Curse of Strahd: Reloaded
A Campaign Guide by /u/DragnaCarta
Chapter 12: Tsolenka Pass
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Table of Contents
Chapter 12: Tsolenka Pass
Ascending Mount Ghakis
The journey up Mount Ghakis can be segmented into two parts: the Barovian Highlands, and Mount Ghakis itself.
The “Mount Ghakis” segment begins after Tsolenka Pass, and continues up to the Amber Temple (see below). The Barovian Highlands, conversely, begin where the road branches south from the Old Svalich Road, and terminate just before Tsolenka Pass.
Climate & Hazards
Weather and environmental conditions in the Barovian Highlands are largely similar to those of the Svalich Woods below. However, due to the greater elevation, the temperature is somewhat colder, often approaching or passing below freezing, and snow is more common than rain.
The weather of the Mountain’s Peak is much more severe. The ground is nearly always covered with 1” – 2” of snowfall, and the temperature is far below freezing. As a result, characters who don’t have heat sources, cold weather gear, or magic to protect them are subject to the effects of Extreme Cold (DMG 110).
Due to this extreme cold, the following weather and environmental hazards are much more common while ascending the Mountain’s Peak, and may be included as part of any encounter with the DM’s discretion: Strong Wind (DMG 110), Heavy Precipitation (DMG 110), Frigid Water (DMG 110), Slippery Ice (DMG 110), Thin Ice (DMG 110).
Flora & Fauna
The hills of the Barovian Highlands are dominated by broad-leaved deciduous trees, including maple, oak, and poplar trees. At upper slopes, these change to needle-leaved, evergreen trees including spruce and pine trees. Beyond the switchback road above Tsolenka Pass, the treeline stops, with the weather growing too cold to support large vegetation. The only flora beyond this point are sparse grasses and low-growing alpine flowers.
The wild inhabitants of the Barovian Highlands include elk, foxes, goats, wolves, ravens, and rabbits. Ravens and elk do not proceed beyond Tsolenka Pass due to the cold and sparse vegetation, but the other four can be found at all altitudes at any time of year.
The Barovian Highlands
As the PCs begin their journey through the winding hills that lead to Mount Ghakis, the shadow of an enormous bird briefly blots out the light overhead – the Roc of Mount Ghakis. The Roc flies far overhead the PCs, and pays them no mind, focusing instead on transporting the adult cow that it has clutched in its talons. It soon vanishes from sight beneath the dark clouds that encircle the snowy peak of Mount Ghakis.
Shortly after bypassing the southern hills and entering the craggy road that winds through the mountains, a PC with a passive Perception of 12 or more can see footprints in the snow leading behind a jagged rock formation off the side of the road. Investigation reveals an abandoned campsite behind the rocks, including an extinguished campfire, a torn and shredded leather tent, and a trio of fur-lined sleeping bags within the tent.
A DC 15 Survival check reveals that the campfire was lit the previous night, and that a bloody struggle took place shortly afterward – indicated by the chaotic array of boot prints and monstrous pawprints across the ground. A DC 15 Nature check can reveal that the pawprints are a wolf’s prints – similar to a dire wolf, but far larger.
A character that investigates the site and succeeds on a DC 10 Investigation check finds a severed human hand, its veins bloated and tinged black, as well as a pair of discarded spears stained with black blood. A DC 15 Medicine check can reveal that the veins contain a particularly potent poison that likely spread from the rest of the body before it was severed. An investigation of the tent and sleeping bags reveals a trio of waterskins, a pouch full of rations, and a wooden flute inscribed with the Druidic rune for “Air.”
This campsite was previously inhabited by Birghild, the wife of the Mountain Folk chieftain, Sigrid; Kaldur, Birghild’s ten-year-old son; and Runa, a Mountain Folk scout. The two adults had planned to take Kaldur on his first hunting trip, but were slaughtered by a demon known as shoosuva (Volo’s Guide to Monsters, pg. 137) in the night. Kaldur narrowly escaped, and is currently located at the Frozen Lake.
This frozen lake is split by an icy causeway that extends across its middle. Several small islands dot the water’s surface, which is frozen over by a thin layer of ice (see Thin Ice in the Climate & Hazards box above). Battlemaps for this lake can be found here (credit to /u/Macharian) or here (credit to /u/SnooTangerines5710).
A PC with a passive perception of 12 or above that enters the causeway immediately notices a set of enormous paw prints similar in size and shape to those of a dire wolf. A DC 22 Nature check can identify the prints as belonging to a winter wolf (Monster Manual, pg. 340). The prints proceed from the south toward the north end of the lake, parallel to the PCs’ path.
Halfway across the causeway, each PC must make a DC 10 Perception check; on a success, that PC hears a faint voice calling for help. The source of the voice is a small child struggling to stay afloat after falling through the thin ice – Kaldur, the Mountain Folk boy who fled the abandoned campsite.
Seeking refuge from the shoosuva that attacked his guardians, Kaldur fled toward the northern lake, but was soon set upon by a pack of hungry winter wolves that threatened to eat him. He attempted to flee across the ice toward the opposite end of the lake, but fell through and is now close to drowning.
