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101 Miscellaneous Alphatian Encountersby Rodger Burns
This is an idea I had to create weird and unique encounters and adventure seeds for the Empire of Alphatia - strange stuff that the PCs can run into to remind them that they're in a place where magic is quite common and can be used for almost anything (and arguably the less useful the better). It's a work in progress; I don't have anything like 101 encounters yet, at the rate I'm going I might finish writing #101 sometime around 2015 if I do it all myself.
Other people who have ideas and want to pitch them in should feel free to do so. Suggested guidelines:
- The encounter should be something that works best in Alphatia - bringing in weird magic, a peculiarity of Alphatian law or culture, or something similar. The goal is to create something different and unusual, not something that could just as easily show up in Darokin or Karameikos.
- At the same time, the encounter should be as generic as possible within Alphatia - not linked to any single location, event or canon NPC. This is ideally a grab bag of "hmmm, the party's in ______ and has time to kill, what can I surprise them with?", not something where the PCs have to be in a particular place or talking to a particular person for the encounter to work.
- Keep it short - a few hundred words at most, not a full-blown adventure write-up. The idea is for quick encounters and one-offs only, DMs that are interested can expand them as needed.
- Keep it open-ended - there should be more than one way for the PCs to react to a situation. This doesn't mean that there can't be a 'bad' way to respond to a problem, with nasty consequences fully spelled out, but even a simple combat should include basic notes on how to run away as well as fight, for instance.
- Keep it interesting - give the PCs some way to react, either to gain advantage or avoid harm. Some encounters will end up being just scenery if the PCs decide not to get involved (which is okay - if they're not interested they shouldn't be pushed, and the scene desc will at least help show that this is Alphatia, where things are Not Normal) but everything should have the chance for PCs to get involved if they want to.
1. Domesticated Gorgons
This encounter is usable in any rural, settled area of Alphatia.
As the PCs travel, they come across an unusual sight - what would appear at first glance to be merely another herd of cows, grazing peacefully along the side of the road. However, your average cow doesn't have slate-grey hide, or large metallic armour-plate across its back and sides, or small rodents and other field dwellers left in petrified form around the edges of the pasture.
Of course, this *is* Alphatia, and the presence of an oversized herd of gorgons is not what it might appear. This particular herd has actually been domesticated by a nearby wizard, who keeps them for research and entertainment purposes; the animals are not particularly combat-worthy, and will not engage in combat unless attacked. If a battle does occur, the gorgons take a -2 penalty to all attacks and saving throws, always lose Initiative, and will not pursue any retreating party past the edge of the clearing.
A powerful and determined party may succeed in defeating the entire gorgon herd in battle, and ride away satisfied in their own heroism. They'll likely discover the risk of such assumptions only some time later, when officers of the law show up to charge them with Destruction of Valuable Property...
2. The Duelling School
This encounter can be used in any large town or city in Alphatia.
Veritamoran is a wizard of some experience and talent who hopes to make a name for himself as a duellist and instructor of duellists. Rather than risk his reputation (and life!) by immediately challenging his peers, Veritamoran has instead decided to open a school in which others can train in use of combat spells.
At the moment, Veritamoran's school is still new, fairly bare-bones (no more than a couple of magically-erected halls, without much in the way of adornment) and noteworthy only for the magical duelling staves that Veritamoran has manufactured. These staves are nonlethal training tools. Each can be used to cast any of the following spells, each once per day: magic missile, fireball, lightning bolt, wall of fire, shield, mirror image, dispel magic, dimension door; however, offensive spells deal nonlethal damage only, and if a target is reduced below 0 HP by a spell from one of the staves they are not killed, but merely knocked unconscious for 1d4 hours. The staves will not work if taken more than 300' from Veritamoran's school.
How the party reacts to Veritamoran's school is up to them. They may try to study at its doors, or be asked by Veritamoran to act as instructors or help him drum up business. A thief or rival magic-user may try to steal one of the duelling staves, and the party asked to retrieve it. On the other hand, Veritamoran is also something of a glory hound, and may antagonise the PCs by seeking to upstage them or claim credit for a deed of heroism they accomplished.
3. Zzonga Sphere
This encounter is suitable for any large village or small town in Alphatia.
As the PCs enter town they notice several odd and unusual things. First is the reaction of the local populace to their arrival - reticent, suspicious, and seeking to avoid attention or notice. The streets are strangely empty as they move towards the centre of town, without any of the young children gawking over their attire or petty merchants trying to drum up business that adventurers usually attract.
The second unusual thing is the smouldering, burnt-out shell of a building on the near side of the town square. A simple glance is enough to tell that the damage is recent - within the past ten days, to be sure. From the layout of the structure and the wreckage visible past charred timbers, the building was once a tavern or public-house. A magic-user or elf will be able to determine that the flames were kindled by a fireball or similar spell effect. Though the building is in utter ruins, none of the surrounding structures show any real sign of fire damage.
Third and most extraordinary is the presence of a half-dome of softly-glowing pinkish light in the centre of the town square, about 5' across. A small pot rests inside, with a large bush planted in it; the bush has spiky, dark green leaves and blossoming fruit which look like fist-sized strawberries. Characters with knowledge of botany, legal training or experience in illicit dealings should easily recognise it as a zzonga plant.
All the strange occurrences in the town stem from the same source - the actions of an Alphatian magic-user and magistrate named Alitherinmin, a cousin to the ruler of the kingdom. Alitherinmin's power and relations have given him both a strong interest in dispensing justice and a rather abrupt approach to doing so, and when he discovered the existence of a zzonga-den below this town's tavern one week ago he was outraged. The magistrate wasn't merely satisfied with torching the tavern and arresting all its employees; he was convinced that at least a few of the town's notables were customers of the zzonga den, and was determined to identify them as well. The zzonga-bush has been placed in the town square as a trap by Alitherinmin - he is confident that sooner or later some zzonga addict's hunger will overwhelm his good sense.
The townsfolk know all of the above story, but are likely to reveal only scattered and incomprehensible fragments to inquiring PCs. They are terrified of both Alitherinmin and the unknown backers of the zzonga-den, and fervently hope to stay uninvolved until the whole mess blows over. Getting a useful level of information will likely require patient and persistent digging by the PCs.
