Elminster's tower lies in ruins, and the town of Shadowdale has been conquered by evil Sharrans and the nefarious forces of Zhentil Keep. What can a group of player characters do? Take a peek at some of the situations the group might find itself in by reading some excerpts from Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land.
By Richard Baker, Eric L. Boyd, Thomas M. Reid
War rages across Cormanthor and the Dalelands. The black-clad legions of Zhentil Keep and the drow of the Elven Court are locked in a fierce war against the refounded elf realm of Myth Drannor and its allies in the dales. As elves, drow, and humans skirmish in the wide woodlands of the Elven Court, Zhent forces also assail the western forest. A powerful army led by Scyllua Darkhope, High Captain of Zhentil Keep, occupies the western dales. Shadowdale, for so long a bastion against Zhentish ambitions, now groans under the yoke of the conqueror.
Shadowdale's traditional defenders are scattered to the four winds. Storm Silverhand, Dove Falconhand, Scothgar "Scotti" Amcathra, and the rest of the Knights of Myth Drannor fight alongside the warriors of Ilsevele Miritar in the fierce battles far to the east. Mourngrym Amcathra, Lord of the Dale, occupies the Twisted Tower, seemingly unconcerned with Shadowdale's new "defenders." And Elminster, the Sage of Shadowdale, is missing, his tower in ruins. New heroes must step forward if Shadowdale is to be free again.
Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land is a Dungeons & Dragons adventure designed for four 9th-level characters. Player characters will advance through 10th level and into 11th level during the course of the adventure, and perhaps reach 12th or 13th level by its conclusion.
You need four books to run this adventure: the Player's Handbook (PH) , the Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG) , the Monster Manual (MM) , and the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (FRCS) . In addition, you might find it useful to have a copy of Heroes of Battle. The success or failure of the characters' efforts to overthrow Shadowdale's conquerors is based on the victory-point rules introduced in that book. You don't have to have Heroes of Battle to resolve the plot, but it's a good resource for war-themed adventures.
Throughout this book, superscript abbreviations are often used to denote game elements and other materials that appear in certain supplements. Those supplements and their abbreviations are as follows: Book of Exalted Deeds (BoED), Complete Adventurer (CAd), Complete Arcane (CAr), Complete Warrior (CW), Draconomicon (Dra), Fiend Folio (FF), Fiendish Codex I (FC1), Libris Mortis (LM), Lords of Darkness (LD), Lost Empires of Faerûn (LE), Miniatures Handbook (MH), Monster Manual II (MM2), Monster Manual III (MM3), Monster Manual IV (MM4), Monsters of Faerûn (Mon), Planar Handbook (PlH), Player's Guide to Faerûn (PG), Races of Faerûn (RoF), Serpent Kingdoms (SK), Spell Compendium (SC), Shining South (SS), and Underdark (Und).
Although this adventure is a sequel to the adventure Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave, you don't need to play through that adventure before running this one.
We recommend that you review the information presented on the Dalelands and Shadowdale in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (pages 116 and 137, respectively) before running this adventure. You'll also find more detailed information about Shadowdale in Appendix 1 of this adventure.
This adventure uses a tactical format to describe encounters that are likely to result in combat. The adventure is divided into an adventure narrative (the front sections of Chapters 1 through 5), in which encounters and location descriptions are presented in the traditional manner, and a tactical encounter section at the end of each chapter, in which specific battles are laid out in an easy-to-run format.
How To Use the Tactical Format
The keyed entries in the text present, in essence, a flowchart of the adventure. Locations or event-based encounters that result in a fight have a corresponding tactical encounter at the end of the Chapter in question.
When the adventure narrative directs you to refer to a tactical encounter, simply turn to the indicated page.
The most obvious feature of each tactical encounter is the map of the room or area where the encounter occurs. A variety of text entries accompany each map: a Setup section, information to be read aloud to the players, and other details specifying features of the tactical area. Begin with the Setup section first, which describes the initial creature positions and circumstances of the battle. The remaining sections include creature descriptions and statistics, creature tactics, traps (if any), and other related information.
The encounters in this adventure are designed for use with Dungeons & DragonsMiniatures. In some cases, a miniature you own might represent a character or creature perfectly. If you don't have the exact miniature, just substitute another miniature of the same size and tell the players what the miniature you're using represents.
HOW TO USE TACTICAL MAPS
As described on page 59 of the Dungeon Master's Guide, if a map feature covers more than half of a given square, the feature is considered to extend into that square. If it covers less than half of a square, it doesn't extend into that square.
For example, if an area of light undergrowth skirts around the edges of a square, but the rest of the square is clear, then there's no extra movement cost to enter that square. If the undergrowth reaches past the middle of the square, the square costs 2 squares to move into.
The same rule applies to diagonal walls, which are drawn on the tactical maps so they cut through the centers of square edges instead of running corner to corner. This way, it's easy to tell whether a character can stand in a given square or not, since every square that a diagonal wall passes through is either largely clear (you can stand there) or just a small corner (you can't stand there).
Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land is set in the winter of the Year of Risen Elfkin, 1375 DR. It takes place about five months after the events described in the Last Mythal trilogy.
In the spring of 1374 DR, Lord Seiveril Miritar of Evermeet mustered a great crusade to meet the threat of the daemonfey legion of Sarya Dlardrageth. Seiveril's Crusade drove the daemonfey out of the High Forest, and then pursued the demonspawned sun elves to their secret stronghold in Myth Drannor. Armies from Hillsfar, Sembia, Zhentil Keep, the drow of Cormanthor, and the various dales took the field, some allying with the daemonfey, others fighting against Sarya Dlardrageth and her hellish hordes. Ultimately the elf army prevailed, retaking Myth Drannor. Although Seiveril Miritar fell in the final battle within the ancient city, his daughter Ilsevele became ruler in his place.
With the rival city-state of Hillsfar firmly under his thumb, Fzoul Chembryl, Tyrant of Zhentil Keep, determined to prevent Myth Drannor from rising again. At the same time, the Vhaeraun-worshiping drow of House Jaelre and the Auzkovyn clan read their own doom in Ilsevele Miritar's ascension to the throne of ancient Cormanthyr. Zhents and drow conspired to attack Myth Drannor before Ilsevele Miritar's fledgling realm grew any stronger.
As Fzoul searched for a master stroke to overthrow his new enemy, he was approached by Esvele Graycastle, a priestess of Shar. The servant of Shar cared little for Fzoul Chembryl's troubles with Myth Drannor, but she greatly desired to strike a blow against the servants of Mystra in Shadowdale -- in particular, the great mage Elminster. Esvele offered to remove Elminster (and the other Chosen of Mystra) from Shadowdale by creating a dead magic zone over the entire area; its effects would deter the Chosen of Mystra from returning. The Sharran priestess also offered an alliance with the Lolth-worshiping drow of House Dhuurniv. By depriving Shadowdale's defenders of their potent magical powers, Esvele would make it possible for the Zhentarim and their drow allies to finally conquer the dale. In turn, the subjugation of the dale by the Zhentish armies would make it possible for the servants of Shar to carry out their goddess's vendetta against Mystra. Fzoul assented to Esvele's offer -- allowing the priestess of Shar to rip a hole in the Weave seemed a reasonable price for the defeat of Shadowdale.
In the dark hours of 15 Nightal 1374 DR, a small company of Sharran assassins and shadow adepts slipped into the dale. In Elminster's vaults a powerful Sharran artifact -- the Ebon Diadem -- lay quiescent, one of many such evil items that the Sage of Shadowdale kept hidden safely within the wards of his tower. But the Diadem harbored a deadly secret. Breaching the defenses of his tower, the Sharrans succeeded in activating the Ebon Diadem and unleashing its powers. Feeding on the very strength of the wards Elminster had raised over the years, the Ebon Diadem greatly strengthened the Sharran assassins. Although Elminster destroyed most of the intruders who had entered his tower, the Sharrans defeated him. Gravely wounded, he was whisked away by his contingency spells -- and his tower itself was blasted into ruin and hurled into some far plane.
Within hours of Elminster's defeat, Scyllua Darkhope led a Zhentish army into the northern verge of the dale, while the drow of House Dhuurniv overran the defenders of the Twisted Tower from below. When the Castellan of Zhentil Keep attacked Shadowdale in the summer of 1374 DR, Seiveril Miritar had quickly marched the Crusade to Shadowdale's defense. This time, however, the elves were unable to help -- they were heavily engaged against both a Zhent army attacking out of Hillsfar and a great raid of drow. The folk of Shadowdale simply could not overcome the Zhent advantages in monsters and numbers without resorting to magic, and the damage the Sharrans had done to the local Weave made magic weak and unreliable. Despite a valiant defense, the dale fell. To the astonishment of the local populace, Lord Mourngrym Amcathra subsequently announced an alliance with Zhentil Keep and welcomed the Zhentarim into Shadowdale as allies.
Establishing a powerful garrison to occupy the dale, Scyllua Darkhope led her army south and east, striking toward Mistledale and the Moonsea Ride to complete Myth Drannor's encirclement. While the armies continue to maneuver in the forests to the east, and the priests of Shar seek to complete the destruction of the Weave in this part of the Dalelands, Shadowdale lies under the Zhentish fist. The people of the dale seethe with anger and murmur against their oppressors, but they dare not rise up -- not yet, anyway.
Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land offers the player characters the opportunity to take on that most heroic of endeavors -- overthrowing evil oppressors and restoring freedom to a land in misery. The PCs must overcome the twin challenges of an insidious corruption of the Weave and a ruthless occupation by the Black Network. To drive the villains out of Shadowdale, the characters must organize and lead a desperate revolt of the dalesfolk against their conquerors. They must close off the possibility of quick reinforcements, eliminate potential allies, overcome the nefarious rites of Shar's servants, eliminate the leaders of the evil forces, and finally take to the battlefield in order to lead the dalesfolk to victory.
