Chest of Misfit Items
In the spirit of the holidays (and all accompanying merrymaking), we offer the following encounter,
Dungeon Masters can use the "Chest of Misfit Items" as a continuation of Nicolas the Gift-Giver's Northern Palace. While none of the Northern Palace gnomes are quick to discuss the matter, PCs exploring the workshop may overhear the rare outburst that an especially poorly constructed toy (which are constructed from time to time; even these gnomes occasionally fail their crafting checks) is destined for the "the wicked brothers' workshop," If pressed, the gnomes will not speak much more of the matter, only vaguely and uncomfortably muttering of a cavern "somewhere beneath the palace."
Another visitor to the Northern Palace (or another location the PCs frequent, if the Chest of Misfit Items is not connected here) is "Tundra" Koran, a ranger and miner in these far northern lands. "Tundra" knows something of this mysterious cavern and its workshop, and he can offer to lead PCs to its general location if they are so inclined. Nicolas himself may well encourage the PCs to search out the cavern, noting that the "wicked brothers" and their creations have been left untended for too long; furthermore, Nicolas offers to exchange any item recovered from the brothers' chest for something more suitable, if they wish (using the random gift table).
"Tundra" Koran: Ranger 3. Use the stats for Koran, the Neanderthal Hunter, from Frostburn, page 173. Replace one skill (Hide or Move Silently) with Profession (miner) and his tigerskull club with a heavy pick. "Tundra" mines these northern lands for hidden ore (both silver and gold), believing a rich vein may exist within the cavern . . . though he has dared not venture too close before on his own.
1. Cavern Entrance (EL 1)
The cavern and its workshop wait at the bottom of a massive icy crevasse (100 feet deep, 10 feet wide, and over a mile long), atop which sits the nearby Northern Palace. Finding the cavern itself is a trial of endurance, since stiff winds perpetually roar through the crevasse floor, reducing vision and drowning out all sounds. At the bottom of the crevasse, the cavern itself easily might be missed if not for the pile of broken toys at its entrance -- castoffs, dropped here from the gnomes above. The cavern's chief occupants, two mephit brothers, occasionally appear to collect the most useful items for their chest.
One item left by the cavern entrance is a small, pink wooden box. This box contains the upper torso of a toy balor mounted on a spring, and it is warded by a permanent alarm spell. Whenever any Tiny or larger creature approaches within 20 feet, the balor emerges through a trapdoor in the top of the box (and thus alerts the mephit brothers inside the cavern via mental alarm). The balor-in-the-box is a small animated object, and despite having no legs, it can use its large spring to jump, retaining its movement speed of 30 feet.
Balor-in-the-Box (Small Animated Construct): hp 15; see Monster Manual page 13; treat as a small chest with a hardness of 5 (PHB page 166).
2. The Cavern Workshop (EL 6)
Once inside the cavern, the wind and driving snow are effectively blocked by jagged teeth of icy stalactites and stalagmites at the entrance. Further in, the cavern ice has been noticeably shaped (thanks to the mephits' spells) into a habitable workshop, lit by several coal-burning braziers. Workbenches and tables have been set up throughout, and each bench or table displays a variety of twisted, bladed tools suggesting fiendish purposes. Many of the tables have toys held in their clamps, resembling prisoners in torture chambers -- these being the mephits' current projects. A close look reveals these toys are in the process of being outfit with traps.
If alerted to intruders, the workshop's mephit brothers hide near the ceiling (20 feet up). Otherwise, they can be found at work on their latest fiendish toys. In either case, they attack intruders at the most opportune time, preferring to send their pet yeti in first and cast their spells from above.
Brother Heat (Fire Mephit): hp 15; see Monster Manual page 182.
Brother Snow (Ice Mephit): hp 15; see Monster Manual page 182.
Despite their diametric natures, these two mephits claim to be brothers. Many years prior, they journeyed to the Northern Palace seeking employment. Nicolas, welcoming all at first, took them on . . . until he discovered the two mephits hiding traps and harmful spells within the toys they built. Although the brothers swore these to be harmless practical jokes, they were banished from the workshop and took up residence in this nearby cavern -- where they now plot their overthrow of the Nicolas, using an imagined army of yeti conscripts and deadly toys.
The mephits are skilled tacticians, and they know to stay away from each other's breath weapons and spells; they also use their conflicting breath weapons and heat metal/chill metal effects to confound opponents (who may be prepared against one type of energy, but not the other). Furthermore, they'll use the workshop's braziers to help facilitate the fire mephit's healing; these braziers have also caused nearby icy stalactites to thaw and drip into several large pools of water, which the ice mephit will use to its advantage by freezing it into slicks or freezing the water around the legs of anyone standing in them.
