4Ward/FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 101

  • Adair (level 1 elf war cleric)
  • Hedris (level 1 gluttonous cambion warlord)
  • Humal (level 1 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Sumia (level 1 elf rogue)

Following the instructions from a map that Sumia lifted from a hapless drunk, the party made their way under the cover of night to the Whispering Cairn.

The walls featured strange, geometric designs that still bore stains from yellow and blue paint that had long since flaked away. Dangling roots hung from the sagging ceiling. Somewhere, in the distance, they thought they could hear a voice whispering.

Guided by Hedris' torchlight, they soon discovered a pair of short passages that branched from the main hall. One seemed empty, while the other contained an old blanket that crumbled when Hedris picked it up. Moving on, they found another pair of passages, a bit longer than the ones before. One had completely collapsed, and the other contained a frame of what appeared to be a shattered mirror.

Though Humal couldn't ascertain its true purpose, he knew it was anything but; he made note of the complex symbol carved into its base, and gathered up the glass fragments scattered about for later examination.

The main hall soon opened into a larger chamber, that now served as a den for a quartet of wolves. Once they slew two of the beasts, the other pair fled out the tomb's entrance. Humal investigated the partially collapsed section that the wolves had emerged from, and discovered a backpack among a small pile of skeletal remains. Inside was an armband that looked of elven make, and a strange lantern with numerous plates of indigo glass.

The remains told them that others had been here already, and the only objects of value they had found were on their corpses. Still they pressed on, hoping to find some corner of the tomb that had been overlooked (or, at the least, additional loot-bearing corpses).

The final chamber was much larger than the previous one. A sarcophagus made of pale stone lay at the center. A bas-relief on the lid depicted a bald human, clad in a flowing robe. The sarcophagus's shape hinted at an arrow, and was pointing into a short tunnel, at the end of which hung a lantern. It was identical to the one that Humal had found, except its glass panes were orange instead of indigo.

Looking around the room they saw six other tunnels, most of which also featured lanterns: yellow, green, blue, and violet. The tunnel between blue an violet was empty, as was the one to the left of orange. The pattern was almost certainly that of a rainbow, so Humal hung the indigo lantern between the blue and violet tunnels; if anything happened as a result of his action, none of them were aware of it.

Sumia noticed that the sarcophagus could be rotated. When she pointed towards the yellow tunnel there was a loud click, and a stone plate underneath the yellow lantern rose up, revealing an open, metallic cylinder.

It looked large enough to accommodate a human, and after several seconds it descended back into the floor, only to re-emerge a few seconds later. It continued to repeat this action, and after a few cycles Adair, curious as to where it was going, hopped in. It carried him to a hidden area beneath the tomb, and when he returned safely the rest of the party followed.

It deposited them in a small chamber. The walls were covered with bas-reliefs of pale, bald humanoids, standing in poses of deference, and a great stone slab blocked the only exit. Sumia tried squeezing between the slab, but when that failed Hedris shoved it aside. A stone plate in the floor rose up, followed by a loud click, and then a green gas erupted from the mouths of the faces in the walls.

The gas seemed to only affect Humal, who felt a bit nauseous but was otherwise fine. With the slab out of the way, they found themselves walking down a narrow hallway. Three statues stood on both sides, set in slight alcoves. Their empty hands were cupped before them, suggesting that they once held something. Humal's arcane sight revealed a magic effect just above their hands, which created a kind of airy cushion.

As they carefully treaded down the hall, wary of any additional traps, they noticed the temperature begin to rapidly drop, and by the time they exited the hall they could see their breath whenever they exhaled. The chamber at the end was dominated by a great square pillar at its center, and flanked by a pair of smaller rooms. A carpet of brown mold impeded their path to one, which was the apparent source of the cold.

Hedris approached it, but quickly retreated when he felt his body start to grow numb from the cold. Adair had encountered the mold before, and warned that it would sap the heat from anything nearby, which would also cause it to expand. The only thing that could kill it was cold. Humal knew of an alchemist in Diamond Lake that sold alchemist's frost: assuming they made it out alive and with some valuables, they could return later.

So, they investigated the room on the opposite side. It looked like a bed chamber, but if there was anything of value it was long gone. As they turned to leave, Adair noticed a stone button on the central pillar. He pushed it, and a section of the wall rose, revealing a crushed skeleton clad in chainmail and clutching a rotting bag.

Inside the bag were six crystal statuettes of various buildings, though only three were still intact. Adair pocketed them all, even the broken ones in case a jeweler might want them, and they then returned to the first floor.

Sumia rotated the sarcophagus another "click". This time there was a loud grind of metal on stone as it tried to struggle free, before finally slamming back into the floor and shattering the stone tile, leaving a circular hole. A loud, metallic crash echoed from the hole, and when the elevator did not return Hedris went to inspect it.

