Deep in the mountains, far away from sunlight and close to magma rivers, there are talks of myths and wonders among Silverstone dwellers. Some of these stories are mere exaggerations of not-so-wondrous facts. Others have a pinch of truth and tint of fantasy. But there is one tale that all dwarves in Silverstone respect and fear and that is The Ominous Orb.
Wise dwarven sages say the orb is the very opposite of the philosopher’s stone. While the stone represents life, immortality, and wealth, the orb creates a dire contrast fomenting death, corruption, and evil. The existence of the orb is something all dwarves in the city know about. The most venerable dwarves with the longest beards say they heard the story from their great-great-great-great-grandparents. Ancient individuals who passed away centuries ago. To this day, no one can track orb’s origin.
However, one thing is certain. No one doubts the power of the orb. Many valiant hearts have tried to belie the warnings and claims that the orb cannot be controlled. Adventurers and explorers come to Silverstone and ask for directions to the orb. Rorrik Clayheart, a cunning and mischievous dwarf, is one of the few people, if not the only one in the city that has gone to the ruins where the orb is and returned.
There was a researcher in the city who had been investigating the orb and its origin for decades, his name was Derkun. Rorrik knew about this curious dwarf. They talked once, and Rorrik asked him what he knew about the ruins. Derkun loved talking about the subject. He claimed the place belonged to a drow sorcerer ages ago and he was almost certain that there was a way to bypass the lethality of the orb. Rorrik didn’t understand much of what he said, but the day Darkun left for the ruins, he followed him. After a few hours of zigzagging through dark tunnels and hidden paths between cracks in the stone, the researcher disappeared through a tunnel that looked like an entrance, but Rorrik didn’t dare go after him.
Derkun, like many others before him, never came back. Rorrik, on the other hand, made use of what he learned. He started going to taverns and inns to look for mercenaries, adventurers, and explorers seeking fame, glory, and power. He convinces groups of heroes about the power of the orb. He claims its magic can grant wishes, infinite wealth, and fame. He then charges a fee for his services as a guide. Once he takes them to the entrance where he saw Derkun for the last time, he returns to the city and forgets about the subject.
Rorrik doesn’t feel guilty. He provides a service to curious adventurers. Plus, since he lurks in taverns looking for people to convince, those who hear him but don’t hire him have spread the word as well. More people from nearby dwarven cities and even other races started to come asking for directions to the orb. Sooner or later, inquiring about the orb leads to Rorrik, who then proceeds to exaggerate everything the adventurers have heard about the orb and more. He charges 250 gold pieces for his services as a guide, but he assures that it is nothing compared to the infinite wealth the orb can provide. He also claims that the ruins belonged to a powerful sorcerer, ages ago. This suggests there could be valuable treasures, although he is just repeating what he heard from Derkun a few years back.
If a group of adventurers accepts his deal, he charges upfront and asks them to follow him. Once he takes them to the entrance, he bids them good luck and farewell after offering one last piece of advice, for a price. He says he can share precious information about the ruins for an additional 100 gold pieces. He says it is optional, although this clue could make the difference between life and death. He closes his case saying “the last group I brought here didn’t pay for this crucial hint and they never returned. And I gotta admit, they did look more capable and stronger than you lot. They could’ve been the ones”.
If the adventurers accept to pay for the information, Rorrik tells them that he learned something from a researcher some years ago. He tells them the ruins are dangerous, and that the orb is probably protected by lethal traps. He also adds that the researcher claimed there had to be a way to deactivate these security measures. And with that, he leaves.
There is a dire fact that nobody knows. Only Darkun was ever close to discovering it, but now no one knows. The previous inhabitant of these ruins was Vasaaris, a powerful drow sorcerer. Before his death, he used all the power left in him to create the ominous orb. An artifact capable to pursue his evil dreams and continue killing, even after his death. There is no treasure to be found in the orb. It is only a means to kill and protect the little belongings the drow had left. Besides its pure desire to do evil, Vasaaris felt disgusted at the idea of sharing his accouterments. Thus, he filled his former home with traps and developed a way to keep the ominous orb glowing its fatal pink light forever (see area 9).
Chaotic neutral dwarf (age 189)
Rorrik is stouter than the rest of the dwarves. But what he lacks in height, he makes up in toughness. He looks like a miniature fortress. Massive forearms give way to even larger arms. He has a long braided orange beard. His eyes look tiny beside his huge round nose. He wears comfortable light blue clothes.
Personality Trait. “Life is made of opportunities, grasp ‘em.”
Ideal. “A service paid with gold is honest gold.”
Bond. “One day I’ll buy a house in Silverstone.”
Flaw. “I don’t care about others’ wellbeing. Only I matter.”
The following descriptions of areas 1 through 16 correspond to the hidden ruins near Silverstone.
Terrain. The stone tiles in the ruins are worn and cracked. There are small spider webs in ceilings and corners. A thick sheet of dust covers almost every surface.
