Excerpts 09/01/2002


City of the Spider Queen
by James Wyatt



Even Hell needs heroes -- especially when a goddess falls silent and a hideous undead army executes the commands of a power-hungry priestess. Journey deep into the Underdark in City of the Spider Queen, the first new D&D adventure for the Forgotten Realms setting. Our sneak peek takes player characters to the Wailing Cliff, a dangerous region where the border between the Material Plane and the Plane of Shadow proves frighteningly thin.

Wailing Cliff

The Wailing Cliff is the result of a powerful seismic incident (more likely magical than natural in origin) that sundered the existing passage between the Lake of Shadows and Maerimydra. Where once the passage ran smoothly, sloping gently downward as it headed east, a 300-foot-high cliff now divides the middle of the passage. Three cavern mouths lead into the cliff face, two of them inhabited by groups of kir-lanan gargoyles and the third housing a shadow dragon.

There seems to be a peculiar planar phenomenon as well as a striking geological one in this area. The borders between the Material Plane and the Plane of Shadow are thin at the Wailing Cliff -- a condition that has several repercussions.

First, shadow walking in the region of the Wailing Cliff is difficult. Any character attempting to shadow walk between Szith Morcane and Maerimydra must make a successful Will save (DC 20) or emerge from the Plane of Shadow 1/2 mile west of the base of the Wailing Cliff, ending the spell. Shadow walk cannot be cast anywhere within 1/2 mile of this spot, meaning that characters must pass the Wailing Cliff and travel at least 1/2 mile beyond it before they can use shadow walk again.

Second, spells cast around the Wailing Cliff may be altered by the proximity of the Plane of Shadow. Spells with the shadow descriptor are enhanced, always functioning as though they were prepared with the Empower Spell feat, though they don’t require higher-level spell slots. Shadow conjuration and shadow evocation spells are 30% (rather than 20%) as powerful as the conjurations and evocations they mimic. Greater shadow conjuration and greater shadow evocation spells are 60% (not 40%) as powerful, and a shades spell conjures at 90% (not 60%) of the original spell's power. To determine the effect of such spells, first apply the effect of the Empower Spell feat, then the percentage above.

Finally, spells that use or generate light or fire may fail when cast in the Wailing Cliff region. A spellcaster attempting a spell with the light or fire descriptor must succeed at a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + spell level) or the spell fails and is ruined.

Kir-Lanan Abilities

The following abilities are shared by all the kir-lanans in the Wailing Cliff area.

Negative Energy Touch (Su): Three times per day, a kir-lanan can empower its touch with negative energy, similar to the chill touch spell. If it hits with a melee touch attack, it deals 2d6 points of damage and 1 point of Strength damage. A successful Fortitude save negates the Strength damage. The kir-lanan heals the same number of points of damage as it deals with this attack, though it cannot exceed its normal maximum hit points by this means.

A kir-lanan can use a claw attack to deliver this negative energy effect, but it must hit with a regular melee attack to do so. It does not regain hit points for the claw damage it inflicts, just the negative energy damage.

Ray of Enfeeblement (Sp): Three times per day, a kir-lanan can use ray of enfeeblement. Caster level 4th; save DC 13.

Rebuke Undead (Su): A kir-lanan can rebuke or command undead three times per day as an evil 13th-level cleric.

Harmed by Positive Energy: Because of the negative energy that suffuses its frame, a kir-lanan is vulnerable to attacks using positive energy, just as undead are. It takes damage from cure spells, holy water, and blessed weapons. It cannot be turned, but it is uncomfortable around such displays of positive energy and generally seeks to avoid a turning cleric anyway.

Like undead, a kir-lanan is healed by inflict spells and other applications of negative energy. It gains 5 temporary hit points for each negative level it would gain from an energy drain effect, such as enervation,energy drain, or a shadow dragon's breath weapon.

The Flight from Maerimydra: The drow of Maerimydra have an ancient pact with the shadow dragon Glouroth that allows them free passage past the Wailing Cliff, but only priestesses of Lolth know about it. When the refugees from Maerimydra passed through here, the priestesses of Lolth who led the party spoke to Glouroth and called upon the pact to guarantee their safety. If the characters have a drow captive with them who happens to be a surviving priestess of Lolth, she speaks a code word to Glouroth that means, "I am a captive, please destroy my captors." Any other drow captive knows nothing about the ancient pact.

