The doors open smoothly; beyond, you see a great and silent chamber. On a raised dais in the center of the chamber you see a large stone sarcophagus. This, you realize, must surely be the final resting place of the hero Nodhur.
An adventure for five or six 1st or 2nd
level characters, or a party having a total of 6 or 7 levels.The adventure is written for Basic Dungeons
and Dragons (circa early 1980's) but can be adapted for other fantasy RPGs.
Far to the north, on the coast of the deep and cold
White Sea, lies the small kingdom of Thrudheim.The hard-living Northmen of this region hold their heroes, alive
and dead, in particularly high regard.Nodhur is one such hero who=s prowess in battle and skill at diplomacy are
legendary and still spoken of, though he passed from this world more than one
hundred years ago.
Nodhur=s Tomb is an old burial mound or barrow wherein
lies the hero=s earthly remains, along
with those of a number of important locals.The Tomb was once visited regularly by pilgrims and was well-cared for
by local priests of Nithra, Nodhur=s patron deity.Ten years or so ago, however, an invading army of Orcs overran the
region, ending the pilgrimages and slaying the priests.Though the Orcs have long since been
defeated, the location of the Tomb has been all but forgotten and the region
remains wild enough that few have dared to search for it.
Mok Sheb, a Troll, has moved with his band of
raiders into the Tomb.From there he
launches attacks against caravans passing nearby and even, on occasion, against
the nearest small villages several miles away.
The PCs may be brought into the adventure using any
of the following hooks:
1. The PCs are working as guards for a caravan when
the caravan is attacked by Mok Sheb and his band.All but the PCs are slain, freeing them to pursue the
attackers.Alternatively, the caravan
leader, frustrated by what is only the latest in a number of costly raids,
orders the PCs to track and slay the bandits.A faint trail leads from the site of the attack into the forest and
straight to the Tomb.
2. Similar to #1, above, but the PCs are in a
nearby village when it is attacked.The
next day, a reward (2gps per head) is posted for capturing or killing the
3. The PCs are hired (100gps) by priests of Nithra
to find, clean out, and report on the condition of the Tomb.The Priests tell the PCs that, by way of
further reward, they can keep anything they find or liberate so long as it is
not taken from a burial vault or sarcophagus (the current priests are unaware
of the existence of the treasury, and believe Nodhur=s Axe will either rest with
Nodhur=s body or will have been
removed from the Tomb altogether).The
priests provide an old map describing the Tomb=s location relative to a prominent landmark
(e.g., mountain, waterfall, extremely large and ancient tree).
In keeping with convention, italicized text can be
read outright to the players.Note: The
map was created using the free (and highly recommended) tile-based mapping
utility from Dungeon Crafter.
1. Exterior and Entrance
You come upon a shadowed clearing, thickly ringed
by large old trees.Before you, in the
center of the clearing, a squarish mound rises from the earth, long blanketed
by thick grasses and wildflowers but obviously not a natural feature.Set into the mound is an oversized door of
blackened hardwood intricately carved with runes, designs, and abstract images,
and presenting a formidable-looking iron lock.
The door is not locked, but Mok Sheb has wedged it
shut from the inside.This may cause
the PCs some consternation, particularly if they believe themselves to have
successfully picked the lock (note: a Knock spell will remove the wedge
and open the door).A dagger or similar
object slipped underneath the door will knock the wedge away and allow the door
to be opened.Alternatively, the PCs
could break it down (50% chance for each attempt made with a combined strength
of at least 30, i.e., two or more characters hitting is simultaneously, either
with their shoulders or with a makeshift ram), though doing so will make a lot
2. The Plug
You enter a short hall constructed of large blocks
of gray granite well and smoothly finished by craftsmen of obvious skill.The floor angles slightly upward toward the
far wall.At your feet, two shallow,
parallel grooves in the floor lead forward from a point just inside the door to
disappear underneath the far wall.A
large wedge-shaped feature of that wall protrudes into the hall toward
you.Ahead, on the right, is an opening
into a corridor leading deeper into the mound.
If the characters think to ask, none of the
expected dust, rat droppings, bits of crumbled stone, or other debris covers
the floor that might show footprints or other indications of use or
habitation.Mok Sheb is smart enough to
have ordered his Orcs to sweep away any footprints.He realizes that to an astute observer the absence of dust and
debris is as much an indication of a living presence, but he reasons that at
least there is no indication as to what or how many creatures are regularly
entering and leaving the Tomb.
