Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Trollish Fun

Over on Rpgnow someone was talking about monster races in Dungeons & Dragons 4th and in the course of posting I placed some details on one of the many unpublished monster races I had worked up...trolls (specifically, mihidir trolls of Lingusia). Then I thought, "this is something that should be on the blog," so here it is:

Trolls (Mihidir)
   In Lingusia there are many different and usually terrifying breeds of troll. Trolls are known by certain scholars as “adaptomorphic.” They can literally change over time to adapt to stressful conditions in the environment. As a side effect of this trait they have notorious regenerative powers, and a keen ability to interbreed and absorb the heritage of other creatures. Trolls for the most part are also notorious for their wide-ranging looks. The hulking barely-humanoid thargonids, theputrid and rotting agammites, the somewhat more humanoid and svelte mihidir and the immense amechian swamp trolls are all effectively the same species, despite being very different physiologically. They can interbreed, they understand the same language and they tend to think in the same way.
   Of the many strange troll breeds, the mihidir of the Lower Dark are the most humanoid, and also the most suitable for an adventuring race. Mihidir have been strong denizens of the underworld caverns of Lingusia for countless eons; the oldest elvish tales speak of mihidir from when they were young, though in the ancient tales of the elves the trolls of that time were described as “perfect giants of form and mind,” a far cry from the multitude of beings called trolls today.
   Mihidir tend to carry the same stock and look; they average seven feet in height, with pasty white, blue, or sometimes green and yellow skin. They have large eyes adapted to perpetual darkness, and the lean, goblinoid facial features most common in the male mihidir. They have overly large hands, feet and noses, and are described by most humans as “constantly looking suspicious.” All mihidir have naturally serrated, shark-like teeth. Some have even suggested that they can regrow teeth over time, just like a shark; some mihidir seemt o have mouths full of these vicious pointed teeth, practically filled to the brim. Mihidir males often have little body hair, or obsessively shave it if they do.
   Female mihidir are surprisingly short, averaging only fix feet in height and usually being leaner and even more human looking. They have fewer teeth, but usually have longer, more wicked claws than the males. Females have much more body hair than males.
   The Mihidir Kingdom is the dominant region of trollish occupation and control in the Lower Dark. The city of the trolls, called Nel’hagon, is located a mile beneath the surface of the human city of Lancaster in central Octzel. The Mihidir have often warred against the humans and dwarves above, often for pure pleasure, using armies of thrall goblins and other denizens of the lower deep as their cannon fodder.
   Mihidir are exceptional for their known cruelty and cunning. Most mihidir, growing up in the deeps of Nel’hagon, undergo a childhood process that almost guarantees they grow up with minds not unlike professional serial killers. Some mihidir escape this process of thought, but they are rare and often leave trollish society as soon as possible.
   Other known mihidir lands include the Kam’garit of Amech, where the mihidir are comprised largely of dedicates to the dark god Belphegor, and the Skidarask of the Bluesky Mountains in southern Hyrkania. Several mihidir tribes can be found in the Throne Mountains and the Mountains of Madness as well, though these tribes are not united and seem to spend more of their time causing trouble in local underworld politics for other beings.

Mihidir Troll Adventurers
Average Height: 7’ to 7’6” tall (males) or 6’ to 6’6” for females
Average Weight: 250-350 lbs.
Languages: Trollish, plus one other (usually Tradespeak or Deep Speech)
Ability Scores: +2 Intelligence and  +2 Constitution or +2 Strength
Size: medium
Speed: 6 squares
Vision: Dark Vision
Skill Bonuses: +2 Intimidation, +2 Endurance
Regeneration: Mihidir trolls heal at an amazingly fast rate. A Mihidir troll gains the Trollish Regeneration power, below.
Claws and Teeth: Mihidir are well armed with natural attacks; gain the tooth and nail at-will basic attack below.
Wicked Cunning: Mihidir are notorious for their sense of cruelty and spite, and gain access to the Wicked Cunning racial encounter power, below.

Trollish Regeneration - Troll Racial Ability
You can heal unnaturally quickly.
Encounter – Minor – Racial
Effect: Expend one healing surge; you gain regeneration 1 until the end of the encounter.
Level 11: increase to regeneration 3
Level 21: increase to regeneration 5
Special: This effect ends if you take fire or acid  typed damage.

Tooth and Nail - Troll Racial Basic Attack
You have hideously sharp, long black claws and an even more terrifying mouth full of cerrated teeth.
At-Will – Standard – Martial, Melee or Unarmed
Special: Choose tooth or claw attack
Target: one foe; Reach 1; Attack: Strength+2 vs. AC
Hit: 1D6+Strength damage (claws) or 1D8+Strength damage (teeth)
Special: Your teeth and claws  are melee weapons for purposes of any exploits, and may be used two-weapon style (two fists or a claw and bite) for exploits such as Twin Strike that require two melee weapons.

Wicked Cunn ing – Troll Racial Ability
You do not play fair, and will take any opportunity you can to rub salt in to the wounds of your enemies.
Encounter – Free – Martial, Melee or Unarmed
Trigger: you inflict damage on an enemy
Effect: do additional ongoing damage to your opponent equal to your Int modifier (save ends).

Mihidir Troll Racial Feats

Mihidir Trap Mastery
   Mihidir trolls are notorious for their expertise at setting deadly traps.
Prerequisite: mihidir troll, Int or Dex 13+
Benefit: You gain a +5 racial bonus to any thievery check to set or reset a trap. If you successfully set the trap, you may add your Int modifier to the damage the trap deals.

Mihidir Bloodlust
   Some mihidir trolls find the blood of humans and other fair races to be intoxicating; some find any blood at all to drive them in to a crazed bloodlust.
Prerequisite: mihidir troll, Con 13+
Benefit: you gain the Mihidir Bloodlust power, below:

Mihidir Bloodlust – Troll Racial Ability
You taste blood and go mad with rage.
Daily – Free – Racial
Trigger: you inflict damage on an enemy with your Tooth and Nail attack using a bite.
Effect: you go in to a bloodlust-filled rage. You automatically gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage for the remainder of the encounter (but could end sooner; see below), and armor class and reflexes are reduced by -2. You gain Resist Psychic 5. You must make at least one melee basic attack or melee exploit on your turn if you start or end your round adjacent to a target; you must move to the nearest target (either friend or foe) on your turn if you do not start adjacent to one and immediately make a melee basic attack or equivalent melee exploit. The bloodlust ends at the end of your first turn in which you can not begin and/or end the turn adjacent to a target against which you can execute an attack.

 Adaptomorphic Heritage
   Trollish physiology is especially good at dealing with strange environmental conditions. You have found that you can adapt rapidly to changing environments.
Prerequisite: mihidir troll, Con 13+, Level 3+
Benefit: you gain one of the following adaptomorphic modifications each time you choose this feat. You may choose this feat multiple times, once for each option below:

Environmental Adaption: you may choose one type of difficult terrain and ignore it (you have learned or changed to walk on it at normal speed). This can’t apply to heat/fire based terrain types.

