|Scott Fernandez RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16, Dedicated Voter aka primemover003|
The Scrollmaster’s Ransom
A key stolen from the Arcane Library of Tar-Kazmukh awakens the dormant guardians of an ancient vault. Its keeper has imprisoned the librarians in their own institution demanding the return of the key and those responsible for its theft as ransom. Can the heroes recover the key and return the thieves in time to rescue the hostages?
The Scrollmaster’s Ransom is an urban investigation and dungeon exploration adventure for 5th level characters, written for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Characters should reach 6th level by the end of the adventure using the medium experience track.
Since the signing of the Kerse Accord, the Kalistocracy of Druma has eclipsed their former lords, the dwarves of the Five Kings Mountains in both prominence and wealth among the nations surrounding Lake Encarthan. This rise in power and status is no mere coincidence to the followers of the prophecies of Kalistrade, merely their destiny fulfilling itself.
One of the most fervent believers in the superiority of Druma over the dwarf kingdoms is Vianella, Banker of the Countinghouse of Abadar in Peddlegate (LN female human aristocrat 4/ cleric 5 (theologian)). The ambitious Kalistocrat is the daughter of the powerful Archbanker of Kerse and a popular political figure successfully negotiating several advantageous trade contracts with the city’s stubborn dwarves. Vianella’s research for the trade talks uncovered a vague reference to what she believes is a priceless cultural and religious treasure held by the dwarves belonging to Druma. The faded contract dating back to the Kerse Accord, purports the Resplendent Bureaucracy commissioned the dwarf wizard Eodrakk, master limner of Tar-Kazmukh to illuminate a vellum scroll with precious metals and powdered gemstones. The completed masterpiece contained a hitherto unrecorded prophecy by the First Prophet Kalistrade. Eodrakk mysteriously withdrew from public taking the scroll and locking himself away in an extradimensional vault along with several other priceless written works eventually transforming into a lich. Records of the lich Eodrakk Tomehoarder are now rare and only mentioned in whispers among the sages and librarians of Tar-Kazmukh, though never to outsiders.
Intent on uncovering the lich’s vault Vianella spent a small fortune consulting with otherworldly beings before acquiring the description of the vault’s key, a gilded folio hidden in plain sight among the rarities collection of the Arcane Library. Utilizing her corrupt political network, Vianella tasked the local Mercenary League Captain to commission a group of thieves to steal the folio from the Arcane Library and uncover the location of the lich’s vault. The thieves successfully reached the vault, secreted away among the shifting “Lost” libraries but their intrusion awakened the dormant guardians left by Eodrakk to defend his treasures. Its primary guardian, an advanced crypt thing wizard 5 (scrollmaster), dispatched three of the interlopers but one managed to escape with the key. Preparing for the thieves inevitable return, the Scrollmaster placed guardians and traps throughout the Library while abducting the tattooed librarians known as the Blue Warders one by one, imprisoning them in Eodrakk’s vault.
The following day visitors to the Arcane Library found an emblazoned parchment upon the levitating corpses of the human infiltrators at the entrance. The Scrollmaster’s ransom calls for the return of the key and those responsible for its theft lest every Blue Warder slowly die. Fearing the collective loss of centuries of knowledge and expertise the Sage’s Guild of Tar-Kazmukh immediately dispatched a representative to post a reward for the return of the stolen rarity and a bounty on the heads of its thieves at the dwarven embassy of Peddlegate, the nearest human city.
Book One: Peddlegate, Druma
Chapter 1: Dwarven Embassy, Undercity
Intrigued by a posted bounty at the dwarven embassy in Peddlegate's Undercity, the PCs meet with Igmar, the Sage’s Guild representative. The Guild offers a sizable reward for the return of a gilded folio stolen recently from the Arcane Library and a bounty on the heads of those responsible for its theft. Igmar stresses the matter is time sensitive and when recovered, the folio and its thieves must be delivered directly to Tar-Kazmukh as the authorities in Peddlegate may assert their jurisdiction and delay any extradition. The nervous sage gives the PCs descriptions of the dead thieves, the folio, and a warrant though canny PCs may notice Igmar is withholding information. If pressed the dwarf reluctantly reveals the details of the hostage situation.
