A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

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agathokles
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A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Mon Nov 10, 2014 12:08 pm

Hi all,

I'm going back to my Karameikos campaign next week or so. In the previous campaign arcs, the player characters were primarily active in Karameikos, visiting most of it -- they've basically visited most of the main regions except the eastern coast and the Altan Tepes. While I do have another arc ready, which takes place in Karameikos (Lords of the Cruth Lowlands), that arc is strongly geared towards native PCs looking into establishing a dominion. Unfortunately, the player of the Traladaran noble Fighter PC moved abroad, so that character, who was likely to be the main driver for the arc, is now retired from active play. While there are other items of interest for the other player characters (the magical secrets of the Sons of Night and the magical polearm Comet's Edge), I'd like to offer a second option which might suit better the party (currently composed of a Ierendian noble Thief, two Callarii Elves, and a well-to-do Karameikan Magic User of Thyatian ethnicity).

Since one of the PCs is Ierendian, and we haven't explored much of his background (although it is the most detailed), I think a campaign in the Sea of Dread would be interesting. I'm planning to use the following material:
  • X1 The Isle of Dread
  • X7 War Rafts of Kron
  • The Freeport Trilogy
I might use X8 Drums on Fire Mountain, although I'm not certain about it, and I'm definitely using Lathan's Gold as a source.
I've read the two adaptations of The Savage Tide in Threshold Magazine, but I'm not convinced about the adventure path, mostly for two reasons: it covers a range of levels too wide (I'm planning to go from 5th to 8th level or so with this arc, and certainly not in the Companion/Master range that would be necessary to tackle the Pyts in BECMI, or even the AD&D Abyss); and Paizo's adventure paths seem a bit too railroady for my style (at least when playing D&D).

Anyway, my current plan is to involve the PCs through one of the hooks of Lathan's Gold -- the dwarf's quest. In this case, the dwarf patron will be Thorur Silverbeard the Younger, the Guildmaster of the Goldsmiths' Guild ("Arte degli Orafi") in Specularum. The premise is that Thorur acquired the journal of Rory Barbarosa (from X1), which talks of gold artifacts inherited by the villagers of Tanaroa from their ancestors. However, there is one missing page in the journal -- the page where Rory sketched a map of the Isle of Dread and provided directions to it. Now, Thorur's agents have located the map in Ierendi (either in the castle library or in the People's Temple vaults). Thorur contacts the PCs (in particular the Ierendian thief) and offers them to share the profits of an expedition to the Isle of Dread: the Goldsmiths will get exclusive rights to any gold mine (or other mine of precious minerals), while the PCs can keep all the manufactured items (coins, jewelry, weapons, etc.) they find in the process.

My current idea is to use Death in Freeport as the initial adventure in this arc -- it is a short adventure, but a good one for setting the tone to a "D&D meets pulp Cthulhu" genre. At the end of Death in Freeport, the PCs will have (a) the map to the Isle of Dread and its treasures and (b) an idea that not all is well in the state of Ierendi.
From there, things may progress into X1 and/or the rest of the Freeport Trilogy (adapted to higher levels and BECMI, but that's not much of a problem) and finally to War Rafts of Kron.

Now, I need to combine the tree adventures, and adapt the Freeport Trilogy to Mystara, so the rest of this post is mainly for brainstorming.
The main enemies of the three adventures are:
  • X1 The Isle of Dread: the Kopru, dreaming the restoration of their lost Empire
  • X7 War Rafts of Kron: Hadric of Colhador, an aquatic vampire (velya) of Taymora origins and Morak, the High Sorcerer of Kron
  • The Freeport Trilogy: The Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign and the Serpent People
I'm tempted to make Lucius, the NPC from Death in Freeport, a victim of the Kopru domination power. His possession (implicitly by a member of the Great Race of Yith in the original) is otherwise unexplained in the original module. This will help connect the Freeport Trilogy with X1, and open opportunities of further adventures in Undersea.

For the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign, they could be a cult of Demogorgon or an Outer Beings cult. Demogorgon has some advantages in that it would help in linking with previous events (the PCs are established enemies of the Dark Triad in Karameikos) and possibly future ones (if Demogorgon is, e.g., a patron of the evil Kopru and/or the patron of Sasskas, the devilfish Immortal).

For the Serpent People, I could either keep the reptilian theme, and replace them with Troglodytes or Lizardmen, or keep the shapechanger theme, and replace them with more typical Mystaran shapechangers, such as the Dopplegangers or Baldandars. The former might provide a link to the Carnifex, more appropriate if the Brotherhood worships one of the Outer Beings, the latter would provide a link to the Chambahara of Sind (and therefore to the history of the Sea of Dread -- see the Night of Long Knives).

