Rultmoork is not an adventure that can be encapsulated by an efficient elevator-pitch, at least not without doing it a disservice. If you forced me to encapsulate it in two words, I’d choose “Wonder & Ruinenlust”; and yes, the latter word is obscure, to say the least, but I’ll explain it.
Douglas Niles, a legendary name for those who hail from the days of AD&D and TSR. A man whose legacy spans from the very first Forgotten Realms novels to the creation of the Dragonlance world, Doug is a New York Times Best-Seller and his work has been read and utilized by countless roleplayers. Doug is also well known for creating the groundbreaking Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide (TSR, 1986) with legends Gary Gygax and David C. Sutherland III, a book which detailed exploration of the subterranean world, a realm which was previously only hinted at and briefly explored in a few select modules. The Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide finally gave DMs the ability to craft their own adventures and full campaigns in the Underdark.
AdventureAWeek.com is known for amazing adventure modules that captivate PCs and give GMs an epic saga within which to tell their own tales of heroism, redemption, or whatever it is they’re about. Most of these are extremely collaborative works and while many innovations and wonderful encounters are designed in this fashion, it’s extremely rare—almost unheard of!—for a single individual to carry their vision through to the end of a project, personally creating or overseeing all the aspects of production as artist, cartographer, designer, and writer.
But today, we’ve got a right honest auteur adventure that is already kitted out with amazing illustrations, cartography, and more in Into the Wintery Gale!
What do I mean by an auteur adventure?
Justin Andrew Mason (JAM) is a talented artist, award-winning cartographer, fun writer, and great designer—he can do it all! While collaborating with the rest of the AaW crew is inevitable, this module is different from the rest because the creator’s original vision is getting fulfilled in a more comprehensive manner than anywhere else in the many fiefdoms of the RPG industry (not unlike an auteur film, for my fellow movie buffs)!
JAM approached me about this project sometime late last year with the intent of posting it onto the AaWBlog. The boss stepped in though (he just loves vikings) and since then the format of everything has been reworked from the regular blog schedule (magic item-trap-haunt-locale-sidequest-monster) and into a proper adventure, one sure to set all other viking modules into their place.
We could go on singing JAM’s praises for weeks, but encourage you to instead get a look at the Into the Wintery Gale Kickstarter (25% funded in a matter of hours)! Check out the video, peruse the pledge levels, grab your greataxe and get into this bundle of Norse goodness now before the best pledge levels are all gone!
UPDATE (3/29/2015) Our amazing backers have pushed the Kickstarter past ALL of the initial stretch goals! If you haven’t gotten onto this Kickstarter yet, you’d better do it now before it’s too late—vikings raid hard and fast, and this project’s funding period ends on April 9th! As of this update a few of the higher pledge levels are still open, but they won’t stay that way for long!
Leading off the book is a foreword by RPG veteran artist Larry Dixon (Oriental Adventures, Fiend Folio, Epic Level Handbook from Wizards of the Coast), who’s contributing an illustration of a character written by NY Times bestseller Mercedes Lackey! Anyone keen to an autographed collector’s art print of the avian ally can get one at the $99 pledge level (along with the Veranthea Codex and 16 other great PDFs)!
The next section of the tome contains unique, distinctive settings that are lands full of adventure all their own or compelling powers in a global conflict, depending on the kind of game you want to play!
There’s the sword and sorcery of Grethadnis, lands torn by war and experiencing a new renaissance of (largely victorian steampunk) technology. Fight against Kratcher the ogress-magi and her horde of firearm-laden orcs and goblins in the southwest, join the Church of the Green Avenger as Trianestra roars from the eastern side of the continent, or help the Kind Folk in the defense of their homes!
Across the impassable oceans is Urethiel, a realm brimming with magic and ruled over by three Grand Dynasties. Martial artists and powerful mages walk the lands, the wounds left by bloody genocides are still fresh in the minds of the dragonii (one of several new races) and all of the other peoples there. Absorb and redirect magic (with the conduit base class), be immune to both the arcane and divine, or find your place somewhere in the middle of this wuxia paradise!
Connecting them all are the labyrinthine passages of the Trekth Empire’s imprint on Veranthea—the vast vehoro throughout the Forever Dark. Remote towns and outposts eke out lives in the impossibly huge mechanism’s nodes, fighting against the psionic horrors of the Endless Night. These settlements are only intermittently connected by the irregular, massive machine that runs beneath Veranthea in this Wild West-themed wonderland of aberrations!
After the innovative campaign setting you’ll find a plethora of player options that range from new feats and magic styles, class archetypes, prestige classes, new items, new spells, and much more for the PCs at the table! GMs get some great material too: global rules that make these wildy different campaign settings mesh together without unbalancing the mechanics of the game (like firearm recoil).
But that’s not all that Gamemasters are in store for! The last part of the Veranthea Codex is filled with NPC statblocks for unique alchemists, cavaliers, gunslingers, inquisitors, magi, ninjas, oracles, samurai, and summoners!