If a character does attempt to disturb the zzonga-bush, for whatever reason, they will discover a few nasty surprises. Most immediate is the activation of a single-target hold monster effect, targeting whichever character first touches the dome; this effect triggers once only, and only on touch. Any attempt to disturb the zzonga-bush - whether by touch, remote prodding (such as with a pole or thrown rock) or magic - will also alert Alitherinmin, who arrives 1d4+2 rounds later via teleport. The magistrate will call for the surrender of any character present upon his arrival, and attack any character who does not comply with spells - initially non-lethal magics such as charm, web and hold person, but escalating if needed. Characters who surrender will be escorted to the nearest city for trial. Alitherinmin is a magic-user of at least the 9th level of ability, and should be a high enough level to pose a challenge for the party.
If the PCs aren't curious about the situation in the town, the DM may choose to have a resident attempt to gain the party's aid to acquire the bush. Bribery, deception and attempted blackmail are all possible tools that might be used in such a circumstance.
4. Village of Ogres
This encounter can be used anywhere in rural Alphatia or Bellissaria.
During the PCs' travels, they come upon a typical farming village of about a dozen families, unremarkable in most respects - except that the inhabitants are all ogres, and everything is ogre-sized. Hut ceilings are 10' tall or higher, hand ploughs and similar tools are too large to be used by any normal man, fords that would be neck-deep on a normal human remain unbridged, and similar. The inhabitants wear clothing of normal Alphatian cut, have the speech and mannerisms of Alphatian peasant-class, but are unmistakeably ogres with all the size and strength of that breed.
The existence of this village is due to the meddling of the local lord, an aristocrat who's developed a polymorph variant that's limited to humanoid shapes but doesn't rework the mentality of the target. The residents have all been changed by this spell into forms that allow for greater strength and toughness for breaking land, sowing seed and warding off monsters, but otherwise remain able to live their lives. Of course, there's nothing that says the new polymorph spell is perfect - it's entirely possible that the effect on mental processes is merely delayed for a long period, not negated completely, and will take effect as the PCs are passing through.
5. Mischievous Undine
This encounter can be used anywhere in Alphatia. All that's required is a reasonably-sized river, lake or other body of water.
The encounter begins with one character noticing something odd in the water nearby - a golden bracelet or similar bit of jewellery, untarnished and encrusted with bright gemstones, yet staying just below the water's surface and not sinking to the muck below. Continued observation reveals that the bracelet rises and falls erratically, but doesn't move with any current or tide and isn't affected by ripples or other disturbances of the water.
The bracelet is being held in place by an undine submerged within the water, that has been summoned to Mystara by Alphatian magic but managed to escape the bondage intended for it. The undine is effectively invisible while within water, and has wrapped its body around the bracelet; it will tease and keep the bracelet away from any attempts to claim it, evading direct grabs and yanking away or destroying poles, nets, and other similar tools that might be used to snare the bracelet. It will be willing to surrender the prize to a character who shows persistence, cleverness and good humour. Characters who display less patience or tolerance may find themselves harassed by the undine's spells, or even attacked outright.
6. Draughtboard Bridge
This encounter can be used in many places, but is best used in an unsettled region. The bridge described here might stretch across a river, or cross above a canyon or defile in the mountain highlands.
The bridge in question is some 40' long and 20' wide, made of inlaid flagstones in an alternating black and white pattern. Each flagstone is 5' square, so that the bridge is 8 flagstones wide and 16 flagstones long. Massive stone draughts (5' in diameter, 10' high, weight one ton) stand on each of the eight black squares closest to the far side of the bridge. These will stand motionless, though radiating strong magic, until a character steps onto the bridge.
Characters on the bridge will find their forward movement impeded by an unknown force; they can move only at most 10' forward in any single round. Additional movement can be made sideways or backwards, if desired, but forward movement is limited. At the same time, the draughts will animate, moving diagonally forward towards the party's side of the bridge; 1d4 draughts chosen at random will move each round, advancing 1 square diagonally forward. The draughts will not enter a square already occupied by a character, and will never enter a white square. Draughts will move backwards (towards their starting side of the bridge) once they reach the far side.
If a character enters a white square adjacent to a draught, they must make a saving throw versus Wands or be forced backwards into a random black square; a character on the edge of the bridge has a 25% chance of being forced sideways off the bridge instead. A safer way of crossing the bridge is to enter a black square ahead of a draught, wait for it to move forward in the opposite direction, then enter the square it has vacated.
Depending on the pace and tone of the campaign, a party that shows persistence and cleverness in dealing with the draughtboard bridge may attract the attention of whichever wizard was responsible for creating this edifice.
7. Wyvern Snatch
This encounter can be used anywhere, though it's best placed in an area well away from large settlements.
A rather dark-hearted wizard named Magalothix has recently begun magical experimentation on a clutch of wyverns in order to 'improve' them to better suit his interests. In addition to the usual magics to strengthen the creatures' loyalty and biddability, Magalothix has also made two notable changes to the wyverns. First, their poison sting is no longer lethal, but merely paralyses its target for 3-6 turns; saves against this poison are made at -2. Second, half a dozen pairs of small, flexible gripper claws have been implanted into each wyvern's chest and belly. These claws do no damage, but can grab and pin a paralysed character and lift him in flight. Magalothix's goal is to create flying scouts and kidnappers that can swoop in on targets, sting to paralyse, then pick up their prey and return them to his laboratory.
How the wyverns appear in the campaign depends on the strength of the party and the whims of the DM. A low-level party might be waylaid directly, paralysed and dragged off to a dungeon that they would then have to escape from. Mid-level characters might instead be witness to the wyverns attacking friendly NPCs, or discover that Magalothix had kidnapped an old comrade. If the party is powerful and unscrupulous enough, Magalothix might even approach them directly, offering to unleash his pets on an enemy of theirs for the proper price...
8. Tornado Meditation
This encounter is best used in a hilly or mountainous region.
As the party travels, they pick up the distinctive howling pitch of high winds ahead of their position. Unless the characters immediately detour or backtrack, they will soon come across a stationary cyclone perched atop a nearby rise, the winds scattering dust, leaves and other detritus around the area. Though the airborne debris obscures vision somewhat, careful examination will reveal an immobile humanoid shape within the windstorm, near the eye of the storm.
The person at the centre of the tornado is Elathikeis, a powerful magic-user (Level 11+) who believes that one can only truly achieve mastery of magic by exposing oneself to its effects. In order to further his understanding of air magics, he has summoned this windstorm around him and is intently studying its effects. If the party disturbs Elathikeis he will likely strike at him through his magic for a few rounds before using a teleport spell to depart; only through extraordinary means will they be able to parley with him to avoid ill feelings.
