Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Ambush at the Dreadwood River Bridge - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 22

Marlin met with his brother Annor, "Brother, I have some important news."

Annor became immediately anxious, "What?"

"Okay. First, I still have the dragon egg."

Annor was unsurprised, "I assumed  you did."

"Right. Well, nobody else knows. Which leads me to the second thing. Captain Xendros knows I have the egg and she wants me to sell it to her."

Annor looked momentarily confused, "Who's Captain Xendros?"

"The woman who runs the Faithful Quartermasters of Iuz? Red skin? Devil horns? Always trying to get us to sell our souls to the devil?"

"Oh! Is THAT her name? Wait, she's a captain?? Captain of what?"

Marlin grabbed his burly brother's shoulder, "Yes. Brother. Focus. Stay on topic."


"Anyway, somehow she knows I have the egg. Maybe she's scrying on me. I don't know. But she said that if I don't sell her the egg, she'll tell the wizard Keledek who really stole the egg. Also, she'll tell Eliander Fireborn."

Annor glared at his brother for a moment. It was obvious he was struggling to contain his annoyance.

Annor said through gritted teeth, "You're going to destroy the egg, right? You're obviously not going to sell it to her."

Marlin paused to find the right words, "Look. She really wants the egg. If I were to destroy it, she'd probably still tell Keledek to punish me. To punish us. I was thinking I could just murder her."

"No!" was Annor's stern reply.

"But it would eliminate the problem!"

"You're not murdering her! First - its murder! Second - where would we buy our magic items if she's dead?"

"Well, if I can't sell her the egg and I can't murder her, I guess I'll just break the egg and we'll deal with the consequences."

"YOU'LL deal with the consequences!"

Marlin nodded, "Understood".

The next morning, Marlin went to the Faithful Quartermasters of Iuz with the black dragon egg.

He left without the black dragon egg.


The A-Team:
  • Annor Whalerson - Lawful Good, Human Marine and Fighter from Saltmarsh. 
  • Alot Aname - Neutral Warforged Fighter.
  • Marlin Whalerson - Chaotic Good,  Human Seeker, treasure hunter, and scoundrel.
Suffering the Brain Jellies this Week:
  • Auric Ravenson - Neutral Good, Aasimar Shipwright and Cleric of the Raven King.
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Sorceress from Ket. 
DM Note-
Marlin's player and I did our negotiations via secret note. Marlin asked Captain Xendros to swear on Iuz that the black dragon egg would be taken away from Saltmarsh. She raised her hand, crossed her heart, and assured him the dragon egg would be taken far to the north.  Marlin's player said "I assume she's LAWFUL evil so I trust her word."

Journey to Burle
It was a little past dawn when Marlin joined his brother Annor and the warforged fighter Alot Aname at the north gate. They were prepared for the hike to Burle, ten leagues north of Saltmarsh on the Janustream river.

"Why aren't we taking a river boat?" Marlin inquired.

"Because the bandits are hitting traffic along the road," replied Annor.

"Okay, but why aren't we on horses?"

"We don't need horses. Marching is good for you," said the former soldier. Alot nodded.

"Where are the others?"

"They're taking a river boat. They'll catch up to us in Burle."

Marlin grumbled at that answer.

Annor looked Marlin up and down, "Is that all you're packing?"

"We're just going to Burle!"

Annor shrugged, "Did you take care of the dragon egg?"

Marlin got a head start walking towards the gate, "All taken care of! Nothing to worry about!"

The Robin's Breast Inn
Around noon they arrived at the confluence of the Dreadwood and Janustream rivers. Here the road crossed the Dreadwood over an ancient stone bridge. The location was halfway between Saltmarsh and Burle. A few farmers lived nearby and a small roadside inn, the Robin's Breast, was perfectly situated to serve travelers between the two towns.

They stopped at the Robin's Breast to get some lunch and a pint of ale. The inn was usually bustling with merchants and farmers but today there were only a handful of surly locals. A bored minstrel sat in a corner plucking a stringed instrument.

The innkeeper, William Brightboy, took their order. When asked about the light business he explained that attacks along the road north of Burle had deterred merchants from making the journey to Saltmarsh.

"Wait," interjected Annor, "The bandits are attacking the road NORTH of Burle?"

"Yes, brother," replied Marlin.

"Then why isn't Burle dealing with this?" the fighter said incredulously.

"They tried," said William Brightboy, "They sent a force of thirty soldiers into the Drowned Forest last week in search of the brigands. Nothing's been heard of them."

"A point you raised only yesterday to the Merchant Guild, my brother, and they told you the same thing," Marlin reminded him, "Remember? It's why you accepted this mission!"

"Hurmmm." said Annor.

Alot did his best to stare impassively into the distance.

The bored minstrel stood up and approached the party, "Greetings! My  name is Pluck! I am at your service! Might I play a tune for you weary travelers?"

"Of course!" replied Marlin.

"I present to you, the Ballad of Sakatha!"

The surly farmers fidgeted. They were displeased by the choice. One objected, "Let evil lie sleeping, you fool!" His companion added, "Why invite more trouble? Stick with your silly songs and leave us in peace."

Pluck ignored the naysayers and sang a pensive ballad.

Sakatha once was the Great Lizard King,
Said to have power stored in a ring.
O'er swamplands and plains lands his dominions they spread;
His very name filled all creatures with dread 
To build his great tomb in the midst of the marsh,
Many men died in slavery most harsh.
His minions took all of our best for his altar;
Not for a day did his bloody thirst falter. 
Then there arose the Adventurers Four,
The greatest of heroes in those days of yore;
They slew Sakatha in the Battle of Waycombe;
The Lizard Men carried their slaughtered chief home. 
And now he awaits in the cold sleep of death
His day of awakening, his first newborn breath.
Though deep in the ground his followers closed him,
He'll come back for vengeance on those who opposed him.

The end of ballad was met with awkward silence.

Annor was intrigued, "What can you tell me about Sakatha?"

The minstrel dismissed the question, "Very little! It is naught but a ballad used to
frighten naughty children at night. There is nothing more to it than that, I suspect."

Having finished their meal and drink, the party gathered their gear and set off towards the old stone bridge.

As the party crossed the bridge, they noticed strange humanoid shapes darting beneath the bridge and hiding behind the trees and foliage. Lizard-folk lurked below and behind! They were already on the bridge. They readied themselves for attack and prepared to turn back.

Suddenly the sky was filled with javelins! One struck Alot.

A lizard-man riding a large reptile darted out from the foliage behind then and charged up the bridge. Another mounted lizard-man similarly charged onto the bridge before them. They were trapped!

Annor charged forward and cut down the lizard-man's mount with a single swing from his massive flamerge. His follow-up attack cut the rider in half. He was soon replaced by three other lizard-men.

The lizard-men were adorned with dried mud painted onto their scaly skin in garish patterns. Many bore pendants of a dragon head with leathery wings - they were servants of Aulicus!

Alot held the rear flank with Marlin darting around him and stabbing enemies from behind. They quickly dispatched the mount and its rider but were soon fighting three reinforcements. Meanwhile, a handful of lizard-men continued to harass them with javelins from the river bank.

Once he had cleared his side of the bridge, Annor ran back and fought side-by-side with Alot. The javelin-throwers from the far bank then ran towards the bridge and charged in a second wave. They moved more cautiously onto the bridge. Annor, Alot, and Marlin destroyed the three lizard-men behind them. Annor then charged back towards the newcomers on the far side of the bridge, cutting them down with wide arcing strokes of his ridiculously long sword.

The final lizard-men abandoned their javelin positions on the near bank and charged Alot and Marlin but they too were soon dispatched.