Leaving the embassy for the Uppercity to begin investigating the PCs may notice a patrol of Mercenary League soldiers tailing them instructed to observe and report on any “adventuring types” visiting the Five Kings embassy. The PCs have the option of confronting the Blackjackets, questioning them, fighting, or losing them in the warren of the Undercity’s tunnels.
Finding the thief and discovering who ordered them followed are all challenges the PCs must overcome in Peddlegate. Successful Diplomacy checks to gather information about the dead thieves reveals the name Narsio of Xer (N male human rogue 4 (burglar)), while a Knowledge (local) check informs the PCs the group used the Pick & Quarrel tavern as a meeting place and Blackdamp Hollow, a dangerous mine outside of town as a rendezvous and drop site. Further Diplomacy or Knowledge (local) checks reveal the name of the Cassodan, Mercenary League Captain of Peddlegate (LE male human fighter 6).
Chapter 2: The Pick & Quarrel, Uppercity
Collecting the reward from Blackdamp Hollow, Narsio of Xer is at the Pick & Quarrel tavern spending his dead associates treasure and toasting their afterlives. Tracking down the exiled Razmiran burglar, the PCs find he no longer has the folio and refuses to return to Tar-Kazmukh. Narsio’s many friends among the staff and patrons begin brawling with the PCs to aid his escape attempt.
Unfortunately a patrol of Blackjackets waits outside the tavern ready to grab the thief for Cassodan who has learned of the bounty. The watch officer charges Narsio with robbing the Countinghouse of Abadar and threatens to arrest the PCs as accessories if they interfere. The Officer directs PCs displaying the dwarven warrant to Captain Cassodan’s office. If they allow the mercenaries to take Narsio they may follow (or track) the patrol to the Countinghouse instead of the city jail.
Chapter 3: The Countinghouse of Abadar, Uppercity
By day, exotic peacocks wander among the topiaries and statues in the opulent public courtyard of the Countinghouse while acolytes offering money changing and lending services are watched over by the Mercenary League. Cockatrices stalk the manicured grounds by night when the iron gates are closed while arbiter inevitables, Blackjackets, and acolytes patrol the halls. Once the evidence points to the Countinghouse, the PCs can attempt infiltrating one of the most secure compounds in Peddlegate or talking their way in by requesting an audience with the Banker.
Once inside the PCs eventually encounter Vianella, Banker of Abadar and Captain Cassodan. Vianella avoids admitting involvement right away focusing blame on Cassodan. If the PCs believer her bluffs, she instructs Cassodan to return the folio which he states remains at Blackdamp Hollow. If the PCs follow him they are ambushed by Blackjackets who attempt to force them into the hazardous mine complex. If the PCs see through her lies she turns the tables admitting responsibility and asserting her right to recover a priceless cultural heirloom from the dwarves. She sympathizes with the unfortunate plight of the Blue Warders, but reminds the PCs the guardian is an evil undead abomination. She attempts to bribe the PCs, utilizing her pet carbuncle’s abilities if necessary, into destroying the vault’s guardian, rescuing the librarians, and retrieving the lost prophecy of Kalistrade for her. Failing that she releases the folio (and Narsio if captured) warning the PCs she is a terrible enemy to have. If her protectors are defeated she states her father, the Archbanker of Kerse already knows her plans should she go missing or be found dead, and will bring every means at his considerable disposal to bear against them.
