Friday, June 15, 2012

The Curse of Emparas

As I mentioned last week I designed a module for use with the D&D Next Playtest. Here's what I worked up for those interested. It can work just fine, obviously, for any edition of D&D with a tiny bit of  adjustment. Note that I have redacted stat blocks, per the playtest agreement.

The map for this module is actually something I used from 0ones Blueprints, which are some fantastic generic old-school maps designs. The specific map I used is part of the "Hill of Many Dungeons" map set, specifically the tomb map (Dungeon 1) in that set. You can find this map set at right here. It's only $1.65 and well worth it, 0one does great stuff. If you can't get it for any reason, you can always key the module to any decent dungeon.

The module as I ran it was modified a bit due to time constraints; I compressed much of the ending into one final chamber event that included the wight, orc, some cultists and the gray ooze. The PCs lost one character (the fighter) in that fight but otherwise triumphed. I haven't altered the module otherwise; I think the original works fine without a time constraint.
This adventure is set in my Enzada setting, which is getting a lot of love in game play this year. It was fun seeing it briefly in the playtest....but Pathfinder remains a better home for it. That said, here's the module:

The Curse of Emparas


In the free city of Washaran, where the Selindari expatriate Afras Siddaram rules with his Waladari wife Unestra, trouble is brewing. The city is small and depends on mercenaries and a small volunteer militia for defense. It is a center of much trade activity for the sarnathan orcs of the Urthon Mountains, the Chirikatha aboriginals, Waladari merchants and Selindari traders.

Recently, a contingent of the sarnathan clan Veraghost arrived, bearing their mortally wounded elder warlord, Nerask. He requested an audience with the kishatrya in the public debate square. There, before all, including the adventurers, he states that he has been betrayed by his brother, Kaash, who was seduced by the siren song of the Jainist Emparas, once a great priest and religious leader of lost fabled Drath. According to him, while treasure hunting Kaash and his band of mercenaries, in the service of the antiquarian and explorer Maretan Skane (a Dasamite) stumbled across the entrance to a lost tomb. It turned out this tomb was the burial place of the the ancient Jainist Emparas, or so Kaash claimed when he returned to the village. There he told all that the Jainist had seen the true way, and that his immortal ascendance was a ruse, that he was not destined to the form of pure spirituality; instead, the end of the tunnel lay in the eternal walk of the undead! At this Kaash stole the life force of his brother, leaving him an ancient shell and fled, bearing the scepter of the clan.

Nerask pledges 10,000 gold pieces to the warrior or warriors who seek out his brother, return the Scepter of Veraghost to him, along with the head of his brother and this mad, undead jainist of old. He pledges it on the spot, stating that one must travel north, to the outskirts of the ruins of Drath, in the Barrow Lands. Seek out the entrance to the lost tomb, and bring him his victory.

A DC 12 Charisma check while talking to the orcs in the contingent can reveal that this is a last resort; over thirty orcish warriors have already plunged into the barrow lands of Drath and none have returned, though some claim to have seen their kin wandering in patrols. A slight bribe (5 GP) or better charisma check (DC 15) can coerce the orc into giving details on where those patrols and the proper barrow mound can be found…

The Journey to the Barrow Tomb of Emparas

En route, adventurers will be accosted by gnolls of the Wildermane tribe, seeking to cause disruption among those who would aid the orcs. There are nine gnolls and one pack lord in the raiding group, and they will take advantage of cover of night to attack travelers on the plains. To determine if their prey is worthwhile, during the day a kobold named Mekarlek and his six kobold gang members will be tasked with crossing paths with the PCs, with his burro of goods (he has six large packs on the burro; each contains a kobold). Mekarlek will engage in trade and based on the perceived wealth of the PCs he will report to the gnolls whether they are worthy of attention. If Mekarlek thinks the PCs are especially vulnerable and wealthy he may try attacking them with the gang instead of reporting on them to the gnolls.

