This short adventure is a race, not against time but against rival groups. The rivals will sabotage, backstab and do almost anything to win (apart from straight-up murder) so encourage the PCs to do the same. The story is open-ended and assumes that you, as the GM, will allow the PCs to act as they wish to reach their goal and this requires you to improvise suitable scenes along the way, or do additional preparations, along with keeping track of the actions of the rival groups as you see fit. This text only provides possibilities to give a basic structure.
Start up in the south of Ambria (such as Yndaros, Redina or Mergile, but preferably not as far south as Prios Pass), in a seedy tavern in the bad part of town. If your PCs aren’t the types that would frequent such a place (and are honest and upstanding members of society), then this adventure probably isn’t for them (and cold-blooded murderers will probably make the adventure less interesting too). The adventure revolves around the recovery of a piece of meteorite (see The Prize). To ground it in Symbaroum’s world, consider the meteorite to be the piece that is used in the opening sequence of the Throne of Thorns adventure The Darkest Star. An option is to play this short adventure as a one-off with new or alternate characters in case this adventure – for any reason – doesn’t fit your group, because of style or because you’ve already completed The Darkest Star. The purpose of the meteorite should preferably not be known to the PCs.
Starting the Adventure
The troubadour Blackhawk is visiting the seedy tavern, sharing his stories, each more fantastic than the last, but when he tells of a Count who was expecting the delivery of a precious item that is now lost, it sounds real enough – and recent enough – to spark interest. Messenger birds just arrived from Prios Pass, perking interest among the gathered crowd. The item, a powerful artefact supposedly from the war against the Dark Lords, was being transported from Alberetor and disappeared on its way over the Titans, according to Blackhawk. The PCs, or someone else, asks Blackhawk more about this rumor and he tells that the owner, Edogai of Brigo, currently residing in Yndaros, would be very grateful should the item be found and returned to him. Grateful, that is, to the sum of 1000 thaler or some other fantastic amount, according to Blackhawk. How much actually? That’s for you to decide, but also see the section Delivering the Prize (below).
When Blackhawk finishes answering any questions (to the best of his ability), three distinct groups leave the tavern with obvious intent – they’re going to get the artefact back first.
The Race to the Titans
Two of the rival groups will try to leave the following morning, spending much of the remaining evening and night preparing, such as acquiring mounts and vehicles, as well as provisions. One group will remain, using their contacts in and around Prios Pass (which they contact by sending messenger birds) to keep tabs on their rivals, and to lay an ambush for them close to Yndaros when on their way back.
Other groups will also send word southward, to sabotage the others’ progress through contacts, or by themselves if they are near the PCs (such as sharing a roadside inn). Some suggestions are listed below, along with possible mishaps that are likely to happen in case the PCs travel hurriedly. Don’t consider these as dead-ends, but as challenges for the PCs to overcome or compensate for.
∙ Few, if any, horses to be found at reasonable cost and no open spaces on ships.
∙ All rooms at roadside inns are occupied. Choosing poor sleeping conditions should have consequences.
∙ Sabotage from other groups.
o Food poisoning, either at an inn or their travel food.
o Vehicles damaged or mounts injured or even killed.
o Wheel axles break.
o Mounts suffer accidents, injuring themselves.
∙ Environmental hazards. PCs need to figure out a way to make it over the obstacle or lose time going around.
o Falling trees or rockslides.
o Gorges and steep mountain sides that block passage.
∙ Become delayed or even lost, unless Cunning or Vigilant checks are passed to navigate properly.
Tracking and Recovering the Prize
Another caravan has passed through the Titans since the ambushed one – in fact, after seeing suspicious signs they alerted the authorities in Prios Pass when they arrived there (from which word spread to Edogai of Brigo) and they remain in Prios Pass. If you want a map, please use the one in The Promised Land, that shows the pass in the Titans and place the ambush site and which way the bandits went as you see fit.
Regardless of season, the weather has been clear and sunny recently, making it possible to track and find the caravan remains (a failed roll results in several hours spent searching, before finding the remains), which has been moved so it can’t be seen from the regular path. From there it is possible to follow the bandits who attacked the caravan back to their hideout, an old, dilapidated watch tower (that has seen only rudimentary repair work), less than a day’s journey away, where they’ve taken the spoils. Create an interesting, multi-level place and use its poor condition to present challenges.
Make it possible for the PCs to obtain the item in any reasonable way – sneaking in and stealing, fighting their way to it or bartering for it. The main issue is identifying what they’re after, since they don’t actually know what it is. The spoils from the caravan has been divided between the bandits, so the entire hold may need to be searched and all objects of value taken along, or the bandits interrogated (not that they know either, but they can at least tell where the valuables from the last attack are).
It is entirely possible that more than one group will reach the hold at the same time which can lead to interesting dynamics.
Should the PCs fail in tracking who took the item or if they become delayed enough, assume that a rival group succeeds and let the PCs come up with a plan to take it off their hands before they get to Yndaros, such as planning an ambush. Arriving late to the stronghold can potentially see it decimated in strength, depending on which group arrived there first, and with any luck the meteorite remains. Regardless of how this plays out, someone should be bringing it back to Yndaros, PCs or NPCs.
Returning to Yndaros
Returning north, to Yndaros this time regardless of where the adventure started, follows the pattern of the journey south – with competing groups that are still around doing what they can to stop the PCs and getting their hands on the meteorite themselves.
Delivering the Prize
The end can be handled differently depending on what type of group is playing this adventure or what how you want to finish the story. Either Edogai of Brigo is honest in his dealings and pays the winning group, or he betrays them and sets an ambush to make sure they can’t tell anyone of what has transpired, once they’ve delivered the meteorite. Is he cold-hearted enough? Up to you to decide!
The item the PCs are seeking is not an artefact at all, but a focus for ceremonial magic – a fist-sized piece of a meteorite, its glittering surface alluring to anyone who sees it. It is not unlikely, however, that the spoils from the caravan contain an artefact or other precious items that can draw the attention of the PCs.
Stats for members of the rival groups can be drawn from regular Bandits in the core rulebook, as well as Pickpockets and Thugs from the Monster Codex. The group leaders are more capable and can have stats as Ranger Captains and Black Cloaks in the core rulebook. Group 1 (led by Hedero/Gidia) are brutes that are quick to violence, group 2 (led by Lenn/Aragina) are sneaky backstabbers that will let others do the hard work and group 3 (led by Anselg/Marka) are the ones with a wide network of contacts.
The bandit gangs form from the people that are turned away from Ambria at Prios Pass. Going back to the old country is not an option, so banditry was the best – or, more likely, only – option. There are several bandit gangs in the mountains and this group, under the leadership of Kranke/Kumuma, is unremarkable. They simply lucked out in intercepting and capturing the caravan carrying the meteorite, since Edogai of Brigo wanted to keep a low profile. The bandits are about a dozen strong and use stats as regular Thugs, while Kranke/Kumuma has stats as a Ranger Captain.