Where Do Elementals Go When They Die?

Sometimes, not where they’re supposed to…

Art by Fabien Parente

The unquiet souls of mortals haunt the Material Plane as ghosts, but what happens when elementals die? After a particularly traumatic death, an elemental might fail to return to the plane from which it spawned, instead transforming into an undead creature known as an elemental geist. Whether the result of an environmental catastrophe, a botched summoning, or some other tragedy, an elemental geist haunts the site of its demise until its spirit is put to rest.

The natures of elemental geists are as varied as those of elementals themselves. The four types of geists most commonly encountered by adventurers are breathless stalkers (an invisible stalker that perished underwater), exxorns (a xorn that served for lack of gemstones), heat sinks (a fire elemental frozen in arctic lands), and mirages (a weird baked by the desert sun). Any of these geists might serve as the antagonist of an unconventional ghost story, or as an unexpected foe in a more traditional adventure.

If you want to know more, check out the latest issue of EN World’s EN5ider!

Deal of the Day: The Runewild Campaign Setting

My dark, fairy-tale sandbox, The Runewild Campaign Setting, is today’s Deal of the Day at DriveThruRPG.

Can you find the sneaky satyr?

Beyond the kingdom of Aruanda, there is an untamed land. It is a place where witches walk, where goblins cavort, where the borders between the mortal and fey realms grow thin. For some, it is a place of unspeakable wonder; for others, only madness and death lie within its trackless depths.

It is the Runewild, and it is beautiful and cruel.

The Runewild is a dark fairy tale sandbox setting for use with the 5th Edition of the world’s most popular roleplaying game. Designed for character levels 1 through 10, it provides locations, encounters, and NPCs to support a campaign lasting months or years, or to be adapted into other campaigns. This book includes:

  • A history of the Runewild and its surrounding settlements
  • 150 detailed encounter areas for player characters to explore
  • 21 maps (included as separate files for virtual tabletops)
  • 8 new Backgrounds and a new Feat: Fey-Touched
  • 21 unique magic items (like witch embers and the staff of clarity and confusion)
  • 32 new monsters (including clockwork dwarves, fey lions, giant forest sloths, and the terrifyingly beautiful Golden Bodach)
  • Detailed descriptions of the histories, motivations, and weaknesses of the witches of the Runewild, including the Whitebone Sisters; Missus Switch, the swine hag; Korthsuva, the Witch of Hours; and the Hag Queen Griselda, Mother of Ogres
  • New optional rules for exploration and resting
  • Advice for running a sandbox campaign
  • Dozens of random tables designed to help GMs make a Runewild campaign their own

Planar Trinkets for 5E

My article Planar Trinkets dropped today on EN World’s EN5ider. If you’re looking for a magic fishbowl once owned by the queen of the Elemental Plane of Water…well, look no further?

Art by Jori Hollander

Most magic items work properly wherever they are used, but others are intextricably tied to the planes on which they were created. A medallion forged in the City of Brass might function only on the Plane of Fire, while a set of bone pipes might lose their magic if played anywhere but on the Ethereal Plane.

Every planar trinket grants its owner a minor magical benefit, but the true power of such items manifests only on their associated plane. Activating a planar trinket elsewhere either reduces the item’s effect or drains its magic entirely, although at the GM’s discredtion a trinket might eventually regain its power if returned to its plane of origin.

Mermaid in a fishbowl | Sirènes fantastiques, Fantasy, Real mermaids

Fishbowl of the Sea Queen

Wondrous item, uncommon (150 gold)

Crystal clear water fills this spherical glass fishbowl. Through the glass you see figurines depicting a drowned sailor, a grinning octopus, a merfolk princess, and a treasure chest. A sealable lid allows you to transport the fishbowl without spilling its contents.

As an action, you can withdraw a figurine and place it in an unoccupied space within 5 feet of you. The figurine then grows to become a life-sized object or creature. Unless otherwise noted, a creature created this way is friendly to you and your companions and takes its turn immediately after yours. The creature obeys your verbal commands. Without such commands, it only defends itself. The creature disappears if it drops to 0 hit points.

The plane on which the figurine is activated determines its new form.

