Have you ever written a detailed and complex history for your campaign only to watch it gather dust as your players focus on the now and not concern themselves with the prior events of your campaign world? As a player, have you ever been intrigued by a campaign setting’s rich history only to find that your GM never uses anything from the campaign’s past? Providing interesting and detailed histories for your campaign can really help the world come alive on the table and within your players, however it is far to easy to create a detailed history and then focus on the current and future events of your game. This doesn’t have to be the case; some of the more interesting games and adventures can be fueled by events that have happened in the world before your adventurers even arrived. Below is a detailed scenario in which new adventurers can become involved in a historical event that never concerned them.
Nineteen years ago the small township of Martidge was torn asunder by the undead hordes of a vile necromancer known as Yalin. The elf born necromancer had a lair within the nondescript mountains that lie two days away from Martidge. Within the natural caverns below the mountains Yalin had worked his foul magic to summon vile undead creatures from the Shadowfell. The young elf’s parents had been fleeing an orc raid the night Yalin was born. During their flight the birth struck Yalin’s mother and she unknowingly gave birth within the sanctified area of an ancient altar of Orcus. With fear in his heart that the orcs would discover them and concerned only for the safety of his child and wife, Yalin’s father cut his child from his wife’s body, with the precision of a master elven swordsman; unknowingly completing a dark ritual. The family survived that horrid night and lived in peace for the rest of their lives. On one of those peaceful nights, Yalin slaughtered his parents and began serving his true father, Orcus.
After years of hiding and honing his necromantic magic, Yalin unleashed his undead horde upon the quiet town of Martidge in search of the ancient relic known as the Sceptre of the Forlorn, with this relic and the power it held Yalin would reach the level of strength he needed to better serve his master. The townsfolk of Martidge stood no chance against the necromancer and his forces as they were quickly killed and enslaved to the will of the necromancer in undeath. For three years Yalin used the Sceptre to strike fear across the land, destroying and killing relentlessly in the name of his lord. Royal summons and pleas from those lucky enough to escape the mounting hordes rallied heroes and adventurers from across the world to try and stop the necromancer. Many of these heroes perished in their grand struggle with the elven necromancer, until one fateful day two warriors achieved what none before could.
The warriors Keordan and Jarlyn defeated the mighty necromancer in an epic struggle, but with his dying breath Yalin cursed the lands he had conquered and the heroes who had struck him down. With a resounding and thunderous roar, the Sceptre of the Forlorn exploded, unleashing a venomous cloud that permanently scarred the lands of Martidge. The shrapnel of the relic imbedded itself within Jarlyn, killing him instantly, while Keordan’s right arm was left useless and dead from the explosion. To this day the lands of Martidge sustain no life, and no living creature will willingly enter the cursed lands.
Soon after the necromancer’s defeat the new town of Kartidge was established to the south. In this rapidly growing town a statue of Jarlyn stands mighty within the green town square in thanks for his sacrifice, while the maimed hero Keordan lurks within the taverns and inns clinging desperately to his ale.
The Old Warhorse
Adventurers who visit the town of Kartidge are very quickly found by a tall greying man who hastily asks for their help. The thick aroma of ale accompanies the middle-aged man who constantly wears the expression of regret. Aged muscle covers the mans frame except for his blackened and gnarled right arm which hangs limp within an ale drenched sling. This ale soaked and crippled man is the legendary hero Keordan. With respect for the old hero, townsfolk within Kartidge will quickly inform him of the arrival of adventurers within the town as they are well aware of his desires. Wasting little time with introductions Keordan quickly confronts the heroes with a semi-slurred tale of woe and regret.
The common belief that the old hero’s partner Jarlyn died during their battle with Yalin is untrue. After the Sceptre of the Forlorn exploded and the shards of the relic crippled Keordan and felled Jarlyn, Keordan watched his friend rise again. His body was scarred beyond recognition, the lifeless body arose under the control of the dark magic held in the shards now lodged within its flesh. Keordan first tried to save his friend to no avail, he then tried to destroy the evil that occupied his friend’s body but without the use of his right arm he was little match for the undead monstrosity.
