Adventure Locales02/23/2005


The Ruined Village Square



Since this adventure locale requires a nearby village, you can use a place with a sparse population of rural folk, such as the Shining Plains, the Greenfields, or the Western Heartlands. The area should have a history that goes back 600 to 1,000 years, but just about everywhere in the Realms fits this description. Locations in Mulhorand, in the Underdark, and on remote islands are not as appropriate. This adventure locale is suitable for player characters of any level.

As the day winds to a close, a breeze brings the smell of cooking food to you. Ahead of you on the road stands a tavern and inn, and light shines weakly through very small windows.

Inside, over piping-hot food and delicious drinks, the PCs. can hear a little about the village and about the ruins to the east.

Not far east of this village sits the site of the old village. That village was built centuries ago, or so the stories go. It lasted for quite a while. No one is sure how long, but local legend agrees that a war was fought in the area and that the fighting led to the destruction of the old village. All that remained was the village square and a few buildings that surrounded it. These buildings were in surprisingly good shape given the destruction wrought around them.

Decades or centuries later, the village, which had been moved away from the exact older village site for unknown reasons, started encompassing the ruins of the old one. The old buildings were torn down one fair day, leaving the square open to the winds, and the villagers planned the construction of new structures.

The night after they had torn down these older structures, however, people reported hearing voices in the old square and seeing the old buildings sitting intact. In the morning, the ruined buildings were standing where they had been, and all signs of the new construction were gone. This went on for weeks, without explanation. Clerics, scholars, and sages came and examined everything. They reported hearing the voices, but saw no one. And they saw the old buildings fade into ghostly, and then material, existence. The people became too spooked to live near the old ruins, and they moved the whole village to its present spot. But some say that at night you can still hear voices in the old village square. Also, a few of the more superstitious villagers have reported seeing ghostly forms in the square.

Further, three people from the village have gone to the old ruins at night and have not returned. Two were the children of the blacksmith, and one was the ranger son of a local farmer. Though the villagers made careful searches of the entire area on the days following the disappearances, the missing people were never found. Because the searchers discovered no traces at all of the missing people, everyone has a pet theory about what happened. For instance, some suspect the children have simply run away, while others believe some evil force snatched the two. Similar theories abound about the missing ranger.

The Ruins

If the adventurers decide to check out the square, you can use the following description, broken up or paraphrased as necessary as the PCs explore.

The square itself is about 50 feet across, with an old dry fountain in the center. The fountain, which is about 10 feet across, has the remains of a statue of a human female in the center, and one small arch flows gracefully from the top of her pedestal to the rim of the fountain. The stone from the other arch lies scattered in the fountain basin. A large open expanse surrounds the fountain, and, at the north end, timbers that once supported a platform of some kind sink into the ground. The timbers are broken off at ground level, so they are not easy to see (Spot DC 17). Four broken stone benches stand around the fountain, but they are hardly usable now.

Walls of ruined buildings surround the square, and rubble remains of those walls that fell over. The stone walls that still stand once supported structures that are missing now, but one can see where the remaining walls would have been, and thus how large each structure was. By examining the remnants of the structures, you can see that five streets of varying widths came into the square.

DMs may want to ask for DC 15 Search checks (and allow dwarves to use stonecunning) to notice that while the ruins are indeed ruins, the destroyed stonework doesn't look weathered -- the destruction looks fresh.

During the day, nothing interesting happens here. The ruined walls can be torn down, the fountain destroyed, or the earth plowed up. However, anyone here at night sees a very strange sight. As the sun disappears below the horizon, a ghostly image of the ruins begins to appear. This image is not visible if the ruins are intact, but the image appears over any changes that have been made to the area. For example, if one of the walls is torn down, a ghostly wall appears in its place. If a tent is placed where the old wall was, the ghostly image forms in the tent.

As the night progresses, bodiless voices drift in the square. They are indistinct but sound like a large number of people talking in normal voices, with all the voices overlaid. Sometimes one even sees flickering ghostly forms moving around in the clearing, but these glimpses are brief. As the night progresses, the ghostly images of the ruins become more solid, and any changes or additions become more ghostly. By dawn, the ruins return to their original state and any modifications disappear. Objects in the same space as the returning ruins disappear. Any objects sitting in open space in the ruins remain where they are.

The Story Behind the Ruins

Dungeon Masters have a few choices regarding the story behind the odd happenings in this area. For those who want an opportunity to deal with time travel and have a few ideas regarding options for getting characters back to their home time (if that is desired), read A Twist in Time. Otherwise, DMs can use the option called A Malfunctioning Portal?

