Excerpts 02/02/2006


Red Hand of Doom Excerpt
By James Jacobs and Richard Baker



The Red Hand of Doom is an exciting super-adventure that pits heroes against an army bent on domination. Rampaging hobgoblins and their allies threaten to destroy the realm and all who stand before them. Characters who dare confront the horde soon discover that these particular hobgoblins worship Tiamat, the evil queen of dragons, and eventually come face-to-face with her draconic minions. The excerpts below include the introduction and adventure outline, two sample encounters, and statistics for the encounters. (Crafty DMs may find the encounters and their relevant statistics useful in other ways, too!)

The Fane of Tiamat

In Part IV, the PCs finally got the chance to face off against the Red Hand horde. They might have managed to turn back the hobgoblins, or they might have been forced to abandon Brindol in shame and defeat. In the former case, one step remains to ensure that the hobgoblin host does not return. In the latter, one last desperate chance exists to decapitate the horde and save Elsir Vale from complete domination -- for the true leader of the Red Hand still lives.

This final part of Red Hand of Doom begins as Lord Jarmaath takes the PCs aside to give them some disturbing news. This meeting can take place in the council room of Brindol Keep amid a victory celebration, or it can take place on the road to Dennovar at the head of the last refugees to escape the burning city. In either case, Lord Jarmaath's request is the same -- he asks the PCs to travel to the Wyrmsmoke Mountains to confront and defeat High Wyrmlord Azarr Kul himself at the seat of his power in the Fane of Tiamat.

Based on intelligence gathered by his spies and from captured prisoners and recovered documents, and from the details of the horde supplied to him by the PCs, Lord Jarmaath has made a troubling discovery -- namely, the strange and terrible dragonspawn that they faced as part of the horde army were just the advance scouts of an even greater infernal host of devils, fiends, and Tiamat's spawn. Azarr Kul, the High Wyrmlord of the horde, was not present at Brindol for one simple yet terrible reason -- he has remained in the Fane of Tiamat to complete a complex, month-long ritual to open a portal to Tiamat's court to augment the horde with an infernal army. If he succeeds, the horde will become all but unstoppable.

Lord Jarmaath is unsure how long the PCs have to get to the Fane of Tiamat and stop this ritual, but it's certainly time measured in days rather than weeks. He has secured 2 scrolls of teleport for the PCs (each scribed by Immerstal, a 9th-level caster), allowing the reader and up to three other Medium creatures to teleport up to 900 miles away. If none of the PCs can use the scrolls, assume Immerstal is still alive and that Lady Kaal convinces (blackmails) him into helping them. Given a day to rest and recover his spells, the surly wizard uses a combination of the scrolls and his own 5th-level spells to transport the PCs three at a time (himself and three others on the first trip, then back by himself, then three more on the second trip, and so forth), complaining bitterly all the while.

The PCs can decide where they wish to teleport. Drellin's Ferry is a logical choice, although Vraath Keep is a little closer to their goal. Drellin's Ferry counts as very familiar (Immerstal grew up there), but he's never been to Vraath Keep.

Before the PCs go, Lord Jarmaath can donate some magic to their cause. He has gathered together the following supplies (most of it looted from dead hobgoblins): 8 potions of cure moderate wounds, 3 potions of bull's strength, 5 potions of invisibility, 2 scrolls of haste, and a scroll of fly.

The Wyrmsmoke Mountains

The Wyrmsmoke Mountains are one of the most dangerous regions in Elsir Vale. The area has long been held by various goblinoid tribes, but even these humanoids are forced to concede large sections of the mountains to the more monstrous and deadly creatures that lair within.

If the PCs captured and interrogated Wyrmlord Stormcaller in Part III, they should have a good idea of where the Fane of Tiamat is located in these mountains. If they didn't have this chance, Lord Jarmaath was able to learn the location from intelligence his soldiers and spies have gathered. By all accounts, it seems that a narrow trail leads from Vraath Keep into the mountains, and that this trail eventually winds its way up to the Fane.

Characters who use the trail find it aids their travel through the mountains, allowing them to move at three quarters of their normal speed. Off the trail, the mountains are rugged and unforgiving -- reduce overland speeds by half.

Fane of Tiamat Features

The Fane of Tiamat has been carved from the mountainside by ancient, skilled hands. More recently, it has been augmented by Azarr Kul's considerable artistry. The resulting structure is as solidly built as it is physically impressive to behold.

Interior walls are of reinforced masonry. Where they separate rooms, these walls are 1 foot thick. Most walls bear artistic bas-relief sculptures of dragons or religious iconography important to Tiamat. The motif of a red clawed hand is pervasive.

