Sunday 17 March 2013

Team Adventure - Storming the Desert

The orcs had deployed with an eye to ground-level confrontation. A line of thirty polearm wielders had the job of stopping enemy cavalry, as well as screening twenty archers. On either side of the bowmen were two groups of twenty axemen. On the flanks were spearmen whose job it would be to hurl their weapons before retreating out of combat range. At the rear was the chief and the warband standard. The remaining seventy or so had been despatched to meet the advancing elves.

A perfectly good plan, were it not for the presence of the Air Force. Elysia was not about to hurl herself and her party at the orc polearms and decided to make use of the third dimension. She cast Enlarge on Florin, Eristar, Rufus and Relic, then had them carry Galadeus, Alurax, Alagon and Gullhor into battle. She used Fly to carry both herself and Ferros over the enemy lines. The Air Force was then assigned the task of circling the orcs with oil bombs, creating a ring of fire that would hem them in and prevent them redeploying to take on the party. Benbo was left behind to look after the horses (again).

Polearms, check. Archers, check. Axemen, check. 20mm anti-aircraft cannon....oh ****!
It should also be pointed out at this stage that the plan was produced with the input of everybody at the table; Galadeus’ player made some insightful observations and suggestions, as did Alagon’s player and Junior Grognard.

The plan worked quite well; granted, the orcs were not expecting such a manoeuvre, but they responded orcfully to the challenge, firing a volley of arrows up at the magic user and cleric, hitting Ferros several times (I’d ruled that Elysia was carrying him in front of her; literally, a meat shield). On the flanks where Rufus and Relic were moving in on the orc spearmen, a hail of missiles shot up from the ranks, causing the pseudo-dragons some nasty damage, but fortunately not fatal. Rufus and Relic then carried out the second stage of their plan, the ring of fire, which was soon blazing away. The fire would not stop anyone determined enough to leap across it but it might deter the orcs from trying to do so in the first place. 

The two fighters landed and leapt into action, Alagon’s oil strike taking out all five of the orcs targeted. Gullhor had less luck, his oil bomb going wide in a mis-throw that caused the orcs to hoot with laughter at the incompetence of elves. They were not laughing when Larsh the polar bear appeared from his figurine status, although the bear had the same luck as his master, failing to damage a single orc.

Still in the air, Galadeus had tried to load a bag with oil bombs, a flask of rum and light it at the same time. Needless to say, his dexterity was not up to the task and of the ten bombs he had, he dropped seven of them. He sent Florin into a low dive and used the phoenix’s Cause Flame ability to ignite the dropped oil.

Alurax was having similar luck; he dropped his bag of oil bombs but his attempt to extract, light and throw a torch to ignite it saw the firebrand go sailing off target. He landed and commenced his attack on the axemen before anything else went wrong.

Elysia and Ferros landed behind enemy lines. The orcs were turning to face this new threat but the orc chieftain suddenly realised that his previously secure position behind dozens of his hardy warriors was now a very dangerous place to be. His orc archers fired again at Elysia and Ferros but the doughty cleric returned fire with a shot that went straight through the throat of the luckless chieftain. Elysia cast Confusion and followed it up with a Fear spell which neutralised most if not all of the archers.

While Alagon waded in to assist Galadeus, Gullhor’s luck was turning on his flank – Larsh ripped an orc apart with each paw, whilst the elf stopped the smirks on the orcs’ faces. The spearmen were soon eliminated as a fighting force.

I got HOW many XP?
The paladin and ranger, despite taking some damage, had managed to kill several more orcs to add to the tally burned by the oil bomb strike. With the death of their leader and the disintegration of their centre, fear-stricken orcs ploughing through the ranks of polearm wielders, the remainder of the orc force decided to make a run for it. Elysia was more than happy to let them go, seeing no need to fight any longer if the enemy was not a credible threat. It was not long after that the elves arrived, thanked our heroes for their aid and said that they would hunt down the stragglers, now that their morale was in tatters.

The next day, the party came across a merchant caravan that was heading for Sandholm. Unsure of what other threats lurked in the vicinity, they agreed to ride with the merchants to their destination.
It's no Waterdeep

Sandholm was hardly a city of splendours. It was a ramshackle collection of timber buildings on the edge of the Shining Plains, which could now clearly be seen as desert. The entire population was little more than a few hundred, and merchants used it as a stopping point, rather than a source of trade. Nevertheless, it had a store where the party was able to restock its supply of oil bombs (I suppose there must have been a tar pit or source of naphtha nearby – might be worth checking out later).

