Monday, December 15, 2014

Gods of the Great Caldera Pt. 3

The Gods of Belledor

Gods of the gnomes and of the fellfolk are listed together because their primary followers essentially occupy the same land. Though theirs are separate pantheons, gnomes and fellfolk know and occasionally share each other’s faiths as they seem to complement each other. 

Gnomes favor deities based on personalities and archetypes found in their culture. Though they don’t agree with each other, these gods will join against a common enemy. Fellfolk adopted more abstract faiths rooted in earlier tribal shamanism connoting the passage of time (birth, the four seasons, and death), and personified them. Gnomes and fellfolk born and raised outside Belledor typically honor local or common Calderan Faiths. The fellfolk pantheon’s divine domain is called the Morever Meadows, a vast expanse of rolling hills and fields with never-ending rivers and a great lake at its center, beneath which stands Celendine’s palace. Yarima’s Ring of Bones lies deeper yet. Four high mountain ridges extend outward, like spokes of a wheel. Gods of the gnomes and the fellfolk want nothing to do with any reunification plans or desires for wars with the old empires which gods of other pantheons may contemplate. Thaleera is particularly worried about reprisals against gnomes of Kragdûr and Alorea.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Gods of the Great Caldera Pt. 2

Gods of the Dwarves

Calidar Dawrven Gods
Unlike the elves, dwarven deities do not bear racial distinctions. Nonetheless, preferences exist among the clans. There are two broad camps among the gods, one aligned with Khrâlia, the pantheon's ruler, the other with Krîma Ironblaze, her direct rival in Holmring. Many of these gods originate from Kragdûr. Outside Araldûr, dwarven expatriates honor either the Holmring or the Calderan faiths. Dwarves born outside Araldûr honor either the Calderan or the local pantheon. Gods of Holmring remain aloof and suspicious of elven and Belledoran deities.

Krîma Ironblaze and Brâlkha Shadowfist are secretly plotting for a war between Araldûr and Kragdûr, something that Khrâlia has been suspecting. Due to the overpopulation on Kragdûr, Khrâlia’s faith has ceased growing on the dwarven moon. On the other hand, her influence in peaceful Araldûr keeps spreading steadily. More than ever, the Kragdûras contemplate war as the way to address their problems, which favors Krîma. The war goddess sees a reunification between the old empire and its former colony as a way to supplant her rival. Brâlkha, who is in on her ally’s feelings, rubs her hands for the damage and fear a war will provoke (see below).

Monday, December 1, 2014

Gods of the Great Caldera Pt. 1

A Primer to the Calderan Pantheons

Calidar Gods
Calidar In Stranger Skies is a broad introduction to this universe, covering many subjects but just enough to give the reader a sense of what this world is about. Less than ten gods are described, essentially due to lack of space, despite the book’s 130 pages. Eventually, players will need more to chose from. Therein lies an opportunity to provide a lot more meat to this topic. It is a major subject which can’t be fully developed here, but enough material can be made available at least tentatively to make things going. Before I start enumerating deities, here are a few notes to set things up.

In the Great Caldera: Colonial residents originally honored the traditional god(s) from their native moons (overtly or covertly in some cases). As a consequence of the wars of independence, dormant deities were revived and beliefs developed into overlapping pantheons. Though most cultures have their own specific pantheons, some of their gods are commonly worshipped elsewhere as well. These are listed under their local pantheon and under “Calderan faiths”. The so-called Calderan pantheon is unique in that Soltan, as its Honorary Conciliator, declines to collect power from its members. Rather, it is an informal forum. In short, two groups of deities are generally available in each realm—the local pantheon and the Calderan faiths. How the divine world works in Calidar is explained in the book, pg 61-62.  If you haven't yet read the recent two blog posts about death and netherworld, now is a good time to do so.