9. Emeraldmane Gnolls
This encounter is usable anywhere in the wilderness of mainland Alphatia, though it works best in the kingdoms of Frisland or Floating Ar.
As the characters are travelling on the road, they find themselves ambushed by gnoll warriors, of the Emeraldmane tribe. Several warriors, armed with longbows, rise up from hiding on both sides of the road and confront the party, but don't immediately attack; a particularly large warrior steps forward to address the party.
If the party responds with violence, they should be in for a tough but winnable fight. The gnoll tribe has enough warriors present to pose a credible threat for a group of the party's numbers and levels, spread out to avoid being caught in area-effect attacks. They will attempt to keep the party pinned down with missile fire, and have spears available if characters close to melee. If the gnolls begin to take casualties, or if any sort of combat-magic is used, they will attempt to retreat and break contact.
If the party accepts parley, however, they will discover that things are a bit different than they might appear at first glance. The Emeraldmane gnolls are Alphatian subjects, originally from the mountains of southwestern Esterhold, but now in the process of emigrating to the kingdom of Limn - a wokani of their tribe settled there some years ago, and has acquired enough wealth and prestige to convince his tribe to join him and fund part of their travels there.
Unfortunately, the Emeraldmane gnolls are not exactly the most worldly-wise sort, and only took ship as far as the eastern Alphatian coast, going overland the rest of the way. They are rather short on both supplies and reliable directions, and to make matters worse their present wokan (an apprentice who, in spite of his young age and low level of skill, is an Aristocrat in Alphatia and so provides some legitimacy to the Emeraldmanes) was recently badly injured in an encounter with a forest beast and cannot move under his own power.
In short, the Emeraldmanes need help - badly, and they aren't too picky about how they get it. The two past attempts to peacefully approach lone travellers resulted in both worthies screaming and bolting on sight; thus the more pointed approach taken towards the party. The Emeraldmanes are not so foolish as to try and outright force an adventuring party to aid them, but they certainly aren't above ratting sabres a bit.
How the PCs react to the Emeraldmanes is up to them. Simply travelling to the Emeraldmanes' camp a few miles away and providing advice and curative magic would absolutely delight the gnolls; maps, good trail rations, or other assistance in travelling towards Limn would probably result in the tribe seeking to spontaneously adopt the PCs. It's up to the DM as to whether the Emeraldmanes ever make it to Limn. If they do, and the PCs assisted them, they have a friend for life in that kingdom; if the PCs offended or attacked them, however, they may find that their targets have long memories...
10. Scent Guide
This encounter is usable anywhere in Alphatia.
A sudden breeze, tinged with a touch of russet brown, whirls towards the PCs from a direction ahead of them and off to the side. As it reaches the party, it brings with it a scent that is strange and appealing but unfamiliar - to most who scent it, but to one particular character the smell is both instantly recognisable from pleasant memories of childhood and almost irresistibly alluring. This character will easily be able to follow the scent backwards on the breeze, tracing it to its source if desired.
Exactly what has caused the scent is up to the DM. It may be a wizard or other wielder of magic hoping to attract the PCs' attention, with the intent of asking for their help or offering them work. Alternately, it may be a dangerous creature, trying to lure the PCs into a trap or ambush.
11. Illusory Accident
This encounter can be used in any town or city in Alphatia.
The PCs are taking their ease in a taproom or an inn's common room when a lesser magic-user, Rolandio the Magnificent, enters to display his skills. Rolandio is of the habit of using Phantasmal Force to entertain and startle his audience - juggling small fireballs, spinning daggers, and similar. He invariably sends his illusory creations hurtling at the faces and bodies of other patrons, only to
have them fade away inches from their targets - amusing long-time patrons and startling the unwary.
Tonight, things do not go according to plan. Halfway through Rolandio's act, a particularly large and sharp icicle proves not to be an illusion, and embeds itself sharply into the shoulder of its erstwhile target. The PCs can react as they like - either trying to prevent Rolandio from further mischief, coming to the aid of the wounded man, trying to discover who or what is responsible for the injury, or laying low and trying to avoid unwelcome attentions from the investigatory magistrate.
12. Ever-Changing Treasure Map
This item can be given to the PCs by an eccentric wizard or patron, or found in any treasure horde in Alphatia.
This piece of parchment appears at first glance to be a typical treasure map, showing the location of a hidden normal or magical treasure. However, each night at sundown the writing and other markings on the parchment fade away, to be replaced at dawn with directions to a completely different treasure in a different location, possibly as far as half a continent away. If copies are made of the map, the copies also fade to blank parchment at sunset.
PCs will have to be clever and persistent to acquire a treasure displayed by the Ever-Changing Map, but quick thinking and determination should pay off. The PCs might find a way to record the map's directions in a form too durable for the map's magic to erase, convince a wizard to teleport them to the map's destination only moments after dawn, or otherwise come up with a clever way to overcome the map's time-limit. Any solution that is reasonable should be allowed to succeed.
13. 'Royal' Rust Monster
This encounter can appear anywhere in Alphatia.
A wizard named Tretanlixes has created a variety of rust monster he calls a 'Royal' rust monster; its hide is a deep purple rather than the usual dull red, and its attack does not rust metal immediately, but instead temporarily transmutes metal into gold - the transmutation lasts for 3d4 turns before the
item crumbles to useless dust. Weapons changed into gold can be used as crude clubs, at -2 to attack and 1d4 damage; armour changed into gold provides AC 8 protection. Magical weapons and armour have the usual chance to resist.
The PCs might encounter the royal rust monster in a dungeon stocked by Tretanlixes, or might be hired by her to retrieve the creature from a rival wizard or bandit chief that's stolen it for unscrupulous purposes. Alternately, a local ruler or imperial representative might ask the PCs to destroy the royal rust monster (and the notes Tretanlixes used to create it) before its transmutation ability can be used to disrupt the local economy. Ambitious PCs might even want to steal the creature for their own ends...
14. Moral Confrontation
This encounter can be used in any village or small town in Alphatia.
As the PCs enter the village, they notice an odd confrontation taking place in the square ahead of them. Two wizards - by their dress and manner both wealthy and powerful - are engaged in a furious and full-throated argument, and may be only minutes from coming to blows. Among the terrified commonfolk watching the dispute are a woman and her newborn infant... and the infant is noticeably glowing, with a multihued aura that can only be magical.
