The Terror at Prior’s Hill is a location-based adventure designed for four 5th-level adventurers. This side quest adventure features undead, so a cleric in the party will be useful. There are also traps present, so a rogue that can detect traps easily will also help save the party from more than a few dangers. Characters with proficiency in Arcana and Survival are also useful.
Although this adventure can be inserted into any campaign setting, it officially takes place in the Eastern Borderlands featured in BroadSword Monthly #1.
Note: this adventure is still in editorial mode, so there may be typos, logic errors, etc.
Eight massive standing stones loom around Prior’s Hill. Grasses never grow tall here, and according to those willing to track their travels through the forest, the druids’ paths all eventually lead to this one place.
On the right nights, with the right rituals, one can open the portal on Prior’s Hill and climb down the stairs to the black dungeons below.
Recently, homesteaders living at the eastern edge of the Eastern Borderlands have reported sightings of vicious undead creatures lingering in the foothills. A month ago, an expedition of gold-hungry adventurers set out for the old to discover and slay the source of the undead. They have no been seen since. That is, until, one of them stumbled back to Lantern Falls warning others that the “terror of Prior’s Hill has risen” before collapsing.
The adventurers discovered the dungeons below Prior’s Hill and accidentally woke an evil, undead druid named Zoradin. Now Zoradin hopes to regain the power he had in life by devouring the souls of the living creatures his undead minions claim.
The characters are tasked by Bezzwic Greencloak of Lantern Falls (see BroadSword Monthly #1) to investigate Prior’s Hill. Along the way, they encounter undead creatures and other dangers in the foothills of the Towering Mountains. When they finally discover the standing stones at Prior’s Hill, they must head down into the ancient basement and thwart the undead druid, Zoradin and Zoradin’s minions.
If the characters are following The Secret of Forsaken Peak adventure path, then they should already be familiar with Greencloak. While they are in town, Greencloak approaches them.
“Adventurers, it would appear that more trouble has sprung up in the east. Just a few days ago, Omar Feathercap, a dungeon delver of some notoriety stumbled into Lantern Falls. Before collapsing, he warned us of the ‘terror at Prior’s Hill.’ Apparently, he and a group of three others were searching for a circle of druid stones in the foothills of the Towering Mountains. Until Feathercap reappeared, the party hadn’t been seen or heard of for at least a month.
“Will you set out to investigate Prior’s Hill and learn more about this ‘terror’ Feathercap spoke of?”
Greencloak will show the characters where Prior’s Hill is rumored to be on the map (see the map of the Eastern Borderlands above). He warns, too, that he’s heard tale of undead creatures haunting the forests and hills in the area.
This time, Greencloak offers only 100 gp per adventurer to return with whatever information they can on Prior’s Hill. Of course, the adventurers are likely to find additional treasures within the dungeons of Prior’s Hill.
Additional Adventure Hooks
The GM chooses not setting this adventure in the Eastern Borderlands campaign setting, they are free to substitute a similar mage of notoriety for Greencloak in a small frontier town.
The characters may already be familiar with the adventurers that disappeared. Omar Feathercap, the rogue who stumbled back to Lantern Falls, could be an old ally of the adventurers or even a family member or friend.
Finally, the characters could be wandering through the wilderness and stumble upon the standing stones and the hole leading into the dungeons, then decide to explore on their own.
Traveling to Prior’s Hill
Unfortunately, Greencloak’s map doesn’t show the exact location of Prior’s Hill. As the characters get closer to the location marked on Greencloak’s map, the party’s designated navigator will need to make a DC 15 Wisdom (Survival) check. If the check fails, the party is lost for 1d4 + 1 hours and must make another check.
If the check succeeds, the navigator is able to pinpoint the exact location of the standing stones at Prior’s Hill.
Attack of the Undead
As the party gets closer to Prior’s Hill, the GM may wish to foreshadow the undead that inhabit Prior’s Hill’s dungeon with a surprise attack. The attack can occur at any time of day, although, an attack on the party’s camp at night is most effective. Even if the characters use a spell such as tiny hut to protect themselves as they sleep, the undead are smart enough to wait just out of sight, waiting until the end of the hut’s duration.
The undead that attack are 3d6 zombies and 1 ogre zombie. They fight until destroyed.
When the characters arrive at Prior’s Hill, read the following.
Eight black stones set in a circle rise from the ground at the top of the old hill. Each stone is nearly 20 feet tall and made out of some sort of opaque black glass. At the center of the circle of stones is a neatly dug hole where a staircase made of old stone descends into darkness. Claw marks blemish the ground surrounding the hole, as if something–or someone–was dragged in against its will.
