Desert Jewel (3.5e Quest)
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- 1 Desert Jewel
- 1.1 Quest Introduction
- 1.2 Stage One: Arrival at the Oasis
- 1.3 Stage Two: The Ruins
- 1.4 Stage Three: Finding Coria
Intended for four level 5-7 adventurers.
A powerful mage rules over a barren desert realm. He has asked the party to return ancient artifacts in exchange for payment and the right to keep some of the items that they find. Travel and adventure await the party!
- Prep Time 30 mins — 1 hr
- Play Time 2+ hrs
Note that the level can be adjusted either up or down dramatically, due to the inherent flexibility of the scenario. Note that the 3.5 alignments are used.
Lost treasures are to be found in the sandy wastes, the greatest cannot be taken.
A powerful mage rules over a barren desert realm. He has asked the party to return ancient artifacts in exchange for payment and the right to keep some of the items that they find.
A treasure hunt with a twist.
For the DM
Arcadius the self-styled archmage has lived in the oasis of Erimos for some years. Under his pragmatic rule, the small settlement at the oasis has swiftly turned into a moderate-sized town. While hardly a mighty city-state, Erimos is nevertheless an outpost of civilization in the distant wastes. It has been known to Arcadius for many years that there were ancient ruins int the outlying desert, and he has sent parties to retrieve the items within. A dozen such parties have went out, and none have returned. Far from returning items, the adventurers have only added what's left of their equipment to them, victims of the traps and beasts.
Many centuries ago, the land that is now a desert used to be part of an unknown kingdom. There are signs that the land was once fertile, and more chillingly, signs that the inhabitants who used to live there willingly sacrificed the fertility of the land acre by acre in exchange for demonic powers. Mercifully, there are few if any powerful demons in the ruins. There are also signs that the civilization realized its errors and tried to fight back, but it was too late by that time.
Unknown to all save Arcadius himself is the presence of a creature in the ruins; a half silver dragon female by the name of Coria. Like Arcadius, she is a mage, although her power is nowhere near his. Five years ago, Arcadius proposed to her, but he turned her down in favor of a fully human wife. In retaliation, Coria confronted the woman and accidentally killed her in a fight using a spell. The archmage sought Coria out, but she escaped Erimos and fled into the ruins, where she lives, sustained by her magic for food, and by the waters of the same aquifer that feeds the oasis.
After a few belated attempts, Arcadius gave up trying to extract his would-be spouse. He knew that she understood the secrets of the ruins better than he, as she was a scholar of ancient ruins. None who have found her have yet escaped alive.
Given the age of the ruins, it is no surprise that there are many layers of civilization, as the kingdom that built the now ruined temples and palace was not static. Over time, it grew, and the older ruins usually display less sophistication than relatively new ones. Towards the end of the kingdom, the average size of buildings suddenly shrunk, reflecting the collapsing society. The name of the ancient culture is unknown, and their writing system is unlike anything ever seen before. It is also believed that the civilization had a taboo against depicting their own form, as no humanoids are found in any of the art in the ruins. The layout of the once great structures indicates that the race who lived here was humanoid, though.
The party comes into the story by entering Erimos and responding to a call for explorers of the ruins.
Ending the Quest
The quest ends when the party returns with at least one item Arcadius is interested in, or else the party simply gets tired of the quest and decides to abandon it. The quest need not be played to its full potential in order to be complete.
For the players
A wizard has called for a search of ancient ruins, and as any adventurer knows, ruins mean treasure!
Arcadius: True neutral male human wizard. Ruler of Erimos, he is stern and pragmatic, and while some call him greedy, others recognize that a firm hand, reasonable taxes, and his willingness to negotiate have smoothed commerce in the region and established laws. Under his rule, merchants prosper, though the common people often bristle under his arbitrary nature. The wizard's motive is to keep law and order in his town, and to acquire knowledge of the ruins in hopes of gaining more power or at the very least, removing any danger that the ruins might pose to his rule.
