Well the 8th XDMC is all finished. I scored an average 32 which put me square in the middle of all the entries. I got some really good feedback from the judges. Here is my plotline (which turned out to be a bit more like an adventure really, but whatever...
The War of the Twin Stone Gods
Adventure for 4-5 Characters of level 8-9
Submitted for the 8th Expert Dungeon Master Competition by:
Following the death of the goddess of magic, Mystra, the world was sent into total disarray. The Spellplague wracked disaster on the land; mages lost control of the wizardly powers and the planes went into chaos. But the problems spread further than some even realized to an unexpected place: a pair of eidolons, servants of the goddess, now gone rogue. After a hundred years, a war, a truce, and a settlement, the abaci of magic were stolen from the scales of power and the war was left to wage on yet again, but now with greater forces and even higher stakes. The fate of a city lies in the hands of the outsiders.
The War of the Twin Stone Gods is designed to take up several game sessions, but otherwise simply consists of a single adventure. It is meant to advance the players along their quest as part of another larger campaign arc. It is designed to fit several different types of play styles, specifically, this adventure plotline is designed to test not only the ability of the players to think critically in a battle setting, but also to use their skills at gathering information to both experience a robust adventure brimming with history and intrigue, but also to show them that gathering information can mean the difference between the destruction of a city or the peaceful coexistence of two rival clans. Fighting is not the only way, but it is still the main aspect of a Dungeons and Dragons adventure, to that end, if the players choose to fight, they can play out the end to a war.
It isn’t necessary for the players to talk to everyone in town to get the information they need, but within this town, there is a possibility that anyone you meet could be someone vital to fulfilling your mission. To this end, I have included a number of different skill challenges for gathering information among the people. Each of these skill challenges works something like a murder mystery puzzle. The players will be able to gather information from anybody they meet in town.
On a very rare chance it is possible to meet the person who is at the center of one of the major plot hooks. On the side of the city belonging to House Vern it is possible to meet Maria, the wife of Kanan Harper or her acquaintances.
On the side of the city belonging to the House of Dorn, it is possible that the players will meet Sirrel the Farstrider, the Eladrin Ranger who is the scout for the war party that is assembling on the edge of the Feywild, ready to strike at a moments notice should the fruit of life fall into danger.
The Two Relevant Tables are shown Below:
On the Street Encounters on the Side of Vern
01 The Leader of House Vern
02-05 An elite warrior of House Vern
05-10 A high ranked member of House Vern displaying the house mark.
11-20 A mid ranked member of House Vern displaying the house mark.
21-30 A mid ranked member of House Vern not displaying the house mark.
31-40 A low ranked member of House Vern not displaying the mark
41-60 Non involved citizen of Kal ‘ca Val
61-70 A low ranked member of House Dorn.
71-80 A mid ranked recruiter of House Dorn.
81-90 An acquaintance of Kanan Harper
91-95 A friend to Kanan Harper’s wife.
96-99 The wife of Kanan Harper
100 Kanan Harper’s long time friend and ally.
On the Street Encounters on the Side of Dorn:
01 The Leader of House Dorn
02-05 An elite warrior of House Dorn
05-10 A high ranked member of House Dorn displaying the house mark.
11-20 A mid ranked member of House Dorn displaying the house mark.
21-30 A mid ranked member of House Dorn not displaying the house mark.
31-40 A low ranked member of House Dorn not displaying the mark.
41-60 Non involved citizen of Kal ‘ca Val
61-70 A low ranked member of House Vern.
71-80 A mid ranked recruiter of House Dorn.
81-90 An acquaintance of Sirrel the Farstrider.
91-95 A friend of Sirrel the Farstrider.
96-99 A friend of Sirrel the Farstrider who knows his true intentions.
100 Sirrel the Farstrider
How you get the information:
The information is gathered by talking to the people on the street. The higher ranked the individual is within the house, the more information that person has regarding the mission that the players are on; however, on the same note, the higher ranked within the house the individual is, the harder important information is to get out of them. It’s up to the DM on how they wish to go about doing these skill checks and what DC’s they want to assign. Any encounter with an elite warrior or an encounter with the house leader should be adjudicated as a skill challenge in itself. If the players succeed they are able to discern the information they need.
Likewise, the higher the acquaintance level for those that know of Kanan Harper and Sirrel the Farstrider, the more that person knows as well. Likewise, skill challenges should be used when dealing with either of them as well.
