Dragonlance: Key of Destiny Adventure Path by Libertad!
IntroductionOriginal SA post Dragonlance: Key of Destiny Adventure Path
For my first FATAL & Friends review, so I've decided I'd pick an adventure I have lots of experience DMing, with plenty of fond (and not so fond) memories. Basically, in the early era of 3.5, Wizards of the Coast granted permission to Sovereign Press to make Dragonlance sourcebooks as 3rd Party Supplements. The main book proper (Dragonlance Campaign Setting) is a WotC property, but the rest are the work of Sovereign Press, Cam Banks, and other hardcore Dragonlance fans. A lot of the game mechanics were... questionably balanced, at best. But it was notable for updating the original Chronicles to 3rd Edition format, D20 stats for Kender , creating an entirely new Adventure Path set in Dragonlance's 5th Age at a time before Pathfinder started cranking them out monthly, and Legends of the Twins, an excellent sourcebook discussing time travel and parallel realities for campaigns (kind of like those Alternate Earths in superhero comics).
Basically, the Key of Destiny Adventure Path is a series of 3 books (Key of Destiny, Spectre of Sorrows, Price of Courage) where the player characters (the heroes of the story) discover a priceless elven music box, the Key of Quinari. Created in the distant past of the Age of Dreams for the benefit of dragonkind, Quinari led the spirits of fallen dragons to their resting place with her song. After her death her lullaby was preserved in this music box, it's true purpose forgotten over time to become a childhood nursery rhyme among the Silvanesti nobility. After coming into possession of it, the heroes are led along by a series of vague prophecies, wise women and soothsayers, and the machinations of Ansalon's major evil factions to discover the Key's true purpose.
The adventure overall is good, but I don't think it's aged particularly well. It has a lot of interesting locations along the way, a retinue of cool villains opposing the PCs (including a lich leading an army, a genocidal Dragon Overlord, and a lovelorn ghost elf out for revenge), and memorable fleshed-out NPCs. But on the other hand, it makes assumptions that the PCs will go along with the plot on the flimsiest pretenses, and the myriad problems of high-level combat in 3rd Edition really start to show in the latter 2 books. Still, I feel that the positives of the books deserve to be shown, and I hope that you enjoy reading this as much as I did running it.
Adventure Prologue: The Sylvan Key
Our introductory adventure is notable for being in the Campaign Setting book and not the Key of Destiny proper. It starts out in the frontier city of Pashin in the nation of Khur, where the Silvanesti Elves were forced northward by a minotaur invasion along with the Dark Knights (who were betrayed by the minotaurs). Under the control of the Dark Knights, Pashin is not a friendly area for the elven refugees, who are all forced... somewhere, and the riches and valuables of Silvanesti's cities are being sold and traded by opportunists. Even though the town is effectively under military occupation, there is a breakdown in the discipline and morale among the Knights' ranks. Pegrin, a dark knight deserter, managed to smuggle the Key of Quinari out from the elves' royal palace and is now camping a fair distance outside of Pashin. The PCs are given several hooks as to why they'd be in the area (former Dark Knight, refugee, etc), typical stuff.
The adventure's first encounter, Afflicted and Persecuted, involves a group of drunken louts accosting Kelwick and Mayleaf, a Kender father and his daughter, accusing them of theft. They're innocent of his accusation; in fact, they're Afflicted Kender, robbed of their childlike wonder and insatiable need to steal due to trauma, and the thugs really just want to shake them down (who'd believe a Kender?). If the PCs don't intervene, the men will attack, only to be broken up by the city watch. If the PCs help defend Mayleaf, Kelwick will offer to help them out in the future.
As a first encounter, its effectiveness will depend mostly on whether or not your players really hate Kender, but it's obvious that the PCs should give them a helping hand and I think it will work for most groups (it did for mine). It's not really connected to the rest of the adventure, more of a way to show off how desperate things are in Pashin. Unfortunately there are no stats for Kelwick and the city guards, meaning that the DM will need to improvise.
The next encounter, Enter the Herald, happens whenever the PCs are in a large public gathering or inn. Word spreads fast around town that the legendary bard, the Herald, is visiting. His tales are both legendary and eerily accurate, possessing knowledge of Ansalon's most notable battles and heroes. Normally I don't go much for boxed text, but I feel in this instance it's pretty great.
The Herald is a human male in his mid-sixties, with white hair and a trim beard. He speaks with an Abanasinian accent, gesturing delicately and hushing the gathered crowd.
"I am known as the Herald. The memories of Krynn are mine to know and share. In my dreams I have lived many other lives, I have led men into the battle on the sides of both good and evil, I have fought dragonback and wielded the mighty dragonlance. I have lived, love, and died a thousand times. This eve, I will share some of my tales with you.
The crowd begins to shout. "Tell of Human! Tell of Raistlin and the Dark Queen! Tell of Lord Ariakan's fall among the minions of Chaos!" A steely gaze from the Herald silences the crowd once more.
"I have another story for you this evening," the Herald intones. "I shall tell you this day of a young girl named Mina and of a great war, one fought not over control of Krynn but of the souls of its people.
Basically the Herald tells of the War of Souls. It was the last major event in the Dragonlance book series, where Takhisis (Tiamat in other campaign settings) stole the world away from the other Gods and became the sole major divine power. The cosmological shift ended up adjacent to an alien world full of titanic dragons (the smallest are bigger than the eldest wyrms of ours), and five Dragon Overlords came through and conquered much of the continent. Mina was a gifted priestess of Takhisis, who led battles against the Overlords (who were not very fond of Takhisis).
This is a good way, I think, of informing the PCs of the world's recent history, and delivering it via a noted storyteller makes it flow well into the game. Unfortunately, the Herald is biased against the Dark Knights (who served under Mina) and presents them in an unfavorable light. The crowd gets increasingly angry at the Herald, booing and slinging mud and eventually turning violent into an all-out bar brawl.
This encounter, like the Kender one, is also "beginner level," where the patrons attack with their fists (non-lethal) and there's very low chance of PC death. It (and the first encounter) also acts a way for DMs to see whether or not they're meddlesome heroes who can't keep their noses out of trouble. The adventure path is banking on this option, as it rewards PCs for acting altruistically both in terms of game mechanics (experience bonus) and "role-playing" (favors, grateful NPCs, etc).
If the PCs managed to subdue enough patrons (about 6) and/or protect the Herald from danger, the grateful bard is shocked once he sees the PCs' faces. Basically he came to town to deliver an important message he had in a dream, that a key meant for them has fallen into the wrong hands. He explains that it's a valuable elven artifact stolen by Pegrin, a former Dark Knight and disreputable man who will doubtlessly abuse it if it is not taken back.
This is the first of several "it came to me in a dream" sequences from important NPCs. Unfortunately this one comes out of left field and does not really impart much in the way of useful information for the PCs. Are we really supposed to trust a guy's dream? If the PCs don't immediately head out, then one of Pegrin's men will steal something from the PCs, preferably while they're asleep or at the inn. Do you hear the sound of that? It sounds like a choo-choo train! All aboard the railroad!
Regardless, the Herald has learned his lesson and only spins good, positive tales of the Dark Knights from now on in Pashin. For a legendary bard, he sure isn't good at reading his audience.
Pegrin's camp can be found with the help of Kelwick, or gathering information around town. It's a sudden and unexpected increase in difficulty for 1st-level PCs.
I don't think those measurements are to scale...
See all those tents? The 3 Fs are Two-Men Tents, As are standard sentries, and B are night sentries, for a total of 6 bandits. They're all 1st level warriors with Toughness and maximum hit points, and can be quite a challenge. Add to that Pegrin being a 2nd-level Barbarian, a sorcerer for hired help (who's a teenager and has low morale), and a second in command with a Rogue level and you've got 9, count'em 9 potential enemies all at once. Obviously discretion is the better part of virtue, and if their leaders (Pegrin and the Rogue) aren't killed they'll doubtlessly come looking for the PCs if they steal the Key. Pegrin himself is a tough man who can hit hard when raging (+8 to-hit with longsword, 1d8+7 damage), and the sorcerer has a scroll of sleep. When I ran the session I either had to tone down the opposition or encourage hit-and-run stealth tactics. A mostly-warrior party short on sneaky types and spellcasters will fare far worse here.
If the heroes manage to subdue Pegrin's men and get the Key (along with some other treasure), they'll find it a delicately crafted music box which the Herald can confirm is what he dreamt of. When wound up it plays a song as the handcrafted woman performs a slow dance. Only Bardic Knowledge works on identifying it, revealing that it's supposed to guard something legendary. The music box itself is a receptacle, its true power known only when one can masterfully sing the melody themselves.
Thoughts so far: A rather short adventure which could be improved in parts, but given that it was added at the very end of the Campaign Setting book I figure they didn't have much to work with. It serves as a nice introduction to the setting and 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. It takes some work in terms of adventure hooks and motivation, but nothing too major.
Next time, the Key of Destiny book proper
Finding the KeyOriginal SA post
Key of Destiny Adventure Path, Book One, Chapter One: Finding the Key
The first book in the series is meant to take characters from 1st to about 7th level. By the time the PCs finish up the introductory Sylvan Key adventure, they should be at 2nd level. The introduction is also where we get the whole shebang on the Key's history.
Basically, in Dragonlance, the Elves are the race created by the good-aligned Gods of Light. Before they had a nation they consisted of fractured noble houses. The great leader Silvanos managed to unite all the houses and found a new elven nation in the great forests of southeastern Ansalon. Dragons already lived within the woods, and did not take kindly to this encroachment upon their homes. Thus began the First Dragon War. This battle lasted for 350 years before the 3 Gods of Magic (the moons Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari) intervened to help the elves by giving them the Dragon Orbs (known as Orbs of Dragonkind in other settings) to control the minds of the 5 species of chromatic dragons. The elves secured victory with these powerful artifacts, and founded the nation of Silvanesti.
During the War, Quinari, a priestess of Paladine (Bahamut), felt pity on the fallen dragons. She used her healing magic to tend to the wounds of those fallen, enhancing her powers with soothing melodies and earning the respect of the metallic dragons who allied with the elves as a result. After the war, she and Silvanos married, and the dragons bestowed upon her the unimaginative name of "Dragon-Singer." Gloranthia, leader of the gold dragons, entrusted her with the secret location of the Dragon's Graveyard, where the spirits of all draconic entities go to die. She used her magic over the centuries to sweep away the bodies of these mighty and powerful creatures so that those with evil hearts could not make use of them. Regretfully, such knowledge was too valuable for any non-dragon to have for long, and Gloranthia magically removed all memories of the place from Quinari before her death. The melody she sung to open the portal survived in vague recollections of her mind, eventually incorporated into the wider elven culture unaware of its true power.
The true adventure begins with the PCs returning to Pashin:
The sun is setting over the town of Pashin. Already the silver moon Solinari hangs high overhead, while the full red moon Lunitari begins its ascent in the eastern sky. The air begins to cool almost immediately as the sun sinks below the western horizon; the cold southern breeze causes the temperature to drop swiftly. You can see your breaths in misty bursts as you exhale, while every inhalation brings with it both the crisp, sharp scent of winter and the distinctive mixture of refuse, horses, and countless cook fires.
Passing through the gates of the town, you see the people already beginning to close up their shops, workers heading either for home or into one of the many taverns for food and protection from the sharp bite of the winter night. You feel a strange chill, neck hairs prickling, as if someone is watching you.
Fun facts: Dragonlance's main continent, Ansalon, is in the southern hemisphere, and its three moons are the Gods of Magic, one for each of the moral alignments. Their phases effect the power of Wizards aligned with them, enhancing or draining them. There's even a calendar in the setting to keep track of this, and the Adventure Path tells of dates. Nuitari is invisible to all but the Black-Robed Wizards.
I particularly enjoy the boxed texts of this adventure; the writers are descriptive enough in the right parts but not so wordy as to essentially dictate PC actions. I won't be copying them fully all the time, in some cases just the important bits. The first one above is presented in all its glory.
The PCs are indeed being watched, but attempts to follow the one spying upon them leads the group on a wild goose chase through town, ending at the Five Dragons Inn. In reality the person is Naelathan Shadowdark, one of the elven refugees acting under orders of their leader. He too heard rumors of the Key returning, but he can't confirm anything as of now.
Chapter One is a rather open-ended section of the adventure, both to its benefit and detriment. The game makes no more mention of the Herald from the introductory adventure, so the most likely revenue of information for players is gone. Basically our heroes are meant to wander about town, gathering information on the Key itself. This is accomplished either by visiting the most notable town locations below, or through random encounters.
As you can tell, Pashin has a MASSIVE Dark Knight presence. They now occupy the city and serve as its law enforcement in the eastern section. Basically, they're the Evil knightly order of Dragonlance; the Solamnic Knights being the Good guys and the Steel Legionnaires the more "modern" cloak and dagger counterpart to the older two. When Takhisis (goddess of chromatic dragons and tyranny) was alive and kicking, the Dark Knights were known as the Knights of Takhisis and spiritual successors to the Dragonarmies. Now they're the Knights of Neraka, majorly situated in said nation and dominated by secular mystics instead of clerics. What resistance exists against them in Pashin consists of the town's rough and tumble sorts (it was a rather lawless town beforehand), Khur tribes (loosely based off of real-world Arabs) resentful of Nerakan tyranny, elven refugees, and the remnants of the Steel Legionnaires.
The adventure encourages the use of random encounters to move the PCs along plot-wise if they aimlessly wander about town. Most of the encounters are definitely tied into the larger goings-on in Pashin, but since that they're essentially random and have a low chance per hour of occurring (10%-50% depending upon circumstance), it's not an effective method. Not to mention a few of them aren't tied into any greater plots. Personally, when I ran I just handed out what encounters I felt would motivate the PCs best. I'll list a few of the more interesting encounters and locations together, as it would be disjointed if I did them separately:
The Bazaar: That large square field to the south of town (left side of the map) is home to an impressive assortment of merchant's tents, selling all manner of legal and not-so-legal goods. Everything here is over-priced, about 125%, but bartering with a successful Diplomacy reduces goods to as low as 85%. If the PCs try to get the Key of Quinari appraised or sold, they'll be pointed to Halthorne the Wise's tent, and elderly gnome struck blind when he gazed upon the form of Chaos (primordial god of entropy and destruction) during the Chaos War. This is special enough to deserve it's own obligatory boxed text!
A small, almost non-descript tent stands near the heart of the bazaar. The khaki tent is stained by exposure to the elements. The front flap is pushed open, revealing a small, wizened figure. A gnome by appearance, although an odd one at that. Completely bald, his skin is almost the same color as the tent which frames him. His eyes seem to stare straight through you; visible cataracts have turned them a strange shade of gray. The tiny figure smiles, revealing perfectly white teeth, as he wheezes softly. "Welcome, I have been expecting you. You are seeking answers, I see. Unfortunately, the answers you seek will only lead you to hunt for yet more answers. Your path is a long one and only you can find the final answer." The old gnome's smile widens slightly. "Seek out the elves, they will provide the first answers and your next questions." The gnome turns quietly, disappearing into the tent with a soft whooosh .
Vague Prophecy Count: 2. Expect this to be a regular feature folks, cause this adventure path loves them! I'd recommend altering these elements if you run KoD, perhaps making them more specific. Otherwise your players might get tired of it quickly.
Courtesan: At night-time the prostitutes of Pashin come out to make money. Most serve as information brokers for Blackbird, the half-ogre crime lord who knows most of what's going on in town. One of the courtesans, a half-elf named Dove, propositions one of the PCs as Blackbird's goons show up to collect their earnings. Too bad she doesn't have their money.
For some reason Dove is the most restated NPC of this adventure. During 2005 when True20 was the next big thing, a lot of Dragonlance fans fell in love with it and started making unofficial fan conversions. Dove, a mere 1st-level NPC, was one of the first characters converted. Not Tasslehoff, not Tanis Half-Elven, no famous dudes. Eh, to each their own.
Now if the PCs scare off the thugs, pay Dove's debt or diplomacize their way out, they get experience for the encounter. But if they intimidate or fight them off, the rest of the random encounters in town starting 1-2 days from now will be Blackbird's goons, as the man never forgets a grudge. Dove can also tell them more about the town, including that the elven refugees have gone underground and disguised themselves as lepers to avoid notice (nobody sticks around lepers), and that the store Old Omar's Oddities is a Steel Legionnaire front.
Blackbird himself operates out of the Wounded Crow. If the PCs are filled with righteous fury and want to take this guy on, well it's not going to be pretty. He's a tough motherfucker on home base. Unless the PCs shoot off a lucky spell taking advantage of his low saves, you're probably going to end up with a TPK unless your players are hardcore min-maxers.
However, if they came to engage in some information gathering, Blackbird's willing to listen if they've got the money. His place is a classic hive of scum and villainy, home to grisly taxidermied trophies scattered about the place and mercenary bands (little more than killers for hire). In the spirit of 3rd Edition's worse aspects, there's a needlessly complex social interaction table determining the price of his information based upon the asker's race, class, and Diplomacy check, but all you need to know is that 40 to 60 steel pieces (gold piece equivalent in Dragonlance) should be enough to get all his secrets out. He knows that the Steel Legionnaire wants the Dark Knights out of Pashin, that the mayor's discretely sending help but is otherwise holed up in his mansion and letting the Knights take control, and that the elves are hiding out in the sewers (he doesn't know the specifics).
Judging by these encounters, it's obvious that we're supposed to seek out the elven refugee colony! Speaking of elves...
Lepers: This encounter takes place in one of Pashin's many alleyways. Basically the PCs stumble across a murder, a gray-cloaked figure with a curved knife crouched over a bloodied body. The picture doesn't necessarily match what's going on, don't it?
This is Aranol Nightblade, a Silvanesti elf banished from his community for a terrible crime, and he just took revenge upon the one responsible for his exile. He will try escaping once discovered; as a 4th-level rogue with tanglefoot bags and caltrops, he can easily get away. Once he neutralizes the most visible threat, he will drink a Potion of Jump and spring to the rooftops to escape. Shortly afterwards a group of elves will come upon the scene; depending upon whether Aranol is present (and thus neutralized) determines their reaction to the PCs, although they only attack to kill if they're convinced of the PC's guilt in the affair.
Despite his level, it's rather manageable as an encounter. Aranol does not want to take the PCs head on, and removing and even if he goes high in initiative he won't have enough time to drink his potion in the same round. And he's a lone Rogue, meaning that he won't have many opportunities to flank and sneak attack. Sometimes when I ran it Aranol escaped, other times he did not.
If the PCs help the elves out, future encounters with them will go easier. They'll need to leave soon as a Dark Knight Patrol is passing by. If the PCs offer to help distract them, they gain experience points equal to the Encounter Level +1, for a total effectiveness of a CR 5 creature. They don't get any experience for killing the (innocent) elves. Taking the noble path is very much encouraged in this adventure over the route.
The last major encounter of note is Legionnaire Rebel, and just one big misunderstanding. It begins with a "peasant" named Jacob hurriedly jumping out of a building which shortly explodes afterwards. This is not what it looks like: one of the Legion's safehouses was compromised by the Dark Knights, but he doesn't want to look incompetent and tells the PCs that he's a freedom fighter who destroyed a Dark Knight munitions storage. He'll beg the PCs to help him get away, offering 200 steel to take him to the Five Dragons Inn. As is to be expected, Jacob isn't the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, so his wife sent her two sons to keep an eye on him and are now trailing the PCs. If spotted, they'll explain everything and ask Jacob to return home with them, who reluctantly agrees. The party's efforts are rewarded with a Starmetal medallion, which they're supposed to give to Klaudia the shopkeep at Old Omar's Oddities. This will show that they're friends to the Legion and earn them some good equipment as payment for services. If asked, she'll say that Jacob is now "taking a less active role in the Legion, working behind the scenes." In reality, he's going to spend more quality time with his family.
The other major locations (Mayor's Mansion, Temple of the True Gods, Five Dragons Inn) are relatively unimportant, little more than set-pieces and services for the PCs (in the mayor's case, Pegrin has a bounty on his head which can be cashed in). If the DM feels that sufficient progress has been made, you move on to the next story-based encounter.
Prophecy & Immolation.
And what better way to move along the plot with some more boxed text! The PCs encounter an old crone in the street, who upon seeing them screeches loudly and grips one of them with fright.
Suddenly those blind eyes turn your way and the figure lets out a shriek loud enough to rival a banshee's. Throwing yourself towards your group, she collapses on the ground at your feet. Slowly, painfully pulling herself up, the crone gazes up at you with a disturbing intensity. With a low, deep moan her eyes roll into the back of her head and she begins to shudder in a grip of fever. Words begin to pour from her mouth in a whispery hiss: "The stars are set into motion, a plan both cunning and divine; beware of specters in the night, beware of unseen designs; the key you hold, others desire; protect yourself from obsession's FIRE!"
By the time she says the last word, she doubles back in a scream and burns alive with a magical blue fire. Everyone adjacent to her takes fire damage on a failed save.
Vague Prophecy Count: 3.
