Saturday, 16 October 2021

Feelings and ideas about Ylaruam

 I'll be honest - Ylaruam seems a bit shoe-horned into Mystara. It's further north than Karameikos, Thyatis and Darokin, yet it is hotter in climate. Furthermore other nations are lush with vegetation, or at least have enough rainfall for plains and agriculture. The forests of Karameikos, the grasslands of Thyatis and the lake-filled valleys of Rockhome all strongly contrast with this parched desert that is sitting right next to the sea. It seems very abrupt, perhaps even out of place. 

However, there is a major saving grace that I stumbled across on in Gaz2: The Emirates of Ylaruam, on p8 (bottom of the left column):

Third, the official religion of the [Nithian] Empire, the Magian Fire Worshippers, revered powerful beings from the Elemental Plane of Fire. Conflicts between these fire beings and beings from the Elemental Plane of Water resulted in an imbalance in the availability of these elements in this region, intensifying the effects of the increasingly arid climate...

The idea of a magical aura, residual from the time of prolific elemental magic, that increases the heat and reduces the water, is something I can be comfortable with. This is not a desert because of the laws of nature, but despite the laws of nature. This is magic on a national scale. In my head-canon this can sometimes be seen by those in the most parched areas of the desert at sunrise and sunset - the colours are unusually vivid, with streaks of bright orange, peach-pink and golden yellow across the sky even when there are no clouds, as if the sun is setting the sky itself on fire. 

The gazetteer also mentions how the River Nithia was driven underground by geological upheavals, thus precipitating the collapse of the Nithian Empire that relied upon the river for agriculture, transport and fishing. Although in the gazetteer this is given as a purely natural phenomenon, I would not be surprised if elemental earth magic was involved. Perhaps the Nithians' water supply was deliberately cut off? Or maybe the forces wielding the earth magic had other reasons for causing the upheaval, and the disappearance of the Nithia was merely collateral damage. 

The river Nithia was not totally destroyed - it still flows underground. Its presence can be deduced by the way the oases in the desert are continually replenished despite the aforementioned aridity. Ylaruam itself, Sulba, Tel Al Kebir, Abbashan and the like all rely on this water welling up from the ground. Is it possible to access these underground waterways? Yes but if you are trying to get there through an oasis, you need to be able to breathe water as you swim down to the aquifers, at least for an hour or so. You had better hope that the cracks in the rock through which water flows are wide enough for you and your equipment. It is possible to find more airy ways down to the Nithia, but since these caves and potholes do not have water at the surface, it is not obvious to any travellers or explorers that this is where they may lead. 

This is the cross section from the classic module B4: The Lost City which, as I noted previously, is set in the deserts of Ylaruam. That body of water in the huge cavern that the underground city is on the shores of? That is a branch of the now-subterranean River Nithia. Follow it downstream and see where else it leads - I dare you. 

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Scenario 3: The Raiders of Guido's Fort

In recent months monsters and humanoid tribes in the hills around Penhaligon have become more active and aggressive, with goblin, orc and hobgoblin bandits and raiders becoming bolder in their attacks on travelers and villages. Lady Arteris of Penhaligon has been sending out patrols of soldiers out to these villages until a week ago when orc raiders were spotted outside the town itself. Lady Arteris has since pulled all her forces back to town in expectation of a major attack by orcs and goblins.

One village in particular is vulnerable to the depredations of the chaotic monsters - Guido's Fort to the north of Penhaligon. Despite the name, Guido's Fort is not well fortified (the name is almost a joke), with only a wooden palisade - its main defence is the fast-flowing Hillfollow river. Some of the villagers call it the River Shrill but few call it that outside the village. The villagers of Guido's Fort are particularly worried about a build-up of hobgoblin and goblin forces around an abandoned monastery  across the river on a small mountain known as "The Hill". 
Lady Arteris has asked the PCs to help. A messenger was sent to Guido's Fort but has failed to return and Arteris is concerned for the village, while at the same time reluctant to strip defenders from the town. She asks that the PCs investigate and, if they deem it suitable, deal with any problems the villagers are facing.

The journey to Guido's fort is 18 miles along the river and not easy - as well as wandering wild animals, there are bands of orcs, hobgoblins and goblins roaming around. 

Around the half-way mark the PCs come across the bodies of a horse and rider shot with goblin arrows - this is the messenger sent by Lady Arteris. He made it to the village but was killed on the return journey. He still has his leather armour and shortsword. In his saddlebag is the message:
Guido's Fort is in grave danger from hobgoblins and the like, and urgently requires reinforcements if it is not to be overwhelmed and the people slaughtered. Time is of the essence as we do not know when the final attack will occur. Hurry before it is too late!
 Within a mile of the village along the river path there is a roadblock of 4 goblins and 2 hobgoblins who have felled 2 large trees down across the path. They will attack any humans who approach from either direction. 2 of the goblins have shortbows and 10 arrows each. 
2 Hobgoblins: AC 6, Mv 90', HD 1+1, hp 4, 6, Att 1 weapon for 1d8, Ml 8, Save F1,  Align C, XP 15 each, leather armour, shield, swords, 3d6sp each
4 Goblins: AC 6, Mv 60', HD 1-1, hp 3, 4, 5, 6, Att 1 weapon for 1d6 (spear or shortbow), Ml 8, Save NM,  Align C, XP 10 each, leather armour, shield, hand axes, shortbow, 10 arrows, 3d6sp each

