Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Ruins of Soguer - River Journey to the Ruins

Presented below is the first leg of the adventure The Ruins of Soguer. Previously the players had been tasked with traveling to the nation's fallen capital to find the old king's sword so that their liege can be coronated.

Previous sections of the adventure can be found here:
The Ruins of Soguer - Introduction
The Ruins of Soguer - Start of the Adventure in Aguies Town & Castle

Running the adventure - This section of the adventure details the player character's travel from Aguies town to the ruins of Soguer. There is an important encounter along the way, where they meet a ship crewed by Aurochs who are searching for a kidnapped member of their royal family. There are also a few encounters with dangerous creatures and terrain as they travel the wild marsh near Soguer.

Read or paraphrase the following as the players begin their travel to the ruins:
You step aboard the riverboat. Like many of the boats that ply these waters, this 30 foot long boat features a single mast on a broad, flat deck, a small cabin behind the mast, and a low-ceilinged hold below the deck for cargo. The boat's crew - four weathered men - push off from the docks in Aguies town, pushing off from the pier with long poles and then drawing in the mooring ropes once clear of the docks. Soon the sail is hoisted and the boat begins speeding downriver, pulled by the current and pushed by the wind. One of the crew sits in the rear with his hand on the rudder, and the other three watch the sails, occasionally tightening or loosening a rope before retying the crossbeam in a new position. And so goes the journey. For several days your boat travels downriver through farmland and woods, among low hills, and past the towns and keeps of humanity. After a week or so of travel the farmhouses and towns along the river grow fewer. Occasionally you pass the remains of a town or house ruined or burned. The riverboat crew grumbles that this part of the river is subject to pirates and raiders sailing up from the south. As the days pass the land lies lower, and small trees and marshy plants line the riverbanks. Occasionally you pass a small hut, but you see no inhabitants.

Encounter - A boat full of lizards - During the last stretch of the journey before the ruins, they PC's encounter a mercenary ship of auroch warriors on the way.
Sailing down the river among the marshes another boat comes around the bend - a long boat with red crossed swords painted on the high forecastle and a monstrous figurehead. A roaring cry goes up from the other vessel and you see many reptilian men on the decks wearing mail and bearing spears and bows. As the other boat nears you can see that at the base of the mast is a shrine surmounted by two gilded dragons. The sails are furled slightly and oars put out. The boat turns and glides swiftly towards you, and at the very prow is a large armored dragonborn, wearing a helm crested with a dorsal line of many horns. He roars as they near.
Any characters who speak draconic will understand Captain Gamora's hail - which is a demand that the player's identify themselves. If the players try to communicate it is a simple social skill challenge.

Skill Challenge - Treat with the Aurochs (level 10, DC 16 diplomacy, 3 successes before 4 failures, XP 500)

Success: If they succeed in convincing Gamora that they are friendly, they give them some information and a quest. Read the following:
Having introduced yourselves, Captain Gamora takes off his helmet and scratches his scaly head for a moment. "I'm Captain Gamora of the Clashing Red Swords. Sorry about the scare - my men are in a strong rage. One of the holy family is missing - she was kidnapped from the royal shrine!" He narrows his eyes, staring at you for a moment and continues, "Have you heard anything of a young dragonborn lady with fine, pale scales in your travels? Where are you going on this river?"
Seeming to accept your answer, he nods and says, "I would consider it a personal favor, and indeed all our people would be grateful if you hear any word to send it to us. And if you should by chance come upon her, I would expect you to lend her aid in any way you can." After asking for your help thusly, his anger returns, "and if I hear tell you met her and did not - by Chronopsis I will hunt you down and have my vengeance upon you."
After a moment, Captain Gamora begins climbing aboard his ship. As he goes he says "Also, I would not go further down river. There are ruins there of a city of your men that lies there. Demons haunt those ruins, and the spirits of the dead. The gods curse that place."

Minor Quest - level 12, XP 700
Goal - rescue the Auroch princess - Iejir'svern.

