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Corruption of the Swords - Orc Attackby John Calvin, Max Monas and Jens "the Stalker" Schnabel
This adventure is designed to be linked with other Phase I adventures in the Corruption of the Swords campaign. If not running the other adventures in this plot-line, DMs minor modifications will allow this adventure to be played in any campaign.
Unknown to all, one of the Outer Beings is breaking free of its planar prison. It has spent centuries making preparations for this event. By manipulating one of the immortals themselves, the Outer Being has been able to set the stage for its escape. Its plan involves the corruption of the powerful artifacts known as the Swords of Wayland, as well as blood rituals on a scale that could not possibly be imagined by most, be they mortal or immortal. The PCs will be inexorably drawn into this webwork of insane schemes through four seemingly unrelated adventures. Ultimately, it will be up to them to put the pieces together before the Outer Being's dark prophecies come to pass, but the unknowable one has been planning its escape for a long time. Compassion, curiosity, fame, and fortune...all of the stuff that heroes are made of, will insure that wittingly or not, the PCs will play their part in the Outer Beings grand design.
PCs may encounter the caravan in this scenario in a few ways. Perhaps they are hired on as extra guards, or maybe they hear the sounds of battle while travelling on a caravan trail and rush to help. PCs moving through wilderness areas may come upon signs of a large orc camp and discover that the band of brigands is planning a raid.
Phase I adventures are low level adventures designed to draw PCs into this plot. The orc attack that the PCs encounter may lead them into intrigue in Darokin, confrontations with cults and assassins, and perhaps even to the discovery of one of the Swords of Wayland, Roc.
How to Involve PCs
1) The PCs are travelling along a well known trade route when they hear signs of battle coming from further down the road. As they rush to investigate, they encounter a band of merchant wagons being attacked by orcs.
You hear several screams from further up the road, and can smell the faint odour of burning canvas and wood. As you get closer you can hear shouts of "Take cover!" and, "They're in the woods!"
2) If the PCs are leaving Darokin (or heading into that country) they may be hired by Darokinian merchants to act as guards for the caravan. In this case, the PCs will not stumble upon the attack; the attack will stumble upon them.
You are greeted by a tall, lean, man, perhaps in his 40th year. He introduces himself as Ceril Bertun, a merchant affiliated with Corun House. "I hear you're looking for work? Well then you've come to the right place. We've got a small shipment of goods headed for Selenica, and we're a few hands short. We leave in the morning."
PCs who inquire about the journey may be told the following information:
"We usually hire extra hands out of Corunglain when making the journey to Selenica, but we're hiring on extra help a little early. The northlands are having troubles enough just trying to keep the orcs in the Crater. Help might be a little sparse up there, so we do the hiring now. You'll probably see a little action once we reach the Northlands, but the trip up there should be uneventful enough."
The PCs may notice that even with their help the caravan is still not fully staffed with guards. Their employers are not concerned.
Ceril Bertun shrugs his shoulders, "We'll pick up a few more along the way, and I have no doubt that we will find some help in Corunglain. Never fear," he says with a smile in his eyes. "We will be fully staffed for the journey across the northlands. I personally have a substantial amount of gold in this caravan, and I'm not going to let it fall into the hands of humanoids!"
3) While travelling through the wilderness, the PCs find signs that a large party of orcs and other humanoids camped in the area recently. Their trail is easily followed, and if the PCs track them down, they come upon the orcs just as the caravan is being attacked.
You have come across the site of a rather large camp. Some effort has been made to disguise the fact that anyone has camped here at all, but the attempt was fairly sloppy. You see charcoal scattered among several rocks that were obviously used to line a campfire. Bones litter the forest floor near bushes where refuse was hastily buried.
PCs who spend a turn searching the site will be able to determine that the camp help 150 to 200 individuals. Those spending another turn will be able to determine that a good portion of those individuals were either young or those who tended after them (most possibly females). Anyone studying the refuse will be able to determine that the food consumed at the camp is not food most often consumed by humans. Many of the bones belong to animals commonly used for labour (like mules and horses), and those kept as pets (dogs and cats). Assuming that the PCs decide to track this large party they will come upon another site.
This campsite is much like the last one you encountered. However, when whoever was here broke camp, their party split up into two groups. The larger group made its way further into the interior of the woods, while the smaller group headed towards the main road in this area.
Once again PCs who take time to examine the campsite will be able to determine that the larger group was composed mostly of women and children, while the smaller group was composed of men, most probably warriors of some type.
If the DM needs to motivate the into following the raiders, he can stage an encounter at either one of the campsites.
Three orcs burst out of the woods and charge your group. They are emaciated, and the furs they wear are nearly rotting off of their backs.