The round immediately after the PCs make contact with Kaldur (a commoner with 2 hit points), they are attacked by four winter wolves, who surprise any PC whose passive Perception does not beat their Stealth check. One winter wolf attempts to race the PCs across the lake to reach Kaldur, while the other three attempt to slow any would-be rescuers down. If a wolf reaches Kaldur, it attempts to grapple him before dragging him away from the lake; if it is unable to escape from the PCs due to its slow speed and Kaldur’s struggles, it attempts to reduce Kaldur to 0 hit points before fleeing at full speed into the hills.
On turn 3 of combat, assuming he is not removed from the water, Kaldur’s strength gives out and he begins to drown. On turn 4, he falls unconscious; on turn 5, he dies.
The surface of the lake is covered in thin ice, and each island in the lake is covered in slippery ice; the water in the lake counts as frigid water. (see Climate & Hazards above for more information).
When the PCs first kill a winter wolf, the nearest wolf begins to speak to them in broken Common, asking the PCs to give them the child in exchange for guidance to a great treasure. The wolf claims that it is working to return Kaldur to his settlement, and that winter wolves serve as “spiritual guardians” to the people of Mount Ghakis. The wolf is lying (Insight DC 9), and will attempt to flee with Kaldur as soon as escape becomes possible.
If the PCs rescue Kaldur, he can share a fragmented and terrified version of the attack that took his mother’s life the previous evening. He doesn’t know what the shoosuva is, but can describe it as a “giant wolf with a stinger like a scorpion’s.” He also asks the PCs to escort him back to Yaedrag. Kaldur doesn’t know the exact way home, but knows that the party must travel north through a forest to get there, and that the entrance is hidden behind a frozen waterfall amidst ancient ruins.
If Kaldur makes himself known when the PCs attempt to gain entry to Yaedrag via the tunnel behind the frozen waterfall, the guards automatically allow the entire party in.
As the road progresses northward, it is swallowed up by an ancient, overgrown forest of snow-covered pine trees and towering oaks, rendering the path forward invisible. Fifty feet beyond the edge of the forest lies the corpse of a dead winter wolf, carved up by Shoosoova's claws and bloated from the poison of the demon's stinger. Just beside the corpse rests an old headstone carved with the following inscription: "Beware the fury of the mountain's daughters. Follow the dragon's gaze and remain on the path." Twenty feet beyond this stone rests a small stone obelisk, five feet high and carved on one side with a sigil of the Order of the Silver Dragon that points in the direction of the next marker.
Once, these obelisks marked a clear path through the woods here, but time has caused them to crumble, allowing the nearby vegetation to swallow up any signs of the roadway that once cut through the forest. Now, only the obelisks remain, halfway-concealed by the underbrush that surrounds them.
Three additional obelisks lie along the old forest road, each pointing the way toward the next marker. The first obelisk lies beneath a thorny bramble, and must be located with a successful DC 15 Survival check. If the PCs fail this check, they must each make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw before attempting it again, taking 3d6 piercing damage from the surrounding thorns on a failure, or half on a success.
The second obelisk lies atop a small mound at the heart of a chill, opaque mist, requiring a successful DC 20 Perception check to locate. On the party's first failure for this check, eight snow maidens appear from the mists and attack. A snow maiden uses the statistics of a specter, but with the following modifications:
The snow maidens have immunity to cold damage.
The snow maidens' Life Drain attack deals cold damage instead of necrotic damage.
A battlemap of this location created by /u/SnooTangerines5710 can be found here.
The final obelisk, which points toward the exit from the forest, lies in plain sight, but upon a crumbled base of earth that has collapsed from the forest floor onto an outcropping ledge halfway down a rocky chasm one hundred feet deep. A half-ring of small stones around the obelisk matches up with a similar ring toward the top of the cliff, allowing the PCs to easily determine the obelisk’s original position. A DC 15 Athletics check is required to reach it, and the carved sigil pointing the way forward is not visible except when adjacent to the obelisk. On a failure, the PC attempting to reach the ledge falls to the bottom of the chasm, taking 8d6 bludgeoning damage, but may attempt a DC 20 Dexterity saving throw to catch themselves on the obelisk's ledge.
Each of these skill checks may be replaced with an alternate skill check or solution (e.g., the Locate Object, Gust of Wind, or Fly spells) at your discretion and/or your PCs' suggestion.
A half-hour's journey along the road past the woods, the landscape is dotted by several dozen ancient stone structures. Close to the path, between a crumbled tower and a ruined shrine that once honored the Morninglord and the Ladies Three, a frozen waterfall falls from a two-hundred-foot cliff into an icy stream that flows into a shallow cavern beneath the cliff. On the opposite side of this waterfall sits a secret stone door (Perception DC 20 to locate) that opens up into a forty-foot tunnel that enters into the hidden Mountain Folk settlement of Yaedrag. The door can only be opened from the inside or with suitably powerful magic (e.g., the Telekinesis spell).
