Of Steel and Roses
The township of Ormiros, nestled on a river and in a valley of the same name, is home to an Adventurer-upon-return guildhouse, and more importantly, an academy. Trouble comes when a charming rake defiles the school, defies the guild, and seems poised to take the entire valley as his own.
Failed - where? Must been some blighted forest village where the locals are little too closely related, if you know what I mean. The research didnt bring it up but fair to guess that there's elves about, maybe some goblin wolf-riders, and spiders. No doubt about that, definitely spiders.
Basic - Ormiros is an old township on the river Ormiros, pretty standard stuff, woodcuting and lumber, hunting and tanning. If you need leather goods or boards, its as good a place as any. The guild has a house there, so finding lodging shouldn't be difficult.
Advanced - Ormiros used to be a much different place, much more feral, more monsters. Because of this, the guild of heroes established a chapter house there, it was just good business. Lots of work for heroes for hire, and better the heroes step in, rather than let, say the mercenary guild, or the thieves guild set up shop. Not a bad place, but out of the way, and it's not on a trade route.
Master - Ormiros gains its name from the Ormiros Gem. This massive green stone was taken from a shrine in the forest, and when that happened, the dangers of monsters decreased. The monsters were still there, but less focused, and less dangerous. Its suspected that the gem is actually a looted dungeon heart stone. But, because of the environs, the Guild of Adventurers-upon-Return didn't just set up a guild house, they established Ormiros Academy. New recruits are taken in, housed, clothed, armed, and trained for several years in adventuring, dungeoneering, and general heroics.
Ormiros was founded several centuries ago by several dozen people. Originally a woodcutting venture with the plan of using the river to power saws and move logs, it rapidly changed. The forest of the valley was full of monsters and dangers. Fighting the green and its beasts was a challenge. The heroes of the group, and a band of adventurers-upon-return took up arms, slew their way to the center of the forest, felling green beasts made of brambles, forest trolls, strange goblin like things with roots coming out of their heads, and few giant spiders. Their triumph came in slaying a green dragon, and a strange tattoo covered woman who rode it. They furiously defended a shrine in the forest, which contained a single emerald of great size, pulsing with magic power. The gem's name was Ormiros, and they returned to the site of the woodcutter's camp. The stone was dedicated to the memory of those who fell, on both sides.
The gemstone is indeed a dungeon heart stone, though not readily apparent, as it is a wood/green/forest dungeon stone. The dungeon it is connected to is not only still active, it is close. Elements of the dungeon all but surround Ormiros, as the heart is calling the dungeon too it, and so the dungeon is moving, slowly. It's wood, and only manages a few feet a year, new trees sprouting at the stone's call, and ones outside its range reverting to mundane wood, or becoming twisted and feral, released from the dungeon's control, but still retaining its power as their own. The denizens of Ormiros are constantly fighting the encroaching wood, and even brief lapses in their attention can see a farm lost to crawling ivy, a road blocked by inexplicable forest dead falls, and the random appearance of forest monsters.
There are several guilds in Ormiros, and the conflict is between the largest economic interest, the woodcutters, and the best armed, the Guild of Adventurers-upon-Return. The guilds once were inseparable, but now refuse to work together, and when they do cross paths, it is as often violent as it is tense.
The Ormiros Academy is almost it's own entity, apart from the guild house. The school houses and trains archers, rangers, hunters, and other heroic occupations best honed in forests and surrounded by trees. The school also physically houses the Ormiros gemstone, and it is used in their various ceremonies, including the ordination of the druids, and forestals. The students are recognized for their green robes, embroidered with green roses with gold stems.
While not on a main trade route, Ormiros is at the end of a tertiary trade route. The lumber and leather goods produced in the township are sent by river barge to the secondary trade city Phuvan. The Phuvani are well aware of Ormiros, and familiar with students going to the academy, and the goods that come from the township. They are more interested in the side trade, a small but steady supply of monster derived products, made from the corpses of monsters slain by students. This fuels a small but thriving amalgamation of alchemists, potion makers, and rogues, who happen to run Phuvan.
