Still, while not necessarily subscribing to the cause espoused by the brethren of the coast, I can see that, at this time of year, yes, content does want to be free. And in that spirit – and incidentally as a roundhead, not a cavalier – in the run-up to Yule I’m serializing “A Ballad of Times Past”, a seasonal standalone scenario in a world with very little magic. Today we’ve got the background and cast of principal NPCs, then the adventure itself in three instalments over the next nine days, giving you plenty of time to arrange a solstitial RPG session.
The adventure is set in Beorsca, a small kingdom in a land very much like Dark Ages Scandinavia. The practitioners of magic are even scarcer in this world than in Legend: all sorcerer, elementalist, warlock and demonologist spells above 2nd level require, as the material component, a pinch of dragon dust made from the powdered shell of an unhatched dragon’s egg (in hatching, the fledgling drains the magic from the shell). As obtaining dust would involve getting past a protective mother dragon, magic is very rare. One whole eggshell would provide one hundred pinches of dust.
Players should be told that spellcasters are almost unknown, but not why. Characters should be generated specifically for this adventure, and are 5th rank. They can be knights or barbarians (retainers of King Athelred involved from the start). There is also room for one mystic and/or one assassin (from the local abbey and minstrel troupe respectively, who join in as indicated in the text). Mystic spells do not require dragon dust, but in this world there are no mystic spells above 3rd level.
Needless to say, if you're going to be playing in this adventure you should stop reading right now and come back after Christmas!
Osric, the heir to the throne of Beorsca, is not quite 18 years old. A tall and handsome youth, he is probably the sort of warrior his father would have liked to be, for although Athelred has remained doggedly true to the new religion, he never has the effortlessly pure heart of his son. Osric’s long golden hair and grey eyes make him much like a younger version of his father, though he has not the king’s full beard or battle scars.
In his youth, Caedmon was a close friend of Athelred. When they befriended the dragon some 20 years ago, Caedmon was given fifty pinches of dragon dust. He now chafes at the fact that his former friend went on to win a kingdom while he lives in his tower in bitter and lonely seclusion. This resentment eventually drove him both mad and evil. He wants enough dragon dust to have a chance of taking over the kingdom, but failing that he will settle for enraging the dragon into causing widespread destruction.
Caedmon has not borne his 42 years as well as Athelred, He is frail and bent. His hair is sparse, and his complexion is unhealthily sallow. Only his eyes reveal the hidden energies within, for they are a clear and most startling sky-blue.
Erik is a slightly built man in his early thirties. He is of medium height with a handsome face and short, golden brown hair. A travelling mercenary, he came to Beorsca six years ago and fell in with Caedmon. He intends to help the wizard get the dragon dust (hopefully with minimum risk to himself ) and eliminate him once they have won the kingdom from Athelred.
Erik is utterly cold-blooded, and quite willing to dispatch anyone in the way of his plans, hence his nickname.
Erik’s sword, Ymir’s Fang, is a +2 two-handed sword. The sword has been passed down in Erik’s family for generations, but it cannot be possessed by an outsider. If Erik is slain and Ymir’s Fang examined, it will be found to be made of murky ice! It will then melt to a puddle of dirty water within minutes.