These ruins once comprised a trading post between the Mountain Folk and the knights of the Order of the Silver Dragon. Even before Strahd's arrival, the knights of Argynvostholt relied on the Mountain Folk for guidance through dangerous weather conditions, and honored the indigenous deities alongside their own as a show of respect. Today, however, the ruins have long since fallen into disrepair, and the surrounding area has become a favored haunt of the Shoosuva.
At the north end of the ruins, several icy ledges form a terraced slope up the nearest cliff. Mt. Ghakis' resident shoosuva (Volo’s Guide to Monsters, pg. 137) prowls this area regularly, attacking any creature that breaches the borders of its territory its territory with fang, claw, and stinger. These ruins also lie at the edge of the territory of a hezrou.
The shoosuva is a recent arrival to this area, a fact known by the residents of nearby Yaedrag. The barlgura has resided here longer, having inhabited the mountains for a generation. The Mountain Folk (correctly) believe both to be the accursed spirits of sinful mortals who sought the power of the Amber Temple and who were damned and twisted for their hubris.
The first time the PCs arrive in this area, they are set upon by the hezrou, which attempts to conceal itself amidst the snowy bluffs before attacking the most vulnerable character. The hezrou is motivated solely by bloodshed, and will not depart combat until all non-demon enemies are dead. It immediately engages the most vulnerable character with its multiattack and relies on its magic resistance and stench to defend itself.
At the end of the second round of combat, a great roar announces the arrival of the shoosuva, which leaps down to the combatants from atop an icy ledge. It aims to sate its hunger by slaughtering and carrying off the weakest prey present, and attacks by using its tail stinger to paralyze its target, followed by a bite attack in an attempt to reduce its prey to 0 hit points.
If the shoosuva succeeds in capturing a creature, it carries its prey away to the Shoosuva's Canyon; if bloodied, it immediately retreats from combat.
If Kaldur or Kasimir are present with the PCs, they can easily guide the party to the secret door behind the waterfall and persuade the guards to allow the party access to the tunnel beyond. Otherwise, a party that has been directed to Yaedrag by Kavan's spirit or Madam Eva's fortunetelling can gain entry with a successful DC 15 Persuasion check; on a failure, the tunnel guards demand that the PCs track and kill the shoosuva in its canyon to the north, returning the beast's head and stinger to prove their worth. The Mountain Folk won't answer or open the door for anyone else.
Yaedrag is a small village of no more than one hundred inhabitants, populated entirely by the Mountain Folk of Mount Ghakis. Lying within the crater of a hollow mountainous peak north of Tsolenka Pass, its people enjoy the quiet and safety their isolated location provides.
Long ago, the Mountain Folk comprised the hunter and warrior tribes of the People (what the Mountain and Forest Folk call those who serve the Rozana, also known as the Ladies Three), but when the druidic tribes betrayed the Rozana and schismed from their fellows to serve Strahd, the other tribes retreated to the mountains to escape the wrath and sight of the Shadowsworn, their name for Strahd.
While the vast majority of Yaedrag's inhabitants are human, you may choose to have Yaedrag partially populated by the fading remnants of another species once indigenous to Barovia, such as dragonborn or aarakocra. This is especially recommended if one of your PCs is an isolated member of that species, and is seeking out others of their kind in search of family or a sense of belonging.
You can find a battlemap of Yaedrag drawn by /u/SnooTangerins5710 here.
The secret entrance to Yaedrag is guarded at all times by six berserkers and one berserker commander with the statistics of a gladiator.
Nearly all of Yaedrag's occupants live within large conical tents woven of hides from elks and bears hunted among the snowy forests. Most residents work as hunter-gatherers, though many perform specialized tasks such as tanning, nursing, woodworking, or jewel making. Many members of the tribe also serve as warriors and guards, training in the ancient ways of the berserker to defend the village from outside harm and intrusion.
The tribe trades through barter, rather than currencies, but is glad to accept payments of precious gemstones, high-quality trade goods, and services in place of gold. Should the PCs make their way to Yaedrag without cold weather clothing, they are advised to purchase sets from a local clothes maker.
The tribe is ruled by Chief Sigrid, a boisterous and proud middle-aged woman trained as a berserker, who resides in the largest and most decorated tent to Yaedrag's south side. Her eldest daughter, Helwa, is currently venturing to the Amber Temple for a coming-of-age ceremony to become the next chief. Her younger son, Kaldur, recently left for his first hunt alongside Brynhilde, Sigrid’s wife, and Chief Sigrid has grown concerned by their failure to return home.
If the PCs deliver Kaldur to Yaedrag safely, Chief Sigrid greets them like heroes, permitting them to roam the small settlement as they please. She offers every courtesy with her limited resources, and, if informed of their interest in the Amber Temple, offers to introduce the PCs to Elder Ormir to obtain more information.
When the PCs leave, Chief Sigrid warns them to be wary of avalanches and goat attacks at Sangzor’s Ridge, as well as Shoosuva and other corrupted demons that lurk the slopes of Mount Ghakis. She offers the assistance of a Mountain Folk scout named Folkvar in escorting the PCs to their ultimate destination. Folkvar does not fight in combat except from afar or in self-defense, but can act once per round to give a PC advantage on their next ability check or saving throw made to traverse or survive the wilderness of Mount Ghakis.
