Into the Forsaken Temple's Crypt - Episode One: Gather, Gloom
By Ramon Arjona
The Dungeon Master should keep the following points in mind as the players decide what their PCs should do throughout the Into the Forsaken Temple's Crypt Cliffhanger series.
The Elven History
The elves went to a lot of trouble to indicate that the temple is a Very Bad Place and ought not to be disturbed by curious adventurers. Unfortunately, all of their warnings are written in an ancient version of the elven language that, in modern times, can be read only by scholars. Allow any character with Decipher Script to make a skill check to decipher the ancient elven messages they encounter in the crypt. A result of DC 30 or higher means the character can understand all of the message's literal meaning. A result of DC 25 to DC 29 means the character can understand only part of the message's literal meaning. Feel free to be devious in determining which part of the message the character understands. This could be a good way to keep the characters on their toes. Sometimes a little information is worse than no information at all.
The Drow (EL 14)
The drow present in the crypt are pursuing their own agenda: They want to free the Traitor from her prison. They are willing to work with the PCs if this seems expedient. Once they have reached Area 10, however, nothing stops them from trying to wake the Traitor, except maybe the PCs. The drow happily turn on the PCs as soon as their interests start to diverge. This betrayal is more likely to take the form of charm spells and subterfuge rather than open combat.
The drow are aware of the legends that surround the Traitor, and they have deciphered some of the messages left by the elves. However, they arrogantly believe that they can recruit the Traitor into the service of Lolth. Should they succeed in waking the Traitor, they aren't expecting the terrible grudge she holds against all of their kind.
The drow share information with the PCs only when they feel it is absolutely necessary to their agenda.
Doors and Lighting
Player characters find that the crypt is completely unlit unless otherwise specified. Also, all crypt doors have the following statistics unless the area description says differently:
Strong Wooden Doors: 2 in. thick; hardness 5; hp 20; AC 5; Break DC 25.
Loot and Other Important Matters
The most important piece of treasure in this adventure is the equipment buried with the Traitor: her oathbow, which was hers before she fell from grace, and the dagger of venom given to her by Orith. She was also buried with the gold and gems given her by Orith, which the elves saw as "blood money."
None of the monsters native to the crypt have any treasure of their own. The drow have the equipment noted in their description.
As always, Dungeon Masters should feel free to adjust the treasure to their campaign levels.
Episode One: Gather, Gloom
Into the Forsaken Temple's Crypt is a short adventure for four 10th-level characters. The adventure takes place in a buried temple crypt, which has been sealed for centuries. Dungeon Masters can adjust it for higher-level characters by expanding the dead magic areas and increasing the number and power of constructs and undead that inhabit the complex.
Some things are best left untouched, and some secrets are best left untold. One such secret is the location of the resting place of the traitor Ellowyn Blacktree. Her body has lain undisturbed for centuries, undead but immobile, in the prison the elves created for her.
The elven histories tell that Ellowyn was a powerful wizard back in a time beyond human reckoning. While others worked diligently to learn magic, Ellowyn's arcane powers came to her quickly. In her youth, she called this a blessing from Corellon Larethian, and she worked diligently to serve him for the good of all elvenkind. In time, she became one of seven female elves entrusted with the care of a mythal, or elven place of power, devoted to preserving the balance of magic and nature. But Ellowyn, it is said, kept a terrible secret of her own: She had fallen in love with a drow whom history knows as Orith To'rellen. One dark winter night she betrayed her sisters, Corellon, and all of elvenkind by allowing Orith and the followers of Lolth to overrun and defile the mythal. Ellowyn herself was then betrayed by the drow, who abandoned her on the surface near a vampire's lair as they returned to their home in the Underdark, leaving her to face certain death and elven justice alone.
In the depths of their grief and anger, the elves sentenced Ellowyn, perhaps unwisely, to dwell forever in the darkness that she had chosen, thus ensuring that she never followed the normal path of life and death that most elves take. Many elves died at her hands before they could restrain her. With terrible spells rarely seen even in that ancient time, they bound her in an underground crypt far away from any living thing. There, the legends say, she waits, nursing a terrible hatred against elves, drow, Corellon, Lolth, and especially Orith To'rellen.
