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    Postfest I: The Waystation
    Posted on Fri, August 31, 2001 by Legate
    In ancient times, the Dwur (dwarf) nations constructed a network of underground "roadways" and canals to facilitate travel without having to expose themselves to the dangers and discomfort of travelling beneath the stars and being away from their beloved rock-homes for too long. This particular waystation, however, is under new management...

    Author: Jason Farina



    The Waystation
    by Jason Farina (Jason.Farina@I-FUSION.NET)
    (Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.)

    [Ed. Note: The author of this encounter reports that this is an unfinished work. It'll be updated with additional material once its completed.]

    Background:

    Dwur live underground. That's a given. Dwur have communities, in fact, they have quite large communities spread over the continent and evidence (ruins) would point to them having once been more widespread and numerous. So, multiple communities, distanced from one another, it's not unreasonable to assume that trade and travel took place. Dwur are masters at carving and stonework. So why would a dwur travel overland?

    The premise for this encounter/location is that the Dwur nations constructed a network of underground "roadways" and canals to facilitate travel without having to expose themselves to the dangers and discomfort of travelling beneath the stars and being away from their beloved rock-homes for too long. Along these ways would be way stations where a traveller can rest, restock
    or consult a navigator.

    A note on Dwur Navigation:

    IMC, Dwur navigate using a series of gems and metals to represent a settlement. For example, Irongate would be represented by, in traditional dwur efficiency of imagination, Iron. The dwur artisans, miners and priests formed a network of tunnels to increase travel times, but without many natural geographic reference points by which to navigate, the tunnels were designated with a gem or metal type. At it's most basic; to get to Irongate you would follow the tunnels marked with Iron. Perhaps to get to a settlement near Irongate you would follow the iron tunnels for a certain number of intersections and then turn off to some other mineral marker (a bit like on and off ramps on a highway I suppose). However, few dwur could be expected to remember all the directions and turnings necessary for every settlement so a system was needed to keep record of these. A two-stage method was devised.

    First, a large map of the area was created using minerals studded on a statue of some sort (usually something related to the area like a dragon or a shield, or a depiction of clangeddin silverbeard). To protect the locations from enemies, the statues were illegible by themselves. They had to be read in a specially constructed room with a mirrored ceiling (domed, flat or otherwise) that reflected the statue and deciphered the map according to the warps and "bumps" incorporated into the mirror. If it should seem that the map was in danger, the mirror could be shattered thus protecting the secret map from prying eyes. A priest of Rodilingar (my own creation, Dwur God of Navigation and safe journey. A farlanghn of the underdark perhaps) would have the knowledge of the mirror construction and warps necessary for an individual statue-map. The priest would live in the map room and serve as its protector as well as acting as navigator to those who came to consult the map.

    Second, metals would be combined (perhaps in studs, or bands or any other form) on smaller statues or weapons or shields/armour, the sequence of which would serve as a portable mini map giving direction to a specific place. However, the starting point has to be known for the directions to be useful, usually this would be somewhere personal to the owner of the item, maybe their birthplace or current home, or even the seat or whatever clan they are allied with.

    This encounter takes place in one such waystation, long since abandoned during a war with the elves and orcs. It is possible to place this anywhere you wish and would serve as a good introduction to an underdark campaign or perhaps a bridge between adventures.

    1. The Approach:

    A cavern approximately 100ft below ground. The Southern end of the cavern ends in a chasm running east-west, sheer sided and seemingly bottomless (up to you). At it's narrowest, the chasm is 40ft and was once spanned by a stone bridge.

    " Almost as if growing from the rock-floor of the cavern, a ramp constructed of smooth hexagonal flagstones stretches out over the darkness below stopping just short of the centre. A mirror of this ramp stretches from the opposite side ending just over 10ft from its twin. Though obviously old, the ramps appear to be quite solid. The ground on the opposite side of the chasm glimmers with a well-finished sheen in your torchlight. This worked area sweeps back about 50ft to end in a seemingly constructed wall."

