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Specularumís Adventurers & Explorers Clubby Francesco Defferrari from Threshold Magazine issue 21
[Image: Portal of the Club]
Caption: Portal of the Club with a bas-relief of a knight fighting griffons
History, People, Location and Ammission
The Adventurers and Explorers Club was founded in Specularum in 981 AC by Thyatian adventurer Valerio Iantis who had then recently arrived in Karameikos. He was fascinated by Traladaran culture and history, but also annoyed by many of his countrymen, bent on exploiting a country rather than learn from its culture. Valerio had some local Traladaran acquaintances and with them he initiated the first group of explorers who had the intention of creating e maps of the many unknown regions of Karameikos. Over the next 10 years the Club became a reference point for all the inhabitants of Specularum, and Karameikos in general, who had visited unknown lands both in the Grand Duchy’ s territory and beyond. Most of the initial companions of Valerio died on some dangerous mission or retired and himself lost a leg fighting a owlbear.
Valerio took partial inspiration from the more famous Adventurers’ Club of Ierendi. However, while the Ierendian organisation was created after 935 AC (by the former contenders of the Royal Tournament of Adventurers), with the aim of aiding Ierendi and its rulers, the Karameikan club has alway been more focused on the exploration of the wilderlands. The two clubs however maintain cordial relations and members of the Ierendian Club, even former royals, occasionally visit the Karameikan Club.
After his wound and retirement from active exploration, Valerio is now guardian, librarian and president of the Club and cooperates with the government of Karameikos, especially Alexius Korrigan. He also maintains a close correspondence with the correspondent Club of Ierendi City.
[Image: Portrait of Valerio]
Caption: Portrait of Valerio
The Club is located in the North End of Specularum, east of Westron Alley but is not well publicised as many members have made enemies in the course of their travels and value their privacy. The Club, however, is known among the adventurers normally present in the city and among those who frequent Specularum often. Many know that it is the best place to go to look for information on the remotest parts of the Known World and beyond. To consult the Club’s books and maps visitors have to become associates by paying the annual membership fee1 and signing a promise to the Club to bring back any map or information about unknown lands they will manage to find in their travels.
The Club is a relatively big four storey house, with common room, dining hall and kitchen on the ground floor (and part of the library), main library and collection of maps on the second floor, Valerio’s lodgings, guests rooms and servants rooms on the third floor, and a fourth floor attic. Beside Valerio, it is common that there is at least one or two groups of adventurers as guests, which have to fit in two common rooms with six beds each on the third floor. The personnel of the house comprises a cook, Magda, a 50 years old woman; her maids and waitresses Julia and Irina; and Boris, a big man who does anything else, including aiding Valerio in dealing with troublesome adventurers or unwanted visitors, if necessary. Associates can sleep and eat in the house for no more than 10 days in each year. This is included in the association fee. Alcoholic beverages, however, are not provided for free. Guests can talk and drink in the ground floor, but with moderation, as Valerio frowns upon anyone getting drunk in the Club. The Attic is a common joke in the Club, as many think it contains Valerio’s treasures, or portals to other lands. Valerio enjoys the rumour, but steadfastly maintains the Attic is just a deposit of common household items, with a small laboratory where he and Boris restore damaged items and books, if needed.
Caption: Magda in the Kitchen of the Club
Since one of Valerio’s best friends is a lupin, a Thyatian Shepherd named Gaus, the Club is also one of the few places in Karameikos where it is relatively common to meet a lupin.
Another good friend of Valerio is Oldrinn Sacnissen, a relatively famous dwarven explorer from Highforge2. Other adventurers active in Specularum and Karameikos can be encountered in the halls of the Club, see also the article “Wanted: Adventurers” in this issue of Threshold Magazine.
