Playing Pathfinder Playtest

In March, Paizo announced the Pathfinder 2nd Edition playtest. Now the playtest is well under way. Today I had a go at running the playtest adventure path, Doomsday Dawn, which is a Lovecraftian apocalyptic. It makes sense to mark the upheaval of a new edition with an apocalyptic adventure!

My biggest problem with the playtest material is that character generation is a huge obstacle. This is one thing that has put me of Pathfinder previously. However, this playtest material is at least more straightforward than Pathfinder 1st Edition. I just don’t think making a character requires that many numbers –that’s why I like Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition! I just want to get playing as quickly as possible.

The character generation problem could be solved by providing plenty of pregenerated character options (at least so that players can learn how characters work) or with a digital toolset. I found some pregens here, and two of my players opted to use a pregen. We found that the goblin alchemist was a lot of fun but the human paladin didn’t make sense. It’s kind of annoying having a character with a thievery proficiency whose code of conduct forbids them from stealing.

Another unhelpful obstacle to was the amount of details the dungeon master and players need to consider when making a check, a save or an attack. You shouldn’t need this many stats for a roleplaying game.

Those are my main gripes. I understand that Paizo will be trying to make Pathfinder more accessible to new players while also retaining what the existing Pathfinder community likes – which apparently includes lots of stats! There’s always going to be some barrier to entry in any community, because it’s the barrier that defines the community.

One thing I really like about the material is the feat system. You have opportunities to choose new feats at each level, making character advancement very flexible. Each ancestry and class provides feats that are available only to characters of that ancestry or class. More powerful feats only become available at certain levels. Some advanced  feats have simpler feats as prerequisites, so it works a bit like a skill tree in an MMORPG.

I’m impressed by the wide range of feats offered. It seems like Paizo are really trying to make sure the ruleset is comprehensive from the beginning. On top of the feats there are thirty-eight cleric domains. If the finished product contains all of these, it should mean you don’t need to carry around a mountain of splat books just to run a game.

As well as choosing feats as you level up, there are opportunities to improve your skill proficiencies. If you’re a spellcaster, your cantrips improve as you level up too.

Something that stands out to me is that a lot of flavor is built into the class rules. This is stuff that D&D 5E players would roleplay, but here it seems baked in a lot more. The way the bard’s feats are written, they sound like performances. A number of classes have taboos built in, based around their god or their totem. Some feats and spells also have particular alignment restrictions, making sure alignment matters.

In short, I would say that the playtest material is a lot of fun if you can get past the (still rather high) barrier to entry.


You can download the free Pathfinder playtest package from Paizo here.

You can also buy paper copies of the playtest books on Amazon or at your local store, while stock lasts.

Ravnica & Eberron Announced – Tale of Two Settings

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

The long-awaited announcement for the Dungeons and Dragons settings came Monday morning (Pacific Time) on July 23rd was met with overall excitement from the D&D community though not without some hiccups. Wizards of the Coast released details on their collaboration with D&D and Magic: the Gathering to bring Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica with a release date on November 20th and that the Eberron setting will be making its triumphant return to the franchise as well. Eberron’s return starts with a digital PDF release of Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron on the DMsGuild marketplace by Keith Baker in collaboration with the creative team at Wizards of the Coast.

What you need to know about Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica:

  • Release Date: 20 November 2018
  • Price: $49.95 USD
  • Accessories include a Map Pack and a premium dice set featuring the Guilds of Ravnica
  • Ravnica is a plane of existence in Wizard of the Coast’s Magic the Gathering franchise, released originally in 2005 in Ravnica: City of Guilds, followed with a revisit in Return to Ravnica in 2012, with a planned third Ravnica return in Guilds of Ravnica to be released in October 2018 & spring 2019.
  • Ravnica is an ecumenopolis, a vast city that encompasses an entire planet. Like Coruscant in Star Wars
  • There are ten iconic guilds in Ravnica that serve unique functions in the daily life within the city, with their brand of rivalries and adversaries, all governed by an oath known as the Guildpact. Not every citizen is part of a guild, but their presence is felt throughout Ravnica.
  • The current price point suggests a product akin to Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.

The news about Ravnica was unintentionally leaked on Amazon Brazil’s website site with product pages screenshotted across Reddit and later on other social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter sometime on Sunday, July 22nd. News and speculation on the authenticity of the screenshots & cover art were eventually confirmed by the cover artist later on. The story left many fans with a mixed reception.

There was even a poll on the r/Dndnext subreddit with close to half of voters displeased with the setting choice.

While Nathan Stewart, director of D&D, indicated that “fans of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering have been asking for years about when these two amazing brands would play together.” Impressions from the Magic: the Gathering community seemed pleased with the official product news. Various MtG pundits were excited upon the leak on Sunday, with notable individuals such as Evan Erwin showcasing his excitement. The early leak only heightened the general anticipation for the Monday announcements from Wizards of the Coast.

The second setting announced was Eberron, a beloved setting created by Keith Baker for the Fantasy Setting Search in 2002. Content creators on the DMsGuild took note of a new setting category option titled “Eberron” early Monday morning almost 6 hours before any formal declaration. Wizards revealed an ebook product, Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, with a collaboration between the creative team and Keith Baker that would serve as a “living document” for feedback before any official product is released.

What you need to know about Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron:

 

  • Product Type: Digital PDF
  • Price: $19.99 USD
  • A 175-page book that encompasses playtest materials that include unique races, an overview of Khorvaire and the city of Sharn, dragonmarks, magic items, and a host of backgrounds to jumpstart players and DMs to their Eberron adventures
  • Iconic races: Shifters, Changelings, and Warforged make their 5th Edition debut from the mind of its creator, Keith Baker.
  • The release of Wayfinder grants DMsGuild content creators the ability to create and distribute content within the Eberron setting.
  • According to the Introduction by Keith Baker, this content is considered a playtest or a draft and therefore is not applicable for official Adventurer’s League use. If an official Eberron product is released, Wayfinders will complement the officially released material according to D&D creative lead, Mike Mearls. Mearls also commented that the product would eventually have a Print-on-Demand option for purchase later.

Initial confusion of the “official” status of Wayfinders as an official D&D resource left fans, and consumers concerned with their purchase of this playtest document.

Previous playtest documents by Wizards have been free in the past. When the official announcement was published, the lack of a playtest description on the official Twitter and Facebook posts felt misleading. At the time of this article, official Wizards staff have clarified that Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron is indeed a playtest document and the DMsGuild product includes this detail.