On the next night following the PCs’ arrival, if the PCs informed Chief Sigrid of the slaughter at the abandoned campsite, she gathers the tribe to hold a funeral ceremony for the lost Brynhilde and Runa.
Shrine of the Rozana
The Shrine of the Rozana comprises a small cavern at the east end of the village, its entrance enclosed within a tall, red-painted tent painted with the symbols of the Ladies Three: the wolf’s head, the tree, and the eye.
The tent serves as the living quarters of Elder Ormir, an old man and religious leader to the Mountain Folk. Elder Ormir is one of the few living experts on the histories, rituals, and worship of the Rozana, or Ladies Three, and is willing to share his knowledge only with those he trusts. He also possesses limited knowledge of the Amber Temple, including its location, the means of entering through the collapsed passage, the presence and temperament of the arcanaloth and flameskulls, and legends of the lich that inhabits the deeper chambers.
Elder Ormir is wary of sharing this knowledge for fear that it may encourage others to seek out the Temple in search of the dark power it contains. It is custom for the future chieftain of the tribe to journey to the Amber Temple, accompanied only by their most trusted retainers, and to remain in the temple for six days and six nights, exposed to the corruption within as a means of proving their stalwart courage and resistance to evil.
If the PCs appear interested in overthrowing Strahd, Elder Ormir shares with them the following information:
Before Strahd von Zarovich – called the “Shadowsworn” by the Mountain Folk – or his predecessors, the Delmoreans, conquered Barovia, it was inhabited by a civilization that called itself the First People. The First People worshipped the Rozana, or Ladies Three – a trio of ancient goddesses that ruled over the land – and made sacrifices in their name, seeking omens and fortune in the entrails of beasts and mortals alike.
The Rozana wielded powerful magic, bringing good fortune to those that followed their ways. Only their most devout priests knew the Ladies’ names; to all others, they were known as the Weaver, the Huntress, and the Seeker.
For as long as they ruled the land, known in those days as Cerrunos, the Ladies acted as its sovereigns, making their will known through auguries and omens. Through intermediaries, they wielded powerful magic, drawing power from water, earth, and air. It was said that the Ladies could hear everything that happened in their woods, predict the future, twist the threads of human lives, and bring blessings as well as curses.
When the men of Delmor first invaded Cerrunos, the druids and berserkers fought bravely in defense of their ancient land. Even so, the technology of iron and steel drove the native warriors back to the mountains and wild places, where they hid from the wrath of the Delmoreans. Worship of the Ladies continued, but with fewer followers and more doubt than before. Many amongst the tribes believed their failure to drive out the invaders to be a punishment sent by the Ladies for their failures and flaws; in their oral histories, the First People’s failure to serve the Ladies adequately became known as the Second Betrayal.
Two hundred years later, a haughty warlord named Strahd von Zarovich conquered the fledgling kingdom of Delmor. Fearful, yet optimistic that Zarovich could yet be their savior, the druids of the forest approached him soon after his coronation. They offered him forbidden secrets – hidden knowledge that would bind his power to the land, if only he would promise them patronage and safety. Strahd, his interest piqued, accepted.
Thrice did the druids of old Cerrunos guide Strahd von Zarovich, mortal that he was, to the Fanes of the Ladies Three. As he stood in these sanctums and felt their primal, ancient magic, Strahd became determined that these, too, must be conquered. In the Swamp Fane, temple of the reclusive Weaver; in the Forest Fane, home of the wise Huntress; and in the Mountain Fane, home of the mystic Seeker, Strahd re-consecrated each stone altar to his own image, sealing rites of blood and powerful magic that bound his soul to the magic of the Ladies – and so became the Land.
The druids, desperate for a protector, were silent in the face of this profane desecration; the warrior tribes, however, saw it as blasphemy, and separated from the company of the druids in disgust. This became known as the Third Betrayal.
Today, the Ladies and their rituals are lost to time and mist, the power of the Rozana bound by Strahd’s desecrations. Elder Ormir and those that preceded him believe from ancient prophecies that the Fanes can still be cleansed of Strahd’s taint, restoring the Ladies to power and greatly weakening Zarovich’s defenses and his connection to the land. However, the locations of these Fanes were once guarded fiercely by the druidic tribes, and the Mountain Folk only know the location of the Mountain Fane, which lies beneath the Gulthias Tree on Yester Hill.
If they appear amenable to restoring the power of the Rozana and freeing the land of Barovia from Strahd’s bindings, Elder Omir asks the PCs to journey to Yester Hill in order to cleanse the Mountain Fane of the Shadowsworn’s taint and to learn how the Forest Fane and Swamp Fane might be restored, wherever they may be found.
North of Yaedrag, a half-hour’s walk from Tsolenka Pass, the road passes between two craggy cliffs covered in snow and slick with ice. This is Shoosuva’s Canyon, the lair of the corrupted beast Shoosuva, and a necessary pass for any creature aiming to climb Mount Ghakis.
A PC with a passive Perception of 15 or higher can hear soft moans emanating from several crags of the canyon. As the PCs proceed down the path, several mounds of snow occasionally swirl in the wind, forming eddies that whirl for several seconds before settling back down.