For the followers of Yig, who also appear in the Freeport material, I'm considering Kopru followers of Slizzark or undead lizardmen priests of Ka, although a surviving Carnifex could also be appropriate, especially if the Outer Beings are involved.

Well, for now that's all I have. I'd appreciate any idea or comment.

GP
Last edited by agathokles on Sat Nov 15, 2014 9:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

agathokles
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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Tue Nov 11, 2014 6:05 pm

More thoughts on the matter.

I'm currently considering splitting the Serpent People from Death in Freeport in three groups:
  • The advanced Serpent People aligned with the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign will be a group of Shapechangers, likely Dopplegangers, Bhut and Weresharks led by a Baldandar mage (Morak, the High Sorcerer of Kron). These will be part of a Sindhi cult of Demogorgon (Dhamurgani), Loki and Hel. I'll look into integrating also Sasskas in the Ierendi/Undersea version of the cult.
  • The degenerate Serpent People will be Troglodytes (although occasionally I could use Lizardmen instead).
  • The advanced Serpent People followers of Yig will be recast as Kopru followers of Slizzark the Lurker. These guys, while not bent on world-destructing quests, will have their own agenda to restore the Kopru Empire. They might help the PCs, but are more likely to exploit their actions.
With this setup, Morak becomes the kingpin of the conspiracy -- he's manipulating the events in Ierendi (Freeport Trilogy through a Chancellor of the Tribunal who is secretly a member of the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign and possibly a lycanthrope as well) to weaken that nation and spread wereshark lycanthropy there, while at the same time having struck an alliance with Hadric of Colhador and gained control of Kron to use these resources to pit Undersea, Minrothad and Thyatis against each other.

Possible outcomes:
  • Morak and the Brotherhood succeed fully: Ierendi's government will fall entirely in the hands of the Brotherhood as the Lighthouse in the Freeport Trilogy is completed (this will have the effect of decreasing the Saving Throws of non-shapechangers; it might also have the effect of increasing the virulence of the lycanthropic wereshark strain, although that effect might be achieved through different magical means, as in the Savage Tide). Minrothad shipments will be harassed by Undersea and Kron, until the Guilds call in Thyatian help to wage war on Undersea. While Thyatis and Minrothad cannot hold Undersea, a weakened Undersea would easily fall into the hands of Hadric and/or the Devilfishes, and Minrothad will not be able to lead another anti-lycanthrope crusade in the Sea of Dread, leaving Ierendi in the hands of the shapechangers.
  • Morak fails, the Brotherhood's plot in Ierendi is averted, and the Tribunal is back into the non-shapechanger's hands. In this case, Kron is destroyed or becomes less of a pirate state, Undersea-Minrothad war does not take place.
  • Morak fails, but the Brotherhood's plot in Ierendi succeeds. In this case, the Undersea-Minrothad war is averted. A new Silver Purge takes place in the form of a Ierendi-Minrothad war.
  • Morak succeeds, but the Brotherhood's plot in Ierendi is averted. In this case, the Minrothad and Undersea are at war. Ierendi remains out of the hostilities, but provides reinforcements to the Merrow if Hadric or the Devilfishes take over Undersea.
In any case, by the end of the whole arc, the Kopru have established a foothold in Ierendi. If the Kopru control all the PCs on the Isle of Dread, they send them back to further advance their agenda -- although the PCs will discover their actions only after they shake off the domination, leading to an interesting collective "The Shadow Out of Time"-style followup.

GP

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by NPCDave » Wed Nov 12, 2014 5:31 am

Only one suggestion I can think of so far.

Dungeon Magazine #98 has an adventure called Flood Season, which was actually part of the Shackled City adventure path. The adventure is about retrieving some control water wands but it is the encounter locations which might be of interest to you. I adapted it to run with a totally different plot.

One location is a full map of a large inn/resort which is currently overrun by a murderous cult. It works well as a remote Ierendi resort where the PCs have to either rescue people or just explore to see why contact was cut off.

The second major location is a series of underground caves that were formerly kopru caverns. There are no remnants of the kopru there now, and the lair is currently occupied by three branches of the same cult, a cult that actually features prominently in the following AP Age of Worms.

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Wed Nov 12, 2014 2:42 pm

That could make for an interesting diversion, indeed. Thanks for the suggestion!

GP

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Sat Nov 15, 2014 9:08 pm

One more idea popped up tonight: one of my Specularum NPCs, Annius Helianthus, has lost all memories of his last heist, and is detained in the Hightower. One possibility is that he was actually mind-controlled by a Kopru (note: I'm making the Kopru dominate power such that the victims do not remember what they did -- basically, their mind/soul is out somewhere, possibly in Limbo and the personality is entirely replaced by that of the dominating Kopru, who retains access to all memories, but may have difficulty replicating certain behavioural patterns, motions, etc), and this may become apparent once the PCs are able to recover the logs of Lucius (the main NPC in Death in Freeport) and/or from their own missing memories as a result of Kopru domination during/after X1.
In this case, the PCs might have an important clue to recover the stolen treasure, although they'll need to retrace the steps of Annius after many years.

