The Old Stone

Vix was drawn to it for reasons beyond his comprehension. There was no logic to it, only pure feeling. Staring from the window past sleeping Renmysh to where the dusk settled over the distant line of trees, he heard the faintest whisper, like the breath of his sleeping child. It urged him to step from the cruel life of The Mission, and find a warm, soporific haven among The Elder Things. He left at dawn while the others still murmured in their sleep. Slipping over the dew-drenched grass he made for Ceasta forest. It was ill-advised to venture too far into the wood, but he knew the trails on its edges well. He followed one deeper than he'd ever gone. The whispering increased and a warm sensation flooded through his body. He found the stone in a glade of spectral beauty. It was twice his height, and cracked down the middle, sundered in two. Memories of his childhood flooded back, the feeling of being cocooned within his mother. As he lay down at its base, all thought of his family receded. He slept until the flesh had rotted from his bones and the vines crept over his body. There his skeleton petrified. Later, a search party proceeded from Renmysh. But although they followed the same trails as far as Vix, they never found their man or the glade or the leaning white stone. And in time everyone forgot that Vix ever existed at all. Maybe he would have wanted it that way.
   
The Old Stone is part of the adventure plot Murder at The Old Stone. Follow the link to see the narrative structure and read on for rules, maps, and other materials necessary to run the one-shot adventure.
      The Old Stone sits near the edge of Ceasta forest, in The Old Glade, which cycles in and out of terrestrial existence. One cannot simply seek it, for it is there one moment and gone the next. It is one of several monoliths arranged around key ley lines that once protected Ceasta and Isll Bwrymm from the corrupting power of The Terminus Nocta. Some have even claimed The Old Stone represents a rare gate to one of the Runeways, which offer perilous access to stranger Orphaned lands.   During its imperial phase, The Church of the True Path Incarnate landed on Isll Brwymm, as they did throughout the rest of Eastern Areallia, and began their purge of what they considered to be pagan influence--The ways and traditions of The Old Gods. They were able to break The Old Stone and weaken the wards that contained the entropic arms of The Final Night (Terminus Nocta). When they finally destroyed the last and most powerful of the monoliths, The Pale Key, they precipitated a crisis that almost destroyed Isll Bwrymm.     Still, The Old Stone retains some of its power. It reaches out to find troubled minds and coax them towards eternal slumber. The stone is now a bitter part of The Orphan's mind, resentful of mortal life, which it sees as senselessly cruel and consumed by petty malice. Still, even in its anger, The Old Stone does not want to hurt or punish. It simply hunts unhappiness and offers it a day of rest. And then another day. And another.  
You enter the quiet glade. The trees are preternaturally large with great gnarls, which give the impression of stern mortal features. Their leaves burn with green lights and the manifold colors of the thousands of flowers are just as vivid. A menagerie of forest creatures lies sleeping among the flora. In the center of the glade a stone rises sixteen feet into the air. It is smooth and pale as the moon, although something has sundered it almost to its base.
