been made by a gnomish tailor call Ozwald Doaveng.
(Foreshadowing for another possible adventure: Whilst not an arcanist himself, Ozwald was known to have the ability to make items which were beyond masterwork quality and he was able to precisely match the descriptions given to him by wizards and clerics alike, often exceeding their ideas and expectations. Ozwald was known to only spend a short time on each plane, however, as his works were in high demand. Even now, many hundreds of years on from his first items being made, he is thought to still appear on occasions, but only when the time is right. His charges seem to range from 1 cp to the wealth of a realm.)
Animated Objects (3) - CR 2 each
Entrance - A Stone Tendriculos (as standard tendriculos but with the Elemental type and Earth subtype [3.5E] and Elemental and Earth subtype [PF]. It is not Extraplanar) patiently waits above the cave. This creature's squat body is crowned with a series of smaller stones, its arms are thin bands of whipping rock and it has a wide, deep brown maw. It forms part of the capstone of the entrance and will fight to prevent entry. When it reaches one quarter of its hit points, it seems to expire but actually retreats into the surrounding stone and regenerates, to be faced again on the way out. This is a pre-programmed action rather than a conscious one.
Stone Tendriculos - CR 6
3.5E - Use general stats http://www.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/tendriculos.htm
PF - Use general stats http://www.d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/plants/tendriculos
A stone tendriculos can rear up to a height of 15 feet. It weighs about 6,000 pounds.
Plant creatures and other earth creatures are unnerved by the presence of a stone tendriculos; they avoid it and any place it has been within the last 24 hours.
Prowling deep underground or waiting in rocky areas (looking like nothing more than a small hillock), a stone tendriculos attacks savagely, showing no fear. It attempts to swallow as much flesh as it can, as quickly as it can.
Improved Grab (Ex)
To use this ability, a stone tendriculos must hit a creature at least one size smaller than itself with its bite attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. If it wins the grapple check it establishes a hold and can try to swallow the opponent in the following round. A stone tendriculos can also use its improved grab ability on an appendage or stone tendril attack. If it wins the grapple check, it establishes a hold, picks up the opponent, and transfers it to the mouth as a free action, automatically dealing bite damage.
Swallow Whole/Paralysis (Ex)
A stone tendriculos can try to swallow a grabbed opponent by making a successful grapple check. Once inside the elemental's mass, the opponent must succeed on a DC 20 Fortitude save or be paralyzed for 3d6 rounds by the stone tendriculos’s thick layers of internal digestive dust and shale, taking 2d6 points of bludgeoning damage per round. A new save is required each round inside the creature. The save DC is Constitution-based. A swallowed creature that avoids paralysis can climb out of the stomach with a successful grapple check. This returns it to the creature’s maw, where another successful grapple check is needed to get free. A swallowed creature can also break its way out by using a light bludgeoning weapon to deal 25 points of damage to the stone tendriculos’s interior (AC 14). Once the creature exits, the creature’s regenerative capacity closes the hole; another swallowed opponent must break its own way out. A Huge stone tendriculos’s interior can hold 2 Large, 8 Medium, 32 Small, 128 Tiny, or 512 Diminutive or smaller opponents.
Bludgeoning weapons and water (including ice) deal normal damage to a stone tendriculos. A stone tendriculos that loses part of its body mass can reform it in 1d6 minutes. Holding the severed portion against the stony mass enables it to reattach instantly.
Other differences from a standard tendriculos:
The creature becomes "Huge Elemental (Earth)"
"Plant traits" replaced by "Elemental traits"
(Foreshadowing for another possible adventure: A Spot/Perception DC25 roll, or Search/Perception DC 20 roll if the creature is defeated, will reveal a rune carved into the chest of the stone tendriculos. A Knowledge (religion) or Knowledge (nature) allows a PC to recognise this as the symbol of an ancient stone giant goddess. The creature was at least in part created, along the lines of a stone golem, but fused with a tendriculos's spirit.)
