The Alexandrian

Archive for the ‘Roleplaying Games’ category

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An ovoid room filled with a magical fog which has precipitated into the air. Alchemical equipment is scattered around on a number of tables shaped like crescent moons, but it is badly scarred and pitted from centuries of exposure to the fog.

CONFUSION FOG: Will save (DC 18) or become confused.


A circular chamber. Three tables of sturdy, albeit desiccated, oak are arrayed around the center of the chamber. Along one wall is an empty work bench. On the other stand two upright glass coffins containing demonic humanoids.

TABLES: The tables are designed to shackle people down to them. Iron spikes are attached to the bottom of each table and can be driven down through shackle and arm alike to drain blood into glass containers depending under the tables.

WORK BENCH: In a drawer of the work bench are Bronze Tablet #3 and Bronze Tablet #5.

  • Search (DC 16): In a hidden compartment there is a small metal tube. Unscrewing the tube reveals a single sheet of paper with a message written on it. (Handout: Message in the Metal Tube)

ARCHER DEMONS: In the glass coffins and seemingly lifeless. Muscular humanoids with four arms. Each has a large diamond (worth 750 gp) embedded in their forehead.

  • Awakening: The glass coffins will open 1d4+2 rouns after anyone enters this chamber who doesn’t bear the Sorcerous Brand of Arn.
  • Regeneration: These archer demons have been linked through commingled shield other spells. Each demon suffers the damage taken by the other, but it “bounces” back and forth and is slowly diminished (resulting in their regeneration 5). They can only be permanently destroyed if the diamonds in their heads are removed.

ARCHER DEMON (CR 7+2*) – CE Medium Outsider (Chaotic, Evil, Extraplanar, Tanar’ri)
DETECTION – darkvision 60 ft., Listen +16, Spot +16; Init +4; Languages Old Arathian, Darconic, telepathy 100 ft.
DEFENSESAC 19 (+4 Dex, +5 natural), touch 14, flat-footed 15; hp 340; DR 5/cold iron; Immune electricity, poison; Resist acid 10, cold 10, fire 10, spell 18
ACTIONSSpd 40 ft.;  Melee 4 claws +15 (1d6+5); Ranged 2 +1 large composite longbow (+5 Str) +12/+12/+12/+7+7 (2d6+6/x3); Base Atk +10; Grapple +15; Atk Options close combat shot; SA spell-like abilities, summon; Combat Feats Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot
SQ darkvision 60 ft., oversized weapons, mirrored archery,  telepathy 100 ft.
STR 21, DEX 19, CON 29, INT 14, WIS 16, CHA 12
FORT +16, REF +11, WILL +10
FEATS: Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Weapon Focus (longbow)
SKILLS: Balance +17, Bluff +14, Climb +18, Concentration +21, Hide +17, Jump +22, Listen +16, Move Silently +17, Sense Motive +16, Spot +16
POSSESSIONS: +1 large composite longbows (Str +5) (x2)

Spell-Like Abilities (CL 10)
At will – dimension door

Close Combat (Ex): Does not provoke attacks of opportunity from shooting ranged weapon.

Oversized Weapons (Ex): Can use bows up to one size larger than normal.

Summon (Su): 1/day — 1d6 dretches or 35% chance of summoning an archer demon

Mirrored Archery (Ex): Make additional attack with second bow, -2 penalty on all attacks.

* Potentate (see Legends & Labyrinths).


Level: Cleric 5, Sorcerer/Wizard 4
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 minute
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target: One corporeal creature or object
Duration: Instantaneous and 1 minute/level (see text)
Saving Throw: Fortitude partial (see text)
Spell Resistance: Yes

The target’s bones or exoskeleton shiver and splinter, dealing 1d6 points of damage per caster level (maximum 15d6) to the target, who is also exhausted for 1 minute per caster level from the pain and exertion of the transformation.

If the target makes its save, it takes half damage and is fatigued rather than exhausted. Objects made of bone, chitin, or similar material take half again as much (+50%) damage from this spell. This spell has no effect on creatures that lack both skeletons and hard carapaces.

Material Component: A broken bone.


Level: Bard 2, Sorcerer/Wizard 2
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Components: V, S, M
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target: You plus one willing creature per two levels, no two of which can be more than 30 ft. apart
Duration: 10 minutes/level (D)
Saving Throw: No
Spell Resistance: No

Upon casting this spell, all recipients gain the ability to speak a new language. This language sounds like random, babbling syllables to anyone not under the influence of the spell, but the targets understand each other perfectly.

Anyone using codespeak can read and write in this new language as well. Once the spell expires, however, any coded writing suddenly appears as gibberish. If the same

individuals become the targets of a codespeak spell again, cast by the same caster, they can once again read any coded writings.

Comprehend languages does not enable a caster to understand the language of another’s codespeak spell, but it does reveal that the targets are speaking a magical language. Tongues translates codespeak normally.

Material Component: A complex rune inscribed on a slip of paper that is then placed under your tongue.


Swastika-shaped halls filled with phantasmal forces. The walls are undulated in an irregular wave pattern.

PHANTASMAL FORCES: Will save (DC 18) each round or suffer 2d6 damage. The phantasmal forces take various forms manifesting through the primal power channels formed by the swastika.

