IN SEARCH OF OBSCURE CYCLE
What lurks in caves that are hidden even from the gods? What happens if you go off a centuries-old trail, towards the unknown? What happens if you imagine, for a moment, that familiar places can still hide the ancient secrets? The cycle «In Search of Obscure» will test the character of your heroes, as they will face the things they haven’t seen before, the things that will seem like a bad dream the next morning. And sometimes the heroes themselves will be their main foe.
The adventure is created without binding to any specific RPG system. You can easily transfer both gameplay features and numerical values to your preferred system. Use the aspects of characters and locations at your discretion, while disclosing or hiding what you want from the characters. Make the heroes pass checks or be guided by common sense – now it’s your adventure!
BEYOND THE MOUNTAINS ADVENTURE
In the vast areas of the northern peoples, there is a rule that is taught from early childhood. Never go towards the Ashy Mountain. Don’t think about it. Don’t look into the shadows on its peak. Don’t look at it at night. Run from it even in your sleep.
Otherwise, they’ll come for you. The men wearing animal masks, accompanied by the ancient monster shadows sent by the furious gods. They will make you one of them.
And it will be you who will guard the artifact that should not fall into the hands of any man, for the rest of your life.
Same rumors in different parts of the world give hope that the artifact the heroes are searching for is here. Its endless energy can be concealed only at the top of the Ashy Mountain, hidden far to the north. A thing that even the oldest of the gods are ashamed of can be only there, among the clouds. The object, the existence of which proves the absurdity of worshipping the Almighty God.
The artifact that can bring back life.
The Ashy Mountain can hide the other artifacts, the ones that will be more suitable for your campaign.
THE DEEP NORTH
It’s not enough for the heroes to go to a place where it snows all year round without a break. They need to go further; to go to the places that are hidden so deeply that only the dead know about the creatures living there.
Preparation. The heroes should prepare for such an adventure. The way will be harsh even to the last known northern settlement, not to mention the things that await them next.
Harsh conditions. The deeper the heroes move north, the harsher the conditions will be.
Introduce the COLD LEVEL as soon as possible and show it to the players. You can make it 10 points, where 1 – the heroes feel almost no cold and can move freely, 5 – the cold is significant and the heroes need very warm clothes and they get penalties for movement, 10 – everything around freezes and the heroes get serious penalties for ability checks and movement; it’s almost impossible to walk and do something.
During the adventure, the cold level can increase or decrease depending on the weather and the depth of the heroes’ journey to the Ashy Mountain. Hiding from blizzards, using equipment, and warm clothing, the heroes reduce their feeling of cold by removing negative effects.
Use the weather conditions to give your adventure dramatic effects. If the heroes can easily cope with difficulties and enemies on their way – a sudden storm can toughen their mission.
If your heroes have powerful magic that allows them to overcome these conditions easily – consider the effects of cold a strong magic that blocks these abilities.
Having gathered their wits and found the forgotten trails, the heroes will conquer the first peak, HAIRUN MOUNT, visible to them from afar. On the way up, the heroes will learn more about the northern people by stumbling upon the remains of the perished expedition.
The local northern peoples have a legend about the strongest warrior named ERNA. She had no rivals in strength. After losing her family in a deadly storm, she went far north and climbed the highest mountain so that the gods could hear her. But they only laughed at her grief. Only the youngest and most merciful among them understood Erna. When the sky cleared up, she saw the icy heart of the dead god at her feet. Holding it firmly in her hands, she gave her own life to return her family.
For many years, her family united the Northern peoples until the wind spread the rumors about the divine intervention.
The gods were angry at Erna. One of them smashed a high mountain with a powerful blow of an axe, leaving only a smoldering shard of it. Dark ashy monsters rose from those places, forcing most of the northerners to leave their old haunts and go as far away as possible.
Hundreds of years later, the shard faded away, leaving only black ash on its top. This shard was called Ashy Mountain, and there is still the heart of the forgotten god lying on its top and his heartbeat does not stop for a second.
Now, these places are guarded by the northerners who are faithful to the ancient gods, along with the ashy monsters on their side. And the silhouette of a giant creature, sprinkling against the background of the Ashy Mountain, makes the blood of even the bravest warriors run cold in the veins.
As they climb to the top of HAIRUN, the heroes realize this was only the first step towards conquering the Ashy Mountain. Even the path to its foot is full of deadly dangers.
THE WAY TO THE FOOT OF THE ASHY MOUNTAIN
To reach the foot of the Ashy Mountain, the heroes should go through dangerous ascents and descents, narrow canyons, and northerners’ settlements.