Coria: Chaotic neutral female sorceress. Born of the union of a silver dragon and a man, Coria was mostly raised by her dragon mother. She was a skilled sorceress from a young age, and she caught the eye of Arcadius. After meeting her in an adventure they themselves were in, the two corresponded regularly, with Arcadius eventually proposing to her. She had only shown him a human guise, and when the truth of her half-dragon appearance was revealed, he dropped the engagement, leading her to confront his new suitor and flee into the ruins, where she lives, bitter and lonely. Her motive is to one day get back the love she lost from the mage, but her immediate concerns are just to survive.
Artifacts:' It is up to the DM to determine exactly what is found, where it is found, and how powerful these items are. It is recommended that some items of purely academic interest be found as well, including inscriptions of the lost civilization's writing system, evidence of what the race looked like, and other cultural artifacts. The mage fancies himself a scholar, and would pay good money to have proof of this race. Exactly what the species looked like and what its culture was like is left to the DM, though the race is humanoid in form, if not necessarily in language or culture, and the ability to summon demons at some point in their history is a necessary feature.
Stage One: Arrival at the Oasis
When the party reaches Erimos, they will notice several things. First, most streets are sandy, with only the four roads radiating out from the tower at the center of the town being paved. Second, the party will notice that while most people are human, there are members of other races there as merchants, and every now and then, a humanoid with draconic features, sometimes a dragonborn, but usually a half-dragon, can be seen, hinting at the presence of breeding dragons in the vicinity, and a possible gender imbalance among their kind, leading to out-of-species liaisons, but this is a matter for another adventure.
The market of the town is unusually well-stocked, as caravans and long-distance merchants pass through. Erimos is not situated on a main trade route, nor is the town's water supply capable of supporting a very large population. Nevertheless, the citizens manage well enough with the water supply under the able administration of Arcadius.
A DC 5 gather information check will determine that there has been word sent for adventurers to explore the ruins. Upon hearing this, the party can head for the tall tower in the middle of town, where Arcadius lives. The tower is guarded by two Clay Golems who stand watch in front of the tower's gate. The golems will bar entry to anyone who doesn't have business in the tower, but they will enable passage to a party that mentions something to the effect of "searching ruins."
Arcadius's tower is simple but spacious. Each level has its own function, and the structure doubles as the center of civic administration as well as a residence, although the living quarters are on the uppermost three levels are are restricted from guests under most circumstances. The tower has ten levels, although many of these levels are equal to what would be several levels of a smaller residence. The first level contains offices for the court and tax collectors, while the actual court and tax offices are on the second level. The basement of the tower is not considered its own level, but it is where the treasury is kept; prisoners are fined, banished, or in rare cases, executed. As such, there is no prison in Erimos. The third level is a meeting place for Arcadius and his advisers, as well as the meeting place for the leading merchants of the town.
The fourth level of the tower contains the city's library, which has few tomes of any importance; all of the best literature belongs to the personal collections of Arcadius. The fifth and sixth levels contain uninteresting offices and the seventh level is where Arcadius has his office. Levels eight, nine, and ten are the living quarters of the mage, and he has a small observatory on the roof.
The party meets with the mage himself only briefly; he describes the search for the treasures in the desert surrounding the town, describing that ruins are to be found in all directions leading away from Erimos. After mentioning an award for each significant artifact recovered, Arcadius dismisses the party, leaving the rest of the briefing in the hands of an official. The monetary value of the awards and what "significant artifact" means is for the DM to decide. A DC 15 gather information is needed to learn from the official that no party sent out to examine the ruins has returned alive.
Following the visit in the tower, the party may decide to stock up on supplies in the market. It is recommended that the party do so, as supplies from point on will be few and far between. If there are any fights at all at this point, they are limited to low-level thieves and bandits in the city, at the discretion of the DM.
This stage ends when the party decides to leave the town for the ruins.
Optional Side Quest: Criminal Gangs
If the DM wishes, the party can stumble onto a plot to steal gold from the city's treasury.
