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It came from the Sea
Author: Makis Xiroyannis
System: D&D Birthright
According to the scenario, a long time before the humans even set foot on Cerilia, there was a humanoid race of people who had the body of a man and the head of a snake that lived at first in the sea, but later moved and populated the islands on the south of Cerilia. Those humanoids were called “Children of the Serpent” or simply ‘snakemen’ and possessed certain powers that distinguished from the other races.
Graphic: Redrock Island
Graphic: Temple of the Snake
Graphic: Carvings on the wall
Graphic: Drawing on the ceiling
1.1 The Birthright background
1.2 The players
1.3 The place
The adventure takes place at Redrock island, a small and isolated island south of Khourane and North of the Isle of the Serpent. In this place still lives a small and isolated Masetian community that makes its living mainly from fishing. People from outside rarely reach them, and trading is very limited to non existent, even with the closest Khinasi villages. All the rocks and stones in the island have the strange characteristic of having a redish colour, from which the island took its name. 7
1.4 The adventure background
According to the scenario, a long time before the humans even set foot on Cerilia, there was a humanoid race of people who had the body of a man and the head of a snake that lived at first in the sea, but later moved and populated the islands on the south of Cerilia. Those humanoids were called “Children of the Serpent” or simply ‘snakemen’ and possessed certain powers that distinguished from the other races. One of them was their power to change shape and look identical to another person, but only in shape. They could not copy someone else’s memory, strength, intelligence or any other characteristic apart from his look. Their most terrifying power however was their powerful mental abilities that allowed them to hypnotise and control another living being, provided that it is intelligent. With the help of magic the older members of their race were even able to delete or plant memories in someone’s mind. 7
The weak points of this race were their very slow reproduction, and their physical weaknesses – even when they have someone else’s form they remain relatively weak and slow. Their cunning and ambition however made them highly dangerous, to the point where they once threatened the mainland… In their arrogance however, they were badly beaten by the Elves of Cerilia then, who seeing their dangerous powers the kings of that age united & decided to remove their threat forever. Mighty Elven fleets attacked the islands and put the ‘Children of the Serpent’ to the sword, their unholy but significant civilisation burned to the ground. Very few snakemen survived the onslaught and fled to the sea, never to be seen again… 7
It is rumoured that it was at that time when with the help of the Goddess Masela a holy book was made, an artifact of great power that had in its pages the history of the war, the origins of this evil race, their strengths and weakness as well as knowledge of spells that could reveal and destroy them. A book that the unholy people of this race could not touch… 7
More than a thousand years passed during which time great changes had fallen on Cerilia : There were numerous human tribes moving from the south to set foot on the Cerilian continent. Soon they were there, short lived but strong and multiplying in great numbers, an enemy more dangerous than the goblins and the other various humanoids the Elves have been warring against for so long. So the Elder race found more pressing matters to deal with as the humans pushed them deeper and deeper into Cerilia, away from the forests they had dwelt for thousands of years, plaguing the land with stone buildings and war, or with what the humans called ‘civilisation’. 7
So it came to pass that in time, the ancient threat that came from the sea was totally forgotten… 8
2 Let the story begin
2.1 The dream
2.2 Waking up
2.3 The Redrock Island
2.3.1 The Hall of Audience
2.3.2 The blacksmith
2.3.3 The Temple of Nesirie
2.3.4 The shipwreck
2.3.5 The tavern
2.3.8 The crazy beggar
2.4 Something is not right
2.5 Betrayal !
It is likely that the PCs will start looking for Ellistan after the leave the temple. Even if the do not, Ellistan will come looking for them. Let them search the city for a bit, and then have an NPC tell them that Ellistan was seen heading for the forest not a long while ago. Either way, whether they follow him in the forest, or he comes looking for them, the meeting must take place in an isolated place, with none else present… When they do meet him, he will have his back turned, but he will suddenly turn to face them – eyes flashing in obvious anger: 18
2.6 Unpleasant discoveries
2.6.1 The ‘traitors’ revealed.
2.6.2 Now what ?
2.7 The Temple of the Snake
2.7.1 The bad news
2.7.2 The first blood
2.7.3 The Temple
2.7.4 The riddle
2.8 A Hero’s death
2.8.1 The different scenarios
2.8.2 The ambush.
For the possibility that the PCs survive the mutant in the temple, the snakemen will have send a special unit to intercept the characters and kill them before they join the main fight. This unit will wait for the characters and will have prepared an ambush. As soon as the PCs enter the forest the assassins will be ready - a fog will be raised out of nowhere and something will leap from the trees between them. (Unless cautious, the PCs must roll a surprise roll ) 29
It will not be a pleasant surprise to see that those that have ambushed them, look exactly like them ! In the fog and heat of battle it will be almost impossible to tell whether you are fighting the enemy or one another, so it is a great opportunity for the DM to have some fun here J. Unless the players have already thought of this possibility and have agreed on a secret password beforehand to allow them to recognise each other... ( like my playtesters did - a nasty way to spoil DM’s fun! L ) 29
Snakeman elite/ (# : as many as the PCs in this encounter)
AC 6, Hit points 26, THACO 16, ATT 1 (either trident or net ) Dmg 1d6+2 (with trident ) net ( if they succeed the first attack PCs get a –4 in all actions, second success immobilises them unless they manage to cut through the net. ) Saves as F3. 29
Snakeman Priest ( # : 1 only in this encounter )
AC 10, hit points 18, THACO 20, ATT 1 (club), saves as P3.
Granted power : Mind Control, 1/day. ( save vs. mind spell, wisdom/race modifiers apply. If the priest is killed the spell is extinguished. Otherwise the target believes he is a snakeman ) 29
Special : Every time a character looks into a snakeman’s eyes he must roll a saving throw versus Paralyse of be stunned for one turn from the snakemen powerful gaze. The only way to avoid rolling saving throws is to fight without looking in their eyes – this can be done with a –1 attack penalty. 29
Tactics: The snakemen are not strong in battle but they fight organised, intelligently and very, very sneaky. All units usually have a leader that they follow, warriors in front and priests supporting on the back. 29
There are about 30 Priests overall, 50 elite and 900 normal2 warriors that will attack the island.
2.8.3 The escape
2.9 The epilogue
3.1 The important NPCs
3.2 The Maps
“It came from the Sea” is an AD&D Birthright adventure for 4 to 6 characters, for levels 5 to 6. (A total of 24 to 30) It was made in such a way however, that it can easily be converted to suit different character levels, or even game systems, with a few changes in certain areas. It uses the second edition of the AD&D rules, since I have not yet read the third edition by the time I write this – however, it should be fairly easy to play with the 3rd edition rules, after a few changes have been implemented. The basic plot can remain the same, on the isolated island of Redrock, in the Sea of the Golden Sun…
This adventure is, as always, for the eyes of the DM only. Sentences in a grey square can be read as they are if the DM wants to, or he can change them to his liking and describe things in a different way. Regardless of what I write here, the most important point is how the PCs will interact with the NPC characters at any time. There can be no definite way to play this adventure and even if I had written 200 pages I could still not describe all the possible gaming routes.
This adventure has been playtested and player comments have been included in this version. The most important thing that I soon found out was the keeping of the atmosphere, which however will not be the same at all times. The dream at the beginning should be described as something very dark, while after the point the characters wake up it will be a relatively merry situation with some ‘dark spots’ because of the memory loss. While exploring their new situation the mystery should build up offering more questions than answers even to the point they meet Ellistan. The atmosphere will get dark and evil for a while again, and later on, as the mystery will start to clear up, the ‘heroic’ element should start to replace it, up until to the very end of the story where it reaches a climax.
Overall I would say that it is not an easy adventure to play, for both the players and the DM, and I am the first to say that there are parts I would have liked to improve, if I was to re-write it. But even as it is, we had a very good evening playing it, and I hope you will have too…
1.1 The Birthright background
According to the history of the Cerilia, the main continent of the Birthright world, there were five human tribes that were forced to flee into the Cerilia continent, that was inhabited by humanoid races, 1529 years ago. One of those races was the ‘Masetians’ a seafaring race of people that braved the stormy seas and followed the goddess Masela. The Masetians did not manage to cope with the dangers and the wars of the new world, and slowly decreased in number and in power. As a result, fifteen centuries after the humans colonised Cerilia, the proud Masetians race have vanished from the world.
This adventure takes place in a small and isolated island on the south-east corner of Cerilia, where a handful of those people still live on…
The year is 1529, early in October.
The above is ALL that I use from the Birthright world. The rest is my story. No major Birthright NPCs are introduced in this adventure, and some “blood abilities” are only used to give colour in the plot – they are not essential to finish the story. Apart from the above, the entire adventure could easily have taken place in another island, in another setting, in another world.
