This is an adventure for use with Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, though it can be easily be modified for other role playing systems.
It can be played in just a single game session, but will probably require a few to complete.
The objective for the party is to get the treasure, but simply fighting for it is almost impossible because the enemy is too strong. Instead, the adventurers must do some detective work to locate the treasure, surrounded by a horde of orcs who will behave very orcishly.
Read on for the full adventure.
A quest from the wizard Yvarin
The adventurers of the party are all drawn to the village of Ankraghor by an advertisement of the wizard Yvarin: "Wanted: Adventurers for a raiding mission on orc stronghold. Fighting, magic or thieving skills required, entertainment skills a plus. Objective: Retrieval of an item. Fee: 10000 gold, to be divided among the party members, plus miscellaneous spoils picked up along the way."
The wizard lives in the village Ankraghor, in a four-storey tower, the highest building over there. The village, located near some fords of the Tutel river, has about 600 inhabitants and is pretty dull. The adventurers can stay in the inn "The Singing Longbow" that can house about 5 of them before switching to stables and attics. Ankraghor has some farmers and herders, a blacksmith and some other craftsmen. There are about 25 bowmakers in the hamlet, making up the biggest industry here. The bowmen make their bows from a rare type of yew living in the area, which yields good bow-making wood. The village is surrounded by a 3 meter high earthen moat with a number of wooden towers. This signals that, being a border settlement, it occasionally suffers attacks by orcs from the northern hills. Ankraghor has a strong militia that knows how to fight.
Yvarin is a curious old man, about 60 years of age with a long white beard and magic-looking dress. He was an adventurer once but retired about 20 years ago to study the research of light and color magic - he knows almost all spells in this field. His tower is covered in rainbowy patterns and has all kinds of lamps and lights all over the place, to such an extent that it functions as a night beacon for all nightly flyers. The wizard holds the opinion that all current adventurers are soft-hearted, unlike the tough danger-bracers of old - he ranks himself among the latter. He'll sneer a bit at the party, also challenging them to prove that they are better than he expects.
Because of increasing attacks by the orcs, the wizard had ordered a magical item to strengthen the defenses of the village.
Another wizard made it and sent it with a caravan to Ankraghor, but the caravan was raided two months ago by the same orcs,
who are now very likely in possession of it.
Should they figure out how the item works, things could start looking very bleak for the villagers.
The wizard wants the party to go to the orcs and retrieve the item. It is called a Staff of Leadership and the wizard will not reveal its powers to the party, secretly fearing being double-crossed. If asked, he will say that the item has a magic ban on it which causes identify and other detection spells cast on it to fail. The wizard is unwilling to go himself, claiming that he is too old.
The quest can be performed in various ways.
It's up to the party to choose from the options presented by Yvarin (see below)
or come up with an alternative.
One option is an all-out attack, which seems inappropriate because of the orcs' strength.
Hit-and-run actions are another option, but cost a lot of time and may make the orcs flee into the wilderness, with the staff.
According to Yvarin the Festival of Irravang is due in three days. He thinks this allows the party to enter the orc stronghold without too much trouble. Two options are open:
1) Apply for a position as orc warrior. During the festival, orcs are obliged to accept, though the orc-fighter-to-be will have to do many tests and rituals before being accepted. Of course the orcs will be very suspicious of strangers and will probably try to cheat them out.
2) Approach the orcs as entertainers, for instance musicians or or circus-artists. The orcs are in bad need of good entertainers during the festival, themselves not being very good at it, and will probably accept strangers in this role.
Of course both options can be tried simultaneously.
The orcs of Urgburgh
Urgburgh is an old orc stronghold in the hills north of Ankraghor.
It houses the Tribe of the Spilled Intestines, a troop about 600 strong, 250 of them warriors.
The tribe lives from hunting and herding, frequent raiding into the valleys to the south and profits from a meagre tin-mine.
Their stronghold Urgburgh is located in a valley deep in the hills. It consists of a network of caves in all sides of the kettle-shaped valley. The orcs have taken care to smoothen and steepen the walls, so that the only entry is a broad and steep stairs to the south. In the northside is the main entrance, that leads to the cave of the tribe leader and the temple of Irravang, the patron god of the clan where the tribe belongs to.
