The Burning Sage’s Demense
System: d20 Dungeons and Dragons
Requirements: A Dungeons & Dragons® adventure for 4 characters of 4th level.
The characters are asked to investigate the failure of a legendary wizard to appear at a festival where he was to select a new apprentice. Eric Noah's Adventure Design Contest Grand Prize Winner: Volcano Fortress Category.
Graphic: Volcano Fortress
"The Burning Sage’s Demense" is a D&D adventure suitable for characters of levels 3-5. Although balanced for four PCs who begin the adventure at or near 4th level, this adventure can be played as written with 3rd-level characters looking for a real challenge or 5th-level characters who do not mind a few less dangerous encounters. The adventure can be modified for parties beyond this range of level (and/or size) by increasing the number of antagonists in the Obsidian Keep. Increasing the class level of the primary villain(s) will increase the challenge level of the adventure only if the party confronts the villain(s) directly (not an absolute in this adventure). Please see the "Scaling the Adventure" section for more thorough details on modifying the adventure. However, this alters the challenge-to-treasure ratio. Remember that changing the total number of monsters also changes the total number of experience points available for a given party. The adventuring party should include at least one arcane spellcaster. A cleric PC with access to endure elements spells is highly recommended; though not absolutely necessary, such a character’s presence will greatly help mitigate the problems posed by the extreme environmental conditions of this adventure.
Information in italics is for the DM only – at least initially – the players may discover some of the italicized information during the course of the adventure. It is suggested that the players be given most of the non-italicized information.
Approximately seventy years ago, Orestian, a mage of great prominence, retired to continue his study of heat, fire, and other related spells. He announced his retirement at the 23rd Festival of Fire (commemorating his defeat of a pair of green dragons which were ravaging the countryside) and further announced he would select an apprentice at the 25th Festival of Fire. He promised that his apprentice would return in to choose another apprentice at the Festival of Fire five years subsequent. This process was to continue – every five years, his apprentice would announce the new apprentice at the Festival of Fire – and in the event of his death, instead of announcing the new apprentice, his old apprentice would announce his death. He did this for several reasons - he wished for his legacy to remain alive in the world through his apprentices, he wished to have "new blood" every so often to offer a fresh view on his research, and he knew he would need apprentices to perform various household duties. He used mighty magics to raise a keep on the rim of a volcano, knowing full well that the location in and of itself would help discourage frivolous seekers of information (it also provided a wonderful setting to study fire magic). He spent a year searching for someone suitable to be his first apprentice, and settled on an attractive 19-year old woman (he of course wanted some companionship – which would include the role of consort – in his retirement). She announced the apprenticeship of another beautiful woman – this one twenty years old – five years later. After two more female apprentices, his apprentice was announced as a male (the old sage had found a consort from one of the outer planes by this time) and the apprentices were roughly evenly split between male and female from that time.
The local rulers (as well as certain other powerful individuals and organizations) have on occasion sent groups to ask the sage questions and glean advice over the intervening seventy years. In the first year, they sent three expeditions. Two turned back from the volcano, but the third returned with a map to the keep. The requests for aid became more infrequent over the years, as the rulers more or less forgot about the resources the sage had (which suited him just fine) and the last request for aid was sent eight years ago by his third apprentice (who still resided in the town). She perished of old age about two years ago.
The 100th Festival of Fire took place two weeks ago and it has been five years since the last apprentice was chosen – a young foreign man named Radinnal Kra’alin. This year, a new apprentice should have been chosen. But Radinnal never appeared at the festival. Concerned, the local ruler has procured a map from Resrov (the leader of the last expedition to the keep, which occurred eight years ago) and is now searching for a hardy adventuring band to go to the keep and inquire as to the state of the sage.