1.2 The players
Allow you players to choose their characters as they wish (Alignment – any non-evil ) Blooded characters are allowed, even if the whole group wants to have a blooded character. There are a few ‘changes’ in the standard character creation however:
1)No background for the characters should be made. This is something they will discover during the adventure. No ‘used’ characters may play in this adventure. New ones should be created for this adventure only.
2)No weapons/money/scrolls or magical items will be given to them. The characters begin with nothing. The wizards do not have a spellbook, the fighters weapons or armour. They all begin with full hit points however and spellcasters with a full complement of spells. For simplicity in my campaign I do not use the magical components rules. If you do, you can have the characters find their necessary components for spellcasting later
3)They may choose from any character race & class that is allowed in Birthright (although other character races/classes could work well in different settings) and they should normally be 5th level, maybe 6th if less than 5 characters will be used. (DM’s discretion)
4)They should roll their stats with method V of PHB (roll 4d6 – discard the lowest). When they have repeated this process 6 times, and have ended up with 6 different numbers, they may then automatically raise their lowest number to 18! Finally, they may deduct points from a stat to add to another one– for this adventure 1 point deducted is enough to give 1 point for something else. This system should give some pretty strong characters! (too bad they will only be used once J)
After that, they can chose a name and they are ready to start the adventure…
1.3 The place
The adventure takes place at Redrock island, a small and isolated island south of Khourane and North of the Isle of the Serpent. In this place still lives a small and isolated Masetian community that makes its living mainly from fishing. People from outside rarely reach them, and trading is very limited to non existent, even with the closest Khinasi villages. All the rocks and stones in the island have the strange characteristic of having a redish colour, from which the island took its name.
1.4 The adventure background
According to the scenario, a long time before the humans even set foot on Cerilia, there was a humanoid race of people who had the body of a man and the head of a snake that lived at first in the sea, but later moved and populated the islands on the south of Cerilia. Those humanoids were called “Children of the Serpent” or simply ‘snakemen’ and possessed certain powers that distinguished from the other races. One of them was their power to change shape and look identical to another person, but only in shape. They could not copy someone else’s memory, strength, intelligence or any other characteristic apart from his look. Their most terrifying power however was their powerful mental abilities that allowed them to hypnotise and control another living being, provided that it is intelligent. With the help of magic the older members of their race were even able to delete or plant memories in someone’s mind.
The weak points of this race were their very slow reproduction, and their physical weaknesses – even when they have someone else’s form they remain relatively weak and slow. Their cunning and ambition however made them highly dangerous, to the point where they once threatened the mainland… In their arrogance however, they were badly beaten by the Elves of Cerilia then, who seeing their dangerous powers the kings of that age united & decided to remove their threat forever. Mighty Elven fleets attacked the islands and put the ‘Children of the Serpent’ to the sword, their unholy but significant civilisation burned to the ground. Very few snakemen survived the onslaught and fled to the sea, never to be seen again…
It is rumoured that it was at that time when with the help of the Goddess Masela a holy book was made, an artifact of great power that had in its pages the history of the war, the origins of this evil race, their strengths and weakness as well as knowledge of spells that could reveal and destroy them. A book that the unholy people of this race could not touch…
More than a thousand years passed during which time great changes had fallen on Cerilia : There were numerous human tribes moving from the south to set foot on the Cerilian continent. Soon they were there, short lived but strong and multiplying in great numbers, an enemy more dangerous than the goblins and the other various humanoids the Elves have been warring against for so long. So the Elder race found more pressing matters to deal with as the humans pushed them deeper and deeper into Cerilia, away from the forests they had dwelt for thousands of years, plaguing the land with stone buildings and war, or with what the humans called ‘civilisation’.
So it came to pass that in time, the ancient threat that came from the sea was totally forgotten…
2 Let the story begin
2.1 The dream
Your head hurts, your eyes feel hot and you think you have fever… The headache is killing you, and this awful ceremonial singing does not help at all… Singing?? You suddenly open your eyes and you wish you never had done so. You lie in a stone bed, in the middle of a huge hall, the walls of which you cannot see because of this sick mist that hangs over everything, not to mention the stink that fills your nostrils. Why is it so difficult to think or remember anything…? What are those priests in their purple cloaks doing around us? And for God’s sake – why are we all naked and tied on the stone beds?!?!
The Chorus reaches a climax and mingles with your cries as the priests raise black daggers above you and keep muttering their prayers to a god you would never like to meet. You try to move, you struggle to think but somehow you know that it is too late now, so when the daggers fall and the world goes red, the peace is almost welcome.
The above is the introduction to the adventure, the dream their characters see early on. DMs do not have to read it as it is, or if they want they might even role-play the scene and allow their character a chance to get free and fight. This should only be allowed to the most defiant and hard trying players, but in the end all characters must “die”: if one thing must pass across this dream is how desperate the situation is - there could be no escape.
2.2 Waking up
You wake up screaming. That was the worst nightmare you have had for ages –if any nightmare was ever worst than this one ! You feel a bit dizzy and you still have a terrible headache , but apart from that you are ok - shaking a bit perhaps… The air smells with aromatic herbs, your bed is soft with white clean sheets, and the room… the room… this is not your room. This is not your bed either. So what the hell are you doing here ? And in the name of Gods – who are you ???
The characters wake up in a clean room with basic furniture and many beds. They will all have waken up at about the same time, and all of them will remember the same dream. Apart from that, they will remember nothing else, not even their own names.
It is 6:00 in the morning.
There will be a girl in the room, about 17-18 years old with short and straight dark hair that will see them waking and will greet them. See will immediately bring them food, a nice selection of fishes and other sea products, which will taste very good to the starving characters. They had been in a comma for nearly 3 days after all. It is early in the morning, and the sun is rising outside the window, as the heroes of the adventure will be able to see.
The girl’s name is Clerianna. She will speak very basic Anuirean ( the ‘common’ Birthright language ) but she will be able to explain a few things to the characters if asked for it. “You… come here 3 days before. Bad condition… dead very close”
The girl will try to explain to the characters that they are on an island, and that they were brought here by a fisherman called Ellistan who saw their ship sinking and saved them. She will claim you were the only survivors of the shipwreck, but they will remember nothing. The girl will also be able to tell them a few things about their whereabouts, the name of the island, their community they live in, and how happy they are living here, far away from the world. It will soon be evident to the characters that they are on an island isolated from civilisation, in a community living with its own rules. If one of the characters notices her black bandage that she wears in her left arm, Clerianna will explain to them that this is a custom of respect to the Holy man Haaken-Tas who died one week ago.
Clerianna will not be able to tell anything about the characters themselves – she does not know who they are or where they come from.
Note : If at a later time the PCs return to ask Clerianna about Ellistan, she will tell them that he is a very good man that has been all his life in the village like the rest of them, but that he is acting a bit weird the last week or so. He does not talk much, he seems to have forgotten things he has promised to people in the past, and eats food that he didn’t like before…
Just when it seems that the girl has nothing more to tell them, a tall man with a short triangular beard will come in.
This is the ‘doctor’ of the community that has been taking care of them for so long. He also speaks some Anurian and will ask them how they feel. He seems kind, although a bit strict in manners and appearance, and certainly not as talkative as Clerianna – he will even avoid to mention his name (Boraan if asked). He will send the girl to some job, and then handle over to the characters a parchment in a bad condition. “This carried… by you when… we find ” he will say to them. The parchment seems to be nothing more than an contract between some mercenary adventurers and a Khinasi merchant, something about protecting his ship from pirates in a long journey. Their names the ones the player characters have chosen at the beginning will be mentioned here, along with a short description of the mercenaries and the merchant. Although the description and name of the merchant will remind nothing to the characters, the names will ring a bell, and by the short descriptions they will be able to find out who is who.
If the characters speak to anyone about the dream, the NPCs will merely shrug their shoulders but will tell them that there is a legend about the red rocs of the island, that they have certain ‘prophetic powers’ – many a good people claimed to have seen a dream that later proved to be the way that they died or the way they lost a loved one.
Finally The ‘doctor’ will tell them that they are wanted by the community Lord as soon as they feel better, and will give them instructions on how they can get there.
The characters are given clothes to wear – they are only basic and they can choose the colour between white and yellow, but they are clean. They will also be given sandals, but no weapons or armour, if they had any, they were lost in the shipwreck. Spellcasting characters will remember the spells of their choice and be able to cast them, (despite not remembering how they learned them) but will have no spellbook or other casting materials, except any holy symbols priests might need.
2.3 The Redrock Island
Once outside the characters will see an interesting view: Morning in the small Redrock island! A strange place it will be, all stones and rocks will have a weird red colour, and so will the stone-build houses of the community. There is a strong smell of sea in the air, and the characters can see fishing boats going in and out of the small village harbour all the time. The citizens have straight black hair and a white – maybe a bit yellowish skin colour; they are certainly a race of people the characters have not seen before. They are looking at the PCs with curiosity but they smile on them as well, it is only unfortunate that very few of them seem to be speaking the Anuirean language, and even them, just barely. When at any point the characters investigate everything, or when sufficient time has passed, you must move to 2.4. The DM must keep track of the time, and so should the PCs…
A map of the island is provided in the appendixes, for DM easy reference – please note that they are now in a separate word file
There are certain places the players can visit :
2.3.1 The Hall of Audience
This is the biggest building of the village, with a yellow flag and the statue of an old Masetian hero on its top. Here the characters will meet Lord Valens, ruler of this small village.
