In my previous post I laid out the background of an adventure path I imagined for the Isle of Dread module. It’s set in an alternate earth in the year 1503 AD, and allows a group of PCs to take part in Columbus’s fourth voyage, which takes a dramatic turn to Aztec lands and then the Isle of Dread. This post picks up with the arrival of Columbus’s ship, the Capitana, three miles off the coast of the Isle’s southeastern peninsula.
For the most part I use the encounter areas in the reincarnated Isle of Dread module, except where otherwise noted. There is no pirate lair (at area 7), because pirates and ships haven’t yet come to the Isle in this alternate world; Columbus and the PCs are literally the first ever. Likewise there is no shipwreck (on the plateau, area 9).
Travel by Land
Each hex of the map (click on it) represents 6 miles. Normally player characters have three options for land travel mode by foot: fast pace (5 hexes = 30 miles per day), normal pace (4 hexes = 24 miles per day), or slow pace (3 hexes = 18 miles per day).
Speed is modified as follows. (1) Travel on an established trail or road doubles the movement (there’s only one such trail on the Isle of Dread: on the southeastern peninsula, that extends beyond the wall to the tar pit). (2) Travel through mountains (though not hills) halves the movement.
The disadvantages to fast-paced travel are increased likelihood of missing areas that are being searched for, and also in being very likely (4 in 6 chance) surprised by ambushes.
The advantages to slow-paced travel are increased likelihood of finding areas being searched for, the ability to use stealth to avoid encounters (unless surprised, only 1 in 6 chance), and also to map the terrain.
Normal travel means being surprised normally (2 in 6 chance).
However, the PCs will not have much choice if they are traveling with Christopher Columbus, whose failing health all but guarantees the slow-paced travel. He will simply not be able to keep up a normal pace, and certainly not a fast one. But that’s really to the PCs’ advantage. Slow-paced travel is the desirable from a survivalist perspective, and if they want to ensure success in reaching their objectives. The disadvantage is that it means going through rations more quickly, and spending more time on the Isle as the sailing season comes to a close.
The Adventure Path: One of Many
The adventure path I present here is one of many possible. It’s not intended as prescriptive but illustrative, and it certainly shouldn’t be used to railroad PCs into a predetermined arc. It shows the kind of choices they will face pursuant to their objective of locating and obtaining the Black Pearl. Columbus’s primary objective (to get as much gold and treasure as possible) may clash with that objective occasionally. Or maybe it won’t, if the players decide their characters are just as money-hungry for their own reasons.
Based on the information they may obtain at each locale, their trajectory might go from
(1) the natives on the southeastern peninsula, to
(2) the haunted village on the other side of the bay, to
(3) the central jungle and the phanaton tree forts, who will steer the party to
(4) the northeastern jungle and the green dragon’s lair, and also to
(5) the northwestern lake and the Forgotten Temple, the latter of which will point to
(6) the central plateau and Taboo Island.
Once on Taboo Island, if they delve deep enough (and manage to survive), they may finally be tipped off as to the Black Pearl’s true whereabouts at
(7) the underwater city of Ixandathru, near the coral reef off the northeastern coast of the Isle.
This trajectory, however, may be interrupted, deviated from, or even upended altogether, depending on how the PCs play their cards. They may investigate other places on the Isle — the rakasta shrine especially, and perhaps even the “King Kong” island off the west coast if they get really ambitious. The campaign should be run old-school, where player decisions matter and characters’ unexpected actions should be accommodated (within reasonable limits). Much will also depend on the PCs’ relationship with Columbus as the quest proceeds. They may find that working with him isn’t so bad; they may find him a frustrating necessity (the most likely scenario); or they may eventually say to hell with him.
With all that in mind, here’s the adventure path I imagined for the Isle of Dread quest.
The adventure begins 3 miles off the coast, not far from Mora village. The Capitana has recently passed the southern tip of the coral reefs (sighted on the starboard) and realize from their map that they have arrived at the southern peninsula. Columbus and the PCs have agreed to start here since Chimalli said the natives were friendly and it seems the best place to ask for information. Chimalli never said which village (or villages) he visited, but for the party it’s going to be Mora, since it happens to be where they arrive.
Note: In the previous post I provided rules for weather checks and such for DMs who want to play out the previous two weeks that involve sailing from Mexico to the Isle. For the most part, those two weeks of sailing should pass uneventfully and boring, so it makes sense to start the adventure with the arrival at Mora village.
On that assumption, the Capitana aims toward Mora village, a bit battered and down to 71 hull points from its original 103. In the 15 days it took to sail from Mexico, the ship took a total of 42 hull points of damage: 27 points of damage in a violent storm that lasted a full day (on day 6), and 15 points of damage from the attack of a giant squid (on day 11). One of the sailors was killed by the squid, bringing the total crew to 34. At sea, the crew have been able to repair a total of 10 hull points (over 10 days), bringing it up to 71. It needs 8 days in dock for the remaining 32 hull points to be repaired. (See hull repair rules in the previous post.) At about three miles away away from a beaching point, they will reach an anchoring point in another hour.
As a refresher from the previous post, here is the layout of Columbus’s flagship. It is now his only ship remaining of the four he set out with on his fourth voyage.
Of the 35 crew remaining (including the PCs), five have their personal cabins on the Main Deck: Christopher Columbus in the admiral’s quarters (Room 4), Ambrosio Sanchez in the master’s quarters (Room 5), the PC Felice Monterosso al Mare in the cartographer’s quarters (Room 8), the PC Enrique Vidal in the port guest quarters (Room 11), and the PC Lucia Alvaro in the starboard guest quarters (Room 12).
The other 30 — the 17 sailors, the 2 carpenters, 1 gunman, 1 cooper, 1 chaplain, 5 cabin boys, and 3 other PCs — are forced to share cramped quarters across four rooms: the fore and aft rooms of the cargo and steerage decks. The three PCs are Sergio Suarez (hired as a sailor), Alejandro Sosa (hired as a gunner), and Isaac de Borros Basta (hired as a caulker). At any given time, 3-4 of this 30-total are sleeping in Room 1 of the cargo deck; 2-3 of them in Room 10 of the cargo deck; 2 of them in Room 1 of the steerage deck and 2-3 of them in Room 6 of the steerage deck. The remaining 18-21 of the 30-total busy themselves pumping bilge, deck cleaning, setting the sails, adjusting ropes, and watching after the cargo. They work in four-hours shifts until relieved by those who had been resting/sleeping, and then they go to rest or sleep in the crew quarters.
A typical day aboard the Capitana involves back-breaking labor and enforced piety. Every morning begins with prayers and hymns led by the chaplain, and concludes with an evening worship service. A single hot meal is served in the late afternoon, cooked over an open fire in a sandbox on the main deck. The typical meal involves biscuits, pickled or salted meat, dried peas, cheese, wine, and any freshly caught fish. It’s usually cooked by the cooper or one of the carpenters, though the PC Sergio Suarez is a good cook too, and if he volunteers for some meals he will be welcomed for it.
All of this should be explained to the players at the start. Though most of the adventure will involve exploring the Isle on foot (by Columbus and the six PCs), there will probably be a critical part that involves sailing the Capitana from Mora village across the southern bay of the Isle, and also, much later than that, sailing all the way up to the northeastern coral reefs to locate the underwater city of Ixandathru. Sea travel will definitely be a thing in this adventure.
Arrival: Mora Village
When the Capitana anchors in the bay close to Mora village, Columbus instructs his crew to begin repairs on the ship. (Eight days will be needed in dock for the remaining 32 hull points to be repaired.) He then debarks the Capitana with the 6 PCs, 12 sailors, the cooper, and the chaplain. Those 21 proceed to the village. The other 13 crew — the master Ambrosio Sanchez, 4 sailors, 2 carpenters, the gunner, and 5 cabin boys — remain aboard the ship to guard it and to work the repairs that will take 8 days to complete.
The DM should use the map for Tanaroa village (see below), minus the wall and tar pits. (The map can be used for any of the seven villages, as they structured nearly identically.) The village is 1600′ x 1600′ and stands at the edge of a jungle not far from the coast. There are 270 adult villagers, 50 kids, plus a chief matriarch, a war leader, and a zombie mistress living in Mora:
- 272 adult commoners: 127 males (AC 9, Lvl 0, hp 3, #AT 1, DA 1-6, spear), 145 females (AC 9, Lvl 0, hp 2, #AT 1, DA 1-4, dagger or club). They will fight if they must, but they don’t fight well.
- 48 kids (AC 9, Lvl 0, hp 1, #AT 0), under age 15. Non-combatants.
- Kuna, the chief matriarch (AC 9, F1, hp 5, #AT 1, DA 1-4, dagger, AL NG; S 12, I 6, W 7, D 11, C 13, Ch 15, Co 9). Middle-aged and overweight, with short black hair and a pudgy face. She wears several trinkets and minor pieces of jewelry such as a necklace of animal teeth, earrings, and many rings. She is neither bright nor brave, but good at heart. She pretty much lets Masawa make the decisions while she remains the figurehead, occasionally using her charisma to sway the village.
