Trouble at Virtue Post is a Fifth Edition adventure for three to seven characters of 3rd to 4th level, and is optimized for four characters with an average party level (APL) of 3. Characters who survive this adventure should earn three-quarters of the XP required to reach the 4th level.
This adventure takes place on arctic plains. This adventure assumes placement in The Dark Sea campaign setting, specifically in the area outside of Inepolis. However, it can just as easily be placed in any campaign setting that has frigid, low-lying plains.
In the earth below Virtue Post there is a cave that houses a dense, heavy magical artifact known as a tidalstone. Once upon a time, a stronghold stood over the artifact, protecting arcanists that took on the dangerous work of extracting fragments of the artifact for sale. Unfortunately, the artifact became erratic and cast an unnatural winter on the region. Now, the barely recognizable Virtue Post is haunted by scavengers and undead.
The adventure takes place in a magically-created snowscape that threatens to freeze a nearby town. So long as the characters are near a settlement that isn’t normally snowy, it should be relatively easy for them to talk to locals and learn about the unusual snow. You can use the following hooks to kick off the adventure:
Research Opportunity. Characters are approached by an arcane scholar named Theo that wants to be escorted to the source of the magically-induced deep freeze so they may attempt to repair it.
Double Dog Dare. Characters are approached by a distraught set of fathers that plead for help finding their children. They explain that their children, a girl named Taw and a boy named Carwel, left a note saying they went on an adventure to see the source of the snow.
Death by Tomorrow. Characters are approached by the town’s leaders to travel to the artifact and try to shut it down. Their food stores are running low and the magical freeze is killing the crops. They offer to pay the characters 200 gp.
The characters are advised to speak with Talea, the local quartermaster, for cold weather gear and dogsleds. When the characters arrive, read the following:
A tall woman built like a brick house with tangled brown hair and a crooked nose is packing several large crates onto a wagon. She sets down the last box, wipes her brow, and turns to face the party. “You must be the folk riding out to Talea. What are your names?”
There is one sled for every two characters. After introductions, Talea continues:
She gives a quick rundown of the inventory: dried meats, loaves of bread, flowers, pottery, and painted stones. “The sleds are loaded and ready to go, all that’s left is to hitch up the pups.” She whistles and a few moments later a pack of wolves come running out, trailed by a dire wolf. She pats the dire wolf’s mane and says “this is Walnut, she’ll be leading your pack.” Talea hitches up the dire wolf to the lead sled and two wolves to each remaining sled.
When the characters set off they must make a DC 12 Strength (Athletics) check or fall off the sled and land prone on the ground.
Wolves. Wolves are generally dangerous, fiercely independent creatures, however the dire wolf Walnut has a unique relationship with Talea and keeps the other wolves in line. They have disadvantage on attacks and saving throws while they are harnessed to a sled.
Riding Sleds. While the characters are on the sleds they have disadvantage on ranged attack rolls.
Travel to the Ruins
The wolf sleds can travel 96 miles per day, cutting a multiple-day trip by foot into mere hours. However, during those few hours the characters are subject to a few unexpected encounters.
As the characters leave town by sled, read the following:
The familiar warmth of the town quickly gives way to the harsh winter landscape. Half-buried trees and boulders that barely crest above the snow whip by as the wolves pull you forward. The smell of pine trees saturates the crisp swirling air.
Characters traveling to the Ruins of Virtue Post have the following two encounters en route.
Wolves on the Prowl
This encounter can occur anywhere. Set the scene by reading the following:
The sleds are cutting through the frozen countryside when the normally silent wolves begin barking.
The pack has sensed a dire wolf and its pack nearby. A character that succeeds on a DC 14 Wisdom (Perception) check spots a blurry shape in their periphery closing in on the sleds, giving them an opportunity to warn the rest of the characters that a creature approaches. Characters that attempt to make ranged attacks against the moving shape automatically miss due to the wind and woodland obstructions between them and the target.
After one round, read the following:
A massive white dire wolf leaps out of the brush and tackles the wolves at the lead sled. Several wolves leap out behind it.
The characters on the sled at the front of the marching order must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw or become stunned for one round and fall prone on a failed saving throw. A creature that succeeds on this saving throw is not stunned and falls prone. If the characters succeeded in spotting the wolves earlier, they have advantage on this saving throw.
Encounter: Wolf Pack. There are two dire wolves and four wolves. All of the creatures flee after two wolves are killed or a dire wolf is reduced to half its HP.
When you are ready, read the following:
A few miles into the journey the sky begins to darken and within minutes you are buried in a torrent of snow as fine as desert sand, barely able to see 30 feet ahead.
Squalls can last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, so the characters may decide to take refuge and wait it out. While they are looking for shelter they are subject to the following environmental hazards:
- Low visibility reduces standard vision to a range of 30 feet.
- Strong winds impose disadvantage on ranged weapon attacks and Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight or hearing.
