This is a dungeon delve for 5 first level characters. It is created for the Dark Sun campaign world, but can be ported into any campaign world with desert cities and dust storms. The delve uses all three encounter areas from the poster map included with Bloodsand Arena, a Free RPG Day 2010 offering from Wizards of the coast. Lacking this poster, maps can be recreated from dungeon tiles or any other resource. The first encounter takes place in a dune swept deserted market place; the second on the floor of the arena; and the final map is in the slave pens beneath.
The adventure is designed to be run straight through, with short rests between each of the encounters, but no extended rest are available until after the final encounter. If the party must take a long rest after the first encounter, they can hole up in the silt runners burrow, provided they find it and are able to enlarge it enough for the entire party. There is no possibility of an extended rest between the second and third encounters. The party is considered to take a five minute rest as they ponder how to open the locked door into the third encounter.
Hook: The Half Elf Consortium
You are hirelings of the Half Elf Consortium Sylvanus, out of Altaruk. Sent ahead to forge a path for the caravans to follow, your job is to clear out the arena and secure it for the encampment due to arrive the next day. The caravan is being sent north to the recently uncovered Buried city of Nazerak, long lost among the dunes. The arena is called the Sabratha, or Haunted Fields in the legends. This encampment will help enrich the merchants of House Sylvanus with the treasures they uncover. The offer of 50 gold ceramics for each of you is too irresistible to decline. Besides, how dangerous could it be?
After spending most of the day walking through the broken remnants of petrified trees that surround the lost city, you finally make it to the outskirts, where the arena is the largest intact structure – if you can call the tumble-down stone heap intact. The ruins of a typical slave market can be seen sprawled in front, and a few wisps of canvas still hang from broken poles and stakes. The ground ahead is treacherous with loose stones and broken shards.
Encounter 1 – A Stroll through the market (500 xp)
1 Silt Runner Darter (100)
1 Silt Runner Rager (100)
1 Silt Runner Inciter (125)
1 Baazrag Gnawer (100)
3 Baazrag Whelps (75)
A change in the weather heralds the PCs entrance into the ruins of the slave market sprawling in front of the arena. The silt runners are a typical raiding party, passing through when they began to notice signs of an impending storm. They arrived in the market earlier in the day and dug out a safe haven in one of the buildings to wait out the storm. The Darter and rager are each sprawled on top of a stone building, 10 ft high. They cannot be spotted from the ground, and their natural camoflage gives them a DC 25 to be spotted while lying still even if they are able to be spotted. The Inciter lies under a cloth with the lizards among the largest tent area, and will attempt to ambush from behind.
Now where the tents once stood are tall dunes riddled with the detritus of the market, ruined pottery shards and broken tent stakes littler the area, making for dangerous footing. Past the tent stalls rest the remains of gutted brick buildings. Now with filled with sand they are little more than large dunes themselves. The ever present wind is picking up speed and beginning
A DC 21 Passive or active Perception check will allow the characters to position themselves anywhere in the center squares before rolling for initiative. Anything else and the silt runners will get a surprise action while the characters are placed in the center of the map in typical marching order.
Tactics:The silt runners will encircle the party and harry them, or divide and split up the party, picking off weak or separated members if possible. If all the silt runners are killed, any remaining baazrags will flee to the south.
Treasure: Besides the weapons and armor of the silt runners, the party can harvest 4 survival days of rations and water from the raiders. A Perception DC of 19 for a PC to discover the silt runners burrow. This is of little use now, but could have an impact on an ongoing campaign. Perhaps this is a known trail of the nomadic Silt Runner warbands, or a surviving member of a failed expedition could retreat here to escape the fate of his comrades.
After the encounter: The characters first notice the winds kicking up and the darkening of the sky of an approaching sandstorm. Read the following after rests and searches have been completed, but before restlessness sets in:
The wind has been steady from the south until now, when it begins to shift, first from the east, then south and west. The sky becomes dark brown – telltale signs of an approaching sand storm. Better get the arena secure before the storm moves in.
Encounter 2 – Sabratha – The haunted plain (625 xp)
2 Dust Devils (300 xp)
1 Blazing Skeleton (200 xp)
1 Lesser Earth Elemental (125 xp)
Inside the arena is an area of calm escape from the growing sandstorm without. It is not yet dusk but the dark sun is obscured by rising thunderheads. The arena floor is smooth sand, stone and bone shards poke through the untouched rippling dunes, except for the center of the arena, where a swirling area of sifting sand seems suspicious.
A drop of blood falls from the tip of a weapon, or from a soaked bandage. As it strikes the dry dust of the arena floor, lightning cracks open the sky directly above. The doors slam shut, and a stroke of greenish primal lighting hits the sandy pit in the center of the arena. The electricity spreads out, and rocks tumble together, bones knit and rise, bursting into flame. Two thorny brambles shake loose their mooring in the sand and twist into whirling dustdevils.