The far Awall@is actually a movable plug.If the party chooses to approach the plug
for a closer look, read the following:
As you examine the wall more closely, you notice a
seam separating it from the rest of the corridor, as though the wall is somehow
not an integral part of the surrounding stonework.You also notice what appear to be rust stains on the wedge-shaped
Read the following if the party touches the plug in
any way or, if they do not touch it, one round after they begin examining it
or, if they do not examine it, as soon as they enter the right-hand corridor:
The peculiar wall suddenly shifts and begins to
move forward toward the entrance to the mound.It moves slowly at first but quickly gains speed.
The plug is a defensive feature, designed to seal
the Tomb against intruders.Two rounds
after it begins moving, the plug slams into the entrance with a booming impact,
blocking it and any hope of escape!If
they have not already surmised the plug=s operation, the party now realizes that the
grooves are tracks to allow the plug to slide more easily (at one time, the
tracks would have been kept well-oiled), and the wedge-shaped feature, once
sheathed in iron, fits the entrance=s opening perfectly.The plug is too heavy to be stopped by the characters, and any
item wedged underneath the plug in an unsuccessful attempt to stop it will be
broken, smashed flat, ground into the floor, or pushed away.Any character who stubbornly or foolishly
refuses to enter the right-hand corridor before the plug passes will be pushed
out the entrance and cannot partake in the remainder of the adventure.
Mok Sheb and his Orcs have studiously avoided
jarring the plug in any way.If the
party did not touch the plug, assume vibrations or other disturbances from
their incautious activities (e.g., heavy footsteps, loud talking) caused it to
slip.The sound of the plug ramming
home will, of course, announce the intruders to the entire Tomb.
If the party examines the back of the plug after it
has sealed the entrance, read the following:
A thick iron ring is set into the rear surface of
the great block, and a length of rusted chain hangs from the iron ring.At the end of the chain is a corroded and
broken link.In the direction from
whence the block came you see another wall.In the center of this wall is a small opening, through which, you
surmise, the chain must have run.
The opening leads into the capstan room of area #4,
3. Guard Room
The floor of this room is strewn with bits and
splinters of wood.Two sconces are set
into the walls.Otherwise the room
In days gone by, at least two priests, serving as
both guards and caretakers, would be present in the Tomb at all times.The bits and splinters of wood are all that
remain of two beds and various other furniture long since smashed by the Orcs
and used as kindling for their cooking fires.
If the party performs a careful search of the room
they will find that one of the flagstones is loose and moves when stepped upon,
and that one of the sconces swivels on its bracket.These are both Ared herrings@, resulting only from lack
of maintenance and natural decay, though the PCs may waste considerable time
and resources poking and probing and still leave convinced that they=ve missed something.
4. Capstan Room
A large capstan occupies this room; iron spokes
project outwardly from a central stone wheel around which is wrapped a thick
but rusty chain.A length of the free
end of the chain lies on the ground, trailing off in the direction of the wall
to your left.At the end of the chain
is a corroded and broken link.In the
center of the left wall is an opening through which the chain presumably ran.
The capstan was, of course, used to haul back the
plug of area #2, above.Without a
forge, the chain cannot be mended sufficiently to withstand the weight of the
plug.If the party does devise an
apparently reasonable means of mending the broken link, another link will break
before the plug can be hauled back a sufficient distance to allow the party to
exit.The purpose of this feature is to
prevent the party withdrawing from the Tomb during the adventure to heal or
acquire special tools or weapons.Rest
assured, a means of removing the plug is provided for at the end of the
5. Guardian Statue
To your right is an alcove in which resides a small
statute in the form of a human figurine.The statue is unremarkable, though it might have some artistic
value.Unfortunately, the statue
obviously cannot be removed from its base without damage, and its base looks
like it weighs a ton.
The statue is an animated or living statute with
the single specific purpose of controlling the great block of area #6,
described below.The statue will send a
signal to open and close the block only if the appropriate password is spoken
while standing before the block.No
other non-magical mechanism exists for actuating the block.
The base does not literally weigh a ton, but it is
very heavy and awkward.A combined
strength of at least 30 is needed to slide it out of the alcove.