The sides were rough, with numerous handholds, which would make the climb easy for any of them, but before they could descend a great swarm of beetles emerged. Hedris chucked his shield, hoping to flatten them with it, but it only crushed a few as it rolled through the swarm. Their weapons were about as useful; it was not until Humal swatted at them with a torch, that the beetles scattered and fled through various cracks in the walls and floor.

The room at the bottom of the hole was similar to the other one in the previous underground section, but the bas-reliefs here looked upon them with disdain, and there was no stone block or open mouths. The room exited into an intersection. To the left was a room filled with stone beds, and to the right was another room, made less inviting both by the lack of furnishings and beetles scuttling about. The hall continued on, vanishing into darkness beyond the edge of Hedris's torch.

Wanting to at least delay having to deal with another swarm of beetles, they tried the room on the left first. Once they approached they saw a massive beetle stumbling about, and when Humal activated his arcane sight he realized that the entire room was blanketed by an enchantment that would exhaust any who entered. One of the beds bore a skeleton, head crushed and clad in red.

A ring glimmered on its finger, but not wanting to risk everyone going in and succumbing to the enchantment, Hedris suggested tying a rope around someone to pull them out in case they fall asleep. Sumia volunteered, and felt the enchantment hit her the moment she entered. But, she was able to grab the ring, investigate the body, and leave before passing out.

The ring was made of silver. An eye, within what looked like a compass rose, was etched into its surface. It was not magical, but being made of pure silver was a nice consolation. Besides, maybe the symbol belonged to an organization that was looking for it.

They decided to tackle the beetle room next. Sumia began by loosing an arrow, but the beetles swarmed over and quickly dissolved it. They then gathered together and advanced upon the party, followed by another massive beetle. Hedris and Adair handled the larger beetle, while Humal and Sumia both ganged up on the swarm with torches.

Once the beetles were exterminated they investigated the room. A squat, square structure near the end radiated a kind of conjuration magic, constantly producing an orange sludge that carpeted about a third of the room. There was also a trio of human-sized, oblong objects in one of the corners. They broke them open, one by one, revealing skeletal remains, clad in tatters of red cloaks and armor.

One was wearing a silver ring, with the same eye-in-a-compass-rose symbol as the other, and they each also carried a small collection of copper and silver coins. Wounded and exhausted, they returned to Diamond Lake in order to pawn their treasure, purchase some alchemist's frost, and figure out if anyone knew what that symbol was all about.

Design Notes
Yep, I'm trying to run this adventure path, again, for like the five-billionth time. Unlike 4th Edition, where the fights took forever because I was playing 4E by the book at the time, and 3rd Edition, where most of the party nearly died in the first wolf attack, and then again during the beetle attack, this is moving along much, much more smoothly.

For feedback purposes, it's really awesome having players with play experience across a variety of D&D editions and D&D-like games. It's even more awesome having all of them agree that this D&D-like game is fucking amazing (in the words of Kamon, the player of Hedris, he'd forgotten that he loved playing RPGs).

They love the streamlined, actually flat math. They like how Vitality improves upon the pacing, without having to rely on magical healing, healing potions, healing surges, and so on in order to merely make do. They love the simplicity and flexibility (though they understandably want more races, classes, and talents to choose form).

I was really surprised how Jacob Tydings, the player of Humal, used his illusionist talent. In the fight with the wolves he conjured a bear around one of the wolves, in order to frighten and confuse them. I ruled this by having him make an Intelligence attack each round against one of the wolves, and on a hit it would run away from it, or attack at a penalty.

As with my Expedition to Castle RavenloftKeep on the Shadowfell and Thunderspire Labyrinth conversions/mods, I'll be giving these adventures the same treatment as we go. Though I'll be converting them to 4Ward/FrankenFourth, some of the tweaks could be done in any game (like changing the sarcophagus trap from a blast of fire to a gust of wind, plus something extra so that the players can't just go take a nap to undo its effects).

Finally, as with Dungeons & Delvers (which basically just needs art before it's done), I'll also be porting A Sundered World whole cloth over to this system (which will be easier since the art is already done).

A Sundered World is out!

The Monk is now available. It's a very flexible class, crammed with nearly thirty advanced moves (plus all the other extra content that we're known for), so we made another tweak to our character sheet layout in order to make it easier to remember what stance is active, and what it does.

Grave Goods is the latest magic item compilation in our 10+ Treasures line. If you want nearly 30 undead-themed magic items, some monsters, and advice on how to make your own, pick it up!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.


  1. @Jcheats: Is this Jacob? Chris? o.O Or did you just sit in during the Hangout?


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