Blood & Salt (Adventure)

If the party has played ‘The Broken Light’, then they find themselves in an old, crumbling keep in a forest just outside of town, having accessed it from the door in area B7. A narrow trail just outside the keep will lead them through the forest and into town proper. However, if this is being used as a stand-alone adventure, the party enters town on an old, disused trade road for reasons their own.


Night is quickly approaching as the party nears the Blackmill Township. As they draw closer, a fierce storm sweeps in and erupts without warning. The hail and lightning force the party to seek shelter in Blackmill immediately. If they do not, roll 1d5 for hail damage, which is distributed evenly between the group. After only a night’s stay in the town, they hear whispers of strange disappearances and mysterious shadows that stalk the night.

Blackmill is beset by an evil cult which has been kidnapping and sacrificing townsfolk in an attempt to gain control over a black-ice serpent and use it to do their dark bidding. The cult has murdered all town officials – the mayor, the council, the few lawmen and guards – and are using dark illusions to masquerade as the dead. To allay suspicion, these officials will work closely with the party, offer support, and pledge a reward should the party be successful in solving the disappearances.

Throughout this adventure, the party will encounter a number of entities: some will be helpful, and others will not. Intermittently, the game master (GM) should roll 1d10: on a roll of 2 or below, the adventurers encounter something. Roll 1d0 and use the tables below to determine what.

In town (day)

  • Roll of 1-3: 2-4 skeptical townsfolk
  • Roll of 4-7: 1-6 friendly townsfolk
  • Roll of 8-9: 6-10 drunken townsfolk
  • Roll of 10: 1 town official

In town (night)

  • Roll of 1-5: 6-10 black-robed cultists
  • Roll of 6-10: 4-6 grey-robed cultists

The sea caves

  • Roll of 1-3: 3-4 goliath crabs
  • Roll of 4-6: cultists
  • Roll of 7: blood sprites
  • Roll of 8-10: trap (see trap tables below)

Traps

Additionally, roll 1d10: on a roll of 4 or below, the trap is an illusion and deals no damage.

  • Roll of 1-4: Spike pit
  • Roll of 5-7: Arrow trap
  • Roll of 8-9: Collapsing ceiling
  • Roll of 10: Teleportation trap

The Blackmill Township (Area A)


Blackmill

A1. Wet Tooth Inn

Soft light flickers across the aged tavern, cast by a wide, warming hearth. A small group of locals crowd the tables nearby, huddling close to the heat. The barkeep is cleaning mugs and regards you with a nod.

Within the tavern, townsfolk talk worriedly among themselves. A T6 perception check will reveal they are whispering about a recent spate of disappearances; a T8 perception check will reveal that one of the villager’s daughters vanished from her bed just the night before. After the adventurers have heard (or perhaps talked with) the villagers, roll 1d10: on a roll of 6 or above, 4-8 drunken townsfolk enter the tavern. They view the party with suspicion and are keen to fight, but can be dissuaded (T8 aspect check).

If a fight breaks out, all damage dealt is nonlethal. The fight will end immediately if the adventurers produce their weapons; however, if the adventurers are reduced to 0 HP, they are knocked unconscious. When they regain consciousness, they find themselves in a cramped cell guarded by two poorly-armed townsfolk. Shortly thereafter, the mayor will arrive and proposition the party: root out the cause of the kidnappings, and they can go freely, and with a handsome reward. If they agree, he will escort them to the town square, where he will announce their aid to the townsfolk.

A2. Town Square

The storm has diminished to a cold, persistent drizzle. A few souls – no more than 30 – gather at the town’s center, with more straggling in. A short, wide man stands on a dais in the midst of the small crowd. He fidgets nervously as the townsfolk look on.

The morning following the party’s arrival, the mayor of Blackmill assembles the townsfolk for an announcement. If the party do not find the town square on their own, they will be approached by a guardsmen who will request they attend.

Upon their arrival, the mayor announces that he and the town council have hired mighty warriors to put an end to the mysterious disappearances. He invites the party to join him on stage and take their bows; additionally, he offers them the opportunity to share an inspiring call to arms. If sufficiently inspirational, the party will encounter no skeptical townsfolk, and will not need to roll to learn rumors or information.

Once the crowd has dispersed, the mayor will apologize profusely, and beg the party’s help. His deception will be impossible to detect, unless an adventurer possesses a black gem, which may enable them to see beyond his dark illusions (T11 intellect check). If they do, it will be obvious to that adventurer alone that the mayor is another man beneath the illusion.

After accepting his offer, the party is free to explore the town and surrounding area, interview townsfolk, and gather clues. Each time they speak with a resident, roll 1d10: on a roll of 6 or higher, the party learns something. Roll 1d10 and use the table below to find out what.

