WARNING: IF YOU PLAY IN THE THURSDAY NIGHT GROUP; DO NOT READ THIS.
Alright, I’m going to write this up as an incursion for Trophy Gold in one sitting. I read this when I woke up and I’m going to write this before I get my coffee. All names will be obvious placeholders that can be easily tossed out for easy insertion into your game world.
Clues, things players will likely need are in all caps.
Arneson is a distant, pleasant village with more sheep than people. Gygax, the friendly hedge wizard, had a tower nearby, always on the horizon. Most years, the big deal is rounding up the sheep and selling the wool at the crossroads market. No knight nor any ducal authority figure has been here in the eldest elder’s memory.
Gygax died and the wizard’s cruelest apprentice, Lor, came back with a posse of mercenaries and has taken charge of the town looking for lost power.
Secret shit the players should uncover pretty quickly:
Gygax has been here for years to watch over their master’s tomb. The Wizard’s master, Braunstein, was a necromancer he stopped from becoming a lich with his old adventuring party. Lor is looking for Braunstein’s tomb so he can find the lich-rites for their own use.
The Town, The Tower, The Hills & The Tomb
Unless you the treasure-hunters someone in town, most folk are going to assume you are a posse of mercenaries or friends of Lor and keep their heads down. The villagers are clearly terrified.
Find out where Gygax left the map to the tomb.
EDIT: This goal sucks. Let them know that the map is buried with Gygax’s friends outside his tower right from the jump. The new goal: Learn what you can about Gygax and his history with the town of Arneson.
- Mercenaries abusing a villager to pass the time.
- Children playing pretend as Gygax and his adventuring party.
- Elder engaged in tense negotiations with mercenary sergeant concerning village search.
- Villagers leaving offerings to the All-Mother on the altar near the village well.
Elder House: The hierarchy of the town is pretty flat but one person is elected Elder and they get to live in the Elder House with all of the oldest and wisest from the village. Moldvay is older than dirt and will mischievously steal something off the players and give it back to them with a wink. Moldvay was the thief in Gygax’s party – you can give a clue to this in the children’s game.
MOLDVAY TOTALLY KNOWS THAT THE MAP IS BURIED WITH GYGAX’s OLD PARTY IN THE CEMETERY OUTSIDE HIS TOWER. Moldvay asks to go with them and is old but it also surprisingly spry (if you want the players to have a mentor who isn’t going to do much derring-do because of bad knees, here you go).
Elder Kaye will offer 5 gold if the players can promise to have Lor and the mercenaries out of Arneson within two days. He’s savvy and knows they’re looking for something and doesn’t want to pay for protection if it means the treasure-hunters just wait until Lor finds whatever it is he’s looking for and goes away.
The Well: A good place to catch up on local gossip and offer prayers at the nearby altar. The All-Mother is most often prayed to but other saints, Sisters and deities are welcome; folks will ask good natured questions about foreign prayers. Sergeant Metzger will likely stop by to find out how long you’ll all be staying, warning you all to move along at first light tomorrow.
There’s One in Every Village: Braunstein had one family on his side and they still pray that he will return as a lich some day. Their family has a secret altar to the Necromancer Braunstein behind a secret panel in their cottage. If anyone shows necromantic powers or prays to any death deities or ghoul saints, the elder of the Avalon family will approach them.
If you want to ramp shit up, maybe this family grabbed a guard and sacrificed them to Braunstein in a blood rite.
Mercenaries being cruel to the villagers could draw the adventurers into a fight, announcing their presence to Lor and causing them to speed up their search.
These folks don’t have shit. The only real money to be made is making a deal with Elder Kaye.
If you kill any mercenaries, their gear is worth about 2GP each. The sergeant might have some memento pillaged from some distant castle; if a player has some castle in their backstory that they haven’t visited in years, put something they will recognize and let them know that this mercenary company pillaged that castle.