In Ellyrion, Narwan, and Osriel: These regions differ from the guidelines described above. The first two realms are monotheistic cultures. In Ellyrion, the state religion is Teos (Soltan), although small temples dedicated to other religions are permitted for visitors. High-placed members of the sun god’s clergy have a presence in Ellyrion’s governance, while members of other faiths do not. The imperial province of Antiatis is in fact a theocracy. In Narwan, practicing faiths other than Arun al Malik al Soltan are forbidden outright; visitors must keep their faiths to themselves. Osriel, due to its cultural pluralism, uses mostly Calderan faiths.

Charts A & B: A tentative listing of gods appears below in two charts summarizing primary interests and regional/cultural strongholds. By “tentative” I mean updates and additions are likely to take place between now and when the final material is released. Your feedback and questions will affect this material. Debates are welcome at this stage, here, on the Piazza, on G+ or on Facebook. Today’s blog post includes the two charts and a summary describing the gods of the elves. The others will follow on a regular basis until all the listed gods have been covered—so keep your eyes open. I haven’t included special powers for followers and priors (yet). These will need a separate and more in-depth treatment. I may replace what is in the book with something more substantial, at least as an alternate approach.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Critical Hit!

Calidar 100% Rating
  Soon after I woke up and while I was having my morning coffee, I discovered a kind e-mail from a friend who brought to my attention #Calidar's rating on 

Thanks to all of you who jumped in and put in their two-cents' worth!  That this happened largely on Thanksgiving is amusing.  The image's comment says this:

Fun with stats: Calidar, In Stranger Skies is ranked #1 out of 17 products with 10 or more reviews, placing it in the 100% percentile. It is rated 20.8 points higher than the overall average product rating of 79.2%. With 10 reviews, this is the #15 most reviewed product.

Rated by 10 readers at 100% who deem this a CRITICAL HIT. This should be part of your collection. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Marches of Khorvador

Calidar Caldwen
This region of Nygardae is located at the southern end of Caldwen’s Arm of the Magus, along the administrative border with Incubael.  It is part of the College of Necromancy. Khorvador is a key military district whose fortress at Belael serves as command center for this area. Civilian population is fairly low, except alongside Lake Shroudmist’s northern shore and on the island a few miles south. The master of this domain resides at Belael’s citadel. The Lich Lord Azradin ruled this mountain area of the magiocracy in the 1300s.

Though undead wizards are permitted to dwell openly in Nygardae, the rule is that they or their servants may not prey upon the living or permit actions leading to the living being harmed.  In fact, both undead and necromancers occupy positions of power there.  Though intimidating, the local elite isn’t necessarily evil.  Their primary purpose is the study of death and how it relates to magic, a key subject connected with the nature of Calidar’s world soul.  Landed nobility, such as Azradin’s House of Naggal, answer to the Head Councilor of the College of Necromancy as regards local laws and taxes.  They also must fully comply with resolutions adopted by Arcanial’s Upper Chamber of Wizards and Lower Chamber of Sorcerers.  Common residents have become accustomed to the sinister nature of this province, often demonstrating a certain morbidly smug attitude about it to outside visitors.  It has become part of the local culture.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Death and the Netherworld Part II

The demon’s eyes reduced to narrow slits as it gazed at Azradin. It reached for a maggot emerging from the lich’s chest and sensed the squirming pest with its forked tongue before popping it into its mouth. A muffled squeal and crunching sounds followed as Daal sucked out its juices and spat out its remains.

“Bitter is the taste of the fallen,” commented the demon with an odd snakelike sneer. “Soon you too will bow to the Mighty Ashgaddon. A pact I bring on His behalf. If you agree to its terms, Khorvador will be yours to rule again. Honor the Lord of the Shades and fetch all those he demands. It is the price to leave Karkerath and regain your former glory.”

Azradin grimaced at the offer. He loathed any scheme forcing him to accept Ashgaddon as his divine liege once again. His demands were many and dear to all who followed Him. “For how long does the pact remain in force?”

“Ten times the length of your stay on the tree of sorrow. The more you wait, the longer the service.”

“And if I refuse or fail?”

Daal growled with satisfaction. “You will be mine to consume.”

