This adventure has players start in a once-quiet mountain village, proceed through the wilderness, and arrive at a ruined temple where the adventure concludes. The full adventure can be completed quickly with only one or two scenarios, or it could readily be stretched out into a long, multi-session adventure spanning many more run in sequence. As such, it's very flexible, able to suit whatever needs you have.
The adventure proceeds through three sections, each of which contain a set of potential scenarios. You can give the players full freedom to choose their approach, selecting the proper scenario. If you want to provide the players with a sampling of each scenario type, close off some options as they proceed to guide them away from scenario types they've already run.
You can also skip some sections of the adventure. The middle section can be entirely avoided; you may want to do this if the players struggle with the first section, requiring multiple scenario attempts to get through, or if you're wanting a faster adventure.
You could also stretch out the adventure by running multiple scenarios per section. This is especially true in the third and final section; running all three provided scenarios (as well as the puzzle) is a great way to have a longer adventure with a real dungeon quality to the conclusion.
The text will guide you through your options at each point, so you don't necessarily need to decide ahead of time.
NOTE: This adventure is based on the original playtest adventure run at early convention appearances. The initial version was short and on-rails to test basic mechanics. In 2019 it was updated to be more true to the spirit of a Triptycho adventure and returned to the convention circuit.
Life in the village of Whisperwind had been simple and peaceful for as long as its residents could remember. That came to an end when hunters discovered crumbling ancient ruins deep in the nearby wood, long hidden among the cliffs of Mt. Kolopa. The hunters brought back a strange artifact they found buried within the ruins - a small statue of a grinning monkey, intricately carved from precious gems.
The village held a celebration for the event, as selling this statue was going to bring in plenty of wealth for everyone in Whisperwind. Things began to turn dark at that very celebration. Some began arguing that the village should keep the artifact. When the topic of who might lay claim to the statue was brought up, the arguments turned into literal fights. Friends attacked friends, and when it was all over, a villager lay dead.
Ill fortune continued for the people of the village. Goats and cows began to fall ill. Couples bickered and shouted, and children grew wild. Meanwhile the monkey statue set under guard within the village's gathering hall. And then one night the statue's guards began to fight over it, eventually slaying each other.
Suspicious of the statue and not yet given over to its curse, the village elder summons a group of adventurers to return the statue to the ruins. However, the cursed icon will not go quietly back into its slumber…
Read the following out loud:
Having summoned you to Whisperwind, the village elder finishes her tale. She spoke of a statue found recently in nearby ruins, of misfortune that began to befall the village, of a rise in anger and malice, and of the three villagers who have already been slain from violence. She presents you with said statue – a grinning monkey, intricately carved from rare dragonstone and covered in precious gems. She also gives you a map to the ruins in which the statue was found.
Before you can leave or even ask any questions, however, you hear a commotion outside. Peering through a window, you see a group of villagers gathering nearby, holding torches, pitchforks, and other crude arms. The elder sighs and turns to you.
“It's the statue's curse; it must be. I feel it, too; some part of me wants to join them, to keep you from returning the terrible thing. Please, try not to hurt them. They don't know what they're doing.”
The PCs are in the elder's house near the center of the village; PCs arrived here in midday after a morning's travel. The locals are gathering out front and can be easily addressed with words or weapons by taking the door. If the PCs want to try stealth, there's a window on the back of the house they can use to try to sneak through the village.
Regardless of their approach, the PCs are successful and may move forward. If the PCs didn't run an exploration scenario, you might reward them with a Valuable or two (in place of the ones that could be found in exploration); however, this isn't necessary if you'll be guiding them into exploration later.
Continue to To The Ruins.
Losing one scenario might easily result in another. For instance, if the PCs were caught while sneaking or fleeing, they may try to plead (interaction). If talking fails, perhaps they try fighting their way out of it (combat). Choose from the remaining scenarios appropriately, but make the starting circumstances a bit more difficult in some manner. If the PCs fail again, they eventually get away, bloodied and with a few broken bits; each suffers 1 Injury.
Continue to To The Ruins.
