I first created this adventure back in 1986, as a discrete part of a longer cycle in which the characters involved were questing for several potent artifacts intended to aid them in defeating their world’s largest dragon. One of those items was hidden here, in this temple.
For purposes of exhuming this module, I’ve made a number of things generic (both for the sake of easy translation to your gaming world, and to avoid any possible AD&D copyright issues). Even the particular “sea gods” to whom this temple system is consecrated can be adapted to fit your specific mythos. In fact, you can adapt pretty much any part of this; it’s for you, after all. For you to enjoy and hopefully put to use.
If the player characters aren’t in pursuit of some massive relic (see above), then one fine reason to explore these halls is the usual mix of adventure seeking and treasure hunting. The bear went over the mountain, after all, and that OCD chicken keeps right on crossing the road. As a backup incentive structure, there’s always altruism. As you’ll see from the setting, the locals are beset by dangerous winged beasties, and it could be up to your particular band of heroes to free them from this (truly lethal) scourge.
A windy, treacherous tidal river. Dark, choppy water. Deep. Cold. Steep bordering cliffs, with multiple ravines and gorges forking off the main channel. What steadings there are bar their doors at night and keep a watch around the clock. Out of one of those ravines, often at dusk but not always, predatory bat-like creatures fly, and while you can fend off one or two, if they catch you in your boat or on the road, alone, and they come in a flock…
They’re not bats, say the locals. No, they swear it. They’re not bats. They’re something worse, and they don’t care for insects, no. Blood, that’s their diet––and they can bleed a man dry. Perhaps one of the local cattlemen will be kind enough to show you the cow he lost last week. Skin and bone, not much else.
It wasn’t always like this, say the locals in Shorewalk, the fishing village of record. These bloodwings, they’re a curse, a pox, some kind of pollution. Up that same ravine, right in the heart of the rock where these creatures have taken up to roost, there was once a temple. A temple the old folks’ hoariest forbears remember hearing tales of. It’s where the priests once went to calm the seas, bless the nets, and bleed for the safety of the village. It’s still in there, somewhere, say the old folk. But we don’t dare go in and see. Not any longer. Not any more.
HD 2, HPs 8, AC 5, Att 1, D 2 (Special: on a hit, they remain attached, draining 2-5 pts. of blood per round until killed). Move: standard. Special: flight, dark vision, infra-red vision, echo-location.
Could be any stray adventurers in the area won’t meet a single one of these fell creatures. It’s not like they come out every day. On the other hand, if bad luck comes your way…at the DM’s discretion, of course…
[Click on the Map for a full-sized version, suitable for framing.]
AREA ONE (The Entrance)
The tides all up and down this estuary (half ocean, half the Roaring River) are strong and swift. At a full moon especially, the bore shoves its way forward like a liquid avalanche running uphill. Thirty-foot tides are normal. Hard country, this. You learn to adapt. You have to.
Up Temple Ravine, as it’s called – by those who don’t instead call it the Cursed Ravine – the old mooring posts can still be found, great fingers of rock cut from the limestone walls of the ever-narrowing gorge. Water seeps from above, a dripping cascade that after a rain can become a deluge. Sure, you could walk here, maybe, down a steep trail, but if you do, and you get the tides wrong, and the water comes up…
Better to take a boat, say the locals. Hire a guide. She’ll take you. It’ll be fun. An adventure. You’ll feel the bore raise the boat under your feet, it’s like no other sensation on earth, it’s like flying…but she won’t wait around, neither she nor her helpers. (Let’s call her Suzahn: HD 2, HPs 8, AC 8, D 1-6 (short sword), 1-4 (throwing axe); her two mates, HD 1, HPs 4, AC 10, D 1-3 (knives)) Too risky. They’ll drop you off. When you’re ready to come out, light a lantern, hang it high. Signal…
At the narrowest point where the tide reaches highest, the sidewalls come together leaving a crack, a cave, a darkness to explore. There’s a twelve-foot drop right away, into a wide hole through which the water comes crashing. You can still find the remnants of where an ancient rope ladder was pegged to the rock, but it’s all but rotted away. No ladder now. Getting down that twelve-foot lip, not so easy. GMs might insist on a DEX check or something similar, for the water is crashing in behind you. That narrowing fissure of stone makes for startling waves, even in such a sheltered cove; they come barreling in just when you won’t want them, and whoosh! You’ve been washed into the cave (D 1-8).