Reaching Phuvan is a matter of either following a caravan route north or south to it, or taking a river ship east or west to reach it. Ideally the most comfortable and safe way to travel is to hire a riverboat, riding the entire way on wind and oars, and only stopping over to resupply in Phuvan.
Encounter: Rhaxan Saal and the Green Dagger
Rhaxan Saal is a savvy river trader. She has a long ship called the Green Dagger, and contrary to most other river ships, she isn't a barge for bulk goods. Most of her work comes from ferrying passengers up and down the river, or quickly moving things of high value. There are some ports where her ship is most welcome as she tends to carry casques of wine, salt, spices, and treasures like gemstones and books. Rhaxan is also a river pirate, and almost none outside her crew know, as they take the best, slay the crews, and burn the ships, no survivors to spread tales.
Encounter: Lucaenar val'Galanyon and the Violet Company
Lucaenar val'Galanyon and the Violent Company are a traveling troupe of musicians, dancers, troubadours, actors, illusionists, and exotic beast handlers. The white haired Lucaenar (or Luc) is charming, roguish, and irresistible to the ladies, and to a few men as well. There is definitely elfin blood in his veins. His company is large, taking up several wagons, a number of riders, and a section of the troupe on foot. The traveling menagerie and performance group makes a slow loop of the continent, members changing as they go, Luc himself has only made the full loop three times, and the first was a journeyman performer, the second as a partner, and this is actually his first time around as the leader. Old Reylon val'Rhenn made five full circuits before succumbing to a pox that started on his balls and eventually left him feeble minded and mad.
Ormiros: The Town, the Academy, the Stone
Reaching the township of Ormiros is more inconvenient than it is dangerous. The township is slowly creeping towards being a city, and the most obvious structure is the Academy. The main hall is several stories tall, and the structure is made of graceful sloping angles and curves, almost growing out of the ground like a mushroom more than a tower. The township itself is unremarkable, save for it's free city character. There are no lords or ladies claiming dominion over Ormiros, and the only one that does is a far distant king, who sends no soldiers and collects no taxes. That reach ends at somewhat distant Phuvan.
The most prominent parts of town include the tanner's row, which is large and the stench robust. The sawmills and grist mills line both sides of the river, waterwheels creaking and groaning as they turn large saw blades, wooden contraptions of clever design, or grinding stones for making flour out of what small amount of grain is farmed. At the watering holes and food shops, beer and bread are commodities, and wine, liquor, and fresh game are on the cheap.
The Academy is a large section of the township, and occupies the same general position as a castle would, save that it is a school, and it has no walls, to sentry towers, and no central keep. There are halls and dorms, and ample green space. What is unusual about the school is the make-up of its faculty. Less than half is human, and almost a tenth is not even humanoid.
Random Academy Staff
First, roll any sized die, evens indicate human, odd indicates humanoid and roll 1d10 below. If a 1 or the max is rolled on the dice, consult the second chart at 1D6
1 - Forest Pixie (Tiny)
2 - Satyr
3 - Myconid (mushroom man)
4 - Tieffling, but with antlers instead of horns
5 - Mongrel Man
6 - Dryad/Drus
7 - Shambling Mound/Swamp thing
8 - Centaur, but cervine/deer body instead of horse
9 - Vedalkyn/wood giant
10 - Treant
1 - Sentient plant (Little Shop of Horrors)
2 - Peryton that speaks human
3 - Green Phoenix (forest rebirth avatar)
5 - Talking Serpent
6 - A moss covered rock that communicates telepathically
But where are the Elves?
There are a few half-elves among the students, but elves keep to themselves and they certainly dont send their kids to public schools.
