Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

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Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

Post by agathokles » Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:54 pm

Hi everyone,

here is the first formatted version of Lords of the Cruth Lowlands, the companion adventure for the Cruth Lowlands map.
I've given it a cover (not that great, just a combination of the "Warrior with Equerry" painting by Giorgione and the map itself) and added some of the maps in the text, as well as a cave background.

GP

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Re: Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

Post by Chimpman » Tue Jun 26, 2012 6:12 pm

Very cool GP! I've just downloaded it, and will give it a look over.
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Re: Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

Post by agathokles » Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:34 am

Thanks, let me know your thought on it!

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Re: Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

Post by Chimpman » Mon Jul 02, 2012 6:34 am

Hey GP,

I'm going through some of the special locations on the map and just trying to figure out when they may have first been established. Let me know what your thoughts are.

Dwarven Ruins: The time frame on this one seems fairly well set. They would have been built sometime during Loktal's era, and abandoned after the fall of the Glittering Lands. This must be sometime between BC 1000 and BC 600.

Fey Mound: How long has this fey court been in the area? It sounds like they could have been there before the Lindenelm elves moved in.

Lindenelm Clan: When do you think these elves arrived in Taymora? Also when do you think that the Lindenelm elves moved into the area they presently occupy?

Nithian Obelisk and Tomb of Chardastes: When would you estimate this structure was built?
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Re: Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

Post by agathokles » Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:47 pm

Hi John,

thanks for your comments. Here are some answers:

Dwarven Ruins: indeed, the timing is correct. It was probably a border fortress to hold the Vandars and Orcs at bay.

Fey Mound: yes, this could have been around for quite some time, though the Fey likely closed the access to their realm during the age of Taymor.

Lindenelm Clan: The Sheyallia elves, in my timeline, arrive in the Taymoran borderlands in 2250 BC from the west. In my timeline, the Lindenelm flee the Vyalia lands soon after the fall of Taymor.

Nithian Obelisk and Tomb of Chardastes: the settlement was first built during the early times of the Traldar migration (before the harsh winters, famine and the Hutaakan takeover). The Tomb, however, was built in the times before the Beastman War, specifically by 1370 BC, when Chardastes first "died".

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Re: Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

Post by Chimpman » Mon Jul 02, 2012 8:46 pm

Hey GP,

I want to comment on some of the above in more detail, but first wanted to give you some more general feedback on the pdf. Keep in mind that although I'm attempting to be critical here (hopefully in a constructive way), much of what I'm about to say is also based on personal preference.

First off, the whole pdf is spectacular (and I did follow most of the thread, so much of what I'm seeing is not entirely new). It almost seems to me that this could be packaged as a mini-Gaz of the area, with an adventure path outline for those who wish to utilize it. With that in mind, I think I would break up the material in the following manner:

Part 1 = Cruth Lowlands Mini-Gaz
This would contain the following chapters:
Introduction
History
Sites & Locations (I'm almost thinking something like a Mystaran Atlas geographical entry here)
Masters and Marauders
Magic Items

Part 2 = Adventure Path
This would contain portions of the following:
Barrow of the Giant King
Steading of the Hill Giants and Dwarves of Kurest Hurgon
The Turnwood
Kosti Kopec
Ruins of Achelios
Quests in Achelios
And perhaps some others.

In truth, many of the sections I listed above in Part 2 cross the line between informational (which I see going into a Gaz-like format) and adventure (which I would prefer be separated from informational sections). In my perfect world, all of the above locations could be presented in a very adventure neutral manner. Then later, once we start looking at the adventure path, you can describe how these locations and NPCs all interact to create the adventure. In theory each of these plot overviews could be broken off and created as a separate module (but I think that's beyond the scope of this document).

With regard to the adventures themselves, I'd like to see just a little bit more organization applied to them and where exactly they fall in the adventure path. For example you could have a small section that says basically, "The following adventures are intended for low level parties, or parties that are new to the area. They are designed to give the PCs a chance to explore and understand their immediate environment. Yada, yada, yada. These adventures are designed for Basic Level play."

