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

“What is that ruin there?”

“That?” the old man chuckled. “That there be the ruins of Valdorumal... the once great hall of Vellok the Black… you’ll no be wanting to venture there… dark magic there, a foul nameless beast that drinks spell and devours flesh… mark my words… you go down there and that terrible beastie will be dining on your bones by nightfall”.

Disclaimer

I wrote and ran this campaign many years ago. I have had several requests to dust these notes off and make them publicly available. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find all of the notes and, since this campaign was run almost 20 years ago, I am having a hard time remembering all of the details. I'm going to try to fill in details where I can and add in a few helpful tips and guidance. There is enough here to give you a background story and a good framework. But there will inevitably be sections that require you, the game master, to fill in some detail yourself. There may also be some contradictions or holes. Hopefully, there's enough here for you to fill in the gaps and figure it out. Modify and adapt this campaign to fit your players and your own unique style.

Introduction

The main idea behind the Warriors of the Mark campaign is that the player characters become possessed by the disembodied spirits of a group of dead heroes from many years ago. As “hosts” to these spirits, they develop special abilities and bear a “mark” upon their skin (hence, the campaign title – the “warriors of the mark”). This isn’t something that develops during the course of the campaign. The characters are assumed to have had these marks and these powers for many years. The campaign starts off with the characters “possessed”. However, this also draws them into an adventure against the very wizard who defeated the heroes long ago.

The Marks and the Spiritual Possession

Each of the player characters is "possessed" by the disembodied spirit of a long dead hero. This possession is at the very center of the campaign, so let’s discuss it first. This spiritual possession is actually the fusion of the other spirit with the character's own. This fusion manifests itself in the following ways:

• The character will have dreams (of the hero’s former life)
• A mark upon the skin (each mark is unique in form and location)
• The character will have a unique special ability

The player character is not born with these characteristics. Rather, the possession occurred earlier in the character’s life. All of the possessions occurred sometime in the last 70 years (i.e. they all occurred sometime after 2644 CY) but they also had to happen after the character was born. So the exact time of the possession depends on the age of the character.

For each character, the possession was quite sudden and occurred in the following way: they went to sleep one night, had vivid but disjointed dreams about heroic adventures in which they themselves seemed to take part and have special abilities, and then awoke bearing a mark upon their skin and manifesting the special powers of which they dreamed.

The unique mark and ability are resistant to all methods of identification. Some of the player characters might have simple accepted it as a “gift from the gods”. Others might have tried to figure out where the power came from or what the meaning of it is. Their attempts to identify it failed. Regardless of how their character might have reacted, you as game master, can simply tell them that they eventually just accepted it.

If you really want to have some fun with it, try incorporating it into the character's background somehow. For instance, it's possible that the sudden appearance of the mark and manifestation of the special ability might have led the townspeople in the character's village to think he or she were a witch or possessed by an evil spirit or something. They might have driven the character from the town and this might have been what got the character started adventuring in the first place.

The exact makeup of the group that called themselves the Warriors of the Mark should be tailored to your specific group. For instance, if you have 4 players in your group, select 4 heroes from the list below that are appropriate to your 4 players. Feel free to alter descriptions and details of the heroes. The point is that each of your players will be associated with one of the original Warriors of the Mark. Also, there should be a definite similarity between the hero of old and the player character. They are, quite literally, “soul mates”. There should be a number of striking similarities between them.

Here’s the original list as I used it when I first ran this campaign:
 

Name Race Class Gender Level Symbol Special Ability
Skie Human Paladin Male 11 Crown Leadership, Charisma and a Charm Ability
Telqun Grum Thief Female 8 Dagger Perfect Aim
Myrrik Elf Diviner Female 9 Scroll Prophetic Visions
Torell Phellysian Ranger Male 10 Flower Nature Lore and Herbalism
Darthon Dwarf Cleric Male 8 Skull Slay Undead Power and Innate Healing Magic
Vinuk Baenite Bard Male 9 Lyre Languages
Belsar Human Thief Male 10 Ring Extreme speed and also extreme stealth
Akran Ogre Fighter Male 9 Claw Tremendous Strength
Mirenna Avarian Mage Female 8 Eye Danger Sense

You can pick and choose from these or you can make up your own heroes. Note that each hero has a special ability and a symbol tailored to them. Also, you can customize the special abilities as you see fit. They should be useful, but not too powerful.