At the Academy
The reason for the contract is laid out when the heroes arrive. The Chancellor of the School, a diminutive halfling with a large head of grey hair and impressive curly gray beard by the name of Drardan Odaard, beseeches the heroes to accept his contract. He has a pipe, nervous hands, and seems to be recovering from some minor injuries.
Quick Eyes - an astute and wary PC might notice that the faculty is armored, and most of the students are not in traditional tunics, robes, and cloaks, but are likewise wearing comfortable armor. They are in a state of near constant readiness, and there are signs of damage to the campus. With the magic of the druidic students and a few innate magic users among the staff, most of the damage has been mended. There was an attack, the Main Hall was the primary target, and there was fighting inside and outside of it's walls.
The Story Thus Far
This all goes back to when we accepted the son of Gago Rezrak into the Academy. Not being from here, I am sure you have no idea who Gago was.
Gago was one of the foremost leaders of the Mountain Clans, that live in the peaks above us. They are apart from the valley, have nothing to do with what they call the Haunted Forest, and for the most part are content to fight and kill each other, up there. The usual things: women, sheep, honor, boredom. They are a brutish and simple people. On rare occasion, when things are worse than usual up in the peaks, they will come down with axes and spears, steal some livestock, poach some deer, and try to abduct some people to take back. I say try because we won't pursue them over stolen food, we have plenty. When they take women and leave corpses in their wake, we follow them back up.
If they think we are weak, then they will come more often. When we repay their transgression five-fold, they dont come back down for a decade or two. The last raid saw several taken, and farms burned. I lead the reprisal, and we gave more than we got, left a few dozen clanners in rock cairns, destroyed one of their villages, and stole a good amount of loot and weapons. We left the food, didn't salt the earth or slaughter their livestock.
We didn't get everyone back, and assumed that those we didn't recover had been slain.
Gago took a woman from the township. She was the eldest daughter of a barley farmer, but Gago took her as a wife, and she joined the Mountain Clans. They had a single son, Gizak. The problem was that Gizak was not healthy or strong, he was a thin, weak child. Among the clans he would be tested, and if he failed, Gizak would be sacrificed to their crude Gods, which includes a ritual feast where the parents of the weak child are expected to cook the babe and offer it the rest of the clan.
Instead, Gago brought him to us. We accepted the child, and opted to raise him as a ward of the Academy. He had no official family, but rather, was fostered by the different members of the faculty. Perhaps if we had been honest from the beginning, it might have turned out differently, but we kept his lineage from him, even his name. We gave him the name Kell von'Ormiros.
Yes I know this doesn't seem important.
Kell was still half Mountain Clan, and he grew to have large appetites and a short temper. He was a trouble maker, and enjoyed vandalism, and didn't fit in well in the Academy. He spent more time in the forest than in classes and there was a thought that if we let him become sort of a feral forestal, a keeper of the wood, he would be fine.
Then he met a woman, Dernhild of the Krannog. She was similar to him, half Mountain Clan, but her mother had escaped and lived in different places. She recognized him, called him by his clan name, and in a moment, a wolf of a girl undid almost twenty years of peace between the ridge and the valley.
That is what happened here.
Kell laid with her, and she gave him access to the magics of the Mountain Clan.
We thought he simply took his things and left. He came back, full of anger. We weren't ready for an attack from inside. He used his power to bring a number of students over to his side, a mix of the troublemakers and rabble rousers that had been his old circle, and a number of attractive female students, we assume this was some aspect of Mountain Clan magic, perhaps some charm or persuasion spell.
There are a number of missing students, several instructors, and he's taken the Ormiros Stone.
The job is quite simple, find Kell, or Gizak, or whatever he's calling himself now, and deal with him. Bring back as many of our people as you can, and by any means necessary, return the stone to us.
The last thing we know is that they followed the Twisting Path up into the mountains. It leads to a place, we assume, that the Mountain Clans shun.
The Academy and the Township are well stocked with almost anything the PCs could use.
