Over the Edge
One: Hit the Road
By Will McDermott
is a short adventure for four 9th-level characters. The adventure is set
in the Lortmil Mountains on a newly established trade route between Ulek
and Verbebonc, but could be on any route that takes the characters through
a mountain pass.
Several years ago,
the merchants of Tringlee, the capital city in the Duchy of Ulek, opened
a new trade route through the Lortmil Mountains to the town of Verbebonc.
However, in the last few months, reports of manticore raids along the
route have filtered back to Tringlee. A month ago, the merchants hired
a group of adventurers and sent them into the mountains to end the manticore
raids. The party never returned.
The manticore raids
are actually orchestrated by a juvenile red dragon that recently came
to the region to increase its wealth and power. The red dragon, named
Kardrako, has made its home in the back of the manticores' cave, which
is set into a cliff several hundred feet below a bridge on the trade
Kardrako uses the
manticores and, more recently, two hill giants named Geet and Gern,
to waylay travelers and force them to pay a toll to cross the bridge.
All of the money, of course, goes to Kardrako. The adventurers whom
the merchants sent into the mountains did indeed locate the trouble
they were sent to find. However, only one -- a rogue named Finglos
survived. Where his loyalties now lie is a matter for some debate.
The adventure consists
of meeting Geet and Gern, finding Finglos, climbing down the cliff to
the caves, exploring the caves, and ultimately facing Kardrako. All
of the treasure that the manticores and the hill giants have collected
rests in Kardrako's treasure trove.
the Edge takes place along a mountain path, DMs may find it easy
or difficult to hook the characters into the adventure. If your characters
are currently traveling through some mountains, you can easily stick
the adventure right in front of them. If not, try one of the following
characters overhear two merchants talking about the manticore problem
and the missing adventurers. One merchant says, "Weve waited
long enough. We should send another group into the mountains."
see a leaflet posted on the town notice board, stating the following:
"Wanted: Adventurers to clear trade route. All expenses paid, plus
stipend. Inquire at Merchant's Guild." The leaflet is dated two
months ago, but it was not on the board the previous day.
caravan leaving for Verbebonc in the morning hires the PCs as guards.
One of the
adventurers in Finglos's party was the brother (or sister or cousin)
of a PC. That character overhears a merchant talking about the groups
disappearance in the mountains.
1: Killian's Krew
Most of the action
of Over the Edge occurs in Kardrako's cave and on the cliff-face
above the cave. However, before the characters even make it to the mountain
pass, they get a chance to help some merchants with another common problem
on the trade routes -- bandits. This encounter can even serve as the
hook to draw the characters further into the adventure, as the DM can
use the cliffhanger as a way to give the background information to the
Shortly after the
characters enter the lower hills of the Lortmil Mountains, they hear
a commotion happening around a bend in the road. Any character making
a successful Listen check (DC 15) hears the following statement in Common:
"Stand to or pay with your life!" A listen check (DC 20) also
reveals the sounds of weapons being drawn. Once the heroes round the
bend, read or paraphrase the following text:
|Roughly 100 feet
ahead stand three wagons half-filled with crates, casks, and chests.
Two men sit in each wagon, all with their hands held up above their
heads. The wagon drivers are obviously merchants and none of them
have any visible weapons or armor. Six bandits in studded leather
armor, all brandishing short swords, surround the caravan. The bandit
leader stands at the front of the caravan with his hands on his hips.
He wears a longsword at his belt and a bow strung across his shoulders,
but no visible armor.
The bandit leader
is a scoundrel named Killian. When the bandits spot the PCs and alert
him, he turns around. "This is none of your affair," he says.
"Leave us to our business and we shall let you pass unharmed."
Should the characters give Killian and his comrades a wide berth, the
bandits let them go but follow the group and attack at night. If the
PCs attack, Killian's Krew turns its attention away from the merchants
to fight the heroes.