Proper Knowledge and Spellcraft will reveal possibiities that she was most likely possessed and/or affected by an Immolation spell, that an overflow of arcane energy burned her body from the inside out, that some spirits can kill their hosts, and that the Magic Jar spell allows spellcasters to "body hop." A bunch more questions with little definite answers, but a See Invisibility spell reveals the vague outline of a figure in the Ethereal Plane.
This book doesn't say who did this, but it was Lothian, one of the Big Bad Evil Guys for this adventure path, responsible for this, who I will talk about later. He's intentionally leading the holders of the Key along to the Dragon's Graveyard so that he can gain access himself. Of course, his overly dramatic warning causes bystanders to assume that the PCs used magic to kill the woman, and they start shouting for the city watch. If the PCs don't escape, a dark knight patrol will be on them soon enough.
The Knights will try bringing the PCs in alive, beating them to unconsciousness if necessary. The inhabitants of Pashin, unwilling to involve themselves with the Dark Knights, will not help the PCs and get out of their way. If caught, the PCs are taken deep into their encampment and stripped of equipment before being tossed in an open-air prison with manacles. "The General will decide your punishment in the morning. I'd get a good night's sleep if I were you, it will probably be your last."
Whether the PCs are caught or successfully escape, an elf will approach them.
Out of the shadows emerges a black-robed figure. Pushing back the hood, an elven face is revealed. Golden hair, cut ragged and short, frames a face that would be beautiful if not for the intensity of his features. Pale blue eyes gaze at you coldly. "If you want to get out of here, follow me."
You hear an explosion in the distance. A soft chuckle escapes the elf's lips, his head turning so that you can see a smile. "That will be my friends causing a distraction. Let's not waste their efforts, no? You've been afforded an opportunity not given by many... you've been summoned to see Shaylin. Let us not keep her waiting."
2 explosions in one day for poor Pashin. I can't imagine how the townsfolk feel about all this.
This elf is Naelathan Shadowdark, an agent of Shaylin, the elven refugee's leader. Word of the Key in their possession has reached her ears, and wants to verify the accuracy of the reports. Regardless, staying up top is too dangerous and he escorts them to a hidden sewer entrance.
Thoughts so far: This part of the review's getting long, so I'm cutting off for now. This section feels rather unfinished in parts, as it's mentioned that the Legion of Steel would help the PCs if captured, but otherwise the events in town flow together well. There's even two minor encounters involving a drunken ogre and Kender thief, who if encountered, will be found in prison and can help the PCs escape. Depending on how it's run it can be very open-ended or railroady, a rare feature in adventure paths overall.
Next time, the rest of Chapter One.
To the IntermissionOriginal SA post
Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path: Book One, Chapter 1, and Intermission
Naelathan takes the party to an artesian well and sketches a symbol in the dirt for the PCs to remember. Then he swishes it away and lowers them down into the sewers (PS1 on the map), for he must aid his friends stirring up trouble elsewhere in town. The symbol is an elven rune meaning "the path is clear," signifying the entrance to their hidden colony, and he tells them as such.
The sewers are quite the interesting dungeon. Solid ground consists of 5 foot wide walkways flanking opposite sides of the tunnels, with fifteen feet of sewer water between. The exceptions are the Ghast Lair and Leper Colony on the map, which have more room than the others. Random encounters consist of typical dungeon faire: Monstrous rats and spiders, ghouls, and the like, and all of them but the rats are monsters from the dungeon itself, usually searching the sewers for good. I like this idea, as it really adds a sense of "lived in" to the sewers instead of having it be awash with randomly spawning monsters (as for the rats, it's plausible that the place is crawling with them). There's good loot to be found amid the rooms and their monsters, the remains of previous adventurers or purloined goods in the case of goblin thieves. That is, if the PCs care to venture about the sewers.
The areas marked "secret" have the symbols on the wall, but they won't be spotted unless the party succeeds on a very high Search or Spot check (DC 20 or 24), and to open it they must trace the symbol with their finger and say "the path is clear" in Elven.
This is incredibly unnecessary; first the PCs must succeed on a high die roll to even notice the symbol, it requires information they do not possess unless they encounter elven scouts as a random encounter and earn their trust. Otherwise they won't get into the colony and the plot cannot continue forward. This was another element I altered in my sessions.
With a silent whisper, a portion of the stone wall swings in, revealing a long and narrow passageway that leads to a set of stairs. The stairs open out into an enormous room carved out of the earth, possibly hundreds of years ago. The soft radiance of dancing lights overheard create the illusion that the ceiling is a starlit sky.
Instantly the people taking up residence amid the tents and lean-tos of the chamber notice your presence. Weapons glint in the soft light like fireflies in the dark.
A tall slender figure emerges from the crowd seemingly without effort. Shrouded in white gossamer robes, her silver-white hair a nimbus that tumbles down her bared ivory shoulders, this woman seems a spirit more than a creature of flesh and blood.
"Greetings," she murmers softly, her voice barely more than a whisper. "I am the Lady Shaylin Moonborn of House Mystic. It was I who called you." A small, bitter smile briefly crosses her face, her hand rising to indicate the rest of the chamber. "Welcome to our humble home. Please, you must be tired. Follow me, I will show you somewhere you can rest and I will answer your questions."
This chamber is an ancient temple to Morgion, an evil deity of decay and disease. Its dwarven worshipers were driven out by Khur nomads long ago, remaining empty for years. Now the Silvanesti occupy it thanks to Naelathan's discovery of the place. Conditions are bad, but persecution by the Dark Knights would be worse, and many of them hope that they can reclaim their homeland soon, so they remain for the time being.
Unbeknownst to the elves, Morgion was not pleased with their occupation of his temple and struck them with a rotting plague not unlike leprosy. It is curable only via magic (and even then it's remarkably resistant). The PCs can discover this through more than a casual look upon the elven community. Even Shaylin, if asked, does not know the source. Sanitation is terrible and supplies are few, so disease is to be expected, but its magical resistance is unheard of.
Shaylin reveals her true reason for summoning the PCs, that she's been afflicted with disturbing dreams which somehow involve them. Their miraculous possession of a treasured elven artifact she doesn't think is a coincidence, either. Suddenly she falls into a trance:
"There is a pattern you cannot see. Instead you must set your spirit free. Take the key to the shattered ruins, through the sands and over the dunes. Seek the answers in the sands of time, search your souls and find the sign."
Vague Prophecy Count: 4. Honestly this one remains vague for a short time, as Shaylin is knowledgeable about what the vision means. The dunes reference the lands to the north of Pashin, the shattered ruins are Hurim, once an ancient temple to Paladine and the Gods of Light. In times past one of the priests betrayed the rest to a ruthless ogre horde, and since then the place is avoided by the Khurish people, but she knows little more than that. As for the Key of Quinari, she doesn't know much, either, than that it's an artifact from the Age of Dreams and meant to unlock something great. After she answers any questions the PCs have, the party has the opportunity to rest and buy supplies from the elves and treat their wounds (although they don't have much).
If they need to leave, Naelathan will escort them out of town via a secret passageway into the badlands of Khur. As wanted men and women in Pashin and their only leads the ruins of Hurim, our heroes' journey as to the Key's mystery truly begins.
Personal Notes: The diease afflicting the elves is named Sunblight, and it has stats. It infects an elven or half-elven victim with leprosy and bestows penalties in sunlight and permanent 1d3 Constitution drain every 3d4 weeks. A very slow death, indeed. What's worst about it is that it's airborne and does not manifest immediately, and it cannot be magically cured by a spellcaster of less than 18th level. This disease plays a larger role later on in the Path, as the Tears of Mishakal are a twin set of magic items and one of the few things on Krynn capable of wiping out the disease.
Personally I would not inflict it on the PCs if an elf numbers among the party, as it can be very debilitating over the course of the campaign. I could see a DM using it as a "race against time," but it could really gimp a PC's survivability long-term.
Thoughts so far: Chapter One is hit-or-miss in places, but its strong points are good enough to forge a good game out of with some work. It's heavy on urban socialization and exploration interspersed with some dungeon-crawling at the end, and the encounters, while potentially deadly for 1st-level PCs, are overall not enough to cause a TPK unless the PCs really fuck up. And in-game rewards via experience for heroic actions are a nice touch for getting the players to act altruistically; this might sound restrictive, but it folds in well with the kind of campaign meant to be played.
Next time, Chapter 2: The Mystery Unfolds!
Intermission: The Villains of the Adventure Path
I mentioned him earlier, but I'll do an expanded write-up on the major villains of this Adventure Path. I feel that telling a lot of their stuff up-front will leave people less confused about things.
The Knights of Neraka
Also known as the Dark Knights, their order was formed by Ariakan, son of the Dragon Emperor Ariakas. While imprisoned by the Knights of Solamnia, he learned of their ways and how the Dragonarmies turned upon themselves at the end of the War of the Lance. Seeking to turn the tactics of his enemies against them, he told of his plan to form a new knighthood to Takhisis once free, and she agreed. And thus the Knights of Takhisis were born.
The Knights are guided by 3 principles: the Vision, their ultimate goal of continental domination of Ansalon; the Blood Oath, the swearing of one's submission and life to the Knighthood (and formerly Takhisis when she lived); and the Code, a complex set of laws and rules for how the Knights should conduct themselves in relation to others. They are split into 3 major orders: the Knights of the Lily, the main military arm and backbone of the Knighthood. The Knights of the Skull, divine spellcasters in charge of intelligence and security purposes. And the Knights of the Thorn, arcane spellcasters who draw power from all three moons of magic and considered renegades by the Towers of High Sorcery (the major magical power on Ansalon). The Skull lost a considerable amount of power with the brief disappearance of the gods, but they regained it shortly after the discovery of mysticism (divine spellcasting without a deity).
The Dark Knights are a regular enemy throughout much of Book One and in the early parts of Book Two, but for the most part they are unaware of the Key of Quinari's power.
Lothian, Prophecy Puppetmaster
Lothian was an elven soldier entrusted with healing the blighted land of Silvanesti in the aftermath of the War of the Lance. He fell in love with Kayleigh, a fellow soldier. She did not return his affections, and he grew bitter; “she’s fallen for another!” he thought. “Why else would she not desire me?!” He placed blame on the other male soldiers, but kept his anger hidden from the others.
A death knight came upon Lothian’s patrol, and felled everyone but him. Lothian tried with all his might to heal Kayleigh, but his goddess would not help him. The death knight offered to spare his life and that of Kayleigh’s, but only if Lothian swore allegiance to Chemosh, God of Death. He accepted.
Kayleigh’s spirit would be bound to Lothian, but both their souls belonged to Chemosh upon his death. Lothian made a bad deal in the heat of the moment, and he grew to resent Chemosh’s hold on them. He researched ways of getting around this agreement, and learned of the Shroud of Soul’s Calling. This artifact is said to be located in Quinari’s Tomb, capable of bringing a spirit back from the afterlife and out of the clutches of a God. Lothian also learned that the Tomb was located in the Dragon’s Graveyard, and he searched in vain for the Key of Quinari. It was only until the music box was brought out of the protective ward of Silvanesti that Lothian’s plans were set into action. He ordered Kayleigh to manipulate the Key’s holders on a set path to bring them to the Dragon’s Graveyard, contacting seers and using visions of a ghostly maiden in distress to direct the PCs to desired points. All of those holy artifacts gained across the adventure path? Simple, Lothian’s leading them along like puppet strings so that they’re well-equipped in the inevitable fight against Chemosh’s forces.
Before you start feeling sorry for Lothian, keep in mind that he still wants Kayleigh for himself and can't accept the fact that she resents him for all that he's put her through. Even then, I consider him less of a bad guy than Caeldor or Gellidus given that his end goal will result in breaking the hold Chemosh has over hims and Kayleigh. To him, it's survival; Caeldor and Gellidus are all about power and conquest.
Caeldor the Traitor
Caeldor's the asshole responsible for the massacre at Hurim, and Chemosh's high priest in the mortal plane. As a powerful lich, he desires the Key of Quinari as part of his plans to raise and undead army and take over Ansalon in the process. Supplemented by the bodies and souls of undead dragons, there would be no force on Krynn powerful enough to stop him.
Gellidus, White Dragon Overlord
When Takhisis stole the world during the 5th Age and the War of Souls, the Material Plane became close to a world of titanic dragons, and Gellidus was one of the five who made his way over. They set about conquering much of Ansalon, committing genocide against much of dragonkind in the process and stealing their power via grisly magical pillars of bones known as Skull Totems. Despite being fellow chromatics, they had no intention of sharing power with each other, or Takhisis, and only two of them survive at war's end. Gellidus the White, and Onysablet the Black. With the bones of the Dragon's Graveyard, he stands a chance at becoming the most powerful person in all of Krynn, possibly to rival the Gods themselves!
Quite an assortment of fiends, don't you think? I really like the idea of multiple villainous factions warring over a legendary power source, and having one of them an established power player and Big Name NPC gives a very high sense of conflict in the campaign, that what the players are doing matters on an international scale.
The Mystery UnfoldsOriginal SA post
Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path, Book One Chapter 2: The Mystery Unfolds
Ideally the authors estimate that the PCs should be 3rd level at this point, 4th or 5th level by the time they reach the Shattered Temple of Hurim. This is overall accurate, although in my several times of DMing this adventure my groups did not hit 5th level that early. Very dedicated and meticulous parties could theoretically reach this amount of experience, though.
Khur is an arid nation of desert and badlands, flanked by Neraka to the north and Silvanesti to the south. The majority of its people are nomads divided into seven large tribes, with a few large cities. The PCs have between 50-75 miles of travel from Pashin to the ruins of Hurim, averaging 3 to 5 days of travel.
This section of the adventure shifts to wilderness travel, and Key of Destiny does not disappoint in this regard. Extensive detail the flora, fauna, and weather conditions of locations is present throughout the entire adventure path. It really helps the DM create a descriptive picture beyond random encounters. Southern Khur is a land of extremes, of great heat in the daytime and bitter cold at night. Clouds are sparse, leading a famous poet to describe the night sky as "a polished bowl of obsidian, scattered with a glittering spray of diamond dust." Small animals such as insects, lizards, and various birds of prey survive in the harsh lands, with some cheetahs, elephants, and other large mammals in the fertile valley between the Thon-Thalas River. Unique plant life includes the dangerous crystalline Shimmerweed, whose radiance can fascinate onlookers into docility for other predators, the dense living stones which are actually calcified petals saturated with concentrated proteins and minerals, and the Broad-Leaf which gathers moisture from passing fogs which sweep across the desert.
Random encounter-wise, the desert's relatively uneventful, usually in the form of giant ants, minotaur scouts, friendly centaurs, and bandits (who are all mounted on horseback and can thus be difficult, but a great reward for slow-moving PCs). Two of them are semi-linked as part of a mini-story: two giant eagle parents had their eggs stolen by draconians, humanoid dragon-men who broke off from the Dark Knights. If the PCs can help find and rescue their eggs, they'll be gifted with a one-use magic item: a Feather Whistle which can summon the eagles to fight for them in combat. Nifty!
Of course, given that the PCs were just dropped into the middle of the desert, they are probably in need of some supplies. Not to worry, for eventually they run into the Mikku, one of the seven major Khurish tribes!
In the distance you begin to make out the sounds of laughter, of voices raised in conversation and song.
You can spot the source of the noise. Situated in a dry gully is a large nomad encampment. Bright, colorful tents are spread like a field of windflowers, vivid even in the dying light of the setting sun. The camp's arranged in concentric circles, the largest tents situated near the center, ringing an enormous bonfire.
Most of the campers are situated near the camp's heart, where a celebration is being held. Scantily-clad figures wrapped in billowing scarves with gem-like hues dance about the bonfire, accompanied by a boisterous cacophony of dozens of instruments playing a raucous tune.
The Mikku are a tribe of performers who've traveled the length and breadth of Khur. They're camping out in preparation for the annual Khur festival, months away but no less eager for practice. They'll be friendly upon meeting the PCs, and if they do not take hostile action will be escorted by warriors to Alakar the Silent, the tribe's leader. Alakar encourages them to join in the festivities and will be happy to answer any of their questions, which are interspersed with small talk and ensuring that they feel welcome in the camp. As a sign of hospitality, they'll be offered salt with their meals. A bond of salt signifies that the guests will come to no harm as long as they remain within the giver's house (or tribe, in this case). This was actually a real-world tradition among Arabs in the distant past.
Alakar is more than happy to tell them the history of Khur and the tribes, and of Hurim and the Shattered Temple.
Basically, about 400 years ago, eastern Ansalon was dominated by the Empire of Istar. They started out as a Lawful Good theocracy who genuinely brought about a high standard of living among the people and a safe haven for the faithful of the Gods of Light. The last Kingpriest, Beldinas, became increasingly power-mad and delusional in his quest to purge the world of evil, harming countless innocents and bringing the wrath of the Gods of Light through a terrible event known as the Cataclysm. A giant meteor descended upon the capital, plunging a good portion of the region underwater and irreversibly changing the landscape.
Khur was a fertile grassland before the Cataclysm (known as the Drowning to the Khur), which created that sea on the map via huge floods. During the chaos, a single leader named Keja arose to unite the tribes and forge a new nation. After his death each of his sons split up and led their own tribes, which are now known as the Fin-Masker, Hachakee, Mayakhur, Tondoon, Weya-Lu, Mikku, and the "true" Khur).
Before the Cataclysm, Hurim served as an Istaran outpost. As more pilgrims settled, a temple was built, open to all worshipers of the Gods of Light. During the Night of Betrayal one of the priests helped an ogre army slaughter the temple's inhabitants, and a dire curse was left upon the valley. From that day since, no Khur set foot within and lived beyond the next lunar cycle. The Cataclysm generated a landslide which sealed off the valley, and no one has seen fit to clear it.
There's also a seer named Asmara in the camp, who can read the PCs futures. The DM is encouraged to make some up to flesh out their own side plots and play upon PC backstories, although 3 sample readings are provided detailing future events in the adventure path.
"And one shall stand upon the backs of nature's builders, walk across a floor that lives, and speak to a voice that is one above the many."
"A figure of fire and damnation, forged from a Dragon's blood but seeming Abyss born, stands guard over a weapon of light long since lost..."
"The dead are restless, driven by ancient jealousies and conflicts, fight in a graveyard over the soul of one believed forever beyond reach."
Vague Prophecy Count: 7. The first refers to a sapient ant colony in Chapter 5, the second towards Sindra (evil dragonspawn villain) and Huma's Lance, the third towards Lothian and Kayleigh. The things are too vague that the PCs, even if they piece it together, will not gain any special insight until they actually encounter the characters mentioned. It's more of an "Oh, I get it!" than a puzzle for the players to unravel.
Strange Visitors in the Night
The characters are given a tent to sleep in for the night. During their rest a ghostly entity will approach the nearest elf or spellcasting PC (or selected randomly in the case of neither) around early morning. It takes the form of a little girl who will begin speaking even if nobody spots her.
You hear the soft, lilting sound of a young girl's voice.
“You must hurry… the winds carry the voices of many spirits, and they are crying for help. You must keep the key safe otherwise all will be lost. In the temple of the betrayed, you must find the shard of light. It shall lead you on the path you have been chosen to walk.”
Before you have a chance to respond or question the young girl any further, she rises to her feet and quickly disappears out of your tent. Suddenly, you hear a high-pitched whistling sound as the leather flaps of your tent shake wildly and a whirlwind tears through the opening.
Two air elementals suddenly manifest and attack the PCs! They strike as a warning, not to kill, and will disappear in 3 rounds if not slain by then.
Lothian's manipulation again. For someone who wants the PCs to succeed, he sure loves throwing dangerous stuff at the PCs!
The Mikku rush to the scene to find out what's going on, Alakar parting through the crowd with a concerned look on his face. Once the party describes what happened, Asmara will ask worriedly if the child had blue eyes, if she was Uleena.
Regardless of their response, she will stand for a bit, looking off into space (but actually looking beyond the mortal veil), before confirming her fears. "Yes, it was Uleena."
Uleena was Alakar's daughter, gifted with the abilities of a seer and trained by Asmara. She died from a landslide a year ago, the same one responsible for opening up the Valley of Hurim (if you're confused, the valley was closed during the Cataclysm and opened a year ago). Alakar will ask what Uleena told them; although he doesn't know of the Shard of Light, he believes that they are marked by the Gods will ensure that the PCs are escorted safely to the Valley for the rest of their trip (but none in the tribe will accompany them inside).
The Ruins of Hurim
The Mikku stop outside the entrance to the valley proper. There is a citrus grove to the north of Hurim the Mikku will stop at, and will wait for a week for the PCs. After giving them supplies and a back-pounding slap on the back, Alakar prays that the Gods watch over them and that they might meet again.
Hurim is where things start getting serious. Undead are present as random encounters, even at daytime (although in smaller numbers), and the curse suffuses everywhere outside the Shattered Temple with a Desecrate spell, buffing undead and evil/necromantic spells. At night an unnatural fog floats above the ground all across the valley. Monstrous scorpions, zombies, skeletons, wights, and kender are but a few horrors the PCs can expect to encounter in this forsaken place.
You read that right, Kender.
