After writing yesterday's post detailing the format that I would like published adventures to be written in, I thought it might be useful to provide a sample adventure written in just this format. It will also be interesting to make up an adventure off the top of my head as I write - I don't promise that it will be an interesting adventure, just an interesting experiment. So I'll put on a Dead Can Dance CD for some background inspirational music, and here goes:
Canopus Rising an adventure for 1st - 3rd level characters
The blood-scribed pages of the Book of Eibon tell of a blasphemous ritual that will awaken the elder demon, Iog-Sotot, who was ancient when this world was new. To enact the ritual, a virgin bearing the mark of Carina must be sacrificed upon the equinox when Canopus is at its zenith. Sukhara, leader of the chaos cult, The Children of Dis, has kidnapped a young woman with a birthmark on her thigh that resembles the constellation Carina, and he believes that her blood can fulfill the ritual to call forth Iog-Sotot to wreak havoc upon the campaign city.
The players are hired by a local merchant named Marconus, to locate his missing daughter, Adara, who has recently disappeared. In fact, Adara has been kidnapped by a chaos cult, The Children of Dis, to be sacrificed to the demon Iog-Sotot, who the Cult and its leader, Sukhara, priest of Eris, hope to summon. Marconus's assistant, a young man named Memnot, a cult member who has long desired Adara, espied her in her bath and noticed a wine-stain birthmark upon her thigh in the semblance of the constellation Carina. Seeking to gain favour with Sukhara and status within the cult, Memnot arranged the kidnapping of Adara, stealing her from her bed chamber after drugging her wine with lotus blossoms.
Marconus has reported Adara's disappearance to the city watch, but the Children of Dis are a wealthy and influential cult and have circulated the rumour that Adara ran away with her lover, Memnot, and they have also bribed the watch officers to let the matter rest. However, Marconus is a wealthy and prosperous merchant, himself, and it is well within his means to hire mercenaries to locate Adara. He promises the characters 500 gp each to rescue his daughter.
Marconus has no certain idea who took his daughter or why, but he finds it suspicious that Memnot stopped coming to work immediately after the kidnapping, and he knows that Adara had no romantic interest in Memnot - in fact she found him odious. An investigation into Memnot, by making inquiries at his favourite tavern, the Willing Wench, will soon reveal his affiliation with the Children of Dis.
Adara is being held in the cult's hideout, a system of karst caverns beneath the city, she is unharmed and being kept safe until the equinox, three days hence. The cellar of Memnot's home in Nocturne Alley, which he shares with his mother, herself a life-long Child of Dis, contains a secret entrance to the caverns. There are several other entrances to the caverns that might suggest themselves to suspicious investigators. There has recently been a series of late night disappearances in the vicinity of the Willing Wench that has set the fearful residents to gossiping. The sewers in the neighbourhood have crumbled, leading to the caverns, and the cult has been using this as a convenient venue to kidnap drunken tavern patrons for Sukhara's foul necromancy. Furthermore, local fishermen have noticed suspicious activity around the cave entrances on the coast. The cult has been transporting supplies by boat to the coastal caves that lead to their caverns.
The cavern complex consists of a series of interconnected caves and passages including one large cavern that serves as the cult's ritual chamber. It is in this chamber that Adara will be sacrificed on the night of the equinox. In the days leading up to the equinox the caverns will be a hive of activity, with cultists coming and going while making preparations for the big night. The caverns are patrolled by zombie slaves - the animated remains of past sacrificial victims that Sukhara has raised to protect the lair. One of the caves is home to a trio of harpies that have made accommodation with the cult, the two groups avoid each other, but cultists are not above luring enemies into the harpies' lair and trapping them there. The caverns are also haunted by an ochre jelly that Sukhara finds convenient for disposing of incriminating evidence. The occasional cultist also falls prey to the jelly, but here are plenty more where they came from. The cult has also concealed many of the sinkholes in the caverns to serve as traps for unwelcome intruders.
Should the PCs fail to stop Sukhara from performing the ritual, then he will succeed in awakening the elder demon Iog-Sotot. The repercussions of this are left the the GM's discretion, but the cultists should almost certainly not profit from their perfidy. There is a price to pay when trafficking with the forces of the Dark Beyond, and the wrath of Iog-Sotot will most definitely be focused on those who aroused him. But the city, itself will also suffer from the demon's ire.
Adara - daughter of Marconus, kidnapped victim of Sukhara who will be sacrificed on the eve of the equinox.
Lucrecius - a notorious strangler and defenestrator, he is also Sukhara's chief lieutenant and body-guard. He leads the warriors of the cult and will deal with any interlopers who ask too many questions about town.
Marconus - a merchant of the city and father to Adara. He knows that Adara has been kidnapped and suspects the involvement of Memnot.
Memnot - employee of Marconus and cultist. He has not risen in the cult as he had hoped and has come to resent Sukhara. He could be persuaded to betray the cult if he can do so without risk to himself.
Menara - mother of Memnot and cultist. She dwells in her home on Nocturne Alley and knows of the secret entrance to the caverns below.
Sukhara - necromancer, priest of Eris, and leader of the children of Dis, he possesses the dread Book of Eibon and will perform the ritual to summon Iog-Sotot upon the rise of Canopus on the eve of the equinox.
T minus 3 days: Marconus hires help to find his daughter.
T minus 2 days: increased activity around the coastal caves is noted by local fishermen for the next two days.
T minus 6 hours: the cultists in the city and surrounding area begin to congregate in the caverns in preparation for the summoning ritual.
T minus 1 hour: by midnight all cultists will be in the ritual chamber, Adara will be bound on the altar, and Sukhara will begin the ritual.
Eve of the equinox: Canopus will reach its zenith at precisely 1 a.m. at which time the ritual will culminate with the sacrifice of Adara, awakening Iog-Sotot.
Random Encounters (1-in-6 chance, roll once per turn in the caverns)
1. Cultists* (1d6) 25% chance that Memnot will be among them.
2. Cult warrior patrol (1d4)
3. Zombies (1d 4)
4. Cultists (1d6) 20% chance that Sukhara and Lucrecius will be among them. (refer to area 15 for stat lines and descriptions)
5. Giant Centipedes - Medium (1d3)
6. Ochre Jelly
7. Sukhara*, Lucrecia and 1d4 cult warriors. (refer to area 15 for stat lines and descriptions)
8. Adara* - she's escaped her cell and is running blindly through the caverns, hotly pursued by a cult warrior patrol and 1d6 cultists. (refer to area 6 for stat line and description)
*If any npcs are met in a random encounter they obviously will not be in their lair as described in the keyed descriptions.
So, there we have the crux of the adventure laid out in just a couple of pages. The abstract conveys all of the information necessary to run the adventure. Although the map and keyed areas are not provided, a cavern map could be very quickly sketched and, in need, the GM now knows enough about the plot, the important npcs, and the timeline of events to run the adventure on the fly without any keyed areas or further preparation.
Welcome Back to the Labyrinth
"We have been away far too long, my friends," Ashoka declared, his face lit by the eldritch green glow of his staff. "But we have finally returned to the labyrinth whence our adventures first began."
"Just imagine the treasures that lie within," said Yun Tai, flexing his mighty muscles. "Wealth enough to live in luxury the rest of our days."
"And arcane artifacts of great power," added Ashoka his words dripping with avarice. "All ours for the taking!"
"Umm...guys?" Nysa interrupted. "Do you hear something dripping?"