Rumors and information

  • Roll of 1: A guardsman claims to have seen a group of shadows slipping through the town in the dead of night. He gave chase, but they escaped.
  • Roll of 2-3: The disappearances began just three weeks ago.
  • Roll of 4-6: Eight people have disappeared.
  • Roll of 6-9: The sea has been restless as of late.
  • Roll of 10: A townsfolk might say: Maybe we’re all just crazy! There is an illness going around, after all. Just a couple weeks ago, the entire town council was sick! No one saw hide nor hair of them for two days.

A3. The Cliffside Wharf

A steep, natural stone staircase leads down to a cluster of wooden buildings that jut out over the sea, supported by decaying timber columns.

The fishermen at the wharf confirm that by night, they have seen shadows moving furtively along the shore.

A4. The Mayor’s Mansion

While large, the grounds are modest. The mansion itself is splendid, in a rugged way. The large stone walls are artistically framed by huge, red timbers, making it is easily the finest building in the township.

If the party encounters the mayor in town, he will invite them to his mansion for dinner, where he will speak more candidly about the disappearances. It began just three weeks ago, and since then, nine people – in a township of less than 100 – have vanished without a trace. The missing having little to nothing in common: old men, young girls, mothers, brothers.

The mayor will confide his suspicions with the party: that this is the work of a cult, though he does not know their purpose or goals.

Additionally, he will suggest that the party investigate the seashore, where several fisherman claim to have seen shadowy figures gathering by night.

A5. The House by the Sea

On a lonely hill, the ancient house overlooks a turbulent sea. It is dilapidated and dark, weathered by years of salt and storms.

A wizened woman will answer the door – Blackmill’s resident hermit. Though she denies an audience to nearly everyone, she is keen to speak with the party, who she believes will right the wrongs that she has sensed in the air.

The woman knows little of the town’s happenings, but will share her intuition:

The storms are worse these days. They curse us. Darker, deeper, longer – they blow harder and howl louder. Something out there is stirring, threatening to wake from an ancient slumber.

A6. The Abduction

On the party’s second night in Blackmill, the Wounding Hand strikes again, abducting a young girl from her home. If the party is in town at night, this may be an opportunity for them to confront or follow the cult to area B1.

If the party has already followed the mayor’s lead and are at the seashore, they will observe the cultists carrying the girl to area B1.

Optional: If the adventurers do nothing, the girl is sacrificed, and the cult succeeds in summoning the black-ice serpent from its millennia-long slumber. It will immediately lay siege to the village, aided by the cultists. If the party defeats the serpent, the cultists will retreat to Area B10.

The Caves of Confusion (Area B)


The Caves of Confusion

The chance of random encounters in the Caves is 10% higher. All traps and illusions within the Caves require a T12 check to spot or defeat. The toughness of these features is enhanced by blood gems hidden within the Caves (as well as the enslaved darkmind mutants). As each blood gem is collected from area B8, the check toughness for all illusions will be lowered by 2. 

B1. The Glowing Mouth

The stone cliff face is solid and unyielding, climbing high into the cloud-choked sky. Beneath its black surface is a faint glow, as if a warm hearth roared just inside.

If the party sees the cultists at the Glowing Mouth, they will observe them walking through seemingly solid stone – a clever illusion hiding the entrance to their cave network. Once the party passes through the door, they will discover that it is a one-way entry, and they are now trapped.

B2. The Illusion Wall

The cave stretches on into the distance, its walls shimmering wetly in the torch glow.

The cave continuing into the distance is an illusion. In reality, it is another one-way door, this time leading out of the Caves. Once outside, the party will find the entrance has disappeared. They will be unable to enter the Caves again for the night.

Optional: The optional events of A6 may occur if the party is unable to enter the cave and stop the ritual.

B3. The Shrines

Small nooks have been carved into the black walls. Within each, there is a carved stone figure surrounded by ages of now-dried candle wax. Each figure is a different creature – and all are horrible and reptilian in nature.

The figures are each a demi-god worshiped by the Wounding Hand. If an adventurer desecrates these shrines, all opponents of that adventurer gain a +1 attack bonus while in the Caves.

B4. The Net Trap

The cave narrows and curves, spiraling down into the depths below.

A net trap is set at the entrance, cleverly concealed by illusory rocks. It is roughly 10 feet in diameter. The trap is sprung when any adventurer steps foot in its middle, and ensnares anyone within its radius.

The net can be easily cut by any blade, and serves as more of a warning for the party, rather than an actual trap.

B5. The Libraries of Illusion

A set of wide, blackwood doors bar further entrance to the dungeon. Carvings of huge serpents writhe across each door. There are no discernible handles, knobs, or locks.

To the left, a stone arch leads into a dimly lit room covered wall-to-wall in loaded bookshelves. To the right, an identical room awaits. In each of their centers, an ancient gnome sits on a stone pedestal.