There is an “if” in front of the possibility for an Eberron print product with a clarification of additional content in THAT product with Wayfinder to complement it. You’re paying for two products, one that is not an official product that is labeled as a living playtest document (until otherwise), and then the probable (but not guaranteed) Eberron product.

Warning Signs?

Playtest documents for tabletop RPGs tend to change, as with the case of Wizard’s Unearthed Arcana column where some content was adjusted from player feedback. The practice to buy playtests seems to secure capital from dedicated die-hard fans possibly to ensure a quality product. The video game industry suffered backlash to Early Access business models for games due to extended production times and incomplete work with some games suffering from the inability to fulfill expectations. The practice has become unpopular, with many developers returning to traditional development timelines.

This Early Access practice has been seen with Paizo’s Pathfinder 2nd Edition playtest where prospective fans can purchase physical hardcover copies of the material. Paizo is a leading competitor for Wizards of the Coast on tabletop RPGs, though there are no sales figures to make any conclusions, the initial hype from the 2nd Edition announcement was met with enthusiasm.

Ultimately, Monday was supposedly Wizard of the Coast’s big day to shine and present their newest offerings. Instead, half of the surprise was leaked prematurely, and the other half was miscommunicated to the fans but before over a thousand copies were sold. One cannot help but feel somewhat entertained by the mishaps this Monday, the 23rd of July. Nonetheless, I am excited about the latest offerings and look forward to Ravnica and the future of Eberron.

Call to Adventure: “Pursuit of Knowledge”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Dungeon, Puzzles, Riddles

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-6

Recommended Levels: 3-5

Introduction

There comes a time in every adventurer’s career when they simply do not possess the required facts in order to complete a quest. Perhaps a key factoid is considered strictly forbidden or the last person who would’ve known died centuries ago? Thankfully, sphinxes are known to acquire vast knowledge throughout their long and storied existences, and can even be persuaded to share that information with others. Unfortunately, these magical immortal beasts can also be fickle and ferocious. In this adventure, a party of experienced travelers gambles their lives in the pursuit of forbidden knowledge. To succeed, they must pass a series of devious riddles.

Setup

This mission is centered around a gynosphinx, which is the female variant of the mythical species. Physically, they are composed of a human woman’s head atop the body of a lion with falcon wings. For the D&D 5th Edition statistics, refer to page 282 of the Monster Manual or this link. For the Pathfinder version, consult page 257 of Bestiary #1 or this link.

The purpose of the adventure is to wrangle some plot-relevant information from their target, not slay it. (Although the PCs can certainly try and suffer the likely lethal consequences.) The specifics of the sphinx’s personality are subject to change at DM’s discretion, but at the very least they must be willing to parlay with the party after succeeding the cloister of trials.

Development

The sphinx’s lair is a four-level descending dungeon in which the party must overcome and solve a variety of challenges. Allow the PCs to try out solutions before feeding them clues. The goal is to help them solve the puzzles themselves, not give them the answer once they roll high enough. The following encounters can be easily modified or changed entirely in order to fit your campaign setting and game mastering style.

Level B1: Gate Guardian

In order to enter the sphinx’ lair, they must first request access, and then contend with the guardian. Within a sand-filled room there is single hole on the ceiling from which descends a pillar of light upon the carved marble statue of a gynosphinx. The eyes are missing; in their place there are a pair of circular indents. There are also words chiseled into the figure’s base which read:

“Knowledge is a double-edged sword. Do you seek it nonetheless?”

The players simply have to answer, “Yes” to begin the first challenge. The light will cease, shrouding the environment to complete darkness. Some hidden rooms will open, dumping additional sand into the room. And one of these spaces houses a creature composed of animated sand. This creature is based upon the amphisbaena, and is a snake with a head on each end. Here are the stats for the Pathfinder and homebrew D&D 5e versions.

The sand snake contains a red jewel within each of its two heads. Once defeated in combat, the slithering construct dissipates, leaving behind the two gems with which they can unlock the entrance. Place the gems into the sphinx statue’s eyeholes to continue.

Level B2: Welcoming Party

The path downward takes them to a hallway filled with undead. These can be simple skeletons (D&D/Pathfinder) and zombies (D&D/Pathfinder). Another statuesque sentinel stands before the PCs, but this time its base is inscribed with the words:

“Those with blood of red shall join the dead. Those of a different shade will not be delayed.”

The undead spring into action and begin swarming the party. The PCs can either defeat the large swarm through attrition or solve the riddle to avoid risking injury. The “different shade” is a metaphor for “blue blood,” indicating nobility. Sphinxes are proud creatures after all, and will not grant an audience to anyone they deem of a lesser make. To successfully pass unhindered, those with blood ties to someone in authority (village chief, feudal lord, guard captain, etc.) must declare their heritage openly. If none of them have noble lineage, they can attempt a Bluff or Deception (Charisma) DC 20.

Level B3: Sinking Feeling

Beyond the hall of undeath stands a perfectly flat and pristine pit of sand. The top layer is perfectly smooth; not a single grain appears to have been disturbed. The same sphinx figure emerges from the center of the area as if magically sculpted from the surrounding material. This one reads:

“The fear that gives you wings shall also send you to the depths.

Whenever the players walk upon the sand, it will feel as if unseen hands are grasping them and pulling downwards, increasing in force with each progressive tug. The PCs subsequent efforts to remain afloat and the enchanted sand’s attempts to pull them through will result in a hapless character eventually getting stuck until they inevitably suffocate to death. To cross over to the other side, one must stand on the sand and relax; let go of the fear that makes you want to move up. The invisible force will gently pull them through the secret passage and into the final chamber within 30 seconds.

Level B4: Numbers Game

In the final room, the party finally comes face-to-face with the gynosphinx. She will beckon to them with one last challenge. If they can prove themselves worthy of her time, she will give them the information they seek. The win conditions are either to reduce her to half hit points, or solve the following riddle during combat.

“I shall divide you and conquer. When I was in my prime, I was untouchable.”

The room is a 50 ft. by 50 ft. chamber with balconies jutting out at all four corners at 20 ft. elevations. The sphinx can easily fly between the platforms to harass the players from afar. If provoked, it will land on the ground level to engage in melee. The floor is segmented like titles, and a closer inspection of the surrounding walls indicates that the rows and columns are labeled with numbers.

To be untouchable and thus unbeatable, stand upon the tiles in which a prime number would be inscribed. The prime numbers between 1-100 are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59,61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, 97. These numbers are tinted red on the sample map below.

