Campaign of the Month: May 2009
Forgotten Realms: The Savage North
A cold wind blows across the Spine of the World mountains, swirling down to swoop over the Ten Towns region of Icewind Dale. In the heart of Ten Towns is the walled settlement called Brynn Shander, one of the largest towns North of the Spine. The frontier folk of Icewind Dale have hardened themselves to the near-perpetual cold of the frozen North, and as the days pass the heart of winter draws nearer.
For decades, travel across the Spine of the World has been a dangerous proposition, at best. Most of the major routes were either blocked off by the changes wrought by the Spellplague, or are controlled by the bandit gang known as the Blackhands. Taking their moniker from their distinctive black gloves, the Blackhands have assumed control over much of the land North of the spine through intimidation, violence, and fearmongering. The Blackhands control many of the villages and towns of Icewind Dale, though their grip grows tenuous as the region’s denizens become bolder in their opposition.
Yet far more sinister deeds are afoot. Somewhere, hidden in the Western reaches of the Spine of the World, the leader of the Blackhands is hatching grander plans. This mysterious leader, called only Lucan by his followers, seeks to blind the eyes that see into the future and overthrow the leaders of the Kingdom of Many-Arrows, stealing dominance over the region from the hands of King Obould Many-Arrows.
The North trembles under the grip of the Blackhands. The Spine of the World holds two men who could plunge the entire Savage Frontier into war. A cold winter looms on the horizon…
The following is a general summary of the first nine adventures of the Savage North campaign, covering levels 1-10 (the full length of the Heroic Tier).
The adventure begins when our heroes arrive together in the town of Grateheim. The heroes stop Blackhand bandits from taking the town’s food supply, and then agree to take two wagons’ worth of food supplies north across the Spine of the World mountains to Brynn Shander. In the mountains the heroes discover a fortified tunnel, known as Frostford Pass. Inside the gatehouse, the heroes discover kobolds and goblins under the command of a Blackhand warlock called Azard. The adventurers defeat the collected forces and slay Azard, recovering Azard’s goblin mask in the process. The heroes also rescue a captive and then travel the rest of the way to Brynn Shander.
The Tomb of Morden Moonblade
In Brynn Shander, the adventurers discover that the town is guarded heavily by Blackhand forces and ruled over by a Blackhand Lieutenant, Andrez. Theren Mordenson also learns that at least two members of the townsfolk in Brynn Shander, Rolgar Callahan and Szelrina, are familiar with Theren’s father, Morden Moonblade. They learn that six years ago the Moonblade Expedition came through Brynn Shander, and that Morden had some contact with the locals as he asked around about “pools of silvery-blue liquid.” With Szelrina’s help, the heroes undertake a magical vision that shows them the death of Morden Moonblade and his companions, seemingly at the hands of Blackhands. Furthermore, they learn that Azard, the warlock they encountered in Frostford Pass, was once Morden’s apprentice, and that apparently Azard’s betrayal led to the death of Morden and the collapse of the expedition.
The adventurers then free a barbarian who hangs in a cage above the walls of the town. The barbarian is Keldar, and he was imprisoned there for defying the Blackhands. Keldar informs the party that he was a guide for the Moonblade Expedition, and that he has no real memory of how it ended. Keldar agrees to lead the adventurers north to the place where Keldar last remembers being with Morden, and there they discover a strange oasis of warmth and verdant growth. After discovering that the oasis hides an entrance to a secret complex, the Tomb of Morden Moonblade. Insider, the adventurers are confronted with an illusion, depicting the interior of the tomb as a long-forgotten eladrin city. When the heroes see through the illusion, they manage to defeat the tomb’s guardians and make their way to the crypt where Morden’s body rests. There, Theren finds a letter from his father, explaining godsblood and mentioning a swordsman named Malgannon.
The Scepter Tower of Spellgard
Following their time in the Tomb of Morden Moonblade, the heroes emerge into the oasis to find a messenger waiting for them. The messenger has been sent to bring them back to Brynn Shander, and he also brings a message to Keldar that the barbarian must return home to his tribe. Making their way back to Brynn Shander, the adventurers learn from Szelrina of an oracle that might be able to help them find their way. Szelrina directs them to Lady Saharel and Spellgard Keep. Before departing for Spellgard, the heroes break into Andrez’s manor and steal much of the Blackhand’s wealth, slaying many Blackhands in the process. Before the Blackhands can retaliate, the adventurers depart for Spellgard Keep. En route, they are ambushed by bounty hunters, who are looking for Sardon.