2. Ovoid Space
This cavern widens slightly to make an ovoid space. It contains three allip-type creatures, which are the spirits of the adventurers whose equipment is outside. Whilst they didn’t commit suicide, they had spent years searching for the Forgotten Sacred Treasure Chest and months travelling to this place, only to be defeated at the first hurdle just 2 days ago; this drove them collectively insane and, at the last moment of their existence, as they were almost dead from their wound, they fell on each other, each one blaming the other two for their combined failure.
If the PCs have the items from outside, the three spirits enter a vicious rage which affects their stats in exactly the same way a rage does a barbarian.
Spirits (3) - CR 4 each
When one of the 3 takes damage in combat, it flies into a berserk rage on its next turn, clawing and biting madly until either it or its opponent is dead. It gains +4 to Strength, +4 to Constitution, and -2 to Armor Class. The creature cannot end its rage voluntarily.
The Animated Objects won’t fight against their previous owners, but they don’t want to be returned to such insane creatures either. If the items have been defeated as Animated Objects and are now being used by party members, even those of the same alignment, they will simply shut down in this area and fall to the floor if possible, petrified and useless. After 2 rounds in this state, they will attempt to flee from the cave.
A Guardian Naga (Neutral alignment) rests in this area. The naga is only there the first time the PCs pass through; after that, it leaves the area until the PCs either succeed or fail and are possibly killed and it is required to welcome a new group of adventurers in the future.
It offers a four-tray balance to the PCs, one tray marked for each of Law, Chaos, Good and Evil, and invites them to put coins in each one, explaining that a small donation to the Caves of Balance is required to continue . The naga allows the party to place coins onto the balance until they are all agree on the content. Then the balance moves as appropriate. The PCs are offered a second chance to add coins to the trays - they find they can't remove those already in place - and after that their decision is final. The worth of coins to balance the trays works as follows:
1 pp = 2 gp = 4 sp = 8 cp
The total in each tray affects the outcome of being able to walk through 3A or 3B.
If the trays are out of balance, the PCs will have to face the Neutral Defender of the Loop. Whichever tray contained the greatest value of coins will mean those with that alignment in any way will not be able to interact with or harm the Neutral Defender - it just won't be detectable by them in any way. After this first challenge is overcome, the rest will operate as described. Archway 3A can be passed through, archway 3B is blocked .
However, anything other than balance also activates the traps into 3A and 3B. The party will need to go through 3A, setting off the trap unless it is found and disabled, and face the Neutral Defender, before returning to Area 3 and finding the way through 3B passable.
If the PCs head for 3B before facing the Neutral Defender, they set off the trap, but find that they can only pass about 15ft through the gap and along the tunnel at this time. They need to pass round the Loop and deal with the Neutral Defender before returning to Area 3 and then passing through 3B. If only one PC passes through to find this out, the GM will need to make a note of who it is, as the first PC will suffer the effects of the trap with the next PC to go through the arch if the trap isn't disabled. The trap details are below.
If the trays are balanced once the PCs have donated coins, or they have faced the Neutral Defender as required, 3B offers a clear way forward with the trap disabled, whilst 3A is blocked. This can mean that each PC is granted immediate access to the Four Marks of Balance without having to face the Neutral Defender of the Loop as a first challenge. The first challenge is considered complete and the PCs gain experience as if they had defeated the Neutral Defender.
Guardian Naga - CR 10
The naga is able to speak Abyssal, Infernal and Undercommon in addition to Celestial and Common.
As the PCs approach it, it will have cast expeditious retreat in case of any duplicity on the party's part. If challenged, it will fight defensively, attempting to drain the PCs of resources prior to them facing the real tests. Its scales can have the same effect as if it is wearing a Robe of Scintillating Colours; it will activate this effect as soon as anyone attempts to strike it. When the naga falls below 25% of its hit points, it will attempt to leave the cave and, if successful not return until the PCs have gone (it will see them leave) or are killed .
If the party speaks to the naga, it points out that going through the archways out of the cave will "cleanse you of pre-formed misconceptions." If the scales are balanced, it will relay the first piece of information to the party (see below).
