I think the optional elements are not creative hindrances, but rather usually creative inspiration.
Design, say, a Delve (since that was mentioned above) doesn't give you anything to work with, but "Optional Element: The Delve is inhabited exclusively by good aligned creatures" makes ones brain start turning. Can you think of why a group of PC's (assuming the PCs are good, of course) would go against such a group? What would such a group be composed of?
Humans are creatures of habit -- left to our own devices, we are more likely to return to the same successful implementations (with variations on a theme of course) than strike out at new horizons. The optional elements seek to spur your creativity (by modifying a previous dormant idea to fit, or by creating new ideas themselves), not hinder them.
That said, some aspects of the DM's toolkit respond better to optional elements than others -- frankly, I think the principal problem is trying to add them or create a plotline directly from them, not the choices for the optional elements themselves. (Which is to say, a plotline is hard enough to come up with, sans the specific minutia that must be included)
For an example of an instance where I thought the optional elements responded well to the task at hand, see XDMC #7.
Yes, I agree. They help you take a wealth of options and drop it to just a few that help clearly define what you are building. Otherwise you would end up with something that has a little of everything in it and that's just way too much.
Well, back to the larger topic, I agree that optional elements can be hit and miss. I always try to compare the elements provided with the ones used to see which ones get used rarely or often. I aim for a nice variety of elements.
If they're too broad, you can get a lot of entries that sound very similar. If you get too specific, you can scare people away. I find that its useful to have some broad elements to ease people in, and some tricky elements that will really challenge people to include them. Many winning entries will incorporate one of the odder entries in a seamless fashion, but sometimes it doesn't work quite the way you hoped.
In short, it's more art than science, and if people are disappointed with any given XDMC's options, I hope they can forgive us. We're only human(oid). Except Nyarlathotep. He's an animate.
Escape from Shilous
This plot line is meant as a two level side quest for adventurer’s level 2 -3 but can easily be adapted to fit any heroic level adventure.
This plot is best used as one story arc is winding down as a segway into another arc. In the aftermath of the arc the DM can choose to bring the players back to the exact time they left (though with more experience and better gear) or to different time in the world (e.g. 300 years in the future where their previous deeds are now held as legend).
The only hook needed to setup this arc is that the players find themselves in a tavern or inn after the completion of another story arc.
Resources to the story:
Legend of Shilous:
“Each of the four races of Shilous shall select among them a Champion. When this world has found itself in the dream too long the champions must take the symbol of their people to the center . There they shall wipe away the old rot and bring back a golden age of Shilous.”
Most inhabitants of Shilous have long forgotten this legend and those that do usually think it is just a children’s tale.
Vision granted by touching a Sigil:
Person who touches the sigil (in combat ATK vs will +8 or dazed save ends).
"Your vision is filled with images of flowing sand and fire. You see Sand City as it once was in all it's glory. The vision pans out and you see more towns and villages in the desert. You see roads growing trade flourishing. Ages pass before your eyes.
Then you see it all being reclaimed by the desert. First the villages then Sand City itself.
Your vision pans out. Flying fast through the woods you come upon the obelisk of the center. Though whole and in the ground surrounding it you see the four symbols each glowing bright. A door opens at the base of the obelisk.
The visions begin to leave you and a single word lingers in your mind.
Example vision given for the Sigil of the South. The other sigils would give similar visions, but will always end with the word rebirth.
Rules of Travel in Shilous:
In order to get to any of the four locations you must first travel to the center. Once in the center you must travel in one of the four directions before entering the different realms. Once in a realm or on the way from the center if you travel in any direction other than the one you started out moving you can travel forever and never get anywhere.
Races of Shilous:
Look like common dwarf, but with dark gray skin.
Mechanically: Same as PHB Dwarves with a racial bonus of +1 to AC and Fort
6 to 7 feet tall with pale green skin.
Mechanically: Same as PHB Dragonborn, but poison is the only source for breath weapon
Look like half-elves but with iridescent hair.
Mechanically: Same as PHB Half-elf with a racial bonus of +2 to Arcana Checks
4 to 5 feet tall with brown fur and a tail (Think monkey!)
Mechanically: Same as PHB Halgling with a racial bonus of +2 to climb
An innkeeper’s daughter wears a family heirloom. It is a small crystal pendant that has always brought her luck, until tonight. Tonight someone who knows what that pendant conceals wants its power and will do whatever it takes to possess it.
The group of heroes are enjoying a night of good food and song in the inn when a cloaked figure enters and approaches the Innkeeper’s daughter as she serves the party. The cloaked figure pulls back his hood to reveal a grotesque site. It is no man but a wreathing mass of worms and maggots. It reaches for the girl’s pendant and as the heroes jump to their feet to help protect the girl a blinding flash of light envelops them all.
The party finds themselves in a field of perfect green grass. All around the see trees radiating from the clearing in perfectly straight rows. In the center of the clearing stands a broken onyx obelisk with faded painted symbols that have been made unreadable over the passage of time. There is a stone circle around the obelisk. At four points in the store circle there are inset symbols as if something used to be placed there but is now missing.
Depending on which direction the party decides to travel dictates which city they will interact with first.
Walking north amongst the trees the party will notice that all the trees begin to change as they walk. Over the course of two days the trees change from looking like Oak to looking more like Pine. They also notice the air grow colder and snow begin to fall.
As they reach the tree line they see a vast expanse of mountains in every direction and a column of smoke in the distance.
This is the mining village of Coldcap home to the ironskin dwarves. In the village they can have a drink and the Hammer and Anvil Tavern, fight in the bare knuckle boxing arena, or visit with the leader of Coldcap the High Priest of Kord, Dundar.
Dundar can relate the legend of Shilous and inform the party of the four sigils. He can also tell the party that his son Wingar a cleric of Kord is the Champion of the North.
The party has several options to getting the Sigil of the North. They can attempt to steal the sigil from Wingar, they can assault the temple of Kord and take the sigil by force, or they can work with Dundar and prove their worth. Dundar will ask the party to remove a rabble of Rock Trolls and Gargoyles from the black iron mine to the east in order to prove their worth.
Walking east amongst the trees the party will notice that all the trees begin to change as they walk. Over the course of two days the trees changes from looking like Oak to looking like Willow. They also notice the air grow humid and warm as well as the ground becoming soggy and difficult to navigate.
As they reach the tree line they see a vast expanse of marsh land and just beyond an endless ocean. At the edge of the marshland and ocean a series of wooden docks and house boats are collected together to make a village.
This is the village of Ocdoc home to the Frogkin. In the village the party can have a drink at the Drunken Tadpole, gamble in the trading house, find contacts to give them access to a black market of goods and services, or visit the town fortune teller. The village’s seat of power is in the trading house where a plump Frogkin named Heywood runs an import export business (see: Organized crime syndicate).
The fortune teller knows of the legend of Shilous and of the four sigils. She has given the Sigil of the East to her grandson Rand whom she believes to be the Champion of the East.
The party has several options for getting the Sigil of the East. They can align themselves with Heywood who sees Rand as a threat and kill the boy (though Heywood will insist that you make it look like an accident or the whole village will turn on him because they rely on the fortune teller for healing), they can attempt to steal the sigil, or they can win the loyalty of the fortune teller and Rand by retrieving a magic org from the Hag in the marsh.
Walking south amongst the trees the party will notice that all the trees begin to change as they walk. Over the course of two days the trees changes from looking like healthy Oak to being dried and leafless. They also notice the air grow dry and hot as well as the ground turning to sand.
As they reach the tree line the party sees a vast expanse of sand dunes. Walking in the distances is a caravan of wagons being pulled by large lizards. The caravan is headed to Sand City and will agree to show the party the way in exchange for protection from the fire salamanders of the desert. The party will recognize the symbol of the South painted on the lead caravan. The individuals driving the caravan are all Glasshair as are most of the inhabitants of Sand City.
Upon reaching the Sand City the party can visit the bustling Bazaar that has wears and goods from all over Shilous, they can visit the mayor (who is the caravan leader’s brother), or they can bed down at the Flaming Wyrm Inn.
The mayor of the South named Contrak has an elderly advisor who knows of the legend and the sigils, but the Mayor himself does not believe the old story. Contrak wears a replica sigil like an amulet and thinks of it as a status symbol.
If pressed the advisor to the mayor will inform the party that the real sigil is in the fire temple buried under the sand in old town. The party will need to find their way into the temple and battle a Young Blazewyrm in order to retrieve the symbol.
Walking west amongst the trees the party will notice that all the trees begin to change as they walk. Over the course of two days the trees begin to grow to incredible heights. They also notice the air grow dry and cool as well as the ground being covered in leaves and vines.
Eventually they come to a village in the trees known as Ferlo, home of the Monkeykin. In Ferlo there are no inns or taverns, but there is a common house where travelers may stay. There is an old shaman in the village who knows of the legend and where the Sigil of the West is. He can tell the party that the Sigil is kept in the Great Western Tower, a five story tower guarded by a nest of Rocs (leveled down to level 3), and that the ruler of Ferlo has the key. He will also tell them that the Monkeykin care little for the legend or the Sigil and are more interested in their hunting and pranks.
In order to get the key from the ruling family of Ferlo, the Bilnards, they will need to aid them is discrediting another family who is threatening their power, the Montards. The head of the Bilnard family is happy to suggest that if they party can defeat the Rocs atop the Great Western Tower then they can cut out a gland from the great birds which can be used to make a foul smelling potion, that the Bilnards will use on the Montards during the upcoming hunter’s moon festival to embarrass them.
Placing of the Sigils
Once the party has collected one or more of the Sigils they can return to the center obelisk and place it in the corresponding spot in the stone circle. This triggers an event. Upon placing a Sigil a column of white light shoots into the air and then arcs toward the direction of the city where the sigil was obtained. The result of this event is that the city it was obtained from is wiped from existence except for the Champion of that city (if he was not killed by the party), The party will not know this unless they try to return to the city, if they have a member of the cities primary race with them (who will vanish), or they use some other means to check on the affected city. The other effect of the incident will be the obelisk with be partly restored allowing the players to start reading the painted symbols of the obelisk (with the aid of the Comprehend Language ritual). Once fully formed the obelisk reads “As I dream so does the world live on.”
Under the Obelisk
After placing all four sigils the party and any remaining Champions will be transported underground to a large dark chamber. A disembodied voice will give them the following instructions: “Before lies four paths one for each Champion. Those are not of this world may assist the champions or stand in their place, but you all must choose a path.” This starts a skill challenge in which the four champions aided by the party must overcome obstacles related to their elemental symbols (North: Earth, East: Water, South: Fire, West: Wind). For the final part of the challenge the party is reunited and asked to give the password given by the sacred sigils (“Rebirth”.
Upon successfully giving the password the party comes face to face with the Ancient One, the ruler and guardian of Shilous. He answers all the parties’ questions then he tells the surviving Champions that they will return to their homes to rule over their race until the time of Rebirth comes again. If no champion exists he will create a new race of beings to take their place. Then he will thank the heroes for their help and transport them back to their own plane of existence.
A painted stone
Two feuding families, towns, tribes, etc.
nit-picky comments on the entries so far -- judges, no lookises!
NO JUDGES:KEEP OUT Show
Something I've noticed that's bothered me about some of the other entries is that they jump right into the plotline without explaining some of the elements of the plotline. For instance -- I have no idea what the Fruit of Life, the pomegrante element in shinobicow's entry does. Likewise, Jayjian starts talking about what happens when someone touches a sigil, without explaining who, or what, or even where one might encounter a sigil in the first place. The english major in me thus appeased, keep them coming, I like them so far.(the entries, quirks and all)
Wow, had a moment of terror there.
It seemed as if all the work I had up to now was lost. Note to self, watch out when removing external devices.
Also, I was wondering, what's the policy on using spoilerblocks? I've got several different headings, and I was thinking about splitting them into different blocks to make it more readable.
Ah, of course, read the rules, I should have done that.
Glancing through the entries, it looks like a lot of good stuff coming in. How well they will hold up to my red pen when it's time to grade remains to be seen...
One more week to go!
I am not an English major and I had a hell of a time trying to figure out where to put descriptions of the key elements without interjecting them in the middle of the plot line description. I thought "Hey, I'll create a resources to the story section", but upon reading my entry top to bottom again I see that I threw stuff at the reader that has no context without the story line.
So, do you have a recommendation for me on where I could have worked that info in without cluttering the plot line elements?
I really do want to get better at writing out my ideas because half the time I DM from the hip and it works out fine, but I am finding my sessions spread further apart from one another and have a hard time remembering to tie things together. I am trying to be better about writing out more than an outline for my campaigns now.
* * *
If you look at my entry, you'll notice that before anything else, I explain what a Crystal Beacon is and what Veilgaarde is. Before I go into any backstory, before I bring up any plot points, I explain the central conceit of my plot. In your case, you should explain what the obelisk is, the fact that it's missing a sigils, and that touching the obelisk transports you to some alternate realm inhabited by 4 tribes (or did I misread that part of your entry?). The point is, you want your variables defined before you start to code, as it were. Does that help? Again, 'tis only my opinion, I'm unsure how the judges would feel.
For the record, I am not an English major either, I just have a little bit of one in me (the same part that goes into grammar-nazi mode when people confuse then and than, good and well, or affect and effect).
Here's another for the suggestion thread:
A rival band of unlikely adventurers.
There's probably a simpler way of explaining the same concept, but that'll have to do for now.
Number of PC’s 5
Myskot, a young human wizard, smart but not wise; had tried to work magic far above his grade. Instead of summoning a being that would grant him power, he found himself transported to the Elemental Chaos. Inhospitable does not begin to describe the Elemental Chaos, and Myskot found himself fighting for his live almost continuously. Against all odds, the man, or rather, the wizard, survived. In order to do so, however, he gave up a large part of his humanity, taking in large amounts of chaotic energy and forcing them into a useable shape. As a result of the ritual he undertook for this, he has a large scar down his chest, from the base of his throat down to his navel. It looks, after years, as if it is still fresh; and it is so sensitive that Myskot can not bear even the softest fabric touching it. He is always shirtless, for this reason. Apart from the scar, Myskot looks normal, most of the time. His mind however, was also heavily scarred, the chaotic forces warping his psyche.
Myskot, with his new power, managed to return to the world. Despite the facts, Myskot was still a wizard, and thus had access to knowledge not readily available to everyone. After a thorough research, Myskot had a plan.
In short, Myskot wishes to crush the world between the Shadowfell and the Feywild, so that the bountiful resources of the worlds become available to him. An altar at the north and south pole of both Feywild and Shadowfell channels magic, energy, in such a way that they will both be turned into huge opposites of a magnet, they will be drawn to each other and the world, positioned between the two, as well as the two other worlds, will be destroyed in the crash.
