View Full Version : The evolution of adventure building. (Catacombs of the Ranger King)

06-30-2008, 01:13 PM
Tamareth, you ought to post a play by play for one or more of your encounters. They give readers a much more concrete way to learn about 4e when they haven't been able to play themselves. I will do the same sometime later this week for mine.

Maelstrom and I began this conversation on a different thread but the idea is so expansive I decided to make this one. I'm a total champion for this idea as perhaps it'll help other dungeon masters with their campaigns, as well as, spark creativity as a community (which I always support).

Just a bit about my campaign before we begin. I started this world back in 2nd edition when I was in high school. It was never really fully fleshed out except for the major towns and the flavor (a mix between Ravenloft and Forgotten Realms). In 3rd edition I advanced the timeline and our old characters started a line of descendants. I hate to say it because though I did like 3rd edition I didn't really do much in the way of fleshing out my campaign world...so a week before 4th edition was released I began doing so.

06-30-2008, 01:26 PM
Catacombs of the Ranger King part 1

Let's start with the world shall we. The only place that's ever been fully realized is the area of the creasant mountains with form a natural barrier around the Kingdom of Darkfall. In the last post I told you that there is a long line of history about this place. As I've moved to California I know that my players have no clue about what came before. So this adventure I wanted to "seed" some original ideas, past adventures, and old faces in with my new group of players and their characters.

(I actually like the Forgotten Realms advancing their timeline a hundred years or more...so I stole that for my own and said that it's been 400 years since the Ranger King "my old gm character" ruled this land)

Darkfall: (Military City) Large City; Alignment: Good; 40,000 gp limit; ; Population 21,277, integrated (Elf 40%, Human 30%, Dragonborn 25%, Other 5%)

Right at the end of 3.5 an adventure was released by Wizards called, "Tomb of the Forgotten King" I never had a chance to run it and I liked the map and some of the room concepts...so let's give it some Twilight Realm 4th Edition Splash shall we?!

Adventure Background: Long ago the Elven Ranger King Tamerath Dranzara died in a great battle towards the twilight years of his life. His adventuring companions constructed a large catacomb as a monument of both their adventuring career together and in his honor. Through the years one by one of his fellow adventuring companions also died and requested to be buried here as well. The catacombs were sealed off and received powerful magical protection from the clerics of The Battlemaiden, Lady Alecia (whom also rose to power when she traveled beside them. If you are going to run this game or like the idea for a 4th edition campaign I'd recommend changing this goddess to Pelor or the Raven Queen. Both of these gods mix well with this current adventure).

As a tradition the current King Aunduin Dranzara and Queen Anatessa Dranzara laid down that Darkfall fortify their position and borders by training their people to better defend themselves and their kingdom. All youths native to Darkfall must spend their 18th year in the Darkfall guard. As years passed it became a rite of passage for the last day of their 18th year be spent patrolling the Darkfall Cemetery. The commanders thought it best to ensure that every citizen know the dangers of the graveyard, their haunting nature, and what would happen if the citizens of Darkfall took the danger there too lightly.

What the Pcs will know: Throughout time the dead occasionally rose to be cut down by the guardsmen on their last nights and anything that couldn’t be handled by the guard was reported efficiently to their commanders. All until two nights ago when a party of guardsman were attacked. With most of the cities military forces staged for attack the Goblinoid Slaver City of Gemuult (never existed before now...but it's definately a seed for a later adventure) it is left to the Lord’s Council to hire mercenary help. The attack is the talk of town and everyone native to Darkfall and worth their salt knows the danger the graveyard can bring if left uncheck.

06-30-2008, 01:49 PM
Catacombs of the Ranger King part 2

Because I'm a huge storyteller gamemaster I have a lot of flavor text in my campaigns. I'm going to skip posting those...as this post would be 9 pages long. But I will tell you a summary of what happens.

Darkfall Encounter 1: Zombie Incursion (450XP)

It all begins with a Halfling running for his life with a large group of undead following in his wake. He's bloodied and, even for a halfing, terrified for his life. The PCs are sitting in one of Darkfall's famous taverns The Emerald Unicorn.

(Wizards of the Coast has a really cool java program that will generate taverns on the fly. I came across it as a fluke while making this adventure and wanted to post the text below. (after changing them a bit to suit the campaign).

The Emerald Unicorn
Bartender: Kierana Female tiefling, 1st-level NPC warlord
Interesting Clientele: A good place to hear rumors of adventure, popular guardsman hangout
Accommodations: Good (a small private room with one bed, some amenities and a covered chamber pot) for 5 sp/day
Today's Menu:
Breakfast: Beef steak, Soft cheese, Duck eggs, Strawberries, Coarse rye bread (cost 6sp).
Lunch: Sausage, Quail eggs, Pumpkin, Dates (cost 8sp).
Supper: Mixed grill, Broad beans, Chick peas, Sea oats, Fruitcake (cost 1gp).
Snack: Curds, Apple, Rice (cost 4sp).