- Masawa, the tribal war leader (AC 7, F4, hp 21, #AT 1, DA 5-10, macana +2; AL N; S 16, I 10, W 8, D 14, C 13, Ch 7, Co 15). Has long black hair, braided with small bones and animal teeth. Wears gray hide armor, and wields a macana (a sword-like weapon made of wood) with serrated triangular teeth covering the blade.
- Zheeroo, the zombie mistress (AC 8, C5, hp 28, #AT 1, DA 1-4, club; AL N; S 9, I 12, W 15, D 11, C 14, Ch 12, Co 7). Very old (in her 60s), she heads Mora’s Cult of the Walking Dead, a secret society whose members (except for the zombie mistress) wear hooded masks during cult ceremonies. At these ceremonies, the “walking ancestors” are created by the mistress. These are zombies (AC 8, HD 2, hp 10, #AT 1, DA 1-6, tree limb; AL N) created by an animate dead spell, cast on a villager with an intact corpse, who has either died naturally or been slain. The zombies are feared by the villagers, but used for manual labor or sometimes even spare warriors. Currently there are about a dozen of them living in the jungle surrounding the village. They enter the village when summoned by Zheeroo. Her clerical prayers (spells) are: create water, cure light wounds (x2), detect poison and disease, gentle repose, snake charm, zone of truth, animate dead, speak with dead.
There are also 28 warriors from Mora who live 30 miles away, right above Tanaroa village (Area 1) in the wall towers. The same number of warriors from each of the other villages are stationed there to guard the southeastern peninsula from monsters and hostilities from beyond the wall. There has never been a reason to keep warriors based in the villages, as there are no real threats in the southeastern peninsula. Not even from civil war: the matriarchs have insisted on the practice of keeping all four clans (Elk, Hawk, Tiger, Sea Turtle) equally represented in each village, to minimize dissent and conflict.
Put simply, with no warrior presence, Mora village (like the other villages) is virtually defenseless against a well armed party like Columbus’s, despite outnumbering the crew twelve to one. Masawa and Zheeroo can hold their ground, and Zheeroo can summon a dozen zombies from the jungle (though they are slow arriving), and that’s it. The villages have experienced decades of safety, secure behind the wall. Piracy and ships from other lands are unknown. The arrival of the Capitana is about to horribly shatter that complacency. The natives have nothing to fear from Columbus himself and (presumably) the PCs. Columbus believes that peaceful natives deserve to be treated kindly and respectfully. He will try converting them to Christianity, but will not tolerate his crew mistreating the natives, stealing from them, raping them, or enslaving them. Which unfortunately is exactly what is about to happen. It’s been the sad legacy of Columbus’s voyages.
But first things first. When the party first arrives at Mora, things go well. They are greeted warmly by the natives, and Columbus will be ecstatic that he can communicate with them via the PC Isaac, who has a tongues spell.
Trade. Columbus will begin by showering the natives with strings of colored beads, fetching a gold piece for every few beads given away (an outrageous steal, but the natives consider it gold well spent). This will earn him about 120 gp off the bat. The villagers are very welcoming of trade, and anyone in the party can sell their goods at 100% market value (listed in the D&D Players Handbook), but the villagers are not wealthy and can spend a total of no more than 660 gp (or 540 gp after they pay for Columbus’s beads). They will encourage Columbus to trade with the six other villages too. (The other villages can spend up to the following amounts on trade: Tanaroa, 1000 gp; Burowao, 820 gp; Panitube, 720 gp; Kirikuka, 570 gp; Usi, 730 gp; Dawa, 500 gp.) However, it’s unlikely that the party will be visiting other villages, given the chain of events will unfold once Columbus and the PCs leave to consult with the shaman Mika.
Questions about the “City of Gold”, the “Black Pearl of the Gods”, or Chimalli. The natives will then be brought to the matriarch Kuna, who will be awed at these white people, and order a feast prepared for them. Masawa and Zheeroo will join the feast. When the party asks about a city in the jungle with streets paved in gold, and a Black Pearl of the Gods, the villagers know of the former (which does not in fact exist) but not the latter (which does exist). The seven villages are the chief purveyors of the “city of gold” myth, which has been handed down for decades, telling of such a city in the heart of one of the jungles on the Isle. They know that the Isle is full of black pearls, but have never heard anything about a Black Pearl of the Gods. They advise the party to consult Mika the shaman on the other side of the peninsula (area 25), who may know of such a legend. No one in Mora remembers a stranger from 26 years ago by the name of Chimalli, though Zheeroo (who was zombie mistress at the time) does recall the village leaders of Tanaroa mentioning a red-skinned stranger who came to them, also asking about a pearl of the gods, and she knows that he too was directed to Mika the shaman.
Conversion. The villagers will freely undergo Christian baptism (not realizing or much caring that a monotheistic religion like Christianity makes no room for their pagan beliefs), and Columbus will order the chaplain (Hector Quintero) to convert as many villagers as he can.
Mika the Shaman (Area 25)
Consulting Mika will probably be the PCs’ number one priority. It will certainly be Columbus’s. The next morning he will instruct the sailors to stay in Mora while the chaplain Hector continues baptizing the villagers. He and the PCs will follow the trail northwest for about 14 miles and then branch off west for 10 miles. They’ll have to camp in the evening one hex away from Mika’s home, and the next day they’ll arrive at her hut mid-morning.
Mika’s hut is fashioned from several large dinosaur rib bones covered with animal hides. The front entrance is a tyrannosaurus rex skull. A pair of bamboo golems (AC 7, HD 6, hp 36, 31, #AT 2, DA 1-6, spear, 1-2 + poison, blowgun, AL N) stand guard at the entrance, under her command. A bamboo golem is a five-foot tall humanoid shaped creature, composed of bamboo, with the head resembling a lumpy gourd with carved eyes (like a jack-o-lantern) glowing pale green. One arm is sharpened to a point, and functions as a spear; the other is hollow and loaded with six poisoned darts (save or fall into unconsciousness for one hour). The bamboo golems will not allow anyone to enter Mika’s hut without her invitation.
Mika (AC 7, M7, hp 21, #AT 1 + spells, DA 1-3, knife, MV 20’/round, AL NG, S 8 I 16 W 18 D 7 C 11 Ch 9 Co 6) has no use for visitors unless they pay her respect that borders on groveling. If they shower her with compliments, or if the speaker for the group (Columbus will defer to one of the PCs if they insist) makes a successful charisma check, then she will invite them inside. She’s an old crone, hundreds of years old, granted longevity from making a pact with some unspeakable otherworldly power. She stinks of herbs and has long white-braided hair.
Her spells are as follows: comprehend languages, cure light wounds, witch’s bolt (x2) (1-12 points of lightning damage), ESP, hideous laughter, whispering wind, displacement, tongues, remove curse.
Mika will answer the party’s questions in return for a magic item or an unusual object (she has no use for money or gems or jewels). This is what she will say regarding a lost city of gold, a black pearl of the gods, and Chimalli:
The City of Gold: She knows nothing of a lost city in a jungle, but she tells the party there are jungles all over the Isle. The two major jungles — either of which might conceal a lost city — are in the center of the isle and in the northeast peninsula. Columbus will want make those two jungle areas an immediate priority.
The Black Pearl of the Gods: She tells the party there are loads of black pearls to be found on or around the coast of the Isle, but most of them are non-magical. However, she does know of an enchanted black pearl that is rumored to be at an old village in the broken lands, 40 miles across the bay (area 28). Most likely the PCs will want make that village a priority, and Columbus will agree to put that first, since it is closer than either of the two jungles.
Chimalli: She remembers Chimalli very well. She describes him as a prophetic visionary who treated her kindly and with respect. He was looking for the godly pearl as the PCs are, and she directed him to the village across the bay. She never saw him or heard anything about him again.
In the back of her hut under a floorboard is her stash of magic items from previous payments: 4 healing potions, 1 extra-healing potion, a ring of feather-falling (Chimalli gave her this),
If the PCs return to Mora and sail around the peninsula to 28, it will probably take them about two and a half days. This is the wise course of action, as Columbus needs to touch base with Ambrosio and let the ship’s master know how he and the PCs are going to proceed exploring the Isle, and how long Ambrosio and the ship’s crew should wait for them in the ship, etc.
If for some reason the PCs want to immediately march beyond the wall and travel overland to the village, it would take them 3 days (6 hexes on the first day along the trail, and 3 hexes per day afterwards off the trail), the last day over a region of broken lands that are perilous to navigate. Mika will advise them of the dangers of the broken lands. But that’s actually the least of their worries. The real problem with land travel at this point is having to get past Tanaroa village and the wall, which about to become the last place they want to go…
Disaster at Mora
As Columbus and the PCs consult Mika, the 12 sailors and the cooper are engaging in an appalling act. Still burning with fury over the mass sacrifice of their comrades in Mexico, having not had a woman in ages, and believing all redskin natives to be completely beneath them, they take it upon themselves to steal from them (taking a total of 850 gp), rape their women and girls, and take nine of them as concubines back to the Capitana.
