Zokusho's Sword (3.5e Quest)
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Intended for four level 12 adventurers.
Hearing of the heroes' exploits, King Marak (of the poor northern kingdom of Anselm) invites the heroes to his court. There, he shares with them reports from his scouts and informants about an ambitious and bloodthirsty orc king, Gnalk, who is ravaging his lands, and asks them to help him. It turns out that he has discovered the mythical sword of Zokusho in a trapped and sealed catacomb beneath Mt. Ellismere, and has dispatched a warband led by his top champion to retrieve the sword. With it, he could easily overrun the weak northern kingdom. The players must not let this happen, or the entire world will be in peril!
- Prep Time 2 ½+ hrs
- Play Time 5+ hrs
Zokusho, a legendary vampire lieutenant of the infamous Lich King Varyx, once ruled the northern regions of Varyx's vast kingdom. The primary tool of his oppression was a dreaded sword which could be used to quickly destroy a living creature. The sword was a personal gift from King Varyx. The item has since disappeared, only to resurface periodically in times of great strife.
Hearing of the heroes' exploits, King Marak (of the poor northern kingdom of Anselm) invites the heroes to his court. There, he shares with them these reports from his scouts and informants. Without the help of the powerful heroes, he admits, the kingdom will likely be overrun.
Rumors have once again begun to spread throughout the kingdom; the nefarious and brutal Orc clans in the north have been united under an ambitious and bloodthirsty king, Gnalk. He has supposedly discovered the mythical sword of Zokusho in a trapped and sealed catacomb beneath Mt. Ellismere, and has dispatched a warband led by his top champion to retrieve the sword. With it, he could easily overrun the weak northern kingdom.
Unbeknown to all, the sword indeed still resides in the tomb of the undead vampire lieutenant, Zokusho. He was never totally destroyed, but his grasp upon unlife was rendered tenuous. He is in a state of permanent stasis, and awakens only when his sword is stolen. When that moment comes, he is driven with an insatiable desire to retrieve it and return to his sanctuary so he may once again rest in peace.
Hence, the quest has three parts; first, the heroes must race the champion of Gnalk to the catacombs and retrieve the sword (this involves several clashes with the Orc war band, but the champion survives each time). Then, once the adventurers have retrieved the sword, they must evade and eventually and destroy the maddened vampire. Finally, they must advance to the caves in the frozen north and permanently end the Orcish threat.
Gnalk, the Orc King, a level 10 druid / 4 barbarian.
Don-Dul, the Orc King's Champion, a level 13 barbarian.
Zokusho, the human vampire guardian, a level 6 fighter / 6 monk.
King Marak, the heroes' sponsor, a level 16 aristocrat.
Jaida, the Court Seer, a level 7 Diviner.
Gnalk's Troll Bodyguards, 2nd level Troll fighters.
Stage One: King Marak's Court
King Marak's court is in the capital of Anselm, Weatherholm (Large City, Pop. 21,000). Marak is known as a just and fair ruler, though rather mediocre in popularity (though charismatic, he suffers from low self-esteem, and thus is quite an able administrator and ruler, yet is unpopular. Because of his low self-esteem, he speaks with a slight stammer and always seems slightly unsure of himself). After the heroes present themselves to Marak, he wastes no time telling them of the gathering of an Orc army on the northern border of his kingdom. Further, his Court Seer, Jaida, has foretold that the Orcish leader can only be killed with a blow from an ancient legendary sword, the Greatsword of Zokusho. Memory of the location of the sword has been lost from common knowledge.
