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The Acker Tombs

I was inspired by Dyson Logos’ map of the Acker Tombs for a possible adventure for my gaming group.  We play a slightly house-ruled version of 2nd edition AD&D (which we have played for about 30 years), and are just finishing a campaign with high level characters.  Acker Tombs seemed like a “nice” place to start a new campaign.  I’ve not put the stat blocks together at this point, and wrote a bit more about the encounters than I would if I weren’t putting this on the blog.  My many thanks to Dyson for providing me with lots of inspiration for this and other adventures.

And now, the adventure …

Acker is a city built around the now ruined College of Wizards, and these tombs were used in previous generations to house the remains of the deceased masters of the College.  The college itself was destroyed about fifty years ago in a magical war, and the tombs are mostly avoided by the locals because of the traps on them.  A small group of explorers ventured in about 25 years ago, but never returned.

Rumors and information about the tombs that adventurers can hear in Acker:

  • The tombs are haunted by the ghosts of the Masters.  (There is no solid evidence of this, although it is somewhat true.)
  • The early masters of the College were buried with their greatest works.  The new masters never made anything worth burying.  (Partly true.  Burial customs have changed over the years, and artifacts are no longer buried with the deceased.  The early artifacts were not the greatest works.)
  • No one who has gone in since the College was destroyed has ever come back out.  (True)
  • The last group of explorers entered the western-most doors.  (True.)
  • The eastern most doors are the oldest, and are guarded by fierce demons.  (Partially true.  The doors are actually guarded by a pair of gargoyles hidden in the entrance.)
  • The wizards of the College made pacts with underground races, which ultimately brought about their downfall.  (Partially true.  A group of evil dwarves was commissioned by the wizard Levendyr to help build the secret ways and traps several hundred years ago.)
  • A great and horrible artifact was buried deep in the crypts when they were first created, and that is why the college was destroyed.  (Could be true, depending on the ultimate direction of the campaign; area 4c would be a good place to hide something great and horrible.)
  • About 20 years ago, a ghoul pack attacked Acker, and a local cleric put wards on the tombs to prevent anything else evil from getting out.  (Partially true.  The clerics inscribed some glyphs near the entrances to the crypts, but they’re not very powerful.)

About 300 years ago, Master Levendyr the Conjurer decided that a simple tomb would not contain his greatness and took steps to become a lich.  Levendyr and his 11-year old apprentice left the College for parts unknown, never to be seen again, and the Master commemorated by a statue in Area 2.  Unknown to his colleagues, he never actually left, instead “retiring” to an extensive network behind the tomb of his predecessor which he secretly built where he continued his work to learn and use the ritual that would grant him eternal unlife.  He hired a band of evil dwarves to help with the construction, then killed them just prior to beginning the ritual to turn himself in a lich.  Unknown to Levendyr, his apprentice, Martel, who was supposed to be the sacrifice to complete the ritual, learned of the fate his master had planned and took steps to prevent the ritual from being completed.  On the Great Day of His Transformation, Levendyr began the ritual, and at the critical moment stabbed Martel through the heart with an obsidian dagger.  The small changes Martel was able to make in the preparations prevented him from dying of the wound and prevented Levendyr from attaining his goal.  Levendyr’s spirit became trapped in the Ritual Room (Area 16), while Martel gained the semblance of immortality, provided the dagger is not removed from his chest.  

Martel still appears around 11 years old, gaunt but sinewy, with an obsidian dagger thrust into his chest.  He has become quite insane, but knows that if the dagger is pulled from his chest that he will die and Levendyrs’ ritual will be complete.  He has managed to study Levendyr’s grimoires, and knows many spells up to third level, but was not able to progress further.  Martel greatly fears the ghouls in area 4, believing that he may be transforming into one, so he has wizard locked the secret door leading to that area between areas 13 and 15, and avoids going past area 11, since he has seen ghouls in those areas, and also fears the retribution of the betrayed dwarves.  He remains in areas 12 – 17.  He is likely to mistake anyone he encounters for ghouls or dwarves, screaming loudly at them and casting the most powerful destructive spell the space will allow.  

Acker Tombs

Map by Dyson Logos:  https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/6892007/posts/5853

1.  The New Tombs

One large pit trap, to smaller, but spiked traps.  Tombs are all sealed, with dates and names from around 70 to 200 years ago.  The door to the crypts is wizard locked.  Fairly austere burial wraps, reflecting the more current sensibilities around respecting the dead.

2.  The Sealed Tombs

These tombs were the second set built, according to the dates still barely visible above the entrance, from 200 to 500 years ago.  Various magical inscriptions can still be read there, indicating that the doors were once wizard locked and had a high powered Avoidance spell cast on them, preventing any intelligent creatures from passing through.  Many of these wards have eroded over time, and previous explorers have brought other down.

