RPG Adventure Hook: Roll ’em Bowl ’em Golems
This week: an ancient vault reopened, a vendetta that spans the centuries, and an unbridled rampage answered.
The door to the ancient vault was made of weathered stone. Light streamed in from the caved-in ceiling. Rubble littered the floor, punctuated by the occasional chunk of fallen rock. Within, they stood silently, keeping the vigil of untold centuries–powerful warriors carved out of smooth stone. Only a few remained intact–some had been shattered by the falling rocks, others had fallen over. But those that remained standing looked almost alive in the dim light, waiting on something…
This adventure hook is meant for players of any level–however, you will be better off using this with lower level characters.
A recent avalanche in the Fenduril mountains has revealed an ancient vault from a long faded kingdom. Within the rubble, a few stone golems remain preserved, waiting to be reawakened. Which is good–because the opening of the vault coincides with the return of an ancient demon–banished for a thousand years in the distant past by a powerful sorcerer. Now it is back, and calling on its allies to wreak havoc–perhaps the PCs can save the day, if they can master the ancient golems.
Buried in the Fenduril mountains, dormant and concealed for centuries, lies the Vault of Azkadh. Crafted in the glory days of a long-dead empire, it houses some of their mightiest servants–powerful golems capable of holding their foes at bay. No one knows why they are buried here–perhaps they were spirited away in anticipation of an oncoming catastrophe, perhaps when their use was at an end, they were sequestered here to await their next time of need–but whatever the reason, their entombment is at an end.
After an avalanche, the Vault of Azkadh is revealed–the players should be the first to discover it. They might be in the nearby town of Demonsbane, awaiting the yearly festival they hold in honor of the defeat of a powerful demon by a sorcerer long ago when they hear the news of ancient ruins uncovered in the nearby mountains. Or perhaps they are traveling through the Fenduril mountains–either investigating some other rumor or seeking some lost treasure when they find the vault smashed open, waiting for them to come along.
Investigating the vault reveals the stone golems, and the means through which they may be controlled. They are, for the moment, dormant, but crafty players might be able to restore them to “life,” with their skills or spells.
While the players are resting up for the night, trying to figure out how best to deal with the golems they have found, the annual festival at Demonsbane occurs–and misfortune strikes. Varlngorath, the demon that was banished a thousand years ago has returned! Now it is up to the players (and their golems) to battle this dire threat before Varlngorath can destroy the town.
Read below for more details, or skip to the end for all the stats you’ll need!
The Vault of Azkadh
The Vault of Azkadh was once part of the empire of Nurand–a mighty empire whose magic prowess your party might already be familiar with through previous adventures. Here magewrights stored and created powerful golems to serve their empire. Only when the empire fell, most of their outlying posts (such as this one) fell dormant. Then were forgotten. An avalanche has uncovered it–and damaged the vault. Massive stones have broken through the roof (leaving the old door untouched) and buried some of the golems within. Others were knocked over–but a few remain intact and unspoilt–at least enough for one for each of the party members.
The golems are carved of smooth white stone, alabaster perhaps, but for how tough they are. They are crafted to appear to be wearing the armor of warriors of ancient Nurand. With curved plates made of mithril and silver adorning their wrists, chest and shins. Small blue gems glitter within them, causing them to cast dim light out to five feet.
Dotted throughout are small marble pedestals inlaid with mithril etchings and arcane runes. Gemstones in the center of the pedestal seem crafted there for function rather than decoration–a DC 13 Arcana check or a DC 17 History check reveals that these are connected to the golems. A DC 8 Investigation/Search check will reveal that the golems are dormant. Any amount of prodding will also reveal this fact, as they do not respond.
Characters wishing to awaken the golems can investigate the vault:
- A DC 17 Arcana check reveals that the pedestals that control the golem were once connected to powerful ley lines–but that the damage to the vault has severed this connection. They’ll need a source of arcane energy to power back on (equivalent to 3 levels worth of spells).
