22 febbraio 2011

An adventure: The Gates of Hellwinter

adventure synopsis
The party is engaged in a quest. They teamed up eight days ago, when they were hired - for a reward of 20 Gold Crowns each - by Sir Bedivere Grayson, Baron of Tyntern, to urgently deliver a missive to the northernmost outpost of his feud: a solitary stone tower on the top of a rocky peak always burdened by fierce icy winds. The tower, however, enjoys an excellent view of the borders between Grayson’s Barony and the feud of his treacherous cousin: the Duke Mornay. Every season’s change, one of the Baron’s loyal knights volunteers to reach the tower and guard the borderlands by himself. It’s a harsh and sad task which, unsurprisingly, has gained for this solitary outpost a gloomy fame... and name: Hellwinter!

Nobody knows that the last knight to hold the tower, Sir Gallaharn, has fallen prey to a vicious ICE DEMON. The infernal creature has freed itself from a Crystal Cave deep in the bowels of the mountains overhanging Hellwinter, wherein it was imprisoned by the High White Elves centuries ago with others of its wicked kind. The cave was inscribed with arcane symbols by a powerful elven Sorcerer in order to keep the demons at bay.

An incredibly violent thunderstorm broke some of the magical sigils some months ago, thus freeing one of the demons. There are many other of its infernal kin still imprisoned within the Crystal Cage, so the demon has decided to take the control of a mortal soul in order to force him break open the Gates of Hellwinter.

Were the infernal ICE DEMONS be freed from their icy cage, the entire region will soon fall prey to the forces of Evil. For months the demon has haunted the dreams of the poor knight, driving him irremediably insane.
Sir Gallaharn is now convinced that he’s found the legendary Doors to Oblivion and he wants to open them to retrieve from the Lands of the Dead his beloved wife, who died three years ago to a cruel fever.

gallows’ end
After a two-days journey from the city of Tyntern - baron Grayson’s home - the adventure begins as the party enters at dusk the small village of Gallows’ End, their last leg before facing the Forest of Brym and, eventually, ascending the Hellwinter peak in order to reach the tower. On the last part of their travel, the adventurers know they’ll have to pass through a narrow path that leaves the forest to an insidious mule-track. Gallows’ End counts a bunch of stone houses scattered along the forest’s borders. Here, our adventurers may find a tavern where to rest for the incoming night, the Thunderbrew, and a small and poorly-furnished emporium where they can purchase some equipment.

  • 10 metres of rope - 5 Gold Crowns
  • Linchpin- 3 Florins
  • Small bronze mirror - 2 Gold Crowns
  • Dagger - 2 Gold Crowns
  • Meal - 3 Florins
  • A Violet potion - 12 Gold Crowns

The emporium’s merchant knows nothing about the potion, but he firmly believes it has magical properties, hence its high price. In fact, the violet potion is a Potion of Stamina.

A meal, some decent beer and a bed in the tavern’s common room for the night will cost the PCs 3 Gold Crowns each. If the party decides to enjoy its last evening in a civilised area drinking near the fireplace in the tavern, they’ll surely overhear some rumours and hearsay. The Storyteller rolls one dice and compares the result with the list below:

1. The last knight to reach for Hellwinter’s Tower is an honoured, albeit sad, man named Gallaharn. Some years ago, Gallaharn’s wife died to an incurable fever. No one in the village has heard of him since he reached the tower at the beginning of the winter. [True]

2. A band of cutthroats, led by a dark robed bandit, has elected the forest their home, and no one trespassing the forest is safe. [False]

3. An entire army of Orcs is amassing on the heights north of Hellwinter peak. They plan to descend on spring to ransack the lands of men. [False]

4. The Forest of Brym is a perilous place, inhabited by ferocious beasts and monster. [Partially true]

5. Dark elves have been spotted in the Forest of Brym. [False]

6. This has been the harshest winter in decades. The Hellwinter Peak is violently shaken by fierce thunders almost every night. [True]

the forest of brym
The adventurers commence their trek in the forest dotted by ancient oaks, beeches and maples, under a gloomy, darkened sky. As soon as they step into the trees, a gelid rain starts pouring down, dunking heavy the adventurers’ clothes. The rain will accompany them during the reaching of Hellwinter’s Tower.

