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Doom Comes to Dustpawn
An unknown expedition to the stars returns to its point of origin—the unsuspecting village of Dustpawn. Strange disappearances and a blazing object in the sky mark the beginning of trouble for the sleepy village. Can the heroes save the villagers from fiery doom, reality-warping creatures that view the citizens merely as experimental animals, and a horrific threat from beyond the stars?
Doom Comes to Dustpawn is a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game adventure for 9th-level characters, who will advance to 10th level by the adventure's conclusion, which brings the characters directly into conflict with an emissary from the Dark Tapestry.
Unknown to the apprentices, the craft’s passengers had survived, continuing to record their observations and transmit them back to Golarion. They reached Aucturn and then reversed course for home, intending to present all their research to the astonished masses on their return. Unfortunately, the final planet on their itinerary undid their plans; their craft brushed against a planar breach, exposing the passengers to the Dark Tapestry, its bizarre energies forcing each wizard to merge with his or her familiar. As their bodies and minds warped, the gestalt beings went mad and turned on each other. The mission leader, in a brief moment of lucidity, triggered an emergency spell to place the ill-fated voyagers in stasis. Using a powerful staff imbued with an incredibly powerful word of recall, he shunted himself and four others to their launch site days ahead of the returning main craft. These survivors, still irradiated with dark energies, sought secluded areas near Dustpawn to regroup, unaware their subconscious desires would warp their new-found sanctuaries. The hybrids began abducting townspeople to their lairs, either to transform them into similar creatures or conduct bizarre experiments upon them. Meanwhile, the forgotten craft still hurtles towards Dustpawn, the creature known as the Emissary from Beyond following in its wake to turn the unsuspecting village into a beachhead for an incursion by the Dark Tapestry.
Delayed by the chaotic magic encountered during their journey, the wizards' communications suddenly pour back to Golarion, specifically to their apprentices’ descendants. The first sign of impending doom comes from those afflicted with apparent madness, as years of information floods into their minds.
Getting the Characters Involved
Act I: First Contact
Dalviss prattles on enthusiastically about the object making its way to Golarion and guides the characters to his makeshift observatory. While at Crenn's observatory, a character succeeding at a DC 30 Knowledge (arcana, nature, or planes) check learns the amount of time remaining before impact. A subsequent DC 30 Perception check informs the character the meteorite will strike Dustpawn. With this advance warning, the party gains the opportunity to evacuate as many villagers as possible.
Alyssia takes the PCs to a home where they hear Laura Mulvayne lecturing, suddenly stopping, and then screaming and throwing herself against the walls. When Laura lectures, she speaks in monotone about the planets in detail, almost too fast for the characters to keep up. During or after this encounter, characters may attempt a DC 35 Knowledge (history) check to remember the cabal who traveled the stars, and a subsequent DC 30 Knowledge (history or local) check reveals the victim’s relationship to one of the original apprentices. Ten minutes after the party arrives, Laura becomes placid and spends a few seconds to look at everyone in the room. She then unleashes a primal shriek that potentially stuns the characters, and her features bubble and shift as she transforms into a chaos beast. This encounter may alternately take place after Dustpawn's evacuation or the crash landing.
For added tension, the DM can designate any or all the PCs as unfortunate descendants of the apprentices. The maddening information flow and the Emissary's intrusions cause Wisdom damage once per day, unless the afflicted character succeeds at a DC 25 Will save. However, he also gains a temporary bonus for the day to Knowledge checks—also allowing him to perform untrained checks without the usual limitations—pertaining to the planets and the Dark Tapestry.
Two hours after the party arrives in Dustpawn, the craft enters the atmosphere, breaks up, and crash lands in Dustpawn, setting the village center ablaze. After the characters battle the blaze and rescue trapped townsfolk, they have the opportunity to explore the craft, where they discover a handful of stasis pods bearing bizarre hybrids that perished in the crash. Searching the craft rewards characters with partial transcriptions about the planets and the information that five creatures escaped. For several days after the crash, a dark haze that blots out the sun covers Dustpawn.
