Isle of the Storm Giants

In my campaign some of the characters/players have been obsessed with the idea of claiming a floating island as their own and building a magnificent stronghold there. Well they have caught hold of a rumor that one exists but is currently inhabited by giants. They have decided that they will crush said giants and take what ‘should’ belong to them. Part of me thinks that they don’t quite understand what they are getting into!


By Frank Tedeschi (

Adventure Synopsis:

There is a stronghold carved into the peak of a mountain on a floating isle, caught in an unending storm. This airy mountain castle was forged by storm giants lead by the titan Crakshar. His undying loyalty to the primordial Saeta-The Devoured, has brought him to this place because here he plans to finally unbind his former primordial master. In this floating isle the material between the planes is weak, allowing Crakshar to open a transient portal to the Elemental Chaos. The divine bonds that hold Saeta are nigh unbreakable, and only can be undone by great unholy power. That is why Crakshar has enslaved Cultists of Orcus to summon the Prince of Undeath himself and persuade him- by any means – to use the mighty Wand of Orcus to free his master.

The adventurers must make their way through the Sunken Pass, parlay with an unusual village of Orc and Goblin Monks, devise a way onto to the floating isle, and stop Crakshar before he frees a being of such catastrophic destruction and power, even the gods couldn’t kill him.


Mt. Evensil lies just beyond what is known at the Sunken Pass, a shortcut passageway through two mountains known as the Sentinel Peaks. The Sunken Pass is named for the large war galleon which is shipwrecked between the peaks a hundred miles from the nearest body of water. The path to Mt. Evensil lies through the heart of this cryptic ship whose origin has passed into myth.

Beyond the ship marks the base of Mt. Evensil, a 1000 foot sheer cliff. At the base of the cliff dwells a small village of huts and caves belonging to a mountain cult. The cult is an eccentric bunch of isolated men led by a tribunal of spiritual half-orcs which worship those found within the deep belly of the sunken galleon.

The floating isle itself was created during a devastating event at the end of the Teifling Empire, which led to the peak of Mt. Evensil breaking away from the rest of the mountain leaving a deep valley behind. A furious broil of thunder and lightning enveloped the isle which eventually drew Crakshar and the storm giants to claim it as their own. However Crakshar is not working alone he has enlisted the aid of a living glacier, who was once part of the holy glacial lattice which has imprisoned Saeta. Together they have begun to strengthen their numbers with both storm and frost giants.

The storm giants built many of the peripheral rooms open to the elements and storm outside. The red lines denote the absence of wall (and presence of cliff-like mountainside). The two circular rooms are slowly turning in the indicated directions.

A-Armory and merchant B-General storage C-Dining Hall  D-Kitchen E-Barracks F– Interrogation room G-Dungeon H-Cultist study/preparation room I-Summoning room for Orcus J-Throne/audience room K-Crakshar’s chamber L-Room of the stormstone golem whose magic keeps the isle afloat M-Large amphitheater like room, channel in center of room is used for entry/exit of the castle. This room is also used for grand storm rituals if they are to ride the wind into battle. N– Portal to Elemental Chaos and Saetia P-Tower of the Elder Elemental Eye

Due to the storm and seepage from the elemental chaos all rooms open to the outside are subject to random weather. Roll 1d10:

1.       lightning storm. Hazard rolls initiative. Every round on its turn each creature in area rolls a d20 any natural ones are stuck 3d10 +5

2.       Unusually fierce wind and snow. Movement at half speed -5 to ranged attacks.

3.       Driving rain. Sight is halved. -2 to atk rolls for obscured vision

4.       Ice. Half speed. Or acrobatics for full speed DC=16. Failure=prone slide three squares

5.       Fog. -5 perception checks. 6 squares away have partial concealment. Rogues have automatic combat advantage in this area and a +2 bonus to steath checks.