Knowledge is divided into two categories, public and secret. Secret is only accessible to members high ranked within the houses, or very well acquainted with the two prominent NPC’s within the city.
The Info to be Gathered:
[ Known by anyone in town]
When the goddess perished, in the time of her passing, two of her most loyal servants, Vern and Dorn two eidolons who had faithfully guarded one of her temples for centuries, both found themselves abandoned by their master in an instant. With her gone, they both felt that they were ripe to take her place. They began a feud that has now raged for a hundred years; over these years, both sides have developed masses of followers, people totally believing that these great stone lords were destined to become the new god of magic. At first the clans started a war, fighting over which one, Vern or Dorn, would become the true God of Magic; the battles were brutal and it tore apart the entire city; hundreds of people died on both sides, before a sort of truce was settled upon. The two rogue eidolons had a pair of magical abacuses forged that would measure the magical potential and physical might of both sides in order to see which eidolon could amass the greater amount of power.
[Known by anyone in town, Information regarding the Eladrin in the forest is only available to acquaintances of Sirrel the Farstrider and is therefore considered secret]
The City of Kal ‘ca Val lies on both sides of a great valley surrounded by beautiful forests. The temple of the goddess of magic sits within the valley between the two sides of Kal ‘ca Val. The valley runs from north to south. The eastern side of the valley represents the House of Vern; the western side, the House of Dorn. The temple lies at the top of the valley to the north at the top of a giant waterfall which sends water down the valley past the city.
The city itself looks something like a full moon split down the center. 8 Great stone bridges span the gap of the chasm and allow the citizenry to pass uninhibited from either side of the city in order to do business. Those who are not connected with either house live a relatively simple and peaceful life. They have few problems and are protected from the outside by the two eidolons, who, although not truly living up to the status of being gods, are very powerful and their presence in the city keeps any evil outsiders at bay. This has made the city something of a safe haven now that the war is over, but now that the abaci are missing, the people are growing panicked by the threat of total war destroying the city.
The two sides of the city are virtually mirrors of each other. Each side has its own jail, operated by each of the two houses. Each side has a court where they try criminals. Each side has a great marketplace where business is conducted on a daily basis and where a morning market each day sells the Pomegranates of Life to the members of the two houses. Nearly every fruit vendor sells them from their personal orchards. These trees also grow freely in the city streets, however these fruits are strictly limited to members of the house and are therefore forbidden to be picked or eaten by foreigners. Anyone who eats the fruit must either then join the house on the side it was picked or face a jail sentence.
The forest near the city holds more secrets than the townsfolk are aware of. Because of the protection granted to them by the power of the eidolon, the city has been protected for all of these years not only from evil outsiders, but from the Eladrin of the Feywild. The forest near the city has a strong connection to the Feywild and hundreds of years ago, the Eladrin built a city on the material plane where Kal ‘ca Val now stands. They planted the mystical fruit of life that now grows in the city. As time went by, the Eladrin went back to the Feywild and new inhabitants came to live in Kal ‘ca Val. The people were peaceful and they feared not for the secret of their precious fruit which they left there. But now, the peace is lifting and war may break out. The Eladrin fear the arrogance of Vern and Dorn and if need be they may make a move to reclaim their lost city.
[ Basic information is known by the citizenry, more advanced is only known by the members of the house, some information is only known to members of that house and is considered secret knowledge]
Each member of the two warring houses bears a tattoo of the goddess Mystra. The house of Vern bears a ring of eight stars. The House of Dorn bears a single seven pointed star. The tattoos are magically inlayed so that the Abaci know to include them in measuring the relative power of both sides. Vern and Dorn bear these marks painted on the stone of their bodies. Each of the two houses respects the laws of engagement regarding the peace that goes along with the treaty and merely strives to influence the balance through active recruiting. Because the city is divided by the valley, the only way to increase their numbers is by active recruiting. Heralds in each of the cities stand on crates and sing the praises of their chosen god to the people in order to influence the sides. Some of these heralds, the brave ones, will venture into the opposite side of town in order to recruit from the other house’s side of the city. These promoters are extremely well motivated and driven and are marked among the most charismatic and influential of the house; they are never killed, but are either imprisoned or quickly thrown out of the city.
