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A campaign plot for south-western Karameikos

by Giampaolo Agosta

I'm currently running a campaign set in south-western Karameikos (see my Cry Wolf! adventure and mini-gazetteer of the area for some details). The campaign started with the Eye of Traldar adventure, where the PCs failed to recover the Fire Opal Eye, but found an important hint to the location of another relic, the Black Opal Eye (later recovered among the treasures of an infamous Hin pirate of the past, Thob Shanwood).
Now, the PCs have been involved in some detective work in Vandevicsny. We've played Cry Wolf! (BTW, this means the adventure is finally playtested -- it worked very well) and a straightforward whodunit within Vandevicsny Manor, featuring a murderous Redcap from an earlier adventure. The next adventure will be an adaptation of The Lost Seneschal, from PC4, closing a crescendo of involvement with the affairs of the Wee Folk.

Then, the PCs will likely move to Specularum.

Now, I've got the following plot items on the ground:

Now, I need to weave everything together to allow the PCs to pass through some adventures (with a longish stay in Specularum to play at least part of Ville's Specularum Series and my own St. Kruskiev's Gold and/or the redrafted Davinos' Complaint), and then progress towards the goal of freeing southern Radlebb from the Beast.
Up to now, I've collected the following ideas: * Lord Gustav wants the PCs to investigate into the nature of the Black Opal Eye. He sends them to ask Teldon's help. The Elf leaders of the Callarii clan want to see the Fire Opal Eye restored to the Seer, as they've received word of the theft from the Vyalia (I have two Callarii Elf PCs). * The Patriarch of Ourosco is furious at having failed to notice a servant of Orcus disguised as a Traladaran priest for the last 30 years or so, right under his nose. He wants the Cult of the Dark Triad uprooted once and for all, before the Thyatians of the Church of Karameikos can interfere. He's going to ask the PCs (especially the Strolojca noble) for help. * Bargle has the Fire Opal Eye, and is trying to unlock its secrets. * The Wee Folk might have some connection with the Fire Opal Eye and the Seer of the Lake of Lost Dreams. What are the Three Sidhe Priestesses of Halav? Are they really Sidhe? Are they true Clerics? Is there any connection with the tribe of Pixies encountered in B10.

All in all, I think I'll follow a path leading to a variant of Steven Wilson's Red Hand of Doom adaptation.

As mentioned above, the PCs are now travelling to Specularum, where they will have to solve a few problems for the various factions they need (the Church of Traladara and the Mages' Guild). St. Kruskiev's Gold will fit here.

Since one of the PCs is a Ierendian aristocrat, the party is perfectly suited to deal with Tegell in the "Painted Bay" adventure. The "War Conceived" is another adventure that will come handy -- the cult of Ruul the Rapist will be the Specularum sect of the Dark Triad (Ruul may still be around as a fake identity of Orcus or Leptar). The final plot element dealing with Ierendi might be "Sins of Valdo Tisza" (assuming the Mystara-savvy player hasn't played it already).
Taken together, this string of adventures may allow the Ierendian PC to maneveur himself in a key position to control trade between Karameikos and Ierendi -- and thus to improve his own standing in his homeland.

At some point (after St. Kruskiev's Gold and Painted Bay, but before the other Specularum adventures, most likely), the PCs will go back to Vandevic, where they will find a new hint to Orcus cults from a friend of them (the alchemist from Eye of Traldar, who will reappear in my River of Blood adventure). There, I'll plant the seeds for Hail the Heroes, which will improve the PCs' standing with the Church of Traladara, and also introduce Klas Jorga, the mad cultist of Halav.
At this point, the PCs will be certainly proposed for a Court Lord title.

This NPC will be the initiator of the Red Hand-variant (I'll call it "Dymrak Dread", since I'll be using that horde instead of the Hand). Jorga, after failing to recover the Shield of Halav, will steal Orcus' false ritual book from the Monastery of St. Kruskiev. The Kruskievite monks will obviously turn to the PCs to recover the book. This will lead to the first part of the "Dymrak Dread", culminating in the fake evocation -- which will just summon a lesser demon (a Death Fiend, most likely). The PCs will discover the invasion, and (hopefully) connect the Dymrak Dread symbols to those of the Orcus-worshippers in River of Blood.