Then break out a section for Expert, Companion, and Master levels of play (or something along those lines). Hopefully, this kind of feedback is helpful to you.
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Re: Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

Post by agathokles » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:33 am

Chimpman wrote: I want to comment on some of the above in more detail, but first wanted to give you some more general feedback on the pdf. Keep in mind that although I'm attempting to be critical here (hopefully in a constructive way), much of what I'm about to say is also based on personal preference.
Thanks!
First off, the whole pdf is spectacular (and I did follow most of the thread, so much of what I'm seeing is not entirely new). It almost seems to me that this could be packaged as a mini-Gaz of the area, with an adventure path outline for those who wish to utilize it. With that in mind, I think I would break up the material in the following manner:
You're definitely right. The current packaging is a bit odd, and derives more from the order of writing than that of (intended) reading. Your proposed structure is much more rational.
In truth, many of the sections I listed above in Part 2 cross the line between informational (which I see going into a Gaz-like format) and adventure (which I would prefer be separated from informational sections). In my perfect world, all of the above locations could be presented in a very adventure neutral manner.
That's also true. Indeed, except for the Ruins of Achelos, all other locations are described and given adventure hooks (or ways to plug in existing adventures), rather than full-sized adventures. However, these hooks and the gazetteer-style information could be easily divided.
With regard to the adventures themselves, I'd like to see just a little bit more organization applied to them and where exactly they fall in the adventure path. For example you could have a small section that says basically, "The following adventures are intended for low level parties, or parties that are new to the area. They are designed to give the PCs a chance to explore and understand their immediate environment. Yada, yada, yada. These adventures are designed for Basic Level play."

Then break out a section for Expert, Companion, and Master levels of play (or something along those lines). Hopefully, this kind of feedback is helpful to you.
Well, actually the entire area is designed for an Expert level game. As a sandbox*, there is no real ordering in most parts. In practice, however, the Achelos river provides an internal order: Ruins of Achelos (Riverside slums first, then Merchant District and Noble Estates, and finally the Graveyard, River Fort and Castle Ivanovich), then going northward Kosti Kopec, Steading of the Hill Giants, and Kurest Hurgon.

I'll have to do some computations on the TPLs involved in the various encounters, though, to give a better evaluation of the various encounters.
Also, some sub-adventures (Kosti Kopec, Nithian Obelisk/Tomb of Chardastes, Turnwood) are not actually detailed enough -- so it is difficult to say where they fit in the path (however, since the entire area is supposed to play between levels 6 and 9, these will in the end be designed to fit in that range).

GP

* Major influences on this work were Pool of Radiance/Ruins of Adventure, but also the recent playtest of D&D Next Caves of Chaos.

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Re: Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

Post by Chimpman » Thu Jul 05, 2012 10:18 pm

agathokles wrote:Fey Mound: yes, this could have been around for quite some time, though the Fey likely closed the access to their realm during the age of Taymor.
In my own timeline, fey creatures dominate the Giants of Grondheim circa BC 2300, so it could be that the Fey Mound is actually accessible and active during this time period. Once the giant kingdoms start to falter (and Southern Grondheim falls to Taymora), then I agree it is very likely that the fey of the Mound retreat from the world for a time. Your timeline puts this event around BC 2200 - which may be a year I need to take a closer look at.

Just kicking around potential adventure plots, but for the Giants of Grondheim, one adventure arc I would set up would be freeing their people from the influence of the fey. Ironically (and unfortunately for the giants) accomplishing this task might weaken their kingdom to the point that the Taymorans could conquer them.

This seed has sparked more than a few lines of thought for me (so thank you!), some of them including:

- The Fey of the Mound may not be allied (or at least not allied closely) with the Troll Queen and her fey court (as of BC 2300). I see the Troll Queen and her court as more of an unseelie nation, whereas the fey of the Mound may be more seelie in nature. That's just an impression.

- The Mound Fey may actively be seeking to overthrow the Troll Queen. As such they may be hiding from their own people (other fey) as much as from mortals. If they did play a role in the overthrow of the Troll Queen, then this could be a nice way to tie in modern day Karameikos with some more ancient lore.

