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Adventures in Selhomarr:by Geoff Gander
Selhomarr presents a unique environment to the players; it is a land that brings new meaning to the word "ancient"; its "newer" towns and villages have stood longer than most other nations have existed! It is essential that the DM conveys this aura of antiquity to the players, yet portrays it as the vibrant place it is today - a place not without danger. Raucous street parties take place in the shadow of a 5,000 year old temple, touching renditions of ancient ballads are heard in lively taverns, and danger still lurks in the shadows of the empire, as ancient evils stalk the land.
This section will provide some adventure outlines for the DM to flesh out, and integrate into his or her campaign as smoothly as possible. The format used is based on the system presented in some of the Gazetteers published by TSR. Each contains the following entries:
Adventure Level: The level range suggested for a party of 6-8 adventurers.
Topic: The aspect of Selhomarr (such as a custom, place, or NPC) covered by this adventure.
Interesting Features: Elements of the adventure that should prove memorable for the players.
Outline: A description of the adventure, and ways of having it lead to a possible campaign.
All of these adventures are designed to be played by both foreign PCs, native Selhomarrians, or a mixture of both. If the DM is running a campaign with foreign PCs, the linguistic barrier may pose a problem, but most Selhomarrians presented in these adventures will be willing to speak to the party in Neathar if necessary, or someone will be there who will translate for them. Of course, the DM could have an NPC retainer make his or her services available, or a new PC could join the group. The DM should make the appropriate judgment.
1. Aldaris' Trident
Adventure Level: 1-3, Basic (total party level of 5-6)
Topic: An old Selhomarrian legend, the PCs learn about the Lhomarrians' passion for tale-telling.
Interesting Features: Learning the truth to this legend may spur the party to explore Selhomarr's secrets.
Outline: The PCs, while staying in a seaside tavern or inn, overhear the beginnings of what promises to be a tale. As the nearby patrons make themselves comfortable, and encourage the teller, an old man, to proceed, the PCs should sense an air of expectance. The old man, named Eldemnis, proceeds to tell the tale of Aldaris, a warrior who came from a town not far from this one, long ago. Aldaris had just completed his Wandering, and decided, against his parents' wishes, to become an adventurer. One day, while strolling along the seacoast, he heard screams nearby. Wishing to prove his bravery, Aldaris rushed to investigate, and saw a beautiful maiden being dragged into the sea by a "fish-like" being.
Having nothing but a trident in his hands, Aldaris charged the beast, and impaled it upon his weapon's tines. In a dying gurgle, the beast slashed the maiden, mortally wounding her. Feverishly, Aldaris gathered up the woman, and tried to take her to the nearest temple, where she could be healed. Sadly, the lady was too far gone, and bade Aldaris listen to her. Telling him her time was at an end, she reached into a pouch, and sprinkled some silvery dust upon his trident, causing it to glow softly. She then kissed him gently on his brow, saying that he would be forevermore her champion. Upon uttering those words, she died.
Aldaris became a great hero - wherever he went, he wielded his legendary trident, which was said to glow with a silvery light and always strike true. Despite his deeds, he was never at peace with himself, and one day, he walked out to sea, near where the maiden died, and never returned. It is said that, when the floating continents are in the proper alignment, a ghostly figure, bearing a shining trident, can be seen striding out to sea, towards a tiny islet, not two miles distant. That time, as it turns out, is but a few hours away.
The party's interest should have been piqued by the tale, and if they ask Eldemnis for directions as to where the ghost is supposed to be seen, he will tell them. If they arrive at the proper time, the PCs will see a ghostly figure, dressed in ancient armour and bearing a softly-glowing trident, striding silently out to sea. It takes no notice of the party, and if they follow it, they will find that the sea is very shallow here (only waist-deep), allowing them to come within a few hundred feet of a large crag jutting above the waves. They will have to swim the remaining distance, but the ghost walks on. Once there, they will see the ghostly figure ascend the crag, and stand before a bone-littered depression. If the party follows, they will find a tarnished, silvery trident resting in the middle of it. The ghostly figure tries to touch it, but his hands pass through it.