- A DC 15 Investigation/Search check reveals a hidden panel on one of the pedestals where a stone (like one of the ones embedded in the golems) can be fitted. This can be a way for parties without arcane characters to activate the golems.
- A DC 17 Religion check will let divine characters attempt to use their powers to fuel the golems–though the divine nature of the magic is less effective at powering the golems, and the equivalent of 5 levels worth of spells will be required.
Once the golems have been activated, characters using the pedestals will find that they can assume control of the golems through the pedestals. It will take a minute of use and an open magic item attunement slot, but characters who go through these efforts can learn to control the golems as one might use a magic item. The golems will move about only as directed by characters using their control pedestal–each pedestal can control up to four golems, and there should be enough for at least one golem to be controlled per player.
Meanwhile, back in Demonsbane
The town of Demonsbane is especially lively this time of year. A thousand years ago (though no one is certain if it was actually that long ago), a powerful sorcerer, Arvithrax, defeated a demon, single-handedly. According to legend, the great sorcerer Arvithrax smote the demon with his spear and banished it from the mortal realm never to return. Many assume this is an exaggeration, or a local myth that caught on–but it is a colorful one, and there is a brilliant bronze statue in the center of town that commemorates the battle. It depicts Arvithrax (a dragonborn sorcerer) raising a spear towards the heavens, as a demon lies smote at the base of it. A similar emblem can be found on the town’s coat of arms. A sorcerer with raised spear, and a demon, prone.
The mood is cheerful when the PCs wander through. They are greeted, and given gifts in accordance with their traditions. Food and wine flow almost in excess, flowers adorn the great statue, colorful banners hang from the lamp posts–the whole works. There are even themed drinks like the Demonsbane Draught and the Sorcerous Smite–both of which are stong. If your players started here, they could be relaxing at the Scaled Sorceror (the local inn) when they hear rumors of the ruins uncovered int he mountains–or they may even hear the avalanche itself happen and decide to go investigate.
Most of the town is too concerned with the festival–and the upcoming night of drinking and dancing–to bother exploring it, though if the PCs seem reluctant to leave, one of the locals could see to hiring them to go on a quick scouting expedition to make sure that no one has gone missing–or perhaps to rescue someone who might have been out there.
Players who learned of the Vault because they were traveling through the mountains or seeking out treasure, might come to find refuge in Demonsbane. At any rate, once players have been to both locales, the night of the festival occurs!
Fight at the Festival
The festival unfolds as one might expect. There’s lots of drinking and dancing, people offer specialty foods; the player characters might have attracted the attentions of some of the townspeople–the whole affair should feel fun and pleasant. Right up until the exact moment when the magic holding the thousand year old demon fades away and it reappears in the center of town in the middle of the high point of the festival.
There’s a burst of bright light, and a wave of pressure that sends folks flying–characters must succeed at a DC 14 Strength Saving throw or be thrown back 10 feet and knocked prone. When the light clears, a demon stands in the midst of the festival, snarling in infernal tones about how no pathetic magic can restrain it. “For a thousand years I have been trapped in that accursed plane… now Varlngorath has returned and shall reap vengeance!” and so on.
The demon begins by destroying the statue. Then it turns on any attempting to attack it. Players should get a round or two in before they realize that they are having difficulty harming it–or that it is too powerful for them to damage directly. Make sure to emphasize that the demon seems intent on destroying the town. It may ignore the paltry attacks of the players to begin summoning allies–again, giving them another opportunity to escape. This foe is beyond them…
But it is not, however, beyond the power of the golems that lay buried nearby.
Golem and Control ’em
Players making a DC 7 Intelligence check will realize that they know of powerful “allies” not far off. Or perhaps the players used the pedestals to send the golems back to town (claiming them as treasure?) At any rate, the players should race to assume control of the golems. The demon will not pursue them. Instead, the demon will use the time to conduct summoning rituals to bring in allies as needed (see below) and to begin laying waste to the town.
