I received this submission for BroadSword Monthly a few months back and thought it was such a cool concept I just had to have it. Right away, Alec and I started working together to flesh it out a bit more. And here it is, the finished product, “Loot, Die, Repeat”.
Credits: Alec Conte with Dave Hamrick; cartography by Dyson Logos
Note: this adventure is still in editorial mode and may have typos and logic issues.
Alec Conte is a 25-year-old data analyst and freelance pop culture writer. For years, he has run 5th edition campaigns that allow players to experience new and fully imagined fantasy settings. Most of his inspiration comes from reading fantasy novels and watching shows like Critical Role.
Alec’s adventure, Loot, Die, Repeat is an event-based adventure for four 4th-level adventurers. The characters should reach level 5 by the end of the adventure. Any mix of characters will be useful, although rogues will be particularly useful. It’s set in the small coastal town of Belhaven, but can just as easily be set in another town of similar size. Rivertown from BroadSword Monthly #2 makes an excellent candidate.
Approximately seventy-five years ago, a fanatical religious group named the Bronze Shields captured a young woman, Astrid Gibsby, suspected of dark magic and unnatural abilities. This was a time fraught with fear of evil beings, rumors and persecution, witch hunts, and public displays of cruelty. Regardless, their premonitions were correct: Astrid was indeed a vampire. Members of the Bronze Shield took her to their stronghold at the eastern edge of town. There, Astrid was imprisoned and tortured. Failing to gain valuable information from her, the Shields placed Astrid at the bottom of a dry well as the sun rose. Just after nine bells, the sun stood directly over the well and the vampire Astrid Gibsby burned in its light. As she burned, the high priest of the Bronze Shields performed a ceremony which would prevent anyone from ever bringing her back to life, undead or otherwise.
Little did the Bronze Shields know, Astrid was betrothed to a vampire lord named Cassius Sylvanya. Cassius’ immortal bond with Astrid made it so as long as the two were on the same plane of existence, he could sense her. However, the walls of the Bronze Shield stronghold were imbued with protective magic. Furthermore, Astrid was fitted with a magic collar that prevented Cassius from magically locating her. Only at the exact moment that Astrid was destroyed did Cassius sense her. Still, he has no idea where she was.
Immediately, Cassius suspected the Bronze Shields and the Belhaveners. The evening of Astrid’s murder, Cassius flew into a blind rage, murdering all who bore the crest of the Bronze Shields. Unfortunately, those who were involved in Astrid’s death either fled Belhaven or carried the secret to the grave with them. Cassius never learned what happened to Astrid. All he knew was that his love was gone.
Decades rolled on. Cassius’ obsession grew. Determined to save his love, Cassius turned to the arcane arts, specifically the long lost school of chronomancy. He believed that if he could turn back time he could save Astrid. Unfortunately, chronomancy is a tricky art. Before subjecting his own self to the rituals, Cassius tested the magic on both living creatures and undead creatures. Each time the living creatures returned unharmed. Undead creatures weren’t so lucky: they returned burned to a crisp. As a vampire, Cassius would not be able to go back in time himself; he’d need to find help.
The adventure begins when the characters are traveling through the coastal town of Belhaven in the Darboro Keys. After settling into the town, they’re contacted by Frazzle, Cassius’ assistant. Frazzle invites the adventurers to a building Cassius just purchased in town, the ruins of an old armory.
Cassius offers the characters an exorbitant reward if they can help him find his lost love (although he doesn’t reveal that she died seventy-five years prior). Also, he requests that they spend the night in the old armory. If the characters agree, they fall asleep and wake chained up in the armory seventy-five years in the past. In addition, each day at nine bells, everything from the day before is reset. Soon it becomes obvious: they are stuck in a time loop.
Through trial and error, the characters will start to piece together what they must do. First, they must escape from the armory. Next, they must discover Astrid’s killers and where they are keeping her. Finally, they must save her from dying in the old well. Once they save Astrid, the time loop is broken and they return to the present.
Following another adventure or simply passing through, the characters arrive in the coastal town of Belhaven. Belhaven has nearly everything the characters need.
Welcome to Belhaven (Present)
Belhaven is a quiet town. Its history is riddled with participation in various witch hunts and public executions but has come a long way since then. These days, there is diversity, agriculture, education, and what appears to be peaceful religious worship.
The air is warm and smells of fresh strawberries and freshly cooked bread. The people are inviting, and the mood seems happy and content.
While the characters won’t spend nearly as much time in Present Belhaven as they will in Past Belhaven, they should still explore present Belhaven to stock up supplies, rest, and get a feel for the town.
N1 – Abandoned Armory
At the far end of town at the edge of a small inlet let stands an abandoned armory. The armory has been empty for years and rumored haunted.
Recently, the vampire Cassius purchased the building. His primary interest is that it was once owned by a religious organization known as the Bronze Shields seventy-five years ago.
This is where Cassius introduces himself to the characters (see “Meeting Cassiuis” below).
N2 – Belhaven Docks
As a coastal town, Belhaven’s trade thrives thanks to its docks. Most traders enjoy passing through Belhaven, due to the warm reception Belhaveners grant out-of-towners.
N3 – Temple of Peace
The Temple of Peace welcomes all travelers. It is headed by Brother Larode (LG male half-orc priest), one of the most respected men in town. The temple boasts an impressive belltower that is nearly one-hundred years old. From eight in the morning until eight in the evening the bell tolls to let the Belhaven citizens know the time of day.
N4 – Town Square
A cobblestone street pushes through the busiest section of town, Belhaven’s town square. Formerly a slow-growing part of town, the town square quickly rose once the witch hunters and zealots of old Belhaven fled town seventy-five years ago. At the center of the town square is a blood-stained stone dais where a statue once stood seventy-five-years ago. When asked about the statue, locals claim it was the statue of a tyrannical god of valor and protection. Rumor has it that, long ago, a monster tore the statue from the dais and threw it into the harbor.