Across from the ghost is the spectral image of a young woman, being held by a ghastly ichthyoid being. She looks at the party screams mutely at them for help, as Aldaris' shade tries to grasp the trident. If any PC tries to grab the trident, they can, and in doing so causes the bones scattered in the depression to rattle about and assemble into 8 skeletal "fish-men" (treat as normal skeletons), who attack the PCs. If the party wins the battle, the ichthyoid ghost will shriek silently and dissipate, and Aldaris and the maiden will embrace, and slowly fade away. His shade will not appear again.
The PCs, if they succeed, will have successfully put to rest two tortured souls, and they will gain a magical weapon in the process. Aldaris' trident functions as a trident +2 against chaotic creatures. This should drive them to investigate events going on in the waters off Selhomarr's coasts, possibly leading to a campaign against the undead remnants of the Servitors of Ubbeth, many of whom have their lairs in the Bay of Lokam.
2. Mistaken Identity
Adventure Level: 1-3, Basic (total party level of 5-6)
Topic: Thievery, underworld intrigue.
Interesting Features: Exposure to Selhomarr's underworld, and a chance to do some good role-playing.
Outline: While passing through a city, preferably on a deserted or less-frequented street, one of the party members is suddenly attacked by three thugs. The fight should not be overly dangerous, once the party steps in, but it should provide a good deal of shock. Try to ensure that at least one thug escapes, screaming, "Traitor! You would sell out your own family for mere gold! You will pay dearly - that I promise!"
Before the party can fully recover, have another group of three thugs attack the PC in question. This fight should not be overly difficult, either. The thugs shout at their intended victim, demanding to know where the "goods" are being kept. This should begin to worry the party; twice within a few hours one party member has been attacked, seemingly for different reasons.
What the PC in question is facing is a case of mistaken identity. Ironically enough, the PC looks a lot like a local Lhomarrian thief, who double-crossed his (or her) own criminal organisation, a band of smugglers, by selling information on its illicit freight movements to a rival gang, and then diverting the shipment before the rival gang could obtain it. Both groups want the thief dead, and unfortunately for the PC, the attacks will continue until the real thief is produced. Even if the PCs leave town, they will be pursued. It is fortunate that the town guard does not know what the thief looks like, as he (or she) is wanted for other crimes. If the PCs try to capture one of the thugs, they should be able to get at least one group's side of the story through interrogation, as well as the thief's name. This encounter should be role-played.
Allow the party members to think over their strategy, though if they take too long have another attack made against the PC. They could try to seek out the thief on their own, but the best strategy would be to ask strategic questions of the right people (ie: people who might know where the thief is hiding), give the town guard a "hot tip", or they could try to draw the thief out with a ruse, perhaps posing as representatives for a merchant wishing to buy "unmarked" goods. If the party comes up with a different strategy that might work, the DM should give them the benefit of the doubt. Regardless, the PCs should either find their way to the thief's hideout in an old warehouse, lead town guardsmen to it, or entice him (or her) to meet them.
If the PCs turn the thief over to the town guard, they will be rewarded once it becomes clear that their quarry was wanted for other crimes. Unfortunately, the increased attention on the part of the town guard towards smuggling operations in the future will harm the smugglers' operations, for which they will blame the PCs. Somehow, they will try to settle the score...
3. Mission of Mercy
Adventure Level: 4-8, Expert (total party level of 16-24)
Topic: Explore the southern fringes of Selhomarr.
Interesting Features: The PCs learn about the lizard men of the Bogs of Disania, and the threats they face.
Outline: While venturing about the province of Ardeth, in southern Selhomarr, the PCs meet a frantic young man, named Calar. Seeing the party, Calar, a young man hardly out of his Wandering, rushes towards them, babbling about "horrible monsters" attacking his village. He pleads with the party to help his people, who, he is sure, are already dying horrendous deaths. This seems like a chance for heroism!
