A totem, placed by the ancient Khiami, having fought the vicious hog men and banished them - pushing them back into the woodlands to cower - on the banks of the river: a reminder that beyond is the dominion of Man.
The Guardian at the River - a location on my home hex map of the Caanish Archipelago - sits silently waiting in my hex key document bearing only the above to mark its existence. So I may or may not be wise to post this online - knowing that one day, running a game, players may run across it. But c'est la vie! If you're ever running in my game and recognize the totem - pretend you didn't read it!
Herein presented (or as a PDF here) and please enjoy, the Guardian at the River.
A Totem on a Hill
A river bends gradually around a mound - a hillock in the plains, blocking the path of the water - making of itself a fat peninsula in the path of a lazy flow. Rising perhaps twenty feet from the water line, at the peak, it takes on a decidedly man-made appearance: with a large totem surrounded by four limestone slabs occupying the hilltop.
The totem, itself, is a ten foot cylinder rising 30 feet into the air,
narrowing slightly as it rises. At its apex, it shapes itself into a blade
like a spear's head - at the socket, where on a spear the head might be
attached to the shaft, is carved the effigy of a boar's skull. Just shy of the
spear's head - around 20, 25 feet off the ground - two large, curved spines
like the tusks of a boar jut from the side, extending out from the main
cylinder and pointing to the west.
The slabs are limestone - five feet wide by ten feet long: with the length extending away from the totem in cardinal directions. They are fitted snugly into the earth and will require effort to break through or excavate - except the slab to the south, which is slightly ajar - having been undermined and shifted by a force not obvious from the surface nor visible on the horizon.
The Shrine Beneath
Scale: 10 ft.
The North Shrine
N1 - North Entry
N2 and N4 are screened from this space by iron bars. Clay idols - sea spirits on the east; cloud spirits on the west - line the flanking walls. The room is dripping - a misting drip, just heavier than drizzle: but the drops seem to always fall and miss characters of Lawful or Unaligned alignment.
The doors to N2 and N4 are both locked.
N2 - West Chamber, North
A disheveled pile of linens lies against the eastern wall. A chest with a skeleton hanging over it sits propped against the north wall. Inside the chest are 300sp, an agate (10gp), and two fire-topaz (500gp). Hiding in the linens are 2 Spitting Cobra (B41) - a further Spitting Cobra (B41) is hiding in the skeleton.
In the north-east corner, there is a semi-circular grate in the floor where water, dribbling in from under the bars to N1, flows and discharges. A character who expressly looks into the grate will see a door leading to N5; a character who does not expressly look may yet find the door with a successful Hidden Doors check.
The door to N3 is stuck.
N3 - Treasure Hide
Two graves - in which ash has been arranged in the shape of a body - are aligned to the east and west walls of this room. There are amulets placed where the neck would be - inlaid with emerald and worth 800 gp each - and on the west, there is a platinum-bladed, electrum-hilted sickle worth 900gp. There is a clay pot at the feet of each grave - one of which has been smashed. Inside are specie - between them are 200 sp and 20 gp.
Light sources, if brought into proximity to the graves, burn brighter: casting 60' of light instead of 30' for the duration of their current context - that is, the torch will burn brighter for the duration of it's lit lifespan; a lantern will burn brighter for the duration of its current supplied oil flask; and so on.
N4 - East Chamber, North
A mosaic of stone - that is, no bright colors; only natural rock to the area - is inlaid on the east wall. In the north-west corner, like N2, there is a semi-circular grate in the floor where water, dribbling in from under the bars to N1, flows and discharges. A character who expressly looks into the grate will see a door leading to N5; a character who does not expressly look may yet find the door with a successful Hidden Doors check.
N5 - Servitor's Access
The doors leading out of this narrow hall - to N3, N2, N4, E2, and E3 - are all obvious when viewed from N5. The northern stretch is lower than the rest, with slight inclines leading to the door to N3 and to the eastern portion of the hall. The floor of the depressed areas are moist; the floor of the elevated areas are mostly dry.