6.       Raging Wind hazard (the plane below 4e supplement)

7.       Very pleasant indeed.

8.       Overcast and quite chilly.

9.       Fist sized hail. Hazard rolls initiative. Attacks everyone on turn. +12 vs Reflex: 10 damage.

10.   Acid rain. Melee weapons deal 7 additional acid damage on hit. All armor wearers (except cloth) is at -1 AC

This is still a work in progress, one of which I hope will include many interesting encounters, side quests and unbelievable dangers. Once finished I hope to compile this adventure into a pdf module complete with some nice maps, monster stat blocks, and plenty of random generation table fun. I hope you guys enjoy this preview and check back later for the completed work!

Soon I will be making a post about the first two sections of this adventure: Coming to the village of New Village home to the strange Orc and Goblin Monks and the exploration of a crashed airship.

Every RPG should start like this:

This is pretty much how I felt when I read the DMG for the first time. I didn’t realize so much as the then, but it became quickly apparent that players that evolve into DMs have essentially become game designers. They fiddle, they change, they make up, delete, add to the rules and play of the game.

Designers who write books, should remember this feeling when they publish games. These are the things that happen at the table or behind the screen that sometimes are forgotten when sitting behind the desk.

REVIEW: Tomb of Horrors. By Gary Gygax

1. What kind of adventure is it? (Location based? Dungeon? Town? Etc.)

This is a thinking man’s meat grinder style dungeon crawl in a trap infested tomb of a legendary demi-lich.

2. How long is it?

It is fairly long, took me roughly 5 (maybe 6), 4.5hr sessions to get through the entire dungeon. This includes additional roleplaying, dream sequences, random monsters I dropped in for my pleasure, and a unique “Dungeon Collapse” game sequence I created where the players had to flee the dungeon before they were irreparably crushed by the crumbling tomb.

3. Were there any particularly noteworthy things in it? (Monsters, traps, plot ideas, mechanics, etc.)

This is mother of all Death-Trap Dungeons. The Tomb of Horrors was created by the evil Demi-Lich Acererak not as a tomb or stronghold, but literally to entice heroes to overcome the obstacles within and attain great treasure, so that when they die, their soul is siphoned into the magical aura of the tomb strengthening Acererak and his eventual ascension to Godhood. If this sounds rather brutal, it’s because it is. Everything is a trap, or misleading, or dangerous in one way or another. Thus making it a delight to run.

Of particular note is the elemental vortex trap. Players here sounds of many people, laughing talking and playing music down a corridor, just beyond a door. When the door is opened they see a long hallway and the sound of people running away. Once they move into the hall, BAM, the floor drops down on the far end creating an intense slope, culminating in an elemental vortex attempting to suck them in and destroy them.

The caveat to this trap is that it is not THAT hard to escape from, however, if a player takes lots of damage and gets sucked into the elemental vent, and then dies. HE IS WHOLLY CONSUMED. Body, armor, weapon, and soul, nothing is recovered from his death. This makes it exceedingly difficult to Raise Dead since it requires a piece of the body. Yes dangerous indeed.

There are too many interesting traps and monsters to go through but most of them were enjoyable such as the many pillared hall, and room with three vats.

4. What sort of vibe is going on in it? (Creepy? Gonzo? Sword and sorcery? Chivalry? etc.)

This whole dungeon is a creepy sorcery feel to it. Once they enter and set off a few traps and realize just what kind of sadistic and deadly dungeon they are dealing with, the mood changes accordingly.

5. Would you run it? Why or why not?

Absolutely. This is the dungeon that I wish someone had run for me. There are puzzles galore and lots of fun and interesting details that went into making it. (Thanks Gary). However, it must be run correctly for the right group. If you have a hack and slash party, which just wants encounters every session, you should think twice about this dungeon. I sprinkled in a few extra minor encounters just for that reason, since there can be considerable time before monster based combat.

6. Does it resemble anything we might’ve seen before?

This is the original Deadly Dungeon, however I am sure there are other similar deathtraps out there. The neat part about this is that was written by Gary Gygax himself, and his a unique flavor to the text as well as the art. I will say though that death comes easily in this dungeon but not unwarranted. There are no instant death, no save, for no reason, traps herein. Things that cause severe injury usually are triggered by something a character does specifically. Like touch the altar, walk through the portal, pull the lever, etc. I fine balance of caution and bold action will create a memorable and dangerous game the likes of which are hard to top.