It will be noticed that Myskot has the aid of Archons, and even a Fire Titan, there are several explanations possible for this; perhaps these creatures have been promised parts of the resources, perhaps they have their own reasons to wish for the worlds to be destroyed; Or perhaps Myskot, with his ritual, took up not simply energy, but parts of a Primordial. To a denizen of the Elemental Chaos, Myskot would seem a Primordial himself, the fact that he has no control over most of the power in him can’t be seen.
The book of boding is an old, but not ancient, magical item, not quite an artefact. Created by a powerful fey lord, though not quite as powerful as some other’s…
As far as the book has a personality, it’s proud, making sure people understand that it is a very powerful artefact, capable of seeing into the future. Indeed its duty is to let its owner know if harm is to befall them.
Statistics for Myskot and the book can be found at the end of this document
Hook 1: Plunder.
Upon defeating a powerful spell caster, the party, traditional adventurers they are, look through the caster’s stuff. One of the books in the possession of the recently deceased stands out.
Hook 2: welcome thievery.
As members of the thieves’ guild, or simply as temporarily drafted men, they party finds themselves getting an assignment that is perhaps too easy; the house of a rich merchant lord is completely empty of people, yet almost all things of value remain. The saves have been emptied, but idols, paintings and other items are for the most part, still there. Amongst the to-be-stolen, is a notable book.
Hook 3: accidental discovery.
In an abandoned village or temple, or perhaps in the middle of the wilderness, the party stumbles upon... yes, a curious looking book.
Upon attaining the book, one way or another, it will let itself be known as a sentient being; it will explain that it is an artefact of great power, and ask the party for help in an important quest. The Book will say (or rather, write) that the entire world, nay, several worlds are in danger. It does not know exactly WHAT the danger is, but it does say that it has seen a location, and if the party can get him a teleportation-scroll, it can get them there.
If hook 1 is used, the spell caster defeated by the party could have a scroll.
If hook 2 is used, then perhaps the library (or other location the book is taken from) could also house the relevant scroll.
For hook 3, there could be, amongst the items found, a scroll.
If the party already has a scroll of Planar Portal, then finding another one is not necessary.
The location the Book wishes to go to has a permanent teleportation circle, the Book knows the sigils of the circle, it has seen the sequence in its vision. Once the book has the scroll, it will take the ten minutes required for the ritual and then teleport the party, to the Feywild.
Part 1: Purple Snow
Upon arriving in the Feywild, the party will inescapably notice that they are standing in a field of purple snow; more is falling out of the sky.
In the distance, a small altar can be seen. Figures can be made out around the altar, though it is too far away to make out any details.
Upon moving closer, it can be seen that the figures are busily moving around stones, some plain, others inscribed with runes. In the centre of the makeshift altar is a large obelisk, with one thick blue line running along the middle of it.
the Feypole altar
Encounter Level Difficulty: Standard (17000 XP)
the Fire Titan, Ice Archon Frostshaper and the Azer Taskmaster are standing at the edge of the altar, the Hailscourge, Rimehammer and Azer Warriors are busily moving around stones.
This encounter includes the following:
1 Fire Titan (MM pg. 123)
1 Azer Taskmaster (MM pg. 23)
3 Azer Warrior (MM pg. 22)
1 Ice Archon Frostshaper (MM pg. 21)
1 Ice Archon Rimehammer (MM pg. 20)
2 Ice Archon Hailscourge (MM pg. 20)
Upon seeing the party, those creatures holding stones will (carefully) put them down and attack the party. The Taskmaster and Frostshaper will also attack immediately, but the Fire Titan will hold back at first. If the party seems to be winning, he will make his way to the teleportation circle if possible, using it to open a gateway.
During the fight, the creatures will be careful not to damage any of the stones, they will not, however, look after themselves well; they will fight to the death to protect the altar, not ferocious per see, but determined.
If the party follows the Fire Titan into the gateway (Planar Portal, open for 5 rounds), proceed straight to part 2 of the adventure.
If they do not get to the portal in time, or kill the Titan before he can get away, read on.
On the body of the Azer Taskmaster, along with the rolled for loot, the party can find a piece of paper with a detailed drawing on the altar on it; the stones on the actual altar are not positioned as on the paper, though it does seem as if most are.
A stones throw away from the altar is a camp, partially covered by the falling snow. There are no hints of the archons staying there, but several tents might have provided shelter for the Azer. Tools and weaponry lie in the tents, but nothing of value. One of the tents, a stylized flame enbroided on the side, holds a small chest; inside are many papers with obscure drawings, most of the altar, some of individual runes, and one, notably, with a sigil sequence, it is clearly a destination for a teleportation.
Amongst the papers are also several scrolls; 3 endure elements, 2 planar portal. Spread amongst a satchel and another chest are components for these spells.
If the party does not immediately do so, the book will urge the party to travel to the Shadowfell, using the scrolls they found.
A time limit could be set in which the party must reach the altar and engage the creatures, if they do not make it, the stones will be properly aligned and the process of magnetizing the Feywild will start. The time limit should depend on how far from the altar the teleportation circle is placed.
The last action of the creatures will be turning the central obelisk 45 degrees; it is advisable the party sees this. Turning the stone a quarter-circle will activate any changes.
After the process has started, it will take time for the altar to accumulate enough energy, thus (at first) there will be no visible change, apart from the runes and markings on the stones, which will start to glow.
To stop the polarization, first the creatures must be defeated (as per the encounter above), then the following skill challenge can be used:
Halting the advance
Skill Challenge; complexity 2 (6 successes before 3 failures) xp 5600
Goal: stopping the altar from accumulating enough energy.
Arcana (DC 22): Despite the vastness of the scale, the arcane methods used are remarkably simple, someone well enough versed in the arcane can see, and perhaps change without detrimental effect, the order of the stones, so that the Feywild is no longer soaking up energy.
Insight (DC 26): Looking around at the stones (and perhaps having seen what the creatures had been doing) a pattern can be seen, an insightful person might be able to change the pattern without unbalancing the energy.
Perception: (DC 22 Azer Taskmaster/DC 26 campsite): A perceptive character might notice the paper on the Azer Taskmaster, or see the campsite a little way off from the altar, and there find the other papers. Successfully finding either gives a +4 to the Primary Skill rolls
In case one or more of the enemies have been left alive:
Intimidate (DC 30): One of the enemies might be coerced into giving hints as to what to do, perhaps they might tell the party of the chest of scrolls in the Taskmasters tent. Success gives a +4 to all primary rolls. Failing means the party can not use Intimidate or Diplomacy on this creature again.
Diplomacy (DC 30): Same as Intimidate
It is not possible to gain more than 3 successes with Secondary Skills
Success: The altar will cease to accumulate power
1 Failure: The energies at the altar will become unstable and explode, anyone on the altar takes 4d8 + 7 force damage
2 failures: The energies will become unstable and explode, anyone on the altar takes 4d10+7 damage
3 failures: The energies will become unstable and explode, anyone on the altar takes 4d12+7 damage, the altar will also be destroyed, stopping the polarization
It is easy to understand how failing at the primary skills can lead to the explosions, misaligning the stones could cause imbalance.
For the secondary skill challenges, it could be that the information the party obtained is somehow wrong.
The explosions should not occur until the obelisk is turned.
(note that if the party turns the obelisk either way, before moving anything, there are no changes made, so nothing will change in the workings of the altar, if they move anything, the obelisk must be turned for the changes to take effect)
After the Altar has been “turned off” or destroyed, proceed to part two.
Part 2: Darkest storm
The Shadowfell is in chaos, the altars have been completed, but with the disruption on the side of the Feywild, the Shadowfell is taking up huge amounts of energy, with nothing to do with it. The planet is spinning wildly, noticeably even to the denizens on the surface. Gigantic storms are wracking across the land.
If the party has not killed the Titan before he went through the portal, they will find themselves under attack upon arrival
If the party has killed the Titan, then they will come across the Beastlord and his hounds some way from the altar, the Achons will be with him too(the DM could consider adding more Hell hounds or Azer to make the encounter more difficult in this case)
The Archons will be with Myskot.
Ambush at the portal
Encounter Level Difficulty: Standard (20400 XP)
The Fire Titan stands before the portal as the party arrive; next to him are an Azer Beastlord and two of the Hounds. The other creatures are behind the portal, on a signal of the Titan, the Hounds and the Fire Archons will attack.
This encounter includes the following:
1 Fire Titan (MM pg. 123)
1 Azer Beastlord (MM pg. 23)
3 Firebred Hell Hound (MM pg. 160)
2 Fire Archon Blazesteel (MM pg. 19)
1 Fire Archon Ash Disciple (MM pg. 19)
This time, the Titan will waste no time, he will attack the party and retreat only if he does not seem capable of winning. The others will, as before, fight to the death, with no regard for their own life. A fear of something worse than death is gripping these creatures.
If the Titan manages to escape again, he will make his way to the altar, if not, the party should find their way there; it is visible from the teleportation circle as a pillar of light, lightning crackling down. Clouds are curling around the pillar of light, as if being drawn in, they are dancing with lightning as well.
At the altar, they will come across Myskot. If a conversation is started, Myskot will speak politely. If the party lets Myskot know they stopped the operation at the Feypole altar, however, the wizard will get angry. In case the Titan has returned to Myskot, he will have been informed of the party’s action and only feign politeness.
Before anyone can attack, a rumbling will start, the ground will shake and with a deafening crack a huge lightning bolt slams down, striking the obelisk in the centre of the altar. Another crack and the altar and surrounding area, will be teleported to the Elemental Chaos
Part 3: The Elemental Chaos
Upon arriving in the elemental chaos, the plate of the Shadowfell that the party is standing on will crash down into a sea of lava. By DM fiat, the ground could break and lava spill onto the platform to make for hindering terrain.
Battle against Myskot
Encounter Level Difficulty: Hard (27600 XP)
Whether the titan is by Myskots side depends on the previous encounters, If he is, it will make for a difficult fight. Though there is a chance the Titan has already been wounded.
The Griffon serves as Myskots mount, though Myskot will not start the encounter mounted. The Griffon is of course a more than capable fighter even without Myskot.
This encounter includes the following:
3 Fire Archon Blazesteel (MM pg. 19)
2 Fire Archon Ash Disciple (MM pg. 19)
1 Rimefire Griffon (MM pg. 147)
1 Myskot (see below)
1 Fire Titan (MM pg. 123)
The Archons and the Griffon will attempt to protect Myskot, any one of them would die for the wizard. The Titan will attempt to get to the lava, to use this to his advantage, there is no escape possible this time, so the Titan will give his all.
With Myskot taken down, the book will offer to take the party back to the world (with one of the scrolls found on the Feypole, if it is needed.) If the DM wants to continue the book’s story, then perhaps the book could ask the party to find the Fey Lord that created him, so that it might be returned. Otherwise, finding a librarian or other such person would work. It is up to DM fiat whether the party can keep the book.
The teleportation of the altar to the Elemental Chaos had been part of Myskot’s plan, the fact that only the altars teleported (the other pole of the Shadowfell also now has a crater) and not the entire Shadowfell could be due to the party stopping the Feywild altar, (the altar at the other pole was useless, without the other working) or perhaps Myskot’s design of the altar had a flaw in it.
I have kept the core adventure as short as possible, but it can be lengthened by any number of encounters; the teleportation circles could be further away from the altars, there might be random creatures, or guards patrolling around the altar.
The story, also, is not too detailed, so that it may be implemented relatively easily in different campaigns, perhaps the Fire Titan is one of a group of giants, trying to attain more power. This group could wish for revenge on the party now.
Myskot level 20 elite controller
Medium Humanoid xp 5,600
Initiative +14 Senses Perception +14
Chaos Spill (arcane) aura 2 (active while bloodied); all creatures (excluding Myskot) within the aura’s area take 2d6 damage per round, roll a d4 to decide what kind of damage(1. fire, 2. poison, 3. lightning, 4. cold)
HP 362; Bloodied 181
AC 38; Fortitude 33, Reflex 38, Will 38
Saving Throws +2
Action Points 1
Chaos Breath (Standard, recharge 5,6) Arcane
Close Blast 5; +28 vs. reflex
3d10+10 damage, roll a d4 for each person in the blast
1. Fire damage. Miss: Half damage.
2. Poison damage. Miss: Half Damage
3. Thunder damage. Miss: Half damage
4. Cold damage. Miss: half damage
Chaotic Explosion (Standard, at-will) Arcane
Area burst 1 within 10 squares; +24 vs. reflex
4d8+8 damage. Roll a d4 for each target to determine the attack’s damage type and effect.
1. Fire damage, and the target takes ongoing 10 fire damage (save ends).
2. Poison damage, and the target takes ongoing 15 poison damage (save ends).
3. Thunder damage, and target is knocked prone.
4. Cold damage, and the target is stunned (save ends).
Chaos Storm (Standard, encounter) Arcane
Area burst 3 within 20 squares; +24 vs. reflex
4d10+10 damage. Roll a d4 for each target to determine the attack’s damage type and effect. 1. Fire damage, and the target takes ongoing 10 fire damage (save ends).
2. Poison damage, and the target takes ongoing 15 poison damage (save ends).
3. Thunder damage, and target is knocked prone.
4. Cold damage, and the target is stunned (save ends).
The storm remains in place for three rounds, anyone who is in the area at the start of Myskot’s next turn will take another 3d10+10 damage, 2d10+10 in the next and 1d10+10 in the storms last round.
Alignment Chaotic Evil Languages Common, Primordial, Giant
Skills Arcana +24, Insight +19
Str 12 (+13) Dex 15 (+14) Wis 15 (+14)
Con 18 (+16) Int 25 (+19) Cha 21 (+17)
The book of boding Level 20
A single sigil is engraved in the cover of this thick book, the pages are empty, but after a moment, writing appears.
Wondrous Item (sentient)
Power (At-will): The book of boding can, as an at-will action, perceive actions that, if they occurred, would harm his current owner.
Power (utility): If the right scroll is placed within the pages of the book of boding, it can cast any rituals without component cost. It is advised that a limitation is set, allowing the book to only cast rituals up to the level of the party.
The painted stone, multiple stones at the altars are painted.
The location in the Elemental Chaos, the final encounter is in the Elemental Chaos.
And, wholly accidentally, the scar or tattoo, I gave Myskot the scar before I had looked through the optional elements properly, still, it’s there.
The Blood War
Designed to take PC's from level 4 to level 20
SKIRMISH: The PC's are in the town square. Suddenly, they hear a cry from one of the back alleys. There, they find a band of Kobolds attacking a merchant leaving his shop. The merchant does not know why he was attacked. The merchant offers to pay the PC's to protect him and kill any remaining Kobolds. The PC's learn that the Kobolds most likely came from a series of caves nearby.
