LEST DARKNESS RISE
A Short Adventure for Four 7th-Level Player Characters
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Lest Darkness Rise is a short adventure for four 7th-levelcharacters. In keeping with the season, it has a strongerhorror theme than most D&D adventures. Thisscenario can be used as the climax of a series of adven-tures featuring its secondary characters, or it can simplybe a site-based adventure that the PCs stumble across atthe right moment.
The scenario is set in a semi-civilized area in the farnorth, far from cities and churches, where winters areharsh and summers never get very hot. These inhos-pitable conditions have resulted in a low humanoidpopulation. The scenario need not be set in such awilderness; a rural farming community far from citiesworks just as well. The only real requirement is that thearea have few settlements.
The action takes place in the small town of NightFalls and a nearby necropolis of tombs, mausoleums,and graves known as the Tomb Steppe. As always, feelfree to adapt the material presented here as you see fitto make it work with your campaign.
PREPARATIONYou (the DM) need the D&D core rulebooksthePlayers Handbook, the Dungeon Masters Guide, and theMonster Manualto run this adventure. This scenarioutilizes the D&D v.3.5 rules.
To get started, print out the adventure. Readthrough the scenario at least once to familiarize your-self with the situation, threats, and major NPCs (partic-ularly their motivations). Lest Darkness Rise also uses twoof the Map-A-Week entries from the online D&D maparchive. These maps are reproduced here for yourconvenience.
Text that appears in shaded boxes is player informa-tion that you can read aloud or paraphrase for theplayers at the proper times. The details of the newmonsters and magic items used in Lest Darkness Rise arelocated in appendices at the end of the adventure.
Centuries ago, a necromancer of modest abilityknown as Arathex practiced his art in the wilderness.Though he was as evil as the next necromancer, manybelieved that he took up animating the dead out ofsheer laziness, as a means to create a cheap labor forceto serve him. Because he lacked the ambition thatdrives most necromancers, Arathex constituted athreat only to outposts and towns near his stronghold,
and he drew little attention from the powerful forcesof the world. Those few heroes who knew of himconsidered him a jokemore a nuisance than a truevillain. Arathex even aided the occasional hero whosought a way to defeat some particular undeadmonsterafter all, powerful undead are difficult tocontrol, and the necromancer had no greater desire tohave such creatures roaming about than any sanecommoner would.
As he reached middle age, however, Arathex real-ized that his life would eventually come to a close, andhis eternal reward was unlikely to be pleasant. Inhopes of escaping eternal damnation, he began gath-ering the power and knowledge required to makehimself a lich. But he knew he had waited too long andcouldnt possibly complete all the research himself inhis remaining years. Thus, he decided to steal as muchof the lore as possible from older, more experiencednecromancers. Since he was a coward at heart, hedecided to lay traps for his targets rather than facethem directly.
THE TOMB STEPPEChoosing a small steppe that had not been developedfor any other purpose, Arathex used his own undeadlabor force to create a complex of crypts, graves, andmausoleums, which he named the Tomb Steppe. Thenhe built extensive defensesboth magical wards andspecial guardiansinto his new graveyard. Finally, inthe guise of a cleric dedicated to a god of peaceful rest,Arathex touted the area as a place in which the remainsof necromancers and defeated undead could safely belaid to rest. He maintained his guise for some time,providing heroes who intended to fight such creatureswith good advice and even weapons designed specifi-cally to work against them. Though at first only a fewsuch adventuring groups brought the remains of theirkills to the Tomb Steppe, it eventually became a popu-lar solution to the problem of where to put dangerouscorpses.
This result was just what Arathex wanted. Thoughthe graveyard was safe from forces both outside andinside its borders, Arathex spoke with the restless spir-its of those buried within on a regular basis. As the fameof the Tomb Steppe grew, other necromancers came tosteal corpses from the tombs for their own work, butArathex captured and questioned them as well beforeadding them to the graveyards population.
These techniques were far from perfect as researchmethods went, but they paid dividends. Arathexsnecromantic power increased dramatically, and he
managed to acquire enough other spells and magicitems to maintain his priestly faade as well.
ARATHEXS UNDEATHAt last, in the twilight years of his life, Arathex under-went what he hoped was the process to become a lich.He used the knowledge he had obtained to brewpotions and cast spells, then killed himself in a darkritual under the light of a full moon. But his researchhad been incomplete, and he failed to achieve lichdom.Some adventurers who made regular use of the TombSteppe found his body and assumed that their priestlyally had died at the hands of the evil necromancers hehad spent his life fighting. They buried him with heroshonors in the lowest crypt of the largest tomb in thegraveyard.
But Arathex had not completely failed. Though hisbody was irrevocably dead, his spirit had indeed founda form of unlife. The necromancer had become awraitha powerful evil spirit that could steal the lifeforces of others. Unfortunately for him, the wardsplaced to keep undead out of his tomb served to keephim locked inside it. But because he was the creator ofthe defenses, he was able to gain a small measure offreedom. He eventually discovered that he could escapeinto the world for three days each year, during the timeof winters first full moon, when he had originally builtthe wards that secured the tomb. But each daybreak, heautomatically reappeared in his own crypt, no matterwhere he had roamed.
Arathex realized that he needed the aid of anotherto help him break free of his prison forever. Duringhis periodic sojourns outside the tomb, he tried toconvince mourners or passers-by to aid him throughboth threats and promises, but they all refused.When word of his nocturnal wanderings spread, theTomb Steppe became unpopular as a repository forundead, since it obviously no longer afforded theprotection it once had. After some years, only thelocal villagers still used it, preferring to inter theirlost loved ones in its remaining empty graves ratherthan dig new ones.
THE CULTWith the decline in traffic, Arathex changed tactics.Though he could not overcome the wards that held himwithin his crypt all but three days a year, he did manageto make contacts in the outside world by sending forthhis thoughts. By this means, he managed to contact acharismatic but impressionable evil priest who hadbuilt a cult of undead-worshipers. Eventually, he