Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms
Perilous Gateways
Strongholds of
Undeath Portals
10/30 The Portal of Failed Experiments
10/23 The Illithid Gate
10/16 The Portal of Negative Energy
10/09 The Temple in the Forbidden Jungle
10/02 The Cavern in the High Ice
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Bandit Lord Portals
Portals of the Harvest Gods
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Perilous Gateways
Strongholds of Undeath Portals
By Ramon Arjona

The Cavern in the High Ice

The High Ice is a frozen wasteland located on a plateau in northern Anauroch. The harsh environment and its monstrous inhabitants deter all but the most foolhardy adventurers. An unprepared party will easily become lost and disoriented amid the monochromatic landscape, and it may even starve or freeze to death -- if the group doesn't fall prey to something first.

These environmental factors make it highly unlikely that anyone will stumble on Zzarka's stronghold by accident. Even the archwizards who dwell in the City of Shade have so far overlooked the lich's well-hidden dwelling.

Being undead, Zzarka can ignore these hazards. The cold means nothing to her and she doesn't need to eat. Even the mind-numbing song of the frost worms has no effect on her. She allows these creatures to travel unhindered through her icy lair since she sees them as valuable natural guards.

Zzarka spent years carving a massive cave complex beneath the glacier ice, and then she filled it with skeletons, zombies, and other undead servants. She created these servants from living slaves that she brought through the portal from Thay and abandoned in the caves to determine how long mortal creatures would last if, by some quirk of fate, they happened to stumble upon her hiding place. From the laboratory in her tower, Zzarka scryed upon her cruel experiment. She was always very pleased with the results.

A portal beneath the ruins of the lich's tower, near Lake Thalambar in Thay, leads to the heart of the cavern complex. The portal is keyed in that it requires an undead creature capable of casting spells to activate it. Once it is activated, the portal remains open for 1 full round. Any other creatures that touch the portal during this round are also transported to Zzarka's ice cave. Afterward, the portal seals itself again.

The portal opens into a large, dark cavern in the ice. No natural light penetrates this deep into the glacier. Those without darkvision perceive little but cold. This void is unsettling to mortals who are unprepared for it. Some of Zzarka's living slaves cried out that they'd been struck blind after being thrust through the portal. Their shouting frequently drew frost worms, or worse, and Zzarka would be deprived of a body upon which she could cast create undead. Reasoning that she ought to perform experiments that took into account the presence of the worms, Zzarka took to gagging her slaves before sending them through the portal.

Should someone light a torch in the cavern, the heat causes some of the tiny ice needles on the ceiling to fall. Millions of these needles cling to the ceiling, and one torch dislodges only a few hundred during each round it is lit. Characters in the cavern suffer the effects of an ice storm spell as if cast by an 18th-level wizard each round the torch is lit. Any loud sound, such as combat, produces the same effect.

Once inside the ice cavern, adventurers have to contend with frost worms and the undead horrors Zzarka created. Scores of skeletons and zombies wander through the ice tunnels -- all of which move silently and have darkvision. Travelers who are especially unlucky may run into Torin Zsan (LE male human vampire Nec13) or Lars Blackspike (NE male dwarf vampire Clr10), two of Zzarka's lieutenants that inhabit the ice caves from time to time. Even they do not know if the old lich still exists. They have not seen her, or felt her presence, for a hundred years. But they still behave as if she exists, just in case, and they deal with intruders accordingly.

Buried deeper still in glacial ice is an artifact that dates from the time of the phaerimm and the fall of Netheril. Zzarka's initial tests showed the thing to be a powerful repository of the life drain magic with which the phaerimm planned to obliterate the world. She coveted the artifact for herself, but she feared that it might become unstable if she used magic to excavate it. Therefore, Zzarka set a crew of zombies to the task of digging it out of the ice. The work is slow, but zombies are patient creatures. A century later they are probably still there, digging . . .

