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Bellflower in the Dark
Bellflower in the Dark is a subterranean adventure designed for four 5th-level characters. By its end, the characters are expected to reach 7th level.
The Myrhill Mine was abandoned by the gnomes of Brastlewark when disappearances scared away the miners. This coincided with a mining shaft piercing into a network of caverns below. Rumors spread of the mine being haunted as those who dared delve too deep never returned.
Recently, the Aspis Consortium acquired the mine and found that the ominous reputation still scared away any prospective workers. The consortium decided to use halfling slaves as miners since they could move easily in the cramped tunnels made by the gnomes.
The Bellflower Network has leaped into action after it learned of the dismal treatment of the slaves working in the mine. Smuggling so many slaves at once is difficult but the network is confident that it can hide them by dividing the slaves into smaller groups.
An agent of Thrune named Kylaria has been tracking down an escaped hafling slave called Jakali. She acts as if she’s enforcing the queen’s will but her true motivations are far more personal. Kylaria has received word from her informants that Jakali has been spotted near Brastlewark. She has appropriated a large detachment of Chelish troops from a nearby citadel to aid in her hunt.
The PCs meet with Nija (CG female gnome bard 4) in Brastlewark, a city on the eastern border of Cheliax. She’s a Bellflower tiller, a person that escorts slaves between hideouts. The halfling in charge of the operation is called Jakali, and he awaits in a hideout outside the city. After the PCs agree to help, she leads them through less traveled paths to the hideout. The PCs can learn about the history of the Myrhill Mine from Nija who is originally from Brastlewark.
Jakali explains to the PCs that the plan is to strike under the cover of darkness, and no one must be allowed to escape or summon help. Once the slaves are freed, they are escorted back to the hideout in smaller groups, which are then spread to other safe houses throughout the region.
NPC - Jakali:
Jakali (CN male halfling slayer 5) has ritual scarification adorning his skin as reminder of his past as a cannibalistic tribesman in the Kaava Lands. He was captured by the Chelish colonials of Sargava, who sold Jakali to a Chelish nobleman. Count Thramal thought that taming a savage would be entertaining until Jakali killed him and disappeared into the night with several other slaves. Soon after, Jakali was recruited by the Bellflower Network. Jakali has forsaken his demon-worshipping past but a dire situation might tempt him to return to his old ways.
Chapter I: Shattered Chains
Kylaria has connected sightings of Jakali with several earlier slave breakouts. She has identified the mine as a likely target for Jakali, and she’s employing magic to observe the mine in case he decides to strike.
The PCs have a limited amount of time to perform the raid before Kylaria arrives with the Chelish force. The PCs have a chance to notice the approach of the torch-bearing riders, which gives them more time to prepare. The mountain path is blocked by the soldiers, so it cannot be used to escape. At the palisade, Kylaria sends soldiers to alert the closest citadel while she leads the rest to trap Jakali and his allies inside the mining camp.
The slaves are split into two groups with about dozen members in each. The first group is of Avistan origin, and they are bossed around by a large halfling called Robul (NE male halfling rogue 4). The second group is from the jungles of Kaava Lands. These cannibalistic halflings are led by a woman named Mireri (CN female halfling barbarian 5). The tribesmen feel indebted to their liberators, so they remain friendly for now.
The original plan has become all but impossible. The prospect of a slow death in the mines makes the slaves unwilling to surrender. The Bellflower tillers share the sentiment. This leaves the mines as the best point of defense.
The boarded-up shaft offers an avenue of retreat if the PCs can fend off the Chelish soldiers. Kylaria pursues Jakali at all costs. Eventually, the PCs and the former slaves are forced to retreat into the caverns below.
Any supplies and equipment the PCs manage to find during this chapter helps their survival in Nar-Voth.
NPC - Kylaria Thramal:
Kylaria (LE female human inquisitor 5) is consumed by revenge. She used to enjoy a life of privilege as a member of a prominent noble house but after her father was murdered by a slave, the house spiraled into ruin. She joined Chelaxian law enforcement and rose quickly through the ranks. When her zeal in hunting escaped slaves was noticed by the government, she was offered a chance to become an agent of Thrune.
Location - Myrhill Mine
Encounter - Kylaria’s Wrath
Chapter II: The Dark Walk
The group must deal with the environmental dangers of Nar-Voth while searching for resources that help them survive there. Several paths lead around collapsed areas, each with their own dangers. Thirst and starvation are a threat if magical or mundane methods can’t provide water and food.
The Avistani and Kaava halflings are at odds with each other, leaving The PCs in the middle to negotiate. Robul has a criminal past, and he’s ready to play dirty to get whatever he wants. The gratitude the cannibalistic halflings feel for their liberators has its limits but at first their culinary practices remain focused on the denizens of Nar-Voth. Jakali is torn between his past and his current role. He is fond of Nija, however, so convincing her goes a long way in winning his support. Jakali himself has the most sway with the Kaava halflings due to his past. Lost friends and other hardships affect the relations within the group. Unless the PCs defuse rising tensions, it could spark infighting or even violence.
As the group moves along the Dark Walk, they draw the attention of the derro. While the PCs are exploring, the derro kidnap Nija for her gnome heritage and take her to their lair. This has a profound effect on Jakali, pushing him towards his past self and Mireri’s point of view.
The Dark Walk is roughly split into three sections, each with their own characteristics. First the group travels through fungus-filled caverns, where the PCs might stumble into a horrid dread glutton (R3) garden. The restless dead, such as deeplits (R3), and bands of darkfolk roam the pitch black mazelike passages that the group encounters next. The last stretch of the journey has packs of narriks (R3) with the occasional geomaw (R3) hunting within its crystal-filled caves.
At the end of the Dark Walk awaits a gate to the ruins of Garganstel. The gate is warded by ancient Azlant magic, and it’s guarded by a pair of gloaming hounds. The PCs must disable its wards and defeat the hounds. Any fragments of Azlant knowledge the PCs have gathered helps with this task.
Monster - Gloaming Hound:
This large, crystalline hound is covered in razorlike shards that constantly rise and fall on its exterior.
A gloaming hound is a magical beast that embodies the interplay of light and dark. It can reflect light that hits its surface to blind its opponents. In the dark, the hound’s form seems to fade almost out of sight.
Location - The Dark Walk
The first section of the Dark Walk connects to caverns filled with strange fungi. Any recent explorers or their remains can be found in this area. It ends in a sheer drop of 60 feet that marks the beginning of the middle section.
