One Hundred Goblins (and more)

Copyright Robert J Defendi © 2007

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"When the fight is over and the fires are out, the party will hopefully still be alive"

Introduction

What is an Adventure Seed?

An Adventure Seed is a story idea. In The Echoes of Heaven, an Adventure Seed is a story idea that we at Final Redoubt Press promise never to contradict in future canon. It's a chance to allow you to expand an idea or mystery in the setting without worrying about whether we'll contradict you with future products.

But this Adventure Seed is a full product, and that means it's something more. This is a fully written adventure plot, meant to allow you to get your game moving almost immediately. This outlines all the major steps of a story, carrying you through an entire narrative arc. With this product, the rule books of your game (including maybe a monster book and whatever manual holds sample NPCs) you should be able to run an adventure with almost no preparation at all, and just a touch of imaginative table improvisation.

What this Product Includes

This product includes a full adventure plot, with enough notes that you should be able to run with no preparation at all. This product also includes a description of the Dramatic Purpose of each stage of the story. This way, if your story moves off in a new direction, you know what you need to do to maintain the dramatic arc.

What this Product Does Not Include

This product includes no creature stats. You have your monster books.

This adventure contains no NPC stats. Almost every game has premade NPCs for the GM to use, and many GMs are used to improvising NPCs on the fly.

This product contains no rules. You probably know the rules you use at your table much better than we do.

This product contains no firm idea of what system or setting you are using. While we've set it in The Echoes of Heaven, which is statted for four different game systems, but there's no reason you need to use this with The Echoes of Heaven.

This product contains no firm rules on how experienced the characters are. It's designed with inexperienced characters in mind, but since there are no stats, you can use it to challenge characters at any point in their careers.

What Next?

You can begin play almost immediately. If you want to get straight to the meat, skip to Setup. It probably takes an average reader 10-15 minutes to read this adventure once through. If you are about to run the game and you grabbed this as an emergency measure, step out of the room for a few minutes and you'll be ready in no time. If your players seem likely to bug you, start them arguing about a sixth month old GM call, their favorite sports teams, or reality shows. You'll be ready to start before they are.

If you have a little more time, we welcome you to read the next sections. They should give you an idea about what The Echoes of Heaven is all about.

What Is the Echoes of Heaven Campaign Setting?

The Echoes of Heaven is a game world of darkness and danger, where a monolithic church has split into dozens of quarreling factions and holy war looms like a shadow. Here, strength and brutality win the day and only those with the most faith, honor, and courage can stand against the terrible tyranny of those who would enslave everyone of a different belief, a different philosophy, a different race.

Worse, it is a world infected by the very fabric of Hell itself.

It's a world that once knew perfection, where Mortals and Angels labored side by side and all spent their days basking in the light of God. There was no Mortal Realm. Hell was nothing more than a province of Heaven. All lived in Paradise, and they knew what it was like to wander in Grace.

Then came the War.

The Fall of the first third of the Host of Angels nearly destroyed Heaven. The Fall of the second third came as a death knell. Only the foresight and planning of the Five Prophets saved everyone from languishing under the rule of the Fallen . . . but it came at a terrible price.

Enter Meridrin, the Mortal Realm, a world sundered from Paradise, a world both familiar and strangely different. A world where you can make a difference.

The Echoes of Heaven is designed for use in four different game systems. They are the d20 System game (owned by Wizards of the Coast), Rolemaster (owned by Iron Crown Enterprises), HARP (owned by Iron Crown Enterprises), and HERO System (owned by Hero Games).

This product can be used with any fantasy game.

Line Elements

The Echoes of Heaven contains two main elements. They are sourcebooks and adventures.

Sourcebooks

Some of the existing sourcebooks are as follows:

The Echoes of Heaven Campaign Setting-The Echoes of Heaven Campaign Setting details the Mortal Realm and includes a bonus supplement describing the Kingdom of Ludremon at no extra charge.

The Lost Kingdom of the Dwarves-Centuries ago an Ulcer opened inside the Dwarven kingdom of Uzarâg. Now this land is more Hell than earth and it fills to overflowing with a multitude of dark and evil creatures, most notably the Cambionic Orcs and worse yet, the Great Fiend known as the Warlord.

Bestiary-The Mortal Realm is filled with many horrific creatures and some that merely terrify. Here you will find creatures unique to The Echoes of Heaven from the Nephilim to Angels and Demons, to the Cambionic Beastmen and beyond.

Adventures

Each sourcebook comes packaged with an adventure. Between these two works, your campaigns can explore an ever-widening world of intrigue and danger.

The Throne of God (Episode 1)-A story that spans 10,000 years, here the players learn the lay of the land in the Mortal Realm and fight to find an ancient relic-a diamond splinter said to come from the Throne of God Himself.

On Corrupted Ground (Episode 3)-Still reeling from their adventures in Felric's Redoubt, the characters must now delve into the heart of Hell on earth-Uzarâg. Inside the fallen kingdom, it will take all their skill, faith, and mettle to survive.