Each vendor or shop the PCs visit, there is a chance that the shop keep or company has some vested interest in the hero's success.
1 - I always knew he was a bad seed, a pox on him and the rest of the Mountain Clanners, I'll give you a 10% discount and pay you a bounty for each right hand you bring back. They tattoo their hands, so I'll know a real one.
2 - Bring me Clanner relics, and I'll give you a good price on them.
3 - Blood for blood, that's all they understand. Even him, quarter off one item.
4 - Blood and fire, make them pay. Hurt a lot of people, and made off with my best. Cant give a discount, but consider your stay here compensated. Innkeep owes me one.
5 - My lad was hurt in that scrap, quarter discount, but no stockpiling me goods, eh?
6 - Look at this wound, one his scrappers gave it to me. Quarter discount.
7 - Good luck, have a (insert item of low value), on the house
8 - My lass done gone with him, bring her back and I'll give you anything you want.
9 - Half price, my boy's never going to adventure now, not missing a leg like he is.
10 - Those bastards left me daughter cold on the ground. I canna give it to you free, but bring me back the lad's head and I'll give your coin back and pay you a bounty on the top.
Allies and Hirelings
If the PCs are short on numbers, they can make a charisma check, and sufficient coin offered, gain hirelings.
The drawback of the offer is that all the hirelings are functionally zero level adventurers. The advantage is that any who survive will very easily level up and become actual Adventurers-upon-Return and earn their commendations and accolades.
Level 0 Adventurers cost 1 GP/day to hire, and have terrible combat stats (basically they go last in every round) and include Torchbearers, Healers, Shieldbearers, general Freelancers, and Scouts.
Level 1 Adventurers cost 5 GP/day, of which 3 goes to the Academy. They function as completely green first level NPCs and there are archers, spearmen, men-at-arms, and Mages, though they have 1 basic spell and several cantrips.
The Winding Path
The Winding Path leads up the distant face of the Mountain ridge, and the good news is that the Clans do not claim the path, and actively avoid it. There is a reason, the summit leads up to a peak they call Tiverding, and the valley dwellers name Ormingset. The top is wreathed in clouds, and the path ends in a cavern sinking into the stone. Kell and his companions have retreated into the cavern.
With the Ormiros Stone Kell has been laying defenses, setting very primitive traps, and conjuring monsters to cover his trail. There are no new encounters in the forest leading to the path, but going up the path the heroes are beset by monsters of the mountain. This includes rock elementals, stonekin goblins, mountain cats. Most any random encounter table for mountain/forest monsters would work fine.
The Cavern of Srax
In the lore of the Mountain Clans, Srax was something of a mystery. Part man, part beast, and part something worse. If the Mountain Clans had a concept of demons and devils, Srax would be part that. The man-creature was a bane to the Mountain Clans, and for many years they fought against Srax, losing many battles, and suffering greatly at his hands, which are always depicted with great claws.
But that isn't important, what is is that the Cavern of Srax was the beast's lair and several generations ago, the Mountain Clan successfully delved the cavern, slew Srax, and retreated, leaving behind many dead and a number of treasures. The area is sometimes bothered by the appearance of the undead, withered remnants of Mountain clan warriors, some animals, some things no longer recognizable.
The Clans shun the place, which is why Kell went directly to it.
Failed - the cave is just a hole in the mountain, not every dark passage has to have traps and monsters in it.
Basic - Srax was an otherkin, an unknown monster driven into the cave and killed by the Mountain clan. There are undead, but no one is sure if it's the mountain, the cave, or just rumors.
Advanced - Srax was a Mountain Clan warrior who became a warlock, signing a pact with a powerful other worldly being. He gained tremendous power, lost his humanity, and was exiled by the clan. He made his home in the cavern, and lived there as a hermit marauder until his actions became too vile. He was sought out three times by the leader of the Mountain Clan, who first spoke to him as a brother, wayward and in need of help. Then, he spoke to him a second time, as a fallen comrade. Finally, when he came the third time, he spoke to Srax with a blade of black iron and many quivers of arrows.
