Black Plains: Concept for one-book adventure (WARNING: VERY LONG)

Homebrew and House Rules

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Hey y'all, I recently came up with an idea for a one-shot campaign that I may flesh out and DM for my group. I wasn't quite sure where to post this, so the general playtest section seemed like a good idea. The setting for this story is not a particular area of Golarion- just some place with plains and rocky land. The PCs begin the adventure at 4th level and end it at 7th level. Here is the plot of the adventure thus far:

Insane mothman corrupts tribe of gnolls, promotes greater aggression. Hobgoblins fighting gnolls are mostly corrupted as well, and fall into chaos. PCs must save hobs first, then destroy mothman and return region to peace before gnolls cause enough slaughter and cannibalism to summon an avatar of Shub-Niggurath.

A few years ago, a mothman named Mozerah sought the help of dark powers in his quest to steer fate in its proper course. He delved too deep, however, and became corrupted by Shub-Niggurath, the Outer Goddess of fertility and monsters. He received visions of a great monster descending from the stars and gained the ability to perform three rituals in Shub-Niggurath's name. This granted Mozerah a mythic tier, making him an agent of Shub-Niggurath and a conduit for her vast power. Following his visions, Mozerah sought a group of creatures that he could easily manipulate into fulfilling his vision. He found his pawns in a tribe of gnolls known as the Twisted Claws, who were, like most gnolls, vicious but unorganized.

The Twisted Claws are led by Bone Gnawer Oskenja, formerly a flesheater barbarian. Mozerah targeted Oskenja first, luring Oskenja into a cave where Mozerah had made his lair. Oskenja fell victim to Mozerah's mythic dominate person spell and was granted spellcasting power in a ritual that made use of Shub-Niggurath's powers of transformation. Formerly a barbarian, Oskenja left the cave as an oracle of the dark tapestry. Upon arriving back in the gnoll village, he began to preach the virtues of darkness and conquest, seeking to turn his former tribesmen to the worship of Shub-Niggurath and his new "crawling god". The gnolls, uneasy around him but cowed by his magic and promises of power, began to escalate their raids on nearby villages.

Mozerah's manipulations didn't end there. One night, he telepathically called out to the gnoll shamaness, Mother's Fang, and led her to his cave with promises of power and descriptions of horrific fertility that she would soon be blessed with. In the dark and dripping caverns, Mozerah mated with the shamaness. Ew. In a second ritual, the pregnancy was accelerated and Mother's Fang gave birth to an undead creature touched by Shub-Niggurath. Mozerah had seen the creature in his visions. The creature would become the final sacrifice needed to bring down an avatar of Shub-Niggurath from the stars. This beast required the blood of gnoll young to remain strong, so Mozerah began to capture the weakest cubs of the lowliest gnolls, feeding them to his offspring and animating the remains as warped undead minions.

Enter the hobs. A legion of unusually cooperative hobgoblin deserters known as the Pariahs had long resided in the region, trading with human towns and keeping gnoll raids to a minimum through use of guerrilla warfare. The Pariahs reside in a fortress known as the Grasswall, several days away from the nearest village. With gnoll raids increasing, the hobgoblins are forced to retaliate more strongly, and send out patrols to seek the reason behind the gnoll aggression. After the first two patrols disappeared, the hobgoblins sent an envoy to the human town of Kes, hoping to recruit local adventurers to do part of their job for them and reduce hobgoblin casualties. Of course, this is where the PCs come in.

Upon arrival at the hobgoblin's fortress, the PCs and their escorts find it in disarray. The fortress has been overrun! A combination of infiltrations from otherworldly creatures and a cult of hobgoblin heretics worshiping Shub-Niggurath have corrupted the fortress from within (the long trip to the human village from Grasswall means that the envoys had no knowledge of this). The PCs must liberate the fort and the small group of sane hobgoblins within it, then seek the source of the gnoll raids themselves.

Upon finding the gnoll village, the PCs can either scout it out or do a full-on raid. Either way, they find the gnolls in the midst of a schism. On one side are the traditionalist gnolls, mostly worshipers of Lamashtu. They stand in opposition to the larger group of converts, including Oskenja and Mother's Fang, who worship Shub-Niggurath and send sacrifices to the crawling god. If they so desire, the PCs can side (temporarily) with the traditionalist gnolls to first defeat the corrupted leaders, then use clues found in Oskenja's longhouse (or simply the guidance of an allied gnoll) to seek Mozerah's cave.

Mozerah's cave has long been avoided by the gnolls, seen as a cursed place. The gnoll allies of the PCs, if they sided with the traditionalists, refuse to enter. The cave itself is vast and expansive, going deep into the earth and connecting several large caverns. The PCs fight aberrations, oozes, and the undead remnants of the gnoll tribe's young. Eventually, they reach Mozerah's demense and must penetrate a deeper darkness spell warded by a darkvault spell. If they can dispach the mythic mothman, they'll put an end to his plans and save the region from a much larger campaign of slaughter and sacrifice, as well as stopping the arrival of one of Shub-Niggurath's avatars.