If the PCs make it through the roadblock to the village, they find it in a desperate situation. There are only 10 militia men left (AC7, F1, hp 4 each, Att 1 spear for 1d6, align N, Ml 6, equipment: leather armour, spear, dagger), plus 70 non-combatants (including women, children and the elderly). Their captain has fled and their sergeant and 12 comrades have been killed. The village is effectively under siege, with humanoid forces cutting off routes of escape in all directions. The goblins have even stolen the villagers' river boats so the river has become a  barrier rather than a route.

Belden the trader can buy and sell most things under 50gp but for more expensive deals (gems, jewelry etc) he would recommend his friends in Penhaligon, if the PCs can get there.
The Lion's Den inn is still open for business and the PCs can stay there should they wish. 

But during the night, an attack is launched. There are 2 squads - one with 6 hobgoblins bearing torches and hollering, banging on the north gate, the other squad of 10 goblins being very quiet, sneaky and using ladders to climb over the south gate. The militia (as the humanoids anticipated) will rush to the north. How this plays out is up to the PCs and DM. 
6 Hobgoblins: AC 6, Mv 90', HD 1+1, hp 4, 4, 5,6, 7, 8, Att 1 weapon for 1d8, Ml 8, Save F1,  Align C, XP 15 each, leather armour, shield, swords, 3d6sp each
10 Goblins: AC 6, Mv 60', HD 1-1, hp 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6,, 6, 7, 7, Att 1 weapon for 1d6, Ml 8, Save NM,  Align C, XP 10 each, leather armour, shield, hand axes, 3d6sp each

The good news is that if either of the enemy squads are wiped out they leave the river boat (one boat per squad) on which they arrived. If either squad flees the village (failed morale check etc) they will try to take a riverboat back to the west bank.

If the party is strong enough, the villagers suggest crossing over the river and confronting the hobgoblin forces based in the ruined monastery on The Hill. This should lead to module B5: The Horror on the Hill. 

If the party is not that strong (perhaps inexperienced or few in numbers), the villagers suggest an alternative. A single-storey castle was built just 3 miles to the north of the village. Named after the eccentric nobleman who commissioned it but then disappeared, Castle Caldwell has been abandoned for over 50 years but right now it seems a more defensible refuge than the village itself. If the PCs could clear monstrous squatters out of it, so the villagers can take refuge there, it would be an improvement on their current situation. 

More nobly inclined PCs may try to evacuate the villagers - if they have recaptured a river boat, they can transport 10 people at a time downriver, 4 hours journey to Penhaligon, 12 hours back upstream to Guido's Fort. However, the longer they stay in the village, the more likely further goblinoid raids are, of similar strength to the one on the first night, though perhaps varying tactics.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Summoning Chaotic Minions

Among the mages of chaotic cults there are a series of spells that are being propagated. These spells allow chaotic mages to summon and control numbers of monsters to serve them. These are not simply short appearances for a single combat, but prolonged servitude. All of these spells have a long casting time (1 turn to cast) so are not suitable for the middle of combat. 

These series of spells all use a concept of effective hit dice to determine how powerful a monster is. This is simply the monster's hit dice plus the number of asterisks after the hit dice (indicating special abilities). Additional hit points are ignored. Thus a hobgoblin (1+1 HD) has an effective hit dice of 1, while a small green dragon (7** HD) has an effective Hit Dice of 9. 

Across all these spells a magic user can control up to their M-U level doubled. So a 3rd level magic user can control up to 6 effective hit dice at any one time. A creature summoned by one of these spells counts towards this total until it is killed or dismissed. When dismissing a summoned minion from his control, the magic user may choose to either send it back to the plane that it was summoned from, or else it stays on the material plane and it simply wanders off. Although released from magical control, it may still come to some arrangement with the mage. 

Summon Kobold Minion
Spell level: 1
Duration: Permanent (until minion is killed or dismissed)
Range: 60'
This spell summons a single kobold to serve the magic user. Although not particularly good at fighting (AC 7, Mv 90', HD 1/2 (3hp), Att 1 weapon for 1d4, Save NM, Ml 6, Al C), the kobold has a range of uses outside of combat, especially mining and excavating, as well as trap setting, building and dungeon maintenance. A kobold can excavate about 40 cubic feet of rock per day. 

