Campaign of the Month: May 2014
Ladies in Hades and the Dyval Wears Prada
Well today certainly was a mixed-bag.
We traveled from the dust-caked shit-kicker village toward Jerusalem but ran into Kerak Castle on the way. It is one of 3 major castle outposts for the crusaders. You guys did a lot of great playing in character and RP. James stayed outside the castle for most of the session until Trent persuaded him to check Apple at the door — which he did despite his insanity that relies upon her for his entire source of power…and Apple is super-pissed at him and not even talking to him which puts his insanity in an even WORSE spot. Somehow, after all of this, James ended up with the most experience for the session. Whoa! Hehe! I’m very curious to see who gets the MVP vote.
Let’s see? When you guys got there you were questioned and then forced to leave all your weapons and armor at the coat-check to gain entry. You did a little recon and saw a mother and two children — downtrodden, abused, gun-shy, and religiously persecuted — and all three of them were wearing red-string bracelets. Trent and possibly Zander recognized the reference from Zoroastrianism and from a possible Kabbalah connection but also with the Illuminates of Thanateros and Korbin Slayne. Zander proceeded to wheel ’n deal by trading a merchant his ball of concentrated plague-cense…which got smoked two seconds after it was sold and Zander sent him out of the city to be cured by James and Cross. SUCCESS!!!
Zander then buggered off and did a little recon and talked to James over the wall and went into a commissary and saw a door that was guarded. Trent went off to find the man in charge of the Muslim refugees to bargain for the freedom of the woman and her two red-string braceleted children. And after some serious clandestine conversation it turned out that he was actually a member of The Poor Fellow-Solders of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon — a secret inner sanctum order within the Order of the Knights-Templar. These soldiers take vows of poverty and can own and hold NOTHING — no value but their life. Even their weapons belong to the order and to the church. Seems kinda contradictory that they’re the first implemented form of banking in Medieval Europe and the Western world. Regardless, this splinter-cell within the order is organized much like a terrorist organization and they actually fight against the establishment to keep refugees off the plantations and away from the slave pens.
Dan cooked dinner for us all and it was incredible! It was some kind of pumpkin shrimp coconut stew with some serious yellow pepper paste stew! I loved it!
Then you guys decided to stay the night and Trent had to determine whether or not he wanted to join the order and be entrusted. He was given a ring when he came back and he and the rest of the group went outside the castle to persuade James again to just fucking apologize to Apple and come be a part of the game. He refused to apologize like the arrogant demigodling he is and persisted with the idea that he had done nothing wrong. The group decided to do some furtive maneuvers on the overnight and it involved dimensional envelopes and scrolls of astral projection and Zander dimension-straddling feats. You didn’t find anything of note except a large spherical shape of astrally-impassible bricks that had been rune-branded by the Free and Loyal Masons.
After that you headed out the next morning with the woman and her two children in tow — got your shit outta hock — and headed to Jerusalem where you encountered more people wearing the red string of fate and an enlightened demon who knew chinese mudras for the opening of a primordial chaos portal. You also got a pretty major hint that there was a spear hidden back at castle kerak.
The demon called himself Karma. He told you guys he was a Taoist and that in his enlightenment he had transcended the traditional classification of alignment. He wasn’t viewed through the dragon’s eye gem but he definitely was a demon. He told you about his brother Kismet who is an enlightened deevil. He is traveling a different path toward enlightenment but no less valid. He talked about the string of fate, destiny, and also the kabbalah. There was a giant mosaic behind him of the Qliphothic Spheres of Divine Creation (10) and the Kabbalah Tree of Life. He also produced the first relic clue in the form of the Horn of Cornucopia.
Also, HDSS found some logs and manifests of the merchant ships and companies used to send shipments of the hashish that is somehow being morphed or tainted or contaminated into the plague-cense.
What follows are some of my notes on tonight’s excerpt and a snippet of what we’ll pick up again after Thanksgiving when we have our CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION!
MAIN PLOT CONTINUATION: THE MIDDLE EAST
HOOK: When the PCs arrive in the middle east — however they arrived (by boat from Copenhagen, by overland travel / horseback, or by Nirvana) — the main plot will continue.
