The Red Hand of Doom
Due to the untimely death of The Black and the Purple and the desire of some of my former players to get back into D&D, I’ve begun planning my own run of WOTC’s published adventure, The Red Hand of Doom. While the adventure is in its own right, rather epic in its scope (what seems to be random bands of goblinoid raiders harassing some backwater towns turns out to be the beginning of a colossal war led by a messianic leader of the cult of Tiamat, goddess of evil dragons), I decided to take some liberties with the adventure to adapt it into the Eberron campaign setting.
Players are advised to avoid the next section, but this is open to other DMs who wish to implement the same changes.
The primary considerations to these adaptations are:
1. Tiamat in Eberron is quite different from her incarnations in other campaign settings. Instead of being the goddess of evil dragons, she’s actually the offspring of Khyber, the progenitor Dragon Below who spawned the demons in Eberron (This does not only include the demons and devils; rakshasa are also considered demons in Eberron). As such, Tiamat’s heralds are not only devils, but rakshasa as well.
What makes Tiamat a lot more frightening in Eberron is that she can exert her influence over metallic dragons. While chromatics are especially prone to her corruption, she has the ability to enthrall even metallic dragons, widening her power base dramatically.
2. At least two of the characters will be associated with the Church of the Silver Flame, one of the predominant good-aligned religions in Eberron. The Silver Flame was the entity that bound the demons in the depths of Khyber, and its church is dedicated to the eradication of the influence of fiends. Instead of using the original “there is treasure in Vraath keep” hook, I’ve decided to have the leader of the Church, Jaela Daran, send the characters personally into Elsir Vale to deal with the threat of Tiamat. Now this needs some calibration, as the threat of the Red Hand, as the adventure goes, is not readily apparent until after a certain point. Therefore I still have to find out how I’m going to point the PCs toward Vraath Keep, where the first boss of the adventure (and the revelations regarding the movement of the Red Hand) are found.
3. Eberron has the lightning rail, a magical train system that connects most of the major countries on the primary continent, Khorvaire. While the train is one of the most convenient (and quick) forms of transportation in the setting, it definitely won’t reach all the way to the backwater towns of Elsir Vale.
4. Locations are of course, different. It was very clear from the adventure that it takes place in the middle of nowhere. One of the suggested locations for the Eberron setting was eastern Breland, which I took. First of all, it’s close to the goblinoid nation, Darguun. Second, it carries the “middle of nowhere” feeling, since the borderlands of Breland in the east touch the Mournland, which is dead and mostly uninhabited. Third, it’s the part of Breland that is closest to Thrane, the seat of the Church of the Silver Flame and the starting point for the PCs.
As such, the following changes have been made:
1. Due to the involvement of the Rakshasa agents of Tiamat, the PCs are expected. The cell of the Talons of Tiamat that works with the Red Hand knows that the Silver Flame will definitely send its agents—Jaela Daran’s prophetic vision is enough to lead her to suspect something major is going to happen, so they have infiltrated Thrane and have been shadowing the PCs for some time. However, due to their undercover nature and their pride, the Rakshasa prefer to operate individually.
2. The PCs begin their journey from Flamekeep via a chartered express lightning rail, provided by the Church for this fairly covert mission. The Church couldn’t just have the PCs go by the usual train.
3. A Rakshasa agent has already infiltrated the train and is going to try to assassinate the PCs in their sleep. This will be the first encounter, instead of the ambush in the woods. The point of this encounter is to show the PCs that they’re not just dealing with something mundane here; powerful forces are aware of their movement, and if the PCs want to keep their presence and objective discreet, they have to kill this agent before it kills them or reports to its superiors.
This Rakshasa will not be the typical CR 10 Monster Manual variety; a spellcaster would be too strong, and it also doesn’t make sense for one to just go on its own. This will be a Naityan Rakshasa instead (Tome of Battle, CR 7). Since the PCs will get opportunities to rest before they even get to Drellin’s Ferry, this encounter will be especially difficult.
The inclusion of Martial Adept monsters helps a lot in balance the encounters, since at least one PC is going to be a crusader. Non-martial adept humanoid enemies are little more than speedbumps for Martial Adept PCs.
4. Dennovar was changed to Vathirond, Breland’s easternmost city. It’s very close to the border with the Mournland, and the lightning railway runs from Thrane to Vathirond. The PCs will get off the rail here and will then take a House Orien charactered carriage to Drellin’s Ferry. This kind of makes the ambush more terrifying, since they have NPCs to protect. On the other hand, one or two watchmen might make the battle with the initial marauder attack a little less terrifying.
5. The cabal of Rakshasa agents is rather impressive. I plan to include five agents, though the PCs don’t necessarily need to encounter them:
-Indravan-Yagna (Male Half-Bronze Dragon Naityan Rakshasa Swordsage 4); ringleader and part of the final boss encounter.
-Afrasiyab (Male Naztharune Rakshasa); assassin and Indravan’s right hand. Yes, the name was taken from the Shahnameh character. Likely just an optional encounter.
-Ilvala (Female Rakshasa Sorcerer 1); Caster and general operations overseer. Thinks Akviradh is a moron. Likely just an optional encounter, her lack of loyalty to Indravan and Azarr Kul makes her a candidate for escaping at the first sign of trouble.
-Miha Serani (Female Zakya Rakshasa); Replaces the Aranea Miha Serani from the original adventure. I’m not so sure on this change yet, since the Aranea was primarily a controlling caster. Zakya Rakshasa are warriors, so I’m not sure how this will turn out. As with the Miha Serani in the adventure, the PCs may or may not encounter her disguise and role as a spy.
-Akviradh (Male Naityan Rakshasa); The very first encounter. He’s the n00b in the cell, and has to prove himself to Indravan by surveying the PCs. He’s a little too overzealous and eager to please the boss, so he goes ahead and attacks the PCs.
Thoughts: Rakshasa seem pretty challenging to run. Their detect thoughts ability makes them always in the know, but actually RPing their arrogance and their mind games will be a bit of a challenge, especially when the majority of the opponents in this adventure will be hobgoblins of average intelligence.
Since the Rakshasa cell doesn’t necessarily follow the Red Hand’s operations, they seem to be a bit difficult to manage. What could they be doing when they’re not around? Are they just relaxing? Off on some other mission? Or are they actually there, surveying the PCs? After all, they have free disguises and the ability to read surface thoughts. The main issue is keeping Indravan and his cat’s paws from outshining Azarr Kul and the wyrmlords.
I think the Rakshasa at most will serve as “control rods” to prevent the PCs from utterly overpowering some of the climactic encounters later. If they aren’t needed, they don’t even need to be mentioned. As such, the only Rakshasa that the PCs are sure to encounter are Akviradh and Indravan.
Alternatively, the Rakshasa might be good hooks to help move the action along for the plothole between Chapters 1 and 2 (the PCs really don’t seem to have a good reason to go to the ruins of Rhest apart from Norro Wiston telling them to). Perhaps this could be a case of FF7’s “chasing the black-caped man.”
It’s going to be a challenging adventure to run, especially since I’m taking a lot of liberties with the story. Improvization really seems to be a required skill when DMing.