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X6/I1 Quagmire/Dwellers of the Forbidden City mash-up

by Paleologos

Lately, I've been taking a closer look at a lot of the classic AD&D 1e modules. Those published between 1978-1983 contain some real gems. TSR was still a growing company at the time, so many of the designers worked on both D&D and AD&D lines. David Cook became instrumental in defining the B/X version of D&D, co-authoring the Expert Rulebook and writing X1 (with Tom Moldvay), X4, X5, AC2, and B6.

Module I1, published in 1981, could easily have been one of the X-series. All of the atmosphere present in X1 is present here, in spades. In fact, "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" would make for a great sequel to "The Isle of Dread". Fortunately, there's a way to seamlessly integrate it into module X6 "Quagmire!", which adds immeasurably to the latter.

For starters, like many of the other AD&D modules of this era, I1 was not written with the World of Greyhawk in mind, but rather as a tournament adventure. Officially, it's practically off the southern edge of the map of Greyhawk (in a small group of unexplored (and unmapped) mountains, deep in a tropical jungle, south of the Pelisso Swamp in Hepmonaland). Here's the background:

David Cook wrote:For several months, possibly even years, there have been reports of banditry in the jungles to the south. Merchants carrying precious loads of rare goods from the jungle lands have been waylaid, their goods taken and their men captured or killed. Even then, those who survived these raids had to face headhunters, brain fever, giant leeches, cannibals, and leopards. Few men ever returned. The stories they told were fantastic and addled, surely brought about by disease and the horrors with which they had to deal. Singing snakes, twisted and deformed ape-men, men who were not men, and writhing, horrid flowers filled their tales-surely such things were not to be believed. Nonetheless, something had destroyed the caravans.

Furthermore, none of the goods taken from the caravans has ever appeared in the markets of the north, at least as far as the merchants can tell. Some were certainly identifiable - rare pieces of art, scrolls, books, and other items destined to fetch good prices in the kingdoms of the north. It could only mean that someone or something was hoarding a great treasure in the jungle. Prompted by this information, adventurers set out to find the bandits and gain their treasure. Your party is one of these. The long journey was filled with hardship, but fortunately, peaceful tribes and villages were found to ease the journey.

Last night you arrived at such a village. The chief and the shaman met with your party. In answer to your questions, they told of the yuan ti, or demon-men, and their hateful minions, the tasloi. These come from the forest, raiding and kidnaping. Those taken are never seen again. Only recently the chief’s son was stolen. The chief knows you are experienced and powerful warriors, and he wants to make a deal...

In X6, the city of Quagmire "once a thriving trading port" is on the trade route between Slagovich (at the western end of the Sind Desert Caravan Track) and Pramayama, Ierendi, and Specularum to the east (see map of "The Wild Lands", below).

The Forbidden City can be situated in the central highlands of Thanegia Island, which are pretty sparsely detailed for their size, even in Champions of Mystara. The city is nestled within a rift, and so can easily have escaped the notice of Mystaran cartographers. X6 describes native stilt villages on the Thanegian river banks, likely similar in culture to the natives described in X1, who can supply guides to lead the party to the Forbidden City. The party might therefore be provided with adventure hooks while attempting to rescue and resettle the people of Quagmire to Thanopolis on Thanegia island.

On the other hand, there's no need to mess with the premise of X6 at all. I1 can stand alone as a much more suitable follow-up to X1, in both style and atmosphere. Apart from using the map and encounter keys of X6, module I1 needs nothing else to support it. There's even a list of reasons for adventuring/further adventures provided at the end (again, as with X1). I've included these, below, just to get your creative juices flowing:

David Cook wrote:Backgrounds (Reasons for Adventuring)

1. Revenge
A group of merchants has hired your party to stop the raiding (as explained in the module Background) permanently. Characters must find and enter the city, determine who is responsible for the raids and destroy that person or group. The characters must also ensure that no further raids occur. This could be done by destroying all of the inhabitants, bribery, creating feuds, sealing all the ways in and out of the city, or any other plan the players might invent. The merchants would no doubt like to have the goods they lost to the raids returned, so the DM might wish to create a very well-guarded storehouse of these items.