In the middle of the Holy Land there are a few plantations / manors / kibbutz that harvest these herbs and sell them to various apothecaries and alchemists to create incenses, teas, potions, and mystic unguents. These farms and plantations are worked by slaves and they try to keep a neutral and VERY LOW profile. Some have been taken over by the Crusaders and donated to the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon — and some are still run by Muslims.
The plantations aren’t very forthcoming with their financial information and will forcibly resist any kind of interrogation. Their money is usually dirty and some of it has been coming from Rome and more has been coming from Saladin’s camp. A quick look at their books and a cross-reference of their sales ledgers will lead the group to a Knights of Malta shipping company (also with the initials KoM — Kings of Mediterranean) that has ports / docks in Tyre and Tripoli. A trip to one of these cities docks’ will allow the PCs to begin interrogating the Shipping and Trade company, Kings of the Mediterranean. The log books from the plantation in the Middle East will match up to the shipping manifests and a match can be made and points off-shore on Rhodes, Malta, and Cyprus will be indicated as possible destinations. The shipping manifest declares that most of the shipments are paid for by Papal Writ and come from the Vatican coffers but a few of the others are paid in “gold” upon delivery.
Hook: You come upon a dust-caked shit-kicker village that is absolutely littered with bodies. The corpses have been freshly slaughtered and are just starting to bloat and decay. The stench is unbearable and flies and buzzards and rats are already starting to feast. It doesn’t take much investigation to find horse tracks that lead away from here — into the sands of the desert. The tracks lead to an encampment of holy soldiers — a contingent of men wearing the cross proudly and dispatched here with the express consent of the Papal Patriarch himself — with a WRIT OF DOCTRINE to prove it! They are so confident in their mission and they have been pre-absolved of all their sins that they are going hog wild. Raping, pillaging, torturing, sacking, and stealing any and all holy relics they can get their hands on. They have the endorsement of the church! But all is not what it seems.
Line: A rare few knights actually show kindness to the captured and defeated people and prisoners. A secret Order of Knights who call themselves The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon are participating as they can in the crusades as both missionaries and generals on the battlefield. They claim to be a part of the crusade but they seem to have a soft spot in their hearts for helping the underdog. They undermine the catholic armies and help ease the suffering of the women and children as they can. The PCs are entrusted with this information by one of the Order and they are let in on a little secret:
CLUE #1: Although the primary mission of the Order was military, relatively few members are combatants. The others acted in support positions to assist the knights and to manage the financial infrastructure. The Templar Order, though its members were sworn to individual poverty, was given control of wealth beyond direct donations.
A nobleman who was interested in participating in the Crusades might place all his assets under Templar management while he was away. Accumulating wealth in this manner throughout Christendom and the Outremer, the Order in 1150 began generating letters of credit for pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land: pilgrims deposited their valuables with a local Templar preceptory before embarking, received a document indicating the value of their deposit, then used that document upon arrival in the Holy Land to retrieve their funds. This innovative arrangement was an early form of banking, and may have been the first formal system to support the use of checks; it improved the safety of pilgrims by making them less attractive targets for thieves, and also contributed to the Templar coffers.
Based on this mix of donations and business dealing, the Templars established financial networks across the whole of Christendom.
CLUE #2: They acquired large tracts of land, both in Europe and the Middle East; they bought and managed farms and vineyards; they built churches and castles; they were involved in manufacturing, import and export; they had their own fleet of ships; and at one point they even owned the entire island of Cyprus. They just so happen to own a few manors and farms and vineyards and kibbutz where an herb is cultivated that is the cause of the plague. The players will see a plan that looks very familiar although they’ve never seen it in its natural form before.
Sounds like an ulterior motive to me!
The papal seat has political reasons for pushing the crusades. Besides just wanting Christian access to the holy relics in the middle east they also used these wars to unify the catholic church and most of Europe against the Muslims as a common enemy. The Byzantine Empire and the Seljuk Turks are vilified.
Sinker: In the Third Crusade Saladin
Side Plot: Rescue Loki!
