Adventure Conversion Advice (Long)

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Hi all. I'm starting a new 4e Eberron campaign in the next few weeks and I'm planning on converting several adventures from the old print version of Dungeon. One of the adventures that caught my eye is Mad God's Key, an urban adventure set in Greyhawk. I have some ideas on how to convert it to Eberron, but I was hoping to get some ideas from the community as well. For those of you who aren't familiar with the adventure I'll describe briefly. Spoilers ahead!


The adventure concerns the theft of a magic key crafted by the archmage Zagig before his ascent to godhood. The key is capable of opening any lock in the city of Greyhawk, and after Zagig abandons the city the key is lost for hundreds of years before it turns up in the possession of a locksmith named Theldrat. A cult of Vecna needs the key to open a necromantic tome with a powerful magic lock, so they infect a gang of thieves (the Green Dagger Gang) with a terrible disease then promise them a cure if they steal the key. In the mean time the cult steals the book from the Greyhawk library while disguised as clerics of Boccob. The PCs get involved after they save Theldrat's shop from looters after the key is stolen. When the watch arrives they seem distracted and unhelpful, explaining that a valuable book was stolen from the city library and they don't have time to waste on a petty burglary. Theldrat hires the PCs to track down the key before it can be put to nefarious uses.


There is a big chase across a series of barges as the PCs track down the thief. Then the PCs must enter the thieves' den and confront their leader. The leader explains that he already turned the key over to a cleric of Boccob with a strange book in exchange for a cure (that didn't work). The PCs investigate the temple of Boccob and the library and discover a clue (in the form of a stone amulet) that leads them to an ancient cairn outside town. After that its a straight forward dungeon crawl as the PCs explore the cairn, fight Vecna's followers, and deal with the undead horrors summoned by the tome. In the end the key looses its magic powers opening the magic tome.


My campaign is set in Sharn where the PCs are private inquisitives on retainer to a mysterious (and anonymous) patron. As such, several characters and organizations in this adventure need to be converted: Zagig, the cult of Vecna, the clergy of Boccob, etc... I need to answer the following questions:




  1. Who created the magic key and why? How did it end up in the possession of a middling locksmith?




  2. Who are the Green Daggers?




  3. What organization should replace the cult of Vecna? This need not be a religious cult. This also begs the question of what's in the locked tome? It should be something the organization in question wants. It doesn't necessarily need to be necromantic in nature, as long as it contains dangerous forbidden lore.




  4. Who should replace the clergy of Boccob?




Here are some of my ideas, but remember I'm looking for more!




  1. The key was created by a mad Kundarak heir obsessed with finding new ways to defeat his own wards. The key was lost during the War of the Mark only to be found by Theldrat's father during the Last War.


    Alternatively, the key was made Merrix d'Cannith (the elder) when he grew tired of keeping track of all the keys necessary to open his various vaults and workshops. He gave the key to a warforged body-guard for safekeeping before his death, but said warforged took advantage of Merrix's death to seek a life of adventure. He sold the key to Theldrat's father before disappearing into Xen'drik.




  2. I'm thinking the Green Dagger Gang is actually the Dagger River Gang, a band of river smugglers who normally work the northern stretches of the Dagger River, but have recently begun operations in the Hilt. They are hoping to secure a place in the Boromar Clan's organization and so are paying the halflings double the usual tribute expected. This, plus bribing the Cliffside watch captains and excise men has kept the gang poor – too poor to afford Jorasco healing when they find themselves coming down with a terrible disease.




  3. This is the question I'm having the hardest time with. I have four ideas. The first is to replace the cult of Vecna with the Emerald Claw. This requires no changes to the content of the tome as the Claw would likely be interested in acquiring new undead minions. I like this idea because it is a straight-forward conversion of the adventure.


    The second idea is to have the cultists be a branch of the Children of Winter who have taken it upon themselves to purge Breland of the weak in anticipation of a second Mourning which they believe will strike Breland next. They believe the tome contains the secrets of the Lady of Plague and by unleashing ancient diseases across Breland (starting with Sharn) they will harden the population for the coming Winter. I like this idea because infecting thieves then blackmailing them to do your dirty work seems like something the Children might do. It also adds a degree of urgency to the PCs mission once they discover the plan (stop the Children before they infect the city).


    The third idea is to use House Tarkanan. The setup would be similar to using the Children of Winter, above, except that the House simply wants to add the knowledge to their repertoire, using it to enhance their assassinations and otherwise using it on behalf of the highest bidder. I like this idea because House Tarkanan is an organization native to Sharn, where the vast majority of my campaign will be taking place, and is thus draws the PCs a little deeper into the city, the campaign, and the lore of Eberron.