They preface this outrage by first murdering Zheeroo (the zombie mistress) in her sleep. They kill Masawa too, though the war leader manages to kill one of the sailors and cripple another before he goes down. Then, in retaliation for the sailor’s death, the remaining sailors go on a slaughter, killing 41 men in the village and 6 boys as well. Many of the sailors have guns, and all of them are very proficient with their swords (they are all either 2nd or 3rd level fighters), so it’s no contest at all; the native men have spears but aren’t warriors. Finally, to top it off, the sailors drag the matriarch Kuna from her bed, decapitate her, and toss her head at the base of the pyramid at the village center. They remove her heart and leave it on top of her corpse — avenging, as they see it, their comrades who had their hearts ripped out in Mexico. (Never mind that these kindly natives are culturally nothing like the Aztecs.) Taking the nine women and girls, they flee back to the Capitana, trusting Columbus and the PCs will make it back to them.
As Columbus and the PCs return to Mora, halfway along the trail they see a furious native running towards them, heading in the opposite direction. When he sees them, he starts screaming and waving his fists, cursing them, and then dashes around them and keeps running towards Tanaroa village. (He is a messenger from Mora, sent to the wall to appeal for warriors.)
The PCs will have no idea why the native is so agitated and furious. They will have to force him to stop if they want to find out (he will try to evade capture), using either Isaac’s tongues spell (in which case the native will give Isaac quite an earful, denouncing them all as savage rapists and evil plunderers), or Felice’s ESP spell (which will read enough surface thoughts of the man to make clear what happened). Otherwise the party will find out what happened when they get back to Mora.
When they do arrive at Mora and see the appalling massacre, Columbus becomes enraged. He tries to appease the now-hostile villagers, but to no avail. He is thoroughly accustomed to this bullshit. When he returned to Navidad in Cuba on his second voyage (in November 1493), for example, he found that his men had defied his explicit instructions, and gone on a similar rampage of looting, raping, and killing natives. He often hanged his men for such barbaric behavior, as for example, during his third voyage (in August 1500), when he hanged two Spaniards for crimes committed against the Indians, and was in turn “rewarded” for this justice by being arrested by the knight commander Bobadilla and sent back to Spain in chains. Undaunted by that history, he has every intention now of doling out severe punishment on his crew.
But he cannot hang the sailors, because needs a crew to get back home. He will ask the PC Sergio to lash them with his whip (39 lashes a man). If Sergio won’t do it, he will have the ship’s master Ambrosio do the honors (there is a whip back on the Capitana, in the master’s quarters).
Natives on the Warpath
Of the total 196 village warriors manning the wall, 96 of them rally to the messenger’s summons when he reports the outrage. From the time the party returns to Mora, it will take less than half a day for the 96 warriors (AC 7, F1-3, hp 6-18, #AT 1, DA 1-6, arrow from short bow, or 2-7 from spear or macana) to reach them (they’re running fast and hard). Columbus and the PCs should have plenty of time to avoid the warriors, get back to their ship and sail away, as long as they don’t linger in the village. They have no reason to stay, given the hostility facing them, and Columbus is hell bent on punishing the sailors.
Back on board the Capitana, the sailors will take their lashings under protest, whether from a PC like Sergio or the ship’s master Ambrosio. Ambrosio shares Columbus’s fury at the sailors’ behavior, and he will certainly back Columbus up when the admiral orders them to let the native women and girls go. If the PCs don’t back Columbus up, there is a 2 in 6 chance that the sailors will mutiny. They are still furious over the loss of so many friends to Aztec sacrifice, and will not take kindly to Columbus siding with red-skinned “savages”. But they will not mutiny if it means crossing the PCs. They outnumber the PCs three to one, but they are only 2nd-3rd level rogues and fighters. The PCs are 4th-7th level, and two of them are “sorcerers” greatly feared by the sailors.
Appendix: Tanaroa, the Wall, and the Breakdown of the Village Populations
In my imagined adventure path, the PCs do not go to Tanaroa, but it’s possible that PCs will choose to detour here (for whatever reason), whether before or after visiting Mika the shaman. Columbus will certainly have no objections, as he wants to evangelize as many pagans as possible. If they come to Tanaroa after visiting Mika, they will arrive just about the time the messenger from Mora arrives — screaming about murdering white rapists — which will make things very interesting, and land Columbus and the PCs in hot water. The messenger goes straight to the wall to appeal to the warriors, and (as stated above), 96 of them will descend in wrath.
The following information is good to have on hand, in case the PCs decide to travel to any of the seven villages. The village of Tanaroa has pride of place among the seven, in guarding and controlling the wall gates, though the towers are evenly staffed by warriors from all the villages. The breakdown is as follows:
- Each village supplies 28 warriors for the 28 towers. In other words, one warrior from each village goes in each tower, for a total of 7 warriors per tower. (Total of 196 warriors.)
- Each village has 270 adult commoners, and 50 kids. (Total of 1890 adults and 350 kids.)
- Each village has 1 chief (matriarch). (Total 7 matriarchal chiefs.)
- Each village has 1 war leader (male advisor to the chief). (Total 7 war leaders.)
- Each village has 1 zombie master or mistress. (Total 7 zombie masters.)
- Thus each village has a total of 351 people. (Total 2457 people in all 7 villages.)
- In each village, the clans are oriented as follows: Tiger (north), Hawk (west), Sea Turtle (east), and Elk (south). Each of the four clans has a leader. The Elk clan leader is in Tanaroa, the Hawk clan leader is in Mora, the Tiger clan leader is in Burowao, and the Sea Turtle clan leader is in Panitube.
While the villages have equal standing in relation to each other, Tanaroa does have a certain pride of place being next to the wall only 400 feet away. It’s a stone wall 50 feet high that stretches for a mile in each direction, across the two-mile thin neck of land that joins the southeastern peninsula with the main land. Evenly spaced along the wall are 28 square towers, each 100′ x 100′ and 70 feet tall, and in the center of the wall is a pair of massive wooden gates (on each side of the wall), each with double doors that are 40 feet wide, 40 feet tall, and 5 feet thick. Each gate is barred with a heavy wooden beam.
All of the villages are all about 1600′ x 1600′ and stand in jungle clearings. The map for Tanaroa should be used for any one of them, minus the wall and tar pits.
As the party leaves the southeastern peninsula, they will likely formulate a plan (if they have not already done so) for exploring the Isle. At this point they probably intend to sail to the village in the broken lands to find the enchanted black pearl mentioned by Mika, and then afterwards to move inland to search the jungle areas for the “lost city with streets paved in gold”. Columbus does not want any of his crew exploring the Isle with him except for the PCs. The seven of them — Columbus and the six PCs — should from this point constitute the party that will adventure on foot in the Isle of Dread. Columbus is puny and weak (and has a putrid 10 hit points), but the Aztec blanket-cloak he wears gives him a mighty armor class of -7, so he is well protected against attacks.
The rest of the crew, for their part, are happy with this arrangement, disliking Columbus considerably at this point, and never really trusting the PCs. These 26 men and boys will stay behind in the ship, anchored in the bay near the village (if it proves to be a safe area), to wait for Columbus and the PCs to return, which may take many days, and more likely weeks. Ambrosio will be in charge of these men — the 15 sailors (one crippled), the 2 carpenters, the gunner, the cooper, the chaplain, and the 5 cabin boys. The arrangement has Columbus a bit nervous. Ambrosio, the chaplain, and one of the carpenters are the only crew members who are disgusted by what the 13 men did, and most of these men resent Ambrosio as much as Columbus for siding with the natives against their “plundering rights”. There is a danger of mutiny.
The concern for mutiny should weigh on the PCs as they adventure throughout the Isle of Dread. As the adventure path will make clear, Columbus will become increasingly annoying to work with as an NPC ally. The deeper they explore and encounter the Isle’s marvels and horrors, the more Columbus will become convinced that they are key players in apocalyptic events. When he encounters the phanatons, remarkable good-willed creatures who can speak, he will start to wonder if the Isle of Dread is the Garden of Eden. The presence of exotic creatures like dinosaurs will reinforce his blooming opinion. (He will call them “thunder lizards”, as the word “dinosaur” doesn’t yet exist in this world.) If the party finds the waterfalls of healing, he will be convinced they are indeed in paradise — albeit a paradise that has been invaded by Satanic forces, like the walking dead, sorcerer spiders, a dragon, etc.
The logistics of foot travel shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The PC Isaac has a wand of shelter (with 26 charges), which allows him to cast a tiny hut spell, which provides shelter and a nice full meal for up to nine people. The party is almost certain to be on the Isle for more than 26 days however, so there will likely some days of standard camping, and relying on Enrique’s create food & water spell, Sergio’s hunting skills, etc.
