Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Exile

I'm writing another adventure.  It was a small idea but it's already spiraling out of "manageable" and into "I may never finish this".

Essentially: a sorcerer colonized a flying mountain and enslaved a bunch of people to work for him via mind-wipe collars.  A raiding party has killed (?) the sorcerer, and now his mind-slaves are snapping out of it.  (Because the fastest way to get a game started is to shout "all you have is your filthy clothing and amnesia".)

It's meant to be approached in two ways: either as a starting adventure for a bunch of level 1 characters, or as a continuing adventure for a bunch of established characters.

by Sergey Zabelin

Hook for Established Characters

On a cloudy mountain hex, clouds blow over a lonely precipice.  And out there, just beyond the lip, is a rope ascending into those same clouds.  The top of the rope disappears into unknown heights.  The tail of the rope swings in the wind, lazy circles a hundred feet across.

Hook for New Characters 

You realize that you are picking turnips.  You have been picking turnips for a long time.  You aren't sure how long.  You look around and notice that there are other people like you in the field.  They are sunburnt and wear burlap tunics.  Everyone seems as confused as you are.  Where are you, exactly?

Hex 1 - The Farm

Depressingly mundane.  Fields of grains and root vegetables.  There is a small field of mandrakes, but they are not obvious.  Chickens, cows, sheep.  The billy goat is a failed apprentice--he has human intelligence and is spiteful.

Expect a lot of shabby NPCs milling about.  People will be trying to take off their collars.  People will be examining each other, trying to make sense of the amputations and alchemical scars.  People will be searching faces, looking for a known face, a piece of context.  People will be weeping.

Some people will be angry.  They will want to set out, figure out who put collars on them, and force that person to take the collars off.

Some people will be scared.  They will want to remain on the farm until help comes.  They will build a Godhand in the yard and start walking devotional circles around it.  They will pray.  A nameless woman will begin preaching, and if the PCs don't intervene, the farm will become hostile and isolationist within a couple of days.

If you don't help fortify the farm, it'll be wiped out 5 days by the strongboys.

Hex 2 - The Elephant

You might encounter it as a wandering monster, but you'll definitely encounter it here, collapsed by the side of the well, shuddering as it tries to drink water.  It is damaged beyond easy repair.

It is wrapped in cerement, like a mummy.  Only its pale face pokes through the tarry bandages.  It sputters and gasps like a man, but it does not speak.  Its tusks are gold-banded, wrapped in runes.  Its two eyes are rheumy and vacant.

It will only open its third eye if it is heavily damaged (below half HP).  The third eye is an alien thing, bloodshot, spasmodic, and alert.  It gives the elephant a gaze attack: save vs (torsional) long bone fractures.

It's innards are made from scented wood (worth 500s) and elephant bones (a whole herd's worth).  It's heart is a canister of felfire, sealed with white lead.

Stats as an elephant, movement speed halved.

Hex 3 - The Windmills

A dozen of them, each one sitting atop a small mound.  There is no wind, only fog, and yet the windmills still turn lazily.  Close examination reveals that the windmills sit on turrets--they can rotate. 

Because of course they are not windmills at all, but propellers that move the flying island around.

Each windmill has a small hatch, but there is no obvious way to open them.  A crowbar and a chisel would be sufficient.  Alternatively, a brave PC could climb the vanes and enter through the top, descending along the driveshaft where they can open the hatch from the inside. 

The windmills connect to the Underground.

Hex 4 - A Hole Full of Clouds

It looks like a garbage pit from far away, but from up close you can see no bottom.  All you can see are the tops of clouds.

The hole is, in fact, the garbage pit for the farm.

The Exile

The name refers to Gormagog, and he is a mountain.  He was condemned by his brothers for an unspeakable crime, and the whole planet was in agreement that the most serious sentence should be enacted.

And so Gormagog was exiled--cast off from the planet where he had been born 30 million years ago.  His roots were all broken, his brow was bashed in, and he was banished into the air. 

Gormagog rose higher and higher with each passing day (the blink of an eye in geologic time) and would have plummeted all the way into the sun, had the sorcerer not intervened.  A contract was struck, and Gormagog was allowed to remain at 3000' feet, not exiled but imprisoned.

However, the death (?) of the sorcerer caused the death of the planet's covenant, and now the Exile is rising again.  If nothing is done, the flying island will fall all the way into space.

Wizards disagree with all of this, by the way.  They say that it is something to do with magnets.

(PCs will notice that it is getting colder each day.  They may even notice that the ground is getting farther a way.  There is a time limit on this scenario.)

Hex 5 - The Ranch

The Astromath enjoyed the charade of a simple country life.  His house is modeled after the type of rustic house that he claimed he grew up in.  (A lie he told even in his childhood.)