TRIAL BY FIRE: The PC's enter the caves, fighting Kobolds as they go. However, as they descend deeper into the caves, things get hotter. They begin to encounter low-level elementals. Eventually, the PC's reach a main chamber that contains a Red Dragon in the "Twilight" stage of life (when a Dragon becomes older than ancient, it experiences a sharp decrease in power. Use the statistics for a Young Red Dragon). The Dragon asks the PCs why they defend the theiving townspeople: the Dragon recently had an item stolen from its hoard. The piece in question is a crimson gemstone painted with symbols from an archaic form of Primordial. He offers to pay the PC's for its safe return, telling them that it was very valuable to him and that he has various magic items and gold stored in hidden caches.
THE GRASSY GNOLLS: The PC's go back into town. Asking around proves futile, it appears that none of the townsfolk took the stone. The captain of the town's militia, however, hears about how the PC's managed to defeat the Kobolds, and ask them for their help in dealing with Gnolls that have been attacking the town's caravans in increasingly violent assaults (he mentions that the Gnolls may have raided the dragon's hoard). He has the PC's go in a caravan, planning to use it as bait so that they PC's can kill the Gnolls. The Gnolls do indeed protect the PC's, however, some that kept on the sidelines managed to escape. The PC's hunt them down to their campsite, and proceed to fight the guards to get to the priest. The priest was preparing a some profane ritual for those taken from the caravan. He lunges into battle, rallying the few remaining Gnolls into battle with shouts of how they must get blood for Yeenoghu, lest he become more angry and choose not to respond to their prayers for eternity.
NOBODY EXPECTS THE INQUISTION!: When they PC's arrive back at town, they find that several soldiers from the nation-that-the-town-is-in's army has begun to harass the townsfolk, looking for some item stolen from the king's vault (they refuse to elaborate on exactly what that is- they are under orders not to). They say that they are under orders to raze the town if they do not find it, in order to get the culprit to show himself. They tell the PC's that those are their orders; if they have a problem, they should take it up with the king (if the PC's attack the soldiers, the soldiers remind the PC's that the king will likely retaliate against the town). The PC's go to the king's castle, only to find out that the king will not see anyone. When they try to sneak into his room on the top floor, they find that the king ignores the PC's. By searching around, they realize that this king is an illusion- the real king was murdered. Several Demons attack the PC's, and they must fight their way out of the castle. Once they reach the king's vault, they find that several Demons are trying to bring a portion of the Abyss into the Mortal World. Once the PC's kill the Demons, they find that the ritual was empowered by two gemstones- one blue, and one green- that match the red one that was stolen from the Dragon. The PC's can tell what happened to the General of the army. He will actually believe the PC's story.
GITHYANKI DOODLE: When the PC's bring the two gemstones to Dragon, he relates a tale about the war with the Primordials. He tells about four elemental gemstones, each one embued with the essence of a Primordial. These stones can be incredibly powerful. He feared that the PC's would take the red gemstone for their own purposes but now has no choice but to trust them- the fourth stone may be in grave danger, and he asks the PC's to get it. The General, who had followed the PC's to make sure nothing happened to them, offers them his horses to help them get there faster. When the PC's arrive, they find a tribe of Hill Giants. These Giants, however, have no desire to fight the PC's, rather, they ask for their help. They are refugees from the Githyanki, who attacked their tribe. They have no idea what happened to their tribe members. The PC's go, and find that most of the Hill Giants are being used as slaves by the Githyanki to excavate the area. The PC's fight the Githyanki, who were also looking for the gemstone. If asked, the Githyanki knew about it because many devils went into the mortal realm, and recently started looking at this area.
FIDDLING DEVILS: The PC's go back to the Dragon, and he tells them that they still must find the red stone- even one stone alone possesses great power. However, shortly thereafter, several Devils and Archons attack. They slay the dragon and try to take the gemstones. They may fail in the short-term, but once the PC's get out of the cavern, the find that half the town has been destroyed- burned to cinders by a massive planeshift into the Elemental Chaos.
DEVILS IN THE MACHINE: The General asks the PC's about the ritual that they saw the Demons performing: it could be used to bring the PC's into the Abyss, which is within the Elemental Chaos. With three stones, the device creates a portal (no component cost or anything else necessary). Once the PC's arrive in the Abyss, they find it oddly desolate. No signs of any Demons. The PC's gradually make their way out, near the edge of the Abyss they find what appears to be a massive factory. When the PC's enter, they are attacked by Archons and Devils. The PC's fight through the factory, disabling parts of its machinery as they go along. Finally, they reach the control room, a monstrous machine powered by the red gemstone. There the find the general, bound and gagged, being interigatted as to the PC's location, and the location of the other gemstones. The PC's fight off the Devils, and help the General. However, the General reveals himself as a Devil, and has several subordinates enter, as well (He does this to fool the PC's, they will most likely not have sat down for five minutes before he enacts this, therefore, they will not have recharged their encounter powers; etc). While fighting, he taunts the PC's: Archons are created by Elemental power, they completely destroy any elemental (including demons, with the added bonus of leaving literally nothing- therefore, there is nothing that can return to the Abyss to respawn the demons) and that, with the power of the Elemental gemstones, he can destroy the Demons once and for all, and building an army large enough for the Devils to completely take over the planes in the process! MUAHAHAHAHA! Then the PC's kill him.
NOTES: For those things that were not entirelt clear: the Gnolls lost contact with Yeenoghu because he was killed by the Devils. They thought that he was angry because they were not slaughtering enough, and thus stepped up their efforts. The Demons in the castle were refugees, trying to bring a portion of the Abyss into the Mortal Realm to rescue their brethren. Yes, the General was a Devil duping the PC's the entire time. The Githyanki knew that Devils were entering the Mortal Realm because they both live in the Astral Sea and Githyanki have lots of spies.
-A painted stone (the Elemental gemstones, painted with archaic Primordial symbols)
-Two feuding sides (specifically, the Demons' and the Devils' and their Blood War)
-A location in the Elemental Chaos (the Archon factory)
Oh, and congratulate AceRumble -- gold medalist in XDMC 7 -- on his spiffy new custom title!
Just out of curiosity, is there a definate time for the winners to be announced?
Usually one or two weeks, but oftentimes events arrange themselves to delay results indefinitely (see HC 18).
Short answer: no; winners will be announced when the judges finish... judging.
My entry may be too large for one post. Will it be okay to tack on another post for my entry or do I need to cut some stuff out?
If I recall correctly, posts have a 50,000 character limit, including formatting.
If you've got more than 50,000 characters in your entry, you might be putting a little too much effort into this contest.
Edit: For reference, my entry in XDMC #4, http://forums.gleemax.com/showpost.php? … st16981852 , despite its length was only 22,000 characters.
Slithering No More (5 characters, level 13-15)
Long ago a group of couatl felt that Bahamut defied his ideals in order to destroy some forces the Asmodeus. Their actions harmed numerous innocents but they had deemed it acceptable losses. Displeased Bahamut stripped them of their wings and cast them out. Many nagas, as they were now known, became bitter and turned away from Bahamut. Some sought penace for their transgressions. After years of servitude Acatzin attracted Bahamut's attention at the request of Sharash. Sharash felt Acatzin had attoned for his mistakes and deserved to be restored. Bahamut entrusted Sharash with the Wind Serpent's Stone, a great stone tablet that contains a ritual to return wings to the nagas. Few nagas passed the judgement of Sharash.
The location of the tablet has been careful guarded for years. Recently a group of nagas have learned that a text in the home of Lord Raines may contain the location. Lord Raines's home dates back to Arkhosia. Although it has been partially destroyed and rebuilt over the years, the family vault is believed to contain the journal of Sharash. Unfortunately powerful protection magic and a guardian have prevented the nagas from stealing the book. The nagas have a small number of followers that are being used to recover the book.
Part 1: Wedding of Lord Raines
Hook 1: Arriving in the city, the PCs cross the path of a wedding procession.
Hook 2: As friends of Lord Raines, the PCs are invited to his wedding.
A group of dragonborn attack the wedding party. The Lord pushes his new wife, Lady DeFleur, behind him. After killing the Lord, one searches the body while the others deal with the PCs. They don't find the journal and ask the wife for the book. The PCs or local guard defeat the dragonborn before they harm the wife. The wife is actually a servant of the nagas. The dragonborn were hired by another servant but do not know of the wife's involvement.
Part 2: Locating the Stone
Hook: PCs invited to Lady DeFleur's home. Either because they saved her in Part 1 or they are well known enough.
Lady DeFleur believes she has found the journal her husband's killers were looking for. The journal is actually a new journal made from some of the information in the original. It describes the loss of a great temple of Bahamut to followers of Tiamat around the time of Arkhosia. The temple housed the the Wind Serpent's Stone. The ritual carved into the stone can restore the corrupted nagas to Bahamut's way. Lady DeFleur wants the vengence for the loss of her husband. She also requests that the Wind Serpent's Stone be recovered so that it can be given to the local church of Bahamut.
The journal could have exact directions or only clues about the temples location depending on the DM's needs. If the PCs talk to the dragonborn at the temple, they could learn of Lady DeFleur's deception. They also might notice Bahamut's symbol on their clothing or items. If the PCs ally with the temple or refuse to retrieve the Wind Serpent's Stone, additional opponents will be sent to retrieve the tablet.
Part 3: Big Birds Visit the City
Hook: Crash! The PCs see a giant roc has landed onto a building. The building colapsed under the weight and others seem poised to follow. A second roc drops from the sky.
The naga supporters have captured a baby roc. The ritual to restore the wings to the nagas requires feathers from a roc. The overzealous zealots intend to sacrifice the entire creature. Unfortunately the parents have noticed the missing child and tracked the kidnappers. They wreak havoc in the city eventually arriving at Lady DeFleur's home. They ignore the PCs for the most part. Upon reaching the home they destroy a section of wall revealing the nagas and the baby roc.
If the nagas succeed with the ritual and restore their wings, they can become villians for later adventures. They will flee if the battle turns against them.
2. A painted stone.
5. A roc.
7. A wedding.
9. An unfaithful spouse. (I consider plotting to kill your spouse to be unfaithful.)
At last, got it done. Hope you enjoy this...
Money is the Root of all…
This adventure should take the PCs from level 8 to level 10.
The town of Kaarins has been around for a long time, founded at the height of the empire of Bael Turath. It was later absorbed into Nerath, before empire’s collapse. And for that long period of time, the Kaffars, one of the wealthiest tiefling families in existence, and the Freeman’s Guild, a group of merchants that banded together, have been competing for economic domination of the city.
The Kaffars have recently gotten some help in that regard: a Pain Devil Captain named Bantaal has allied with them. Bantaal was considered a rising star in the Nine Hells, one of the youngest devils to be made a captain ever. But he reached too high too early, and was forced to flee to the Elemental Chaos when several of his rivals tried to assassinate him.
Now Bantaal wants to kill those who tried to kill him, but being away from the hells have curtail the number of souls he has access to. Thus, his alliance with the Kaffars: with their help, he can get enough mortal souls with which he can forge weapons of war to kill off his rivals, and he in turn will help the Kaffars gain control of Kaarins.
Part 1: The Serial Killer
Not long after the PCs enter Kaarins, they learn about a serial killer that has been spotted in town (or perhaps they heard rumors about the serial killer and this is why the came to Kaarins in the first place). The entire town is in a panic, with a rather large reward posted for the capture or death of the killer. Each of the bodies has had a strange marked scarred onto their forehead, only worsening the panic. The PCs can investigate the killer through a skill challenge, or possibly just roleplaying.
Several sources could be tapped by the PCs to discover the identity of the killer, including law enforcement, prominent (scared) wealthy citizens, and possibly even the underworld (this could be a good opportunity to include a few fights for a more action-oriented campaign). As part of their investigation, the PCs learn that the strange scars left on the foreheads of the victims are part of an Infernal Ritual that directs where a soul goes after the body dies. It is eventually learned that the most likely suspect is Yammis, a Tiefling traveler who arrived in town recently.
The PCs soon confront Yammis, although there’s a few ways this could happen. The PCs could set up an ambush at his room, they could stumble upon him in the middle of the night before or after he’s killed his next victim, or perhaps he targets one of the PCs, having heard of their investigation. No matter how it happens, when Yammis finds himself up against superior numbers, he summons several minor devils to his side to fight the PCs. Yammis himself is a Tiefling Darkblade with the Fire Adept template from the DMG added to him.
After the battle (assuming the PC’s victory), if Yammis is captured, he kills himself rather than talk. Searching his body reveals a small stone, with an odd symbol painted on it. When the Arcana skill is used on the stone, a voice projects from it, asking Yammis about “this week’s intake.” When it is clear that Yammis isn’t answering, the voice cuts off.
Part 2: The Root of the Problem
The PCs now begin another investigation to determine what exactly the stone is. Part of the answer lies in the symbol on the stone, which is revealed to be the seal of the Kaffar Merchant Clan, a Tiefling family that has been waging an economic war against the Freeman’s Guild, the other big economic force in the city. Both groups have been competing against each other since the city was founded, each employing dirty tactics against the other, although most of the leaders of the Freeman Guild in this generation are good people.
The Kaffars, however are not, and have recently gotten the upper hand in the dispute, since several of the most prominent Freeman’s Guild members were among Yammis’s victims (several Kaffar members were also killed, but none of the big Kaffar house people were harmed). It is eventually learned that Yammis was hired by the Kaffars: eliminating economic rivals is a likely explanation, but the odd scars left in the victims hint at something far more sinister.
Eventually, the PCs go into the main Kaffar complex itself, located on the outskirts of the city. Whether they decide to sneak in, or go in guns blazing and bash through the many traps and guards located in the complex is of course, out of your hands. What is in your hands is located in one of the inner sanctums of the complex: a shimmering portal showing a swampy area that seems to be filled with molten lava.
Part 3: The Vulcan Swamp Fortress
The portal takes the PCs to an area in the Elemental Chaos known as the Vulcan Swamp, a swampy area with alternating pools of water, acid, and lava. It’s a rather hazardous area, and that’s not including several of the elemental creatures that roam the area. As the PCs go farther into the swamp, they have to contend with not only them, but several devil patrols as well.
Fortunately, located within the Vulcan Swamp is Gitarzak, a Githzerai Monastery which offers shelter to the PCs, and information on the location as well. The monks within tell the PCs that several devils made their way into the area a while ago, and set up an iron fortress in the depths of the swamp. As the Githzerai within this temple are mere novices, they don’t have the strength to force the devils out of the swamp, and they ask the PCs to do so. Whether they have a reward to offer for the PCs service is in the hands of the DM.
The PCs press on, and proceed into the iron fortress of Bantaal, fighting through devils and elite Kaffar guards. The final encounter in the fortress will see the PCs fighting Bantaal and the more combat-inclined members of the Kaffar family, to finally see this threat to a close.
When the PCs return to Kaarins, they are treated as the town’s heroes, having saved the town both from a serial killer and economic domination by the Kaffar clan. The PCs have also made a friend of some Githzerai in the Elemental Chaos, which could pay off later down the line. If some of Bantaal’s devils or Kaffars have escaped, they will probably try to defeat the PCs later.