A Twist in Time

The secret to the strange stories in this area originates during the time the ruins were first created. As local rumor suggests, a battle raged in the area, but most of it happened a few miles away. However, a spillover skirmish between powerful mages moved through this area. The resultant release of magic destroyed the village and caused an unexplained rift in time that connected the past to the present. The particular past is 591 DR, just after the time of the destruction of the village, and the people are assessing the damage and what to do next. If the voices could be made distinct, that is what a listener would hear: people discussing the battle and the devastation and what to do next. The strange magic opens the connection every night, bringing the ruins (but not living creatures) forward to the present, where they replace anything that is "in their way."

None of this explains what happened to the three people that are missing from the village, though. They were victims of a portal-like effect centered on the fountain. If one stands in the fountain at midnight on certain nights (perhaps during a certain moon phase that matches the one that existed at the time of the destruction of the village), one is transported back to the time of the voices and the overlap period. The creatures and any possessions they carry appear in the fountain in the distant past. The fountain is working at that time period (one of the few things to survive the destruction), so a bath is the first surprise that any travelers get. When they arrive, they see a few people still out talking, and these people view the newcomers with suspicion due to the magic used in the battle that destroyed their town. The villagers of the past are otherwise friendly or neutral in disposition.

The second big surprise is that getting back is very difficult. This is not a portal in the normal sense, and so the return trip must be done by exchange. Specifically, if someone from that fateful day is standing in the fountain at midnight, and if someone is standing in the fountain in the present at midnight during the appropriate phase of the moon, the two are exchanged in time. Other than figuring out this exchange, one would have to find a powerful wizard who could develop magic to breach time (a nearly impossible task), or exist long enough to catch up with one's former life.

A Malfunctioning Portal?

Back in the past (591 DR), an eccentric wizard created a clever (and rather small) portal framed by the fountain's arching structure as a means to get around a bit faster. She had a tower being built nearby, and she didn't mind getting her feet wet for the time being. However, when the battle raged, the wizard was called to fight, and she died while defending the area against another very powerful magic-user. The release of magic between the two dying spellcasters destroyed the village and affected the portal oddly -- it now acts as a malfunctioning portal (see page 61 in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting).

In addition to the now-faulty portal, other strange things started happening. People in the present who enter the area at the right time can hear the voices, which are actually people talking just after the time of the destruction of the village when the inhabitants are assessing the damage and figuring out what to do next. If the voices could be made distinct, that is what a listener would hear: people discussing the battle and the devastation and what to do next. The strange magic opens the connection every night, bringing the ruins (but not living creatures) forward to the present, where they replace anything that is "in their way."

None of this explains what happened to the three people that are missing from the village, though. They were victims of a portal-like effect centered on the fountain. If one stands in the fountain at midnight on certain nights (perhaps during a certain moon phase that matches the one that existed at the time of the destruction of the village), the malfunctioning portal affects those standing within 5 feet of the intact arch. When the portal has a normal result, creatures and any possessions they carry appear at the destination point (which the DM can choose so as to tailor the locale to her campaign). Otherwise, use Table 2-2 on page 61 of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.

The Sole Inhabitant

The three people who were lost from the village died (either due to the passing of time or unlucky mishaps with the portal), but only the farmer's son became a ghost and started haunting the ruins. This ghost is the form that one occasionally glimpses in the square, and he is restlessly trying to find a way home. He may choose to interact with the PCs if they stay in the ruins area for at least 2 hours. His name is Fronn, and he came to realize how he was transported via the fountain; though he died, his spirit remained behind at the site of the portal. Because of this, he tries to keep other people out of the fountain during the times that the portal is active. The villagers have not encountered him because none of them come here at night anymore, nor do they stay very long even when they come during the day. Fronn materializes only near midnight, and only if creatures are in the ruins. Since his method of keeping people out of the fountain involves scaring them, he is likely to be perceived as an enemy at first. He defends himself if attacked, but he'd rather return to the Ethereal Plane than hurt someone.

Note: If the time option is chosen, Fronn could have started out as a farmer and gained his skills over time in the past. If he dies due to a portal malfunction, then he walked into the effect as a 9th-level ranger. Some tweaking of his personal history (including some back story as to why he became a ranger) may add some interest to the setting.

Fronn (against Material Plane Opponents): Male human ghost ranger 9; CR 9; Medium undead (incorporeal); HD 9d12; hp 58; Init +1; Spd 30 ft.; AC 14, touch 14, flat-footed 13; Base Atk +9; Grp --; Atk or Full Atk --; SA corrupting gaze, frightful moan, manifestation; SQ animal companion, evasion, favored enemy giants +4, favored enemy elves +2, incorporeal subtype, rejuvenation, swift tracker, turn resistance +4, undead traits, wild empathy +12, woodland stride; AL N; SV Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +3; Str 2, Dex 13, Con --, Int 8, Wis 11, Cha 17.