The midsection spreads into a maze of smaller passages before coming back together at a 80 feet high cliff. It has no source of natural light, and a dark underground lake has formed at its center. Many of the original Azlant refugees lost within the maze now haunt its lightless reaches.
The crystal-filled last section is more craggy than the previous sections, and its rocks have sharp, jagged edges. Intermittent tremors make this section more unstable, increasing the danger of cave-ins. At its end resides the entrance to Garganstel.
Rule System - Group Survival:
This system tracks the group’s condition as a whole with survival points. Things like gathered resources and positive social interactions add points, whereas afflictions and infighting detract them. The amount of survival points the group has affects the chance of something bad happening at certain points during the journey.
Encounter - Breaking Point
Chapter III: At the Ruins of Madness
Brain mold, also known as cytillesh, covers the column roof over the city. Spores drifting down from above gradually affect the group’s sanity, inducing paranoia and hallucinations. Anyone that succumbs into madness runs away from the group, chased by imagined threats.
The derro take advantage of the madness and kidnap stragglers for Xyraga’s experiments. As monsters, real and imagined, move in the shadows, the PCs must explore the ruins to find a way to protect everyone. Before they attack, the derro stalk the PCs, darting in shadows and disappearing into cul-de-sacs with hidden entrances.
One of the buildings houses a deliberately damaged artifact that the PCs can attempt to repair with parts found throughout the ruins. If repaired, it has enough power to destroy cytillesh inside the building, but in its prime, the artifact could clear the whole city of brain mold.
The PCs must prioritize between finding a safe place for the remaining people and trying to save those that have been kidnapped. The mongrelmen slaves are a potential source of help if the PCs can look beyond their frightful appearance.
When the PCs find one of the entrances into the derro lair, the derro try to draw them into an ambush with luring boots. The PCs might stumble into Xyraga’s laboratory while exploring the lair or the mongrelmen may have told them about it. If the PCs try to escape to the surface without visiting the laboratory, Xyraga goes after them accompanied by her cytilloid monsters.
NPC - Magister Xyraga:
Magister Xyraga (CE female derro alchemist 5) was exiled from the derro city of Krba for performing dreadful experiments not only on captives but unwilling derros as well. She and her loyal following left the city in search of a new home. Xyraga’s mad dream is to create an evolved derro that is able to withstand even the burning glare of the sun.
NPC - Mother Scaly-Eye:
Mother Scaly-Eye (LN female mongrelman shaman 5) leads the mongrelmen from her hideout. Her mismatched face is dominated by a bulging, ophidian left eye. Mother Scaly-Eye assists her people the best she can while she searches for a way to free them.
Location – Garganstel
During the last century, a tribe of mongrelmen resettled the ruins of their ancient forefathers. A decade ago, Garganstel was taken over by derros, who enslaved its mongrelmen residents. The derro have carved their lair within the column so the ruins seem abandoned. Secret tunnels with a blue glow connect Garganstel to the nearby surface settlements like Brastlewark and Alvis, as well as the surrounding cave systems.
Bonus Location - Scaly-Eye’s Hideout
Magic Item - Luring Boots:
These dark, blue-soled boots can lure a creature into an ambush. The wearer of the luring boots can leave in her wake a trail of footsteps that compels a target creature to move along it. The footsteps glow blue for the eyes of the affected creature, and its mind is filled with whispers that urge it to follow the trail.
Encounter - Xyraga’s Laboratory
Xyraga commands her cytilloid creatures to attack the intruders while she uses her mind-twisting alchemical attacks from afar. If she defeats the PCs, she offers them a deal where she gets rid of Mother Scaly-Eye, and the PCs and the rest of the group can leave intact save for some lost memories.
Monster Template - Cytilloid (CR +2):
An alchemically warped, monstrous version of the original creature that can release violent bursts of psychokinetic energy.
Journey into Midnight
Residents of Senara have long looked to the Whispering Wood and told stories of the horrors that lurk in its shadowed depths. Those shadows grow darker still beneath their feet in the heart of Nar-Voth’s Midnight Jungle, where a world both alien and merciless is poised to erupt into the city’s streets. The monks of Whisperwood Abbey are missing and the player characters are asked to investigate. The journey that follows takes them from the lightless halls beneath the abbey and into the untamed wilderness of the deep.
Journey into Midnight is a wilderness adventure for 5th-level Pathfinder Roleplaying Game characters. The PCs will descend into the depths of Nar-Voth to track down the missing monks of Whisperwood Abbey, where they’ll test their resolve against the ferocious inhabitants of the Darklands. By the adventure’s conclusion, a party on the medium experience track could reach 7th level.
Bramblebuck Ale is a delicacy enjoyed by many along the trade routes that tangle their way through Cheliax, intro Druma and beyond. Carts laden with the brew emerge from the doors to Whisperwood Abbey weekly, a product of the toiling monks that live within its sheltered walls. Like all noteworthy recipes, the secrets to this one are closely guarded. Few would suspect that the monks received ingredients from an exiled duergar gardener living in the caverns of Nar-Voth. When the duergar failed to deliver his monthly batch of dried candy-cap mushrooms, the monks of Whisperwood Abbey tried to brew their ale with a substitute ingredient. They failed to reproduce their famous concoction. Concerned for the economic prosperity of the abbey, the monks ejected commoners from the abbey’s walls and ventured into Nar-Voth to discover the fate of their supplier.
A world both beautiful and dangerous teems beneath the streets of Senara in the form of Nar-Voth’s Midnight Jungle. Caverns laden with moss and fungus track their way from the dense tangle of the Scar Thicket all the way to the doorstep of the Court of Ether. Decades ago, a tense agreement between the duergar and the Court of Ether allowed a small viridium mining operation on the edge of the Midnight Jungle. Though the operation collapsed when the duergar were discovered forging cold iron weapons, the ruinous settlement known as Kaldendairn remained mostly undisturbed until a lone duergar found refuge in its buildings years later. Striking up a mutually prosperous agreement with the monks of Whisperwood Abbey, the duergar lived a relatively comfortable life of solitude and toil until the clash of two warring races forced him to flee into the surrounding caverns.