  • Drowned Sailor. The sailor animates as a skeleton with a swim speed of 30 feet. If you activate the drowned sailor on the Plane of Water, the skeleton has 26 (4d8+8) hit points and its weapon attacks are magical.
  • Grinning Octopus. The grinning octopus animates as an octopus. If you activate the grinning octopus on the Plane of Water, it animates as a giant octopus instead.
  • Merfolk Princess. The merfolk princess animates as a merfolk. If you activate the merfolk princess on the Plane of Water, it gains the following action: 

Sea Queen’s Blessing (1/Day). The merfolk chooses up to 10 willing creatures it can see within 30 feet of it. For the next hour, each creature gains a swim speed of 40 feet and the ability to breathe air and water.

  • Treasure Chest. The treasure chest grows to the size of a normal chest and opens to reveal an apparent fortune in coins, gemstones, and other valuables. Though the chest is real, the treasure is an illusion. Physical interaction with the treasure or a successful DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals the treasure’s true nature. If you activate the treasure chest on the Plane of Water, the chest instead animates as a mimic. The mimic has a swim speed of 15 feet and can breathe air and water. It takes its turn immediately after yours, is hostile to all creatures (including you and your allies), and acts in a manner determined by the GM.

Unless otherwise noted, objects and creatures removed from the fishbowl remain for 1 minute before disappearing forever. Water evaporates as soon as it leaves the bowl, although shattering the fishbowl releases a sudden torrent of water, enough to fill a 10-foot-square cube. Creatures within 5 feet of the fishbowl when it shatters must make a successful DC 13 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone. Figurines in the fishbowl when it shatters lose their magic and become mundane objects.

Thump! Thump! Thump! (5E Mini-Adventure)

Thump! Thump! Thump! is a 5E mini-adventure for level 5 characters. It’s a short dungeon-crawl designed to be played in a single session. I’m presenting it here for free (you could probably run it right off your phone), but if you like it you can also find it PWYW at DriveThruRPG.

Cover photo by Navneet Shanu

The earth shook the day Shototh rose from the bowels of hell. Though mighty heroes eventually drove the titanic hellworm back into the depths, a bone-rattling thumping now emanates from the monster’s burrow. Does Shototh rise again, or is an even more sinister force behind the strange vibrations?

Background

A generation ago, a hellworm known to scholars as Shototh the Implacable burst from the earth and ravaged the countryside. For weeks, Shototh left a trail of destruction in its wake, until finally a band of heroes gave their lives to force Shototh back underground. In honor of this noble sacrifice, locals interred the bodies of the brave adventurers in a shrine carved from the very burrow Shototh left behind.

Recently, a clan of duergar stumbled upon Shototh’s burrow. Recognizing the tunnels for what they were, the duergar made plans to call the hellworm back to the surface. They erected an enormous clockwork piston in the burrow’s depths, hoping the mechanism’s vibrations would  provoke Shototh’s return. Unless the characters defeat the duergar and disable their insane contraption, Shototh rises again to devastate the area.

Character Hooks

The adventure begins as the heroes arrive at the mouth of Shototh’s burrow. Locals from a nearby settlement may have hired the characters to investigate the recent seismic disturbances, or the heroes might simply be curious about the strange vibrations, which can be felt for miles around.

Characters who make a successful a DC 12 Intelligence (History) check have heard tales of Shototh and know that the heroes who originally defeated the hellworm are buried (along with their treasure) somewhere inside the burrow. Recovering the wealth interred with these famed heroes may be another reason the party decides to investigate Shototh’s burrow.

The Thumper

The duergars’ enormous piston (a clockwork contraption they refer to as the “Thumper”) fires continuously as the heroes explore the burrow. Every 10 minutes of gameplay (or whenever the GM remembers), roll a d6. On a 1, the Thumper activates, sending shockwaves throughout the area.

Each time the Thumper fires, all creatures in the burrow must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. Creatures climbing or standing on difficult terrain when the Thumper activates make the save with disadvantage. On a failure, the creature is knocked prone.

Keep track of the number of times the Thumper activates as the characters explore. If the Thumper fires 10 times, Shototh rises from the underworld (see Shothoth Rises at the end of the adventure).

