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Forestkillerby Rodger Burns
Evil threatens the northern kingdom of Wendar. The idle malice of a necromancer in the neighbouring land of Glantri has created an odic – a corrupting spirit that threatens to make its way over the mountains, poisoning the elven forests and endangering the quiet peace that exists between the two kingdoms. Fortunately, the band of heroes known as the Walkers of the Wildlands are present, and plan to intercept the odic before it can harm any innocent commonfolk… that is, until the oards intervene. As the adventure begins, a surprise attack by the oards has decimated the Walkers of the Wildlands, leaving the odic a free hand to spread chaos and destruction. It’s up to the PCs to take the Walkers’ place, and prevent the disruption of history.
1. The Attack
It’s been a grey, grim, miserable day so far. The high road of the kingdom of Wendar is seemingly empty of all life save for your own small party – chill winds nip at you through your cloaks and mail, thin eddies of clammy fog drift through every now and then to obscure your sight, and looming thunderclouds overhead promise but never quite deliver on a massive, drenching downpour. Coupled with the emptiness of the forest around you and the state of the road along blister-inducing switchback and inclines, and this has to have been one of the least pleasant travelling days you’ve had in a long while.
Which, perhaps, explains why you don’t notice the fight until you’re almost on top of it.
The skirmish is occurring in the middle of a forest glen, nestled in a narrow valley about fifty yards below the latest hill you’ve just ascended. The defenders appear to be a small group of adventurers like yourself, and they aren’t holding out very well – at least two are dead, possibly three, and one of the survivors is only alive due to nimbleness of foot and ability to give ground. The other has used a spell to take to the air and is trying to fire arrows at her enemies, but doesn’t seem to be having much of an effect. The monsters that have caused such havoc are a trio of large, bull-like creatures, but with long, bony tails and oddly-shaped heads with glistening black eyes. Nobody seems to have noticed you yet, but it’s only a matter of time before this changes…
What the party is witnessing is the tail end of an oard attack against the Walkers of the Wildlands. Three bioengineered nekrozons (RC 196) have ambushed the adventuring party; their death gazes have killed two of the Walkers, and a third has been trapped beneath her dying horse. If the party doesn’t intervene, at least three of the Walkers will be killed, with any survivors having to retreat in hopes of recovering their dead comrades’ bodies later; if the party does intervene, they should be able to turn the tide handily. Characters with the ability to detect eschaonic attacks will be able to identify this as one such encounter.
Bioengineered Nekrozons (3): AC 0; HD 7***; hp 31, 26, 19; #AT 2 tail/1 gaze (possible); Dmg 1-6/1-6 + stun; MV 60’ (20’); Save F4; ML 11; Int 2; AL N; SA tail stuns for 1d6 rounds (save vs paralysis avoids), gaze kills instantly (60’ range, only 25% chance to use each round, save vs death ray avoids); SD immune to sleep, hold, energy drain, and instant death attacks; XPV 1650
Auren Windleaf: E10 (atk rank D); AC -2 (chain mail +3, Dexterity, displacer cloak); HD 9+1; hp 29; #AT 1 bow or spell; Dmg 1d6+2 (longbow +2) or by spell; MV 120’ (40’); Save E10; ML 10; AL L; SA spells; SD magical items, spells; S13 I15 W10 D16 Co9 Ch12; carries a scroll of creation and a scarab of protection (3 charges).
Auren’s spellbook focuses on utility and enhancement magics, rather than damage-dealing spells; she prefers to take to the air in a battle (as she has against the nekrozons) and harass from above. It’s a tactic that works better when she has heavier hitters on her side to back her up. She normally memorises Detect Magic, Magic Missile*, Light; Invisibility, Locate Object, Phantasmal Force; Dispel Magic, Fly*, Hold Person; Dimension Door, Ice Storm/Wall, Wizard Eye; Hold Monster*, Telekinesis. Spells marked with an asterisk have been already cast during the battle with the nekrozons, but may be recovered and used again if Auren continues with the party.
