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INTRODUCTION

UNDER A FELL BLACK SKY is a rollicking high action adventure set on a chaotic field of battle between a civilized army and hordes of undead. Designed to be played in a single sitting, the player characters must quickly orient themselves, traverse a muddy plain, climb a tower, deal with a quartet of questionable NPCs, save the day, and then battle to survive against a near overpowering foe.

The adventure is balanced for four 5th level characters, who will need to work well together to survive and succeed.

This module should give you and your players a straightforward evening of intense rapid fire adventure. The start of the adventure has been deliberately designed so that players need have no background knowledge of their characters, no reason to have come together, and no complicated motivation for past actions. Since the very first thing that happens is an amnesia inducing impact, feel free to play this with throw away characters or to use it to begin a long campaign. The adventure might even be run as a prequel to a long running campaign, the events occuring as part of a common wartime history that the characters might share in common.

PREPARATION

Before you begin:

PART ONE: INCOMING!

Once you're sure everything is ready to go, and when the players least expect it, begin with a bang!

Start ''Impact'' Mood

Everyone will hear a desperate cry of ''INCOMING!'', followed by an enormous earth shattering (literally) crash.

As the ringing in the ears sound fills your player's ears, describe how a massive boulder - the size of a large carriage - has crashed heavily into the ground near the characters, throwing them into the mud. Their armor and faces are covered with the black sticky clay: a mix of fine slippery dust, dark red blood and gray undead body parts.

Reveal an earth elemental mini (or token) on the map in the center of the dark red impact zone and make every minature prone. Everyone has been blasted to the ground so that they are all lying in angles facing away from the huge projectile.

The characters have suffered complete amnesia, caused by the pressure from the impacting boulder. They have no idea who they are, who the other characters are, or why they are even here.

Ask the players to roll for initiative and let them act in turn. They may still act ideally for their character class, by vague instinct or reflex, but make sure you also reward players who decide to act non-optimally for the fun of it or for the benefit of the story. Depending on what the players say their characters are doing, give them the information below.

At this point, stand up half of the Blue Coats and continue.


Start ''Stop the ringing'' Mood

At this point pour at least two dozen undead minis in a big pile in the middle of the battle map (or suddenly reveal them on the digital battle map), some of them can be quite close to the wedge formation of Blue Coats, and many cover the rest of the field. Also add four bigger looking skeletons to represent the skeletal champions.

Trigger ''Elf commander'' OneShot

Combat

ENEMIES

  • 24 Human Skeletons
  • 4 Skeletal Champions

ALLIES

  • 12 Blue Coats
  • Knight

Skeleton

Medium Undead, Lawful Evil


Armor Class 13 (armor scraps)

Hit Points 13 (2d8 + 4)

Speed 30 ft.


STR

10 (+0)

DEX

14 (+2)

CON

15 (+2)

INT

6 (-2)

WIS

8 (-1)

CHA

5 (-3)


Damage Vulnerabilities Bludgeoning

Damage Immunities Poison

Condition Immunities Exhaustion, Poisoned

Senses Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 9

Languages Understands all languages it knew in life but can't speak

Challenge 1/4 (50 XP) Proficiency Bonus +2


Actions

Shortsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage.

Shortbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, range 80/320 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage.

Greater Skeleton

Medium Undead, Lawful Evil


Armor Class 16 (Scale mail)

Hit Points 26 (4d8 + 8)

Speed 30 ft.


STR

11 (+0)

DEX

18 (+4)

CON

15 (+2)

INT

9 (-1)

WIS

8 (-1)

CHA

6 (-2)


Damage Vulnerabilities Bludgeoning

Damage Immunities Poison

Condition Immunities Exhaustion, Poisoned

Senses Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 9

Languages all languages it knew in life

Challenge 1 (200 XP) Proficiency Bonus +2


Actions

Multiattack. The skeleton makes two shortsword or shortbow attacks.

Shortsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) piercing damage.

Shortbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, range 80/320 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) piercing damage.

Blue Coats

Medium Humanoid (Human), Neutral Good


Armor Class 16 (Chain mail)

Hit Points 9 (2d8)

Speed 30 ft.


