Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms
Perilous Gateways
Portals of the Moonsea
02/26 Mulmaster Portal
02/19 Phlan Portal
02/12 Zhentil Keep Portal
02/05 Northkeep Portal
Recent Gateways
Portals of the Moonstars
Bandit Lord Portals
Portals of the Harvest Gods
Moon Portals
Dwarven Portals
(ARCHIVE)


Perilous Gateways
Portals of the Moonsea
By Skip Williams

Zhentil Keep Portal

When the rulers of Northkeep built this portal around DR 380, the current city of Zhentil Keep was not yet built and the area was nothing more than a well-used rest stop for caravans and ships. The former found it a convenient place to camp during the long trek between the mines in the Dragonspine and Galena Mountains and points south. Ship captains found the area's harbor, just upstream from the mouth of the Tesh River, a good place to drop anchor for awhile. Agents from Northkeep had little trouble posing as merchants or hunters who were just passing through, and they could surreptitiously gather information from the travelers they met. Occasionally, the portal served to move high-value cargoes such as gold or gem shipments quickly and safely to Northkeep. A caravan carrying the goods simply would be routed through the area, ostensibly to meet a ship that would haul the cargo on to Northkeep. The ship would be loaded with some cargo, but the most valuable goods would be sent ahead via the portal. The portal also served to exchange messages to Northkeep ships operating in the western Moonsea. More than once, agents from Northkeep used the portal to escape the area after they had worn out their welcome or suffered some mishap.

An underground vault placed on high ground north of the Tesh housed the portal. A secret door disguised as a huge boulder gave access to the vault, located some 20 feet below the surface. Inside, the vault looked like nothing more than a bolthole. It had a well, sleeping niches, and storage areas for supplies. A second secret door hid the portal itself. This door opened onto a tiny chamber, little more than an alcove, whose walls bore an intricate tracery of arcane symbols and obscure runes.

After the fall of Northkeep, a few survivors who knew about the portal continued to use it for a time, but all eventually succumbed to the dangers of the Moonsea region and the portal was lost.

With the rise of Zhentil Keep, it wasn't long before the vault was rediscovered. Workers breaking ground for a warehouse in the city's growing harbor district uncovered the entrance and quickly incorporated the vault into the building's foundation and basement. It is not clear if the building's owner ever discovered or used the portal. The Zhentarim remain ignorant of the portal (or so it seems). The warehouse over the vault was wrecked (sometimes by accident, sometimes deliberately) several times over the centuries, and the vault now lies about 35 feet below the surface.

Today, most of the Zhentil Keep's harbor district lies in ruins, a legacy of the city's near total destruction in DR 1357. Many buildings close to the harbor have been repaired or rebuilt, but farther inland shattered and derelict buildings line streets that have only recently been cleared of rubble. A veritable army of squatters, smugglers, beggars, and other riff raff now call the area home. Among these is one Podel, who masquerades as a Chondathan merchant with a taste for the good life and the ability to appraise and fence stolen goods. Podel is in fact a vampire who was attracted to the ruined harbor district for both its "commercial" possibilities and its steady supply of human flotsam that can feed his hunger for blood without drawing too much attention. Podel discovered the vault and its portal soon after settling in the area. Podel quickly arranged to purchase the wrecked warehouse that covers the vault, using his assistant, a tiefling called Tash, as a front. Tash soon made it known that he intended to rebuild and use the structure as a headquarters for a trading company, but he has not yet done so. Tash claims that "recent business reverses" have drained his capital.

The ground floor of the warehouse remains in ruins. All manner of debris litter the floor, and the walls and roof have numerous holes; however, it has a loft with a sound section of the roof overhead that Tash calls home. The warehouse's basement is little better than the ground floor. It has cracked and very damp stonework, and it smells of mold and rot. Below the basement, under a newly built secret door, lies the vault, still very much the way it was during the Northkeep days. The well dried up long ago, and the sleeping niches now hold coffins for Podel and his vampiric companions. Two niches have been walled up with brick porous enough to admit a creature in gaseous form. One holds a backup coffin for Podel; the other has a coffin that hides a connection to Zhentil Keep sewer system, where Podel has hidden an emergency coffin.

The portal is keyed and can be activated only once a day. The key is a knock spell, and the user also must touch the portal with a coin minted in Northkeep and must specify a destination: home (Northkeep), north (Phlan), or east (Mulmaster) spoken in Damaran. Failure to use the coin or specify a destination originally sent the user into a holding cell; however, this cell has since collapsed. Today, someone using the portal incorrectly causes the portal to malfunction (see Table 2-2 in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting).

