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Nithian adventures

by Ville Lähde

We've been having a historical sub-campaign in the final months of the Nithian Empire. It is basically a time-travelling thingie, but with a twist: the PCs of our long-lasting campaign travel to the Nithian era as souls (or something like that) take the roles of actual persons living in that time. The aim of the sub-campaign is for the PCs to learn about the Bead of Oblivion (which is the Beast of Oblivion IMC, but that's not important here) and to recover certain key memories.

This detour is nearing completion, so I thought to give a short summary:

1) Trouble at the court of Urtum
The local ruler has rebelled against his brother, the Pharaoh, and rebellious forces are gathering in Urtum. Envoys have arrived from the neighbouring countries and distant lands -- the PCs of course. In our case they included a merchant from Selenica (I gave it a name to fit the current ethnic spread, but that of course depends on which version of the ethnography of Darokin & Karameikos one is using.), a warrior from Ethengar, a Nithian tax collector who had converted to Vanyaism (slightly modelled after Saul/Paulus), a Hutaakan ranger, and a Thothian mystic.

The local ruler, who is influenced by the cult of Otan/Odin, has taken the name Otan-Anon, and he is a stern opponent of the dark cults and the worshippers of fire. But for some reason he is reluctant to gather an army. At the same time potential allies in Djaer Amon are being besieged, and the Pharaoh is gathering forces in Khepthar. The PCs have to persuade Otan-Anon to rally an allied army. But several things are working against them.

- An ancient horror is living in the nearby ruined city, and it has possessed Otan-Anon's wife Anaks-Amon. She is whispering dark notions in his ear.
- The royal exchequer Isiris speaks against the war, since the royal coffins are nearly empty. In fact he is stealing from them and preparing a long trip abroad. He is working with the roal wizard Ramanaksun.
- In fact Ramanaksun, a cruel and relentless man, is taking advantage of Isiris. Ramanaksun is wooing Anaks-Amon and trying to convince her to elope with her. Ramanaksun is constructing a magical portal that would take him and Anaks-Amon to the distant colonies in the Savage Coast -- with Isiris's money, but without him.
- The royal tax collector Osirin is a traitor who has been sent to assassinate Otan-Anon.

Otan-Anon has some loyal supporters: general Tukanamon and the norseman priest Lars Otan-Horon. The general supports whatever plan his liege proposes, and Lars is a loud proponent of the war and aiding the besieged people of Djaer Amon.

2) Battle of Djaer Amon

If the PCs manage to destroy or disrupt the opposing forces and the rebel army rallies, they are sent as envoys to the people of Djaer Amon. A relief force is sent to attack the besieging army, and the armed forces of Djaer Amon should be prepared to join the fray.

Entering the city will be difficult. The surrounding enemy forces are divided into four distinct sections:
- A horde of undead led by minions of Than-Athos
- A detachment of the Followers of Fire, fire mages and summoned creatures.
- An army of slave soldiers herded by humanoid guards.
- The Pharaoh's soldiers (thay are trying to breach the gates).
--> The surrounding area is of course patrolled.

Inside the city, the defenders are also divided. A fanatic follower of Otan called Brann Kraken is preaching an apocayptic gospel, and people are being sacrificed in the good od ancient Norseman way. Especially the followers of Amon and Ra are being persecuted, so the local populace is frightened, disgruntled or apathic. The local high priest of Amon is imprisoned and guarded by Brann's berserkers. Some of his loyal followers are trying to organize resistance. Things are not helped by the fact that the necropolis inside the city walls is teeming with undead, as a mystic dark cloud hovers over it (summoned by priests of Than-Athon).

Luckily the walls are still being defended by some allied forces that had arrived in Djaer Amon before the city was surrounded. The undead forces are being held at bay by dwarves. The followers of fire are being opposed by holy warriors of Ra (Sollux!). A northern female fighting order is taking up the rest.