The darkened borders on the 5 and 6 squares indicate the entrance points to the final room. The optionally greyed out regions indicate areas in which the ground has caved in from impact or the passage of time, forming lethal drops into a black void. Once all players are standing on the correct positions on a 10 x 10 grid, the test is passed.

Conclusion

Upon completing the final task, the gynosphinx agrees to converse with the party and divulges whatever information they were seeking. If the ensuing conversation goes favorable, consider gifting them with magical loot taken from the previous visitors, who expired in the final test and thus have no further use for their gear.

Call to Adventure: “Garden of Stone”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Dungeon Dive, Hunting Quest, Wilderness Exploration, Rescue Mission

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-6

Recommended Level: 3-5

Introduction

In this adventure, a routine monster hunting quest becomes deathly complicated as the party encounters uncovers an unusual alliance! A gargoyle band, along with their bizarre pets, have enacted a reign of terror!  Will the heroes break through the enemy lines, or will the monuments of their failures stand for all time?

Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:

“A month ago, a dreaded basilisk was spotted roaming the nearby canyon and turning hapless travelers into stone! And although several trained hunters were dispatched to end the slinking reptilian menace, none of them have returned!

Investigate the canyon and slay this beast! We offer a 1000 gold piece reward for whomever returns with this creature’s hide. An additional reward will be provided for any travelers rescued from the petrification process.”

Setup

The simple-minded basilisk (consult page 24 of the Monster Manual for more information) is a merely patrolling the canyon and searching for food; it transforms its prey into stone with its magical gaze and feasts upon their frozen bodies at its leisure. This particular creature has been raised in captivity and is capable of obeying simple commands from its owners. But who are these shadowy puppet masters?

The true villains are a tribe of vicious gargoyles (also referred to as a “nastiness”) that have take refuge in the earthen labyrinth. Page 140 of the Monster Manual will give you more information about these winged stone monsters. They lurk among the strewn-about humanoid pillars created by their pet, making them nearly impossible to detect. Whatever their faithful serpent fails to petrify, they brutally slaughter. Feel free to adjust the number of gargoyles present to the desired difficulty (2-3 for medium and 4-5 for hard).

The nastiness is exploiting the presence of a hungry and all-consuming black pudding to dispose of the evidence of their misdeeds. This monster’s statistics are found on page 241 of the Monster Manual or at this link. This creature does not understand anything and acts purely on instinct. The fact that the gargoyles are unaffected by its caustic nature is purely coincidental.

Development

The canyon is an expansive multi-tier dungeon with several places in which the players and monsters can hide. Traversal is difficult and frequently requires challenges such as Athletics (Strength) to scale cliffs and Survival (Wisdom) to avoid getting lost.

When they first arrive, allow them to briefly explore the premises and drop hints about the true enemy. Eventually, bring them into contact with the basilisk. Then surprise them with a gargoyle ambush. After that, the PCs become the hunted, and must evade, outsmart, and overcome their nefarious pursuers. Allow the outcomes of the pursuits to unfold organically through opposed checks such as Stealth (Dexterity) vs. Perception (Wisdom) and role-play.

Secret: The Master’s Quarters

But where did these creatures come from? If the PCs successfully explore and investigate their surroundings they will find a secret path into a wizard’s chambers at the heart of canyon. The nameless reclusive spellcaster had long-since expired from some unknown happenstance, but his familiar (the basilisk) and his sentries (the gargoyles) lingered behind. Over the years, the guardians grew bored and took to terrorizing the locals to pass the time. Use the wizard’s quarters as a means of rewarding the perceptive and inquisitive party with magical loot for their troubles.

Optional Objective: Rescuing NPCs

Throughout the adventure, the players can attempt to rescue anyone who has been petrified but hasn’t been killed or eaten yet. This can be accomplished by applying basilisk gullet oil, or through alternative magical means. As long as vital parts are still attached to the afflicted the de-petrification will yield a viable character.

The specific nature of each of these NPCs is up to Dungeon Master’s discretion. If they are having too much trouble, perhaps grant them a powerful ally who could help turn the tide against the gargoyles? Maybe one of the people they rescue yield a larger reward due to their higher social status? This could lead to other plot developments down the line. Experiment with the idea and have fun with it!

Call to Adventure: “The Bookkeepers”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Mystery, Investigation

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Levels: 1-2

Introduction

This adventure begins as a macabre paranormal investigation of a purportedly haunted library. Upon closer examination, the player characters learn that this phenomenon is merely the machinations of a mischievous pair of faerie dragons who have become trapped in the prime material plane. True to their nature, they have taken to terrorizing the locals with trickery as they attempt to find their way back home.

Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:

“Rumors have circulated that Arnost Library is under siege by angry spirits. A week ago, a sudden flash of green light from the East Wing heralded a series of ghastly sightings! Ever since then, the building has been plagued by the restless undead.

Locals reported seeing a chain-bound specter with empty black eyes roaming among the shelves. The Head Librarian claimed that the books are constantly rearranging themselves and floating in midair. A guttural incorporeal voice constantly demands tribute with an insatiable zeal. And just yesterday, a precision of trained and armed city watch members ran screaming from the building after just an hour of investigation; they have inconsolable ever since. For public safety, the library is now under quarantine.

We beseech the aid of brave adventurers to help cleanse this blight from our beloved town! We offer 400 gold pieces and access to the library’s restricted texts for anyone who succeeds in this task!”

Setup

The adventure revolves around a faerie dragon duo with the names Aya and Waska. For their 5th Edition stats, consult page 133 of the Monster’s Manual. If you’re running Pathfinder, the monster details are located at page 91 of Bestiary 3 or at this link. These creatures are the size of cats (tiny) and sprout translucent, butterfly-like wings in lieu of the bat-like structures of “true” dragons.

Aya’s body is covered with shimmering interlocked blue scales, indicating that she is 31-40 years of age, and can cast spells up to Major Image (D&D/Pathfinder) to assist in her façade. Her younger brother Waska is armored in glistening emerald plates and has lesser combat and spellcasting ability.

Development

Tactics

The dragon siblings to not wish to kill anybody, but they will harm anyone they deem to be a threat. They will only resort to direct attacks when cornered. Otherwise, they prefer to drop objects from the environment onto their enemies, ranging from small knick-knacks to entire bookshelves, depending on the situation.

Investigation

Aya and Waska are using combinations of their invisibility, illusions, spells, deceptions, and environmental assets to create the appearance of a haunting. Below are some examples of checks that the players can attempt to discern the true nature of their enemy.