Dragon Road (CR 7)
Once the PCs retrieve the folio and take Narsio, Cassodan, or even Vianella captive they must then travel the roughly 50 miles between Peddlegate and Tar-Kazmukh. On the road an advanced wyvern allied to Vianella sent to retrieve the folio and exact revenge (or to help her escape) attacks the PCs. If the PCs chose to work for the Kalistocrat the monster is merely looking for a meal. During the chaos the captives will attempt to escape.
Book Two: Tar-Kazmukh
Chapter 1: The Sage’s Guild
Arriving in Tar-Kazmukh the PCs meet the Sage’s Guild elders who thank them for returning the folio and its thieves. The Guild pays the reward and bounty promised but offers to double it if the PCs deliver the folio and prisoner(s) to the Scrollmaster and rescue the Blue Warders.
If the PCs accept the offer the Sages describe the Arcane Library’s layout explaining it has a limited awareness of creatures within its wings and their worthiness to enter the “Lost” libraries. They also provide the PCs with wardstones to bypass some of the Library’s passive defenses. Failing too many of the Library's tests of knowledge or skill results in being returned to the Great Hall.
Chapter 2: The Arcane Library
The Arcane Library of Tar-Kazmukh fills a great cavern shaped by chisel and spell over centuries into a wonder of the dwarven kingdoms. The depository of knowledge draws wizards, sages, and experts from the Lake Encarthan region and beyond. Most visitors see only the Library’s Great Hall and its adjoining tunnels. Beyond lay the “Lost” libraries, chambers sharing the same general dimensions differing only by their wall carvings depicting the room’s subject matter. Shifting magical walls of stone separate these chambers, though some exist in extradimensional spaces. To enter these sequestered archives a visitor must have the proper permissions and pass tests of knowledge or skills relating to the rooms subject. Usually Blue Warders guide visitors, their long years of study and mystic tattoos allowing easy passage. Occasionally trusted visitors are given wardstones to allow entry without a guide. The Library itself shunts those who lack a guide, permission, or the requisite knowledge skills to pass the tests back to the Great Hall, though some rare recorded cases tell of people marooned in a “Lost” room succumbing to starvation or thirst.
PCs examining the folio find it is a primer on the virtue of charity and the sin of greed written in Ancient Thassilonian. The folio holds clues to finding the lich’s vault and the path through the Library to get there. Narsio reluctantly guides the PCs from the Great Hall along the path his group took if forced. However they must contend with the Scrollmaster’s surprises including new magical traps and guardians in rooms that previously held none.
Examples of Lost library chambers:
Arcane Archives (CR 6)
Hundreds of stone scrollcases and spellbooks line the niches of this room. Parchment, papyrus, vellum, and other writing media cover the tables. Here and there jumbles of scrolls lie heaped in small piles.
Scroll Golem CR 3
Scrolls used repeatedly by apprentices learning to scribe sometimes gain an ability similar to a wizard’s arcane bonded item, able to cast a single spell written on itself once per day. Arcane colleges and universities use these scrolls to teach the construction of true golems to students. Scroll golem bodies are typically made of scrolls with calligraphic spells such as explosive runes, sepia snake sigil, or even symbol spells. Divine versions typically utilize a glyph of warding.
Scroll Burst (Su): Once per day the scroll golem can use the spell imbued on itself to affect all creatures in a 15-foot cone.
Like other true golems, scroll golems are susceptible to certain spells. Erase slows the golem for 2d6 rounds dealing 1d12 hit points to the golem (no save). Spells with the [water] descriptor cast upon the scroll golem suppresses its scroll burst ability for one day.
Chamber of Cartography (CR 5)
This room features shelves and tables filled with maps and charts of the land, sea, and sky. Graven images of the Sky Citadels adorn the stone walls. Slowly spinning at the room’s center stands an enormous globe depicting Golarion’s continents cast in bronze with raised mountain ranges and gemstones representing cities. One round after entering the globe animates trampling the PCs under its bulk.