Though they will have no way of knowing how long their quest will last, it will probably be well over a month, based on the most ideal trajectory outlined at the start of this post and the map to the left (for DM’s eyes only obviously). The time frame might go as follows:
From the haunted village to the phanaton tree fort (7 days). This might involve circling the broken lands (to avoid the volcanic firestorms), investigating the southern jungle about halfway through (looking for the city of gold) before retracing and then hugging the southwestern coast up into the central jungle (where they search thoroughly for the city of gold).
From the phanatons to the sorcerer spiders (5 days). Once they hit the mountains, they will travel one and a half hexes per day instead of 3.
From the spiders to the rakasta shrine (3 days).
From the rakasta shrine to the the green dragon lair (3 days). Which they encounter after yet again finding no city of gold, though they do find the waterfalls of healing by the end of the second day.
From the green dragon lair to the troglodyte lair (3 days). As they hug the coast to avoid the mountains. he northwestern lake and the Forgotten Temple, the latter of which will point to the central plateau and Taboo Island.
From the troglodyte lair to the northern shore of the lake (2-3 days).
From the northern shore of the lake to the rope bridge of the plateau (4 days).
In other words, getting to the Central Plateau will take at least 30-31 days, and probably more given unexpected things that happen, or that players decide to do.
It’s of course possible that the PCs will ignore the phanaton chief’s advice (see below) and choose to investigate the Central Plateau right away before proceeding to either the northeastern jungle or the northwestern lake. But they won’t know where to focus their searching efforts (they get that information from the temple on the lake), so their quest will become difficult if they go to the plateau too soon.
Once on Taboo Island, if they delve deep enough (and manage to survive), they may finally be tipped off as to the Black Pearl’s true whereabouts at the underwater city of Ixandathru, near the coral reef off the northeastern coast of the Isle. That part of the adventure path — everything that happens on the Central Plateau and Taboo Island, and the subsequent journey to Ixandathru — will be covered in the a third post.
The Dragon Turtle (Area 30)
The first destination after fleeing the Mora natives will probably be the village in the broken lands, given what Mika tells them about an enchanted pearl being there. Travel by sea — around the southeastern peninsula and across the bay — will be the necessary course of action if the natives are calling for the party’s blood (the Capitana can’t remain anchored in hostile territory). It should take about two and a half days (at about 60-75 miles/day, about half of full speed to navigate around the peninsula this close to the Isle).
Sailing across this bay turns out to be a very perilous course of action, for a dragon turtle (AC -2, HD 30, hp 161, #AT 3 or breath, DA 1-8/1-8/5-50 or steam, MV 30’/round, AL N) lurks here. This gargantuan monstrosity is named Chelhydrus, and he sleeps for long periods (of 3-4 months) under messes of driftwood, kelp, algae, and other floating debris. When he wakes up he goes on a month-long feeding frenzy, attacking whales, large predator dinosaurs, and — though he’s never encountered one before — a sailing ship like the Capitana. When the Capitana sails across this bay, Chelhydrus has a 75% chance of slumbering, and 25% of being awake and on the vicious prowl. This will be on the afternoon or early evening of the second day sailing from Mora village.
(a) Slumbering Chelhydrus: The dragon turtle’s “bed” of debris will be drifting in the hex marked “30” on the map, or any of the hexes immediately adjacent to it. If the Capitana sails among that floating debris, it will put the ship right over the dragon turtle (practically on his back), and Chelhydrus will have a 10% cumulative chance per round of waking up. If that happens, he will rise to the surface, at first very groggy and unable to attack or use his breath weapon for 1-4 rounds. During which time Columbus and the PCs had best decide to haul ass, accelerate the ship, and sail away for their fucking lives, if they can. There are basically two possible scenarios: (1) Chelhydrus is right below the ship when he rises (20%). If this is the case, then the dragon turtle has a 50% chance of capsizing the ship when he rises, causing 1-20 hull points of damage and throwing 1-6 people overboard. (2) Chelhydrus rises to the surface from anywhere between 50-100 feet away from the ship (80%). If this is the case, then Chelhydrus will roar in outrage when he loses his grogginess, and attack with his breath weapon. He gets three breath weapon attacks per day — a 30-foot diameter cloud of steam with a range of 90 feet, dealing the equivalent damage of his own hit points (save vs. breath weapon for half). At full hit points, that’s either 161 or 80 hit points of damage per character struck! (Almost certain instant death.) If he attacks with his colossal bite and claws, he has a 50% chance of attacking the ship (treated as AC 10) and doing hull damage, and a 50% chance of attacking someone on the ship.
(b) Prowling Chelhydrus: If the dragon turtle is awake, it could be anywhere in the entire bay area — up to 4 hexes north or south of the one marked “30”, or up to 2 hexes east or west, etc. As long as the Capitana is sailing anywhere in the bay (unless it’s hugging the coast), it will have a 15% chance per day of running afoul Chelhydrus. See above for how he will proceed to attack.
Flight or Fight?
Fleeing Chelhydrus is obviously the sensible thing to do, but that may be hard unless the ship has him in the rear-view and is already moving at a high speed. There is something, however, that might save the ship and everyone’s lives: Sergio’s ring of water elemental command. The ring can summon a tsunami once per month — a wave 60 feet high and 120 feet long that travels 500 miles per hour on the open sea (if it hits land, it slows to 40 miles per hour, but that won’t be the case here), and lasts for a duration of 2 turns (20 minutes) under the ring wielder’s control. Even a 100,000+ pound dragon turtle will be swept away by a tsunami traveling at 500 mph. Sergio gets 20 minutes usage out of the tsunami — more than enough time to sweep the dragon turtle away, while sailing ass in the other direction.
Columbus’s arc: If the party encounters Chelhydrus and survives (whether by barely fleeing in time or through Sergio’s elemental intervention), Columbus will be visibly shaken and struggling to come to terms with what he has witnessed. He has never seen a dragon, let alone a dragon turtle — his entire view of the world is about to be upended on the Isle — and will drop to his knees, praising God for the crew’s deliverance from Satan. He will retreat to his cabin and pour through his Bible, and fixate on a passage in Isaiah:
“In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.” (Isaiah 27:1)
If Sergio used his ring to “slay Leviathan”, Columbus will become convinced that “the day of the Lord” is indeed quite imminent, and that his quest for gold is all the more urgent. He will instruct the ship’s chaplain to read the Isaiah passage every morning for prayers, and also during the evening worship services.
Columbus will also take Sergio’s tsunami as proof positive that the Lord works in mysterious ways (again, assuming that Sergio used his ring to save the day), and that the heretical PCs are being used by God for a holy purpose. (Indeed, it must be God at work through Sergio, for “How can Satan cast out Satan?” (Mk 3:23)) When the chaplain concludes the worship services that evening, Columbus will praise the PCs as instruments of the Almighty, and dedicate a special feast in their honor. The crew will be awed by Sergio’s power display and will give the PCs more wide berth than before.
The Haunted Village (Area 28)
The village is at the edge of the broken lands close to the bay. It used to be a thriving place of about 200 villagers but has been abandoned for decades, ever since a plague ripped through the southwestern peninsula. Now it’s haunted by the walking dead (zombies and ghouls), and even the slithering dead (skeletal snakes), who are drawn to this place because of the black pearl in the witchdoctor’s cave, which is corrupted with an evil enchantment (see below).
For they keyed areas in the village, see the Reincarnated Isle of Dread module. Neither of the totem golems at the gate of the stockade fence (HV1) is active anymore; both have lost their enchantments. Inside the village is where confrontation abounds. There are 33 zombies (AC 8, HD 2, hp 10 each, #AT 1, DA 1-8, various weapons, old and rusted, MV 20’/round, AL N) dwelling in the 12 huts (2-4 zombies per hut) (HV2); 7 ghouls (AC 6, HD 2, hp 9 each, #AT 3, DA 1-3/1-3/1-6, MV 40’/round, AL CE) making the communal hut their lair (HV3); and 6 skeletal snakes (AC 7, HD 2, hp 11 each, #AT 1, DA 1-4, MV 30’/round, AL N) plus the undead form of the witchdoctor, who is a wraith (AC 4, magic weapons needed to hit, HD 5, hp 33, #AT 1, DA 1-6 + energy drain, MV 40’/round, AL NE), in the witchdoctor’s cave (HV4).
[Since there is no cleric in the party, the DM may wish to reduce the number of undead present in the huts, for example, 20 zombies (1-2 per hut) and 4 ghouls.]
The treasure in the communal hut and witchdoctor’s cave is as listed in the module. The black pearl in the witchdoctor’s cave is worth 500 gp and radiates evil. It has permanent sympathy spell attuned to undead, which is why the dead haunt the village. But the pearl itself is not inherently magical. It’s certainly not the Black Pearl of the Gods, and there are no clues in the village as to where that Pearl might possibly be.
