An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet
Type: Dungeon Crawl, Aquatic
System: D&D or Pathfinder
Ideal Party Size: 4-5
Recommended Levels: 8-10
Years ago, Vermilla Plateau was savaged by a terrible drought. The seasonal rains mysteriously ceased, the rivers dried up, and the lands were scorched by an unrelenting sun. In time, everything melted into a wasteland of salt and cracked earth. The forests receded, crops withered, and animals dropped in the fields which lead to starvation and a subsequent population decline in the regional cities. The livelihood of the towns shriveled under the might of the blazing sky. Without a drop of water for miles, the remaining townsfolk prepared for a mass exodus from their once-lush homeland.
Salvation came to these beleaguered people when an eccentric and deeply talented sorcerer named Corduna Azurulean stepped forth and performed an unprecedented miracle. Using her tremendous magic, she opened a temporary portal into an elemental plane, spilling forth fresh water and quenching the dessicated lands. In time, life returned to Vermilla Plateau, and the people were safe and content.
But all was not well forever. A mysterious entity discovered the portal and used its dark magic to widen the planar tear, allowing for all manner of aquatic and elemental beasts to emerge from it. The townsfolk of Vermilla Plateau face the threat of annihilation from two fronts: the gradually rising waters that threaten to wash them all away, and the voracious beasts that prowl under the surface.
The sorcerer Corduna possesses the magical ability required to close the portal, but needs a group of adventurers strong enough to keep her alive as she quests towards the epicenter of this unnatural disaster. The water portal is located at the peak of the Crimson Tower, a large natural structure of red stone that oversees the plateau. Ascend the flooded spire, defeat whatever creatures lurk within, and close the portal before the waters overtake these lands.
These are beasts that came through the portal through happenstance. They will only attack when provoked or enticed with the promise of a decent meal. They can only survive in fresh water. A successful Intelligence (Nature/Investigation) check of the aquatic fauna will reveal that many of them are affected by an unknown contaminant. Consuming the flesh of afflicted creatures without purification can result in lasting ailments.
Large schools of flesh-eating fish (Swarm of Quippers; MM pg. 338) patrol the shallows and shred anything that falls into the water. Giant toads (MM pg. 329) travel in solitude or in mating pairs and ambush unwary prey. These mating pairs violently guard their nests, which house hundreds of their eggs in slimy clusters. A green-spotted anaconda (Giant Constrictor Snake; MM pg. 324) slithers along the moist rocks of the cliffs and tracks it potential victims through their body heat. There are several murky pools housing countless electric eels, which will paralyze anyone foolish enough to take a swim, and the occasional snapping turtle lies in wait, taking bites out of any creature that encroaches upon their lairs.
The following are intelligent agents of the entity that seeks to conquer the lands. They will attack and attempt to destroy any intruders. The spire is mostly flooded, so they are plenty of spaces in which they can hide.
There are several aquatic elves (SCAG pg. 106) acting as sentries for the partially-flooded areas. When outnumbered they will resort to hit and run tactics. They are slaves to a marid (MM pg. 146) called Atabeg Jaffer and fiercely fight for him out of fear for their own lives. The fully submerged chambers are patrolled by a pack of feral merrows (MM pg. 219) which will kill anything that tresspasses, including Jaffer’s servants. The upper levels of the spire are guarded by water weirds (MM pg. 299) and water elementals (MM pg. 125), both of which lie in wait as pools of inconspicuous clear water.
Atabeg Jaffer is a proud and ambitious marid who seeks to usurp his superior’s birthright. To achieve this, he has unknowingly allied himself with an aboleth that has promised him great wealth and power under the condition that its imprisonment is undone. Jaffer has fallen prey to the aberration’s psionic manipulations and is using his magic to widen the planar portal. He will defend the gateway from anyone who tries to stop him, but can be reasoned with if the PCs can reveal his true master’s identity and intentions.
If Jaffer is not stopped in time, the aboleth (MM pg. 13-14) that is influencing him will emerge from the gate, transforming the spire into its lair and attacking anyone that does not submit to it. This sinister creature was once banished to the Plane of Water after it narrowly escaped destruction. After it had recovered its strength, it saw the portal as an opportunity to return and claim vengeance, but needed assistance from the outside. The aboleth manipulated a lower-ranking marid into mounting an assault against the Prime Material Plane. Once set loose, it plans to mount a campaign of destruction and enslavement upon all creatures of the land.
The Blue Sorcerer
Corduna Azurulean is a 10th level half-elf sorcerer. She can be played by any of the players or as a DM-controlled NPC and she has the following stats (4d6 drop the low): Strength 8, Dexterity 10, Constitution 10, Intelligence 14, Wisdom 14, and Charisma 19. Her sorcerous origins (Unearthed Arcana: Sorcerer) is sea sorcery, which is what compelled her to open the elemental portal in the first place. The only requirement for her spell loadout is that she has Dispel Magic (PBH pg. 234) reserved as a 5th level slot. Her ultimate goal is to use this spell to close the planar rip.
Corduna has shimmering golden curly hair and vibrant blue eyes, both of which she inherited from her elven mother. She is 6 foot 2 inches tall and weighs 205 pounds. She wears a cyan cloak over a dark brown tunic, raven black leggings, and leather boots. She also carries a pair of daggers at each hip for self-defense, but will generally avoid melee combat. Her knapsack is filled with neatly organized notebooks and spell components.
Personality-wise, she is knowledgable and enjoys explaining things to others in excruciating detail. She generally cares for people, but in an awkwardly condescending way due to her upbringing as a prodigy.
Vermilla Plateau is an elliptical platform of raised earth 300 feet high and 5 miles wide. The region was named after the layers of red stone that stripe the cliffs. The flatland once stood at the branch of a large river that supported a sprawling temperate deciduous forest. Beyond the forest, there is a massive canyon that spans for miles in all directions. It was a lifesaving oasis for people seeking to cross the desert, but has fallen into disarray over the years.
The central city of Bloodfist is situated at the top of the plateau and spans most of the surface. During the fertile years, the region housed over 5000 people spread across the capital and the cliffside and riverside towns. But as the torrential waters rose, the lower cities were abandoned and evacuated. The river has risen within 100 feet of the plateau’s surface, forming a moat around it. The remaining population of 2000 is currently housed in Bloodfist, desperately awaiting salvation.
The Crimson Tower
The Crimson Tower is a 1000 feet tall stone obelisk that stands 3 miles west of the plateau. Ancient stonemasons carved the interior into a series of ascending chambers. The original purpose of the Tower is long forgotten, but the structure has endured the passage of centuries. The water portal is located near the peak and has transformed the Tower into something more akin to a waterfall than a mountain. The constantly cascading waters flooded many of the chambers and made the exterior slick and perilously difficult to climb.