This campaign was run first as a Scarred Lands campaign, which later introduced Dragonstar and the sci-fi element. Everything after the first chapter was the direct result of player actions, so I'm sure anyone attempting to direct this story arc is likely to have some different outcomes. These are as complete a collection of notes that I have regarding the campaign, but I remember it being one of the most fun (and complex) campaigns I've run (second only to one of the last Rifts campaigns I ran).
The necromancers of Hollowfaust have need of a party to scout lands east of the state. Recent divinations allude to a “threat from the rising sun” and reconnaissance is required.
The players have the option to depart the city to the south, then turn east along the southern edge of the Hornsaw, crossing the river at Three Moons, or moving north through the narrow tract of traversable land between the Gascar Peaks and the Hornsaw Forest then east through the Haggard Hills.
There is no specific indication as to where this threat will come from, aside from general direction, or who poses the threat, only that one is coming.
Calastia is amassing its Half-orc divisions in Three Moons. They are being led to believe, through the careful manipulation of evidence, that Hollowfaust is behind the orchestrated raids on Calastian interests and outposts near the Hornsaw. Though the half-orc warriors are not outfitted with any magical, or even exceptional, arms, the Calastian nobles are negotiating with visitors from parts unknown (they have assumed Termana and the visitors are not contradicting the nobles) for additional weapons of “great power”. Calastia is using this promise of powerful weapons to strengthen their alliance with Dunahnae – the remnants of the Charduni Empire.
Glivid-Autel, as it has done for decades, continues to plot and scheme against the necromancer guilds of Hollowfaust. They now believe the time of their vengeance is at hand. An entourage of drow elves has recently arrived in the city of Glivid-Autel (although this alone is a matter of great concern to the Glivid-Autel since they’ve no idea just how the drow came to be in the city) and made an offer of military supplies to the guild – the Society of Immortals – in exchange for a tiny fraction of the guild’s mystical knowledge.
Even as the party arrives in Hollowfaust, a retinue of three dark-cloaked figures enters the city, requesting an audience with the Guilds. The dark-cloaked figures are dark elves from the ISPD and Adamantine Order. Two other teams of three, detailed above, have also been dispatched. These operatives are to instigate the so-called Fifth Siege of Hollowfaust. During this siege, the Sovereign Council will be monitored in order to discover the nature of their most powerful weapons. This intelligence will be used to plan the invasion by House Noros.
House Noros (see Dragonstar: Guide to the Galaxy for more information about House Noros) usually invades a new world after first destabilizing it through political intrigue and exploiting already tense relations. In addition to the previously mentioned conflict, agents of the Domain of Noros are outfitting slitheren fighting against Veshian Vigils, aiding interests of the Guild of the Scaled in Hedrada (among other cities), working toward igniting a second Succession War in Darakeene, and even experimenting on inhabitants of the planet. These are just a few of the numerous efforts House Noros is involved in.
Arrival in Hollowfaust
The following describes the scene at the gates of Hollowfaust
Visitors (those without an identifying curfew token) entering the city are asked two questions before being allowed to enter the city:
“By entering the City of Hollowfaust, you understand that you must abide by and adhere to the Sovereign Council’s social contract regardless of the length of your stay?”
“Are you an acting agent of any foreign government?”
After passing through the massive gatehouse – indicated as “The First Gate” by an engraved sign attached to the wall -- the streets teem with activity as people move into the city toward the markets and stores or out through the gate to destinations unknown. Numerous people move about, bargaining over vegetables, basic needs, and trinkets. The city’s buildings are stained a dark gray from volcanic ash – the only color comes in the form of a red, indigo, pale yellow, or purple awning or banner, though fruits can be seen clinging to vines growing on the sides of buildings. The folk about the street – primarily humans, with a mixture of elves, Halflings, and half-breeds – are dressed in similarly bland colors.
The square beyond the First Gate is quite crowded. At the corner of one avenue, a woman has gathered a small crowd and sings a mournful tune. Glancing about, several people stand out, wearing gaudy, brightly colored outfits.
“Ignorance is no defense. See Bandaro & Bandaro,” shouts one.
“Protect your goods and yourself. Come see Aiyar, Wiss, & Chander,” shouts another.
The others seem to be shouting similar phrases, but their exact words are lost in the noise of the crowd.
Anyone asking about taverns will be pointed toward The Weary Pilgrim just up the avenue at the next plaza.