Zzarka Tuzarr: Female human lich Nec13/Red5; CR 20; Medium-size undead; HD 18d12; hp 120; Init +1; Spd 30 ft.; AC 20, touch 15, flat-footed 19; Atk +9 melee touch (1d8+5 [Will save DC 24 half] plus paralysis, touch); SA fear aura, paralyzing touch; SQ circle leader, DR 15/+1, immunities, specialist defense +2 (Necromancy), spell power +2, turn resistance +4, undead traits; AL LE; SV Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +15; Str 10, Dex 13, Con --, Int 20, Wis 19, Cha 20. Height 5 ft. 3 in.

Skills and Feats: Alchemy +21, Concentration +26, Craft (painting) +7, Diplomacy +8, Gather Information +8, Hide +9, Intimidate +10, Knowledge (arcana) +26, Knowledge (history) +14, Knowledge (religion) +9, Listen +18, Move Silently +9, Scry +26, Search +19, Sense Motive +12, Spellcraft +26, Spot +18; Brew Potion, Combat Casting, Craft Rod, Craft Staff, Craft Wand, Maximize Spell , Quicken Spell, Scribe Scroll, Silent Spell, Spell Mastery (animate dead, bestow curse, clone, horrid wilting), Still Spell, Tattoo Focus.

Fear Aura (Su): Zzarka is shrouded in a dreadful aura of death and evil. Any creature with fewer than 5 HD within a 60-foot radius that looks at her must make a Will save (DC 24) or be affected as though by a fear spell (caster level 18th).

Paralyzing Touch (Su): Any living creature Zzarka touches must succeed at a Fortitude save (DC 24) or be permanently paralyzed. Remove paralysis or any spell that can remove a curse can free the victim (see the bestow curse spell). This effect cannot be dispelled. Any creature paralyzed by Zzarka seems dead, though a successful Spot check (DC 20) or Heal check (DC 15) reveals that the victim is still alive. This power works in conjunction with Zzarka's damaging touch.

Circle Leader: Zzarka is a focus person for Red Wizard circle magic.

Immunities: Zzarka is immune to cold, electricity, polymorph, and mind-affecting attacks.

Specialist Defense: Zzarka adds +1 to her saving throws against spells from the Necromancy school.

Spell Power: For spells from the Necromancy school, Zzarka adds +2 to the save DCs for spells she casts (already figured into the statistics above) and to caster level checks to overcome spell resistance.

Turn Resistance (Ex): When resolving a turn, rebuke, command, or bolster attempt against Zzarka, she is treated as a 22-HD creature.

Undead Traits: Zzarka is immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death, effects, necromantic effects, mind-affecting effects, and any effect requiring a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects. She is not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain, or energy drain. Negative energy heals her, and she is not at risk of death from massive damage but is destroyed at 0 hit points or less. Zzarka has darkvision (60 feet). She cannot be raised, and resurrection works only if she is willing.

Wizard Spells Prepared (5/7/6/6/6/6/5/4/4/3; save DC = 15 + spell level, or 18 + spell level for Necromancy spells; prohibited schools Divination, Evocation): 0 -- arcane mark, detect magic (2), mage hand, mending; 1st -- cause fear, charm person, expeditious retreat (2), grease, ray of enfeeblement, unseen servant; 2nd -- levitate, locate object, scare, spectral hand, Tasha's hideous laughter, web; 3rd -- halt undead, hold person, sleet storm, stinking cloud, summon monster III, vampiric touch; 4th -- contagion, enervation, Evard's black tentacles (2), polymorph other, summon monster IV; 5th -- animate dead, Grimwald's graymantle, passwall, teleport (2), wall of stone; 6th -- circle of death, disintegrate (2), legend lore, true seeing; 7th -- finger of death, reverse gravity, summon monster VII, teleport without error; 8th -- demand, etherealness, incendiary cloud, summon monster VIII; 9th -- dominate monster, energy drain, wail of the banshee.

