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"Mystaraizing" the Savage Tide: The Lightless Depths

by David Keyser

Dungeon Magazine #144 The Lightless Depths, Sixth adventure of the Savage Tide AP

Obligatory header...

In case you are interested in my conversion work and are otherwise unaware of it, you can find both CRichardDavies and my Mystara conversion notes in Threshold Magazine #4. All of my efforts for converting Savage Tide's first eight adventures, as well as Dungeon Magazine #114's Isle of Dread adventure, went into that article and issue.

But I continue to play through the campaign, and I am currently more than halfway through this adventure, and have made a number of changes and improvements to what I consider one of the best dungeon crawls published in the magazine. So I am opening up this thread to share these changes, some of which are new Mystara conversion notes, some of which are not.

The first item on my list are a couple of NPCs created for the negotiation with Emraag the Glutton, the dragon turtle of Gallivant Cove. The adventure notes that Emraag can be summoned if the PCs use a musical instrument made by the local natives called a sea skirl. The pipes can be played underwater and if it is played well (Skill : Perform(wind instruments), Emraag will be in a more agreeable mood.

Unless you happen to have a PC who picked up that skill, the players will either have to do without or recruit someone to fulfill the job. My PCs took a trip back to Sasserine with word of recall.

Justine Pike is a 5th level bard, skilled in playing the flute and other wind instruments. Combining her Charisma bonus and skill ranks, she has a total Perform(wind instruments) skill check of somewhere between +10 to +12. She is married to Horatio Pike, the second son of the Pike patriarch and ex-ruling family of the Champion District. The Pikes have fallen on hard times and were recently displaced by the Toregson family (see page 52 of Dungeon Magazine #139).

As a result, Justine is now supporting her husband playing in Sasserine taverns, while her husband hatches numerous schemes to earn a fortune that have yet to pan out. She is willing to travel to Farshore and play the sea skirl despite the inherent dangers involved, but her husband must accompany her and will set his sights on Farshore as the ideal location to regain his family's fortune. While she will practice the sea skirl on the Sea Wyvern's journey to the northern side of the isle, Horatio will pester the PCs with various ideas for money-making ventures once they return to the colony. Assuming the adventure is a success, the Pikes will return with the PCs to Farshore and attempt to invest their payment and open a new tavern in Farshore.

Plesiosaur (page 33)

If you happen to use this monster in an encounter during the initial sea voyage to Gallivant Cove, be sure to review the errata page for its monster manual entry in Stormwrack, which is found on pages 146-147 of that book.

This is the first post which I count as a genuine Mystara conversion, where I swap out two monsters and replace them with some old school Mystara creatures originally published in X5 Temple of Death. I discussed this topic with various possibilities in Threshold Magazine, but here is what I specifically did when I used the wandering monster encounter table in The Lightless Depths.

Isle of Dread Underdark Encounters

Note that the source entry below is where you can find the 3.5 D&D monster manual entry for the particular monster in question.

I am swapping out cloakers and the gibbering mouther for dusanu and malfera respectively.

The table entries are Roll Monster Average EL Source
Replace entry 71-73 1d6 cloakers 8 Monster Manual 36
with 71-73 1d8 dusanu 8 Dragon Magazine #339 p54-55
Replace entry 93-95 1 gibbering mouther 5 Monster Manual 126
with 93-95 1d2 malferas 6 or 8 Dragon Magazine #343 p51-52

The dusanu look like undead but each individual is actually a fungal colony that took over a human native corpse. Should you roll the dusanu as an encounter a second time, feel free to make it 2d8 small dusanu as specified in the Dragon Magazine entry. This group of small dusanu have taken over phanaton corpses on the surface before returning to the Underdark below the Isle of Dread. As the city of Golismorga at the end of the adventure hold many types of dangerous mold and fungi, dusanu can also make a suitable encounter there in the final part of the adventure. If you don't have Dragon #339, the 2E source for dusanu is found in the Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix.