Below are the simplified stats of some of the important NPCs in this adventure! Mozerah's full statblock is further below.

Mozerah: CE advanced arcane unique male mothman (CR 10/MR 1)
Mozerah was not always the servant of darkness that he is today. He was once a normal mothman, steering fate in its proper course. In his quest for a more efficient means of changing the fate of living creatures, he encountered lore praising Shub-Niggurath. His already fragile mind was overcome with the magically enhanced power of the book he'd found, and he was gifted with knowledge of three rituals, one for each aspect of Shub-Niggurath: One to transform, one to corrupt, and one to summon. He used the ritual of transformation on Oskenja, turning him into an oracle. The ritual of corruption was used to twist and quicken the birth of Makani. The final ritual has yet to be used- when the Twisted Claws have captured enough humans and converted fully to the worship of Shub-Niggurath, they will destroy the captives in a sacrificial orgy of consumption and slaughter. Then, they will turn on each other, their newfound hunger impossible to control. When Makani himself is the only gnoll remaining, having consumed enough of his tribemates, Mozerah himself will arrive and kill the undead flind to release the concentrated energies of all the corrupted gnolls and slaughtered humans. This, he believes, will call down an aspect of Shub-Niggurath, and he will be granted unholy power by his dark mistress.

Bone Gnawer Oskenja: CE Male flind oracle 6 (CR 7)
A hulking flind who always carries a blackened staff, Oskenja is not the flind he once was. His mind was broken by Mozerah, but he was given powerful magic in return.

Mother's Fang: NE Female gnoll witch (bouda) 3/cleric of Shub-Niggurath 3/mystic theurge 2 (CR 7)
This hairless, tattooed gnoll crone is the former shamaness of the Twisted Claws. Now she serves her dark patron and coordinates the dull-witted Oskenja to organize the gnolls and raid human villages for sacrifices. Though she used to serve Lamashtu, Mother's Fang has turned to an even more alien goddess of fertility.

Makani, Eater of Cubs: CE male giant dread zombie ahool-blooded flind (CR 6)
Makani is the mutated offspring of Mozerah and Mother's Fang, and serves as a conduit for Shub-Niggurath's power. He controls the Stillborn that infest the cave, but is ignorant of his ultimate purpose as the final sacrifice needed to draw Shub-Niggurath's avatar to the earth.

Godah: CN male gnoll barbarian (flesheater) 4/fighter (unbreakable) 1 (CR 6)
Leader of the traditionalist gnolls, Godah is trapped in the midst of a deadly conflict. He seeks to preserve his tribe and his way of life, but secretly tires of the constant gnoll deaths that devotion to Lamashtu has brought. He hides this (by gnoll standards) cowardice by flinging himself into battle with bloody zeal. He is the most receptive to help from outsiders, and gladly assists the PCs in the battle against the gnoll converts.

Stillborn of Shub-Niggurath: CE fiendish young gnoll juju zombie (CR 2)
Makani's hunger leaves little behind after his feeding is done, but Mozerah is nothing if not patient. He stitches together the torn remains of gnoll cubs and animates them as Stillborn of Shub-Niggurath. These creatures now infest his lair, skittering through tunnels and pursuing intruders in hordes.

Slaying Bolt: LN female hobgoblin ranger (skirmisher) 6 (CR 5)
Slaying Bolt is the leader of the remaining sane hobgoblins of Grasswall. She keeps her survivors together with rigid discipline and keen tactics- both of which come easily to hobgoblins. She long ago gave up her birth name to serve Grasswall and devote herself to fighting against the gnoll tribes of the region. She is wary of human intervention, but the hobgoblins of Grasswall are mostly lawful neutral rather than evil. They accept help from the PCs and fight alongside them in their reclamation of the fortress.

Here's the full stats of our friend Mozerah. Normally, he'd be CR 9, but his greater number of attacks and special abilities prompted me to push him to 10. That puts him at 3 CR higher than the party level- he should make for a memorable and difficult boss fight.

Mozerah the Lightdrinker - CR 10/MR 1
Unique advanced arcane mothman
CE medium monstrous humanoid (mythic)
Init +10
Senses see in darkness, perception +18

AC 24 (+6 dex, +6 natural, +2 deflection), touch 18, flat-footed 18
hp 122 (9d10+64)
Fort +8 Ref +12 Will +12
SR 20

Speed 30 ft., fly 60 ft. (perfect)
Reach 10 ft. with proboscis
Melee 4 claws +15 (1d6+5 and grab), proboscis +10 touch (psychic rend)
Special Attacks mythic spells (3/day), mind-warping gaze, mind rend, mythic power (3/day, surge +1d6), horrid embrace, grab (claw)
Spell-like Abilities (CL 9th, concentration +15)
1/day: shout (DC 20), obscuring mist, project image (DC 23), dominate person (DC 21), deeper darkness, darkvault, mind fog (DC 21), false vision, mislead (DC 22)
3/day: greater invisibility, major image (DC 19), modify memory (DC 20), nightmare (DC 21), phantasmal killer (DC 20), shadow walk (DC 22), charm monster (DC 20)

