Aug 8, 2008

Assault on the Lightless depths: Part 1C - Redstone, the Dales, and Blackstone Keep

Random cool image from hard drive. Credit happily given...If I can figure out where I got it.

Greetings, and welcome to the final installment of "Can he do it?" Today we are going to finish assembling the skeleton we started on monday. As such, it will be ready for meat very soon.

Chapter VI - I got a bad feeling about this - Ahhh, the city of Redstone. Nearly 4000 souls call this rough and tumble frontier burg home. From it's outer wall (Red iron leeching stone) to it's white marble "civic center", a picture of small town life.

Unfortunately, there are several events ongoing that are killing this small town idyllic. We'll address some of these below. First, we need to come to common agreement as to what the party needs to know by this point.

At this point the party should know:

  1. There is something funny going on here.

  2. The kidnappings are likely all connected.

  3. The keep is the likely location for the bad guys.

  4. This town has issues.

As such, we need to keep the party focused on the prize. For this; we have the last running tavern (no money = one last drinking establishment). After the ambush the party just survived, they have a note from a mysterious character named "Drogan Bitterbrew". (Handout will be part of final project.) Drogan is a dwarven brewer (LE Exp2) who runs "The Bitter Harvest", a drinkery specializing in a pair of ciders - pear and apple - that are local favorites. What the locals DON'T know, is that he is also a spy/fixer for the bandits in the old keep.

He passes messages, keeps a lookout, and occasionally handles "odd jobs" for a fair pile of coin. His goal is to make enough money to leave this backwater hell, and open a REAL brewery in a proper city. He is gruff, rude, greedy, and prone to childish behavior. Half of the town has been thrown out at least once. He also despises adventurers, he is, quite simply, jealous as hell of them.

In short, the note will indicate that "the pigboy" has alerted the "eyes and ears" to some "trouble" headed up the valley to Redstone. "The boss" would appreciate it if things can be "handled" before they get out of hand. Payment for "fixing" things will be handled by "The bitter man" in Redstone.

DM NOTE: While clever code or whatever makes the players feel good (when they figure it out) sometimes they simply cannot put it together. Need to work on massaging the clues a bit.

In any event, the as yet uncrafted letter will point in the direction of the bitter harvest, and give clues as to who the contact is. If role-played well, Drogan will break down pretty easily. He is a coward at heart, and if cornered will break down and spill all of his secrets if promised a day's head start out of the valley.

What Drogan knows:

  1. The bandit leader, has shocking red hair - named Camrian.

  2. There's LOTS of bandits in the keep. Scores of them!

  3. They been fixin the place up, looking to stay awhile.

  4. Always knows "his" boys - they stink like fish.

  5. Kidnapped folks get stashed in the cellar, and carted out under darkness, in kegs.

  6. He smelled orcs last time he was up there.

He doesn't know what they do with the folks he helps them "move", nor does he care. He only cares about his cut - 10 silver a head. A search of his room will turn up a sack of unminted silver coin blanks, about 300 of them. These coins (for a fee) can be minted into any kingdoms native currency, or exchanged for 80% of their value at a moneychanger.

Other locations of note:

  • The redstone mines - Currently closed. At this point, the lord of chain has sealed the mines until further notice. The last group of guardsman sent in to investigate the "poisoning" of the mine, came back in their underwear, screaming about monsters in the dark. In reality, the mine is infested by Pseudonatural templated Rust monsters. These mutants are able to eat both gold and iron. This encounter is a result of the fell energies from down below finally affecting the "lower" life forms in the area. It will only get worse.

  • The Baronial seat - The local seat of government. This "council" is made up of the lords of Coin, Wheel, and Chain. They do a reasonable job, so Ser Davros is content to act in an "Official Advisory" capacity during his monthly trips into town. These men are the elder scions of the three families that founded the banking, teamstering, and mining operations respectively. The serve as defacto guild leaders, and for the last 200 years, things have gone well. Unfortunately, with the disappearing wagons, and the poisoned mine, the whole local economy is about to collapse.

Currently, there are almost 800 unemplyed miners and teamsters. There are nearly daily mob brawls, and anarchy is dangerously close. These three old men are frightened. They are smart enough to know that there is something else going on here, but are powerless to do anything about it. The party are the first "heroes" to enter the town in decades. As such, they will be seen (to some) as a gods sent deliverance. Attending a council meeting would be a very wise move to attain employment while in this area.

DM NOTE: Redstone is a rough and tumble boom town. Think wild west with swords and crossbows instead of guns. The sheriff is an uncaring political appointee (Human War2) who is responsible (through incompetence) for some of the worst fighting and violence so far. I picture him as a "Boss Hog" type of character.