W1. Cliff Base

The tunnel opens into the floor of a chasm with no visible ceiling and a floor covered with huge boulders and broken rubble. At the tunnel mouth, a little space has been cleared through the rubble, creating a passage that leads over to the opposite chasm wall -- a sheer cliff of smooth rock that towers upward into the perpetual Underdark gloom. A sound like a constant, low moaning reverberates through the gorge, occasionally rising to a high-pitched wail. A great iron chime hangs by the mouth of the tunnel, with a heavy iron mallet beside it.

The Wailing Cliff is a 300-foot-high sheer rock face (Climb DC 30). The south wall of the chasm is rougher and easier to climb (DC 25), but the tunnel continues at the top of the north wall. The bell is provided so that Underdark travelers who have negotiated passage with the shadow dragon can summon his kir-lanan servitors and gain permission to ascend the cliff. The responses of the dragon and the kir-lanans to the heroes’ two possible approaches are described below.

The Characters Ring the Bell: Ringing the bell alerts not only the kir-lanans in W2 but also the other wing in W3 and the dragon in W4. The five kir-lanans from W2 answer the summons within 1d3+1 rounds. They are indifferent toward parties consisting of nothing but drow characters, unfriendly toward parties of familiar Underdark races, and hostile to all others. If the party consists of nothing but drow, the kir-lanans simply state, "You may ascend if you wish," and watch the group closely. They do not attack unless the party does something to invite suspicion.

Other Underdark dwellers sometimes pass this way and pay a toll to cross Glouroth's territory -- usually goods or coins worth at least 20 gp per person. Extremely persuasive surface dwellers who succeed in modifying the kir-lanans' attitude to unfriendly can buy some time to strike a deal for passage, but doing this is extremely difficult (requiring a Diplomacy check opposed by a kir-lanan's Sense Motive check result). No check is necessary if the party includes at least one drow character.

The Characters Do Not Ring the Bell: Any noise in this area -- even quiet conversation and spellcasting -- draws the attention of the Howling Wing kir-lanans in W2, the entrance to which lies some 70 feet up. These guardians assume that any creatures advancing into the cavern without ringing the bell are enemies. They emerge to attack in 1d3+1 rounds, chasing flying characters on the wing if necessary. If the characters continue flying upward, the Screeching Wing kir-lanans in W3 emerge to fight them when they reach the altitude of that cavern. If they continue up, the kir-lanans shout to the shadow dragon in W4, drawing him out to fight the characters as well.

The best strategy is to deal with the monsters one group at a time. The two groups of kir-lanans do not get along well in general, so they do not cooperate to fight the characters. They never fly into each others' lairs, so fighting the Howling Wing kir-lanans near the entrance to W2 does not draw out the Screeching Wing gargoyles from W3 -- though it does alert them that trouble might be on the way.

It is unusual for two groups of kir-lanans to occupy as small an area as the Wailing Cliff, but the Howling Wing and the Screeching Wing are essentially a single group sundered by the presence of two strong leaders who cannot reconcile with each other. Given the anarchistic nature of kir-lanans, it is not surprising that the membership of the two groups has shifted over the years, with some kir-lanans transferring from one wing to the other more than once.

W2. Howling Wing Cave (EL 13)

If these kir-lanans emerge from their cave to fight the characters, read the following text:

A strongly built humanoid with large black wings emerges from a cave in the cliff wall and takes flight, heading quickly in your direction. Two more step out behind the first, and there seem to be more on the way.

If the characters enter the kir-lanan cavern, read this text:

The darkness in this cavern almost seems to have substance, making the air feel thick and close.

This cavern is the lair of a group of kir-lanan gargoyles (see the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting).

Creatures: The Howling Wing is a loose band of five kir-lanans led by a fighter/sorcerer called Ghindul -- a maniacal tyrant who quashes any hint of rebellion or insubordination, usually with more force than is necessary. His physical strength and the force of his personality, however, demand the kir-lanans’ respect. Ghindul has deep ebony scales and eyes of an unusual rich amethyst purple color.

