Sunday, 8 April 2018

Free OSR adventure - Burning Rain


This short free adventure was created with Swords and Wizardry in mind, but it works with many flavours of D&D. This would be a tough one for lower level characters, especially if they run afoul of the hill giant family who will simply tear them apart. Higher level parties will have an easier time of things. I've not drawn maps for this, but explained what the PCs will find in the area.

Vorten the black dragon has risen from his three century slumber and must feed on the souls of the living. The nearby villages of Estagard and Candlewick have been violently attacked by the creature, who has left their homes in ruins and families in tatters. The three mages of the Red Coast have been summoned by the King Diregor to understand what can be done to stop such a beast. The mages met for thirteen days in the basement of the old Goldspire University in the city of Goldspire. They emerged with a plan, but one of great peril that would require keen minds, mighty strength and great wisdom to undertake. In the Book of Hallows they discovered the only hope they have for ending Vorten's reign once and for all - the Harp of Eversleep. This enchanted harp was created by the magic artificer Eldreen Hex, who existed four hundred years ago. The harp is able to put to slumber any creature for 100 years, but it was lost when Eldreen took it down into a giant's lair, where she was slain.

The king's emissary took off at once to find a group of adventurers willing to take the task. Having heard of their exploits, she approaches the PCs with the tale. A handsome fee of 1000 gold pieces will be paid upon completion of the quest, and they would have a position as royal adventurers on the King's retainer, meaning they would receive a wage from the city in addition to the palace library.

After being told of the quest, the emissary has the PCs meet the three mages at the university: Dandra (dwarf), Hornbeam (elf) and Lebb (human).

Goldspire University

 This grand institution is known throughout the realm as one of the finest universities for the study of magic. Turrets float above towers, gargoyle heads leer from rooftops, occasionally spitting at passersby; small explosions can be heard in some of the rooms, followed by multicoloured gas curling from beneath the doors. The mages are waiting in the basement, which is completely covered in books - you can't see the floor. A goblin wearing a red cap and glasses croaks a greeting at them when they enter. This is Winslow Godberry - a goblin experiment who was captured by some students and enchanted to do their chores. When the Dean found out, he took the goblin away and put it to work doing clerical tasks in the university. Today he is cleaning a large telescope.

  • Hornbeam, a lithe male elf with purple eyes, explains that the need for the harp is dire and that it's hidden away in the Caves of Wretched Darkness. They should take care as the giant family likely still exists there. If nobody in the party speaks giant, he gives one of the PCs a small metal tube. After talking a sentence into the tube, it echoes the words but in the language of giants. 
  • Lebb, a squat portly fellow with a long pipe, says that it's likely Vorten will attack in five days, as this seems to have been his pattern. They should make haste. He offers them a number of small clay horses equal to the number of PCs. When water is added, these horses grow and become real for 12 hours at a time. 
  • Dandra, a stout female dwarf with gold-rimmed spectacles, offers them a map to reach the caves. It is a day's ride from the city, and three days ride to Torrigen's Swamp, where the black dragon makes its lair. She also gives one of them two dice. These can be rolled once per day. On a 7, they will heal all within a 20ft radius by 1d6+5 HP. On any other number they heal 1d6 HP. 
So why can't the mages go instead? Simply, while they are quite powerful, they are fragile. Should anything happen to them the order of the Red Coast would be no more. 

The way to the Cave of Wretched Darkness

Being a day's ride overland, roll a random encounter every hour with a d6. On a 1 or 2 they have an encounter. Roll below:

1. A frightened family who have taken to living in a wagon after their home in Candlewick was destroyed. They have little in the way of food and say a nearby group of goblins have been harassing them almost every night. There are 8 goblins, painted red. Goblin: HD 1d6hp; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; AL C; CL/XP B/10; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight.

2. 1d6+1 red painted goblins, two carrying sacks of meat. One is drunk (-2 penalty to any action). They must return by sundown or they will be in trouble with their chief. 

3. 2d6 bandits, known as the Filth Rats (50% chance one of them will be a berserker). They want money rather than a fight. They have been having trouble with a local hill giant who has raised their camp on more than one occasion. Human Bandit: HD 1; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 12; Save 17; AL C; CL/XP 1/15; Special: None

Human Berserker: HD 1; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 12; Save 17; AL N; CL/XP 2/30; Special: +2 to hit in berserk state

4. An elderly man followed by ten chickens. He offers a chicken for 1gp. He seems afraid of them. 

5. 1d3 hill giants sniffing out a cure for a the toe rot sickness they have contracted. This is in the form of the Rumcap mushroom (tastes just like rum). Hill Giant: HD 8+2; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 weapon (2d8); Move 12; Save 8; AL C; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Throw boulders (2d8 damage)

6. A rundown farmstead captured by goblins. They have a little girl called Ryel who they have caught in a rope trap. They plan on using her to lure others in before killing them. 

The Caves of Wretched Darkness

The cave entrance is guarded by two pet wolves (Dusty and Grim). Discarded rabbit carcasses lie near them. Wolf: HD 2+2; AC 7[12]; Atk 1 bite (1d4+1); Move 18; Save 16; AL N; CL/XP 2/30; Special: None.

