Note that although this is listed as an EL 10 encounter, it could be run as an EL 8 or 9 encounter and a second EL 8 encounter later due to the behavior of the ogre mage.
An ogre mage named Tharrusk recently arrived in Undermountain via one of Halaster's gates. Tharrusk came from far to the east in the lands of Kara-Tur where he ruled over a small city-state of humans. Several of his slaves had vanished from his fortress, and, in searching for them, Tharrusk discovered the magical portal to Undermountain. Intrigued by the powerful magic and concerned that some unknown enemy was using it against him, Tharrusk himself investigated the halls he saw. Unfortunately for Tharrusk, the portal closed behind him.
Having wandered the halls of Undermountain for two months, Tharrusk no longer believes himself the victim of some enemy's plot. He has seen too many strange creatures and odd manifestations of magic to think that someone with a grudge singled him out. Instead, Tharrusk thinks his appearance in this strange dungeon is a magical accident of some sort due to the dungeon's strange properties. Tharrusk hopes to find another gate through which to escape, or discover some creature that knows the secret to leaving what seems to him to be an infinite dungeon in some netherworld.
A few weeks ago, the ogre mage met a tribe of ogres and coerced them into taking him as leader. He was disappointed to discover they knew little more about the dungeon than he did, but he has settled for leading them until he can find a way to escape. Tharrusk has had the ogres collect fine things from about the dungeon so that he can live in some semblance of the comfort he is accustomed to, but the ogres' efforts to bring him tribute have netted little more than shattered furniture and ruined tapestries.
When the PCs enter the chamber, the ogre mage has just been disappointed by his minions' latest recovery (a crate of moldering cheese) and is sulking invisibly while he allows the ogres to argue over who gets to eat their "treasure."
Read the text below as the PCs approach an entrance to the room:
Allow the PCs to make Listen checks. If no succeeding PC speaks Giant, read the following:
If a PC who speaks Giant succeeds at the Listen check, read the following text to that PC's player:
When the PCs enter the room, read the following:
A fight is likely inevitable, but if the PCs find a way to observe without being seen by the ogres, the ogres eventually finish eating. If this happens, a disembodied voice (Tharrusk, still invisible) speaks in Giant, ordering the ogres to go find better tribute. The ogres then pick up their things and head the PCs' way . . .
When a fight starts, the ogres simply move in to attack. If the PCs move into the tunnels to lessen the power of the ogre's numbers, some of the ogres attempt to overrun the PCs and get behind them while others fetch crude javelins from the room to hurl from behind their compatriots.
"King" Tharrusk (1): Use the statistics for the Ogre Mage (46/60) from theAngelfireminiature set. If you don't have that miniature, use the statistics for the Ogre Mage from the Monster Manual.
Ogres (7): Use the statistics for the Ogre (71/80) from the Harbinger miniatures set. If you don't have that miniature, use the statistics from the Monster Manual.
Tharrusk doesn't enter melee on behalf of the ogres. He's more interested in what the PCs know. As soon as he sees that the PCs are humanoids that seem smarter than his ogres, he hollers to his minions in Giant that they should strike to subdue.
At this point, any ogre not down to half its hit points complies and starts trying to grapple or strike for nonlethal damage. Yet if any ogre suffers enough damage to reduce it to half its hit points or less, it abandons Tharrusk's commands and starts trying to kill the PCs.
Tharrusk is far more interested in learning what the PCs know about the dungeon (and if they might know a way out) than remaining loyal to his ogres. When four of the ogres die or start striking for lethal damage, Tharrusk (still invisible) polymorphs into a humanoid form that he thinks would be most welcomed by the PCs (an elf if several elves are in the party or a human if there are more humans). Then Tharrusk enters the fray on the side of the PCs, striking the ogres with a cone of cold.
Tharrusk hopes to befriend the PCs by claiming he is a spellcaster from a far-away land transported to the dungeon by a magic portal. Tharrusk speaks in Common and sticks close to the truth in the hopes that his predicament will be familiar to the PCs. He asks many questions about where he is and the nature of the dungeons. If he hears about the city above, it piques his interest and he asks even more questions. If questioned in return, he eagerly and truthfully relates his story about his homeland to the PCs and explains everything in great detail except that he is an ogre mage. He hopes that the PCs will recognize something and tell him how far away from home the portal brought him. Of course, when Tharrusk relates how he was trying to recover his escaped slaves when he entered the dungeons, the PCs might begin to suspect that there's more to Tharrusk than meets the eye.
If allowed to do so, Tharrusk travels through Undermountain with the PCs and uses his "spells" to help them. Eventually though, Tharrusk will feel he has learned all he can from them and take some opportunity to attack them and take their magic items.
Treasure: The ogres wear hide armor and wield greatclubs. Tharrusk wears a chain shirt and carries a greatsword. Beyond these meager possessions, the only item of value in the room is a tattered tapestry that depicts Ulbaerag Bloodhand, a Tethyrian warlord who conquered the feuding tribes around Blackcloak Hold, Halaster's above-ground citadel. Though worth 1,000 gp in Waterdeep, its value is impossible for a PC to correctly determine using the Appraise skill unless a PC can succeed at a DC 25 Knowledge (history) check, as well.
Adventure Hooks and Tie-Ins
Check out the Return to Undermountain: An Introduction for more details.
About the AuthorOnce Editor-in-Chief of Dragon magazine and now a game designer at Wizards of the Coast, Matthew Sernett wrote in a Dragon editorial that there's nothing in D&D he likes better than when the adventurers flee through the dungeon, running pell-mell through traps and past monsters because what chases them is worse. When he wrote that, Matthew was thinking about Undermountain.
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