In the square, characters can find the Starry Night Tavern and Inn; Clatter and Clank, the local blacksmith; Eskle’s Herbalist Shop; Belhaven Library; Belhaven Open-Air Market; Belhaven Townhall; and the Bank of Zentar.
N5 – Zentar Keep
Once known as Dunhall Estate, Zentar Keep is owned by Robert Zentar (LN male human noble) the venerable proprietor of the Bank of Zentar. Zentar started at the bank seventy-five years ago when it was still known as Belhaven Bank. A robbery shortly after he was hired nearly ruined the bank. Leveraging his family farm, Zentar rescued the bank from dissolution. Young Zentar was promoted to manager.
A modest worker and no-nonsense type, Zentar is always suspicious of “young ruffians” and those who fill their head with useless knowledge. He often throws a suspicious eye at the library across the street.
N6 – Ragnor Farm
Pilgrims, the Ragnors were some of the first to settle the coastal town of Belhaven. With them, they brought the religious practices and the worship of the Bel, God of Valor. While the modern Ragnors are nowhere near as devout and intolerant as their ancestors were, they are still stubborn and suspicious of outsiders.
The eldest Ragnor, Tobias (LN male human commoner), spends his twilight years in his chambers feverishly praying to Bel.
When Tobias was a young boy, he witnessed his father and other members of the Bronze Shields drag a young, pale woman into the fields behind their home. As they carried her, her eyes met his. Suddenly, Tobias felt the woman in his mind. “Help me,” she asked him. Tobias picked up a shovel and approached the Bronze Shields. The boy would have attacked the men had his father not slapped him across the face, breaking the woman’s charm.
Seventy-five years later, Tobias still has nightmares about the event.
Just Another Day in Belhaven
As the characters explore Belhaven, you may consider introducing the following events. These events may not seem important when they happen. Clever characters, however, may realize that changing certain events in the past could potentially change the outcome of some of these events in the present.
On the north side of the town square is an herbalist shop. A sign in the window reads “Home of Eskle’s Famous Wart Remover!” The owner of the herbalist shop, Ludo Eskle loves to share anecodes of how his grandfather Luren Eskle used to pitch his wart remover to passersby in the streets.
Mean, Old Mrs. Londer
Emily Londer, a foul, thin-lipped elderly woman walks with her granddaughter through the town square. Passing a sweet shop, the young girl turns to Old Mrs. Londer and asks her, “Grandmother, may I have a sweet for my birthday?” Londer scoffs and rolls her eyes, “Birthday? Birthdays are for simpletons and heathens. Which are you?” The girl frowns as her grandmother ushers her down the street.
An old man stands on the porch of the Zentar Bank, wiping his spectacles with the end of his silk scarf. From the library across the street, a woman waves. The man scoffs. “Ruffians,” he says. One of the bank’s counters steps out and clears his throat, addressing the old man.
“Mr. Zentar, could you help me with this client?” Zentar sighs and walks back inside.
Jack Harrow, Smith’s Helper
Walking past the town smithy, the characters notice a chubby, simple-looking man sweeping the porch. He accidentally trips, knocking over a crate of horseshoes that hit the ground with a clatter. Immediately, he starts to panic. Nadia, the shop’s owner runs over and tries to comfort him. “It was just an accident, Jack. Don’t worry yourself.”
Unconsolable, Jack shakes his head and sobs, “No! No! No hit Jack! No hit Jack!” then flees. Nadia sighs, shaking her head, “Poor boy.”
Outside of the Starry Night Inn and Tavern, the owner, Orion Milbar scrubs at graffiti. The graffiti reads “Don’t Eat Sickly Soup” painted right over a sign advertising a free sandwich served with every ale. His wife, Sabatha, watches as she sweeps. Orion sighs and says, “It’s been seventy-five years, Sabatha. Seventy-five years. You think they’d be over it by now.”
Stopping, Orion turns to Sabatha, “Any customers yet?” Sabatha frowns and shakes her head no. Orion chuckles to himself. “Of course not. Who wants to eat at the place that served ‘sickly soup?'”
Eventually, Frazzle (LE male gnome mage) takes notice of the characters wandering around Belhaven and approaches them. After Frazzle asks a few more questions to get a better feel for the characters, he makes a significant offer: 1,000 gp per character if they can assist his master, Cassius Sylvanya. There’s just one catch: Cassius is a vampire.
If the characters agree, Frazzle tasks the characters to meet him at the old armory (area N5) on the eastern edge of town at nightfall.
When the characters arrive, read or paraphrase the following:
It’s just after sunset when you meet Frazzle at what-looks-like an abandoned keep by the water. Frazzle leads you through a set of collapsing wooden doors into a foyer decorated with rotten tapestries, moldy rugs, and broken furniture. The smells of animal waste, mold, and other foulness fill your nostrils.
Immediately, your eyes fall on a pale, blonde-haired man reading through an old tome at the north end of the room. The man looks like he could be in his mid-forties, but his red eyes and chilling presence tell you otherwise. This must be the vampire Cassius.
“Ah! Finally. I’m very excited to meet you. I’m Cassius Sylvanya.”
Setting his book aside, Cassius stands and greets each of you. Shaking his hand is like plunging your fist into frigid water.
The book Cassius was reading is written in Draconic runes. A character can make a quick DC 16 Wisdom (Perception) check to catch the book’s title, The Four Pillars of Chronomancy.
Cassius is no fool. Although he seems approachable, the vampire is well-protected. Within the room, there are four invisible stalkers. Also, Cassius is under the effects of a mind blank spell. Should things go poorly, he’ll immediately polymorph into bat form and flee through the rear of the keep into the forest. From there, Frazzle and the invisible stalkers fight on his behalf. If the characters notice these precautions, he’s forthcoming with them, explaining that he must always be cautious. “There’s a reason I’m over five-hundred years old,” he reminds the characters.