GP

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Sat Nov 15, 2014 10:53 pm

Another idea, as the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign structure takes form.
In this version, the Brotherhood is modelled on the Bhut religion from Sind, carried to the Sea of Dread by exiled shapechangers (Chambahara) such as Morak.
There are three branches of the cult, which worship primarily Bhajyagwani (Loki), Dhamurgani (Demogorgon) or Kali (Hel). Morak, the Baron Rackham (who takes the place of Sea Lord Milton Drac from the Freeport Trilogy) and Hadric of Colhador are the leaders of the three branches -- Hadric is much older than the cult, as he was originally a Taymor prince who turned to Hel when Taymor sank under the waters, and was transformed into a Velya. As a follower of Hel, he was welcome in the Brotherhood, but both Hadric and Morak are more interested in increasing their own power than in advancing the Brotherhood's plans.

GP

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Sun Nov 23, 2014 6:25 pm

So, we've played the first session of this arc -- as expected the PCs jumped at the opportunity of finding a treasure island and signed a (magically binding) contract with Thorur Silverbeard's Guild of Goldsmiths to go to Ierendi and recover the missing pages of Rory Barbarosa's last journal. They travelled to Ierendi City only to find the assistant archivist and the document missing, and a very concerned Royal Archivist (Farrem from Ierendi GAZ) led them to Lucius' house, where they found the missing man's notes and journal.

GP

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Mon Dec 01, 2014 6:35 pm

Second session brought on a great classic: party divided, PC dead... The Magic User went alone, invisible, to Red Rory Hackskull's ship (the Hin pirate replaces Scarbelly) -- a small galley with a large complement of Hin and human pirates. He had to use a Potion of Gaseous Form to actually board the ship, which allowed him to inspect all of it. He found the logs as well as the treasure. However, instead of coming back during the night with the Thief, he chose to stay onboard and wait for the Gaseous Form to wear off -- only to find he couldn't leave. When Red Rory came back, the Magic User attacked him, drawing the attention of the rest of the crew -- leaving all in a standoff with the Magic User locked in Rory's room, blocked by a Web in which the pirate was stuck. Since the crew had a Magic User on board as well, the PC chose to use his Fireball spell -- killing a dozen crewmen and almost killing the pirate mage and Rory. However, Rory broke free of the web and made short work of the PC, in spite of taking a critical hit (the Magic User PC has some mastery with the Dagger, and rolled a 20 for double damage... for a total of 2 HP... not that it would have changed much, since the remaining crewmen would have killed him easily anyway).

Now the other PCs are looking for means to raise the Magic User from the dead...

GP

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by Hugin » Tue Dec 02, 2014 1:08 am

Sounds like a great session. I can imagine the player going through this process of realization that his character isn't going to make it. It's like slow death as you see it develop!

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Tue Dec 09, 2014 10:43 am

Indeed, the player sent his character into a (literal) dead end. The Ierendian Thief PC (John Eddington), who owns a custom-made magic item that allows him to shapechange (once per week) was able to recover the corpse of the Magic User (Plinius Iuvenes), and the characters pooled their resources (they had to sell a magic axe they had found in a previous adventure, though) to pay for a raise dead at the People's Temple.

Meanwhile, the Callarii Elf (Oberon) and an NPC ally (a northman warrior in service to Baron Eddington) continued the investigation, defeated the mercenaries that the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign had sent to silence them, tracked down the middleman and went to the abandoned building that housed the BYS. However, they spent their best spell (a Fireball) to destroy the building (empty, since most of the dealings went in the underground complex). They managed to reach the final sanctum (spending a Web spell to block the Troglodytes that infested the caves), but were defeated by the BYS priests. The Elf was dropped to 0 HP, and the northman was sent fleeing by a Cause Fear spell. He managed to return with help just in time to save the Elf, but the priests had taken the opportunity to flee (with the treasure). Luckily, the Fighter had taken with him the missing page of Rory Barbarosa's journal, so the PCs managed to complete their main goal -- also, Lucius was found afterwards by the Guard while recovering the Elf.

