This adventure is meant for a small group of mid-level characters an a well balanced party. It happens on the road, when the group comes upon a small village. This could be amidst a larger adventure or on a long journey.
I originally wrote this to be a single-shot, one night adventure. When I ran it, I took four players through it and we completed it in 7 hours.
This adventure was originally intended to take place in the foothills of the Sentinel Mountains, east of Jannerus, in Khoras. However, it could take place almost anywhere in any world.
When I first ran this adventure, one of the player characters had an uncle living in the village that they encounter below. This could be true for one of the player characters in your group. It gives the party a little more motivation to find out what happened to the villagers if there is a personal family connection.
The following is all background information for the DM.
Shadikar the Mad
Duke Shadikar, known as Shadikar the Mad, was a powerful Traxxian lord who lived during the last days of the Traxxian Legion when it was being torn apart by civil war. This Duke was one of the last ruling nobles of the crumbling Traxxian Legion and his duchy was one of the last to stand. More than just a noble, Duke Shadikar was also a powerful wizard, known for eccentric behavior (some would say madness). He was intrigued with other dimensions, had a penchant for puzzles and traps and was paranoid beyond all reason.
Shadikar had a private estate outside of his city. This stone stronghold was a reclusive retreat for the baron, but more importantly, it was where he conducted all of his magical research. It had his library, his magic items, his alchemy lab and his spell research chamber.
He spent more and more time here later in life. In the main lab, he built a marvelous dimensional gate, a massive stone gate, that could teleport to distant places and contact other planes. He called it the Manifold Gate. The Manifold Gate was his greatest achievement. The culmination of a lifetime of magical research. It was operated by means of various keys. Each key was attuned to a specific plane. When a specific key was inserted into the lock on the gate, the gate would open and a portal to that key’s plane would form. Shadikar was obsessed with other dimensions and had made numerous trips to other realms.
As the civil war raged on in the Traxx Legion, armies clashed in battle frequently. Shadikar’s army numbered more than a thousand men commanded by Lord Marshall Kalo. They were known as the Iron Wolves. When the Iron Wolves rose up against Shadikar and attempted a military coup, Duke Shadikar was almost defeated, but not quite. His magic saved him and he imprisoned the Iron Wolves. In his rage, he concocted a punishment beyond cruel. He fashioned the Void, a dimensional prison of anguish and desolation… where time is meaningless. The key to the Void was a black iron key.
He rounded up all of the officers of his armies… twenty two men total, including Lord Marshall Kalo and banished them to this Void for all eternity. Shadikar, of course, used the Manifold Gate gate to send them into the Void.
So pleased was he with this Void, that for years afterwards, he would banish other criminals to it and any others he wanted to “disappear”.
Shadikar’s gate and his doorway’s to other places were the stuff of rumor and speculation at the time. Most notorious of them all was the Void and the black key.
Eventually, Shadikar’s eccentricities grew into madness. He had an elaborate tomb built beneath his estate, guarded by puzzles and traps. When he died, he was buried in this tomb along with a number of his most valuable treasures, including his spell books and all of the keys used to operate the gate. It has been surmised, that in his madness, he somehow believed that being buried with the keys would allow him to transcend death.
The Ruins in the Forest
Soon after the death of Shadikar, his duchy fell. His private retreat was razed. That was almost two thousand years ago. Over the centuries, the place has been looted bare. The stone has been carted away by masons and farmers. Knowledge of Shadikar and his gate have faded over the centuries, now known only to a few sages and historians. The ruins have become an obscure legend in the region. For generations the nearby villages shunned it as a place of evil magic. Although a few brave souls have ventured into the lower levels to search for treasure, the lower levels have remained relatively undisturbed. A few moldy books remain in the library, but little else. The Manifold Gate, remained, cold and silent.
Draleena and Nidella
Draleena, a sorceress, and her apprentice, Nidella, came here about a year ago and began to live in the lower levels. Draleena had studied the history of Shadikar and wanted to ransack his tomb. Within his tomb were numerous magic items, but most important, his grimoire. The Grimoire of Shadikar was supposedly the sum total of a lifetime of magical research. Rather than risk life and limb with the traps, she wanted to use the dimension gate itself to get herself into the tomb. She felt that was a poetic means of entry.
Draleena had been living here for almost a year, studying what she could of the symbols carved in the stone. She also re-equiped the lab and library as best she could.
After many months of study and research, Draleena made several attempts to open a gateway into the tomb, but she overestimated her understanding of its functions. On her last attempt, she accidentally opened up a gateway to the Void and eleven of the “Exiled” Iron Wolves came charging out. These Iron Wolves were not men anymore, but something more. Two thousand years of exposure to the strange energies of the Void have altered them into something inhuman.
Nidella managed to hide from the creatures, but the Exiled caught Draleena. They demanded Draleena free the rest of the Iron Wolves, including Kalo. She did not understand their ancient language. In their rage, they killed Draleena and searched the dungeon for the black key. Unable to find the secret door that hid the route to the tomb, they left and began rampaging around the countryside.
In the Void, time is meaningless. They do not know how many years have passed. They do not know that Shadikar’s duchy has fallen.