Mail human Rog5/Ftr4; CR 9; Medium-size humanoid; 5d6+5 plus 4d10+4;
hp 52; Init +6; Spd 30 ft.; AC 19; Atk +12/+7 melee (1d8+6/19-20/x 2
crit, +1 longsword), +10/+5 ranged (1d8+3/x 3 crit, masterwork
mighty (Str 16) composite long bow); SQ Evasion, Sneak attack +3d6,
Uncanny Dodge (Dex bonus to AC); AL NE; SV Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +2;
Str 16, Dex 15, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 12.
Skills and Feats:
Appraise +9, Climb +10, Disable Device +9, Hide +10, Jump +10, Listen
+8, Move Silently +10, Open Lock +10, Spot, +8, Search +9, Tumble +10,
Use Magic Device +8; Dirty Fighting, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Leadership,
Mobility, Spring Attack, Weapon Focus (longsword), Weapon Specialization
+1 longsword, masterwork mighty (Str 16) composite long bow,
20 arrows, +1 mithril chain shirt, +1 buckler, 2 tanglefoot bags,
(6): Male human Rog1/Ftr2; CR 3; Medium-size humanoid; 1d6+1 plus
2d10+2; hp 20; Init +6; Spd 30 ft.; AC 16; Atk +6 melee (1d6+2/19-20/x
2 crit, masterwork short sword), +5 ranged (1d6+1/x 3 crit, masterwork
mighty (Str 12) composite short bow); SQ Evasion, Sneak attack +1d6;
AL CN; SV Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +0; Str 14, Dex 15, Con 13, Int 12,
Wis 10, Cha 8.
Skills and Feats:
Appraise +5, Climb +6, Disable Device +5, Hide +6, Jump +6, Listen +4,
Move Silently +6, Open Lock +6, Search +5, Spot, +4, Tumble +6, Use
Magic Device +3; Dirty Fighting, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Mobility,
Weapon Focus (short sword).
Masterwork short sword, masterwork mighty (Str 12) composite short bow,
20 arrows, masterwork studded leather armor, masterwork buckler, 2 tanglefoot
bags, 15 gp.
Killian and his Krew attempt to flank as many characters as possible
to get the flanking bonus and deliver sneak attack damage. In addition,
all of the bandits fight dirty, so they deal extra damage on full attack
actions. If Killian has trouble hitting with his second attack, he foregoes
this extra attack to get the Dirty Fighting damage. If the fight goes
badly for them, Killian calls a retreat; the bandits use their Mobility
to disengage from melee and their tanglefoot bags to discourage pursuit.
You know the brutal
and effective fighting tactics of the streets and back alleys.
attack bonus +2.
Benefit: Make a
melee attack roll normally. If successful, you inflict an additional
+1d4 points of damage. This feat requires the full attack action. (See
Sword and Fist, page
Assuming the characters
either defeat or drive off Killian and his krew, the leader of the merchant
caravan -- Berimir, a tailor of some renown -- thanks them and offers
each a custom-tailored outfit the next time they are in Tringlee. In
addition, Berimir tells the heroes about two hill giants that he and
his fellow merchants met about four days earlier at a bridge up in the
mountains. The giants killed all his guards, but then let the merchants
pass after they agreed to pay a toll for crossing the bridge.
Over the Edge
Two: Rocky Road Ahead
By Will McDermott
2: The Bridge
The route through
mountains winds as it rises into the pass. If the characters do not
attempt to sneak through the mountains, Geet and Gern hear their approach
and the first encounter happens right after they round a bend. If the
characters are being quiet, give Geet and Gern one listen check to hear
the characters before they round the bend. Once in view of the giants,
any character making a successful Spot check (DC 25) sees the giants
in time to act during the surprise round. All other characters are flat-footed
for the first volley of rocks.
Once the heroes
spot the giants, read or paraphrase the following text:
|You round the
bend to see a sturdy bridge, just wide enough for a merchant's cart,
suspended over a chasm about 150 feet away. Two hill giants stand
on the path in front of the bridge, each with a pile of rocks at his
feet -- and two in hand, about to be hurled at you.