ANYWAY....as the PCs sit down to relax Kierana screams as she looks outside she sees a friend of hers (could it be the halfling *gasp in anticipation*) run through the gates falling to his face. The guards rush to close the gates but the zombie horde that follows said friend-of-Kierana (yes...it's the halfling...)over take them. Enter the PCs.

2 Zombies (lvl 2 brutes)
8 Zombie Rotters (lvl 1 minions)

I started this encounter with my exp budget (listed in DMG) and bought my monsters out of that for a normal encounter for a party of level 1s. Honestly this wasn't meant to be a hard fight. I wanted to give the players a cinematic experience of fighting a small horde of zombies. I will say they went down faster than I planned with a group of 5 so you may want to toughen this up a bit for your home group.

06-30-2008, 02:38 PM
Catacombs of the Ranger King part 3

After they have bested the zombie incursion they find out from Kierana and any surviving guardsman that the halfling was a part of a squad that were spending their last nights of their 18th year in the cemetary. Tripper (the halfling) is a stand up citizen that hasn't ever made it a habit of running in a fight...and for the amount of undead that passed through the gates last night...it's worth checking into.

Kierana: Though she's the owner of the Emerald Unicorn, this tiefling barmaid is no mere flavor background npc. Kierana spent her 18th year in the Darkfall guard and she advanced through the ranks quickly. After her 18th year she stayed on in a voluntary basis helping train new recruits. The Emerald Unicorn is popular because of this reason and she still has a commanding respect from the guardsman as a skilled leader. (Kierana is a heroic classed warlord lvl 1)

Furthermore Kierana called for a member of Darkfall's Lord's Council to come to explain the situation. The Lord (Lord Pater Deviir) comes fast...as the Pc's find out...his twin children (Karaya and Thogren) were on patrol with Tripper last night as well. Lord Pater is a tiefling as well. Kierana knows Thogren (She had a thing with him awhile back...but she's bitter over it) and Karaya (She only knows she is a spoiled noble socialite and every time they have talked it hasn't been a pleasant experience).

Lord Pater is willing to pay the PCs 50 gold to at least go to the cemetery and check things out...but 300 if they find and return his children. (Main Quest)

Other Quests:

Montessa Erransea Cleric of the Raven Queen has overheard the Halfling talking in his sleep and is worried that the seals warding the King’s tomb to be broken. She requests that a small ritual be performed to better ward the seal till more of her order can gather to seal it more securely. If the PC's accept this quest they are given some ritual components (chalk, prayers, and the like)

Yukiri Chordiil Cleric of Pelor has also overheard the Halfling and would be interested in the Holy Symbol of Lord Alexander if they come across it. They will be paid 50 gp per party member

Larishea of the League of Independent Arcanists seeks to buy any magic items from tomb that the party has no need for.

Joherra Colworn of the Lords Council would be interested in any information they come across regarding the Cult of The Hallowed Heart.

Cult of the Hallowed Heart Background: This cult moved into Darkfall only recently. It follows the teachings of The Raven Queen, though they have modified it slightly. Without giving away too much at this time it is spreading throughout the city and most of it's members are younger.

(Please don't take this badly or negative in any way but my inspiration drew from the Grundge style from my youth (which I totally was a part of back then) or the Goth style that I see nowendays).

The Cult has NOT done anything wrong in Darkfall. In fact many of them feel that since death is a natural part of life that they should live each day to it's full. The only reason Joherra Colworn is interested is because 1: it's began to spread even into the "noble" families. 2: She doesn't know much about it at all. and 3: She's secretly knows that Lord Deviir's twin children hung around friends of the Hallowed Heart Cultist.

Note: In my campaign of 5 adventurers (fighter, paladin, cleric, wizard, and rogue) we covered all the roles. In the beginning the cleric was able to revive the rogue to get his perspective on the events that transpired at the cemetary.

What happened at the cemetary: Tripper (halfling again), Arven (eladrin), Terrc (dragonborn), Thogren (tiefling), and Karaya (tiefling) were spending their last night on the guard in the cemetary (as the tradition). Nothing exciting happened throughout the day and Thogren and Karaya had just gotten back from their patrols (not uncommon as the twins always stayed close to each other throughout their service). The party had made camp and started their dinner when the ground began to shake and the dead came from the darkness dragging the twins away to a mausoleum of the Ranger King. Tripper, Terrc, and Arven followed after them cutting their way through the undead legion. They made their stand on the stairs of the mausoleum. Terrc was the first to fall and he was devoured right in front of Tripper. Arven tried to gain an advantage by fighting the undead at the door. Tripper was torn up pretty badly so he made his escape to warn Darkfall. He's ashamed that he left...but he tells the full story reguardless of it.