Ghindul: Male kir-lanan Ftr6/Sor3; CR 11; Medium-size monstrous humanoid; HD 4d8+4 plus 6d10+6 plus 3d4+3; hp 82; Init +6; Spd 30 ft., fly 90 ft. (good); AC 19, touch 13, flat-footed 17; Atk +17 melee (1d4+7, 2 claws); SA negative energy touch, ray of enfeeblement, rebuke undead; SQ bat familiar (Ghaa), darkvision 60 ft., familiar benefits, harmed by positive energy; AL CE; SV Fort +8, Ref +9, Will +8; Str 21, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 8, Wis 8, Cha 14.

Skills and Feats: Concentration +4, Escape Artist +6, Hide +10, Listen +4, Move Silently +6, Spot +7, Use Magic Device +6; Alertness, Blind-Fight, Combat Casting, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Weapon Focus (claw), Weapon Specialization (claw).

Negative Energy Touch (Su): The Fortitude save DC for this ability is 18; see Kir-lanan Abilities sidebar.

Ray of Enfeeblement (Sp): The Fortitude save DC for this ability is 13; see Kir-lanan Abilities sidebar.

Rebuke Undead (Su): Ghindul rebukes undead as a 13th-level cleric; see Kir-lanan Abilities sidebar.

Familiar Benefits: Ghindul has a bat familiar named Ghaa, who grants him Alertness when he is within 5 feet. Ghindul has an empathic link with Ghaa to a distance of 1 mile, and he can share spells with Ghaa. In addition, Ghaa can deliver touch spells for Ghindul.

Sorcerer Spells Known (6/6 per day; base DC 12 + spell level): 0 -- arcane mark, daze, detect magic, mage hand, ray of frost; 1st -- expeditious retreat, magic missile, true strike.

Possessions: Bracers of armor +3, ring of protection +1, 2 potions of inflict serious wounds, potion of blur, 2 tanglefoot bags.

Ghaa: Male bat familiar; Diminutive magical beast; HD 9d8; hp 31; Init +2; Spd 5 ft., fly 40 ft. (good); AC 18, touch 16, flat-footed 14; SQ blindsight, improved evasion; AL N; SV Fort +7, Ref +7, Will +9; Str 1, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 7, Wis 14, Cha 4. Skills: Listen +9 (or +5 if blindsight is negated), Move Silently +6, Spot +9 (or +5 if blindsight is negated).

Kir-Lanan Fighters (4): Male and female kir-lanan Ftr6; CR 8; Medium-size monstrous humanoid; HD 4d8+8 plus 6d10+12; hp 67, 66, 64, 51; Init +2; Spd 30 ft., fly 90 ft. (good); AC 18, touch 12, flat-footed 16; Atk +16 melee (1d4+7/19-20, 2 claws); SA negative energy touch, ray of enfeeblement, rebuke undead; SQ darkvision 60 ft., harmed by positive energy; AL CE; SV Fort +8, Ref +8, Will +8; Str 20, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 8.

Skills and Feats: Climb +10, Escape Artist +5, Hide +10, Listen +5, Move Silently +6, Spot +6, Use Magic Device +3; Blind-Fight, Combat Reflexes, Flyby Attack, Improved Critical (claw), Iron Will, Weapon Focus (claw), Weapon Specialization (claw).

Negative Energy Touch (Su): The Fortitude save DC for this ability is 13; see Kir-lanan Abilities sidebar.

Ray of Enfeeblement (Sp): The Fortitude save DC for this ability is 10; see Kir-lanan Abilities sidebar.

Rebuke Undead (Su): The kir-lanan fighters rebuke undead as 10th-level clerics; see Kir-lanan Abilities sidebar.

Possessions: 2 potions of inflict serious wounds; additional items by individual: Fighter 1: stone salve, 2 tanglefoot bags; Fighter 2: gloves of arrow snaring, 2 tanglefoot bags; Fighter 3: necklace of fireballs (type V), 2 tanglefoot bags; Fighter 4: horn of goodness/evil, 2 tanglefoot bags.

