This [SIDE TREK] takes the party from the path they are on and sets them on a series of events that should lead them eventually to Crestwold.
This materials is part of a Living World campaign setting. The Dunstrand Rising campaign takes multiple sets of characters through a multi-generational journey of political change which grows progressively until the world of the Steel Realms is transformed. This campaign arc is a set of adventures, side treks, and scenes that are part of that larger story arc.
Location: Crestwold is a barony in the Earldom of Bar-Innis, part of the Duchy of Dunstrand in the Steel Realms.
Story and Progress:
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Using the Adventure Materials
Read through the entire adventure and familiarize yourself with the entire scenario and encounter set. If its too much to track, break the game session and milestones into what you can manage - generally it is better to end early with a good experience than fumble through a poor one. Materials are presented here in groupings of the most likely order the players will experience them in. If they go off-script, you must be ready to adjust and improvise.
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- All linked materials were publicly available at the time of original publication.
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- The stats for creatures are not presented. It is assumed GMs have access to system source books or materials for them. Where possible, creatures are linked to online resources.
Prompts and Formatting
This adventure contains text that is formatted in a certain way to enable easy narration and play. Familiarize yourself with these to make the pace of the adventure and flow of each encounter is smooth.
This is primary text for you to read aloud to the Players - it is what their characters will perceive upon interacting with the encounter.
This is supplemental text that can be read aloud after the related primary text.
This is a dialogue option you can read aloud.
This is information which can be gained with a noted skill/knowledge [check].
[GM]> This is a note to the GM for options and preparation ahead of time.
: This is a Character or Creature in an encounter (# appearing if more than 1)
Tactics to be used by the creature appearing above.
party# This is the number of characters in the players party; you will find suggestions on scaling the number of creatures in an encounter based on this.
> This is a tip on how to read to or interact with the Players.
Events leading up to the point the characters enter the picture.
What the Characters Know: Common knowledge and Uncommon [what checks are required?].
Hidden Knowledge: What is completely unknown to the players (and perhaps to the NPC’s!).
Part of “Living World“: Dunstrand Rising (Steel Realms Campaign)
- Characters enter the picture…
Coming to Crestwold
Starting the Campaign
The party will be outsiders starting at the ground level, or begin with a hand up through association or as an existing bannermen (to the Duke or Earl) or equivalent. When they begin, they will have come to a remote and poor fief of Dunstrand to investigate some disturbances.
Optional Start: A Gathering of Allies
If the PCs are already bannermen of either the Duke of Dunstrand or the Earl of Bar-Innis, or equivalent allies, they begin with their patron send them to Crestwold.
Your Lord and patron has come to you, calling upon your service. You are gathered, along with some faces you do not recognize. He turns to you, “It is time to honor the pledge you made. My agents, and those of greater powers, believe something odd to be going on in the Barony of Crestwold. You are to travel there at once, and see if you can find out what is going on. There is, i’m afraid, not much more I can tell you.” He looks around at the faces you do not know, a few of which are nodding their heads slightly. “You are to observe, assess, and act to secure the stability, peace, and prosperity of the barony… even if the baron himself will not support you. You are not beholden to him, you will operate independently of him if need be, though you should attempt an alliance. Go now my loyal servants. Send word of your progress as you are able.”
The following information can be gleaned from the meeting:
- DC 10 History check: Crestwold is a mostly empty barony at the south edge of the Earldom of Bar-Innis in the ducky. It borders the halfling Protectorate of Loamwold, and has one of the main water tributaries into Scar Flow and access to the sea.
- DC 15 History check: The other faces at the table represents a few of the Lords common advisers, as well as one woman the party knows is a member of the Dukes own magus household – House Malor.
- DC 15 Insight check: The groups Lord was definitely pressured by the others at the table (not the party) into doing it – he has some trepidation about sending the group.
REPUTATION: [Starting] 0 – You are seen as outsiders, but as distant allies you are there to help.
