One of my favorite aspects of being a DM is coming up with adventures. In this case I made a mini adventure which is just like a normal adventure but it allows for more modular game play. For those of you not familiar with this idea, its basically creating small groups of tightly coupled encounters that are ultimately loosely coupled with the main storyline going on in the game. The true role of the DM in this kind of setup is to weave these various adventures accurately into the storyline based on the decisions of the players.
This mini adventure is made up of 3 combats all closely tied together and a skill challenge. Outside of those combats however this mini-adventure can be placed anywhere, as part of an adventure or as a side track, usable whenever the characters might find themselves in the middle of a forest. The beauty of these kind of mini adventures is that they have a good back story and plenty of detail so that they feel real. So real that they could fully exist without PC interaction at all. The player's don't HAVE to go through the adventure but as it stands, no risk, no reward. If the players find they are getting their asses kicked and they want to flee they can. If they do, that might impact the rest of the adventure they are currently on for better or for worse. The possibilities are endless but there are plenty of hooks that can be used both before and after this mini adventure. I personally like to have two or three of these kind of adventures just sitting idly by so if the players go somewhere, do something I would have never expected them to, I have a generic yet detailed, 'something' to throw at them.
So here is my new mini adventure at a high abstract level. This can be used to give people ideas to build their own like mini encounter or you can download the detailed zip version of the this mini adventure I used. This adventure was built in mind for players roughly around levels 5 through 9. Please let me know what you think if you decide to use it.
The backdrop: The quick little, background story for this adventure, like the adventure itself works well within most campaigns to explain how this temple came to be and why it is here today. Basically it was built by an ancient order of druids who wished to worship nature in solitude. They built the temple of powerful magic literally shaping the forest around them to create the temple.
One fateful day a series of events cause the elemental chaos to collide with the world. In some areas this opened up momentary rifts linking the two worlds. In a few cases such as with this remote temple, one such rift that was created actually connected back to the to the part of the elemental chaos known as the abyss. As the natural order of the worlds came back many of the rifts closed. However within the temple there were special crystals that had been used in the construction and had inadvertently become focus points for the rift to the abyss. So long as the crystals are in tact, a gateway would connect these two planes of existence.
With the rift open to the abyss legions of demons started to pour out into the world. The druids, fought tooth and claw to fight back against the destruction that had encroached on their home but were eventually pushed back. They fought until only one powerful druid remained. Badly wounded, he know that is was up to him to prevent the corruption of the demons from tainting the forest. So with his last dying breath he commanded the very forest around him to seal temple so that it could only be opened from the outside. To further protect the vine entwined gate a legion of powerful plant creatures were summoned to eternally stand guard over the entrance prevent anyone from breaking the seal.
The hook in 'The Temple into the Abyss' follows a philosophy I like to use known as KISS, or 'Keep It Simple Stupid' to the non-geeks out there. Thus the hook is, the group of players get a little lost in the woods and happen upon an ancient temple overgrown with vines and dense brush. As the name of this adventure suggests and what the DM will know, is that this temple has a rift leading to the abyss within it's walls, but luckily the doors are locked... until some comes along and opens them.
1st Encounter Guardians at the Gate: Going along the theme of the background the first encounter is made up entirely of plant-like creatures. Since this combat is outside in an overgrown forest I wanted to make liberal use of the terrain. First was to have the vines and brush out in front of the temple to count as difficult terrain. This will make tactical movement more more difficult for the players especially since majority of the monsters have forestwalk essentially allowing them to ignore the difficult terrain. I also included a Daggerthorn Briar to be hiding inconspicuously among the normal difficult terrain. Player's that don't immediately recognize this as threat might blunder into it or be dragged into by the monsters.
2nd Encounter Opening the Door Skill Challenge: In this skill challenge the players need to open the door to the temple without alarming the horde of demons inside.
3rd Encounter Unleashing the Demons: Assuming the players survive the first encounter and wish to continue into the temple they'll find the vines intertwining the double stone door ripped up with relative ease. The seal on the door is broken when the vines are removed. When the players enter into the temple the will follow stone steps leading down a spiral stair case into what was once the main room. Here the players will see the remainants of the druid's last stand and the carnage left by the demons who are still sowing the seeds of destruction. When the demons notice the players they will attempt to eat them.
The interesting feature about this room are the various spiked pits through out it. Originally used by the druids to defend against the invasion of demons these pits have since seen the demise of so many demons that the pointed spikes are now tainted with the blood of slain demons. This is all the more reason for the players to avoid falling into these pits but with rampaging demons about that may be easier said then done.
4th Encounter Nexus to the Abyss: Truly the crown jewel of this mini-adventure the final area where the rift has attached itself to a set of teleportation crystals once utilized by the druids makes for some interesting combat. To get into the final area the players will go through a teleporter. Once there they will be at the center of five walk ways that span out towards different corners of the room. At each corner is another teleporter that will instatly transport someone from the walkway to the floor below or vice versa. Down 50 feet below them will be the churning rift leading into the Abyss. Tendrils of abysmal energy have grown out from the rift and latched on to the lower set of teleportation crystals causing the rift to become permanent. Over the years this rift has caused the very air to become corrupted and soiled limiting all sources of light to only 3 sqaures. This means when players look over the edge of the walk way they'll only see darkness. Unfortunately for them, the demons pouring out of the rift have darkvision and see their next meal above them quite clearly. Not only will the players need to battle their way through two levels of darkness and demons in order to get to the rift. Once there they'll still need to figure out how to close it.
Conclusion: This mini-adventure is a nice little in and out adventure that pretty much any demon-hating PC can get behind. There is also plenty of room for expansion on this mini-adventure to make it a full fledged adventure. Making the temple larger and have more than two encounters is probably the easiest way to go about doing this. What I find works best however is keeping it as a side adventure. Should the players find them lost in the forest it's great to throw that in there to side track them. When the players have multiple paths they can track, rather than just following the bread crumbs the DM leaves behind, it is empowering for them. This adventure can be downloaded here. Please feel free to send me feedback or any questions that might arise.