STR

15 (+2)

DEX

12 (+1)

CON

11 (+0)

INT

8 (-1)

WIS

10 (+0)

CHA

9 (-1)


Senses Passive Perception 10

Languages Common

Challenge 1/4 (50 XP) Proficiency Bonus +2


Actions

Shortsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage.

Shortbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, range 80/320 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage.

Elf Commander

Medium Humanoid (Elf), Lawful Good


Armor Class 18 (Plate)

Hit Points 52 (8d8 + 16)

Speed 30 ft.


STR

16 (+3)

DEX

11 (+0)

CON

14 (+2)

INT

11 (+0)

WIS

11 (+0)

CHA

15 (+2)


Saving Throws Con +4, Wis +2

Senses Passive Perception 10

Languages Common, Elven

Challenge 3 (700 XP) Proficiency Bonus +2


Brave. The knight has advantage on saving throws against being frightened.

Actions

Multiattack. The knight makes two melee attacks.

Greatsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: (2d6 + 3) slashing damage.

Heavy Crossbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 100/400 ft., one target. Hit: (1d10) piercing damage.

Leadership (Recharges after a Short or Long Rest). For 1 minute, the knight can utter a special command or warning whenever a nonhostile creature that it can see within 30 ft. of it makes an attack roll or a saving throw. The creature can add a d4 to its roll provided it can hear and understand the knight. A creature can benefit from only one Leadership die at a time. This effect ends if the knight is incapacitated.

Reactions

Parry. The knight adds 2 to its AC against one melee attack that would hit it. To do so, the knight must see the attacker and be wielding a melee weapon.


THE EARTH ELEMENTAL

Once the players have had a couple of turns each it's time to complicate matters:

Start ''Earth Elemental'' Mood


Stand up the earth elemental mini.

With a deep roar the 'projectile' that knocked everyone down when it landed slowly stumbles to its feet, shakes off some large chunks of rock that its landing has dislodged.

Insert this new horror into the initiative and continue the battle.

Earth Elemental (Greater)

Huge Elemental, True Neutral


Armor Class 18 (Natural armor)

Hit Points 172 (15d12 + 75) starts combat with only 51

Speed 30 ft., burrow 40ft.


STR

22 (+6)

DEX

8 (-1)

CON

20 (-2)

INT

6 (-2)

WIS

12 (+1)

CHA

5 (-3)


Damage Vulnerabilities thunder

Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks

Damage Immunities poison

Condition Immunities exhaustion, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, unconscious

Senses darkvision 60 ft., tremorsense 60 ft., passive Perception 11

Languages Terran

Challenge 9 (5,00 XP)


Special Traits

Earth Glide. The elemental can burrow through nonmagical, unworked earth and stone. While doing so, the elemental doesn't disturb the material it moves through.

Siege Monster. The elemental deals double damage to objects and structures.

Actions

Multiattack. The elemental makes two Slam attacks.

Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 19 (3d8 + 6) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Earth Tremor  (recharge 5-6). The elemental causes intense tremors to rip through the ground within 60 feet of itself. Any creature on the ground in this area must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 9 (1d6 + 6) bludgeoning damage and be knocked prone.

As battle proceeds...

Trigger ''Elf commander ii'' OneShot


Trigger ''Elf commander iii'' OneShot

Once they get moving, the characters should be able to mow their way through the undead hordes, so have fun surrounding the characters so the hapless skeletons have at least a chance to do some damage. Take care to surround any character who has multiple melee attacks, so the player can enjoy employing their training.

Start ''Making a run for the tower'' Mood


In order to reach the tower, the PCs will need to traverse the battlefield map three times, each time they reach the right hand side, slide their minis back to the left hand side. Once they complete a third crossing, change the map and place the PCs at the gates to the tower courtyard.

Part One will end with the character's escaping inside the entrance to the tower and slamming the door behind them. But first...

Once the door is closed behind the PCs or the door frame is successfully blocked, allow the players a moment of triumph. They deserve it.

Start ''Level 1'' Mood


PART TWO: ASCENDING THE TOWER

This part of the adventure is designed to be a breather from the generally intense combat oriented nature of this module. Allow the characters a few moments to catch their breath, heal, rebuff.