Omar and the other adventurers who discovered the stones performed a ritual to reopen the dungeon below. When they did, undead that had lied dormant for decades climbed out of the hole and immediately attacked, catching the party off guard. Omar escaped as did another one of his companions, but the other two were pulled into the dungeon.
Features. The dungeons chambers and corridors lack any real source of light. The descriptions assume that the characters have torches, dark vision, or other methods of seeing in the dark. The walls, ceilings, and floors are made of hard stone unless stated otherwise.
1 – The Descent
The ancient staircase descends into darkness. Dropped trinkets, canteens, and other discard and dropped possessions clutter the old, stone steps.
There are more signs of a struggle here such as additional claw marks and spots of dried blood.
2 – Dungeon Landing
You finally reach the base of the ancient spiral staircase, entering a 15 by 15-foot room. To the south and east of you are wide sets of stairs that descend even further into the black dungeon.
The walls are hewn stone decorated with the same black glass that the standing stones were made of. Macabre imagery marks the walls: skulls, skeletons, sorcerers, and strange arcane symbols.
Encounter. As soon as the characters enter this chamber, a wraith accompanied by three specters emerges from the shadows and attacks. These undead were tasked by Zoradin to guard the entrance. The wraith has specific instructions to convert all living creatures into specters and will fight until destroyed.
Disarmed Trap. The stairs leading down into area 4 was originally guarded by a trap at the center of the steps. When Zoradin’s minions rose from their slumber, they disarmed the trap by damaging the black glass runes on the wall.
Noticing the runes requires a successful DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) made with advantage if the character is proficient in Arcana. Replacing the runes requires a successful DC 10 Intelligence (Arcana) check. However, if a character passes the check by 5 or more, they realize that replacing the runes arms a magical trap. When triggered, the trap creates a blinding flash of holy energy meant to disable tomb robbers and destroy undead.
Should the characters fail to realize the nature of the trap and reset the runes, when triggered, each creature standing on the stairs must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw. On a failed saving throw, a creature takes 11 (2d10) radiant damage and is blinded for 1 minute. On a successful saving throw, a creature takes half as much damage and isn’t blinded. Undead take an additional 11 (2d10) damage from the trap.
3 – Prison of the Damned
The hallway stretching thirty feet in front of you looks like it used to be a prison. On either side of you are three cells sealed with barred doors. All but one of the doors are open.
A weary voice calls out from the last cell on your left. “Help me,” it begs.
When the druids sealed the dungeon below Prior’s Hill, they imprisoned all six of Zoradin’s minions as well, leaving them to starve and rot in their cells.
Three of Zoradin’s minions are still here: Anker, Jomath, and Reems. Anker is in the last cell on the left torturing one of the two captured adventurers, Maynerd. Jomath and Reems are in their cell looking through the tomes they stole from the wizard Voran the Bold (see area 6). All three attack when they see the characters.
Rescuing Maynerd. Maynerd (NG male human knight) has only 1 hit point remaining. All of his equipment and weapons can be found in an adjacent cell. Also, Vozan’s gear can be found in this area, as well, including his spellbook and weapons. Award the characters inspiration if they help Maynerd escape the dungeon alive.
Zoradin has five minions: Anker, Jomath, Lokai, Reems, and Uvarian.
The five minions are wights, except they are all 3rd-level spellcasters, too. Their spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 11, +3 to hit with spell attacks). They can cast the following druid spells:
- Cantrips (at will): poison spray, thorn whip
- 1st Level (4 slots): charm person, entangle
- 2nd Level (2 slots): flaming sphere, heat metal
The minions wield scimitars instead of longswords.
4 – Dark Halls
Before you even reach the bottom of the stairs you can hear moaning and shuffling in the darkness.
10 zombies and 10 skeletons shuffle mindlessly through this maze of alcoves and narrow passages (the ceilings are only 6 feet high here). They attack whenever a creature comes close, and move towards any sounds they hear.
Trap. The door to area 5 is trapped. Discovering the trap requires a successful DC 18 Intelligence (Investigation) check. Disarming the trap is relatively simple; a successful DC 12 Dexterity check using proficiency in thieves tools removes the mechanism. If any creature touches the door before disarming the trap, they must make a DC 17 Constitution saving throw, taking 21 (6d6) radiant damage on a failed saving throw or half as much damage on a successful one.
5 – Zoradin’s Claw
Floating in mid air at the center of this small room is a tall wooden staff topped with the withered claw of some long-dead bird of prey. The walls are decorated with skeletal sorcerers with outstretched hands carved from black stone. Its almost as if these reliefs were trying to reach the staff.
The druids who sealed Zoradin separated the druid from his magical staff, Zoradin’s Claw (see Appendix B for details). The claw floats in suspended animation in the center of the room.