You may want to avoid scenarios here, either because the players already ran 2 in the previous section or because you want a shorter adventure. If that's the case, read the following, then continue to The Ancient Ruins:
You've made it into the woods beyond the village. Taking a moment to consult the map, you're able to get your bearings fairly easily and proceed toward the marked location of the ruins. The going is a little rough due to the rugged terrain and nearby mountains, but it's nothing you can't handle.
On the other hand, if you want to make the journey more interesting and involved, read the following:
You've made it into the woods beyond the village. Taking a moment to consult the map, you're able to get your bearings fairly easily and proceed toward the marked location of the ruins. The going is a little rough due to the rugged terrain and nearby mountains, but it's nothing you can't handle – at least until you come to the bridge. Or what used to be the bridge. A rope bridge once crossed the chasm before you, but now there are only remnants. A discarded hatchet nearby suggests sabotage. Perhaps the statue influenced one of the villagers to help ensure it isn't returned. This would also explain why the hatchet was carelessly left behind. Consulting the map and the limited view of the geography you can gather from here, you figure out a couple possible alternate routes you could take. You could take a detour along the rocky mountainside to the west; you wouldn't have to do much climbing, but a mark on the map warns of a clan of Nibelung that live in caves near that route. Or, you could head east where the forest is thickest, running the risk of getting lost but avoiding any potential conflict with nyblings.
The hatchet is of no particular use, being a simple tool in poor condition. A PC is welcome to take it and try to use it, but it will break fairly quickly.
The PCs must now decide whether to take the mountain trail or try the woods. There are no alternatives within a reasonable timeframe.
If the PCs decide to go east, you could present them with a choice. They could take an animal trail through the woods, which looks recently used by wildlife; this leads to the combat scenario Forest Critters. Or, they could try pioneering the thickets and streams; this leads to the exploration scenario Navigating the Forest.
If you want to keep things different through the adventure, you can eliminate the option and just run the scenario. For instance, if the players fought the villagers, you may want to select the exploration scenario here for the sake of diversity of play. It's up to you!
If the players run combat but fail, they flee through the woods, each suffering an Injury.
Continue to The Ancient Ruins.
If the PCs decide to go west, read the following:
The woods gradually fade as the path narrows and becomes more rocky. You hear noises from the cliffs above you as small inhuman creatures emerge, chittering gleefully at you. More appear on the trail on both sides of you, emerging from hiding places. They approach slowly, evaluating their prey and searching for fear on your faces to savor.
The Nibelung have ambushed the players. You could give the PCs a choice to talk or fight, or you could just have the nyblings attack (if the players just ran interaction with the villagers or you're otherwise uninterested in running the scene).
It's not recommended to try to force the players into interaction with the Nibelung. PCs can just attack whenever they want, so if that's their preferred approach, there will be no interaction.
If the PCs fail interaction, you might then run the combat scenario but with an Initiative bonus for the nyblings (or even an extra mook or two that has arrived during “discussions”). Or, you could just have the PCs run.
If the PCs run, either because they failed one or both scenarios or they decided to avoid both of them, each PC suffers an Injury as they get away.
If the PCs win a scenario, they may discover a Valuable or two dropped by fleeing or dead Nibelung.
Continue to The Ancient Ruins.
At last you're able to find the entrance to the ruins. You squeeze through a narrow rocky passage at the base of Mt. Kolopa, beetles scurrying away from you as you proceed. Golden light from the setting sun cascades on the ancient stone structure that is revealed before you. Two partially-crumbled statues of giant warriors stand guard before the entrance arch, holding massive stone claymores that cross each other above.
The PCs might poke around, ask questions, etc. If they investigate the statues, read:
At first glance the warriors looked strong and powerful, but looking closer, you can see skeletal faces and carefully-carved ribcages even though their figures aren't especially gaunt. That's a tell-tale sign; these ruins are an ancient temple to the Marrow of Animus, god of war, strife, and individuality.
Once they proceed into the temple, read:
Moss and vines crawl through the temple; while it was once a typical closed structure, there are now large holes in the roof throughout, allowing light and water into the building. Small pools form in places where the floor has collapsed; nature is gradually retaking this temple for itself.
Choose between the sections below. Go to Quick Resolution if you want no further scenarios, Choosing a Scenario if you want to select one scenario, or A Complete Dungeon to run everything.