    Examination of the ramp with reveal that while the base of the ramp is quite solid, the ends are less sturdy. A Dwur PC will recognise the construction as Dwur origin and may make a stonework check to guesstimate a 200lb weight limit before risking a collapse. (Let the players work out for themselves that running and jumping will increase the effective weight of the jumper,
    especially upon landing). The ramps never actually connected. There was a removable section once that spanned the gap. It was removed before an orcish raid years ago. The floor on the other side of the chasm is smooth and quite well finished (a grappling hook will not be easily anchored). All in the entire gap between the two ramps is 10ft, but anyone jumping
    would be well advised to clear about 15ft to avoid risk. {In my campaign, I used this as a tension builder but didn't allow the ramp to collapse. Evil DMs can have the ramp collapse after the last pc makes it across, to give a feeling of "no way out".) PCs with darkvision of over 100ft (or lowlight vision) can make out the wall opposite, slopes away at the centre and ends with a large set of doors. A spot check (DC 16) lets them make out some sort of carving on the doors, and a check result of more than 22 lets them make out what seems to be a rock of some kind in front of the left hand door.

    Once they have made it across the chasm (whatever way they can) they see that the floor on this side is of finely dressed flagstones set perfectly flush with one another and merge seamlessly with the equally well-carved walls. The doors themselves are set 50ft from the ramp and are constructed of pale granite carved with a Dragon twining around a dwarven hammer (one on each of the double doors). The doors are quite large, measuring 10ft in height, 3ft width and 8inches thick. Above the door, carved in raised letters on the lintel are the words "Give Honour to Moradin" in Dwur, these are only legible within 10ft as they are quite faded over time. As the party approaches, it becomes clear that the "rock" is in fact an armoured corpse lying some 15ft from the left-hand door. His ruined helmet lies some ten feet further out and the crushed and cracked skull would suggest that this one did not die of old age. This was one of the orcish invaders that fell victim to the trap on the doors (and should serve as the first clue to its existence). It has long since rotted and is now just a skeleton with skin fragments (now hardened and rocklike from the cold and dust and damp) clinging to its bones. The armour is in extremely bad repair (it was bad enough when the orc died, now it's been rotting for a fair while, and is unusable. Closer examination of the armour will reveal (blacksmithing or knowledge (history)) that is of a design no longer used - and not used in many years, also (knowledge: orc society or some relevant skill) will reveal that the crest crudely painted on the armour and now barely recognisable as a black hand with red lizard eyes on the fingertips is not of any tribe known today - researching the symbol is left up to your particular tastes but might provide an introduction to another adventure or hint at a hidden band of orcs.

    If anyone passes the body, they approach within 10 feet of the doors. One of the dragon carvings will slowly swing its head out of the door and gaze silently at whoever is approaching (or both is more than one approaches). A dwur approaching will cause the head to return to it's carving state but any other race will set off the trap once within 5ft unless the phrase "Moradin Accept my honour" in Dwur (Moradin take, or anything close should be acceptable depending on how evil the dm is).

    Trap: variant of 2ed Wyvern Watch, new spell see end. Those approaching within 10 feet cause the trap to arm. The dragon head swings slowly and purposefully out from the door to regard the intruder with blank carved eyes. At 5ft, the dragon mouth slowly and silently opens. (Note, without a light source or darksight it is possible to walk right up to here without seeing or hearing anything at all. A nice DM might let the pc "sense" something moving) Inside 5ft, the dragon strikes requiring a touch attack and bites the victim for 2d8 points of damage. It then releases and returns to the door, dormant for 24 hours. Anyone approaching a second time will cause the other head to activate and expend its charge for the day. A head that misses goes dormant.

    There is no visible lock on the door but they have been constructed perfectly balanced and expertly fitted so that, even after all these years, a solid push (DC 7 - unless the player has a minus to strength checks and is not taking their time assume that it succeeds) will send them swinging away from the character and revealing a 10ft wide 15ft high corridor, again carved seamlessly but the floor is decorated with dwur runes speaking the names of warriors who died defending this place or in battles near here - the Dm can develop these as he sees fit or rule that the runes are actually homecoming prayers to Dumathoin or Moradin , beyond that stretches for approx. 40 ft. before ending in another set of double doors, carved with hammers. Large iron rings are set at chest height for a dwur at the centre edge of each door. The doors are locked (a spot roll DC15 will reveal a keyhole concealed in the leather loop of a hammer handle, and an identical situation of the other door. Both must be picked for the door to open (open lock DC 22, locks are quite stiff) or the door can be broken down (hardness 5, 120hp to break). Note: see Grimerik's Last Stand (below) for side effects of breaking down the doors.

