And now we enter new territory, because I never wrote up the next few sessions at all (I'm not sure why). So I'm writing up the whole thing from memory, more than a year later.
This adventure was based on an idea I'd had in my head for the previous 20 years or so, by the way.
When last we left the party they were in Glorantha, heading toward a Lunar fort at the edge of a Chaotic wasteland. Their goal was to find and rescue a missing woman and her son. In a conquered town they'd discovered records that indicated that the two had been taken prisoner by the Lunar army three years ago and transported to that fort.
The land around the fort was pretty desolate. Most of the fort was sealed, behind high walls. But there was a small front area for trade and civilian purposes , including a small tavern. However, even that area was entirely staffed by military personnel!
The party schmoozed a bit, but all anyone would tell them was that this was a really dangerous area and that they should go away. There was nothing of interest or value here; adventures had cleaned the area out years ago. Of course the party decided to stay, since I was so obviously twisting their arms. Prices at the tavern were insanely high, but they had enough money.
[There was, of course, a mystery about the place, and this might be a good time to explain my approach to gamemastering. I've known GMs who were great at coming up with dazzlingly complex puzzles and riddles. Others have an incredibly strong visual sense, creating worlds and settings that capture the imagination. Then there are those who craft gripping strategic challenges, or memorable opponents, meticulously detailed dungeons. I am competent at some of those things, and less so at others. But I've been doing this long enough to know that it's important to play to your strengths.
So my basic technique is what you might call a deist approach. I work out the world, the major players and their motivations, the central conflicts, issues, and trends. Then I set the players in the middle of it, and see what happens. I'm lucky, in that it's easy for me to immediately figure out how other elements in the world will react to what the party is doing. To be honest, I am quite often surprised at how things work out. Which is nice, because it makes the game more interesting for me.]
In this case, I knew quite well what the mystery of the fort was. It was a supply source and transportation nexus for two secret camps in the wasteland to the north.
Here, the issue of player perception versus GM perception comes up. In mystery type adventures, it's not uncommon for the game master to create something which is far too difficult for the players to figure out. It's all too easy when you're designing an adventure to forget how much more confusing things are on the other side of the GM's screen! So I find it better to err on the side of simplicity.
The "tell" in this case was a large armored gateway on the back side of the fort, toward the wastelands to the north. From the gateway there were signs of a frequently used wagon road in that direction. All it took was for the players to search the area behind the fort to discover the gate and road, and that's what they eventually did - although first they spend some time sneaking around, climbing on roofs, and generally having fun. The connection to the north having been discovered, the players decided against purchasing an adventure license from the fort quartermaster. They feared that they might be interfered with if it were known that they were actually going to go north. So instead they announced that they were leaving, and once the fort was well in the distance, they looped around and headed north into the chaos wastelands.
This is the sort of place is a recipe for fun. For a gamemaster anyway. I could pretty much put anything I wanted in there, the more bizarre the better! So I drew on the thousand or so found items and chaotic features that I have listed over the last sixteen years or so on the Chaos Project on my website - modified a bit, of course, on the small chance that the players might have already read about them.
I don't have access to my notes, so I don't remember exactly what I used. But I do remember that the players were very excited. There was strange magic, disease-cursed ruins, ghosts, and things that just didn't make sense at all. Eventually, they found a Lunar soldier fighting off a horde of chaotic rubble runners (think "giant mutant rats", if you're not familiar with Glorantha). They had as a group the chaotic feature that they shared all damage equally between them. An attack which would normally have killed one of them was reduced to a mere scratch which appeared at the same place on all of them simulaneously (I do hope that makes sense!). The soldier was rather badly injured, and was clearly in trouble. The party came over and the troll attacked. One slash of his ridiculously large sword and all of the monsters fell apart, each sliced cleanly through the middle. It was a neat effect.
As the party healed the grateful soldier, they convinced him that they were high Lunar officials. He explained that he was a guard at the research camp to the northeast, and had gone looking for an escaped experiment - a dangerous experiment. His superiors didn't know that the experiment had escaped, and he had hoping to recover it quickly. He had something that he could use to control it once he got within range, an enchanted finger bone.
With some skillful questioning, they elicited more information. The soldier was posted to Research Camp #1, a heavily-guarded facility in the wasteland. Although some of the experiments were done on the monsters that lived in the general area, most of the camp was devoted to the mass production of magic items for the lunar army by prisoners of war. This seemed odd to the party. How could prisoners powerful enough to create magic items and to call on their gods for rescue at will be compelled to use up their own souls to make magic for their enemies? The answer was to be more horrifying than they could imagine.
Copyright 2012 by Peter Maranci. Revised: December 09, 2012. v.1.0