  • The merchant's row - This is an area where all the merchants share a common area. They are a tight knit group. Close proximity for generations has resulted in a group, so intermarried, that clear ownership of each is dubious at best. ("Don't see anything you like? Try my cousin next door - or my uncle on the corner.") The number of open businesses is a daily variable. Prices are marked down to fire sale levels (PHB prices, no modifiers) in order to try and get someone to buy something.

  • The church of St. Cuthbert - This is where the town sawbones lives. Lomes Redbeard (human Exp4) is the chirurgeon, and Abbot Stromond (human Cl5) is the churches local patriarch. Normally, 6 acolytes tend to the building, but currently there are only 2. Healing services are offered, for a donation. Potions are also available for "purchase".

  • The Olde Magick and Charms Shoppe - Tiesler's first apprentice, a shady fellow named Mort (N human Ro1/Ench3) makes his craft here. His shop has potions and scrolls for sale, as well as the occasional trinket. He is a bit of a grifter, and Tiesler absolutely despises him. The feeling is mutual (something about a stolen old spellbook). They refuse to even use each other's names.

  • The Shoe and Stave - The local smith/Farrier co-op. Rand (human fi1/exp2) and his sons Freck and Dran (Human exp1) are smiths, sharing space with the towns Wagonner and farrier Bertold (Half-elf exp3). Together they have a fairly lucrative business building and repairing mining gear, as well as the wagons used by the local teamsters. Rand, as a militia member, is capable of crafting arms and armor. (PHB base price + 75% due to iron shortage).

  • The docks - The seedy part of town, built up along the river. The barges travelling up and down the river have been steadily increasing, hurting the teamster's livelihood. As such, the "river folk" and the "horse pushers" are constantly at odds.

There may very well be more locations of note here, but for now, we have a skeleton. Next, we leave the walls of Redstone, and move on to the Dales - leading up to Blackstone keep.

Chapter VII - Home on the range -The Dales have long been a no man's land of small, interconnected washes and gullys. The bandits have memorized a short route through them to make travel to and from the keep feasible. These arroyos have been caused by the occasional monsoonal rains that come every 10 years or so. The average gully is sharply V-shaped, averaging 50 feet wide at the top, to 10 feet wide at it's bottom, to a average depth of 30 feet. There are often rock falls partially blocking several points along the way. Loud noises or explosions have a noncumulative 15% chance of starting a small rockslide. These rockslides require a DC: 14 Reflex save to avoid, failure leads to 2D6 bludgeoning damage.

Occasionally, these mazelike gullys open up into larger area where the walls between 2 or more have collapsed. These "valleys" are often home to the monsters that occasionally terrorize the goodfolk of the barony.

Possible encounter include:

  • Orc patrol from the Eyegouger/Bloody hand/Skullcrusher tribe. "just havin a look around" as it were.

  • Gnolls, new to the area, a small clan of gnolls have begun searching for a cave or gully to call home. They are likely to flee when first encountered.

  • Trolls. There are occasional sightings of mountain trolls (like MM, except tan not green).

  • Ogres. Also sighted on occasion.

  • Bandit patrol. If encountered, will try to send a runner back to the keep.

  • Dire wolves, weasels, wolverines.

Other encounters still bouncing around in my head:

  • Like shiraz the swanmay

  • The Eelhold & it's water elemental guardian.

  • The rosestone & it's "worshippers" a clan of hideously mutated somethings.

  • The Guardians of the dale (Ranger Cuiper, Druid Ophelia)

  • The Tar pits

All said, while the party is free to scout out the keep earlier, they would be foolish to try and storm it before reaching 5-6th level. A head on assault of the keep would be around a CR:10 encounter. It is possible with great tactics and preparation, but one single slip could spell doom. That said, Lets talk a bit more about the Keep.

Chapter VIII - That's no ruin, it's a barbican - Blackstone Keep, as long as there have been humans living in the Valley, so has their silent guardian watched over them. Built 300 years ago by The Lord Baron, Davram, it saw his children grow up, and also saw them all killed. Be that as it may, the keep has definitely seen better days.

Sitting nearly 400 feet above the low valley, the keep can be seen from any point, Haranshire and beyond. It's Black granite walls rise an impressive 50 feet above the surface of the stagnant moat. (possible merrow/Scrag?)The stone wall is nearly 4 feet thick at it's strongest points. Due to lack of regular repairs to the mortaring, there are bare timbers poking through here and there.

