Friday, December 30, 2016

Chapter 1: King Thadar’s Catacombs

Premise: King Thadar’s Catacombs adventure takes our players on a journey from the bustle of Városa to castle Kerthaz, where builders discovered a network of tunnels. The baron of Kerthaz, lord Gabriel, is offering a tenth of what is found in the underground, as a reward to explorers willing to map it. It seems lord Gabriel is unwilling to send anymore of his people down into the tunnels after two groups did not return.

Setting: Vale, the eastern region of Kelet. This colorful region thrives in a hundred dells cut through the Frosthorn Mountains and a wide central valley bisecting the two main Frosthorn ridge-lines. Vale was once the thriving empire of Naerod. The dunaelfen structures built in and around the mountainsides and rivers still survive across Vale. Many Keleti nobles live in usurped Naerodian castles or built on their foundations. Dunaelfen ruins are a prominent feature in the valleys. There are over thirty separate fiefs in Vale. The political climate is volatile, evident by wars and the shifting alliances throughout the region. The king of Kelet has tried everything to pacify Vale short of invasion, but to no avail. The Church of the Three Ladies claims to work against further conflict there, but their strong presence and lack of success suggests otherwise. On the southern edge of Vale, remnants of another sort are present. The remains of thrymm settlements are evident throughout the mountains in that region. It is unclear whether any thrymm tribes remain deep in the mountain gorges, however, thrymm and half-blooded slave soldiers are not uncommon in Vale, especially in the strongholds furthest from Ártér (central Kelet).

Events in the Background: While the adventurers are chatting about travel plans and future wealth, tensions are high in Városa, Kelet’s second largest city. For the first time in centuries there is talk of war. The Veres family does not involve itself directly with the frequent skirmishes in Vale, but times are changing. Members of the Order of the Stars seem everywhere, prominent flags of blue are displayed on every tower, and the only thing anyone seems to talk about other than Kerthaz is which noble is a Green and which is a Blue.

A second background event (perhaps related to the recent ramping of tensions) a visiting noble was murdered in her sleep, the second murder on Alma Hill (an affluent area) in two weeks. Many rumors point to the rebel Berzeg, a thrymm and former slave-soldier.

Resources: I used this map as a stand in for Városa:

Starting Point: We begin at the good ol’ Petty Dwarf, a tavern and hostel known for its atmosphere and size. It’s a week’s travel from Városa to Kerthaz and you know of at least two other groups leaving for Kerthaz tomorrow. You may even meet one on the road (possibly triggering a race to get there first).

Kerthaz: Kerthaz is built on the foundations of an old Naerodian settlement. Few visible ruins of the dunaelfen settlement survive, but underground there is an extensive network of tunnels. The lord of Kerthaz, Gabriel, ordered a survey of the tunnels two years ago, but after this recent discovery surveyors estimate only small portion has been mapped. Kerthaz is a vibrant town, built in the shadow of a large mountain dividing Vale from the ocean. The land around Kerthaz is wide and lush. There are a number of farms and meadows for horses. The castle garrison is largely made up of thrymm and half-blooded slave-soldiers. There are also a number of retired thrymm within Kerthaz, as Lord Gabriel sets a reasonable price for freedom as a means of reward and gaining loyalty. Lord Gabriel is a strong Green noble known for his fair-mindedness. Nearly all the captains of the garrison are members of the church. Knights of the Triad and half-blooded hussars are a regular sight in Kerthaz.

Upon Arrival: You are greeted with wet earth and the smell of putrid runoff. The town is alive with men-at-arms and builders. You immediately notice dozens of green banners displayed on the outer walls. As you approach, guards on high alert stop you. Upon explaining your presence, you are taken to the center of the town where a large man named Dominik greets you. It seems he is the captain of the guard. He gestures towards the nearest structure and curtly explains that the cellar of this building leads to the catacomb entrance and that if you wish access you must leave one item of significance with the guard stationed there (Dominik knows a spell that will reveal the emotional significance of an item). Upon your return, in exchange for the mapped tunnels the item will be returned to you and an armed escort will accompany you to your reward: one tenth of whatever is found.

Resources: I used this map as a stand in for Kerthaz:

The Dunaelfen Catacombs: The catacombs were once the stronghold of House Vogt. The ruined castle of this vast underground network stands abandoned one mile south of Kerthaz. Rumors of the haunted place blame it for missing travelers and livestock. The catacombs beneath Kerthaz are an extension of the castle tunnels.

Resources: King Thadar’s Catacombs are based on the Labyrinth of Buda Castle in Budapest and the parchment background is from

The entrance is lit with many torches, but further down it is dark as pitch. The main foyer is marked with the statue of Rorerl I, the first emperor of Naerod. Beyond it, the tunnels begin in earnest.

Print this map and cut it into at least six pieces or keep it digital and add a solid layer over the map that players can erase as it is revealed, but be sure to make it so the players can draw on the map. As the adventurers explore they are mapping. As they enter each area give them a piece of the map. The blank map is missing corridors, dangers, statues, and hidden rooms that can be added to the map as they discover new areas. Once the catacombs are explored in their entirety the map is complete and it can be delivered to Dominik or Lord Gabriel for their reward.

The areas by number:

12. There is a large stone block, out of place and in the center of the hall. The single hewn block appears to have smashed the ground just behind the statue. This is the beginning of a booby-trapped corridor where the wrong step will bring a block down on top of you. There is at least one pool of blood under another fallen block. On closer inspection the blood can’t be older than two days.