Settlements of the Northerners. On their way, the heroes can find abandoned settlements of the northerners. There they can find valuable supplies, have a rest, warm-up, and learn a little more about the GUARDIANS – the northerners who protect these lands. However, not all of the settlements can be safe.
SETTLEMENTS OF THE NORTHERNERS
|1||The inhabitants of the settlement fled, leaving some supplies and equipment, but there is no shelter here.|
|2||The village ruins are hidden in a windless place and are patrolled by the Guardians at night.|
|3||The abandoned hunting village with a secret shelter in the mountain. The heroes can find something valuable there.|
|4||The Guardians set up an observation point and bring the resources from other places here. Several groups are patrolling the vicinities.|
|5||Ruins of a large house indicate where one of the elders used to live. The heroes will find shelter and warm clothes here.|
|6||A place that seemed to be quiet and peaceful at first appears to be the beast’s’ lair.|
Obstacles on the way. Frost will not be the only enemy of the heroes on their way to the artifact.
- Suddenly, a breakaway piece of the mountain blocks the heroes’ way through the canyon. The noise draws the attention of the Guardians and the Ashy monsters.
The Guardians will send a group of Ashy Lynxes and Ashy Wyverns to scout the area and then can approach the heroes themselves.
The battle can be avoided if the heroes move discreetly enough or distract the Ashy Lynx from their trail.
If the Ashy Lynxes find the heroes, they will immediately run to the approaching group of Guardians to report their find. The heroes will have to fight them or get rid of their possible pursuit.
- The heroes find a deep rift, barely escaping from falling down. The only icy bridge nearby is guarded by the Ashy monsters.
If the heroes find themselves in a difficult position, trying not to fall into a sudden rift, or think about what to do next too long, the Ashy monsters will attack them.
The heroes can guess of the upcoming ambush by the barely visible tracks on the snow.
- A sudden blizzard splits up the group of the heroes, forcing them to look for each other when the Guardians on patrol approach.
Small groups of the Guardians will move away from the main patrol, surveying the surrounding area. The heroes should hide or eliminate them.
The Guardians patrol is too numerous, so if the heroes are detected, it is better for them to quickly escape and hide until the blizzard is over.
- A giant avalanche descends right on the way of the heroes. When they run into the nearest cave, they find hostile animals there.
You can make a family of wild animals just looking for a shelter for themselves and their offspring. They’ll defend themselves if the heroes try to hurt them.
If the heroes decide to give them food, the mature animal can show them a short way through the cave or point to a frozen northerner with well-preserved equipment in the cave’s depths.
- The cave leading through the mountain turns out to be a small settlement of several families of the Guardians.
Not all residents of the settlement share the Guardians’ faith. If such a character finds the sneaking heroes, they won’t try to hurt them. On the contrary, they may give them something useful or show them a way out.
In the settlement, there are barracks for the kidnapped northerners, where they are tortured by starvation, subjected to special rites, and menaced with the angry gods until they finally obey the Guardians. Once released, they can help the heroes, but this action has also the consequence – some of them want to take revenge on the Guardians by destroying the settlement.
- A rapid mountain river sweeping away everything on its way is blocking the heroes’ way. Nearby, there is a large tree that fell across the river. The Guardians on the other side are waiting for the heroes to begin their life-threatening crossing to the opposite side.
The Guardians have noticed the heroes from afar and lurked in the ambush, leaving small footprints on the snow, which can give them out.
When the heroes are on the halfway to the other side, the Guardians will start the attack.
|1||A part of the narrow mountain path under the heroes’ feet collapses. They will have either to spend time looking for another way or risk trying to get to the other side.|
|2||The snow under the heroes’ feet starts to slide down, forming a small avalanche. The heroes who descend with the avalanche find themselves right in front of the enemy patrol.|
|3||In the shelter under the rock, the heroes find an almost frozen Guardian who has tried to escape from the others.|
|4||The two Ashy shamans, who have found the heroes’ group, standing on a hill above them at a great distance, begin to summon the Ashy creatures, sending them towards their enemies.|
|5||The deadly archer Guardian, who has hidden in the mountains, shoots the heroes accurately from a bow, guarding the passage beneath him.|
|6||In a small forest, the heroes will see the rite of passage to the Guardians performed with very young northerners. In case of a clash, they will not fight but try to escape or surrender.|
ABOUT THE GUARDIANS
The Guardians – this is how the Northerners who consider the legend of Erna as a tale of the human’s weakness in front of fate call themselves. The heart of the fallen god cannot be returned and his strength is too great. The Ashy Mountain, the place where it lies, should be protected at whatever cost. The Guardians have sworn to do so for the rest of their lives.
