The merchant Godfrey is under a compulsion which has settled in through recurring dreams. He has been be-spelled by those forgotten wizards of The Lost Empire. Night after night, he has been experiencing wondrous dreams of an ancient city full of magic and beauty.
He finds himself transformed into a large bird, soaring high above the city. His flight takes him to the southeast. Farmland passes by, followed by thick forest. Beyond the forest is a foul smelling bog. Every detail of his flight is vividly etched into his memory. Landmarks he was unaware existed are plainly visible. Whatever lies beyond the bog is shrouded in mist and so he descends upon the invisible currents, following his instincts. Like an arrow he flies, straight and true. There is no thought, no question as to why.
His destination is a city long ago abandoned and forgotten, hidden behind the foreboding bog and lying within the fog-shrouded hills. Somehow he knows that this city has lain untouched for more than three thousand years. In the dream he lands outside the outer wall. He cannot breach the gate, yet he knows a key is buried in a particularly tall hill. He digs within the hill and unearths a key, a great gem-encrusted, silvery-platinum key which unlocks the front gate and allows him entrance.
Once past the gate, he sees that trees have broken through the cobbled streets and some of the stone buildings. Vines cover the walls and crumbling roofs. Birds nest and small mammals lair. He wanders the empty streets. Eventually, he comes upon a great palace of granite and marble, decorated in gold leaf and semi-precious stones. Instinctively following the winding hallways, he comes upon the royal treasury. It is heaped with all manner of precious metals and stones, treasures beyond compare.
He reaches out a hand to grasp these treasures. He wakes. Without knowing how, he is certain that something scared away the inhabitants, something that made them flee, something scary enough to cause them to leave behind great piles of gold and silver. But he is just as certain that that danger disappeared long ago.
These are only half-truths, bolstered by a firmly planted suggestion. The city in question was not abandoned, but was instead teleported straight into a demon dimension and all its inhabitants were slain. All but the twelve wizards whose greed allowed them to be tricked into performing the ritual which so devastated the land. Those twelve have been imprisoned and tortured for the past three thousand years. With what little strength they are allowed, they occasionally send a magical suggestion out into the mortal realm to bring help. The sole remaining link left behind is the pentagram around which they performed the ritual. It has since been buried and is guarded by fell creatures, for it is the only means of ingress into the city. The dead souls of those who failed still haunt the grassy plains.
The compulsion is very strong. Very few possess the force of will to resist. Friends and companions may question, but the dreamer never loses certainty, never questions the likelihood of such a treasure remaining unnoticed for millennia.
Godfrey has been unable to secure assistance. He is desperate, for the dreams grow in strength each night. He seeks the player characters out for hire. He tells them every detail of his dream, certain that some deity or relic from the ruins are communicating through him. He offers the party huge shares of the loot, possibly even gifts upfront, if only they will accompany him there.
Room 1: The Buried Pentagram
Their journey takes them through the Arnathian forest, which is only lightly populated. Any of the locals will be coldly distant, watching the party with obviously disapproving stares. If questioned, they treat the characters with barely concealed contempt. If coerced or charmed, they will only say that the characters are not the first to brave the bogs and that none who ventured in have ever returned.
Beyond the forest are bogs full of muck and water, slimy creatures, and creeping or rotting vegetation. Anyone with any geographical knowledge will have no clue what lies beyond the bogs, except for the existence of the great spike-toothed mountains which ring the entire realm, and those are at least a hundred miles farther off. Making it to the entrance requires braving these bog lands, which are inhabited by various monstrous creatures. The number and variety of monsters are more than should seem natural.
Once past the bogs, the party enters grassy plains. Aside from the hilly contours, the grassy plains are featureless. A constant, creeping fog covers the land and provides very little visibility. Without the unerring, unquestioning direction of Goddfry, the party would easily become lost. The actual entrance is a pentagram buried beneath a particularly tall hill and is guarded by several minor demons hiding within the mist.
Once they reach the hill, Godfrey will ignore everything, including the attacking demons, except for the hillside. Other than incessant ramblings about having found the city, he will be completely focused upon digging. The party must hold off or defeat the guardians until the pentagram is exposed. Once that happens, it will drag the players into the demon realm.
Room 2: Freeing the Wizards
The demon realm is hot. The cloudless sky is a deep, solid red. No sun is visible but heat pours down unrelentingly. The air shimmers with it. All color has been bleached from the surrounding buildings and human remains. The buildings are in disrepair, just as the dreamer saw, but without the trees, vines, and wildlife. Instead, strange creatures like giant, red-orbed rats scamper about while gold-limned eyes watch from the shadows and unseen serpentine scales make scraping sounds somewhere nearby. All vegetation has long since disintegrated. The ground is made up of stone, gravel, and sand of various orange and red hues. Jagged, red-tipped mountains ring the land.
The pentagram has been replaced by a circle of scorched black rock. Not far away, and on the same hillock, sits a tower of green and black veined malachite. The tower spirals up and appears full of brooding malice. The entrance is sealed and will not budge.
Godfrey survived to this point, he will become despondent and do little to help.
The players may wander about the city. They are left unmolested. There is little to interest them, however. The buildings are crumbling. Anything not made of stone has disintegrated or rusted beyond use. Bones are scattered about, slowly crumbling into dust. Whatever creatures lurk in this place are small and quick to scatter.