A single one-time unique encounter is with Thanator "Shroud" Grave-eyes, a Kender gifted with the ability to communicate with the spirits of the dead. The PCs find him casually talking to a skull, asking it all sorts of odd questions. What happened here, do you know my Aunt Ashe, what's your name? Scuttles? Hey Scuttles, have I told you about the time that my Aunt Ashe talked to the spirit of Fistandantalus, she said that he was a skull just like you except he still had all his teeth and...
He'll be more than happy to accompany the PCs on their travels within the valley...
AS A KENDER DMPC!!!
Seriously, Shroud is a 5th level Rogue/1st level Nightstalker (Kender Prestige Class which grants spellcasting and a ghost companion). The adventure advises the DM to use him as back-up so as not to overshadow the PCs, but that's not gonna happen. You see, a lot of the enemies encountered are undead, and thus immune to sneak attacks. His sole spell is Deathwatch, which isn't really useful in battle than pointing the Cleric on who to heal. He can turn undead 4 times a day (although he's not very good at it), and he has no ranks in Search, decreasing his ability to find any traps. What he is good at are Opening Locks (+13) and Spotting hidden objects and creatures (+13). He's pretty much built to be a minion/back-up.
The interesting features of Hurim include the entrance (RH1), guarded by a hungry pack of mountain lions. RH2's a guard tower inhabited by 2 shadows and a spectral guardian, a ghost who valiantly stands watch even in death. He must continue his duty until the spirits of his men find peace. The men who did not pass on to the afterlife are the shadow monsters in the basement. If the PCs are willing to help him, he will reveal reveal a secret compartment behind his corpse if they defeat the shadows. He thanks them and as he passes on as "his form is swept away into nothingness as if by an invisible river." Said compartment contains his private journal containing notes on the Temple, some potions, and a magic sword emblazoned with the title "Kiss of the Desert Sky." It's a +1 Shocking Burst Longsword with blue-tinted steel and lightning motif etched into the handle.
This is a really sweet weapon for the party's melee characters, and it was the favorite of my party's Barbarian for quite some time (until Book 2, if I remember correctly). From this point on, permanent magic items have been rare in the adventure. Beforehand the PCs could have gotten a +1 dagger at the Dark Knight Enclave, a +1 Rapier from Aranol Nightblade, and a +1 Bashing Shield and Oil of Magic Weapon from the Ghast Lair in the sewers of Pashin (all in Chapter 1).
As you can tell, combat with incorporeal undead can be really tough at this point in the game if the PCs missed any of these. The dagger in particularly is almost never found by my groups as escape was their first priority, while the others are stumbled upon mostly by chance. I'd recommend making these previous weapons easier to find if you run the adventure path yourself, or cut down on the number of incorporeal undead.
RH3 is a wild orchard home to a dryad who has been driven insane by the horrors she saw. She and her monstrous plants will attack the PCs if they don't depart from her domain:
Her flesh is dark and knotty like tree bark, with a thick, sickly-looking moss spreading across her limbs. Her fingers end in long, thornlike claws, and her hair crackles in the breeze like the dead leaves of winter. Her eyes glow with an unnatural incandescence as she speaks harshly in the Common tongue. "Be gone now, or your flesh shall be flayed from your body, my pretty flowers shall drink of your blood as your bones are ground into the earth beneath my feet.
Barring killing her, the PCs can complete the encounter if they cast any beneficial spell (remove disease, cure wounds, etc) on the tree, the dryad gains a new saving throw to recover from her madness. She'll be grateful to the PCs for freeing her from her torment, and will reveal the location of a small hoard of treasure she accumulated over the years.
And yes, saving the Dryad grants bonus experience points as opposed to just killing her. Heroism!
RH4 is a dry spring housing hundreds of skeletons impaled upon sharp rocks. During the ogre assault the monsters tossed the dead and the dying into the lake, sometimes to dispose of bodies and sometimes for fun. A single wraith, the spirit of one of the dead, lairs here.
RH5 is the Pathway of the Gods, a gently sloping trail leading up to the temple, flanked by ten pure white marble statues, half of them demolished and their fragments scattered about the sand. The columns once represented the five "lesser" gods of light (Branchala, Habbakuk, Kiri-Jolith, Majere, and Solinari) in pairs, and the temple itself was flanked by the Father (Paladine) and the Mother (Mishakal) at the top. There is enough sacred energy remaining within the statues to dissipate the Desecrate curse, and the PCs will notice a difference in the air, as if the terrible sense of dread is now more... distant.
The text highly recommends introducing Shroud here if they haven't encountered him, because his special ability allows him to communicate with the spectral flickers in the Temple "and thus makes an excellent guide." And if they're too low-level to go in yet, he can guide the PCs to the orchard or fortress to "show them something interesting."
Haven't our poor PCs suffered enough?
Thoughts so far: Shorter and more linear in comparison to Chapter One, this part more than makes up for it in mood and feel. Your group might have a lot more trouble if they don't have a Good-aligned Cleric in the group (unless they're experienced min-maxers who know what they're doing). If anything, the better sense of direction made this more enjoyable for me to run and my group to play, as they had a clear goal and I did not lack in description of the wilderness of Khur or the foreboding aura of Hurim.
Next time, Chapter 3, the Shattered Temple.
The Shattered TempleOriginal SA post
Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path Book One, Chapter 3: The Shattered Temple
This is a rather infamous chapter in the Key of Destiny for its poor use of boxed text. Ideally boxed text should reveal just enough of the scene and then the PCs react. Going so far as to narrate the PC's action and thoughts, or when so much action is happening that the PCs are essentially standing around doing nothing, is a bad thing for writers to avoid. But we'll get to that later.
The Night of Betrayal was an incident which happened 700 years ago and expounds upon much of Caeldor's backstory. It's significant to the larger plot, and the writers do a clever job of the use of "spectral flickers." Basically shades of memory from the Ethereal Plane persist in the temple; not true ghosts, the emotions of that one night combined with the curse essentially replays the scenes again and again as illusions which cannot be affected by outside forces. Through this, the PCs witness the atrocities committed and Caeldor's depravity.
Long story short, Caeldor used to be a priest of Mishakal, Neutral Good goddess of healing, peacemaking, restoration, and growth. As he grew older he began to succumb to the ravages of age, something even Mishakal's divine magic could not prevent. Over time he grew bitter, eventually seeking out other gods who would help him. In the temple room of the dark gods, Chemosh, evil deity of Death and Lord of Bones, answered his prayers and promised him immortality. Caeldor accepted his offer, and his soul was cloaked so that none but Mishakal would know of his betrayal. He struck a deal with the ogre shamans of the nation of Blöde to strike Hurim. The siege began, and as the priests' forces fell to the army Caeldor struck from within, killing the high priest and spilling his blood on the altar of the Gods of Light to weaken their connection, and then summoning fiends from the Abyss to massacre everyone else, priests and ogres alike.
So Caeldor got so pissed about getting old, he massacred everyone he lived with and began the path to lichdom. Talk about a mid-life crisis!
Unfortunately if done normally, the result will be the Dungeon Master reading a story to the players, a story which they have no control over and involve NPCs talking to each other (there's not many things more awkward at the table when the DM talks to him/herself). On the bright side, this chapter's got a lot of good magical equipment for the PCs, and two interesting NPCs whose roles I enjoy.
The Shattered Temple was once a grand place, a pyramid-shaped sandstone structure hewn by dwarven masonry. Despite its location in an out of the way location, great care was given to its planning, as it was one of the few Istaran temples in the region and the Empire and Khurish people both take their religion very seriously. Almost all of the rooms succumbed to the ravages of age and no maintenance, but many of its magic rooms and traps persevere. It is now inhabited mostly by oozes, vermin, and the undead.
The complex is very large, but has little in the way of inhabitants both living and dead. For a dungeon it's rather empty, but it makes sense for this forsaken place.
The party gets a first taste of the spectral flickers at the entrance (ST3):
A loud shout rises on the air, piercing the calm night with an alarm. "Ogres!" Suddenly, the sound of heavy booted feet, followed by the echoing war of bloodthirsty warriors, drowns out the sound of the alarm as a horde of ogres tears their way up the temple steps. One burly ogre, his tusks wet with crimson blood, leads the pack, pausing long enough at the temple entrance to swing at the tall, smiling statue of Mishakal with a single mighty blow. Bending over, he lifts the cracked marble head of the goddess from the ground and hefts it over his head, releasing a booming warcry that is quickly picked up by the other ogres in the valley.
As far as flickers go, this first one isn't so bad. It's far enough away from the PCs for the events to transpire, and it's frightening enough to players who don't yet realize that it's an illusion. My party immediately fled into the temple, hoping that they could hold them off somehow.
Yet another flicker follows up in ST5, this time detailing the ogre leader slaughtering the first resistance of a priest of Paladine.
A young human, Khurish by the looks of him, dressed in loose white robes holds forth his right hand while his left graps the silver medallion of Paladine around his neck.
"Paladine, hear my word, grant me use of your holy sword!"
A glowing blade of the silvery light springs into being in the young priest's hand, which he holds with determination, if not skill.
An ogre turns the corner from the stairs and the young priest leaps forward, the silvery blade leaving a glowing trail of light in an arch as he shouts, "in Paladine's name!"
The ogre cruelly laughs as he brings up a booted foot, kicking the young man in the stomach...
"Kiss your god goodbye, little man," the ogre growls before raising his club overhead and bringing it swiftly down towards the priest's head.
I cut out a few lines but you get the gist of it. The boxed text reads like something straight out of a novel, and while it's very evocative to read, doing so out loud to players loses a lot of its feel. Especially when you do it again and again, with longer ones even!
Libertad's Notes: Personally I cut down a lot of the boxed text to the bare grist, generalizing it as a one-sided slaughter of carnage. I was more descriptive when it came to Caeldor, considering that he's the star of the show and the one I want my players to remember.
One of the doors in said hallway is a Mimic, but this one's far from a stereotypical monster. The mimic (who has no name), is actually part of a scholarly expedition. His partner's an aranea (spider woman) named Anasana, a scholar and worshiper of Chislev the God of Nature. They both figured that with the recent opening the valley that the curse had been lifted, but they were wrong. The room that the mimic is guarding is the former High Priest's Locutory, used by him and Anasana as a resting place in the Temple. Together they hope to find knowledge of what happened, and possibly a way to put the spirits to rest and lift the curse. Anasana's in the library (ST25), on the fourth floor.
I really like this addition; adventuring monsters who can be reasoned with and might cooperate with the PCs, and in part inspired me to try my hand at playable monster PCs with the Savage Species rulebook.
ST8 is the High Master's Locutory, filled with cobwebs and monstrous spiders and spider swarms. A tough fight for PCs without fire or area effect attacks, but the treasures in the egg cocoons include a few nifty magical items (wand of cure light wounds, some scrolls, and a swan feather token, among pearls and art objects).
ST10 A is a storeroom of food, with metal rods with permanent chill metal cast upon them to make the room cool; ST B is the other storeroom of the corpse of a former thief filled with a centipede swarm. He has an old map marking some secret doors with "X" signs and a wand of find traps (5 charges).
ST14 was the dining hall; there are many skeletons inside but no signs of battle. The doors were blocked up and an Ogre Mage cast a cloudkill spell to gas the inhabitants. The spectral flicker which occurs describes this event with 44 half-lines of text (the book's text fits into a small 2-column format), but still. ST15 is the kitchen home to a powerful Ochre Jelly which guards some more magic scrolls and a 1st-level Pearl of Power. This nifty item allows a spellcaster to regain one of their prepared spells they prepared and cast within that day (1st level only for this one)! The previous chapters were light on loot, but the Shattered Temple's really picking up now!
The hallways of ST16 and the third floor is home to a gelatinous cube. Anasana summoned the ooze to the Temple with her magic (there's no spell in the adventure or campaign setting which does this, it's a flavor thing) to prevent other monsters from bothering her. She effectively corralled the creature to the hallways by placing an alchemical solution known as oozebane in front of many of the doors and stairs. It's a powder that dries out liquids quickly and damages oozes the same way holy water harms the undead.
ST19 is the infirmary, its injured inhabitants slaughtered by the ogres. Another flicker details how a priestess held her ground before dying as the laughing ogres converged on one of the bedridden men, who now haunts the room as a ghost. In his delusions he'll attack the PCs perceiving them as ogres, but if anyone casts a healing spell upon him he returns to normal and casts a heal spell upon the party before departing on the River of Souls (The young priest stretches his hands as he turns his eyes to the heavens. "Light bringer, gentle healer, goddess wrap these heroes in your embrace, ease the suffering from their face.")
Our Introduction to Caeldor, one really bad dude
ST20 is Caeldor's chambers. In life he was a high priest, and since he was collecting and doing evil shit he put up a magical trap on it (Symbol of Pain) and placed a divine marking in the Ogre language saying "protected by the dark gods." An important flicker happens within:
A rather distinguished, coldly handsome middle-aged man with pale skin, piercing black eyes, and white-blonde hair, stands in the center of the room, apparently lost in thought. His body is lean, almost to the point of gauntness, and the pointed goatee on his chin gives him an almost sinister air, particularly when combined with the intensity of his features.
He's dressed in pitch black robes, with small ivory skulls decorating the hem. His hand is wrapped around the medallion around his neck as he gazes off into the distance. Suddenly, he nods his head and speaks in a low, whispery tone.
"Yes Chief Korblack, tonight is the night. I shall take care of the high priest and the temple's defenses. All you and your horde need worry about are the guardians."
The figure falls silent again, apparently listening to the Chief's response. "You may keep whatever treasure you find. Such things do not matter to my master or myself. Now I must go and prepare for the evening's... events. When you have cleared the temple above, meet me in the Shrine of Darkness on the lowest level. There you will receive the reward promised you."
The figure releases the Medallion from his grip, revealing a grinning skull motif. "Time to put on my last disguise." Speaking a chant, the black and copper robes bleed their color away until they're pristine white and blue, emblazoned with the symbols of Mishakal.
Leaning over, he pulls a black-bladed dagger out of [the chest]. It writhes like a snake as he tucks it among the folds of his robes and walks towards the door with purposeful strides.
The stuff I cut out was more talking with the ogre chief over preparations for the attack and him unlocking the chest with a spell. Caeldor's personal possessions are in his chest, also trapped with choking dust, of holy tomes and magic scrolls. But a secret compartment contains a tome bound in human skin detailing the rites of Chemosh, and a skull-shaped black candle ( Neutral Evil Candle of Invocation ), a block of Incense of Meditation . The candle's fucking overpowered if you have an evil cleric in the group (or someone with a great Use Magic Device bonus), so I'd take it out just in case. Overall some really valuable stuff for 4-5th level PCs to find.
ST25's the library, home to Anasana:
"Well, it seems as if I am not the only one whose curiosity has been piqued by the temple's reappearance. Welcome, fellow explorers, my name is Anasana." Her voice is warm and heavily accented and her tone seems sincere.
Anasana will be happy to share information with the PCs, although she's keen on keeping hidden her true form (a spider creature). She's not interested in fighting to the death and will flee if she cannot overpower the PCs. She can tell them why the spectral flickers are occuring, and that there are guardian statues watching over the lower levels (she did not progress past them). If asked how to "cure" the place, she'll mention that removing the impurity is beyond her means, that it requires the Tears of Mishakal at the very least, a pair of artifacts lost since the Age of Dreams. They were said to be created by Goddess herself and fell to the earth when the first murder occurred. The Tears have the power to ease the spirits of the dead and grant them peace. They work best together, but rumor has it that one of the Tears has been corrupted by Chemosh's touch.
Guess which artifacts play a significant role in Book 2!
ST26 is a secret armory opened via a hidden panel in the wall. It has masterwork equipment, holy water, and a magic Bead of Force (it can explode and trap creatures inside a magical sphere).
Floors Five and Six are guarded by a Permanent Guards & Ward spell, which locks all doors shut with an Arcane Lock spell, barring non-magical lock picking (although the ogres smashed through most of them). The Grand Hall is protected by two animated statues of the deities Paladine and Mishakal, who will part ways if presented with a medallion of faith of one of the Gods of Light. The spectral flicker here details the priests' last stand against the ogres. The battle's going against them, but suddenly out of the double doors burst forth a swarm of skeletal insects followed by a pair of devils wrapped in chains. Caeldor nonchalantly walks out from one of the shrines, unnoticed by the new monsters, and closes the door to the massacre which unfolds. He came from ST29, a shrine dedicated to the evil gods, clad in polished obsidian, terrible statues of the deities of darkness, and overall just looking all evil as fuck. The surviving ogre chieftian makes his way in, talking to the statue of Takhisis/Tiamat telling that his brethren were betrayed. The statue comes to life and consoles him, telling that he will make up for it in the afterlife as a servant and that his revenge will come eventually. She looks over to where the PCs are, an evil smile on her face: "Yes, vengeance shall not come from my hand...but from yours!"
What a twist!
There's also a room for the Gods of Balance (Neutrality) and one for the Gods of Light. The magic in the shrine of Light does not work, having been desecrated by Caeldor's actions. The blade he used to kill the high priest lies on the ground. It's a cursed item which will try possessing the wielder, biding its time to kill one of the other PCs at the most opportune moment.
The spectral flicker shows Caeldor come into the room, a look of concern on his face. He tells the high priest that a traitor compromised them from within. Still kneeling in front of the shrine, he asks who. Caeldor kneels down and whispers into his ear, "me!" and stabs him in the back.
But the priest has one last trick up his sleeve, as he lay dying he calls upon the Gods of Light to sanctify the room, triggering a powerful gust of wind which nearly flings Caeldor out of the room as he jumps away in time. A young priest, a mere boy, is unnoticed and flees into the room shortly after Caeldor leaves, unable to heal the dead priest. He asks the Gods of Light what he must do; a soft chiming sound answers his prayers as he's bathed in light, and as if in a dream he walks away from the altar filled with new resolution.
The reliquaries and sanctums (ST32-35) don't have much except for a free Commune spell for Good-aligned Clerics once per year, and a secret reliquary (ST35) with two candles of invocation (Lawful Good and Chaotic Good) and an incense of meditation.
The young boy Neran confronts Caeldor in ST38, the Sepulcher.
The Betrayer stands before the large sarcophagus, his hands held high as he gazes up, his voice echoing through the chamber as he offers a prayer to Chemosh.
“Dark God of Immortality, He Who Stops Death, I devote myself to you, in body, in mind, in heart, and in soul…”
As the Betrayer repeats his prayer, he does not notice the door opening or the young acolyte entering with the glowing short sword in his hand. In the same vein, the young acolyte does not seem to notice the large skeletal creature lurking in the shadows of the crypt.
“Halt, Betrayer!” the acolyte cries out.
Startled out of his prayer, the Betrayer turns around, his eyes gleaming from behind his skull mask as he stares at the young man. Suddenly, the Betrayer begins to laugh, a cruel, mocking sound that causes the acolyte to tremble.
“Ahhhh, so you are the one who would face me, Neran? You have not even put on the white robes of Paladine what makes you think you can stop me from completing my ritual?” The Betrayer shakes his head, clucking his tongue.
“Ye…yes, Betrayer. I shall be the one who will bring you before the gods for Justice,” Neran replies softly, clenching his jaw as he takes a step forward, rising the short blade before him.
The fiend roars as the holy light blinds it. Before the fiend, or the Betrayer, can respond, Neran rushes forward at a dead run, the blade held forth as he skirts around the fiend toward the evil priest. Time seems to dilate, the moments stretching out as Neran lunges forward with his sword
as the Betrayer yells out a final, desperate phrase
as the fiend turns and swings is glaive toward the boy’s unprotected back
the Betrayer’s body jerks as the glowing sword pierces his chest with enough force that the blade embeds itself into the stone sarcophagus beneath him
Neran screams in pain as the fiend’s weapon slices through his spine, tossing him to the side where he collapses in a faint
the fiend roars in victory as he turns and swings his weapon once more toward the injured boy
Neran closes his eyes, clutching his medallion with a bloody fist and whispers something that only his god can hear
a brilliant explosion of light explodes out from the acolyte’s body, throwing the fiend across the room as a golden radiance infuses the walls.
As the blinding light fades, the Betrayer lays lifeless upon the sarcophagus, his body pierced by the holy blade. Neran lays on the floor, a peaceful look upon his features, his spirit already carried away to join with his god. And a fiend summoned by the Betrayer howls in rage as it finds itself trapped in a crypt by the last words of a hero who history would remain unknown for many, many centuries
That blade used to kill Caeldor is the Shard of Light, a +2 Holy Short Sword and minor artifact. Its blade is transparent like glass, lit from within as if sunlight has been captured inside. Against evil creatures its bonus is +4, and deals double damage on a normal hit against the undead (and allows the wielder to deal critical hits against them!). Twice per day it can shed daylight as per the spell, once per day create a cone of light which dispels all illusions (true seeing), and can ignore nonliving matter once per day as it transforms into a brilliant energy weapon.
