Last night, my six players wrapped up the second-half of my latest mini-adventure titled “A Bright Light.” Now that it’s over, I can share many more details than I was able to share last week. Please keep in mind that if you’re a player looking for something different, you might want to ask your DM to read this post (and Part I) and see if he or she is willing to run it. Reading any further will spoil some of the surprises, so consider yourself warned.
There were two major influences for this latest mini-adventure, and I’ll be discussing those towards the end of this post. Also, for any DMs out there, I’ll also be providing links to download all of my source material for the adventure, including a PDF with room/area descriptions, handouts for players, and some gridded maps that can be printed out (ask your print shop to print out at full-size) among other things.
*** SPOILERS BELOW ***
You can read a much more detailed description of last week’s events here, but I’ll summarize it quickly. The players had arrived in Baldur’s Gate a few days early, anticipating hiring on as bodyguards for a cultist caravan soon to arrive. Instead, the players were informed by members of the Order of the Gauntlet that a surprise visitor had arrived in BD–a high-level cultist named Pewna who was carrying a very valuable map. This map supposedly shows the rendezvous point for all cultist caravans in the area. The players were given fast horses, three guards of their own, and sent off in pursuit of Pewna’s caravan that had a one day lead. During the night, the players observed a red glow in the sky that rained down fire. Players suspected a dragon, and a few miles ahead they discovered Pewna’s wagons on fire and a few half-orc (bodyguards) bodies. No signs of the other 10+ caravan members was discovered. A loud bellow was heard deep in the forest, and when the players investigated, they were attacked by shadowy creatures–three unique creature-types were found when the fight was over. When the players searched the bodies, they discovered two odd rectangular objects. The glow was still visible through the trees, and when the players investigated the glow, they discovered a circular “temple” constructed from a silver-metallic material. Part I of the adventure ended there…
Part II began with a slight change in the player roster. This week’s players included:
Jimmy (the Page) – Human Bard
Rolan – Elf Ranger
Edaliu – Gnome Bard
Borax – Dwarf Cleric
Essie – Human Fighter
Chi– Human Fighter
After the final Order of the Gauntlet guard was killed in the forest, Aramel elected to return to Baldur’s Gate to inform the Order that the party had found Pewna’s caravan and bring reinforcements. Meanwhile, Chi had remained in Baldur’s Gate for some personal business that was now concluded–he raced to catch up to his friends and crossed paths with Aramel who gave him an explanation of the night’s events and told him where to find the party. Once Chi joined the group, the adventurers cautiously approached the silvery temple.
Your party cautiously moves towards the glow that can be seen through the trees. A small rise ends with your party discovering a large circular clearing in the forest that appears to be burned and devoid of grass and trees. The mysterious source of the illumination is now known—an immense, circular object sits in the center of the clearing. Silver in color, one of the party whispers “A temple?” The curve of its surface is pleasing to the eye, and it does appear to be something that would be created by skilled artisans. The source of the glow must be magical in nature.
As your eyes adjust to the light it provides, you notice a subtle change in the curved surface. A small bulge is noticeable towards one side of the top surface. It is strange, however, that there are no corners or angles that one would expect from a building. And no doors or windows. Very odd.
Rolan circled the temple, discovering no doors. Only when the party approached the temple (with Jimmy tossing a dead creature against the side of it to see what happened–nothing) did Borax discover that his holding of the strange rectangular object caused a slight green glow on a particular area on the surface of the temple. When he moved the object close to the glow, the silver parted and revealed a lit hallway. (Further tests proved that both objects would open the doorway and after 10 seconds of inactivity, the doorway would close.)
The party entered the hallway, taking note of its construction and unusual lighting.
To the left and right, the curve continues out of sight. Another hallway extends forward, and ahead you can see a large open area. Strange indentations can be seen in the walls in both directions, and the shapes are a mix of sizes but all appear to reflect the shape of the creatures you encountered in the forest.
After circling the outer hallway, the players counted 28 of the alcove-like indentations. Also, three additional doors were found exiting the temple every quarter-turn in the hallway. Three wide hallways were seen that led deeper into the temple–a wide circular column could be seen in the center of the temple. As the players moved down one of the wide hallways, they entered a larger open area in the center of the temple and spotted a vertical seam that ran down four different sections of walls. When one of the rectangular objects was moved towards a seam, a glow would appear on the wall as it did on the outside of the temple.
The players selected one of the seams as a possible doorway and lined up… Chi moved the object over the green glow and part of the wall slid to the left exposing a room… and some very surprised creatures inside.
