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Friday, 16 June 2017

"Sweet is Revenge" (a Questworld scenario)

A real OSR type scenario this time. This was one of the adventures that Oliver Johnson and I wrote for Game Workshop's Questworld pack in the early '80s. The idea was for a non-Gloranthan world for RuneQuest that would be parcelled out among various publishers, each getting their own continent to play with. Oliver and I were given a detailed map that came with some fragmentary history already in place, which we quickly wrangled into a form that suited us better. I remember being nonplussed as to why all the traditional RQ gods were transplanted to Questworld. What's the point of a new setting if it has much the same flavour as the old? Still, it was a job. (Well, in principle it was - we were never actually paid.)

Questworld never happened because Chaosium, who owned the RQ licence, decided not to renew their UK distribution deal with Games Workshop. Eventually Oliver and I found out, but only when we delivered the finished Questworld books to GW. Oops, as they no doubt said. Our own comment on the matter is less printable.

So there we were with a complete world sourcebook, referee's book, creatures book, and a starter campaign comprising seven scenarios. Later, while working on Dragon Warriors, we took another look at our Questworld book, chucked out the RQ gods - and, of course, the damned ducks - and started to repurpose it as Invaders & Ancients. The scenarios for that would have been less dungeony, seeing as we were in the driving seat now, but sadly that never came to pass. You can get a taste of it from the scenario "More Precious Than Gold", though, as well as our unfinished novel The Land Below The Sunset.

Some quick trivia: Oliver and I were in a hurry to get the scenario ready for playtesting one evening, and whatever circuit in our brains came up with fantasy names had burned out. Needing instant inspiration, Oliver seized the carton of orange juice on the table and declared this to be a story of the Fujusei clan. Fruit juice, you see. We had probably been to a Kurosawa season at the Electric, because Fujusei's rival became Lord Genmoro. We wouldn't have kept those names in the Invaders & Ancients book - well, hopefully not - so I've altered them in this version.

The scenario was originally called "A Tale of Treachery" but in the circumstances I couldn't resist the Byron quotation. Lord Calomel learns the truth of that one in quite a grisly manner.




Quick overview:
For one reason or another the characters find themselves in Lamentation, on the fringe of the great Miasmos swamp, with time on their hands. Rumours around town suggest there could be some action in Cinderbrake village, some fifteen miles to the north.

The village has troubles, all right. The wife of the late Baron Missal, rightful lord of Cinderbrake, has returned to wreak terrible revenge on those responsible for her husband’s murder fully thirty years past. The village headman quakes in his boots, for he it was who betrayed Lord Missal to his enemies. He presents himself to the characters as a good man, concerned for his village now that a mad woman has come to threaten it, and tries to convince them to help him. He intends to do away with them once they’ve rid him of mad Lady Missal.

This adventure gives the characters their first real confrontation with the terrifying powers of Chaos. They have the chance to develop several useful skills and to try their hands at simple strategy (in the form of a “commando” raid on the castle).

INTRODUCTION

This adventure requires the characters to visit the town of Lamentation, which is about five hundred miles upriver from Deliverance. There are a number of ways you can arrange this. The most obvious is to have the characters hired by a merchant to guard the wares he is carrying. This is a common source of income for hired swords around Deliverance. If you want to provide some continuity within your campaign, you could have the characters looked up by Guilder Connla from Brimstone, who has made the perilous journey down the coast in person in order to consolidate some business interests along the Issaries River. (This would only be reasonable, of course, if the characters were on good terms with Connla when they left Brimstone.)

The merchant, whether Connla or not, will offer the characters 200L each for the entire expedition, which should cover about six weeks. The total journey to and from Lamentation will take a month, and the merchant will spend a fortnight in the town making various deals and arranging to have his boat refitted for the return voyage. During this fortnight, the characters’ time is their own; this is when the adventure will take place.

Lamentation is a drab, drear place – a frontier town with a resident population of about 3000, bordering on the great swamp Miasmos. The streets are ankle-deep in mud for the most part, so there are extensive boardwalks for getting around the town. The atmosphere is sleepy, and will soon have seasoned adventurers chafing impatiently. The bleak vista of Miasmos to the east, and the humidity which makes any exertion sweatily unpleasant, seem to drain the townsfolk of life. By night one must sleep under nets because of the swarms of plague-bearing kissgiss  insects and the vipers which sometimes crawl from the fens. Lamentation’s importance is as a staging point—the last port of call for merchants beginning the great river trek eastwards and a haunt of adventurers organizing expeditions into the heart of the swampland.

