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Adapting Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path to Mystaraby John Calvin
The Curse of the Crimson Throne (CotCT) adventure path is a series of adventures published by Paizo (the second in their Pathfnder series). As Paizo routinely does some pretty good work (and this is no exception), I thought that I might share some of my ideas for adapting this adventure path to the Mystara setting. This adaptation will focus mainly on changing the flavour of the various adventures in the path so that it can better be used with the Mystara setting.
CotCT is mostly based in and around a single city called Korvosa, in the Pathfinder setting. In the city there are three major human ethnic groups - 1) the Shoanti, barbarian tribes and natives to the area, 2) Varisians, indigent travellers and gypsies, also natives of the area, and 3) Chelaxian immigrants who over the past century have come to dominate the land. Over the years there has been quite a bit of tension especially between the Shoanti and the Chelaxians.
The CotCT adventure path consists of six adventure modules, designed to be played in sequence. They are:
Volume #7: Edge of Anarchy
Volume #8: Seven Days to the Grave
Volume #9: Escape from Old Korvosa
Volume #10: A History of Ashes
Volume #11: Skeletons of the Scarwall
Volume #12: Crown of Fangs
The story features a corrupt queen (in turn being corrupted and controlled by an ancient evil dragon spirit) and her attempt at achieving immortality. In order to accomplish this she must 1) solidify her control over the city and its populace, 2) "mark" as many citizens as possible for sacrifice (she does this by gathering a sample of their blood), and 3) performing the ritual that will consume all of her marked citizens and transform her into a god.
In Edge of Anarchy, the PCs come together and discover the first hints of the queens corruption. Seven Days to the Grave sees the queen's first real attempt of tyranny as she instigates a plague in the city designed to target the natives. Then the PCs must track down some old friends and escape from the city in Escape from Old Korvosa. In A History of Ashes the PCs explore some of the countryside and meet up with the native tribesmen in the area. From them they learn of an ancient weapon that can hurt their nemesis and must seek it out in Skeletons of Scarwall. Finally in a Crown of Fangs, the PCs return to the city and must stop the queen before she sacrifices the city.
The first challenge for adapting this adventure path is finding a suitable location on Mystara that can fit all of these elements. This is less difficult than it might sound. As written the Chelaxians are similar in many ways to Thyatians (and in fact many even have Thyatian sounding names). In addition, the Shoanti in these adventures are fairly reminiscent of native American tribes so they can be equated with the Atruaghin (and perhaps other Oltec descendants). Varisians bear some resemblance to Traladarans, however for this adaptation I'm going to ignore that comparison in favour of something else.
For the purposes of this adaptation I am going to set the adventure path in Ochalea, making Korvosa equate to Beitung. Whenever Chelaxians (including Queen Ileosa) are referred to in the adventure, they should be considered Thyatians. The Shoanti tribes are instead the small remnants of Oltec tribes that have survived in the wilder and less desirable locations of Ochalea. Varisians are the native Ochaleans and will probably require the most modifications (flavour wise).
The Harrow Deck
Another major part of this adventure path is the Harrow Deck. This is a fortune telling tool used by Varisians in the Pathfinder setting (basically a deck of cards with various images and meanings attached to them). It appears in each of the adventures and can be used by the DM to recap or foreshadow events as well as to give individual players bonuses tailored to help them through the particular adventure at hand.
Replace the deck of cards with a bamboo cylinder filled with incense sticks (Kau Cim - here is a nice image), each inscribed with a unique Ochalean symbol. Rather than drawing a card, the cylinder is shaken until a stick falls from it, at which point that stick is read and interpreted. Otherwise treat all effects produced by the Harrow Deck in the same way.
I'll deal with each of the adventures in separate posts.
Edge of Anarchy
Edge of Anarchy is run under the assumption that all of the PCs have some history with a local crime lord named Gaedren Lamm. He takes in local "orphans" and teaches them a useful trade. The PCs unite in order to confront their old "acquaintance" and in doing so are noticed by the town guard, and Queen Ileosa. Finally after performing various services for the city the PCs are sent to apprehend a possible suspect in the King's murder. Here they may discover the first hints at Ileosa's duplicitous nature.
Ileosa - The daughter of a Thyatian (and quite possibly Hattian) nobleman, Ileosa is sent from her homeland to marry the aging king of Ochalea. This is a common practice among the nobles of Thyatis, and is especially used to help cement the ties of controlled kingdoms to the Empire. Ileosa is a young and somewhat naive girl who is very comfortable by the lifestyle that Thyatian nobility affords. She was happy to be made queen, but is less than happy with her surroundings, and her Ochalean subjects.
Red Mantis - The Red Mantis assassins are consummate professionals who worship OCHALEAN GOD of DEATH. They don red outfits and wear red mantis masks while on the job. These assassins can be based in Ochalea and given a slightly more Asian feel with relatively little work. They may also have some ties back on Alphatia, or mainland Thyatis.
Kazavon - An ancient blue dragon warlord that once rules major portions of Ochalea, Kazavon was only defeated by a collaborated effort between the newly fledged Ochalean people and the natives of the land - Oltec tribesman. After his defeat the alliance disbanded, with each faction taking and hiding a relic of the dragon's body. Should all of the relics come in contact once again, Kazavon can be reborn. Queen Ileosa finds one of these relics deep in the dungeons of the Palace of Beitung.