Summon Chaotic Minion I
Spell level: 2
Duration:  Permanent (until minion is killed or dismissed)
Range: 60'
This spell summons a single chaotic creature of 1 effective HD. This can be one of:
  • Goblin
  • Hobgoblin
  • Orc

Summon Chaotic Minion II
Spell level: 3
Duration:  Permanent (until minion is killed or dismissed)
Range: 60'
This spell summons a single chaotic creature of 2 effective HD. This can be one of:
  • Gnoll
  • Troglodyte
Summon Chaotic Minion III
Spell level: 4
Duration:  Permanent (until minion is killed or dismissed)
Range: 60'
This spell summons a single chaotic creature of 3 effective HD. This can be one of:
  • Bugbear
  • Shadow
Summon Chaotic Minion IV
Spell level: 5
Duration:  Permanent (until minion is killed or dismissed)
Range: 60'
This spell summons a single chaotic creature of 4-5 effective HD. This can be one of:
4 effective HD
  • Ogre
  • Wererat
  • Harpy
5 effective HD
  • Werewolf
  • Doppelganger
  • Gargoyle
Summon Chaotic Minion V
Spell level: 6
Duration:  Permanent (until minion is killed or dismissed)
Range: 60'
This spell summons a single chaotic creature of 6-7 effective HD. This can be one of:
6 effective HD
  • Minotaur
  • Medusa
7 effective HD
  • 5HD** Hellhound
  • Troll
Summon Chaotic MinionVI
Spell level: 7
Duration:  Permanent (until minion is killed or dismissed)
Range: 60'
This spell summons a single chaotic creature of 8-9 effective HD. This can be one of:
8 effective HD
  • Hill Giant
  • Wyvern
9 effective HD
  • Small Black Dragon
  • Gorgon
Summon Chaotic Minion VII
Spell level: 8
Duration:  Permanent (until minion is killed or dismissed)
Range: 60'
This spell summons a single chaotic creature of 10-11 effective HD. This can be one of:
10 effective HD
  • Small Green Dragon
11 effective HD
  • Frost Giant
  • Chimera
  • Devil Swine
  • Efreeti
Summon Chaotic Minion VIII
Spell level: 9
Duration:  Permanent (until minion is killed or dismissed)
Range: 60'
This spell summons a single chaotic creature of 12-13 effective HD. This can be one of:
12 effective HD
  • Small Red Dragon
  • Fire Giant
13 effective HD
  • Frost Salamander
Note that none of these monsters are either undead - that is the domain of clerics, not magic users. Since these monsters are alive, they need to feed, drink and sleep. 
The monsters listed here are the ones that magic users can always summon with the appropriate spell and available effective hit dice. Others may be added to the list at the DM's discretion, such as chaotic versions of normally neutral species (such as lizardfolk, owlbears and basilisks) as well as creatures beyond the core rulebooks. 
I am aware that these spells could be dangerous, perhaps unbalancing, if they were in the hands of PCs. I leave it to the DMs to decide how this is handled. 

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Ideas about Penhaligon

 This town on the Hillfollow river in Karameikos has a short writeup in Gaz1. 

Ruler: Lady Arteris Penhaligon. She is a 9th level fighter; age 29, brown hair and eyes.
Population: 3750
Laws: None in addition to the Duke's Law.
Notes: This is a fortified town half-way between Kelvin and the border pass leading to Selenica. It was founded 30 years ago by Lord Arturus Penhaligon, a friend of Duke Stefan's. It is now ruled by his daughter, Lady Arteris, who was confirmed in her father's title upon his death 4 years ago. Penhaligon village acts as a way-station for travellers coming to and from Selenica. It suffers its share of non-human attacks but trade and travel revenues are brisk and Penhaligon is not in any immediate danger of falling. 

It is strategically situated on the Duke's Road heading north along the Hillfollow River to the Altan Tepes mountains and then into Darokin and the trading town of Selenica. As such there is much mercantile traffic passing through, as well as soldiers heading to and from Duke's Road Keep. 

I was going to try my own map of the town but then found this rather nice one by Robert Sampson on the Vaults of Pandius: 

And I also found this document by Brian Caraway in the Vaults as well. Rather than replacing or repeating it, I'm going to add to his description. His description is, however, for another edition of D&D (I suspect 2nd Edition AD&D as clerics are described as priests). 

Some ideas I have for the town: 

The Selenica Co-operative are a group of Darokinian merchants (use the Merchant class from Gaz11: The Republic of Darokin if you have it) who are stretching their influence and business beyond their homeland and into Ylaraum, Rockhome and Karameikos. They have banded together to share information, caravan security and negotiating power. They are currently establishing a regular flow of trade from their home in Selenica down the Duke's Road through Penhaligon and Kelvin to Specularum. In Penhaligon there are 2 members: Beltorphix (Dw2/Mer2, al N, male) and Maddrasso (MU4//Mer2, al L, female) who buy and sell both within the town and peaceful natives in the nearby hills (dwarves, gnomes and a few humans). As well as buying loot from adventures (as long as it was obtained lawfully), they can introduce adventurers to other merchants within the Co-operative. 