The rogue through a streetwise roll (I set the DC high 25) was able to uncover that Lord Deviir's children (Karaya and Thogren) frequented Cult of the Hallowed Heart hang outs. Thogren is an aspiring paladin of the Raven Queen (not lvl 1 just yet) and plays loosly with the tenants of the faith mostly using his knowledge to try and seduce female cultists. Karaya embraced the Cult though and has even helped in ceremonies.

An Apology: I'm sorry everyone. I know I've posted a lot now on this topic and haven't really given you the encounters (which was the entire reason for the post in the first place...) but as I said...I'm a story teller and I don't think the adventure to come will make sense if I didn't give out these details. BUT on the plus side it'll show you how I changed The Barrow of The Forgotten King adventure to suit my campaign, which I feel other Dungeon Masters will appreciate. This was a major part of the roleplaying section of my adventure to set up the feel.

06-30-2008, 02:54 PM
This is very good! Keep it coming! I'm anxious to find out how the PCs fair.

I will say they went down faster than I planned with a group of 5 so you may want to toughen this up a bit for your home group.

Yeah, sticking to encounter level equal to players seems a bit easy so far. I think I'm going to make most encounters a couple levels above the players from here on out.

06-30-2008, 03:00 PM
Yeah, sticking to encounter level equal to players seems a bit easy so far. I think I'm going to make most encounters a couple levels above the players from here on out.

Agreed! For the rest of the "dungeon" I'm going to have to step it up a bit. Lol Especially with a paladin AND cleric in the party :)

06-30-2008, 03:28 PM
Catacombs of the Ranger King part 4

Alright, now we get into the meat of the adventure. The quests are laid out before them, the risks are great, and the party is off.

Our parties rogue went scouting while everyone finished up buying adventuring equipment and the like. I played up the scene saying the closer he traveled the road to the cemetery the more the necrotic effects could be seen. Gnarled misshapen trees and flora, no animals, etc.

When the party reached the cemetery together they could see a slight plume a smoke (the campsite), a ruined tower, or go directly for the mausoleum if they wanted. After they entered the cemetary gates slammed shut and voices whispered in their minds (pure effect...no encounter building here)

The party checked out the camp first:
It seems this was the camp that the guardsman set a night ago. A burnt rabbit lays charred over the fire pit. Some torches are placed in a perimeter around the camp on longer sticks but a few were knocked over and broke. (A thorough search reveals a dagger that was used to skin the rabbit with blood and meat still clinging to it as well as a light shield, a halberd, 5 bedrolls, 10 rations, and 10 unused torches.)

(Perception DC 20) there are imprints on the ground showing that two people were dragged by a group of humanoids. A battle was fought here but the also in the direction of the dragged victims…strangely other than a few drops of blood there are no bodies along the dragged path.

The party was going to go directly to the masoleum but my fiancee' (she's really digging 4th edition and it's her 4th game session so far) says to the party

Key Quote for the Encounter: "Why would he design a ruined tower for no reason? He spent like two weeks making the adventure....OF COURSE THERE'S SOMETHING THERE!"

So interlude :
Ruined Tower (xp 450) - the last remaining structure from the original kingdom of Darkfall this tower has weathered the most deadly of assaults.

In this tower I played out a scene from my past adventure. Long ago there was a group of Darkfall knights that turned against the king. I named this group the Hand and said that the party entered and found a knight who tells the party that they killed his dogs....He turns and a he speaks to them as if they were the Hand member that killed him and his watchdogs.....he attacks.

1 skeleton (lvl 3 soldier)
2 gravehounds (lvl 3 brutes)

Note: The party was split at the beginning of this encounter. The paladin was the first to enter, followed by the cleric and wizard. The rest came in the second round (though I feel I should have made it 3 rounds now and let the 3 of them sweat a little bit). Again...I misjudged the party. After about 4 or 5 rounds of combat, the amount of radiant damage the paladin and cleric dishes out is incredible so the skeleton went down fast. The wizard thunderwaved the last gravehound into the wall about 3 or 4 squares away killing it so it didn't get it's last "death" bite power.

treasure: using the treasure parcels from the DMG I awarded this encounter1 jade gem (100gp), 200 silver pieces (parcel 8 for party level 1 pg 126) placed in a locked chest in this room

With this done the party ventured to the mausoleum. :)