[Known only by those acquainted extremely well with Kanan Harper]
Among the non warring members of the city, a beautiful woman of great moral character, the daughter of a great merchant, was betrothed to wed a prominent and rich man in the city, Kanan Harper. Kanan, in a past life was a thief who settled down to a live a life of simplicity after a long life of adventuring and stealing. Among thieves, Kanan is renowned for his honor which carries over to his normal life. He is an honorable man and a good husband, but when crossed his temper and ability to hold a grudge are without compare. On his wedding night, he discovered that his bride’s virtue had already been taken by the House of Vern. She bore Vern’s mark on her inner thigh. So enraged by her betrayal, Kanan left her in the night. His rage began to fester; he decided to take his revenge then and there. He went into the valley and infiltrated the temple of Mystra and stole the abaci from the scales of power.
[Known to nobody but Kanan himself, he will tell the players if they find him]
After having already stolen the abaci, Kanan decided that this was as good a time as any to “investigate” the rest of the temple’s riches. Within the temple, Kanan found a portal to Mystra’s home dimension of Dweomerheart; however, with the death of Mystra, the portal’s magical powers shifted and opened up a portal to the plane of elemental chaos. Kanan, unaware of the portal’s magic, slipped accidentally into the portal and found himself stranded on an island in the elemental chaos.
There is a seemingly endless amount of ways that the characters could end up in this city and find themselves in the middle of the feud. Here are some of them…
The Recruiter in a far land: A recruiter from the House of Vern or the House of Dorn has gone into a far off country in order to bring new power to play in order to shift the balance from the outside. The adventures meet the recruiter who brings them to Kal ‘ca Val in order to join one of the houses. If the players decide to join, they may be forced to fight in order to bring down the rival house.
The Scared Citizen: A citizen of Kal ‘ca Val has traveled a long way in order to bring someone back who can stop the war, someone who hasn’t been influenced by the sway of the two rogue eidolons.
Whispers of the abandoned temple of Mystra: The players are sitting around drinking and eating at a tavern when they overhear a group of thieves talking about a temple of Mystra which has been left untouched since the Spellplague. They talked in hushed tones about the myriad of magical treasures which might be found if they were to travel there and raid it. They may or may not be carrying a map that leads the players directly to the city of Kal ‘ca Val.
Talk of the thief who has gone missing: The players have heard that the legendary thief Kanan Harper has gone missing. His last known whereabouts and the location of his vast fortune await in the distant city of Kal ‘ca Val. The news however that his fortune was left to his wife does not reach the ears of the players and should they decide to take it by force, the house of Vern will be waiting.
The Fruit of Life: The players are asked to go to a legendary far off city that is ruled over by gods that walk among the people and where a woman sells fruit from a tree which belongs to the gods. They players are asked to go retrieve one of these pomegranates which has the power to cure any disease, mystical or mundane. It also has the power to prolong one’s life by a short time should one be wounded to the point of death.
The Eladrin are on the Warpath: The players have heard that an army of Eladrin is massing in the Feywild and they are going to attack a city in the middle of the forest. The players must get to the city to warn them of their plight, but when they get there, will anyone care?
The Great Red Bird: A giant bird, the color of blood has been terrorizing a small village on the other side of the forest from Kal ‘ca Val. It has been picking up cattle from the farms and taking it off in the direction of Kal ‘ca Val. The villagers have taken it as a sign that something terrible is happening within the nearby city and they are asking the players to go there and investigate it.
Depending on what hook you use to get the players to come to the city, the encounters they face will probably change. Some of them may be mitigated depending on what path the player’s decide to take within the course of this war. There are other encounters that the players will absolutely fight in based on which of the adventure paths they choose. Here are a few of them laid out below.
If the players decide to join a side and do battle against the rival house in the war, the players will team up with one of the eidolons to fight against the other.
Doing battle with the head of the house.
Before all out war begins, the players will challenge a group of NPC’s from the rival house as they are sent in to destroy the enemies eidolon. Each of the NPC’s is level 8 and has standard equipment for a character of his level. It is up to the DM to decide what this party of house elites should be composed of based on the composition of the players in the party.
In addition, inside each of the houses, the players will confront the opposing side’s house head. The head of the household is a level 11 NPC who will fight the players in front of the Eidolon’s throne room. He alone has access to the throne room. He is accompanied by the houses secret weapon. Each house possesses a beast that they keep in hiding behind a secret door within the antechamber to the throne room. When the fight starts, the large beast enters play. The players must defeat the head of the house and the secret weapon before entering the eidolon’s chamber.
When the players finally enter his throne room, they find that he has already left in order to make a surprise attack on the opposite house.
