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Dungeons & Dragons 3e: The Black Stairs

The Black Stairs

OK, so you're travelling through wild country, the last locals you met told you stories about the restless dead, it's getting dark... and you hear the clash of swords and other battle sounds from up ahead. What are you going to do?

The prudent thing might be to choose an alternate route, but adventurers are rarely that prudent. The DM's Background lift the lid on what is going on, and who is having a brawl up ahead, on the assumption that the party will take a look... and will see a band of ghouls attacking a caravan which, it transpires, belongs to a princess. Most red-blooded adventurers will step up to assist, and she offers to pay if they are reluctant.

While located in the default world of Mennara, the adventure can be run in any suitable bit of wild country in your campaign world, although you might want to alter place names to fit in. You will need to get them there in the first place, but this makes for an interesting side-adventure during their travels. Once the party joins the princess's caravan - as is likely, she asks as her own retinue has been decimated by the attack, and they were servants rather than soldiers anyway - introductions are in order. The princess claims to be travelling to visit with an uncle, and everything appears above-board and normal. Observant party members may note a few anomalies, however.

The journey proceeds eventually reaching the Black Stairs, a notorious narrow and steep track with a sheer drop on one side and steep wooded slopes on the other. Needless to say, it's a good place for an ambush... during which an item is stolen from the princess, who pleads for the party to retrieve it for her. That's when they may just find out what is actually going on. Or not, if they fight rather than talk.

The adventure does rather assume party actions throughout, although the assumptions are quite reasonable ones. There's not much to help you if the party decides to do something else. If they stay on track there's a good brawl at the end as well as two earlier on... but by then if they haven't discovered the truth they may never do so. Nice concept, execution could have been better.

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Reviewed: 25 February 2018