AGE OF WORMS: THE WHISPERING CAIRN

THE WHISPERING CAIRN

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[“After Game” Notes at bottom of page.]

[Note: The outline was for reference in conjunction with the map from Dungeon Magazine’s adventure “The Whispering Cairn.” Thus the following outline does not necessarily follow the “correct” order the PCs progressed through the tomb. It should be noted that although the adventure was written out this way. Also, the adventure took a stray course at one point, and I basically had to do a rewrite because of the story taking a different arch. ]

Whispering Cairn Part II is a PDF and can be downloaded or viewed here.

It’s a ten minute hike from the old mine office. [1]

  • CAIRN ENTRANCE – SEARCH DC10 The entrance to the cairn has been recently cleared away, likely within the last 48 hours. Debris and underbrush have been carted off and tossed around the perimeter of the cairn. TRACK/SURVIVAL DC14: The debris was carried away by six humanoids of medium to large size. They also entered the cairn about two hours ago. [2]

  • CAVE MOUTH – Sounds: like sighing breath. Thick Cobwebs on ceiling. Close inspection of the ceiling shows that the stones and blocks making up the ceiling seem ill fit and oddly set. Removing the webs hints further that the ceiling is trapped. Door is the trigger. DISABLE DEVICE DC21. Stones fall, 5d10 damage. TRACK/SURVIVAL DC12 Dust on the floor tells that the humanoids spent some time here wandering around and looking at all the walls. [3] However, it is impossible to figure out which way they departed the room. SEARCH DC10 runes on wall nearly obscured by dust. Draconic runes saying “Ashardalon, wyrm of midnight, bastion of souls.” SEARCH DC15 Secret door on wall. [4], [5]

  • DARK HALLWAY: Secret door leads here. TRACK/SURVIVAL DC10 Trail of six humanoids continues. Hallway is dark.

  1. (Small room) The broken portal. More runes and a glyph. Small fragments of black glass on the floor.

  2. (Collapsed passage) Caved in, and impassable.

  3. (Door to main hall) Unlocked but blocked from other side. Must be forced open. DC23 to open. Body of a male orc blocking the way. He is dressed in explorer’s outfit, and he is bloated and swollen, as if killed by poison. Maybe an hour since death. He is stripped of all gear.

Top of the Cairn

They discovered an air chute or chimney that was partially covered by vegetation. They climbed down into the chute, and dropped into the MAIN HALL.

  • MAIN HALL: The room is full of rubble. The floor is damaged. Slabs of masonry have obviously fallen from the ceiling. Irregular piles of debris cover the floor. In one area, blood is splattered on the wall and floor, and it is obvious that someone was smashed under a block. LISTEN DC10 The whispers are louder here, almost sounding less like moans and more like words. SPOT DC12 Notice wolves before they start growling. SEARCH DC14 Treasure: Leather Backpack containing (wrapped in a blanket) an ornate lantern of brass inset with indigo glass. An armband beautifully carved with leaf motifs. Obviously Elven.

  • ACID BEETLES & MAD SLASHERS: If it becomes painfully obvious that the players are planning to run through this story as a “hack-n-slash” rather than “raid-n-investigate” then spice things up with an action scene with swarms and mad slashers chasing the PCs. [8]

  • WORG ENCOUNTER: There are six to eight Worgs here, hiding in the room and stairway. (MM pg 184-185) These Worgs are not from the Prime. These are Shadow Worgs. The lead Worg climbs to the top of the stairs, snarling at the PCs. It will speak to them in Goblin, warning them away. They are protective of a female Worg that has a terrible wound from a slashing weapon maybe an axe. If the Worgs can be convinced that the PCs are not friendly with the thugs that came before the PCs, they will allow the PCs to go on. If the PCs aid the wounded Worg, then the Alpha Worg will follow them and help them. He will not be used as a shield, and hangs in the back. Disrespect will get them no where! Hopefully, role-playing will rule here, not combat! [6]

  • SECRET DOOR TO VERTICAL SHAFT: The shaft is DARK. The shaft is straight down 55 feet. See Use Rope and Climb. As they start down the shaft, they see billowing smoke coming up at them. A little at first and then to the point that they are in TOTAL DARKNESS. Half way down the shaft, the PCs see glowing red eyes coming at them in the shaft. 5 Mad Slashers (Dungeon page 26) skitter up the shaft. They are agitated and begin attacking the PCs as they climb. They will attempt to knock the PCs down the shaft into the TRUE TOMB. [7]

