The World of Ark

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk; Module: Treasure Hunt

In the Glittering Isles of Greyhawk there are places of great adventure; dungeons to whet the appetite of even the most glum dwarf or spark a lively gleam in the eye of any thief. One of those places is in the Module N4: Treasure Hunt, by Aaron Allston. While I won't go into a great amount of detail about the pros and cons of the module, I can say without hesitation that it is one of the best introductory modules I've ever had the pleasure of running as Dungeon Master. The cover art alone (by Jeff Easley, one of my all time favorites!) evokes a feeling of intensity that I haven't had often in simply looking at the cover of a module. The party in the ship looks to be on the verge of doom if they can't outpace the storm behind them! That is a feeling you really want at the beginning of a module...being able to show the cover art to a party and having them actually FEEL something. That is the good stuff!

For that very reason I decided that Treasure Hunt had to be part of my Glittering Isles campaign. It is an easy to run introduction to AD&D and can be used in any campaign being run by a DM. You can place it just off the coast of any realm you are playing in with only minor tweaking of the module contents. For me, placing it in my Glittering Isles was a piece of cake.

For one, it isn't on the map...simple as that. The island contained in the module is simply not on the map of my campaign. The entire island is just about 9000 feet by 9000 can have an island that is less than two miles by two miles sitting ANYWHERE! So, for me, it IS anywhere at any given time I need it. I plan to use this adventure as the very beginning adventure in my campaign though, so it will depend on where the party is starting from. Lets take a look at my map:

Looking at the map, you can see I plan to start the party in the town of Eblishar within the Captaincy of Aishar; which is part of the Free Seaholds. I did this because every single character my family rolled up happened to be from an island. Blake rolled up a Lower Middle Class Human Illusionist from the Western Corsairs, Gavin rolled up a Middle Upper Class Paladin also from the Western Corsairs, Raegan rolled up a Upper Lower Class Thief from the Eastern Corsairs and Brenda will be playing a Middle Middle Class Cleric from the Autarchy of Xalmak (if you are wondering what these upper/lower/middle classes are, look in Ye old Unearthed Arcana for AD&D on page 82). I figured a good starting point that would be both central to their origins and neutral to their politics would be Eblishar. For more on the origins of characters in The Glittering Isles, just look HERE at a previous blog post. For a map that shows the various Realms of the Glittering Isles, look HERE.

The backstories I helped my party make explained how each came to be staying in the port of Eblishar, and I will run small solo adventures that gathers them all together as a single party before starting the module. Everyone will still be 1st level at the beginning, but the Paladin (and his Field Plate armor!) might be worried about a sea voyage...that might require a little more work.

Once I have the party together, I will put them aboard a small boat (like the one pictured in the cover above) for travel to the City of Widdershin. They will have been hired to go to Widdershin by Melkeras the Merchant (found in the module) to find his layabout son for a nice bit of coin to bring him back to Eblishar (this is a diversion from the original module: Melkeras usually comes into play at the end of the module...see below). With a sealed letter for the son in hand of his sister (which will be accompanying the party; and she is part of the module (Melisana: found on page 4 of the Character Cut Out section), the party will be on the ship and on their way. A trip on the Shallow Sea rarely has a dangerous storm, and small ships like the one pictured are commonplace despite the fact that pirates and worse are sometimes encountered. A few other details to fit the module into the area of the Shallow Sea fall easily into place as well.

The Corsairs are (for the vast majority) Pirates. Some may not be Chaotic Evil, but that is only because they are some other Evil alignment or Chaotic Neutral or Neutral at best. In Treasure Hunt it is said that Pirate activity is noted in the area as "parasitic" instead of "as sharks" for their level of impact (page 3). This fits well with the picture I have for the Corsairs: strong enough to take some few ships, but primarily held in check by the navies of the Free Seaholds, Xalmak and the Kingdom of Hahntar. Most Corsairs prefer to sail to the Duxchan area and fly false flags while preying on shipping to and from Hepmonoland or through the Tilva Straight. Then, if things go well they trade in Duxchan or Lo Reltarma before heading back to their home isles. For this adventure however, a large Pirate Galley, crewed by 50 Pirates (more than the party can handle!) chases down and catches the party's ship. The goal is to convince the party to surrender to spare the life of Melisana and the crew; the intention of the pirates is to ransom the boats occupants (especially Melisana and Gavin's Paladin who is of a higher social class and wealth than even the merchant's daughter!).

Having the party on the Pirates Galley I can actually start the module: the Goddess (see module) that I will use will actually be a God named Xerbo. Xerbo is the Suel God of Seas, Sailing, Money and Business. He will be the god responsible for the storm that causes the shipwreck that starts the module; though he will be far more important at the end of the module.

An important note here is that the module is intended for zero level characters. Personally that is fun for me, but I think it would present too much confusion for my kids who might wonder why they can't end up with a magic-missile casting paladin at 1st level. Instead, I plan to raise the bar a little on how strong the monsters are in the module and start everyone at 1st level in the beginning. The module is great fun without worrying about Zero Level Characters (more details about this can be found in the fabulous Greyhawk Adventures hardback!); so that is how I decided to fit it into my own campaign. If you prefer to use the Zero Level characters part, please feel free to do so of course.

The particulars of the module itself are going to vary so widely that I can't say what I will do aside from raising the strength of the monsters a tad bit to better suit my party. The end of the module is far more important to me: did the party get out with Melisana? If not, how will they explain that to her father? Will they even try to finish the "original" adventure and find the brother? Lots and lots of questions at the end though. A few things I'm going to change about the module I'll talk about in a little more detail though.

The major change is that in the module there are seafaring orcs and goblins that are in opposition to each other on the island. This doesn't suit my view of The Glittering Isles, and so I'm going to simply change the opposing forces to Orcs = Western Corsairs and Goblins = Eastern Corsairs. In the Glittering Isles the Western Corsairs are stronger in number than the Eastern Corsairs, so it is a good fit for me.

Another change is that the "galley" the party is supposed to drag out and go to sea in the end with is worth 10,000 Gold Pieces in the module. Two things about this bother me: how the hell does the party get it into the water and how do they then row such a vessel? I'm going to fix this by simply placing a Boat (a long one) valued at only £3 instead of £200! That way I will feel better about what they have in money AND the fact that they can actually use the thing if they decide to keep it.

An important thing to note is that normally in this module Melisana is "rescued" by the party. The way I'm working it, she is with the party from the start of the adventure. In the module there is a reward of 2,000 gold pieces for her safe return. I deal with this by simply making the 2,000 g.p. (and turning it into £40...or 200 gold pieces or 10,000 silver pennies) the original reward for bringing the merchant's son back to him. Melisana will also go from being a Normal Woman (NG hf NM) to a Cleric of Xerbo at the end of the adventure (NG hf C1) and can be a future contact for the party.

While the major change is to transform orcs and goblins to pirates, the most important change for me is to change the money values in the module to the £ (Aerdy Pound) system I plan to use. I've done this already by putting sticky notes wherever treasure is found in the module with the new values of items placed on the sticky note. Easy enough really; but it does involve some boring math.

So, at the end of the adventure my party will be sitting in the water after having watched a horrible storm wipe the surface of the island clean...they may never go onto water again once they get to a port! That is fine by me really, because the rest of the modules I have are primarily land modules that don't involve large expanses of open water. Well except The Isle of Dread...but that is another story for another time...

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