By the by, a young guy in Spain has turned Hounds of Halthrag Keep into a phone app, or so he says. The thing is done, he just wishes to improve the art before release. I admire it - it's gone beyond the realm of WHATS IN MY HEAD to WHAT STARTED IN MY HEAD, and I think that's cool
HH1 – RELEASE THE HOUNDS
THE STORY SO FAR
Marbourg is a town with a rich and checkered history. Centuries ago, when The Comet struck Halthrag Keep and put an end to the interminable wars in the region, Marbourg was a bustling and successful cosmopolis. It traded with the Sultanates of Korim for spices and silks, the <<PAUL WOLFES>> Ketsu Empire for meteoric steel and exotic weapons, and did booming business with the Underkingdoms of the Lightless Lands Below. Farms prospered, Justice mostly prevailed, artists and craftspeople thrived, and (aside from scorching magical warfare nearby) people were content.
Then some fool caused The Comet to hurtle out of the Aether and crash into Halthrag Keep! Some still dispute whether Halthrag himself wished to put an end to his feud with the Sizzling Geomancers this way. It is conjectured (correctly) that Halthrag was dead when the comet struck his castle and that his lieutenants brought the thing tumbling down to Aereth. The Comet, when it exploded, showered the land with debris of strange origin, including glowing blue-green rocks and shards of crystalline metal that sometimes seemed to have a life of their own. All who approached these were sickened, and some went mad, and the whole of the region was covered in flakes and chunks of them. Cattle wasted and crops rusted; generations of monsters were born to pious women of the region.
Marbourg dwindled and almost vanished, and many of its well-made buildings stood uninhabited, for the inhabitants at that time were skilled builders. The population moved away and sometimes dwarves moved in and claimed empty town-houses, and faeries infested the sewers, and mutants and foul things ran roughshod through grand libraries. When the Gorgrin Wars began many centuries later, the refugees of the Eastern regions found a welcoming, albeit dangerous place where Old Marbourgers fought sternly and practically (and without complaint!) against frequent minor incursions of terrible horrors. The New Citizens and the Old learned quickly that together they might quell the awful things and build Marbourg into a bustling metropolis once again.
That was a half dozen years ago, and until relatively recently things were beginning to look up. Scavengers and rogues became honest tradesmen, learned to repair the salvageable or leave what was best left alone, and together the Marbourgers established a thriving community in the wreckage of an ancient and once-respectable city. Punctuated by infrequent dimensional incursions and the occasional Zombie Plague, life was relatively sane and predictable.
Within the past 2 or 3 years, the lonely bones of Halthrag Keep – unnaturally preserved and still shunned by the locals – have begun to stir again. Monsters flit in the moonlight, and the Keep gathers to itself the lingering remnants of the Marbourg Undercity and the wild Forest <<<I FORGET THE NAME>>>. Were-beasts, goblinoids, undead, and Things From Beyond stalk the Keep AND the City, too, and dishonest men flock to the <<<WOODS>>> from farther up on the Verlash River. None know why these brigands have come, but in desperation the Marbourger City Council elected to parlay with them some months ago; a considered strategem and one that under normal conditions may have been advisable. But these Jackals (for this is what the bandits call themselves) have not only settled in to Marbourg and arrested its financial and cultural recovery, but have taken up residence and infiltrated the City Council itself! They are akin to guests that overstay their welcome and eat all the food in the pantry, and then charge you for their company. It is now unclear what the Citizens of Marbourg ought to do – for a scheme has been hatched by the Bandits and their allies to radically alter the pleasant environs nearby with a great project that relies upon the evil stone and twisted metal The Comet scattered here so long ago.
The occasional wild-eyed adventurer that wanders to Marbourg from the Keep tells harrowing tales of hideous monsters, otherworldly abominations, glowing blue stones, and leering ruffians that force them to collect the stones on pain of death. There is nothing still or peaceful about the ruins of Halthrag Keep, now, and something needs be done. But first and foremost, the community leaders - especially Chairman Diptherio - must not find out, since it is his plans that the party must undo. Whispers suggest he has some radical alliance with twisted things to forge evil metals and deliver magickal energy to his masters in the North.
Marbourgers – divided into Old and New Citizens. The Old Marbourgers are fae-touched and sometimes goblinoid beings, not necessarily immortal but long-lived and wild in the way that Faeries can be. They welcomed the humanoid immigrants from the East during the Gorgrin Wars, and the New Citizens established a firm footing in town with the more respectable contingent of less violent beings. Much of Old Marbourg is left unexplored and uninhabited, but sinister glowing at night suggests that much Space Rock may be found in the ruins, if any were inclined to sortie out. The Marbourgers wish to live unharried and rectify the strange forces that work on the region, for the most part. Owing to the free interactions between the humanoid Easterners (dark of hair and prone to romance) and the Faerie and demi-Faerie beings, all kinds of interesting half- and part- human faerie folk thrive here. It is speculated that those in Marbourg without Faerie blood in their veins make up a minority, but the Council has only begun to keep records within the past decade or so. They do brisk trade with Helix to the northwest and Helleborine to the northeast. The ruins of Marbourg still hold treasures from quaint periods in the past, and the undercity sewer realm is mostly sealed to prevent incursions from below. Minor protests regularly erupt in town against the notion that literal bandits now control Marbourg’s politics, but the Town Watch cracks down and those honest men who comprised it in the past have been driven out.
