Portals of the Written Word
By Robert Wiese
Throughout history, some beings have gone to great lengths to hide their piles of wealth. Yet these same people create maps to their wealth or have to engineer complex traps and set guardians to protect that same wealth from people who, if the owner was good enough at hiding it, would not know it was there at all. Legends of pirate gold abound, and treasure maps that lead to these lost hoards pop up in countless cities. Also, treasure maps exist to other stores of wealth. If you asked common people why treasure maps exist, many would say that the owner of the wealth wanted to find it again. But in this age of magic, you have plenty of ways to find your wealth again without needing to create maps. So, why all the maps?
Some sages at the temple of Deneir theorize that mapmakers really want their hoards to be found, but not easily. They want to show off their cleverness in hiding or guarding the hoard. They draw maps and leave them about as a test of wits between the cartographer and the seeker. Others theorize that someone else makes the maps -- perhaps a lackey or jilted lover or a sage that researches the location of the hoard. A few say that the existence of a large hoard of wealth so works on the mind that the owner is forced to give some clue as to its existence and location, no matter how small. In truth, none of the theories explain treasure maps, but sages have fun over drinks theorizing about why they exist.
The case of the merchant-wizard Delfondar fits the first theory above. Delfondar quite openly stated on his treasure map that he dared any to find his hoard of gold and gems. If anyone could find the hoard, he or she was welcome to it. To make the game interesting, Delfondar created a very complex path to his hoard -- one that would require all the cunning a seeker might have.
Delfondar's map was first discovered in 1310 DR in the pack of an adventurer who died in the Mistmarsh. How it got there no one knows. Delfondar's map is drawn on a huge piece of parchment 4 feet square and radiates a faint transmutation magic. Ancient Elven letters are used as symbols on the map. The map does not show precise terrain features by name; it is more the kind of map that gives directions from a starting point. By taking the Elven letters and forming a word using all of them, one can find the starting point in Cormanthor. It took many adventurers to decipher the map and reach the place it indicated. No treasure was found. Copies of Delfondar's map now circulate with the other treasure maps of legend, some with translations of the symbols, and no one has found the treasure. The original is perhaps in the temple of Deneir in Silverymoon, or it is in the pack of some adventurer who has not yet tried to seek the hoard. Who knows?
The secret behind Delfondar's hoard is that the map is part of a complex portal network that leads to the treasure. The map leads to the first portal in the Giantspire Mountains. The first portal is human-sized and located in a cave where the map indicates the treasure should lie. It is marked only by a set of carvings on the wall; the portal actually sits about a foot in front of the arch of carvings. The key to this portal is to take the Elven letters on the map and make a second word from them, and then to speak the word aloud while holding the original map.
The first portal leads to a clearing in the Forest of Mir. At this point, seekers must use the map again. By taking this new location as the starting point, one can follow the map to a second location at the very eastern end of the Cloven Mountains. At this location, another cave, nothing but another portal is here, and that is marked simply by four rocks on the wall of the cavern. This portal uses the same key word as the first one.
The second portal leads to a remote island in the Shining Sea -- an island too small to be on most maps. There, in a small grotto, Delfondar inscribed a magic circle. The treasure is reached through another gate, and this time it's in the map itself. Delfondar embedded a portal inside his map using the Create Moving Portal feat (see the June Perilous Gateways articles). It is in the center part, and it is 3 feet wide (hence the size of the map) and marked by the route itself. When someone holds up the map and stands in the magic circle that Delfondar inscribed, the portal in the map activates. Stepping through this portal requires destroying the original map. The map portal leads to a small, limestone dungeon with some guardians and eventually the treasure. The dungeon is completely encased in rock and was originally smaller and formed by a small underground stream, and the only way out or in is to teleport (since the map portal is one-way only). You should determine the size of the hoard by the challenges the PCs faced in finding it, according to the rules presented in the Dungeon Master's Guide.
How to Incorporate Delfondar's Map Into Your Campaign
Delfondar's map and the quest for his hoard requires some ability to detect and analyze portals, so it is best suited to groups of adventurers who have access to the spell analyze portal. You could provide this access on scrolls if you wish.
- You can begin an epic campaign focused on the search for Delfondar's hoard by introducing the map to the PCs. You can then fill in the many encounters and work out how they will gather the information they need to reach their goal.
- The PCs run across some other adventurers who have Delfondar's map and are trying to follow it. Perhaps they have a fake copy rather than the real map, and thus cannot succeed. Whether the PCs compete with this group or help them depends on what you want. For example, the group could be composed of evil adventurers, in which case the search might become a race between the two groups.