Adaptation/Editorial Notes – Suggestions for Adapting this Scenario for your Campaign.
This scenario is adapted from a City of Greyhawk 2nd Edition AD&D scenario suggestion from the old 1989 box set. I’ve tweaked it to fit more into the Lankhmar setting – although it didn’t need to much for this as it is a city-based scenario and for the Hydra system. We have a liberal approach to the world in which Lankhmar is set (Nehwhon) and Lankhmar as well, so if your Lankhmar campaign is closer to the Lieber canon you may want to tighten things up more in terms of the priest/god aspects and the use of non-human species in the game. This scenario is intended as an early starter – or even a first scenario to introduce characters to each other. So in terms of conversion it should be a relatively low danger/threat to a party that co-operates, prepares and acts sensibly. If the party fails to act constructively or cautiously in the scenario then they should find that they are in plenty of hot water as a result. The Hydra Playtest Campaign Session Journal, Episodes 1 – 9, give you an implementation of this scenario albeit significantly padded and paced out with other plot-hooks and sub-plots and spread over 9 1.5hr-2hr gaming sessions. Stripping out the plot-padding and with a committed party, this scenario could be run completely in about two 4hr sessions. Feel free to adapt and modify the scenario to fit into your setting – it is presented therefore with alternative possibilities to allow for ready adaption by a DM to the campaign setting and party configuration.
Back Drop Rationale of the Scenario
A disgruntled extremist priest, Heironymous Spune, of the Cult of the Beasts has returned after a decade of exile to Lankhmar. Years of exile in the wilderness and bitterness has maddened the priest, and close communion with the magical forces that surround the legendary Beastmaster has not helped either. Spune has amassed a small terrorist force of enslaved Grungh. These are a race of sentient shape-shifting Bears and he has magically trapped and enslaved them to do his bidding with his ring of Beast Control – a rare item forged in antiquity by the Beastmaster Wizard Orton. He has smuggled his terrorist force back into the city via the sewage system and in covered wagons over time, and has taken up residence in the abandoned Old Park Bathhouse in the neighbouring quarter. He has then initiated an increasing war of terror on immigrants and ‘heretic religions’. He has also set about destabilising the southern districts by attacking its commerce. In time he plans to hold the district to ransom with demands for a new temple of the Beast to be erected in the city as recompense for its excommunication.
The party learn about the terrorist attacks in the southern quarters of the city of Lankhmar through the grapevine. It starts becoming newsworthy in Lankhmar when there are several deaths in the Glipkero Street area. Spune then orders his Grungh Were-Bear slaves to start attacking local businesses he blames as contributing to his temple’s downfall. Local flour magnate Pilsbury (aka The Dough Lord) is hit hardest. He will also order attacks on smaller Temples/Churches in the area. When there are gaps in the player’s investigations have news of another attack reach them and allow them choices to investigate the sites of the attack. They will have to negotiate/get round the local city guard – but as times goes on and if the terrorists are not apprehended then the militia are more likely to allow independant adventuring activity to investigate. They will turn a blind eye for a suitably socially empowered individual or if a sufficient bribe is presented appropriately. The attacks happen initially under cover of darkness (hiding the non-human identity of the attackers), and using guerilla hit and run tactics. For a lengthy period there are no meaningful eye-witness accounts, just the aftermath of the attacks. Initial reports are fragmented, and because the terrorists are non-human treated with skeptism and disbelief – hence people are relatively reluctant to come forward until first hand evidence (i.e. a body of a Grungh terrorist) is in the hands of the authorities.
Ways to Start Off the Scenario
When Pilsbury is attacked he will approach the party in desperation to do something about the attacks. He offers resources and funds. It is also clear to the party that he doesn’t tolerate failure and will go beyond the confines of the law to punish those who don’t do his bidding. You can illustrate this by having him punish a guard or employee in plain sight of the player characters for some minor failureor other. In this way the party have a more challenging relationship with their benefactor/employer. Add into this a reward set up later if the attacks continue unchecked by the Overlord of Lankhmar in recognition of the failure of his city-guard. For a starting party this is an opportunity to earn big. Alternatively the DM could entice the party into action by having a minor relative assaulted/surviving an attack and acting as a witness. If the party is in relatively poor financial straits then the rumour of a reward may be enough to get them investigating the attacks.