Elemental Adaptation: choose one form of elemental type (except for fire and acid) and gain Resist equal to your Con modifier against it.

Huge Claws: Your claws grow one size larger for purposes of damage (1D6 claws become 1D8 claws).

More Teeth: Your mouth full of cerrated teeth has expanded, much to the amazement of your fellow trolls. Your bite damage is raised from 1D8 to 1D10.

Fast-Sealing Flesh: You can recover more quickly from repeating damage; gain a +2 save bonus to ongoing untyped bleeding damage.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sol Station

Stumbled across Sol Station while looking for up-to-date information on known stars in our local galactic neighborhood. Seems like a useful site for information on known local stars and what we've observed about orbiting bodies around them...pretty cool stuff.

I've decided it is time to devise a new hard SF campaign for later this year, and as is traditional I've decided that GURPS Space will do the job best, so I'm planning to construct a detailed "future history" using what we known about local space. The themes for this campaign involve a remote colony (perhaps founded on the 1.5X earth mass body around Xi Scorpii A) that weathered through a long dark age during which the old era of colonial expansion mysteriously ended and about which very little is known. The colony prospered and resumed local space exploration; the campaign opens up with the recovery of lost FTL tech, and the many possibilities it opens up. The premise of course is that the colony wants to figure out exactly what happened to Earth and the other forty-odd colonies that were known to exist at the time all contact was lost and the FTL ships dropped off the grid...and why. Naturally, the Scorpian Colony wants answers, but needs a dedicated organization that's also discreet to handle the job; the absolute and total lack of information about the loss of contact could mean anything: war disrupting the FTL transit lanes permanently, an extraterrestrial influence, natural distaster of some unknown capacity which prevented the use of FTL drives, or some specific agency or conspiracy to drop the Scorpian Colony off the grid...the only thing they know for sure is that no radio communications have been received from any colonies close enough and capable enough of transmitting, and no FTL ships have appeared in 80 years.

Anyway, this is a work in progress, so more to come! I considered several possible games for this campaign, including Traveller, Stars Without Number and BRP, but decided that once again GURPS really does have the best suite of tools for this sort of job.

Radiation Dosage Chart from XKCD

Randall Munroe does it again with a handy and informative visual representation of a topic that is often misunderstood or misrepresented.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Oh boy...or girl....!

Just got word today that it looks like Jody and I will be parents, deadline approximately November-ish. More news to come! We are both terrified and excited.

I guess my barbarian days are over....sort of....

Friday, March 11, 2011

Monsters and Landscapes

Awesome stuff here! Love the idea.


It's been a busy week at work, so naturally I haven't had much free time to post anything...and the work overload has spilled in to the evenings. Plus, just dogged tired!
Although I've written a lot lately on the OSR and Swords & Wizardry, today I am going to rest entirely in the Bleeding Edge camp of current game mechanics in all their strange today's micro-feature:

Goons in 4E (Or, bigger than a minion, smaller than a proper monster)

I was mulling over ideas on how to handle encounter combat in D&D 4th when the idea came to me that the minion idea (which I love) actually meshes well with the elite idea (which I also love) and the solo idea (which I am less fond of), but one step is missing: something in between a goon and a normal monster, we need a "half hit points" entry for "foes that offer a modest difficulty but which are still speed bumps, albeit a bit larger than the average minion."

In prior editions of D&D, DMs actually had one very useful tool for managing monster hit points: the hit dice. You could play it straight and roll for hit dice, letting the results fall as they might, or you could use the hit dice to assign certain monsters of a given type slightly tougher or weaker positions. By 3rd edition they standardized the idea of including "average hit points" in stat blocks so DMs could optionally simply pick the average HPs for a monster from the get-go.

In 4th edition, monster hit points are, like PC hit points, pretty much calculated from a formula that would translate (compared to prior editions) in to assuming everyone has maximum hit points, more or less (assumign the old standard of D8 for hit dice). Of course, you can make things tougher by doubling hit points (elites) or quadrupling (solos), or reducing them to 1 whole hit point (one hit kill wonders, minions).

So: a common problem in 4E combat is that it takes too long. This isn't always the case, however. The real problem is that all combat situations in 4E take equally long, on average, when in fact many combats should necessarily be shorter. I've heard lots of interesting work-arounds for this, and tried a few myself.

My new work-around is to introduce a new concept: the goon. The goon fills the space between a normal monster and a minion, having one half the hit points and being worth one half the XP of a regular monster. A goon is basically easier to kill, but otherwise has all the features and functions of a regular monster. It's subject to ongoing damage and effects, it deals damage with dice rolls, and so forth. It's main advantage is: it will die twice as quickly on the battlefield, and two goons are worth one standard monster, so you can bulk up your encounter with more bodies; they are technically going to be deadlier than a single monster, because two goons means two attacks where there used to be one. This will actually make them slightly more challenging, and an especially kind DM would probably not be without precedent to maybe mke them worth slightly more than half the XP value of a regular monster.

So, I'm going to try out some goon-driven encounters the next time I run a game. My theory is that goons will solve a few problems by virtue of their presence:

Speed up Combat: goons will die twice as quickly, meaning you are less likely to have that long, lingering stench of a battle past its prime. More specifically, goons are ideal for average or "incidental" encounters that are meant to be fun, offer some challenge, but not last very long. Wandering monsters could benefit from some goons on the chart.

Bigger Threat: as two goons offer two attacks but with the same HP value as one monster, then the overall threat from damage and attacks by the encounter can as much as double, making goons a bigger (if more readily eliminated) threat to PCs.

Substitute for Minions as Appropriate: I've found minions serve three neat purposes: to make wizards feel empowered, to scare the bejeezus out of the players when you put out all the minion minis (at least until they figure out they're minions) and to help replicate the classic moments of zerg-driven mob attacks typical of fantasy fiction, cinema and video games. Helms Deep, anyone? Goons, however, provide one more layer of options for DMs who want foes that will drop fairly quickly while still offering a challenge. Instead of an EL1 encounter with 5 level one orcs, say, you could make that same encounter with 10 goon orcs and the PCs will both be more challenged and still find it easier to dispatch their foes.