Arcana (Intelligence) DC 10 or any spell/ability that detects undead – There are no signs of undead activity or traces of necrotic energy on the premises.

Arcana (Intelligence) or Knowledge: Planes DC 16 – You can sense the remnants of planar magic in the vicinity. The “green flash” reported by the townsfolk may have been an side-effect of a portal spell.

Perception (Wisdom) DC 20 – The dragons let out a stifled giggle whenever they successfully pull off an amusing prank. This snicker can be detected by a keen ear in the aftermath of such an event.

Investigation vs. Deception or Knowledge: Local vs. Bluff – Many of these ghostly sightings are oddly familiar. You realize that they are ripped straight from local books and tales from this specific building.

Nature or Knowledge: Nature DC 10 – There has been a disembodied voice demanding “tribute” from the townsfolk. It has rejected everything from trinkets to jewels, but finally accepted offerings of food. In particular, the presence favors baked goods and sweets more than anything else.

Survival (Wisdom) DC 14 – You locate tiny tracks running along the bookshelves. They are composed on three clawed fingers and an opposable thumb. DC 20 – You find some loose powder clinging to some of the books. Upon closer inspection it shimmers like a prism when scattered.

Conclusion

Once the true nature of the “haunting” is revealed, Aya and Waska will make their presence known. They mean no harm, but they have no reason to trust anyone due to their unfamiliarity with their surroundings. Aya has been fastidiously studying books on magic in order to conjure up a portal to take them both back home. They were banished from their homelands for being too mischievous, and clearly haven’t learned their lesson at all. From here, the players can decide their fate. Do they exterminate them? Take them in as familiars? Or join them in their quest to return to the Feywild?

Pathfinder Playtest

Pathfinder Playtest

It’s ten years on from when the original Pathfinder playtest began in 2008, and Paizo are about to start the process all over again. The playtest for Pathfinder 2nd Edition will begin on August 2 this year. In the meantime, Paizo are previewing some of the features of the new iteration.

I think it makes sense to develop a new ruleset at this point because the pool of people who play tabletop roleplaying has changed (it’s become larger and broader). I think that’s partly because of the accessibility of Dungeons & Dragons’ 5th Edition rules, which I think have lowered the barrier to entry for many people, myself included. I think the original Pathfinder rules still create a high barrier to entry, like previous editions of D&D. It sounds like Paizo wants to make sure Pathfinder 2nd Edition is more easily accessible while still offering plenty of crunch.

So what do we know at this stage? Alchemists will be included from the start as one of twelve iconic classes. Goblins will also be included as an option for player characters from the outset. I think that makes a lot of sense since goblins are one of the most recognisable things about Pathfinder. 10th-level spells will also be included from the beginning.

Pathfinder 2nd Edition will focus on exploration and encounters (encounters means combat, punctuated by breaks for downtime. Hazards such as traps, poisons and diseases will be more dangerous. There’ll be traps that player character have to actively fight against in order to survive. Rangers will also have the ability to set traps. It should also be easier for game masters to design or modify monsters.

In the leadup to the beginning of the playtest, Paizo are publishing regular previews on their blog. Here’s what I’ve gleaned from them so far:

Actions

In this new ruleset, Paizo is trying to simplify actions. In combat, player characters will be able to take three per turn. If they choose to they can use all their actions to move or use all of them to attack. (If you use all your actions to attack, the attacks will grow progressively less accurate, though.) Most spells take two actions to cast, but some only take one – so I’m guessing player characters will be able to cast two spells in a turn if they have a one-action spell available? Player characters also get one reaction (such as making a classic attack of opportunity) each round, which can be used outside their turn if the circumstances are correct.

Levelling up

In Pathfinder 2nd Edition, player characters will level up whenever they earn another 1000 experience points, and there will be choices to make each time. Every time a character levels up they will have the opportunity to choose feats rather than getting set abilities. The feats a player chooses for their character will determine that character’s abilities and actions. It sounds like there will be a lot of options from the beginning. Paizo say they’ve created a formatting system which should make it easy to see what feats do with just a glance. If a player changes their mind about the feats they’ve chosen for their character, they will have the option of retraining.

If you want to participate in the playtest you will be able to download the playtest rulebook and the playtest adventure Doomsday Dawn on August 2 2018. If you want to make sure you get your paper copies, you will be able to preorder from March 20 (that’s Tuesday next week). Pathfinder 2nd Edition will officially launch in August 2019.

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Call to Adventure: “Remnants”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Level: 1

Concept

Most adventurers choose to take up a life of travel, survival, and discovery. In this situation, the PCs were given no choice, and thrust into a life of violence at the behest of their rulers. The party is brought together by happenstance during a frantic retreat and must band together to survive.

Introduction

Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the scenario:

“You’ve been conscripted as a lowly foot-soldier for a war you barely understood. Your primary goal ever since you were whisked away from your peaceful former life is to survive. A few weeks of rigorous training passed like a blur as you became acquainted with your own battlefield abilities. And on your first day of true combat, you find yourself standing on the front lines and staring down the enigmatic enemy.

As instructed, you marched forward with weapons barred and clashed with your foe head-on. But no amount of training could have prepared you for the outcome. Within minutes, your commander is slain and the army around you is routed. You hear distant trumpets heralding retreat, and you flee as fast as possible away from the advancing enemy line. The battlefield is littered with the corpses of your allies, slowing your pace, but you trudge on, trampling over the dead.

You hear a violent crackling as a massive arc of white lighting streaks into a cluster of your fellow soldiers. A split-second later, a thunderous clap bellows out and a rain of blood-soaked earth coats your tattered uniform. The enemy continues its relentless assault upon the retreating army as the sounds of powerful evocation spells are punctuated by the screams of your fallen allies. After what felt like hours of hard sprinting, you arrive at the treeline that surrounded the open field. The forest is your best chance at evading your pursuers.”

Setup

The scenario begins with the party brought together as they are fleeing through the forest. Introductions are to be kept short, as all the party members are already on the same side, so their interests should align for the most part.

The following encounters can be used to represent the hazards they encounter during their escape attempt. This list includes wildlife as well as the enemy troops actively hunting down stragglers. If played intelligently, they can also cause the enemy to come into conflict with the local wildlife.