But before they can get the Shard, they must overcome the Bearded Devil, one of Caeldor's summons, within the sarcophagus. He'll spring to life and attack them as they pick up the Shard. He's a tough cookie, with a reach weapon and spell resistance, but a well-rested and prepared party can take him down without much trouble.
This adventure path hands out artifacts like candy. With the Shard and the Key of Destiny, our Priceless Artifact Count is at 2. In my campaign it was used by our Rogue, who immensely enjoyed its ability to pierce through heavily-armored defenses and be able to do something against the undead (I houseruled that Sneak Attack works against these creatures as long as he uses the Shard).
Once the PCs remove the Shard of Light, Caeldor's form crumbles to dust. His skull mask is his phylactary, which will teleport to a far-away safehouse of his if touched by a good-aligned creature. In reality, the sword kept his soul trapped and dormant, and in several days he will reform.
So Lothian hoped to guide the PCs here so that they would learn of the atrocities of Chemosh's minions and the location of a blade so that they might fight his minions better (Lothian knows that Chemosh has desings on the Dragon's Graveyard, but little beyond that). BUT, in so doing he inadvertently unleashed the spirit of Caeldor, now the most powerful minion of the deity on Krynn. Now that the PCs entered the Temple, Chemosh witnessed what they did, and guides Caeldor to build an army and retake the Temple in time, in addition to getting the Key of Quinari himself.
Looks like someone fucked up big time.
Anasana will be intrigued to hear of what they discovered, but will personally disturbed at the events. Regardless, she'll choose to remain until the PCs leave, after which she and her mimic companion will leave as soon as possible.
As you finally reach the fresh, open air outside you feel a burden has been lifted off your shoulders.
"You have found it," comes a soft voice from behind you, a voice you've heard before. Turning around, you see the strange apparition of the young girl Uleena, who stands there gazing at you with those strange blue eyes that know too much.
"You must hurry, for the sands of time are slipping away swiftly... the shard of light is a key, a key that will allow you to find what you seek in the ruins of a city that once felt no fear, but now lies beneath a shadow of fire and death..."
Without waiting for a reply, the young girl turns and disappears into the depths of the temple, leaving behind only a faint scent of lilac floating in the air.
The ruined city of which she spoke is Kendermore, once the home of the Kenders before Maylstryx the Red Dragon Overlord destroyed it. The once-fertile region around the city has been warped by the dragon's magic into a barren wasteland known as the Desolation. The Mikku tribe the PCs reunite with can tell them as much, and will offer to escort them to the port city of Ak-Khurman, where from there they can sail to Port Balifor which stands at the edge of the Desolation.
At this point, the characters may being feeling manipulated, and may actively begin rebelling against being forced to go somewhere as dangerous as the Desolation and Kendermore. The may wish instead to pursue a different track to reach the Desolation, cutting through Khuri-Khan and Delphon instead of crossing the Bay of Balifor.
The Mikku will suggest that not only is Ak-Khurman the closest city of any kind, it is held by the Legion of Steel and thus friendlier to the PCs, as it is rumored that the Khan is seeking an alliance with the Knights of Neraka.
If Shroud escorted the characters through the Shattered Temple, he will depart from the characters here, choosing to remain in the ruined valley for awhile longer. Alternately, if Shroud did not go into the Shattered Temple with the characters, once they emerge outside, he will eagerly approach them, wanting to know everything that happened within. As the characters leave, they will see the kender nightstalker gladly heading into the ruined temple, seeking out some ‘ghosts’ of his own to talk to.
This is indeed an alternative route, but truly rebellious PCs might wonder why they're going through all the trouble in the first place. One of my groups began to tire of the goose chase, but they went on because what are they supposed to do, just give up? Although it's understandable, given that there's no sense in writing a huge portion of the adventure which may not be used, and the PCs are wanted by the Dark Knights in Pashin, after all (word could've traveled via carrier pigeon of them as fugitives).
Thoughts so far: The Shattered Temple's spectral flickers need to be either altered or remade so that the PCs don't feel like they're just watching the DM read to himself. That, and the Candles of Invocation need to be removed as they can be really powerful in the wrong group. Otherwise it's a fine dungeon crawl with good rewards your PCs might enjoy.
Next time, Chapter Four: Across Sand & Sea. Port towns, rough and tumble sailors, seafaring, and urban adventure shenanigans!
Dragonlance 101Original SA post
Intermission: Dragonlance 101
As Key of Destiny is closely tied to the world of Dragonlance, I feel it necessary to expound upon the setting. Already I've made mention of various people, places, and events which hold significant weight in the campaign setting.
Dragonlance Lexicon is a very useful and navigable wiki, sustained by a community of devoted fans.
The Five Ages
The world's history is divided into Five Ages by scholars. The Age of Starbirth was before the rise of civilization, beginning with a conclave of primordial entities known as deities working together to create the world of Krynn. During this era the spirits are given physical forms, creating the first dragons, elves, ogres, and humans. The Gods of Light grant them the ability to enjoy life's pleasures, the Gods of Darkness ambition and desire, and the Gods of Balance free will.
The Age of Dreams details the beginning of recorded mortal history, and sees the rise of the earliest civilizations. Lots of stuff happens in this era. Ogres, elves, and humans founded the first civilizations; the Graygem of Gargath (housing Chaos' essence) is cracked and unleashes wild magic into the world, resulting in the creation of many new monsters and races; elves war with dragons in the First and Second Dragon Wars, and the first mages use their magic against the serpents. The horrific loss of life from unrestrained magic leads to them forming the Order of High Sorcery, to act as a stewardship and regulator of those gifted with arcane magic to ensure Ansalon's safety. Takhisis attempts to conquer the continent with an army of dragons during the Third Dragon War, but is banished from Krynn by the legendary knight Huma Dragonbane and the silver dragon Heart.
The Age of Might sees the rise of the human nation of Istar, protected by the clerics of Paladine during the Third Dragon War. The elven nations impose an isolationist policy, while the dwarves forge underground kingdoms and war with the ogres. Istar becomes a theocracy and Ansalon's major power. In the Kingpriests' zeal to wipe out Evil, the church enacts increasingly oppressive measures, from enslaving "evil" races to outlawing arcane magic and worship of the Gods of Balance, and even managing an order of mind-reading inquisitors to punish those thinking evil thoughts. The Gods of Light become increasingly disgusted with this state of affairs, withdrawing their divine aid and spells, but they do not change. Eventually the Kingpriest views the Gods themselves as tolerating evil and sets forth on a magical ritual to ascend to godhood himself. Paladine sends thirteen prophetic warnings to the people of Istar, all of which are mistaken as the work of Evil. Istar's crimes are punished when the Gods of Light send a meteor down upon their capital city. Landmasses are torn asunder, freak weather spreads across the continent, innumerable lives are lost, and all the Gods withdraw their affairs from the world. This horrific tragedy becomes known as the Cataclysm.
The effects of the Cataclysm are felt for nearly four centuries in an era known as the Age of Despair . The Empire fractures into independent nation-states, plague and famine is endemic, governments and infrastructures disintegrate, banditry is rampant, and starvation among the dwarven nations leads to the Dwarfgate War as a significant portion of the above-ground population is denied entry into the nation, as food supplies are low. These exiled dwarves are now known as the Neidar (Nearest), or hill dwarves.
Takhisis brings the sunken temple of Istar to the surface and uses its Foundation Stone as a divine conduit to the world. As it is not whole, she cannot manifest on Krynn. She is the first deity to bring divine magic to mortals in this era, and her forces bring law and order to significant sections of eastern Ansalon under the banner of the Dragon Empire. Supplemented by magic, monsters, and dragons, they become an international power and set about conquering the rest of the continent. This event, which comes to be known as the War of the Lance, is part of the original Dragonlance Chronicles . The Heroes of the Lance bring knowledge of the Gods of Light and Balance back to Krynn and discover the secrets to forging the mighty Dragonlances. Eventually the Heroes lead an army against the Empire, kill Emperor Ariakas, and prevent Takhisis' summoning into the world.
The Empire dissolves, but the Blue Dragonarmy manages to hold onto a significant portion of territory. Ariakas' son creates an order known as the Knights of Takhisis and begin conquering much of Ansalon. The Irda ogres break open the Graygem of Gargath in desperation, unleashing Chaos into the world. Forces of good and evil alike are destroyed the primordial gods' spawned minions, and they unite against the monsters in an event known as the Chaos War. Eventually Chaos is banished from Krynn, and Takhisis moves the Material Plane away amid the confusion. Now she is the only deity with a connection to Krynn, beginning the Age of Mortals.
The Age of Mortals sees the absence of divine and arcane spellcasting, now that the Gods are gone. New forms of magic are discovered after Chaos' release, which draw upon one's inner power. They are primal sorcery and mysticism, respectively. No longer are mortals dependent upon deities for magic. Five titanic dragons from a neighboring plane enter Krynn and begin conquering significant sections of it. Takhisis takes the form of the One God and instills her power in a mortal named Mina, who joins the Dark Knights as a cleric and leads their forces against the Dragon Overlords and kills two of them with the aid of divine magic and a dragonlance. Raistlin Majere uses a time-traveling device to form a link to Krynn and help the Gods return. They strip Takhisis of her divinity, making her mortal, but so too to Paladine to keep the Balance. Takhisis attempts to kill Mina in anger but is killed by an elf in love with Mina. Mina takes the goddess' corpse in her arms and leaves, swearing vengeance upon the elven race. Clerical and wizardly magic return to the world (although primal sorcery and mysticism still remain), and only two Dragon Overlords yet live.
The Knights of Solamnia are a chivalric order which has ruled the nation of Solamnia since the Age of Dreams. They are dedicated to the service of the Gods of Good and the protection of their nation and Ansalon, and produced some of the greatest heroes upon Krynn. They live by the ideals of the Oath and the Measure. The Oath is "Est Sularus oth Mithas," or "My honor is my life." The Measure is a set of instructions and rules on how to live the Oath. The Knighthood is separated into 3 orders: the Crown, the Sword, and the Rose. The Crown is the backbone of the order and teaches, loyalty, obedience, and assists in the training of squires. The Sword is comprised of warrior-clerics, crusaders, and teach courage, heroism, and faith. The Knights of the Rose are tasked with the Order's administration and exemplify honor, wisdom, and justice.
The Knights of Takhisis have been discussed above in the first intermission under the "Villains" section.
The Legion of Steel is a knighthood formed around the Chaos War. They are dedicated to justice and mutual aid, holding the sacrifice of Steel Brightblade as a role model. Steel's adoptive mother, Sara Dunstan, received a vision from her deceased son to form a new knighthood to protect the people of Krynn. She drew upon the ranks of Solamnic and Dark Knights disillusioned with their order's failures and sought to not repeat their mistakes. They are the "Neutral" knighthood of the game, and are less hierarchal and more open to roguish activity.
Wizards of High Sorcery
This organization is one of the most dangerous and venerable in the world of Krynn. It was formed under the guidance of the 3 Gods of Magic, who then taught mortal apprentices the art of High Sorcery. Wizards were split into 3 separate orders, each following one of the three Gods and wearing uniformed robes. They are the White Robes, Red Robes, and Black Robes. Wizards as a whole are governed by a Conclave of mages from each order, and they established five towers to aid in the learning and teaching of magic. Only the Tower of Wayreth still stands after the Age of Might. In order to prevent high-level spellcasters from running amok, the Order sends a message to any wizard of sufficient power (5th level or higher) to visit a Tower and take the test. If they refuse, they must never progress beyond simple basic spells or be branded a renegade and be hunted down by the Wizards. Failure in a Test often means death, so it is never taken lightly.
The Wizards do not regulate or impose these standards upon Clerics, who are instead managed by their respective deities. Wielders of primal sorcery (sorcerers in 3rd and 4th Edition parlance) are viewed as potential threats to magical stability, and are expected to join the Order and take the Test if they attain sufficient power or become Renegades. The Red Robes are the most conciliatory towards primal sorcerers, viewing them as an interesting new avenue of magical attainment.
The 3 original races are elves, ogres, and humans, the children of the Gods of Light, Darkness, and Balance respectively. Ogres are like their standard monstrous counterparts: stupid, large, and brutish, cursed to have their ugliness match their hearts. A reclusive civilization of good-aligned ogres known as the Irda live on a chain of islands to the north of Ansalon. They are more cerebrally-inclined and have a knack for all kinds of magic.
Humans are the most diverse group in terms of physical appearance and culture. Generally they are separated into Civilized (urban, agricultural) and Nomadic humans, although these are more indicative of cultural background than technology levels or population sizes. For example, the Khurs are generally considered nomadic but have several great cities.
There are five major ethnic groups of elves. The proud, authoritarian Silvanesti, their close cousins the more opened-minded Qualinesti, and the hunter-gatherer and druidic Kagonesti. The aquatic elves are the Dimernesti and Dargonesti, who live amid the waves and can transform into seals and dolphins. Dimernesti live closer to the surface amid coral reefs and sometimes trade with port towns, while the Dargonesti are extreme isolationists.
Silvanesti elves are technically good-aligned, but they exemplify many of the worst tropes of elves in fantasy fiction. They are arrogant and insufferable, viewing everyone else as lesser people, tried to "domesticate" their Kagonesti cousins through slavery, and are more concerned with isolating themselves as the world outside burns instead of trying to make it a better place. Later 3rd Edition supplements made them Lawful Neutral in alignment, because let's face it, being "good" is really stretching it.
There are Goblins, who aren't much different from their counterparts in other settings, believed to be the intermixing of elf and ogre blood.
The Dwarves remain largely the same, underground, clan-based, heavily bearded, and distrustful of wizards. They were created by the Graygem's wild magic from greedy gnomes. They are separated into mountain dwarves (inhabitants of the underground kingdoms), hill dwarves (those living above), dark dwarves (exiled mountain dwarves who are generally evil and very pale-skinned), and gully dwarves (said to be the crossbreeding of gnomes of dwarves, very stupid, and live in squalor all over Ansalon).
Minotaurs were a race of exiled ogres transformed into anthropomorphic bulls by the Lawful Evil god of vengeance, Sargonnas. Before the Cataclysm they were the slaves of dwarves and Istaran humans, but won their freedom after hard-fought battles. They live amid the islands of Mithas and Kothas as warriors and sailors, valuing an intricate system of honorable combat. In recent years they sought to expand their empire eastward beyond Ansalon, and into Silvanesti and other realms of eastern Ansalon.
Gnomes mostly live on the Isle of Sancrist. In the Age of Dreams they used to be human worshipers of Reorx, but were changed into their new forms as a curse for arrogance. Now they live on the Isle of Sancrist in a technologically advanced society. They are the archetype of the absent-minded professor, consumed with desire to expand their knowledge via all manner of field-testing, yet often experiment for the sake of it without regard to future consequence. They are one of the "comic relief" races of Dragonlance.
Kender are short people created by the Graygem when curious gnomes examined it. Kender have inborn traits of intense curiosity and fearlessness, with no concept of private property and a love for travel. Their most annoying habits include the picking up objects to examine known as "borrowing," only to forget about them later, leading to 28 years of disruptive player behavior justifying PC actions as "role-playing." They're the 3rd comic relief race.
Draconians were created from the eggs of metallic dragons in an unholy ritual. They are humanoid dragon-people with latent traits of their metallic brethren, and served in Takhisis' army during the War of the Lance. They managed to gain their independence after discovering the location of female draconian eggs, and one of their generals Kang defected and formed the draconian nation of Teyr. The eggs of chromatic dragons created the "Noble Draconians," good-aligned and much rarer counterparts.
Draconians' signature abilities are their Death Throes, activated upon their death which can include an explosion of poisonous gas or flames, turning to stone and catching bladed weapons inside, and similarly inconvenient effects.
I might include more setting stuff, but I feel this covers a lot of the major setting points for now.
Across Sand and SeaOriginal SA post
Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path Book One, Chapter Four: Across Sand and Sea
Now that the PCs have the Shard of Light, they must reunite with the Mikku and make the trek across the Burning Lands to the port city of Ak-Khurman. The nomads are chilling out in a scenic citrus grove right by an oasis, and are more than happy to meet the party and ask them what happened. Asmara in particular will be interested in their information. The tribe as a whole cannot accompany the PCs, but they can lend the assistance of two skilled scouts, Kalid and Qatan (two 4th level Rangers). "Besides, it would be well for us to hear news from our friends in Ak-Khurman."
The region between the oasis and Ak-Khurman is a giant salt flat known as the Burning Lands. In times past it used to be a salt lake which supported some life, but after the Red Dragon Overlord Malystryx wrought changes to the region of Balifor, the lake dried up and now crossing it is incredibly dangerous. There is no plant or animal life in this area, and it reaches 120 degrees farenheit during the day and near freezing temperatures at night. Random encounter wise, there's not much except for an allip (undead entity of a man wracked with guilt for betraying his family), an azer smelting crew deriving metals from the flats (dwarves from the Elemental Plane of Fire, not immediately hostile), mystics of Sirrion (god of fire, passion, and the arts) searching for a legendary pillar of divine fire, and an elven family near death and in need of water and shelter. Peacefully dealing with the last 3 encounters (and helping the elves survive and getting them to Ak-Khurman) awards experience points. I overall like these encounters; they're a nice change from the combat in the Shattered Temple, and can earn the PCs some temporary assistance from the people.
The port town of Ak-Khurman's a small cosmopolitan city ruled by the Khan of the Mikku tribe. For a time it served as a port of call for sailors, pirates, and merchants, but in recent years it's faced major changes. Resistance against Dark Knight domination made the place a haven for the Legion of Steel, and surges of elven and kender refugees from Silvanesti and the Desolation respectively resulted in some more hardship. However both groups managed to adjust well enough where in other places they'd face extreme discrimination.
Basically the main objective is for the PCs to find passage on a ship to Port Balifor. There are three ships with three captains available at the point they arrive, and helping out one of the town's factions can help them obtain passage. Naturally these are tied into the town's random encounters. For ease of reference I'll detail them together.
Additionally the city's lighthouse is home to the Red Robe Wizard Zoe Left-Hand. She operates a magic shop and can thus buy and sell related equipment to the PCs, and help administer a Test for mages seeking to join the Wizards of High Sorcery (although this is not detailed within the adventure path).
The Legion of Steel: The Legion's official headquarters in the region is a converted warehouse. Legionnaires act as a supplementary law enforcement and regularly patrol the city. Sir Lional is currently in command of the division, but can't help out the PCs for a ship unless they're members or they help him deliver a letter to Elijayess Moonshadow (an associate of his in Port Balifor), in either case he can pay half the cost for travel. He'll trust the PCs more if they helped out the rebels in Pashin, as word of their exploits spread.
If the PCs encounter a Legion patrol in a non-hostile manner in the city, a group of Dark Knight spies will attempt to attack and kill them. If they help the patrol fight them off, their reputations among the faction will improve.
This way's the easiest of the three to obtain a ship, although the whole cost will not be alleviated.
The Khan: Kenji Mikku is a shrewd politician, but Dark Knight threats, the creation of the Desolation to the east, and factional Khurish politics has left him a paranoid man. He won't meet with the PCs, and his daughter Chatomi Mikku deals with all guests. She won't give the PCs anything unless she has incentive for them to leave town. On that note...
One of the random encounters involves a lost girl no more than six years old. She'll approach a random non-threatening PC crying, saying that she's lost in town and doesn't know how to get back home. In reality she is Niesme Mikku, the Khan's youngest daughter. Tired of the restrictive house life of a noble's daughter, she finally managed to elude the House Guards while out in town and does not know where to go now once she escaped.
PCs can recognize who she is with a successful Knowledge (Nobility) check, or if the Mikku scouts are still with them they'll remark that she looks a lot like the Khan's daughter. Regardless, the House Guards finally track her down and try to forcefully separate her from the PCs.
The PCs can manage to avoid being branded as kidnappers by not immediately taking up arms, explaining the situation to them, etc, and talking their way out of it by convincing the guards of their trustworthiness (successful Bluff or Diplomacy). In such a case Chatomi will be grateful for the PCs' help and extends her father's gratitude by paying for a week's worth of lodging or passage across the Bay of Balifor.
At night, the PCs run across a murder. A merchant's dead body is tossed out of a second story building. Three figures with silver robes jump down and tell the PCs that they can leave no witnesses. They are the Silver Shadows, Chatomi's legion of spies and assassins who deal with threats to Ak-Khurman covertly. If the party already met Chatomi, she will be present and tell the PCs to not mention this incident to anyone and will let them leave. In reality the merchant was planning on selling government secrets to the Dark Knights, and had to be eliminated. Otherwise the PCs must fight the Silver Shadows, who are multi-class Barbarian/Rogues. They're the toughest encounter, all being 4th level and good attack and damage, but have little in the way of hit points. But other Silver Shadows will keep trying to attack the PCs for as long as they stay in town.
Regardless of the outcome, he PCs staying in town is a hindrance to Chatomi, and she'll want them to leave town as soon as possible and grant them passage on a ship for a 20% discount (if they approach her at the Khan's Residence).
