Cliffhangers Adventures

A Giant Ransom
Episode Four: The Worms Go In
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 story thus far, the PCs have been tasked by Duke Ambrinigan, a local lord, to recover a stolen statue of a golden lion. The lion was stolen in transit by frost giant raiders, and was to be ransomed back to the Duke for 10,000 gp. The PCs were sent to perform the exchange. The giants, however, were attacked by the white dragon Whildenstrank, who stole the statue and retreated to his lair in the middle of a nearby glacier.

The PCs encountered the remaining giants, and then set off westward toward the dragon's lair. They traveled across the flat part of the glacier, encountering the frost giant ranger Velg the Dragon Tamer, as well as some burrowing bulettes. The PCs now have entered the Ice Canyons: a maze of twisting passageways surrounding the black spire of rock that the dragon calls home. They have just heard sounds of a battle ahead.

Recent Battle

Around the next corner, the PCs find the remains of a battle between a remorhaz and a frost worm. Both creatures are dead. Read or paraphrase the following text:

Shards of ice are scattered across the ground at an intersection of two canyons. In the middle lays a enormous blue-white segmented worm, with dozens of legs and winglike fins near its head. The back of the worm glows faintly red, and steam is rising slowly from its body. It does not appear to be moving. The entire area is covered with shards of ice.

The high-pitched scream the PCs heard was the keening of the frost worm. It attacked the remorhaz, but was destroyed by the heat generated by the remorhaz. When the frost worm died, it turned to ice and exploded, killing the remorhaz. The shards of ice on the ground are all that remain of the frost worm.

PCs examining the body of the remorhaz may find what appear to be wounds caused by huge mandibles, and other wounds like hundreds of dagger thrusts, but no weapons can be found (Search DC 15). If they search around the area the PCs may deduce that the ice shards are in a pattern that suggests the explosion (Search DC 20).

The Ice Canyons

The PCs could very quickly lose their way in the maze of canyons. The quickest path through the Ice Canyons would take about 6 hours of travel. The dragon's den is almost directly west. A successful Intuit Direction check (DC 15) will ensure arrival in 6-8 hours. Alternatively, a character could climb, fly, or levitate to the top of the canyons to spot the black spire and direct the party. Without some means of finding the direction, there is only a 1 in 4 chance that any hour's worth of travel gets them closer to the spire.

Whildenstrank's winter wolves patrol the Ice Canyons. Each hour the PCs move through the Canyons, there is a 1 in 6 chance that a winter wolf will find them. They will avoid combat, and will try to remain hidden (Hide +13) and spy on the PCs and report back to their master. A PC with the Track feat could track the winter wolves back to the spire with a successful Wilderness Lore check (DC 15).

Ambush! (EL 7)

The Ice Canyons are home to many remorhaz and frost worms. Along their trek through the frosty landscape, the PCs will be ambushed by a remorhaz. If the PCs travel for longer than 6 hours, there is a 1 in 12 chance per hour, cumulative, that another remorhaz will lie in wait.

The remorhaz will burrow out and attack the character in the back of the party. Since the remorhaz eats all the prey it finds, and incinerates all it ingests, it has no treasure. If Velg is with the party, he will suggest using ranged attacks.

Remorhaz: hp 67; see Monster Manual page 155.

Canyon Worm (EL 12)

The dragon, Whildenstrank, likes his lair for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the number of dangerous creatures that make their home in the Ice Canyons, deterring any inquisitive explorers. The frost worms, in particular, are a favorite of the dragon, because even those that are strong enough to defeat them might still fall victim to the worm's death throes.

After traveling four hours toward the black spire, the PCs are attacked by a frost worm. The attack happens at an intersection between many canyons, and there are many columns of ice in the middle of the intersection. As a result, the frost worm has one-half cover from any character more than 30 feet away and total cover beyond 60 feet. The reverse is also true. The frost worm will begin by trilling, then will move in to attack a stunned character.

If the characters flee, the worm will only pursue 100 feet from the intersection. If the worm is defeated, the PCs may find a mound of oval-shaped ice formations. A successful Knowledge (nature) or Wilderness Lore (DC 20) check will reveal that the ice formations are actually four frost worm eggs.

Frost worm: hp 154; see Monster Manual page 92.

The Cliffhanger

After overcoming the obstacles of the Ice Canyons, the heroes finally make it to the black spire of rock that is the home of the dragon...

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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