Optional Start: A Fortuitous Meeting
Rumors abound of ancient ruins.This is an obvious chance to take a shot at uncovering treasure and magic, so you head towards the source of these: The barony of Crestwold. Its in the far south of Dunstrand. On your way, you meet a traveler, Sir Killiam Jales. Killiam says he is both a knight, and a historian in the employ of Baron Cerstwhile of Crestwold – a fortuitous encounter indeed. He is tired and sickly – his slight frame wracked by constant coughs – and has not the look of a knight about him. He claims he is looking outside the Barony for a group to put his trust in. He says that there are signs strange things are happening and he cannot place his finger on it. There is a sense that things are stirring. New immigrants, strange weather, strange folk, he thinks the baron’s daughter is afflicted with some sort of malady, and has heard rumors of the strange tides of Calibans Slurry uncovering ancient ruins. He says, “I don’t know why I put my trust in you, but i feel time is short. The baron is ill-equipped to deal with what is coming. As his official champion, I am seeking out those who could provide such security or power and purpose to aid him in time of need.” After drinking, smoking, and getting to know each other, he goes on to tell you his story. “My father was the last true ‘Champion of Crestwold’ and died without glory. The Baron stayed neutral in the Civil War of Bar-Innis, he lost his only chance. I myself still bear the title my father bore before me, but the truth is I am more interested in books. I am without child and sickly unto death. I feel that something has a hold of me and will not let go… Please, I bid you to take up this offer. I myself will deputize you as servants of the champion. We will return and together we will uncover what is the heart of the disturbances… and I can finally say I have done right by my father and the baron. What say you?”
If the party asks about Crestwold, he can tell them the basics from the “Gathering of Allies” [i] item #1. If they want any more information, tell them he wants to celebrate tonight and learn about them, tomorrow he will tell them all about the baron and his fears. Assuming the party asks what the benefits of a Deputy Champion are, it can be summarized as follows:
- Tithe 50% of all monies and value of items and property acquired.
- Cover all mundane debt: supplies, lodging, food, healing , sundry and miscellaneous goods and services.
> The party wants to investigate but not be deputized
I’m sorry good folk, I need only those committed to the cause. I must insist that you swear your loyalty. I don’t doubt your skills, but I must insist that your motivations be true and pure.
He will attempt to get them to see things his way, he cannot vouch for them otherwise. If he cannot, then he will bid them a good day, and coughing, return to his journey. He will find another group willing to take up the call. These are referenced under the adventurers of Torrelsons Ford under “The Jalesmen”.
> The party persists in not wanting to be deputized
Killiam bids you best of luck in your journeys and continues on. By the next day, his memory is fading.
The group choosing this option will not be present when Killiam dies.
The Death of Killiam
Killiam will die as part of the campaign background, regardless of weather the PCS meet him or not.
PCs Present/Accepted his Offer
Killiam suggests a celebration is in order. He drafts the order to deputize all of you under the orders of the current Champion of Crestwold, and you all make your marks or sign it. A local scribe bears witness and stamps it with his seal, and the seal of the champions signet ring. Just as the celebration with your new found friend and sponsor reaches its peak, he soberly reminds you of your new duties. He asks you once again to assure him you will travel there. “When we arrive, I will present the badge of Champion my father passed to me with pride. The seneschal of the Baron will finally smile upon me, and welcome me… and you all! You and I, my friends, will be the savior the baron needs!” You all laugh and drink, and there is a feeling of optimism and wonder at the opportunities you may have just made for yourselves. Sleep comes and the next day dawns. All is well and your heads clear as Killiam sleeps late – rest needed for an old man. And later. And later. And the realization that he has passed in the night comes crashing down on you. There is little to say, his light has faded. Having no kin, you have a ceremony where you are at. You gather up his possessions, among them a truly fine blade. Taking the champions badge he clutched at the moment of his death, and your papers of deputization, you turn to Crestwold and begin your journey.