Rand Lucas the Information Broker: Rand is a mystic in town who's trying to arrange a trade deal between the local elven merchants and the nation of Kalaman out to the west. Unfortunately he's angered some business interests in town and is being roughed up by a pair of half-ogre goons. He'll be grateful to the PCs for saving him and will take them to his office, which is little more than a sparse room at Ghanima's Inn and Smokehouse. He knows every major merchant in Ak-Khurman and will be more than happy to arrange passage on a ship at 15% discount (he's sincere, if a little shifty). If they mention passing into the Desolation, he'll tell them to find a kender in Balifor by the name of Kronn Thistleknot.
Fun facts: Rand Lucas is detailed as a human in his stat block in the adventure, but the Dragonlance sourcebook Dragons of Krynn mentions that he's actually a Brass Dragon in disguise. On a related note, the Red Wizard Zoe Left-Hand is actually a divine aspect of Lunitari, Neutral Goddess of Magic (also in another sourcebook, Holy Orders of the Stars ). The NPCs in Key of Destiny have quite interesting histories beyond this adventure, if you know where to look!
The PCs could try getting on-board one of the three ships themselves without a recommendation, but competition for space is fierce among the city's merchants and they'll need to pass a successful Bluff or Diplomacy check to convince them that they're worth their time.
Libertad's Notes: This is a nice, open-ended challenge which leaves some room for error in case the players mess up one of the quests. Clearly helping Niesme find her way home is the best option money-wise, but it's the most prone to misunderstanding and might earn the PCs trouble with the law. In my campaigns one group managed to earn the Khan's favor by returning the daughter, the other group helped out the Legion of Steel by delivering the letter.
Other random encounters in Ak-Khurman include a violent duel between two merchants (business dispute) in the elven district (PCs earn experience if they help capture the duelist who dealt the wounding blow), a stampede of camels and livestock who broke free of the marketplace (deal damage to anyone in their path, PCs earn experience if they save or shield bystanders from the herd), and a press gang looking for additional "help." They're not going to Port Balifor, and if the PCs lose against them (highly unlikely, 6 2nd-level Warriors) a Legion Patrol drives them off and takes the PCs to the fortress to heal them.
Port Balifor's a rough and tumble port town on the west side of a mountain range which protects them from the worst of the Desolation. It's a smuggler's den which over the years has been occupied by the Dragonarmies, Dark Knights, and most recently the forces of Malystryx. The last one in particular brought great ruin as red dragons flew by breathing fire on houses and smashing buildings for sport. The locals got tired of rebuilding every few months and discovered a network of massive sea caves in the cliffside with the help of the dwarven community. Huge sections of town were left in ruins as they went to live in these caves, and the refugee population of afflicted kender made residence in what is known as "Gloom Town." The neighborhood is filled with traps and they never bothered to rebuild the homes, not wanting to alert the dragons that anyone was living there.
The Dark Knights operate openly in Port Balifor, but even then they avoid large sections of town, keeping close to their headquarters in night patrols. There are no random encounters per se in town, just Dark Knight patrols spread throughout (who will give the PCs trouble if they contain good-aligned clerics, minotaurs, elves, robed wizards, and other enemies) and kender traps in Gloom Town.
The PC's ship glides past the rotting docks and jetties into a large sea cave lit with lanterns. The town sheriff, a kender named Harlowe Barstoole, keeps watch over any newcomers and makes a note of the PCs. They'll meet him later in the town's only inn, Hope's End (which the ship captain recommends they stay).
Harlowe is an afflicted kender, robbed of his childlike wonder and constant desire to "borrow" things due to the immense trauma of Malystrx's siege of Kendermore. He is the closest thing the town has to an authority figure, and he's cut down men and ogres several times his size.
Harlowe is an afflicted kender with a scar over one eye and short, spiked yellow hair. He dresses in a black overcoat and carries a hefty serrated falchion in a scabbard on his back.
Spiky hair and big swords? What's this anime bullshit doing in my D&D?!
At this time Harlowe will be trying to find out the PCs' intention for visiting town. He doesn't want them drawing attention or causing trouble, as he's got enough on his plate already. If the PCs make mention of their mission in any fashion (the letter to Elijayess, traveling to the Desolation, etc), he'll tell them that he can keep the Dark Knights off of their backs and give them directions to Gloom Town. If the PCs set out into Gloomtown without directions, are being hunted by the Dark Knights, or otherwise in trouble, will be surrounded by a team of Kender:
Like gray ghosts in the darkness, you are suddenly surrounded by a dozen short, hooded figures, some of whom have short swords drawn, others merely standing on top of barrels with hands on their hips.
"You're in danger," says one in a faintly high-pitched yet clipped voice. "There are Dark Knights everywhere." The figure throws back his hood, revealing the face of a kender with tattoos along the lower half of his face that seem to cover scarring of some kind. It gives him a strange, savage look, quite at odds with the wide eyes and gently pointed ears.
The other kender look around, as if listening for something, and then the leader lifts his chin. "My name is Blight Thistleknot. You should come with us." With that, he and his gang slip into the shadows.
Damn, since when did Kender become so grim? But seriously, I think that using afflicted kender was a good choice; it downplays the race's most annoying qualities and makes players more sympathetic to their plight. In fact, I like how the adventure only sparingly uses "true" kender, with the victims of hardship (Kelwick and Mayleaf in the intro, the refugees) being the afflicted ones. It's easier for players to sympathize with them when they're not acting as hyper-energetic "borrowers."
Alternatively the PCs can find the way themselves by earning the trust of Gloom Town's community with successful social skill checks and dropping the name of Elijayess or Kronn. Either way they find themselves at the ruins of an upturned land wrecked ship, the Peryton.
You are led by the kender, climbing over fallen planks and timber frames, through the hole in the side of the shipwreck. Within, lanterns and hanging sheets of canvas form a sort of warren of dimly lit rooms and offices, where other kender sleep, throw dice, carve scrimshaw, and converse over maps and charts. The largest of these makeshift rooms offers a magnificent view of the bay through a series of portholes, and a desk made from a brightly painted wooden door supported by barrels.
A grizzled, serious-looking kender with iron-gray hair looks up from a bundle of hand-drawn maps. Beside him a well-muscled Wilder Elf in a red cloak looks on silently.
"So," says the kender, removing a lit cigar from his teeth and exhaling smoke. "Are ya here to join the cause?"
It's like all the kender in this chapter just got a serious Badass Upgrade or something.
Kronn's "cause" is basically reclaiming the lands of the Desolation from the remaining forces of Malystryx (who scattered into separate groups upon her death). He's enlisted the help of experienced Kender veterans and Elijayess, the elf, to scout the land beyond the mountains every week. His son, Blight, convinced him to remain in Port Balifor after one-too-many dangerous encounters which nearly claimed his life.
I did enjoy role-playing Kronn Thistleknot as an NPC. He's definitely a no-nonsense type who's seen too much, yet he retains an engaging personality which I built upon in his dealings with the party.
He'll ask what the PCs intentions are, and as long as he can confirm that their efforts will be beneficial to his cause he'll offer to help them. He lends them the assistance of Elijayess and gets set to work for the next half-hour preparing equipment and provisions for their upcoming journey. If the PCs give the elf the note from the Legion of Steel (which is just a routine report on activities in the area), he'll nod and accept it and go about his business. "You're in good hands with Elijayess," Kronn tells them. "Fella's got something on his mind, but he aint' never let it get in the way of the cause."
The PCs are given two weeks worth of food and water (they'll need it!), a pair of tents, bedrolls, and other supplies. Once they're ready to depart Elijayess will lead them out of town without delay, up the shoreline slope and the mountain trail beyond.
With the addition of Elijayess, this brings our count of Temporary DMPCs up to 2 in this adventure path. The Mikku scouts are too brief and undeveloped in characterization to count.
Thoughts so far: This chapter isn't as eventful as the Shattered Temple, but it's definitely no less interesting in its sidequests. The variability of encounters and difficulty in obtaining ship passage and access to Kronn means that the Chapter length will vary wildly depending upon how competently your PCs perform the tasks. The open-ended nature of the chapter, combined with the opportunity to sell the loot they've gotten from the Temple in town, and the cool-as-ice kender NPCs are definite high points.
Miscellaneous Notes: Elijayess always struck me as an NPC with more going on than meets the eye. When I first got Key of Destiny, he was just a guide for the Desolation, but his character hinted at something more.
Turns out I was right. Elijayess Moonshadow was the PC of Kevin Lamb, a Dragonlance writer, back in the 80s. His backstory was that of a Kagonesti elf whose people's lands were taken by the Silvanesti and enslaved by them in turn. He fought against them when trying to free his enslaved sister, but failed and had to leave his homeland for the safety of his people.
According to what I heard from Dragonlance fans and what I read in the sourcebooks, the Silvanesti cruelty towards his people isn't that far off from the backstory. Need I remind people that the sourcebooks treat the Silvanesti as good-aligned.
Additionally Elijayess was meant to play a larger role in Price of Courage, including killing Gellidus, but this plan was refused as the PCs were meant to be the stars of the show.
In the meantime, Kevin Lamb had a bunch of artists in the industry commission art for his character. Here's the one originally meant to be the cover of Book 3: Price of Courage:
Next time, Chapter 5: Post-apocalyptic kender cities and insane dragonspawn!
Far Less KenderOriginal SA post
Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path Book One Chapter Five: Far Less Kender
By this time in the Adventure Path, the PCs should be around 5th-6th level, and Elijayess is close by. He's pretty good at sneaking but not so much at spotting hidden danger. He doesn't have Power Attack so he was behind my party's damage-dealers when running this module. He shines the most at ranged combat, where he has a high attack and damage bonus with his composite longbow. Not so good to compete with decently optimized PCs at that level, but not so bad as to be useless in a fight. He's a better deal than Shroud from the Shattered Temple, though!
As he leads the PCs through the mountains, Elijayess and the party come across a small camp and spring.
"Everything that you have heard about the Desolation is true. As a matter of fact, you probably have not heard the worst. Even with the Red Marauder dead these last six months, the Desolation has not changed. The mountains still spew their bile, the earth shakes in pain... it's a tortured land."
Elijayess sighs softly, his gaze turning towards the campfire as he stares into the past. "In a way, it is worse than when the Silvanesti Forest was caught in the grip of Lorac's Nightmare. There was something to fight against, some hope to hold on to... here in the Desolation, however, there is nothing."
Gazing up once more, Elijayess offers a small, sad smile. "But that is neither here nor there. We have a long journey ahead of us. Get some rest; we shall leave before dawn. Luckily, it is still winter, so we shall only travel for a few hours before the heat gets too bad and we have to find shelter. After the heat has passed, we will then travel some more until nightfall. Unfortunately it is too dark to traverse the mountains at night. Once we get to the desert, however, we will only travel at night. Although more creatures come out then, they are less dangerous than the desert heat.
Finally, you see a crest and hill, spread before you, is the Desolation.
The desert sands are black and crimson, a field of soot seemingly stained by the blood of every living creature that has been slain upon the harsh sands. The sky is covered by the black shadows of smoke belched from volcanic peaks scattered throughout the Desolation.
Even across the great distance separating you from Kendermore, you can see the infamous Peak of Malys towering high in the distance, a dark shadow illuminated by rivers of lava spilling from its lip. Kendermore sits in the shadow of the peak, a journey of many days across some of the most unforgiving land in all of Ansalon.
The Desolation was formerly known as Goodlund, home to lush forests, rolling plains, and the sprawling city of Kendermore. This region was home to the majority of Kender in eastern Ansalon, before the Dragon Overlord Malystryx came along.
Malystryx possessed great sorcerous powers, and she used it to shape the region to her twisted whims through the use of her skull totem. The fertile region gave way to a barren wasteland filled with treacherous crevices, active volcanoes which fill the sky with soot and ash, and lava floes which continue to reshape the land to this day. The region is now simply called "The Desolation," and it's one of the most dangerous places climate-wise in Ansalon. Traveling to Kendermore, and thus the Peak of Malystryx, from Port Balifor takes 80 miles and thus approximately 3 to 5 days. However, Elijayess heavily cautions to only travel at night for the heat is so great it can kill even hydrated people.
Only the most resilient flora and fauna adapted to survive these changes, and even then Malystryx's lingering magic spawns new, insane mutations of creatures seemingly daily. Hundreds of thousands of dire boar herds serve as the primary food source for dragons and humanoids, as farming is impossible in this region. Giant scorpions are all over the place, and the most common animals are mule deer, mountain lions, crows and vultures, silt snakes, desert hares, and mountain rams. However, many of them stick far from the desert, and dragons are the top predators; all over animals know to avoid them like the plague.
The flora which survives can be used for all manner of herbal remedies for the party alchemist. The berries of the Black Haw tree acts as a muscle relaxant and can remove the effects of mundane and magical fear; the fluid inside the stalk of the Dragon's Claw plant can be a useful adhesive; boiled petals of eyebright can treat eyestrain, blindness, and other visual ailments.
During the day temperatures can reach over 100 degrees Farenheit, causing damage to people without adequate shelter. As it is "winter," however, the deadly heat persists for only a few hours during and after high noon. Acid rain and silt storms represent the most common weather dangers.
Non non-unique encounters in the Desolation involve large, warped animals from the results of Malystryx's magic and experiments. They include and insane humans warped into deformed giants (known as Desolation Giants) and flamestone panthers, large cats of raw magma which can burrow underground to surprise prey!
For unique encounters, one includes a dark knight patrol aways from their home fortress of Darkhaven. They number nine strong, and their captain, Crager Bloodholt, is wounded (0 hit points) yet conscious, and most of their supplies were stolen by a gnoll hunting party. They're actually trying to avoid combat, and the PCs can offer to help them via healing or supplies. If the characters aid him, they get full experience for the encounter and the adventure mentions that they'll gain him as an ally in the future. I assume the party's meant to meet him at Darkhaven in Book Two, but he's never mentioned again in the adventure path. On the other hand, he does have some magic arms and armor...
The other 3 unique encounters include a run-in with previously mentioned gnoll hunting party, a band of afflicted kender raiders who know the way back to Kendermore, and Nomad human bandits led by a ruthless ranger. All of them are basic monster entries (in the case of the gnolls) or low-level NPCs commanded by a leader with some magical equipment (usually a +1 weapon and +1 armor). They'll make use of higher ground if fighting in the mountains along with cover, hiding in the sand or striking during silt storms in the desert if they can, and similar terrain advantages.
There's also Phaethon scouts, elves who can grow wings of pure flame. Legends among their people say that it is an ancestral gift from times of old when Habbakuk, Good God of renewal, persistance, and the natural cycle of life an death. The scouts will confront the PCs, asking them what brings them to the Desolation. If truthful, they'll provide them with limited assistance via directions and supplies. They are part of a larger tribe which will make an appearance in Book Two: Specter of Sorrows.
Halfway to Kendermore, the terrain turns rocky and the flat land gives way to hills and thorny undergrowth. This place is known as the Crags, as Elijayess informs the party, the former site of the Wendle Wood before Malystryx burned it to the ground. Even then, the numerous hiding places and small springs around the area make it filled with the most life in the entire Desolation. Creatures from all over congregate to the area and attempt to hold it.
Elijayess knows of one spring which is neutral territory, looked over by a trio of three hags known as the Oracles. As long as they do not spill blood they can rest up in safety and restock their water supplies. A crescent-shaped pond with trees surrounds three sides of a small hill, from which green flames emanate forth from a cave overlooking the area. The Oracles watch the PCs descend the slope to the pond and greet them.
"Greetings, strangers..." the one in the center speaks in a low, sultry tone. Dressed in a loose caftan of nearly translucent white silk, her pale skin contrasts against the flowing raven locks that cloak her shoulders and back.
"Welcome to our spring..." the one to the left picks up, her voice a soft whisper. A delicate hand reaches up, brushing silvery white hair back from an equally delicate elven face. Her caftan is of sheer crimson silk that matches the stain of her lips.
"We have been waiting for your arrival." The last one finishes in a deep, rich voice. Her hair is of a brilliant shade of scarlet, her skin a rich shade of ebony that marks her of Ergothian heritage. The flowing black silk caftan molds itself to her strong body as she holds her hands out in welcome.
The Oracles are three hags, Sorrow (black-hair), Mourn (elf), and Lament (Ergothian), their true forms disguised. They are not evil like most of their kind, and through magic and sheer persistence they've kept the spring neutral grounds. If the PCs ask them any questions, they'll offer to read their futures and answer questions via their magical talents, in exchange for payment:
As you speak, the three Oracles all gaze at you with their dark eyes.
"Yes," murmers Sorrow.
"We shall answer your questions," murmers Mourn.
"But first, you must agree to our price," continues Lament.
"For one question, you must agree to carry a burden we shall place upon you," Sorrow says in a smooth, sultry voice.
"For two questions you must agree to carry a burden we shall place upon you and you must perform a task for us," Mourn whispers softly.
"For three questions you must agree to carry a burden we shall place upon you, you must perform a task for us, and you must also give us something you hold dear," Lament murmers deeply.
"Do you agree to our price?" the three speak together, their voices melding in an oddly disturbing symphony that causes a shiver to trace up and down your spines.
For one question, the party must carry an amber amulet with them for 30 days. It is a Hag's Eye with which the Oracles can scry upon their progress. For two questions the PCs must locate an ogre known as Grigolthan said to be lurking in the Peak of Malys. He wields a staff created from the skull and spine of a Silvanesti dark elf (exiled elf). They must return it to the Oracles. For three questions the PCs must give to them a permanent magic item of at least 2,500 steel pieces (gold pieces) in value. They refuse to accept the Key of Quinari, Shard of Light, or Blade of Betrayal.
And here are their most likely answers:
Vague Prophecy Count: 11.
Libertad's Notes: Personally I feel that the prices are too high for such vague answers. I'd recommend making them more explicit, but not so much that you spill the whole plot. Hint at an afterlife for "Krynn's mightiest creatures" for the Key, an "elf of Silvanesti seeking to break free from the Lord of Bones, an enemy of the Betrayer of Hurim" for who's manipulating them, and the "touch of Mishakal" for helping the elves of Pashin (they might have learned of the Tears from Anasana back in the Shattered Temple.
Failing to complete the first two tasks causes a Bestow Curse effect to be inflicted upon the entire party, no save. Destroying the hag's eye extends the duration to 2d6 weeks for the offending PC. The hags don't fuck around! After answering their questions they will retreat back into their caves behind an illusory wall shaped to look like part of the stone.
By the time the PCs begin to leave, the Oracles meet with them one last time to tell them that their journey will take them to lands unseen, that Fate has chosen them but they will be the ones to choose their destiny.
During this entire time Elijayess will look very uncomfortable, as the Oracles spook him out.
I feel that this encounter played out very well with a lot of potential. It can be used by the DM to insert and personalize answers for their own groups. It strongly smacks of the role of the Three Fates from mythology: women who know of people's futures, a single "eye" shared between them. Cliche, but fitting.
Kendermore itself is only 10 hours travel from the spring, so the PCs should get there in no time flat.
The city itself was a grandiose city unlike any kind on Ansalon. Tens of thousands of Kender lived happy and carefree until Malystryx struck. Her magic and armed forces slaughtered them until the haphazard streets ran red with blood. Kender across Goodlund were sent running from the havoc and devastation, spreading word of the massacre from one to another across the continent. This event left many kender afflicted and afraid, something which has truly not happened since the Cataclysm. Even the "true" Kender are filled with a faint sorrow of the loss Kendermore.
The shadow of the Peak of Malys shelters the ruins of the dead city from the morning sun. When its rays finally do shine upon it mid-day, it only adds to the extreme heat of the lava flows nearby. Today the city is home to gnolls, goblins, and other creatures drawn to the site. Undead kender continue to wander the wreckage, filled with both a need to return to a semblance of their former lives and a burning need to make others suffer as they did. These creatures are known as the Forlorn Kender:
Looking upon Kendermore is like viewing a graveyard of Ansalon's cities. Architectural styles from nearly every major culture was replicated within the city limits: delicate elven spires lay smashed amid the golden plates that once covered the Khurish onion-styled domes and the castle-like foundations of Solamnic buildings. The streets are a confusing maze of paths, alleyways, and winding roads bereft of long-term planning. Now that everything lay in ruins, traversing the city is even more difficult than ever.
There are no unique or story-related random encounters here. Just makeshift traps which are remnants of the ogre invasion, kender undead, basilisks, ankhegs, lamias, and other monstrosities.
The two locations of note include the Palace. It is home to Deuce Spadestomper, the groundskeeper for the building before the arrival of Malystryx. He could not bear to leave his home and garden, and still tends to the plants before darting back to the safety of the palace's many hiding spots. If the PCs manage to spot him (no mean feat, he's got a +17 Hide modifier!), he'll be unfavorably inclined towards the intruders but won't try to fight them. If they win his trust the PCs will find that he knows more than anybody else the layout of Kendermore and is responsible for the set-up of traps throughout the city.
City Hall is also home to a clan of gully dwarves, who will be frightened at the PCs arrival and loudly proclaiming "you no see me!" They, along with kender and gnomes, are part of the comic relief races of Dragonlance. Dirty, stupid, and unwanted by everyone else, gully dwarves live within the ruins of Ansalon, thriving where others cannot live. Eventually the 'bravest' of the gully dwarves, the leader High Grup II, will approach the PCs begging for mercy.
