In Miguel Durans The Hallowed Hills, a party of low-level adventurers must explore a system of underground caverns recently discovered beneath the Monastery of the Risen Star. But this is more than just a casual dungeon crawl the group must locate and, if possible, rescue the three members of the Order who went down before them and never returned.
This four-part adventure is designed for four to six 3rd-level adventurers, though DMs should be able to modify it for parties of varying sizes and/or levels fairly easily. For larger parties, simply increase the number of monsters until the Encounter Levels are appropriate. Alternatively, if your group comprises especially potent player characters, you can change the monster types to something more challenging that is, use ghasts rather than ghouls, bugbears rather than orcs, and so forth. The Hallowed Hills is adaptable for use in the World of Greyhawk, another D&D campaign setting, or a world of your own creation.
The Story So Far
In Episode Two of The Hallowed Hills, the party entered a mysterious set of caverns seeking three members of the Order who had gone missing after setting out to explore the caverns. Now, as the adventurers enter a new cave filled with strange vegetation, they may already have noticed two bodies lying still at its center.
4. The Submerged Garden -- EL 4
This roughly oval-shaped cavern is 40 feet wide by 60 feet long. The exit at the south leads to Area 5; the one at the west leads back to Area 3. A rockslide in the eastern wall has covered another possible exit, but the severity of the collapse is such that it would take days of excavation to reopen it.
Creatures: Three shriekers and a violet fungus are positioned in a square patch at the center of the room, with the violet fungus occupying the northeastern corner of the patch. The bodies lie in the midst of these creatures. If the PCs approach to investigate, the noise from the shriekers alerts the orcs in Area 5 to the arrival of visitors.
Shriekers: hp 20, 13, 10.
Violet Fungus: hp 16.
Examining the Bodies: Once they have dealt with the fungi, the PCs can examine the corpses. These two extremely pale young men were the acolytes who accompanied Brother Durham down here. Both are dead, slain by the violet fungus. They carry basic cave exploration gear, leather armor, and maces, but nothing else of value.
A successful Heal check (DC 15) on either corpse reveals something very peculiar about these bodies -- namely that they have been completely drained of blood, which explains their unusual pallor. Depending upon the party's experience with violet fungi in the past, they may or may not be aware that such a phenomenon is somewhat out of place in these surroundings.
Leaving the Room: Once the characters move to the southern exit, a successful Wilderness Lore check (DC 18) made by any character with the Track feat reveals that a small band of humanoids recently passed through this area, emerging from the now-sealed eastern entrance and leaving through the tunnel to the south.
5. The Reluctant Sentries -- EL 6
The ceiling of this 80-foot-diameter, dome-shaped cavern rises 25 feet above the floor in the center. The chasm, which runs the entire length of the cavern, is 10 feet wide and 75 feet deep. A boulder currently covers the only other exit, which is in the southern wall. With a successful Strength check (DC 22), a character can move the boulder, revealing a passage that leads to Area 6. On the southern side of the crevasse is an extinguished campfire, built by the sentries on duty in this room.
Creatures: It's been a long few weeks for Homzahk and his scouting patrol from the Crookedtusk tribe. The orc adept was leading an expedition through these caverns when the earthquake sealed them in here. The orcs hope to reopen the tunnel in Area 4 that leads to their home caves in the near future, but another power has coerced them to stand guard here until commanded otherwise. Though resentful of the situation, the orcs have lost enough of their brethren to this creature to know that further resistance is likely wasted, so long as they are trapped here. Their fear and fury regarding their situation is so great that they refuse parley with anyone who approaches.
Orcs (6): 7, 6, 4, 4, 3, 2.
Homzahk: Male Crookedtusk orc Adp 4; CR 4; Medium-size humanoid (orc); hp 24; Init +4; Spd. 20 ft.; AC 10 (touch 10, flat-footed 10); Atk +6 melee (1d6+4/crit x2, masterwork club); or +2 ranged (1d6+3/crit x2, javelin); SQ darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity; AL CE; SV Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +6; Str 16, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 11, Wis 15, Cha 10.
Skills and Feats: Alchemy +4, Concentration +5, Knowledge (religion) +2, Wilderness Lore +7; Combat Casting, Improved Initiative.
Adept Spells Prepared (3/3/1): 0 -- ghost sound, guidance (2); 1st -- burning hands, cause fear, sleep; 2nd -- mirror image.
Possessions: Masterwork club, ruby worth 100 gp, potion of invisibility, potion of cure moderate wounds.
Tactics: If alerted by the shriekers in Area 4, the orcs split their forces, posting Homzahk and a few others in the northern reaches of the room behind stalagmite cover. The others remain at the back of the cavern beyond the chasm so that they can lay down a hail of javelins when needed. Their objective is to split the party's forces and then flank their opponents. Homzahk and his rear guard can then attack the archers and spellcasters remaining on one side of the chasm while the troops on the other side deal with any fighters who cross for melee. They also attempt to bull rush anyone who leaps over the chasm, hoping to knock such a foolish opponent into the breach.
After the characters dispatch the Crookedtusk tribesmen, they can turn their attention to the boulder in the room's rear. Beyond it lies the darkened passage that will lead them to the final truth about Brother Durham's fate. . . .
Next week: The Hallowed Hills continues with Episode Four: One Good Turn Deserves. . . .
About the Author
Miguel Duran endured a great deal of pain and humiliation in Skip Williams after-work game when he first arrived at WotC several months ago. He insists that this adventure is a by-product of the fond memories those nights carved into his subconscious. By day, Miguel is the Promotions Coordinator for the Dungeons & Dragons Game. By night, he practices writing and consistently forgets to call his mom and dad. (Hi Mom! Hi Dad!)
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