Geet and Gern:
CR 7, hp 118 (Geet) and 98 (Gern); See Hill Giants in the Monster
Manual page 98. Between them,
Geet and Gern have just 20 silver pieces in their pouches and nothing
else of value.
Geet and Gern are immediately hostile toward the characters and throw
rocks until the characters close into melee. At that point, Geet fights
with his greatclub. Gern, however, attempts to grapple his melee opponent.
If successful, Gern then tries to pin on his next action. Should Gern
successfully pin the grappled PC, he uses his partial action to move
to the edge of the cliff and drop his opponent as a free action. The
chasm is 1,000 feet deep, so a dropped character suffers 20d6 points
of damage from the impact. Any character not in melee with either giant
may make a spot check (DC 25) to notice Gern glance at the cliff edge
during the initial grapple attempt.
After dealing with
Geet and Gern, the characters hear a scraping noise. A Listen check
(DC 10) enables the heroes to determine that the sound comes from the
chasm. Any character who surpasses a DC 20 on the Listen check realizes
that someone or something is climbing up the cliff face.
Over the Edge
Three: Once More Unto the Breach
By Will McDermott
Geet and Gern (the hill giant bridge guards), the group hears ominous
scratching noises echoing in the chasm. A Listen check (DC 20) identifies
the sounds as someone (or something) climbing up the cliff face. A voice
calls out, "A little help, please?"
The climber is Finglos,
the lone survivor of the previous adventuring party sent into the mountains
by the Tringlee merchants. He appears friendly and continues to ask
for help or a rope (if the characters have not already helped him),
telling them that he's been hiding in the manticore's cave below for
two weeks waiting for a chance to escape.
Male human Rog9; CR 9; Medium-size humanoid; 42 hp; Init +4; Spd 60
ft.; AC 18 (touch 15, flat-footed 18); Atk +11 melee (1d6+5/18-20/x
2 crit, +1 rapier); SQ Evasion, Uncanny Dodge (Dex bonus to AC,
can't be flanked), Sneak Attack +5d6; AL CN; SV Fort +4, Ref +10, Will
+2; Str 18, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 12, Wis 9, Cha 11.
Skills and Feats:
Bluff +12, Climb +16, Craft (traps) +7, Disable Device +7, Hide +16,
Jump +20, Listen +11, Move Silently +11, Open Lock +10, Search +13,
Spot +11, Tumble +16; Cleave, Dodge, Mobility, Power Attack, Spring
+1 rapier, +1 studded leather armor, 2 potions of darkvision,
boots of striding and springing, thieves tools, silk rope (100 ft.).
Finglos has actually
been a captive of Kardrako for several weeks and is currently under
the effects of Kardrako's charm person spell. A Sense Motive
check (DC 25) detects the presence of the enchantment, as does a successful
detect magic spell cast upon Finglos. Unless the charm person
is dispelled, Finglos tells the group that the entrance to the manticore
cave is some 200 feet down the cliff face and that with the group's
help he can finally avenge the deaths of his comrades. Further, Finglos
informs the characters that the manticores are currently out hunting
and that he knows of a perfect spot inside the cave to ambush them upon
their return. He explains that fighting the manticores in the open would
prove suicidal because the beasts stay aloft at great range and fire
spikes from their tails.
In reality, Finglos
is trying to lure the characters into the cave to face Kardrako. Kardrako's
charm person spell lasts only three hours, so Finglos has explicit
instructions to return at the end of two hours. Should the heroes hesitate
or wish to rest until morning before venturing down the cliff face,
Finglos pleads with them: Now is the best opportunity he will get to
destroy the creatures that killed his friends. If his entreaties fail,
he attempts to climb back down the cliff face, saying that he will face
the monsters alone if that's what it takes.
3: Cliff Attack!
Unbeknownst to Finglos,
once he and the characters begin their descent to the cave, the manticores
attack per Kardrakos orders. If Finglos returns alone or doesn't
return at all, the manticores wait until the PCs begin their descent
(waiting until the next day if necessary).
Once the group gets
halfway between the top of the cliff and the cave entrance (100 feet
down from the top), four manticores fly out from behind outcroppings
to either side of the characters and attack.
