An Adventure for 10th-level PCs
The castle now known as Shadowhold once stood on the Material Plane. Ruled by a just and fair paladin named Sallust, the fortress stood as a beacon of hope on an untamed frontier. The promontory upon which the castle sat jutted out into the sea, a bold retort against the power of nature.
Sallust did not have subjects, but he provided protection to those farmers, hunters, and foragers whose huts huddled close to the shores of the Sea of Tempests. In return, Sallust received foodstuffs and other supplies to keep his family and his loyal guards warm and well-fed.
But then something infected the purity of Sallust’s stronghold on the sea. A strange fiendish creature began whispering words of power into Sallust’s ear—words of corruption and evil. Why should such a mighty warrior live only at the grace of the peasants, the being asked. Why shouldn’t Sallust claim the land as rightfully his, and live off its spoils as he deserved?
Despite his good nature, Sallust was turned by these whispers, and made foul bargains with the fiendish creature. When the sacrifice of local peasants proved insufficient, Sallust even slew his own wife and three adult daughters to gain more power.
But this final deed only sealed Sallust’s fate. Calling upon ancient rituals, a local druid managed to sever the bonds between the stronghold and the Material Plane. Now the castle’s reality would match the dark and warped beings within, as it would reside evermore upon the Plane of Shadow.
But the boundary between the Material Plane and the Shadow Realm waxes and wanes, and during times when that veil grows gossamer-thin, the castle called Shadowhold appears once again, perched upon a rocky island a hundred yards from shore. Stories claim that the dark warlord Sallust still sits upon his dark throne, trapped for all eternity—or until bold heroes can free him from his cursed existence.
Despite the description above, you can place this adventure anywhere you need—whether on a quiet seashore, a deserted hilltop, or an isolated mountain peak. It should be some distance from civilization, in order to retain its sense of mystery.
The characters might hear rumors of Shadowhold from a variety of sources, from bardic lore to local rumors to research into the planes. Regardless of the means you use, one thing remains certain: Shadowhold will manifest upon the Material Plane soon, but only for a short time.
To add excitement and tension to the adventure, stress the fact that Shadowhold only remains “solid” on the Material Plane for a matter of hours before returning to the Plane of Shadow. Characters who dawdle may become trapped on that plane, requiring other adventures to return home.
You should have access to the Manual of the Planes to best use this adventure. (If you don’t already own MotP, you owe it to yourself to go pick it up.) It also uses the shade, a monster from the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.
Approach (EL 8)
This encounter assumes that you place Shadowhold as described in the introduction. If you choose otherwise, replace this with a more appropriate creature, such as an umbral banyan (see the Manual of the Planes).
Creature: A shadow chuul guards the watery approach to the island. It attacks anyone coming across the water, but flees to its underwater cave if reduced to less than 20 hp.
Shadow Chuul: hp 93; as chuul plus SQ cold resistance 16, shadow blend (9/10 concealment,40% miss chance in shadows), DR 5/+1, fast healing 2 hp/round.
The castle itself is a crumbling structure, square with a three-story tower at each corner. The center of the fortress is filled by a 60-ft. square courtyard, with a squat stone building at its middle.
1. Tower (EL varies)
Four of these locations exist; one at each corner. Each 20-ft. diameter round tower is accessed through a locked door (Open Lock DC 25).
Trap: The lock of the northeast tower is smeared with dragon bile (CR 7; Contact DC 26; 3d6 Str).
Creatures: From two to five shadows lurk in each chamber—the undead remnants of Sallust’s guards. If they hear an intruder fumbling with the door, they will surround the PCs by coming through the walls and floor.
Shadows (1d4+1): hp 19 each; see Monster Manual.
Treasure: A small pouch lies forgotten in a corner of the northeast tower (Search DC 15 to find). Within it is a single pinch of magic dust (dust of appearance) and a small diamond worth 500 gp.
2. Guardhouse (EL 7)
The center structure (some 30 ft. by 20 ft.) served as barracks for the lord’s guards. Various personal items (boots, cloaks, armor, weapons) lie scattered about. A stairwell leads both down (to the dungeon level) and up (to the second level).
Creatures: Two cloakers lurk here—one poses as an old robe hanging from a peg, while the other appears as a blanket thrown over a cot.
