The northern reaches of the Scorched Lands are dominated by the Sea of Shards, a stretch of sand dunes that are endlessly shifting at the whim of the winds and dotted with strange ashen stalagmites that rise from the terrain. Traveling is difficult at best and landmarks are rare, always appearing or disappearing with the changes of the sand dunes. The few locals who dare cross this area are also superstitiously fearful of the ashen pillars, so much so that they avoid marking them as waypoints. This almost barren land is quite dangerous for any who brave it.
- The Fiery Apparition Haunt
- Desert Terrain Hazards
- Advance Scout Spire (CR 9 or 14)
The servants of the Formian Queen have hidden exits from her vast Underworld empire among the many ashen pillars dotting the Sea of Shards. When close enough (within 500 ft.) telling them apart is simple—constructed mounds are made of hard-packed dirt and grit—but by then it may be too late, chancing that one’s presence is detected by formians scouts that scour the Scorched Lands (6 warriors and 1d4+4 workers who maintain the lair). There is a 10% chance a spire is of strategic importance to the Formian Queen and is also home to a formian myrmarch.
There’s little to see from afar save for the shifting of patrol warbands that cycle in and out of the spire every few weeks. Adventurers may attempt to sneak to the entrance of the spire, but otherwise the beings within are alerted to their approach by warrior scouts and follow a pre-set plan of actions.
When prepared for trespassers the six warriors assault intruders while the workers set about in activating a controlled cave-ins. After 1d10 rounds of battle the underground tunnels fall in on themselves, gradually collapsing the entire spire after 1d4 minutes. If a formian myrmarch is present it only takes part in the combat if it seems the party can be easily defeated; otherwise the elite servant of the Formian Queen is the first to retreat before the tunnels are collapsed. This defense ensures no trail is left to the Underworld complexes belonging to the formians.
When trespassers surprise the creatures (or manage to foil their defense plan and enter the lair before it collapses) the interior of the scout spire has a simple chamber containing no treasure of great worth or any clues to the origin of its warband. [The maze-like tunnels that lead deeper could easily become an adventure arc on their own, but that is beyond the scope of this story. —SP]
- Sand Traps (CR 3) and Sinkholes (CR 6)
Due to the constantly shifting sands, the dunes in the Sea of Shards are riddled with natural sand traps (as per an ant lion’s ability) and sinkholes (as a camouflaged pit trap but Perception and Disable Device DC 28) to the unwary. The ground is rarely hard packed sand and many times seems to suck a traveler’s feet in, or for the truly unfortunate, one’s entire body.
At the GM’s discretion, the sand that topples onto a creature that falls into a sand trap or sinkhole might trap them in without allowing them room to breathe. Without help from above the creature must succeed on a DC 22 Climb or Escape Artist check extricate themselves; otherwise suffocation rules come into play (in this case increase the hazard’s CR +2).
[Submitted by Stefanos "netlich" Patelis!]