Trap - 3A
Prismatic Spray Trap - CR 8
Magic device; proximity trigger (alarm); automatic reset
Spell effect (prismatic spray, 13th-level wizard; DC 20 Reflex, Fortitude or Will save depending on the effect)
Search/Perception DC32, Disable Device DC 32
This trap works when a PC walks through
Trap - 3B
Polymorph Any Object Trap - CR 8
Magic device; proximity trigger; automatic reset
Spell effect (polymorph any object, 20th-level wizard)
Search/Perception DC32, Disable Device DC 32
This trap works in a very specific way. It polymorphs any two creatures that pass through it into exact duplicates of each other, but only works once per month per creature. Otherwise the effects are permanent (unless the PCs concerned come back a month later and step through the archway again or they reach area 4 and take the items from one of the chests). The trap will work once for each member of the party and then remain unset. For game purposes, players should swap character sheets if they are affected by this trap.
When looked through, this archway offers a clear view to B i, but it is an impenetrable barrier from this side. It can only be crossed through from the direction of B i. If a Spot/Perception DC30 roll is made, 5 softly glowing tiny red runes can be seen moving around the arch, 1 each for Law, Chaos, Good, Evil and Neutrality. DC 35 notes that the rune for Good is at the top of the archway most frequently.
When looked through, this archway offers a clear view to B ii, but it is an impenetrable barrier from this side. It can only be crossed through from the direction of B ii. If a Spot/Perception DC30 roll is made, 5 softly glowing tiny red runes can be seen moving around the arch, 1 each for Law, Chaos, Good, Evil and Neutrality. DC 35 notes that the rune for Evil is at the top of the archway most frequently.
When looked through, this archway offers a clear view to B iii, but it is an impenetrable barrier from this side. It can only be crossed through from the direction of B iii. If a Spot/Perception DC30 roll is made, 5 softly glowing tiny red runes can be seen moving around the arch, 1 each for Law, Chaos, Good, Evil and Neutrality. DC 35 notes that the rune for Law is at the top of the archway most frequently.
When looked through, this archway offers a clear view to B iv, but it is an impenetrable barrier from this side. It can only be crossed through from the direction of B iv. If a Spot/Perception DC30 roll is made, 5 softly glowing tiny red runes can be seen moving around the arch, 1 each for Law, Chaos, Good, Evil and Neutrality. DC 35 notes that the rune for Chaos is at the top of the archway most frequently.
Once the runes have been noticed on one of the arches, the DCs on the others reduce by 5.
Loop – Various challenges
Depending on when the PCs walk around the Loop, they face different challenges in the form of creatures to deal with. They will pass around the Loop at least 4 times, possibly 5 times, and maybe more if they choose to, facing a different creature as follows. However, no creature can be faced more than once.
How they deal with it is up to them, but fighting and killing it is by far from the only solution; deals, diplomacy and deception are all acceptable and will gain the same xp for the party.
As the PCs pass around the Loop, they will be different alignments as a result of the archway(s) they have walked through to get there. This will affect the way the various creatures will interact with them. If they are of the same alignment in any way, the creatures will talk with them and tell them a little about the task they face and how to complete it. If they are too dissimilar, the creatures will be more inclined to attack to kill.
The creatures are all found at the base of the Loop.
1st – Gray Render - N (CR 8)
If the party manages to balance the scales the guardian naga offers them, they won't have to face this creature. Remember, the alignment rune of scale that had the heaviest weight of coins in means PCs of that alignment can't help defeat the Neutral Defender, or indeed even see, hear or smell it. There is a 5% chance that the render will instantly form a bond with any PC that is true neutral. It will leave the Loop and cavern and wait outside for the PC to return. This may initially seem beneficial, but the creature will attack anyone or thing that seems to be disagreeing with the recipient of the bond, which could cause problems. The render will only stay for a week, after which it returns to the cavern.
