Every Sunday night, I run my epic level D&D 4e home campaign. I prep my adventures in WordPress, then add to it and post it the day after we play. What follows is an adventure you can easily steal, with notations on how you could make it better.
Entering The Bleak Fallows
Thanks to my efforts in FreeMind, I have a pretty good idea as to what the Bleak Fallows looks like, making tonight’s adventure a breeze to set up.
First off, we need to roll for weather. The Shadowfell is a place where nothing is constant. The land changes, buildings change, streets change… here, the weather changes. The players might not even be able to see all that’s in the description text that follows. Beginning this adventure, and after every hour or milestone, whichever comes first;
- Total concealment from anything two squares away or more.
- Speed reduced by 2.
- Icy wind blows in random (1d8) directions each round; creatures ending their turn without cover take 2d10 + 15 cold damage.
- Athletics and Acrobatics checks increased by 10.
- Extreme wind blows in random (1d8) directions each round; moving into the wind costs two extra squares of movement.
- Blinding light reflects off the snow, creatures two squares away or more are concealed.
- At the end of an encounter, players must succeed on an Endurance Check (Hard) or become sunburned.
- A sunburned character gains vulnerable 10 cold and fire (as if diseased).
- Extreme Cold
- Cold seeps into the bones, attack rolls of creatures without the cold keyword are at -2.
- At the end of an encounter, players must succeed on an Endurance Check (Hard) or gain Hypothermia.
Show the picture and read only if weather allows them to see, otherwise just describe the drakken slowly falling in mist from ice-covered wings:
As you fly in closer to The Bleak Fallows you see a circle of icy, mountain-spires jutting up out of a thick cloud. The air begins to take on a crisp, white chill that soon permeates into your bones. The drakken grow sluggish within the mist, you can see ice crystals forming on their wings. Soon, deep within the cloud, it’s all the drakken can do to stay aloft. You slowly lose altitude and break beneath the halo of cloud to see a huge, iceberg covered lake, surrounded by the sharp edges of crackling ice-mountains. Across the lake seems to be a plateau with the largest of the icy-spires rising behind it.
When they land:
A huge, icy lake spotted with icebergs blocks your path. A thick mist permeates the air and swirls before your frosted breath. Faint greenish lights float above the top of the water, souls gliding effortlessly across the lake, toward the far shore.
Don’t forget to roll for weather.
The players need to cross the icebergs to get to the plateau on the other side. Along the way, perceptive characters may notice splashes skimming the top of the water. At some point the Crawlers attack, jumping out of the water and attaching onto a victim like a leech.
Describe all creatures as varying ages of the same thing. The Crawlers are medium-sized ice wyrms, still in larvae form. The Sebecan is an adolescent, large and gaining his scales, but still no where near his adult counterpart.
The Blackstar Crawlers attach onto the target on a hit, and deal an additional 15 points of damage when they bite a target they have grabbed. They also gain swim speed 8, but their land speed is only 2.
The Sebecan Glider devours the first dead Crawler that enters the water, then joins the fray. He gains a swim speed of 10, and his fly speed is actually a jump. The Glider jumps out of the water, uses fly by attack, then plunges beneath the water again. He also gains the Iceberg Charge power.
To jump from iceberg to iceberg requires standard Athletics checks, but any character who moves more than two squares on the slick ice must make an Acrobatics check (22) or fall prone and slide 1 in the direction they were moving.
The icebergs move when landed upon. Small icebergs (3×3 or less) are pushed 2 squares when landed upon. Larger icebergs (4×4 – 6×6) are pushed 1 square. Icebergs larger than 6×6 don’t move from medium creatures.
You ever notice how a video game will show you something in an easy setting, before exploiting what you’ve learned?
The icebergs begin to cloister together as the air grows colder still. Further on, the ground loses its cohesion as large, razor-sharp shards of ice, like tiny pillars, jut from the surface wherever the icebergs meet. Occasionally souls drift past you, heedless of the difficult terrain and oblivious of your efforts to attract them. Periodically, you see large perfectly symmetrical holes dotting the ice, frigid water lapping at its edges.
Skill Challenge: The Icy Barrier. 8 successes before 2 failures
- Smashing through the ice is easiest and helps the most, but the ice is sharp.
- DC 24 = 2 success and the player attempting the check takes 3d8+15 damage
- Failure = 1 Success and 1 Failure and all players in the challenge take 3d8+15 damage as entire sections of ice collapse.
- Acrobatics (Useable twice)
- There are areas where it’s possible to squeeze, but it’s risky.
- DC 28 = 1 success
- Failure =1 failure and the player attempting the check takes 4d6+15 damage
- Fire and Thunder
- Powers with the Fire or Thunder keywords have a chance to shatter the ice pillars.
- Pillars have an AC of 35 and a Fortitude of 34. Hardness 20.
- Success = If a pillar takes any damage it is destroyed.
- Failure = All players in the challenge take 1d8+15 damage as entire sections of ice collapse.
- Dungeoneering (DC 26) – Locates weak spots, grants +4 to Athletics checks
- Nature (DC 26) – Locates fragile ice pillars, granting +4 to Thunder attacks, +5 damage.
Failure means everybody rolls 1d4-1 (minimum 1) and loses that many healing surges.
Roll for weather.
Harshly cold, you’re very nearly shivering as you look across a frozen tundra toward the mountain beyond. You can see the faint greenish souls ascending the icy cliffs a ways before phasing into its depths. Until you get into that mountain shadow, there appears no cover to be had as you cross the plateau.
They may notice another symmetrical water hole before being attacked.
Encounter 2 – 1 x Gold Hollow Wyrm
This encounter starts on a blank slate, but the wyrm destroys any ground he tunnels through. The Wyrm deals cold instead of fire damage.
Encounter done and run! Went pretty well, but some things could have gone better.
- The players were really kind of scared to venture onto the icebergs. I didn’t want to run the first encounter within reach of the shore, but I couldn’t just say, “You start on an iceberg in the middle of a lake.” Therefore, I presented the iceberg covered lake to them as a barrier, not a skill challenge. They fumbled with it long enough to learn it was possible to cross, but extremely difficult to cross and stay dry.
- The first encounter took a lot longer than I expected.
- Lesson Learned: When adding lots of monsters to an encounter, lower their hit-points, increase their damage.
- Two players gained Hypothermia. Neither are too fond of it and high level diseases require one heck-of-an endurance check to get better. Once a player caught Hypothermia, I ruled they didn’t have to roll their endurance again to slip closer to death this day, even though they were splashing around in the water and venturing deeper into the cold. Maybe this will urge them to press onward, rather than risking the next days endurance check.
- My icy barrier skill challenge worked perfectly. The minotaur took more damage from this challenge than he did in the preceding combat. Damaging the minotaur was exactly what I was hoping for. The group made it through with only one failure.
- As they entered the plateau and traveled it for a while I figured the bleak desolation of the desert plus the overall gloom of the Shadowfell demanded another draw from the Despair Deck.
- Also made a house rule: The saving throw to overcome Despair cannot be modified by anything other than the Despair Deck.
- This keeps the Warlords +8 to saves from rendering Despair Cards moot, but allows for the Despair Deck to work its magic all the same.
- I was sad to see the “Wyrm Daddy” die, but he was immobilized, so couldn’t escape. If he was a boss creature, I would have added more damage to his attacks. As it is, he was just an encounter… and a trophy. I did like the mechanics of the battlefield in this fight though, made better by Baleful Polymorph.
- What happen’s when a 120ft wyrm turns into a kangaroo rat, then gets pushed out of the water, then turns back into a wyrm again?