Until the players show up with their golems. The fight should feel devastating, as two ancient powers clash. Included in the stat blocks are optional rules for doing collateral damage to the town (if you want to make the fight feel a little more cinematic). The stone golems afford the players a level of advanced protection in the form of their natural immunity to nonmagical weapons. Indeed, Varlngorath is unable to harm them until the demon wrests the ancient spear from the statue–it is hewn from adamantine. They may be immune to his allies entirely.
In the aftermath of the fight, the surviving villagers are shocked to learn the legend was real–and they begin rebuilding the town. A task made all the easier with the assistance of the golems. As the players leave, a new statue is begun in town–one of the players in their moment of triumph.
Huge fiend (demon), chaotic evil
Armor Class 19 (natural armor)
Hit Points 271 (20d12 + 140)
Speed 40 ft.
Saving Throws Str +13, Dex +6, Con +13, Wis +7
Damage Resistances cold, fire, lightning; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks
Damage Immunities poison
Condition Immunities poisoned
Senses truesight 120 ft., passive Perception 17
Languages Abyssal, telepathy 120 ft.
Charge. If Varlngorath moves at least 15 feet straight toward a target and then hits it with a gore attack on the same turn, the target takes an extra 38 (7d10) piercing damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 19 Strength saving throw or be pushed up to 20 feet away and knocked prone.
Labyrinthine Recall. Varlngorath can perfectly recall any path it has traveled.
Magic Resistance. Varlngorath has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Siege Monster. Varlngorath deals double damage to objects and structures.
Multiattack. Varlngorath makes three attacks: two with his fists and one with his hoof. Or two with his spear (once equipped) and one with his hoof.
Spear of Arvithrax. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 20 (3d8 + 7) piercing damage and 14 (4d6) fire damage.
Fist. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 20 (3d8 + 7) bludgeoning damage.
Hoof. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 19 (3d10 + 7) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 21 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.
Gore. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 45 (7d10 + 7) piercing damage.
Against the players, Varlngorath will take a round or two to realize that his attacks aren’t having any effect. Upon realizing this, Varlngorath will run to grab hold of the spear of Arvithrax, which he invests with some of his demonic power and hatred. He’ll attack the PCs, but realizes he’s outnumbered, so will use hit and run tactics, charging through buildings or out from around terrain features when possible.
If he is able to summon allies (may not be necessary) he’ll summon the following:
1-4 Glabrezu (depending on desired difficulty). They are unable to harm the golems with their attacks, but can use their darkness to aid Varlngorath in his hit and run attacks, and can temporarily stun a golem with a successful Dispel magic (spell save DC 16).
The golems use the following stat blocks:
Large construct, (neutral)
Armor class 17 (natural armor)
Hit points 178 (17d10 + 85
Speed 30 ft.
Damage immunities poison, psychic; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren’t adamantine
Condition immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages understands the languages of its creator but can’t speak
Challenge 10 (5,900 XP)
Immutable form. The golem is immune to any spell or effect that would alter its form.
Magic resistance. The golem has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Magic weapons. The golem’s weapon attacks are magical.
Multiattack. The golem makes two slam attacks.
Slam. Melee weapon attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 19 (3d8 + 6) bludgeoning damage.
Slow (Recharge 5–6). The golem targets one or more creatures it can see within 10 feet of it. Each target must make a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw against this magic. On a failed save, a target can’t use reactions, its speed is halved, and it can’t make more than one attack on its turn. In addition, the target can take either an action or a bonus action on its turn, not both. These effects last for 1 minute. A target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
Additionally, if desired, you can customize the golems with the following powers:
Smite. Melee weapon attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft., one traget. Hit: 19 (3d8+6) bludgeoning damage and 14 (4d6) radiant damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 19 Strength saving throw or be thrown back 20 ft., and knocked prone.
Arcane blast. Ranged attack: +9 to hit, range 120 ft., one target. Hit: 36 (8d8) force damage.
Shield (3/day). As a reaction, the golem can add +4 to its Armor class.
Flight (1/day). As a bonus action, the golem can gain a fly speed of 30 ft. for 1 minute.