Cassius snaps his fingers and speaks a quick invocation. A bulging leather pouch appears on the broken table next to you. Gold coins spill from its top.
“That’s 250 gold pieces. Think of it as a deposit and a token of my goodwill. I understand that adventurers like yourselves aren’t accustomed to working with ‘creatures’ like me. But desperate times call for desperate measures I’m afraid.
“Now, I want to apologize for Frazzle being somewhat vague. But this is a bit of an unusual request. My love Astrid, a night child like myself, has gone missing and I fear that she is in danger. Unfortunately, I am unable to locate her myself. But I sense that you will be able to find her for me.
“This is what I know: I know that she is somewhere in this town and I know that she is being held by a vile group of religious zealots that call themselves the Bronze Shields. Unfortunately, the clues stop there. It’s up to you to find Astrid and bring her back to me. Do this and I will award you 1,000 gp each and the deed to this building if you like. Furthermore, you will have me as an ally for as long as you shall live.”
Cassius allows the characters to ask any questions that they have. He does not reveal his true intention; the vampire wishes to send the characters seventy-five years into the past so they can stop Astrid’s murder before it even happens.
If the characters try to use insight, all they can tell is that he is telling the truth but it’s likely he’s omitting a few facts. After all, Astrid was in Belhaven and she was captured by the Bronze Shields.
Once the characters have asked all the questions they need to, Cassius makes one last request:
“I need one more favor from you and I understand that it’s a strange request. This evening, I would ask that you stay in the basement of this old armory. Naturally, you won’t be held against your will. But I think you’ll find that the basement holds important clues that can help lead you to Astrid’s whereabouts. I’ve made arrangements to make the basement more comfortable for you, of course. Just don’t leave the room until you hear the Temple’s bell strike the eighth hour tomorrow morning.”
Obviously, this is a suspicious request. No matter what, Cassius won’t reveal the true reason he wants the characters to stay in the room, only promising that neither he nor any of his servants will harm the characters while they stay in the armory. If necessary, he’ll sweeten the pot by giving half his reward upfront, promising the other half the next time he sees the characters.
When the characters finally agree to all of Cassius’ unusual requests, he leads them to the basement of the armory.
Cassius reaches into the dust covering the floor and pulls up on a chain, revealing a trap door hiding an ancient, wooden staircase. He then descends, encouraging you to follow.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, you enter a long, damp hallway. On either side of you are doors with barred windows.
“It was a dungeon once,” Cassius says, sensing your growing suspicion. “The Bronze Shields, the very organization that is holding my Astrid captive, once used this building as their armory. Here is where they imprisoned those they suspected of witchcraft, devil-worship, and sacrilege. No trial or due process. Just imprisonment, torture, and death. Many of the souls who perished in this prison were innocent of their accused crimes.”
Cassius leads you to a cell at the end of the hall. Within, you see bunks with enough beds for each of you. The room has been cleaned of grime, but its age still shows in the cracks in the masonry. Rusted manacles still decorate the walls at regular intervals, further evidence of the dungeon this once was.
Cassius smiles nostalgically. “Seventy-five years ago, the Bronze Shields captured a band of adventurers, much like yourselves, and held them in this very cell. They suspected that the adventurers were ‘derelict serial killers.’ When the Bronze Shields evacuated this building and Belhaven, they left the adventurers here to die. Their bones were still in this room when my servants cleared it out.”
He pauses and sighs, shaking his head. Finally, the vampire turns back to you. “All right, my friends. This is where you will stay this evening. Unless you have any further questions, I bid you good evening. And I look forward to seeing you again.”
Cassius and Frazzle then exit, leaving you alone in the old dungeon cell.
Cassius closes the cell door but leaves it unlocked. The characters are free to look around the cell, relax, and do what they must before they lie down for a long rest. The remainder of the building holds nothing of value. Only cobwebs, dirt, and the occasional rat.
The Green Flash
If the characters decide not to fall asleep, a few minutes before eight bells the following morning, all conscious characters begin to experience a ringing sensation in their ears. Suddenly, the door to the cell is locked shut by an unseen force.
Before the characters can react, have them all make DC 15 Constitution saving throws. Those who fail their saving throws fall unconscious and don’t wake until the temple bells chime eight times. Those who succeed on their saving throw are conscious but dazed; while dazed, a character has disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls and their speed is halved. A few seconds later, a bright green flash fills the room, temporarily blinding any character who is still conscious.
Read or paraphrase the following:
Suddenly, it’s morning; you hear the toll of the temple bell, eight times just as Cassius promised. After you’ve had a moment to come to your senses, you realize that something isn’t right. The cell still seems the same, but the bunks are missing. More importantly, your right hand is chained to the wall.
At the center of the room is an old man in purple robes who wasn’t there the night before. He rolls over and groans, his face a mess of welts and bruises. Spitting up blood, he croaks, “I’m going to die here… oh, gods please help me.” Then, before your very eyes, you watch the old man die.
The characters aren’t aware of it yet, but they’ve traveled seventy-five years into the past. Through the night, Cassius performed a powerful chronomancy ritual. In doing so, the adventurers swapped places with the adventurers that were held in the cell seventy-five-years prior. Although they are well-rested, the characters are missing all of their possessions including weapons, armor, and gear. Instead, they are wearing the tattered clothing once worn by the prisoners whose place they took.
The ritual Cassius performed allows the characters only one hour to solve the mystery of Astrid’s disappearance. Once the nine bells toll (the moment Astrid died), the characters once again experience the same dizziness and green flash they did their first night in the cell. This happens no matter where they are when the nine bells come.
After each flash, they return to the cell (see area A1), once again manacled, deprived of their possessions (old and new), and fully-rested as if they had just completed a long rest. Any characters that were killed or injured during the previous interval are also returned to the cell in one piece. The same old man always resets, turns to them, and repeats the same phrase, “I’m going to die here… oh, gods please help me.” He dies every time.