1.) The Vulcan Swamp is located within the Elemental Chaos
2.) A stone painted with the Kaffar family symbol allows the Kaffars to speak with Yammis
6.) Yammis scars an arcane mark into his victims, which allows Bantaal to gain control of that body’s soul after it dies.
10.) The Kaffar clan and the Freeman’s Guild have been vying for economic control of Kaarins for a long, long time.
The list is updated! This is the last day!! Get those entries in, people.
Treasure of the Golden Sands
The History Part One: The Feud
It began almost 100 years earlier: the beginning of the feud that would bury an entire kingdom.
The first was a family of shepherds who lived in the hills to the north of the kingdom. The shepherdess Tena, daughter of a ronin, escaped her country with a few members of her family and began raising livestock. She raised llamas, goats and camels, and sold wool. She became quite prosperous.
As she gathered more wealth than she could use, she began to share among the poorer folk of her village and quickly became a popular figure.
To the south, in the castle-town of Seta Ment, lived a merchant who sold carpets and fabrics. Putentut was one of the most successful textile merchants in the country whose family had been in the business for generations. Putentut was a bit greedy, though, and he began to sell his fabrics at inflated prices.
One day,Tena decided to visit Seta Ment, rather than just sending a wagon, and was appalled at what she found. There were peasants with shabby, holey clothes everywhere. She asked around, and learned that all the wool she'd been selling had gone to fine cashmeres and rugs unaffordable by the general populace, so she hatched a plan.
She talked Putentut into trading the wool for finished fabrics rather than money, then turned around and sold the fabrics to the peasantry. Even selling at such a low price, she made a lot of money., She began to sell to others, as well, and Putentut began to lose business.
He stopped trading finished fabrics to Tena, so Tena stopped trading wool to him. Putentut's business nearly died completely before he relented. Putentut's son, Hot Toti, was not going to let it go so easily, however. He started a small farm of his own, and when he was finally able to harvest wool for his father, he poisoned most of Tena's flock.
Tena's nephew, Sohai, was furious. To help his aunt recoup her losses, he sheared and butchered Hot Toti's livestock, down to the last llama. Sohai sold every last bit of it, and gave Hot Toti a single copper, declaring that that was the true worth of his animals as well as his family.
Thus was a feud begun that would span more than five hundred years. The last two members of the feuding families to clash were the rancher queen Seya Sun and the merchant princess Nearmissa.
It was their squabble over the prince Hoptu that led to the demise of the entire desert kingdom of Seta Menut.
One of the PCs receives a letter requesting help.
The petitioner states that he has lost something very precious to him in the Elemental Chaos, and he's looking for a brave group to retrieve it for him. He offers treasure beyond imagination, but the item he lost is the key to the treasure trove. The petitioner goes by the name Al Aba'aster.
Al Aba'aster is a short, thin fellow wrapped in loose clothes. He wears a turban, and keeps all but his eyes covered. His right arm hangs limply at his side, useless the hand sticking out of the sleeve is badly scarred and two of his fingers are fused together, it seems from extreme heat. Though he travels with the party, he will not fight. His voice is cracked and old, and he keeps reaching to his neck for something that isn't there.
Al Aba'aster tells the heroes that what he's lost is the pendant that shows his identity. He explains that, due to a misunderstanding, he was once imprisoned in an ice cage in a glacier far above the Blistering Tidepools. He goes on to explain that he got free when the eruptions lasted long enough to melt his prison, and that's how his arm got so badly damaged.
Find the pendant:
Al Aba'aster takes the party to a field that is now a field of jagged glass "the Obsidian Glen".
Just beyond it, in what Al Aba'aster assures the PCs is a newly formed glacier, is a large cavern. There's a white dragon in there, guarding the pendant as well as some other nice stuff. (White Dragon, pg 84 of the Monster Manual)
History Part Two: The Lost Kingdom
Five centuries after the feud between Putentut and Tena began, the Great Pharaoh Snafu and his wife Hamineg were blessed with a son. The astrologers they consulted all agreed that Hoptu, so innocent at birth, would bring about the demise of the entire kingdom of Seta Menut.
His parents vowed to keep him from trouble, no matter what. As he grew, he was brought up with more discipline than most princes, and he grew into a fine young man.
He was allowed out into the castle town of Seta Ment to shop and interact, but he was always watched very closely. One day during one of these outings, he met a shepherdess from the hills. He was taken by her silken hair and her almond eyes, so he set about getting to know her. Her name it turned out, was Seya Sun, famous for the wool produced by her flocks.
She and Hoptu started getting together most every day. This development did not go unnoticed for long; the merchant baroness, Nearmissa, saw the wealthiest, handsomest, most high status man in the kingdom falling for her nemesis. She told her parents of these ill tidings, and they vowed to do something about it. They took her to meet the Pharaoh the very next day.
Snafu and Hamineg were glad to see such a beautiful and wealthy young lady interested in their son. They had heard, of course, of his companionship with the young shepherdess, but with the astrologers' warnings burned into their minds, they decided that Hoptu wasn't a good judge of his own feelings, and they told him he was never to see Seya Sun again.
But unbeknownst to anyone else, Hoptu and Seya Sun had, hidden away in the catacombs of the great palace, shared a pomegranate and declared their undying love. Hoptu had even had a pendant made for her. According to the gods, this ritual was what bound a couple in marriage; ceremonies were a mere formality observed by the people.
Several days later, Nearmissa's cousin, the Archmage Mala Faktur, cast a fell curse that turned poor Seya Sun into a phoenix. The Archmage then sealed her in a glacial cage high up above the Blistering Tidepoools of the Elemental Chaos. She remained there for many years.
Back in Seta Menut, Seya Sun's family found a note in her handwriting stating that she had found her true love, and had gone to be with him. Hoptu's parents rejoiced at their good fortune, and soon arranged for Hoptu to be married to Nearmissa.
Hoptu protested, but he was afraid to tell his overly strict parents that, in the eyes of the ancestors, he was already married, for fear of disappointing them yet again.
He eventually shared the pomegranate with Nearmissa, silently apologizing to the Kings who had come before.
The gods would not brook such heresy and infidelity. Being spoiled kings themselves, they threw a cataclysmic tantrum. They buried the entire kingdom under the swirling sands, and the kingdom was unheard of for the next one hundred years.
Though the kingdom of Seta Menut was gone, the legends of its three treasures lived on. These treasures, kept to help the Pharaohs ascend, are said to grant godhood. The treasures are the Pomegranate of Fertility, the Abacus of Wealth, and the Stone of Histories. The Pomegranate allows for the creation and growth of not only children, but crops, livestock and ideas. It's rumored to be a large star ruby with many tiny yellow stars. If sold, it would supposedly be worth millions.
The Abacus of Wealth is said to be imbued with an ancient spell that doubles the amount of money in any room it's placed in overnight.
The Stone of Histories is perhaps the most important of all. It allows for time travel to anywhere in history.
These were kept in the catacombs of the palace. Many people have tried to find the castle, and its treasures, but none have ever succeeded so far.
If the PCs go straight to the desert, it is too hot during the day to even attempt a search, and at night all they can find is a ghost wandering the sands, moaning “See ya soon! See ya soon!” There is nowhere to even begin looking, as any oases that might have existed were blown over with sand by the wrath of the gods.
From here the PCs have a couple of options.
1. Research. If you have an NPC to whom they can go for help with matters of little-known history, you might elect to use this person. Without such an NPC, you can alternatively have their research point to Ya'Babla, the scholar who studies this lost kingdom, and may have the answer. Ya'Babla lives in a cave in the hills north of the desert.
Ya'Babla turns out to be a really old Rimfire Griffon. He says that he's glad to give them all the information they need, but it comes at a cost. He wants some relics of the old kingdom. Since he knows that there is no way the PCs can find the ruins without his help, he will offer to hold all their gold as collateral against their return, whereupon he will exact his true price.
He then gives them precise instructions: at the setting of the sun, follow the Eye of the Serpent (This is what I chose to call the star- if you have mapped celestial bodies for your campaign, substitute a bright eastern star) for three days, turn south, and find the lone tree, about one day's travel. From there, head east again, and you will know it when you arrive.
2. They can also go looking for information and stumble across an old flier written by Al Aba'aster, looking for help to plunder the desert's treasures. Al Aba'aster will of course be looking for the pendant, and will lead them to the Elemental Chaos.
They will, through Al Aba'aster or Ya'Babla, come eventually to the “Gates” of the palace, guarded, of course, by a Sphinx. The gate appears to be the entrance to a cavern under the sand. There are hieroglyphs all around the doorway, which is made of gold and lapis. The Sphinx smiles as the PCs approach, and greets them with a riddle.
In fragile shell my treasures hide
little beads caught up inside
such is life that I must die
and cast my beads into the sky
so that my kind, and by proxy I,
can live again, by and by.
The Sphinx offers to move away from its door only if its riddle is answered correctly. Rather than fight the PCs if they misguess, the Sphinx simply turns them away. They can try again and again, but the Sphinx will get more and more irritated, and after a few tries, simply refuse them any more guesses. At this point fighting it becomes the only solution. If they join in battle and find themselves outmatched, they can run away without fear of pursuit.
If they find themselves at a loss, and decide to look for an answer rather than risk being wrong, they can ask the Master of Riddles, who lives in the Lightless Mists.
To locate information about the Master of Riddles, they can either have a character with Knowledge of Fey make an insight check to recall that such a person exists, or they can ask around for an answer to the riddle, and be pointed to the Master of Riddles, who lives in the Lightless Mists.
The Lightless Mists is a large forest that is constantly shrouded in thick fog. It is home to many ambush predators and playful fey. If the PCs explore long enough, eventually they will come to the Blackroot Treant, known as the Master of Riddles.
Skill Challenge: Find the Blackroot Treant
Level: Equal to party
8 successes before 4 failures
Primary skills: Perception; Nature
Perception (moderate DCs)
You notice fairy rings, stronger, more verdant plants, and calmer animals around certain areas of the forest. Food is much more available along these ley lines. Noticing the ley lines will help lead the party in the right direction. Failure or success in this endeavor adds either a - or + 2 to Nature checks, respectively.
Nature (moderate DCs)
At least one character must make a check each turn so the group can find food and water, avoid hazards, and not get lost. Failure results in loss of a healing surge, as well as getting lost. Success results in finding the Blackroot Treant. If the party fails and gets lost, use the basic “Lost in the Wilderness” skill challenge on pg 79 of the Dungeon Master's Guide to help them out.
Once the characters find the Treant, they can ask him the riddle. Rather than giving them the answer, he sends them to a fairy ring where they can see a puffball mushroom explode and cast its spores into the breeze.
The Blackroot Treant admonishes the PCs to never stop learning, and smilingly sends them on their merry way.
Once they've given the Sphinx the answer, (or beaten it if it comes to that) Al Aba'aster hurries into the castle. As he goes, he unwraps his face and takes off a few layers of clothes to reveal an old woman with almond eyes. Seya Sun puts on her pendant and calls softly: “Hoptu? Hoptu?”
Hoptu's specter comes forth, and embraces Seya Sun. The gods, rejoicing at the reunion of the prince and his love, restore the kingdom to the top of the sands, and the people to life. Seya Sun is healed, and returned to her former beauty. There is a grand wedding ceremony, and the party is given five treasure parcels as a reward.
If the PCs ask, Al Aba'aster—that is, Seya Sun—was rescued after perishing in the blast that melted her cage. The scholar who rescued her had her raised from the dead with the help of a phoenix feather he found lying near her body. He is the one who helped her begin the search for her pendant and her home.)
If the PCs didn't recruit Al Aba'aster, and they manage to get through, they can plunder the castle's treasures. The three treasures of Seta Menut turn out to be a few pomegranate seeds; an old wooden abacus with the alphabet on one side and the numbers 0-9 on the other, with an inscription on the handle reading “Knowledge is the true wealth”; and a large block of stone in the wall which shows paintings detailing the history of Seta Menut from its beginnings to the reign of Snafu. Looking at the stone will “transport” anyone to any point in the kingdom's history.
With a few minutes of prep, this can be made for any level from five to twenty-five.
In the Elemental Chaos, use fire and ice based monsters of the appropriate level.
In the hills, use beasts, magical beasts and earth-based monsters of the appropriate level.
In the desert, use scorpions, fire and earth based monsters, and extreme weather hazards of the appropriate level.
In the forests, use magical beasts, beasts and fey of the appropriate level.
The plot line is called “Treasure of the Golden Sands.” I made the plot line playable from levels 5-25. This adventure requires some preparation, but using any premade adventure would require a DM to make adjustments appropriate to his or her group anyway.
The plot line includes one major hook and a couple of minor ones. It describes the flow of the adventure from each hook. It contains two different endings.
1.Seya Sun was imprisoned above the Blistering Tidepools, and when the characters visit it later, it has become Obsidian Glen.
2.The Stone of History, one of the Pharaoh's treasures, is a painted stone.
3.The pomegranate was used twice in the story: Hoptu and Seya Sun ate a pomegranate together in their private wedding ceremony, and the Pomegranate of Fertility is one of the Pharaoh's treasures.
4.The PCs are required to solve a riddle to access the buried castle.
5.Seya Sun was turned into a phoenix and imprisoned for many years, eventually perishing in an elemental explosion as the Elemental Chaos shifted yet again.
6.Al Aba'aster/Seya Sun bears heavy scarring all down her right side from the fierce explosions of the elements where she was imprisoned
7.There are two—perhaps three—weddings which take place. The first is between Hoptu and Seya Sun, their secret affair. The second, between Hoptu and Nearmissa, is what triggered the destruction of Seta Menut. The third may take place if the characters help Al Aba'aster/ Seya Sun to recover her lost home. That will be a large ceremony.
8.The Abacus of Wealth is the third of the Pharaoh's treasures, said to bring untold wealth to the bearer.
9.Hoptu is an unfaithful spouse. Rather than admit to what he had done, he willingly committed bigamy, which angered the ancestors to the point of destroying the kingdom.
10.The feuding of Tena and Sohai against Putentut and Hot Toti finally culminated in the infidelity which destroyed their kingdom.
Final bump before the contest closes in about six hours. Get thos elast minute entries in!
A plotline designed for 4 PCs, starting at levels 1-4 and ending at level 15.
This plotline starts in the small agricultural town of Oak Ridge, located in a small valley that will serve as the PCs’ base of operations. Another small town (named Oak Hill) is located about half-a-day of travel away, on top of a near-by small mountain. The valley is located within relatively reasonable distance (3-5 days of travel) of a desert, a sea, a volcano and a larger city with an important library.
At the start of the plotline, the towns of Oak Ridge and Oak Hill are feuding over a wedding ceremony that went bad a few years ago. Cleora Brave, daughter of Oak Ridge’s mayor Jarvis Brave was engaged to Edwin Gullo, son of Oak Hill’s mayor, Melvin Gullo. The day of the wedding, the broom never showed up and the wedding had to be cancelled. Edwin Gullo was never seen again. To the people of Oak Ridge, Edwin is a traitor and a coward who ran away from the responsibility of raising a family (as Cleora was actually pregnant). To the people of Oak Hill, Edwin must have been kidnapped or might have been in great danger and people from the rival town are cold and heartless for not sharing their pain.