Vegepygmy are rarely known to live peacefully amidst the myriad of life forms that inhabit Nar-Voth and even resort to conflict between their disparate tribes. The Stonecaller tribe enjoyed control over their own small patch of the Midnight Jungle until a roaming troupe of flail snails appeared. Counting mold and funguses as their primary diet and having no way to communicate with the vegepygmy, the flail snails killed and consumed many of the tribe before encountering a patch of the tribe’s deadly and transformative russet mold. What might have been a brief but tragic interlude between unfamiliar species turned into a frothing hotbed of hostility when the russet mold claimed its first victim.
Raised communally from batches, flail snails rarely recognize familial bonds. Yet when two emerged from a single egg, both bearing identical patterns on their shells, they forged a lasting bond unfathomable to others of their kind. One of the twins fell to the russet mold, birthing two vegepygmy in its place. The remaining twin, turned toward a path of vengeance routed the Stonecallers into Kaldendairn where they drove off its duergar occupant and later killed the monks that came to investigate.
Left to their own, the vegepygmy posed little serious threat to Senara, but a voice from the deep whispered honeyed words into their chieftain’s ear, promising growth and protection. A root dragon named Venixial found her way into the caverns of Nar-Voth from the First World and sees great potential in the vegepygmy and their explosive reproductive process.
There are many routes to lead players into Journey into Midnight. The local Master of Blades Tolsis Tuvadorn employs bounty hunters and adventurers to control creatures of the Whisperwood. The abbey’s problems could draw similar attention. The PCs may have an acquaintance that lived at the abbey working with the monks, or perhaps were sent by a local tavern owner to discover what happened to his latest shipment. If your campaign is already located in the Darklands, the players may hear of the Whisperwood Abbey’s plight from one of the few surviving monks that now wanders the Darklands, desperately looking for a way back to the surface.
Chapter 1: Going Down!
Whisperwood Abbey is a modestly sized monastery in Senara, a city within the borders of the Whisperwood in Cheliax. Predominantly occupied by those of devilish descent, Senara is not a stranger to the shunned and ostracized. The monks of Whisperwood Abbey offered the people a place to quietly reflect on the world and their place in it. Though numbering only a handful, the monks maintained a modest living performing transcriptions for residents of Senara, teaching martial arts to those who showed a talent for it and brewing their famous Bramblebuck Ale.
Within hours of taking the assignment to discover why the abbey’s doors have remained suspiciously closed, the PCs are traversing its eerily empty halls. There’s no sign of a struggle or any evidence that the monks had intended to vacate. Descending into the cellars, the PCs find the latest batch of Bramblebuck Ale. Sampling the brew reveals that it is bitter and quite unspectacular, nothing like the reputation it had earned. Probing deeper, the PCs find an open vault door that leads to small room with a large hole in the floor. There’s a large winch and support structure that holds a series of chains that extend into the cavernous depths below.
The PCs can retrieve the platform from the cavern floor by turning the winch, though doing so reveals that the mechanisms of the elevator are starting to rust, causing the chains to screech as the platform ascends and descends. About 70 feet below the abbey the tunnel opens into a cavern, the floor of which is another 40 feet below that. A pair of dire bats (Bestiary, 30) and a bat swarm (Bestiary, 30) attack the PCs on their descent to the cavern floor if measures are not taken to make the delve quietly.
A number of smaller tunnels lead out from this cavern, but one has clearly seen more use than the others. Following it deeper, the PCs encounter fire beetles (Bestiary, 33) (included to give PCs a chance to have a less detectable light source and reduce the chance of random encounters as they explore the Midnight Jungle) and steadily increasing plant growth, eventually coming to a wider section of the tunnel where many (but not all) of the deceased monks hang from the ceiling in large masses of thick red fungus. The center of the room is dominated by a large patch of russet mold (Bestiary, 273). Tampering with the mold or the monks causes the vegepygmy (Bestiary, 273) gestating in them to burst forth, three of which flip through the air and assume snake style stance as they land, having assumed some of the talents of their hosts (LN vegepygmy monk 2). They fight defensively, giving other vegepygmy a chance to flee after they crawl from their hosts.
Kaldendairn, the nearly abandoned duergar mining post and current home to the vegepygmy Stonecaller tribe waits at the end of this tunnel.
Chapter 2: Location, Location, Location!
The six small buildings of Kaldendairn are carved into the sides of a large fissure extending hundreds of feet through Nar-Voth, and all but one were repurposed long ago by the lone duergar inhabitant named Grower. The fissure’s floor is flooded out, fed from waters that seep through the soil and stone above. The fissure’s ceiling is a mass of thickly threaded vines and roots. Exploration of the outpost reveals that most of the buildings are now incubation dens for a white-tipped mushroom with a sweet odor and taste, very similar to the famous Bramblebuck Ale. Making their way undetected among the buildings is difficult, especially if vegepygmy arrived to warn the tribe of the PCs disruptions. If found, the vegepygmy attempt to swarm the PCs, eventually sending their two best fighters against the PCs, a pair of nearly identical vegepygmy (N vegepygmy fighter 4) who both wield flails and armor taken from their flail-snail host. Should one of these warriors fall, the vegepygmy chieftain calls off the horde and attempts to communicate with the PCs. He tells them that they were driven from their warrens by the relentless pursuit of the flail snails and offers to move on should the PCs find and eliminate them. This is a lie and PCs have a chance to detect that the chieftain is charmed, though he refuses to admit that the effect is anything but his newfound faith in the “verdant god,” what he affectionately refers to Venixial as. He also informs the PCs that they were not able to bestow their transformative gifts to all of the monks and can point the PCs toward the tunnels the vegepygmy suspect they fled down, drastically reducing the time it might take to find them.
The PCs can explore the surrounding areas in any order, though each direction contains deadly challenges. Exploration of each can take anywhere from 16 hours to 4 days, a time drastically impacted by the PC’s survival skills and alliances made with denizens of the area. The GM should roll on a table for wandering monsters during this time.
The Broken Corridor
The viridium mines covered an impressive area for such a small operation, owing largely to the use of natural tunnels the duergar were able to follow as they mined. Most of these are ancient lava tubes but others are naturally occurring stone fissures, dried up underground waterways and caves that connect to the secondary tunnels of Nar-Voth. Following this maze-like network could eventually take travelers to the outskirts of the Endless Gulf.
This area as well as the tunnels immediately surrounding Kaldendairn poses a potentially deadly threat to the PCs as viridium taints the water in the area. Drinking the water in either Kaldendairn or the Broken Corridor poses the same risks as being struck with a viridium weapon (Ultimate Equipment, 52), though the PCs have a chance to notice the water filtration devices used by Grower in Kaldendairn before the substance poses a threat to them.
