The Astromundi Cluster is ripe with the thrill of adventure. Rival factions constantly jockey for position, using pawns (read: adventurers) to carry out their plans and see to their objectives. Strange ruins beckon with eerie lights, and strangely twisted spires thrust toward the depths of wildspace. Creatures from beyond the material plane stalk the shadows, with death in their talons and flames in their eyes.
There are literally endless hours of adventure within the Astromundi Cluster. Below are a few adventure ideas, some of which are related to the major plots of the Cluster (the Sundeath and the Mystery of the Arcane) and are marked as such. Others are entertaining side ventures that can be used to spice up any campaign. These are not complete adventures, but rather outlines that can be expanded into full adventures by individual DMs. Use them as a jumping off point for your campaign, changing them as you will to fit your particular style and that of your players.
Adventure Outlines are comprised of three sections: The Setup, The Adventure, and Future Adventures. In the Setup, information is provided concerning the adventure’s setting, recommended number of levels in a party, and a means for getting the characters involved. The Adventure describes the plot of the scenario, providing a framework of events that can be fleshed out by the DM, but which is essentially complete. Future Adventures describes the consequences of the characters actions and tie-ins to other adventure outlines in this booklet.
Little Lost Tradesman
This adventure is set in the so-called Grim Regions of the Inner Ring, a few days travel from the neogi outpost of S’jalamai. A Thoric tradesman has been attacked by goblinoid raiders. Though they were able to kill most of the crew, the goblinoids took such heavy losses that they were forced into retreat. The neogi, ever desiring to get hold of a cherished tradesman, have hired the characters to retrieve the craft.
This adventure is intended for 4 to 6 low- to mid-level characters. This adventure is tied into the Sundeath plot of the illithids (see Chapter Four: The Sundeath for more information).
The neogi are hungry to get their hands on the Thoric tradesman, eager to discover how the ships are built and how to build their own in order to carry on long-distance trading. They learned of the damaged ship after capturing a fleeing goblinoid raider. The neogi would have gone after the tradesman themselves, but know there are other interested parties.
In particular, the Thoric have hired dwarven mercenaries to retrieve the vessel. After the ship did not return from its regularly appointed route, the Thoric trading house to which it belonged dispatched a crack squad of “deep space retrievers.” These dwarves are armed to the teeth and ready to do whatever is necessary to get the ship back.
The neogi will loan the characters a spelljamming vessel, if necessary, after the characters sign an ironclad contract. Should the ship be damaged, the characters are responsible for the cost of repairs. If by some misfortune the vessel is destroyed, characters will be sold into slavery in order to compensate the neogi. On the up side, characters will receive 3,000 gp for the successful retrieval of the Thoric tradesman, Zakal’s Folly.
Naturally, the dwarves and the player characters will arrive at the Folly very near to the same time. On the way the characters may encounter a few wildspace creatures, but nothing that would keep them from reaching the main object of the adventure.
The characters should get to the Folly first and perhaps poke around a bit. Still aboard are several wounded goblins, none of which are spellcasters able to use the helm and escape. They have devoured the majority of the ship’s stores and the air is beginning to go stale, making them quite desperate. They will hide among the rigging and below decks, waiting to attack the characters when they can gain surprise.
The bodies of Thoric merchants and crewmen litter the deck, left there by the goblinoid pirates. Even from a distance the carnage is evident, as the goblinoids remaining on board have staked the bodies of their fallen foes to the ship’s cargo hold.
Once the characters land aboard the ship, they will no doubt run afoul of the goblinoids. There are 15 goblins remaining aboard the Folly, and they are led by a scro captain, Bazeev. The goblins are armed with short swords and maces, though a few may be armed with missile weapons as well. All wear leather armor, giving them AC 6. The scro captain is better armed, wielding two scimitars +1 which he uses as a two-weapon fighter (see PHBR1, The Complete Fighter’s Handbook for details).