Here is a list of all the orc gods:
|Ghurtruz||death, disease||white hand||NE||full moon||skeleton|
|Shargaz||night, thieves||horned moon||NE||new moon||bat|
|Muthik||caves, healing, women||cave rune||LE||midwinter||cave bear|
The orcs are a tough and rough lot. They fight over almost anything and everything, to change or reaffirm the pecking order. As a result, all are capable fighters. The average orc should not be rated at 1, but 2 hit dice and leaders are significantly stronger. Clan leaders are 9th - 12th level warriors.
If the adventurers roam the surroundings of Urgburgh, in the approach to or during the festival, they may encounter the following places and groups:
Northwest of the orcs the hills are somewhat higher and rougher. A tribe of fierce taer is living there. They love to prey on anyone edible, but play no role on the political or economical stage.
There are 6 brownies living to the south of the orcs. Normally they interfere but little with them, but sometimes they play pranks upon the humanoids. This year they plan to disturb the hill run (q.v.) by luring the runners of the trail with ventriloquism and mirror image effects, then make a fast retreat into the woods.
This evil womanoid lives in a crude hut at the east bank of the lake. Orcs sometimes come here to fish, but are very wary of her voice mimicry tricks, as she has lured many of them to their deaths in the past years. Of course the tribe is mighty enough to vanquish her quickly, but a rumor is going around saying that the first creature to kill the hag will become infertile, seriously decreasing the number of attempts on her life. There have been occasional attacks by brave orcs, but all of them have stranded on her alertness, illusionary powers and might.
About 2 kms west from Urgburgh are some small tin mines. About 40 slaves labor here, an assortment of various races including mostly humans, a few dwarves, a single (very stupid) ogre and several donkeys. Ore is dug from a network of underground corridors, carried up by wooden carts and refined in crude ovens outside. Normally 14 orc guards are keeping watch, their strongpoints being a wooden watchtower and a small barracks.
Entrance to the festival
The area around Urgburgh is patrolled by small bands of orcs and there are lookouts on the hilltops. Closer to the valley are posts that check in visitors. These will be very suspicious of non-orcs. The party may have to display some excellent parleying to avoid trouble, especially if there are dwarves (bad) or elves (worse) in the party. Orcs have a very good sense of smell and may actually smell out any disguised non-humans. In any case, party members will be searched for rothé horns in their equipment and baggage. If the guards find anything that they covet, they may try to bully the adventurers to get it. Here the party can show strength to frighten them off - they may very well get away with beating up a patrol. Alternatively, they can try to evade or outwit the orcs.
The festival is very important for the orcs. First, it is the place and time where young orcs can attain warrior status. There is always fierce competition among them. Second, existing hierarchies among warriors are tested and rearranged / confirmed. Third, the festival is a tribute to Irravang and the orcs beg for his blessing in coming battles. Fourth, female orcs show out and try to gain the favor of the most successful warriors.
The DM can use the NPCs listed here to spice up the orcish crowd and give the adventurers potential allies and/or leads.
Horum the bard
This bard is a half-orc armed with a lute and a good voice. He joins the festival every year and is very popular. This bard also travels the lands of the humans and is one of the most culturally developed men at the festival.
This is an orcish band of musicians. They are a rather rough lot, worse than the heaviest heavy metal band, both in music and behavior. They make loud aggressive music and have a great stage performance. They act quite irresponsible and are often bored with "those stupid warriors", who they deem mundane. They have a small squad of bodyguards armed with clubs and large shields to protect them from adversaries and also projectiles from their own fans.
This is a group of five bugbear warriors, led by Torghl One-Eye. He used to lead a bigger troop but they have been decimated by their enemies to such a degree that they are desparate for a means of survival now. Teaming up with the orcs is a way to do that. They still have a sense of pride and try to act as mercenaries during the game, selling their services to the highest bidder.
Gurri is a young orc girl. She is not so pretty and has trouble getting a good husband. That is why she has turned her eye on humans and demi-humans. She will probably fall in love with the first one that seems a little nice and then be very persistent in following him around.