Skills and Feats: Climb +1, Hide +18, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +5, Knowledge (nature) +5, Listen +17, Move Silently +10, Search +16, Spot +17, Survival +12; Dodge, Endurance[B], Improved Two-Weapon Fighting[B], Mobility, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Track[B], Two-Weapon Defense, Two-Weapon Fighting[B].

Corrupting Gaze (Su): Fronn can blast living beings with a glance, at a range of up to 30 feet. Creatures that meet the ghost's gaze must succeed on a Fortitude save (DC 17) or take 2d10 points of damage and 1d4 points of permanent Charisma drain.

Frightful Moan (Su): Fronn can moan as a standard action. Every living creature within a 30-foot spread must succeed on a DC 17 Will save or become panicked for 2d4 rounds. This is a sonic, necromantic, mind-affecting fear effect. A creature that successfully saves against the moan cannot be affected by Fronn's moan for one day.

Manifestation (Su): Fronn's ghost dwells on the Ethereal Plane, and as an ethereal creature, he cannot affect or be affected by anything in the material world. When a ghost manifests, he partly enters the Material Plane and becomes visible but incorporeal there. A manifested ghost can strike with his touch attack, a ghost touch weapon, or a manifested weapon. A manifested ghost also remains partially on the Ethereal Plane, where he is not incorporeal. He can be attacked by opponents on either the Material or Ethereal Plane. Fronn's incorporeality helps protect him from foes on the Material Plane, but not from foes on the Ethereal Plane. When manifested, the ghost can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, +1 or better magic weapons, spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. He is immune to all nonmagical attack forms and has a 50% chance to ignore any damage from a corporeal source (except for force effects, such as magic missiles, and attacks made with ghost touch weapons). When manifested, he can pass through solid objects (but not force effects) at will. His attacks ignore natural armor, armor, and shields, though deflection bonuses and force effects work normally. He always moves silently (cannot be heard with Listen checks unless desired).

Animal Companion: Fronn may have one or more animal companions, but he has none at this time.

Evasion (Ex): If exposed to any effect that normally allows a character to attempt a Reflex saving throw for half damage, Fronn takes no damage with a successful saving throw.

Favored Enemy (Ex): Fronn gains a +4 bonus on his Bluff, Listen, Sense Motive, Spot, and Survival checks when using these skills against giants. He gains the same bonus on weapon damage.

Against elves, he gains a +2 bonus on these skill checks and on weapon damage rolls.

Incorporeal Subtype: Fronn can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, +1 or better magic weapons, spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities; immune to all nonmagical attack forms; 50% chance to ignore any damage from a corporeal source (except for force effects, such as magic missiles, and attacks made with ghost touch weapons); can pass through solid objects (but not force effects) at will; attacks ignore natural armor, armor, and shields (though deflection bonuses and force effects work normally); moves silently (cannot be heard with Listen checks unless desired).

Rejuvenation (Su): Fronn's ghost that would otherwise be destroyed returns to its old haunts in 2d4 days with a successful level check (1d20 + 9) against DC 16. To prevent him from rejuvenating, Fronn's physical remains must be found and buried in the village's cemetery. (If the DM chooses to make the portal a malfunctioning one, she is encouraged to pick out a likely spot that may have caused Fronn's quick death; keep in mind that he is a 9th-level ranger at the time of the portal malfunction if the time option is not chosen.)

Swift Tracker (Ex): Fronn can move at his normal speed while following tracks without taking the normal -5 penalty. He takes only a -10 penalty (instead of the usual -20) when moving at up to twice normal speed while tracking.

Turn Resistance (Ex): Fronn is treated as a 13-HD undead for the purpose of turn, rebuke, command, or bolster attempts.

Undead Traits: Fronn is immune to mind-affecting effects, poison, sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, and any effect that requires a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects or is harmless. He is not subject to critical hits, nonlethal damage, ability damage to his physical ability scores, ability drain, energy drain, fatigue, exhaustion, or death from massive damage. He cannot be raised, and resurrection works only if he is willing.

Woodland Stride: Fronn may move through natural thorns, briars, overgrown areas, and similar terrain at his normal speed without suffering damage or other impairment. However, thorns, briars, and overgrown areas that are enchanted or magically manipulated to impede motion still affect him.

Ranger Spells Prepared (caster level 4th): 1st -- resist energy.