Investigation of the disappearances reveals the missing as: a pair of fishermen; a group of halfling explorers; and a goat herder, his wife, and their entire herd. The fishermen, currently prisoners of the Toad King, routinely fish the Conerica River for a week before bringing their catch back to Dustpawn. They were due back two nights prior to the party's arrival, and the delay has raised suspicions in the village. Meanwhile, the halflings became victims of the Warren during one of their many trips to the spent mines outside Dustpawn. While they normally keep to themselves, they carouse at one of the local taverns after they return from spelunking, so regulars notice their absence. Finally, the herder and his wife fell victim to the Night Hunters. Neighbors only recall hearing the bleating of goats as if something carried them through the skies, but they neither heard nor saw anything else. Individually, the villagers would regard the disappearances as unfortunate accidents, but the cumulative events set them on edge.
As the characters search for missing Dustpawn residents, they may encounter the following events in any order (with the exception of Emissary from Beyond, which occurs last):
Act II: The Toad King
The characters must traverse the newly formed swampland to reach the toad king and stop its depredations. On the way, they contend with hostile terrain, a rain of poisonous toads, and a mobogo compelled to serve the toad king. They must then discover the route into the creature's lair and reach its grotto before its victims succumb to the foul experiments.
Due to the reality-altering nature of the creatures in this adventure, their lairs are treated as mildly chaotic-aligned.
Act III: Followers of the Emissary
On a return trip to Dustpawn, the party notices a group of cultists on their way to the village. The cultists lie, claiming they want to help with recovery efforts after the crash and the fire. The cultists' leader owns a seed of madness, a new magic item that bestows greater powers of persuasion upon the bearer and causes his targets to become confused. If the party allows the cultists unfettered access to the craft, they try to murder any NPCs who remain at the site, since they are unfit to bear witness to the majesty of the Dark Tapestry. The cultists will fight only if cornered but will otherwise flee in an attempt to sneak into Dustpawn. Interrogating a captured cultist provides the PCs with the first warning about the Emissary’s arrival.
The characters must also deal with new arrivals of other tormented descendants of the apprentices, who, like Laura Mulvayne, alternate between intoning facts streaming to them from the wizards' mission and screaming in agony. If the party works with these victims, they may discover a means allowing them all to share the burden, with each speaking in turn and gaining temporary relief while the others speak.
Act IV: The Warren
As with the toad king’s habitat, the creatures’ lair has reconfigured itself to accommodate their wishes. On approach to the warrens, the characters encounter large snakes that fled the newly inhabited mine and must negotiate with a large contingent of displaced goblins that blame Dustpawn for their problems. The tunnels have become cramped and difficult to traverse for Medium or larger creatures, and traps the goblins set to keep intruders out have become deadlier. A deathtrap ooze, drawn to the newly transformed dungeon, now haunts its passageways. Even more dangerous than the numerous traps, the rat creature attracted ticks, which reproduce at a prodigious rate due to the chaotic energies that infuse the hybrid. The tick swarm pours out of various tunnels in the warren to protect its new host. The party must then defeat the flesh golem and the lair's owners to rescue the surviving halflings.
Act V: Restless Spirits
Dalviss Crenn returned to his observatory shortly after the crash. His telescope still trained to the craft's trajectory, he looks through it and spots the Emissary, which in turn notices him. Dalviss breaks under the strain of the Emissary's attentions and surety of Golarion's oncoming doom. He requests the characters return to his observatory to show them the inky blot that follows the same path as the fallen craft. After a mental assault by the Emissary—something the characters should easily survive—Dalviss cackles and maniacally proclaims nothing the party does will stop the Emissary. He then attempts to commit suicide by throwing himself from the observatory.
