Cliffhangers!
Bridge Work
By Jeff Quick
Complete Cliffhanger (116k PDF)
Episode 5: The Guardians
Episode 4: Against the Elements
Episode 3: The Sting
Episode 2: Tollbooth
Episode 1: In Media Rex
Cliffhangers Archive
The Approaching Swarm
Kingdom of the Blind
Into the Forsaken Temple's Crypt
The Trouble in Town
Sharkbait!
The Light of Despair
Training Grounds
Lorin's Chasm
Bridge Work
Nest of Corruption
Hindsight
A Giant Ransom
Black Water
The Horror of Lannock Hill
Over the Edge
Equinox
The Proper Count
The Tower of Lore
The Candlemaker's Fire
The Hallowed Hills
The Village of Camiram
Unearthing the Past
Special: Cliffhangers Live!
For more great adventures, check out each issue of Dungeon magazine


Cliffhangers Adventures

Bridge Work
Episode Five: The Guardians
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 oath dwarves watched the PCs deal with the earth elemental on the last portion of the bridge, and they have prepared their final offense accordingly. Since they saw them fight or negotiate near the foot of the bridge, they have a general idea of who is wounded, what spells have been used, and any special abilities that party members have. They use this knowledge to their advantage.

The dwarves stand within the guard antechamber to the treasure vaults, behind the front door. The door is not trapped, but the arrow slits facing the bridge allow the dwarves inside to watch and plan unseen.

When the PCs open the front door to the vault, they see the following, standing just inside the doorway.

A single dwarf stands before you dressed in ancient, elaborate dwarven plate. A polished, sharpened dwarven waraxe hangs lightly in a hasp at her side. Her grim face holds no quarter for any of you.

In her hands, she holds a rod. Though the plate mail appears ornamental, it is sturdy and well made. The dwarf speaks in Common with a gravelly voice, "I Vixtra, last of the Treasurereeves, will allow no further encroachment. You have reached the door of the king's vaults, plunderers, but you will not return with his treasures!"

If no one moves to stop her, she snaps the rod in half. If combat begins, her first action is to break the rod. When she does, read the following:

The ground beneath you begins to shake violently. The great stone bridge shudders and collapses. Enormous blocks of stone fall into the foamy water below, and all the islands are drenched with spray as tons of rock churns the waters.

The dwarf draws her waraxe and says, "You may not enter the king's vault while I live."


The Guardians (EL 8)

There is no more room for discussion in any of these dwarves' minds. They see the PCs solely as robbers and intend to kill them.

Vixtra Treasurereeve: Female dwarf Ftr7/Def1; CR 8; Medium-size humanoid; 7d10+31 plus 1d12+4; hp 80; Init +1; Spd 15 ft.; AC 26 (touch 12, flat-footed 25); Atk +13/+8 melee (1d10+6, +1 dwarven waraxe); SQ Defensive stance 1/day; AL LN; SV Fort +11, Ref +3, Will +5; Str 17, Dex 13, Con 18, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.

Skills and Feats: Climb +5, Craft (metalworking) +2, Craft (stoneworking) +2, Jump +5, Listen +3, Spot +3; Dodge, Endurance, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (dwarven waraxe), Power Attack, Toughness, Weapon Focus (dwarven waraxe), Weapon Specialization (dwarven waraxe).

Dwarf Traits: +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against orcs and goblinoids; +2 racial bonus on Will saves against spells and spell-like abilities; +2 racial bonus on Fortitude saves against all poisons; +4 dodge bonus against giants; darkvision 60 ft.; stonecunning (+2 racial bonus on checks to notice unusual stonework; can make a check for unusual stonework as though actively searching when within 10 ft. and can use the Search skill to find stonework traps as a rogue can; intuit depth); +2 racial bonus on Appraise checks and Craft or Profession checks related to stone or metal (these bonuses are already figured into the statistics above).