Like an avalanche, the leading edge of the sandstorm comes tumbling over the ruined walls in full force.
DC 17 Arcana or History reveals The haunted field is alive with the mix of primal and elemental magic. It is the Sabratha, eater of lives. Untold centuries of spilt blood have given the arena its ties to the primal powers, while the spirits of those screaming into nothingness brought the bond of elements.
Tactics: The elemental energies are malevolent and know of the power of the sand pit that spawned them. They will use every effort to knock PCs into the sand pit, even delaying actions in hopes the PCs charge into the area.
The Oncoming Storm Skill Challenge
While the battle persists on the arena floor, the PCs must contend with the elemental effects of the storm that is brewing. Because the entities they face are products of the storm, the enemies do not suffer any weather related ill effects.
Round 1 – Endurance DC 12
Each character must make an Endurance check at the start of their turn or be pulled 2 squares towards the center of the arena, as the whipping winds come sweeping down the arena walls.
Round 2 – Athletics/Acrobatics DC 14
Each character must make an Athletics/Acrobatics check at the start of their turn or be weakened until the beginning of their next rurn. This reflects the solid chunks of rock and stone interfering with the work of weapons and spells.
Round 3 – Nature DC 12
Each character must make a Nature check at the beginning of the turn or movement is cut down by 1 and all attack ranges are cut in half. The detritus in the air makes it difficult to see and lessens the impact of ranged attacks.
Round 4 – Go to round 1
The skill challenges resets, and round 4 begins with an Endurance check.
When a character succeeds against a specific skill, they no longer have to roll for that round, but are assumed to have passed. Therefore, when they have succeeded against all 3 skills, they are considered to have beat the challenge.
Special note regarding skill usage: A character can use a minor action to take a modifying skill check in order to gain a +2 bonus to their skill challenge check, depending on DM approval. For example, a character might want to attempt an Arcana check to deflect some of the storm away in order to have a bonus against the weakness of round 2.
Treasure: When the last enemy falls, a last tendril of energy lashes out and grants one randomly rolled character the Spirit of Sand Elemental Gift. (DSCS pg 212)
After the encounter: The sands become so bad the characters are forced into the safety of the stairwell down into the slave pens. However, this is not enough cover, and the door is locked. A covering of dust conceals any locking mechanism. A DC 25 Athletics check will burst the door inwards. If the PCs can find a way to chip away the hardened dust of centuries coating the door lock like concrete, a DC 13 Thievery check will unlock the door.
Either way, after a five minute rest and a few failed attempts at the door, a sudden sand wave will crash into the party, bursting the door open and rolling the party into the room prone.
The blowing dust and sand momentarily fill the darkened chamber of the slave pens beneath the arena. As the wind dies down and peace is restored, you take your first look around. The chamber is large and rectangular, with cages along the east and west walls made from stout wooden beams inset into ceiling and floor. In the southwest corner is a dark animal pit, while in the far northeast corner two twisted figures shamble into sight. It is a pair of zombies, their hard desiccated skin tight and peeling over their bones. The air smells and tastes of salt, and these two creatures glow white with a salt rime.
The Id fiend hides in the 10 ft deep pit, and it will take an active DC 25 to spot him before he moves. The creature makes its lair in this dungeon, and it normally exits through a concealed hole in the animal pen (DC 30 and the pit must be actively searched) that leads outside the arena. There is little of value in the chamber except for gnawed bones in the animal pen. Everything else has been looted. The door in the north wall is locked and can be used to expand the delve. The doorway could lead to deeper cellars, or it could lead back to the surface.
Tactics: The Id fiend will delay until it is noticed, or until most of the party has become focused on the zombies. Then it will attack from behind, trying to use range powers to provoke opportunity attacks against enemies trying to descend into the pit, if it is able. Otherwise it will leap out and fight in melee. Throughout the battle the fiend will use its psionic attacks whenever possible, and the characters can notice a growing psychic energy field about the chamber as the battle intensifies.
Treasure: The Dm can give out a treasure parcel as a reward for the delve, or DM willing, the party could be in for a treat. At the DMs discretion, the reward for killing the id fiend could be a new wild talent opens up for each of the combatants to survive the battle. Read the following as the last blow lands on the solo.
As the blow lands, the bloodied beast cries out. Your ears hurt from its loud wail, but another scream inside your head threatens to crack your skull open. After a moment, your mind clears, and you feel new mental powers unlocked with the Id Fiends death wail.
After the Battle: The party should be ready for an extended rest, and they have earned it. The storm will blow itself out in a few hours, and the characters will receive their pay when the caravan arrives, or for a twist, the DM could decide the caravan doesnt arrive.