Tired, injured, and covered in blood, the A-Team decided to retreat to the nearby Robin's Breast Inn to recuperate, despite the delay in their travel plans.

DM Note-
The fighter - fighter - rogue combo had no cleric for support and no magic user for ranged attacks. It was a pretty brutal fight. Both Annor and Alot were bloodied and desperately needed to spend some Hit Die in a short rest.

Welcome to Burle
Burle is little more than a walled keep near the Janustream River. A few farms and walled compounds were located in the surrounding countryside. The A-Team arrived at Burle an hour after sunset. Lanterns illuminated the tops of the wall and the windows of the gatehouse. Very few guards could be seen on the wall.

They asked for entry and were challenged by the gate-keeper - an elven ranger named Aquiel. It was unusual to see elves guarding a keep of Keoland. Aquiel allowed them to enter. The interior of the keep was unusually quiet. There were fewer guards, soldiers, and horses than one would expect. Aquiel said that the thirty soldiers sent into the Drowned Forest had not returned and the worst was feared. In the meantime, elves from Silverstand have volunteered to watch the walls while they were gone.

Annor explained that he was a member of the town council of Saltmarsh and that he and his team had been dispatched to deal with the brigands as well as find the missing soldiers.

Aquiel became excited. He told Annor that he should meet with the castellan immediately. She was taking her dinner in the main hall and he would take them to her.

Marlin suddenly became interested, "Did you say, 'she'?"

Dinner with the Castellan
Aquiel brought the trio to the main hall of the keep. The room was built to accommodate over a hundred soldiers but tonight less than a dozen took their meal. The mood was somber and few spoke.

Seated at a place of honor was the castellan - Kiara Shadowbreaker. She was a woman in her forties with short cut hair. She wore a fur-lined cape over her plate armor. She seemed ill at ease and snapped angrily at her attendants.

Aquiel introduced the guests to Shadowbreaker. The castellan seemed unimpressed. She expressed her lack of confidence in any aid sent by Anders Solmor, whose name she said dripping with disdain.

Marlin took offense at her remark and replied, snidely, "Well, maybe if your forces were a little more competent, you wouldn't need our help."

Shadowbreaker became angry, "Excuse me, PEASANT? How dare you speak to a member of the noble class in such a manner?"

Marlin escalated the scene, "Do you know who I am? I am the brother of a member of the town council of Saltmarsh!"

"I don't care who you are! Anyone affiliated with ANDERS SOLMOR has earned my enmity! "

Annor put his hand on his brother's shoulder and whispered, "Marlin? The castellan is perhaps a little sensitive tonight. Perhaps your escalation isn't helping matters." He then turned to the castellan and attempted to diffuse the situation by changing the subject, "I am curious, Madame Shadowbreaker, why do you feel this way about Anders Solmor?"

She took a deep breath before replying, "Have you ever heard of the Scarlet Brotherhood?"

Annor looked at Marlin and whispered, "Help me out, brother."

Marlin continued, considerably more controlled than before, "The Scarlet Brotherhood is a secret society who believe that ancient race of the Suel are superior to the modern races of the Flaeness. They seek to overthrow the kingdoms of the Flaeness and replace it with the surviving Suel people as the nobility of a new empire."

"Right!" said Annor, "Those guys!"

The castellan said, "I have reason to believe that your Anders Solmor is an agent of the Scarlet Brotherhood and an enemy of the kingdom of Keoland!"

"We know," said Marlin.

"Wait, what?" was Shadowbreaker's incredulous reply.

Marlin explained that Anders was an innocent pawn that was being manipulated by his family butler, Skerrin. He recounted all the missions they had undertaken on behalf of Anders as well as the consequences their missions may have had on regional politics. He told her about their mission to recover the missing promissory notes and Anders' desire to become a count of Keoland. He also told her that the guild of smugglers and pirates known as the Organization opposed this and plotted against Anders. He told her that Gellan Primewater, agent of the Organization in Saltmarsh, with the help of the Ketan wizard Keledek, had managed to place a ring onto the hand of the Duke of Seaton in order to manipulate and control his thoughts. As a result, the Duke had withdrawn all the naval forces to Seaton and opposed Anders' request.

Shadowbreaker sat in stunned silence at the new information. Eventually she stood up and said, "Come with me. I have something to show you."

She led them to her private office. She withdrew a curtain on one wall to reveal a large map of the Flaeness. Each of the towns and cities of the land were marked with a pin and all were connected by a cat's cradle of red thread. Various notes were jotted onto bits of parchment and pinned to each town and city. Each note detailed a plot, event, or personage.

She said, "I've been tracking the Scarlet Brotherhood for years. They've working hard to infiltrate our nobility and destroy us from within. You have brought me invaluable information, and for that I thank you. Let us talk and compare notes."

Shadowbreaker beckoned Marlin to sit next to her. They began to share stories and theories.

Annor and Alot stood awkwardly nearby. Annor cleared his throat and interrupted, "Um, that is to say, about the brigands."

Shadowbreaker was broken from her fixation on Marlin and talk of the Scarlet Brotherhood, "Yes. Right. I have received word that the brigands most recent target was the small farming community of Waycombe on the edge of the Drowned Forest, four leagues to the west. This was their first attack against a village, as far as I know. There is a small path that leads you there. I will have Aquiel show you the path but I can't spare him to accompany you. You are welcome to stay in the finest guest room in the keep tonight as my guest! Tomorrow I shall outfit you with whatever you need."

"Thankyou, milady."

Annor and Alot took their leave.

Marlin said, "Madame Shadowbreaker, if I may continue."

She inched closer to Marlin, "Please, call me Kiara."

DM Note-
At this point I literally said, "...aaand - scene!"

Journey to Waycombe
The next morning, the A-Team assembled in the bailey of Burle. They'd have someone ferry them across the Janustream River. After that it was a half-day hike around the hill to Waycombe.

"Wait," said Marlin, "Isn't the rest of the team coming up river? Should we wait for them?"

"Nah," replied Annor, "They'll catch up."

They set off through the humid morning mist towards the Drowned Forest. 

The Great Split Oak
They had traveled roughly three leagues and expected to be arriving in Waycombe shortly. The trip thus far had been uneventful. They had journeyed south from Burle, hiking over a low hill covered in tall grass, shrubs, and the occasional copse of trees. Now they were descending the far side of the hill. The Drowned Forest could be seen in the valley ahead of them in the distance maybe twelve miles away. The Hool Marsh stretched out to the left towards the horizon.

The path continued downhill. A few hundred yards off the path to the right was an old oak tree that had split in two halves by a lightning strike.

DM Note-
I described the tree as a young treant from Silverstand who had been struck by lightning and died years ago. 

"How can you tell it was a treant?" one player asked.

"Because it has a face and its branches look like arms with fingers," said another player. 

This little bit of description had nothing to do with anything but the players appreciated the additional detail.

Sitting at the base of the tree was what appeared to be a human man. The man appeared to be resting on the ground against the tree.

Annor cautiously approached the man. He stood up and picked up his shield and sword. Emblazoned on his shield was the lion rampant of the kingdom of Keoland. He was a soldier from Burle!

Annor called out to the stranger and assured him of their peaceful intentions. The man allowed them to approach but stood at the ready. Upon closer inspection it appeared that the man had barely survived a battle. He was covered in blood, dirt, and loose twigs and leaves. He appeared injured.