- If the Witches of Dymrak are the "inheritors" of the Troll Queen and her court, their being in Karameikos may not be a coincidence at all.
They may be actively opposing the Mound Fey or trying to reverse whatever catastrophe transformed the trolls into the slavering unthinking beasts they are today.
agathokles wrote:Lindenelm Clan: The Sheyallia elves, in my timeline, arrive in the Taymoran borderlands in 2250 BC from the west. In my timeline, the Lindenelm flee the Vyalia lands soon after the fall of Taymor.
So what exactly is the relationship between the Sheyallia elves and the Lindenelm? Are the Lindenelm simply one branch of Sheyallia? That's what your timeline and the above statements would lead me to believe. If so that would mean that the Lindenelm would be active in the Taymora region from BC 2250 to roughly BC 1720 or so.

Were their any other branches of the Sheyallia (that served/were integrated into Taymora) that survived? Were there any others that did not survive to modern times?
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Re: Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

Post by Chimpman » Thu Jul 05, 2012 10:26 pm

agathokles wrote:Well, actually the entire area is designed for an Expert level game. As a sandbox*, there is no real ordering in most parts. In practice, however, the Achelos river provides an internal order: Ruins of Achelos (Riverside slums first, then Merchant District and Noble Estates, and finally the Graveyard, River Fort and Castle Ivanovich), then going northward Kosti Kopec, Steading of the Hill Giants, and Kurest Hurgon.
Ok, this helps me quite a bit actually. Another thing that would help me get all of these locations straight would be to crop out a small portion of the map and include it with each section's write-up. The map doesn't have to be any more detailed than it is right now, but it's nice to have something that will focus your eyes on the area of interest. Perhaps you could even find a way to highlight the areas related to a particular adventure thread in some way.
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Re: Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

Post by agathokles » Fri Jul 06, 2012 9:36 am

Chimpman wrote: In my own timeline, fey creatures dominate the Giants of Grondheim circa BC 2300, so it could be that the Fey Mound is actually accessible and active during this time period. Once the giant kingdoms start to falter (and Southern Grondheim falls to Taymora), then I agree it is very likely that the fey of the Mound retreat from the world for a time. Your timeline puts this event around BC 2200 - which may be a year I need to take a closer look at.
That's an interesting notion, and I'd go for a retreat at BC 2200. I'll need to read more about the Fey in BC 2300.
Just kicking around potential adventure plots, but for the Giants of Grondheim, one adventure arc I would set up would be freeing their people from the influence of the fey. Ironically (and unfortunately for the giants) accomplishing this task might weaken their kingdom to the point that the Taymorans could conquer them.
Ah, that would make for a great twist in a campaign!
This seed has sparked more than a few lines of thought for me (so thank you!), some of them including:

- The Fey of the Mound may not be allied (or at least not allied closely) with the Troll Queen and her fey court (as of BC 2300). I see the Troll Queen and her court as more of an unseelie nation, whereas the fey of the Mound may be more seelie in nature. That's just an impression.

- The Mound Fey may actively be seeking to overthrow the Troll Queen. As such they may be hiding from their own people (other fey) as much as from mortals. If they did play a role in the overthrow of the Troll Queen, then this could be a nice way to tie in modern day Karameikos with some more ancient lore.

- If the Witches of Dymrak are the "inheritors" of the Troll Queen and her court, their being in Karameikos may not be a coincidence at all.
They may be actively opposing the Mound Fey or trying to reverse whatever catastrophe transformed the trolls into the slavering unthinking beasts they are today.
Yes, the Fey Mound is not so unseelie -- though it is not very friendly to humans. Their relation to other Fey may depend on whether these are seelie or unseelie, though.
So what exactly is the relationship between the Sheyallia elves and the Lindenelm? Are the Lindenelm simply one branch of Sheyallia? That's what your timeline and the above statements would lead me to believe. If so that would mean that the Lindenelm would be active in the Taymora region from BC 2250 to roughly BC 1720 or so.

Were their any other branches of the Sheyallia (that served/were integrated into Taymora) that survived? Were there any others that did not survive to modern times?
I'd say the Lindenelm and the Sheyallia (both the Graakhalians and the ancestors of the Yavi) belong to the same migration as the Meditor, Verdier and Vyalia (i.e., those elves in Ilsundal's migration and/or the "second migration" who never went to the Sylvan Realm).
Certainly many clans -- especially those who were more committed to the service of the Taymoran Necromancer-Kings -- died out in the wars of Taymor and later in the destruction of that civilization.

