A journey facilitator such as myself puts faith in his senses but never fully trusts them. Reality isn’t always what you see and hear. Often times, feelings convey a truer understanding of the world around us than our tangible perceptions. An inexplicable hunch, an unnerving tingling, or a stray hair standing on end can sometimes tell me more than the most intrusive tactile examination. Fortunately for me, my instincts came to my rescue on more than one occasion, most importantly during an excursion into the foreboding Ironcrag Mountains.
Entry Four—Into the Clouds
Before setting foot into the soaring peaks, a seasoned mountaineer in our company told me, “Every trip into the mountains demands preparation, and even then, the unexpected awaits.” After my harrowing experience, I wish to amend the preceding statement by adding, “Gear and equipment can get you up the mountain, but wits and perseverance get you over it.”
Our first test of endurance came when we crossed through the clouds. At first, the symptoms were subtle—swollen faces, weary legs, and mild disorientation. Yet these small signs were the telltale hallmarks of altitude sickness. (See my notes at the end of this journal for more details regarding altitude sickness.) To make our situation more distressing, decreasing air temperatures accompanied the declining oxygen levels. The air not only grew thinner, it also got colder. On average, each 1,000 feet of elevation lowers air temperatures by roughly 3° Fahrenheit (1° Celsius for each 180 meters of elevation).
The ravages of deprivation, both in oxygen and warmth, forced some of our company back down, leaving the hardiest souls, myself included, to continue the laborious trudge up the steep slope. After several long, grueling hours, we reached our goal—a well-worn pass at the nadir of two neighboring peaks. There, we encountered a bedraggled, elderly man sporting a long, gray beard while cloaked in heavy furs. The strange fellow feverishly begged us for aid, asking for a morsel of food, a swig of alcohol, and a clean blanket. Some of our lot took pity on the odd chap, who they dismissed as a wayward mountaineer or a starving hermit driven mad by the thin air. However, something about the curious man’s demeanor and strange predicament filled me with unease. Perhaps an unusual mannerism or ill-timed comment instinctually prompted me to retrieve my magical spectacles from my coat pocket and view this individual in a different light. (See my notes at the end of this journal page for more details regarding the spectacles of true form.)
The veneer of a feeble old man instantly faded, replaced by a clawed fiend clad in a sickening amalgamation of stitched tissue and flesh. The horrifying sight left me aghast. The creature, known as a stuhac, seized upon my bewilderment and launched a savage attack against me and my companions. The wicked monstrosity lashed out at us, sometimes with its savage claws and hideous bite while on other occasions it mysteriously shredded our muscles from afar. After a pitched battle costing several lives, we repelled the hideous monster. Stung by our arrows and blades, especially my trusty werewolf blade, the stuhac fled deeper into the mountains and out of our sight. (See my notes at the end of this journal page for more details regarding the werewolf blade.) Fearful of resting upon our laurels for too long, we made haste down the mountain, hoping to outrun the creature before it returned for an unwanted rematch. Fortunately for us, our efforts paid dividends. With more oxygen surging through our lungs during our descent, we hurriedly left the Ironcrag Mountains and its resident stuhac far behind us for the remainder of our journey.
The air high atop a mountain peak is considerably thinner than it is at sea level. The decreased oxygen levels take a significant toll on living creatures. When a creature starts its day or first ascends to an altitude of 6,000 feet and every 6,000 feet thereafter, the creature must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or suffer one level of exhaustion at the end of the day for each increment of 6,000 feet. (Therefore, a failed saving throw at 15,000 feet causes the creature to suffer two levels of exhaustion.) If the creature succeeds at three consecutive Constitution saving throws plus one for each increment above 6,000 feet, the creature becomes acclimated to that altitude and no longer has to attempt Constitution saving throws while it remains within that altitude band. Likewise, creatures indigenous to mountain regions are automatically acclimated at any altitude less than 12,000 feet. At 18,000 feet and above, all creatures including acclimated ones suffer disadvantage on their Constitution saving throws against altitude sickness. At 30,000 feet and above, the creature suffers half as many levels of exhaustion on a successful saving throw as it would on a failed saving throw. Undead, constructs, and creatures that do not breathe are immune to altitude sickness.
Spectacles of True Form
Wondrous item, uncommon (requires attunement)
These eyeglasses have opaque crystallized lenses set inside a wire-rimmed frame. When you use an action while wearing the spectacles, you perceive the original form of a shapechanger or a creature transformed by magic that you can see. In addition, you automatically detect visual illusions affecting creatures that you can see and succeed on saving throws against them. These effects last for 1 minute. The spectacles can’t be used this way again until the next dawn.
Weapon (any sword), rare (requires attunement)
You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. Werewolf hunters originally forged these steel blades, though they prove equally effective against all shapechangers. When you hit a shapechanger with an attack using this magic weapon, it must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the target loses control over its shapechanger ability. It can’t take reactions and at the beginning of its next turn and all turns thereafter it must use its action to polymorph into form other than its current form, which is randomly determined if it has two or more choices. At the end of each of its turns, an affected target can make a Constitution saving throw. If it succeeds, this effect ends for the target. A shapechanger who makes a successful Constitution saving throw is immune to the effect for the next 24 hours.