For instance, in the original list:

bullet Skie was a paladin who had awesome charisma and could attempt to charm friend or foe.
bullet Telqun had an amazing ability to hurl objects accurately.
bullet Myrrik could evoke visions by concentrating that told her what the near future might hold depending on various courses of action.
bullet Torell had total knowledge of all plants and animals.
bullet Darthon could slay undead by sheer force of will, though this was limited to the weaker varieties. He could also heal with a touch several times a day above and beyond his normal healing ability
bullet Vinuk had a talent for languages, could easily learn new languages and decipher scripts and glyphs and runes.

And so on. All of these abilities were magical in nature and most of them were usable several times a day. They were useful, but not so powerful as to upset game balance.

The player characters, while possessed with the spirits of these heroes, would have the same special abilities that the heroes did. Again, feel free to adjust the abilities. It should be something that compliments the character. The exact nature of the abilities is not important. But giving each player character a special ability will aid them in the adventure and also draw them into the story. I particularly like giving one of them the “prophetic visions” ability as this gives you a way to give the players information in a fun and cryptic way and gently steer them in the direction you want them to go.

Important Note on Starting the Campaign

It should be noted that you do NOT need to have the characters know each other. This is worth pointing out. In most campaigns, the players start off knowing each other. Sometimes it’s as simple as “ok, you are all in a tavern and…” Some groups go to great lengths to concoct elaborate backgrounds for each character and intertwine these backgrounds in logical ways to arrange the relationships between the characters. Still other groups start off initially separate and gradually “meet each other” during the course of the first couple of adventures, sometimes with awkward introductions and heavy handed attempts at merging into a group. These are all fine methods and, if this were any other campaign, I would say use whatever method you like.

However, this campaign is different. Because of the unique back story that involves all the characters, the characters don’t need to know each other. They may have never even met. That’s fine. You, as the game master, are spared the task of having the characters “know each other”. In this campaign, the very first session brings all of the player characters together for you. This campaign has the best hook I have ever devised. More details on this when we get to that section…

Vellok and the Warriors of the Mark

The spirits that possess the characters are, in fact, the spiritual energy of a group of heroes that lived earlier in the Age of Legends. They lived and adventured almost a century ago. They formed in 2632 CY in western Ithria and named themselves the Warriors of the Mark. They took this name for a very particular reason. During one of their earlier adventures, they were rewarded with special abilities by a powerful priest for services rendered to the Church. Each gift was accompanied by a symbol which each hero adopted and wore proudly. The group was also granted an immunity to death magic.

The Warriors of the Mark embarked on many grand adventures. Chief among these were their conflicts with an evil wizard named Vellok, a foul being who was sired by a demon. Being half demonic and skilled in sorcery, he was a formidable opponent.

Vellok dwelled in a great stone citadel far to the north, on the edge of the Shard Wastelands. This place was called Valdorumal, which in ancient Irenni, translates roughly as "Great Home of Dark Magic". Here in this stone fortress he worked on many spell projects and magical research. He experimented with the creation of undead, the summoning of demons and other works of dark magic.

Time and time again had the Warriors of the Mark foiled the evil plans of the cambion wizard Vellok. Enmity between the wizard and the group grew and over time their battles became well known in the region.

The Crystal of Ynthar

In 2643 CY, Vellok recovered a lost artifact of Yntharian lore... the Tripartite Crystal, also known as the Crystal of Ynthar. It was a powerfully enchanted relic which consisted of three crystals united as one. Each crystal had potent spells that affected one part of a living being:

bullet The first crystal, known as the Orb of Blood, was a large red crystalline sphere and it gave power that controlled the body.
bullet The second, the Thought Shard, was a pyramid shaped crystal that had powers over the mind.
bullet The third, the Essence Crystal, a smaller pyramid shaped crystal, could affect the spirit.