Spilled on the floor of the depressed stretch, near the door to N2 and N4, is
400 sp. In the west side, two gold sconces are embedded in the wall - worth 25
The South Shrine
S1 - South Entry
Before each door - each of which are heavy stone (as stuck, +1 to the benefit of the player) - a pile of 10 gold pieces is stacked neatly into a small tower. If the gold is removed, the door beside it will not open. The door to S4 has been spiked ajar: open enough for a child to pass, but not an adult.
The far end of the hall is a circular fountain, in which 500 silver pieces appear to have been tossed. A character investigating the base of the fountain may note (and would note on a successful Hidden Doors check) that the base of the fountain rotates, revealing a ladder down into S7.
S2 - Empty Coffin
The head of a stone sarcophagus aligns to the west wall. Inside, there is residue of ash, but not enough to form a pile. A dirty ring - polishing it off will reveal its nature - worth 250 gold pieces can be found inside.
S3 - Blackened Burial
From the outside, a stone statue of a human is lying supine on the floor, framed by driftwood. Stepping inside, however, a character finds themselves immediately unable to see: light sources are not extinguished, but are also not effective. Leaving the area ends the effect; light sources work normally outside the room. Characters with infra-vision or other supernatural means of seeing will - upon entry - see instead a wooden boat, inside which is a pile of ash arranged in the shape of a body. Placed where its ears would be is a set of earrings worth 400 gp and at its waist is a bedecked dagger - non-magical, but counting as silver for the purposes of special resistances - worth 600 gp.
S4 - Rival Halflings
The door to this space is spiked ajar. Inside are eight Halflings (B36) searching the room. Between them, they are carrying 3,000 sp, 100 gp, two agates worth 50 gp each, and a ringed-style crown worth 200 gp.
They have not yet found the secret door - which is a false wall activated by a pull cord beneath a loose stone in the floor nearby to it.
S5 - Idol Trap
The floor by the door to this room and within this room is gritty. A skeleton with no wounds leans against the door and will collapse outward when the door is opened. In the floor is inlaid a circular design; on the far wall is an altar - attached to the floor, as though the entire place had been carved from a single slab - on which sits an idol in the shape of a boar's head. It is worth 30 gold pieces. Circling the altar is a ring of silver pieces, stacked together painstakingly to form an interwoven wall. There are 1,700 in total.
On the south wall are two panels - one to the north, one to the south. The north panel is a mechanism to trap the room; the south panel, a secret entry to S6.
- If a downward force is applied to the idol, the south panel will slide open.
- If an upward force is applied to the idol - such as by lifting it off the altar - the trap activates.
When the trap activates, the north hatch opens and the room fills with sand. Any character in the room must Save vs Breath to evade: at which point, they are able to exit the space into S1. If the exit to S1 is blocked, all saves automatically fail. A character who fails this save is submerged in the sand and will suffocate.
Also when this trap activates, a plug pops open in the fountain at the south end of S1. The trap requires a manual reset - which is accomplished by pushing the plug down and refilling the fountain with at least one gallon of water: after which, a magic seam opens along where the floor meets the walls in S5, allowing the sand to pour out - back into the cistern holding it behind the north panel.
S6 - Trove
In this space, earthen pottery and a wooden case are used to house tributes and offerings. These offerings are cataloged as follows:
- 3,000 sp
- 2,000 gp
- 2 fire agates worth 100 gp each
- 1 large ruby worth 1,000 gp
- 1 electrum headdress worth 700 gp
- 2 gold chain veils worth 1,000 gp each
- 1 amulet with two emeralds flanking a sapphire worth 1,200 gp
Six Skeletons (B42) - their frame Orcish (at the referee's option, improve their armor class by 1 to reflect) - guard the treasure.
S7 - South Tunnel
The door to S4 is obvious from this side, as is the ladder up to S1. The rotational aspect of the door to S1 is not immediately obvious, but an enterprising character should figure it out. The exit to E4 is in the form of a loose block which would have to be knocked over to enter.
Near the center of the space is a thin stalagnate - at its center, the stalagtite and stalagmite are joined by a crystal skull. The skull, itself, is worth 400 gold pieces: but if it is removed, the junction will collapse: preventing movement through the tunnel in any direction. Characters in the junction must Save vs Breath or be crushed by falling stone.