    The final idea is to have the cultists be a group of students from Morgrave University. The students are in a secret society dedicated to studying and reviving the lore of the Closed Circle. The tome contains some of the Closed Circle's lore, but the Esoteric Order of Aureon bound it closed with a powerful magic lock and stored the tome in a secret vault of Morgrave's library. I like this idea because it explains how the villains learned of the tome, and also because it answers question 4 (the clergy of Boccob become the Esoteric Order). I have two players interested in playing arcane classes, so this idea also serves to introduce them to Breland's wizards' circles.




  4. Most likely I'll use clergy from the Great Hall of Aureon at Morgrave University to replace the clerics of Boccob. The villains, who ever they are, disguise themselves as a priest of Aureon to gain access to the secure vaults of Morgrave's library. They then continue with this ruse to deceive the thieves they blackmail into stealing the key. If I make the villains members of the Closed Circle, then one of the priests of Aureon is a wizard in the Esoteric Order who can explain what the tome contains and why its so dangerous.




Thoughts? Is there some other organization that I should consider for the villains or the victims? Anyone else run this adventure in Eberron?  Thanks for the advice!

Well, I'd say for 3 to stick with the Order of the Emerald Claw. Not only is it straightforward, but well... I'm just a fan of the EC :D

As for 1, here's an out-there idea: Perhaps nobody really knows who created the key, but legend has it that The Traveler left it on Eberron during one of his supposed walkabouts. It could be that the mysterious partron of the PCs is in fact a Doppleganger or Changeling of the Cabinet of Faces, searching for what they believe to be a relic of their trickster god. OR maybe Theldrat is actually one of the Cabinet of Faces and they're trying to stir up one of their random bits of change/adventure in the world.
Call me Ender.
I like the idea of the Traveler's key.  While scholars and sages debate whether the key was crafted by a dragonmarked house, by a cult of the traveler, or by a forgotten Dhakaani smith, the bards tell tales of the Traveler.  How, like a changeling, the key takes a new form each time it is found.  How the key seems a boon to the one who finds it: opening any lock and giving that person unprecedented access to their heart's desire.  Then the key is finally used to open a "pandora's box" that brings doom and disaster upon the owner, at which point the key seems to loose all its powers and is lost for another generation or so.

Beware the gifts of the Traveler.

As far as the PCs patron is concerned I'm debating whether to make her an agent of the Lords of Dust (perhaps a disguised rakshasa or just a useful pawn) or else to make her an agent of the Church of the Silver Flame and/or the Chamber attempting to collect and secure dangerous objects of supernatural evil: petrified radiant idols, amulet-bound rakshasas, possessed masks from Xen'drik, etc...

I probablly won't decide until I see what my players think is going on.  The last campaign I ran the PCs were betrayed by their patrons one after another (with one exception) so I'm thinking in this campaign I'll make their patron manipulative and seemingly untrustworthy only to have it turn out she's protecting Khorvaire from destruction.  On the other hand, if my PCs start to think of their patron as a friendly "Charlie" and they as her "Angels" then I might turn the tables on them towards the end of the Paragon tier.
Possible answers to #3 the cult of vecana could be replaced witha cult to Sul Khatesh (one of the fiendish overlords who specializes in arcane secrets) or Katashka the Gatekeeper ( overlord of death and undeath)

I'm with Ender on question 1. Zaggy seems so much like the traveller this is a natural match. Include the flavour of the key changing hands and the different cultures that claim the key.


Another thought I had resolves around the lich that is living in the necropolis just on the outskirts of Sharn. He could be the one manipulating the thieves guild into getting the key but I also really like the children of winter. Mayhaps they manipulated the lich into creating the disease and offer to share the books contents. Whether or not those parties intend to double cross one another is up to you.


To give the whole ordeal some more political weight you could also use Gnomes from the library of Korranberg. It is no secret that Morgrave sells artifacts and other knowledge and the Gnomes are more the lorekeepers.


Looks like it could be an interesting adventure. Let us know how it pans out.          
Yeah, I really like Ender's suggestion, too, so that's what I'm going to roll with.  I'm going to have to come up with some bards' tales about the doom that came to others who used the key, as well as some scholarly theories regarding the key's possible non-divine origin (it not being clear if the gods actually exist on Eberron and all).  In any case, the key will be associated with the Traveler.

I've decided that the overarching plot of the campaign will involve the Lords of Dust attempting to free a rajah of corruption, madness and torment.  The rajah was bound before the creation of the Silver Flame, one of the dragon's earlier attempts to overcome the power of the Overlords.  The rajah's spirit was divided into a number of parts (13?) and sealed into a number of Khyber shard phylacteries.  The rajah's rakshasa servants, desperate to free their lord, created an eldritch machine in the form of large obelisk or idol in the Demon Wastes.  This artifact, called The Crucible by its makers, is designed to draw the rajah's spirit fragments into it and, like a crucible used to produce an alloy, meld the fragments back into one being.  Of course, before it can do its work, the rajah's spirit fragments must be set free.

