Another chapter! I realized that although I'd given the stat block I intend to use in Chapter 17 (which details the final confrontation against the devil cult), I never actually got around to writing up that chapter. So I did so, and here it is. It's the longest by far (nearly 1,000 words over my 1,500-word limit), and that's for three reasons. First, I wanted to build in a plot reason to confront the pit fiend other than "we just don't like pit fiends running around doing their evil," so I connected it to the breaching rune the heroes have spent the prior levels re-creating. Second, this needed a few rules-type stat blocks (a red reaper creature, a new disease, and the final rules on the breaching rune). Finally, this wraps up a solid plot arc within the main campaign, so I felt I needed to give closure to some creatures and areas (such as the priest Brenna, who showed up in Chapter 5 and 6 and who now ends on a good note here).

So here is my longest chapter so far!

Chapter 17: The Reaper’s Plague (17th level)

The heroes now know the true name of the devil known as Red Crown: they know him to be masquerading as the high priest Hjalmar the Stern in the city of Kensley. The heroes have come because they know that, among his carefully amassed lore, Balzzevarian has collected the final sigil in the breaching rune. They may have also heard that Kensley is in the grip of a plague that even the Church of the Sun-Mother can’t cure; in truth, the pit fiend Balzzevarian is, as Hjalmar, encouraging the spread of the plague to stoke desperation and reap souls in preparation for an apotheosis into a still more powerful type of devil. Known as the reaper’s plague, this disease causes painful and debilitating boils around the head in the shape of a halo (or a red crown). It has the following statistics.


Reaper’s Plague(disease); A creature ritually killed while doomed from this disease has its soul sent to Hell rather than to its appropriate destination. Stage 1carrier with no ill effect (1 day); Stage 2enfeebled 1 and drained 1 (1 day); Stage 3enfeebled 2 and drained 2 (1 day); Stage 4doomed 1, and enfeebled and drained values each increase by 1 (1 day)


To make matters worse, the weather in Kensley is particularly far colder than the surrounding area. This new trouble is unrelated to the devils’ presence, but thanks to a gang of wendigos that has come to town to prey on the hunger and deprivation, using their control weatherrituals to drop the temperature. Balzzevarian and his devils despise the wendigos’ presence, as it’s killing the suffering townspeople much too fast and risks exposing their carefully orchestrated culling of the populace, but they can’t overtly engage in an all-out-war against the icy monsters.


Part 1: The Icy Almshouse

The heroes are warned away from entering the city of Kensley, perhaps by Fandel, the owner of the inn called Fandel’s Rest that the heroes visited in Chapter 11. Fandel—or anyone the heroes may meet on the road—can confirm that the death toll from the plague has been particularly high, and the Church of the Sun-Mother hasn’t been able to do much more than collect the sick in the Luminous Cathedral so they can die in comfort. Worse, a severe cold snap has hit the city, which residents whisper is supernatural in origin.

Encounter 1a

Brenna Eyisjr, high priestess of the Church of the Sun-Mother in Velkendir, sees the heroes soon after they enter the city. She is both surprised and pleased to see them, explaining that the plague has drawn all ranking adherents of the Sun-Mother to Kensley to help. Brenna has been tasked by Hjalmar the Stern to recover as many people from the Underbridge Almshouse as possible and bring them to the Luminous Cathedral. If the heroes insist that Hjalmar is a devil in disguise, a successful DC 36 Diplomacy check is required to get Brenna to believe such a claim of the head of her religion. In truth, she’s had her suspicions about the ominous armored knights she’s seen lurking in the Luminous Cathedral, and the benevolent sanctity she felt on earlier visits to the Luminous Cathedral was gone (which she ascribed to their being so many ill people there). Regardless of whether the heroes convince her, Brenna is sure the people at the almshouse are in danger; she asks the heroes to help her save the people there. 

Encounter 1b (Moderate 17)

The heroes must make a saving throw against a wendigo’s Howl as they approach the Underbridge Almshouse. The almshouse is bitterly cold, and the front door has been smashed open. In the entry, two wendigosare tormenting a handful of well-wishers who brought warm food and blankets. A third wendigo flees out a window with an old halfling man just as the heroes arrive, but the two wendigos quickly move to intervene and fight until slain. Brenna casts air walkto pursue the fleeing wendigo and calls to the heroes to defeat the two that remain. 

Encounter 1c (Moderate 17)

The great hall of the almshouse is a large room with a huge fireplace. Normally quite toasty, the room is now bitterly cold, as the wendigos recently stuffed the fireplace with snow. The snow spilling across the room makes this room uneven ground (DC 25 Acrobatics check to Balance). Dozens of people here have frozen to death, with dozens more near death from the cold. Four elite gelugonsare moving among the people here, heedless of the cold, but they attack the heroes immediately and fight to the death. Afterwards, heroes who succeed on a DC 25 Medicine check realize that many survivors are still alive because they’ve been recently bundled up very carefully; a hero who critically succeeds at this check realizes that the devils were the ones carefully bundling the people here, although it isn’t clear why the devils would care whether people froze to death.