The characters find themselves on the ground level of a long abandoned tower, filled with broken furniture and old crates. The sounds of the battle rage on outside, as the Blue Coats rally to defend the door of this tower, to give the characters a chance to get to the top and place the Orb in its focal point. If the players seem like they need encouragement to move on, and they actually went to some kind of effort to bar the door, feel free to have undead start to break through.

Eventually the characters will move up the stairs to the levels above. Each level has a stairway that curves around the inside of the walls of the tower, ending in a trapdoor that must be pushed up to gain entrance to the next landing. On the next 3 levels, the PCs find a kitchen and servants quarters, a dining hall, and finally a set of bedrooms. Each of these locations is broken down and long abandoned and what furnishings were not already removed are broken, dusty and decayed.


THE DEAL

As the PCs alight on level 4, they are greeted by a sinuous female voice, addressing the character you deem most likely to cheat, steal or betray the party, or if no character is an obvious choice, the voice addresses the character whose player has had the least 'camera time' so far in the adventure.

Start ''Level 4'' Mood

''Ah... Sparrow, good to see you've arrived safely as planned. It seems our scheme is proceeding as intended and obviously the Blue Coats don't suspect a thing.''

Lounging on four improvized couches are four brightly dressed female rogues. The leader of whom smokes a large roll of rich smelling 'herbs'.

''Well, hand it over, the reward is there, all 20 thousand gold pieces of it. A deal's a deal. And this one was a good one!''

Still mostly in the dark as to what is happening, and hopefully feeling like they were just starting to work things out, this event should throw a spanner in the works for the players. Allow this encounter to be a fun moment of roleplaying and let the players come to their own conclusions about what is actually happening here, whether they conclude that the PC the scoundrels address really is a traitor, or whether the whole party was in on the 'deal'. Hopefully the party will (ultimately) decide they'd prefer to take the Orb to the top of the tower, because that was the first instructions they received, and because if you play these scoundrels right, they will seem like a less than trustworthy crew.

A DC 15 Wisdom (Insight) check will reveal that the rogues at least believe they are telling the truth, as will spells that force truth telling, but as the party hesitates the scoundrels will ratchet up the pressure in a situation that will probably end in combat. The gold filled chest is actually as real as real can be, the revelation of which will hopefully serve to confuse the players even further, though there is actually only 10,000gp in the chest. The rogues have 'held back' 10,000gp for themselves in 'fees' and 'charges'. Finding where they buried it might be a whole other adventure for another time.

Dialog

...

''Don't you know your own name?''

''You did explain the deal?''

''Yes''

''No''

''I don't understand''

''What are you talking about?''

''What do you mean?''

''You're not making sense''

''That's not true''

''I don't know''

''Well this is awkward''

''I see your mind is made up''

''Attack us?!''

''Good to see you are a person of your word''

''The Lich will be thankful''

''Run along now''

''Farewell''

*Giggle*

Start ''Dancing rogues'' Mood

Combat

ENEMIES:

4 rogues

Rogue

Medium Humanoid (Human), Chaotic Neutral


Armor Class 14 (11 combat dress, +3 Dex)

Hit Points 27 (4d8 + 4)

Speed 30 ft.


STR

10 (+0)

DEX

16 (+3)

CON

12 (+1)

INT

15 (+2)

WIS

12 (+1)

CHA

16 (+3)


Saving Throws DEX +5, INT +4

Skills Acrobatics +7, Athletics +2, Sleight of Hand +5, Stealth +7

Senses Passive Perception 11

Languages Common

Challenge 4 (1,100 XP) Proficiency Bonus +2


Sneak Attack
Once per turn, the rogue can deal an extra 2d6 damage to one creature they hit with an attack with a finesse or ranged weapon if they have advantage on the attack roll. The rogue doesn't need advantage on the attack roll if another enemy of the target is within 5 ft. of it, that enemy isn't incapacitated, and they don't have disadvantage on the attack roll.

