By: Arjan Wardekker
Game: Any, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D)
This scenario plays in a destroyed Dwarven city named Kharath Dim (or any other name you prefer), located in a large cavern many miles underground.
A long time ago, the Dragon Ismir the Corruptor entered the city, polymorphed into a handsome Dwarf. He impersonated a wealthy prince, visiting the city to court it's king's daughter. Having successfully won the princess' heart (and those of the king and the citizens), they married. After the king died and Ismir was crowned, he slowly put the remainder of his plot to work: to gain dominance over the Dwarves and have them provide gold and other treasures to expand his hoard. While he used subtle magics and charm, the gradual change was noticed by a visiting wizard named Kharsil of Silwood. The mage attempted to set up a revolt, and was summarily slain by Ismir's soldiers. However, others had taken notice of the events in Kharath Dim and the Dragon's plot was discovered. The ensuing battle between the citizens, aided by outside adventurers, and the Dragon and his soldiers, resulted in the total annihilation of the city's population.
Several gods, disgusted by such betrayal, cursed the city. The Dragon and his hoard were sealed in the cavern by a barrier impenetrable by mundane and magical means (including magical transportation, such as teleporting). One way in and one way out of Kharad Dim still exist. A far-away portal leads to a small side-cavern in the city, and a portal in the king's palace leads out of the city, to another distant place. The portals are one-way and cannot be used or destroyed by the Dragon. The portals are activated when touched with any weapon forged by Dwarves.
Over the years, the Dragon has managed to replace his Dwarven slaves with a small host of new minions. Fully aware of the portals' key, he sometimes sends minions out and lures people into the city, e.g. for food or treasure. In the present plot, the players can be lured to the city by any means the game master deems fit. E.g. a "messenger" could asks them to head through the portal to help a threatened Dwarven settlement (use another name than the actual city), or the players could find an old document speaking of treasure hidden in the caverns behind the portal, etc.
Once inside Kharath Dim, and the players have learned that there's no easy way out again, the adventure can take various forms:
Adventure type 1: The Dragon is the main encounter, and the minions are fodder on the way there. The goal would be to defeat the Dragon and plunder his hoard.
Adventure type 2: The Dragon is too powerful for the players to defeat, and a looming threat that the players will need to avoid. The minions would be the main encounters, and the goal would be to safely make it out of the city, probably while trying to steal part of the Dragon's hoard.
In any case, the Dragon should be powerful enough to polymorph himself into a Dwarf. The text below assumes a standard Red (or at least firebreathing) Dragon. The minions can be scaled depending on the way they will be used (fodder, main encounter, etc.). Generally, monstrous humanoids such as Orcs or Hobgoblins do very well, and can provide encounters of varying difficulty (depending on their levels, whether they are commoners, warriors, leaders, shamans, whether they are accompanied by other monsters, etc.).
Key to the scenario is that the city is haunted. Many of the Dragons victims still wander the ruins and streets, unable to find peace. While some have taken the form of vengeful ghosts, most are relatively harmless spirits caught in their final moments. They replay these final moments, time after time. The players can encounter them in two ways: either as a translucent and vague version of their former self (though they look real and normal enough when viewed from a distance or in the corner of one's eye), or the spirit may take over a character's body.
Initial encounters should be of the latter type. The takeover is a supernatural effect with a Will save to resist. This save should be scaled to the players' level and abilities, and should be relatively difficult. Upon a successful save, the character feels the presence of something or someone else, but is not aware of the control attempt. When failed, one of the spirits takes control of the character and replays its final moments. The character's player will need to roleplay this himself: hand him a card from the list below (other players are not allowed to read it). The character will act based on the scene and information on the card, and the player may try to convey this information to the other players through playing the scene. The takeover has no harmful effects and the character doesn't remember anything of what happened after the spirit leaves. Have the player return the card; the spirit may control another player at a later point (seeing players' different approaches to the scene will prove very interesting).