The Reading Room (CR 6)
This lavishly appointed room boasts leather furniture to sit and read upon. Several lecterns stand scattered among the shelves though three exquisite marble pedestals prominently display hefty gem-encrusted tomes. The books are not what they seem animating when the mimic posing as a couch attacks.
There is a chance the PCs encounter the Scrollmaster checking on traps and guardians. If attacked the crypt thing uses teleporting burst followed by a quickened dimension door to escape. If presented the key and prisoner the Scrollmaster speaks, “Deliver the ransom to my master’s vault and the hostages release is assured.” It then uses a quickened dimension door to leave.
There is also a chance the PCs encounter Vianella and six Blackjacket officers even if they took her offer. With time to study the folio and take notes before the PCs claimed it, she learned the path and decided to retrieve the prophecy not trusting it with nonbelievers. If attacked the Kalistocrat attempts to enter the next chamber covered by a pair of mercenaries delaying the PCs.
Use Vianella’s group if the PCs are having an easy time of encounters. If not defeated or captured before reaching the vault she enters the chamber alone attacking the PC holding the folio.
Chapter 3: The Vault of Eodrakk Tomehoarder (CR 8)
When the PCs enter the lair of the Scrollmaster, it stands upon a raised dais before a rune carved stone door. In addition the Scrollmaster placed two invisible and paralyzed rust monsters in the wings of the chamber. If creatures entering the chamber do not present the key and its thieves immediately or if attacked the Scrollmaster releases the rust monsters from their paralyzation (a standard action), readies a scroll shield, then uses a quickened dimension door to reposition near a spellcaster. PCs hesitant to turn over a prisoner on moral grounds find the Scrollmaster unflinching in his demands and continued refusals prompt the Scrollmaster to attack.
If the PCs turn the prisoners over, the Scrollmaster it claims the key, opens the vault, and places the thieves in oubliettes the Blue Warders currently occupy releasing the librarians. If the Scrollmaster is destroyed the PCs can use the key to enter the vault.
From the entrance a raised stone walkway circles halfway around the vault ending in stairs to the lower portion of the chamber. A half dozen iron grates in the floor open into deep cells where the weakened Blue Warders cry for help. A great stone throne at the center of the bowl shaped room sits before a mithral lectern upon which perches an ancient illuminated scroll. The vault’s niches and alcoves surrounding the throne are filled with all manner of exotic writing tools, fabulously colored inks in bejeweled vials, spellbooks, scrolls, bowls of gem dust, sheets of gold and platinum foil, marvelous pigments, and several other wondrous items. When a creature sits upon the throne a magic mouth activates:
”For surviving my guardians choose one item from the vault except the accursed scroll. Let it be known Eodrakk Tomehoarder has taken interest in you.”
The Script of Avarice
The parchment on the lectern is no prophecy of Kalistrade, it is a curse written by a Runelord of Greed of Ancient Thassilon. Creatures reading the parchment become living gold as the iron body spell at CL 20, however at the end of the duration they must make a DC 20 Fortitude save or become a golden statue as the spell without the ability to revert to their normal body. The initial save DC increases by +1 each time the parchment is read until the save is failed. Creatures may attempt a DC 20 Fortitude save each day to break the curse effect requiring 3 consecutive saves. This curse is especially potent against creatures with greed or avarice in their heart (dragons, greed dwarven racial trait, order of the cockatrice cavaliers, prophets of Kalistrade, thieves, etc.) who take a –4 penalty to the saves. Those thinking the statue is gold find it is merely iron pyrite if broken apart damaging the afflicted creature as appropriate.
Should any thieves survive the PCs may hand them over to the dwarves for justice. Vianella is returned to Peddlegate but is removed as Banker for causing a major political incident. Cassodan and Narsio are sentenced to 5 years hard labor in the Undercity mines of Peddlegate for their part in the incident. If the PCs decide to keep the folio or the script of avarice, Eodrakk Tomehoarder learns of it and may send minions for them. Conversely the folio could aid in tracking down the lich’s current location.