Navigational Hazards: The netherworld exerts a certain force intended to prevent spirits from wandering into other planes of existence. For the living traveling within, this has potentially severe consequences. The first is the gradual weakening of the bond between body and spirit. Even within the limits of a skyship’s magical protection, this weakening parallels a desire to remain in what increasingly feels as a soothing, restful environment. From a game mechanics’ point of view, one might base a travelers’ ability to resist limbo’s fatal attraction upon personal wisdom and vitality (experience level), where both ratings are converted to 1-20 ranges and added together. The result indicates the amount of time (equivalent to Calidaran days) before spirits start departing their bodies. Each day spent thereafter in limbo requires an ability check (constitution or equivalent) to survive. The classes’ prime requisite ability scores also temporarily drop –1 for each successful ability check. The growing desire to linger among the dead remains more relevant to roleplaying as best fits one’s gaming style.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Death and the Netherworld

The thorns of iron cut deep into his skin, yet they drew no blood. It had been a very long time since Azradin could bleed at all, a time well before he met his own demise. His lifeless eyes gazed upon the burning wasteland around him, as he hung crucified on the tree of sorrow. Karkerath’s dreaded larvae dug into his parchment-like skin, but he’d almost become accustomed to their endless and insidious pain. Worse was the hunger for life searing through his unholy innards. It might have been twelve decades or so since his imprisonment in Ashgaddon’s hell. He’d lost count. Though reduced to the form of a helpless spirit, he retained at least his past appearance, he, the once-lord of Khorvador. As time passed, his own corrupted life force drained away slowly, feeding the odious larvae as they reproduced inside his desiccated flesh. Such was his punishment for betraying Ashgaddon.

This article further develops concepts of world souls, divine powers, and how they relate to the netherworld and the undead. To better understand Calidar’s universe, it is important to keep in mind the presence of a world soul at the heart of each planet, a vast pool of magic capable of affecting local laws of physics. Here, magic should be understood as life force—the two are one and the same. Worlds live on as long as their arcane reserves remain healthy and, with them, bestow life upon all dwelling on their surfaces, whether mortal or godly. As a result of this, a direct relation exists between world, people, their deities, and whatever magic they are empowered to cast.

The netherworld is the place where spirits of the dead linger while awaiting their final fates. A select few go serve their divine masters. The others are otherwise reabsorbed by the world souls from which they were issued, following an arcane cycle that could last a few days to several centuries. Thereafter, past identities and life stories are preserved in the Ætherian Scrolls, magical records of all spirits since the birth of Soltan’s Ephemeris, which certain wizards may access. For more about the above, consult CAL1 Calidar In Stranger Skies, pages 60-61.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Black Blood in the Night: Player Characters Listing

Thief: T6, AC4, hp24, MV 120’(40’), THAC0 17, AT 1 sword, Dmg d6+1, Save T6, AL N; St12, In11, Wi10, Dx17, Co13, Ch15. Abilities: OpLk40, FnTr35, RmTr34, CmWa92, MvSi44, HdSh32, PkPk45, HrNs54, RdLg80; backstab for double damage; has skyship sails operations skill (Intelligence); Follower of Istra: +1 to ability checks when performed with unusual panache. Equipment: +1 short sword, +1 leather armor, potion of invisibility, ring of fire resistance, scroll of protection from undead.

Prior of Soltan: C5, AC3, hp28, MV 90’(30’), THAC0 17, AT 1 sword, Dmg d6+2/+5, Save C5, AL L; St13 In10, Wi17, Dx11, Co15, Ch12. Abilities: Turn Undead; Clerical Spells: I (x4), II (x2); +1 bonus to attack rolls with flaming sword; Soltan’s limited prescience (+2 bonus to Initiative once per day); reads old Tanethian (-4 penalty to Intelligence check to converse in that language); has Ancient Religions Lore skill (Intelligence). Equipment: +1/+3 flaming sword, +1 chain mail, +1 shield, ring of regeneration.

Fighter: F5, AC-3, hp35, MV 90’(30’), THAC0 17, AT 1 sword, Dmg d8+4, Save F5, AL L; St17, In10, Wi12, Dx13, Co15, Ch11. Abilities: as a follower of Odin gains +1 bonus to Wisdom checks; enjoys skyship helmsman skill (Wisdom). Equipment: +2 sword, +1 plate armor (total +3 bonus to saving throws), +1 shield, potion of heroism, bag of holding.

