The Shining Star is a roleplaying mini-adventure that can be played with D&D Miniatures from the Deathknell set. Future installments include figures from earlier sets. This adventure is intended for four 5th-level player characters in an ongoing D&D campaign but could also be played as a stand-alone fight with either the full D&D rules or the tabletop skirmish combat rules.
This scenario uses the following miniatures:
- Giant Frog
- Burning Skeleton (x2)
- Grell (x2)
- Goblin Adept
- Skullcrusher Ogre
Shining Star uses the "Cliff Complex"maps from the Map-A-Week 2004 Archive. This first part uses just the map of the first level. Click below for a PDF containing a four-page, printer-friendly (low ink usage) version of the map in DDM scale. You can also download a PDF of this document, if that's more convenient than using an online version.
All the NPCs and monsters are exactly as noted on the D&D Quick Reference side of their statistic cards. None of the figures used here are rare, but feel free to substitute other miniatures you have for any you lack. These monsters have no treasure, NPCs carry only their gear, and all creatures fight to the death.
The PC heroes are contacted by one of their regular patrons, a party who has hired them before (and for whom they performed well), or simply someone to whom they owe a favor. For example, a noble, constable, or magistrate may offer this quest to the PCs as a test of valor, a measure of their resourcefulness, or to excuse a debt or some wrong the PCs have committed.
In any case, the heroes are hired to journey to a location in a nearby wilderness where their patron believes they can recover an item that was recently stolen from him (or her). The thieves (so says the patron) have holed up in a cavern along the cliffs of that region. The region may be near the ocean, a large river, or even a vast, mysterious chasm in the landscape.
The patron refers to the stolen item as the shining star with great value only as a family heirloom. It is described as "a luminous jewel you shall recognize the moment you see it." The patron further states that the jewel must have been stolen surreptitiously from a family caravan as it passed near the cliff area on a recent journey. Unidentified figures were seen shadowing the caravan through that area, and then the jewel disappeared overnight. Embarrassed by the theft, the patron has not pursued other means to reclaim the lost item; he would like it to be recovered quietly by the PCs.
The shining star was taken from the patron as described. The mastermind behind the deed is Am-Rep-Ma, a Mummy Lord with an old grudge against the patron's family. Am-Rep-Ma's crypt was placed deep among the cliffs in the hope that he would not trouble the world in death as he had in life. His followers, however, found him and gave their lives in an attempt to return Am-Rep-Ma from the dead. They failed to return him to life, but they did grant him unlife. Over the years, the undead tyrant roamed the wilderness, gaining power and new followers. Finally feeling ready to gain his revenge on those who executed him for his limitless crimes in life, he set his supporters to steal the shining star.
Am-Rep-Ma is fully aware that the patron will try to regain what has been taken, and the mummy lord has prepared his carven complex as best he can. The PC heroes shall test his preparations and their own resolve.
The PCs can become involved for any number of reasons. Beyond those already given in the Background above, other possibilities include:
- One or more of the PCs is already seeking Am-Rep-Ma for their own reasons. Perhaps a good-aligned PC cleric or a paladin (who may be the sworn enemy of the deity Am-Rep-Ma reveres) has received a vision or a quest to seek out this undead and destroy it.
- Perhaps a ranger or druid come to know that there has been much more monstrous activity (sightings, raids on villages, etc.) in the wilderness around the cliffs than normal and they wish to determine the cause.
- A bard may have heard legends of the living Am-Rep-Ma and seeks his crypt, either to learn more about the tyrant's life or to loot any grave goods that might be found there.
A Giant Frog (a toad, actually) normally resides within 10 feet of the cavern's entrance in order to catch prey passing by the opening with its tongue. If it hears the heroes' approach (Listen vs. Move Silently), it moves 10 feet into the east-west passage to attack as the PCs pass by the opening.
2. Niche chamber
This chamber has two niches in its north wall; each one holds a burning skeleton (at the Ss). These undead are alerted to the PCs' presence by their battle with the giant toad. They do not move, however, until someone enters the chamber itself. The eastern skeleton moves to block the exit in the north wall while the western skeleton moves up to attack.
3. Pillar chamber
This chamber is dominated by a huge, rough-hewn column or pillar supporting the weight of tons of rock above. Near the north and west faces of the column, floating near the 20-foot ceiling, are two grell (at the Gs). They are positioned in such a way that a PC standing in the southern doorway will see only one of them.
If the PCs bypass this room and fight the last burning skeleton in Area 4, the DM may have one of the grells move to join the fight while the other remains behind on vigil.
A third burning skeleton stands here. If the PCs made it this far with little trouble and the DM wants to toughen things up a bit for the heroes, have one of the grell (if either still lives) join this combat.
5. Ladder Going Down
In the final chamber on this level, a skullcrusher ogre and a goblin adept guard the iron ladder bolted into the stone chimney leading down to the next level of the cavern complex. If the guards heard fighting against the burning skeleton or grells (almost a certainty unless PCs took special precautions), the ogre positions itself where the room widens to 10 feet. The Goblin Adept uses whatever time he has to cast defensive spells on himself and the ogre (who's the best life insurance this goblin has). If the goblin is reduced to half hit points or the ogre is killed, the goblin flees down the ladder to warn whatever waits below.
Concluding This Portion of the Adventure
The set-up, search for the cave, and this first level of the complex should fill one play session. Part 2 of this adventure details the 2nd level of the complex, and later parts delineate levels 3, 4, and 5. Each installment also reveals more about the shining star and Am-Rep-Ma.
For a 5th-level party of heroes, cleaning out this level earns 6,750 XP to be divided among the members of the party.
About the Author
Dale Donovan is a 15-year veteran of the gaming industry, during which time he edited Dragon Magazine, wrote or edited on every RPG line produced by TSR or Wizards), moved from rural Wisconsin to suburban Seattle and back to Wisconsin. He's worked for Steve Jackson Games, Guardians of Order, White Wolf/Sword & Sorcery, the Valar Project, and Green Ronin, among others. He loves games, books, comics, movies, and his wonderful wife and lovely daughter.