Calar's village, Xerathnis, lies roughly four miles down the road from which he came. The terrain here is forested hills, but as the party approaches the village, the land flattens out, and swamps begin to intrude. What is going on is that, over the past few decades, the Selhomarrians have been steadily draining the eastern fringes of the Bogs of Disania, in order to open up more farmland. While they have been doing this, one of the local black dragons, Almeniarenoth, has decided to expand his power base. To do this, he has recruited one of the lizard man tribes, the Blueclaws, to do his dirty work by invading their neighbouring tribes. He hopes to build a kingdom of his own in the bogs, and ultimately to plunder southern Selhomarr of its riches, using the lizard men as his armies. This has forced the easternmost tribe in the bogs, the Silvercrests (who are being attacked increasingly by the Blueclaws), to attack Xerathnis, in an effort to regain control over their lands, so that they can better fight off their foes, and feed themselves.
When the PCs arrive, they will find Xerathnis half in ruin. What has not been destroyed is partly burnt, and many injured villagers lie about. Also present are what appear to be a handful of dead lizard men. When the villagers see Calar returning with the party, they will approach them, and hurriedly describe the attack by those "fierce demons of old reborn". PCs familiar with Selhomarrian history will realise that the villagers think the lizard men are the legendary Unclean Ones of Y'hog reborn, due to their reptilian nature. The villagers will also tell the party that their valuables have been looted, and several people have been abducted.
If the PCs pick up the trail left by the attackers, they will be covertly observed by them, until they are far enough from the village. They will be surrounded, bound, and escorted to the main Silvercrest village, where they will notice the captured (but unharmed) Selhomarrians, as well as a fair portion of the village's wealth. The party should try to find a way to communicate with the lizard men, after which they will learn the background given above. The Silvercrests hope to give the loot and the villagers to the Blueclaws as "gifts", so that Almeniarenoth may leave them alone. The PCs should realise how desperate the Silvercrests are, and they should try to think of an alternate solution. Before they can do this, however, the Blueclaws invade!
This is a chance for the party to prove its mettle. The Silvercrests will be too busy fighting off the Blueclaws to pay the PCs any attention, and none of the captured villagers have any combat skills. The party will have to protect the villagers, and help fight the fierce Blueclaws. This battle should be difficult - the odds are strongly in the Blueclaws' favour - but not impossible. If the defenders win, the Blueclaws will have taken enough losses to be reduced in strength for many years to come, and the Silvercrests will be safe for the time being. The party will also have earned the respect of the tribe, and the gratitude of the villagers, which may benefit them in the future.
There is still the unresolved issue between the Selhomarrians and the Silvercrests. After the battle, the villagers will want to return home, the PCs should encourage some of the lizard men to accompany them. Once back in Xerathnis, there will be a tense meeting between both groups, and the party should do the best it can to explain the situation. This should be role-played, and if the PCs do a good enough job, and propose a reasonable compromise, both sides should be willing to put aside their differences. One possibility could be that the lizard men help rebuild the village, but the Selhomarrians promise not to venture further into the bogs, or even pull back and allow the bog to expand to some degree. It is the DM's role to play the villagers and the lizard men, and if the PCs come up with a solution, to react accordingly. The party's troubles do not end, however. Word will find its way to Almeniarenoth of the PCs' deeds. He will not take the setback of his plans kindly, and he can be counted on to be an enemy in the future.
4. The Voyage Home - Almost
Adventure Level: 6-10, Expert (total party level of 24-30)
Topic: Large scale wilderness adventure.
Interesting Features: Players learn more about Selhomarrian legends, Order of the Homebound involved.
Outline: This adventure could be run for a party wishing to leave the Hollow World, but not knowing how to do so. As mentioned earlier in this book, the Order of the Homebound is a secret organisation that believes the outer world exists, and that it is a veritable paradise. For many years, they have been quietly gathering supplies, and recruiting new members to their cause in preparation for the great pilgrimage.
The PCs happen to be in Selhomarr just when this journey begins, though there was a dispute amongst the Order's leaders. There was disagreement as to whether the time to make the pilgrimage was at hand, and despite orders to the contrary, 3,000 members have decided to do so. Though these would-be adventurers are great in spirit, none of them are skilled leaders or planners - there is not enough equipment for everyone, and already they are running low on food. This is where the PCs encounter them, several miles away from any settlement of significance. Recognising the party as foreigners, the travellers hail them, and ask them cryptic questions as to the whereabouts of "the Realm of Wonder and Light, whose Gates are said to be marked by eternal darkness, and by great bounty beyond." PCs who arrived in the Hollow World via the polar openings may be able to decipher the true meaning of this question, but they should all realise that none of the voyagers have the slightest idea what they are getting into.