Upon realizing this, the PCs will probably proceed to the nearest jungle, immediately south of them. Columbus will urge this, eager to find the supposed lost city and more natives to convert. If they can find the legendary jungle city with streets paved of gold, the Black Pearl of the Gods may be there too. If not, perhaps the city inhabitants who know where the Pearl is.
Columbus’s arc: This is Columbus’s first ever encounter with undead (unless the party encountered walking-dead zombies on the southeastern peninsula), and he will be deeply unsettled by these damned entities — and by the pearl’s evil enchantment which draws them like a magnet. When they camp for sleep, he will pour over his Bible and latch on to a passage in Zechariah which pits zombies against the cause of Jerusalem (which is Columbus’s cause). In the middle of the night he will wake up the PCs furiously and recite the passage in a state of angst:
“This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. On that day people will be stricken by the Lord with great panic. They will seize each other by the hand and attack one another.” (Zechariah 14:12-14)
He will insist that the zombies are further proof that they are living in end times, and that he and the PCs are playing a critical role in the apocalyptic drama.
Into the Jungle: Velociraptors
From the haunted village, the party will probably head south into the jungle and explore there for a while before turning back north, hugging the southwestern coast around the broken lands, and up into the heart of the central jungle. They will become frustrated, as their search for the lost city seems to be in vain.
Each day in the jungle there is a 33% chance of running into a pack of six velociraptors (AC 4, HD 3, hp 22, 21, 19, 18, 16, 15, #AT 3, DA 1-8/3-6/3-6, MV 50’/round, AL N). These dinosaurs are only between 3-4 feet tall (like giant turkeys), but they are fast and use their talons with nasty efficiency.
After the velociraptors, the DM may use another wandering monster before the party reaches the phanatons: a gargantuan poisonous snake (AC 6, HD 10, hp 57, #AT 1, DA 3-8 + poison (save or die in 1-4 turns, and if save then 3-18 points of damage), MV 30’/round, AL N) that they camp next to when they camp for lunch. The snake is 50-feet long, its torso proportionally wide, and has chameleon-like ability, and so has a 5 in 6 chance of surprising a poor victim.
In the Tree-Forts of the Phanatons (Area 10)
Eventually they should come to the phanatons, a small race (3-4 feet tall) that resemble a cross between a monkey and a raccoon, though their faces have an almost human quality in terms of subtle expressions. They glide from tree branch to tree branch like flying squirrels, and live in a tree fort settlement 50 feet off the ground. Their average lifespan is about 80 years.
Columbus will fall in love with these creatures instantly and advise cultivating good will. It’s a sure bet the PCs will too. Certainly the druid Enrique, the ranger Sergio, and the wizard Isaac will take action against any who treat the phanatons poorly or attack them.
They will be brought to Ra’tikki, the war chief (at PH2), and informed that there is no jungle city (let alone with streets paved in gold) anywhere in the central or southern jungles of the Isle. Ra’tikki cannot however speak to the three northern jungle areas.
Ra’tikki and others remember being visited by Chimalli, but it was 26 years ago, and their memory of him is fuzzy. They recall that he was seeking a “Black Pearl of the Gods” too. The war chief will tell the party what he remembers telling Chimalli (points 1 and 2) and also, optionally, a more recent development (point 3).
1. Of the three northern jungles, the largest is on the northeastern peninsula, where a nasty green dragon lives, rumored to have an immense treasure hoard. The Black Pearl could be part of that hoard. It’s a very large jungle, so maybe there’s a hidden city somewhere.
2. The smallest jungle surrounds part of a lake in the northwestern peninsula. On the northern end of this lake is an island. There are rumors of an ancient temple here. If the Pearl isn’t in the green dragon hoard or a hidden city, then perhaps it’s in the temple (if it’s supposed to be a “pearl of the gods”).
3. A wandering band of cat-like humanoids arrived mysteriously at the Isle three years ago. They have been searching for something on the Isle, but the phanatons don’t know what. Their searches are always conducted in the mountains northeast of the plateau and in the jungle on the northeastern peninsula. They clearly believe that something of great importance is to be found in the northeastern region of the Isle. The phanatons don’t like these cat-like humanoids, who seem arrogant and warlike.
If the PCs ask what is on the central plateau, Ra’tikki believes that it is a plains region of warlike natives, giant birds, and mastodons, but beyond that he knows nothing.
If they ask him what course of action Chimalli took, Ra’tikki remembers the Aztec saying that he planned to look for the ancient temple before looking for the lost city or green dragon. Ra’tikki has no idea what happened to Chimalli at the lake, or if he ever made it to the northeastern jungle. The phanatons never saw or heard Chimalli again.
Columbus is awed to hear about the dragon, and still terrified over the dragon turtle that almost destroyed his ship at sea (assuming the party encountered it). He will urge traveling to the jungle in the northeastern peninsula, to search for the city, and to do battle with the “Satanic” dragon and take its treasure. He will insist on it, and if the PCs object, he will promise to let them decide the itinerary without his interference after they leave northeastern peninsula. If the PCs overrule him (which they could easily do), he will become hostile and threaten to have them arrested and hanged when they return to the Capitana (though that is a feeble threat as well).
Columbus does have a point though. It does make sense to make the northeastern peninsula a first priority. If there is a lost city, maybe there is information about the ancient temple on the lake that could help them. Also, if a tribe of cat-people is persistently searching the northeastern area, then clearly something important is there.
Ra’tikki will voice support for Columbus’s advice, but a bit bashfully, as he has an ulterior motive. He wants the party to do him a favor on their overland journey to the northeastern peninsula — to slay the magic-wielding spiders about 60 miles northeast (area 14). This is an area they would unlikely pass if they went to the lake first and from that point to the northeast peninsula. The spiders like to hunt phanatons and have been a problem for years. The chief doesn’t demand this from the party, only asks it as a favor. Columbus, loving the phanatons, will righteously agree to help, arrogantly speaking for the PCs and volunteering their help. While this will probably rankle the PCs, chances are that at least two of them (nature lovers Sergio and Enrique) would agree to this anyway, as the phanatons are an endearing race, and the spiders an evil plague.
Columbus’s arc: This encounter will mark a certain turning point for Columbus. He will be absolutely enchanted by the phanatons — intelligent good-willed creatures with their own language — and start to wonder if the “Isle of Dread”, as the Aztecs call it, is in fact the Terrestrial Paradise (i.e. the Garden of Eden).
If the party marches to the northeastern peninsula, they will be suddenly charged (1-3 in 6 chance of surprise, even traveling slowly), by a triceratops (AC 2/6, HD 11, hp 60, #AT 3 or trample, DA 1-8/1-12/1-12 or trample for 2-24, MV 30’/round, AL N) as they emerge from the jungle into the hills. It charges for double damage on its first attack.
This 30-foot long herbivore is 10 feet high at the shoulder, and its head is AC 2, while its body is AC 6. Confronting it face on usually means dealing with AC 2. Small creatures (hobbits, children, etc.) are subject to their trample attack (instead of the three horns) for 2-24 points of damage, but that will doubtfully be relevant here.
Columbus and His Prophecies
Columbus will have been obsessing Ra’tikki’s rumor of the green dragon ever since leaving the phanaton tree forts, and pouring over his Bible to find relevance. The first night of camp after trekking through the hills (as the party arrives at the mountain range), he will reach a bold conclusion: that this green dragon is none other than Satan (in the same way that the dragon turtle was an avatar of Satan), and that Revelation identifies the green dragon, but with a textual gloss rendering “great” instead of “green”:
“And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him… And the Lord seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 12:9, 20:2)
Columbus shows the PCs that he has crossed out the word “great” in this Bible and has scribbled in the word “green”. It is the green dragon, he insists, who was thrown down to the earth — and perhaps other dragons (“angels”) like him — and the Lord will soon be “seizing him and binding him for 1000 years”, whatever that means. He believes they are on the way to confront Satan in his worst incarnation, and that the fate of mankind depends on their slaying the foul beast.
Spiders of Sorcery (Area 14)
Of the PCs, Enrique (for sure) and Sergio (most probably) will want to kill the aranea as a favor to the phanatons, assuming the party was well received by them in the tree forts and given helpful information about the Isle. Columbus will also consider it their holy duty to kill the spiders (not that Columbus himself can contribute anything to this cause), as he believes the phanatons are probably creatures native to paradise (Eden).
The spider webs are 40 feet off the jungle floor and concealed from view unless one climbs above the first layer of leaf growth. This 25-foot climb requires a successful strength check, Each spider has a separate lair, but the walls are close enough so that the spiders can jump from one to another with ease. The webbed over sections of the lairs (see map) resemble caves, containing crude furniture made of wood, vines, and web which are webbed in place on the floor, and contain storage chests and libraries used for spell research.
The three spiders (AC 7, HD 3, hp 21, 19, 17, #AT 1, DA 1-6 + poison, MV 40’/round in web, 20’/round on ground, AL CE) are as large as a pony and greenish brown in color. Each has different spells and treasure (hidden in the roof of its lair) as follows:
Web A1 — Spells: obscuring mist, sleep, levitate. Treasure: cursed shield -1, potion of undead control.
