The Tower of Lore
By Jesse Decker
Complete Cliffhanger
Episode 4: Lair of the Lich
Episode 3: Seeking Stannis
Episode 2: Into the Drider's Den
Episode 1: The Tower Calls
Cliffhangers Archive
The Approaching Swarm
Kingdom of the Blind
Into the Forsaken Temple's Crypt
The Trouble in Town
Sharkbait!
The Light of Despair
Training Grounds
Lorin's Chasm
Bridge Work
Nest of Corruption
Hindsight
A Giant Ransom
Black Water
The Horror of Lannock Hill
Over the Edge
Equinox
The Proper Count
The Tower of Lore
The Candlemaker's Fire
The Hallowed Hills
The Village of Camiram
Unearthing the Past
Special: Cliffhangers Live!


Cliffhangers Adventures

The Tower of Lore
Episode One: The Tower Calls
By Jesse Decker

The Tower of Lore is a short adventure for four 8th-level characters. Nearly any mix of characters will work, but the adventure consists of four sequential encounters, so a cleric or another source of recuperative magic is extremely useful. The adventure should prove a reasonable challenge for characters from 7th to 9th level. The adventure is set in a quiet area of the Duchy of Urnst in the Greyhawk campaign setting, but can be located almost anywhere within a day’s travel of a small village. The adventure uses "The Old Tower" map from the October Map-A-Week web feature.

Adventure Background

Two months ago, an ambitious young diviner named Stannis Moonsdale journeyed to the small village of Ethdar in the Duchy of Urnst. The mage came to the area looking for a cache of lost lore supposedly left by a powerful mage who used to live in the region. With the help of the villagers and his own powers, Stannis was able to locate the ruined tower. Accompanied by his powerful shield guardian, Stannis traveled to the ruined tower, forced his way past the magical traps guarding the inner chamber, and as expected, found a stash of loot.

Despite diligent research and divination, Stannis did not discover the true fate of the tower’s original owner. The priest who constructed the tower was Nithis Callal, an elf and servant of Lolth whose own schemes ended in ruin. Nithis learned that he was to be sacrificed as part of a play for power by one of Lolth’s prominent priestesses. Refusing to give up his life so easily, Nithis refused the call of his deity and began the terrible research of the process to become a lich. Although the priestess was furious with Nithis’s failure to obey, punishment was a long time in coming. After her scheme failed, the priestess was left with one mission: to destroy the one she believed responsible for her failure. Calling upon Lolth’s love of revenge, the priestess cursed Nithis by transforming him into a drider. This didn’t stop him -- even in drider form, Nithis’s transformation into a lich continued.

When Stannis arrived, the undead monstrosity that Nithis had become still lurked in the chambers beneath the tower. Not wanting to risk a confrontation, Nithis used his spells and drider abilities to hide, hoping that the trap he had laid would ensnare the new arrival. Rumors that Stannis had heard about the tower were mostly of Nithis’s creation. When he was alive, Nithis used similar rumors to lure adventurers to the region, and the rumors survived their creator’s transformation into undeath. The lore that Stannis discovered was carefully crafted by Nithis, under the guidance of his goddess, to shatter the mind of anyone not dedicated to the mistress of spiders.

Aware of the dangers of such hidden lore, Stannis took precautions when exploring the contents of Nithis’s remaining library, but he fell victim to the trap nevertheless. The trap exposed his mind to the direct touch of Lolth, destroying him, and leaving his corpse in the twisted form of a bodak.

The adventure consists of exploring the small tower, confronting first Stannis’s shield guardian, the bodak that Stannis has become, then the drider lich lurking under the tower.

Hooking the Characters

Because the adventure can take place almost anywhere, getting the characters to the Tower of Lore is relatively easy. However, simply passing by the tower might not provide enough motivation to explore its interior. Here’s a short list of ideas to get the characters into the tower.

  • The players know Stannis, or know of the diviner’s abilities, and need his advice on an important matter. Stannis is an expert on a number of subjects, such as history, arcane knowledge, and geography.
  • The players have heard rumors of the tower themselves. Stannis isn’t the only sage to be intrigued by tales of the tower’s contents. A rival of Stannis could hire the party to learn the tower’s secrets. The secrets would be a strong temptation for any of the party’s spellcasters as well.
  • Stannis initiated some major projects in Ethdar, at least by the village’s standards, and had made plans to spend a good deal of money on them. The merchants of the village have finished their work and are now anxious for their payment. The smith, wainwright, and innkeeper need payment to recoup their expenses. The three contact the party as a group and ask them to check on Stannis in exchange for a considerable discount on their services as long as the group is in the area.

Encounter Area 1: Outside the Tower

The countryside around the tower consists of open, rolling hills with sparse trees. Since Stannis returned to the village a few times during his stay at the tower, the villagers know the route. Hungry for news from the outside world, the villagers warm to outsiders quickly. A successful Diplomacy check (DC 10) gets them to share what they know of Stannis and the route to the tower. The tower is about one day’s travel by horse (just over 30 miles) from the village.

As the players approach the tower, read or paraphrase the following text:

As you approach the ruined tower, it becomes clear that the one-story building once rose higher than its current size. Piles of rock on top of the building reveal the fate of the tower’s upper stories. The building rests on top of a small hill, offering a good view of the surrounding area.

Before the characters explore the tower, they must deal with a pair of athach who have recently wandered into the area. The giant humanoids patrol areas 1 and 2 on the map. Had Stannis encountered the pair, he would have driven them off. Their presence should be a clue to the characters that the mage is unable to leave the tower.

Athach (2): hp 133 each; see Monster Manual page 21.

The Cliffhanger

After dealing with the athach, the characters still need to investigate the tower. Continuing to follow Stannis’s final command, the mage’s shield guardian patrols the inside of the entry chamber. Characters have a good chance to hear the guardian’s ponderous footsteps. Allow the characters a Listen check (DC 10) to hear the footsteps echoing in the small chamber (Area 6).

About the Author

Before becoming managing editor of TopDeck magazine , Jesse Decker worked as assistant editor for Dragon . His previous Cliffhangers adventures are Unearthing the Past , and The Candlemaker’s Fire .

 





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