Chapter One of Nine Concluding with the PCs’ arrival in Highport,
preparatory to the 1st Edition adventure
A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity Product Number: 9167
Year Published: 1986
Converted from 1st Edition to 3rd Edition D&D
by S.H. Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org)
May 29, 2001
This is the first of nine conversions covering the adventure book Scourge of the Slave Lords (written originally in nine chapters, four of which comprise the four ‘A’-series modules). In the beginning I included much of the original boxed-text descriptions for encounters and events and other information that is probably unnecessary for conversion purposes, and I include it here only because there is no sense in deleting all that hard work. I have done so less in the continuing conversions. I have not included any maps, of course, and some sections of the original did not require any conversion and so have been left out; I hope that readers will still find this material interesting and useful if not, I can just keep using my scribbled notes and avoid typing a lot of this stuff up…
Summary of Conversion: This module has been re-scaled to 3E for any four characters of 7th level (the original is slated for characters from levels 7-11, as opposed to the earlier module A1, which was for levels 4-7). Many NPCs, creatures, and key encounters have been modified in levels or in number of creatures appearing to accommodate this challenge rating. As well, I have reduced many treasures to 3E standards and have often turned them into what I hope are more believable and/or interesting forms (i.e., goods and unusual objects rather than the usual vast piles of coins & gems). Other incidental details or explanations do appear throughout of course, feel free to adjust or dismiss anything that doesn’t work in your campaign.
Chapter 1: The Road to Highport The Invitation
Note: This introduction assumes that the characters have just completed The Temple of Elemental Evil and are currently residing, at least temporarily, in the Village of Hommlet. Italicized portions of the boxed text below are directly related to that setting and should be modified or excluded by campaign as the DM sees fit. Certainly, it would help to set this adventure up if the PCs had just finished a quest or series of adventures that essentially saved some local populace from grave danger, resulting in their status as heroes and the spreading of their good names.
The winter snows are finally receding. Here in Hommlet, crocuses crack through the crust of old snow. Pale pink and white blossoms push up at the bases of bare-branched trees. In the warm sun, sap creaks through the oaks and elms. Birds sing in the morning and the forlorn calls of owls fill the night.
Since your stay here, you have seen the villagers change. The braumeister and his nephew have proven fine companions over the winter nights, and you have tipped many a flagon in their fine company. Gundigoot the Innkeeper plays a fine game of draughts: indeed, he’s a bit of a sharper at it, and has taken you for a few clever wagers. That fine looking spinster from the farm by the pond has paid a few calls. You’ve even managed to get a few civil words out of Black Jay and have enjoyed a good meal at the homes of some of the local folk. Ah, yes, it’s beginning to feel like home.
As you stretch out on the bench before the inn to warm yourself in the sun, you spot a stranger striding down the lane. The ostler, leaning out his front door, nods in that direction and says, “Now, what d’ye make o’ that, fine folks? ‘Tis a man wrapped in the colours of some laird, strolling through our hamlet, bustlin’ like he’s on some grand business. Mayhaps I’ll have me same laird’s party stayin’ for the night.” With a shrug, he goes inside, calling for his family.
Looking more closely, you can make out the glint of flaxen hair tumbling out from beneath the nearing liveried cape. From the way this stranger moves, you’d safely guess him to be a her. Now what business would a lord’s woman have in such a sleepy little place as this?
Assuming a sleepy pose, you continue to watch her through half-closed eyes. With a purposeful stride, she crosses the inn yard and passes your bench. A mingled scent of perfume and horse sweat follows her. Soon there are muffled voices inside.
Suddenly, she steps back out and tosses back the hood of her cloak. “Good people,” she says with a graceful curtsy, “I bear a message for you from the Most Worthy Dame Gold of Safeton.” She is, as you guessed, a young woman, endowed with a dignified and subdued beauty. She thrusts a heavy buff envelope into your hands. “To the Saviours of Hommlet” is written boldly across the front. The back is closed with a large blob of golden wax pressed with a seal. The young woman turns and walks away.