The final battle on the bridges of Kal ‘ca Val.
Both Vern and Dorn follow the standard rules and template for the eidolon [MM 4th Page 101]. They are each level 13 controllers, but they favor a party of human followers rather than other creatures. Each of the houses has at their disposal masses of human in each of their forms [MM 4th Page 162]. If the players decide to fight, the final battle will be between the combined armies of both houses and will rage over the bridges that extend across the valley. This presents a hazard to the characters because falling off one of these bridges means almost certain death.
The Eladrin attack.
If a battle begins to rage, the Eladrin may feel that the Fruit of Life is threatened and engage both sides once the battle commences. The Eladrin send out several war parties each consisting of 1 Eladrin Twilight Incanter and 4 Eladrin Fey Knights (Level 8 encounter). Some of these war parties will engage the eidolons, some will engage the humans, and some will engage the players. They also send in lone Fey Knights to retrieve as many of the trees and fruit as they can [MM 4th Page 102]
Retrieving the Abaci and stopping the war:
If the players decide that they will retrieve the Abaci and attempt to stop the war from going on, they must then travel up the valley as far as the temple in order to find it.
Beyond the edge of safety.
In choosing to travel up the valley to the temple, the players have journeyed beyond the point of safety that the Eidolon can provide and the senses of evil that have been waiting on the sidelines are now moving in closer. A wandering group of satyr with their pet owlbear is waiting for people to come up the ravine in order to follow after Kanan. They are laying in an ambush around a bend in the valley just inside a cave covered by trees. The ambushers consist of 1 owlbear, 3 satyr rakes and 1 satyr piper [standard encounter from MM 4th page 212].
The Bloody Colored Bird.
When the players reach the end of the valley, they are attacked by a red colored roc that has made its nest in the now empty temple of mystra. The roc’s nest occupies the entire roof of the Temple of Mystra and contains within it four roc eggs which the players can steal, if they get past the roc first. It also contains the corpse of Kanan’s horse, which the roc is saving to feed to its roc babies when they hatch. The horses saddlebags contain various items which pertain to Kanan and which the players can identify as being his. It also contains several magic scrolls and items which Kanan left with his horse before venturing into the temple. [220 of the MM4th edition]
The Temple of Mystra.
The Temple of Mystra is essentially a dungeon. There are many rooms which can be constructed at the discretion of the Dungeon Master running the adventure. Several elemental creatures have come through from the elemental chaos when Kanan used the portal. Creatures with elemental subtypes make good encounters for the dungeon, but as the fight with the roc is an advanced and difficult fight for the players, keep in mind not to throw too much at them unless they are given a chance to rest. Also, as the temple lies outside the boundaries of the area of safety, there may be other bestial and or evil inhabitants in the temple now that it has gone uninhabited for 100 years.
The scales stand just outside the entrance to the temple and once held the abaci. Now, the scales lie perfectly still and at an equal height.
The only room that must be present is the portal room; here, the players will find the two thrones on which the eidolons sat when they were protecting the portal of Mystra. The portal lies attached to the wall at the back of the chamber.
Saving Kanan in the Elemental Chaos.
When the players manage to use the portal of Mystra, they find themselves in a similar situation to Kanan, stranded in the Elemental Chaos. The portal however doesn’t close as quickly as they were led to believe. As soon as they step through the portal, they see Kanan and are able to talk to him. At this point, Kanan is attacked by a pair of firelashers [MM 4th Page 104] that have risen out of the lava surrounding the island on which the players are stranded. Kanan carries the abaci with him and the players must stop the Firelashers from killing him and destroying the abaci along with Kanan’s body.
Non-Path Specific Encounters:
Several of the encounters that the players could possibly face depending on the actions that they take while in the city are included here.
The House Guard
If the players break the law in town they will have a run in with the city guard. The guard is very quick to react to any threat or law breaking. If the players decide to fight them, the players can take refuge with the other house’s guards. The guards are a group of humans of various types. They will first attempt to mitigate peacefully with the players as they don’t particularly want to fight. They will ask the players to come before the council to adjudicate punishment. If the players fight back, the city guard comes out in force and will attempt to overwhelm the players.
The players will be thrown in jail if they do not flee to the other side of town. If the players are thrown in jail, they meet various members of the other house and have a chance to get good quality information out of them.
The Eladrin War Party in the Forest
If the players venture into the forest, on either side of town, they may encounter members of the Eladrin war party which is getting ready for battle.