He has on him most of his prized possessions – all items of a champion. All items are labeled in Gladnorian as appropriate. The items, without an heir, can at least be claimed by the party.
- Champion of Crestwold signet ring
- Writing kit
- Potion of Healing x3
- Potion of Jumping and Climbing
- 1 charm of Darkvision (1 use; last 8 hours)
- 1 charm of Barkskin (1 use; last 1 hour)
- 1 medical kit
- 124 silvers
- Jales Family Sword (made in Dunstrand 2000 sc blade w/boar engravings on it); Longsword; +1 initiative; +1 damage if used for piercing; 2 resilience (100 sc to repair); charm of Darupet (emerald – only works if the user is a Wyld faith follower) 1/Long Rest can cast Beast Sense
REPUTATION: [Starting] +2 – The party is seen as committed agents for the good of the barony
PCs Not Present/Rejected his Offer
Having spurned his offer of entanglements with the local gentry and politics, you turn your attention to getting to Crestwold. From the sounds of Krellians tales, it seems like there might be competition in other mercs, freebooters and adventurers. The journey there is uneventful.
REPUTATION: [Starting] -2 – The party is seen as outsiders who bring trouble.
Travel to Crestwold
The travel should only take a few days. The PCs may talk to other travelers, sailors, or folk as appropriate to the means of traveling they employ. As they do, the situation in the barony will become evident.
Situation in the barony: The Baron Richard Cerstwhile II died only a few years ago. He was decidedly neutral in a recent struggle for the succession of the Earl of Bar-Innis. His son, Baron Richard Cerstwile the III inherited a barony bereft of support from the winner and has been struggling in fear ever since. He has carried on the neutral position of his careful father and now has a [deserved] reputation of being spineless. He always seeks to let situations resolve themselves without requiring his direct participation if he can. Violence erupts and he does nothing; His family and title makes few decrees and prefers to let others sort things out for themselves, going along with whatever the outcome as long as it costs him nothing directly. The family reputation is sinking lower and lower. This is countered with the optimism of growth – there are hundreds of new people around Torrelsons Ford – land is cheap, and the baron is encouraging homesteading.
Generally, people speak well of the place – at least its people, if not its rulers. There is no sense of evil or wrongness from the general information the PCs are able to gain.
Arrival in Crestwold
The wind and the rain have begun in earnest. Your journey had slowed to half its normal pace at the end, but you finally arrive. All the inhabitants you meet are unhappy to see the weather have finally turned. A strange cold rain blows from the west. At times, it seems like the rain has a slight salt smell to it. Others feel the same and downcast eyes and pinched faces refuse to talk to you much. All shake their heads when asked about much of anything, but point you on to Torrelsons Ford – the capital of the barony.
The folk are extremely terrified. The strange salty rain is harming their crops, and anyone not with a local accent is looked upon as troublemakers and rabble-rousers. You are herded to the capital as quickly as possible – no one will talk to you. The rain is, indeed, salty – but barely. They are superstitious, and believe that the Sea-Bitch Elancil is angry and has some cause to punish them.
Journey to Torrelsons Ford
Just as you arrive in Torrelsons Ford, the strange salt rain that you have experienced breaks, and the skies clear. A powerful wind from the east drives clouds over dumping clean, clear rain. It is strong enough to blow an empty barrel down the street; it rips through the area and is gone as swiftly as it came. Whatever trauma the sea-bitch Elancil had in store is averted. Eyes once downcast, raise up. Smiles replace the muttered insults and things are soon as back to normal as they can be.
The group can Proceed to encounter “Into Town” or go request “Audience with the Seneschal” if they have the champions badge and writ of deputization.
Audience with the Seneschal of the Baron
Only existing bannermen or equivalent, or those deputized by the dying champion can request an audience.