The statues in the alcoves depict four former house leaders of the college, and inscriptions below show their names and houses.  The three archways leading away from the main chamber bear the names of three of the houses.  The pit traps in the middle of the main chamber are standard 10’ deep pits with covers that drop anyone walking over them and reset after two rounds.  The carvings on the tombs are ornate with archaic designs, but the burial cloths grow less and less ornate as the dates on the tombs progress.

The burial alcoves on either side of the main chamber are still sealed, and the archways are protected with wards that still work.  (The glyphs can be read in the floor under each archway.)  The eastern glyph indicates electricity, the western cold.  Each alcove bears an inscription with the name of the wizard buried there.  A charred, mostly decomposed body lies in the southern archway, next to a glyph indicating fire.  At first glance, the body appears to be human, but the teeth are longer and pointed, and the finger and toenails are more claw-like than usual.

3.  The Desecrated Graves

All the burial alcoves in this section have been broken into and their contents strewn messily about.  One magus haunts this area, but is only capable of hurling items at intruders.  The spirit is not capable of speech, and cannot be harmed by normal weapons.  He will go back to rest if the remains are put back into the alcoves.  Extended noise in this area will draw the attention of the ghouls from area 4.

4.  The Ghoul Pits

Lots and lots of ghouls here.  Mixed in the detritus in the area marked 4a is a long sword, +1 and two potions of healing.  These are from the adventurers from 25 years ago.  In area 4b, there is a wand of shocking grasp with 18 charges, a potion of heroism, and a dagger +1.  A significant number of small gems, like those that would have been woven into the burial cloths in area 5, along with non-magical small jewelry are also in the mess.  These items were buried in the crypts in this room, and scattered by the ghouls when they raided the area.  The alcoves in 4b have inscriptions that are mostly unreadable, and more than 1000 years old.  Area 4c is partially flooded; a box at the bottom of the cave contains a large magical sapphire, in which can be seen the image of a dragon.  (Details are hazy on this item right now, as this will eventually provide a jumping off point for further campaign adventures.)

5.  The Old Tombs

The doors were wizard locked long ago, and a pile of bones rest just outside the doors.  Anyone disturbing the doors wakens the gargoyles concealed in the niches just outside.  The gargoyles attack until the doors are closed and no one is bothering with them.  The tombs here are from 500 to 1000 years old, and are more ornately decorated than the other tombs.  

In the main chamber, the pit trap is actually an illusory floor over a 20 foot deep pit with spikes in the bottom.  The pillars are inscribed with a variety of first, second, and third level spells.  A wizard spending time in this room could treat these as spell books for copying.  Anyone venturing south of the center pillar triggers a poison dart trap, with 5-50 darts shot randomly from each of the pillars.  This trap will reset and can be activated a total of four times.  Turning the southwest pillar clockwise one-quarter turn opens the secret door in the floor.  The door cannot be opened from the other side, and will automatically close after 15 minutes.

The crypts in this area are still sealed, and the names of those buried here are still readable.  The burial cloths in these crypts are mostly rotted away, although their former opulence can be seen in some gold and silver thread and small bits of gems (pearls, agates, jade, etc) that were once woven into the cloths.  The crypt with the secret back door is occupied by a wight, which will attack if the seal is broken.  The secret room contains another set of remains, four significant gems, and a set of non-magical gold arm bands in the shape of snakes with emerald eyes.

6.  The Secret Tomb

Originally a secret tomb of a College master, Levendyr repurposed the area for his initial experiments.  The western-most room is now a storeroom, but has been ransacked.  The door to the stairwell room has been wizard locked, and shadows haunt the stairs.  Noise in this area has a chance of attracting ghouls from area 4.  

7.  The Secret Lab

Levendyr used this lab initially to create the enchantments for his further excavations and experiments into immortality, then moved here with Martel, disappearing from the College, to make the final preparations for his Great Transformation.  Two beds, one small and simple, the other large and lavish although decayed, along with some lab equipment still remain in the room.  The equipment is mundane, and the room appears to have been ransacked after being abandoned (dusty broken glass on top of other layers of dust, an empty chest with a broken lock, thicker cobwebs on barren tables but wispier dust on tables with open jars and boxes, etc.)

8.  Trapped Gallery

The mouldy remains of a large cat and other evidence of a fight dominate the center of this room.  The space behind the ripped, beaded curtain on the north wall contains a sandbox and various cat toys.  The doors on the west wall lead to trapped rooms: The north room has a false door which when opened triggers random poison dart attacks throughout the room.  The south door leads to a room with an illusion of a continuing hallway on the south wall, and a large, deep pit.