Master - Srax was enthralled by a dungeon core, which caused him to leave his tribe and become afflicted with a new loyalty and many enhanced powers. He became the avatar of the dungeon, and its chief agent of expansion. This caused conflicts with the Mountain Clan, and after several attempts, they were able to successfully batter their way to the heart of the dungeon, slay Srax, and severely damage the heart stone, sending the mountain dungeon into a prolonged period of hibernation. Kell possesses an active heart stone, and if he figures out how to bind the stone to the Cave of Srax, he will be able to reanimate the dungeon and make himself its new avatar. He probably mistakenly believes that he will be the new master of the dungeon, but is tragically wrong in this.
Probing the Cave of Srax
The Cave of Srax is a broken dungeon, most of the elements are no longer functional. The doors are broken, the traps are either sprung or no longer active, and while there are certainly creatures to be found, many of them are wounded, or recently slain by Kell and his band.
The fight inside the cave, should it begin, will be a pitched battle. Close quarters combat, with Kell and some of the academy's best and worst on his side. The problem is that by all accounts, many of the people standing with Kell have been enchanted by his strange charismatic Barbarian power, and taking them alive and un-crippled is the ideal. Hard to be a hero when the hostages are killed in hand to hand and blade against blade fighting.
There are three distinct factions defending the heart of the ancient dungeon from the invading PCs; the enthralled hostages, Kell's boys, and the Dungeon Remnants.
The Dungeon Remnants include monsters that would have been found in an earth/rock/ground aligned dungeon, as well as undead in varying states of decay. Kell technically controls them, but his level is closer to a Cleric using their turn undead power, rather than direct mental control. Kell can aim where he wants them, and that's about it.
Dungeon Remants (1d6)
1 - A stand of Skeletons (1D10)
2 - A zoo of Zombies (2d6+2)
3 - A Gaggle of Goblin Corpses (3D4+3)
4 - An Undead Giant, forced to crawl in the cave
5 - A Helping of Heroes (1D4 zombie adventurers)
6 - Oh Jesus Fuck no (roll 1D30, figure it out)
Kell's chums are a more simple matter, they are the bottom of the class, back of the classroom, lowest rung on the ladder deviants who managed to get into the Academy. They are the most likely to drop out of the Guild as soon as possible and end up recruited into the Thieves Guild, Assassin's Guild, or to join some charismatic warlock with a plan for continental domination.
Kell's Chums (1D6)
1 - Emo Melee Fighter
2 - Screamo Melee Fighter
3 - Juggalo Melee Fighter
4 - Edgelord Rogue
5 - 30 Bad Apples (roll 1D30, figure it out)
6 - Goth Mage Vandalist
The Enthralled Hostages are more complicated, they are technically innocent and are currently under magical domination from Kell, but until this domination is broken, they will fight, kill, and die for him. Breaking this enthrallment will require knocking Kell unconscious or killing him, rendering the hostage unconscious, or somehow have a magical way to break magical bondings.
1 - Hot for Teacher, female ranger player lever+1
2 - Hot for Teacher, female forest mage player level +1
3 - Cheerleader, female archer player level -1
4 - Cheerleader, female rogue player level -1
5 - Foreign Exchange Student, female sorceress player level -2
6 - Freshman, female melee fighter player level -2
When preparing for the fight, each player character should have one roll from each of the three tables, so that an attacking party of four players would have four dungeon remnanty, $=4 Kell Chums, and 4 Hostages to handle. If the PCs employ hirelings, each hireling or henchman they bring is a 50% chance of adding to the defenders, so a single hireling would add 50% of remnant, 50% chance of Chum, and a 50% chance of hostage.
