Cliffhangers Adventures

The Hallowed Hills
Episode Four: One Good Turn Deserves...
by Miguel Duran

In Miguel Duran’s 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 Three of The Hallowed Hills, the adventurers dealt with a patch of shriekers and a violet fungus. Within the cluster of fungi, they discovered the corpses of the two acolytes who had accompanied Brother Durham on his quest. They may also have noticed that the bodies had been drained of blood. Forging ahead, they encountered a fearsome host of orcs who had been coerced into battle by an unknown power. After dispatching them, the characters started down yet another dark passageway in search of Brother Durham and the truth about the evil that lies below Hartsblood Hills.

Area 6: Durham's Lair -- EL 4

The tunnel opens into a small cavern with a ceiling about 8 feet high. A large pile of coins spills from a few burlap sacks lying at the eastern end of the cave. Bodies litter the ground, but only one of them, a blonde-haired man dressed in armor and the shredded remnants of brown robes, is moving. Though bound and gagged, he manages to shout a muffled greeting at your arrival.

The cavern measures 20 feet by 20 feet. The bodies lying on the ground are orcs -- fallen members of the Crookedtusk tribe. A successful Heal check (DC 15) reveals that they have been completely drained of blood.

Although the man in robes was once Brother Durham, he is something quite different now. Anyone who chooses to untie him can do so automatically, but a successful Use Rope or Escape Artist check (DC 25) reveals that his bonds certainly shouldn't have held anyone who was putting up a decent struggle.

Creatures: Brother Durham has become a vampire spawn. The earthquake released a potent vampire, Simone Delcielus, from his stake-induced incapacitation below ground. When the priest and his two acolytes entered Area 2, Delcielus attacked and slew Brother Durham immediately, while the acolytes fled in terror. The newly cursed Durham then joined forces with the vampire, draining the blood of his erstwhile companions and leaving them to fertilize the fungus patch in Area 4. Since then, Delcielus has descended deeper into the caverns to seek out monstrous aid for his plan to overwhelm the monastery above. He has left Durham behind to spy upon the Order and to eliminate any further annoyances that come down from above. Durham has since dispatched the few orcs that dared to move against him.

Brother Durham: Male vampire spawn; CR 4; Medium-size undead; HD 4d12; hp 30; Init +6; Spd. 30 ft.; AC 21 (touch 12, flat-footed 19); Atk +5 melee (1d6+4, slam); SA blood drain (1d4 Con drain), charm, energy drain; SQ fast healing 2, gaseous form, spider climb, turn resistance +2, undead qualities; AL CE; SV Fort +1, Ref +5, Will +5; Str 16, Dex 14, Con –, Int 13, Wis 13, Cha 14.

Skills and Feats: Bluff +8, Climb +3, Craft (gemcutting) +10, Diplomacy +4, Hide +5, Jump +3, Listen +11, Move Silently +6, Search +8, Sense Motive +11, Spot +11; Alertness, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Skill Focus (Craft [gemcutting]).

Blood Drain (Ex): Brother Durham can suck blood from a living victim with his fangs by making a successful grapple check. If he pins the foe, he drains blood, inflicting 1d4 points of permanent Constitution drain each round.

Charm (Su): This is similar to the vampire's domination ability, but the save DC is 14, and the effect is similar to charm person as cast by a 5th-level sorcerer. A charmed subject allows Brother Durham to drain his or her blood.

Energy Drain (Su): Living creatures hit by Brother Durham's slam attack receive one negative level. The Fortitude save to remove the negative level has a DC of 14.

Fast Healing (Ex): Brother Durham heals 2 points of damage each round so long as he has at least 1 hit point. If reduced to 0 hit points in combat, he automatically assumes gaseous form and attempts to escape.

Gaseous Form (Su): As a standard action, Brother Durham can assume gaseous form at will, as the spell cast by a 6th-level sorcerer, but he can remain gaseous indefinitely and has a fly speed of 20 feet with perfect maneuverability.

Spider Climb (Ex): Brother Durham can climb sheer surfaces as though with a spider climb spell.

Turn Resistance (Ex): Brother Durham is less easily affected by clerics or paladins than other undead. When resolving a turn, rebuke, command, or bolster attempt, he receives a total bonus of +6.

Undead Qualities: Immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, necromantic effects, mind-influencing effects, and any effect requiring a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects; not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain, or energy drain; negative energy heals; not at risk of death from massive damage, but destroyed at 0 hit points or less; darkvision 60 ft.; cannot be raised or resurrected.

Tactics: Brother Durham wishes to lull the party into a false sense of security. To that end, he plays the victim and tells whatever lies he must to convince the party of his innocence. Any PC can make a Sense Motive check (DC 25) to uncover his lies.

If Brother Durham believes that anyone has detected his true nature, he attempts to charm one of his adversaries into coming to his aid, telling his new "friend" that all his or her companions have gone mad. Otherwise, he accompanies the adventurers and tries to slay them whenever it appears that he could do so with minimal risk, or at the exit into the monastery if they get that far. As he fights, Durham gloats about his new master’s power and mocks the Order’s weakness.

Treasure: Durham's treasure includes his own items, plus the spoils that the Crookedtusk scouting party gained from their previous raids on nearby villages and caravans, plus several pieces he gathered from the broken coffins. His hoard consists of 614 gp, 1,327 sp, a priest's garment woven through with gold thread (worth 120 gp), a silver skull ring with black onyx eyes (worth 240 gp), a divine scroll of dispel magic and prayer, a +1 mace (which he no longer uses), +1 chainmail, two potions of cure moderate wounds, and a helm of comprehending languages and reading magic.

Concluding the Adventure

If the PCs return the bodies of the slain expeditionaries to the Order, the abbot rewards each of them with a 100 gp purse and an enchanted piece of star rose quartz. Members of the Order make these magic items, which are called undiminished stars. In addition, the abbot allows the PCs to keep any treasure they have excavated from the caverns.

Undiminished Star: An undiminished star stores a one-time use of the spell death ward, which is automatically activated whenever its possessor encounters one of the effects that the spell would guard against. After the spell’s duration expires, the stone is no longer magical.

Caster Level: 7th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, death ward; Market Price: 2,500 gp.

What Next?

Although the PCs have presumably slain Durham, his creator still lurks deep beneath the earth, forging alliances with any number of monstrous, or even infernal, creatures. If Durham had a chance to gloat about his new master's power, the PCs may decide to seek him out by excavating the tunnel in Area 4. If the PCs remain unaware of the larger threat at the adventure's end, they may encounter the quiet, strangely serene keeper of the Order's library, who can inform them of the evil that has been unleashed below. Even if the characters do not pursue Delcielus, he will not forget their meddling -- he is sure to seek them out later, after he has concluded his business.

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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