Dwarf: D5, AC3, hp40, MV 90’(30’), THAC0 17, AT 1 axe or light crossbow, Dmg d6+4 or d6+1, Save D5, AL N; St16, In12, Wi13, Dx11, Co16, Ch10. Abilities: infravision; as a faithful of Khrâlia possesses basic knowledge of rocks and precious stones; has skyship engineering/carpentry skills (Intelligence). Equipment: +2 battleaxe, +1 crossbow, +2 chain mail, potion of super-healing.

Magic User: MU5, AC6, hp20, MV 120’(40’), THAC0 19, AT 1 staff, Dmg 2d6, Save MU5, AL N; St10, In17, Wi11, Dx15, Co13, Ch12. Abilities: as a follower of the Great Turtle gains a +1 bonus to saves vs. magical attacks; has charting/navigation skill (Intelligence). Wizard spells: I (x4), II (x2), III (x1). Equipment: +1 dagger, staff of striking, +2 ring of protection, scroll of communication. Spell book: I. analyze, detect magic, light, magic missiles, protection from evil, read languages, read magic; II. detect evil, invisibility, knock, wizard lock; III. lightning bolt, haste.

Elf: E5, AC2, hp28, MV 120’(40’), THAC0 17, AT 1 bow or sword, Dmg d6+2 or d8+2, Save E5, AL L; St15, In16, Wi10, Dx14, Co13, Ch10. Abilities: immune to ghoul paralysis, detect secret doors, infravision; as a follower of Delathien, enjoys basic knowledge of plants; possesses Ancient Ships Lore skill (Intelligence -4). Wizard spells: I (x4), II (x2), III (x1). Equipment: +2 long bow, +1 sword, +1 banded mail, elven boots. Spell book: I. charm person, floating disk, hold person, light, shield, read magic, ventriloquism; II. levitate, mirror image, web; III. dispel magic, protection from normal missiles.

Note: the first player whose character is eliminated gets to run Constable Crayne (who decides to rejoin the party to check up on them first hand).

Oh, man!  Now *THAT's* scary! Hooooo...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Black Blood in the Night, Part 5

Ship's Hold

Black Blood Calidar Adventure
58. Portside Landing
Stairs (a) lead right to left up to Area 21 on the Lower Deck. When intruders reach this passageway, a figment (F) flies by, either one encountered earlier or a new one. It performs a few swooping attacks before fleeing to Area 67 where it will lure intruders into a fight, unless the players’ party kill it first. Whenever killed, the figment reveals a clue about the Black Blood (see random list in Area 53) before disintegrating.

Figment (1): AC1, HD1*, hp 8, MV150’ (50’) flying, THAC0 19, AT 1 touch, Dmg special, Save C6, ML n/a, Int n/a, AL C, XP13. Notes: damage depends on the victim’s Alignment (Chaotic d6, Neutral d8, Lawful d10); immune to sleep, hold, poison, and mind-affecting attacks; fears sunlight; Turned as spectre.

59. Purser’s Office
The parchment-like remains of Tawaret, the venerable old accountant, still sit at her table, flicking back and forth the beads of an abacus and muttering incomprehensibly. A sallow light glows from within her chest and face. Immune to spells and physical attacks, she ignores everything around her. The purser teleports anyone touching her with or without a weapon (no save) to a random chamber on the Black Blood (3d20+1d10-1). Furthermore, all collected treasures of those teleported (including cursed coins from Area 60) appear in a chest, in Area 36. Detail of such retained valuables are recorded on a clay tablet lying on the table, duly inscribed in ancient Tanethian hieroglyphs.

Tawaret the Gibbering Purser (1): no statistics needed; can be turned as a spectre (which teleports Tawaret to a random area aboard the Black Blood, along with table, chair, tablet, and abacus).