07-02-2008, 03:42 PM
Catacombs of the Ranger King part 5

In part 1 of my post I explained that I'm using the maps and some of the encounters of the published adventure "Barrow of the Forgotten King". Little did I know that my players ran part of that adventure so I'm thinking it's a good thing that I changed most of the encounters and only a couple of battles they will be familiar with. Also the "dungeon" map is relatively linear so I doubt they'll miss anything I have placed. Before we begin I'll place the stat block for the features you'll find throughout most of the catacombs. (I'm using most of the features the module printed. With only minor changes to suit my campaign)

Mausoleum / Catacomb Features:
Illumination: Unless otherwise noted, areas of the mausoleum / catacombs are dark
Stone Doors: 4 inches thick; hardness of 8; 60hp; break DC 28; Listen Dcs increased by 5 through a door. Unless otherwise specified, every door in the catacombs is closed and locked - dc 25 Open Lock check to open. Keys found inside mausoleum open doors of areas 1-3 but none past that.
Stone Vault Doors: 8 inches thick; hardness of 8; 120 hp; break DC 28; A successful Strength check of DC15 is required to open any of the vault doors, but none are locked
Walls: The walls of the Mausoleum / Catacombs are masonry that’s about 1 foot thick - hardness 8, 90 hp, and a break DC 35per 10 foot-by-10 foot section. Climb DC 25.
Ceiling: uniformly 10ft high. Too smooth to be climbed by creatures that don’t have a climb speed.

The PCs made their way to the Mausoleum of the Ranger King. They notice an elf looking sadly before dissappearing inside. I really played up the scene to read to the player. Apart from this whole cemetery filled with darkness...this Mausoleum seems untouched by the darkness...aside from the body spawed out over the steps. lol They turned over the body to see the elf that had stood at the door looking at them only previously. This is Arven of the original party.

The inside of the mausoleum wasn't much of a puzzle. This wasn't designed as a "Barrow" from the original module but as a crypt/catacombs style that I was designing for this adventure. The PC's saw the sarcophagus of the Ranger King in the middle of the small mausoleum and through a perception check was able to determine that if you raised his hands by puling up on the bow and then turned the bow clockwise it triggered the sarcophagus to slide.


Encounter 2 Lower Mausoleum: (400 XP)
2 Zombie
6 Decrepit Skeletons

The original module had the pc's decending into a preparation chamber for the dead. Tables are lined up on both sides having a continual "gentle repose" spell in effect. Though the original module had more story in this room it didn't work for my campaign...it also called for only 3 skeletons so I increased it to 6. The zombies attacked my party as soon as they reached the bottom and stepped nearest them. This battle was simple. Though the archers did unload a stream of arrows that peppered the rogue. Again I found myself thinking that the adventure so far was overly easy. I was waiting to see what they would do in the rooms to come. In the room also lied the torn corpse of the dragonborn Terrc...who was probably dragged here by the zombies shortly before the switch reset closing them inside here.
3. Side Tomb

I REALLY liked this room's atmosphere of the original module. In fact I'd say that though nothing really transpires here it really adds to the feel of what I see Tamerath's crypt to be. In my old campaign Tamerath had a lot of followers and valient knights under his command. I could see that most of them would want to be buried here. I changed the names of the original two mages first names to match that of a couple of mages I knew in World of Warcraft that were part of my guild. (useless piece of information I know..but which added to the flavor for me)

This passage has the statue of a human woman set in a niche on the northern wall. She is dressed in robes, and her arms and face are held upward as if toward the sky. On either side of her, fountains gurgle with what appears to be fresh water. The passage smells like rain. Directly across the hall from the statue is a closed stone door, and farther down the passage is an archway on the northern wall. Beyond the archway, grave vaults like those you’ve seen before occupy all sides of the passage. Many have been opened and apparently looted.

The water in the fountain is fresh and clean (Arcana DC 20 to see that it is a conjuration spell at work powering the fountain). The door to the south is engraved with the names Alecianna and Telan Mikolos.(History DC 20 identifies the pair as wizards who served Darkfall a century or so ago. They were fascinated with constructs.)

Treasure: In the grave vaults scattered through the bone and dirt is a gold chain necklace and bracelet (20 gp each). Treasure parcel 10 in the DMG

What I didn't like of this encounter was the Side Room...I felt it was too congested and cluttered so I widened the room (10 extra squares total) and put an optional boss fight here. The original adventure called for these little clockwork menders that would take care of this room and keep invaders out. Though I liked that idea I didn't see any golems like them in the Monster Manual...and I thought they'd fit more of a minion role anyway...what we needed here was something that would deal damage and keep the PC's occupied....So as the gears of my mind turned I saw this. An elite iron defender (listed in the MM) but give him a "double bite power" (used the Ranger's Twin Strike at-will power, with a fighter's "marking power"). The feature about this iron defender that I liked the most was his breath weapon (a copy of a dragonborn's encounter power that would recharge when bloodied). For the clockwork menders I believe I used the stirge as my base monster but changed it to a minion (1hp and straight up damage (4) instead of a "blood suck" power). BUT the thing I'm most proud of for these little minions is that they could either attack OR heal Steal Trap (my elite iron defender) for 1d8 points of damage.