There's a stream running through a few rooms, as a result much of the ground is slippery. Cave paintings depict a war between trolls and goblins. Goblin skulls sit on rocks as warnings. 

A family of five hill giants live here. The matriarch is the most frightening, with an eye missing. The father catches fish in the stream with a net. The broken body of a treasure hunter is at the bottom of a waterfall, arms removed. Her pack contains a dagger, grappling hook and mouldy bread and cheese. The body has attracted 5 stirges who drain it's blood. Stirge: HD 1+1; AC 7[12]; Atk 1 proboscis (1d3); Move 3 (Fly 18); Save 17; AL N; CL/XP 2/30; Special: blood drain (1d4), +2 to hit bonus. After a stirge’s first hit, it drains blood automatically at a rate of 1d4 hp per round

The giants are hostile, but stupid. The matriarch dislikes humans, but doesn't hate dwarves. She calls them 'little builders' - they helped giants fighting in the kobold battles. Dwarves are depicted on the walls as heroes along with giants. The giants are currently at war with the hundreds of goblins who live close by. They hate goblins more than anything.

There are several piercers in some caves dropping on heads. Noticeable via an intelligence check or prolonged inspection. Piercer (2 HD): HD 2; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 drop and pierce (2d6); Move 1; Save 16; AL N; CL/XP 2/30; Special: None

The ''waste" room has a cravasse full of dung. An otyugh has recently taken residence in there. Otyugh: HD 7; AC 3 [16]; Atk 2 tentacles (1d8), bite (1d4+1); Move 6; Save 9; AL N; CL/XP 8/800; Special: Disease - Anyone bitten by an otyugh’s mouth has a 90% chance of contracting a fatal disease (death in 3d6 days unless cured)

The Harp of Eversleep is discarded at the side of a cave wall with human bones close by (the body of Eldreen Hex). The matriarch is here making a necklace from goblin bones. 

When the harp is played it casts a powerful sleep spell that will put a creature under for 100 years. It has 2 more charges of the spell in it. 

The road to Torrigen's swamp

It's a three day horse journey to the swamp. The party will bypass the destruction left in Vorten's wake. They may even stop off to help people rebuild.

Roll a random encounter for each day this time (most things are terrified of the dragon, so are in hiding).

1. A group of mourners around a funeral pyre. A priest recants the rites of Porrin, the local messenger between the living and dead. They recount how Vorten showered their village with acid.

2. A field of dead cattle - their bones can be seen and faces part melted. A pack of 1d6+2 wolves are on the prowl.

3. 2d8 orcs are attacking a farmstead - the farmer and her wife cornered, pitchforks at the ready. Orc: HD 1; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 by weapon, usually spear (1d6) or scimitar (1d8); Move 9; Save 17; AL C; CL/XP 1/15; Special: None.

4. A travelling salesman is selling 'anti-dragon' tonic. This is nothing more than water dyed green. He has made 300gp today. 

5. A patrol of elven healers who have come to aid the villagers. Many villagers don't trust elves, so refuse treatment.

6. A chilling screech rings out in the distance. This belongs to Vorten, who grows hungry.

Torrigen's swamp

Five hunters from Candlewick have gone into the swamp to kill the dragon (all HD1 human soldiers). Have PCs find clues they are around - packs snagged on branches, a discarded boot, a burnt torch. 

1d10+2 wild boars roam the swamp. They will happily eat corpses. Wild Boar: HD 3+3; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 gore (3d4); Move 15; Save 14; AL N; CL/XP 4/120; Special: continue attacks 2 rounds after death

Biting swamp flies carry disease. There's a 2 in 6 chance every hour that a PC will be bitten, contracting swamp sickness. This temporarily reduces Str, Dex and Con by 2 for 1d6 days or until cured using the sap from a Goliath tree. 

Vorten lies in a clearing, gaining his strength. The bodies of hunters lie around him, their flesh dissolved. Their bodies carry 30gp, 3 small flasks of healing potion, and jewelry worth 200gp. Adult Black Dragon (6 HD): HD 6 (24hp); AC 2 [17]; Atk 2 claws (1d4), 1 bite (3d6); Move 9 (Fly 24); Save 11; AL C; CL/XP 8/800; Special: Spits acid.

When the PCs set foot in the clearing, 4 skeletons rise from the wet ground. Skeleton: HD 1; AC 8[11] or 7[12] with shield; Atk 1 weapon or strike (1d6) or (1d6+1 two-handed); Move 12; Save 17; AL N; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Immune to sleep and charm spells.

Concluding the adventure

If Vorten is killed then the king grants them 2000gp and title of royal adventurers (should they accept). For every adventure they will be paid 200gp default.

If he is put to sleep and not killed, the reward is 1000gp and the title.

If he is not killed, he will continue to attack. Eventually he reaches Goldspire and wreaks carnage. Without the party, there's a 1 in 6 chance the city falls into ruin. 

If most or all of the hill giants in the cave are killed, the party will be sought by the League of Monster Hunters, who wish to recruit them. 

If the harp is returned to the mages, they lock it away in the university, which pays 500gp for it with a charge left, or 200gp without. If they keep the harp, they will eventually be hunted by the mages.