Shototh’s Burrow

The entrance to Shototh’s Burrow lies in the wastelands a few hours from the nearest settlement. The rock walls of the burrow are as smooth as candlewax, as if once melted by intense heat. Characters without darkvision must provide their own light sources if they wish to see more than 10 feet from the burrow’s entrance.

Cartography by Dyson Logos

1A. Fork

Not far from the burrow’s mouth, the tunnel splits into two passages. Rubble spans the eastern passage, creating an area of difficult terrain. Characters who make a successful DC 10 Dexterity (Stealth) check as they progress down either tunnel might be able to catch the duergar in Area 1B by surprise. Otherwise, the duergar hear them and ready an ambush.

1B. Guard Post

Four duergar rest on bedrolls spread across the floor. If they hear the characters approach, the duergar turn invisible and split up to surround the party.

Duergar (CR 1 medium humanoid); AC 16; HP 26; SPD 25 ft.; STR +2, DEX +0, CON +2, INT +0, WIS +0, CHA -1; TRAITS darkvision 120 ft., resist (poison), duergar resilience, sunlight sensitivity; ACTIONS war pick (+4, 1d8+2 piercing or 2d8+2 piercing while enlarged), javelin (+4 to hit, range 30/120 ft., 1d6+2 piercing or 2d6+2 piercing while enlarged), enlarge (1/rest), invisibility (1/rest)

1C. Descent

A 10-foot-diameter shaft drops 70 feet to Area 2A. Beside the shaft are four grappling hooks and several 100-foot-long coils of rope, which the duergar use to travel between the two levels. Without the grappling hooks or other climbing equipment, a character must make a successful DC 13 Strength (Athletics) check to climb the walls of the shaft.

2A. Uneven Ground

The tunnel here drops precipitously towards Area 2C. Treat the passage as difficult terrain. Characters traveling down the tunnel must make a successful DC 10 Dexterity (Stealth) check to avoid being heard by the duergar alchemist in Area 2B. On a failure, the alchemist hears the party’s approach and retreats invisibly to warn the other duergar in Area 2C .

2B. The Alchemist

A duergar alchemist has erected an impromptu laboratory in this alcove. Beakers filled with foul-smelling concoctions cover a few low workbenches. Most the concoctions are unremarkable, but three are potions of fire resistance. A character can recognize the potions with a successful DC 12 Intelligence (alchemist’s supplies) check. If gathered together, the beakers and other tools are the equivalent of alchemist’s supplies (worth 50 gp).

If the duergar alchemist hears the party’s approach, he turns invisible and retreats to alert the two duergar in Area 2C. In combat, the alchemist hurls vials of alchemist’s fire (he carries six in total) before resorting to his dagger.

Duergar Alchemist (CR 2 medium humanoid); AC 13; HP 45; SPD 25 ft.; STR +2, DEX +3, CON +2, INT +3, WIS +0, CHA –1; TRAITS darkvision 120 ft., resist (poison), duergar resilience, sunlight sensitivity; ACTIONS multiattack (two melee or ranged attacks), alchemist’s fire (+5, 1d4+3 fire plus 1d4 ongoing fire, DC 10 Dexterity check to extinguish), dagger (+5 to hit, 1d4+3 piercing), enlarge (1/rest), invisibility (1/rest)

Duergar Bombardier - Monsters - Archives of Nethys: Pathfinder 2nd Edition  Database
Art from Pathfinder Second Edition Bestiary

2C. Block and Tackle

A block and tackle pulley dangles from a metal tripod perched above a 10-foot-wide shaft. The shaft descends 70 feet, passing through level 3, before dropping another 80 feet to level 4. The pulley allows creatures to move between the levels without Athletics checks, but this travel is slow: a creature working the pulley can ascend or descend up to 20 feet if they do nothing else on their turn. Only one creature can travel via the pulley at a time.

Two duergar are stationed at the top of the shaft at all times. They abandon their post only if they hear sounds of combat in Area 2B.