Bazeev will try to get his raiders in position for an ambush, if he becomes aware of the characters before he is discovered. If surprised or caught without time to make a plan, Bazeev orders his goblins to take down apparent wizards first, followed by priests and finally fighters. Goblins armed with missile weapons will fire from cover when possible, using their attacks to pin characters down and cover the advance of their fellows.
After a few rounds of fighting it out with the goblins and their captain, the PCs are “rescued” by the dwarven mercenaries hired by the Thoric to retrieve the Folly. While they will attack the scro and his cronies, the dwarves are not going to take a very positive view of the PCs. After questioning, the dwarves will decide just what to do with them.
If the characters reveal that they have been employed by the neogi, the dwarves will most likely settle the matter in the only manner fitting for mercenaries: a fight. The characters will be allowed to choose their champion, and the dwarves will pick theirs. The fight is not to the death, but losers may be slain at the winner’s whim. Whichever side wins may claim the wreck as their own. The losers must return in shame to their employers.
Characters may chose to hide the identity of their employers, in which case the dwarves will simply ask them to leave, or force them to do so.
Whatever happens, the characters won’t get off the ship without encountering the cargo. If they tow it back to the neogi, the cargo will greet them once they are underway. If the dwarves gain the rights to the ship, the cargo will come up from below decks before the characters have a chance to get back to their own ship.
The “cargo” is a contemplator, found and mistaken for a statue by Thoric explorers. Until now the contemplator, Tlurian, has remained locked in stasis by an medallion enchanted by illithid wizards. Tlurian was cursed to silence so that the secrets he knew about the illithids and the Sunslayer would never be heard.
Fortunately, the “statue” and its medallion were separated by a light-fingered goblin after the battle aboard the Folly. Now, the contemplator is awake, but the decades spent in stasis are starting to catch up to Tlurian. He can say only the following before he collapses and decays into dust.
“The time is coming. Beware the worshipers of the snaked one, the eaters of the soul. They bring darkness where they walk, their paths littered with corpses wreathed in shadow. They seek the Sunslayer, that will destroy this sphere. Beware …”
This shakes the dwarfs up a bit, but they are professional to the last, and sweep the remnants into a small urn to insure its safe return to their Thoric employers.
Follow Up Adventures
Whether the characters know it or not, they have just been given an important clue to the plots of the illithids. If they chose to follow it up, they can begin hunting down someone who can shed more light on the words of the contemplator. Perhaps another of Tlurian’s kind exists within the Great Belt and the characters must hunt that contemplator down. In any case, this makes a great starting point for an adventure-series involving the illithids and the Sunslayer (see Chapter Four: The Sundeath).
If the characters manage to beat the dwarf champion, the Thoric are going to be very agitated at the fact that a Thoric tradesman was turned over to the neogi. Characters may find themselves chased by vengeful mercenaries hired to dispose of the fools responsible for apparently giving the neogi the edge they need to dominate long-distance trade.
The neogi are not going to be happy if the characters don’t get the ship, however. If the neogi ship is destroyed as well, the characters will most likely be hunted down and killed or sold into slavery.
Characters who succeed in their mission will find themselves favored by the neogi, and offered special assignments. They may even be hired to hunt down craftsmen capable of the sort of quality work that is necessary to make a Thoric tradesman.
DMs should note that whether the mission succeeds or not, the neogi are not going to gain the means to build the most powerful ship in the Cluster. The tradesman is built very carefully to prevent reverse engineering from stealing its secrets. The neogi may gain more powerful ships, but they will never equal the Thoric’s.
A dizantar is loose in the Cluster and is doing what it does best: killing Arcane. The Antilans, acting in the best interest of their Arcane allies, hire the characters to track down the dizantar and dispose of it. Due to the difficulty of this task, this adventure is recommended for characters of mid- to high-level.