Floating Isle of the Storm Giants

In my previous post I had talked about writing a complete adventure module, well, the good news is I’ve made excellent progress. Here is a rough map of the storm giants lair carved inside of a mountain, on top of a floating isle, in the midst of a storm. I have more details of the adventure and surrounding areas however I’m still putting some finishing touches on them. Consider this just a small teaser of more to come.

Just their lair.

Map Fu

Inspired by Chris Perkins article about Map Fu I wanted to share a bit of map drawing skill. Here is a rope bridge spanning two cliffs with a large dead tree residing at the edge of one side.

The main tip I have here is patience. Seriously this took a little time, but its nice yes? A tip for the wood is to use a light shading on the edges at certain points to give depth. Also, be sure to include knots and grain. Any how the pictures speak for themselves for what to do.

Puzzle Cube: The Runes of the Shadow Chain Dwarves

If it were up to me all games would have some type of puzzles to them. The more interesting, complex, reliance on observation and association the better. This is why I pounded my players with my most devilish device yet.

Background/History: A subset of the Glintshield Clan known as the Shadow Chain Dwarves hold the secrets of the Glintshield clan and of their home Stonefang Pass. In the underbelly of the Pass there is a secret passage which opens to a large cavern. Here the heroes found orcs which had snuck in and hunted down the Shadow Chain dwarves. At their camp there was a small chest inside contained a number of stone blocks inlaid with Dwarvish Runes.

At the end of the cavern there stood a large 16 paneled door. No locks no handle of any kind just just panels.Four of the panels have pictures engraved in them the others are all blank.  Above the door was an encrypted inscription which once decoded read: First to the Two, Then Input the Three. 

The Details: The door is a small puzzle which then opens the ‘key’ hole which happens to be the shape of a cube.

Here is what is important about the cube. The players must assemble it from the blocks in the precise orientation in order to activate its inherent magic which will open the door. This is the fun part. See picture below for reference:

Made from various size wooden blocks and a permenant paint marker.

Note there are 2 inch cubes, 1 inch cubes , and (in the top right hand corner) even 0.5 inch cubes. Getting sizes that fit to from the correct shape of the object is important otherwise you’ll end up with all the wrong proportions. I had 6 2″ blocks, 7  1″ blocks and 8 0.5″  blocks to make up a single 4″x4″ cube.

On the cubes are written dwarven runes. You can search google to find the specific rune set you wish to use or make up your own. A couple of the PCs spoke dwarven so once they had the cube pieces they immediately set out translating each individual letter. A good idea. You can fit sixteen runes on one face of the cube. To have things make logical sense I wrote a short phrase that I wrote out starting on one face and moving down the cube like it was scrolling down until it filled up the four faces on the vertical plane, leaving the two sides blank. It took a few moments thought to come up with something which fit precisely the number of letters I needed AND made sense with the story but it was manageable. For the two outside faces of the cube I decided to use just two repeating words to make it just a smidge easier.  Thus the long phrase read in dwarven runes:

“From Below From the Earth, Father of Salt and Stone, Upon a Molten Throne, Beware”

with the sides reading: “Bind Pray, Bind Pray”

In the context of the story it worked out as it was referencing the ancient Earth Titan bound within the mountain kept there by they efforts of dwarves who worshiped Moradin and Torog.

Once the players have translated all the cubes and placed then in the correct orientation, the cube snaps together and the runes glow a dim silver. The players will be able to read the message of warning and begin to wonder what they have gotten themselves into. The cubes magic is easily percieved, but what to do with it?

As I said before the Cube is a key to a 16 paneled door. Which of course contains a riddle and a puzzle. That will be my next post.