Below, there’s a passage out, a rough cut through the limestone, but once, long ago, it was paved after a fashion. Half the bricks are missing and the footing is treacherous. Was it once a stair? The bricks were burnished to match the color of a fair-weather ocean, a kind of lustrous turquoise, but with so many gone, and the water flooding in behind you (in bursts with each fresh wave), and the slope (forty-five degrees easy), just traversing twenty feet is difficult (another DEX save might be in order, and even a roped-together party might fall, D 1-6). There’s algae here, salt-tolerant slicknesses of plant growth living in the twilight zone where cave meets latent, lingering daylight…
Then a wider, level place. And then down again, longer this time. A fall here and you won’t be able to stop yourself until you tumble over the 75’ sheer drop that leads to AREA TWO. Proceed! With Caution. D 3-10 plus 11-40 (the sheer drop: roll 1d4 for tens, roll 1d10 for ones). Lucky you, the pit lands you in water. If wearing armor, you’ll sink. CON check to avoid losing consciousness with the impact. Drowning typically occurs in less than one minute of unintentional submersion.
Of course, if you pay proper attention during the descent, you’ll find an elaborate ladder and catwalk system allowing for a creaking, swaying descent. Think of the world’s worst spiral stair, and you’ll be on the right track.
But ferrous metals don’t like salt, no, no. The supports might break, especially if more than 400 lbs. of curious adventurers set foot on it at one time. The catwalk might sway from side to side across the drop beneath, with one or more characters on it: a nightmare and primitive carnival ride. Best of all, it might fall as the last character descends, making a rapid retreat all that much more difficult later on, when you might need it.
Why is the catwalk system in such poor condition? Well, aside from corrosion, there haven’t been acolytes to maintain it in, oh, a century and a half. Time to call an injury malpractice lawyer…
Speleothems cascade down the walls and hang from the ceiling. A saltwater lake below, ever so dark. More frightening than it is dangerous. No monsters here, but there are fish aplenty, washed in on occasion by the waves, and one of these is a salmon of tremendous size, now blind and gone white, the sort of thing that, as it ripples the darksome waters, can frighten even a seasoned troop of adventurers. But it won’t harm you, no. Although it might butt up against you, just to see if you’re edible.
The water at its deepest is forty feet. At its southern end, ledges abound, eventually allowing for fairly easy walking (especially on the western and southern sides).
The crashing of the high-tide waves dropping from AREA ONE does provide for some aural gymnastics. Such volumes of spray and spume, all in darkness…
But you could at least light your way: there are holes bored in the walls to insert a brazier or a torch. Go for it. The dark is, after all, frightening…
Anyone truly intrepid (and able to dive) will find several skeletal corpses in the bottom of the fissure. The salty water has eaten away almost everything of value, but again, a truly determined treasure hunter (grave robber) might find some coins: 7 GP, 3 SP, 22 CP. If you’re lucky (GM’s discretion as to how to determine this) you might even find a pearl necklace valued at over 300 GP.
A natural rock bridge spans the trench of water, now narrow but still deep, seven feet. Easy passage from side to side, though there’s nothing much to see in the little cavern, low-ceilinged, to the north. However. To the south…
…that hole in the ceiling. Very dark up there. A bad stench. Guano and rot. A six-foot wide gap leading up into darkness. It’s about eight feet up, that hole… and even if you don’t go in, something might come out.
AREA FOUR (Lair of the Bloodwings)
HD 2, HPs 8, AC 5, Att 1, D 2 (Special: on a hit, they remain attached, draining 2-5 pts. of blood per round until killed). Move: standard. Special: flight, dark vision, infra-red vision, echo-location.