The statue will not attack the PCs or give any
indication that it is anything other than completely normal.A detect magic spell will, however,
reveal its magical nature.Carved into
the back of the statute=s base are the words ADeblok@ and AReblok@.These are the passwords for, respectively, opening and closing
the block.Mok Sheb discovered these
passwords and their use by sheer luck.He and his Orcs pass through the block to avoid the Skeletons of area
6. The Great Block
The great block was once used to prevent commoners
who were visiting deceased relatives in the Hall of Commoners (area #7,
described below) from wandering into or asking about other areas of the Tomb,
while allowing the priests a more expedient route to and from those areas.The block is hidden behind a moldy tapestry
and melds perfectly into the surrounding stonework such that even characters
who are actively searching will have little chance of discovering it.Even if discovered, however, it can only be
actuated by the statute of area #5.
Remember, the passwords must be spoken while standing
before the block, not standing before the statue.
7. Hall of Commoners
The doors open with a loud groan and a stirring of
dust and stale air.A long hall
stretches before you, disappearing into the gloom.A layer of dust covers the floor and gauzy cobwebs drape across
the walls and corners.Alcoves line
both sides of the hall, and in each alcove is what appears to be a stone burial
vault.Each vault is a large rectangular
stone box laboriously carved with ornate images and runes and sealed with a thick
Characters should deduce from the dust and stale
air that no creature has come this way in a long time.The hall holds ten burial vaults of various
local persons of some small importance.The stone slabs sealing the vaults can be shifted with effort.Inside each vault is the deceased=s skeleton and a few
personal items (roll for random contents using the table below).The DM may wish to carefully consider
whether lawful good characters should participate in or even allow other
characters to loot the dead.
Random contents of vault (1d6, roll once per
2tattered clothes and silver ring
3tattered clothes and old book
(deceased=s memoirs; 10sps if sold to
4tattered robes and pouch containing
5nothing other than skeleton
6tattered clothes and rusted arms and
armor (no value)
The Skeletons in the last three vaults and those in
the first three vaults will animate once the party has traveled half the
distance through the hall, trapping the party between them.The Skeletons have no intellect and will not
use strategy.Thus, for example, the
Skeletons from the first three vaults, who are now behind the party, will not
purposefully attempt to surprise the party once it has engaged the remaining
Skeletons.Of course, under certain
circumstances (e.g., if the party has left the first three vaults open so that
the Skeletons make little sound leaving their vaults and if the party is
concentrating entirely on the Skeletons before it) the rearward Skeletons may
achieve surprise nonetheless.Fighting
the Skeletons has a 50% chance of alerting the Orcs of area #9 if they haven=t been alerted already.
For purposes of Turning, because the two groups of
Skeletons attack from opposite directions and, most likely, at different
moments, the DM may wish to require separate Turning attempts for each group of
Skeletons x6 (HP:2,3,3,4,4,5); two carry rusting
long swords (1d8 damage), the rest are unarmed (1d6 damage).
8. Connecting Hall
Passing through the doors, you enter a wide
rectangular corridor.In both the near
and far righthand corners are life-sized statutes of humans dressed in flowing
robes (priests of Nithra).In the far
lefthand corner is another pair of doors.The corridor appears otherwise empty.
Sometime ago, the Orcs, realizing that any
intruders would likely come this way, broke through the flagstone floor and dug
two pit traps.The traps are, however,
rather primitive and easily detected (80%) by forward probing of any sort (as
with a staff or pole).A PC falling
into either 10' deep trap suffers 1d6 points of damage and alerts the Orcs.
9. Hall of the Exalted
The doors open with a loud groan.A long hall stretches before you,
disappearing into the gloom, and appears substantially similar to the hall in
which the Skeletons attacked.The air
smells of smoke.Thirty feet ahead, two
of the vaults have left their alcoves and now lie perpendicularly across the
The Orcs, already alerted to the party=s presence, are waiting in
ambush behind the two crosswise vaults.They will wait until the party has cleared the doorway before opening
fire with their crossbows.Orcs with
spears will not cast them until a character is within 20' of their
position.The Orcs will prefer to
target fighter-types first and will concentrate their fire in an attempt to
kill a single character each round rather than wound two or three.