If the PCs do have to face this creature, they find that the Loop is dry and dusty, with a feeling that the air wants to become earthen as it enters their lungs. The walls are crumbly, with flakes coming away from them when they are brushed against. A Listen/Perception DC 25 roll allows them to hear a soft, contented humming coming from deep within this section of the caves. It is the render, which is slowly pacing around the Loop by itself, drawing the 5 runes for each alignment category on the walls. It also draws lines between them, seemingly in a random way, but that can't be the case as every now and then it stops humming, looks at a particular link, rubs it out and draws a different line in.
These actions are partially what give the caves their magical ability to transform and transport people. The render's runes are drawn in such a way that the innocence of the creature bleeds through the chalk and into the images, feeding them with complete the complete impartiality of a neutrally-aligned being's perception of all the possible extremes.
The PCs will find that they are unable to affect the runes themselves. However, if anyone was to spend 24 hours (over three continuous days) studying the links between the various runes, they would gain a +2 insight bonus to any Knowledge skill of their choice as the roll alignment plays in overall understanding becomes clearer.
As the PCs approach, the render stops writing on the walls and watches them, waiting for their next move. It readies an attack action, but will only follow through with this if the PCs attack first. If offered 3 further insights to the links between alignments, the render will take the party to the first line of enlightenment information and the test is passed. What these are can be at the GM's discretion, but 3 successful Knowledge (the planes) or Knowledge (religion) roles, the first DC 22, the second DC 25 and the third DC 28, will achieve the same end. These can be a mixture of the two Knowledge types. There is no chance to retry on a failure, or to take 20 as there are repercussions for failing the roll.
Alternatively, appearing as another render (through polymorphing or something like it) and "reasoning" with the creature in some way will win it over if 3 successful Wisdom rolls against the creature's rolls are made. Otherwise the party must defeat it. When it reaches 0 hp, it melts away into the dust of the floor, to return when another party appears.
2nd – Avoral - NG (CR 9)
On walking around the Loop to meet this challenge, the PCs find that it is incomplete, with open skies above and below them. No particular roll is required when they just walk around, but if a fight takes place, individual stepping blocks bob up and down due to the extra momentum, and a Balance/Acrobatic DC 8 roll is required for a move and single action and a DC 13 roll required for a full attack, otherwise the PC misses with one attack. The avoral isn't affected by this as it is able to fly, and any PC with this ability will also be free of the effect. The avoral is microscopically cleaning the area with gust of wind spells as the PCs approach, but will ready a flyby attack as they approach, only using this if they attack first.
If the party is able to give 3 additional pieces of information about the ability to see beyond normal vision or gain insight through the most careful and thoughtful study - basically something linked to true seeing and the natural ability to see beyond normal ranges - the avoral will take them to the second line of enlightenment information and the test is passed. What these are can be at the GM's discretion, but 3 successful Knowledge (arcana) or Knowledge (nature) roles, the first DC 22, the second DC 25 and the third DC 28, will achieve the same end. These can be a mixture of the two Knowledge types. There is no chance to retry on a failure, or to take 20 as there are repercussions for failing the roll.
Alternatively, appearing as another avoral (through polymorphing or something like it) and "reasoning" with the creature in some way will win it over if 3 successful Intelligence rolls against the creature's rolls are made. Otherwise the party must defeat it. When it reaches 0 hp, it melts away into the air around the bobbing platforms, to return when another party appears.
3rd – Night Hag - NE (CR 9)
On walking around the Loop to meet this challenge, the PCs find that the tunnels become blurred and seemingly insubstantial, as if they are on two planes at once. This is the case, as the Ethereal plane is leaking into the Loop on this challenge. This doesn't really influence the situation other than is a spell is cast which makes use of the Ethereal plane, in which case the caster is considered 2 levels higher OR 2 levels lower (a 50/50 chance for each) than they actually are. This effect doesn't affect the night hag. As the PCs approach, the night hag is peeling extremely thin slivers of the walls away with her finger nails and appears to be forming some kind of heart-shaped stone with these multiple transparent pieces of rock; it is as if she is rebuilding an onion one layer at a time. She readies a bite attack as the PCs come nearer, but only uses this if the Party attacks first.