Two hundred feet down the canyon and twenty feet off the ground lies the shoosuva’s lair: a large, dark single-roomed cavern containing spoiled straw, old gnawed bones, shredded and rotted fabric, and a reflective surface formed of ice. The icy mirror is gouged with deep claw marks and a battleaxe has been slammed into the wall beside it, the blade embedded into the stone of the cavern wall.
The cave itself is accessible by a wide ledge that winds from the floor of the canyon to the cavern’s mouth. The first time that a PC approaches this ledge, they are attacked by a shoosuva, which strikes with surprise against any characters whose passive Perception is lower than the shoosuva’s Stealth check. The shoosuva fights to the death.
On the second round of combat, six snow maidens emerge from the craggy cliffs, attacking any living creature that comes too close.
You can find a battlemap of the canyon created by /u/SnooTangerines5710 here.
The shoosuva’s cave contains six diamonds worth 100 gold pieces each, as well as a shard of amber bound to the vestige of Yog the Invincible.
The first time that the PCs arrive at the bridge at Tsolenka Pass, if Strahd has discovered their location or knows that they plan to journey to the Amber Temple, Rahadin is standing in wait for them at the center of the bridge. Four wights are concealed in the northern archway of the bridge, awaiting Rahadin’s orders to attack with their longbows. Concealed beneath the bridge is Beucephalus, Strahd’s nightmare.
A strong wind blows across the bridge at all times, and the air nearby is always filled with heavy snowfall (see Climate & Hazards above for more information on wind and heavy precipitation).
Rahadin has taken it upon himself to prevent the PCs from obtaining access to the Temple, Strahd’s greatest secret. He waits for the PCs to step onto the bridge before attacking, but employs his Mask of the Wild feature to strike from the shadows if the party strikes from afar.
Rahadin aims to keep the PCs in the open, where he and his wights can easily target them. On each round of combat, the wights move up to their speed toward the PCs, attacking with their longswords once they are in melee range.
On the fourth round of combat, the Roc of Mount Ghakis appears, acting on initiative count 20. It uses its first turn to attack one of the wights on the bridge, but immediately discards it with disgust after using its first bite attack. On his next turn, Rahadin whistles for Beucephalus and leaps from the bridge onto the nightmare’s back, vanishing into the Ethereal Plane on Beucephalus’ next turn.
On its subsequent turns, the roc attempts to target the largest, meatiest-looking creature on the bridge with its talons attack. Once it has captured its prey, it rapidly climbs through the air, away from the bridge and toward its nest at the peak of Mount Ghakis. It uses its action to dash unless its prey fights back, in which case it attacks with its bite until the grappled creature is dead.
If, at the beginning of the Roc’s turn, there are no living creatures present atop the bridge, it shrieks in disappointment and returns to its nest.
This snowy, mile-long ridge (see here for battlemap; see here for an alternative) overlooks the fog-shrouded Svalich Woods to the south of Luna Lake. Its tall, rocky bluffs are carved with deep gouges, each half the width of a man’s torso – markings left by Sangzor, the giant goat, which has claimed this territory as its own.
According to legend, Sangzor has inhabited this ridge for centuries – and its size and sheer toughness both do little to bely those rumors. Sangzor has the stat block of a mammoth, but is Large sized, and has the Sure Footed feature from the giant goat stat block. Its thick and ancient hide gives it the Magic Resistance feature, as well as resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from non-magical attacks. Its gore attack rams its horns into its target, dealing bludgeoning damage rather than piercing.
As the PCs travel across this path, a thick snow begins to fall. Sangzor makes a Stealth (Dexterity) check to conceal itself among the white snow before attacking. It prioritizes attacking the largest or most physically powerful PC, but will immediately take the Shove action against any PC standing against the edge of the ridge. Sangzor attempts to flee when bloodied.
This ridge is also a precarious avalanche zone. Sangzor’s routine ramming of the cliff face has caused heavy piles of icy snow to build up above – and while the goat’s Sure Footed feature allows easy escape from collapses, any nearby adventurers may not be so lucky.
Each time a creature casts a non-cantrip spell that deals fire, lightning, force, thunder, or bludgeoning damage, or any spell that disrupts the nearby environment (e.g., tidal wave or earth tremor), they must roll 1d10. If the result is equal to or below the level of the spell cast, an avalanche begins.
Running the Avalanche
Once triggered, the avalanche can be run as a chase sequence (credit to /u/mysteryHLshopper for developing this idea).
The PCs begin the sequence 100 feet in front of the avalanche, and can attempt to flee from the avalanche each turn. The avalanche falls from behind and above, preventing PCs with fly speeds from escaping it without issue. The chase ends after five rounds.
Each PC must roll initiative, with the avalanche acting on initiative count 0. Each PC also gains a number of dash points equal to 2 plus their Constitution modifier. Each PC’s turn then proceeds in the following order:
The PC rolls 1d20, and the DM announces the corresponding result on the Complications Table (see below). The PC may use a skill or cast a levelled spell in order to overcome that complication, so long as that skill or spell takes no more than one action to complete. A PC that casts a levelled spell or a PC that beats the corresponding DC automatically overcomes the complication; a PC that fails the DC suffers the complication’s consequences this turn.