This half-human, half-gnoll (his nose gives him away though he may claim it is a gnome-nose) walks around with a shabby percussion set claiming to be a musician. His greatest contribution however is banging the cimbals when a climax arrives in the surroundings. Actually he is a thief, out for any treasure that can be found, also having heard something about the Staff of Leadership. He may team up with the party, but cannot be fully trusted, as he will try to pocket treasure for himself without anybody noticing it, maybe running off prematurely.
This orcish big mama is the head shaman of the tribe of the Fat Bear, worshiper of Mutlik of course. She has extraordinary healing powers and uses them to great advantage of warriors participating in the festival games. She does require payment, though. Rarely this is money, more often blood, a vow of allegiance or a demand to bed with her. She speaks only gibberish, which is translated by a small snakelike goblin. Some wonder if she is insane and the goblin is the real one in power.
Trader in hides, weapons, herbs, puppets, flint, amulets, toys, booze, frets, monster body parts, cacao, small flutes and toothpicks. Also does hand-readings.
Big old orc clad in goatskin. Walks around uttering prophecies of doom; says the orcs will succumb to humans and perish.
If the adventurers signed up as warriors, want to use the games to gain information or just to have some fun,
the following information is relevant.
The festival lasts three days, with one game per afternoon, evening and night. Each game has a ranking of winners and losers and many in-betweens. The ultimate winner of each game is awarded a red stud that can be attached to clothing or armor. In addition, a council of judges (old orcs) awards studs for extraordinary deeds of strength (black stud), stamina (brown stud) and cunning (yellow stud). These often land in the higher rankings, but any able gamers with bad luck may also gain one.
At the end of the game, the judges evaluate the youngsters on their rankings in the games, also taking into account any studs gained, and promote the best of them into adulthood with a fine orcish ceremony. Usually about half of them make it. The others have to undergo mockery for one year, then try again.
Day 1, afternoon: Hill run
This is a long run, a little less than 9 kilometers, starting from and ending at the valley. The route is marked on the Urgburgh map. Weapons are not allowed, armor is a burden, but being an orc-race, foul play is all too common. Orcs will trip, topple and trample each other, teams forming up to block others or break through barriers. The start is steep uphill and it is very important to gain an advantage here. Further down the track there are several (small) river crossings. The race tracks follows paths at certain stretches, veering off at others. Guards and supporters are positioned along the track to make sure that nobody takes a shortcut.
Day 1, evening: Rothé hunt
About 300 rothé cattle are released into the surrounding lands and must be hunted down without weapons, their horns brought back as proof. The orcs form small bands here and in the chaos of the hunt it is very common to rob successful hunters of their prizes with a bigger troop.
Day 1, night: Wrestling
This is a kind of knock-out tournament where wrestlers are put up against each other randomly. A fighter that loses three fights is knocked out of the game; his number of wins determining his ranking. Again, weapons are prohibited, but orc-wrestling is rather free-style and very rough. The prime aim is to throw the opponent out of a five-meter diameter ring, immobilize him for 1 minute, or knock him unconscious.
Day 2, afternoon: Bird hunt
For this game about 200 pigeons are released into the air and confused with a special kind of local thunderstorm, magically invoked, so they don't immediately fly away. The orcs shoot them down with bows, meanwhile also being hampered by the unweather. Every orc has his arrows marked with a personal color code, though some copy each others codes to increase the chances of their leader. When a bird comes down, there is sometimes a fight over it.
Day 2, evening: Rodeo
All female rothé were killed the day before, but the males have been kept in reserve to serve in the rodeo. Contestants must stick in the saddle for half a minute, then are required to jump off (if they are still sitting) and make for safety. Again this is a knock-out system, an orc who falls off is out of the game. The number of of successful rides determines the rank here. A rare orc may slay the rothé with his bare hands after falling off, gaining a lot of honor and often a stud, but being excluded from further participation afterwards.
Day 2, night: Troll fight
This time weapons are allowed. Orcs must fight and defeat trolls in melee. Fire is prohibited of course, to keep the trolls regenerating and able to last. They are allowed to form groups, but in this case the points are divided among all group members. Again, a warrior / troop that loses a fight is out of the game.
Day 3, afternoon: Hobbit throwing
This fun part is very popular.