This reset happens over and over again until the characters save Astrid. No spell can end the effect, not even a wish spell. Even if the characters kill themselves, escape the town, or travel to another plane of existence, they always return here at the stroke of nine bells.
Fortunately, the characters retain their memories of every previous interval.
Practice Makes Perfect
Every time the characters perform a task that they performed once before during a previous time loop interval, their ability to complete the task improves.
Ability Checks. The first time a character performs an ability check, they do so as they normally would. However, the next time they perform the same ability check on a different time loop interval, they can perform the check with advantage so long as the conditions are exactly the same during the previous intervals. After a few more times of performing the check, assume the character always rolls a 20.
Combat. The first time the characters enter a combat situation that’s destined to repeat itself (such as the guards outside of their cell), resolve initiative, attack rolls, saving throws, etc. as normal. The next time the characters enter the same combat, their initiative rolls, attack rolls, and saving throws are made with advantage, and any creature that tries to hit them with an attack does so at disadvantage. After a few more times fighting the same combat, assume the characters always roll 20 on all of their rolls and their opponents roll 5 on all of theirs.
Keeping Track of Time
Loot, Die, Repeat revolves around the one hour that the adventurers are doomed to repeat until they can save Cassius’ love, Astrid. Therefore, keeping track of time is very important. For the most part, run the adventure in real-time, setting a one-hour timer for the players. At the end of the hour, the Green Flash occurs.
Some tasks the characters must complete take more time in-game than in real-time. For these tasks, the approximate completion time is provided, often with a modifier, under the heading “Time Constraints.” Whenever a player announces that his or her character is performing a task that takes longer in-game than in real life, determine the length of time it takes and subtract that from the 1-hour time limit.
Similarly, some tasks–especially combat– take longer in real life than in-game. When combat occurs, or any other task that takes a long time in real-life, pause the timer, then resume it once the characters have ended the combat or the task is completed.
Travel Times in Belhaven
For your convenience, here is an array showing the number of rounds it takes to travel from keyed locations in Belhaven. The travel times assume that characters are traveling 60 feet per round. If the characters are moving slower, multiply the travel times by 2.
Belhaven Travel Times (Rounds)
Automating the Breakout and Other Common Events
Once the characters have discovered how to break out of the cell and accomplished it a few times, it may grow tedious for the players if they constantly have to perform this series of actions at the start of every interval. To save time (and headaches), simply explain that they follow the same actions they previously did to break out of the dungeon. Once they have the flow down, it should take the characters no more than 1 minute to free themselves of their manacles, disarm the enchantment, and break through the door.
Similarly, any other tasks and events and combats the characters perform each day should be automated once they’ve perfected the task’s operation.
If the characters are at a point where they can’t figure out what to do next or simply wish to wait out the time until the next time loop interval, simply fast forward the adventure to the next Green Flash, resetting the scenario.
Depending on how you track experience in the game, the characters should gain more experience the first time they perform an action than on repeated attempts in subsequent intervals. Any task or event that becomes second-nature to the characters thanks to repetition (ie, you fast forward or automate the event) should not award additional experience. For example, the characters might earn experience for defeating the guards in the armory the first couple times, but fail to once they know every move the guards will make.
Welcome to Belhaven (Past)
Belhaven is a quiet, suspicious town. Witch hunters and public executions are the norm in Belhaven. All of the 100 or so souls that call Belhaven home are human. Demi-humans are strictly forbidden and often run out of town or murdered.
Education and religious worship are one and the same; the children of Belhaven are taught intolerance towards others and that the word of Bel, the God of Valor is absolute.
The air is cold with a subtle scent of carrion on the wind. The people fear strangers and the mood seems tense and suspicious.
T1 – Bronze Shield Armory
This location is detailed in the section “Escape from Bronze Shield Armory.”
T2 – Belhaven Docks
The docks are relatively quiet. Most traders avoid Belhaven’s port, seeing the Belhaveners as stubborn negotiators and insane zealots.
If the characters arrive at the docks between half-past eight, Lord Dunhall and his family are preparing to leave Belhaven by boat. See “Confronting Lord Dunhall” for details.
Confronting Lord Dunhall
Lord Dunhall, the military leader of the Bronze Shields, fears for the life of his wife and three young children. Just after eight bells, Dunhall can be found at the Dunhall Estate, instructing his family to pack everything and leave. By half-past eight, they take a coach to the docks and board a ship. Five minutes before eight, the ship sets sail. The Dunhalls never returned to Belhaven and Cassius’ servants never found them. Dunhall died twenty years later, carrying the secret of Astrid’s death to the grave with him.
Lord Dunhall (LG male human knight) protects his family at all costs. However, Dunhall is a reasonable man. If the characters can convince Dunhall that they wish to stop Brother Aethlwald from destroying Astrid–and potentially save the town from Cassius’ wrath–he will tell them Astrid’s location.
“I follow the path of Bel, God of Valor, above all. But I am also loyal to the people of Belhaven, as well. Brother Aethlwald has gone too far this time. He will bring doom to us all. If you can promise that you will spare this town the wrath of the undead woman’s liege, I will tell you where they are keeping her.”
Dunhall then gives the characters directions to Ragnor farm and the old well where Astrid is being kept.
T3 – Temple of Valor
The Temple of Valor is the primary place of worship in Belhaven. It is headed by Brother Aethlwald, one of the most feared men in town. The temple boasts an impressive belltower that is nearly one-hundred years old. From eight in the morning until eight in the evening the bell tolls to let the Belhaven citizens know the time of day.
No matter the time the characters arrive at the temple, Aethlwald is not present. He can be found at Ragnor farm (area T6), overseeing the destruction of Astrid.