Act VI: Night Hunters
The land has changed significantly where the two creatures lair. A giant tree towers over a clearing, surrounded by acres of tall, reedy grasses that grasp at intruders. As the characters approach the great tree at the center, giant owls harass the party from above, dropping some of the remaining goats on their targets, while a dire tiger stalks them on the ground. The owl creature roosts at the tree, while the tiger hybrid lazes at the base playfully batting at the kidnapped couple. Once the characters draw near, the owl creature announces that it has hostages and proposes a contest: a race to find the couple, one character versus the cat. If the characters refuse, the cat creature slays its captives, and the two creatures spring into action, working together to take down individual foes. They hope to leave some of their victims unconscious so they can hunt them later.
Act VII: Emissary from Beyond
Emissary from Beyond:
A new monster, this aberration possesses powerful transmutation abilities. It renders all terrain in a 30-foot radius sphere around it as difficult terrain, and three times per day may perform a coup de grace to transform its victim into a lesser chaos beast (using the young template).
If the party fails to defeat the Emissary, it converts the citizenry into an army of chaos beasts, creating a cancerous blot in Isger—one that will slowly spread out and consume the lands around it.
EDIT FROM THE JUDGES: Please read this information about playtesting these encounters. We've also added hyperlinks from the encounter's short stat blocks to the full stat blocks in the PRD so you have the information you need to run the encounter.
The Thanatopic Amphisbaena
Over 4,000 years later, Mehnit, an unusually intelligent Gebbite mummy with an affinity for handling snakes, arrived in western Geb searching far from the heart of the country for her favored reptiles. Mehnit viewed herself as an ascendant serpent goddess, given her gift of immortality and her ability to control snakes, specifically amphisbaenas that she viewed as the perfect representation of the dichotomy between life and death. She happened upon the partially uncovered, preserved corpse, and noted the colossal creature’s resemblance to a serpent. Her curiosity piqued by the creature itself and the susurrus emanating from the worm, she approached the odd war monument. At the mouth belonging to the exposed head, a handful of spectres—remnants of victims of the worms' onslaught millennia ago—greeted her. The spectres taught her the secret of the Wormheart, whispered to them over the ages by the slumbering twin hearts, which would grant her control over the engine of destruction. Without corporeal forms, the remaining spectres could not manipulate the Heart and animate the creature, while the skeletons and zombies still within the corpse lacked the intelligence to operate the Heart. Mehnit, with the aid of her mindless servants, cored out the two stingers—fragments of which she bound to her wrists so she too could inject venom in her foes. She then melded the individual hearts to create the Wormheart and a burgeoning connection with the creature. Upon discovering the second head resting beneath twenty feet of sand, she grew assured of her destiny to bring this Geb-crafted weapon to life. Flush with dreams of becoming a great leader and awakening Geb from its torpor, Mehnit retreated to the submerged head to study the full power of the Heart. Unbeknownst to her, the spectres taught her about the Heart in order to lead to the fused worm's destruction, thus freeing them from their millennia of imprisonment.
Mehnit spent years of study only to achieve basic control of the creature’s inner musculature. She nearly ended her research prematurely when she stepped on a spot inside the worm that triggered an involuntary convulsion, crushing a pair of zombies that accompanied her. After that incident, she meticulously mapped out all the locations of her new home's traps, sacrificing more of the mindless undead inhabitants. She then turned her focus to achieving mobility for the worm. Several weeks ago, Mehnit realized she required a closer connection to the Wormheart to gain greater control, so she gladly placed the necrotic organ within her own chest cavity. Shortly thereafter, she managed to move the creature's aboveground head; today she is certain she will finally get the worm's corpse to move fully. Only by navigating the mostly inert creature and finding the buried head can adventurers stop Mehnit from enacting her plans and bringing the foul creation to complete unlife.
