DM Notes 1.10 (Blackmoor Supplement)
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This scenario presents itself as a classic dungeon romp but in fact there are lots of opportunities to get tied up in the politics of the area. We also set up Sylvanus the bard as a future enemy and Maglubiyet as an ultimate foe. The Spirit of the Wind is a moderately powerful legendary artefact but there is also ancient compact that grants one act of service to the bearer from an extremely powerful prince of the elemental plane of air. It might provide the party with an opportunity to get a rare magic item.
The party have recovered an old document stash from the grave of a goblin king. It contains many documents but is mostly focused on an expedition to the Ordning of Gaunt. The documents require significant investigation to get these facts.
The Ordning of Gaunt is a stone giant castle deep in the Sycath Fastness, far to the north of Snowmantle Beneath the Ordning is an entrance to Wunderland named Snare’s Gate and controlled by the Stone Giants, they have refused passage to the elves.
Beyond Snare’s Gate, within Wunderland is a tower that was sanctuary to a wizard referred to as Master of Galleons The wizard is believed long dead but in life, he bore a great artefact named Spirit of the Wind and it is this that the elves were hoping to recover.
The Spirit of the Wind is some kind of seal on a compact between a powerful being and it’s bearer, it was far older than the Master of Galleons and was held by him as an obligation If the item was recovered and given to Tvaris, he would endeavour to find any rare magic item in exchange
The Road North
Heading north there might be someone looking for trouble in a bar in Clarktown - Mitch, the sheriff's son sees himself as protected by the law and prone to shoot his mouth off, and occasionally knock his wife around.
If Mitch is killed then the sheriff will hear and will attempt an arrest, round up a posse and hunt them down or if they have gone then he will post a reward and send word to neighbouring villages.
Should this go to trial then things might go badly, the dwarven paladin Gruffen will be summoned as judge and no witnesses will speak against the victim. The sentence for murder is death by hanging, however Gruffen will mediate an offering of weregelt that might leave the party penniless but at least not having to fight their way out.
Whilst on the road the party might get talking with an amiable merchant named Crosskeys and if they share a little of their adventures then he might tell them that he has heard some of their tales before. A bard named Sylvanus was speaking of them at Hartford several days out of their way, he was extremely good and his tale was extremely well received.
Sylvanus is a Rakshasa, employed by Maglubiyet to track down the murderers over a hundred of his worshipers in the heart of Snowmantle. Sylvanus has not been paid to kill them and will not risk himself to do so (he has no love for his employer or his cause) however he will take great pleasure in using suggestion and domination to try and get them to kill innocents before using plane shift to escape.
The Sycath Fastness
These highlands are the home of Barbarian tribes, southerners are not welcome and all the trade routes avoid wide area of forbidding moorland. The barbarian tribes are born to the saddle and extremely defensive of their lands.
The last town before the edge of the Fastness is Copper Hill Springs and here they will get plenty of advice saying don’t go near the Fastness and don’t stir up trouble. They will also discover that there will be language difficulties and that an interpreter might be hired from among the local trappers, traders and half-breeds.
The barbarians are likely to meet the party very soon after they leave the road. Their initial reaction will be a show of strength in the hope that they are just curious and no real threat. However there is plenty of scope for misreading this behaviour.
In combat, the barbarian’s are all on horseback and all have the mounted combat feat. They are able to fire their bows from horseback and can replace a dexterity save with an athletics roll whilst mounted.
Meeting Chief White Bull
If the party are able to parlay and have brought trade goods or a persuasive argument then they might be brought to the tribal chiefs Chief White Hill. There are several of them within a day’s travel and if it is on matters concerning the Ordning then they will all be interested.
The Giants have long been a thorn in the barbarian’s side and they are always seeking an advantage. Horses are sacred to the barbarians but food to the giants which is taboo. Recently a barbarian scout named Walks on Hands reported seeing a hunting party of giants leading what he swears was Gwaith Longshanks, lord of horses into the castle. The barbarians have largely ignored the claim because there is little that they could do about it but if there is an opportunity to stir trouble then they will seize it.
Walks on Hands
The scout’s report has been largely ignored by chief White Bull because he believed that there was little that could be done about. Now that there is an elven magician to fight for them, the barbarian believes that the Giant’s can be beaten as they were last time by the elves - this time the Barbarians will choose the winning side and take a share in the spoils.