The malfera in this case were summoned by the kopru to act as additional guardians who patrol the caverns above Golismorga. The malfera(s) will try to avoid a direct confrontation should they encounter the PCs. Instead they will shadow and stalk the PCs, attempting to use their nightmare ability to slowly weaken the party. The malfera(s) will only attack the party at an extreme moment of vulnerability or to come to the aid of any kopru who are under attack. This may mean the malfera(s) will follow the PCs into Golismorga. The malfera encounter will only happen once, and the kopru will not be able to replace any slain malfera during the course of this adventure. The malfera can also serve as an additional encounter in Golismorga. If you don't have Dragon #343, the 2E source for malfera is found in the Savage Coast Monstrous Compendium.

As I mentioned before, I rank The Lightless Depths as one of the best dungeon crawl adventures ever published, but one thing it completely lacks is any traps whatsoever. That won't fly for campaigns that have a PC rogue, no one likes having their niche ignored for an entire adventure. So I added a few traps, the first one at the troglodyte cavern entrance...

A1. Putrid Pier

The troglodytes have rigged the central 10 ten foot by 20 foot section of their pier to collapse when the weight of more than one Medium size creature walks upon that section at a time. The pirates normally call out and attract the attention of the troglodyte emissaries who bring out some reinforcing boards and slide them into place to temporarily disarm the trap. If the trap does trigger, the entire section collapses except the for the solitary poles which hold the burning torches. Anyone who makes the reflex save is able to jump to one of the two stable sections of the pier at opposite ends, whichever end the character is closest to. Anyone falling into the water lands amidst a jellyfish swarm (see Stormwrack, p161-162), as the troglodytes have found a way to draw jellyfish to their pier as an additional defense.

Collapsing pier trap: CR6, mechanical, location trigger, no reset, DC 20 reflex save avoids, fall into the water and jellyfish swarms, multiple targets, Search DC 25, Disable Device DC 18.

This next trap can be placed anywhere after location I. Temple of the Ancient Ones but before actually reaching Golismorga. I put it one hundred yards beyond location I. The kopru have inscribed a glyph of warding in a narrow section of tunnel that the PCs must enter which is about ten feet in diameter. The glyph can be either on the ceiling or on the floor obscured by some loose rubble. It activates as soon as a PC passes over it or underneath it.

Glyph of Warding(Blast): CR6, spell, spell trigger, no reset, spell effect (glyph of warding [blast], caster level 16, 8d8 sonic damage, DC 14 reflex save for half damage), multiple targets (all targets within 5 ft), Search DC 28, Disable Device DC 28.

Location J. Hall of the Dreamers

This is the Blackfang Rhagodessa encounter, and the blackfang rhagodessa is an advanced rhagodessa, which was updated to 3.5 rules in Dungeon Magazine #139. In that issue, the rhagodessa is a CR2 4HD vermin of Medium size. The blackfang rhagodessa is advanced to the maximum of 12 HD and this also makes them Large size. The error in the stat block is the blackfang rhagodessa is listed as CR9. There is just no way it is CR9. According to the d20/3.5 rules, the CR is adjusted as follows...

+1 CR for every 4HD advancement of a vermin type (+2 total)
+1 CR for increasing to Large size

So these guys should be CR5. You can argue for CR6 based on their higher than average hit points and because they picked up a +5 to bonus to Constitution instead of the usual +4, which in their case moves them from Con 13(original rhagodessa) to Con 18(blackfang) and that lets them pick up an extra 36hp instead of 24hp.

So CR 5 or CR 6, no higher.

This post deals with a some of the encounters in Golismorga in order to make them a little more challenging. Obviously only use these if your players are having an easy time in the city.

1) Kopru Scouts

The Paizo team admitted that this encounter, a small kopru scouting party accompanied by troglodyte palanquin bearers, is not much of a challenge for 11th level characters. In the sidebar Scaling the Adventure (page 66), it suggests for higher level parties to add a dark naga to the kopru scouting party. That would be one way to make this battle more challenging.

Another possibility is to give one or more of the kopru a potion of eagleís splendor. Drinking the potion boosts the DC Will save against the kopruís dominate person by +2. But donít bother with this option if the party makes use of magic like protection from evil which blocks the kopru from controlling their victim for the duration of the spell.