    In recent years, a druidic angel named Samael has tended to the glade around the stone, plucking up weeds and pruning dead leaves from the trees. He is old enough and wise enough to resist the Old Stone's influence, although some would say that in his own way he has chosen to bow from life. At the time of writing, a local Abbott who governs part of The Mission in southern Isll Bwyrmm has learned of Samael. Fearing that the druid may be trying to repair the "pagan" landmark, he has sought the aid of adventurers, who he hopes will quietly put an end to Samael's stewardship. This will be no easy task, however, as the aging warden is far more powerful than his appearance would suggest.  
Samael is hunched and robed, although you sense if that he stood straight, he would rise well over six feet. His strange, fine features might be elfkin--you can't fully tell. His eyes are large and the shape and color of a fox. Indeed, overall there is something furtive and vulpine about him. He wears a garland of crow feather in his pure white hair and leans on a staff made of polished winter root.
  To reach The Old Stone the mystical glade in which it sits must currently be on the same plane as The Terrestria. This is largely up to the DM, but it might entail holding vigil for several nights, exploring the area for clues, or asking the locals for guidance. In the latter case, the locals are decidedly unhelpful, fearing that they'll be punished by the Compellors for engaging in heretical speech. Their biggest hope is Mad Gregory, a drunken vagrant who claims to periodically visit his "angel friend" in the forest. For two gold pieces and a pint of corn liquor, he will begin to lead the players to The Old Grove. But not far into the forest he's consumed by the power of The Terminus Nocta. He begins raving wildly about "shapes in the shadows," "pools of laughing oil," and a terrible shrieking only he can hear. If he manages to flee the area and return to the village, he attracts the attention of The Compellors who extract the PC's business from him and immediately head to Ceasta to put a stop to their meddling. They hang Mad Gregory without a trial and declare that any villager who is caught entering Ceasta for any reason will be executed. It will take The Compellors d8 hours to find the PCs.   From the edge of the forest, where the main trail begins, a series of successful survival, nature, and investigation rolls will reveal a well-trodden side trail, a book-shaped holy talisman dropped by one of The Compellors (worth 10 gp), and a pattern of unusual vegetation vaguely suggesting the presence of a circle. They might also notice an oddly shaped and colored "moon-flower" that seems out of place in the ecosystem. These clues will help them approximately place the location of The Old Glade. Now they only have to wait. At the DM's discretion, they may also find a martial weapon +1 and a weathered scroll containing the spell Zone of Truth.   The Compellors. In general, The Compellors are a powerful force throughout southern Isll Bwrymm. They have a presence in every settlement--usually three initiates in smaller villages. They make a point of keeping track of even the most seemingly inconsequential movements. If the PCs are not cautious with their inquiries, they will certainly attract The Church's attention. At best, the initiates will approach them and forbid their excursion. More likely they will be arrested (depending on how their interaction with the players goes). In the worst case, The Compellors will attempt to execute them by hanging. Compellors are not easily bribed, persuaded, charmed, intimidated, or deceived, unless the approach is very clever. If they are forced to hunt the PCs in the forest, they will aim to kill them.  