A chance remark from Alurax in the tavern sparked a conversation which hinted at more adventure amongst the sand dunes. A man overheard Alurax mention pyramids and told the fighter (with Ferros listening in) that legends hinted at a lost pyramid deep into the desert, stuffed with treasure but guarded by a curse. Many had voyaged out into the desert to find it but none had returned. Alurax tried to enlist the man and any of his friends to accompany the party but the man insisted on equal shares of the treasure, a deal which Elysia swiftly vetoed when she got to hear about it.

Since their quest would lead them out into the desert anyway, they decided to stock up with protective clothing (Ferros would deal with the food and drink angle of things) and the next morning they rode westwards, to the curious (and pessimistic) reaction of the townsfolk. Elysia and Ferros flew out, trying to impress the good folk of Sandholm. Whether it did or not, our party never found out. 

Your new adventure starts here
On the first day, little of consequence happened; the desert is a big place, with not much in the way of life. A shower of acid rain caused problems for the horses but it swiftly passed and healing was applied to the stricken beasts. As the sun dipped towards the western horizon, the party spied ahead two weathered pillars of rock which they approached with trepidation. There was some ancient writing on them, which both Ferros and Alurax studied and managed to decipher. The writing proclaimed the pillars as the Gates of Sule, with the added message that a curse was on all who passed unbidden.

Galadeus decided that he was not going to be cursed by passing through the gate and instead went round the pillars. He had not noticed what Alurax had seen; the sands to either side of the gate were softer than the track. The ranger tossed his rum bottle onto the sand with no effect, then took one step forward. When that produced only a minor shifting of the sand, he took another step and sank into the sand.

Alurax and Gullhor were on hand with rope and soon hauled the luckless ranger out again. They realised that stepping through the gate was really the only option. Alurax went first and nothing seemed to happen to him. The rest of the party apart from Elysia and Ferros did likewise, much to the magic user’s chagrin. The mention of a curse had clearly got her spooked. She and Ferros flew over the gate and camp was made soon afterwards, the desert being a cold place at night.

Next morning, the party pressed on westwards, the sun at their backs, the shadows long on the sand before them. The silence of the desert was oppressive and they were left with each other’s company and conversation. Evening was a welcome diversion but as the desert started to darken again, they saw that ahead of them, the trail forked. One branch went north-west, the other south-west. Nearby there was a hummock in the sand, which Alurax fired at with his bow to see if it was alive and hostile. It was neither; a fallen block on which were the words

“Here lies the road to the garden city of Pazar whilst there lies the road to Terbakar, Keeper of the Pyramid”

Unfortunately, there was no way of knowing which road was which, since the obelisk was toppled and its directional arrows were weathered away. The party decided to camp down for the night and decide in the morning which road to take.

Monday 11 March 2013

An Adventure for Every Monster - Demon, Type IV

 Frequency Uncommon   
No. appearing 1-3 or 1-6
Armour class -1
Move  9”/12”
Hit Dice 11
Percentage in lair 15%   
Treasure type E
No. of attacks 3
Damage per attack 1-4/1-4/2-8    
Special attack – bonus of +2 to hit; also see below
Special defences  +1 or better weapons to hit
Magic Resistance 65%
Intelligence Very
Alignment Chaotic Evil
Size  L (10 ½ feet tall)
THAC0  8
XP value 3000 + 16/hp


Cause Darkness, 10’ radius at will
Create illusion
Cause Fear
Detect Magic
Read Languages
Dispel Magic
Polymorph Self
Telekinese 5000gp weight
Project Image
Use Symbol of Fear or Discord
Gate in a demon of Type I to IV (60% chance of success)

The King has recently managed to obtain a ring; by fair means, of course, since he is a good king. This ring, ancient and arcane is not just nice to  look at. It also has, within it the amulet of a Type IV demon, Yohozrimul.  Realising what he had acquired, the King at once began to search for ways to summon the demon, thinking that with the amulet, he could bind the denizen of the Abyss to his service and overcome his enemies (who were, at that time, manifold). The king managed to do so and Yohozrimul was bound to royal service.

