Where we get slimed, get roped into a debate about stalagmites, and hunt for a suspiciously familiar hunk of humming metal. Oh, and one of us is murdered!
When last we left our heroes, they had descended into the 2nd level of the Forge of Fury, The Glitterhame. They were waylaid by some troglodytes (and their pet bear), they hypnotized a hook horror (and made it their own pet), and they made it to the enormous central cavern, where the minerals on the walls shined like distant stars in the inky, black void. They also managed to find one of the magical blades forged by the long lost Durgeddin tribe of dwarves, who were massacred hundreds of years ago by the ancestors of the orcs in the level above who were in turn massacred by this very band of “heroes” less than two days ago.
They are currently resting in the hallowed ground of the dwarven sepulchers that overlooks the Glitterhame. Sadly, the new dawn brings with it tragedy; and mystery. Geraldine, the dwarven cleric who has accompanied our heroes for several adventures, has been murdered in the night! Geraldine’s skull had been crushed by a warhammer found in one of the dwarven sarcophagi. The weapon lay bloodied beside the corpse. No creature approached during night and certainly no one attacked the camp. It must have been one of the companions. So, who killed him and how was it done?
The party kept watch all night and each party member stayed in their bedroll throughout the night. Or did they? The last guard of the night was the newest member, a half-orc named Unga-Bunga, that the party had just freed from captivity in the orc stronghold above. As the last guard, he could have easily killed Geraldine just before dawn. Unga swore that he had no allegiance to the gang of orcs, but what if he’s lying? What if his true loyalties lie with those orcs and he intends to avenge his tribe and kill off each member one by one in their sleep?
Then there is the so-called leader of this band of mercenaries, Regizar, the human fighter. He has been acting very suspicious of late; acting more impetuous, angry, and aggressive. So much so, that another player, James, was shocked to discover (out of game) that the alignment on Regizar’s character sheet has been changed from Neutral Good to Chaotic Neutral. What’s up with that? In addition, Regizar made a joke yesterday that they should kill the unconscious Geraldine to get rid of the “dead weight” as he called it.
But what of James’s character, Riandon the elven wizard? The bitter feud between elves and dwarves is common knowledge. And it was Geraldine, who, two days ago, nearly got the entire party killed by an absolutely bone-headed tactic, that seriously irritated the wizard. Plus, the dwarf was always trying to get drunk. Maybe the dwarf was more of a liability than an asset, and he had to go.
And let’s not forget the stoic dragonborn, Eragon. A known thief and assassin, it is not beyond his skills or morality to slit someone’s throat in the night. Everyone knows that he covets gold more than anything else and there is a rumored horde of treasure in the depths of this dungeon. Maybe the gold-lust was just too strong, and Eragon has no intention of sharing his treasure with anyone.
As to the facts, there are but few. The order of the guard posts last night was: Regizar, Riandon, Eragon, and lastly Unga-Bunga. Riandon was suspicious of Regizar before the night even started and insisted on staying awake during Regizar’s post, but nothing unusual occurred during the first or second watch. Eragon’s third watch was also uneventful, and Geraldine was definitely alive at the end of those three shifts.
According to Unga-Bunga nothing happened during his watch until the very end. He claims that he is certain that Geraldine was alive when everyone woke up. But he also remembers seeing a spectral, almost ethereal form, appear out of thin air, pick up the hammer, murder Geraldine, and just as quickly vanish again. Both memories seemed to occur at the same time and he can’t tell which is the real one. But it must be the ghostly one, because Geraldine is dead. Right?
I was so happy that the newest player picked the last watch. Nick had not yet witnessed the unusual circumstances that occur when Andrew’s character, Regizar, uses his Zeitbrille Googles. I loved pulling that player aside, revealing only what his character thinks he saw, and then letting him describe it in his words what happened. Nick didn’t know what was going on. But the other players did, or at least thought they did.
Both Riandon and Eragon were convinced that Regizar had done it somehow, but they couldn’t prove it. Regizar, of course, denied everything and suggested that this place is haunted by the dead dwarves and one of these “ghosts” did it. Incredibly, the rest of the group accepted this, interred their deceased friend in one of the sepulchers and moved on. I was shocked!
Of course, it was Regizar who killed Geraldine! The Zeitbrille is a cursed item that appeared to be an innocuous pair of darkvision goggles. But as the goggles grew in power, it came at the cost of the user’s morality. At first, the goggles increased his walking speed and his initiative rolls, then they allowed him to reroll any one failure per day. The other players all assume that this is some sort of luck ability, but in fact, the goggles are affecting time. After all, Zeitbrille translates to “time glasses” in German.
Currently, the Zeitbrille allows Regizar the ability to go backwards and forwards in time, roughly 10-15 minutes; enough to undo or redo an entire sequence of event. But it has to be done with my approval. This is a narrative event, not a game mechanic. In my interpretation of this ability, when he travels through time, Regizar enters the Ethereal Plane, naked to the human eye, except in the transitional phase, hence the ghost-like visage.