Relations with other organizations
Members of the Order of the Griffon, the Knights of the Three Suns, The Brotherhood of the Woods, The Ambassador's Men and the Trade Guilds could also be present in the Club, sometimes openly and sometimes secretly, as well as secret members of criminal organizations such as the Iron Ring, the Veiled Society or the Kingdom of Thieves. Valerio however passionately hates the Iron Ring and the Black Eagle, and would throw out, and probably denounce to the authorities or even attack, anyone claiming alliance to them.
Lathan Spearhand of the Brotherhood of the Woods is a frequent visitor of the club, usually incognito. Valerio knows of his activities and support them with maps and information.
Emilio the Great also visits the Club from time to time. Valerio suspects he is a sort of Ducal government spy, but he does not know he works for the Duchess rather than the Duke. Should he discover it, Valerio may become suspicious of Emilio’s true motives.
Some members of the major noble families visit the Club too. Halia and Retameron Antonic are members, and Halia is also the one who provides Club informations to the Vorloi. Valerio is aware of that, but trusts Halia’s honesty. Fortunato Vorloi and his daughter Lucia are also in good relations with Valerio, even if they are not members, and visit the Club from time to time. Fortunato cooperates with Lathan and his organization against the Black Eagle and the Iron Ring. Of the Torenescu, the only member of the Club is Stephanos, who ostensibly is only interested in wilderlands adventures. Valerio obviously thinks he also reports to his family and the Scriveners’ Guild, but as he never had any hint that Club information was used to damage Karameikos or its government, he is not too worried about that.
Three prominent members of the Magicians’ Guild, Claransa3, Tullia and Rubelest4, are members of the Club, and several other wizards of Specularum have paid the yearly fee occasionally to consult the Club’s maps and books.
The Merchants’ Guild, as expected, is very much interested in the information gathered by the Club. Anton and Cartha Radu were never members, but several of their family and associates are or have been. Antonito Radu and his son Emil are current members, and Zweis and Theodosius have been too, until recently Zweis had an argument with Valerio. The founder of the Club indeed suspects the Radu to be not only engaged in criminal activities, but also bent on rebellion against the Ducal authority. Still, he has to suffer them because they are too powerful and rich to be excluded. In public Antonito and Emil are friendly and gracious with Valerio, but secretly they are considering to let Zweis kill him should he start to meddle into the activities of the Veiled Society.
Several gnomes of the Goldsmiths’ Guild frequent the Club and are members, and the gnomes of Highforge have often provided useful information to Valerio, who has a high opinion of them.
Elves and Hin are often present in the Club, as Valerio has friends among them, mostly from the Callarii clan and the Shires.
Occasionally, Flameflicker’s agents visit the Club if the Thieves Guild is interested in some heist outside the city. Valerio so far has never discovered their activities.
Other prominent inhabitants of Specularum5 who can be encountered in the Club, as members or visitors, are Brother Nicklaus Chebyshov, Ergal, Thorur Thoricwarf Silverbeard, Protagoras Longinus, Cee Salt, Devon Hyraksos, Cesare “Dagger” Lorenson, Aloysius Vandevic and Barris Strolojca. Other Guildmasters and nobles could also be present on the occasion of formal dinners or afternoon meetings, which the Club organizes from time to time, usually with a particular theme, such as “The Unknown lands of Northern Karameikos” or “The Mysterious Shadowdeep” or something like that. More than an opportunity to actually discuss the proposed theme, such occasions may be excuses for informal meetings of important people, or gatherings of sponsors and adventurers interested in a common goal.
Caption: The Library of the Club
The information available in the Club includes descriptions of the wilderlands of Karameikos and the Known World (as detailed in this author’s series of articles “The UnKnown World Trail Map”, which ran in Threshold Magazine issues #13, 14, 15, 16, 18 and 19. Some books and maps also contain rare informations about Davania, Western Brun and Skothar (see Threshold Magazine issues #5, 17, 18 and 20). Beside that, the DM could decide Associates of the Club can find any information normally available only through sages at a much higher price.