Welcome to island friends ! You welcome stay here !
Despite what they might have thought, Lord Valens is a short, bold and funny looking man, who smiles all the time and tries to be as pleasant as possible. Most of the time he is surrounded by three little girls that he has introduced to the PCs as his beautiful daughters, that play around and laugh looking at them and talking in their strange language. He is interesting about their story, and seems sorry to hear that they do not remember anything about what happened to them. He will gladly answer to any questions that they have, and he will stop only to listen for something ‘important’ one of his little girls has to say in his ear, laugh and reply something, and then let the child go to give his full attention back to them.
He will talk to the characters about his people, that they are the ancestors of the proud Masetian race, and that once upon a time their mighty fleets had no equal upon the contingent. ( see The Birthright background par. 1.1) A sad story it will be, but these people seem content to live their lives as the do now, isolated from the world, in their own small paradise.
Lord Valens will talk about many everyday things concerning the life in the village. If asked, he will say in particular that the people live here mainly from fishing, and that there is little to no contact with the outside world. Sometimes Khinasi merchants arrive to bring them goods from the mainland in exchange for pearls or funny looking sea stones but that is all. Even more rarely, pirates have tried to attack the island, so for this the villagers maintain a small militia garrison. But it is not a rich village, therefore even the attacks have been rare and only by desperate pirates. The Lord will ask them at this point whether they are interested to join the village garrison ? They do not pay in gold but in their community system everyone is doing something to get anything else in exchange, be it food, housing clothes or else. If the characters agree, Lord Valens will send them to the blacksmith to get their weapons (2.3.2)
The village leader will gladly give them information about the other ‘characters’ of the village, – if the PCs ask about them. He considers Clerianna a fair and very intelligent girl. The Doctor is a bit strict character, but very good at his work. Ellistan, the man who saved them, is a excellent fisherman with many years experience in the sea. When not at work, his is usually at the tavern. Talas is a brilliant man, but he is acting a bit weird lately. Lord Valens believes that the young man has not got over the shock of his master’s sudden death. Talas, like his master Haaken-Tas that died last week, is also a priest if Nesirie, the goddess of Sea. He was also a student of the Holy man and as a matter of fact, the only one. The rest of the villagers being more concerned with the immediate problems of their survival than studying books all day. Now Talas is the last keeper of knowledge in the village. If asked, the Lord will report that the Holy man died of old age, he was an old but very kind and very educated man. “He teach most things we know. Your language speak now too” His death was a source of great sorrow to the village. Talas and the old man lived in the Temple of Nesirie.
The village leader can also tell them that some of their ship remains have reached the western coast, in case the PCs will want to investigate.
Concerning Raja the old fisherman, he will say that he is a half-crazed old man that lost his only son 2 years ago in the Sea, and since then his grief has been horrible and almost drove him crazy. The fisherman lives on his own, outside of the village.
Valens, (as well as the other NPCs) , will give a description of the island (look map) to the PCs if asked, but none will mention the ancient Temple of the Snake, until the time comes – this is place that they do not visit and therefore they do not recall unless someone mentions it
2.3.2 The blacksmith
The Blacksmith does not speak Anuirean, if however he receives word from Lord Valens to give weapons to the characters, he will gladly do so. The characters must either join the militia force of the village, or otherwise persuade the leader of the village to supply them with weapons. If they achieve this, they may select from the following equipment:
Short bows + arrows
Millitary fork polearms
Slings + stones
Turtle mail ( Special local armour that gives the AC bonuses of a chain mail but is heavier )
And that is all the Blacksmith has. The weapons are not the product of some excellent craftsmanship, but they do their work ( normal damage apply ). The characters can equip themselves before proceeding.
2.3.3 The Temple of Nesirie
The temple of Nesirie is positioned in the northern part of the village and has a statue of the Goddess of Nesirie in the small courtyard. On the main double wooden doors, her sign of the wave and the trident can be seen.
Good morning strangers. How may I help you ?
Here is the place where Talas the Priest can be found. He is a tall and a smart looking man, with a shaved head and long moustache, wearing a light blue robe with the emblem of Nesirie upon his heart. Around his neck hangs an amulet – a golden chain holding a shining blue diamond. Despite his respectful and wise looking appearance, this man is no older than 25 – 26 years old.
He will be kind but careful in his communication with the player characters. To their surprise he will be the first person they will encounter that will speak fluently Anuirean.
If asked what he knows about them, he will reply that all that he heard was from rumour in the village. Ellisant found them, and Talas did not happen to meet him for over a week.
If asked about how the old man died, he will reply that it was probably of natural causes. If the characters ask what the word ‘probably’ means, Talas will be reluctant to continue. Unless a kind and ‘educated’ attempt has been made to approach Talas, a charisma check will be required for him to continue giving the PCs information.
If Talas believes he can trust the characters he will tell them that the Holy man was up to something lately, an old legend of some sort that he wanted to investigate. “One evening he told me that something big was going on and that tomorrow he would explain me about it. He also said ‘Don’t mention anything to anyone’ and he gave me this amulet to wear… ‘You might see a danger with that, a danger my weak eyes cannot see... Keep it safe Talas.’”
The next morning I found him dead in his bed. There were no weapon or poison signs on him, nor where there signs of a struggle. It appears that he died naturally. But it is so strange, he was 92 years old but he died just before he tells me everything… In addition, I am sure he had some notes on his desk when I left him the night before. There was nothing on the desk the morning when I found him. I searched for those notes all over his room, but I never found them…
If the PCs want to see the room where Haaken-Tas lived, Talas will allow them in, if they behave properly. The room of the Holy man will probably be different than what they had expected, a small one with a single bed, one desk and one chair, but with selves full of books, notes & various symbols and items. Even on the floor there will be piled various numbers of books, of the kind someone would never expect to find in the house of a cleric in a isolated island. Many of them were written in the Masetian language, and appeared to be very old.
Anyone searching for secret doors or simply for something out of the ordinary, will notice on a successful intelligence check (Thieves can notice it without a dice roll if they are alert) a small lever below the old man’s desk. If they use it, a stone clicks above the desk, and by removing it you see an old wooden box with piles of papers inside. Talas will carefully take it in his hands. It reads in Masetian : “My diary”.
A-ha ! I had seen this before, but I never knew it was hidden here ! Now if you will excuse me my friends, I think my master would have wanted me to read this. If something important is going on, then I really need to know about it.
If the PCs could not find the diary, Talas will eventually find it alone, but it will have cost the PCs time. After this Talas will sit to read the dairy and will kindly send the PCs on their way….
2.3.4 The shipwreck
If the PCs want to investigate the remains of their ship, they can go north-west of the village and see for themselves in the coast. There are indeed remains of a shipwreck there, broken wood and barrels half buried in the sand or floating close to the beach. There is nothing of special interest to see, apart from one thing: Many of the woods are burned, blackened as if they were burning before the ship went down. On a successful wisdom AND intelligence check ( the DM might want to roll this in secret ) some of the PCs start to remember a ship burning in the night… and shadows, many shadows but again, they will not remember exactly what happened.
2.3.5 The tavern
Here the PCs will find many of the men of the village discussing loudly and here they will also find their ‘saviour’ Ellistan. He is a short fellow smelling fish and he will almost jump out of his chair when he sees the PCs. The problem here is that none of the tavern customers, including Ellistan, will speak Anuirean, so communication will be difficult unless the PCs bring someone with them that can translate their language. ( the only one willing to come will be Clerianna ) Otherwise they must find another way of communication.
In any way, Ellistan will say the same story : That he was out finishing early in the morning, far from the island to catch bigger fish, when he saw a ship falling on the rocs and sinking in a matter of minutes. He headed there and he found you, half-drunk grasping smashed pieces of wood. He tried to save everyone, but he couldn’t - there was not enough space in his boat. So he brought back those that he could, and they were you.
Ellistan will deny that the ship was burning if they ask him, and will not be able to tell them anything else, about their identity or the identity of the ship. If he sees that the PCs do not believe him & press him a lot for more information, he will pretend he is busy and say to the PCs they should meet him later on. If the PCs openly state that they do not believe him, he will still suggest that they meet him later, but this attitude from the PCs will not be taken kindly by the onlookers - against a man that they know for so long, and who has recently saved their lives.