Spellbook: 0 -- arcane mark, daze, detect magic, detect poison, disrupt undead, ghost sound, mage hand, mending, open/close, prestidigitation, ray of frost, read magic, resistance; 1st -- cause fear, charm person, chill touch, expeditious retreat, feather fall, grease, identify, mage armor, ray of enfeeblement, sleep, true strike, unseen servant; 2nd -- bull's strength, cat's grace, ghoul touch, invisibility, knock, levitate, locate object, mirror image, scare, spectral hand, Tasha's hideous laughter, web; 3rd -- flame arrow, gentle repose, halt undead, haste, hold person, invisibility sphere, sleet storm, slow, stinking cloud, suggestion, summon monster III, vampiric touch; 4th -- arcane eye, bestow curse, contagion, detect scrying, enervation, Evard's black tentacles, fear, improved invisibility, polymorph other, polymorph self, scrying, summon monster IV; 5th -- animate dead, cloudkill, Grimwald's graymantle, magic jar, major creation, passwall, permanency, prying eyes, teleport, wall of stone; 6th -- analyze dweomer, circle of death, disintegrate, eyebite, flesh to stone, legend lore, mislead, move earth, permanent image, stone to flesh, summon monster VI, true seeing; 7th -- control undead, ethereal jaunt, finger of death, greater scrying, insanity, phase door, power word stun, reverse gravity, simulacrum, summon monster VII, teleport without error, vanish; 8th -- antipathy, clone, demand, discern location, etherealness, horrid wilting, incendiary cloud, iron body, maze, polymorph any object, summon monster VIII, symbol; 9th -- astral projection, dominate monster, energy drain, foresight, power word kill, soul bind, temporal stasis, time stop, wail of the banshee, weird, wish.

Possessions: ring of protection +4, ring of spell turning, wand of unholy blight, medallion of thoughts, 200 pp.

After the battle to free Thay from Mulhorandi, the Red Wizard known as Zzarka Tuzarr made the transition from life to undeath. Once she obtained immortality, however, she stopped pursuing her magical studies as vigorously as she had in life, instead devoting most of her considerable energies to devising new ways in which she might ensure her eternal existence. All of this may have been in vain, however, as the lich has not been heard from in over a century.

Torin Zsan: Male human vampire Nec13; CR 15; Medium-size undead; HD 13d12; hp 112; Init +8; Spd 30 ft.; AC 26, touch 14, flat-footed 22; Atk +8 melee (1d6+3 plus energy drain, slam); SA blood drain, domination, energy drain; SQ alternate form, children of the night, cold resistance 20, create spawn, DR 15/+1, electricity resistance 20, fast healing 5, gaseous form, spider climb, turn resistance +4, undead traits; AL LE; SV Fort +4, Ref +10, Will +9; Str 15, Dex 18, Con --, Int 21, Wis 12, Cha 10. Height 5 ft. 3 in.

Skills and Feats: Alchemy +20, Bluff +8, Concentration +16, Craft (weaving) +6, Heal +3, Hide +27, Knowledge (arcana) +21, Knowledge (history) +12, Listen +11, Move Silently +12, Profession (herbalist) +16, Scry +21, Search +13, Sense Motive +9, Spellcraft +21, Spot +11; Alertness, Combat Casting, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Empower Spell, Enlarge Spell, Extend Spell, Heighten Spell, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Scribe Scroll, Spell Focus (Necromancy), Spell Mastery (animate dead, bestow curse, halt undead, nightmare), Spell Penetration.

Blood Drain (Ex): Torin can suck blood from a living victim with his fangs by making a successful grapple check (grapple bonus +8). If he pins the foe, Torin drains blood, dealing 1d4 points of Constitution drain each round the pin is maintained.

Domination (Su): Torin can crush an opponent's will just by looking into his or her eyes. This ability is similar to a gaze attack, except that Torin must take a standard action, and those merely looking at him are not affected. Anyone Torin targets must succeed at a Will save (DC 16) or fall instantly under Torin's influence as though by a dominate person spell (caster level 12th). The ability has a range of 30 feet.