The town has a number of inns and taverns of varying quality. Since the characters have little to do other than sitting around in bars or putting in some worship at the Lightbringers Temple, there is ample opportunity for them to hear some intriguing rumours. Some of these, such as the tales concerning the Forest of the Serug, may pique their curiosity and provide a springboard for adventures later in the campaign. But remember that the main priority is to get the characters to Cinderbrake, so  make it clear when the rumours about Cinderbrake come up that these are currently the source of greatest interest in Lamentation.

RUMOURS AND EVENTS IN LAMENTATION

The chance of encountering a rumour or random event is 20% each hour in a tavern, 10% elsewhere. For the first rumour/events, roll using d6, then all subsequent rolls on d20. (This is to ensure the players get to hear the Cinderbrake rumour early on.)

Events marked ● are to be used only once; if they turn up a second time, ignore them and reroll. 


* This may crop up more than once, but unlike most rumours it will always be told by the same person. This drunk has a grudge against Ancients.

BACKSTORY

At the western edge of the swamp called Miasmos, fifteen miles north of the town of Lamentation on the Issaries river, stands the baronial demesne of Missal. The area has been fraught with civil war since its first settlement by Invaders four hundred years ago. The Ancients, however, had never established themselves here – and with good reason, considering the inhospitable  marshlands to the east.

Two hundred years ago, the twelfth Baron Missal, fretting at the increasingly bureaucratic rule in Deliverance, established Cinderbrake castle right on the edge of the swamps as an outpost against the evil to the east. Despite incursions of Chaos from Miasmos and internecine strife between the Missal clan and their frontier rivals, the castle stood intact until thirty years ago when it was surprised and partially razed by the Calomel clan.

During the savage fighting in the castle after its defences had been mysteriously breached, the eighteenth Lord Missal and his two sons were killed along with the great majority of their retainers. The mortal remains of the defunct Missal clan lie buried at various points around the castle. The lady Amarna, wife of the last Lord of Missal, escaped into the swamps sometime during that terrible night. Thirty years later, and now an old woman, she has returned to the ruined fortress.. She believes that the village headman, Loku, and others of her serfs were responsible for the betrayal of the weaknesses of the castle to the Calomel clan.

Lord Calomel himself, after living in prosperity off the taxes exacted from the merchants passing through the region on the way to the territories of the Ancient Race, disappeared some months ago. His body, in a dismembered state, is to be found in the dungeon area of Cinderbrake castle.

It is now the turn of the perfidious villagers to have vengeance meted out on them by Amarna, whose Rune powers have been increased during her sojourn in Miasmos. Peasants have disappeared from the area to the north of the village with increasing regularity, and the woods around Cinderbrake castle are now considered too dangerous to be entered. The village lunatic, Knorr, claims to have seen strange lights in the woods and around the castle (see NPCs).

Loku is anxious to deal with Amarna with minimum risk to himself, to which end he will offer employment to any adventurers passing through. At the moment he has two bodyguards, Aitch and Bato, as well as the support of the young shaman Holmek, and is as yet unwilling to move away from the village, knowing that the income he now enjoys from the tithes of the former Missal estates cannot be replaced. If anything, he sees Lord Calomel’s murder as an opportunity. Betrayal is in Loku’s nature, and if the characters survive their encounter with Amana he will turn on them the moment he knows the task has been accomplished.

If the characters investigate the village, they will find it a humble collection of ramshackle cottages surrounded by a rough wooden palisade. Some of the cottages have been gutted by fire. Only Loku’s house is made of stone. The villagers will mostly appear cowed and uncommunicative (apart from the lunatic). Loku, however, will appear only too obliging, and will ingratiate himself with the characters in order to gain their co-operation.

ARRIVING AT CINDERBRAKE VILLAGE

The characters enter the village from the south. Assuming they arrive during the day, they will see about twenty peasants working in the fields to the south of the village. On closer inspection, several peasants can be seen to have cudgels in their belts. One of the peasants runs to a stone building in the village as he sees the characters approaching. Loku appears shortly and greets the characters with great courtesy.

By night, armed peasants man the palisade around the village. They are equipped with cudgels and short bows. If there is any disturbance, one of them will alert Loku. As long as the characters approach peaceably, however, they will be admitted
and Loku summoned.

After providing the party with food and drink at his own house, Loku leans forward and speaks in a voice choked with emotion:

“I must apologise for the poor fare which is all this village can offer. We are humble people whose livelihoods have lately been put at risk by an incursion of Chaos from out of the east. Since the baron was slain in an attack on his castle thirty years ago, we have clung to the peripheries of this swamp, eking out a miserable living and deprived of the protection of a liege-lord. Wretched as that existence was, lately our position has become intolerable. A mad woman supplied by some Chaotic source has come out of the east to plague our existence. By night and day villagers have been spirited away, and a foul beast prowls the forest. Iniquitously, this woman has chosen to occupy the ruined castle where our noble lord ruled formerly. Only rid our village of the witch and all our remaining wealth is yours... Aitch, fetch the chest.”