The Drawbridge is still intact, and appears to be boarded shut. A DC 12 spot check will confirm that it is a fairly simple ruse. The is in excellent repair, standing out against the moss and lichen covered walls. Manning the towers at all times are two sentries (Human Ro2) that watch for trouble. Any disturbance is immediately checked on by the Day/Night watch. a mixed group (6-10) of either human thugs and warriors (day) or Orcish Barbs/fighters (night).

Inside the courtyard, most of the doors have been replaced. The outbuildings have been rebuilt as well. Currently there are 150 total bandits here. At any given time, 50 of them are out on errands/raids and are not in residence. Typical bandit is either a fighter1 or Rogue1. Riding herd on these cutthroats, are four Lieutenants. These are Fi3 or Ro3, and are a bit more dangerous. The leader Camrian, is a Cl7 of Erythnul. With very few exceptions, 99% of the current population here are on the ground level. Camrian himself only comes up from the dungeons if a "scuffle" goes of for longer than 10 rounds.

The Orcs (15) are nesting in the old stables. They are generally Fi1 or Barb1, led by a skulltaker (Bar3). They wait until the party has been "softened up" a bit before attacking. Their leader, Gruumlash (Orc Bar3/Fi1) is currently in the dungeons.

The keep will have a few baubles spread around as pay for the men. The real payoff is in Camrian's quarters, down on level 2. Make sure to factor in elevation, as a number of bad guys will opt to snipe from the battlements (+1 to hit for elevation). Otherwise, a resourceful party will have little trouble smashing through the keeps outer defenses.

The lower levels of the keep consist of the larder, Root cellar, dungeon, and granary. The granary area is where Camrian is currently living. It is an opulent den lit by candles, an smelling of exotic incense. If on alert, he will be here, dressed out in his full kit (Banded mail +1, Heavy Flail +1, buff spells up) otherwise, a stealthy party could conceivably catch him "enjoying" one of the recent prisoners. He tends to keep a "plaything" shackled to his bed, unless he has "broken" another one, in which the shackles are open and waiting for their next guest. The adjoining room (with barred door) is where his broken toys go. There are 4-10 enhanced zombies here under his control. If cornered, he offers to "free the prisoners" locked in the other room. Once the naive party member opens the door, Round 2! Fight! Could be a small pack of ghouls too, if the party is having TOO easy a time.

On the floor, in the zombie chamber, is a large wooden trapdoor leading down into darkness. THIS is where the adventure really begins. Until then, Why would they go down there? Easy, because the clues tell them to.

The other adjoining room to Camrians quarters is a guest room containing the chief of the (whatever we pick) Orc tribe. He will join in any battle he hears next door,and follows direct orders from camrian to the letter (and death). If defeated, the party will notice the smell of fish on him too. Next to his pallet, are several empty flasks, each smelling of wine, and fish. Camrian's footlocker (under the bed) also contains no less than 12 sealed flasks containing a cloudy fishy smelling substance. These contain distilled aboleth slime. Imbibing this sludge forces the imbiber to make a DC 15 will save, or become susceptible to outside influence. In practice, all orders or commands are treated as suggestion spells (automatic fail on save). The effect lasts 24 hours, though repeated doses wear down a victims resistance. Long term (30 day or more) make the effects semi-permanent.

In addition to the flasks, there will also be a diary detailing his pact with "the old ones, down below." It is difficult reading, filled with sadistic reminiscing about his "playthings" as well as notes about his undead experiments. There are also a few handouts to come from this, including several strange glyph drawings, and partial maps. (included in final project.) He delights in thinking he knows more about his master's plan than they do, and fully expects to be a key player in "the new world to come".

  • If questioned, Camrian is a frothing madman. He giggles and capers, mocking his interrogators relentlessly. He could possibly drop any number of clues as to the next stage of the adventure, but has never been beyond the Trogolodyte caverns.

  • If questioned specifically about Julianna or the acolytes, he recalls them. The acolytes "went down" a week ago. Julianna...brings a sick leer. If pressed, he admits she kicked him in the codpiece, so he decided to "draft" a more meek female - sending Julianna below a tenday ago.

  • The orcs are a new addition to the forces being assembled. "there will be more" he warns. "There are dozens like me" he says over and over. He won't elaborate any further.

Torture or the like will inflict a catatonia on him. If left alive (turned in to authorities) he swallows his own tongue a few days later.

There you have it. The wobbly and obedient skeleton of Book one: The evils of Haranshire. I am going to be doing some homework, and playtesting these encounters with my group over the next few weeks. I plan to make regular progress reports, and report any stumpers that come up. In the meantime, and advice or assistance would be much appreciated.

As to that, I have no intention of actually making any money on this project. At best I hope to break even on my printing expenses. As such, I will be happy to offer free hardcopies and/or printed credits to anyone interested in such things. If this interests you, drop me a line.

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