2.3.6 The old fisherman
In a small hat, in a different place of the island the PCs will find the old fisherman called Raja. He is a lonely and melancholic old man dressed in rugs and living on his own. He only speaks a few words of Anuirean but he is eager for communication regardless. ( None will come that far to translate Raja’s words to the PCs, they will just have to communicate on their own. )
Son… away ! Son… not come. Bad sea… took son.
There is a fishing boat where the old man lives, in a small natural harbour. The boat is not big but appears to be in a very good condition. If the PCs have the patience and are smart enough to communicate with gestures and the few words that the fisherman understands, he will tell them that this fast ‘sea-vessel’ he has belonged to his son who went out to work one day, and never came back. Late at night of the same day, the boat simply returned without him…
Raja appears to be half-mad from sorrow and loneliness, but there is some truth in his words which the PCs might try to find out. He will say that ‘monsters’ claimed his son, and that although he has never seen them from a close distance, he knows they are mocking him and let him live in his misery so that they can laugh with him. He supports that he saw the dark figures of one or two jumping from the boat into the water, the night they returned it empty without his son. He says that sometimes he can hear his son screaming as they torture him. The old man has a bronze ring with a carved dolphin in his finger, and if asked he will say that his son also had one, both of the rings being presents from his wife (and his sons mother), before she died years ago.
Finally, if the PCs treat him very kindly and appear to believe him rather than laugh with him, Raja will tell them that one sunset about a month ago, while he was wandering around the island, he had seen a strange purple light coming from a hole in the rocks and harsh voices shouting in a language he could not understand. He was scared and run away, but when he told his people about it they laughed and said it was nothing. He will not remember where this place is (and the PCs might suspect he was a bit drunk then, if they ask him so he will admit it ), but he will say that Talas in the village might know.
2.3.7 The Watchtower
On the top of the small hill that the island has, there is a watchtower. Two sentries are usually here on boring duty, scanning the horizon for vessels or for anything else that could present a danger. The village has not been attacked by pirates for many years now, so duty on the watchtower is simply the most boring and seemingly less important job in the community.
The sentries, again, do not speak any Anuirean at all – but if the PCs manage to communicate in any other way, they could find out what one of the sentries has seen: Two nights BEFORE the PCs were brought to the camp, the sentry had night duty and had seen flames on the horizon, like a ship burning. Not the same morning, but the next one, the PCs were brought to Redrock island by boat. The sentry is absolutely sure that they were not brought the morning of the same night.
When the discussion finishes, or if the PCs are not willing to start it at all, the sentries will advice them to return back to the village. ( it would be much better if the PCs do not investigate the cave/temple, until the time comes )
2.3.8 The crazy beggar
This is not a place, it is an added feature that the DM can put into the adventure at some point when the PCs are wandering around the village.
A dirty and seemingly tortured or very ill man, looks at them and smiles a melancholic smile. If they try to talk to him he will only say “It is.. too late. I am so… sorry.” Then he will wipe a tear and carry on walking. Despite all attempts by the PCs to invest on what he just said, the beggar will not say anything else. If hardly pressed, he will just repeat the same words.
If the PCs ask someone else who that beggar is, they will only reply that he is someone mentally ill and that they just let him be around.
2.4 Something is not right
As soon as the PCs have investigated the above or at about 2:00 in the afternoon of the same day, Talas will come looking for them, if they are in the village. If the characters have not talked to him before, he will invite them to his house to meet them – go to 2.3.3. If they have met him but have not discovered the secret hiding place in the Holy man’s room, then he will tell them that he just discovered something interesting and that he will tell them more in a few hours… If however the PCs had been with him and discovered the secret dairy, Talas now comes with some important information:
( STOP PRESS – Regardless of how far the PCs have managed to go, they will notice at this point that as soon as Talas finds and calls for them, Ellistan that also seemed like he was coming towards them from another side, will suddenly glance at Talas, then run back in the streets before Talas sees him. )
“My friends I think we might have a serious problem. Come back to the temple to tell you something that I just found out. I do not know who else to trust now…”
As soon as they go back to the temple, Talas will lock and will start feeding them information. Apparently the Holy man of the village had somehow managed to discover an ancient threat, that he had reasons to believe is now coming back, and by studying an extremely old historical Elven book, he managed to find some important information. The era he was studying referred to an age long before the humans set foot in Cerilia, and for that information was very difficult to come by. It had to do with a threat that vaguely “would come from the sea”. By using his powers however, and a book that has now mysteriously vanished from his room, he was confident that something was going on here, on this island…
“Fortunately he was keeping some notes on his diary, so I can now understand a bit of what he was doing. It has something to do with a race that once lived here, but has disappeared long before we came to live on this island. There is a lot more to read from previous pages – it seems that the Holy man has been doing this research for some time now.” Talas will appear a bit disappointed, if not insulted for his master not saying anything to him earlier. “I quote from the last page that he wrote- listen:”
“I am now convinced that if the artifact ever existed, it is on this very island. ‘They’ know that, and I know that. And I also know that ‘they’ have felt my powers while I was scanning the island… This is so unfortunate, but they are very close! I can feel them now - I feel their eyes staring on me with hatred when I walk in the village, I know they are between us. I am running out of time. Today I gave Talas the holy amulet to protect him in case something bad happens. Tomorrow, I will have to tell him everything. I regret that – he is intelligent, wise and proud, but he is still very, very young. Unfortunately I have no choice. He is the only one I can see and I can trust, and I need his help now.”
Talas will not be able to tell them anything more, until he studies the diary again. For the moment he will tell the PCs that he is worried about what he read, especially the words “they are between us” but he will refuse to tell the Lord or anyone else anything about it – at least not yet. “This is a peaceful village my friends, and people do not take such things seriously. Unless we come with a strong proof…”
Talas will ask the PCs to walk around in the village and find out anything else if they can. If the PCs tell him their suspicions about Ellistan, Talas will ask them to find him and talk to him or bring him here to find out what is wrong with him.
However the young priest will insist that none of the PCs stay back to protect him, if they so suggest. He says he is safe behind that temple’s great doors, especially since he started locking them after his master died. In addition now that he knows he could be in danger, he will put some protective spells around and will not allow anyone else in the temple apart from the PCs.
“You have not been here when all this started, and you have not been around last week when my master was murdered. It sounds stupid and I feel horrible about it, but something evil is between my own people now, and until I find out what it is, you are the only ones that I can trust.”
When the discussion finishes, or at any time the PCs want to leave, go to 2.5. Talas will lock himself into the temple and the PCs are free to do wherever they want. It is preferred that the PCs go through this section before moving to 2.5, with the DM keeping track of the time; If they are too slow to find things out however, the DM may decide to ‘push’ them into 2.5, even without the information they need.
2.5 Betrayal !
It is likely that the PCs will start looking for Ellistan after the leave the temple. Even if the do not, Ellistan will come looking for them. Let them search the city for a bit, and then have an NPC tell them that Ellistan was seen heading for the forest not a long while ago. Either way, whether they follow him in the forest, or he comes looking for them, the meeting must take place in an isolated place, with none else present… When they do meet him, he will have his back turned, but he will suddenly turn to face them – eyes flashing in obvious anger:
“Fools !!! What kind of idiots are you that try to reveal myself in front of them with stupid questions ?” You catch your head with both hands, trying to remain standing, for the pain that cuts through your head is unbearable. Ellistan had not even moved his lips, but you hear him screaming in your head - rage is written on his face.
In front of their eyes a horrible transformation begins to take shape and Ellistan’s features change, his head and neck grows bigger and changes colour, until he looks no longer human. In front of them a person with a reptilian head is now standing, his inhuman face seemingly even more angry that before.
“What are you staring at like this ? Have they drugged you so much that you have forgotten everything ? Blast me if I was not against this mission in the first place, I told them I could have killed the human on my own, just like the old man… So how is your mission going ‘chosen’ ones…?”
It is ok for the players to look astonished at this time, at least those that have not been suspecting it. As the snakeman’s evil eyes burn into their heads, the PCs memory is restored: Shaaht, Veich, Aenash, Slotarr, Hyyss, & Zoghraan are the (choose fewer names if less than 6 players) chosen of the formidable warriors from beyond the Sea, send on a secret mission to kill Talas, the human Priest… Of course ! How could they forget ?
“Are you awake Children of the Serpent or do you want me to wake you up ? I asked you an accursed question !” a purple light will start to appear in Ellistan’s hands…
Here comes a good role-playing challenge for the PCs. No matter what they have been thinking or doing so far - during the time their minds were blank, now with their memory ‘restored’ things should not look as complicated as before – they should look worst ! Let the PCs parley with ‘Ellistan’ but make sure they understand that they DO feel like snakemen now, all their memories are from a secret city in the bottom of the sea, where their race, thanks to magic and superior intelligence, has lived for centuries undetected. Considering the time has come to move into the surface, the humanoids decided to reclaim what was their own, starting for some reason with this isolated island.