United with the Dark. The enraged gods sent monsters to the northern lands to drive people as far away as possible from the evidence of their weakness. Having seen that some of the northerners were ready to give up their own lives to keep the secret, the gods spared them and turned them into their servants.
Under divine supervision. The Ashy monsters have allied themselves with the Guardians. In full obedience, they execute the commands of a creature called Oskuld – the divine incarnation that hides in the passes of the Ashy Mountain.
Fate thieves. Every few years, the Guardians and the Ashy creatures come down from the mountains to replenish their army with people from the northern tribes. They take away young and talented warriors and no one dares to resist them.
SPECIAL FINDS IN SHELTERS AND SETTLEMENTS
|1||Very warm clothes of the northerners made of furs of local animals|
|2||Several enchanted stones that give heat for a couple of hours|
|3||Bow with special arrows that fly even through strong winds|
|4||A frozen disgusting drink that increases cold tolerance for a while|
|5||Sets of snowshoes and skis|
|7||An amulet that hides a group of people for a few minutes (recharge time – 1 day)|
|8||A spear with an enchanted tip that can heat up to high temperatures and ignite even wet wood|
The beginning. The heroes will understand the danger of their mission when they reach the foot of the Ashy Mountain on its shadow side and see a pair of bright lights shimmering against the rocks.
When they look at the lights, the heroes will realize in terror that these are the eyes. The eyes of a huge white serpent OSKULD, looking around for uninvited guests.
ABANDONED SETTLEMENT OF THE NORTHERNERS
A blizzard forces the heroes to enter an old, abandoned settlement of the northerners.
Blizzard. The blizzard breaks the plans and makes troubles not only for the heroes, but also for the Guardians.
The Guardians. The heroes won’t be alone – some buildings have been occupied by the Guardians, waiting for the end of the blizzard. They’ll stay here until morning, preparing for a trip towards the Ashy mountain.
If you want to have a battle, a couple of the Guardians may accidentally enter the building where the heroes hide, forcing them to fight the whole group. Due to poor visibility, the enemy may conduct an attack in waves, not with the entire forces at once.
Records of the Northerners. Having searched the settlement, the heroes can find the records that remained here after the Northerners left. They tried to fight both the divine forces and their own brothers and sisters who took their side. Among the farewell and memorial records, they can find useful clues for their upcoming journey and hints for avoiding Oskuld.
EVENTS DURING THE BATTLE
|1-2||Due to the strong wind, it is useless to use ranged weapons (it does not affect the found special arrows).|
|3-4||Due to a sharp gust of wind, all creatures may fall to the ground.|
|5||A small avalanche will descent from the mountains, immobilizing the creatures that did not hide from it.|
|6||Rising snow can blind those who do not turn away.|
The divine incarnation in form of a serpent will show up on the heroes’ way here and there, changing their plans.
Sharp nose. Oskuld can feel the presence of the heroes, without seeing them. Tricky heroes can deceive and distract the serpent’s attention, and move to the desired places.
Sharp eye. In search of an enemy, Oskuld takes a close look around. Its sight is far-ranging and particularly sensitive to movement. If the serpent gets too close to the heroes, they may make a desperate attempt to temporarily blind it and retreat or escape.
Immortality. No matter how many times the heroes try to inflict damage to Oskuld, it can only cause the serpent to retreat for a while. To defeat it, the heroes have to complete their mission – this will make the monster’s existence meaningless and it can leave this world.
Due to the serpent’s size and viability, do not directly track its participation in possible battles – let it remain an external force that can influence and transform the situation on the battlefield.
The way of the heroes to the Ashy mountain goes through a forest that is called the Sacred forest by the locals.
Open spaces. The Guardians cut down the trees for their own settlements.
Guardian patrols. The enemy knows the heroes are somewhere nearby. The Guardians search the area actively, together with Oskuld, preventing the heroes from leaving the forest without a fight.
EVENTS DURING THE BATTLE
|1-2||Failing to find an enemy, Oskuld spits poison in one of the areas.|
|3-4||Failing to find the enemy, Oskuld smashes down several trees with it’s tail, sharp fragments of which can damage the heroes.|
|5-6||The serpent’s movements shake the ground beneath the heroes’ feet and may knock them down.|
A huge space is linked by a small stone road.
Open terrain. The road can be seen from all sides, and the enemy groups moving back and forth force the heroes to act faster.
Blizzard. A rising storm can both stagger the heroes on their way and hide the group from the enemy.
There are more and more troubles. The Oskuld serpent can notice the heroes if they move discreetly (and especially if they managed to avoid conflicts before). Fight with the enemy is inevitable.