9.  The Ghoul Factory

The stairs at the north end of this room are actually stairs up.  Anyone stepping on the third step into this room causes the portcullis at the south end of area 8 to drop down, and remain there for seven days.  Opening the false door in the southwest corner triggers the sliding stone wall in the passage to area 10, which will also remain closed for seven days.  Additionally, opening the door releases a poisonous gas which can turn anyone breathing it into a ghoul in 2-5 days.  The poison gas can be activated a total of four more times.

The pit into area 4 is 20 feet deep, and the edges around the pit are a bit crumbly.  Anyone getting close could fall through taking damage from the fall, from additional falling debris, and from the pile of ghouls likely to be found at the bottom in area 4.

The room just to the south contains the skeletal remains of an elf wearing mouldy clerical robes, a ring of protection, and a mace +1, +2 versus evil-aligned humanoids.  The elf has a journal, in which the last several entries describe his party’s movements through areas 2, 7, 8, and 9.  He includes with his notes about area 8 a description of the west half of area 11, which he thought was just another trap diversion, in which an oddly young voice called out “Fools!” and a fireball went off, seriously damaging the party.  The journal also includes notes about one of their fighters falling down the hole to area 4, after they became trapped in this area and setting off the gas trap.  There is a description of the thief, mage, and another fighter turning into ghouls as a result of the gas.  The cleric wrote that he did not know why he did not succumb to the gas, and about the anguish he felt when having to turn his friends and watch them escape down the hole.

10.  Dead Dwarf Lair

This room served as the dwarves’ living quarters and workshop while they worked on constructing the complex for Levendyr.  Just before the ritual, Levendyr sealed them in thinking to turn them into ghouls using the same kind of gas as in area 9.  The dwarves altered the design a bit, however, and the gas remains trapped behind the doors at the east end of the hall.  The dwarves were still imprisoned by the wizard however, so their cleric created a curse that would keep them in stasis until the seals on the room are broken.  Anyone breaking the wizard lock on the door will have to face several evil, cranky, and slightly sleepy dwarves.  The cleric who cast the sleeping curse was not subject to the effect himself, and died shortly afterward.  His body, along with notes about the curse and plans for the dungeon (except areas 1, 3, 4, 5, 14 and 16) is located in the eastern alcove.  Depleted stacks of building supplies are neatly arranged around the room.

11.  Trapped Mural Gallery

The four alcoves along the west end of the room contain murals showing some of Levendyr’s feats as a master of the College:  A lecture on conjuring spirits to a hall full of students; A castle siege with Levendyr calling fire from the skies on the besieging army, Levendyr banishing a demon, A portrait of four masters (the same from the statues in area 2).  Much of the area is scorched, except for the east wall, which is actually an illusion (at the point of the dashed lines).  Anyone passing through the illusory wall is subject to the crossbow trap.  The illusory wall is invisible from the east side.  In the eastern end of the room, only the alcoves flanking the pit trap contain “murals” but these are very crudely done and incomplete.  The northern one shows a boy with something black sticking out of his chest throwing balls of fire at fanged humans and the south one shows the same boy with the black chest holding a jar and laughing over the bier of an old man, who is either rising from or laying down on the bier with a horrible grimace on his face.  Jars of dried paint lie tipped over and spilled in front of one of the empty alcoves.  Noises in this room may alert Martel in area 14.  He will spy on the room from the hole in the secret door, and possibly cast spell on intruders.  If discovered, he will retreat to the library, area 17.

12.  Throne Room

Martel used this space early in his confinement, but has not returned in a while.  Anyone ascending the stairs to the dais triggers a large number of magic mouths all announcing things like, “Hail Martel, the undying.”  “Hail Martel, destroyer of evil.”  “Hail Martel, obsidian lord.”  The mouths are timed poorly and the result is a loud babble of voices.  Someone listening closely might hear among the cacophony what they think was either “Hail Martel, scared child” or “Hail Martel, scarred child.”

13.  Treasure Vault

This room has a high, vaulted ceiling, and gold coins are piled on tables, sometimes neatly in interesting pyramid or other shapes, sometimes just in a heap.  A golden mask hangs on the wall in the alcove to the west.  It is magical and evil, and grants the wearer the power to animate dead once per day, cause fear, and detect invisible, ethereal, or out of phase beings.  It will try to convert the wearer’s alignment.  Martel knows how to use the mask, but he does not like it.  The secret door in the north wall is high up the wall, and can be reached using the shelves on that wall as a ladder.

14.  Hidden Sanctuary

This is the room where Martel spends most of his time the last few decades.  The room is lavishly, if haphazardly appointed with tapestries, rugs, furniture and art objects.  Martel himself is a fifth-level wizard, and regenerates three hit points per round, as long as the dagger remains in his chest.  Martel is very afraid of strangers, believing them at first to be hallucinations or ghouls, both of which he fears greatly.  He will attack, using the most powerful spells he has.  (He is essentially a scared 11-year-old with the powers of a wizard).  If somehow calmed, Martel can tell about the danger Levendyr still poses, and his own understanding of his role in that danger.  If the dagger is removed from his chest, Martel will die within two rounds.  His final words will be “Beware Levendyr.”

