Greetings to all . I've been lurking on the forums for a couple of months now and finally have something worth posting. I'm new to DnD, having started with a completely green group only a few months ago with the Red Box set. It was my first experience with a tabletop and I've had a blast up to this point. Due to circumstances, it looks like I'll be taking up the reins as the main DM for the group.
We had orignally intended to do the Thunderspire Labrynth module next, but decided to give some of our other players the chance to DM with some of the shorter campaigns we obtained while picking up some of the DnD books. Thus far we have completed The Red Box, The Cairne of the Winter King, and are currently working on The Reavers of Harkenworld (this is the campaign the other players are testing their DMing skills on in turn). With Thunderspire Labrynth being a bit more challenging than I believe the group can handle atm, I decided to take them on a custom campaign in Fallcrest. I was drawn to the Tower of Waiting while reading up on Fallcrest in the DMG. It looked like an excellent way to give the players some experience in how storytelling should work, a chance to do some RPing with the NPCs of the city (something we did very little of in the Winter King book,) and a good opportunity to gain a permanent residence/base.
I've been working on the backstory, map, and flow of combat for several weeks and have browsed the forums in seach of good ideas to challenge the players in and out of combat. I would like any opinions, tips, tricks or what-have-you in making this a fun and memorable experience for our group.
Currently the group is ranges from 5 regulars plus the DM and 2 other who come depending on whether circumstances allow. We are all level 8 atm, and I expect for them to be that once my campaign gets started in about 3 weeks. The party composition varies as soem players are trying out different classes to see what they like. Once I start this campaign though I will have them picking a class to stick with. Without making your read more of this rambling, here is what I've come up with so far.
The Tower of Waiting was a prison for beings too well connected to be executed before the days of the Bloodspear War. It is here that a demon-worshipping princess was imprisoned. The ruler of Fallcrest had hoped that locking her away would remove her as a threat to the citizens of the Nentir Vale. However, he had acted too late. The princess had made a pact with a demon and was too dangerous to be left alive.
Moments before her execution, she vanished and a demonic mist forced the guards out of the prison. The prisoners were left to die as the guards ran to save themselves. Due to the pact with the demon she was saved, but this came at a price. She was killed and raised as an undead spellcaster. It has been many decades since this ocurred. She has not been idle during this time.
It was she who started the Bloodspear War. She whispered of power into the ears of the most powerful tribes of orcs. Using her power, they were turned to her cause and cut a swath of destruction across the Nentir Vale, carrying out her plans for vengeance. To her dismay, the people of the Vale persisted in the wake of their kingdoms rending. She has since worked on her plan to return to Fallcrest and destroy those who had stood against her.
In a work of ultimate irony, she intends to spread from the place of her delayed execution and raze Fallcrest to the ground. With the support of both demons and the undead her plan may come to fruition. Many of the steps for her return were put into play long ago during the burning of Fallcrest. She lured many orcs to the depths of the prison and set them about the task of preparing for her return. It was fate that intervened and held her back. For mere days before the tasks were finished, the forces of the Vale struck back and turned back the tide of orcs.
In an effort to cut her losses and plan for the future she had the orcs entomb the bodies of those who died in the prison upon her removal from this world, and killed the orcs still in the prison so that they might be raised as undead on the spot rather than risk a summoning or kidnappings. The warriors sweeping Fallcrest found very little amiss. Thinking the dead orcs to be the only good orcs and with more fighting ahead, no questions were raised about the coffins that shouldn't be there or the missing warrior who had killed the orcs.
So the undead princess has bided her time, waiting for the perfect power-hungry fool to be tempted by her promises. Nearly 100 years later she has found that being. A member of The Fell Court has fallen under her sway and helped complete the ritual to bring back to this world. Wasting no time she set about summoning forth an Evistro, a Vrock, and a few necromancers to help bring forth her sleeping forces. With these beings serving her, she has set forth a few traps for any adventurerers who come to bring her plans for vengeance to an end.
Those venturing forth should procede cautiously, for the way may be straight-forward but it is frought with danger. However, heroes should not tarry, or her army will emerge for its portal and burn Fallcrest to the ground before spreading to the rest of the Nentir Vale.
Plot Hooks and PC progression
The players start in the Bluemoon Alehouse celebrating their latest victory. A demon crashes from the roof and attacks whoever is closest. After defeating the demon the party makes its way back through the streets towards the Silver Unicorn Inn. Before climbing the stairway to the upper level of Fallcrest, the party is approached by The Fell Council. They detail how one of their more prominent members has been seen sneaking into the Tower of Waiting. They fear the loss of one of their more powerful allies and ask the party to investigate.