Encounter 1d

The almshouse storeroom is barricaded, but pounding and shouts from the other side alert the heroes that people are in there. A fallen piece of the bridge under which the almshouse was built blocks the door; a successful DC 36 Athletics check is required to budge it. Inside are the half-dozen or so volunteers and patients who fled from the terrifying howls of the attacking wendigos only to be trapped by falling debris as the wendigos attacked. They provide the heroes with a greater winter wolf elixir as gratitude for their assistance. The presence of the devils is a mystery to them.

Encounter 1e (Moderate 17)

Brenna returns, having rescued the old halfling man, with a strange story. She says the wendigo seemed particularly amused by her battle-cries to the Sun-Mother during their fight. The wendigo taunted Brenna about foolishly following a disguised devil, and told her how the church is spreading the reaper’s plague to claim souls, rather than curing it. The wendigos have come to prey on the population, but upset the devil’s carefully concealed plans in doing so. If the heroes hadn’t previously convinced Brenna about Hjalmar’s true nature, she now realizes they’re correct and apologies for her blindness. Further proof is soon at hand, however; when the gelugons didn’t return, the cult sent one of their dread executioners, a red reaper, to finish the job. This armored figure strides into the almshouse, intones, “No survivors,” and utters a litany in Infernal that causes the dead here to rise as a warsworn. Both the executioner and the warsworn fight to the death.

Red Reaper                            Creature 18

Rare, LE, Medium, Human, Humanoid

Human diabolic executioner

Perception+29; greater darkvision

LanguagesCommon, Infernal

SkillsAcrobatics +30, Athletics +34 (+36 to Trip), Devil Lore +26, Intimidate +30, Religion +29, Society +26

Str+6, Dex+4, Con+3, Int+0, Wis+5, Cha+2

Items+1 striking composite longbow(40 arrows), +2 greater resilient full platewith a red halo design incorporated into the helm, +2 greater striking greater flaming temple sword

AC42; Fort+33, Ref+27, Will+30

HP335; Resistancesfire 15

Tyrant’s Retort[reaction] TriggerA creature within the red reaper’s reach critically misses with a melee Strike; EffectThe red reaper makes a melee Strike against the target. On a hit, the target is enfeebled 2 until the end of its next turn (enfeebled 4 on a critical hit).

Attack of Opportunity[reaction]

Speed25 feet

Melee[one-action]temple sword+35 (magical, trip), Damage3d8+16 slashing plus 1d6 fire plus tyrant’s smite

Ranged[one-action] composite longbow+35 (deadly d10, magical, propulsive, range increment 100 feet, reload 0, volley 30 feet), Damage2d8+13 piercing

Divine Innate SpellsDC 40; 9thdivine wrath6thdominate(undead only); 2nddeath knelldetect alignment(at will, chaotic or good only) Constant (9th)true seeing

RitualsDC 40; infernal pact

Crush the FallenThe red reaper’s damage dice with its melee Strikes increase to d12 when making against prone targets.

Tyrant’s SmiteThe red reaper’s melee Strikes cause wracking pain in good creatures, dealing an additional 2d10 persistent evil damage. If a red reaper critically hits a good creature with a melee Strike, the target is slowed 1 for 1 minute.


Part 2: The Corrupted Cathedral

The heroes should realize that the cult of the Red Crown is strongest in the Luminous Cathedral. However, the public areas of the cathedral are also where hundreds of suffering townspeople are housed while they waste away from the plague, so the heroes can’t be indiscriminate in their attacks if they want to avoid harming innocents. Brenna wants to come with them, but realizes that alerting all the other genuine worshippers about Hjalmar’s duplicity is more important. She gives them two major healing potions, in the hope they are useful.

Encounter 2a (Moderate 17)

The Luminous Cathedral is a lofty, impressive building carved with huge sun symbols that radiate a golden light. Wails and cries of suffering people echo from the building. The wide, cold yard around the Luminous Cathedral has been converted into an impromptu cemetery, where shallow pits hold hundreds of recently deceased. These dead do not rest easily; two elite warswornrise up when the heroes enter the temple grounds, sensing that the heroes oppose the Red Crown. Some of the bodies wear tabards of the Sun-Mother—these are former guards who were replaced when Balzzevariantook over as Hjalmar. 

Encounter 2b (Moderate 17)

Two enormous metal statues of the angelic Sun-Mother grace the temple entrance, but these statues are now twoiron golemsco-opted to serve the Red Crown. A red reaperstationed here joins them in attempting to repel the heroes.  

