As always, while the stats below presume Pathfinder / 3.5 you could adapt this easily to any D&D-like and in fact I ran the first version of this in 4E.
Tales of Theliad: The Sunken Temple of Ikaros
Premise: The PCs arrive in Thelaed, new to the land, but are quickly stranded when their ship is seized for carrying contraband….spell scrolls! The captain had been doing shady dealings, apparently.
While wandering the streets, they are accosted by known local thugs. Assuming they defeat/intimidate/slay the thugs, this prompts townsfolk to ask the PCs if they can help with a local problem, specifically, cultists in the nearby swamps are extorting the citizens for food and valuables, and occasionally people disappear from the streets. The city guard seems not to care, and the local merchants have pooled money to hire a competent crew (they’ll offer 150 gold pieces per person for an end to the threat, and a bounty of 5 GP per head).
Encounter on the Streets of Thelaed
8 level 1 human bandits and 2 level 2 human bandits (Rogues, LE)
Travelling to the Ethelar Swamps is arduous but only about a day’s journey, just south of Thelaed. Along the way, the PC learn that the swamps are patrolled by skalykind who have wrangled fell beasts to do their bidding.
1 Ankheg (XP 800) (3 gems in stomach worth 50 gp each)
1 lizardman (XP 400) (35 SP total)
The lizardman is a mad creature and a beast tamer who has trained the ankheg to aid him in his hunts. He will hit any target that looks vulnerable.
2nd Encounter in the Wilderness (CL 5 XP 2000)
3 hyenas (XP 400 each)
2 lizardmen (XP 400 each) (18 SP total)
This party of hunters in the swamp will challenge the PCs but flee if the odds are clearly against them.
3rd Encounter: Vegepygmie Hunting Party (XP 1600)
6 Veggypygmies (XP 200 each)
1 Hyena (XP 400)
The vegepygmies have no interest in fighting with humans and their kind, and indeed would prefer to trade. They have about 35 gold pieces between them to offer for goods, but in turn one of the vegepygmies has 2 cure light wounds potions and 1 bull’s strength potion he is willing to part with for 50 gold apiece (or equivalent value in trade). He doesn’t know what they are, just that they are “good stuff.” He’ll let someone identify the potions if they offer him something worth 5 GP, or some food, for the privilege.
Arrival at the Sunken Temple
The site of activity is an ancient, sunken temple in the murky mire, its massive walls now covered in vines, with hideous forms on statues peering out. There is an entrance, but it has to be swum to foranyone to reach it (they can spot boggards entering and leaving this way on a DC 14 perception check). The inner entrance is guarded by boggards, who are from a local tribe that occupied the upper levels of the old temple, and have been cowed in to serving the Cult (most boggards will break and run if bloodied).
The temple though mostly submerged in the swamp water, once looked like a great pyramid that had been scooped out to create a great inner courtyard. The main entry is located on the far (northern) wall midway up its slopes of this inner courtyard, and that is where the adventurers must swim to. The temple’s full dimensions are approximately 150 feet across in both directions, and the inner courty yard is 70 feet across at the base.
Entering the ruins through the swamplands leads to the following encounters:
The Ruined Chamber of Sacrifice (Upper Level):
10 skeletons (XP 135 each) and 1 Skeletal Champion (XP 600) Total XP 1950 (Skeletal Champion has a +1 shield and +1 longsword)
The inner entrance exposes a high-ceilinged chamber approximately 30 feet wide and 40 feet long in which can be found an ancient shrine to a lost deity, the statue of which has been thoroughly defaced. The chamber is flooded with water that is knee-deep. Hidden in the water on the first round are the skeletons, which rise from the murk after the players enter. The skeletons do not attack any servants of Ikaros such as the boggards.
Beyond the ruined statue lies an open passage with stairs leading upwards.
The Infested Dormitories of the Old Cult:
1 Yellow Musk Creeper (XP 600) and 3 boggard zombies (XP 200 each) Total XP: 1200 (one zombie has a wand of cure light wounds, 7 charges, caster level 3; there are 57 GP scattered around and 1 masterwork dagger)
The staircase beyond the shrine leads upwards to a higher chamber overhead, near the top of the temple. This chamber is segmented into about two dozen cubicles linked to a large room of equivalent diameter as below (30X40) but with a low ceiling. Three boggards perished here, turned into zombies by the yellow musk creeper that infests this chamber.
In one corner of this chamber is a bathing pool and a wide grate once used as a sewage dump. A tracking check (perception DC 12) reveals extensive boggard and lizard man foot traffic that carefully avoided the yellow musk creeper areas of the room and goes back and forth between the sewage pit and the entrance to this chamber. An inspection of the pit reveals a rope ladder leading down (covered in filth and slime), but sturdy enough.