Cloakers (2): hp 45 each; see Monster Manual.
Tactics: If characters enter, one cloaker will use its unnerving moan (-2 morale penalty to attack and damage, 6 consecutive rounds forces Will DC 15 every round or enter trance) while the other creates a silent image of a shadowy ghostlike figure coming up the stairs. If characters attack the image, the cloaker will cease concentration on it, instead using its nauseating moan (30-foot cone, Fort DC 15 or overcome by nausea for 1d4+1 rounds). If they must enter melee, the cloakers use their shadow shift ability to create multiple images (1d4+2 images each) and to obscure vision (10% miss chance for 1d4 rounds) before fighting.
3. Griffon Stable (EL 10)
The second floor of the guardhouse served a stable for the lord’s griffons. The back can open into a landing platform.
Creatures: One shadow griffon remains, along with its rider, a shadow fighter.
Griffon: hp 59; as griffon plus cold resistance 18, darkvision 60’, low-light vision, shadow blend (9/10 concealment,40% miss chance in shadows), evasion.
Shadow Ftr8: hp 50; as Ftr8 in Dungeon Master’s Guide plus SA cause fear; SQ cold resistance 19, darkvision 60’, low-light vision, shadow blend (9/10 concealment,40% miss chance in shadows), +2 luck bonus to saves.
At the bottom of the stairway from area 2 is a short hallway. One end is completely collapsed (it once led to the living quarters of the stronghold’s rulers). The other has two doors. The first leads to area 4, and the door at the end to area 5.
4. Laboratory (EL 11)
This 40-ft.-square room is filled with alchemical and magical equipment, including a library of ancient tomes on arcana.
Creatures: Kelaneth, a shade sorcerer, and his shadow pseudodragon familiar live and work here. Kelaneth was once Sallust’s closest companion, but has become completely tainted by the Shadow Plane. See the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting for more information on shades.
Kelaneth: Shade (human) Sor 8; CR 10; Medium-size Outsider; HD 8d4+16; hp 49 (41*); Init +2; Spd 50*; AC 16 (touch 12, flat-footed 14); Atk +5 (touch); SA spells; SQ control light, fast healing 2, invisibility, shadesight 60’, shadow image, shadow stride, SR 19; SV Fort +8*, Ref +8*, Will +12*; Str 8, Dex 14, Con 14*, Int 13, Wis 10, Cha 19*.
Skills & Feats: Concentration +14, Hide +10*, Knowledge (arcana) +8, Knowledge (planes) +8, Listen +6*, Move Silently +10*, Spellcraft +12, Spot +6*; Alertness, Combat Casting, Craft Staff, Improved Familiar, Spell Focus (Illusion).
*Reduced in bright light.
Control Light (Sp): Decrease light in 100’ radius by 80% (+3 to Hide checks).
Shadesight (Su): Can see through normal or magical darkness to 60’.
Shadow Image (Sp): mirror image (1d4+2 images) 3/day.
Shadow Stride (Sp): Can move to shadow within 300’ every 2 rounds as move action.
Spells Prepared (6/7/7/6/4; DC 14 + spell level); 0—ray of frost, daze, mending, mage hand, ghost sound, arcane mark, detect magic, read magic; 1st—shield, mage armor+, color spray (DC 17), endure elements+(fire), magic missile; 2nd—hypnotic pattern (DC 18), endurance+, ghoul touch; 3rd—displacement, slow; 4th—shadow conjuration (DC 20).
Possessions: staff of shadows (22 charges), ring of counterspells (magic missile), potion of cat’s grace, potion of resist lightning.
Shadow Pseudodragon Familiar: Tiny Dragon; CR n/a; HD 8; hp 28* (20); Init +0; Spd 20 ft., fly 90 ft. (good); AC 26 (touch 12, flat-footed 26); Atk +5 melee (1d3 and poison, sting), +0 melee (1, bite); Reach 0 ft.; SA deliver touch spells, mirror image; SQ cold resistance 19, darkvision 60’, low-light vision, shadow blend, improved evasion, share spells, empathic link, speak with master, immune to sleep and paralysis, see invisibility 60’, telepathy; AL NE; SV Fort +5, Ref +5, Will +9; Str 11, Dex 11, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 10.
