Friday, May 13, 2011

4e Module: The Sunken Temple of Pelor

I wrote this module a while back for my Praktas campaign, but we never got around to playing it.  Eventually I rewrote it and ran part of it as an Itropa session called "Zombie Cyborgs From Outer Space."  So if you've already read that post, this is pretty much the same module but in a fantasy setting.

I've rewritten it a couple of times, and a lot has changed since I first put it together. Originally it involved gnolls instead of undead, and the final boss was a young beholder. It featured several mirror puzzles instead of just the one, and I was going to test the players' solutions with a laser pointer (inspired by Penny Arcade). Some of the encounters were based on the fifth level adventure from the book Dungeon Delve.

Feel free to steal any ideas you like (most of them were already stolen anyway). This module was written for a party of fifth-level characters. It takes place in 4e's default universe, but in locations of my own creation.

In italics I've put the actions I would expect the players to do; or sometimes optional things in case the players ask or do something unusual. But of course players are unpredictable, so don't expect to be able to follow the script as written.

It's not actually necessary, but I used a lot of props for this module. I glued little mirrors to popsicle sticks, and used 1" blocks of wood to make columns. I used a lot of dungeon tiles, including some of the 3D tiles from Harrowing Halls and Desert of Athas.

The Module
You've been checking around town for job opportunities when you learn of a man who needs help. His name is Hurin Gein, and he lives on the poor side of town. Hurin’s house is an old shack, with a few broken windows covered by boards. You can tell that there’s a light on inside.

(Players knock.) The man who answers the door probably looks older than he really is. You estimate him to be in his 30s, but the stresses of life have taken their toll on his body. He appears to have trouble standing up straight, and is leaning heavily on a cane. He opens his mouth to speak, but instead ends up having a coughing fit. When he finally finishes coughing, he asks, “Can I help you?”

(Players introduce themselves.) He invites you in. Your party barely fits in Hurin’s tiny kitchen-slash-living room-slash-bedroom. Hurin looks as if he's been crying. In a pleading voice, he tells you, “I tried going to the Bounty Guild, but I couldn’t afford to post a reward. Besides, they specialize in finding people. What I’m really looking for is a book.”

“It's for my daughter, Celia. She's ill. She was out playing and - well, I didn’t see it happen and she doesn’t remember - but somehow she got cursed. She is… and you have to promise me you won’t laugh at her like the City Guard did… but she is slowly turning into a frog. If I don’t find the book soon, her transformation will be complete. And then it will be irreversible.”

(Players prompt for more info.) “My uncle Lathandar is a Wizard. My daughter is currently in his care. Lathandar knows of the existence of a counter-curse, but it requires a book he does not have. He thinks he knows where it can be found, though. Please go see him; he’ll tell you the rest.”

Hurin gives you his uncle’s address. It’s not far; it’s another run-down house, but a good bit larger than Hurin’s shack. (Players knock.) On your third knock, the door opens by itself. From inside, a voice yells, “Come in!”

(Players enter.) It looks much nicer on the inside than on the outside. It’s still by no means a rich person’s house, but it’s obvious that the owner of this place isn’t starving. There are bookshelves on every wall, filled with books. There are a few comfortable pieces of furniture.

Against the opposite wall of the room, next to a large oak door, you see a man sitting at a desk, writing on a piece of parchment. He looks exactly like you would expect a wizard to look - You know, the whole Gandalf/Merlin/Dumbledore look - Long white beard, pointy hat, robe, tiny half-moon glasses, the whole bit.

He looks up and smiles at you. “What can I do for you?”

(Players talk.) "Oh, no, I'm not Lathander. I'm just his scribe. You're here to see Lathander? Do you have an appointment?"

(Players talk.) "One moment." The scribe puts his hand over a small crystal ball, which was sitting on his desk. You hear a voice come through the ball - "Yes?" "Sir, there are some people here to see you. It's about your nephew Hurin."

A voice replies, "Send them in." You note that the other voice sounded oddly high-pitched. The scribe stands up and opens the door for you. "Right this way."

