The World Of Khoras - DM Tools - Campaigns - The Warriors of the Mark

Chapter 1 - Introduction

The Setup

Arkathos, the Captain of the Guards and one of Vellok’s trusted lieutenants, has dispatched a group of warriors with orders to locate, capture and bring back the Warriors of the Mark. This “field team” that has been dispatched have been given the Essence Crystal to help them track down their victims. The field team is large and powerful as they are expecting to be facing legendary heroes. For each soul they track, instead of finding a legendary Warrior of the Mark, they find one of the player characters. Although Vellok had given them a physical description, the Essence Crystal is clear - the player character is the one.

The field team will capture the player character one way or another. Coercion, combat and simple discussion. Regardless of how they do it, the team captures the player character, renders them unconscious (the method is up to you - bonk on the head, sleep potion, sleep spell, whatever) and that's it.

The players will eventually wake up together, stripped of all equipment, in a dungeon cell.

Now, when I did it originally, I ran the actual capture of the player characters individually. I did a very short, solo session with each player a week or two prior to the first full session with the entire group. This is a good opportunity to let them build up some character traits. I've always felt that solo play really lets the player develop the character through real play and the DM can really focus on the player. This is also an opportunity to give them some motivation.

For example, when I originally ran this campaign, one of the player characters was a paladin. During his pre-campaign solo session, when the bad guys showed up, he put up a fight in the middle of the small village market. Most of the peasants fled. In the midst of the combat, one of the bad guys grabbed a young girl who had blue ribbons in her hair. He held the girl up and put a knife to her throat. He then ordered the paladin to drop his weapons and surrender or he would kill the girl. Having no choice and not willing to risk the girl’s life, the paladin surrendered. They ordered him to drink a sleeping potion and he slumped to the floor.

When the paladin woke up, he found himself in a dungeon cell with a group of strangers. Tied around his leg was a bloody blue ribbon. Of course, this gave him tons of motivation. Right then and there, he devoted himself to avenging the girl. He wore that bloody blue ribbon through the entire campaign and that motivation drove the character relentlessly through all the adventures.
 

The Dungeon

Now the fun begins… This is where the campaign really starts.

At the very beginning of your first session, the player characters all wake up in a dungeon cell together. They probably wake up one at a time. Give them physical descriptions of each other. They have been stripped of all weapons, armor and equipment. They don’t know each other. They have no idea why they have been captured or who their captors are. Some of them have cuts and bruises from a recent fight. All of them have a headache and a metallic taste in their mouth – an after effect of the sleeping potion – but these symptoms fade gradually.

The characters have been stripped of everything useful – weapons, armor, equipment and, of course, magic items. They are still clothed, but that’s it. Any hidden knifes or lockpicks or whatever might have been found or missed, depending on how well they were hidden. It’s up to you and how generous you want to be. Also, later on, when it’s time for them to escape, this might affect the method of their escape. If you have a clever thief who had a very well hidden lockpick in his clothing, it’s possible that their captors might have missed it. And hence, you could alter the escape below. Instead of using it as described (they escape with help), the thief might use the lockpick to pick the lock on the dungeon cell door. This gives the player a greater sense of accomplishment. Feel free to adapt as necessary.

The dungeon cell is fairly typical. A bare floor with some dirt and straw scattered about. A few human bones lie on the floor. Perhaps a bony arm chained to the wall. Thick iron bars and a cell door make up one wall of the cell. The other three walls are solid stone. Beyond the bars of their cell, they can see that they are in a large prison room with other cells, but it’s hard to tell how many.

Outside the cell, about 15 feet away, hanging from the ceiling by an iron chain, is a fist sized chunk of crystal which glows with a cold blue light. Any wizard in the party will immediately recognize it as a drellisite crystal. They will also feel it. The energy emitted by this crystal curdles magic and makes it impossible to cast spells. Clearly, this is intended to ensure that no magic items and no spells can be cast. Indeed, any wizard in the cell who has spells memorized or otherwise ready to cast will not only be unable to cast them, but will also suffer severe headaches and nausea. As a matter of fact, any spellcasters in the party would probably notice this FIRST, before anything else, because it’s affecting their magic and making them feel ill.

