Monday, February 19, 2024

Emirikol: Introductions and Conspiracies

 You may have noticed that three adventures from February 5th weren’t in my seeding, and that’s because they are forming my introduction. First up is:

·       A Dark and Stormy Knight by Owen K.C Stevens, 2005: sheltering in a cave from a winter storm the PCs find that it is actually the crypt of a warrior from the last great war.

 As stated earlier, all of these adventures rely on huge contrivances or coincidences to work. In this case,

1)      There used to be humanoids here; their leaders were interred in a cairn in Hightower Tor.

2)      When the empire fought to recover the lands, the humanoids used the tor as a strong point.

3)      When the empire won, they placed a seal over the entrance rather than explore it.

4)      Recently a group of adventurers dug their way in from overhead and many/all died.

5)      Even more recently, a lightning bolt broke the seal, so the PCs can get in during another horrible storm.

6)      Conveniently, humanoids are breaking via the dug tunnel at the same time the PCs enter the cave!

By and large I like this one. It speaks not just to old times (the chaos beasts) but recent history (treasure hunters have been here) that hits the same beats as other parts of my setting, since I’m laying out some standard tropes in swashbuckling clothes. The PC learn from word one that there were once monster armies across the territory, and they left things behind, and that there are other people making a profit from. These are both core ideas to the campaign. Plus having other people trying and dying leaves corpses about to point out where traps are for proper OSR traps-as-puzzles configuration.


The coincidence is an issue, but we can work with it: the storms themselves are acts of the elemental deities. We already know from Mad God’s Key and House of Cards that there’s a chaos cult with a long-term plan for conquering Emirikol. Logically there should be people working ­against that plan who are not just the PCs. Since coastal storms are essential to this adventure I could go with Air or Water, but as we already have a water-based cleric  being the victim of slander by water-based monsters in Last of the Iron House I feel a below the surface war between the cult and the water church is a nice element.

Lets stop and define people:

·       The Cult of the Bleeding Tears are the bad guys, and while I’ll come up with more details later their emblem will be a skull with fists for eyes that are weeping blood. That’s creepy. Their main agents in Emirikol are a covey of hags – one from By the Wayside and one to replace the female sahaugin cleric in Last of the Iron House, plus a third as a utility player to be defined later – who make use of both pirates and assassins to disrupt the city, as well as other means to keep the politics fractured, like blackmail.

·       Church of the Endless Ocean are the good guys and just because this is a Dumas inspired game the local leaders are called Cardinals, and there are four of them – one for each direction. The Cardinal of the West these is a strategic thinker working to delay the Bleeding Tears while the others try wake up the Chaotic City’s bickering and obstinate polities to the threat. Due to the secret nature of this he only has one field agent (who has infiltrated the cult), Alejandro of Stormcliff Manor, an adversary/ally.

The Cults need things from the cairn – a book of rituals and the key that opens it – but Alejandro hired a crew of delvers and got to them first, even if they didn’t clear out the entire cairn. Alejandro destroyed the key but didn’t realize the book had been recovered – this sets up Mad God’s Key later – and is back tonight under the cover of the storm with the cultists to get the book (and steal it from them). That the storm is making it easy for the Pcs to intervene is an act of the water god. I am creating another two levels of the cairn that the delvers did explore but are now inaccessible due to a falling block trap, hence the small dungeon presented in the module.

Now, this is problematic from an OSR design sense: I am dropping the PCs into the middle of someone else’s long-term plot. However, the design of the campaign from the jump has been for the sort of PCs who would not shirk from this sort of urban conspiracies thing, but also because I am going to be able to seed the setting with so much, the PCs can just ignore it! Now, ignoring it might have consequences down the road, but that’s true in any D&D setting where the players learn about locations A, B and C, where B & C are not going to sit in stasis until the PCs get to them. The world grows and changes. Interlocking Dark and Stormy Knight with Mad God’s Key, Wreck Ashore, By the Wayside, and House of Cards means there are easily a half dozen points for the PCs to jump in and out of this sequence of events and disrupt it.

Now, do I expect the players in session 1 to sit in their broken carriage in the rain rather than explore the cairn? I do not. But I want to make sure that the PCs are not getting on Adventure Path that dictates everything to come.

Modifying the module is simple:

·       As stated, there’s a stone block that the PCs will see between rooms 2 and 4 that blocks any access to rooms 9-20 (which I will create if the Pcs decide they want to come back and get, but they will be able to learn that someone beat them to), which has one hand sticking out from under it. Ewwww.

·       Chaos beasts are mostly human-animal melding, so the hobgoblins in room 4 are big sneaky threats as Tiger-Men. There are several ropes there, at least one counter-weighted for Alejandro to make an exit.

·       Alejandro is searching room 8 while the PCs fight the Tiger-Men in room 4, and having determined that the book is not there is contemplating the other spaces; he will try to flee past the PCs rather than fight.

·       Since there are no corporeal undead the bugbear body doesn’t animate; the threat it did pose (being full of scorpions) was dealt with by the prior adventurers, one of whom lies months dead in the room.

·       The other rooms are as presented.

The other modification is that the PCs are not mere peasants staggering through the storm, but nobility (they may be broke but they are not poor!) travelling in a carriage from wherever they came from to the Chaotic City via the road that skirts the west edge of the mountain range before cutting east to Emirikol. Looking at that now it doesn’t make a lot of sense as a travel layout, but no one questioned it.

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