Jacob’s Tower, Level 12: Arena
(190,000xp, 79,600gp Max)
Arena is the penultimate level of Jacob's Tower. It takes place in a large coliseum in front of a screaming crowd of thousands. Arena features several large scale fights with open, complex environments usually not possible in dungeons crawls. It also gives the heroes one last chance to flex their skills to a potentially adulating crowd.
The PCs are thrust into sunlight. Momentarily blinded, they are acutely aware of various other sensations beating down upon them. The solid heat of the desert sun. The chalky dust beneath their feet and swirling into their faces. The deafening roar of a cheering crowd of thousands. And a loud, amiable voice barking out playful phrases in words too fast to comprehend.
As their eyes acclimate, the PCs begin to comprehend their surroundings. They are on the southern half of massive round arena, a coliseum 105 feet from end to end. The dusty ground is splattered by blood and the occasional humanoid bone. Chips and dents mar the ornate marble walls that extend 20 feet up to the viewing gallery, where thousands of enraptured audience member cheer on the PCs.
And what an audience! Creatures of all shapes and sizes: humans, elves, dwarves, goblins, orcs, titans, liches, gnomes, lizardmen, elementals, clockwork giants, large wolves with intelligent eyes, green clouds of gas, fallen angels, uplifted demons – everything race and species the PCs have ever encountered and countless more.
At the center of the arena, a tall marble column extends 50 feet into the air. At it’s peak, a pink, amorphous blob gesticulates with two waving pseudopods. It blinks half a dozen eyes, and through a score of glittering mouths he booms his gleeful commentary to the crowd. He is Ringmaster.
“… Nothing like yesterday’s show, I assure you. You see before you the finest Jacob has to offer. These adventurers have fought together through thick and thin, braving and overcoming fearsome challenges no other mortal could dare to face. And here they stand before us, stronger for the effort. Look at those muscles, look at those brains. Look at the courage! Look at the eagerness to kill! But before we get started on the event, let’s learn a bit about our contestants.”
Note that an invisible dome separates Ringmaster and the crowd from the action down below. Though the arena walls may be climbed, the heroes will hit a ceiling that domes from 20 feet up starting at the audience to 50 feet up at the top of Ringmaster’s pillar.
Ringmaster stretches a pseudopod down from his column to where the party is standing. It produces a wand, then holds the wand to the nearest character like a microphone.
“So, adventurer, tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your name, and why are you here?”
Once the adventurer has done so, Ringmaster asks a follow up question.
“If you weren’t an adventurer, what would you do with your time? What are you going to do when you are done adventuring? Do you have any useful, legal skills that could earn you a day’s wages?”
Ringmaster asks any appropriate follow up questions to get the character to demonstrate any Profession or Craft skill.
The character may make a single skill checks for each Profession or Craft skill he has trained, demonstrating his ability to the crowd. For each DC 22 Profession or Craft check at which he succeeds, mark a success and the crowd goes wild. If the character fails to make any DC 22 Profession or Craft checks, the crowd boos him.
Ringmaster then asks the same questions to each subsequent character, also drawing Profession and Craft skill checks out of them.
If Ringmaster’s pseudopod is attacked during the interview it will come off entirely. Ringmaster and the crowd roar in laughter (and the pseudopod will re-grow), but the interview is be over. Successes should be tallied as they stand.
The crowd is either pleased or disappointed with the heroes after this display. If the heroes had zero successes, then they will actively boo them in the first fight, imparting a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, and saves for all enemies. If the heroes had only one success between them, the crowd is nonplussed and will not cheer for or root against them. If the heroes had a number of successes greater than one but less than the number of heroes, then the crowd will be impressed and root for them, imparting a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, and saves for the first fight. If the heroes had a number of successes equal to or greater than the number of heroes, then the crowd is ecstatic. They will impart a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, and saves for the first fight, and also throw 10,000gp worth of gemstones onto the arena. These gems are automatically collected and added to the PC’s prize money at the end.
After the interview, Ringmaster pulls up his pseudopod.
“Well, that was certainly illuminating. But enough talk! It’s time for some action! Let’s see how our adventurer’s fare against . . . The Mammoths of the Clammoth Mountains!”