Their eyes have an almost blank, fanatical look, and they are foaming at the mouth as they swing their spears and clubs at you.
Orcs (3): CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (6 ft. tall); HD 1d8; hp 3, 3, 2; Init +0; Spd 30 ft.; AC 10 (no armour); Atks +3 melee (1d6, clubs); SQ Darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity; AL CE; SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Will -1; Str 15, Dex 10, Con 11, Int 9, Wis 8, Cha 8. Skills: Listen +2, Spot +2. Feats: Alertness.
These orcs are deserters from the main camp. PCs may believe that they are diseased, or under some sort of spell, but the simple truth is that they are nearly mad with hunger. The orcs will fight to the death. Add more orcs if the PCs party is having too easy a time.
This particular caravan consists of seven covered wagons, a dozen horse drawn carts, and 30 mules laden with supplies and goods. The merchant, and owner of these goods, Ceril Bertun - a minor member of Corun House, is leading the expedition himself. The caravan is moderately guarded by 6 men at arms (plus the PCs if they hired on for the job). They expected little trouble during this leg of journey.
Caravan Guards, human Warrior1(6): CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (5 ft. 10 in. tall); HD 1d8; hp 5, 5,6,7,7,8 ; Init 0; Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+2 leather armour); Atks +2 melee (1d6/crit 18-20/x2); AL LG; SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +0; Str 14, Dex 11, Con 12, Int 9, Wis 11, Cha 9. Skills: Handle Animal +4, Ride +4. Feats: Alertness, Combat Reflexes. Possessions: Rapier, leather armour, 1d8gp each, 2d10 sp each.
The band of raiders consists of orcs and various other humanoids (create a level to match the PCs) living in the harsh conditions of the Great Crater between Darokin and Glantri. Most of them are scrawny and malnourished. They are led by a young chieftain, Hrg'kak who only recently dominated the group.
Shortly after Hrg'kak came to power, his small tribe was driven out of the crater by a group of ogres. Hrg'kak doesn't mind, as he likes this area much better. Although the orcs are ravenous, they have not yet raided any of the caravans along the road. Hrg'kak has held his minions back so that he could observe the merchants carefully before staging a raid. Now he believes that he is ready.
The orc band will fight until half of their members (or Hrg'kak) fall in battle before making a morale check. Those that fail will flee into the wilderness, perhaps returning to one of their many bases in the area. Those that stay will fight to the death (they are so hungry that they see no other option).
If the DM so chooses, this hunting band can be a small part of a larger group. The rest of the tribe awaits Hrg'kak back at one of their camps. The camp should contain some older members of the group, as well as several females and their children. Several other hunting parties may also be out scouting the surrounding territory.
The orcs have studied caravans passing along this road for almost a week now, and have chosen the perfect place for an ambush. They will fight intelligently for the first three rounds of combat (following Hrg'kak's orders), but after that time their hunger overtakes them and they rush blindly into the fray. [See Map - Orc Attack, for positions of the orcs and the caravan. Sadly, this map cannot be reproduced on the MML, so you will have to go to the Tome of Mystara for it, or else contact the authors. The same is true for the symbol of Kol which is mentioned below. However, it is possible to play without these, only the DM will have to decide on the orcish positions himself.]
The sounds of the surrounding forest grow quiet. Soon all that you hear are the squeaks and groans of the caravan's wagon wheels upon the hard packed road. Others have noticed the quiet as well. On of the caravan guards gives you a quizzical look .
The first and second group of orcs are hidden behind rocks and trees along the path, and will spring out to attack the wagons and guards with arrows and spears. The orcs with arrows light them aflame before firing at the wagons.
Orcs (5): CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (6 ft. tall); HD 1d8; hp 8, 7, 6, 6, 5; Init +0; Spd 20 ft.; AC 14 (+4 scale mail); Atks +3 melee (1d8, short spears); SQ Darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity; AL CE; SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Will -1; Str 15, Dex 10, Con 11, Int 9, Wis 8, Cha 8. Skills: Listen +2, Spot +2. Feats: Alertness.
Orc Archers (5): CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (6 ft. tall); HD 1d8; hp 4, 4, 3, 3, 3; Init +0; Spd 30 ft.; AC 10 (no armour); Atks +3 melee (1d6, short bows); SQ Darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity; AL CE; SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Will -1; Str 15, Dex 10, Con 11, Int 9, Wis 8, Cha 8. Skills: Listen +2, Spot +2. Feats: Alertness.
