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Pursuit in the Carrascalby Giampaolo Agosta from Threshold Magazine issue 2
This short adventure is suitable for a group of four or five adventurers approaching name level. It is set in the Grande Carrascal, east of Guadalante.
The marriage of Dona Catalina, the daughter of Baron Hugo de Narvaez, to the dashing gaucho, the Baron of Guadalante, has been a bone of contention between the two countries for years. Don Hugo refuses to acknowledge the marriage, and claims Dona Catalina has been kidnapped by the Guadalantans.
Now the military strength of Narvaez has grown to the point where Hugo thinks he can claim his daughter back. Thus, he has tasked a pair of disgraced Narvaezan noblemen with “liberating” his daughter and escorting her back to Puerto Morillos -- a task which amounts to nothing less than kidnapping Dona Catalina de Bigotillos y Narvaez, the Baroness of Guadalante! In case of failure, he can put the blame on the two noblemen by (not incorrectly) claiming them to be destitute men trying desperate measures to gain quick money.
This adventure starts off in Guadalante, after Dona Catalina has been kidnapped. At least one of the characters should be a Guadalantan, ideally a Gaucho, Noble Honorbound or Local Hero. The Baron of Guadalante, don Cristobal, asks the characters to help in the pursuit of the kidnappers.
Through luck or skill, the party happens to find the tracks of the Narvaezans. In order to escape the pursuit of the Gauchos, the kidnappers fled towards the Grande Carrascal. They also enlisted the help of the Chiriqui Gnolls to delay the pursuit. The PCs must overcome this obstacle, reach the Narvaezan party and deal with an unexpected opponent before being able to free Dona Catalina and return to Guadalante.
The Narvaezan Party
The kidnappers are a group of Narvaezans with different motivations. The leaders are don Diego Gonzales de Quimeras, a nobleman who has squandered his fortune, and Padre Moreno, a priest of Ixion who has been demoted from his position as dean of Los Peregrinos for his cowardice in the war against the southern baronies, which allowed don Cristobal de Bigotillos y Copetez to sack the village.
Gonzales and Moreno are bent on getting back their station, and have gathered a group of fighters and infiltrators to kidnap don Cristobal's wife. Jaime de Aguilar and Hernan Mello are mercenaries out of work – they are willing to take some risks for profit, and are reasonably loyal to their employers – Don Diego and Padre Moreno have paid them with their last money, and promised them more money when the work is done.
The same promises have been made to the last two members of the group, an unsavory Narvaezan Maremma named Pedro Estiarte, and a Vilaverdan spy, Luis Felipe da Silva. These two, however, are less likely to keep to their word, especially the Vilaverdan, who is an unpredictable scoundrel.
Don Diego Gonzalez de Quimeras: Human (Espa) Noble Fighter 7, NE. Weapon proficiencies: saber (specialized), stiletto, lance. Non-weapon proficiencies: Horse Riding, Etiquette, Hunting, Heraldry, Panache.
Padre Miguel Moreno: Human (Espa) War Priest of Ixion 7, LE. Weapon proficiencies: long sword, mace. Non-weapon proficiencies: Religion, Horse Riding, Alchemy, Healing.
Padre Moreno casts spells as a 6th level priest, and cannot use his other powers because he has fallen from Ixion's graces.
Jaime de Aguilar: Elf Myrmidon Fighter 6, LN. Weapon proficiencies: long sword (specialized), long bow (specialized), dagger. Non-weapon proficiencies: Fire-building, Horse Riding, Tracking, Military Tactics. Pedro Estiarte: Lupin (Narvaezan Maremma) Spy Ranger 6, TN. Weapon proficiencies: hand axe, dagger, short sword, short bow. Non-weapon proficiencies: Tracking, Hunting, Survival (Plains), Disguise, Modern Language (Chiriqui). Legacy: Armor.
Hernan Mello: Human (Espa) Myrmidon Fighter 5, LE. Weapon proficiencies: lance (specialized), saber (specialized), dagger. Non-weapon proficiencies: Weather sense, Horse Riding, Animal Training.
Luis Felipe da Silva: Human (Verdan) Spy Bard 5, CN. Weapon proficiencies: rapier, main gauche. Non-weapon proficiencies: Musical instrument (banjo), Horse Riding, Disguise, Lip Reading. Legacy: Shout.
