So, this being the last Saturday of the month of October 2023, I felt it was time to go back to Meeros and environs for another adventure. Last time, it was Sariniya's Curse; this time, it's Xamoxis' Cleansing.
Behold, a map.
For some of us, this is the first time we've seen where Meeros sits, as well as the lands and seas surrounding the city.
What's this adventure about?
First of all, Xamoxis' Cleansing is some sort of MacGuffin. A desideratum. A Maltese Falcon.
It has magic powers. It's somewhere on this map. Everybody wants it. Nobody knows where it is. Nobody needed it till recently. The Adventurers only hear about it when, out of the blue, one faction offers money for them to go and get it for them.
The following Non-Player Characters all want this artefact.
The matriarch of the Kalos noble family. She's the person who will hire the Adventurers.
A Panthotaur tribe leader. He needs the MacGuffin because he thinks it can cure him?
Fire Eyes' son. He wants his Dad to get well.
Centuries ago Xamoxis of Skotados betrayed this naiad and stole most of her magic to create Xamoxis’ Cleansing. Now she wants that mojo back. Only, why wait centuries? What's she been doing all that time?
The charismatic leader of the Katharos, a cult devoted to Sariniya, the Goddess of Vengeance. Yaay for the shout out to Sariniya!
Xitos the Hound
A shadowy merchant. He's got money. He just wants the doohickey to add to his collection.
The Doohickey itself is a big silver bowl, found in a Sunken Temple, so at this first glance I guess there's going to be another pedestrian little dungeon delve full of monsters, traps, and razor-edged combat to the death because that's all the writers know.
The map infers there'll be a hexcrawl element, as well, with more combat as the default encounter.
The bowl is ridiculously overpowered. It is the prison of an untold number of river naiads. These river spirits can be captured and imprisoned within the bowl, which has infinite space for them. Any naiad which touches the bowl gets dragged into it.
The bowl uses its own store of Magic Points to unleash several special effects. The naiads can also be commanded to use their powers by the wielder of the bowl.
These are its powers.
Magically cure any poison or disease
Confer on the recipient the ability to breathe water for a year and a day
Confer on the recipient the service of an Intensity 2 Water Elemental once per month for a year and a day
Confer on the recipient an additional 1d10 years of life
The Adventurers turn up in Tithys, pronounced "Tie - THESE," not "Tithies," get your minds out of the gutter.
The big rivalry is between Diane Callous and Sheetos the Hutt. One of them has made it and the other one is still trying, but they're both dishonest, disloyal, and disrespectful. They both offer the same deal - money, power, connections. Both of them want to be the top dog and control all the trade up the river. One of them is already there, and they just want the bowl as a decoration really. The other one wants it to add to their collection.
Whoever they work for, the Adventurers now hexcrawl up the River Amaranth, looking for a Temple of Doom of Tomb of Something. They meet the Sariniya crowd, who want the bowl for themselves. The Sariniya crowd just made short work of a bunch of panthotaurs ... well, call them Thundercats if you like. So Lion-O is dying, his son wants the bowl to cure his Dad, they deliver an ultimatum with menaces, and the Sariniyans are just as snippy.
Then the naiad Scylla does the same, and you cut away to one of those Godsawful bloody Poochie cutscenes, and guess what? SHE does the same thing, and if the Adventurers cheese her off she turns the whole river against them.
There are some days when you just want them all to wipe each other out, and you go back home and sip ouzo with your feet resting on some living human furniture.
The Big Chief
So the Adventurers might go and meet with the Panths, and their tribe is called the Mad Keen, okay, and they take him to the Big Chief, who's undergoing a feverish ordeal thanks to some drug. And then you get this, which makes me spit beetroot.
Any character that can make a Hard Healing roll recognises the symptoms of Lyssa’s Kiss and knows that Amthara Root is the only plant that can counteract the poison.
Why does it always have to be that some poison has only one possible antidote, and guess what? YOU have to go on a quest past horrid monsters to get it?
And then there's the text box.
A cruel poison created from the rendered brains of madmen. It can be cured with Amthara Root or a Cure Malady spell.
One. Can it with the madmen's brains. People with mental health problems are not sources of weird, exotic poisons, for crying out loud, we have enough problems without someone spreading groundless detractions about the biochemical state of our brains.
Two, the weed is growing everywhere up and down the river, so why the hell haven't the panthotaurs (who worship the river) harvested it for themselves?
Three, Cure Malady spell. So the Adventurers have a cleric, right? No? Well, what a damp squib. Roll up some new guys.
So anyway ,,,
The Adventurers could get it in their heads that there is insufficient motivation in the world to induce them to complete this rancid, threat-filled quest, let alone when they get there and find the ghost of the depraved sorcerer who created the bowl in the first place, and who is quite content to just exist in the Temple, thank you.
Oh yes, I did mention that the bowl can cure poisons. That includes the poison which is ravaging Fire Eyes, aka Lion-O. So at least the Adventurers could bargain with the ghost to get a gallon of the waters blessed by the bowl to bring back and cure the Big Cat Boss and treat a few of the furries' wounds. They worship the river, so they might feel inclined to spare the adventurers and oh no, I just swallowed some of that Kool-Aid.
The big key to this adventure is motivation. About the only being who has motivation is the Sariniya priest Sa-Aba, who is yer basic moustache-twirling baddie who wants to weaponise the MacGuffin and flood the valley. But it contains so many utterly loathesome beings, the Adventurers might as well just seek out some high ground and watch the human priest just flood the Amaranth River Valley and sweep the detritus down to the sea.
You might guess that I'm not exactly a friend of railroady adventures. Enjoy playing this, but be aware that there are so many ways outside of the story path outlined in this book. Nor do you, as GM, need half these characters to make the story engaging.
Here's one alternate path.
This is post-Sariniya's Curse. By now, the Adventurers will have visited the heart of Sariniya's worship, and learned of Her new Ministry devoted to peace and the alleviation of the suffering She and Her priests once afflicted on the world while She was the Goddess of Vengeance.
An agent of Sariniya can approach the Adventurers in Meeros, and tell them that there is great suffering up the river. That sends them off to Tithys, and there they meet Dianthe, who may reject their petition to explore the river, initially. Turns out that she can be persuaded, with the promise of possible power to add to her existing power base.
They explore, looking for the Temple, and almost miss it because they are expecting something submerged, rather than a huge building three hundred feet above the ground, high and dry. But find if they do, and just in time to save Fire Eyes and unite the entire Panthotaur tribe against Dianthe's thugs and mercenaries, whom she sent up river to rob the Temple and deprive the Adventurers of their earned treasure, and their lives.
Big fight. Good guys win. Dianthe gets a thrashing, and loses her power base. Everybody go home.
At least, that is how I could run it as a GM.
Edited by Alex Greene