Cliffhangers Adventures
Bridge Work - Episode One: In Media Rex
by Jeff Quick

Bridge Work is a short adventure for four 7th-level characters. The adventure takes place mainly on an enormous stone bridge built across an archipelago. Dungeon Masters can modify the adventure to accommodate higher-level characters by giving humanoid foes more class levels and increasing the HD and/or age category of other opponents.

Cliffhanger Features

The Dungeon Master should keep the following points in mind as the players decide what their PCs should do throughout the "Bridge Work" Cliffhanger series.

Traveling by Foot (EL varies)

Two 50-foot-high dwarf statues and a few glyph of warding spells flank the entrance to the bridge. Safely dismissing the glyphs requires a password AND a golden sigil. Both the archaeologist dwarves and the oath dwarves have the golden sigil necessary to disarm the glyph protecting the bridge. However, only the archaeologist dwarves have the password written down on papers among their personal effects. Learning the password from the oath dwarves can be done only from speaking with their corpses.

Anyone who tries to step onto the bridge without the proper password and sigil triggers the glyph. Several applications of the glyph of warding spell delineate five 50-square-foot areas starting at the head of the bridge. The glyph does 5d8 points of fire damage to anyone who breaks it and all within 5 feet of the glyph breaker.

Glyph of Warding: CR 4; 5-ft. fire blast (5d8); Reflex save halves damage (DC 14); Search (DC 28); Disable Device (DC 28).

To cross any one section of the area requires one disarming action. This means that after someone passes the first glyph, he or she must pass a second glyph 50 feet later. Of course, anyone may fly past the area of the glyph and walk harmlessly on the bridge.

Traveling by Air (EL 7)

If a flier attempts to fly more than 200 feet onto the length of bridge at a height of more than 20 feet, that person attracts the attention of the adult arrowhawks circling the vault island, three miles away. (The arrowhawks do not care who walks on the bridge. They care only about those who attempt to fly above the bridge.)

Juvenile Arrowhawks (4): 16 hp each; see Monster Manual page 19.

Traveling by Water (EL 7)

Should the PCs attempt to swim to the island, they encounter tojanidas quite quickly.

Juvenile Tojanidas (4): 19 hp each; see Monster Manual page 177.

Loot and Other Important Matters

While adventuring along this bridge, the PCs find little in the way of extraneous loot around. In fact, they find only what is listed in the possessions of each creature they vanquish. However, the final encounter and the treasure hoard at the end should more than make up for the expedition. As always, Dungeon Masters should feel free to adjust the treasure to their campaign levels.

Adventure Background

Hundreds of years ago, a dwarf king wanted to ensure the safety of his treasure vaults. Though he knew the safety of stone, he also knew the volatility of the Underdark. So he built his treasure vault within a rocky island at the end of a short jut of rocky islands, just off the mainland.

Then he had an enormous stone bridge constructed across the islands so he could transport his riches there and guard access to the vault. The bridge arcs high and dips down to meet its support struts on three islands before it reaches the final vault isle.

Finally, the canny king bargained with elemental outsiders to protect his treasures. The descendents of the original elementals protect the island to this day. Tojanidas in the water prevent anyone from boating or swimming within several miles of the island. Arrowhawks continually circle the island, viciously attacking any who approach by air. The king designed it so that the only way to his vaults was by the bridge itself.

Less than a decade later, an earthquake crushed the king and his kingdom. The bridge was partially destroyed, and the treasure vaults were nearly forgotten.

Adventure Synopsis

The PCs can travel along a bridge and encounter some archaeologists who seek the treasure of the old king and some oath dwarves who seek to stop them. If the PCs survive that encounter, they can come across some kobolds, bees, an elemental, and even MORE oath dwarves in their quest to enter the king's treasure vaults.

Character Hooks

  • Player characters might hear tales of a dwarven recovery team venturing to reclaim the lost dwarven king's treasure vaults.

  • One of the dwarves in the party might be a descendant of some dwarf who escaped the quake. The party's dwarf might very well have it impressed upon him or her by family that the treasure is practically a birthright for surviving descendants.

  • A historian or architect might want to hire armed guards, a religious practitioner, and perhaps a diviner to escort him or her to explore this mysterious edifice.

  • Anybody ever notice all those bird things that fly around that island all the time out there a few miles offshore? Hasn't anybody ever been curious about that?

In Media Rex (EL varies)

The adventure begins as the PCs come close enough to the head of the bridge to see a skirmish happening before them. Read the following to the players:

As you come close enough to make out what's going on, you see two groups of dwarves fighting near the entrance to the bridge. One group is dressed uniformly in brown with black chainmail. These dwarves look thin, but well-muscled and alert. The other group wears lighter, varied colors and fights valiantly, but it is not nearly as well armed or combat-ready.

The dwarves wearing light-colored clothes are archaeologists who discovered the crushed dwarven kingdom. They learned of the vault island at the end of the bridge by studying the ruins. When they arrived to begin studying the bridge, these thin, hard dwarves dressed in dark chain attacked them.