Energy Drain (Su): This attack happens automatically when Torin's slam attack hits. Each successful energy drain bestows two negative levels. For each negative level bestowed on an opponent, Torin heals 5 points of damage (or 10 on a critical hit), gaining any excess as temporary hit points. After 24 hours have passed, the afflicted opponent must attempt a Fortitude save (DC 16) for each negative level. If successful, the negative level goes away with no harm to the creature; otherwise the creature's level is also reduced by one.

Alternate Form (Su): Torin can assume the shape of a bat, dire bat, wolf, or dire wolf as a standard action. This ability is similar to a polymorph self spell (caster level 12th), except that Torin can assume only one of the forms listed here per use of the ability. He can remain in that form until he assumes another or until the next sunrise.

Children of the Night (Su): Torin can command the lesser creatures of the world and once per day can call forth a pack of 4d8 dire rats, a swarm of 10d10 bats, or a pack of 3d6 wolves as a standard action. These creatures arrive in 2d6 rounds and serve him for up to 1 hour.

Create Spawn (Su): A humanoid or monstrous humanoid slain by Torin's energy drain attack rises as a vampire spawn 1d4 days after burial. If Torin instead drains the victim's Constitution to 0 or less, the victim returns as a spawn if it had 4 or fewer HD and as a vampire if it had 5 or more HD. In either case, the new vampire or spawn is under the command of Torin and remains enslaved until his death.

Fast Healing (Ex): Torin regains hit points at 5 points of damage each round so long as he has at least 1 hit point. Fast healing does not restore hit points lost from starvation, thirst, or suffocation, and it does not allow Torin to regrow or reattach lost body parts. If reduced to 0 hit points or lower, Torin automatically assumes gaseous form and attempts to escape. He must reach his coffin home within 2 hours or be utterly destroyed. (He can travel up to 9 miles in 2 hours.) Once at rest in his coffin, he rises to 1 hit point after 1 hour, then resumes fast healing at the rate of 5 hit points per round.

Gaseous Form (Su): As a standard action, Torin can assume gaseous form at will, as the spell (caster level 5th), but he can remain gaseous indefinitely and has a fly speed of 20 feet with perfect maneuverability.

Spider Climb (Ex): Torin can climb sheer surfaces as though with a spider climb spell.

Turn Resistance (Ex): When resolving a turn, rebuke, command, or bolster attempt, Torin is treated as a 17-HD creature.

Undead Traits: Torin is immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death, effects, necromantic effects, mind-affecting effects, and any effect requiring a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects. He is not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain, or energy drain. Negative energy heals him, and he is not at risk of death from massive damage but is destroyed at 0 hit points or less. Torin has darkvision (60-foot range). He cannot be raised, and resurrection works only if he is willing.

Spells Prepared (5/7/6/6/6/5/3/2; save DC = 15 + spell level): 0 -- dancing lights, daze, detect magic (2), mage hand; 1st -- cause fear, chill touch, comprehend languages, ray of enfeeblement, sleep (2), true strike; 2nd -- knock, pyrotechnics, spectral hand (2), Tasha's hideous laughter (2); 3rd -- halt undead (4), illusory script, major image; 4th -- bestow curse (2), contagion (2), fear (2); 5th -- animate dead (2), nightmare, shadow evocation (2); 6th -- circle of death, shades, veil; 7th -- finger of death (2).

Spellbook: 0 -- arcane mark, dancing lights, daze, detect magic, detect poison, disrupt undead, flare, ghost sound, light, mage hand, mending, open/close, prestidigitation, ray of frost, read magic; 1st -- burning hands, cause fear, change self, chill touch, comprehend languages, detect undead, identify, ray of enfeeblement, sleep, true strike; 2nd -- knock, pyrotechnics, spectral hand, Tasha's hideous laughter; 3rd -- gentle repose, halt undead, illusory script, major image; 4th -- bestow curse, contagion, fear; 5th -- animate dead, magic jar, nightmare, shadow evocation; 6th -- circle of death, permanent image, shades, veil; 7th -- control undead, finger of death.