Starting points are to investigate the remains of Pilsbury’s burned out warehouse. Following this the party can investigate an attacked temple and other sites if they are slow in locating the hideout of the terrorists. Have two Grungh in hiding at the warehouse. They have started to break free of Spune’s enchantment, but are still not capable of independent action. They will fight tooth and claw to defend themselves if attacked – they are more animalistic then human in their behaviour. Individually the Grungh are fearsome and superhuman, but they are not able to readily co-operate as a fighting force and therefore tactical combat by a party can overpower the Grungh. Grungh can also be powered down by making them diseased, or labouring under the sway of the magical ring wielded by Spune. This could slow the creatures down at random points as the ring exerts its magical force and Spune communicates commands to the Grungh. At a distance away from Spune the ring’s commanding effects could be weaker and the Grungh be more animalistic and less intelligent in their activities. For pathos you could have a Grungh change back to human shape if the effects of the ring completely wear off and come to its senses – this could be a dramatic twist in the narrative as the PC’s realise that these are not dumb beasts after all but enslaved into this situation. It is also possible that it may not be relevant or pertinent to the development of the shared story to reveal this angle of the plot and it may be more expedient not to expose this.
Supporting Developing Parties into Co-Operative Play
If you have a novice group and PC’s who are not well knitted together, then nurturing co-operative play, preparation and caution amongst the party participants should be the DM’s priority. (See the Campaign Journal Sessions 1-9 to see a treatment of the scenario where munificent NPC’s – The Hag of the Blue Moon, the Troll Riffkin, the Alchemist Silver, Moolsh the Thief-Spy etc befriend and support the party). Through advice and services (e.g. healing potions, poisons) that cost money or services in return the company and player learn to prepare and support each other for the party objectives over and above their own character’s objectives. If not then party members will be lost unnecessarily. Even so a sense of danger is important and even with a well equipped co-operative party a party member may be lost through bad luck, poor choices or circumstance. Don’t be too nice to PC’s who should feel that they are taxed and challenged by the scenario situations at times – it’s adventure, and that doesn’t always work out peachy and easily.
Developing the Scenario
Reward good detective work and careful, successful exploration with clues as to the identity of the terrorists. As the party follow the trail and explore sites, interview eye-witnesses, it becomes more and more likely that they will run into the Grungh. Either because they manage to follow their trail, or because the Grungh will ‘get wind’ that they are being pursued and will be sent by Spume to ‘eliminate these trouble-makers’. An ambush by Grungh on the party will happen typically late at night, in a quiet area of the city if possible. It will be scary and ferocious, but lack cohesion and be poorly coordinated. A well prepped beginning party should be able to work together to ward off the Grungh who will become dispirited and rout when 2/3rd of their number are injured/killed by the party. Some will fight to the death and it’s down to the DM to roll relevant reactions/decide on the intent and ferociousness of the Grungh when playing them.
Should things lag a helpful NPC could approach the party and act as an informant, telling them that the Grungh were seen in the vicinity of the Park. They could lead the company of adventurers to the disused Bathhouse and hence set up the final confrontation. If the party has done well in fighting off the Grungh prior to the final showdown, reduce the numbers of terrorists accordingly. Have them still nursing injuries should some of the Grungh escaped death at the hands of the party. Spune is not terribly compassionate about his enslaved minions and won’t trouble himself to have them healed or first aided. He is more concerned about them being able to wreak havok upon the world at large and his hated enemies – which grows and grows as his rage and religious mania continues. Spune however won’t care to be caught or killed by the company and would rather have his magically enslaved terrorists cop the brunt of their brute force and will do anything he can to escape. He has a small array of well-learned and practised spells, but since the demise of his followers and brethren he is not the powerful Mage Priest of the Frog God as he used to be. He is particularly fond of Invisibility, and is nearly Superb at its execution and is also skilled at using Darkwall and Windwall. He uses these spell abilities to best advantage to make good his escape, not necessarily to cause harm to the party or to benefit his followers.
If possible try and keep Spune alive at the end of the scenario so that he can potentially reappear in some guise later on down the line and attempt revenge upon the party. In this way you can have an ongoing enemy of the party. Spune of course will need to recuperate and recover from his losses, so the party could hear about his exploits from time to time and learn about his recovery and potential return. Check out the journal sessions to see how this relatively straightforward scenario was extended and interweaved with other plot-elements and story-hooks.