Part One: Haunted Fortunes
The PCs confront an old enemy (the mastermind behind a child thieving operation). This part of the adventure can be run pretty much as written.
- Zellara: The spirit of an Ochalean woman recently killed by Lamm, Zellara is the force that brings the PCs together. She inhabits her now magical Kau Cim sticks and has an impact on the rest of the adventure path.
- Gaedren Lamm: An old Thyatian born thug who makes his living at the expense of child labour.
Part Two: A City Gone Mad
The PCs return a stolen broach to the queen while navigating mob ridden streets. The king has just died (been murdered). This part of the adventure can be run pretty much as written.
- Grau Soldado: Drunken soldier and former student of Vencarlo
Part Three: Long Live the Queen!
The PCs meet the queen and Sabina. This part of the adventure can be run pretty much as written.
- Sabina Merrin: Queen's bodyguard and former student of Vencarlo. Because of Ileosa's preferences, Sabina should be of Thyatian descent. She will later become the head of a group known as the Gray Maidens, all warrior women who serve the queen. The Gray Maidens can be tied in with the worship of the immortal Vanya.
Part Four: Welcome to the Guard
The PCs help the city guard by tracking down renegade guards and putting them down. This part of the adventure can be run pretty much as written.
- Cressida Kroft: Guard captain and PCs main contact. I would make Kroft be of Ochalean heritage.
- Verik Vencaskerkin: A base born Thyatian who came to Ochalea to seek his fortune. Now a renegade guard (charmed by the Arkonas/rakshasa - expatriate Sindhi nobles now living in Beitung). The Vencaskerkins show up in each of Paizo's APs (so far).
Part Five: The Ambassador's Secret
The PCs retrieve scandalous letters from a crime lord to use against the ambassador. This is actually one of the harder story elements to follow and honestly has little to no impact on other modules in the AP. I would change the back-story here with the ambassador to make it comply with the Thyatis/Alphatia WotI storyline, especially if running shortly prior to WotI (~AC 1000).
- Vencarlo Orisini: swordmaster and secret hero (Blackjack)
- Darvayne Gios Amprie: Amprie is supposed to be an ambassador from Cheliax (and therefore should be considered Thyatian), however this one should break that mould. Make Amprie Alphatian, with the desire to sow dissent between the Ochalean nobility and Thyatis. Rather than having the incriminating evidence be love letters to a noblewoman back home, have them be documents written to his Alpher superiors. These should clearly mark him as an Alpher spy/enemy agent.
- Devargo Barvasi: criminal lord
Part Six: The Queen's Scapegoat
The PCs must find the person accused of killing the king and bring her to justice. This part of the adventure can be run pretty much as written.
- Trinia Sabor: painter and scapegoat for the king's killer
Part Seven: The Dead Warrens
The PCs must end racial tensions between the native Oltec tribesmen and the Ochaleans before they erupt in civil war. To do this they must return the body of a murdered Oltec warrior back to his father.
- Thousand Bones: Typical Atruaghin/Oltec shaman type
- Derro: Rather than derro, these are a secluded clan of Mordriswerg living underneath the mountains of Ochalea.
Seven Days to the Grave
This adventure pits the PCs against a plague that is spreading through the city. The plague is being spread through magically altered silver coins, which must be tracked back to their source and stopped.
The Grand Vault of Abadar - This can almost be used word for word as a temple dedicated to the immortal Asterius. Although good aligned, Abadar/Asterius is also a god concerned with merchants. The temple doubles as a bank, and priests rarely do anything free of charge.
Red Mantis - The Red Mantis assassins are consummate professionals who worship Jammudaru. They don red outfits and wear red mantis masks while on the job. These assassins can be based in Ochalea and given a slightly more Asian feel with relatively little work. They may also have some ties back on Alphatia, or mainland Thyatis.
Cult of Urgathoa - Thanatos? Demogorgon?
Part One: Infection
A derelict ship (the Direption) containing infected coins is sunk in the harbour and some of its cargo washes up on the shores. Although this does cause the spread of the plague it is meant as a red herring for the PCs since it is not the main source of infected coins. In order for this to play out properly I think that DMs need to be presenting a constant stream of background events to the PCs - otherwise players will pick this out right away as "something important." This is something that should be started from the beginning of the campaign.
The rest of this section is all story drawn, and can be run pretty much as written.
- Grau Soldado: Down on his luck guard from previous module.
- Luan Cui (Brienna) Soldado: Graus' niece and one of the first people infected by the plague.
- Qi Wen (Tayce) Soldado: Graus' sister-in-law. His brother was killed years ago and he has been helping them survive ever since. Although the Soldado brothers are of Thyatian descent, Qi Wen is a native Ochalean.
- Ishani Dhatri: Sindhi born priest of Asterius. He has been trying to cure Luan with little success.
Part Two: A Damsel in Distress
Another story driven section, the PCs must help Vencarlo smuggle Ding Shao out of the city. This part can be run pretty much as written.
