As the DM of an ongoing 4e campaign, my first thought was something along the lines of, “Well, it’s not going to happen for a while, so let’s just keep playing and we’ll cross the new edition bridge when/if we have to.” Then I was kind of sad since it seems like WotC has just recently (finally) started to get 4e “right,” and now 4e is going to just be a sad lame duck until the new edition comes out. Then I was kind of worried as I read more about WotC’s ambitious plans for the new edition and wondered, “Really? How on earth are they going to make it do all that?” Then I decided not to worry about it anymore and just concentrate on our ongoing campaign. So, without further ado…
The Heart of the Refinery
In their quest to find the third chaos crystal, our heroes continued to make their way down, down, down toward the heart of the metalworking refinery. Upon reaching the bottom of another set of stairs, the sheer heat of the room before them told the party that they’d reached their destination. Much of the floor’s stonework had been removed, revealing the corrupted lava flow seeping out of the rocks, pulsing as it coursed through the channel below the floor and into the metalworks. Inside the lava flow, a trio of magma elementals looked as if they ready to rumble. Besides the elementals, the PCs could see that the far corner of the room harbored a small imp and a surly looking, fiery dwarf carrying an enormous warhammer. Time to roll initiative!
- Imp (Level 3 Lurker)
- Duergar Theurge (Level 5 Controller)
- 3 Magma Runners (Level 2 Skirmisher)
After combat started, Boojum was dismayed to discover that all of the monsters had some degree of resistance to fire, so his spells were much less effective against them. While his comrades engaged in melee on the far side of the chamber, the pixie was even more dismayed when one of the elementals began to stalk him. Luckily, Dagon came back over to distract the pyrogenic monster away from the squishy little wizard.
Barulg, the surly dwarf with the warhammer, was able to recharge his Brimstone Hail and Hammer Strike attacks (both of which did 3d6+4 or 5 fire damage) quite a few times, so that was fun (at least for me), but eventually the PCs ganged up on him and he was cut down. At the conclusion of the battle, our heroes discovered the fire chaos crystal hidden in some supplies in the back corner of the room. They also found 125 gp, a 100 gp gem, and an orb of fiery condemnation that was claimed by Boojum. Blake picked up the fallen Barulg’s wicked warhammer +1.
DM Tip: For this part of the story, I used the published adventure “The Hammer Falls” by Corwin Riddle, which appeared in Dungeon 170. The only real change I made to the adventure was to add the room with the pit traps, lava flow, and fire elemental sparks.
Rather than return to the Citadel after they secured the fire crystal, the party decided to press on to the Witchlight Fens and investigate the location of the last chaos crystal.
As they approached the river, they heard a quiet rhythmic splashing coming from upstream. Within moments, they saw a small log raft turn the bend. A desperate-looking human in tattered clothes stood atop the raft, holding a tall pole. He appeared to be trying to push the vessel downstream as quickly as possible. After calling out to the man, the PCs found out that his name was Lajo and that he was fleeing the small settlement of Treewater. After Treewater was attacked by lizardfolk, Lajo had set out on a journey downriver to the halfling enclave of Renefik, where he hoped to gather boats and assistance for the embattled inhabitants of Treewater. While he continued on to Renefik, Lajo asked the adventurers to head for Treewater and help the locals battle the vicious lizardfolk.
As the party followed Lajo’s directions through the swamp, they were about to cross a rickety wooden bridge, but suddenly spied a reptilian humanoid blending in with the surrounding foliage and concealed by dark shadows. The subtle rustling of nearby branches and oversized fern fronds suggested that the creature wasn’t alone.
- 6 Lizardfolk Mire Scouts (Level 3 Skirmisher)
This was a lightning-quick skirmish. After the ambush was detected, one of the scouts beat a hasty retreat at the first opportunity. The others stayed behind to occupy the heroes by fighting to the last. Even as the PCs were making short work of their enemies, they noticed that the lizardfolk had the same strange, black eyes that they had already seen in the corrupted elves and dwarves.
After ridding themselves of the Lizardfolk scouts, our heroes continued to follow Lajo’s directions deeper into the swamp. The party quickly hid themselves when they heard voices speaking in Common, accompanying what sounded like a large group moving through the foliage. The voices shouted words of encouragement and direction. A younger voice pleaded for them to keep quiet, but to no avail.
Our heroes had plenty of opportunity to plan their approach to the group, so they decided the best course of action was to have Boojum show himself. Unfortunately, in his exuberance, the pixie suddenly popped out of hiding and shouted, “We’re here to save you from Lord Bothwell!” At which point, the terrified refugees dove for cover and started to scurry off through the dense vegetation. (The well-intentioned Boojum, of course, meant to shout, “We’re here from Lord Bothwell to save you!”)
After the excitable pixie’s failure to diplomasize the refugees, Silas stepped out into the open and shouted at the poor people, trying to intimidate them into coming back. He rolled a 1.
Despite Boojum and Silas’ spectacular failures, a muddy young half-elf crept cautiously out of the brush and introduced himself as Greo. He said he was the son of the mayor of Treewater. Greo told our heroes that when the lizardfolk attack started to overrun the poorly defended settlement, a few skilled warriors sacrificed themselves to give the other villagers time to escape. Greo’s father charged him with getting the refugees to safety. As Greo led the group out of the settlement, he saw his father and the other warriors fall, surrounded by lizardfolk.
Greo asked the PCs to help the refugees, some of them badly wounded, reach “the Hermitage.” The young half-elf said that the Hermitage is a small settlement about five hours away. It stood abandoned for the last fifteen years, but before that it had been used as a religious retreat for almost a century by clerics of Pelor. Recently, Greo said, a female cleric of Pelor named Ofeen had shown up in the Fens and started to work at reestablishing the Hermitage.
Arrival at the Hermitage
As our game session drew to a close, the heroes arrived at the Hermitage with the refugees, only to discover the aftermath of a lizardfolk attack. While Greo kept his charges at a safe distance, the PCs approached the place. They saw a cluster of three small buildings ahead of them. The buildings stood ten feet above the marshy ground and were linked by wooden walkways. Three sets of stairs led from the ground up to the walkways. Each building had a sturdy-looking wooden door, windows, and a small stone chimney. No smoke rose from the chimneys. The closed windows revealed nothing of what lay within, except that they had been boarded up from the inside.
As our heroes pushed through the thick undergrowth, they saw a lizardfolk body draped over a walkway railing. A crude barricade blocked the bottom of each of the stairways. Two other crumpled lizardfolk bodies lay half-buried in the muck and mud, apparently having fallen (or been pushed) from the walkway above. Suddenly, sounds of someone moving about came from inside the hut nearest them.
Tune in next week to find out what our heroes discover at the embattled Hermitage!