At the same time, the Eyes of Traldar will make their reappearance on the scene -- the Black Opal Eye will be stolen by Orcus cultists. The PCs will have to rush back to Vandevic, face the Beast of Radlebb Wood, only to discover that both Eyes of Traldar have been brought to Koriszegy Keep to allow Count Koriszegy to (temporarily) escape the curse imposed on him by Thanatos and join the war with an army of summoned undead. The PCs may have to join forces with the Iron Ring's lesser master, Sverdlov, who has been sent by Bargle to recover the Eyes, or fight him.

Hopefully armed with the Eyes, the PCs will now join the battle against the Dymrak Dread, near Kelvin. The outcome of the battle may drastically change Karameikos, as Stefan and Desmond Kelvin will personally take the field to oppose Kosivikh (the Dymrak Dread leader) and some of his more dangerous allies (green dragons sent by Argos), while the PCs rush to stop a goblin War Machine.
Depending on the outcome of the battle, the PCs may be sent to finish off the Dymrak Dread, or be sent behind enemy lines as a last hope to stop the goblinoid threat.

At this point, the PCs will be famous enough, and have rendered enough service to the crown, to warrant a Landed Lordship (I'll have to waive the 9th level requirement, as the players will probably be around 6th-7th level), at least to one of them. Further adventures may revolve around the establishment and management of the fief.

Today we played the Painted Bay adventure by Ville (redrafted version). The PCs were looking for leads into the cults of Orcus, and Tegell slipped a false lead hinting that Julian Davidov was involved. Other trails led to Dmitrov (for the Might of Rock and the Heavens) and the ruined Church of St. Rybich (another red herring, though the PCs followed it up to the sewers).

The PC noticed the independent thieves and captured one of them, killing the other. They interefered in the standoff between the guards and the Veiled Society, with Porius trying to solve it without fighting, and the Strolojca PC pushing him to action. In the end, the Veiled Society thugs took advantage of Porius indecisiveness to flee. The elf PC shot one of them (from a hidden position -- only the Strolojca PC had come out). Then, in a very foolish move, he shot Porius and the guards. After killing 4 guards, one Veiled Society thug, and setting fire to the Davidov house (thus accomplishing Tegell's plan to the utmost), he was captured by Porius and the remaining 4 guards.
The other PCs, using information from the surviving thief and Porius, easily tracked Tegell down to the Foreign Quarter, where the Ierendian PC used his (dubious) charms on Zila (low charisma, but consistently low rolls as well, and Zila was rather high after dumping the dyes into the Bay). He discovered Tegell's connection with Zila, and hinted to her that the guard was on Tegell for the Davidov matter, convincing her to cut her ties to him. In the end, Zila and her goons murdered Tegell to cover their involvement, but the Ierendian PC got to some documents by Tegell, proving Zila's involvement and giving some sense of the whole plot. The PCs made a copy of the documents, then the Ierendian PC went to Zila and destroyed them to prove his worth to her.

The elf PC was sentenced to 75 years of prison and a 140,000 royals fine, as he managed to persuade the court that he had been affected by shock from a previous encounter with the undead in St. Rybich when he murdered the guards. Later the noble PCs pulled some political levers to have the Duke commute the prison sentence into a service (bringing back the head of the Beast of Radlebb...). The elf PC was both Quested to kill the Beast and bring back proof and Geased to forbid him to harm any guard or soldier of the Duke.

We've started "Omens and Portents". This adventure fits nicely into my campaign scheme, with its focus on the Dark Triad. I'm using the option of having the Doppleganger be an actual Orcus cultist, in league with a cell of the Dark Triad led by Demetitus Lastarthus (see the Karameikan noble families thread)

The PCs understood the nature of the "disease" quite soon, though at first they thought of food or water poisoning by the cultists of Orcus.
They spoke with "Karol", but they don't have any suspicion about his role, having fallen fully for the "Al-Azrad" ruse.