Mercenaries (2 squads of 6 people each in town, another 2 squads patrolling, 4 squads camped outside the tower)
- Playing dice, bored
- Terrorizing villagers
- Actually doing their job looking for clues as to where the map is
- Sighing as they draw their weapons, offering warnings
- Grinning as the fight begins
- Checking on and mending gear and weapons
NOTE: I like the idea of human bad guys but if you want a little touch of strange, maybe Lor gave them animal heads with gifts from different animals.
Weakness: The mercenaries fight well together but don’t do well alone. Single them out and alone they are fairly useless.
Defenses: Good gear and weapons
If the players keep a low profile, Lor will take their time and their clock will be a 12 part clock. If a player fails a roll or they spend a night somewhere, click off a part of the clock.
Once Lor knows there are adventurers in town shit gets real and the clock becomes a six part and Lor will get aggressive, sending hunting parties out to get them. At this point there will only be two squads in camp and Captain Allston will rarely be there.
A humble 3 story tower on a hill that once belonged to a Tower Knight, back in the days when dukes set aside silver for such things. Attached is a stable and a pig pen. At the bottom of the hill, near a stream, is the mercenary camp with 4 more squads of 6 and Captain Allston’s senior officers.
Dig up the graves of Gygax’s adventuring party and find the pieces of map carved into the lid of each coffin without anyone knowing.
Mercenaries grumbling about shit-eating wizards while bringing buckets of fresh water up to the tower.
Mercenaries saying a few words over the fresh grave of their friend killed by the owlbear in the cemetary. Shovels are nearby.
Stream gurgling in the distance while bumblebees buzz lazily through the air; this is beautiful country.
Somewhere in the distance, the owlbear shrieks a hoot-growl.
The Tower: Lor is going through Gygax’s library and finding nothing. There are wards to keep the mercenaries away. It is a 3 story tower without much in the way of adornments. After killing Braustein, Gygax settled down and didn’t adventure much, happy to stay in his tower, living the good life, offering some vague wizardly wisdom to the villagers when needed.
If the players somehow get access to Gygax’s library they will find he was fascinated with the history of the Tower Knights; most of the books are about the knights, trying to piece together the identity of the knights who lived here. The mention mention of Braunstein’s tomb is a vague snippet in the margins of a book: MY FRIENDS GUARD THE SECRET OF THE TOMB. Lor hasn’t figured out what that means yet but he will.
The Cemetery: Gygax’s adventuring party are buried here: Cookie, Bell and Perren. The map to Braunstein’s tomb is carved into their coffin lids.
The Camp: An orderly mercenary camp but the captain’s gold from their last contract is here.
The Owlbear Cave: Gygax’s old owlbear still remembers Lor fondly and follows their orders as if they were the wizard, happy to have a wizard to follow again. Lor has the money they’ve promised to pay the mercenaries hidden in the owlbear’s cave. The cave’s floor is covered in sheep bones and has a nest where the beast sleeps. Under the nest is a secret compartment where Lor keeps his treasures.
The owlbear and the mercenaries are a real danger. Lor is either out scouring the hills for clues or is in the tower reading through the library.
Captain Allston has 20G in a locked chest in their tent. There is always an old merc who lost a leg in a campaign sitting on it.
Lor has 10G under the owlbear’s nest.
Owlbear, a nightmare of furry feathers, claw and beak, two terrible predators mashed together for the sole purpose of guarding wizards’ shit.
- Climbing a tree in order to pounce from above
- Clawing a tree with arcane sigils
- Eating a sheep it caught
- Beak cuts through armor
Weakness: If you cast a spell in front of it and offer it some food it will take you for a wizard and cautiously follow your orders
Defenses: Furry feathers are tough, claw/talons and beak rend through armor
Beautiful rolling hills, dotted with sheep.
When Braunstein was killed, the folk of Arneson killed the necromancer’s servant. They buried their body in a local barrow, hoping the ancient king would hold the necromancer’s servant from coming back and seeking vengeance. Any shepherd kid in the hills will gladly tell the treasure-hunters that tale in return for being able to hold a weapon or hear about life far away.
Hunt the ghoul here for its treasure or ambush a mercenary patrol out here if you wish but know that nothing of Braunstein’s tomb is in the hills.
Sheep scatter as the mercenaries march by in formation.