These takeovers are intended to have the characters figure out what happened to the city, and to allow them to find a way out. It may take a while for them to figure out what is happening, though. Two spirits with especially useful information are Elwin Morithel (knows the city's name and the fact that there's a Dragon around) and James Blacklock (knows of the Dragon and of a possible exit, has a slightly damaged map to the portal on his remains). Do not use these in the first few encounters, as this would reveal too much too soon. Blacklock is crucial: make sure the players learn of and find the map. E.g. they could follow a controlled character to the location of Blacklock's body. Be aware that the characters often do not appreciate these mental intrusions, even if harmless, and will do anything to prevent them (e.g. by casting Mind Blank spells). Furthermore, good aligned characters may want to help the spirits find peace. Methods of doing so depend on the spirit. E.g. Ulfgar and Amella should be reunited, Elwin Morithel may want his body taken out of the city, others may simply want their bodies to be buried/entombed. Award additional experience points and/or treasure for spirits that find rest. E.g. a grateful spirit may lead the characters to a hidden stash of gold or other valuables.
Print the table below twice, and number the cards. One print is a reference for the game master. Cut the other into separate cards for each spirit. These cards are to be handed to a player when his/her character is controlled. Feel free to add additional spirits/scenes or modify them as you deem fit.
|Your body is taken over by:||Ulfgar, male Dwarf, small child.|
|Basis for actions:||Can't find his mother.|
|When the spirit disappears:||Is torn in half after a while.|
|Your body is taken over by:||Boroth, male Dwarf, smith.|
|Basis for actions:||Busy forging weapons and armor to fight the enemy.|
|When the spirit disappears:||Sees a sea of fire, rapidly approaching and engulfing him.|
|Your body is taken over by:||Diesa, female Dwarf.|
|Basis for actions:||Is on fire.|
|When the spirit disappears:||Dies due to being on fire, after a short while.|
|Your body is taken over by:||Hilde, female Dwarf.|
|Basis for actions:||Sees her family stuck in a burning house and starts to look for help.|
|When the spirit disappears:||The house collapses after a while.|
|Your body is taken over by:||Isbrand, male Dwarf, army officer.|
|Basis for actions:||Refused to order his troops to attack citizens at the order of the king. Sits in his cell after being sentenced to death for this refusal.|
|When the spirit disappears:||Is taken from his cell and executed.|
|Your body is taken over by:||Kharsil of Silwood, male Elf, wizard.|
|Basis for actions:||Realizes that the city has been betrayed and tries to set the city's citizens against the king.|
|When the spirit disappears:||Is slain by a group of Dwarven soldiers after a while.|
|Your body is taken over by:||Elwin Morithel, male Human, adventurer.|
|Basis for actions:||His adventuring party was visiting the destroyed city of Kharath Dim, looking for legendary treasures and dark artifacts.|
|When the spirit disappears:||Notices they have awakened the Dragon. They try to flee, but find that they cannot leave through the same portal that led them here.|
He and his party are engulfed in the Dragon's fiery breath and die.
|Your body is taken over by:||Dagnal, female Dwarf.|
|Basis for actions:||Is doing her laundry.|
|When the spirit disappears:||Sees something horrible after a while and tries to run away. Dies a horrible death.|
|Your body is taken over by:||James Blacklock, male Halfling, rogue and master spy.|
|Basis for actions:||Realizes that the city has been destroyed by the Dragon and tries to flee the city. Fortunately he knows the one exit that may still exist, and has a map.|
|When the spirit disappears:||Sneaks along a street. After a while, the Dragon taps him on his shoulder, smiles and tears him apart.|
|Your body is taken over by:||Grombot, male Dwarf, commoner.|
|Basis for actions:||He and his wife have locked themselves into their house, because its dangerous outside.|
|When the spirit disappears:||At some point, something heavy drops on his roof. It buckles and collapses.|
|Your body is taken over by:||Amella, female Dwarf.|
|Basis for actions:||Can't find her son, Ulfgar.|
|When the spirit disappears:||After a while, she finds her son's body. A few moments later, she is slain as well.|
|Your body is taken over by:||Pandrom, male Dwarf, soldier.|
|Basis for actions:||Is totally panicked.|
|When the spirit disappears:||Is stabbed in his belly and dies.|
This material is distributed under the Open Game License Version 1.0a (view a copy of the license). All of this material is designated as Open Game Content, in accordance with Section 1(d) of the Open Game License, Version 1.0a.
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