Doors are made of iron and bear the Red Hand symbol. The doors can be locked, and if the PCs trigger the alarm, the Fane's defenders promptly do so. Most of the doors can be opened with a single key, copies of which are carried by the denizens of the Fane. Secret doors are generally made of stone and can be locked with a different key. A DC 25 Search check uncovers the presence of a secret door.

Hallways are typically 10 feet high, with rooms rising to 15 feet. Ceilings are vaulted, supported by stone ribs and iron buttresses; carven pillars help support the weight overhead in larger rooms.

Reinforced Masonry Walls: 1 ft. thick; hardness 8; hp 180; break DC 45; Climb DC 15.
Iron Door: 2 in. thick; hardness 10; hp 60; break DC 28; Open Lock DC 30.
Stone Secret Door: 4 in. thick; hardness 8; hp 60; break DC 28; Open Lock DC 30.

Security

Although Azarr Kul is confident that few of the humans of Elsir Vale are brave enough to confront him within his lair, the denizens of the Fane are nevertheless quick to mobilize if the general alarm is raised. Azarr Kul only rarely allows members of the horde to enter the Fane -- with the exception of his priests, most of the defenders and guardians of the Fane are outsiders he has called from Tiamat's court, or monsters he has bribed or otherwise lured to his service from the surrounding mountains.

The descriptions of the rooms within the Fane below assume that the place is not on alert. If the alarm is raised, inhabitants of the rooms become more alert and take 10 on Spot and Listen checks. Otherwise, little actually changes except for the frequency of the patrols (see below).

The primary guards of the Fane consist of two varieties, stationary and mobile. Most of the stationary guards are unique monsters selected by Azarr Kul for their particular abilities and strengths in the rooms they are to watch over. These guardians do not leave their posts except to pursue fleeing characters, and even then they give up pursuit if the PCs leave the Fane entirely, returning to their posts. If they hear battle in a nearby chamber, they prepare themselves for combat but do not abandon their posts.

The mobile patrols are made up of blackspawn raiders (see page 117). These creatures rest and eat in a large barracks (area 4), but as a rule only six of them can be found there at any given time, with the others out patrolling the halls and chambers of the Fane, on constant alert for trouble. A total of thirty blackspawn raiders dwell in the Fane, arranged into ten groups of three each. As the PCs explore the Fane, they have a 20% chance every 10 minutes to encounter one of these patrols. In addition, each time a battle begins there's a 20% chance that a blackspawn raider patrol is nearby and responds to the sounds of combat, arriving 1d4+1 rounds after the fight begins. Since Azarr Kul only has a limited supply of blackspawn, keep track of the number the PCs slay, subtracting them from the total.

Azarr Kul is busy in the Fane's inner sanctum (area 17) during this entire part of the adventure, overseeing the ritual to establish a permanent portal between the Material Plane and Tiamat's court, but he'll do what he can to reinforce guards the PCs slay. He can replace slain blackspawn raiders at the rate of one patrol (three blackspawn) per day. He has no capability to replace the other guardian monsters with others of their kind, but he'll do the next best thing by replacing each with a pair of blue abishai (see page 117), draconic devils that serve Tiamat as rank-and-file soldiers in her infernal wars. Once per day, Azarr Kul can replace one defeated guardian with a pair of blue abishai.

1. The Mark of Tiamat (EL 11)

Light: Varies with time of day.

Creatures: One blue dragon (possibly more dragons).

A winding ledge along the face of a sheer cliff rounds a corner, and suddenly the vista is one of terrifying beauty. The ledge leads over a ten-foot-wide natural bridge and then continues to wind up the face of the cliff on the other side to a large, flat ledge. The cliffside soars several hundred feet up from this ledge. This vista is dominated by the lifelike rendition of a five-headed dragon carved out of the stone of the cliff face.

The dragon is massive -- easily a hundred fifty feet tall -- and carved to look as if it were perched upon the wide ledge and emerging from the stone itself. The dragon's five serpentine necks arch up and then back down. The heads protrude from the cliffside, each leering down as if to challenge any who dare to approach. Each head is that of a different dragon, and each has a mouth agape in an eternal roar.

At the base of the cliff, under the dragon's belly, a huge pair of closed stone double doors are set into the cliff. Each door is six feet wide and twelve feet tall. The motif of the five-headed dragon is repeated here, although this time only the dragon's necks and heads reach out from around the door's frame. Each of these heads seems crafted from a different type of stone -- obsidian, alabaster, soapstone, malachite, and marble -- corresponding to the coloration of each head.