The wizards' dispute is over the fate of the infant, who has been born with rare magical gifts. One of the wizards wants to take the baby away from its family immediately, and treat it as an object of study (and possibly an eventual apprentice/heir). The other wizard is objecting to this, but not out of any high moral grounds - his objections are based on the fact that he owns nearly everything in the town with the exception of the people, and losing a highly-magical baby would be a measurable blow to his future wealth and prestige. In short, neither participant's motives are exactly pure.
The PCs can choose to involve themselves on either side of the debate or take their own position, advancing arguments ethical, legal, theological or practical as they choose. Their involvement will likely choose to be pivotal, tipping the balance in favour of whichever wizard they choose to side with (which could gain them an enemy longer-term, unless they exercise diplomacy, but would also gain them an equally powerful ally). If the PCs decide not to intervene, the dispute might just escalate into a full-scale magical battle between two powerful wizards, with the party caught in the middle of it.
15. Miniature Owlbears
This encounter can appear in most large cities in Alphatia.
A group of wizards has managed to develop a method to create a 'miniature owlbear', a version of the standard monster that is only 2' tall, 40 lbs weight, and generally much cuter and calmer than their larger cousins (no combat ability). About a dozen of the creatures have been created, and they are currently being promoted to the nobility and idle rich as curious and exotic pets.
Experienced adventurers who learn of this scheme are likely to be suspicious, and rightly so. The 'miniature' owlbears are not a truly new breed of creature, but instead simply normal owlbears reduced in size by arcane means; when the spells that bind them are cancelled or expire, the owlbears return to their full size and vicious temperament. Exactly when and why this happens is up to the DM. It could be the work of the miniatures' creators, seeking to spread havoc or strike at an enemy through a disguised assassin; it could be a rival of one of the creators looking to cause trouble; it could be just simple, deadly chance and negligence. In any case, the PCs should find themselves in a position where they can subdue the owlbears and deal with the after-effects if they choose.
16. Miniature Owlbears II
This encounter is very similar to the one mentioned above, but with one vital difference. In this case, the miniature owlbears are, in fact, a new breed of creature and not dangerous under any circumstances; however, local notables are not inclined to believe this, and insist that the miniatures are a blind for some dastardly plan. In order to prevent the 'threat to the community' they may try to file legal charges, incite wizardly duels, burgle or torch the creators' labs, or even stir up demonstrations and riots against the 'dangerous beasts'. PCs might end up joining such an effort, working to stop it, or retained by a third party to keep tempers on either side from getting out of hand.
17. Golem Burglary
This encounter can be used in any Alphatian city.
A wave of coordinated crimes has recently struck at the homes and laboratories of many notables, causing panic and a cry for the authorities to do something. Unfortunately, the usual remedies against criminal gangs in Alphatia - capture a single member and use mind-reading magics to identify his compatriots - are no good in this case, because the burglars aren't human. They're apparently obsidian golems, granted thieving skills (4th-9th level of ability) through some unknown magical means, and can't be forced into talking by any means.
PCs could be hired by the city guard or by a private citizen to discover the golems' creator and bring him to justice. Alternately, if they're rich and prominent enough they might even be among the golems' first targets. The identity of the golems' creator, and the reason why he's ordered his minions to conduct their crime spree, is left up to the DM.
18. Skyloft Prison
This encounter can appear almost anywhere in mainland Alphatia.
The Skyloft Prison is one of the most notorious places in Alphatia - depending on one's viewpoint, incarceration here is either a slap on the wrist, or else a truly horrific punishment. All cells here are solitary confinement, and very difficult to escape from without outside assistance - a typical cell is a magically-enchanted cage, about 10' in diameter, that on command levitates itself 100' in the air or higher, suspending itself in midair until the prison warden orders it back to the ground.
For some reclusive wizards, then, Skyloft Prison would seem to be very near their ideal accommodations... that is, until they realise that the only reading material is what a prisoner manages to bring with him, food is generally rationed out only once per week, with storage and preparation left to the prisoner's own resources, weather and climate far from ideal, and so on. As a result, attempted prison breaks are not unheard of, and freelance adventurers are often hired to either assist with or thwart such activities.
19. Mass Disguise Illusion
This encounter can occur in any city or town in Alphatia.
As the party goes about their daily business or prepares for their next adventure, a ripple of magic from an unknown source suffuses the entire street for a moment. Each PC should roll a save vs. Spells. Once the spell takes effect, the PCs will notice that more than three-quarters of the twenty-odd people on the street with them now all look like the exact same person - an unattractive, grey-haired hunchbacked male human in dark blue robes. PCs who failed the save vs. Spells now have the exact same appearance. The spell affects only physical appearance, and is merely an illusion - physical and mental capabilities, voice and bearing do not change.
The intentions of the creator of this strange spell are up to the DM. It might be a simple test of a new spell gone awry, it might be an attempt to embarrass a particular rival wizard, or it might be an effort to distract a particular person or organisation while something less benign happens elsewhere. Also up to the DM is how long the spell lasts - if the PCs have nothing better to do, the spell might just be permanent until they find some way to counter it...
20. Kivilhijo, Voice in a Bottle
This item might appear either in the home or laboratory of an Alphatian wizard, or possibly in a treasure horde discovered by the PCs.
This item appears at first to be just a large and battered brass bottle, some 12" long and 4" in diameter. If examined closely, it soon becomes obvious that the dents and scorings along the bottle's side aren't just normal wear and tear, but are (at least in part) due to actual work etching arcane runes into the bottle.
If the seal is removed from the bottle, a voice will emerge from it - humanlike, somewhat snide and unpleasant but easily understood. The voice will introduce itself as Kivilhijo, the All-Knowing, and try to offer advice to the PCs - it has an answer for every question and an attitude of extreme confidence, even if in some situations it's bluffing like crazy and making up its response on the spot.
Kivilhijo's goal is to have its bottle destroyed - broken apart (a magical weapon will do the trick, but a normal axe or hammer will not), melted in a forge or lava flow or smashed under a very heavy weight. It will try to convince the PCs to do this - promising them riches or magical knowledge if they follow through, suggesting it will bring them good fortune, or (if the PCs hold onto the bottle for awhile and benefit from Kivilhijo's advice) that they owe it a chance for freedom. If the PCs immediately distrust or disapprove of Kivilhijo, it may try to use reverse psychology to trick them into destroying the bottle. The voice can be silenced permanently if the PCs fill the bottle to the brim with water, wine or some other liquid.