The PCs have to take care of Brann, but do it in a way that does not alienate the local populace. They also have to coordinate the efforts of the different forces who have grown suspicious of each other. They have to do something about the necropolis. And finally, the battle against the besieging forces has to be won. And the clock is ticking... this scenario is a race against time, since the relief force is approaching.

3) Mission in the Pyramid

If the mission is successful, Otan-Anon can attach the Pharaoh's forces in Kehpthar and Herunak from north and west. In order to give this pincher maneuvre a chance, a threat has to be eliminated. The Pharaoh has construced a series of magical pyramids that are terrible weapons. A magical beam from the top of a pyramid can decimate a whole army, turning the earth into poisonous black glass.

The PCs have to breach the defences of a pyramid and reach the shielded magical "command centre" at the top. It cannot be reached by normal means, however. The door of the pyramid is actually a portal to a pocked dimension of Fire from which the weapon draws power. Inside is a menagerie or the denizens of the Plane of Fire who are being ruled by an Efreet Pharaoh. Hordes of Fire Elementals are being used as slaves, whereas the pacifistic Helios merely contemplate their fiery gardens... The PCs have to find allies and attack the ruling Efreet, since he has the key to the exit portal that will take them to the top of the pyramid. There they will have to battle dangerous Fire Mages.

4) The battle of Kheptar

If the pyramid is put out of action, the forces of Otan-Anon will attack.

More later....

I'll try post some more later on, but just a quick reply:

The spirit of this sub-campaign is that the PCs have to witness the fall of Nithia, literally through the eyes of others. Nithia will fall, but the manner of its fall is partly determined by the actions of the PCs. (Understanding the meaning of their time/soul travel is part of the challenge, and it is just beginning to dawn on them)

There are some grand developments that the PCs are not able to control, though. In our campaign as the allied force, which won the battle of Kepthar, engaged the garrison at Humak. (The PCs were disrupting the forces inside city in order to draw some of the garrison elsewhere.) They were victorious, which targeted a new development: the Pharaoh summoned an Outer Being, a very azatothesque manifestation of chaos and madness, and the whole allied army (and the whole city of Humak) was consumed.

However, the next section was determined by their choices. They decided to travel south towards the proto-Thyatian tribes in order to seek allies. So that's where the action will be.

We just finished a scenario where they traveled through the Lands of the Dead and slipped into the Afterworld , a City of Dead. (I used the splendid indie game Lacuna for this.) It was a cool session, but most of it is so interwoven into our "Twin Campaigns" that it's not very interesting to anyone else.

Next the PCs will have to try to rally the southern allied forces, which is no mean task, since news of otherworldy monsters have reached the city.

The Pharaoh has retreated to the sacred city of Ranak (present day Surra-Man-Raa of course), and he is on the verge of making a fateful contact with the Outer Beings -- and act that will summon also a heavenly host of archons herding the Beast of Oblivion...

Our group plays fairly rarely these days, since for some reason after 22+ years of this campaign, people are suddenly having lives with the usual trimmings like wives, kids, mortages, job crises ans such. Still, we strive to have at least one game per month. Thus the campaign progresses fairly slowly.

I have done preliminary notes for the next session in Kheberet. The rise of Vanyaism is an important part of the campaign, as one of the PCs is the Vanyan convert. The local proto-Thyatians are heavily influenced by the cult of Vanya, including its xenophibc tendencies and connotations of national/ethnic superiority. (We've covered other kinds of Vanyaism of course, mainly through the tension within the Order of Griffon in Karameikos, during our campaign.) The leaders of the cult are promoting an attack to the Nithian heartland, but their attitudes make it very hard to forge a lasting alliance with other groups. The other groups (elves from the Minroth colonies, Thothians, Minroth colonists) have mixed attitudes, especially as news of terrible calamities have reached the city.

I decided to add to the feeling of doom: a group of Vanyan holy soldiers breached the defences of another pyramid, but something went horribly wrong. The huge artefact exploded and nearly took the whole capital Nithus with it. Scorching heat and strange magical energies killed and wounded tens of thousands.