I’m trying to introduce some new combat hooks to make your players put away their cell phones and lean in. In this encounter, there are two planes, right on top of each other, that the players can switch between. They can still see the other room as ghostly images, but they’ll need to touch an orb or be pulled into another plane by the monsters. There’s also an optional skill challenge for the players after the encounter has been resolved. Enjoy!

Life Is a Lonely Business is a standalone encounter designed for five 15th to 17th-level adventurers. In an attempt to solve the puzzle of life and death, a cleric named Alfrenk has breached the thin wall of the Shadowfell, inadvertently releasing ravenous wraiths and restless ghosts. The players must defeat the spirits in both the living realm and the Shadowfell, passing between the two planes during combat.

Formerly a crowded city of bustling markets and towering buildings, Vicene now lies quiet and forgotten, left behind by the masses as more profitable trading routes emerged. For those remaining in the city, relocation was never a choice; poverty, sickness, and fear of hunger deterred the weakest residents from travel, and the city turned into a ghost town. The boisterous laughter of crowds were replaced by the hollow echoes of wind and empty streets, the skittering and chattering of vermin, and an almost inescapable silence—for all purposes, the city was dead.

Although most avoided its ghostly streets, others were drawn to them. Arriving in surprising numbers were followers of the Raven Queen, who felt an instant connection with Vicene and those remaining in it; the cold and lifeless town seemed to emanate the inevitability of death and passing on. Temples were erected to the goddess of death, the streets were adorned with her symbols, and as far as the rest of the world was concerned, Vicene and the Raven Queen became inexorably linked.

Death in Vicene comes and goes without emotion, curiosity, or regret; each passing is considered natural and necessary. Those who would delay or fight their demise are scorned, mocked, and often removed from the city, for the Raven Queen would not approve their actions. Each and every life comes to an end how and when it should, the circumstances and timing each demise are unimportant—mere details of the inescapable embrace of death.

Lately, however, death has been embracing the residents of Vicene with startling frequency. Rejecting the Raven Queen in an attempt to conquer death, a masterful cleric named Alfrenk has discovered an entrance to the Shadowfell, and, hoping to release the souls within, has opened a gate between the two worlds. Unfortunately, the only spirits to pass through were ravenous wraiths, which quickly turned their insatiable hunger toward the souls within the city and growing more powerful with each spirit they devour. If something isn’t done soon, the ghost town of Vicene will change once again—this time into a town of ghosts.

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