Ruins of the old world lay scattered far and wide, and many times they contain things best left forgotten. Ancient weaponry is often highly sought after by the unscrupulous, and almost always found by the unwary innocent. While one might think such devices can be purified, can be made holy in the eyes of the spirit and again put to use serving the people, many times they are fit only for a cleansing pyre. But enemies lustful for old, locked-away powers are always on the hunt for new weaponry.
The Silver Lance is a scenario idea and an outline for play. There will be blanks which the GM should fill in to adapt and complete the scenario into a full game in his or her preferred style of play. While the scenario will assume many things about the game setting (specifically talking about this blog’s focus, The World of Adel), it is intended that the GM can adapt the ideas here to his or her game. At the end there will be a section to convert the scenario to a more generic game setting fit for fantasy titles like D&D, Fantasycraft, and D&D retroclones. Generic RPGs like GURPS should have no problems as well.
Feedback on the format and content of the posts is appreciated, so they might continue and get better. You can scroll to the bottom of the post where I ask for feedback and explain some things. It would be quite helpful!
Adelians are used to unwanted things from the old world turning up, particularly technologies in ancient sites. The Lost World has left its detritus all over Adel. Villagers often give the old ruins a wide berth, but children less so. The first rebellious thing any teenager decides to do is go somewhere that the old folk consider taboo and dangerous. In this fashion, the Silver Temple was discovered near a village below the mountains to the north of Andaliel. Paja Cader, a disgraced Iomadi artificer, had retired to this same village years earlier after submitting dangerous, unholy research on new weaponry to the Andalian senate.
Cader played the part of physician for the little village, its people knowing little about him beside his knowledge of the arcane and medicinal arts. When he found a group of teenage boys and girls suffering from a strange fever and disease, Cader probed them for information before their tragic and quite untimely deaths. While the village reeled, Cader discovered for himself the Silver Temple, an ancient monument to the unholy technology of the Lost World. An abandoned mine shaft, sealed by warded stone, had opened anew, perhaps to recent earthquakes, and admitted the children into its maw.
From the mine shaft, Cader accessed a strange, preserved dungeon parts steel and parts earth, along with numerous devices. He knew the children could not have not gotten sick just from entering the place. They had to have found something. For weeks, Cader searched, and ultimately, he found. He discovered a cache of silvery-green rods in one of the partially-collapsed chambers on the second strata. Warding himself magically, he took one of the rods, dreaming of publishing his finds – but Cader never would. He had underestimated what he called The Silver Power. Soon, he would die alone, its dread powers overcoming his wards, his secrets scattered around the underground in his final, hysterical moments of life.
Sooner still it would be open season on them.
What Cader did not know is that he had stumbled upon an ancient weapons silo from the Lost World, with perhaps some of the deadliest cargo Adel had ever witnessed, or would ever witness since. And nobody knew this.
Sorians! (Any Character): In the past weeks, a band of Sorians under a leader known as “Papa Bug-Eyes” have taken up residence in the Silver Temple. Of all the parties headed on this collision course, the Sorians know the least, and care the least, about the Silver Power. If they found a fuel rod they would probably try eating it, or stuffing it into one of their shotguns. The Sorians only know that there’s a nice cave to hide in, there’s “treasure” somewhere (and the fuel rods aren’t it), and Adelians nearby if they get hungry. Disconcerting reports from the villagers have finally prompted aid from someone.
Catching Up With Cader (Arcane Character): The Points of Light Academy and the Andalian Senate never just stop thinking about someone they’ve cast out for irresponsible behavior. However, none of the bureaucracy is really equipped to waste time checking up on Cader. So in their place, they would likely send some fresh-faced teenage or child mage on his or her first deadly, ultimately pointless errand. One of many to come if the child wishes to climb the academic ranks.
Strange Illness (Divine Character): Ever since the strange deaths of the children, and the disappearance of Cader, the villagers have been worried about a possible blight, and their Spirit Guardian has sent many a communique to nearby religious groups for aid on this subject. One such group finally gave heed to the spirit songs sent their way.
Pilgrimage (Any Character): The sleepy little village near the Silver Temple could be home to a pilgrimage site where certain Spirits or even a legendary hero may be revered, worshiped, and boons sought from its shrine or grave. As such, it somewhat infrequently sees visitors from the outside, who would be interested in the plight of its people if they knew it. The Holy Site is mythologically linked to community, love, nature or something else harmless.
The Preparation Phase
Once the characters arrive at the village, they’ll find little to pique their interest – it is a woodsy little place, the mountains looming large in its background, with a small stream running nearby. Tents and bamboo huts, one little cement infirmary and a little stockpile shed donated by religious groups in the region, etc. Same as any village. They will be welcomed hospitably, and if they talk to the villagers, they will find a few common topics being brought up for discussion.
