I've been doing a lot of skipping around in my adventure path writing; to be honest, the very fact I've given myself some direction for chapters 12 through 15 has made me feel like I can tackle those a little later. So I've got chapters 9 and 18 to post today.

But first I wanted to talk about maps! I discovered an excellent cartographer named Dyson Logos, who has a ton of maps on his site at dysonlogos.blog. Many of his maps are free for commercial use (which is great for me!), although he has a patreon and map collections on drivethrurpg, which I'll be picking up soon. At first, I was thinking "holy cow, this guy has a billion maps! I'm going to find one for every chapter in my adventure path!" After a closer look, he focuses almost exclusively on dungeon maps, which isn't necessarily useful for my very forest-focused adventure path. But I do have some dungeons, and I'm going through his commercial maps to see which ones I might be able to line up with my encounters (his "Wharton Mine" might work for my Chapter 2, his "Lorean's Manor" might work for the manor in my Chapter 6, and I'd already been looking at his "Isle of Clover" and "Prismatic Temple" when I wrote Chapter 11). He also has a few great city maps I can use for the cities I've been name-dropping, like Velkendir and Kensley. Dropping those maps into my finished product will make it that much more useful, and at a really reasonable price. I encourage you to take a look to see if there's something there you can use for your next adventure or game night, and support Dyson!

Now, two more adventures! I've noticed these are starting to get a little too long; Chapter 9 is almost 2,000 words, and Chapter 18 is around 1,800 words. Both of these will have to be pulled back a bit when I do my final editing pass on the whole AP. Since my word count is self-imposed, I don't feel the need to as aggressively chop down to exactly 1,500 words. But I know it's good practice to think critically about what I've written and how it can be more efficiently conveyed, so I do plan to reduce these somewhat. 

With these, I've got quite a bit of the AP in place: Chapters 1 through 9, 11, 16, and 18. Sixty percent! More revealing, perhaps, is the order I wrote these in: 3, 16, 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 18, 9. Filmmakers don't make movies in order, and you don't have to write adventures in order, either. And, to pull back the curtain on the development I do for adventures other freelancers write for me: I don't even develop adventures in order! The introduction is usually the last text I develop.

Chapter 9: Death in the Trollgnarl (9th level)

The darkest, most central area of the Skaldwood is a dangerous region called the Trollgnarl. The name isn’t an accident—many powerful trolls make their home here. This is also where several of Treereaver’s demons intend to create a magical gate, so several recent demonic arrivals occupy the region along with the trolls.


Part 1: The Miasmic Mire

The central area of the Trollgnarl is surrounded by a swampy mire crawling with fat flies and pestilential vapors. The master of the mire is a cunning black dragon named Yaxivar. Yaxivar is an ally of the trolls and works to prevent intruders from crossing her mire; she sees it as her personal domain and is offended when anyone other than her troll allies dares to intrude.

Encounter 1a (Moderate 9)

The heroes’ first encounter is with two deinosuchuses who are looking for an easy meal. They attempt to swallow the heroes as soon as possible and fight until slain. Yaxivar has a magical connection with all denizens of her swamp, and as soon as a deinosuchus is killed, Yaxivar knows intruders are present.

Encounter 1b (Moderate 9)

Yaxivar doesn’t waste time, immediately dispatching two of her pestilential minions to dispatch the heroes. These are two leukodaemons who attempt to ambush the heroes. Each of them bears a black onyx gem worth 500 gp, but these gems are cursed while within the mire, granting any hero who carries one a -2 penalty on saving throws against diseases (this curse is only apparent after the first time the hero attempts this saving throw. The gems lose this effect 24 hours after being removed from Yaxivar’s mire.

Encounter 1c (Moderate 9)

Yaxivar needs to take direct action against the heroes, so she magically causes a pool of tarry sludge to animate and communicate with the heroes, as a unique variation of the sending spell. Yaxivars sludge-form demands the heroes turn back and leave the mire; Yaxivar threatens to awaken the very sludge of the mire against them. As though to prove her point, the tarry form swells and pops, revealing an elite ofalth that attacks the heroes.