Attempts to dissuade the Selhomarrians from their journey are pointless, though PCs trying to leave the Hollow World may realise that this is their opportunity, and that there is strength in numbers. By pooling their resources with the Selhomarrians, the party should be able to cook up a viable means of venturing to the southern polar opening, whether by taking several boats (by theft, purchase, magic, or otherwise), venturing across a great ice floe, or something else. Fortunately, the pilgrims have plenty of cold weather clothing. This should be played out as an epic journey - the party will soon be elevated to a position of leadership among the Selhomarrians, who will soon defer to the PCs' wisdom in the ways of wilderness travel. All sorts of dangers, from Vulcanian sloths to wild elves and worse, can be encountered.
Provided the party plans its strategy well, the group should be able to cross into the outer world without too many casualties, and along the way, the PCs could become living legends among the Selhomarrians. Where the group goes from there is up to the PCs, but the consequences of introducing a large number of people to the outer world should not go unnoticed. This group might even be the core of a new nation.
5. What the Steppes Hold...
Adventure Level: 15-20, Companion (total party level of 60-80)
Topic: Fight an ancient evil, unmask a threat to Selhomarr.
Interesting Features: Party encounters a high-powered lich, they could learn spells unique to Selhomarr.
Outline: As the party is travelling, they hear strange tales about events happening in the southern Plains of Aymira; merchant caravans plying the trade routes near there have disappeared under the shadows of floating continents, and isolated homesteads have been ravaged as well. Despite frequent calls for action, Prince Aymir of Akalis has done nothing, saying that he will have the provincial army look into the matter. This should pique the party's interest - most of those caravans that vanished were said to be quite large!
What is going on is that, deep within the Forsaken Steppes, which lie not far south from the region of Selhomarr in question, lies the sanctum of the lich, Jurandis. Unnamed over 700 years ago for crimes now long-forgotten, Jurandis fled with his evil lore to the Forsaken Steppes, where he proceeded to build up a host of undead servants. Seeing Jurandis as a potentially useful tool in his quest for destruction, especially in a land as seemingly stable as Selhomarr, Thanatos granted him a minor artifact that allows him to cast his influence to any individual he wishes within 300 miles. Jurandis has used the artifact to good effect, corrupting many officials in Akalis, and bringing Prince Aymir under his control, though he does not know he is being used by the lich. Under Jurandis' control, Aymir's policies have become more erratic - raising taxes for no reason, arbitrarily sending people to prison without trial, and generally enacting policies that serve to alienate his people. This increased strife has led to outbreaks in violence, which serves Thanatos' interests. Jurandis is likewise aided - once discord increases to such a level that Akalis becomes ungovernable, his undead hordes will sweep into the province, and use it as a stepping stone to overrun the rest of Selhomarr, creating a nightmarish empire devoted to Thanatos.
The PCs' initial investigations should lead them to the southern regions of Akalis, where they may encounter the odd caravan. Jurandis' forces do not attack every caravan; the DM should determine whether or not an attack actually comes to pass. If the PCs venture too close to Jurandis' citadel on the Forsaken Steppes, or if they spend too much time along the caravan routes, he may send mid- to high-level undead against the party to test their strength, and to drive them away. Further questing on the PCs' part should reveal the presence of the citadel (it is concealed by magical means), and they should soon come to the conclusion that the citadel is where the almost palpable evil appears to originate.