Defensive Stance: The dwarven defender gains a +2 bonus to Strength, a +4 bonus to Constitution, a +2 resistance bonus on all saves, and a +4 Dodge bonus to AC, but cannot move from his spot or use skills or abilities that would require movement. After (see left) rounds, he is winded and suffers a –2 penalty on Strength for the duration of the encounter. These changes produce the following alterations in the above statistics: hp 96; AC 30 (touch 16, flat-footed 29); Atk +14/+9 melee (1d10+7, +1 dwarven waraxe); SV Fort +15, Ref +5, Will +7; Str 19, Dex 13, Con 22, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8. Skills and Feats: Climb +6, Jump +6. The defensive stance lasts 9 rounds.

Possessions: +2 plate mail, +2 large steel shield, +1 dwarven waraxe.

Male Oath Dwarves Ftr2/Rog1 (2): CR 3; Medium-size humanoid; HD 2d10+4, 1d6+2; hp 20; Init +1; Spd 15 ft.; AC 17 (touch 11, flat-footed 16); Atk +6 melee (1d10+2/x3, masterwork dwarven waraxe) or +3 ranged (1d8/19–20, light crossbow); SA Sneak attack (+1d6); SQ Dwarf traits, traps; AL LN; SV Fort +5, Ref +3, Will +1; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.

Skills and Feats: Climb +2, Craft (metalworking) +2, Craft (stoneworking) +2, Hide +2, Jump +2, Listen +3, Spot +3; Blind-Fight, Dodge, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (dwarven waraxe), Weapon Focus (dwarven waraxe)

Sneak Attack: If an oath dwarf's target would be denied a Dexterity bonus to AC (whether that target actually has a bonus or not), or when the oath dwarf flanks his target, the oath dwarf's attack deals +1d6 points of extra damage.

Dwarf Traits: +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against orcs and goblinoids; +2 racial bonus on Will saves against spells and spell-like abilities; +2 racial bonus on Fortitude saves against all poisons; +4 dodge bonus against giants; darkvision 60 ft.; stonecunning (+2 racial bonus on checks to notice unusual stonework; can make a check for unusual stonework as though actively searching when within 10 ft. and can use the Search skill to find stonework traps as a rogue can; intuit depth); +2 racial bonus on Appraise checks and Craft or Profession checks related to stone or metal (these bonuses are already figured into the statistics above).

Traps: Oath dwarves can use the Search skill to locate traps when the task has a DC higher than 20 and can use the Disable Device skill to disarm magic traps.

Possessions: Masterwork chain mail, masterwork buckler, masterwork dwarven waraxe, light crossbow, 20 bolts.

Tactics: Oath dwarves hide just inside the room and attempt to flank and sneak attack anyone who steps inside the vault to fight Vixtra. They do not advance outside of the antechamber, but fight to kill any who step inside.

Continuing the Adventure

After the defeat of the vault's protectors, the dwarf king's treasure vaults await intrepid seekers. The vaults could be a dungeon unto themselves, with traps and guardian monsters waiting for foolish treasure hunters. The vaults could also be empty; an Underdark denizen could have tunneled up from beneath the ocean floor as a last laugh against the king who thought his treasure safe from diggers on an island in the water. Getting back to the mainland afterward could also be its own adventure.

For those Dungeon Masters who wish to have something predetermined to give to the PCs, here is a list of suggested items from which you may choose only one set: Greataxe of Ancestors (a +1 greataxe with the special quality of ghost touch; engraved in Dwarven with the greataxe's name), Staunch Defender (a +1 tower shield with the special quality of animated; it features its name in Dwarven, too) and three potions of cure moderate wounds, or a horn of goodness/evil and a scroll of heal. The bulk of the treasure is in gold and silver in these amounts (to match up with items above): 4,900 gp and 1,000 sp; 2,900 gp and 4,000 sp; or 1,700 gp and 500 sp. Also in the treasure hoard, such as it is, is an old diary of a noble. The archaeologists eagerly snatch this if it isn't the first item chosen by the PCs. It's up to the Dungeon Master to determine how this diary fits into the campaign.

Once the PCs (and friends) figure out the treasure split, they will need to figure out how to get away from where they are now. The bridge is out, but any hazards that the PCs didn't destroy (such as the tojanida) remain to plague the PCs as they leave.

 





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