A deep, round hole in the floor served as a toilet. In case any of your players have an idea of escaping that way, the hole is 12 inches in diameter and 8 feet deep. It has a stone lip and stone sides, but the bottom is hard packed dirt (allowing liquids to leach into the ground). It would be impossible for anyone but the most diminutive character to fit in that hole. Even a very small elf or grum would find it incredibly cramped and difficult to move. Digging into the dirt at the bottom would be awkward, cramped and very tedious. While it is theoretically possible that a very tiny character could fit into the hole and dig their way out of the dungeon, such a route of escape would be possible only for the tiniest character and it would take weeks to dig a tunnel out that way. The guards, of course, check in on the prisoners at least twice a day, if not more. Piles of dirt would not go unnoticed. 

DM Note: The special abilities of the players are NOT affected by this crystal. Vellok does not know that the player characters have these special abilities. And these abilities are linked to their spirits. They are quite powerful and are not affected as normal spellcasting so the crystal will not affect them. The players will be able to use these abilities to help them escape. Hopefully you haven’t given them anything too powerful. For instance, teleport ability is WAY too powerful.

The Discovery

Once they're awake, the player characters can, of course, talk to each other. They don't know each other. They're perfect strangers, but they are all in this together. Depending on their race and class, they may be different races and come from very different backgrounds. They may compare notes about who they are, where they come from and what happened to them. They will find no significant connections.

Eventually, they are going to discover that they all have a single, striking commonality. They all have marks upon them. These are more than just birthmarks, these have distinct shapes and appear to be burned into the skin, as if by magic. When compared side by side, they will even notice a certain stylistic similarity between the marks. And, of course, each of them has a special ability. This is another very unique similarity. Clearly, they were not chosen at random. This MUST be the reason they were captured. Let the players discuss this awhile and scratch their heads...

Dungeon Routine

Once the players have had some time to check things out in the cell, and they’ve been in there a few hours, they start to get a feel for the routine of this prison.

There is always a guard in the dungeon. They are relieved with a fresh guard every 4 hours. Guards make rounds once an hour, although some guards do it diligently where other guards will sleep or eat or sneak a drink of ale from a hidden bottle. Every time a guard walks his rounds, he counts the prisoners, checks to make sure the crystal is in place, visually checks out the prisoners and cells to make sure nothing is amiss and then moves on.

The guards will not talk to the prisoners. If the player characters try to engage the guards in conversation, the guards will yell at them to be quiet, ignore them, or perhaps throw a bucket of cold water on them for amusement. A particularly belligerent guard might taunt them with vague talk of punishment or a grim fate awaiting them at the master’s hands. But nothing specific.

The guards are a mix of unwholesome characters. Brutish, uneducated and cruel. Some of them are human, others are orcish, ogrish, saurian and various crossbreeds.

The Other Prisoners

If a guard is sleeping or preoccupied, it might be possible to have a conversation with a prisoner in a nearby cell. If you want to encourage this, you might even have the guard step away for a few minutes…

The other prisoners:

Cell # Occupant's Name and Description
1 Utash – A middle aged myrian male. He is a slave who tried to escape and is being punished. He can tell them where they are (the location of the dungeon – i.e. that it’s southwest of Ithell). He can also tell them that a wizard named Vellok rules here.
2 Asvold - A soldier who fell asleep on duty and is being punished. He will be very reluctant to speak to the player characters for fear of being punished further by the captain of the guards. However, if the players escape and make him a good offer, it’s possible that he might join them.
 
3 Empty
4 The Player Characters are in cell #4. Cell 4 is a large, central cell designed for multiple people.
 
5 Draydin – An elderly human male. A villager from the nearby village of Corfe Mullen. He was captured in a bandit raid. He has a bad wound on his leg and a severe limp. He can barely walk.
 
6 Empty. Just a moldering elf skeleton chained to the wall.
 
7 Empty. Just a moldering elf skeleton chained to the wall.
 
8 A very hideous looking zombie/skeleton. This thing was created by Vellok during an experiment. However, the thing did not obey commands and is completely out of control. Vellok is keeping it for study.