If the party is able to give 3 additional insights into the dreams, aspirations and misuses of alignment and position, the night hag will take them to the third line of enlightenment information and the test is passed. What these are can be at the GM's discretion, but 3 successful Knowledge (history) or Knowledge (nobility and royalty) roles, the first DC 22, the second DC 25 and the third DC 28, will achieve the same end. These can be a mixture of the two Knowledge types. There is no chance to retry on a failure, or to take 20 as there are repercussions for failing the roll.
Alternatively, appearing as another night hag (through polymorphing or something like it) and "reasoning" with the creature in some way will win it over if 3 successful Wisdom rolls against the creature's rolls are made. Otherwise the party must defeat it. When it reaches 0 hp, it melts away into the Ethereal plane, instantly blown beyond reach, to return when another party appears.
4th – Zelekhut - LN (CR 9)
On walking around the Loop to meet this challenge, the PCs find that the Loop takes on a metallic, smooth and precise form, with the walls, ceiling and floor clear of protrusions and anything that might be classed as "out of place". Periodically along the base of the walls, thin slits appear, with runnels leading to them from various directions across the floor.
If the party is able to give 3 additional insights into how items are properly made to fully fit their function or how order is maintained across the lands, the zelekhut will take them to the fourth line of enlightenment information and the test is passed. What these are can be at the GM's discretion, but 3 successful Knowledge (architecture and engineering) or Knowledge (geography) roles, the first DC 22, the second DC 25 and the third DC 28, will achieve the same end. These can be a mixture of the two Knowledge types. There is no chance to retry on a failure, or to take 20 as there are repercussions for failing the roll.
Alternatively, appearing as another zelekhut (through polymorphing or something like it) and "reasoning" with the creature in some way will win it over if 3 successful Charisma rolls against the creature's rolls are made. Otherwise the party must defeat it. When it reaches 0 hp, its components melt into liquid metal which rapidly runs away into the drains points around the Loop, to return when another party appears.
This marid carries a +2 trident which it uses with two hands. Remember to adjust the attacks figures accordingly; +1 to each hit, +2 to damage and strength bonus at one-and-a-half times usual.
On walking around the Loop to meet this challenge, the PCs will find themselves wading through knee-high water, for medium characters, and waist-deep for small characters. Naturally, this will have a hampering effect on movement and some actions; running may well be next to impossible, for instance. However, despite this water, the wall above 5 feet aren't wet at all; it is as if the water simply can't get that high. Any attempts to moisten or splash the walls above this height disappear within 2 seconds.
If the party is able to tell 3 additional stories about how people have performed aor acted their way through trouble above and below ground, the marid will take them to the fifth line of enlightenment information and the test is passed. What these are can be at the GM's discretion, but 3 successful Knowledge (dungeoneering) or Knowledge (local) roles, the first DC 22, the second DC 25 and the third DC 28, will achieve the same end. These can be a mixture of the two Knowledge types. There is no chance to retry on a failure, or to take 20 as there are repercussions for failing the roll.
Alternatively, appearing as another marid (through polymorphing or something like it) and "reasoning" with the creature in some way will win it over if 3 successful Charisma rolls against the creature's rolls are made. Otherwise the party must defeat it. When it reaches 0 hp, its dissipates into a deep blue pool wave which soon flows away into he rest of the surrounding water around the Loop, to return when another party appears.
Each time the PCs work their way around the Loop, either they are shown a phrase which gives information to help on the path to enlightenment by the guardian or find it engraved above the archway as 3A as they step back into Area 3. There is never more than one engraving above the archway, and usually there are none. The information from each trip around the loop is as follows:
1st – Forget all you believe and trust what you become (the guardian naga says this to the party if they balance the scales)
2nd – You must be everything and nothing to succeed
3rd – You won’t succeed at first, but a handful of effort will be enough
4th – Sometimes you have to fully live the lives of others in order to understand them
5th – Once you have experienced all Life has to offer, you can truly follow your path.