The man introduced himself as Barto Trume. He was a soldier from the Burle garrison. Trume seemed relieved to learn that the A-Team had just come from Burle and were searching for the missing expedition. Trume said that he and the expedition had traveled into the Drowned Forest on skiffs. He said that they came across a little old man standing on an island. He didn't know what happened next - it was a blur. They were attacked - decimated - by human brigands and lizard-man savages working together! He was knocked unconscious and taken somewhere deeper in the forest. He managed to escape and wandered lost in the Drowned Forest for days.

Just last night he managed to find his way to Waycombe. There he saw a force of about forty enemy brigands and some kind of priest camped in a large field behind Waycombe. He fled Waycome and had to rest. He said he had to get back to Burle!

Annor offered to accompany him back to Burle. Barto objected. He said he was well enough to travel and that if the party was headed to Waycombe, they were only an hour away. If they went back to Burle, the brigands might be gone by the time they returned.

Annor rubbed his chin and agreed. He gave Trume some supplies and asked him to relay the same story to two others who might be coming up the trail behind them.

With that, they parted ways with the survivor and continued to Waycombe.

To Be Continued...

DM Note-
If you notice there's a lot more dialog and role-playing in this write-up, it's because Auric's player was out this week, leaving no restriction on Marlin's and Annor's players and allowing them to do all the role-playing and interaction they want. Auric's player likes to be more organized and to stay on focus which can have the effect of stifling the pair's interaction sometimes. Plus, Auric's player literally physically sits between them. So his absence removed that figurative and literal impediment to their style of fun wordy interactive role-play.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Goats of Saltmarsh - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 21

Annor decided to spend the day watching his goats. He gave the shepherd boys the day off. He took the crook and led his goats up the hill overlooking the Kingfisher river and the shallow expanse of marsh beyond. It was a warm sunny day and a cool breeze blew in from the ocean.  He took off his shirt and looked around. Saltmarsh was his home town. It had its problems, it could use some improvement, but it was a good town all told. The sound of the wind in the tall grass and the gentle bleating of his goats pleased him. This was a good day. 

The A-Team:
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Sorceress from Ket. 
  • Annor Whalerson - Lawful Good, Human Marine and Fighter from Saltmarsh. 
  • Auric Ravenson - Neutral Good, Aasimar Shipwright and Cleric of the Raven King.
Suffering the Brain Jellies this Week:
  • Alot Aname - Neutral Warforged Fighter.
  • Marlin Whalerson - Chaotic Good,  Human Seeker and Rogue.

It was an idyllic time in Saltmarsh. For five weeks, the A-Team had nothing to do but attend to their personal priorities. 

Aella spent the first week learning the language of the sea elves. Annor purchased some additional land for his goats and hired some workers to build a barn. Auric conducted rituals for the remembrance of the dead at his temple near the graveyard.

By the end of the second week, Aella felt she had a good grasp of the sea elf language. Annor learned the skill of goat herding from the young men in his employ. Auric hired a sculptor from Seaton to create a statue of Saint Ogden, keeper of the Book of the Dead.

During the third week, Eliander Fireborn, captain of the guard of Saltmarsh, led an expedition northeast to the Dreadwood. A werewolf was harassing loggers in the area. Aella spent the week carousing and getting to know the local merchants at the Wicker Goat. Annor continued to learn the ins and outs of goat farming, herding, and breeding. Auric studied herbalism under the tutelage of Ferrin Kastilar, the halfling druid who dwelled within the forest grove near the marsh behind the town.

The fourth week brought news that the Duke of Seaton had recalled all the ships of the king's navy. As a result, piracy and smuggling in the region had increased sharply. Aella spent the week in her home, nesting. She adopted a cat. Annor continued learning goat herding and Auric continued his studies in herbalism.

The fifth week saw the arrival of refugees from farther down the coast. The pirates had begun to raid coastal settlements. The survivors abandoned their burned out villages and came to Saltmarsh. Aella spent the week carousing and making friends at the Wicker Goat. Annor continued to herd his goats. Auric continued to study herbalism.

DM Notes-
We spent five weeks of downtime using the various downtime rules in the DMG and Xanathar's Guide. 

Some house rules we apply to down time include:
1. Every week I would roll a random event for the town from the Ghosts of Saltmarsh book. I'd give the players some narrative control by giving them the choice of: Traditionalist Events, Loyalist Event, or Wildcard event. 

2. According tot he Player's Handbook, learning a new language or tool proficiency requires 255 days. That's untenable. So I figured that's assuming one hour of study every day while adventuring. If you divide 255 hours of study over eight hour days, you get 32 days, which fits nicely in about a month. A week of downtime learning a new language or tool proficiency counts as 40 hours of study towards your 255 hours requirement. So a character can learn a new language or tool proficiency in about 6 weeks - assuming two days off per week. That's much more workable given the constraints of adventuring and the typical time frames of our campaigns. 

3. During this time, Annor was running a business making goat cheese. At first I adapted the business rules from the 3.5 DMG2 but this soon became unrealistic. So we switched to the business rules in the Dungeon Master's Guide, Fifth Edition, on page 129. However, I gave Annor's player some modifications from the 3.5 DMG2 table. If he spent 1000 gp on improvements, it gave him a permanent +1d4 on the weekly roll. He also rolled a weekly event for his business which might modify that week's roll up or down. 

The Faithful Quartermasters of Iuz
Marlin walked through the doors of the Faithful Quartermasters of Iuz. He wished to speak to Captain Xendros about possibly obtaining a set of magical goggles that would allow him to see in the dark.

Captain Xendros greeted Marlin warily. She obviously still remembered his insult from a few weeks ago. She politely listened to his request. There was a moment of awkward silence before she smiled and requested to speak with Marlin privately. She pulled the curtains and closed the door to her office.

She peeked through the curtain and checks outside the window to ensure they weren't being watched.  Her tone becomes hushed, conspiratorial.

She smiled warmly, "Meester Whalerson. I have a special proposition for you. I will seek and obtain the item you seek - I will forego the finders fee - I will even forego the sale price and provide it free of charge - in exchange for... the egg of Aulicus. Give to me the dragon's egg and I will give you the goggles you seek for free. Do we have an arrangement? "

Marlin responded, "IF I had something so precious…so valuable in my possession,  it would be worth more than the single item I request.  FAR more, if I had such a thing."

"I have ways of knowing that you are in possession of this thing. Many mysteries are revealed to me by my lord and master Iuz." She paused and considered his insinuation, "I have seen red dragon eggs sold for 2000 gold pieces. Perhaps a black dragon egg is worth 1000 gold pieces? "

Marlin looked uncertain. How could she know he had the dragon egg? Did she have a way to track it?

She continued, "If you are uncertain about my offer of two thousand gold pieces, you should be aware that the wizard Keledek might be interested in learning who was actually responsible for the theft of his property. You have perhaps already witnessed the extent of his tolerance towards those he believes to have crossed him? Or perhaps Captain Fireborn may have an interest? By comparison, two thousand gold pieces and an uncommon magic item at no price seems a desirable alternative, no?"

Marlin's face became grim, "Don’t threaten me!" He stepped toward her and smiled. "After all, your threats are meaningless as you would lose the prize you seek, no?"

"You will pay me what I want or you don’t get it at all, understood devils-daughter.  And If I would take some time to consider your offer, you will wait with all-do patience."

Captain Xendros stared at him in cold silence.

"Okay, listen.  We got off on a wrong foot for a misspoken comment on my part.  I’m sorry.  But there’s no reason we should remain at loggerheads.  We could actually help each other.  I am a treasure hunter and sometimes come across many interesting items in my travels.  I could sell what I or the team don’t want to you for resale.  Win-win."  Marlin made direct eye-to-eye contact with the tiefling.  "We are both professionals, and I was not treating you with the respect you deserve.  I can admit that."