Shepherd’s dog runs circles around the sheep, keeping them together.
Someone’s playing a haunting tune on a flute while they watch their herd.
A sheep is found, eaten by the ghoul.
The Barrow: A simple barrow where the ghoul was buried in a coffin wrapped in chains. Those chains are broken.
Below that, the ancient king is buried with their ancient treasures.
The ghoul, nor the king (someone will find a way to talk to the dead king; I’m sure of it) have any idea of where Braunstein’s tomb is.
Only bad dreams…surely that can’t be bad, right?
If the players dig under the ghoul’s coffin they will find the ancient king who the locals hoped would keep the ghoul from awakening. The king’s ancient jewelry and iron crown will fetch a fine price. Its bronze weapons are likely to break but were made to kill undead; that was the job of ancient kings, to guard their people against the dead.
Ghoul, dead skin stretched over sinew and bone with crimson teeth
- Jumps on you and bites any exposed flesh – hands, neck, arms…whatever
- Bites off a piece of your flesh
- Tangles you up with its cold limbs as it attempts to clear away clothes or armor and get its bite
- Holds weapon thrust into it so it can get close
- Offers you a piece of your friend it just bit off
Weakness: Holy symbols and the ancient king’s weapons are made for killing undead
Built into a hill hidden in the nearby haunted forest.
Get that treasure.
Flocks of ravens cover the trees, imitating things they hear the players say, mocking them.
The click and wirr of Gygax’s traps as it activates
Trapped hallways: Gygax trapped the hallways. The traps are obvious; Gygax was a wizard, not an engineer.
False Tomb: A sarcophagus mimic, surrounded by the bones of the animals it has eaten. The only real clue is that the mimic isn’t centered on the raised platform. The True Tomb is in a secret room under the false tomb.
True Tomb: Braunstein’s bones are charred black because Gygax tried to burn them because the lich-rites are burned into the bones and can’t be destroyed by any mortal means. Maybe dragon-fire could do it, erasing the fell knowledge from this world.
Bas reliefs on the walls show the adventures of Gygax’s adventuring party to kill this bastard, like a final plea not to use the rites on their bones.
Pressure platers. Trip-wires. You know the drill. Find a map and have a blast if that’s yer cuppa tea.
The mimic is ready to eat the face of someone who tries to peak in its “lid” to see what is within.
Lich-rites on Braunstein’s bones is priceless to the right necromancer if you have no morals.
Brauinstein had other treasures. Need some ideas on what? I’ve got a mini-supplement for that.
Mimic, stonelike flesh and rows vicious teeth
- Swallows you whole
- Jumps on someone
- Blocks the doorway
- Spits out bones after quickly sucking meat off what it has eaten
- Jumps on whoever has fire
- Faces of those around it show up in carvings on its body
Defenses: Stonish skin, Surprise
Captain Allston and his Senior Officers, vicious professional soldiers.
- Getting quickly into formation
- Offering mercy if you put your weapons down
- Striking down anyone who shows arcane skills
- Retreating efficiently when they are losing
- Closing ranks when one among their number falls
- Barking orders
Weakness: Arcane powers
Defenses: Well kept armor and well wrough weapons, Discipline
Lor, young necromancer with a posse of skeletons
- Bolts of black lightning rend flesh
- Sharpened bones pierce armor
- Nearby dead rise and begin fighting for him
- Offers mercy if you throw down weaposn and bow before him
- Sneers at anyone who practices arcane rituals, “Amateur!”
- A sharp dagger as a desperate last measure
Defenses: Necromancy (+1 Endurance to anyone who dies during battle)
Weaknesses: Close quarters combat
I always like to have the names for an adventure in one place
- Gygax, the dead wizard
- Braunstein, the dead necromancer
- Lor, the cruel wizard
- Captain Allston, mercenary captain
- Elder Kay, village leader
- Moldvay, elder, thief in Gygax’s original party
- Tac, the owlbear, not named in the above text yet
I’m trying a thing.
Version 0.1 (not much different from this blog post) is now for sale on itch.io
More versions will be uploaded and the price will go up as the project develops.