Encounters found in the Broken Corridor include traversing deadly fissures, collapsing mine tunnels, and a run-in with a duergar expedition looking to reclaim the mine. They’re armed with jars of ochre jellies (Bestiary, 218) that were meant to help clear the overgrowth from the Midnight Jungle. The expedition’s leader orders the jars hurled across the narrow gorge toward the PCs and taunts them until it appears as though they’re about to win, after which he flees into the tunnels beyond initiating a chase scene. He has one of the monks captive and intends to sell the tiefling on his return to Hagegraf.
Queen Frilogarma of the Court of Ether ordered Selenus (CE female lampad necromancer 7, weakened slightly to adjust CR) to keep an eye on the duergar miners from a distance and she eagerly vents her frustration at the task by attacking the PCs if they survive the encounter with the duergar. She and her giant crawling hand companion (Bestiary 2, 59) attack as the PCs return to the gorge.
The PCs also discover the fate of Grower, the monk’s mushroom supplier. Turned from his home by the invading vegepygmy, Grower wandered the Broken Corridor imbibing heavily as he went. In his inebriated state he became lost and accidentally triggered a cave collapse. Now his corpse wanders the Corridor as a deeplit (R3). The rattling of his empty mug against the stone walls attracted the attention of a cloaker (Bestiary, 47) which drifted up from the narrow gorge and now rides the deeplit, exploring how they can use their abilities to mutual benefit.
Supplied by the river system above, Eternity Bluff consists of a collection of small underground lakes that empty into one another over long unbroken and steadily flowing falls. The lowest of these shallow lakes is warmed by underwater lava flows, visible from above as a network of glowing vein-like patterns beneath the steaming water’s surface.
Encounters in the Eternity Bluff consist of a wayang traveler (LN male wayang monk 5) searching for a master monk he heard lived in the area. On learning that PCs are on a similar mission, he challenges them to a friendly match. He is unaware that the monk he is seeking is actually an ancient flail snail. The PCs also find a bulette (Bestiary, 39) blissfully soaking in the hot waters. Disturbing the beast causes it to attack, breaking the floor as it leaps from PC to PC, causing lava to superheat the pool as it fights.
The PCs also discover the location of another monk, who has taken refuge in a cave laced with mnemonic crystals (GameMastery Guide, 245) beneath the base of the falls. She is meditating with what appears to be an ancient flail snail, but is actually an awakened giant slug that was living among the flail snails with the aid of a magic item that allows it to communicate via slime, an item it gives to the PCs hoping that they can find and calm the flail snails.
Unique Treasure: Slimeworn Strap:
This glistening headband allows the wearer to grow a thin layer of mucus that when touched to similar membranes or residue allows for temporary telepathic communication. PCs can use this to read and write flail snail slime trails, though it confers vulnerability to salt.
The Mulch Fens
The Whisperwood forest floor is the location of an immeasurable amount of decaying plant matter, some of which is pushed deep underground where it feeds the cavernous tunnels known as the Mulch Fens. Towering columns of fungus grow from the damp, muddy floors while the ceiling above is carpeted with layers of moss and bioluminescent mold.
Those entering the Mulch Fens must first swim through the flooded, murky tunnels leading from the fissure floor of Kaldendairn. The entrance is guarded on one side by underwater green slime (Core Rulebook, 416) planted adjacent to phosphorescent fungus to trick swimmers into believing they can surface for a breath. On the other side wait a trio of flail snails (Bestiary 3, 118) waiting to kill anything that emerges from the pool. The monk that fled to this area made it deeper into the Mulch Fens but fell to a patch of midnight morel (The Worldwound, 29) that could endanger the PCs as they investigate.
The surviving flail snail twin, Twice Born (CN flail snail bloodrager 6) resides in the Mulch Fens as well, waiting for the opportunity to visit its rage upon more of the vegepygmy that sundered its familial bond. Its anger allowed it to twist its magical nature, becoming an aberrant bloodline bloodrager. It visits all its rage on the PCs if they claim to represent the vegepygmy.
The PCs also encounter the rot grub (GameMastery Guide, 245) infected remains of one of Venixial’s unfinished meals.
Optional Location: Starlit Grove:
GMs looking to expand the Journey into Midnight can include the Starlit Grove as an optional encounter area. Some of the largest trees of the Whisperwood have roots that dig deep into Nar-Voth. The ceiling of this chamber is thick with such growth, and the center is dominated by a dense thicket of roots extending vertically through the chamber. Through those roots, onlookers can see the twinkling of starlight beyond, for nestled within is a portal to the First World.
Chapter 3: Jealous God
Returning to Kaldendairn, the PCs find that the vegepygmy sent scouts of their own into the surrounding tunnels to wake their “verdant god.” Once roused, the root dragon Venixial is not pleased that the PCs interfered with her growing horde of loyal followers, whether they destroyed the colony or dared to openly converse with them. She flies into a jealous rage and begins to tear down the root supports for the fissure’s ceiling, letting large chunks of debris and torrents of water flow through the small settlement. The PCs can climb the cavern walls to confront her, or find another way, like riding on the backs of the flail snails. Once above, the PCs can leap from vine to root while combating the dreadful wyrm.
New Monster: Root Dragon:
Root dragons are found in the First World where they are at home among the titanic trees and thick undergrowth. Their dark, rough and irregularly shaped scales camouflage them well in such environments. They shed their wings annually during the cold season allowing them to burrow underground easily. During other seasons their wings match the color and appearance of leaves, beginning green and darkening to brilliant shades of reds and oranges. Their breath weapon is a cloud of spores that take root and grow in those that breathe it, causing entanglement and choking. Plant creatures are immune but can be charmed instead.
With Venixial defeated, the remaining vegepygmy scatter and pose little threat to Senara. The Master of Blades orders the opening to Nar-Voth sealed, but it won’t be long before the Whisperwood Abbey attracts new acolytes from monasteries in Isger. Continuing the campaign in Nar-Voth could mean more monks were abducted by the duergar or dark fey, requiring PCs to venture into other Darklands realms to save them. The Starlit grove could draw more agents from the Court of Ether to the region, requiring a response from Senara’s adventurers.