You walk through the door, into Lathander's office. The room is a complete mess. Open books lie everywhere, on the tables, the floor, even on the couches and chairs. You see a boy of about 10 on his knees, studying one of the books very closely. He looks up as you enter. “Hello,” he says. “My nephew sent you?”

(Players talk.) “I assume he's told you what he needs and why. His daughter is cursed, and I need a specific spell in order to save her. I need you to find a book for me. It's called 'The Curse of the Bogbeast' by Markas Herot. I only know of one copy, and it won't be easy to find.”

“North of town is the Koramil Forest. Centuries ago, there was a temple in the forest, dedicated to Pelor. Among other things, the temple was known for having an extensive library. But there were some battles – no one knows all the details – and the temple sank into the ground. Still, rumor has it that the library still exists. But no one has been brave enough to explore it... they say the area is haunted.”

He hands you a map. “This is where the temple is said to have once stood. It's not far from the road, and I know of some merchants who will be glad to give you a free ride."

(If players ask about merchants.) "Merchants take Koramil Road back and forth all the time. They like having more muscle with them, in case they run into trouble. I know of one in particular who will be glad to take you, his name is Emil Barker. Just tell him I sent you." Lathander gives you directions to Emil's home.

(If players ask about payment.) I can pay you a few hundred gold at most. But the library will be worth a lot to the town council if you can find it. (If players demand more money.) Lathander sighs. "I was hoping you might be motivated more by kindness than greed... but these are the times we live in. I can probably sell a few things, maybe get some more money together... would you do it for one thousand gold?" (If players demand even more.) "You're killing me here, I mean that - you are literally taking food out of my mouth. But nothing is more important than breaking Celia's curse. If I sell all but my most essential spellbooks, and fire my scribe, I can probably pay you about three thousand. But that is it, no more." (Lathander will not go any higher.)

(If the players ask Lathandar about his age.) He chuckles. “Let's just say, I've learned a valuable lesson about experimenting with aging spells.” (If the players prod for more info on his age.) “I’m actually 87. I spent a lot of my declining years obsessed about dying of old age. So I researched every possible solution I could find. About 5 years ago I managed to zap myself younger… obviously I overdid it a little.” (If the players ask for the aging spell.) Ooooh, no. That’s not something you want to play around with. Trust me, I didn't do this on purpose. I could easily have ended up pre-conception, and youthed myself out of existence. (It shouldn't happen, but if a player absolutely demands to see the aging spell, Lathander will cast it on them. The effect is random, +/- d100 years to the target's age.)

(If the players ask, "Why don’t you give some money to Hurin?") I have been. I’m the reason he isn’t out on the street. Between his ailing health and his daughter’s curse, he hasn’t been able to work for a while. I’ve been supporting both of them as best as I can. And I haven’t exactly been getting much work lately either. Nobody respects a Wizard who screws up an aging spell. But once Hurin’s daughter is cured, I’ll start seeing what I can do for his health, and maybe he’ll get back on his own feet again.

(If the players ask what’s wrong with his Hurin's health.) Well, he has an old leg injury, but the rest is just stress.

(Players head on out.) The temple is North of town, but it's a bit far to walk, especially considering you want to be back before the girl's curse is complete. Lathandar suggested you meet a merchant named Emil, or you can always buy your own mounts.

(Players visit Emil.) Emil is happy to take you on his next trip. He is leaving for the city of Alta in just a couple of hours, so if there's anything you still need to do in town, this would be the time.

(The rest of this assumes the players rode with Emil, but it's easy enough to alter if they players are riding their own horses, walked, or found other means of transport. If you want a more roleplay-lite session, start the session on the cart, and just sum up what happened above.)

It is now late in the day, and you are riding in the back of a merchant's cart, on the way to find the ruins of an ancient temple. (If summing up the opening:) You have been hired by a man named Hurin Gein to find a book, which he hopes can be found in the sunken temple of Pelor. Hurin's daughter is suffering from a curse, and he hopes the book will have a cure. You've been given a free ride by a merchant named Emil, who often gives free rides to adventurers in case he runs into trouble.