  • Knights charging.
  • Howling banshees ripping down the length of the hall.
  • Dragons’ heads.
  • Hands grasping from the floor.
  • Black winds.
  • A song ripping at the ears.

TELEPORTALS: Located in each end of the swastika. None-operational red circle (incoming from Laboratory #7), two operational reds, and then a black teleportal.

  • Black Teleportal: No key for this teleportal can be found in the current network. (If it could somehow be activated, it would lead to a different network of laboratories not found on the map.)


Laboratory #18 - Map Courtesy of Dyson Logos

Map courtesy of Dyson Logos

All the doors in this area are of glass. Many are broken.

RED DOT: The teleportal.

BLUE DOT: This cell contains two husks and the BLUE KEY. (The key lies in plain sight in the middle of the floor.)

ROOM “A”: Treasure stash. Mostly cleaned out, but there remain 120 pp, 9 violet garnets (500 gp) each, potion of hide from animals, and scroll of dispel magic and flame arrow.

RANDOM ENCOUNTERS: 1 in 6 chance of encountered 1d6 wights.

OTHER CREATURES: Found in various cells. Dead unless otherwise noted.

  • Lovecraftian Psionic Flayer
  • Giant Ants
  • 2 trolls overgrown with 8 assassin vines (the trolls are insane, having been feasted upon by the assassin fines — all are alive)
  • 6 wights (“alive”)
  • 2 goblins
  • Spirit Naga (long, iron prongs extend from its chest; the heart has been unnaturally enlarged and infused with mithril worth 100 gp)
  • 4 giant spiders
  • 2 troll minions (emaciated from long starvation)
  • 5 dragon eggs with 5 baby dragon skeletons (one has its jaws clamped around the throat of another)


On a raised, rosette dais stands a rose-colored stone sarcophagus. The tomb effigy depicts a robed man with a flourished moustache clutching a thick tome between his hands.

SPOT (DC 25, or DC 12 with close inspection): The walls are worm-eaten.

UNQUIET WORMS: 1d4 rounds after entering the tomb, a slithering noise can be heard coming from the walls. 1d4 rounds after that, the unquiet worms arrive.

  • 12 total. 1d4 arrive per round.
  • GM Background: Unquiet worms have feasted upon the brain of a dead mage and become imbued with their arcane powers.

DISPEL MAGIC FIELD: The dais is surrounded by an invisible by a dispel magic field (see Spellbook of Leaves in Laboratory #20).


  • Spot (DC 18): To notice that the stone of the sarcophagus is worm-eaten.
  • Search (DC 18): Sarcophagus can be pushed back to reveal the teleportal to Laboratory #20.
  • Mohrg Lich: The spellcaster within the sarcophagus is a mohrg which can cast the spells it knew in life (see below). It wears pleated sheets of platinum worth 12,000 gp.

UNQUIET WORMS (CR 3+3*): 20 hp (4d8+2), AC 22, bite +6 (1d6+3), Save +6, Ability DC 14
Str 5, Dex 12, Con 11, Int 18, Wis 21, Cha 15
Skills: Alchemy +7, Intimidate +7, Knowledge (arcana) +11, Knowledge (planes) +11, Listen +12, Sense Motive +12, Spellcraft +11, Spot +12, Stealth +8
Scabrous Slime +6 AC (calculated in stat block)
* Class abilities of 8th-level wizard (casting spells per list below).

THE LICH’S SPELLS (4/5/5/5/3, CL 8)
4th (DC 18)—fire shield, ice storm, wall of fire
3rd (DC 17)—blink, dispel magic (x2), fireball, lightning bolt
2nd (DC 16)—darkness, false life, protection from arrows, rope trick, shatter
1st (DC 15)—burning hands, color spray, magic missile, ray of enfeeblement, shocking grasp
0th (DC 14)—dancing lights (x2), mage hand, resistance

Go to Part 6: Laboratories #20-21

Any material in this post not indicated as Product Identity in the Open Gaming License is released by Creative Common Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.

Tagline: A solid D20 module from an industry newcomer. A couple of crucial flaws undermine what would otherwise be a strong product. Cautiously recommended.

NeMoren's Vault - James BellWhen I first heard the plans emanating from Wizards of the Cost regarding the Open Gaming License and D20 Trademark License I was somewhat skeptical… but there was also a glimmer of excitement and a dash of hope in my emotional make-up.

And its specifically because of products like NeMoren’s Vault that I felt this way.

If NeMoren’s Vault had been produced this same time last year, it would have been preceded by a mammoth tome called something like The Fiery Dragon Fantasy Roleplaying System. And we would have been treated to mind-numbing artwork. And screeching purple prose. And vast claims about how the FDFRP was going to revolutionize gaming as we know it.

And we would have opened this book up and found exactly what we knew we were going to find all along: Dungeons & Dragons with the serial numbers filed off.

In the process, a solid adventure module like NeMoren’s Vault would have been irrevocably lost under the detritus of the hulking monstrosity which would have been the FDFRP: $30 for the rulebook; the time it takes to learn the new system; the effort it takes to start a new campaign. There is far too much investment to be made before you get down to the $10 it actually costs to pick up the module. At the end of the day, something like NeMoren’s Vault is not worth a massive investment of time, energy, and money.