The Overhead Conversation

One evening, when most prisoners are asleep, some of the player characters hear two people speaking. The player characters hear the following:


Voice 1: ...even though we don't have the entire Yntharian Crystal, there may yet be a way to do it.

Voice 2: Maybe we could torture it out of them.

Voice 1: No, no, no, we're talking about souls here. Torturing them won't do any good.

Voice 2: No, no, I suppose not. But it'd be fun!

Voice 3: Enough, both of you. The prisoners are not to be harmed.

Voice 1: You do not have jurisdiction here. When Lord Vellok is away, I am in charge of all decisions pertaining to magical matters.

Voice 3: And I run the dungeon. I have my orders. Until Vellok returns, the prisoners must be kept alive and undamaged. And I intend to fulfill that duty. No torture and no experimentation!

Voice 1: But with the Essence Crystal, we can analyze the prisoners, perhaps attempt a disjunction and have everything done for the Master when he returns. In fact, I might not even have to kill them.

Voice 3: Patience. The Master will return in six days. Until then, we shall wait...

 

and the voices pass out of earshot.
 

Glith

Glith, an elven slave girl, has been ordered to bring them food and water. She has a fresh bruise on her cheek. It looks like she was recently beaten. She looks worried, concerned for the players and is apparently terrified of the guards. (This campaign works really well if you’ve got a paladin or cavalier or some other good type who cannot stand to see injustice. You can use this poor abused slave girl to evoke some pity and anger out of the paladin types).

Glith will come to them at least 2 or 3 times a day. She will eagerly engage the player characters in conversation at every opportunity, but she always keeps her voice low so the guard on duty will not hear.
 

Questions and Answers

Glith can be a wealth of information. But dole the info out in bits. Keep the players in the dark about their location and why they were captured for a little while. Let them enjoy not knowing for a little while and test the limits of their cage. For instance, maybe the first and second time Glith visits them to give them food and water, she tries to talk to them, but the guard yells at her or walks by and she can't. She flashes them a concerned look and moves on. Perhaps it isn't until her third visit with the food bucket that she's able to finally talk to them.

If the players ask Glith questions, here are her answers:

Who are you?
My name is Glith. I assist Ulroth, the dungeon keeper. I am his slave, though I serve many masters here.

Where are we?
This is the prison of Orogath Citadel, the home of the arch mage Vellok.

Where is Orogath Citadel? What kingdom?
On the outskirts of Jannerus, about 15 leagues east of the city of Ithell.

How did you end up a slave here?
Glith explains that she and her brother were captured in a bandit raid when her family was traveling two years ago. Her parents and uncle were killed. She and her brother were enslaved. They have been slaves to the masters of this castle ever since. She assists the dungeon warden and her brother works as a stable boy. She is originally from an elven village on the border of Cyrell. They have seen what happens to other slaves who try to escape.

How many guards are there?
In the castle, overall, there are dozens of guards. I don’t know how many. There are typically two guards on this level. One here in the prison. And one at the entrance of the level.

Where is our equipment?
If the party had any magic items, those items have been taken and Glith does not know where they are. (In actuality, most magic items would have been given to various officers here in the castle. So, later on in the campaign, when fighting Vellok’s minions, the players may occasionally come across their own magic items on the bodies of recently vanquished enemies). Glith IS able to tell them where their weapons and armor are. Any mundane, non-magical equipment is located in a nearby locker. Any weapons and armor have been moved to the armory, which is also on this level.

How did we get here?
The guards brought you in, one at a time, yesterday. You were all unconscious.

Why were we captured? What do they want with us?
I don’t know. I did hear some guards talking about you 2 days ago. Something about the “crystal finding you” and something about you being the enemy. I would have heard me, but they saw me and sent me away.

Can you get rid of that crystal? Just take it away somewhere?
Glith is scared to move the crystal. She’s frightened that the guard will notice on his round and punish her. The players will have to convince her with promises of taking her with them.
 

