Assault on Karnnath - Breaking Fort Bones and Killing Kaius

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My players are tracking an agent of Lady Vol who has a magical artifact that, when a ritual is completed, will result in blood that will turn the living into a zombie and let the new zombie turn others into zombies by transmitting this enhanced Blood of Vol to the new victim.  

This is part of an Emerald Claw / Vol plot to rapidly otherthrow nearby nations by turning their inhabitants into zombie hordes and to cause those nations to attack Karnnath.

Said agent and artifact is en route to Fort Bones where the artifact will be taken by the EC's necromatic researchers (well hidden from the Fort's commander) and begun to be processed for the next step in the ritual.

The party is level 11.  They have a House Lyrander airship.

 A few requests for help:
1) What cool / unique combat and non-combat encounters could be placed in Fort Bones?
a) skill challenge to actually bluff their way into the Fort?
b) I'm thinking of a hidden holding pen containing thousands of "inert" Karnnathi skeletons - no encounter, but would be pretty cool, and set up D below
c) An encounter with EC mid-level thugs (Karnnathi Skeletons, Battle Wight Commander, Titan Shell)
d) Big fight with Pit of the Abandoned Regiment (random remains of necromantic experiments)

2) I'm planning that the characters don't actually find the artifact in the Fort of Bones, but do find the great-grandson of Kaius (e.g. the real Kaius III).  He is being held by the EC.  I'm thinking "man in the iron mask."  The players will free him and then try to assassinate Kaius to end the threat (not understanding that Kaius isn't a minion of Vol)

3) Any thoughts on how to run a regicide? I want something that has a thriller feel to it, where at the end the "real Kaius" is revealed, causing the assembled legions to stand down after seeing the putative king murdered in front of a huge assembly.
I'll try to provide some ideas, but I don't know anything about 4E, which, from your mention of "skill challenge", seems to be your edition.

1) What cool / unique combat and non-combat encounters could be placed in Fort Bones?



I assume you have read the Dragon Article on Fort Bones, and know about the main NPCs. The Kind seems an interesting encounter, especially if a link between Karrnathi undead and the new self-propagating zombies can be established.

Fort Bones is located in a Mabran manifest zone, iirc. So anything that sucks life or strength out of people could be encountered here. So could anything with the concepts relating to darkness, night, negative energy, undeath. Creatures from Mabar might end up there in a fashion similar to the Radiant Idols from Syrania end up in Sharn - so, perhaps a Succubus has moved over, either in search of prey or genuinely feeling the need to find something to fill that void within herself.  Such creatures could also possess important officers, or, as suggested by Keith Baker in another thread, actually be the animating force behind the Karrnathi zombies.

The Fort's walls are made from bones. Perhaps the PCs encounter someone who wants to rescue the remains of a friend or relative. This could be a Valenar elf, or some other former enemy of Karrnath. 

A tribe of Talentan halflings might also attack, or visit on a spirit quest; the Children of Winter might be drawn to the zone.

The Company of the Skull is something like the French Foreign Legion, with many people joining in order to forget their past - perhaps a criminal on the run, an excoriate from one of the houses, or a mark of an assassin trying to hide. Perhaps these are people from the PCs past, either a former enemy (or an associate of an enemy), or someone sharing the same enemy from whom he is hiding. Some people might be criminals given the choice to be executed or serve with the Company of the Skull... and, whilst the Fort is too isolated to flee easily, a handy airship just putting in might be a good temptation. 

If rumours are true about links between the Emerald Claw and the Paelion branch of House Phiarlan, some of their agents might have gone to ground here while the Emerald Claw was still a respected part of the nation, and are now plotting to take over.

There might also be spies from other nations trying to sabotage Fort Bones; probably Thranes opposed to the undead, or another nations (or even members of the At All Costs group from Rekkenmark, seeking to reignite the war) and trying to sabotage Fort Bones and blame the Thranes.

One of the novels - I cannot remember which one - also dealt with a secret underground network smuggling undead parts and necromantic reagents, whilst Forge of War speaks of a similar network smuggling military equipment. They might be up to something in Fort Bones.

Something could go wrong in a necromantic laboratory. A creature escaping, or simply something exploding, necrotic gases leaking, an air-born disease being unleashed, or simply waves of fatigue sweeping out, depending on how dramatic you want this to be. 

Bureaucracy. Nothing quite as annoying as to have to explain to officials what you are doing in the farthest outpost, a restricted military zone at that, without clearance.

2) I'm planning that the characters don't actually find the artifact in the Fort of Bones, but do find the great-grandson of Kaius (e.g. the real Kaius III).  He is being held by the EC.  I'm thinking "man in the iron mask."  The players will free him and then try to assassinate Kaius to end the threat (not understanding that Kaius isn't a minion of Vol)



You would have to explain how he got there, though... all indications so far point to him being a prisoner in Dreadhold. Escape from that prison is considered impossible (Kundarak would like to keep that reputation up, at any rate), so you'd have to come up with a reason how the EC got him out, why they took him to Fort Bones, and whether Kaius has been informed his prisoner is missing from Dreadhold (and what he is doing about it).


My Eberron Characters. Commissions by various artists on Deviant Art.