If the players join the houses willingly and take a side, the players have access to various magical items that are used by the members of the house. These magic items are listed here.
Each of the houses has a special tattoo artist who is able to inscribe the tattoo of the house on the players. If the players join the house willingly they are able to receive the magical version of the symbol.
Mystra’s Strongheart Tattoo
This tattoo, either a ring of 8 stars, or a single seven pointed star, depending on the house, drives the bearer to fight on in the name of their Eidolon lord, in the name of the new god of magic.
Level 8 3400 GP
Property: When you spend a healing surge, you regain additional hit points equal to the number of healing surges you have spent since your last extended rest.
Original Concept from Adventurer’s Vault 2
In addition to the tattoo, the players can also requisition any battle standard below level 6 from the house’s armory. The battle standards work exactly as those listed in the various source books, with the exception that in addition to the marks of the particular standard, they bear the house colors and the mark of the house.
Battle Standard of the Honor of Vern / Dorn
This standard bears both the blood red markings as well as the mark of either House Vern, or House Dorn.
Level 2 0 GP
Property (Encounter – Zone): Standard action. When you plant the battle standard in your space or an adjacent square, it creates a zone of protective energy in a close burst 5 to all members of the house to which it belongs. Any marked member of the opposing house takes -2 penalty to damage rolls against any target other than the one that marked him.
The effect lasts until the end of the encounter or until it is removed from the ground. Any character in, or adjacent to a battle standard can remove it as a standard action.
Original concept from Adventurer’s Vault
Healing Standard of House Vern / Dorn
This battle standard bears two flags, the top small flag is white and bears marks of healing, but the larger lower flag bears the marks of the house to which it belongs..
Level 3 0 GP
Property (Encounter – Zone): Standard action. When you plant the battle standard in your space or an adjacent square, it creates a zone of healing energy in a close burst 5 to all members of the house to which it belongs. Whenever you, or a member of the house to which the standard belongs spend a healing surge, all members of the house within the zone gain 1 hit point.
The effect lasts until the end of the encounter or until it is removed from the ground. Any character in, or adjacent to a battle standard can remove it as a standard actionOriginal Concept from Adventurer’s Vault
Mighty Battle Standard of House Vern / Dorn
This standard bears martial runes surrounding the house chivalry.
Level 4 3400 GP
Property: (Encounter – Zone): Standard action. When you plant the battle standard in your space or an adjacent square, it creates a zone of energy in a close burst 5 to all members of the house to which it belongs. While within the zone, any member of the house gains
+1 power bonus to damage rolls.
The effect lasts until the end of the encounter or until it is removed from the ground. Any character in, or adjacent to a battle standard can remove it as a standard action.
Original Concept from Adventurer’s Vault
All the required elements are easily identifiable from the beginning, but I will restate them here:
A- Plotline Name: The War of the Twin Stone Gods
B- Name the number and level of the Players: 4-5 Level 8-9 characters.
C- Describe a plotline: All of what is detailed above J
As this adventure plotline revolves mostly around the players ability to gather information and the adventure will significantly change based on which of the adventure hooks is chosen, all but one of the optional elements (I hate riddles) have been included so that regardless of which path the players choose to take through the adventure, they will at least see three of them. The list of all elements is included below:
Two feuding houses: The houses of Vern and Dorn
A location within the Elemental Chaos: Accessible via the gate inside the temple of Mystra which formerly led to Dweomheart, but has now changed its opening after the Spellplague
A painted stone: The two Eidolons, Vern and Dorn, are both painted with the symbols of Mystra, they claim, by her own hands.
A pomegranate: The fruit of life which grows in town. The Eladrin will fight to protect it.
A roc: The giant red bird, taken as a sign of bad omen, which nests in the mountains at the entrance to Mystra’s temple.
A scar or tattoo: The tattoos worn by each of the members of House Vern and House Dorn which are drawn to perfectly mirror the symbols of Mystra painted on the two Eidolons.
A wedding: The wedding that took place before the adventurers arrive in Kal ‘ca Val which is one part of the process leading to Kanan Harper stealing the abaci.
An abacus: Two abaci that are used to measure the power of the forces of both Vern and Dorn.
An unfaithful spouse: Maria, the wife of Kanan who cheated on him with the church of Vern
This adventure can be run completely with just the use of the 3 core books. All items included from other sources have been written out in detail and the changes in appearance have been noted.