The gully dwarves also know plenty about the goings-on in Kendermore, including a possible entrance to the Peak of Malystryx.
The adventure goes out of its way to tell the DM not to give out experience points if the PCs slaughter the Gully Dwarves (what kind of psycho group would try that?!).
Speaking of which, a band of ogre slavers is operating in the area. They caught several of Kronn Thistleknot's scouts, who discovered that the ogres are rounding up kender still within the city and taking them to the Peak of Malystryx. Unfortunately they got caught. Once the DM feels that the PCs explored enough of Kendermore an encounter with them starts.
The party will hear shouts and a strange whirring sound from the other side of a building. Going to investigate they'll see five ogres holding a chained throng of kender. One of their leaders slams his fist into the building another kender stands on as he flings slings at the giants with his hoopak (slingshot/staff weapon), insulting them all the while.
"You scum-sucking, toenail-eating, puppy-beating, ugly sonofa...oops!" the kender's arms flail as one of the ogres slams his fist into the precarious structure, causing it to shudder and almost dislodge the youngster from his perch.
"Get that little bastard!" the largest and heavily armored ogre roars down the alleyway as he uncoils a giant whip from his waist.
"Who you callin a bastard!" shouts the kender as he scrambles to safety. "At least my mother didn't sleep with a goatsucker bird!"
With a roar of rage the ogre takes a few strides forward as he cracks the whip forward, its spiked leather slashes through the air and wraps around the kender's leg. Before the kender can give a startled cry, the ogre pulls back, yanking the kender from atop the wall and to the ground with an audible "thump!"
The kender is Parrick Whistlewalk. The other ogres are standard of their kind, but their leader Karak is armed with a breastplate and a big-ass spiked whip which grants him 20 foot reach! He's also got barbarian levels and can get a 30 Strength while raging! When in such a state his whip can hit most opponents (+16 bonus).
Elijayess will be enraged to see such cruelty and will knock a few arrows to shoot at one of the ogre underlings. Parrick's only a 3rd-level rogue and he won't survive against the giants unless the PCs help him.
For my group the combat was moderately difficult. The confines of the alleyway, combined with the ogre's reach and whip, made it hard for the archers and spellcasters to get into unthreatened squares and pull off their attacks. But the melee guys provoked some attacks of opportunity and took a few blows to grant the rest of the party time to reposition themselves. Once that was accomplished the ogre minions were brought down quickly.
Parrick and the captured kender will be grateful for their help. The scouts will tell the characters that they saw the ogres take in more than twenty kender up the Peak of Malystryx... including Parrick's sister Kerra. Parrick asks the PCs to help find out what has happened to them and save them if possible. At this point Elijayess offers to take care of the wounded and to reunite with him at the Palace once they've returned.
Parrick will point out that he also saw some strange creatures going in and out of the mountain's plume, which looked like strange giant copper ants.
Deuce Spadestomper, if asked, will advise against the usual routes. "You can try the plume, but you might fall and burn to a crisp. The entrance the ogres use is heavily guarded." He points out a dormant plume as the safest route into the volcano. "You might try going in that way... might be a tad safer than the other entrances, although what is safe when you're in the Peak is a question for the gods, if you ask me."
Elijayess and Parrick meet up with the party before they embark on their journey:
As you prepare to leave, Elijayess walks up and stares towards the sullen Peak of Malys.
"Be careful, my friends," his voice a soft whisper. "Even though she is dead, her presence still lingers. The land remembers the torture she put it through...Chislev weeps."
The Kagonesti's gaze turns from the Peak towards you, a faint smile appearing on his otherwise somber face. "However, I believe that the gods walk with you. Have faith and it shall carry you through the hardships ahead. I will await your return at the palace and watch over the little ones."
Clasping each of your hands in the Kagonesti farewell, Elijayess turns and walks back towards the wounded kender, hefting two of the smaller ones in his arms as he kneels down to allow a third to climb up on his back.
Parricks walks up to you, a bit downcast for the otherwise cheerful kender. Gazing up, he offers his own advice, "Keep your hands on your pouches, keep your nose to the ground, and if someone shouts 'heads up!' they mean 'duck!'" Reaching towards his belt, he pulls off one of his pouches and hands it to you. "Here, take this, you might need it in there..."
The pouch contains a bunch of random knickknacks, but some useful magic items: three potions of energy resistance (fire), a ring of feather fall, and an amulet of natural armor +1. From Kendermore, it will be a hard days' journey to the Peak of Malystryx.
Thoughts so far: I really like this chapter overall. The difficulty is amped upon with monstrous random encounters, but not so much that the PCs can be overwhelmed. The haunting atmosphere of Kendermore and the Desolation convey a good sense of what was lost, and the interactions with the Kender NPCs (especially Parrick) simultaneously manage to play up their Kenderishness without being overbearing. Parrick's advice at the end in particular earned a few smiles from the players.
I also enjoyed the boxed text for Elijayess and the Oracles. It conveyed a lot of character through just a few words. I wish that more adventures followed suit.
Next time, the final chapter of Book One! The Peak of Malystryx!
The Peak of MalystryxOriginal SA post
Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path Book One, Chapter Six: The Peak of Malystryx
The Peak is one of the tallest active volcanoes on Ansalon, more than 15,000 feet above sea level. However, the PCs are only 3,000 feet below its tallest point. Due to the high altitude and thin air, PCs who fail a Fortitude save can become fatigued after several hours. Prolonged exposure can cause damage to ability scores over time. And that's not counting the volcano's noxious fumes. The adventure was kind enough to provide a new spell, Zone of Air, which creates a moving "bubble" of clean breathable air around the caster for several hours which keeps out non-magical toxic gases. It's 2nd-3rd level spell depending upon class, and a useful one beyond the confines of this adventure too!
Random encounters are fire-related, naturally. Flamestone panthers, medium fire elementals, magmin, lava explosions, and a unique one: a red dragon named Soulburn.
Soulburn is a Young Red Dragon. He's a very tough encounter: Challenge Rating 7, 123 hit points, a 40 foot cone-shaped breath weapon that deals 6d10 fire damage, and he can fly! On mountainous terrain he can indefinitely stay out of range and rain death from above. However, the tactics say for him to open with a breath weapon and land among the PCs for some melee (he's brash and arrogant), and he'll retreat is wounded down to 45 hit points or less. His lair is in PM4 on the map, on a cliff trail above the magma lake. It's got a good bit of treasure, including an ioun stone, boots and cloak of elvenkind, and a rope of climbing along with 1,500 steel pieces worth of precious metals.
Dragonspawn Patrols are another common encounter in sets of 3 soldiers. Basically dragonspawn are creatures created by a Dragon Overlord's skull totem, combining the spirit of a draconian with the body of a humanoid creature, typically a human, forging them with a magical tie to the Overlord. After Malystryx's death many of her dragonspawn minions suffered a violent feedback of magical energy and either died or went insane. Only a few of the strongest escaped relatively unscathed.
Like Soulburn dragonspawn can fly and have breath weapons, and are unafraid to use them. They will push characters off of cliffs and into chasms, using the terrain to its full advantage.
I'd recommend being careful around this time. Although it makes sense being the final chapter of the book, it's a rather big wake-up call to parties used to fighting ground-bound opponents (virtually all the prior encounters).
PM1 is located on the top of the Peak of Malystryx, housing the ruins of one of the Towers of High Sorcery lifted up during Goodlund's reshaping. The air's thick with choking smoke and sulpher, nauseating any character's within its radius. The heat up here is extremely hot, over 140 degrees Farenheit. Theoretically the PCs could enter the volcano here by scaling the shaft, but it's full of the same smoke and heat, and is a straight drop to the magma chamber.
PM2 is the "secret" entrance pointed out by Deuce Spadestomper back in Chapter 5. It's relatively easy to scale and leads into the home of the Phalanx Ant Colony, one of the sapient factions within the Peak. It's the safest entrance of the three into the Peak.
PM3 is near the base of the mountain and the most obvious entrance. It is by this means that the ogres are taking the trapped kender into the Peak, and is heavily guarded at all times by rotating shifts of four ogres. It leads further into PM6, a sort of mega-village separated into two levels. The upper village is inhabited by dragonspawn, overlooking a cliff inhabited by ogres below. Both are several hundred strong and are beyond the scope of this adventure, as the force arrayed is sufficient to turn away the PCs. In my games no player group bothered with this entrance; they either took Deuce's secret entrance or the plume.
PM4's a magma lake, filled with smoke. Numerous caverns dot the high walls of the place, some of them home to monsters and other strange creatures who flocked to Malystryx's side. Salamanders, magmin, magma mephits and other creatures of fire inhabit this place.
PM5 is the Serpent Cave, one of Malystryx's experiments. Miraculously the underground cavern is filled with plants, vines, amphibians, and insects, much like a rainforest. A large hot spring provides moisture for the cavern, and is home to a tribe of sligs, amphibian humanoids distantly related to goblins. It doesn't have anything significant plot-wise, either.
PM7 is the volcano's heart. Reaching for nearly a mile from end to end, a sea of magma froths around three large islands of stone. Narrow land bridges arc between them, forming a mode of transportation across. In her life Malystryx made her lair here, concealing her most precious treasures (and skull totem) in hidden passages deep below the magma. Once again, the majority of this room is relatively undetailed, "beyond the scope of this adventure."
So where are the kender, and how are the PCs supposed to find them? Well, they need the help of the Phalanx Ants to progress. The colony itself can be entered via Deuce's entrance, the Magma Lake, Serpent Cave. The ants have a secret network of tunnels all over the Peak, but the PCs won't find them by accident.
Phalanx Ants are massive, sapient entities said to have been created by Chislev (God of nature) in the Age of Dreams for Reorx (God of the forge). They would help tend the bones of the earth. These are legends, though.
The Ants are a hierarchal society of workers, where the colonies themselves are living floors and walls of millions of interlinking ants. The builder ants are the smallest and lowest, comprising these foundations. Workers are the caretakers and scouts, seeing to the Queen's needs and tending to the larva. Soldiers are the hunters and defenders, while the Queen is a spellcasting leader who links the colony's minds into a universal consciousness.
This colony in particular struck a deal with Malystryx to act as custodians for the Peak in exchange for building their colony here. Now that she's dead the political balance of the mountain has been upset and now the various groups are at war with one another. The Queen is not fond of this arrangement, hating the disorder. In fact, she won't be hostile at the PCs arrival.
If your eyes aren't betraying you, the uneven obsidian that forms the ladders, floors, and even bridges of this cavern is made up entirely of living, moving ants, each the size of a large dog.
Scurrying along the walkways formed by these ants, slightly larger ants are moving around, busy with various unknown tasks, while ants the size of small ponies seem to be carrying food to various sections of the floor. You watch as they pass the food down where it disappears, apparently to be distributed among the ants forming the architecture of the colony.
Suddenly you hear a high-pitched chittering voice rise behind you. "Greetings... the Queen wishes to speak with you."
Turning around, you see a rather diminutive ant, a little smaller than a kender, gazing directly at you with its odd, multi-faceted eyes. Twin antennae move independently from one another.
The ant twists its head slightly to the right. "You will come with us," it says once more, in that spine-shivering voice, before it turns around and scurries down the ladder that leads to the floor of the cavern.
Resting atop of a large cairn of stones is a large ant, easily the size of a knight's warhorse. Her body is designed more like that of a wasp, with a narrow thorax that flares out to a large abdomen ending in a long obsidian stinger. The torso is covered in strange sigils that glow with a subtle blue radiance. Suddenly, a soft decidedly feminine voice fills the cave, "Greetings, adventurers. What brings you to Our colony?"
The Queen is genuinely interested in what the characters' motivations are for coming to the Peak. She'll even be helpful as long as they're honest, and can be convinced with social interaction skill checks to help them find and rescue the Kender. Of course, the Queen will want to talk with the party's "Queen," and more authority-minded and nature-oriented PCs (lawfully-aligned, knights, druids, etc) gain bonuses to their rolls. On a Friendly result she'll answer their questions and tell them directions to the captured kender. On a helpful result she'll even lend a more active hand, with one soldier ant per PC as guides.
Successfully negotiating with the Queen grants bonus story experience, with is far better than killing her for experience points (which is very hard, given all the ants).
Basically, the head of the dragonspawn and ogre factions united in a tenuous alliance. Grigolthan is an ogre mage who unsuccessfully attempted a ritual to ascend to the status of ogre titan (like a magical uber-ogre), but since the ritual required elven blood it backfired and degraded his body and mind. Grigolthan seeks to retry the ritual, using the blood of over 100 kender over time as part of an experiment. Grigolthan convinced Sindra, leader of the dragonspawn, to unleash the energy of Malystryx's taint he believes the afflicted kender carry within them. Through this, they theorize, will the dragonspawn regain their former power and be able to reproduce (created dragonspawn are infertile). If all goes according to plan, Grigolthan becomes an ogre titan and Sindra can regain her glory. Everyone wins!
The ants will escort the PCs via one of their networked tunnels, which is adjacent to a thin section of wal.
As the Queen's glowing blue eyes fall upon you, her voice rises once more. "You are prepared," she says. It is not a question, more a state of acknowledgement.
"Our tunnels were built for our use, but I believe that you will be able to navigate them with ease. The first tunnel shall lead you directly to the little ones. Do not take any of the side tunnels; stick to the primary, otherwise you'll get lost. Once you have the little ones, take the tunnel back until you come to the second tunnel to the right. That will lead you to the surface near the city of little ones."
As the Queen speaks, you can see part of the ground begin to swell. The ants are shifting the structure by crawling over one another to reveal a network of honeycombed tunnels beneath them.
"You will follow my worker. He will guide you to where you need to go. May your hunt prove fruitful."
After an indeterminable amount of time spent traveling the phalanx tunnel, you hear the voice of the worker speak up. "We're here."
The worker ant touches his antenna against the right wall of the tunnel. "Through this wall, you will find the little ones. The wall here is weak; you should be able to burrow through it easily."
Backing away from the wall, the worker turns towards you. "I must return to the colony and the Queen. May your hunt prove fruitful." Once the last word is said, the ant seems to bow its head slightly before it begins to crawl back the way it came, leaving you alone in the darkness of the strange tunnel.
Indeed, acid has been strategically placed to weaken the wall. It goes into the slave pens of the underground chambers of the map above. The top of the pit is covered by an iron grating, below which 21 kender are being held, all suffering from various forms of undernourishment. Dragath, a dragonspawn barbarian guards the room, and will become aware of the PCs intrusion when one of them tries breaking down the wall. Honestly he's not that difficult, with low hit points (45) and bonus to hit (+8 with greataxe, not raging). But like all dragonspawn he's got a nasty breath weapon (4d10 fire) and a death throe. If the PCs are supplemented by phalanx ant soldiers than the battle becomes trivial.
The PCs also get bonus experience for freeing the Kender for being Big Damn Heroes. One of them in particular, Kerra Whistlewalk, is very talkative...
As the last kender clambers out of the pit and her feet settle upon the ground, she looks up at you and offers a surprisingly cheerful grin, despite her grimy appearance.
"Wow, that was one of the most boring places I've ever been, let me tell you! One time I was trapped with my foot down a rabbit hole and couldn't move, but at least I got to look around and see stuff! Here, all I got to see was a bunch of other trapped kender, most of whom didn't want to talk! Imagine that!" She leans forward, whispering conspiratorially, "I betcha they're one of those afflictin' kender you hear people talkin' about!" She suppresses a somewhat delightfully horrified shudder as she turns to stare at the huddled, dirty kender clustered around the wall.
Suddenly the kender draws herself upright. "My manners, I'm sorry! I'm Kerra Whistlewalk, of Hylo! Thank you for rescuin' us! I was afraid we were gonna end up staked and spitted and bled dry for that ritual I heard'em talkin' about! Wish I could see that! They was talkin' 'bout this big magic spell the was gonna cast, said it took the blood of the afflicted kender 'cause it was filled with Malys magic or somethin'. They also said soemthing about pervetin' some big ol' magic thingy they found in Malys lair... pervertin'... you think they were gonna peek at each other wearin' only their knickers?!?"
If inquired for more information she can describe Grigolthan and Sindra. If the PCs see first to the Kender's safety (by getting them out via directions or having the Phalanx Ant soldiers escort them out), they get more "hero experience points!" Then she'll remember that she left some family heirlooms (pouches) deeper into the complex and that the "ugly guy" or "scary lady" must have them.
The next room is the ritual area where Grigolthan lairs. A large pentragram of silver contains a dragon skull on each tip over a circular pit of blood. At its center a pillar of yellowed bones rises. As the PCs go down the hallway they'll trigger a mental alarm trap which silently alerts Grigolthan to their presence. He'll drink a potion of invisibility, even though he can turn invisible at will , to get the drop on him. Additionally, he'll use the Staff of Bones in his possession to animate the corpses of the 13 kender zombies at the bottom of the pool to fight for him.
Like many ogre mages, Grigolthan is a glass cannon. His 32 hit points are very low for a boss monster, but he's got a cone of cold which he can fire off. Other than that he's got polymorph, darkness, and a melee attack. The zombies are the main melee force, and all "die" when Grigolthan does.
After killing the ogre mage and ruining their last chance ritual, Sindra will show up and be super-pissed at the party, unfurling her Hellfire Whip and threatening to "Burn the flesh from your bones and you. Will. Buuuuuuurrrrn!"
Here she is, the Final Boss of Book One!
Sindra's tough all her own, but immediately after Grigolthan (and Dragath), she can be deadly.
She's an 8th level dragonspawn Barbarian with a good reach on her whip, whose damage is enhanced via her impressive lash (2d4+4 plus 1d6 fire plus 1d10 critical hit). She also has a breath weapon and death throes and a good Armor Class (25). A worthy battle.
Upon her death, she evilly laughs as she sees the "hand pulling their strings" and that her death will offer them no peace. Then her entire body begins jerking violently in the midst of her death throes. If the PCs know to expect this (say, prior encounters with dragonspawn), they can push her into the blood pool and have her harmlessly explode. This action also grants additional experience points for quick thinking. The writers were being generous with rewards for this chapter, I'll say!
Then the wielder of the Shard of Light notices that the blade's light flickers in tune to a glimmer at the opposite end of the room, leading into the armory. There the PCs find a beautiful lance of burnished silver, its haft shaped like the head of a dragon of purest gold. The image of a beautiful elven woman coalesces into a nimbus of blue light in front of the weapon. "Finally, you have overcome great hardships to release us from the darkness! Come, heroes... take up the lance and embrace your destinies!" Then she vanishes along with the shard of light's glimmer, plunging the room into a faint darkness.
This elven ghost was Kayleigh, and this lance is no ordinary magical Dragonlance... It is Huma's Lance, the very one wielded by Huma Dragonbane in the Age of Dreams to banish Takhisis from the mortal realm in the Third Dragon War!
This baby's a Major Artifact...
Priceless Artifact Count: 3
...a +5 holy keen Greater Dragonlance. When striking a True Dragon it ignores all forms of damage reduction. When used against an evil true dragon it deals 2 points of permanent Constitution drain (no save) with every hit. If the wielder scores a critical hit it deals a number of points of Consitution drain equal to 5 + wielder's level + wielder's Charisma modifier. Once per day it can cast dismissal on any evil outsider (who suffer a penalty to their save equal to 5 + wielder's level). It can even be used against divine entities and their servitors!
It bestows 2 negative levels on evil creatures attempting to wield it, and functions as a normal +4 holy Greater Dragonlance in the hands of non-lawful Good characters, with none of the other special abilities.
The heroes gaining access to this weapon will have drastic, far-reaching effects into the adventure. Not only is it instantly recognizable to Ansalon's major orders (Knights of Solamnia/Neraka, Wizards of High Sorcery, etc), its presence can be sensed by clerics of evil deities, true dragons, and good/evil outsiders. Doubtlessly many of these groups will seek to part the lance from the PCs' hands for their own use (whether to safeguard it, destroy it, or study it).
After a good adventure, the Phalanx tunnels do indeed lead back to Kendermore. If the PCs have Grigolthan's staff, Elijayess will let them travel back to the oasis (although he won't accompany them). And yes, returning the staff also gets the PCs experience points. If the PCs aren't 7th level yet, they certainly will be by adventure's end.
Afterwards, the elf and the kender will strike out towards Port Balifor.
And so marks the end of Book One. There is still many mysteries left, of who is manipulating the PCs from behind the scenes, what the Key of Quinari unlocks, and how the artifacts gathered will play a future role in the saga. Till then, in Book Two, Spectre of Sorrows, will many of these questions be answered...
Next time, the appendices of Book One, new spells/items, my personalized Key of Destiny Soundtrack, and other miscellaneous stuff.
Intermission: Miscellaneous StuffOriginal SA post
Dragonlance: Key of Destiny Adventure Path Book One Intermission: Miscellaneous Stuff
Thoughts on Chapter Six : A sharp spike in difficulty, this can catch players unaware who were mostly used to fighting low-level martial characters and groundbound opponents. The Shattered Temple mixed things up with some oozes and undead, but aside from that genuine spellcasting enemies are very rare in this adventure. I feel that the adventure sort of ends on a vague note, with the PCs coming back to Kendermore with no apparent goal, but I can forgive it for that since it's technically the end.