The mephits have long kept -- and tormented -- their "pet," a yeti that once wandered into the cavern and which the mephit brothers decided to keep. "Rumble" has suffered far too many of the mephits' scorching rays and magic missiles keeping it in check, and he has gone completely insane. The yeti viciously attacks any intruders that the mephits indicate. However, any magical healing cast on the yeti will cause it to cease all aggression and (if permitted) peacefully leave the cavern back into the wild.
Rumble (Yeti): hp 30; see Frostburn page 162.
Treasure: The mephits have a collection of scrolls for both arcane and divine casters that equals about 7,600 gp in value. DMs are encouraged to have some fun picking out scrolls that might have attracted the attention of the mephits at some point.
3. Chest of Misfit Items
In the rear of the cavern, the brothers store their prized possession: a chest containing their favorite misfit items, either created by them or collected and repaired from the gnome's castoffs. The chest's faceplate resembles a winged lion wearing a crown, which has been given a permanent magic mouth challenging anyone opening it that the chest provides only that which the PCs deserve. The lion further implores them to search their hearts to decide if they have performed more good deeds than bad in the past year. Regardless of the characters' natures, at first glance the chest appears to be filled entirely with lumps of coal; however, this is a permanent illusion cast over the chest's true contents.
The chest contains a number of minor cursed items, several of which may already be wrapped and addressed to former enemies of the mephits in other parts of the world. Feel free to select appropriately minor cursed items, or choose from the following below.
Toy Lightning Rail
One of the mephits' first items created in the Northern Palace; this model lightning rail engine randomly casts a 1st-level shocking grasp spell once per day on anyone playing with it.
Faint evocation; CL 1st; Craft Wondrous Item, bestow curse,shocking grasp; Price 400 gp.
This child's doll, which resembles a white and pink dotted thaskor (from the Miniatures Handbook, page 70), seems to have no apparent value -- except to anyone foolish enough to handle it. Then, the doll exhibits two cursed effects (from the Dungeon Master's Guide, page 273): First, anyone taking hold of the doll becomes selfishly possessive about it; second, that person becomes paranoid about losing the doll and starts obsessing about preventing it from taking any damage.
CL n/a; Craft Wondrous Item, bestow curse; Price n/a.
This item resembles a handheld crossbow of the kind favored by drow. However, it has no firing string, nor groove to accept a quarrel; instead, 3/day when the trigger is pulled, the item functions as a rod of create food and water -- with the exception that the only nourishment created is a small flask's worth of jelly, as follows:
Faint conjuration; CL 3rd; Craft Wondrous Item, bestow curse,create food and water; Price 2,000 gp.
The silver raven is no less than a figurine of wondrous power of the same name -- except when activated, this raven assumes the aquatic template (from Stormwrack), which replaces its flight movement with swimming. Furthermore, once activated the raven cannot survive out of water; after 3 rounds out of water, the raven reverts back to a figurine and cannot be recalled for 24 hours.
Faint enchantment and transmutation; CL 6th; Craft Wondrous Item, animate objects,bestow curse; Price 1,600 gp.
Another of the mephits' creations, this common raggamoffyn appears as a set of human child-sized winter clothing (coat, scarf, hat, gloves, boots). Once donned, the clothing causes the wearer to experience a feeling of uncomfortable warmth; should the wearer attempt to remove any item of clothing, the raggamoffyn will attack.
Common Raggamoffyn: hp 15, see Monster Manual II page 174.
Concluding the Encounter
If "Tundra" remains with the party, he searches the cavern for any sign of silver or gold, eventually lamenting that he cannot find this long-suspected vein of ore. Any items from the chest that are returned to Nicolas are graciously accepted (he is also immune to their effects), so that they may be properly disposed of lest anyone be harmed by them.
Happy holidays to all! And to all, a good night . . . of adventure. We'd like to thank our holiday contributors, and point out the following message board thread, which also introduces the much dreaded Tangled Christmas Lights Golem.
About the Authors
Bart Carroll wore out the binding on his 1st edition D&D books flipping so many times to the combat charts. Nowadays he produces the D&D website, and can be found on the message boards as "Seattle Fiction".
Mark A. Jindra has been a fan of Dungeons & Dragons for over 25 years. In 1998 he landed his dream job as a web developer for Wizards of the Coast and is currently the developer of the D&D website.
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