It’s worth $10.

Which, handily enough, is exactly what it costs.


Warning: This review will contain spoilers for NeMoren’s Vault. Players who may end up playing in this module are encouraged to stop reading now. Proceed at your own risk.

Three hundred years ago a man by the name of Kragor NeMoren played a key role in the formation and success of the Grand Alliance between humanity and the elvish folk as they repelled the goblin hordes. In return for his service, he was granted ownership of a vast tract of rich forest land by the elvish king and, in turn, a royal title as Baron of the West Wood by the human king. Before he died, Kragor built a mansion – complete with a massive vault for protecting the riches he had accumulated, housing the family’s dead, and storing wine.

Fast forward 250 years: Baron Paytro NeMoren, the last of the NeMoren line, takes a wife. One week after the wedding, however, Amelia NeMoren is kidnapped by Paytro’s ex-love – Lisette – and her two brothers. Lisette comes to the manor and demands that the baron proclaim her the rightful baroness – otherwise she will kill his new wife. Paytro, afraid of the truth coming out, drugs Lisette and her brothers and seals them within the family’s vault.

Tortured with grief and guilt, Paytro goes into seclusion for the rest of his life – and dies apparently without heir. Lisette and her brothers would have starved to death, except for the fact that Lisette used her mystic black arts to transform all of them into undead ghouls – eagerly awaiting their chance to wreak vengeance upon the NeMoren line.

Enter the PCs, who have (by one way or another) come into possession of the silver keys (one per PC) which denote them as heirs of Baron Paytro. As you can easily guess, they are to enter the NeMoren family vault – which only their keys can access – and discover what their inheritance consists of.

Other stuff that’s been happening: A creature known as an Undrathur – a large, humanoid carnivore which burrows through the earth – has taken up residence in the area around the Vault. As a result of his burrowing, the lair of a hobgoblin tribe has been connected to the Vault. The hobgoblins were periodically raiding the Vault, but have been driven back by the ghouls and other undead Lisette has created. The hobgoblins periodically venture out to claim sacrifices in order to appease the ghouls, and their sacrificial chamber has – unbeknownst to the townspeople – befouled the local water supply and created a strange plague. The combination of mysterious disappearances (the kidnapped sacrifices) and the plague have been labeled “NeMoren’s Curse”.

This is something that NeMoren’s Vault does very well: Any one of these elements (a dead noble house leaving behind a subterranean vault; Poe’s Cask of Amontillado by way of a fantasy dungeon; the underground lair of a hobgoblin tribe; a massive, man-eating predator leaving behind underground tunnels) would suffice to explain your average dungeon crawl. But by taking all them in concert with one another, NeMoren’s Vault gets a whole larger than the sum of its parts.

This strength is re-emphasized in the fact that the design of the Vault consistently integrates these background elements in the particulars of the dungeon’s construction – although there are several elements of the Vault which would otherwise be cliché, the fact that they have been made to arise naturally from the Vault’s history and construction gives them a sense of realism and believability

The author has also done a nice job of not only considering a plethora of possible endings to the scenario, but examining a variety of different ways in which each thread plays out. Ideas ranging from placing the PCs in the middle of a civil war arising from the true inheritor of NeMoren’s title and lands to the discovery that Amelia NeMoren is still alive and held in magical stasis to the various fall-outs of breaking the balance of power between the ghouls and the hobgoblins.


Unfortunately, despite some of its glimmering strengths, NeMoren’s Vault is possessed of one crucial flaw:

There is more than 100,000 gp worth of treasure lying around this Vault.

And that’s just the stuff that’s easily accessible. If you count the stuff they’ve made difficult to access (by collapsing all of the entrances into a treasure room, for example; or requiring one of the PCs to chop off a finger to access the magical vault) there is an additional 225,000 gp worth of treasure I’m not counting (including one of the six legendary Runeblades – mystic blades which “have the power to conquer entire nations”).

That’s 325,000 gp worth of treasure!

Assuming you use the suggested party size of four characters, that’s roughly 25,000 gp of treasure per PC (81,250 gp if they get all the treasure in the complex). To put that in perspective:

1. According to Table 5-1 in the DMG (pg. 145), that’s the amount of treasure that a 7th level character should have accumulated (12th level for the higher number).
2. Using Table 7-2 in the DMG (pg. 170) and the Encounter Level/Challenge Rating for NeMoren’s Vault, the amount of treasure which should be present in an adventure of this type is only 10,000 gp (and that’s only if they defeat the monster which the module tells the DM they probably shouldn’t have to defeat).

Did I also mention that, at the end of the adventure, they also end up with a legal writ granting them possession of one of the richest baronies in the kingdom?

Even when you realize that they neglected to give Challenge Ratings to the various traps and puzzles found throughout the Vault, you’re going to end up with seriously overpowered PCs at the end of this adventure. I seriously suggest going through NeMoren’s Vault and vigorously thinning the treasure hordes out before letting your players go through it. (Or, alternatively, buff up the challenge ratings throughout and run your PCs through at a higher level. Changing the ghouls to ghasts, the medium-size skeletons and zombies to huge skeletons and zombies, and the hobgoblins to bugbears should do the trick – although you’ll still need to cut down the treasure a little bit.)

