Episode Two: Tollbooth
by Jeff Quick
Bridge Work is a short adventure for four 7th-level characters. The adventure takes place mainly on an enormous stone bridge built across an archipelago. Dungeon Masters can modify the adventure to accommodate higher-level characters by giving humanoid foes more class levels and increasing the HD and/or age category of other opponents.
The party begins traveling on the bridge, and they must walk up and over the first span. When built, the bridge was 50 feet wide with 5-foot-high stone edges on each side. Now, the bridge has crumbled and collapsed in several places, although no place on this portion of the bridge has less than a 10-foot-wide pathway.
A successful Spot check (DC 22) reveals very faint scorch marks and blood spatters on the bridge stone where the glyph zone ends. Anyone with the Track feat can follow faint blood smears (again with a Search check DC 22) to the edge of one of the many holes in the bridge, indicating that bodies were dragged to holes and tossed through. Someone has been here relatively recently.
Looking through the holes reveals only crashing waves on the shore anywhere from 200 feet to 2,500 feet below, depending on what part of the slope the PCs are on.
As the party tops the rise of the arc and begins to walk down the slope, they approach where the first island sends up a support column to meet the bridge. There, they see an unlikely sight.
The Dungeon Master should keep the following points in mind as the players decide what their PCs should do throughout the "Bridge Work" Cliffhanger series.
Traveling by Foot (EL varies)
Two 50-foot-high dwarf statues and a few glyph of warding spells flank the entrance to the bridge. Safely dismissing the glyphs requires a password AND a golden sigil. Both the archaeologist dwarves and the oath dwarves have the golden sigil necessary to disarm the glyph protecting the bridge. However, only the archaeologist dwarves have the password written down on papers among their personal effects. Learning the password from the oath dwarves can be done only from speaking with their corpses.
Anyone who tries to step onto the bridge without the proper password and sigil triggers the glyph. Several applications of the glyph of warding spell delineate five 50-square-foot areas starting at the head of the bridge. The glyph does 5d8 points of fire damage to anyone who breaks it and all within 5 feet of the glyph breaker.
Glyph of Warding: CR 4; 5-ft. fire blast (5d8); Reflex save halves damage (DC 14); Search (DC 28); Disable Device (DC 28).
To cross any one section of the area requires one disarming action. This means that after someone passes the first glyph, he or she must pass a second glyph 50 feet later. Of course, anyone may fly past the area of the glyph and walk harmlessly on the bridge.
Traveling by Air (EL 7)
If a flier attempts to fly more than 200 feet onto the length of bridge at a height of more than 20 feet, that person attracts the attention of the adult arrowhawks circling the vault island, three miles away. (The arrowhawks do not care who walks on the bridge. They care only about those who attempt to fly above the bridge.)
Juvenile Arrowhawks (4): 16 hp each; see Monster Manual page 19.
Traveling by Water (EL 7)
Should the PCs attempt to swim to the island, they encounter tojanidas quite quickly.
Juvenile Tojanidas (4): 19 hp each; see Monster Manual page 177.
Loot and Other Important Matters
While adventuring along this bridge, the PCs find little in the way of extraneous loot around. In fact, they find only what is listed in the possessions of each creature they vanquish. However, the final encounter and the treasure hoard at the end should more than make up for the expedition. As always, Dungeon Masters should feel free to adjust the treasure to their campaign levels.
Welcome to Martark (EL varies)
What the PCs encounter at this point depends on the time of day. If they reach this part of the bridge in early morning, they see a couple of kobolds standing in a line, which stops at a makeshift hut. The kobolds are facing them and notice them as soon as the PCs top the rise. The kobolds seem to have creels or game slung over their shoulders, but they drop them and brandish spears when the PCs arrive.
If the PCs come during the night or mid-day, they see a lone hut on the bridge. During the night the hut contains a single kobold. During the day, the hut is empty.
If the PCs come in early evening, they see a couple of kobolds standing in a line facing away from them. After some sort of transaction, each kobold walks up the next arc of the bridge away from them, and another one wanders in from the staircase nearby (see below) and gets into line. The kobolds have variously long fishing poles, nets, lobster cages, and primitive hunting gear. The line leads from the hut down a wooden staircase that abuts the stone bridge support.
Garklma: Male kobold Ari5; CR 4; Small humanoid (reptilian); HD 5d8+8; hp 30; Init +5; Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (touch 12, flat-footed 14); Atk +2 melee (1d6-2/x3, halfspear); SQ Darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity -1; AL LE; SV Fort +2, Ref +2, Will +4; Str 7, Dex 13, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 8.
Skills and Feats: Appraise +8, Bluff +7, Craft (trapmaking) +2, Diplomacy +9, Hide +5, Intimidate +9, Search +2; Improved Initiative, Toughness.
Darkvision: Garklma can see in the dark as though in normal daylight.
Light Sensitivity (Ex): Garklma is sensitive to light and gets a -1 circumstance penalty to attack rolls in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.
Possessions: Leather armor, halfspear.
Male and Female Kobold War1 (10): CR 1/2; Small humanoid (reptilian); HD 1d8; hp 4; Init +1; Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (touch 12, flat-footed 14); Atk +0 melee (1d6-2/x3, halfspear); SQ Darkvision 60, light sensitivity -1; AL LE; SV Fort +2, Ref +1, Will +0; Str 6, Dex 13, Con 11, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10.
