Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Reconstructing The Carrion Crown as Cult of Undeath

It's past time, honestly, that I get on with finishing up the CULT OF UNDEATH project.  However—how exactly do I do that?  I came up with a framework to hang the game on that's significantly truncated compared to the original, but which more or less matches it in general form.  By the time I finished, I was deconstructing the modules the way I've done with my more recent ISLES OF TERROR game, but keep in mind that I already have a framework to hang it all together, so I don't need to create one after the fact.  I merely have to decide which specific elements I'll go ahead and utilize.  And rather than pre-write it, I'd be much more likely to desire to keep my options open as I'm running and do it kind of on the fly.  But, for the sake of finalizing the whole project, let's talk briefly about how I'd do that with a bit more detail.  First, let me reiterate for a final time the outline that I came up with early on in the project.
  • A well-loved professor, Alpon Lechfeld has died in what appears to be an accident—although there are some suspicious clues that cannot rule out foul play.  For the sake of getting the game going, I'm going to tell the PCs that they've all been asked to be pallbearers and are named as (minor) heirs in his will.  He'll give them a few things, but most of his fortune is left to his daughter Revecca.
  • Ghosts are appearing in town, threatening (or at least frightening) many residents, that can be traced to a haunted and abandoned ruin of a former prison.  Why are they leaving their normal territory? (linked to the murder above.)
  • A rampaging Frankenstein-monster is blamed for some more townsfolk murders.  This, and the ghosts, are probably happening at the same time, so nobody knows which is responsible.
  • A mob of townsfolk wants to exhume Lechfeld and "put down his corpse"—of course, it turns out that someone has already exhumed him and dismembered his corpse, as well as apparently eaten some other recently dead in the graveyard.  Notably, an amulet that he was buried with is missing.  Revecca suggests that this amulet kept the ghosts in check in some way; if it's gone, that explains their extraordinary aggressiveness.
  • The Frankenstein monster was a creation of Lechfeld himself in an extremely foolhardy experiment years ago, and it has come into town looking for him when he stopped visiting.  It really is a monster, though, not some misunderstood something or other—he's killed numerous townsfolk viciously.
  • The ghosts have to be put down (salt and burn their remains) in their haunted house.
  • The professor's beautiful and friendly and otherwise hopefully quite sympathetic daughter, is missing.  Gigantic wolf-paw prints and other hints of that nature surround the area she was last seen.
  • Her kidnappers are, indeed, werewolves from the Bitterwood, and they've taken her to Innsburough.
  • To follow up, the werewolves may have to be confronted in the Bitterwood, though.  They're too good at covering their tracks to be followed to Innsborough.
  • The Black Path has Revecca in their grasp, and want to sacrifice her on the Devil's Reef by Otto von Szell, the manorial lord of the Innsborough territory.
  • Revecca knows enough about her father's amulet to use it as a key to enter the sealed tomb of Grozavest.  This ability is related to its ability to suppress undead activity in some way.  But Otto von Szell had his own ideas, and wanted to call up some undersea daemon (Typhon?) to destroy his rivals in the Black Path.  Namely, Grigore Stefanescu.
  • Stefanescu steals Revecca and her father's amulet, either from the PCs if they've rescued her, or from von Szell if for some reason they don't.  Maybe it's a ghoul group that actually carries out the abduction?  Ghouls from Dragomiresti seems like a good way to bring that into play.
  • The ghouls take Revecca to Grozavest, where Stefanescu foolishly intends to "rescue" a Primogenitor sealed in with Melek Taus, thinking that by so doing, he will gain a champion capable of dealing with any of the other noble houses.
So, when I say that I'd be a little more fast and loose, what I really mean is that this outline becomes only a vague expectation, subject to modification (maybe even quite dramatic modification) as the game develops.  What I prefer to do normally when running a campaign is to have two or three campaign antagonists all with their own agendas, and as their agendas start rolling, the PCs inevitably become aware of them and (presumably) step up to counter them.  If they chose to focus on one vs. the others, what eventually happens is that the antagonists that they ignore will develop into a much larger problem than it otherwise might; or rather, bad consequences will not have been prevented, and the setting will change (at least locally) as a result.  Layer in the complexity of some character specific nemeses, and you've got material to keep you going for a long time, and it all kind of runs on it's own, based on the agenda of the NPCs and modified by the actions of the characters.  I normally prefer not to plan much beyond what I need for the next session or two, because too much can change.

This outline can be adapted to a structure not too unlike that, however.  Otto von Szell and Grigore Stefanescu are two rivals with their own agendas, and the order in which those agendas culminate can be reversed if needed.  The fallout of the ghosts and golem threatening the village have to do with their earlier murder of Alpon Lechfeld, and can kind of be seen as a third leg there, even though there isn't a BBEG at the end of that one exactly.

The only problem I have is that with both of the rivals attempting to do the same thing (capture Revecca Lechfeld and her father's amulet of undead control) we get into some bizarre territory with perhaps a little too much of the same thing going on.  But maybe something can be adapted from here and twisted into the storyline to give it a bit more spice.  None of them are really going to be a full thread; they're more like single encounters, but there's some really interesting things in there.

On the other hand, the very first one is quite similar in most respects to the whole plan of Stefanescu, so any of these could be relatively easily filled out to make a complete thread in the campaign.  The ones that I particular like include 3, 11 (a similar concept), the oddly fascinating banality of 20, 30, 32, something can be done with 53, 55, 61, 68, 69, 73, and 84 could be a campaign topping secret.  Something can be done with 95 too.

Anyway, I'll leave the specific details up in the air for the time being.  Knowing that I have options when I need them is sufficient.  And with that, I could start running CULT OF UNDEATH... literally this evening, if I needed to.

Too bad that I don't.

But that being said, unless and until I do run it, I've finished the CULT OF UNDEATH project, and have no more that I need to do to add to it.  Finis.

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