The Order of the Green Claw: Following the events a few years ago when a green dragon tried to take over the town, the bravest warriors have formed an order of knights whose specific purpose is to hunt down and kill particularly dangerous monsters, such as dragons, that might threaten Penhaligon and its citizens. Although not officially part of Penhaligon's military, Lady Arteris has allowed them to establish a base in the town. The knights are all lawful and neutral human fighters, but assistant members can be of any class (including demihumans) as long as they are not chaotic. All members are expected to be of at least some competence in their class (3rd level or higher). There are currently 15 knights and 10 assistant members, led by Darrius Swordslice (F8, al L, male). 

The town has a problem with lycanthropy, There is a pack of 3 wererats in the river quarter - they have been restrained because they don't want to attract attention but they will take the occasional bargeman, beggar or solo traveller. They are based in the Three Legged Goblin pub. Equally disquieting are the reports of a big bristling pig that attacked and killed a housewife and also a goatherd in one of the outlying villages before mysteriously disappearing. People suspect a wereboar but it is in fact a devilswine who has set up as a local butcher in Tarnow Village.

There is a cell of chaos worshippers in Penhaligon but rather than causing havoc, they keep a low profile. Their main aims are to gather information and to raise money. When they do kill, it is usually to protect their covers. They keep an eye on troop movements, powerful adventurers and other potential threats - one of them is a sergeant in the local garrison (Sergeant Berrisforth, F3, al C, male). They also do what they can to raise funds - this includes blackmail, burglary and embezzelment. The leader is Perrion Letterer (C3, al C, male), who is the assistant to the town treasurer and has become quite skilled at skimming off money from the town coffers. The money and the information go to their superiors outside Penhaligon, somewhere in the hills. 

Sunday, 3 October 2021

My Ideas about B2: The Keep on the Borderlands


This was the first module I owned, simply because it was included in the first set of D&D rules I was given, the Moldvay Basic set. I ran it (with varying degrees of success) with school friends and family members. As I discussed previously, I am going with the official line that this is set in and around Castellan Keep in northeast Karameikos

One of the things I have come to realise is that it is a sandbox adventure: once the party arrives at the keep, they can do whatever they want - there is no pre-set plot. Traditionally the party are expected to set up base in the Keep and then explore the nearby Caves of Chaos. In fact several times in running it, players have assumed the Keep was the place they were meant to attack. This may have been a lack of exposition on my part as DM - I started the PCs off in front of the Keep gatehouse without explanation. Did I do this wrong? Did the players do it wrong? Maybe, but the module is flexible enough to allow that. Rather than requiring the PCs to behave in certain ways, the module just presents how things are. This has been an important influence in how I view (and sometimes create) map-based adventures.

The Cult of Chaos has become a faction within the region, as exemplified by the treacherous chaotic priest and his acolytes within the keep (building 7b) cave K (the Shrine of Evil Chaos) among the Caves of Chaos, and the camp of chaotic raiders (area 3 in the wilderness). 

The surrounding wilderness on the map in the module is primarily woodland with a marshy river running through it, while in Gaz1: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Castellan Keep is set in the Altan Tepes mountains. My explanation for this is that although the module area is surrounded by mountains, the keep, the caves and surrounding forest are within a valley in the mountains. The module wilderness map is 5200 yards * 4000 yards - that's 2.9 miles x 2.2 miles. It could fit within an 8 mile hex as a valley set within the mountains if the DM so wishes. Conveniently there is a river on the Karameikos map with its source starting near the keep, the Castellan River. However, if you are not comfortable with the idea of a forested valley in that particular hex, you could keep the actual Keep and the Caves of Chaos and replace the module's wilderness map with something more mountainous. 

Reading the gazetteer's description of Castellan Keep is interesting:

Castellan Keep: This lonely, cold fort lies in the Altan Tepes mountains, and the only way to reach the fort is by riverboat. The garrison (Fourth Division, Castellan Guard Battalion, "The Mountain Storm"), is supposed to keep an eye on possible invasions from the north and east, and to watch the activities of the frost giants known to live in these wild lands. If you have adventure B2 (The Keep on the Borderland), you can set it here; eliminate the large town the adventure mentions for the area, and leave only the cold and stubborn garrison.

That  last sentence seems a bit odd to me. There is a community within the keep, but I wouldn't call it a large town. Also since there are no given NPCs or maps for a simpler and harsher Castellan Keep, I feel I might as well use the NPCs and map supplied with the module. I think one of the module's few shortcomings is the Keep's inhabitants don't have names, just job descriptions. Despite this the keep has lots of details. As a nod to the gazetteer entry, I would increase the number of troops based at the keep to at least 100 (the rest of the battalion are on leave, or on patrol, or temporarily stationed in outposts). 

