Got adventurers and need an adventure or two? Take a look at Fantastic Locations: Fane of the Drow from the D&D Fantastic Locations series and Sons of Gruumsh, a Forgotten Realms campaign supplement and adventure. Fane of the Drow is a 16-page adventure booklet with battle maps, and DMs can combine the encounters within the product if they want a short adventure for four 4th-level characters. Those using miniatures will enjoy the product since the battle maps are at the correct scale. As for Sons of Gruumsh, it is a longer adventure for four 4th-level characters, and it occurs in the Moonsea region of the Forgotten Realms setting. The excerpts below include information from the beginning of each book so that you can get a better idea of what you'll find inside each product. Warning: Adventure spoilers are ahead, so ask your friendly neighborhood DM to read further on your behalf.
This adventure takes place in the Moonsea region of Faerûn, an inhospitable land marked by seafaring city-states. The Moonsea offers much to anyone wanting to earn a reputation or a fortune. Nearly every type of creature, monstrous and humanoid, lives in this region. The machinations of Zhentil Keep and the other cities are numerous and deadly. What no one in the city-states realizes is that an orc horde is massing in the land of Thar north of the city of Melvaunt. Properly led and organized, this army could put the entire area to the torch.
Meanwhile, the city of Melvaunt has a crisis of its own. Several scions of the great families have disappeared, and the player characters have been recruited to find and rescue them. Their investigation leads deep into the rugged wilderness of Thar where, of course, they discover the dire orc threat.
Sons of Gruumsh is a Dungeons & Dragons adventure designed for four 4th-level characters. Player characters should advance at least one level in the course of the adventure and perhaps two by its conclusion.
As Dungeon Master, you need four books to run this adventure: the Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide, the Monster Manual, and the Forgotten RealmsCampaign Setting. Monster Manual III, Monsters of Faerûn, and Races of Faerûn might also be useful.
If you are planning to run this adventure in the Moonsea region, review the information presented on pages 159-165 of the Forgotten RealmsCampaign Setting. Otherwise, feel free to modify the adventure to suit a different location.
The encounters in Sons of Gruumsh are designed for use with Dungeons & Dragons miniatures. In some cases, a miniature represents a character or creature perfectly; in others, the adventure suggests an appropriate miniature when a perfect match isn't possible. This information is presented as part of the creature's statistics block.
Paragraphs in italic type should be read aloud to the players or paraphrased at the appropriate times. Sidebars contain additional information for the DM.
Deep in the wastes of Thar, an orc adept named Jurrg received a dream from her deity, the great one-eyed Gruumsh: A leader would soon emerge from the Underdark and lead her people into glorious battle against the humans, sweeping their cities into the sea. Her dream told her to wait at the ruins of the once mighty orc bastion of Xûl-Jarak, the Gray Citadel. Jurrg and her brother Rûlgar made their home in the ruins, and after months of waiting, heard something other than moaning Tharan winds. Three massive orogs emerged from deep below the citadel and approached them.
Jurrg prostrated herself before the orogs. To her, these enormous orcs, with their luminescent eyes, elongated ears, and massive bodies, represented the epitome of orckind. She asked Thrull, the leader of these "sons of Gruumsh," to command her. He sent the siblings back into the wilderness to gather other worthy followers. Five years have passed since that fateful encounter, and many orcs have gathered at Xûl-Jarak. They have begun to rebuild the citadel and, more important, the large dungeon complex the citadel is designed to protect.
Compounding the orc threat, a few months ago Rûlgar found the fabled Hammer of Gruumsh, great maul of the Tharan orc kings, in the foothills of the Galena Mountains. Jurrg and the orogs view its discovery as a sign of Gruumsh's favor, and continue their efforts to unite the various orc tribes of Thar and expand their army in preparation for a march against the human cities.
The people living in Melvaunt, distracted by the affairs of Zhentil Keep and other evils, pay little heed to the orcs of Thar. Oreal Nanther, the scion of an influential noble family in Melvaunt and a relatively inexperienced adventurer, filled his head with childhood stories about the great battles fought in Thar and the even greater artifacts said to lie there, waiting to be discovered in the tombs of fallen kings. He shared these dreams with several companions, including other noble youths. For months, the companions have secretly embarked on adventures in Thar. Tragically, none returned from their most recent outing. Few in Melvaunt know what has happened to the scions, and their disappearance threatens a bloody civil war.
