I'm currently writing an old school adventure module, as an exercise in game design and because I really love the older editions of D&D. I'm going to start putting up the bare bones of the thing on here, and while no one will read it, it'll still be nice to have up on the internet as a personal reference if, say, my computer crashes.
Ages ago, when the Elfin Kings still ruled these lands with little fear of mortal men, an elf king of the Winter Court had a castle built for him of the coldest stone, upon the highest mountain in the land. He summoned all sorts of evil spirits of chill and fear to that dread place, and commanded them to stand ever vigilant as his sentinels there. When the elves began to fade from the prime material plane, the winter-king disappeared into shadow.
But the spirits remain, guarding the treasures they were summoned to protect.
Castle Dreadwyne is an attempt to merge elements of both high and low fantasy into a classic dungeon crawl. It’s Jewels in the Forest meets The Hobbit meets Tower of the Elephant meets The King of Elfland’s Daughter. The three towns around the castle each have different folklore regarding the castle, some of it true and some not. Further, there are NPC’s in the towns who can either help or hinder the PC’s, up to and including following them into the dungeons with the intent to slay them and steal the treasure for themselves.
There is no base plot in this adventure, but there are plenty of elements present for individual game masters to thread one together, making the adventure location their own. Perhaps they’ll focus on Greeneye’s bandits, or the agents of the sorcerer Valagk Vurmus.
When the PC’s ask around about the castle, the GM can roll a d8 to randomly determine one of the local rumors to give the players, or just choose one that looks interesting. Note that the more the PC’s ask around, the more attention they draw to themselves, making their time on Dreadwyne Mountain all the more dangerous; while monsters dwell in the ruined castle, the greatest monster of all is a greedy man.
If the players get information about the “dragon” or the dwarves, it’s likely that the group at hand will hear of the PC’s, and will do their best to rob them of their riches, or use them to gain access to the castle’s treasure vaults, which they normally wouldn’t dare go after due to the unquiet frost spirits.
1. A cavern entrance into the castle exists (true- in fact, there are several, all of them haunted by the spirits of dark elves loyal to the winter-king)
2. The Winter-King still dwells in the castle (true and false- only the half-mad spirit of the winter king remains, locked in his throne room)
3. A dragon hunts the forests at the base of the mountain, and it has a good deal of treasure from the castle (false- there are bandits that use the story as both protection and a lure)
4. A band of dwarves is travelling through the mountains, and they have a map of the dungeon’s lower levels back from when dwarves swore fealty to the winter court (true- and the dwarves want the treasure!)
5. A strange figure comes into town from the mountain passes some nights, cowled in black, paying for strange trinkets and herbs with ancient looking gold (true- this is the necromancer, Cowl, who is currently pulling Greeneye’s strings)
6. A magician from Arlore is willing to pay good coin for magical tomes from Castle Dreadwyne, particularly any dealing with elfin winter magic (true- Valagk Vurmus’ lackeys, Tulluk and Bérwein, each level 2 magicians, are looking for hired muscle to take them into the castle, and while they won’t stab the PC’s in the back, they certainly will try and give them a raw deal)
7. A gorgeous elf princess is locked away in a mirror of ice in the castle, and will grant a wish to any who release her (true and false- it’s actually a banshee, and this legend has been corrupted over the years until the evil elf woman’s ghost is a benevolent damsel in distress)
8. An ancient dwarf-forged sword of cold iron can be found in the throne room of the castle, a weapon of old used to slay many summer princes (true)
People of Note
· Skalmog the Carved, a heavily tattooed monk living a hermit’s life in one of the mountain’s caves. A devotee of the Barbed God, Skalmog spends his days repenting for the sins of man by bringing horrific pain upon himself in an attempt to keep the Barbed God from stealing the souls of mortals. He still has some part of his fractured psyche intact, and will aid the PC’s, though not always the way they want; he is, after all, quite mad.
o Cleric 4
· Illak Spurneblade, a mercenary from Arlore. Illak is looking for good loot to pay for new soldiers (his last bunch got slaughtered during a fight between a petty lord and a hill giant tribe). He’s willing to help the PC’s, and then stab them in the back and take off with the treasure.
o Fighter 3
· Lady Tannessia, a half-elf priestess of the Emerald Prince, an elven deity whose popularity has grown amongst half-elves. Tannessia is a member of one of many half-elf “Gnostic” cults, melding elements of the original elven faith with the fleeting mortal wisdom of men. She truly believes in her cause, and is on the mountain in an attempt to bring Spring Eternal to poor, tortured soul of the winter-king. She is willing to work with the PC’s so long as they respect the tenets of her faith and help her exorcize the soul of the winter-king.
o Cleric 3
· Greeneye, a bandit. Named for the jade false eye he has, Greeneye is an enterprising bandit-king. Several years ago he sent some of his best “pree-tenders” into town to spread word of a dragon in the forests below the mountain. This keeps a good number of travelers on the roads Greeneye wants, and allows for a reasonably steady inflow of hot-headed youths with swords and fancy armor to sell back in town. Currently, a strange, cowled fellow has joined his rank, whispering encouragement to this lowly bandit lord, inspiring him to greater heights of debauchery.
o Fighter 4
· Cowl, a dark elf magician. Known amongst mortals as Cowl, his true name is Fiach em Mallach. He wishes to gain entry to the ruins of the castle, but long ago he fell out of the favor of the wicked and chill spirits of winter. He has of late begun to use Greeneye as a proxy, amassing more wealth for the bandits, and making them more daring, in hopes that he might get them to take the castle. If he discovers the PC’s, he will concentrate his efforts on them.
o Magic-User 5
· Valagk Vurmus, a sorcerer. Valagk isn’t in the area, but he makes his presence known through his lackeys, Tulluk and Bérwein. He desperately wants the magical tomes in the castle, and will get his way one way or another.
o Magic-User 7
· Bérwein, one of Vurmus’ lackeys. A specialist in identification spells, he is a snobbish know-it-all. He doesn’t want to hire adventurers, but as he is quite frail, he will begrudgingly hire the PC’s.
o Magic-User 3
· Tulluk, one of Vurmus’ lackeys. A defensive magic specialist, Tulluk is paranoid and overly cautious. He will accept whoever Bérwein hires, but he most certainly will not trust them.
o Magic-User 3