- Any open flames are extinguished and nonmagical flight is nearly impossible. A flying creature in these conditions must land at the end of its turn or fall.
Shelter in Place.
If the characters decide to shelter in place using their own body heat and blankets to stay warm they must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or take one level of exhaustion and 1d4 cold damage as their extremities begin to suffer from the effects of frostbite. Characters that are resistant or immune to cold damage automatically succeed on this saving throw, as do creatures wearing cold weather clothing (thick coats, gloves, and the like) and creatures naturally adapted to cold climates, such as reindeer and snowy owlbears.
Before the storm passes a flurry of ice mephits stumble across them huddled in the snow.
Encounter: Ice Mephits. There are four ice mephits within the squall. The ice mephits attack the characters for fun, not with intent to kill, and are quick to flee back into the snowstorm if their hit points are reduced by half. If there is only one ice mephit remaining, it flees regardless of its remaining hit points, decrying the characters as “party poopers.”
Searching for Shelter.
Staying together and finding shelter is not an easy task. The characters must succeed on a DC 14 Wisdom (Perception) check. On a result of 5 or less the characters have a hard time sticking together and controlling the sleds; the DC for subsequent checks increases by 1. If the characters fail 3 times their wolves are unable to continue and they are forced to shelter in place.
Characters that successfully find shelter have some time to recover before the storm clears. The cavern is 30 feet deep and 20 feet wide. However, it quickly becomes clear that they are not the only ones taking refuge from the storm. After one round the frozen, half-decomposed body of a polar bear rises in the back of the cavern.
Encounter. Zombie Polar Bear. The zombie is a polar bear with the following changes:
- Its Intelligence score is 3 (-4), Wisdom score is 8 (-1), and Charisma score is 5 (-3).
- It is immune to poison damage and cannot be poisoned.
- Its passive Perception is 11
- New Trait: Undead Fortitude. If damage reduces the 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 zombie drops to 1 hit point instead.
The polar bear attempts to grapple creatures before biting and clawing them.
Ruins of Virtue Post
Virtue Post was once a large complex built around a powerful magical artifact known as a tidalstone. The building facilitated harvesting, storage, and distribution of fragments of the artifact. Eventually, the artifact’s magic went haywire. It began releasing bursts of intense, freezing wind. The magic proved uncontrollable and the artifact was abandoned. Now, all that remains are half-risen walls and the entrance to the underground chamber that holds the artifact.
Unless otherwise noted, locations in Virtue Post have the following features.
Ceilings. The ground-level ruins have no ceilings. Underground the ceilings are 8 feet high, carved out of clay, and braced with wood.
Floors and Walls. The ground-level ruins are made of stone and only provide three-quarters cover instead of full cover. Underground, the floors and walls are carved out of clay and braced with wood.
Doors. All of Virtue Post’s doors are made of wood and have AC 15, 18 hit points, and immunity to poison and psychic damage. All of the doors are frozen solid. Opening or closing a door requires a successful DC 17 Strength (Athletics) check.
Climate. Above ground average temperature is -49 degrees Fahrenheit (-45 degrees Celsius). The closer to the artifact characters get the colder it gets, by as much as 100 degrees. Using a source of heat to melt the ice is ineffective as the ice quickly re-freezes due to proximity to the tidalstone.
Light. The areas underground have no sources of light.
The following locations are keyed to the map Ruins of Virtue Post.
Characters approach the ruins of Virtue Post from the south. Describe the location to the players as follows:
Ahead, in the middle a 120-foot-wide forest clearing, are the ruins of an old stone building, barely visible in the stone. A large creature with multiple tentacles is holding two zombies above its head while it eats a third.
Encounter: Otyugh and Zombies. In the center of the ruins there is one otyugh holding two dead bodies aloft with its tentacles and eating a third. The otyugh ignores the characters unless one of them dies, in which case it tries to grab the fresh body and eat them. On its turn the otyugh sends telepathic images of itself dining lazily over a pile of fresh corpses to the characters. If the otyugh is attacked, it flees after taking 40 damage, carrying as many bodies as it can.
There are eight zombies buried under the fresh snow, scattered throughout the ruins. Characters may notice a zombie from 15 feet away with a successful DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check, otherwise they do not notice any zombies until they are within 5 feet of one. If the characters touch one of the zombies it lunges out of the snow and attacks. If the zombie is not killed in one round, the other zombies are disturbed by the noise and begin attacking the characters too.
R2. Main Hall
When the characters enter, read the following:
This long, 10-foot-wide by 80-foot long hallway is sheathed in icy water, the remainder of the hall inaccessible through collapsed stone. There are two sets of steps at the end of the icy hall, a trail of fresh blood lead veering into the eastern door.
Hazard: Icy Floors. The icy floors are difficult terrain. When a creature moves onto slippery ice for the first time, it must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check or fall prone.