(The PCs are sitting on top of Emil's crates of merchandise. Hopefully the players will not attempt to rob the crates, but if they do: Each crate is locked, DC 16 thievery to open. If a player tries to open a crate, he must make a DC 11 stealth check not to be noticed by Emil. If Emil catches them going through his crates, he will order the entire party off the cart. In any event, the crates don't contain much of real value. Emil sells a lot of standard adventuring gear, such as rope and rations. One crate contains 3 tanglefoot bags and a thunderstone.)

The cart is traveling on a well-used dirt road, with a thick forest on both sides. You've been riding for several hours, when Emil turns around and tells you that you're almost to the temple. As he turns back around (PC with highest passive perception) notices some more riders approaching in the distance.

(If player tries to look closer, or waits until they're closer.) There are three riders. Each is carrying a longbow. They're wearing leather armor designed to blend in forest colors. (High perception check, or once they get closer.) The riders appear to be Elven.

(If players ask Emil to stop the cart.) When Emil realizes that there are bandits about, he coaxes his horse to go faster. But it's an old horse and it's hauling a lot of weight, so it doesn't really pick up much speed.

Encounter 1: Bandits

3 Elf Archers on Horseback (A)
1 Bandit Leader: Eladrin Fey Knight (L)
1 Bandit Fighter: Dragonborn Soldier (D)
1 Wolf (W)

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3Players: (P) Emil the Merchant: (M) Emil's Horse: (H) Tree Roadblock: (T)

Combat begins with the Elf Archers about 5-8 squares away (fig 1). The three Archers chase the cart for a few rounds, firing their longbows. Emil's nag only has a speed of 8, while the other horses have a speed of 10. So once combat begins, keep the cart in the same place but let the bandit horses move 2 squares closer on their rounds. When they get close enough, they will attempt to box the cart in, with one Archer on each side and the other staying behind, staying about 2 squares away from the cart (fig2).

If you have a rules lawyer in your party, they might point out that Emil is probably doing a double move on his turns. If the Archers are moving and firing, they can't be doing a double move. So even if the bandit horses are a lot faster than Emil's horse, Emil should still be making the most distance. I suggest telling your rules lawyer to bite you. A dramatic fight trumps the rules in rules in this case. Consider the cart and the horses more like background scenery for the purposes of this battle. Or perhaps Emil's cart has to treat the ground like difficult terrain, since going too fast might tip the cart. If pulling the DM card doesn't work, then simply don't have the Archers fire. At this point they're really trying to box the cart in more than anything.

On Emil's turns, all he does is try to get his horse to go faster. Once the cart is boxed in, or once one of the Archers dies, Emil spots a roadblock ahead. A tree is lying across the road, too large to drive over, and too wide to go around. On Emil's next turn he brings the cart to a stop, a few squares from the roadblock (fig 3). On one side of the roadblock is the bandit leader (an Eladrin Fey Knight) with a pet wolf. On the other side is his second-in-command, a Dragonborn Soldier.

Once the cart has stopped, Emil will seek cover and fight from a distance, using a crossbow. If the leader and Dragonborn are both killed, the rest of the bandits will flee.

Treasure: +1 Longsword (Bandit Leader), +1 Scale Armor (Dragonborn), 215 gold pieces.

(Assuming Emil survives and the cart still works.) Once the battle is over, Emil asks for your help in moving the roadblock out of the way. You're only back on the road again for about twenty minutes before Emil stops again. He points into the woods. "Here we are," he says. "You'll find remnants of an old trail just that way. The sunken temple is about a mile from here." He thanks you for protecting him from the bandits, and says his goodbyes.

(If Emil was killed during Encounter 1, the players can find their way from the encounter area instead. The players might also attempt to catch the enemy horses and ride them.)

You follow the map, and arrive at the site in less than an hour. The tops of temple spires stick out of the ground, but you don't see any way in. A gray mist hangs in the air, and you constantly feel like you're being watched.

(Players make perception checks.) After a bit more looking around, you do find something interesting... a stone column, about 10 feet high. The whole thing is choked with vines, and from a distance it just looked like a vine-covered tree. But you see something at the top, reflecting the sunlight.

