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Twin Crossings Extra Content #6


Vikmordere Valley in FallVale of the Spider Eaters – Part 5

Buried deep in the mountains lies a hidden vale. The skeletons of long dead soldiers stand guard over a cache of magic items.

This is the final post in the story of the Lost Battalion, a side quest in five parts that can be played as a stand-alone adventure or may be used as additional content to Twin Crossingsa mercantile endeavor for 4th level characters, available to subscribers of AdventureAWeek.com (and soon to be in the store!). You can find the first post here.

If you want all of the bonus content for Twin Crossings in one shot search for the tags “Lost Battalion” and “Burned Mill”, and you can find them all here on the AaWBlog!

Below are two of the magic items that can be found in Midya Merocheck’s cache of lost magic. The third item, the stone span, as well as a fourth new magic item, quilted silks, are detailed in the adventure.

 

 


Warriors-on-horsebackHeavyload Saddle
Aura faint transmutation; CL 1st
Price 
2,000 gp; Weight 3 lbs.
DESCRIPTION
This finely crafted saddle comes with a cloth bearing the insignia of an elite military unit. An animal saddled with a heavyload saddle is affected as though subject to a permanent ant haul spell.
CONSTRUCTION
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, ant haul; Cost 1,000 gp

 

Tunnel Bore
Aura 
moderate transmutation; CL 9th
Slot none; Price 4,200 gp; Weight 10 lb
DESCRIPTION
This torpedo-shaped iron device bores through earth and rock (but not worked stone), creating a tunnel 10 feet wide by up to 180 feet long. The magic in the device crafts stone supports as needed to shore up the tunnel. Once used, the device splits in half and becomes useless.
CONSTRUCTION
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, stone shapetransmute mud to rock, transmute rock to mud; Cost 2,100 gp

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Designer Spotlight: Michael Allen and Twin Crossings!

Twin Crossings cover v1Which Adventureaweek.com modules would work well as a prelude to Twin Crossings?

I wanted to write an adventure that would give the PCs a reason to travel beyond Rybalka. To get out and see some other parts of the Klavek Kingdom. The PCs are 4th level now—this gives them a chance to see some of the eastern Klavek Kingdom. Any of the Rybalkan peninsula adventures work well as prelude to Twin Crossings, and as we establish the fact that there is an east-west caravan between Cherr’s landing and Mokhba (with Rybalka in spitting distance—giant’s spitting distance at least) there is a way for the PCs to reasonably go back and forth.

 

What was your source of inspiration for this adventure?

I loved Raymond Feist’s Rise of a Merchant Prince and the character of Silk in Edding’s Belgariad. I always wanted to explore these themes in an adventure one day. Indeed, my rogue PC in a campaign of War of the Burning Sky set up businesses in the war torn cities of that world. One day I’d like to do an AP on these themes, and this was a great way to test out some of my ideas on a smaller scale.

 

How did Twin Crossings change from your original concept?

The caravan rules changed three times. I originally wanted the players to be able to build their caravan almost like a PC, using all of the information they found along the way to make it as efficient as possible. In the end, the calculations for determining the PCs’ profitability were almost automated. Information and player choices still had an impact, but it became more organic rather than an ongoing math problem.

 

What is your typical process for fleshing out an adventure like this? Did you do anything different this time around?

After settling on a theme, I start with the creatures. Monster descriptions usually inspire encounters for me. If its a classed creature or NPC, I might have an idea of what role I want them to fill in a combat, but I usually wait until designing that combat before building them. Once the encounters are roughed in, I make sure there is a good mix of varied challenges, a spell combat here, a hazard/terrain enhanced combat there, a beefy damage dealer combat over this way.

The challenge here was the flowchart of the adventure. I wanted to give the PCs a way to chart their own course, but I also didn’t want to have them totally bypass any encounters (it is a waste of space—every word is precious).  I think I came up with a good solution in the end—indeed one of the last encounters in the adventure is entitled No Monster Left out.

 

aaw-free-5What tools did you use while writing Twin Crossings?

I’m a big fan of Paizo’s NPC Codex, and the NPCs in the Gamemastery Guide. I can usually mine those for ideas for my classed characters—especially mooks.  I can easily swap out feats, weapons, spell selections, and even change up the races or modify stats on some of the stock builds there to customize opponents. It allows me to save time for the truly important custom builds (or converting to 3.5).  I would rate NPC compendiums like this as high on the priority list of any GM looking to have some ready resources at their fingertips.

 

What is your favorite part of the adventure?

There is a lot of background and rumors for the PCs to discover. The opening scene of the adventure has many opportunities for some in-depth role play as well as some skill based challenges. These opportunities continue throughout—and I enjoyed tying the success or failure of these moments into the PCs overall success.


Tell us about one character, creature, item, or spell which was unique to this adventure. How did you come up with the idea and what went into the design of this part of the adventure?