Friday, 1 October 2021

Tarrag Duun - the Lost Dwarven Fortress


Tarrag Duun used to be a bustling dwarven stronghold, with over 3300 dwarven souls. It was founded in the northeast of Karameikos back in AC 302, when the dwarves of Rockhome were colonising outside Rockhome's borders. A band of dwarves from the Torkrest clan followed the Altan Tepes mountains south between Darokin and Ylaurum. They encountered bands of chaotic humanoids who were easily brushed aside but then they ran into much tougher and larger foes - frost giants. The giants killed some of the bravest dwarf warriors and devoured them in front of their horrified kin, who promptly fled. The dwarves took refuge in a cavern with a narrow entrance that the frost giants could not squeeze through. While the giants waited outside, the dwarves looked around their new shelter and recognised ores embedded in the rock - iron and silver.  And the cavern went deeper and deeper into the heart of the earth, with iron and silver ores appearing all along the walls. 

Cut off from Rockhome by the frost giants to the north, the dwarves had to venture south to find food and trading partners - and so they came into contact with the gnomes and humans of the Traldar. The cavern became the mining town of Tarrag Duun, and its defences were made strong and cunning, able to repel a wide range of foes, especially the hated frost giants. 
Trade with Rockhome was sporadically established during the summer months, as the giants retreated up into the colder glacier-covered peaks of the Altan Tepes, allowing the dwarves to travel along the relatively safe\and warm valleys. 

The vast bulk of Tarrag Duun is underground - only a sturdy bastion stands out on the surface, an elaborate gatehouse controlling entrance into the lower halls. 
For over five centuries Tarrag Duun was a thriving community and fortress for the dwarves of Traladar, and the dwarves dug deep and expanded the mines, the living quarters and the fortifications. 
But in AC 830 twin disasters struck. 
Firstly there was a supposed concerted campaign to destroy the frost giants. Allies from Rockhome and other dwarven strongholds were supposed to meet up with Tarrag Duun's finest warriors in one of the deep valleys and then march on the frost giants' glacial dens. But rather than allies, the dwarf soldiers found themselves surrounded by frost giants and their humanoid lackeys - orcs, ogres and gnolls. The chaotic horde rushed down into the valley from all sides and in a mighty battle the dwarves were slain almost completely. Only a dozen survivors escaped, unable to comprehend what had happened but treachery and subterfuge is the most plausible explanation. 
The second tragedy happened less than a week later when miners deep under Tarrag Duun accidentally tunneled into a natural cavern that was home to a major goblin tribe of over 6000 members. This caught both sides by surprise but the goblins seized the initiative and pushed up into Tarrag Duun. Had there been more dwarf warriors surviving from the earlier frost giant ambush, the dwarves might have held back the goblins and perhaps sealed the breach. But the dwarven defences were expecting attacks to come from the surface, not deep below and had too few defenders. And the goblins were aided by monstrous allies, including trolls, minotaurs and a small family of black dragons. The dwarven defences broke, and hundreds of dwarves fled out of the bastion and made their way into Traladar. Many other dwarves died trying to flee or desperately trying to defend their home. 
The majority of the survivors headed south and west, especially Highforge, where the gnomes gave refuge to their dwarf cousins. Some made their way north back to Rockhome where they reported the bad news. 
These days (AC 1000) Tarrag Duun is all but forgotten. Only the oldest dwarves remember it, and dreams of reclaiming it for the glory of the dwarves have been abandoned. But occasionally bands of dwarves or other adventurers try their luck, usually starting at Castellan Keep and heading north. Fewer than 1 in 3 such expeditions return but those that do come back say that not only are there still many orcs and goblins there, but that they are bolstered by other, more terrible creatures, including at least one surviving black dragon. Yet these returning adventurers often come back with gold and silver coins of ancient dwarven stamps, and the occasional enchanted dwarf-forged weapon or shield. 

In terms of game design, Tarrag Duun is intended as a multi-level megadungeon, filled with dwarven riches, monstrous denizens and cunning traps (some set by the dwarves long ago, others by more recent residents). It was inspired by (and very loosely based on) the Mines of Moria (from the Fellowship of the Ring) and Erebor, the Lonely Mountain (from the Hobbit). 

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Scenario #2: The Hunting Lodge

This follows on from the previous post (Scenario 1: The Captured Cleric). The PCs are after Brother Pholtor, a lawful cleric captured by chaotic cultists intent on interrogating and torturing him for information. 

The cultists have based themselves in a deserted hunting lodge - originally built by a Karameikian noble from Kelvin, the lodge was deemed to be unsafe, too far from help and too close to dangerous monsters, it was abandoned about 20 years ago, until the cultists came and took it over. 

