Warning! This post is long, because it includes 10 percent of an entire adventure path!

Last time, I talked about how I had to do some creative thinking to fill out the 17th level adventure. In building the 5th level adventure, I found I had way too much cool stuff I wanted to pack in. A hobgoblin/barghest thieves guild, a sinister alchemist, and salt miners all working for the secretive devil cult, plus a raid on the devil cult in the Owlbear House, and mind-controlling vampires, and plots against the leaders of the city...so much adventure! I decided to expand this 5th-level adventure into the 6th-level adventure slot as well. Even then, the 6th level adventure clocks in at 2,300 words, well past my 1,500-word-per-adventure limit. But since I'm seeing some adventures come in a bit short (the 2nd level adventure I posted a short while back is only 1,400 words), this may work out okay. I can see this already compresses the 7th level adventure a bit, but that's something I can deal with when I frame that one out.

Too many awesome ideas to pack in is a good problem to have; if I didn't have the latitude to just roll the fun into the next higher level, I'd have to make some aggressive and unhappy cuts. But I don't, so here are the 5th-level and 6th-level adventures for my Heartwood Blight adventure path!

Chapter 5: Red Crown Reckoning (5th level)

The scholar Gendal has pored over some maps and ledgers to learn that the barbazu devil that captured him was referring to superiors in the city of Velkendir. This aligns with what the heroes found outside Jannasthorpe: a devil cult following a devil known as “the Red Crown” has infiltrated the city of Velkendir on the Langebeck River and is plotting a ritual to overthrow the city. The heroes are the only ones with these clues at the moment; the devils are subtle and their presence isn’t yet known in the city, other than to the canny high priest of the Church of the Sun-Mother. The heroes must go to Velkendir and connect the threads of several recent devil-driven crimes to locate the devils’ lair.

Velkendir: Velkendir is a large city of nearly 10,000 people, the largest city in the Northfells. It straddles the Langebeck River and is an important hub for commerce, both overland to larger cities like Kensley and Jorenkirk and along the river. High Jarl Arvid the Golden rules Velkendir, but a close second in power to him is the shrewd Coin-Thane Torhild, head of the city’s mercantile guilds of the city. While High Jarl Arvid pushes for unity among the factions of Velkendir, Coin-Thane Torhild revels in friction to help her maximize prices. Velkendir is busy and grimy, and its buildings are predominantly made of wood, slate, and tar.


Part 1: Trail of the Cult

Shortly after the heroes begin their investigations in Velkendir they are contacted by Brenna Eyisjr, high priestess of the Church of the Sun-Mother. This isn’t the largest church in Velkendir—temples to rival deities of commerce are more powerful—but Brenna seeks out anyone asking about devils in her city. In her church, she explains that she’s been tracing a secretive cult following a devil lord known as Red Crown. She knows the cultists have discovered her investigations and she needs the heroes—who are unknowns in the city—to do some legwork for her.

                Brenna’s three best leads to find the cult are at an alchemical workshop, a salt mine just outside the city, and a thieves guild called the Silverblades operating out of a derelict lumber mill. She asks them to check out all three locations and report back to her. The heroes can investigate these locations in any order (they are Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4, respectively). At each, the heroes can recover a piece of information leading to the cult headquarters: a flagon stamped with the letters “OBH” on the bottom, a scrap of red cloth with the head of an owl, and another scrap with the body of a fierce bear. Pieced together, they form an owlbear image; the Owlbear House is the upscale tavern secretly owned by the cult of the Red Crown.

Encounter 1a (Moderate 5)

When the heroes leave their meeting with Brenna, four lawful evil tiefling adepts from the cult ambush them on the street. These low-level cultists don’t know about the Owlbear House, but can confirm (if interrogated) that the cult has recently dispatched agents to all three locations the heroes are investigating.


Part 2: The Alchemical Solution

The heroes investigate an alchemical workshop often hired by the cult of the Red Crown. The alchemists there dabble in all manner of drugs and other illicit chemicals, and they react violently to interlopers.

Encounter 2a (Moderate 5)

The entrance to the workshop is locked, so the heroes need to break in (DC 20 Thievery or Athletics checks to do so). Three ratfolk grenadiers attack in the open space of the workshop. Here, any splash weapon that misses its target also causes a random minor explosion dealing 2d8 damage (DC 20 basic Reflex save) to three random creatures in the room. This damage has equal chances of being acid, cold, fire, or poison damage. The ratfolk are brewing a moderate darkvision elixir and a lesser elixir of life. Acquiring either from its beaker requires a successful DC 18 Crafting or Thievery check. On a failure, the elixir is spoiled; on a critical failure, the elixir also causes a minor explosion as above. On a critical success, the careful hero acquires two elixirs of the type rather than one.