Aitch fetches a battered wooden chest from the next room and gives it to Loku, who unlocks it and opens it ostentatiously. Within are some twenty-five silver coins.

“My friends, this is all we can offer. Slay the evil woman and our treasure and our gratitude our yours.”

If the characters demand the money immediately. Loku will not immediately refuse, but merely point out that should they fail in their intent, the money will be lost to the village and therefore preclude the possibility of hiring other aid.

THE VILLAGE LUNATIC
Usually to be found hanging around the outskirts of the village or surreptitiously following strangers from behind the cottages. He will introduce himself variously as Ogo the carver, Withak the innkeeper or Lord Missal. His real name is Knorr, and he was one of the best of Missal’s men. Knorr was absent from the castle at time of the attack. When he returned he was seized by the Calomel warriors and tortured until mind and body alike were broken. Normally he is docile and cringing, but if any character should try to rough him up he may react with some of his former spirit.

THE WOODS
Cinderbrake castle is two miles north of the village. The path is muddy and somewhat overgrown. Every half-hour there is a 35% chance of encountering the bearwalker. Several hundred yards short of the lake, a barely discernible track branches from the main path (Spot Hidden to notice this). This leads to the ancient shrine.





The bearwalker moved into this area some months before Amarna returned to Cinderbrake Castle. He knows nothing about her.

When he first meets the party it will be in his human form: a robust middle-aged man with a large beard, clad in fur robes and carrying a crude spear. He will greet them cheerfully, then suddenly hurl his speedarted spear at the nearest character as he transforms into bear form. Characters on horseback will need to make Riding rolls to stop their mounts from bolting.

If the encounter takes place at night or on an overcast day he can move freely. Otherwise he must keep to the ample shadows of the wood once transformed, as sunlight would return him to human form. If characters realise this and find an open glade, he will not be able to close with them to attack.

THE ANCIENT SHRINE
The characters find a large, rounded slab of rock in a dark grove. There is a depression in the middle of the slab, with writing scratched into the stone around it. The depression contains damp, matted straw, fragments of a large egg, and a snake’s sloughed-off skin.

This was where Amana hatched her basilisk. The inscription is in Earthtongue and reads:

“In the venom in the stone there is safety from death by stone.”

This refers to the venom of the adders which nest under the slab. Anyone bitten becomes 95% resistant to the basilisk’s gaze. The adders’ poison is Potency 2 blade venom. Every minute spent in the clearing gives each character a 10% chance of being bitten by an adder.

While the characters are examining the shrine, a skeleton in rough robes steps from among the trees. It speaks in a hollow voice, threatening them with dire curses if they do not leave. It carries a staff, but is not powerful and will only fight if attacked. 



A character who makes a Spot Hidden roll while in the clearing will notice a staff in the undergrowth beyond the shrine. The bones of a severed human hand lie by this. The staff is of varnished mahogany with a lumpish, twisted, vaguely organic form. Anyone who touches it will be unable to let go and acquires a Chaotic feature – select randomly from the Chaotic or Reverse Chaos features table. The only way to rid oneself of the staff (and accompanying Chaos affliction) is to use Dispel Magic 8 or to sever the hand holding it.

THE BEARWALKER’S LAIR
The characters will probably not find this unless they have good Tracking skills. The lair is just a hollow in a bank, twined with the roots of trees. It contains a number of skulls and decomposing heads – the bearwalker’s kill trophies – and some treasure wrapped in sacking. This latter comprises 38C, 59L, 2W and a jewel (just trade junk, worth maybe 5L).

THE APPROACH TO CINDERBRAKE CASTLE       
    
From the point where the track emerges from the woods, it is a distance of twenty metres across the moat to the far bank. The moat was once spanned by a bridge, but it has been partly demolished and its remaining sections (see map) are separated by distances of about three metres.

To the right, a boat can be seen moored among the reeds on the far bank. To the left, a small island with three poplars in a line.


Amana’s henchman Gorstang spends most of the day in the gate‑house. If he spots the characters crossing the moat (which he will do unless they make an effort at stealth) he will lower the portcullis and then go up to the battlements to snipe at them with his crossbow.

Amarna herself is usually in the tower. For six to eight hours each night, Gorstang goes there himself to sleep; at these times he leaves the portcullis down.