Encounter: Boggard Infestation – the Sewer Entrance Region (CL 6 XP 2400)
There is a lengthy tunnel that connects to the sewer system of the city of Thelaed. This stretch of sewer is guarded/inhabited by the following:
2 Boggard fighters (XP 1200) (47 GP total)
1 Boggard Sorcerer level 1 (XP 600) (Knows magic missile, charm person)(has a scroll with burning hands, charm person, fog cloud and daze monster; has a wand of cause fear with 4 charges, level 3)
1 Rat Swarm (XP 600)
Descending in the tunnel is an arduous task, and requires frequent climb checks (DC 10) for each turn of movement downward or upward. The sewage pit tunnels drops 100 feet and leads to a deep tunnel network that one could (with a tracking perception check DC 16) eventually lead back to the sewers of the city of Thelaed. It also has tracks which lead to a partially flooded chamber in which a boggard guard unit with a trained rat swarm stand guard around a macabre shrine. This shrine is an ancient stone slab with an overhead arch of humanoid bones, jelled together by boggard excrement and slime.
Any dwarf or character with a DC 13 knowledge (engineering or dungeoneering) check will realize that these ancient sewers are one collapse away from being flooded by the swamps, and that the maze of tunnels must be deep below the base of the ancient temple.
Entry to this region is found by locating the submerged floor of the old temple courtyard outside and taking a deep dive; at the bottom of this submerged chamber is a rusted metal mesh that once opened up in to deep pits in which prisoners of sacrifice were held, but a hole in one wall from a great crack along the western temple wall allows for one to swim inside and then upward, in to an open-air chamber that then leads to the deeper catacombs at the base of the temple. These catacombs are where the boggards made their lair long ago. The upper levels contain mainly females and tadpoles, but is guarded by a tough gang of frogmen.
Encounter: Boggard Infestation-the Upper level (XP 10,000 total)
The maze of the catacombs contain several small lairs and guard chambers, occupied by:
10 boggard fighters (XP 600 each) (12 GP each)
20 Veggepygmies (Xp 200 each) (slaves of the boggards; a diplomacy check could lead to a calm resolution if the boggard slavers are killed first, or captured)
Encountered in groups of 1-2 boggards and 2-4 veggypygies each (XP 1,000-2,000)
This reflects the possible number of boggards the PCs could meet while investigating the murky half-flooded catacombs.
Encounter: Boggard Infestation – The Inner Works (XP 3600 total)
At the bottom-most catacomb level is a wide chamber that connects to the Deep Temple region. Characters investigating the catacombs will eventually find an entrance to this chamber. Here the boggard chieftain Ch’hrak rules:
1 boggard chieftain (Level 2 fighter) (+10 HPs) (XP 800)(A +1 Frost Spear, ring worth 125 GP, necklace worth 500 GP, and 7 gems worth 50 GP each)
6 vegepygmies (200 XP each)
2 boggards (XP 600 each) (55 GP each and both have masterwork spears)
1 Lizardfolk priest (XP 400) (Spells: bleedX4, sanctuary X1, DoomX1)(named Inansor, an advisor to the chieftain and a priest) (clerical scroll of bane, lesser restoration, aid and animate dead; +1 Heavy Mace of Disruption; +2 Bracers of Fire Resistance (10 pts))
The lizardman is a female shaman name Hsana, who has converted the boggards to the worship of the cloaker Ikaros. Beyond this wide, rough chamber that once held hundreds of interred bodies of priests from the bygone era of this temple’s glory days is a downward passage paved with the bones of the ancient dead. This leads to the Deep Temple Sanctum where the lizard men and Ikaros now dwell.
Beyond the inner works of the temple lie the sanctum that has been fashioned in to a reworked temple. This complex was once used long ago for the interment of noble corpses, though none have been animated, miraculously. There is a zealous tribe of lizardmen who have occupied the lower level, seeking the wisdom of the Cloaker Ikaros, their new messiah.
While wandering down here, there are numerous branching tunnels. Some will eventually connect to the sewer tunnels mentioned earlier, and others may lead to remote caves that open up in the swamp.
Encounter: Depraved Lair of Scalykind in the service of the Eleven (XP 2000)
5 lizardfolk warriors (XP 400 each)(115 GPs total)
Characters who wander deeply will stumble across this murky, partially flooded cavern of lizardfolk, who will otherwise attack if disturbed unless the PCs are all disguised or otherwise not your “typical” surface dwellers.