Chapter 1: The Arrival
A retinue of dark-cloaked figures has recently arrived in Hollowfaust. They request an audience with the Sovereign Council, but are forced to wait while the Grandmasters try to determine their intentions. The Secret Police, Blackshields, and some members of the Stygian Guard are all keeping an eye on these newcomers.
Meanwhile, the player characters become embroiled in several plots which lead in the same direction.
Half-Orc Fighter: Works as a blacksmith in Hollowfaust. The Firetusk dwarves don’t like the competition – especially with a half-blood orc -- and a few have taken it upon themselves to hamper it. They are colluding with Maliyet (p.64, Hollowfaust) to have the half-orc attacked in order to try and scare him off. Maliyet sends a small group of coal goblins after the half-orc, believing it will further her plan.
Dwarven Sorcerer: Maliyet (p.64 Hollowfaust) is in need of a scapegoat for a string of murders she is planning and will use to instill fear and dread back into the populace. A visiting sorcerer and his envoy provides the perfect target. After murdering a guildsman, the coal goblin assassins ensure they are followed by the Blackshields back to the sorcerer’s attendant’s room at the inn. They drop a small pouch of “proof” (a note that the agreed task is complete and the journeyman’s finger) and quickly disappear back into the sewers.
Elven Druid: He has followed the trail of a murderous band of coal goblins responsible for the slaughter of several members of the druid’s coven to Hollowfaust. What they are doing here and how they got into the city is a mystery, but one that must be solved so the souls of the slain coven-members can be laid to rest. On the road to Hollowfaust, perhaps a few miles from the city, he discovers a small group of slain humans. Their flesh is scorched and burned in several places and the smell of burnt and decomposing flesh permeates the air. They still possess their weapons and clothing, but they have no coin purses.
Elven Sorceress: She was sent by the Elder Council of Amalthea to retrieve a book from one of Hollowfaust’s guildsman. The book is intended as a gift to the Verdant Lord of Vera-Tre. In reality, the book contains rituals and information that can be used to bypass the magical defenses of the University of Arts and the Elder Council does not wish the book to be in the possession of a necromancer. Maliyet has discovered the book’s existence and whereabouts and has sent several of her Coal Goblin minions to procure it for her. The guildsman that was killed was in possession of the book and the Coal Goblins now have it.
Chapter 2: Betrayal
The characters, having now made their presence known (presumably in a good way) in Hollowfaust, are hired on as bodyguards to protect an up-and-coming guildsman from The Disciples of the Abyss named Dalimyr. The necromancer resents the additional protection and has stated that it’s on the grounds that he is perfectly capable of protecting himself. In reality, the necromancer is cooperating with Ner Akem (p.86, Hollowfaust) and the Glivid-Autel to bring about the Fifth Siege and doesn’t want the extra pairs of eyes watching him.
Ner Akem is responsible for hiring the murdered guildsman’s assailants (the coal goblins; see Chapter 1) and has appointed Dalimyr the task of retrieving the book from Maliyet. The necromancer must ditch the player characters and make his way to Belsameth’s shrine.
Unfortunately for the player characters, rumors about the stolen tome abound in the streets and the recently arrived ISPD scouting force has heard them and now seeks the book for its own ends.
With the tome back in the possession of the guilds, Ner Akem must find a way to gain possession of the tome. Unfortunately, someone appears to have beat him to the punch and the tome is now missing. Though the guilds have already spoken with Akem and searched his quarters, the tome is not in his possession. There are rumors filtering out of the Faust about Githyanki being spotted in the corridors the previous night.
Meanwhile, the guilds have asked the characters to scout the surrounding countryside – particularly to the east. A recent divination has indicated danger will come from the rising sun. During this recon, the players stumble across Maliyet’s beaten, broken, bloodied, and obviously tortured body. It is among an area strewn with other bones (see Orc’s Graveyard). The next day, a small group of Githyanki is discovered and they are currently examining the same tome that was stolen from the Faust.
See Dragon #309 (p.82) for info on the scouting party. The Gish will order the warrior and warlock to kill the party (“Krel na!”) while he escapes with the tome. As the Gish tries to make his escape through the woods, he is attacked by the ISPD scouting force (the group will see several bright flashes in the distance, but no shapes or people).
