An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet
Type: Scavenger Hunt
System: Pathfinder (but can be easily adapted to D&D)
Ideal Party Size: 4-5
Recommended Levels: 1-3
This a deceptively simple collection mission intended for fledgling adventurers, but made more dangerous with a shocking twist! The idea was primarily inspired by the “anomaly” environmental puzzles from the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series of first-person shooters. It features minimal combat and utilizes auras in order to facilitate the puzzle-like aspect of navigation.
A square grid mat is highly recommended to get the optimal experience out of this adventure.
Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:
“After a particularly intense rainstorm, there were rumors of localized elemental anomalies across the surrounding mountainous region. Travelers have encountered pockets of shocking energy bursts seemingly centered around concentrated ingots of magical essence. These strange stones are worth harvesting for their high price alone, but they also possess several yet-to-be discovered magical applications. Venture out onto the rain-soaked earth, fetch this ore, and bring it back for your reward! But be wary, or you may find yourself at the end of a painful tendril of blue light!”
The quest is an exploration and collection mission in which the player characters traverse a region of rocky terrain and search for the sites in which the special stones, referred to as “thund-ore”, can be found. Finding the sites is relatively easy, as they will be fairly obvious. But acquiring the material is much more complicated.
Local merchants, crafters, and spell-casters are willing to pay a sizable amount of gold for harvested thund-ore. The specific monetary value of each piece is up to the Game Master’s discretion.
Thund-ore itself looks very similar to granite, but is imbued with concentrated lightning energy. It is near-impossible to visually spot from a distance, but when a character is within close proximity of the material they will begin feeling the effects (e.g. tingly sensation, hair standing up, etc.).
Thund-ore is also very volatile and may discharge if handled carelessly. Upon accepting the quest, the player characters are given specialized containers that will make storage and transport of these stones relatively safe.
The Lightning Anomaly
Thund-ore is formed as a result of multiple (minimum two) planar rips into the lightning demiplane converging upon a region of rocky material. Over time, the constant exposure to the raw elemental energy transforms the material, giving it magical properties.
These planar breeches do not allow material to pass through; only energy. Thus, they are extremely dangerous and the players should avoid physical contact at all times. Entering any space within 5 feet of an anomaly deals 2d6 lightning damage, and a Reflex (Dexterity) save DC 16 deals half damage instead. Since they are tears in space-time, rather than physical objects, they are also mostly invisible, and can only be detected by a keen eye. Perception (Wisdom) DC 18 to spot; DC is reduced to DC 14 when within 10 feet, due to environmental clues.
A source of thund-ore lies within the convergence of multiple planar scars. Each planar scar affects a region within 20 feet of its origin. In the following subsections we have two simplified examples, demonstrating the auras of the breeches as well as the placement of the thund-ore deposit.
Every 2d4 turns, the thund-ore deposit becomes so saturated with lightning energy that it discharges, potentially damaging everyone within a set radius. A creature within 20 feet of the deposit can sense how much longer it will take to discharge with a successful Arcana (Intelligence) DC 12 check. Whenever thund-ore discharges, it generates a cacophonous burst that affects every creature that can hear within 20 feet. The targets must succeed a Fortitude (Constitution) DC 15 or take 1d6 damage and be deafened for one minute.
Example 1: Two Zones
Example 2: Three Zones
Modifying the Terrain
The aforementioned examples and diagram assume that the map is always level and uniform. Obviously, this is not always the case. The pathways in which the characters can safely traverse can be further complicated by factors such as changes in elevation and difficult terrain. Use the rocky outdoor setting to force the players to squeeze through narrow earthen corridors, cross chasms, or scale cliffsides to reach the material.
There was a recent torrential downpour before the phenomenon occurred, so there should also be several pools of standing water, increasing the chances of being injured by the bursts of lightning.
[OPTIONAL] Unexpected Guests
The quest is not combat centric, but an increased challenge can be achieved by adding some monsters to proceedings. This will complicate matters with additional roadblocks and chances for the players to lose more resources during their journey.
Perhaps some shocker lizards (Pathfinder Bestiary pg. 248 or this link) mistook this site as a gathering of potential mates? They could wander the zone, interacting fruitlessly with the scars, and only attacking when provoked. Maybe a particularly lucrative site of the thund-ore is guarded by a lesser lightning elemental?
[OPTIONAL] Beyond the Quest
The collection quest should be enough to give first-time adventurers a decent challenge. But the presence of these anomalies inherently raises several questions, which can be explored at the Game Master’s discretion.
These include, but are not limited to:
- What are some advanced applications for this material? Can they player characters use them to craft new gear or enhance existing items? Does it become a viciously sought-after commodity, like gold in the Old West and oil in the Middle East?
- Why does this region experience these planar scars? What is the root cause?
- Is there a more ominous reason behind the occurrence of these anomalies? Is it a widespread and common phenomenon, or is it caused by some malevolent entity that is yet to be revealed?
- Are these environmental hazards contained, or will they worsen and spread over time? Will an eventual escalation threaten the well-being of the locals and player characters?
- Are there other variants of this event? Are there stones imbibed with the properties of other planes?
Experiment with the concept, and let this adventure plant the seeds of many more.