One instant you are in a lifeless void, the next you are thrust into a place of stunning vibrant sensation…
In ages before the lawful races of the world discovered the isle of dread, a cult of fish-men rose to power in the region and this volcano was their holiest site. They revered the elemental chaos, focusing on fire and water, and eventually fell sway to demonic overlords. They created the great white apes of SU during this time, and long after the mysterious fish-men vanished from the island, the evil ape guardians remain. Eventually a wizard attempted to create useful guardians out of them, and the six armed white ape was created, but it too was deemed a failure. The apes returned to their native volcano and now a rivalry exists between the original guardians and the new creation. While natural and mortal enemies, the apes all see the party as their fair game and will tolerate one another to destroy the party.
This introductory encounter is designed to throw the characters right into the middle of things on the Isle of Dread. This encounter works best if the adventure begins with the characters teleporting to the island blind, knowing only that there is a working teleportation circle still functioning on the island, but not where, or what they might face. This adventure works best as one of exploration and uncovering the mysteries of the island. The characters may or may not come prepared, depending on the backstory that leads to their sudden appearance on the balcony. If the characters are overly prepared, remember the lava down below. It tends to react poorly to consumable items.
The Monastery of SU
The air is thick with the mixed smells of jungle, sea, and sulfur. Your vision is obscured by the limbs, leaves, and vines of overhanging vegetation, and their swishing is loud in your ears, along with the buzzing of insects and the more distant shrieks and calls of the local fauna. You stand on the crumbling ruins of a platform jutting from halfway up the inside wall of a volcano. A circle, still faintly glowing blue, inscribes the cracked stone at your feet and a winding stair built into the wall leads to other platforms above and below. Further below the caldera of the volcano casts a sinister glow of lava. Broken columns on the edges of the platform are all that is left of the monastery that once straddled the crater.
Give the players just a moment to describe their characters initial actions. If the players do not speak up with immediate character actions, assume the characters are taking a moment to gain their bearings. If a player begins describing long or complicated maneuvers, pause them gently and ask them what is the first thing they do. Give them a minor actions worth of activity, including as many passive skill checks as they would like, before going on to the next section of text.
From above suddenly comes a sound like drumming followed by a loud feral scream. Suddenly the sound is repeated from below, and a huge, white, six armed ape seems to appear out of nowhere, beating his chest and replying in a loud feral scream of its own.
Upper Platform – This platform is shadowed by the hanging foliage from the jungle along the volcano rims cover. A short length of stone staircase surmounts the rim, and otherwise, the platform seems stripped bare of any adornment it once had. The floor of the platform is made up of large stone tiles, each of them carved to resemble images of fishy underwater subjects as well as fire and smoke.
The columns are carved to look like big-eyed fishy humanoids with little clothing and long claws. Each of them has a long thick vine extending across the volcano to the column at the upper rim. To slide down a vine is an Acrobatics check DC 12, or fall into the lava. To climb a vine up to the forested rim is a double move action and is an Athletics DC 14.
The lava is partially encrusted and only shows through its hardening surface in cracks and bubbling splatters. A creature takes 15 damage at the start of a turn on a square of lava, and an it increases by 10 for every round the creatures stays on the same square, as they sink into the molten rock.
Middle Platform – Along the inside rim of the Volcano are the stone ruins of what was once a crater-spanning monastery, but now only three platforms survive, held in place by stone shafts driven into the volcano wall, and linked by a crumbling spiral staircase that twines up the inside of the volcano all the way down to its lava bubbling cauldron. The remains of fluted columns can be seen, carved with images of fish and fire, and on the central platform a large magic circle is inscribed, still faintly glowing blue, though much of the stone is cracked and weathered. From the platform, one can look southeast, through a break in the volcano wall, to see the entire island spread out below. The jungle forest overhangs the rim and ropy vines trail down into the volcano, some of them wrapped around the columns to provide long looping strands thick enough to bear the weight of a person.
Lower platform – A concealed (by an outcropping of rock) cave entrance on this level leads to a long narrow cavern. A Su Alpha, and 30 minions lair in the cave. They will come out to do battle with the PCs but hate the Su monsters and can be tricked into fighting them instead. They will go no deeper into the volcano than their platform, and will chase no prey past the rim either, but are fiercely protective of their home. Nothing else of interest is on the platform except for a surfeit of banana peels, which require a DC 14 Acrobatics check any time a PC moves 3 or more squares.
Caldera – The sloping walls of the inside of the volcano means that any creature or object which falls off one of the platforms or rim will land in the lava. The exception to this is the small platform right at the lowest level. This leads to a narrow cave with an open stream of lava. Navigating this crack will cause 30 HP of fire damage, but a character as a double move action can retrieve a golden chest containing the artifacts of the old monastery. The chest itself is solid gold and worth 1500 gp. It also weighs 100 pounds. It is locked (DC 17) and trapped (DC 21) with a poison needle. If struck the creature must make a DC 19 Fortitude check or become very sick and lose 1 healing surge until remove disease or 1d3 days have passed. The character also needs to make frequent rests. The box contains a holy symbol +3, and 4 stone tablets with rituals incscribed upon them in primordial (as scrolls.)
Combat Encounter – 2400 -6700 Xp (Variable, hard encounter)
1 Girallon Marauder
4 Great Apes
1 SU Alpha
2-30 SU Ambushers
The SU Alpha and 2 SU Ambushers begin their turn on the lower platform, and 2 additional Ambushers will enter the platform from a narrow cave entrance as a move action each round until the SU Alpha is slain, at which point the survivors will attepmt to retreat to the cave and the remaining Ambushers will cower inside. They will attack any who enter the cave. The SU Alphas will exit the volcano onto the forested rim under no circumstances.
