Vicious Venues
The Kingsfields
By Skip and Penny Williams

The Kingsfields includes encounters of EL 6-17, and it is suitable for use with any D&D campaign.

These fields of ripening grain broken by stands of fruit trees have a certain rustic charm, but the fortified tower on the highest spot in the fields and the stone cairns scattered here and there hint of a history that belies this calm scene.

Background for the DM

The area called the Kingsfields was once the site of a great, three-day battle during which a royal army defeated a much larger invading force. Very little is known about the battle, except that the carnage was terrible, and that on the final day the commanders on each side (both monarchs of their countries) died. The opposing monarchs' names are left up to you -- choose an identity for each that is appropriate for your campaign.

Legends about the battle abound, but the truth is that the defending army, using superior scouting and reports from refugees fleeing the invaders, cut the enemy's lines of supply and ambushed its advance force, defeating nearly a third of the foes before the main battle was joined. Late on the second day, the invaders' main force arrived, and the two armies fought for several hours until night fell. The invaders, who had many troops that could see in the dark, tried to continue the fight, but the defenders feigned panic and lured the night fighters into a series of deep pits lined with stakes, where many perished. In the ensuing confusion, the defenders withdrew into a great redoubt they had constructed and there awaited the final assault, which commenced before dawn on the third day. By noon, the attackers had exhausted themselves, and a determined sally from inside the redoubt routed the attackers. The attacking monarch was slain in the confusion, but several loyal retainers recovered the corpse and spirited it off the battlefield.

As evening fell, the invaders' second-in-command, an unpleasant wizard who called himself Finis Whitehand, rallied some troops and ordered them to don clothing and armor from some of the casualties from the victorious side. Finis was a necromancer of great power, and he animated several corpses (also dressed in enemy gear) to serve as a sort of honor guard. After dark, Finis and his company bluffed their way into the redoubt and slew the victorious commander. Just for spite, Finis immediately cast a soul bind spell on the fallen monarch's corpse and gave the focus for the spell (a big black sapphire) to a lieutenant, who promptly teleported away with it. The rest of Finis's company was slain, and Finis himself fell victim to an imprisonment spell. The victors, however, concealed the necromancer's true fate by pretending that Finis had merely been slain. Today, a polished skull, purportedly the necromancer's, is displayed in a shrine on the battlefield.

The defeated monarch was eventually resurrected, but court intrigues, combined with the ruinous cost of the failed invasion, eventually led to the overthrow of the monarchy and end of the ruler's line.

Finis still lies imprisoned under the battlefield today, but only a select few know that the infamous wizard is still there. A servant of Heironeous keeps watch over the battlefield to this day, ostensibly to maintain a modest shrine erected where the redoubt once stood, but really to ensure that no one casts a freedom spell and releases Finis Whitehand.

The Setup

The PCs may have visited the battlefield already. Today, most of the area is farmland, and it doesn't seem special -- except for the shrine of Heironeous. Characters might cross the battlefield many times without realizing its significance. However, the PCs might take new interest in the site after hearing a few choice tales or witnessing a bizarre event, as noted below:

  • The PCs hear an old tale (or bard's performance) detailing the final battle of the redoubt. In this story, the first rank defenders broke up the attack by hurling themselves on the attackers' swords, effectively disarming them and leaving them vulnerable to a counterattack that drove them back upon the swords in their own rear ranks. The counterattack rolled through the attackers in a wave. The battle ended with the opposing monarchs facing each other in single combat outside the redoubt. The defending monarch won the fight, forcing the foe to surrender, but a spell treacherously cast from the ranks of the supposed prisoners laid the monarch low and the defeated army fled before the outraged defenders could get their revenge. Today, anyone who swears an oath at the tomb of the betrayed monarch (which lies in the shrine of Heironeous erected on the site of the final duel) becomes answerable to the spirit of the slain monarch. Should one break the oath, the wrath of the slain monarch will fall on the forswearer.

    This tale has a few elements of the truth, but those at the battle spread this tale after it to keep Finis Whitehand's true fate hidden. The defending monarch's tomb is located in the shrine of Heironeous on the battlefield, but the place doesn't have any power to enforce oaths. The place has a few secrets, though; see the next section.

  • The PCs encounter an NPC party having a night on the town. The NPCs seem to have plenty of money to spend. One of the NPCs drunkenly boasts that they struck it rich by clearing out an old crypt located under the battlefield. When pressed for details, the group claims that the losing side in the battle negotiated lavish burials for their dead before quitting the field. Undead warriors loaded with magic and jewels still lurk under the battlefield waiting for the day when they'll be called to attack again.