Both the lower and upper chambers are loaded with these creatures, mostly hanging from the roof by their clever, clawed toes. At least two hundred adults on hand at any given time. Young may be found in the upper chambers. Guano two feet deep piles the floor and masks the uneven rocks beneath. Striding through it (movement of any kind, really, especially the helter-skelter of combat) will stir up this noxious dust, with the following results:
Round one: annoyance, discomfort.
Round two: momentary blindness, -1 to attacks, +1 to AC , -1 to DEX checks
Round three: uncontrollable coughing and sneezing plus momentary blindness;
-2 to attacks, +2 to AC, -2 to DEX checks
Round four: uncontrollable choking; -3 to attacks, +3 to AC, -3 to DEX checks
Round five: inability to breathe, blindness. -5 to attacks, +5 to AC, -5 to DEX checks
Round six: ST vs. CON (or Poison) or collapse; all round five penalties still apply.
Round seven: ST at -2 or collapse. All round five penalties still apply.
Round eight: ST at -5 or collapse. All round five penalties still apply.
Round nine: Collapse, no ST; total asphyxiation commences.
Digging through the guano will reveal no treasure of any kind. What do you think you’re dealing with, magpies?
Note to GMs: Even if the player characters bypass AREA FOUR, don’t let them get away untested or unscathed. Unlike the creatures in AREA TEN, the bloodwings will bring the fight to the characters — guaranteed.
The right fork (east fork) in this end of the cavern is marked by glazed ceramics depicting a fish. They’re turquoise blue, a bit primitive in execution, but attractive enough, and they lead you like road markers, tacked as they are at regular intervals along the walls and in crevices, up and to the right…
This fork of the cavern ends in a sixty-foot pit that serves as the “outlet” for the caverns you’ve traversed so far. When the tidal bore fills the pool in AREAS TWO and THREE, the water eventually sloshes over the otherwise dry ledges that approach the pit and spill into it, forming a waterfall. Fish often tumble over as well, thinking this is the way out.
It isn’t. The bottom of the pit connects, via a long, ever widening tunnel, to the larger lake in AREA TEN.
The ceiling rises here, too: twenty feet up. Across from you and some ten feet higher than the ledge you stand on, there’s another opening (the passage to AREA ELEVEN, etc.). Hope you brought rope, or flying spells. And no, grappling hooks won’t find a purchase on the moist, humid limestone…
The remains of a second ladder-and-catwalk system can be found bolted to the rock (the bolts being rather primitive, but the term will serve), but it’s long since rusted to pieces. Should you plummet over the edge, you might find a few pieces sunken in the pool at the bottom of the pit!
If by some awful chance you fall into the pit, there’s water down there to break your fall. D: 11-40 (roll 1d4 for tens, roll 1d10 for ones).
AREA SIX (The Lair of the Behemoth Oyster)
Once, long ago, the oceans filled these caverns, and when they did, an oyster got washed in. It wasn’t very large, back then, but it found a refuge in this side cave, and as the currents washed in additional food, it grew. And grew. And grew. Until the waters receded, and the oyster died.
So this isn’t a lair, really. It’s an ex-lair. What’s left fills the cave — the shell, that is. The oyster itself has long since desiccated, and the slightest touch will turn it to dust (harmless, but foul to the taste and worse up the nose). Might be worth it, though. Inside the remains lurks the world’s largest pearl, a monstrosity fully eighteen inches across and a wonderful pearlescent blue.
Value? Incalculable. At least as an oddity. It’s not perfectly round. It’s a bit pocked. Imperfect, as the jewelers might say.
And in any event, how to get it out of the cavern? It’s wider than the entry passage in. The only way you got in is with magic. Wraithform or what have you. Perhaps that’s its ticket out?
It would be easy to miss this cave completely, but as a diversion, it can be great fun for an advanced, wealth-minded party (the kind that in later generations surely dreamed up hedge funds and tax shelters). Perhaps a peculiar smell emanating from the dead oyster might be an attractive bait, if vividly described by a nimble GM?
The shortest route here, leading east from the turnoff to AREA NINE, is marked with fired clay sea stars, each glazed honey yellow, and affixed to the cave walls as guideposts. The rest of this up-and-down maze is just that, a natural labyrinth that can easily bamboozle even a seasoned route-finder.