Encounter 2b

A storeroom contains some mundane reagents worth 10 gp, a dose of hunting spider venom, and a moderate antidote. The labels for the spider venom and the antidote have been switched, but a successful DC 20 Crafting or Perception check spots the mistake.

Encounter 2c (Severe 5)

The back room of the warehouse is where the workshop’s owner and chief alchemist, the scarred Halvard Ragnason, works. He has a weak alchemical golem that he “tests” on intruders while he immediately ducks out of sight. When the heroes defeat Halvard’s golem, he surrenders and admits that he’s received funding from the cult of the Red Crown to provide some mind-altering toxins. As a side project, one of the cultists left him a flagon with a secret compartment in the bottom, which Halvard agreed to pack full of poison. Halvard gives the flagon to the heroes; it’s ordinary looking but has the mark “OBH” or “HEIO” (it’s unclear which way is up) on the bottom. This clue is meaningless without the other clues. Halvard’s back room also contains a dose of giant scorpion venom and a dagger of venom.


Part 3: The Mine’s New Owners

The cult of the Red Crown had fully infiltrated a lucrative salt mine just outside Velkendir and have been mining it aggressively for the supplemental income. But their miners dug deep enough to disturb a clan of deep gnomes living far under the hills. A subterranean war broke out, and the deep gnomes won, killing off the miners, the cult members on site, and even the reinforcements the cult sent in. Now, the deep gnomes have made the salt mines their own and defend it against all attackers, assuming anyone invading their mine are yet more agents of the guileful cult.

Encounter 3a

The salt mine outbuildings are all deserted, but one contains a climbing boltuseful for emergency extractions of mine workers.

Encounter 3b (Moderate 5)

Just inside the mine are four deep gnome warriors and two deep gnome scouts who assume anyone else coming by must be more cultists engaging in a trick or a raid. They fight to the death.

Encounter 3c (Moderate 5)

Deeper in the mine are elementals loyal to the deep gnomes: two living landslides. They knock over slabs of salt as they fight. This is an Interact action that deals 2d8 bludgeoning damage and knocks the target prone (DC 20 Reflex save to avoid being knocked prone). A target who critically fails the Reflex save is also pinned until they Escape (DC 20) and takes 2d8 negative damage each round from the dangerously desiccating salt while pinned.

Encounter 3d (Moderate 5)

Deeper in the mine are bodies of several slain mine workers and even two dead barbazus. The apparent leader of this group is badly scarred with acid (from acid arrow) and has few clues on his person other than a half-melted swatch of fabric bearing a screaming owl’s head on a red background (which is meaningless without the other two clues). Before the heroes conclude their examination, however, the remaining deep gnomes attack: a deep gnome rockwarden leads two deep gnome warriors and a deep gnome scout. The rockwarden surrenders if badly injured, but still petulantly demands the heroes leave the salt mine, which the gnomes feel they’ve earned by blood.


Part 4: Silverblades Sawmill

A derelict lumber mill in Velkendir was abandoned years ago and is now the heavily-fortified headquarters of a thieves guild called the Silverblades. The Silverblades consists primarily of hobgoblins, but several of its leaders are barghests who generally remain in hobgoblin form until a fight breaks out. Led by a greater barghest named Ulphrix, the guild is prepared to repel intruders. All guild members, both hobgoblins and barghests, have a cross-shaped wound on their upper chest filled with molten mithral that’s hardened into a distinctive mark of membership—crossed silver blades. These lumps of mithral can be extracted from defeated foes and are each worth 25 gp.

Encounter 4a (Moderate 5)

The lumber mill’s main entry is guarded by two hobgoblin archers and two hobgoblin soldiers. They are loyal to the guild and fight to the death.

Encounter 4b (Moderate 5)

The main mill floor is set up as a gauntlet to test thieves in navigating crowds, picking pockets, and stabbing mannequins in pressure points. There is both a scythe blades trap and a hallucination powder trap here. Three barghests train in this area and fight intruders, attempting to lure them into the area of the traps as they do. A standard skeleton keyhangs near the hallucination powder trap.

Encounter 4c (Moderate 5)

In the barracks of the lumber mill, a hobgoblin general and a hobgoblin archer are resting. They quickly mobilize to attack intruders. A suit of +1 full plateis neatly packed away here; it was recently delivered to the general with thanks from the “followers of the Red Crown,” but the general doesn’t likely have time to don it.