Two acolytes, Seamus and Lorenz are the only ones at the Temple. Neither knows where Aethlwald or Astrid currently are but suggest that Lord Dunhall may know their location. They tell the characters that Dunhall lives in a large estate at the northeastern part of town.
T4 – Belhaven Town Square
For the most part, Belhaveners avoid the town square. What few shops there are see little business as most outsiders either avoid Belhaven altogether or pass through as quickly as they can.
At the center of town is a tall, bronze statue of Bel, the God of Valor, the town’s namesake. To show praise to Bel, Belhaven’s citizens cut their hands and leave bloody handprints all around the base of the statue.
In the square, characters can find the newly-built Starry Night Tavern and Inn; Belhaven Open-Air Market; Belhaven Townhall; and the Bank of Belhaven, all in their past incarnations.
There are only a few citizens in town square no matter what time the characters arrive. They can offer basic information such as where Lord Dunhall maybe (they suggest his estate) or where one might find Lord Aethlwald (they suggest the temple). No one has heard the name Astrid, although the name Cassius sounds familiar. During this time, Cassius was a well-known lord living twenty miles outside of town. However, none of the Belhaveners are aware that Lord Sylvanyus is a vampire.
T5 – Dunhall Estate
Originally a fortification during the great war that occurred a few years before the town’s founding, this massive castle now acts as the home to Lord Dunhall, the military leader of the Bronze Shields. Dunhall’s father, along with the patriarchs of the Zendar and Ragnor households, settled the town thirty years prior.
If the characters arrive at Dunhall’s estate before half-past eight, Dunhall is still here, preparing his family to evacuate the town. A horse-drawn coach waits outside the manor See “Confronting Lord Dunhall.”
Otherwise, only his servants remain. While suspicious, the servants (LN human commoners) can be convinced to share what they know of Lord Dunhall.
Dunhall returned to the manor at around fifteen-til-seven. Immediately, he called for his family to pack their belongings, citing that they were in danger. He paid each servant 100 gp, telling them they had run of the manor in his absence. Some of the servants left immediately, seeing the Dunhalls’ sudden departure as an omen.
T6 – Ragnor Farm
Eventually, the clues should lead the characters to Ragnor farm. No matter what time they arrive, Brother Aethlwald and Bronze Shields surround an old, dry well at the edge of the northern field, singing praise to Bel. Too weak to climb out or fight back, the vampire spawn Astrid sits 300-feet at the bottom of the well. When the Temple of Valor’s bell tolls nine, the rising sun will position itself directly above the well, instantly disintegrating Astrid.
Encounter. Brother Aethlwald (LE male human priest) believes that he is just in Astrid’s destruction. Whether or not he is, his actions will eventually lead to the doom of the Bronze Shields and the entire worship of Bel. Aethwald is accompanied by six guards armed with heavy crossbows. In addition, Ronell Ragnor (LN male human veteran) stands with the Bronze Shields, ready to defend Aethlwald with his life.
If the characters defeat Aethlwald and the other Bronze Shields, they must then rescue Astrid. The easiest way to do this is to cover the well. An old, wooden lid sits just to the side of it.
Same Stuff, Different Day
As it becomes more and more obvious that Belhaven is seemingly a town stuck on repeat, the characters will witness certain events occurring every interval.
The characters have no obligations to get involved. However, the characters could potentially change the present through their actions.
Unless the changes are made during the same interval that the characters stop Astrid’s destruction and end the time loop, the present remains unaffected.
Any time – Eskle’s Wart Remover
“Hello! Newcomers!” shouts a man that bee-lines straight for the characters. He steps in their path and thrusts a flask of a foul-smelling liquid in their faces.
“You, friends, look like travelers constantly on the go. As voyagers, surely, you must find yourself with constant podiatric pains, disorders of the lower digits, sores below the socks, bunyons in your boots, and many other maladies of movement.”
“Warts! Those are easily the worst. Get one wart on your toe and it’s all over for you. A man with a wart on his heel finds himself limping everywhere he goes. And if you’re an adventurer, dungeoneer, explorer, man–or woman!–of the world, then surely you won’t want that, no?”
The man doesn’t wait for the characters to reply. Instead, he continues his pitch, “Presenting Eskle’s Wart Remover! The tonic you never knew you needed, the remedy you never knew you wanted, the strongest, fastest, toughest, smartest, wisest, and friendliest potion ever put on the earth. Normally, for a little tonic like this, my competitors would charge you 1 gold piece for just a drop. Maybe even 2 gold pieces during the wet season. No surprise really–some men would pay a full platinum piece for such a miracle cure. But today–and today only!–if you purchase this little gem from me, your friend, Luren Eskle, I will sell it to you for 2 silver pieces–no!–even better, just 1 silver piece!”
If the characters try to turn Eskle down, he immediately swats away their objections, “Yes yes! In a hurry no doubt! Which is why this little potion is so handy. I tell you what–I like the look of you, newcomers. So, this one time–this one time only!–I will sell you three flasks of this charming concoction for only 2 silver pieces. You’re getting three flasks of Eskle’s Wart Remover for the price of two. Nowhere–and I promise you friends, nowhere!–will you find a deal like this.”
Every time the day repeats and the characters try to march through the town square, Eskle will try to stop them and sell his remedy. Luren Eskle (N male human commoner) is harmless; he’ll cow at any threat.
Naturally, the wart remover is just rubbing alcohol and does nothing to actually cure warts.
8:18am – Emily’s Birthday
A young girl named Emily Londer sits on the steps of a shop, crying. If asked what is wrong, she explains that she wishes her parents would celebrate her birthday. When Emily’s parents see her crying and telling her woes to strangers, they grab her by the wrist and command her to stop. “Birthdays are for simpletons and heathens, Emily!”
If the characters do something to help Emily celebrate on the same interval they end the time loop–such giving her a small gift, hugging her, or anything that would make her feel special–the grown Emily Londer is later seen in Present Belhaven happily celebrating the birthday of her granddaughter.