GP

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Wed Jan 07, 2015 5:56 pm

With Rory Barbarosa's map, the PCs were able to return to Specularum and organize an expedition to the Isle of Dread. Being a bit short on coin, they hired the "Cutpurse" and its less-than-reliable crew (from Lathan's Gold). They also hired three NPCs: a Ierendian magic user, naturalist and cartographer (Edwin Nawai), a Thyatian cleric of Vanya (Iulia Domitia), and a dwarf warrior (Dwalur Stonehand).
The PCs and their crew reached the Isle of Dread, heading for the village of Mora, where they moored the ship. Then, they moved to Tanaroa. They met the chiefs and elders of both villages, managed to set up reasonable relations with the natives (apart from some scheming warriors and Zombie Lords), and mounted their expedition to the inner part of the island.
In a week, they have reached the bridge to the plateau, and have met (peacefully) the Neanderthals, from whom they learned the location of a silver mine (the source of the Neanderthals' treasure). They have been hampered by encounters with several wild animals -- a woolly elephant forced them to a detour, while a frightened grangeri trampled to death the Ierendian NPC mage and almost killed the PC mage.
Now the party's food stores are dwindling, and they need to decide whether they want to press on or to go back to the mainland and return with more provisions.

GP

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by Justinov » Fri Jan 16, 2015 5:05 pm

agathokles wrote:Indeed, the player sent his character into a (literal) dead end. The Ierendian Thief PC (John Eddington), who owns a custom-made magic item that allows him to shapechange (once per week) was able to recover the corpse of the Magic User (Plinius Iuvenes), and the characters pooled their resources (they had to sell a magic axe they had found in a previous adventure, though) to pay for a raise dead at the People's Temple.
GP
I have in former times as GM also been quite friendly and liberal in the use of “Raise Dead“ on PC's to keep them in the game.
The more I think about the more I think that paying something in cash or valuables won't really cut.

You go to a religious order and you try to convince a Priest to pray to his God to save a particular friend. The priest & the religious order (and the God that grants the wish of the priests since priest magic should not be automatic as it comes from the God) would expect lifetime service to the god and religion from the character(s) asking this extreme favour.
It should be paired with some kind of curse (you might even sign a document in your own blood) if the character(s) runs from his/their promise and doesn't come when the religious order make summons .... ;)

So it's the player(s) praying for the life of his/their adventure companion that should make a pledge - as the character being dead has really no say in the matter.....
That means that the PC being revived has to be VERY grateful - if not then people might really think twice about raising him again!

Then it also makes for lots of good inter-character role playing and can be the hook for several adventures. “The order calls“....
Last edited by Justinov on Sat Jan 17, 2015 5:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,/But I have promises to keep,/And miles to go before I sleep,
[Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - By Robert Frost]

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.
[The Road Not Taken - By Robert Frost]

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Sat Jan 17, 2015 2:52 pm

IMC, it depends on the religion -- e.g., not all Immortals condone greed, but some encourage it. The People's Temple is a neutral philosophical cult, thus more interested in money and not dependent on gods. Even in the Gaz, church officials are corrupt, and routinely change even the founder Tomia's dogmas -- a testament to the practical nature of their philosophy.
In particular, in this specific campaign, the People's Temple is deeply infiltrated by external forces -- starting with the noble houses of Ierendi, and finishing with the Kopru and the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign. Which is why the PCs were able to have their comrade raised by them, and not by the priests of the Eternal Truth.

Also, in this case, the priest who raised the character was actually a Kopru mole (a priest of Slizzark the Lurker), and resurrecting the PC was a move against both the Honor Island mages (whom the dead PC had tried to steal a staff of power from) and the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign (whom the party was investigating). As a side, the Kopru aim at reestablishing contacts with their compatriots in the Isle of Dread, and having the PCs go on an expedition gives them an opportunity to dominate them and use them to further their aims -- the Kopru agent can only dominate one person at a time, but the Kopru on the Isle are more powerful, and might dominate an entire party.
All in all, the monetary cost was just the immediate problem for the party...

GP

P.S.: the PCs have explored circa one half of the Isle. After losing one of their hirelings, they've become much more protective of them -- they keep the cleric constantly in the rear lines, and have used time and magic to track two rocs that had abducted the dwarf hireling. Also, they've been jockeying the vanity of one of the village chiefs and the ambitions of the war chiefs to set up trades for food. All this work finally led to a concrete outcome, as the PCs located the treasure map in the rocs' nest, killed the dinosaurs near the banks of the northern lake, and dug the treasure out.

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by Justinov » Sat Jan 17, 2015 5:21 pm

agathokles wrote:IMC, it depends on the religion -- e.g., not all Immortals condone greed, but some encourage it. The People's Temple is a neutral philosophical cult, thus more interested in money and not dependent on gods. Even in the Gaz, church officials are corrupt, and routinely change even the founder Tomia's dogmas -- a testament to the practical nature of their philosophy.
In particular, in this specific campaign, the People's Temple is deeply infiltrated by external forces -- starting with the noble houses of Ierendi, and finishing with the Kopru and the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign. Which is why the PCs were able to have their comrade raised by them, and not by the priests of the Eternal Truth.