Encounter 4d (Moderate 5)

In a long loading room filled with lumber providing ample cover, three hobgoblin archers are practicing their archery and are glad for living targets.

Encounter 4e (Moderate 5)  

The former office of the mill owner is now the domain of a greater barghest named Ulphrix. Ulphrix surrenders if badly injured and is willing to talk with the heroes in exchange for his life. Ulphrix has had dealings with the cult of the Red Crown; they’ve recently tasked the guild with stealing valuables from the city’s nobility (including even High Jarl Arvid the Golden and Coin-Thane Torhild), but they don’t know what the cult is doing with these items. Ulphrix is a compulsive thief, however, and he stole a swatch of cloth from one of the cultists. The torn cloth contains the body of a bear on a red background (which is meaningless without the other two clues). Even if the heroes kill Ulphrix, they can find this cloth. Ulphrix wears a clandestine cloak.


Part 5: Assembling the Clues

Once the heroes have all three clues, a successful DC 20 Society check reveals that the flagon and owl and bear symbols are from the Owlbear House, an upscale establishment in Velkendir’s wealthiest merchant district. Whether or not the heroes make this connection, they should return to Brenna at the Sun-Mother’s church to let her know about their investigations.

Encounter 5a (Severe 5)

An erinyshas ambushed Brenna alone in the church. Brenna is currently unconscious and being constricted to death by the erinys’ rope. If the heroes don’t free Brenna from the infernal rope (DC 24 Athletics) and stanch her infernal injuries (DC 22 Medicine check or any healing spell of 3rd level or higher) in 3 rounds, she perishes. Meanwhile, the erinys rains arrows down on the heroes from the church’s rafters.



With Brenna seriously injured but safe, she encourages the heroes to exterminate the cult in the Owlbear House. She also rewards them with her ring of energy resistance (fire), which she hopes they find useful going against the cult. 

Chapter 6: The Devils of Velkendir (6th level)

The heroes’ best lead to find the cult of the Red Crown is the upscale Owlbear House. There, they’ll learn that the devils have joined forces with a cabal of vampires to defend their den. Coin-Thane Torhild has hunkered down in one of her warehouses and is successfully repelling the attackers with the aid of her amoral mercenaries. High Jarl Arvid the Golden is faring less well, having been imprisoned in his own manor by a contract devil poised to force him to hand over his city to the Red Crown. The heroes must free these two leaders to break the cult’s hold on the city.


Part 1: At the Owlbear House

No matter when the heroes arrive, the Owlbear House is a bustling with the wealthy elite of Velkendir. 

Encounter 1a

The first step is to gain admittance past the two hulking, dimwitted bouncers (use the statistics of Medium hill giants if necessary, although these bouncers are exceptionally muscular humans and not actually giants). The heroes must succeed at a DC 21 Deception or Diplomacy check (or a DC 23 Intimidation check), spend at least 30 gp each on appropriate attire, or use some other trickery of their invention to gain admittance. The heroes only enrage these brutes into violence if they critically fail a skill check to gain admittance.

Encounter 1b

The interior of the Owlbear House is very tastefully decorated, despite the taxidermied owlbears that stand in the room’s four corners. The fussy owner, a well-mannered noblewoman named Agna Havilsdottir, offers to help the heroes find food or drink, as they prefer. She says that the main room of the Owlbear House is open, as is one of the two dining rooms. The other dining room is being renovated and is currently closed, and the upstairs has been reserved for a private party called the Crimson Circlet. Agna is dominated by the vampire mastermind Stolcht and works hard keep patrons entertained in the public areas of the Owlbear House. She can’t physically stop them from insisting on entering the closed or reserved areas, but her shouts of protest alert everyone in the Owlbear House if the heroes are rude or insistent. A successful DC 22 Deception or Diplomacy check keeps Agna calm, and the heroes might simply get her to bustle off without a check by requesting drinks, food, or otherwise politely occupying her and her staff. A successful DC 22 Perception check to Sense Motive realizes that Agna is under some kind of compulsion effect; on a critical success, the hero recognizes it as a dominateeffect.

Encounter 1c (Moderate 6)

The closed dining room at the end of a darkened hall isn’t being repaired at all; it’s been coopted by the vampires lairing here. They’ve stacked their coffins here in pairs and covered them with tablecloths to appear to be tables (there are eight coffins in total). The door to this room is locked with an average lock; alternatively, a successful DC 24 Athletics check Forces it Open. Four vampire spawn roguesprotect this room; if given warning that someone’s trying to get in, they prepare an ambush behind the coffin-tables. One of the tables has an emerald grasshopperin the centerpiece.