However, the ability to wield power far beyond the means of mortal man was rather intoxicating to the King, who – being a nice chap – had never really thought about all the advantages that an ally from the lower planes could provide. Yohozrimul, on the other hand, was well aware of the old dictum about power corrupting. He decided to try and win the King’s soul for his demonic masters by slowly working to prise the monarchy away from light and into darkness.

He has had considerable success. The King is well on his way to becoming a sybaritic despot who prefers the pleasures of the flesh to the rewards of virtue.

This has not gone down at all well with his nobles and courtiers. The King’s increasingly erratic behaviour and his arbitrary cruelty towards those who oppose him have alienated virtually everybody except the most sycophantic. They’ve decided that it’s time for the King to go but unfortunately, the presence of the demon is complicating matters and making it very difficult to arrange a little ‘accident’ for the King.

Aware of the fact that his operations will have created bad feeling amongst the courtiers and nobles, Yohozrimul has also been courting support amongst other members of society – namely the scholars and sages. His ability to change shape, along with his infernal connections and linguistic abilities has meant he is able to obtain rare scrolls and books for them, thereby keeping them on side. As far as they know, he is just a well-read and sympathetic scholar but there are rumours of wild parties in a wing of the palace to which a select few are invited.

Suave, sophisticated, cultured, well-spoken and thoroughly evil. Yes, this shape will do nicely.
Into this nice little imbroglio come the party. There are several options for an introduction to the situation.

1. The party has been hired to steal the ring from the King. This may be at the behest of another demon who fancies his chances in becoming the King’s BFF, or perhaps somebody at court has put two and two together and identified the ring as the problem, without realising that a demon goes with it.

2. The party has been hired to assassinate the King. Their employers are not fully aware of the importance of the ring and will not think to mention it to the party. Yohozrimul is believed to be just a meddlesome human who would not be missed if he got in the way of a crossbow bolt.

3. The King has got wind of the plots that are hatching in the palace and worries that he and his new friend are short on protection. The party is hired to safeguard both the King and Yohozrimul without having the faintest idea who Yohozrimul really is.

4. In the course of his cosying up to the palace scholars and sages, Yohozrimul has inadvertently stolen a very valuable scroll and its original owners want it back. It might be the assassins’ guild, the thieves’ guild or just a powerful and angry collector. Whoever it is, they will pay the party to recover it and punish the thief.

Whichever scenario it is, the party are going to have problems because Yohozrimul has learned a great many things during his studies, including some neat psychological tricks that can probably outwit the less sophisticated parties. It will also use its many abilities to confuse and faze attackers, changing shape and causing illusions wherever will be most effective. The royal court is full of officials, functionaries and flunkies. Yohozrimul will know many of them and can use this knowledge to his advantage when causing confusion and trouble for the party.

However, all this new knowledge and intelligence have had their effect on Yohozrimul. It has firstly increased his vanity, since he now considers himself a sophisticated, urbane and well-read man about town. He is far less likely to use violence as a first resort, preferring to toy with his opponents in a way that a cat and a spider might do if they were working as a team.  He may be vulnerable to flattery and the lure of knowledge and sophistication can be used against him.

There is also the problem (for Yohozrimul, anyway) that with his immersion in the world of learning, study and academia, he is becoming less chaotic and more lawful in his evil – not a fact that is going to please his demonic masters.

Friday 8 March 2013

Adventurer, Conqueror, King……Farmer?

Whilst checking out the stats for Owlbears in the Monster Manual during the most recent Team Adventure session, I noticed that in the third paragraph, there is the following information

“Eggs are worth 2,000gp, young under 50% grown are worth 5,000 on the open market”

The passage also tell us that there will be a 25% chance of  1-6 eggs or young (40% to 70% grown). That’s an average of 3.5 eggs (7,000gp) or young, about a third of which (let’s say 1) will be marketable – 5,000gp.

That’s a nice haul if you’re playing the females and young rules (which I’m not). But let’s take that information to the next step. Let’s suppose that a party, with its perspicacity, manages to capture but not kill the owlbears. Presuming that they’ve got at least one male and one female, they could technically breed them in captivity.   The gestation period for an owl is 4 to 5 weeks, that of a bear 215 days (grizzly). I guess an average of the two would be used for owlbears;  we’ll call it 125 days. If you work it right, you can get three clutches of 3.5 eggs per year from one breeding pair. Sell the eggs, you’ll get 21,000gp but wait until the young are hatched and then sell them before they’re 50% grown and you’re looking at 52,500gp per annum.