What did those long-dead priests of the sea do once they’d finished their duties and exhorted (or pacified) their gods? They threw parties and went swimming, that’s what. The two jumping-off points allowed for cliff diving. Stone hand- and footholds carved into the rock face allowed swimmers (fit ones, anyway) to climb back up and out.
Depth of the water just below the cliff: thirty feet plus, sloping steeply up to a rock-shingled shore.
The swimming here really is divine. The water leaks in through the ceiling, dripping and dropping and casting the eeriest of echoes. It’s fresh water, too — did I mention that?
So many sea-god parties were thrown here that human leavings of all sorts remain, most of it in the deep water, but some along the “shore” or tucked into the narrow uphill end of the cave, including (in total): six gold bracelets carved with wave motifs and images of a very toothy creature that looks like more lizard than fish, but clearly has fins (50 gp each), several pairs of very rotten sandals, even more rotten and decrepit tunics, trousers, undergarments, and even a ceremonial robe. The stitching on this matches the bracelets: what is that thing, anyway? Lots of rough-cut stone cups are easily found, along with a few jugs that likely held wine.
Beginning where the northerly cave turns hard right (due west), the walls have been propped and reinforced with timbers and brick-work. This continues all the way to AREA TEN, including along the broad, mosaic stairs. Fine inlay, this, with a redolent mix of colored tile, bits of broken pottery, and ceramic beach creatures like sea stars, sand dollars, crabs of all sorts, and the occasional sideways fish. Blues, turquoises, aquamarines: these colors dominate.
The ceiling here isn’t stable. Watch your step on the clumps and piles of fallen rubble. If for some reason you and yours do something both loud and dramatic, such as letting loose a fireball or fighting amongst yourselves, you’ll trigger a cave-in. Damage from this should be highly randomized: D 10-69 (d6 for tens, d10 for ones – crikey, this is like the New Math!).
Note the steady downward slope. Where’s this tunnel bound, anyway?
As the characters pass the final bend, the point at which the pitch becomes truly perilous (seventy degrees, like a ladder), they’ll set off a left-behind magical trap that begins with a voice posing this riddle:
Give me food, I’ll live. Give me water, I’ll die. Name me!
The answer, of course, is fire. (Enemy of water, get it?) If you fail to answer, a quantity of oil flows and dribbles through the cracks in the ceiling (it’s been stored there in ceramic bottles that are now being crushed from above. (This is audible and should be described, a squelching, crunching sound, diabolical partly because it’s a bit muted…)
Roughly, this dripping oil covers the hall from the mid-point of the fifty-degree section all the way to the bottom of the seventy-degree stair. To avoid a fall, ST vs. DEX at -5 per five lateral feet of stairs navigated. Once one person slips, everyone not tied to the walls or airborne is going down, and fast. D 3-12 pts., plus an additional 2-12 pts. for the sheer drop that follows at the bottom of the staircase / edge of the “balcony” in AREA TEN (a).
AREA TEN (a)
The staircase ends in a “balcony” no more than ten feet wide, overhanging a dark lake some 38’ below you. Don’t fall in! Note: there is no balcony railing or balustrade. It’s really just a platform, a ledge.
This lake is deep, deep, deep, and wide as wide can be. It extends under the cavern walls (as drawn) for a great distance, and takes in water from the pit in AREA FIVE when that initial reservoir overflows…which it does twice a day, at high tide. Guess what else the overflow provides? Fish. Never enough, though, to slake the hunger of the ancient creatures that call these waters home.
You see, this balcony is where temple priests used to come to fling treats for the beasts that live here (their version of a Sea World dolphin show). Only two of these terrors, lucky you, are adult and full-grown, so even if you fall in, you might have a chance of swimming across the lake to the stone beach at the southeastern edge. Might, I say. Maybe. Or maybe not.
What are these things? Fish-like, yes. Lizard-like, yes. Paddle-tailed, almost like a beaver. Two-headed, and heavy-jawed. Crocodilian snouts. Pasty green-white in coloration. Sightless eyes. Tendrils like a catfish sprouting from their lips, and also from farther back, near their gills. Sensitive, these tendrils. They’ll sense any disturbance in the water…
HD 12 HPs 85 AC 7 D 4-32 x2 (one attack per head)
HD 10 HPs 70 AC 7 D 4-32 x2 (one attack per head)
JUVENILES (DM’s discretion as to how many might appear)
HD 2 HPs 11 AC 10 D 1-6 x2 (one attack per head)
Note: GMs would be wise to discourage exploration of the connecting waterways that lead from AREA FIVE to here, but with the right spells, etc., the party could manage it — and who knows, perhaps they’ll want to? If they really go exploring, this cave system continues eastward for northeast for long distances, eventually “surfacing” in another cave, a cavern with a geyser vent at its bottom. You’ll feel the water temperature warming as you near it, and where the vent rises, a steady, sulfurous steam floats into the upper reaches of the cavern, where it escapes, ever so slowly, into tiny cracks and crevices that eventually lead to a mountainside vent high above the Roaring River. Input, output: now you know how this underground lake maintains its equilibrium.
AREA TEN (b)
A much shallower pool here. Safe for swimming? Uh-uh. A colony of massive sea anemones has made this their home. Pale white, dead-looking… but very much alive, and always ravenous. The water at the center is only about ten feet deep, and the anemones, clustered in a ring aiming downward and inward, are everywhere except right around the entrance. Six of the creatures lurk here (perhaps rippling the water to entice you)…
HD 4 HPs 20 AC 10
D: special. Each anemone has multiple attacks, 10 (or more!). Any hit requires a ST vs. Paralysis. Each multiple hit lowers the chance of a successful save, so if an anemone hits a character 6 times, the first ST is unmodified, but the second is at -1, the third at -2, and so on.
Special defense: if seriously threatened, the anemones will curl into themselves and present a thick outer skin, AC 5.
Don’t discount the possibility of drowning while paralyzed!
But there’s no treasure here. Just scraps of deceased fish…
A raised wall of mortared stones rings the center of this more or less circular cavern. The stones have been coated in shellac, or something like it; they glimmer in the glow of whatever light source you’ve brought. The pool within is also stone lined, so that it’s like a bowl, or perhaps the bottom half of a goblet, and these stones, not unlike a contemporary, real-world pool, have been colored pale blue. Very attractive, really. A good day for a swim?
The water within is crystal clear (but dark, of course). When you shine some light, it’ll look light blue. Some seventeen feet deep, this neatly finished pool allows access to a much rougher, much more rugged underwater passage nearly 150’ long, one that rises in a similar pool AREA TWELVE.
Can you hold your breath that long? Don’t think so. Pretty sure not. Nope. Very dangerous…
But maybe with spells…
Swimming up through the tunnel will deposit you in a beautifully finished, tiled basin (again, the convex bottom of a goblet shape). White tiles this time, pristine and smooth. A circular rim wall about two feet in height, perfect for resting on and gazing at the (dare I say it) placid waters.
What’s that lumpy thing on the map? Ah, a marble statue of a triton-like sea god holding a trident in one hand and clutching a conch-like horn in the other. High quality, this. Very evocative. Plus, the statue stands well over twenty-five feet in height, and my, has he got muscles. But don’t panic. It won’t come to life and whack you.
In fact, you might want to pilfer said statue: its eyes are black pearls, worth at least 3,000 gp each.
About one minute after surfacing/arriving, an unseen voice will boom out this message:
Enter, my children, and raise up your eyes unto mine. Make you then the sacrifices commanded by the scriptures, and let my glory claim your soul. Peace be with you, child of the sea.
Sacrifices, you say? What sacrifices? We didn’t show up here knowing about any sacrifices. And indeed, since this is lost knowledge, how to appease this long-forgotten godling? Well, a random fish, filleted or otherwise, won’t cut it; the original ceremony involved live squid, a mash made from barnacles, and the fins of sharks. Talk about esoteric!