Duergar (CR 1 medium humanoid); AC 16; HP 26; SPD 25 ft.; STR +2, DEX +0, CON +2, INT +0, WIS +0, CHA -1; TRAITS darkvision 120 ft., resist (poison), duergar resilience, sunlight sensitivity; ACTIONS war pick (+4, 1d8+2 piercing or 2d8+2 piercing while enlarged), javelin (+4 to hit, range 30/120 ft., 1d6+2 piercing or 2d6+2 piercing while enlarged), enlarge (1/rest), invisibility (1/rest)

3A. Giant Lizard

The duergar’s pack mount, a giant lizard, lounges in this side cavern. If it senses the characters, the lizard roars and attacks. Combat with the lizard alerts the duergar in Area 3B.

Giant Lizard (CR 1/4 large beast); AC 12; HP 19; SPD 30 ft., climb 30 ft.; STR +2, DEX +1, CON +1, INT -4, WIS +0, CHA -3; TRAITS darkvision 30 ft.; ACTIONS bite (+4, 1d8+2 piercing)

Characters who make a successful DC 10 Dexterity (Stealth) check as they head south down the tunnel might be able to catch the duergar in Area 1B by surprise. Otherwise, the duergar hear them and ready an ambush.

3B. The Thumper

An enormous, clockwork-powered piston rises like a monolith in the center of this cavern. Four duergar stand guard around the contraption. Driven by an insane desire to see Shototh rise again, the duergar focus their attacks on characters who damage the Thumper or interfere with its operation. If it becomes clear their efforts to save the piston are futile, they fall back to the Burrow’s lowest level.

Duergar (CR 1 medium humanoid); AC 16; HP 26; SPD 25 ft.; STR +2, DEX +0, CON +2, INT +0, WIS +0, CHA -1; TRAITS darkvision 120 ft., resist (poison) duergar resilience, sunlight sensitivity; ACTIONS war pick (+4, 1d8+2 piercing or 2d8+2 piercing while enlarged), javelin (+4 to hit, range 30/120 ft., 1d6+2 piercing or 2d6+2 piercing while enlarged), enlarge (1/rest), invisibility (1/rest)

The Thumper: An enormous piston comprises the bulk of this bizarre clockwork contraption. Each time the piston activates, it slams into the earth, sending shockwaves through the ground.

Creatures can move beneath the arch-like structure that supports the Thumper’s piston. Doing so, however, is risky. During the combat with the duergar, continue checking to see if the Thumper activates. A creature in the Thumper’s space when it activates must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw. On a success, the creature can jump to an unoccupied space within 5 feet of it to avoid being crushed by the enormous piston. A creature that doesn’t leap to safety takes 8d6 bludgeoning damage and is knocked prone.

Disabling the Thumper: Though the characters may not realize it, they must disable the Thumper if they wish to prevent Shototh’s return. If the Thumper fires 10 times, Shototh rises from the underworld (see Shothoth Rises at the end of the adventure). Jamming the piston requires three successful DC 20 Dexterity (thieves’  tools or tinker’s tools) checks. Alternatively, the piston can be smashed (AC 18, 75 hp, immunity to poison and psychic damage).

4A. Cave-In

This collapsed tunnel marks the place where Shototh burrowed back into the underworld. If the characters fail to disable the Thumper in Area 3B, Shototh eventually re-emerges at this location.

4B. Tomb Entrance

Worked stone steps rise to a porch on the west end of the cavern. Alcoves flank an iron door set into the wall. A statue depicting one of the heroes who first defeated Shototh stands in the southern alcove. If a living creature approaches the iron door, the statue animates (as a shield guardian) and attacks. The statue also animates if Shototh returns, focusing its attacks exclusively on the hellworm (possibly buying time for the characters to escape).

Shield Guardian (CR 7 large construct); AC 17; HP 142; SPD 30 ft.; STR +4, DEX -1, CON +4, INT -2, WIS +0, CHA -4; TRAITS blindsight 10 ft., darkvision 60 ft., immune (poison; charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned), bound, regeneration (10 hp/turn), spell storing (fire shield); ACTIONS multiattack (2 fists), fist (+7, 2d6+4 bludgeoning); REACTIONS shield

The shield guardian stores a fire shield spell, which it casts if Shototh returns in order to protect itself from the hellworm’s flames. The guardian’s control amulet can be found in the sarcophagi in Area 4C.