Exactly what happens when Kivilhijo is freed is up to the DM. If the PCs simply abandon the bottle, it may show up at a later date in the hands of a rival or antagonist.
21. Crag Actaeon
This encounter can be used in most mountainous regions of Alphatia or Bellissaria; it is perhaps best suited for the northern Kerothar range, near Blackheart.
A crag actaeon is a magically-created variant on the standard guardian actaeon (RC 156) suited for defence of mountainous terrain instead of woodlands. Its face and horns are similar to a mountain goat's, its base HD are only 10*** and it saves as C10, but it is capable of throwing small boulders (similar to a hill giant) for 3d4 damage each at ranges of 40/80/150, and can climb cliffs and other natural surfaces at a movement speed of 90' (30') with no chance of falling. The creatures it summons are mountain natives, as follows: 1. bear; 2. blink dog; 3. cat (mountain lion); 4. griffon; 5. rhagodessa; 6. roc. Its XPV is 3250.
A short encounter might find the PCs in conflict with a crag actaeon, determined to defend its mountains against their intrusion (especially likely if the party is involved in mining or monster-hunting work). A less straightforward adventure seed might involve helping a crag actaeon to be returned into its normal forest-dwelling form, or discovering why its Alphatian wizard creator felt the local mountains needed a special protector.
22. Cursed Wheel
This encounter can be used in almost any rural area of Alphatia.
Dirisenia, the somewhat spoiled daughter of a local Alphatian lord, has recently acquired a cursed wheel of floating. She intends to put it to use by waiting for a merchant caravan or lone wagon to stop overnight at the town her father manages, then trail the victims (who include, of course, the player characters) as they leave town. The next time they have to ford a river (even a 6" deep stream) the wheel's curse will activate and the amusement will begin. Exactly what form this 'amusement' takes is up to the DM - it's possible that bandits or monsters could attack just as the wagon strands, leading Dirisenia to belatedly join in the stranded wagon's defence, or that a party might have to end up proving Dirisenia's duplicity to her father and cajole him into providing a casting of remove curse to get the wheel unstuck.
23. Cursed Wheel II
This encounter can be used in almost any Alphatian city or town that's on or near a river.
A member of the Alphatian gentry has recently acquired one or more cursed wheels of floating with the intent to use them in a somewhat unusual manner - they're to be hauled out into the middle of the local river, so that their curse activates, and then left in place - serving as the foundation for a floating but stationary tower or other structure in the middle of a fast-flowing waterway. Unfortunately, a group of thieves has managed to steal the wheels (possibly knowing exactly what they're after, possibly only going after 'magical loot' and unaware of the exact nature of their prize). Low-level PCs would be hired to get the wheels back; higher-level PCs might only get involved once the wheels were permanently lost, damaged or destroyed, and hired to repair the items or acquire replacements.
24. Manscorpion Tower
This encounter can be used anywhere in the Empire that's away from a large population centre.
The tower where this encounter takes place was, until recently, the abode of a wizard with more power than common sense. His downfall came when he summoned up a hive of fifteen manscorpions as part of his research; the creatures proved clever enough to overcome the magical bindings placed upon them, and soon afterwards arranged for the wizard's disappearance and took over occupancy of his tower. They have managed to avoid being implicated in murder of an Aristocrat through a combination of natural willpower, low cunning, and incompetence on the part of local investigators.
PCs could be asked to conduct their own investigation into the wizard's disappearance, or could find themselves involved in manscorpion plots. Some of the manscorpions want to remain in Alphatia (where they would be considered minor nobility due to their clerical abilities, as long as the legal matters are dispensed with) and to transmute the area surrounding their new domicile into a sand-choked desert. Others want to return home, though what they'd do with their newfound knowledge of Alphatia is another thing entirely. PCs could find themselves assisting with or opposing either scheme, as their morals and the needs of the campaign dictate; the manscorpions lack easy access to charm magic, so will fall back on bullying, bribes, blackmail and deceit.
25. Web-Trap Brooch
This encounter can appear in almost any dungeon in the Empire.
On their explorations, the PCs come across the undisturbed body of a dead adventurer. Her possessions are mostly nonmagical, of decent quality but otherwise unremarkable, but there is one exception - a prominent silver cloak-brooch of subdued but excellent workmanship. (The DM should determine its exact gp value - similar to other jewellery treasures found in recent adventures.) If checked, the brooch does radiate magic.
Unfortunately, the dweomer on the brooch isn't due to any magical nature it possesses, but is instead due to a spell-trap placed upon it, that activates if the brooch is removed from the possession of its rightful owner (the dead adventurer... or possibly her heirs). Accordingly, any PC that tries to claim the brooch will find themselves at the centre of a web spell, cast at the 15th level of ability, that takes effect one round after the brooch is removed. This is unlikely to prove immediately harmful, but is almost guaranteed to be very inconvenient and a warning of not taking magic too lightly in Alphatia.
PCs that decide to return the brooch to its rightful owner should receive a reasonable reward, though they may also face some awkward questions (the family is well aware of the presence of the web-trap). Other magic-users with an interest in the web-trap effect might also seek out the PCs to question them - and their inquiries could either be friendly and rewarding or abusive, depending on the character of the wizard in question.
This encounter can be used almost anywhere in Alphatia.
Cursepowder is a magical substance which can be used to change standard magical items into cursed ones (as per the RC, p. 228). Its use in Alphatia is uncommon but not unknown, since there are many spellcasters here able to reverse its effects. Several types of cursepowder exist; each affects a different class of item (weapon; armour/shield; scroll; ring; wand; rod; etc). Some varieties of cursepowder also require a high-level spellcaster to negate (standard is 15th level, but 20th-33rd is not unheard of). Less-powerful types of cursepowder are also only of temporary duration, but most are permanent.
A wizard of the PCs' acquaintance wants to hire them to annoy a rival, by providing them with a sample of cursepowder that they will then use against the rival's favourite magical staff. Doing the work in secret is preferred, but if the PCs want to do the work openly it's their own skins at risk. Hazards and magical defences to be overcome in the process of applying the cursepowder, and the consequences of successfully doing so, should be determined by the DM to fit the campaign.
