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
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Cliffhangers Adventures

A Giant Ransom
Episode Five: The Wyrms Go Out
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. Then they braved the hazards of frost worms and remorhaz in the Ice Canyons: a maze of twisting passageways surrounding the black spire of rock that the dragon calls home. The PCs now stand at the edge of an open space, looking at the towering edifice in front of them.

The Approach (EL 8)

While in its lair, the dragon Whildenstrank relies on his winter wolf spies to inform him of trespassers. The entry to the lair is a simple affair, with a gaping hole in the side of the black stone spire that leads down a tunnel to an inner grotto. Whildenstrank has covered the drab black walls of the tunnel and the entry with ice, and icicles hang from the lip of the cave mouth. A narrow footpath used by the winter wolves, climbs up the steep slope to the entry.

Three winter wolves rest in the entry. If they see the PCs (Spot +9), they will trot down the footpath and challenge the party, demanding to know why they have come to the spire. The initial attitude is unfriendly, and they will attack if the party does not leave. If the PCs try to talk their way past the wolves, have the speaker make a Diplomacy check:

Indifferent (DC 15): The wolves will allow them to pass, but will follow them into the tunnel. If combat breaks out with the dragon, the wolves will join in and attack from behind.

Friendly (DC 25): Information: the wolves don't like working for the dragon, and could be convinced to ignore the party, for a sufficient bribe of 1,000 gp.

Helpful (DC 40): The wolves will let the PCs pass, for an unspecified favor in the future.

If Velg is with the party, he will wait for the wolves to come down, and will then attack, explaining later that they might warn the dragon.

If two of the wolves are killed, the third will try to run back to the cave, to warn Whildenstrank.

Winter wolves (3): hp 42, 46, 64; see Monster Manual page 184.

Lair of the Dragon (EL 12)

From the entry, a wide tunnel leads inward and slightly downward to Whildenstrank's lair in a large hollow in the middle of the black spire. The cavern is roughly 60 feet across, and is ringed by a dozen 5-foot wide columns made of ice. As light shines on the columns, it reflects off the gems, jewels, and thousands of coins embedded in the ice. One column is half-formed, and the head of a golden lion protrudes from the top of the ice mound. Whildenstrank is most likely working on encasing his newfound treasure by using slow, controlled breaths of ice.

When the PCs arrive, Whildenstrank is disturbed by the interruption, but is curious as to why the PCs journeyed all the way to his lair. His patience will last long enough for the PCs to briefly explain their presence. He is initially unfriendly, unless Velg is present, and his actions are further influenced by the results of a PC's Diplomacy check:

Hostile (less than 5): He attacks. See tactics, below. He will also attack if Velg is present.

Unfriendly (DC 5): He demands that they pay tribute (1,000 gp each should do) and leave. If they do not pay and leave, he attacks. See tactics, below.

Indifferent (DC 15): He will be open to discussing a trade for the golden lion statue. The initial price will be 20,000 gp in gems and/or items. A PC may attempt to negotiate a better deal, with opposed Diplomacy checks (Whildenstrank has +9 on Diplomacy), but the dragon will not go lower than 15,000 gp.

Friendly or Helpful (DC 25): The dragon will trade, and the initial price will be 12,000 gp, and he will negotiate down to 8,000 gp.

Alternatively, the PCs could attempt to sneak in and steal the statue. That approach is best when the dragon is either gone hunting or sleeping. If the party waits for it to sleep, they can sneak in, but any loud noise will rouse the dragon (Move Silently DC 20). The golden lion statue is stuck halfway in the ice pillar, and will require a Strength check (DC 20) to pull out, and will most assuredly wake the dragon. The party may come up with more clever methods of retrieving the statue. Use your best judgement.

Whildenstrank will not leave to hunt until the statue is fully encased. But the PCs should have an hour or two to break it free and leave. Of course, the theft will be noticed the moment the dragon returns, and he will proceed to hunt down the PCs, using his winter wolf allies to track the thieves.