8:32am – Bank Robbers
Just as Lord Dunhall’s coach flies through the center of the town square, two bandits exit the Belhaven Bank carrying sacks of gold. The two toss their bags onto a pair of horses tethered outside and ride off to the west. As they ride off, Brevin Northwind (LN male human commoner), the bank’s manager, charges outside screaming, “Stop! Thieves! Someone stop them!”
If the characters stop the bank robbers on the same interval that they end the time loop, they change the present. When they return to Present Belhaven the bank is still the Belhaven Bank. It never became Zendar’s. Instead, Zendar made his money as a merchant and is much more pleasant because of it. He’s seen at the library having a cup of tea with the librarian.
8:41am – Tripping Woman
A small child, Jack Harrow, bumps into Regina Marnen, accidentally pushing the uppity old woman into a horse trough. Angry, Marnen backhands Harrow, knocking the child onto his back. As he falls, Harrow hits his head on a rock, leaving him permanently brain-damaged.
If the characters stop Marnen (N female human commoner) from injuring Harrow (or from falling into the trough at all) on the same interval they end the time loop, they change the present. Harrow never gets brain damage. In fact, he is the co-owner of the Clatter and Clang Smithy with Nadia.
8:46am – Poison Soup
A man steps outside of the Starry Night Inn and Tavern and wretches. Through his heaving, he warns, “There’s something wrong with the soup.” It turns out that the inn’s owner, Jerrol, accidentally served spoiled soup to the morning patrons. In fact, twenty of the town’s citizens got sick from the soup. Since that day, the inn has been nicknamed the “Sickly Soup” Tavern and Inn. The stigma hurt the business for years; even seventy-five years later, Belhaveners warn passersby not to eat any of the food there.
If the characters warn Jerrol that the soup is poison on their final interval, the Starry Night Inn and Tavern never receives its stigma. In Present Belhaven, the inn rarely sees a vacancy and the tavern is always full of paying patrons happily eating the food.
Escape from the Bronze Shield Armory
After Cassius sends the characters into the past, they find themselves prisoners in the dungeon of the Bronze Shield Armory. The armory serves two important functions in the story. First, it acts as the starting point for each of the time loops. Second, the characters will discover that many of the clues they need to solve the mystery of Astrid’s disappearance can be discovered here.
Unless otherwise stated, the armory has the following features:
Alarms. During the first round of combat with members of the Bronze Shields, at least one of the guards will raise the alarm, pulling a robe for a signal bell that sounds throughout the entire complex. From there, reinforcements arrive from all corners of the armory, potentially overwhelming (and killing) the characters.
Ceilings. The ceilings in the dungeon are 8-feet high and the ceilings everywhere else are 12-feet high.
Doors. Upstairs, the doors are made of thick oak braced with iron, resting on iron hinges. The dungeon doors are the same, but with small windows near the top. Unless magically enchanted, locked doors require a DC 18 Strength saving throw to break open or a DC 15 Dexterity check using proficiency in thieves’ tools to pick the lock. All of the doors have an AC of 16, 20 hp, and immunity to poison and psychic damage.
Light. The two floors upstairs are lit with lanterns hung at strategic locations. The dungeon has torches in the hallway connecting the cells, but not in the cells themselves.
Floors. The floors in the dungeon are made of rough cobblestone. On the first and second floor, the floors are made of stone braced with large, oak timbers. Rugs decorate the majority of the rooms.
Walls. The walls of the armory are made of laid brick both upstairs and down. Upstairs, tapestries, paintings, and other art depicting Bel, the God of Valor decorate the walls.
The following locations are keyed to the Bronze Shield Armory (Past) above.
A1 – Time Loop Cell
When the characters first arrive in the past and every time they reset, they return to this cell. They are always chained to the wall, missing their possessions and fully rested.
Magic Wards. The dungeon cell is magically enchanted to confuse, disorient, and suppress the abilities of its prisoners. The enchantment creates the following effects:
- No sound can be created within or pass through the cell, similar to the effects of a silence spell. Only the old man’s sending stone can cut through the enchantment (see below).
- All ability checks and attack rolls are made with disadvantage while in the room.
- The door is arcane locked.
- To cast a spell, a character must make an Intelligence check with a DC of 10 + the level fo the spell cast. On a failed check, the spell has no effect and the slot is wasted. Keep in mind that casters won’t have their material components, holy symbols, or arcane foci available. Plus the silence effect prevents verbal components.
The enchantment itself is held in place by a symbol spell scrawled on the ceiling. Noticing the symbol requires a successful DC 16 Intelligence (Investigation) check. The characters have two options. First, they can dispel the symbol itself with a dispel magic spell (using the sending stone and passing the Intelligence check to cast the spell) versus the 7th-level spell. Or, a second DC 16 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals that the symbol itself is held in place by a series of invisible, heat-sensitive lines that outline the contours of the room. Placing a warm hand on the paint or using a heat source like a torch on it reveals the paint. Should the paint be disrupted by damaging the stones around them (AC 17; hp 20; damage threshold 5; immunity to poison and psychic damage), the symbol disrupts and the magic wards cease to function.
Speaking in the Cell. The characters should recall that the old man was able to utter words before he died. So there must be a way to speak in the room.
Anyone who searches the body of the old man (at least one character should be able to drag him near) will find the stone in his palm. The stone is smooth and has a rough carving of a mouth on it.
The mage, using his own clever devices, constructed what appears to be a sending stone, but altered in a way that allows its user to briefly cut through the cell’s enchantment and project their words aloud. Trouble is, the stone has only one charge left, allowing only 9 more words to be spoken before it ceases to function (that is, until it resets during the next interval, of course).