Section A: Introduction and set-up
Chapter 1: Water under the bridges
After all those years, it’s practically impossible for the PCs to retrace Edwin. This chapter‘s goal is to give the PCs an opportunity to put an end to the feud between the towns of Oak Ridge and Oak Hill. The only valuable information they will find about Edwin is that he had a passion (as the people of Oak Hill say) or some crazy obsession (as the people of Oak Ridge say) about water. During the months that lead to the wedding, he was constantly talking about the dominance of water. At this point of the story, the rain is relatively frequent (25-50% of time), but it’s still not bad enough to suspect anything more than the weather being a bit more rainy than usual.
Chapter 2: It’s raining again…
This chapter‘s goal is to gradually have the PCs notice that it’s raining more and more in the valley, to the point where they might start to suspect that something abnormal is going on. Depending on the level of the PCs when you, the DM, start planning this plotline, you can implement the abnormally frequent rain more or less gradually. Ideally, you should choose small adventures that can take place in the valley, doesn’t involve massive travelling and where the increasing rain won’t impact the stories. By the end of this chapter, the PCs should be around level 6 and have a general suspicion that the rain is not just a normal weather phenomena.
Chapter 3: It’s raining here ?
As the PCs are back in Oak Ridge / Oak Hill, healing their wounds and selling their loot from their latest adventure, you should hook them for a special mission in a tomb located in the desert. Any small desert adventure will do as the main goal here is simply to have the PCs confirmed their suspicions that the rain is not normal. As they travel to the desert, the rain does not stop for a single second. As they arrive within merely a few walking hours of the desert, the rain finally stops. Even once the desert is reached, they noticed some clouds in the sky, too many clouds for a desert. As they progressed, the clouds cover a bigger and bigger part of the sky, until they finally reach the tomb and enter. Their adventure inside the tomb should take them at least 4-6 days and contain enough encounters to go up a level (and a bit more) in the process. When they finally get out of the tomb, they find out that it’s actually raining in the desert…This should definitely confirm that something isn’t normal with the rain. From there, the PCs will likely adopt one of two strategies:
[INDENT]a) Let’s go home as fast as we can…
The way out of the desert will be a lot difficult, but still doable. As they return home, they will have one or two encounters with desert creatures desperately trying to adapt to their new environment.
b) Let’s enquire here…
If the PCs want to roam in the flooded desert in search of clues, they will have 3-5 encounters with desert creatures desperately trying to adapt to their new environment. After those, they will meet a nomadic tribe whose chief have been invited to the council in chapter 4. They will tell the PCs about the council and offer them a few gold to come along, as “you can never have enough guards”. If the PCs accept, they will pass by Oak Ridge first as it is on the road to the council’s location.[/INDENT]
Chapter 4: Back home
As the PCs are back in Oak Ridge, They will find the water levels in the streets to be dangerously high and a flood to be eminent. What the people of the small town are doing or planning to do depends on the PCs’ success with ending the feud in Chapter 1. If the PCs managed to end the feud, Oak Ridge is in the middle of an evacuation plan to Oak Hill (option a). If the PCs failed to end the feud, the residents of the valley village want to stay despite the flood, as they have no where to go (option b).
Everyone is moving towards Oak Hill, who hasn’t been affected as much by the flood due to their location on top of the hill. The PCs are asked to help to evacuate. They have a small encounter with thieves trying to take advantage of the situation.
b) Staying no matter what
The PCs will need to somehow convince the people of Oak Ridge that Oak Hill is the safest place to go, and that the people there will bury the hatchet due to the circumstances. Once in Oak Hill, the PCs will have more convincing to do and will need to do it fast as desperation and sickness will start to affect the victims of the flood.[/INDENT]
Section B: Searching the cause of the flood
Chapter 5: The council
By the time the PCs are ready for this chapter, they should be level 8 and should have a good reputation as heroes in the valley. Because of their heroics action of the past 4 chapters, the PCs will be invited to the special council where the region’s leaders will decide the best course of actions. The only reasonable theory as too what is causing the flood is given by an old druid who says he is sensing an imbalance in the elements. It is decided to send volunteers (hopefully the PCs) to the temple of elemental balance, where the guardians of balance might have some explanation. The temple is very hard to access, but the druid knows a book that tells how to use magic to access it and that the book in question is at a well known library. Another member of the council thinks it would be best to seek a map and use more traditional transportation. He thinks a map of the location was last seen in the possession of a famous adventurer, and that it must still be with him in his tomb. The PCs, providing that they are the volunteers, will have to decide which they want to listen.
Chapter 6: On the road
The location of the famous library should be further away than that of the adventurer’s tomb, but a point should be made, perhaps by a NPC, that the book should allow teleportation while the map will only be the start of a new road. No matter which way they chose to go, during their trip, it will always be raining. The PCs will understand even more that the rain is a global problem, not just a local phenomena.
[INDENT]a) The road to the library
The road to the library should be long and hazardous, with PCs facing numerous encounters along the way. You could even throw at them some small side treks. By the time they finally reach the library, the should have two levels and reach level 10.
b) The road to the adventurer’s tomb
The road to the adventurer’s tomb is a lot shorter but the PCs should still face some encounters along the way. By the time they reach the tomb, the should be halfway between level 8 and 9.[/INDENT]
Chapter 7: Still haven’t found what we are looking for…
As the PCs will learn, finding the location is not quite the same as finding the exact thing they are looking for.
[INDENT]a) The flooded library
A book on the temple of elemental balance really was at the famous library, but unfortunately, it was in a part of the library that have been flooded. The book is well protected in a waterproof case, but it’s just more difficult to retrieve. The librarian says he will give the PCs the book they are looking for, if they retrieve the most precious books that were lost in the flood. Searching the flooded section should lead to some encounters, enough to bring the PCs about halfway between level 10 and level 11.
b) The adventurer’s tomb
The adventurer’s tomb, as the PCs will probably expect, has been flooded. The tomb was already filled with traps and a few undead. Now, you can also add a few aquatic monsters. The expedition should be dangerous, but the PCs should eventually find the map they are looking for. By the time they finally reach the library, the should have gain a level and be halfway between level 9 and level 10.[/INDENT]
Chapter 8: More than one way
[INDENT]a) The book
The PCs should somehow find out that Edwin Gullo was the last person to ask for this book. The book itself describes four rituals designed to gain access to the temple of elemental balance: the rituals of air, earth, fire and water. According to the book, each ritual must be performed on a particular location. The ritual of air must be performed on a high mountain, the ritual of earth must be performed in a deep canyon, the ritual of fire must be perform under the desert’s sun and the ritual of water must be perform in the sea.
b) The map
If the PCs decided to go after the map, they are in for a small deception. The map, although it is truly related to the temple, does not show the temple’s location. Instead, it is a simple map of the continent, with a few things written on it. A few high mountains are circled and there is an inscription that says: “high enough for air ritual”. A few canyons are circled with “deep enough for earth ritual” written in the margins. The same desert to which they have been in chapter 3 has “fire ritual” written on it. The sea has “water ritual” written on it. The PCs will likely realize that they need the book of rituals and will go looking for it. They will go through chapter 6a (a shorter version, since the tomb was in the same general direction), 7a and 8a, which should bring them about halfway between level 11 and level 12.[/INDENT]
Chapter 9: accessing the temple
The PCs should be able to eliminate the fire ritual since they haven’t seen the sun for weeks, and should remember the flooded desert of chapter 3. They are less likely to chose the ritual of earth, since they will assume that deep canyons are likely to have been flooded as well (and rightly so). The PCs should also know (by asking the librarian for example) that the highest peak they see at the horizon should take them about 1 week to climb and that the sea is also about 1 week away. However, if they have the map, they should be able to notice that a smaller and nearer mountain is high enough for the air ritual, as it is circled on the map. No matter what their choice is, they should meet enough encounters on their way to reach level 12 as they arrive to the ritual’s location.
[INDENT]a) to a mountain’s peak
It’s still raining of course, however once they’ve reach a certain altitude, they go higher than the dark clouds and see the sun for the first time in weeks. The ritual of air summons a celestial roc to carry them away to the gate of air.
b) to the sea
The sea is very agitated. It seems to have taken a life of its own as there is basically no wind, but, strangely enough, there are still giant waves. During the ritual, as they enter the sea, the waters seems to let them in. They are soon trapped in a vortex that teleport them to the gate of water. [/INDENT]
Section C: The temple of elemental balance
Chapter 10: arrival
The PCs will arrive at a different gate depending on the ritual they used. But no matter which way they arrive, they will have the opportunity to explore around the temple. The temple is protected against all forms of teleportation other than the four rituals described previously. The temple has a large rectangular central section with four more sections extending from the central one. There are four entrances, one at the end of each lateral section. The temple seems to be located in a volcano island. One section leads to a really high leaning tower (the air section). Another section seems to enter under the volcano (the fire section). A third section seems to go under the sea water (the water section). Finally, the last section seems to rapidly enter beneath the earth.
Apart from the creatures specific to each section, pretty much all of the temple is occupied by human druids and adepts, who are members of a cult dedicated to the supremacy of the water element.
[INDENT]a) entering by the gate of air
The corridor leads to the leaning tower on one side and to the central section on the other side. The air section is filled with dark clouds. They will be attacked by strange cloud creatures with the air and water subtypes.
b) entering by the gate of earth
The corridor leads deep beneath the earth on one side and to the central section on the other side. If they explore the earth section, they will find part of the floor to have turned to mud. They will be attacked by strange mud creatures with the earth and water subtypes.
c) entering by the gate of fire
The corridor leads under the volcano on one side and to the central section on the other side. If they explore the fire section, they will find all flames to have been put out and whole section to be filled with hot steam. They will be attacked by strange stream creatures with the fire and water subtypes.
d) entering by the gate of water
The corridor leads underwater on one side and to the central section on the other side. If they explore the water section, they will sense a strong and strange power. They will rapidly be attacked by corrupted water elementals. [/INDENT]
Chapter 11: The main section of the temple
When they finally arrive to the centre of the temple, they will battle a large contingent of cult members, while the leaders will escape to the central section second level. After the battle, they will find the bodies of all of the true guardians of elemental balance who have been killed. Strangely enough, they all seem to have been drowned, although there are no signs of a flood here. In the centre of the temple is a giant abacus, with four rows of 6 beads each. The PCs will eventually find information on what the abacus represent, either with speak with dead spell, or a book. The four rows represents the 4 elements (white = air, brown = earth, red = fire, blue = water) and the abacus is attuned to detect the strength of those elements in the material plane. Normally, when the elements are in perfect balance, all 4 elements should have 3 beads on each side of the abacus. When an element has more beads on the right, it is too strong. When an element has more beads on the left, it is too weak. At the PC’s arrival, Water has 5 beads on its right, while all the other elements have only three, indicating that water has become too strong, putting the world in peril. With all the guardians of balance being dead, it is left to the PCs to put the elements back in balance, but how ?
Chapter 12: Further exploration
The second floor of the central section has a portal that the leaders of the cult used to escape. Unfortunately, the portal has can only be used a certain number of times per day and the cult leaders have use all of the daily uses for one of "thos elast minutes" escapes. The PCs will probably take advantage of the delay to explore the rest of the temple in an effort to find clues on how to re-balance the elements. There are five section to the temple: the main section, and one section dedicated specifically to each of the four elements (see chapter 10). Eventually, the PCs will find information about the cult believing in the superiority of the water element and wanting to bring the material plane into an “era of water”. Apparently, they are based in a location within the elemental chaos, a planar city called Tsunamia.
Section D: Into the elemental chaos
Chapter 13: Destroying the cult
When the PCs finally managed to use the portal, they are instantly teleported into the heart of Tsunamia. There, they will have to find the cult and eliminate them, including one of the leaders, Edwin Gullo.
Chapter 14: Conclusion
After the final fight, the PCs will need to find a passage home back to the material plane, which shouldn’t be to hard at the levels that they will be. The end of the story depends on how successful the PCs were against the cult. If they managed to stop them from performing their ultimate ritual, the material plane will slowly return to its natural balance. If not, the material plane will enter an era of water and pretty much all non-aquatic creatures will disappear.
Optional elements used
[INDENT]1. A location within the Elemental Chaos.
5. A roc.
8. An abacus.
10. Two feuding families, towns, tribes, etc.[/INDENT]
I just want to add a few comments on my entry:
1. You will notice that there are absolutely no stats whatsoever in my entry. That is because I don't know anything about 4e.... I figured that if there is one 4e contest where I could get away with it, it's this one.
2. I will also admit that I got a bit carried away and probably made something way too long. I guess I just added too much details in the first few chapters and didn't have enough time and energy to do so in last chapters where it matters most.
3. I want my cookie! (see chapter 12)
The Brides of Ashton Ketch
The Tease: Marriage is not to be entered into lightly, and nowhere is that more true than boucolic Derbyshire. For with each passing season, a passion is stoked, a vow is broke, and the wages of sin is death. For a curse holds this land, that those who betray their solemn words shall find themselves presented unto the veangeful spirit of a cuckolded man for a final accounting. Now it is that spring has come once again to Derbyshire, and weddings are at hand. Among the maids betrothed is young Constance Galloway, but will her passionate nature be her undoing as family enemies seek to lead her astray?
And can the adventurers save this town and break the curse, before another blushing bride is wed to the feathery fury of Ashton Ketch?
An Interwoven Adventure Scenario of Mystery and Excitement for 3-5 Characters of Levels 1-3
The Brides of Ashton Ketch consist of a number of scenarios that occur before, during, and after the wedding of Constance Galloway to Emerson Long. Constance's wedding is one more occasion for the Radford family to quarrel with the Galloways, and as they have often done before, the Radfords hope to use the Curse of Ashton Ketch to strike at their rivals. Should they succeed in causing Constance to be unfaithful, she will be offered as a bride to Ashton Ketch, a small roc that dwells in the region. The adventure has three primary phases: the lead up to the wedding, during which the party can aid one or more of the feuding families or a neutral party; the rescue of constance or defeat of the roc; and the solution to the curse that grips Derbyshire.
The Legend of Ashton Ketch
Once upon a time, back when the Lyceum was open and tutored the aspiring bankers and treasurers of the land, Thomas Ashton Ketch was a prodigious, exemplar student. Upon graduation he took as his wife the Lady Ottoline, haughty daughter of the wealthy Radford family. Lady Ottoline could not control her wilding ways and cuckolded the young financier. Thomas sent her away in divorce and vowed to find a woman worthy of his vows.