1. Ambushed!
A small band of errand GOBLINS has set camp here. The creatures hear the party approaching and decide to ambush them to loot some booty. But in their haste the not-so-smart monsters forget to erase their tracks, so the ambush can be uncovered by successfully Testing for Skill (Tracking). If the ambush were successful, the GOBLINS will start their attack by throwing at the PCs their daggers. They will hit on a roll of 1 to 3 for 3 STAMINA points of damage.

First GOBLIN - SK:6 - ST:6 - AT:1
Second GOBLIN - SK:6 - ST:5 - AT:1
Third GOBLIN - SK:% - ST:7 - AT:1
WEAPONS: Dagger 1-1-2-2-2-2

The GOBLINS assets consist of:

  • Three rusty daggers
  • 7 Gold Crowns

2. The Remains of a Fight
Here the party will discover something cruel happened. There is a burned cart, still smoking in the damp air of the forest, and the corpses of two woodsmen that have been cruelly slain. The wretched victims have been attacked by the GOBLINS of area 1. Among the remains the adventurers may find:

  • 15 Florins
  • An axe
  • Two meals

3. A Stone Circle
This small clearing is not easy to recognise, for the path leading here is half hidden by bushes and moss-covered stones. A successful SKILL (Tracking) roll - with a malus of +1 - is necessary in order to spot the path to the clearing, as soon as the party gets closer to the hidden path’s outset. Once in the glen, the party will notice it has been decades since this place was last trespassed by human beings. An eerie, yet serene, atmosphere permeates the glen and the circle of ancient standing stones placed in its very centre. A small altar of black stone stands exactly in the middle of the circle.
On the altar lies an archaic iron chalice, etched with strange symbols. A SKILL (Lore) roll or a Languages & Lore spell is required in order to decipher the symbols, whose meaning is:

fill me with the red juice of life
«Fill me with the red juice of life.»

If a PC decides to fill the chalice with 1 STAMINA point worth of blood, it will begin to boil quietly until it transforms itself in a sparkling golden liquid. The liquid counts as a Potion of Skill and Luck (thus restoring these Statistics to their Initial score), but it will work only on the blood’s original owner. The chalice works only once and it will turn into useless rust were it ever be leaving the stone circle.

4. Ascending to Hellwinter
The climb of Hellwinter Peak is an arduous one. Unnatural gelid winds, bearing echoes of despair and death, whip the adventurers’ face and the cold is almost unbearable.
The Storyteller requires the PCs to Test for Stamina. On an unsuccessful roll they’ll lose half a die STAMINA points because of the cold.
The Storyteller must also ask his players to make some SKILL rolls (Athletics or Hunting Feats are useful) in order to avoid tripping and falling off the ledges of the ice-covered path. If such is the event, a Test for Luck is necessary to avoid smashing oneself onto the peak’s rocky spikes for two dice STAMINA points.
During the climb the party must consume a meal.

hellwinter’s tower
At the height of 1200 metres, exactly on the top of Hellwinter’s Peak, stands the solitary watchtower, bathed by an unnatural silence, solely torn by sudden hailstorms. The eastern ledge of the peak looks out to the borders of Baron Grayson’s feud over a vast vale dotted by solitary and mossy stone boulders and sparse shrubs.

1. The Entrance:
The entrance to the tower’s courtyard is secured by a rusty iron gate, chained from the inside. The gate is placed in the middle of the path, some 10 metres before the tower, firmly hinged to a natural rocky narrowing maculated by scrubby, pale bushes. In order to break it open a SKILL roll with a malus of +2 is required. Failing the roll causes the unlucky PC a loss of 1 STAMINA point and the risk (6 on a die’s roll) of contracting the tetanus, because of the rust. An Open spell, however, will do the work just as fine and without any peril.

