Saturday, September 15, 2012

Grey Bone Light - Introduction and Scene Setting

The Grey Bone light is an odd dungeon, more science fantasy than may be appropriate for some worlds, as the location is envisioned as part of the world of Pat Wetmore's ASE. It can easily adaptable to a more classic fantasy world by changing some minor cosmetic elements – clockwork soldiers become brass golems and the wreck table below has rusted dreadnaughts replaced with rotten cogs. 

Thanks everyone who chimed in on Google + and in the comments with ideas about what to populate the light with - there are also ghoul wreckers in the caves and a school of water weirds. 


Adventure Hook: Lust for plumbing ancient mysteries may be sufficient rationale for many adventurers, but the following scenarios are also useful for a little more flavor.

A. Recovery Ancient Artifacts - The most powerful local lord collects ancient technological artifacts and is willing to pay bounties in valuable gemstone for anything that uses lost technology or magic, even if its use is mundane. Hexomacht the Apigiamon is known to stand by his word, despite his cold almost mechanical demeanor.
M. Hutter - Pretty amazing painter
B. Diplomatic Mission - The leading local city state, Denethix, is soon to be visited by emissaries of a distant nautical power. It is key that the ships of this embassy arrive safely, and the Grey Bone Shoals represent a real danger to their passage. The party will be hired to keep the light operational for the next several weeks, warning the embassy vessels clear of the shoal's dangers. Conversely the party may have been hired by factions desiring war between Denethix and the distant sea-lords, and their mission will be too make sure the light is destroyed or deactivated.

Rumors: The Light is a well known place and even locals far from the sea have heard rumors about it as its a staple of ghost stories and tall tale. Roll a 1D6 on the rumor table below for information gathered from landlubbers and 1D10 for rumors known by seafarers and the like. Scholarly research will allow a roll of 1D10 +2.

Tales of the Tower Plenary as Related Amongst the Barnacled Harbor Stews.
1 The tower is haunted, definitely haunted, and the light burns with the souls of the sailors who have perished on the sands (False)
2 The tower is ancient and was once both a lighthouse and fortress capable of destroying ships far out at sea by fire. (True)
3 The Light is the home of bands of bandit wreckers who encourage ghost stories to cover their dastardly practice of setting false lights driving ships into the shoals. (Mostly False)
4 The entrance of the tower through a set of natural sea caves at the base. Be careful though because the caves are submerged at high tide. (True)
5 The light was built by the Horological Queendom, and fell when the Empire itself feel 600 years ago to a coalition of evil Wizards and their demonic armies. (True)
6 The great pirate king “Hamar the Disconsolate” cursed the tower after his fleet was all but destroyed by its defenders. His curse brought a monstrous mottled gray serpent from the sea that breathes clouds of despair and now lairs in the light tower. (False)
7 The lighthouse is actually built on the back of a giant elemental snail and is itself alive. It moves slowly to and fro and attracts vessels to the shoals specifically for the purpose of devouring them. (False )
8 Not all the sailors shipwrecked on the shoals die, but the wastes around it are so inhospitable that most survivors simply wait on the shoals for rescue that never comes. These individuals often become dangerous insane cannibals. (True)
9 It's the harpies – the entire place is crawling with the horrible cawing things. They've been breeding there for generations and hide hundreds of years of booty in the top of the lighthouse tower. (False)
10 The Fortress was overrun by demons, and using a spyglass you can see them pacing the battlements, hungry for souls. (False with a grain of truth).
11 A hundred year old mariner's account about running aground below the tower reports that the caves below the light seemed empty, and a thick portcullis barred entrance to the rest of the tower – but that the portcullis was not locked and a four sailors with a block and tackle might open it easily. (True)
12 Ancient texts reveal that at the fall of the “Horological Empire” the tower was protected by both a garrison and “thaumaturgical forces” including at least one “sea witch” (True)

Exterior: The Grey Bone Light, also called the Tower Plenary has stood above the treacherous Grey Bone Shoals for at least 800 years. Constructed of fluted white stone, stained by salt, pitted by spray and scoured by the wind the light still stands an imposing sentinel at the border between sea and jagged cliffs. Seafarers have long relied on it as a landmark to avoid the treacherous shoals, during the day it glints in the sun warning of the jagged rocks and greasy sands that stretch Westward into the sea for miles. At night however the light is treacherous, burning intermittently with a eerie orange light that according to some clouds the minds of sailors into running their vessels aground rather than steering clear.

Despite, or because of, the lighthouse the rock strewn beach surrounding the tower hold generations of wrecked ships, slowly rotting and rusting as they sink below the sands wreathed in the bones of their crews. Many of these wrecks themselves present opportunities for encounters. Below is a table of potential wrecks found about the Light and an idea of what might be within them. Wrecks that are easy to reach or not incredibly dangerous are likely to have been looted by the Wreckers in Areas 1 and 2 of the Light.