[DM Note: Although other criminals and “undesirables” were banished to the Void, they are dead. The Iron Wolves killed any others that were sent to “their hell”].
Of the original twenty two Iron Wolf officers who were banished into the Void, SEVEN of them made it out when Draleena briefly managed to open a doorway to that dimension. These seven Exiled are the primary bad guys in this adventure.
These seven are no longer human. Twenty centuries of exposure to dark magic has greatly altered them. They are now the “Exiled”. Undead creatures... withered, blackened, desiccated flesh is twisted about their bones. Their eyes glow fiercely with an unholy light. They are physically very strong and remarkably resistant to damage. Furthermore, they can regenerate by absorbing the “life” of another. They also have the ability to cause the dead to rise up as “undead” simply by willing it. They can “sense” the presence of bones and corpses at great range.
Generally speaking, these exiled undead should be very tough. Even one of them should be a formidable opponent for the party. There are seven of these things loose.
When they first came out of the ruins, they sensed an ancient battle field a few miles away. They went there and they raised almost 100 skeletons. Soon after they came upon the village of Hawkshill (the nearest village) and attacked, thinking to question the survivors about Shadikar and the black key. Dozens were killed, the rest were captured.
The Exiled went to the town graveyard (located behind the church) and raised all of the dead there. They also raised those villagers who had died in the attack. All together, these 7 Exiled have an army of near 200 skeletons and zombies.
The Exiled know all about the gate and the infamous black key. They have returned to the ruins because they think that the black key may still be there somewhere. They do not, however, know about Shadikar’s tomb.
A number of villagers have simply been captured. They are being kept alive because the exiled can regenerate themselves by absorbing the life force of a living person.
Several villagers have been “absorbed”. The Exiled gain the knowledge and memories of the person. In this way, they have learned the southern tongue and that centuries have passed. They also know that the villagers know nothing.
If and when the player characters encounter Nidella, she is able to tell them about what happened – living here for the last year, Draleena’s attempts to get into the tomb, accidentally opening some kind of portal and these undead things pouring out, etc.
She has guessed that the portal Draleena opened led to the Void and that these are those poor souls who had been banished there. She can tell the players about Shadikar, the Manifold Gate, the Void and the Black Key. When they first came out, they were speaking Traxxian. So Nidella didn’t know what they were asking Draleena.
Furthermore, Nidella knows that destroying any of Shadikar's key permanently destroys the gate's ability to connect to that particular plane. But the Void is a little different. It's not a full plane. It's a tiny demi-plane that Shadikar created. If the Black Key is destroyed, the Void will be destroyed with it along with anyone who was banished there (including any of the Exiled who are currently rampaging about the Prime Material plane). Nidella wracked with guilt over everything that has happened. The only way to set things right is to find the Black Key and destroy it.
The gate is still active, but it’s connection to the Void was only momentary. It is not currently “dialed in” to any specific plane.
From your last adventure, you obtained some wealth, some wisdom and more than a few bruises. Having no further concerns in the north, you decided to travel south to see the great city of Drakkel, a city of industry and commerce, ruled over by wealthy guilds. Known throughout the realms as the City of Gold, it is THE place to find adventure and glory.
It’s a long journey though. You’ve been travelling for days. Sometimes you’ve spent the night at a roadside inn, sometimes camping in the forest or sleeping under the stars.
A couple of nights ago, you stayed in the barn of a friendly farmer. He said that the next village to the south is the Village of Hawkshill. Population of about 200. There’s supposed to be a decent inn there and a good baker.
You’ve been travelling for all day. You’re following a meandering dirt road through forested hills.
It’s late afternoon. You’re tired. You’re hungry. And the podge berry jam pastries that the farmer told you about are sounding better and better.
As the road comes around a hill, you see a black trail of smoke, winding up into the sky. You also see a few large birds circling lazily.
As the road crests the next hill, you see it… the village of Hawkshill. It’s a small village - a cluster of about 25 to 30 buildings surrounded by a wooden palisade. One thatched roof hut is engulfed in flames.
As you approach the village, you can smell burning wood. You can hear chickens clucking and sheep bleating off in the distance. As you get closer, you see a few animals wandering around, you see two or three smoke trails rising into the sky. However, you see no people.
The village of Hawkshill has 22 normal residences, 1 Sayune wagon and five major establishments. Total population is about 150 “in town” and another 60 (10 farms) from the area that come in regularly.
Most of the buildings are small private residences. They are wooden houses with stone foundations and thatched roofs. The only stone buildings are the church and the lord mayor's house.
The Burning House
The house that the party sees engulfed in flames is a normal residence. It looks like it's been burning for a couple of hours. Most of the house is charred.
Exploring the Village
There are no people here at all. The entire village is utterly deserted. If the party investigates, they see signs of struggles. A spilled pan of food, some blood drops on the floor, upset furniture, etc. [The house on fire is simply a cooking fire that got out of control unattended].
The party finds tools laying in the field, stitchwork dropped on the floor. Lots of clues that indicate that everyone dropped what they were doing. If it was an attack, it was sudden.
Several animals are wandering around, a goat in the field, a cow in the village center, a horse running down the road. Chickens wandering around. Several sheep are bleating out in the field. Some of the gates and stalls have their doors smashed open where a panicked horse broke free. It’s a farming community, so there are lots of animals.