    An evil cleric named Jochiim Blackdawn started this tale. The NPCs are merely hired actors. Jochiim suspects Finis Whitehand's true fate, and he wants to encourage local adventurers to search the battlefield and perhaps uncover the wizard's prison.

  • Strange lights have been seen on the battlefield at night. These lights are in fact moonlight and starlight reflecting off the weapons of ghostly troops who fight the battle over and over again when the stars are right.

    Indeed, strange lights can be seen on the battlefield on some nights. These, however, are lantern archons sent to help guard the secret of Finis Whitehand's imprisonment.

  • Packs of undead stalk the battlefield at night, menacing the farms in the area. The undead wantonly trample crops and slay both livestock and people. Some say that these creatures are the spirits of looters and camp followers who once despoiled the fallen after the battle long ago.

    Undead do indeed roam the battlefield. They're not long-dead spirits, however, but newly created undead creatures. Jochiim Blackdawn has been creating them to make the tales he has been spreading seem true.

Exploring the Battlefield

Though mostly just farmland, the Kingsfields have a few features worth investigating, as noted in the boxed text below, and in the sections that follow:

These rolling fields of ripening grain look much like farmers' fields everywhere, as do the small orchards on the hilltops. A few features seem out of place, however. Concentric circles of low mounds and shallow ditches are covered with brambles. A small, round tower stands on a higher mound rising from the center of these works. The tower has a crenellated top with a slender spire in the center. A banner showing a fist clutching a lighting bolt flies from the spire.

Here and there amid the grain rise cairns of moss-covered stones.

The Keep

The keep actually is a small temple of Heironeous built on the ruins of the defenders' redoubt. The banner flying over the central tower bears the holy symbol of Heironeous. If the player characters don't recognize the symbol, they can identify it by making a DC 10 Knowledge (religion) check.

The temple's upper floors include an armory, storerooms, and tiny bedchambers.

The main floor has a central chamber containing an altar. The altar is a marble slab decorated with warriors locked in battle. The altar radiates overwhelming abjuration magic. The source of the magic is Heironeous himself. Through an ancient agreement with several clerics who undertook perilous quests on his behalf, Heironeous blocks all divination effects created or used by any evil creature if they are cast in or directed into the temple or any of the space below it. The effect remains in place so long as someone (anyone) prays to Heironeous for at least 10 minutes every 4 hours. Various clerics of Heironeous have kept this bargain for years and years.

A secret door behind the altar hides a staircase that leads to a cramped chamber where a polished human skull stands on display within a cube made up permanent walls of force and lit by an everburning torch.

The skull is purportedly that of Finis Whitehand, but it in fact it belongs to a cleric of Heironeous who helped dream up the scheme to keep Finis Whitehand's imprisonment secret. The site where the imprisonment spell was cast lies some 20 feet behind this chamber's back wall. Layers of stone, brass, and iron fill the actual spot. Thanks to the altar above, no one has detected the presence of the imprisoned wizard.

Creatures (EL 15-17): The resident priest at the shrine is Aramus Silverbrow, who serves as the caretaker of the battlefield and shrine. Aramus spends most of his time keeping watch over the battlefield from the tower top. He also prays at the altar every 4 hours to maintain the ward.

Aramus has squad of lantern archons to assist him. He may also have one or two astral devas as well.

Aramus Silverbrow: Male half-celestial/half-half-elf cleric 8/paladin 4; CR 15; Medium outsider (augmented humanoid, native); HD 8d8+24 plus 4d10+12; hp 94; Init +1; Spd 20 ft., fly 30 ft. (good); AC 25, touch 14, flat-footed 24; Base Atk +10; Grp +13; Atk +14 melee (2d6+5/19-20, +1 axiomatic greatsword); Full Atk +14/+9 melee (2d6+5/19-20, +1 axiomatic greatsword); SA daylight, smite evil (half-celestial), smite evil (paladin), spell-like abilities, turn undead 6/day (+3, 2d6+8, 8th), turn undead 6/day (+3, 2d6+1, 1st); SQ aura of courage, aura of good, damage reduction 10/magic, darkvision 60 ft., detect evil, divine grace, divine health, half-elf traits, immunity to disease, lay on hands 12/day, resistance to acid 10, cold 10, and electricity 10; AL LG; SV Fort +18 (+20 against poison), Ref +9, Will +17 (+19 against enchantments); Str 17, Dex 13, Con 16, Int 13, Wis 21, Cha 17.