Tactics: The Howling Wing is somewhat notorious for its use of tanglefoot bags against flying opponents. Each member of the wing carries two tanglefoot bags, which they hurl at opponents with wings or (as a second choice) at spellcasters. Winged creatures that are entangled cannot fly.

Treasure: The kir-lanans offer most valuables they find to Glouroth as tribute, but they have hidden away a few items that the dragon does not know about. Concealed beneath a small pile of loose stones lies a belt pouch of drow manufacture containing 30 pp, 55 gp, 80 sp, and two potions of cure serious wounds. (The kir-lanans cannot make use of the healing potions.) Beside the pouch is a wand of invisibility with 11 charges remaining.

W3. Screeching Wing Cave (EL 13)

This natural tunnel penetrates only 25 feet into the cliff wall, but then turns sharply downward and opens into a cavern below.

This cavern is the home of the second kir-lanan wing, known as the Screeching Wing. The cave entrance drops down 20 feet to the floor of the main cavern. This layout is not a concern for flying characters, but it is for others, since there is no wall to climb down within easy reach of the hole in the entrance tunnel floor.

Creatures: The Screeching Wing consists of only four kir-lanans, though its leader, Phaikkul, is arguably more powerful than the leader of the Howling Wing. Several kir-lanans have drifted back and forth between the two groups, but most of Ghindul's followers are uncomfortable with Phaikkul because she is not a full-blooded kir-lanan. She is a half-shadow dragon, the daughter of Glouroth, whose lair is in the large cavern above (W4). Though her dragon blood undeniably gives her enough power to command the obedience of her wing, kir-lanans are naturally suspicious of other creatures, and that suspicion extends to halfbreeds such as Phaikkul in the minds of Ghindul's followers.

Phaikkul is an amazing physical specimen. Where most kir-lanans have very fine scales like those of a snake or lizard, the dark gray scales on Phaikkul's chest and back are large and thick, like a dragon's. The horns over her temples are long and sharply pointed, and her ears are large and frilled, like those of a shadow dragon. She has a spiny crest running down her back, with thin skin stretched between the spines like a sheet of shadows. Her tail is unusually long and thick, and it bears spines of its own. Her eyes glow emerald green.

Like Ghindul, Phaikkul rules her wing with an iron hand, though she is not prone to fits of unreasoning fury. Rather, she tends to speak quietly and with subtle statements, revealing the full force of her wrath only when directly challenged.

Phaikkul: Female half-kir-lanan/half-dragon (shadow) Ftr8; CR 12; Medium-size dragon; HD 4d10+12 plus 8d10+24; hp 100; Init +3; Spd 30 ft., fly 90 ft. (good); AC 27, touch 14, flat-footed 24; Atk +23 melee (1d4+12, 2 claws) and +18 melee (1d6+7, bite); SA breath weapon (energy drain), negative energy touch, ray of enfeeblement, rebuke undead; SQ dragon traits, energy drain immunity, harmed by positive energy; AL CE; SV Fort +4, Ref +9, Will +5; Str 30, Dex 16, Con 16, Int 14, Wis 8, Cha 10.

Skills and Feats: Climb +17, Escape Artist +7, Hide +16, Listen +7, Move Silently +10, Spot +7, Use Magic Device +5; Blind-Fight, Combat Reflexes, Expertise, Flyby Attack, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (claw), Weapon Focus (bite), Weapon Specialization (claw), Weapon Specialization (bite).

Breath Weapon (Su): Phaikkul's breath weapon is a cone of billowing, smoky shadows with an energy drain effect. Any creature within the 30-ft. cone gains 1 negative level unless it makes a successful Reflex save (DC 18). The Fortitude save to remove the negative level also has a DC of 18.

Negative Energy Touch (Su): The Fortitude save DC for this ability is 16; see Kir-lanan Abilities sidebar.

Ray of Enfeeblement (Sp): The Fortitude save DC for this ability is 13; see Kir-lanan Abilities sidebar.

Rebuke Undead (Su): Phaikkul rebukes undead as a 12th-level cleric; see Kir-lanan Abilities sidebar.