  • Wildlife (these can be modified to fit any natural setting)
    • Boar (MM pg. 319)
    • Brown Bear (MM. 319)
    • Swarm of Insects (MM pg. 338)
    • Wolf (MM pg. 341)
  • Enemy Troops (mix and match to form groups)
    • [OPTIONAL MOUNTS] Warhorse (MM pg. 340)
    • Scout (MM pg. 349)
    • Thug (MM pg. 350)

The party members can also attempt the following checks to improve their odds of escaping direct conflict. If they fail, they trigger a combat encounter. For each success they advance to a new location and are one step closer to escaping entirely.

  • Survival (Wisdom) vs. Investigation (Intelligence) to cover up their tracks
  • Stealth (Dexterity) vs. Perception (Wisdom) to slip past patrols unnoticed
  • Survival (Wisdom) to maintain their bearings as they travel
  • Nature (Intelligence) to identify helpful plants, animals, and objects in their environment
  • Opposed Athletics (Strength) checks to march faster than their hunters

The party can also encounter powerful allies that will assist them in their attempts to survive. These are higher-ranking officers and will act accordingly. They may also be previously injured from the aforementioned battle and subsequent retreat.

  • Knight (MM pg. 347)
  • Veteran (MM pg. 350)

Development

As the party trudges through the forest, they are constantly being pursued by the enemy until they are captured or successfully escape. The retreat can take several days, depending on the outcomes of previously mentioned checks and encounters. Allow the scenario to unfold organically, and then bring it to a conclusion through the following options.

Surrender or Capture

If the party members willingly surrender or are defeated in combat, they are stabilized by their captors and brought to the enemy encampment in chains. From there, they have an opportunity to escape captivity, as well as learn more about their foes. Are the enemy as bloodthirsty and irredeemable as your superiors claimed? Why are the two sides even in conflict? This perilous situation is an excellent opportunity to unravel the mystery of the warring clans, and test where the PCs allegiances truly lie.

Regroup

The players may successfully regroup with a sizable portion of the fleeing army. In that case, they are promoted to higher ranks and given more freedom among the army for their efforts. The plot can progress accordingly as the war rages on.

Escape

If the PCs are alone and successfully escape, they will be presumed killed in action. If they were accompanied by an NPC, consult the next section regarding “Desertion.” In the former case, since they were essentially nameless foot soldiers, they will be quickly forgotten. From then on, they can pursue whatever newfound ambitions they acquire. Will they become bandit lords? Will they simply retire as farmers? Or will they take the first ship off the continent? Whatever happens next is entirely up to the players.

Desertion

Alternatively, the players can choose to desert. They were thrust into this war against their will anyways, so who can blame them? However, this may yield further consequences. If the players are accompanied by a Veteran or a Knight, they will have to convince their superior officer to desert as well. This can range from easy to impossible based on the specific NPC’s characteristics, which are at the DM’s discretion. Worse case scenario, they will have to either defeat or evade their temporary ally and will be branded as deserters and wanted fugitives by their own people.

Call to Adventure: “Belly of the Beast”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Level: 10

Concept

Defeating a dragon is usually the capstone to an epic adventure. The beast falls, the party splits up the loot, and everybody returns to the town, hailed as triumphant saviors. Instead, let’s reverse the formula; this time the wyrm-slaying kicks off an unexpected journey!

Introduction

Read the following flavor text to the player characters at the beginning of the quest:

“The sky grows darker as clouds billow in from the east, carried by quickened winds. The miscellaneous scents of your surroundings are suddenly overpowered by ashy smoke. Then, a thunderous roar sunders the silence, drawing your attention skywards, and you lock eyes with your enemy. A massive shadow stretches across the land as a ferocious red dragon soars straight towards you, steaming maw and malicious intentions bared.”

Setup

When the battle begins, the players can be camping out in the wilderness, celebrating at a tavern, or shopping in the village square, et cetera; the details of their current occupation are unimportant. What matters is that they are suddenly set upon by a vicious young red dragon (D&D 5th Edition Monster Manual pg. 98 or this link for Pathfinder). The serpent attacks with murderous intent and must be slain for the adventure to progress.

Development

Once the dragon is defeated, the party can investigate the corpse, which sows the seed for the actual adventure. Roll a d10 to randomly select which twist of fate befalls the party, or come up with your own! Where you go from there is up to the Dungeon Master’s discretion! But here are some ideas.

  1. The dragon’s belly is filled with countless half-dissolved belongings of the hapless mortals who were previously devoured. Among the salvageable bits you find a slime-soaked scroll that contains a heavily encoded message. The only passage you can immediately decipher is the line, “A False King sits upon the Throne” beside the painted likeness of the current Emperor.
  2. There were no prior rumors regarding dragons in the region, so this attack was entirely unprecedented by the locals. Upon closer inspection of corpse, you find the remnants of shattered chains hanging from the wyrm’s throat and arms. These shackles have no maker’s mark, and are comprised of a mysterious alloy that no one can identify.
  3. As you inspect the motionless dragon, the body reduces in size and transforms before your eyes, leaving behind a humanoid creature. They then jolt awake, screaming in abject terror and agony.
  4. The beast lies dead in the dirt, but is erratically twitching and emitting sparks. You peer past the grave wounds and behold an internal network of gears and clockwork components. This creature’s draconic nature is only skill-deep.
  5. Upon the killing bow, the creature’s body loses form and suddenly dissolves into a shower of black ink that rains down upon the surrounding landscape. The ink is harmless, but traces of dark magic linger within it.
  6. The dragon’s entire body is wreathed with the twisting vines of some unidentifiable plant, the roots of which are centered directly at the base of its skull. As you approach, the leaf-lined tendrils rapidly detach from the corpse and burrow underground, disappearing from sight.
  7. An incredibly rare and dangerous event known as environmental diffusion occurs (D&D 4th Edition Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons). When some dragons are slain, their bodies rapidly decompose and seep their respective elemental essence into the land, tainting it. In this case, the region becomes engulfed with a magically endless wildfire that does not wane in weather nor require fuel. The characters must find a means to contain and extinguish the blaze before it spreads any further.
  8. The creature’s form is magically reduced to that of a dragon-shaped stone totem that you can lift with a single hand. The artifact is entirely inert, save for the ruby-like jewels set as eyes, which gleam with warm light.
  9. In an ironic turn of events, the dragon’s presence was actually an indirect source of adventuring-based revenue for the nearest town. In its absence, less people frequent the region, and the town eventually falls into economic decay. You monster.
  10. The dragon’s blood is incredibly toxic and causes all nearby plant matter to disintegrate. Any humanoid characters that directly contacted the essence are later wracked with an even worse affliction. First they experience a fiery rash, followed by intense itching, and ultimately the appearance of red scales under their peeling skin as their body temperature begins to rise…

Call to Adventure: “Song of the Sea”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Monster Hunt, Aquatic

System: Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons

Ideal Party Size: 4-6

Recommended Levels: 10-12

Concept

The undead can take many forms. Whether they be a decaying zombie, a shambling skeleton, or a spectre, death is not always the end of a creature’s story. And when something dies in the grip of a terrible rage or intense sorrow, dark forces may imbue them with a second life in which they can seek vengeance.