Many brides did he subsequently take, some from Derbyshire, some from far away lands, but none were able to prove themselves worthy of the hand of Thomas Ashton Ketch. Nor were they all as lucky as unfaithful Ottoline, for in his despair Thomas murdered many of the offending brides. When his spree claim the life of a well-loved local girl, Rebecca DeLong, the town could turn a blind eye no more.
Ketch barely escaped to the skirts of the town, and the torch bearing mob was left to hang nothing but his empty howls that for those who violated oath and vow, custom or contract an accounting would occur.
As the years passed, the Old School fell on hard times and was closed, but life returned to a normal rhythm. Then one fine spring day, a young maiden by the name of Jennie Ethan was set to be wed, but the ceremony was interupted by a terrible cry from above. A great eagle descending and scattered the wedding party. The fiendish fowl proclaimed that he was Ashton Ketch and claimed Jennie as his bride. For days before she had dallied, and was thus undone. And in his wake, Ashton Ketch left word that all who were unfaithful were due his bride.
And when the townsfolk of Ithel Town - as Derbyshire was called in that day - refused to heed the claims of Ashton Ketch, calamity fell. Cows gave no milk, houses collapsed, and women birthed no babes. Thus it was discovered that another woman - Sarabeth Hest - had broken her marriage vows and taken up with a field hand. Angered and shamed, her husband dragged Sarebeth out to the vale and tied her to the horse post. As he turned to return home, Ashton Ketch flew down from on high and claimed another bride. And the power of the curse was stayed.
Thus it is to this day, that those who are unfaithful to the vows they take, shall be made a new bride to Ashton at the steed whip stake.
The Truth about Ashton Ketch
The Radford family was irate over the dissolution of Ottoline's marriage, and they took out their frustration ruining the reputation and financial solvency of the Lyceum Arithmeticum. They also endeavored to ruin Thomas personally and hired lotharios to seduce his subsequent betroths, enticing them to theft or deceit, or even sending harlots to gain his trust.
Thus it was that cruelty of the Radfords drove Thomas mad. Determined that he should be able to find a way to determine the integrity of a person, he found means to take an accounting. As the the days played on, he was constantly watching as the beads of abacus moved to record the deeds and misdeeds of those around him. When Thomas married Rebecca, the Radford conspiracy brought the matter to a bloody head.
When Thomas escaped the mob, the power of the abacus gave life to his final curse against the town. And it took root in the abandoned confines of the Lyceum. Now everyone who has ever lived in Derbyshire has a magic abacus dedicated to them, tracking their deeds until they die.
The roc called Ashton Ketch in truth had little to do with the man for whom it was named. Shortly after Thomas was run out of town, the accountant was waylaid by local humanoid bandits. His discarded corpse was taken by the wondering roc for food, and his clothing and effects became part of the bird's nest. On the eventful encounter when the roc crashed the wedding of Jennie Ethan, the writings of Thomas were left behind like so much bird dander or litter. The story of it speaking were a later embellishment as the townsfolk pieced together the nature of the curse. The Brides of Ashton Ketch have provided enough of a periodic meal that the roc continues to return to the area.
While the legend of Ashton Ketch may be wrong with regards to the roc, there is a curse upon the town. Whenever anyone violates a vow - be it marital, contractual or other oath - the abacuses of the Lyceum record the offense. The value of a given offense varies with the deed, but infidelity is the most significant. It should be noted that the curse operates under a retro-active rule, such that deeds done prior to an oath are still charged against the oath without open acceptance by the offended party at the time of oath taking. The people of Derbyshire are unware of this catch.
For game play purposes, the Curse affects the region by increasing all DC by +1 per recordable incident (up to the DM) and +5 per infidelity. Further, for every +5 to the DC, combat rolls suffer a -1. The party is affected by this as well so long as they reside within the town or its environs. At the start of the adventure the penalty is +4.
The referee should feel free to add additional effects of the curse (such as prohibiting child birth).
When an offender perishes, the curse effect from that person's misdeeds is removed from the tally.
The Radfords and the Galloways
Following the expulsion of Thomas Ashton Ketch and the acknowledgement of the curse, the Galloways moved into town and become one of its prominent families, much to the jealousy of the Radford clan. The Galloways eventually bought out the last of the Ithel heirs in various township business and changed the name. Matters took a grave turn when Abigail Radford, last grand-niece of the Spinster Ottoline, ignored the commands of her parents - who now forsook all oaths - and eloped with Jerome Galloway. The young couple strived for a good start and built a home, but the old familiar tragedy reared once more, or so they thought.
For you see, Abigail's sister Evelyn had also fancied the strapping Galloway, and she framed her sister - including secretly taking and breaking an oath of her own to produce the curse. Evelyn's plan went awry, however, as Jerome did not offer up Abigail for Ashton Ketch, as was the custom, but instead took matters into his own hands. The Radfords convinced the town that it Jerome had been the unfaithful one, and young man was hung at the horse post before he was claimed by the roc. Evylen left Derbyshire, but the state of the curse remained for another twenty years, when the wicked sister was herself murdered.
Two generations later, the Radfords and Galloways are still locked in an unspoken war with one another.
(Offered at the end when confronted with the Celestial Abacus)
What is the cost of betrayal true, an oath born of kinship, from within the womb. An oath taken falsely, to accuse without claim, to sunder a marriage with misery and pain?
The answer is the marker values on Abigail's abacus in the Old School. The answer may also be derived from the grave ledgers and abacuses of the deceased, including Evylen. Additional clues may be placed in worker's songs (such as during the wedding preparations, children rhymes in the street (ex. "Little Fanny Mae, and little Freddie Mac, he took her to the cleaners, and she gave him forty whacks"), funerary dirges and sermons ("Too little do we count the deeds of men, for to sacrifice for a friend is worth ten pieces of gold, a stranger three-fold") , and wedding passages ("Let none divide what has now been joined, two houses of love, a hundred apiece to grow as one", i.e. adultery is worth 200 points on the abacus.)
The Town: Derbyshire is a standard small town. Notable buildings including: the general-store which runs the catering operations for weddings, the Lyceum Arithmeticum or Old School where mathematics, accounting, and banking were taught, the horse whip post where brides (and grooms) of Ashton Ketch are tied, the wedding field, and the abandoned home of Abigail Radford and Jerome Galloway.
When the party first arrives in town, Constance Galloway is set to be married to the eligible bachelor Lord Emerson Long. The party may choose one or more of the following paths: A (traditional combat, treasure hunt), B (role playing and intrigue), C (traditional combat with some role playing), and D (role playing and skill challenges).
The Adventure Scenarios
A. Six Pence None The Wiser
The Galloway family's dowery was intercepted by raiders (paid off by the Radfords) on the outskirts of the town. They need the party to recover the gifts or the wedding is off. The cave system where the raiders hide out is the same one where Thomas Ashton Ketch met his end. Some of his effects, including a bag of prized abacus beads (graduation rewards from the Lyceum) can be found in the cave.
B. Dangerous Liasons
The Radfords have convinced the handsome Aaron Bailwick to woo Constance before the wedding. Aaron needs the party's help in catching Constance's eye before she marries a man she could not truly love. The young woman is easily infatuated, and should the party be able to bring the two youngsters together, the common tragedy will undoubtably play out.
C. Devil with the Blue Dress On
While the wedding season is underway, a new arrival to the town has just purchased the old Radford-Galloway Manor. Unfortunately, vermin and other undesirables have made their home in the abandoned house, and the new owner is hiring pest control. Unknown to everyone, however, is that the tormented soul of Abigail still haunts this house, as does the spite of her sister Evelyn. In the course of this adventure, they can learn much of the old feud between the families as well as the curse of Ashton Ketch.
D. Four Weddings and Funeral
The general store is swamped with work, with multiple weddings, including Constance's, occuring over a quick succession of days. The store also has funeral duties, and with everything all a'tizzy, the owners need some extra assistance. From digging graves, to baking food, and to delivering cakes along a busy street, it is a challenge unlike any other. While engaged in skill based work, the party can learn much of the back story of the town and pick up a number of informational ditties that play into the riddle of the abacus. they may also note the grave ledger logs, that indicate what people had done in their lives before death.
E. The Wedding Crashers (From A,B, or C)
The wedding of Constance has arrived, and the Radfords have done what they can to ruin it. If the party was successful in B, or if they did not pursue it, then the curse of Ashton Ketch while activate when the couple takes their marriage vows. The party can be faced with multiple dilemmas - stopping the wedding before it happens, stopping the Radfords from interrupting an otherwise valid ceremony, handling the aftermath of a post-oath revelation including an overhead appearance of the roc. If the party kept Constance away from Aaron, then one of the other maids' wedding will invite down the curse.
F. Between a Roc and A Hard Place
Constance (or another bride-apparent) is charged with infidelity and tied to the horse post for Ashton Ketch to retrieve here. The Galloways, and possibly Lord Emerson, are besides themselves with grief. They beg the party to rescue their daughter and end the curse by killing the roc, but even otherwise good townsfolk will not look favorably upon the continuation of the curse and will try to stop the party. Defeating the roc will not vanquish the roc, but there in the nest of the roc, the party will find the broken abacus of Thomas Ketch.
G. Back to School Again
The characters return to the town with the curse still in place. The townsfolk point them to the Old School. Inside its halls, the characters will encounter all manner of magical objects and foes. The most wonderous of all is the hall of records, and the magical abacuses that float about recording the deeds of all within the town of Derbyshire. One of the abacuses is that of Abigail Radford. Abigail's abacus has too many beads upon it - the excess is the cost of Evelyn's betrayal of her innocent sister. Finally, at the center of the Hall is a presence and a giant glowing abacus, notable also for the fact that many of its beads are missing. The Celestial Abacus is the embodiment of Thomas Ashton Ketch's curse, which will not be lifted until a final Accounting has been done. If the characters restore the abacus to working order with the beads found in Scenario A, the Celestial Abacus will speak the riddle. The party may freely leave to consult with the townfolks on matters, but the curse will not be lifted until the Celestial Abacus accounts for the false accusations against Abigail.
Title: The Brides of Ashton Ketch
Levels: 3-5 characters of levels 1-3
5. Roc: the creature to which all betrayers are offered as sacrificial brides
4. Riddle: the solution to the accounting problem on the Celestial Abbacus, with clues found in the Lyceum, the Wedding Passage, the Workers Song, and the Funerary Dirge
7. Wedding: The wedding ceremony of Constance Galloway to Emerson Long; multiple wedding planning activities; the weddings to Ashton Ketch
8. Abbacus: the broken abbacus of the roc's nest; the abbacus beads of the cave; the abbacuses of the Lyceum Arithmeticum; the Celestial Abbacus
9. Unfaithful spouse: Ottoline Radford, Constance Galloway, Jennie Ethan, Rebecca DeLong
10. Feuding Families: The Radfords and the Galloways
The contest is closed! Please do not go back and edit your posts until winners have been announced.
Judges, start your engines!!
I've been reading the entries as they've been coming in for the purpose of expeditiously submitting final scores while still giving each entry enough time for fair judgment. Due to the surge of last-minute submissions I'll probably have my scores in by the middle of this coming week.
After the medals are awarded, I'll also offer a more detailed critique of a submission upon request. Sensitive writers be warned, I'll not pull any punches on aspects that were problematic. That's not to be rude, but my presumption that one's goal in wanting a review is to improve writing skills and presentation for useage in a game or a future competition, not to assuage egos
Thanks ace, i think we all appreciate your critiques. I'm sure i'll be calling on you after everything is over.
I'd like your critique of my entry as well, AceRumble, please.
I'd very much like to hear anything you have to say, Acerumble. Likewise, if anyone else has any comments/critique, I'd like to hear them/it.
I'm quite the rookie when it comes to DMing, and I'm sure I've made mistakes; it really helps if some one else can point them out. Maybe I'm a bit too green to be trying this kind of competition, but jumping in the deep end of the pool will often let you know what NOT to do, if you want to swim.
I guess I will drop in just to reassure everyone that I didn't go missing and forget my role as a judge.
It is going to take me a few days to finish scoring these entries. I have simply been too distracted lately to start until now. However, I am making an effort to give full commentary for every entry this time, so you can look forward to that.
Not until after the results are announced, the new winner is added to the pool of eligible judges, eligible judges let me know they're interested in judging XDMC 9, the judges select a topic, required elements and optional elements, everybody approves the wording of the contest's initial post, and I get a chance to post it.
Shouldn't be long.
Alright, I have submitted my scores. It shouldn't be too long before we wrap this up now.
I have written full commentary for every entry, including the disqualified one, and I will post it all once the winner is announced.
This has ended up being a busy work week for me, so have gotten a little behind (I write this from work as we speak). Would like to review my scores one more time so should have those in by tomorrow.
I have notes on all the entries, but haven't crafted any presentable critiques yet. Am anticipating a break coming up so I'm planning to start posting those within the next few days.
I am ashamed to admit the other judges have their scores in, but mine are still not finished. I have my own D&D game this weekend. If I can get to it on Sunday, I will. Will try to have scores up next week.
FYI: Because the site was down yesterday morning, I am now really behind on judging. My goal is still to have scores posted by Friday though.
All done! I'm sending scores to the judges for review and approval. Should be a few days for scores!
Congrats to the winners! A very tight field with only 1 point separating the top 3. And the first time I've ever seen a single entry score 2 bonus points! That definitely made a difference in the outcome this time around.
Thanks to the judges, and congrats to my fellow medalists! And to everyone else, good luck next time!
Huzzah, I'll take it.
I'm sure with comments I can iron out those last little faults and nab the top dog.
It may have taken me 5 or 6 contests, but I finally made it to the top 3! :P
comments please comments! want to move from 6th up a couple of notches. tips would be greatly appreciated.
Time for the great commentary floodgates to open. I apologize beforehand if my commentary seems a bit harsh or abrasive, but I assure that I give such commentary only because I want to see you all improve, not because I hate you or anything. I really mean it when I say that I hope everyone who entered this competition will continue to enter future ones. Also, I encourage all of you to read what I said about other contestant's entries, since you may find it helpful.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, time to get this started, first with a few comments that apply to many of your entries.
People need to write text that explains information to the reader, not "box text" designed to be presented to the players. The most important thing is to be sure that the person reading your ideas understands the ideas, not to create the specific way this information gets converted into the game. Even if you want to hide a fact from the people playing through the plotline or adventure, you should never hide information from the people who may be running said plotline or adventure. This is a serious recurring problem across many entries.
Speaking of adventures, too many people wrote this as if were asking for a published adventure, but you only really needed to create a usable plot. Actual encounters, skill challenges, and the like, even incomplete ones, were not necessary, and didn't add anything to your final score. I never penalized anyone simply for adding these aspects, but they tended to simply create potential weak points in the story or distract away from more important elements. Remember, pay attention to what is being asked for and don't spread yourself thin creating more than you really need to!