At some point they come upon or notice another hill, not quite as high as the one they came from. Atop the hill sits a squat, square tower of coal-black iron, untouched by the ages. It is built in a different architectural style from the rest of the city. Engravings of devils, demons, and the tortured dead adorn its surface. If Godfrey is still alive, his gaze goes blank for a moment and then clears. Without being able to explain why, he heads toward the hill.
The great doors swing open and screams echo from within for a short time before finally tapering off. Out walks a procession of the demons represented on the outer surface. The sheer number and power of the demons should be enough to discourage any heroics on the part of the players. Once emptied, the tower doors swing shut with a clang. A couple of eight-foot tall, goat-headed monstrosities remain outside as guards. At their sides are horns, capable of sounding an alarm.
The players must figure out how to gain entrance without alerting the demon hordes.
Held captive inside are the original twelve of the wizard council. All appear to be in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. They are each bound with silver manacles. Each wizard is also wound around by a large serpent. The serpents keep the wizards’ bodies and legs pinned. Their maws are widely extended with dagger-long fangs exposed and a hand span away from the tender flesh of a throat. The first wizard to catch sight of the players calls out in surprise, only to be struck by the serpent. He screams aloud and instantly goes into convulsions. Blood pours from his eyes and his head lolls drunkenly. His screams finally give way to moans.
The rest of the wizards watch the party with wide eyes but dare not move or speak. If a player approaches or attempts to strike a serpent, it will repeat the earlier performance. The players must figure out how to free the wizards.
Once free from the serpents, the wizards relate their tale. Their magical bonds have kept them weak, but forcefully removing them causes the affected wizard to suddenly age 3,000 years and die. This should happen to at least one wizard. They can be set free from their prison, but the bonds must stay. This prevents the wizards from accessing their magic and assisting the party too much.
Room 3: No Easy Escape
Without the wizards’ power there is no easy way to return to the mortal realm. The wizards’ escape is discovered as the party exits the tower and the pentagram was a one-way trip. The party is hounded from many directions and must hide out in the city. Some of the wizards are killed in the process, being too weak to defend themselves, too slow to keep up, and too numerous for the party to protect them all. The remaining wizards claim that escape can be made through the tower, but the party must travel back toward danger to get the key. The key is in the old imperial palace and demons have taken up residence there.
Room 4: Recovering the Key
The palace is huge but the wizards help direct them toward the royal treasury. It is guarded by a hulking demon of scaly red with goat hooves, short, curved black horns, and a broad bladed scimitar. Backing him up are a number of small, long-clawed imps.
Most of the original treasure has been pilfered but there remain a few items; however much gold, silver, and items of note that the GM deems appropriate. There is one item, however, that the wizards are particularly interested in. It is a short, leaf-bladed sword of obviously skilled make, though not ostentatious. The wizards appear somewhat disappointed that the only obvious embellishment is bare: a small setting for a jewel in the guard.
The players may need to fight their way in or out of the palace. More wizards will likely perish in the process, but at least a couple should survive.
Room 5: Safe Once More
Once the party makes it to the tower, the sword is used as a key to open the door. The party enters the large entryway with the remaining wizards. The interior of the tower is made up of solid quartz in various shades (clear, rose, violet, etc.) In the entryway is a pedestal with a number of semiprecious stones in a box of scrimshaw and velvet. Clearly visible within are shards of malachite, white onyx, agate, amethyst, and lapis lazuli, with more underneath. One of the wizards inserts the malachite shard into a slot next to the box. This returns the tower to the mortal realm. If asked, the wizards will only say that the other stones are essential to the mysteries of the tower. Whatever gratitude they feel toward the players, they become very vague when questioned about the tower itself.
Once back in the mortal realm, the wizards annihilate the pentagram and promise to set about restoring the world. With the help of the characters, of course. After the pentagram is destroyed, the fog blows away. Great sighs of relief are heard as this happens.
The bottom floor is as far as anyone can go in the tower. According to the wizards there are more keys needed to access the higher levels. One of those keys is the sapphire that was removed from the sword’s guard. They have no idea where it may be.
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? Responses (9)
Excellent follow up to the original post! If I had votes left, I'd give you a 5/5!
Thanks. I appreciate the feedback.
Really good - it seems to have been overlooked somehow.
Really good indeed. I love your atmospheric descriptions, I love the 5 room set-up(have never attempted it myself though) and I enjoyed the plot.
Good job MysticMoon!
Interesting, but somehow it falls short of its companion submission. Still, well done.
Is there anything specific you feel could be improved upon? I really struggled with this one and only posted it when I felt I'd done as well as I could (plus I could barely stand to look at the thing by then.)
Adventure design is not one of my strengths and I'm open to any feedback that could help me to improve.
Very interesting follow-up post. I can totally understand the struggles of pushing out an adventure and the want to just be done with it, but I still have to agree with Scras that it falls a little short of the original. I guess it feels a little too hopeless at times (such as the snakes) and too ... Can't think of a word for it, but the problem being that it relies of NPCs surviving, and ones that don't have a very good chance of it at that, to complete the adventure. All of the information to be gained is presented in NPC-reliant format, with Godfrey's visions, then the wizard's knowledge that they won't pass on. I wouldn't want to be a player in this adventure, as I would feel lacking compared to the NPCs.
Some good food for thought. I will go back through this from the perspective of the PCs and see if I can make improvements.
I enjoyed this adventure, and can appreciate the work that went into the atmospheric descriptions. It nicely complements your other quest submission. I will, however, agree with Pieh about the hopelessness for the PCs at certain parts. The snakes, especially, are a difficult conundrum, and I would probably omit them if I were going to run this.