And that’s from just one breeding pair. A party with vision and secure breeding facilities is going to be rolling in gold.

But the owlbear is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to farming magical livestock. Let’s flick through the pages of the Monster Manual and see what else suggests itself.

The pelt of the badger is worth 10-30gp

Giant beaver pelts fetch 500-2,000 gold pieces each. Kits of under 8hp can be captured, subdued and sold at market for 100 to 200gp per hit point.

Blink dog pups (and good luck catching those!) fetch 1,000-2,000gp

The plates behind a bulette’s head are of course highly prized by dwarf craftsmen. They can turn them into +1 to +3 shields. That’s anywhere between 2,500 and 8,000gp – assuming that the dwarves’ creations count as magical items. Even if they don’t, just count those back plates – at least eight and possibly ten by my count, gives you at least 41,000gp – of course, you have to factor in the payment to the dwarves but half should do, which leaves you with 20,000gp per bulette.

Let us not forget that subdued dragons are worth 100-800g per hit point.  A very rough average of the hit dice of all dragons gives 8.5 hit dice, and at 4.5 hit points per die, that’s an average hit point total of 38.25.  This makes the average subdued dragon worth 17,212 gold pieces. That’s after you’ve looted its haul, of course.

Giant eagle eggs sell for 500-800gp each.

Elephant tusks have a value of 100-600gp each.

If you fancy a challenge, try capturing a pair of griffons and breeding them. The rewards are plentiful – fledglings sell for 5,000gp, eggs for 2,000gp.

The hippogriff fledglings are slightly less valuable at 2,000-3,000gp. Their eggs fetch 1,000gp.

The skin of the ki-rin is worth 25,000 gp if it can be obtained perfectly intact. I don’t recommend that you try it because ki-rin are lethal.

The eggs of the fire lizard are worth 5,000gp each, and you’ve got a 10% chance that the lair will contain 1-4 eggs. That’s not very high, but create your own lairs and you can probably up those odds.

Giant otter pelts sell for 1,000-4,000 gp.

The eggs of giant owls sell for 1,000gp, the young for 2,000gp.

Although it might seem hard to believe, pegasi lay eggs. Yes, that’s what it says on page 78 of the Monster Manual so it must be true. They’re worth 3,000gp each but if you wait till they hatch, the young are worth 5,000gp.

Remorhaz eggs (25% chance of there being 1-2 eggs in the lair) fetch 5,000gp if you can sell them.

Another creature that has a valuable pelt is the giant weasel – these go for 1,000-6,000gp each.

Following the weasel in the Monster Manual, we have the whale.  Never mind the tiny chance of coins being found in its stomach. What you’re looking for, o party on the make, is the sick whale. This type produces ambergris, which, so the book tells us, is “a stinking mess which is worth 1,000-20,000 gold pieces in a large city”. Yes, that’s right. One sick whale can get you on average 10,500gp. The whale carcass can bring in at the very least 5,400gp and the really big specimens will net you 16,200gp. Time to get a bigger boat.

The winter wolf is, the book says, “a horrid carnivore”, which is going to freeze your ass if you don’t finish it off first. When you do, make sure that you don’t damage the pelt as it’s worth 5,000gp. Alternatively, wrap up warm and capture yourself a breeding pair.

So, as can be seen, there are a good few monsters out there that can bring in cash in the thousands for those who don’t mind attracting the attention of PETMA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Magical Animals – they’ve probably got tough druids and rangers on their side, so beware).  And in many cases, breeding them in captivity means they’re the gift that keeps on giving.

CAVEAT ONE - the foregoing will probably only be of interest to parties if their DM allows XP for GP earned in such a manner.

CAVEAT TWO - none of the foregoing should indicate authorial approval for fur-farming in the real world. 

Monday 4 March 2013

Team Adventure - Five egos travelling in the same direction

There was a lingering air of sadness and resignation in the party as they rode on away from the swamps, still trying to come to terms with the fact that they were, to all intents and purposes, leaderless for the first time.  Now they needed to pull together and focus on the task ahead;  finding somewhere to sleep.