The party can agree or decline the quest, either way the Fell Court members melt back into the shadows and leave the party alone. Declining can put the Fell Court against the heroes at a later time and removes the chance of gleaning any added information about this missing member. Upon reaching the inn, the party has a full rest before being called upon by the Lord Warden’s men the next morning. Here they meet the Lord Warden and Nimozaran The Green. This begins a diplomacy challenge.
The first part awards 3 healing potions and gems for everyone, and a minor equipment slot for the last of those possible awards. The second portion has the potential to award the entire Isle of Waiting and everything on and beneath it. This is a difficult challenge for the players and requires them to mention that they have no permanent residence near the city. With the tower abandoned, it gives the Lord Warden an excuse to have the tower rebuilt for defense measures and have powerful adventurers within the city that can be on call.
After the meeting with the Lord Warden, the party is escorted out but is stopped in the hall by his wife, a wizard. She has discovered where the Vrock that dropped the demon into the Bluemoon Alehouse sleeps. She also has attempted to find more information on the current threat under the tower. While her efforts were futile in gaining specific details, she was able to ascertain that a powerful and demonic presence is below the tower on the lowest level of the abandoned prison. She gives the players clues as to how they should equip themselves.
The adventurers should take this time to buy equipment and prepare for the demons ahead. Then they head to the docks to get a boat to the island which the Lord Warden has provided.
Combat and Floor-by-Floor descriptions
The island is not very wide, but around 200 feet long. There are 3 structures. First is the guard house. It is connected to the kitchen, which is then connected to the tower.
The tower surrounds the metal door leading beneath the island and into the prison. The stairs leading to the upper floor of the tower have long since rotted. The Vrock sleeps in the guardhouse. The rest of the island is covered over in grass and vines and holds nothing of value. The roof of the guardhouse is mostly intact but very rotten and will collapse with enough force. After taking out the Vrock, the players can head down into the prison itself.
Basement 1 - The Guards' Quarters
The first floor of the prison is the guards’ quarters and dining room. Initially the entire room is dark, with a large brazier in the center of the room. The dining hall is to the players’ left and is connected to the storehouse. A brazier can be lit in the dining hall to provide light for that room as well. The dining hall still has the long table and dining ware left where it was abandoned. The guards’ quarters still have the beds, table, and chairs left.
There is a hidden door leading to the Warden’s Office behind one of the beds and requires a perception check to find. The door in the guards’ quarters opposite the dining hall leads into a room with 2 tombs and a broken statue of the Raven Queen. These tombs have been broken open and footsteps lead away from them and towards a doorway. Upon opening the doorway, the PCs find 2 skeleton minions as guards. They stand at the top of a large spiral staircase that leads down to the next floor.
Basement 2 - The Processing Room
The next floor is the old processing area. The first room is barren and leads to the main room of this floor. The main room holds 4 more tombs that have been broken open. Between these tombs are 2 grasping traps. At opposite side of the room from the PCs stand two necromancers. They have just finished raising the last 4 of the princesses’ main, undead forces in the prison. They had previously helped raise the skeletons of the orcs the princess had killed 90 years ago.
However, those in the tombs were specifically preserved for the power they had in life. In this room the PCs will find 4 skeleton minions, undead artillery, an undead leader, and 2 undead strikers. The two necromancers will flee immediately if the PCs burst in, or leave on their own if their short conversation is allowed to finish. If the PCs listen, they can pick up some hints about what is farther ahead in the prison
Another room connects to the left of the PCs entrance and holds some of the items of the previous prisoners. The 4 non-minion enemies carry the weapons they had in life. Through the door the necromancers leave through is another spiral staircase that leads to the third level.
Basement 3 - Prison Level 1
This is the first floor with prison cells. There are 2 main rooms on this floor linked by a short corridor and a spiral staircase leading down to the next floor at the opposite end from where the PCs start. Off of each main room are 4 prison cells. The doors are currently unlocked.
Upon entering the first of these rooms, the party will find one of the 2 necromancers from the floor above. He is meant to delay the PCs and deal them some damage. By the time the PCs have arrived he has activated a trap that the princess had set up as a delaying tactic. All of the prison cells on that floor have been flooded with a gas that clings to the ground like cloying fog and reanimates the dead. This gas has the effect of bringing back several undead much faster than a ritual or spell would, however, this has a side effect of making the individual creatures much weaker than they normally would be. In total the enemies will number about 20 minions between the 2 rooms with the necromancer attacking with spells while making his way to the next room.