In this tale, a great and majestic beast was wronged, and from that incident a seed of evil took root. Out of the endless blue springs a bakekujira, a re-animated whale corpse that spreads corruption everywhere it travels. This necrotic leviathan is both a vicious adversary and a harbinger of great disaster if left unchallenged. It will take a team of highly-skilled and powerful monster slayers to quell its supernatural fury.

Introduction

This adventure requires the party to be staying at a settlement situated near the ocean. The storyline begins in medias res; the party members are going about their business and suddenly attacked by zombie-like creatures spawned from the ghost whale.

Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:

“It began as a distant song carried upon the coastal winds. A mournful melody echoed across the port town as an eerie fog crept inland. Then the water levels rose as the temperature plummeted, and the air became filled with the scent of decay. When the heartbreaking harmony finally ceased, it was already too late.

From within the murky depths, countless living corpses arose and attacked all they lay before them. Some unseen entity amassed an army of undead and unleashed them upon the unsuspecting populace. As the slaughter began and pandemonium swept across the seaside town, your eyes were drawn towards the horizon by a loud splashing noise. Past the dense obscuring fog, you glimpsed the faintest silhouette of some massive beast breaching the water before sinking away.

But before you can comprehend the nature of the distant leviathan, you must stand your ground against an oncoming wave of rotting flesh and rusted steel.”

Setup

A bakekujira, or “ghost whale,” is a formidable beast that could easily overwhelm a party of veteran adventures in a direct confrontation. In regards to this creature’s stats consult either the Pathfinder version or the Homebrew D&D 5th Edition version.

The creature itself houses several terrible creatures within its decomposing husk. Otherworldly species of fish and birds circle the carcass and gradually pick away at the carrion. This imposes no mechanical disadvantage to the bakekujira, but these wild creatures may attack the PCs if they are provoked. The creature is also viciously protected by a crew of draugr sired from the people it has killed. These barnacle-encrusted zombies display humanoid intelligence and can climb structures and use tools, but cannot speak or be reasoned with.

The presence of the ghost whale also has negative effects on the environment. It spreads disease and corruption wherever it goes, so the local flora begins to die off and most of the fauna is either driven away or destroyed. This means that resources such as food are greatly diminished for the duration of the adventure. The water is also rendered putrid and unsafe to swim in or drink, unless magical precautions are taken.

Development

The adventure is composed of three sections. The party is first attacked by an army of the ghost whale’s sired undead. Then, if they choose to accept the follow-up mission, the PCs can hop onto a ship and track down the creature through the mist. If they successfully locate the beast they can finally attempt to destroy it.

I. Attack the Dock

The town is attacked by a massive wave of draugr coughed up from the putrescent bowels of the creature. For the monster has become so seeped with necrotic energy that even the creatures it devours has a chance of becoming undead slaves to its will. This section is an opportunity for the players to be heroes and mow down waves of baddies in rapid succession. They can also participate in the rescue of innocents, if they so please. The encounter can end once they have either successfully slain a satisfactory amount of foes, or when they are in danger of being overwhelmed by the numbers disadvantage.

Optionally, if the players have a beloved NPC in the seaside town under seige, hurting or killing that character could spur them to hunt down the bakekujira for a personal vendetta.

At the conclusion to the draugr attack, a warship called the Seraph (see NPC section below) arrives at the harbor and the crew members assist with finishing off the undead scourge. The captain is an aasimar named Andrea Demoray, and fills the party in on what has just transpired. She has been tracking the elusive creature for months but it always manages to be one league ahead of her. She will offer the PCs a place on her ship if they wish to join her in the hunt.

II. Set Sail

This section is an extended seafaring journey in which the PCs track down the fleeing bakekujira through naviational and investigatory checks. Apply weather changes and add random encounters to break up the monotony of overland travel. This is also a good opportunity for the players to get to the know the captain and crew, so you can twist the knife if any of them die in the final confrontation.

Whenever the ghost whale emerges again to attacks a settlement, the party has a chance of intercepting the sighting if they plan accordingly and the dice favor them. If they arrive too late, they can resume clearing out the undead and saving the town in the aftermath. But once the ship carrying the PCs successfully catches up to the undead whale, the final battle begins.

III. The Vessel of Vengeance

This battle consists of maneuvering the ship around the beast and attacking it at distance. The creature will sink below the depths after taking damage and attempt to attack the boat from underneath in an attempt to capsize it. At close proximity, the creature emits a nauseating odor that can induce status ailments. It may also regurgitate more draugr onto the deck of the galleon to act as distractions. The crew must use harpoons to secure the beast and prevent it from escaping so they can begin attacking it directly.

Throughout the battle, the undead whale sings a depressing dirge that can be heard by everyone within proximity. A successful Knowledge Nature (Intelligence) DC 22 will reveal that this is a mother’s call; the bakekujira is searching for its child and using the tune to draw it out. Sadly, the child has long since grown old and died on its own accord, but the mother continues to fruitlessly sing her song, ever hopeful. After assessing this information, any musically-inclined characters can attempt a Performance (Charisma) vs Will/Wisdom Save to emulate the corresponding song in order to deceive the beast. This can lead to wrangling advantages such as drawing the beast to a vulnerable position, calming it down, or reducing damage and hit-chance. The effects are entirely up to the GM’s discretion.

Once the bakekujira has been reduced to half hit points or fewer, pieces of its rotting mass will begin to peel away, revealing more of its skeleton. A successful Perception (Wisdom) DC 20 will allow the PCs to notice a massive rusted harpoon deeply embedded into the creature’s throat. This weapon is larger than anything their current ship has onboard, and is far too decrepit to have been pierced into the beast recently. The fight can proceed as usual until all the creature’s hit points are depleted. But climbing atop the beast and physically removing the harpoon with a Strength DC 25 will end the fight immediately, as the source of the whale’s pain will finally be removed. The husk will reliquish its grudge and finally sink to the ocean floor.

