The next location featured is the desert village of Dunesend, which is an evocative name. It’s not much more than a ruined hamlet, built on the rubble of an ancient dwarven outpost. It’s got a stone watchtower, running water, a halfling baker, everything a community needs. Trouble is it also has a local mob problem in the shape of ‘the Warden’, a gnoll demonic scourge who breaks legs on behalf of Queen Shephatiah. She rules this territory, and is going to come between the party and victory in the lost mine later on.
I really like Dunesend. It’s not massively detailed, there’s not enough of it for that. The place has it’s own atmosphere though. Maybe it’s the climate, we’re not talking about the usual stockaded medieval village out of Robin Hood. This is dry, desperate and a bit more exotic than that. For instance, the wall is designed to look like a miles-long serpent laying in the sand. There’s even a nice map of the village that you could get repeat use from.
It’s the situation that matters here though, not the sights. The Warden is in town to collect tribute, which gives the party a chance to loosen up their combat skills. This is potentially an interesting encounter, there’s a decent monster mix that includes a behir, they’re always fun. There’s the warden himself who should provide villainous dialogue for the DM. For some reason the text mentions the arrival of banshrae, but I can’t see any other info for that? Strange. Don’t forget, failure in the preceding skill challenge increases the opponent count here.
Post battle and there’s a chance for the party to make friends and influence people in Dunesend. it’s also a chance for the DM to info dump on the players. This will set the story for the rest of the adventure. The new mission for the party is to put a stop to the desert marauders, including their boss Queen Shephatiah. Luckily, this new quest intersects quite nicely with finding the lost mine.
The journey across the desert is interrupted by a howling hag and some shifter brigands. This is a chance for the party to go wild with their dailies. These travelling encounters rarely turn into anything more substantial than a one off fight, and this is no exception. The authors have done their best to include terrain as a feature, which is not easy in a desert.
Next: Fortress Ironfell