The tome from this adventure will actually be one of the phylacteries, and opening it sets the spirit fragment free.  So I'm thinking the Lords of Dust are behind whoever I use for 3, but I don't want to just make 3 a cult of the rajah.  I think the Lords of Dust are subtler than that, and will use some other organization as their cat's paw.  So I'm thinking that a cult of the Shadow exists hiding among the students and priests of the Great Hall of Aureon, dwelling, as it were, in the shadow of Aureon's clergy.

A Morgrave expedition discovered the tome in a tomb in Xen'drik (its a very big book) sometime before the Last War.  Scholars from across Khorvair have attempted to opent he book and learn its secrets but all failed.  Eventually the book was put on display in the Morgrave Library where the only people who take ever take any interest in it are ambitious first year students who are soon humbled by its impenetrable wards.  The only people, that is, except the cult of the Shadow.

The cultists are convinced that the tome is a holy book penned by cyclops prophets of the Shadow in ancient Xen'drik.  They believe they are destined to open the tome and receive the Shadow's blessings (what ever those might be).  When they heard of a locksmith living in Dura who could open any lock using a magic key their thoughts turned to the Traveler.  Surely the power of another of the Dark Six would be sufficient to open the tome...

[snip]
I've decided that the overarching plot of the campaign will involve the Lords of Dust attempting to free a rajah of corruption, madness and torment.  The rajah was bound before the creation of the Silver Flame, one of the dragon's earlier attempts to overcome the power of the Overlords.  The rajah's spirit was divided into a number of parts (13?) and sealed into a number of Khyber shard phylacteries.  The rajah's rakshasa servants, desperate to free their lord, created an eldritch machine in the form of large obelisk or idol in the Demon Wastes.  This artifact, called The Crucible by its makers, is designed to draw the rajah's spirit fragments into it and, like a crucible used to produce an alloy, meld the fragments back into one being.  Of course, before it can do its work, the rajah's spirit fragments must be set free.

[snip



Off course all the legends should speak about 12 pieces while the one who performed the ritual was paranoid and never told anyone he bound the 13th to hos bloodline/legacy item/mc guffin. 
Keeps with the Baker's Dozen trope and lets the party do one more Epic quest for the last piece.  
This sounds fascinating, asheradonis! Do you have ideas for how the campaign may develop beyond the initial adventure? Are you planning conversions of some of the other Dungeon material, perhaps the detective adventures set in Sharn by Nicolas Logue?

I started converting Mad God's Key for a Ptolus game once, but, sadly, it never got off the ground. If you have access to Monte Cook's tome, there are plenty of great hooks that can be pulled into a Sharn-based game. 
This sounds fascinating, asheradonis! Do you have ideas for how the campaign may develop beyond the initial adventure? Are you planning conversions of some of the other Dungeon material, perhaps the detective adventures set in Sharn by Nicolas Logue?



Yes, I am planning on using Nicolas Logue's Eberron adventures.  In fact, I've cobbled together an entire campaign from the old Dungeon plus a hand full of the more recent online material, and I think I'm using most of the Eberron adventures published there.

All told I'll be converting or repurposing 29 adventures and side treks, and I'm planning on wrapping the campaign up sometime between 20th and 21st level.  The final adventures will deal with the players trying to find a way to stop the rise of the rajah I described above, or, failing that, finding a way to bind it again.

I've actually decided to move Mad God's Key to somewhere around 4th level.  I'm planning on running Queen With the Burning Eyes (Dungeon 113), Murder In Oakbridge (Dungeon 129), and Urban Decay (Dungeon 138, the were rats will be associated with Daask) first.  I've also got a few side treks to throw at my players depending on what mischief they get up to on there own.  I think I'm going to kick off the paragon tier with Nic Logue's adventures, setting up the villain as a competitor/foil during the heroic tier so the PCs will have extra incentive to deal with him when I start Chimes at Midnight (Dungeon 133).

I'll post my tenative outline for the campaign if anyone is interested, I just need to warn my players away from this thread first.
I would be very interested. I had the same idea with the nicolas logue adventures, but the charakters died in the last part of my converted Eyes of the lich queen. I started a new campaign and I hope the group will not die until they reach chimes of midnight again .
I'll post my tenative outline for the campaign if anyone is interested, I just need to warn my players away from this thread first.



Most definitely interested! The more you're willing to share about your plans, the better!

How does the campaign progress, Asheradonis?