Thieves' Cant
The rogue has learned thieves' cant, a secret mix of dialect, jargon, and code that allows them to hide messages in seemingly normal conversation. It takes four times longer to convey such a message than it does to speak the same idea plainly.

Cunning Action
The rogue can take a bonus action on each of their turns to take the Dash, Disengage, or Hide action.


Actions

Rapier. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., 1 target. Hit: (1d8 + 3) piercing damage.

Dagger. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., 1 target. Hit: (1d4 +3) piercing damage.

Cheroot puff. The rogue releases a cloud of rich sweet smelling smoke from their roll of 'herbs' into the face of an adjacent creature. The target must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw, or be subject to the effects of a Confusion spell. At the end of each of its turns, the affected target can make a Constitution saving throw. If it succeeds, this effect ends for that target. A target who makes the save cannot be affected again that day.

Start ''Rogues defeated'' Mood

As soon as you think the players are just about to move on, describe a crash from below and the sounds of dozens of undead, forcing their way into the base of the tower and beginning the climb up to the PCs.

Start ''Tower Heights'' Mood

This should prompt the PCs to climb through the last two levels of tower (another bedroom and a wizard's alchemy lab) and finally emerge on the roof. Don't miss the chance to describe the increasingly degraded nature of the stonework as the PCs climb higher, mortar is scarcer and scarcer, sections of steps are collapsed and missing stones let light in, giving brief glimpses of the battle outside, a battle which is not going well.

Start ''Tower Top'' Mood

PART 3: THE UNDEAD DRAGON ATTACKS

The characters have reached the top of the tower as the elf commanded them. Nothing inhibits the PCs from immediately rushing to place the blue Orb in its bracket, and when they do, describe the following.

Start ''Place the Orb'' Mood

  1. There is a deep throbbing pulse that knocks the PCs off their feet and causes the tower to shudder till it seems close to collapse.
  2. Then a sudden burst of light that forces the PCs to look away.
  3. A sinuous tendril of pulsing energy reaches out towards each of the other two altars, which each altar also reaching out towards the tall tower.
  4. Finally... the 3 altars are joined and, with an enormous crack of thunder, they form a great blue sheet of light between them.
  5. The battle field, to a man, pauses and looks up as the blue sheet slowly floats towards the ground, passing through man and undead, but leaving only the Blue Coats behind.
  6. All the undead touched are destroyed.
  7. A great cheer rises up from the battlefield.

At this point ask for Wisdom (Perception) rolls and describe the following to the player with the highest result.

The character hears the faint sound of wings in air above the din of cheering... and turns, too late to act.

Start ''Dragon attack'' Mood

A huge undead dragon careers directly into the top of the tower from behind and above. Meaning to attack the PCs, the dragon succeeds only in collapsing the top three floors of the tower.

In a tumble of stone and undead dragon, the PCs fall to the ground, and unless they have some way of arresting their fall they take 6d6 damage at the end of the long ride to the bottom.

If the characters fell uncontrolled to the bottom of the tower, place their minis or tokens randomly onto the Collapsed Tower battlemap. Place the undead dragon mini randomly also, then lastly let players who skillfully descended place their characters on the map where they see fit.

The PCs must now battle to survive this revenge attack from a very disgruntled undead dragon. The dragon is huge, blue, and semi-zombified, strips of its body dangle limply off and its chest hangs open, revealing a gaping hole where its sternum and internal organs should be. It bears a heavy chain, one end looped too tightly around its neck, the other swinging down near to the ground. The dragon is not having a good day, and plans to make anyone else's day worse too, if it can at all manage it!

Blue Coats attempt to offer assistance, and unless the PCs deliberately exclude them from the battle, you should spend up to half of the dragon's attacks on Blue Coats each round, describing their terrible deaths as vividly as you can. Depending on how well the PCs are doing, you may also expend one of the dragon's breath weapons on hapless Blue Coats.

This encounter should be very challenging, so use the attacks on the Blue Coats to help balance the fight as closely as possible to a TPK (Total Party Kill) while still allowing the PCs genuinely good odds of coming out victorious, as long as their tactics are sound and their teamwork effective. There are many things you can do to give the PCs a fighting chance. If the dragon rolls well on initiative, consider describing its first turn as it clambering out from underneath the rubble of the towertop and shaking off like a wet and very scaly dog. You might allow the PCs to use the heavy chain that hangs around its neck to their advantage, and make sure you hint sufficiently about the dragon's Damage Vulnerability (described below) and the possibility of utilizing the Orb (if they don't work these things out for themselves)!