There are about 50 hobbits available, packed into thick padding to make them endure longer, though they are occasionally cured.
A hobbit that yelps and shrieks in pain and fear too much is generally left to die - you can still use them.
The last hobbit surviving is released into the world with food and weapons.
The aim for the orcs is to throw the hobbits as far as possible, the farthest throw counts. Each may try two times, three if the second throw was farther than the first.
Day 3, evening: Sword melee
Here whole groups of orcs go for each other, so not only individual combat skills but also battlefield manouevering is important. To avoid massive deaths and wounds the shamans suck the killing "energy" from the victors to cure the fallen. Nonetheless, many come out with severe wounds and there are always a few deaths.
Day 3, night: End ceremony
This is a grand ceremony, with music, drink and wild dance. Successful youths are made adult warriors, others are promoted or degraded, and the winners are honored. Also, an avatar of Irravang is conjured and invested into the greatest warrior of all. For the orcs, the distribution of studs over the colors is an omen that signals which attribute should be predominant in next year's fighting: strength, stamina or cunning.
The temple of Irravang
The temple is hidden in the network of caves on the north side of the kettle valley.
It is located next to the throne room, beneath the quarters of the chief and shaman.
From there, a narrow stairs leads down to a big, sturdy oaken door with a curious lock right in the middle.
From the shape it is clear that the key that fits is some kind of flanged mace.
In fact, it is the mace of the shaman, which party members may have seen during the festival.
If the party manages to get past the door, they will be met be a huge minotaur with a double-bladed axe. He is guarding a broad passage with 11 doors in it. Seeing no shaman, he will ask them if one is "the champion", because champion and shaman take part in a religious ceremony at the end of the festival each year. The party may try to bluff their way in. If so, the minotaur will ask which ask which "attribute" is dominant this year, strength, stamina or cunning. Depending on the answer he will direct them:
1) strength - "Butt your way in, then." (to the head)
2) stamina - "Take a deep breadth and sally forth." (to the nose)
3) cunning - "Forward, but with a weary eye." (to the right eye)
4) something else - the party will have to fight.
If they are allowed in, the minotaur will direct them to the right door. If not, the party should pick the right one of the 11 doors, each marked with a number in orcish writing (one, two and three are easily recognizable). Failure means the exit magically leads back to the entrance and a different door is activated. Finding the right one at random is of course possible - the chance is 1 in 11 at each attempt.
An orcish inscription to the side might help: "Those without horns should use the part below the horns. The phase of the moon, with dark one as first one, should be increased by the each of the main gods and then multiplied by itself. Now drop all digits except the last and pick your entrance. If you end up with the non-number, get yourself a new bull first."
In other words, the phase of the moon is a basic number: new = 1, half = 3, full = 5, half = 7, total 8 phases. It is now three quarters moon, waxing, thus 4. Next, 6 (= the number of main gods) should be added to a total of 10. Square this number to 100. Orcs count in a 12-digit system, so fractions dropped does not yield 100 - 100 = 0, but 100 - 96 = 4. It is the fourth door from the left.
The skull dungeon
When the party starts exploring the dungeon behind, they may gradually come to realize its form is that of a skull,
partitioned in many chambers, quite random.
Some rooms are empty, some are filled with monsters.
The orcish shaman can keep them at bay with his mace, but they attack intruders.
Among the monsters are:
- Sons of Kyuss, in groups of 1 - 5.
- A gorgon, lone. In some rooms there are statues of people, orcish and non-orcish, turned to stone, which signal of this danger.
- A pair of dark creepers, wandered in through a tiny corridor that leads to deep earth, located in the upper right section.
- Four gargoyles. Contrary to popular belief, they are not aggressive, they just want to get out and know the dungeon quite well. They cannot speak, however.
Besides these dangers there are numerous small passages, used by giant rats, mites and snyads, but also fire beetles, to travel around and harass passers-by.
Purgh and the altars
The party should head for one of the three altars. There are altars in the forehead, the nose and the right eye. At the end of the festival a verger waits here to help shaman and festival hero with the ceremony and hand the latter the Staff of Leadership. If the festival is not yet done, he will wander around the dungeon, protected by a silver helm that grants a permanent protection from evil, though he is wary of traps and monsters. The verger is a somewhat eldery orc, not fierce but a bit strange and equipped with an obsession for proper protocol. His name is Purgh and the party may well stumble on him, especially if they make a lot of noise. Purgh is supposed to fetch the staff just before the end of the festival. If pressed by the party, he may tell where it actually is: hidden in the orc mines.
