690 Threat in the Desert – Lv5 Shadowdark Adventure

Reaching the core of Gondi Desert is not for the faint of heart. Are you sure you want to risk this for treasure? The locals respect the desert for a reason.

Concerned Desert Dweller

A horrid monster inhabits the depths of Gondi Desert. Some call it the fire serpent, others the scourge of the sand, but scholars call it the remorhaz. It is a massive, blue centipede with neck hoods and red-hot spine spikes. This abomina­tion usually dwells in arctic climates but a few claim arid deserts as their home. The remorhaz in Gondi Desert predates all nearby settlements and has become a leg­endary presence in the region. The locals know its pat­terns and hunting grounds. Thus, they avoid and respect the beast’s home as it has proven too strong to be slain.

Something changed a few months ago that caused the remorhaz to change its behavior. A magical jewel, the Heart of the Desert, an enchanted topaz in the serpent’s lair radiates an aura that has awakened a heightened ter­ritoriality in the fire serpent. The remorhaz now travels further than before and attacks travelers, caravans, and has even attacked a few settlements in the region. The locals are unable to confront the monster and look for a way to solve the problem. The lair’s location is known but no one dares come close to the place, especially with the monster’s increased aggressiveness.

Adventure Hooks

Monster Hunting. A representative of several small settlements named Adallu offers a hefty reward to mon­ster-hunters and mercenaries willing to risk their lives to save the region and defeat the remorhaz. The represen­tative explains that the monster is a formidable opponent that has bested strong warriors in the past. Adallu also offers a map of the Gondi Desert with the last known lo­cation of the serpent’s lair. Adallu recommends the party hire a guide and buy appropriate attire and gear to tra­verse the dangerous arid landscape (60 gp, 6 XP).

Seeking Rare Ingredients. Scholars and warriors may be aware that the outer layers of the remorhaz’s in­sectoid armor can be fashioned into resilient pieces of armor and shields. In addition, the teeth and bones of the fire serpent can be used to craft weaponry of legend­ary quality. Such materials are hard to come by and may prove useful for the characters’ ultimate adventuring goals. After defeating the remorhaz, the party may col­lect the useful parts to be crafted into gear (4 XP).

 Level 5 Adventure

  • Danger. Unsafe. Check for a Random Event every 3 crawling rounds and after loud noises (3-in-6 chance).
  • Light. There is light outdoors and in area 8. Other ar­eas are dark. Desert denizens are dark-adapted.
  • Night Heat. Within a mile of the lair, the desert is ex­tremely hot, even at night (see Extreme Conditions).
1 Six injured peasants come across the party in the desert. They managed to escape the remorhaz’s ambush but now lack supplies and gear to survive the desert.
2 Four desert-dwellers guards heard of the expedition and catch up with the party. They want to help.
3 The remorhaz roars causing the floor to shake. The out­side air becomes overheated. 1d4 damage (DC 12 CON).
4 Six thieves (thugs) in camels approach the lair. They demand the characters surrender their goods. If the characters are inside the lair, the thugs rob their camp.
5 A strong wind current blows through the caverns, snuff­ing out fires and any uncovered light sources.
6 2d4 ankhegs tunnel out of the sand in an ambush and spray acid at the party and their mounts/gear.
7 The sand vibrates and forms concentric patterns for a moment before a swarm of scarabs emerges from the dune. The insect swarm fights to the death.
8 A giant scorpion with a female human head emerges from the loose soil. The strange creature speaks in Primordial and claims that the Heart of the Desert has awoken. It beckons the party to leave at once as the ar­cane jewel must remain where it is to avoid mortals from handling it. The scorpion declares that mankind is not equipped to wield such power. The strange being fights the characters if they refuse to leave without the gem.

Extreme Conditions

Traversing Gondi Desert is a dangerous affair due to the extreme heat. Characters without the appropriate attire and supplies suffer a cumulative -1 to all checks per day in the desert. Traveling without getting lost or finding shelter requires a DC 12 WIS check. The party may also hire a local guide (5 sp per day) to perform these checks for them. The GM is free to impose additional setbacks for the characters based on their actions.

1. Traversing the Desert

Harsh days of traveling across the inhospitable Gondi Desert lead to an arid wasteland scourged by dry wind. The terrain slants toward a dark chasm.

  • Glass Shards. Under the uppermost layer of sand, there are irregularly-shaped shards of glass. Artisans or blacksmiths know that these are caused when sand is exposed to extreme heat (DC 14 INT check).

