Episode Two: Beyond the Pale
by Miguel Duran
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 One of The Hallowed Hills, we presented an introduction to the adventure, several plot hooks the DM could use to bring the characters into the action, and the entryway to the cavern complex.
2. Those Who Remain -- EL 4
No one knew there was a cavern complex beneath the Monastery of the Risen Star until an earthquake opened a passage to it. In the last episode, the adventurers made their way into the first of the caverns. The story resumes as they begin the first leg of their search for the Order's missing brothers.
Read the following aloud to the players:
|The floor of this roughly circular cavern is extremely uneven. Jagged chunks of rock raise some areas several feet in elevation, while other sections are pockmarked with deep craters. The remnants of several smashed coffins lie strewn across the chamber.|
The cave is about 80 feet in diameter, and its only exit is a tight passage leading out from the east wall to Area 3. Two dozen coffins tumbled through the breach that the earthquake created. The remains of these as well as the burial effects of their occupants (wraps, ceremonial urns, and a good selection of material goods) lie scattered throughout this room. There are two items of note among the debris -- a single shattered lantern and, beside it, a silver holy symbol, the back of which bears the inscription, "To Brother Durham, for Faithful Service."
Because of the uneven surface of this cavern, anyone who attempts to traverse it quickly or perform any sort of acrobatic maneuvers must make a Balance Check (DC 15). Failure by a margin of less than 5 means that the character has stumbled and is incapable of movement for 1 round. Failure by 5 or more indicates that the character has lost his or her footing and fallen prone.
Creatures: Some of the more malevolent spirits from the tomb above have taken on unlife, now that the accident has freed them from the restrictions imposed by their funeral rites. Four ghouls lie in wait behind a rocky outcropping near the southern face of the cavern. Although they are perfectly hidden, one or more of the adventurers may hear their movements. A successful Listen check (DC 22) reveals the ambush before it occurs.
Ghouls (4): hp 20, 18, 14, 9.
Tactics: The ghouls wait until the party is particularly vulnerable, preferentially attacking either a lone character or a small group. Splitting the party to explore the debris or entering the cavern one-by-one from the crypt above incites an immediate attack; otherwise, the ghouls wait until the characters have either spread out a bit or are about to leave before striking.
The creatures attack in an intelligent, coordinated fashion, singling out a non-elf opponent first if possible and attacking as a group, flanking when feasible. Once their victim is paralyzed, they move on to the next target. Only after all the party members are paralyzed or unconscious will they try to finish off any characters.
Treasure: Beyond the recoverable coinage, which totals out to 47 gp, 146 sp, and 257 cp, the only items of note are a religious statuette of pure silver (worth 105 gp) and a gold ring with a jade inset (worth 90 gp). The remaining goods are of standard quality; the DM should choose appropriate items from the equipment list in the Players Handbook.
3. Stampede! -- EL 3
Though this passageway through the rock is only 5 feet wide, its walls seemingly extend upward forever. In fact, however, they come to a halt at the cavern's top, some 60 feet overhead. The characters must make their way through these cramped quarters single-file for 110 feet before the tunnel opens into Area 4.
Creatures: A swarm of stirges is perched near the top of the tunnel. These creatures descend upon the characters from overhead as soon as the party reaches the midway point of the passage.
Stirges (6): hp 7, 6, 5, 5, 4, 2.
Read the following aloud to the players when they enter Area 4:
|A wave of torrid humidity washes over you as you step into this cavern. The floor is soft and covered with thick, damp moss. Immense, rootlike, brown-and-gray tendrils of vegetation dangle down from the ceiling overhead, lightly brushing the tops of the varied fungi that fill most of this circular chamber.|
Although the fungi cluttering the center of the room and the roots hanging from above tend to obscure vision in the cavern, the PCs may still notice something peculiar as they enter this room. Have each player make a Spot check (DC 21). Success reveals two bodies lying facedown near the center of the cluster. Their simple black robes mark them as members of the Order. . . .
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!)