Stage Two: The Ruins
This stage makes up most of the quest. It involves standard dungeon exploring and going through old remnants of a once-proud people. While the DM has discretion in exactly what traps, monsters, and obstacles he wants, there are a few solid guidelines.
First, at least some of the foes ought to be demonic. Generally, this means taking on weaker demons and devils, such as Barbazus, although stronger challenges can be hidden as well, locked away in places that are unlikely to be stumbled onto by low-level players, and if they are discovered, will be locked away and unable to be released unless the players have enough power to unlock them, which will also mean that the players will have the power to defeat the demon within, as a kind of insurance against the players having too little power to defeat that which they unleash.
Second, there are three triangular artifacts that the party will find. Each of these triangles can fit into a triangular impression later on in the adventure, in the third stage. These artifacts are keys which will be necessary to unlock what can be the final dungeon of the quest. Each of these triangles is roughly the size of a three-sided die, and might more accurately be termed a pyramid, if one considers it.
Third, there is no exact linear order in this quest; events are not dependent on time or a trigger, and the quest itself is designed to react to the party's actions. That said, the DM ought to consider the effects of the desert on the party, and possibility that if the party takes a long time to finish the quest, things may have changed somewhere else, possibly impacting another part of the game's world.
Stage Three: Finding Coria
When the party has found three triangular artifacts, the DM can choose the have the party find the temple where Coria is living inside. The locked door will only open when three triangles are placed into the three indentations to the right of the door.
Coria will have three sets of traps blocking the party from reaching the inner chamber in which she lives. The DM can choose what these traps are, although all of them must be deadly to the party.
An important note about Coria is that the silver half-dragon sorceress is rather bitter and upset about her recent past, and will react with greater initial hostility towards any male party members, although she regards female adventurers as little more than looters as well. The DM ought to know that she is not against males on principle, as she both resents what Arcadius did to her, but at the same time wants affection from a male at the same time she claims to be against males. Under no circumstances is she a militant misanthrope in the sense that she thinks males are "inferior". The party can reach out to her in several ways, the most effective of which is to convince her that not all males exist only to break her heart.
If the party meets her and does nothing to convince her that they mean no harm, she will not attack them, but they try to approach her without first attempting to talk, she will attack them. Coria is a level 7 sorceress , with spells largely concentrated in the Enchantment School. She is not heavily armed, and is only wearing a dress, although the DM can make it a magical one if he so chooses. Killing Coria will not net the party any great treasure on her person, although a through search of the temple will reveal that she has taken over the room in which the high priest of the temple once lived in, and within there is a magic ring, which is valuable by itself, although Coria needs to be alive for any magic it has to have effect.
In order to convince Coria not to fight, the party must keep its distance and not take out any weapons. If the party has weapons out, they ought to be put away. Coria ought to mention that the party should put the weapons away in order to give the party fair warning. Once they pose no immediate threat to her, the party ought to express an interest in talking to her before they can safely approach her. A Diplomacy check of 10 is needed in order to convince her to let them approach. Once the party has approached, there are many options as to what can be done. Note that the party can leave at any time if Coria hasn't attacked them, and if she has attacked, they can flee, although she will not pursue them outside of the temple.
The most useful thing to do from an adventurer's point of view is to convince Coria to let them explore the rest of the temple, as she knows how to unlock the doors inside of the temple. Once the party has approached her, they can use either a Diplomacy or Gather information check of 20 in order to get her to unlock the rest of the temple or to find out how to do so from her. The rest of the temple ought to be noticeably more dangerous than the rest of the adventure so far. Coria will not join the party in this task, though. She feels no attachment to the treasures within, so taking them will not anger her in any way, but at the same time, nothing will be gained by giving any treasures to her.
If the party is curious to learn more about Coria's past, they have but to ask her and use a Gather information check of 10. She will tell them about Arcadius and everything that happened to her. During a conversation with her, the party also has several means of convincing her to let them explore the rest of the temple, or of influencing her to become more friendly towards them.