    2. The complex central junction:

    "This room is octagonal in shape, 10ft on a side. The walls are carved out of black marble inlaid with a complex design of swirls, spirals and knotwork interlacing in a bluish metal. The floor is grey flagstones, octagonal and perfectly smooth. The domed black marble ceiling rises to a height of almost 25ft directly beneath the apex of which stands a black marble fountain spilling foul smelling water from a carved dragon head grimy and water-scaled into an even smellier basin half-filled with a black sludge. There are three other exits from this room, each an identical doorway leading to a narrower, downward sloping passage beyond. A cool breeze blows from the south."

    There is nothing magical in this room, or even threatening. The sludge in the basin is just that, sludge. The decoration around the walls is a combination of clan knotworks through the ages. A dwur character will not recognise half of the knots, research and explanation is left up to the DM (again, possible plot hook? Maybe the knotwork represents relationships with an intertwining being a marriage.. The PCs could discover that two feuding families are actually close relations, or that the local king and queen are first cousins :-), yes! They'd be from West Virginia!!!). There is nothing of value here, unless you count the black marble. The bluish metal is steel that has been tinted. It is not magical and almost impossible to separate from the marble.

    3. GellenKund Seat of power:

    "This large chamber (15ft high, 30ft east-west, 20 ft north-south) was once lavishly decorated with banners and tapestries and rugs. Now however, all lies in tatters and mouldy ruin. The smell of rot and decay fills the still air. There is a closed door in the southwest. In the centre of the East wall, fallen and rotted tapestries have been piled nearly 6 foot high!"

    There are several dangers here:

    1. The tapestries to the east cover the throne of the GellenKund family along with the clan symbol, a silver and steel dwarven axe called "BallenCaer" (see end for details). Anyone rooting through the tapestries has a 30% chance of finding a quite chewed arm or foot, the tooth marks are broad and blunt, possibly even human. - Grimerik sometimes comes here when he wants to eat in private. He crawls under the tapestries and gazes longingly at BallenCaer, to afraid to take it because of the guardians.
    The throne is a large chair made from some dark wood (deep stained mahogany) and covered with a deep blue and black tartan. The cushions have been tattered with claw marks and the legs and arms chewed upon (bite marks match the ones on the arm/foot bones). The axe is embedded into the back of the throne forming the central feature of the intricate carving there, and is quite easily removed... keeping it however is another matter.

    Anyone removing the axe awakens the guardians. These are currently lying underneath the tapestry and if found while inactive will seem to be nothing more than two suits of spiked dwur plate mail that has been forged as one solid piece (i.e., joints don't move or flex rendering the suits unwearable and protecting them from dismantlement.) If covered with the tapestry, the first anyone knows that they are awake is a metallic scraping sound followed by the tapestry being shredded and dragged toward the defiler (or current holder of the axe). They attack relentlessly unless commanded to stop by a dwur of GellenKund Blood (unlikely, Grimerik doesn't count anymore as he is no longer technically Dwur).

    Danger 2:
    The exit from this room is trapped (crudely but effectively). Still retaining some of his stone working skills, Grimerik has rigged up a deadfall in front of the door. Originally it was worse, he had rats in a cavity above the block, which would fall and had starved them into frenzy. However, he decided against this plan as a: the rats would eat his victims and b: he didn't want to spare the food for the rats. As well as damage from the block the victim now gets showered with rotted rat-bits (20% chance of disease, fort save DC 18 damage 1d3 Con1d2 Str - temporary, stomach cramps and lax bowels).

    Trap: Block trap: trigger, opening door (door opens away from player), Spot DC25 (dwur adds wis bonus for detecting stonework) Disable (DC 25), reflex save negates (DC 21) damage 1d10 and alerts Grimerik.