Encounters on the Way to The Old Stone

 
The following section describes various encounters and game mechanics that DMs may use to determine the challenges players may face in the area around The Old Stone, whether they are seeking the monolith directly or have inadvertently wandered into its environs. Creature-based encounters include the abbreviated name and page of the sourcebook in which the monster can be found or are accompanied by a picture of the relevant stat block. Generally, The Old Stone is a level 4 location, meaning the calculated challenge rating is "hard" assuming a party of four level 4 characters. Maps appear at the end of the section along with notes for running the Murder at The Old Stone adventure.
  The old Stone's Song. The Old Stone is capable of reaching out to mortal minds and creating the impression that they are hearing a song sung in a long-forgotten language. This power extends to anyone who has ever traveled within a mile of Ceasta's boundaries, no matter how long ago. The Stone decides who can hear its song and who remains unaffected. To resist, a creature must make a successful DC 20 Wisdom saving throw, at which point it becomes immune to the music until the end of its next long rest. Because the song is illusionary, creatures that cannot usually hear remain susceptible. From the following options, choose the effect that best suits your story, or roll a d6 to determine it at random.   1. The song causes the hearer to fall into a deep, luxurious slumber. They sleep for d12 hours. No matter how long they are unconscious, they benefit from the effects of a long rest and gain d8 temporary hit points.   2. The song beckons the hearer(s), guiding them on a trail that leads straight to The Old Grove. They move directly and deliberately in this direction and each action they willingly make while under the song's spell must attempt to take them closer to their goal. They may retake the Wisdom saving throw to resist the song's effects every ten minutes.   3. The song chooses one creature within hearing range. The memory of someone important in their past returns with incredible force. The ghost of this person appears and will converse with the creature about their shared history. If the memory concerns an old nemesis, this encounter may lead to combat with a ghost (MM 147).   4. The song triggers a striking vision in the minds of each creature that hears it:  
You are watching from a great height--almost as if flying. Below you, the forest burns with sickly green flames. Lines of thousands of Elder Folk refugees are pouring from the edges of Ceasta, fanning out in all directions like inky tentacles. Your perspective zooms in to focus on a frightened Elfkin child. She points to the sky, her face contorted with terror. Looking up you see a seething orb of purple light hanging like an enormous fruit, ten times the size of the sun as it seems from the Terrestria. The sight of this inspires a kind of dread you've never felt before--a profound emptiness and the feeling that nothing could possibly be right again. Then you are back in the present, your heart beating so hard you feel it might burst from your chest.
  5. The song washes over each hearer in incredible waves of joy and nostalgia. Each affected creature rolls a d6. On an odd, they become an older version of themselves, around eighty, or the non-human equivalent. On an even, they revert to the state of a toddler. The creature's mind and ability to speak are unchanged. This effect lasts 3 x d20 minutes, or until the creature can see The Old Stone.   6. The hearer sprouts a thick down of beast hair and a long cat's tail. The DM may choose the duration of the effect, although it typically ends when the creature sees The Old Stone.   Trap. Imps allied with The Elder Folk have artfully hidden a pit trap on one of the trails. Creatures with a passive perception of 16 or higher will notice that the leaves concealing the pit are slightly disheveled. The first creature to step on the pit must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity save or fall 10 ft. onto a spiked floor, suffering 2d6 piercing damage.   Patrolling spirits. Two spirits hover on the path before you. They are "forest souls" patrolling for agents of The Terminus Nocta. They accost you and demand that you state your business. a successful Charisma (persuasion) roll of 15 or higher will convince them that you have no ill intentions. However, if you have hurt an innocent creature or caused unreasonable harm to the forest in the last twenty-four hours, the spirits will know and become hostile. The DM should use her judgment to determine what constitutes unreasonable harm. Generally, non-deliberate trampling of flora or gathering berries and herbs is no problem, but chopping wood, even to make a fire, will not please the spirits. The DM will have to decide whether the spirits will accept hunting animals for food as reasonable. The spirits use the statistics for the will-o-wisp.   If the players can persuade and make friends with the spirits they will offer to guide them to The Old Stone. They will warn the players about a lurking abomination that has been terrorizing the trails in this part of the forest--a consequence of The Church damaging a sacred warding stone. The power of Terminus Nocta is taking hold in Ceasta, not just in this region, but throughout Isll Bwrymm as The Church destroys more and more of The Wards.   (MM 301).  
will-o-wisp.JPG
    Pixies. d8 overly curious pixies buzz around the players, asking incessant questions and tugging at their possessions. If the players are overly rude to them, the pixies snatch the equivalent of d20 gold coins, and one of the character's weapons, making off into the forest. If at least one of the players can successfully make 3 out of five Wisdom (survival) rolls (DC 14) they're able to track the pixies to the large oak tree in which they live. If threatened the pixies will give back the player's possessions and lament their bad behavior, explaining that they only wanted to make friends. Failing all of the survival checks results in the players becoming lost. Otherwise, they easily find their way to the trail.   Peaceful conversation with the Pixies will reveal that a few months ago a local rogue led a contingent of six Compellor Excruciants to The Old Grove, where they did their best to destroy the stone. If the players listen carefully to the pixies' description, they'll recognize The Blacksmith as the Compellor's guide. The pixies can also show the players the area in which The Compellor's camped.  
pixie.JPG
  Shambling Mound. A passive perception score of DC 16 or better, or a successful Intelligence (nature) check (DC 12) reveals that there's something wrong with the mass of weeds at the edge of the trail ahead. It's a shambling mound (MM 270), which attacks the players on sight. If they come within five feet of it without noticing they are surprised by this attack. During this encounter, the PCs will sense an incredible evil and despair--far out of proportion, even in the presence of a monstrosity.  
shambling mound.JPG
  The Compellor's Camp.  