The Tainted Tears (Episode 4)-With the character's success in Uzarâg, they must now make a mad dash across Belkanâth in an attempt to stop the end of the world.

This Adventure Seed can fit neatly after On Corrupted Ground and before Adventure Seed 3b: The Echoing Hold.

Dramatic Purpose

Every stage in this adventure has a dramatic purpose. These are there so the GM can better decide what to do if the party goes off book. If a group diverges wildly from the written adventure, let them. Take the dramatic purposes of the skipped stages and invent new events that serve the same purpose.

Maybe the party abandons the adventure entirely and refuses to go back. If so, who are any of us to say they did wrong? Take the remaining dramatic events and create new ones for the party, following their new path. It might not be this adventure, but it will be an adventure, and it will be a lot more fun than arguing about whether the party is ruining the GM's plans.

As long as all the purposes are served, you will have a workable story, probably even a good one. It doesn't matter if it isn't the story you set out to tell. Gaming is a collaborative effort, after all.

Stats

No opponents have stats in this adventure, but most every game has NPC stats in one of the primary books. Use them to flesh out the bad guys in this Adventure Seed, or, if it's easier, just improvise them as you go. Many GMs can stat an NPC in their head without skipping a beat.

Descriptions

This Adventure Seed has no "boxed text." That means the descriptions of rooms, people, and places are almost entirely up to you. Tailor them to your game and your characters. This is most of the improvising you'll need to do to run this Adventure Seed.

Mechanics

We've left mechanics as simple as possible in this work. We've listed all bonuses as a percentage. 5% = 5 in a percentile system or 1 in a system using 3d6 or 1d20.

The Adventure Plot

What follows is the plot of the Adventure Seed. This is only one course the adventure could take. If the party diverges from this plot, let them.

Setup

This Adventure Seed works best for characters that are a bit experienced. Starting characters will have trouble with the volume of Goblins involved. If the characters are too powerful, the Goblins might not have a chance to hurt them.

The characters need to stumble upon this adventure, so its best if they are traveling when the adventure begins. They could be heading from one place to another or they could be running an errand, performing one of the ubiquitous fetch and carry quests so popular in computer RPGs.

Teaser

The adventure begins with the characters walking down a poorly-maintained road. Up ahead, they hear angry shouts and screams. If they investigate, they find a mob of angry serfs chasing three men. It's clear that they aren't planning on holding a trial.

If the characters intervene, they'll discover that the mob intends to lynch their prey for sheep rustling. The men insist they didn't do it, but they are from another village and the mob spotted them "skulking" in the woods nearby. This explodes into violence and the characters will need to stop the fight. Hopefully, they can do this without killing anyone, using nonlethal attacks and healing up the damage when things settle down.

Eventually, the men confess that they were poaching. They didn't want to get out of one crime by confessing to another, but if their lives are on the line, they will.

Dramatic Purpose

The Dramatic Purpose of the Teaser is to hook the players in, hopefully before even a single die is thrown. In a television show, the Teaser is the part of the episode that comes before the credits, lasting anywhere from thirty seconds (for shows like the defunct Enterprise) to more than ten minutes (for shows like the also defunct Alias). The Teaser is (relatively) short, to the point, and usually set up to end in a cliff hanger to keep the viewer from changing channels.

Act One

Likely, the characters will question the mob. Something has been stealing their sheep, and the matter has become dire. Families will soon be completely ruined and the prospective winter looks to be ever more difficult with each new theft.

What's worse, lately some of the seasonal crops are mature enough to eat. These have been hacked and carted off as well. The attacks escalate in their destruction. Members of the village have stayed up to catch the rustlers. Men have died each time they've tried this. Not everyone, just the men stationed where the rustlers attacked.

The Beadle (the village lawman) is at his wit's end. If the party offers to help, he'll be very grateful.

The characters will likely station guards out that night, and the rustlers will come. They are Goblins, attacking in a group of ten to thirty (adjust the strength of the group to the player characters). There should be enough that when the party has won, some can flee. The party can run them down or follow them. Tracking checks will also lead them back to the Goblin's lair.

Dramatic Purpose

The dramatic purpose of the first act is to introduce all the major characters, the plot, and the setting elements. Act One can be difficult to handle because it often gets a bit ho hum if the GM isn't careful. The act should end with the character's entering a "new world," meaning that they are going out to take care of some problem or to fulfill some new role.

This is an adventure, though, not a movie. A GM should make sure that they don't use this notion of movie structure to railroad characters.

Act Two Complication

The characters find a hole on the edge of the nearby woods. It descends into a series of tunnels, made out of some kind of spongy organic materials, as if they were the actual bowels of the earth.

For experienced characters, it should be easy to guess that this is an Ulcer. If they somehow aren't sure, they can probably find a spell that will either detect an Ulcer or fail to see through an Ulcer's walls.

The initial drop into the Ulcer is straight, but the Goblins have made a crude ladder. It can't support medium-sized characters, however.

Once inside, the characters will find a horde of Goblins. They'll attack in wave after wave, but here the characters can set up good defensive positions.