1D12 Lost Vessel
1 Dreadnaught - Armored Gun Boat, powered by hold full of tireless zombie labor and a ghost energized reactor. The vessel is armed with turreted cannons capable of blasts of necromantic energy capable of inducing rapid decay. The ship now rusts away almost upright, with necromantic pollution leaking from its torn hull creating a magical hazard that surrounds the wreck with a slowly growing ring of un-life large and small.
2 Leviathan - Giant magically and mechanically augmented whale-like creature, dead, beginning to stink with rot and gnawed by scavengers. Its huge jaws are clamped shut and whatever crew and cargo it carried within its cavernous belly are unable or unwilling to leave
3 Fishing Boat - This local fishing boat, manned by an entire family of poor villagers has broken its keel on the rocks a presents a site of tragedy rather than mystery. The catch and crew are scattered about the boat, salt stained and tangled in the nets.
4 Coracle – a tiny boat made of the overturned skull of a giant and patched with pitch. The skull boat now sits jaw side down, half buried in the sand with a crude stone chimney built out of the top. It is was likely the boat of a mad hermit or Wizard but the thin trickle of smoke from the chimney give no indication of its current inhabitants.
5 Submarine - Ancient beyond counting, the hull of this submersible is made of strange bluish metal covered with eons of barnacles. It's open missile ports are glassed over, except where some sort of wild hydroponic growth has broken through. A faint hum can be heard near the vessel and it appears some sort of power source is still operational within.
6 Cog - The storm tossed wreck of a halfling crewed Cog. The hold of the crude ship is smashed open on the beach and sodden trade goods strewn about. The Ship's rigging and sails are tattered as if by storm and all means of entrance except for the smashed hold appear firmly shut.
7 Derelict - The original nature of this ship is unclear but it appears to have been washed up from the depths and is completely covered in sea life. It may be an ancient yacht, a moribund trawler or a funeral barge, but from the exterior it's purpose and age are completely obscured.
8 Sidewheeler - This coastal trader and passenger vessel looks eerily undamaged, it's steam engine pumping at a low cycle as it rests calmly on the shingle. Light even emanates from the ship's upper deck ballroom while luggage and cargo is strapped soundly to the lower decks. A character knowledgeable about local history or sailing might remark that the sidewheeler is of a design that has not been used in these waters for approximately 300 years.
9 Galley - A recent military galley, most of its oars are snapped, the ram broken and fire damage is visible on its decking. Whatever happened to this ship, it is amazing it remained afloat and came to rest here. The sail still shows the emblem of Morio the Sea's Bastard, a flamboyant Wizard who rules a roving nation of pirates.
10 Whaler - This moribund whaler would be a common enough ship, but it is infected with a bizarre sea growth. Bulbous man sized lumps of reddish seaweed burst from the overturned hull and stringy vegetable tentacles coated with red slime radiate from the vessel.
11 Catamaran – Two 'viking' style longships held together by a twisted rope bridge and the tangles of their shared sail rest on their sides amongst the jagged rocks. It is unclear where the raiders that normally crew these vessels disappeared to, but their battered and colorful shields still line the ships' sides.
12 Raft - A village raft of the sea people, now obviously deserted. The wood and whale bone used in its construction are worn to a uniform silver by decades of salt and wind, and barely a trace of the garish paints favored by its occupants remain. It is unclear how the raft floated so far from the traditional Southern ocean range of the sea people, but it bobs gentle in the shallows inviting investigators to come aboard
Yes I know I have already published this table
The Reality (Factions within the Grey Bone Light): The lighthouse was built approximately 800 years ago, but a nation known as the “Horological Queendom”, “Clockwork Empire” or “Brass Tyranny”. This empire ruled much of the lands South of Denethix and the Certopsian Plains through the skills of its magical artificers who could build new clockwork bodies for the large cache of ancient thinking machines discovered and horded by the Empire's ruling family. Incredibly durable automaton soldiers and servants enforced the will of the Empire's rulers and elite without question or dissent until the caches of mechanical brains were exhausted and no new ones could be obtained. The Empire stopped expanding and began winding down approximately 500 years ago. Its capitol and many of its fortress cities were overrun by a coalition of evil Wizards about 400 years prior to the rise of Denethix, but some remnants (such as the Tower Plenary and the moribund pleasure dome that is the centerpiece to the forthcoming adventure The Certopsian Situation) remain.
The light was overrun around the same time as the rest of the empire, but the lesser Wizard who was assigned to its conquest failed to account for the persistence of the clockwork garrison or the effectiveness of the burning mirror weaponry protecting the fortress. His floatilla burnt from under him and his men driven to madness by thurmaturgically augmented sick-light radiating from the tower, the ancient warlock sold his soul to a powerful outsider entity of negative energy, in exchange for the promise that the towers defenders would be crippled and the Grey Bone Light would cease to burn.

The entity, “Nicor of the Storming Dusk” used his power to pervert the light, making any shadows cast within the Lighthouse come to life as malevolent shadow doubles that kill by slowly siphoning the souls of their victims and grow strong from the fear they engender. These creatures quickly killed and devoured the human defenders of the Grey Bone Light, but found the clockwork automatons a much tougher opponent as they are soulless, immune to fear and implacable. Yet the clockwork soldiers have no reasoning abilities and have not determined how to remove the curse, effectively harm their enemies or that their enemies increase whenever the light is active. Because of both factions limitations the combat has continued sullenly for 400 odd years with the automatons activating when the lighthouse is invaded or the light ceases to function and deactivating when the light is restored and any invaders expelled but leaving the light prey to the shadows who damage or deactivate it. The players arrival (like that of groups before them) will disrupt this cycle and the automatons will battle to protect their invasion, while the shadow entities wait to steal the character's forms once they activate the light.


  1. This is pretty cool. Is the light still radioactive? Will the visiting diplomats be cooked alive by the beacon?

    1. I think the beacon is still radioactive, but it only becomes long-range nasty if special chemicals are added, and then it can have all sorts of effects.

  2. Hey there, I just used your exquisite lighthouse map for a Torchbearer module, and I'd like to post a modified version of it to my own blog -- with due credit to you, of course. Is that OK with you?

    1. Go for it - and drop the link here, I'd love to read the play report.