Post by blackadder23 on Feb 12, 2013 9:21:22 GMT -6
For centuries the Nameless Monastery stood in the Zakath Desert north of Yithorium, shunned even by the servants of the Witch Queen herself. Ninety-nine years ago a strange, silent purple storm was seen in the vicinity of the monastery. When the boldest among the people of Yithorium found the courage to investigate, the Nameless Monastery had utterly vanished. Two months ago another such storm was seen from Yithorium, and the Nameless Monastery has finally returned...
I'm putting the final touches on my campaign, which should begin in a month or two, so I'm starting a thread to share information about it. The central mystery, at least for the beginning of the campaign, will be what happened to the Nameless Monastery. I anticipate this enigma will require numerous sessions to resolve. At the same time, the players will undoubtedly be involved in unrelated (or are they?) adventures involving the city of Yithorium, the mining town of Perdition a few miles from the Monastery, and the mysterious Witch Queen herself. Hopefully it will be quite a ride! ;D
Post by blackadder23 on Feb 13, 2013 10:26:55 GMT -6
Thanks! I wish you could sit at my table too.
Yithorium - The city of Yithorium stands in the Zakath Desert, surrounded by dry cracked hardpan, blowing dust and sand, sage brush and tumbleweeds. The center of the city is dominated by an ancient pre-human tower, on top of which the Witch Queen has her celestial observatory with its great brazen telescope. The city itself is a warren of adobe homes, warehouses, workshops, taverns, and bordellos - all surrounded by a massive adobe wall meant to keep the savage desert raiders at bay. The Witch Queen herself is rarely if ever seen, leaving her tower fastness only infrequently and in a curtained litter; there are those who dare whisper she is dead or never existed at all. True authority in the city is wielded by the Queen's cadaverous eight foot henchman Judas Macabre, supported by the Queen's army of black-mailed mercenaries. Macabre does little to enforce any kind of law or order in the chaotic city of Yithorium; rather, his most urgent concern is that the Queen should receive her share of any wealth mined from, or discovered in, the Zakath Desert. At times, however, Macabre will involve himself in other, sometimes seemingly insignificant affairs - supposedly on the direct orders of the Queen herself. Those who would visit Yithorium should be aware of the pervasive violence and lawlessness, the threat of savage raids from the desert, and the danger of attracting the notice (or worse still, the enmity) of the sinister Judas Macabre.
Perdition – Twenty miles north of Yithorium, a full day’s journey across the sun-baked hardpan of the Zakath Desert even by camel, stands the mining town of Perdition. It is a miserable huddle of crude shacks surrounded by a log stockade, though a trading post and tavern do offer some amenities to travelers. Six days a week the men of Perdition, some two hundred sin-blackened souls, labor in the ruby mine a few miles east of town. At night, and on the day of rest, the small town is a lawless riot of drinking, fighting, and whoring. Female adventurers will almost certainly have problems unless they kill some unwanted “suitors” and word gets around. Arms are worn openly, both because of the lawless pride of the miners and because of the constant threat of raids by the desert savages. The only person keeping any semblance of order in Perdition is the Queen’s representative, a hulking man with a red beard and one eye known only as “The Norseman” (but more often simply called “The Boss” or “The Chief”). He and his gang of thugs are mainly concerned that rubies make it from the mine to the storehouse in Perdition, to which the Queen sends an armed caravan once a month to collect her jewels; at any given time at least one miner caught stealing rubies will be hanging from a gibbet at the gates of the town. The Norseman cares nothing about the miners robbing and killing each other - or still less if they do those things to travelers - as long as rubies continue to flow to the Queen. Gaining the favor or gratitude of the Norseman (no easy task) would make a stay in Perdition much easier. The only priest in Perdition, Frater Chirobufo, is a depressing drunk, but he might be a source of information if adventurers can spare a bottle. Perdition was founded some fifty years ago, long after the Nameless Monastery vanished. Since that cryptic edifice has returned, whence no one knows, the miners regard it with sheer superstitious terror. There is talk of abandoning the town, although the Norseman breaks heads when he hears it. Certainly no one from Perdition has yet found the courage to investigate the Nameless Monastery’s mysterious reappearance.
The Nameless Monastery – Five miles northwest of Perdition, after an absence of ninety-nine years, a dark edifice known as the Nameless Monastery once again stands. Very little is known of this sinister place, which vanished from the ken of man almost a century ago. Even before the monastery disappeared, the order of monks who inhabited it did not welcome visitors. Nothing is known of what actually went on there, although rumors of human sacrifices and unholy ceremonies were common. It is said that the Witch Queen utterly ignored the monastery while it stood and would not even suffer to have it discussed in her presence. Why the monastery vanished, where it has been, how it returned, who or what is responsible… these remain utter mysteries. But one thing is commonly held to be true: the head of the monastery possessed a great green jewel known as the Toad’s Eye, and that jewel was never seen again after the Nameless Monastery vanished. The lure of this fabulous treasure is sure to draw adventurers from all the nearer parts of Hyperborea, to brave the unknown terrors of the Nameless Monastery in quest of wealth and the solution to this dark mystery.