The bottom line: you won’t be able to fake it. Which will result, about two minutes later (GMs use real time here), in a second message:
You who are no friend to me, heed these words: in coming here, you have sealed your fate, and should prepare now to face death at the hands of the great absolver, the cleanser of souls, and the balm of all spirit…the sea itself.
Seconds later, the pool begins to churn and bubble. Steam pours off its surface. It then erupts upward and outward, shifting form into eight separate water serpents, complete with long, sinuous necks, and at least a semblance of menacing, beady eyes.
HD 3 HPs 14 AC 5 D: Special, see below.
Special damage: ST vs. Paralysis; if missed, the victim is lifted from their feet and dragged headlong into the pool.
Special defenses: Sharp weapons do max damage of 1 point damage; cold spells, etc., slow affected heads by 50%; fire-based magicks do 50% damage, or zero on a save.
Special combat issues: by the second round of combat, the serpents’ temperature will have risen significantly, hot enough to be painful—and the water in the basin continues to steam and bubble. (Let’s forget about hard science, and how long it would really take to get that much water to boil. This is magic, after all!) But here’s the rub: by the third round of combat, the water will scald on a hit (D: 2-8). This will continue until all the serpents are dispatched. Worse, anyone dragged into the pool will suffer 6-36 points of damage per round until rescued from the water.
Oh. Hang on. Killed all the serpents, have you? Well, then. Time go go. Nothing more to see here, folks. After all, this is a dead-end. And it sure looks like a temple, so you must have found everything there is to find…
Not so. There’s a secret door directly behind the sea god’s statue. How to open it? Look in the sea god’s conch-shell horn. Tucked at the bottom is a quartz sphere, perhaps two inches across, set in a stubby “wand” of bone. Yes, it radiates magic for those who can see such things––and if you really search the room, you’ll find a small indent, perfectly spherical, at waist height (keyhole height) on the wall behind the statue. Insert the quartz sphere, and it will function as a Wand Of Opening.
You could actually open this door with various similar spellcrafts, but you might as well do it right and use the wand. That’s what the priests of this place would have done, and when in Rome…or wherever…
Whoa, Nelly. Finished architecture! A temple where somebody took the time, where somebody cared. Sea-green tile in all directions, beautifully finished: real grout! A hallway done in a neat geometric square, ten feet high, ten feet wide. And it wraps around and around and around, passing neatly made quarter-circle basins of water at each corner (the rim containing these waters is only six inches high, but the basins are deep: eight feet or more –– odd, aren’t they?)…
…and ends in a simple enough pit trap, but perhaps all this sameness will have lulled you to sleep? Better yet, the trap won’t be tripped by less than three hundred pounds weight-wise, so whoever leads the way might feel, you know, safe.
Besides, on that final wall (one the real priests would never have approached), there’s a mosaic image of a fiery, nine-limbed demon. Horns, fangs, an extra mouth in its chest. Revolting. And at least the eyes are made of (minor) gemstones, polished obsidian. (100 gp each). And hey, nothing happened from prying out the sea triton’s gemstone eyes, right?
So. Step aboard, one and all! And then, whoops: the floor drops away, and down you go, twenty feet onto a nice set of traditional (but nasty) metal spikes. D: 5-20, with a possibility of impalement, to be determined by the GM.
Now, if that isn’t enough, this is the trap that keeps on giving. About one minute after the pit opens, the section of ceiling above it (and above the ten feet of floor space preceding the pit) collapses downward. A rain of stones, tile, and brick. D: 3-18.
A bunch of sadists, the priests who built this place, ‘cos they’re not done yet. If the party still doesn’t make a hasty retreat, the fiery demon-mosaic (assembled from rough stones, not really polished enough to have had their sharper edges sanded down) explodes outward. Think of this as a mosaic shotgun, but with a barrel nearly ten feet high and several feet wide.
Damage to those within ten feet: 6-36. Damage to those within twenty feet: 3-18. Damage to those within thirty feet: 2-8. Damage to those in the pit: 1-4.
Beyond thirty feet (the bend in the corridor), the stones might ricochet into you and sting a bit, but no more than that, and thereafter they clatter harmlessly to the floor.