My original notes on the Crystal of Ynthar are here. Although you are encouraged to modify the functions of the device to fit your campaign.

With this arcane relic, he prepared a bold plan. When Vellok next encountered the Warriors of the Mark, he unleashed the full power of the three part crystal upon his enemy. Completely taken aback by the force of this magic, the heroes were quickly overwhelmed. With the aid of the crystal, Vellok and his minions were able to capture the Warriors of the Mark. Once the Warriors of the Mark were captured, he imprisoned them in his dungeon. He then used the Crystal of Ynthar to separate the body, mind and spirits of the heroes. His plan was to turn their bodies into mindless automatons to serve him and to obliterate their knowledge and spirits. (Thus preventing any spell from ever resurrecting them). Unknown to Vellok, the Warriors of the Mark were protected from all forms of death magic and as a result (actually more like a side effect), their spiritual energies escaped his trap.

Vellok was aware of the partial failure of his trap, but was unable to explain it. He rejoiced that he had captured their bodies and essentially killed the heroes. The bodies of the group were lifeless shells under his command. But Vellok was aware that their spirits had escaped. The great wizard expended much effort in a futile search for the spirits. The spirits, floating as formless energy throughout the dimensions, searched for a way to return to the living. (They had not crossed through "Death's Door" and therefore had no direction, no purpose, no link to that which lies Beyond). All this happened many decades ago.

Eventually, Vellok ceased his search for the missing spirits. He had defeated the heroes. They troubled him no more. Having no more concern, he returned to his studies into dark magic.

Jhentarr the Hooded

Some years later, in 2655 CY, Vellok’s military commander and leader of Vellok’s soldiers, a dark knight named Kothtarr, rebelled and attempted to overthrow Vellok. This Kothtarr was a foul, ill-tempered and murderous fiend who had proven a useful lieutenant over the years. But his ambition finally led him to a bloody conclusion. This coup was unsuccessful and quickly quelled. Vellok decided to punish the traitors. Most of the lesser officers who were involved were simply executed in various painful methods. Vellok wanted to do something special to the traitorous commander who had led the rebellion as an example to all of this other minions.

It so happened that there was a very troubled prisoner at the time who was being held in the dungeon. This prisoner was a great ogre knight, who had been captured while thwarting one of Vellok’s plans. This ogre was a powerful and chivalrous knight who as a good and pure as Kothtarr was evil. The ogre’s name was Jhenlor and he was notable for two great curved horns that crowned his head. (In actuality, Jhenlor was an ogre/mandalar hybrid, a rare crossbreed to be sure, which explains the horns). Despite being born of two war-like races, he was still a noble and virtuous warrior.

Vellok punished them both in the most cruel way he could think of. He used the power of the Crystal of Ynthar to fuse them together into one creature. They merged - body, mind and soul. The resulting creature was a powerfully muscled half ogre whose head was crowned with two short horns but whose features were distorted and twisted giving the creature a hideous aspect. Vellok gave this new creature a name… Jhentarr, a fusion of their names. This deformed creature was then cast out of the castle and exiled. Rather than simply kill them, Vellok wanted both of them to suffer… to endure a long and miserable life together.

Jhentarr has been wandering the world for the last 60 years. His extraordinarily long life may have been a side effect of having been touched with the power of the Crystal. Jhentarr has all of the strength and skill and power of both his component entities. He is a formidable opponent on the battle field. However, despite all his strengths, Jhentarr is a beast that knows only misery and suffering. Not only is he frightening to behold, but his two halves, opposite in almost every way, are constantly opposed and give him no peace. He knows only constant anguish and self-hatred.

A unique side effect of this bodily fusion is that all divination type spells cast on him will get “double” readings which are diametrically opposed.

The Failed Experiment

Many years later, Vellok was conducting a magical experiment. It was his boldest experiment yet. Vellok was attempting to create a new life form using a captured morphian and the Crystal of Ynthar.

