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Arcane Threats
Steal This Hook
by Robert Wiese

With a word, a wizard launches a barrage of energy blasts at a horde of foes charging her. The foes drop dead, and the wizard surveys the scene with a condescending smile. Elsewhere, a wizard incants a ritual that imbues a staff with great power, and then uses that power to lay waste to a village of farmers. Someone once wrote, "with great power comes great responsibility," and that is especially true of the arcanists who seek that power. But what does a society do when the wizard proves irresponsible? This month's hooks consider some threats posed by arcanists, just in time to use with Arcane Power.


The Buried "Brother"

The man digging on the side of the road is certainly a curious sight. It looks like he has been at it for a couple hours, judging by the size of the hole. But he looks frustrated and unhappy. As you approach, he lets out with a choice epithet and throws his shovel at the ground. Then he seems to become aware of your presence. "Please forgive my outburst, friends. I am at my wit's end and consumed by frustration."

During the next part of the conversation, use passive Insight against the man's Bluff check (Bluff skill 11 + one-half level) to see if they sense that something is not right with his story. Before you read what's next, be sure to make up some land features that a clue* would point to.

"It's my brother, Klassin. He was kidnapped from our family lands a week ago. The kidnappers wanted a family heirloom relic for his return, which I gave them. I love my brother. They said that he was buried alive in an underground tomb and gave me a clue* that led me to this place. I know there is not much time, so I started digging as soon as I got here. But I have not reached him yet. Maybe you could help?"

Possible Motivations

1. This guy is spinning a story. He's really good at it, but he's lying.

2. He's telling the truth, sort of. Someone is buried here, but it's not a brother. It's a rival wizard from whom this guy wants to steal a valuable artifact.

3. His brother is buried here, but not dead. This guy trapped the brother Klassin in the tomb years ago, and he now needs something from the brother to save the family lands.

4. This guy is telling the whole truth, even about the kidnapping. Successful Insight checks just reflect the idea that his story is very improbable.

Story Elements
Select or generate story elements from this table.

1. Klassin is a wizard whose tomb is located here. It is far underground, and the speaker above does not know the exact location of the entrance, so he is looking for it. The tomb is filled with traps set to keep out intruders, because family magic items or a powerful evil artifact were placed in the tomb for safekeeping.

2. Klassin is either alive or undead (same difference really) and is prepared to defend his tomb. These defenses include teleporting in creatures through a portal that is located in the tomb (in case anyone really needed the aforementioned magic items or evil artifact, of course).

3. The speaker is a rival or enemy of Klassin's, and he seeks whatever is in the tomb for his own. He just needs some help with the traps and defenses.

4. The speaker is actually Klassin's brother, and he needs to get into the tomb to safeguard the magic items or artifact. He does not know how to use the portal (if there is one), and forgot the exact location of the tomb. Why the strange story? Maybe it's true as well.

5. The tomb has been taken over by a devil or dragon or other powerful creature, and the body of Klassin has been destroyed or consumed. The PCs and the speaker have to deal with the new occupant, and possibly traps from the old one, before finding the truth.

6. Perhaps instead of a tomb, the PCs and the speaker break into a network of subterranean caves that lead to the encounter described in Use This Book Tonight: Draconomicon. The real tomb could be connected to the caves, or just inside a separate cavern right nearby. Finding the real tomb could be quite complicated without magic.


When Halflings Balk

The PCs are in a tavern, restaurant, or local gathering place when someone comes in with the news that the halfling caravan stopped near the woods three days' journey from town, and it refuses to move any farther. They just refuse. People begin speculating.

If the PCs ask around, they can find out that this caravan is operated by the Jinzlinni halfling family, and they are known for being reliable in arriving at destinations on time. They carry both trade goods and special packages for most of the people around here, and they have never failed in their work.

If the PCs go to the site of the caravan's camp, they find that indeed the caravan has stopped and looks like it is not going anywhere anytime soon. Wagons are unhitched, tents pitched, and somewhat permanent fire pits dug. Halflings move about the camp as if this was their final destination all along, with almost no regard for the arriving PCs initially.

Story Elements
Select or generate story elements from this table.