Marlin turned away and picked at a fuzz on his sleeve.

"Now, truth be told, I don’t want to sell the egg at this point and time.  But if it ever does come up for sale, you’ll be one of the very first people I contact.  I believe that would be fair enough."

Marlin turned back towards her.  "All I really want are the Sungoggles of Cory the Hart or The Eyeglass of Lord Otto VonBloodtruth, Conquistador of Torm who believed himself hunted by the Invisible Stalkers after he massacred the entire Katoti plains people."

"So?  Can we come to some kind of working accord?  We don’t have to be friends, but we don’t have to be enemies."  He offered her a handshake.

She smiled again, "Yes. I have heard of your so-called reputation as a treasure hunter, though you and your friends have yet to offer me a single treasure for sale." She pouts, sullenly and theatrically. She held that look for a beat then abruptly switched to a big toothy grin.

"I may have need of your services soon. Perhaps in a few months. In the meantime, given current circumstances, I am unable to provide you with the items you request. I will give you a month to change your mind regarding my offer. I look forward to doing further business with you. "

Marlin smiled politely through his disappointment. He performed a short bow and took his leave.

Recruited for the Town Council
On the fifth week, Annor was summoned to a meeting of the town council. Gellan Primewater had been missing for over a month. He had not been seen since his house burned down. His seat on the town council was declared vacant. Eliander Fireborn nominated Annor to the council. Annor was selected on a vote of three to one.

A Meeting with the Merchant's Guild
On the very next day after his election to the city council, Annor was asked to attend a special meeting with the Brotherhood of Merchants - a small guild that represented the overland merchant caravans that brought goods to Saltmarsh from inland.

Annor, Auric, and Aella accompanied Anders Solmor to the meeting. Ander's servant Skerrin was also in attendance.

The Brotherhood of Merchants consisted of eight representatives. They were standing around a table within the Mariner's Guild Hall. Two young acolytes from the Temple of Procan stood in the corner reciting prayers - a typical sight in the Mariner's Guild Hall.  Anders and Annor were introduced.

The representatives of the Brotherhood were agitated. They explained for the past several weeks no trade caravans have arrived from Burle. They had all been hit by bandits crossing the Janustream river from the area of the Drowned forest.

Occasional banditry had been a minor problem in the past. Everyone knew bandits had hideouts in the Hool marsh. But they were small and disorganized. More often than not the caravans could simply pay these brigands either in coin or with a portion of the shipment.

These bandits, however, were organized. They fought like demons! They attacked and took everything! They gave no quarter and accepted no parley! Also, these bandits seemed to emerge from the region of the Drowned Forest, not the Hool Marsh.

After the first attacks, the merchants hired mercenaries, but these guards were ineffective! Most were easily defeated by the bandits or fled in fear! When the guards fled, the brigands chased them down and captured them! Only a few have managed to escape!

More strange, survivors report that each attack was preceded preceded by the appearance of a harmless-looking tittle old man who stops the head of the merchants' columns to ask for directions.

Annor noted that the attacks all took place northwest of Burle and asked if they had sought the aid of Burle. The merchants said they appealed to Burle, and Kiara Shadowbreaker, castellan of the fort, sent a force of 30 soldiers into the Drowned Forest. That was a month ago and none of them have returned!

With Eliander and most of the town guard away in the Dreadwood, the merchants asked the Town Council what they might be able to do!

Annor reassured the merchants that the A-Team would investigate and take care of this problem.

Auric thought he heard one of the hooded acolytes whisper the phrase, "Oh great power of evil, destroy now thine enemies..." Auric turned to approach the acolyte. Suddenly, a giant pillar of black flame erupted through the ceiling centered on Anders! The pillar exploded with both dark energy and unholy power, setting the room on fire and searing the souls of anyone near.

Annor was thrown backwards. Both acolytes in the back of the room ran towards the exit. Auric pointed at one of them, "Stop him!" Annor quickly ran and grabbed the acolyte by the arm.

The acolyte tried to break free but he was unable to slip from Annor's grasp.

Aella immediately cast a witch bolt spell at the acolyte. The acolyte screamed in pain. He produced an iron mace from within his long sleeve. The head of the mace resembled the head of a black dragon. The acolyte cried, "I give my soul to Aulicus! Sakatha will rise again and destroy you all!" He swung the mace at Annor ineffectually.

Auric, meanwhile, tended to Anders and the merchants who had all fallen underneath the pillar of black fire!

Having brought no armor or weapons to this meeting with the merchants, Annor began punching the acolyte in the face with his bare fists. Between the punches and the witch bolt, the acolyte was soon incapacitated.

Annor bound the prisoner while the others helped put out the fire and protect the survivors of the attack. Thanks to Auric's quick thinking Anders had survived the assassination attempt.

Later, the prisoner was taken to the temple of Procan. The prisoner was a male human. Wellgar Brinehanded, the priest of the temple, did not know the man. Though he was wearing the robes of an acolyte of Procan, Brinehanded noted that the robes were accessible and could have been easily stolen.

The prisoner was taken to the gaol and placed in the special magic-resistant cell. He was interrogated once he regained consciousness but offered no useful information, saying only that "the Descendants Four Founders of Saltmarsh will perish in flames! Their cities will be razed! Their people enslaved! They will know the vengeance of the Risen!". Soon after making this pronouncement, the prisoner began to emit a noxious froth from his mouth and fell dead.

Annor told the others, "Tomorrow, we head to Burle."

To Be Continued...

DM Note-
The four founders of Saltmarsh were:
  • The Great Great Grandfather of Anders Solmor
  • The Great Great Grandmother of Annor and Marlin Whalerson
  • The Great Grandfather of the Duke of Seaton
  • The Great Great Grandfather of Gellan Primewater

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Battle of Ringcurrent Island - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 20

Ringcurrent Island was located in the center of a massive, slowly swirling eddy where the Janustream River joined another river - halfway between Saltmarsh and Burle. The island was covered in flotsam and driftwood and appeared to be composed of centuries of accumulated bits of wood and sand.

As the A-Team approached in their single-mast pinnace, they could see two distinct encampments of lizardfolk. Each had a primitive carved pole decorated with different totems. Atop the poles were new additions - leathery wings. A third pole could be seen on the far side of the island.

The center of the island was a low mound with primitive mud and thatch huds and crude fortifications creating a palisade. A tall pike stood at the center. A lizard-man head, twice the size of a normal lizard-man and half-dissolved by acid and rot, hung from the pike.

Several dozen poles were driven into the mulchy beach. To each pole was lashed a prisoner. Humans, dwarfs, elves, and halflings prisoners gathered from throughout the Janustream valley could be seen. They looked as if they had been exposed to the elements for several days. A wooden paddock contained captured livestock. Each pole was decorated with wood carved bat wings.

About a dozen lizardfolk roamed each encampment. Some were guarding the prisoners. Others worked on large driftwood rafts at the water's edge. The lizardfolk seemed more interested in keeping an eye on the other camps than watching for other dangers. Lookouts manned wooden platforms built at the water's edge and spotted the A-Team's boat as they approached.

The warforged fighter, Alot, reported that he could feel the cross-current increase as they neared the island. He struck the sails and manned the oars. The boat collided with a large floating log that bobbed with other flotsam and jetsam in the current. The side cracked and water began to leak in.

A lizard-man shaman accompanied by two attendants and a few warriors walked to the water's edge. The shaman called out in their reptilian tongue, "What happened to Marsh Spider and the two warriors?"