This entry suffers from countless flaws, though I can generally sum them up by saying that your writing is terrible and this plot is an illogical railroad. There is no proper justification for why things happens the way they do, why the PCs get involved in all of this, why weapons are seized (except daggers and rapiers), why Pomegranates are being used as murder weapons, or why this unexplained battle between two rival groups (merchants? nobles?) seems to turn into the French Revolution. A number of these elements are quite interesting (the choice of pomegranates actually seems to imply some hidden meaning), but you simply don't describe them in a way in which they make sense (what is the meaning behind the pomegranates supposed to be?).
Basically, you just skim over all of the important details, and try to force a particular scenario rather than explain a plot that is useful and coherent to a DM. What is worse, this is a cruel "gotcha" scenario that forces the PCs into a bad situation that isn't their fault, and you give no alternatives to this "worst case".
Also, I can't for the life of me figure out the logic behind your capitalization scheme. I thought you were borrowing the classic "capitalize every noun" scheme that you see in older texts and the German language, but that wasn't consistent... Either way, though, it is distracting and unhelpful.
Your basic presentation of information is clear and concise, but you have some fairly glaring grammatical mistakes, many related to how your lines break up into sentences. You also have problems keeping terms and ideas straight (such as a duke becoming a baron). It feels like you should elaborate more on your ideas and characters (why is the Duke taking over supposed to be a bad thing?).
One of the biggest problems with this entry is that you try to set this is as taking place at some kind of presumed PC base town, but introduce a huge list of characters and situations that might conflict with such a town in an existing campaign. What is more, I am not really sure that a bunch of hired thugs and common guards and soldiers, or even a reasonably tough Duke, make good challenges for a 13th level party. Also, I can't quite follow what is going on with the demons and devils in the cave... Having two central ideas to the plot (the missing heir trying to bring back his father and the betrayal by the sister) weakens the plot somewhat.
I think your entry would have been overall improved if you both left this situation as something the PCs may stumble across, rather than something happening at their hometown, and gave stronger incentive for the PCs to remain a part of the plot after they get betrayed.
As for the optional elements, I actually like your use of the painted stone. It serves as a nice hint that leads the PCs to their next goal. The Roc feels forced, since it is pretty much just there and seems awfully inconsequential compared to the demons and devils that live in the mountain. The wedding isn't bad, but it seems that the typical adventuring party would be more interested in revenge, rather than stopping the wedding, so it seems like something that may simply not occur on screen in many cases.
I think it is worth saying that the "Ralanastrax the World Serpent" encounter you describe is a perfect example of something to never put into an adventure. To repeat, it is not the kind of thing you want to inflict upon a party in a D&D game! Things like that scattered throughout your entry, such as the unavoidable encounter with the old woman, the unmatchable nature of Rapha, or the abacus puzzle, are things I would encourage any DM to avoid.
As a whole, the combination of the many specific elements mentioned that you don't even explain, but assume exist (what are the Dalelands? What on earth is Rapha?), the way it is intended to force a campaign into a certain direction, and numerous mechanical elements that don't even match 4E (save vs. fear doesn't make sense in 4E rules), I am forced to say that this plot is 100% unusable as written.
On a more positive note, you do have a number of interesting ideas in there. The basic idea of chasing a recurring villain into Firemaw Fair (a great location concept, by the way), and getting caught up in a disaster there is quite good. A lot of the individual ways you implement these concepts are pretty bad, but the core skeleton of the story is pretty creative and looks like it could be a lot of fun. You would have been better served by presenting the same story skeleton without all the setting/campaign specific detail, but instead more generic detail designed to augment adaptability and flexibility. The important thing is to create a single core concept, and then put your effort into making that core concept as solid as possible, rather than trying to essentially write a whole campaign all at once.
The optional elements were a weak point in this entry. I am not really certain that your "painted stone" actually qualifies (you would need to be a lot more clear about what that object actually is). The wedding is forced at best and totally insignificant at worst. Oddly enough, the idea of an abacus puzzle showing up makes a lot of sense for a place like Firemaw Fair, so I rather like its inclusion, but it is essentially a random object in the characters' path rather than a part of the plot itself, so I can't really praise your implementation.
I really feel bad giving you so much harsh criticism, since you brought quite a bit of enthusiasm to this contest, but you really do need to polish up your skills.
I have fairly complicated feelings about this one... For the most part, I think you presented a very strong idea that is quite usable and would lead to great adventures. However, I don't think you quite did enough to elaborate upon the idea. To a great extent, you simply set out the starting conditions, without really putting enough emphasis on the actual adventure part. I'm not saying that you didn't write enough, but you may have chosen the wrong things to write about. Your advice in many of the "steps" is fairly generic and commonsense (which means that it mostly goes to waste), and you don't do enough to make the struggle over the Beacon have its own character. Basically, it just seems to be a serious flaw that the entire process is exactly the same whether the PCs choose to help a group of mercantile Efreeti or a ravenous horde of demons. You would have been better served making these experiences different, creating usable NPCs with fleshed-out personalities, and setting up specific events in the struggle, rather than just summing up what it means to win a battle and the kinds of strategy that the PCs should use to win.
On the more nit-picky scale of things, you have a few spelling and grammar mistakes here and there, some of which make it fairly hard to understand what you mean. Also, I have a few issues with your use of the optional elements. I'm not going to deride your use of the "location within the Elemental Chaos" element, obviously, but many of the rest seem a little weak. Your Rocs are technically correct, if a little bland, and I will reluctantly accept that the Crystal Beacon is a painted stone (though I entirely missed that it was supposed to fill that criteria at first, which may be an issue. I think the ideas of crystals and runes threw me off too much), and I will even say that if you accept the Crystal Beacon as a painted stone, it is an excellent example of how to implement an optional element, but I regret to say that you missed the mark with the feud element. What you describe is outright civil war, and in fact it isn't even really "civil" enough to call it that, especially with an invading army of demons prowling around. At a fundamental level, anything that actually brings the normal day-to-day activities of a community to a halt is too severe to be a feud, and this struggle is way over that line.
You did a good job making useful encounters, though, so congrats on that.
I am actually at a loss on where to start commenting about this one...
First off, I will say that this entry is a mess. You went for as many optional elements as you could fit in, and that never works. Because you tried to fit in so much, you ended up with a giant morass of different ideas that don't weave together at all. Because you have so many competing ideas, I hesitate to even call this a plot. A setting with numerous plothooks, sure, but not a coherent plot. As a result, everything you describe is lacking any kind of interesting detail, so there is nothing about this entry that is particularly intriguing or remarkable. What few details that are interesting (such as the Pomegranates of Life) tend to be mentioned briefly and then promptly ignored without any deeper explanation.
What is really annoying about this entry is that the entire thing is pretty much based around a conflict between these two "houses", but you don't do a single thing to make the two groups any different. In fact, you don't even give them any personality at all, since you don't even bother to give their leaders names. You seem to think they are generic and 100% interchangeable, so there is no way for anyone else to think of them as anything but that.
You have fairly good spelling and grammar, and your writing is adequately clear, but you also have severe flaws in the way you present information. Basically, you present information in all kinds of strange charts and vague references, but do very little to explain the most important elements upfront in a clear and consistent manner. This may be because I am not sure this adventure of yours has a list of central important elements, but if it did they should have been stated more clearly. Another issue is that you tend to give a lot of fairly specific descriptions, like how each house has a "large beast", but you don't bother to take the actual step to create a proper encounter that can be used as-is. Between this kind of incomplete detail and the lack of detail I mentioned above, this entire entry comes across as being very lazy and amateurish, in which you use many words to say very little.
Also, your definitions of "valley" and "abacus" seem to differ from the standard, which makes it hard for me to really sort out a few things. People live in valleys, they don't get separated by them... And I am uncertain as to why an abacus would be placed on a set of scales...
Basically, I don't think you really establish why the PCs would want to gather the Sigils. You explain a good way to get the party caught up in that place, and that the Sigils are important to the people of that place, but not why the PCs should get wrapped up in helping that place rather than trying to find a way home. All the elements are there, but the beginning doesn't quite flow logically. Also, it seems like a major oversight that the pendant and worm man that are responsible for this whole mess don't show up again.
I wonder why a world that seems to consist entirely of four towns seems to have such extensive trade and powerful merchants...
Overall, I rather like the basic premise. Strange dreamworlds that obey their own rules are always fun. What is more, the basic concept is very easily adaptable. This entry would have worked a bit better if the nature of the dreamer responsible for this dreamworld and the rules that govern it were more explicit. More detail and description all around would have been nice.
Still, the basic format of your entry doesn't work. You fill the first part of your entry with unexplained details that mention characters being pulled out of time, Sigils, and some legend, but you don't give a useful summary of the basic idea.
Finally, I have to say that it is probably a mistake to create totally new races to fill this world, even if they are just reskinned (and improved?) versions of existing races. You would probably get a better result on trying to flesh out how the cultures of each of the four areas were distinct and unusual, rather than the people.
Your spelling and grammar need quite a bit of work. You tend to use overly complicated and unnatural-sounding ways to say some things, and your spelling is generally sub-par. However, you do lay things out in a fairly straightforward manner, and most of the errors you make can be pretty easily fixed by having someone read over your work or read it aloud.
Generally, I was liking the sound of your plot when you were describing Myskot's backstory and his goals, but I disliked the adventure you wrote up in order to flesh out that plot, which is a shame since this contest wasn't requiring you to actually create a statted out adventure, just a workable plot. And seriously, your adventure isn't all that great. Its biggest problem is that is entirely dependent upon a deus ex machina book that could theoretically screw over an entire campaign simply by existing. What is worse, you go straight from finding the book by chance while looting a dead guy's house to fighting the epic end encounters in a battle to save three worlds, over potentially the span of a few minutes. What is more, the fact that this guy can destroy the worlds simply by building a couple monuments doesn't make a lot of sense. It seems too easy... The basic idea of the plot calls for a fairly protracted battle against an insane wizard with grand vision with numerous confrontations and exciting twists, but your adventure plays out like a bunch of superheroes once again saving the world from yet another badguy with a god complex.
Another flaw is that your rules tend to stretch game balance to its breaking point. You say your encounters are "standard", but you fail to mention what level they are standard for, even though that is the more relevant piece of information (and apparently the heroes level up from 21 to 22 between the first encounter and the second). What is more you really need to take better account of the impact of the fire titan on the later battles (at least give alternate xp values in case he actually gets killed). Finally, both your stats for the wizard and the book don't work. The wizard is notably more powerful than he should be as a level 20 elite controller, I don't like the constant die rolling you need to do to determine his random elemental effects, and the whole "rituals for free" thing about the book is just asking for trouble (we are talking about literally countless dirt cheap magic items of the characters level, and that is just one abuse I can think of).
The biggest flaw of this entry is that I basically have no idea about what the heck is going in half the scenes you are trying to describe. Your spelling and grammar are fine, but you have a bad habit of simply forgetting to mention extremely relevant details. For example, you forget to mention how and when the PCs pick up the fourth stone (or what color it is, coincidentally enough). In the middle of the paragraph talking about the battle against the gnolls, you just start talking about priests and captured people. You say "the device creates a portal" without ever mentioning a device beforehand. I don't even have a clue what is going on with the general (he just kinda hangs around and follows them for a while, stays in the background, shows up again here and there, follows them into the abyss, and then they suddenly find him captured even though he was presumably right along with them the whole time?). Your entire entry is a giant string of ideas that don't logically connect together. I know there is a reasonable story there, but you tell it through inference rather than actually stating it outright. Also, you really shouldn't keep so much information hidden from the reader when you are trying to explain your ideas so they could be theoretically used.
In terms of optional elements and the basic themes of the contest, you do pretty well. I question whether the Blood War fits into the definition of feud as I laid it out early in the thread, but other than that you make the themes work very well.
The plot definitely seems a bit like a railroad and full of random contrivances as you describe it, which can be a problem. If the PCs do any number of things, many of which are entirely reasonable (like ditch the general or take a different path to try to find the red stone) then this plot would fall apart pretty quickly. It is important to lay things out so that different paths can still carry you through the same story.
As a side note, randomly creating a dragon who is older than ancient but weak breaks a trope of D&D. Like it or not, the age = strength rule is fairly iconic for the game, and shouldn't be tossed aside lightly.
This entry has a few major grammatical flaws that you really should have fixed ("destroy some forces the Asmodeus"?). More importantly, this entry left me with more questions than anything else. Who is Acatzin? Who is Sharash? What is Arkhosia ? I found the answer to the last one by double-checking the PHB (I thought it vaguely sounded familiar), but I don't have a clue for the others. Unfortunately, my confusion doesn't quite end with a couple of names dropped at the beginning.
The whole attack on the wedding by agents of a different agent who didn't know that the wife was an agent thing is really convoluted and unnecessary. Even worse is the situation you described in Part 2. It took me a few rereads in order to figure out that the temple you refer to in the second full paragraph of that section is not the church of Bahamut you mentioned the sentence before. The entire connection between the dragonborn attack on the wedding, Lady DeFleaur's stated desire for vengeance, and the dragonborn at the temple is pretty murky to me (why so many dragonborn anyways?). The third part seems even less complete than the previous parts. As a whole, you would have been helped a lot by spending more time writing out these ideas more clearly, and giving greater elaboration on possible situations and such. As it stands, it feels like you are describing the introductions to events rather than the events themselves.
I have no idea why so many entries are trying to link together weddings and unfaithful spouses... If they are still getting married then they are not really spouses yet... It seems to go against the spirit of the optional elements, I think. The entire roc thing feels a bit forced (again). At least people tend to use the painted stone concept pretty well... Err, sorry for the random rant there.
This is a very good entry. It has a solid premise, is easy to get hooked in to, and your writing is quite solid. This entry only has one significant flaw, in both writing and plot concept, and that is the fact that you keep saying "the PCs do this". Just as annoyingly, you waste words on saying "the DM can change this" (this should always be just assumed), and keep giving redundant advice like "this can be solved with a skill challenge or by roleplaying". Also, there are many points where you say that an investigation takes place, but don't give enough information in your entry to really connect the available evidence to the needed conclusions, which makes life difficult for a DM trying to use this plot.
I think you could have given more explanation about the deal that was made between the Kaffars and the devil. What did the Kaffars get out of it? Why did Bantaal use the middle men in order to set up the serial killer, and why did he continue to work with them once the serial killer was doing his job and communicating with Bantaal directly?
The only other weaknesses I can note is that the painted stone is definitely forced in there a bit, and a devil taking refuge in the Elemental Chaos is a bit unusual. Of course, I will forgive the latter because the Vulcan Swamp is a great location for the Elemental Chaos, and you can consider it stolen.
I admit that I am impressed that you managed to cram all ten optional elements in there. However, I think thus ultimately hurt your entry more than it helped it. It really feels like a scattered mass of ideas that don't connect well together, with too many different tracks that pull the whole thing off course. In the end, far too many of the different elements and the majority of the creativity your poured into this one is left as backstory that is mostly irrelevant to the main action of the PCs' involvement.