Arriving at Spellgard, the adventurers learn that the Keep is under the control of the Blackhands. Furthermore, a contingent of dragonborn led by a noble called Vannak has been trying to gain entrance to the Scepter Tower where Lady Saharel’s spirit is said to reside. The adventurers sow dissent among the dragonborn, causing them to desert Vannak and leaving him with no manpower. The adventurers discover that Thoran, the Blackhand Lieutenant, is attempting to control Lady Saharel through the use of several alabaster pillars found throughout the Keep, one of which is in the heroes’ possession.
After the pillar is stolen, the adventurers decide to break into the Scepter Tower and deal with the Blackhands once and for all. Using kobold warrens to sneak into the underbelly of the Scepter Tower, the heroes discover that the Blackhands have allied with a white dragon, Aurelion, whose brood is helping the Blackhands secure various locations throughout the North. Furthermore, they discover that Lady Saharel’s unusual state is the result of her trusted vizier, Kastor, tampering with the ritual that transformed her into a lich. Battling their way up through the Scepter Tower, the adventurers confront Thoran, break the binding ritual holding Lady Saharel hostage, and drive the Blackhands out of Spellgard. Lady Saharel also provides the adventurers with some direction, including giving them clues that lead them to believe that they must use godsblood to break the seals on demon prisons beneath Myth Drannor.
The adventurers also learn another piece of important information from Thoran before his death. According to the Lieutenant, the head of the Blackhands, Lucan, is using the Blackhands to control the various oracles, prophets, and seers of the North. Lucan has plans to overthrow the Kingdom of Many Arrows, and the Blackhands have been working toward that goal all along.
The Briar Witch
The heroes return to Brynn Shander and discover that their actions before departing have had some serious repercussions. The Blackhands are much diminished, and the people of Brynn Shander are starting to show more and more defiance. As the town simmers, a criminal named Olwyn Darelle approaches Sardon; the two are both members of the Wheloon Seven, and they have an amicable reunion. Olwyn also relates an odd story to Sardon. Apparently, during their imprisonment in Wheloon an old man, who had been imprisoned in Wheloon for over 60 years, confided in both Olwyn and fellow prisoner Malgannon that there had been an incident involving some godsblood in Targos some years back. However, it is not long before the heroes learn that Olwyn has been taking part in some kidnappings throughout the town. Their investigations uncover that Olwyn has secretly been working for an elf paladin in Brynn Shander, Uther Alabrion. Confronting the paladin, they discover that he hired Olwyn to kidnap children from the town and give them over to a local creature known as the Briar Witch, who lairs in an area of forest near the town. The adventurers slay Uther, who rises from death as an automaton-like thrall of the Briar Witch. Olwyn is imprisoned, and Uther heads off into the forest, extending an invitation from the Briar Witch to join her in the Altar of Thorns.
The Liberation of Brynn Shander
The revelation that Uther Alabrion is responsible for the child kidnappings, and that the Blackhands did nothing to protect the town from the Briar Witch, sets off a series of riots throughout Brynn Shander. As the people of the town lash out at the Blackhands, the adventurers strike at Andrez and his men. After subduing the Blackhand leader and securing the town’s former Council Building, the adventurers declare an end to Blackhand rule in Brynn Shander. The town elects a new Town Council, including Rolgar Callahan, Brenna Raelin, and Grizdahl Grimeshale. Andrez is imprisoned and scheduled to be hanged, and reveals some small amount more about Lucan, namely that he rules from a fortress high in the Spine of the World mountains.
The Frozen Crown
The adventurers have little time to rest on their laurels, as Keldar arrives in the town near death. Keldar tells the heroes that his village has been overrun by orcs, and that he needs their help to free his people. The adventurers travel north to a small range of mountains near the Sea of Moving Ice, known as the Frozen Crown. Evading orc patrols, they eventually make their way to a frozen waterfall, a holy site for the goliaths of the Forestwalker Clan. The adventurers seek to enlist the aid of the goliaths, led by Larina Peak-Stalker and Morek of the Five Winds, but before they can do so they must undertake a rescue mission to prove their worth as members of the clan. The adventurers follow the guidance of a young warrior named Warun, but when the heroes slay two dire white tigers and earn brands of the North Wind, Warun becomes enraged and reveals that he sabotaged an earlier expedition of goliaths undertaking this same hunt. The adventurers subdue and capture Warun.