For the past nineteen years he has waited, trained and searched for kindhearted heroes willing to help in his quest for peace, for both himself and his long lost friend. Every day the pain of his scarred arm reminds him of what was lost, and the evil that lurks nearby. Heroes willing to help Keordan in his venture are offered his eternal thanks and what little money and possession he has. Keordan is also quick to announce that within the corrupted lands of Martidge, the magical items of many fallen heroes still remain untouched and may be easily acquired.
Like an enormous pox scar upon the soil, the once fertile farming grounds of Martidge are now a barren desert of grey ashy soil. Spotted across the land charred stumps stick out of the ground like broken fingers petrified in agony. Hollow winds carry no noise as the eerie quiet presses down upon the sanity of any foolish enough to enter the dead landscape. Mounds of ash that were once buildings are indiscernible from the wind swept dunes that hide the horizon and any looming threats, while bleached skeletons litter the landscape clinging to old weapons and armour. Shadows skitter across the land under the muted sunlight that struggles to pierce the dust-riddled air.
The near two decade old curse has lost little of its original power and any mortal creature that enters these lands constantly breathes in the undead poison that seeps out of every molecule within the landscape. Magical items are left unattended on the corpses of the fallen heroes that failed their noble tasks so many years, however these finely crafted items are not immune to the disease and effects of this cursed land. Collecting these priceless items runs its own risk as some of the latent magic within these items has become corrupted over the years, causing the items to act in unusual ways.
For every hour a character spends within the Cursed Lands of Martidge, they need to make a DC 13 Endurance check or lose a healing surge. The first round of every combat within the Cursed Lands of Martidge, the character must make a DC 13 Endurance check or they lose one healing surge and are weakened (save ends).
Magical Items are scattered across the Cursed Lands of Martidge, however for every item a PC finds they need to roll a d4. A result of 3 or 4 rewards the PC with a normal Magical Item. A result of 1 or 2 grants the PC a Cursed Item. Cursed Items function exactly like normal magic items, except with an addition effect determined by the DM. Some suggested Cursed Items effects are:
- Frenzy: While bloodied, a character must attack the nearest target including allies and the item grants +1d6 damage.
- Cumbersome: The item grants an extra +1 to hit. If a character misses with an attack while using this item they become Dazed until the end of their next turn.
- Lethargic: The item grants an extra +1 to all defenses, but each time a character is hit while wielding this item they are slowed until the end of their next turn.
- Cowardice: The item grants an extra +1 to hit with ranged attacks, but when hit by an attack the character wielding this item immediately falls prone.
The Undead Hero
Wandering aimlessly throughout the cursed lands of Martidge is the infected undead corpse of Jarlyn, hero of Kartidge and slayer of Yalin. His once handsome features are now permanently scarred beyond recognition while his two decade old corpse slowly rots on the bones being held together by the evil that animates him. The shards of the Sceptre of the Forlorn within Jarlyn have a basic sentience, knowing and desiring only two things: to hurt the living and to become whole again.
Using the trained instincts of its host body’s muscles the Sceptre fights with the grace of a master swordsman. An aura of pure undeath emanates from Jarlyn’s corpse that kills anything living within minutes, while the Sceptre sustains itself by draining the life from any creature that harms it. If confronted by multiple opponents the Sceptre of the Forlorn will use it’s necrotic powers to animate the bleached skeletons of fallen heroes that are scattered across the landscape. When the Sceptre of the Forlorn feels its host body begin to weaken and deteriorate, the Sceptre unleashes a blast of pure necromantic magic in a final effort to kill its attackers.
Freed From The Past
When the adventurers return to Keordan with Jarlyn’s remains he thanks them profusely, rewarding them with all his current wealth. Secondly the townspeople of Kartidge rally together to freely offer their services to the heroes who returned the body of their greatest saviour. Long after the adventurers move on from Kartidge, the single shard within Keordan’s arm reacts with the now dormant shards inside the remains of Jarlyn’s corpse. Sensing the rest of itself, the lone shard exerts its latent necromantic energy and reforms. The consequences of this event for Keordan are up to you as the DM, he can either be corrupted by the event or seriously injured. One thing is for sure, with the Sceptre of the Forlorn reformed it is only a matter of time before another necromancer haunts the Cursed Lands of Martidge, the people of Kartidge, and history repeats itself.