THE COURTYARD
Characters entering the courtyard will see that the walls of the castle are ruined and breached in many places to the north. In front of a shattered tower in this wall there is a tree which has grown unmistakably in the form of the Truth Rune (Y). Under its boughs are a score of simple graves – shallow mounds with rusted weapons lain upon them. The wind in the leaves creates a disquieting sound, as of a multitude muttering at a distance.

These are the graves of Missal’s slaughtered men-at-arms, given only a cursory burial by the treacherous Lord Calomel. Anyone moving close enough to the tree to reach the graves is subject to a POW attack of 14; if overcome, the character falls into a deep sleep in which he will experience the Dream of the Betrayal (see below). After two minutes (twelve rounds) he can be shaken awake. Otherwise he will waken naturally in 2-12 minutes. Any character who tries to damage the tree itself receives a POW attack of 14. which will inflict him with the effect of a Yelmalio geas.



On a Spot Hidden roll, characters will observe a narrow recess in the castle wall to the west (at the point marked S on the map). The roll is at -20% if the character is merely passing through the courtyard without pausing to look around. Close examination of this recess will reveal a small red gem set into the wall at about eye level. If broken out of the wall, the gem is worth 35 L.


THE TOWER

Broken double doors stand ajar at the entrance to the main tower. In front of these, facing the towards entrance, stand two disfigured statues of warriors in lifelike combat pose. Any character who doesn’t charge straight in will hear a shifting of chains from the darkness beyond the doorway.
 
 



THE TOWER - ENTRANCE LEVEL

FIRST GLANCE: A basilisk. It may be the last thing the character sees.

CLOSER LOOKS: The wall has a number of armorial blocks and, to the east, a bas-relief Sun symbol with a yellow gem in the eye at its centre.


In the centre of the chamber, steps lead down into an unlit passage. To the right of the doorway, a spiral stair­case leads to the floor above.

DENIZENS: Amarna’s basilisk is chained to the wall opposite the doors. The chain is long enough for it to reach any point in this chamber.


COMMENTS: The basilisk could not be hatched within the castle walls, where the power of Law is still strong, so Amarna hatched it at the ancient chaos shrine in the woods. Anyone who was bitten by an adder there will be resistant to the stare of this basilisk.

The Sun symbol provides the key to the location of Missal’s treasure. The rays of the dawn will pass through the gem in the symbol’s eye, focusing through the tower entrance on the recessed gem in the wall. The light beam is diffracted south slightly by this second gem and falls directly on the small island to the west of the castle. Anyone looking from the castle at dawn will clearly see a suffusion of blood-red light from the island, lasting for about twenty seconds.


THE DUNGEONS AND CRYPT BELOW THE TOWER

The steps go down about eight metres. The walls are of granite blocks. At the end is a heavy oak door (not locked).

1. ARMOURY
OVERVIEW: The room is 5 metres square. There are brackets for torches on either side. There are three chests against the wall. The door to the east is closed. Weapons hang on the walls.

CLOSER LOOKS: The chests contain arms and armour. The door to the east is sturdily locked.

TREASURE: The first chest contains a light scale hauberk (SIZ 8), plate greaves and vambraces, and a closed helm. This armour is embossed with red lacquer with a continuous design in black  based on the form of the Truth rune. There is also a broadsword. The second chest contains an iron full helm with a demonic black visage, and an iron battle axe. The last chest contains a plate cuirass(SIZ 12) and three broadswords. The other weapons are: four long spears, three pikes, four bastard swords, two light crossbows (both in bad repair), and a shortsword.

COMMENTS: There are two keys to the east door. One is on Amarna’s person, the other is in her room in the tower above. The armour in the first chest was made for Missal’s young son. It was never used.

2. PASSAGEWAY
OVERVIEW: The passage runs down another two metres or so along its length. Spots of pallid mould clump the walls. The air here seems unhealthily damp.

CLOSER LOOKS: The passage terminates in a heavy portal of black wood. This bears a lead knocker in the form of the Chaos rune. The door will not open.

COMMENT: Amarna set the knocker on this door. The moment it is rapped the door will open easily.

3. DOMED CHAMBER
OVERVIEW: A hemispherical chamber of 5 metre radius. The characters emerge onto a landing raised 3 metres above the floor. Steps lead down to the floor from either end of the landing. There is a stench of putrefaction.

CLOSER LOOKS: A macabre and horrible sight – around the wall are chained skeletons and half-rotted corpses, the victims of Amarna’s revenge. There are fifteen bodies in all. One (clamped in a chair at the point marked G) has pride of place; it has no head.

There is a narrow passageway off the landing, leading south. Lichen stains the wall to a height of nearly 3 metres.

SPOT HIDDEN: There is a small inlet at the point marked H on the map. A character of SIZ 13 or less could squeeze through and crawl along to the swampy fringes of the lake.

