This shrine can be placed along any road anywhere in Faerûn due to its peculiar nature. It serves as a roadside place to rest, so roads that are used with regularity are better. Like most of the entries in this feature, this place can be the setting for a dangerous encounter and discovery of an interesting secret, or it can be a mere oddity that tweaks the curiosity of the adventurers as they make their way somewhere. This adventure locale is suitable for four 12th-level characters, but it can be very dangerous if they stay too long.
Religion is one of the most powerful forces in all Faerûn. The deities take a personal interest in the affairs of mortals, and occasionally they appear to their faithful. The Time of Troubles taught the people of the Realms that though the gods are powerful, their worshipers can influence them -- even shape them. A deity's worshipers serve as his or her primary tool for affecting the world. Because of these realities of the divine, places of worship are the most common structures anywhere in the land. Huge temples form the centerpieces of powerful metropolises, and shrines exist in smaller towns, villages, and even along the road.
Along the road, somewhere between here and there, travelers come upon a smallish shrine. It stands alone by the side of the road, maybe 20 feet from the roadway itself. Built of common stone from the area, it appears very old indeed. The stone is very weatherworn, but still very sturdy and solid. Around the shrine the traveler sees a number of common native plants forming a garden of sorts. The plants have become overgrown a bit, but still the rows and paths can be made out. The whole shrine radiates an aura of peaceful rest, as if it remains undisturbed by what takes place around it.
The single door to the shrine is closed, but it opens as someone approaches. In the wall beside the door is carved "The Shrine of Need," which is the name of this place. Within, a dim light from windows near the roof reveals a room about 30 feet square, with a stone table nearly against the wall on the far side of the room. One could just walk between the wall and the table. On the wall above the table is inscribed a brightly colored image of a god's holy symbol -- the symbol of the god that the visitor worships! This seemingly is a shrine to the visitor's own deity. Four stone figures stand in alcoves along the sides of the room, two to the left and two to the right. On the left stand a warrior in armor and a monk in a ready pose. On the right stand a philosopher leaning against a quarterstaff and a priestess with hands outstretched toward an imaginary follower. Each of the figures is garbed in the clothing appropriate to its role in the visitor's religion via illusions (see below). The walls are otherwise bare, and the glass-paned windows near the ceiling are too narrow for anyone larger than a gnome to slip through. The interior is clean and free of dust, or any sign that anyone else has visited this place.
The Shrine of Need is a very strange place. It dates back to the earliest days of humans in Faerûn. Created when civilizations were few and far between, it served as a place to worship any of the gods. To this end, its unknown makers infused it with the ability to transform aspects of the shrine via illusions to better suit the beliefs of each of its visitors. When a visitor approaches, the shrine uses the equivalent of a detect thoughts spell (cast at 17th level) to determine the deity that the visitor worships. If a group enters, the holy symbol illusion shifts to reflect the religion of the person who looks upon it. Those without chosen deities see nothing. The shrine reflects the visitor's true religious beliefs, even when the visitor's thoughts and alignment are otherwise protected. Not even a mind blank effect can interfere with the shrine's power to reflect a visitor's beliefs.
The four statues in the room are stone golems, created to protect the shrine and clean it up as needed. The golems animate if any violence is committed inside the shrine, and they attack everyone involved. They do not follow opponents outside, since their main programming is to end any violence within the shrine. As many golems animate as seem appropriate to deal with the situation. If the golems are damaged, they retreat to their alcoves, which close off (sliding stone walls from below). Within the alcove, the golems are slowly repaired by the magic imbued into the shrine. Repairing a golem takes a month, so it is possible to visit the shrine and see only three statues and a wall where a fourth alcove would be.
Stone Golems (4): CR 11; hp 110; see Monster Manual page 136. This combat spans the range of EL 11-15, depending on how many golems animate.
Bodies are absorbed through the floor in a process that takes about a day. Beneath the floor, there is a vast mulching tank that is filled with small organisms that eat dead flesh. The dead are mulched and then directed toward the roots of the plants surrounding the shrine. Equipment from the dead is not absorbed through the floor, but once the bodies are gone, a golem animates, cleans everything out and dumps it all in a pit behind the garden in back of the shrine. The pit is not visible at a casual glance (Spot DC 25 to see signs of it), because the top is partly overgrown by a matted vine plant. The golems just drop things through the plant.
Within this 20-foot-deep pit are the following items (though DMs are encouraged to adjust this list to suit their campaign needs): three suits of chainmail, one badly rusted; a +2 frost wooden scimitar; and a quantity of rust dust beneath the items. All the items look to have been dropped here within the last year.
The pit is also the home of a mated pair of rust monsters. The monsters live in a hollowed-out side of the pit, which is not visible from the surface. They have found the continual supply of metal to be to their liking, and they have no plans to move. They also have no plans to die and will flee if overwhelmed.
Also, an ethereal filcher hangs around the area. The filcher carries off any magic items that survive the attentions of the rust monsters after a few days.
Rust Monsters(2): CR 3; hp 27; see Monster Manual page 216.
Ethereal Filcher: CR 3; hp 22; see Monster Manual page 104.
Some time ago, the shrine developed a kind of sickness. A priest of Bane (Hextor in the standard D&D pantheon) was fleeing some avenging do-gooders when he ran across the shrine. Happy to unexpectedly find a shrine to Bane in the middle of nowhere (so to speak), he ran inside. He prayed to Bane for deliverance, and the Black Lord sent help in the form of a malebranche sorcerer. This powerful devil attacked the forces of good immediately, in company with the priest. However, they were outmatched and were forced to retreat to the shrine. The priest died in the retreat. The devil did not die, but it also did not return to the Hells. Instead, Bane caused it to join with the shrine and lose its own body in the process.