Around the village, they find evidence that the villagers were here not long ago, but all vanished. They find food cooking in pots over fires, but the food is charred black and the ashes are still warm. They find a half skinned rabbit. They find a half eaten plate of food. Seems like whatever happened here, happened within the last 12 hours and happened suddenly.
The village of Hawkshill is small. It has about 30 buildings in total and a simple wooden post palisade around the perimeter of the town. There is a north gate and a south gate and a small river runs through it.
I don't have a map for this, but here are the major buildings. Sketch something out ahead of time. The exact position of buildings doesn't matter.
Here are the descriptions of the most important buildings in town. The party may not explore every important building, but here are some notes to use for the buildings which they DO explore:
1 – The North Gate
Large wooden gate. The gate and wall are in good condition. The gate is wide open. There’s a crow’s nest up high, next to the gate with large copper bell.
2 –The Agrarian Guild
A very large wooden building. This is part guild house, part store and part barn. It has storage bins for seeds and roots. It has several racks filled with tools – hoes, rakes, shovels, coils of rope and so forth. It lots of things for sale – nails, hammers, buckets, lumber, etc. The players will hear whimpering. They find a dog on the ground level, in the stable area. It’s wounded with two arrows in it. One in its rear leg, the other through its stomach, pinning it to the ground. It’s bleeding heavily and appears weak. It wags its tail weakly as the party approaches. This is an opportunity for the party to either use up some healing or put the dog out of its misery. If they heal it up, it will follow them around like a pet. The arrows in the dog are big war arrows. They’re old and rusted. The fletching looks old too, patchy and moldy. On the second floor of the agrarian guild are some offices and some bedrooms and a small conference room. Lower level has a stable for sick animals. There’s currently a cow in there, tied up.
3 - Lord Mayor’s House
There are a lot of foot prints in the dirt around this building. Large stone and wood house – good strong stout stone walls. Several of the entrances have been hastily barricaded with wooden planks and nails. But two or three of the barricaded entrances have been smashed inwards. There are blood stains and evidence of battle inside. Three bedrooms. This is a nicer building than the rest and has fancier furniture. Clearly, this was the home of some kind of town leader or elder. Several pieces of a suit of armor and lying on the floor in the great hall, but only about 30% of the armor is there. Several pieces are missing. [DM Note - The lord mayer was trying to armor himself for battle when the undead came, but he didn't finish]. There’s also great sword lying on the ground next to a blood stain on the rug. Lady’s room – several dresses and a strong box with a lock and a needle trap. Sleep poison. There is a locked chest in the lord’s study. Inside is 30 gp, 85 sp and a trio of jewels (worth 400gp) in a velvet bag. There are no bodies.
4 – Church of Drenmoragin
This is a large stone church. It’s devoted to the god Drenmoragin. The main doors have been smashed inward. Several of the windows are broken (broken inwards).
Behind the altar is a large forge. The forge still has a fire going. The back rooms of the church are the private quarters of the priest and a workshop. There is a cemetery behind the church. Every single grave has been dug up. If someone is particularly perceptive, they will notice that the the graves were not dug up from the outside, but rather the dirt was pushed up and out from the inside. Some have shreds of white cloth, some have bits of wood coffin (rotted wood mostly). 4a – The grounds keepers house. Rat traps, gardening tools, a half built coffin, carpentry tools. Nothing of value.
5 –The Old Guard Tower
A three story stone tower with a lookout post on top. There’s a large pool of blood on the ground in front of the entry way. Dried blood, but less than a day old. It's a large pool of blood. Looks like someone bled out here. There's a human handprint in the blood. [DM Note - One of the villagers was a fighter, an ex soldier and served as the town's only guardsmen. He lived in this tower and was look out. He died here, in front of the tower and did bleed out. But the exiled ones raised him as a zombie]. Inside the tower there are living quarters. Armor, various weapons, an old cloak and helm – looks to be from a city guard uniform perhaps (which are from the city guard in Drakkel, if anyone has the right skill to recognize it). There's also an ornate pipe carved from a large piece of bone. A pouch of tobacco. A half eaten plate of bread and cheese and hard biscuits. [If anyone has the idea to look for it, neither of the bread or cheese is exhibiting new mold growth, so it’s a fair bet that both were cut within the last 2-3 days. In other words, this plate of food has been sitting here less than 2-3 days. The bread is, however, rock hard… so it’s probably been sitting out for more than six hours].
6 –Uncle’s House
[If it has been established that one of the characters has an uncle here, then this is the uncle's house.] The small house is lived in. No one inside. Lots of fishing gear. Out back is a large stone smokehouse. There is still a large amount of coals here, but the fire has mostly burned down. Eight huge razorfin fish are smoking. The fish are razorfin, about 50 pounds each. There are also four strings of sausages hanging and smoking. All of the food here is done, fully cooked, fully flavored and very well preserved.
7 –The River Master’s House
The River Master's House is a small wooden shack on the edge of the river. It has a couple of wooden docks to which are tied a few small boats. There are oars stacked here, neeting, fishing gear, etc. There's also a half built boat, various tools for repairs, a torn sail and so forth. There is a pile of fish bones (from fairly large fish). A large cutting board and a set of large knives. A huge razorfin fish stuffed and mounted on the wall in the shack.