I have described other Zeitbrille events with a shimmer, a sense of Déjà vu, or a brief moment where two Regizars seemed to occupy the same space and time. This is an effect of Regizar not being in full control of his abilities. Really, its purpose is to sow the seeds of suspicion and doubt in the other’s players’ minds. Also, due to their close and constant proximity to the Zeitbrille, only these players remember both events. The rest of the world merely sees and accepts the final result. But there are others who have felt this disruption of the continuum.
But these abilities come with a heavy price. With each new power, Regizar slips further toward amorality and evil. After all, the Zeitbrille is a product of Talos, the chaotic evil God of Chaos and Destruction. I have given numerous clues and hints to this connection, not the least of which is that the symbol of Talos is on the glasses themselves, which the player wears as a prop at the table all the time. Unbeknownst to the party, Regizar is no longer Neutral Good, like he was at level 1, nor even Chaotic Neutral as James thinks when he accidentally saw it on the character sheet. Following the events I outlined in The Ageless One – Part 1, where Regizar murdered an innocent civilian, he is now Lawful Evil and fully on the path to the dark side.
This event was the most blatant act of evil yet. A more experienced group of players would have dragged Regizar off to the nearest Remove Curse emporium immediately. But whether through ignorance, uncertainty, or just a desire to avoid conflict, the other players did nothing. Their basic attitude was, “I don’t know. It’s something Andrew is doing on the side. We’ll figure it out eventually. Let’s finish the dungeon” I am disappointed. I want them to explore this further and even try to remove this curse. But they are right; even if they do nothing, eventually all will be revealed. For those who want more I will write up The Ageless One – Part 2, to reflect the events that occurred in this dungeon. Soon, I promise.
But let’s finish the dungeon. Leaving their deceased companion with her long-dead kin, the party travels further into the Glitterhame. Heading east, they come across the lair of two gricks that were unchanged from the presented adventure. The fight was short and sweet, and resulted in one grick being captured and added into Riandon’s zoo. This makes two gricks for his menagerie, and hopefully we can expect a few baby gricks before too long. Afterwards, still in the Glitterhame, the group stumbled across an incongruous metal door with a strange lock built into the door itself.
The door in the book is just a standard locked door, except that it is the only door in this natural cavern and completely out of place, on purpose. It is susceptible to thieves’ tools and knock, but I wanted to compel my players to explore another, easily missed, part of the dungeon. By making the door unpickable and protected by magic beyond their ability, it makes the door and what lays beyond it even more special than it really is. In the book, there is a regular, rusty key found in the Sinkhole level should the players fail to pick the lock. But that is not grand enough to justify this magic lock. Plus, now I get to tie-in this lock and the entire dungeon with a previous adventure, making everything seem inter-connected and more epic.
The lock is just a silver square with a circular depression cut out of it. The players can just make out the hint of a three colored design in red, blue, and green, carved into the lock. Simply finding the right piece and aligning it correctly will unlock the door. The last odd characteristic of the lock is that the metal is humming. A distinct droning noise is audible when the players are near. This is not the first time this group has encountered this phenomenon.
Way back in the Lost Mine of Phandelver, which was also a dwarven stronghold, our players went on a similar quest to find pieces of humming metal that comprised a puzzle lock. Does this mean that the previous dungeon and this current one are connected somehow and not just two random dwarven ruins? It does now. Just how the two are connected is unknown, but now the players are aware that something is going on and prompts them to pay more attention. My players know by now that there are no accidental plot developments in my campaign. There may be unplanned outcomes and unexpected occurrences (players are an agent of chaos), but the plot is destiny.
As your players make their way toward the Sinkhole make sure you play up the danger in room 25. Don’t force a player to fall into the swift flowing water, but describe the river, the thunderous roar of the waterfall, and the wet spray that makes every surface slick and slippery. Make the players roll enough checks until they get the hint and take precautions or one or more falls in.
Should a player fall in, the DC to save themself is low enough to probably succeed. But if they fail and plunge over the waterfall to the level below, fine, give them the prescribed damage plus 1 level of exhaustion. But now they need to make a second save (at disadvantage thanks to the exhaustion) to swim to the edge of this lower pool (in Room 28) or be swept away into an underground river and killed. Rather than kill off a player in this bad-luck, death-spiral scenario, should they fail this second save, have them make the shoreline but suffer another level of exhaustion. They survive, but at a cost.
In my group, one fell in the river but saved himself. Then the players lashed themselves together like mountain climbers to help each other through. The Sinkhole level has only three encounters. The first with the Grey ooze is kind of pointless. Oozes are great (and creepy) low-level monsters, but by this level everyone has a magical weapon making the ooze’s only fun weapon-destroying ability useless.