Encounter 1d

After the heroes defeat the ofalth, a mutated arboreal approaches them. This arboreal, named Redbark, is a follower of the Spruce King. Redbark got lost in Yaxivar’s mire a year ago, and realizes he carries the twisted taint of the mire and so can’t leave; the Spruce King instead made Redbark his agent in the mire to spy on Yaxivar and make reports back. Redbark already heard about the heroes from the Spruce King, and he wants to help them. He gives them a scroll of breath of life and tells them Yaxivar indeed can make their travel treacherous unless they vanquish her first; she can create an essentially limitless number of ofalths (which he refers to only as “wicked mounds of pestilential sludge and decaying plants”) to bedevil them.

Encounter 1e (Moderate 9)

Redbark agrees to take the heroes to Yaxivar’s polluted lair, a dense tangle of swamp-trees and sodden filth. The air in and around the lair is so foul that the heroes take 3d6 poison damage every 10 minutes they remain in it (DC 26 basic Fortitude save; on a critical failure, the hero is also sickened 1 and can’t recover from the sickened condition for 10 minutes). In addition to this danger, a yellow mold hazard rings the area leading into Yaxivar’s lair. Yaxivar has been training a protege, a young black dragon named Alchaxigruv who fights alongside an ofalth he created based on Yaxivar’s teachings. Alchaxigruv at first pretends to be Yaxivar, assuming the heroes won’t be able to tell the difference and he’ll earn great favor by defeating them himself. When it’s clear the heroes outmatch him, however, Alchaxigruv admits who he is, surrenders, and points the heroes toward Yaxivar’s treasure room. He hopes he can get away; his ofalth, on the other hand, fights until destroyed.

Encounter 1f (Severe 9)

At the heart of the tangle is Yaxivar’s treasure room, where she broods and plots the destruction of anyone who dares to cross her mire. Yaxivar is an adult black dragon who has both the standard Draconic Frenzy and Draconic Momentum abilities as well as draconic spellcasting (although Yaxivar knows her variant of sending rather than mariner’s curse). She has an ofalth to fight at her side. Yaxivar has already cast freedom of movement from the wand in her hoard if she knows the heroes are coming (such as if they fought Alchaxigruv). She fights to the death against heroes who dare intrude upon her. Yaxivar’s hoard consists of 3,123 sp, five garnets worth 20 gp each, a silver anklet worth 90 gp, a wand of freedom of movement, a candle of truth, a javelin of lightning, and an explorer’s yurt.


Part 2: Against the Trolls

Once past the mire, the heroes enter the area of the Trollgnarl claimed by two mighty troll brothers, Kankermaw and Gammyscratch. They occupy a large encampment that spreads around many dense copses of trees. Kankermaw likes training the other, weaker trolls to fight, while Gammyscratch likes to breed attack dinosaurs. They’ve recently been talking with vrocks sent by Treereaver, who want the troll brothers to help prepare blood sacrifices to open a portal so Treereaver can come through. The trolls have plenty of blood; they make their troll minions give gallons of blood each day to the vrocks. Kankermaw is found near the troll barracks or training yard; Gammyscratch is often found by the dinosaur pen or the “hunting pit,” where the trolls keep forest animals like deer and wolves like a filthy larder. The heroes won’t know any of this information to start with, but they might get this information by interrogating any trolls they defeat, stealthily scouting the troll encampment, or listening to overhear troll conversations. Trolls reduced to 0 Hit Points by the heroes sullenly surrender once their regeneration brings them back around again, only recovering their courage (and renewing their attacks!) if the heroes let them regenerate to their full Hit Points. A successful DC 26 Deception or Intimidation check against a defeated troll gets the heroes a piece of the above useful information; a critical success gives two pieces of information, while a critical failure earns only a believable-sounding lie from the troll (which you should invent). Although all these encounters are fairly close to one another, trolls don’t generally investigate nearby sounds of combat because they all so frequently fight with each other, allowing the heroes to tackle them at their own pace.

Encounter 2a (Moderate 9)

At some point during their exploration of the troll encampment, the heroes are likely to encounter a band consisting of a vrock and four trolls. They might face this group upon failed attempts to sneak around, ill-advised attempts to speak with the trolls diplomatically, or just from poor luck. You can be flexible with how you use this group.

Encounter 2b (Moderate 9)

The troll encampment has a central copse of trees from which it’s easiest to spy upon (and sneak around) the rest of the encampment. Although identifying this copse is easy, the elite dezullon it harbors has taken root to resemble an ordinary pitcher plant. It’s eager to attack anyone that comes close. The trolls know to stay clear of the dezullon, which is why they haven’t yet done anything about these overgrown trees right in the middle of their encampment, but a sly troll the heroes are interrogating might try to convince them the trees make a good hiding spot, hoping the dezullon eats them. A greater staff of abjuration is here, left behind by one of the dezullon’s former victims.