This is all theory for the moment! Gotta go, but hopefully I'll have an opportunity to test it out in a 4E game shortly.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lulu OSR Goodies, POD and the Curious Business of Game Publishing Online

I was looking at The Lair of the Evil DM when I discovered this amazingly questionable but still cool book:
Star Frontiers Digitally Remastered

Legal? Seems unlikely. I've been to Bill Logan's site before and figured that either he had connections or was testing the temerity of Wizards of the Coast regarding an otherwise all-but-abandoned property they inherited from the legacy of TSR. Admittedly Star Frontiers has seen a bit of action in print, most specifically in some non-specific alien adaptations in D20 Future a few years back, but that's about it. The spirit, the legacy of this game remains untapped. Anyway, I decided I'd better order a copy before a Hasbro lawyer got all excited about this (although maybe, just maybe their list of "things to issue a takedown on" burped when it came to this particular property....who knows...!) and will letcha all know more when I see it. I'm pretty sure Bill's not making any money on this; the cost of admission is about right for Lulu's base printing/handling costs.

I also spotted this, which I'll be ordering just as soon as I have more free cash floating around:
Knockspell 1-3 (Softcover)

Matt Finch must have vetted the test copy (something I guess I need to do more often as well!) as it is now up! Looking forward to finally getting the print edition compilation...PDF's still hurt my eyes over time.

Finally, Lulu informed me that my first print effort for The Rising Dark had some sort of burp; apparently something to do with the PDF files being combined. It's fixed now, I believe; my previous test print was issued just fine, so I'm not sure what exactly happened....this is the second time that a print-ready PDF on Lulu's end "stopped working" despite having functioned just fine for many copies, so not entirely sure what that's all about.

Meanwhile, The Realms of Chirak is on its way to my door with a proof copy from Rpgnow. I am very excited about this; I've bought a couple other books in POD format from rpgnow's new service and they are in my opinion of better overall quality than Lulu. Even better, the operating/production costs are cheaper than Lulu, and Rpgnow has the added benefit of a much higher level of visibility to the target audience. Once I've got the POD copy of Chirak in hand and it looks good, then I may just turn to getting all of my other works worth doing up on POD there as well.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Highly Eccentric Extrasolar Systems

Thought I would share this post about the Kepler Space Telescope and the amazing data it is providing on just how bizarre extrasolar orbits can get! Some baffling stuff here....starting to sound like there really isn't a good standard of orbital rotation in the universe.

Senempar, City of Shadows

This week I thought I'd just dump some content down. This is a mini-gazetteer of the region of Lingusia called Senempar, where the Saturday campaign started (sort of a home base). The system in use right now is Pathfinder, the characters are all around level 9 and heading to Carapus in search of a missing prince, the son of the queen of Pheralin, of the kingdom of Valance, all regions fairly removed from the home base, so I figure this is safe enough to print (no spoilers); all plots revolving around the Red God have long since been resolved.

Warning: Stuff only I normally care about ahead: The Warlords Era setting takes place in the year 3,500; approximately 1,000 years after the time evidenced in the "Keepers of Lingusia" book I published for C&C a while back, and 1,700 years after new forthcoming Ages of Lingusia reboot that I am still polishing to perfection. Either way, Lingusia seems to have become the go-to setting I use when I run Pathfinder, while 4th edition remains the system of choice for Chirak, and S&W is, of course, the home of the recently revealed Agraphar.

Anyway, this content might see print in revised form some day if I do a Warlords Era expansion, who maps to attach, just text, so enjoy; hopefully it will offer inspiration to those seeking new info for their own campaigns!

Senempar, City of Shadows
Ruler: Overlord Gal’Drathaz
Government: monarchistic magiocracy
Population: heavily mixed, consisting of human Kymiri expatriates, orcs, serpent men, goblins, dark elves and some estranged shillnavilin silver elves, darendur, minotaurs, ogres and just about any other species looking to make a profit and willing to face the dangers in the Slithotendan Mountains.
Allies: The serpent men of Hazer’Phennis, the dark elves of Pariskar, and numerous trade ports, including those of Golmadras and Etrurias, have treaties established with Senempar. It has friendly relations with many other Hyrkanian city-states, though officially it is regarded as a rogue state by the King of Hyraphon.
Enemies: the dominion of Hyshkorrid seek to destroy or subjugate Senempar; Octzel has a trade emargo in place against Senempari merchants, finding the open policies and relations of the city to be in opposition to Octzel’s standards; Senempar is considered at odds with Kymir, and they have gone to the fields of battle on multiple occasions.

   Senempar was founded about nine centuries ago during the deluge as a place of refuge initially, and later as a fortress of defense against the ravening hordes in the Plague of Unarak. It was a curious side effect of the chaotic energies permeating the Mountains of Madness that allowed priests of the darker gods to channel permanent destructive energies against the undead, and that the possibility of a cure for the plague of undeath was more readily attained by these practitioners. The cult of necromancers who performed such miracles eventually came to be called the Servants of Ashuar, after their mysterious patron deity. In time, these necromancer-priests who had such mastery over death were venerated as kings among men, and over the centuries all ruling members of Senempar’s elite have been indoctrinated in to the cult’s secrets. The current overlord of Senempar, Gal’Drathaz, has ruled now for over a century, having used his own magics to defy death as a lich, a fact that is not advertised but is nonetheless a poorly kept secret among the citizens of the city.
   Because of the potency of this local cult, belonging to a god that seemed to exist outside of the conventional framework of the old beliefs of the gods of order and chaos, Senempar developed a distinct personality as well as becoming something of a safe harbor for many diverse religions. Its population was made up of many races and cultures, all brought together during the plague years for safety, but they jelled in to a unique new whole. Worshippers of Xarion parade in the streets, petitioning for new followers of the Immortal Champion of Chaos side by side with the Agents of Kazdenar, proselytizing for a pure and just life in the service of the demiurge who saved mankind. It is a strange thing to see, a temple district with a grand tower of Warenos’s Esoteric Order at one along with the serpentine tower of Set just opposite.
   Senempar has also done something no other prior venture has succeeded at before it: opened the mysteries of the Mountains of Madness up to the daring and insane for profit and exploitation. There are literally hundreds of ancient tombs and catacombs in the mountains, dedicated to lost kings and the mortal remains of fallen gods, but few have dared do more than seek out the mountains to rob tombs and risk life and limb. Now, the possibility of finding wealth in looting is easier than ever, though it is officially discouraged and punished by the city guard under edict from the Order of Ashuar, which strongly reveres the resting places of the true dead. Because of this, the city is at once a bastion of villainy that seeks to exploit and loot the wealth of the ancient mountains, while a vigilant city watch works constantly to patrol for said looters.
   Besides the tomb robbing, Senempar is now reknowned for being a centerpoint of the mining industry. Vast untapped veins of precious metals and more can be found in the mountains, which have long been the domain of the underworld denizens in the caverns which riddle the entire range. Now, entrepreneurial surface dwellers are working with those friendlier denizens of the underworld to gain access to these unexploited mining veins, with mixed but always profitable results. This has, as the centuries advanced, led to many instances of tension and even war with various mountain-dwelling humanoid tribes.
   Finally the ever present miasma of madness which pervades the mountains seems to have had a strange effect on Senempar, which manages to appear to be a lawless city of contradictions. The city is rife with criminals, but is obsessed with trade and profit. The city is ruled by an order of strange necromancer priests, but it fiercely protects the tombs of the ancient dead from looters. The city was a bastion of safety from the Plague of Unarak, but it is centered in a mountain riddled with ancient chaos energies that induce madness in those who dwell here too long. No citizen of the city is untouched; it is difficult to meet a single permanent resident who is not curiously detached from the reality outside of the mountains.