    4. Grim Feast:

    "This room is 40ft long north south and 25ft wide east west. Rotted banners and tapestries adorn the walls. A large black-oak table dominates the centre of the room. The far end of the room is occupied by a raised dais on which a small table sits before a large throne."

    If the players bypassed the trap, avoided too much noise battering down the door to area two and did not make too much noise fighting the guardians in area 3 read the following:

    "Seated around the table are maybe 20 dwur warriors. Several are feasting on platters of meat while others are slumped and silent. Nearest you a warrior sits, rotted armour only slightly better preserved than his cadaver which stares vacantly at the skeletal feaster opposite. At the far end of the room, a large dwur dressed in tattered and dented armour sits on the throne calling for unseen minstrels to stop playing "that maudlin dirge" any play something a little more "racy" "

    If the party has made a lot of noise:

    " Several dwur sized bodies lie slumped at the table. More however, are standing battle ready. One, in tattered and dented armour stands on the throne at the back"

    What happens next is dependant on the party make-up and their ability to avoid conflict.

    Grimerik: Ghoul Dwur.

    History: Grimerik was the son of Thane GellenKund and as such succeeded him when he failed to return from a sortie. A coward at heart (unlike his heroic father) Grimerik panicked when the elves swept toward the navigation post. He ordered the central span of the bridge thrown down and the doors locked - effectively dooming any survivors of the sortie that tried to return home. Worse, he shattered the waypoint mirror despite the Navigator's protests that it was too early (the navigator later died.. see below :-)). Thinking himself safe he organised a feast for his men. He was wrong, the elves had secretly poisoned the water that the well drew from. Grimerik and the majority of his warriors died but in his stubborn cowardice, Grimerik rose as a ghoul. He proceeded to feed off and slay those who opposed his decisions, as they lay ill or dying from the poisoned water. Now he is quite insane. He is still terrified of an attack from the orcs or elves, indeed a recent party of orcs were washed down the underground river and managed to get out here. Grimerik saw this as an enemy scouting party (and a new source of food of course). He survives now with his skeleton and zombie soldiers, feeding on the remains of creatures that wander into his lair. However, he still thinks as a dwur (though he is too afraid to risk touching BallenCaer) and worse, he thinks as a Dwur at war with elves and orcs. In his mind, the Elves use the Orcs as shock troops. The humans are unfortunates enslaved by the elves and not necessarily to be trusted. Gnomes are elven spies. Halflings are ok, sort of like humans but better at hiding which is why they haven't been enslaved yet. Needless to say he will be quite confused over the presence of a dwur in the company of elves/half-orcs/gnomes and humans.

    If an elf or half-orc enters first he will be convinced that this is the invasion he has been dreading (time has not passed much in his mind). The players will have to think quickly to avoid a fight. It will be almost impossible to convince Grimerik that the war is gone and that there is no threat. If the PCs do manage to talk Grimerik around enough that he trusts them, he will answer questions willingly. In his mind, the waystation is still in perfect order and the map is intact. He will even loan a dwur PC the coins he needs to access the map room if the mention it. Play Grimerik as slimy, cowardly and scatterbrained.

    Statistics: Grimerik Ghoul/fighter 2:
    Dwur Skeleton (5);
    Dwur Zombie (3);

    Treasure:

    5. The Boathouse:

    " The stairs open out onto a wide landing that is open on one side. To the north are three large black wooden structures (if the pcs investigate, they see that they are three overturned boats in quite bad repair). To the south, two windlasses stand on either side of a wooden rectangle slightly recessed into the floor. Large chains run from each windlasses into holes in the floor on either side of this rectangle. Further to the south, the floor drops sharply away and the area beyond is swallowed by darkness. Wind whistles around this room, threatening to carry to their doom any foolish enough to stand near the edge."

    This is, indeed, a boathouse. The river at the bottom of the ravine to the South was once a much-used trade route between two dwur settlements (you decide if they are still around or if they've been lost to ruin or if the way is still navigable). The boats are in bad repair and each one requires much work before it could be called river worthy. To mend a boat, without separate materials, one of the other boats can be picked apart for spares. With the appropriate skills (profession: boat Wright/carpentry) and a bit of time the job should be done in maybe 12 or 14 hours.