Confession time—I went over word count on this adventure. It crept up on me. Part of it was the extra background and role play moments, part of it was underestimating the word count on providing stat blocks for both systems (which I did not have to do for the Pathmaster contest).  The unique magical items were included in a detour quest the PCs have an opportunity to go on during their journey. While the PCs still have a chance to discover these magical items (and all of them are still included and have an impact in the adventure) we had to trim back much of that quest to save on word count. Fortunately, we are releasing the full side quest here on the AaWBlog! All of the items in this cache spring from an idea I had around an engineering battalion led by a mage-engineer, and help the PCs make a lasting impact on travel in this new area of the Klavek Kingdom.  I think the most fun I had was beefing up the legend and history for release in the blog posts—I hope you enjoy the tale of the last stand of the Lost Battalion on the blog.

 

diceIs there anything you would change looking back? Any suggestions you could give a DM/GM running this game which could help them through any rough patches?

My play testers were bloodthirsty gits. The adventure contains some suggestions to the GM on how to handle the rivalry between the two competing caravans early on so bloodshed doesn’t break out too early. In the end my group still activated the encounter with their rivals early. Don’t sweat it too much if this happens. It is not a game breaker—and I ended up satisfied that the flowchart still allowed the PCs to get back on track.


Which Adventureaweek.com adventures would work well after the players conclude Twin Crossings?

PCs should be close to leveling to 5th after this adventure and if you beef up the adventure with a few random encounters or side quests will likely do so.

A-6 Bear Trouble could easily be relocated to the mountains of The Knee on the Vladen Peninsula where the new town of Svest is located. There will be a call for mercenary bands with the opening of new overland trade routes to Cherr’s Landing, and the discoveries made in the mountain passes…

B-7 Beauty and Blood could be set in Aventyr in the woods of the Vladen Peninsula with a little bit of renaming of the geography.  

B-9 Curse of the Full Moon could likewise be set in the Eastern Klavek Kingdom; Locate the town of Rooknest somewhere between the mountains of The Knee and Cherr’s Landing.

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Twin Crossings Extra Content #5 – Vale of the Spider Eaters – Part 4

Vale of the Spider Eaters – Part 4

Gopcheck knew now that he wasn’t going to get out of here alive. After fleeing from the airborne monsters—huge flying beasts that looked like a cross between a wasp and a spider—the last survivors fled into a cave near some hot springs deep in the hidden valley. The caves were home to even more huge spiders, and many of their number fell to the terrifying creatures. Some small hope remained as a cache of the mage’s magical items had been loaded onto one of the few remaining mules. Gopcheck and his companions set up one of the tunnel devices to dig their way out in one of the brief respites from combat. Happily the device worked and they retreated into the tunnel to set up a second.

The walls of the tunnel turned to salt and as they struggled with the magic item, Gopcheck longed for water. That longing was cut short as huge worm-like creatures burst forth in a shower of salt crystals. Whiplash tails knocked his companions off their feet and Gopcheck watched the skin of his friends’ faces and necks become like a desiccated corpse when the creatures latched on to them with their horrific maws. He stood alone, facing off against three of the beasts, his spear clutched in his hands. It was over quickly, and as he gazed down on the worm creature sucking the juices out of his leg, his last thoughts were, “thirsty, so thirsty”….

Twin Crossings cover v1This is the fourth post in the story of the Lost Battalion, a side quest in five parts that can be played as a stand-alone adventure, or may be used as additional content to Twin Crossingsa mercantile endeavor for 4th-level characters, now available in the store and to subscribers of AdventureAWeek.com. You can find the first post here.

If you want all of the bonus content for Twin Crossings in one shot search for the tags “Lost Battalion” and “Burned Mill”, and you can find them all here on the AaWBlog!

D. The Salt Mine (CR 4 or 6)

The final survivors of the lost battalion attempted to flee the valley by boring a new tunnel through the mountains. Their first passage drove into a vein of salt and as they set up a second tunnel bore, a nest of salt worms burrowed out of the vein and attacked. The dried husks of the nine victims remain preserved in the dry air of the tunnel, along with their equipment.

Read the following:

A tunnel similar to the one accessing the valley drives into one of the cavern walls. 120 feet into the passage the walls shift from solid stone to a white mineral: sold salt—white gold. 60 feet ahead a dozen humanoid forms are visible at the blank face of the tunnel.

Hazard: After four hours in the salt mine a DC 16 Fortitude save prevents dehydration. A dehydrated creature takes 1d6 non-lethal damage and gains the fatigued condition. Consuming one gallon of fresh water (which takes 5 minutes) cures 6 points of non-lethal damage, but 8 hours of rest is required to clear the fatigue.