Encounter 3. (optional boss fight) (750 XP)
Steel Trap Elite Iron Defender Level 3 Elite Soldier
Medium natural animate (construct, homunculus)
Initiative +5 Senses: Perception +6; dark vision
HP 94; Bloodied 47
AC 20; Fortitude 18, Reflex 17, Will 15
Immune disease, poison
Speed 6
† Bite (standard; at-will)
+8 vs. AC: 1d8 + 3 damage.
† Double Bite (standard; at-will)
+8 vs. AC: 1d8 damage per successful hit
æFurnace Fire (minor; encounter; Fire; Recharge when bloodied)
Close Blast 2 +10 vs. Reflex 1d6+2 damage
Combat Challenge
When using double bite Steel Trap can mark two targets (-2 to atks that don’t focus on him)
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Str 16 (+4) Dex 15 (+3) Wis 11(+1)
Con 15 (+3) Int 5(-2) Cha 8(+0)

6 Clockwork Menders Level 1 Minion
Medium natural animate (construct, homunculus)
Initiative +7 Senses: Perception +0; dark vision
HP 1
AC 16; Fortitude 12, Reflex 13, Will 10
Immune disease, poison
Speed Fly 6 (hover)
† Sting (standard; at-will)
+6 vs. AC: 4 damage.
* Repairing Touch (standard; at-will)
Touch repairs Steel Trap of 1d8 damage
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Str 8 (-1) Dex 16 (+3) Wis 10(+0)
Con 10 (+0) Int 1(-5) Cha 4(-3)

Treasure: One magic item lvl 4 (preferably wizard items). Treasure parcel 2 in the DMG found in the sarcophagus of Alecianna.

In Play: This was the battle I was actually waiting on. The PC's face their first elite monster (who's a lvl 3 to begin with). In play the rogue of our party was the first one in and immediately slide the lid of one of the sarcophagi...which triggered the constructs in this room. The stir...I mean clockwork menders flew from their nooks in the wall and surrounded him as well as Steel Trap. Things started to look grim for the pcs who had to kill off a couple of minions before entering. Iron Trap refocused his attention to the Fighter and Paladin of the group keeping them locked on him. The breath weapon worked nicely but I could have went with more of a damage output by Steel Trap. I felt he was a great idea but needed beefing up. The Clockwork Menders worked beautifully and the players caught on and tried to take them out instead of steel snap. The parties wizard used thunderwave on the party and steel snap....which was his second or third time doing this in the same game...which was hilarious but also raised the question for me (what happens to blown back characters...do they do damage to each other if one passes his save..and stands firm while others in front of him gets blown through his square? And if characters are blown through to the square of a threatening enemy...do they get attacks of opportunity)...in this situation the rogue and steel snap went flying smacking off the nearby walls and statues taking 1d8 points of damage...The encounter was really fun (at least for me who was seeing how it played out). The party went through all their healing spells and I THINK they all went through their daily and encounter powers...so that was good..as that was what I was expecting. After they looted they closed themselves back inside the side room and took an extended rest.

DM Impressions: This was my first adventure I had the chance to DM in 4th edition. The ease of building encounters is astounding to me as I used to spend even longer than I do already (mostly because I like storytelling as I posted early on). Building creatures from scratch is fun but as a new DM to 4th I underestimated the party. In the DMG they explain for a normal encounter you should take the party's level and make monsters out of that...but I've seen in practice that a party can take monsters at least 3 levels higher without too much difficulty (especially if there are less monsters than characters). This may be an error on my part BUT everyone seemed to have a great time and I'm looking forward to my encounters to come in a couple of weeks.

07-03-2008, 07:30 AM
Steel Trap Elite Iron Defender Level 3 Elite Soldier
6 Clockwork Menders Level 1 Minion

These guys are great! Very nice synergy. I could imagine some pretty fun higher-level encounters with multiple Steel Traps down the road. Add in some kind of Minion factory type thing that is producing them at regular intervals that the players have to shut down with a skill challenge, and you've got yourself an encounter for the history books.

The ease of building encounters is astounding to me

Fully agree. You have a lot more time and tools to work on those encounters and make them unique, and it takes less time so you have more to think and improve. Very elegant system.