- Vencarlo Orisini: Master swordsman and secret hero called Blackjack.
- Ding Shao Qing (Trinia Sabor): The painter framed by the queen for the king's assassination. She will help the PCs in some of the later modules.
Part Three: Outbreak
Another story driven section of the adventure, Ishani calls the PCs to the Vault of Asterius to meet with them and ask for their help. Here the PCs can start to see the real impact that the plague is having on Beitung. It is here that the PCs also first meet the good Dr. Davaulus and the Queen's Physicians (secretly the Plaguebearers and agents of the Red Mantis).
- Dr. Reiner Davaulus: A Hattian physician, Davaulus is an actual doctor. He is also an assassin of the Red Mantis and the cause behind the plague sweeping through Beitung.
Part Four: Pestilence
This section contains various tasks that the PCs must overcome in order to combat the plague. With the successful completion of each task the PCs are awarded a count of citizens saved. This running count will be used later to evaluate their overall success at the end of the module. This is the first section of the module where PCs can expect to see some action. The encounters themselves can be run with very little to no modification.
A - Body Count: A group of Ramoska Arkminos' vampire spawn are killing citizens and hiding their prey as victims of the plague.
- Vampire Spawn: These Boldavian vampires are minions of Arkminos and have been chafing under the Prince's Law. They are using the plague as an excuse to hunt on their own. Should Arkminos discover this, they would surely be punished.
B - The Colour of Death: A charlatan is selling fake cures.
- Vendra Loaggri: A Thyatian woman trying to capitalise on the plague by selling fake cures.
C - Plague Rats: The PCs are asked to stop a group of renegade wererats bent on attacking the city.
- Eries Yelloweyes: A wererat that is worried the plague will be blamed on her people, especially if Girrigz follows through with his plans to attack the city.
- Girrigz: A warmongering wererat that sees the plague as his opportunity to strike against the city.
D - The Wreck of the Direption: The PCs track down that silver plague coins are coming from a recently sunk ship in the harbour, but the ship is now inhabited by a sea hag and her minions.
E - The Case of the Vanishing Virtuoso: A worried girl asks the PCs to find her brother. This leads them to the murderous Jolistina.
- Zi Xiu Lan (Deyanira Mirukova): The worried sister of Mao.
- Mao Yung Lan (Ruan Mirukova): A local bard of some renown, Mao was asked to perform at Jolistina's party.
- Jolistina Susperio: Crazy elf woman in love with the necromancer Rolth.
Part Five: Epidemic
The PCs finally track down the real source of plague coins and must infiltrate the cult hideout and put a stop to them.
- Rolth: A Hattian necromancer who found that he could practice his craft much easier in Beitung, he is connected with the Mordriswerg from the previous module.
- Dr. Davaulus: See above.
- Ramoska Arkminos: A nosferatu pawn of Senir Tiriac (a Boldavian noble in exile).
- Lady Andaisin: The leader of the Urgathoa/Demogorgon Cult. Perhaps a cleric from Black Heart on Alphatia.
CotCT and WotI
Here are some additional thoughts about piecing together several of the elements that have been presented in the previous two adventure modules with WotI. I actually think that this is a perfect module to run with WotI as a backdrop. Normally in a WotI campaign, the PCs are rushing about the Known World, either trying to stop or participating in some way the war between Thyatis/Glantri and Alphatia. This should not be the case here since most of these adventures take place in or near the city of Beitung on Ochalea. However using WotI as a backdrop for this adventure should provide several of the NPCs (and various BBEGs) with additional motivation.
This is how I see it: Queen Ileosa (Hattian by birth) is eager to wrest control of Ochalea from her husband, which she accomplishes with his death. However she still chafes at the thought of answering to a higher power (in this case the Thyatian crown), and so with the onset of WotI sees a chance to claim her independence (this should probably happen during adventures 4 or 5 in this path). Now in order to accomplish this goal she has been calling just about every favour she can as well as soliciting outside help (mostly from Alphatia). This gives her access to Hattian assassins and sociopaths (which include Rolth and Dr. Davaulus), as well as Alphatian agents (including ambassador Amprie, and Lady Andaisin).
In turn the Hattians see Ileosa as a means to establish their own empire. Most are still chafing from their failed rebellion and are chomping at the bits to enact their revenge upon the Thyatian crown. Likewise the Alphatians are more than happy to offer their aid. Any chance to destabilise the Thyatian empire is an opportunity they gladly jump at - especially with war looming on the horizon.
But how do Boldavian vampires fit into this scheme? Well the module mentions that Arkminos is actually the minion of Senir Tiriac, a noble in exile. Why is he in exile? The first reason that jumps to mind is that this is a Boldavian noble who has displeased Morphail in some way - probably by violating the Prince's Law. He fled Glantri and sought refuge in Karameikos. This is where Alphatian agents first approached him, promising protection in return for his services in destabilising the area. Thus the exiled Glantrians are actually Alpher agents as well.
Uncovering these facts should give Ochalean loyalists something else to fight for. Not only do they have to save their city from a mad queen, but they also have to worry about Alphatia trying to step in and wrest power from Thyatis.