You remember that a few of you had already been dispatched some time ago to mingle with the humans, but soon new orders came that you should also move to the surface as humans from outside the island. This was in order to earn the trust of the last dangerous human on the island, a priest of Nesirie named Talas, the student of a powerful priest that came very close to discover them – so that they can assassinate him before the invasion starts.
It was a very big gift and great luck indeed that a merchant ship was passing by, some days ago… Very rarely a ship comes close to these islands, so it was an excellent opportunity for you to take the place of some other humans - You have attacked them, burned the ship, killed everyone aboard, and took the identities of the mercenaries that you fought against. Yes… Now the battle comes back in place – it was a pity that almost everyone was sleeping when you sneaked in, so that you did not encounter strong resistance. On the other hand… that was the plan – was it not ?
Despite his anger ‘Ellistan’ will understand if the PCs mention that the drugs they have been given to look drunk & sick had probably caused them their temporarily memory loss, and he will try to feed them again on their mission – but will answer only questions that are easy to answer. If he does not want to answer a particular question he will merely ‘hiss’ and send them on their way, unless they change the subject. He will return to his ‘human’ form and if the PCs ask about their true forms, he will tell them that they will probably not be able to change themselves until midnight, when the influence of the drug they drunk will wear out.
“So you have succeeded in earning his trust, well done, you can now easily kill him… Had I consider him a threat, I would have slew him the night I killed the old man, but it was only when I returned with the old man’s notes that I realised the human Talas had an item of great power. Your mission is kill him at once and recover this item for me… It is an amulet with a diamond that he is wearing around his neck. Don’t ask him what it can do, it is of no importance – just bring it back to me. When you are done, prepare yourselves for the attack that will commence around midnight today - the humans should be caught in their beds. Remember - we must keep our casualties to a minimum… Go now. Come back only when you have finished”
The orders are very clear, but the objectives of the PCs have now changed... Or have they ? “Ellistan” will soon disappear into the forest leaving the PCs alone to complete their mission. However, if they take a moment to think, they might come with a few reasons that do not really fit. The DM should not really give these for free, and only try to help the PCs if they start doubting themselves. For example
Why didn’t they remember anything before ? What was this ‘drug’ they have been given and why was it necessary ?
Is this all they should remember ? Sitting down to think they notice that they only remember ‘parts’ of their life, but their memories are in no way enough to fill an entire life time. Is this because of the ‘drug’ too ? And why do they still a headache and feel like someone is playing with their mind ?
Why didn’t Ellistan killed Talas anyway, and why did he run off him before so that he does not see him ?
What could this item of power do, and rush to kill Talas now and not at midnight with the rest ? What threat did Talas presented ?
Why the guard in the watchtower said that he saw a ship burning more than 24 hours before they appear ? What didn’t they came immediately – where were they those 24 hours ?
Why Ellistan was talking to them in Anuirean while they were alone and not to their native tongue, of which by the way, cannot remember a single word now ? And why the drug prevents them from changing to their ‘normal’ forms ?
The PCs can come up with a lot more things that ‘do not fit’ very well. However their only memories are those as snakemen, and somehow they do feel a hatred towards the humans now. This is indeed a difficult part for the PCs to role-play. Because of course they are not snakemen at all. Our heroes are ‘under control’ of the snakemen, since they have had their memories ‘erased’ by powerful snakemen psychics (Yes, the first ones in Birthright, I know ) and new memories have been implanted on them. So they must carry on with their orders despite their doubt, unless new stronger evidence appears, that can prove otherwise…
No matter their wisdom or powers, the PCs cannot escape from this kind of ‘mind control’ unless they receive help. So they must return to Talas now – go to 2.6.
2.6 Unpleasant discoveries
Hello my friends ! Come in quick – I have discovered some very important things ! Listen to this : The snakemen do exist ! I know you are shocked and you think I am crazy – but I am deadly serious, believe me. No only they exist, but they have for some reason returned to the surface to reclaim their own. They want to attack this very island, maybe because it belonged to them long before we set foot here. But please, let me explain you everything.
It is expected that the PCs will not share Talas enthusiasm for this discovery, for they are supposed to be Children of the Serpent themselves, and what is worst, they are here to kill him. If they do not rush to kill him now, Talas will keep giving them information. They will not feel any particular wish to kill him at once anyway, so they can listen to him for a bit and see what he knows. If they do so, have Talas tell them as many information as he has managed to gather hastily from Haaken-Tas notes. ( You will find this info at 1.4 ) If the PCs carry on listening after that, go to 2.6.1
2.6.1 The ‘traitors’ revealed.
“Oh, I almost forgot… I found out what the strange amulet that my Master gave me can do… Would you like to know…?” Talas suddenly turns and looks each one of you, his face very serious. “It allows its wearer to see a snakemen, even if he has changed his shape to someone else…a ‘human’ for example. Interesting… don’t you think ?”
At this point, a sudden surge to kill the young Priest will almost drive the PCs crazy. They have to roll a successful willpower check to resist this and not attack Talas. For every good reason the PCs have thought that does not fit with Ellistan’s story, they will get a –1 to their dice roll in the wisdom check. ( The DM should determine the exact number ) Obviously, Talas just sees them in their true human forms, and if someone takes a second to think he/she will realise that otherwise Talas would know they were snakemen from the very first moment he met them. So unless the power of this item is fake, this is a proof that the characters are humans…
However PCs that fail the wisdom check will immediately attack Talas. The young Priest will defend himself, and the first spell he will cast will be ‘hold person’ to anyone who attacks him. PCs that passed the willpower check will see reason and will be in control of themselves: they are allowed to do as they wish.
If the PCs manage to kill Talas, they can go back to Ellistan who will congratulate them. The same night, they may join the Snakemen army as they attack the village, slaughtering the Masetians and taking over the island. However, as soon as the last defender falls, the Children of the Serpent will restore the memory to the PCs, showing them the truth. Then, they will catch and torment the treacherous PCs, slaying them to the last in a most dishonourable ending. The adventure ends here.
If Talas and those PCs that might have passed the wisdom check manage to stop the others from killing him, the young Priest will now realise that something is very wrong and ask for some explanations. Go to 2.6.2
2.6.2 Now what ?
Since one way or another some of the PCs and Talas are still alive, there are some explanations to be given and some attempts to comprehend what is happening. Let the PCs parley with Talas and explain to each other what they know. The PCs will now understand that they are humans and that they have somehow been deceived, but still, this cannot replace their lost memory. Let them put together some pieces, for example why they needed humans to kill Talas and why Ellistan was avoiding Talas… then have Talas remember :
By Nesirie ! I almost forgot… Holy Haaken-Tas had mentioned somewhere that this amulet – which he calls “Tear of Nesirie”, has another power – to counter mind control spells and protect the wearer from psychic powers… Do you think….?
Talas will put out the amulet and hand it over to the PCs. Indeed the item is powerful enough to break the psychic link that the strong Snakemen psychics had establish with them the day they had been their prisoners, and destroy the wall that they have raised in their memory to hide their past. However despite the power of the “Tear of Nesirie”, the forces that made the link with the PCs are very powerful even from this distance, making this process risky: The characters will have to fight together with the Tear of Nesirie to free themselves.
Every time a PC wears the holy amulet, he/she will scream with sudden pain. Two forces will fight inside them – the power of the holy item and the power of the evil psychics. ( In their mind they will see many pairs of red snake eyes staring at them and burning them, while a furious sea wave will splash over and over on them, weakening the burning and taking the eyes away )
In game terms, the PCs must make willpower checks for every round of ‘mental’ combat. If a PC passes any of the checks, the character is freed, although he/she might fall unconscious due the strain of the battle for a few minutes (DM’s discretion). When the PC wakes up however he/she remembers everything – go to 2.6.3 If however someone fails the wisdom checks, the inner battle will continue... Every turn that a PC fails a wisdom check, the character is injured, a damage that increases greatly as long as the ‘battle’ caries on. In the first failure he will loose 1 Hit Point, in the second failure 2 HPs, in the third 4HPs, in the fourth 8 HPs and so on, until he/she passes the check, dies, or someone takes the “Tear of Nesirie” off. Special bonuses for mind protection powers should apply at DMs discretion ( For example a character with the blood ability “Unreadable thoughts” could get a –2 in his wisdom check roll, while scions with the blood ability “resistance” against charm/divination a –6 in every roll. Also characters with very high wisdom or other special mind resistance powers (Elves) may automatically pass the test. )
You hear a scream of rage and disappointment when the link with the accursed sea monsters is broken. The hell with them - you are finally free… Now you remember everything. In the name of the Gods – now you remember !!! The battle on the ship… of course…We were sleeping when something sneaked into the ship during the night, figures attacking us in our beds with nets and clubs, taking us prisoners…
The sensation returns – how dreadful did it feel to see those monstrous, half-snake creatures carry you away tied like a cattle, the ship burning behind and people screaming in pain - a living nightmare it was. You remember only a few things of the torturing next day, apart from those eyes… Those horrible, burning, merciless eyes, that screwed your mind and erased you memory, making you a puppet for the humanoids.