Encounter 2c (Moderate 9)

Near the central copse, at the middle of the camp, is a building the trolls call their “planning house.” This pile of stones is, upon closer inspection, the collapsed foundation of some ancient stone tower. The trolls have placed a few large tree branches over the top of it to keep bad weather out, and here is where Kankermaw and Gammyscratch make plans and tell the other trolls what to do. Two vrocks are here around a recently-dug pit containing hundreds of gallons of troll blood. The vrocks keep stirring the blood with a long dinosaur bone to prevent it from congealing. When the heroes Search or Investigate this ruin, likely after defeating the vrocks, they see several crude maps of the Northfells drawn on the walls, with several arrows connecting a region at the center of the Heartwood to here in the Trollgnarl. Heroes who can read Abyssal learn more: scratched notes detail a complicated magical process to bind this portion of the Trollgnarl to the Heartwood with a prodigious number of sacrifices (which the vrocks are lazily trying to circumvent by using a whole lot of troll blood), so that a demon lord named Treereaver, who is currently corrupting the Heartwood, can blight the Skaldwood as well. It should be clear to the heroes that Treereaver is looking to expand his corruption of the Northfells.

Encounter 2d (Moderate 9)

The large and crude hut of logs that the trolls use as a barracks is smelly and filthy. Kankermaw’s best-trained minions, four elite trolls, are currently resting here. Very stealthy heroes might catch them by surprise, but they’re quick to fight against intruders. The barracks contains rhino hide with an iron medallion affixed to it; both are crusted with hardened troll saliva.

Encounter 2e (Moderate 9)

The training ground near the barracks is where Kankermaw, a troll king, is training two trolls. These trolls have proven particularly troublesome for Kankermaw, which is why he’s giving them some extra training mixed with savage beatings. If Kankermaw is defeated, these other two trolls immediately flee or surrender. Kankermaw carries a tattered canvas satchel with bits of rotten meat and a mummified bat.

Encounter 2f

The “hungry pit” is a hole in the ground where the trolls keep animals they catch but don’t immediately eat, which is few. They later snack on these animals, or feed them to their dinosaurs. A fungus leshy is currently alive here, trapped under the corpse of a partially eaten owlbear. If it notices the heroes poking around in the pit, it calls for help—but not so loud it thinks the trolls can hear. If freed, it wants to return to its lovely, slimy mire (where it spent its days trying to avoid Yaxivar’s notice), but it first lets the heroes know that the vrocks are performing some sort of important ritual using troll blood in the “planning house” near the center of camp. It also carries a potion of quickness, which it gives to the heroes in thanks.

Encounter 2g (Moderate 9)

The dinosaur pens contain a few ill-tempered dinosaurs that Gammyscratch has been training. Two triceratopses and a stegosaurus have been trained to trample any creatures smaller than a troll, and when they spot the heroes the immediately attack. They easily knock down the wooden fences Gammyscratch built to keep them in, because Gammyscratch is much better at training dinosaurs to be aggressive than he is at building fences.

Encounter 2h (Severe 9)

Shortly after the heroes caused trouble at the dinosaur pen, the troll king Gammyscratch returns from a hunt with his loyal tyrannosaurus at his side. They both attack the heroes to make them pay for what they’ve done to his prized dinosaurs. Both foes fight to the death. Gammyscratch has a little bit of loyalty to his tyrannosaurus; he immediately breaks off from whoever he’s currently attacking to single out whichever hero kills his dinosaur.


When the heroes have defeated the trolls and vrocks in the Trollgnarl, they’ve stymied Treereaver’s plans to expand his influence. Even more importantly, the heroes know where the source of the demons and corruptions in the Northfells can be found: deep in the Heartwood.

Chapter 18: The Rimefall Consequence (18th level)

The heroes now have the breaching rune, but they find they still can’t use it to enter the Heartwood. The night hag Kassena and the scholar Gendal Ink-Hand have since met up with each other, possessing a common cause of aiding the heroes’ efforts to save the Northfells. Their work has become, to both their surprise, a romantic attachment. They approach the heroes together to let them know that Treereaver has strengthened the magical ward around the Heartwood. The only way to pierce it is to enter via a passage Treereaver doesn’t know: an underground passage leading beneath the Rimefall at the Heartwood’s western border. This passage contains several dangers and a potential deal with a dragon, but is the heroes’ only way into the Heartwood.