The gas also saps a healing surge if the PCs get within a square of the prison cells or fall to the ground. Each round they spend in any of these positions saps another healing surge. The rooms are designed to wear down the players and make them use up their resources.
Basement 4 - Prison Level 2
This floor has the same layout and trap, but there are far fewer minions to deal with. Instead the PCs will be forced to take on the first few demons that the princess has managed to summon. There will be 3 demons, the final necromancer, and 5 undead minions.
If the necromancer is left for last, the princess will speak through him or her and talk with the party. The PCs might gain a bit of information about what she plans and about her history from this conversation.
Basement 5 - The Torture Chamber
The next level is what remains of a torture chamber. Political prisoners may not have been mistreated, but they weren’t the only enemies of Fallcrest. Those prisoners that might provide valuable information, but might only do so under pressure, were brought here. It is at large room (16x16).
This room has 4 cells built into the floor in the center of the room. Three are 1 square in size and 10 feet deep. A fourth is 10 feet wide, 10 feet long, and 15 feet deep. The walls are covered in sharp spikes that are rusty but still dangerous. The floor of each cell also has the same spikes but a small circle with a 3 foot diameter is free of the devices. Each cell is covered by a rusty grate that can still be opened. Enemies and PCs alike can be pushed into these cells if the grates are opened.
The far left corner from the entrance is where a large, round portal is drawn on the floor. A long table holds a few scrolls and potions just to the right of the entrance. A chair sits next to the portal and the princess waits for the heroes upon it. In the alchemy lab in the far right corner stands the tiefling from the Fell Court that has helped bring princesses plot to fruition. The left of the room has rusty chains dangling from the wall. Beings getting pushed into the wall may get entangled in these if they fail a reflex save.
A large basin of water used for scrying sits just ahead and to the left of the entrance. A high enough arcane check will let a player view a few away place in the Nentir Vale (I hope to use this for future plot hooks.)
The princess, who identifies herself as Caratha, congratulates the heroes on making it this far. It is at this point that the tiefling beings to taunt the PCs a bit. He feels that as the person who helped bring her corporeal form back into the world fully, he will get special treatment and a place of power as the world burns under Caratha’s vengeance. Caratha then shows her true intentions and launches an attack at the tiefling. He is not instantly killed, but is seriously wounded. A PC may rush be able to save him, but it requires a hard DC heal check.
While a character is busy saving the tiefling, the others may choose to talk to Caratha. If they show a genuine interest and a bit of humility, she will gladly tell them of her history. After the story, or if the PCs choose to attack immediately, Caratha summons the demon who she is bound to, a Glabrezu. Every other round of combat an Immolith minion and Hezrou minion exit the portal and fight the PCs. These each take 2 hits to kill.
If the players helped the tiefling, he would whisper that he had not been so foolish to not have a backup plan. Knowing Caratha’s intentions, he had purchased a magic item that would destroy the portal and sever its link to the prison if it touches the summoning circle. If the players didn’t they have the option of killing Caratha herself and taking the portal control rod from her and destroying the portal in that manner. This can prove to be challenging as she is a difficult opponent and works with the Glabrezu to keep the PCs away from the portal. The table can be tipped over with a strength check for partial cover.
If the party takes out the portal before killing both Caratha and the Glabrezu, whoever of the two that are still alive takes a immediate action and launches an attack at whoever destroyed the portal or is closest if the first option isn’t available. If the PCs succeed at taking down both enemies and the portal they find that Caratha had been bringing some of her accumulated treasure through the portal to keep her entertained while the armies were readied and the prison prepared.
Well that is the description. Our group has access to the Dungeon and Wild/Nature tiles so I built a map from those while designing the dungeon. For reference shots for later use I took pictures so I wouldn't screw up the placement of the tiles when we sat down for the game. They're uploaded on my DnD blog as individual photos and in a slideshow. If I didn't fail at coding I could embed the slideshow here.
I want to credit crazyred for a good deal of the inspiration that made me want to really flesh this place out. The illustrations really helped me figure out the direction I wanted to work in.
Thanks for taking the time to read through my wall of text. I appreciate any feedback that can help me make this better.
edit: forgot to mention that I know the demons listed are far above the players' level and I'll be scaling them back. I've no intention of tossing them to several blenders at once lol.