An easy prey was the ‘merchant ship’ with its ‘mercenaries’ after all, was it not ? Damn them fools… that is all they know. We needed our ‘mercenary’ identities as a cover…For what neither ‘them’, nor their friend Talas could imagine, is that this ship they were travelling was the “Legends of Aerele” – the famous Avanese warship, send on a secret mission with a selected group of heroes from Caliedhe Dosiere himself – the Imperial Chamberlain of the City of Anuire !!!
So as their memory comes back the PCs will finally remember who they are. The DM should choose from the following names to give to his players or make up others of his/her choosing. The important thing here is that they are not just anyone, but they are famous heroes of their countries - all and every single one of them ! It will be better to take some time before, or during a break in the adventure to fit the players with certain titles. They are not major Birthright NPCs, but for the purposes of this scenario these people are assumed to be famous & successful heroes in their lands. ( This also explains the good stats rolled at the start of the adventure )
Male names: Ansen, Moergan, Dietric, Gavin, Onwen, Shane.
Female names: Adriens, Donel, Niela, Seriena, Roulianna, Etine.
Titles : (replace xxxx with a name that you chosen )
Lord/Lady ‘xxxx’ Governor of Abbatuor – Roesone
Sir/Madam ‘xxxx’ 1st Merchant/Master of the thieves guild in Diemed
Baron/Baroness ‘xxxx’ of Bhrein – Avanil
Holy ‘xxxx’, Archpriest/priestess of Haelyn’s Temple in Medoere
Sir/Madam ‘xxxx’ 1st mage and Royal advisor of the King in Brosengae
‘xxxx’ the Fair, Noble warrior and royal guard of ‘zzzz’
The DM may think of many other, more interesting titles that could fit in his campaign – as long as they refer to important people of the Anuirean (or other?) lands. What is even more interesting is to give to some of the PCs a special relation between them – for example Lord Dietric could be married to Lady Niela, or Sir Gavin could the bodyguard of Baroness Etine – this creates good atmosphere for more roleplaying.
What happened with them is that after the terrible war in the ‘Days of Darkness1’ almost 4 years ago, certain Anuireans have become ever more vigilant with ‘rumours’ that speak of terrible dangers that could threaten them in the not too distant future. So when rumours came in of the appearance of Snakemen, and of a dangerously increasing power in the Isle of The Serpent, The Imperial Chamberlain approved the funding of a mission by selected heroes that would travel to investigate the rumours and inform him about this new threat. So it was that after almost 3 months of travelling over the Southern Seas of Anuire and after many perils, the heroes have ended close to Redrock island where they were attacked & used, by the objective of their quest…
The young Priest will listen to their story amazed, while trying to heal any wounds they have; with everything revealed to them, they should now make a plan of action. Talas will tell them that the Holy man believed the reason they were going to attack their island was something more than that it belonged to them once: He believed it had something to do with the ruined temple on the north side of the island. If the PCs look amazed and ask about which temple he is talking about, Talas will apologise and explain to them that there was something like an ancient temple North of the island. It is mostly ruins, and they have explored it in the past – there is nothing there, apart from it being a scary place. However Haaken-Tas seemed to believe that they are forgetting something, something that has to do with the daylight and a certain colour. So he wanted to go there while the sun was still on the sky…
The PCs have to hurry now, they should not have too much time before sunset unless they played really well. When they go out, people will tell them that Ellistan and a couple more of them were seen running to the Sea and then disappeared… The DM who is keeping track of the time should, unless the players have played horrible, allow them to reach the Temple while it is still day. Go to 2.7
2.7 The Temple of the Snake
Before they go Talas will take some torches, 2 healing potions (in case he has not used them already ), and 2 flasks of oil with him. He will tell the PCs that it would be wise to inform the Lord of the Village about this…
If the PCs decide that the should do so, go to 2.7.1
If the PCs decide that they do not need to do so, go to 2.7.2
2.7.1 The bad news
Lord Valens will greet them happily at first but will not be happy to listen on what they have to say. As a matter of fact, the PCs feel that if Talas had not been with them they would probably be arrested. DMs should role-play Lord Valens as a peaceful man who is very reluctant to alarm the village on an invisible threat; he will need more proofs other than that Ellistan has disappeared. On the other hand he is not an idiot either, so if the PCs use logic on their arguments and spend time to change his mind, eventually he will give in. Note that if the PCs mention at any point that his daughters are in grave danger or something to this end, Lord Valens will be drained of colour and he will immediately agree to alert the village. Go to 2.7.2
2.7.2 The first blood
While the heroes move towards the north part of the island, they will notice that there is nobody on the Watchtower, on the top of the cliff. If they go to investigate, they will see the bodies of two guards nailed on the Watchtower with their own spears, their bellies opened and their entrails all over the red stones. There is no sign of a struggle, it looks like the watchmen knew those who approached them and did not expect to be murdered. The snakemen are a terrible enemy and it is obvious that the attack has started already now that they know the humans are free from their influence.
2.7.3 The Temple
The Northern part of Redrock island is very different from its south, as sharp rocks have replaced the sand beaches; the entire north side looks like it has been violently ripped off from somewhere. Talas leads you down on the rocks and shows you a hole, probably a small cave in front of a large rock. There is nothing to see from outside, so you go in, hearing the waves splash on the rocks just a few meters below you.
When the character enter, they will see that the ‘rock’ is in fact a stone room that seems to have been made centuries ago. There is mud on the floor and it smells salt and dirty water. If they check for footprints, they will see that someone has been there recently. ( For DM’s reference there is a drawing of the temple in the appendixes )
The room is empty apart from a strange crystal ball that rests on a small tomb in the middle of the room. There are two round holes on opposing sides of the cave walls from where light is coming in. One hole is on the East side and has a round red piece of glass fitted in it, the other is in the west and has a round blue glass fitted in it. The sun is in the West side now, so the light passes through the blue glass giving the little chamber an eerie blue light.
If the PCs look around, they will notice carvings on the wall. They are very old and dirty and can hardly be seen, but they will be able to make out some scenes of what seems to be the everyday life of a race that has the body of a human and the head of the snake. In one side you see warriors that guard strange buildings in a city. In another, a score of priests that prey below a huge snake statue. In a third one, you see snakemen that appear to talk to human heads - heads that have been cut off and placed into something like glass bottles and up to wall selves, like beast trophies that are placed on the wall by an experienced hunter. The rest of the pictures are either in a very bad condition to be seen, or they do not make any sense at all.
On the southern side of the room there is another opening that leads to a smaller, darker room. As soon as the PCs enter it, they encounter the massive head of a stone snake, the size if a big table, that looks at them with huge, empty eyes. On one side of the wall, there are some stones curved with certain symbols… what they do is explained in 2.7.4 ( A drawing of the stone carvings can be found in the appendix )
2.7.4 The riddle
There is a secret door in this room that can only be opened by pressing the correct combination of the table with the symbols. There are some problems with this : Firstly, when you press on a stone, a different one comes (about 5 centimetres )out. The routine difference is –3. [That means (look at the drawing in the appendix ) that if for example you press stone no 4, stone no 1 will come out, if you press stone no 6, stone no 3 will come out, if you press stone no 2, stone no 11 will come out.) It is the one that COMES OUT that counts, not the one that you press. Also the only way to put back a stone is to press the same stone that you used to put it out. (So if you have used no 5 to put out no 2, nothing happens by pressing no 2 afterwards. You have to press no 5 again, for 2 to go back in its original place. Which means that if you also wanted no 11 out, you should have first pressed on 2, then on 5 for 2 to go out as well )
Sooner or later the players should find out how the stones are to be used. When they do, they must discover which one is the right combination. The PCs must press the right stones so that the symbols put up on each other will create another symbol. There are two ways players can achieve this :
a)Try all the different combinations until they find it J
b)Think what else they have NOT done, and do not rush into action ! Talas has told them that “Haaken-Tas seemed to believe that they are forgetting something, something that has to do with the daylight and a certain colour”.
Well, if they think about it and go to the 1st room, they will see that the sun gives a blue colour to the room since the Sun is now on the west and there is a blue coloured glass set on the hole. Upon closer examination, any thief will immediately see ( and any other character with a successful intelligence check ) that the round coloured glass can easily come in and out.