Treasure: The remains of the magical cache of the mage engineer contains:
10 tunnel bores
2 stone spans
3 heavyload saddles
6 masterwork pack saddles
10 wooden barrels (able to store 100 pounds of salt each)
Midya Merochek’s traveling spellbook
6th-level spells: greater dispel magic, move earth; 5th-level spells: transmute mud to rock, transmute rock to mud; 4th-level spells: dimension door, stone shape; 3rd-level spells: beast shape I, lightning bolt, shrink item; 2nd-level spells: gust of wind,  fog cloud, rope trick, whispering wind; 1st-level spells: enlarge person, expeditious retreat, jump, magic missile, mount; Cantrips: all core
Total Value (3.5) 5,200 gp; Sale Value 2,600 gp; Total Value (Pathfinder) 6,900 gp; Sale Value 3,450 gp

Note: The treasure stash above is for use only when adding this encounter to Twin Crossings. When exploring the Vale of the Spider Eaters as a stand-alone adventure, reduce the tunnel bores and heavyload saddles to one each and remove the stone spans entirely. Additionally, half of the spells in the spellbook have been damaged (resolve randomly by spell level) and are undecipherable.

Treasure: Salt

PCs may mine white gold to ship on their caravan. In Twin Crossings, 100 pounds of salt is equal to one cargo unit. In a stand-alone adventure salt is worth 5 gp per pound as a trade good, but reduce how much salt the PCs can mine in an eight hour stretch by half and consider carefully how much wealth you want them to get away with before you send more and more salt worms at them

A martial pick (weapon) mines at a rate of 150 pounds per 8 hours work plus 50 pounds for every +1 enhancement bonus.

Using a miner’s pick a creature can mine 300 pounds of salt every 8 hours.

A masterwork tool increase this output to 400 pounds. If the PCs specified they wanted to stock mining equipment on their caravan, they are assumed to have masterwork tools.

Salt-Worm

Creatures: Mining the salt attracts salt worms after four hours or (if playing as a stand-alone adventure) when the party leaves the tunnel. Gauge how many creatures to include (1-3) based on when the PCs choose to mine salt. If the adventurers mine salt at the end of the day after fighting spiders and spider eaters, only one worm appears. If the PCs are mining salt on their return trip (Twin Crossings) and this is the only encounter for the day consider sending 2 (CR 6) or even 3 worms (CR 7) at the party.

Salt Worm (3.5)

Size/Type: Large Aberration
Hit Dice: 4d8+8 (26 hp)
Initiative: +1
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares), burrow 15 ft.
Armor Class: 15 (+1 Dex, +5 natural, -1 size), touch 10, flat-footed 13
Base Attack/Grapple: +3/+10 (+18 when attached)
Attack: Bite +5 melee (1d8+3 plus attach), tailslap +5 melee (1d8+1)
Full Attack: Bite +5 melee (1d8+3 plus attach) and tailslap +5 melee (1d8+1)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Attach, Blood Drain, Sensitive Tail
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., Regenerating Maw, Tremorsense 60 ft., Scent
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +2, Will +6
Abilities: Str 16, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 3, Wis 14, Cha 5
Skills:Climb +10, Spot +10, Stealth +7 (+15 in rocky terrain); Racial Modifiers +8 Stealth in rocky terrain
Feats: Alertness, Dodge
Environment:any underground
Organization: solitary or cluster (2–5)
Challenge Rating:4
Treasure: none
Alignment:Always Neutral
Advancement:5-9 HD (Huge)
Level Adjustment:
Special Abilities
Attach (Ex) When a salt worm hits with a bite attack, it latches onto its target and automatically grapples. The worm loses its Dexterity bonus to AC but holds on with great tenacity and automatically inflicts bite damage each round. A salt worm has a +8 racial bonus to maintain its grapple on a foe once attached. An attached worm can be struck with a weapon or grappled itself—if its prey manages to win a grapple check or Escape Artist check against it, the salt worm is removed. The front segment of the worm, including its maw, may also be sliced from the body of the worm by dealing 10 points of slashing damage in a single hit, freeing attached prey.
Blood Drain (Ex)A salt worm sucks salt and water from its victim at the end of each turn it is attached, inflicting 1 point of Strength and Constitution damage.
Regenerating Maw (Ex) A saltworm regenerates its maw in 1d4 rounds. While the wound regenerates, it may make bite attack with a -2 penalty but loses its attach special ability.
Sensitive Tail (Ex) A salt worm may attack with its tail while attached to a victim.
Salt Worm CR 4 (Pathfinder)