The message reads:
To those Brave and Worthy;
May it never be said that the courageous undertake valour for the hope of reward, nor the righteous seek purity, and thus may aspersions of ill-seeming never fall upon thy name. But, as ye know too well, the rewards of virtue can be painful and cold.
Our advisors, through wisdom and sagacity, have proclaimed thy actions good and virtuous, done for the wealth of the people of Hommlet. Those so noble as yourselves will grace and ornament the presence of any gathering. We beseech you to kindly honour us with your presence during the Feasts of Edoira at Windy Crag in the town of Safeton.
The messenger, Alessandra, in the service of Dame Gold, is the proud handler of a pegasus which currently waits on the outskirts of the village at the edge of the nearby woods. If PCs request it, she will take a response from them to Dame Gold. Alessandra is friendly, though businesslike, and not secretive, and thus will answer general questions about her mistress. She does not care whether the PCs attend or not, but will give glowing accounts of previous balls given by her mistress.
If the characters are suspicious and check up on the Most Worthy Dame Gold, they learn that the invitation is genuine. If they still hesitate, DMs may wish to point out that many famous and influential people attend such events; characters with futures in campaign politics (religious, temporal, guild) could well profit from such a gathering. Otherwise, players may need further prodding as to the wisdom of attending the Feast of Edoira (good clerics should be easy targets for guilt-inducing DMs).
Alessandra, female human Ftr2/Exp3: CR 4; SZ Medium (5’7”); HD 2d10+3d6; hp 20; Init +2; Spd 30 ft; AC 17 (+2 Dex, +5 amulet); Atk +7 melee (1d6+3, 19-20/x2 crit, +2 shortsword) or +8 melee (1d8+3, 19-20/x2, +2 longsword); AL CG; SV Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +5; Str 12, Dex 15, Con 11, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 16.
Skills: Animal Empathy +8, Diplomacy +11, Knowledge (geography) +7, Knowledge (nobility) +8, Listen +8, Profession (messenger) +7, Ride +10, Sense Motive +6, Spot +8. Feats: Alertness, Fly-By Attack, Mounted Combat, Ride-By Attack, Weapon Focus (longsword).
Possessions: +5 amulet of natural armour, +2 shortsword, +2 longsword (on pegasus), ring of spell storing (feather fall, cure serious wounds, word of recall), ring of sustenance, saddlebags with travelling gear (on pegasus).
Pegasus: CR 3; SZ Large magical beast; HD 4d10+12; hp 35; Init +2; Spd 60 ft, fly 120 ft (average); AC 14 (-1 size, +2 Dex, +3 natural); Atk: 2 hooves +7 melee (1d6+4), and bite +2 melee (1d3+2); Face 5 ft x 10 ft; SQ scent, spell-like abilities; AL CG; SV Fort +7, Ref +6, Will +4; Str 18, Dex 15, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 13.
Skills: Listen +12, Sense Motive +7, Spot +12, Wilderness Lore +3. Feats: Iron Will.
Scent (Ex): Detects opponents by scent within 30 feet; 60 feet if opponent is upwind, and 15 feet if downwind (double these ranges if odour is strong; triple if overpowering scents). May track by scent with a Wilderness Lore check (max DC 10).
Spell-like abilities: at will detect good or detect evil in 60-yard radius.
Skills: Pegasi receive a +4 racial bonus to Listen and Spot checks (included above).
In no time at all, it seems that everyone in town knows of your message. Of course, trying to keep such an event secret in a small town is almost impossible. The locals regard you with even more curious interest than before. The next morning, as you sit in the inn, a weather-beaten halfling approaches you.
“Greetings to you all,” he says. “My name is Revv Aair.” The small form in his tiny leather smock pauses for a moment as if expecting recognition. “Ahem. Oh well. It is said you are travelling east toward the coast, to attend the feasts of Dame Gold.” He pauses again, briefly. “It is hard to keep such things to yourselves in a place this size. And it is useful for a tinker to keep his ears open. But about Dame Gold’s party: I wish to bring some small samples of my work. You see, my family once worked for her, and it was she that prevailed upon a local smith to take me as his apprentice in my ’tweens… But the wagon and the road are such that I hesitate to travel without an escort.” He sighs. “Would you, could you travel with me? I set a fine table and am a willing cook. Gladly would I split the cost of all provisions with you.”
