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 Crossings—a 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.
Heavyload 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
Aura moderate transmutation; CL 9th Slot none; Price 4,200 gp; Weight 10 lb
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 shape, transmute mud to rock, transmute rock to mud; Cost 2,100 gp
Which 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.
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.
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.
Is 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.
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”….
This 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 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!
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.
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.
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 Trail, as appropriate.
Conclusion: (Stand Alone) A 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!