STR 20 (+5) DEX 23 (+6) CON 20 (+5) INT 21 (+5) WIS 23 (+6) CHA 22 (+6)
Base Atk +9 CMB +14 (+20 grapple) CMD 30 (32 vs. grapple)
Feats Improved Initiative, Toughness, Weapon Finesse, Combat Casting, Flyby Attack, Extra Mythic PowerM
Skills perception +18, fly +26, stealth +18, intimidate +18, knowledge (dungeoneering, planes, arcana) +14, bluff +15, survival +18
Languages Aklo, Common, Gnoll, Undercommon (can’t speak), telepathy 100 ft. (see bonded thrall)
SQ see in darkness

Before Combat
Mozerah casts darkvault on his cave every day. If he knows that creatures are approaching his inner sanctum (he likely sees the PCs through the senses of his thrall Oskenja), he casts deeper darkness on his altar. He hides in the back of his cave behind a tapestry, and casts project image and greater invisibility.
During Combat
Mozerah moves his projected image into the air and casts mind fog through it. He then targets a spellcaster with mythic dominate person. After those two spells are cast, he dismisses his projected image and moves from behind the tapestry. In later rounds, he casts more spells such as mythic shout and mythic phantasmal killer. If a creature comes close to him, he makes flyby attacks with his proboscis. If an enemy is able to see through the deeper darkness and his invisibility, he lands and attempts to grapple them so that he can subject them to his horrid embrace.
Fanatically devoted to Shub-Niggurath, Mozerah fights to the death to protect his ritual.

Note: Remember that any creature that can see through the darkness and invisibility is subjected to Mozerah’s mind-warping gaze.

Psychic Rend (Ex)
When Mozerah hits a creature with his proboscis, he carves away a portion of the target’s intellect. The target must make a DC 20 fortitude save or take 1d4 points of intelligence damage and become confused for 1 round. A successful save negates the confusion and reduces the intelligence damage to 1 point. This is a mind-affecting effect.

Bonded Thrall (Su)
A creature dominated or charmed by Mozerah can communicate telepathically with him over any distance, and Mozerah can use the senses of the bonded creature. This allows him to control dominated creatures and direct charmed creatures over any distance. When using his thrall’s senses, Mozerah is helpless.

Horrid Embrace (Su)
If Mozerah succeeds on a check to maintain a grapple, he can fold his wings around the grappled creature and subject it to horrific mental visions. The creature must make a DC 20 will save or become sickened for 1d6 rounds. This is a mind-affecting effect.

Mind-Bending Gaze
Fear, 30 feet, will DC 20 negates. A creature that fails its save against this attack becomes shaken for 1d6 rounds. A creature currently suffering from a fear effect that fails this save instead takes 1d4 points of wisdom damage. This is a mind affecting fear effect.

Overall, what do y'all think? The idea itself came to me when I was drawing gnolls- I wanted to include a traditional group of enemies (gnolls and hobgoblins) and add a twist in the form of Mozerah's influence and the helpfulness of the hobgoblins living in Grasswall. I had a ton of fun writing this up and statting Mozerah, and I plan to continue developing the storyline, making some maps, and fleshing out the enemies. If you made it to the end of this, please tell me what you think of this fledgling adventure. I would love to hear your feedback and change the adventure accordingly to make it as balanced, fun, and challenging as possible. This is my first homemade module. :p

Paizo Employee Customer Service Representative

I have moved this thread to the Homebrew forum.

Diego Valdez wrote:
I have moved this thread to the Homebrew forum.

Oh, thanks. That's where this goes.


Personally, you've hit on a bunch of my favorite themes: Lovecraftian horror, monstrous races treated as actual sentient beings and not just fleshy XP bags, and a fairly open ended scenario but with a specific objective and consequences for failure.

The only change I'd make is nixing the hobgoblin heretics. While I like the idea of madness spreading like a disease I kind of like the horror of finding out that the gnolls actually just overran the fort by sheer alien might.

Oh yeah I love mothmen but have yet to see one used well in a campaign, so there's that.

PS: Maybe you could add some sort of unnatural brutish horror that the gnolls used as a mutant war beast to knock the doors down, though they barely have control of it. And could act as a tough encounter in the fort.

Artofregicide wrote:

Personally, you've hit on a bunch of my favorite themes: Lovecraftian horror, monstrous races treated as actual sentient beings and not just fleshy XP bags, and a fairly open ended scenario but with a specific objective and consequences for failure.

The only change I'd make is nixing the hobgoblin heretics. While I like the idea of madness spreading like a disease I kind of like the horror of finding out that the gnolls actually just overran the fort by sheer alien might.

Oh yeah I love mothmen but have yet to see one used well in a campaign, so there's that.

PS: Maybe you could add some sort of unnatural brutish horror that the gnolls used as a mutant war beast to knock the doors down, though they barely have control of it. And could act as a tough encounter in the fort.

Thanks! I was thinking of adding a big mutant creature of some sort to break up the normal multi-creature fights in the fort. Maybe a leucrotta with the mutant template? Fits with both the gnolls and the Lovecraft element, and it makes a good siege monster. That nasty bite could probably break down a door in a few good hits.