Actually, the problem is even greater than it appears at first glance because, in fact, they have overstated the Challenge Ratings on several of the encounters (for example, listing Ghouls as having a CR of 2 when, in fact, they only have a CR 1). This is a problem quite a few of these inaugural D20 products are bound to have (because they were working from preview documents or guesswork, rather than the final versions of books like the Monster Manual). Keep an eye open for it and make the necessary adjustments.

(On a related note: I would have liked to see a summary of treasure available in this scenario. A tool like this would not only make it easier to adjust the overall treasure size for parties of different sizes, but in its construction would have immediately alerted the author to the fact that he had vastly overfilled this dungeon.)


One interesting feature of the Fiery Dragon product line is the on-line support the company is offering. Although still in its nascent infancy (and therefore still rife with the possibility of going heinously awry), there are some interesting ideas under development:

1. Additional support material for the various Fiery Dragon products available on-line (such as complications and secret areas for published modules).
2. An on-line tavern in which players can “Roll for Rumors”. This isn’t particularly impressive at the moment, but conceptually the idea of sending your players to an on-line tavern to pick up the rumors which may (or may not) feed into next week’s adventure is interesting.
3. Perhaps the best feature, at the moment, though is the provision of “private campaign areas” – featuring a number of tools (including the hosting of up to 1.25 gigabytes of game-related files, message boards, etc.) for creating an on-line center for your on- or off-line campaigns.


NeMoren’s Vault is a solid product.

It is not an exceptional one — the treasure imbalance, mediocre-to-subpar artwork, a few unfortunate lay-out choices, and the generally traditional set-up prevents it from being one. But it is not a poor one, either.

It is worth $10. And that’s what you pay for it.

It serves its purpose. And that’s why you’ll pay for it.

What excites me about NeMoren’s Vault, though, is that – when you look beyond the weaknesses which pull it down – the strengths which remain are in all the right places. There is an underlying foundation of creative thought and gaming sensibility which, if given the chance to grow, has a chance of becoming something truly impressive.

NeMoren’s Vault is a good product. But Fiery Dragon Productions bears watching for the potential greatness which lies ahead.

This is a review of a complimentary pre-production copy, distributed by Fiery Dragon Productions for publicity purposes.

Style: 3
Substance: 3

Author: James Bell
Company/Publisher: Fiery Dragon Productions
Cost: $9.99
Page Count: 32
ISBN: 1-8946-9300-0

Originally Posted: 2000/11/02

James Bell replied to this review by noting the systemic errors that had been made (particularly in the amount of available treasure) and issued extensive errata to correct the problem. (Two huge thumbs up to him for that.) Fiery Dragon would, in fact, go on to produce a number of really nice D20 products. NeMoren’s Vault would be revised into both a 3.5 Edition and a Pathfinder Edition. I have not personally looked at the updated versions, but I’m guessing they’re still pretty nifty. You can grab the Pathfinder edition here.

Re-reading this review a decade and a half later, I’m actually strongly tempted to use the original version of the module unaltered to launch a campaign: Yup, you’re 1st level characters who have just ransacked 325,000 gp of treasure out of the ground, including a legendary blade with all kinds of prophecies attached to it. Plus, you’ve got a legal writ granting you the richest barony in the kingdom. So… now what? Instead of fetishizing balance, let’s see what happens if we deliberately invert expectations.

For an explanation of where these reviews came from and why you can no longer find them at RPGNet, click here.

Ninja Matryoshka Dolls

One of the things I talked about in The Art of the Key is the conceptual organization of material from the general to the specific: What the PCs immediately see. What they might see. What they can investigate. What they see when they investigate X. This organization, in turn, naturally mimics the way in which the game space is explored during actual play. (Which means that the basic conceptual structure is useful whether you’re keying a location or improvising on the fly.)

I’ve recently realized that there is a specific elaboration upon this general structure that (a) I’ve been using in play for several years without really consciously thinking about it, and which (b) has proven to be very effective. I’m now referring to it as a Matryoshka Search.

Let’s say that PCs are exploring the bedroom of a serial killer. There’s a hidden trap door in the floor leading down to the killer’s mystic butchering chamber. The basic way of handling this scenario looks like this:

Player: There’s gotta be more here. I search the room.
GM: Give me a Search check.
Player: (rolls dice) 25
GM: You find a secret trap door in the floor.

That obviously works just fine. But what I’ll frequently end up doing instead is something like this:

Player: There’s gotta be more here. I search the room.
GM: Give me a Search check.
Player: (rolls dice) 25
GM: There are scuff marks on the floor around the legs of the bed.
Player: As if the bed had been moved back and forth a lot?
GM: Yeah.
Player: I shove the bed to one side and take a look.
GM: You find a secret trap door in the floor.

Instead of immediately discovering the item of interest, the character instead discovers an indicator pointing in the direction of the item of interest. The advantage is that it allows (and even requires) the player to receive information and then draw a conclusion. It’s a subtle distinction, but the result increases the player’s engagement and reduces the feeling that the GM is just handing them whatever information he feels like. I call it the Matryoshka search technique because it turns the interaction into a nested doll: One investigation “opens” new information, which can then be opened by another investigation in turn.