XP 1,200
N Large aberration
Init+2; Senses darkvision 60 ft., tremorsense 60 ft.; scent; Perception +10
DEFENSE
AC 15, touch 10, flat-footed 13 (+1 Dex, +5 natural, -1 size)
hp 45 (6d8+18)
Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +7
DR 5/slashing
OFFENSE
Speed 30 ft., burrow 15 ft.
Melee bite +7 (1d8+3 plus attach) and tailslap +7 (1d8+1)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks blood drain, sensitive tail
STATISTICS
Str 16, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 3, Wis 14, Cha 5
Base Atk +4; CMB +7; CMD 18 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Power Attack, Multi-attack, Toughness
Skills Climb +10, Perception +10, Stealth +7 (+15 in rocky terrain); Racial Modifiers +8 Stealth in rocky terrain
Languages Aklo (cannot speak)
SQ regenerating maw
ECOLOGY
Environment any underground
Organization solitary or cluster (2–5)
Treasure incidental
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Attach (Ex) When a salt worm hits with a bite attack, it latches onto its target and automatically grapples. The worm loses its Dexterity bonus to AC but holds on with great tenacity and automatically inflicts bite damage each round. A salt worm has a +8 racial bonus to maintain its grapple on a foe once attached. An attached worm can be struck with a weapon or grappled itself—if its prey manages to win a grapple check or Escape Artist check against it, the salt worm is removed. The front segment of the worm, including its maw, may also be sliced from the body of the worm by dealing 10 points of slashing damage in a single hit, freeing attached prey
Blood Drain (Ex)A salt worm sucks salt and water from its victim at the end of each turn it is attached, inflicting 1 point of Strength and Constitution damage.
Regenerating Maw (Ex) A saltworm regenerates its maw in 1d4 rounds. While the wound regenerates, it may make bite attack with a -2 penalty but loses its attach special ability.
Sensitive tail (Ex) A salt worm may attack with its tail while attached to a victim.

Development: (Twin Crossings) Mining salt costs one speed point for every day spent on site. Any mined salt not removed from the caves is consumed by salt worms unless stored in wooden containers. Return the PCs to either Scene 7: Two Roads to Take or Encounter 13: The Washed Out Trailas appropriate.

Conclusion: (Stand AloneA new salt mine in the mountains of The Knee will attract much attention. By the time the PCs return from selling their first load, it is certain that the site will not be unguarded.

Next Time: Statistics for the some of the new magic items in Midya Meracheck’s cache!

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Twin Crossings Extra Content #4 – Vale of the Spider Eaters – Part 3

Twin Crossings cover v1Vale of the Spider Eaters – Part 3

Gopcheck’s face and hands were scratched and bleeding from running through the woods. This place was creepy—webs above in the forest canopy blocked much of the sun, and the undergrowth was thick. Suddenly, the frightened soldier stumbled onto a game path of some sort. He heard the sounds of combat ahead—a dozen of his mates were fending off a huge spider. Gopcheck steeled himself and crept up behind the arachnid. With a mighty stab, he thrust his sword into the creature, which stopped moving except for the twitching of it legs. He breathed a sigh of relief—he was safe with his friends, and it looked like they had managed to lead a few pack animals bearing supplies. Suddenly, the same whirlwind of debris stirred up as before, the mules and horses started braying. Before Gopcheck and the rest of his companions fled once more down the path, he could see one of the pack animals stiffen and stop moving as the mage had before.

This is the third post in the story of the Lost Battalion, a side quest in five parts that can be played as a stand-alone adventure, or may be used as additional content to Twin Crossings—a mercantile endeavor for 4th level characters, now available in the store and to subscribers of AdventureAWeek.com. You can find the first post here.

If you want all of the bonus content for Twin Crossings in one shot search for the tags “Lost Battalion” and “Burned Mill”, and you can find them all here on the AaWBlog!

 

C. Victors become the Prey (CR 5)

A spider eater tracking the now dead spiders drops down out of the canopy two rounds later. There is no surprise round.

Scaling the encounter: The loam on the forest floor is damp and soggy and is not stirred up by the spider eater’s hover ability except for parties of APL 5.

Spider Eater (3.5) hp 42

Spider Eater (Pathfinder) hp 52

Development: The path through the woods leads to the pools and caves beyond.

cave backgroundD. The Lair (CR 5)

Read the following:

The trees open up onto a clearing, at the center of which stands a large hot spring, steam rising from the surface. Across the pool a canyon wall rises up to the far slope of the mountains surrounding the vale, you have penetrated to the farthest depths of the hidden valley. A cave mouth is visible in the canyon wall, obscured by a huge mass of webs.

It is clear that a significant body of men perished while making their way to the cave. Discarded arms and armor (well rusted and of no value) are strewn about, recognizable as the trappings of the mage’s lost battalion if the PCs are already on its trail, or granting a second DC 20 Knowledge (arcana) or Knowledge (history) check to reveal the history of the battalion and the mage.

An ogre spider hunts the salt worms within the cave.

The cavern is 80 feet wide by 120 feet long with an 80 foot ceiling. Drifts of a white mineral pile up in the corners of the cavern, and around the bases of stalagmites throughout the cavern floor. Webs (DC 16, hp 7) are heavy in these areas, but sparse in the rest of the cavern.
spider artRead the following to begin the creature’s ambush:

A boulder on one of the cavern walls slip and start to fall. Wait—it is no boulder, but a spider the size of an elephant!