Podel: Male human vampire Rog 3/Sor 4; CR 9; Medium-size undead; HD 3d12 plus 4d12; hp 51; Init +8; Spd 30 ft.; AC 22, touch 15, flat-footed 22; Atk +7 melee (1d6+5, slam); SA blood drain, domination, energy drain (2 negative levels, Fort DC 15), sneak attack +2d6; SQ alternate form, children of the night, create spawn, DR 15/+1, evasion, fast healing 5, gaseous form, resistance (electricity 20), spider climb, traps, turn resistance +4, uncanny dodge (Dex bonus to AC), undead traits; AL CE; SV Fort +3, Ref +9, Will +8; Str 16, Dex 19, Con --, Int 17, Wis 14, Cha 20.

Skills and Feats: Balance +6, Bluff +19, Concentration +12, Decipher Script +9, Diplomacy +7, Disable Device +9, Gather Information +11, Hide +18, Intimidate +7, Jump +5, Knowledge (arcana) +10, Listen +18, Move Silently +18, Open Lock +10, Search +17, Sense Motive +10, Spellcraft +10, Spot +18, Tumble +10; Alertness, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Improved Initiative.

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

Domination (Su): Podel can crush an opponent's will just by looking into his or her eyes. This effect is similar to that of a gaze attack, except that Podel must take a standard action, and those merely looking at him are not affected. Anyone Podel targets must succeed at a Will save (DC 18) 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): Any living creature hit by Podel's slam attack gains 2 negative levels (Fortitude DC 18 to remove).

Alternate Form (Su): Podel can assume the shape of a bat, dire bat, wolf, or dire wolf as a standard action. This effect is similar to that of a polymorph spell (caster level 12th), except that Podel must choose among the forms noted here. He can remain in that form until he assumes another or until the next sunrise.)

Children of the Night (Su): Once per day, Podel 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 Podel's energy drain attack rises as a vampire spawn 1d4 days after burial. If Podel 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 Podel's command and remains enslaved until its master's destruction.

Fast Healing (Ex): Podel heals 5 points of damage each round so long as he has at least 1 hit point. If reduced to 0 hit points in combat, he 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 is helpless. He regains 1 hit point after 1 hour, then is no longer helpless and resumes healing at the rate of 5 hit points per round.

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

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

Undead Traits: Podel is immune to mind-affecting effects, poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, necromantic effects, and any effect that requires a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects. He is not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain, energy drain, or death from massive damage. Podel cannot be raised, and resurrection works only if he is willing. He also has darkvision (60-foot range).

Sorcerer Spells Known (6/8/4; save DC 15 + spell level): 0 -- arcane mark, detect magic, ghost sound, mage hand, prestidigitation, read magic; 1st -- magic missile, negative energy ray*, shield; 2nd -- knock.

*Spell from Tome and Blood.

Possessions: bracers of armor +1, ring of protection +1, cloak of resistance +1, potion of blur, potion of Charisma, scroll of invisibility, scroll of see invisibility, wand of Melf's acid arrow (43 charges).

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Podel: Male human vampire Rog 3/Sor 6; CR 11; Medium-size undead; HD 3d12 plus 6d12; hp 64; Init +8; Spd 30 ft.; AC 23, touch 15, flat-footed 22; Atk +8 melee (1d6+5, slam); SA blood drain, domination, energy drain (2 negative levels, Fort DC 15), sneak attack +2d6; SQ alternate form, children of the night, create spawn, DR 15/+1, evasion, fast healing 5, gaseous form, resistance (electricity 20), spider climb, traps, turn resistance +4, uncanny dodge (Dex bonus to AC), undead traits; AL CE; SV Fort +4, Ref +10, Will +9; Str 16, Dex 19, Con --, Int 17, Wis 14, Cha 21.

Skills and Feats: Balance +6, Bluff +19, Concentration +16, Decipher Script +9, Diplomacy +7, Disable Device +9, Gather Information +11, Hide +18, Intimidate +7, Jump +5, Knowledge (arcana) +14, Listen +18, Move Silently +18, Open Lock +10, Search +17, Sense Motive +10, Spellcraft +14, Spot +18, Tumble +10; Alertness, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Heighten Spell Improved Initiative.

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

Domination (Su): Podel can crush an opponent's will just by looking into his or her eyes. This effect is similar to that of a gaze attack, except that Podel must take a standard action, and those merely looking at him are not affected. Anyone Podel targets must succeed at a Will save (DC 19) 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): Any living creature hit by Podel's slam attack gains 2 negative levels (Fortitude DC 19 to remove).

Alternate Form (Su): Podel can assume the shape of a bat, dire bat, wolf, or dire wolf as a standard action. This effect is similar to that of a polymorph spell (caster level 12th), except that Podel must choose among the forms noted here. He can remain in that form until he assumes another or until the next sunrise.)

Children of the Night (Su): Once per day, Podel 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 Podel's energy drain attack rises as a vampire spawn 1d4 days after burial. If Podel 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 Podel's command and remains enslaved until its master's destruction.