The magical experiment backfired with catastrophic results. A life form was produced but not what Vellok had anticipated. The experiment birthed a horrific creation… a glowing protoplasmic thing that fed on both living creatures and also the vaporous energy of spells. The creature attacked its creator. Vellok’s magic, however, proved useless against the creature. The protoplasmic horror simply grew stronger as it fed on his spells.

Despite his best efforts, Vellok was unable to control or even slow the beast. Dozens of his soldiers and minions died. In the chaos, the stronghold was abandoned. During the hasty retreat, Vellok was forced to leave both the Orb of Blood and the Thought Shard behind along with a great deal of  treasures, many important books and scrolls in the library and a various magical experiments in the lab. He gathered what treasure and magical research he could, including the Essence Crystal, and fled.

Having suffered terrible burns from the beast and having suffered a more terrible wound to his ego, Vellok vowed never to return to his former stronghold nor face that horrible protoplasmic creature again.

Vellok continued undaunted. He relocated to the far south, replenished the ranks of his minions and began building a new stronghold south of the free city of Ithell. After a few years, he was back at his studies and magical research.

The Protoplasmic Creature and the Ruins of Vellok’s Castle

The protoplasmic beast that Vellok had unwittingly created stayed underground in the lower levels of Valdorumal. It feeds off of the energy given off by the Orb of Blood, so it is unwilling to leave the ruins. However, close proximity to the Orb overwhelms the creature and causes it pain. Therefore, it has never ventured forth from the lower levels of the ruined castle, but also avoids the Orb. The creature is also harmed by drellisian radiation (such as from the blue star or from a drellisite crystal). This is another reason why it does not venture forth to the surface.

Valdorumal sank into obscurity. It became a local legend. Over the years, adventurers have poked around the ruins. Most of the reckless souls foolhardy enough to venture into the lower levels did not return. There were, however, a few rare exceptions…

The Fate of the Thought Shard

A band of young and inexperienced adventurers ventured into the dark corridors beneath Valdorumal . They ransacked several corridors and filled their satchels with treasure until they came upon the great beast. In the ensuing battle, the beast devoured them… all but one. A single lucky thief managed to escape. Though badly burned and mutilated, he managed to make it back to the surface. He escaped with his life, and with a satchel stuffed with treasure. Among the trinkets he had was the Thought Shard, the second part of the Crystal of Ynthar.

He died from his wounds before he could make it back to civilization. His remains were found by an orc who took the treasure and the Thought Shard. The orc was later killed by a ranger who, in turn, was robbed by a group of bandits, and so on. The Thought Shard passed from owner to owner, several times, no one ever realizing what they had. It eventually found its way into the Arcanum Tower of Knowledge, a museum of rare antiquities in the city of Arcanum. It has been identified as magical, but that is all. The Thought Shard remains there to this day, in a display cabinet, as an obscure curiosity and relic of “pagan magic”.

The Fate of the Orb of Blood

When Vellok abandoned Valdorumal , the Orb of Blood was left behind. It was eventually found in the ruins of Vellok’s former stronghold by a tribe of skrell. Their leader, a primitive shaman type, accidentally discovered how to activate one of its functions (a powerful type of healing magic). They began to worship this crystal and declared the underground levels of the ruins their territory. They are fearful of the great protoplasmic creature. A few weeks ago, Jhentarr the Hooded returned to the castle of Vellok. Finding it in ruins, he went in to explore. He discovered the tribe of skrell worshiping the Orb of Blood. He also discovered the protoplasmic creature. He wears a pendant of Drellisian Crystal (taken from the body of a victim) which keeps the protoplasmic organism at bay. He wants to take the Orb of Blood from the skrell tribe and study it, but he is outnumbered more than 40 to 1. A grudging truce has developed. The protoplasmic creature , the skrell and Jhentarr all avoid each other. Jhentarr has been spending his time exploring the underground ruins and reading Vellok's many books and research notes. He is trying to figure out exactly what the Crystal of Ynthar is, what the fate of the other two crystals was and, most importantly, if the fusion inflicted upon him can be undone.