    The windlass and rectangle to the south are actually a lift and track system to raise and lower boats and cargo from and to the river hundreds of feet below (220ft actually). The track is much like that of a mining cart but at an 85-degree angle down the ravine wall. One windlass can actually be bolted to the wooden rectangle so that the people on the lift can operate it. After all these years it is quite stiff (fort save at cumulative -1 modified for strength as well every 50 ft descent/30ft ascent to avoid fatigue).

    Danger:
    Anyone making too much noise runs the risk of attracting the dwellers of area 6. Two adults will investigate first and will call to the rest if food is in the offering.

    Also, if the Dm wills, the lift can be faulty giving a nice dramatic plunge scene, or a boat can be not so obviously broken and you can have fun as they hurtle through the underground rapids bailing furiously.

    6. Bridge over the River Quai, or flappy things ahoy!

    "The corridor here ends abruptly in a sudden drop and open air. If not for the lack of stars you would almost think yourself outdoors. A cold wind whistles to the south where the floor restarts ten feet out into the open space."

    If the players manage to get some decent light going they see a rather impressive drop and what used to be a bridge across it. Unfortunately the sections between pillars have collapsed leaving islands or a stepping stone effect. The gap between the pillar portions starts at 8ft but in the centre increases to almost 20ft. Allow the group time to work out a way around this problem, and be sure to emphasise the possibly huge drop. To the north and West a spot check (DC24) will show an opening in the ravine wall almost 50 ft below and 120ft away. A thief or someone with climb skill could travel to there but too much noise will wake the flappy things.

    Nested under the third and seventh pillar are two families of Bladewings (new creature, see below). They will attack greedily if disturbed. If reduced to ¼ HP or stunned without solid ground they fall into the darkness below (stunned Bladewings can glide and so might recover before they hit the river - 3 rounds for them).

    This is an extremely fun fight! Just be very careful not to kill anyone. It's surprisingly easy to forget about the height, rope requirement, balance etc and the difficulty they might have getting healing.

    The Bridge itself:

    Pillar three:
    Bladewings: Adult: 3, young: 5

    Pillar 8:
    Bladewings: Adult 4, young 2:

    7. Room of the navigator:

    "Finally the ordeal of the bridge is over. Standing on the far side of the ravine you are faced by two towering statues flanking a large metal door. To your left stands a large dwarven warrior almost twenty feet tall bearing a gleaming battleaxe and a beard of silver. To the right stands a robed dwur holding a walking cane made of copper. At the base of each statue is a shallow bowl. The door is a solid slab of iron with no visible method of opening."

    To open the door, the players must place something silver in the bowl of clangeddin silverbeard and something copper in the bowl of Rodilingar. Once this is done the objects melt into the base of the statue and the door lowers down and away from the party, like a drawbridge. There is no visible method of motion nor can they get at whatever hinges are set into the floor. The door however stops halfway down and the PCs are forced to drop the 10 ft from the tip of the door to the floor of the 20x20
    corridor of dark green marble.

    The corridor continues for 60 ft due south, the floor littered with desiccated spider bodies and now rotted shells of egg sacks. As they reach the 60ft mark, players become aware of a dull red glow from further along the corridor. The light seems to be striated with dark veins and pulses slightly.

    Fight of the Navigator: What has gone before:
    Grimerik shattered the domed mirror and in doing so took away Navigator Cain's main reason for living. The futility of Grimerik's action drove the navigator insane and he refused to leave his not destroyed map-room. Eventually he collapsed from weakness (Grimerik wasn't feeding him) and while he lay helpless, a strain of spider burrowed into him and laid its eggs in his heart. As he died he swore to continue to protect the map room but from everyone, as even his own kinsmen had shown their complete lack of respect for his deity. Rodilingar, equally angry at this treatment of his cleric, granted the Navigator his wish and at the moment of his death, the Navigator was transformed into a guardian spirit.. Unfortunately, the magic that caused this transformation was unexpectedly affected by the presence of the spider eggs, resulting in the abomination that exists now.