They've been using their contacts with the Breakwater gang and the Church of Traladara to a great extent. In parallel with the main plot, I'm also keeping the "Ruined Church" thread active, providing more insight into the activities of the wererats of Specularum (which will be useful when the wererat PC's player is back next month).

Phew! We had an interesting session yesterday.

Due to missing players, only the two Elves and the Traladaran Fighter took part in the last session of Omens and Portents. The Ierendian Thief was assumed to be off visiting Zila, and the Magic-User was recovering from some "experimentation" he did with various drugs in the previous session (the PCs bought everything the pushers had to sell to find out which drug was causing the "disease").

Now, the PCs had identified (incorrectly) Al Azrad as the distributor of atabe. One of the Elf PCs, Kernel, went to Al Azrad, introducing himself as an Elf "entrepreneur" willing to sell drugs in the Elven neighbourhood near/in the Duke's Park. He offered to buy a (somewhat overpriced) sample, which Al Azrad agreed to sell. However, Al Azrad only sells hashish, and Kernel never mentioned which drug he wanted. After discovering he had not bought atabe, he went back to Al Azrad, who obviously claimed to be unable to provide atabe. In return for a large purchase of hashish, Kernel obtained from Al Azrad some information about drug traffic in the city, including Stavros' name.

The next day, the other PCs almost got involved in the riot at the statue of Bogdan Ivanovich. The Traladaran fighter, Spassoje, warned the guards at the gates of the Church District, leading to Sir Lucius' intervention with a heavily armed detachment of Order of the Griffon mounted fighters.

Kernel then went to the Borsch restaurant, with Oberon (the other Elf PC) as an invisible bodyguard. He tried to pass himself once more for an Elven pusher. However, he was nosy (asked about the side effects of atabe and the black goo disease) and not very convincing (Stavros didn't need another pusher, especially one who wanted to be independent from the Veiled Society), so Stavros had his thugs capture Kernel and take him into the restaurant cellar, where two Veiled Society thugs "softened him up". Kernel refused to tell Stavros the truth, so the gangster told his goons to drop him into the Bay. As the goons stunned Kernel (reducing him to 0 hp), Oberon (who had slipped into the cellar as well) threatened Stavros with a knife at the throat. Stavros did not back down, and Oberon killed him, turning up visible once more.

From that point on, the session was mostly action, with Spassoje coming to the rescue (more or less) by setting fire to the Borsch, Oberon slipping around six Veiled Society thugs and locking them into the cellar with an unconscious Kernel, only to find the restaurant on fire. The Veiled Society thugs bursted out of the restaurant a couple rounds later, and tried to subdue the PCs -- who were quite lucky with their Wrestling rolls, and managed to kill them all.
They then plunged into the collapsing restaurant to save Kernel, which they did while dodging falling logs and avoiding suffocation.

In the end, they didn't discover the doppleganger, who poisoned a city well in the Bricktop district, but stopped the distribution of atabe.

Next time, we'll leave Specularum for the River of Blood adventure -- as the events of the Might of Rock and the Heavens have already happened (Omens and Portents took more than a week of game time, and the first hints of MoR&tH had arrived in Specularum during Painted Bay).

Well, we didn't leave Specularum after all. I had one missing player, plus next week we have two more players, so I didn't want to start a longer adventure (River of Blood will take at least two sessions, IMO, likely three).

So, I used the plot of another Italian mystery novel (same author and timeframe as the one used in "Cry Wolf!", BTW), where a man is shot during a riot. The rebels ('70ies students in the original, Traladarans disgruntled for the apparent lack of support from the Magicians' Guild here) say it was the authorities, while the authorities blame the rebels. However, the man killed was a second tier politician (in the adventure, a Consul of the Apothecaries' Guild in charge of collaborating with the Magicians' in defeating the "atabe plague"), so an investigation is needed.