27. Cursepowder II
This encounter can be used in many places in Alphatia; it works well in a borderland area near to a city or settled kingdom.
While travelling, the PCs encounter a group of petty bandits, easily dispatched. What's unusual is what's kept in their camp - several dozen doses of weapon-focused cursepowder, along with a written note specifying targets - the guard captain and lieutenants of a local ruler. Somewhat annoyingly (and counter to established cliché in such matters) the note is not signed or otherwise easily traceable to its author.
What the PCs do with the cursepowder and the other evidence is up to them. The plot might be just what it seems, or might be some sort of double-blind, red herring or diversion as suits the local politics and deviousness of the players. Even if the PCs try not to get involved, the bandits' patron might discover their initial meddling, and try to arrange a suitable form of payback.
28. Cursepowder III
This encounter can be used in most towns or cities of Alphatia.
Hssau-jii is an invisible stalker from the Elemental Plane of Air, who has ended up in Alphatia as a result of a magical accident. After several months of desperate and surreptitious searching, it has finally come up with a plan to return home - filch a censer of controlling air elementals from a local wizard, dose it with cursepowder, and hope that the curse's effects reverse the item's powers and send the user to the Plane of Air. PCs might find themselves helping Hssau-jii to acquire an appropriate censer, hired to prevent the theft, or possibly even called in only after Hssau-jii has successfully executed its plan and asked to pursue the invisible stalker all the way to the Plane of Elemental Air.
29. Cursepowder IV
This encounter can be used in most settled areas of Alphatia.
Doreonloko, a powerful if somewhat scatter-brained wizard, has often wondered what happens if cursepowder is applied to a cursed item. Will the two curse effects cancel each other out, leaving a benign magical item behind? After some effort and distractions (mostly caused by his own lack of focus) he's finally acquired a bag of devouring and a suitable dosage of cursepowder, and firmly intends to see what happens.
Unfortunately for him and everyone in the near vicinity, cursepowder (at least not this kind) doesn't cancel out the curse of a bag of devouring. Instead, it causes the bag to animate, giving it the freedom to chase down and swallow anything it can get its... well, fabric on. The PCs, of course, are the ones who have to deal with this mess - hopefully before the bag swallows up too many spellbooks, pieces of jewellery and household pets.
30. Cursepowder V
This encounter can be used in most regions of Alphatia; it works best in frontier regions such as the Isle of Dawn or Norwold.
A local ruler's rod of dominion has been affected by a dose of cursepowder, so that its powers will only work if the ruler is naked and carrying no other magical items while displaying it. This would be awkward at the best of times, and downright hazardous in winter or if a rival wanted to stage an assassination. What's more, the use of the rod is the one thing keeping the dominion at peace rather than openly defiant of its ruler, and the cursepowder is apparently of a rare type that resists normal attempts to remove curse.
The stability of this kingdom is important to the Empire; the PCs are accordingly asked to identify what measures are needed to negate the cursepowder and if possible carry them out. Getting this information might involve trading services with a sage or high priest, or might be a matter of asking who benefits from the kingdom's instability (to determine the culprit who planted the cursepowder in the first place) and beating the information out of them.
A gelsteed is an odd variation on the common gelatinous cube monster, created by Alphatian magic. Unlike its wild cousin, the gelsteed has no attacking ability and cannot damage or paralyse creatures it encounters. It can, however, envelop a willing character, and create air within its body for the enveloped creature to breathe.
Gelsteeds have no need to breathe themselves; as a result, Alphatian wizards sometimes use gelsteeds for underwater exploration or to move through mud- or slime-filled passages. Many gelsteeds will only approach individuals once a certain magical incantation or key sigil has been used; PCs who gain access to these could gain access to otherwise-inaccessible dungeons or treasure vaults. Some gelsteeds have also been bred with immunity to acid or lava, expanding the range of areas they can haul characters through.
A smotherspell is a specialised type of magical curse, created and used by a group of idealistic young mages who refer to themselves as the Righteous Fraternal Order of Air Ascendant. The Order's stated purpose is to 'demonstrate the proper and eternal dominance of Alphatian magical traditions over the false and corruptive practices of Flame', and the smotherspell is one of its favoured tools in promoting this message.
Smotherspell is bestowed like any other curse, but only affects spellcasters. Whenever anyone affected by smotherspell attempts to cast a fire-based spell, they will find the spell's energy forcibly converted into some different elemental form (most often lightning or concussive force, but conceivably any type of damaging non-fire energy). The chaos involved in the conversion also imposes a penalty of -1 damage per die and a +2 bonus on targets' saves.
PCs might get involved trying to undo a smotherspell curse either on their own behalf, or to assist an ally who needs to be able to use fire magic to turn back a troll raid or white dragon attack. Smotherspell curses are no more difficult to remove than any other kind (unless the DM decides otherwise, of course) but PCs seeking to undo a Smotherspell will have to be cautious or diplomatic if they wish to avoid entanglements with the Righteous Fraternal Order.
Another creation of the Righteous Fraternal Order of Air Ascendant, shockblades are swords that normally flame on command, but have been modified to instead spit lightning. This results in a weapon that receives +2 to hit against giant ants, giant beetles and metallic constructs (such as iron living statues and bronze golems) and +3 to hit against purple worms and aquatic creatures, but lack any sort of special bonus against hippogriffs, pegasi, trolls, undead, etc.
The creation of a shockblade is still a new and uncertain process, and mages within the Righteous Fraternal Order are still working on improving their techniques. They might retain the PCs to acquire rare spell components for their work; alternately, rivals of the Righteous Fraternal Order might hire the PCs to sabotage the Order's work. A PC fighter might also get hold of a shockblade, only to discover that the techniques used to enchant it aren't as stable or safe as its creators think...
34. Winged Terror
A wizard of substantial power but miniscule common sense has managed to breed wings onto a purple worm. Naturally, the creature has gotten loose (or been turned loose) and is now terrorising the local countryside. Low-level PCs might find a challenge in just avoiding the monster (it's mobile but stupid, and the PCs may be able to bait it into a trap or lure it onto a collision course with something large and immobile); higher-level PCs might be asked to destroy it outright.
35. Apiary, the City of Songbirds
Apiary is an extraordinarily unusual place - it appears at first glance to be a typical small city or large town, houses, shops, monuments and civic buildings all in good repair, but completely empty of human life. The reason for this becomes obvious whenever anyone enters the city - they are instantly polymorphed into the shape of a small bird (equipment included, no save) and remain this way until they leave the city.
