It occurred to me that I could try and put together the basic elements for an adventure based on the throw of a die. Or four of Rory’s Story Cubes to be precise. I can’t vouch for the thematic perfection of the outcome and you may need to adjust depending on now close you sail to the Järnringen campaign background for the setting and peoples of Ambria.
While you don’t need it to play, you should cast a gaze over the latest Symbaroum offering, Tomb of Dying Dreams, from which I snatched a thought.
We never wrote, because what’s written can be read, interpreted, deciphered. Our dreams were our own, no one else’s.
The settlement of Andara sits above the eastern arm of the Titans, a distant but valuable outpost. Some distance south of Mergile, within the borders of furthest Yndarien, Andara boasts a productive iron mine, rich in ore.
The settlers in Andara consist primarily of mine workers who took over the ruins they found in the shadow of the mountains and made it their own. They have family here, certain craftspeople necessary to keep the mine running smooth and a few overseers from the administrative extremities of the Queen’s government.
Andara consists of about a dozen hall houses, built from timbers over foundations left by previous inhabitants. The inhabitants haven’t raised too many questions about who these inhabitants were, assuming them to have been one of the barbarian cultures common to these parts for centuries. As well as stone foundations, the previous inhabitants also left behind unmarked tombs off the eastern trail and open mine workings, of which the Ambrians have made good use.
Heran, a theurg and loremaster, inhabits a small stone lodge between the tombs and the mineworkings – the only wholy stone building in the settlement. Heran’s respect for the dead means he insisted the settlers in Andara lay their dead to rest in a new cemetery, which they established closer to the settlement and includes a small chapel to Prios.
While the theurg serves his primary role with unswerving faith, he also pursues his own studies with considerable vigor. His interest in lore means he spends as much time around the old tombs as he does the chapel or lodge. He has pieced together information from finds around the settlement and mine, as the tombs themselves are sealed and utterly without marking.
Heran (Attributes as Bartolom, p241; Abilities: Loremaster [n], Holy Aura [n], Theurgy [n]; possesses a holy symbol, many books, including a copy of the Lightbringer, but no weapons or armor) has concluded that the previous inhabitants were not barbarians at all, but dwarves. He has pieced together what he can from many disparate sources, including tools, masonry and some facts gleaned from sources back in Yndaros and Templewall. A week ago, through research and ritual, he experienced a vision and from that has managed to scribe a few letters in dwarven, or so he assumes.
There’s Power in Words
In actual fact, these few letters are broken elements of the controlling words that the Symbaroum overmasters inflicted upon the dwarves in their servitude. These scant symbols contain enough power to have awakened something from the tombs, a corrupt entity of Symbaroum design tied to these controlled words.
Over the last several days people have started turning up dead. The cemetery had few occupants before now – given the short period of residence by the Ambrians – but suddenly things have changed. A collapse of the mine supports in the closest shaft killed three and injured half a dozen more. One person died on the road between the settlement and the mine, another while gathering wood, a third while drawing water from the well.
The entity – call it Control – has the power to possess people and seeks out the controlling words. When possessed people appear Blighted (stats as Blight Born Human, p226) and attack mindlessly anyone who stops them from searching – an act that generally involves pulling things apart and throwing furniture around.
Outside a host, Control appears as shifting patterns of light (stats equal to a Frostlight, p230, but in numbers equal to the player characters; as an entity Control also possesses Bend Will [n]). Control can be damaged with holy and mystical powers, but no one can banish it while the controlling words remain – and these have been squirreled away by Heran in a book within the lodge. Constructed by dwarves using techniques handed down behind the backs of their masters, nothing of Symbaroum construction or design can enter the lodge – rather like trying to push two opposing magnets together. While the other buildings in the settlement have foundations of this stone, the timber elements make them vulnerable – as is the case with the supports within the mines.
Investigation of the events would suit low experience characters or even inhabitants with zero experience. If outsiders, one of the Queen’s official may ask travelers for assistance or they may find one of the deceased on the road into Andara. Should any character die in the course of the adventure, you can give the player a replacement from amongst the population of the settlement – though not Heran.
