Skill Challenge #12: The Blackreach

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The cavern is so dark  here that it absorbs light. It makes candles of your torches and lanterns, shadows diminishing even magical light. You can see no farther than your hands can reach.  You slowly make your journey, the darkness playing tricks of vision and  mind. The darkness retreats, reforms, taunts, and cajoles.  It reaches into your mind, creating a parade of your fears, anxieties and humiliations.

As the shadow makes its presence known to you more and more frequently, you realize that you are inside a darkness that lives. It breathes shadow and speaks a cryptic dark speech.  It is unintelligible at first, the language of darkness, but with horror you realize you are beginning to learn the darkness’ idioms, its tone, its meanings.

A thought eclipses all others: The Darkness wants you dead.

Summary: The party navigates through an area of living darkness that feeds off the life energy of all those that pass through. It seeks to trap them in a shadow maze and feed off of their life essence. The players must resist the lifedraining of the dark while navigating through the perilous dark of the Blackreach.

Complexity: 3 (6 successes before 3 failures)

Goal: Escape the clutches of the blackreach before accumulating three failures.

Encounter Level: PC level +1

Shadow and Light

Players attempting to move through the Blackreach can either resist it’s powers and illusions or merge with the shadow, “blending in”.

Before any skill check, a player must choose to fight the darkness or become one with the shadow.

When a player chooses to fight the darkness, if he succeeds in the roll, he gains 1 point of Light. You may give expend Light points to rid an ally of Shadow points.  you remove one point of Shadow for each point of light spent.  The ally does not receive your Light points.

When a player chooses to embrace the darkness, he gains 1 point of Shadow immediately, whether he fails or succeeds at the skill check.  Whenever making a skill check , a player gets a +1 to the roll for every point of Shadow he has.

Any player who aids another character receives Light or Shadow as chosen by the character he is aiding.

Skills Used:

Arcana (hard DC, maximum two successes): It is obvious that this shadow is magical.  You extract the shadows secrets just the shadow drowns you in yours.

  • 1st roll:  The shadow feeds of the negative energies of those it envelopes.
  • 2nd roll:  The Blackreach creates illusions that are partly real, so they cannot be completely ignored.

Insight(hard DC, maximum two successes): The darkness slowly reveals itself to you.

  • 1st success: The shadow doesn’t want to destroy you…it wants you to join it.
  • 2nd success: The shadow feeds off of your despair until you have no choice but to surrender to it.

Endurance (fighting the darkness, hard DC, maximum two successes): The darkness will not overcome you!  Through pain and humiliation you will endure.  You will never give in to the Blackreach.  You will not become what it wants you to become.

Endurance (embracing shadow, easy DC, no maximum successes): You swallow all the painful memories and image the Blackreach projects until you can no longer stand it.  Then you swallow some more.  The shadow will keep hurting you until you give in.

Dungeoneering (moderate DC, maximum one success): In times like this, the pragmatic thing is to put one foot firmly in front of the other and navigate your way out of your mess.  And that is exactly what you plan to do.

Religion (moderate DC, maximum one success): You steady your mind with prayer, pitting the words and energy of your god against the darkness

Failure: The PCs become lost for a time but eventually stagger out, harrowed by their experience.

If the players fail the skill challenge, each character loses an amount of healing surges equal to the twice the amount of Light points that they have gained.  If a PC has no healing surges remaining, he lose hit points equal to the value of one healing surge for each healing surge he cannot remove.

Players with Shadow become afflicted with the curse of the Darksoul.  Players afflicted with this curse gain vulnerable (5 + points of Shadow) all until they have  had the ritual Raise Dead cast upon them.

Success: The character emerge from the Blackreach unscathed, but somehow changed.

A character with Light points gains a number of healing surges equal to the amount of Light she possesses.  If she reaches maximum and still has Light remaining, she gains resist 2 + the number of extra Light until her next extended rest.

Players with Shadow gain vulnerable (5 + each point of Shadow) radiant and resist 5 necrotic until the next until the ritual Raise Dead has been cast on them.

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About the Author

A Jack of All Trades ,or if you prefer, an extreme example of multi-classing, Gamefiend, a.k.a Quinn Murphy has been discussing, playing and designing games straight out of the womb. He is the owner and Editor-in-Chief of this site in addition to being an aspiring game designer. As you would assume, he is a huge fan of 4e. By day he is a technologist. Follow gamefiend on Twitter