  1. The Main Hall: Here are the surviving cultists from the ambush. If any of these were killed in the attempt to capture then they can be disregarded here. 
    2 x Chaotic Acolyte: 1st level cleric, align Chaotic, male,
    AC 6, Move 90', hp 4, 3, THAC0 20, Att 1 mace for 1d6, Ml 12, XP 15 each
    Equipment: Scale mail, mace, black robes, unholy symbol, 10sp each
    Chaotic Adept: 2nd level cleric, align Chaotic, female
    AC 5, Move 90', hp 6, THAC0 19, Att 1 mace for 1d6+1, Ml 12, XP 35
    Equipment: Chain mail, mace, black robes, unholy symbol, 25sp
    Spells: Darkness (reverse of Light)
    The main hall is typical of the rest of the rooms in this place, holding broken and faded finery.Up against the wall are various chairs and tables, all of which have now been damaged in various ways. On the wall are 3 oil paintings, all of various hunting scenes. Each is about 3' x 4' in size and worth 50gp if sold. 
  2. The dining room: 3 orcs are on guard here and will attack anyone they don't recognise. 
    Orc: AC 6, Move 120', HD 1, hp 6, 4, 4, THAC0 19, Att 1 spear for 1d6, Ml 8, Align C, XP 10 each
    Equipment: Leather armour, shield, spear, 10sp each
    There is nothing of interest or value here - the vandalous orcs have ensured that. 
  3. The kitchen: Here is a single chaotic fighter, the chef for this motley bunch
    AC 5, Move 90', HD Ftr1, hp 5, THAC0 19, Att 1 axe for 1d6+1, Ml 9, Align C, XP 15
    Equipment: Chain mail, hand axe/meat cleaver, 12gp
    This room is still in use as a kitchen, and there are various pieces of meat hanging from the ceiling (rabbits, deer, boar etc), as well as a a sack of vegetables. In the southwest corner there is a fireplace with a pot of stew bubbling away.
  4. The lounge: This room holds 2 orcs
    Orc: AC 6, Move 120', HD 1, hp 6, 4, 4, THAC0 19, Att 1 spear for 1d6, Ml 8, Align C, XP 10 each
    Equipment: Leather armour, shield, spear, 10sp each
  5. The Trophy Room. This room is filled with the rotting remains of hunting trophies - mounted heads on the wall, skins as rugs on the floor, captured humanoid arms and armour. In the centre of this slightly grisly room is stuffed and mounted cave bear. It is of course long dead, but the family of 4 giant rats that live inside the stuffed bear are very much alive and dangerous. 
    Giant Rat: AC 7, Move 120', HD 1/2, hp 3, 2, 1, 1, THAC0 19, Att 1 bite for 1d3 + 1 in 20 chance of disease, Ml 8, Align N, XP 7 each
    Although there are no coins or precious metals, enterprising adventurers might recognise some of the trophies as valuable - a well-preserved giant weasel pelt on one of the chairs is worth 50gp, a red dragon skull is worth another 200gp, and a warhammer taken from a goblin chief is actually a dwarf-forged warhammer +1
  6. 1 chaotic guard is here at the top of the stairs and will attack any intruders. 
    Chaotic Guard: 1st level fighter, align Chaotic, female
    AC 5, Mv 90', hp 4, THAC0 18, Att 1 spear for 1d6, Ml 10, XP 15
    Equipment: chain mail, spear, dagger, 25sp 
  7. Empty
  8. Armoury: This room contains 4 human-sized suits of chain mail, 2 human-sized suits of scale mail, 4 spears, 4 shields, 3 maces, 3 hand axes, 2 shortbows and a barrel of 45 arrows. There are 3 orcs guarding it:
    Orc: AC 6, Move 120', HD 1, hp 6, 5, 1, THAC0 19, Att 1 spear for 1d6, Ml 8, Align C, XP 10 each
    Equipment: Leather armour, shield, spear, 10sp each
  9. Empty
  10. 1 chaotic mage, Mecurios, aspiring to one day be a chaos sorcerer. Note that if more than two people confront him, he will pretend to be a helpless prisoner and will apparently thank the adventurers for rescuing him, then slip away at the soonest opportunity, possibly using Ventriloquism to distract the others. 
    Mecurios: 2nd level magic user, align Chaotic, male, 
    AC 9, Move 120', hp 4, THAC0 19, Att 1 dagger for 1d4 or 1 spell, Ml 6, XP 25
    Spells: Charm Person, Ventriloquism.
    Equipment: dagger, robes, 11gp, 22sp, spellbook (Read Magic, Charm Person, Shield, Ventriloquism)
  11. Berdanna, the priestess of Chaos, is the leader of the chaos cultists and orcs in this hideout 
    Berdanna, 3rd level cleric, align: Chaotic, female
    AC 3, Mv 90', hp 14, THAC0 19, Att 1 mace for 1d6, Ml 11, XP 75
    Equipment: chain mail, shield +1, mace, unholy symbol, 23gp, 10sp, key to room 12
    Spells: Protection from Law, Detect Magic
    Underneath some loose floorboards there is a sack with the chaotic cell's treasury: 320gp , 400sp and a potion of healing
  12. Brother Pholtor. The door to this room is locked. It may be broken down using normal rules, or using the key around Berdanna's neck. Brother Pholtor is here, beaten up and tied up but still alive.  Although he has an XP value, it is suggested this is for returning him safely, not killing him. 
    Brother Pholtor: 2nd level cleric, align Lawful, male
    Str 10, Dex 13, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 16, Cha 13
    AC 9, Move 90', hp 2 (normally 8), THAC0 19, Att 1 fist for 1, Ml 10, XP 25
    Equipment: none
    Spells:Detect Chaos
  13. Orc leader: AC 6, Move 120', HD 1, hp 8, THAC0 19, Att 1 hand axe for 1d6+1, Ml 8, Align C, XP 15
    Equipment: leather armour, shield, hand axe
    This orc leader only takes orders from Berdanna, the chaotic priestess. He commands the respect, if not outright obedience, of the other orcs around the hunting lodge. He sleeps on a big fancy bed, underneath which is a chest containing the orc band's wealth of 120gp, 680sp and 2 amethyst gems worth 50gp each. 