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Black Blood in the Night, Part 4

Lower Deck (Forward & Starboard)

Black Blood Calidar Adventure
Click here for Part 3

40. Starboard Landing
This passageway leads to three key areas of the Black Blood: the gunnery deck (41), the bridge (50), and the ship’s main temple hall (53). The door to the temple hall is locked and trapped (3d6 fire damage within ten feet of the door; save for half). The stairs (b) lead left to right up to Area 17 in the Bastion, and right to left down to Area 64 in the Ship's Hold.

Black Blood Calidar Adventure
When intruders reach this passageway, a figment flies by (either one encountered earlier or a new one). It performs a few swooping attacks before fleeing astarboard toward Area 41 where it will lure intruders into a fight, unless the players’ party kill it first. Whenever killed, the figment reveals a clue about the Black Blood (see random list in Area 53) before disintegrating. If it survives this encounter, the creature reappears now and then, trying to lure the party away from Area 53. It’ll keep reappearing until destroyed.

The door to Area 30 is concealed behind debris, barred and buttressed on both sides. Shrieking fungus lives in a recess of the debris. It will manifest its concern if anyone disturbs the debris.

Figment (1): AC1, HD1*, hp 8, MV150’ (50’) flying, THAC0 19, AT 1 touch, Dmg special, Save C6, ML n/a, Int n/a, AL C, XP13. Notes: damage depends on the victim’s Alignment (Chaotic d6, Neutral d8, Lawful d10); immune to sleep, hold, poison, and mind-affecting attacks; fears sunlight; Turned as spectre.

Fungus (1): AC7, HD3, hp 12, MV9’ (3’), AT 1 shriek, Dmg Nil, Save F2, ML 12, Int 0, AL N, XP 35.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Black Blood in the Night, Part 2

1-2. Upper & Main Decks

Black Blood Calidar Adventure
Should heroes board the Black Blood, loud noises will awaken and attract nearby undead. Most of the catapults’ harpoons have been lost in space as the two sides battled each other across the barricades. A few are left, stored underneath the siege engines. The two oversized catapults pointing forward are too heavy to turn around. Projectiles, enchanted to ignite on impact, still lie beneath their bases. The aft/portside camp features the charred remains of zombies and mummy warriors along with discarded weapons, mostly spears, maces, and khopesh swords. Dismembered ghouls litter the opposite side. Two companionways lead down from the upper deck. One door opens on each side of the bastion, on the main deck (port, starboard, aft, and forward). The edge of the bastion’s railing runs 14 feet above the main deck. The main deck’s gunwales are located a few feet higher than the wings’ surface.

If no figment has been spotted yet, one appears on the deck at the spot labeled “F” (the one closest to the players’ party’s boarding). The figment makes a few swooping attacks and, if not killed in the encounter, escapes trough the door to Area 3 (portside) or to Area 17 (starboard). If the party landed on top the bastion, the appearing a figment escapes instead toward companionway (a), down to Area 20 on the lower deck, and waits there. If killed, the figment reveals a clue about the Black Blood (see random list in Area 53). Keep track of the number of figments destroyed as there are only 16 serving the eternal thinker. After their master is defeated, ignore all further “F” labels on the map.

Figment (1): AC1, HD1*, hp 8, MV150’ (50’) flying, THAC0 19, AT 1 touch, Dmg special, Save C6, ML n/a, Int n/a, AL C, XP13. Notes: damage depends on the victim’s Alignment (Chaotic d6, Neutral d8, Lawful d10); immune to sleep, hold, poison, and mind-affecting attacks; fears sunlight; Turned as spectre.

In the event of a major disturbance on the open decks, both sides will send their minions topside. One faction will defend their part of the deck against intruders, while the other looks on, taunting their rivals and shooting harpoons indiscriminately at everyone on the other side. Unless their leaders are present (the high-prior and the ghoul queen), neither side will attempt to assault the other.

Black Blood in the Night, Part 3

Lower Deck (Aft & Portside)

Black Blood Calidar Adventure
20. Portside Landing
This passageway links to three key areas of the Black Blood: the gunnery deck (21), the bridge (50), and the officers’ quarters astern the vessel. The stairs (a) lead right to left up to Area 3 in the Bastion, and left to right down to Area 58 in the Ship's Hold.