TRAPS: If the character who touched the knocker was not associated with Chaos, or if the door was broken open, Amarna’s trap is activated. After three rounds a block slides up in the far wall and water begins to flow into the chamber. From the same opening lumbers a marsh-dwelling Chaos creature which Amarna has partially brought under her control. The water will continue to rise until it reaches a level of 27 metres, which takes five minutes; it then drains rapidly away. The trap requires sorcery and must be renewed by Amarna before it will work again.

DENIZEN:


This muddy brown creature, roughly humanoid but with overlarge arms and a small head, is covered with writhing, stunted tentacles which distribute mud and slime over its body. It identifies Amarna by the Mastery rune belt buckle she wears. It will attack anyone without this distinguishing symbol. It will not carry a fight beyond this chamber because it fears getting cut off from the marsh, and it retreats when the water level starts to fall.

COMMENTS: The corpse in the chair is all that is left of Lord Calomel – with the exception of the fragment in the Missal crypt (5, below).

4. BED OF COALS
OVERVIEW: At the head of the stairs the way is interrupted by a bed of flickering coals.

CLOSER LOOKS: The air above the coals is smoky and shimmers with heat, but some details can be made out of the crypt beyond.

TRAPS: A member of the Missal family or one of their loyal retainers, can cross the coals without harm. Anyone else will be attacked by a medium salamander (fire elemental). The coals could be jumped, of course, in which case the salamander will not emerge. The bed of coals is 3½ metres across, and since it is at the top of a flight of steps any jump must be a standing one (giving -15% from Jumping skill).

DENIZEN:


5. LORD MISSAL’S CRYPT
OVERVIEW: Three stone sarcophagi under a vaulted roof, each bearing the Missal crest (four swords in the form of the Mastery Rune). The middle sarcophagus is open. A severed head in an iron helmet rests on a wooden trestle at the foot of the open sarcophagus.

CLOSER LOOKS: The skeleton in the open sarcophagus has its skull pillowed by a gilded scroll-case. The other sarcophagi are smaller than the central one, and if opened will be found to contain the remains of two children. The adult skeleton wears cloth-of-gold robes and clasps an iron greatsword to its chest. Its legs have been hacked off at the knees.

Anyone who had the Dream of Betrayal will recognize Lord Calomel’s head from the wisps of red beard still clinging to it. His helmet has a silver trefoil crest.

DENIZENS: Missal’s ghost has INT 11 and POW 15. It floats forward as though out of a mist – a gaunt, spectral figure of tormented aspect whose legs end at the knee. The ghost appears only if anyone tries to loot the tomb, and attacks only if they continue looting after it has warned them off. It will speak (in Sovereign), first to threaten any who would plunder the tomb, and then to relate the tale of Missal’s death. The ghost’s version of the tale runs contrary to the events shown in the Dream of the Betrayal; it claims that Missal was drugged by Loku and later awoke to find Lord Calomel’s men had taken over the castle. Calomel then tortured him, hacked off his legs, and finally put him to death.

TREASURE: Missal’s sword has a POW storage crystal (POW 8) set into the hilt. The gilded scroll-case under the skull contains a parchment with the words Loyalty beyond the grave in gold leaf upon it. The value of this is 85 L.

Calomel’s helmet (an iron open helm) is perhaps the greatest treasure here. A character putting it on will know that he has automatically attuned it. This counts
as the one attuned crystal a character can have, so if he already had a crystal it is now unattuned. The major power of the helmet is to warn its wearer of the presence of undead. This warning takes the form of a dull “heartbeat” when undead are within 80 metres, growing increasingly louder as the undead approach with an abrupt silence moments before they arrive. The minor power of the helmet is that it functions as a turn undead  matrix; the wearer must permanently relinquish
a POW point for each use of this spell. Those powers must be discovered by trial and error or else by analyze magic as they are not immediately obvious to the wearer.

If any of the treasure is taken, or if Missal’s remains are disturbed after his ghost issues its warning, thirteen of his warriors will rise from their graves in the courtyard (see NPCs).

COMMENTS: The smaller bodies are those of Missal’s sons. Amarna left Calomel’s head here so that her husband might relish in death the final destruction of his hated foe. It was Calomel who chopped off Missal’s legs and then, a few months later, killed him. Calomel saw this as an apt cruelty, for Missal was a renowned runner and athlete.

THE UPPER LEVELS OF THE TOWER


FIRST FLOOR:

6. LANDING
Beyond the heavy oak door to the south a short flight of steps leads down to the battlements along the castle wall. The door can be barred from inside. A passage leads north from the landing.