A number of possibilities exist for quick-thinking
parties.One is to retreat into the
corridor, remove one or both doors from the exit from the Hall of Commoners,
and use the doors as shields to rush the Orcs.Also, well-prepared parties could lob flaming oil flasks or wineskins (AMolotov cocktails@) at the Orcs= position, causing them to
abandon their cover and fall back, thereby allowing the party to rush into the
The vaults hold only human remains, everything else
having been taken by the Orcs.
Orcs x6 (HP:4,5,6,6,7,7); all wear leather armor;
two carry crossbows w/10 bolts and long knives (treat as daggers), two carry
spears (one each) and broad swords, two carry broad swords and shields; each
has 10-60cps (1d6x10) on its person.
10. Chamber of Nodhur=s Rest
The doors open smoothly; beyond, you see a great
and silent chamber.On a raised dais in
the center of the chamber you see a large stone sarcophagus.This, you realize, must surely be the final
resting place of the hero Nodhur.
Mok Sheb is flat against the wall to the right of
the entryway and cannot be seen until a character enters the chamber.When the first character enters, Mok Sheb
will fire his great bow once before diving behind the sarcophagus for better
cover.He will continue firing until he
runs out of arrows or the party gets too close.Mok Sheb is highly intelligent and will fight to the death.When Mok Sheb attacks, read the following
As you step into the chamber, you hear the
unmistakable Atwang@ of a bowstring to your
right.The archer, twenty feet away and
moving fast toward the sarcophagus, is a giant green-skinned humanoid wearing
an ornate helm and chainmail armor.
If the characters get close enough, you may mention
the rubbery appearance of Mok Sheb=s skin or other clues to his being a Troll.You should not be quick to refer to Mok Sheb
as a Troll unless the party has encountered Trolls before.Whether or not the party recognizes that Mok
Sheb is a Troll is important in light of his regenerative powers (3 HP per
round).Mere ordinary battle damage -
even cutting him into pieces - will not kill him; only damage from fire or acid
cannot be immediately regenerated.Once
Mok Sheb is incapacitated or killed, read the following.
The creature is down, the fight is over.Its great bow is broken, apparently during
the fight, but its axe gleams like a thing alive.Searching about the chamber you notice, for the first time, a
small wooden door in the wall opposite the entryway.
Mok Sheb (HP:24) STR 18 (+3 to hit and damage);
chainmail armor and helm; great bow w/10 arrows (treat as long bow to hit, +1
to damage), Nodhur=s Axe +1* (see Appendix B,
below) wielded one-handed as though wielded with two.
Through the small door is a narrow corridor with
steps going downward.At the bottom of
the steps you enter a small room filled with chests and other items of obvious
The chests are locked but not trapped.The treasure includes:
11pps, 42eps, 109gps, 610sps, 2001cps;
jeweled necklace (30gps),
gold arm ring x3 (10gps each), chalice (5gps);
book, AThe Tale of Nodhur@, (50gps if sold to collector)
- weighs 1 pound;
books x20, APrayers to Nithra@, (1gps each) - each weighs 4 pounds;
tapestries x4 (25gps, 50gps, 75gps, 100gps) - each
weighs 40 pounds; and
Nithra=s Magical Thread (110').
A letter, in the form of an authentication,
accompanies the Thread and sets forth all of the relevant information included
in Appendix B, below.The signature is
illegible, but the letterhead indicates that the drafter was a member of the
Scholar=s Guild of the nearest
The point, of course, is that the Thread can be
used on the capstan in place of the broken chain to haul back the plug and
allow the PCs to leave the Tomb.Once
hauled back, the plug can be wedged in place (possibly with a log from the
surrounding forest) long enough to retrieve the Thread.
Ending the Adventure
So ends the adventure.If any of the suggested hooks were used, some final task may yet
remain for the PCs, even if it involves only collecting their pay from the
caravan master, collecting their reward from the villagers, or reporting their
findings to the priests.
If your players are anything like mine, they may
think about claiming and renovating the Tomb for use as a temporary
stonghold.The priests likely won=t allow this (and Nithra
won=t be happy either), and
will challenge any such claim before the King, in the local Courts of Equity,
or in some other appropriate forum.
If told of them, Nithra=s priests will attempt to
buy back Nodhur=s Axe and Nithra=s Magical Thread.Unfortunately, offerings and tithes are
down, so the priests can only pay, respectively, 300gps and 200gps for the
treasures.Presumably, the PCs will
decline to sell the items.