Revv Aair is just what he seems, a humble tinker with no thought of treachery or malice. Revv has no intention of travelling alone on the road; if the characters refuse his offer, he will try again after first fixing them a sumptuous meal. By doing so, he hopes to convince them of his value as a travelling companion. Further, several of the most reliable villagers will provide good reports of the little halfling.
The season is late spring, and the weather looks to be fine for travelling. The trip will take an estimated five to six days by horse, or twice that with wagons. There are good roads between Hommlet and Safeton. While the Kron Hills are always considered safe, and the northern parts of the Gnarley Forest and the Welkwood are generally free of trouble or banditry, the Wild Coast area is fraught with danger; it is this part of the journey that concerns the tinker.
If the PCs agree to travel with Revv Aair, he also brings along his nephew, Bellod, as a helper. If trouble arises, both will do their best to avoid danger or harm. If possible, they will help and will try to save the wagon in the process. What little help Revv can offer he will provide through his wit; while not cowardly or disloyal, he knows that there is little he can do against armed force or dangerous creatures and, as such, is not particularly brave.
Revv Aair, male halfling Com5: CR 2; SZ Small humanoid (2’9”); HD 5d4; hp 9; Init +2; Spd 20 ft.; AC 14 (+1 size, +2 Dex, +1 shield); Atk: +2 melee (1d6-1, 19-20/x2 crit, shortsword); SQ halfling traits; AL LG; SV Fort +1, Ref +4, Will +2; Str 8, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 12.
Bellod Aair,male halfling Com2: CR 1; SZ Small humanoid (2’10”); HD 2d4+2; hp 7; Init +1; Spd 20 ft; AC 13 (+1 size, +1 Dex, +1 shield); Atk +2 melee (1d6, 19-20/x2 crit, shortsword), or +4 ranged (1d4, 50 ft, sling); SQ halfling traits; AL LG; SV Fort +2, Ref +2, Will +1; Str 10, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10.
Use this encounter when the party is travelling through the Kron Hills area or in that vicinity.
As you wind your way along the road, you spot a pair of men slogging along slowly in your direction. When they get closer, you can see that are the victims of a recent attack: scratched, bruised, tattered and slashed, one of them sports a black eye. Glancing up as you approach, the closest feebly raises a hand in greeting and seems anxious to speak to you.
These two men have just escaped a group of irate gnomes whom they successfully bilked out of a considerable sum of money. Armed with cunning, insight, and nerve, these con men make their living off unsuspecting passersby who take them at their word. If the PCs stop to talk, the scoundrels keep their distance, ready to flee if necessary. Any PC may attempt a Sense Motive check (opposed to the con men’s Bluff check result roll once for both) to determine that the two are up to no good. Of course, a detect evil or discern lie will do as much or more to uncover their natures, though obvious spell-casting from the PCs will cause the two to flee.
The two men try to convince the PCs that they are Highfolk nobility who have been robbed of all their money, mounts, and valuables. They act quite panicked, though again a PC can see through this act (i.e., Perform check) with a successful opposed Sense Motive check. They hint vaguely at an ambush down the road, mentioning magic and hideous events. They then ask for a small amount of generosity from the party to tide them through the rest of their “journey.” They will continue with their begging until they are paid or it becomes obvious that they will receive nothing.
To all questions they will lie or tell half-truths: false names, false businesses, and false tales as necessary. Again, any PC may attempt Sense Motive checks opposed to the con men’s Bluff checks to see through these lies. They are clever enough, though, to know when to tell the truth. If the PCs give them money, they accept with overflowing gratitude and many promises to repay the “loan” at some future date. Then, they spin a fantastic tale of ambush just down the road. Central to this tale is a vivid description of a band of corrupt and evil gnomes who have come out of the hills and are ravaging the countryside. They hint that theses gnomes’ behaviour is odd, and that they may be possessed.