15.  Meditation Room

The walls of this room are covered in graffiti.  The word “ghouls” is written many times, along with phrases like “Death to Levendyr”, “Kill me now”, and other emotional scrawls.  An everburning lamp sits on a stand in the middle of the room.

16.  Ritual Room

The three alcoves in the curved hallway outside this area each contain a rack for an ornate item.  From north to south: a robe stand with an ornately decorated but now rotted robe; a cracked staff shod with brass and containing ivory and obsidian inlays, a dried and cracked belt made from a rare leather.  The back of the middle alcove has been painted with a crude symbol that clerics will recognize as an ancient symbol to ward against evil.  The secret door behind the staff, both doors, and the portcullis have all been wizard locked.  The room at the end of the hall contains an altar with a number of burned down candles, jars of various mostly spilled components, and the body of Levendyr hacked to pieces, and partially burned and pulverized.  Levendyr’s spirit is still in this room, giving the place a feel of great evil.  If Martel is still alive, the spirit should be considered as a wraith, but instead of draining levels, it drains Constitution (temporarily) with its cold touch.  If Martel has died, the spirit is a ghost, able to possess victims, still cause Constitution damage with a cold touch, and able to cast the spells that Levendyr knew in life.

17.  Library

Martel spent many decades here studying magic, trying to figure out how to overcome his curse.  Spell books of first through third level spells are intact, but books with higher level spells have been pretty much destroyed.  (Martel was quite frustrated at not being able to figure them out on his own.)  A partial lab has been crudely and haphazardly set up in the south half of the room.  Trunks still contain some unused and sometimes broken bits of equipment.

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MinersfordMinersford is a small village that grew up outside a dwarven mining outpost.  The population of Minersford is mostly human and halfling; the dwarves who work in the mines under the eastern hills don’t live in this town.  North of the town is the Wolfwood, a relatively tame but unsettled forest.  The ground rises steeply on the east side of the ford into the rocky hills of the Cragwood.  The gentle rolling hills and meadows of the Wooly Downs lie to the west and south and are home to numerous farms and sheep and goat herders.  The economy of the area is based on local agriculture (oats and barley), sheep and goat-herding, brewing, lumber, and on trade with the dwarves of the Dwarfhold.  MInersford Stout is a particularly good ale and fetches a good price in the city a few days’ ride south.  (The dwarves drink their own brew.)  The citizens of Minersford pay taxes to the city in order to keep a small garrison here.

The Dwarfhold is a small stone fort on the east side of the ford; it contains a warehouse, blacksmith, dwarven miners’ guild hall, a shrine, and in the tower an entrance to the mines and refineries themselves.  A trail behind the tower leads to another mine outpost further up in the mountains.  The Mithril Hammer Inn caters to the merchants who trade with the dwarves.  A shrine to Hephaestus is the only completely stone building in town, and serves as the home to the local magistrate and garrison.  A mill and the Minersford Brewing Company are at the south end of town.  The buildings closest to the river, including the Inn, mill and Brewery, are constructed of local wood and thatch, and raised on stone undercrofts as the spring floods will occasionally overflow the banks of the river and make the ford impassable.  The Dwarfhold itself is built on raised ground with a fairly steep climb between the guard towers, to prevent flooding the bailey and to dissuade anyone from trying to take the mine by force.

Businesses in Minersford, in addition to the Inn, Brewery, and Mill, include a blacksmith (smaller than the one in the Dwarfhold), wainwright, cooper, and warehouses.  There are some smaller “home” breweries near the farms to the south.  Lumber is typically hauled by wagon from the mills to the northwest, as the river is too narrow (and shallow at the town) to permit transporting the logs by water.

Important people in Minersford are:

  • Micah Silvershod, the dwarven emissary who resides in the Dwarfhold
  • Quentin Barleyfist, the halfling brewer and owner of the Minersford Brewing Company
  • Cordelia Hightower, the local magistrate and commander of the garrison (human)
  • Egon Potts, the proprietor of the Mithril Hammer Inn (human)

Story hooks:

  • Lumberjacks northwest of the town are being harassed by a creature (or maybe a druid upset at the logging).
  • Bandits on the road to the city have been raiding traders and evading their hired guards with greater frequency of late.
  • Fires at a couple of home breweries have the locals worried, including the Barleyfist family, who also fear they might be blamed.
  • Something has started raiding the sheep and goat herds of the Wooly Downs.
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