In order to find the dizantar, the characters will have to keep track of where Arcane are being killed, and listen for rumors of dizantar sightings. After several Arcane have been killed in far distant points of wildspace, regular sightings of a dizantar near Highport should be enough to send characters chasing out to the Arcane trading post.
Intelligent characters will set up an ambush in or near Highport and wait for the dizantar to show up. Let them wait for a bit, thinking that they may have been wrong about where the dizantar would be, and then move onto the next part of the adventure.
The dizantar will strike to the core of Highport’s power, slaying an Arcane. The characters, of course, will be alerted and ordered to stop the creature before it can escape.
A harrowing chase should ensue, with the dizantar running through the lower levels of Highport and the characters in hot pursuit. The Arcane have sealed Highport so no one can physically or magically exit, thereby preventing the creature from using its ability to dimension door in wildspace. The dizantar, frustrated in its escape attempt, will try to go to ground and hide until the search is called off.
The dizantar is a canny and dangerous hunter. Once it realizes that it cannot escape from Highport, the creature will change its tactics and attempt to find and kill as many Arcane as it can before it is killed. This particular dizantar is a veteran tracker, the survivor of many such strikes against the Arcane. It is equipped with a ring of invisibility and a rope of entanglement, and its halberd has been enchanted with the ability to cast darkness 15’ radius (as the 2nd-level wizard spell) twice per day. It will use these items and its native strength to their full advantage, setting ambushes and traps for its pursuers.
This adventure is a chance for the PCs to engage in a hunt-and-seek mission through the warrens and hidden places of Highport, hunting a creature that may very well be hunting them in return. Included in this box is a poster map of Highport, and The Celestial Almanac gives a description of the various sections. The mine, slave pits, and the lawless Rogues’ Alley are natural places for the dizantar to hide. Other locations might include the Great Bazaar (where the creature might grab a hostage to deter pursuit), or the Garden. It will probably avoid the Dwarven Quarter, the Repair Deck, the Dock, and the Reserve.
For even more intrigue, the dizantar might meet with the Calidian Hidden in the twisting passages of Minstrel’s Way, and agree to serve as their hand of vengeance in exchange for a safe “home ground” and perhaps (eventually) a way out of Highport. After all, the Arcane can’t keep it sealed forever.…
Follow Up Adventures
This adventure can bring the characters all sorts of grief. For one thing, failing the Arcane is a bad idea; they have very harsh ideas about contract violations. If the dizantar escapes Highport, or kills more than one Arcane, the Antilans (with instructions from their Arcane allies) will make the characters a deal they cannot refuse: either the characters will make good their promise to the Arcane and go after the dizantar again, or they will be sent to the Shakalman Group as slaves.
This in turn could lead to their discovery that there is more than one dizantar in the Cluster, and a whole series of adventures as they are hired to hunt them down. And of course, characters may start to wonder why the dizantar was after the Arcane in the first place…
The frozen world of Hatha has begun exporting some rather bizarre artifacts of late, attracting the attention of collectors across the Cluster. Naturally, the characters are hired by one such collector to travel to Hatha and dig up some artifacts for her, eliminating the middle man. Character groups of low- to mid-level are appropriate for this adventure.
Artifacts and strange ruins are big favorites with virtually all AD&D® game players and their characters. These things offer mystery, the threat of the unknown, and the opportunity to ransack treasure hordes. The ruins of Hatha are no different, but there is the added difficulty of extreme cold. Also, the Thoric who inhabit Hatha have strictly forbidden anyone else from investigating these ruins.
In order to get out to the ruins, characters are going to have to equip themselves with cold-weather gear (which isn’t commonly available in other parts of the Cluster) and suitable gear for exploring, without attracting undue attention. The Thoric are generally an unsuspicious lot, but if the characters are not careful, they may find themselves under scrutiny by Thoric authorities.