If the PC has a base speed of 60 feet or higher without taking the Dash action (e.g., due to the Fly spell) or if the PC uses a bonus action to increase their speed (e.g., by spending 1 ki point to use Step of the Wind, using Cunning Action, etc.), the PC runs 200 feet away from the avalanche. Otherwise, the PC runs 100 feet away from the avalanche. If a consequence causes the PC to move at half speed instead, they move 100 or 50 feet, respectively.
The PC can choose to expend a dash point to move an additional 200 or 100 feet, depending on their speed. If a PC has no more dash points remaining, they can make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw; on a success, they move an additional 200 or 100 feet, depending on their speed; on a failure, they gain one point of exhaustion.
At the end of each round, the avalanche advances 50 feet plus an additional 1d4 x 50 feet. If this movement causes the avalanche to move further than a creature, that creature takes 4d10 bludgeoning damage and becomes restrained.
At the end of each turn that a creature remains restrained in this way, it must make a DC 15 Strength saving throw or take an additional 2d10 bludgeoning damage. When the encounter ends, the avalanche settles, and any restrained creatures cease taking damage. A creature with a Strength score of 15 or more can dig itself out in 2d6 minutes; otherwise, it takes 2d10 minutes for a creature to dig itself out of the snow and debris.
Creatures that are proficient in Survival can learn how far the avalanche will move at the end of the current round with a successful DC 10 Survival check.
The table below presents a list of ten types of complications that may affect your PCs as they attempt to escape the avalanche. Each complication must be overcome with a corresponding challenge. Though the table offers a brief list of recommended skill checks for overcoming each complication (e.g., a DC 10 Perception check to overcome a Poor Visibility complication), PCs are invited to be creative with their responses (e.g., casting Gust of Wind to automatically clear a Poor Visibility complication, or casting Fly to automatically overcome a Balancing complication).
If failed, each complication carries with it a corresponding consequence (see the Complications table on the next page)..
This part of the trail is barren, isolated, and largely flat. It is also prone to blizzards.
As the PCs enter this area, the constant snowfall grows steadily heavier. The wind picks up, soon crescendoing into a gale that sends puffs of powdered snow swirling into the air. Have each character make a DC 15 Survival check; on a success, that PC recognizes this weather as the beginnings of a potential blizzard, giving each member of the party advantage on their first saving throw and their first ability check in the skill challenge below.
When the PCs agree to seek shelter from the blizzard, or when the weather becomes too severe to proceed any further, the Escape the Blizzard skill challenge begins (credit to /u/OrkishBlade).
Escape the Blizzard
This skill challenge has three stages. To complete this challenge without any penalties, the PCs must complete all stages before they reach three failures. On the PCs’ third failure, and on each failure thereafter, each character must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw, taking 2d6 cold damage on a failure or half damage on a success. A character that is immune or resistant to cold damage takes no damage from this effect.
To complete each stage of the challenge, each PC must make a skill check or cast a spell, as described here. At the beginning of each round, each character must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw; on a failure, that character makes all ability checks this round with disadvantage.
Any creature that attempts to fly in the blizzard must land at the end of its turn or fall prone.
Stage 1: Stay Together: As the blizzard escalates, the high-velocity winds and icy snow make it difficult to see – and easy to become separated from your allies. The characters swiftly lose sight of their allies and find themselves at risk for becoming lost in the blizzard.
A PC can complete this stage with a successful DC 17 Perception check, a successful DC 12 Sleight of Hand check to tie the party together using a rope, a Gust of Wind or similar spell to divert the falling snow, a DC 17 Performance check to shout instructions over the screaming winds, or a DC 15 Survival check to track one’s allies through the snow. Other skills or spells may be used at the DM’s discretion and player’s suggestion.
Stage 2: Find a Shelter: With the party united, it’s clear that the PCs must find a shelter to escape the elements. At this stage, the PCs find themselves on the edge of the plains, pressed against a dark and craggy cliff that offers little shelter from the wind and biting cold.
A creature that successfully casts Leomund’s Tiny Hut automatically passes this and the following two stages if they pass three consecutive DC 10 Constitution saving throws; otherwise, the caster takes 2d6 cold damage and must begin again.
A PC can locate shelter and complete this stage with a successful DC 17 Survival check, a successful DC 15 Athletics check to scale the cliff toward higher ground, a successful DC 17 Nature or Investigation check to identify likely points of shelter within the architecture of the cliff, or other skills or spells at the player’s suggestion.
Regardless of which skill or spell a PC uses to complete this stage, the party successfully locates a cavern halfway up a switchback trail that can serve as shelter. This is the Bodak Cave (see below).
Stage 3: Stay on Track: As the party attempts to make their way together toward the shelter that they’ve located, the players must select one character to lead the way toward their destination. That PC must roll 1d20; the result of this roll determines which obstacle the PCs will face on the path toward their destination, given by the table below.
After the obstacle is determined, each member of the party must make a saving throw corresponding to that specific obstacle. Each PC that fails the saving throw suffers the corresponding consequence.