The fort itself is very well guarded (or at least it was), and having the gnolls overrun it in a horde would be a good way to show how dangerous they are, and get some nice scenery of the aftermath. It also hints that there's something unusual at work here- it's not like normal gnolls to attack a heavily fortified location when there are villages nearby.

I'm working on more of the stat blocks for the creatures in the module. I've changed some things around, and once I'm finished with a good chunk I might post them here for analysis.

PS: I think I'll also make stats for one of Shub-Niggurath's avatars, just because I can. If I end up having to throw it at the PCs, I want it to have stats!

It looks overall pretty nice to me, the only suggest I have is to make sure the avatar has some element of goat to it. Shub-Nigguroth is the "Black Goat of the Woods" after all. Perhaps base its stats off a legendary chimera, with the mutant template tacked on?

Brolof wrote:
It looks overall pretty nice to me, the only suggest I have is to make sure the avatar has some element of goat to it. Shub-Nigguroth is the "Black Goat of the Woods" after all. Perhaps base its stats off a legendary chimera, with the mutant template tacked on?

That's what I was thinking. We've already got the Watcher in the Bay, which is squiddy, so I was gong to add a goat-ish element to this one.

One thing I made up for Shub-Niggurath is her trifold aspect (mostly to fit with her sigil, a triangle of goat heads, and to add background to Mozerah's three rituals). I'm currently going with "She Who Births", and it's representative of the summoning/fertility aspect of her, while the Watcher is representative of transformation. It's a unique aberration as of now, something like a giant multi-headed goat with multiple legs that casts spells as a 20th level druid. CR 28.

Ah, it's a "If the Party doesn't stop the ritual, straight up die horribly." kind of situation. I was thinking perhaps you wanted them to have at least a small chance of being able to beat it. I'd personally wouldn't go for a CR 28 monster, mostly because well... the ritual is being done by a CR 10 monster. It's a pretty big jump.

Brolof wrote:
Ah, it's a "If the Party doesn't stop the ritual, straight up die horribly." kind of situation. I was thinking perhaps you wanted them to have at least a small chance of being able to beat it. I'd personally wouldn't go for a CR 28 monster, mostly because well... the ritual is being done by a CR 10 monster. It's a pretty big jump.

It is being done by a CR 10 monster, but that CR 10 monster is invested with the power of Shub-Niggurath (mythic rank), and the summoning would involve the slaughter of at least one large town, the inhabitants of several small villages, and a tribe of gnolls dedicated to Shub-Niggurath herself. In addition, the altar to her in Mozerah's cave is a major artifact that corrupted a tribe of gnomes who moved there a couple hundred years ago (they've turned into morlocks and will be encountered by the PCs). There's a lot of build up here- Mozerah is just the catalyst.

The Watcher in the Bay, a CR 24 avatar of Shub-Niggurath, was summoned by less after the Second Thrushmoor Vanishing, if the PCs in Strange Aeons fail. I could change the final monster to an advanced dark young (CR 13), but that just wouldn't have the impact or sense of something larger going on that a full avatar would.

Not to mention the fact that legendary chimeras are CR 13. A mutant template would bring it up to 14, and a few mythic ranks would add another +1. At level 7, it wouldn't matter if the enemy is CR 15 or 28- the party is going to get rekt.

Point taken. Getting the feeling of just how badly they messed up should be done with a CR 28 monster like that.

I asked this in the advice section, but it isn't getting any answers there. What do y'all suggest that I do in terms of treasure? I'm unsure of how much to add- 4 times the PC wealth per level, a little more, a little less? Something else entirely? This is one aspect of encounter building where I have no experience.

If this is a self contained adventure without a lot of opportunity to buy and sell stuff, you'll want to tailor treasure to the party. Otherwise I'd just add up all the encounters per chapter per the treasure chart and use that as a rough guide for how much wealth per section. That seems to be how Paizo does it.

I love the mutant Leucrotta idea. They're one of my favorite monsters and don't get enough love. Plus it fits the gnoll theme, and there's the creepiness that behavior is completely out of character for a Leucrotta...

In regards to the avatar, why not have the ritual happen in stages- starting with a dark young and ending with the avatar, giving the PC's a chance for a final Hail Mary?

Maybe the avatar has to force it's way into our reality, and rapidly grows round by round? Just some thoughts.

We ran into a leucrotta in my Kingmaker campaign. Scared the life out of my wizard when the helpless maiden's voice turned into a deep, monstrous growl. Here's the mutant one. She was wounded during the gnoll raid on Grasswall, and currently makes her den in the ruined stables. The PCs encounter her gnawing on a horse corpse- the gnolls have run out of things to feed her, prompting them to leave the increasingly feral beast alone until they can find a suitable meal for her.