In case it isn’t clear: the point of this hallway is to disguise the real entrance to the inner chapel, which may be found by anyone paying careful attention, since there’s another indentation in the wall, perfect for the quartz-studded wand found in AREA TWELVE. Insert, and click! The wall swings inward.
AREA FOURTEEN (Temple)
A place of worship. The same statue from AREA TWELVE, but writ small now, hardly a foot high, and set on a granite table. The mosaic tile-work on the walls is astounding, truly artistic now, inspired underwater tableaus of sea life you would never imagine unless the characters have, for some reason, spent time adventuring undersea. A corner basin for washing. Hand towels, pure white, for drying off afterward, hung neatly on wooden racks. A place for footwear. Mats for prayer and meditation. A chopping block and blood bowl for executions –– plus a heavy, still-sharp axe (magic: +2; treat as a battle-axe for combat purposes) and a chilling executioner’s hood, done in blue with brocade, cut to go over the shoulders, back, and chest.
Not exactly a fabulous treasure hoard, sorry. (What am I, Santa Claus?) But that’s not to say the room is devoid of valuables. Besides the axe, the little statue is valuable in and of itself, and easy enough to move; it’s so cunningly wrought, it might fetch 250 gp to an art collector in some larger town.
Oh, yes. Almost forgot. Under the table stands a sturdy chest. It’s not even locked. Why bother? Only the priests ever found this place.
Swing back the lid! Inside, the priesthood’s spending money, much of it accrued through the capture of pirates, which explains the extraordinary variety of far-flung coins inside. Silver and gold, one and all: 100 sp, 70 gp, all neatly held in little velvet sacks with drawstrings. Imagine what the good folk of Shorewalk could do with all this, if you were to present it to them as their birthright and inheritance?
Optional: at the GMs discretion, you might also find within this room a true artifact, either one of your own devising, or this:
A mid-sized metal shield decorated with (again) the etched and painted image of the same sea-triton godling. On the back, its last wielder has carved his (or was it her?) name onto the metal: Colinbard. If you do any lore-related research, or if you have some type of arcanist in the party, you might even have heard of Colinbard’s Shield, a mighty device indeed, and one that allowed these sea priests of old to take out more than one foe and pirate captain.
What it does is simple: if its wielder is injured in combat, whoever or whatever did the damage takes damage equal to that which they inflicted. Bam! And talk about a disincentive to settle one’s differences with force… (Limits: this applies only to attacks from the front, and to physical attacks from a hand-wielded weapon. Arrows, fireballs, etc., would not be affected, and an assassin striking from behind would suffer no ill effects.)
So possibly this is what the characters set out to find, yes? A potent artifact to aid in some larger quest as designed by the GM of record. Or possibly it’s just a surprise bonus to a largely item-free excursion.
Of course, you still have to get out.
AREA THIRTEEN, REVISITED
Remember those corner-set pools of water in the tiled hallways? Each one of the seven has now risen upward and outward and formed a watery opponent, a simulacrum of a diabolical beast. Two possible triggers will cause this formation: 1) setting off the pit trap at the far end of AREA THIRTEEN, or entering/exiting AREA FOURTEEN without reciting the proper prayer to the sea gods, which is lost knowledge anyway, so (sorry) unleashing these liquid guardians is pretty much guaranteed.
All of the creatures described below can move from their formation point, and the following special characteristics apply: sharp weapons do max damage of 1 point damage; cold spells, etc., slow affected heads by 50%; fire-based magicks do 50% damage, or zero on a save.
Working backward from the pool nearest to AREA FOURTEEN, these seven water-creatures appear and function as follows:
HD 6 HPs 30 AC 8 D 2-5/2-5/1-4 (bite)
Special: the bite, if successful, will inject poison into the wound. No effect for about fifteen minutes. After that, the victim needs to make a ST at -5 vs. Poison. Failure begins a shuddering attack as the poison, having worked its way to the central nervous system, begins asserting itself…and begins, also, the painful business of transforming the character into a fish-like biped (think Lovecraft). Barring a Cure Disease or Heal performed by a caster of seventh level or higher, this process will continue until complete, a term of approximately one full day.