Central to the room is a large barrel-like object with dozens of metallic weapon-like objects mounted on its surface. Five metallic tables form a half-circle around this barrel object, and on these tables are easily recognized corpses in various states of dissection. Four small creatures work on the various corpses, and one of the creatures looks up at you in surprise. Against the far right wall is a tall humanoid-sized creature with green skin who is holding a strange looking club.
The four small creatures (called Sectoids) were killed, but not before one of them took control of Chi and had him attack Jimmy. The attack failed… twice. Another Sectoid took control of Jimmy who attempted to backstab Rolan. That attack failed as well. At this point, the players were beginning to get a little nervous about these tiny, unassuming creatures. The larger green creature (called a Muton) attacked Essie with his weapon, doing some solid damage with a green blast of plasma fire. After the battle was over, the room was searched… nothing of interest found. The players attempted to talk to Pewna about the map, but Pewna denied any knowledge of a map. The players chose to continue investigating the temple, leaving the fate of the prisoners up in the air for the moment.
Once again, the players approached another seam (doorway) and used their access card. The door opened and this time they surprised three Sectoids and one Muton. No mind control by the Sections was possible this time, and the players quickly killed all four creatures with minimum damage. An examination of the room provided no additional access cards, and the machinery in the room was beyond the players’ comprehension. They left the room and focused their attention on the large column in the center of the temple.
A solid cylinder sits in this middle of this room, its surface the same smooth ivory as the walls except for a single hairline cut that runs vertically from floor to approximately seven feet above the floor. A similar hairline can be see on four different sections of the wall (equally spaced) that surround this cylinder.
The players attempted to use their access card again, but instead of a green glow a red glow was visible. The card wasn’t working here. The players turned to the rear wall which had two doors in it (but no wide hallway splitting it into two smaller rooms). They opened the door with the access card and Borax poked his head in for a quick look.
This room has a large assembly that appears to connect to the rear wall in numerous places. A hum can be felt in the air and from the floor, and a series of pulsing lights can be seen in a number of locations on the assembly. There are two odd-looking areas that consist of a flat vertical surface with strange writing visible. A number of colored stones and circular objects are on display in front of the vertical surfaces.
Sitting in two strange chairs, Borax spotted two snake-like creatures who were unaware of the party. When Borax attempted to move a little further into the room to look around a curved section of the wall, he startled a Muton (armed) who yelled and alerted the two Snakemen.
Jimmy took care of one Snakeman almost instantly with a Dagger Cloud spell that did 6d4 damage. (Not 64, as I thought I’d heard Jimmy tell me… 64 damage! That would have killed BOTH Snakeman.) The players rushed in and quickly did enough damage to one Snakeman that the Dagger Cloud spell finished him off. The Muton fired off a few shots at Chi but they missed. The Muton and Snakeman were killed, with a little damage taken by Borax and Edaliu. A quick search of the creatures discovered another access card, but this one was a little different. The room was searched, but nothing was found other than the glowing machinery that gave off a deep thrumming.
Outside this room, the players used the newly discovered access card and found that the wide column opened up:
A round room is visible. There are no windows and nothing on the walls. This could be a prison or holding cell of some sort.
After much hesitation and testing, the players all entered the small round room. The doors closed and they felt a slight movement beneath their feet. A few seconds later, two different doors opened, revealing empty (but lit) sections of the temple. The players could see two seams, one on the left and another on the right. The players split up, three to the left and three to the right. At the same moment, the players held up an access card to open the two doors…
And only one opened. (Only the special card found on the Snakeman allows access to the next room.)
As the left door opened, three players saw a large robed figure standing over a small circle-shaped table. The creature turned to face them and Essie’s head exploded in pain. The creature threw off the robe, exposing armor and a strange tentacled-head.
Note: I showed the three players who could see this creature the following image–Jimmy rolled a d20… a 14. He proceeded to tell me that he “leaked a little” on the floor. Exactly the response I was hoping to get from my players. This image is from DeviantArt and user Trufanov. It’s effective, isn’t it?
The players were relentless. A few successful shots from bows began to do immediate damage. Essie tossed the special access card to Chi and the other three players rushed through their open door and entered combat. The Ethereal (also known as a Mindflayer) was having no success in doing additional psychic damage to the players… and as it died, it slapped a tentacled hand on the table… a swoosh sound was heard and in one corner of the room a small coffin-shaped object opened. Inside, another Ethereal began to stir…
The players once again wasted no time. Some well-chosen spells and a few face-to-face attacks (with Advantage due to positioning) made quick work of this surprised Mindflayer. As it died, the circle table began to emit some strange lights and a clicking sound was heard… the players were unable to decipher the sound, but Jimmy suggested it was time to leave. As they were leaving the room, however, they spotted a handful of bags and equipment in a nearby alcove. The party grabbed the stuff, rushed out to the column (elevator) and then out of the temple. They continued to run, not looking back… and then they hard the crack of lightning. When they turned, the temple was gone.