Stagtearer - CR 6
Female mutant leucrotta
CE large aberration (augmented)
Init +1
Senses darkvision 60 ft., telepathy 100 ft., perception +11

AC 22 (+8 natural, +1 dex, +4 armor, -1 size), touch 10, flat-footed 21
hp 70
Fort +10 Ref +5 Will +4
Immune disease, poison
Weaknesses poor ability (intelligence), fractured mind, mild schizophrenia

Speed 60 ft., climb 30 ft.
Melee bite +13 (1d8+10, 19/20), 2 hooves +8 (1d6+3)
Space/Reach 10 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks lure, powerful bite, mutations (telepathy, mental armor)

25 (+7) DEX 12 (+1) CON 22 (+6) INT 5 (-3) WIS 14 (+2) CHA 15 (+2)
Base Atk +6 CMB +14 CMD 25
Feats Improved Bull Rush, Power Attack, Awesome Blow
Skills perception +11
Languages Gnoll
SQ lure, powerful bite

Powerful Bite (Ex)
Stagtearer’s bite deals 1 ½ times her strength modifier and has a critical threat range of 19-20.

Lure (Su)
As the normal leucrotta ability. Stagtearer prefers not to use this ability, finding speech to be both grating and a waste of time- it’s easier to rip into prey until it stops moving.

Mild Schizophrenia (Ex)
Every round spent in a stressful situation, Stagtearer has a 25% chance of becoming confused for 1 round. This is a nonmagical condition- a result of her fragile mind, starvation, and exposure to eldritch energies.

Okay, I can see stagtearer (great name btw) not using lure once she's a her prey in charging distance but... combined with telepathy that's pretty horrifying...

Actually imagine due to her schizophrenia stagtearer actually uses lure all the time, but it's by some small part of her broken consciousness that is desperately crying for help.

That would make for some spooky forshadowing...

Also do hobgoblins ride horses? I always thought they road dire wolves or something more ferocious.

I like that suggestion for Stagtearer's lure. And the hobgoblins of Grasswall ride horses because they're more common, easier to train and feed, and less likely to scare away the merchants and nomads that Grasswall depends on for supplies.

Here's where I'm keeping the stat blocks (there's no real organization here, and I'll most likely change some existing ones and add new ones as time goes on).

Black Plains stat blocks

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This sounds extremely cool, and I love the double-layered surprise of first siding with one traditionally "monstrous" race against another, and then optionally joining forces with a faction of that second group against an even-worse/degenerate splinter faction - the latter especially is a lovely "choose the lesser of two evils, if you want" moment.

I'm not familiar with the ahool-blooded template you describe as being applied to Makani - do you know where I can find this, and can you tell me what its implications for his abilities/appearance are?

As far as the Avatar of Shub-Niggurath goes, it might be thematically consistent to with the idea of Shub-Niggurath as a fertility deity, and the presence of creatures you've dubbed the 'Stillborn of Shub-Niggurath,' to cast the avatar as a 'Newborn of Shub-Niggurath' - initially a Dark Young with mythic tiers applies and abilities focused on survivability, or perhaps the Invincible mythic simple template, that will mature at an advanced rate (days or weeks, however long it takes for the PCs to rally to confront it) into something with additional hit dice and mythic tiers. Focusing its abilities on survivability can make it a little less deadly than its overwhelming CR might suggest; the sort of fight the PCs can't win, it's too tough for that, but they can survive if they realise they're dealing with some blasphemously-empowered outer horror and run away (it's got Grab, so the retreat need not be one without a cost - being forced to abandon a party member, an animal companion, or a cohort in its tentacles will add some sting to the retreat, though you know better than I how this will go over with your players). The disadvantage here is that it turns a "clean" failure that ends the campaign with a TPK into one where the Avatar of Shub-Niggurath is still stomping around and casting a shadow over subsequent events.

In terms of treasure, the tables on CRB p. 399 suggest that over the course of a level the PCs will find treasure equal to roughly 1.33 times the increase in their permanent wealth - for the span of levels you've described and a party of four PCs, going from level 4 to level 7, depending on how far they are into level 4 at the start and how far they should be into level 7 at the end, I'd suggest a total amount of treasure awarded over the adventure between 93,000 and 108,000 gp value. Aim that roughly three-quarters of this total should represent an increase to their wealth, while one-quarter is lost in non-ideal items, consumables, or consumed wealth. If you've enthusiastic crafters in the party then that's probably going to skew these calculations.

Dear god, it's Karzoug! Aren't you dead?

I made up the ahool-blooded thing to give him a fly speed (he'll be encountered in his lair, which overlooks an underground chasm) and some helpful feats. Also because it's another nod to the "cryptid" creatures, as we've already got a mothman. The original ideas for this adventure are based off of drawings that I did, and Makani has batlike wings and facial features in those. I probably could have found something ingame that works, but this makeshift template gave him enough maneuverability and bonuses that I added a CR to the total and called it a day.

I don't expect there to be a follow-up adventure unless my players take partiularly well to this one and want more. One thing that I don't like about Pathfinder when mixing it with Lovecraft is that as players grow more powerful, their sense of agency, of being able to win and change that inevitable outcome, increases greatly. I like the idea of advancing the dark young over the course of days or weeks, but I'm concerned that it might overshadow the weight of the players' failure. Banding together with a band of survivors to take out the growing avatar of an Outer Goddess is very heroic, but not too Lovecraftian.

