The Cage of Thorns

Each foe holds the key to the other foe’s demise. The PCs awaken in a jail cell. Each one had spent the previous night at a different inn. How did they get here? What do we have in common? Where is their captor? And what is that smell?…

And so begins the adventure of The Cage of Thorns. The PCs must escape the prison using clues they find in a journal. This book is found on the skeleton of a not-so-lucky adventurer who occupies the cell with them. Once they escape, they find themselves right back where they started: the jail cell. This keeps happening until they solve the mystery of their four captors. “Each foe holds the key to the other foe’s demise.”

This adventure provides a great premise to start a new group, and to introduce the PCs to each other. It also provides a recur- ring theme that will take Level 1 characters nine more levels to complete.

Each PC spends the night at a different inn. In the morning, they all regain consciousness in a jail cell. Having never met each other, the PCs are forced to form an alliance. “Who teleported us here, and why?”. “How do we escape?”.

The party finds themselves in the lair of a quartet of ill-tempered outlaws: a disgraced knight, a necromancer, an assassin, and a shadow priest. The ‘four foes’ have plenty of minion guards. These four evil-do-ers are capturing unwitting travelers through teleportation as they sleep, and siphoning their essence into a “death gate”. When 1,000 souls are captured and stored, the outlaws intend to summon an other-planar being to do their bidding.

Of course, none of the brigands trusts each other. The shadow priest has a magic item that will immobilize the assassin, if the need arises. The assassin has a chisel that negates the wizard’s arcane spells, that he keeps hidden. The wizard has an instrument that stuns, then weakens the fighter, in case of confrontation. And the fighter has an item that will blind and silence the shadow priest, that he keeps on him at all times. If the PCs can learn this, they can use it to their advantage to take on the ‘four foes’ one at a time.

Inside the cell with the party is a skeleton. A brief search of the corpse reveals a diary. In this book, the deceased adventurer writes about being teleported into this jail cell numerous times, with his comrades. He describes escaping this dungeon by climbing through a pit of sand, and making plans to defeat “the 4 foes”. Of course, it doesn’t say how, except for some cryptic clues about a glass shattering ritual, and an harmonic hammer. The diary warns against “taking the southern corridor”, which resulted in losing his entire party. It also eludes to a giant cage, which he escapes by shrinking to the size of a mouse, and fitting between the bars. He talks about escaping a second time through a labyrinth of blades. After escaping, he was teleported into the jail cell again. On his third abduction, he escaped the jail cell by playing a ruse on the guards. In his wanderings through the dungeon, he came across a chasm filled with a river of molten lava. It does not say how he crossed it. Across the chasm he stumbled upon a huge, glowing glass cylander. It seemed to radiate dark magic. Perhaps his mind was just playing tricks on him, but the thought he saw the faces of his friends inside the jar.

The PCs can smell food as they sit in the jail cell. However, the guards do not bring the party nourishment. The party has no food, and keeps getting a -2 penalty for each 8 hours spent without eating. The first and only opportunity to eat is in the guard’s kitchen. It is here that the penalty for starvation will end.

The PCs CAN disguise themselves as servants. In fact, we’ve included a change room with plenty of clean robes. The thing they’ll have to get to enter certain doors is a talisman (and it keeps the bats away), which only supervisors have.

There are six cells, and the PCs are in cell #6. Cell #1 is empty, save for a secret door that the previous inmates dug through the masonry; #2 has another band of live and grumpy adventurers. The PCs can free this lot, but the rival group will NOT team up, or cooperate in any way. Instead, the thankless and belligerent group heads straight for the traps and get clobbered. Cell #5 has one guy in it. The PCs hear the guards take him away screaming before they can act. All six cells have a magic circle on the ground. This is what teleports the sleepers from different inns around the country.

Adventurers can simply escape the dungeon, running away from the four foes. However, the PCs soon find themselves teleported into that same old cell again after a while. Ultimately, the only way to stop the annoying teleportation abduction from happening again and again is to destroy the phylactery, and defeat each one of the four foes.

By gathering clues, questioning guards, and eavesdropping on conversations, the party can find the following four magic items:

The Chisel: This will destroy any magic circle cast or inscribed by the wizard. Also destroys the sigils that trip the magic traps throughout the dungeon. The PCs should not find it when they’re headed for the exit the first time. But they SHOULD find it when heading for the exit the second time. This item is hidden in a secret drawer under the assassin’s desk.

The Flute: This will weaken the fighter. The flute is a mundane-looking decoration in an otherwise featureless hallway.

The Mask: This will blind and silence the cleric, but will also blind and silence one of the PCs. The fighter keeps it on his person at all times.

Scroll of Fly paper: this will immobilize the thief. This scroll has been purposely mislabeled by the priest, and is hidden in plain view in his library.

When entering the Phylatery, Mirvorikk the Shadow Priest will be there, and the PCs will witness a prisoner get disintegrated, and his aura is swept into the phylactery. This is not meant to be destroyed until the PCs come back. It becomes clear that one of the PCs will have to sacrifice themselves in order to power up the machine. Or perhaps those of a certain alignment may find another suitable humanoid to sacrifice. Either way, a living being of medium size must enter the power chamber and grasp both handles, while someone else flips the switch at the far end of the room.

The four foes are too powerful to defeat, even with 6 or 7 players. The PCs must always run. However, with the magic items, it is possible….

Day 1: escape from prison cell, fight the guards, perhaps find the secret door to library?

day 2: discover hidden library, meet mage, fight zombies… possibly leave prison area. find out that all four foes mistrust each other and plant seed for turning them against each other.

day 3: try to destroy phalactery with glass shattering ritual while fighting (surviving) vs death priest, then destroy magic circle with skill challenge, while fighting thief.

day 4: attempt to escape the dungeon through the Corridor of Scyths, Labyrinth of Blades, Chamber of Sands, and Tower of Echoes.

Click here to download Cage of Thorns as a FREE PDF.

Image Credit: RL Fantasy Design Studio

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