In seeking the baron and his seneschal, you are directed to an ancient manse in the area of North Ridge. It has seen better days, but is presentable from a distance. There is a wall around the grounds, and a gatehouse. You present your story and credentials to the guards, who eventually go and return with the Seneschal. You are not invited to the manor, but instead forced to wait and talk to him in the gatehouse. He is dressed warmly, but shivers in the eastern wind – still blowing cold, though without the same force. He asks you to present your credentials.
If the characters specifically state they are looking for anything unusual, or an observant character makes a DC 10 Perception check, it will reveal the following: Gatehouse is not manned but for a skeleton crew of 3; the path through the gatehouse is clean (for the baron), everywhere else is duty and unkempt; and only one brazier is lit, though there are 2.
After some simple dialog wherein the party should reveal their intentions (deputized or other), he will get to the point.
> The party begins using the Champion Deputies option
“I admit, i have little time for you. I know not what this crazed buffoon was talking about. There’s nothing wrong here, and i feel you have wasted your time. He was right about the ruins… an old enclave of some sort in the slurry has been uncovered. Strange sights and powerful magic have already been witnessed there.” He stares down at the writ, for a long time. Finally he looks up. “There’s no one to pass his title to. You certainly cannot have it, but the writ stands until we can come up with a solution. Deputies indeed. I will honor this champions last wishes. I will take the signet ring and badge of office. You are deputized, I can do nothing until the baron names a new champion.” He rolls his eyes and shrugs his shoulders at that remark. He sends for an aide who rushes off to the manor house. You get the sense he’s actually glad the old champion is dead. “Please, stay out of trouble as much as you can. I’m sure you want to help, but i’m afraid you are not much better than jumped up freebooters to the baron. My aide is returning with your deputy badges, always wear them so the commoners know what you are about. Speaking of which let me explain the laws around here…” The seneschal has little time and quickly runs down the common laws and conventions. “Now then I suppose I must formally inform you of your duties and responsibilities. There is a champions fund, because its not been touched in so long, it’s quite healthy. Place your hands on the baron’s family crest on yon wall and repeat your oaths of loyalty as deputies of the Champion of Crestwold.” You do so, and he reiterates that half of everything you make in your pursuits will go to the authorities – but that the expenses are covered just as Killiam said. He brushes off all other questions and comments. He turns to you and asks about the family blade of the last champion…
He asks to see the family blade of the champion. If the PCs have it, he assumes they have the rest. It was well known we was well off.
The seneschal dwells on the blade and equipment you noted. “The blade should be returned to the family crypts. I find the rest to basically be an inheritance. Lets just make it easy and call the taxes for the estate that he carried on him to be 100 silvers or so.” He looks at you expectantly.
The party must pay. A DC 15 Persuade check while talking the seneschal into letting the party keep the blade will allow it.
> The party begins using the Allies option
“It is good to know those beyond the baron are thinking so much about us.” He smirks, and purses his lips. “Well, your patron will be getting the bill, rest assured. Indeed, and you shall honor your tithing through our offices here. Always wear your colors so the folk know what you are about. Speaking of which let me explain the laws around here…” The seneschal has little time and quickly runs down the common laws and conventions. He then asks you to place your hands on the baron’s family crest on the wall and repeat your oaths of loyalty.
The bonds of loyalty are really the same as those they have. There is nothing out of the ordinary.
Goodbye to the Seneschal
“Please, find a cheap place to stay. There won’t be much with the many mercenary bands in town.” He starts to leave, stops, smiles, and turns to you. “Don’t throw away the coin of your life too cheaply.” Laughing, he and his aide return to the manor. The guards pressure you to move along, making jokes about the new ‘champions’. At the road, as the guards turn you can hear them muttering “Really, who would have thought the likes of them would be here?” To which the other replies, “Yea, kind of makes you wonder if its time to take the family and head north to Lily March where its safer.”
Regardless of which path the party came to the seneschal on, they are escorted to the road, and sent on their way to Torrelsons Ford.