Makarlek the kobold and his gang of 6

Gnolls (between 1 and 9), Gnoll Pack Lord Fumarsh

Travel Time

It will take three days to traverse 100 miles of rough desert terrain, of 2 days if they stick to the road and branch off when it becomes necessary.


The tomb is now guarded by orcs who have been ensorcelled into the servitude of the undead jainist. Unlike Kaash, the orcs who came later were not all slain, some were charmed. However, many were killed and then raised. Emparas is careful about who he makes a wight, however, and so only Kaash is a wight at this time.

Patrolling the area around the Barrow Tomb entrance are three groups of six zombies apiece:

Zombie patrol (6)

Key to the Barrow Tomb:

1. The entrance hall is long and dusty, clear evidence of excavation can be found. Blood stains and bits of bone and flesh show a recent fight, but curiously less evidence of slaughter than one might expect.

2. Getting into this faux-tomb requires bypassing the hidden spiked pits (DC 12 to notice, they’ve been triggered and reset so dust is disturbed; falling damage 2D6) The sarcophagus within appears pristine but opened, its seal broken. Within is a mummy (genuinely dead) dressed in elaborate robes holding an ancient gold scepter with a ruby gem in its face. The gem is paste and the scepter is fools gold.

3. This corridor to the inner complex passes by ancient gates leading to the catacombs of the jainist mendicants. A lore check on religion (DC 15) will reveal that this wasn’t always a tomb, it was once where they journeyed to purge their bodies through rigorous fasting and medication prior to ascendancy. The jainists would perish, usually while in a lotus position, and would then be placed on display for all to see, as a sign of their successful devotion to purity.

4. Here are old crates and barrels of votive offerings and incense, now mostly dessicated or dry. A careful search does reveal one crate which contains 50 GP in a pouch along with a ring worth 125 GP someone hid within. Two other crates contain two dead men! One is clearly Selindari, his ally is a uthitin Halfling. Both were stabbed to death and then stuffed in the crates (by the skeletons below).

Along a north wing someone has broken into this chamber from a hidden passage beyond. Careful study (and stonecunning) can reveal that in fact someone appeared to have discovered a hidden passage in the wall, but could not open it so they hacked it down. The picks to do so lie nearby, shattered.

Two secret doors (DC 14 to find) open up to two compartments, each containing 5 bejwelled, golden skeletons armed with scimitars. The extra metallic covering gives them AC 14 and if scraped or melted off is worth raw gold material worth 15X1D4 GP apiece. The jewels are fire agates, ten in all worth 20 GP each. The skeletons will come to life if the secret doors are breached or someone opens a crate in area 4, or steps on the hidden sensor plate in front of the bashed wall.

5. The Hall of Transcendence. It may look like a corridor to a prison or tomb, but it was once the passage to ascendancy for the jainists. Rooms 11-17 contain the meditation chambers where they went to die. Rooms 6-10 contain the prepatory chambers, where successful ascetics who passed on were taxidermied and prepped for passage around ancient Drast as evidence of their spiritual power. Beyond those chambers like the burial rooms, where the “failed” ascetics were placed, their bodies interred in simple wooden coffins and then taken to the Lower Deeps (area 30) for disposal.

In each of rooms 6-10 there is a 20% chance that 1D6 skeletons lurk in the coffins, waiting to awaken to the sounds of living beings.

In each of the chambers 11 through 17, there is a 40% chance of a jainist corpse in meditative pose waiting patiently for preparation. These jainists will eerily appear not to have aged a single day. There is a 5% chance one of them unexpectedly reanimates! If so, roll a D20: 1-16: he is a zombie, 17-19: a wight, 20: spontaneous resurrection!!!

18. trash heap. Here in this descending pit the old temple disposed of waste. A gelatinous cube has lurked here for ages; anyone entering the chamber will see what initially appears to be a large solid dull stone, like an idol, surrounded by rusted metal and debris. The debris included 77 gold pieces and 253 silver pieces (and 1,111 copper pieces but who’s counting). The gelatinous cube has been in hibernation and has become covered in a thick coat of dust, thus its initial “disguise.” It will move as soon as it senses life within 15 feet of it.