7. MAIN HALL
OVERVIEW: A large fireplace in the vast wall has several shields hung over it. There are two bay windows. One of the two dining tables is on its side, broken, as though some incredible force had hurled it against the wall.

CLOSER LOOKS: One of the lead candlesticks on the floor has been completely flattened. The fireplace contains the burnt remains of several wooden shields. The design can still be made out on one or two of these: a silver trefoil on a grey field. In the grate there is a silver horn worked with feral, unhuman faces.

SPOT HIDDEN: A trapdoor in the floor by the west wall overlooks the dungeon stairway in the entrance chamber below.

TREASURE: The horn was one of the magical artefacts Amarna used up in retaking the castle. Its energies are now completely expended, but it still has its intrinsic value of about 400 L.

8. MAIN BEDCHAMBER (locked; Amarna has the key)
OVERVIEW: There are dust and cobwebs everywhere. Dominating the room is a four-poster bed with velvet covers. The bay window in the west wall looks out over the courtyard. There is a desk in the north-west corner and an armour-rack (empty) against the east wall. Another door leads north.

CLOSER LOOKS: The door in the north wall is locked. (The same key is needed to open it.) A thorough search of the desk (i.e., if it is taken apart) will unearth a vellum letter pasted above a drawer inside it. This has a wax seal with the Missal crest (three upright swords over one horizontal) and the heading, “To my sons”. The letter reads:

For certain treasures of our family you must wait to greet the Lord as He rises and meets the eye with His gaze. Follow as He guides you through the door and the blood-red eye, and where the drop of His blood falls, there delve until you have found.

Under the bed there is a small coffer containing 120L and 20 W.

COMMENTS: Amarna removed all trace of Calomel’s occupancy from this room and since then has kept it locked. The letter was written years ago by Lord Missal. It refers to the treasure buried on the small island across the lake to the west (see
later). The letter has remained hidden in the desk for thirty years.

9. SECOND BEDCHAMBER
OVERVIEW: This room contains a black-draped four-poster and a desk against the opposite wall. There is a battered wooden chest on the floor in one corner. The bay window gives a view of the woods to the north. A door connects with 8.

CLOSER LOOKS: The connecting door is locked. Several sheets of paper on the desk describe the location of a Chaos citadel two hundred miles to the north-east, in the hills beyond Miasmos, which was one of the places Amarna learned her mystic arts.

The chest contains some jewellery, four sealed flasks, and pages of notes – Amarna’s and Gorstang’s battle plans for retaking the castle and their intended attack on the village.

DENIZENS: Amarna herself will be here if not forewarned of intruders by Gorstang.

TREASURE: The jewellery comprises a robe clasp (red gem in a gold setting, worth 3000 L ), a necklace with several stones missing (worth 300 L) and a ring (white gold with small black gemstone, worth 650 L).

The potions are a pale yellow liquid with a bosky smell (herbal systemic poison, potency 9), a dark green liquid (spider venom systemic, potency 7), an acrid, viscous amber fluid (blade venom, potency 11) and a pale yellow liquid without odour (a spoiled magical potion: drinker gains random Chaotic feature for fifteen minutes and attacks others indiscriminately and Fanatically for this time, then loses 1D4 POW and 1D3 DEX permanently; the Chaotic feature is 20% likely to recur each time the drinker uses any other magical potion).

The notes on the desk would be useful to crusading Lawful types. They could pay up to 8000 L (if the characters think of selling the information) but may turn nasty if they suspect they’re being duped or taken advantage of.

10. STAIRS
A narrow stairway leads up to the next floor.

11. LANDING
To the north, steps lead through an archway and, beyond that, a balcony with steps down to the wall. An iron grille can be lowered to block the archway. There is a corridor to the south.

12. GUARDROOM
OVERVIEW: A plain, almost empty chamber with a single pallet and travelling kit over by the west wall.

CLOSER LOOKS: A shortsword and three throwing daggers are tucked under the pallet.

DENIZENS: Gorstang spends six hours a night sleeping here; he will awaken as soon as the door is opened. At other times he is usually on watch in the gatehouse or patrolling the walls.

13. SMALL BEDROOM

14. GUEST BEDROOM

15. STOREROOM
OVERVIEW: Racks along the west wall contain bedding, various utensils, five composite bows with full quivers, and three hand axes.

16. CHAPEL
OVERVIEW: An unadorned chamber. The large bay window to the east has latticed panes of yellow and red glass forming a vertical line of Truth Runes. A white cloth with a black Death Rune drapes the altar in front of this window.

CLOSER LOOKS: The altar originally had panels which have been removed.

COMMENTS: Originally a chapel to Yelmalio. The Calomel clan turned it into a chapel to Humakt, their own favoured deity. The altar panels depicted Yelmalio and had to be taken out.

