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Putting my money where my mouth is - I sat down and re-read the module in depth. Here are my notes (it was a good read, too!):
Notes from Module X8 (Drums on Fire Mountain)by Geoff Gander
- Teki-Nuri-Ria is volcanic, with two dormant volcanoes (Ni-malowa and Ki-ata). Complexes were excavated underneath both in ages past by the Ancestors (the vanished race that I named the M’kar). The fact that the complexes are both largely intact, yet are obviously centuries old, would indicate that the volcanoes haven’t erupted in a very long time.
- One kara-kara village is mentioned; although there is an abandoned one that the PCs can visit. Given the number of kara-kara living there (about 180 or so), there may be another village (180 seems to be a bit much for one village on a tiny island, but that’s just me).
- The waters around Teki-Nuri-Ria are explicitly stated to be stormy, and the kal-murus are indigenous to them.
- There are two swampy regions. The southern one was once a bay, but had silted over some time ago, and is now a foot-deep brackish swamp, filled with mangroves.
- The northern swampy region has a wooden walkway and platform extending into it. The walkway is weathered, but the module doesn’t say who built it, or why. Although the kara-kara are primitive, they may have been able to build it (since they do build houses). The M’kar could easily have built it, but it is unlikely that such a structure would have survived centuries of exposure.
- The kara-kara are distantly related to orcs. Their language can be understood by those who speak orcish.
- They ride giant horned chameleons.
- They possess a written language, but are very primitive (they will not be able to rebuild the rope bridge in the module if the PCs cut it). They cannot forge metal, and gold and silver are worthless to them (no value as tools).
- Kara-kara are highly superstitious: They fear the dark, and believe that shadows roam at night, but that low fences or enclosures made from bones will keep them away. It also says that they “will not go above ground at night”, which implies that they either flee to the caves at night, or their houses have cellars or burrows where they hide.
- The kara-kara believe that the M’kar are their ancestors.
- Kara-kara will not enter the tomb of a manwu-papa (witch doctor) unless accompanied by one.
- At least one manwu-papa was cremated, which indicates that they both bury and burn their dead. Perhaps cremation is a special honour?
- Pigs are sacred, as manifestations of Tapu. Jawbones from pigs adorn at least one manwu-papa tomb. The module also says that every island inhabited by kara-kara will have wild pigs on it. Personally I would modify this and have each tribe have a special totem or animal spirit guardian; otherwise the tribes all look the same.
- They have an annual four-day ceremony, where they gather in the volcano and drum all day.
- The module mentions that other islands are inhabited by kara-kara, and that inter-tribal warfare occurs.
- Although the kara-kara are more of a threat under KalnaKaa's guidance, the Thyatians have known about them for some time (they were previously considered a nuisance, which indicates that the kara-kara have a history of attacking Thyatian shipping in the region).
- Rollo Bargmann: A Thyatian (Hattian) merchant of good repute. He is well known in Thyatian society, as the module states his house is “well known” in Thyatis city.
- Malmir: A veteran elvish sea captain who works for Rollo. He likely gets along very well with his master, as the module states that Rollo will believe any information related by the PCs that Malmir has personally vetted.
- KalnaKaa: The devil-swine sorcerer who masquerades as Tapu, the kara-kara pig god. The module states that he was driven from his home after contracting lycanthropy (he was attacked by a test subject), and has sworn revenge against his former countrymen by using the kal-muru and kara-kara to attack shipping.
- ISSUE: The module implies that KalnaKaa is Thyatian (as he is attacking Thyatian shipping in the region – Minrothad would have a presence too, but is not explicitly mentioned), but the name obviously doesn’t fit, especially given that his daughter, Maerie, has a more conventional name. I recommend that KalnaKaa be a pseudonym – perhaps it is a kara-kara title that he has appropriated for himself, possibly meaning “he who is an incarnation of a god”, or something like that.
- The module says they were destroyed by their excesses and attacks from the kara-kara.
- They “took to living underground”, which indicates that they lived aboveground at first. The most logical reason for the retreat into the complex was the arrival of the kara-kara.
- They were quite tall – passageways are 15’ high, and many rooms have 20’ ceilings. I would probably have them be around 10’ tall.
- Some of their spirits live on as shadows.
- They were proficient in magic (two attested enchantments that the PCs must get around were created by 14th and 20th level mages).
- Magic was commonplace in their society – some examples: 1. Passwall spells to control access to parts of the island, which could be controlled by wearing coloured cloaks. KalnaKaa has the only known master cloak, but several lesser cloaks are intact, and numerous shredded ones can be found in lairs. This suggests that the cloak was a common item. 2. The use of living statues, illusions, flashing lights, and other diversions. 3. The thrones of illusion (used by KalnaKaa) and of scrying – obviously these were for monitoring the frontiers of the complex to keep out intruders. Given that the kara-kara destroyed the M’kar, these were probably later creations, as the M’kar would never have needed to build them if they were the only inhabitants. 4. The sentries in the Passage of the Dead (a lightning bolt trap to kill intruders).
- They were very artistic/visually oriented (cf. the illusions and light tricks above) – there are a couple of examples of ornate pillars, a glass floor supported by columns made to look like seaweed, patterns of beads on strings decorating the ceiling, colourful mosaics made with precious stones, etc.
- They became decadent towards the end, and this is reflected in their art – a painting with disturbing images and colours.
- No M'kar remains are to be found anywhere.
- There is a room full of bones in the complex under Ki-ata, which turns into skeletons and a bone golem. Yet, the drawing in the module depicts human skeletons (not M’kar), and the text doesn’t state that the bones are strange-looking. So, if the bones are not M’kar, whose are they?
- There is a purple worm under Ki-ata. Are we to assume that purple worms can burrow under the seafloor, hundreds of feet below sea level, for hundreds of miles? Not saying they can’t, but given the location of Teki-Nuri-Ria, it can’t be on the continental shelf.