Monstrous Spider, Huge (3.5) hp 52

Ogre Spider (Pathfinder) hp 52

Development Defeating the spiders allows the PCs to explore the cavern more fully, discovering that the white mineral piled around the rock formation is loose salt. They also discover an escape tunnel leading out of the caves.
Next Time: Did Gopcheck escape the vale? Or does his story remain untold until adventures penetrate the depths of the hidden valley? 

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Twin Crossings Extra Content #3 – Vale of the Spider Eaters – Part 2

VALE OF THE SPIDER EATERS – PART 2

Gopcheck’s daydream was shattered as a tremendous gust of wind and a noise like the beating of wings overwhelmed his senses. The wind picked up dirt and dust, choking and almost blinding him. Through the haze he could just make out the form of the Mage Midya. As the wizard completed casting a spell, a shadowed monstrosity appeared above and behind the mage, who suddenly sprouted a huge stinger from her chest. The mage’s spell went wide, and Gopcheck could hear the sounds of the tunnel collapsing behind him. He looked to see if he could help his commander, but though there seemed to be life in the mage’s eyes, she had stopped moving. The screams around him intensified as huge shapes drifted through the haze, coming ever closer. Gopcheck took the only reasonable course of action—he fled!

cave-6

This is the second post in the story of the Lost Battalion, a side quest in five parts that can be played as a stand-alone adventure, or may be used as additional content to Twin Crossingsa mercantile endeavor for 4th level characters, now available in the store and to subscribers of AdventureAWeek.com. You can find the first post here.

If you want all of the bonus content for Twin Crossings in one search for the tags “Lost Battalion” and “Burned Mill“, and you can find them all here on the AaWBlog!

 

A. Tunnel Exit
After exiting the tunnel into the vale read the following:

The far side of the tunnel suffered a cave-in at some point as well, but erosion and time have once again opened an exit. Pausing at a ledge, you look out over a web-encrusted forest canopy. The temperature in the vale is significantly warmer than the surrounding mountains—the air is humid and saline. Wide trails lead down into the valley where a series of pools can be seen a few miles away in a break in the canopy. Cave entrances dot the canyon walls above the pools.

Once on the far side of the original tunnel the tattered remnants of half a dozen lost battalion uniforms lie buried in some disturbed rubble. Any PC that succeeds on a DC 17 Knowledge (arcana) check recognizes desiccated bodies mixed amongst the human bones—the skeletal structures of three spider eaters. Examining the remains of a skeleton wearing mage’s garb reveals that the deceased creature’s ribcage was shattered, likely from within. Though aged, scorch marks on the cave entrance and rubble are identifiable as magical damage.

A DC 15 Search/Perception check reveals a scroll tube containing a scroll of remove paralysis (3.5) or delay poison (Pathfinder).

Midya Merocheck and her followers tunneled right into a nest of spider eaters. A brief firefight ensued and a misdirected spell brought down the tunnel behind them (erosion and time eventually cleared this end of the tunnel in the same fashion as on the far side). The mage then succumbed to the venom of the spider eaters and without her arcane support, the survivors fled. Impregnated with a spider eater egg, the mage perished when the hatchling exploded from her chest some weeks later. A DC 15 Knowledge (arcana) or Knowledge (history) check gives the likely identity of the mage, and her troops. A DC 12 Knowledge (nobility) check indicates that it is likely any survivors from this battle retreated to a more defensible position—a series of caves in the mountainside on the far side of the vale is a likely spot (a few hours march away).

Horse-PatternIf the PCs leave their horses here unattended, they will be attacked by the spider eaters after the party has gone. Roll 1d6 per half dozen animals—these creatures escape and may be tracked and rescued with a DC 9 Survival check on the adventurers’ return. Up to two slain horses are implanted with spider eater eggs (discernible with a DC 15 Heal check).

Treasure
Spider eater eggs are worth 2,000 gp on the open market. See the Pathfinder stat block for information on how to remove spider eater eggs.

 

B. Grisly Remains (CR 4)
Read the following:

You move warily through the woods, on the look out for giant spiders. It comes as no surprise when you spot a large arachnid 40 feet away to the right of the path.

The remains of a large spider decomposes in the brush at the side of the trail. PCs determine it is dead with a DC 10 Heal check, although its sudden appearance may precipitate combat before the party is aware of its condition. On examining the corpse, the adventurers discover it is just a husk—most of the meat has been consumed. PCs who exceed the Healcheck by 5 or more note that the devouring of the vermin occurred from within as if something exploded up out of the corpse. A DC 15 Knowledge (arcana) identifies the likely culprit as a spider eater.

