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A 10th level adventure by Jesse Brake & Crosshead
In recent decades, bandit outlanders roam with no master nor cause in the Outlands, wreaking havoc for merchants and men-of-arms alike. It wasn’t always like this, but it’s been nearly a century since the last bandit king, Oman “Mauler” Mansenes, was carried off the battlefield by his army of highwaymen. History says that Mauler Mansenes was an imposing and charismatic leader, a master of both martial combat and dirty tricks. He gave himself the sigil of a lion to serve as a double entendre, representing ferociousness and guile (as he was a lion on the battlefield...and lying about his feats at the feast afterwards).
While traveling, the adventurers hear cries for help from the nearby woods. It is soon discovered that the embattled group is a local territory lord’s hunting party whose game warden led them into a nest of phase spiders. After negotiating a rescue, the party heads into the cave, discovering the secret entrance to the Mauler’s Tomb.
While the phase spiders are able to ethereal jaunt to within the tomb, the adventurers will need to solve the entrance ritual- while dealing with the tomb’s initial guardians and an agitated swarm of phase spiders.
After they have made their way inside the Mauler’s tomb, the adventurers can choose to sell the location of the Mauler’s tomb (effectively ending the adventure) or undergo the selection process themselves to claim the fabled Mauler’s Masque and the benefits that come with it. If they choose to undergo selection, they must deal with the necromantic guardians of the tomb using guile and strength before entering the tomb of Oman Mansenes and defeating the final guardian- a huge phase spider matriarch!
PT.1 THE HUNTING PARTY
During the course of travel for the adventurers, feel free to read or paraphrase the following:
“You’re traveling along the Old Growth road, a section of forest overgrown and utterly black come the nighttime. Even if there was a moon tonight, the silvery rays would not penetrate the dense canopy of moss and vines above. The trees would become charcoal against a bluish sky, with the path underneath your feet the deepest brown with stones occasionally bleached by your torch.
As the party discusses looking for a campsite to wait for dawn or pressing on, the fearful screaming of several men followed by the baying and pained yelping of dogs cuts through the pressing conversation and oncoming darkness.”
Feel free to allow the player’s to make relevant Perception checks or utilize class features such as a Ranger’s Natural Explorer to find the terrified victims of a phase spider ambush, but any difficulty in locating them is meant to be minimal. Upon reaching the site of the attack, the adventuring party discovers a hunting party that has been waylaid by unknown assailants.
The only conscious member of the hunting party is a shield dwarf named Gori Scarheel. Scarheel wears the attire of a game warden, covered in blood across his face and thick arms and currently in shock. He is around 3’9, 133 years old, fit with a massive black beard now shiny with sick, kneeling over the body of one of the hunting dogs currently dying, steam escaping it’s mouth and wounds into the night air.
Scarheel’s shock is taking the form of mild catatonia, making his responses slow and single words unless snapped out of the state with a lesser restoration spell. Additionally, healing the young lord (see below) or a successful Wisdom (Insight or Medicine) skill check of 20 will help him out of the state. Insight helps the adventurer find the words to bring Scarheel back, while the latter helps them remember plants in a herbalism kit that can relax Scarheel enough to communicate.
Along with Scarheel, two humans lie on the ground, one a boy of no more than 15 dressed in the unmistakable garb of nobility while the other is an older well groomed servant. Blood is soaking into their clothes from unseen injuries. If the clothing is lifted or removed, puncture wounds are found that a successful DC 15 Intelligence (Nature) check attributes to a large spider- yet the clothing was left intact. It requires a successful DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check to correctly identify the bite marks of a monstrosity known as a phase spider.
For nearly a decade, he roared across the Outlands with his signature helm in the guise of a lion’s death head skull until one battle, an equally vainglorious rival’s blade found purchase in his back. The Mauler’s body was entombed and hidden from those that would parade his corpse for political gains. Legend says that his underground tomb is marked by a carved stone entrance of a massive lion’s head, decorated with skulls from the family of the rival that slew him (some versions also say they were forced to construct the tomb before execution). Within the tomb is the Mauler’s Masque, the symbol of the Bandit King’s successor and what is needed for the scattered tribes of outlanders and highwaymen to heed the lion’s roar once more.
They are barely alive from the poison, needing stabilization to avoid bleeding out. If healed, the young lord and servant pass out into restful sleep and the game warden snaps out of his catatonia upon the sight of magical healing.
Scarheel describes “spiders not tethered to the earth nor trees nor sight itself” that killed the dogs and injured the young lord and his servant. They were tracking a dire wolf when set upon by the spiders. He has been bit as well, but his race’s resistance to poison means he is doing fine in comparison to the other party members.
In desperation, he pleads with the adventurers to help find and destroy the spider’s nest, promising them a favored contact in the territory lord’s court for doing so. Proof of their destruction is the only way he can return with the young lord in this state and not suffer consequences.
Feel free to award the party XP for utilizing skills and role-playing during this portion up to an equal value of an easy encounter (2,400xp).