The Temple Row
   It is here in which dozens of temples of many diverse gods compete for attention and engage in frequent wars of words. The priests of these temples frequently lead pilgrimages in to the mountains to the known sites of the tombs where the mortal remains of fallen gods can be found. There are approximately three dozen temples of prominence in the Row, and several dozen more shrines to lesser gods. Many deities, active or not, have at least a shrine and a small following here. Joining cults In Senempar is almost a pastime to the citizens, who will often belong to several different (and sometimes conflicting) cults.
   Religious zealotry does not escape Senempar, and religious turf wars do break out on occasion. The last major incident was only ten years earlier, when the zealots of Kazdenar grew discontent at the prominence of the Temple of Xarion and led a midnight raid to sack, pillage and burn it. The Order of Ashuar may have cast out the worshippers of Kazdenar for such indiscretions, had they not been slain to a man. There is a small but active cult of new members of the Order of Kazdenar today, who are still trying to piece together what unknown abyssal terrors dispatched an entire company of zealous paladins ten years ago. The enigmatic temple of Xarion remains, fully intact, and its priests aren’t talking.

The Ziggurat-Castle of the Overlord
   It is in this vast structure which the overlord lich is said to dwell in a manner not unlike that of a tomb, and from which the Order of Ashuar rules the day to day affairs of the city. Gal’Drathaz was much loved in his younger years, but his dedication to the Order of Ashuar led him to pursue many strange avenues of power in his later years. He left no heirs, and in his waning years he sought out the secrets of unlife, to preserve himself forever more. He is now at age 154 a lich and the logest living ruler of the city. Despite some unrest caused by his new nature, he was not deposed, and the Order has backed his continued rule.
   Gal’Drathaz is said to be obsessed with uncovering the mysteries of the Skaeddrath, but not because he seeks to worship them. Rather, he is obsessed with unraveling the mystery of these ancient beings, and is one of the few entities in the world to have an intact copy of the Calydarin Codex in his possession. He feels that this codex proves that most of the known gods and religions out there are either very confused or outright lies. Within his inner cabal, he has become obsessed with the notion of eternal godhood, and he thinks the secret lies with the Skaeddrath. His research has led him to uncover evidence of the Cult of Aka’ll in the region, though precisely where the temple of worship to this particular Skaeddrath can be found remains unknown to him.
   Seneschal and Governor-Appointee Hagaran Dorthei is an elder of the Order of Ashuar and also the face man for most day to day affairs in the city. He is a strong loyalist to the overlord, and is also in command of the Dark Watch, the elite military force that protects the Ziggurat-Fortress of the order from which the overlord rules and schemes. He is the one most locals are familiar with; the average citizen tends to think of him as the “real ruler” and that the stories about Gal’Drathaz are just so much nonsense concealing some more insidious but somehow less fantastical plot, probably having to do with the trouble the elder nobles of the Order would have establishing a proper heir of lineage to the throne.

The Necropolis District
   A vast local area walled and protected for local citizens to seek interment. There are tales of ancient crypts and catacombs stuffed full of undead from the Plague Years still trapped within, by the Order of ashuar, for unknown purposes. The great Tower of Kaligas can be found here, a legendary wizard whose tower was built here long before the city that rose up around it. The wizard is said to be immortal, but emerges from his tower once in every few decades to make mysterious proclamations. When his followers announce his intent, pilgrims, advocates and inquisitive scholars and mages flock from all across the Middle Kingdoms to be present and see what Kaligas will say when he emerges. He is most famous for his proclamations predicting the Cataclysm by a year, followed by the announcement a century later than all who flocked to his tower would be safe from the “Plague out of Starthias,” which was what started the immigration that led to the sounding of Senempar.

Fortress Daharak and Pariscar Below
   Here dwells the blunt stone fortress of the ashtarth clan Plagistron, which has now been loyal to the demon-god Belphegor since his rise to power for centuries. After the exile of Dahik when the city was cursed to damnation during the Reckoning, Plagistron and its servant houses came to settle in the mountains, and found a vast cavernous lair beneath the western range. The new subterranean city was called Pariscar, and was christened so with the blood of one thousand slaves. When the city of Senempar was first founded the ashtarth initially saw it as an act of war and attacked.
   It was two centuries before the Order of Ashuar sued for peace, offering a place for the ashtarth to join the city, in a manner similar to the old quarters of Dahik’s presence in the now ruined city of Trog. From this was built the ominous fortress of Daharak, which is sealed from all sides, and in which dark rituals to Belphegor are regularly held.
   The ashtarth of this house are very secretive, but they seem to have become the chief merchants, brokers and middle-men for Senempar, linking it to their subterranean home of Pariscar. Some suspect this is an alliance of convenience, for it is known that the vast and ancient empire of the Hyshkorrid see Pariscar as an annoying blight upon their own dominion beneath the mountains.

Loch Hyradan and the Lake Harbor
   Senempar is located near a small highland loch, called Hyradan, beneath which rumors persist there is a hidden temple to a lost god of old. It is known that a small order of naga have taken up residence in the region, dwelling within the lake and proving to be a fierce nuisance to all who would get in their way.
   The lake itself is extremely deep; it was once a loch, land-locked long ago from a forgotten ice age, and only a narrow river connects the western end of the lake to the Straights of Nyarlith. The river had not been there in previous years, and manifested after the time of the deluge, during which the warming of the world led to the melting of much of the locked glacial ice in the highest regions of the mountains. This in turn led to run off that swelled the loch to overflowing, forging the river that eventually connected to the straight. It is not a navigable river, as it is a rocky white-water ride at best, filled with dangerous shallows and dead ends. As such, caravans to the coast are still the only safe way to move goods from city to sea and back.
   The Fartheram Damn can be found at the loch end, where the loch was once again capped off, to keep the loch full. The damn was not built by human hands, but by the naga, who took the task upon themselves, apparently determined to insure the loch held its integrity.
   The Lake Harbor is a large unwalled section of the city, stretching along the lake shore up to the high plateau where the walled city is located. Here, the bazaars, merchant markets and fisheries can be found, as well as the offices and guild houses of numerous mining companies. Mercenary companies are allowed to set up in the outer city as well, though they are barred from entry to the fortified sections.

