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A Mystara PbP or a recap of a Karameikos campaign

by Francesco Defferrari

The Play by Post of which I am the Dungeon Master here on the Piazza is still going after 4 and half years and as its plot may be of interest for Mystara fans and useful to PCs, I thought of posting a recap:

In game time we started playing in 990 AC in Specularum, using B6 the Veiled Society. The 6 players were caught in the intrigues of Specularum noble families which I expanded quite a bit from the starting module. Beside the rising of the Veiled Society in fact there was also the Iron Ring trying to establish a cell in the city, and using violence and full scale terrorism to rally Thyatian extremists. The events, contrary to the Iron Ring hopes, led to a reaction by the Karameikos government and a majority of moderate Thyatians and Traladarans, plus the rising number of mixed blood people.
Despite their success, 3 PCs decided to leave the city in search of less politically complicated places, while 2 players had left. One continued for a bit to play in Specularum against the Iron Ring plots. Eventually most of the Iron Ring cells were defeated in the city, and moved their operations in the country. The competition in Specularum became centered on the Veiled Society and the newly founded Kingdom of Thieves.

After that we continued playing with 3 PCs establishing themselves in Highforge, but soon travelling to Castle Caldwell in Threshold (B9) which I reworked a bit to insert it in an ongoing struggle against Iron Ring slavers hitting on the Karameikos countryside. The players met Baron Halaran and a young Retameron Antonic, adventuring with Cardia (later of Threshold) and Sam the hin (NPC from from AC1). In this year 990 AC the Black Eagle is still on the background, Bargle is not known yet and the link between Von Hendriks and the Iron Ring is not apparent yet. The Dark Triad (Leptar, Orcus, Demogorgon) makes its appearance as a menace, whose connection to the Iron Ring is intially unclear to PCs. Skarda (X12) is mentioned as kidnappers of many people in past years, including the wives of Lord Antonic, Baron Kelvin and Lord Penhaligon, but does not appears yet.

The 3 PCs +1 new continued by exploring the Hill (B5) which I placed north of Kelvin (see Guido's Fort on this map, sent from Highforge. The players met sympathetic centaurs, brutemen, two mysterious old ladies, Rosalinda and Rosabella, and a young and adventuring Desmond Kelvin II and had to deal with an imminent hobgoblin attack on Guido's Fort and eventually face even a red dragon. Guido's Fort however was saved by the intervention of a blue dragon and the Kelvin army. The Dark Triad seems to be behind the attack.

Between 990 and 992 Iron Ring attacks and maybe Skarda's attack occur in Karameikos, bringing up the tension between Traladarans and Thyatians, as Traladaran villages are the main victims of slavers. The tension builds up also between Von Hendriks and the Five Shires, with almost full scale war. At this stage, Von Hendriks blames hin pirates and many Thyatian nobles still believe him, but Duke Stephan still eventually orders him to stop any military operation against the halfling.

Timeline in game moved two years to 992 AC. Arelena Kelvin, sister of Desmond II, is kidnapped and the PCs are part of the expedition to rescue her and investigate on what's happening in the Wufwolde hills (Another part of B9). The cleric of Chardastes Elwyn (B9), not yet turned to evil, is part of the expedition. Skarda and the Dark Triad, in some kind of unknown alliance, possibly with the cooperation of the Iron Ring, are part of a plan to destabilize Penhaligon, Kelvin and Highforge. PCs also meet Arteris Penhaligon and Fain Flinn. There is a battle in Felmont 992 in the Wufwolde hills between the forces of Skarda with humanoid allies and troops from Kelvin, Penhaligon and the north. In the end the evil wizard Skarda and his ally Oliver of Hom escape but Arelena is freed. Arteris Penhaligon and Desmond Kelvin however are lost in Skarda's mirror, along with Elwyn and many others.

In Fyrmont the 3 PCs left go search for him with Retameron Antonic, Cardia, Sam and Halia Vorloi (not yet Antonic) following clues from Verge to Penhaligon to Stallanford (B11) where a Dark Triad cleric is plotting to take over the town in league with Skarda and some humanoids. In Ambyrmont 992 the PCs and Retameron set up a trap to capture Skarda and his magic mirror, but the wizard manage to escape. Arteris Penhaligon, Desmond Kelvin II and his mother Elena are free, but many other prisoners still remain in Skarda's mirror, including Claudia Penhaligon and Milena Antonic, Arteris and Retameron's mothers. Skarda is now officially the public enemy number one in Karameikos.