8 –The Trading Post
This building is a small trading post. It’s a small shop with a cluttered backroom. Lots of misc things for sale. Most miscellaneous common items can be found here: boots, cloaks, clothing, blankets, bedrolls, rope, candles, lantern oil, saddles and so forth. There’s a locked and trapped chest in the back room with some cash. A small vial of poison. In a decorative wooden box is a large spellsinger stone.
9 –The Sayune Clan Wagon
Near the edge of the village is an unusual site... a very large, colorfully painted wagon. This wagon is enormous: about 15’ wide, 20’ tall and 30’ long. About the size of a small house. This is a sayune clan wagon. Most members of the party would probably be familiar with sayune clan wagons and would recognize this as such, but for many of them, it's probably the first time they've ever actually seen one. It’s big, bright, colorful with wooden walls, a roof, a fireplace and a chimney. However, it's cramped inside and all the rooms and doors are sized for people four feet tall (sayune).
Deep in the wagon there is a small alchemy area. Several bottles, jars filled with colored liquids, powders, ground up herbs and disgusting looking things in brine. [If the party scans for magic, there could be one or more potions here, depending on how generous you want to be.] If they search the area, they find a blood smeared parchment with a hastily sketched image on it. It is of a wolf's head in profile.
10 – The Lazy Otter Inn
One of the larger buildings in the village is the Lazy Otter Inn. It's two stories tall with eight rooms, stables, a bar, kitchen and storage room. There are more indications of battle and more blood stains. Several windows are broken (inwards). In the hallway, at one end, there is a several small silver figurines - a balance, a wheel, a sickle, a hammer and a scroll along with a broken necklace. [This is a the remains of a holy symbol of Imarus]. At the other end of the hallway is a pile of burnt bones and ash and partial skull. Scorch marks in the rug and wood.
11 - Furrier/Tailor
A small tailor shop. Clothes, furs, cloaks, leather armor. Nothing of interest here.
12 – The Metal Worker’s Shop
Forge connected to small house.
13 - Cobbler’s Shop
Lots of pieces of leather. Boots, shoes, sandals. Half made shoes. Lots of tools.
14 – The Market Plaza
Several booths and stalls, one of them knocked off. Turnips and carrots scattered on the ground, from a stack of wooden boxes knocked over.
If they look around for tracks, they find a fairly obvious trail. More than 100 villagers were marched out and they left a big trail. The trail goes east into the hills. If some one has tracking skill, they can tell that it’s a mix of tracks. Some barefoot human tracks, lots and lots of boots and shoes, and a few other tracks that look unfamiliar. There are also some drag marks.
The tracks are on the far side of the village from where the party approached the village. So, it's likely that they would not find the tracks until after they've explored the village. And that's the best way to run it. Try to get them to explore the village first, at least a few buildings, and then they discover the tracks.
Once the players have explored the village a little and found the tracks, they have a choice to make. By the time they get to this point, the sun is starting to go down and it'll be dark soon. Possible things the party could do:
Stay the night in the Village
The party may choose to stay the night in the village, taking advantge of one of the empty buildings. After all, a fireplace and a roof and a bed is much nicer than a camp fire and a bedroll under the stars. If they choose this, they they are attacked in the night by three of the Exiled and a portion of their undead army. This could result in a "survive the night" kind of adventure where the group barricades themselves in a building and spends the night fighting to keep the undead out. It could also end up being a running fight through the village, fleeing from building to building. In either case, the party will eventually be captured and the Exiled will render them unconscious with a spell. If the party holes up in one of the major buildings, like the church or the lord mayor's stone house, they might keep the discover a secret escape tunnel leading to the outside. When the undead finally break through the barricades and charge in, the party might actually use that escape tunnel to flee... at which point this might become a fight through the village or a chase through the woods.
Flee or Camp in the Forest
The party may think that staying in the village is a bad idea. They may choose to put a few miles between them and the village. They'll end up either camping on the side of the road or camping out in the woods. They won't be able to make it to the nearest village... the nearest village is at least two days ride away. It's also possible that they don't want to camp and just want to spend the entire night running away. Doesn't matter. If they camp, they are surrounded, attacked and captured (and rendered unconscious with a spell). If they flee, they run right into the Exiled and their undead army, are surrounded and captured.
Following the Tracks
If the party chooses to follow the tracks, the tracks go directly to the ruins. If the party goes into the ruins, read the Ruins section below. If they see the ruins and say "No way are we going down there" then it's either fleeing, camping or staying in the village, as above.
So, as you can see, either the party goes to the ruins or they are CAPTURED, rendered unconscious with a spell and then wake up in the ruins. But, one way or another, they end up at the ruins. The only difference is the manner in which they get there.
In order to help with the flow of events in this campaign, I put together a flowchart. Seeing the plot laid out visually might help.
The flowchart outlines a number of different ways that the action could go.
If the party follows the tracks and enters the dungeon, then they should be able to explore some of the dungeon before encountering any of the Exiled or undead. The Exiled are powerful and the party might choose to flee the encounter. They can either flee deeper into the dungeon or to the outside.