Radinnal was not actually a neophyte mage – he was a rather competent wizard in his own right. Growing up, he had a mysterious patron, whom he has never met. His patron sent a message to his family, saying that his magical schooling would be paid for and that in return, he was to learn the craft of a fire mage. Radinnal studied under the best masters for two years before a medallion arrived, sent with a note from his patron that it was a protective amulet and he was now to leave his book study and do "field work." He adventured with several bands before his travels led him to encounter the legend of the Burning Sage. Feeling that this would be what his patron wanted, he determined to apprentice himself to the Sage. He masked his identity as a competent wizard using alter self and similar spells in an attempt to gain apprenticeship. It took 11 years and four identities for his ruse to work (he was chosen his third time through the apprentice screening at the 95th Festival of Fire). He observed and learned from the Burning Sage for two years. Then, feeling that he knew more than the sage did about some of the summoning experiments, he attempted to make some alterations during a summoning ceremony. The spell went horribly awry and created a temporal anomaly – the inner keep, where the Sage and Radinnal resided, was thrown into an altered temporal state – one that is "out of phase" with the rest of reality. The Sage has since perished (finally succumbing to old age – he had artificially extended his lifespan and the temporal anomaly weakened and distorted those magics – he died about four months after the accident). Taking the keep out of phase has rendered all creatures that were in the keep at the time of the accident incorporeal and bound them within the confines of the keep. To them, the area immediately outside the keep’s external windows and doors appear as a swirling, impassable gray vortex. The continuing temporal anomaly owes its continuing existence only to the summoning circle, which has keyed itself into perpetuating the time curse instead of its original summoning function. Radinnal’s incorporeality has kept him from affecting the circle in any way, so he waits desperately for someone to come and break the spell. The Sage’s consort, Maelin (a female ghaele celestial) was understandably upset with him for his role in both the death of her lover and the creation of their mutual prison, but has come to pity him because much she sees his hatred of himself. He has ruminated on his failings and is a shattered and broken man, who blames himself for everything that has befallen the keep. She has tried to comfort him, but he feels it is only out of patronization – he feels utterly unworthy of her, knowing that she is the very incarnation of goodness and her presence only deepens his misery.
The nature of Radinnal’s mentor is unbeknownst to him. The famous Battle of Verdant Fire, which gave birth to the Festival of Fire, involved not two green dragons, but a strange pair of lovers – a green dragon and a troglodyte sorcerer who polymorphed herself into the form of a green dragon. She was horribly wounded over a large lake, and plummeted to the ground, dying from impact when she hit the water (and reverting to her necromancer form). While the Sage and townsfolk saw the dragon plummet into the water, they assumed (correctly) it had died, but could not see the transformation back into her true form. The two had a daughter who heard of the death of her parents. This hideous creature, half-dragon and half-troglodyte, spent a long time trying to figure the best way to effect revenge. She is the mysterious patron who sponsored Radinnal and subtly pushed him to pursue apprenticeship with the Burning Sage. Her mother’s sorcerous blood flows through her veins, but she has never really tried to develop it, relying lazily instead on the magic items left by her mother. The money used to pay for Radinnal’s schooling came from her father’s hoard (her bitter heart has more need for vindictiveness and revenge than for the glitter of treasure). The amulet given to Radinnal was an amulet of inescapable location, which she used to focus her scrying (using her mother’s crystal ball). She was watching when he modified the spell circle and saw the catastrophe in the keep before the crystal ball went dark (the temporal anomaly keeps her from scrying further). Assuming he (and the Sage) was dead, she moved to complete her revenge – by moving into the keep of the man who had slain her parents.
Unbeknownst to her, other forces were also watching the Sage. He had made many powerful enemies who also wanted a share of the spoils. A half-fiend bugbear named Errvikar had been dispatched to plunder the keep of the sage, arriving only a few days after she did. She had spent her time terrorizing the frightened azers and the sphinx that had lived in the keep as consultants to the sage. She slew the sphinx and waits to animate it into undeath using her mother’s necromantic staff. When Errvikar arrived with some of his allies, she suddenly found herself in a two-front battle. To make matters worse, the azers heroically decided to destroy the side entrance to the keep, collapsing it in a pile of rubble, sealing all of them in together. None of them could break through the ensorcelled front doors (which were designed for receiving guests and have now become a rather effective trap). The azers have managed to take control of the northern area of the keep. They are in a fight for survival, and have rigged mechanical traps as well as using multiple glyphs of warding to keep themselves safe. The necromancer has moved to the eastern area of the keep, while the bugbear and his minions stay in the western area of the keep. None of them dares enter the Burning Tower, which appears to be engulfed in continual swirling gray flame any more. The bugbear and necromancer were both confronted by the image of Maelin when they entered and fled in terror from the wrathful outsider, not knowing that she could not affect them in any way. The azers cannot cut their way through the forces of the necromancer and bugbear to get at the bridge. The three groups are now locked in a war for survival.