Your writing is clear and descriptive, but the way you order your ideas doesn't quite work. You really shouldn't break up the history into two parts with part of the adventure in between, especially since it makes the two sections feel very disconnected. You don't even really describe how the first adventure, involving the Elemental Chaos, really flows into the desert adventure.
Also, you forgot to actually give the answer for the riddle. It is implied in the Treant section, but you don't state it right at the start like you should have,
And I am sorry to say it, but naming a king "Snafu" is a mistake. A hilarious mistake, but a mistake nonetheless. At that point, all I could do was keep looking for jokes and hidden meanings in the rest of the names...
Honestly, if this plot started with "it suddenly starts raining, and it just doesn't stop", then I would have liked it a lot more. I actually really liked the feud subplot on its own, but it is little more than a distraction from the much bigger flood plot. Actually, many parts of your entry are like that. There is nothing about a "the world is flooding" plot that requires all of this specific geography and particular stops while adventuring, and all of the different branches and recursive paths you create to format this adventure feel more like a badly written "create your own adventure" book than a reasonable campaign, and these different required details certainly hurt Usability. The biggest problem, though, is that you put in so many little adventures that you ended up giving each one less detail than is really needed to make them work. This is especially problematic because you just know that the PCs are just going to start thinking about building an ark and riding out the storm once they realize that the rain isn't going to stop, and that pretty much derails the entire campaign course you have ironed out
Actually, about the campaign course stuff... I don't know why you keep saying "the PCs should be this level at this point". You don't detail anything to such an extent where level range matters at all, and you certainly don't provide statted out encounters that give enough experience points to level characters up. If level doesn't matter, then you don't need to mention it.
Also, I do have to question your naming scheme. "Tsunamia" is a hard name to take seriously, but "Oak Ridge" is just as bad for a different reason. There are simply too many normal towns and places in the real world named "Oak Ridge". The result is something akin to naming a town "London" or "San Francisco".
Still, I have to say that I like the idea of dumping a great flood into a D&D campaign. I don't really like the "temple of elemental balance" (it doesn't even really mesh with 4E's idea of the Elemental Chaos), and you never properly explain what is actually causing the flood, but I still like the basic concept a great deal.
All I can say about this one is that it is impressive. You actually managed to take six of the optional elements and bind them all so tightly into the adventure that it really doesn't work without all of them. Well, the riddle is a bit weak, and you probably didn't need to include it since you made such good use of the rest, but that hardly lessens how amazed I am by your feat.
Certainly, I don't think I can comment on your entry without mentioning your writing style, since it is so distinctive. A lot of the time, it reads almost poetically, and adds a lot to the flavor of the adventure. At other times, it just falls flat or even starts getting confusing and bothersome. It adds a lot, but would have added more if it was less uneven.
The only real thing I can say is that you probably could have spent a bit more effort on detailing the way this great setting is turned into an actual plotline. You list various general possibilities, but it doesn't quite come together into a logical and involving plot that the PCs could play through. I didn't penalize you that much for this because you laid out a set of rules with enough internal logic that plots can be very easily extrapolated, but it still would have helped if you had put more thought into actual game usage.
Your entry starts great, but goes a bit downhill from there. I really liked the opening background information (other than a glaring change in tense) and the plot hooks, but it seems to go astray from there. It generally feels far too contrived and laid out without much room for PC choice. Basically, any time you say "the PCs realize this", it should be a warning sign that you are assuming too much.
Giving raw phoenix feathers the ability to revive the dead is a serious gameplay mistake. If nothing else, it is a good way to guarantee that the poor sleeping phoenix gets plucked so that the party never needs to worry about death again.
Finally, you have a pretty bad habit of not properly introducing people names. Who is Craigert?
If anyone wants some clarifications about my criticisms, feel free to ask for it.
Finally, thank you all for entering the competition, and congratulations to the winners.
I don't want TwinBahamut to hang out there in the wind on his own, so here's my comments as well...
yellowdingo's Uprising Show
Witchslasher's Duplicity Show
While I think the idea of PCs being implicated in a merchants’ guild war is interesting, this adventure needed a little bit more flesh on its bones. I wasn’t sure what the PCs are supposed to be doing between the wedding and the peasant uprising. An do anything to stop it, or is everything predetermined until the uprising itself? Also, the story requires that the PCs not inspect the flour sacks they are carrying.
Disarming PCs is also fairly unfair to the martial PCs. Arcane and divine PCs still can use all their powers without implements, but many powers are useless without specific weapons. Unless the martial PCs are given some sort of compensation, they are at a disadvantage the entire adventure.
As a final note, you should have listed the optional elements you were incorporating.
tcrsvage's Fire in the Sky Show
This was an entertaining tale of Faustian levels. I like the depressed son bargaining with demons to bring his beloved father back. Sort of Faust meets Hamlet. Storywise, though, I have a big problem. My PCs, upon discovering that Vittorio is willing to solve his problems by entreating with demons, would rather the Marawen marry a stranger for political reasons than allow a demonist to take the throne. Marawen’s fiancé, at least, appears to be able to manage large estates and prosper. For some reason, the PCs are supposed to want to stop him merely because he is ambitious, and put Vittorio on the throne, even though he has exhibited no capacity to govern. I’m having a little trouble getting behind this plotline.
As a final note, you should have listed the optional elements you were incorporating.
Veok's Crystal Beacon of Veilgaarde Show
While an entertaining and well-described yarn, this isn’t really an adventure. Except for a nominal combat with gnolls and hyenas, the party has nothing to do but watch. In fact, they are compelled to stand around for twenty rounds while a dragon burns their hair off! I am really not a fan of the plotline where PCs don’t get to do anything.
As a final note, you should have listed the optional elements you were incorporating.
Shinobicow's War of the Twin Stone Gods Show
This was a great entry. The politics of Veilgaarde was fascinating, and there are lots of hooks to get epic-tiered PCs involve in the fighting. I could have used a little more detail on the factions so as to see how there might be a real dilemma for the PCs as to who (if anybody) to support. I also would have preferred one option for the PCs to be to destroy the beacon altogether. Otherwise, I thought it was well-written, clear and very evocative!
This was a great concept with a lot of good plot hooks. I enjoyed this entry very much. My comments are mostly quibbles. First, I’m not crazy about random encounter tables, and haven’t been since 1st edition. There should be a story and the DM can choose encounters appropriate to the story. But I didn’t deduct points for this.
I thought setting the adventure in Forgotten Realms was a mistake, particularly since the plt could easily have been written without Mystra at all (two eidolons fighting to ascend to godhood, and, for whatever reasons you choose, only one is fated to make it). Had you included guidance on how to run this adventure in campaigns outside of FR, I wouldn’t have had to deduct Usability points.
I also think it’s generally a mistake to try to include all the elements. While you got a perfect Themes score from me, a lot of the elements felt forced (the Abaci and the roc in particular), which affected your Clarity and Creativity scores. It’s better to include a handful of elements seamlessly than to try to include all the elements for completeness’ sake. (Although this is a fault of which I am particularly prone in my own entries.)
I would have liked a bit more formality on how to run the skill challenges you mentioned. A little more guidance there, rather than random encounter charts would have gone a long way. Than said, well done.
JayJian's Escape from Shilous Show
Bellmaethorian's Crushed Show
I found this entry fun in a sort of stream of consciousness way. I didn’t really understand where the sigils came from or why they exist, or why the party cares about them. I don’t understand how an innkeeper’s daughter came into possession of a potent artifact. Had these things been better explained, I think it might have scored better.
I’m not sure why you chose to add four variant races. Why not simply use dwarves, dragonborn, elves and halflings? The addition of new races makes it less likely a DM would be able to use the entry in his or her own campaign.
I thought the painted stone fit well, but the feud seems to have died off, being no more than a legend, so I don’t think you really integrated that well. The rocs were just a random encounter, so that didn’t score very well either.
Novatack's Blood War Show
While I’m not entirely clear on how the crushing is going to allow the wizard to take the resources of the material world (or what he would do with them), I was willing to by the premise because he is clearly totally bonkers, and the elementals would go along with any scheme that would destroy the world.
I thought you did a good job with the encounters, and I generally had no problem with the wizard’s stats, except that I really don’t like the random damage type for the wizard. I’m not sure what the point is of that and it doesn’t really make him feel “chaotic”, just sort of wonky.
I think the themes fit pretty well, particularly the scar and the painted stone. But you didn’t really include a specific location in the elemental chaos – it was more of a generic location.
dulsi's Slithering No More Show
I like the idea of bringing back the blood war between demons and devils. But the way you attempt to do it is wreaking havoc with your Usability score. Killing Yeenoghu is something that many DMs simply aren’t willing to incorporate. In addition, I found the story a it confusing with betrayals and illusions and demonic deceptions. If I were the players, at some point I’d just declare a pox on all sides and kill everybody, the dragon, the demons, the corrupt armies, the devils, the gnolls, the kobolds. There don’t seem to be any good guys left, and there’s no way to keep the townsfolk from getting decimated (worse since half the town is going to die).
Lord Ventnor's Money is the Root of All… Show
I really like the back story with the nagas and coatls being related. That works well, and thought it might impinge usability (for DMs who have other cosmology for the nagas), you more than made up or it with creativity.
However, the wedding seems entirely forced. Why wouldn’t the dragonborn wait for the wedding party to leave? Why attack so publicly? There seems to be no time constraint here. Most of the thematic elements seem fairly forced.
Saint Keelon's Treasure of the Golden Sands Show
This entry by far was the most seamless integration of the thematic elements in the contest. I didn’t even realize which entries you were using until I hit the bottom, because nothing felt pasted into the entry. It was also well-written and clear. I am a little concerned that sending Heroic Tier PCs into the Elemental Chaos is a bit premature – planar travel is really intended for Paragon or Epic Tier, but the visit is brief, so I think that doesn’t impinge Usability too much. I would have liked a little bit more information on the relationship with Bantaal and the serial killer. Does he collect innocent souls for Bantaal, or are these people who have sold their souls for Bantaal and the killer is simply collecting debts? Can devils consume innocent souls? Other than that bit of vagueness, I really liked this entry.
lazzmaniandevil's Flood Show
This is an entry that brimmed with creativity, but became laden and overwrought trying to cram every optional element into it, most of which felt really forced. I felt you spent a lot of time on a backstory that was of only nominal importance. The feuding merchants only explained why the prince was forced to break his secret marriage vows and isn’t something a PC is likely to discover (or care about). I also was not thrilled with the idea that the PCs would go through this adventure only to find the artifacts they had been led to believe exist were simply metaphorical. On the other hand, if these artifacts did exist, they would be game-breaking.
I am glad that you were the only one to use the riddle element. A good riddle is hard to find. This one has some problems (the riddle plausibly could also reference peas in a pod, pollen from a flower, or anything else that releases its seed into the air from an encasing. But I assume the sphinx would have accepted any plausible answer in that vein.
OldDawg's Brides of Ashton Ketch Show
I really enjoyed this story. Some of the twists I liked was that Edwin Gullo really was a villain, rather than an innocent victim of circumstance. One of the feuding parties was actually correct! I also liked the use of the slow build-up of the rain as a scene-setter over the PCs’ first four years. Of course, having an adventure span the entire Heroic Tier of an adventuring party’s career makes this a bit less Usable than a discrete adventure, but Oak Ridge and Oak Kill could be placed almost anywhere in a campaign world, so that helps quite a bit. Overall, I thought this was a well done entry, and I even liked the use of the abacus, which was one of the more difficult optional elements to use.
Nykrothane’s The Wings of Ash Show
I loved this entry. The story of Thomas Ashton Ketch (is this a reference to Ashton Kutcher?) is marvelous, and the town itself is so innocuous, yet filled with pathos and treachery that it sounds like a wonderful place to set a few adventures or even a whole campaign. (I imagine PCs having to see the accounting on their own abaci!) Since this is the campaign arc I am most likely to steal I am giving it my bonus point!
My only comments are that I felt the prose at times was a little opaque. I was able to figure it all out eventually, but another pass through the text to clear it up would have been helpful. Alas, as with other entries, I don’t think it helped that you tried to achieve more than three or four elements. The abacus, the roc and the unfaithful spouses were plenty. (Although I rather liked the riddle.)
That said, an excellent entry!
This was a well-done entry. It had a lot of atmosphere, the mysterious manorhouse, the trap-laden clocktower, the haunting of ghosts. I liked the use of the themes and the hooks you devised for the party. However, sometimes there was a bit of unnecessary railroading. How do you know the PCs won’t detect the doppelganger? What happens if they do? Why does the evil wizard kill his “groom” at the altar? Why not wait until they are alone on their wedding night, or even before the wedding reception? Why didn’t the scarred bandit take the pendant when he had kidnapped the groom in the first place? Why have the friendly NPC-wizard solve the mystery? That feels like you’re stealing the PCs’ thunder. Why is he able to find the bride’s body, but not the PCs when they enter the clocktower?
This was a great entry. The politicsof Veilgaarde was fascinating, and there are lots of hooks to get epic-tiered PCs involve in the fighting. I could have used a little more detail on the factions so as to see how there might be a real dilemma for the PCs as to who (if anybody) to support. I also would have preferred one option for the PCs to be to destroy the beacon altogether. Otherwise, I thought it was well-written, clear and very evocative!
Awesome advice. Thanks guys. If i pmed you with an updated version after i finished editing it, would you mind giving any further advice? I respect your guys opinions and i'm just trying to get this up and running for actual use so i want to make it as good as it can be.
I look forward to the next competition. If i get it done in time, i have one i've been working on for MDMC 46, but i'm not sure if i can get it done, its coming down to the line right now.
Thanks for the feedback so far! I figured that there could be a few explanations for Yammis. The most likely is that he's an old family friend who also happens to deal with devils. As for the family's deal with Bantaal, he gets mortal souls (whom Yammis kills), along with the promise of the family to aid him in his future endeavors (the family's souls are also in his pocket, too). In return, the family gets devils who protect them, spy on competitors, and all that other good stuff.
Bantaal acts through proxies because he's afraid that his rivals will discover him before he's had a chance to muster the strength he thinks he needs to head back to the Nine Hells. Bantaal also doesn't talk with Yammis directly because of this; the Kaffars are the go-between when Bantaal has to contact someone on the Material Plane.
I guess I might have been laying it on thick with DM suggestions, but I figured that making these points obvious wouldn't hurt at all. Also, glad that the Vulcan Swamp was well-received. Elemental Chaos in Heroic Tier might seem a bit too early, true, but when I thought it up, I thought that it was too cool to not use.
First, I would like to congratulate the winners! Nice job, guys!
Second, I would like to thank the judges for their comments. It's really appreciated, even when I don't agree with you!
In a nutshell, separate elements are out --
massive, multi-elemental conglomerates of primordial chaos-stuff -- in
They basically decided that elementals weren't as well defined by single elements, and I think that's the reason why most of the elementals listed in the MM are actually 3.5's version of "paraelementals".