Excavations, personnel and staff
Over the course of time, three main corridors have been dug.
The ore veins in the northern one seem exhausted and this tunnel is now deserted.
Work is still going on in the two western corridors.
Recently there have been attacks by marl mugglers aka tunnel thugs.
As the labor force and guard go "home" every night to Urgburgh and return in the morning,
their first task is to clear the corridors from these rock monsters, which is difficult and dangerous.
Both miners and guards have become quite nervous because of this.
The staff is hidden in one of the tips of the northernmost corridor, tucked into a sturdy iron chest which is shoved under a heavy ore cart. There is a complicated lock on it, with a poisoned needle inside - standard job for a thief. What is not standard is a magical trap that works a nasty mindboggling effect on the first person who touches it and fails to save vs. magic. The afflicted quickly develops a tendency to seek out danger. He/she becomes reckless, a threat to himself and his/her comrades. The effect can be removed by a successful dispel magic.
Staff of Leadership
This is a magical staff with potent powers. It increases the charisma of the wielder by 6 points when held and increases leadership skill by one level. Once per day, it can summon a band of 24+2d6 heavy infantrymen (1st level), led by four 2nd level sergeants, two a 3rd level lieutenants and 5th level captain. These are armed with mail armor, shield and spear and will fight for the staff holder, but cannot do other tasks. They exist for one hour maximum, then disappear. Once per week the staff can summon a cloud giant who can likewise fight but is useless for other purposes.
After the party has recovered the staff, they are not done yet. Being robbed of their new plaything will leave the orcs mighty pissed. They will make use of the presence of all the tribes by raising an army of about 1200 warriors, leaving about 400 to guard Urgburgh and their women. These 1200 march in separate bands:
- Spilled Intestines (Irravang): 150 men. They consider themselves the elite, but this view is not shared by everyone.
- Bloody Club (Baghtru): 200 men. These orcs often act as battering ram.
- Broken Axe (Baghtru): 100 men. This band is the great rival of the Spilled Intestines and will try to cheat them of victory.
- Gore Reapers (Gurthruz): 200 men. They are in for the kills, planning to harvest the spirits of the fallen for their necromancers.
- Black Arrow (Shargaz): 100 men. The Black Arrows live quite close to the Spilled Intestines, in Ort keep ( see map). They are good archers and they boast it, but their shortbows do not reach as far those of the villagers. They do not like hand-to-hand combat and try to avoid it, though they are being ridiculed for it.
- Hooded Blade (Shargaz): 150 men. This band of marauders has done some private planning. They want to loot Yvarin's tower and then make off with the magical loot before anybody notices what is going on. They are planning a sneak attack before the main charge.
- Fat Bear (Muthik): 300 men. They are cautious and think the whole raid is useless, but don't want to be pictured as cowards.
It is clear that the small village, with about 200 warriors, including the too young, too old and too disabled,
can never hope to withstand the orcs, even with the help of Yvarin, the party, the staff and possibly some freed mine slaves.
There are several options available. One is to alert the garrison of fort Krunky, about 20 miles away to the southeast. Their reinforcements may turn the tide, but will take a day to march to Ankraghor, after they have been alerted. This calls for delaying actions.
Another potential source of help are bands of wemics to the southwest. However, these are scattered and a bit scornful of the "human peasants". Maybe they can be bought, but even then they probably need a day or two to muster - too long, unless the party manages to slow the orcs down enough.
Also, the village may of course be evacuated. However the orcs probably march faster and will catch the fugitives in the open field. This seems a non-option.
The best option, however difficult, is probably to sow discord in the ranks of the orcs. Tribal rivalries can be ignited easily and this may break up the whole assault before it even starts. Yvarin has a small catch in store to help out here: half a dozen potions that polymorph people into orcs. A double dose even lets you speak orcish, think orcish and act orcish. But ... the effects are permanent, that's why he didn't advertise them before.