Failure: If the players fail the skill challenge, the Auroch mercenaries will demand to board their ship and inspect it. Resistance is met with violence - and the Aurochs swarm the player's smaller riverboat - jumping across, swinging over on ropes and swimming to the attack. All told there are 4 Dragonborn Raiders, 6 Dragonborn Gladiators, and 20 Dragonborn Soldiers who attack. If the players manage to defeat the Aurochs, any captured or left alive will reveal that they are searching for their princess, Ijer'svern. If the players allow the dragonborn to search the ship, they do so and then Gamora imparts the above information.

Encounter - Crocodiles!
level 10, XP 2000 or 3000
This is an encounter with crocodiles in what were once the surrounding farmlands - now swallowed by the marsh. As the journey continues, read or paraphrase the following:
For the next few days you ravel further downriver through thick swamps. The river is wide and slow here, and the boat's crew work the sails and their poles to keep the boat moving east towards the sea and the ruins of the city. Occasionally you spot a few peasants in wooden huts on the low, marshy hills the river winds through. As you push your boat through a fen of high grasses one of the fallen logs in the water leaps to life and reveals itself as a huge scaly monster!

Creatures - 2 or 3 x feymire crocodile - hiding in the river (stealth +13) - These crocodiles attack the boat as they pass it.

Reaching the Ruins
After the crocodile encounter the player characters come to the ruins of the city of Soguer. As they approach they may encounter a patch of quicksand. Read or paraphrase the following:
You sail downriver for another day and the faint smell of salt water begins to tinge the air. Rounding a bend in the river you catch a glimpse of tall walls through the drooping cypress and willow trees. The cracked and vine-strewn walls must stand at least 50 feet high, but you can see no one upon the battlements. As you float closer you can see that the walls end at the river with a fallen tower that makes a hill of stone on the banks. From there the wall stretches inland. Through the foliage you think you can see another set of towers - perhaps an entrance? The riverboat crew poles over to the shore and moors the boat to a large tree on the river bank. The remains of a road lead through the trees, roughly along the wall towards the gates to the north. As you proceed you see the remains of farmhouses and fences - now fallen down and overgrown with the swamp's fecundity.
As the players walk this path towards the ruins they will pass over a patch of quicksand. Unless one of them makes their perception checks, it is likely the first player or two will fall into the hazard.

Hazard - Quicksand - level 11 elite hazard - XP 1200.
Leaves and dirt cover this stretch of flat ground.
Hazard: This hazard consists of a roughly 5 square by 5 square area of quicksand, which is difficult terrain. When characters enter these squares, or try to move in these squares, the hazard attacks. Attempts to escape can also hasten a character's demise in this deadly hazard.
Perception or Nature
- DC 29: The character can discern if any adjacent squares are quicksand.
Additional Skill: Nature
- DC 25: The character’s knowledge provides a +2 bonus to Athletics or Acrobatics checks to escape or help another escape.
When a creature enters, begins its turn in, or makes a map move in a quicksand square, the trap attacks that creature.
Free Action Melee 0
Target: Creature in a trapped square
Attack: +14 vs. Reflex
Hit: The creature falls into the quicksand, is restrained until they escape and begins sinking (see Effect - Sinking below).
Miss: The character is slowed in the quicksand square but is not yet sinking.
Effect - Sinking: After one hit, a character sinks up to their waist. A second hit or a failed Athletics check means they sink to their neck. A third hit or failed athletics check indicates they sink completely and begin suffering the effects of suffocation (DMG p. 159).
- An character can extract themselves or an adjacent sinking comrade with a DC 29 Athletics or Acrobatics check. A rope or similar tool can give a +2 to this check. Failing this check by 10 means that the helping character falls into the quicksand or that the sinking character sinks further.
-A character wearing light or no armor can make a DC 24 Nature check to know that if they hold still they will float, and can then do so. While floating in this way the character is not subject to any more attacks from the quicksand. Any move or standard action will end the float and cause the character to be subject to further attacks by the quicksand.

If you wish to add a greater threat to this encounter, feel free to add a few hungry stirge swarms to up the threat.
Creatures - stirge swarms - XP 700 each.

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