Doors. The wooden doors are so old and moldy and their locks so rusty that they don’t work anymore. A character can open any door with little effort.
Light. Sconces contain torches with continual flame spells. Removing the torches causes the spell to stop after 1d6 rounds.
Smells and Sounds. The ruins are silent but for a humming sound coming from area 7. The sound becomes stronger near the area. The areas with undead creatures bear a putrid smell and the grunts and groans of the undead in there.
These ruins are hidden in the depths of underground caverns. They would be almost impossible to find without the help of Rorrik or another guide. The ruins once had a magnificent wooden door, now only remnants of the varnished wood lay on the floor. The 30-feet-long corridor opens to a small foyer. There is a worn and moldy door to the west.
The tiles of this area hide a trap. Poisoned darts fly from holes in the east and west walls. The trap is triggered when two or more medium characters stand here. Any creature standing in the area must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or take 1 (1d3-1) piercing damage and be poisoned for one hour. A passive Perception score of 14 or higher reveals the small holes on the walls and the pressure-sensitive tiles on the floor. A character using thieves’ tools can disarm the trap with a successful DC 15 Dexterity check. Even after disarmed, the darts regenerate in an hour and the trap resets.
Secret Door. A passive Perception score of 16 or higher reveals the sconce on the wall is a switch. Pulling the sconce activates a sliding mechanism that causes a section of the wall to move sideways and reveal a secret path to area 5.
3. Trapped Room
This room is trapped. Fire jets erupt from the north wall and burn all those who cross the threshold of the room. Pulling a thin trigger string line activates the trap. Any creature standing 15 feet from the north wall of area 3 must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 13 (4d6) fire damage on a failed save or half as much damage on a successful one. The fire bursts to the exterior of the room and burns what remains of the doors. The fire jets replenish their oil magically in an hour. A passive Perception score of 14 or higher reveals the trigger string line under the threshold. A character using thieves’ tools can disarm the trap with a successful DC 15 Dexterity check.
4. Long Hallway
This is a long corridor that connects several sections of the dungeon. The north half of this hallway doesn’t have a light source and is dark. The passage of time and recent seismic activity have caused some of the walls in the ruins to collapse. There is a collapsed wall south of this long corridor. The dark tunnel leads to areas 11 and 12.
Secret Doors. A passive Perception score of 13 or higher reveals loose bricks on the northwest and north walls at the end of two corridors. Pushing the bricks activates sliding mechanisms that cause sections of the walls to move sideways and reveal secret paths to areas 8 and 7 respectively. A passive Perception score of 13 or higher reveals a loose brick on the southwest wall at the end of a corridor. Pushing the brick activates a sliding mechanism that reveals a secret path to area 10.
5. Secret Passage
The ceiling in this room shows erosion marks that seem unusual. A successful DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals they are acid marks. Two grey oozes pour from cracks in the ceiling and fall on any living creature that enters the room.
Secret Doors. A passive Perception score of 16 or higher reveals the scone on the wall is a switch. Pressing the switch activates a sliding mechanism that causes a section of the wall to move sideways and reveal a secret path to area 6. There are two levers in the room. Pulling them activates a sliding mechanism that causes sections of the wall to move sideways and reveal secret paths to area 2 and 7.
6. Treasure Room
There are three unlocked wooden chests in this room. There are sophisticated fabrics and clothes. Golden jewelry and silverware. Magical potions and the ancient sorcerer’s belongings.
Treasure. One chest contains three sets of noble clothes, two fine cloaks, and a set of bedsheets. All with golden embroidery. It all has a collective value of 137 gold pieces. It all remained in good condition thanks to preservation magic in the chest. The second chest has two golden bracelets, a necklace, two pairs of earrings, and an anklet. It has a collective value of 242 gold pieces. The third chest has a potion of clairvoyance, two potions of greater healing, two potions of poison, and a potion of acid resistance. The third chest has a ring of jumping, two spell scrolls of detect magic, a spell scroll of detect traps, and a rope of climbing.
7. The Ominous Orb
The humming sound emanates from the orb in this room. The shape of the room is symmetrical and it has several alcoves to the north, east, and west. A magic circle dominates the center of the room. The runes glow faintly, in harmony with the four corners of the inner square. Above them, the ominous orb hovers motionless three feet above the ground. There are countless of bones and ashes around the orb. A successful DC 12 Wisdom (Medicine) check reveals the bones belong to different time periods.
The orb is an artifact of death and evil. It only exists to kill, and its only purpose is to attract living creatures and obliterate them. A detect magic spell reveals a strong aura of necromancy surrounding the orb. Any creature staring at the orb within 30 feet of it must make a successful DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or become charmed. Charmed creatures feel an immediate urge to take the orb in their hands and take the most direct route to the orb as soon as possible. Any creature that interacts with the orb must make a successful DC 18 Constitution saving throw or die. Creatures killed by the orb react as if hit by a disintegration spell. Only a fraction of the creature’s bones falls to the ground. The rest is ashes. Creatures killed by the ominous orb cannot be resurrected by a revivify or raise dead spells since most of the target’s body is not present.
