Need help fleshing out an idea for Darkening of Mirkwood

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blankrubix
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Need help fleshing out an idea for Darkening of Mirkwood

Post by blankrubix » Thu Mar 16, 2017 9:40 pm

(Post contains spoilers for the very beginning of the Darkening of Mirkwood Campaign)

Ahoy oy,
Just recently kicked off a campaign of Darknening of Mirkwood. The first game went well (Though the company did wimp out and surrender Beran the Watchful to Mogdreds men... And then kicked themselves later when one of them rolled a great lore check to have recognized his name as having Necromancer connotations)
Having started them in Rhosgobel, I put in a little hook for them to go out into Mirkwood to find some herbs as one of the Woodmen ladies was in the late stages of pregnancy, and such herbs would help with the birth. The players also found out that the father of the child had been killed by Mirkwood spiders some months ago. I also thought it would be fun to have a baby born right near the start of the campaign that they could witness grow up as the years roll by... And also that if one of the characters showed an interest, could grow up to be one of their heirs.

So my intention with the campaign is to roughly run one adventure of my own devising for each written one, to pad out the game more.. And also to keep me entertained. I was reading up on the River Maidens and thought it would be cool to do something involving them, especially as I read about their involvement later in the campaign as written.

The idea I have so far, is that the baby I mentioned above is the grandson/daughter (haven't decided that part) of Sunshadow. So the child will have the river-blooded cultural virtue, again making them an interesting heir choice.. But even if not, I have a cool NPC who can speak to Herons.
Sunshadow speaks to the players when they are near the Dusky river and tells them a little bird told her (Insight/Lore test. She means that literally :P) that she has had a grandchild born in Rhosgobel recently. And that she has concerns for the childs safety. Her lover two generations ago was killed by Spiders, who had told her that his father had gone missing in the woods never to be seen again.. And that her Son was also killed by spiders last year. With the murder of her son she has become convinced that Shadow magic has cursed this bloodline, this sorcery of the spiders luring each generation to their deaths.

The curse stems back from the great great (great?... I need to work out how many generations it'd be) grandfather, who was a gemcutter in Dale. He escaped Dale as the Dragon Smaug razed it to the ground, fleeing through Mirkwood on the old Dwarf Road. Somewhere on this journey he encountered Tyulquin the Great Spider (The one with the shadow magic, hence the curse) who allowed him to live as he bargained with her for his life, promising to pay her tribute of (delicious) gems each year.
I figure each year, in fear of his life he did indeed pay this toll of gems.. Until he was poor and destitute and unable to pay any longer. Tyulquin killed him, and in spitefullness cursed his bloodline to be drawn to her kin to meet their deaths.

Aaaand that's what I have so far... But what Im not sure about, is

a) How do the fellowship find out about this curse, Sunshadow is not going to have all the answers.. She only suspects foul play due to the number of similar deaths.
b) How do they break it? Without simply getting Radagast or someone to just whisk it away..
c) A continuation of b really. What is the meat of the adventure? Im open to all sorts of ideas here.. Though I can't really take the players too many weeks away from Rhosgobel, as this adventure is going to be set the spring before the Folk Moot, and they need to be able to get back for that in the summer.
d) Whats a good way of involving the Spiders, and ideally Tyulquin specifically that enhances their encounters with her later in the campaign.. And doesnt spoil too many of the tricks she has up her sleeve.

Finrod Felagund
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Re: Need help fleshing out an idea for Darkening of Mirkwood

Post by Finrod Felagund » Fri Mar 17, 2017 6:54 am

a) How do the fellowship find out about this curse, Sunshadow is not going to have all the answers.. She only suspects foul play due to the number of similar deaths.

I can think of a couple of ways, neither perfect but they might help:
i) It's in Tyulquins interest to have the family start giving her gems again so she might find a way of letting the adventurers know
ii) There may be a doggerel (poem sorta thang) that comes with the family that tells or hints of the curse. Think Bilbo's poem with Strider "All that is Gold doesn't glitter..."


b) How do they break it? Without simply getting Radagast or someone to just whisk it away..

Again I have a couple of ideas:
i) An Elvish healer of Thranduil could cure it
ii) Some kind of magical object might cure it. Perhaps a gem like the Elessar?


c) A continuation of b really. What is the meat of the adventure? Im open to all sorts of ideas here.. Though I can't really take the players too many weeks away from Rhosgobel, as this adventure is going to be set the spring before the Folk Moot, and they need to be able to get back for that in the summer.