This section of the adventure is mostly a straight up dungeon crawl, but add some interesting locales to keep things from getting too tedious. Some interesting locations could include:

A disgusting room where Goblins store all their discarded bones.

A room filled with illusionary food, roped off with warning symbols. Characters inside will see Goblin corpses, dead from malnutrition, inside. The illusionary food never fills them up, and they must make moderate checks to resist the urge to keep eating until they pass out, then awaken and begin eating again.

A room where the Goblins keep their only cursed item, a sword too heavy for them to carry around. The last person who touches this sword can't let it go. There's a Goblin currently stuck to the sword. The Goblins use this as a punishment, sending in the least popular Goblin in the tribe, then sending in another to touch the sword and release him when they like someone else less.

A room with a swirling vortex of magic in the center. It spits out a Goblin every hour or so, until the characters kill a large chunk of the population, when it shoots them out more quickly. It should be obvious that if they don't end the Ulcer, the Goblins will continue to grow in number and swarm the surrounding countryside. This will be a difficult Ulcer to destroy. The vortex should cap out at a certain speed . . . a Goblin every five minutes for weaker parties, one every minute for stronger parties, until the end. This room should be in the Adventure Seed no matter what.

When the characters have cut their way through most of the opposition, they can follow the final tunnels of the Ulcer (and collect any loose treasure).

Note: Those who don't play in The Echoes of Heaven Campaign Setting are probably wondering what an Ulcer is. In The Echoes of Heaven, an Ulcer is a place where Hell infects reality. It's a foul and disturbing locale, and often the laws of nature break down inside. The only way to certainly destroy an Ulcer is to kill every bit of evil inside. It must be done quickly, though, because Ulcers can become permanent. Go to www.finalredoubt.com/store and order the free preview download to learn more about Ulcers.

Dramatic Purpose

Act Two is the confrontation of the story. It's also been called the "blue collar work" of storytelling. In Act Two we cover all the meat of the adventure, everything that happens from the actual adventure beginning until the climax. Act Two should start with a complication, early on, to make matters worse than the characters initially thought.

Act Two Twist

The characters can follow the tunnels as they lead back to the village. When they get close, they begin to find rooms with Human equipment inside. This stuff is packed up and in good condition. It might be in a bit too good of condition to have been taken in raids.

One of the final tunnels will lead to a trap door. A Dwarf can easily tell they are back underneath the village. The very fact that the Goblins choose not to use this door for their raids shows that something very suspicious is going on.

By now, the characters should be wondering if the Goblins are acting alone.

Dramatic Purpose

This is the Act Two Twist. Here the story takes its first move in a new direction and the characters realize that all is not as it seems.

End of Act Reveal

The trap door comes up inside the Beadle's house. When the characters emerge, they discover him there, praying at a simple altar to a demon god, one that can be broken down and hidden when he isn't using it.

Around him, three Goblins attend him. One of them is organizing trinkets and treasures they've taken from the men they've killed.

He isn't caught unawares, however. He knew the characters went out after the Goblins, and while he thought there were too many Goblins for the party to kill, he was ready for anything.

Dramatic Purpose

This is the end of Act reveal. Here, we learn something of the real truth behind this entire adventure. The end of act reveal should change the nature of the story and rocket the characters into the final dramatic climax.

Act Three

When the party attacks the Beadle, they find he's a very powerful foe and his Goblin attendants are powerful in their own right. This should seem at first like a mildly challenging fight.

But once the fight starts, the Beadle bellows and the world around the fight shakes. Suddenly the magical Goblin gate appears in the center of the room, spitting out one or more Goblins a round (base the number on the power of the party).

This fight should be desperate and pitched. To make matters worse, once the characters begin to win, Goblins throw open doors and windows and begin throwing torches at the thatch roofs of nearby buildings.

Then the remaining Goblins will swell up from below. The fight continues until the Beadle is dead, the Goblins all dead, and the Altar destroyed (and preferably consecrated). Then the Ulcer collapses.

Dramatic Purpose

Act Three starts the minute the characters' plan collapses and they begin the final battle, in whatever form it might take. Act Three contains the climax and any falling action necessary to resolve the story.

Denouement

When the fight is over and the fires are out, the party will hopefully still be alive. The village will pour out their gratitude, but they have little to give. The treasures the party took from below aren't the village's, however. The Beadle had collected every treasure he knew the village lost. The Goblins had raided nearby travelers for the treasures they kept for themselves, without the Beadle knowing.

The village will hold a celebration in the character's honor, even if they can't manage a feast. They will put the characters up and buy them all the free drinks they can handle. Even the village's lord will attend, to thank the party. He will give them some minor treasures in thanks.

In the end, good will carries the day. The characters can bask in their glory for a time, but then things will settle down. Likely, the party will feel a wanderlust hit them. Ulcers rarely appear in the same place twice. For more adventure, they'll need to move on.

Dramatic Purpose

The dramatic purpose of the entire denouement is to give the characters a feeling of completion, to let the story wind down and wrap up naturally.