17. PRIEST’S ROOM
OVERVIEW: A small bed with a rough blanket. There is a desk in front of the window.

CLOSER LOOKS: The desk contains sheet music for the flute. There is also a manuscript copy of a composition by the Master Barak Verdayn. A flute is among the priest’s personal effects in a satchel under his bed.

TREASURE: In the right circles the manuscript could fetch 400 L

18. STAIRS TO THE TOWER BATTLEMENTS

LORD MISSAL’S TREASURE
This is buried at the foot of the middle poplar on the small island west of Cinderbrake Castle. An bronze-clasped chest inlaid with ivory contains a book, a silver statuette, a gold drinking cup, and a ruby ring.

The Book of the Fleet-Footed is the fruit of Missal’s last years. He was a renowned athlete of his day, winning the plaudits and envy of his peers at countless competitions. The book instructs in how to improve DEX by 1 point and Jumping, Climbing and Swimming scores by 10%. The normal training time is still required, and the reader cannot of course take his DEX over species maximum.

The silver statuette is worth 950 L intrinsically, and up to 2000 L as a work of art. The gold drinking cup is worth 1800 L. The ring is worth 5000 L as a piece of jewellery and is also a matrix for the Yelmalio cult spell lantern 4.

NON-PLAYER CHARACTERS




Amarna was thirty when the Calomel clan attacked Cinderbrake castle and ruthlessly slew its inhabitants. Amarna escaped with the young warrior Gorstang whom Lord Missal charged with her protection. Amarna has devoted half her life to gleaning magical secrets from hermits in the swamps of Miasmos, even pledging herself to the powers of Death and Chaos in her all-consuming desire for revenge. A good deal of her magic was used up in annihilating Lord Calomel and his retainers. Now she is trying to build up POW for more Rune magic so that she can complete her revenge by destroying Loku and the villagers.

Amarna always carries a key-ring with the keys to the dungeon and to Missal’s room. Her belt-buckle has a gold Mastery Rune.

 

Gorstang was a young warrior in Lord Missal’s service. When Missal realized that his hated foes were sacking the castle he sent Amarna away with Gorstang. Gorstang might have preferred to stay and die with his lord, but his loyalty is absolute and he has guarded Amarna these past thirty years. Like most of the Missal clan, Gorstang worshipped Yelmalio. Religion is unimportant to him now, however - his only god is his duty to Missal. Not so long ago he contracted swamp fever and was gravely ill for months; his health is slowly recovering, but even in his present weakened state he is a formidable opponent. Note that he has an iron helm.

Loku is in his early fifties, a man of vigour and decisive action. Although by nature a bullying and deceitful sort, Loku will portray himself to newcomers as the honestly worried leader of the village. He will try to send adventurers against Amarna and then have Holmek poison any survivors.

Loku began his rise to power in the village thirty years ago, when he was instrumental in betraying the castle to Lord Calomel, a rival baron envious of Missal’s power and prestige. Loku was steward at the castle then; he drugged the guards and then signalled to the Uenmoro warriors waiting in the darkness of the forest. After a wholesale slaughter Calomel rewarded Loku with a stipend. Loku added further to his wealth by murdering occasional travellers and stealing their possessions.

When Amarna returned and wrought her revenge on the Calomel clan, Loku’s first instinct was to cut and run. But Holmek the shaman suggested that Amarna’s powers would be depleted after the excesses of her vengeance, that she would realize Loku was now forewarned and so was likely to gather more magical power before moving against him. Loku was convinced that Amarna could be defeated, and now seeks to weaken her further before making his own pre-emptive strike.


Holmek is a young man who has come under Loku’s influence. He is quite honourable according to his own lights, but has only heard Loku’s account of that night thirty years ago and believes that Missal was a tyrant whom Loku was forced to betray in the end. Holmek never liked the usurper Calomel, and could not understand Loku’s close association with him.

He doesn’t like the idea of poisoning travellers, but is completely in thrall to Loku and does as he is told while finding ways to justify it to himself. A few months ago Holmek tried to bargain with a spirit for control, but he couldn’t spare the POW and this has further undermined his feeble confidence and driven him to completely relinquish any sense of self-responsibility through obedience to Loku.




Aitch and Bato are a couple of ruffians who had to leave Deliverance in a hurry after their employer was brutally murdered. They arrived in Loku’s village thinking that he was just an old rustic they could push around, but soon learned better. Their grudging respect for Loku turned to admiration when he poisoned the king’s officer who had tracked them from Deliverance. Now they are as loyal to Loku as men of their unsavoury character can be.

