Lorin's Chasm - Episode One: Descent into the Chasm
By Will McDermott
Lorin's Chasm is a short adventure for four 5th-level characters that takes place in the caves beneath a remote monastery devoted to the sun god, Pelor. The monastery sits atop a mountain range and has a large complex of caves beneath, most of which are used as tombs for the priests who have died there over the centuries. The monastery and the adventure can be placed easily on almost any D&D world.
The cave that the PCs travel through are mostly natural, though the priests and monks did add their own touches, such as creating recesses within the walls, even within any sarcophagi chambers. Once inside the chasm, the air grows damper and mustier than before, though it still retains enough freshness that the PCs need not worry for their lives. All construction was created from stone, so the dampness has not deteriorated anything but the corpses of the long-dead priests and monks.
Light: When the monastery door closes behind the PCs, they are in pitch darkness until they reach the first sarcophagi chamber. Once they enter the chasm, there is enough light for low-light vision to work.
Ceiling Height: Unless otherwise noted, the ceiling of the caves stands at about 5 feet, which will make some of the taller PCs need to hunch over to walk without bumping their heads.
Doors: There are no doors to speak of in the caves or the chasm.
The characters visit a mountain monastery only to discover that the former head priest, Lorin Deanes, and the only other high-ranking priest in the monastery both disappeared ten years earlier in the caves beneath the monastery. Since then, the monastery has fallen on hard times, and most of the elders have died or left under very mysterious circumstances. Only a few low-ranking monks and priests remain, and none have any firsthand information about what happened to Lorin Deanes or the other high-ranking priest. None of the less experienced members of the monastery wish to take on the role of head priest; instead, they wish to find out what happened to Lorin Deanes. Unfortunately, they had taken an oath to follow Lorin's orders, and so they cannot open up the caves and venture in themselves. Will the PCs help the priests and monks by investigating the disappearance of Lorin Deanes?
There are many reasons the characters could be visiting the monastery or looking for a high-ranking priest. Perhaps they have recently lost a companion and wish to get her resurrected. A patron in a lowland city who needs the services of the monastery's head priest could have sent them to the monastery. One of the characters could be a distant relative of Lorin Deanes and was sent by the family to see why they haven't heard from him in so long. The characters easily could see the monastery in the distance during their travels and simply be investigating this remote structure. Once, the characters are in the monastery, the lure of a ten-year-old mystery should quickly draw them into the encounters in the caves.
The priests mention that the only clues to what happened are in Lorin's most recent journal in his room. The journal reveals a strange story. It appears that at the time Lorin was the head priest in the mountain monastery, it was home to a large number of priests and monks all dedicated to the worship of Pelor and the light of the sun. The monks had built and maintained the monastery as a shrine to the sun god, while the priests tended to the members of the monastery and performed the daily ceremonies to honor Pelor at dawn, noon, and dusk. The monastery thrived.
However, Lorin had lead the priests in the monastery for many years, and some thought it was time for the old priest to step down and allow one of the younger members to assume leadership of the flock. Lorin's chief rival was a young, rash priest by the name of Arlon Manafae, and Lorin would have stepped down years earlier except he believed Wee Jas, the goddess of death, had corrupted Manafae. It seems Manafae had taken charge of maintaining the burial chambers in the caves beneath the monastery. He often missed the sun ceremonies because he could not be found down in the inky depths of the tombs.
Unfortunately, the PCs can't read any further because the journal ends on the last page, with a reference to another one to follow. If the PCs ask, one of the priests mentions that she thinks Lorin headed on down with a newer journal. That was the last time the monks and clerics saw Lorin. That night, a comet streaked across the sky, causing, some say, an earthquake that rocked the very foundation of the monastery. Most of the monks believe Lorin died in the earthquakes, but they kept the caves closed off and barred as the head cleric had ordered ever since. Now the PCs must decide what they wish to do next.
Descent into the Chasm (EL 5)
When the characters descend the long stone stairway into the caves, they can hear nothing but faint dripping water in the distance. The caves smell dank and musty, and the air stirs only slightly. After about 50 feet of downward descent, the walls along the stairs contain dark recesses veiled in dusty cobwebs. If the PCs look more closely, they discover that the skeletal remains of past priests and monks rest within each recess, covered by their fading burial shrouds. The stairs descend for a total of 200 feet below the monastery's lowest level, which means that the PCs travel for some time. The passage beyond the stairs contain more such recesses and goes on for about 50 feet before it opens into a room filled with rows of sarcophagi. Read or paraphrase the following text:
|Dust broken only by messy splotches rests thickly upon the floor and upon the ten or so sarcophagi within the room, attesting to the unbroken vows kept by the priests and monks above. The room contains another web-enshrouded archway ahead of you, and the ceiling rises up so high that it's lost in heavy darkness. A large crack in the floor spreads out from the sarcophagi to your immediate left and runs underneath the wall of the cave.
Allow PCs to make a Knowledge (nature) or Wildnerness Lore check to recognize the splotches as bat guano. Also, a successful Spot check (DC 15) allows them to notice an eerie glow emanating from somewhere below and behind the back wall of the cave via the crack. If they proceed further into the room, the shadow dire bats attack. Please note the special shadow blend ability of the bats should the PCs attempt to light up the ceiling in any manner. The ceiling does lift to a full 100 feet above the PCs.
Shadow Dire Bats (2): CR 3; Large magical beast; HD 4d8+12; hp 30; Init +6; Spd 30 ft., fly 60 ft. (good); AC 20 (touch 15, flat-footed 14); Atk +5 melee (1d8+4, bite); Face/Reach 10 ft. x 5 ft./5 ft.; SQ Blindsight, cold resistance 9, damage reduction 5/+1, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, shadow blend; AL N; SV Fort +7, Ref +10, Will +6; Str 17, Dex 22, Con 17, Int 2, Wis 14, Cha 6.
Skills and Feats: Hide +2, Listen +11*, Move Silently +17, Spot +11*. *-4 penalty if blindsight is negated.
Blindsight (Ex): A shadow dire bat can "see" by emitting high-frequency sounds, inaudible to most other creatures, that allow them to locate objects and creatures within 120 ft. A silence spell negates this ability and forces the bat to rely on its weak vision, which has a maximum range of 10 feet.
Cold Resistance (Ex): The creature ignores up to (enter value from left) points of cold damage each round.
Low-Light Vision: A shadow dire bat can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar low-light conditions.
Shadow Blend (Su): In any conditions other than full daylight, a shadow dire bat can disappear into the shadows, giving it nine-tenths concealment. Artificial illumination, even a light or continual flame spell, does not negate this ability. A daylight spell, however, will.
Tactics: Once the shadow dire bats see the newcomers, they use shadow blend and move silently toward the PCs to attempt to attack from the concealment of the shadows. They fly faster than normal dire bats and use this speed in strafing attacks, relying on their damage reduction and high armor class to protect them in melee.
Once the characters have dispatched the shadow dire bats, they can investigate the crack. At the wall, the crack appears large enough to allow PCs to climb down into a faintly lit chasm.