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 commentary at the end on how you might make it better.
The End is the Beginning is the End
Last week the players finally killed the abolich, but they needed to find and destroy his phylactery. Chi-Kal explored the water shaft leading to the bottom of the frozen lake. There he discovered the aboleths were creating a mountain of souls. Hundreds of thousands of souls, surrounding a strange beam of greenish, familiar light, all vibrating atop The Sleeper in Dreams.
Then they decided to leave.
I’ve been attempting mystery/horror with this last adventure. I’ve fed clues a little at a time, slowly building a horrific picture. I can only tell you, a big piece of the puzzle lies beneath that mound of souls (if you’re following along and would like to know more, email me and I’ll tell you all), but the players left before realizing it.
I was recanting this story to a friend and he told me I should punish them. Thinking about it, I realize the fault is my own. The story lies within the clues. As a storyteller, it’s ultimately my job to make sure the story unfolds. Therefore, tonight they need more clues.
The players begin their descent outward. As they round the corner, coming upon their excavated tunnel, they see an interesting sight.
As you round the corner, you see a large group of spectres surrounding your created tunnel. A wraith at the forefront motions an old human soul to step forward. It does so with a dead stare. With one hand, the wraith caresses the broken wall, with the other he grabs the souls head. The soul starts to vibrate as the wraith channels a greenish light. Everywhere the wraith touches, the wall reforms. Blocks fall up to stack themselves back in place, cracks chase themselves to disappear at their beginning. Within a matter of seconds, most of the wall is reformed, but the soul is lost forever. Consumed. The wraith motions another soul to step forward. It does so with a dead stare.
Encounter 1 – 1 x Phane Wraith, 2 x Ziggurat Ghost, 24 x Risenguard of Drzak, ? x Time Wraith
The players get a surprise round, but the map should be laid out with the players around a corner needing to move forward to attack. The “real” monsters wade within a thick mob of innocent souls. These corridors are fairly narrow (15 ft) and the souls are many. Finding a square to stand in poses the real problem… unless killing innocents isn’t a problem.
The point of this encounter is the clues. Make sure to describe all the Ziggurat Ghosts as greenish hued souls of legitimately departed mortals, obviously under some compulsion.
The Phane Wraith is a manipulator of time, but destroys souls whenever he does so. Anytime the wraith makes a time altering attack, describe him consuming the greenish hued life force of the soul nearest him, destroying that minion. Dead to Time and space is a standard action (recharge 4, 5,6), he uses this to run away at 25% hp. He also gains the following power:
Should the players still want to leave, these souls are their only opposition on their way out. They make it across the frozen tundra and broken ice caps just fine. As the players near their mounts, they can see they’re agitated, tethered to the ground and pulling at the reins (the players never tethered them).
This is Mean
Approaching, they’ll see their mounts have been harmed. Arcane writing has been carved into their hides. The wound festers with a yellowish bile. Healing the wound seems to do little. Arcane checks recognize the runes of darkness, destruction and teleportation. Religion recognizes the mark of Zehir, god of assassins.
5 mounts x 3 hard DC’s =
Encounter 2 – (The Twins) 1 x Sarpacala Malison & 1 x Yuan-ti Malison Disciple of Zehir, 4 x Yuan-ti Malison Stalker, 1 x Yuan-ti Abomination Berserker
Obviously we need to scale “The Twins” and the stalkers for 21st level. I’ll let you do that.
Each of the stalkers has a tattoo on his chest, The Mark of Zehir. By speaking a command word, “Pel’Loth” they can make themselves explode. +24 vs Fortitude; 3d8 + 10 poison damage.
The Twins are actually one creature. They roll initiative separately, but both act on each initiative check. They remain adjacent to each other as often as possible, even provoking should the other become bloodied. When both are bloodied, they attempt to flee. If one should die, the other remains.
While within a shadow, The Twins may take a standard action to flee. If both do so within a single round, they teleport away. The players may hear the same command word, “Pel’Loth”.
If both twins should die, their bodies fall into a mound of heaping snakes that swarm together and rise into a Yuan-to Anathema.
Encounter 2.5- 1 x Yuan-ti Anathema
Speaking Pel’Loth over any of the creatures reduces the DC’s to easy to disarm the trap. The bubbling bile seems to recoils from the word.
— Game done and run. —
Wow, those two encounters were a lot tougher than I had planned.
- The ghosts in the first encounter have phasing, psychic attacks, and can partially see (-2) through the walls of ice. This makes them a real nuisance when they want to be.
- The innocent souls (minions) really tripped up my group. My players refused to attack the souls, even when surrounded, taking cold damage, and being attacked by eight of them. All under orders of the Phane Wraith of course.
- The minotaur provoked from 11 souls, because “he had to”.
- I decided to reintroduce Dangar as one of these lost souls. He later explained that Jennifer was within this Bleak Fallows place.
- Sam Umbra decided to sing a ballad to The Raven Queen, to cull the compelled souls. It was such a great idea, it worked. I made him roll for it of course. Her charisma check vs the wraiths, each round. Because it was so effective (rendered useless all the minions), it was a sustain standard.
- I reintroduced Dangar for two reasons, one was simply for nostalgia. They haven’t seen him in two months (4 days). It’s good to remind them he’s out there. The second reason was to get a read on how well the group picked up my carefully laid clues.
- In character, Dangar explained what he had gone through, then asked the players to do the same. In character, I got to hear the players deliberate over their findings, and try to piece together what they’d learned. I helped steer a little when I needed to.
- Only one player caught on, but his character failed his wisdom check. So he said nothing… I think I’m going to allow re-rolls. His character has a decent wisdom, he’s just a little slow on the uptake.
- As the players were crossing the frozen tundra, the souls started to get a better grasp of their own consciousness. Sam Umbra has been singing this whole time, keeping The Sleepers call at bay. Seven charisma checks, vs The Sleepers seven.
- Sam only lost 6 out of 19 souls to The Sleepers call.
- Then comes the exploding mount. This is a nasty trick, based on a second edition prank I’ve heard about; branding a players mount with “I’m with stupid” while they’re off adventuring elsewhere.
- The second mount they tried to disarm exploded. I think even the players knew it was bound to happen, but I’m sure they each harbored a morbid curiosity as well.
Next week, it’s back to The Raven Queen to… umm, see if she’ll help?