Possessions: Bracers of armor (AC 6), rod of cancellation, ring of chameleon power.

Torin Zsan is fiercely loyal to his mistress, and he anxiously awaits her return. She has been gone for over a century, but as the undead measure time, this is barely the passing of an instant. In the meantime he carefully guards Zzarka's strongholds, at least the ones of which he is aware, should she need a safe place to store her phylactery when she gets back.

Torin always travels with two vampire spawn. He is frequently accompanied by several lesser undead that are also under his control. Torin prefers to assess his foes before attacking them, and he uses his magic to wear powerful opponents down, using hit-and-run tactics over the course of days or weeks, before attempting to engage them in direct combat. He frequently uses nightmare spells to keep opponents off balance. He also enjoys using his dominate ability to turn characters against each other.

Lars Blackspike: Male dwarf vampire Clr10; CR 12; Medium-size undead; HD 10d12; hp 100; Init +8; Spd 15 ft.; AC 20, touch 14, flat-footed 16; Atk +11 melee (1d6+6 plus energy drain, slam), or +9/+4 melee (1d8+4/x3, dwarven urgrosh) and +9 melee (1d6+2/x3, dwarven urgrosh); SA blood drain, domination, energy drain, rebuke undead 9/day; SQ alternate form, children of the night, cold resistance 20, create spawn, DR 15/+1, dwarf traits, electricity resistance 20, fast healing 5, gaseous form, spider climb, turn resistance +4, undead traits; AL CE; SV Fort +7, Ref +9, Will +11; Str 18, Dex 19, Con 10, Int 11, Wis 18, Cha 14.

Skills and Feats: Bluff +10, Craft (metalworking) +2, Craft (stoneworking) +2, Diplomacy +4, Heal +8, Hide +12, Knowledge (religion) +7, Listen +14, Move Silently +12, Search +8, Sense Motive +12, Spot +14; Alertness, Ambidexterity, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (dwarven urgrosh), Extra Turning, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Two-Weapon Fighting.

Blood Drain (Ex): Lars can suck blood from a living victim with his fangs by making a successful grapple check (grapple bonus +11). If he pins the foe, Lars drains blood, dealing 1d4 points of Constitution drain each round the pin is maintained.

Domination (Su): Lars can crush an opponent's will just by looking into his or her eyes. This ability is similar to a gaze attack, except that Lars must take a standard action, and those merely looking at him are not affected. Anyone Lars targets must succeed at a Will save (DC 17) or fall instantly under his influence as though by a dominate person spell (caster level 12th). The ability has a range of 30 feet.

Energy Drain (Su): This attack happens automatically when Lars's slam attack hits. Each successful energy drain bestows two negative levels. For each negative level bestowed on an opponent, Lars heals 5 points of damage (or 10 on a critical hit), gaining any excess as temporary hit points. After 24 hours have passed, the afflicted opponent must attempt a Fortitude save (DC 17) for each negative level. If successful, the negative level goes away with no harm to the creature; otherwise the creature's level is also reduced by one.

Alternate Form (Su): Lars can assume the shape of a bat, dire bat, wolf, or dire wolf as a standard action. This ability is similar to a polymorph self spell (caster level 12th), except that Lars can assume only one of the forms given here per use of the ability. He can remain in that form until he assumes another or until the next sunrise.

Children of the Night (Su): Lars can command the lesser creatures of the world and once per day can call forth a pack of 4d8 dire rats, a swarm of 10d10 bats, or a pack of 3d6 wolves as a standard action. These creatures arrive in 2d6 rounds and serve him for up to 1 hour.

Create Spawn (Su): A humanoid or monstrous humanoid slain by Lars's energy drain attack rises as a vampire spawn 1d4 days after burial. If Lars instead drains the victim's Constitution to 0 or less, the victim returns as a spawn if it had 4 or fewer HD and as a vampire if it had 5 or more HD. In either case, the new vampire or spawn is under the command of Lars and remains enslaved until his death.