(Players look closer.) There is a weird device at the top. It looks sort of like a telescope. It is tube shaped, with a lens on each end. It looks like it has some mechanical parts, and they might even still work. The device is made so that it can rotate and tilt in different directions.

(Players try to remove it.) It is firmly attached to the top of the column.

(Players look through the telescope.) It's hard to see through it. There is dirt on both lenses. (Players clean it.) You can see out the other side. It doesn't seem to make anything larger or smaller, though.

(If player makes Arcana check DC 15) You do sense some magic coming from it. You can't tell exactly what it does, but you do know that it's a mix of magic and mechanics.

As you were moving the vines away to examine the column, you also noticed a plaque at the bottom, too encrusted in dirt to read. (Players brush off the dirt.) It says, “When Pelor first awakens, he will guide you.”

(If they keep searching, they won't find anything. If they set up camp for the night, establish who is taking first watch. On the first watch after the sun goes down, they are attacked.)

(To players taking the first watch.) You start to hear sounds coming from the woods. Soon you see movement in every direction. (Player will most likely start waking up the other characters.)

Encounter 2: Campsite
2 Boneshard Skeletons (B)
1 Wight (W)
8 Zombie Rotters (Z)

Players: (P) Campfire: (F)

Allow the conscious characters to wake up the others before rolling initiative. Any characters who were asleep will start the battle awake but prone. The enemies emerge from the woods from all directions. The terrain is mostly flat, except for the occasional spire from the sunken temple.

If the party was sleeping around a campfire (or other light source), keep in mind that beyond the radius of the light source it is completely dark.

Treasure: None.

At about 6 AM, the sun starts to rise over the horizon. When the light first hits the device, it whirs to life. The base rotates, the tube section tilts. A beam of intense sunlight shoots out of one end, ending at a spot on the ground. (Players might do something.) It continues to illuminate that one spot on the ground for one minute, then the beam disappears and the device once again falls silent.

(Players examine the spot.) From a distance, it doesn't look any different than the rest of the ground. But as you get there, you realize that the dirt is covering something wooden. It turns out to be a trap door.

(Players open the trap door.) A slowly-sloping tunnel descends down into the ground, into the darkness. (Players make perception checks, enter using light source, or send in someone with darkvision.) The tunnel goes deeper and deeper, and comes out inside a cave. (Players enter cave.) It's not a full cave; you don't see any other tunnels or anything. Just a large empty cavern room, the tunnel you came from, and a huge set of temple doors.

(Players examine door/area. Easy perception check.) You notice some footprints around the door. They look about a week old. (What kind of footprints? Easy Nature check.) Some look skeletal, some are human-like, and there's also some boot prints.

(Players listen at door. Easy perception check.) You hear nothing.

(Players open the door.) The door is not locked, but it is heavy and difficult to open. Once the doors are open, you find yourselves looking down a long dark hall, ending in another, smaller set of doors. (If using light source) As the light from your sunrod (or torch, etc) hits the walls, you see the symbol of Pelor carved on the walls every few feet.

(Listen at doors. Perception DC 20.) You hear a very faint moaning.

(Open other doors.) This is the temple's main hall. There are statues along the walls, and a giant symbol of Pelor in the middle of the floor. There is a square stone block in the center of the room, with a plaque on top. It looks like the plaque depicts a map of the temple. There are stairs in the center of the room, leading up to another set of doors. The second level is a balcony that runs along three walls. There are several undead monsters in the room.

Encounter 3:
3 Blazing Skeletons (B)
2 Chillborn Zombies (C)
3 Decrepit Skeletons (D)

Lower Level
Upper Level

The Blazing and Decrepit Skeletons start on the balcony level and make ranged attacks. The Chillborn Zombies start at the bottom of the stairs and engage the closest enemies.

Treasure: None.
XP: 1175

(Players look at the map.) You find a quick route to the library. You go through the double doors at the top of the stairs, take a few turns, and find the door to the study. (If you want to make this adventure longer, plug in a few more encounters on the way.)

(The players hear nothing at the door to the study, and the door is not locked.) This is the study. There are a few empty bookshelves on the walls, and the remains of some old tables and chairs scattered about the room. The door to the library is just across the room. There's a symbol of Pelor on the wall next to the library door. There is a bright light coming from a smaller hallway to the right.