Once outfitted, the adventurers have to reach the ruins, a journey possible only by icesailer. Few Thoric are unscrupulous enough to bring outsiders to the ruins, and that only for a hefty fee. After several days or even weeks of carefully nosing around for an icesailer for hire, the characters come across Bjorg Skald, a one-eyed ex-mercenary with no compunctions about breaking laws and customs that he finds prohibitive.
After paying an outrageous price for his services, Bjorg will take the party out to one of the ruin sites, promising to return in eight hours. Characters are free to explore the ruins for that amount of time.
The ruins themselves are eerie, encased in ice and made of strange green stone that seems to flare and flicker with its own inner fire. Tall, glassy cylinders abound, their exteriors marked with unusual runes. If characters bother these at all, a zombie will exit the cylinder 1d6 rounds after the cylinder is first touched. After a few of these encounters, and after characters notice the layout of the place, they will realize that these ruins are huge mausoleums.
Further exploration of the ruins will reveal a small room in which many artifacts are stored. These artifacts are, in fact, pieces of an ancient device meant to bring the beings in the cylinders back to life. Characters who study the artifacts may discover this, as their method of storage and the pictograms that accompany the artifacts point in this direction.
If the device is assembled, the people in the cylinders will be restored to life — in noncorporeal form. Actually, they were stored in a special state, and were never truly dead. The zombies released from the cylinders that are examined are a result of tampering and premature opening of the cylinders.
The ghostlike people here will converge on the room that contains the device. If they arrive, and the characters do not have a piece of the Sunslayer, they will deliver the following speech:
“You have summoned Those Who Wait in Ice, yet you do not know our purpose. We wish you no harm, but you cannot stay in this place of the dead. Go now, and return when you can aid us, and we, you.”
Those Who Wait in Ice are a group that escaped from illithid bondage centuries ago. They vowed that the illithids would never rise to rule this sphere, and magically preserved themselves to aid those who oppose the mind flayers. They are mentioned in the Mind Dark Prophecy, but characters who are involved in this adventure may not have heard the prophecy or know of the illithid plot to extinguish the sun. This adventure can be a prequel to the characters’ involvement in the schemes of the illithids, giving them a taste of things to come.
If the characters have a piece of the Sunslayer, Those Who Wait in Ice will swear undying loyalty to the characters.
“We have waited for your call, our allies. Lead us that we may assist you in your war against the snake-faced ones. We can last not long in this place; carry us forth in the Item Accursed. From that we can be called but once by each of you, to serve as you will. One task we can complete, or attempt to complete: choose well your will for Those Who Wait in Ice.”
What all that means is that Those Who Wait In Ice will transfer themselves to the characters’ piece of the Sunslayer. Then the characters can call forth Those Who Wait in Ice to aid them in any task they are assigned by the characters. DMs may equate this aid to one limited wish per PC, unless that would overbalance the campaign. This power can only be used by the PCs who were present when Those Who Wait were found. That done, they can finally rest in peace, knowing they fought their former masters as best they were able.
The Thoric are not going to be amused if the characters are discovered. The party is likely to be imprisoned or worse if found out, and only a very good explanation could save them from this fate. Of course, filling the Thoric in on Those Who Wait in Ice and how they relate to the illithid plot might work, but you never know what might come of that… .
Characters who discover the ruins and their occupants before they learn of the illithids and their plans will probably want to return here later, adding continuity to your storyline and making the players realize that things happened before their characters came along, and will continue to happen long after they have passed on or retired. Such storylines do much to give the impression of a living, dynamic atmosphere in which the campaign takes place.
In the Pale Witchlight
The characters should be of mid-level, higher if there are fewer than five members in the party. This adventure can be sprung on characters wherever they are.
The adventure begins when the characters are out flying through wildspace and discover a strange glow coming from a nearby asteroid (or other such body). The glow comes and goes at regular intervals, giving the impression of some sort of coded transmission. If the characters drop in closer to take a look, they see the light is coming from a cave of some sort, which glows with the same pale, green light that the characters saw blinking.