2. The Courtyard:
From the windswept courtyard a desolate view of the tower is shown to the adventurers. The Hellwinter’s Tower arises about 15 metres high, like a claw made of the same dark stone as the peak’s. Only the howling wind and the crows’ squeaky caws may be heard from here, as there’s no sign of human presence. A short path to northwest leads to a small cemetery graced by ancient gnarled oaks, where the dead Wardens of Hellwinter rest, caressed by the ceaseless icy winds and perfumed by the Knightwort and white lavender shrubs that spontaneously grow in here.

There absolutely nothing interesting in the graveyard and the Storyteller should strongly discourage any attempt to desecrate the burials, imparting the adventurers severe penalisations to their LUCK.

An old stone well lies in the courtyard. Just before falling prey to the madness, Sir Gallaharn hid down the well a small iron casket which may be retrieved by pulling the bucket out of the well. The casket contains:

  • A leather pouch containing a small emerald worth 10 Gold Crowns
  • A beautiful crafted wooden woman’s comb
  • An ivory amulet with the effigy of a woman (Gallaharn’s wife)
  • A piece of parchment with writings on them: the remains of poor Gallaharn’s diary

3. The Stables
The stables are in miserable conditions. Gallaharn slew his loyal warhorse some weeks ago out of raging madness, and the cruel ICE DEMON has resurrected it as a SKELETON MOUNT, who will attack the PCs on sight.

WEAPON: Hooves 2-2-2-2-3-3

If the PCs search the area, they will find that in the stables there’s nothing interesting, except for a rusty horseshoe, hidden beneath the rotting straw, which restores 1 LUCK point to the adventurer who finds it.
There’s no need, however, to keep it in the backpack in order to gain the LUCK point.

4. Ground Floor
The doorway to the tower is crashed open out of its hinges, as if a raging storm had violently ravaged it. In reality, it was the rabid manifestation of the ICE DEMON that broke the doorway the night it entered the tower to haunt Sir Gallaharn until it drove him mad.
The common room of the ground floor, cold and damp, hosts a large and ancient fireplace, decorated with antique stone heraldries bearing the blazon of a Black Dragon. On a successful SKILL (Courtesy) roll the PCs will recognise them as belonging to long-forgotten noble houses. That may hint at the fact the tower is much more ancient than Grayson’s lordship on this land is.
A large destroyed oaken table stands in the room, and pewter dishes and cutlery are scattered throughout the hall. A small wooden door leads to the kitchen and, from there, to the latrine.
The kitchen’s oven is now home to a nest of GIANT RATS. The foul creatures lie silently in wait until the majority of the party gives them away. Then they will swarm out to mercilessly attack the PCs.

First GIANT RAT - SK:5 - ST:4 - AT:1
Second GIANT RAT - SK:5 - ST:3 - AT:1
Third GIANT RAT - SK:4 - ST:4 - AT:1
Fourth GIANT RAT - SK:4 - ST:5 - AT:1
Fifth GIANT RAT - SK:5 - ST:4 - AT:1
WEAPON: Bite 1-1-1-2-2-2

From the common room, a massive flight of ruined stone stairs ascends directly to the first floor.

5. First Floor
It seems like a massive battle took place in here. The chaos is indescribable: destroyed furnitures lie on the ground, the window panes are broken and frozen bloodstains daub the room’s walls.
Here Gallaharn fought his last, desperate, battle to repel the demon, before succumbing to its infernal powers. In this wide room, that could cozily host up to four persons, there is a poster bed, a bedside table and a beautifully carved oaken wardrobe.
The bedside table contains an embroidered silken handkerchief that belonged to Gallaharn’s wife and a crude sketch of the surroundings, where the location of the Crystal Cage has been frantically outlined.

