- The adventurers, seeking to relieve the stronghold of a priceless piece of art, break into the Hold Lord’s private study. Inside they find something quite unexpected.
- The adventurers are engaged in stealing a priceless piece of art from the local dwarven stronghold. Perhaps they were hired by someone with truly nefarious intentions, or perhaps they were hired by the rightful owner of the artwork. This will likely depend upon the makeup of the party.
Gaining access to the stronghold is, oddly enough, fairly simple. Tonight is the Night of the Thirsty Axe, a great dwarven festival. The Hold Lord has opened the doors to all-comers, so that all may give praise (and alms) in honor of the memory of great dwarven warriors. The drink-stores have been opened and fermented beverages of all kinds are flowing like water.
There is only one door to the Hold Lord’s study, although the adventurers may find a secret door leading to a winding passage ascending one of the towers. The door is stout iron and is locked (DC 35 open lock). When the lock is opened, the door will swing inward under its own weight. The room is in total darkness.
- Within the room, unbeknownst to either the adventurers or any one else in the stronghold, is a creature colloquially known as a “floating eye.” The creature is hovering in the air behind the Hold Lord’s desk in the far corner of the room. Coincidentally he is immediately in front of the secret door, although he is as yet unaware of the hidden exit. The creature is a sphere roughly 8' in diameter. His body is dominated by a large central eye and an enormous tooth-filled mouth; atop his head is a crown of smaller eyestalks. These creatures are not common to the region and are seldom seen. It is possible that the adventurers have no idea about this creature or the things of which it is capable. Each of its eyes has a different magical ray that emanates from it. They are evil and cunning, as well as incredibly anti-social and ruthless. They believe that they are the pinnacle of evolutionary success and all other beings are far beneath their notice or concern.
From the time the adventurers open the door, they are in his gaze. More importantly, they are within the range of his anti-magic eye. It is possible that they will not notice the loss of their magic, unless one or more of them have an active magical effect which would be obvious in its absence. The anti-magic zone means that they adventurers will be unable to utilize any magical means to light the room. Purely physical means of illumination are required.
This particular floating eye is named Kanillin and he is unusual for his kind. While most floating eyes are evil in nature, he is strangely neutral in his views. He is a scholar and an art lover. He is sufficiently enlightened to have an open-minded view about other races. He would rather not fight unless necessary as he feels no compunction to do away with so-called lesser races as his brethren do. He is an outcast from his race and has a great antipathy for others of his kind. Usually he is quite friendly and sociable, something which is disturbing to experience for those familiar with the race.
However, he is not happy at being interrupted at his work. He is here to remove the same art object from the stronghold as the adventurers are seeking. He will defend himself if he is attacked and will not pull his punches. However, he will try to engage the adventurers in a conversation first in order to learn their intentions. If he discovers their mission, he will attempt to learn who their patron is; after all, he is very interested in any potential rivals.
Ultimately he may be open to turning over the priceless piece of art, particularly if he feels no danger from the adventurers’ patron. He will potentially be happy just to see the art out of the dwarves’ hands and somewhere it will be truly appreciated. If he is able to have access to the artwork himself, then so much the better. The adventurers would be best served to try and parley with him first, using talk and diplomacy rather than their swords. First, they are likely outmatched by the floating eye. Second, the noise of any battle with the floating eye is liable to wrest dwarves from the festival to search out the source of the disruption. Third, with any fighting there is always a chance that the artwork will be damaged and the adventurers will lose their commission (although this may be the least of their concerns). If the adventurers are successful in negotiating with Kanillin, or at least are able to separate amicably from him, they stand to gain an interesting and unusual ally.
Furthermore, if the adventurers are able to take possession of the artwork, they must then decide whether they return to their patron with it or whether they attempt to sell it elsewhere and keep all of the profits. These are only two of the myriad of options the normal player is likely to propose. This leads to a host of idea-, adventure-, and campaign hooks.
Once they have actually seen Kanillin in the flesh, the DM should roll for an occasional wandering stronghold inhabitant. Every 1d6+1 rounds after actually seeing Kanillin, there is a 1-in-6 chance that one of the following dwarves happens by the study:
- Hold Lord
If the adventurers did not have enough foresight to close the door, the passing dwarf will raise the alarm and then attack. There is a 75% chance that any such attack will focus on the floating eye.
- Floating Eye: I’m pretty sure that there’s somewhere out there to find stats for such a creature. I just cannot imagine where to look.
This is the twenty-fourth of 26 adventures that I will be sharing over the month of September. They are designed for use with edition 3.5 of the world’s most popular fantasy RPG, although they can be easily dropped into any fantasy setting (or modern/sci-fi setting with a little work). These posts are a part of Asshat Paladin’s OSR Short Adventure Challenge , and utilize his Get Ready, Get Set, Go! Format.