The source of the light is a cache of witchlight marauders. Though a small group of tertiaries are all that is located here, they should be more than enough for the characters to fight.
The marauders have been signaling for several days now, having woken from a magical sleep alone and hungry (the signal light is part of the magic of their cache, and cannot be turned off) and are hoping to attract goblinoids who can lead them into battle, but luring in food is part of their plan as well.
There are four tertiary marauders here, each hungrier than the last. The caverns in which they live are riddled with twisting passageways that cross over and under one another. The marauders have created murder slits in their spare time, allowing them slice down through the ceiling or up through the floor at passing characters.
When the characters begin exploring the caverns, they should never get a good look at the marauders. Instead, the canny beasts strike from their murder slits and fade away, wearing the characters down.
If the characters seem to be having too easy a time, some goblinoids might finally pick up the signals from the marauders and pop in to check things out. This can create a very tense scenario, as the characters attempt to avoid both sets of enemies and escape with their lives.
When the marauders are finally seen, their strangeness and alien natures should be emphasized. When forced to fight, the marauders use simple but sound tactics and should give the characters a run for their money. If goblinoids are added to the mix, those forces will use missile weapons to back up the marauders who move into melee range to finish the characters off.
The witchlight marauders may force the characters into retreat. If this happens, the characters may want to return with greater numbers and mercenaries to finish the strange beasts off. Of course, this will give the marauders time to attract goblinoids and a pitched battle begins when the characters show up.
If the characters do not kill off the marauders, they will most certainly hear of the creatures serving alongside goblinoid masters in the future. A sense of duty may compel such characters to finish what they started. Or the characters may be hired by another faction to defeat the marauders.
Characters who kill the marauders may be spotted by goblinoids who then mark the characters for death. This can be an interesting subplot, as goblinoid assassins dog the characters’ step and goblin saboteurs interfere with their plans.
The Pens of the Illithids
This low-level adventure is good as an introduction to the illithids and their slaving practices, and to the Hidden. It is not tied to any one area, or the major conspiracies of the Cluster.
The characters must be captured by illithids and chained into the slave pens. The following are some good ways to enslave the characters:
They are captured by the illithid press gangs that are rumored to haunt the winding passageways of Ironport.
Their ship is impounded for any number of reasons, some of which might even be valid.
A ship’s captain offers the characters outrageous wages, then once aboard, has them drugged. They awake in the hold of an illithid’s slaving ship.
Life in an illithid slave pen is barely survivable. Characters will be shaved right away, and powdered with some sort of bug-killing dust. After being shaved and checked for communicable diseases (which could infect the rest of the slaves or the illithids), a small tattoo or brand will be placed on the characters’ left forearm. The brand typically numbers the character and sometimes has the identifying mark of the clan that owns them.
Once characters are shaved and marked, they will be taken to the slave pens. A single steel rod runs down the center of the hold’s ceiling. Slaves are chained to this, with their toes just barely touching the floor.
There are only two times when the slaves are released from their bonds, and then only a few at a time. The characters may seize these opportunities to escape, but planning is the key.
The first “free” time occurs when slaves are taken down to do repair work on the bottom of the hull. !Illithid spelljammers are not as careful about debris as other captains, and accumulate quite a bit of damage on their exteriors. Since the illithids themselves can’t stand to be outside the ship, slaves must do this work. A Varan overseer is often dispatched with the slaves, but during night repairs this is rare.
The second time during a day that characters might have a chance to escape is during their feeding. Feedings occur once a day, and all slaves are released at once to eat. Of course, the freedom is limited, because the illithids simply withdraw the bar upon which the slaves are chained, leaving their wrists bound by a two-foot length of chain. This would be a good time to stage a mass revolt.
Planning is the key to any escape. Characters must become familiar with the other slaves, ferreting out any Varan spies who might have been placed with the slaves. The characters should never know who they can trust, making caution the watchword.