1. An evil force from the forest dominates the caravan leader, and it is forcing her to stop here. Perhaps coming here at all was part of the domination, so that the caravan could carry something for the evil force.

2. The caravan halflings are very much afraid of something in the woods. Perhaps they fear demons, or treants, or a necromancer of great power and her undead army of treants. The road goes through the forest, so the halflings must continue, but they have not gathered their courage enough to do so.

3. The caravan is carrying a powerful wizard who is about to engage a rival in the forest. The halflings have been told to wait seven days while the wizard battles his foe. The wizard is in the forest searching for or engaging his rival when the PCs arrive.

4. The caravan leader has been possessed in the night by a spirit vampire, and has no interest in carrying goods but does have an interest in subjugating or feeding on the halflings.

5. The caravan is camped on the spot of an ancient graveyard, and on the night that the PCs arrive some ghosts arise to convince the halflings to move.

6. This area is disputed land between two orc (or other humanoid that makes sense) tribes, and they are going to war to resolve the dispute. Guess where?


Spirits Released

In a dark room far beneath the earth, a shaman intones the words of a ritual designed to grant access to a locked tower. The keys to the tower, spirits bound by the tower's owner, must be called forth from their prisons and coerced into opening the door. Otherwise, the door would not open and not allow magical access of any kind. Even teleportation is not possible, as the shaman's allies found out the hard way. The words reach a climax and three translucent beings come forth from statues at the door. The shaman smiles, and then begins a different ritual. As the words are spoken, he realizes his mistake. The three spirits flee through the walls and disappear. With a curse, the shaman and his allies pursue.

A few blocks away, a group of adventurers sit in a tavern enjoying their evening. Without warning, a translucent being emerges from the floor, seems to look around, and then dives into the body of one of the adventurers (to hide, not to possess).

Story Elements
Select or generate story elements from this table.

1-2. The spirits are the keys to the magical tower of a wizard, but exactly how that works is left to you. All three spirits must be present to open the door. The wizard set this kind of lock because the three spirits involved hate each other and won't spend any time doing anything together. Thus, the wizard reasoned, the tower won't ever be opened.

3-4. The wizard is trapped in the tower, and he really wishes that the lock wasn't that good. The wizard also cannot communicate with anyone outside the tower, so no help is available to get the spirits to work together (there is one way, but make it difficult to find out).

5-6. The shaman wants to take over the tower and its magic, including the ability of the tower to grow legs and walk. It could be like Baba Yaga's Hut if you want. Now that the spirits have escaped, the shaman and his allies must track them down and capture them. This makes the PCs a prime target of the shaman.

7. The spirit that entered the PC is the friendliest of the three and can communicate with the PC if it wants. It can possess the PC (standard action, PC level +5 vs. Will, lasts for 1 minute or until the end of the PC's next turn) if it wants, but it is hiding from both the shaman and the wizard who bound it in the first place.

8. The other two spirits are also hidden somewhere (inside people or objects). To enter the tower, the shaman has to find them as well, which means that other people are in danger.

9. The spirits were "stolen" from a primordial or deity that they served. They don't want to return to that service either, but the former master wants them back. As soon as they make themselves known, the master knows they are free and sends other servant creatures to reclaim them. This can complicate matters for the PCs, who could make mistaken assumptions about the source of these other attackers.

10. The wizard is long dead and planned to release the spirits before his/her death but was killed suddenly. Other defenses are inside the tower, but gaining control of the magical structure could tip the balance of power locally.


About the Author

Robert Wiese has been playing D&D since 1978 after he watched a game played in the car on the way home from a Boy Scouts meeting. He was fascinated, and delved into this strange world of dragons and magic and sourcebooks. Years later, he was hired to edit tournaments for the RPGA Network, and from there progressed to running the network after his boss was assassinated in the great Christmas purge of 1996. Times were tough, but he persevered and brought the RPGA into a shining new era. Eventually he met a girl who liked to play D&D too, and he left Renton for the warmth and casinos of Reno, Nevada. Now, he works in the Pharmacology department of UNR studying mouse foot muscles and the effects of RF emissions on same. He spends as much time as possible with his wife Rhonda, son Owen, and newborn daughter Rebecca.