We could also look at this through the lens of the Art of Rulings: The GM is setting an initial threshold for player expertise activating character expertise which is fairly low. (All the player needs to do is say that they want to make a Search check.) But once the character’s expertise has given some sort of result, the GM hits the pause button, turns the interaction back to the player, and basically raises the required threshold. (“Your original declaration has taken you this far, but now I need more information.”) This can make the technique a good way of compromising between players who prefer a very low threshold of player expertise and GMs who want their players to engage more directly with the game world. It’s a naturalistic way of asking, “How are you doing that?” while still moving the action forward.

The Martryoshka technique works even when the indicator really only points at one possible conclusion, as it does in the example above. (Although even in the case of the bed being frequently moved there’s still the question of WHY the bed is moving.) But it can be even more effective if there are multiple explanations possible, requiring additional inquiry and thought before firm conclusions can be reached. As a very simple example, the GM might say, “Taking a closer look at the floor, you can see through the dust and grime clear indications of square-shaped seams.” Is it a pit trap? Is it a pedestal that rises up? Do the seams release poison gas or a force cage projected from below? The player is going to have to figure it out.

This technique is particularly valuable if you’re running the GUMSHOE system: Because every skill use in GUMSHOE is guaranteed to succeed, it can be very easy for investigation actions in the system to feel like “laundry lists” with the player simply naming the skills they want to use and then the GM handing them dollops of information. Matryoshka nesting of information can prevent the automatic successes from becoming lifeless.

Go to Part 1

Lava River Cave AZ by Volkan Yuksel


Large chamber, shaped like two ovals laid in a cross. The walls are scorched from a massive explosion; jagged bits of metal have actually been driven into the walls at frequent intervals. A skeleton in tattered robes lies nearby.

MILLSTONE: In the center of the chamber a large, beruned millstone grinds a deep channel into a floating moebius strip of stone.

  • Madness of the Millstone: 1d8+2 rounds after entering this chamber, characters must make a Will save (DC 15) or suffer 1d3 points of Wisdom damage. As Wisdom damage is suffered, the runes on the millstone will begin to glow faintly blue and the millstone itself speeds up.
  • The save is repeated every (10 rounds – 1 per 5 points of total Wisdom damage the millstone has inflicted).

DAMAGED TELEPORTALS: A blue teleportal and red teleportal have both been cracked and damaged by the explosion. Attempting to use them causes 6d6 damage (Fort save DC 22 for half damage) and the character is returned to the same location.

GREEN TELEPORTALS: These have not been damaged (lying at opposite ends of one of the crossing ovals).

DIRE ETHEREAL MARAUDERS: 3 dire ethereal marauders were drawn here by the explosion (or perhaps caused it). They have been transformed into hulking monstrosities by the burning of the Ethereal Plane.

ETHEREAL PLANE: The ethereal plane around this room burns as a result of the arcane explosion. Anyone traveling on the ethereal plane suffers 1d6 points of fire damage each round.

DIRE ETHEREAL MARAUDER (CR 5) – Large Magical Beast (Extraplanar)
DETECTION – darkvision 60 ft., Listen +8, Spot +6; Init +5; Languages
DEFENSESAC 18 (+1 Dex, +7 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 17; hp 43 (5d10+15)
ACTIONSSpd 50 ft.; Melee Bite +13 (1d6+9); Ranged +6; Base Atk +5; Grapple +9
SQ darkvision 60 ft., ethereal jaunt
STR 26, DEX 12, CON 16, INT 7, WIS 12, CHA 10
FORT +13, REF +11, WILL +6
FEATS: Alertness, Improved Initiative, Weapon Focus (Bite)
SKILLS: Listen +8, Move Silently +6, Spot +6

Ethereal Jaunt (Su): Shift from Ethereal Plane to Material Plane as free action; shift back as move action (per ethereal jaunt, caster level 15th).

*Skills: +2 racial bonus on Listen, Move Silently, and Spot checks.


Six niches in the wall have hand-shaped depressions next to them. Three of the niches are occupied by large ogres — apparently unconscious — with a silver band across each of their chests holding them upright.

In the center of the chamber there is a large, glass ovoid filled with a viscous green fluid. Floating within the fluid is a spongy-skinned, humanoid creature glistening a gelatinous blue. Strange apparati surround the ovoid.

NICHES: The silver bands induce unconsciousness on anyone in the niche when they extend (Fortitude DC 30 negates). Putting a hand to the hand-shaped depressions causes the bands to retract or extend.

OVOID: The creature within the ovoid was formerly an ogre. He has been transformed into a painshrieker by the demon lairing in Laboratory #11.

  • The creature will thrash and appear to be asking for release. Some blood will ooze from its mouth into the fluid surrounding it.
  • Alchemy / Arcana (DC 11): Most of the mechanisms around the ovoid are based around carefully maintaining the balance of alchemical admixtures.
  • Alchemy / Arcana (DC 21): To identify the cellular-destabilizing compounds being used.

PAINSHRIEKER (CR 8) – 89 hp (11d8+40), AC 20, handscythes +14/+14 (2d8+4), Save +11, Ability DC 18
Str 12, Dex 15, Con 16, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 8
Skills: Hide +16, Listen +14, Move Silently +16, Search +16, Spot +14
Blindsight 30 ft. (high-frequency shrieks)
DR 10/silver
Painshriek (Su): 60 ft. cone once every 1d4 rounds. 2d6 first round; 4d6 second round; 6d6 third round.


