Nest of Corruption - Episode One: Introduction to Intrigue
By Andy Collins
"Nest of Corruption" is a short D&D adventure for four 7th-level characters. The party may consist of any mix of classes. The adventure is a reasonable challenge for 6th- to 8th-level characters and may be set in any campaign world.
The adventure uses the "Old Tower" map found in the October section of the Map-A-Week archive.
People have been disappearing from the town of Brindinford. At first, no one noticed or gave it any thought. But lately, the disappearances have grown more noticeable. Indeed, only a few days ago the eldest son of a wealthy merchant family went missing.
The disappearances are the work of a small band of yuan-ti led by a most unusual creature: a vampiric medusa named Kalivilya. This baneful monster "adopted" the yuan-ti that now serve her, treating them as wayward children despite their differing origins. For their part, the yuan-ti see Kalivilya as a kindred serpent soul and powerful ally.
Loath to enter Brindinford for fear of discovery, Kalivilya has instead dispatched the human-appearing pureblood yuan-ti to obtain the warm-blooded food that she craves. Lately, however, the serpent men have gotten greedy, taking an occasional meal for themselves -- thus, the increased number of disappearances.
Brindinford is a large town that can be placed anywhere in your campaign. It is a trade center on a major river, and its food comes from small farming villages scattered in the nearby countryside; no fields are in the immediate vicinity. Forestation has been cleared in a radius of about a mile outside the town on the east side of the river, but much of the west bank is still heavily wooded.
The town of Brindinford originally appeared in the adventure Speaker in Dreams (though you don't need that adventure to run Nest of Corruption). If you don't want to detail Brindinford yourself, you can use the information in that adventure to flesh out the town. The town follows the rules noted for a town of its size in Chapter 4 of the Dungeon Master's Guide.
Brindinford (large town): Conventional; AL LG and LE; 5,000 gp limit; Assets 1,200,000 gp; Population 4,807; Mixed (human 79, halfling 9, elf 5, dwarf 3, gnome 2, half-elf 1, half-orc 1).
Authority Figures: Baron Euphemes II, male human Ari5, LG.
Hooking the Characters
If the characters have been to Brindinford before (for instance, if they adventured through Speaker in Dreams), they probably have one or more friendly contacts there that might invite their assistance in solving the mystery of the disappearing townsfolk.
Otherwise, the PCs might merely be passing through. If they seek someone here, that person (or a close friend or relative) has recently disappeared.
Finally, the PCs might have followed a trail of disappearances through several towns and villages (the swath left by Kalivilya's passage) to Brindinford, her latest haunt.
Player characters seeking to solve the mystery will likely need to ask around for useful information. A Gather Information check, a few hours of legwork, and 1d4+1 gp spent on drinks in the local taverns can elicit the following clues (any result gets that clue and all those for lower results as well).
||About a dozen people have been reported missing in the last month or so. Most were drunks or derelicts, so the city guard hadn't gotten very involved. The most prominent, Lionel Gildas, was the son of a local merchant family, which has gotten the authorities' attention.
||Half of the missing people (including Lionel Gildas) disappeared in the last 10 days, suggesting that whoever or whatever is responsible is accelerating the violence.
||Lionel Gildas was last seen two nights ago leaving the Stony Gaze Tavern in the company of a young woman. (The tavern is located in Eastgate, a rough-and-tumble part of town.)
||The last three missing people were all seen in or near taverns in the Eastgate area of Brindinford.
No one the PCs talk to will know anything about the young woman last seen with Lionel Gildas, except that she had been seen in the Stony Gaze Tavern for a couple evenings before Lionel's disappearance. No one has seen the mysterious young woman since.
The young woman is actually a pureblood yuan-ti named Melina -- and she's responsible for the disappearances. Since she changes her disguise distinctly with each new victim, no one can link her with more than one of the missing persons.
Each time the PCs make a Gather Information check related to this mystery, there is a 25% cumulative chance they draw Melina's attention. (See "The Agent" for more details.
The PCs might stake out another tavern in the hopes of drawing the attention of who or whatever is responsible for the disappearances. There are seven inns and seven taverns in that district, and Melina has already hit three taverns. Melina will move to a new tavern each 1d4 days, each time in a new disguise. When she has exhausted the taverns in Eastgate, she'll move to a new area of town.
The Agent (EL 5)
Eventually, the PCs either draw the attention of or track down Melina, Kalivilya's agent in Brindinford, the pureblood yuan-ti responsible for gathering food for the medusa. She currently resides at the Drake's Rest, a local inn, under the name of Saralinda.
If Melina catches wind of the PCs' investigation, she will target one of them as the next victim. Failing that, she aims simply to assassinate any character she can. Creature: Melina is a pureblood yuan-ti, one of three working with Kalivilya. To guard her identity, she wears a ring of mind shielding which protects her against detect thoughts, discern lies, and any attempt to magically discern her alignment. She uses a disguise kit to help her play the role of a human, giving her an average Disguise check of 20 (requiring a Spot check of 20 or better to see through).
Melina, Pureblood Yuan-ti: hp 27; see Monster Manual.
Tactics: Melina uses suggestion to lure potential victims to their death. She favors those who appear healthy but weak-willed (the better to resist Kalivilya's petrification but fall victim to her domination and Melina's suggestion).
If threatened, Melina prefers to flee, using cause fear, deeper darkness, or entangle to ward off attackers. If cornered, she lashes out with polymorph other (transforming the victim into a harmless snake). She can also take the form of a Tiny to Large viper.
Treasure: If the PCs defeat Melina and search her body, they will find a key to her room at the Drake's Rest, as well as a pouch with 17 sp and 15 gp. Hidden under her bed at the inn (Search DC 15 to find) is a small bag of 225 sp and 185 gp, as well as a note:
Please ensure that all meals brought to the Crumbling Tower are strong and healthy (preferably weak-minded). They're no good to me cold.
A Knowledge (local) or Gather Information check (DC 15) reveals that the "Crumbling Tower" is a nickname for an abandoned outpost located a few miles southwest of Brindinford. Some townsfolk say some foul monster occupied the Tower recently, but a group of adventurers cleaned it out a month ago and then moved on to bigger challenges.
Actually, the adventurers were all slain by the occupants of the Crumbling Tower, then a few yuan-ti posed as the adventurers to report that all was well with the tower. No one in town is aware of this.