The characters are asked to investigate the failure of a legendary wizard to appear at a festival where he was to select a new apprentice. The characters make their way to his home – a keep built on the rim of a volcano, and find the outer keep inhabited by a few of the original inhabitants but mostly old enemies of the wizard. All of the groups in the keep are at war with each other and are terrified of the wizard’s tower, which overlooks the keep, because it is engulfed in swirling gray flames. As the party explores the keep and interacts with its inhabitants, they learn a few more details of the wizard and his work, as well as finding some a very strange phenomenon, a black "flame" that drips pure chill and darkness. Eventually the group makes their way to the tower, to discover that the tower’s inhabitants are cursed and that the wizard they seek is dead. The wizard’s apprentice caused a horrible magical accident that initiated the curse and killed his master and is no longer quite stable, his grief and guilt driving him somewhat over the edge. The wizard’s old lover, a celestial, also asks for the party’s help. The party is asked to destroy the magic circle maintaining the curse – only to fall under its effects themselves when they destroy the wards keeping the curse contained (these same wards incidentally keep the party away from the source of the curse). The entire scene shifts from a volcano to the para-elemental plane of ice. Having overcome heat, the party is now forced to overcome extreme cold. They travel back to a variant copy of the original keep (the keep on the volcano being made of obsidian and hideously hot, this keep being made of white opal and nastily cold) to find a means of escape. A few creatures inhabit the keep, including one who holds the group’s means of escape. Their means of escape are held by a frost giant, who is quite willing to part with the item they need, provided they help him out a little bit. The group returns to the tower, breaks the curse, and receives a reward from the wizard’s lover (and possibly the apprentice as well).
A great wizard’s new apprentice was to have been announced two weeks ago at the Festival of Fire. However, neither the wizard nor his current apprentice appeared at the festival to announce a selection (or non-selection) of a new apprentice, and now everyone in the town where he performed his legendary exploits is worried about the wizard. The party is recruited to find out what happened to the wizard (if a party member is from the area, he will probably know the legend of the wizard and may even idolize him) by the local baron. The baron provides the party with a map and small iron key with exquisite engraving work on it. He tells them that the key is needed to gain entry to the keep and must be touched to the door of the keep. He explains that touching the key to a locked door automatically triggers the key’s magic, but that this key has only a single use left, so they must not use it frivolously. He gives them a key of opening (see new magic items sidebar) with a single charge remaining if they do not have access to a knock spell.
The Obsidian Keep
The keep is finally visible ahead. It sits in front of a glowing stream of running lava. The dull red glow of a river of lava causes the keep to appear as a deep black silhouette against a red background and behind it appears to be a column of swirling gray flame – an infernal sight, to be sure. The lava appears to run behind the keep from the left side of the keep to the right side before dropping off a precipice and forming a spectacular slow-motion glowing red and yellow waterfall down the side of the mountain. The cry of what might pass for a hoarse eagle pierces the air.
The party must to cut their own path through the mountains. The volcano’s fumes and vapors mask the upper mountain in near-darkness. The party is in twilight conditions when they approach the keep unless they have their own light source. The keep itself is fashioned completely of black obsidian. As the party approaches closer, they may notice that the obsidian has blue jagged veins running through it and that there are no individual bricks – to all external appearances, the keep is carved of a single piece of obsidian and has very smooth sides. The blue veins in the rock seems to pulse slightly both in size and with varying degrees of light (never very bright – just enough to be disturbing). The air near the keep is very hot (see Appendix B - Environmental Hazards).
SIDEBAR – WANDERING MONSTERS
Due to the isolation and extremely hostile conditions, there are very few wandering monsters in the Obsidian Keep. Instead of "wandering monsters," the party may meet patrols of krenshars or skeletons. The krenshar patrols are based out of room 14, while the skeleton patrols come from room 21.
If the party eliminates one of the encounters listed here, either as a wandering monster or in its room, treat rolls for that monster as a roll of "no encounter." Remember also to adjust the monsters remaining in a room after a wandering monster encounter by deducting losses occurring in the encounter from the forces listed for the appropriate room.
Each time the party enters the main hall, roll 1d10 and consult the following table:
1 – Fiendish Krenshars (EL 3) – A patrol of 3 fiendish krenshars is moving from room 14 to room 7 and back to grab some bones to gnaw on from the sphinx skeleton. The krenshars are fully described in room 14. Losses should be deducted from the krenshars there. Krenshars: hp 13, 12, 11; see area 8 for full statistics.