Skills and Feats: Climb +0, Craft (trapmaking) +2, Hide +5, Intimidate +2, Jump +0, Listen +2, Search +2, Spot +2, Swim +0; Alertness.
Darkvision: A warrior can see in the dark as though in normal daylight.
Light Sensitivity (Ex): A warrior is sensitive to light and gets a -1 circumstance penalty to attack rolls in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.
Possessions: Leather armor, halfspear.
Male and Female Kobolds Exp1 (7): CR 1/2; Small humanoid; HD 1d6; hp 3; Init +1; Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (touch 12, flat-footed 14); Atk -1 melee (1d62/x3, halfspear); SQ Darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity -1; AL LE; SV Fort +0, Ref +1, Will +2; Str 6, Dex 13, Con 11, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10.
Skills and Feats: Appraise +1, Climb +0, Craft (trapmaking) +6, Craft (weaving) +4, Hide +6, Jump +1, Listen +3, Profession (beekeeper or fisher) +4, Search +4, Spot +4; Alertness.
Darkvision: A kobold expert can see in the dark as though in normal daylight.
Light Sensitivity (Ex): A kobold expert is sensitive to light and gets a -1 circumstance penalty to attack rolls in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.
Possessions: Gear (which incorporates leather armor), halfspear.
Kobolds (23): hp 2; see the Monster Manual page 123.
Player characters must make a Search check (DC 15) to see what's going on at the hut. Those who succeed can tell that the hut is apparently a sort of tollbooth.
Some time ago, a tribe of kobolds shipwrecked onto this island. They have been eking out a living here fishing, hunting, and trapping ever since. The pickings are better in the deeper waters and lusher foliage of the second island, so the kobolds built a rickety staircase up the side of the support column to walk across the bridge to it (thus avoiding the tojanidas). At the support column on the second island, they built another staircase down.
Garklma, the chief of the shipwrecked community (which is called Martark by the kobolds), had a hut built on the bridge, and he requires that hunters and fishers register before going to the second island. Garklma then levies the day's catch from returning kobolds to feed himself and his family. The warriors back him up whenever the other kobolds start questioning his leadership. Though it is rare for such a small community of kobolds to have such relatively high-classed characters, the tojanidas are a constant threat to the fishers of the community, and the combative life has brought out the "best" in several of the shipwrecked community members.
No one has ever come from that side of the bridge where the PCs emerge, and the few kobolds who have ever returned from there speak of flames jumping out of the air to kill them. So the kobolds learned to leave the "killing end" alone and are understandably jumpy about anyone who appears from that direction.
Trap: To make sure no one ever does appear unnoticed, the kobolds have trapped the bridge 25 feet from the hut toward the "killing end." The trap is a simple trapdoor in the bridge itself, which drops PCs into a heavy seaweed net 10 feet below. The net entangles the trapped PCs and (theoretically) holds them captive until the kobolds decide what to do with them. Beneath the net is a 250-foot fall onto the rocky island below.
Trapdoor Pit: CR 1/2; 10 ft. deep (no damage, entangled by net); Reflex save avoids (DC 20); Search (DC 21); Disable Device (DC 20).
Net: 1 in. thick; hardness 1;hp 5; Break DC 25; Escape Artist check frees (DC 20).
This hut is not a necessary stopover for the PCs. The kobolds here have an unfriendly attitude, but not a hostile one -- they're not spoiling for a fight, but they're prepared for it (See Table 5-3 in the Dungeon Master's Guide). In addition to the kobolds the PCs might see at dusk or dawn, more kobolds are within a few rounds of joining any fray. Though the PCs are likely to win a fight, they'll take a beating in sheer numbers.
However, if the PCs calmly register passage and claim their intent at the hut (whether truthfully or not), they can pass with no more than startled, distrustful stares from the adult population of Martark. If they try to come back through this way without paying the toll, then there will be trouble. (The dwarves will always prefer to talk to the kobolds over killing them. In fact, they'll be ready to question the leader and his fellow kobolds about anything on the islands. They'll be quite gruff to the PCs should the PCs immediately think to attack.)
The kobolds know nothing about treasure. The bridge beyond the second island has a huge gap, and no kobold has ever ventured past it. They won't say why they've never ventured past it, but they all know the giant bees live under the bridge there, and they don't want the PCs to go and steal their source of honey. They've also interacted with the oath dwarves enough to know that going into that area is not something they even talk about among themselves. Why the oath dwarves haven't yet killed the kobolds is another mystery. If asked, the kobolds respond that their leader is strong, so the dwarves fear to kill him or anger him. This bit of self-delusion on their part is completely at odds with any questions about why the kobolds haven't tried to take over the dwarves' territory. The leader AND the kobolds simply say that they have no interest in the dwarves and their area. They wish only to survive in this newfound home of theirs right now, and the when the dwarves come by their area, they let them through peacefully.
Development: DMs can have some fun with this encounter and eventually allow the truth to come out: The kobolds give the dwarves food and leave the "dwarf area" alone in return for being allowed to stay where they are and live peaceful lives. The dwarves themselves aren't as great in number as they used to be, so getting food and ignoring the kobolds is a decent enough deal for them to live with.
At the peak past the second island, the bridge has clearly fallen out, and a huge gap in the bridge is visible. Did the PCs ask enough questions to learn about the giant bees there? Did the PCs remember to bring rope? Or do they have at least enough fly spells for everybody?