PCs are unlikely to enter Apiary under normal circumstances, but might find themselves drawn to the city in search of a unique spell scroll or other magical treasure, or to hide from (or pursue!) a capable opponent.
'Bladeclouding' is a new and rather extreme form of entertainment, popular among young Aristocrats, that involves two or more partipants using spells or magical items of telekinesis to try and control any of a dozen or more floating daggers. The goal of a bladeclouding match is to cut your opponent with a dagger while avoiding injury yourself; sneakiness, speed, defensive maneuvers to deflect an opponent's incoming strike with your own weapon, and in larger matches forming and betraying alliances are all considered valid tactics. Bladeclouding is supposed to be a strictly nonlethal sport - if fatalities were allowed it would become dueling, which is strictly regulated in the Empire - but 'accidents' can never quite be ruled out. A local Lord has recently had a favorite cousin suffer just such an accident, and suspects foul play - to find out who might want her cousin dead and why, she hires the PCs to join the local bladeclouding scene and see what they can uncover from within.
Inspired by yellowdingo's suggestion earlier, but tweaked to be a bit more inclusive - even for Alphatia, a sport that can only be practiced by 15th-level mages is a bit much IMHO. Hope you don't mind...
37. Cliffside Trail
In some areas of Alphatia, trails and merchant routes travel through steep mountains or other extremely broken terrain - in a few instances, even along near-vertical cliffs. In at least one case where this sort of trail lies, Alphatian surveyors didn't bother with cutting away switchbacks or making a purely physical detour - instead, they used magical engineering to alter the local gravity along part of cliff, so that people and wagons could walk up and down the trail seemingly 'sideways', as if it lay along a perfectly flat plain.
The first time the PCs come across a cliffside trail like this, it should probably just be another bit of scenery, with maybe a bit of roleplaying if a nervous horse or shy travelling companion doesn't trust the enchantment. On the return trip the PCs might be attacked by crossbow-armed bandits or flying monsters such as harpies or manticores, seeking to trap the PCs in a place where they can't easily maneuver to strike back.
Alphatia's tradition of 'one law for commoners, another for spellcasters' can lead to some sticky situations where a stranger accused of a crime claims to be a wizard and asserts an Aristocrat's privileges. To deal with these claims, Alphatian courts have developed the tradition of Lawspeaking - a procedure where the accused is searched for magical items (to prevent use of rings of spell storing and the like) and other methods of trickery, separated from any companions who might be able to surreptitiously cast a spell on the accused's behalf, given a spellbook with a single simple (and nondamaging) spell, and told to demonstrate their talent.
Lawspeaking is a tradition with almost two millenia of accumulated precedent, and the Alphatians have found ways to counteract most of the more obvious ways of fooling it. Still, Alphatians are only human, and haven't thought of everything - when a rival of the PCs (known by them to not be a spellcaster) demands and passes a Lawspeaking, how will they react? Can they expose their rival without getting into trouble with the law themselves?
39. Lawspeaking II
The tradition of Lawspeaking in an Alphatian court is, by design, weighted against the accused. An actual spellcaster should have little difficulty proving their talent, after all, and a commoner trying to falsely claim privilege should face a near-impossible challenge. Most of the time, this is reasonable - but it does make it easy for a biased judge to claim that even a real evocation of magical power is actually fraudulent. When a close associate of the PCs suffers this fate, will the party be able to clear their friend's name?
40. Lawspeaking III
Conducting a Lawspeaking is not a straightforward task - the individual managing it needs to be able to detect magical items carried by the accused, identify the tools of a stage-magician, and thoroughly search a person who may be both capable and criminally-minded. In villages and small towns, therefore, the judge and the Lawspeaker are sometimes two different people - the judge is someone (possibly even a commoner) trained in the law and detecting deception and empowered to rule in any legal dispute, while the Lawspeaker is a mage or cleric who only acts when a stranger claims to be an Aristocrat before the courts. What this means is that a town's only regular Lawspeaker can sometimes be unavailable (possibly even the victim of a crime) when a Lawspeaking is needed, leading the notables to request the services of whatever competent hands might be available... such as the PCs.
Normally, the sleep-curse spell is considered to be a horrible weapon, used only by the most powerful and dangerous mages to put an entire city's worth of innocents into suspended animation. It has some very potent side-effects, though, enough to where it might be used in desperate situations to preserve life... such as when a region is hit with sudden famine, or a castle's worth of notables have all been poisoned, or a remote outpost is under threat of attack by monsters. In any of these cases, the suspended animation imposed by a sleep-'curse' might be the only way of postponing an even worse disaster... until the PCs or another group of adventurers blunder in unawares and decide that the curse needs to be broken, of course.
This is a distinctly odd variation on the common invisibility 10' radius spell - it only works on objects or creatures that are a shade (any shade) of green. Something wrapped in a green object is also obscured, so a person wearing an olive tunic would have their torso obscured, but not their limbs or head; a troll within the spell area, meanwhile, might appear as just a floating club and loincloth. Whether this spell appears as just a curious magical mishap, or is used for more sinister ends (to allow its user to steal emeralds from a gem dealer, or to make certain magical tomes vanish) is up to the DM.
43. 'Winged Improbability'
Alphatians like flying, and also like outrageous magical tricks. No surprise, then, that the two pastimes get paired up in Winged Improbability - a competition on no set schedule to see which wizard can get the weirdest and most ungainly object flying via magical means. Past winners of the Winged Improbability contest have included a half-ton abstract sculpture cast from lead, the mummified corpse of a gargantua carrion crawler, and a 100' square spider-silk tapestry depicting the coronation of Empress Eriadna. Attempts to create new entries to the contest are ongoing - and the wizards involved might ask adventuring PCs for help acquiring rare spell components, advice on something really bizarre and eye-catching to enchant, or even ask them to spy on or sabotage a rival...
44. Bettelyn Cards
These decks of cards have a minor illusory enchantment - the face cards are animated, and able to speak. The Lords, Magi and Heralds of each suit have distinct personalities - 'Crowns' are haughty and arrogant, 'Orbs' inquisitive and helpful, 'Blades' snarky and deceptive, 'Scales' long-winded and overbearing. While the cards aren't actually able to think or perceive the world around them, their act may fool an unsuspecting new player into thinking there's an actual mind behind each card... and experienced players can try to guess what's in an opponent's hand based on what they overhear, or use minor magics (ventriloquism or silence, for instance) to run a bluff. Though most common in Bettelyn, these cards can likely show up at a gambling table almost anywhere in Alphatia.