The second encounter with the flooded, diseased storeroom might present more of a challenge. But my wizard used his always-on Spider Climb to crawl across the ceiling and use Mage Hand to search the drowned skeleton. I know that Spider Climb requires concentration, but I removed that restriction because casting spells while hanging upside down is cool. And cool beats rules. I would have also allowed a cleric to cast Purify Food and Drink to cleanse the room even though officially it only covers a five-foot radius. I wouldn’t drink it, but you can at least wade through it now. Sadly, our cleric is dead, remember?
But it is the third encounter that is a doozy and the sole reason I forced my players down here. A lone stalagmite is rooted by the base of the river. Formed by a millennia of dripping calcium water, it stands guard over a single flopping fish by the riverbank. Why is this detail here? To make the players ask questions, and raise suspicions. For this is no ordinary rock formation. This is the classic D&D Underdark Monster, the Roper.
Indistinguishable from a natural stalagmite, the roper is an apex ambush hunter. Perfectly camouflaged until it grabs you with one of its sinewy, rope-like tendrils (hence the name) and pulls you into its enormous rock-toothed maw.
Apart from the dragon at the end of the dungeon, this is possibly the nastiest encounter in the game. The creature can grab and grapple up to four victims at the same time, and if that happens, your party is likely going to die. Its bite is devastating and it will even attempt to drown or throw troublesome players into the swift flowing stream, which is a whole new set of problems.
The book states that the roper will attack when the players get twenty feet into the room, which will put them within 25’ of the roper on the opposite side of the stream. This is close enough for the roper to use its Reel ability, where it can pull one victim toward itself and bite attack in the same turn. Very nasty.
Naturally the players were suspicious of the thing. I had just dropped a big rock mini onto the table. They gave it a wide berth but made no real attempts to silently sneak past. Immediately, two member of the group were grabbed and the fighter was dragged across the river. He managed to break his hold but nearly fell into the deadly swift river. Now he was alone on the wrong side of the river with this thing. He tried to fight it with his new (and unattuned) sword but the constant cycle of getting grappled, getting bitten, breaking free, and never getting to attack was frustrating. Ultimately, he had to retreat and jump across the river to rejoin his companions.
Meanwhile the rest of the group was ineffective as well. The tendril that grabbed the other fighter was severed. And immediately regrew the next round. But then the thief got grabbed and they were just able to cut that tendril before he got dragged across the river. Range attacks just bounced off the roper’s rocky hide. By the time the fighter jumped back to the player side of the river (and nearly grabbed again), the party was in full retreat. And they really weren’t happy when they realized the tendrils could reach 50’ nearly all the way back into the previous cavern. They retreated even further.
They had to come up with a better plan. The two fighters wanted to kill it, and the wizard wanted to capture it. Only the thief had the sense to try and avoid it. In the end, the thief prevailed and the two murder-hobos learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes avoiding a fight can be better than dying in one. Not that either hobo was happy about it. “Where’s the glory in not killing that thing?”
Ultimately, the group used the Portable Hole again to get them out of trouble. Everyone got in the hole and held their breath for three minutes while being jostled about and pelted by the 20+ orc heads that where already rolling around inside. The thief folded up the Hole and carried it as he snuck past the roper, who had gone back to his fishing. Once they were out of danger, everyone hopped out of the Hole, slightly bruised and covered in orc guts.
In the final room on this level, it was an easy matter to find the dead dwarf in the old prison cell. On her, they discovered the circular metal key that would open the magically locked door. The metal disc had three embossed lightning bolts, in red, blue, and green to line up with those in the lock. Yet another symbol of Talos that the players failed to recognize. Pocketing the key and jumping back in the Hole, the players reverse the process and make their way back up to the Glitterhame and the magic doors.
The key fits. The doors open. And a flight of stairs descends into the proper dwarven stronghold level called the Foundry. The book says the stairs ascend, which does make for an interesting cave dynamic. But when underground, any upward movement gives a subconscious belief that you are moving toward the surface, toward freedom and subsequently less danger. Travelling deeper into the rock gives the opposite impression of being trapped, cut off from the surface, and thus more dangerous. My stairs go down.
By the way, Riandon was determined to add the roper to his zoo. After the adventure, I allowed him to capture it using the headless corpse of an orc for bait and several castings of Tenser’s Floating Disk. Presumably, this took hours, because ropers move so slwoly, but that is what downtime activities are for.
Next week, we finally find the Forge of Fury, un-animate several items, and an old puzzle returns to haunt us again.
Check out my Forge of Fury Resources Page for even more tips, advice, charts, and all the maps, props, and images I used to bring this adventure to life.
As always, A stalagmite with a “G” grows up from the ground, while a stalactite with “C” climbs down from the ceiling, and Game On!
As you can see class, the splendor of this cave’s beauty is on full display. Over the course of thousands of years, water seeps down, carrying tiny mineral deposits that drip ever so slowly, forming these magnificent stalagmi…, Aieeeee… ‘crunch’ – Master Horsdoeuvre, on an unfortunate field trip with some first year students out of Candlekeep.