In order to gain the information to help on the path to enlightenment, the PCs will need to go through the 'B' archways to gain access to the challenges in the Loop. These archways can be used in any order. In fact, a party of 4 PCs could each use a different arch for each of the challenges, with any attempt to walk through the arches simultaneously being resolved through initiative rolls.
B i – Mark of the Holy
Any creature passing through the archway this symbol will become Good, with all the effects this has on their character. They then appear at A i as if the two paths are one. Once at A i they can not step back to B i. They will also need to pass around the Loop and meet its challenge before they can go back through 3B.
The following mark appears on the far left-hand side of a creatures forehead once they have walked through the archway and met the challenge in the Loop:
B ii – Mark of the Unholy
Any creature passing through the archway this symbol will become Evil, with all the effects this has on their character. They then appear at A ii as if the two paths are one. Once at A ii they can not step back to B ii. They will also need to pass around the Loop and meet its challenge before they can go back through 3B.
The following mark appears above the left eye on a creatures forehead once they have walked through the archway and met the challenge in the loop:
B iii – Mark of the Axiom
Any creature passing through the archway this symbol will become Lawful, with all the effects this has on their character. They then appear at A iii as if the two paths are one. Once at A iii they can not step back to B iii. They will also need to pass around the Loop and meet its challenge before they can go back through 3B.
The following mark appears above the right eye on a creatures forehead once they have walked through the archway and met the challenge in the loop:
B iv – Mark of Anarchy
Any creature passing through the archway this symbol will become Chaotic, with all the effects this has on their character. They then appear at A iv as if the two paths are one. Once at A iv they can not step back to B iv. They will also need to pass around the Loop and meet its challenge before they can go back through 3B.
The following mark appears on the far right-hand side of a creatures forehead once they have walked through the archway and met the challenge in the loop:
B v – Solid Wall
For anyone without the four Marks of Balance, this is a solid wall and the entrance to Area 4 simply doesn't exist and can not do so in any way short of direct divine intervention. It is a barrier created by the agreement of a number of deities and requires agreement between at least three of them for it to be opened for something that hasn't undertaken the five tests.
The entrance to Area 4 won't be open until a person walks through B i, B ii, B iii and B iv and receives the Marks of Balance upon them. Then anyone with all four marks will see that there isn’t really a wall there and will be able to carry on into the last cave. This could mean that some member of a party can see the entrance, and even walk through it, whilst others can't see it. If this is the case, any PC that walks through the gap just seems to disappear into thin air to any PC that can't see the entrance.
4. The Forgotten Treasure
Once they step over its threshold and reach Area 4 to complete the quest, PCs will find themselves True Neutral, with the four marks gone but memories of their original alignment. As all the party members move into the passageway leading to the main chamber, it seals behind them, leaving no obvious way out of the cavern. The PCs are now expected to finish the quest; any attempt to travel out of the chamber is met with failure, as the sealing on the passage way is actually part of a process that transports the cave to the chests, not the other way around. The cave, and PCs in it, are now at the junction of the Planes of Law, Chaos, Evil and Good, where perfect balance between the four is achieved and only those of Neutral alignment can survive without being driven permanently insane. Original alignment can be retrieved and the details how to do so are at the end of this entry.
Forgotten Sacred Treasure Chest
A series of five similar chests are placed in this room. Each radiates a philosophical attitude – Neutral, Lawful, Chaotic, Good and Evil. Whatever the chests radiate is their true alignment, although you can project your own “feelings” onto it, thus the Evil chest could read as Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic Evil, depending on what you “expect” it to be. The chests are insubstantial and actually reside in their own plane of existence - Law, Chaos, Evil and Good. As anyone approaches them, that person is entering another plane from the point of Balance Alignment. This makes the chest appear solid, not because it is appearing in the cave, but because the person is leaving the point where the cave mostly exists and entering a plane where the cave partially exists. As a PC moves towards the chest, she becomes increasingly insubstantial to anyone more than 10 feet away for each additional 5 feet they are apart. Anyone within 10 feet still sees the other person as solid and whole.