While the PCs examine the remains, a pair of spiders drops down from the canopy 30 feet above (Spot/Perception DC 22 to act in the surprise round).

Vale of the Spider Eaters

Scaling the Encounter For APL 5 parties add a third large monstrous spider to the encounter (3.5) or use the black widow statistics for both arachnids (Pathfinder).

(2) Monstrous Spiders, Large (3.5) hp 22 each

Giant Black Widow Spider (Pathfinder) hp 37

Giant Spider (Pathfinder) hp 16

 

Development: A second threat follows close on the heels of the first. Read the following:

The rustling of the leaves above becomes more violent…
Next Time: Gopcheck and his mates have no time for breath after killing some huge spiders—death from above still pursues them!

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Twin Crossings Extra Content #2 – The Vale of the Spider Eaters

Vale of the Spider Eaters

The Vale of the Spider Eaters

Gopcheck was glad to see the sun up ahead. Although he had traveled the tunnels of the mage many times, it was still disconcerting the way the magic of the wizard’s device chewed through stone and rock in the blink of an eye. It somehow did not seem quite honest to this miner from Bieltog, and he held his breath every time he entered one of the passages. Other than that, Gopchak was happy in the battalion—they were the best of the best, and surely when the cyclopes had finally been driven back, tales would be told and songs would be sung of how he and his mates had cleared the way. As he felt the sun on his forehead, he wondered what part he would play in those tales…

The skilled mage-engineer Midya Merochek was a hero of the Cyclopes Raids a century past and had led a battalion of special troops instrumental in winning the war of maneuver against the enemy. The mage had a solution for every terrain obstacle—her troops were known to bridge chasms and rivers in the blink of an eye, clear roads through forests at the pace of a man’s walk, and haul supplies far in excess of standard loads. The mage and the battalion were reported lost just as the final victory was at hand. This is the story of their final stand and the relics they leave behind for adventures to find decades later.

Note: If you are adding this encounter to Twin Crossings (currently available at AdventureAWeek.com in the store and as a web adventure/pdf download for subscribers) this encounter sequence takes place in The Knee at the neck of the Vladen Peninsula, and follows Encounter 5-E: Landslide on the outbound journey to Cherr’s Landing—it replaces Scene 6: The Salt Mine.

As indicated in the Development notes in 5-E, parties that elect to follow the tunnel through the mountain advance to the new Scene 6: The Vale of the Spider Eaters. PCs who stay the course to Cherr’s Landing advance to Scene 7: Two Trails to Take and earn one speed point. The adventurers will have another shot at the Vale on the way back from Cherr’s Landing (Encounter 12: Return to the Vale). You should allow the PCs to rest before venturing into the Vale.

If you want all of the bonus content for Twin Crossings in one shot search for the tags “Lost Battalion” and “Burned Mill”, and you can find them all here on the AaWBlog!

 

THE VALE OF THE SPIDER EATERS
Adventure Location:Vale of the Spider Eaters
Location: A hidden valley in the mountains of the Vladen Peninsula known as The Knee.
History: Midya Merochek discovered the inaccessible vale on an over-flight while scouting possible routes through the mountains. Intending establish a base of operations, the mage bore a tunnel through the stone. A rocky avalanche blocked both ends of the passage and while preparing to dig out, an attack by spider eaters drove slew the mage and drove the survivors deeper into the vale. In desperation, they attempted to us the wizard’s cache of magic to bore a second tunnel out of the valley, opening up the salt mines and releasing the worms that killed them.
Dangers: Giant spiders, spider eaters, salt mines, salt worms
Lighting: Dim lighting under the webs and forest canopy during the day.
Terrain: Wooded slopes and clearings covered in a layer of webs. A hot spring lies on the far side of the vale. Paths through the woods are 10 ft. wide before transitioning into undergrowth on either side. The canopy begins 30 ft. above the trail. Flying or climbing through the trees requires a DC 12 Reflex save each round to avoid the sticky webs (DC 12, hp 2).
Mood/Theme: The huge coverage of webs blocks Spot/Perception checks after 50 feet, and creates a mausoleum type atmosphere to the entire valley.

 

Next Time The spider eaters attack and drive Gopcheck and the shattered remnants of the lost battalion deeper into the vale!

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Twin Crossings Extra Content #1 – Encounter at the Burned Mill

burned millEncounter at the Burned Mill

A bead of sweat appeared on Lev’s brow as the towering half-orc leaned in, its breath heavy with garlic. “Boss says, time to pay soon mulebrains!. You better come up with his gold next time he sends me around.”

Lev Valiery is an animal breeder and occasional trader undergoing hard times. His recent investment in a mill was lost when the building caught fire. The mill itself suffered minor damage, but the grain store next door was totally consumed. Only the knowledge that his mules will be in demand in a few short weeks (for sale to caravan masters) has kept his creditors at bay. Valiery hopes that salvaging any intact machinery may provide some relief to his current pecuniary plight.

