Dungeons & Dragons 4E: More Encounters and Adventures for the Arcane Age

While the D&D 4E Arcane Age Conversion contained the player-facing details to create Arcane Age characters, and some context for the Dungeon Master to fit these conversions into the events of the Arcane Age of the Forgotten Realms, the following article provides several adventure and campaign outlines. These concepts are presented with varying degrees of detail; enterprising DMs will need to put some work in to best make use of them, but these should be a good starting point.

In many cases, these ideas might seem to clash with the typical Forgotten Realms milieu, but remember that the Arcane Age has been relatively loosely developed thus far, and that in turn allows DMs to truly go wild with their ideas, and make use of other settings or even games for magic, technology, and plotlines. As you’ll see, we’ve liberally stolen from Eberron and even the Earthdawn roleplaying game.

The Lightning Rail

And here is a scene from the 2nd episode of Firefly…er, I mean, Eberron

The Lightning Rail

Using the Lighting Rail campaign plot from the Arcane Age Conversion? Here are some tools to throw together a series of encounters featuring the players safeguarding the construction site of a Lightning Rail stop, when suddenly, elves and gnomes from Cormanthyr or Earlann attack. They seek retribution for the enslavement of the gnomes, wish to ensure that the elven Empire of Cormanthyr is not outgunned, and will stop at nothing to sabotage the construction of the Lightning Rail.

Lightning Rail Construction Depot

A few temporary buildings house the tools, supplies, and Low Netheril workers that have been working to build a raised platform track for the Lightning Rail, as well as a watchtower and small trading post. The vast majority of the workers are non-combatants, and the military presence has been mostly drawn away by other activities, likely feints by the elves who are about to bring their full forces to bear on the depot.

Encounter Groups

Format goes Monster (type level).

  • Elf Noble Guard (soldier 3)
  • Eladrin Bow Mage (minion artillery 7)
  • Eladrin Fey Knight (leader soldier 7)
  • Gnome Spy (lurker 5)
  • Gnome Illusionist (artillery 6)
  • Gnome Assassin (skirmisher 7)

Additional monsters that can be used as back up, pets, and transportation for these Lightning Rail saboteurs:

  • Rage Drake (brute 5)
  • Ambush Drake (skirmisher 6)
  • Griffons
  • Blink Dogs
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This map by schekker on Photobucket could work nicely!

Other Encounter Locations

Ruined Gnomish Freehold. Once the saboteurs are broken, the party could interrogate captured attackers or track any fleeing members back to a nearby series of underground burroughs. These were once part of a larger freehold of gnomes, but it long ago was raided, the inhabitants enslaved, and much of the complex collapsed. The gnomes have set up several traps, a few construct guardians, and a teleportation circle inside one of the rooms that will transport those that activate it to the Trail of Mists. The Trail exists in the Shadowfell, and is a bizarre, hazy pathway through the Shadowfell that somehow speeds up travel immensely…but features all the typical dangers of traversing the Shadowfell.

Forest Stronghold. The elven raiders ultimately hailed from a military fort on the age of Cormanthor. This outpost is a series of magically fortified wooden huts built high in the eaves of the forest, connected by rope bridge, pulley elevators, and ziplines. Though a small force, the height of the settlement, the cover of the foliage, and the nature of how mobility within the settlement is limited creates a very dangerous environment for anyone pursuing the elves here. Consider using the Encounter-specific Stunts and Maneuvers rules to create a handful of maneuvers that the elves can make use of immediately to show that they have the home-terrain advantage, but the PCs can later exploit if they keep their eyes peeled.

Airships in Netheril

Transport from Low Netheril (the ground-side cities and towns) to the Enclaves that fly high above the land is clearly an important, functional issue that must be addressed. Outside of spells (which affect small groups) and teleportation circles (which are probably highly secure and perhaps expensive), other means of transportation are likely if not necessary, and one of the best examples might be airships.

Halruaan skyships are a technology born in Netheril, so it only makes sense that they are found in larger numbers during the times of the Arcane Age. Consider using the rules for various boat sizes to add a little variety to skyships during this time period. The importance of skyship transportation is going to create a variety of needs that are best met with ships of varying sizes, like so:

  • Small skyships, carrying small parties and light cargo for quick trips, or for private (or even secret) meetings with the nobility of the Enclaves…or even the arcanists that control them. These would likely have a crew of only 1-3, and hold a handful of passengers, maybe ranging 2-10.
  • Medium skyships for transporting a more “typical” loadout of cargo, or as a regular passenger ferry between Low Netheril and the floating Enclaves. Also good for transporting supplies and soldiers to mountain-based fortresses, or for moving cargo over mountain ranges, such as beyond the Tethyamar mountains to Cormanthyr. This is probably the typical size of Halruaan Skyships from most published sources, and carries what a seafaring galleon would.
  • Large skyships for military troop transport or as battleships. The very creation of these will be a dangerous and expensive prospect, as it will inevitably create distrust between settlements that have them vs. those that don’t, and a likely arms race once more than one settlement does.
Aeris and the Highwind