Only one chest can be opened. Each has its own alignment symbol on it. Once this is done, the rest go out of phase, never to return for these characters (the room is able to sense who has come within 100 feet of it at any time, and once they have entered any of the 'B' portals, their philosophical imprint is remembered.) The content of each chest is as follows:
Lawful – An Amulet of Health +2, a Monk’s Belt, a scroll with one each of the Law domain spells on it, a reflecting shield which can be called on 3 times per day to reflect spells with the Chaos descriptor back at the caster, a Bracelet of Friends and Lawful copies of the tome and candle listed below
Chaotic – A Golem Manual (Flesh), a Harp of Charming, a scroll with one each of the Chaos domain spells on it, a reflecting shield which can be called on 3 times per day to reflect spells with the Law descriptor back at the caster, a Bracelet of Friends and Chaotic copies of the tome and candle listed below
Good – A Horn of Goodness, a Strand of Prayer beads (Lesser), a scroll with one each of the Good domain spells on it, a reflecting shield which can be called on 3 times per day to reflect spells with the Evil descriptor back at the caster, a Bracelet of Friends and Good copies of the tome and candle listed below
Evil – A Cape of the Mountebank, a Horn of Evil, a scroll with one each of the Evil domain spells on it, a reflecting shield which can be called on 3 times per day to reflect spells with the Good descriptor back at the caster, a bracelet of Friends and Evil copies of the tome and candle listed below
Neutral – One bead for each PC. When grasped, these beads become a +1 weapon of their choice which is as close to the power of a shortsword as possible (for Medium creatures; max 1d6 damage, 19-20/ x2 critical, around 2lb. in weight), with either the Anarchic, Axiomatic, Holy or Unholy ability of their choice. There is also a Bracelet of friends and Neutral versions of the tome and candle listed below.
In each chest there is a thick book, and this is what Juriendor will choose as his item when the PCs return with all the treasure they have gained. It is bound in ironwood and lead as well as being sealed with beeswax. It is also shut up tightly with an amazing lock (DC 40 to open) and continually radiates an anti-magic shield around itself. It is a combined Tome of Leadership, Influence and Understanding +3, an artefact completed by the gods themselves, written from the viewpoint of each of the main alignments. The book also contains a cut-out space which houses a 4-use Candle of Invocation. These are usually attuned to a specific alignment, but the version within the tome is set to work for someone with one of the 4 main components regardless of the rest of the users alignment make-up, e.g the Lawful candle will work for Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral and Lawful Evil clerics.
If the PCs return with a tome and candle that match Juriendor's alignment in some way, he will use it as soon as possible. If they return with one that doesn't match his alignment, he will destroy it in an official ceremony and be rewarded by his deity with an increase in experience which takes him to the beginning of the next level. Juriendor will be eternally grateful to the PCs in either circumstance and will ensure their safety and security whenever they are in town and provide them with an Wand of Endless Cure Minor Wounds. Juriendor's deity will also watch over the PCs and provideas the GM sees fit.
After taking the items from the chosen chest, the path opens up from Area 4 back to Area 3B whilst the previous route to Area 4 seals behind them. The PCs can leave the site any time they wish. They will lose all memory of how to get to the site unless a wish is used by each of them at the same time to gather and corroborate their stories.
In order to return to their original alignment before leaving the caves, all a PC has to do is go back through the one or two routes which switch them back. No further challenges will occur in the Loop, although the polymorph ability at 3B will reactivate; above the archway at 3B, on both sides, will be a magic mouth which says, "Enter, leave, return once more." If a PC goes through this entrance, goes back and then comes back again, they polymorph into themselves. This is a slightly unnerving feeling, as if they have stepped into a parallel universe, although this isn't the case. It happens every time they do it.
The return trip to Juriendor will be uneventful, unless the GM wishes differently.