Following the above:
i) The healer has been taken by the Orcs and the Adventurers must rescue her/him
ii) The Adventurers must go on a quest to find and recover the magical item


d) Whats a good way of involving the Spiders, and ideally Tyulquin specifically that enhances their encounters with her later in the campaign.. And doesnt spoil too many of the tricks she has up her sleeve.

I) Tyulquin is holding a book of lore which gives a map of the location where the healer is being held. The players must steal this whilst she is sleeping, but the Spider's wake up and pursue.
ii) Tyulquin is holding a book of lore which gives a map of the location where the magic item is. The players must steal this and the Spider pursue. You could do a lot here. For example the healer/gem might be in Dol Guldur, or in the caverns below the Mountains of Mirkwood.

Another completely different option is that the Adventurers try to negotiate with Tyulquin, and she sets the some kind of challenge - i.e. find a stack of gems located in the Under Mountains before she lifts the curse. Obvs once the adventurers have recovered the gems she'll attack them, they kill her and the curse is ended.

Hope that helps!

blankrubix
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Re: Need help fleshing out an idea for Darkening of Mirkwood

Post by blankrubix » Fri Mar 17, 2017 4:39 pm

Thanks for the suggestions, gave me a good chunk of things to mull over :)

Had a bit of a think about it at work today and Ive started to hammer out a little better how the adventure will go. So the River Maidens have Black Herons as their eyes and ears (Or at least I get that impression, I know they can talk to them). I figure that once Sunshadow began to suspect there was Shadow magic involved, she will have sent a heron to try and find the bodies/skeletal remains/belongings of these poor souls. (Or perhaps she would have done so after hearing about her lover or sons death as well)
So the Heron has discovered the location of a body (or multiple bodies in different locations in central Mirkwood perhaps, if I want the players to do a lot of journeying about in the woods looking for the right ones) but what with Herons lacking opposable thumbs Sunshadow needs the company to go there to bring it back (or at least recover the important clues).
It's in Tyulquins interest to have the family start giving her gems again so she might find a way of letting the adventurers know
You are absolutely right there. If she thinks she can blackmail/coerce/intimidate more poor saps to deliver her delicious gems she definately would. Her approaching the company in their investigation and trying to get them to make an agreement would make for a good introduction for her in the campaign.
There may be a doggerel (poem sorta thang) that comes with the family that tells or hints of the curse. Think Bilbo's poem with Strider "All that is Gold doesn't glitter..."
I like this too :) Though I think Id need to seperate such a poem from the family to a certain extent. Or make it cryptic to the point the people involved don't know its true meaning.

As an aside, I did come up with a little childrens rhyme to feed to the Hobbit character with his Rhymes of Lore trait. To give some initial clues as to the nature of the three river maidens:

"Down at the Dusky River
Fishing for trout
Here comes Silverbell
giving us a pout

Fathers's at the Dusky River
Hiding from Mother
Here comes Sunshadow
Now we have a brother

(Whispered)
Elders at the Black Tarn
early in the morning
Here comes Duskwater
givng us a warning!"
Some kind of magical object might cure it. Perhaps a gem like the Elessar?
I have some half baked idea that there was one gem left that didn't get given to the spider. One with sentimental value, like set into a wedding ring or something. And that the curse persists because Tyulquin didnt get every last gem she could from the poor man..
Giving her the last gem could break the curse... But I don't want the main solution to the quest to be 'Give the villain something precious to devour" as that would be a bit of a downer if it was the only option.

Finrod Felagund
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Re: Need help fleshing out an idea for Darkening of Mirkwood

Post by Finrod Felagund » Fri Mar 17, 2017 5:11 pm

blankrubix wrote:
Fri Mar 17, 2017 4:39 pm
Thanks for the suggestions, gave me a good chunk of things to mull over :)
Some kind of magical object might cure it. Perhaps a gem like the Elessar?
I have some half baked idea that there was one gem left that didn't get given to the spider. One with sentimental value, like set into a wedding ring or something. And that the curse persists because Tyulquin didnt get every last gem she could from the poor man..

Giving her the last gem could break the curse... But I don't want the main solution to the quest to be 'Give the villain something precious to devour" as that would be a bit of a downer if it was the only option.
Glad it helps and I liked the humour in your poem!

I've got to say, although I can see where the last gem idea comes from, it's pretty anticlimactic. Seems anti-Tolkien also.

blankrubix
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Re: Need help fleshing out an idea for Darkening of Mirkwood

Post by blankrubix » Fri Mar 17, 2017 6:42 pm

Mm.. Yeah, you could be right. The more I think about it the more it does seem a bit weak.
Im now thinking it may be better to have the actual resolution years down the line, when they kill Tyulquin (Or get horribly murdered by her, you never know how these things will go). So this upcoming session would be actually discovering that there is a curse, and then when they are ready to kill her they have the extra satisfaction of knowing they broke the shadow magic they discovered all those years ago.