After a lengthy travel down a dark corridor beneath the mighty mountains our adventures finally made it to the gate house where a massive stone slab has dropped over the pass barring the way through. Curious to find a way to move the stone they begin to search the gatehouse. They come to a hallway with arrowslits. D20 steps out, nothing happens. He walks down the hall. Nothing. Seems to be safe. when he reaches the end and rounds the corner he sees three cobra made completely out of iron, and they spot him in return, advancing immediately. The rest of he party learning of the danger take off down the hall to join the upcoming fight..when arrows fly from the slits, narrowly missing some and pinning little tink to the wall by her hand. she frees herself and tries to climb the wall, and falls, sending another volley of arrows towards her. Fed up she runs flat out, dodging the rest of the arrows and joining the fray. Without too much trouble they are able to overcome the iron cobras. that is when they find a body slumped in the corner, wounded but alive they find a goliath barbarian, strange in a dwarven passage but not unheard of. They heal him, introductions abound and he joins the party for his own protection. they make their way into the gatehouse where they lay waste to some arrow turrets and enchanted dwarven guardians. In the room they find a HUGE lever, looking suitable for a giant to pull. They try their hardest to make the thing budge but arent successful. They search the room for other options..

Through a massive door, into an ajoining room they find a 15 foot tall dwarf shaped construct with dwarvish runes enlaid in its armor. after a comprehend language ritual has been used the druid finally understands, they are instructions for a ritual to activate the giant dwarf. When he does so the thing comes alive and follows every command of Harvey, which of course is to pull the large lever in the next room. Much to their relief he does so with ease. Ppssssssssssssskurk. The lever slams down and they are met with a rumble and grinding of stone on stone. The slab must have been lifted! However, their celebration is short lived, because they also begin to hear the war cries over several orcs drawing nearer.

Sure enough a band of Severed Eye Orcs come through the passage to attack the adventurers. Their leader, wearing a blackend bear mask, calls out too Grundle the new barbarian, telling him that now he will finish what he started. They fight. They die. and on his body they find a facinating magical object, a big stone with five little finger like stones around it. Unusual, but powerfully magical. regardless they finally make their way under the stone slab and continue down the pass.

It is not too long when they spy an odd angular shape jutting from the smooth stone wall. When they move to it they find a dwarf corpse propping open what appears to be a secret door. Curious indeed.

Dead dwarves. Many of them scatter the antechamber. Their bodies appear to have been looted thoroughly. Thats when they hear voices coming from the next room.. orc voices. With a bit of stealth from the rogue they are able to discern that they are arguing about how to split the loot and talking in hushed voices.. as if they don’t want others to hear. The adventures decide to surprise attack the brutes and attempt to slay them before they can raise the alarm. It doesn’t go quite as planned. In the rush of excitement the Orcs become wise to their plan and two take off running down the stairs as one stays to fight. However, two are outright killed before they move from their places and the third makes it halfway down the first set of stairs before greeting death and tumbling down a few flights of stairs.

Undecided on how to proceed half the party takes off in full flight to confront any would-be attackers while the others.. just take their time and calmly make their way down the twisting staircase, taking in the artful craftsmanship of the mural chiseled into the stone. Great battles between dwarves and giants were shown, the uprising of the dwarven slaves and the reocurring appearance of one particularly large and nasty giant with grey skin. The scences showed this giant eventually being overcome by the dwarves after they cut off his hand, cut out his heart, his eye and a rib, and only then did he fall. A glorious if not someone sad tale.

The next chamber gave way to partially natural caverns where they met a fair sized group of severed eye orcs and even a cave troll! After Flik tried his best to catch the orcs of guard by maintaining an orcish appearance, the party soon fell to all out combat. The large center portion of the room held a great pit in the center with two different altars to what may be two different gods. After a brief brush with death the party soon overcame their assailants despite the Earthquake reeking havoc on the cavern. Exhausted from many battles they decided to take a rest back up the stairs and barricade the door.

Their little dwarven girl friend on the sending stone will have to wait out the night, along with any surviving dwarves in the pass. What terrors does the night hold for our adventurers? I suppose we’ll see next time.