NPCs: The Seaworthy

Andrea Demoray is a chaotic good aasimar arcane trickster and captain of the warship Seraph. This galleon contains a force of twenty-six sailors, mercenaries, and privateers that are collectively known as the “Angels of Mercy.” Captain Demoray has a sardonic demeanor and often invokes gallows humor whenever she find herself in a precarious situation, which is all the time. She is a take-charge commander who fights wildly with a cutlass in her left hand and spells in the other. Easily bored, Andrea is also prone to fidgeting and is often seen puffing on a long and slender wooden pipe. Last time she encountered the bakekujira, it nearly devoured her and she was rescued by her first mate, but at the cost of his own life. She now seeks to destroy the ghost whale before it can cause any more harm, as well as to avenge her fallen comrade.

Conclusion

After the zombified whale is slain, the PCs can decide to go their separate ways after being dropped off at shore by their temporary allies. Alternatively, they can continue sailing around with the motley crew if they want to have more adventures at sea.

Call to Adventure: “Brand of the Scorpion”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Bug Hunt, Dungeon Crawl

System: Pathfinder or D&D 5th Edition

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Levels: 2-3

Concept

This dungeon crawl tasks a group of rookie adventurers with clearing out a scorpion-infested den that secretly houses the remnants of a malicious cult! If the players survive, they will find glorious treasure as well as the seeds for more quests!

This adventure assumes that the campaign world is advanced enough to allow for the usage and distribution of black powder (or its alchemical equivalent) and simple firearms such as flintlocks.

Introduction

Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:

There has been a recent infestation of large scorpions plaguing the area. Travelers have been found dead from the poison stings and partially devoured. The source of the abrupt arthropod scourge was traced back to to a den located at the base of the mountains. Peculiarly, the cavern entrance appeared to be carved by unknown stonemasons, and bears the mark of a golden pincer.

Setup

The vermin-infested cavern is actually a two-level subterranean dungeon that once housed an evil tribe of scorpionfolk. These abominable half-scorpion, half-humanoid hybrids were religious fanatics of a lesser dark deity simply known as “The Scorpion Queen”, whose unholy symbol was the golden pincer mentioned before. Most of the cultists have perished and the rest fled long ago.

The clan once raided the area, capturing slaves and taking them back to perform their nefarious rituals. These included sacrifice to their pets and gods, as well as forced labour in excavating the Scorpion Queen’s shattered and buried temples. But eventually, the slaves revolted and blasted their way to freedom. All survivors vanished into the surrounding wilderness, eventually forming their own elusive societies.

Structurally, the scorpionfolk dungeon contains a worshipping chamber, quarters for the occupying cultists, a pit for housing captured slaves, a vault housing additional weapons, provisions, and treasure, as a path towards an unfinished excavation site for the Scorpion Queen’s temple.

Development

[OPTIONAL] Supply Run

Before they begin the quest, there is an option to purchase antivenom from nearby vendors, but they will drastically overcharge them. Any savvy characters proficient in poisons, herbalism, or alchemy should be allowed to craft antivenom out of samples harvested from the scorpions they slay.

The cavern is also entirely dark inside, so any characters that do not possess darkvision will need to acquire some means of creating light or they will be left fumbling in the void.

The Brood

The dungeon is occupied by six to eight medium-sized scorpions (Bestiary 2 pg. 240 or this link). Initially, they are scattered and wandering in different chambers; they are not outwardly hostile unless provoked or enticed by the promise of a decent meal. Multiple creatures can also be drawn to a location by loud noises.

The slaves were kept in locked chamber on the second level whenever they are not being tormented by their captors. This locked door was blasted apart during the revolt with smuggled black powder, which triggered a partial cavern collapse. The cramped corridors of this pit houses a mated pair of giant scorpions (Bestiary 1 pg. 242, this link, or MM pg. 327). These creatures are the source of the infestation. If left alive, they will easily repopulate the region with another vicious brood. The female scorpion has an outer shell striped with solid golden plates. This has no mechanical effect on the creature’s health, defenses, and damage output, but hints at the creatures otherworldly origin.

If the players are having a difficult time with the dungeon and you wish to be merciful, consider eliminating one of the giant creatures with the justification: “after a particularly intense mating session, the larger and more powerful female scorpion wanted a meal.”

Treasure

There are several corpses of slavers and escapees strewn about the den. Most of them do not possess anything of value. A keen inspection (Perception/Investigation DC 18) will yield a necklace from a slain manscorpion. It looks like a gilded pincer, similar to the symbol at the entrance, suspended by a golden chain. This is an unholy relic that can be used to tap into dark powers if the PCs are brave enough to invoke its magic. A thorough search (Perception/Investigation DC 20) will discover a broken dragon pistol wielded by a slave that didn’t survive the rebellion. This item must be repaired before it can function again.

Looting the vault, which requires clearing away (Strength DC 18) or squeezing through (Acrobatics DC 16) a partial ceiling collapse, yields a chest containing 500 gold pieces worth of jewelry, trinkets, and knick-knacks amassed from the slaves when they were stripped of their belongings. There are also additional slavers equipment such as bolas, snares, nets, whips, chains, and manacles.

The harvested exoskeleton from the mother scorpion will fetch a large sum of money and can also be used to craft specialized armor and weapons.

Conclusion

Beyond the dungeon, the adventurers can find the ruins of the Scorpion Queen’s temple. The rock had been initially blasted away to unearth the structure and gradually picked away with more finesse as the rubble cleared. The excavation was abandoned ever since the slaves escaped, for obvious reasons. But if the PCs are interested, they can dig deeper and further uncover the secrets of the golden pincer.

Call to Adventure: “The Sands of Time”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Dungeon Crawl

System: Pathfinder or D&D 5th Edition

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Levels: 1-2

Concept

This is a simple yet fairly difficult dungeon crawl for fledgling adventurers. It is meant to plant the seed for an epic treasure hunt, as well as provide the players with magical loot and treasure! This scenario takes place in a desert setting, and involves the party traveling underground to explore a mysterious sinkhole that turns out to be an hourglass-shaped dungeon guarded by the undead!

The dungeon is designed to teach the players the basic mechanics of play such as overland travel, resource management, exploration, solving puzzles, and combat!

Introduction

Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:

Life in the desert has always been a struggle. Whether it’s the constant heat of a scorching sun or the intermittent threat of attack from hostile bandits, settlers of the sands are as tough as they come. You are no different, and seek to carve out your fortune and fame amidst the endless salt of the wasteland. One day, an opportunity to test your mettle presents itself.