The Mammoths of Clammoth Mountains
Within a single round, the arena undergoes a sudden and violent change. The sun is blotted out by black clouds, and the temperature drops from burning hot to below freezing in a few instants. The PCs must make a DC 20 Fortitude save or become sickened for d6 rounds by the quickness of the change.
At the same time, the ground shrieks and rends. Ice and snow shoot over the dust of the arena, replacing it with worn rock. Massive, 40 foot deep chasms split the earth (marked in purple on the map). Walls of grey stone explode from the ground, reaching high above the invisible wall (marked in yellow on the map). The walls of the chasms and mountains are covered with ice and require a DC 30 climb check to scale.
The blizzard further mars matters. The heavy snowfall drops visibility to 30 feet, and the wind imposes a -2 penalty to ranged attacks. The entirety of the map is considered difficult terrain due to the snow.
At the same time, three mastodons (M) materialize out of thin air, shepherded by a single frost giant (G). As soon as they are made aware of the PCs, they attack.
During this one round change, the PCs may take their movement and standard actions. The ground is not yet difficult terrain. If they are in a square that is becoming a chasm, mountain, or enemy, then they see the coming threat and may take their movement to get out of that square without penalty.
When the battle is over, the heroes find a Mask of Giants, Lesser in their inventory as a reward.
When the last enemy is defeated, the area reverts suddenly back to the hot and dusty arena. The crowd cheers wildly, and Ringmaster beams down at the heroes with six unnatural eyes.
“Well fought heroes! Nicely done! That’s three mammoths who have been frozen in their tracks!
“Let’s take a short break from fighting, and give the audience a chance to catch their breaths. How about a game of . . . NAME! THAT! ANSWER!”
The crowd chants along with the somewhat bizarrely named “Name that answer!” then goes quiet.
Ringmaster eyes the PCs, then asks a few questions. Feel free to replace the below questions with those specific to your campaign world.
Any PC may think about the questions, though the PCs may only submit a single answer as a team. Roll all knowledge checks in secret. For each correct answer given to Ringmaster, tally a success. For each failure, a bolt of lightning from the blue deals each character 6d6 damager (Reflex DC 20 halves). The PCs may choose not to answer a question after making a check, preventing them from achieving the success but avoiding the bolt of lightning.
The questions are as follows:
“How much, to the nearest 500 pounds, does a plasma Ooze weigh?” A DC 25 Knowledge (dungeoneering) check will give the correct answer of 6,000 pounds. A knowledge check of 20 – 24 suggests 5,000 pounds. A knowledge check of 10 – 19 suggests that they are weightless. A knowledge check of below 10 suggests that they weigh 9,000 pounds.
“What part of the crossbow catches the string?” A DC 25 Knowledge (engineering) check will give the correct answer, the nut. A knowledge check of 20 – 24 suggests a riser. A knowledge check of 10 – 19 suggests a serving. A knowledge check of below 10 suggests a tickler.
“The humanoid Abyss Gigas is vulnerable to what?” A DC 25 or above Knowledge (local) check will give the correct answer, nothing. A knowledge check of 20 – 24 suggests fire. A knowledge check of 10 – 19 suggests electricity. A knowledge check of below 10 suggests sunlight.
“What does the tree-like Irminsul keep within its trunk?” A DC 25 or above Knowledge (local) check will give the correct answer, a portal to another plane of existence. A knowledge check of 20 – 24 suggests undead corpses. A knowledge check of 10 – 19 suggests deadly poison. A knowledge check of below 10 suggests vegepigmies.
The crowd is either pleased or disappointed with the heroes after this display. If the heroes had zero successes, then they actively boo them in the second fight, imparting a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, and saves for all enemies. If the heroes had only one or two success between them, the crowd is nonplussed and will not cheer for or root against them. If the heroes had three successes, then the crowd will be impressed and root for them, imparting a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, and saves for the second fight. If the heroes had four successes then the crowd is ecstatic. They will impart a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls and saves for the second fight, and also throw 10,000gp worth of gemstones onto the arena. These gems are automatically collected and added to the PC’s prize money at the end.
When the quiz has concluded, Ringmaster once again engages the audience.
“But enough of question and answer. I sense that you are hungry for blood! Well, you are sure to see some in this next fight, though it may be a bit watered down. Let’s see how our adventurers do against the Sea Serpent and Stygian Turtle Shark!”
