The Mountainroot Temple
And we start with a twist. There are two competing factions within the temple and the party will have to deal with both. The General has a full squad of lackeys on hand as you’d expect. The new arrivals are a cadre of fey who are looking for an ancient tome of power. These guys will feature in future instalments, but they’re fully integrated into this adventure, they’re not just an afterthought. The best way of finding out what they’re all about is to interrogate them, and sure enough there’s a big side bar that let’s you do just that. FYI, the gith forces are well worth questioning too. Unfortunately the backstory doesn’t come out in play any other way.
There’s no way out of the temple once entered unless the place is ‘solved’ no there’s no getting round the fact that this temple has to be cleared and cleared properly. Also the party are on a deadline. I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s a victory point system used later in the scenario, and time taken is a big factor in that. I’m not sure if the party would be particularly aware of this factor, so it’s worth egging them on once they get into this part of the story.
A quick aside, in the ‘dungeon features’ section, the author makes note that all the doors have the hinges on the inside of the rooms. That made me chuckle. That’s exactly the sort of thing my players ask all the time yet published adventures rarely tell you things like this. It’s a good insight.
I’ve got to mention the maps again. They are really very good, beautiful even. The encounters are good enough that you’ll want these maps to be represented on your table as best as they can be. Be warned, Dungeon Tiles won’t be up to the job. There are multiple levels, some big open spaces and lots of interesting nooks and crannies to explore. I’m even tempted to try to work some of these up in 3D terrain just for one offs, they’re that inspiring. I’d love to hear how other groups approached this temple. How did you represent the encounters?
The first chamber is relatively straightforward. Here the party meet the fey rearguard, though 2 of them are dwarves, which doesn’t immediately scream fey to me. These fellows are slystone ruffians, hammer wielding fey cousins to gnomes. They are fully statted out in the appendix. The tactics section mentions a power called raging stone, but I can’t see it in the stat block? I like them, but they’re not really dwarves, they don’t even speak dwarven. Given that I’m certain DMs everywhere will be using dwarf minis, I think the subtlety will be lost on most groups (the lore checks use the arcane skill). They are paired with harpies for this encounter, and it’s a pretty standard fight. As I’ve said, hopefully there will be prisoners to question to get the most out of the plot. Of real interest here are the other portals which lead to, well, wherever you like. The PCs can’t go through the portals (yet) but they can look through them. Reminds me of the classic Queen of the Demonweb Pits where doorways took you to some truly strange vistas. That’s probably just me though.
One exit from here takes you to the kitchens where there are quickling corpses to be found. This gives the dungeon a recent history and should give any party pause. During that pause it would be wise to check passive perceptions as there’s a secret door that leads to the vault and an encounter therein. Should that be found there’s a cool fight with more fey, harpies and quicklings in an environment that really favours the defenders. Don’t forget, there’s 3 treasure parcels available here, so miss out and your party will be behind on loot. Another easy miss are the underchambers. They don’t appear on the main map as they are under the main hall, but they are accessed through the kitchens. It’s a crazy encounter (it’s got marching hammers which very much appeals to the Pink Floyd fan in me) but well worth running.
The grand cathedral stands at the centre of the temple and it’s a very big encounter in more ways than one. It merits 4 pages of tactical encounter and it needs it too. It’s split over 3 levels and is about 220 feet long by 120 feet wide. Controllers? go mad. The foe comes in two waves, fey first, then the General’s forces which include a two headed troll and his spitting cousins. Once the trolls arrive, the fey split their attacks between them and the party. So we get a three way fight, not a simple proposition even for experienced DMs. There’s a helpful side bar provided, which if heeded, will make this a truly memorable encounter. It mentions using average values for damage, but they haven’t made it into the stat blocks. It’s well worth working these out for yourself in advance.
Things get tougher over to the east where there’s a level 13 encounter waiting. This area got the worst of the earthquake that brought the temple to ruin in ages past. Again, this is a mapper’s nightmare, but a well prepared DMs dream. This is the home camp of the fey, and they’re here in force. Banshrae, cyclops, slystone dwarfs, hag, it’s a fey carnival of carnage, with the potential to bring the roof down, literally. There’s interest in the tactics section too as the initial defenders make a fighting withdrawal, bringing the party onto the teeth of the second line. This is a very, very tough fight, but the party will need to do well here as it’s a safe haven to rest, and believe me when I say they’ll need it before going further. Also, the tome of power is held here, and it’s another one of those ‘all will be revealed in future instalments’ items. Hmmm.
Deeper into the temple towards the final encounter in the reliquary. This is where the map will either delight you or make you want to tear your hair out. It delighted me. It’s multi level, but with the upper level having a transparent floor. That’s right. It sounds bizarre (well it is bizarre) but it’s all reasoned out in the story of the chamber. This was a kind of museum for worshippers to visit to see the artefacts and items collected by the temple. It was also the portal to the astral sea, which can still be seen but not travelled through. General Zithiruun has made his camp here, and is busy torturing the temple’s last remaining caretaker to try to control the portals. As the party enter, they’ll get a glimpse of the general before he moves away. It’s a simple scene but it’s a vital one. Again, this is foreshadowing, and it means that the later true encounter with the villain won’t be starting from cold. (There’s a very interesting observation in DMG II about the difference between RPG villains and those in comic books, and this scene makes all the more sense from a design perspective if you’ve read that).
The scene is pretty complex and rewards careful reading. There are loads of those Now Read This boxes to help the players senses, but to be honest they’ll probably be busy fighting off the bad guys first. And what a collection they are. There are 5 different types of monster here, including trolls, and they have the guardian of the temple on their side in the shape of an eidolon. Luckily the sheer size of the encounter area makes it unlikely that the party will have to deal with them all in one go. A couple of bull rushes or poor rolls could easily change that though.
The combat dealt with, the party can find the Caretaker who’s probably not what or who they would have expected. This should be a high point in the story, if not the action, and DMs should use this to tee up the rest of the adventure. This scene looks good on the page I must say. I’d be tempted to use this to start a session rather than end one. The information in it and the emotional content want to drive the game on yet it doesn’t really work as a cliffhanger. Either way it’s a sweet end to the dungeon section of the scenario.