Several neighbouring tribes will be brought to council and Walks on Hands is presented to the party plus Chiefs White Bull, No Shame, and Longspear. He repeats his assertion and it is clear that he believes what he says to be true and furthermore that it must not stand - this is a god incarnate - their god incarnate. Clearly Walks on Hands is a fervent worshipper whereas maybe most other barbarian honour Longshanks on high days and holy days only.
Nevertheless if the elf wizard is willing to show them that they can be defeated the barbarians will wait on her magic and come in to make sure that none of the giants escape. They are not prepared to face the giants until she has shown that they can be defeated first however. They have tried and lost before now.
Lord of Horses
Gwaith Longshanks is indeed a prince amongst horses, standing twice as tall as a normal horse and extremely handsome, he is able to take giant or human form and walk amongst them, unrecognised. He is sympathetic to both the human barbarians and the giants, they both venerate him, one enslaves his kind the other consumes them - neither particularly appealing and in fact he would happily see them at war with each other.
He has come to the ordning specifically because he knows that he will be seen and hoping it provokes a fight - unfortunately for him, neither party wishes to go to war with the other. The presence of the players might upset this delicate balance however.
Dominating a bleak landscape of scrubland and sandstone tors, what appears to be a stone castle has no wall to speak of. Rather, individual buildings are built on a monumental scale making it appear as a collection of keeps. Approaching the castle takes the party over a field of cairns, each carefully built with interlocking stones but on a human scale. One they will come across shows signs of recently being pulled open by wolves and outside it is a gnawed human sized leg bone.
In fact this is a giant’s child - many giantkind were slain here by Merinda’s elves young and old alike and the giants have placed the graves here in plain sight to remind themselves of their loss and others what they have suffered and still remain. The giant’s are long lived and there are those that remember when the elves came last time. They were unable to impose their will then and the giants will not permit anyone to enter what they call Snare’s Gate - Mother Rock. The entrance is in the heart of the giant settlement, it looks like a rocky cave that descends at a steep angle into the ground, it is unguarded but there are usually giants about the place.
It is likely that the party will be met by a giant repairing graves in the cemetery, they will be friendly if the players are friendly but will not stay and fight unless they have to. If the party have approached in plain sight then it is likely that the giant is hiding amongst the stones as they come closer until it can guess their intention.
The stone giants are neutral and largely uninterested in the concerns of other races, however they can be made to see that there is trouble brewing amongst the barbarians - if they are motivated to do something about it then there are forty of them remaining.
Amongst the giants there is are three notable, Bullruff has travelled amongst humans and is the most welcoming, especially to a fellow monk. He might be prepared to take the humans to visit Mother Rock provided that they were unarmed or armoured and suitably reverent.
The giants spiritual leader is Gar Endor, he is a shaman and speaker for the ancestors, he will not be prepared to let the party near to their most holy site, and believes them to be spies sent by the barbarians or the elves. He might points out that any elves in the party are not welcome within sight of the ordning, nor should they have come amongst their gravestones.
Gwaith Longshanks spends most of his time in the company of the shaman in giant form with a shock of white hair and a magnetic personality, there is certainly someone different about the avatar. The prince is fearsome in combat but it should not come to that, he is here to see the Giants fight the barbarians not to engage them himself.
As his guests, Bulruff will try to make the party understand why they must forsake their quest, explaining that Mother Earth is a sacred place to the Giants, a temple if you like. He is prepared to take them there but they must accept that they must enter unarmed or armoured and they must behave appropriately. Also, they must enter blindfolded and not remove the blindfolds until they arrive.
Mother Earth is tended to by the Formians, misshapen kin to the Stome Giants and it is from their sight that the blindfolds protect the party. The temple itself, deep beneath the ground is beautiful. The walls have all been crafted into frescos using the lime from the kilns to make plaster scenes from their history of staggering detail. Any passage to Wunderland has been sealed off by the works, though a mountain dwarf would be able to tell from the natural stone where the passage would be if only the frescos could be bypassed.