    The Map Room:
    The corridor ends after 60ft, to the right an archway opens into a massive circular chamber, dominated by a huge white pulsating sac that sheds the scarlet light in throbbing waves. The sickly light is reflected in a brilliant display from a coating of glass shards on the floor. Directly beneath the sac is a statue of a dragon standing on all fours with wings folded at its sides. At the shoulder it stands almost three feet tall and has a length of almost 8 ft. Points along the dragon's wings and back gleam and pulse in time with the sac above.

    Hidden from the PC's view is the Navigator who is seated on his throne on the other side of the sac on a raised dais. As the PCs enter, he re-occupies his dried and desiccated corpse and uses it to challenge the intruders in a booming voice. Whatever the PCs reply he orders them to leave this sacred place and mocks them as unworthy of the gift of guidance. If the PCs do not leave, the guardian uses his whirlwind ability to create a swirling maelstrom of mirror shards around the edge of the circular chamber. Pcs must either move out of the room or in to the centre to avoid taking damage.
    Any PC moving into the centre can see shapes and shadows moving within the pulsating sac. If a character comes within 5ft of the sac, on of the pulsing cysts bursts showering the character in sticky warm and foul smelling fluid (fort save DC 17 or be paralysed over a period of three rounds) followed two rounds later by several (1d10) almost translucent spiders that scurry for the, hopefully, now helpless character and try to burrow into it (these are bloodspiders see end for details). The sac is highly flammable and if set ablaze pops and spurts in true Arachnophobia style spilling and spraying fluid and half-formed spiders (as well as a few (1d20) fully formed ones that escape the blaze). The fiery mess breaks away from the strands keeping it suspended and flops to the floor covering the statue (anyone poking through it has a 1 in 10 chance of being attacked by a survivor (treat as a half health spider with half move and an AC of 11).

    Meanwhile, the navigator itself becomes visible. Rising into the air and suspended on web like strands made of scarlet mucus the Navigator screams and, if the sac is already destroyed, uses his gust attack to force the shards out into the corridor (if anyone is still out there). Anyone in the last 20ft section of corridor (unless directly in front of the archway) must make a reflex save (DC 17) or suffer 1d20 + 1d10 - AC points of damage from exploding glass (half if the reflex save is successful). Those in front of the archway or in the path of the gust get no save and take 2d20 - AC points of damage. After this the Navigator fights until defeated or the party retreats. He does not follow beyond the end of the corridor (the doorway in).

    What now?

    Well, the if the PCs defeat the Navigator they have access to the dragon statue, with the gems and metals embedded in it's back and wings. This they can sell for purely artistic value (it is very well made) or they can try to research a bit more (it's worth a lot more to a dwur family or a scholar of Dwur society/history).
    The shattered mirror may have a twin in another waystation, perhaps a reference to the twin dragon mirrors of the dwur could be dropped in somewhere else.

    The Navigator's treasure is hidden beneath the throne in a compartment sunken into the dais.

    Exits: this can be a dead end if the dm wishes but I personally put in a long (very long) passageway that eventually exited at the back of a cave on a mountainside in a range nearby. Alternatively the party can try to manage a boat and try the river or they can try to get back across the chasm (hint: the oak table would probably be enough to break apart and turn into a temporary bridge for crossing).

     
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    Re: Postfest 1: The Waystation (Score: 1)
    by Man-of-the-Cranes on Wed, March 06, 2002
    (User Info | Send a Message) http://www.ManoftheCranes.com
    This is just what I need, I hope my players haven't seen this! ;)

    But where are the bladewings, I looked below and they weren't there.

    Cheers
    Man of the Cranes



    Re: Postfest 1: The Waystation (Score: 1)
    by Scottenkainen on Wed, April 24, 2002
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    Is that Cthulu-Hawk?

    I'm a sucker for any adventure that serves as an excuse to highlight an "alien" race's culture, especially dwarven culture. So I'm willing to forgive the use of 3E D&D references in this case.

    I see no need to add to this completed adventure. The Navigator's treasure can be left up to the individual DM. Stats on bladewings can go to a different section of this site. Personally, I'd substitute stirges anyway.



    Louis Vuitton Alma MM M93595 (Score: 1)
    by damipenny on Sun, April 22, 2012
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