When intruders reach this passageway, a figment flies by (either one encountered earlier or a new one). It performs a few swooping attacks before fleeing toward Area 21 where it will lure intruders into a fight, unless the players’ party kill it first. Whenever killed, the figment reveals a clue about the Black Blood (see random list in Area 53) before disintegrating. If it survives this encounter, the creature reappears now and then, trying to lure the party away from Area 53. It’ll keep reappearing until destroyed.

Black Blood Calidar Adventure
The entrance to area 53 is barred on both sides, buttressed, and concealed behind a large pile of debris. Undead rats hiding within the rubble will attack if anyone tampers with their lair. A thin wire tied to the rubble connects with a small bell in Area 23. A thief may be able to see and disconnect the wire. If the debris is disturbed, zombies in Area 23 will be alerted and come to investigate 1d4+1 rounds later. The companionway (a) leads up to the main deck (3) and to the ship’s hold (58).

Figment (1): AC1, HD1*, hp 8, MV150’ (50’) flying, THAC0 19, AT 1 touch, Dmg special, Save C6, ML n/a, Int n/a, AL C, XP13. Notes: damage depends on the victim’s Alignment (Chaotic d6, Neutral d8, Lawful d10); immune to sleep, hold, poison, and mind-affecting attacks; fears sunlight; Turned as spectre.

Lesser Mummy Rats (4): AC4, HD1+1*, hp 5, MV90’ (30’), THAC0 18, AT 1 bite, Dmg d4 + rotting disease, Save F1, ML 8, Int 3, AL C, XP 200. Notes: no fear effect; immune to sleep, hold, poison, and mind-affecting attacks.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Black Blood in the Night

This adventure was written as a Calidar game event for VCon 2014.  It is intended to be played with old style D&D game rules and Level 5 heroes.  The original players managed to dispatch about a quarter of this adventure in four hours of game play without losing any of their heroes--but just barely.  They also succeeded in killing one of the game's "bosses" without external help.  Part 1, shown here, provides the adventure's introduction.  I'll post the remainder of the Black Blood's decks over the next few weeks, along with detailed maps.  You might want to play the score from the movie "The Mummy" as background music when players begin exploring the derelict vessel described in this adventure.

Premise:  The Seitha Constabulary of Meryath hires you, adventurers and heroes in the making, to survey the debris field left in the wake of the Battle of Four Banners, the famous clash of Kragean 1512 which involved the Star Phoenix. You are to recover corpses of fallen warriors frozen in space, for proper burial in Meryath, and any seitha abandoned in the shipwrecks. The mission pays an advance of 250 gp before the journey, plus 100 gp per identifiable corpse and 500 gp per measure of seitha retrieved. Smugglers may be present in the debris field, most likely looking for seitha as well. Another bounty of 1,000 gp will be paid per ship towed back to Glorathon (the party is thereafter entitled to sell or retain any seized vessels after taxes and registrations fees have been covered, along with an oath to serve the Queen’s Air Fleet whenever summoned). Foreign vessels may also be present and hostile. Engage only if attacked.

Chief Constable Crayne: He will accompany the adventurers to observe and advise. All due moneys will be paid only if Crayne returns safe and sound with the adventurers at the end of the mission. If the players’ party does not own a ship, one will be provided with Crayne as mission commander. Unless persuaded otherwise (a double-share of the rewards), he and the remainder of the crew will remain aboard the ship and communicate with the boarding party using a set of magical scrolls. Crayne will intervene personally if the party is at risk of failing their mission.

Crayne: Focused on advancing his career, he suggests others take big risks, takes credit for their achievements, and will ultimately sacrifice them to save his own life. Statistics: F8, AC-2, hp 45, MV 90’(30’), THAC0 15, AT 1 sword, Dmg d8+4, Save F8, ML8+3, AL N; St17, In11, Wi13, Dx15, Co14, Ch12. Magical Items: +1 plate armor, +2 sword of seitha detection (30’ radius), potion of haste, and ring of protection from evil.