Once the characters have assembled a small group that they believe are trustworthy, their planning should begin in earnest. After all, with every day that they spend aboard the ship they come closer to a port where they may be sold or eaten at the illithids’ whim.
The escape should be played through with great detail. Play up the suspense of slaves trying to overthrow their better-armed captors. Characters might try to sneak about, killing and looting the Varan overseers, before making their final attack on the illithids.
If it appears that the characters are not going to be able to successfully pull off their plan, have the Calidian Hidden come to their rescue. This organization is devoted to freeing slaves, especially from the illithids. Characters who prove themselves in the ensuing battle may be asked to join the Hidden as agents, leading to future adventures.
Characters who attempt to escape and fail will certainly be placed under closer guard, making their next jailbreak that much more difficult!
Characters who fail to escape may be sold to even worse masters, from whom they might try to escape. Or they may make another attempt at getting away.
If the characters join the Hidden, they may be asked to perform all sorts of missions for that secret organization. Perhaps they will become an elite arm of the Hidden, dedicated to hunting down illithid slavers (a job that may bring them into contact with the Sundeath plot). Or they may decide not to join the Hidden, and the Calidians may try to coerce them into doing so. Such a battle between the Hidden and the characters opens up all sorts of role-playing possibilities.
Slaves who escape the illithids are often hunted by Varan bounty hunters. Unless the characters can find some way to have their brands or tattoos removed, they may be hunted to their dying day.
The Dowhar’s Service
A group of mid-level characters are hired to work for the dowhar. Of course, the characters are hired by a Calidian go-between who does not reveal who they will really be working for. The characters are paid to infiltrate the neogi trade center of Ironport and retrieve the so-called black egg. This adventure has ties to the Mystery of the Arcane, the Darkgate, and the Sunslayer.
Ironport is a dangerous place at the best of times, and downright deadly if the characters are plotting against the neogi.
The black egg is an item of some power that has only recently come into the possession of the neogi. The dowhar want the egg simply because the neogi have it and are using to increase their share of trade. Neither faction is aware that the black egg is in fact the Egg of Night, a key piece of both the Darkgate and the Sunslayer.
Finding the black egg in Ironport is a task that may take several days or even weeks. The labyrinthine tunnels of Ironport hold strange mysteries, among these the mysterious Dead Feeders. This cult of degenerate neogi worships an undead old master, and it is they who possess the black egg. Characters will have to discover just who the Dead Feeders are and where they meet.
Then they’ll need to stake out the location of the Dead Feeders lair and test its defenses. They might attempt to infiltrate the group, but this could be very difficult given the neogi prejudice toward other races. On the other hand, the neogi might consent to allowing the characters in, but actually plan to feed them to the undead old master.
Especially clever characters may be able to avoid a direct confrontation altogether by linking the Dead Feeders to the recent deaths and disappearances of several neogi in Ironport. This tactic may work, but will require considerable planning on the part of the characters. Also, the neogi who finally kill the undead old master may decide to keep the black egg for themselves.
Once the undead old master is killed, the characters will be able to retrieve the black egg, which it wore at all times. Whether they return it to the Calidians or not is another matter entirely.
Characters who have encountered pieces of the Darkgate or Sunslayer, or know of their existence, may very well suspect that the black egg is in fact a piece of one of these. They are right, and may have second thoughts about turning such a thing over to the dowhar. Reneging on such an agreement will certainly anger the dowhar, who may attempt to exact their vengeance when they have more power.
Turning the egg over to the dowhar will have no dire consequences, as the egg alone has little power. If the characters want to finish the Arcane once and for all, they’ll need the egg back, but that’s another adventure entirely.
Characters who give the item to the dowhar must be careful, however, not to let on how valuable the black egg would be to the Arcane or illithids. If the dowhar know this, they will certainly attempt to sell the mind flayers the egg, bringing the Arcane just that much closer to completing their plans.