(If players examine library door.) It is a large stone door, with more symbols of Pelor carved on it. You don't see any lock on the door itself. On the wall adjacent to the door, is a very intricate symbol of Pelor. (If players examine symbol.) It is the sun-shaped symbol of Pelor. There is a hole in the center. (If players look through the hole.) There is a layer of transparent crystal inside the hole, and you can see the other room on the other side of the wall. However, it is too dark in the other room to make out any details. (If players try to open the library door, it is locked. It is too strong to break it down, and there is no visible lock to pick. Players are also unable to get the crystal pane out of the symbol of Pelor; it is part of the wall. The crystal pane is unbreakable.)

(If players look down side hallway.) At the end of the hallway there is a door on the right. Halfway down the hallway there is a beam of light coming down from the ceiling, hitting the floor.

(If players examine beam of light without entering it.) It is a very focused beam of light, coming from a hole in the ceiling. It looks like sunlight, only intensified. Squinting, you can just barely make out what appears to be a crystal pane inside the hole, which might be what's strengthening the light. (Have them make an easy insight check, or just tell them:) Now that you think about it, you've seen these holes on the ceiling all throughout the temple. This seems to be the only one working, probably because the temple is underground.

(If player stands in beam of light, or walks through it.) You feel a warm rush of pure joy wash over you. You regain one healing surge. (Limit one surge per character per extended rest.)

(If players examine door at the end of the hall.) It's a simple wooden door. (If players try to open.) It's locked, but it's a simple-looking lock. (Easy DC to bash or pick.)

(If players enter door.) This is a storage room, full of crates. At the end of the room, you see three tall shapes covered in drop cloths. (If players go through crates.) They are full of basic temple supplies, such as candles, plain robes, and basic holy symbols. You only find two items of note (Holy Symbol and Robe, see "Treasure" below). (If players open examine drop cloths.) You find three mirrors. Two are straight, and the third is angled.

Encounter 4: Mirror Puzzle

The players must move the three mirrors out of the storage room, and position them so that the beam of sunlight hits the symbol of Pelor next to the library door. The angled mirror is placed directly beneath the beam of light, redirecting the vertical light shaft to make it horizontal.  The other two mirrors redirect the beam around the corner and into the sun symbol.  It's an easy puzzle (IMO) but if they really can't get it, have them make some appropriate checks (insight, or maybe religion/arcana since it's a magic lock) to get the answer.

A. Symbol of Pelor
B. Library Door
C. Beam of Light from Ceiling
D. Storage Room
E. Stored Mirrors (M)

Treasure: +2 Sun Disk of Pelor and +1 Robe of Scintillation (from storage crates).
XP: 600

The beam of light hits the angled mirror, and is reflected to the second mirror, then the third, and then to the symbol of Pelor. You hear a loud click from the library door, and it pops open slightly. (Players may now push the door open and enter the library.)

There is a burst of stale air, and the musty smell of old parchment hits your nostrils. The room is very dim. To the right of the door, you can see where the beam of light is coming through the symbol in the wall. The beam ends at a bookshelf, so that one area of the room is fairly lit, but the rest of the room is dim.

Still, you can make out the shapes of various bookshelves. You can definitely tell it’s a library. As you look at the far wall, a shape emerges from the darkness. No, two shapes. One is man-sized, the other is much larger. The man-sized one grumbles, "Can't a man study in peace?" He holds out one hand, says something in a dark arcane language, and four more shapes rise up from the floor. "Kill them," he orders.

Encounter 5: The Library
Predek, Human Necromancer (P)
Zombie Hulk (Z)
4 Decaying Skeletons (D)

Most of the room is dim light (granting concealment), except for the squares adjacent to the beam of light. If they players move or push over the bookcase, the entire room becomes normal light (Pic 2)

Predek uses the same stats as Tal Lorvas from Dungeon Delve 5-3 (page 40). Predek attacks from a distance, keeping his subordinates between himself and the party. During the battle he constantly berates the party. Think Shao Khan from Mortal Kombat ("You weak, pathetic fools! Is that your best?") Some sample insults (most were taken from the D&D message boards):

When he raises a minion:
“Here, a playmate for you.”