Cader and the Kids: The villagers can easily recount the story of how Cader came to their village, what his demeanor as their “doctor” was, and of the deaths of the children and their disappearance.
The Mountain Hideout: If the characters stumble upon the still-grieving parents of the deceased children, they’ll tearfully talk about their kids having formed a little group that played out near the mountains, despite being told of the unholy ruins that lay there, long ago sealed off by clergy and arcanists come from the Capital, due to its dangers.
Sorians: If your characters need an introduction to Sorians, the villagers have a mouthful to say about them. Sorians as the villagers know them are large, brutish, abrasive lizard-faced men and women, with blue, yellow or green scaly skin, and a demeanor that would be hilarious if it weren’t so volatile. Their leader, a huge-eyed, eight-foot tall monstrosity called “Papa” by the others, waltzed into the village some time ago demanding to be fed. They managed to trick him into heading for the mountains to search for a treasure instead, a deception unlikely to last…or so the villagers think.
Other Rumors: The villagers have no real concept of what’s really inside the Silver Temple, but any stories they’ve come up with over the years could easily have truth to them. There could be a dragon hiding in the mountain, or Spirits of Plague cursing the town (or actually, unbeknownst to the villagers, just basking in the glow of the Silver Power).
If the characters need supplies, the villagers will ask them to wait, because once a week traders from a nearby town come to the village, and they’ll likely carry tools and equipment of better quality, and in larger quantity.
The Silver Temple (6 Stratum)
Eventually the characters will either get the heck out of dodge (in which case the rest of this article is terribly pointless) or decide to go up to the Mountain. Near the bottom of the mountain they’ll find a mine access which will ultimately lead them to the Silver Temple’s entrance. They can make camp most easily in the woods near the mine access path.
The Silver Temple has six stratum, each Stratum having 8 or so rooms with connecting hallways (or if you like randomness, 3d6 rooms on each of the first two stratum, 2d6 on each of the second two stratum, and 1d6 on each the final two stratum, with at least one room in the very deepest part of the place). Some of the rooms may be collapsed and inaccessible at first glance, but alternate exits, secret passageways, either created by Cader or by the Sorians, could easily exist. Arrange the dungeon map however you please, keeping in mind some of the following items you may want to use.
Ancient Devices: The Silver Temple is not something of this world. It is an ancient site of the Lost World, and it is therefore laden with technology. Nobody on Adel has any idea what a computer is, and the movable type-looking things on the doors will also confuse them. However, the site does (sort of) speak a language they (sort of) understand – the Ancient Language. Adelians can therefore try to tinker with devices such as door locks, old computers running on auxiliary power and busted gun turrets. However, all Adelians know in their hearts that these devices are unholy tools of evil and that in their mechanical souls these devices all wish them death. As such, the devices do indeed wish death on all the characters.
Whenever a character tinkers with an ancient device, roll 1d6, even if the character does manage to successfully utilize the device to get his or her way. On a roll of 1 or 6, the device just outright explodes for some damage. On any other roll, the device just gives out from lack of power after the consequences of the character’s actions with it are carried out.
Though Adelians don’t know how to use computers, the computers at the site will baby them through the process of getting some kind of information out of them. In fact, they’ll even (sort of) recognize the Adelian’s speech. If necessary, just have a computer glitch out and conveniently give out whatever information is most interesting.
Mysterious Intrusion: Starting at the 3rd Stratum, the PCs will get the sense that there’s more than just Sorians in the place. Dead Sorians, meticulously unlocked doors, unpowered devices and other telltale signs of a greater power lay within.
The Silver Power: Characters can get a sense, if they tinker with the computers, of what the site is really about. Each computer will have hints that a weapon was being designed and kept within this place, before the Cataclysm wiped out the Lost World. Because the Adelian’s understanding of the Ancient Language is incomplete, they’ll read the name of this weapon as “The Silver Lance” rather than what it is – a high-yield nuclear weapon. Unless properly magically shielded, characters who come into contact with the “Silver Power” – the uranium fuel rods – can get sick and hurt just from the presence of this evil material. Any magical character can place wards on the characters to hold off the Silver Disease for a while, thankfully.
The eponymous silver lance is hidden away on the lowermost stratum, behind a series of reinforced doors. It is a missile about the size that could be delivered by a modern fighter jet – or a heavily modified Adelian artillery cannon. Particularly greedy or evil characters may try to make off with the Silver Lance and use it on something, in which case they will likely die horribly, misunderstanding key things about the device, such as its ungodly blast radius, and how volatile and fickle it is when using a primitive delivery mechanism. It is a problematic object in numerous ways.
There is a way to get the computers to safely take apart the Silver Lance and hide its components in an inaccessible seventh stratum, once the characters get some time alone with them on the sixth stratum.