The Egg of Night: This artifact resembles an obsidian egg, inlaid with precious gemstones in flame patterns. While certainly more powerful as a part of the Darkgate, the egg has no little power of its own.
The black egg is used by the neogi to create what appear to be umber hulks. To do this the user of the egg must carefully arrange the patterns of the flames (requiring a —3 check against INT), which will open the egg. The user then need only place a single gold piece inside the egg. Seven days later, the egg will open and a miniature umber hulk will exit. The hulk grows to full size in ten hours, and is completely loyal to its maker. For a time, anyway.
The egg actually opens a tiny portal to the Abyss. The stuff of the Abyss then seeps into the egg, and through the item’s magic, is formed into a lifelike umber hulk. For twenty-eight days the umber hulks created by the egg are loyal servants to the master of the egg. After that, they become less and less likely to obey commands. Four weeks later, the umber hulk will try to escape from his master, killing him and stealing the egg if possible. The hulk will then use the egg to open a portal to the Abyss, and escape into that plane.
The neogi will have had the black egg for less than two months when the characters finally retrieve it. They’ve had no trouble with it because none of their hulks have lived long enough to go rogue, having been killed in service to the neogi before that.
Anyone who has ever handled a piece of the Darkgate or Sunslayer will instantly know that the black egg is part of one of those nefarious machines.
Further details and uses for the Egg of Night are provided in Chapter Four: The Sundeath.
XP Value: Unknown (method of creation not known to PCs, as typical for artifacts of this nature).
This adventure can be played by any size group or level of characters, difficulty determined by the DM.
Characters are hired by the Calidians to establish a new trade route between the settlement of Thandilan and the Inner Ring. A handsome sum is being offered, but the danger is quite great.
Establishing a trade route is a difficult process. Characters must first make sure the route is not populated by an inordinate number of hostile spacefaring creatures. If such creatures are in evidence, characters will have to remove them before the route can be considered safe for travel.
Another major danger to take into consideration is the threat of opposing trade cartels, who may not take too kindly to new trade routes being opened, especially if those routes directly (or indirectly) compete with already established ones. Characters will have to deal with such opponents diplomatically or risk a major trade war, something the Calidians do not want to deal with right now.
Once the route itself is cleared and any opposition dealt with, characters will have to find buyers for the Thandilan’s food. This shouldn’t be too hard, but neogi traders aren’t above undercutting prices to shut out new traders. Some buyers may decide not to purchase Calidian wares after being warned off by neogi enforcers. Characters will be forced to come up with new ways to get their goods on the market, and may be hired by the Calidians to stay on and oversee the supply process until the route is firmly established.
Life running a trade route can be both exciting and frustrating. Great profits can be made by those who watch over trade lines, but the dangers are many. Characters will have to make sure any unforeseen menaces are dealt with before they become major thorns in their soles. Unexpected price fluctuations often force traders into new markets, as well, and the characters may be hired to establish yet another route, starting the process all over again.
There’s nothing boring about being a trader, and an inventive DM can use this adventure as a spring board for many mercantile adventures in the future. Perhaps the characters will become traders in their own right, maybe even attempting to wrest the routes they established from the Calidians! Trade wars can also live things up, as characters must protect their ships from saboteurs and themselves from the knives of their enemies. Trading in the Cluster is truly cutthroat, and only the wiliest of space merchants will survive for long.
Among the Masked Ones
The illithids hire the characters to infiltrate the Antilan stronghold of Dumovian in order to incite a slave riot. While the characters do not know it, they are meant to be nothing more than a diversionary tactic, distracting the Antilans while the illithids strike somewhere else. The illithids have no intention of carrying through on their end of the deal, and will offer the characters outrageous sums of money. The mind flayers firmly believe that the characters will be killed anyway.
This adventure should only be attempted by high-level characters, as the challenge is very great.