Okay, maybe this is coming a little too far outta left field…

Airship Adventure Ideas

  • Orcs –secretly under the control of Githyanki — attempt to steal airships to weaken Netheril’s power. The Githyanki have their own Astral Ship, led by a Lich-Queen.
  • The Rengarth barbarians attempt to steal airship magic in order to disrupt elemental mining operations (see below) to appease their spiritual guardians and patrons.
  • Elves of Cormanthyr and the Dwarves of Phalorm have had access to Spelljammers…how might this interact with Netherese airships…

Encounter Locations

  • Airship landing site in Low Netheril town
  • Enclave dockyards
airship

Mining elemental Air aboard a skyship

Elemental Mining

Elemental mining — using natural and magical processes to distill powerful versions of the “True” elements (air, earth, fire, water, wood) — is an interesting trope first seen in the Earthdawn roleplaying game; this entry on Orichalcum, a combination of all of the True elements, gives some insight into what mining these elements can do. It’s a subject that is highly appropriate for D&D, as it can be used as a practical explanation for more powerful spell components, materials for creating magical items, and foci for the more powerful spells that existed during the Arcane Age.

For the purposes of discussing elemental mining in D&D — specifically within the Arcane Age of the Forgotten Realms — note the following terms:

  • Seed: A form of a True Element that takes on the general shape and size of a crystal ball or large gemstone, found within areas heavy in that element (and occasionally, portals to the appropriate Elemental plane, if you use the standard D&D planar cosmology).
  • True Element: A concentrated form of one of the elements, nearly always the primary four elements of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water. This could come in two forms: a physical representation of the element in its natural form (sometimes called “Elemental Ore”) or as a Seed. True Element can interchangeably refer to either “ore” (an open flame might be True Fire, ocean water might be True Water, etc.) or a Seed.

Practical Elemental Mining in the Arcane Age

Air. True Air shows up in soaring mountaintops, amid clouds, or even higher into the atmosphere, and thus can only be reached by the most potent and long-lasting of flight magic or through skyships. True Air can be used to create breathable air bubbles for underwater cities, magical items for flying, or powerful gusts of wind. The machines and magic used to capture True Air and its Seeds include jars or containers that can capture a breeze and close to become airtight, fans or other means of manipulating air currents, and tightly woven nets (specifically to capture Seeds of True Air). The threats of aerial monsters and any kind of crash landing are enough to make mining True Air one of the most dangerous endeavors in elemental mining.

Earth. True Earth is often found at the heart of plentiful veins of precious stones, or in the deepest recesses of the Underdark. It can be used to fashion incredibly strong walls or tools, crushing traps, or to breed powerful Earth Elementals. Harvesting True Earth is easy compared to other elements, but requires incredibly powerful pick axes or boring devices, careful mining practices, and a willingness to cool one’s heels deep, deep underground.

Fire. The heart of a volcano or standing amongst the superheated hot springs of badlands are the types of places where True Fire can be found. It is highly volatile and can be used in plenty of destructive magical weapons, or as the source of some very nasty spells. Mining True Fire is one of the least understood forms of elemental mining, as it requires exceptionally powerful tools, often used from a great (safe) distance, leaving it to highly technologically advanced races like dwarves working with True Earth devices to capture the Fire Seeds.

Water. True Water is something known far better to races like the aquatic elves, for its seeds are only found in deep ocean grottoes or in storm-wracked islands that are dangerous for ships to traverse. Still, with the prevalence of ocean faring vessels in some parts of the Sword Coast and certainly in Evermeet, there is some precedence for mining Water Seeds via ship. Like True Air, tightly woven nets, air-tight containers, and other such devices or magic are the primary means of harvesting the element. Of course, all of the dangers of the sea can turn such a mining expedition into a disaster very quickly.

Other Elements. While the four primary elements are easy enough to understand and create adventures around, the Arcane Age should feature plenty of opportunities for interplanar travel and knowledge of the Inner Planes, so enterprising Dungeon Masters should by all means seek to get some use out of the Para- and Quasi-elemental Planes of Lightning, Salt, Vacuum, Smoke, and so on. Consider where these elements might naturally occur — Lightning in a storm, Salt on the waves of the ocean, Smoke in the smoldering fields of a recent battle — and find suitable (likely dangerous, maybe even world-shattering) uses for these elements. Then, dispatch your Player Characters as the ones to guard the elemental harvesting, or to stop them from being harvested by the wrong hands.

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2 comments on “Dungeons & Dragons 4E: More Encounters and Adventures for the Arcane Age
  1. Love it. Can’t wait to incorporate some of these ideas and scenarios into my current homebrew 4e campaign!

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