[Image: Book describing a monster]
Caption: Book describing a monster
The secret activity of the Club
In addition to exploring the unknown territories of Karameikos and beyond, a few years ago the Club began a systematic study of the possible threats existing in the city of Specularum and under it. Valerio has chosen not to share the discovered information with the authorities because he fears that some member of the government could use it improperly. If he discovers an imminent threat, he sends a group of adventurers to deal with it and informs the authorities only if they fail and the threat proves to be more serious than expected.
Through a good friend of Ylari origin, Aamir Ibn Saleem, leader of a group of explorers known as “The Delvers”6, Valerio has discovered that the underground below Specularum is inhabited by dangerous denizens: wererats, hivebroods, strange ruins infested by undeads, cultists of entropic Immortals, and agents of the Iron Ring. Valerio is also now well aware that under the city there is a complex underground territory of caves, ruins and dungeons which goes down to the Shadowdeep, the mysterious lands away from the sun inhabited by all sorts of strange creatures (see also Threshold Magazine issue #14).
On at least two occasions, Valerio has directed adventurers against vampires that were hiding in the city for nefarious purposes. One was killed by the group, while the other escaped. Valerio suspects vampires may have a hideout somewhere below the city, and is searching for it. He has been informed by his friend Aamir about the difference between vampires and nosferatu, but he is still pondering about it. Aamir thinks two different groups of intelligent undead are secretly active in Specularum. One would be mainly composed of nosferatu followers of Nyx, the other of vampire followers of Thanatos, mirroring an ancient war among the two groups which goes back to the ancient times of Taymora. Aamir believes it could be advisable to seek the alliance of the first group against the second one, but Valerio is not convinced, as he is scared of all undead. Given Valerio’s prejudices, the vampiric followers of Thanatos are planning to give him clues about the hideout of the nosferatu, to push him against them.
Valerio also knows there are werecreatures hiding in the city, but has mixed feelings about them. While his lupin friend Gaus advises him to seek and attack them, another friend, a cleric of Zirchev named Alexei, maintains many werecreatures are not evil. Valerio would like to sponsor adventuring groups to discover more about the matter.
Beside the above possible adventures ideas, Valerio and his Club could easily be used by the DM as a starting point for almost any canon Mystaran adventure. The Club is also the most likely location where to find information about strange and almost legendary places, such as the Hollow World7 and Myoshima.
[Image: Portal of the Club]
Doria Danovaro Palace in Genova, Italy, 2009 by Postcrosser via Wikimedia commons
[Image: Portrait of Valerio]
Valerio Belli portrait by Parmigianino (1503–1540), Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands, via Wikimedia commons
Kitchen with tiled stove, from: Kuchenmaistrey, first published in 1485 by Peter Wagner. Illustration from the edition of Johannes Fischauer, Augsburg Germany 1505, via Wikimedia commons
Library of Klosters St. Florian, Austria. Fotograf: Stephan Brunker, 13.08.2003, via Wikimedia commons
[Image: Book describing a monster]
Codex Gigas, National Library of Sweden in Stockholm, via Wikimedia commons
1The amount should be specific to each DM’s campaign, but roughly it should correspond to five days of lodgings in a good Inn.
2This is the dwarf who is found dead in the Temple of Halav in the adventure "Hail the Heroes". If he disappears during such a mission, Valerio could be an alternative start of the adventure instead of the a bit unbelievable “map found in the river” of the original module.
3Claransa could be a member of the Club and friend of Valerio from before she went to Norwold (as she appears in the module CM1: “Test of the Warlords”) and to the Hollow World (as detailed in the Poor Wizard’s Almanac I).
6See my article “The Darkness beneath” on page 174 of Threshold Magazine issue #3.
7After “Claransa’s Travels” are published as per Poor Wizard’s Almanac I, the Hollow World will certainly become a favorite topic at the Club and it could be the place where the later Karameikan expedition to the Hollow World is planned.