Cast Of Antagonists
The Sorians: Not all Sorians are “evil” or too stupid, and eating Adelians is certainly not a species passtime for them. But Papa Bug-Eyes is certainly both very evil and very stupid. However, he is large, and in charge. Frankly, the Sorians are mostly captivated by his enormous eyes. They are very weird and intimidating. Papa Bug-Eyes was cast out of his Sorian colony for his extremely strange eyes, and with him left a band of surly, rowdy Sorian boys and girls who saw opportunity in following this goliath through the land. Even for a Sorian, Papa Bug-Eyes is enormous and imposing. His leadership skills involve yelling at someone, yelling at someone else, and yelling at both in an even louder voice before smacking them.
The Sorians in the mountain are there because the villagers told them there would be treasure. Instead there are weird rocks that taste funny. The Sorians are oddly immune to the Silver Power – something that enterprising characters should take notice of, if they might need to fashion a cure for its malign influence. However, they have no idea what it is or does. Their ignorance is incredible dangerous. The characters could easily meet Sorians who’ve loaded their guns with silver power, or who fashioned fake teeth or machetes out of the fuel rods, or other extremely dangerous shenanigans.
Sorians inhabit the first three Stratum, mostly traveling through collapsible, improvised tunnels (there is no way the Sorians can use the door locks or computers), and found themselves struggling to get into the bottom-most stratum. Now, they themselves are seemingly under attack within the lower Stratum by an intellect that outmatches their brawn. If the characters slay Papa Bug-Eye, the Sorians are likely to buckle under the pressure and flee the temple for good.
There are probably some thirty or so Sorians remaining when the characters enter the temple. Sorians wander the dungeon, mostly aimlessly, though some have been tasked with maintaining an active guard of certain areas. Sorians are brawny and strong and represent a threat, but are tactically hopeless, and mostly outgunned.
The Elves: The Elves are secretly the machinators behind some of the events in the Silver Temple. The Elves had opened the mountain way long before Cader’s intrusion, and were slowly and methodically piecing together the mysteries of the temple. To the Elves, the machinery of the Silver Temple is considered a birthright. Only they are the true heirs to the powers of the Lost World, and only they are fit to use them to cleanse the Adelian filth and return the world to glory. The Elves didn’t simply mash keys on the keyboards to get an answer – they were reverent, contemplative, careful at every step. As such, they were very slow – the PCs can probably discover more than half of what the Elves learned just messing around.
The Elves had dug into the temple from the mountain, through to the third stratum, and then up from there to the mine access. From there, they begun to work their way downwards again, wanting to understand the layout as it would have been walked by their supposed ancestors in the Lost World. They had yet to make it to the final stratum, when Cader and then the Sorians made their labors more difficult. They allowed Cader (and the kids, before him) to play in the first stratum – a few fuel rods weren’t much of a loss, and their curiosity never brought them close to the Elves’ main working area in the fifth Stratum. With the Sorians bashing through things and making a mess, the Elves had to become more active. In the third stratum they began making stealthy hit and run attacks and ambushes to attempt to scare away Bug-Eyes. Bug-Eyes, however, dug in.
Unlike the Sorians and Cader, the Elves understand that the Silver Power is a weapon. They are not entirely aware of its nature – they believe it will primarily cause blight and disease, not that it will explode and take out the whole mountain and everything within several miles. But they know that deep in the dungeon is a Silver Lance that they can drop unto an Adelian city and kill millions. This is exactly why they wish to understand and replicate the technology.
There are perhaps ten or so elves in the Dungeon, including an Arch-Druid of the Old Gods. Once the elves and the characters are made aware of each other, the Sorians are likely to fade into the background as a threat on both their respective narrative radars. The Elves are aware that Adelian intrusion will collapse their entire scheme, but they also know they cannot hurry their activities – true understanding of the Lost World takes time, that is the Elven Way, the only way!
The Spirits: Certain Spirits are likely to be drawn to the Silver Power. Spirits of ores and metals, spirits of blight and disease, and spirits of the earth may find the Silver Temple cozy, even with the Sorians and the Elves around. The Spirits in the temple are technically not antagonists, but they’re not harmless, either. A Spirit that considers some fuel rods to be its trinkets could become protective and territorial of certain rooms or areas, and the usual behavior of bratty Spirits, such as bickering for no good reason or demanding tribute from the mortals for safe passage, could be annoying to the characters.
Local Fauna: Things from the outside are likely scurrying about the silver temple. The Sorians likely brought in, and allowed to run wild, a variety of Drakes. Tunneling beasts, much to the Elves’ chagrin, have also made their own little tunnels eating away into some of the Strata, having gained access to it from the old mines.