19. This chamber has no exit, and another hidden spiked pit trap (2D6 damage). There is evidence of a simple meditation matt, and it looks as if an ascetic may have spirited away to this spot for private fasting and ascendency, though the body appears to be gone. Tracks (DC 11) indicate someone has been in and out of here recently. The booted tracks lead to the north wall secret door, which requires a “leap of faith” to open….simply stepping through the illusory wall, which is an old spell.

20. Emparas’s personal quarters. Here is where Emparas dwelt in life, and now also in death. The wight can be found here, or in area 21, communing with his new dark gods, the dreaded spirit Zaag Sal, the real reason he returned from the dead (though he has not yet figured this out). Zaag Sal is the dark lord of the outer darkness, and it’s dreadful mote of darkness summoned into being in area 21 seeks to use the wight to gain a foothold in the mortal plane.

Emparas the Wight: he has a +1 magical longsword.

If the PCs attack him in his chamber he will flee to meet his cultists in room 21. This chamber contains a chest with a lock and poison needle trap (DC 13 dex to unlock, DC 15 wis to spot needle; DC 13 dex to disarm; all of this needs lockpicks). The needle deals 2D10+4 poison damage to the unwary. The chest contains +1 platemail, +1 greatsword, 255 gold pieces, 13 platinum pieces, 3 potions of healing, a gold necklace worth 25 GP and a folio of 20 prayer scrolls that each grant advantage on attacks against the undead if read as a standard action for one attack (declared by the attacker).

21. This ancient temple of Zaag Sal was the reason for the jainist’s corruption. Unknown to Kaash he had two lieutenants who were servants of this dark god, who were using the mercenary to unlock the depths of the abyss to unleash the dark mote of Zaag Sal into this chamber. So far they have brought forth only one of the more wretched of the demon god’s agents, a gray ooze. The ooze has been led to chamber 29 for now.

Dark Acolytes (4), Dark Adepts (2), Each cultists has a gold talisman worth 10 GP but it depicts Zaag Sal, so sort of evil.

22. Ancient Chamber. This chamber contains nothing unusual, but after 1D4 minutes a pack of stirges on the roof will awaken and attack (2D6 stirges)

23, 24, 25, 26, 27: These chambers are all otherwise abandoned save for wildlife. Each chamber has a 25% chance of an encounter:

1-4 1D6 giant centipedes
5-7 1D6 fire beetles
8-10 1 owlbear
11-15 2D6 dire rats
16-20 3D6 cave rats

28. There are half a dozen orc prisoners kept in this chamber, behind crude iron bars. They are periodically dragged by the cultists to be fed to the gray ooze in room 29. The orcs will plead for freedom, and even offer to take up arms if weapons are available.

29. Chamber of the gray ooze. Here is where Zaag Sal’s first emissary appeared, a mindless and evil gray ooze. It has since budded and there are now 1D3 of them within. The pool where it lurks in the center is filled with the bodies of recent sacrificial victims, including the remains of the orcs that were fed to it.

30. This myserious passage descends into the Lower Deeps, and can lead to further adventures….alternatively; it ends in a shelf along a deep pit, where bodies are tossed into an unknown abyss.

31. Here can be found four shallow graves where the moldering bodies of recent victims that were “accepted” by Zaag Sal now fruit and ferment, turning into aberrant trolls in his servitude. The wight Kaash has been assigned to oversee their passage. When the PCs discover them, one of the bodies will “awaken” (more if it seems appropriate) and the newborn troll will “spout” from the corpse and attack, along with Kaash. Kaash has the scepter of his clan.

Searching each body in this chamber reveals a fist-sized gem of turquoise placed in each chest, worth 50 GP apiece. Kaash himself has a potion of invisibility (2), and a wand of binding.

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