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Tuesday Traps & Treasures: the Rheingold

Tuesday Traps & Treasures: the Rheingold

“A curse upon that gold,” growled the dwarf. “May it bring nothing but woe to whoever claims it. May honor find no home within their breast, and may a hateful knife find their unsuspecting back. May brother turn against brother, may friend battle friend. May he who keeps it become a monstrous beast and never know a moment’s peace.”

“That’s fine with me!” laughed Loki.Art by Arthur Rackham

When the gods Honir, Odin, and Loki accidentally killed a shapeshifter called Otter while travelling, they were soon captured and imprisoned by the poor man’s kin. Loki volunteered to paid the outrageous death price Otter’s family demanded, but of course he didn’t earn the gold honestly. Instead, he extorted the gold from the dwarf Andvari, taking every last ring, nugget, and sliver of coin the wizard-smith owned. Since Andvari had stolen the gold from fey maidens in the river Rhein, Loki considered it fair to relieve him of it.

Andvari thought differently; he was enraged that Loki stole everything, leaving him impoverished after a lifetime of toil. In retaliation, Andvari laid a terrible curse on the Rheingold’s owner, which suited Loki perfectly. He paid Otter’s death price with cursed gold, and so the trickster released his companions and brought about the downfall of their enemies at the same time.

And yet, Loki’s actions brought ruin to far more than just Otter’s family. A god’s curse is not easily laid to rest. [More…]

The Rheingold has a tragic history of murder and betrayal. Otter’s brother Fafnir murdered his father and drove off his brother to claim the hoard, but Fafnir was plagued for countless years by thieves and heroes. Reclusive, paranoid, and obsessed with protecting his treasure, Fafnir slowly became a terrible dragon. Eventually the gold was done with him, and it lured the hero Sigurd to its lair to kill the beast and carry the cursed hoard to new pastures. Although Fafnir was its most famous owner, the Rheingold has destroyed many lives in an endless cycle of murder and greed.

Encounter Use
For many adventurers, it’s all about the loot: That gleaming hoard of gold, jewels, magic, and other treasures just waiting to be claimed. Once the traps are disarmed and the monsters slain, the looters run forward with the eager joy of children at Christmas, and that means their defenses are down. Unless your players regularly encounter cursed items they are likely to put any mound of treasure into the mental box marked ‘reward’ and not one labelled ‘potential threat’ – and even if they are suspicious, they’re unlikely to suspect that the whole pile is cursed.

This makes the Rheingold a particularly insidious trap and one best used after careful consideration.

Some players may find that the Rheingold curse messes with their idea of what the game should be about, and might consider it unfair. Others will relish the roleplaying opportunity to resist its corrupting lure… or to succumb to it. Whatever their opinion, the players may never look at a pile of treasure in quite the same way again.

The Rheingold

Paragon Level Artefact
The Rheingold has magical powers, a purpose, and mind of its own, so is best treated as an artefact rather than a trap or hazard. It consists of many coins, jewels, art objects and magical items, and sometimes these items may be widely scattered. Its ‘owner’ is whoever possesses the majority of the hoard, but otherwise functions as a normal artefact. Characters can change the physical form of individual treasures (smelting coins into a sceptre for example) without harming the artefact or its powers.

Body Slot: Any magical items in the hoard take up slots as normal.
Property: You are always alert for potential thieves and gain a +2 bonus to Perception and Insight.
Property: Your knowledge of the corrupting nature of greed gives you a +2 bonus to appropriate checks when engaging in bribery.

Power (Encounter): Martial*Weapon
You make a free basic attack against someone touching or owning part of the hoard, as an immediate interrupt.

Power (Daily): You feel a magical tug, like a compass needle towards north, toward the nearest part of the Rheingold you do not own. The feeling lasts until you take a short or extended rest.

Goals of the Rheingold
 Corrupt its owner through greed
 Persuade its owner that they should isolate themselves and the hoard
 Transform the owner into a dragon
 Have the owner destroyed and a new victim claim the gold

Roleplaying the Rheingold
At first the Rheingold communicates through dreams and vague feelings, a sense that the hoard wants to help its owner or needs something from them. Eventually it speaks with a chorus of seductive voices that only the owner can hear. It offers advice for securing the gold and tells the owner of any danger of theft (sometimes genuine, sometimes not). When in the presence of the gold the voices whisper lovingly. When the owner is away, the voices plead for his attention and worry about being stolen.