If the characters put the blue glass out nothing happens, the room is just not blue anymore. If they replace it with the red glass, again nothing happens apart from the room going red. However if they remember Raja words, ie that “while I was wandering around the island I had seen a strange purple light coming from a hole in the rocks.” they might think to put the blue and the red glass together to produce a purple light… When they do so, the purple light passes through towards the crystal ball, which in turn sees to come in life, multiplying the light, and lighting the entire room with a strange purple light. Nothing will seem to happen at first, (apart from all the PCs looking scary in this colour !), but when someone looks at the ceiling he will see that a huge drawing of a certain symbol has just appeared there, a drawing that was not visible before with any other light, and which now looms all over them… (look for the complete drawing in the appendix )
Now all that the players have to do is to match the symbols on the board to be like the one on the ceiling, if they are ‘added’ together. Up to three stones only can be out at any time. If after three the players try to press another one, nothing happens. The problem is that they have only three ‘free’ tries every time – in the 4th attempt a gas fills the little room, and all characters in there must save vs poison, or get poisoned ( loose 2 HP per hour, -2 to all attacks and skills until cured) After that they have another 3 ‘free’ tries, and then gas again, and the process continues until the PCs solve the riddle, quit, or die ! ( On a second time, characters that failed the saving throw last time and are still in the room must save versus death or die )
The correct stones that form the symbol on the roof are no 1, 8, and 11. Which means that the players must press stones 4, 11 and 2.
When the PCs have successfully solved the puzzle, a mechanical sound will be heard and the massive stone snake head will start to move… Its mouth will begin to open and open noisily until about a minute later it will settle into a position with a mighty clang. The mouth of the snake will be fully open now, at the size of a man. The air seems to be drawing inside it for a second and then stand still. Inside the snake’s mouth, the PCs can see a dark corridor and steps leading up… Torch anyone ?
The corridors are dark, empty and wet. The stones around you appear to be very old indeed and the corridor seems to have been made a bit round – it feels like you are walking inside a huge snake. You blood freezes in your veins when suddenly you hear the most terrible scream you have ever heard in your life. It carries on loudly for almost a minute, and when it finally dies out you find yourself shaking: Whatever made this noise, was certainly not human.
Let the PCs explore the place a bit here… If they go to the blue coloured room (see map) they will see a ‘closed’ cave with sea water on the bottom. They might think that there is a hole connecting the sea with the cave underwater, and they will be right. The ‘purple’ (see map) room seems like a torturing room. There are many rusty iron ‘tools’ over rusty stone beds in here, and curiously enough it still smells blood and meat…
The Labyrinth is the place where they will find what they are looking for. And where something else will find them. Knowing the importance of the item that they cannot touch, but still not wanting to leave it unprotected, the snakemen have imprisoned their mutated creation to guard the place from unexpected visitors. Once the PCs are in the labyrinth, it will try to sneak behind them and attack them, fighting a hit & hide battle with them, using the labyrinth to its advantage. Its skin has almost the colour of the stone and it is very difficult to detect it when not moving and in half-light.
AC 4, HP 62, ATT 3 : bite 1d6+4 (paralyse), claws 1d4+3, 1d4+3. THACO 14. Saves us : F5.
Specials powers : Paralyse, regeneration
If a character is successfully bitten by the mutant, he/she must save vs. Paralysation or be stunned for 2d4 turns. The mutant cannot be killed unless burned – otherwise it will regenerate 3 HP per round. The creature knows every corner of his small labyrinth, and if it starts to loose it will withdraw and return later to ambush again the PCs. If they do not kill it, it will follow them until it can attack them again.
Special weakness : Fire.
(Receives double damage, cannot regenerate)
If the PCs kill the mutant, they will find nothing of use on him, except perhaps of a bronze ring with an carved dolphin on it, that the beast is wearing in one of his fingers. ( Yes, it is actually the old fisherman’s son, kidnapped and mutated 2 years ago )
A eerie light comes from the small tomb in the back of the small labyrinth. On the tomb, there is a book, a seemingly very old book with a blue cover, and the holy symbol of Masela, the old goddess of the Sea. How a book could have survived corruption and the snakemen all these centuries in here, is beyond your understanding…
Nothing can stop them now from obtaining the artifact. The PCs may enter the light that the holy artifact illuminates, but they cannot pick up the book – only Talas can do that. After they obtain it, it is time to return to the surface and see what is going on there…
2.8 A Hero’s death
It will probably be dark by the time the PCs come out of the temple. Events move fast, and the players must make important and hard decisions in a very short time. An army of about 1000 snakemen will simply emerge out of the sea ( no ships or other vessels, they will just raise out of the water all around the village ) and attack a village of 600 people – with only about half of those people able to fight.
By the time the players have reached to this point, the snakemen will have attacked, or will be just now commence their attack that the PCs can witness from the top of the hill. This happens because the final countdown for the invasion begins at the moment they break contact with the snakemen by recovering their memories. Unfortunately there can be only one outcome from this adventure : The PCs die and the village is burned. The Children of the Serpent are far too intelligent to allow the possibility of defeat or escape. The players should immediately notice that the first thing the army of snakemen attacked was the village harbour – burning all the ships and cutting all means of escape. All except one… The old fisherman’s boat.
If players have played brilliantly so far making an excellent time, and only then, the DM may consider to allow them reach the village before the attack takes place, giving them time to organise their defences. Such a scenario for the most heroic characters would result in far greater casualties on the snakemen army, although at some point their Priests, training and superior numbers will start to tell. The battle can then take place in the city streets, but the PCs should be allowed a chance to withdraw to the Fisherman’s hut for the ending
2.8.1 The different scenarios
Player success will be judged from two primary missions.
a)Whether they will manage to help Talas successfully escape from the island with the holy artifact.
b)The number of casualties they will inflict on the snakemen.
However, how good or bad the players have played so far will have an immediate effect here :
If the PCs either managed to persuade the Lord to sound the alarm or have been very fast in their progress, they will come out to see the village being under attack. Although the harbour will be burning, everywhere else around the village a violent battle will take place… Some of the villagers will have fled into the forest and may unite with the PCs somewhere to make a final stand.
If the PCs managed to do both good time and have warned the village for the attack, then they will come out of the temple just in time to see the attack commencing and will have some time to react. They will notice the huge numbers of the enemy and might realise that there is no chance, however they might want to try and save the village, or simply send Talas away and then fight. It’s up to them.
If the PCs had been very slow to make progress during the adventure and have failed to warn the village for the attack, then by the time they come out the village & the fisherman’s hut will be in flames and the snakemen waiting for them on the hill: All villagers slaughtered, most of them on their beds… The PCs can make their final stand there, there is little else they can do now… (although ‘easy going’ DMs might still consider giving them a chance to save Talas )
2.8.2 The ambush.
For the possibility that the PCs survive the mutant in the temple, the snakemen will have send a special unit to intercept the characters and kill them before they join the main fight. This unit will wait for the characters and will have prepared an ambush. As soon as the PCs enter the forest the assassins will be ready - a fog will be raised out of nowhere and something will leap from the trees between them. (Unless cautious, the PCs must roll a surprise roll )
It will not be a pleasant surprise to see that those that have ambushed them, look exactly like them ! In the fog and heat of battle it will be almost impossible to tell whether you are fighting the enemy or one another, so it is a great opportunity for the DM to have some fun here J. Unless the players have already thought of this possibility and have agreed on a secret password beforehand to allow them to recognise each other... ( like my playtesters did - a nasty way to spoil DM’s fun! L )
Snakeman elite/ (# : as many as the PCs in this encounter)
AC 6, Hit points 26, THACO 16, ATT 1 (either trident or net ) Dmg 1d6+2 (with trident ) net ( if they succeed the first attack PCs get a –4 in all actions, second success immobilises them unless they manage to cut through the net. ) Saves as F3.
Snakeman Priest ( # : 1 only in this encounter )
AC 10, hit points 18, THACO 20, ATT 1 (club), saves as P3.
Granted power : Mind Control, 1/day. ( save vs. mind spell, wisdom/race modifiers apply. If the priest is killed the spell is extinguished. Otherwise the target believes he is a snakeman )
Special : Every time a character looks into a snakeman’s eyes he must roll a saving throw versus Paralyse of be stunned for one turn from the snakemen powerful gaze. The only way to avoid rolling saving throws is to fight without looking in their eyes – this can be done with a –1 attack penalty.
Tactics: The snakemen are not strong in battle but they fight organised, intelligently and very, very sneaky. All units usually have a leader that they follow, warriors in front and priests supporting on the back.
There are about 30 Priests overall, 50 elite and 900 normal2 warriors that will attack the island.
2.8.3 The escape
Sooner or later the characters should realise that all is lost on this island. If they don’t, Talas will tell them so. But someone must live to tell the world what happened here today and keep the artifact and its secrets safe from the Children of the Serpent. The boat the old fisherman has is fast enough for 1 person who can navigate it, but not for two or more – not if they want to have a chance of escaping fast. Since Talas is the only one who can carry the book and maybe the only one who can navigate and use the sails of the boat, it seems like he has the best chances of escaping. He will not go however if someone else wants to escape in his place, and he will feel very sorry indeed if the PCs ask him to leave them behind and escape. Eventually he will be forced to agree - this seems like the only realistic solution for something to be saved. So if the PCs want to support this, they must take Talas to the last standing boat of the island and help him escape with the book, while they will cover his retreat.