2) Scholarly Devourer

It suggests that the devourer Rakis-Ka will attempt a peaceful interaction with the PCs but later returns to stalk and attack them. Should that scenario play out, you can increase the difficulty of the encounter by having the devourer use its lesser planar ally spell-like ability to collect some additional support. Suitable creatures would be nightmares from the Monster Manual or canoloths from the Monster Manual III or see this alternate build here.

Also see this brief discussion on how many allies the devourer should have.

3) Shaboath Pools

It mentions in the Aboleth Master Glyphs sidebar (page 50) that the glyphs in Golismorga have long since been ruined. You could instead have the PCs come across one of the glyphs still working and active when they have an encounter, such as the battle against the Shaboath golems. One example would be the glyph of law which inflicts a minor penalty on all nonlawful creatures within thirty feet. As the golems in this encounter are of neutral alignment, the pools could be just outside the range of the glyph, but the golems may need to move into range during the battle at which point they are affected just like the PCs.

If you have the 3.5E hardcover Lords of Madness (or the 2E Night Below box set where they first appeared), you can get the specific details on the aboleth glyphs. Trivia note... the aboleth golems were originally called Shaboath golems because they came from the aboleth city of Shaboath documented in Night Below.

The kopru have carved out a small domain "along the eastern wall of Golismorga, centered on an ancient aboleth ziggurat". It is up to the DM how large an area and how many additional buildings the kopru occupy, but as described the kopru will have an established perimeter to the north, west and south.

Many of the buildings are very close together making it impossible for the kopru to establish clear lines of sight of a comfortable distance for their sentries. This will allow the PCs to get close to observe the ziggurat and kopru settlement by squeezing between buildings in what are effectively narrow alleyways. The kopru have established traps, however, to guard against such approaches. They have surgically grafted sea urchin spines tipped with a potent poison into the living flesh of the buildings. The PCs will have to contend with at least one of these traps to reach an observation point where they can safely observe the kopru.

The kopru check these traps once per day, which they can safely do through their mental powers when in close proximity of the trap. Should they find one of the traps has been triggered they will reset it but not raise any alarm. Should a second trap be triggered by the PCs later on, the kopru will be much more wary and patrols will increase around the ziggurat. That won't matter, of course, should the PCs flood Golismorga.

Fusillade of Deep Sea Urchin Spines(Darts)
CR 10; mechanical; location trigger; manual reset; Atk +18 ranged (1d4+1 plus poison, urchin spine darts); poison (unique deep sea urchin cultivated by the kopru, DC 15 Fortitude save resists, 1d4 Con/ 1d6 Con); multiple targets (1d8 quill darts per target in a 10-ft.-by-10-ft. area); Search DC 32; Disable Device DC 29

If you want to modify this trap, here is how I built it. I used the CR 7 Fusillade of Greenblood Oil Dart trap as a baseline. I upped the Search DC from 25 to 32 which is +1 CR. I then upgraded the poison in comparison to greenblood oil and black adder venom which are both +1 CR, this poison cultivated by the kopru is approximately two points higher so +3 CR.

The kopru in Golismorga prefer to use their natural weapons but if you opt to give some them melee weapons, you could have these kopru apply this poison to those weapons.

This is the last trap I will be adding, and it is located in the Tlaloc's Crater encounter.

Tlaloc's Tear itself had some potent magical defenses inscribed upon it when it was used by the Olman/Oltec long ago to defeat the aboleth. Most of those atrophied over the centuries, but one magical trap remains, a freezing sphere spell that is triggered when someone damages Tlaloc's Tear. The first time anyone inflicts damage upon it, the freezing sphere spell is cast targeting the five foot square where the attack originated from. The spell has the range specified in the Players Handbook, which is 840 feet. If the target square is out of range it will target the spell as close as possible to the target at the limit of its range. There is a 30% chance the spell will scatter slightly and actually hit a random five foot square adjacent to the original target square.

Freezing Sphere Trap : CR 7; magic device; spell trigger; no reset; spell effect (freezing sphere, 11th-level wizard, 11d6 cold damage); Search DC 31; Disable Device DC 31.