The wardrobe bears elegant pyrography of hunting scenes and the delicate smell of lavender. By examining beneath the wardrobe the PCs will find Gallaharn’s shield. Inside the furniture they will find:

  • High quality winter clothes
  • A black bear cape
  • A pair of warm wolf fur boots which fit well to any human or elven character

A creaky wooden ladder takes the adventurers to see the darkening sky from the vantage point.

6. Vantage Point
Here Gallaharn, his face blood-daubed with demonic sigils, waits for the PCs for an ominous, suicidal battle as a thunderstorm starts raging in the sky. The ICE DEMON took over Gallaharn’s will and now the wretched man can’t do anything but to obey any order the demon has for him… and the demon wants the adventurers dead!
A flock of DEMONCROWS, announced by deafening thunders, will descend from the sky to aid Gallaharn in his fight. The DEMONCROWS are a lesser demonic manifestation summoned by higher powers who always comes in flocks, for whom cumulative Statistics are given below.
A PC wounded by the DEMONCROWS must immediately Test his Luck. An unsuccessful roll means the PC has been completely surrounded by the flock and will be blinded (-3 to his Attack Strength) for two combat rounds, unless he has the Blind fight Talent.
Thanks to his magical sword - an old and powerful legacy, see below - Gallaharn has a +1 bonus on his Attack Strength, an Attacks score of 2, both already considered in his Statistics. His armour grants him a Defence rating of 1. Lastly, his insanity makes him immune to the pain, so the he will fight until his STAMINA drops to -1 or fewer.

GALLAHARN - SK:9 - ST:18 - AT:2
DEMONCROWS - SK6:6 - ST:20 - AT:3
WEAPONS: Gallaharn's Sword 2-2-2-2-2-3; Demoncrows' Talons 1-1-1-2-2-3

Showing Gallaharn the amulet he hid beneath the well in the courtyard will have the effect of temporarily stopping him from fighting. For a while he will look as if he had regained a glimmer of awareness. He’ll then pretend from the PCs they immediately gave him the amulet and the adventurers may try to exploit this short advantage to ask him a few questions, before he commences to attack them again. Gallaharn will then answer the PCs confusingly, spitting broken sentences as:

«… the icy wind… it’s in my mind… it ordered me to...»


«I didn’t mean that... I didn’t want it… my soul is condemned!»

Or, more interestingly:

«It came from the ice cage... it broke itself free and it’s trying to free its foul brothers… please: kill me and seal the cage once again, or it will be all lost!»

As soon as Gallaharn dies, a malevolent icy wind will sprout from the knight’s mouth. It will linger for a while on the dead body, then it will flee towards the dungeons of the Crystal Cage. If the PCs decide to search the poor knight’s body they will find:

  • A deep green tunic embroidered with Sir Grayson’s coat-of-arms (a white swan under a bright star)
  • A Potion of Skill
  • A worn chain shirt de:1 - hi:1 - re: 6
  • A flask with two measures of a dark violet liquor; a successful SKILL (Lore) roll or a Languages & Lore spell will reveal the party that the liquor is the renowned Kalash, distilled from the elven Vineyards of Glas Amral: a measure of Kalash restores 1 lost SKILL point and immunises the PC from the effects of extreme cold
  • A beautiful sword, with its runes-engraved sheath; a successfully casting of Languages & Lore on Gallaharn’s sword will reveal the Wizard the following informations about it:

Sword +1 Attacks, +1 Attack Strength, +1 Damage Table vs. Demon kin

The sword is crafted out of pure mithril, silver and gold, its blade etched with ancient Runes of Power. The hilt is embellished by precious stones from the fabulous treasure of King Gillan. This wonderful masterpiece of smithing was crafted centuries ago by the legendary dwarven smith Boreg Stonehammer as a gift for the elven knight Galannor Fahlana. He was appointed “Friend of the Dwarves” for he took the lead role in the fellowship who slew the Balrog that haunted the dwarven fortress of Karak Kudril. Thus, Galannor won for himself an honour very few among the Elves have ever attained.