Skills & Feats: Hide +16, Intuit Direction +3, Listen +5, Move Silently +6, Search +2, Spot +5; Alertness.
Poison: Sting; Fort save (DC 15); sleep 1 minute/sleep 1d3 days.
Mirror image (Sp): 1/day; 1d4+2 images.
Shadow blend (Su): Gains nine-tenths concealment (40% miss chance) in shadows. Negated by daylight spell.
5. Great Hall (EL 11)
At the end of the corridor stands an ancient pair of ebony double doors carved with intricate flowing designs. It is locked (Open Lock DC 30). Beyond the doors lies this once grand reception hall. Today it is strewn with dusty rubble and cobwebs. Tattered tapestries hang from the walls, and faded carvings decorate the pillars. A 10-ft.-wide, 30-ft.-deep chasm stretches across the center of the 100-ft.-long, 40-ft.-wide hall. Spider webs (from the monstrous spiders) stretch across the chasm, but are difficult for the PCs to spot.
The hall is unhallowed (all evil creatures gain +2 deflection bonus to AC, +2 resistance bonus to saves, can’t be touched by summoned creatures (included below); -4 to turn checks).
Creatures: Sallust, the lord of Shadowhold, sits here on his throne, awaiting the day when a champion of light can arrive and slay him, thus freeing him from the curse. Two huge shadow monstrous spiders lurk in the upper reaches of the hall (Spot DC 22).
Tactics: Assuming he has warning of the PCs’ presence, Sallust casts bull’s strength (+4 Str, +2 attacks and damage) and protection from elements (72 points of fire damage). If they spend time with the entry doors, he uses a turn attempt to gain divine vigor (+10’ to speed, +2 Con, +10 hp, +1 Fort saves) and uses blur (20% miss chance) from his shadowguard ring bracers.
When they enter, Sallust delivers a grim welcome to the PCs, commending them on their success in reaching his throne room. He then sadly promises their deaths at his hands, vowing that they, “like all the others, shall become mere shadow.” He begins combat by summoning two shadows; at the same time, the spiders attack from above (note that the shadows can attack freely through the spiders’ webs). If PCs seem to be having an easy time with the shadows and spiders, he casts summon monster IV to summon a dusk beast for 10 rounds.
When pressed into melee, Sallust powers up with divine might (+3 to damage for 3 rounds), attempts to flank a good-aligned opponent (using detect good if necessary), and uses his sneak attack, smite good, and shadow essence poison to deliver a brutal attack (+20 melee, 1d8+3d6+16/x3 damage, plus poison) with his battle axe of wounding. He fights to the bitter end, neither asking nor granting quarter.
When death comes to Sallust, he collapses with a sad smile on his face, whispering, “I had rather face the fires of Hell for all eternity than this gloom for another day.”
Sallust, Lord of Shadowhold: Human Bla(ex-Pal)7/Master of Shrouds3: CR 10; Medium-size Humanoid; HD 7d10+7 plus 3d8+3; hp 71; Init +0; Spd 20; AC 24 (touch 12, flat-footed 24); Atks +13/+8 melee (1d8+4/x3, +1 battle axe of wounding); SA aura of despair, command undead, spells, summon shadows, sneak attack +3d6, smite good 2/day +3 to hit and +7 dmg; SQ lay on hands 14 hp, detect good; SV Fort +11, Ref +8, Will +10; Str 16, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 17.
Skills and Feats: Concentration +11, Diplomacy +11, Hide +5, Knowledge (arcana) +3, Knowledge (religion) +5, Spellcraft +3; Cleave, Divine Might, Divine Vigor (+10’ and +2 Con for 3 minutes), Extra Turning, Power Attack, Sunder.
Aura of Despair (Su): All enemies within 10 feet suffer –2 to saves.
Command Undead (Su): Can rebuke/command undead as Clr 5. Gains +4 from unhallow.
Summon Shadows (Sp): Can summon two shadows for 3 rounds; 6/day.
Spells Prepared (3/3/2/1; DC = 12 + spell level; caster level 10): 1st—doom, cure light wounds, ray of enfeeblement; 2nd—bull’s strength, cure moderate wounds, inflict moderate wounds; 3rd—vampiric touch, protection from elements; 4th—summon monster IV (dusk beast).