The adventure begins as the PCs arrive in the city of Melvaunt (they are assumed to be visitors; if natives, the text must be adjusted in places). Believing the PCs are eager for gold and politically impartial, Woarsten Nanther, patriarch of House Nanther and father of Oreal, has called them to the city to locate his errant son and bring him home. It is up to the PCs to discover and follow Oreal's trail, while avoiding as much of the intrigue-laden politics of the city as possible.
The search for the noble heirs eventually leads the characters into the wilds of Thar. There they confront treacherous terrain and savage denizens. They discover an ambush site and one of the companions dead. The orc signs are clear, and the trail leads to the citadel of Xûl-Jarak.
The orog leader Thrull has declared himself warlord of Thar. To mark this mighty event, Jurrg has contrived a ritual to give Thrull the blessing of Gruumsh himself. Representatives from various tribes that have not pledged fealty to the orogs have come to witness the occasion and determine whether Thrull is worthy to command them. More important to the PCs, the ritual execution of the captured scions is an integral part of Jurrg's ceremony. The PCs must negotiate the citadel of Xûl-Jarak and the dungeon complex beneath it to reach the scions, and then pry the captives from Thrull's clutches. If they succeed, they stave off civil war in Melvaunt and undermine, if not destroy, Thrull's plans of conquest.
Even after returning to Melvaunt, the PCs are not safe. A band of orc cutthroats have successfully infiltrated Melvaunt! Gruumsh hungers for the heroes' blood, and the orcs want to please their god.
Part 1: The Lost Scions
The first part of Sons of Gruumsh sees the PCs navigate the ruthless politics of Melvaunt to find the trail of the lost scion of House Nanther and his adventuring companions.
Arrival in Melvaunt
Read or paraphrase the following text to the players:
You have arrived in the city of Melvaunt, which sits on the northwestern shore of the Moonsea. Melvaunt has a reputation for being a place rife with danger and intrigue, and ripe with potential for adventure, wealth, and fame. You carry with you the seal of Woarsten Nanther, patriarch of a powerful and influential noble Melvaunt family. The seal has gained you free passage into the city, though not without a thorough inspection by the town watch (they seem particularly suspicious). Once inside, you observe that Melvaunt is a dirty city with labyrinthine streets, smoke-clogged air, and grumpy locals. Best be on your guard!
The PCs can make Gather Information, Knowledge (local), or bardic knowledge checks to learn more about Melvaunt, either as they're making their way through the city streets or once they reach a tavern.
Natives to the city gain a +10 circumstance bonus on this check.
DC 5: Melvaunt is often referred to as the merchant capital of the Moonsea. Bitter rivalries plague the city's merchant families, the most powerful of which are the houses of Bruil, Nanther, and Leiyraghon.
DC 10: Although the city itself is dirty and inhospitable, the inns and taverns are usually clean and relatively safe -- no surprise, really, since much of the city's business is handled within their comfortable walls. The Crow's Nest tavern has the best food and coziest cots in the city.
DC 12: The city is usually raucous and dangerous to lone or unarmed travelers. At present, it seems subdued and guarded. The people eye each other warily, and hurry about their business.
DC 15: The scions of the great houses of Melvaunt are missing. Paid toughs wander the streets looking for them, but mostly just cause trouble.
DC 18: Orcs have been attacking outlying farms and trade roads, occasionally kidnapping folk before withdrawing into the foggy depths of Thar.
DC 20: Two Melvauntian diplomats died recently in the city of Mulmaster, both under mysterious circumstances. This could be a sign that Mulmaster is preparing a fleet to attack Melvaunt.
The Crow's Nest
The biggest and most prominent tavern in Melvaunt is the Crow's Nest. The PCs may travel there first or stop in at any other inn. With small adjustments, the details presented here can describe any tavern they choose.
The Nest is popular with merchants and sailors, and is always a hotbed of rumor and speculation. The building appears very old; a few local scholars debate whether this round tower of stone and wood actually predates the founding of Melvaunt.