After some months of rest in Thaumont 993 AC the 2 PCs left are part of an expedition with two NPCs, the gnome cleric Kesh and the elf Bellithiel, to Krondsfield in search of clues about the mysterious Skarda's mirror. They find the ruins of Demara and the Mansion of the ghost wizard Gunter (First Quest 1994 boxed set first two adventures) in which library should be possible to find more clues. A traitorous cleric, Klaus, and Oliver of Hom take the book, but the next lead brings the PCs to Kota Hutan, the village of the mysterious Siswa elves (B7). There with the help of the elf maiden Rahasia they discover a mysterious cleric, the Rahib, has taken over the Temple of the Gray Mountain with the intent of bringing back three imprisoned powerful witches and steal the Black Opal Eye, which has some ancient connection to Skarda's Mirror. The PCs and their allies, including several Kota Hutan elves, defeat the Rahib and prevent the return of the three evil witches, also with the help of the two mysterious ladies from the Hill (B5) Rosalinda and Rosabella. Skarda and his allies however arrive in time to take the Black Opal Eye and escape again. One of Skarda's minions, however is captured, a female cleric of Orcus (the one mentioned in Castle Caldwell in B9) which later will confess there is indeed an ongoing cooperation between Skarda, the Iron Ring and the Dark Triad.

With the Eye and his Mirror, Skarda is about to become even more powerful. Another Mirror and another Eye are in possession of the Seer of the Lake of the Lost Dreams. But there is one more, lost Eye in the Blight Swamp, stolen centuries ago by a corrupted Seer, Trinkla. A big expedition is organized in Flaurmont 993 AC, with 3 PCs, Retameron Antonic, Desmond Kelvin II, Arteris Penhaligon, Fain Flinn and many others, including a powerful cleric of Zirchev.

During the trip the PCs learn some more disturbing rumors about Von Hendriks, which according to some is in league with humanoids and the Iron Ring, something not yet widely known in Karameikos. In the village of Sisak, they also defeat an Iron Ring cell, then proceed to Luln. From there, the PCs and the group enter the Blight Swamp, which has all sorts of dangers and is very difficult to travel. Eventually reaching Rosentos, the head of an old Thyatian expedition who is now a vampire (or, possibly, a nosferatu), they obtain his help to retrieve the Black Orb from Trinkla, who is still alive as an undead. The group is divided during a battle in Trinkla's pyramid, but the 3 PCs, the gnome Kesh and the halfling Sam manage to take the Orb and escape. They have to exit the swamp pursued by Iron Ring agents, but eventually reach Specularum, then Kelvin and back to Highforge by Yarthmont, 993 AC.
Retameron, Desmond II, Arteris and the others have survived the swamp as well. The Black Orb from Specularum is sent back to the Seer of the Lake of Lost Dreams, with the hope he will be able to trace Skarda and his magic mirror.
Waiting for new clues, the PCs are now back to their usual lives as Highforge guards.

That's the story, so far, quite long. More comments in another post!


To follow up the above two more things:

- The Play by Post is always open to new players willing to join here

- The story makes good use of the huge amount of material developed by fans for Karameikos over the year and connects Skarda, which appears standalone in X12 but is not connected to other Karameikan themes in canon modules, to the other enemies of the Grand Duchy. What's the relation between Skarda and the Iron Ring? Both kidnap people but who controls the other? Is Von Hendriks an ally or a pupetteer of both? What's the role of the Dark Triad and the humanoid tribes which follow the three evil Immortals? There is some dark unknown power behind the multiple menaces Karameikos has to face? The PCs have been presented with these questions which have not definite answers yet.
The timeframe before Gazetteer times makes the picture a bit different from 1,000 AC: mainly Von Hendriks still claims to be a loyal subject of the Duke and his shady activities are not yet obvious to many, and Skarda is the main menace instead.