If the party is captured and wakes up in the dungeon, they are in one of the prison cells without their equipment. [Their equipment is piled up in the guard chamber]. They find the adjacent prison cells are filled with dozens of terrified hungry villagers. The villagers will be able to tell them all about the attack on their village and give them all manner of horrific stories about an army of undead. The party can either figure out a clever way to escape the cell by themselves or you can have Nidella, the apprentice, sneak in and free them. Either way, they will escape.
If they manage to escape on their own, they can either explore the dungeon or flee to the outside. If they flee to the outside, they will run into Nidella out there.
If Nidella frees them, she insists on getting their help. She will tell them all about Draleena, the gate, the Exiled, the tomb and the key. The point is to get them to either explore the dungeon (on their own) OR to go after the tomb (with Nidella).
Ideally, they will explore the dungeon, have an encounter with a small group of Exiled and undead and then run into Nidella who will explain to them what's going on.
Draleena's apprentice, a young human woman named Nidella, survived the initial encounter with the Exiled when they come out of the Manifold Gate. She has been sneaking around the dungeon since... at first simply trying to avoid capture. later, trying to find out what happeened and also a find a way to free the villagers.
At some point, the party will encounter Nidella, the apprentice. They might encounter her in the dungeon or outside or with her freeing them from the cells. But at some point, they will encounter her. When they do, she will explain everything that's going on. She is wracked with guilt and wants to set things right. The only way to do that is to find the Black Key and destroy it. According to history, the Black Key is in Shadikar's tomb. Nidella will BEG the party to help her.
Having encountered Nidella, the apprentice, out in the wilderness, she is a wealth of information. She can tell them about the Talisman and that it can shut down the gate and destroy the Exiled. She begs them to help her get to the Talisman and shut down the gate and kill those things. (She feels responsible).
If the players can’t get out of the prison cell by themselves, then they see Nidella sneaking around. She’s come to free them. She was actually just working up the courage to come back to the main stairs and flee. She frees the party and the villagers. Nidella tells them all about the situation, recent events and the Talisman. She begs them to go with her to get the Talisman and shut the gate down. (She feels responsible).
The Deep Dungeon
If the party fled into the deep dungeon to escape the horde, they run into the apprentice hear, hiding. She comes out of hiding when she hears human voices. She has been hiding here for many hours, more than a day, absolutely terrified. She is a wealth of information about what’s going on. She can tell them about her master, living here for several months, the ritual, activating the gate, those things pouring out, killing her master, etc.
Here are some questions the party might pose of Nidella and her responses:
Who are you?
My name is Nidella. I am… was… the apprentice to the sorceress Draleena. My Lady Draleena brought us to this place many months ago. We’d been living here while she studied this ancient place and its magic. She wanted to plunder Shadikar’s tomb and she wanted to use the Manifold Gate to get to it.
What is this place?
These ruins are all that is left of a place called Ashenstone Court. Once, long ago, this was the private retreat of Duke Shadikar, sometimes known as Shadikar the Mad. He was one of the last Duke’s of the Traxxian League during its civil war. This was many centuries ago. Shadikar was also a very talented wizard.
What is that gate thing?
Among his many magical creations is that gate… called the Manifold Gate, possibly his greatest creation. With it, he could travel to distance places and planes of existence.
Tell us about Shadikar
Shadikar was quite eccentric… with a love of puzzles and riddles. But, they say that, in his later years, his eccentricity turned to madness. And he became quite paranoid. When he died, he was buried in a special tomb that he had prepared. He was reportedly buried with his favorite treasures and his grimoire… his spellbook. It was his grimoire that m’lady sought. According to the stories, the tomb was protected by all manner of devious puzzles and traps, conceived of by Shadikar himself.
Rather than risk her life, m’lady sought to use the Manifold Gate to get into the tomb. To bypass all the traps by simply teleporting into the tomb. After months of studying the gate and many old arcane books on Shadikar, she felt ready. She made several attempts over the past few weeks. Two days ago, she managed to do the cursed thing on. Once the gate is active, it has to be attuned to target a specific place or dimension. But when she tried to attune it and target the tomb, something went wrong… the gate momentarily linked to someplace else and those… things… came out. Seven of them.
When they came out, I fled and hid. I thought m’lady was right behind me. But they captured her. They asked her questions, but I did not understand the language. And neither did she. They killed her!
What are those things?
I think I know what they are. Here… [ she opens up a book] this book contains all the notes and history that m’lady was able to gather about Shadikar over the last few years.
Here, [she points], is the story of the Iron Wolves. It was the name of the army that served as his personal body guards. But in 742, these supposedly loyal warriors turned on him and attempted to overthrow him in a military coup. His magic was too powerful. He not only survived, he captured them all. He had all of the common soldiers executed. There were 22 officers who had planned the coup, led by their commanding officer, Lord Marshall Kalo. For these 23 men, he devised something much worse than death. He created his own plane… a small one, a mere pocket dimension. He called it the Void. It was a sort of dimensional prison. And into this Void he banished them. For years afterwards, Shadikar would banish others who had displeased him to the Void. Those who were banished became known as the “Exiled”. Everyone assumed they would die there… but… judging by the symbol on their armor, it’s them. It’s the officers of the Iron Wolves. They were human when they went in… I don’t know what happened to them.