Down the Blighted Path
A spiteful dark fey necromancer threatens the family lines of an honored dwarven hero to exact vengeance. The dead rise in answer to the call of the stolen Firebrand and lay waste to their own homelands. Can the adventurers stop the torture and bloodshed while facing horror and despair Down the Blighted Path?
Down the Blighted Path is a Pathfinder adventure module for 5th-level characters, the PCs should reach 6th-level by the adventure’s end.
Two centuries ago, the dwarven axe maiden now known as Lady Delbera Axebringer was simply called Delbera. Exploring Avistan with a party of adventurers, The Rising Blades, they defended the helpless, fought evil and amassed a sizeable trove of treasures. During their travels, they crossed paths and blades with numerous enemies, infamous and forgettable alike. One such memorable battle involved Audalot Karexin and his disciple Zohir Totek, orphne necromancers (see below). Much to the dismay of the two fey, The Rising Blades ruined their plans to subjugate the svirfneblin village of Oremont. Undead minions threatened to overwhelm the adventurers as Karexin and Totek attempted to flee. Delbera killed Karexin, but only at the expense of allowing Totek to make her escape.
The Rising Blades eventually retired from adventuring to begin or return to their families; the encounter faded into history and stories told for grandchildren. But Zohir Totek never forgot the insult leveled against her and her mentor. Her white-hot rage grew into the deep eternal flame that fueled her every decision. Zohir swore unending pain to The Rising Blades, for once they died they would enter into her sphere of influence. One day they would watch her destroy everything they held dear and they would be powerless to stop her.
PC hooks and getting involved:
Player characters begin play in Macridi, Druma, located between Andoran and Five Kings Mountains. The PCs are in Macridi for various reasons, including looking for work as hired guards for the traveling merchants, attending the festival as visitors and tournament participants, or returning locals of the region. If there are any dwarven PCs in the party, consider making them a member of Lady Delbera’s extended family and the target of the first encounter’s attack. Members of her extended family have heard rumors of other family members going missing. Non–dwarven PCs may also belong to the families of other members of The Rising Blades.
Chapter 1: Sweet Revenge
When the spring rains end the logging season in Palakar Forest, the residents of Macridi mark the time by celebrating new life and a successful harvest. Merchant and trader caravans arrive to fill their wagons with rare lumber and join the local humans, dwarves, and fey from the surrounding forests to celebrate along the Profit’s Flow riverbank. The air smells of delicious foods, and lively music sparks spontaneous dancing from young and old attendees alike. Mayor Bensik hosts the annual tournament of martial skill, which ends with a small group melee. The crowd chooses their favorites for whom to cheer and shouts the blow count across the field.
The tournament grounds erupt in screams of terror and panic when five dwarven skeletons (dwarven skeleton fighters 5) push through the gathered crowd, grabbing, scanning, and pushing away dwarves as their hollow eyes search for someone. One of the skeletons finds his target, a young dwarven man selling sweets near the PCs. The skeleton picks him up as the dwarf kicks and screams, and turns to leave. Several festival goers try to wrestle him away from the skeleton as it fights them off. The other skeletal soldiers converge on the screaming man and his captor to secure the abduction. The skeletons fight off the man’s defenders and make their escape, unless they are stopped by the PCs. The skeleton soldiers fight with the purpose to escape with their captive, and sacrifice themselves to delay or defeat anyone who comes between them and their goal of kidnapping the dwarf.
Anyone with sufficient local knowledge of Macridi may identify the origin of the soldiers. The colors and insignia on the soldiers’ armor designate them as belonging to a familial dwarven ancestor of the victim, Lady Delbera Axebringer. After rescuing the dwarf or their own party member, the PCs are enlisted by Mayor Bensik and the man’s family to investigate Firebrand’s Redoubt to investigate the attack by the undead and determine the reason for the attack on the family members.
Firebrand’s Redoubt has secret escape tunnels that are only known to family members, information about these tunnels is not readily offered unless the PCs take the time to prepare for their excursion and speak with the family directly or a party member is of proper heritage.
The skeletons got away with the dwarf:
The man’s family hires the PCs to investigate and rescue him. The skeletons can be followed into the hilly region south of Macridi to a cave entrance and eventually to Firebrand’s Redoubt.
At Firebrand’s Redoubt, the PCs find the seals on the building are broken and the Redoubt is defended by the skeletons of soldiers who once served the Redoubt in life. The PCs must breach the Redoubt through the front gate, which is unsealed but not unprotected. The outside doors lead directly into the main entryway which is lined with arrow slits. There are 2 archers posted on each side of the entryway. The secondary doors are ajar, broken off their hinges, but the opening is filled with toppled statuary from the gallery hall beyond. The PCs must run the gamut of arrows to reach the doors that access the hallways behind the slits to deal with the guards. An additional 4 soldiers join the combat after three rounds to aid the stronghold’s defenders.
Coming in the secret tunnel:
If the PCs entered through the escape tunnels, they encounter 4 soldiers in the ballroom first and 4 archers join the combat after three rounds.
Inside the gallery hall, the PCs discover what happens to abducted dwarves — staked remains of dwarven men, women and children line the walls. Lady Delbera (dwarven mummy fighter 5) is unable to engage the skeletons directly but will offer non–combat assistance if one of her family members is in danger. She arrives five rounds after the PCs enter the main hall or two if the combat begins in the ballroom.
After the skeletons are defeated, the PCs are faced with a mummy unlike any other they may have encountered before. Lady Delbera is wary of the intruders, but does not immediately attack. The PCs must convince her that they are there to help before she stands down. If Delbera is killed, see below.
If Lady Delbera is enlisted as an ally, she tells the party how she came to be a cursed mummy trapped in her own tomb, surrounded by her own men. She remembers the time up until her own passing 75 years ago, then waking to find the necromancer Zohir Totek standing over her holding her battleaxe, Firebrand. Lady Delbera explains that while alive, her men swore their oaths of fealty on the axe. Now that Zohir Totek holds the axe, she holds those oaths over Delbera’s once loyal men.
I am not certain how Zohir raised or cursed me, but I cannot leave the Redoubt. She ordered my men to go out and find my family through a ritual she cast. They bring them back here and execute them while I am compelled to stand aside and watch.
The murders of her family members and desecration of their corpses enrages the dwarven mummy, as does, to a lesser extent, the desecration of her tomb. Delbera also shares the story of how The Rising Blades defeated Audalot Karexin.