HD 6 HPs 30 AC 8 D 3-11/3-11
HD 5 HPs 25 AC 7 D 1-3
Special: the kelp has nine fronds with which to attack. On a successful hit, a frond will entangle and wrap around its victim (ST vs. DEX to avoid having one arm pinned); on the following round, any character entangled will suffer an additional 4-6 points of constriction damage (no hit required).
HD 5 HPs 25 AC 5 D 1-8
WATER SPIDERS (three total)
HD 7 HPs 35 AC 3 D 1-6
Special: double normal movement rate, two attacks per round with a +3 to hit, can climb verticals and even walk on the ceiling (GMs: for a proper creep-fest, have it make its initial approach from the ceiling, dripping water all the way). Its speed accounts for its (better) AC. On a hit, the water spider injects poison as per the Water Troll, above.
The spiders, especially, are apt to coordinate their attack: one from the ceiling, one from the walls, one from the floor. Or whatever the GM believes will be most effective and most imagistic.
Notes for GMs:
Keep track of time in this temple complex. Recall that in any given twenty-four hour span, the sea will hit high tide twice, with direct repercussions to water flow and travel within the cave system. (Let’s also assume that the author is not a true expert in tidal phenomena, and that to become so would require a doctoral degree; for purposes of role-playing, all you really need do is allow the tides to shift somewhat so that they aren’t precisely periodic at twelve-hour intervals, and that they need not be of equal force when comparing one high (or low) tide to the next.)
Related to this: the influx and egress of the bloodwings, which even underground, have an unerring sense of diurnal/nocturnal cycles. It’s entirely possible that even if the characters wipe out the colony in the caves, others could be winging their way home as the characters (presumably in a weakened condition) attempt to leave.
If the characters attempt an exploration without adequate water-breathing spells, they are likely doomed. If the party you game with lacks these skills and doesn’t know the word “retreat,” this could be a suicidal mission. Perhaps they’ll need preparatory hints or help in properly equipping themselves? Perhaps I can include more “p” sounds in a single sentence?
In this GM’s experience, upper level parties often make mincemeat of “dungeon” scenarios via “travel spells”: teleport, etc. Feel free to declare that this entire complex has been ensorcelled (love that word) such that any and all inter-dimensional spells have been blocked by the resident divinities. Period. Various stone portal spells (“Passwall,” in the old D&D system, for example) could, however, be both amusing and life-saving.
Notes on caves:
Limestone caves are, as I understand it, “wet caves” by definition, in that they were formed by water as it erodes and dissolves the minerals through which it passes. However, not all “wet caves” are wet. Portions of the cavern system comprising this complex are dry (including AREA FOUR, AREA SIX, and the maze of caverns between AREA SIX and AREA SEVEN. The key is, they could become wet all over again. Given the destructive power of RPG adventuring groups, perhaps this will happen very suddenly, during play?
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through this adventure key, and I trust you’ll forgive my sometimes cheeky style. Those old-school modules took themselves so seriously! I suppose I’m attempting my version as a hindsight antidote.
Perhaps you’ll choose to incorporate this module into your own gaming? I hope so, and if you do, I hope you’ll leave comments later on. I’ll check back periodically to see.
Lastly, this adventure is offered gratis, toll-free, and at no cost. That said, the best way you can possibly say thank you is to purchase one of my books or plays (in which I revise my prose to the point where it might actually be good). See below for some likely options, or visit my website (link below) for more.
Thanks to John (O’Neill) for encouraging me, and to my many wonderful players down the years.
Mark Rigney has published three stories in the Black Gate Online Fiction library: ”The Trade,” “The Find,” and “The Keystone.” Tangent called the tales “Reminiscent of the old sword & sorcery classics… once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I highly recommend the complete trilogy.” In other work, Rigney is the author of “The Skates,” and its haunted sequels, “Sleeping Bear,” and Check-Out Time. A new novel, Bonesy, will be released Sept. 1, 2015. His website is markrigney.net.