Also, in this case, the priest who raised the character was actually a Kopru mole (a priest of Slizzark the Lurker), and resurrecting the PC was a move against both the Honor Island mages (whom the dead PC had tried to steal a staff of power from) and the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign (whom the party was investigating). As a side, the Kopru aim at reestablishing contacts with their compatriots in the Isle of Dread, and having the PCs go on an expedition gives them an opportunity to dominate them and use them to further their aims -- the Kopru agent can only dominate one person at a time, but the Kopru on the Isle are more powerful, and might dominate an entire party.
All in all, the monetary cost was just the immediate problem for the party...

GP

P.S.: the PCs have explored circa one half of the Isle. After losing one of their hirelings, they've become much more protective of them -- they keep the cleric constantly in the rear lines, and have used time and magic to track two rocs that had abducted the dwarf hireling. Also, they've been jockeying the vanity of one of the village chiefs and the ambitions of the war chiefs to set up trades for food. All this work finally led to a concrete outcome, as the PCs located the treasure map in the rocs' nest, killed the dinosaurs near the banks of the northern lake, and dug the treasure out.
Then I totally get the long term benefits for the Kopru and why the priest (and the Immortal) accepted. Can't wait to hear how you hopefully can spin the PC further into the spider net of servility to Slizzark. ;)

Off course you can always have singular corrupt priests that will perform raise dead for money, but any Immortal that actually takes time to observe his followers would eventually figure it out and get the person in line. Your idea of a mole priest actually doing this to “destabilize“ is a great idea. I might use that in the future. :mrgreen:

If “raise dead“ becomes too common and expected, it will actually bring huge pressure on the priesthood from all society to heal left and right. If raise dead is just automatic and doesn't need the approval of the Immortal in each instance then this scenario would probably happen quite fast. Criminal groups and powerful aristocrats would kidnap priests to be a “raise dead slaves“ in some basement. They would also become “slaves“ to public opinion very quickly if one naive priests started doing it on a regular basis for humanitarian reasons. [as Brian gets flooded with unfortunates needing to be touched ad healed, when people hear he is the messiah ;) ]. If everyone knows that the priest asks the Immortal for a favour and the Immortal is watching, then it's pointless to try and force a priests to do it, as the Immortal would just withhold the effect.
It is in the interest for most religious orders and for local priests to keep it extremely rare and the person revived should be eternally grateful for this rare honour.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,/But I have promises to keep,/And miles to go before I sleep,
[Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - By Robert Frost]

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.
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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by robertneaves » Sat Jan 17, 2015 5:29 pm

Just get rid of raise dead spells altogether.

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by Justinov » Sat Jan 17, 2015 5:35 pm

robertneaves wrote:Just get rid of raise dead spells altogether.
Yeah that is certainly a possibility.
But I like the idea of players (almost) signing their souls up, as they are “lured“ by this possibility instead of just having characters staying dead :twisted:
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,/But I have promises to keep,/And miles to go before I sleep,
[Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - By Robert Frost]

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.
[The Road Not Taken - By Robert Frost]

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Sat Jan 17, 2015 7:44 pm

All are acceptable options, of course. Personally, I try to balance between verisimilitude and creating meaningful choices for the players. In this case, even just the monetary cost meant the PCs had less resources to use to mount their expedition to the Isle of Dread. If I had only given them the Eternal Truth option (we raise your dead if you all convert and serve Al Kalim), the choice would have been trivial -- the dead PC would stay dead. This way, the players had to think whether raising the PC was really worth their coin, and have been dealing with the consequences (lack of equipment and personnel) for the last two sessions. And that's without counting the parts they don't know (yet).

GP

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by Justinov » Sun Jan 18, 2015 6:37 pm

agathokles wrote:All are acceptable options, of course. Personally, I try to balance between verisimilitude and creating meaningful choices for the players. In this case, even just the monetary cost meant the PCs had less resources to use to mount their expedition to the Isle of Dread. If I had only given them the Eternal Truth option (we raise your dead if you all convert and serve Al Kalim), the choice would have been trivial -- the dead PC would stay dead. This way, the players had to think whether raising the PC was really worth their coin, and have been dealing with the consequences (lack of equipment and personnel) for the last two sessions. And that's without counting the parts they don't know (yet).

GP
Yeah, Al Kalim would demand conversion - some other Immortal might just required service, when summoned as payment.
Then the question of raising dead or not might be less straightforward for the other players.
But I like your decision.....
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,/But I have promises to keep,/And miles to go before I sleep,
[Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - By Robert Frost]

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.
[The Road Not Taken - By Robert Frost]

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Sun Feb 01, 2015 4:39 pm

So, two sessions after, the PC Magic-User, Plinius, died on Taboo Island in the Isle of Dread, killed by a Yellow Mold infection. The other PCs tried to save him with assorted rudimentary surgeries, which I handled by allowing an additional ST vs poison after each successful attempt at healing. The other players came up with a mix of hilarious ideas and crazy skill rolls, giving Plinius three extra STs, which were all miserably failed. Unable to bring the dead wizard back to civilization in time, the other characters finally gave up and left him for dead.