The old Grove and Samael

  Those who finally find and reach The Old Grove meet Samael, the Old Stone's warden. Samael was once an arch-druid before forces from beyond The Terrestria elevated him to the status of angel. When The Church of the Path Incarnate and its Compellors sundered The Old Stone, interrupting much of its power, Samael became the location's protector, ensuring that some aspect of the protective energy remained. He tends to The Grove, protects it from danger and channels what power he has to heal the monolith, although this latter mission will likely take centuries.   Samael is peaceful by nature, but he will employ his considerable druidic powers to repel any would-be invaders. Otherwise, he is content to regale visitors with Tales from The Orphan World, hoping to bring them to a true consciousness of The Orphan's role in the cosmos. He may set important tasks for the player's to complete, rewarding them with powerful items, boons, and magical scrolls. The most urgent of these tasks involves undermining the efforts of The Church or seeking aid from the Gaelens in the west--the likeliest allies among the three powers on Isll Bwrynn. These are adventures suited for mid to high-level parties. At lower levels, he may ask them to deliver messages to The Elder Folk communities at the heart of Ceasta or to repel invaders associated with Terminus--forest goblins and the like.   The Old Grove itself is, as its name suggests, and ancient space and home to dozens of forest creatures now immortal and with memories stretching back through the centuries. Those with the ability to speak to animals will learn of The Court of Owls, The Den of the Summer wolves, The Carnival of birds, and other such orders. These animals are likely to have their own tasks for the players to complete, mostly related to protecting their mortal brethren from goblins, aberrations, cruel hunters, and dark fey (Corrupted Elfkin).    The vegetation is ancient and teeming--vines that move of their own accord, unnaturally large trees that speak in creaking, rumbling voices, seas of flowers so vividly colored that they may make a mortal dizzy. It is rare that the plants will talk to outsiders, but they may deign to reveal their legends to druids and rangers who have proven themselves true protectors of nature.   Time doesn't pass in The Old Grove. Its air is naturally regenerative, healing d8 hp for every hour spent there. There's no need to sleep in The Old Grove. Hours may pass like days. Days may pass like seconds. The trees and animals are capable of healing curses (greater or lesser restoration spells at the DM's discretion). And players can fill canteens from the small brook there. These act as healing potions limited to one canteen per player. If the game takes place in a universe that includes the Feywild, the Old Grove should provide an active point of crossing.   If the players have recently committed some act of cruelty, or hostility towards the natural order, The Old Grove will not be as welcoming. The trees will not speak and depending on the severity of the transgression, the animals and even Samael may attack. This is only a safe space for friends of nature.   Unfortunately, the Old Stone itself has had its powers drained and it's soul all but destroyed. If the players touch it, they will suffer a wave of emotional pain, accompanied by wheeling visions of The Terminus--of death and entropy crawling across the land. Samael may even encourage that they do so to illustrate the perils the mortal world faces if The Terminus is not stopped. In a campaign, this is the perfect chance to set the players on an epic journey across Isll Bwrynn and beyond!  

Murder at The Old Stone Adventure

  You might have seen the Murder at The Old Stone adventure elsewhere in this guide. The adventure entry provides an outline of scenes and encounters using the information presented in this section. There, Samael will disclose certain revelations and reveal that the player's cruel master, The Blacksmith, is actually an agent of The Church with powers and motives beyond his limited role as mercenary leader. The "charm" has provided to aid the players is in fact a cursed item of some power and will 'activate' in The Old Grove, unleashing a devastating force intended to kill both the players and Samael. The stats for this creature are included below. Samael will attempt to join the players in combat, although The Crow's Claw will do its best to prevent him from acting.

Samael

Samael
 
archdruid.JPG
 

Special Actions

  Song of the Old Stone. Once per day Samael can trigger the song of The Old Stone choosing one of the effects listed in the "Encounters" section. In this case, the song can be heard up to one mile away and the creature must pass a DC 18 Wisdom saving throw to resist.   Wings. Samael unfurls his wings. He gains a flying speed of 80 ft.   Climb. Samael can scamper up trees like a monkey. When climbing any tree that has sturdy branches (DM's discretion) he has a climbing speed of 30 ft.   Guardian of The Old Grove. While within 20 ft. of The Old Stone, Samael is immune to necrotic damage. The stone emits a nimbus of spirit armor around him which increases his AC to 20 and he gains advantage on any spell or magic ability that would deal him damage or inflict a negative status effect.
Type
Monument, Large

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