(4): CR 5, 57 hp; see the Monster
Unless engaged in melee by flying characters, the manticores exhaust
their spikes (6 per round each for 4 rounds) before closing to attack
with their claws and teeth. If the characters are clinging to a rope,
one manticore flies up to the top, lands, and attempts to chew through
the manticores, the characters reach the cave entrance without further
attacks. Read or paraphrase the following text:
|The cave entrance
is nothing more than a large gash cut into the side of the cliff.
The narrowness of the chasm prevents the sun's rays from penetrating
very far into the opening at any time of day, so the cave becomes
pitch black after 20 feet. "There are at least five more manticores,"
Finglos says. "Come, we must get to the ambush spot quickly."
He then quaffs a potion and races off into the darkness.
Over the Edge
Four: Into the Inky Blackness
By Will McDermott
Finglos drank a
potion of darkvision, allowing him to see 60 feet into the darkness
of the cave. He moves at double speed every round unless it looks like
the characters will catch up to him, in which case he ducks into one
of the side chambers and attempts to hide. If the PCs do catch up to
Finglos, he points ahead and says, "Quickly, the ambush spot is
just around the corner!" Finglos then waits for the heroes to take
the lead going down the passage.
The cave itself
is fairly straightforward. The main passage is roughly 20 feet wide
and about 25 feet high. It extends roughly straight back into cliff
face for 120 feet and then turns to the left. Three passages off the
main tunnel (two to the right and one to the left) open almost immediately
into small caverns (each about 50 feet across). Should the characters
explore these side caverns, they find single manticore nests in each
of the first two. The third has two such nests. A successful spot check
(DC 20) enables PCs to notice that one of the two nests is much newer
than any of the others. No treasure lies in any of these side caverns.
4: Down the Shaft
At the bend in the
corridor awaits a 20-foot wide pit trap that engulfs the entire floor
in that section of the passage. If the heroes have dispelled the charm
person cast on Finglos, he warns them about the pit trap, which
Kardrako forced him to construct during the past four weeks. The trap
can be avoided by jumping (DC 10) across a 5-foot gap at the corner.
Any character failing the Jump check automatically falls into the pit.
Spiked Pit Trap:
CR 4; 60 ft. deep, no attack roll necessary (6d6); +10 melee (1d4 spikes
for 1d4+5 points of damage per successful hit); Reflex save avoids (DC
20); Search (DC 20); Disable Device (DC 20).
The trap can be
disabled only from the other side of the pit (around the corner). If
one of the characters jumps across and attempts to disable the trap,
immediately proceed to the cliffhanger section. Should all members of
the party jump across the pit at the corner, complete this encounter
before proceeding to the cliffhanger.
Finglos knows of
an underground passage at the bottom of the pit but has not yet explored
the passage. Finglos does not know that a black pudding recently found
its way into the bottom of the pit. It now covers the entire floor of
the pit (having reformed itself around the spikes), and immediately
attacks any character who falls in.
CR 7, 115 hp; see the Monster
The black pudding
suffers damage from the falling character as described in the Falling
Objects section on page 89 of the Dungeon
Master Guide: 6d6
points if the PC's body and gear weighs more than 200 pounds; 3d6 if
the total weight is 101-200 pounds. However, as soon as a character
lands on the black pudding, his or her armor must succeed at a Reflex
save (DC 19) or dissolve due to the pudding's acid. Weapons dropped
on (or used against) the black pudding must also make a Reflex save
(DC 19) or dissolve.
The black pudding tries to slam opponents, dealing both slam and acid
damage. After a successful slam, the pudding makes an improved grab
attempt as a free action. On subsequent rounds, the pudding attempts
to constrict a grabbed opponent, dealing automatic slam and acid damage.
Weapons do not deal damage to a black pudding; they merely split the
pudding in two (each half has one-half of the original's hit points).