Dwarf Traits: Lars has a +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against orcs and goblinoids, a +2 racial bonus on saves against spells and spell-like abilities, a +2 racial bonus on Fortitude saves against all poisons, and a +4 dodge bonus against giants. He has darkvision (60-foot range) and stonecunning (+2 racial bonus on checks to notice unusual stonework; can make a check for unusual stonework as though actively searching when within 10 feet and can use the Search skill to find stonework traps as a rogue can; intuit depth). Lars also has a +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).

Fast Healing (Ex): Lars regains hit points at a rate of 5 points of damage each round so long as he has at least 1 hit point. Fast healing does not restore hit points lost from starvation, thirst, or suffocation, and it does not allow Lars to regrow or reattach lost body parts. If reduced to 0 hit points or lower, Lars automatically assumes gaseous form and attempts to escape. He must reach his coffin home within 2 hours or be utterly destroyed. (He can travel up to 9 miles in 2 hours.) Once at rest in his coffin, he rises to 1 hit point after 1 hour, then resumes fast healing at the rate of 5 hit points per round.

Gaseous Form (Su): As a standard action, Lars can assume gaseous form at will, as the spell (caster level 5th), but he can remain gaseous indefinitely and has a fly speed of 20 feet with perfect maneuverability.

Spider Climb (Ex): Lars can climb sheer surfaces as though with a spider climb spell.

Turn Resistance (Ex): When resolving a turn, rebuke, command, or bolster attempt, Lars is treated as a 14-HD creature.

Undead Traits: Lars is immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death, effects, necromantic effects, mind-affecting effects, and any effect requiring a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects. He is not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain, or energy drain. Negative energy heals him, and he is not at risk of death from massive damage but is destroyed at 0 hit points or less. Lars has darkvision (60-foot range). He cannot be raised, and resurrection works only if he is willing.

Cleric Spells per Day (6/6/6/5/5/3; base DC = 14 + spell level).

Deity: None. Domains: Death (death touch 1/day), Evil (cast evil spells at +1 caster level).

Possessions: Dwarven urgrosh, ring of evasion, brooch of shielding, Quaal's feather token.

Lars is a cruel, unpredictable creature of pure evil. He fears Zzarka, but he is beginning to suspect that his mistress has been destroyed permanently. If he decides that Zzarka is no longer a threat to him, he tries to seize as much of her former holdings and power for himself as he can.

Lars is always accompanied by at least 3 vampire spawn and several lesser undead. He always sends them into melee combat first, while he hangs back, attacking the foes and bolstering his spawn with his cleric spells and abilities. Lars prefers to prepare spells that affect several characters at once, such as unholy blight. He usually, however, has at least one slay living spell prepared, in case he is cornered in melee combat.

If Lars feels the battle is going against him, he summons a swarm of bats, assumes gaseous form, and flees. He happily sacrifices his spawn if it means he has a better chance of escape.

How to Incorporate the Cavern in the High Ice Into Your Campaign:

  • The zombies complete their task and free the phaerimm artifact from the ice. The archwizards of Shade, sensing the presence of their ancient foes, send the characters to investigate. Agents of the phaerimm are also sent to investigate, and the PCs may have to deal with them as well as Zzarka's undead guards.

  • Undead creatures begin to emerge from the High Ice to terrorize the Bedine in the desert below. These creatures are under the control of Lars Blackspike, who has grown tired of waiting for the return of his absent mistress. Rumors indicate that he may have turned a tribe of frost giants into vampire spawn and pressed them into his service.

  • Strange creatures are seen near a ruined tower by the shores of Lake Thalambar, but the Red Wizards' magic reveals nothing. They engage the PCs to investigate. The creatures are the undead servants and failed experiments of Torin Zsan, who has taken over his Zzarka's old laboratory. If the PCs discover him, he might try to flee through the portal.

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