Why are they attacking/rampaging?
I think they’re searching for the Black Key. When they came back with the villagers, I heard them questioning the villagers about it. And they searched the dungeon for it.
What Black Key?
The Manifold Gate… there is a key for each plane of existence it can link to. There were more than a dozen Gate Keys. When Shadikar created the Void, he created a black key which opens the doorway to it. That’s what they’re looking for. They want the Black Key. The connection to the Void was only brief. Only seven of them came through. Right now the gate is active, but not linked to anything. They want the Black Key to re-open the Gate and free the others. There were still another 15 of them trapped in the Void, not to mention their leader. We cannot let them free the others. We have to stop them. And I know how…
She flips to a new page in the notebook.
The Black Key was unique. The other gate keys were just for opening doors to other planes, but the Black Key is how Shadikar made the Void. It and the key are connected. My lady Draleena had a theory… if we destroy the Black Key, we can unmake the Void and, those seven creatures will be destroyed along with it.
The Tomb is here, supposedly, somewhere in this dungeon. A secret door hides the “path” to it and the there are a series of puzzles and traps and such. I did mention Shadikar was quite made when he built the tomb, right?
Will you help me? I can’t get to the tomb alone. I’m alone, I’m unarmed and I’m wounded. Will you help me stop these things?
How do we find the Tomb?
When he died, he left behind a will. [She flips to another part of the book and reads]. The will stated that
“My greatest treasures will be kept with me for all eternity. Those who would seek to plunder my tomb will have to outwit the great Shadikar. But my tomb is safe and hidden from foolish eyes. For only the He-Who-Watches knows the way".
[DM Note - This ruin was once the private retreat of a wealthy duke. The upper levels have been razed. The lower levels are mostly intact. Also, because Draleena and her apprentice were living down there for a year, much of it is recently cleaned, repaired and stocked.]
From a distance, the only thing the party can see is a fragment of wall. As they get closer, they can see it's a large stony ruin. A few walls are still standing, a collapsed roof. Amidst the rubble, weeds and rotted ttimber, they find a gaping hole in the ground and stairs leading down into blackness. The tracks that the party was following lead down into the hole.
Down the hole are a broad set of stone stairs.
Fresh mud tracked back and forth over ancient stone steps worn smooth.
A large stone rectangular chamber with four huge stone pillars in the four corners. There are three doors: west, east and south.
The main lab is filled with several huge tables and cabinets. Lots of strange alchemical equipment. Clearly the lab of a wizard. It looks recently used and relatively clean. There are a several mortar and pestles, marble bowls, glass vials, copper tubing and so forth. Several containers have liquid in them. Someone was recently doing alchemical work here.
There is the body of a woman here. She is human, about 50 years old. Dressed in dark blue robes. There is a broken staff by her body. She has a satchel slung around her neck and there is a book beside here. [This is the body of the sorceress Draleena]. It looks like her neck has been broken.
The book has a lot of loose pages in it. It’s filled with folded pages, half pages, scribbled notes, etc. It’s all written in Southern. This is Draleena’s note book, written in Southern, which the party can understand. It contains everything she has learned about the duke, this ruin, the gate and its operation. Most of it is technical gibberish that only a wizard would understand and, even then, it would take several days of careful study to fully appreciate.
From the door in the northwest corner, the party can hear a faint rumbling.. a resonant drone.
This looks like it was a workshop. Metal work are scattered across several tables. Mostly metal scraps. Some strange looking metal tools. There is a forge, a crucible, a bloomer (smelter), several ingots of various metals, a pile of iron ore in the corner, several half finished blades (all crude quality).
The Manifold Gate
A circular room built around four huge stone pylons with a circular depression in the middle between them. There is a glowing blue energy vortex roiling between the four pylons. You can hear roaring wind and the sound seems to be coming from the vortex.
Here's a video of the vortex, if you'd like to show your players... Warning... it's a big file. 37 megabytes... The Dimensional Gate - MP4 video file.
Ancient rotted lumber in the corner. It may have been table and chairs, but they are so old they have rotted away to almost nothing.
Corroded iron bars cover a number of long narrow prison cells. There are dozens of frightened villagers in there, about 7-9 people per cell and all of the cells are filled except one. (Total of 82 people). The bars are iron and thick, but old and corroded. They could be pried apart by a very strong man or a clever use of physics.
Straw on the ground, a pair of giant rats are making a nest here. This room has a big crack in the ceiling and wall, about 18 inches wide. It goes back a ways, up and connects to the outside. Too small for a normal human to climb through, but maybe a small grum could make it.
Various rusted weapons of all different types. They look ancient. Most are completely rust covered. If they search, they find a hidden compartment with a magic short sword. Very fine quality. +2 to hit and damage. Also, once per day, it can be asked to point the way to anything.
Some old broken beds and coats. Smashed wooden chests. Very old (about 200 years old). Torn bedding. Hidden in the false bottom of one of the chests is a velvet pouch with three blood opals, (worth 50, 70 and 110 gp).