TWIN CROSSINGS EXTRA CONTENT

Note: This is the first in a series of six posts of bonus content for the adventure Twin Crossings (available at Adventureaweek.com in the store and as a web adventure/pdf download for subscribers). This encounter (and the sidequests in subsequent posts) can also be run as a stand-alone whenever you need a quick encounter or adventure for your gaming group.

If you are adding this encounter to Twin Crossings, it takes place in Cherr’s Landing in Scene 8. PCs may spend one speed point to attempt the salvage, and earn one or two trade points depending on their success.

PCs learn of Valiery’s plight when they gather information on entry to Cherr’s Landing with a DC 23 Knowledge (local) check, or if they discover his agenda when they interview potential caravan masters (Encounter 8-D Hiring the Caravan).

If you want all of the bonus content for Twin Crossings in one shot search for the tags “Lost Battalion” and “Burned Mill”, and you will find them all here on the AaWBlog!

 

The Burned Mill (CR 5)

Read the following aloud as the PCs travel down the road

A few hours march upriver stands an abandoned mill. Minor fire damage is visible on the tower structure of the mill; the outbuildings have been completely destroyed. The charred stumps of timber framing claw desperately at the sky.  Holes where vertical timbers and fence posts once stood riddle the yard.

The mill’s site suffers from an infestation of fire beetles and arson beetles (a variation on the bombardier beetle that shoots fire instead of acid). The holes in the yard warn of a possible vermin infestation with a DC 12 Knowledge (nature) check.

Trap: The gearing and machinery inside the mill tower are salvageable. Some of the connections were damaged in the fire—the assembly is unstable.
Falling Machinery Trap CR 3
Type mechanical; Perception DC 20; Disable Device DC 20
Trigger location; Reset none
Effect Atk +15 melee (2d4+6)

fire beetleCreatures: The trap takes 5 rounds to disarm. The fire beetles scurry up out of cracks in the floor 2 rounds after someone begins tinkering with the trap (or sets it off). Once the beetles appear, it is impossible to take 10 on the trap, requiring anyone already doing so to roll theirDisable Device check or disengage—disengaging from disarming the trap (for any reason) sets it off. The arson beetle appears 2 rounds after the fire beetles, punching up through fire weakened floor beams.

(6) Fire Beetles (3.5) hp 4 each
Arson Beetle (3.5)  hp 13 (use Bombardier Beetle stats, replacing the acid damage with fire damage.)
(6) Fire Beetles (Pathfinder) hp 4 each

Arson Beetle CR 2 (Pathfinder)
XP 400
N medium vermin
Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +0
DEFENSE
AC 18, touch 11, flat-footed 18 (+1 Dex, +8 natural)
hp 13 (2d8+4)
Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +1
Immune mind-affecting effects
OFFENSE
Speed 20 ft., fly 20 ft. (poor)
Melee bite +5 (1d6+6)
Special Attacks fire spray
STATISTICS
Str 19, Dex 12, Con 15, Int, Wis 10, Cha 9
Base Atk+1; CMB +5; CMD 6 (14 vs. trip)
Skills Fly –6

arson beetle

Arson Beetle (CR 2) This giant stag beetle has only 2 hit dice and is Medium sized, but can spray fire once per round in a 10-foot cone. Those in the cone must make a DC 11 Fortitude save or take 1d4+2 points of fire damage. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Development Safely disarming the trap allows all of the machinery to be salvaged, earning the PCs 1,500 gp (or 2 profit points). Otherwise the intact bits are worth only 750 gp (1 profit point).

Next Time: Hear the tale of the Lost Battalion, a side quest in five posts that follows the trail of a mage-engineer and her company of special troops into a hidden vale deep inside the mountains, rife with danger.

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Designer’s Spotlight – Michael Allen and Three Faces of the Muse

B18 COVERWhy should someone check out Three Faces of the Muse?
This is a great adventure to run when the PCs are ready to visit a big city—perhaps even the capital settlement of the lands they are in. It is an intense investigation that has nothing to do with sewers, and there are some nice hooks to tie ongoing plots from your game into the module if you are so inclined.

What makes Three Faces of the Muse different from other adventures?
I like to read the bestiaries and monster manuals to mine ideas. There is a huge amount of grist for a writer to work from hidden in these tomes—I love building on a sentence or phrase in the monster design or ecology. The idea for this adventure was sparked by the boss fight and I chose monsters that fit appropriately with the theme.

Three Faces of the Muse previewDid you put cool stuff in there?
As the back jacket says, “this adventure is a chance for minstrels to shine, and not just through diplomacy encounters.” The sites and themes lend themselves to characters with civilized skills and an appreciation of the arts. Three Faces of the Muse also creates unique opportunities for recurring villains that make it noteworthy.

