Here's another chapter! With this, I'm 70% of the way done. I'm starting to feel less like I can pick whatever I'd like for a chapter (as was the case for the first two chapters I wrote, 3 and 16) and now feel like I need to be building the right connective tissue. The plot threads are all coming together now. For example, at the end of Chapter 9, the heroes know their villain (Treerazer/Treereaver) and his location (the Heartwood), and want to go there. I have to get across that the Heartwood is "closed," and I also need to re-introduce the night hag Kesenna to let them know that they need a magic rune to get in. That's a lot of plot beats to hit, so let me dig in!

I also should note that this is the first adventure where I'd already picked one of Dyson Logos's maps (which I blogged about earlier) to give me inspiration for the encounter layout (this one is Griffinwatch Ruins). Pulling inspiration from several different sources is important to keep an adventure from getting repetitive, and in keeping your own interest up. Here it is!

Chapter 10: The Demon Lord’s Barrier (10th level)

In the previous adventure, the heroes learned that the demon lord Treereaver is lairing in the Heartwood, and they prevented him from spreading his influence into the Skaldwod. In taking the fight to the demon lord, the heroes rescue several allies from among the Green Reach Rangers and learn that the entire Heartwood has been magically sealed off. 

The Green Reach Rangers, headquartered in the Bravado Bastion, posed a problem for Treereaver. The rangers regularly patrolled the Heartwood and were surprisingly mobile, able to make guerilla attacks against invaders like Treereaver and his demons. He made defeating the rangers an immediate priority, assigning a powerful glabrezu demon named Norgox. Norgox besieged the Bravado Bastion and took it over, but was trapped outside the Heartwood when Treereaver magically sealed it. This doesn't bother Norgox much; he instead remains in the bastion to ambush and kill anyone who comes seeking the Green Reach Rangers’ help.


Part 1: Seeking the Rangers

The heroes know (or are told by a friendly NPC, like Gendel Ink-Hand) that the best guides they can get in the wild tangle of the Heartwood are the Green Reach Rangers, a loose band of misfits and thrillseekers who patrol the wood and thwart troublemakers. Many of the Green Reach Rangers are former criminals who’ve escaped justice by fleeing north, but they are all determined foes of evil.

Encounter 1a (Moderate 10)

The easiest way to reach the Bravado Bastion is to head through the hills due north of Fallinghollow (in fact, some of the Green Reach Rangers occasionally come to Fallinghollow for supplies). When the heroes approach the bastion, they learn that the flora along the path has grown wild and dangerous; a dezullonand a giant flytrapattack them. A dead trapper with a broken hatchet and an oil of keen edgesis among these plants’ most recent victims.

Encounter 1b (Moderate 10)

It’s possible that the heroes simply bypass the Bravado Bastion to try to penetrate deeper into the Heartwood. The trees become twisted into unnatural shapes the further north the heroes go. A noxious green mist becomes denser, and strange cries echo ominously. Two looming pine trees split their bark wide, revealing mouths with bloody fangs; use the statistics for twogiant flytrapsfor these monstrous trees. 

Encounter 1c (Severe 10)

Within a few miles north of the Bravado Bastion, the noxious mist becomes supernaturally dense. The mist clearly extends through the woods to the east and west; in fact, it doesn’t take the heroes much exploration to guess that it encircles the entire Heartwood. It’s impossible to push through this mist, and even magical travel (such as teleport) is foiled, returning anyone who would penetrate the misty barrier to just outside it. Only creatures in service to Treereaver can breach this magical barrier for now. When the heroes have experimented with this mist a bit, a dangerous guardian rushes out of it to attack: a weak uthulthat deals poison damage rather than lightning damage (with its Poison Bolt ability rather than Lightning Crash, for example). This evil creature doesn’t pursues foes that flee, shouting after them in Abyssal to never return.

If the heroes haven’t already been to the Bravado Bastion, they should wonder whether the rangers there have any further information.


Part 2: The Ruined Bastion

The Bravado Bastion is plainly in bad shape, with many of its walls recently knocked over. Norgox found taking over the bastion to require more effort—and involve more destruction—than he wished.

Encounter 2a (Moderate 10)

At the outer walls, the heroes encounter a chaotic evil arboreal regentcommanding a stone golemand two enslaved stone giants in the reconstruction efforts. They’re doing some heavy lifting to try to repair the bastion so it doesn’t alert newcomers to the fact that the Green Reach Rangers have fallen. It’s possible the heroes don’t yet realize the rangers are in trouble and approach the arboreal regent as an ally; she plays along with the ruse just long enough to get the heroes close and attack them. The stone golem fights at the arboreal regent’s command. The two stone giant slaves, however, don’t fight; they only want to flee back into the hills to the south. If questioned, they know that a glabrezu named Norgox recently enslaved their tribe to help take over the bastion. Norgox had many wicked allies, and they imprisoned the few rangers that survived, but they don’t have any details about creatures in the bastion or the layout within it.

Encounter 2b (Moderate 10)

The outer bailey contains a large nest where a cauthoojroosts; the bird is more of a hanger-on than a true ally of Norgox, but the glabrezu finds the beast’s singing delightful and has ordered his other troops to leave it alone. One of the sticks in its nest is an unstrung oathbow.