  • SWIM TIME: This is the safest way into the TRUE TOMB if they can swim. Swim Page 84. They can swim through a submerged room, into a flooded hallway, and up through a pool into the TRUE TOMB. Possibility of an underwater encounter with a Wraith or Drowned Zombie. [9]

  • SUBMERGED ROOM: Large room. Here, 4 half-orc thugs have become the victim of Alastor Land. Their bodies are twisted and broken. One of them has been inviserated, and his guts. One of these has a letter from someone named Kullen. The letter is a contract for 2000 gp to recover the same relic that the PCs are looking for. Instructions say to return the relic to the Feral Dog saloon. [10]

  • SUBMERGED ROOM 2: There is a mural on the wall depicting an enormous face opening its mouth in an angry scream. It is drawn around a door which is framed and bound in brass. Looking at the mural requires a WILL SAVE DC13 otherwise the onlooker will be paralyzed, and forced to the ground for 1d4 rounds. During this time, they are unaware of what is going on and are overwhelmed by a thousand screaming voices in their head. The door has seven locks on it. Unlocking the door will be tough, but they must do it in order to get the relic. The locks are Masterwork DC20. The locks are tough, because each time you touch the lock you get hit with a Shocking Grasp spell. No save. 2d6. Disable Device DC24. [11]

  • There is a large chest bound in iron. Opening it causes a small glass sphere to slip out of the lid and shatter on the floor. The marble hits, impacts, and explodes for 5d8 damage. REFLEX DC18. DISABLE DEVICE DC20.

  • ALASTOR LAND: At some point, the Worgs will attempt to barter with the PCs to remove Alastor’s bones from the Cairn and lay him to rest. The Worgs will refer to Alastor as “a troublesome spirit” and will ask the PCs to “remove the remains and lay it to rest.” [12]

  • THE BURIAL SITE: A small area with 2 rows of 3 stone slabs. Lying on the top are the remains of servants of the Vaati. Included are MASTERWORK longswords, coins, and gems. These remains are sacred. Since the PCs will probably not realize what’s going on, emphasize the fact that the remains are laid out ritually. If the PCs attempt to steal anything from this area, and this area only use the Book of Vile Darkness and find a suitable way to make the PCs drop dead after taking a few steps. There is a spell in there that will stop a target’s heart. That will be good enough. [13]

  • THE MURALS: Refer to the Murals from Dungeon Magazine.

  • ALASTOR LAND. CR8. HP: 112. AC:26. (22) Speed: 30. Damage Reduction: 20. SPECIAL:Invisibility, Fast Healing 5, Stunning Fist x3 (pg 101), Special Abilities: Deeper Darkness (217), Circle of Death, Finger of Death, Magic Circle Against Law, Power Word Blind, Word of Chaos, Shatter, Fireball. Summon Slaad: (MM pg 168). Telepathy. COMBAT: 2 Claws +20 3d6+5, 1 Bite +18 2D10+2. Power Attack. (Award XP) [14]

  • Notes: Alastor has been trapped here and cursed to forever guard the tomb of Zosiel, the Wind Duke. Alastor was a monk who served Zosiel, and aid his master during the Dawning War. At a pivotal moment, he wimped out and fled from battle, and now must guard the remains of Zosiel to make up for it. Alastor will have to be slain in order to continue. In doing so, Alastor fulfills his duty for giving his life for Zosiel and is released from service. Alastor will reappear in ghostly form, and explain to the PCs about the Whispering Cairn, Zosiel, and the War of Chaos. Refer to the section “Alastor Speaks” below.

  • BEHIND THE DOOR. The door reveals an arcane burial room. In the center, a sarcophagus levitates and turns side to side in midair. Speaking the name “Zosiel” will make the coffin stop turning, settle to the ground, and open revealing blue light. Inside there is the following treasure: an adamant rod roughly 3 feet long marked with stars, a delicate diadem inscribed with Zosiel’s personal glyph (circlet of wisdom +2), two long curved black horns with red tips (50 gp each), a book called “Chronicles of Chan” (dungeon pg 21) and a small black box marked with wild, strange runes. (Infernal, explaining the box belongs to the Queen of Chaos) The small box must be forced open with a DC15 Strength check. Inside is a loop of adamantine which can be set on the wrist while grasping an attached handle made of some kind of strange black bone. This is a talisman of the sphere and is currently inert. Refer to the section below, “Farewell.”