The thin, hard dwarves are the current generation of a dwarven clan who took an oath to protect the king's treasure with their lives. They have dwelt in secret near the head of the bridge for centuries protecting it from any who would plunder the king's treasure . . . or anyone who just gets too close.

Archaeologist Male and female Dwarves Exp2 (5); CR 1; Medium-size humanoid; HD 2d6+2; hp 9; Init +0; Spd 20 ft.; AC 14 (touch 10, flat-footed 14); Atk +2 melee (1d6+1, club); SQ Dwarf traits; AL LN; SV Fort +1, Ref +0, Will +3; Str 12, Dex 10, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 10.

Skills and Feats: Craft (metalworking) +3, Craft (stoneworking) +3, Decipher Script +5, Disable Device +5, Gather Information +5, Knowledge (history) +5, Profession (archaeologist) +7, Search +4, Sense Motive +4, Spot +4, Use Magic Device +1, Use Rope +1; Skill Focus (Profession [archaeologist]).

Dwarf Traits: +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against orcs and goblinoids; +2 racial bonus on Will saves against spells and spell-like abilities; +2 racial bonus on Fortitude saves against all poisons; +4 dodge bonus against giants; darkvision 60 ft.; stonecunning (+2 racial bonus on checks to notice unusual stonework; can make a check for unusual stonework as though actively searching when within 10 ft. and can use the Search skill to find stonework traps as a rogue can; intuit depth); +2 racial bonus on Appraise checks and Craft or Profession checks related to stone or metal (these bonuses are already figured into the statistics above).

Possessions: Chain shirt, club, backpack, history books, magnifying glass, 1 week's rations.

Male Oath Dwarves Ftr2/Rog1 (4): CR 3; Medium-size humanoid; HD 2d10+4, 1d6+2; hp 20; Init +1; Spd 15 ft.; AC 17 (touch 11, flat-footed 16); Atk +6 melee (1d10+2/x3, masterwork dwarven waraxe) or +3 ranged (1d8/19?20, light crossbow); SA Sneak attack (+1d6); SQ Dwarf traits, traps; AL LN; SV Fort +5, Ref +3, Will +1; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.

Skills and Feats: Climb +2, Craft (metalworking) +2, Craft (stoneworking) +2, Hide +2, Jump +2, Listen +3, Spot +3; Blind-Fight, Dodge, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (dwarven waraxe), Weapon Focus (dwarven waraxe)

Sneak Attack: If an oath dwarf's target would be denied a Dexterity bonus to AC (whether that target actually has a bonus or not), or when the oath dwarf flanks his target, the the oath dwarf's attack deals +1d6 points of extra damage.

Dwarf Traits: +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against orcs and goblinoids; +2 racial bonus on Will saves against spells and spell-like abilities; +2 racial bonus on Fortitude saves against all poisons; +4 dodge bonus against giants; darkvision 60 ft.; stonecunning (+2 racial bonus on checks to notice unusual stonework; can make a check for unusual stonework as though actively searching when within 10 ft. and can use the Search skill to find stonework traps as a rogue can; intuit depth); +2 racial bonus on Appraise checks and Craft or Profession checks related to stone or metal (these bonuses are already figured into the statistics above).

Traps: Oath dwarves can use the Search skill to locate traps when the task has a DC higher than 20 and can use the Disable Device skill to disarm magic traps.

Possessions: Masterwork chain mail, masterwork buckler, masterwork dwarven waraxe, light crossbow, 20 bolts.

If the party waits to see what happens, the archaeologist group sees them and begins to fall back toward them, pleading for their help against "bandits and ruffians." If the party does not help, the archaeologist dwarves are cut down eventually.

If the party assists the archaeologists and helps them win, the dwarves thank them profusely and invite the party to join their expedition. (See Development for more information on this.)

If the party helps the oath dwarves, the dwarves thank them for their help against the thieves. Then they talk to the group to discover their intentions. If the party admits to wanting to journey on the bridge or get the treasure in the vaults, the oath dwarves shout their eternal oath of vigilance and protection, and launch into new battle against the PCs.

Development: If the PCs accept the help of the archaeologists, these worthy dwarves tell them that they will assist as they may when it comes to traps and information, but that they don't hold much with combat and will defend themselves only. They prefer to talk their way through encounters with intelligent creatures. That's what they tried to do with the oath dwarves, but they failed miserably.Effectively, the dwarves will not be participating in any combat, but they will aid in other situations.

In return for any combat aid that the PCs grant the dwarves, the dwarves will give them first dibs on one item within the treasure vault. After that, the dwarves will choose anything that is of historical value (including one of any coins of old mint) and leave the rest for the PCs.

Cliffhanger

The bridge, open and ready for adventurers and their ilk, arcs up and away for a half mile, beckoning any who dare to cross.


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