Inspecting the dead – who have been kept in the chapel, a hall house like the others in the settlement with one large room for worship and smaller rooms for contemplation, supplies and storing the dead – reveals those who died outside the mine did so without apparent wounds, as if from natural causes. The miners – who died a week before and have been buried already – would have appeared the same if not for the numerous injuries suffered in the collapse.
Gossip – the only words of value from the locals about the deaths will be rumors that it must have something to do with the elves / ogres, worries that the enemy might have sent a curse across the Titans, and a couple suggesting spies in the woods or the cemetery, following sights of lantern light in the distance at night. If pressed, one of these instances of lights will match with the night the man, Liro, died while gathering firewood north of the settlement.
More general discussion [Persuasion] will find Tera, the local busybody, casting doubt on the competence and focus of Heran. She thinks he must have received this post as punishment and questions his abilities, as he spends as much time wandering the ancient tombs as he does the chapel or cemetery.
Investigation of the Old Woods will find – with [Beast Lore / Cunning] – dead wildlife, like birds, rodents and even a fox. None show sign of wound or sickness that might explain their death.Control has been drawing warmth – and life – from the creatures while searching for the words.
Control has been drawing warmth – and life – from the creatures while searching for the words.
Looking at the Old Tombs, the characters may already know that none of them bear any inscription or sign of their origins. Of sturdy construction, clearly very old, none of the structures has even a scratch on the exterior, never mind a symbol.
Breaking into one of the tombs will take tools, assistance and time – and inside the characters will find a dwarven skeleton on a plinth. The tomb contains no grave goods of any kind, as is tradition, and no inscriptions. However, once opened up that tomb will become the target of Control.
Those who came along to help will become possessed and attack the characters, including Heran if present. Wounds that exceed the individual’s pain threshold, or striking for damage that accumulates to the same level, drive out Control. The characters will see a shimmering silhouette of pale light emerge and move away. This element of Control will take one round to recover, after which it can attempt to possess any suitable target with a [Resolute <- Resolute] test, as per Bend Will (novice).
Questioning Heran – whether because of Tera’s gossip or as a matter of conversation, Heran admits to a fascination with the old tombs before now and indicates that the lack of inscription has bothered him. To that end, he has completed his own research and will, in his excitement, reference his dream. If pressed (and which player wouldn’t!), he explains he dreamed of enslavement in the mines, a darkness that pressed about him and chains that secured his servitude and cooperation. When he looked to identify his dreamself he found his reflection in a pool and saw a dwarf – and a flash of fiery symbols. On waking, he scratched down the symbols as best he could remember.
Only when forced to recount the dream and his revelation does he realize the deaths started soon after. The collapse of the mine was not unheard of – people had died that way before – so he didn’t make any connection with it. By the time others started dying, he had forgotten his research altogether.
The characters need to go to Heran’s Lodge, find the words and utterly destroy them. Having done this, they can then defeat Control and banish it completely.
Getting to the lodge will not be an issue, but on leaving the stone house they will find a mob approaching – either from the mine, the settlement or perhaps both. The pale flesh and obvious aggravation of the approaching settlers signify their possession by Control.
The same rules apply to driving the entity out, but it can no longer possess another target with the words destroyed – assuming the characters have done just that. If not, Heran will destroy the words – or the character with the highest Cunning will have a revelation. Anyone using the lodge for cover will discover Control’s inability to enter – though anyone poking weapons out of the windows will find themselves targeted and Control will try to destroy parts of the building with tools.
Once driven out and beaten, the characters will banish Control completely – and the people of Andara will be released from threat and fear. If still alive, Heran will burn his books and never set word to paper ever again. The settlers will praise the characters for their act in helping and might offer small gifts as well as strong drink and good food. An administrator might see promise in the characters and set them on the road to Yndaros with the promise of opportunities in service to the Queen.
If the characters fail to stop Control, it will break open the lodge, take the words and then enslave the settlers completely. Supplies of iron from Andara will stop and guildsmen sent to transport it back will disappear. Administrators in Yndaros will raise concerns and send someone to investigate – finding Andara inexplicable lost to something indistinguishable from the Blight. Control will have gained power (and Challenge Rating) such that it will take considerably more effort to defeat it – or massed armed force willing to wipe out all the inhabitants of the mining settlement.