Auric was the only member of the A-Team currently possessing all their faculties who spoke the lizard-man tongue. He lied, telling the shaman that they had been killed by a beast who guarded the egg. He assured the shaman that Marsh Spider and the warriors died bravely.

The shaman replied, "Before we allow you to land, show us the egg!"

Auric told Marlin to show the egg. Marlin produced the dragon egg from his magical bag of holding. It was the size of a small watermelon. He held it aloft.

Suddenly a lizard-man of extraordinary size burst from the water. He was the same lizard-man seen by the A-Team skulking through the destroyed camp on a nearby island during their last visit a few days previous. The large lizard-man climbed up onto a sandbar and shouted, "No! Death to Aulicus! Death to Sakatha! I am Bogclaw, son of Scalecrusher," the lizard-man pointed to the skull at the center of the island,"I am the rightful king of the lizard tribes of the Drowned Forest! Join me, warriors! Long live Thousand Teeth!"

The lizard-man then swam to the boat, grabbed the side, and turned it over, throwing everyone into the river. 

The A-Team:
  • Annor Whalerson - Lawful Good, Human Marine and Fighter from Saltmarsh. 
  • Marlin Whalerson - Chaotic Good,  Human Seeker and Rogue.
  • Auric Ravenson - Neutral Good, Aasimar Shipwright and Cleric of the Raven King.
Suffering the Brain Jellies this Week:
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Sorceress from Ket. 
  • Alot Aname - Neutral Warforged Fighter.

The Egg-Shell Game
The shaman shouts, "Betrayer! Don't let the exile take the egg!" The shaman then struck his staff into the sand and summoned forth a giant anaconda. The anaconda slithered into the water. The shaman immediately summoned another which followed its predecessor. One anaconda swam towards Annor, the other towards Bogclaw.

Marlin managed to keep his hold on the egg as he fell out of the boat. He bobbed in the strong current. He saw the massive lizard-man swimming towards him. He ducked underwater and tucked the egg under one arm while his free hand cast a spell to create a magical illusion of the egg. He sent the illusory egg to the surface where it floated away from him.

The illusion worked. Bogclaw was fooled and followed the illusory egg away from Marlin. Marlin then secretly used his mage hand to send the egg towards Alot who was clinging to the capsized boat.

Before Bogclaw reached the illusory egg, Marlin changed the illusion so that it appeared as if the egg burst, spreading its embryonic contents into the water. Bogclaw tread water and turned back towards the island, "The Heir of Aulicus is no more! Come! Join me!" He continued swimming away from the main island. He swam towards the nearby smaller island a hundred feet away.

Annor was wearing plate armor and sank quickly to the bottom of the river. He held his breath and pushed hard against the strong current. He trudged up-hill towards the island. He was suddenly beset by one of the summoned anacondas which wrapped itself around him and began to squeeze.

Annor broke free from the choking grasp of the giant snake and stabbed it through the head. He continued his journey out of the water.

The shaman shouted, "Slay the exile! Kill all the warmbloods!" At his command, thirty lizard-men ran down from the main island and joined the anaconda in swimming after Bogclaw. 

Meanwhile, Auric swam over towards Annor who was just rising from the water on the shore of the island. The lizard-men on the watch platforms threw javelins at Annor but missed. A handful of lizard-men warriors charged down the beach and surrounded Annor.

The shaman once again struck his staff into the ground and the grasses and weeds around Annor's feet grew to impossible length, wrapping around Annor, Auric, and all the lizard-men warriors, entangling them and immobilizing them.

Annor pulled mightily and burst out of the weeds. He continued to trudge towards the shaman and his attendants. The entangled lizard-men attacked Annor as he moved away. Auric remained trapped in the weeds with the lizard-men.

The shaman once against struck his staff into the sand and Annor's armor began to instantly radiate intense heat. Annor was also quickly surrounded by seven or eight lizard-man warriors.

Auric managed to break free from the weeds and join his companion on the beach. He stood behind him and prayed to Tristan for a divine miracle. His prayer was answered in the form of a cyclone of ravens manifesting around him. The ravens pecked, bit, and clawed at all of the lizard-men caught within the maelstrom. Many of the lizard-men warriors fell outright which freed Annor and allowed him to move.

Annor, still suffering from the intense burning heat of his armor, charged the shaman, killing him with a single stroke of his Fabulous Flamberge. The burning effect, the entangling weeds, and the remaining anaconda disappeared immediately upon the death of the shaman.

DM Note-
Auric's player waiting until the shaman was dead before pointing out, "Hey Christian, FYI- all those were concentration spells. He should have only been able to do one at a time."

I blanched, "Shit! You're right! I'm so sorry!"

Both Auric and Annor's players said, "Don't worry about it. He was awesome! Let's say he was a special NPC with a magic staff that granted him bonus concentration spells. Too bad the staff crumbled to dust when he died."

The Maelstrom of Ravens
A second group of warriors arrived from one of the other tribes on the island and surrounded Annor and Auric. These warriors, having seen the effect of the swarm of ravens on their predecessors, kept their distance outside of the maelstrom of birds, leaving only a few within the maelstrom to attempt to attack and distract Auric from his prayers.

Auric deftly avoided their attacks and simply moved fifteen feet to the right. The maelstrom of ravens followed him and quickly enveloped those lizard-men warriors standing outside the circle to the right. After having dealt with them, he simply moved to the left and repeated the carnage.

The Wrath of Thousand Teeth
Meanwhile, Bogclaw made his stand on the nearby island. Thirty lizard-man warriors swam out to the island. Nine of them rejected the others and joined Bogclaw in his rebellion. They formed up around Bogclaw and they were surrounded by the other twenty. Bogclaw strode into the fray with his trident, skewering several enemies at a time.

Bogclaw and his allies were soon victorious. All twenty of their enemies lay slain while eight of Bogclaw's new allies still survived.

Around that time, a massive crocodile heaved itself up onto the beach. It was Thousand Teeth - living god of Bogclaw's clan!

Thousand Teeth bellowed and Bogclaw and his allies cheered. Bogclaw declared, "See! Thousand Teeth joins us to bless our cause! Death to Aulicus! Death to Sakatha!"

In reality, Thousand Teeth was a magical illusion cast by Marlin. Marlin had hoped to provide a boost to Bogclaw's cause, whom he was beginning to view as a possible ally. His plan worked and the lizard-man warriors on Ringcurrent Island became hesitant and afraid.

Bogclaw the Lizard-King!
Bogclaw and his allies left the remote island and swam back towards the Ringcurrent island. Having achieved his goal, Marlin caused his illusion to retreat back into the waters of the Janustream river.

Bogclaw's force included seven lizard-men and one shaman. When they came ashore Bogclaw commanded the remaining lizard-men watching from within the barricades to slay the prisoners. The heir of Aulicus was destroyed and the prisoners were now useless as hostages! He said he would eliminate the other warmbloods interlopers, meaning the A-Team, himself!

Auric heard the command and was offended! He was starting to like this Bogclaw and hoped to form an alliance. Auric spoke up in lizard-man draconic, explaining that he and Marlin were honorary lizard-men of the clan of Orthokent.

Bogclaw was not impressed. He declared Orthokent an impostor and her clan was an enemy to REAL lizard-men!

Annor hefted his ridiculous flamberge over his head and charged into the midst of Bogclaw's group. Auric followed suit, surrounding the group with his swirling maelstrom of ravens.

Bogclaw skewered Auric with his trident and nearly killed him. Auric, near death, spent the rest of the battle doing his best to avoid blows.

Meanwhile, the shaman withdrew from the maelstrom of ravens and caused Annor's armor to become unbearably hot. Annor became nervous at this for Auric was too busy saving himself to provide divine prayers of healing. Annor would not last long as his plate armor began to glow white.