Encounter 1d (Moderate 6)

The stairs to the upper level lead to a series of connected rooms. In the first of these rooms, furnished as a sitting room, a vampire count and two vampire spawn rogues react with surprise to the intruders. The vampire count attempts to keep the heroes calm, pretending to answer any questions they have while attempting to dominatewhoever seems to be in charge of the party before signaling the vampire spawn rogues to attack. The vampire count has staff of necromancythat he can’t use but likes it for its aesthetic appeal.

Encounter 1e (Severe 6)

A short corridor connects the sitting room to a gaming room, where the vampire mastermind Stolcht sits, playing solitaire. He pretends disaffection with the whole proceedings, and openly admits that the cult of the Red Crown, who meet in the adjacent map room, have hired him and his minions to keep the Owlbear House secure. Stolcht assures the heroes that they won’t leave the Owlbear House alive, due to several hidden dangers he doesn’t explain, but he offers them a deal: if they’ll turn over the hero with the highest Charisma to be Stolcht’s newest vampire minion, the rest can leave Owlbear House unharmed. Assuming the heroes aren’t foolish enough to accept Stolcht’s deal, he fights them. However, he’s not entirely untruthful, as the heroes about the dangers, as the heroes will discover in Encounter 1f and Encounter 1h. Stolcht’s cards are particularly valuable; the deck is worth 80 gp, and the black lacquered case he keeps them in is a bag of holding type II in the shape of a large card case rather than a sack. 

Encounter 1f (Moderate 6)

The passage from the gaming room leads down a long corridor lined with busts of notable historical figures of Velkendir. The cult recently installed a poisoned dart gallery trap here. The darts shoot from the busts’ stands, and the control panel is hidden on the back of the head of the furthest bust at the end of the hall. 

Encounter 1g (Moderate 6)

The furthest room of the Owlbear House is its map room, where traveler’s maps from all over the Northfells and beyond are displayed. The table in the middle holds a surveyor’s map of Velkendir. A barbazu and three lawful evil tiefling adepts are poring over the map, preparing their cult’s imminent takeover of the city. They fight to keep their secret, cursing Stolcht and his vampires from failing to do their job of keeping intruders out. The map clearly shows activity in two places: a warehouse marked with “kill and replace Torhild” and a manor at the edge of the city marked with “bind Arvid.” The heroes probably already know who these people are; if not, a successful DC 12 Society check reveals that they’re Coin-Thane Torhild and High Jarl Arvid the Golden, the two most powerful people in the city. The map room also contains a tiger menuki, which the cultists brought with them (that is, Agna lets the heroes keep it if they’re honest enough to attempt to return them to her).

Encounter 1h (Moderate 6)

Although the heroes may consider their work at the Owlbear House done, Stolcht has a surprise for them. He’s placed a complicated arcane contingency that, should he be destroyed, the taxidermied owlbears come to life when in the presence of his killers and fight to the death. When the heroes leave the Owlbear House, these four elite animated statues attack. Each statue has the owlbear’s beak attack and the gnaw ability, which they use against grabbed foes.


Part 2: The Coin-Thane’s Defense

The nearest of the two mapped locations is a warehouse owned by Coin-Thane Torhild. The cult has been stymied in their attempt to kill the influential merchant and replace her with a higher-ranked tiefling adept, as Torhild lives most of her days in paranoid preparations that her many enemies might try to eliminate her. She’s retreated to a balcony at the top of her warehouse, although her presence there isn’t obvious until the heroes make it to the roof.

Encounter 2a (Moderate 6)

The warehouse rings with cries of combat as the heroes approach. In the large warehouse interior, a triceratopsis stomping the last of a group of tiefling adepts to red paste. The rare beast was transported to Torhild in a large wooden wagon, and she released the creature before she fled up the stairs to the roof. The tiefling adepts made the poor choice to attempt to drive away the triceratops, which only enraged the beast into attacking them. The triceratops now attacks anyone in the warehouse, including the heroes. A cultist brought a moderate healing potion with him, and it can be discovered in a gruesome puddle on the floor.

Encounter 2b (Moderate 6)

A staircase leading up at the far end of the warehouse has several lifelike statues, including one barbazu, two tieflings, and a doppleganger. These cultists all fell victim to Torhild’s merciless bodyguard, a medusa named Cassinda. Cassinda is accompanied by her closest friend, a shadow who masquerades as Cassinda’s shadow when she isn’t in a fight. A DC 24 Perception check is required to see the shadow there. Believing the heroes to be more cultists, Cassinda insists that they leave. She assumes that any denials are tricks and attacks, attempting to petrify as many heroes as she can. Cassinda carries two pearls worth 25 gp each, a dust of appearance, and a grim trophyin a satchel at her side. 

