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B11 and B12 as campaign start

by Stefan Beate

When looking at B10 recently, I also took a close look at B11 and B12, two starter adventures by Carl Sargent. I tried to rework them to form a base for starting a Karameikos campaign. I noticed of course that there are a few chaotic priests there, and tried to string together a reason why they are there, what their motivations are beyond "muhahah, Iīm spreading evil chaos". This is what I came up with so far:

Iīm leaning heavily on Agathoklesī Karameikan companion and Threshold #1, of course.

Background for the DM:

There are two main parts to the background, both have come together recently.

The part with the longer history is the Dark Triad, a cult revolving around several entropic immortals, the origins lost to time. Recently, however, the cult has had something of a resurgence, with many humans coming to Karameikos since Duke Stefan took over, and a general growth in population throughout the duchy.

One relatively recent addition to the triad is Leptar, a Hobgoblin king that became immortal. He created a sword that expanded his control over Goblins and Hobgoblins, making those he controlled directly fanatically loyal. This weapon was lost centuries ago and all but forgotten, until a woman known by the name of Elendorath found that weapon about 3 centuries ago and used it to ruthlessly build a kingdom around the town of Vaion. Her kingdom was smashed and she killed about 25 years later, and the sword was lost again. This time, however, the Dark Triad had taken notice, especially as Leptar recognized his old weapon. They waited until there was a good time to set some events in motion again, and realized the time drew near, as old Vaion was rebuilt under the name Penhaligon.

The second part starts with Duke Stefan Karameikos calling many adventurers and lesser nobles to his banner and setting out to tame the backwater wilderness (from a Thyatian point of view) known as Traladara and turn it into his demesne. Among those who set out with him were Arturus and Kavorquian Penhaligon, brothers of a minor noble family who would not inherit any significant holdings or wealth. The campaign went better than expected, and Arturus, a fighter, earned the reputation and the right to claim his own piece of land, his brother, a wizard, advising him to claim the area of former Vaion, because he saw the promise in trade to Darokin and in the wilderness surrounding the domain. Arturus had a short but lively affair with a beautiful local woman, but kicked her out when his wife, whom he had left back in the safety of Thyatis for the time being, followed after learning of the success of the campaign. Arturus gave the local girl a signet ring and some money, with the understanding that she could claim his help by showing the signet ring, but she had to leave Penhaligon for now. The woman was furious at being kicked out, and swore to him to not use that ring at all, because she was too proud and too deeply hurt.

Arturusī wife arrived, and the next year (AC 971), his daughter Arteris was born. What he didnīt know that his lover was pregnant also and had a daughter some months earlier. This daughter, Ilyana, grew up not knowing who her father was. The money was used up at some point, and mother and daughter lived in poor conditions, until the day that Ilyana, who was quite stubborn and wild, was sheared and set out to make her way in the world. After a year of adventuring and becoming an accomplished fighter, she returned to her home, just in time. Her mother was gravely ill and dying, but she told Ilyana about her father and gave her the signet ring she had kept the whole time. When her mother was dead, Ilyana was stricken with grief and at the same time furious at her father, who could have prevented her mothers death easily, to her mind. She travelled to Penhaligon and confronted Arturus in an aggressive manner, who was shocked to learn of her existence and did confirm that she was his daughter, but still had her kicked out as she was very aggressive and threatened him and his daughter Arteris, barely preventing an ugly fight between the two young women, as Arteris was also a headstrong young woman, not willing to accept her stepsister at all.

This was the moment the Dark Triad had seen coming, and the cult sent one of their younger priests to Ilyana, a charismatic and somewhat handsome man named Petrides. His task was it to soothe her and to set her mind to the idea of regaining her birthright by force, which needed much preparation, of course.

Over the next years, Petrides and Ilyana worked as bandits and adventurers, while Petrides indoctrinated her in the ways of the Dark Triad slowly, while collecting funds to eventually rise an army. Then, not too long ago, Petrides was replaced by a younger cult member named Bernal, who was quite talented and rose quickly in his understanding of cult teachings. Bernal led her to a place in the wilderness where the sword of Elendorath was hidden for almost three centuries. This was the final tool the cult and Ilyana needed to prepare their attack in earnest. Their first target was the village of Stallanford, north of Penhaligon. This place had been a fortified lair and point of worship used by Leptar in his mortal days, and the point of worship (and sacrifices) was still a potent place. The Traladarans recognized this for the danger it held, and built a temple over that spot, with a yearly festival to renew the ritual that kept these energies contained. If this ritual was to be interrupted or not even taking place at all, the dark energies are getting stronger and could be used by the Dark Triad cultists. They planned to abduct the priest on the very day of the ritual so no replacement would be available, and burned down the shrine so that the ritual would be weakened further.

Of course, the gathering of a sizable army would not be unnoticed, so an old border keep from Elendoraths time was chosen (back then, it was guarding the border to Gygars domain to the west). The location was dictated by a small pass nearby and the area big enough to allow a small keep to be erected. It is otherwise less than ideal for a keep, but fits Ilyanas plans well for the moment. Still, this did not stay unnoticed, so Kavorquian decided to send some trusted adventurers on a reconnaissance mission the find out what was going on. Sadly, he did not live to see the results, dying from old age in the meantime. With him out of the way, the cult sent a low priest to hire some mercenaries to find out what he knew. They just set their plan in motion to plunder the old wizards hidden cellar they learned about from the butler.