R3. Corner Office
Read the following:
A small juncture leads to a small 10-foot by 15-foot room. A small desk and broken chair litter the floor while four creatures idle in this room.
Encounter: Zombies and Ghoul. There are three zombies and one ghoul in this room. They attack any creature that enters the area.
R4. Unidentifiable Room
The walls of this small irregularly-shaped room have collapsed, dirt and ice encroaching on the space. Two children, a girl named Taw and a boy named Carwel, are huddled in the room. They are cold and scared.
R5. Janitor’s Office
Read the following:
This small, 5-by-15-foot janitor’s closet contains tin metal buckets, broken maps, and a metal pole.
Treasure. Inside of one of the buckets is a set of pipes of the sewers.
R6. Hexagonal Office
Read the following:
Frozen red banisters drape stiffly from the walls of this 20-foot hexagonal room. A long broken desk litters the center of the room where a ghost hovers.
Encounter: Ghost. There is one ghost in this room. The ghost was an elven woman tasked with overseeing Virtue Post. She became a ghost after its collapse, though her mental state has deteriorated from years of isolation. She shouts at creatures to leave her so that she can work and uses possession to force creatures out of her office.
Treasure. There is 200 copper and 50 gold scattered beneath the desk.
This 15-foot room is non-descript other than a break in the wall exposing a 10-foot deep rectangular cavity. Three ghouls hungrily devour a deer.
Encounter: Ghouls. The three ghouls attack the party immediately.
Secret Vault. There is a 15-foot deep cavity behind the northern wall. A character can find the secret cavity with a successful DC 16 Intelligence (Investigation) check to discern markings on the wall or a DC 16 Wisdom (Insight) check to infer the likely location of another cavity.
Inside of the vault is a 100-pound stone chest sealed with the arcane lock spell. The password to suppress it is “Virtue.” A creature with proficiency in thieves’ tools can make a DC 25 Dexterity check to pick the lock. Inside of the chest is a tidalstone fragment worth 1,000 gp.
Any missing tidalstones (see the Appendix) must be reported to the nearest port authority. The unauthorized use or sale of tidalstones is strictly illegal.
R8. Accounting Office
Read the following:
Two frozen desks line the western wall of what remains of this 35-foot by 15-foot room. The northern 20 feet of the room are buried under frozen dirt, only a narrow 5-foot passage winding through it. A massive zombie drools lazily in the center of the room.
Encounter: Zombies. There is one ogre zombie in the room, which begins prone. It stands up when either the southern or eastern door is opened and two zombies crawl out from underneath it.
R9. Refinement Room
Read the following:
This 20-by-40-foot room has several broken desks shoved haphazardly against the walls. Three zombies and four skeletons mill about.
Encounter: Undead. There are three zombies and four skeletons in the room. They attack when the western door opens, or a creature enters the southern hallway (area R10) and catches their attention. They are aggressive and attack hungrily.
R10. Tidalstone Chamber
Read the following:
A wooden platform extends 20 feet westward where three sets of stairs lead down to a natural rock cavern covered in a thick blanket of ice. Floating in the northeast corner of the room is a large purple obelisk.
Encounter: Ice Mephits. Five ice mephits hang quietly on the walls of this room. When a humanoid gets within 15 feet of the tidalstone (see the Appendix) one of the mephits reveals itself and protests, “Leave the icebringer alone! Do not take our joy!” If the humanoid gets closer or attacks, the remaining mephits reveal themselves and attack. The mephits depend on the presence of the tidalstone to live and will defend it at all costs.
Tidalstone. This tidalstone is a large diamond-shaped purple obelisk with chunks chiseled out of it. An icy blue light pulses within it, revealing blue tendrils dancing chaotically inside it.
If Theo is with the party he can repair the obelisk with 8 hours of work. Any other creature must spend 8 hours with the obelisk to make a DC 20 Intelligence (Arcana) check, bending the weave and repairing the obelisk on a success. For each 8 hours that pass after the first, 1d4 + 1 ice mephits appear and begin attacking.
Once the tidalstone is repaired it stops pulsing with chaotic tendrils. Slowly, over the course of four months, the frost finally subsides.
Concluding the Adventure
At the end of the adventure the characters have hopefully rescued the adventurous children and repaired the tidalstone.
Adventure Hook Resolutions
There were three adventure hooks mentioned in the introduction. Here is the resolution for each adventure hook:
Research Opportunity. The scholar is able to successfully repair the obelisk and the deep freeze eventually subsides, allowing life in the region to carry on.
Double Dog Dare. The characters can find the missing children in a small, unidentifiable room (R4) near the entrance. If the characters do not locate the children they eventually sneak back out of the ruins and make their way back to town, albeit chilled and shaken.
Death by Tomorrow. If the characters are able to repair the tidalstone the town will survive and eventually be able to resume normalcy. The town’s leaders pay them the promised 200 gp.