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On the Edge of the Shadowfell – Part 1

Encounter Level 11 (2350xp)

In the Fire & Ice encounter there was a small set of stairs leading down into darkness. In my campaign those stairs lead into the ruins of a dwarven town sacked hundreds of years ago by a force commanded by giants. Since then the complex has been considered haunted and is avoided by those with sufficient intelligence to not want their life sucked out by various undead abominations. The fact that the closest settlement is an armed camp, and is the better part of a day away on foot further helps keep it undisturbed. Of course things are never that easy for PCs and as part of the campaign they are searching for sites that might serve as a Shadowfell Crossing, and thus a location where enemies might be able to move more freely around the town the PCs are trying to defend (from an approaching orc and giant army), and a town of slaughtered dwarves is practically an ideal sight for such a crossing – so in they decided to go.

Of course for an army a simple Shadowfell Crossing is not enough, something larger was needed, something more permanent, something that when the PCs became aware of it they would be motivated to stop not just for the immediate battle, but for the long term security of the world!

Delve Plot

The villain of this delve is using an unknown ritual to turn the entire complex into a permanent crossing into the Shadowfell. A place where creatures can freely move between the world and the plane, and where the necrotic energy of the Shadowfell would bleed out into the world slowly spreading the cancer!

Due to this effect powers with the necrotic keyword gain a +1 to hit and powers with the radiant keyword take a -1 penalty to attack rolls. This change can be detected by a Hard Arcana check, and a subsequent Hard Religion check will reveal its nature. This is the first sign that something is amiss, as even the Shadowfell does not create this effect.

Finally to prevent the ritual taking hold the players must locate and destroy at least 3 of the arcane runes the villain is using to power his ritual that are spread through the complex.

Encounters

As is normal for a delve there are 3 encounters, the details of which I will not reveal in this post because at least 1 player has taken to reading this blog (Hi Mike ;)). Each encounter occurs in a different location in the ruin and they are not directly connected such as is seen in the WotC Dungeon Delve book. Rather they simply all share the same larger location so you can flesh out the town more or leave it as is according to your purpose.

Encounter 1 – The Grand Hall – EL10 2350xp
Encounter 2 – The Forges – EL 11 2400xp
Encounter 3 – The Throne Room – EL 12 3500xp

Obviously by EL two of these individually fall in the Paragon tier, however the monsters are heroic tier monsters, and as such are unlikely to be as challenging for a Paragon party, so I would recommend using them for a level 9 or 10 party. My party is level 9 and I discribe their expereince before each of the other encounters (rather than repeating all of this stuff again) are detailed.

Read Aloud or Paraphrase:

At last you have reached a significant room, the lesser undead that have pestered your journey are gone, and your own light sources are joined by light coming from two great braziers that burn roughly halfway down this large room. Statues of dwarves dominate the far end, but only the four smaller ones are not damaged or reduced to rubble, and a well stands between you and the largest enemy you see, a massive zombie like creature apparently sewn together and enchanted by some fell magic, between you and it are smaller creatures, undead that might once have been dwarves these seem to move swiftly and with a dangerous intelligence.

Behind them all a human dressed in black robes calls out, “feast on them!”

Setup:

4 Barrow Ghoul
1 Zombie Hulk of Orcus (DDI)
1 Deathpriest of Orcus (DDI)

  • For 4 PCs: You should remove a Barrow Ghoul (at least).
  • For 6 PCs: Add a Barrow Ghoul.
  • PCs start in the large open area beside the stairs.

(As a note this encounter really showed up the difference between MM3 style monsters and pre-MM3 monsters. The Barrow Ghouls were much more effective than I had initially thought.)

Features of the Area:

Illumination: The hall is well lit by the two great braziers that burn near its middle.
Difficult Terrain: There are areas of rubble through the hall, and squares marked with a small triangle are difficult terrain.
Statues: All the statues are of dwarves and provide cover.
Symbol: This arcane symbol does not produce any effects unless attacked directly (see Ending the Encounter below). For dramatic effect I described it as providing the power for the Deathpriest of Orcus’ “Dark Blessing” power. It could easily be described as providing the means for the Ghoul’s and Zombie Hulk to rise again and continue fighting as well.
The Well: The well has an unknown depth, any creatures pushed into it get a +5 to their save (due to its lip) but should be considered dead (at least for this encounter, you will of course have to figure out what to do with any PC who might end up down the well).
The Braziers: These only provide illumination. However a creature forced into one of their squares could take a +10vs Ref attack (Hit: 2d6+5 Fire damage). Due to their proximity to the well the Zombie Hulk must squeeze past if the PCs do not move into the room to engage.

Tactics:

The Deathpriest hangs back to use his ranged attack, giving the bonus to hit to the hulk or a ghoul attacking an immobilised (if possible) enemy. The ghouls co-ordinate trying to gain flanks, and attacking immobilised PCs preferentially (possibly ignoring marks, I didn’t have to consider this the Paladin spent much of the fight immobile). The hulk simply attacks the nearest PC it can reach with little strategic plan.

Ending the Encounter:

All of the enemies fight to the death, as the undead are controlled by the Deathpriest and he is fanatically loyal to his cause. If the Deathpriest is slain the Hulk will continue fighting, but the ghouls should try to escape once they have rendered a PC unconscious, taking that PC with them. They may well flee if the party continues to press the attack under such circumstances.

Once the enemies have been defeated the PCs can attempt to disable the Arcane Symbol, if they have not done so already.

  • Disabling the Symbol (Complexity 1 Skill Challenge 400xp)
    Primary Skills:
    Arcana (Easy), Religion (Moderate), Endurance (Moderate), Athletics (Hard) or Melee attack (AC15)
    Special:
    If the PCs have Dispel Magic available (and you are using it as an encounter power) it grants an automatic success, replacing the Endurance check.
    Arcana:
    Allows the PC to learn that the symbol is part of a number of symbols being used to perform some ritual, and that it can be physically destroyed once positive energy is channelled into it. (1 Success Maximum)
    Religion:
    Allows a PC to channel positive energy into the symbol making it possible to destroy it. (1 Success Maximum)
    Endurance:
    When the PCs attempt to destroy it the Symbol seeks to drain their life force away. Each time a PC attempts to destroy the symbol with an athletics check or melee attack they must make the Endurance check or loose a healing surge.
    Athletics or Melee Attack:
    The PC uses force to break the stones the symbol is inscribed into, thus disrupting its power. If the PCs choose to simply attack the rune they will require a weapon from the Hammer or Pick groups to gain a success with the attack. (1 Success Required)

If the PCs successfully disable the rune award additional XP for the skill challenge as well as the encounter xp listed above.

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