The Altar of Srax
The final confrontation with Kell and his posse takes place on the Altar of Srax, after the heroes have fought their way through the dungeon remnants, and pushed the hostages and chums back from the corridors and tunnels. If there is a large group of PCs this would be a good place to put a maze fight, so that the PCs and hirelings have to splint into X number of groups to face the dungeon remnants before joining back up on the other side. The Altar used to be the core of the vanquished dungeon, and it's heart stone has long since been destroyed. Kell's using of magic and the presence of a heart stone within the chamber has started reanimating the dungeon.
The PCs have to fight Kell, who should be easily more than a match for a one on one fight, so that even just fighting him alone would be a challenge, plus the remaining hostages and chums. If the fight seems to be going a little too easily for the PCs, dungeon remnants can start wandering into the fight, forcing the PCs to watch their bakc/hold the door as well as fight Kell and his minions.
The Helldivers - The PCs make quick work of the remnants, subdue the hostages and take the chums and Kell into custody. A well delivered reverse enchantment of Break Curse spell breaks his control, and at sword point he surrenders the Ormiros Stone. As the PCs are evacuating the hostages and prisoners, there is a loud cracking sound and the Altar of Srax breaks. The dungeon coughs and starts collapsing, prompting the heroes to hurry. - Decisive Victory
Remains of the Day - The dungeon delve goes off as well as can be expected, and though the hostages are rescued, and a few of the chums are taken into custody, Kell escapes at the last minute. The effort causes the Ormiros Stone to break in half, leaving one piece behind, and the other is gone with him. The stone remains clear and green, but it obviously diminished. Several of the hostages are maimed or slain, as are the chums, but overall, it's a win. - Marginal Victory
For Whom the Bell Tolls - At the moment of defeat, Kell attempts to activate the Ormiros, but fails. The heart stone, so misused, fractures and goes from brilliant green to a smokey black. The Stone is not destroyed, and in time (decades, maybe centuries) it might repair itself. Some of the hostages and most of the chums have likely perished as well, but not all. - Draw
From Hell's Heart, I Stab at Thee - At the moment of his defeat, Kell activates the Ormiros Heart Stone, and uses his last burst of power to cause the hostages to kill themselves, or slay each other. All of the slain chums, hostages, and then Kell's corpse reanimate as dungeon zombies. While not a hard fight, the zombies are fresh and at full power, and the heroes should be depleted, maybe even fighting a few of their own members. The PCs should win, but not without paying a heavy cost - Marginal defeat
The Heart Stone Ascendant - Kell places the Heart Stone in the Altar, and reactivates the Dungeon of Srax. With a pulse of power, the dungeon reanimates, and Kell is blown to gore against the wall. A few rounds later, the dungeon reincorporates him as Gizak Rezak, Son of Gogu, Horn Lord of the Tiverding. He has the full brawny might of a Mountain Clan warriror, but is a good deal larger. His body glows with red and green runes, and he is now the new Avatar of Tiverding Dungeon - Decisive defeat
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? Responses (2)
Holy Dungeon Balls. I would have been satisfied with the fantastic city based around the heart stone that is slowly drawing the forest into the city. That alone was worth the price of admission. I love the visuals. The reason it is like it is. The other trade towns associated with it. The school. Almost has YA book all over it! And the hinted inner city conflict AND the monsters AND the constantly encroaching forest. I absolutely loved that above all the rest. It is a location that I would absolutely love to take advantage of!!!
The Lore check just had me nodding in excitement about the ease of knowledge you fed. I think it read easier than it took to write. The utility of that was awesome. And then there was another one.
And then a great adventure idea to boot. But then you develop the adventure outside the plot seed which was fantastic. I wasn't expecting a full adventure write-up after the great location and plot idea. Solid adventure and, again, I loved the optional success results! What a fantastic ability to cater to either the outcome or give the GM a list of options they can spin.
Love it. Loved it, loved it!!!
can’t do more than agree completely with Strolen! Most excellent!