Now the shrine has an evil bent, and it is slowly being turned completely to evil. This becomes evident if one stays a while there. After an hour, elements of the holy symbol on the wall are replaced with elements of the holy symbol of Bane. This should appear as a gradual corruption, so that Bane's part is not recognized for a few hours. After 2 hours, the stone golems animate and attack anyone in the shrine, acting as if violence was detected. Eventually, the holy symbol turns to that of Bane, and an unhallow spell is cast inside. The mood starts to get darker and feel more oppressive. After 6 hours, the malebranche starts casting spells at the intruders, which seem to originate from the holy symbol. Once everyone leaves, and someone reenters, the whole process is reset and it takes another hour for the devil to start to exert its nature.
Freeing the shrine requires considerable power. A successful dismissal, banishment, or dispel evil spell forces the malebranche out of the shrine and back into its own body. It appears in the center of the shrine and attacks immediately. A successful wish or miracle spell returns the malebranche to its own plane.
Malebranche Sorcerer: Male malebranche sorcerer 10; CR 14; Huge outsider (baatezu, evil, lawful); HD 16d8+112 plus 10d4+70; hp 279; Init +5; Spd 40 ft., fly 120 ft. (average); AC 26, touch 9, flat-footed 25; Base Atk +21; Grp +41; Atk +31 melee (2d4+12, claw) or +31 melee (2d4+12, claw) or +32 melee (3d6+18/19-20, masterwork trident) or +32 melee (3d6+18/19-20, masterwork trident); Full Atk +31 melee (2d4+12, 2 claws) and +29 melee (2d6+6, gore) or +31 melee (2d4+12, 2 claws) and +29 melee (2d6+6, bite) or +32/+27/+22/+17 melee (3d6+18/19-20, masterwork trident) and +29 melee (2d6+6, gore) or +32/+27/+22/+17 melee (3d6+18/19-20, masterwork trident) and +29 melee (2d6+6, bite); Space/Reach 15 ft./15 ft.; SA charge, fear aura, improved grab; SQ baatezu traits, damage reduction 10/good, darkvision 60 ft., outsider traits, regeneration 8, resistances (acid 10, cold 10), spell resistance 20; AL LE; SV Fort +21, Ref +15, Will +16; Str 34, Dex 12, Con 25, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 16.
Skills and Feats: Balance +3, Bluff +22, Concentration +17, Diplomacy +5, Hide -7, Intimidate +24, Jump +33, Listen +18, Move Silently +20, Search +19, Spellcraft +10, Spot +18, Tumble +22, Cleave, Combat Reflexes, Flyby Attack, Great Cleave, Improved Critical (trident), Improved Initiative, Improved Sunder, Multiattack, Power Attack.
Charge (Ex): In addition to the normal benefits and hazards of a charge, the malebranche sorcerer can make a single gore attack (+33 melee) that does 6d6+18 points of damage. It can make this charge while flying or while moving on the ground.
Fear Aura (Su): As a free action, the malebranche sorcerer can produce a fear effect like a fear spell (caster level 22nd; Will save DC 20 to resist), except that it affects everyone within a 15-foot radius of himself. A creature that saves cannot be affected again by this power for 24 hours. All baatezu are immune to this ability.
Improved Grab (Ex): If the malebranche sorcerer hits an opponent that is at least one size category smaller than itself with a claw attack, it deals normal damage and attempts to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity (grapple bonus +41). The malebranche sorcerer has the option to conduct the grapple normally, or simply use its claws to hold the opponent (-20 penalty on grapple check, but the malebranche sorcerer is not considered grappled). In either case, each successful grapple check it makes during successive rounds automatically deals claw damage.
Baatezu Traits: The malebranche sorcerer is immune to fire and poison. It has resistance to acid 10 and cold 10. As a supernatural ability, it can see perfectly in even magical darkness. It can communicate telepathically with any creature within 100 feet that has a language as a supernatural ability.
Outsider Traits: A malebranche sorcerer cannot be raised, reincarnated, or resurrected (though a limited wish, wish, miracle, or true resurrection spell can restore life). It has darkvision out to 60 feet.
Regeneration (Ex): A malebranche sorcerer takes normal damage from acid, from holy weapons, and from attacks that deal holy damage.
Sorcerer Spells Known (caster level 10th): 0 -- acid splash (ranged touch +22), dancing lights, detect magic, ghost sound (DC 13), mage hand, prestidigitation, ray of frost (ranged touch +22), read magic, resistance; 1st -- expeditious retreat, mage armor, magic missile, magic weapon, shield; 2nd -- eagle's splendor, resist energy, scorching ray (ranged touch +22), see invisibility; 3rd -- displacement, fireball, ray of exhaustion (ranged touch +22, DC 16); 4th -- bestow curse (DC 17), greater invisibility; 5th -- feeblemind (DC 18).
Note: If the player characters fight the malebranche, you might want to add an additional EL 14 treasure to the pit out back.
Game Resources: To use the material in this article to its fullest, check out the following resources: Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, Monster Manual II, Dungeon Master's Guide.
About the Author
Robert Wiese is a veteran of the RPGA offices, where he worked for seven years and has been a member since early 1991. In that time he has written over 60 adventure scenarios for the club, a couple of articles for Polyhedron, and the Living Force Campaign Guide (the last one with Morrie Mullins). He also got the Living Greyhawk and Living Force campaigns off the ground and into the hands of wonderful members to develop. Now he works at the University of Nevada at Reno in the Biochemistry department, proving that you never can tell where you'll end up.