Chapter 3: The Fifth Siege
The githyanki have laid siege to Hollowfaust with thousands of warriors and grotesque flying ships. Occasional small groups of the warriors teleport in, trying to disrupt the militia and thin its ranks, but the primary force continues to build and prepare.
Meanwhile, in the Ghost’s Quarter, the githyanki have stumbled across the Arena of Sacrifice and have made a pact with Zankaras to aid their attack on the city. The githyanki have offered to allow Zankaras to continue his rituals after they have taken the city and have access to the negative energy well. Zankaras has not revealed what his rituals are for, only that they are sacrifices to his god and that Vangal craves the bloodshed and mayhem brought by war and battle.
To this end, Zankaras has unleashed some of his creatures on the city. The players, during one of their patrols of the city streets, stumble across a murdered patrol. The patrol still wears its armor, but their weapons have been apparently taken. Two stragglers of a pack of Blade Beasts (CC2, p.17) then attack from an alleyway.
The alleyway contains an opened sewer grate and more of the beasts can be seen loping through the Ghost’s Quarter.
Roll 1d10 for every 100 feet traveled in the Ghost’s Quarter:
|1-2||2d6 White Wraith Ratmen (CC2, p.133)|
|3-4||Shadow Lord (CC2, p.144)|
|5-6||Skull King (CC2, p.159) and 1d6+1 ghouls|
|7-8||1d4 Red Witch Ratmen (CC1, p.154) and 1d6+3 Bone Golem servants (CC1, p.81)|
|9-10||Githyanki Scout Squad (Dragon #309, p.83)|
Clues should be dropped as to the existence of another faction here and eventually lead the characters to the Arena of Sacrifice.
Chapter 4: Darkness Falls
As the siege continues, the Githyanki continue to attempt their invasion, culminating with their assault on the Ghosts’ Quarter. This final assault is met, however, by new resistance in the form of several ships descending from the clouds and vaporizing many of the Githyanki and sending the rest packing back to the Astral Plane. Unfortunately, these newcomers – the Dark Elves previously encountered – are not all benevolent and demand surrender of the city.
After a show of force executing one of the objecting council members, the city is turned over to the Dark Elves and the Half-Dragon Subira, the latter acting as the regional governor. As the days turn into weeks, Feng and Quarian continue to observe the newcomers and their actions. During the first week of Enkilot, smoke hangs thick in the air, having blown in from the north, and refugees from the invasion in Calastia begin to arrive and are turned away, forced to erect a shanty town near the base of The Faust. Many more arrive over the next several days.
On the 8th day of Enkilot, Dalimyr, the guildsman of The Disciples of the Abyss comes running down the street as the two exit the blacksmith’s workshop after having found the blacksmith dead from apparent suicide. Dalimyr clutches a covered object and thrusts it into Quarian’s hands. The cloth closest to Dalimyr’s body is soaked with blood and it’s obvious he’s wounded.
“Please,” Dalimyr begs. “You mustn’t let them take it. They found…” The rest of his words are lost and the air reeks of burning flesh. Dalimyr’s face is lifeless as he slumps to the street. Standing farther down the street, some of the strange new weapons drawn, is a group of three dark elves. Still at least 100 feet away, the level their weapons.
“Stand down and surrender,” one of them demands. “You are hereby bound by law.”
GM Notes: Spot DC 20 to notice that the Dark Elf weapons are not smoking. Spot DC 15 to notice the open sewer grate in the alleyway.
Chapter 5: Viva La Revolution!
Continuing to make their way through the mountains, the somewhat smaller group is ambushed, surrounded by a dozen camouflaged rangers. The rangers are actually sentries from the rebel camp in the valley to the west.
After being escorted to the rebel camp, the group is introduced to Katonis Woodarbor, a male human dressed as a woodsman. At his side is a wizard baring several unknown devices.
When Woodarbor learns the group is from Hollowfaust, he requests as much information as the group can provide. He mentions that his agent within the city ceased communications a week (8 days) prior. If the group answers his questions regarding how they escaped the city, Woodarbor will go into more detail.
The rebel agent in the city was the same member of the Secret Police who helped the group escape the city. The agent was supposed to help retrieve the book and a sage of the Order of Ancients who resided in Hollowfaust and would be capable of translating the contents of the tome Dalimyr was carrying.
Katonis asks the group to complete the agent’s mission – return to Hollowfaust and escort the sage safely to the rebel camp.