Zohir is angry that we killed her lover and ruined their plans. Totek must be destroyed to break the curse, and without the axe, I cannot recall my men from their hunt. More people will die while she holds Firebrand. I cannot leave and reclaim it. Will you bring me my axe?
Firebrand is a +1 flaming dwarven double waraxe. All allies who swear loyalty of their own free will to the wielder of this waraxe gain a +2 morale bonus on saving throws against fear and a +1 morale bonus on attack rolls while within 60 feet of the weapon.
We killed Delbera:
Delbera does not directly threaten the PCs; however, if the PCs slay the mummy, the information they need is available in letters, mementos, and haunts. The haunts of Firebrand’s Redoubt hold clues to the identity, location, and reasons for Zohir Totek’s actions against the family of Lady Delbera — The ballroom haunt is of an oath-swearing ceremony. Lady Delbera holds her axe before soldiers that wear armor like the skeletons, who swear themselves to her. In the amphitheater, a small troupe performs a dramatic retelling of the battle between The Rising Blades and the necromancer Karexin.
Chapter 2: Following the Blighted Path
Information gathered at the Redoubt points the PCs toward Court of Ether, the fey city of Nar-Voth. The PCs find a passageway deeper into the cave system leading to The Long Road. Traveling along the dwarven-made tunnel, there are signs of recent passage by other groups. The PCs risk encountering duergar slaving caravans while they are on The Long Road.
Ultimately, the PCs may choose to make their way through the smaller tunnels of Nar-Voth or take the larger, slightly more well-traveled roads to the Court of Ether when they turn south from The Long Road. Should the PCs choose to follow an old dwarven road, they discover a nest of spiroskeks (R3) using the long straightaway as a hunting ground. The spiroskeks ambush unsuspecting travelers and locals by running their prey into a crack that cuts across the roadway that is deep enough to trap prey.
The Endless Gulf
The Endless Gulf splits the earth down through Nar-Voth, Sekamina and into the Midnight Mountains of Orv. Distant, pale lights delicately outline the Court of Ether’s inverted spires, and concentric circles of phosphorescent fungi look like stars overhead along the dome of the great cavern.
The PCs must cross the Endless Gulf. Platforms and bridges are seen in the distance, but they stand on a wide ledge that ends overlooking the empty expanse. While they take in the situation, the sounds of a skirmish can be easily detected further down the ledge. The PCs discover a group of five svirfneblin scouts defending themselves against undead gremlins lead by a male fey (orphne alchemist 2). Three dead svirfneblin already lie on the ground. The svirfneblin leader spots the party and cries out for help. The orphne raises the dead svirfneblin and commands them to attack the PCs. The undead fight until they are defeated. The orphne retreats when he reaches one half of his hit points by mounting his doombat and flying into the Endless Gulf.
Orphne CR4 (New monster):
Once exiled from the First World, orphne moved deep within the earth to areas in close proximity to lazurite deposits, over time they developed the ability animate dead as a ray effect. Orphne are disturbingly beautiful nymph–like fey with light colored eyes and angular features framed by hair that ranges from pale to dark blues and greens. They are lovers of art and music, which they prefer to create through the suffering of others.
If they PCs save the svirfneblin, they offer assistance and invite the party to their village, opening up the opportunity for trade and supply replenishment in Oremont.
Optional Location: Oremont:
Oremont (N; pop. 500; 95% svirfneblin, 5% other)
Oremont is a small svirfneblin village eking out a meager existence in the tunnels of Nar-Voth. Residents of Oremont are a suspicious and private lot; there are no easy allies found among their number due to the harsh nature of the Darklands. Survival is both a personal responsibility of each member of town and for the town as a whole. They are wary of travelers in the tunnels that surround the village and avoid casual interactions.
If the party travels to Oremont, they hear the history of Audalot Karexin and Zohir Totek’s original plans to enslave the svirfneblin village for their mined resources and to use villagers as test subjects for their dark experiments. Saving Oremont was not the reason The Rising Blades unexpectedly arrived in the village, but the svirfneblins remember them as heroes. The locals know that Totek escaped and survived. They post vigilant scouts at the edge of the Endless Gulf and are more alert due to her recent activities. They fear that she will return to Oremont now that her power approaches that of her master’s when he was destroyed.
Regardless of whether the PCs choose to take the side trip to Oremont or not, the svirfneblin scouts show the party where Zohir resides. She took over her master’s home, Karexin Tower, which is across the Endless Gulf from the svirfneblin village. The PCs acquire mobat mounts from the svirfneblin scout leader to fly across the open abyss.
All the svirfneblin died:
If the PCs do not save any svirfneblin, the mobat mounts of the slain svirfneblin are nearby already harnessed. A successful handle animal check is required to use the animals. The PCs are unable to find Oremont on their own. The PCs must search for Zohir’s lair.
Pixies mounted on stirge hounds (Paizo blog Beasts of the Black Blood) guard the Court of Ether airspace are seen gliding through the darkness. A patrol of four mounted pixies hide among the low hanging stalactites to attack the party as they cross the area.
Chapter 3: Closing the dark circle
Karexin Tower consists of a single enormous excavated stalactite connected to several smaller cut-out stalactites hanging near the edge of the chasm. A shallow ledge protrudes out under part of the compound. Platforms are built in curves or rings around many of the stalactites, and above the ledge there is a series of groomed platforms and hanging plants. Three dread gluttons (R3) are visible tending the garden area near the landing platform.
Access to the interior of the stalactite is at the top, nearest to the roof. The top floor is general living quarters for the tower, then traveling down is a laboratory, a library and then Zohir’s personal quarters near the point. Living and undead pixie (Bestiary 228) servants occupy the upper levels of the tower and redcap (Bestiary 2 233) and pixie guards patrol the outer platforms singularly and in pairs. The stone columns provide cover for the party if they choose to use subterfuge to eliminate the guards. If combat lasts for more than 3 rounds, pixie reinforcements arrive.
If he survived, the orphne from the svirfneblin encounter is waiting for the party on the laboratory level of the tower, above the library. He uses bombs and the chemicals at hand to slow the party. Trigger traps are set up around the room to prevent the PCs’ progress through the room.
The library’s bookshelves radiate from a central table and stairs curve down the outside wall of the high domed room. Long windows and balcony doors are open to the outside. On the outside walls, three gargoyles still as statues (Bestiary 137) perch on plinths between the shelves. Hanging on the wall across from the descending stairs hangs a dwarven double waraxe. Zohir Totek (orphne wizard 3) sits at the center table. She looks up slowly from her book.