On Taboo Island, things went initially well -- fireballs and swordmanship made short work of the hostile natives, and two swords of odd making -- a rapier and a longsword, both with weird etchings and hilts of metal forged and etched to resemble cephalopods, with the tentacles making up the guards, etc -- were recovered. After finding a secret door, the PCs reached the altar room and recovered the Kopru statue (an idol of Slizzark), which magically enslaved the Thief and the Elf PCs, as well as one of the NPC hirelings (the party had brought on a Cleric of Vanya and a Hillforge dwarf, as well as a Magic User NPC who had been killed earlier on). The last hireling was then dominated by one of the Kopru in the geyser pools on the third level.

The party, entirely dominated by the Kopru except for the second Elf PC (Kernel), who had remained back in the village of Mora, went back to Tanaroa, and then to the hired ship, the Cutpurse. They sailed back to Specularum, where the unsuspecting Kernel was left behind by the others, who disappeared for two months. When they came back, Kernel attempted to persuade one of the NPCs (the Thyatian cleric) to give him the magic items she had found on Taboo Island, quarrelled with her, and finally led the NPC to dump the party.

Now the party is reunited in Specularum (although the remaining NPC will likely leave, as he has now grown in experience, reaching 4th level when the highest level PC is at 7th). They still have Rory Barbarosa's map, and most of the items they found, except for the Kopru idol. They have no memory of the time they were dominated by the Kopru.
So, their next moves will be to claim their pay from Thorur Silverbeard and the Goldsmiths' Guild, and then likely try to understand what they did while under the Kopru influence (in case they don't, they'll soon find some of their actions were not so legal...)

I'll be using the "missing time" to set up hooks towards the rest of the campaign, in particular towards War Rafts of Kron, with the PCs once more involved in the struggle between the main factions of this campaign arc (the shapeshifters of the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign, the Kopru Restorationists, Undersea, the Minrothad Guilds and the Tribunal of Ierendi).

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by Justinov » Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:26 pm

agathokles wrote:So, two sessions after, the PC Magic-User, Plinius, died on Taboo Island in the Isle of Dread, killed by a Yellow Mold infection. The other PCs tried to save him with assorted rudimentary surgeries, which I handled by allowing an additional ST vs poison after each successful attempt at healing. The other players came up with a mix of hilarious ideas and crazy skill rolls, giving Plinius three extra STs, which were all miserably failed. Unable to bring the dead wizard back to civilization in time, the other characters finally gave up and left him for dead.

On Taboo Island, things went initially well -- fireballs and swordmanship made short work of the hostile natives, and two swords of odd making -- a rapier and a longsword, both with weird etchings and hilts of metal forged and etched to resemble cephalopods, with the tentacles making up the guards, etc -- were recovered. After finding a secret door, the PCs reached the altar room and recovered the Kopru statue (an idol of Slizzark), which magically enslaved the Thief and the Elf PCs, as well as one of the NPC hirelings (the party had brought on a Cleric of Vanya and a Hillforge dwarf, as well as a Magic User NPC who had been killed earlier on). The last hireling was then dominated by one of the Kopru in the geyser pools on the third level.

The party, entirely dominated by the Kopru except for the second Elf PC (Kernel), who had remained back in the village of Mora, went back to Tanaroa, and then to the hired ship, the Cutpurse. They sailed back to Specularum, where the unsuspecting Kernel was left behind by the others, who disappeared for two months. When they came back, Kernel attempted to persuade one of the NPCs (the Thyatian cleric) to give him the magic items she had found on Taboo Island, quarrelled with her, and finally led the NPC to dump the party.

Now the party is reunited in Specularum (although the remaining NPC will likely leave, as he has now grown in experience, reaching 4th level when the highest level PC is at 7th). They still have Rory Barbarosa's map, and most of the items they found, except for the Kopru idol. They have no memory of the time they were dominated by the Kopru.
So, their next moves will be to claim their pay from Thorur Silverbeard and the Goldsmiths' Guild, and then likely try to understand what they did while under the Kopru influence (in case they don't, they'll soon find some of their actions were not so legal...)