Having set the camp up, with the luckless Benbo in the role of horse watcher that his misbehaviour had earned him, the team settled down for some much-needed rest.  They set up a watch rota and it was Alurax who first detected the noises further off in the forest.

He woke the others; it was something – or things – large and not particularly subtle, heading in the direction of the party. They prepared for action, not knowing what they were facing but they soon found out. Out of the undergrowth burst two owlbears with mayhem on their minds.
Not quite so scary when you have a polar bear on your side
They were to get it dealt out to them. From one of the trees, Alurax leapt with his trident and managed to land on the back of the first owlbear. He plunged the trident in and the monster bellowed out in rage. Worse was to come as Galadeus sent in Florin the phoenix to set the owlbear’s fur alight. Unfortunately, in the darkness and confusion, he chose the same owlbear as Alurax and soon the doughty fighter was trying to dodge the flames whilst stabbing with his weapon.

Ferros, who had been designated as second in command by Elysia before her disappearance, had taken on the role of party leader and was trying to exercise his authority in organising the party’s strategy but he was ignored by Alagon and, to a lesser extent, Galadeus. The paladin was bent on his own approach and the party struggled with a disorganised and directionless response for some time.

The second owlbear was peppered with arrows and attacked by Alagon’s wolf, Wolf. The only party member to close to contact was Galadeus who left himself open to the owlbear’s vicious claws and beak. They did not do too much damage however, and before long, the party were able to finish off both monsters.

However, as the sounds of the first battle faded away, there came a new noise through the trees; the braying of mules, the neighing of horses and the screams of somebody under serious attack. The party turned and raced back towards where their horses were tethered. Only Alurax remained, methodically cutting open the stomachs of the owlbears in the hope of finding something valuable.

The new attack was from two more owlbears, who had sneaked up on the horses and mules whilst the party was occupied with their fellows. They had ripped the mules to pieces, the horses had bolted and there was no sign of Benbo.

Alagon hit on a brilliant idea; the party had stowed most of its oil bombs on the mules and so one of the owlbears, in killing the mules had got its fur covered in oil. Alurax proposed to use a fire arrow but Galadeus pointed out that using Florin with the ability to produce flame would be just as practical. The phoenix darted in and seconds later, the monster was engulfed in flame, staggering into the undergrowth where it soon expired. The second owlbear charged at Gullhor, who was able to deploy Larsh the polar bear. The white furred warrior made short work of its opponent, ripping and biting and achieving a crippling hug attack which, when combined with archery work from Ferros left the party with no enemies to fight.

They quickly picked up a trail of blood that led away from the campsite; following this, they soon located the mauled and gashed body of Benbo.  The hobbit was still alive (just) and Ferros applied some healing magic to bring him back from the brink.

Demoted to NPC, left to look after horses, mauled by owlbears. Benbo was having a bad session.
Whilst this was going on, Alurax had found the tracks of the owlbears’ approach and with the assistance of Galadeus, followed the trail back through the forest to a cave in a rocky outcrop. Galadeus threw a torch inside and the flickering light glinted off white and metallic objects. Both he and Alurax moved in to find out what was inside.

Meanwhile, Ferros had sent Rufus off to round up the horses; whilst the pseudo-dragon was doing this, the cleric joined the rest of the party at the cave. The white objects were the crunched bones of the owlbears’ victims; the metallic objects were scattered coins and rusty armour.  The party combed the cave, collecting anything that looked shiny and valuable. They accumulated a small amount of coinage, an onyx worth perhaps fifty gold pieces, a wand and a potion.

At that point, Rufus came back through the trees with the horses. He was chirruping very excitedly; the reason for this became clear soon after when two other pseudo-dragons arrived. One was Relic; the other Alurax thought might be Russet but this was not the case. When it alighted, its shape grew and shifted to become Elysia.

Some of the party were very excited to have their magic user and de facto leader back again, but not everybody. Alagon, who had previously challenged Ferros’ role as leader following the disappearance of Elysia, had felt that the absence of the magic user gave him the chance to show his leadership potential. He was less than happy to have this chance denied him and was vocal in his dissension. However, he was wise enough not to challenge the rest of the party who had accepted Elysia into her old role.