Web A2 — Spells: silent image, ventriloquism, mirror image. Treasure: broom of flying. [The broom, upon command, will carry its owner, up to 180 pounds, in the air and fly at a rate of 30 miles per day. It can carry one extra person, up to 360 pounds, at a rate of 20 miles per day. The device can climb or dive at about 30 degrees. The command word “dash” must be used, which can be revealed with an identify spell.]
Web A1 — Spells: ray of enfeeblement, reduce person, glitterdust. Treasure: potion of poison.
Note that the potion of undead control and (especially) the broom of flying will prove to be very helpful later on in the quest, so even if there’s no monetary treasure here, it’s worth the party’s efforts to help the phanatons by killing these spiders.
Columbus’s arc: He will be deeply unnerved by the loathsome spiders, whose sorcery clearly marks them as Satanic monsters. If the Isle of Dread is indeed the Garden of Eden, it has clearly been invaded by evil (like the spiders and the undead from the village in the broken lands).
The Cat-Men and Hidden Shrine (Area 38 to the north of Area 14, and then Area 39)
As the party aims for the coast to avoid the worst of the mountain range, they are ambushed by six rakasta (AC 6, HD 2, hp 10 each, #AT 3, DA 1-4/1-4/1-6, two claws and a bite, MV 40’/round, AL LN), a race of nomadic feline humanoids. Their camp is about 80 miles south (area 9), built for a community of nineteen. The other thirteen are there now; these six are scouts on patrol. They are wary but not hostile to Columbus and the PCs, as they need their help to enter a shine located in a valley about 30 miles to the northwest.
The rakasta came from South America three years ago to search for this shrine that was constructed by their own people in ages past. They will tell the part that it contains great wealth, hidden lore, and the preserved body of a great Rakasta leader who is needed in their struggle on the South American continent (which they call Terra). About six months ago they located the shrine using the megalithic circles (at the three area-38 points) to triangulate its location at area 39.
The problem is that having found the shrine, they are unable to get past room RS2, as those doors can only be opened by magical means. The rakasta are not magic-users and they need a mage to open them. (The PC Felice has two knock spells.) If the party is willing to help the rakasta — which they might do, on the off-chance that the “hidden lore” inside this shrine contains information about the Black Pearl — the rakasta promise them a heavy share in whatever wealth is to be found inside the shrine.
Unfortunately, the treasure to be found inside the shrine isn’t that impressive (totaling 10,000 gp worth of gems, jewels, and items), and there is no hidden lore to be found. The preserved body of Rajas’el-najar, on the other hand, is most certainly waiting in his resting place (RS9), but he thoroughly deceived his people with false prophecies about this shrine. Once liberated — and much more powerful now with undead abilities — he will plan to ruthlessly conquer the Isle of Dread. As soon as the PCs and/or the raksata open Rajas’s sarcophagus, and he reveals his monstrous intentions, the rakasta will try to destroy their leader and ask the PCs for their assistance. If the PCs know what’s good for them, they won’t hesitate to assist.
Rajas’el-najar is now a Herculean fast-moving mummy (AC 1, magic weapons needed to hit and do only half damage, HD 9, hp 50, #AT 1, DA 1-12 + disease, MV 40’/round, AL LE). He wears a ring of protection +2, a circlet of blasting (a golden headband that projects a blast of searing light for 5-40 points of damage (save for half damage) once every four hours; automatically affecting everyone in a 30-foot radius). He has all the features of a mummy, including fear (the mere sight of him within 15 feet will cause fear-based paralysis for 1-4 rounds, unless a save vs. petrification is made), and a rotting disease that negates all cure wounds spells, and will be fatal in 1-4 weeks.
Note the staff of withering included in Rajas’s sarcophagus, along with the gems and jewels. The staff has 18 charges. It strikes as a +1 magic weapon. If a hit is scored and one charge is used, then the victim is aged 10 years, unless a save vs. rod/staff/wand is made. If a hit is scored and two charges are used, the victim is aged 10 years and one of his/her limbs becomes shriveled and useless, unless a save vs. rod/staff/wand is made (one saving throw for each effect). Raj will wield this terrible staff. Regardless of whether or not the subject saves, a hit from the staff causes 2-7 points of damage.
The detour to this shrine won’t help the PCs learn anything they need to know. The rakasta know nothing about a lost city of gold or Black Pearl of the Gods, but they do know about the green dragon, whom the rakasta say is fiercely intelligent, and knows all sorts of things: he may answer questions provided that he is treated with the utmost respect. The PCs and Columbus are warned that the dragon is vicious to those who don’t approach him with awe.
The Stegosaurus and the T-Rex (Area 43)
This encounter needn’t be used to the far northeast. It can be used much closer inland, say at the midpoint between hexes 20 and 38. It should be modified as follows: The T-Rex is not yet on the scene. The stegosaurus (AC 2/5, HD 14, hp 77, #AT 1, DA 3-24, MV 20’/round, AL N) appears suddenly in a fury, charging the party and tucking its head low, spinning to face an opponent with its rear end and slamming it with its spiked tail. The dinosaur is 25 feet long and 8 feet high, and its great plates allow it to defend with an armor class of 2 (the other 10% of the time an AC of 5).
This area is also the hunting ground of a tyrannosaurs rex (AC 4, HD 18, hp 111, #AT 3, DA 1-6/1-6/5-40, MV 40’/round, AL N), a monstrosity 50 feet long and 20 feet high. There is a 60% chance that the T-Rex is attracted to the sound of battle and arrives 3-6 rounds after the stegosaurus begins attacking the party. If that happens, the stegosaurus has an 80% chance (01-80) of breaking off its attack of the party and attacking the T-Rex instead, in effect becoming the party’s temporary ally. It has a 20% chance (81-00) of running away. It hates the T-Rex and has been harassed and wounded by it before.
Waterfalls of Healing: “The Terrestrial Garden”
In the exact center of the northeastern peninsula (two hexes to the northeast of encounter area 20) are gorgeous waterfalls with extraordinary healing properties. Drinking straight from the falls has a powerhouse healing effect. It restores a person to full hit points and any ability scores that have been reduced, removes fatigue, restores any levels that have been drained, cures disease, deafness, blindness, and neutralizes any poison in the person’s system. Not only that, the water temporarily adds 1-4 points to each ability score, which lasts for 1-4 weeks. Roll for each character who drinks.
However, the beneficial properties of the water begin diminishing as soon as it is bottled and removed from the area. If someone, for example, fills an empty potion bottle, it will be plain non-magical water by the end of the day.
Columbus’s arc: The phanatons marked a turning point for Columbus, but the waterfalls trigger an outright conversion experience. He will become 100% convinced that the Isle of Dread is indeed the Garden of Eden, and will admit that he was wrong about the Orinoco Delta in Venezuela being Eden (which he has insisted on since his third voyage five years ago). He will present his new theory to the PCs: that the Black Pearl of the Gods, wherever it is, is acting like the pearl they found in the broken-lands village — but on a much larger scale — like a magnet to evil creatures, drawing them to the Isle. It explains why the Garden contains Satanic forces: the walking dead, sorcerous spiders, a mummified cat-lord like Rajas’el-najar, a dragon, and God knows what else. It’s the Black Pearl’s fault.
As a result, Columbus will be now just as eager as the PCs to find the Pearl: to remove the abominable gem from the Garden of Eden so that the blessed land may return to God’s purpose. His quest for gold is still imperative (for the crusade to liberate Jerusalem), but ridding paradise of the Pearl is the even higher mandate. And if the Aztecs want the evil relic, then so be it; they deserve to be damned.
If the PCs scoff at his claims, he will lash out in fury, and warn them that the Lord will not be mocked, and that their souls are in dire jeopardy.
The Green Dragon Lair (Area 20)
This is an important encounter which should be played carefully. It’s also an encounter which has a strong likelihood of killing Columbus, depending on how the DM roleplays him.
The old green dragon, Noximanthra (AC 1, HD 9, hp 72, #AT 3 or breath, DA 1-6/1-6/3-24 or 50’x40′ cloud of chlorine gas for 72 hp of damage (or half if save), MV 30’/round (walking), 80’/round (flying), AL CE), makes his lair here. He reads and speaks the following languages: Dragon (Green), Quingnam, Quechua, English, Latin, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Italian, Greek, Japanese. He is 36 feet long and 494 years old, nasty-tempered and evil.
For all his viciousness, however, Noximanthra will not be in a hurry to kill the party. He can tell by their smell and looks that they are foreigners, and he is more hungry for conversation and information about the outside world than for the meat of seven humans. He doesn’t understand Spanish, but four of the party members can use other languages to communicate with him directly: Issac (who knows Latin), Enrique (who knows English, Italian, and Latin), Felice (who knows Italian and English), and Columbus (who knows Italian and Latin). Latin is the greatest common denominator among the party and dragon, followed by Italian, and then English.