Katrin Oesterhaus: F15; AC –4 (plate mail +2, shield +4); HD 9+18; hp 73 (64); #AT 1 sword or crossbow; Dmg 1d8+4 (sword+1, +4 vs undead and Strength bonus) or 1d6 (crossbow); Save F15; ML 11; AL L; SA spells; SD magical items, spells; S17 I11 W14 D9 Co14 Ch11; carries potions of ESP and polymorph self, a rod of cancellation and a scarab of protection (5 charges). Spells memorised: Cure Light Wounds, Protection from Evil; Know Alignment, Silence 15’ Radius. Katrin has been trapped beneath the half-ton corpse of her dead warhorse, and will have to make two successful Strength checks (one check per combat round) to free herself. Assistance from the PCs (either from a character with Strength 15+, or spell use of an appropriate kind) can help her free in just one round.
Rajivri Virayana: T12; AC 1 (leather armour, Dexterity, ring of protection +3); HD 9+6; hp 30 (17); #AT 1 sword or dagger; Dmg 1d8+2 (sword +2) or 1d4 (thrown dagger); Save T12; ML 9; AL N; SA backstab; SD magical items; S11 I14 W13 D18 Co13 Ch 15; carries a potion of super-healing, a scroll of cloudkill, a rope of climbing and a scarab of protection (4 charges). Rajivri is currently facing an uphill battle against two of the nekrozons; if the PCs can attract the monsters’ attention, he will stop giving ground and look for a chance to backstab one of the beasts.
2. Picking Up The Pieces
As the battle concludes, surviving members of the Walkers of the Wildlands will thank the PCs for their assistance, and ask for further aid. The Walkers are currently on a mission for the sage Bensarian (see module X11), who learned of necromantic meddling within the mountains of Glantrian Boldavia that threatens the land of Wendar. The Walkers were heading south to deal with the undead spirit that’s been released, but the nekrozons have left two of their comrades dead – the patriarch Jarrod Redlinhelm (C14) and the wizard Graeme McKonnach (MU17). Can the PCs help deal with the threat posed to Wendar?
The Walkers are, to put it bluntly, desperate – they aren’t certain of what they’re facing, but know that it is heading north rapidly, will cross the border into Wendar in the next few days, and less than a week after that will be wreaking havoc within the kingdom’s ancient forests. The Walkers hope that the PCs will help them out of goodwill, but can offer a map to a magical treasure hidden on the eastern edge of the Adri Varma plateau (given to them by Bensarian) to sweeten the deal, and will promise additional favours and honours from the Wendarian crown as needed to gain the PCs’ assistance.
Assuming the party agrees to help, the Walkers will suggest that one of their number travel with the party, as a guide to the highlands of southern Wendar; the other two will take the bodies of their dead comrades back to the capital to be raised. If the PCs are able to raise either or both of the dead Walkers, then two of the able-bodies NPCs will travel with the party – the third escorting the newly-revived adventurers to safety. Provide the players with a brief description of the abilities and temperament of each of the Walkers, and allow them to decide who will be their travelling companion.
Commentary: "Forestkiller" is basically an attempt to showcase how oard meddling can create interesting adventures. Throwing weird monsters and rains of fiery paradox on the PCs heads is one approach, of course; this is something a bit more circumspect.
My main concern here is whether the adventure concept is clear and makes sense as written, and also whether it works in high-level play. While *I* know exactly why this whole adventure is important, I'm not quite sure it reads well on the paper, and time-travel plots can be sticky. Anyone who wants to chime in should feel free.
Likewise, I'm not sure where to strike the balance between "here's enough stuff to keep a high-level party of PCs hopping" and "here's a blatant loophole that any group of experienced players with access to Companion-level spells and magic items would exploit in a moment". For the moment I'm keeping things somewhat detail-light and open to DM fiddling/judgement - is this solid? I'd especially welcome feedback on this point from Cab and others who've run high-level games of RC D&D.
Next Up: The second part of "Forestkiller".