Encounter 2c (Moderate 10)

A food storage room off of the outer bailey is currently the domain of a nilithwho’s present with its gugcompanion (and, when traveling, its mount). The two emerged from caverns deep under the forest long ago and threw their lot in with Treereaver. When Norgox left on his mission, they tagged along, hoping for good opportunities for food and loot. They’ve piled a satchel with 490 sp, a moderate elixir of life, and a tattered scroll of vibrant patternhere, but have eaten through almost all the pickles and salted port once stored in this room.

Encounter 2d (Moderate 10)

A fallen tower at one end of the outer bailey has been claimed by an irate and antisocial gimmerlingwho has bypassed the hammer of forbiddance trapthat once protected the tower. The gimmerling attacks with gleeful cackles as soon as anyone triggers the trap. The rubble in the tower contains a runestonebearing an anarchicweapon rune.

Encounter 2e (Moderate 10)

The inner bailey has a great deal of churned earth and a tall gibbet where the corpse of a peacock hangs. The Green Reach Rangers kept this peacock as a sort of mascot, but Norgox slaughtered it as a demonstration of his desire to obliterate everything the rangers cherish. The dead bird has brought an unusual scavenger, however; when the heroes arrive, a shulnerupts from the ground. The shuln finds the thought of humanoid meat even more compelling than peacock meat, however, and fights the hero until destroyed. The peacock corpse still wears a gold collar bearing the name “Porgo the Proud” worth 400 gp.

Encounter 2f (Moderate 10)

One of Norgox’s allies is a raja rakshasanamed Vindu, and the guest suite in the Bravado Bastion has been given over to him. Vindu plays the part of a human scientist to conceal his fiendish abilities. He’s recently managed to reanimate the corpses of stone giants that Norgox worked to death as two flesh golems. Due to their giant origins, these golems have AC 27 and the Catch Rocks reaction. Vindu claims to be a helpless prisoner of the glabrezu forced to create monstrous abominations; if the heroes don’t see through this ruse, Vindu hopes to escape without having to fight them at all. Vindu’s suite contains fine silks worth 850 gp, a greater mistform elixir, and a whip feather token.

Encounter 2g (Severe 10)

The glabrezuNorgox can be found in the great hall of the main keep. He spends most of his time directing a stone giant slave to fix a fallen tower on one side of the keep. The stone giant doesn’t fight, but if Norgox is defeated and the stone giant released, she says there is a back room behind the great hall and a tower room accessed from the side of the hall; Norgox kept prisoners in both places. Norgox wears a platinum torc worth 1,000 gp marked with Treereaver’s symbol. 

Encounter 2h

The back room of the great hall was an impromptu prison for two rangers, but they’ve both died of their injuries. One still wears one of the distinctive green-and-gold cape of the wily rangerthat is the badge of the sly rangers. This is a cape of the mountebankthat allows its wearer to cast tree striderather than dimension door.

Encounter 2i (Moderate 10)

The base of the tower is guarded by a vrockand a greater nightmare. Allies of Norgox, they’re determined to let no one pass by them.

Encounter 2j (Moderate 10)

Some of the fiercest fighting in the Bravado Bastion took place here, and the psychic residue of the rangers who died here have infused three ornate medals that have been on display here since the fortress was founded. This is now a telekinetic swarm trapthat attacks anyone who isn’t a Green Reach Ranger—including the heroes. A fallen ranger’s corpse bears a pair of daredevil bootsand a moderate bravo’s brew.

Encounter 2k

Four prisoners are locked away in a cramped, windowless room at the top of the tower. The key hangs just outside the door. Three of the prisoners are Green Reach Rangers (Larmidren, Moshinto, and Shuldran), escaped criminals from the kingdom to the south (convicted of forgery, inciting a riot, a “crimes against decency,” respectively) and among the toughest of the rangers. The fourth is the night hag Kesenna, who came here after leaving her coven, the Stumphome Circle (which the heroes might have learned about in Chapter 4). Kesenna currently resembles a middle-aged human woman, and the three rangers assume believe she’s a harmless trader caught up in the attack.



By the end of this adventure, the heroes may have learned they can’t enter the Heartwood and should have rescued the prisoners in the Bravado Bastion. The rangers can only confirm that the Heartwood is rumored to be magically sealed somehow, and no one’s been able to pass through the strange mists just north of Bravado Bastion. They’re willing to check out these rumors with the heroes, but they’re wary of recent demon sightings and ask the heroes to accompany them (if necessary, the statistics for a duskwalker ghost hunter work fine for these rangers). This might point the heroes back to encounters in Part 1.

Kesenna is more directly forthcoming with information; although she’s evil, she knows that Treereaver poses a clear danger to the Northfells that she calls home. Like the rangers, she’s also heard that the Heartwood is closed. If the heroes seem reluctant to believe the word of a mundane trader with a suspicious amount of knowledge, Kesenna drops her disguise and reveals who she really is as a show of trust. 

Kesenna reveals that the demon lord Treereaver has made the Heartwood his home away from the Abyss and is gradually and carefully collecting powerful allies within its borders. Treereaver’s demons have been seen across the Northfells, trying to establish footholds for their evil master to expand his influence (the heroes have seen this in action in the Wailing Grove and the Skaldwood; Kesenna can help them connect these events, if necessary). The magical border around the Heartwood is mighty, but can be overcome with a legendary symbol called the breaching rune. Acquiring this should be the heroes’ next step, and Kesenna can put them on the right path for this.