The attack on Jurandis' citadel should be dramatic, and highly dangerous. Not only is he protected by high-level undead; Jurandis has also experimented on his charges, creating new forms of creatures to hinder the party. DMs should use their imaginations here, but such creations might include spectres that act as batteries for stored spells, releasing them at the nearest target, tougher versions of revenants, or worse. Finally, the PCs should gain access to Jurandis' inner sanctum, and the evil artifact it contains. The DM should design the artifact as desired, but it should be large and imposing. At such a close range, its ability to bring people under Jurandis' influence is much stronger; PCs may have to make checks every round to avoid the lich's control. The battle should be difficult, and Jurandis should be played intelligently (in life he was a 32nd level magic user). If the PCs appear to be winning, he will flee using a ring of wishes, abandoning the artifact. With Jurandis no longer controlling it, the artifact ceases to function, and its domineering effect ends. The adventure is not over yet, though. The PCs must still find a means to destroy the artifact to end its menace permanently, and they will have a new enemy in Jurandis, who will not soon forget the setback they dealt him - nor will Thanatos, for that matter.
6. The Darkness Inside
Adventure Level: 26-30, Master (total party level of 90-110)
Topic: Combat the machinations of the Outer Beings, and perhaps meet them.
Interesting Features: Party has the chance to learn about the Outer Beings.
Outline: As a preliminary note, the adventure could be played as a stand-alone adventure, as the culmination of a long campaign, or as an introduction to the Outer Beings for upper-level PCs. In the second case, the DM will have to stage several adventures before this one, allowing the PCs to encounter some of the Outer Beings' lesser servants and sympathisers. These adventures should take them all over Selhomarr, and possibly into other nations, as well. The structure of this adventure will have to be altered as well. Regardless, it is assumed the PCs will have developed a considerable reputation in Selhomarr, such that important people will know them by name.
There has almost always been the occasional disappearance around the town of Prenos, on the Tylierian Peninsula. The locals, close-lipped about the matter, often attributed it to incautious youth on their Wandering running afoul of wild animals or bandits. This time, however, the person who goes missing is Maridis, sole heir of the ailing Prince Galen of the province of Atlissini. Not to be placated by the tales of the locals, Galen contacts the PCs, in the hopes that they will help him recover his son. Without a son to take his place, Galen's throne will become open to contention upon his death, and there are many unsavoury would-be Princes in the wings.
The PCs are not only motivated on compassionate grounds; one of their patron Immortals also sends them a message in their dreams, warning them of a great, ancient evil that is slowly awakening. The dream should be cryptic, but the basic message is clear; a great, festering evil lies not far from the town of Prenos, and the PCs must put an end to it. Upon reaching Prenos, the party should find it as described in the Settlements section - the inhabitants are close-mouthed about the issue, and make no effort to make the PCs feel welcome. While the PCs are sleeping, after it becomes clear that they are not about to leave the area, the local Outer Being cultists send a small group of assassins to where the party is resting. This attack should fail, as the assassins are low-level thieves, and the cultists underestimated the PCs' strength. Since the attack seemingly came out of nowhere, the PCs should be suspicious.
How the next section progresses is up to the players. Somehow, they should try to find out who sent the assassins after them. Asking locals about the attack will only bring more icy stares, and more attacks - this time by slightly more powerful opponents. Either by capturing an attacker, or by investigating on their own, the party should eventually find out where the local Outer Being cultists are based, and go there. By this time the cultists will have more accurately assessed the party's strength, and attempts to delay or prevent the discovery of the cultists' base of operations will be that much more formidable. Alternatively, one of those innocent locals who are kept silent out of fear might approach the party with information, in exchange for protection.
The final part of this adventure is the infiltration or invasion of the cultists' base. Either way, the DM should drive home that this group is evil to the core - whether through horrible room descriptions or the cultists' tactics. Due to the presence of so many devout worshippers, the Outer Beings have managed to use their powers to bring in several lesser and greater servitors of Yurrgh-Thal, and these creatures are present in the altar room, where young Maridis is about to be sacrificed! This is the first time that the PCs will come face-to-face with the servitor races of the Outer Beings; it is essential that the creatures be described in their full horror, and that they are played intelligently. Equally sickening to the players is how corrupted the human worshippers of the Outer Beings truly are; it should be made clear that these people have literally sold their souls to utterly evil creatures.
If the PCs survive the encounter, and manage to rescue Maridis, they will have the eternal gratitude of Galen. They will also, through their deeds, have become aware of the Outer Beings as a force, and of the degree to which they have infiltrated Selhomarrian society. Through their actions they will have acquired another implacable enemy - one that will hound them even as they attain Immortality.