the crystal cage
Following the crude sketch found in Gallaharn’s room, the PCs can reach the small underground complex which hosts the Crystal Cage after a one-day trek in the mountains. The party will find a subterranean entrance to the Crystal Cage, guarded by an ancient stone portal carved with magical symbols. The magic on the portal, however, has faded and the portal can be easily opened. The Crystal Caves are covered by a thick blanket of ice which shines with disturbing rainbow-like colours. Stalactites and stalagmites protrude chaotically from everywhere and a frigid mist flutters some 10 centimetres high on the floor.
The temperature inside the complex is incredibly low, and every PC will suffer a -1 penalty on his SKILL score as long as he stays in the dungeon, unless - of course - a Resistance spell is cast. A sip of the Kalash liquor found within Gallaharn’s remains will work just as fine.

1. Antechamber
The northern wall of this chamber is occupied by a huge crystal statue representing a flaccid horned demon, sitting cross-legged. Sick veins of purplish energy pulsate from within the demon’s crystal skin. The demon’s right hand is open, its palm facing up, while the other holds a blue stone key. Two tunnels leave this room.
If something that worths at least 1 Gold Crown is placed on the open hand, the statue will start to speak a riddle:

“My beloved daughter has many sisters, as many sisters as she has brothers, but each of her brothers has twice as many sisters as brothers. So answer me this, trespassers, how many sons and daughters do I have?"

The correct answer to the riddle (which is ‘3’) must be spoken loud. Then the statue will open its left hand and the blue stone key will fall on the ground. There no other way the PCs can grab the key, if not answering the riddle and the party may try only twice, then the statue will stay silent. The blue stone key represents the best way to seal the Crystal Cage once again - see description of area 7.

2. The Icy Pit
At the very centre of this circular cave there is a strange pit, as if a black hole opened in the middle of the room. A gentle and relaxing humming comes from the pit. The pit leads to pitch-black nothingness. If the party stays longer in this area, the PC with the highest Current LUCK must immediately Test for Luck, or succumb to the suasive humming, throwing thus himself into the pit. Hence, after a minute of play the Storyteller repeats this procedure. Anything - ore anyone - that enters the pit is surely enough nowhere to be seen again!

3. The Cavemen
This cave is home to three ferocious CAVE MEN. The creatures will attack the PCs on sight, unless they throw them some meals (two will be sufficient) in order to placate their brutish hunger.

First CAVE MAN - SK:8 - ST:6 - AT:1
Second CAVE MAN - SK:7 - ST:7 - AT:1
Third CAVE MAN - SK:7 - ST:7 - AT:1
WEAPON: Flint Spear 1-1-1-1-2-2

The CAVE MEN fight with their flint-headed spears that can be thrown, hitting with a 1 to 3 on a roll for 3 points of damage.

4. A Deadly Trap
As soon as the last member of the party enters this narrow tunnel, dozens of icy spikes erupt from the walls, ceiling and floor to impale the PCs. Every adventurer must Test for Skill (Sixth Sense) or suffer the loss of 1 die STAMINA point. If a PC loses this way five or more STAMINA points, he must Test for Luck or lose 1 SKILL point as well. If the PCs survive the nasty trap they may decide to search the tunnel. In that case, the Storyteller must secretly Test for Skill (Sixth Sense) for each adventurer. On a success the party will spot a lever which opens a passage to area 5.

5. Secret Hideout
A secret passageway leads to this small cave encrusted with glowing crystals that quietly pulsate on a heart-rhythm. An icy tome stands on a low crystal pillar. A successful SKILL (Lore) roll or a Languages & Lore spell allow to read the book.