The dragon isn’t native to the Isle: he’s from Peru, born in 1009 AD, during the rise of Chimú empire; he fled the land in 1086 AD (417 years ago), when as a young adult he provoked the ire of his brother and sister. He’s been living in this lair on the Isle of Dread for about 400 years now.
But that’s not the story he will tell. If asked, he will give an extravagant account of himself: that he is many thousands of years old (in other words, a great wyrm); that he migrated to the Isle from very far away in southern Sweden, about 1000 years ago; that he is the brother of the dragon slain by the warrior-king Beowulf in the early 6th century (1000 years ago), and that he avenged his brother by killing Beowulf in turn.
Through this grandiose tissue of lies, Noximanthra has reinvented himself. He loves European and Asian literature and has been exposed to plenty of it from a Norwegian mage who traded western goods for magic items. (The mage had “discovered” the Americas long before Columbus, in the 11th century, by accidentally creating a gate to the South American continent. He kept his discovery secret.) In this alternate world, Beowulf was a real hero. However, most of the PCs (Sergio, Isaac, Enrique, and Felice) are familiar enough with the tale to know that Beowulf was killed by the dragon he slew, not a different dragon. If they point this out to Noximanthra, the dragon will laugh derisively and say, “You can’t always trust legends. I was erased from history.” He will then reveal the manuscripts that he has in his treasure hoard (one of which is Beowulf, see below) and say that while they tell good stories, they tell plenty of lies too.
It’s the pot calling the kettle black, but the party would be wise to go along with the dragon’s lies and feed his ego. If any of the PCs challenge Noximanthra about any of his claims, or imply that he’s a liar (Columbus, for his part, will swallow the lies, hook, line, and sinker: see below), the dragon will fly into a rage and attack — which could well end the game right there.
The dragon’s hoard contains a shitload of treasure (see below) as well as copies of the following books: Beowulf, The Battle of Maldon, and The Tale of Genji. Noxi obtained these manuscripts in the mid-11th century from his ally the Norwegian mage. They would be worth a lot of money today in Europe. The PC Felice is a book collector and would salivate upon hearing of the dragon’s manuscripts; he might be willing to trade any of the six books he carries in his bag of holding: Inferno, Purgatorio, The Decameron, Canterbury Tales, Death of King Arthur, and the Bible.
If the party treats Noxi with respect, and if Felice (or the group speaker) makes a successful charisma check, then the dragon will agree to a trade. He has read Beowulf, The Battle of Maldon, and The Tale of Genji hundreds of times and has each memorized. He will ask for descriptions of the six books Felice owns, and demand Inferno, The Decameron, and The Death of King Arthur. If the party treats Noxi with respect, but Felice (or the group speaker) fails his charisma check, then the dragon will demand all of Felice’s books as the price to leave his lair alive.
In either case, he is willing to answer questions about the Isle before throwing the party out, and for all his shameless lies, the dragon will respond truthfully when asked about the following:
The City of Gold deep in a jungle: “Yeah, I’ve heard that rumor too. It’s rubbish. Don’t believe anything the redskins behind the wall tell you.” [A racist way of putting it, but true enough. The “city of gold” is a complete myth.]
The Black Pearl of the Gods: “Everything comes from the gods, doesn’t it? I don’t have any black pearls, if that’s what you’re asking. I hate black gems.” [He’s being honest. His vast hoard is devoid of black pearls, and he knows nothing about a special pearl anywhere on the Isle.]
Chimalli: “Never heard of him. Doubt I ever saw him.” [It’s true: Chimalli never came to the northeastern peninsula. He went straight from the phanatons to the northwestern lake, and from there to the Central Plateau. The dragon knows nothing about him.]
In other words, the party’s expedition to the northeastern peninsula has a been a waste of time, though depending on how they react to Columbus’s (likely) death (see below), they could leave with a lot of the dragon’s treasure.
Columbus’s arc: Columbus will swallow the dragon’s lies about his background, as they confirm his exegesis of the following Biblical prophecy:
“And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him… And the Lord seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 12:9, 20:2)
Columbus has already exegeted the text to refer to a green (not great) dragon (see above, “Columbus and His Prophecies”), and as soon as Noximanthra says that he’s been living on the Isle for a thousand years (a bald-faced lie), another piece of the puzzle clicks into place. The dragon is not going to be bound in the future; the Lord bound him in the past (1000 years ago), and put him here, on the Isle, which is — another part of the puzzle coming together — the Edenic paradise (as Columbus concluded at the waterfalls of healing).
Moreover: If the PCs are smart they will be diplomatic with Noxi, but this will annoy Columbus. If they go so far as to trade or give him books, he will snap on the spot. He will tear open his Bible to the Revelation passage, and tell everyone (the PCs and Noximanthra) to shut up and listen to the word of God. He will read as follows:
“And the green dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels with him… And the Lord seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him in Eden for a thousand years.”
Currently the Earth is 5507 years old (from most peoples’ ignorant point of view, anyway), and so the dragon’s lies fit perfectly: Noximanthra says he is many thousands of years old (though he’s actually 494 years old), so he probably dates back to the time of creation, when God threw him down to earth. He also says that he has been living on the Isle for 1000 years (Beowulf died in the early 500s), which is another outrageous lie (he’s been living on the Isle for 417 years), but it makes perfect sense given that this Isle is the Terrestrial Paradise (as Columbus now insists). God evidently intended to keep the dragon caged in Eden for this length of time until it was time for the creature to die once and for all.
Columbus, in other words, is 100% convinced that Noximanthra — AKA Satan — has lived out the 1000 years he was prophesied for, and thus that it the PCs’ holy duty to slay the green dragon in preparation for the apocalypse. He will demand that they attack the dragon at once, and become furious if they refuse.
Needless to say, it is stupid for Columbus to trash-talk the dragon in front of his face — and he’s about to pay dearly for that stupidity — though on one level Noximanthra will be amused by these ravings; flattered that he is seen as a cosmic force of evil tied to the fate of the world. But he knows it’s nonsense and can tell that Columbus is unhinged. Once Columbus starts telling the PCs to kill him, the dragon will clear his throat (as if to remind Columbus that he’s right here in front of him), and then politely ask the PCs to leave the chamber so that he may “have a few words with this prophet”. He directs the PCs to wait outside at the mouth of the cave (G1). What he has to say is for Columbus alone. Columbus will have no objections, believing himself shielded (with his Aztec blanket, and his prayers to God) from anything Satan may throw at him.
If the PCs agree to wait outside, Isaac the mage might choose to spy and listen in (he has a clairvoyance/clairaudience spell), in which case he will witness the death of Christopher Columbus first hand. Noximanthra will ask Columbus how such a lunatic as he ever joined up with an impressive group of people, before breathing chlorine gas over him. Columbus’s armor class of -7 is irrelevant here; the cloud fills a 50′ x 40′ area, which is pretty much the exact size of the dragon’s lair (G4) they are in. Columbus will die instantly, whether he saves vs. breath weapon or not, taking 72 or 36 point of damage.
If the PCs refuse to leave, then what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and Noximanthra will unleash his breath weapon on everyone — which, again, could end the game. If the PCs choose to attack the dragon, then initiative should be rolled for (they might deal him some damage before being chlorine-gassed).
Noximanthra does not particularly want to kill the PCs if they have been showing him respect, which is why he sends them from his lair while he gasses Columbus. After he kills him, he invites them back in and laughs over Columbus’s corpse. If the PCs take it in stride and show little remorse for Columbus, and continue as respectful guests, then Noxi, in good humor, will allow them to take as much as 5000 silver coins, 500 gold coins, and also give them the large uncut emerald from his hoard (worth 3500 gp).
His treasure hoard is as follows:
- 40,400 sp
- 2000 gp
- a set of six matching gold chalices (250 gp each)
- a large uncut emerald the size of a fist (3500 gp)
- a silver flute (225 gp)
- five ornate wood carvings of tropical birds (175 gp each)
- three jade figures of nixies (350 gp each)
- a malachite mask gilded with gold (850 gp)
- a lute dipped in gold (1700 gp)
- a set of four drums made of black dragon hide (900 gp as a set)
- an ivory statuette of a cave bear (550 gp)
- a silver necklace set with emeralds (2700 gp)
- a ceratosaurus’s skull with two emeralds for eyes (each worth 550 gp)
- a carved wooded scepter set with aquamarines (1925 gp)
- a silver harp string (85 gp)
- manuscript of Beowulf
- manuscript of The Battle of Maldon
- manuscript of The Tale of Genji
- any books or manuscripts gained from the PCs
Not counting the books, that’s a total hoard value of 23,000 gp.
Note: It is not required that Columbus die in this encounter, but if played right he stands a good chance of dying, and that’s how I imagined the scenario playing out. Other DMs may not wish to have Columbus be so reckless in ranting about “Satan the green dragon”.