If the adventure has gone on long enough, you can skip any further events and proceed on to The Cursed Chamber. This is also appropriate if you'd rather run just the puzzle to end the adventure, skipping any further scenarios.
If you want to conclude this adventure with a certain type of scenario, choose from the options below. You may also wish to run A Reprieve since these scenarios are of higher difficulty, especially if your players have struggled a bit thus far.
If the PCs survive, proceed to The Cursed Chamber.
This approach runs all three scenarios, mixing in the Reprieve at an appropriate point. You're welcome to shuffle around the order if you wish.
First, run combat with Bones and Spiders as the PCs encounter the statue's first line of defense. Once the players vanquish those foes (or flee with an Injury each), they make it deeper into the temple; run the exploration scenario The Ancient Temple to flesh out the ruined temple's inner passages.
If the PCs get this far without dying, go to A Reprieve, below. Then, return here and proceed to the final battle: Demon of Strife, where the demon inside the statue finally reveals itself, using magical temptations to directly thwart the PCs.
After this gauntlet, surviving PCs proceed to The Cursed Chamber.
If you decide to run one or more of the remaining scenarios, be warned that they're higher in difficulty. Players may be in need of a boost to make it through, especially if you intend to run multiple of them. In this case, read the following:
From here, there are three hallways on the north that you could take to continue. Above the hall to your left, you see carvings that seem to depict the receipt of a holy blessing. Above the central hall, further carvings depict healing and restoration. Above the hall to your right, the final carvings show the discovery of wonders. Between them sits a partially-crumbled altar.
The PCs should stick together and choose one path. The PCs may pray at the altar before proceeding. The left hall awards 1 Karma to each PC who prayed, while the central hall recovers any Injuries and Diseases for each PC who prayed. The right hall awards 1 Valuable to each PC who prayed. PCs with the Priest, Occultist, Shaman, or Pilgrim Role, or the Faith Seeker or Religious Ascetic Background, recognize the potential for such a blessing here (and the need for prayer).
This section consists of an optional puzzle that the players must solve to re-seal the statue. If you want to skip the puzzle, read the following, then continue to Epilogue:
At last, you reach The Cursed Chamber where the statue had been sealed. An empty pedestal awaits in the middle of the room, surrounded by various powerful magical inscriptions. Ancient carvings give you the instructions you need to restart them; you return the statue, complete the ritual, and restore the seal. The resulting surge of magic is too much for this ancient place. The structure shudders around you and begins to collapse. You bolt the way you came, fleeing just in time as the temple falls, burying its accursed object in piles of stone, hopefully for all time.
To run the puzzle, instead read:
At last, you reach The Cursed Chamber where the statue had been sealed. An empty pedestal awaits in the middle of the room, surrounded by various powerful magical inscriptions. The statue clearly goes on the pedestal, but what activates the seals? The pedestal itself has some sort of raised bit perfectly encircling the center, which has a small holding device within. Against one wall of the room is a collection of magical gems embedded into a carefully-arranged geometric pattern, although the one in the center looks a bit out of place. A series of carved channels connect the gem structure to the pedestal, running down the wall and across the floor. In the middle of all of that is a small stone wedge that seems to cut the conduits approximately in half.
The PCs must get magic to flow from the Source, through the Conduit, to the Pedestal, while the statue is on the Pedestal. Each activity must be performed in the proper sequence:
Once the PCs solve the puzzle and activate the seals, read:
At last, you manage to complete the ritual and restore the seals. The resulting surge of magic is too much for this ancient place. The structure shudders around you and begins to collapse. You bolt the way you came, fleeing just in time as the temple falls, burying its accursed object in piles of stone, hopefully for all time.
Continue to Epilogue.
Wanting nothing more to do with this place or its curse, you quickly hasten back to Whisperwind. Morning dawns, and the villagers come to, free from the artifact's prodding for the first time in weeks. A new celebration begins, this one honoring your valiant efforts and the end of the curse. You're rewarded not only with the promised coin from the Elder, but also with praise, song, and feast. Word of your success is sure to spread; many more adventures certainly await you in the days to come.
Each PC should gain 1 Wealth and 1 Karma as a final reward. If you ran a longer version of the adventure, consider additional rewards, including Treasure and Assets.