A thick, tiered cleft. Magical lights clinging to the ceiling seem to cast daylight down onto the thick pleats of overgrowth choking the miniature vale.

TELEPORTALS: Green teleportal is at one end of the grotto. Red teleportal at the other end.

SPINDERS (x8): Roam through the overgrowth. Spinders are demonic vermin: Vaguely insectoid in appearance — but with a spongy skin rather than any sort of carapace — their broad, flat backs and upper portions of their crouched limbs are covered in thin, razor-sharp spines.

STATUE OF LIGHT: In the middle of the grotto sits a squat statue of clay clasping a bowl which seems lit from within.

  • Liquid Light: The bowl is filled with liquid light. Anyone touching the liquid will cause it to flow up over their hand (or hands). From that point forward, their hands will glow white — producing the effects of a daylight spell.

ALCHEMY (DC 25): Recognizes that most of the plants growing here are actually valuable alchemical ingredients. Six hours of harvesting could yield 5,000 gp worth of raw ingredients.

SPINDER (CR 4) – LE Medium Outsider
DETECTION – Listen +7, Spot -1; Init +7; Languages telepathy
DEFENSESAC 17 (+3 Dex, +4 natural), touch 13, flat-footed 14; hp 32 (5d8+10); Immune fire, poison; Resist acid 10, cold 10
ACTIONSSpd 40 ft.; Melee bite +6 (2d6+1) and 2 claws +1 (1d4); Ranged +8; Base Atk +4; Grapple +6; Atk Options impregnating bite; SA summon
SQ telepathy
STR 13, DEX 16, CON 14, INT 6, WIS 8, CHA 6
FORT +6, REF +7, WILL +3
FEATS: Dodge, Improved Initiative
SKILLS: Hide +6, Listen +7, Move Silently +6, Search +6, Spot +7

Pounce (Ex): Make a full attack in first round, even it has already taken a move action.

Improved Grab (Ex): Start grapple as free action if both claw attacks hit, no attack of opportunity.

Impregnating Bite (Ex): Bitten creature must make a Fort save (DC 15) or become impregnated with a spinder egg. Eggs attach to heart, whereupon larvel spinders hatch and begin feeding. After 1 hour, victim suffers a -5 penalty to all ability scores. After 90 minutes, victim suffers -10 penalty to all ability scores. After 2 hours, larval spinders eat through the wall of the heart (resulting in death). After 1 day, 2d6 spinders eat their way out of the body. Spinder eggs/larva can be treated with a remove disease spell.


 An expansive room filled with thick pistons of glowing red crystal running between floor and ceiling.

TELEPORTALS: All located in the center of the chamber.

  • Spot (DC 15): To notice that they’re glowing more brightly than similar teleportals in other chambers.

DEMON: A glabrezu lairs here. It possesses a GREEN KEY.

CRYSTALLINE PISTONS: The pistons are creating massive magical energy through a churning of the Ethereal Plane. The room has an overwhelming magical aura.

  • Breaking Pistons: If twelve pistons are broken, the teleportal network destabilizes and shuts down. None of the teleportals will work, but this also means that the teleport redirect effect in Tethe laboratories shuts down.


The two green teleportal rings are on either end of a long hall with a dozen pedestals to either side. One top of each pedestal stands a bottle.


  • 8 have been broken.
  • 1 contains a RED KEY.
  • 1 is an efreeti bottle.
  • 6 are empty.
  • 2 contain haunting winds. (Use stats for greater shadows, but they take the form of a spectral, skeletal fog.)
  • 1 acts as a greater pipes of haunting. (Those within 30 feet who hear the tune must succeed at a Will save (DC 18) or become frightened for 4 rounds. Those with less than 6 HD are panicked. Can be used twice per day.)
  • 1 contains the sounds from an ancient field of battle: Clashing swords. Cries of pain. (Those succeeding at a Listen check (DC 20) can also pick out the faint sound of weeping behind all of it.)
  • 4 contain whispering wind messages trapped from long ago (see below).

WHISPERING WIND #1 – ELDERLY MAN: “Beware the Brotherhood of the Blue Hand. They may have obtained a red key. If they can breach the laboratories, they may reach the sanctums.”

WHISPERING WIND #2 – YOUNG WOMAN: “Love me forever, Isidora, and I shall lay before thee the windswept thrones of kingdoms, the jewels of Cassara, and your heart’s desire.”

WHISPERING WIND #3 – GUTTURAL VOICE: “Take the branding irons from beneath the silver serpent. They must not fall into the hands of Posserak.”

WHISPERING WIND #4 – RASPY VOICE: “The wyrm Cassandra has betrayed us. Sargas stole the blue key from her, but those chambers are lost to us. Use not the blue keys.”


The teleportal from Laboratory #5 is on a high ledge above a roiling lava flow. Above the lava flow is suspended a brass orb.

The teleportal from Laboratory #14 goes inside the brass orb. Mechanisms within the orb allow one to lower it down towards the lava and extract a hot lava core into a containment cylinder.