The passage continues
another 60 feet , but beyond that lies pitch blackness. Characters who
make it past the pit and succeed at a Spot check (DC 5) notice an acrid,
sulfur smell wafting down the tunnel. Anyone making a Spot check (DC
20) also notices that the tunnel seems slightly warmer on this side
of the pit. Should a hero Listen (DC 15) for noises coming from the
blackness ahead, he or she detects the sound of wings flapping.
Over the Edge
Five: Kardrako's Lair
By Will McDermott
5: The Dragon Attacks
Kardrako has been
waiting for Finglos to return and report on the fracas at the bridge.
(In fact, if Finglos is still charmed, he will have returned and told
Kardrako that the characters are coming.) So the dragon lurks about
100 feet from the pit, watching the passage. Once the heroes reach the
far side of the pit (or if one character -- even Finglos -- jumps across
and attempts to disarm the trap), Kardrako flies out of his lair to
Red dragon juvenile; CR 9; 159 hp; See the Monster
Skills and Feats:
Bluff +18, Diplomacy +18, Intimidate +18, Jump +25, Knowledge (arcana)
+18, Listen +18, Search +18, Sense Motive +18, Spellcraft +18, Spot
+18; Flyby Attack, Multiattack, Power Attack, Spell Focus (enchantment/charm),
(cast 6/5; base DC = 12 + spell level): 0 -- arcane mark,
dancing lights, detect magic, mage hand, mending;
1st -- charm person, doom, shield.
Kardrako attempts a Flyby Attack to bull rush any characters on his
side of the pit into the trap, then uses a Wingover to turn around and
prepare for another Flyby. He breathes on any characters still in the
passage before going into melee.
If Finglos is still
charmed, he remains hidden during this battle (either behind the treasure
trove or in one of the manticore caverns, depending on where he ended
up after the pit trap encounter).
Kardrako has amassed
a sizeable treasure by forcing the manticores, hill giants, and even
Finglos to waylay merchant caravans for him. Much of the treasure is
too bulky for the characters to remove from the caves (large bolts of
rough cloth, caskets of salt, and crates and crates of pottery). However,
the merchants of Tringlee may pay a reward for learning the whereabouts
of all of their goods. If the heroes defeat Kardrako and Search (DC
20 for each category) through all of the cargo in the back of his chamber,
they can find:
chests each containing 6,000 sp, 2,400 gp, and 150 pp.
silk purses each containing 3 gems (3 tiger eyes worth 10 gp each; 3
moonstones, 50 gp each; 2 white pearls, 100 gp each; 2 black pearls,
500 gp each; 1 emerald worth 1,000 gp, 1 diamond worth 2,000 gp).
Scattered amongst the goods are a small bolt of silk worth 105 gp, a
crate of unrefined mithril worth 550 gp, and a small wooden box containing
a set of silver combs inset with sapphires worth 1,050 gp.
In addition to the regular merchant wares, coins, and gems, characters
might find a +1 cloak of resistance, dust of disappearance, figurine
of wondrous power (serpentine owl), glove of storing, ioun stone
(dull gray), and a necklace of fireballs (type I).
Lastly, Kardrako kept all of Finglos's items stored in a chest, allowing
the rogue only a few items (armor and weapon) when needed (and only
when charmed). The rest of Finglos's items still lie in the chest. They
are: 280 gp, a +1 mighty composite shortbow (+2 Str), a ring
of feather fall, and 3 potions (1 cure moderate wounds, 2
Characters can continue
the adventure in several ways after they meet Kardrako. If they defeat
the dragon, the passage down in the pit trap could lead to further adventures
in the Lortmil Mountains. Should the heroes find Kardrako too tough
to handle, the red dragon could become a recurring enemy who hounds
them whenever they journey through the region. When the characters return
to Tringlee, the merchants could have a new and bigger problem on their
hands. A devious DM could even have Finglos turn on the party sometime
after the battle and attempt to steal the treasure.
moving to the Online Media department at Wizards of the Coast, Will
McDermott was editor in chief of TopDeck magazine and, before
that, The Duelist. Will has written strategy guides for both
Magic: The Gathering and the Pokémon TCGs, and is currently
writing a Magic: The Gathering novel.