A similar statue (of a different hero) once stood in the northern alcove, but the duergar destroyed it before the other statue drove them off. A successful DC 15 Intelligence (History) check identifies either hero.

4C. The Heroes’ Tombs

These chambers contain a total of four sarcophagi, each containing the remains of one of the heroes who defeated Shototh a generation ago. The identities of these heroes have been left for the GM to decide. In addition to the adventurers’ remains, each sarcophagi contains a control amulet for the shield guardians in Areas 4B and 4D (one of the amulets is useless, as the guardian it was linked to has already been destroyed).

4D. Tomb Guardians

Statues depicting legendary heroes stand in the corners of this chamber. The statues animate and attack living creatures that enter Area 4C but, like their counterpart in Area 4B, they turn their attention to Shototh should the hellworm return. Of course, the guardians can also be controlled via their control amulets, which are found in the sarcophagi in Area 4C.

Shield Guardian (CR 7 large construct); AC 17; HP 142; SPD 30 ft.; STR +4, DEX -1, CON +4, INT -2, WIS +0, CHA -4; TRAITS blindsight 10 ft., darkvision 60 ft., immune (poison; charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned), bound, regeneration (10 hp/turn), spell storing (fire shield); ACTIONS multiattack (2 fists), fist (+7, 2d6+4 bludgeoning); REACTIONS shield

Shototh Rises

As the adventure progresses, keep track of the number of times the Thumper activates. If the Thumper activates 10 times, the duergars’ plans come to fruition. Shototh returns, bursting through the wall in Area 4A. The hellworm attacks the duergar and the heroes  indiscriminately before eventually exiting the burrow and continuing its rampage across the countryside. If the heroes fail to prevent Shototh’s return, driving the hellworm back underground may be the focus of a future adventure.

Shothoth (CR 8 huge monstrosity); AC 16; HP 136; SPD 50 ft., burrow 30 ft.; STR +6, DEX -1, CON +4, INT -5, WIS -1, CHA -3; SAVES Con +7, Wis +2; TRAITS blindsight 30 ft., tremorsense 60 ft., immune (fire), fire aura (2d6), tunneler; ACTIONS multiattack (bite and tail or 2x fire spit), bite (+9, 2d8+6 piercing plus 2d6 fire), tail (+9, reach 10 ft., 1d12+6 bludgeoning and DC 16 Str or pushed 10 ft. and knocked prone), fire spit (+9, range 60/120 ft., 4d6 fire), hellfire breath (recharge 5-6, 30-ft.-cone, 8d6 fire, DC 16 Dex halves); REACTIONS tail slap (tail attack vs. a creature that hits it with a melee attack)

Zap! (Science Fantasy Trinkets)

Looking to mix a little science with your fantasy? My article Zap! Science Fantasy Trinkets releases today on EN5ider!

Art by Jared M. Boone

Roleplaying games have a grand tradition of genre blending, and even the most traditional fantasy campaign might feature the occassional crashed starship or visitor from the distant future. Technology commonplace in a sci-fi setting might seem magical to adventurers who stumble upon such gadgets in a fantasy world. While the trinkets presented in this article can be operated on a basic level by characters in a low-tech setting, they inevitably malfunction when pushed beyond their normal limits.

Antigravity Pack

Wondrous item, uncommon (cost 150 gp)

This gadget weighs 25 pounds and is roughly the size of an explorer’s backback. When activated, the pack discharges a jet of supercharged anti-graviton particles, allowing you to briefly escape the bonds of earth.

As an action, you can activate the antigravity pack and fly up to 90 feet, so long as the total weight of you and anything you carry does not exceed 400 pounds. You fall if you do not end this movement on solid ground. Once you have activated the antigravity pack, you must wait 24 hours for the pack to reconstitute its supply of anti-gravitons before you can do so again.

In desperate circumstances, you can push the pack beyond its normal carrying capacity. The total weight the antigravity pack can transport increases to 800 pounds, but at the end of your flight the pack sputters out and ceases to function.

Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition

And in case you haven’t heard, EN Publishing’s Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition also launches today on Kickstarter. It’s already funded and is smashing through stretch goals like Godzilla on a bender. Check it out!

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