Just as the taskmaster raises his hand to signal the flanking guards to check the surrounding area for signs of trouble, you hear a war cry from the side of the trail. A flaming arrow hits the task master square in the chest, and several others strike the sides of the caravan wagons, setting them aflame. Before you can react, several screaming orcs rush out from the bushes.
Two rounds after the first two groups attack, a third group will rush at the mules (and anyone guarding them) in order to startle them into fleeing into the woods, where yet a fourth group of orcs awaits. This third group will not join combat if they can help it. They will grab all of the supplies that they can, and return to camp.
Another war cry goes up, this one from the rear of the caravan. More orcs charge through the underbrush and rush toward the pack animals sending several of them fleeing into the woods. The main group of orcs relents in their attack, and several of them begin to back away into the woods under the cover of hidden archers. "They're after the supplies!" one of the rear guards shouts.
Orc Drivers (5): CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (6 ft. tall); HD 1d8; hp 6, 5, 4, 4, 3; Init +0; Spd 20 ft.; AC 14 (+4 scale mail); Atks +3 melee (1d6, clubs); SQ Darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity; AL CE; SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Will -1; Str 15, Dex 10, Con 11, Int 9, Wis 8, Cha 8. Skills: Listen +2, Spot +2. Feats: Alertness.
Orc Catchers (9): CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (6 ft. tall); HD 1d8; hp 4, 3, 3 (each group of 3); Init +0; Spd 30 ft.; AC 10 (no armour); Atks +3 melee (1d6, clubs); SQ Darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity; AL CE; SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Will -1; Str 15, Dex 10, Con 11, Int 9, Wis 8, Cha 8. Skills: Listen +2, Spot +2. Feats: Alertness.
The orc chieftain and his pet wolf will place themselves anywhere in the battle that they are most needed (in other words, against the PCs).
Hrg'kak knows that his band is starving. His attack against the wagons is just a diversion to draw attention away from his real target - the supply carrying mules. Hrg'kak wants to scare several of the mules off into the wilderness where his orcs will have more cover from the guards, and will be able to pick off the stray animals at their leisure.
Hrg'kak: CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (6 ft. tall); HD 3d8; hp 12; Init +0; Spd 20 ft.; AC 14 (+4 scale mail); Atks +3 melee (1d8, battle axe); SQ Darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity; AL CE; SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Will -1; Str 15, Dex 10, Con 11, Int 11, Wis 8, Cha 8. Skills: Listen +2, Spot +2.
Feats: Alertness. Possessions: The battle axe that Hrg'kak wields is of fine dwarven make, and is in reality a bane to undead. When used against any undead the axe receives a +2 magical bonus.
Fedgrr (Wolf): CR 1/2; Medium-Size Animal; HD 2d8+4; hp 10; Init +2 (Dex); Spd 50 ft.; AC 14 (+2 Dex +2 natural); Atks +3 melee (1d6+1, bite); SA Trip; SQ scent; AL N; SV Fort +5, Ref +5, Will +1; Str 13, Dex 15, Con 15, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 6. Skills: Hide +3, Listen +6, Move Silently +4, Spot +4, Wilderness Lore +1. Feats: Weapon Finesse (bite).
If all of the orcs are searched, the PCs will find a total of 23 cp, 4sp, and 1 gp. Hrg'kak has an additional 12 cp, 2 sp, and 2 gp, and is wearing a decent fur which may be sold for 10 gp.
If the PCs defeat Hrg'kak's band, they have one of two options. They can either stay with the caravan until it reaches Corunglain, or they can track any escaping orcs back to their camp site. Each choice is dealt with below:
Staying with the Caravan
PCs who stay with the caravan will be treated as heroes when they reach Corunglain. If they were hired by Ceril Bertun to begin with, they will receive a small reward (50 gp each) in addition to any agreed upon payments for acting as guards. PCs who stumbled upon the encounter and rendered help will receive a much more substantial reward (100 gp each). In addition, the PCs may learn the following information:
1. After the attack some of the wagon-hands mention that something like this never would have happened during the days of Attleson. If questioned about Attleson, the wagon-hands will relate the full story of how Attleson defended Corunglain with his magical sword, Roc. Attleson and his sword disappeared shortly thereafter.
"Who's Attleson, you ask? Only one o' the greatest warriors in the history o' Darokin. They even got a statue of him in Corunglain. Single-handedly held back orc attacks on that city for nearly 20 years."
2. House Corun is not on good terms with either House Umbarth or House Linton. A ragged guard nudges you conspiratorially,
"Old Lerri Jenkon will be pleased to hear of this...blast him. He works exclusively for Umbarth, you understand? I may start doing the same..."
3. Several other Corun caravans have suffered similar attacks further east. None of the wagon-hands or guards believe that the same band of orcs is responsible.