Optionally, this spell and perhaps a few other spells tied to water and/or cold are inscribed over the surface of Tlaloc's Tear. Anyone who cares to make the minimal effort can preserve these inscriptions even as Tlaloc's Tear is destroyed. Preserving the stone fragments carrying these inscriptions in this manner allows a wizard to use them as standard scrolls to be copied into a spellbook or provide a one-shot spell casting.

I expect this will be my last post, just a few minor fixes and updates to add, including a look back at some of my material in Threshold Magazine #4.

1) Scamille encounter

I included in Threshold #4's Savage Tide Adaptation article a scamille encounter for Golismorga on pages 144-145. If you use it, keep in mind just how deadly the scamille can be if the PCs don't know its weakness to Light magic. While Knowledge (dungeoneering) is one way to know more information about the scamille, the aboleth N'glothnoru found in the Temple of the Ancient Ones is another source who can warn them of the danger of some of the buildings in Golismorga as well as their aversion to light. Of course, the aboleth is unlikely to talk about such knowledge unless the PCs can pierce its illusions and make N'glothnoru aware of the fact that they have discerned its true nature.

2) Ziggurat Shrine

Also found on page 145 of Threshold #4 is the following paragraph...

In the chamber where the PCs face off against Ulioth, the kopru leader, they will note that strange maps appear to have been more recently etched on the sections of partial stonework on the floor. A DC 35 Knowledge (geography) check is enough for the PC to recognize these as maps of the Twealar underwater empire and regions of the Sunlit Sea. There are six black circles marked around what would correspond to
underwater city locations. The kopru have smuggled shadow pearls into those cities

This shrine is location Q3 (incorrectly labeled Z3 in the magazine) in the adventure. If your PCs are having an easy time of things and you suspect Ulioth needs the help, you can opt to have these maps on the stonework floor be found in location Q2 The Room That Watches. As there is no apparent danger in that room, the PCs might spend some time puzzling out the meaning of the maps or sketching them on paper to review later. This potentially gives Ulioth more time to prepare for the fight, as he is warned of the presence of the PCs as soon as they enter location Q2. The PCs may make a Listen check to hear Ulioth or a Spot check to notice the rise of water coming from the chute in the floor after Ulioth casts control water.

3) Ulioth's stat block

Some fixes and notes for Ulioth himself...

First, Ulioth's dominate person ability requires a DC 18 Will save, not DC 16. This is due to his Charisma bonus which is two points higher than the standard kopru.

Second, Ulioth has the Thrall of Demogorgon prestige class which is found in the D&D 3.0 hardcover Book of Vile Darkness. However, a few months after this issue of Dungeon Magazine was released, a 3.5 update to the Thrall of Demogorgon prestige class was published in Dragon Magazine #357. If you wish to use this 3.5 update for Ulioth, everything is the same except that the 3.5 version of the Thrall of Demogorgon prestige class uses a good Will save progression rather than the original poor Will save progression. Thus, Ulioth's new Will save is +22, improved from the original +19.

Lastly, the save DC for Ulioth's hypnosis and touch of fear supernatural abilities are based on both his thrall prestige class levels(+4) and his Charisma bonus(+2). The values are correct as listed.

I spoke too soon, in my game session last night, I used the Sloughed Skin encounter as desribed in the Golismorga section (p 55), but the description of how to handle it is incomplete.

...triggering an avalanche of decaying fleshlike resin. The resulting slide is 80 feet wide with a 40 foot bury zone in the center and a 20 foot slide zone on either side. Treat this as a normal avalanche, as detailed on page 90 of the Dungeon Master's Guide...

The rules for the avalanche are on page 90, but what is incomplete are clear rules on how PCs who are buried can get free by themselves or with help.

For that take a look at this page and scroll down to the Cave-ins and Collapses section. This section is actually found on page 66 of the DMG. That covers how a PC can free themselves or how another can free them. The only thing to modify is that for a cave-in the rules state the PC will be buried under about 2000 pounds of rock in their 5x5 foot square. Fortunately, the 3.5 D&D Frostburn book covered this rule again when it came to snow. There it suggests 500 pounds of snow that the buried PC must escape. So you can use these rules and assume that the resin weighs as much as the snow, or perhaps a bit more.