When Predek is hit by an attack:
“Feh, even a blind kobold sometimes gets lucky.”
“Was that a sword or a mosquito?”
“Your steel tastes like candy.”
“You hit like my grandmother.”
“Your sword tickles.”
“Last night your mother wore me out more than you’re wearing me out right now.”

When Predek is missed by an attack:
“Bah, you couldn’t hit water if you fell off a boat.”
“I’m sorry ,I thought I was fighting warriors, not little girls.”
“When you’re done practicing, shall we try it for real?”
“Have you ever actually won a fight?”
“Nice move… you think it would hit if I tried it?”
“Maybe if you sneeze at me, I might catch a cold.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to go practice for a while and come back? I’ll wait.”
“Oh, were you trying to hit me? I thought you just really hated the air.”
“Hmmm… you actually do stand a chance of killing me… at this rate, I might die laughing.”

When Predek makes an attack:
“You leave your defenses wide open, just like your mother’s legs.”
“Excuse me, what was your name again? Target practice?”

If Predek makes a melee attack:
“I’m loathe to touch you, but it must be done.”

General insults:
“Did your mother dress you in that armor this morning?”
“Well, maybe you’ll be more effective as a zombie.”
“You fight worse than you smell.”

If Predek feels he is going to lose the battle, he summons a portal (standard action, about 10 sqares away) and begins moving towards it on the following round. If he reaches the portal, he shouts, "You will see me again!" and vanishes (along with the portal), and any remaining Decaying Skeletons die. The Zombie Hulk doesn't immediately die, but it can't use its Rise Again power without Predek present. If a player touches Predek's portal, nothing happens.

If Predek is killed:
Predek yells, “Death itself can not stop me!” His body immediately turns into bones, when then crumble into dust. The dust blows away, leaving behind Predek's robes and possessions.

Whether Predek lives or dies, hit might become a recurring villain in later sessions. If he escapes, he continues to research necromancy and becomes more and more powerful. If he is killed, he returns as a powerful Lich.

Predek is an evil Necromancer who has spent most of his life in the pursuit of power. He had been using the library to research long-forgotten spells. He is the reason the site was haunted. Now that he is gone, the undead will stop being drawn to the area. How much of this information you decide to give your players is up to you, and may depend on whether you wish Predek to return later in your campaign.

When the players first encounter Predek, they might try to negotiate instead of fight. After all, they may not care about what Predek is doing there; all the PCs want is a single book. Predek, however, will not listen to reason. His research is part of a grand plan that could come up later in a campaign, and he does not want anyone to know he was in the temple. He has no respect for life, and has no problem killing the party just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Treasure: +2 Orb of Crystalline Terror (only if Predek is killed.)
XP: 1050

(If players move the bookcase blocking the light.) Once the bookcase is out of the way, the beam of light continues across the room, hitting another symbol of Pelor on the opposite wall. The light is redirected through a series of splitters, until they are rerouted through dozens of sun-shaped crystals on the walls and ceiling. The entire room is suddenly lit up by daylight.

There are shelves and shelves containing thousands of books and scrolls. Some have decayed, but many are still in readable condition. Against one wall there is a pedastal that has yet another sun symbol, below which there is a small plaque that looks important.
(If players read plaque.) The plaque reads, “Place your hand on the sun symbol, and say the name of the book you need.” (If players follow the instructions.) From a glass disc on the ceiling, a beam of light shoots out and moves around the room like a searchlight. When the light finally comes to rest, it is highlighting the book you wanted.

You take it back to town and claim your rewards. Hurin and Lathander manage to pay you 300 gold. Town council is thanks you for rediscovering the library and pays you an additional 1200 gold. Lathander looks over the tome and finds the appropriate counter-curse, and Celia makes a full recovery.

Gold: 1500 (300 from Lathander, 1200 from town council)
XP reward: 800

Total Gold for the session: 1715 gold

Total XP for the session: 5529 (assumes all encounters run just as listed.)

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