As the characters investigate, they discover that both the deceased (a member of the Torenescu) and the Guildmaster (a Radu supporter) have lots of shady dealings to hide -- the Consul was diverting funds to an unknown "V.", while the Guildmaster is involved in drug traffic -- forged records of sale of restricted substances used to hide the sale of drugs to the Veiled Society (in the original, both the victim and another politician are involved in illegal financing of their parties). Moreover, the Consul was going to run for the Guildmaster position, and was the most prominent opposition to the Guildmaster. To further complicate things, the victim had a complex family story.

However, in the end none of these issues have anything to do with the murder -- the victim had contracted a fatal disease (here, lycanthropy), and had asked his cousin to kill him (here, with a silver crossbow bolt).

The adventure played well, because the PCs, while they immediately thought of lycanthropy when they saw the silver bolt, were unable to confirm that the victim was a lycanthrope -- being in the early stages, he hadn't had any visible symptoms. Then, the thick plot of political intrigue kept the players guessing for the whole evening, as the Torenescu tried to frame the Guildmaster by planting false clues. In the end, I had to point out a number of unexplored issues, including the unusual visit of the Consul's cousin from the countryside, and the fact that the bolt had been shot with great accuracy, and had been fashioned by hand. They payed a visit to the cousin, unsuccessfully tried a Charm spell, and then managed to extract a confession from the man.

I'll probably post a more formal writeup of the adventure during the winter holidays.

We finally managed to play through the last level of River of Blood friday night (the last two sessions were played with a reduced party, in parallel with our other campaigns). In this last session, Spassoje (Traladaran noble fighter), John (Ierendi noble thief) and Ilya (Traladaran wererat cleric of Mrikitat), went down into the last level while the other PCs (those of missing players) secured the area above from any returning Orc -- the full party (including the two elves and the magic-user from the previous adventures, as well as Camilla, a Thyatian cleric of the CoK sent by Jowett to root out cultists in the area) had forced Okhlag Threefingers, the Orc chief, to flee by jumping into the underground river (he survived, surprisingly, and might come back later).

The PCs slew Fjalarr, the moulder darf cleric of Thanatos, and stole the Herblastr Horn and Kurful Hjarta, two of the custom magic items, but did not find the third (the Rune-Ring of Loki). They also recovered the various books, so they got the whole story as told by Fjalarr in his journal.

The PCs were, once more, not too stealthy, and had to retreat once, so Fjalarr and the evil spirit ambushed them. Moreover, even after they saw the darkness sphere, they didn't memorize a light spell, so the evil spirit used a Darkness spell to effectively blind them.
The fight was resolved by the thief, who got a lucky two-blade backstab hit on Fjalarr while the dwarf was in melee with the party's fighter.
Fjalarr managed, however, to use the Horn -- he was still in the darkness bubble and the PCs needed more time to finish off the Evil Spirit, so his employer will come back to restore him to life later.
Both Fjalarr and Okhlag will return in later adventures (after the "Dymrak Dread" arc).

Overall, the campaign has now completed three campaign arcs, plus the River of Blood adventure (which might have a small appendix next friday, if the PCs decide to investigate further and find the Hidden Market and the temple of the Dark Triad):

The Treasure of Thob Shanwood (level 1-2)
This was the first campaign arc, starting with the escape from Fort Doom after a failed Eye of Traldar adventure, and leading the PCs to Sind and back following the treasure map of a Hin pirate, with the following adventures:
The Great Escape (+Eye of Traldar)
Five Deep Shadows (i.e., Veiled Society reflavored for Shireton)
Night Terrors
Nine Flawed Sapphires + Invitation to a funeral (from Al Qadim's A Dozen and One Adventures)
The Tomb of Thob Shanwood
The key result of this arc was the loss of the Fire Opal Eye and the discovery of the Black Opal Eye.