The Escape

The players are going to escape. The plot, in fact, requires it. However, they may need some help. Here's one option:

Glith can help them. She can steal the key from the guards. Or perhaps she has a copy, but the guards don't know it. In any case, Glith comes to the players' cell to give them food and water and whispers frantically to them. She makes a deal with the player characters. Her brother is also a slave here in the castle (he works in the stables). If she helps them escape, she wants them to help her and her brother get back to Ithell. They have an uncle in Ithell and they want to get to him. She asks the players to help them.

She picks the players because they look like they are sturdy fighters. Maybe because they have a muscled half ogre with them. Or a tall beautiful elf. And a wizard dressed in flashy robes. Something impressive. Whoever the player characters are, no matter what their race or class, they look like someone who can help her.

Eventually, she helps out in the following ways… she gets rid of the crystal, unlocks the cell door and tells them where their weapons and equipment is being kept. So, the player characters can get out of their cells and cast spells. But the rest they will have to do themselves. They will have to deal with the guards, get their weapons and armor from the armory, rearm themselves, rescue the brother and get out of the castle, without being seen or heard.

If you want to make things even tougher,  here are a few ideas:

1. When they get to the armory, they find it guarded by at least one guard. Assuming they overcome him, they are unable to find all of their weapons and armor. They have to make do with limited weapons and armor that aren't exactly what they need.

2. The brother isn't in the stable, but helping two guards repair a wagon in the courtyard. However, don’t make it impossible. Keep in mind that the player characters are outnumbered and low level and they MUST escape here for the campaign to get going. So, make sure you arrange elements so that the players can actually escape.
 

The Chase

The players will escape on foot (or perhaps, if they are lucky, with a few horses from the stables, depending on how generous you are). If they freed Draydin (the villager), then he wants to go home. Also, it’s on the way to Ithell where Glith and her brother want to go. So, you’ve given the players plenty of reason to have them head to the village of Corfe Mullen and the city of Ithell.

It won’t be long before the guards find the empty cells and the missing prisoners. So, you can be assured that pursuit will be only a few hours behind them.

On the way, perhaps they find that one of the horses they have stolen is lame and limping. If they don’t know the horses, they couldn’t have known.
 

The Village

Wounded, tired, possibly unarmed and being chased, the player characters make about 5 leagues to the tiny village of Corfe Mullen.

Corfe Mullen is a tiny farming village on the far west border of Jannerus, just east of Ithell. It's a mix of humans and grum, mostly farmers. It’s very small. Less than 300 people. It has one small roadside tavern named the Steel Gryphon which also serves as a trading post and inn.

If either Draydin or Glith are with the party, they will encourage the party to go to the Steel Gryphon. Both of them have been here before. They say the place has good food and a few rooms for rent. It's a good place to hide out for awhile and figure out what to do.

The Steel Gryphon is run by a family of grum. Ethel, a very maternal and somewhat overbearing old grumman woman, will usher the dirty and bloody players in and insist on bandaging wounds and feeding them her famous rabbit stew. The tavern is mostly empty when the players arrive. Perhaps one or two colorful characters will be in there and may join in the conversation. The locals know about Orogath Citadel. They know about Vellok. They describe him and those who serve him as "an unsavory type". They know the history. The villagers stay far away from the Citadel.

Draydin or Glith or Ethel or a tavern patron - it doesn't really matter who - will encourage the players to go to Ithell. Big city, lots of city guards... And if Glith and the brother are present, well, they want the players to escort them to Ithell to take them to their uncle.

Try to orchestrate as many reasons as you can to steer the players toward Ithell. Also, more specifically, toward the Lore Masters in Ithell. The Lore Masters is a special library and informational archive. Information is their speciality. If the players want any information answered, the Lore Masters will have the answer. And the players should have LOADS of questions that the villagers can't answer.

Why were they captured?
How is it that each of them has a mark on their skin and a special ability?
What was Vellok planning on doing with them?
How did Vellok find them?
What is the Yntharian Crystal?
What is the Essence Crystal?

If the players want answers to these questions, especially those last two, they are going to have visit the Lore Masters.

And they may have promised to take Glith and her brother to Ithell.

This page last updated Wednesday, December 24, 2008. Copyright 1990-2009 David M. Roomes.

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