07-03-2008, 10:20 AM
Very cool encounter. Glad to hear things went well for you as the DM. Awaiting the next adventure...

07-05-2008, 11:55 AM
Very cool encounter. Glad to hear things went well for you as the DM. Awaiting the next adventure...

Thanks for the support Webhead! Definately will be posting the next session when next we'll play. The way I see it is if I can help other Dungeon Masters feel more comfortable by having my experience to go by then it'll only strengthen our community as a whole.

These guys are great! Very nice synergy. I could imagine some pretty fun higher-level encounters with multiple Steel Traps down the road. Add in some kind of Minion factory type thing that is producing them at regular intervals that the players have to shut down with a skill challenge, and you've got yourself an encounter for the history books.

Thanks Maelstrom! I was really satisfied with this encounter. Your idea for the "Steel Trap" factory would be a great adventure idea simply because it would give me a chance to tweak out Steel Trap and his Clockwork Menders a bit more. I thought they made a really cool "Optional Boss". The thing I really liked about your idea was the "shutting down the factory skill challenge." I think you'll really get a kick out of the next session I'll post.

07-21-2008, 03:53 AM
Catacombs of the Ranger King part 6

So for this week's game I wanted to kick things off with a really nice skill challenge/battle. I had a hard time designing a skill challenge at first so I wanted to post the full encounter as I have wrote it to help other Dungeon Masters in their crafting

4. Ritual Room (875+ 25 per minion exp)
As you enter this room you are assaulted by flashes of people dying. The agony of people throughout time and civilizations you’ve never witnessed playing in the theater of your mind’s eye. As you enter this strange room you notice various alcoves in this strange burial chamber. In the center of the room there are a couple of lit candles and smears of blood inside a ring of chalk. There seems to be a biting wind in this room blowing bits of debris around. You all feel unease.

Arcana Skill Check(trained only) DC 15 - You notice the ring of chalk and blood smears as a conjuration ritual of some variety. DC 25+ : You recognize the ritual as that of a warding removal spell. Necrotic energies are flowing strongly around you and you fear that if it should persist what it will bring down upon you and the people of Darkfall.

Religion Skill Check(trained only) DC 15 - You notice the ring of chalk and blood smears as a ritual and markings prayers to Vecna DC 25+: From what you study around the room a ritual of dire evil was performed here in Vecna’s honor. It speaks of opening a wellspring to the Shadowfell and the darkness that lies beyond. You feel the darkness spreading and Necrotic energies are flaring out from the circle. This is more than enough to channel life into the endless supply of corpses in this room and the chambers beyond it.

Setup: Using the Warding Ritual from town the party fights to break the ritual of desecration and restore a small amount of warding to the catacombs.
Level: Level 2
Complexity: 4 (requires 10 successes before 5 failures)
Primary Skills: arcana, history, perception, religion.
* Arcana (DC 20): Using your arcane energies you power the spell. Conjuration magick’s swirl about you as you redraw the wardings and mutter in tongues thought long lost. You feel a chill in the air as the necrotic energies snap at you in anger (summons 2 lvl 1 minions one turn later (roll 1d6 for spawn points for perception checks), or on a failed check the loss of one healing surge.) Read: "As you struggle to retrace the wardings on the floor the necrotic winds lance through you. You feel a coldness creep into your body that steals the very life from your being. Around you, the laughter of children and the resounding deepness of demonic voices laugh."
* History (DC 20): You recall some information regarding Tamerath’s many battles against he undead and how they were overcome granting a +2 bonus on your choice of the next arcana check or religion check.
* Perception (DC 15): Spots the undead spawn points on a failed arcana or religion check.
* Religion (DC 15): Your prayers to (god/s) charge the warding circle. As the necrotic wind blows it struggles in vain to snuff your candles or steal your life you adamantly pray to the heavens and the circle radiates a bright white light driving back the darkness. (burst of 1 destroys minions, heals 1d8 hp to party (on a roll of 20 target regains a healing surge), or on a failed check the read: You struggle with your prayers as debris and fragments of bone lance your skin. The circle darkens and radiates a dark purple light. It whispers into your mind, compelling you to siphon the life from one of your allies. Even as you cringe you see your ally drop for a moment in pain as his life is drained.(burst 1 of necrotic damage 1d8 hp, and you choose an ally who then loses a healing surge)

Success: In addition to the amount of minions they slay (+25 per) they receive 625 exp.
The Burial Chamber fills with a warm yellow light. From the center of the warding circle a radiant spirit appears. A solider of battle she wears golden chain mail and carries a spectral sword glowing with a radiant light. When she fully manifests she smiles warmly and kneels before all of you, “The spirits of King’s catacombs thank you with our eternal souls. If you hadn’t rescued us I feel the energies from the Shadowfell would have persisted until we walked these corridors again looking for the flesh of the living to sustain us. Such would have been a horror to behold. Rest easy my friends…for we shall protect this tomb from our brethren buried beyond just outside our walls. For now rest easy and let the light of our hearts revive your spirit. (restores hp to full & short break renewing encounter powers). The spirit persists sword drawn at the ready in the center of the room in quiet meditation.