What was your favorite part of the adventure?
I had a blast researching the “renaissance man” themes throughout. I am a set designer during the day, so much of the architectural, painting, musical history, and craft in the adventure was already known to me, but I delved deeper into the specifics of each to really understand them and bring them out (I even learned some new technical terms.)

Did you focus on Investigation, Encounters, Puzzles or Dungeons?
The whThree Faces of the Muse preview 1ole story is one of investigation—unraveling the how and why, but I definitely spent some time on the encounters and went back after the play test to tweak them. I wanted each to tie into the major themes of the module (even cutting one that felt was a bit repetitive and random) and to have as many unique twists as possible. Some combats require skill checks to get the upper hand, some standard monsters have a nifty thematic effect added onto them, and all contain notes to adjust the challenge rating if need be.

In one sentence, what can we expect from Three Faces of the Muse?
Art is beauty, and the most delicious beauty is one that fosters a sense of anticipation—and, for the most adventurous souls, even a bit of danger.

[Editors Note: Michael is not giving himself enough credit—this module is bursting with creativity. Your PCs will be pleasantly surprised time and again throughout, and I would be very surprised if they don’t truly engage with the very rich tapestry that he’s woven together here. Three Faces of the Muse is a must-play and absolutely deserves a look. -MM]

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TO WALK THE DARK ROAD – Interview with author Michael Allen

cover1. Why should I read To Walk the Dark Road?

Who doesn’t want to feast on the history of lost armies and empires, seasoned with torture, curses and dark magic?

 

2. What makes To Walk the Dark Road unique?

I set out to design an adventure without a single stat block – all challenges straight out of the bestiaries. I usually enjoy adding class levels to monsters to beef them up and make them unique, so sifting through the monster books for just the right critter that fit the story was a lot of fun – and something different for me.

 

3. What neat stuff is in To Walk the Dark Road?

The adventure is fairly straightforward to run, but there are a number of twists and secrets for the players to discover. As well as surprising the players with these, there are some cool magic items and a good chunk of environmental challenges that will keep the adventurers on their toes.

 

bat4. Which part of To Walk the Dark Road was the most fun to design?

I enjoyed the magic items. Working their background into the tale made these items breathe a little bit more to me. I also like the fact that power also comes with a price, and any opportunity to provide players with trade-offs for power is one that should not be missed.

 

5. Is there a specific part of To Walk the Dark Road that you identify as your favorite?

My kids’ favorite is the part where a party member has to drive a steel stylus into their eyeball to access the magic therein. I think my favorite part is how many times they described that scene to their mom and grossed her out.

 

6. What kind of gameplay was the focus for To Walk the Dark Road

It is a wilderness trek that has the feel of a dungeon crawl. Not so much from an exploration standpoint but from the set up and pacing of the encounters. There are role-playing opportunities in some interesting places, but for the most part, you are trying to survive and accomplish your mission in a hostile land.

 

hag7. Did you have any inspiration for To Walk the Dark Road?

Two really. The first was the sack of Anglesey and destruction of the druid’s stronghold there by the Romans. The second is Celtic cauldron myths. The artifact in the adventure, The Tear of the Mother, is really a mythic cauldron in a different skin.

 

8. If any theme dominated To Walk the Dark Road, what would it be?

The subtitle says it all…A waking nightmare! Dreams, visions, and horrific events plague the PCs every step of the way. The monsters fit into this theme quite elegantly.

 

9. Are there any particularly interesting monsters or NPCs in To Walk the Dark Road?

I like them all of course – I really had a great time crafting the encounters around the monsters, and then the story line around the monsters. Each monster is there for a reason that backs up the history or environment of the tale. But if I had to pick a few, I like the set up of the very first encounter, the boss fight in the icy moors, and the encounter in the deep woods as the PCs approach their final destination. Your scrying spells will get no more information out of me on what those monsters are…you will have to walk the dark road yourself.

 

aquamonster10. What part of To Walk the Dark Road did your playtesters enjoy most?

They liked the ramping up of the intensity as the adventure progressed. My group is a pretty savvy Pathfinder rules group, and I was hoping they would not figure out the main boss until the end. They got bits and pieces of the mystery – identifying some of the abilities in play, but not the creature itself, so I think the way the adventure is written, it is possible for other judges to draw out the mystery like we were able to do in the playtest.

 

11. Is there a specific scenario in To Walk the Dark Road that is going to stick with me?

One of the magic items is very unique, and gives the judge a tool to reveal much of the back story of the adventure, which I think the players don’t always get to discover 100% in the course of play. Combined with other role-playing opportunities written into the adventure to reveal some background, a canny judge can satisfy both the combat oriented player and the story oriented player.

 

12. In one sentence, what can I expect from To Walk the Dark Road?

Expect an intensifying ride of combat and horror as the PCs wrestle with what risks they take, and moral choices they make for power and success.