Cliffhangers Adventures
Over the Edge - Episode One: Hit the Road
By Will McDermott

Over the Edge is a short adventure for four 9th-level characters. The adventure is set in the Lortmil Mountains on a newly established trade route between Ulek and Verbebonc, but could be on any route that takes the characters through a mountain pass.

Adventure Background

Several years ago, the merchants of Tringlee, the capital city in the Duchy of Ulek, opened a new trade route through the Lortmil Mountains to the town of Verbebonc. However, in the last few months, reports of manticore raids along the route have filtered back to Tringlee. A month ago, the merchants hired a group of adventurers and sent them into the mountains to end the manticore raids. The party never returned.

The manticore raids are actually orchestrated by a juvenile red dragon that recently came to the region to increase its wealth and power. The red dragon, named Kardrako, has made its home in the back of the manticores' cave, which is set into a cliff several hundred feet below a bridge on the trade route.

Kardrako uses the manticores and, more recently, two hill giants named Geet and Gern, to waylay travelers and force them to pay a toll to cross the bridge. All of the money, of course, goes to Kardrako. The adventurers whom the merchants sent into the mountains did indeed locate the trouble they were sent to find. However, only one -- a rogue named Finglos survived. Where his loyalties now lie is a matter for some debate.

The adventure consists of meeting Geet and Gern, finding Finglos, climbing down the cliff to the caves, exploring the caves, and ultimately facing Kardrako. All of the treasure that the manticores and the hill giants have collected rests in Kardrako's treasure trove.

Hooking the characters

Because Over the Edge takes place along a mountain path, DMs may find it easy or difficult to hook the characters into the adventure. If your characters are currently traveling through some mountains, you can easily stick the adventure right in front of them. If not, try one of the following hooks:

The player characters overhear two merchants talking about the manticore problem and the missing adventurers. One merchant says, "We ve waited long enough. We should send another group into the mountains."

The heroes see a leaflet posted on the town notice board, stating the following: "Wanted: Adventurers to clear trade route. All expenses paid, plus stipend. Inquire at Merchant's Guild." The leaflet is dated two months ago, but it was not on the board the previous day.

A merchant caravan leaving for Verbebonc in the morning hires the PCs as guards.

One of the adventurers in Finglos's party was the brother (or sister or cousin) of a PC. That character overhears a merchant talking about the group s disappearance in the mountains.

Encounter 1: Killian's Krew

Most of the action of Over the Edge occurs in Kardrako's cave and on the cliff-face above the cave. However, before the characters even make it to the mountain pass, they get a chance to help some merchants with another common problem on the trade routes -- bandits. This encounter can even serve as the hook to draw the characters further into the adventure, as the DM can use the cliffhanger as a way to give the background information to the characters.

Shortly after the characters enter the lower hills of the Lortmil Mountains, they hear a commotion happening around a bend in the road. Any character making a successful Listen check (DC 15) hears the following statement in Common: "Stand to or pay with your life!" A listen check (DC 20) also reveals the sounds of weapons being drawn. Once the heroes round the bend, read or paraphrase the following text:

Roughly 100 feet ahead stand three wagons half-filled with crates, casks, and chests. Two men sit in each wagon, all with their hands held up above their heads. The wagon drivers are obviously merchants and none of them have any visible weapons or armor. Six bandits in studded leather armor, all brandishing short swords, surround the caravan. The bandit leader stands at the front of the caravan with his hands on his hips. He wears a longsword at his belt and a bow strung across his shoulders, but no visible armor.

The bandit leader is a scoundrel named Killian. When the bandits spot the PCs and alert him, he turns around. "This is none of your affair," he says. "Leave us to our business and we shall let you pass unharmed." Should the characters give Killian and his comrades a wide berth, the bandits let them go but follow the group and attack at night. If the PCs attack, Killian's Krew turns its attention away from the merchants to fight the heroes.

Killian: Mail human Rog5/Ftr4; CR 9; Medium-size humanoid; 5d6+5 plus 4d10+4; hp 52; Init +6; Spd 30 ft.; AC 19; Atk +12/+7 melee (1d8+6/19-20/x 2 crit, +1 longsword), +10/+5 ranged (1d8+3/x 3 crit, masterwork mighty (Str 16) composite long bow); SQ Evasion, Sneak attack +3d6, Uncanny Dodge (Dex bonus to AC); AL NE; SV Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +2; Str 16, Dex 15, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 12.

Skills and Feats: Appraise +9, Climb +10, Disable Device +9, Hide +10, Jump +10, Listen +8, Move Silently +10, Open Lock +10, Spot, +8, Search +9, Tumble +10, Use Magic Device +8; Dirty Fighting, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Leadership, Mobility, Spring Attack, Weapon Focus (longsword), Weapon Specialization (longsword).

Possessions: +1 longsword, masterwork mighty (Str 16) composite long bow, 20 arrows, +1 mithril chain shirt, +1 buckler, 2 tanglefoot bags, 115 gp.

Killian's Krew (6): Male human Rog1/Ftr2; CR 3; Medium-size humanoid; 1d6+1 plus 2d10+2; hp 20; Init +6; Spd 30 ft.; AC 16; Atk +6 melee (1d6+2/19-20/x 2 crit, masterwork short sword), +5 ranged (1d6+1/x 3 crit, masterwork mighty (Str 12) composite short bow); SQ Evasion, Sneak attack +1d6; AL CN; SV Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +0; Str 14, Dex 15, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 8.

Skills and Feats: Appraise +5, Climb +6, Disable Device +5, Hide +6, Jump +6, Listen +4, Move Silently +6, Open Lock +6, Search +5, Spot, +4, Tumble +6, Use Magic Device +3; Dirty Fighting, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Mobility, Weapon Focus (short sword).

Possessions: Masterwork short sword, masterwork mighty (Str 12) composite short bow, 20 arrows, masterwork studded leather armor, masterwork buckler, 2 tanglefoot bags, 15 gp.

Tactics: Killian and his Krew attempt to flank as many characters as possible to get the flanking bonus and deliver sneak attack damage. In addition, all of the bandits fight dirty, so they deal extra damage on full attack actions. If Killian has trouble hitting with his second attack, he foregoes this extra attack to get the Dirty Fighting damage. If the fight goes badly for them, Killian calls a retreat; the bandits use their Mobility to disengage from melee and their tanglefoot bags to discourage pursuit.

Dirty Fighting [General]

You know the brutal and effective fighting tactics of the streets and back alleys.

Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +2.

Benefit: Make a melee attack roll normally. If successful, you inflict an additional +1d4 points of damage. This feat requires the full attack action. (See Sword and Fist, page 6.)

The Cliffhanger

Assuming the characters either defeat or drive off Killian and his krew, the leader of the merchant caravan -- Berimir, a tailor of some renown -- thanks them and offers each a custom-tailored outfit the next time they are in Tringlee. In addition, Berimir tells the heroes about two hill giants that he and his fellow merchants met about four days earlier at a bridge up in the mountains. The giants killed all his guards, but then let the merchants pass after they agreed to pay a toll for crossing the bridge.

About the Author

Before moving to the Online Media department at Wizards of the Coast, Will McDermott was editor in chief of TopDeck magazine and, before that, The Duelist. Will has written strategy guides for both Magic: The Gathering and the Pokémon TCGs, and is currently writing a Magic: The Gathering novel.

©1995-2008 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.