Suddenly Marlin appeared and cast a spell. The shaman began to laugh - first a giggle, then the lizard-man doubled over hissing and grunting. His concentration was broken and Marlin's armor returned to normal.

Marlin then shot the shaman with his crossbow. In response, the shaman transformed himself into a crocodile. Marlin drew his magic sword and disengaged. He and the crocodile traded passing blows in a running fight across the beach.

Annor thrust his massive sword and impaled Bogclaw on his steel. After dispatching Bogclaw, Annor eliminated each of the remaining lizard-men.

DM Note-
Auric really wanted a way to not kill Bogclaw. He was hoping to form an alliance with his rebel clan. But he couldn't spare the actions to stabilize the dying lizard king. He was too busy performing Dodges to not lose his last two hit points as well as casting Healing Word on Annor to keep HIM from dying. 

Eventually, Marlin killed the shaman and there were no more lizard-men on the beach to fight.

Marlin, Annor, and Auric looked around. The lizard-men behind the barricades had fled into the river on the far side of the island. The prisoners were unharmed.

Return to Saltmarsh

The A-Team managed to rescue the following:

  • 18 humans and halflings from the area around Saltmarsh along with their livestock of 25 sheep and goats
  • 12 humans and wood elves taken from the area around Burle and the Dreadwood along with their livestock of 32 cows and goats
  • 10 halflings and dwarves from the Little Hills along with 14 mules and oxen

A search of the abandoned lizard-man huts revealed:

  • Various coins worth 69 gold pieces taken from the prisoners - these were returned to them
  • A necklace worth 20 gold pieces which was returned to its owner

A cache of treasure was found in the shaman's huts that included:

  • 6 platinum coins
  • 196 gold coins
  • an agate worth 100 gold coins
  • and a sealed jar of some kind of ointment later identified as Keoghtom’s ointment.

Their boat was damaged but Auric was confident in his abilities to repair it. The team loaded the freed prisoners and their livestock onto the lizard-man rafts and set off down-river towards Saltmarsh. They reached the ferry landing and led the train of forty individuals and over seventy various animals on the trail towards Saltmarsh.

Eliander Fireborn, the captain of the guard of Saltmarsh, came out to meet the incoming procession. He asked Annor what happened but it was Marlin that provided an account of the adventure. Marlin told Eliander about Bogclaw, the black dragon Aulicus, and the reported return of Sakatha the Lizard King. Marlin mentioned the dragon egg and its supposed destruction but cautiously kept the watermelon-sized lump in his bag of holding over his shoulder and out of sight.

Eliander informed them that Sakatha was the name of the Lizard-King that, over one hundred and fifty years ago,  tried to conquer the entire region with the help of his black dragon, Aulicus. Sakatha was defeated at the battle of Burle by the ancestor of the Duke of Seaton, along with a knight who, after the battle, founded the town of Saltmarsh.

Eliander congratulated the party on the success of their mission and gave them the posted reward of 150 gold coins.

The party spent the rest of the day finding accommodation for the newcomers and their animals along with arranging their transportation back to their respective homes. As a further reward, the elves of the Dreadwood gave the party a scroll containing a fireball spell.

Coming Soon: At least five weeks of downtime! 
After that - the Tomb of the Lizard King!

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Tower of Zenopus for Ghosts of Saltmarsh

The Tower of Zenopus was originally written by J. Eric Holmes and appeared in the 1977 edition of the world’s most popular role-playing game. This version was edited and re-written by Christian Conkle for the fifth edition of the world’s most popular role-playing game and modified to fit within the Ghosts of Saltmarsh campaign.

This adventure is designed for first level characters.

The wizard Zenopus once dwelled in this tower located on the moors overlooking the Janustream river near the town of Saltmarsh. He built his lair next to the remains of an ancient graveyard rumored to be haunted. One night, the tower was engulfed in a fiery green aura visible four miles away and across the Janustream estuary in Saltmarsh. A few brave folks from town investigated the tower and found it abandoned. The door at the base of the cellar stairs was covered with strange symbols and wrapped in silver chains. An explorer tried to open the door but a jolt of lightning from the doors runes nearly killed her. Shortly afterward, strange spirits and capering fey were seen atop the tower. After a few travelers went missing nearby. The town council asked a Keoish galleon to bombard the structure with catapult fire until it was battered into rubble.

Since then, the ruins have been largely forgotten. The exception is Keledek the Unspoken, a wizard from Ket now residing in nearby Saltmarsh, who used magic to open the cellar door and has claimed the interior of the tower as his personal retreat. He later found that passages beneath the tower led to a hidden sea cave. He has allowed smugglers from Saltmarsh to use the cave as a secret meeting point. He has recruited several goblins to keep watch over the place, along with a trained giant constrictor snake he raised from a hatchling.

The goblins barricaded several passages leading deeper into the dungeons after losing several of their number to ghouls and giant rats that emerged from the depths.

Keledek is loath to tell anyone about his secret stronghold, but he can't shake the idea of following the deeper passages for the chance of unearthing Zenopus's lost secrets. If the characters earn his trust, he might take them into his confidence. The details of the deep dungeons are left to the DM's invention.

Blue map by Tim Hartin

Dungeon Features

Corridors: All corridors in this dungeon are 10 feet wide and 10 feet high. The magic­ user's secret corridor (S to F) is 5 feet by 5 feet.

Doors: Unless otherwise noted, all doors are five feet wide and made of wood (AC 15, 15 hit points). They are unlocked.

Wandering Monsters: Check every 30 minutes. A Wandering Monster occurs on a 6 on 1d6.
1.       3d4 (8) Kobolds
2.       2d4 (5) Goblins
3.       1d3 (2) Human Guards and 1d2 (2) Human Mages
4.       1d4+4 (7) Orcs 
5.       1d6 (4) Skeletons + 1d4 (3) Zombies
6.       1d4+4 (7) Thugs 
7.       1d4 (3) Human Berserkers
8.       1d4+1 (4) Stirges
9.       1d4 (3) Human Bandits and 1 Human Bandit Captain
10.   1d4+1 (4) Dwarven Guards
11.   1d6 (4) Elven Scouts
12.   1 Gelatinous Cube

Dungeon Key

A     Goblin Barracks
You enter a large room, 120 feet by I00 feet. There are doors in the east, west, and south walls. The room is furnished with rough tables and benches and as many beds as there are occupants. The occupants are goblins. There are 3 goblins for every 2 player characters.

The goblins wear leather armor and carry swords and daggers. If half their number is killed, the others will try to escape through one of the doors or surrender.If surrender is accepted the goblins will offer to lead the party to treasure but will try to guide them to one of the dangerous trap rooms and then run.

There are small wooden chests under each bed and several leather socks hanging on pegs along the wall. Most of the socks contain junk, dirty clothes, old bones. etc., but two contain coins, 500 silver pieces each. There are several cloaks hanging on pegs and in a pocket of one cloak there is a magical potion of growth in a glass vial. One of the chests is booby-trapped. Opening the chest releases a cloud of sleeping gas filling an area 5 x 5 x 5 feet. Anyone within this area who fails a DC 10 Constitution saving throw falls deeply asleep for 1d6 x 10 (40) minutes. The chest contains 2000 copper pieces.

B     Ancient Crypt
You find what appears to be an ancient crypt. The room is 50 feet by 50 feet room with a door on the northern wall and an open door on the southern wall – busted and hanging on one hinge. The room is totally dark, and the floor is covered with an inch of undisturbed dust. Four deep niches in the walls can be seen from the north doorway but they are covered with cobwebs. Nothing can be seen within them.