Secret Doors. A passive Perception score of 13 or higher reveals loose bricks on the walls of the west alcoves. Pushing the bricks activates sliding mechanisms that cause sections of the walls to move sideways and reveal secret paths to areas 4 and 16 respectively.
8. Hidden Room
Vasaaris was proud and vain. He used to have a silver-lined huge mirror in this room. He would admire himself and stare at his greatness for hours. He also kept a statue of himself. The stone has not received any clemency from the passing of time though. Former wooden furniture was destroyed with the recent seismic activity. Only chucks of wood and splintered planks remain. The earthquake caused the south wall of this room to collapse, forming a tunnel that leads to area 10.
Secret Doors. A passive Perception score of 16 or higher reveals a switch behind a loose brick on the west wall. Pressing the switch activates a sliding mechanism that causes a section of the wall to move sideways and reveal a secret path to area 9. Pulling a lever on the wall activates a sliding mechanism that causes a section of the wall to move sideways and reveal a secret path to area 4.
9. Secret Studio
This room looks neat and clean. It is an incredible contrast to the rest of the place. A detect magic spells reveal an aura of transmutation magic. A magic aura prevents the studio from accumulating dust or spiders from forming webs. The bookshelves and their contents are well preserved. There is a desk with an open book on it. This is Vasaaris’s journal, and it contains the last words he wrote. The journal describes how he created the ominous orb and the steps he took to make the orb’s magic permanent.
A successful DC 16 Intelligence check reveals there can be a way to reverse-engineer what Vasaaris did and stop the orb’s deathly aura. A character must spend an hour reading and researching inside Vasaaris’s studio to come up with the solution. To disable the orb, the adventurers must go the area 10 and destroy the power cores inside each of the columns. The diary suggests the cores must be protected by some kind of magic.
10. Great Hall
Six large columns are forming two lines of three in the center of this area. The columns are surrounded by a thick and gooey ebony paste. The semi-liquid substance is corrosive. Any creature that touches the columns takes 7 (2d6) acid damage. Attempting to remove the column’s black acidic coating or attacking it in any way triggers the defensive mechanism of the cores.
The black goo of the six columns moves as if alive and coalesces into three mounds of corrosion. Three black puddings defend the cores and fight until slain. A successful DC 15 Strength check allows a character to remove the stone block covering the core in each pillar. Each core has 10 AC and 5 HP. When a core is destroyed, it explodes. Every creature standing 5 feet away from the core when it bursts must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw, taking 12 (4d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. Once all cores have been destroyed, the lethal aura surrounding the ominous orb disappears and the orb falls to the ground. It is a clay sphere with no economic value.
The east wall of this room collapsed after an earthquake. There was a secret passage leading to area 11 but it caved in and became a tunnel.
11. Secret Wardrobe
Any valuables stored here were destroyed by earthquakes. The tunnel that destroyed the passage between areas 10 and 11 also destroyed the east wall in this area. The dark tunnel leads to area 12.
This is a natural cavern that was revealed due to recent earthquakes. There is what appears to be a dark leather cloak hung on the east wall of the cave. When two or more creatures are at reach, a cloaker comes out of its disguise and attacks. It uses its Moan ability to frighten its foes and then attaches itself to the nearest creature. If the battle turns against it, it flees. It flies through the tunnel (area 13) to find a spot where to hide again.
The dark tunnel leads to unknown areas in the underground caverns. Any areas beyond this tunnel are not within the scope of this module.
14. and 15. Alternate Exits
Both these corridors are alternate entrances to the ruins that Rorrik didn’t know about. They lead to unknown areas in the underground caverns. These areas are not considered within the scope of this module.
16. Trapped Hallway
The midsection of the corridor forms a square. The floor forming the square features pressure-sensitive tiles. When three or more creatures stand in this area, poisonous gas starts pouring from the walls. Any creature exposed to the gas must make a successful DC 14 Constitution saving throw or become poisoned for one hour. A passive Perception score of 15 or higher reveals the pressure-sensitive tiles on the floor. A character using thieves’ tools can disarm the trap with a successful DC 15 Dexterity check.
South of the poison gas trap, there are three sarcophagi. Vasaaris kept some corpses here at all times. They had two purposes. The dead bodies meant instant guards if the need arose, and they also helped with his necromancy research. He decided they would be the former after he died. Three ghasts interrupt their eternal sleep when they hear living creatures nearby.
Secret Door. The right sconce on the north wall is a switch. Pulling the switch activates a sliding mechanism that causes a section of the east wall to move sideways and reveal a secret path to area 7.