Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Adventure 9 - To Slay A God

Continuing the September series of short adventures

Horror Adventure 9 - To Slay A God

The borderlands domain of a high level fighter, the jaded lord.

The jaded lord has declared an upcoming holiday and a grand feast at the castle.  Hundreds are invited to the feast, and the inner bailey will be opened for a grand ceremony after dinner.

The characters could be passing through, delivering valuable goods, retainers of the jaded lord, or tipped off by a patron to do an investigation.  All is not as it seems in the borderland's domain.  Exotic foreigners from the desert lands have traveled at the lord's expense, bearing many sealed boxes, crates of arcane scrolls, and similar suspicious accoutrements.  They are seen around town gathering supplies, and seem to be involved in secretive preparations around the upcoming holiday.

A dangerous reputation precedes the foreigners.  Rumors of an incident from the sea port follows them, where a man that crossed the strangers was cursed by the evil eye and stricken dead on the spot.  Fears of black magic abound.

The jaded lord is a self-made ruler; he started as an adventurer, became a mercenary captain, and eventually gained enough wealth and fame to earn a dominion.  His trophy hall is littered with mementos of the fearsome creatures he's fought and the treasure's he's recovered.  In younger days, his campaigns took him to distant desert lands to fight for gold and god, and there he learned of the desert sorcerers and their summoning techniques.  He returned with a storied artifact called the Crown of Solomon, whispered about in hushed tales where it was used to summon angels and djinn and used to wrest powerful boons from them by a king of old.  After many years, he now seeks to use the crown himself.

At great expense he has brought scribes, ritualists, and ancient texts back from the desert lands, to prepare for the calling forth of a great power.  Perhaps he hopes to wrest the secrets of immortality from a fiery angel; perhaps he wishes to prove he can slay a god.  Pick a motivation appropriate for your campaign.  The holiday and feast are ruses to get enough people together at one place, focused on the great ritual.
Unfortunately, the ritualists are all members of a secret cult of desert fire worshippers; they plan to betray the jaded lord.  (It makes me chuckle to call the cultists Servants of the Secret Fire).

Note:  Once the stage is set, and the players have a little bit of information about the ritualists and their bad reputation, leave it up to the players decide if they wish to investigate and snoop further, or do something else.  Treat this like an event-based scenario where the holiday events are going to happen as planned, unless interrupted.  Lots of fantasy fiction involves the protagonists stopping the cultists from summoning the eldritch horror in the nick of time; it's perfectly fine if the characters choose not to intervene, and then have to run away or get stomped by said eldritch horror when it "goes all Godzilla" on the castle and town.  Themes implicit here include meddling with powers beyond the ken of men, the chance for a big monster stomping around and smashing things, and the xenophobia often seen in early pulp fantasy.

If the players choose to investigate the jaded lord and are able to use stealth and other techniques to snoop around the castle, they'll come across implements of arcane ritual, discover the secretive foreigners pouring over astrological star charts, and even find pens of animals set aside for ritual sacrifice.  This is more than a simple feast.  The crown itself will always be heavily guarded, but it's certainly possible that determined characters could steal it.

For the feast night, fires are set around the castle, bonfires on the towers, torches on the battlements, and a central fire pit in the middle of the bailey.  The gathering crowd has been given rhythm sticks and instructions on creating a beat.  As the din in the courtyard builds, the lord appears on the balcony, wearing the crown;  he's accompanied by his shroud-clad ritualists from the distant desert lands.

If the ritual goes off as planned, a comet of flame streaks downward from the cold depths of space and lands in the bonfire in a shower of sparks, sending hot coals into the crowd and generating screams of panic as people get seared.  A soaring pillar of flame rises up from the bonfire, towering above the balcony of the keep.  The jaded lord proudly steps forward to command the thing he calls "the great angel of fire".  He's the first one immolated.  After the crown falls off his charred head, the fiery space devil starts lashing out and burning the cultists and the other people congregated in the courtyard.

If the characters are simple attendees at the holiday, hopefully they're smart enough to flee for their lives, and the challenge is about putting enough ground or fire proof barriers between themselves and the monster as the gargantuan horror starts stomping the settlement.  The angel of fire is an alien thing from the skies; after roasting everyone in the castle, it will step over the walls and start blasting the village.  It will then start some wildfires in the surrounding area before streaking back to the cold depths of space - it can only be here while its home star moves across the night sky.

For the angel of fire's stats, the simple approach is to use something like a titanic 48HD fire elemental, and give it a flame strike ability (as the spell) to shoot gouts of flame at range.

Locale:  domain of the jaded lord
NPCs:  the jaded lord, a group of fire cultists from the desert lands
Monsters:   the angel of fire (alien horror)
Items:  crown of solomon, a new spell - the evil eye

Here's a handy link to all the OSR blogs taking part in the challenge - 25 adventures in September: