My group of players have expressed a fondness for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition after a season with the system. It’s been really streamlined, and none of us are big on getting bogged down with rules. Player enjoyment is paramount, so the second act of my campaign will be using D&D 5E. The old Pathfinder mobs are still included in the stat cards, but I’m now using alternative, higher-level 5E monsters for the travelling encounter.
Into the mountains:
Goram’s Depths lies nestled high in the snow-topped mountain range of Dagnor’s Teeth. With icy gales and precipitous paths, only the most resolute merchants venture so far north. As well as providing the area with much of its ore and minerals, the stonemasons are always in high demand – although they are seldom enticed away from their stronghold.
The secluded dwarven lair was established 217 years ago by a small group of 90 dwarves, and the population level has barely moved in either direction. The fortress however has since become a sprawling network of tunnels and chambers.
The dwarves of Goram’s Depths were more than a little surprised when a new shaft broke into a deposit of gemstones. It’s not often a miner comes across something new, especially when new is a cache of pulsing iridescent spheres. Quick to excavate and examine their discovery, they sent one of their merchants north to the dwarven town of Felstrom; their geologists are renowned.
Unbeknown to the excavators, the gems they covet are the centuries-old spawn of the demigod Corvandatt. Their mother slumbered nearby as the young absorbed the ambient energy required for their development. Waking to discover her nest despoiled, Corvandatt went on a murderous rampage. No man, woman, or child in Goram’s Depths would escape her wrath, as she tore through every passage and room – none but the merchant sent north of the range.
The merchant returns knowing only that the precious ‘stones’ are not geological, but magical. Their presence imparts power to whatever they are bound.
Residents of Black Mesa might mention rumours of a new material discovered in the dwarven mines, or one could get curious after seeing it printed on a merchant’s map. It’s primarily an area for story progression, leading the way for the second act.
My first campaign season was tight at six weeks, so thankfully neither occurred. Players will be directed to the hold by the council following the calamitous events in Black Mesa. It should make a good start to the second act of the campaign, which will head towards the Emerald Crater and down into the earth.
The path north is long and fraught with dangers. Throw in some survival rolls if they aren’t appropriately dresses for the cold, and aim for one encounter along the way. A pack of wolves would be ideal at level one or two, but choose mountain trolls or yetis if any higher.
The path ends suddenly against sheer mountain rock, where two empty braziers flank a pair of simple stone doors. One of the doors is ajar, and a faint trail of blood has bled through the most recent snow; a trail leading to the lee of a boulder off the path. A frozen dwarf is slumped against the rock, his face transfixed in abject terror. His hands have been completely town away, leaving little more than stumps.
Exploration of the hold reveals a fetid bloodbath. At least several dozen dwarfs are spread across the walls and floor, but few of the bodies are intact. Most of the tunnels have collapsed, and the reek of death is almost overpowering. A thorough examination of the area highlights several spots where the earth has been disturbed, other than the collapsed passages. One could guess that the catastrophe probably occurred a couple of months ago.
Upon leaving, the party will encounter a dwarf leading a goat-drawn cart. Dorthrump is one of Goram’s travelling merchants, returning from a border town north of the range. Horrified at what he’s told (if he’s told) by the group, Dorthrump will rush past to check for himself. The fellow staggers back out mere seconds later, throwing up and sobbing.
The distraught dwarf offers the party some newfound gems if they will only help him burn his friend’s bodies. He couldn’t bear the misery of collecting his loved one’s mouldering remains.
Discussion of the gem’s origin in the deepest depths of Dagnor’s Teeth should not be overlooked. They are a hint at something more, and a possible motivation for delving down into the underworld.
The lightly-pulsing gemstones fuse to whatever item they are bound, improving their existing qualities. This grants +1 to any weapon or armour, but they cannot be removed from the item.