Failure:In addition to the minions they face, they also battle Lady Emaciated
The Burial Chamber glows from purple to brilliant crimson as the necromantic winds take shape in the middle of the desecrated circle. At first the image is wondrous as it’s the form of a maiden dressed for battle. She holds out her arms as if welcoming you into her presence and releasing her from the bondage of the circle. She smiles warmly. Her radiant light soon grows dark and her smile turns into a twisted grin of razor sharp teeth. Her skin tightens and she screams in pain and anguish, “LOOK WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO ME?!” When her transformation is complete it strikes fear into even your veteran hearts. “Vecna orders your deaths…the god will drink of your blood this night..”

Lady Emaciated Solo Phantom Warrior Level 4 Solo Soldier
Medium shadow humanoid (undead)
Initiative +8 Senses: Perception +13; dark vision
HP 208; Bloodied 104
AC 18; Fortitude 18, Reflex 17, Will 18
Immune disease, poison; Resist: Insubstantial
Saving Throws: +5
Speed 6, fly 6 (hover); phasing
Action Points: 2
† Phantom Sword (standard; at-will) ¨ Necrotic
+9 vs. Reflex: 1d8 + 2 plus 1d6 necrotic damage
æ Necrotic Wind (standard; recharge 5 or 6) ¨ Necrotic
Close Burst 1 +10 vs. Reflex 2d6+2 damage
† Ghostly Possession (standard; recharge 6) ¨ Charm
Target must be a living humanoid; + 5 vs. Will; Lady Emaciated enters the target‘s space and is removed from play, and the target is dominated (save ends). Lady Emaciated can use this power against only one creature at a time. When the target is no longer dominated, or when Lady Emaciated chooses to end her ghostly possession (a free action), She reappears in a square of her choice adjacent to the target.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Str 14 (+4) Dex 12 (+3) Wis 11(+2)
Con 12 (+3) Int 10(+2) Cha 14(+4)
When Defeated:
She falls to her knees and her sword clatters to the ground. Her insubstantial form solidifies and she looks up at the rest of you with her hollow eyes, “Forgive me….” As she looks at the circle and tears well up shortly before fear enters her eyes, “NO!!! Please Vecna! BE MERCIFUL!” as dark spirits rise and rip her apart right before your eyes…dragging her remains into the darkness of the warding circle.

In Play: I know that many DMs will scoff at me for this but as this was our first 4th Edition skill challenge I told them exactly what the object of the game was. That this was a puzzle room and they'd need to use their skills as well as their tactics in battle to carry them through it. The Cleric and Paladin rolled religion to check things out...they found out the above mentioned flavor text. They began concentrating on the circle and using their checks to redraw the lines, mutter prayers to their gods, etc. While the npc wizard tried to use his arcane ability to power the circle and recharge it with warding.

DM Impressions: As a DM I found that I should have spawned minions every round rather than only when someone passed on their skill checks (they were rolling low...resulting in less minions...and a fighter and rogue standing there doing nothing). I regretted this as I saw it more action packed in my head when I was designing it. ....Hindsight huh? Well I'll know what to do next time and I think it'll be better thought out and with a better design. They did indeed fail with their totals being 4 successes and 5 failures.

The Boss battle with Lady Emaciated was great! I think they really enjoyed that I saw also I could've probably either put out additional minions to have them fight or increase her damage output a bit. Her Possessing skill was really great...but in play I rolled horribly and only possessed the npc wizard...which they killed...everyone else I just seemed to be wasting her round possessing and not damaging. So she needs a little work BUT I was really happy with this encounter all the same. I did get some constructive advise from a player saying that the boss was cool but the encounter would have been a little more intense if there were more minions and more spawn points for him to focus on. (DM Thought: "DONE...I know what this guy likes now...I'll focus on giving him more of that in the future")

I want to note that as mentioned before I am using the map to Burrow of the Forgotten King and this was supposed to be the beholder puzzle room...I think it was improved on greatly with what I did here.

Encounter 5 Staircase
The original module called for a couple of skeletal wolves to attack the party with a steep staircase leading down to a ogre zombie. While I hopped to the task to recreate the wolves I decided it'd run a little better for me if I made this a simple encounter with monsters of different roles.