There are few ways to get to Dumovian without being captured and questioned by the Antilan crystal ships that float throughout the belt. One way is to come in aboard an Antilan slave ship, but that puts the characters at a disadvantage already. The illithids will suggest this to the characters, even going so far as to offer them a way onto a slave ship: as cargo sold to the Antilans by illithid agents.
If that doesn’t appeal to the characters, they can attempt to sneak into the belt and take control of a crystal ship. This will be more than a little difficult, considering the fact that crystal ships are quite heavily armed and typically carry several mages in addition to the one running the helm. Characters who attempt this daring feat must take pains to attack a crystal ship that is not in sight of others, unless they plan to take on a horde of the things.
A third method is to come into the belt using extraplanar means, perhaps traveling along the Astral Plane. This has its risks as well, namely the creatures that inhabit the other planes.
Whatever means the characters use to get to the slave colonies, they will have to be very careful once they arrive.
Characters who come in as slaves will be stripped of all equipment (of course) and kept in isolation for several days to break their spirits. Eventually they will be allowed out into the general population of the slave colony, and be assigned to a work crew. Typical work assignments include simple repairs on the crystal ships, making bricks with which to build more slave pens, weaving ropes and nets, or any other menial task that comes to mind.
Slaves are kept in deep pits, where they live and work. Pits are ringed by walls that are manned by guards armed with crossbows. Mages also patrol the walls, with sleep and stinking cloud spells at the ready should slaves become too restless. The only time slaves are allowed out of their pits is when working on other sections of their prison.
Characters who sneak in will find that Dumovian is a massive complex, taking up several asteroids which have been extensively carved out to make space for the slave pits. There are over a hundred pits, each thirty feet deep and ten times that long and wide. Guard buildings are away from the pit and noble vacation villas are even further. Thousands of Antilan troopers wander about Dumovian, relishing their power over the slaves. Antilan nobles also frequent the slave colony, always eager to test out the effects of a new spell on human subjects.
Guard patrols are common, searching for escaped slaves and those who might have come to Dumovian to free the slaves held there. Non-Antilans are rare here, and such characters will have to hide their identities. Fortunately, the Antilan custom of mask-wearing is adhered to in the Dumovian colony, making it much easier to remain concealed.
Convincing the slaves to revolt against their captors will be difficult, unless the characters can show the slaves that they have a chance. Slaves respect great force, so characters who use powerful items or spells to kill guards in front of slaves will probably gain quite a following.
Once the first slaves are freed, the battle will begin in earnest. Fearful of losing their most productive slave colony, the Antilans will react with amazing force. They intend to put the rebellion down quickly, to show the other slaves the results of defying the Antilan overlords.
Quick action will be necessary to save the day. Characters who planned ahead may have reinforcements ready to spelljam in and bring weapons and armor for the slaves. Though few, if any, of the slaves are trained to fight, just having the weapons and armor in hand is enough to give them courage. That and sheer numbers should give them enough of an advantage to turn the tide against the Sun Mages, if they can continue freeing other slaves. If they cannot spread the rebellion to the surrounding asteroids and their slave pits, it is almost certain the rebellion will fail.
Characters responsible for destroying the Antilans’ favorite slave colony are going to be high up on the Sun Mages’ hit list. Assassins will surely be dispatched, and the characters faces and names will go upon wanted posters wherever the Antilans travel.
The illithids are going to be less than amused that the characters succeeded as well, because they have to make good on their promise of payment. The mind flayers will surely try to cheat the characters, but subtly, wanting to keep the characters around for later use. After all, to waste such powerful hirelings would be foolish. However, if the characters aggressively demand their pay or catch the illithids trying to cheat them, the mind flayers may decide that the PCs are no longer worth the trouble.
The Hidden will no doubt seek out such great heroes, with gifts in hand to entice the characters into their organization. Characters who refuse will be asked to return the gifts, but the Hidden will be too impressed with them to force the issue.
Characters may find themselves at the head of a group of dependant slaves, who have no real skills and now depend on the characters who freed them for food, shelter, and a way to make a living!
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