2. The Chasm

The rough opening into the depths of the desert is 30 feet deep. The remorhaz burrows its way down from any di­rection, constant movement caused this deep crevasse.

  • Descent. Falling to area 3 deals 2d6 damage. The characters can carefully climb down the chasm side (DC 13 STR check/advantage with climbing gear).
  • Geological Marks. The layers of soil in the chasm re­veal a yellow layer every 10 feet. The gem’s awakening causes this every thousand years (DC 16 INT check).

3. Bed of Bones

The desolate tunnel leads to a large underground chamber littered with hundreds of humanoid bones. The remains shift and tremble to an unheard tune.

  • The Remains. Inspecting the bones for 1 crawling round reveals that the majority of them belong to hu­manoid species. The bones are recent, only a few weeks old, and must come from the recently-attacked travelers. A detect magic spell reveals a strange aura on the bones. Interacting with them causes six skeletons to rise and attack. The undead utter whatever the person in life said in its last minutes of life. Cries from ambushed travelers.
  • Cave Paintings. Strange, washed-out illustrations on the walls depict pilgrims visiting the desert to worship a glimmering gemstone. Inspecting the paintings for 1 crawling round reveals that the gem, named the Heart of the Desert, was revered and respected. One image shows a priest conducting a moonlit ritual to appease the spirit that resides within the magical topaz stone.

4. Tomb of Warriors

The bones are arranged in a grim mound like the ones in area 3. Along with the bones, there are scraps of melted weaponry and burnt leather armor. Inspecting the melt­ing patterns and the scorch marks in the armor scraps foreshadows the remorhaz’s Melt ability.

5. The Spider Lair

A small cavern is covered in thick spiderwebs. Hun­dreds of spiders crawl on the fine silk strands. A glint of glowing metal can be seen beyond the deep webs.

  • The Arachnids. Apart from the swarm of spiders, a giant spider is hidden in the darkness above (DC 14 WIS to spot it). These creatures live in symbiosis with the remorhaz who brings food to them to cover in silk for long-term storage. Silk cocoons of three hapless people hang from the web strands. They were desert-dwellers and perished from dehydration a few days ago.
  • Treasure (5 XP). The corpse of an adventurer still grasps a +1 shortsword with a gold-inlaid hilt. It has this property: Regain 1d6 hit points when you slay a creature.

6. The Fire Serpent

The world trembles as the soil is pushed away to reveal a heat-producing centipede. Its massive jaws are large enough to swallow a person whole.

  • The Remorhaz. The powerful desert-dwelling abom­ination burrows out of the soil to protect the northern passage. The remorhaz is a merciless predator that fights with the efficiency of a trained killer. If the giant spider in area 5 still lives, it approaches to join the fire serpent. When dropped to 1/3 of its Hit Points, the re­morhaz attempts to burrow away and flee. It confronts the party again after they reach area 1 again later.

7. Paintings from a Bygone World

The northbound passage is covered in paintings that portray a cabal of warriors protecting a gemstone in the desert. Many lose their lives guarding the gem.

Careful inspection over 1 crawling round of the paint­ings and the runes below them reveals that there was once a sworn order or protectors who guarded the Heart of the Desert from would-be thieves. Their leader also performed a ceremony to appease the spirit in the gem.

  • The Ritual. A wizard can study the runes for 1 hour to learn the Ritual of Peace. Performing it on the topaz stone in area 8 stops it from affecting the remorhaz.

8. The Heart of the Desert

A large, shimmering, multi-faceted topaz gemstone sits on a stone plinth. Magical eddies and tendrils of arcane forces ebb from it. Truly a marvel to behold!

The Heart of the Desert is a relic from a bygone world that contains the spirit of a primordial spirit. Its power is immeasurable and beyond the comprehension of mor­tals. A spellcaster that inspects the gemstone carefully determines that even touching it might prove too dan­gerous for mortal souls (DC 11 INT check). If a person dares to touch the Heart of the Desert, they experience a vision in which a mighty giant being looks down on them with disappointment. Then they die (DC 16 CON check).


Slaying the remorhaz or casting the Ritual of Peace in area 8 allows the activities in Gondi Desert to return to normal. Adallu is happy to pay the party the promised reward after a job well done. After disposing of the re­morhaz, the characters can collect its outer carapace lay­ers, teeth, and spikes for fashioning mighty gear.

If the characters manage to remove the Heart of the Desert from the dungeon, they attract the attention of ex­traplanar and primordial beings. However, dealing with those threats is an adventure for another day…

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