The east portion of the tunnel appears to be filled with liquid. The liquid, however, isn't liquid to the touch. The shore is wispy - like a fog; not like an actual pool - and physically interacting with it reveals that it is of the same consistency of air - a character cannot swim in it, but can walk through it. A character of Lawful alignment can breath in it - unaligned or Chaotic characters cannot. It is turgid - visibility being limited to around five feet.
The East Shrine
E1 - East Entry
The stairs to this space land in a thin pool of standing water - 6 inches deep - carved into the floor to resemble a river. To the north and south of this "stream" (which is stagnant), the ground is dry. The pool runs eastwards and shallows out - a "beach entry" so to speak - just beyond the doors to the east.
The east wall of E1 is iron bars: the doors therein are iron gates. The south door is rusted over (stuck); though the north door will open fine. The door to E4 from the hallway just beyond the north door is locked.
The secret door to the west is not hidden, per se - but is concealed by the stairwell, which is hollow beneath. A character that looks under the stairs will naturally find the door: which is a faux wall, push inward to open. A latch on the far side allows re-opening.
E2 - Alcove Room
Chair-sized alcoves - flat on the bottom, half-domes on the top - are carved into the west wall. Two rugs rotted somewhat by time - parallel to each other - run east to west. The secret door to the north is hidden behind a small cabinet and has a slight drop in the floor level between E2 and N5.
E3 - As We Have Wrought
The north and east walls are decorated with a wrought iron design: embedded at interval into the stone walls. To the north, the design appears to abstractly depict hills; to the east, water - with an overlap of about three feet into the north wall. That overlap is a secret door - which hinges from the corner inward and activates via a latch along the seam of the two designs. Like E2, there is a slight drop in the floor level between E3 and N5.
E4 - River Sanctum
The east wall of this space, as well as the eastern portion of the north and south walls, appear to be sweating - as though they may be below the water table. The floor of this space gradually declines, such that near the east wall is a pool of water, appearing to move in the direction of the river outside. Three copper idols are placed along the shore, facing east. The idols can be removed and are worth 5 gold pieces each.
The liquid, however, isn't liquid to the touch. Physically interacting with it reveals that it is of the same consistency of air - a character cannot swim in it, but can walk through it. A character of Lawful alignment can breath in it - unaligned or Chaotic characters cannot. It is turgid - visibility being limited to around five feet.
In the south-east corner is sunken a heavy wooden chest. Inside can be found 2,000 gp and a silver statue of a dolphin, worth a further 1,000 gp. There is a small hole in the wall nearby, which can be tugged to open a large enough hole to get into S7, as demarcated by the hidden door.
The door to E1 is rusted over (stuck).
The door to the north is locked.
The West Shrine
W1 - West Entry
The entry at the top of this shrine is ajar. The floor bears signs of litter, as though animals have housed here. The ceiling beyond the first ten feet of the stairs, where the room opens, elevates - five feet taller than the initial room. Hanging in this space are eight Stirges (B43).
Like E1, the "secret" door is not particularly hidden, but is under the stairs: a character which intentionally looks under the stairs, which are hollow, will be able to find it - a push-panel of faux wall.
W2 - Orc Vegas
Eight Orcs (B39) are playing cards in this space, waiting for the Stirges in W1 to leave at nightfall so that they can safely make their own exit. The captain of the group has 2 hit dice and one eye: his other having been replaced with a smooth ruby worth 100 gold pieces. The pot of their card game - orcish Rummy - is worth 4,000 silver.
W3 - North Tunnel
Where the room opens up from the short entry hall, the floor is a slight step down. It is soft earth, on which is growing patches of grass, three feet in height, covering about 70% of the floor. The grass is mundane - though albino - and the room is otherwise empty.
W4 - Silvered Amphora
Four earthwork amphora - three feet in height - are in the south-east corner. A pile of mud bricks sits in disarray in the western portion of the room. A sack of 1,600 silver pieces can be found tucked into one of the amphora.
W5 - Tunnel
The entrances out of this space are hard to see, but not exactly hidden: searching for the door succeeds on 3-in-6, but a character having entered through one will know where their entry door is automatically. This tunnel resembles a burrow - perhaps a large subterranean animal. Inside, 7 Bandits (B30) are quietly resting: they look roughed up and may simply desire egress at this point in their adventure.