Nakhem’s Mission: This strange skyship was built long ago by a lost civilization on Calidar. It was salvaged while drifting near Nahkem, a dwarf world hidden in the Fringe, a vast asteroid belt. Inexplicably, no crew was found aboard, though signs of a struggle were evident. Nahkem is home to ancient Tanethians who fled Munaan’s Nicarean Inquisition in some century past. They sought a faraway place to freely honor their ancient gods. Though their chief deity is still Calidar’s Arun-Te, native gods of Nahkem make up the remainder of Taneth's pantheon.  The minds of the those who colonized this new world during the next several centuries created them.

A Tanethian crew took over the Black Blood, repaired the damage, altered its layout to fit their culture, and left on a mission to explore the Fringe. Divination magic enabled them to understand the nature of its enchantment. In view of the ship’s limited supply of seitha (unavailable in the Fringe), Captain Sitiah headed to Calidar to replenish its stores. Though some of the crew were lost in the Dread Lands, the Black Blood surveyed the world for some time, occasionally trading with natives.

The High-Prior Mummy: Alas, the new owners did not realize that a curse rested in the ship’s altar. It corrupted those who used seitha to enter the netherworld. The high-prior of the ship’s temple, Sekhem-Isfet, fell victim to the curse and became a powerful mummy. After subverting the crew, he abandoned his faith in Arun-Te and served instead Anhuru, the dark jackal-headed god of death. The nefarious prior sailed the Black Blood to the site of the Battle of Four Banners, in search of seitha and corpses to raise as new servants. He knew the living would come to this place of sorrow. After he reached his destination, Sekhem-Isfet cast a spell to conceal his vessel’s presence, and awaited those whose life force he coveted.

The Queen of Ghouls: But more odious things came to pass that shouldn’t have. One of Sekhem-Isfet’s slave ghouls accidentally broke a vial while searching a wreck and spilled seitha on its hand. It was the Black Blood’s former captain, Sitiah. Unable to resist its attraction, Sitiah licked the haunted oil glistening on her clawed fingers. It immediately broke Sekhem-Isfet’s hold on her. Suddenly free, she wrenched several other vials from nearby ghouls and gorged herself with their horrid contents. The oil transformed her, conferred her greater power, and caused monstrous boils to erupt on her unholy flesh. The tumors burst and fell off, quickly growing into ghouls possessed with the dark souls of seitha. Sitiah flung her new minions against those of her former liege, and a conflict emerged between mummy high-prior and ghoul queen, evenly matched in ability and wickedness.

A Twist to the Plot: As it were, the high-prior had feelings for Captain Sitiah, but she spurned his attentions and he grew bitter. Sekhem-Isfet suspected that the ship’s captain-at-arms, a war hero named Adjeb, entertained a secret relationship with Sitiah. In a fit of curse-induced rage, he murdered Sitiah and Adjeb. But it only served to fill him with sorrow. In a bid to revive her, the high-prior betrayed Arun-Te and sold his soul to Anhuru, leading him to become a mummy. But his new powers only enabled him to bring back his beloved as a ghoul. Mad with grief, he later revived Adjeb, in the form of a slave mummy which he now delights in tormenting. Despite their undeath, the queen of ghouls and her mummy paramour still burn with the desire to be reunited.

The Eternal Thinker: In the months following the onset of the conflict, a stalemate occurred after which both sides barricaded their part of the Black Blood, barring and buttressing hatches, back-filling passageways with debris, and boarding up windows. While both sides became dormant, a few minions still follow the dark wishes of their masters. They awaken for a time and visit nearby wrecks, hunting for precious seitha and the living foolishly straying in their path. During this time, another being came upon the Black Blood, an ancient entity seeking the meaning of pain and war. Attracted to the battle site, it also sensed the undead’s hatred. In search of its callous knowledge, the one some call an eternal thinker took over the ship’s seitha chamber (53), forbidding its departure into the netherworld. Its power is such that no other undead can enter its domain. From there, the eternal thinker sends out ghostly figments of its unquenchable evil mind, to fan the flames of wrath, to observe the conflict, and to unveil what it came to learn.