The Girallon Marauder and the 4 Great Apes begin their turn on the Forested squares at the volcano’s rim. The girallon will charge down the stairs at the nearest PC while the 4 great apes will each hurl a chunk of stone (+9 vs Reflex, 2d6+6 damage and target is knocked prone) before moving or sliding down a vine onto one of the platforms. Neither the great apes nor the Girallon will enter the lower platform, and if they find themselves in the caldera below, will attempt to get up as quick as possible, using vines if they can.
The Girallon and he SU Alpha are natural enemies, and each of them claims the PCs as their prize. Crafty players might be able to turn this animosity and get the apes to attack their natural enemies. If a character finds themselves adjacent to an ape from each tribe, they can make a diplomacy or bluff check (DC 21) to move and force each ape to make an opportunity attack not against the PC, but against the other ape. A failed check results in opportunity attacks as normal. Moving at least 2 squares is required for this to work.
After the battle
The middle platform has become unstable due to the stresses of the recent teleportation, and a cursory examination (Dungeoneering DC 14) will raise concern that it could disintegrate if it is used again. The heroes will have to find a new way off the island. Additionally they may be able to tell that the island is in actuality in the feywild. This would be an Insight or Nature DC 14. Those who make an Insight check of DC 24 or higher may have a sketchy understanding of feeling trapped within the demi-plane. They will feel a cage surrounds the island and can see a strange mist which can only be glimpsed where the horizon is hidden by a silvery haze. 50 – 100 great apes continue to lurk in the slice of jungle on the north m of the volcano, and they beat their chests in rage but skitter away if approached.
The Pathways – The north face of the volcano rim features a fair sized area of light jungle where the Su Girallons make their homes. Tracks and other signs of the apes habitation are abundant, and the floor is littered with many chunks of broken stone from the collapsed monastery. From this summit, sketchy game trails weave through the trees to descend down the mountainside in all four directions. To the north, the path quickly ends at a rocky range of broken cliffs that descend all the way to the heaving sea hundreds of feet below. Natural stair-like formations make the journey northwards possible, and large flying creatures dart in and out of caves. The eastern and southern paths each lead to the regions in that direction. To the west, and visible from the summit (but not from any of the platforms) a campsite stands near the western path. Trees, vines, and other foliage cover the slopes of the volcano, with only the last 100 feet or so rising out of the green blanket
Campsite of Shalazar Shackleton
A small area of flat ground along the southern rim of the volcano has been used as a campsite at some point in the past. The jungle has started reclaiming the clearing, but it contains the remains of a teepee, a campfire circle of stones. A stake has been set into the ground near one edge of the camp, and atop it looks like the decayed head of a SU ape, little more than the skull and a few scraps of dried flesh and hair remains. The campfire is old, possibly months old, and little can be found but an old copper pot laying in the ashes.
The tent is made of leather stretched between 6 tent poles, and the leather has been torn in several places, though it still holds its shape. Inside the tent is a small cot, a trunk, and a rudely hewn wooden table chair. Draped over the back of the chair is a great silvery fur-skin. On the table, another piece of hide is stretched and tacked. It is a skillfully painted map of the island, as seen from atop the volcano. The cot contains nothing but moldering bedding, a sewn quilt patterned in silver swords and golden hourglasses. The trunk is locked, and shows signs of having been roughly battered, but is undamaged. (DC 24 thievery to unlock) It contains a silver lion helm, a scroll with a royal seal, an artists kit, and a bag with (10) 100 gp rubies. It also contains a battered, weather-beaten journal.
The letter was written on fine vellum and was from The queen of Shalazar, the nearest city on the mainland. It read:
By Writ of Her Highness the Immortal Queen of Shalazar
The bearer of this deed has been given the honors and rights to make an Expedition to the southern Isle commonly called the Isle of Dread on behalf of the people of Shalazar. The bearer is also entitled to demonstrate his prowess by bringing the following Fantastical creatures back to Shalazar. For a well-preserved head, the bearer is entitled to no less than 1,000 gold pieces, and for a still breathing specimen 3,000 gold. The creatures rumoured to make their habitation on the Mysterious Isle are thus:
Fang Titan Drake
Displacer Panther Packlord
Stone Eye Basilisk
The leather bound journal looked once waterlogged. The pages were rippled and torn, and the ink was smeared. Nonetheless, it is mostly legible. The first few pages of the journal detail the sea voyage from Shalazar, the southern-most city of the main continen to the Isle of Dread. At least 20 days are spent on the voyage. The ship becomes lost in a storm and is thrown up onto the southern beach of the Isle. Shalazar Shackleton is the only survivor. He made camp at the mountains peak after pacifying the white apes, and began preparations for his mission. The last few pages get harder to decipher until the last page, which is written in verse:
This I Know
The mists cannot be breached nor bypassed
Without the Black Pearl held fast
The Black Pearl cannot be found
Without first searching underground
The Black Pearl cannot be made
Without the natives aid
The broken planks cannot be fixed
Without master woodwork’d sticks
The Black Pearl floundered castaway
Pirates have their own Black Pearl
Wizard knows but will not say
Where to find the cauldrons boil
Hag has spell, witch has spell
Natives know where lay the purse
Fanaton hammer but fear the swell
Together they can break the curse
The last few pages of the journal are empty.