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Scenario #1 - The Captured Cleric

This is intended as an introductionary adventure for 1st level characters to get the Karameikos campaign started.

The PCs join a caravan from Kelvin to Threshold, along with a lawful cleric, Brother Pholtor, who is investigating a possible cult of Chaos gathering in the hinterlands of Karameikos. On the way the caravan is attacked by orcs, but robed humans target and abduct Brother Pholtor from the caravan during the attack. If the PCs do not follow the kidnappers immediately, they are asked by lawful clerics in Threshold to retrieve Brother Pholtor. He has been taken back to their lair, an abandoned hunting lodge, now guarded by orcs and other chaotic creatures.

Brother Pholtor: 2nd level cleric, align Lawful, male
Str 10, Dex 13, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 16, Cha 13
AC 4, Move 90', hp 8, THAC0 19, Att 1 mace for 1d6
Equipment: Chain mail, mace, holy symbol, 23gp, 2 weeks iron rations
Spells: Detect Chaos

The caravan has 2 merchants - Chuldor the Clothier (Normal man, 2hp, neutral), who is bringing a cartload of linen and wool clothes up from Specularum and Barashi the Trader (1st level fighter, 6hp, Lawful, scale armour & normal sword), who is bringing a cart of Ierendian brandy and hopes to purchase dwarf-forged weapons at a reasonable price. Both are aware of the risks of encountering bandits (both humans and humanoids) and they hire the PCs as additional protection - 5gp each per day. Brother Pholtor joins because he has been summoned by his superiors to join them in investigating this new cult of Chaos.

There may be random encounters along the road - as this is for low-level characters, I suggest the table below - 1 in  6 chance 2 times per day (one check in daytime, one check at night), 1d10 for creature type:
  1. 1 wolf
  2. 1d4+1 goblins
  3. 1d4 orcs
  4. 1 giant bat
  5. 1 giant boar
  6. 1d4 human bandits
  7. 1d4 human travellers (normal men, lawful or neutral)
  8. 1d4+1 human soldiers (1st level fighters, scale mail, shields, spears) patrolling from Threshold
  9. 1d4 deer (2hd herd animals)
  10. 1d4 hill goats (1hd herd animals)

The journey is 6 hexes of 8 miles each and the mule-drawn carts travel at 16 miles/2 hexes per day. The first day from Kelvin to Highforge is peaceful enough but on the second day the orcs attack as the caravan passes through a rocky valley studded with bushes and small trees. 7 orcs attack the merchants on the path, all armed with spears and shields. During this attack, the merchants try to drive their carts forward through the ambush, while Brother Pholtor is not sure what is happening and falls behind. At this point 3 figures in black robes emerge - 2 chaotic acolytes and a chaotic adept. One of them reads something from a scroll (a Hold Person spell, which Pholtor fails to save against) and together they carry off Pholtor's rigid, motionless body. The chaotic adept and acolytes will focus on capturing Pholtor and will not attack the PCs unless the PCs try to intervene in Pholtor's abduction.

Chaotic Acolyte: 1st level cleric, align Chaotic, male,
AC 6, Move 90', hp 4, 3, THAC0 20, Att 1 mace for 1d6, Ml 12, XP 15 each
Equipment: Scale mail, mace, black robes, unholy symbol, 10sp each

Chaotic Adept: 2nd level cleric, align Chaotic, female
AC 5, Move 90', hp 6, THAC0 19, Att 1 mace for 1d6+1, Ml 12, XP 35
Equipment: Chain mail, mace, black robes, unholy symbol, 25sp, Scroll of Hold Person (used at start of encounter)
Spells: Darkness (reverse of Light)

Orc: AC 6, Move 90', HD 1, hp 5, 3, 7, 4, 3, 2, 2, THAC0 19, Att 1 spear for 1d6, Ml 8, Align C, XP 10 each
Equipment: Leather armour, shield, spear, 10sp each

This is actually a fluid situation and there are a number of possible outcomes

  • The PCs and merchants survive and all continue on to Threshold without Brother Pholtor who is abducted - If this happens then when they arrive at Threshold, Brother Pholtor's superior, Senior Brother Barnheim (4th level cleric, lawful, male) asks that the PCs retrace their steps and try to retrieve Brother Pholtor, suggesting that the ambushers may have a hideout near the ambush site. They are offered 1000gp on Pholtor's rescue, or 500gp on evidence of his killers' demise and retrieval of his body.