Skills and Feats: Concentration +9, Diplomacy +11, Gather Information +5, Handle Animal +8, Heal +9, Knowledge (religion) +4, Listen +8, Ride +10, Search +7, Spellcraft +7, Spot +8; Blind-Fight, Combat Expertise, Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack.

Daylight (Su): Aramus can use a daylight effect (as the spell) at will.

Smite Evil (Su): As a half celestial, Aramus can make a normal melee attack to deal 12 extra points of damage to an evil opponent once per day.

Smite Evil (Su): As a paladin, Aramus may attempt to smite evil with one normal melee attack once per day. He adds +3 to his attack roll and deals an extra 4 points of damage.

Spell-Like Abilities: 3/day -- protection from evil; 1/day -- aid, bless, cure serious wounds, detect evil, dispel evil (DC 18), holy smite (save DC 17), holy word (DC 20), neutralize poison, remove disease. Caster level 12th.

Aura of Courage (Su): Aramus is immune to fear, and each ally within 10 feet of him gains a +4 morale bonus on saving throws against fear effects.

Detect Evil (Sp): Aramus can use detect evil at will as the spell.

Half-Elf Traits: Aramus has immunity to magic sleep effects. For all effects related to race, he is considered an elf.

Cleric Spells Prepared (caster level 8th): 0 -- detect magic, guidance, light, mending, resistance, virtue; 1st -- bane (2, DC 16), command (2, DC 16), doom (DC 16), entropic shield, protection from chaos*; 2nd -- calm emotions* (DC 17), silence (2, DC 17), sound burst (DC 17), spiritual weapon; 3rd -- invisibility purge, magic circle against evil*, prayer, searing light (2); 4th -- dismissal (DC 19), divine power, order's wrath* (DC 19), summon monster IV.

* Domain spell. Deity: Heironeous. Domains: Good (cast good spells at +1 caster level) and Law (cast law spells at +1 caster level).

Paladin Spells Prepared (caster level 4th): 1st -- bless weapon, divine favor.

Possessions:+2 mithral full plate, ring of protection +2, +1 axiomatic greatsword, dusty rose ioun stone, cloak of resistance +2, rod of enemy detection, lens of detection.

Lantern Archons (2-5): hp 4 each, see Monster Manual, page 16.

Astral Devas (1-2): hp 102 each, see Monster Manual, page 11.

Tactics: Aramus tries to play the role of a kindly old gent -- perhaps a retired old campaigner. His feathery wings make him look otherworldly (which he is). Sometimes, he hides his wings under his cloak, but doing so tends to make him seem very broad-shouldered and menacing.

Aramus poses no danger to the PCs unless they attack him or try to dig into the wall blocking access to Finis Whitehand's prison. Aramus knows the whole, true story of the battle. He wasn't there himself (he's not that old), but as guardian of the shrine and caretaker of the battlefield he has heard the story in minute detail. He does not tell the PCs what he knows unless he's sure they can be trusted with the secret, and then only if he deems it necessary to his own task of making sure nobody frees Finis Whitehand. He does his best to deflect any queries the PCs might make about the true history of the battle, though he won't tell any outright lies. Read or paraphrase the following if the PCs encounter Aramus peacefully.

"Welcome, my friends," says the old man, a beatific smile wreathing his features. "It is good to have visitors with whom to pass the time. What brings you to this field of battle? Do you crave tales of past glory, or do you come to pay homage to Heironeous?"

If the characters ask about the battle, or about any of the specific details they have heard in town about it, Aramus tries to deflect their questions, as follows.

"Battles are fought for many reasons, my friends, but the result is always the same -- death for countless brave souls. Whether they take up arms to defend home, family, and country against invaders, or for some holy cause, or to gain a military or economic advantage for their own countries, blood stains the ground red for days, and the loss of life impoverishes both attacker and defender.

Pause here for dramatic effect and to let the PCs ask questions or make comments. Aramus is off again with the following at the slightest provocation:

"This battle was between two mighty nations. The land upon which you stand belonged to the defending country, whose monarch was wise indeed. For a time, it seemed as though his ingenious strategies might win the day with a minimum of bloodshed, but the attacking monarch was both wily and determined. On and on the battle raged. As soldier after soldier fell, the land grew red with blood, and the cries of the wounded and dying mingled with the clash of arms. But still the attackers came, fighting on into the night. When the battle finally ended, both monarchs were dead, but the defenders had held their ground. This shrine marks the spot where the defenders made their final stand, to remind others of the high costs of war.