GP

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Re: Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

Post by agathokles » Sat Jul 21, 2012 1:04 pm

Hello,

while considering John's comments, I put together this flow chart of the main parts of the adventure. I made it primarily to highlight connections which are not yet in the document -- essentially the plot is currently limited to the quest items I've put in the Ruins of Achelos part -- for future development, but it can also serve to clarify the flow of the adventure (or, more correctly, the possible flows of the adventure), for the time being.
Adventures/encounters are grouped geographically, and connected by plot threads labeled with either the quest name or patron. Colors are used to make plot threads more evident.

Essentially, the adventure starts in Nova Achelos with the clean-up mission (Riverside Slums), then may follow several directions. The primary plot in the current document is the Undead Menace caused by the Vampire Lord in the River Keep, with the involvement of the Sons of Night, followed by the exploration of the upper course of the Achelos River, leading to Kurest Hurgon.

Other plot threads include:
  • The Achelos Outlaws: this is a straightforward mission to find the hidden camp of the outlaws, rout them and/or capture their mysterious leader.
  • The Bell of Chardastes: recovering the artifact from the ruined Cathedral turns into a mission to prevent a major invasion from Limbo which leads the characters to the Tomb of Trinkla the Black Seer.
  • The Loggers' Guild persistent problems caused by the Wee Folk of the Fey Mound leads the PCs to the Riverfork Wood. They may have to perform tasks for the rulers of the Fey in return for logging rights, but in the end they will discover the existance of the Turnwood, and the massive magical powers it holds.
  • The Regalia of Achelos: Natalia Ivanovich wants to reclaim her family's position in Traladara/Karameikos, and needs the Regalia of Achelos for this purpose.

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Re: Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

Post by agathokles » Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:15 pm

Hi,

just a quick note: I've updated the file, changing the booklet structure according to John's suggestions. I've also added a section where the seven primary plot lines are discussed.
I hope this will make the adventure more readable.

GP

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Re: Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

Post by Chimpman » Sun Jul 29, 2012 8:11 pm

I've only just given it a quick look through GP, but I love the new organization of the module. This is definitely going to make finding information a lot easier. I'll post more once I've given it a good read - I especially want to focus on the Atlas and Adventure sections. Great work!
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Re: Lords of the Cruth Lowlands

Post by agathokles » Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:50 pm

Becoming a Lord

In the Cruth Lowlands, the PCs are far from court. Their actions are not under a close scrutiny from the Duke and the Duchess, who will rely primarily on the reports of their envoys to establish whether a PC is trustworthy, and can be eligible for a noble title.
Such reports, however, can easily be contested by one of several power groups that are active in Karameikos -- e.g., if the PCs have angered the Black Eagle Baron, he might well spread lies (or truths, which might be worse) about them to his peers, such as the Barons Kelvin and Vorloi, who in turn would report at least part of the information to the Duke.
However, important people who appreciate the PCs will speak in their favor.
This means the PCs will have to court the support of such groups.

Power Groups
The following power groups are active in the Cruth Lowlands, divided in two categories -- societies and organizations on one hand, and political groups on the other.

The Guilds: the trade guilds of Specularum exert a wide control of large-scale trade in all of Karameikos.
The Church of Karameikos: includes both factions of the Church.
The Church of Traladara: this refers only to the Church of Traladara itself, as the Cult of Halav has no foothold in the Cruth Lowlands, and does not exert any significant control over the government.
The Government: this refers to the Ministers and their bureaucrats, as well as to the Lord Seneschal, Lord Forester and other special agencies of the duchy.
The Local Population: the population of the Lowlands is primarily Traladaran, and reacts accordingly to the PCs' actions.