The Sea Serpent and Stygian Turtle Shark
Again, the arena undergoes a violent and sudden change. Within six seconds, the dusty ground transforms into warm tropical water, whose blue sheen is lost in the black depths hundreds of feet below. Four poorly constructed rafts float on the swells, and the sun contours their shadows through the sea.
At first, there are no enemies, and the heroes have an additional round to orient themselves and swim to a raft. However, at the start of the next round initiative should be rolled. The PCs have attracted the attention of monsters.
A Sea Serpent and Stygian Turtle Shark rush up from the ocean depths. They may use their capsize abilities to automatically flip rafts and dump any passengers in the water nearby. Doing so also destroys half of the raft.
When the battle is over, the heroes find a Folding Boat in their inventory as a reward.
When both monsters are defeated, the area reverts back to the hot and dusty arena. The crowd again cheers wildly, and Ringmaster looks down at the heroes with mock concern.
“My goodness, what a fight! You nearly didn't make it our of there. Let’s hear it for our contestants.” The audience cheers and hoots wildly. “I think that we need a little bit of light heartened entertainment before the next fight. Alright, heroes, lets see if you can make our audience laugh!”
Into the area materialize a wild bull and a small table with a mirror and make-up kit. Half a dozen ropes tie the straining bull to the ground.
“Choose your best rider. He’ll be trying to stay on Sally, the wild bull. But, to make things a little more amusing, use that make-up kit to dress your rider up like a clown. You have one minute, starting now!”
The PCs only have time to make one Disguise check to dress up their rider. A DC 30 Disguise check yields three successes. A DC 25 Disguise check yields two successes, and a DC 20 Disguise check yields one success.
Once the rider looks like a clown, he should quickly mount Sally. When he does, the ropes keeping her in place evaporate, and Sally attempts to buck her rider off. The rider makes up to three DC 25 ride checks, though any failure bucks the rider and end the checks. For each successful ride check, mark one success. The crowd roars in laughter for the whole affair, and will clap if Sally is ridden for all three rounds.
The PCs may of course choose to keep their dignity and refrain from any of this nonsense, in which case they will get 0 successes.
After being ridden for three rounds or throwing her rider, Sally will disappear.
The crowd will either be pleased or disappointed with the heroes after this display. If the heroes had zero successes, then they will actively boo them in the third fight, imparting a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, and saves for all enemies. If the heroes had only one or two success, the crowd is nonplussed and will not cheer for or root against them. If the heroes had three or four successes, then the crowd will be impressed and root for them, imparting a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, and saves for the third fight. If the heroes had five or six successes then the crowd is ecstatic. They will impart a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, and saves for the third fight, and also throw 10,000gp worth of gemstones onto the arena. These gems are automatically collected and added to the PC’s prize money at the end.
Ringmaster guffaws loudly. “Well, that was certainly funny! But enough comedy. Time to move onto the tragedy! Ever seen a plant kill a man? Now is your chance! Watch how our adventurers contend with the fearsome Tobongo.”
The Fearsome Tobongo
Foliage and greenery erupt out of the ground. The air suddenly is laden with humidity, and sweat instantly forms on the hero’s brows. Birdcalls and buzzing insects form a jungle cacophony amongst the bushes and brambles. Seven overgrown trees sprout from the soil (marked with green on the map)
Across much of the arena, a wide swath of brambles and mud materializes (marked by brown on the map). Moving into any of these squares uses 10 feet of movement, though any ability which ignores difficult terrain may be applied. The first time each turn that a character moves into the terrain, he may attempt a DC 20 Survival check. On a success, he may move through the terrain as if it did not exist for the rest of his turn. The enemies automatically ignore this terrain.
Out from the rich earth in the northern part of the arena grows a massive, angry looking tree, the Tobongo (marked with a T on the map). This Tobongo lacks the animate tree ability. Instead, as a swift action, he may automatically animate one of the seven trees around the area (marked in green). The animated trees instantly come to life and act on the Tobongo's initiative, using the same statistics as a Treant except for the Animate Tree Ability. The Tobongo may raise up to seven trees in this manner, at which point there are no additional trees to animate. If the Tobongo is killed, all of his animated trees whither and die, and the fight is over.