Later in the day, just before the PCs make camp, they spot a large group of gnomes travelling toward them. They seem quite angry and upset, armed with shortswords and apparently ready for trouble. The gnomes suspect at first that the PCs may be harbouring the con men, and surround the wagon (or camp). Give the players a chance to do something rash before having the gnome leader speak up. After this, however, if the PCs keep their wits sharp (and their blades in their sheaths), the gnomes explain angrily that they are looking for a pair of “sharpers and deceits” for the express purpose of delivering to them the justice “that they so well deserve.” The PCs will likely notice that several of the gnomes carry ropes and buckets of tar with brushes.
Otherwise, the gnomes have little interest in the characters; if they later learn that the PCs have deceived them, they may well be looking for new people to “visit justice upon.”
Con men,male human Exp2 (2): CR ½; SZ Medium; HD 2d6; hp 6, 4; Init +0; Spd 30 ft; AC 10; Atk: +1 melee (1d4, 19-20/x2, dagger); AL NE; SV Fort +0, Ref +0, Will +3; Str 10, Dex 11, Con 10, Int 11, Wis 11, Cha 12.
Note that I have reduced the number of gnomes chasing the Con Men down from 100-300 (!) to only 50 (plus leaders), as per the “band” listing in the MM. To save space and avoid further overkill, I have also reduced the numbers and levels of the gnome leaders to reflect the fact that they come from a relatively small and normally peaceful settlement.
Gnomes (50): CR ½; SZ Small humanoid; HD 1d8+1; hp 5; Init +0; Spd 20 ft; AC 16 (+1 size, +4 chain shirt, +1 small shield); Atk +2 melee (1d6-1, 19-20/x2 crit, shortsword), or +2 ranged (1d8, 80 ft, 19-20/x2 crit, light crossbow); SA spells; SQ low-light vision, gnome traits, speak with animals; AL NG; SV Fort +3, Ref +0, Will +0; Str 8, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 11, Wis 11, Cha 11.
Skills: Alchemy +2, Hide +4, Listen +4, Spot +2. Feats: Weapon Focus (shortsword).
Spells (Su): 1/day each (as a sorcerer of same level) dancing lights, ghost sound, prestidigitation.
Sergeants, male gnome War3 (5): CR 2; SZ Small humanoid; HD 3d8+3; hp 16; Init +0; Spd 20 ft; AC 16 (+1 size, +4 chain shirt, +1 small shield); Atk +4 (1d6-1, 19-20/x2 crit, shortsword), or +3 ranged (1d8, 80 ft, 19-20/x2 crit, light crossbow); SA racial spells; SQ low-light vision, gnome traits, speak with animals; AL NG; SV Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +1; Str 9, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 11, Wis 11, Cha 11.
Spells (Su): 1/day each (as a sorcerer of same level) dancing lights, ghost sound, prestidigitation.
Leader, male gnome Ftr2/Ill5: CR 7; SZ Small humanoid; HD 2d10+4+5d4+10; hp 36; Init +5 (+1 Dex, +4 Imp Init); Spd 20 ft; AC 18 (+1 size, +1 Dex, +5 bracers, +1 small shield); Atk +6 melee (1d6, 19-20/x2 crit, shortsword), or +6 ranged (1d8, 80 ft, 19-20/x2 crit, light crossbow); SA spells; SQ summon familiar, low-light vision, gnome traits, speak with animals; AL NG; SV Fort +6, Ref +2, Will +5; Str 11, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 12.
Racial spells (Su): 1/day each (as a sorcerer of same level) dancing lights, ghost sound, prestidigitation.
Raiders! (EL 11)
A group of bandits led by the crafty half-orc Dergrenche have made camp on the other side of the same meadow chosen by the PCs. Once the party has settled into camp, either Revv or Bellod will come running up from the nearby stream, buckets empty, talking hurriedly of having sighted an orc standing down by the water. If the party is not travelling with the two halflings, have one of them roll a Spot check instead (DC 25 with low-light vision or DC 30 otherwise) to see the orc standing 70 to 80 feet away. Also have the orc roll a Spot or Listen check to see or hear a PC (DC 20, or DC 25 + Hide or Move Silently skill if the PC is careful). It will have heard the halfling fleeing whether it saw him at first or not; in that case, or if it manages to notice a PC, it runs back toward its camp and the PCs soon hear grunting and shouting from the other side of the clearing several hundred yards away.