Post by blackadder23 on Feb 15, 2013 11:11:02 GMT -6
The Witch Queen of Yithorium – The Witch Queen is said to be a sorceress of the utmost power, perhaps 12th level, although what school of magic she practices is unclear. She has ruled Yithorium for centuries, supported by an army of cynical and ruthless mercenaries. The Queen hasn’t been seen in public for some years, preferring to remain secluded in her tower of alien design. Those who remember her from the old days describe her as a small beautiful woman of youthful appearance, with black eyes and waist-length raven tresses and a voluptuous figure that she takes few pains to conceal (some wags suggest she wears more jewels than actual clothing; she is especially fond of rubies). A few of the boldest among the people of Yithorium whisper that the Queen is in seclusion because she was hideously transformed by a backfired magic spell, while others claim the Queen’s henchmen are hiding the fact that she is their prisoner, has finally died, or even (so say the most cynical) never existed at all. Whatever the truth of this, it is certain that uncanny sounds and odors still emanate from her black twisted tower, and strange lights are still seen within the crystal dome that crowns it.
Judas Macabre – The Queen’s most trusted henchman – or so he claims – Judas Macabre rules Yithorium with an iron fist. He is a ghastly, cadaverous looking man some eight feet tall. Macabre always dresses in a suit and cloak of the finest black velvet, with a broad-brimmed black hat from which spills his long lank white hair. His only ornament is a ruby ring, and he carries a walking stick of disturbing shape carven from an unknown wood. No two people can agree on the color of his eyes. Everything about Macabre is somehow insidiously wrong: his bodily proportions, stance, gait, and sepulchral voice are all subtly askew and not quite what is expected for a human being. He is suspected of wearing mail under his jacket (certainly his torso seems rather lumpy), but no one knows whether he is a fighting man, sorcerer, priest, or perhaps even a thief. His strange appearance and evil behavior have inspired rumors that he is a living dead man, a demon, or perhaps some magical creation of the Queen’s. In any case, he is obviously a being of great power. Macabre makes no effort to maintain any kind of justice or order in Yithorium; rather, he is mainly concerned that the Queen should get a share (often a lion’s share) of any wealth found in the Zakath Desert. Occasionally Macabre will concern himself with other affairs, including ones of no obvious importance, and this is supposedly by the direct command of the Queen (although there are those who believe that the Queen is actually his prisoner in the tower). Macabre is usually accompanied by a troop of the Queen’s mercenaries, but the palpable aura of horror that surrounds him makes them almost superfluous. Those who cross Macabre will find themselves crucified in the Zakath Desert, or worse.
The Queen’s Mercenaries – These merciless and cynical rogues enlist with the Queen for life, and are under the direct command of Judas Macabre. Their main occupations are terrorizing the population of Yithorium and guarding the Queen’s treasure, but they also fight the desert savages when necessary, with an emphasis on reprisals against unguarded camps with women to rape and children to kidnap into slavery. The mercenaries are mostly 1st and 2nd level fighters, and every one is a hardened killer. Each of the Queen’s mercenaries wears black mail and a peaked black helm set with a single ruby, and is typically equipped with a long sword or battle axe, dagger, and light crossbow. If expecting a pitched battle, the mercenaries may arm themselves with pikes or halberds.
The Savages – The origin of these people is unknown, although they are commonly held to be a wild Kimmerian tribe. They have bronzed skin, long wild dark hair, hawkish features, and grey eyes. In the warmer years they wear little more than a breech clout and crude jewelry, and in the colder years they wrap themselves in hides and furs. Typically the savages wear garish war paint and feathers, and arm themselves with short bows, spears, daggers, and hand axes. They are master bareback horseman, deadly shots with the bow, and experts at creeping up on their enemies and walking without leaving a discernible trail. As barbarians, they are far hardier than civilized men and many are capable of such feats as running all day without rest or leaping onto the roof of a two story house. Their women are said to be beautiful and vicious as wildcats. Little is known of savage society, since they discourage visitors with murder and scalping, but they are believed to live in mutually hostile clans organized around totem animals. They are a superstitious people with many strange taboos. Their shamans are said to speak to the dead and to command the wild beasts of the Zakath Desert. The savages know no rules of war and are given to ambushes, surprise attacks, massacre of the helpless, and arson. It would be well not to fall into their hands, for they are supposed to mutilate captives and burn them alive, often after torturing them by repeated applications of heated axe heads.