When the battle is over, the heroes find a Boots of Friendly Terrain in their inventory as a reward.
The Obstacle Course
As the jungle fades back into arena, Ringmaster leads the audience in applause.
“Incredible! And I thought the trees would have them stumped. What a group!
“Well, we only have one more fight left, but before we get to that lets watch some nice, safe action. How about … an Obstacle Course!”
Before our heroes materializes a short obstacle course – a pool of water leading to a wooden climbing pole, then a long balancing beam with a small crawlspace at the end. The crawlspace empties out onto a tiny platform where a red flag dances on a moving stick nearly out of reach.
“Each contestant will have one minute to complete the course. One contestant at a time please! And please note, you are now under the effects of an anti-magic field. No spells will work, and magic items are turned off.”
One by one, the adventurers will need to complete the obstacle course. This consists of a DC 20 Swim check, a DC 20 Climb Check, a DC 20 Acrobatics check, a DC 20 Escape Artist check, and a DC 20 Sleight of Hand check. If the adventurer fails a single check, he takes twice as long to complete it and moves on to the next challenge. For each adventurer who reaches the end with zero or one failures, tally a success. However, if an adventurer gets three failures, he is smacked off the obstacle course by a massive fist of force which makes an attack on the adventurer at +30 for 2d8+10 bludgeoning damage.
The crowd will either be pleased or disappointed with the heroes after this display. If the heroes had zero successes, then they will actively boo them in the fourth fight, imparting a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, and saves for all enemies. If only one hero succeeds, the crowd is nonplussed and will not cheer for or root against them. If two heroes succeed, then the crowd will be impressed and root for them, imparting a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, and saves for the fourth fight. If at least three party members succeed, then the crowd is ecstatic. They will impart a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls and saves for the fourth fight, and also throw 10,000gp worth of gemstones onto the arena. These gems are automatically collected and added to the PC’s prize money at the end.
When the heroes have completed the obstacle course one way or another, Ringmaster will give his last announcement.
“And now for the final fight. The end all, be all. The total party kill. If they succeed, the heroes will go on to meet Jacob himself. Please hold your breath, for now we welcome onto the stage: The Seven Ankous.”
The Seven Ankous
Seven marble pillars rise 10 feet out of the arena dust. When they reach their zenith, each materializes a large dark shape: horrific, skeletal, alien creatures with black wings of smoking darkness. The Ankous are clothed in malevolent blackness, but burn with yellow fire that seeps out of empty eyesockets like blood. In unison, the Ankous raise their wings, then swoop in to attack.
Only one of these Ankous is real. The rest are shadow doubles. The Ankou is identical to the listed stats, with the following exceptions. The Ankou starts with 6 shadow doubles, and they last until killed (the real Ankou is indicated with A on the map, while the shadow doubles are indicated with S.) The Will save to disbelieve any shadow double is raised to 26. The Ankou loses his Circle of Death spell like ability, but gains a second casting of prismatic spray.
A shadow double's melee attacks cannot bring an creature below 0hp, though his bleed might.
If you feel like being extra deceitful, roll two separate initiatives. Have four of the doubles and the real ankou go on one initiative, while the last two shadow doubles go on the other. Have the character make Will saves when interacting with the real ankou, with the result always "you believe this ankou is real."
The Ankou shares a health pool of 266 with his shadow doubles. When any double or the Ankou himself is damaged, the health pool is decreased by the damage dealt. When the health pool reaches 0, the Ankou and all shadow doubles are slain.
When the Ankou is slain, the darkness of his wings slowly spreads, encompassing the area, the crowds, and Ringmaster. His voice can be heard over the roaring crowd, through it grows fainter and more distant with every passing moment. He sounds genuinely thrilled, and taken up in the moment.
“Stupendous! Fantastic! Amazing! Never has a mortal passed the final test! Never has a mortal gotten this far! My dear ladies and gentlemen, our heroes are on the way to see Jacob himself! The first heroes in an age! Good luck my dear adventurers! You will need it!”
If you are just playing Jacob's Tower and leveling up after Arena, distribute 64,000gp among characters evenly.
Jacob's Tower, Levels 1 - 13 ($9.99)