If all members of the party fail the saving throw, the PCs must choose a new leader, who rolls a new obstacle. This counts as one failure for the skill challenge. The process continues until at least one PC succeeds on a saving throw. When at least one PC succeeds on the saving throw, the party successfully reaches the cave.
When the PCs first arrive in this cave (see battlemap here), the blizzard outside continues to rage, casting a deep, bone-chilling cold into the interior chambers. For each hour that the party remains in the first or second chamber of the cave without a fire or similar source of heat, each PC must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, the character suffers 2d6 points of cold damage, and that hour does not contribute to the completion of a long rest.
There is no wood within the cave, but a Create Bonfire spell can be used to repeatedly conjure a campfire for as long as the caster is awake. A PC can also attempt a DC 20 Survival check to range outside of the cave for wet (but burnable) branches and roots, which can be lit with a successful DC 10 Survival check or any 1st-level spell or cantrip that deals fire damage. Other skills, resources, or spells may be used at a player’s request and at the DM’s discretion.
Alternatively, a PC that ventures forth into the second chamber of the cave can gather enough lichen from the walls to to fuel a campfire.
If the PCs take a long rest in this cave, the two bodaks in the third chamber emerge to attack.
The blizzard outside ends the next morning, allowing the party to progress.
The first chamber of the Bodak Cave holds the cavern entrance and is a spacious but barren and earthy room approximately forty by forty feet across. It is connected to the second chamber by a narrow winding passageway five feet across and ten feet long. Any creature near this passageway can hear a low moan emanating from the chambers beyond, similar to that of a person in pain.
The second chamber is approximately half the size of the first. The lower walls and floor are covered in a thick, grey-green lichen, save for a wide black streak of lichen that cuts across the room from the first chamber’s corridor to the entrance to the third chamber. Its eastern wall bears a rough, carved inscription written in Common: “THE SHADOWS LIE.” Below, around, and above it, are carved several dozen repetitions of a single phrase in Abyssal: “Do not accept their gifts.”
The black line of lichen is accompanied by a trail of dark crimson that smears across the floor from the entrance toward the rear chamber. A DC 15 Medicine check shows this to be comprised of blood – scarcely a day old.
Toward the rear of the room, a narrow opening scarcely three feet across allows passage to the third chamber. This passageway winds an additional five feet forward before opening into a dark corridor. Any creature within the second chamber can hear a low-pitched, pained moan emanating from the narrow opening.
This labyrinthine “chamber” comprises several narrow corridors criss-crossing and encircling one another in a maze. The trail of blood leads toward the center of the area, where a large mound of gnawed bones lies at the intersection of two corridors. See here for a potential map that may be used to depict this area.
A dead elk calf is lying against the bones, its eyes torn from their sockets and its stomach gouged open. Closer inspection reveals that the calf’s flesh has begun to slough from its bones, its hide and muscles rotting and its organs scorched a dark, sickly grey. A DC 15 Medicine check can show that the calf’s hide was torn by long, sharp claws; and that its innards appear far more decayed than the freshness of its blood would indicate.
The labyrinth contains two dead ends, one to the east and one to the west, each one containing a “nest” belonging to one of the two resident bodaks. Both nests are made of rotted fabric, gnawed bones, and a circle of lumpy stones.
When a character first enters the chamber, one bodak is eating the calf beside the bone mound, while the other bodak lurks in the western nest. A creature that makes a successful DC 14 Stealth check can sneak up on either bodak without being detected; however, any sign or sound of intrusion immediately places both bodaks on alert, allowing them to immediately active their Aura of Annihilation feature and stealthily move through the cavern.
The Aura of Annihilation is not obstructed by cover, allowing a bodak to damage any other creature that ends its turn within a 30-foot radius of its location – whether the bodak and its target are separated by empty air or a ten-foot-thick cavern wall.
In combat, a bodak attempts to stalk its prey, preferring isolated targets that are vulnerable to its Death Gaze. On its own turn, the bodak uses its Withering Gaze to damage the closest target, and uses its high Stealth skill to hide away in the labyrinthine tunnels in response to sunlight or a Turn Undead effect, skulking away to a more advantageous position before attacking once more. Neither bodak will flee the cavern, and both will fight to the death if cornered.
The eastern nest contains an old adventurer’s pack containing 12 blood-stained platinum pieces and 56 gold pieces alongside an ancient, torn letter that reads: “Cassius – I know I’m breaking my promise, but I can’t ignore these visions any longer. If there is a way to bring Mother back, then I have to take it – no matter the risks.” It is signed: “Deirdre.”
The western nest contains a set of shredded clothes, a crumpled map that shows a path up Mount Ghakis to the Amber Temple, and a purse containing 6 silver pieces.
Each bodak wears a chain necklace bearing a shard of amber bound to the vestige of Sykane, the Soul Hungerer.
The Amber Temple is concealed by the natural crags of the Rimespire Canyon, whose entrance lies at the north end of the Blizzard Fields. An experienced tracker can locate the entrance to the canyon within one hour with a successful DC 15 Survival check; otherwise, a party that is searching for the canyon automatically finds it after 2d4 hours of searching.