Fronn (against Ethereal Plane Opponents): Male human ghost ranger 9; CR 9; Medium undead; HD 9d12; hp 58; Init +1; Spd 30 ft.; AC 11, touch 11, flat-footed 10; Base Atk +9; Grp +12; Atk +12 melee (1d8+5/19-20, +2 longsword) and +10 melee (1d61/19-20, short sword); Full Atk +12/+7 melee (1d8+5/19-20, +2 longsword) and +10/+5 melee (1d61/19-20, short sword); SA corrupting gaze, frightful moan, manifestation; SQ animal companion, evasion, favored enemy giants +4, favored enemy elves +2, rejuvenation, swift tracker, turn resistance +4, undead traits, wild empathy +12, woodland stride; AL N; SV Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +3; Str 16, Dex 13, Con -, Int 8, Wis 11, Cha 17.

Skills and Feats: Climb +8, Hide +18, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +5, Knowledge (nature) +5, Listen +17, Move Silently +10, Search +16, Spot +17, Survival +12; Dodge, Endurance[B], Improved Two-Weapon Fighting[B], Mobility, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Track[B], Two-Weapon Defense, Two-Weapon Fighting[B].

Corrupting Gaze (Su): Fronn can blast living beings with a glance, at a range of up to 30 feet. Creatures that meet the ghost's gaze must succeed on a Fortitude save (DC 17) or take 2d10 points of damage and 1d4 points of permanent Charisma drain.

Frightful Moan (Su): Fronn can moan as a standard action. Every living creature within a 30-foot spread must succeed on a DC 17 Will save or become panicked for 2d4 rounds. This is a sonic, necromantic, mind-affecting fear effect. A creature that successfully saves against the moan cannot be affected by Fronn's moan for one day.

Manifestation (Su): Fronn's ghost dwells on the Ethereal Plane, and as an ethereal creature, he cannot affect or be affected by anything in the material world. When a ghost manifests, he partly enters the Material Plane and becomes visible but incorporeal there. A manifested ghost can strike with his touch attack, a ghost touch weapon, or a manifested weapon. A manifested ghost also remains partially on the Ethereal Plane, where he is not incorporeal. He can be attacked by opponents on either the Material or Ethereal Plane. Fronn's incorporeality helps protect him from foes on the Material Plane, but not from foes on the Ethereal Plane. When manifested, the ghost can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, +1 or better magic weapons, spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. He is immune to all nonmagical attack forms and has a 50% chance to ignore any damage from a corporeal source (except for force effects, such as magic missiles, and attacks made with ghost touch weapons). When manifested, he can pass through solid objects (but not force effects) at will. His attacks ignore natural armor, armor, and shields, though deflection bonuses and force effects work normally. He always moves silently (cannot be heard with Listen checks unless desired).

Animal Companion: Fronn may have one or more animal companions, but he has none at this time.

Evasion (Ex): If exposed to any effect that normally allows a character to attempt a Reflex saving throw for half damage, Fronn takes no damage with a successful saving throw.

Favored Enemy (Ex): Fronn gains a +4 bonus on his Bluff, Listen, Sense Motive, Spot, and Survival checks when using these skills against giants. He gains the same bonus on weapon damage.

Against elves, he gains a +2 bonus on these skill checks and on weapon damage rolls.

Rejuvenation (Su): Fronn's ghost that would otherwise be destroyed returns to its old haunts in 2d4 days with a successful level check (1d20 + 9) against DC 16. To prevent him from rejuvenating, Fronn's physical remains must be found and buried in the village's cemetery. (If the DM chooses to make the portal a malfunctioning one, she is encouraged to pick out a likely spot that may have caused Fronn's quick death; keep in mind that he is a 9th-level ranger at the time of the portal malfunction if the time option is not chosen.)

Swift Tracker (Ex): Fronn can move at his normal speed while following tracks without taking the normal -5 penalty. He takes only a -10 penalty (instead of the usual -20) when moving at up to twice normal speed while tracking.

Turn Resistance (Ex): Fronn is treated as a 13-HD undead for the purpose of turn, rebuke, command, or bolster attempts.

Undead Traits: Fronn is immune to mind-affecting effects, poison, sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, and any effect that requires a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects or is harmless. He is not subject to critical hits, nonlethal damage, ability damage to his physical ability scores, ability drain, energy drain, fatigue, exhaustion, or death from massive damage. He cannot be raised, and resurrection works only if he is willing.

Woodland Stride: Fronn may move through natural thorns, briars, overgrown areas, and similar terrain at his normal speed without suffering damage or other impairment. However, thorns, briars, and overgrown areas that are enchanted or magically manipulated to impede motion still affect him.

Ranger Spells Prepared (caster level 4th): 1st -- resist energy.

Possessions: +2 longsword, short sword,spell component pouch, cameo.

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, 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.

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