In any case, the PCs almost certainly take out Mother's Fang, Makani, and Oskenja before they get to Mozerah's cave. If they end up retreating from battle with Mozerah, it'll still take him some time to repeat his rituals and establish total control over the Twisted Claw tribe. In the case that the PCs slay his minions but retreat, Mozerah will visit the tribe himself to force them to submit- this gives the PCs a few days at the most to recoup and kill Mozerah before his war begins. Once the war has started, the gnoll horde will overrun the town of Kes relatively quickly- the hobgoblins of Grasswall are no longer at full strength to hold them back, and with no internal schism keeping them unorganized, the gnolls are the most powerful force in the region.

The humans who survive the attack will be brought to the gnoll village and slaughtered there en masse. That sort of thing is hard to miss- if the PCs are around, they'd be able to sneak in relatively easily as the killing begins. Mozerah would likely take a position near the edge of the village, not wanting to get caught in any battles between the now-frenzied gnolls. If the PCs could kill him then, while the towns would still be emptied, the ritual would be deprived of a primary caster and stopped for good.

More boss ideas, and the region begins to take real shape.

I'm going to add a small village called Andalee around Grasswall, destroyed by the gnolls. The leucrotta will stalk this area, as the gnolls can't keep it inside the fort.

As for the "boss" of the fortress itself, I'm leaning towards an idea that I particularly like.
Maiden Maelee: CE female shadow
Maiden Rien: CE advanced female poltergeist
Maiden Sarsa: CE female allip

These lovely ladies are the restless spirits of the founders of Andalee, three sisters who fell victim to the manipulations of unnatural creatures and turned into terrible, rejuvenating undead after their violent deaths. This is due to the natures of the sisters' deaths, and their research into dark forces after the town's founding.

The hobgoblins of Grasswall originally settled there not to protect the humans of Andalee and the surrounding region from outside threats, but from something that they discovered under the mountain itself. A tomb where these spirits are bound, local legends mostly forgotten- but still very real, and very deadly. The Maidens Three were unearthed again during the gnoll attack, and without the hobgoblins at full strength to make sure that they do not escape, they may soon leave their ancient resting place and wreak havoc on the living once more.

The three sisters had had nobody but each other their entire lives. For one reason or another, none chose to marry- they needed no other company. Rien, Sarsa, and Maelee made names for themselves as adventurers- the Maidens became a powerful force in the region. Powerful enough, they thought, to found their own home. And found it they did, naming it for their faraway home of Andalee. They attracted travelers to the town quickly, and they proved to be strong and fair rulers. At least for a time...

As mortals are wont to do, the sisters tired with the daily tasks of rule. More and more often, they would seclude themselves in their keep of Grasswall, and townspeople often caught glimpses of three heads of raven-black hair peeking over the battlements of the highest tower, looking up to the stars. The town still prospered, but eventually the sisters pried too far into the mysteries of the dark.

Maiden Maelee was the first to die. She was a priestess, and had great faith in Pharasma, but was ironically slain by an undead creature that she herself created from the soul of a friend she hoped to resurrect. The failed revival (the spell itself was learned from a book of unnatural origins, some say penned by Nyarlathotep himself) brought her friend back in a terrible form, and Maelee was drained of life by the creature. She rose as a hateful shadow. Her sisters could not bring themselves to destroy her, instead locking her away in the tomb upon which the castle had formed, using powerful magic to bind her there.

Maiden Rien was a scribe, oracle, and lover of books. She was the second to die- after her sister's death, she took nightly trips to the highest tower of the fortress, where she and Maelee used to stargaze and ponder the mysteries of the space between the stars. The townspeople had grown uneasy as their leaders became more reclusive, and this, combined with the two remaining sisters' own grief and sadness, attracted a creature known as a nightgaunt. The nightgaunt sensed a great and delicious mourning in Rien. It could not resist such a powerful emotion- it snatched Rien up and carried her high into the air, feeding on her fear and depression, before dropping her to her death when she managed to damage it with a spell. She was soon locked away with her sister by the most powerful of the three, Sarsa, in the same tomb that held Maelee.

Maiden Sarsa, alone in her keep. The most physically powerful and imposing of the group, Sarsa was a magus with (compared to her sisters) little interest in the occult. She was known for her prowess in battle as much as her beauty and wit. Her greatest passion was the ring of steel on steel and the feeling of a battle well fought. Twice she bound her sisters to the ancient tomb, and twice she despaired at the loss of her beloved siblings. Sarsa was left alone to rule her increasingly hostile town, but without the guidance of her family, she had little to live for. Sarsa was often heard ranting and speaking to unseen phantoms in her keep, and soon developed a reputation as quite the madwoman. One night, the townsfolk heard Sarsa's ramblings moving through town for the first time in months. Some heard her scream, while others reported only hearing the faintest whisper. Some even heard languages that had supposedly never touched mortal ears, and, according to the terrified citizens, never should again. Sarsa herself, after this nightmarish and mysterious travel through the streets of Andalee, was found the next morning. She was dead- hanged from a great statue of Maelee that stood guard near the Pharasmin temple.