Interlude: After the Dragon
The PCs may have “wasted time” in the region of the northeast, but not really, if they gained treasure and useful magic items. Because they will have also gained considerable experience. If they killed the spiders, survived the Rakasta shrine, killed the T-Rex, and navigated the dragon’s lair without provoking him, then all of that on top of what happened prior (evading the dragon turtle, surviving the undead village, and negotiating with the phanatons) should earn them a level. If they skipped two or more of those, the DM should postpone the level advancement until they finish investigating the Forgotten Temple.
The Troglodytes (Area 21)
This encounter can be run as is stands in the reincarnated module with no modification. It’s standard fare, a cave lair of 17 troglodytes (AC 5, HD 2, hp 12 each, #AT 3, DA 1-4/1-4/1-4, 1 bite and 2 claws, MV 40’/round, AL NE).
The Lake (Area 22)
Crossing the lake to get to the island warrants an attack by the plesiosaurus (AC 6, HD 16, hp 96, #AT 1, DA 4-24, MV 50’/round, AL N) that lives beneath the surface. There is an 80% chance the beast will attack anyone coming within 15 feet of the shore in the main area of the lake, and a 20% chance it will attack in the southeastern strip of the lake. (The party will be in the main area since they are trying to get to the island.) The beast is 50 feet long and very aggressive. If it scores a hit, it will pull its victim into the lake on the following round. If the dinosaur is slain and its body cut open, the party will find a skeletal arm and hand wearing a ring of regeneration.
The lake has an average depth of 33 feet. The party will have options in how they get to the island. They might think of the following:
(1) Sergio’s water elemental command ring allows him to lower water twice per day, and to part water once per week, but neither of those have the range of 2 miles needed to get out to the isle. The plesiosaurus would attack in any case.
(2) Sergio, Alejandro, and Enrique might try investigating the island alone, and leave Isaac, Felice, Lucia (and Columbus, if he is still alive) waiting on the shore. Sergio can water walk with his ring (unlimited use) or water breathe (once/day, for 12 hours). Alejandro has a helm of underwater action (unlimited use of normal breathing and movement, and clear sight) and Enrique has a water breathing spell (that lasts 12 hours). All three of them could easily get to the island in about an hour’s time, investigate the temple, and return in about an hour’s time. The plesiosaurus would of course attack these three PCs, so the dinosaur would have to be slain in advance.
(3) The party could, under Sergio’s ranger instruction, build a raft, as there is plenty of wood from trees in the surrounding environment. Alejandro could get to work falling a tree and limbing it into logs with his battle-axe +2. The logs will then have to be tied and secured well with rope and/or vines. The whole process would probably take 2-3 hours (allowing for much-needed breaks). Once again, the plesiosaurus would have to be dealt with before putting the raft to use. It could get the party to the isle in about 50 minutes time. If the raft was built under Sergio’s guidance, it has a 90% chance of holding up. If (heaven forbid) Sergio has been killed off in the adventure, any raft built by the PCs without ranger guidance will have only a 40% of holding up. A raft that doesn’t hold up will start to unravel on the lake.
(4) If the broom of flying was obtained from the magic-using spiders (at area 14), the PC who owns it could take turns transporting the other party members to the island, at a little less than 2 hours a person — flying 2.5 miles an hour, so about 50 minutes to the island, then 50 minutes back to shore, for about 8 and a half hours to transport the whole party. The pleasiosaurus would be no threat in this case.
Options (2), (3), and (4) are all doable.
The Forgotten Temple (Area 40)
For the most part, the temple should be run as described in the reincarnated module.
In the head priest’s chambers (K5), a key is lying in one of the floor corners. The key opens the secret door on the south wall, and also the secret door to the treasury (K8). There is also a mural on the eastern wall, depicting a huge plateau with a volcanic crater at its center. Over the image of the plateau is a priest clutching a black pearl, and over the priest a strange humanoid creature with a tentacled head, a sphincter-like mouth, webbed hands, and a three-fluked tail instead of legs. (Show image below.)
In the midst of the debris on the floor is a scroll written in ancient magic. Parts of it are smudged and illegible. A read magic will reveal the clear parts:
“The pearl… [garbled]... to Ixandathru… [garbled]… crush the vampires, tear them… [garbled]… the highland…[garbled]… abundance.”
The original writing read as follows: “The pearl is taken by the enemy to Ixandathru. We will crush the vampires, tear them down, and return the highland to fertile abundance.” It was written centuries ago, from the high priest on Taboo Island to the high priest at this temple.
The only way to find out what words have been garbled are through divination or wish spells (which the party doesn’t have). However, the gem of acuity in K8 will reveal the full text on the parchment.
In all likelihood, the party will be led to the Central Plateau, since (a) the mural shows a plateau accompanied by the image of a pearl, and (b) the parchment mentions a “highland” in the context of a pearl. That a priest is holding the pearl points to a holy context, like a “pearl of the gods”. The strange humanoid in the mural is a kopru, and indeed the Pearl of the Gods used to be in possession of the kopru priesthood on the Central Plateau.
Used to be, that is. The Pearl is not on the plateau anymore, but the party will have to go there to find out where it’s been taken. For centuries the Pearl has been in the hands of the kopru’s enemies, the ixitxachitl, in their underwater city of Ixandathru (area 41). Finding out who or what or where Ixandathru is (the fragmented parchment makes it sound like a person, creature, or place) will be one of the party’s chief objectives in the next stage of their quest on the Central Plateau.
The treasury in K8 is as stated in the module, with the gem of acuity: a special kind of gem of seeing, that has 4 charges to start with. It uses a charge to grant truesight out to a range of 120 feet for ten minutes (allowing the viewer to see through normal and magical darkness, to read magical writing and normal illegible handwriting, spot secret doors, see the exact locations of creatures or objects under blur or displacement effects, see invisible creatures or objects, see through illusions, and see the true form of polymorphed, changed, or transmuted things). Note: If the PCs think to try using this on the parchment in K5, they will be able to read the smudged parts and thus the whole thing. In addition, it can cast ESP (1 charge), clairvoyance & clairaudience (2 charges), locate object (2 charges), and locate creature (4 charges). Every day it gains 1-2 charges, for a maximum of 4.
If they enter K9, the kopru (AC 3, HD 8, hp 44, #AT 2, DA 1-4/3-18, bite and tail thrash, or charm, MV 50’/round (in water), 10’/round (on land), MR 33%, AL NE) — which looks exactly like the creature in the mural in K5 — has recently risen from its torpor-like slumber. It will swim slowly towards the center of the cavern and try to charm one of the PCs (it won’t be Columbus, if he’s even still alive, because the kopru will sense his weakness and illness, and wants to dominate strong victims). A kopru’s charm power may be used on a victim up to 30 feet away, as long as the victim can see the kopru. If he/she fails a save vs. spells, the character becomes totally obedient to the kopru’s demands, unlike the restrictions of a charm person spell. The person will act normally but will be totally committed to the interests of the kopru, using all of his abilities and spells to serve the kopru’s interests, and even risking life and limb for its master. The kopru will know the thoughts and memories of the charmed person, no matter how far away. A character may only be controlled by one kopru at a time, though a kopru can have any number of victims under its charm. There is no limit to the distance at which a victim may be controlled. The charm can be broken by a successful dispel magic (cast against 8th level magic) or by the death of the controlling kopru. The character gets a new saving throw every week, and if successful, breaks free of the charm. If the victim is still under control after a month, he gets no more saving throws at all.
The kopru will keep trying to charm as many PCs as possible (one attempt each round). The PCs who make their saving throws will realize that the creature was trying to fuck with their minds somehow and probably advise attacking the creature or fleeing (the latter being the sensible option). The DM should roll the PCs’ saving throws secretly, for if a PC’s saving throw fails, the other PCs will be oblivious to the fact that he or she is now under control, and — depending on how many PCs the kopru ends up charming — the kopru will want to keep that a secret.
If the kopru can get at least 3 PCs charmed (i.e. at least half the party), it will order them to kill the other party members. In which case, they other party members had best kill the kopru fast to break the charm. Felice has a dispel magic spell that he could use to try freeing a PC, but his spell would have only a 40% of working against an 8-HD creature like the kopru (assuming that Felice has made it to 6th level after the green dragon encounter; if he’s still 5th level, then only 35% chance).
If the kopru can get only one or two PCs charmed (i.e. less than half the party), then it will be satisfied with that, dive under the muck and swim to the far end of the room, remaining submerged until (so it hopes) the party leaves. The one of two PCs who are under its control will act as though nothing has happened to them. At some point the DM should slip them private notes, or take them aside, to explain the following:
(1) they are under control of the kopru but will do their best to keep that secret from the PCs who are not charmed
(2) they will do their utmost, but subtly, to steer the party to Taboo Island (which is where the PCs need to go anyway) and await further instructions as they proceed
Needless to say, the kopru are a very dangerous powerful race. Dealing with even one of them can be a deadly challenge. This will become clear during the next stage of the adventure path.
Here ends this part of my imagined adventure path on the Isle of Dread. Stay tuned for the next part.