A Giant Ransom
By Stephen Schubert
Complete Cliffhanger (68k PDF)
Episode 5: The Wyrms Go Out
Episode 4: The Worms Go In
Episode 3: Thin Ice
Episode 2: Giant Trouble
Episode 1: The Big Deal
Cliffhangers Archive
The Approaching Swarm
Kingdom of the Blind
Into the Forsaken Temple's Crypt
The Trouble in Town
The Light of Despair
Training Grounds
Lorin's Chasm
Bridge Work
Nest of Corruption
A Giant Ransom
Black Water
The Horror of Lannock Hill
Over the Edge
The Proper Count
The Tower of Lore
The Candlemaker's Fire
The Hallowed Hills
The Village of Camiram
Unearthing the Past
Special: Cliffhangers Live!
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Cliffhangers Adventures

A Giant Ransom
Episode Three: Thin Ice
By Stephen Schubert

A Giant Ransom is a short adventure for four 11th-level characters. There are opportunities for diplomacy, stealth, and combat, based on the choices the PCs make, so any mix of classes is appropriate. The adventure can be set in any campaign world, in a frontier region near glacier-covered mountains.

Adventure Background

In the first episode, the PCs were employed by Duke Ambrinigan to exchange a ransom of 10,000 gp in gems for a golden lion that was taken by frost giants in a recent raid. While waiting for the giants to arrive at the designated meeting place, the PCs watched as the white dragon Whildenstrank attacked the giants and then flew off with the statue. Charged with returning the golden lion statue at all costs, the PCs dealt with the remaining frost giants and then headed west, toward the lair of the dragon in the midst of the nearby glacier.

Along the way, they encountered Velg the Dragon Tamer, another frost giant who was also on the trail of the dragon. Velg may or may not be with the party now.

The PCs are now traveling across the flat icy surface of the glacier, and may have just noticed something burrowing under the ice, heading straight toward them.

Atop the Glacier

The eastern edge of the glacier is mostly flat ice, with the occasional crevasse or sinkhole. Travel is relatively safe, and the surface is perhaps 4 inches of heavy snow or slush, soft enough that feet sink in an inch or two, but not so wet that water puddles in footprints. The flats of the glacier eventually give way to the "ice canyons", a maze of ice walls and pillars. The white dragon Whildenstrank makes his home in a spire of volcanic rock that juts out above the glacier like a black fang in the middle of the icy expanse.

Tunneling Trouble (EL 9)

The PCs have not been unnoticed as they cross the snowy landscape. A pair of bulettes has adapted to living under the glacier, and they have noticed the presumably armor-clad meals marching above. Not bulettes of the sort to allow a meal to walk by, they burrow up to the PCs and attack.

Bulettes (2): hp 90, 100; see Monster Manual page 28

Walking on Thin Ice (EL 8)

Once the bulettes are defeated, the PCs will discover another danger: the tunneling of the bulettes has weakened the ice beneath their feet, and it is about to give way! Read or paraphrase the following text:

You sigh with relief as the last of the landsharks slumps motionless to the ice. Before you can begin your next thought, however, the ice beneath your feet shifts, nearly throwing you to the ground. You see cracks and crevices begin to appear on the surface of the ice, and the small rifts begin to spread, becoming larger, as if the glacier were opening a gaping maw to swallow you up!

The PCs have very little time before the ice gives way. Have each PC roll for initiative, and begin a round. At initiative 10, the ice gives way. Any PC still within 30 feet of the bulettes will fall into the sinkhole with the ice. A PC that falls into the sinkhole must make a Reflex saving throw (DC 15). Success means the PC has managed to stay atop the ice as she falls, failure indicates that the PC will be buried.

Treat this situation as a cave-in (see Dungeon Masters Guide page 114). A PC that succeeded his first saving throw will need to make another Reflex save (DC 15), or sustain 3d6 points of damage and become pinned in the ice. Any PC that failed his first saving throw will be buried, and will take 8d6 points of damage, or half that if another Reflex saving throw (DC 15) is successful, and is pinned beneath the ice.

Pinned characters take 1d6 points of subdual damage per minute while pinned. Buried characters are under 1d6 feet of ice, and digging them out will require moving 500 pounds per foot of depth, or about one minute per foot of depth for the average PC working alone. Velg, with his 29 Strength, can dig down about 14 feet in one minute, if he is there. See the Dungeon Masters Guide, page 114, for rules on cave-ins and digging. Characters who are not buried, but still pinned, can free themselves with a Strength check (DC 25), or can break free in one minute with some assistance.

The Ice Canyons

After the characters dig themselves out of the sinkhole, they should continue west, toward the dragon's den. The relatively smooth surface of the glacier slowly gives way to a network of interweaving Ice Canyons. The walls of the canyons rise nearly one hundred feet above the canyon floors, which vary from twenty to thirty feet wide.

The canyon floors are covered with a layer of ice dust, and there are some tracks in the snow. A Wilderness Lore check (DC 18) by a PC with the Track feat will reveal a set of large wolf-tracks leading into the canyon maze. The tracks are from the winter wolves that act as spies for the dragon Whildenstrank. The PCs could even try to follow the tracks through the twisting paths to the dragon's lair.

The PCs should reach the Ice Canyons near dusk, and may wish to rest. Throughout the night, they hear the whistling of the wind through the twisting ravines, and very faintly they might hear what sounds like the howling of wolves, or the sound of the frost giant horns carrying on the wind.

The Cliffhanger

The next day, or when the PCs head into the twisting canyon maze, they hear a high-pitched screeching echoing off the canyon walls, followed by a raspy roar. The sounds of combat resonate in the narrow fissures for a few seconds, another roar is heard, followed by a noise not unlike thousands of icicles shattering on the ground. The sound seems to be coming from just around the next bend...

About the Author

Stephen Schubert is a freelance writer who spends too much of his time at his day job. When not working or writing, Stephen runs two D&D campaigns, and plays in a few others. He dedicates this, his first published adventure, to his wife, whose paladin will always remember "242 points of damage!"

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