Within each of the four niches is an inanimate skeleton. If anyone advances ten feet or more into the room, the skeletons come to life, emerge from their niches, and attack the intruder until destroyed or turned away. If turned, they run out the door farthest from the cleric.

There is no treasure in this room.

C     Empty Corridor
An empty corridor stretches before you.

Remember to check for wandering monsters every 30 minutes.

D     The Statue
The door to this room is made of heavy iron, AC 20, 25HP, DC 20 Strength (Athletics) check to break.   The door opens outward into the hallway. Within is an empty room, 80 feet by 50 feet. There are identical iron doors in the middle of each wall: north, south, east, and west. The only feature within this room is a six-foot-tall stone statue in the center. The statue is facing the door by which the party just entered. Once opened, the door starts to slowly shut, activated by a powerful spring in the hinges. The door will stop closing if anyone blocks the door or prevents it from closing.

From inside the room all doors are firmly held shut except the one the statue is facing - that door can be easily opened, closed, and re-opened. The statue turns easily to face each of the four doors. To open any other door, the statue must be rotated on its base until it faces that door. Then the door opens easily. Doors cannot be forced open, they are held by the equivalent of an Arcane Lock spell, AC 30, 35 HP, DC 30 Strength (Athletics) check to break.

E      Empty Room
You find an empty room. The size of the rooms and the number of doors is variable, as shown on the Dungeon Master's map.

F      Keledek the Wizard
This is the conference room of Keledek the wizard. Keledek is a Ketan mage who has made special arrangements with the smugglers of Saltmarsh. The smugglers use the cave in Room M to make their secret rendezvous in exchange for bringing Keledek special items or spell components.

The room is 50 feet by 60 feet. There is a large wooden door in the south wall and a smaller lead door in the north wall that appears to be unused. There is a work table in the southwest corner and three odd-looking statues of human men placed along the east wall.

Keledek is standing behind the work table in the southwest corner. Near him is the leader of the smugglers (bandit captain). The characters have interrupted a meeting between the two. 

Keledek carries a scroll of levitation. When caught in this room Keledek will immediately direct the smuggler captain to attack. Keledek will then immediately exit through the secret door behind him, leaving the captain to his fate. There is a 50% chance that Keledek will drop the magic scroll as he escapes.

The smuggler captain will not fight to the death and will surrender once he has lost half his maximum hit points. He wears a stolen jeweled belt with rubies worth 1000 gold pieces.

If Keledek escapes, he will cast an Arcane Lock spell on the door run to Room S - AC 30, 35 HP, DC 30 Strength (Athletics) check to break. He will then run up the stairs to his tower.

The three stone statues are men who were turned to stone by Keledek special wand which he has in his tower (see Room S2).

G     Collapsed Ceiling
You enter a gloomy room, 30 feet by 50 feet, whose ceiling has collapsed creating a pile of rocks and debris four feet high that covers the entire floor. The loose debris is considered difficult terrain. There is a door in the center of the east and west walls and a corridor in the center of the south wall.

There are 2d4 (5) giant rats hiding in the shadows of the corners and in the cracks of the debris on the floor.  They will attack with if the room is entered. The rats may attempt a Dexterity (Stealth) check (2+1d20) with Advantage vs. the passive Perception of the characters to determine which characters are surprised.

The rats have no treasure. Digging through the rubble of the collapsed ceiling for no less than ten minutes will reveal a mass of old bones, chewed leather straps and bits of armor along with a belt with a silver dagger in a sheath worth 50 gold pieces and a bag containing 50 electrum pieces.

H     Water-Filled Channel
You enter a room, 80 feet by 50 feet, with doors in the north and south walls. The walls are fitted granite blocks with a 20-foot-high ceiling. A 30-foot-wide water-filled channel bisects the room, entering through a hole in the east wall and exiting through a hole in the west wall. There is less than a foot of air-space between the water and the ceilings of the holes. There is a 15-foot bare stone bank on either side of the channel and the drop into the channel is sheer and requires a successful DC 15 Strength (Athletics) check to climb.

The channel is 10 feet deep and the current is swift. Anyone entering the water with a Strength of 14 or less will be swept away through the hold in the west wall. In addition to being swept away, anyone wearing metal armor will sink immediately to the bottom of the channel. See PHB page 146 for rules on removing armor. See also PHB page 183 for rules on suffocating and drowning. Characters with a bladed weapon may cut the straps of their armor in one minute but their armor is lost. 

I       The Magic Mask
You enter a long room, 40 feet by 90 feet, with doors in the north, south and east walls. In the center of the room is a bronze sundial on a low pedestal. Set Into the stone of the west wall is a bronze mask, about the size of a man­hole cover. The eyes and mouth a mask are shut. Below the mask, in common language, is an inscription: "I'll answer questions, one, no more. I never speak til it be four."

The magic is activated by shining the light of a single torch, lantern, etc. on the sundial so the shadow of the gnomon falls on the Roman numeral IV. The bronze mask then opens its eyes and says "Speak, I'll answer." It will give a reasonable answer to any brief pertinent question and then say, "I've answered one, now go away. I will not speak again today."

Since the shadow must be held on IV, there is little chance of triggering the magic accidentally, even by walking around the sundial with a light.  

J       Giant Spider
You enter room, 60 feet by 50 feet. The ceiling is lost in darkness but large spider webs are visible in the corners of the room. There are doors in the middle of all 4 walls. A giant spider lurks in the darkness of the roof, thirty-five feet above. The spider may attempt a Dexterity (Stealth) check (7+1d20) with Advantage vs. the passive Perception of the characters to determine which characters are surprised. The spider will attack with Advantage any character it has surprised. If the spider’s surprise attack is a hit, the target is knocked Prone and Grappled with the spider on top of them.

There is no treasure in this room, but a +1 dagger is imbedded in the spider's body - evidently a souvenir from some previous battle; it can be found only if the beast is cut open. 

K     Cavern
You find a cavern, about 10 feet high, irregularly shaped but approximately 60 feet wide by 120 feet long. A 30-foot-wide river runs through it, bisecting the cave. There is a shallow beach on the far side of the cave where flotsam from the river is deposited. There is an exit to the west. The cave is completely dark, characters without light or darkvision will have to feel their way out.

L      Giant Crab
You find a cave bisected by a 30-foot-wide river. There is phosphorescent fungus growing on the rocks, so anyone can see without lights. There are east and west entrances on both sides of the river to the sandy beach. The river is only three to four feet deep at the center of the channel and can be forded.

There is a giant crab concealed under the sand on the south beach. It will attack anything that moves on either beach.

M    Sea Cave
You enter a large sea cave with entrances to the north and south. There is a sandy beach, on which are drawn up two row boats. The entrance to the sea is to the west about 500 feet. If it is day up above, the cove will be dimly illuminated by sunlight coming through the tunnel. If it is night, a lantern located in one of the boats sheds a dim glow.

The cove is used by smugglers and smugglers. The cave is presently occupied by four smugglers (bandits) sitting in one of the boats, talking.  Each smuggler carries 2d6 (7) gold pieces in his purse. The smugglers use the cave to hide treasure and contraband. The boat contains two chests filled with treasure. One chest contains 2000 silver pieces, the other 1000 electrum pieces and 12 gems each worth 100 gold pieces. The boat also contains a bucket of large fish.

Every ten minutes there is a 25% chance of another boatload of 1d4+1 (3) smugglers (bandits) rowing in from the west.