Manacles. The manacles the characters find themselves in are tough to break, but not impossible. A character can pull the manacle from the wall with a successful DC 18 Strength check. Once free of the wall, the manacle can work as an improvised weapon, dealing bludgeoning damage equal to 1d6 + the character’s Strength modifier on a hit.
Cell Door. While enchanted, a DC 28 Strength check is required to break open the door. Or, the lock can be picked with a DC 25 Dexterity check using proficiency with thieves’ tools. Removing the magic wards reduces the DC by 10 for each check.
The Old Man. The old man in the cell was named Marion Longyears (CG male human mage). He was part of the adventuring party that was captured by the Bronze Shield and interred in this cell. Unfortunately for Marion (but fortunately for the characters), Marion was not replaced by the time-traveling characters.
Encounter. If the characters create a lot of noise escaping, the Bronze Shield guards from areas A2 and A3 as well as Oarow Saint James (see area A3) ambush them in the hall. The Bronze Shields are all armed with heavy crossbows and won’t hesitate to attack, looking to kill the escaped prisoners. Nevermind the fact that the characters look nothing like the adventurers they imprisoned in the first place.
A2 – Torture Chamber
When the characters enter the room, read or paraphrase the following.
Racks, whips, and even a fire pit for warming iron spikes clutter this room. Obviously, this is a torture chamber of some sort. In fact, there’s still fresh blood on one of the racks.
Marion (area A1) was brought into this chamber and tortured to near death. The Bronze Shield believed Marion consorted with demons (he did). To no avail, Marion told the Shields whatever they wanted to hear.
If the characters avoided signaling the guards during their escape, one guard is still here cleaning up Marion’s blood.
A3 – Guard Room
At the center of this room is a table covered in 107 copper pieces. If the characters avoided signaling the guards during their escape, Oarow Saint James (LE male human veteran) and three guards are still relaxing here, playing cards
Saint James carries keys to all of the cells in the dungeon (areas A1 – A6).
Oarow Saint James
Oarow is the cruel torturer and jailer of the Bronze Shield Armory. Ironically, he’s quick to crumble when a threat is made on his life. While he doesn’t know the exact location where Astrid is being held, he does know who would: Lord Dunhall, the military leader of the Bronze Shields. He doesn’t know where Dunhall currently is but suggests his estate on the western end of town.
Saint James will also reveal all of the passwords and keyphrases that operate the enchantments in the armory and how many guards are currently on duty.
A4 – Locker
The door into this room is locked.
Treasure. Upon capture, the original adventurers were stripped of their possessions which were then stored in this room. Here, the characters find the following equipment:
|1 light crossbow with 13 bolts||1 arcane focus|
|1 longbow and a quiver with 9 arrows||1 holy symbol|
1 set of thieves’ tools
|1 rapier||1 burglar’s pack|
1 dungeoneer’s pack
|1 shortbow and quiver of 10 arrows||1 priest’s pack|
|2 shortswords||1 scholar’s pack|
|1 suit of leather armor||
1 spellbook (containing all the spells from the mage spell list)
|2 suits of scale mail||
1 scroll of detect thoughts
1 goggles of night
Time Constraints. Donning armor takes time. It takes 1 minute to don light armor, 5 minutes to don medium armor, and 10 minutes to don heavy armor.
A5 – Holding Cell
Criminals lacking magical powers or other special talents are kept in this open holding cell. Three iron bars run the length of the room. From those bars dangle manacled prisoners, their arms above their head. Currently, three such individuals hang this way. All three are commoners and know nothing about Astrid. Freeing them requires Saint James’ keys (see area A3) or a successful DC 15 Strength check to pull a bar from the ceiling. The prisoners all have only 1 hit point remaining and 1 level of exhaustion.
A6 – Brunda’s Cell
This cell has similar enchantments in place as those in area A1. However, anyone who speaks the command phrase “Revere the Light” removes the temporarily removes the enchantment until the command phrase “Hide from the Light” is spoken.
At the center of this cell is what looks like a creature that was once an orc. Its skin is deathly pale and what little hair it has on its head is just as white. Just above its sunken cheeks are a pair of pitch-black eyes. Five sets of manacles hold the monster in place: one for each its arms and feet, and one for its neck. “End this,” it begs, looking up at you.
Astrid was traveling with her friend, Brunda (NE male orc wight) when she was captured. Whereas Astrid refused to give up answers about Cassius, Brunda talked, revealing not only secrets about the vampire lord but other undead in the region.
Brunda wants nothing more than to escape and will tell the characters everything he knows about what happened to him and Astrid so long as they promise to let him free.
- Astrid was briefly held in this cell with Brunda. Like him, they tortured her in order to discover the location of Cassius. She would not speak. (Whereas he did).
- Eventually, a knight whose name Brunda never learned (Lord Dunhall) took Astrid away. This happened roughly two hours ago.
- Cassius lives 20 miles from the town of Belhaven in an old keep. No one knows that he is a vampire.
The wight has no idea who the characters are. Furthermore, he only knows Cassius in his past form and will be confused by the characters’ claims of time travel or time loops.
If the characters free Brunda, Brunda will escape by the shortest route possible, hoping to get as far from the armory as he can. He’s smart enough to avoid a conflict with the characters.
A7 – Foyer
Escaping the dungeon, the characters emerge through a trap door in the foyer. The first time they come out, read or paraphrase the following:
The moment you woke up, you suspected something was off. But now you really think something strange is going on. The same armory whose halls you passed into the night before is suddenly a completely different building. While the rough structure seems to be the same, it’s almost as if the entire building was just built. In fact, everything in it looks new, too. The tapestries are no longer rotten, the broken table you walked past is still standing, and the rugs are free of mold. Even the old wooden doors leading outside are in perfect condition.
Two more guards stand watch here. When the characters appear, they sound the alarm, then fight while waiting for reinforcements from other areas of the armory to arrive.
A8 – Front Garden
The first time the characters step out into the gardens in front of the armory, read the following.