Encounter 2c (Severe 17)

The main temple area has been converted into a grim hospital. Two red reaperswalk up and down the rows of the sick, anointing them with foul-smelling herbs and making prayers to the Red Crown. These executioners then murder the sick victims when moments from death to claim their souls with the greatest suffering and despair. They attack as soon as they realize the heroes are present. There are so many injured people here that the room is difficult terrain. This room has an access to the nave (which is blocked off by a heavy wooden screen), the crypts below, and the solarium level above. 

Encounter 2d (Moderate 17)

The vaulted chancel is screened off because the altar at is end has been wholly converted to diabolic worship. Pentagrams and symbols of red crowns adorn the chancel. The keeper of this unholy place is Efzendar, a rare beast resembling a cross between a massive wolf and a vulture. Efzendar shushes the heroes when they arrive, giving them a sly wink and whispering, “Mustn’t reveal our secret!” before attacking. Efzendar has the statistics of an elite simurghthat is lawful evil, speaks Infernal in addition to its other languages, and has an aura of captivating adoration(as the cleric domain spell) rather than calm emotions. Hanging over the altar is a greater thurible of revelation.

Encounter 2e (Moderate 17)

The crypts below the cathedral are where the cult unearths the skulls of saints and infuses them with souls of evil wizards consigned long ago to Hell. A red reaperand two gelugonsare here, working over the defiled grave of a long-dead paladin of the Sun-Mother. The paladin’s impenetrable scaleis heaped in a corner of the crypt.

Encounter 2f (Moderate 17)

The cult keeps prepared skulls in the catacomb off the crypt until they can be assigned to a red reaper. The four skulls here have the statistics of four demiliches, which are currently in torpor. Each has a ring bolted into the top of its skull, as though to hold a chain or rope. In addition to their demilich eye gems, they have a vial of king’s sleep as treasure.

Encounter 2g (Moderate 17)

The long upper hall outside the solarium is lined with statues of saints chipped and broken to give them fangs, stubby crowns, and other fiendish embellishments. A red reaperis here, holding a demilichat the end of a 15-foot chain by a socket at the top of its skull. The two fight together well, the demilich supporting the tyrant as best it can with its spells. The tyrant doesn’t willingly let go of the chain; while she holds it, the demilich can’t go more than 15 feet from her.

Encounter 2h (Moderate 17)

The antechamber before the solarium looks like the inside of a celestial globe, with grooves on the ceiling where rods bearing miniature planets move about a central metal globe burning orange-hot. The globe is an adamantine golemand the grooves contain a vorpal executioner trap. Both are designed to keep intruders out of the solarium and activate when the heroes enter. One of the miniature planets is actually a flame navette

Encounter 2i (Severe 17)

The solarium is a sun-drenched patio shielded from the weather by horizontal walls of forceacross the top of the vaulted, 40-foot high space. Several mundane telescopes with smoked glass, used for observing the sun, stand around the room. Balzzevarian, a pit fiend, is here in the form of Hjalmar the Stern. When approached, he uses his prodigious Deception to insist there has been some sort of misunderstanding, although the heroes aren’t likely fooled—particularly because “Hjalmar” wears a large red crown on his head. If confronted with the truth, Balzzevarian realizes that the heroes were the ones who uncovered his true name and must be slain; he reverts to his natural form to eradicate them, and neither offers nor asks for mercy. The heavy red crown is a diadem of intellectthat must grant Religion and Infernal as its first skill and language (if the investing user doesn’t already have them). Several chests around the room contain the devil’s other treasures: a major juggernaut mutagen, a scroll of weapon of judgment, and a wand of slaying 8th. Most importantly, the treasures include a steel strongbox containing a single glittering, indescribable shape on a silver ingot: the missing sigil of the breaching rune.



With the false Hjalmar exposed, Brenna Eyisjr becomes the head of the Church of the Sun-Mother in all the Northfells—an honor she publicly credits to the heroes as she gifts them each a 17th-level or lower item of their choice. Brenna arranges for effective cures to the reaper’s plague to be spread across Kensley, and any remaining members of the cult of the Red Crown are quickly dealt with. 

The heroes now have all the elements of the breaching runeand can bring it to Professor Koladsfar in Jortoft to create it. He scribes it onto their skin in a place they choose; it functions as a magic item that is always invested, but doesn’t count towards a hero’s number of invested items. A hero bearing a breaching runecan enter any area warded by magic, which should include the Heartwood.

Breaching Rune                            Item 17

Rare, Abjuration, Invested, Magical

This runic tattoo allows you to more easily enter places warded by magic. You gain a +2 item bonus on checks to Escape magical confinement and on saving throws against effects that would magically repel you (such as repulsion). You can also enter areas you would otherwise be magically barred from entering, such as magnificent mansion.

Activate[two-action] command; Frequencyonce per day; Effect You cast dimension door. The space you leave and the one you appear in must be separated by a magical effect, such as wall of fire