A prisoner is bound, gagged, and lying prone in the bottom of the second boat. The prisoner Lemundo the Lovely. Her father is the powerful Duke Marik Feldren of Seaton. Lemundo is a good fighter in her own right (treat as a Scout) and carries a concealed dagger in her girdle.  Her wealthy father would be very grateful for her safe return.

A giant octopus on the bottom of the sea cave will attack any boat unless it is thrown a large fish or other piece of meat.

The octopus will attempt to grapple any character it attacks. On its subsequent turn, the octopus will drag the character overboard. See PHB page 195 for rules on grappling and moving a grappled creature.

Any character dragged overboard will be further pulled underwater. See also PHB page 183 for rules on suffocating and drowning. Any character wearing heavy armor will immediately sink to the bottom. See PHB page 146 for rules on removing armor. Characters with a bladed weapon may cut the straps of their armor in one minute but their armor is lost. 

Exit from the underground can be made by rowing out to the sea, although there is a possibility of meeting another boat coming in.

N     Catacombs
You enter a large room, 120 feet by 70 feet, that was once part of the catacombs beneath the tower. The north wall has caved in creating a debris field of difficult terrain within ten feet of the north wall. 

When the party enters the room there is a 50% chance a giant rat will burst through the loose dirt at the north end of the room and attack. Ever ten minutes spent in the room there is another 50% chance that a rat will enter from the tunnels. The rats will not, however, leave room N except to go back to the runnels.

There are doors on the east and west walls. Ten stone sarcophagi are scattered about. They were once arrayed in two rows, but the wall collapse has displaced them from their original locations. The sarcophagus lids are heavy. A combined Strength score of 40 from no more than six characters is required to lift them off. One character with a Strength of at least 10 can spent ten minutes to slide the lid off the sarcophagus. Two such characters may complete the task in five minutes, three in three, four in two, five in one, and six in half a minute. Thus, in the time required to remove all the lids, there’s a good chance one or more rats will appear.

The lids of four of the sarcophagi have been removed and their contents long ago plundered, leaving empty vessels. Six, however, remain closed. Each sarcophagus contains one of the following:

#1 contains only moldering bones but releases a cloud of noxious gas which renders unconscious for ten to sixty (1d6 x 10) minutes anyone within 5 feet unless they make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw against poison.

#2 contains a partially clothed skeleton which holds a cursed jeweled dagger in the bony hands folded across its chest. If the dagger is removed it will flash away into the air, turn and attack the character who touched it. The dagger’s makes an attack against the triggering character. The dancing dagger has a +3 attack bonus and deals 4 (1d6) damage on a hit. The dagger will continue to attack until it draws blood, or the triggering character exits the room. It will then return to the coffin with its owner. The dancing dagger has an AC of 17. If hit it falls to the floor and remains motionless for 3 melee rounds and then takes up the attack again! Putting it back in the sarcophagus will stop the attacks of course.

#3 skeletal form wears rings and a coronet worth 300 gold pieces.

#4 skeletal form wears jewelry worth 900 gold pieces!

#5 contains an animated skeleton armed with a curved scimitar. It will attack as soon as the lid is removed.

#6 skeletal form in chainmail holds a magic sword +1. Any warrior-type drawing it from the scabbard will feel the surge of magical power it gives.

P     Ghouls
This room is 50 by 80 feet and has doors in all four walls. In the center of the room are two smashed coffins in which two ghouls have made their lair.

The coffins contain, in addition to indescribable odds and ends, 50 platinum pieces and 5 gems each worth 10 gold pieces.

The east door leads to a short dirt tunnel whose ceiling has collapsed. Excavating this tunnel would take days but may lead to further mysteries.

RT   Rat tunnels
These 3-foot diameter tunnels were dug through the soft earth by giant rats. A medium sized creature could crawl through them, but all attacks and skill checks would be made at Disadvantage. A small creature such as a halfling or dwarf would be at no disadvantage. Every 100 feet there is a 50% chance of meeting a rat, every 200 feet a 50% chance of coming on 5 gold pieces. The tunnels form an endless maze and there is no end to the rats. The tunnels intersect the dungeons at the northernmost corridor and at room N.

S  Tower, Basement
You enter a round room, 40 feet in diameter with a 25-foot ceiling. There are two visible doors at ground level – one on the north wall and one on the south wall. 

A spiral staircase begins at floor level on the north wall and winds around the wall of the room to the ceiling making 1 full turn. The stair ends in a closed trap door in the ceiling, leading up to room Sl. 

In the center of the room is a giant constrictor snake

There is a secret door under the stairs, opened by pressing a hidden catch. Any character searching the room must succeed at a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) attribute check to find the secret door and catch. 

S1   Tower, Ground Floor
You emerge through a trap door in the floor to find a round room, 40 feet in diameter with a 25-foot ceiling. This is the base of the ruined tower visible on the surface. There is a door to the north and a spiral stair leading up, just like the one in Room S, ending in a trap door in the ceiling. The door leads to the ruins on surface but is protected from entry from the outside by an Arcane Lock spell.

The room appears to be a well-appointed living chamber with a fireplace, cooking utensils and a few comfortable chairs. The floors and walls are decorated with Ketan tapestries. The room is unoccupied. The trap door above leads to room S2.

S2   Tower, Upper Floor
This room is identical to S and S1 below it, a circular room 40 feet in diameter with a 25-foot ceiling. This is the second floor of the tower on the surface. A spiral stair leads to a trap door in the ceiling. Other than the trap doors in the floor and ceiling, there are no doors.  Tall windows, each no wider than two feet, are located face north, south, east, and west. This is the wizard's study, and here he has his two giant volumes of magic spells, table, lamps, chemicals, skulls, loose pages of parchment, mystic designs on the floor, etc.

Against the south wall there is an ape in an iron cage. The key is in the lock of the cage door. The ape hates his captivity and seeks revenge. He will attack as soon as he is released. If Keledek opens the cage there is a 25% chance the ape will attack him. If anyone else opens the cage, the ape will attack a random victim in the room and then try to escape by squeezing through a window, down the side of the tower and across the moors.

Keledek the wizard keeps his wand of petrification hidden in a secret compartment of the table. A character searching the table must pass a DC20 Wisdom (Perception) check to find the compartment.  Hidden among the undecipherable parchment notes on the table is a scroll which reverses the petrification effect of the wizard’s wand. The scroll crumbles to dust after one use.

Keledek himself is described in room F. If he is not in room F he will be found here.

Wand of Petrification

This wand has 7 Charges. While holding it, you can use an action to expend 1 of its Charges to attempt to turn one creature that you can see within 60 feet of you into stone. If the Target’s body is made of flesh, the creature must make a Constitution saving throw vs. 15. If the saving throw fails by 5 or more, the target is instantly petrified. On any other failed save, the target is restrained and begins to turn to stone. While restrained in this way, the target must repeat the saving throw at the end of its next turn, becoming petrified on a failure or ending the effect on a success. The petrification lasts until the target is freed by the greater restoration spell or similar magic.
The wand regains 1d6 + 1 expended Charges daily at dawn. If you expend the wand's last charge, roll a d20. On a 1, the wand crumbles into ashes and is destroyed.

Wand of Petrification
adventuring gear (wand)Category: Items
Item Rarity: Rare
Weight: 1


By the time the adventurers have worked their way through this, the Dungeon Master will probably have lots of ideas of his or her own to try out. Design your own dungeon or dig new passages and levels in this one. What lies in the (undiscovered) deeper levels where Zenopus met his doom? Do the smugglers have other treasure troves hidden in the sea coves? What inhuman rites are practiced deep in the ghoul haunted passages beneath the graveyard? What are the townspeople going to do when they discover that our friends are tampering with Things Better Left Alone?