Appendix A: Scaling the Adventure
The DM will need to carefully consider the various
challenges posed by the adventure and decide whether the PCs can handle
them.An experienced group of players
running five or six 1st or 2nd level characters, or a
total of six or seven levels, should do well.The Skeletons and Orcs are, by themselves, hardly tough challenges, but
the ways in which they=re presented increase the
difficulty of getting by them.If, for
example, the three Skeletons (area #7) surprise the party from behind - where
parties typically position their spellcasters(!) - the party may find itself
without magical assistance thereafter.Similarly, if the party isn=t bright enough to do anything other than bullrush
the well-positioned Orcs (area #9) who are firing from behind cover, the party
may lose its strongest fighter-type.
It may be necessary to tailor later encounters Aon-the-fly@ in light of the results of
previous encounters.For example, if
the Skeletons and pit traps do serious damage to the party, then the DM may
deem it necessary to reduce the number of Orcs.Remember, the party can=t withdraw from the Tomb to recover or
resupply.Alternatively, if the party
comes through relatively unscathed, the DM may reasonably decide to increase
Mok Sheb=s hit points or abilities
or else the final encounter could be somewhat anticlimactic.
Suggestions for decreasing difficulty include:
1. Assume the three rearward Skeletons in area #7
make too much noise climbing out of their burial vaults to surprise the party.
2. Eliminate one or both of the pit traps in area
3. Lower the Orcs= hit points in area #9, or replace all or
some of the Orcs with Goblins or even Kobolds.
Suggestions for increasing difficulty include:
1. Replace one or more of the Skeletons in area #7
with more powerful undead (e.g., Zombies, Ghouls).
2. Place a Gelatinous Cube or similar beasty at the
bottom of one of the pit traps in area #8.
3. Increase the number of Orcs in area #9, or
replace some or all of the Orcs with better armed and armored Hobgoblins or
Appendix B: Magic Items and Other Treasure
Nodhur=s Axe +1*
Nodhur=s glorious combats are the stuff of legends.Of all his weapons, his Axe is perhaps the
most famous - AGiant Cleaver@ and ADragon Cutter@ it is called.Its creation is said to have been
commissioned by Nithra herself and accomplished by the greatest Dwarven smiths.
Nodhur=s Axe is a double-bladed, hand-and-a-half battle
axe, balanced so perfectly it can be wielded equally well with one hand (1d8
damage plus magical bonus) or two (1d10 damage plus magical bonus).The haft is of Witchwood, much-prized for
its ability to accept dweomenors, and the blade is of Mithril.
The Axe=s magical bonus is linked to the wielder=s level.The Axe is +1 at levels 1-4; +2 at levels
5-9; +3 at levels 10-14; and so on.**
In addition to its enhanced lethality, the Axe can
also cure its wielder of 1d4 HP of injuries once per day simply by speaking the
words ANithra, grace the wielder
of thine mighty Axe@.This ability is documented in The Tale of Nodhur and is
well-known to scholars of the region.
**Note: This feature of increasing effectiveness is
an attempt to address the common problem of characters Aoutgrowing@ lesser items over time and
needing to regularly upgrade to more powerful items.With this feature, magical items can become generally less common
and more valuable, and specific magical items can become more meaningful over
the long term.The feature of
increasing effectiveness can be satisfactorily explained in a number of ways
including, for example, that the character=s ability to more effectively tap into the item=s power increases with
experience level, or that the item=s dweomenor becomes linked to the character=s life essence (level) and
increases in power commensurately.Also, this feature has precedent in the many spells (e.g., Light,
Magic Missile) whose effectiveness is tied to the caster=s level.
Nithra=s Magical Thread
Legend has it that once, as Nithra strode across
the heavens, the hem of her gown frayed, sending magical threads far and
wide.These magical Threads typically
appear to be ordinary silk cord interwoven with silver threads.They may be of any length, are always
one-quarter inch in diameter, and are typically of a pastel color such as pale
blue, pale green, or pale rose, though a gold-colored Thread is rumored to have
once been found.The Thread will
support any weight and cannot be cut, burned, or otherwise broken.The Threads are, in fact, not magical; their
extraordinary properties result solely from the skill and knowledge of those
who create them for the Gods= rainments.
Appendix C: Playtest Characters
The following party of characters was used to
playtest the Tomb of Nodhur adventure.