One story, ten rooms, with a small horse barn out back.  Big tree, swing set, tree house, pond, one-eyed cat. 

The golem is in the process of burying the sorcerer's family, three bloody figures arranged beside three open graves.  Soon it will begin repairing the burnt sections of the house.

The druids--the assassins--were all heaped unceremoniously in the back and burnt incompletely.  The golem is a clay man with fire roaring behind the cracks of his face, but he knows less about fire than a child.  (In fact, the golem knows nothing.)

The golem is not immediately aggressive, but one will be allowed into the house.  It knows if there are uninvited people in the house, and it will not permit them to stay.  In a way, this serves as a checkpoint for unequipped parties.

Level 6  Def 14  Fists 1d8/1d8
Move 10  Int 2*  Mor *

Immune to slashing and piercing damage.

Becomes inert if it is ever fully submerged in water (as this extinguishes the fire).  Dies if its shem rune is ever broken or damaged.  This golem's shem is located on the crown of its head, hidden beneath a metal servant's cap.

The interior of the house is simple, but elegant.  There are signs of violence.  The only survivor is Delilah, the third wife, a succubus bound to her circular, silver-framed bed.

Hex 6 - Dead Warriors

About half a dozen of them.  They were killed by the golem, their heads bashed, with the bloody pulp of the brain now attracting flies.  (It hasn't been long enough for maggots.)

They ascended the Exile via long ropes, originally anchored by druids who flew them up in bird form.  But the Exile has drifted, and those tropes are no longer a feasible means of escape.

Hex 7 - The Apprentice Tower

Currently under siege by a small woman and an enormous polar bear.  The woman wears tattered wolf-skins and wields a rusted sword.  She is a powerful druid, he is a powerful shapeshifter.  They are mated, and they came here to kill the sorcerer and free his slaves.

They do not know yet that their allies are dead, but they will not care much if/when they discover that fact.

Inside the tower are three apprentices, each armed with a single spell (light, sleep, and illusion) and a crossbow.  The bear has considered turning into a sparrow and flying in through the arrow slits, but is worried about what weapons the apprentices might have at their disposal.

They will all attempt to coerce the PCs to join them.  The apprentices know their histories and have a way to remove the collars.  The druids will argue that these are the same people that enslaved them.  They will tell the PCs that they should feign friendship to gain entrance, and then kill the young sorcerers in their sleep.  (It's not a bad plan.)

The tower is loaded with magical trinkets of dubious value.

None of them have any way of escaping the Exile.

Hex 9 - The Escaped Horses

They're all out here, rolling on the grass and looking for carrots.  They're happy out here, but wouldn't mind being led back.  It's getting late, and they know the value of a good stable.

Hex 8 - The Prism

A crystal the size of a three-story building.  Dusty, cracked, and crudely faceted. 

The Sorcerer uses it to import copies of items from adjacent universes.  Light is reflected off an item and onto a second mirror, where it is then bounced back and forth between the two mirrors.  Since a reflection imitates a form, and the form doesn't necessarily exist while the image persists, a paradox occurs and a new item is created.

Currently it is copying a burly man--the progenitor of the strongboys.  Every once in a while, a new strongboy will wander out of the prism, where he will be greeted with a new enslavement collar.

PCs who wander into the Prism will find that it is a fractal, with the same three rooms repeated endlessly.  Loot: crystal marbles (see 6 seconds into the future if swallowed) a mirror cocoon (essentially just a save-file for one of the PCs), and an infinite number of elemental arrows, each one a different element.


The wizard known as Nimbrot the Astromath.  I should probably explain what an astromath is, what's in the tunnels beneath the Exile, and how the PCs can escape.


  1. I love how much mileage you've gotten out of "the hills are alive".

  2. Aaaand I've got another hex to add. Thanks!

  3. Really like the way the nature of the island and the time limit are mysteries revealed gradually by exploration of the hexes.

    “Wizards disagree with all of this, by the way. They say that it is something to do with magnets”, not sure if this is wizards being uncharacteristically scientific or an Insane Clown Posse reference.

    1. I'm actually making fun of Avatar in particular, and intellectual authorities in general.

  4. I love this place. Limited, yet mystical with lots of secrets to uncover. It reminds me of the Myst games.
    I am thinking of running it and putting Tower of the Stargazer there. So instead of the wizard being dead, he has been accidentally imprisoned. It would be cool to see if the players figure out that they have been his slaves before they encounter him and potentially free him.

  5. This is great - followup on this please :) I'm planning on going off this for a weekend one-shot.

  6. Hex 5 - "The golem is not immediately aggressive, but one will be allowed into the house."
    Is that supposed to be "no one will be allowed" or "The golem IS immediately aggressive"?

    Also, Delilah demands some background.

    Under hex 6 you have some ropes that become "tropes".