EVENTS DURING THE BATTLE
|1-2||The Guardians make a blind area fire with bows towards the heroes.|
|3-4||A gust of wind will move the heroes aside.|
|5-6||The heroes may slip during the movement.|
The only way to the Ashy mountain lies through an old cave.
Eternal light. The cave walls are decorated with candles that do not go out under any circumstances.
Cells. Here, the heroes will see the guarded cells with young northerners in them who still resist the word of the Guardians. They are weakened, but, upon release, they are ready to promise protection to the heroes if they free their lands from evil.
Altar. The central premise is a large altar. Around its center, there are the Guardians and the Ashy creatures, ready to give the heroes a serious fight.
Shining sword. On the altar, the heroes will find Erna’s ever-shining sword, with which she climbed the mountain and killed the monsters on her way. With willpower, the heroes can make the sword shine even stronger, blinding enemies around, including the serpent Oskuld.
PEAK OF THE ASHY MOUNTAIN
The way to the peak, covered with ashes, is full of dangers, and only the bravest hero can reach the top and seize the Heart of the fallen god.
Fury of the gods. Oskuld serpent and the Guardians are aware of the presence of the heroes and will actively prevent them from advancing to the top.
Help from the North. The blizzard that broke out will be more of an ally of heroes, allowing them not to fight all enemies at once or avoid some battles.
The peak. Once the heroes reach the peak and grasp the artifact, the forces of the gods will weaken. The Ashy creatures and Oskuld will turn into ashes and will be scattered through the northern lands by an icy wind.
The Guardians will be shocked by the loss of meaning of their lives, falling to their knees and freezing to the spot forever. Their families and those who may have been hostages of their way of life will be free to join the heroes on their way back.
Their mission is accomplished.
EVENTS DURING THE BATTLE
|1||Oskuld serpent will spit poison to the side where the heroes move.|
|2||Oskuld serpent will take a swing for a bite, which will bring down a part of the mountain on the heroes’ way.|
|3||Oskuld’s movements around the mountain will cause a small rockfall from the top.|
|4||A group of the Guardians will form a protective stand with shields, trying to push the heroes out of the mountain path.|
|5||Due to the strong wind, it is useless to use ranged weapons (it does not affect the found special arrows).|
|6||Rising snow can blind those who do not turn away.|
A giant white serpent sent by the angry gods
Poison spit. The creatures affected by poison get permanent damage until they wash it off
Tail strike. A wide swing with a tail that knocks the target down
Terrifying presence. Having approached the heroes closely, the serpent causes numbness of horror to those who look at it
ASHY WARRIOR WITH AN AXE (difficulty 8/10)
The Northerner who received the power of the Ashy Mountain
Circular throw. Throws a giant axe that crushes everything on its way in a circle and catches it at the end
Break. Passes through the surrounding enemies with a hitch and immobilizes their movements with solidifying ashes
GUARDIAN WITH A BOW (difficulty 6/10)
A northerner who came to the side of evil gods of the northerners
Freezing shot. When it hits the arms, the target drops what they were holding on the ground; if it hits the legs, the target gets temporarily immobilized
Ashy shot. When it hits the Ashy creature, it restores some of its hit points
ASHY SHAMAN (difficulty 6/10)
A northerner with mysterious magical powers
Help from the outside. The shaman can summon the Ashy creatures (The higher the creature’s difficulty level, the longer the calling process lasts)
Assistance. The shaman can lift blocks of ice from the snow to cover its allies
Timidity. When the shaman notices the enemy, he can retreat from it at the maximum range of his spells
ASHY LYNX (difficulty 6/10)
A divine monster capable of tracking down the strangers
Alarm. Feeling the presence of the strangers, the monster lets the nearest Guardians know about it
Blurry silhouette. When running, the lynx’s silhouette gets blurred, which complicates shots at it with a long-range weapon
GUARDIAN WITH A SHORT SWORD (difiiculty 5/10)
A northerner who came to the side of evil gods of the northerners
Jumping strike. After running the distance, Guardian jumps in an attempt to hit and can inflict additional damage
Ram. Unites with a nearby Guardian for a powerful strike with shields that knocks the target down
ASHY WYVERN (difficulty 4/10)
A divine beast that can fly.
Ashy breathing. Releases a powerful sizzling charge of ash that immobilizes the target for a while
Kidnapping. Tightly grabs the victim and soars up in the air
Intolerance for cold. While flying, the beast is vulnerable to cold attacks that force it to return to the ground
ASHY SERVANT (difficulty 2/10)
A divine beast of small size, helping his allies
Intrusiveness. The Ashy servants are fast and agile enough to run-up to the enemy, jumping and clinging to them, trying to prevent the enemy from moving, shooting, or taking cover
Beyond the Mountains [FREE & ALL PATRONS]