The worm’s interior remains remarkably well preserved, due to Geb’s magic and the corpse’s burial beneath desert sands. The smell of rot pervades the passageways, although not strongly enough to cause nausea. The entirety of the corpse's interior is unlit. The cylindrical passageways throughout the worm are 15 feet wide and 15 feet high, but a handful of chokepoints force explorers to squeeze through dead flesh, and many places on the floor feature an unusual trap where the worm’s muscles squeeze together and crush nearby victims. Skeletons, zombies, and Mehnit’s snakes patrol the interior of the worm, while the spectres remain hidden but report any activity to Mehnit.
6. The Submerged Head (CR 6 or 9)
This area benefits from an unhallow effect (for the low tier, no other spell effect applies; for the high tier, protection from energy (fire) applies). Entering this chamber through the choke point requires squeezing (refer to Pathfinder Core Rulebook 193). The last character going into the worm's head faces a haunt (detailed below).
Creatures: Mehnit has invested too much in her dreams of power—and she is too close to achieving her goal—to let this inconvenience thwart her. She shouts for the skeletons to attack, while her amphisbaena (or amphisbaenas, at the high tier) follows. The front (or only, for the low tier) row of skeletons steps forward 5 feet in order to trigger the worm's involuntary muscular action, potentially crushing hesitant adventurers. The skeletons start the encounter in the row(s) behind the trapped spaces, while the amphisbaena(s) start behind the skeletons. Both use straightforward tactics.
Because Mehnit bears the heart in her chest, she can concentrate on controlling the worm as a move action. She only attacks adjacent foes, unless a competent spellcaster targets her, in which case she moves to attack. Assuming the party does not incapacitate her, the following events occur:
Low Tier (CR 6):
Two-headed Venomous Snake CR 1 LINK
Skeleton (2) CR 1/3 LINK
High Tier (CR 9): LINK
Amphisbaena (3) CR 4 LINK
Skeleton (5) CR 1/3 LINK
Haunt: Ancient victims of the worms’ attack have not been laid to rest; some linger near the entrance to the buried head. A haunt targets the last creature squeezing through the opening. For the low tier use the shrieking walls haunt (The Brinewall Legacy 41); for the high tier use the bleeding walls haunt (GameMastery Guide 243)
Trap: Any Small or larger creature stepping on an indicated square sets off the worm's reflexive swallowing. The trap affects all creatures in the row behind the trapped squares (towards the worm’s interior). Use the falling block trap (Pathfinder Core Rulebook 420), except reduce the Perception and Disable Device DCs to 15, and reduce the damage to 2d6. Additionally, any character attempting to pass through the affected spaces must squeeze.
Development: If the characters do not search Mehnit specifically for the Wormheart, a spectre passes through the worm's mouth and exclaims, "Now that she is gone, I shall possess the Heart!" The spectre seeks the Wormheart’s destruction to free it of its long, tormented existence, so any attack drives the creature away. However, any attempt to leave the worm with the Heart provokes an earnest attack by the spectre. The Heart has 15 hit points and hardness 5, but nothing can harm it while it is within another creature.
This preternatural humanoid's body parts fade in and out randomly, dripping gore and revealing its bizarre anatomy. A broken blade juts out at an angle in place of the creature’s shinbone. Its demented grin reveals animal fangs, rocks, and glass shards for teeth. The creature’s disturbingly mismatched eyes gleam maliciously.
Monster Reformation Alliance
When a doppelganger killed and replaced gnome adventurer Cornelius Flynn, it set upon a scheme to convince the world at large that monstrous humanoids deserved inclusion in society. Flynn searched out other doppelgangers and recruited well-meaning, former adventurers grown weary of their lives of slaughter. The Monster Reformation Alliance spread from Flynn’s home in Kaer Maga to other cosmopolitan cities where citizens would be more receptive to their message of coexistence. Monsters have also joined the Alliance to make a show of their worth to society.
Structure and Leadership
I didn't want to have this get lost in the FaWTL torrent.
So...I finally got around to listening to End of Silence #8, where Mr. Shiny was promoting Rite Publishing, and imagine my surprise when I hear myself get name checked. It made my day/week/other time units to hear that.
Sorry it's taken me 3 months to thank you for it. :)