Level 3 Encounter: Scalykind Lair (XP 2400)
4 lizardfolk warriors (XP 400 each) (87 GPs total)
4 Giant Centipedes (XP 200 each)
Several lizardmen dwell in the deeps here with pet giant centipedes as guards.
|Add more cloakers if your party needs a challenge...|
The cloaker named Ikaros has big plans, and he has found a strange object called the Stellar Diadem, which he uses to summon entities from the Far Realm. He finds that these entities can serve as a voice while he channels the spirits of the Demon Kings. He is especially keen on learning from the enigmatic demo-goddess Lady Neth, the demon queen of darkness. Ikaros’ greatest wish is to be transformed in to a demon and to achieve the secrets of immortality in the “Sacred Codex of Ihultur,” written by the mad necromancer Verothikus of the lost age of old Theliad.
Encounter: Outer Lair of the Temple (XP 2400)
2 lizardfolk(XP 400 each) (78 GPs total)
2 darkmantles (XP 400 each)
4 veggypygmies (XP 200 each)
The outer lair is a wide guard chamber, a cavern hewn of rock and converted to a place of rest for the temple pilgrims and guards, with crude wood and bone prison cells for prisoners from Thelaed, kidnapped to serve as sacrifices. The vegepygmies here have all been brainwashed.
Encounter: Stockades of the Sacrificial Victims (XP 1400)
2 lizardfolk (XP 400) (48 GPs total)
1 Morlock torturer (Eghaz) (XP 600)(112 GPs plus a +1 Shock Whip)
Prisoners: Kauseris, a renegade Zamedian elf from masar (Elf warrior 2 CN); Traimakis, a Theliadan nobleman (human commoner 1 LN); Darius Lorn, a human soldier for hire (human warrior 3 LG); Atrenia Kristis, a woman of the evening (human commoner 1 NG)
The prisoners, if freed and armed, will help as best they can, although they are all in bloodied condition when found, half starved and with no healing surges of their own.
This stockade is near the inner temple entrance.
Inner Temple of the Eleven
This ancient temple to the “Eleven Demon Kings” is not natural, though it is founded on an even more ancient lost temple to the dead god Minhauros, not that any here presently know it (and ancient iconography on the temple walls suggests such, but a DC 24 knowledge (religion) check will be needed to glean this bit of information). The vile megalomaniacal cloaker Ikaros stole the Stellar Diadem from a witch in the deep swamps and retreated here, where he has worked hard to coax evil magic from the device. He has so far summoned a handful of darkmantles from the far realm, and used some infernal magic….Ikaros has no idea what he is doing, but is convinced that if he uses the Stellard Diadem in the name of the Eleven he will be granted great infernal powers. Either way, his acts so far have successfully impressed the local lizardfolk and boggards.
Encounter: Inner Temple of the Eleven (XP 2,400)
4 lizardfolk soldiers (XP 400 each) (25 GP each, masterwork scimitars and masterwork Splint Mail for AC 19 total)
2 Darkmantles (XP 400 each)
The lizardmen and chaos creatures called darkmantles (they are not natural to this world) serve as direct temple guards in the cavernous chamber that precedes the main temple.
Ikaros dwells in muddy caves which burrow beneath the temple and open up in to the Lower Dark, where a passage can be found that leads to parts unknown. He keeps his treasure carefully, and is well-protected by his favored minions in his sanctum sanctorum. He has learned some minor infernal magic, with which he has conjured lemure devils for guards, and his familiar, the Imp Nezbergan, which has little loyalty and seeks escape if possible. It might be grateful if the PCs kill the cloaker so he can be free.
Encounter: The Lair of the Gauth Ikaros (XP 4000)
1 Cloaker (Ikaros) (XP 1,600)
2 Lemure Devils (XP 400 each)
1 Imp named Nezbergan (XP 600)
3 Darkmantles (XP 400 each)
It is within the inner temple that the Stellar Diadem rests, hovering over the central altar, where the stolen victims of sacrifice have been placed. The Stellar Diadem cannot be destroyed conventionally, although sufficient heat damage will shatter it. It can be removed, but anyone wearing it will gain an evil alignment shift while holding it (DC 20 vs. Will to escape the effect; check once per day).
The chief power of the Stellar Diadem is to allow the bearer to cast Commune once per day with the Eleven, and to allow the bearer to open a planar gate once per week to the Far Realm (or equivalent chaotic realm).
The central altar is extremely heavy, but a DC 22 strength test can push it aside. If the PCs befriended the imp he can tell them that Ikaros hides his treasure there. If they make a Perception check (DC 16) they will notice that the altar block appears to have been moved in the past. Once moved, the following treasure awaits: a Ring of Lesser Spell Storing, +1 Amulet of Protection, an ornate priest’s necklace worth 1,000 GP (symbols on this necklace are of Minhauros) and a Wand of Magic Missiles with 11 charges). There’s additional coin in the amount of 875 CP, 1253 SP and 147 GP. Most of it is money stolen from prior sacrifices.
Brining the hide of the cloaker or the Stellar Diadem back to Thelaed (preferably to be purged of evil...somehow...) will earn the trust and loyalty of the people as well as the reward offered.