Whilst the party are there, Gar Endor arrives saying that the barbarian host has come and that it is the party that have brought them. Bullruff insists that this it not the case but agrees to take them to a place of safety so that the giants can go to the defence of the city. Blindfolded he leads them to a cell where they are locked in and left. The cell is deep in Snare’s Gate still and there are Fomorians about the place.
Between Mother Earth and the entrance is a maze of tunnels leading to the limekilns, storage and sleeping quarters for the Fomorians, most of the deformed giants have gone out to protect the ordning but some still remain and will attack on sight. If the party choose to go in search of the entrance to Wunderland then they will probably have to break through the frescos to gain entrance - this will give them the enmity of the giants. If they choose to head out and fight the barbarians alongside the giants then in the aftermath, Bullruff will persuade his kindred that a passage should be opened.
The Defence of the Ordning
The barbarians have been instructed to get close enough to the giants that they will not suffer from the thrown rocks however many of them feel safer racing past on horseback - these ones are immediate targets for the giants and on each hit the horse is slain and the rider dismounted. Depending on how well they are led and how well the battle goes will decide how quickly the giants missiles are neutralised. Thereafter the giants will suffer in a slugging match as most of them are not experienced in melee and will tend to fight individually.
Bullruff can lead the giants to fight as a mass if the party can inspire (and defend) him and in this way the battle might be won. In order to do this however they will have to first get a sense of what is going wrong, get to him and convince him to act as they instruct.
Gwaith Longshanks knows that Clarys is not Queen Melindra, he also knows that the barbarians believe she is and has added to this belief by offering to bear this “Witch Queen of the Elves”. He is not keen to engage and provided that she is happy to lead from behind so is he. If she thinks that she is wavering however he will throw her. When the battle looks like it is at a turning point, or if it is a rout for the barbarians he will summon all of the horses and they will follow him from the field, throwing their riders where they can and galloping away.
If Gwaith Longshanks is picked out by Bullruff then he will fight him (and the party) until he has defeated him or lost more than 160 HP (he will planeshift away if that happens). He is not particularly brave and whilst he would like to get the horses away he is more concerned about his own skin.
If Clarys is seen using magic by the giants she will immediately be targeted by thrown rocks however Gwaith knows this and if he suspects that she is going to cast will tell her not to. If he has the opportunity to speak to her beforehand then he will tell her that the barbarians only need to believe that she is Queen Melindra and they will defeat the giants who are still weak and few in number.
The Sanctum of Master of Galleons
Beyond Mother Earth is a tunnel that appears to have been carved out by a small stream running into the earth. It shows signs of having been worked where it becomes narrow but is largely sympathetic to the natural grain of the rock. Before long it emerges into a series of three caverns that are flooded and demand some cave diving. The swim is not challenging (DC Athletics 8) but it in armour it is at disadvantage and the consequences of failure are severe.
The second cavern is home to a Grell, it uses it’s paralysis attack to catch and drown creatures that make their way through the tunnels here. Ona filthy rock island in the centre of the cavern a heap of bones and scraps of armour mark the Grell’s lair. There is a fair quantity of coins and precious stones in amongst the bones, if searching doesn’t reveal that there are Yuan -Ti nearby then maybe a snake head pendant, maybe some kind of holy symbol might.
The third pool has several exits but one of them leads through a waterfall down into a great chamber. The chamber is lit by a phosphorescent fungal forest in its floor which illuminates the wizards tower that appears to be carved inside what an enormous stalactite column. There are lights in windows through the column as it has become a Yuan-ti stronghold.
Before reaching the gates of the tower however the players will need to make their way to its doors through the fungal forest. In the forest they will encounter myconids - there are several of them and they are generally tolerated by the Yuan-ti because they deal with the waste and provide a tithe of fungal food that the Yuan-ti trade with the Sverfneblin. The myconid adults will use their rapport spores to communicate with the players but this might be mistaken for an attack. If it comes to an attack then they will summon an enormous millipede spore servant.
If the party can successfully parlay with the myconids then they will tell them that the tower is the home of a tribe of Yuan-ti that are their masters - they trade with them but never enter the tower and know little of it’s weaknesses. They will give a gift to each party member that comprises a dose of Rapport spores.
The Black Fang Tribe
The Yuan-ti have occupied the lower reaches of the tower for several years with plenty of time to make it both comfortable and defensible. However with no real threats to them they have become somewhat complacent - there are no guards to speak of and their pure-bloods caste come and go throughout their day time.