The Maidens were not soon forgotten. The town of Andalee may have fallen into total chaos in their wake, in fact, if not for the arrival of the Pariahs. This legion of hobgoblins were driven by their desire to escape the tyranny of their general, and by the prophetic visions of their leader. This man, an aged seer named Oteh, led the Pariahs to Andalee and helped the scared townspeople recover in the aftermath of their leaders' deaths. The Pariahs, being the only force in the region capable of holding both Grasswall and the town, assumed control over both. The people of Andalee persevered as they always have, and over the generations, the Maidens Three became a legend- a story told to keep children inside after dark.

The people of Andalee, sadly, will tell no more tales. The Twisted Claws ravaged the town and slaughtered almost all of the citizens before turning to Grasswall and taking the keep as well. The hobgoblins of Grasswall killed enough of the gnolls during their defense of the town and the fort that the nearby villages were not wiped out as well, but this will not last forever. The Maidens have stirred in their restless slumber, and test the weakening bonds of their tomb. If the door to their crypt is not anointed with the proper mixture of holy water, magical components, and the blood of several rare creatures, the magic will fail and the Maidens will be free to spread their corruption and madness for the first time in centuries.

Wow, this was a long post. I greatly enjoy the storytelling aspect of this module, but I'm not sure if this will work out as a final encounter. What do y'all think? Any plot holes that I should cover up? Any help will be appreciated.

Almost forgot to mention: The three sisters will be fought together in a chamber outside their tomb, having escaped shortly before the PCs arrive. They each have a unique Rejuvenation ability that ties them to the tomb. If destroyed, they "respawn" in 24 hours at the altar in there. The door to the tomb can produce a dimensional lock effect combined with a wall of force that encloses the entire chamber, stopping any incorporeal shenanigans. This is part of the original tomb's design- the maidens simply made use of it to lock the undead away.

If the doors are not anointed with holy water, blood of a creature of a CR of at least 5, and rare herbs native to the region, the magic fails. This process must be carried out every two months. This is why the hobgoblins of Grasswall are so cooperative and willing to trade. Their true imperative is more important than any other task laid before them.

The PCs can produce holy water and blood quite easily, but finding the herbs will likely drive some side quests in the region. This ritual countdown imposes a sense of urgency in the PCs (although the sisters will probably always escape just before they arrive) that should give them some drive to liberate Grasswall before moving on to the gnolls.

Maiden Maelee - CR 3
female variant shadow
CE medium undead
Init +4
Senses see in darkness, perception +7

AC 18 (+3 deflection, +1 dodge, +4 dex), touch 18, flat-footed 13
hp 27
Fort +4 Ref +5 Will +3
Defensive Abilities channel resistance +2, incorporeal, rejuvenation Immune undead traits
Weaknesses ancient devotion

Speed fly 40 ft. (good)
Melee incorporeal touch +6 (1d6 strength damage)
Special Attacks create spawn

DEX 18 (+4) INT 10 (+0) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 16 (+3)
Base Atk +2 CMB +6 CMD 19
Feats Dodge, Flyby Attack
Skills perception +7, fly +14, knowledge (religion) +6, stealth +10 (+14 in dim light, +6 in bright light)
Languages Common

Ancient Devotion (Ex)
While she is a twisted undead creature now, remnants of Maelee’s devotion to Pharasma and hatred of undead still remain. If a mirror or a holy item connected to Pharasma’s faith is presented to her (a standard action), Maelee must make a DC 16 will save or become shaken for 1 round. This bypasses an undead’s normal immunity to fear.

Rejuvenation (Su)
If destroyed, Maelee returns to unlife 24 hours later on the altar in her tomb. She can be permanently put to rest if the altar is consecrated in a service dedicated to Pharasma in a process taking 2 hours and requiring 200 gp worth of incense and a DC 20 knowledge (religion) check. A worshiper of Pharasma gains a +4 bonus on the knowledge check.

Maiden Rien - CR 3
advanced female variant poltergeist
CE medium undead
Init +3
Senses see in darkness, perception +9

AC 18 (+3 dex, +5 deflection), touch 18, flat-footed 15
hp 27
Fort +4 Ref +4 Will +5
Defensive Abilities incorporeal, natural invisibility, rejuvenation Immune undead traits
Weaknesses dark visions

Speed fly 20 ft. (perfect)
Ranged thrown object +8 (base damage+3)
Special Attacks frightener, telekinesis (DC 16)

DEX 17 (+3) INT 9 (-1) WIS 16 (+3) CHA 16 (+3)
Base Atk +2 CMB +5 CMD 18
Feats Ability Focus (frightener), Ability Focus (telekinesis)
Skills fly +17, perception +9, stealth +9

Frightener (Su)
As normal poltergeist ability.

Telekinesis (Su)
Rien adds her charisma bonus to ranged attack and damage rolls made with this ability.

