Cliffhangers!
A Giant Ransom
By Stephen Schubert
Complete Cliffhanger (68k PDF)
Episode 5: The Wyrms Go Out
Episode 4: The Worms Go In
Episode 3: Thin Ice
Episode 2: Giant Trouble
Episode 1: The Big Deal
Cliffhangers Archive
The Approaching Swarm
Kingdom of the Blind
Into the Forsaken Temple's Crypt
The Trouble in Town
Sharkbait!
The Light of Despair
Training Grounds
Lorin's Chasm
Bridge Work
Nest of Corruption
Hindsight
A Giant Ransom
Black Water
The Horror of Lannock Hill
Over the Edge
Equinox
The Proper Count
The Tower of Lore
The Candlemaker's Fire
The Hallowed Hills
The Village of Camiram
Unearthing the Past
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Cliffhangers Adventures
A Giant Ransom - Episode One: The Big Deal
By Stephen Schubert

A Giant Ransom is a short adventure for four 11th-level characters. There are opportunities for diplomacy, stealth, and combat, based on the choices the PCs make, so any mix of classes is appropriate. The adventure can be set in any campaign world, in a frontier region near glacier-covered mountains.

Adventure Background

The newly appointed Duke Castaril Ambrinigan has recently relocated to a modest, newly constructed keep near the frontier town of Ormanlak. He and his family arrived safely, but a caravan containing family heirlooms was waylaid by a band of frost giant raiders. Most of the items were of no consequence to the Duke, with the exception of one: a three-foot tall golden statue of a lion.

The Duke, wanting to avoid a war, sent an emissary to the frost giants. He offered gems totaling 10,000 gold pieces in value as ransom for the lion. The giants accepted, and a time and place was set for the exchange.

But there is more. A white dragon named Whildenstrank lives in the midst of a nearby glacier, and has maintained a network of winter wolf spies, including some in the frost giants' camp. Through these spies, Whildenstrank learned of the capture of the golden lion, and the upcoming trade. Thinking that the lion would make a fine addition to his frozen treasure hoard, Whildenstrank has prepared to strike.

Hooking the Characters

Duke Ambrinigan wants the exchange to occur, but is concerned that the giants might double-cross him. Even a platoon of troops would be short work for a few frost giants. So he has decided to enlist the aid of more powerful allies -- the PCs. The PCs could become involved in a number of ways.

  • The Duke may have provided for the PCs in the past, and is now calling in a favor.
  • Upon hearing of the reputation of the party, the Duke approaches them with a business proposition. He will pay 1000 gp per person for the return of the golden lion.
  • One or more organizations with which the PCs are affiliated is sympathetic to the Duke's problem, and encourages the PC to help out.
  • The PCs may be looking to improve their reputation in the eyes of the local nobility. Helping the Duke with his problem could go a long way in political circles. Roleplay the negotiations. Allow PCs to use Diplomacy (or related skills such as Intimidate) skill checks to improve their reward, whether material or intangible. In any case, the agreement requires the return of the golden lion at all costs. The Duke will provide the ransom payment of 10,000gp in a single bag of mixed gems, and will present it to the PC that appears the most honest.

The Dragon Attacks!

The exchange was arranged to take place four days hence at noon. The meeting place is a clearing on a hillside, a three-day journey from the town of Ormanlak, and about a day away from the glacier. At the discretion of the DM, the journey to the designated hillside can be either uneventful, or be filled with random encounters appropriate to a temperate or cold mountainous region.

On the day of the exchange, the PCs are standing in or near the clearing when they witness Whildenstrank's attack on the band of four giants that constitute the frost giant envoy. Read or paraphrase the following text.

The peaceful sounds of nature are interrupted by the sound of a horn, blaring in the distance to the west. Looking in the direction of the sound, you witness a winged shape drop from the clouds into the midst of the forest, perhaps a half mile away. A few treetops sway and topple near where it landed.

As you strain your eyes to get another glimpse of the creature, you see it again, as it leaps into the sky and flies off to the west. There is no mistaking the reptilian form and large wingspan: It is definitely a dragon, as white as the ice on the distant mountains.

As it flies off, a horn again sounds from the same general direction, and seems to echo off the mountains in the distance.

Whildenstrank dropped from the clouds in a dive attack at the leader of the giant band. In a few short rounds the dragon was able to take down two giants and escape with the golden lion. A PC that succeeds at a Spot check (DC 25) might notice that the dragon is carrying a bag of some sort in its claws.

The horns are the means of distance communication for the giants. The echoing of the horns was actually additional frost giants, relaying the message of the attack.

Even if the PCs are able to attack the dragon at this distance, he mostly ignores them, since he wants to return to his lair with his new treasure.

The Cliffhanger

The heroes hear horns sounding again in the distance. Someone, or something, survived that dragon attack...

About the Author

Stephen Schubert is a freelance writer who spends too much of his time at his day job. When not working or writing, Stephen runs two D&D campaigns, and plays in a few others. He dedicates this, his first published adventure, to his wife, whose paladin will always remember "242 points of damage!"

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