The entrance to the Fane of Tiamat should leave the PCs with no doubt that they have come to the end of their journey -- what waits within the mountain is surely their final enemy.

The approach to the Fane's entrance is far from unwatched. The gaping maw of the blue dragon head serves as the entrance to a large cavern, the lair of one of the five dragons or dragonkind who serve the Red Hand. The PCs have likely already met and defeated four of these dragons, but the fifth -- the oldest and strongest -- awaits them here.

Creature: The blue dragon Tyrgarun gladly serves as the first line of defense for the Fane. He knows that Azarr Kul is engaged in an important ritual deep within the Fane that will bring victory much nearer. Tyrgarun views the entire Fane and Azarr Kul's operation with pride; even though his son is not a true dragon, he has nonetheless accomplished much.

Tyrgarun has a formidable Listen modifier (+23). The entrance to his cave is 140 feet above the ledge below, and he is typically located about 40 feet back in his cave (area 2e). If the PCs don't state that they're being stealthy, judge the amount of sound they're making by their actions and consult the table in the Listen skill description (PH 78) to determine the DC of Tyrgarun's check to hear them. Chances are, if the PCs speak (DC 0), Tyrgarun automatically hears them.

If he does, the dragon takes 2 rounds to cast mage armor and shield on himself, raising his Armor Class to 35. He then calls out to the PCs in a bellowing voice, using his sound imitation ability to make his voice sound like five draconic voices speaking in unison. The shape of the canyon and his skill at sound imitation makes a convincing show -- it should seem to anyone listening that the five stony heads above are speaking!

Tyrgarun demands that his "guests" leave an appropriate offering for the Chromatic Dragon and depart. He enjoys this role, and if the PCs are brave enough to answer, he speaks to them for a time, taking on the voice of Tiamat and lacing his words with threats in an attempt to get the PCs to leave. A DC 21 Will save allows the PCs to realize that the voice comes only from the central blue dragon's head high above and is in fact that of only one speaker.

If any of the other dragons or dragonkind (Abithriax, Varanthian, Regiarix, and Ozyrrandion) have managed to escape the PCs, they are here as well. They fear and respect Tyrgarun, and so allow him his little game. If the blue attacks, these dragons fly to his side to aid him in combat. If the PCs haven't been diligent in defeating dragons to this point, they could find themselves outmatched.

Tyrgarun: hp 189 (see page 114).

Tactics: If the PCs don't leave as commanded, or if they attempt to enter the dragon lairs or the Fane itself, Tyrgarun abandons his little game and leaps out of his cavern and into flight. His tactics are relatively simple -- he flies down into the canyon to a point where he is level with the ledge but still 30 or so feet from its edge, then uses his breath weapon and his wand of fireballs to barrage the PCs with fire and electricity. If confronted by flying enemies, Tyrgarun changes tactics and uses flyby attacks to bite foes to death. If he gets a chance to make a full attack, he passes up one of his claw attacks since he doesn't want to drop his wand. The dragon realizes that he has an advantage over land-based creatures as long as he's in flight, so he does what he can to avoid landing during the entire combat.

Tyrgarun pursues any foes who try to flee for 1d6 rounds, using flyby attacks and his magic against them. If he still has a lot of hit points, he even risks attacks of opportunity to try to bull rush enemies on ledges over the side. A creature who falls has to contend with a 150-foot drop (and 15d6 points of falling damage).

Trap: The main entrance to the Fane bears a dangerous trap, created by Azarr Kul with the aid of several Kulkor Zhul war adepts. The trap is triggered whenever anyone touches the doors or attempts to open them. (Speaking the phrase "Hail Tiamat, Devourer of Worlds and Scourge of Hell" in Infernal deactivates the trap for 1 minute or as long as the doors remain open. (If you want the PCs to get through this door without incident, it might be possible for them to glean this information if they hide nearby and watch while someone approaches the door and speaks the pass-phrase before entering.)

If the trap is triggered, the five stone dragon heads that leer out of the door's frame expel blasts of fire, cold, acid, and electricity. This blast of energy fills a 20-foot-radius hemispherical burst, centered on the outside surface of the door. The energy damage does no harm to the door or the surrounding area, but any creatures caught in the burst that fail Reflex saves immediately take 3d6 points of acid damage, 3d6 points of cold damage, 3d6 points of electricity damage, and 3d6 points of fire damage.

Tiamat Trap: CR 9; magic device; touch trigger; automatic reset; multiple targets (20-ft.-radius burst); 3d6 acid, 3d6 cold, 3d6 electricity, and 3d6 fire damage (Reflex DC 25 half); Search DC 30; Disable Device DC 25.

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