Encounter 2c

A storeroom door near the base of the stairs is open; the cultists took a quick look here for Torhild but didn’t yet loot it. Apart from mundane trade goods, it contains a greater smokestick in a bin marked “Paid – To Be Sent.” 

Encounter 2d (Moderate 6)

The top of the stairs leads to the warehouse roof. The roof has a high spire, extending 40 feet above the roof itself. In a balcony near the top of this tower, the heroes spot Torhild wielding a crossbow. Torhild uses the room in the tower for intimate meetings with clients she wants to impress with a stunning view of Velkendir, but it also serves her well as a place to retreat in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately for her, the cult though to attack the roof as well; an elite dandasuka is riding on a nightmare up here. They’d intended to enter the warehouse from the roof, but when Torhild came to them, they seized the chance to attack her—wondering idly why it’s taking the rest of the cultists so long to get up here. They assume the heroes stymied the cult attack inside the warehouse and attack them right away. Torhild keeps up her attacks with the crossbow during the fight, targeting whichever fiend seems to be causing the heroes the most trouble. In gratitude for saving her, Torhild gives the heroes her crossbow ravensbane, a+1 striking crossbow with the woundingrune (despite the fact that ranged weapons can’t normally have this rune), as well as the jewelry and loose change she has on her: 95 gp.


Part 3: The Contracted Jarl

It takes some time to navigate the streets of Velkendir to reach the High Jarl’s manor house, but the fact the cult has taken over the manor won’t be discovered for some time. A contract devil is insistently working on getting Arvid to give up his leadership by technically legal means, but Arvid has had long experience with the city’s mercantile interests and can keep the devil at bay for how. Even if the heroes need to rest, the situation at the manor doesn’t change. 

Encounter 3a (Moderate)

The grounds of the manor are expansive, and the surprisingly small manor house sits at the center of it. The gates are all shut, but climbing over a wall around the grounds is easy (DC 15 Athletics check to Climb). An erinyskeeps an eye on the grounds, sniping at anyone who enters from a high tree. She’s disinclined to be spotted by anyone who could blow the cult’s secret presence, so she mixes her attacks with attempts to Hide among the foliage. She fights to the death.

Encounter 3b (Moderate)

Inside the manor house, four guards and a small staff of four servants (including a suspiciously helpful butler) keep an eye on the rooms. These are all cultists; each of the eight people is a lawful evil elite tiefling adept who have cast the 2nd-level illusory disguisespell. They first attempt to convince the heroes that nothing is wrong, thanking the heroes for defeating the devil lurking outside the house if the heroes bring it up. They are unwilling to let the heroes see the High Jarl, insisting that he’s busy in his study with some minor contractual arrangements. If the heroes persist, the cultists all attack, converging from the various rooms of the manor. The pantry contains the corpses of the original staff, as well as a horn of fogthe cultists used to conceal their initial arrival.

Encounter 3c (Severe)

When the heroes make it to Arvid’s study, they seem him there with a weak phistophilusnamed Abbusis. Abbusis has suffered a recent demotion from Red Crown himself and seeks to acquire dominion over Velkendir to earn her position back. It’s therefore important to her to have Arvid sign the infernal agreement properly; although she’s unwilling to let him leave, she wants to ensure the transfer of leadership to her is airtight. Arvid immediately calls for help when he sees the heroes. Abbusis attacks, attempting to eliminate the distractions so she can get back to work. Among the contracts on Abbusis’s horns are an agreement with the Red Crown—who isn’t otherwise named—providing that Red Crown will reverse Abbusis’s demotion if she’s able to either secure the city of Velkendir in the Red Crown’s name or discover which demon lord the arboreals in the Skaldwood have recently sworn their allegiance. It’s clear, because Abbusis was here, that she was pursing the former goal instead of the latter.



The grateful Arvid bestows the title of Low Jarls upon the heroes for saving his life and rooting out the cult of the Red Crown from his city. This title of minor nobility is mostly honorary, although it comes with an annual stipend of 100 gp, and Arvid pays this amount to each of the heroes immediately as their initial bequest. The titles and coin are provided, if the heroes agree, during a public ceremony in Velkendir’s central plaza. Coin-Thane Torhild and Brenna Eyisjr also attend this ceremony, adding their thanks as well.