Trap. If a creature touches the staff before disarming the magic holding it in place, all creatures in the room must make a DC 17 Constitution saving throw, taking 21 (6d6) radiant damage on a failed saving throw or half as much damage on a successful one. The creature that actually touched the Claw makes its saving throw with disadvantage.
A 6th-level abjuration spell holds the Claw in place. The trap can be disarmed and the staff removed if a successful dispel magic is cast against the spell holding it in its place.
6 – The Bleak Pit
The staircase opens up into a large room with 30-foot high ceilings. Whereas the other chambers walls and ceilings were crafted from stone with black glass worked into it, this entire room is made from black glass with the exception of the floors.
At the far end of the room stands a tall figure wearing a black hat and dark red robes. In his clutches is a bearded human in purple. You watch in horror as the life drains from the human’s face until it is nothing more than a withered, hollow skull. The dark-robed creature drops the limp human and sighs with content.
“That… was delicious,” the creature remarks.
The figure is none other than Zoradin (see Appendix C). He is joined by two of his minions, Lokai and Uvarian (read the “Zoradin’s Minions” sidebar for details on their stats).
Zoradin just woke from a century-long slumber and is in no mood to be put back down. He will attempt to destroy the characters but if he is reduced to half his hit points or fewer, he will attempt to escape the dungeon using his gaseous form spell.
The human whose life Zoradin drained was Vozan the Bold (LN male human mage). All of Vozan’s possessions were taken by the wights in area 3.
7 – Zoradin’s Sarcophagus
A large, stone sarcophagus resting against the far wall dominates this 10-foot by 10-foot chamber. The lid of the sarcophagus lies on the floor, broken in two pieces. The sarcophagus itself is empty.
On stone ledges all around the room are eight ivory jars carefully carved into the shape of a different animal: badger, bat, deer, eagle, fish, snake, toad, and wolf.
This room is where Zoradin slept for a century. When he woke, his servants tore off the lid of his sarcophagus, smashing it upon the floor.
Treasure. The eight ivory jars contain the remains of Zoradin’s organs. A character that removes a jar from its perch is automatically cursed with Zoradin’s Curse (see below). Each jar is worth 500 gp.
Zoradin’s Curse. Unless a remove curse spell or similar magic is cast upon an ivory jar, a creature that removes the jar from its ledge contracts Zoradin’s Curse. While cursed, the creature has disadvantage on all saving throws against the spells and magical effects of undead creatures. In addition, any undead creature with the Life Drain action can make the attack against the cursed creature with advantage. The curse can be removed with a remove curse spell or if the jar is returned to its original place.
When the characters return to Lantern Falls, Bezzwic Greencloak awards them with the promised gold, paying 10 gp extra if they managed to save any of the lost adventurers (Maynerd and Vozan).
Should the characters defeat Zoradin, it is likely that the evil druid will rejuvenate and return. The only way to truly defeat Zoradin is to destroy the eight ivory jars that contain his remains. Any creature that possesses one of the jars or carries Zoradin’s Curse becomes an instant target for Zoradin. Zoradin is patient, though; he’ll wait to gather his strength, then attack with even stronger allies than before. Ω
Staff, rare (requires attunement by a druid, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard)
The staff has 10 charges. While holding it, you can use an action to expend 1 or more of its charges to cast one of the following spells from it, using your spell save DC: bestow curse (2 charges), blight (6 charges), or ray of sickness (3 charges).
The staff regains 1d6 + 4 expended charges daily at dusk. If you expend the last charge, roll a d20. On a 1, the staff turns brittle and crumbles; it is destroyed.
Credits: Prior’s Hill description by Dyson Logos, Adventure by Dave Hamrick, Cartography by Justin David Russell and Dyson Logos
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3 thoughts on “The Terror at Prior’s Hill | New 5th Level Adventure for Fifth Edition (BroadSword Preview)”
just trying to understand the scale of the map, area 2 says 15’x15′ and we can see in the drawing it is 3 squares by 3 squares .. so each square is 5′ which is the room a medium creature takes up. that first area 2 battle has 4 baddies and maybe the party is a group of 5. pretty much every square is filled. the congestion in area 4 is even higher. something seems off here.. i might have to change the scale in my campaign. but i do like the idea of SOME of the areas being tight quarters 🙂
just a quick question. I’m missing a descriotion of Zoradins spells and such. It only lists appendix B in this. Where do I have to look to find this or where do I find that appendix?
You can find more details about Zoradin in the blog post Zoradin the Deadcaller: https://dmdave.com/zoradin-the-deadcaller/
Hope this helps!
-The DMDave Team