The Norseman(aka The Boss and The Chief) – A burly man of Viking ancestry, the Norseman rules Perdition by authority of the Queen and his own gang of two dozen brutal thugs. His true name is unknown. He has red hair and beard and a patch over his right eye (lost long ago in battle). He typically wears clothing of expensive materials in somber colors, and openly wears a coat of mail if expecting trouble. The Norseman is never without a sword or axe at his belt, and usually is accompanied by a band of his toughest bravos. He is a veteran fighter of at least 4th level. The Norseman is not reputed to be sadistic, but rather cynical and pragmatic. His one and only concern is collecting rubies from the Perdition mine and safeguarding them for the Queen. Anything that threatens this agenda will be met with ruthless violence; would-be ruby thieves often hang from gibbets at the gates of Perdition as a warning to others. The Norseman has a violent distaste for (or perhaps fear of) Judas Macabre and will always avoid him if possible. The Norseman is hard but fair, so it may be possible for adventurers to earn his gratitude or even favor – so long as nothing they do interferes with the flow of rubies to Yithorium. A credible threat of the Queen’s displeasure will fill the Norseman with stark terror.
Frater Chirobufo – The one and only priest in the town of Perdition is a depressing drunk. Frater Chirobufo can usually be found wallowing in the alley behind the tavern. He is a short middle-aged man with watery blue eyes, sun-weathered skin, and wisps of greasy hair on a bald dome. Even more so than the rest of the inhabitants of Perdition, he reeks of wine and an unwashed body. His only real possession is a brazen eye of Xathoqqua worn around his neck. His priestly level is unknown, since he has never been known to cast spells. The miners regard Frater Chirobufo with a mixture of contempt and superstition. Sometimes the miners will feed Chirobufo or help him find a miserable cot, but just as often they will offer him a skin of wine to dance or otherwise play the fool while they laugh uproariously. The failure of his mission to the godless miners is said to be what drove Chirobufo to drink in the first place. Frater Chirobufo is given to weeping and rambling if questioned, although an offer of wine will tend to focus his mind. It is said that Chirobufo can reveal a surprising amount to those who ask the right questions. There are even those who claim he is not really what he seems, but is instead drunk like a fox.
The Chief’s Men – This band of two dozen thugs supports the Norseman in keeping some semblance of order in Perdition. Unlike the Norseman himself, many of them are brutes and sadists who relish this task. Typically they dress much like miners and arm themselves (just as do the miners) with picks, clubs, knives, and hand axes. Unlike the anarchic miners, they will use organized tactics when fighting dangerous foes. Every one of the Chief’s men is a trained fighter of 1st or 2nd level, and can be identified by the tattoo of a raven's claw rune on his right hand. When facing a severe threat, such as a raid by desert savages, the Chief’s men will don studded leather and equip themselves with swords and crossbows kept in the storehouse. There are other gangs in the town of Perdition who are engaged in petty wars of brawling and murder, but they all give the Chief’s men a wide berth.
This is coming along beautifully. I see we may have reached a confluence of ideas regarding the witch queen (unless it is coincidence), in that there is a bit of REH's "A Witch Shall Be Born" at work here. I'm looking forward to hearing about how your players interact with some of these fine non-player personalities.
This is coming along beautifully. I see we may have reached a confluence of ideas regarding the witch queen (unless it is coincidence), in that there is a bit of REH's "A Witch Shall Be Born" at work here.
Thanks! I have read "A Witch Shall be Born"... a couple of times. ;D When I read the Yithorium section of the gazeteer the first thing that came to mind was a Middle Eastern feel, but the talk of mining and prospecting inspired me to give it more of a Wild West vibe. If it was good enough for Howard in "Beyond the Black River", it's good enough for my gaming table.
Yes, for REH (as revealed in appendices and biographies), oil prospectors -- their influx and subsequent abandonment of his town -- had an impact on him during his formative years, and may have contributed to his thought processes regarding civilization.
Strangely enough, when I read through this, I thought the inspiration for this campaign was actually A&E's Hell on Wheels...
Witch-Queen: Colm Meaney's rail-baron Doc Durant Judas Macabre: The Swede The Norseman: Cullen Bohannon
That's really cool! But I can honestly say I've never seen that show. The similarities are probably due to the fact that the show's a Western and I was going for something of a "Western" vibe. I wanted to get away from the sort of "pseudo Middle East" that's the default for deserts in most pulp environments, and also pay tribute to REH and to Stephen King's Dark Tower books. I see the Zakath Desert as a painted rocky desert, with mesas and gullies and arroyos, with scattered sagebrush and tumbleweeds, where greedy men come to scrabble for wealth and kill and die. And where untold horrors lurk beneath the barren soil.
Post by blackadder23 on Mar 11, 2013 21:24:36 GMT -6
Since I can't really draw, I've been using Hero Machine to create some portraits of important NPC's for my campaign (I'm going to use it for the PC's as well). Here's a charming one I did of Judas Macabre:
Yes, that's the duly constituted authority in the city where my players will be starting. Just to make sure they know they aren't in Greyhawk or Middle Earth anymore.
Post by blackadder23 on Mar 13, 2013 13:35:47 GMT -6
Thanks guys! I think it's the feet that really make the picture. Originally I had him wearing giant shoes, but that looked a bit too clownish to me. The bare inhuman feet make it clear that everyone knows he's a "monster" of some kind, he knows that they know, and he just doesn't give a toss.