The Present Situation: When the heroes come, Sitiah holds the bridge. She retains all seitha her minions unveil out of fear one of them might consume a dose and become a rival. The eternal thinker has the natural ability to cause the Black Blood to sink into the netherworld (temporarily) if another ship attacks and threatens to destroy it. Sekhem-Isfet holds the steering chamber, preventing the ship from maneuvering at all. Neither the high-prior nor the ghoul queen are aware of the secret passages’ existence into the main hold (67) and between Areas 39 and 44.

Secrets of the Black Blood: A vampire society built the Black Blood eons ago. For centuries, their dark ways commanded the fear and hatred of native tribes upon whom they preyed. When the Dread Lands reasserted themselves in their region, the tribes roused the great spirits and assaulted the vampire kingdom. The undead leaders and their blood-consuming followers were mostly destroyed, and the realm’s ruins forever engulfed amid the Dread Lands’ feral thickets. To this day, they remain a sinister and haunted site. A few escaped the onslaught, such as the Black Blood’s crew and passengers. But they too in time fell victim to the curse laid upon their ship by a tribal shaman. It corrupted their minds, and madness descended among them. One by one, the netherworld claimed those whose minds grew most demented, until none left were left. The vessel emerged into the Fringe one last time, adrift.

The accursed ship’s primary power, devised at the time it was built, is to drain magic from any vessel coming in contact with its hull, such as one attempting a boarding maneuver. Drained magic was meant to repair any physical damage to the Black Blood and feed its vampire owners. Today, drained power enables Sekhem-Isfet to animate and control new undead slaves. The high-prior may also sacrifice part of it to the jackal-headed god. Drained power is otherwise stored and can be directed from the bridge as a tractor beam pulling in nearby ships. A vessel coming in contact with the Black Blood is unable to shove off, however hard its crew may try. Gradually, its enchantment is drained, negating any magical lift or propulsion, artificial gravity, and life support. The full process takes minutes for a skiff to a few hours for a man-o-war. A dwarven dreadnought would be affected with respect to any of its enchantments, such as force stones or any of its gnomish dweomers. Power can only be regained if the Black Blood is destroyed. Individual launches on the vampire ship do not possess this draining ability. The Black Blood was built mostly of hardened iron wood, which is difficult (and noisy) to chop through or to set ablaze. Its enchantment is such that striking bulkheads or decking in order to break through will result in damage reflected back to the perpetrators (no save).

The First Move: When the heroes enter the debris field and begin their mission, they should encounter at some point a party of Sekhem-Isfet’s zombies searching for seitha, possibly aboard a smuggler’s ship recently captured. After a short fight, some of the undead escape aboard their launch and retreat to the Black Blood, possibly with plundered seitha. Fresh corpses piled in the launch allude to their macabre harvest. If the heroes fail to pursue, Chief Constable Crayne will advise they do in order to retrieve any pillaged seitha.
Map Key
Calidar Black Blood Pt 1.
As you gain on the fleeing skiff through the battlefield debris, you see what looks like an unwrecked vessel, although not one that you ever saw. With a main deck oval in shape and a bastion standing amidships, the strange craft possesses two large wings stretched across skeletal frameworks. The wings’ fabric extends past the ship’s stern to the tip of a long tail. Two large ears lie at the fore, bracketing a pair of oversized war engines. Two catapult platforms extend astern, port and starboard. Four anchors secure the ship to a clump of large wrecks floating beneath its hull.

As you look closer, you fail to notice any other crew on deck. Unguarded weaponry on each sides point toward each other, across piles of debris erected in the manner of barricades. Several bodies lie motionless on either sides. Some damage is apparent to the wings’ fabric, but after a moment it occurs to you that canvas it is not, but rather translucent skin sewn together. Scorch marks mar the deck and the bastion’s bulkheads.

The fleeing skiff lands on the main deck, aft of the midship bastion. Its occupants quickly unload their macabre trove and begin transporting them inside the bastion, through a nearby entrance.

To be continued. . .