There are great add-ons like Face Cards, a GM Screen, high resolution VTT maps, and NPC Cards, but the project just recently announced something very exciting: everyone that pledges at the $25 Backer level or above receives a voucher for an at cost (ink, glue, paper, and postage) softcover for the Veranthea Codex!
The Veranthea Codex is a Pathfinder compatible campaign setting, player resource, and GM tool by Mike Myler and Rogue Genius Games. The Kickstarter has funded almost 50% in its first week, and there are new add-ons (like NPC Cards, VTT maps, Face Cards, and more) revealed to celebrate their success thus far!
Immortality is a tedious thing to some, but not Yawvil: the wizard never lost his youthful curiosity, the wealth of knowledge within his reach never enough. With the same enthusiasm the ancient mage took to his first spellbooks, he prepared the last of the meticulously arranged reagents on the floor, practicing in his mind the powerful incantations for the ritual required to view the Conxecron without revealing his presence.
What petty arguments would the pompous, deific fools engage in this century? What “powerful secrets” will they reveal? What ridiculous decrees are to be forced upon the land? With a familiar sense of supreme satisfaction, Yawvil began the initial arcane gestures for the centennial delight but out of the corner of his eye, a book floated down from its shelf—the Veranthea Codex. The old wizard grinned and nodded to the worn adventuring journal as it emanated a shimmering blue light, teleporting away from his keep. Only while the gods were distracted could his clever little book do its work, its grand accumulation.
If the pantheon’s predictions were correct, this year’s read would be most interesting indeed…
Braxthar gave a sigh and straightened up—after spending hours exploring another abandoned town in the Forever Dark, the ache in his back was excruciating. A search that, once again, had turned up nothing. This place had been looted by adventurers centuries before he found the map leading beneath the surface.
Turning back towards camp, Braxthar caught something just at the edge of his vision: a faint glow, the telltale sign of a secret door. He checked to ensure his revelator was on in disbelief, but the glow remained. It made no sense to the dwarf; he’d been through this area three times already today, and his meticulously crafted devices never gave false readings, even if his brother’s did. He turned a knob on the detectorium to check for traps and, finding none, carefully pressed his hand against the door.
To his surprise it swung open easily, not just unlocked and unbarred but almost as if it moved of its own volition. All that greeted Braxthar was a small plinth and a worn old book upon it, which beyond all reason, he felt compelled to read. He prepared to scan the room beyond for traps, but before he knew it he was standing with his hands on the tome. The dwarf struggled for the reason he’d just blindly walked into what could have been his death, but whatever had just happened was out of the grasp of his normally ordered and calculating mind. Before the intrepid explorer had time to ponder the anomaly any further, blue energy shimmered around both Braxthar and the book—and the world turned black.
An enormous giant charged toward him across a dry expanse, greatsword held ready to strike. Braxthar nearly dropped the book scrambling for cover that wasn’t there, barely avoiding the gnome that rocketed overhead to slash the behemoth’s hamstring with surgical precision. The ground shook as the giant crashed not two feet from Braxthar, momentarily stunned. Before it could recover, the gnome flashed Braxthar a casual smile, then buried his sword in the giant’s neck.
And Braxthar’s hold on the world slips away once more.
Swimming back to consciousness, the smell of saltwater fills Braxthar’s nose as he finds himself on the deck of a sailing ship. Spotting the gleaming spires of fair Srendath on the horizon, the dwarf briefly feels a semblance of place before being thrown into a wall of barrels by the unwary elbow of an orc twice his size.
Braxthar spins about to find the ship full of orcs and goblins prepared for war; a red fist decorating every uniform and crimson-painted hands clutching firearms of every type. As curiosity of these strange firearms begins to get the better of his caution, blackness consumes Braxthar again.
Sitting on the floor of the secret chamber, empty handed and confused, the dwarf hears a smooth, royal voice state, “Thank you, Braxthar Grimdrahk.”
The rattling of chains echoed deep beneath Mount Nestraka, where Shojo Matsumo, the Master in Irons, stalked a sect of the cult of Elaith. He knew they were down here, but after hours of searching, Shojo found a sliver of doubt had made its way into his steel heart.
The tunnel finally opened, yawning into a blinding expanse of shimmering colors, as if the brightest light of the sun shone upon His Personage of Golden Fortitude’s treasury. Unable to see beyond the threshold, Shojo focused his spirit and stepped within—expecting a cultist trap. Instead, a kaleidoscope of emotions overwhelmed him: his mind whipped between sublime bliss, great rage, and bottomless depression.
Without warning, the light disappeared and Shojo’s emotions calmed once more, leaving him in a small cavern littered where dozens of eyeless bodies faced the center of the room, where a thick tome floated above the floor, encircled by an azure halo. Hesitantly, Shojo approached the the old, leatherbound book and plucked it from the air—and in a blue flash, the room was empty. Unable to explain what had happened, Shojo Knew to take the tome to scholars in Verentai, for they could tell him what it truly was.