An emerald casket lies on a dais of pure, azure quartz. It can’t be removed or carried. Only the correct solution to the enigma carved on itself will open the casket.

The solution is represented by any three-ending symbol, like a fork, and should be written with a finger or a stick on the blank lower quadrant which is full of sparkling emerald dust. The PCs may attempt only thrice, then the casket will not open for another century!
Once opened, inside the casket the party will find:

  • A Potion of Wizardry with two measures
  • A Ring +1 Initial stamina
  • A Mithril Chainmail +1 Attack Strength

As usual, the ancient lore about these artefacts may be learned by casting a Languages and Lore spell.

This golden ring was forged by Aidullyn, the Elves’ Prime-Forger of the Age of Dawn as a gift for his beloved daughter Nilludya, who became the Elves’ Sorceress Queen, on her first birthday. It fits every kind of finger of any race.

Mithril Chainmail +1 Attack Strength
Although the name of the excellent smith who forged this mithril chainmail is now lost forever, its essential, yet beautiful, design can surely be attributed to elven hands. All of a sudden, you remember that, in Ages past, these lands were home to the legendary High White Elves of Kiryel Than, dwellers and Lords of the Mountains. The highest reaches of these mountains surely still hold tight many secrets of the Elves.

6. The Cage’s Gates
Pillars of pure, crystal ice spire up to the ceiling, supporting the huge ogival arches of this room. Within the spires strange luminescent symbols float quietly, their ancient magic slowly fading away unless the adventurers succeed in restoring the seals of the gate. Here, the ICE DEMON is waiting for the adventurers. It is ireful for the PCs have thwarted its plans to free its masters from the cage… for now. In fact, the creature wants to kill the PCs but one. Then the demon will possess him and free its dark lieges.

ICE DEMON - SK:9 - ST:18 - AT:3
WEAPON: Claws 2-2-2-2-3-3

The ICE DEMON may be wounded only by magic spells and magical or silver weapons. The fiend emanates an aura of cold which imparts a malus of -1 to the PCs’ Attack Strength for the duration of the combat.
Moreover, every three rounds the demon will try to engulf one of the PCs with a breath of freezing cold which causes the loss of 1 SKILL point. A Test of Luck is necessary to avoid the breath. The skill points lost this way will be restored at the rate of one point per day of full rest.

7. The Threshold to the Void:
Since trespassing the threshold means certain - and instant - death for the PCs in the bowels of the Hell of Ice itself, the Storyteller should encourage a second thought on the subject! Rather, it could be an excellent idea to find a way to seal again the gate, thus preventing the Demon Lieges of the Infernal Planes to enter our heroes’ world.
Suggested guidelines:

- The blue stone key of area 1 should be thrown into the gate. Then it will explode and seal the cage once again. A Test of Luck is required in order to avoid the damaging effects of the explosion which will cause the loss of 1 die STAMINA points.
- A very powerful magical weapon, like Stormbreaker, may be used to destroy the gate once and forever. But the weapon will break after a so epic effort.
- Alternatively, a Wizard may cast at the portal one of these five spells: Counterspell (6 magic points), Fire, Shielding, Resistance, True Sight. After each casting, the Wizard has a chance to Test his Magic to the full, i.e. with four dice. If he succeeds then he’ll overcome the wicked wills of the ICE DEMONS within the cage, and he will seal the gate. The Wizard may try as long has he has MAGIC point to cast spells.

finale and experience
At the end of this adventure - if the PCs have slain the ICE DEMON and sealed the Crystal Cage once again - the Storyteller may reward the adventurers with 2 Experience points each.
On their return to Tyntern, the party will be thanked profusely by Sir Grayson, who will award the adventurers 15 extra Gold Crowns as a tangible sign of his gratitude. The Baron will also ask our heroes to take on the duty of guarding the eastern borderlands of Baron Grayson’s Feud, thus becoming the new Wardens of Hellwinter.
But that’s another story…

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