The Noble Estates of the Kymiri
   Dotting the landscape around Senempar are several dozen fortified villas, all founded by the expatriates of Kymir who left during the rebellions which sprang up in the city five centuries earlier. Kymir underwent a period of dark inquisition, during which many of the ruling houses were cast down in power as the new cults asserted themselves. In the end, the long-defunct house Strallikus rose once more to power, and asserted the demiurge Xarion as the patron god of the city, but not before many of the nobles had fled, seeking shelter in the dominion of Senempar. For many of these houses, Senempar’s open embrace of many faiths was a unique new concept, one unfamiliar to those who were accustomed to the secretive ways of the old Divinate of Kymir, and they found this refreshing. Others were bitter rivals of house Strallikus and found that the return to power of this old clan was too much for them. As such, the expatriates of Kymir settled in this region and entrenched themselves in local politics.
   Key houses of known repute among the Kymiri include House Bannistar, House Luminorn, House Kether, and House Trykari. These houses have a great deal of local influence, and are major shareholders in key businesses, especially in the mining ventures. Their lack of faith in the Order of Ashuar leaves them somewhat outcast even here, however, for the nobles of the inner circle remain a tight-knit crew, and no overlord of Senempar is allowed to ascend to power in the inner circle without belonging to the order.

Bloodfire District and the Deep Passage
   What began as a sort of barrio for orcish tribes that sought refuge in the region during the plague years turned in to a full blown ethnic center of the city for monstrous humanoids. The Bloodfire Clan of orcs is the most powerful here, said to have a hand in the criminal activities of the city and even running the thieve’s guilds. Although orcs are more common than any other nonhuman in this district, many other such monstrous kin can be found here, from goblins and ogres to minotaurs and serpentfolk. The district also has an entry known as the Deep Passage, a vast cavernous hole that descends in to the depths of the underworld, dug out over a century during the rule of clan lord Graskos about three centuries ago, that allows for more immediate trade with the denizens of the subterranean realms. Unfortunately, the Deep Passage was also the staging ground for the last major incursion of armies assembled by the Hyshkorrid, during an attempted invasion only ninety years earlier. The bloodshed was monumental, and afterward the Bloodfire Clan was ordered to insure the passage was well-defended in the future, lest the Order of Ashuar close it, forcibly.
   The current clan lord is the gul’hlath orc Kromadar, a massive beast of an orc with a huge harem and a lot of influence. He is the only non-Order member allowed to sit on the inner council, a fact that grates upon the ashtarth and other denizens of the city. No one knows why the Order has granted Kromadar this privilege, though those who know of the subterranean politics suspect it is because of Kromadar’s influence among the underworld nations.

The Tomblands and the Mountains of Madness
   East of the city stretch the greater expanse of the vast and overwhelmingly large Slithotendan Mountains, the infamous “Mountains of Madness.” In ancient times, these mountains were believed to have been a spiritual center of learning and a place for ancient monasteries to commune with the mystical power of the gods, who dwelled in their splendrous city of wonders at the foot of the mountains in mortal form. Eventually, this era of ancient glory came to an end when the gods of chaos saw fit to unleash ancient armies of demons upon the land, to destroy the gods in their mortal forms. The divine city of Corti’Zahn was razed, reduced to smoldering ruins after a year-long battle, and the beauty of the mountains was excised by an endless army of demons. Still, after a year, the gods and their forces succeeded against the lords of chaos, and their portals to the abyss were sealed; the damage, alas, was permanent.
   The mountains were at first used to entomb the mortal remains of the fallen gods, and many of them had been slain, though their divinity insured their divine spirits lived on in the celestial realms. Over time, though, it became evident that chaos had somehow tainted the mountains; strange monsters would begin to manifest, the sense of communion with the divine felt by the monks of the high mountains was gone, and the dead inevitably rose from their graves if buried in the soil of the land.
   A few years after the War of the Gods, the last tomb of the fallen god, the mortal form of the Nameless One himself, was sealed, and with this it was declared there would be no more. From here on out, a handful of kings and emporers saw fit to bury their remains in the mountains, but in time the mountains grew to be uninhabited, save for madmen and tomb robbers.
   With the rise of Senempar, this is the first time in thousands of years that a prominent community has dwelled in the mountains. Most feel that the mysterious priest-necromancers of Ashuar are responsible, and that their ancient deity of the Mysteries may in fact be sufficiently powerful to purge the immediate region of the chaotic taint that seems to linger everywhere. Others note that the citizens of Senempar, despite having a semblance of ordinariness about them, still tend to be oddly derange if you get to know them, and that maybe Ashuar does nothing more than confuse everyone in to thinking life is alright here.
   In any case, the eastern slopes of the Great Mountain of Zath, as this particular peak is known, contains a vast track of land known as the Tomblands. Surveryors for the city have counted over five hundred known tombs of old kings, nobles, gods and unknown entities. Dozens of these tombs are still intact, but most have been breached at one time or another in the last several thousand years; few could speculate how many tomb robbers entered that actually left with any loot, for a large number of the tombs are guarded by ancient traps and entities, such as the dreaded Velboshia-lok-Nodivia, the immortal tomb guardians of fabled lore.
    Surveyors have also found evidence of very ancient ruins that seem to predate all previously known cities of antiquity from the founding era of Hyrkania, with a script so ancient none can decipher it. Some speculate that these ruins date back to the Prehunate Era, but others are confident, judging from the script, that the ruins are even older.
   Priests of the Temple Row in Senempar lead pilgrims on journeys to key tombs all the time. There are five known tomb sites that are especially revered by pilgrims from across the realms: The Tomb-Temple of Naril, the Crypt of the the Nameless One, the Tomb of Hella, the Tomb of the Fallen Seraphs, and lastly the Tomb of Nymrador, where the fallen avatar of Seth was interred by the orcs of Saberhaven, to honor him as an ascended immortal.
Port Sadrys
   Located off the Nyarlith Passage, Port Sadrys is the main coastal city that connects to Senempar in the Slithotendan Mountains. From here all trade flows to and from the mountain city, which rests in its valley in the mountains about 30 miles from the coast.
   Because of its position as gateway to and from Senempar, Sadrys grew from a nondescript fishing town over time to a full blown port. Run by Lord Governor Anton Khalis, Sadrys is generally regarded as a lawful place, containing far less of the unusual color and character that can normally be found in its larger sister city, while still profiting from a healthy flow of goods to and from Senempar.

