Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SoSA the 17th: Tintagel Dystopia (Avalon Lost).

This is post 17 out of 25 in the Cygnus Series of a September of Short Adventures. It's also the 5th post in a mini-series about the post-Arthurian Avalon Lost campaign setting.

The further southwest the PCs travel in England, the more they will hear about the goings-on at Castle Tintagel in Cornwall. It was the stuff of legends during Arthur's time, second only to Camelot itself as a stronghold of law and justice. Six decades ago, it was where Uther was infamously polymorphed to sate his desire for Ygraine. Three decades ago, it was the site of the tragic love triangle between King Mark, Tristan, and Iseult.

Tintagel, apart from the Feckless Fief of old Bedivere (see SoSA #14), is the only other quasi-holdout of chivalry in Britain. This region is now ruled by a king who calls himself Solomon (Selyf in the Cornish tongue) and claims to channel the power, judgement, and mercy of God himself.

The Cornish countryside abounds with stories about Solomon, his rule, and his family. Some rumors tell about the wonders of classical civilization that one can find only at Tintagel and environs, and the abundance of food that comes from the farms sponsored by the king. Others spin tales of woe about the horrors perpetuated by Tintagel's knights; burning towns capriciously, arresting people without cause, and so on. The positive/negative ratio of rumors is close to 50/50, but there are also some weird ones...
  • Solomon has built a huge golden throne, with golden lion statues lining the steps, and which can walk about the castle and carry the king wherever he wants to go.
  • Solomon has at least 50 wives.
  • Solomon secretly commands an army of air spirits (which sound very much like D&D Djinni).
  • Solomon is controlling marriages in and around his royal court, with the aim of breeding a race of ultra-strong, ultra-intelligent knights and ladies.
DMs: feel free to decide which rumors are true and which are just conflations with the legends of the king's Biblical namesake!

The real story: Solomon runs a rather fascist little mini-state. The citizens get some good bread and circuses, and in exchange have even less freedom than others in this Dark Age. They're forbidden from moving from town to town, they are forced into the family's designated occupation, and so on. Independent adventurers like the PCs are strictly verboten! Any young man in Solomon's kingdom who shows promise at the chivalric arts is taken away from his home and initiated (read: brainwashed) into the twisted version of knighthood that holds sway here.

DMs should map out a special "wandering monster" type chart for encountering the Tintagel knights or other royal functionaries in the Cornish countryside. The first time the PCs encounter them, the knights will notice what kind of troublemakers these are, and attempt to capture the PCs and take them back to the castle. Even if the PCs escape this first attempt, the knights will track them and call in more backup until they succeed.

If the PCs do get captured and taken to the castle, some mid-level couriers will separate them into two groups: those with potential, and those without. Paladins, clerics, and most fighters will qualify for "potential" status (i.e., potential brainwashing and incorporation into the utopian state). The king himself may take an interest in the careers of those with the most potential. However, all PC thieves, magic-users, and druids will be classed with the undesirables and put into the large dungeon complex below the castle, eventually to be sold into slavery.

Will the PCs escape and reunite their party? Hopefully! If they do escape, they'll soon meet Prince Cybi, Solomon's son who is attending the local seminary to become a cleric. Secretly, though, he is organizing a band of rough and ready freedom fighters to end his father's tyrannical regime. (If the PCs have a run of bad luck while trying to escape, maybe Cybi assists in getting them free...)

The overthrow of Solomon would be a good "boss fight" for high-level PCs. They'll need to gather allies in large numbers, which may take a while. DMs will probably want to stat out the occupants of the Castle, much like the garrison of the very sack-worthy Keep on the Borderlands. If I was running this, I'd probably use something like Rusty Dagger's cool and evocative vertical cross section for a huge castle complex, and spice it up with a few rolls through Zak's recent random castle generator.

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