Every game handles delicate situations differently. The default rules provided by various editions of D&D do not address all possible situations. Hence, it is up to the DM to determine exactly what to do. The following rules involving the mechanics of the situation are guidelines and suggestions, and are by no means set in stone. The only fixed parts of this section involve the in-game character of Coria herself, not what can be done to make her more or less friendly to the party.
There are two things to remember; that she is bitter about males, yet she wants the affections of one. It has also been a long time since he has seen a male in any capacity other than to fight, threaten, or kill one. Once a party with a male in it manages to convince her that they mean no harm, Coria will allow herself to look on the males in the party in a more balanced light.
Also note that Coria is only attracted to males. A female character can persuade Coria not to attack, and can persuade Coria to let the party explore the rest of the temple, but she cannot take advantage of additional character options involving the half-dragon.
Once the party has convinced the sorceress that they mean her no harm, they can also convince her to do several other things. An alternative to the gather information and diplomacy checks to opening the rest of the temple would be to use a Knowledge check for nature with a DC of 10 to determine that she is showing signs of desire, having had no chance to mate for years. Once her need for a mate has been determined, a male in the party can mention it to Coria without offense to her by using a Diplomacy check of 10, leading her to acknowledge her situation.
If Coria acknowledges that she has been long without a mate, she will be open to another DC 10 Diplomacy check by a male. This will get her interest, although the male character must then pass a Charisma check, the exact stats of which are to be determined by the DM. Upon passing the check, she will ask the male to join her in a room, apart from the rest of the party. This will lead to an "encounter" in which several things can happen. Because she is only doing this out of her own carnal urges, she will be less-than-kind to the male if he doesn't satisfy her, and she will attack him if this situation comes to pass.
The second way the party can get her attention in this path is to use a DC 10 Diplomacy check to convince her to let the party into the little home she has in the temple, whereupon she will offer food and drink. She must have told the party about her past in order for this to happen, though. Coria will then look for the male with the highest charisma in the party, and in the event that two or more males are tied, she will be interested in the one with the highest combined statistics. The DM can resolve any further ties in stats. She will approach that male, and if he passes a Charisma check again, she will ask him to join her in her room, alone. Because she is the one approaching him out of interest, she will be much kinder to him than if she were only doing it out of lust.
In either case, there are several possibilities as to what can happen. Coria will either have a good experience, a disappointing one, or an excellent one with the male, and there is the possibility that she might be conceive a child with him, although if she does, the impact will be for a later adventure. While the specifics as to what makes for what outcome are for the DM, one possibility is as follows:
The male character makes a charisma check and a dexterity check. If he passes one but not both, it is a good experience for Coria. If he passes both, it is excellent, and if he fails both, it is disappointing. If Coria approached the male kindly, a disappointing experience has no penalty; she still lets the party explore the rest of the temple. If she approached the male kindly and they had a good experience, she lets the party explore the temple, and she gives the male a ring to remember her by. The ring is not particularly valuable in itself, but it has a connection to her which can come in handy in later adventures Coria may appear in. Finally, if the experience was excellent, Coria will give both the ring and a piece of treasure.
If she approached the male out of burning desire, she will attack him if it was disappointing, let the party explore the rest of the temple if it was good, and she will give him the ring but no treasure if it was excellent.
The male can improve his odds that she will have a good or excellent experience by giving her a massage prior to the intimacy. This requires a dexterity check, and if it works, it makes the dexterity component of the intimacy half as difficult as it would otherwise be. If the massage fails while she approached him kindly, it makes the dexterity component 50% harder, as his touch didn't make her comfortable. If it fails when she approached him out of lust, she attacks him outright, upset that he isn't satisfying her.
The possibility of having a child with her normally would not be considerable after just one time, but it must be remembered that Coria is a half-dragon, and as such, she shares much of the extraordinary fertility that a dragon does. The DM can handle this one, but a suggested path is to make a series of two or three difficult Constitution checks, which if successful, result in a pregnancy.