A rosette-shaped chamber. There’s a large apparatus in the middle of the room, roughly shaped like a curved starfish. In the center of this apparatus is a cylindrical depression about 5 feet deep. Four glass coffins are attached to the apparatus and extend away from it. One wall of the room bulges out into a semi-oval with white walls covered in blackened runes.

CYLINDRICAL DEPRESSION: A lava core from Laboratory #13 can be slid into it. If this happens, the apparatus powers up for 1d6 hours.

GLASS COFFINS – SEARCH (DC 20): A large black opal worth 500 gp is concealed within the mechanisms surrounding the head of one of the glass coffins. Twin diamonds worth 750 gp each are concealed in two others. The fourth coffin has a hollow, but no gemstone.

  • Black Opal Coffin: If someone is placed within it and the coffin closed, it acts as a magic jar spell (capturing the soul in the black opal). If the coffin is opened and then closed, the soul will transfer back to the body in the coffin (even if it isn’t the original body). If the black opal is removed, the person in the coffin must make a Fortitude save (DC 22) or suffer 10d6 points of damage as the soul is ripped from their body and then reflected back.
  • Diamond Coffins: If people are in both coffins and the lids are closed, there is a 50% chance of a permanent shield other connection being forged (determine the direction of the damage shift randomly) and a 50% chance that both characters will suffer the full damage suffered by either.
  • No Gemstone Coffin: Malfunctioning from age. If activated (person in coffin; lid closed) an instant crystalline growth will fetter and crust over the coffin. Crystal had adamantine hardness. 15 minutes of air inside. Break DC 26; hardness 20; 320 hp.

BLACKENED RUNES – ARCANA/SPELLCRAFT (DC 22): To identify the rudimentary efforts of someone attempting to perfect the magic jar spell. It appears to be depending on some sort of technomantic loop, however.

GM Background: This was a high-powered laboratory (using the lava cores from Laboratory #13) that would often shift functions. It just happened to be investigating soul-binding at the time the complex was abandoned. This is, in fact, where the earliest instances of the magic jar spell were developed.

Go to Part 5: Laboratories #15-19

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Go to Part 1


Lost Laboratories of Arn - Teleportal Network

The laboratories of the Arn are connected using a teleportal network, as shown on the relational map above.

TELEPORT REDIRECT: The teleportal network has engrained the local astral space. The result is that anyone attempting to teleport into or out of the Lost Laboratories ends up in Laboratory 1.

TELEPORTAL RINGS: The teleportal network is made up of individual teleportal rings. When activated, everyone standing within the ring (or entering the ring within the next 30 seconds) is teleported to the destination portal. Teleportals give off a telltale sound when used (listed in parentheses): Most teleportals are linked to another, providing two way travel (wushhh) and arriving on the corresponding ring. Some work in only one direction (kishhh), with travelers arriving at random (but safe) locations at their destination. Some rings are malfunctioning and randomly send travelers to the wrong room (chance listed on the map; lisss for the most likely path, shaak otherwise), although the location is always the same for each activation (people teleporting together arrive at the same destination).

SILVER TELEPORTAL RING: A glowing ring of silver energy. In the center of these rings is a small circle of silver with a gem-like device similarly of silver affixed to them. Turning the gem-like device activates the teleportal ring.

BLUE / RED / GREEN TELEPORTALS: Identical to the silver teleportals, except that the circles are of amethyst, ruby, and emeraldy and have a hexagonal, pentagonal, or octagonal hollow instead of a device.

TELEPORTAL KEYS: Small, gem-like devices. They are inserted into the hollows and turned to activate the corresponding ring. (The key teleports with the person using it.)

This section of the adventure is based on Escape from the Lost Laboratoriesby Wordman. The teleportal network map is Wordman’s. The big shift is that I’ve redesigned all of the individual laboratories — swapping out most of them and radically expanding each into a small, mini-dungeon.


Sacrifices offered by the sahuagin appear here. The result is a massive charnel pit.

SAHUAGIN GHOULS: 8 sahuagin ghouls feast on the charnel pit. (Use normal ghoul stats, but they also gain a lesser form of sahuagin bloodfrenzy: +2 to attacks, -2 AC, +1d6 damage.)

TELEPORTALS: Two silver teleportals are on opposite sides of the room, each on the floor before twin statues of draconic ogres.


Glassware and copper instruments have been smashed into the smallest pieces.

CORPSE: A corpse lies near one wall. Above the corpse are carved the words “NO HOPE”.

  • Knowledge (DC 14): The corpse is dressed in fashions popular in Arathia over a century ago.

TELEPORTALS: Three silver teleportals, arranged in a triangular pattern.


Magitech clockworks slowly, but methodically, assemble and then disassemble a chaosomaton scorpion, chaosomaton boar, and chaosomaton chimera.

  • 1 in 6 chance on arrival (and per hour thereafter) that each creature is currently in a state of completion. If so, it will attack anyone who doesn’t bear a Sorcerous Brand of Arn.
  • Craft (Chaotic Magitech) (DC 24): Ascertain the control circuits that are currently attached to the mechanisms of the scorpion and bull. These can be removed and surgically grafted — Magitech Surgery (DC 32) — allowing telepathic control of the clockworks.
  • Craft (Chaotic Magietch) (DC 32): Modify one of the control circuits to allow control of the chimera instead.