2 skeletal wolves (skirmishers)
4 zombies (brutes)
1 corruption corpse (ranged artillery)

In Play: player got the drop on the wolves and alerted the rest of the party so they weren't surprised by them. The zombies provided excellent cover and did their jobs while the corruption corpse threw pieces of it's necrotic charged flesh at the party. It was a cool and short encounter. Did exactly what I made it for.

Encounter 6 The Auditorium
So here is the first chunk of the quests they came for. They were sent here to find the tiefling twins of Lord Pater Deviir....unfortunately for them this was already planned for by our enemy leader. This is also the first time the party sees there are "alive" forces at work trying to bring about some dire circumstances to the cursed city of Darkfall. So let's get to it shall we. I forsaw this room as an auditorium thinking that this would be a good place to hold ceremonies and speak on behalf of the dead before they were buried inside the catacombs. For me this also is a little joke I thought of in my mind. As what if the twins were actually doppelgangers acting on a stage before the pcs. So it's a staged play for a planned event that the enemy sees happening....so the question is...did the enemy guess right?

In play:
8 goblin cutters (on and around stage)
4 goblin sharpshooters (sniping positions on the balcony)
2 goblin skullcleavers (on stage)
1 goblin picador (D&D 4th edition controller mini that carries a harpoon..really cool little guy)
2 Doppelganger sneaks (our actors for this play held in a net by the picador)

So the PC's enter stealthly and head up the balconies to try to get the drop on the goblins. They encounter the sharpshooters and make their surprise round on them. The only player down in the hall is a paladin, who fires a bolt and kills one of the minions. Surprise round over they then try to swam her, but the cleric uses a daily power to make a guardian on the lower floor that protects her and helps dispatch minions. The room is taken care of pretty well. I'm going to have to read up on Rogues though...else they are capable at doing crazy amounts of damage each round.

DM Impressions: Okay so this is how I pictured our actors. doppelganger #1 (playing Thogren, renamed dg1 for this talk) is a smart and calculating enemy. He is going to join the party under the impression of "Payback" to the enemy and at the first moment when they seem to have the most problem he's going to turn on them. Meanwhile doppelganger #2 (playing Caraya, renamed dg2) is nervious and doesn't want to hold this guise for long. Her plan was to free herself during the goblin battle and help by making hit and fade attacks at the party....but seeing the PC's tear up on the goblins she is urged by Thogren to keep her cool and wait for a better time) So the party collects "the twins" and wants to head out back to town and get their reward before diving deeper into the dungeon where they might be killed. Dg1 is cool with this...as another target of his was to further this deception by taking out Lord Pater Deviir. Dg2 though.....wants to run...wants to escape and the idea of being handed over to a Lord of Darkfall that will see through her guise as she didn't spend an abundant time with the real Caraya to imitate her fully. So the party is taking them back....but the paladin jokes...and keeps probing them with questions...things were beginning to unravel but the paladin was going to let it go till the just start to relax their guard and Dg2 stabs the paladin and tells Dg1 to run. They cut him down...and beat her down for interrogation. What will our players learn? What dark secrets lay in wait ahead....and finally after hearing that the players ran through the original module and are doing their best not to metagame the room layouts....I've decided to do the rest of the dungeon from scratch. So keep posted loyal readers for the next installment of EVOLUTION OF ADVENTURE BUILDING. lol....cue dramatic credit music.

07-21-2008, 05:04 AM
4. Ritual Room (875+ 25 per minion exp)

Talk about dramatic tension! Pretty cool encounter.

In Play: I know that many DMs will scoff at me for this but as this was our first 4th Edition skill challenge I told them exactly what the object of the game was.

The Information Imperitive in the DMG tells you to do exactly what you did. It all depends on the players of course (some people might like hunting in the dark for how to do something), but usually its no fun to have no idea how to accomplish something.

Of course you could reveal that information more "in game" by having them do low DC skill checks to reveal clues about what skills might best be used.

As a DM I found that I should have spawned minions every round rather than only when someone passed on their skill checks...They did indeed fail with their totals being 4 successes and 5 failures.

Sounds pretty intense as is! Very nice atmospheric tricks to get the players into it. I know I would have said "Oh crap" on the last failure...

but in play I rolled horribly and only possessed the npc wizard...which they killed...

Eek! Sounds like a hook for fallout from the town... "Sorry, your wizard friend died, and we killed him"

doppelganger #1 ... is a smart and calculating enemy... doppelganger #2 ... is nervious and doesn't want to hold this guise for long.

Very cool use of dopplegangers! Nice job by the Paladin exposing them.

07-21-2008, 04:52 PM
The Ritual Room I'm definately the most proud of. I enjoyed running it. I also was inspired as I wrote it thinking I'd make more use of traps, hazards, and interesting combat encounters.