Fast Healing (Ex): Podel heals 5 points of damage each round so long as he has at least 1 hit point. If reduced to 0 hit points in combat, he 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 is helpless. He regains 1 hit point after 1 hour, then is no longer helpless and resumes healing at the rate of 5 hit points per round.

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

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

Undead Traits: Podel is immune to mind-affecting effects, poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, necromantic effects, and any effect that requires a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects. He is not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain, energy drain, or death from massive damage. Podel cannot be raised, and resurrection works only if he is willing. He also has darkvision (60-foot range).

Sorcerer Spells Known: (6/8/6/4; save DC 15 + spell level): 0 -- arcane mark, dancing lights, detect magic, ghost sound, mage hand, prestidigitation, read magic; 1st -- magic missile, negative energy ray1, shield, true strike; 2nd -- Aganazzar's scorcher2, knock; 3rd -- negative energy burst1.

Possessions: bracers of armor +2, ring of protection +1, cloak of resistance +1, potion of blur, potion of Charisma, scroll of invisibility, scroll of see invisibility, wand of Melf's acid arrow (43 charges).

1. Spell from Tome and Blood.

2. Spell for the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.

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Tash: Tiefling Rog 7; CR 7; Medium-size outsider; HD 7d6+7; hp 34; Init +8; Spd 30 ft.; AC 20, touch 14, flat-footed 20; Atk +7 melee (1d6+1/18-20, masterwork rapier), or +11 ranged (1d6+1/x3, masterwork mighty composite shortbow [+1 Str bonus] with masterwork arrows); SA darkness, sneak attack +4d6; SQ evasion, outsider traits, resistances (cold 5, electricity 5, fire 5), traps, uncanny dodge; AL NE; SV Fort +4, Ref +10, Will +5; Str 12, Dex 18, Con 13, Int 16, Wis 10, Cha 6.

Skills and Feats: Appraise +8, Balance +11, Diplomacy +0, Disable Device +13, Disguise +3, Escape Artist +14, Gather Information +3, Hide +14, Jump +3, Listen +12, Move Silently +14, Pick Pocket +14, Sense Motive +10, Spot +12, Tumble +14; Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Shield Proficiency.

Outsider Traits: Tash has darkvision (60-foot range). He cannot be raised or resurrected (though a wish or miracle spell can restore life).

Possessions: +1 studded leather armor, +1 buckler, cloak of resistance +1, masterwork rapier, masterwork mighty composite shortbow [+1 Str bonus], 20 masterwork arrrows,2 potions of cure light wounds, potion of blur, boots of speed.

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Tash: Tiefling Rog 9; CR 7; Medium-size outsider; HD 9d6+9; hp 43; Init +8; Spd 30 ft.; AC 20, touch 14, flat-footed 20; Atk +8/+3 melee (1d6+1/18-20, +1 rapier), or +12/+7 ranged (1d6+1/x3, +1 mighty composite shortbow [+1 Str bonus] with masterwork arrows); SA darkness, sneak attack +5d6; SQ evasion, outsider traits, resistances (cold 5, electricity 5, fire 5), traps, uncanny dodge; AL NE; SV Fort +5, Ref +11, Will +6; Str 12, Dex 19, Con 13, Int 16, Wis 10, Cha 6.

Skills and Feats: Appraise +9, Balance +12, Diplomacy +0, Disable Device +15, Disguise +4, Escape Artist +16, Gather Information +4, Hide +16, Jump +3, Listen +14, Move Silently +16, Pick Pocket +16, Sense Motive +12, Spot +14, Tumble +16; Dodge, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Shield Proficiency

Outsider Traits: Tash has darkvision (60-foot range). He cannot be raised or resurrected (though a wish or miracle spell can restore life).

Possessions: +1 rapier,+1 studded leather armor, +1 buckler, +1 cloak of resistance, +1 mighty composite shortbow [+1 Str bonus], 20 masterwork arrrows,2 potions of cure light wounds, potion of blur, boots of speed.

Vampire Spawn: hp 26; see Monster Manual.

Vampire: hp 32; see Monster Manual.

(EL 11) Average party level 10 (four 10th-level characters): 7th-level Podel, 7th-level Tash, 4 vampire spawn.

(EL 12) Average party level 12 (four 12th-level characters): 9th-level Podel, 9th-level Tash, 4 vampire spawn.

(EL 13) Average party level 13 (four 13th-level characters): 9th-level Podel, 9th-level Tash, 4 vampires (5th-level fighters as presented in the Monster Manual).

How to Incorporate the Zhentil Keep Portal Into Your Campaign

  • The PCs are hired to recover a stolen item that Podel is currently attempting to fence.

  • When the PCs visit Zhentil Keep, Tash steals (or tries to steal) an item from them. (If Tash is killed or captured during the attempt, replace him with an identical NPC for the encounter at the portal.)

  • The PCs are hired to locate a missing person that Podel has dominated (or an NPC known to the PCs falls under Podel's sway).

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