Timeline of Past Events

2632 CY Adventuring party forms.
2635 CY Adventuring party embarks on a long quest.
2636 CY During the course of that adventure, the players are granted abilities and marks. They subsequently name themselves the “Warriors of the Mark”.
2637 CY The Warriors of the Mark begin working against the arch mage Vellok.
2641 CY The party foils yet another project of Vellok.
2642 CY Vellok discovers the location of the Crystal of Ynthar.
2643 CY Vellok goes in search of the Crystal of Ynthar.
2643 CY Vellok recovers the Crystal of Ynthar.
2644 CY Vellok ambush the Warriors of the Mark with Crystal. Entire party is captured.
Warriors Of The Mark await their fate in Vellok's dungeon.
The Warriors of the Mark are “disjoined”.
Vellok begins searching for the lost souls.
2645 CY Vellok gives up search for lost souls.
2655 CY Military leader leads coup attempt and is unsuccessfully.
2655 CY Vellok fuses military leader (anti-paladin) with the ogre warrior.
2655 CY Jhentarr the Hooded is exiled.
2680 CY Stronghold is abandoned.
2681 CY Vellok relocates to south. Begins rebuilding a ruin castle known as Aldremar.
2685 CY Rebuilding is complete. Vellok and his minions move into Aldremar.

The Fate of the Spirits of the Warriors of the Mark

Now, remember when Vellok used the Crystal to “disjoin” the Warriors of the Mark, their spirits escaped. What happened to those disembodied spirits? Well, that’s the loose thread that starts off this campaign.

The disembodied spirits of the Warriors of the Mark floated aimlessly for years. One by one, these “lost spirits” found kindred souls with which they could merge and once again enter the world of the living. (The player characters). These fusions resulted in the "hosts" acquiring the symbols of the Warriors as marks on their skin and also developing the special abilities which mirror the Warriors' abilities. The hosts also suffer vivid dreams as the spirits' memories invade the hosts' sleep.

Many years have passed. Each host has accepted their peculiar oddities, often believing it a gift from the gods. Vellok and his minions were unaware of the presence of the lost souls in the world.

However, not long ago, one of the player characters ventured near to Vellok’s new castle where he currently resides. Through the power of the Essence Crystal, he became dimly aware of the presence of one of the spirits of his old enemy. Using the Crystal and focusing his mind, he searched and found that the soul was within a living body. Age old hatred flared up within him. At least one of his nemeses had somehow returned. It was not long before he discovered that all of the lost spirits from the Warriors of the Mark were once again traveling the world in mortal bodies. They had somehow returned, he thought. Vellok was unable to explain how they could possibly be alive. Curiosity mixed with rage. Vellok has decided to find them and finish them once and for all.

The Campaign Start

As the campaign begins, Vellok is currently busy with several major projects, one of which is his relentless pursuit of lichdom. He is currently traveling to other dimensions and planes of existence gathering critical components for one of his more powerful projects.

While Vellok is away, he has left his military commander, Arkathos, a powerful ogre warrior, in charge of his castle and all the minions. Vellok has left orders that the Warriors of the Mark are to be located, captured and held until his return.

Arkathos has assembled a team of his finest warriors and mages and sent them out to track down the Warriors of the Mark, capture them and bring them back to the castle. The team he is sending out is a battle hardened group and they are very well armed and armored.

Arkathos is expecting the team to be facing legendary heroes, that's why the field team is as large as it is. They are expecting trouble. With Vellok’s permission, he has also given them the Essence Shard so that the team can quickly and easily track them down (by using the crystal to track the “souls”).

To be blunt, all of the player characters will be captured individually by this team, which is clearly more than they can handle. Each player character will be rendered unconscious. They will all awaken in the same jail cell. They do not know each other. They simply all wake up in the same cell. They are all prisoners in the same dungeon. None of them will know WHY they have been captured. This is how the campaign begins.

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

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