The blackwood doors are an illusion, and if touched by an adventurer will disappear and reveal the hallway beyond.

When the party is within sight of the dark librarian, he will engage them. Both gnomes speak and move in unison, as one is an illusion.

Hark, ye wanderers! And behold the Libraries of Illusion. The game is simple: There are two libraries, but only one truly exists. Enter the right library, and the doors before you will open. Enter the wrong library, and consequences you shall suffer.

To determine the correct library requires a T12 perception check. Alternatively, the party can tease out the correct door by using the gnome’s hint: enter the right library…

B6. The Cell

As the adventurer(s) enter the room, they are blinded for an instant. When their sight is returned, they find themselves in a dank cell littered with human and dwarf bones. Behind them, the open passage has been replaced with an iron-barred door.

If only one adventurer enters, the illusion will be maintained for the party, and the adventurer will appear to beckon them inside.

The door is ancient and rusted, and can be broken with a T8 power check. If the party is unable to break down the door, they may find a hand-dug tunnel that leads into area B4 with a T8 perception check.

B7. The Library

The air is wet, and the sour smell of damp paper and mold fills the room. Dim torches light the area, flickering over the thousands of identical, black-bound tomes that line the shelves.

The dark librarian is here, and will offer a limited explanation of the library, which houses a huge amount of spells books, historical manuscripts, and ancient scrolls, all pertaining to the lost art of dark illusions. He will inform the party that they may draw one book from the shelf, if they so desire. If the party does, the library disappears, leaving them in an empty room with a single book in hand.

Once a book has been taken, roll 1d10 to determine what:

Books and Tomes

  • Roll of 1-2: The cover of this tome is cracking and peeling; the pages are brittle, and turn to dust at the slightest disturbance.
  • Roll of 3: The cover reads The Origin of Dark Serpents in gold filigree.
  • Roll of 4: The cover reads Mutations and Dark Magic.
  • Roll of 5-7: The book disappears as soon as picked up; so does the hand that touched it (becomes invisible; returns to normal after 1d5 hours).
  • Roll of 8-9: The cover reads A History of Illusion.
  • Roll of 10: The cover reads A Compendium of Illusion.

Additionally, roll 1d10. On a roll of 4 or lower, the book is encrypted, and requires a  cultist’s codex to decipher.

B8. The Blood Gems

A narrow hallway stretches into the dimness ahead. Three doors line the wall, each with a small, iron-barred window.

Room 1: The room is long and empty, save for a rope dangling above a wide spike pit in its center. On the opposite side, a large blood gem floats in midair.

To cross the spike pit, an adventurer must jump to reach the rope and swing across. The rope is an illusion, and is actually barbed wire – grabbing it deals 2 damage, and inflicts -1 to attack for the duration of the next combat encounter.

Once on the other side of the pit, the key may be seized. When done, the pit disappears and is replaced by solid stone, revealing that it was an illusion.

Room 2: The room is long and empty, save for a wall of flames dividing it through the center. On the opposite side, visible between licks of fire, a large blood gem floats in midair.

The wall of flames gives off no heat, smoke, or smell, all of which are masked by illusion. If an adventurer walks through the fire believing it to be an illusion, they take 1d5 damage.

Once on the other side of the wall of flames, the key may be seized. When done, the wall is extinguished.

Room 3: The door is locked, and must be picked (T8 reflex check) or broken down (T10 power check) The room is long, but not empty. Instead, it is full of darkmind mutants. They are in a trance, and will not attack the party, but will watch their every movement through blind, white eyes. At the opposite end, a large blood gem floats in midair.

When an adventurer seizes the gem, they must save 8 or be pulled into the transparent gelatinous cube that holds the gem. The adventurer will suffer 1 damage for every round they are in the cube.

Once the party has all three blood gems, the darkmind mutants will break from their trance and quietly leave the Caves together, paying the adventurers no mind in the process.

B9. The Corpses

The stench is overwhelming; sharp and metallic and rancid. Shelves containing vials of thick, dark liquids line the shelves. In the far corner, corpses are piled unceremoniously. 

Here, the bodies of the missing villagers are discovered. They are in various states of decay, and the blood has been drained from each of them. Among these bodies, the party will recognize the faces of the mayor, and any other councilors or lawmen they met.

B10. The Dark Cathedral

The doors are tall and wide, of the same wood and bear the same writhing serpents as the library doors. There are no handles or keyholes, and the doors fits so tightly into their stone frame that they appear almost unreal.

If the party does not possess all three blood gems, the doors are solid, immovable, and unbreakable. Once in the party’s possession, the doors will disappear as they approach.