Dragon Traits: Phaikkul is immune to sleep and paralysis effects. She has darkvision 60 ft. and low-light vision.

Possessions: +2 chain shirt, ring of protection +1, gauntlets of ogre power, potion of inflict serious wounds.

Tactics: If Phaikkul is badly injured (reduced to 20 or fewer hit points), she flees to W4 to shelter in her father’s lair. The rest of her wing breaks off and flees to the remote reaches of the great cliff cavern if Phaikkul gives up the fight.

Treasure: Like her rival Ghindul, Phaikkul has profited from the refugees of Maerimydra who fled this way. In a hidden nook of her cave (Search DC 20) she has a cache containing 390 gp, 855 sp, and several pieces of jewelry -- a copper bracelet worth 60 gp, a fine mithral necklace of sapphires worth 1,100 gp, and a gold hairnet worth 250 gp.

Kir-Lanan Fighters (3): Male and female kir-lanan Ftr6; CR 8; Medium-size monstrous humanoid; HD 4d8+8 plus 6d10+12; hp 78, 59, 52; Init +2; Spd 30 ft., fly 90 ft. (good); AC 18, touch 12, flat-footed 16; Atk +16 melee (1d4+7/19-20, 2 claws); SA negative energy touch, ray of enfeeblement, rebuke undead; SQ darkvision 60 ft., harmed by positive energy; AL CE; SV Fort +8, Ref +8, Will +8; Str 20, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 8.

Skills and Feats: Climb +10, Escape Artist +5, Hide +10, Listen +5, Move Silently +6, Spot +6, Use Magic Device +3; Blind-Fight, Combat Reflexes, Flyby Attack, Improved Critical (claw), Iron Will, Weapon Focus (claw), Weapon Specialization (claw).

Negative Energy Touch (Su): The Fortitude save DC for this ability is 13; see Kir-lanan Abilities sidebar.

Ray of Enfeeblement (Sp): The Fortitude save DC for this ability is 10; see Kir-lanan Abilities sidebar.

Rebuke Undead (Su): The kir-lanan fighters rebuke undead as 10th-level clerics; see Kir-lanan Abilities sidebar.

Possessions: 2 potions of inflict serious wounds; additional items by individual: Fighter 1: 2 beads of force; Fighter 2: stone salve; Fighter 3: wind fan.

W4. Glouroth's Cave (EL 15)
A gaping hole in the cliff wall, fully 40 feet wide and half that high, opens into a still wider cavern. Shadows seem to pool on the floor and rise into mounds -- or is it some trick of darkness that makes the shadows look like mounds of coins piled on the floor? Certainly, the shadows here seem alive, billowing through the air like clouds of dark vapor and slinking menacingly along the floor.

This cave is the lair of Glouroth, a mature adult shadow dragon and the father of Phaikkul. Though his long-ago dalliance among the kir-lanans produced a daughter (Phaikkul) who lives nearby, the dragon pays little attention to the gargoyles now, considering them hardly worth his notice.

Creature: Glouroth is a seething mass of hatred and fury hidden behind a mask of calm, well-mannered subtlety. He slinks in the darkness, using his shadow blend ability to make himself nearly invisible, and speaks in a hissing whisper, murmuring quiet pleasantries while his thoughts are consumed with blood and murder. Whether these behaviors are all part of some game he plays with himself or signs of deep mental imbalance is unclear, but the overall effect is that he verbally plays with his food before devouring it.

When he tires of banter, he casts deeper darkness (since he can rely on his blindsight), then uses his breath weapon to affect as many opponents as he can. Next he literally leaps into melee (or uses dimension door to appear among a group of opponents) and uses his six melee attacks to wreak havoc on the party. He breathes as often as he can, knowing that every creature that succumbs becomes a significantly weaker opponent. He uses his spells primarily for backup support: true strike to help him hit opponents he's having trouble hitting (or to maximize the benefits of his Power Attack), ray of enfeeblement against strong opponents who deal too much damage to him, and deeper darkness if his first use of it is dispelled.

