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. The intent is an adventure you can easily steal, with notations at the end on how you might make it better.
Heart of the Bleak Fallows
The players have just ventured onto the icy plateau, which, as they learned from the Wyrm Daddy attack, is actually an ice-covered lake. They press onward, through an impossible cold only the Shadowfell could provide, toward that huge monolith of an ice pillar.
Roll for weather.
Sights of interest:
- Players see another perfectly symmetrical hole, occupied by crazed, violent narwhals.
- With proper checks they may learn the narwhals aren’t diseased, just crazed.
- Players cross a small hill, that stretches an arching line far into the horizon on both sides.
- These “hills” appear more and more frequently, getting closer and closer together, as they near base of the mountains.
- Between two of these hills, close to the base of the icy mountains, the players are attacked.
Your journey takes you up and over another of those slow rising hills, the mountain looms over-head like a heavy shadow. Suddenly the ground shakes as, far behind you, a giant wyrm erupts out of the ice. Sunlight glistens off his blue scales as he twists in the air, nearly fully emerged from the terrainian crust to crash back down into it again with a titanic splash. Ice-chunks fly into the air to land, skidding across the ice in all directions.
About thirty seconds after this happens, when the waters of the new formed lake are calmed, but still lapping heavily at the icy-shore, a lone Aboleth Master rises slowly from the water.
A lone aboleth emerges slowly from the water, it’s multitude of eyes blinking as each glances around, scanning every detail. One is fixed on each of you, studying you in a way that leaves you feeling exposed and dirty. The aboleth twitches and a wall of ice explodes behind you as three great wyrms rise out of the water, synchronized in movement.
Two options in this fight; run, or kill the aboleth. Trying to destroy all the wyrms is probably suicide. Make sure to describe the worms actions as rigid and forced, obviously under control somehow. Also make sure the players know the mountain is close enough as to be a viable option.
The wyrms in this fight are exactly the same as the solo the players fought in their last fight, except these wyrms are all dominated by the aboleth (One at-will action per turn). The aboleth commands the wyrms to destroy the ice surrounding the players, closing off their chance of escape, before he commands them to attack individual players. One wyrm can use “Consume” once, at the aboleth’s command.
The aboleth ducks back into the water the first chance he can get. He is content to stay beneath the ice and use his psychic attacks with a -5 (total concealment) penalty, -3 if the target can’t see him. He stays close enough to the surface for his aura to take effect, which allows for others to see him below the thick crust as well (DC 26).
Should the players try to run the closing distance to the mountain (as is probably the sensible thing to do), run the following challenge.
Skill Challenge: Escape the Wyrms
The wyrms trail behind you, obviously hampered in their rigid movements. Occasionally you can see the aboleth splashing in and out of the water like a dolphin, eyes searching. Though the wyrms movements are slowed, they too are massive. At the aboleths behest they slam into the ground to send a torrent of icy shards all around you. The ground cracks and splits beneath your feet as they advance.
Roll Initiative. Each player must succeed on their own each round, 8 successes before 2 failures. The Athletics/Acrobatics and Endurance checks increase by two every two rounds (maximum DC 30), as the wyrms draw closer. Successful players reach the mountain in time; failures fall into the water… lost to the frigid cold.
A player that fails both their Athletics/Acrobatics & Endurance checks falls into the water and takes 3d6+10 cold damage at the beginning of their next turn. They also must immediately roll Endurance vs Hypothermia. Describe their next action as struggling to get out of the water. A player who fails the second time falls into the water for another 3d6+10, but also gains a -5 penalty to all checks and must save vs Hypothermia at a -5. Describe their actions as trying to keep from getting swept under the ice. A player that fails a third check is sucked beneath the ice, begins to drown, still takes the damage and the -5 penalty each round.
- Athletics or Acrobatics (Failure = Endurance Check)
- DC 26, 28, 30 = Success. The player garners forward movement.
- DC + 10 = Epic Success. The player removes any failure.
- DC 26, 28, 30 = No success or fail. The player maintains footing, but gains no ground.
- DC + 10 = Epic Success. The ground splits beneath your feet, but you refuse to let the ground separate. +2 to all Athletics and Acrobatics checks the beginning of your next turn.
- Secondary Skills (Minor Actions)
- DC 25 = Predict the movement of one iceberg, granting one player a +2 bonus to their next Athletics or Acrobatics check.
- DC 25 = You’re extremely aware of youre surroundings, granting a +2 bonus to Endurance checks to keep from falling in the water.
The first one to complete the challenge finds a wall of ice, ten times larger than before, blocking their immediate exit. Climbing is their best option, but it appears the wall slants outward. This is when insightful characters may realize the actual shape of the bleak fallows, somehow frozen in place and encrusted in centuries of ice.
However the players decide to go, they soon find a circular, symmetrical tunnel leading deeper into the ice. This entire cavern is encrusted in ice and extremely cold. Hypothermia checks again for those who don’t have it yet.
Describe frozen rooms seen through the ice, completely encased in ice. Describe spirits phasing through the walls, their moans echoing off the ice. Describe a large wall that seems darker than the rest, as if a window, but concave as if a lens… then suddenly an aboleth appears behind it, hugely magnified through the wall it’s eyes immediately bore down on all within the room.
Encounter 2 – 1 x Pavan, Aboleth Overseer Lich, 1 x Ancient Ghost, 2 x Famine Spirit, 12 x Angel of Secret Legionaire (3 waves of 4)
Pavan stays behind the ice attacking with psychic attacks only, at a -2 penalty. This glass is nice and clear, meant to be seen through. Should the ice break, it releases a torrential plume of water for 1d4 minutes that floods the chamber and any halls with extreme force. With the flood will come Pavan of course, and also also three aboleth brutes (large-size behemoths).
Encounter 3 – 3 x Aboleth Behemoth (large-size, not huge) + anything remaining from Encounter 2
Well this may have been a first for me.
The skill challenge, “Escape the Wyrms”, completely overshadowed the combat. The challenge took over an hour… and everyone loved it. Admittedly, I was afraid to have a death penalty skill challenge, so I put lots of catch-alls to hopefully avert multiple player demise, while promoting teamwork as well. I openly gave a +2 bonus for roleplaying, and it worked. The scene as everyone envisioned in their heads was suitably epic. People were surfing on ice shards, flying through the air on icebergs, riding wyrms and narwhales, and all out destroying any obstacle of ice in their path. I’d like to thank all the players for participating in this, rather than just rolling through it. Worth it, no?
The combat with Pavan was interesting. Epic level characters are very… efficient. The thri-kreen was able to phase through the wall to get to Pavan immediately. Every attack after that point immobilized the poor aboleth, and the thri-kreen was stuck fighting a mini-boss by himself.
- Pavan should get a surprise round. If at least one person gets dominated, the encounter becomes more colorful.
The mini-boss controller, Pavan, doesn’t deal damage well to people he can’t dominate. It would take him a long time to kill the thri-kreen and he knew it too (Int 23), he decided to escape at the first chance he could… which happened to be round 7 I believe. In those final rounds of combat, the rest of the group watched the mantis fight the aboleth on the big screen, and win.
The group cracked the window, but didn’t break it. The aboleth lich still lives…
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