The PCs enter the tomb and encounter a group of oozes and fungi that have taken up residence during the last hundred years or so. They then encounter a series of warnings and magic traps that the elves intended would discourage adventurers from entering the crypt. It's very possible that they can read these quite easily with the help of magic, but will they heed the warnings? If they fail to heed them, they encounter a clay golem that the elves hoped would be more persuasive in its attempt to discourage intruders. The PCs will also encounter a group of drow who are bent on recovering the traitor's "body" and any knowledge she might possess.
This adventure takes place on a single map:
Player characters might hear rumors of a human archaeological expedition that has uncovered an ancient elven ruin. The archaeologists dismiss the elven legends of the Traitor as simple myth and oral tradition. Elven PCs know better, and they may want to help prevent the humans from unleashing something evil upon the world. Other PCs might be lured into the temple's crypt by promises of treasure.
- An elf in the party may start receiving terrible dreams from Corellon Larethian that show a terrible evil arising from the ground, consuming whole forests in its mouth. These dreams guide the PCs to the temple crypt's entrance.
- An earthquake has unearthed an ancient elven crypt. Not even the oldest elves in the region can recall for whom it was built or when it was buried. The PCs are asked to investigate.
- Scouts have seen spider swarms near a section of ground outside the forest, where spiders are not normally common. This could indicate drow activity in the area, and the PCs must discover what the drow are after.
Gather, Gloom (EL varies)
The adventure begins as the PCs arrive at the entrance to the crypt, finding a sealed door that has only recently been freed from rubble of the surrounding temple. Read the following to the players:
Two large doors made of heavily tarnished silver stand closed in front of you. Delicate carvings of tree branches and sleeping woodland creatures decorate the doors. You can also see other strange markings on the door -- possibly ancient writing. A seal made of wax and gold wire is clasped between the doors. It is unbroken.
Characters who make a Search check (DC 10) notice that the branches are barren, as though in winter, and the woodland creatures aren't sleeping -- they're dead. This is the first clue that something unpleasant is sealed within the crypt. Characters who succeed at their Decipher Script checks as noted in the sidebar can discern some or all of the following literal meanings from the ancient Elven script etched into the doors:
Dark sepulcher, wasted light. Leave or give your soul to restless night. Come no further.
The doors are locked (Open Lock DC 30), reinforced with both iron (just under the silver) and stone (as another set of doors directly behind the silver/iron set).
Crypt Doors: 1 ft. thick; hardness 10; hp 60; AC 5; Break DC 45.
Once the characters are through the door, they enter area 1 of the crypt. Read the following boxed text:
The air here is dry and stale, as though you are the first souls to enter this place for untold centuries. A sense of sadness and death pervades the room. You can barely make out strange inscriptions on the walls -- the same sort of writing you saw on the door. To the north end of the room, you see a pair of silver doors hanging open.
The north end of Area 1, as shown on the map, is a dead magic zone. This means that spells and magic items do not function here at all, as if under the effect of an antimagic field. Any spellcasters who enter this area feel profoundly uncomfortable. Spellcasters can take a move equivalent action to define the exact boundary of the dead magic zone. (For a more complete description of dead magic zones, see the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, page 56.) This area of dead magic was created when Ellowyn betrayed the elves and allowed the drow to shatter the mythal.
The teleport marked on the southern portion of the map is where beings emerge after using the teleport square in area 10. This is how the elves escaped after sealing Ellowyn in her tomb. This teleport system only works one way: from Area 10 to Area 1, never the reverse.
If characters try to decipher the script on the walls, they find that the same messages are repeated:
Let the corruption remain enclosed here forever. The Traitor shall have no rest here.
Save yourself from the corruption.
Development: If the PCs decipher the writing on the walls, they should begin to gather that something terrible is imprisoned here. If they decide to turn around, leaving well enough alone, the drow eventually reach Ellowyn and wake her. Ellowyn dispatches the drow and escapes into the world. If left to her own devices, she probably spends weeks wantonly slaughtering all the elves and drow she encounters before she regains enough sanity to consider her situation in a more "tactical" fashion. She may even notice some trace of the PCs who were at the door to her prison and want to track down these strangers who gained entry into her prison.
If the PCs only partially decipher the messages on the wall, they may have a garbled idea of what's going on, or a completely incorrect idea. Message 2, for instance, could be misunderstood to read, "Save us from this corruption" -- possibly a plea for help from the ancient elves who may have been trapped inside the tomb.
If the PCs are going to move forward, they have to contend with the safeguards the elves put in place, as well as some other creatures that have intruded into the crypt.
The rest of the crypt lies ahead, with unknown dangers in store for the PCs.
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