The adventurers find and rescue Loakan Sky Climber and then begin to discover a trail that leads them to the bodies of several other goliath youths. They delve into an underground ice cave system where they encounter an adamantine dragon, Koraxis, searching for something to use against Aurelion. After parting ways with the dragon, the adventurers return to the Forestwalker Clan and enlist their aid. The adventurers formulate a plan to attack the orcs and liberate the barbarian village, and then they execute the plan with great success. The village is freed, Keldar is reunited with his wife, and the adventurers discover that the village was actually under Blackhand control until the orcs arrive. Keldar’s wife is a seer for her clan, and the Blackhands wanted to control her. However, some orcs must have gotten wind that the Blackhands were planning to use special orc masks created by Azard against them, and captured the village in the hopes of luring Blackhands there.
- Ice Tiger Hunt
- Bulette! Bulette!
- Not the Sharpest Tooth in the Dragon’s Maw
- The Rescue of the Human Barbarian Village
The Last Temple of Mystra
The adventurers depart the Frozen Crown and make their way back to the Ten Towns region. Based on the letter from Morden Moonblade, the heroes know to investigate the town of Targos for signs of godsblood. Arriving in Targos, they are greeted by Aldon Oakes and the young Merin Weaver, who tell them that the Moonblade Expedition passed through Targos six years ago. Furthermore, they reveal that the town still boasts a small shrine to Mystra, which is tended by two priests. They learn that two years ago, a swordsman called Malgannon came to the shrine and took away a sword made of blue crystal (likely a godsblood weapon), which was given to him by the priests. The adventurers speak to the priests and convince them to give them access to the Last Temple of Mystra, as Harold Glimmerswick plans to resurrect Mystra.
Inside the temple, the adventurers discover that the wards protecting the place have failed, driving its guardians mad. Eventually, they make their way to the Library where an orium dragon, Donael Lightstaff, greets them and tells them the history of the temple. Learning that the wards are failing, Donael allows the adventurers to explore the rest of the temple, keeping what treasures they find as they are the last hope of preserving what remains. Donael also gives the adventurers two rituals, the Create Godsblood Item Ritual and the Detect Godsblood Ritual, which should aid them on their journey.
Deep within the second level of the temple, the adventurers encounter a Viewing Chamber which grants them visions of remote locations. The Viewing Chamber grants them three magical visions. Instilled with a newfound sense or urgency, the heroes ask Donael for any help in reaching Baldur’s Gate quickly. Though he does not possess a portal key for Baldur’s Gate, he does tell them of likely locations where they could find one, including an abandoned fortress in the Spine of the World mountains (said to be created by extraplanar beings) and Mithral Hall.
- The Secrets of Targos
- The Antechamber of Mystra
- The Wand Chamber of Mystra
- Red Dragon in the Bowels of Mystra’s Temple
- The Viewing Chamber and Menagerie
After emerging from the Last Temple of Mystra, the heroes discover that two doppelgangers, in the service of a githyanki overlord, have been living in Targos and guarding the Last Temple’s entrance for some time. After being violently subdued by the heroes, they reveal that they gave the godsblood sword to Malgannon, and that they had replaced the previous keepers of the temple violently. The party left them to face frontier justice, and returned to Brynn Shander.
Their respite in Brynn Shander was brief. Not a day beyond the heroes’ arrival in the town, a group of eladrin (accompanied by a catastrophic dragon) calling themselves the Emissaries of Aurelion, came to claim the tribute owed to them by the Blackhands’ commander, the now-deceased Andrez. The party invited the Emissaries into the Town Council building to discuss the arrangement, but when negotiations broke down and Lia began attacking the leader of the Emissaries, an eladrin called Fyren, Son of Anfeald, the catastrophic dragon caused a blizzard that transported the entire building into the snow-covered Feywild.
The party set out from the building, bringing with them Brenna Raelin, Rolgar Callahan, three servants, and the captive Fyren, all of whom had been transported to the Feywild with them. They stumbled across a great, golden castle, which turned out to be the home of a powerful eladrin enchantress calling herself the Winter Queen. After being treated well as guests, the heroes began to grow suspicious when a dinner party turned into a display of debauchery and hedonism. While most of the guests fell into the throes of reckless revelry, the heroes did some exploring and discovered an orrery that could be used to transport the castle from the world into the Feywild, and back. After Lia’s failed attempt at getting information out of the Winter Queen, she discovered that the Winter Queen was actually the Briar Witch, and that her servant, the resurrected Uther Alabrion, was within the castle. Lia set fire to the Winter Queen’s room, robbed her of her valuables, and then the combined arcane knowledge of Theren and Zereb-Khan activated the orrery and transported the castle back into the world.
