The party had just finished The Eternal Boundary and had found a treasure map that would lead them into The Gray Waste. I prepared a very linear adventure that you can see on the on the right. I decided that the map represented an incomplete list of dangers to be overcome:
I also had a number of NPCs in mind:
This was the first challenge: figure out whom to trust and discover through questions that Raud would lead them to the wrong layer on Hades since Oinos ≠ Niflheim. This was also the opportunity for them to learn about the apathy of Hades. One player expertly decided to spend 100gp on books with jokes, fart machines and other ludicrous things to drive away apathy and despair.
They don’t contact Njal but they do talk to Raud and end up going with Lissandra. They made such a good impression on her, in fact, that she decides to tell them about a merchant called Kherion Mallibrun (described in the section about Death of Innocence in the Planes of Conflic box). In return, he wants them to protect him from Hekate’s trolls.
This was the second challenge: take along a guide and avoid fighting rock pythons and giant squirrels on the branches of Yggdrasil.
The dragon is easy: the third challenge is simply to be quiet. The cleric is prepared and casts silence. No problem.
The woods and trolls present the fourth challenge: unbeknownst to the players, I had decided that the forest houses both wolves and trolls. Even though the party was silenced, the wolves had picked up their scent and the trolls were following the wolves. One player who plays a character that can fly decided to take a listen and fly overhead. He soon discovers the wolves and using the fillings of a little rocket full of itching powder they disable the wolves’ scent ability and the flying character distracts and enrages the trolls until they break off the chase.
In the village, they see that the merchant is selling colorful textiles and the fifth challenge is finding a guide to the island. They discover that there is a hunter of nightmares who will lead them in exchange for the funny articles one of the characters had bought. This part was all improvised but it worked well.
He warns them of the giant, flightless birds. Luckily they are slow. The party buys horses for the three characters in plate armor and can thus outrun the the sixth challenge, the Diakka birds.
I had thought that the nightmares would be the next challenge but at the table I suddenly felt strange using the nightmares as predators. As I had seen one of the players get really excited about the prospect of catching and taming a nightmare, I decided that the seventh challenge would be the temptation of catching a nightmare. The party would have to start a fight. And they didn’t…
The eight challenge had not been listed on the “treasure map”: flying yeth hounds. The party moved away from their baying (it’s effect only works within 100 ft.) and decided to avoid the dogs. It worked.
At the edge of the sea of fog, they left their guide who, when asked, said that all they had to do was ignore the larva. And they did. No talking, no eye contact, no listening. Again, the party used silence to bypass the ninth challenge. It worked.
Finally, they reached the witch, the tenth challenge. I decided to use witches from the Shark Den section of the Caverns of Slime, Vialashta and Kurmatesha, the four lesser witches, the tengu horn, and my own treasure I had rolled up. As you can see, I had prepared a different night hag in my notes (including a 65% magic resistance)… Oh well. There was a lot of talking, bluffing and haggling involved, a short discussion on the merits of both Odin and Hekate, but in the end, the orc witch has charmed the talking character and disappeared into the tent and the fight was on.
The party consisted of a cleric 5, a fighter 4, an elf 2, and some henchmen: two giant apes, a cleric 4, a fighter 2, and a magic-user 1.
Kurmatesha is reduced to less than 10 hit-points in two rounds. She, in turn, blows the horn and summons the tengus, then polymorphs into a shadow wolf. The party then kills her and have a quick chat with the tengu. They want the horn (and their freedom), but one character is close enough to the horn to blow it again, at which point I decide that the tengu are all dispelled.
The second half of the battle is a running battle as the witches are standing under the hanging tree, cursing all that approach. With a desperate rush, a character delivers the arrow that has silence cast on it to the witches. The witches start releasing ghouls but they are being turned as fast as they are being released. Finally, when the crow witch Vialashta is finally held using magic, the remaining lesser witches flee into the sea of fog.
The witch tells them that the hanging tree is guarding the treasure and since they stocked up on oil and hadn’t used any of it, I decided that burning a 15 HD tree required 15 flasks of oil—and having bought 20 flasks of oil without having to use them against the trolls, that was no problem at all…