Temple of the Red God
   There are many temples in Senempar, but the Temple of the Red God is a unique beast located on the outskirts of town, along the eastern slopes of Mount Zath, along the path to the Tomblands. The Red God is unheard of anywhere else save in this region, and the worship of this cult began about five centuries ago after a mad prophet and architect named Urzad Yin appeared and developed a rather impressive following in short order.
   The Red God is said to have been an entity which was buried in the mountains eons before the first gods or kings were ever interred here. It was described as a being from the deeps of space, who came to the world to experience the wonders of creation, and to tap the energies of the world to spread peace amongst all living beings. Its followers describe the Red God as a powerful enigma, who can unite all minds to one. They claim that it fell in to a deep slumber beneath the earth, where it’s “tomb” rests in the mountains, and that one day it will awaken. Why the entity fell asleep is unknown; the priesthood says that it became so entranced with the beauty of Gathika that it could not bear to part from the world goddess for one moment, and in so doing fell in to a deep trance; in so doing, it’s mind continued to create, and wove in to existence the world of Dreams, the mysterious realm of Ethenur.
   The temple is an impressive structure, made of red basalt and garishly colored in different crimson hues. The current temple rests along a fault line in the mountains and a recent earthquake devastated much of the original structure, but an outpouring of support from the community led to a repair and rebuild of the grand temple, as well as an effort to restore the unique glass sculpture of the red god within.
   Inside the temple is a marvel of strangeness, an immense statue made by the creator of the temple (Urzad Yin) that appears not unlike an immense red orange covered with pins; at the ends of each pin are bulbous polyp-like objects, some of which are eyes, others of which are of unknown nature. Within a back chamber of the temple is a chamber containing the prophet’s body as well, preserved behind glass for pilgrims to visit.
   Although worship of the Red God is not widespread, many pilgrims still come to visit the god of peaceful creation and the dreamlands. Followers of Akuuris seem to recognize and revere the Red God as well, making pilgrimages to the temple or even to the Tomb of the Red God in the Tomblands, where a deep cavern rests, sealed behind immense adamantite bars. Rumors abound that a former high priestess, a tiefling named Anphyra, angered the guardians of the tomb and was changed in to a horrible, ghoulish creature that lurks in the region.

Personalities of Senempar

   In addition to the key personalities mentioned above, there are some rather (in)famous citizens in the region of note:

High Priest Keradesel of the Temple of Set
   This scheming setite saw fit to build the greatest temple his people have ever seen to the god of riddles and deception. Set’s presence has become so entrenched in the city that he is regarded as the second most popular god, next to Ashuar, in the city. The serpent has even been declared a sacred animal, and to harm on in the city streets in punishable by death. All of this is due to Keradesel’s doings.

Lady Thyliae Setarna
    Lady Setarna is an exiled princess of Etrurias, cast out for her hideous blood-obsession by the lord of Eastonia, who could not bring himself to execute his own daughter for her excesses. She found her home in Senempar, where she is overlooked, and since slavery is permitted in the city she frequently indulges in her fetish for drenching herself in blood. Though she is a normal human, Setarna is also a warlock of the star pact, and is an initiate in the secretive cult of Aka’ll, to whom she prays.

Ashton Gonn Kether
   Ashton is one of the Kymiri expatriates and a dangerous man, for he aspires to gain the funding to raise a large force and seek to overthrow house Strallikus from its long rule in Kymir. His political ambitions have made him a pariah within the city, for most of the elite of Senempar prefer not to go to war with Kymir, but this has only led Ashton to even more dangerous thinking, as he plots to overthrow the Order itself and the mysterious lich overlord if they will not aid him in his schemes.

Polidus Karn
   The elder paladin and knight of the Order of Kazdenar is also a private dedicate to Naril, whom he feels he can commune with. He arrived in the city two years ago, after hearing of the terrible defeat his order experienced when they tried to sack the temple of Xarion. He has been quietly bulding up the order in strength, while engaging in expeditions to the underworld to learn more of how extensive the cult of Xarion is spread, as well as destroying any potential threats to the region outside of the city walls or beneath its streets. He sees the city as a potentially grand venture, but is aware that forces such as the Hyshkorrid and the Cult of Xarion mustbe purged before the city can begin to truly unite its diverse population under a banner of Order.

Nightlord Sratha
   The hyshkorrid mind flayer Sratha is the current “nightlord” of his people, an appointed vanguard whose job it is to destroy or subjugate Senempar and its allies. He has been building up, quietly, waiting for the opportune time to strike, cutting off the power of the overlord and the Order of Ashuar, and bringing the citizens of the city under his command as obedient thralls. He has many aberrant agents hidden within the city even now, seeking intelligence and allies towards his decidedly subtle approach; the last Nightlord, Kamdatha, failed in his direct invasion; Sratha intends to show up the elder by doing it quietly.

Adventures in Senempar:
The Key of the Sleeper
   An ancient relic has been brought to the region of Senempar as an offering to the mysterious Red God, and an unscrupulous collector of magical antiquities will stop at nothing to get it…

Part I: Raid on Sadrys!
The adventurers are returning from a lengthy period away from their home port of Sadrys on their own ship, a coastal two-masted brigantine equipped for war, when they find three foreign vessels flying the colors of Golmadran pirates from the Inner Sea assaulting the harbor. The port is under siege!
   The pirates are led by Captain Athashtar, a notorious Golmadran privateer, who has been employed by the enigmatic Garon Sorlos, collector of relics and antiquities, to secure the mysterious Key of the Sleeper from the merchant Skal Madras before he takes it to its intended destination, the Temple of the Red God.
   The PCs’ arrival will bolster local defenses in to driving the ships away, but upon landing at the docks a fight is underway, as soldiers defend the merchantman from attackers; PCs arrive in time to face the following:

Captain Athashtar
Human Warrior Level 8 NE; HP 56; BAB +8/+3 XP Value 2,400
STR 15 DEX 13 CON 14 INT 10 WIS 12 CHA 16
Defenses: Fort +6, Ref +2, Will +2; AC 20 (Banded Mail +2 magical)
Feats: Weapon Specialization-Scimitar (+1 TH/+2 DMG), Power Attack, Cleave
Skills: Climb +13, Intimidate +14
Attacks: Scimitar +1 Magebane (1D6+5 dmg; +12/+7 to hit; 18-20/X2; extra +2 and +2D6 damage against arcane casters)
Equipment: 200 GP, 3 rubies worth 150 GP each, a map of the Inner Seas marking three known pirate havens

First Mate Kristera (Human Level 6 Warrior CN; HP 42; Attack: Scimitar 1D6+3 dmg, +9/+4 to hit, 18-20/X2 crit; Fort +6, Ref +4, Will +2, AC 18 Banded Mail; Feat: Spec. Scimitar, Power Attack; XP Val 1,200)

24 Golmadran Pirates (Human Level 1 Warriors NE; HP 7; Attack: Scimitar 1D6 dmg, +2 to hit, 18-20/X2 crit; Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +0, AC 17 Banded Mail; Feat: Focus Scimitar; XP Val 135 each)