CONCORDANCE
Starting Score 5 (Dwarf or Dragonborn: 8)

Owner acquires a significant new portion of the hoard +1
Owner kills a dangerous opponent to protect/regain the hoard +2
Owner kills a love one or close friend to protect/regain the hoard +3
Owner spends a month continually in the presence of the hoard +1

Owner allows any part of the hoard to be taken -1
Owner allows a significant portion of the hoard to be taken -2
Owner gives away any part of the hoard -3
Owner spends more than a month away from the hoard -1

PLEASED (16-20)
“My preciousssss….”
The Rheingold has you firmly in its gip. You think about it constantly and spend hours lovingly polishing, cataloguing, and admiring it. The thought of someone else owning the tiniest bit of it drives you into a rage.

Property: Your race changes to Dragonborn. If already a Dragonborn, your Dragon Breath racial power inflicts double normal damage.
Property: If you are away from the hoard for more than an hour, you lose the use of 1 healing surge until you take an extended rest in the hoard’s presence.
Property: If you take an extended rest in the presence of the treasure you gain +2 to all your defenses and +2 to hit with all powers granted by the Rheingold for the next 24 hours, or until your next extended rest (whichever is sooner).
Power (Daily): Free Action. You gain 1 action point.

SATISFIED (12-15)
“We have a connection, and I’m stronger for it.”
The power of the Rheingold gold flows through you. Its beauty inspires you, its glory strengthens you, it counsel aids you.

Property: You acquire a minor draconic trait (a patch of scales, serpentine eye, vestigal wings, fangs, etc). You may take feats with Dragonborn as a racial prerequisite, and gain another trait for every feat you take.
Property: In the presence of the hoard or when wielding part of it, you may use the following power:
Glow of Greed (encounter) Psychic * Charm
You reveal the full glory of the hoard’s beauty, luring thieves into easy reach
Standard Action
Target: all creatures in Blast 3
Attack: Cha vs. Will
Hit: The target is pulled 2 squares and grants combat advantage until the end of your next turn

Property: If you are away from the hoard for more than a day, you lose the use of 1 healing surge until you take an extended rest in the hoard’s presence.

NORMAL (5-11)
“Owning this makes me stronger.”
You feel a strange connection to the gold, as though it were a friend or lover. It seems to repay the sentiment.

Property: You receive an additional use of Second Wind when in the presence of the hoard.
Property: If you are away from the hoard for more than a week, you lose the use of 1 healing surge until you take an extended rest in the hoard’s presence.

UNSATISFIED (1-4)
“The gold is like a spurned lover. I must win back its affections.”
The hoard pleads for help with all the desperate passion of a neglected child. Images of theft (often featuring close friends and allies) prey on your mind, leaving you sullen and withdrawn.

Property: You suffer a -2 to Diplomacy checks.
Property: You suffer a -2 to your defenses and any attempts to Thievery you gain a +2 bonus.
Special: Once per encounter you are tempted to steal a nearby valuable object and add it to the hoard. Make an attack against your Will defense rolling 1d20+your level. If the attack succeeds, you must make a Thievery check or other action to filch the item.

ANGERED (0 or lower)
“My enemies are gathering and only the treasure can save me”
You are plagued by nightmares in which your family and friends turn against you and old enemies claw their way from the underworld to murder you and steal the gold. You become twitchy and paranoid.

Property: You suffer a -5 to Diplomacy checks.
Property: You suffer a -5 to your defences and any attempts to Thievery you gain a +5 bonus.
Special: Once per encounter you are tempted to steal a nearby valuable object and add it to the hoard. Make an attack against your Will defense rolling 1d20+your level. If the attack succeeds, you must make a Thievery check to filch the item.

Moving On
Once the Rheingold has wreaked as much havoc as it can upon an owner, it moves on. If pleased with its owner, the gold takes control of them, sequestering them away from prying eyes and turning them into an NPC dragon over the next few months. As a dragon the owner becomes even more obsessed with the hoard and lives a miserable existence of fear and paranoia. At this stage the Rheingold draws increasingly powerful enemies to its owner until they are dead.

Greed is almost every adventurer’s bane. Make it work for you with traps and trickery, or tell us your character’s story in the Forum!

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