She explained what had happened; she only had two spells left, and decided to use a Polymorph Self spell to change into a marsh lizard who could scurry away through the boggy water to dry land and safety. However, her time in the water left her cold, tired and disoriented and she spent some time recovering her strength. Relic had stood guard over her whilst she recovered.  When she had come to her senses sufficiently, she used another Polymorph spell to change herself into a pseudo-dragon and fly off with Relic, who – being in telepathic communication with Rufus -  knew where the party had camped for the night. 

The party spent the rest of the night recovering its strength, which was needed in the case of Elysia and Benbo. The next morning, they set off on their way, a good few mules lighter but nevertheless in good heart, since they had Elysia back again.

Using the services of Wolf, they managed to detect the nearby presence of a wolf pack and take steps to avoid it. Later that day, they encountered three giant owls flying eastwards. The noble birds swooped down and alighted on the branch of a tree not far from the party. Elysia used her Comprehend Languages spell to converse with them. After the pleasantries had been exchanged, the owls said that there were dangers on the route ahead – hippogriffs and griffons were in the area. Elysia thanked them for this information and asked if the owls knew anything about the mysterious absence of elves in the forest. The owls explained that a large band of elves was moving westwards in pursuit of a raiding force of humanoids. They could give no further information about this.
We're called Wise Owls for a reason. Also known as Exposition Owls, Guidance Owls, Early Warning Owls...
Once the owls had flown off in search of prey, the party resumed their journey westwards.  As the sun was setting, they spotted, high in the evening sky, a flock of creatures which appeared, to Alurax with his hawk-augmented vision, to be a mixture of beast and bird. Deducing that this was the pack of hippogriffs about which they had been warned, the party took shelter inside Leomund’s Tiny Hut, concealing their horses and Benbo amongst the trees. When the hippogriffs had moved on, the party camped for the night.

The next morning, the terrain opened out and our heroes soon found themselves riding across plains where the visibility was much greater. This stood the party in excellent stead because they got advance warning of the presence of a flock of griffons far ahead. With little cover to take advantage of, Alurax hit on the idea of stopping and remaining perfectly still, reasoning that at this distance, the only thing that the griffons would see would be movement. Sure enough, the flying predators took them to be part of the landscape and soon flew out of visual range. The team continued onwards, managing to avoid a pack of lions that afternoon – one loped after them for a while but soon gave up the chase – and they settled down for the night.

Astute readers may well have noticed that little mention has been made so far of Ferros’ Undead Army. How, I hear you cry, can skeletons and zombies keep up with horses?  The simple answer is that they can’t, but of course they can keep moving for far longer than living creatures and so there’s no reason why they can’t rendezvous at the campsite each night. Not needing sleep, they are there in the morning ready for another day’s mindless marching.

The party made an early start, their less than fragrant followers yomping their way across the plains. As the morning wore on, Gullhor started to pick up traces of something familiar. Ahead, in the distance, the rest of the party spotted a group of figures and as they got closer, it became clear that they were elves. The party slowed their pace and carefully approached the elves, Gullhor acting as liaison and translator.
It's all right guys, they're on our side. Thankfully.
 The leader of the elves, Storm in the Branches,  explained that they were tracking a band of orcs, one hundred and seventy strong, who had been raiding in elf territory. Elysia offered the services of the party to assist them in their quest, to which Storm in the Branches agreed. He suggested that the party ride on ahead, overtaking the orcs and then drive them back into the elves.

Whilst Elysia and Gullhor were discussing this, Galadeus and Alurax were busy trying to socialise with the taciturn hunters. The ranger had little success but Alurax drew interest due to his trident, a weapon with which the elves were wholly unfamiliar. He displayed his skill by twirling and spinning it around and over his head, which drew intrigued looks and giggling from some of the female elf warriors.

The discussions on tactics concluded, the party rode out, making good speed as they neared the orc horde. They easily managed to overtake them as evening was drawing on; with the setting sun behind them, they formed up and drew their weapons. Then, as one, Team Adventure charged the enemy.

Friday 1 March 2013

An Adventure for Every Monster - Demon, Type III

Here's how our pincer-handed friend appeared in 1977
And here he is in all his pewterific glory, courtesy of the guys at Otherworld.
 Frequency    Uncommon
No. appearing  1-3 or 1-6
Armour class -4
Move  9”
Hit Dice 10
Percentage in lair 15%   
Treasure type D
No. of attacks 5
Damage per attack 1-2-12/2-12/1-3/1-3/2-5    
Special attack See below
Special defences  See below
Magic Resistance 60%
Intelligence  Average
Alignment Chaotic Evil
Size  L (9 ½ feet + tall)
THAC0  10
XP value  2400 + 14/hp

Legends tell of a battle between good and evil that lit the sky with arcane colours, scorched the earth, melted stone and left a legacy of horror that has endured for centuries.