Overall, Book One was a good book, if flawed in parts. It definitely has the feel of an epic adventure. The writers made a lot of effort including stuff in, but they accidentally left out a lot of things. Later on Sovereign Press released some adventure errata, which was 15 pages long! A good amount was missing Encounter Levels, grammar/spelling mistakes, stat blocks for forlorn kender, and the like. The most egregious was the last missing spectral flicker in the Shattered Temple, detailing Caeldor's death!
Things I'd Change
Make no mistake, there's a lot of things I'd tailor in the Key of Destiny. The adventure has several weak points which might frustrate your group.
Don't be afraid to be more specific with prophecies, or to tone them down: The players should be intrigued enough to keep going, but not so much that they feel like they're on a wild goose chase. Have the Oracles say that the Key of Quinari is coveted by Chemosh, God of Death. Make Uleena name-drop Kendermore or the Peak of Malystryx, possibly even that it holds one of the legendary Dragonlances.
Cut down on the number of bandits in Pegrin's employ. Reduce their hit points from 12 to 6. This will make the battle easier for new and inexperienced players. And is more manageable for 1st-level PCs lacking stealth skills.
Dispense with die rolling for random encounters to forward the plot. Automatically throw encounters which sound the most interesting for your group.
Have the Herald remain as a contact. He might suggest investigating the elves, go to the market to have the Key appraised, etc.
Make the hidden elf symbols on the secret doors in Pashin automatically found by the PCs.
Reduce Blackbird to a 10th-level Fighter/Rogue to a 4th-level one. He's a dick, and many groups might want to "free" Dove from his thumb after witnessing his goon's rough way of collecting their cut. He'd still be tough for 2nd-level PCs, but not impossible.
Remove the bows and arrows from the Black Rider's equipment. The relatively open terrain, combined with their horses, means that they can easily stay out of the PC's range and pelt them from afar. They're dangerous enough with the increased mobility.
Have the Mikku buy and sell equipment and goods with the PCs.
Rebuild Shroud's stat block, make him better at either clerical magic or thief stuff.
Reduce the length and frequency of the spectral flickers. Don't narrate the box text for every ogre atrocity, just briefly describe them as a monstrous horde slaughtering everyone. Keep the focus on Caeldor. Remove the Candles of Invocation from the treasures. Let those who wield the Shard of Light be capable of dealing sneak attack/precision damag against the undead (a great buff for a party rogue).
Nothing much, pretty cool as is.
Once again, be more specific and informative for the Oracle's answers. The PCs are paying a hefty price for the information, after all.
Make it easier to find Deuce Spadestomper via signs of habitation in the Palace (his Hide modifier's massive). Investigative PCs might eventually confront him through supplied clues and tracking him down.
If your party's well-optimized, consider giving Karak the ogre slaver a higher Intelligence, swap his Skill Focus (Intimidate) and Weapon Focus (Whip) feats with Improved Trip and Combat Expertise. PCs who provoke an Attack of Opportunity within his 20 foot range get tripped, and easy pickings for the other ogres! Perhaps allow them the ability to throw rocks as improvised weapons if the PCs follow Parrick's example and stick to higher ground out of reach.
Close off areas not important to the adventure so that the PCs don't get side-tracked. Have NPCs in Kendermore drop hints about the Phalanx Ants having the best knowledge of how to traverse the mountain. This will encourage them to seek out the Queen, as it's the best (and only) way to find and free the captured Kender.
Make the Queen be willing to work with the PCs on a Friendly result. Helpful is DC 30, and many parties might not have great enough modifiers to persuade her.
Becoming a Knight of Solamnia or Wizard of High Sorcery
The errata, however, included options for PCs who wanted to join either the Wizards of High Sorcery or Knights of Solamnia. Given that the PCs are frequently on the move, traditional means of qualifying for membership needed to be changed. This is detailed in the online errata.
The one for the Knight of Solamnia takes place in Port Balifor, labeled The Clandestine Knight. Sir Aldruth Achuran is an undercover Knight that managed to infiltrate the port's seedier side disguised as a mercenary named Daven Coldblade. The encounter takes place in Gloom Town as the PCs stumble upon a fight between him and three Draconians.
“Give up, Solamnic scum,” the sivak hisses out, its dark eyes flaring as its greatsword swings a deadly arch towards the human’s head, only to be blocked at the last moment by the human’s gleaming shield. Unfortunately, this leaves the figure open to the poisoned blade of one of the kapaks, the green-tinted point of its sword finding an opening and returning stained with the human’s blood.
“Never,” the human grits out as he brings his shield downwards, knocking the kapak’s blade aside as the human swings his glowing sword in a brilliant semi-circle before him. “Est Sularus oth Mithas!” the human cries out in a voice that resounds oddly in the cramped alleyway.
If the sivak’s curse hadn’t given away the identity of the human, the human’s oath would clearly identify him as a Knight of Solamnia; a knight far from friendly territory.
If the PCs aid him, he thanks them for their assistance, and will judge a PC to be worthy candidates for knighthood if she does not ask for material reward. If she asks about joining, he'll tell her that the Knighthood would be honored to have such a member and presents the PC with a family signet ring, and to look for him in the town of Flotsam (north of the Desolation) or present it to the captain of the Golden Helm (who'd recognize them as being sent by Aldreth).
Regarding the Test of High Sorcery, the most available means is through Zoe Left-Hand at the Khurman Tor lighthouse in Ak-Khurman. Basically every Wizard takes a Test, usually at one of the Towers of High Sorcery, to demonstrate their dedication to magic. If successful, they become a member of one of the three robed Orders and are presented with a uniform of the same color. Failure in the Test means death.
Generally a Test takes place in an illusionary reality crafted by the test-givers. The Wizard will be faced with at least 3 tasks involving the knowledge of spells and their usage. Additionally, they must face an equally powerful or greater opponent in single combat, usually a dark reflection or an entity designed to exploit the Wizard's weaknesses. The moral decisions a Wizard performs are also taken into account, determining which Order is best for them.
Now that only one Tower remains, many Wizards often incorporate Tests into everyday life. For example, Zoe might send a hot-tempered wizard into the Burning Lands and negotiate with the stand-offish Azer.
In addition to official membership, a successful Wizard is granted a permanent magic item, usually indicative of the Wizard's personality. A mage with a fondness for music and fine art might receive a harp which fascinates listeners. Additionally, mages are also permanently marked in some way after the Test, to represent the sacrifice they made to pursue powerful magic. A mage who's a compulsive liar might gain a forked tongue.
In Raistlin's case, he was cursed with hourglass-shaped irises where he could see everything around him slowly decaying and losing life. This was meant to teach the young mage compassion, but failed.
The seriousness of the Test, in both sacrifice and penalties for failure, is meant to deter all but the most disciplined magicians. In theory, a sorcerer can take the Test, but none of them have yet to even attempt.
I really like the Knighthood one, although none of my players with arcane PCs felt motivated to take the Test. They were all renegades, viewing their traveling lifestyle as being incompatible with primary allegiance to the Orders.
Phalanx Ants are small magical beasts with tough hides and a "hive mind." They're weak individually (Challenge Rating 1/4th for builders, 3 for soldiers, 6 for Queen), but there's a lot of them, and the Queen can cast spells as a 6th-level Mystic.
Flamestone Panthers are mentioned before. Basically they're big cats with a pounce and rake attack, and natural weapons which deal fire damage. They can also climb and burrow, increasing their mobility in combat.
Magma Wraiths are corporeal undead surrounded by a shell of magma, twisted creations of Malystryx. Their touch ignites flammable objects, non-magical weapons which hit them can become useless, and they can hurl globules of magma as a ranged attack.
Phaethons are Lawful Neutral elves who live simple lives in mountain ranges. They can manifest fiery wings and gain flight, an ability regarded as a divine gift by them. They're immune to fire damage and vulnerable to cold effects, but are relatively unremarkable except for these traits. They can be played as PCs with a +2 level adjustment (one I feel is a little too high).
Monstrous Trapdoor spiders which can build traps and pits out of their webbing. They are found in the Desolation. They have most of the traits of medium monstrous spiders, plus their webbing can conceal pits with camouflaged webbing, webbing tripwires, and sheets of webbing on the ground.
There are 3 new spells, including Zone of Air (creates a sphere of breathable air, 2nd/3rd level spell), Immolation (4th level spell which burns the target inside-out for 1d6 fire damage per round, concentration duration), and Energy Barrier, which is pretty cool:
10 foot square area per level, can't be affected by most spells, can protect from negative environmental effects, it's quite versatile in its effects.
We also get detailed write-ups of the new magic items. I detailed most of them in the adventure, but we learn more about the Staff of Bones (a staff which is an artifact)...
Priceless Artifact Count: 4
and functions as a Staff. The wielder can cast necromantic spells by expending charges, and can replenish them by killing opponents affected by its Death Knell spell (instantly kills dying opponents).
We also get the Ring of Grace (found in the Shattered Temple), which grants an effective bonus (+2 to +6) to Wisdom for the purposes of Saving Throw DCs and spells per day for divine spellcasters. Yes, it can stack with Periapt of Wisdom, as it's not an actual Wisdom bonus. I smell some serious potential abuse!
Also, picture of the Shard of Light in the Shattered Temple:
Libertad's Unofficial Key of Destiny Soundtrack
The right music can enhance the mood and atmosphere of a gaming session. I feel that these tracks are particularly appropriate for certain NPCs and events in the adventure.
Refugees (suitable for elves/afflicted kender): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ty87q1J8yRo
Pursued by the Dark Knights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnxbSWyoM9g
Sewers of Pashin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ML7M4XIoGF0
Ruins of Hurim: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50agA5EPJfo
Battle Music, Shattered Temple Barbazu Guardian: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwQzfPZqzHU
Port City of Ak-Khurman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBEvtA4Uuwk
Kendermore Theme: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOYbvfh3tXQ
Battle Music, Ogre Slavers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqP3ymyWKn8
Climbing the Peak of Malys: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-b2qjRp9CQ
Battle Music, Peak of Malys Dragonspawn Attack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xERCT6xr1IQ
Battle Music, Grigolthan and Sindra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-gN...44C13F035840D9A
Because It's the Key! Duh-duh! Of Destiny!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTM8JIooqtY
Next time we start Book Two, Spectre of Sorrows!
Clash of Fire and DarknessOriginal SA post
Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path: Book Two, Spectre of Sorrows; Chapter One: Clash of Fire and Darkness
See that wicked-looking bald elf on the cover? That's Lothian with Kayleigh. I did not mention it before, but Book One made absolutely no mention of their backstory until the Introduction of this book, along with the Dragon's Graveyard and Shroud of Soul's calling. The majority of the introduction of Book Two is dedicated to this task. Yes, this means the original Key of Destiny book was absurdly vague.
Last time we left our heroes, they freed a bunch of kender from the Peak of Malystryx and discovered the legendary Dragonlance of Huma. With the help of the Phalanx Ants they safely ventured back to the ruins of Kendermore, where Elijayess waits for them to escort the kender back to Port Balifor.
At least, that's the plan. When the PCs return Kerra Whistlewalk happily reunites with her brother, and Deuce Spadestomper is tending to the wounds of the kender left behind with Elijayess. The party's arrival will be met with questions by the kender, and many more if the Dragonlance is visibly carried. After 8 hours of rest (unless the PCs choose to set out earlier), Elijayess recommends that they all head out before the ogres and dragonspawn find them to take revenge for their fallen leaders.
There is a sudden deep rumbling sound from the volcano, a reverberation that causes the ground beneath your feet to tremble. A flaming spume explodes violently from the mouth of the peak and a noxious black cloud billows upwards, blanketing the sky in cinder and ash. Trails of molten light streak through the clouds, fragments of rock hurtle through the sky and strike the ground with concussive force. Unfortunately, the strength of the explosion is strong enough that some of those fragments are heading directly towards you.
The Peak erupts, sending an ash cloud 50 miles around the mountain and blotting out the sun for nearly a week. Immediate dangers include falling rocks along with toxic fumes 10 miles from the Peak's epicenter, with chocking soot and ash 20-40 miles away. The toxic gas is slow-acting, doing small amounts of nonlethal damage over a course of several hours to those who fail a Fortitude save, but should not be lethal for the PCs.
The kender are also a handful. 17 of them are afflicted kender, 1st level commoners with little in the way of talents who scatter to safety during combat. The other four kender, not including Parrick Whistlewalk and Deuce Spadestomper, are true kender and have some levels in PC classes, ranging from 2-4th level. They can provide indirect support, such as Survival checks and cloths to help guard against the Desolation's weather, and can useminor healing magic, ranged attacks, and taunts in combat. The book points out that none of the kender should be played for comic relief: the afflicted kender have been severely traumatized, and the desperation of the surrounding environs is inappropriate for the mood. Very good advice.
And if the PCs escort the kender to safety, they get a "story award" (role-playing experience) of an encounter level equal to their average party level + 1.
The PCs are supposed to head back to Balifor, but sudden changes will force them to go northward instead, to the Dark Knight fortress of Darkhaven, and then to Flotsam. We'll get to that later. First, random encounters!
6 out of the 9 encounters are straight monster fights (giants, sand wretches, and the like), but 3 of them are unique encounters. A kender vampire will strike at night, targeting one of the refugee kender. He can be tracked back to his lair, which contains treasure!
A second encounter involves a group of 8 miserable-looking goblins chased by a behir (huge multi-armed lizard who breathes lightning). If the PCs help them out, the grateful goblins will lead them to an underground network of tunnels for shelter. They span for miles all over the Desolation, and can provide a secret way to Darkhaven.
The final one's titled Lamia Seductress, of said monster in disguise as a distressed damsel. She managed to overcome a dark knight patrol and took one of the survivors back to her lair to feast. She tells the party that her brother is injured in a cave (in reality her lair), begging for assistance. Once there she'll try to convince one of the male party members to stay with here "while the rest look for help." Her magical disguise will fall if touched, and for that end she'll avoid spellcasting PCs (she fears they'll see through easily). The unconscious "brother" is Brandel Bloodstone, who will be indebted to the characters for saving him from the lamia. He'll give them a letter of writ to show to any Dark Knight patrols, detailing his location. In return he wants the PCs to swear an oath to tell any encountered patrols his location so that he can be retrieved.
And now we're on to required story encounters. One of them is a Dark Knight Patrol, as an advance unit for a larger force. Turns out the Knights somehow got wind of the Dragonlance's location (probably through their magical seers), and are heading to the Peak in a mission to secure it. They also heard that one of the two Tears of Mishakal are in the Desolation as well, and already secured one of them in their fortress.
The encounter can end in bloodshed, or bypassed entirely. The squires will break off to report back if combat occurs, and the battle will attract the attention of flying dragonspawn patrols, who will report back to the Peak as well. Either way, the party will soon be hunted by one or both factions.
The encounter itself is trivial, consisting of a 6th level Lily Knight leader and 4 2nd-level soldiers.
Twenty-four hours after the Patrol, or 3 days after the volcano explodes (whichever comes first). Bloodmane, the boyfriend of Sindra, is leading a war party of 8 dragonspawn to kill the PCs! Bloodmane is driven by a thirst for vengeance, and the others are disorganized and focus on one opponent, unconcerned about the welfare of their teammates. Still, they have breath weapons and an aerial advantage, making melee hit-and-runs before flying out of reach.
If the PCs are overwhelmed or the fight's going too easily, a second group of 15 soldiers arrives, the Dark Knights, led by a stern Captain Velaria Grimstone (what's up with these Dark Knight surnames?).
Once again the PCs can avoid this encounter if they don't display the Dragonlance and successfully bluff her or show her the writ. She'll tell them that the safest route now out of the Desolation is northwest, through Darkhaven.
The encounter can play out many different ways, as you can see. They can be escorted safely by the Dark Knights (which won't be safe for long, as Darkhaven's leaders will be interested in the PCs reasons for being in the Desolation), fought as a normal encounter, captured by the Knights and taken to Darkhaven's cells, or bypassed entirely with some clever social skills.
Remember how I mentioned the winged elves, the Phaethons, back in Book One of Key of Destiny? And how Anasana in the Shattered Temple told the PCs that only the Tears of Mishakal can cleanse the unholy taint from the ruins? Well, these two things are tied up nicely in the next encounter, Wings of Flame! More than the others, it is necessary to move the story forward and meant to be used by the DM for this time. Two phaethon brothers, appearing as normal (if stocky) elves, emerge from the shadows and tell the PCs to come with them. They mention that forces are arraying against them, and that they can help the PCs get out of the Desolation alive. They are sincere in their desires to help, and if any kender were at all separated, they will mention that they retrieved them.
If the PCs follow them, they'll be led to their village in the mountains. Elf PCs and others might recognize their markings as that of the Phaethons with a Knowledge (History) check, elves of legend said to be blessed by Habbakuk.
The village is located in an enclosed encampment with stone ramparts. The phaethons live in stone buildings surrounding a central open square with goat pens and gardens. After the PCs are gifted with clean water from the spring and goat meat and cheeses, the 3 village elders will come out to meet with them.
Three phaethons, two men and one woman, approach from one of the buildings. All three resemble bronze statues, noble and exquisite, their features serenely beautiful.
When they speak, their voices are melodious. “Welcome, fated ones, to our camp,” says the woman, who wears the medallion of Habbakuk around her neck. “Please, partake of our hospitality and rest, for your destiny weighs heavy upon you and the road ahead is long. There is much that you must know.”
They'll be more than happy to converse with the characters, telling them to ask what they wish and they'll answer as best they can. Their god Habbukuk has blessed them with answers to the PCs' dilemma in the form of visions. Unlike the previous prophets, ghosts, and seers of this adventure path, the elders are far more informative: they tell them that the Key of Quinari's magic is not in the music box, but the melody contained therein, which can open a portal to the ancient burial grounds of the dragons of Light, located somewhere in Nordmaar, a nation to the north. To aid them in their quest, they will give the PCs a precious relic, one of the Tears of Mishakal...
Priceless Artifact Count: 5
...which will be needed once they pass through the portal to the Dragon's Graveyard and in future endeavors. The other Tear has been corrupted by Chemosh millennia ago, and is now being held in the dungeons of Darkhaven. Once they have both, the knowledge required to purify the Tear can be found in the town of Flotsam to the north of Darkhaven, "your next stop on the journey to
Nordmaar and the Dragons’ Graveyard."
They are still vague on who is manipulating them:
"Several forces are moving against you and each other. One is but a pawn who shall find the strength to break free. One marked forever by betrayal shall be both a great enemy and a great ally. One cares not what you do, but shall use you if need be as a tool of vengeance. One shall have that which is not his own torn from him. And one seeks protection and is willing to destroy the world in order to do so. [Referring to Kayleigh, the
Betrayer, Chemosh, Lothian, and Gellidus, respectively.]
Know this, the ones who seek to control your destinies are not allies and, in working against one another, may in fact aid you in fulfilling your true destiny—if you have the courage to face it and accept whatever cost you must pay to fulfill it."
Vague Prophecy Count: 12, but is nicely balanced by some pertinent information. At least they finally know about the Dragon's Graveyard and the Key's real purpose!
The Tear of Mishakal is a Major Artifact glowing with a blue radiance, acting much like a charged item. It has 20 charges which can be used by a non-evil wielder to cast spells of restorative nature (the more powerful the spell, the more charges it consumes). Its most powerful spells (heal, raise dead, heroes' feast) can only be used in conjunction with the other Tear, which must be uncorrupted. The Tear regains 1 charge per day at daybreak. Additionally, the Tear can convert a gallon of normal water to holy water after 24 hours, and bestows a continual Shield of Faith (armor class bonus) and Dimensional Anchor spell, the latter of which prevents the use of teleportation magic and dimensional travel as long as the wielder carries it (and even if overcome the Tear is left behind and dropped). The only exception is the Dragon's Graveyard, to which it is attuned. The corrupted Tear is similar, except that it casts death and evil magic, glows with a sickly green light, regains charges at night, and can only be used by non-good characters.
The teleport-negation is an important feature for the adventure. By 9th level, primary spellcasters can cast teleport and plane shift. As the adventure path is heavily travel-based where the PCs get embroiled with encounters along the way and visit neat locations on their quest, bypassing all that would be a major impediment to the adventure. And even if they scout out ahead and keep the Tears in a safe place, they have to carry them all the way anyway.
The PCs now have a new mission: infiltrate Darkhaven. Before that is some good news: the Phaethon can safely escort all the Kender to Port Balifor, accompanied by Elijayess (whose path is different from the PCs now), and Parrick Whistlewalk tells the PCs that they can make use of the underground goblin tunnels if they want to get into the fortress without being spotted.