Sinkholes have been spontaneously appearing along the desert trade routes and swallowing up large portions of caravans. Dozens have been injured or killed and countless goods have been lost under the sands of the desert. Several days would pass before these sinkholes mysteriously disappeared, only to reappear again in another catastrophic event.

The merchant group known as the Gilded Sparrow has put out a sizable reward for whomever is brave enough to investigate this destructive phenomenon and prevent it from recurring. The most recent incident took place the day prior, and is located approximately twenty miles away.

Setup

Development

Getting There [OPTIONAL]

The PC’s journey to reach the dungeon can be an opportunity to teach them the basics of overland travel as well as resource management and environmental hazards. This is a good time to introduce them the tiers of travel speeds as well as testing them with appropriate Survival (Wisdom), Perception (Wisdom), and Knowledge (Intelligence) checks. Since they are in the desert, the party may encounter obstacles such as intense heat and quicksand. Try not to do anything too serious, and deplete resources such as food and water if they fail. If damage is inevitable, err on the side of caution and deal nonlethal damage (if applicable) instead.

Alternatively, the PCs can simply arrive at the entrance of the dungeon.

The Sinkhole

After following the primary trade road, the PCs will discover the sinkhole. This area is situated between two large cliffs and is strewn with debris from the incident. All loot has already been picked clean by scavengers.

The entrance is circular and roughly 20 feet across, and hole drops down 50 feet into a diamond-shaped 40 feet by 40 feet chamber [B1 MAP, Area 3].

If the players succeed a Perception (Wisdom) vs. Stealth, they can notice that there is something moving along the sand at the bottom. At this distance they are unable to ascertain the exact nature of the beast. The creature is actually a small earth elemental (Pathfinder Bestiary pg. 122) with a body composed entirely of finely ground sand instead of dirt.

If the PCs possess enough rope, they can safely descent to Area 3 with a successful Climb/Athletics (Strength) DC 15, but the sand elemental will not wait for them to safely land before it starts attacking them.

Area 1: Alternative Entrance

If the PCs search for an hour, they can find an alternative entrance to the dungeon [B1 MAP, Area 1]. This path takes them downward at a more gradual decline, so they don’t need to risk taking falling damage. The area is low-light at the cavern entrance and becomes total darkness at the far end. There is a flowing pool of safe-to-drink freshwater 30 feet deep that flanks the sides of a natural bridge. A darkmantle (Pathfinder Bestiary pg. 55 or D&D MM pg. 46) awaits on the ceiling disguised as a stalactite and will drop down upon the first person that crosses the bridge.

If the PCs are brave enough to swim underneath, they can find a secret passageway that leads straight to the final chamber [B2 MAP, Area 4] with a successful Perception (Wisdom) DC 25. To traverse the hidden path, a PC must perform a tight squeeze with an Acrobatics (Dexterity) DC 15. Failure will result in getting stuck and potentially drowning.

There are two paths to take from the alternative entrance. Going north takes the PCs to the sand pit with the sand elemental [B1 MAP, Area 3], and the east path takes the PCs through a puzzle [B1 MAP, Area 2].

Area 2: Hall of Mirrors

This path presents a simple puzzle for the PCs to fix that involves bouncing around a beam of light. Below is the diagram of the map in its starting configuration. There is a scarab-shaped jewel embedded into the post of the entrance and it generates the light beam. On the floor there is a riddle: “Walk the path of light and thou shall never fear death.” Because of the beam, treat this area as if it was well-lit.

This area is trapped; if a living creature strays out of the light beam, the five skeletons (Pathfinder Bestiary pg. 250 or D&D MM pg. 272) in the following room will become active, and slay anything they find. Otherwise, the skeletons remain inert, unless physically provoked. The skeletons are wearing golden scarab pendants, signifying their connection to the puzzle. Stealing this artifact requires a Sleight of Hand (Dexterity) DC 15 without awakening all the skeletal guardians.

The obvious solution is to walk within the path of the light beam, but the third mirror from the origin is broken! An unknown scuffle had taken place and knocked the mirror out of alignment, terminating the light prematurely. It will require a Strength DC 15 to successfully move the heavy object. After the first failure, a follow-up Dexterity DC 12 is required to handle the antique mirror with finesse. Failure to do so will cause it to break altogether.

If the PCs possess any mirror-like objects, they can craft a makeshift reflector with successful crafting checks at the DM’s discretion.

Below shows the main solution to this rudimentary puzzle. But if the players think outside the box and come up with inventive alternative solutions (generate their own light with spells, remove the scarab jewel and carry it, etc.), they should be considered and decided upon at DM’s discretion.

Area 3: The Sand Pit

This area is mostly low-light except for the pillar of light produced by the hole in the ceiling. It is also ferociously guarded by a sand elemental that will attack any creatures at enter. It uses the sand on the ground to hide itself as it uses hit-and-run tactics.

At the center of the pit, there is another hole 10 feet across that drops 30 feet into the final chamber [B2 MAP, Area 4]. The hole is partially obscured by sand build-up.

Area 4: The Throne Room

The final chamber is guarded by a skeletal champion (Pathfinder Bestiary pg. 252) sitting atop its throne. It will immediately engage with intruders and try to kill them.

Since this area is the lowest part of the hourglass structure, it is entirely dark. There is also a large pile of finely-ground sand 20 feet across and 10 feet at its deepest. The sand pile is treated as difficult terrain. At the south side of the final chamber there is a pool of water that connects to the entrance.

Conclusion

If the players survive the difficult encounter with the skeletal champion, they acquire an ornate (cursed) crown, a masterwork longsword, a full set of ancient metal armor, and several miscellaneous jewels. The highly-decorated nature of the final boss implies a royal lineage of some sort.

Inspecting the throne will reveal that the structure belongs to “King Valcyan.” A successfully History (Intelligence) DC 20 reveals that King Valcyan once reigned over the vast kingdom of Ako-Jorak thousands of years ago. However, the kingdom had so greatly offended the gods that it was swallowed up by the sands. This teleporting hourglass structure has some function in raising the lost civilization. The details are sparse, but the method is apparent; the hourglass appears and swallows up material, and whatever gets trapped within is destroyed into a fine powder that collects in the final area.

But before the PCs can ponder any further, the structure begins to crumble, as the magic has been interrupted by the slaying of the King. The PCs must escape before the collapsing dungeon traps them underground forever. After the dust settles, there is no trace of the underground structure, the sinkhole, or the side entrance; it was like as if they were never there.

If the PCs wish to uncover the secrets of the ancient kingdom, they must seek out the hourglass once more.