If the orc did not spot a PC, the party may have a potential tactical advantage, and have several options at this point. They might wish to avoid the raiders, simply packing up quietly and leaving for safer areas; they might investigate, running the risk of being spotted by the raiders’ guards (who, with dogs, patrol the outer reaches of their encampment); or they might wish to immediately start off for the raiders’ encampment for any number of reasons (ambush, parley, theft, full-out attack, etc.).
The sun is low in the west when the first orc is sighted, and thus the wall of trees around the meadow creates a great deal of shadow (highly suitable for hiding). The bugbears and orcs, if they are alerted and until they charge, will have full cover from anyone in the meadow as they hide in the woods among dense foliage awaiting their respective signals.
The raiders’ camp is to the north of the PCs’ camp. If the alarm is raised, the raiders begin moving almost immediately through the woods (to the positions marked on the Raiders! map in the module) to outflank the PCs. Fearing they have been discovered by hostile soldiers, Dergrenche splits his own forces into five groups (as detailed below). Group 1 (the goblins) reach their position first, after about one-and-a-half minutes, and immediately begin peppering the PCs with arrows from half-cover in the woods (+4 AC, +2 Ref saves), intending to keep them pinned down. Groups 2 and 3 (bugbears and dogs) reach their positions second, but remain hidden until they hear two blasts from Dergrenche’s horn. The orcs will arrive in position last, and await the single horn-blast that is their signal to attack.
Once he has given his orders, Dergrenche and his ettin bodyguard move to a position from which they can see the ensuing battle, but which offers three-quarters cover to Dergrenche (+7 AC, +3 Ref) and half-cover to the ettin (+4 AC, +2 Ref saves). Dergrenche will not risk himself unduly that is what his minions are for. About three minutes after giving the orders sending his troops to position, Dergrenche blows a single blast on his horn; unless something unforeseen has occurred in the meantime, this signals Groups 4 and 5 (the orcs) to charge. Two rounds later, he blows two blasts, signalling Groups 2 and 3 (the bugbears) to attack.
Of course, there is always the chance that Dergrenche’s forces do not fall into place smoothly, and he cannot control the tide of battle or his followers’ morale. When he first sounds his horn, have the orcs make a collective Will save (DC 10) to be properly in place to hear and react to the horn (roll once for each group, i.e., 4 and 5). If they fail, 1d6 rounds pass before they arrive on the battlefield, and the PCs hear them clearly, so that they can maneuver freely to receive the orcs’ charge. Follow the same procedure for the bugbear groups.
Further, the first time any attacking group suffers a casualty, its members must make a collective Will save (DC = 10 + total number of casualties among raiders Dergrenche himself counts as '5' for this purpose and the ettin as '3') or rout. Each group must make a similar check when 50% of its number has been killed or disabled or when another group routs. When 75% or more of a group has been eliminated by the PCs, the remainder of that group routs automatically.
Note: I have reduced Dergrenche’s level and the numbers of his followers to make this encounter somewhat more in line with the EL guidelines of 3E but this is still going to be a very tough encounter for the PCs if they think with their swords first, guaranteed. Dergrenche and his band will capture the PCs if possible and sell them to the slavers, thus bumping the adventure ahead to "A Fate Worse Than Death."
Dergrenche, male half-orc Ftr6/Clr4 (Hextor): CR 10; SZ Medium humanoid (6 ft tall); HD 6d10+6+4d8+4; hp 63; Init +0; Spd 20 ft in chainmail; AC 18 (+6 chainmail, +2 large shield); Atk +15/+10 melee (1d8+5, 17-20/x2, +1 longsword); SA smite, spells; SQ half-orc traits, darkvision 60 ft, rebuke undead, spontaneous casting; AL LE; SV Fort +10, Ref +3, Will +9; Str 15, Dex 11, Con 13, Int 13, Wis 14, Chr 15.