The Adventure Endgame
Ultimately, the Archdruid’s goal is to break into the sixth stratum and take the lance. If the characters break through to the fifth stratum, where the elves have their staging area, the Archdruid will flee, hastily disregarding elven teachings and busting through to the sixth stratum with force. He or she will likely die from overexposure to the Silver Lance, perhaps from trying to pick it up and lob it at the players, but in case he or she does not, a climactic final fight can be staged in the sixth stratum. At least two or three Elven warriors will follow the Archdruid here. The Archdruid’s potent magic renders him or her more than a match for multiple characters. But if at any point the Archdruid gets too desperate and tries to use the Lance, death is certain.
Once the Elves have been defeated, if Papa Bug-Eyes is still around, the Sorians may start finding their way to the lower stratum, and could pose a problem for the character’s escape (as well as for the villagers if they are left to their devices). If Papa Bug-Eyes was discovered and defeated, the Sorians will retreat – no cave is worth sticking around without a big boss!
The characters will then decide what to do with the Silver Lance. Getting too close to it invites death, but with very heavy-duty wards, it is possible for characters to take the bomb. They will likely kill themselves and many other people with it out of sheer ignorance or malice, but it’s a choice they can make. They can also take it apart and seal it into the seventh stratum, and then perhaps collapse the tunnels for good this time, hopefully putting the Silver Power to rest forever.
Genericizing The Adventure
The adventure has so far dealt entirely with concepts, culture and creatures intimately related to the World of Adel. If you don’t want to use it, here are some tips for using these ideas outside of The World of Adel, using concepts widely supported by other fantasy games such as dungeons and dragons, and common settings like the Forgotten Realms.
Andaliel: Andaliel is a developed nation in Adel with a parliamentary democratic government known for bickering senators and a somewhat slow bureaucracy. However, such elements are unnecessary for the adventure, except as part of the backstory and some of the character hooks. You can set the adventure in any place you want.
Adelian Races: The Adelians are composed of four races – Iomadi, Damakran, Cuporo and Droemedae. This detail is of course not necessary to port over unless you want to play in the World of Adel. Use any races you want.
Villages: While Adel has powerful organized governments, and quite a few large cities, most of it is still composed of rural villages. Select any rustic, out-of-the-way location in your setting for this adventure.
Spirits: Adel is a truly polytheistic place. They have no pantheon of Gods – they worship numerous spirits that have some impact on their lives instead. Spirits are humanoid representations of concepts and phenomena – in this sense they are like Greek Gods, except their powers have a vastly reduced scope. The Spirits in this adventure could be anything from wily fey to neutral, somewhat bratty and selfish outsiders. They need not even be featured at all, if it would be too difficult to do so.
Drakes: This is basically what Dinosaurs are called in The World of Adel. Sorians keep them around as pets. If you need some fauna, classic digging beasts like the Bulette are thematically appropriate.
Sorians: Sorians could be roughly replaced with an exotic, dangerous antagonistic humanoid species such as the Gnolls. Kobolds and Goblins may be a little too “tame” as a replacement, while Orcs may be a bit trite.
Technology: If your world does not have an ancient past full of computers, Lost Magic works fine. While the Silver Power is supposed to be analogous to Uranium, this association is ultimately unnecessary.
Fear of Technology: In settings other than Adel, characters are likely to have much more positive reactions to technology. Adelians fear advanced technology, because in Adel there are literally old genocidal robots running about, and the Adelians believe all technology inherently wants to kill them, unless it is properly adopted, sanctified and carefully mastered (and kept as non-industrial and simplistic as possible). If you make it analogous to magic, and have a dark ages or middle ages sort of tone to your setting, you can justify the fear of the devices, and the declarations of them as unholy, more easily.
Firearms: Adelians have Firearms. Adelian Firearms are all some kind of six-shooter, be it a colt-style revolver rifle or a revolver pistol. Sorian Shotguns are more mysterious. They just load rocks into them and shoot those, and nobody quite knows how they work. Your setting does not need firearms. Sorians could just as easily throw rocks with slings.
Evil Elves: It is perhaps more tricky to justify Elves as genocidal maniacs in other settings, than it is in Adel. A small, reckless elven cult, seeking after Ancient Magic, could be used as a justification for this behavior.
This has been a very long post! But it’s basically me trying to hash out some gaming material set in my game world (I truly love writing about Adel, it is very fun for me) but that can also be used by others. Any Feedback on the post is appreciated. The length is of course dreadful, the post is huge, but for the first post, I couldn’t find a good place to divide it into halves. In future posts, I’d like to do two or three posts of 2000 words, rather than a 4000 word post. I’m not sure if I provided too little or too much information. I would have liked to have come up with NPCs, but I feel like most people want blanks to fill in, not detailed information. I don’t really know for sure. That is why feedback is so important. If you liked or disliked the post, leave a comment.