It would seem I have visitors. I don’t get many of those here. Did the svirfneblin send you or the dwarf? No matter, I’m sure both will be disappointed when I’m finished with you.
Zohir nods once to the air, signaling her gargoyle followers to action. Zohir’s gargoyles receive the benefits of Firebrand while they are in the room. Utilizing the open space above the bookshelves, the gargoyles circle to attack the PCs below.
Zohir avoids melee combat by keeping the tables, bookshelves or other obstacles between her and the PCs as much as possible and used her magical attacks from range. If PCs close to melee, Zohir uses her wand of vampiric touch.
When a gargoyle dies, Zohir animates it and it returns to battle as a zombie gargoyle.
The Hollowheart Conquest
People throughout Avistan whisper tales of the duergar, the hateful dwarves who kidnap innocents and drag them into the Darklands to endure a lifetime of brutal toil. Political figureheads acknowledge the duergar threat and prepare their soldiers as best they can to repel slave raids, but once the gray dwarves disappear into the sunless realm of Nar-Voth with their victims, few dare to pursue them. When the duergar abduct the son of an esteemed military commander, however, the surface world finally strikes back, spearheading an offensive push into Nar-Voth to unseat its tyrannical overlords.
The Hollowheart Conquest is a sandbox-style Pathfinder adventure designed for 5th-level characters. PCs on the medium advancement track should reach 7th level by the adventure’s conclusion. In the adventure, the PCs must help a dwarven army lay the groundwork for an invasion of the duergar province of Hollowheart in Nar-Voth, first capturing a key stronghold, then reinforcing it to repel a vicious counter-siege. This module does not use mass combat rules, instead concentrating on the PCs’ actions as individuals, with the mass combat serving as a backdrop.
Colonel Dirisna Deepdelve (LN female middle-aged dwarf fighter 8), an acclaimed war hero in Rolgrimmdur’s military, has commanded the Five Kings Mountains’ subterranean defensive perimeter for nearly a century. Dirisna always thought little of Nar-Voth, seeing it as nothing more than the black pit that spawned the monsters she had beaten back for decades, until the day her son vanished during a duergar slave raid. The outraged colonel decided then that a defensive policy was no longer acceptable: The time had come for the dwarves to reclaim Nar-Voth after generations of living on the surface, and bring the duergar’s tyranny to an end.
By the adventure’s start, Dirisna has rallied an army of dwarves and begun reconnaissance of the Nar-Voth regions bordering the Five Kings Mountains. The colonel has discovered that the duergar province of Hollowheart—a massive cavern spanning miles in the bowels of Mount Onik, uncharted by surface-dwellers—will soon experience a brief period of vulnerability while its governor, the dreaded warpriest Izokar (LE male duergar warpriest of Droskar 10), attends a military conference at Hagegraf, leaving his fortress-capital sparsely defended. Dirisna prepares to strike, but she knows her army will not withstand the duergar’s retribution without aid. Therefore, Dirisna recruits the PCs—whether through her allies in the Pathfinder Society, through personal connections if one or more PCs are childhood friends of her son, or simply based on word of the PCs’ heroics—to serve as both a special forces team and as diplomats to Hollowheart's other denizens. If Dirisna can conscript the Nar-Voth natives and bolster her assault with the PCs’ help, she might be able to establish a permanent foothold in the Darklands for her nation.
Victory Points: As the PCs complete missions, gather reinforcements, and bolster the dwarven army’s conquest of Hollowheart, they earn Victory Points. These Victory Points determine the dwarven army’s momentum, the strength and punctuality of Izokar’s counterattack, and the ultimate outcome of Dirisna’s campaign. The GM tracks these points in secret so the PCs never know how successful they are until the module’s conclusion.
Chapter I: Operation Landslide
Colonel Dirisna mobilizes her army toward Kleimholt—Izokar’s stronghold—knowing that the warpriest will be in Hagegraf with most of his manpower. Dirisna sends the PCs ahead of the main force to set the stage for the fortress’s swift capture. The dwarves cannot afford to waste time on a lengthy siege, given Izokar’s imminent return, so they must claim the fortress in no more than two days (leaving just enough time for the PCs to potentially accomplish all of the available side quests and capture the fortress if they do not take time to rest and recover between encounters). This timeframe will allow the dwarves to make any necessary repairs to the battlements to help hold Kleimholt against the inevitable counterattack.
How the PCs accomplish this goal is up to them. By exploring noteworthy Hollowheart locations around Kleimholt, the PCs can meet different Nar-Voth denizens and try to secure their assistance in the coming war through roleplaying and one-encounter side quests, earning Victory Points if they can do so successfully. Sample encounters include:
After two days, the PCs reunite with Dirisna and attack Kleimholt. Dirisna again sends the PCs ahead of the army proper, with the objective of infiltrating the fortress and establishing ways for the dwarves to take Kleimholt with minimal damage to its defenses (which they will need intact to withstand Izokar’s retaliation). With proper preparation and NPC support, the PCs can open Kleimholt’s gates for the army with only a single combat encounter.
New Location: Kleimholt:
A sizable duergar stronghold that capitalizes on Nar-Voth’s environment, including sentry towers carved into stalactites, trap-riddled ramparts, walls studded with blightburn crystals, and interior rooms devoted to underground labor and the worship of Droskar. This location serves as the adventure’s twofold centerpiece, first with the PCs as attackers, then as defenders. This provides two distinct opportunities for the PCs to interact with the stronghold’s notable locations, including the chance for them to add their own fortifications.
The PCs’ Victory Points accumulated before and during the attack dictate the assault’s degree of success, establishing the army’s position for Chapter III. Exploring the fortress also provides some unsettling clues about Izokar’s leadership, including duergar captives who yield no information from interrogations beyond repeatedly reciting Droskari prayers and beating their heads against walls in a panic, and psychologically disturbing sanctuaries of the Dark Smith in Izokar’s chapel and office.
Chapter II: Enemy of My Enemy
Having established a foothold in Hollowheart, Dirisna immediately begins preparing for Izokar’s return. Dirisna does not know when the duergar will arrive, nor with what kind of forces, so she sends the PCs into Hollowheart's inner reaches to find this information and continue rallying the Nar-Voth natives to her side. She also implores the PCs to use whatever skills or resources they have to brace Kleimholt for Izokar’s wrath, including building or repairing traps, constructing fortifications, and boosting the dwarves’ morale.