The Thyatian faction: this includes the Thyatian lords, clergy and merchants, such as the Black Eagle, Patriarch Oderbry, Baron Kelvin, Baron Vorloi, and Lady Penhaligon, as well as the Dwarves.
The New Karameikan faction: this includes the followers of the Duke's philosophy, such as Retameron Antonic and Halia Vorloi, or the Hyraksos family, and the Elves.
The Torenescu faction: for the purpose of this adventure, the Torenescu faction includes also most Traladaran landed nobles, as well as the Marilenev. It also includes the major Hin families of Specularum.
The Radu faction: the Radu and their allies, including the Veiled Society.

Conditions for Ennoblement

As stated in the Gazetteer, PCs aiming at a title of nobility need to perform two major quests in the direct service of the crown. Lords of the Cruth Lowlands provides such quests (The Achelos Outlaws and The Bell of Chardastes), but also a number of other quests which can affect the popularity of the PCs with several power groups.

Moreover, the PCs need at least to enjoy the favor of the Karameikan Government (the Ministers and their bureacrats, who would otherwise hinder their ennoblement with red tape), and two other factions must support them.
They can reach their goal even if some faction is hostile to them, but there will be repercussions.
Hostility from the local population or the Church of Traladara will lead to a loss of loyalty in the new dominion, while hostility from the Guilds will penalize the new dominion's trade.
Hostility from one of the political factions or the Church of Karameikos will reduce the new ruler's influence at court, leading to an unexpected problem in the future -- a Black Eagle invasion (Thyatians), reduced support from the Guilds (Radu or Torenescu), an aggressive proselytizing campaign (Church of Karameikos) or lack of funds for public works (New Karameikan).

Effects of the Quests

The table below provides a quick overview of the repercussions of the various quests. Major quests are marked with an asterisk. Numerical values denote a change in support by a given group. A total of +2 means a given group is actively supporting the PCs, while a negative total means the group is opposing the PCs -- though this opposition may be limited to speaking against the PCs at court.

Code: Select all

The Colonization of Achelos		Rad +1, Gov +1, Gui +1, CoT +1
The Bell of Chardastes*				CoT +1, CoK -1 (or vice versa), Kar +1, Gov +1
The Achelos Outlaws*					Thy +1, Gov +1, Kar +1, Loc -1
The Regalia of Achelos				Tor +1, Thy -1, Loc +1, Gov -1 (if unrest ensues)
The Undead Menace							Gui +1, Gov +1, CoT +1, CoK +1
The Upper Achelos							Gui +1, Gov +1, Loc +1, Thy +1
The Turnwood									Gui +1, Loc -1 (if botched), Gov -2 (if botched)
The Colonization of Achelos can give the PCs the support of the majority of the Guilds, as well as part of the ducal bureaucracy. It does not involve great acts of heroism, so it does not count as a major success.

The Regalia of Achelos is a tricky quest for would-be lords.
While it gives the characters visibility as adventurers, explorers and warriors, it also brings them into the Ivanovich family's quest to restore their noble status -- a quest which is certain to be opposed by the Thyatian faction.
The Torenescu faction, on the other hand, would be pleased by this development.
The character can gain popularity with the local population as well through this quest.

The Achelos Outlaws are popular with the local Traladaran population, but their defeat is a major success for the Karameikan government.

The recovery of the Bell of Chardastes prevents a major disaster in Karameikos, so it counts as a major success. However, giving the custody of the Bell back to the Church of Traladara is going to make the Oderbry faction an enemy of the PCs, while giving the Bell to the Church of Karameikos will alienate the Church of Traladara, as well as most of the local Traladaran population.

The Undead Menace is a problem mostly for the Guilds, the Karameikan Government, and the other stakeholders of Nova Achelos. However, it is not so great a threat as to count as a major success.

The events in the Turnwood are hard to predict: the PCs could gain great magical knowledge, which would turn them into heroes for the Magicians' Guild, but the risk of causing unrest among the various monsters of the area is high, and would lead the Grand Duke to consider the PCs too reckless for being considered for landed nobility.

The Upper Achelos section of the adventure leads the PCs to open new trade routes and save a small Dwarven clan, as well as to defeat marauding giants and deal with creepy necromancers. All of this can allow them to obtain the favour of the Thyatian faction (via the Dwarves), the Guilds (especially the Merchants' Guild) and the Government. The local population will also be impressed by the defeat of a hill giant chief.

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