On the Tracks of the Narvaezans
The PCs are not the only adventurers recruited by the Baron of Guadalante. Actually, he calls out all the adventurers he can find within a few hours, and sends them along several paths out of Guadalante. Since it is difficult to track a small party in the prairies, and heavy rains have made tracking even harder, search parties need to scatter out, in the hopes of catching the kidnappers’ tracks far from Ciudad Huelca.
The PCs would hardly be the strongest or most trusted search party, so they are not assigned the direct route to Narvaez along the Rio Copos. If they are not native Guadalantans, they also are not assigned to search in the Pampa Rica, so the only directions they can be assigned to are those to the east, into the Carrascal. There may be other parties headed in the same direction, toward Buenos Vientes or the southern reaches of the Carrascal. The DM can either stage a rigged random assignment, or can simply have the Baron choose to send the PCs towards the Chiriquis Camp – the only important point is that the PCs are finally sent in that direction.
The initial part of the trip towards the Chiriquis Camp is spent under the same heavy rain until reaching the Guadalantan border, where the rain subsides, giving the PCs a chance to pick up the trail of the kidnappers (at a minor penalty, e.g. -2 to the skill roll). A party with a very specialized ranger (e.g., a hunter lupin type) might be able to detect the tracks even during the rain (with luck), but this does not affect the outcome of this stage of the adventure. If the tracking roll is unsuccessful, the PCs will have to choose among two beaten paths, which lead to the two main Chiriquis camps. The southern camp holds nothing of interest, and the gnolls there have not seen a mounted party of humans. This should lead the PCs back to the northern path.
Once the PCs have taken the path to the northern Chiriquis camp, they will meet a hungry Slagovich Juggernaut on its migratory route to or from the Herathian forests. The encounter takes place soon after the PCs pick up the Narvaezans’ trail (see the skull & bones mark on the overland map). The Juggernaut is famished and will attack the PCs, attempting to eat one of them, or perhaps one of their mounts. Once it kills its target, the Juggernaut will attack only to chase the PCs, as it would rather eat his prey than continue fighting.
Slagovich Juggernaut (Voat, Herathian, from the Savage Coast MCA, page 110).
HD 7+3; HP 28; AC 5. Atks: 2 claws (1d6), 1 bite (2d10).
This encounter can be skipped if the party is already worn down or is of lower level than expected. On the other hand, if the party is especially strong, it is possible to make the encounter more dangerous by adding a second Voat.
Meeting the Chiriquis
Following the trail of the kidnappers, the party approaches the Chiriquis lands. It is apparent that the Narvaezans passed straight through be Chiriquis camp. The party can try to bypass the camp through stealth and by making a detour, but this will delay their pursuit, so that they will catch the Narvaezans late at night. If this is the case, skip to the next encounter.
The Chiriquis actively patrol their land, attempting to block any interloper. Such vigilance is not unknown, but in this specific case it is due to the actions of Pedro Estiarte. The lupin, who has some familiarity with the Carrascal Gnolls, has successfully negotiated for the Chiriqui Gnolls’ help by offering gold and supplies in return for the promise to delay any interlopers.
While taking on an entire village of gnolls is probably too much even for experienced characters, there are several ways the party can bypass the Chiriquis. One option is to challenge the tribal chief, Shantak, a Gnoll Honorbound, to a duel. As an Honorbound, the chief cannot refuse the challenge, and will allow the party to pass if defeated in single combat.
A second option is to negotiate with the tribal wokan, Vagtar. This shrewd, grizzled gnoll will require a major service (DM’s choice) in return for taking the player characters on as his apprentices (for a day only). As the wokan’s apprentices, the party members will no longer count as interlopers in the Chiriquis lands, and will be allowed to pass through the camp.
The party can identify Shantak as an Honorbound by the typical Honorbound marks, which are displayed prominently through war paints on her fur. As to Vagtar, the wokan will actively try to recruit the PCs if he is aware of their presence.
The Chiriqui Camp
The Chiriqui camp is composed of approximately twenty tepees. Around one hundred gnolls, including thirty warriors (F2-4), live in the camp. The DM should stress the sense of danger by having gnoll warriors growl threateningly at the party members. The composition of the party will also affect the Chiriquis reactions – Guadalantan and Cimarron PCs will be met with greater hostility, whereas lupins, especially those with some gnoll blood, will be viewed with curiosity. rakasta PCs and members of less common races (from a Guardiano point of view) will also raise curiosity, but the reaction of the gnolls will be more reserved than openly curious.