Chapter 1: Dale Under Shadow. The characters arrive in Shadowdale, only to find the dale under occupation and the Weave fraying. After tangling with two rival bands of mercenaries in the Black Network's employ, the PCs explore Lord Aumry's tomb atop Watcher's Knoll. After freeing the remnants of Syluné from a voracious eater of magic, the characters learn that clerics of Bane have established a portal to Zhentil Keep amid the ruins of Castle Krag, that servants of Shar have begun a dark rite in the lair of the lich Alokkair, and that drow lurk in the catacombs beneath the Twisted Tower.
Chapter 2: Castle Krag . An ancient ruined fortress overlooking the dale, Castle Krag is being transformed into a bastion of Bane, the Dark Lord. Characters seeking a chance to launch a bold counterstroke against the Zhentish occupiers begin their campaign of liberation here, destroying a portal through which Zhentil Keep and the Church of Bane can dispatch reinforcements as needed.
Chapter 3: Dread Lair of Alokkair. A notorious dungeon buried beneath the heart of the dale, the Dread Lair of Alokkair now serves as the stronghold of Shar's servants. Esvele Graycastle and the lich Alokkair are engaged in rites designed to expand the tear in the Weave and render all Weave users powerless within the dale. The Grinding Gulf, in the heart of the lich's lair, leads down to secret drow roads linking the ruins of Maerimydra with the cellars of the Twisted Tower.
Chapter 4: Azmaer's Folly. The Matron Sisters of House Dhuurniv have reclaimed Azmaer's Folly, so named for the last drow marshal of the Twisted Tower. Defeating the drow and recovering the pendant of Ashaba sets the stage for the liberation of the dale.
Chapter 5: Uprising. With the Banite portal shuttered, the drow defeated, and the Weave's degeneration halted, the dale's remaining occupiers are vulnerable. In this Chapter the PCs lead a rebellion of the dalesfolk against the minions of Zhentil Keep. Racing from one end of the dale to the other, the PCs attack Zhentish supply trains, acquire access to a long-hidden portal network, defeat Zhentish monsters and champions, and finally confront the leader of the Zhent army -- High Captain Scyllua Darkhope.
Appendix 1: Shadowdale describes the village of Shadowdale and the surrounding countryside.
Appendix 2: Game Materials contains new monsters, magic items, and other information useful in the adventure.
Characters might become entangled in this adventure through a wide variety of methods. Suggested hooks include the following:
Out of Cormyr: Assuming that you have just played through Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave, the PCs have presumably recovered an unfinished letter from Skull Servant Ethar to his superior and a scrap of parchment from a Sharran tome known as the Book of the Black . A successful DC 20 Knowledge (religion) check reveals that the Book of the Black is a little-known Sharran religious tome that has been read only by a handful of high-ranking servants of the Lady of Loss. A successful DC 20 Knowledge (arcana) check reveals that the Book of the Black is mentioned in a comprehensive index and catalog of a Myth Drannan wizard school's library. The catalog is titled "Songs of the Wind : The Holdings of Windson g Tower , by Elminster of Shadowdale." A successful DC 15 Knowledge (local -- The Dalelands) check reveals that Elminster is the legendary Sage of Shadowdale. The PCs follow these clues to Shadowdale, in hopes of winning an audience with the legendary sage and learning more about the Book of the Black .
Just Passing Through: The PCs are traveling along the North Ride, carrying a message or small parcel of some sort from Cormyr to Hillsfar as a favor to an old patron. They ride into the middle of town only to find that it's been pillaged. Small bands of mercenaries and sellswords have been seeking work in Cormanthor for months now, so the Zhents don't have a reason to be immediately antagonistic to the PCs -- but any characters of good heart can see at a glance that Shadowdale needs help; others might see an opportunity for profit or advancement through less honorable means.
Desperate Summons. Player characters with some connection to a good-aligned organization (the refounded elf kingdom of Myth Drannor, the Harpers, the Purple Dragons of Cormyr, the Church of Lathander, or a prestigious order such as the Knights of the Chalice, for example) receive a summons from an ally or superior. The fellow member has learned from a desperate refugee that Shadowdale has fallen to the Zhents, and he asks (or orders) the PC to go to Shadowdale and stir up as much trouble as possible against Fzoul Chembryl's forces. The Zhents can't be allowed to keep their ill-gotten conquest, and the PCs are the best that the organization can currently throw at the problem.
Return of the Warblade. The PCs are asked by the newly ensconced ruler of Myth Drannor, Ilsevele Miritar, to liberate Shadowdale. Under the cloak of this noble mission, the PCs are secretly asked to hunt for the Warblade (see page 150). Ilsevele explains that recently triggered ancient wards indicate that the legendary sword has recently returned to the Realms Above (or perhaps the uppermost reaches of the Underdark) in the vicinity of the Twisted Tower.