A bit over a week ago, Wizards of the Coast ran a (deliberately) brief open call for adventure designers for the D&D Adventurers League. As I am currently rather enamored of 5e and I'd like to be working RPG author and not just a Savage Worlds author, I went ahead and churned out the requisite two encounters during a marathon brainstorming/writing session last Wednesday.
I envisioned the scenarios as part of an imaginary site-based adventure called The Fallen Fane of Sehanine. Over a century ago, a brutal orc horde conquered a temple complex dedicated to the elvish moon goddess Sehanine Moonbow. The elf noble Duke Avaryll was separated from his wife, Duchess Queliarra, and believed killed. The duchess recently discovered that the duke still lives, and hired the adventurers to rescue him.
WotC asked for a combat encounter and a role-playing and/or exploration encounter. I hope which is which is fairly obvious; if not, then I really, really screwed up.
Outside the Fallen Fane
The dense, deciduous Eldwold falls silent as the characters approach within a mile of the Fallen Fane of Sehanine. The white elk and songbirds so common in the rest of the forest avoid this desecrated corner of the wood, leaving it to the orcs and their manticore ally.
Twisted, moss-covered oaks overrun the expansive ruins of the temple, creating a jumble of sickly trees and broken marble paving stones and columns. This counts as difficult terrain as well as dim lighting, impairing both the party and the manticore.
The tumbled ruins allows both the adventurers and the maticore to easily seek cover from ranged attacks; characters succeeding on a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check can duck behind full cover on their action, with those failing only finding three-quarters cover. The dense forest canopy grants half cover to opponents targeting each other for ranged attacks from either side of the leaves and branches.
The manticore, Rrarrthek, is aware of these conditions and will use them to his advantage. If he surprises the party, then he will begin sniping at them with his tail spikes from long range (200 feet), moving closer every turn as he runs from one area of cover to the next. After the first round, he will boast to the characters of the long decades he has spent guarding the Fallen Fane and the many adventurers he has devoured.
Rrarrthek first fights recklessly once he is able to engage in melee, but begins roaring for help if he is reduced to half of his hit points. A patrol of 1d6+1 orcs arrives in 1d4+2 rounds; the orcs flee immediately if they see that Rrarrthek has been slain in the interim.
Statue of Sehanine
Adventurers seeking cover who succeed on a DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) check discover a suspiciously well-preserved statue of Sehanine Moonbow hidden in a curiously clear glade. The elf goddess kneels with her arms outstretched in supplication; her left hand beckons, but her right hand is clenched. Characters using thieves’ tools whom either succeed on a DC 10 check or on a DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check discover hidden mechanisms on either side of the statue.
The mechanism on the left opens a secret door that leads into a passage to the Chamber of Bones; the passageway will only fit Medium or smaller creatures, but it is blocked at its far end by a rockslide that requires a DC 20 Strength (Athletics) check to budge.
The mechanism on the right opens a spiked pit trap 30 feet deep. The trap is one of the temple’s defenses and will not trip accidentally; the trap door that conceals the pit is a 10 x 10 ft. square laying five feet to the right of the statue. Unwary allies or opponents falling into the pit take 11 (2d10) piercing damage from the spikes and 12 (3d6) bludgeoning damage from the fall. It takes one round to close the trap once it has been sprung.
Chamber of Bones
When the orc horde desecrated the altar of Sehanine with the sacrifice of her high priestess, a terrible earthquake shook the temple grounds. Duke Alvaryll and some of his retainers were trapped in the escape tunnels. The duke miraculously survived the rain of falling rocks and choking dust, but his retainers did not. Instead – long months after the flesh had rotted from their bones, and the evil of Gruumsh had pervaded the Fallen Fane – the dead elf courtiers rose as skeletons.
Some strange, last blessing of Sehanine Moonbow prevented the skeletons from murdering Duke Alvaryll. Instead, the skeletons began a perverse reenactment of their role as his servitors. They have tended to his needs for over a century, and the maddened duke now thinks of them as his protectors and friends.
He is very, very mistaken.
When the characters attempt to rescue him, they must be careful in how they persuade the duke to come with them. Duke Alvaryll may have forgotten that the skeletons are animated by corrupting evil, but their true nature has not changed. If Duke Alvaryll becomes angry or frightened, the skeletons will attack both him and the adventurers. If the characters discover Duke Alvaryll alive but return a fresh corpse to their patroness, Duchess Queliarra, they may face her wrath as well the dishonor of failure.
Features of the Chamber
The isolated section of escape tunnels the orcs call the Chamber of Bones is a 20 x 50 ft. worked stone passageway with a 15 ft. high ceiling; it is choked with fallen rubble at both ends and dotted with fallen stones throughout.
The tunnel leading off of the interior, southern end of the chamber is utterly collapsed for 100 ft. and impassable except by magic. The exterior, northern end that leads to the exit by the statue of Sehanine, is blocked by heavy stones that require either a DC 20 Strength (Athletics) check or half an hour of digging to lever out of the way. Alvaryll lacks both the tools and the leverage to open the chamber from his side.
There is a small opening high on the western wall that opens onto the interior of the Fallen Fane. A Small character may squeeze through the hole with a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check, and it can be widened with the use of mason’s tools.
Orcs infrequently stop by this “window” to jeer at the elf noble; check for a random encounter of 1d4+1 orcs every two hours. A refuse pile beneath the window keeps the duke supplied with mushrooms (that also attract rats) while a nearby leak from the aquifer beneath the temple trickles fresh water into the chamber.
Duke Alvaryll Lianodel
The duke is a high elf noble who knows the minor illusion cantrip. Surviving on the brink of starvation for the past century has ravaged his once-handsome features and ruined his aristocratic finery. When the characters discover him, he is in the second stage of exhaustion.
He greets the party as visitors, not rescuers, blithely introducing them to his skeletal courtiers and using minor illusion to briefly bestow each skeleton with the visage it had in life. If the characters attack the skeletons without though for the duke’s safety, he has a brief moment of lucidity to warn the party that the skeletons will kill him if provoked. Otherwise, he happily treats the menacing undead as boon companions and resists leaving them behind.
There are 12 skeletons in the chamber grotesquely reenacting their past lives. The duke is happy to politely introduce them to the party.
• The duke’s bodyguards – Enneth, Meldryn, Sonias, and Theriel – are armed with longswords (1d8+2 slashing damage) and wearing chain shirts (AC 15). The bodyguards stay close to the duke at all times and will be the first to assault him if the situation comes to violence.
• The maid Narralee combs the courtesan Illiria’s non-existent hair.
• The steward Yvar and the butler Unwynn play dragon chess. The valet Ciosian mends the duke’s cloak.
• The footmen Garim and Tomias carry rocks back and forth across the chamber.
• The cook Larynniel is carefully filleting rats.
If Duke Alvaryll can be persuaded to leave the chamber without the skeletons, the bodyguards collapse into heaps that the footmen begin to silently sort into piles.