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Mantol-Derith is a mad house by the time the PC’s arrive. Something has been cooking in the past few hours before they arrive. The problem came so suddenly that some of the factions in town are still deciding how to react. The problem is Fraz-Urb’luu’s gem, which has been passing hands and making people crazy. The gem has the power to deceive whoever owns it, the exact nature of the delusion depends on Fraz-Urb’luu’s motivations at the time, or he could be just doing it for fun. In a way, Fraz-Urb’luu is trying to get himself in a position of power. He doesn’t know that if he is released from the gem (by destroying it), he won’t manifest in the material plane but will be sent back to the Abyss (unless you decide otherwise and would rather have a demon encounter with a weakened Fraz-Urb’luu, which is a great idea too, although quite deathly).
The gem has been in the hands of several people and is currently in possession of Kinyel Druu’giir, a drow assassin who is deluded by the gem to believe that she received the gem as payment for an assassination contract, her target is the maimed beholder that works for the Zentharim, Lorthuun. This image, courtesy of Mino Magnus (from the Facebook OoTA DM group) depicts the recent owners of the gem:
This part of the module is rendered useless if the PC’s walk in with their army. And it also doesn’t make sense that a big military group is let inside the town. So, the Zentharim thugs who know the password will tell the PC’s that a big group will be seen badly and might cause trouble. So they advice to set up camp outside the place and only let in the PC’s and a very small contingent.
The town is in open warfare when the PC’s arrive. The problem being that Yantha Coaxrock (who is a superior of Nomi Pathshutter from Blingdenstone) took the gem from the duergar Krimgol, lied about its worth and slipped it to her assistant Flink, who ran with it. Krimgol went nuts about it and talked with his boss. They decided to slip inside the gnome camp invisible and kidnap Yantha for questioning. When the gnomes realized what had happened they went full-force to the duergar warehouse to retrieve her. There was a skirmish which they lost. The duergar then decided to chase the gnomes back to their warehouse in full-force, killing many of them in the process. This is the moment when the PC’s arrive. They enter the marketplace, see signs of recent battle and spot some duergars chasing and killing (if unaided) 3 gnomes (page 136). The gnomes will request assistance and lead the PC’s to the gnome warehouse where 4 duergar and 8 invisible duergar are trying to open the door; by the way, this is a very deathly encounter. If unaided, these duergar are ordered to get inside and kill as many as they can. It’s a massacre.
Mantol-Derith exists in a balance between 4 sometimes enemy factions. Gnomes, Duergar, Drow and Zentharim co-exist here under a treaty of no attack. When the gnomes and duergar started to kill each other, Zentharim and Drow went back to their quarters to decide what to do. Currently, a meeting is being arranged between the two parties to decide how to act. They would probably decide to take joint control of the town, maybe getting rid of the other two weakened factions. But this doesn’t happen because the meeting is wrecked by Kinyel trying to assassinate the beholder (page 140).
After the PC’s help the gnomes, their leader can explain what has happened (the stolen gem conflict about the price). He can offer a reward in an exchange of the PC’s helping free Yantha Coaxrock. The PC’s might have to force their way into the duergar warehouse to get there. Unfortunately, when they rescue Yantha. She will only say lies and that will become obvious very fast. The reason why she does that, though, won’t be easy to be known. PC’s might come to many conclusions about it. And she won’t tell who has the gem (Flink), but if the PC’s can read her mind they can find out the information. This chapter is in a way, a cop investigation episode. And a very fun one. Regardless of their finding Flink or not, they will eventually seek the Zentharim, because their leader, Ghazrim DuLoc, has the map to Gravenhollow. The chapter works best if they visit the gnomes and duergar before going to speak with the Zentharim.
When the PC’s arrive, the meeting between the Zentharim and Drow is about to begin. This is one of the best encounters in the module. A party of drow elite fighters vs the Zentharim party which has a bunch of thugs and Lorthuun the beholder. Also the gargoyle who is in love with Kinyel and will defend her at all costs (this should look weird as hell). The PC’s might want to side with the Zentharim, it makes sense, except that they don’t know each other, and Lorthuun will attack the PC’s too. This battle is supposed to be a mad mess. If Flink is with the PC’s he can tell them that the gargoyle stole the gem from him. It’s completely ok if Ghazrim dies, the map is a ring anyway. And if the PC’s decide to not intervene, mostly everyone dies, Lorthuun kills all the drow, and Ghazrim and his thugs die. Only one person escapes, Kinyel who manages to escape with the gem.