Possessions: +1 full plate armor, +1 large steel shield, shadowguard ring bracers +2, +1 battle axe of wounding, shadow essence (2 doses; Inj DC 17, 1 Str permanent/ 2d6 Str), potion of lesser restoration.
Shadow Huge Monstrous Spiders (2): hp 55 each; as huge monstrous spider except CR 6; Spd 45 ft., climb 30 ft.; AC 18 (touch 13, flat 15); SA cause fear 1/day (Will DC 12); SQ cold resistance 20; darkvision 60’, low-light vision, shadow blend (9/10 concealment/40% miss chance in shadows), evasion, DR 5/+1, fast healing 2 hp/rd; SV Fort +12, Ref +10, Will +7; Move Silently +9.
Shadows: AC 14; +2 to saves; hp 19.
Dusk Beast: AC 17; +2 to saves; hp 44.
6. Dark Maze (EL 13)
Behind Sallust’s throne a dark maw leads down into a network of caves. These labyrinthine tunnels seem choked with shadows, as if the darkness strains to escape the area’s clutches.
Creatures: This is the lair of Duskwing, a young adult fiendish shadow dragon and the grand-daughter of Deathgloom, the half-fiend shadow dragon who turned Sallust from light to darkness. Four shadow wights (once the wife and three daughters of Lord Sallust) serve her. They attempt to circle behind unwary PCs, using shadows to split them up. She also carries a wand of deeper darkness (9 charges) to negate pesky daylight spells.
Shadow Wights (4): as wight except CR 4; Spd 45 ft.; SA mirror image 1/day (1d4+1 images); SQ cold resistance 9, darkvision 60’, low-light vision, shadow blend (9/10 concealment/40% miss chance); Move Silently +16.
Young Adult Fiendish Shadow Dragon: CR 12; Medium dragon; HD 16d12+32; hp 136; Init +4; Spd 80 ft., fly 150 ft. (poor); AC 31 (touch 9, flat-footed 31); Atk +19 melee (1d8+3, bite) and +17/+17 melee (1d6+1, 2 claws) and +17/+17 melee (1d4+1, 2 wings); SA breath weapon, smite good, spells, spell-like abilities; SQ Immunities, resistances, DR 10/+3, SR 25; AL CE; SV Fort +12, Ref +10, Will +14; Str 17, Dex 10, Con 15, Int 18, Wis 18, Cha 19.
Skills and Feats: Bluff +20, Concentration +18, Diplomacy +20, Hide +10, Knowledge (the planes) +20, Jump +19, Listen +20, Move Silently +9, Search +20, Sense Motive +11, Spellcraft +20, Spot +20; Cleave, Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Multiattack, Power Attack.
Breath Weapon (Su): 40’ cone of billowing shadow, 2 negative levels (Ref DC 22 halves).
Smite Good (Su): +16 damage vs. good foe, 1/day.
Shadow Blend (Su): Gains nine-tenths concealment (40% miss chance) in shadows. Negated by daylight spell.
Frightful Presence (Ex): radius 150 ft.; up to 4 HD panicked 4d6 rounds, 5–17 HD shaken 4d6 rounds (Will DC 24 negates).
Immunities (Ex): Immune to energy drain, sleep, paralysis.
Resistances (Ex): Cold and fire resistance 20.
Keen Senses (Ex): blindsight 150 ft., 4x low-light vision, darkvision 500 ft.
Spell-like Abilities (Sp): mirror image (1d4+5 images) 3/day.
Spells Known (6/5; DC = 15 + spell level; as Sor5): 0—ghost sound, mage hand, detect magic, daze, dancing lights; 1st—ventriloquism, ray of enfeeblement, silent image.
Treasure: Scattered throughout the tunnels is Duskwing’s treasure, taken from those few souls unlucky enough to find their way here: 482 gp, 201 pp, 6 gems (2 10 gp obsidian, 3 50 gp sardonyx, 1 500 gp black diamond), 1 darkwood staff wrapped in gold & set with silver pearls (300 gp), a potion of sneaking, arcane scroll of unseen servant and knock, divine scroll of cure moderate wounds, restoration, and delay poison, a suit of +2 studded leather armor, and a +3 rapier.
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All material copyright Andy Collins 2001-2008.