Here's another good place to pause to let the PCs get a word in edgewise. Again, Aramus plunges on:

"I suppose neighbor will always take up arms against neighbor, and nations will always clash. But it is the soldier who pays the cost, is it not? Was there honor and glory in the Seven Heavens for those who died here? I like to think so, but surely the gates of the Heavens must be bursting with the souls of so many dead heroes by now. Perhaps the true hero is the one who finds another way. So when you leave this place, take with you that lesson -- in the end, the death of all these soldiers bought only a peaceful field and a shrine to their memory."

If the characters ask about the skull, Aramus answers as follows.

"Folk say that this is the skull of an officer on the attackers' side, but since I was not there, I cannot say. Whose skull it is, however, is not really important. It serves as a reminder of the folly of making war on one's neighbors for material gain. What, after all, did this poor soul's sacrifice achieve? Only to warn others not to interfere in their neighbors' business."

If the characters ask Aramus about undead in the area, he responds as follows.

"Do undead walk this field at night? Nay, not that I have ever seen. Such tales have been spread by superstitious villagers for many years. If undead have walked this land, it was surely before my time."

In a fight, Aramus usually takes to the air and softens up the opposition with order's wrath, holy smite, sound burst, and searing light before using his Spring Attack feat to fly in, attack with his greatsword, and fly out of reach. (Normally his full plate armor would prohibit using Spring Attack because it is heavy armor, but the armor is mithral, so it functions as medium armor.) He might use dispel magic to suppress magic items that are making this difficult. If his foes seem to damage him easily, or if he has trouble attacking, he uses divine power to boost his combat power and maybe entropic shield for defense. If necessary, he uses his Combat Expertise feat to improve his Armor Class a little.

Aramus's lantern archon servants aren't much of threat to anything that can mount a serious challenge to Aramus, but they gamely hang in there, using their aura of menace and light rays to best effect. They tend to aim their light rays to disrupt spells or to chip away at heavily armored foes (who tend to have poor touch ACs). Foes might just find the lantern archons pretty irritating.

The astral devas, if present, do their best to keep up pressure on the foe. Generally, they hang back and use magic when Aramus is attacking and move in to attack when Aramus is using spells from a distance.

The Earthworks

These areas are what remains of the deadly pit traps the defenders used during the second day of the battle. The stakes placed in them rotted away long ago, but the diggings themselves remain visible. Movement is hampered in these areas, thanks to the brambles (creatures with the woodland stride class feature can move at normal speed).

Creatures (EL 6-8): Characters poking around these areas during the day might flush out a pack of ghouls. Jochiim Blackdawn has created these creatures and turned them loose on the area. During the day, they creep into the old pits and trenches to hide from the sun.

Ghouls (7-12): hp 13 each, see Monster Manual, page 118.

Tactics: The ghouls are accustomed to simply overwhelming their victims, and they attack by mobbing the nearest characters, three or four to a target. They attempt to grapple and establish holds, then claw and paralyze their victims. The ghouls attack separately (each making its own grab and attempting to establish a hold). Any ghoul that doesn't establish a hold moves on to the next likely target. The ghouls don't have the improved grab ability, so their grapple attempts provoke attacks of opportunity from their targets. If turned, a ghoul tries to flee down a trench.

The Cairns

These mounds of earth covered with stones mark the graves of all the soldiers killed in the battle. They have each received a hallow spell. Each cairn has at least one stone that gives an account of the dead interred there. Not all the names of the dead were known at the time of the burials (especially among the invaders), but the inscriptions list the numbers of people buried under each cairn.

The Orchards

Places on the battlefield that prove too steep or too rocky to grow grain (mostly hilltops) have been planted with fruit trees. Most of these stands of trees remain untended and deserted except at harvest time, but one of the larger orchards has a hut with wattle and daub walls and a thatch roof. Until recently, an old farmer called Jarvis lived here, tending the trees around his hut and in the other orchards as well.

When Jochiim Blackdawn came to the area seeking information about Finis Whitehand, he assumed Jarvis's identity and moved into his hut. The evil cleric killed the old farmer (who promptly became a ghoul, thanks to Jochiim's create undead spell). Now Jochiim lives in the hut, pretending to care for the fruit trees. (Luckily for him they don't need much attention this time of year.) He actually spends most of his time poking around, trying to find some clue about Finis Whitehand's true fate. He doesn't know that the wizard was imprisoned, but he's collected enough hints to realize that there's something fishy about the story of Finis Whitehand's demise. He steers clear of Aramus and his assistants.

Creatures (EL 11-13): Jochiim dwells in the hut disguised as Jarvis. A gang of spectres sometimes attends him. Jochiim has used his considerable powers of persuasion (and an occasional use of his power to rebuke or control undead) to form a shaky alliance with these monsters. The spectres give Jochiim some measure of protection and vice versa.