However way this battle plays out, eventually the PC’s will get the gem, which is apparently the origin of all the blodshed, this is where the fun begins. There are some rules in page 133 about throwing charisma saves when touching the gem. My suggestion is: ditch them. We don’t need that, this is a demon lord. Instead, just let the madness flow. Whenever anyone acquires the gem, just decide a weird personality trait or attitude that the PC or NPC will have to portray. Why? because if you have the PC’s throw a save, metagame will kill the fun. They will know that it is magical and will be unable to un-see it. It’s best if, when a PC takes the gem, just slip him a piece of paper that tells him what he has to do. He will have to roleplay it and won’t be able to explain his actions, the effect can be subtle or obvious. It’s a great experience for RPing. I believe this lessens the amount of metagamish thinking the players will have. Here are some suggestions of what you can have the players roleplay: (slip of paper)
“You are influenced by the gem, but you cannot say this and cannot explain your actions or be convinced that they are any different from how you usually act, you….”
- must tell lies, even if they are obviously untrue, you believe them.
- you start to hear voices that tell you to do things.
- don’t trust one of your friends in any way whatsoever, he must be plotting against you.
- must disagree with other people’s opinions.
- suddenly remember that a member of your family is a prisoner in Menzoberranzan.
- feel an enormous urge to take things that are not yours.
- find out that Kinyel is actually the sister of Illvara, looking for you to avenge her sister.
- decide that the gem is yours and has always been, you would kill to keep it.
- decide that the gnome leader is plotting against you and sent you to the Zentharim to be killed.
- discover that the gem is actually a crystal to see the future, you can see visions inside it.
- become aggressive and defensive toward everybody, they must want something from you !
- become sad by all the recent blodshed, you decide to stay in town to help rebuild it.
- decide that killing the pudding king wasn’t a nice thing and try to rationalize the idea. Can’t stop talking about it.
- decide that King Bruenor is a hypocrite and should have come himself to this adventure. Can’t stop talking about it.
- become the best friend of (the most unlikely person around), can’t stop mentioning his/her virtues.
If handled correctly and if you have a role-play friendly group, you could end up with all of them influenced by the gem in different ways without being able to say that this is true. The objective is that someone discovers that the gem is doing it without ever saying it. It’s a real challenge of roleplaying and deduction. Once the gem’s nature is discovered it’s destruction is really simple. I suggest making it immune to regular weapons. Only a magic weapon can break it. As it breaks, you can have Fraz-Urb’luu appear for a second and vanish back to the abyss. The PC’s might decide not to destroy it and keep it, or give it to an NPC for safe keeping. If they do so, it means more fun, as the gem will continue to influence anyone in its path.
That’s pretty much it, Mantol-Derith is a mad house. When everything ends, almost all fighting people in town could be dead or injured; all factions or three of them are crippled, with few or no fighting people. The PC’s could force their way into everyone’s treasures if they wanted to, particularly the Zentharim warehouses, where they can find lots of stuff. (As per my suggestion in Chapter 9, they can find a teleportation helm in Ghazrim’s warehouse). It’s a good idea to leave some men here to build a settlement to oversee the continued peace of the town (See more about settlements in chapter 9).
I didn’t mention any of the side quests before because I feel that they are only half-baked ideas (this second part of the book has some sections like that, hastily written). They lack depth and in some cases wouldn’t even make sense at all. Still, these are my opinions and recommendations on them:
- If the PC’s decide to explore 1C (which they might not, BTW) they will find a crazed elf who eats other people. This is Sladis Vadir (page 135), the PC’s are looking for her in the name of the Emerald Enclave. They accepted this mission if they formed an alliance with Morista Malkin, back in Gauntlgrym. You might want to relocate her inside Mantol-Derith.
- If the PC’s decide to explore 1D (they probably won’t), they will find, after a secret entrance to the town, a human named Rystia (page 135-136). She is insane and will attack anyone. This side encounter can be completely removed with no effect to the module.
- Cricket Catcher (page 142), this encounter portrays a kuo-toa from Sloobludop who still doesn’t know what happened there, he is hunting giant crickets (which are harmless). This can be run just for flavor, other than that, there’s just a little stash of potions.
- Amarith’s Zoo (page 142), if Sladis Vadir is with the PC’s he can lead them to another member of the Emerald Enclave that is hiding in a nearby cave, Amarith Coppervein. It says that the PC’s are looking for her in the name of Morista Malkin too. This is an error in the book, in the Gauntlgrym chapter, Amarith is never mentioned. She has a small zoo of underdark animals. A great way to make this more fun, if you do run it, is to have the zoo getting out of control. When the PC’s arrive, the animals are out and Amarith is in the bottom of the cave trying to defend her life.
- Xazax the eyemonger (page 142), Peebles, a gnome rescued in the market scene, is a servant of a beholder named Xazax. He grafts extra beholder eyes to himself although they are not functional. This looks like something cool but it isn’t. The battle is with the beholder in its lair, it’s really a very deathly encounter at this point. My other gripe is in how it is handled, this iconic monster is treated here like a side encounter with no importance and almost no treasure. A monster like this should be anticipated and be an important part of a module, like Lorthuun in Mantol-Derith, or Karazikar in the Worm Writhings.
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