Or so they thought. Zereb has made some mistakes in his calculations, and the castle actually materialized half-buried in the ground, fused with the earth and forest just outside of Brynn Shander. As the party quickly discovered, their host was the Winter Queen while in the Feywild, and her castle was beautiful and pristine. When in the world, however, she was a powerful dryad called the Briar Witch, and her castle was a twisted structure of trees and vines called the Altar of Thorns. After sneaking past an enormous fey crocodile, the party battled and defeated Uther, but not before the talented swordsman slew Zereb-Khan, and nearly took out Lia with him.
The heroes were eventually summoned to the court of the Briar Witch, where she made them an offer: join her and gain power and eternal life, or refuse her and die. While Sardon and Lia chose to fight and die, Theren decided to accept her offer and had his pact with devilkind ripped out, only to be replaced with a fey pact with the Briar Witch. Their pact was short-lived, as Theren soon turned on the Briar Witch and defeated many of her minions. Sensing the tide turning against her, the Briar Witch transported the Altar of Thorns back into the Feywild, and the heroes narrowly escaped.
Returning to Brynn Shander once more, the heroes had Szelrina resurrect Zereb-Khan, who was returned to life by the grace of Kelemvor. Gathering their supplies, they finally set out for Dark Arrow Keep, to complete their mission to convince King Obould Many-Arrows to stay his invasion of the North.
- Dopplegangers Revealed
- The Emisarries of Aurelion
- The Excesses of the Winter Queen
- The Crumbling Castle of the Winter Queen
- Death and Temptation
Dark Arrow Keep
The heroes arrive at Dark Arrow Keep and are greeted by a party of suspicious guards. The guards lead the heroes inside of the Keep, where they find out that King Obould’s recent actions have caused many of the orcs to doubt his sanity. Meeting up with one of Obould’s advisers, recently exiled from the court after making an enemy of Harg, the heroes reveal the Blackhand plot to infiltrate and then overthrow the Kingdom of Many Arrows. The adviser is convinced, and the heroes are granted an audience with King Obould. After revealing Harg’s true allegiances (and the fact that he is a human in disguise), Harg and a number of other Blackhands-disguised-as-orcs reveal themselves and stage an attack. The Blackhands are defeated before King Obould can be harmed, and the heroes earn the Orc King’s trust.
Obould’s scouts follow one of the Blackhands who escaped back to their fortress. Wishing to see the Blackhands pay for their infiltration of the Kingdom of Many-Arrows, King Obould dispatches a legion of orc troops to lay siege to their citadel. When the party arrives, orc catapults are hurling balls of burning pitch at the citadel, and orcs battle Blackhand soldiers on the field of battle in front of the castle walls. As soon as the heroes join the fray, the tide turns, and the orcs begin to drive the Blackhands back against their own walls. The battle seems to be turning completely in the heroes favor when a dark shadow passes across the battlefied; Aurelion has arrived. As the heroes engage with their white dragon nemesis, another draconic form flies in at such incredible speeds that the air thunders around them. This time it is Donael Lightstaff (with Merrin Weaver as a passenger), the orium dragon thought to be trapped in the Last Temple of Mystra. Eventually Aurelion is defeated, the Blackhands battered into submission, and the gates of the citadel’s outer walls thrown open to allow entry.
Donael explains to the heroes that, since they parted ways with Harold Glimmerswick, the old wizard’s knowledge of arcane magic started to grow exponentially, likely as a result of his bonding with a strange staff with draconic inscriptions. Harold had not only taken Merrin on as an apprentice (and she, too, seemed to grow in knowledge by leaps and bounds), but he had also worked out a way to siphon off some of the last bits of magical power in the temple to permanently place Donael in his orium dragon form. Merrin conducts a ritual to transport King Obould (who had been gravely wounded in battle by Blackhand archers) and his orcs back to Dark Arrow Keep, by way of Targos first.
At this point, the heroes noticed smoke beginning to billow out from under the door leading into the citadel itself. Quickly dashing inside, the heroes discover a Blackhand trying to burn a library full of scrolls. It is soon revealed that the Blackhand is actually a githyanki in disguise, and that the githyanki was trying to conceal the history of Lucan’s reign as leader of the Blackhands. From there, the heroes finally penetrate the arcane locks into Lucan’s inner sanctum, only to reveal that Lucan is dead, and has been for many years, impaled upon a githyanki silver sword in the throne from which he ruled. As the heroes discover, several githyanki were passing on orders from Lucan even after his death, manipulating the Blackhand organization for years. After dispatching the last few githyanki, the heroes obtain control of a githyanki Astral ship, and seize the citadel for themselves. They also find a cache of godsblood, which was apparently ready to be transported to Baldur’s Gate before the heroes arrived.