Jochiim Blackdawn: Male human cleric 11; CR 11; Medium humanoid; HD 11d8+11; hp 60; Init +0; Spd 20 ft.; AC 23, touch 11, flat-footed 23; Base Atk +8; Grp +9; Atk +10 melee (1d8+2/0, +1 heavy mace) or +9 ranged (1d8+1/19-20, +1 light crossbow); Full Atk +10/+5 melee (1d8+2/0, +1 heavy mace) or +9 ranged (1d8+1/19-20, +1 light crossbow); SA rebuke undead 4/day (+3, 2d6+9, 11th); AL CE; SV Fort +9, Ref +4, Will +14; Str 13, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 19, Cha 13.

Skills and Feats: Bluff +15, Concentration +8, Diplomacy +10, Disguise +17, Forgery +4, Hide +8, Intimidate +3, Knowledge (religion) +9, Listen +6, Spellcraft +9, Spot +6; Alertness, Deceitful, Iron Will, Scribe Scroll, Spell Penetration.

Cleric Spells Prepared (caster level 11th): 0 -- cure minor wounds, detect magic (2), guidance, read magic, resistance; 1st -- cause fear (DC 15), command (DC 15), cure light wounds, doom (DC 15), protection from law*, sanctuary , shield of faith; 2nd -- augury, enthrall (DC 16), hold person (DC 16), invisibility*, silence (DC 16), undetectable alignment; 3rd -- animate dead, contagion (DC 17), dispel magic, magic circle against law*, searing light (2); 4th -- air walk, confusion* (DC 18), freedom of movement, poison (DC 18), spell immunity; 5th -- dispel law*, flame strike (DC 19), slay living (DC 19); 6th -- create undead, mislead* (DC 20).

* Domain spell. Deity: Erythnul. Domains: Chaos (cast chaos spells at +1 caster level), Trickery (Bluff, Disguise, and Hide are class skills).

Possessions:+1 glamered full plate, +1 heavy steel shield, ring of protection +1, +1 heavy mace, +1 light crossbow with20 crossbow bolts, cloak of resistance +1, periapt of Wisdom +2, Heward's handy haversack, scroll of chaos hammer, scroll of cure serious wounds.

Spectres (2-4): hp 45 each, see Monster Manual, page 232.

Tactics: Jochiim uses his disguise skill to pose as Jarvis. He uses his armor's glamer power to make it look like peasant clothes. He keeps his shield in the hut and his mace in his Heward's handy haversack. He does his best to appear as a decrepit old man, but he won't hesitate to attack anyone who seems vulnerable. He begins each day with an undetectable alignment spell.

If the PCs make peaceful contact with Jochiim, he pumps them for information about the shrine while trying to pique their interest in investigating it further.

"Adventurers, are ye? I suppose ye've come to slay the cursed undead that walk that field at night and get their treasure. Well, ye'll have to get past that silver-tongued devil up there first. Have ye talked to him? Did he say anything? I never saw nobody that could talk so long without sayin' anything as that feller. He's hidin' somethin' in that there shrine, I'd bet the farm on it. Why, he's prolly found all the soldiers' treasure himself and buried it all underneath that shrine of his. Ya ever notice how he steers people away from that skull in there? Maybe it's not what he says at all. Maybe it's some henchman of his that he killed to keep him from talking. There's somethin' funny about that place, I can feel it in my bones."

If he can see a fight coming, Jochiim prepares by casting freedom of movement, spell immunity (magic missile, fireball), shield of faith, and magic circle against law. Once combat begins, he uses confusion, flame strike, and searing light as soon as he can. If his spectres are on hand to help, he'll bolster them against turning attempts and convert his spells to inflict wounds spells so he can heal damage to the spectres. He is fond of using mass inflict light wounds so that he can damage living foes while healing his undead allies.

About the Authors

Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and was the Sage of Dragon Magazine for 18 years. Skip is a co-designer of the D&D 3rd Edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (rabbits and deer are not Skip's friends) or works on repairing and improving the century-old farmhouse that he shares with his wife, Penny, and a growing menagerie of pets.

Penny Williams joined the roleplaying game industry as Game Questions Expert for TSR, Inc. in the 1980s. Since then, she has served as RPGA Network Coordinator, PolyhedronNewszine editor, and Senior Editor and Coordinating Editor for the RPG R&D Department at Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Now a busy freelancer, Penny edits for several game companies and runs the online playtesting program for Wizards products. When not enhancing the cruelty of the deaths PCs will suffer at the hands of designers, Penny puts up jam, works jigsaw puzzles, and tutors students in math and science.


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