ALASTOR SPEAKS

Alastor gives the PCs some information. “Eons ago, the world as you know it did not exist. The world was ruled by demons and devils. It was simply another plane ruled by evil. There was a rebellion lead by an ancient dragon known as Ashardalon. The great wyrm rose up, and lead an army of dragons, feathered serpents, and elementals against the demons. During the great war, armies form the Abyss and the Hells poured into this plane. Ashardalon was aided by many factions, but one of them was my lord and master, Zosiel the Wind Duke. Zosiel brought with him a mighty weapon forged by himself and his fellow Wind Dukes. The weapon was used to strike down the lieutenant of the demonic army, a beast named Mishka the Wolf-Spider. The weapon was powerful enough to banish her from his plane permanently. As Zosiel struck the final blow, another demon prince used a mighty weapon known as a sphere of annihilation to slay Zosiel. I failed to guard my master, choosing instead to save my own life. The tide of the battle changed with the banishment of Mishka, and Ashardalon gained victory. The gods demanded that to preserve the Balance, the weapon be broken into pieces and scattered throughout the planes of existence.

FAREWELL

Alastor will tell the PCs what the thing from the box is, and explain that it is currently inert. He will also tell them that the Balance is in great peril. That a war is raging throughout the planes, and that the gods are locked in combat. During this, their influence is fragmented. Not to mention that some gods have been slayed, and that such losses may have terrible ramifications throughout the great wheel, as well as the Prime Material Plane. [15]

After Game Notes.

  • [1] The adventure differs from that in Dungeon magazine for two reasons: (1) One of my players is a subscriber to Dungeon and had read the adventure (2) I wanted to condense things into a smaller space due to limited time to play.

  • [2] The playing characters have not actively tried to figure out who moved the debris. Also, the players have not actively stated they wish to find out, either. Perhaps a moot point, or perhaps they really didn’t care who did it.

  • [3] The players didn’t catch the hint about the walls. Their characters never found some of the runes about Ashardalon or the air vents.

  • [4] They didn’t check the ceiling, and they were run out by the falling block trap. Here, I had to shuffle around the adventure a little bit. They exited and came back in through a shaft in the top of the cairn mound. This dropped them into the heart of the Cairn, so that was fine with me.

  • [5] They didn’t find the secret door. They tried to get through the locked door and set off the falling black trap and had to run away fast!

  • [6] Although a few of the players tried to make this into a combat encounter, during the next session it was actually played out as a role-playing encounter. It turned out to be a good encounter. Kudos to the players!

  • [7] This secret door was never found by the PCs. Not a big deal.

  • [8] This encounter happened to speed up play a little. It ended up making the PCs have to hurry and got them moving. The drawback was that Shirey took a lot of damage from the swarms and slasher spiders.

  • [9] Due to time, we ended up not getting to go into depth about the wraiths in the water. Perhaps later we can go into it. Although Yuva & Keevan did combat one of the water wraiths towards the end of the story. This was a nice scene with Keevan stabbing at a water wraith while Yuva stood in the back and used the lantern to shed light. She also hit it with her Turn Undead ability, and I believe that Shirey shot at it at least once.

  • [10] The PCs never entered the submerged rooms because they were using Keevan’s spell to find the box. They missed out on some loot. Not a big deal.

  • [11] Yet again, PCs didn’t enter the submerged rooms. Smart on their part.

  • [12] The Alastor thing did NOT go over well. The PCs were convinced that the remains (bones) of Alastor were what were killing Keevan and John. Thus, Yuva used her Turn Undead ability and rolled REALLY well. Basically she destroyed Alastor body and soul, and banished him to the Abyss. Thus, the ENTIRE section with Alastor did NOT happen! Not the end of the world. Smart playing on the part of the players! Good job, folks.

  • [13] Oh yeah. Keevan and John got greedy and stole from the sacred items. They were hit with a Stop Heart spell from the Book of Vile darkness. Greed and looting is fine, just don’t steal the sacred artifacts. Sorry, guys 0 had to do it.

  • [14] PCs never fought Alastor Land due to Yuva’s excellent rolls. The spirit never manifested. Probably a good move on the part of the players to avoid the monster all together.

  • [15] Some of the information that would have been given out by Alastor was instead told to the PCs by Allustan.

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