Dark Visions (Su)
In life, Rien suffered from nightly visions of dark things and monstrous creatures. With a successful DC 20 knowledge (dungeoneering) check and a full round spent reading aloud from Rien’s dream journal, a creature can induce a vision that incapacitates the poltergeist for 1 round (treat her as being dazed) if she fails a DC 18 will save. During this time, She becomes visible as a black-haired, beautiful woman with wide, pale eyes and a broken body. She remains incorporeal but loses her invisibility.

Rejuvenation (Su)
If destroyed, Rien returns to unlife after 24 hours on the altar in her tomb. She can only be permanently destroyed if her dream journal is burned and the ashes are scattered from the highest tower of Grasswall.

Maiden Sarsa - CR 3
female variant allip
CE medium undead
Init +7
Senses see in darkness, perception +7
Aura chant (60 ft., DC 17)

AC 16 (+3 dex, +3 deflection), touch 16, flat-footed 13
hp 35
Fort +4 Ref +4 Will +4
Defensive Abilities channel resistance +2, incorporeal, rejuvenation Immune undead traits
Weaknesses protective

Speed fly 30 ft. (perfect)
Melee incorporeal touch +6 (1d4 wisdom damage)
Special Attacks babble, touch of insanity

DEX 16 (+3) INT 11 (+0) WIS 11 (+0) CHA 16 (+3)
Base Atk +3 CMB +6 CMD 19
Feats Improved Initiative, Ability Focus (babble)
Skills fly +15, perception +7, stealth +10, intimidate +10
SQ madness

Chant (Su)
Sarsa constantly chants war cries and oaths against her enemies. This works as the normal allip “babble” ability, except it causes creatures to become shaken rather than fascinated and is not ended if the creature is attacked by Sarsa. Each time a creature hits Sarsa with a melee attack, it receives another save against this effect.

Protective (Ex)
Sarsa is still strongly protective of her sisters. If a creature deals more than 7 damage to either of them on its turn, Sarsa must make a DC 17 will save or target that creature with her attacks to the best of her ability on her next turn, even moving through threatened spaces and provoking attacks of opportunity to get to the attacker.

Rejuvenation (Su)
If destroyed, Sarsa returns to unlife on the altar in her tomb after 24 hours. She can only be permanently put to rest if her sisters are first released from their undead existence.

WOWIE! I really liked designing these three. You might notice that the sisters' ability scores are higher in some places than normal- I balanced this by adding a unique weakness to each one that also fits with their backstories. Do y'all think they're too strong or weak? Any ways I could make the encounter more interesting? Feedback will be appreciated.

Am I right in thinking that Rien's dream journal will be found in the tomb or in the general vicinity of where the PCs fight the Maidens Three?

You know your PCs better than I, but I feel as though, whether or not they pick up on the significance of the dream journal, the "scatter the ashes from Grasswall's highest tower" part of the requirements of prevening Rien's rejuvenation seems specific enough that it might not occur to most groups. Likewise, the 200 gp of incense required for the ritual to suppress Maelee's rejuvenation seems like a pretty specific component that PCs are unlikely to be carrying around without a particular purpose. Do you have a preferred method of guiding your PCs toward these particular details?

Other than that, I really like the trio - there's a wonderfully tragic angle to Sarsa especially, in the fact that, compared to the other two who require somewhat convoluted methods to suppress their rejuvenation, all she wants and needs is for her sisters to be laid to rest.

The dream journal, and two of the components (holy water and black lotus) to the tomb-sealing ritual are in possession of the gnoll warpriest who led the attack on Grasswall. Her journal will provide much of the backstory I listed. Since Rien was the most knowledgeable of cosmic magic and arcane rituals of the three (and experienced Maelee's death and subsequent imprisonment), the book will have information that the PCs can use in their exploration of the tomb and their attempts to put the sisters down for good.

As for the complexity of the methods to put Rien and Maelee to rest... Yeah. You're right. Putting the sisters to rest, either way, is an optional step. The PCs could just as easily go through with the sealing ritual and lock the sisters away for another few months, and the hobgoblins can do the rest of the job (they repeat the ritual every 2 months). I'll try to think of some ways to add clues as to how to free the sisters. The hobgoblins have surely encountered the sisters at least once before in the past (or have knowledge of them that was passed down), and they'll be able to give some advice.

I think I'll remove the incense from Maelee's ritual. I don't need to tack on a gp cost to the process. I can always change the methods entirely to be more clear to PCs.

After a long, long hiatus (I blame high school- finals are a [REDACTED] to deal with- I have started writing Black Plains as a module rather than just a random collection of monster stat blocks. Check it out if y'all want (Does this method of sharing actually allow folks to see the doc? I'm not experienced with this sort of thing.

Black Plains

I'll be working on this over the summer as well. Any comments are welcome- whether it's something you particularly like, dislike, or have a suggestion about. If y'all take the time to read through what I currently have and leave some constructive criticism, my players will appreciate it later when I don't accidentally TPK them or bore them to death.

Also, for those of you who have already read the thread so far, be aware that I've changed some elements. This is a major WIP!

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