  • The PCs manage to prevent Brother Pholtor's abduction and he and the merchants all reach Threshold - In this case Senior Brother Barnheim and Pholtor are both sure that the robed attackers are followers of Chaos - normal bandits don't use Hold Person scrolls. After being rewarded for the safe delivery of Brother Pholtor (500gp total), the PCs are offered another substantial reward (another 500gp + any loot they find) to find the attackers' lair and bring back evidence.

  • The merchants are killed and PCs suffer losses, and Brother Pholtor is abducted/- If the ambush goes badly for the PCs and merchants, survivors will try to get to the nearest town - either forwards to Threshold or, if the way is blocked, back to Highforge. News reaches lawful clerics and secular authorities. The clerics offer 500gp for the rescue of Pholtor, and the local authorities offer another 500gp to get rid of the "bandits" threatening trade on this road.The surviving PCs may need to recruit more adventurers (either new PCs or NPC hirelings). 

  • The merchants are killed but the PCs save Brother Pholtor - Senior brother Barnheim in Threshold is glad but both Pholtor and Barnheim are suspicious about the nature of the ambush. After being rewarded for the safe delivery of Brother Pholtor (500gp total), the PCs are offered another substantial reward (another 500gp + any loot they find) to find the attackers' lair and bring back evidence. The local authorities are also worried about the loss of the merchants and suggest that the PCs make sure these particular bandits don't attack anyone again.

  • The PCs chase after Brother Pholtor's abductors. Although annoyed at the PCs abandoning them, the merchants make it back to Threshold. The PCs can follow the cultists who are carrying Pholtor (they bind and gag him before the spell wears off) back to their lair.

Regardless of the exact sequence of events, near the ambush site is a track heading off from the road to the north-east, with fresh footprints, which carries on for about 6 miles, after which it arrives at a hunting lodge (to be concluded in the next post).

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Dungeons in Karameikos

 One thing I have noticed while going through Gaz1: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos is that while there is information about the society, laws, regions, armed forces and towns, there are only a few dungeons and ruins marked out on the map, namely:

  • Krakatos - a ruined walled village mentioned in "The Song of King Halav". 
  • Koriszegy Keep - a ruined keep haunted by a cursed vampire. This keep is mapped out, with 8 encounter areas. 

There are 2 possible conclusions:

  1. The designers of the gazetteer do not envision dungeons and ruins to play a significant part in campaigns and adventures in the Grand Duchy. 
  2. The designers have left it up to each dungeon master to place dungeons as they see fit and so the map is a proverbial white canvas or blank slate for the DM to place dungeons and the like as and where they wish. 

I am going with the second conclusion..

Going back through Mentzer's Expert set, the map of the Known World beyond the Grand Duchy has suggested places for the placement of published B/X modules. 

B1: In Search of the Unknown is set west of Threshold near the banks of the Achelos River

B2: The Keep on the Borderlands is set northeast of Penhaligon, along the Castellan River where Castellan Keep is. The Gazetteer confirms this in its brief entry for Castellan Keep. 

B3: Palace of the Silver Princess is in the realm of Haven, east of Penhaligon and at the source of the Rugalov river. The Gazetteer confirms this in its brief entry on Haven. 

B4: The Lost City is set in the desert of the Emirate of Ylaruam, north-east of Karameikos

X1: The Isle of Dread is set far to the south, beyond the Kingdom of Ierendi and Minrothad Guilds. 

X2: Castle Amber is set in the Principalities of Glantri

X3: Curse of Xanathon is set in the Kingdom of Vestland, beyond Karameikos, to the north-east of Ylaruam. 

X4: Master of the Desert Nomads and X5: Temple of Death are set far to the west beyond the Five Shires and Atruaghin Clans. 

At the moment I am quite happy to keep these adventure locations as they are. I am considering changing the details of Krakatos and Koriszegy Keep but not just yet. The descriptions in the gazetteer are not the whole story but merely what folks of Karameikos know and can tell the PCs. 

There is no megadungeon for Karameikos. B1, B2 and B3 all have multi-level dungeons but none of these are extensive enough to meet the generally agreed definition that a megadungeon should be able to host an entire campaign - something similar in size to Castle Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms' Undermountain. This is an absence I intend to correct with new locations such as Tarrag Duun

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Rules for the Karameikos Campaign

 I'm going to keep this pretty close to official, BtB Basic/Expert D&D that I have used for this blog. Similar to what I did while I was writing about Kaelaross, I'll use the official B/X rules as the starting point that I know other gamers have, and then add bits on (new monsters, new spells etc.) within this blog. 

Although initially I was intending to keep this campaign strictly BtB, I think now I may include my new demihuman classes:

and also allow my optional rule about regular halflings (halfling scouts) reaching 12th level.

Similarly, spells, monsters and magic items that I have introduced in this blog may be used - none of them are exclusive to Kaelaross and they should transfer to Mystara without problem.

This follows the ideas I talked about regarding "simple core, many options". where the B/X rules are not so much the entire rules so much as the common, established framework on which new stuff can be attached.