Huge marble book cases. It looks as though this library once held a thousand books, but the shelves are mostly empty. There are about sixty books and scrolls in various states and conditions. Some of are in good condition, others look ancient and crumbling. They cover several different topics: the history of southern Ithria, the Traxx Legion, the Great War and various arcane matters.
This has been made up as a bed chamber. There's a nice bed here, a chest of drawers, a small table and two chairs. The place is filled with a woman's clothing. On the table is a quill, a vial of ink, blank sheets of parchment and so forth. Some of the pages are covered in hand writing... magical notes written in Iskren. A very nice tapestry in perfect condition. [This tapestry is actually magical... it will never rot or fade]. It depicts a wizard in burgundy robes with a ring of keys in his hand and behind him, dozens of doors. Behind the tapestry is the secret door. Very well constructed. Very hard to find.
Master’s Bed Chamber
A very opulent bed chamber. Wolf skin rug, huge bed, table, chairs, drawers, a chest. Lots of women’s clothes. A small iron box containing a few pieces of jewelry.
This is a shrine to Vorkayne, the god of magic. The air here seems dry and warm. The room has several cushioned chairs. Long tables on the sides. Silver platters, wine glasses, etc. Seems clean and comfortable in here. There is a pillar in each of the north corners of the room. The far end is dominated by a tall statue of an old man sitting on a stone throne with a staff. The old man gazes sternly down at the chamber. On the side walls are various groups of words, phrases, written in Traxxian. [If anyone in the party actually reads and writes Traxxian, which is a very old language, then they will recognize the words on the walls as well known phrases from the Vorkayne Philosophies].
[DM Note - The flow of magic in this chamber is augmented. Within this chamber, charged magic items will gain a single charge. Magical effects and magical devices will function at optimum levels. For instance, a healing potion will automatically give max hit points].
Find the Path in the Shrine
When the party gets to the shrine, they may or may not be searching for the tomb. It really depends on if they have encountered Nidella, the apprentice. If they haven't, they might not even know about the tomb yet. If they have encountered her, she's probably told them all about the gate, the Exiled, Draleena and the tomb. Furthermore, she can show them, in the book, what Shadikar's last will stated about the tomb...
“My greatest treasures will be kept with me for all eternity. Those who would seek to plunder my tomb will have to outwit the great Shadikar. But my tomb is safe and hidden from foolish eyes. For only the He-Who-Watches knows the way".
If anyone in the group has any religion knowledge or if there is a wizard who worships Vorkayne, then that person would recognize He-Who-Watches as another name for Vorkayne, the God of Magic.
If anyone checks, the statue's eyes are looking down into the chamber, but not at the center, but off to the side. With some careful observation, the party finds that the statue is staring at one of the pillars.
If they search the pillar, they will find a small secret compartment with a lever inside. Pulling the lever will cause a section of the floor before the altar to drop down in several sections, forming a set of stairs that led down beneath the statue, into darkness.
These stairs lead down to the trap and puzzle filled dungeon that protects Shadikar's Tomb. If the party goes down the steps, go to the Tomb section below for details.
This is the main dungeon crawl. The deep dungeon leads to the tomb and resting place of the Mad Duke. In his madness, he put up a lot of traps and puzzles to prevent any from entering his tomb. There should be at least 3 different chambers to get through. Feel free to add more... anything you like. Remember, Shadikar was a powerful wizard and he was going a bit crazy. And he wanted these traps and puzzles to kill and maim anyone trying to rob his tomb. So almost anything is possible. At the same time, Shadikar didn't make it impossible because anyone who does manage to make it to the tomb is "worthy" in his eyes.
The broad stone steps led to a short stone corridor that opens up into an octagonal chamber. (4 doors and 4 tapestries).
A large dimly lit room. Large octagonal chamber with 4 doors and 4 tapestries. One of the doors is the one you came through. So, that leaves three exits.
In the center of the room is a pedestal with a scroll. “Only one door leads to my tomb. The others… Death".
A green dragon wrapped around a tower.
A merman with a trident, holding up a shell.
Flooding room trap
A wizard in blue robes standing in front of a door.
Tripwire and slide room
A blacksmith with a hammer in his hand, hammering out a key. Several keys hang on the wall behind him.
In actuality all three doors are false and lead to deadly traps. The way into the tomb is actually in the tapestries! If someone investigates the fourth tapestry, they find one of the keys depicted in the image is a separate piece of cloth in the shape of a key. [that is, it's a cloth key]. It is held in place by two threads. It can be easily removed. As soon as it is removed, it turns into a real key.
If someone looks closely at the third tapestry, they find that there is a small slit in the tapestry where the keyhole is and that the doorknob is actually a button. If someone puts the key into the slit and turns it, the door depicted in the tapestry becomes real wood with a real door handle. One simply needs to open it and step through and they are find themselves in a corridor that leads them to the second challenge.
If the party instead chooses one of the doors, here's what they find.
Door 1 - This is the door that the players enter through into the octagonal room.
Door 2 - This door opens to reveal a long straight corridor with a door at the far end. If any living creature walks to the half way point down this hall, the first door slams shut and the chamber begins to fill with gas (poison gas spell). This is a magical trap, not a mechanical one. So a search for traps won't work, but a detect magic spell would reveal a strong magical aura on the door and in the chamber. Anyone caught in the poison gas will begin taking 1d6 points of damage of coughing and choking and the poison burns their lungs and eyes. If anyone opens the door on the far end, there is a power crystal in a small iron bracket [it's this power crystal which powers the trap].