The canyon itself is 50 feet wide, 100 feet tall, and half a mile across. Its frozen sides are nearly perfectly sheer and bereft of caverns or outcroppings, and it contains only three structures: a deep chasm that bisects the canyon’s midpoint; the Amber Temple; and the enormous spire of frozen ice that gave the canyon its name.
The chasm is 200 feet deep and 60 feet wide, and its bottom is lined with jagged ice spikes ten feet in height. It runs perpendicular to the canyon, intersecting it at the quarter-mile point, and has no ledges or handholds. (A reader-contributed map for this location can be found here).
An old and crumbling natural stone bridge five feet across passes over its center, allowing medium-sized creatures to pass over. However, a constant strong wind (see Climate & Hazards above) makes it difficult to keep upright, requiring a creature to make two DC 14 Athletics checks to pass safely. A creature that crawls across the bridge on its hands and knees automatically succeeds on its Athletics check, but a creature that fails either check must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or fall to the bottom of the chasm, suffering 20d6 bludgeoning damage from the impact plus an additional 4d10 piercing damage from the ice spikes.
After each PC has made their first Athletics check to cross the bridge, if the roc of Mount Ghakis has not already been slain elsewhere, its piercing screech rings through the canyon. An instant later, the great bird’s shadow falls over the party, forcing them to make a decision: to run for the Amber Temple or stand and fight.
If the PCs decide to fight, the roc—once the familiar of the Seeker—attempts to seize and kill each of the PCs to prevent them from claiming the profane power contained within the Temple. If encountered here, the roc fights until reduced to 100 hit points, then departs to return to its nest.
If the PCs choose to flee for the Temple, run Flight from the Roc below.
The eponymous “Rimespire” lies approximately halfway into the curving canyon. Standing just over 70 feet in height, this single-helix ice structure has stood within sight of the Amber Temple since the temple was first constructed, shedding mass in warmer months and regaining its volume in the winters.
All of the ground in a 100-foot radius around the Rimespire is slippery ice (see Climate & Hazards above).
Flight from the Roc
This skill challenge has five stages: (1) crossing the chasm; (2) avoiding the rockslide; (3) withstanding the gale; (4) crossing the ice; and (5) fleeing the spire.
Stage 1: Crossing the Chasm. The PCs must successfully cross the deep chasm to avoid the roc’s first swoop. Each PC must make a DC 14 Athletics check to cross the bridge as normal; however, a PC may also use magic or different skills such as Acrobatics or Survival (if possessing a climber’s kit or similar equipment) to succeed. A PC that chooses to crawl across the bridge automatically fails this check, taking 4d6 + 9 slashing damage as the roc’s talons rake across their back.
Stage 2: Avoiding the Rockslide. The roc flies ahead of the party and perches on the side of the canyon, its great weight and enormous talons scraping loose an avalanche of ice, earth, and stone that threatens to bury the PCs beneath it. Each PC may make a DC 15 skill check of their choice or cast a levelled spell in order to evade this rockslide. Recommended skills include acrobatics, athletics, investigation (to calculate the trajectory of the falling rocks), and perception (to spot a path forward through the rockslide). A creature that fails this check takes 2d10 points of bludgeoning damage and has disadvantage on any checks made in the third stage.
Stage 3: Withstanding the Gale. The roc’s mighty wings summon a forceful gale that threatens to bowl the PCs from their feet. Each PC must make a DC 15 Strength saving throw in order to stand their ground against the oncoming winds; a creature that roots themselves to the ground with a piece of equipment (e.g., grappling hook or battleaxe) or that casts a levelled spell to fortify their position has advantage on the save. A creature that fails this saving throw has disadvantage on any checks made in the fourth stage; additionally, each character that failed must make a Dexterity check. The character with the lowest result suffers 8d8 + 18 piercing damage as the roc slashes at their prone form with its talons and tears at them with its beak.
Stage 4: Crossing the Ice. Just as the Amber Temple finally comes into sight, the PCs must cross the slippery ice that surrounds the Rimespire. Each PC may make a DC 15 skill check of their choice or cast a levelled spell in order to make their way at full speed across the icy field. Recommended skills include acrobatics, nature (to predict patches where the ice is thinnest), perception (to locate a path covered in snow for greater friction), or survival (to draw on past experiences to avoid slipping). Each creature that fails has disadvantage on any checks or saving throws made in the final stage.
Stage 5: Fleeing the Spire. The Roc, maddened by the PCs’ ability to evade it, flies blindly toward the party – colliding with and cracking the Rimespire. The enormous ice spire splinters at its base, sending the conical spike tumbling through the canyon toward the fleeing PCs. Each PC may make a DC 15 Athletics check or cast a levelled spell to evade the rolling spire. Any creature that fails to do so must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw or be crushed by the rolling spire, taking 4d10 bludgeoning damage plus 2d6 cold damage on a failure or half damage on a success.
When the snow and dust settle, the PCs find themselves safely beneath the outcropping of rock at the end of the canyon that shelters the Amber Temple. If alive, the roc gives a final screech of rage before returning to its nest at the peak of Mount Ghakis.