A spellcloud is an odd in-between point between magical spell and crafted device - it takes the energies of a normally-cast spell (one with range greater than 0') and ties them into the form of a visible fog, usually between 10' and 30' on a side. The spell energies than linger within the spellcloud until released by the original caster - affecting those standing within the spellcloud, wherever it might be. (If the spell was originally single-target, a randomly-chosen character within the spellcloud is targeted; if the original spell was AoE, everyone inside the spellcloud is affected.) Spellclouds are potent, but by their very nature are somewhat fickle and difficult to control; if an active spellcloud escapes the lab, its creator might very well ask (or try to bully!) PCs into recovering it.
46. 'Doom of Alphiam'
Alphiam, an elderly wizard-researcher, has been trying for years to recreate (at least in part!) the atmosphere-summoning spell used by the Old Alphatians to fill their home solar system with breathable air, and believes he's finally made a breakthrough. Unfortunately, his recent work has been secretly influenced by agents of Alphaks - the improvements he's identified in size and power are paid for by an almost complete lack of control. If Alphiam invokes his new spell, the result will be a city-sized blast of hurricane-force winds - can the PCs prevent the disaster this is likely to cause, or at the very least survive it?
47. Flyaway Dungeon
The PCs are exploring a ruined wizard's tower when a long-dormant enchantment reactivates itself - and with a series of grinding noises and shaking of the ground, the entire dungeon complex goes airborne. Do the PCs try to bail out? Find a way to negate the enchantment and ground the tower? Gain control of the spell so they can fly the tower back to civilization? Up to them.
48. Elasic's Crossing
(Borrowed from Chimpman's suggestion.)
The remote village of Elasic's Crossing has governed itself for generations, despite not having any wizards or clerics in residence, by using sleight-of-hand and similar trickery to fool royal observers into thinking some residents of the village are spellcasters. Now, though, the recognized town 'magician' has gotten waylaid by a manticore, and a new and more suspicious inspector is on his way to town to verify the talents of his 'apprentice'. Can the PCs step in to help Elasic's Crossing keep its independence? Will they want to?
49. Miniature Hippogriffs
These strange creatures (18" from nose to tail, HD 1/2, AC 4, #AT 1 bite for 1d3 dmg, XPV 5) are commonly used by Alphatian nobles in a manner similar to hunting hawks. They're less bold but also less temperamental then their purely avian kin, and can be used to either attack small targets and signal the location of larger prey to an earth-bound hunter - so they are valued by wealthy spellcasters and socially-climbing Gentry alike. Depending on their skills and interactions with the nobility, PCs might be asked to recover a nest of wild 'minihip' eggs, assist in training a flock of miniatures in the tracking of monstrous prey, or even find themselves being chased by miniature hippogriffs owned by a noble with a taste for hunting the 'Most Dangerous Game'...
50. Bar Brawl Gone Wrong
The PCs are passing through or taking their ease in an Alphatian coastal town when the carousing of a group of foreign sailors manages to upset a powerful but senile local wizard. The mage's response to the disturbance takes the form of powerful magic - such as a cloudkill spell, a wall of fire stretching across the town's main street, or possibly a conjured earth elemental or pack of hydras. The PCs are the only capable hands close enough to deal with the threat - and need to do so in a way that doesn't draw the wizard's ire, or bring down the local authorities' wrath.
51. Flyaway Dungeon, Redux
So, remember that ruined wizard's tower that reactivated its wind-walking magics and ripped itself out of the ground while the PCs were exploring it? Turns out something big and nasty was trapped underneath, up until the point where a new skylight was made in its lair, that is. The local wizards think that the adventuring party that caused the problem should be the ones to deal with it - and aren't inclined to take excuses...
"Gandalf, Gandalf! Good gracious me! Not the wandering wizard that gave Old Took a pair of magic diamond studs that fastened themselves and never came undone till ordered?
- The Hobbit
Alphatians are also fond of magically enchanted clothing... but sometimes with a twist. Clothes with minor enchantments to increase the wearer's poise and attractiveness on command are known to exist... and so are clothes that appear to improve the wearer's charm, but can be suddenly sabotaged with but a word from a rival. The PCs might be hired to investigate who managed to switch a noble daughter's favorite frock for one with a baleful enchantment on it... or hired to actually sneak a bit of cursed spellgarb into the wardrobe of a too-arrogant sorcerer.
This is a certain type of magical missive - one enchanted to be readable by anyone, even the completely illiterate, and usually used for official proclamations, legal writs and similar important-but-dull business. Some, though, are unusual - like the one recently delivered to the village the PCs are staying in, where the magically-delivered message appears to be a ransom note... but with a second, completely nonmagical message woven into the text detailing personal details and potential weaknesses of the supposed kidnappers. Can the PCs use this information to their advantage, or will the strange juxtaposition just get them into trouble?
This is an entertainment of spellcasters and the upper classes - a game in which participants (playing as individuals, or part of a team) are polymorphed into animal or monster forms (using a variant of the spell that's guaranteed to preserve the subject's intelligence and identity) and set a series of challenges, obstacles and puzzles to overcome. The PCs are good at their jobs when everyone's in humanoid form - how will they do when the mage is a carrion crawler, the cleric's a giant weasel and the dwarf is a manticore?
55. Almageist II
A recent session of Almageist in the backcountry appears to have gone badly wrong. It was supposed to involve half a dozen noble scions polymorphed into hellhound form for a cross-country race through the wilderness, but sometime during the race, one of the participants apparently detoured to rampage through a nearby peasant village, causing much chaos and destruction. It's up to the PCs to determine who the guilty party might be and why they might have done it.
This is a rare but nasty sort of guard monster - a skeleton from a predator animal or large monster, treated to be acid-resistant and animated, and then bonded to a slime or ooze monster that resides in the ribcage. The skeleton provides mobility, the slime provides muscle, and neither can be easily distracted or quickly disabled by a thief. Only now, it seems that a skeleslime made by binding gray ooze to the bones of an ogre has somehow produced something with a mind of its own - and it's up to the PCs to track down and stop the beast.