The cavern is wide and tall, and the smooth-carved walls of the dungeon give way to jutting rock and jagged stone. Tall, rough-hewn pillars meet the cavern ceiling, ringed in torches and decorated with carvings of grotesque reptilian beasts.

In the center of the cavern, the cultists surround an altar lit by braziers spewing blue and green flames. Around the altar, red-stained channels carve the floor, emptying into a geometric hole. At the altar’s head stands a man cloaked in a deep green robe. He grins evilly, and his wicked eyes shine. On the altar, a young girl is bound. The man raises a dagger above his head and speaks.

The green-robed cultist and his surrounding acolytes are preparing to sacrifice the girl. He derides the party, mocking them for falling directly into his trap. He boasts that the girl’s blood will form the final blood gem needed to summon the black-ice serpent from its hibernation. After limited conversation with the party, he will command the cultists to capture them, as he intends to steal back the blood gems, and sacrifice the adventurers to the serpent.

If the adventurers do not engage the green-robed cultist in 10 rounds, he will sacrifice the girl, and the ritual will be complete. The fourth and final blood gem will be formed, and the gems in possession of the party will float to the center of the room and dissolve. A portal will open, and the black-ice serpent will arrive through it in 5 rounds. During this time, the green-robed cultist will join the fight against the party.

Note: If the party slew the black-ice serpent during The Broken Light, then the portal will open, but nothing will enter through it. This will enrage the green-robed cultist, and he will gain +3 to attack and damage, and -1 to toughness for the remainder of combat.

At some point during combat, the green-robed cultist will reveal that he used dark illusions to disguise himself as the mayor. When nearing death, the green-robed cultist will use his wounding hands spell, and attempt to escape through the open doors. If the party pursues him, select two traps from the trap table; he uses his conjure trap spell to place these in his wake and slow the party. If they falls 100 feet or more behind him, he will escape.

The Conclusion

If the party defeats the green-robed cultist – either by slaying him, or by forcing him to flee – they are received as true heroes by the residents of Blackmill. Funerary ceremonies will be held for the victims, and the heroes will be invited to attend.

Additionally, the residents will offer the party life seats on the town council, and bid they return as often as they like.

Additional Content


Books and Tomes

A History of Illusion – This weighty volume is long and dry, and takes 10 hours to read (15 if the character’s intellect score is 1 or lower). Additionally, it reveals the following:

Illusions are as physical as they are magical – as much the rogue’s sleight-of-hand as the wizard’s spells. As a result, illusion spells are best cast by illusionists, use the reflex attribute, and are learned through both the study of various magics and the practice of physical movements and techniques that create or enhance illusions.

Additionally, illusion magic requires a power source: crystals, ancient artifacts, fire, and more. The power source may influence the spells available to the illusionist.

A Compendium of Illusion – This slim volume was penned in neat, careful script, and contains a variety of illusion spells and techniques. It is quite old, but in good shape. Additionally, it reveals the following:

Previous attempts at creating a compendium of illusion have failed, due in large part to the nature of illusion spells and techniques. Illusion magic was never formally organized, and as a result, illusionists are largely self-taught, and illusion spells home-brewed.

This volume represents the first partially successful compendium, and took the remainder of the author’s life to complete – although it does remain unfinished.

On the Origin of Dark Serpents 

Mutations and Dark Magic 

Monsters and People

Blood sprites – 

Cultists

  • Black-robed
  • Grey-robed
  • Green-robed (8 MP)-

Darkmind mutants

Goliath crabs

Townsfolk

  • Drunken

Town officials

Transparent gelatinous cube

Equipment, Items, and Weapons

The Black Trident (HW) –

Spells

Conjure trap (magic) – perception check versus caster’s spell save. Requires one or two basic components of intended trap. Will be assembled magically, and may have magical properties. Cost: 2 MP.

Wounding hands (dark magic) – the caster gains up to 1d5 ephemeral hands, and may make as many additional attacks as they have hands. Each hand deals 1 damage, and lasts as many rounds as the caster’s level. Cost: 3 MP.

Traps

Arrow trap (magical) – an arrow dispenser is hidden in a nearby wall, and triggered when a living entity walks past it; T10 reflex check or suffer 1 damage.

Collapsing ceiling – typically set in entryways, collapsing ceilings are triggered when entering a room. Roll 1d10: on a roll of 5 or lower, the trap affects the first two adventurers in the room; otherwise, it only affects the first. When triggered, an adventurer must save 10 or lose half of their current HP.

Spike pit –

Teleportation trap – when an adventurer steps into the trap’s radius (which is usually 5 feet), they are instantly teleported to a random location in the dungeon; affects only one adventurer.

Note: if this trap is an illusion, then teleportation occurs only in the victim’s mind. They believe themselves to be in another location, and as a result, are not aware of their physical surroundings. The effects last 1d10 rounds.

Random Tables

 

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