Glouroth: Male mature adult shadow dragon; CR 15; Large dragon (shadow); HD 22d12+88; hp 232; Init +4; Spd 80 ft., fly 150 ft. (poor); AC 34, touch 9, flat-footed 34; Atk +27 melee (2d6+6, bite) and +22 melee (1d8+3, 2 claws) and +22 melee (1d6+3, 2 wings), +22 melee (1d8+9, tail slap); Face/Reach 5 ft. by 10 ft./10 ft.; SA breath weapon (energy drain), frightful presence, spell-like abilities, spells; SQ blindsight, dragon traits, DR 10/+1, energy drain immunity, keen senses, shadow blend, SR 25; AL CE; SV Fort +17, Ref +13, Will +18; Str 23, Dex 10, Con 19, Int 20, Wis 20, Cha 21.

Skills and Feats: Bluff +27, Concentration +25, Diplomacy +27, Escape Artist +22, Hide +18, Jump +26, Knowledge (Underdark history) +27, Knowledge (Underdark local) +27, Listen +29, Move Silently +22, Search +27, Spellcraft +27, Spot +29; Alertness, Flyby Attack, Hover, Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Wingover.

Breath Weapon (Su): Glouroth’s breath weapon is a cone of billowing, smoky shadows with an energy drain effect. Any creature within the 40-ft. cone gains 4 negative levels, or 2 negative levels with a successful Reflex save (DC 26). The Fortitude save to remove the negative level also has a DC of 26.

Frightful Presence (Ex): Whenever Glouroth attacks, charges, or flies overhead, every creature within a radius of 180 feet with fewer than 22 HD must make a successful Will save (DC 26) or become shaken for 4d6 rounds (or panicked if it has 4 or fewer HD). Creatures that successfully save are immune to Glouroth’s frightful presence for one day.

Sorcerer Spells Known(6/8/7/5 per day; caster level 7th; base DC 15 + spell level): 0 -- arcane mark, daze, detect magic, disrupt undead, mage hand, ray of frost, read magic; 1st -- chill touch, mage armor, magic missile, ray of enfeeblement, true strike; 2nd -- blur, invisibility, resist elements; 3rd -- deeper darkness,dispel magic.

Spell-Like Abilities: 3/day -- mirror image; 2/day -- dimension door. Caster level 7th; save DC 15 + spell level.

Dragon Traits: Glouroth is immune to sleep and paralysis effects. He has darkvision 60 ft. and low-light vision.

Shadow Blend (Su): During any conditions other than full daylight, Glouroth can disappear into the shadows, giving him nine-tenths concealment. Artificial illumination, even a light or continual flame spell, does not negate this ability, but a daylight spell does.

Substitution: Use an old black dragon in place of the shadow dragon.

Treasure: The heaps of treasure are no illusion or trick of the shadows. In proper draconic fashion, Glouroth has amassed quite a fortune in his cavern lair. The kir-lanans, knowing that Glouroth is quick to anger and unceasing in his vengeance, no longer try to steal anything from his hoard.

The foundation of the hoard is 7,700 gold pieces and 13,200 silver pieces. Scattered among the coins are eleven gems: two 7-gp crowns of silver, an 11-gp violine, a 40-gp moonstone, a 50-gp onyx, an 80-gp jet, a 300-gp black pearl, a 900-gp black corundum, a 1,000-gp black opal, a 1,000-gp black star sapphire, and a 6,000-gp jacinth. The pile also includes three potions: a potion of lesser restoration, a potion of endurance, and a potion of clairaudience/clairvoyance. A single scroll in a bone tube contains the arcane versions of summon monster V and teleport. Finally, the hoard includes a wand of cure light wounds (38 charges), a rod of thunder and lightning, and a quiver of sixteen +2 shocking arrows.

W5. Cliff's Top
At the top of the cliff the tunnel stretches toward the east, continuing the passageway from some 300 feet below. Another large iron chime stands here, with a mallet beside it.

The residents of the Wailing Cliff do not pursue fleeing prey beyond the area shown on the map because they enjoy the local proximity to the Plane of Shadow. The bell is used as described under W1 to announce a traveler's intention to pass, except that Phaikkul's wing (the kir-lanans in W3) is first to respond to a summons from this one.

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