Total Encounter XP: 6840; 100 XP bonus per PC for rescuing Skal Madras

Interlude: The Plot Thickens
   Skar Madras is a gentle man and a known collector or antiquities, as well as a devout worshipper of the Red God. He is likely known by the PCs from when they grew up in Sadrys, and no one doubts his character or good intentions. Skar Madras will let the PCs know what happened; he arrived this morning by ship, the Lovely lady, an Etrurian freighter which was sunk not thirty minutes after he disembarked…its mast still sticks up out of the water in the harbor. The three pirate ships did the dirty deed. Two days ago his ship had outrun the pirates on the Inner Sea, after they tried to intercept his freighter. He was returning from a successful voyage from Tai’Kong to the province of Nalinot, far to the east across the Bloodsea. He had journeyed there to secure the mysterious relic called the Key of the Sleeper, which was held by monks whom he believed to be fellow worshippers of the Red God, though they called him “sGrol Nag’Ha” in their own enigmatic language. Four of the monks of this remote temple accompanied him, to aid in the presentation of the key.
   Skar Madras believes the key will open the gates to the Tomb of the Red God, and that it may even free the ancient god from its eons-old trance. This will allow the Red God to ostensibly resume its mission of peaceful enlightenment, and may even end all conflict in the world with a renewed understanding of peace and prosperity.
   PCs may be a bit suspicious, but no one has ever, ever accused the Red God of being other than what its priests suggest it is…a supremely benign, pacifistic entity which seeks only nonviolent enlightenment.
   Skal Madras feels that the PCs’ timely arrival was a sign of the Red God in its infinite wisdom of the dreamlands, and he asks…begs!….them to accompany him and his four monks from the east on his journey to the Temple of the Red God. He will offer them generous compensation, in the form of 500 gold apiece for their time, plus the promise of one permanent enchantment each, to be provided for by the temple itself on arrival.
   Skal can offer two more pieces of information: he knows the name of his pursuer to be the rival antiquarian Garon Sorlos, an exile from the Esoteric Order who has an obsessive interest in the acquisition of powerful artifacts; Garon was in Nalinot when Skal was there, and Skal beat him to the punch by mere hours. Second, he believes that there may be servants, even Chosen Ones of some gods that don’t want the Sleeping Red God to awaken, for some reason, and he will tell of a few more odd stories, such as a Sea Titan that nearly capsized his ship.
   Finally, Governor Anton Khalis, himself a follower of the Red God, will beseech the PCs to protect Skal on his pilgrimage, and will offer to outfit them with equipment as needed; he can spare few men, however, after the recent assault; Sadrys has only a small standing militia.
Skal Madras (Human male Level 7 Expert, LG)
The Four Monks of Nalinot (Human males, Level 1 Monks Level 6 Adepts, NG)

Part II: The Journey to the Temple
   Travel to the temple will only take about two days, for Senempar is only 30 miles distant, and the Temple another five miles beyond, but the entire length of the journey will be uphill through mountainous trails and passages. Such is the legacy of a city built as a protective fortress during the years of the Plague of Unarak.
   Elsewhere, Golan Sorlos seeks to recover his bearings. Upon his flagship south of the port, he has set off on foot with an escort of his best men, and now takes an alternate route, somewhat more dangerous but otherwise quicker in to the mountains; it will take him first to the Tomblands, where he intends to intercept the adventurers and Skal before they can use the key. He believes that if the key is used, its power is lost, and he intends to use that power for himself.
   To this end, Golan seeks allies who can move more quickly than he. He calls upon his planar tethers in a ritual of communion and speaks with the Shaitan Djin Erlis, commanding her to go forth, find allies and destroy the party, bringing the key to him. Erlis, compelled by one of the Black Stones of Sartarus which he places around her neck, does so.
   The PCs will be accoster by Erlis and her newfound ally, the stone giant Amgar, while moving through a particularly dangerous and twisty stretch of pathway along a deep ravine. Observant PCs may notice (DC 18 Perception check) that Erlis has a black-light radiating stone in an amulet around her neck that seems to cause her pain. Amgar the giant, however, simply delights in the havoc he can cause.
   Erlis can be freed of compulsion if someone manages to remove the necklace from her: by attacking it directly; it is AC 24, DR 10/- and takes 15 hit points to shatter; or by slipping it from her neck (requires a touch attack with a -8 targeting penalty, but the one who takes it must make an immediate DC 25 Will save or be compelled to steal the key and flee to Golan until the amulet is knocked from his grasp. PCs that figure out the amulet and do not kill Erlis each get a 200 XP bonus.
   Amgar will fight on regardless of what Erlis does; he can feel the mysterious power of the key and now craves it for himself…

Erlis, Shaitan Genie LN Large Outsider CR 7; HP 85; XP Value 3,200 (Bestiary Page 143); Treasure: Wand of Shrink Item (12 charges), 5 gems worth 50 GP each, 125 platinum pieces, and A Ring of Stone Shape (1/day)

Amgar, Stone Giant TN Large Humanoid CR 8; HP 102; XP Value 4,800 (Bestiary page 151)
Treasure: 5 crude fist-sized gems (worh 100 GP as is, much more if refined by a jeweler), and one Rusty Bag of Tricks (page 501)

Interlude: Arrival at the Temple of the Red God
   The PCs cut through the outskirts of Senempar and make their way directly to the Temple along the road to the Tomblands. Many people stop and stare at the procession…a few dedicates to the Red God will join in, following the group, singing strange songs in the Old Tongue.
   Arrival at the temple is a strange experience, as hundreds of local pilgrims have gathered, along with many from far lands. A group of insectoid beings dedicated to Akuuris watch the presidings with interest, but no one seems worried. Inside the temple the high priest and priestess greet the PCs. The high priest is Nephos, a beautiful entity (an aasimar) and the high priestess is Anphyra, a tiefling. Together they will bow before Skal Madras and graciously accept the key, after which they enter the temple confines and offer it to the immense, bulbous statue that looks like a massive red fruit with strange rounded pins projecting in all directions from it.
   The chamber fills with a dreamy haze. A sense of calm washes over the room, and a great, dark shadow crosses over all, as if an immense object has eclipsed the chamber and the roof is absent. The mist parts, revealing a tower that reaches high in to the sky. A fountain of red pours from a distant spout above, washing down over the statue, which comes to life. Long polyp-like tendrils extend forth and take the key, in turn presenting it to the PCs. “You must awaken the dreamer,” it intones. “Go to my tomb. Awaken me, that I may share the beautiful dream at last.”
   The vision fades and all are profoundly moved. PCs who are creeped out by the experience may sense something is amiss…the Red God seems to be swathed in decidedly nonhuman imagery. The high priests will beg them to resume the journey, to take the key to the gates, for the god chose them specifically.
   PCs have two choices here. If they proceed, then they begin the following morning on a journey deep in to the tomblands. They will encounter the tomb guardian, and then plunge in to the vast cavern in which the body of the Red God lies dreaming.