Shantak, Gnoll Honorbound Fighter 6, LN.
The tribal chief is a powerful female Honorbound fighter. She controls the tribe with a combination of honor and savagery, and is well respected (and feared) by most members, except Vagtar, the Wokan. Shantak will keep her word, and will not let her followers put themselves in unnecessary danger. This, even beyond her personal honor, is the main reason why she would accept a PC's challenge – she believes she can handle any but the most evidently powerful warriors in honorable conditions, and therefore keep her promise to Estiarte without risking losses in the tribe.
Gralak, Gnoll Shaman Priest 6 of Ixion, LN.
The tribal shaman is a follower of Tabak, the sun spirit. He recognizes that Tabak is the same entity as the Narvaezan god, Ixion. As such, he is unlikely to offer any help to a party that would oppose a priest of the Narvaezan church – especially since Padre Moreno made a show of recognizing the shaman as an equal, something that Gralak has long sought from the Narvaezans.
Vagtar, Gnoll Wokan Wizard 5, TN.
A trickster and rogue at heart, Vagtar enjoys nothing more than pulling a good prank on the pompous and self-inflated tribal leaders, Shantak and Gralak. He would not do anything that could endanger the tribe, but he understands that the Narvaezans pose no threat to the Chiriquis, so he has no qualms about foiling the promises exchanged with Estiarte.
Rograst, Gnoll Savage Warrior Fighter 7, LN.
This warrior is the second in command to Shantak, as well as her mate. He is also the strongest fighter in the tribe. He does not like for Shantak to accept the challenge of any outsider, or for her to allow Vagtar to run his gig, but will capitulate to the Honorbound’s inflexibility. His main purpose in the encounter is to act as a threat, to remind the PCs that an entire tribe of savage gnolls would easily take them down if they tried anything stupid, and to act as comic relief once the deal with the Chiriquis is struck.
The Ghost Outpost
When the PCs manage to bypass the Chiriquis, they find that the kidnappers have taken a trail into the heart of the Carrascal, then turned towards the Gargoñan border. At this point, however, the storm that had plagued the party in Guadalante breaks through to the Carrascal, making travel difficult. Since they believe pursuit to have been avoided or delayed, the Narvaezans take shelter in an eerie LB Trading Company outpost, “Posada Gonzalez” to weather the storm. The PCs will likely follow suit, as they will see the lights of the outpost slightly before the storm hits them.
PCs with a specialized knowledge of the LB Trading Company may remember that there is no such outpost in the Carrascal, although there was one years ago (on a good success at the appropriate skill roll). Indeed, the outpost is the result of a ghostly infestation. The ghost of a LB Trading Co. employee, killed by the Long Legs years ago, manages the outpost, which is itself a phantom which appears only by night: by day, only the ruins of the original outpost can be seen.
The ghostly landlord, Gonzalez, will at first behave normally, though observant PCs might notice something is amiss: Gonzalez is only partially solid, and a successful perception skill roll (half Wisdom for unskilled PCs) may let a PC dimly perceive objects or people who are behind Gonzalez. Moreover, many items in the outpost are clearly outdated -- for example, Gonzalez keeps a crossbow rather than a smokepowder gun under the bar, and speaks an outmoded dialect of Espa.
Gonzalez will not allow the characters to attack the Narvaezans (and vice versa), and will warn the two groups against leaving the outpost during the night, saying that the gnoll savages would kill them if they did.
Indeed, if the characters and the Narvaezans do not manage to dispel the ghosts, a large group of ghostly gnolls (two per each living person in the inn) will attack the outpost. The two groups must either survive the attack, or find a way to put the landlord ghost to rest, at which point the gnolls and the outpost will disappear.
Gonzalez, ghostly innkeeper
The ghost of an employee of the LB Trading Company killed by Gnoll raiders, Gonzalez appears as a squat, pot-bellied man in his early fifties, with olive skin and a bushy mustache. To a casual observer, Gonzalez appears as a fairly typical innkeeper, although especially rustic in his language and clothing.
Gonzalez does not realize he is dead, and behaves as a normal, living human – actually, proving to him that he is dead may dissipate the resolve which keeps him on the Prime Material plane.
By talking to him, it is possible to obtain some hints about his vulnerabilities: in particular, he will talk profusely of his hate (and fear) of the “gnoll savages”, pointing at his vulnerability to gnoll-crafted weapons. He is adamant in refusing to let anyone out after the storm strikes, claiming that the “gnoll savages” would kill them. Gonzalez will attack with his cause despair power if thwarted on this issue, and then physically as well, flying into a rage against those who would leave and calling them “traitors” and “gnoll friends”.