Whildenstrank, Male Mature Adult White Dragon: Male white dragon; CR 11; Huge dragon; HD 21d12+105; hp 241; Init +4; Spd 60 ft., burrow 30 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor); AC 28 (touch 8, flat-footed 28); Atk +27 melee (2d8+8, bite), +22 melee (2d6+4, 2 claws), +22 melee (1d8+4, 2 wings), +22 melee (1d8+12, tail slap); Face/Reach 10 ft. [TS] 20 ft./10 ft.; SA breath weapon (cone of cold, 50 ft., 7d6, save DC 25), Crush, frightful presence, spell-like abilities; SQ blindsight 210 ft., cold subtype, damage reduction 10/+1, dragon traits, Icewalking, spell resistance 20; AL CE; SV Fort +17, Ref +12, Will +13; Str 27, Dex 10, Con 21, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 12.

Skills and Feats: Appraise +13, Bluff +13, Diplomacy +21, Hide -8, Intimidate +17, Intuit Direction +12, Listen +27, Search +18, Sense Motive +18, Spot +27; Alertness, Cleave, Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Wingover

SA -- Frightful Presence (Ex): Any creature within 210 feet and with fewer hit dice than the dragon must succeed at a Will save (DC 21) whenever the dragon attacks, charges, or flies overhead. On a failure, creatures with 4 or fewer HD become panicked for 4d6 rounds and those with 5 or more HD become shaken for 4d6 rounds. A creature that succeeds the save is immune to that dragon's frightful presence for one day.

SA -- Breath Weapon (Su): A cone of cold that inflict 7d6 points of cold damage, Reflex save half (DC 25).

SA -- Crush: As a standard action the dragon can leap or land on an opponent up to size Small. Opponents struck must succeed a Reflex save (DC 25) or become pinned and take 2d8+12 points of crushing damage each round they are pinned.

SA -- Spell-Like Abilities: 3/day -- gust of wind, fog cloud.

SQ -- Blindsight (Ex): A dragon can ascertain creatures by nonvisual means (mostly hearing and scent, but also by noticing vibration and other environmental clues).

Tactics: Whildenstrank begins by casting fog cloud, which fills the room. His blindsight makes him unaffected by the fog. He will then position himself to get the most opponents in the cone of his cold breath. After that he will move through the fog, attacking one character for a round or two, then moving to another character to attack. If his fog cloud is dispelled, Whildenstrank will try to avoid a flanked position, and will focus his attacks on one PC at a time. If he is reduced to 50 hp or fewer, he will attempt to flee.

Treasure: In addition to the golden lion statue (approximate value 1,500 gp), Whildenstrank's hoard is frozen in the columns of ice around the grotto. It will take some time, but the PCs could end up with coins, art objects, and gems worth a total of 11,700 gp, a suit of +1 blue scale mail, a ring of sonic resistance, a +1 quarterstaff of shock, and a +3 icy burst warhammer.

Continuing the Adventure

Once the statue is secured, the PCs can return it to Duke Ambrinigan. They may have encounters with the wildlife of the glacier on their journey back, or may meet another band of frost giants, who may or may not be hostile. Upon their return, the Duke will reimburse the characters for any reasonable expenses they may have incurred. The heroes could then choose a number of avenues:

  • Depending on the results of the encounters with the frost giants, the frost giant tribe may have a different attitude toward the human settlement. If all the giants were killed, they may decide to attack more caravans to exact revenge.
  • If Whildenstrank was not killed, then he may prove a threat to the region, or could perhaps be considered as an ally against the frost giants.
  • The winter wolves working for Whildenstrank may be just the outer ring of a more elaborate wilderness information network.
  • The mystery of the golden lion statue remains. Why was Duke Ambrinigan willing to pay so much for its return? Is it worth more than it seems?
  • Velg the Dragon Tamer, if still alive and on good terms, may contact the PCs to help him in further dragon "taming" exploits.

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!"

Go to the D&D main news page for more articles and news about the new D&D or check out the D&D message boards for a lively discussion of all aspects of the D&D game.


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