If you’re a fan of old school Dungeons & Dragons adventures, you may be having flashbacks of an old Advanced D&D adventure titled “Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.” This is one of my absolute favorite old school modules, and I still have my copy on the shelf that I remember running so many years ago.
Note: For years, I NEVER even noticed that E. Gary Gygax, co-creator of D&D, had his initials embedded in one of the actual maps of this adventure. Yep… EGG is right there if you know where to look! (It’s a true Easter EGG.)
The “Expeditions” module was quite unique for D&D–it mixed a little science fiction with the fantasy element. In the module, the players are asked to investigate a bunch of attacks by strange creatures near the Barrier Peaks. During the adventure, players discover a strange object embedded inside the mountain–a crashed UFO! The adventure had robots, ray guns, and all sorts of strangeness.
While I absolutely LOVE this adventure, I must admit that this is not the actual inspiration for this two-part mini-adventure I created. About a month ago I was replaying one of my favorite computer games from the 90s–X-COM: UFO Defense. I’m a huge fan of this series, and I’ve played its exceptional sequel (X-COM: Terror from the Deep) and the latest (and unbelievably fun) incarnation, X-COM: Enemy Unknown many many times. If you’ve not played any of the X-COM games, you’re really missing out. These are some of the most addictive games I’ve ever played, and even though the graphics for the first two games are 90s-style, the gameplay is still rock solid and fun today. The games combine a mix of turn-based/grid-style play, research trees, and a large story-arc that can be hard to find these days.
I was playing X-COM and then it popped in my head–how cool would it be to pit some D&D players against the aliens of X-COM? Honestly, the adventure almost wrote itself. I started with the most basic of ideas–a flying saucer and alien abductions.
I didn’t use all of the aliens from the X-COM game… just the Sectoids, Mutons, Snakemen, and Ethereals. The icons for the paper minis I created came right out of the game. The Ethereals were always a vague enemy (see the red robes below?), and it wasn’t a big step to convert them over to one of the more terrifying D&D monsters–the Mindflayer. And I took some liberties in creating the alien stats–AC, HP, and special abilities were formed based on the level 4 and 5 characters and their HP and stats. In hindsight, I think I should have toughened up the aliens a bit, especially their AC. They players still took some damage from these guys, and the Sectoid’s Mind Control ability should have entered into the game much sooner (in the forest versus inside the saucer).
I didn’t want to introduce alien weaponry to Adventurers League, so all the alien weapons were inoperable by humans. But that didn’t stop my players! They went so far as to chop off the hand of a Muton and tried to use it to fire the weapon. It didn’t work–a live alien is required for the weapon to work. Sorry, players!
I had to make some on-the-fly decisions, too… there were to be two additional Snakeman to fight just outside the Control Room, but I was having to watch the clock and didn’t want to go late (or spread the conclusion over to next week), so they disappeared and the players went immediately into combat with the two Mindflayers. Again, in hindsight, I should have added a third Mindflayer (awake) and played them a bit more aggressively. (Once again, I used Evernote to track the various rooms and the stats for the creatures.)
Still… my players said they had a blast. And that’s all that matters. I always give my players a take-home item as a memento after an adventure, and this two-parter’s memento was a an Access Card complete with green alien blood. (Take one one card, lean it against a box, spray some neon green about half an inch above the top of the card until it starts to run and then laminate the results. Boom. I’ll include the access card PDF in the URL downloads if you want to print your own.)
If you’d like to run this adventure, below you’ll find links to download a number of items I used in the adventure, including the floor plans of the saucer’s two levels.
Note: For recreating the minifig sheets I used, the icons for all three X-COM aliens can easily be found online in numerous locations. For personal use, of course.
If you run the adventure, I’d love to hear some feedback from DMs and players. Mixing science fiction with D&D isn’t something you want to do often… even rarely. This is something you can maybe get away with once or twice with your gaming group… any more and I think the surprise factor goes away.
Finally, next week begins the first of a three-part mini-adventure before Season 2 of Adventurers League begins with its new “Elemental Evil” storyline. I’ve got something special planned for my players… nothing as crazy as this UFO adventure, but something I definitely hope they’ll enjoy as players of the grandaddy of all fantasy RPGs. Stay tuned…