Gonzalez can only truly be killed if he is reduced to 0 HP or less by the strike of a gnoll-crafted weapon (though not the ghostly weapons of the gnoll spirits, who in any case do not attack Gonzalez as long as there are other targets available). However, reducing him to 0 HP with other weapons or spells allows the characters to escape, as the outpost dissipates and returns to Limbo with Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, Semicorporeal II Magnitude Ghost.
HD 6; HP 25; AC -1 (while in Limbo)/6 (on the Prime Plane).
Physical appearance: Preserved humanoid (Gonzalez appears as in life).
Anchor: Place (the entire outpost is a ghostly apparition brought forth by Gonzalez’ will).
Trigger: Cyclic (Gonzalez and his inn appear only during stormy nights; the inn otherwise remains in Limbo).
Ordinary powers: semicorporeal (immune to normal weapons; can be hit by red steel and magical weapons); rejuvenation (completely heals with 45 minutes rest); undead spell immunities.
Extraordinary powers: Cause Despair (radius entire inn; ST vs spells negates; despair causes -1 penalty to all rolls); Resist Magic 20%.
Ordinary vulnerabilities: holy water (1d8 HP); turned as ghost
Extraordinary vulnerabilities: gnoll-crafted arrows, tomahawks and other weapons can hit Gonzalez, and strike him as if he was corporeal. He is also repulsed by gnolls and others with gnoll blood (e.g., lupins with a gnollish bloodline) . He must pass a Saving Throw vs. Spells to be able to confront or attack such characters (note that Pedro Estiarte does not have enough gnoll blood to affect Gonzalez significantly, although in case of combat Gonzalez will always choose another target, if given the possibility).
Gnoll Spirits, Incorporeal I Magnitude Ghosts.
HD 2; HP 8 each; AC 0.
Physical appearance: Distorted humanoid (the gnolls appear as more monstrous, sometimes showing wide wounds or other unrealistic features).
Anchor: Place (the ghosts only appear near the outpost).
Trigger: Cyclic (the gnoll spirits appearance closely follow that of Gonzalez’ inn).
Ordinary Powers: incorporeal (immune to normal weapons; can be hit by red steel and magical weapons); rejuvenation (completely heal with 1 hour rest); undead spell immunities.
Extraordinary powers: Howl (1/night, death in 10’ radius, ST vs death at +2).
Showdown with the Narvaezans
Depending on the events in the ghost outpost, either the Narvaezans will escape with Catalina, or the PCs will do so. Unless one of the parties is wiped out or at least severely weakened, the other will (or should, in the PCs' case) give pursuit. Thus, the structure of the last encounter depends heavily on the outcome of previous encounters.
If the PCs have managed to get out of the ghost outpost with Dona Catalina, the Narvaezans will follow them and attack, possibly setting an ambush or charging them. Otherwise, the PCs will have to pursue the fleeing Narvaezans. They will manage to reach the kidnappers near the Gargoñan border.
Successfully concluding the adventure (i.e., saving Dona Catalina) should award the PCs a substantial experience bonus (10% of the amount needed to reach next level), over the XP gained for individual encounters.
Moreover, the PCs will have earned the gratitude of the Baron of Guadalante, who will award them the highest (and only, given the young age of this state) honor of Guadalante, the Medalla al Valor. On the other hand, should their identities become known to the don Hugo de Narvaez, the Baron will become their enemy, and they will be wanted criminals in Narvaez.
Savage Coast Campaign Book (by Tim Beach)]
Savage Coast Monstrous Compendium (by Loren L. Coleman and Ted James Thomas Zuvich)
Van Richten’s Guide to Ghosts (by William W. Connors)
Sidebar: High Magic Campaigns
With the right magic, PCs could likely bypass some of the encounters – e.g., if magical detection was available, it might supersede the need for tracking, while flight or teleportation could allow the characters to bypass the Chiriquis camp.
However, note that the magical properties of Vermeil make divination spells unreliable at best in the Savage Coast. Essentially, the PCs will not be able to get a good reading while the Baroness is more than 5 miles from them.
For what concerns magical transportation modes, note that Teleportation usually requires knowledge of the destination point, whereas flight can be hampered by strong winds. Flying during a storm, in particular, would not be advisable.