Finding the Sword
The heroes must find the sword by their own means (divination, etc.). If they attempt to use a skill, the Check DCs are listed below. The listed DC is for a Knowledge (Local, i.e. Anselm) or Bardic Knowledge check. If the characters instead use Gather Information, the DC increases by 5.
|DC||Information Learned (Cumulative)|
|15||If the sword is anywhere, it's somewhere in the mountains to the north. The mountains has been plagued by "monsters and demons" for as long as anyone can remember.|
|20||The sword is hidden beneath Mt. Illismere, a solitary mountain several day's journey north from the city.|
|25||An ancient complex of caves and Catacombs lies beneath Mt. Illismere; they are supposedly all that remains from the fortress of a once-powerful undead scion or demon prince.|
|30||The sword lies guarded by the half-mad vampire to which it previously belonged.|
Stage Two: The Catacombs of Mt. Ellismere
On the way to the Catacombs, the heroes suffer at least one encounter-- with the Orcish Warband. Further, depending upon their mode of travel, they likely also have several other random encounters on their journey.
The Ruined Temple
Upon arrival, the first task of the heroes is to gain entrance to the Catacombs. Unfortunately, the entrance's location has passed from memory. In reality, the entrance lies beneath a ruined temple on the slopes of Mt. Ellismere (by 12th level the heroes should have the resources to discover the location of the temple without DM intervention). Unfortunately, a small cabal of Dark Nagas (4) have taken refuge in the ruins of the small compound and must be removed (killed, bargained with, or evaded in some manner). The entrance lies under a pool of water (30 feet deep) in the underground main sanctuary of the temple.
The Catacombs Beneath the Mountain
Once in the entrance to the Catacombs, the heroes must overcome several obstacles until they reach the tomb (the Catacombs are much more expansive, and the DM is encouraged to populate it with traps and guardians (as it us a useful hook for later adventuring); however, only a small portion of the catacombs are used for this adventure).
When they manage to swim (or otherwise travel) down through the submerged tunnel and into the entry chamber, they have the first encounter.
Climax in the Catacombs
When they reach the tomb, the heroes find Zokusho's Greatsword. They are immediately attacked by Don-Dul, along with whatever of his forces survive. Here, he fights to the death. When the heroes leave the tomb, Zukusho awakens and follows the characters (using magic, if necessary). The heroes should believe that they have completed about half of the adventure at this point (since they believe that all that remains is to destroy the Orc invasion force-- i.e. kill its leader, Gnalk).
Stage Three: To Fight All Comers
This stage of the adventure is rather free-form. Zokusho pursues the characters, carrying his coffin with him in a portable hole, which he hides a moderate distance away before he attacks. He attacks once while the characters journey (likely on the way back to Weatherholm, but perhaps on the way to the mountains), and continues his attacks on a near daily basis. He will dominate others to aid him on his quest to regain the sword (including NPCs), if necessary. He is also willing to steal the sword from the characters. In any case, his overwhelming drive is to return the sword to the catacombs to regain his slumber. If the characters are particularly persistent, he adopts a second goal of killing them (reasoning that, if the characters will continue to come back to the Catacombs to steal the sword, then he will be continuously reawakened anyway). Thus, the heroes are encouraged to use creativity to destroy him.
Stats for the vampire: Zokusho
Stage Four: Destruction of the Orcs
To destroy the orc general, the heroes suffer two difficulties: finding him and actually killing him. At such a high level, it is simple for the heroes to discover some resource (likely magical) to discover the leader's location. He has some protection from scrying magic, so a small side quest may be necessary (example). Once they discover his location, the heroes will likely be able to directly confront the leader (in an ambush) through use of a spell such as teleport. If not, they will have to infiltrate the orcish wartown before they may engage the leader. As previously mentioned, the leader can only be dropped below 1 hit point by a blow from Zokusho's Greatsword (at 1 HP, the orc leader is also immune to nonlethal damage and death effects; further, "successful" death effects at higher hit points instead only drop him to one hit point).
Killing Gnalk will not be easy, as he is always accompanied by his bodyguards, two powerful troll fighters named Crusher and Basher.
Example Side Quest
A wizard in Weatherholm needs a rare spell component that grows only in the depths of the Royal Forest (see Anselm). The forest, however, is guarded by a clan of extremely xenophobic warrior elves. If the heroes can retrieve the herb for the wizard, he will give them the result of some of his research: a scroll with a unique spell that allows effective location and scrying of a person or item despite many protective magics or a lack of familiarity of the subject to the scryer.