Back during the days of the Empire of Istar, human mercenaries hunted and killed goblins for money. For safety the goblins dug a series of tunnels beneath Istar, assisted in part by Kender (who themselves were persecuted and hunted by the Empire). Even after the Cataclysm the network remained intact, and its rediscovery by the Kender was used in Kendermore's evacuation when Malystryx razed the city. Now populated by the dragons' experiments and foul spawn of Chaos, it is just as dangerous as the Desolation above. Its nearest entryway for the PCs is a deep fissure plunging into darkness. Potential encounters include wights, chaos beasts, and fiendish goblins (warped by Malystryx).
Key of Destiny Custom Soundtrack: Infiltrating Darkhaven
Darkhaven used to be the major center of operations for the Knights of Neraka in southeastern Ansalon. It's composed of a main keep and a number of smaller buildings, surrounded by a high wall. Beyond the keep proper is a double wall with towers stretching across the valley. This prevents easy travel to and from the region.
These Knights are different than the main order: they worked for Malystryx. Basically, during the time when Takhisis stole the world of Krynn away and the gods disappeared once again, some within the knighthood sought out a new patron for protection. Deserting the main organization, the knights of Darkhaven sought an alliance with Malystryx, who at first violently retaliated with her minions and only accepted after their Lieutenant managed to evade their pursuit through weeks on the run. After her minions captured him, she made him pledge an oath of loyalty to her as commander of the new legion. Most of the knights fled Darkhaven after Malystryx's death, only a few left behind with decreased morale. Their mystics chanced upon a corrupted Tear of Mishakal in the region, guided by visions from Chemosh (who is working to turn them to his service).
For the purposes of this adventure only the lower levels are detailed, as an above-ground assault is fortified with legions of troops (including arcane and divine spellcasters). And then the PCs have to deal with getting past the wall. Sneaking in via the Goblin Tunnels can allow the party to get in via a passage hidden by barrels, strike quickly, get the other Tear, and escape with the main keep none the wiser. They could end up in Darkhaven, too, if they were captured by a dark knight patrol (in that case one of the Phaethon scouts will be imprisoned in the cells).
The lower levels are home to 15 Knights: 4 normal soldiers, 4 Knight of the Skull acolytes (mystics), 4 Knight of the Thorn acolytes (fighter/wizards), and 3 officers of each order of Knighthood (6th-8th level). In addition to that are trained beasts in the kennels (22 and 23 on the map), warped through experimentation by the corrupt Tear: they include 4 Dread Cats (undead leopards with unholy resilience) and 4 Dread Spiders (undead giant spiders with unholy resilence). In the event of an alarm being raised, the Knights will take out the dreadcats with an officer in tow, with a regiment guarding the upper level (basement level). The remaining beasts will be unleashed into the dungeon level to kill anyone who isn't wearing a dark knight uniform.
Combat-wise the knights, even the officers, are easy for a group of 7th level PCs to fight if caught unawares. However, combat in the complex in "alert mode" can be tough: the Dread creatures are well-suited to melee (the cats have improved grab and pounce, the spiders poison) and give off a rotting stench which can sicken enemies. They also have a telepathic link with their creators, the spellcasting knights. As for the knights, the Thorns can cast magic missile, while acolytes of both orders have an assortment of necromantic spells to unleash upon the PCs.
The dungeon level contains the typical stuff (prison cells, torture chambers, guard quarters), but areas 9 and 10 are a research library and necromantic laboratories, containing sufficient spell components and a few magic scrolls with spells! Room 15 has a permanent Wall of Ice to act as cold storage for perishable food (like in the Shattered Temple I enjoy the idea of a magical refrigerator). If the PCs were captured by the Dark Knights, they'll encounter one of the phaethon scouts in the cells (area 4), who will aid them in breaking out of Darkhaven and insist that they accompany him to his village (he knows the directions of the tunnels).
The Tear itself is in Room 25, accessible via a hall of black marble veined with red and Dark Knight symbols in room 24. The whole area is affected by an unhallow spell, which bolsters undead creatures along with necromantic and evil magic. Knights and Dread beasts who hold their ground here have an advantage in this regard. The spellcasting officers and their acolytes will be here in case of an alarm.
The corrupted Tear of Mishakal rests on a wrought iron stand in room 25, a chamber which smells of death and is dimly lit with four coal-burning braziers. A Greater Shadow guards the Tear and hides in the shadowy illumination, taking 10 on its Hide check for a DC 28 Spot check to be noticed. It will attack the PCs, and retreats back within the Tear when defeated. It can be summoned to follow the PCs bidding by expending 10 charges, remaining until dismissed or destroyed.
Priceless Artifact Count: 6.
This can be a very powerful option for the PCs; despite its low Intelligence, its strength-draining touch attack can bring down most opponents, as it does not allow a save. Its Hide bonus and fly speed make it a passable, if unintelligent, scout. It cannot abide the touch of light, so it can't be used in broad daylight, but otherwise is a good minion.
The best way to escape Darkhaven, once they get the Tear, is to go out via the Goblin Tunnels through a northern path. It leads out into the ground to the north of the Desolation and south of Flotsam, a very convenient location. The adventure doesn't give any information on how the PCs will known this, unfortunately. I'd recommend having the goblins or phaethon tell the PCs of this possible escape route if you run the adventure.
Thoughts so far: The second books leads off with a solid start. A sidequest for protecting the kender, some combat encounters, the first real information on the Key and the PCs' main quest, and a fortress infiltration mission of varying difficulty have little in the way of flaws.
Next time, Chapter 2, Flotsam & Jetsam!
Flotsam and JetsamOriginal SA post
Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path Book Two, Chapter Two: Flotsam and Jetsam
Hey guys. I know it's been a long time since I last posted for this review, but December's been quite a month, to say the least. Last time we left off, the PCs discovered the significance of the Key of Destiny, the Dragon's Graveyard, and both Tears of Mishakal. After escaping the Dark Knight Fortress of Darkhaven, the party finds themselves north of the Desolation's mountain and a short ride to the port town of Flotsam. There, they must research the means to rid the corrupted Tear of Mishakal and start their journey northward.
Personalized Key of Destiny Soundtrack: Ramshackle Haven of Rogues
Flotsam is a haven for rogues and outcasts that managed to endure a history of strife. Invasion by the Dragonarmies, demonic invasion, the forces of Chaos, and even Malystryx's attacks has yet to completely destroy it. Even then, it is a city rebuilding from its ruins, and much of Flotsam's buildings are dilapidated and home to squatters. Gathering information about town will confirm that Lorde Toede, the leader of the town, has the largest library of books related to necromancy and magical healing in eastern Ansalon.
That name should be familiar to any Dragonlance fans. In the original Chronicles, Toede was a hobgoblin officer of minor importance yet possessed of a vast ego. In spite of his incompetence he managed to earn the rank of Dragon Highlord of the White Dragonarmies, but only after the tide has turned against the Empire, and he wasn't very competent in his duties. He was killed by an enraged green dragon while out on a hunting trip, and was resurrected by devils in the Abyss over a failed bet to see if such a pathetic soul could ever achieve a life of nobility. Now resurrected, Toede is effectively immortal as his spirit will reform in a new body if he dies, but his body continued to age and thus he seeks to find a means to restore his youth. Thus his vast library. In keeping with his delusions of grandeur and desire to "prove" himself to be noble, he's established himself as a surprisingly effective leader, even organizing the city Thieves' Guild into a covert network of spies and police force, providing safety and security against the Desolation's many horrors.
Lord Toede, as he imagines himself to be:
In fact, the network is well-informed of visitors to Flotsam, and any PCs spending long enough time in the ramshackle habitat will come to their attention. Any attempts to secure an audience with Lord Toede, or directly visit his manor, will be rebuffed. An incredibly efficient, yet highly complex, bureaucratic network of clerks, officials, and other public workers to handle the paperwork necessary of addressing peoples' needs. PCs wishing to legitimately gain access to Toede's manner must trudge through the maze of paperwork. It's a series of skill checks with subordinates, underclerks, clerks, and senior clerks. Each interaction is meant to be a role-playing encounter facilitated by a relevant skill check (Knowledge check to gain a better understanding of the process and speed it up, Bluff to fool them, Intimidate to "get the paperwork through," et cetera). Every check takes a varying amount of hours, and failed checks require the PCs to be bounced to other clerks of the same rank. They can theoretically perform an infinite number of checks, but the major factor is time. Illegal actions, such as a failed Intimidate or bribery, can cause the PCs to be fined or spend the night in jail if caught.
And yes, the PCs gain experience points for successfully bypassing a clerk based upon their Average Party Level.
Or they could forcefully break in, but that's for another time. Let's look at Flotsam in more detail:
Location 1 is city hall, where all the bureaucratic paperwork is processed. Location 2 is the Rock, scorched black by years of dragonfire and where most of the city's wealthy live (along with Lord Toede's manor). Location 3 is the Jetties, the cleanest inn of Flotsam. Location 4 is an open-air Marketplace, where three shops sell potions, arms and armor, and scrolls and minor magical goods. Location 5 is a ruined section of town. Location 6 is the Brown Pelican Inn, home to the Thieves' Guild. Location 7 is the Shrine of Shinare, the most popular temple in town. Location 8 is the docks, where PCs can secure passage by ship to travel northward if they don't want to make the journey on land.
There are also encounters in Flotsam. Not random encounters, mind you, that schematic for towns was done away with in Key of Destiny. Instead the Dungeon Master is expected to throw whatever scenarios seem the most interesting at the moment.
Accident: Basically the PCs are caught near a structurally unsound location, depending upon what section of town they're in. Any location they can encounter a collapsing building, whose support structures are a little too weak and collapses outwards onto the PCs. In any of the back alleys or on the Rock, they can encounter a spiked pit trap, which is a holdover from the town's old defenses against invading armies.
Little Boy: The PCs come across a sobbing child of 8 or 9 years. His name is Gib, and he doesn't know where his parents are, but if he can find Husker the teddy bear he left behind, perhaps he could find them. He's worried that "the wicked ones" are hurting the bear, and wants their help in rescuing him. The truth is that the boy's actually a ghost killed by Malystryx's dragonfire years ago, and his body is buried in rubble. He will only pass on to the spirit world if he's reunited with his teddy bear.
If they offer to help, Gib will be happy and lead them into the ruined section of town and to a cellar of a demolished building. He says that this is where Husker is, and can be found amid the other dolls. The other dolls are possessed by evil spirits and will spring to life, attacking the PCs when they approach the bear. The dolls are weak individually (CR 1 with 11 hit points), but there's 9 of them. In addition to helping Gib pass on, the PCs can find the spellbook of Gib's father, along with notes on how to create such dolls.
Press Gang: A crew of six minotaur toughs from the Bloodied Blade are looking for able-bodied men and women to work their ship, and will ambush the PCs at an opportune time. They're not very tough and have 5 levels in either Mariner (an underpowered sailor core class) or Warrior, so PCs shouldn't find them too tough.
And that's it for encounters. Honestly I'm a little underwhelmed by this selection, although the ghost boy and evil dolls are pretty cool.
Lord Toede's Manor
Whether the PCs are trying to sneak in or successfully gained an audience, this is where they'll be coming. In case of the latter, the guards will be aware of their arrival and the Chamberlain will show them in. In case of the former, the place is heavily guarded. Toede has some supernatural muscle in addition to Guild Thieves, including a pack of hell hounds, a stone golem, and an advanced shield guardian (golem which can absorb damage inflicted on its charge) to contend with. And Toede's slipped several trapped runes about the library in fake books to dissuade thieves. Toede himself is high-level (18th), but no real threat to the PCs (he's mostly got levels in noble-themed classes, is really old, and has no spellcasting ability; but he has a template, Tenacious Spirit, which prevents him from easily getting killed).
Surrounded by all the finery his money can buy, Lord Toede of Flotsam sits upon his throne. He looks like a drooling white raisin. Incredibly old—older than any hobgoblin has a right to be—the former Dragon Highlord speaks in barely audible murmurs. These are further muffled by his fur-lined robes or drowned out by the clink-clink of the ostentatious rings and bejeweled trinkets he wears. A lanky man in well-tailored livery stands beside the throne, wearing a ridiculous cloth cap and fastidiously adjusting Toede’s accoutrements every few minutes. This is the Chamberlain, Toede’s mouthpiece and majordomo. He clears his throat when you enter.
If they dealt with the bureacracy:
Toede’s shriveled lips move slightly and the Chamberlain nods in response, saying “Lord Toede gratefully acknowledges the presence of such an august and polite troupe of adventurers. He admires your willingness to act in accordance with his laws, as he is a scholar in legislation and very fond of it.”
Toede murmurs again.
“Lord Toede invites you to present your request to him, so that he might deliberate upon it and give you his answer.”
If they did not:
Toede’s tiny wrinkled fingers tap impatiently on the arms of his throne as the Chamberlain adjusts his master’s robes, trying to make Toede look suitably menacing. He mutters something, which the Chamberlain relates. “Lord Toede is most displeased at your careless disregard for order and administration, doubly so as it was he who created the process of requests, and circumventing it is a grievous insult to Lord Toede’s honor. “That said, he admires your tenacity, cunning and skill. Lord Toede is willing to suspend potentially fatal judgment in order to hear what it is you want of him.”
Due to his age, Lord Toede's voice is nearly imperceptible and thus he uses his Chamberlain as a pseudo-translator. Basically, Toede will be very fascinated with the Tears of Mishakal and want them for himself, but knows better than to earn the ire of such a powerful band of adventurers. On the contrary, he'd be glad to help them in their research, provided they help him first. Toede used to have an amphi (toad-like evil dragon) companion, Hopsloth, and has obtained a few eggs of such creatures from the Sea Elves at great personal cost, but some bandits stole them from his manor. Through contacts in the Thieves' Guild he learned that they're making camp in the ruins of Micah, off to the west of Flotsam. He wants the PCs to travel to Micah, deal with the bandit problem, and retrieve as many of the eggs as they can. If they do so, then they'll have unlimited access to his private library and a hospital stay in his manor.
The "bandits" are actually a tribe of Disir, foul creatures of Morgion, god of pestilence and decay, who live underground and plan on invading the surface world as part of a greater invasion force.
The Ruins of Micah
In ancient times Micah was a Silvanesti elven city, one of the major battlefields during the Second Dragon War. It was resettled by humans in the Age of Might, but destroyed during the Cataclysm. Home to goblins and then ghosts, in recent years a disir scouting party had its priests exorcise the spirits and turned the place into a base of operations. They used the underground Goblin Tunnels to make their way into the cellars and basements of Flotsam, and stole the eggs from Toede's manor.
KoD Soundtrack: Disir Invasion Force
I don't remember the specifics, but I know that the Disir gave my party a hard time. It was a rather refreshing challenge, as half the party was reasonably optimized and the previous encounters were cakewalks. Looking at the Disir stats now, I can see it. Most of their warriors are standard melee brutes, but some of them are half-dragons with acidic breath weapons, and some mid-level Clerics in addition to a Queen with levels in Noble.
The ruins are still relatively intact, as far as shelter and walls go, making it prime location for the Disir. The place's haunted reputation makes travelers give it a wide berth, too.
Location 1 is a ruined plaza:
At the base of a low hill near the coast, a wide curving wall of pure white stone marks the boundary of an ancient ruined town. The walls, like the ruins themselves, seem to disappear at the far end into the hill and beneath the ground, as if the land itself was in the process of consuming it. A road paved with bleached flagstones enters through a gate and winds through crumbled buildings. Pieces of once-mighty structures are scattered about like the toy blocks of a giant child. There is no sound.
The disir exude a natural mucus, which they can use to create thick webbing. Due to their own anatomy they can pass through these mucus "walls" relatively effortlessly.
The rest of the locations are located underground.
Location 2 is a garden home to Feolidas, a ghostly treant who watched over it in life. He will attack the PCs, viewing them as intruders. The disir avoid this area.
Location 3 is a ruined temple home to 4 disir guards and 2 tyin, an oversized and barely sentient caste of disir who serve as manual labor and are heavy hitters. They use this place to keep a lookout for intruders.
Location 4 is a giant crack in the earth created during the Second Dragon War, and from this area the disir came. They now use it to toss corpses and discarded bits of disir eggs and waste, which 3 ochre jellies feed off of at the bottom.
Location 5 is a ruined roadway of upturned flagstones and slopes at a gradual downward angle. From here the PCs can see the magnificent white spires of Micah. The road is heavily patrolled by disir, six at a time. Large, ruined stones which fell as pieces from ruined towers serve as cover for them to zigzag around the battlefield.
Location 6 is an otherwise nondescript series of road which teleports anyone who stands with both feet to the junction of pillars in Location 7, sans magic items which remain behind. In ancient times it served as a quick transportation system for the elves to the city center. Considering that the disir queen and her elite minions are in 7, this trap can be incredibly debilitating and might lead to a Total Party Kill if the PCs don't retreat. I didn't use this trap in my games, as the battle was challenging enough.
Location 7 is a series of sundered pillars which formed the core support base of the towers that fell during the war. The remnants of each pillar are white and shine brightly in a rainbow of colors if exposed to light. Clustered at the base of the pillars is the disir queen and her nest; from here she attends to the larvae and orders the rest of the disir to do her bidding. Four elite disir warriors serve as bodyguards for her.
The thick, heady smell of musk and the sharp tang of acid commingle in this nightmarish place. Surrounded by filmy curtains of webbing and hunched over a thick mass of writhing larval forms is a creature at least three times as large as a man, armor plated and glistening with ooze. Its head, enormous and wasp-like, swivels on a spindly neck, jaw opening and shutting. The voice that issues forth from it is eerily feminine, but filled with hate. “Kill them! Kill them! Bring their bodies that my children may feed on them!”
In addition to the disir, a series of webbing arcs between the pillars as a barrier for disir to retreat beyond their foe's reach. Additionally, any damaging area of effect spells or similar large-scale attacks have a chance of breaking off sections of the pillars to fall and damage anyone below. If the support pillars are all destroyed, then the entire complex will begin collapsing, burying locations 4-8 beneath tons of rock in 10 minutes.
Location 8 is where the 11 amphi dragon eggs are being held in a bowl-shaped depression covered in a layer of mucus. A disir shaman and 4 disir-amphi dragon hybrids, the result of the Queen's experimentation, guard them. A statue of Morgion's disir incarnation stands above them all, carved from rock to depict a fly-headed, many-legged horror with a long, whip-like tongue. If the caverns begin collapsing, then the shaman will try escaping the ruins with 3 eggs in tow.
Yes, the PCs can screw themselves over royally if they end up collapsing the cavern without the eggs.
The PCs will be granted an immediate audience with Toede once they return. If they have the eggs he will be overjoyed and grant library access for the remainder of their stay. If they took care of the disir but do not have the eggs, he will be heartbroken over the loss but glad that the monstrous invaders were taken care of and grants them access for one night. If the PCs accomplished neither, then he will be furious and send them off the premises. In such a case the adventure suggests having the Thieves' Guild help them with recovering the necessary information about the Tear, or if they did something incredibly foolish earlier such as attacking Lorde Toede. The adventure says that the PCs shouldn't ordinarily be given such a break, but it's obviously the only means forward through the plot. This is made even more blatant considering that the Thieves' Guild has no incentive to help them out (unless they're Steel Legionnaires, as half the Guild is secretly composed of them).
Scattered about you are piles of books, scrolls, tomes and sheaves of loose paper, with corners turned in and bookmarks hanging out. The collected notes, now finally assembled, reveal their secrets:
SO IT WAS that Dereg Raynhold, Knight of the Sword, struck north from the hinterlands where his gods-given blade had aided in the Defeat of Sylvyana, Ghoul-Queen of the Silvanesti; he left behind the druid Waylorn, and the righteous throng of Silvanost, and at their insistence sought out the fabled Fountain of Renewal.
THERE IN THE NORTH beyond Istar’s merchant cities, did Dereg take his blade. Great was his sorrow at the foulness which had afflicted him; Dark was the blood on his sword, and darker still the stain on his soul.
UNTO THE LAST did Dereg struggle to overcome the challenges of the Fountain’s guardians, bereft of the light of his blade and heavy-hearted. But triumph was his, and into the Fountain did he plunge his sword and arm. Bright was the power of the gods of Redemption. With their blessing, both knight and sword were one again, hale and sharp, keen as the wind of Solamnia.
As the last of these words are read, pieced together from Toede’s books, the air in the room grows chill, and hairs on the backs of necks rise.
Kayleigh manifests above the PCs, her insubstantial form looking as if caught in a wind. "NO!" she shrieks, claiming that the Tear's stain cannot be removed, for its been claimed by the Lord of Bones. Lothian sent her to give this warning in the hopes that this will spur the PCs onward.
Any divination spells cast regarding Kayleigh will only reveal that she came form the north, around Nordmaar. Additionally, a DC 25 Knowledge Arcana or Religion or Bardic Lore check will reveal that the Fountain of Renewal's location is rumored to be in this land.
Now armed with this information, the PCs must head north, by boat or by land.
Thoughts So Far: The bureaucratic maze was not memorable, but the combat with the disir made up for it and previous encounters with good challenges. I enjoyed Lord Toede's character as well, and the sole player in my group who read the novels was most struck by his appearance in the adventure.
Next time, Chapter 3: The Blood Sea!