2. Rescue
Many important people have been disappearing from the courts of nearby lands. The people are being kidnaped by the Black Brotherhood (a secret group the DM must create) and given to the yuan ti for safekeeping. The Brotherhood wants to help the yuan ti by weakening the power of the surrounding kingdoms. First the characters must discover who is doing the kidnapping, and then trace the kidnappers to the yuan ti. A group of the Black Brotherhood would be based in the city. The prisoners would be hard to find, for they are scattered throughout the city. Some might be easy to rescue, while others might be very difficult to rescue.

3. Conquest
A local potentate (or other ruler) has declared that his ancestors were once the masters of the Forbidden City (although there is no proof to his claim). He wants the adventurers to enter the city, scout it, and, if possible, clear it of all foul monsters.

4. Defense
A courier carrying important information was recently attacked and robbed while crossing the jungle. Found before he died, the courier told his rescuers of the theft. Since his papers reveal the weaknesses and strengths of a nearby kingdom, the monarch of that land has offered a reward for the return of the documents. At the same time, the rulers of several other lands have likewise offered rewards if the documents should just happen to reach their hands first, However, once the characters reach the city, they will learn that an evil army is being assembled to attack all the surrounding lands. To save themselves and others from slavery, the adventurers must try to prevent this attack from occurring. The players must defeat or join other parties also after the stolen documents. How they do it is left to the players and the DM.

Adventures

1. Under the city stretches the ancient primitive sewer system. In it now live monsters and colonies of creatures of all sorts. But, most common are the jungle-ghouls and the last human descendants of the yuan ti ancestors. The ghouls and humans wage a constant war of attacks, sallies, counter-attacks, and sieges through the underground tunnels. More cunning than normal ghouls and led by small demonic leaders, the jungle ghouls attempt to transform the humans into twisted slime beasts with their cancerous touch. The humans are nearly blind from the centuries of underground existence and rely on their other heightened senses to survive. They hate those who bring light, worshiping the kindly god of darkness who drives away the demons of light. It is rumored that somewhere in the tunnels is the fabulous lost temple of Ranet. The temple is there, and is guarded by the giant snake-queen.

2. As part of their plan to regain power, the yuan ti have revived the worship of a vile and loathsome creature from another plane. In one of the larger temple buildings of the city, the yuan ti have succeeded in opening a small gate to the creature’s plane. Many small and horrid beasts have entered through this gate and are being used by the yuan ti for their plans. In entering the temple, the characters must defeat the orchonos - vampiric orchid-like plantmen. As they delve further into the structure, the creature itself begins to take control of the temple. The building becomes more and more alive with pillars, carvings, doors, rooms and other features writhing and attacking the characters. At the same time, the guards of the yuan ti must be dealt with if the party wants to proceed. Finally, after several dangerous encounters, the characters reach the gate in time to see a huge tentacle slithering through it. The creature must be driven back and the gate closed.

3. In order to learn the movements of caravans through the jungle, the inhabitants of the city have established a spy network in the area. The raids will continue so long as the spies exist, but if they are destroyed, the raiding will be greatly hampered. Information on the location and names of the main spies may be found in one of the minor court palaces of the city, but only after battling the guards and other monsters. The agents are wererats, posing as humans in the nearby towns and cities. The characters must track them down and stop their activities. However, before they can find all the agents, the wererats are warned. When the characters arrive in a major city, the wererats cunningly frame one of them for the murder of an innocent shopkeeper. The characters must quickly prove their friend innocent by finding the real murderers.

4. While rescuing several people held prisoner by the yuan ti, the characters pursue a group and their hostage into a long forgotten passage. Threading their way through maze-like tunnels, the characters encounter numerous strange beings, both hostile and friendly. These include otyughs, fungi encrusted intelligent skeletons, and blood-draining snakes. After passing through a misty tunnel, the characters find themselves in the lair of large, intelligent humanoid bats. Unknown to the characters, they have traveled back in time to the days when the city was alive and prosperous. The bat-people are good creatures, attempting to alert the inhabitants of the city to the coming of some great evil. The yuan ti and the hostage the characters were pursuing have managed to slip past the bat people during all this. The characters must find the hostage in an exotic city full of people.