Part 1: Town in Ruins

The Aurora River empties into the northern sea at a truly titanic waterfall called Rimefall. Rimefall is 220 feet high and has carved its channel over exceptionally durable stone. The fishing town at the top of the falls, also called Rimefall, is on the east bank. The town was unknowingly built on the ruins of a prison built by inhuman wardens to keep truly dangerous creatures locked away. Learning of these ruins, a linnorm came to Rimefall, easily slaughtered the town’s inhabitants, and now seeks entrance to get treasures it is certain are there.

Encounter 1a (Moderate 18)

The heroes arrive at Rimefall to see the town in ruins. Although the destruction looks recent, thorny vines have grown over the entire town. These are four elite wemmuths, fertilized by the blood of the murdered town. They fight intruders to the death.

Encounter 1b

The heroes meet the town’s only survivor, an elderly, blind poet named Tafris. Tafris hid in his basement, but he heard the attack clearly and heard the monstrous bellowing of two creatures. They were shouting in Draconic, a language Tafris knows, demanding to know where the treasures in the ruins were kept. Tafris knows this must be the ruins the town was built over, which he believes are a prison built by inhuman creatures long ago. For finding him and listening to him, Tafris presents the heroes with his only treasure, a dispelling sliver.

Encounter 1c (Severe 18)

The squalid shacks built over the prison ruins are all flattened, and the elite tarn linnorm is still here. It’s unearthed a collapsed entrance a dozen feet across, but that’s still too wide to admit the frustrated linnorm. It attacks the heroes as soon as it knows they’re there, starting with its twin breath weapons. It stubbornly fights to the death.


Part 2: Warden Level

The entrance descends 100 feet into the rock beneath the town of Rimefall and west, under the Aurora River itself. The stone rumbles constantly with the weight of water passing overhead. The ancient prison is made of cleverly fitted stones that has survived millennia and kept dry, even here beneath the river. Carvings show rhinoceros-headed, four-armed humanoids that must have built this place. As the corridors and rooms are all at least 40 feet wide and tall, the heroes can deduce that these builders were very big.

Encounter 2a (Moderate 18)

Two adamantine golems, each carved to look like the rhinoceros-headed, four-armed builders, grind into action for the first time in millennia to stop the heroes. Near their alcoves is a plaque showing the layout of the upper prison level (all encounters in Part 2).

Encounter 2b

An armory has a vorpal executioner trap on the room outside it. Inside the armory are strange three-bladed greatswords of ancient workmanship that are unusable except by massive four-armed creatures. As antiques, the nine swords are worth 1,000 gp each. The room also contains +3 major striking handwraps of mighty blows and two spellstrike bolts (9th).

Encounter 2c (Moderate 18)

An open arena looks to be a place where prisoners were processed, but several large tunnels pierce the floor. Two crimson worms made these tunnels, and they burst up to attack anyone moving across this large room. The tunnels twist and turn to the flooded levels, below.

Encounter 2d (Moderate 18)

This ominous and cavernous chapel is dedicated to the Outer Gods that the prison builders once revered. It’s clear from wall carvings that they made sacrifices here—but sacrifices of indolent or inattentive guards, rather than prisoners (who didn’t deserve the honor of sacrifice, and were annihilated in the liquidation pits on the next lower level). A shoggoth that has laired here since the time of the original builders is still here, along with two warsworns made of the bodies of the sacrificed prison guards. A third eye is inset into the wall on the back of this room, beneath abhorrent symbols of reverence.

Encounter 2e (Moderate 18)

This prison guard room has a few old stone benches and tables, all big enough for the four rune giants currently lairing here. They came with the blue dragon Alphempiar and are here keeping out of his way; they attack the heroes immediately to attempt to prove themselves valuable to their employer. Each wears a heavy jeweled armband worth 4,000 gp. Their gear indicates they haven’t been here very long, and contains a major quicksilver mutagen, a major healing potion, and a major alchemist’s fire.