Hook: The hook of this side-plot is actually in the Sinker of the main plot. A few of the clues in the previous HLS are actually clues for THIS HLS. After finding out Loki is imprisoned on Wormwood the PCs have an opportunity to contact or be contacted by Odin. He will inform them that now, more than ever, it is imperative that we create a Martyr for the Norse Pantheon. Odin does not have the mystical energy to open a portal to Wormwood and Earth is too “low magic” for him to do ANY of his traveling without more P.P.E. from his followers. But the World Tree will open a Gateway to wherever the Martyr-Savior wants to go…if he survives the ordeal.
He promises to bestow mystic knowledge to whoever does this for him and for all of Asgard — in addition to the knowledge which is gained from the Tree itself. One lucky contestant will be hung from Yggdrassil and must be pierced by a special spear.
Soul Edge (Broken Destiny)
A spear, Gungnir, a holiest greatest rune weapon – must be used in conjunction with two other spears to puncture the hero’s side as he hangs from the world tree. Gungnir, like the Spear of Destiny and the Lance of Longinus, has incredible powers to transfer to those who are wounded…and live. Gungnir must be shattered and re-forged and formed with the Spear of Destiny and the Lance of Longinus (two separate items — both found in the middle-eastern reliquaries or already captured in a crusade). Together, these three weapons form the Soul Edge – Broken Destiny.
Line: This is a long HLS that will require a trip to the middle east / the holy land and possibly even a trip to the holy seat of power — the Vatican in Rome. If the party agrees to do this for Odin they will be headed to the ransacked reliquaries of the Middle East where hordes of Muslims await and Saladin’s Janissary forces storm Jerusalem and war with the European crusaders.
The holy land is rife with conflict at holy sites like Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and the states of the Outremer a general name given to the Crusader states established after the First Crusade: the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the County of Tripoli and especially the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Crusader states were a number of mostly 12th- and 13th-century feudal states created by Western European crusaders in Asia Minor, Greece and the Holy Land.
These 3 castles will be the group’s temporary bases of operation if they wish to seek out the seven (eight) holy sites and reclaim the relics. These castles will be a perfect place for the group to meet and interact with members of the Templars and Hospitaller to get clues as to the purpose and locations of the relics. Some of the relics have already been recovered by the Muslims and others relics have been purloined by the Crusaders and currently housed in the castles themselves. Thus begins the great scavenger hunt!
CLUES & LOCATIONS:
Jerusalem – a node for the scenario – SANDBOX CLUE #A: Multicultural and many religions here. Islam, Judaism, Christianity / Orthodoxy, and even Kabbalah (people secretive but ALL wearing a red string bracelet to ward off bad luck / the evil eye). There will be scenes of religious persecution here and people being mistreated and an overall tension of war where the city’s quarters are divided. The city has been fought over many times but the Muslims and Christians have dug their heels in and each refuses to relinquish their hold on their particular quarter of the city. SANDBOX CLUE #B: The Kabbalists are looked down upon as a heathen religion of mysticism and they are unwelcome and hazed in all quarters of the city. They only have one temple in the city and it is hidden and kept secret to protect their worshipers — underground at the Cenacle of Mount zion — the site of the Last Supper.
Relic#1: Cornucopia (Horn of Plenty) — CLUE: Plentiful is the Crown when Bounteous Be the super-conscious WILLPOWER
In this Kabbalah temple the PCs will see an image of the Ten Spheres of Qliphoth / Sephirothic System of 10 primordial ideals with which the Megaverse was created. An enlightened Demon (he calls himself Kismet) and introduces himself as the twin brother of Kismet, an enlightened Deevil (in a far-off land furthering another way of life and philosophy), sitting in the temple will provide the following HINT / CLUE to be used later for the solving of the puzzle. As well as offer the PCs the FIRST RELIC for their help and service in freeing the Kabbalah and its devoted practitioners from religious persecution.
MAJOR SANDBOX #A (KARMA / KISMET INFORMATION HINT#1):The 72-Letter Name of God — Shem HaMephorash – the explicit name of god, the Tetragrammaton, should never be spoken — that’s why there are many names for God — YHWH / Yahweh, Eyeh-Asher-Eyeh / I Am That I Am, Adonai, Elohim, Jehovah, Allah, etc.
TANTALIZING CLUE #1 — KARMA / KISMET whets your whistles and piques your curiosity with hints of an ancient prize — perhaps an exceedingly rare and unique reward that lays at the end of this rainbow.