This chapter extends the sandbox component of the adventure, as the PCs explore more noteworthy locations throughout Hollowheart and interact with the region’s locals, trying to recruit allies or hinder the oncoming army however possible. Sample locations and encounters include:
New Monster: Dimmix:
A subterranean fey that is naturally invisible to darkvision, resulting in a pathological craving for attention. Failing to adequately sate a dimmix’s insecurity provokes vindictive behavior from the crafty fey. Dimmixes use illusions and shadow magic to interact with other creatures, resorting to a whip-like strand of shadowstuff as a last resort when threatened.
Bonus Location: The Seed:
The core of the Hollowheart province is a colossal geode at the mountain’s center, which harbors strong connections to the Plane of Earth. The ceiling of the entire cavern (and, by extension, the mountain above) seems to bloom from this site, giving it the geode its name. Several of Hollowheart’s earthen denizens hail from the Seed, called to Nar-Voth by Dalfrensys, the athletics-loving shaitan who oversees the magical site. Dalfrensys proves reluctant to participate in Hollowheart turf wars, but successfully navigating her obstacle course through the Seed’s crystalline interior convinces her to bestow a useful magic item upon worthy PCs: a shaitan scepter (see below).
New Item: Shaitan Scepter:
A shaitan scepter functions as a quarterstaff that deals increased damage and improves combat maneuvers while its wielder stands on solid earth. The scepter also allows its wielder to conjure tower-shield sized walls of stone that can then be pushed at enemies as grounded ranged attacks.
Like in Chapter I, the PCs’ endeavors earn Victory Points as well as other tangible rewards, such as monstrous allies, delays in Izokar’s approach (meaning extra preparation time), and special resources. This process also uncovers more rumors and information about Izokar, whose sober devotion to Droskar and penchant for torturously brainwashing other creatures into serving his faith is infamous throughout all of Nar-Voth.
Over the course of their exploits, the PCs eventually discover that Izokar’s army is roughly a week’s march from Kleimholt, limiting how much they can accomplish before the warpriest’s return. Furthermore, word of Dirisna’s conquest had reached Hagegraf, and the other duergar leaders swelled Izokar’s returning army far beyond what the colonel was prepared to face. The PCs can use whatever time they have left to fortify their stronghold in preparation for Izokar’s arrival.
Chapter III: The Kleimholt Siege
Regardless of what the PCs accomplish in Chapter II, Izokar’s legion eventually reaches Kleimholt’s walls, and wastes no time isolating the stronghold from all supply lines and escape routes. The PCs and their commander must now size up their adversary and hold the Hollowheart capital in the name of the Five Kings Mountains.
First, the PCs and Dirisna have the opportunity to meet the enemy commander “under torchlight” (the Darklands equivalent of beneath a white flag) to discuss possible terms for truce. This roleplaying encounter puts the PCs face-to-face with their enigmatic foe: Izokar proves to be honorable, respectful, and genuinely devoted to the wellbeing of his people (whom he calls “dwarves” rather than “duergar”). That said, the clean-shaven war-marshall is also chillingly calculating in his diplomacy and unsettlingly devoted to the dogmas of Droskar, specifically those of attaining spiritual purity through utterly selfless labor. Aggressive PCs may try to end the battle before it begins by slaying the warpriest during this meeting, but Izokar anticipates an attempt on his life and has prepared several contingency plans should things go sour. The duergar army would also rally against the PCs’ “dishonorable conduct,” costing the PCs Victory Points, and even if the PCs do neutralize Izokar they would only clear the way for his second-in-command to take charge (see the final sample encounter, below).
As expected, reaching terms of mutually-agreeable resolution proves impossible, but socially-savvy PCs can glean some insights about Izokar’s army and how he plans to use it by reading Izokar’s expressions and language. They can also plant false information about their own forces in the duergar’s mind via convincing bluffs and boasts. Successfully navigating the encounter in these ways yields Victory Points.
After negotiations, the PCs attend a war council with Dirisna, her officers, and any NPCs they recruited in Chapters I and II. The PCs must navigate the individual motivations and personalities of the various NPCs, anticipate the likely locations of duergar attack, and consolidate their manpower and resources to prepare for the siege. Strategically sound placement of soldiers, traps, and monsters will earn the PCs Victory Points, as well as affect the kinds of allied creatures that help the PCs in battle at specific places in the stronghold.
Following the council, Izokar’s army attacks. The PCs must navigate the entire battleground and lend their assistance to the pivotal combat sites that need them most. Most siege encounters are overwhelmingly challenging on the surface; the difference between the PCs’ victory or defeat is the presence or absence of recruited allies, traps, and terrain that they can use to their advantage. Sample encounters include:
New Monster Template: Illoyal:
When an evil creature so completely destroys a captive’s or servant’s sense of self that it can no longer comprehend its own existence beyond pleasing its tormentor, the victim may transform into an unliving slave called an illoyal. Part sentient zombie, part shield guardian, an illoyal relentlessly protects and serves its master with defensive abilities and improved combat maneuvers, even functioning as a receptacle for its master’s soul should its master die prematurely.
The final battle occurs when Izokar himself engages the PCs from the back of his brainwashed crystal dragon mount. The PCs will struggle to overcome this intimidating adversary even with indirect NPC support (only the PCs dare to challenge Izokar directly), but slaying the duergar commander here will devastate their enemy’s morale.
At the module’s conclusion, the GM tallies the PCs’ Victory Point total to determine the degree of their success or failure. Victorious PCs receive substantial monetary compensation for their services, as well as accolades and honors from the Five Kings Mountains royalty. Furthermore, at the GM’s discretion, Dirisna may offer to turn formal leadership of the claimed Hollowheart province over to the PCs, serving them as a military commander. This places the PCs in a position to use the kingdom-building rules presented in Ultimate Campaign for further adventuring, establishing Kleimholt as their capital and expanding their influence further into Nar-Voth and the rest of the Darklands.
From our press release:
Hey everyone, we have two minor cosmetic issues that are getting resolved hopefully by tomorrow afternoon by our awesome tech team. The first is the year on our schedule, the second is that our submission still mistakenly calls out "Wondrous Item" in the subject portion of the form. Keep in mind this year Open Call is not a wondrous item. Good luck everyone!