The Jackals – The aims of the honest Marbourger Citizens are undone by the Jackals, who (under the weak prospect of a protective alliance) have infiltrated the City Council and bent the resources of the town to their own ends. Namely, to fashion a pipeline for baleful energies from Space Rock and Hyperidium – resources that are relatively rare elsewhere on Aereth but ominously abundant in this region. They cause work-crews to clear forests toward the Keep, they divert and exploit travelers to explore the Keep (these are known as The Hounds), and Citizens regularly go missing – especially ones that are too vocal about the Council’s influence and ties to banditry. They are led by Diptherio – as suspicious and perfidious a man-thing as ever was known. He is definitely of lycanthropic extraction and a minor spell-caster who has some control over his powers. He struck an alliance with the twisted Undercity inhabitants as fast as possible upon his arrival in the region. He is clever but weak of will and vain, and the pawn of the Cyberlich of Planet Nebulmor - a terrible undead being who is luckily far away in time and space. His flock of human and demi-human scum is comprised of were-beasts, humans, and the occasional necromantic experiment. In a twist of narrative, the Jackals have been infiltrated by a New Marbourger group, The Last Honest Men, led by one Ian Gram.
The Undercity Realms – the Trolls and Dwarves and spiteful Goblins that reside beneath the city are only too glad to ally with the Jackals, having been driven below and sequestered from the town above. There are several levels of sewer complex between them and the Marbourgers, and many of the passages have been destroyed and magically blocked. Their Undercity connects directly to the Lightless Lands – a cavern complex that spreads far to the east, north, and delves deeply downward. Halthrag Keep is situated directly on top of one entrance to the Lightless Lands, almost directly on the shores of a vast Underocean. The nominal leader of the Undercity Realms is an agent of the Elf King, as is his brother - a well respected Elf in Marbourg. They have unremitting enmity for each other and work at cross purposes without understanding the way their actions fit into the Elf King’s plans.
Halthrag Keep – Halthrag once dealt directly with Old Marbourg and advised them and provided them with trade goods From Beyond, but his traffic with Aetherial and Daemonic entities (malevolent and benign ones) erupted into full-fledged war with several other great wizards. The Wizard Wars came to a climax at Halthrag Keep, where monsters and legions of humanoid soldiers clashed in a terrific battle. Halthrag was beaten, executed, and exiled to another dimension, and his guard Captain and most trusted lieutenant called upon a Weird Foreign God for aid. The best help the God could offer was to crash a passing meteor into the place. Sadly, the meteor had an other-worldly passenger (inscrutably strange but not necessarily evil) and the meteor itself was composed of chunks of a far-off planet that carried twisting magical radiations. These centuries past, the Alien Being slept and repaired itself, and when it awoke it set events in Halthrag Keep into full swing: the engines of its craft twist reality around it, and it prompts the dessicated frames of the dead to hunt out the Space Rock to fuel its departure. The Jackals will not enter, since the more of them approach the more resistance they meet from the magical beings that are called from nearby to station there. They have taken to sending small teams of innocents inside with the dubious promise of escape and freedom. Certain promising individuals are welcomed into their ranks. Also, a terrible Manticore and his pet human boy have taken up temporary residence in the dungeon portion of the Keep. At the time of the party’s arrival all of these inhabitants of the Keep and its environs are waiting for something; or perhaps something just happened - the events are loosely framed by play in HHSOLO The Hounds of Halthrag Keep.
Diptherio – Bandit Leader
Mr. Harlowe Fluggins, Esquire - Lawyer, financier of The Last Honest Men
Osmonda Porprian – Head of the Marbourg Department of Education, Corrupt, Enchantress
The City Council of Marbourg
The Gram Brothers – Ian, Urod, and Krez; Half-Elves; deposed watchmen and sons of the deceased former head of the Marbourg Watch
Titus Penflit – Silk Merchant; Elf; Old Citizen of Marbourg. Agent of the Elf King.
Gervid Penflit – Blacksmith and Metallurgist; Goblin; jealous leader of the Undercity faction. Agent of the Elf King.
Faranid of the Thieves’ Guild; Shapeshifter and Spy for the <<<FAR AWAY>>>
Ouncey – Owner of the Curious Museum of Curios
Campion Pelaghast <<<David VC>>> Steamblimp Captain
Captain Romajj – Captain of the Purple Sorcerer that plies the Undersea
Grrranvargyld, The Shadow of the East, and his boy Mathuse
Areas to detail/write up (with the exception of the Undercity and Marbourg, these have already appeared in HHSOLO1, sort of)
Halthrag Keep (practically done!)
The Jackal’s Camp
Marbourg - downtown
Some of the Undercity Sewer region – Home of the DungMother (new monsters: drowned dead, mud mephits, scat demons, sewer elementals)
Some of the Lightless Lands (new monsters: Croaklings with snippet tongue attack, Radrakes i.e. radiation breathing dragon, Moon Elfs, etc.)
Flitterblit (sort of displacer field but maybe not so great on reality)
Wereform (high levels of corruption incurred, except under the light of the moon, depends upon moon stage somehow)
(Half-Patron) The Passenger (interdimensional alien being and tourist)
(Half-Patron) The Dungmother (wise old woman/man/otyugh composed of sentient Elfin trash)
(Full-Patron) The Cyberlich of Nebulmor! – he drives the building of the Ominous Alloy Pipeline to the coast, where the Cult of the Fishmen rout the power to a dimensional portal
Werebeast (-vulture, -jackal, -rat, -spider, -bat, -boar, -hound, -shark, -toad) – the evil version of Daniel Bishop’s fae animal
Agent (Ian and his brothers, for example)
Random ruin generator for Marbourg
Random sewer generator for Undercity