1. Here is a shrine to Kazimir the god of violence, sometimes used to ward away thieves or as a warning. This hall is lined with steel posts topped with candelabras. Under the shrine is a hidden vault. Within is Marevecht, a sentient blacksteel sword.

2. Mounds of silver pieces, candlesticks, utensils, and dishware are covered in thick dust and webbing. Giant spiders protect their treasure trove and block the way. There are noticeable skeletons in the webbing.

3. Zisa’s room is a shrine to the stars. She is the goddess of companionship and beauty. This particular room is very tall. 25 ft. up the ceiling glitters with a little light. Huge diamonds stud the distant ceiling.

4. The walls of this room are covered in carved murals, including special stone screens dividing the center of the room. It depicts the Naerodian creation story and all the Naerodian gods, particularly Bogdan, god of fire and craft. His statue is at the center of the room. For interested explorers (with knowledge of giants), it’s curious that the gods strongly resemble giants and even more curious are the depictions of the four-armed servants accompanying them in the foreground.

5. This next room is similar to Bogdan’s chamber. This is the chamber of Milogost, god of the hunt. The murals in this room depict a war. For explorers with knowledge of dunaelfen history, this is one of the great wars between Maetra and Naerod, the two dunaelfen empires. The sandstone statue of a dunaelfen warrior blocks the hall leading to the next room. There are also two other statues in this room. If you attempt to continue on, the statue will come to life and block your path unless a dunaelf is with you or you clothe yourself in dunaelfin garb. If you the statue recognizes you as a dunaelf it will only step aside if you can answer the question of allegiance, "Who is the father of Naerod?" The answer being the first emporer of Naerod, "Rorerl I." If you draw your weapons before answering, all three statues in the room will attack.

6. This is the chamber of Radomil, god of wine and celebrations. There is a fountain here that still flows. If an adventurer tastes the liquid in the pool they will find it tastes like wine. The wine heals the adventurers of 1d6 Life (per day) and intoxicates its drinker. The adventurers may wish to rest, at least until the effects wear off.

7.  This is the Hall of Heroes. Each statue here is of a famous dunaelfen warrior. There is dried blood in this room. Not pooled, but seemingly dragged across the floor. There is a faux wall in the Hall of Heroes that leads to more catacombs and the old ruined castle one mile south of Kerthaz. The area with the blood has a statue of Anselm, a great hero. If the dagger at his hip is pulled it gives way two inches and the faux wall drops. Behind the faux wall is the escaped slave-soldier and rebel Berzeg and three compatriots. These thrymm warriors despise the Greens and work against them. Berzeg will begin as hostile but depending on your allegiances can be talked out of a confrontation. Beyond this room there is an exit to the outside (it exits just outside of Kerthaz) and also the tunnel leading to the ruined castle. Berzeg and company are unwilling to pass through to the castle. They say something haunts it (a wight). (Berzeg’s story continues in chapter 2)

Down an adjacent hall is a shrine to Vesna the goddess of spring and youth. Resting only an hour in this room will heal the adventurers of fatigue and 1d6 Power (per day).

8. The tunnels then narrow. Curiously you pass over mounds of sand into the bottleneck. If you have already fought the sandstone guard statues this will look familiar. The adventurers can only walk one by one through this area. There is a hidden door here. Putting pressure on this portion of the wall will reveal a passageway but beware there is a mad blind minotaur roaming these halls. If the adventurers are too loud the minotaur may burst through the faux wall and attack. How it got here is anyone’s guess, but the nearest room to the hidden door is filled with manure. Continuing on will surely end with confrontation.

Chamber number 8 is the largest area. It is filled with hay (indicating someone has been putting it there). Two large statues of two famous dunaelfen queens act as pillars to the room.

9. The forbidden shrine is only accessible through a hidden door, if one pushes the right stone brick. Inside is a statue of Toth. Toth is not a part of the Naerodian Pantheon. When the Maetrian and Naerodian dunaelfs fought, Toth was divorced from the Naerodian Pantheon. It is now forbidden to worship him. Conversely, the Maetrians worship only Toth. Praying to Toth or resting at his feet will kindle an inner fire and grant the adventurers 1d6 Temporary Life for the remainder of the day.

10. Exiting this area will reveal the slain corpses of an explorer group. They have been gored and trampled. Continuing on is the chamber of Vitomir, god of wisdom. This room has numerous murals. Depictions of tall lithe four armed beings are most prominent in this room. In Vitomir’s hand is a long crystal, which can be broken off or if the right trigger is found, released. The trigger is a hammer at Vitomir's waist. If pulled, the crystal is released. The adventurers may notice the hammer as a tool of Vitomir's brother, Bogdan the god of craft (hinting that it is out of place). If it is released the crystal is revealed as three times as long as was visible. Its purpose is as yet unknown but it gives off a faint light. If it’s broken it no longer gives off light.

11. The final room is the armory. This room is hidden. The secret door leading to it from room 12 cannot be opened from the outside. The ghost builders passing through the walls indicate the presence of the hidden room and a (second) secret door. On close inspection a small hole can be uncovered. About half a foot in is a mechanism that can be pushed to open the door, but if the tumblers lining the inside are even slightly touched a heavy cylindrical mechanism will break off whatever was put inside.

If the door is opened a room lined with shields, suits of armor, and a variety of arms are revealed inside. These items are all expertly crafted. The suits of armor are intended for dunaelfs and will fit a short human, but the arms and shields are sufficient for anyone.

This ends Chapter 1. See what's next for you in Chapter 2: War.