If they succeed, ( the fisherman will gladly give his son’s boat to Talas and pick up a hammer to fight ) the young cleric devastated will hug goodbye every one of them, and push the boat into the sea. In the middle of a murderous night they will see him sailing towards the North with speed, an unknown destiny waiting, the life of this young man for ever changed.
Now it is your characters turn. Let them die as they feel like it, for they will die anyway. They should choose where to make their last stand, and have some of the survivors join them for a last defiant fight, as the army of the snakemen will surround them. If the village had been warned for the attack, the casualties will not be only one-sided and the Children of the Serpent will be outraged for that. After some brief time during which the two opposing forces will stare at each other with hatred, the snakemen will scream their battlecries, the ring will close, and fight will resume again…
You parry a blow to your left, only to return it with force on the enemy’s exposed right side. The snakeman warrior screams in pain as he dies, but four more come to take his place.
If this island has ever been a paradise, it is a gate to Hell now, and the flickering shadows of the burning buildings do not make it any better. A child cries on your left as it is mercilessly hacked by a snakeman warrior. Close to it another woman screams as she is slaughtered, pinned to the ground by two priests – her friend already seriously wounded and locked in mortal combat with three snakemen soldiers...
You shout and swing your weapon in righteous rage - crashing skulls or slashing faces, almost enjoying their hissing death screams as you send these warriors to meet their foul God. This time you manage to free your weapon just in time to parry another blow, then return the strike cutting flesh – your face sprayed with blood from the cut arteries. Hurriedly you wipe your eyes from the mixture of enemy blood and brains while the press of bodies takes you further back - the enemies are just too many… But when you hear your friends crying their battlecries around you defiantly, you are sure, oh by the Gods you are so sure, that Hell will feast on both human and snakemen souls today…
The last battle of the PCs should be made violent and heroic, and the DM should count snakemen casualties. It will also be a good idea to have the PCs meet Ellistan or another important officer so that they can have a ‘personal word’ with him in battle. When at the very last, only one or two exhausted defenders remain, and as the snakemen charge in for the kill, the sky will lit with lighting, and the first line of attacking snakemen will be stricken, as well as PCs if any of them are still left standing. The lighting will continue hitting the large concentration of snakemen troops, causing serious casualties to the unholy army. The source of this vengeance will be from someone sailing in a boat deep into the sea…
And with this final defiant strike, the battle on Redrock island will come to an end.
2.9 The epilogue
You feel warm and wet, but comfortable. You hear voices and you slowly open your eyes. There are at least two officers talking, possible a couple of soldiers as well. “Shhaxta heejtss cass… ” “Speak Anuirean Zaaxch, you could do well with some practice”. “ I apologise my Lord. I only wanted to inform you that our agents have managed to infiltrate in the guild of Avanil as you have ordered, totally undetected.” “That is good news… when did it happen ?” “ A full moon ago my Lord, on March 1532 by human calendar”
If the PCs have managed to do serious casualties on the snake army but Talas did not escape, go to 2.9.1
If the PCs have managed neither to do heavy casualties on the snakemen, nor did Talas managed to escape go to 2.9.2
If the PCs have managed to help Talas escape but have not done serious harm to the Snakemen go to 2.9.3
If the PCs have managed both to hurt seriously the snakemen army and helped Talas escape, go to 2.9.4
After the above move to 2.9.5
It has taken a while to replace the casualties those humans inflicted on us, but at least with the artifact in our hands, none knows that we even exist… So time will work for us, we have little to fear.
It was so fortunate that we took over the island that easy – almost no casualties and the holy artifact ours ! Over those 3 years we have managed to establish a large network of agents and many of our people work as humans now… and none suspects a thing. We couldn’t be better, the Children of the Serpent have indeed returned to the world, and we have returned to rule !
“And what news we have from… the other problem ?” “ He is still in hiding my Lord. He is very intelligent but we have agents everywhere now and he is probably afraid to move. You should not worry my Lord, unless he receives help from someone it is only a matter of time before we catch Talas the Priest”
“Accursed humans… so many casualties are hard to replace. What happened with the operation in Dauren then ?” “ Ermm, I am sorry my Lord, he somehow managed to escape our agents again… We are still looking for him” “Damn you idiots ! You lost him again ! Is it so difficult to locate a miserable priest with an accursed Artifact in his blasted robe ? How can you be so stupid ?? As long as Talas of the Masetians lives, we can never be safe in these lands – do you understand – you must find him ! ”
“A-hem, may I take the opportunity then to tell you my Lord that the Anuireans are at war again ? This time with the Gorgon Crown…” “The Gorgon Crown ! Hmmm, this sounds good… this sounds very good. The human fools are going to kill each other while we grow strong… Yessss… I have an idea now – listen carefully what you are going to do…- “ My Lord ! They have awaken !”
Suddenly they all turn to stare at you. The snakemen officer approaches you smiling sarcastically.
“Hello there, hello my friends, are you awake now ? We apologise if we have disturbed you sleep, it will not happen again ! Go back to your dreams, these things should not concern you now, you have done your bit already… isn’t this so guys ?” Heavy laugher explodes in the room… You try to say something but is impossible - you try to move, but you cannot feel your body anymore, and there is no sound in this liquid…Your eyes desperately search for help and they stare across the room to the opposing self where the heads of your friends, bottled in the same glasses with the same thick fluid, stare back at you in horror and desperation… ‘Gods should not allow for this unholy thing to happen… but they do… And there is nothing we can do about it…’ you tell them with your eyes, and these are your last thoughts as the officer slowly puts his hand over your glass and once again you are falling into a deep and full of dreams slumber…
This adventure was created to be a one-shot story, so the same characters cannot be used again. Players can of course be awarded for intelligent play, role-playing, riddle solving, decision making etc but their character cannot earn experience since they have died and are out of play.
What is interesting about this adventure is that the characters were dead even before the main adventure starts, in fact they died 3 years ago. The snakemen have the nasty habit to resurrect the brain of their most defiant or strong enemies and keep it alive using alchemy and magic in a bottle with a fluid of their making that could maintain the heads and keep their brains functional. In a sense that is... Because the person is effectively ‘dead’ but his brain remains alive and can still sense its surroundings but without the ability to communicate. So the brain can function and dream slowly while in the bottle. A result of this is that our hero’s brains have fallen into a ‘loop’ and they will dream over and over again the last day of their life.
So the entire adventure has been in reality just a dream - the characters were simply recalling what happened during the last day they were alive. ( Initially I named this adventure “The Dream” before I change it to a more interesting, to my opinion, name ) The only thing that was real was the supposedly ‘dream’ at the very beginning, which was in fact the unholy ceremony during which - the next day after the battle had finished - their brains were trapped into this slow functional process, forced to dream the same thing for almost three years. The adventure therefore begins at the end of the real story.
The only difference between dream and reality was the ‘crazy beggar’: This character did not exist in reality, ie when the non-dreaming characters really reached the island and did what they did. The ‘crazed beggar’ was just a struggling but futile attempt of our heroes subconscious to tell them that what they see is not real, that this is only a dream and that in reality they have already died…
This event has happened in my campaign, three years before the period my players are now experiencing. The last of the Masetians exists in the campaign world, as well as the island - now the main military base of the snakemen - presenting some future challenging adventures for the PCs, and a new threat that is rising in Cerilia. What I did here was simply to write the event down in detail giving the chance to players to live in it, from the point of view of those heroic Anuirean characters who died in Redrock Island, along with an entire race of people, the dark October of 1529.
3.1 The important NPCs
Talas the Priest of Nesirie. (Priest 5) Alignment NG
( Masetian, bloodline major (32) – Masela )
Blood abilities : Animal affinity (dolphins), Blood history.
Str : 15
Armour Class : 10 Thaco : 18 Hit points 31
Weapon : Trident ( 1d6+1 )
Ellistan the Snakeman (Priest 5 ) Alignment LE
Str : 14
Armour Class: 10 Thaco 18, Hit points 29
Weapon : Spear
Special : Hypnotism, mind control
Racial adjustments to create a snakeman :
3.2 The Maps
given in a separate file
A: The Village
B: The Fisherman’s hut
C: The Shipwreck
D: the watchtower
X: The entrance to the temple
The temple of the snake
This ‘dungeon’ has been made small on purpose, so that the PCs can have some classic in-dungeon play but still carry on quickly with the main plot of the story. For groups that really enjoy dungeon exploration and hack & slash, the DM can easily add some more corridors and rooms for the PCs to explore, maybe include some items as well. Just remember that the dungeon is only a small part of the story to enhance gameplay and not the story itself.
Orange : The first room (with the blue/red glasses
Brown : The second room with the stone snake head and the stone carvings
Grey : corridors
Purple : torturing room
Blue : underwater cave
Grey/black: The labyrinth
Light blue : The artifact
Red : position of the mutant