EMERALD KEYWORKS: Another clockwork contraption contains the GREEN KEY. (If the key is removed, the clockwork mechanism will begin working on another green key, which will be ready in 1d6 days.)

TELEPORTALS: Silver teleportal in the center of the room. (The teleportals from both Lab #2 and Lab #5 arrive there.)


A floating, rectangular island in a huge sphere of smooth stone. Massive flying buttresses of a blackened granite are literally flying — forming the ghostly half-semblance of a cathedral.

TELEPORTALS: Silver teleportal in the middle of the island. Two green teleportals at one end, opposite the altar on the other.

ALTAR: Plain block of stone, but with a large, curling serpent of silver inlaid. (The serpent is rearing.)

  • Search (DC 16): The top of the altar slides back, revealing an everburning brazier and two branding irons — one of gold and one of silver.
  • Brazier: The brazier is not hot to the touch, but will heat the two branding irons. If the irons are both laid over the same spot, they’ll form the Sorcerous Brand of Arn. (If done with the heat from the brazier, then when the name “Arn” is spoken, the brand will glow brightly as per a light spell for 1d6 rounds.)

GM Background: Those to be indoctrinated into the order of Arn were brought here and branded.


BAD AIR: The air here cannot be breathed (having been consumed by the opalettes).

  • Reflex (DC 15) to hold breath for 2 rounds per point of Constitution, then Constitution checks (DC 10 + 1 per round) to continue. On failure, only hold breath for 1 round per 2 points of Constitution, followed by checks. Then unconscious (0 hp), dying (-1 hp), then suffocates (dead).

PEDESTAL: There is a stone pedestal in the center of the room. Six large, milky-white gemstones are arrayed on the top of the stone pedestal.

OPALETTES: The opalettes are currently in a comatose state. If brought into an oxygenated area, the “gemstones” will open their eyes, unfold faceted arms and legs, and begin crawling around like slow-motion puppies.

  • Arcana (DC 18): Opalettes feed on the vestigial auras of magical items. This doesn’t harm the magical items an can actually be beneficial in magical laboratories (where it prevents potential wild magic surges and the like).
  • Arcana (DC 25): Opalettes can be crushed, releasing the magical energy they’ve fed on and functioning as a one-use 1st level pearl of power (this kills the opalette).
  • If left in at least pairs, there is a 1 in 20 chance per week per opalette that it will give birth to a baby opalette.


Alcoves with exquisitely detailed statues of various members of the Arn. A multi-tiered marble fountain with fluted spouts of red jade stands dry and dusty in the center of the chamber — its curved pools swirling around five green teleportals.

FOUNTAIN: Any water poured into the fountain is purified and coalesces.

  • If 20 gallons of water are added, the fountain will begin working again. Any water drunk directly from the fountain acts as a potion of cure light wounds (usable 1/hour per character). (Water taken any distance from the fountain remains purified, but has no curative powers.)

BRONZE TABLET: Bronze Tablet #6 lies in one of the basins.


Level: Sorcerer/Wizard 2
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 round
Range: Personal
Target: You
Duration: 1 day/level
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No

This subtle but useful spell allows the caster to safeguard important knowledge—even from himself. While casting this spell, you recite one piece of knowledge you possess (up to a maximum of 50 words). Upon completion of the spell’s casting, you transfer the knowledge from your mind to your skin in the form of an intricate, runic tattoo placed anywhere you choose on your body. The knowledge disappears utterly from your mind, and you might not realize you forgot something. The magic of the spell patches over gaps in your memory with recollections from the past. Until the spell’s duration ends, the knowledge is lost to you.

Many cyphermages commission nonmagical tattoos to disguise the effects of this spell. A detect magic spell or a Decipher Script check (DC 15 + your Int modifier) reveals an enchanted tattoo but not its contents. The effects of hidden knowledge can be dispelled normally, in which case the knowledge is completely lost.

Material Component: A drop of ink.


A twisted morass of glass piping filled with flowing fire.

THE ARTIFURNACE: Near the center of the twisted labyrinth of glass is the Artifurnace. Eight large valves run around its circumference. Bronze Tablet #2 lies on the floor nearby.

  • Valves: Opening the valves will release a blast of steam (10 ft. cone, 4d6 fire damage, Reflex DC 18 for half damage) and release the fire elementals trapped inside.
  • Cracking the Artifurnace: If all eight valves are released, the Artifurnace can be opened.
  • Helm of Fire Elemental Control: Suspended within the Artifurnace is a helm of fire elemental control (crafted from brass and gold). But it doesn’t work properly: One wearing the helm can summon a Large fire elemental, but anyone wearing the helm will instantly provoke rage from any fire elemental (including those summoned).

FIRE ELEMENTAL: If any of the glass tubing is broken or the valves on the Artifurnace are opened, the fire elementals trapped within the tubing will break free in a rage.

  • 1 Huge Fire Elemental
  • 2 Large Fire Elementals
  • 16 Small Fire Elementals

GM Background: The idea was to create a magical item through entirely sympathetic rituals (by controlling the fire elementals, imbue an item with the ability to control them). Instead, the item became imbued with the rage of the imprisoned fire elementals.

Go to Part 4: Laboratories #8-14

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