It’s not quite that bad; a Type III demon (the one with the pincers and the dog head) was taken on by a party of high-level adventurers and defeated but not destroyed. The catacomb in which it was fought became its prison; powerful sigils and wards were used by the survivors of the fight to ensure that it remained there for the rest of their lives (their descendants were on their own).  To be fair, the catacomb sealing was done well and has lasted for a lot longer than the party envisaged. Now, many years later, the catacomb and the buildings above it have crumbled and collapsed in on themselves, whilst the countryside around it has become wooded and covered with thick undergrowth.

Nothing lasts forever, and this goes for the wards imprisoning the demon. They have started to break down and the evil influence has begun to corrupt the vegetation in the area, causing death and injury amongst the locals who now shun the area (so no chance of hiring henchmen from that source).

The party will be drawn into this lovely little scenario by getting wind of an artefact of great power that lies within an old abandoned chapel. Over the years, this is how the legend of the demon has been corrupted by folk tales and oral history. The DM, if desired, can embroider the setting with hints of this for several sessions ahead of time. Perhaps old illuminated manuscripts, travelling bards with stories of the Lost Chapel with its incredible treasures, even a Sleeping Beauty legend might have been invented to explain the corrupted vegetation that surrounds the old catacomb.

Whatever happens, the party will doubtless wish to investigate and to do so, they will have to hack their way through everybody’s idea of a cursed forest, complete with evil and undead Ents, tree spirits, yellow musk zombies and carnivorous plants, etc (see below).

If they make it to the chapel (and let’s face it, those who chicken out at some nasty trees don’t deserve treasure of any sort) then they will probably be able to force their way in with little trouble. Indeed, the sheer force of breaking into the catacomb will probably destroy the last of the wards. Inside, the tunnels and passageways may well be littered with the leftovers of the demon’s entrapment, which can provide an excuse to scatter the treasure about so that the party has to pick it up as they go along, rather than it being neatly stockpiled in one place. Bodies of former adventurers who came to grief in the forests can also be a source of loot.

When the demon finally gets free, it will be very upset and may, in its confusion, think that the party are the same ones who imprisoned it. Be sure to give them very little chance to set the record straight!

A few suggestions for the sinister and twisted vegetation that dwells within the radius of the catacomb. I’ve taken some of these from other sources and adapted them, giving credits where possible. Yellow Musk Zombies can be found in the Fiend Folio.

There's something not quite right about this wood. I feel it.
The corrupt forest will be a network of dead-end tracks, thickets of thorn devils, boggy areas that may well be home to will-o-the-wisps, mists that rise from the quagmires and reduce all visibility to virtually nothing, as well as the stench of rotting vegetation, the sound of raucous croaking and the harsh laughter of crows that lope slowly through the branches of the gnarled and twisted trees. The damp air will mean that torches will be harder to light and rations start to turn mouldy within a short period of time.  

Evil Ent

"Treebeard?  A pussycat compared to me."
 Frequency    Very rare
No. appearing  1-20
Armour class 0
Move  12”
Hit Dice 7-12
Percentage in lair n/s  
Treasure type Qx 5, X
No. of attacks 2
Damage per attack Variable  
Special attack Nil
Special defences  Nil
Magic Resistance Nil
Intelligence Very
Alignment Chaotic Evil
Size  Large (13-14 feet)
THAC0  13(7-8HD)11(9-10HD) 9(11-12HD)
XP value 2000

Young evil ents can strike with their branches, causing 2d6 damage per blow landed. The mature specimens will do 3d6 per strike and elder evil ents do 4d6. Any weapon or attack based on fire will receive a +4 on the attack roll. Saving throws against fire-based attacks and spells are made at –4. Each evil ent can command two living trees within 60 yards. Evil ents like to devour living creatures, especially the flesh of innocents.
(from the Ravenloft setting)