I'll be using the "missing time" to set up hooks towards the rest of the campaign, in particular towards War Rafts of Kron, with the PCs once more involved in the struggle between the main factions of this campaign arc (the shapeshifters of the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign, the Kopru Restorationists, Undersea, the Minrothad Guilds and the Tribunal of Ierendi).
Very nice Korpru take over ;)
Cephalopod weapons; is Great Cthulhu waiting for “the Stars are right“? :cool: You can always trust PC's to pick up whatever give the most plusses.
Nice touch of having the NPC go solo - they can be used as future adversaries perhaps!
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,/But I have promises to keep,/And miles to go before I sleep,
[Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - By Robert Frost]

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.
[The Road Not Taken - By Robert Frost]

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:35 pm

Yes, of course the NPC could then become an opponent -- perhaps her independent investigations into the conspiracies will lead her to become a pawn of one of the factions.
Also, you are right in that I'm playing on the Cthulhu theme -- we've played extensively CoC in the past (most of the players have played Masks of Nyarlathotep with another Keeper, and another campaign set in Western Europe with me). However, the Kopru, who are aesthetically Cthulhu-themed, will not be the truly evil party -- that role is reserved for the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign (from Freeport material).

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The Kopru Restorationists Plot

Post by agathokles » Thu Feb 05, 2015 12:48 pm

Since the PCs have spent a couple of months dominated by the Kopru, I need to better focus the plot towards the restoration of the Kopru Empire.

Some Like it Hot
A first, although minor, goal of the Isle of Dread Kopru is to get back in touch with their compatriots in the Sunlit Sea. The dominated PCs have therefore visited underwater volcanoes and met at least some Kopru.

The Hackskull Run
The main goal of these Kopru is to increase the volcanic activity in the Sunlit Sea, which would enable them to take it over. To this end, they need to access and overcharge the elemental vortex under Honour Island.
They know, through the PC memories*, that Red Rory Hackskull, a Hin pirate, is in contact with the Honor mages. They plan to smuggle the Slizzark Idol (the kopru statue from X1) into Honour, using Red Rory and then his Honour contacts as the unwitting carriers.
Thus, at least one of the PCs (or their NPC retainers) will have spent part of the month looking for Red Rory. Red Rory, as a Hin, might be too resistant to domination, but not all his crewmen are Hin, so some will be dominated by the Slizzark Idol, which will then be passed over to the Honour mage contact.

Terror in Ierendi
A second goal of the Kopru conspiracy is to protect their own assets in Ierendi from the aggression of the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign (BoYS). In particular, the presence of a BoYS mole (Milos from Death in Freeport) in the People's Temple of Ierendi threatens the Kopru plant, Hazzik (who replaces Thuron from the Freeport adventures). The Kopru have the PCs (probably the Ierendian Thief) steal compromising documents from Lucius' house and kill Milos (who had survived from the previous adventure).

The Aloysius Ritual
Finally, the Kopru want a ready source of manpower and a diversion to keep Ierendi and the BoYS busy while they carry out their own plans. They plan to return to life the Lizardmen of Aloysius, whom they know have been set in suspended animation by their priests. Thus, they send the remaining PCs on a quest to Malpheggi, to recover a Mogreth shaman fetish, then to Kirkuk in Ylaruam to smuggle a Lizardman mummy priest** and awake it on Aloysius.

The PCs have now been returned to Specularum, and will find on them some unsual items that will point out to their travels in the past months -- e.g., a piece of mummy wrappings with pre-Nithian pictograms, a potion of water breathing, knowledge of spells only found in Ylaruam, Undersea, or another area visited by the PCs, and so on.
They may or may not pursue the investigation of their "missing months", but these will come back to haunt them anyway, either through nightmares, or through concrete consequences -- e.g., the PCs might be recognised as associates of Captain Hackskull by Thyatian spies, or might be wanted as the assassins of Milos in Ierendi, etc.


* Since Red Rory replaced the orc pirate in Death in Freeport, the PCs are aware that he has a connection to a mage, and have tracked this connection to the Honour battleships.

** This is the Lizardman priest found in Kirkuk's well in Gaz2.

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Sat Feb 07, 2015 3:45 pm

In yesterday's session, the PCs discovered various items (two potions, a scroll, a pouch of tobacco and a smoking pipe, a folder of documents and a mummy wrap) they didn't have before their amnesia. They discovered easily that the potions are a Fire Resistance and a Water Breathing one, while the scroll is a page from a spellbook, containing an unusual spell that transmutes a branch into a horse, not known in Specularum, but possibly of Thyatian origin.
They also wanted to be hypnotized to get more information from their black-out period, so they travelled to the Collegium Arcanum in Thyatis City. Bribing their way into the magic university, they managed to speak with a mentalist named Polibius, who hypnotized them. The remembered scenes included a galley with a Hin crew (Oberon the Elf), a desert and a well, and being immersed in hot water (Dwalar, the NPC dwarf).
They also brought the tobacco and pipe to an expert, who identified them as of Five Shires origin, while the spellbook page was confirmed as being likely part of the spellbook of a student of the Collegium Arcanum.
Overall, the players suspect that the ship in Oberon's recovered memory is Red Rory Hackskull's one (true).