2 – Azer Skeletons (EL 2) – The patrol of 6 azer skeletons is moving from room 20 to room 21 (or vice versa, as the DM sees fit). When they see humanoids (i.e., the PCs), five of them will charge the party. The remaining skeleton will try to move to room 19 (alerting Bruuhl to the fact that there is trouble – she ordered one skeleton to return to her any time the others attack something). Skeletons: hp 12, 12, 10, 9, 6, 4; see area 21 for full statistics.
3-10 – No encounter.
Areas 1-6: The Azers’ Steading
1. Main Entry
Breaking the monotony of the keep’s black walls are nearly invisible doors – invisible save for the silvery sheen laid over a few carvings, a pair of double doors appear to be the only entrance to the keep. The carvings are difficult to make out, but are highlighted by an inlay of silvery metal.
The outer doors of the keep are made of the same obsidian that comprises the rest of the keep. There are elaborate carvings in the door, with portions of the carvings inlaid in a silvery metal (mithral) as noted. The carvings depict a man in a flowing robe (the Burning Sage) using fiery magic to bring down a pair of dragons (the magic bolts fired by the man are inlaid with mithral). Next to him is a man clad in heavy plate armor wielding a sword (the sword is also inlaid with mithral). Above the carvings are Ignan runes legible to any character conversant in Ignan or succeeding at a Decipher Script check (DC 18) inlaid with mithral - these identify the scene as "the Battle of Verdant Flame." The mithral may be carved from the door – it has a Hardness of 15 and 5 hit points per ounce (a total of ten ounces of mithral may be obtained from the door). Each time the door is touched (including attempts to remove the mithral), the blue veins in the obsidian of the door pulse brightly and the character attempting the extraction receives a mild shock. Treat this as a half-strength shocking grasp spell that does 1d4 points of electricity damage, with a Reflex save (DC 14) allowed for half damage. The doors are sealed with an arcane lock spell cast by a 20th-level caster, making it extremely difficult to break through the portal (Break DC is increased to 35 due to +10 from the arcane lock). If a knock spell is used or if the key of opening (see the new magic items sidebar) obtained from the baron is touched to the doors, the arcane lock spell goes dormant for ten minutes and the doors swing silently inward. The characters feel a rush of stale air as the doors open. The characters need to provide their own light source in order to explore the keep. When they are in a position (with a light source) to see inside the room, the following should be read or summarized:
The air in this entryway is filled with all sorts of dust particles that wink and scintillate in the light. The room beyond the doors is rather sparsely furnished. Three benches cast their shadows to on the walls and floors on each side of the room. Those on the right side all appear to be of a size, while those on the left vary considerably – the bench in the center is rather small, while the two benches flanking it are quite large. A large door, which appears to be made of wood, stands on the opposite side of the room. Next to this door, by the three identical benches, stands a small lectern.
Originally intended as a small reception area for guests on business, this room was rarely used. The rush of air when the party opened the doors has disturbed much of the dust that had settled on the room and is responsible for the dust particles the party sees. The three benches on the west side of the room are all normal (human) sized. The center bench on the east side of the room is sized for a gnome or halfling (small size) while the two benches on either side of it are sized for large sized creatures (such as ogres or trolls). All of the benches are fashioned of oak with a deep red varnish. The lectern is of black wrought iron and has a book, inkwell, and quill on it. It is a sign-in book and the last entry is dated eight years ago and signed by "Resrov and Company." A Knowledge (local) check (DC 23) will allow the characters to recall that Resrov was the leader of the last group from the town to journey to the keep. Characters may take 10 or 20 on this check and if they do they should almost certainly see the doors swing shut (see Development below).
Treasure: The mithral on the doors is worth 30 gp per ounce (300 gp in total).
Development: Ten minutes after being opened, the doors become intangible, swing shut (their intangibility allows them to close if they have been spiked or barred open with physical objects, though they are unable to pass through force effects), then become tangible again as the arcane lock spell regains its efficacy. Unless the party has a spellcaster with access to a knock spell, they are trapped within the confines of the keep as unwilling prisoners.
1. /D20 System - Core Rulebook.rtf
1. /Ivrel/Core Rules/Addendums/Monster Addendum 1 [Draconians].doc
1. /A dipole speaker system/djvuso1.djvu
2. /A dipole...
|'I won't be a cruel king. I won't kill dragons and peasants. I'll love my|