Undead Ent

No. appearing  1-4
Armour class 0
Move  12”
Hit Dice 15
Percentage in lair n/s  
Treasure type  Nil
No. of attacks 2
Damage per attack 5d6/8d6   
Special attack See below
Special defences See below
Magic Resistance Nil
Intelligence High
Alignment Chaotic Evil
Size  L (20’ tall)
THAC0  8
XP value 15,000

The Undead ent strikes with its branches, doing 5d6 of damage with each successful blow. On a natural roll of 19 or 20, they have knocked out or stunned their victim for 1 round per 5 points of damage inflicted.  If it is not otherwise occupied, the undead treant will move itself alongside the victim and feed off his or her blood.  This is done by sprouting 3d4 root-like appendages which will inflict 1 point of damage each as they burrow into the victim’s flesh and thereafter 1d3 of blood is drained each round for every root that is draining.

The victim, being bound by the undead ent, will be unable to free themselves except with the aid of a third party.  The roots are AC5 and a successful hit will sever one root.

If all the tendrils are cut, the victim can escape in two rounds.

If the undead treant stops feeding, either because its tendrils have all been severed or its victim is empty of blood, it needs a full round to become mobile again. 

All attacks against it whilst it is feeding or getting ready to move are at +2

Undead ents cannot animate other trees but its victims, if left where they fell, will rise as zombie slaves of the ent that created them. They can only move 20’ from their master tree but will act as its hands in procuring more victims for its vampiric tendrils.

They are also immune to holy water, sleep, charm, hold, sunlight, clerical turning, control undead or plant control spells.

(from the Ravenloft setting)

Spirits of the Forest (or Evil Dryad, whatever floats your boat)

No. appearing  1
Armour class 2
Move  6”
Hit Dice 8
Percentage in lair 100%  
Treasure type  Nil
No. of attacks 2
Damage per attack 1d8   
Special attack See below
Special defences See below
Magic Resistance 10%
Intelligence High
Alignment Neutral Evil
Size  L (15’ tall)
THAC0 12

I’m not sure about XP.

Each spirit is linked  to one particular tree from which it can only move a maximum of 3”.  It can be dispelled by a cleric of 12th level or higher.

Appearing as a 15' tall, spectral, treelike humanoid with extremely long twig-like fingers, it attacks all non-magically armoured targets as if they were AC10.

It can only be hit by magic weapons; and has a magic resistance of 10%. In combat, if the spirit scores 5 or more over what it needs to hit, it has clutched its victim's heart with its spectral hands. The victim will then collapse for 1-4 rounds and for each round unconscious will age by 10% of his initial age.

Also, for each round unconscious, the victim loses 1 hit point per hit die permanently. If the damage accrued by this exceeds the victim's total, he will die. If the body is not removed or blessed, a new tree will sprout from the body; when the tree is fully grown, the damned soul of the victim will appear as a new spirit of the forest.

If the spirit drops below 0 hit points, it will flee into its tree where it will regenerate at the rate of 1 hit point per turn. During this time, it and its tree are defenceless. If the tree is destroyed, the spirit is killed forever.

(adapted from the Birch Spirit, White Dwarf no. 28, C M Cartmell)

Carnivorous Vegetation
This is seemingly normal vegetation that has a variety of flesh eating mouths. Small plants have tiny mouths that do 1d3 damage while large trees have gaping maws that can do 1d12 damage. Limbs writhe and vines curl hungrily, but do no actual damage. Each plant will have 1d4-1 (with a minimum of 1) such mouth. Anyone taking ½ damage (or more) and surviving will need to make a Save versus Petrify and Paralyse at -1 to enter a forest for one week after the encounter. Those who fail the Save will not enter any heavy vegetation and will be catatonic for 1d4 turns.
(adapted from an original creation by Bat at Eldritch Vaults and Ancient Secrets)

Thorn Devils
This vegetation has barbed thorns that lash out and attack any creatures within reach, dealing 4d6 points of damage. When rolling to hit for the plant(s), a natural 20 indicates that the plants have wrapped around an individual, causing an additional 1d6 points of damage. There may be poisonous plants within the vegetation and they will inject their poison with the thorns. Those affected will need to make a saving throw versus poison or suffer the effects of the poison as well (an additional 1d4 to 1d8 of damage, up to the DM’s discretion).
(adapted from an original creation by Bat at Eldritch Vaults and Ancient Secrets)