P.S.: Being in Thyatis, one of the PCs enrolled to fight in the Coliseum, losing to a Murmillo heavy fighter -- the other PCs heavily bet on their champion's victory, losing quite a few gold pieces :-D

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by Justinov » Sun Feb 08, 2015 12:10 pm

agathokles wrote:In yesterday's session, the PCs discovered various items (two potions, a scroll, a pouch of tobacco and a smoking pipe, a folder of documents and a mummy wrap) they didn't have before their amnesia. They discovered easily that the potions are a Fire Resistance and a Water Breathing one, while the scroll is a page from a spellbook, containing an unusual spell that transmutes a branch into a horse, not known in Specularum, but possibly of Thyatian origin.
They also wanted to be hypnotized to get more information from their black-out period, so they travelled to the Collegium Arcanum in Thyatis City. Bribing their way into the magic university, they managed to speak with a mentalist named Polibius, who hypnotized them. The remembered scenes included a galley with a Hin crew (Oberon the Elf), a desert and a well, and being immersed in hot water (Dwalar, the NPC dwarf).
They also brought the tobacco and pipe to an expert, who identified them as of Five Shires origin, while the spellbook page was confirmed as being likely part of the spellbook of a student of the Collegium Arcanum.
Overall, the players suspect that the ship in Oberon's recovered memory is Red Rory Hackskull's one (true).

P.S.: Being in Thyatis, one of the PCs enrolled to fight in the Coliseum, losing to a Murmillo heavy fighter -- the other PCs heavily bet on their champion's victory, losing quite a few gold pieces :-D
They were really trusting enough to let a stranger hypnotize them - Oh well the guy was probably a professional, so they had nothing to fear [off course paranoid players don't know that].
Nice touch of having a pure investigation session, when playing D&D. It probably shows very well here that your players have played C&C and so knows that you can figure things out in other ways than brute force ;)
I like also that you make your own spells. [I have always had a thing against “generic“ spells, but of course it makes it easier and faster to create NPC's than having to invent for each character. When I am GM - especially when having Glantri-campaigns - the PC's has to invent all their own spells and I had then to make adversaries with unique spells. Took time off course, but was also more interesting as they don't know what to expect].

In the gladiator combat the Murmillo [also Myrmillo, so again U/Y difference] - traditionally met a Thraex. So was the PC dressed as one or allowed to the arena with his own equipment??

Info on gladiators if you want to use it more:
I found a cool lecture about gladiator combat and stage-craft at Penn Museum by Dr. Garett Fagan, 12'th April 2014.
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIEAIGwzshU

You probably already know the documentary film of the “gladiator graveyard“ in Carnuntum (Austria): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMpf_XYXEJk
Here also an article about it: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... y-science/

Gladiator grave in York:
Source: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/6268
It has this interesting find on the skeletons: “About a quarter of the 80 skeletons excavated at the York site display this characteristic, and around half of those have particularly significant asymmetry, with right arms between 1 and 1.8cm longer than their left“...“The discovery suggests that some men started their training at an early age, probably in their early to mid teens. Arm length asymmetry can only develop prior to reaching skeletal maturity.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,/But I have promises to keep,/And miles to go before I sleep,
[Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - By Robert Frost]

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.
[The Road Not Taken - By Robert Frost]

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Re: A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread

Post by agathokles » Sun Feb 08, 2015 3:44 pm

Thanks for the gladiator info. Always useful, and the PCs might decide to pursue gladiatorial games and the related activities more seriously -- perhaps playing part of Arena of Thyatis.
I let the PC use his own equipment, which means he fought as a dimachaerus (with two daggers). I had him fight a Murmillo/Myrmillo because this type of gladiator has equipment similar to a legionnaire, so it would be representative of Thyatis' style. Besides, the PC is a Thief, so it was a good pairing between a heavy, defensive fighter and a lightly armed one. The fight was well balanced (a 7th level Thief with high Dex and Con vs a 6th level Fighter with average characteristics), the Thief was brought down to exactly 0 hp whereas his opponent was left with just 6 hp.

As for spells, I make heavy use of the "Colour of Magic" article from Dragon Magazine and the Tomo della Magia di Mystara by Marco Dalmonte. I prefer to have a wide variety of spells, which is part of the reason why I never switched to newer rules set.

The session was indeed almost purely investigative, except for the fight in the arena (which was not planned, of course). And yes, having played extensively Call of Cthulhu and other investigative RPGs such as Conspiracy X and WitchCraft helps -- my group is rather unusual in this respect in that several played started out with Call of Cthulhu.

GP

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