Whereas just a few hours ago the armory’s grounds were covered in overgrown grass, unpruned bushes, and thick vines growing over everything, now it’s all perfectly manicured. Even the path leading into the building looks new.
The characters catch their first glimpse of past Belhaven. The town’s rooves look new. The trees of the forest are different. Even the water looks less polluted.
As some point, a character may wish to make a check to determine what’s happening: have them make a DC 13 Intelligence (History) check. On a success, they realize that the buildings and Belhavener’s style were popular some seventy-five years ago.
Encounter. Six guards led by a veteran stand outside of the Bronze Shield Armory. When they see the characters, they first question their presence, then draw their weapons. If the alarm was raised by the guards in area A7, these Bronze Shield guards are prepared for the characters. In addition, the roof of the west wing has four more guards on top, each armed with a heavy crossbow.
A9 – Entry
The door leading into the hallway is locked and trapped. Anyone that fails to speak the phrase “Revere the Light” before touching the door must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw. On a failed saving throw, a creature takes 7 (2d6) lightning damage and is paralyzed for 1 minute. A creature can repeat its saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself with a success. On a successful saving throw, a creature takes half as much damage and isn’t paralyzed. The alarm is raised when the trap goes off, too.
A10 – Conference Room
A large, oak table beset with a dozen chairs dominates the center of this room. The Bronze Shield higher-ups meet here. Along the western wall is a map of the immediate region surrounding Belhaven. A dagger sticks in the wall over Cassius’ keep just outside of town.
A11 – Lord Dunhall’s Office
The door into this room is locked. A small desk with dozens of neatly stocked documents and tomes faces the door. A character can glance through the documents and books revealing a common theme: the destruction of undead. One book, in particular, should catch the characters’ interest, a leather-bound tome titled On Vampires by Reginald Diamond. If a character reads the book (it takes 6 hours minus a number of hours equal to the character’s Intelligence modifier for a minimum of 1 hour) they can learn all they need to know about vampires (in game terms, the GM reveals the full vampire stat block to the player).
Treasure. Lord Dunhall has two items of interest in this study. First, he keeps a hand crossbow armed with a +1 crossbow bolt aimed at the door strapped on the underside of the desk. Second, a DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals a false bottom in one of the drawers. Within the drawer are a holy symbol of Bel, a flask of holy water, and 10 gp.
A12 – Stairs
The stairs are protected by a lone guard.
A13 – Brother Aethlwald’s Sitting Room
Whereas most of the armory has been somewhat austere, this room swims in decadence. Artwork, gold chalices, tapestries, and expensive-looking furniture are everywhere you look.
The high priest and religious leader of the Bronze Shields, Brother Aethlwald lives on the top floor of the armory. Currently, he is at Rangor Farm, overseeing the destruction of Astrid.
Encounter. Brother Lyle (N male human acolyte) is found here. See the Brother Lyle sidebar for details. If the alarm sounded, he’s hiding behind one of the chairs.
Treasure. Out in the open, the characters find chalices, jewelry, vestments, and other valuables with a combined worth of 500 gp.
Time Constraints. Collecting all of the valuables in this room takes at least 1 minute.
Brother Lyle is Aethlwald closest assistant and secret lover. Weak-willed and easily frightened, Lyle fears confrontation of any sort. If the characters intimidate him, he tells them all he knows about Aethlwald. While he isn’t sure where Aethlwald currently is, he knows Aethlwald and Dunhall left the armory a couple hours before the bell tolled eight with one of their captives.
Lyle desperately loves Aethlwald, begging the characters to leave the older priest unharmed.
A14 – Study
Brother Aethlwald retreats to this room to meditate. A shrine to Bel rests against the eastern wall. Atop the shrine is a blood-stained leather cat of nine-tails. Just a few feet in front of the shrine is a circle of dried blood. This is where Brother Aethlwald flagellates.
Treasure. An ornamental holy symbol hangs on the wall above the shrine. The symbol is made of solid gold and worth 100 gp.
A15 – Brother Aethlwald’s Bed Chambers
Unlike the rest of the upstairs, this room is oddly humble. Against the southern wall is a simple cot with a small, unlit candle beside it. A hook hangs on the wall, likely for a robe. Beside the bed is a bucket filled with bloody water.
After Aethlwald flagellates, he retreats to these chambers where Brother Lyle cleans his wounds using the water bucket.
A16 – Armory
Swords, spears, shields, and crossbows decorate the walls.
The actual room where the Bronze Shield armory gets its name is here. There are two guards in this room.
A17 – West Wing Font Entry
The door leading outside is locked.
A18 – Refectory
Two guards can be found in this break room. The door leading to the rear is locked.
A19 – Rear Garden
Should the characters escape through the back, the area is clear. However, the roof does have four guards on top armed with heavy crossbows (these are the same guards mentioned in area A8).
Once the characters save Astrid from destruction in the well, the Green Flash occurs one last time. However, when the characters awaken to the sounds of the bell tolling, they find themselves once again in the ruins of the Bronze Shields Armory in the present. They have all their possessions again, but the bunks are gone. In fact, there is no sign of Cassius, Astrid, Frazzle, or any of Cassius’ servants.
Once the characters decide to leave, they immediately notice that they are back in the present time. Also, in the foyer of the armory are bags of gold with a note.
It reads, “Thank you. – CS”
The bags contain the amount of gold Cassius promised.
Present Belhaven should reflect the changes the characters made during their last interval. While this adventure makes a few suggestions on changes the characters may have made, there is no way to predict the long-term consequences of their actions. What modern Belhaven looks like when the characters return is ultimately up to you.
Should the characters try to find Cassius or anyone related to him, they discover that Lord Cassius Sylvanyus has not been seen near Belhaven in seventy-five years. His old keep lies in ruins just twenty-feet north of town.
Some folks say it’s haunted. Ω