Door 3 – Tripwire and Slide Room – Dark corridor. Very thin metallic trip wire. Perception check to notice (DC varies with how much light they have). If someone trips over the wire or steps over the wire, their weight triggers the floor section beyond to tilt down under their weight like a slide. It is greased on the lower section and the person has nothing to grab on to. It tilts to a 45 degree angle and sends them down into a pit (spikes, blades or other nastiness is up the game master).
Door 4 – Long corridor, total darkness except for whatever torches or lanterns the party has. There’s an obvious pit, about 12 feet across. It looks like it was, at one time, covered by stone tiles like the rest of the floor, but they’ve fallen in, crumbling with age. If the party peers down into the pit with a light source, they might be able to see some skeletons and bone fragments scattered at the bottom. With a running start, a person could jump the pit. However, there’s an invisible iron bar half way across the pit positioned right at about jumping height. Anyone jumping across this pit will hit the invisible bar and tumble into the pit. At the bottom of the pit are iron spikes and three skeletons impaled them. [These are previous jumpers]. One of the skeletons has a magic dagger (+1/+3 versus serpents). Another has three potions – two of which are just broken bottles. The third is liquid armor.
The corridor leads to a a large rectangular chamber - 60 feet wide, 120 feet long and 25 feet tall. This room is filled with huge iron blocks. Each block is 10’ wide x 10’ long x 20’ tall.
[DM Note - these are not solid blocks, they are hollow, made from plates of iron fastened to a framework. Although hollow, there are still quite heavy due to their size].
Every few seconds, these blocks move, following a grid pattern. (Imagine the room is divided into a grid pattern and each block takes up one square). The exact movement of each block is random, though they never run into each other. They simply assume adjacent grid positions. About half of the volume of the room is filled with blocks, so between the blocks are numerous spaces.
Anyone looking under the blocks will find that these blocks actually hover a few inches off of the ground, with a lot of blue arcing electrical activity between the block and the floor. The players will have to dodge and leap, maneuvering between these sliding blocks. This will involve lots of dexterity checks to avoid being crushed between two blocks.
[DM Note - In actuality, if a person gets caught between two blocks, they are not crushed. Instead, as soon as they touch two different blocks, they are immediately teleported back to the entrance where they started. This is accompanied by an electric shock that does 1d6 points of damage. Thick leather gloves reduce that damage to 1 point only].
The game master can roll to see which random direction each block will move each round. Or, if you prefer, you can create a pre-planned sequence (I advise a pre-planned seqeuence so that the players don't have to wait while you make a bunch of rolls each round). Another option is to make it up as you go and just move the blocks around wherever it will make the best story.
If you really want to make this challenging, put a few pits in place. This could result in injury (falling into a pit) and then having a block move over the pit and trap the player temporarily. If you're feeling extra mean, they could suffer some electrical damage while the block is over them.
Observant players may notice that the blocks don't go all the way to the ceiling (there is a 5 foot gap between the top of the blocks and the ceiling). If they can find a way to get up on top of one of the blocks, it's possible to leap from one block to another without touching two blocks at once.
A huge room with a floor covered in 18” stone tiles. Each tile has one of various glyphs on it. On the far wall is a door. The symbols are: lightning bolt, skull, wave, book, gate, eye, sword, key, bird and fist. A stone plaque reads “Only one true treasure lies within Shadikar’s tomb”.
Several bones and skulls are scattered around this room. There is also a charred corpse/skeleton in the center of the room. If they want to search the corpse, he’s just out of reach. A pole will be needed. The corpse has a potion of healing on him.
The walls are tiled as well, but the tiles have different glyphs on them. [A spellcraft roll will indicate that they are magical runes, iskren. A successful analysis will only reveal that the glyphs have something to do with telekinesis. Anyone touching the walls will be catapulted into the room by a telekinetic shove].
A wrong step leads to :
Lighting Bolt – 2d8 electrical damage as a lightning bolt rips through you
Skull – The bones assemble into a creature that attacks.
Wave – Geyser of water catapults victim into air and then lands on multiple tiles.
Book - SAFE
Jewel – Any gems on you person become inert, non magical, dull grey stones.
Coin – All coins vanish.
Eye - Blindness for one hour.
Sword – Sword through the foot, 1d6 points of damage and one quarter movement
Fist – Stone fist comes out of ground and grips foot.
On the far side of this chamber is another corridor which ends in a plain, locked iron bound oaken door. The locked can be picked. The door can be opened with sufficient force (either physical or magical).
Shadikar's tomb is a large, opulent chamber. At the center of the chamber is Shadikar's sarcophagus. The walls are covered in beautiful tapestires. Several chests line the walls, filled with treasure.
Inside the sarcophagus are the skeletal remains of Shadikar himself. He is dressed in ornate robes. He is buried with his Staff of Power (or other magical rod or staff, as you like).
Among the piles of coins and treasure are the following specific items:
This page last updated Wednesday, December 24, 2008. Copyright 1990-2009 David M. Roomes.