Option 1
   The PCs escort the Red God priests and pilgrims to the cave entrance where the great gate rests. The key opens the ancient gate easily. The gate is made of an impenetrable substance that defies all physical and magical attacks otherwise. Upon opening the gate, an ancient lamia named Zamiin appears, summoning a horde of skeletal minions aimed at the pilgrims, and attacks. The whole time she proclaims she is the dreaming daughter of the Red God and that none shall awaken him!

Zamiin, Serpentine Lamia CL 6, NE, HP 108, XP Value 2,400 (Bestiary page 186)
6 Skeletal Champions CR 2, NE, HP 17, XP Value 600 each (Bestiary page 252)

  After this encounter, the PCs are then free to enter the cavern, which opens up in to a vast expanse (see the cavern, below). In this option, they witness the awakening of the Red God, and perhaps realize too soon that he must sleep…

Entering by means other than the Gate:
   The entire region of the cave entrance is a coterminous planar portal to the Abyssal realms. Passing over the walls of the region, climbing over the gate, flying, levitating or teleporting will all reveal this horrible fact; any entity doing so can still return to the mortal plane, as a resonant planar rift will exist for several seconds after one passes through and into the plains fo Abaddon at the entry to the yawning Abyss, but if they don't act within 1D4 rounds the rift will close. Anyone who appears in the Abyss or who subsequently flees has a 50% chance of attracting the attention of demonic denizens (GM's choice) that will immediately manifest, possessing the closes unintelligent or dead matter in the mortal plane (or manifesting in their full glory if still in the Abyss) and attacking the intruders.

Option 2
   If they choose the second option, they retire to Senempar where a few days later a wounded and half-delerious Golan Sorlos will seek them out, and beseech them to aid him in stopping the priests from awakening the Red God. He will explain that his men did indeed make haste and get to the tomblands, but only in time for them to witness the congregation of pilgrims opening the gate to the cavern. Within the gate emerged a terrifying guardian who refused the pilgrims passage, a lamia named Zamiin.
   Zamiin tore the pilgrims apart, but the high priests called upon the power of the key to repel her, and she fled. Golan Sorlos then sought to steal in after the high priests, but was massacred when the lamia returned and attacked. Before he fled, the lamia told him, “I am the daughter of the Red God’s dreams. I know what he portends, for in his awakening he will destroy the world of dream, and with it the sanity of all waking men. Go if you value your life, and leave me be. I must hunt.” She then entered the cavern herself.

Golan Sorlos (Human male wizard level 12 NE; HP 44)

The Cavern of the Red God
   The PCs have reason to worry, for indeed none of the heroes have been able to sleep for the last two nights, and all are growing quite tired. Is it possible the Red God was awakened, and can he be put to rest again? The PCs may then trek to the cavern themselves, where they can confront and maybe forge an alliance with the lamia Zamiin, who is now deep in the cavern and quite insane. The high priests are both present as well, now transmogrified in to shadow remnants.

Shadows of the High Priests, page 254 bestiary, XP 800 each; use greater shadows if the PCs are tougher

   The Red God is an immense version of its own statue, slowly awakening, and in turn disincorporating the entire dream realm of humanity. As it comes to life, it becomes painfully evident from the haunting voices around the PCs that come from nowhere, as well as from the proclamations of the lamia if she is present, that the Red God is far older than any imagined, and that he himself is an immense “prison key” to the dreamlands, which were originally created to lock away the souls of the Skaeddrath in time immemorial, long before the gods as men know them even existed…if he should fully emerge, the dream world is destroyed, and the Skaeddrath awaken.
   If the PCs are approaching the temple after the red god has been awake for a few days, then the primordial entity itself is already thrashing about as it is forced from its dream of reverie, which it desires not to end, for it is addicted to the entrancing “sight” of the primal goddess Gatika that it sees all around. PCs who try to communicate with it (by touch) must make a DC 30 Will save. Failure by more than 10 points results in a terrible psychic backlash (2D6 INT damage temporarily). Failure by less than 10 points causes 1D6 INT damage but they sense that the creature needs the key removed from the hole at its base. Success means no damage is taken, and they find themselves transported in to the mind of the Red God, which appears to literally contain the whole of Ethenur itself. There, the Pyramid Heads will gather and the immense red god will manifest in humanoid form, covered in polyps and “feelers” with a single immense eye in its face. The red god will beg them to return it to the vision of the mother goddess, for the sake of all.

End Game
   Stopping the Red God from awakening is worth a 1,500 XP bonus per PC! Failure is not really an option. Should all else fail, the lamia herself will lurch over and dislodge the key, or perhaps one of the high priests shadows will suddenly realize the error of their ways and do so. Worst case, Golan Sorlos himself realizes what must be done and takes it for himself, erupts in a blaze of power, and then teleports away to safety with the artifact. The red god will fall back in to eternal slumber, and the lamia, if she is too badly wounded, will demand a new guardian to take her place at the gates. The high priests will offer if they are still alive.
   As a strange alternate ending, the PCs do not remove the key, and all mortal beings begin to dive in to madness as they are no longer capable of sleep. The world erupts in to carnage until several days later, when the avatar Gilrad, accompanied by the demiurges Kazdenar and Tanis appear to find out what happened, and to remove the key, putting the sleeper to rest. They then take the key and take it to a very secure, unknown location. If this is the conclusion, PCs can roll DC 15 Will saves with a +5 to each will save daily as well as Fortitude saves for 1D10 days; each time they fail they take 1D4 INT (will) and CON (Fort) damage that is not recoverable until they experience true rest. If one or both stats go to 0 then the PC perishes from fatigue and sleeplessness.

Bonus Mystery: Who Made the Key?
   PCs who speak at length with the high priests will learn that they believe the key was dreamed in to existence by the Red God so that he could be awakened, but the stories on how this came to be are many and varied.
   Golan Sorlos has a different tale. He says that an ancient, evil entity, a Prehunate of such power that he was feared by his own kind, ruled an ancient empire thousands of years ago which still lingers to this day as the Gray Empire in the far east, beyond even Nalinot. He believes that this prehunate learned of the mysterious Red God and for whatever reason (for Sorlos knows little of the Skaeddrath cults) crafted the key to awaken the god. The Gray Emperor was so mad, it appears, that he thought he could harness the very power of the chaos krakens for himself.
   Skal Madras and his monks agree that the key was found and transported to the temple in Nalinot for safe-keeping. They story they had heard was slightly different: that the sleeper was imprisoned by the Gray Emperor, and that it was because he feared the power locked within the Red God and wanted to insure it was never released.
   In the interim, any resolution to the scenario in which the Key of the Sleeper is not spirited away to unknown lands leaves it a potential tool for industrious cultists of the Kraken and other Skaeddrath who wish to insure their dark gods awaken. If word gets out, it could lead to a hunt for whomever keeps the key!

Disclaimer: Senempar, City of Shadows is written by Nicholas Bergquist and copyright 2011 by Nicholas Bergquist, all rights reserved. Permission to print for personal use granted!