The tunnel behind him was not the same he had entered—miles of mazelike tunnels were now a hundred feet long, opening to a horizon hundreds of miles from where he had been. He could see Nokada, the seat of his ruler’s power in the distance, but felt compelled to instead visit Bahran-Tayl to the North, and see what new wonders the ju-wai shu masters were tearing from the veil of reality. Somehow, he knew that His Golden Personage of Fortitude could wait.
In Bahran-Tayl, the Master in Irons found himself ignored and unquestioned, walking alongside the powerful mages as though one of their number. Yet, after only an hour of marveling at their breathtaking experiments he grew profoundly weary, and lay down on a nearby cot to rest.
In what felt like moments, Shojo awoke in another place entirely. While he knew this was inexplicable, he remained untroubled and stepped outside into majestic Oisho, capital of Jerentok. For another hour, he took in the sights and sounds of the city before growing tired, laying down to rest, and awakening elsewhere.
The Master in Irons cannot recall how long this continued.
Shojo explored the thick Jungles of Zerrah, scaled the Triple Peaks of Wunai, and braved the Korelli Swamps. He sparred with dragonii warriors in Prealant, traded tales with pirates in Rukharr, and slept with a Crent-Sira nobleman. Eventually, Shojo found himself in Nokada once more.
He immediately returned to His Personage of Golden Fortitude to present the inexplicable book, only to find it had simply vanished. The ancient emperor nodded as though this were no surprise, and simply presented Master in Irons his next task. Though Shojo was relieved to avoid reprimand, he left the throne room puzzled, doubly so by a disembodied voice stating plainly, “thank you, Shojo…”
The pseudodragon looked startled. “You’re kidding, right boss? That thing’s a flying wreck.”
The Zeit Commander licked his lips and grinned, a response to which Gimmick could only groan. Spoony slammed the speedbrakes, held her steady, and screamed to a stop on the back of the crashing carrier.
He leaped from the cockpit and came up in a roll. Nobody came to challenge him though—his boys had done their work well.
“Alright, Gimmick. You know what we’re after—check the hold.”
“Aye aye, Spoony,” said the dragon,winging off through an open hatch. Spoony followed after, but went forward where his familiar had flown aft. Goblinvanian Intelligence hadn’t known much, just that it would be small, whatever it was. If it was his job to grab some advanced magical whatsit, and he couldn’t leave it with the rest of the cargo.
The flight deck was full of bodies, broken glass, and the blinking autopilot light. “Too easy,” said the goblin. Yet the captain’s pockets were empty, and a search revealed no secret compartments. Then Spoony’s ears twitched, hearing something behind his head.
“Didja find it?”
Spoony frowned, and turned. The sound hadn’t been Gimmick but instead an old, leatherbound book floating in the air totally ignorant of the scene around it. “Oh,” said the Zeit Commander. “Yeah. That would be it.” He reached…
Blue light. Elsewhere.
Spoony coughed on dust and looked around wildly. The engines sounded wrong, not aircraft at all. He was in some kind of arena full of oversized gobchoppers with enormous drivers at the controls—trolls, ogres, and giants. They swung lengths of chain longer than he was tall, and the crowds in the stands screamed for blood. As a pair of leather clad giants swerved towards him, Spoony braced for impact…
The engines were gone. Brine filled the air, and a strange chanting echoed all around. Spoony stood upon a tiny green island at sea. Weirdos in robes standing along the banks—worshiping him!
Spoony cupped a hand around his mouth and shouted, “Yeah thanks. Listen, your god commands you to tell him where the hell he is!”
The chanting abruptly stopped, and the robed figures looked at him bewildered. Then the green island moved, rising up, higher and higher, as gigantic tentacles reached for Spoony…
He was on his back, blinking at the roof of the cockpit. Gimmick was trying to drag him out of the crashing plane.
“Boss! Are you OK? Did you find the thing?”
“No,” he said, and realizing the book wasn’t in his hand any longer, “and no. Now run for it!”
Stunned by what he’d seen and heard, Yawvil stumbled to his bed, falling down on the soft linen and for the first time truly feeling the weight of his very, very long life.
For the first time in centuries, the gods knew more of what was happening in the mortal realms than he did—to even think of it filled him with frustration! The Metal Clans in Urethiel were fighting, scheming, and raiding. That bizarre wizard in Privatend was brewing trouble as well, with some demented sorcerer named Boris. Then there’s Goblinvania to worry about—when did they develop planes big enough to brave the flight across the ocean?
Summoning one of his many golems, Yawvil began to send for the items he would need, devices to harness their power, reagents for his most exotic magics—and the Veranthea Codex! That above all would prove to be pivotal in the arduous times ahead!
Its place on the bookshelf stood empty, and for a brief moment, the ancient mage felt anxiety—something he had long thought lost to him—until a familiar blue light filled the chamber. Yawvil’s old adventuring journal, once more embossed with resplendent gold and luxurious leather, had returned.
Hungrily he picked up the tome, searching through the Veranthea Codex for the fresh writing with details on the many emerging threats of this world he had declared his own…