Tracking the Orcs
PCs who track the orcs back to their lair, will find a group consisting of females and the very young. A few elderly orcs are also here, but not many of the elder tribe members have survived these hard conditions. The orcs are starving, and will not put up much of a fight if attacked. If the DM desires, one or more foraging groups (of warriors) may return to the camp while the PCs are there.
The orcs can offer some interesting information if persuaded in the right way. PCs may offer them food, or offer to spare their lives if they leave the area.
1. One of the females will offer information about the tribes recent whereabouts if the PCs promise to spare her life and that of her offspring. Three small orcs cling to her legs as she recounts her tale.
"Hrg'kak bring us here from big hole. Him say good hunting here, but there not many animals here. Hrg'kak say we warriors. Say we hunt humans instead. He take warriors and watch human trails for many days." All of the other orcs recount similar tales.
2. If the PCs speak with one of the few remaining elderly tribe members, he will recount the following tale:
"We move into big hole after Karaash's sword hit this land. Many other tribes follow, but Hrg'kak is strong. He make our tribe strong." The old timer pauses to take a deep breath. "But still not much food in big hole.
Kobold king in mountains say 'bow to me, and I show your tribe where to hunt,' but Hrg'kak laugh at him. Not take orders from kobold. Then many moons later a small tribe of ogres come. Not many ogres, but they big. They take our land. Their leader bear this mark..." The old orc picks up a gnarled stick from the ground and draws a strange symbol in the dirt.
3. Those who are familiar with Glantri, and with Glantri's newest prince, Kol, may recognise the symbol as his. After telling his tale the old orc simply stares at the ground. He will say no more.
The PCs may want to follow up on any of the information gathered during the course of this adventure.
Investigating Attleson or his Sword
If any of the characters brings up the topic of Attleson in the company of any of the caravan guards, the following encounter will occur.
One of the younger men approaches you, his eyes wide and bright. He has the look of someone who has just had an epiphany. "I come from a small village called Gorania. The elders always told tales of a great swordsman who is buried in the cemetery. It was during the time of the Orc Wars, if I remember right, and a knight stumbled into our village mortally wounded." He chuckles to himself, "Some nights it's all that the elders talk about.
Balri, the old drunk...sometimes you'd think that he had been there himself. I wonder if it could be the same Attleson that you spoke of!" At this the other guardsmen break out into laughter. "Half the villages I know of claim to be the burial site of some great warrior or holy man! It's a great way to bring pilgrims into town." The grizzled old guard pats one of the PCs on the back while giving his younger comrade a scowl. "That's just fine for business...but it don't mean Attleson, or anyone else of importance, is really buried there."
Investigating this comment will lead the PCs to adventure #1 Your Trusted Friend, the Necromancer, if they have not already played through it. This will also bring the attention of both Corun House, and a secretive organisation known as the Dark Petals Cult. Corun House is interested in retrieving Attleson's sword. They fear that an increase in humanoid activities will prevent trade in the area and cut into their profit margins. They may be willing to equip and pay any party in order to retrieve the sword. The cult, on the other hand, will attempt to assassinate anyone gathering such information. The PCs will have to watch their backs from this point on.
PCs who put their feelers out into the merchant community may also learn about an auction that will be taking place shortly in Corunglain.
This can take them to adventure #3 What Lurks in the Shadows.
Investigating the Orcs or Prince Kol
The orcs really were driven from their homeland by a group of ogres. PCs who investigate the former territory of the orcs however, will find no one currently occupying it. The ogres were all actually guards serving directly under Prince Kol. Prince Kol ordered them to drive several small tribes of orcs into Darokin. Kol did this because he just made a very lucrative deal with a member of Umbarth house to disrupt common Corun caravan routes. Kol disguised the action as petty squabbling between small humanoid tribes so that his involvement could not be linked to it.
Any investigation in this area will again bring the attentions of the Dark Petals Cult. They will do everything in their power to prevent PCs from learning about the connection between Umbarth, Kol, and disrupted Corun trade. The cult will send their best assassins against the PCs in this case.
Investigating the Linton or Umbarth Houses
Darokin intrigue can be quite complex, and PCs who investigate either of these Houses will be pulled into it very quickly. With all of the back- alley deals taking place here, the PCs will be hard pressed to find something relevant to their current situation.
There is one event that the party can stumble upon if they are either very lucky or very persistent. Every so often, Umbarth House sends one of its agents into Glantri to meet with (and pay off) Prince Kol. If this agent is detected, he can be followed, and a link between Umbarth and the disruption of Corun trade, can be made.
The Dark Petals Cult watches these operations very closely, and will deal with the party harshly if they discover this secret.