Secrets of Radlebb Wood (level 2-3)
This was a shorter arc. The binding elements were a strong presence of the Wee Folk, and the setting in the Vandevicsny-Ourosco area:
Cry Wolf!
Fairy Murders (see the first post in this thread)
The Lost Seneschal (from Tall Tales of the Wee Folk)
The key result of this arc was the introduction of the Sidhe Prince, Cuhmall, as a contact. He will be an important source of information (if the PCs think of asking him) about the Eyes of Traldar and the Seer in the Dymrak Dread ark.

Blues of Mirror Bay City (levels 3-4)
This arc had a clearly hard-boiled detective story bent, with PCs busy catching criminals of various types in a urban setting. Several Specularum gangs (Veiled Society, Ville Lahde's gangs from the Specularum Series, and the wererats) were introduced:
St. Kruskiev's Gold
Coloured was the Bay, Bloody were the Streets (Specularum series)
Omens and Portents (Specularum series)
Guild Wars
This arc set up a link between the PCs and the monks at St. Kruskiev's monastery, which will be used as a hook for Hail the Heroes. Moreover, it gave the Ierendian thief PC a better feel of his people, and locked Oberon (one of the Elf PCs) into a Quest to slay the Beast of Radlebb Wood.

River of Blood (level 4)
River of Blood took the PCs into some more traditional dungeon crawl, coupled with a dose of investigation. It introduced several recurring enemies (who will be back in On the Road to Ylaruam), and gave the players a taste of Known World's Northern Reaches. Finally, it helped them get some resources (books, powerful magical items, information) that might be very useful in the future.

Next, the PCs will have to choose whether they want to head back to Gorica to find the Dark Triad cultists, or stay in Specularum (they had to go back to find someone to translate Fjalarr's journal) and solve the Stuffed Heads and Lethal Wedding adventure from the Specularum series. The two will be likely alternatives -- by the time the PCs have completed one, the events of Hail the Heroes will be in motion, and the PCs will need to follow them into the next campaign arc, The Dymrak Dread (levels 4-5). The Dymrak Dread marks the passage to the Expert levels, where the PCs will interact with powerful Karameikans (though not yet on equal basis) and contend with nation-wide events. One of the human nobles might end up receiving a small fief as a landed lord at the end of the arc, and certainly all the PCs will be court lords by the end.

Core PCs:
Oberon, 3rd level Elf: a Callarii Elf, the only character who has played through the whole campaign. He has been Quested to slay the Beast of Radlebb.
Ilya Petrescu, 4th level Cleric of Mrikitat/Scamp Greater Wererat: a renegade priest of the Church of Traladara, Ilya was infected with rat lycanthropy in the Five Shires. He's been around since the first adventure, but spent some time in Lord Vandevic's jail and missed the second and third arcs.
John Eddington, 5th level Thief: a roguish nobleman from Ierendi (his family has ancient Darokin roots), he is the current paramour of the leader of the Breakwater gang, Zila. Joined the party at the beginning of the second arc.
Spassoje Strolojca, 4th level Fighter: a Traladaran nobleman from the south-western coast, Spassoje aims at obtaining a fief. Even though he's supposed to be the party's frontline fighter, he's a cautious planner. Joined the party at the beginning of the second arc.
Kernel, 3rd level Elf: a relative of Oberon, he's another Callarii Elf (with a larcenous streak). He's also the spy of the party, thanks to a high Disguise skill. Kernel joined the party during the second arc.

Semi-active PCs:
Aulin Nimesulides, 3rd level Magic-User: a (silly named) Thyatian magic-user, from a family that provides accountants and seneschal to several nobles in the south-western coast (including Vandevic and Ourosco). He's a nephew of Lord Crispus Lucanus ("Sir Lucan" in the original The Lost Seneschal adventure) and one of Lord Vandevic's apprentices. He joined the party during the second arc.
Camilla Alexandra, 4th level Cleric: a dour Thyatian woman, Camilla is an inquisitor for the Church of Karameikos. She joined the party at the beginning of the River of Blood adventure.
Pafnutij Chebychev: 4th level Magic-User: a Traladaran magic user and would-be alchemist. One of the original character, he was present only during the first arc, and is currently reduced to NPC status.