Ideally, by the end of the encounter, the players should feel that their characters have just barely come out on top, through a combination of daring, skill, and a bit of luck! If any of the PCs are knocked unconscious, this should occur as near to the end of the battle as possible, so that player doesn't have to sit out for too long. Whatever you do, don't 'let on' that you are adjusting things on the fly though: that might spoil the fun.

The dragon has several weaknesses that will help the PCs to prevail, should they discover them.

The PCs may use the residual energy of the expended Orb as a weapon. If the Orb (by any means) touches the dragon it will cause 10d6 positive energy damage as it explodes with a bright flash. By the end of this module the Orb has lost all its power and becomes a simple plain blue glass sphere.

Trigger ''Orb Detonation'' OneShot

Any PC attacking the dragon from within its bony chest cavity will discover it is far more soft and vulnerable than the hard outer ring of bones. The AC of the inner of the dragon is only 12.

Combat

ENEMIES

  • 1 Undead Dragon

ALLIES

  • 12 Blue Coats

Undead Dragon

Huge Undead, Lawful Evil


Armor Class 18 (natural armor)

Hit Points 137 (16d10 + 49) Current Hit Points 103

Speed 40 ft., fly 80 ft.


STR

22 (+6)

DEX

11 (+0)

CON

19 (+4)

INT

9 (-1)

WIS

9 (-1)

CHA

13 (+1)


Saving Throws Dex +4, Con +8, Wis +3, Cha +5

Senses Passive Perception +9

Damage Immunities Lightning, Poison

Condition Immunities Poisoned

Damage Vulnerabilities The undead dragon's chest hangs open, revealing a gaping hole where its sternum and internal organs should be. A creature who steps inside this cavity will discover a vulnerable area of the dragon with an AC of only 12.

Senses Blindsight 30 ft., Darkvision 120 ft., Passive Perception 17

Languages Common, Draconic

Challenge 9 (5,000 XP) Proficiency Bonus +4


Undead Fortitude. If damage reduces the dragon zombie to 0 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 5 + the damage taken, unless the damage is radiant or from a critical hit. On a success, the dragon zombie drops to 1 hit point instead.


Actions

Multiattack. The undead dragon makes three attacks: one with its bite and two with its claws.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 16 (2d10 + 5) piercing damage plus 5 (1d10) lightning damage.

Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (2d6 + 5) slashing damage.

Lightning Breath (Recharge 5-6). The undead dragon exhales lightning in an 60-foot line that is 5 feet wide. Each creature in that line must make a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw, taking 55 (10d6) lightning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

When the PCs finally defeat the dragon, they truly have saved the day. Any PCs that have been knocked unconscious are quickly revived, though the blow of a undead dragon that fells a PC is certain to leave a lasting mark, perhaps a scar to tell stories about for years to come.

Start ''Final Victory'' Mood

A great battle that will go down in legend has been won. Even better, the PCs will be at the center of those stories. Ensure the PCs are recognized in future adventures as the party that won the day ''Under a fell black sky''. Songs will be written, drinks will be bought, paintings painted and discounts had. If you have a talent for iambic pentameter, consider writing a ballad, with a verse for each of the PCs, featuring something that really did happen in your playthrough of the module, and also a fair few outlandish exaggerations to enrich the story appropriately.

Start ''Award Day'' Mood

Apart from the rogue's chest, there is no treasure in this module, so now is the time to reward the characters with an additional 4000gp as is appropriate for the number of encounters they have faced. A good idea is to do this at a ceremony of some kind, officiated by some important figure. You might like to make up the bulk of each PC's reward with a single magic item. Choose something particularly useful for each of PC, particularly if you play a campaign where they can't easily just go to the 'magic shop' and buy whatever they like whenever they like.

Make a big deal of the awards ceremony, the PCs have done well to survive.

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