Encounter 2f (Moderate 18)

The warden’s office contains the door to the prison vault. A blue dragon Aphempiar learned through divinations that the vault holds great treasure, so it teleported here with several rune giant mercenaries (teleporting into the vault isn’t possible). The ancient blue dragon is a spellcasting dragon who knows teleport rather than feeblemind, and he is accompanied by two rune giants. Each wears a heavy jeweled armband worth 4,000 gp. The giants are currently carving away at the stone around the vault door to get inside, as the vault door has proven too tough to get through. Aphempiar has no interest in dying at the heroes’ hands and is quick to strike a deal. If the heroes let him get the vault open, which will take another hour or so of work, he’ll take a single item of his choice from anything behind the door and depart peacefully. Aphempiar doesn’t know what’s in the vault, and if there’s only one thing, he reasons, that’s his good fortune. If the heroes don’t want the deal, Aphempiar sighs, motions for his rune giants to attack, and fights with his spells while hanging back. Aphempiar teleports away if reduced to fewer than 100 Hit Points. He warns Treereaver out of spite, which has consequences in Part 5.

Encounter 2f

The vault is warded against teleportation magic and it has a superior lock (DC 40) that can only be manipulated by a creature legendary with Thievery; it resists all other attempts. The vault contains an enormous diamond worth 6,500 gp, a greater breastplate of command, a greater ring of maniacal devices, and a wishing luck blade that is a scythe rather than a shortsword. If the heroes made a deal with Aphempiar, the dragon takes the luck blade.


Part 4: The Flooded Prison

The prisoner level is another 100 feet below the upper prison level. A crack in the walls here has opened these levels to Rimefall, and over time the falling water has wholly submerged the former prisoners’ levels. The heroes need to breathe water and swim to navigate these rooms and corridors. In addition, the rooms count as severe cold due to the chill in the water, but they aren’t frozen over.

Encounter 3a (Moderate 18)

A collection of cells used for solitary confinement all have their metal doors wrenched off. Six azure worms lair here, and each comes out of their own confinement cells to feed on intruding heroes. They fight to the death.

Encounter 3b (Moderate 18)

This mess hall is cavernous and lit by magical globes in the ceiling that still provide light despite being crusted with bits of ice. A baomal swims in this open area between the cells, feeding from the enchanted food generation nozzles that still function despite being both ancient and submerged in icy water. The baomal found its way here when it was smaller, and is now too large to leave. It aggressively fights any creature entering its domain.

Encounter 3c (Moderate 18)

The liquidation pits were used to dispose of the worst prisoners, as well as prisoners who died under other circumstances. The room contain a necromantic effect that preserves the dead until they can be annihilated utterly; as a result, chunks of dead creatures (mostly the rhinoceros-headed creatures, but other stranger creatures as well) still float in water here. A massive statue of one of the builders is here; it is a guthallath programmed to kill any sapient creature entering the liquidation pits. It uses its annihilation beams as often as possible. A single azure worm swims around, nibbling on the corpse pieces; the guthallath doesn’t consider it a target, and it fights intruders to protect its feeding ground.

Encounter 3d (Moderate 18)

The west end of the prison level has collapsed, leading to a series of natural underground chambers in the rock. Two krakens lair in the largest of these chambers and aggressively defend their lair against intruders. Their treasure includes a scattering of 11,346 gp in gems, a pearl-encrusted crown worth 1,500 gp, and a potion of undetectability.


Part 5: Consequences

After navigating the flooded levels, the heroes can exit the ancient passages only 20 feet above the northern sea; more importantly, they’re now inside Treereaver’s ward and can ascend back up the 200 feet to the west side of the falls and enter the forest. Alternatively, they can drop into the frigid sea and swim a mile or so west and step out into the forest where the ground is lower.

Encounter 5a (Severe 18)

The heroes have one final encounter before they can rest and regroup in Treereaver’s domain. If the heroes fought the dragon Aphempiar and he escaped to warn Treereaver, they face a strike team consisting of an elite marilith and four shemhazians. This group fights to the death to stop the heroes. Otherwise, Aphempiar took the luck blade and tried to bargain it back to its rightful owner, a grim reaper. But once the reaper had its weapon in hand, it slew Aphempiar and is working its way back to anyone Aphempiar knew. When it appears in front of the heroes, it utters, “None shall know that I suffered the indignity of losing my blade, and it shall now end your lives.” If the heroes defeat the grim reaper, they can keep the luck blade for themselves—although it might return in a different incarnation to try to claim it from them in the future.


Now finally within the Heartwood, the heroes’ next step is to find and defeat Treereaver.