The first two stories are seamless stone, 5 feet thick. The next three stories are made of newer wood and house meeting rooms and bedrooms of various sizes and luxuriousness. They are all available for rent (2 sp per night for a cheap bedroom, 5 sp per night for a modest bedroom, and 1 gp per night for a luxurious bedroom). The first floor holds a main dining room and taproom separated by the entryway "reception" room, where the bouncer, Ongom (NG male human warrior 6), welcomes guests. Behind him, down a hallway, is a flight of stairs to the upper stories and beyond that, an enormous kitchen. The second story houses longtime residents and special guests as well as a separate common room. Access to this floor is gained via a locked door (Open Lock DC 30) on the second floor landing.
Pluarty Crow (NG male human bard 6) is the latest in a long line of Crows to run the place. He has a mixed heritage and knows people in all social circles. He treats everyone equally, from the saltiest sailor to the best-dressed merchant-noble, and he tries not to embroil himself in Melvaunt's cutthroat politics. He is willing to make introductions to nearly anyone in town if the PCs ask, but remains strictly neutral. His favorite pastime is telling scary pirate tales to children around bonfires behind The Nest.
Meeting Lord Nanther
Whether they stop at an inn or make their way directly, the PCs should visit Lord Nanther's estate as soon as possible. When they arrive, their seal is inspected carefully, but then they enjoy all of the hospitality the staff can muster. In short order, Woarsten Nanther himself appears.
Woarsten Nanther enters the room, leaning heavily on a gold-tipped ivory cane with a handle shaped like an ibis head. He has the slightly disheveled appearance of a man who hasn't slept in days, although he is well dressed and capable of feigning a smile. After dispensing with introductions, he collapses into a large padded chair and fixes his steely gaze upon each of you.
"I wish to pay you 1,000 platinum pieces to find my son, Oreal. While he's a grown man and I don't follow his activities on a daily basis, he hasn't been seen for five days -- far too long. Worse, rumors abound that other noble scions are missing. I've exhausted all prudent avenues of investigation, but with the increased orc raiding of late and the heightened tension caused by the missing sons, I'm afraid I have little to show. I am certain you, as neutral operatives, will have better fortune. I must warn you, as the lord of this great house, I have many enemies, both within the city and without. Some no doubt seek to take advantage of this distraction to undermine my authority. House Nanther's utter destruction is not beyond the pale. Such is the politics of this wretched city.
"Please bring my son back to me, forcibly if need be, safely and soundly. If you find the other scions, please return them as well -- surely the other great houses will blame House Nanther for any death or harm inflicted upon their kin. Just to be clear, however, the platinum I am paying you is for Oreal's safe return alone."
If the PCs haggle, he agrees to cover their basic expenses in Melvaunt without too much fuss. However, it takes a successful DC 30 Diplomacy check to persuade him to increase the reward, and he will not pay them any more than 1,500 pp regardless.
Woarsten can provide a picture sketch of his son, Oreal. He knows the following additional information:
-- The other missing youths are Argens Bruil, Kalman Leiyraghon, Elaint Marsk, and Kara Calaudra.
-- Oreal has some ranger training but is carefree, spoiled, and reckless. He also is far too trusting. He has even gone so far as to argue that peace between the great houses is possible, perhaps among the younger generation. Woarsten forbade him from pursuing any liaisons that would undermine House Nanther's security or position.
-- The greatest enemies of House Nanther are Lord Dornig Leiyraghon, a "rotten man with a vicious temper," and the Lord of Keys, Halmuth Bruil. Not surprisingly, Lord Leiyraghon has refused to meet with Woarsten or respond to his missives. Lord Bruil is purportedly conducting an investigation but has sent no report to House Nanther.
-- The Bruils and lesser houses of Melvaunt wouldn't dare raise a finger against House Nanther. It's very unlikely they had any hand in Oreal's disappearance.
-- Assassins from Zhentil Keep or Mulmaster are always a concern, but they probably had no hand in the disappearances.
-- Orc raids on the infrequent caravans to the northern settlement of Glister and on outlying farms have become much more pronounced lately. Still, the city is safe from their depredations and no orc would dare attack a noble family.