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Majestic
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Re: Need help fleshing out an idea for Darkening of Mirkwood

Post by Majestic » Fri Mar 17, 2017 6:59 pm

Great stuff, blankrubix!

Finrod had excellent ideas, too, and it's neat to see you incorporate them.

I'd just caution you to perhaps have just some Encounters early on with your PCs and Tyulquin (i.e., discourage combat). My PCs eventually dealt with her, but they were definitely veteran heroes at that point. She's a tough cookie!
Adventure Summaries of our campaign, currently playing through The Darkening of Mirkwood

blankrubix
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Re: Need help fleshing out an idea for Darkening of Mirkwood

Post by blankrubix » Fri Mar 17, 2017 7:10 pm

I'd just caution you to perhaps have just some Encounters early on with your PCs and Tyulquin (i.e., discourage combat). My PCs eventually dealt with her, but they were definitely veteran heroes at that point. She's a tough cookie!
Oh yes absolutely, I wouldnt expect them to be able to defeat her for a long time. So any scenes with her in the early years would have to be forshadowy type things. Or have reasons why fighting can't occur, or otherwise cut of short.

Vuriche
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Re: Need help fleshing out an idea for Darkening of Mirkwood

Post by Vuriche » Fri Mar 17, 2017 9:28 pm

I would have the curse laid on the bloodline of this family be at least partially of their own fault. It makes little sense to me that a curse of Tuylquin would hold such great sway over them otherwise, and why they would not have sought the aid of others to break it a long time ago.

Perhaps the ancestor made a more sordid deal with Tuylquin and then failed to uphold his part of it? Say if he upon encountering her during his journey, instead of just bargaining for his life, actually bargained for some boon of the great spider as well.

A quick idea might have him be a tailor and strike a deal with the spider to make fantastic garbs of great beauty and durability, using strands of her web in their creation. This ensures his prosperity even in new and strange lands. Part of the proceeds are paid to her in gems, but in time he also discovers that she gains something else, some power or insight over the wearers of the cursed garments the tailor makes. Horrified and remorseful, he breaks off their arrangement and is doomed by his wicked compact with Tuylquin. Shame and fear would serve to keep the curse hidden and would also explain why it is secreted away in rhyme.

blankrubix
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Re: Need help fleshing out an idea for Darkening of Mirkwood

Post by blankrubix » Fri Mar 17, 2017 10:03 pm

I would have the curse laid on the bloodline of this family be at least partially of their own fault. It makes little sense to me that a curse of Tuylquin would hold such great sway over them otherwise, and why they would not have sought the aid of others to break it a long time ago.

Perhaps the ancestor made a more sordid deal with Tuylquin and then failed to uphold his part of it? Say if he upon encountering her during his journey, instead of just bargaining for his life, actually bargained for some boon of the great spider as well.

A quick idea might have him be a tailor and strike a deal with the spider to make fantastic garbs of great beauty and durability, using strands of her web in their creation. This ensures his prosperity even in new and strange lands. Part of the proceeds are paid to her in gems, but in time he also discovers that she gains something else, some power or insight over the wearers of the cursed garments the tailor makes. Horrified and remorseful, he breaks off their arrangement and is doomed by his wicked compact with Tuylquin. Shame and fear would serve to keep the curse hidden and would also explain why it is secreted away in rhyme.
You are a genius! I love all of that, especially as the shadow silk ties in quite nicely with how [Spoiler!] Duskwater is corrupted by being coated in fine strands of spider silk in later years.
Id just got through writing a timeline of events for the family, but Im going to go back and alter it to your idea instead.

blankrubix
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Re: Need help fleshing out an idea for Darkening of Mirkwood

Post by blankrubix » Fri Mar 17, 2017 10:23 pm

Thinking further on altering things to the tailor idea I had this thought:

Say the ancestor made this deal with Tyulquin for the fine threads to make wonderous clothes. What if he used this as an in to be a guest at the Elven Kings halls for a time, that the Elves were intregued at a Mortal having such great skill and craftsmanship at tailoring.
After a short time the Elves discover the taint of shadow within these garments, perhaps a few are even driven to madness through being clad in such a fashion? Thranduil is so angered at the mans working of darkness that he is exiled, and cursed that as he loves the many legged ones so much that he and all his line will be cursed to meet their ends at their mandibles.

This has the bonus of having a way to break it, if they can convince Thranduil to drop the grudge.. Im not sure if it feels a little too harsh from the Elves though? Though Thranduil is one of the darker Elven characters in the lore.

Thoughts?

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