There is bantering antagonism between the two of them. Bato has beaten Aitch in several drunken brawls and Aitch now thinks his friend is a much better fighter than he is. He has a tendency to toady to Bato, who often takes the lead and will put Aitch down in front of others, but the bottom line is that the two are inseparable chums and will trust their lives to one another.



Thirteen of the warriors buried under the tree in the courtyard of Cinderbrake castle will rise as zombies if Missal’s remains are disturbed. They will then make their way to the crypt, attacking anyone who gets in their way except for Amarna, whom they instinctively recognize. After slaying those in the crypt and setting their lord’s body and effects back in his sarcophagus they will return to their graves.

These zombies are badly rotted, and their arms and armour are corroded, hence the irregular stats.



14 comments:

  1. I love that there really aren't any "good guys" in this scenario and that the "best" ending is that the PCs kill off everyone.

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    1. You can see the seeds of Dragon Warriors' distinctive tone right there.

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    2. Would that be 'Everybody's dead, Dave' ; )

      Thanks for sharing this one from the archives. It's a real pity you weren't given the go ahead to publish your above ground explorations of this particularly brave 'New World'.

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    3. Thanks, John. It creaks a bit now, but at the time that was what published scenarios looked like. I think that most of the DW ones were better, though -- even the dungeony ones.

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    4. Yes they remain classics - because you always put as much history in the dungeon as monsters : )

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    5. Interesting. I was talking on Twitter about Scholastic's re-release of the Fighting Fantasy books and whether they can attract today's kids. My take on it is that they're very much of their time; readers nowadays expect character-driven rather than purely plot-driven stories. So most '80s gamebooks are old hat. DW adventures, on the other hand, always had that extra ingredient - as you'd expect of roleplaying, of course. So maybe Scholastic should be republishing Dragon Warriors?

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  2. Agreed ! And then, to bring the conversation full circle , they will hopefully agree to publish the 'missing' Invaders & Ancients books : )

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    1. Sadly, John, while you or I might think that DW and Blood Sword and other series are of a quality that merits interest from a mainstream book publisher, the reality is that nobody on the acquisitions committees is going to be swayed by such considerations. If they suggest republishing FF, with its 14+ million sales, nobody will fire them if it doesn't sell like hot cakes this time round. "Worth a shot," they'll say. But if a brave soul stood up and said, "These other books didn't sell as many, but they're really good" then you'll see boardroom tumbleweed. I should know; Oliver is a senior exec at one of the biggest UK publishers and he can't get his own works reissued, after all. Still, we'll plug on. To be honest it's better to appeal to a small but discerning group of aficionados than to a largely indiscriminate mass market. Just as well I feel that way, too :-)

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    2. Hi Dave, if you'll forgive me a clumsy (mis)quotation from "Gladiator", casting you in the role of Proximo - "I wasn't the best because I sold the most copies quickly. I was the best because the next generation of aspiring writers loved my books. Win that crowd, and you'll win the future."

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    3. The comparison to Oliver Reed would have been richly deserved in my wild younger days, John. Now I'm much better behaved ;-)

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  3. Not that previous re-issues of the FF series got that far, so may well be a moot point, Dave, but will you be allowing them to re-release Keep Of The Lich-Lord?

    At least The Port Of Peril has never been used as a gamebook title before! I hope it's better than other latter titles, Blood Of The Zombies was a stinker.

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    1. I declined to sell my copyright in Keep of the Lich Lord, Andy, but Jamie and Mark sold their FF books (Talisman of Death and Sword of the Samurai IIRC). Still, never say never. If Scholastic offered big bucks (they won't) for KotLL then maybe I'd rethink it.

      As for the quality of Mr Livingstone's new books, I haven't read them so I can't comment. I think that if gamebooks are to appeal to today's youngsters then they need a complete revamp. Those '80s books were cut from the same cloth as '80s Doctor Who and Judge Dredd, with little emphasis on the personal journey. Modern sensibities are quite different. Still, we'll see.

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  4. You're no doubt right, Dave. Albeit it sometimes feels as if the public like what the marketing people tell them they like, not because of the quality of the writing. Have we an ETA on your new gamebook/concept by the way, which will presumably remedy some of the aforementioned lack of depth and development?

    Sword of the Samurai was the last FF book I thought was any good. At the time I hasten to add! I didn't clock back then that KotLL was yours and not entirely sure I read it. Reading it now (well, about a year ago), it's very good. I admittedly haven't got around to buying the relocated version to compare against.

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    1. I read a recent article, Andy, in which they told people that unknown music tracks were in the top 10, as a result of which they rated them higher. So I guess there's some truth in popularity and/or marketing counting for more than quality. I usually take the opposite view myself. If something is popular I assume it's not worth bothering with :-)

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