The tower comprises three columns of circular rooms rising in a series of levels with organic steps carved around the walls of their chambers and rising through the ceiling above (imagine three adjacent stacks of coins twisting about each other). The central spine runs from the ground floor to the top of the tower, the cold spine is smaller than the central spine, the hot spine is distinguished by the warm air that rises from deep beneath the ground and carries a sulfurous smell throughout. The chambers sometimes interconnect and there is a side chamber forming the vizier's tower from the second tier of the cold spine.
The Central Spine
Ground Floor: On the ground floor the central spine is clearer than above and used for marshalling troops, meeting outsiders and nominally for a guard - during their day cycle there will be many Yuan-ti of all castes in this area but at nighttime, only a three or four Malisons will be keeping a cursory guard.
First Tier: Once set aside for study areas and laboratories, the Yuan-ti have cleared these spaces for the day to day running of their society - on this floor there are workstations for the more mundane tasks from food preparation to tailoring. Many of the pureblood caste have their homes here, close to the hot spine where they can enjoy the warmth.
Second Tier: Again largely cleared of arcane laboratories here the more skilled tasks such as smithing and alchemy are performed by the more skilled purebloods. This is the highest that their caste are permitted to pass in the tower unless they are female (non-combatant) body servants of the higher castes. Regardless of the call no armed pureblood will go higher.
Third Tier: This space is the barracks area for the Malisons - their officer class are in the hot spine but for the thirty foot soldiers they have bunks around the walls of this space and a fighting arena in the central area. There are archery butts, weapon racks and some weaponsmith and armourer stations and the room has a strong and alien smell to it. There will usually be many soldiers here.
Fourth Tier: This level is set aside as a place of worship for the Mallisons and Abominations, a central altar is set in the middle of the room in front of a large bronze statue of a crocodile headed humanoid god - long since forgotten by humans. The High priest is often here - a Yuan-ti abomination 5th level cleric.
Fifth Tier: This level is as high as the Yuan-ti ever ventured and few returned. A guardian naga, named Ianua has been here at the command of Master of Galleons since he died 80 years ago. The naga is obliged to defend its master’s home however if there were proof that he was dead then it would be released from its obligation. The presence of the Yuan-ti has meant that he has remained ever vigilant and unable to leave this room however if the party are willing to help then there may be a solution.
The room is surrounded by books and the naga indicates a particularly ornate brass bound tome - within the book are many pages of drawings of skeletal corpses one per page, one of them is labeled Master of Galleons and this shows Ianua that his service has ended. He invites the players to take a rest - he must take his payment but will leave them a share. All of the books remain but he takes with him a box containing three wands, one is a wand of magic detection, one a wand of secrets and the final one is a +1 wand named Circuitis that can be suspended from a thread and acts a compass.
In the books there are formulae that detail how to make an Alchemy Jug, Oil of Sharpness and a Rope of Climbing though they may take some time to discover. There are also three spell scrolls for arcane spells of 2nd, 3rd and 4th levels.
The top of the cold spine has an extremely humble living space with a bed, an old kitchen table and chair. On one wall is a door frame that appears to be bricked up, it is a magical portal that at command reveals itself in swimming colours. An extensive study of the library will reveal its nature and command word or Ianua might tell friendly adventurers. Ianua knows that the other end of the doorway opens into Wunderland beneath Blackmoor.
Master of Galleons had a refuge under the city however above the lake in the Wilds. Time has taken its toll and the refuge has fallen from the ceiling into the lake below. Now, passing through the portal drops the unwary fifty meters into the water below likely to be lethal to the unwary, especially as the defeated aboleth still has its lair below the waters.
The Cold Spine
This tower is almost completely unused save as storage - the Yuan-ti are not short on space and prefer the two warmer spines. The ground floor is fenced off and used to keep large white eyeless pigs that are pretty docile unless hurt. The top floor has cages used for prisoners for blood sacrifices - at the moment there is only a single mournful kobald.
The Hot Spine
Heated by hot springs in the lower tower, the warm steam rises up through this spine making it highly desirable for the Yuan-ti - in here the eight senior Mallisons and the four Abominations live, and go about their business. They are here most hours of the day and night.