I’ve been on a conversion kick lately. I thought I might tackle an old module set, the H’s back from 1st edition, aka the Bloodstone Series.
Bloodstone used rules from Battlesystem making the adventures into mass combat. Since I’ve got mass combat rules of my own, and the players in my current campaign are around those levels, I figured I could convert the entire set of modules to fit it, starting with the first part: H1 – Bloodstone Pass.
The Circus of Doctor Trundles
Designed by Michael Dobson and Douglas Niles | 5e Conversion by DMDave
Art by Jeff Easley | Cartography by Dave LaForce
A party of high-level characters (13 – 17) are recruited to save the small village of Bloodstone from an army of bandits. To achieve their mission, the characters must travel to Bloodstone, organize the peasants into an army, recruit allies, and fight a series of battles using the DMDave Mass Combat System.
For many years, the Kingdom of Damara (where the characters live-substitute names from your own campaign if desired) has been at war with the Kingdom of Vaasa, its neighbor to the north. Vaasa, ruled by an evil wizard of incredible power, has been slowly crushing its southern neighbor. Recently, disaster befell the armies of King Virdin of Damara at the Battle of Goliad. The king was killed and his forces routed. Now, the one-great Kingdom of Damara is a vassal state to Vaasa.
The northern provinces of Damara are now completely under the sway of Vaasa. A steady stream of refugees has been moving south. Many were the people who had to abandon home, treasure, and friends to flee a terrible fate at the hands of invaders.
For now, the situation has stabilized. The Kingdom of Damara is no more, but some of the more powerful dukes and barons in the southern provinces have become effectively independent. As long as they pay tribute to Vaasa and acknowledge the power of their northern neighbor, they can maintain some shade of an independent existence.
The characters in this adventure are all refugees from the north. If you use the pre-generated characters provided in the appendix, their backgrounds are provided. If you use characters from your existing campaign, you must arrange for them to lose everything except their three favorite magic items and a purse full of gold pieces (no more than 100 gp).
Most players will not object to this since characters tend to accumulate a lot of minor magic items of limited use. If they do object, you may “sweeten the pot” by offering to give them a new, reasonably powerful magic item (very rare or even legendary) to replace what they have lost. To introduce the new item, have the character find it on his or her way south. You may even create a short scenario for it if you like.
If you are using the pre-generated characters, or if one or more of the characters in your campaign have not met, tell each of the players that their character has come to the small town of Valls in the Duchy of Arcata. If all the characters in your campaign already know each other, they can, of course, travel in a group.
The Circus Comes to Town
Read the following (and all quoted copy, when encountered) to the players:
The great wars with the Kingdom of Vaasa have finally ended-the borderlands are now in the hands of the enemy, the king is dead, the dukes and barons have become independent, and a steady stream of refugees has been moving south to find an elusive safety.
You, too, are refugees. The wars have taken away your homes, your treasures, your families, and everything else you own-except your reputation and your skill. You managed to salvage a few special items and a handful of gold from the disaster, but the expenses of travel have depleted even that.
There is little wealth and little treasure in the backwater duchy of Arcata, where you have come. The town of Valls, capital of the duchy, is teeming with displaced people.
Homeless, seeking to restore your fortunes, you are looking opportunity and adventure. Recently you have had to resort to manual labor to earn your daily bread. If something doesn’t turn up soon, you may have to start begging.
- Show the players Map #1, Town of Valls.
- Let the players place their characters in town.
Sleeping arrangements in Valls
Valls is filled with refugees and the inns are filled.
- If any character wishes to stay in the inn, the cost is 10 gp per night.
- Characters can choose to perform manual labor for room and board–but the room consists of a stack of hay in the stable and the board of peasant stew (squalid conditions).
- Some characters may choose to camp outside town, especially if the characters already know each other. If they do, roll a d20. On a roll of 1-7, there is a chance that the characters are attacked by a pack of wild animals (such as wolves, worgs, or tigers) or by a party of 2d4 + 2 bandits. You can also construct a special encounter for your campers if you wish.
Downtime in Valls
During the day, characters can perform manual labor, wander around town, shop (if they have any remaining coin), barter, or otherwise interact with the town and townspeople. Give characters one day to deal with the town.
On the second day, all the characters hear about a circus parade to be held on the main street. All characters should be motivated to attend the parade.
When the parade begins, read the following:
It’s another hot day in this dusty town. The streets teem with refugees, begging, arguing, pleading. Every day, it seems, the crowd grows. Once-powerful warriors, carrying longswords strapped across their backs, push through the crowds hoping to find work. The stores have all raised their prices and soon will suck up every copper piece these poor refugees possess.
But today is different. Today, the circus is in town! Excitement and pleasure have been a rare commodity lately, but this should change things. Everybody’s talking about it–the circus parade will be at noon, today!
See Map #1 for the route of the circus parade. If the characters known each other, they can cluster as a group. Otherwise, they should be scattered along the parade route. The circus parade consists of seven wagons pulled by horses. Emblazoned on each wagon is the legend, “The Circus of Doctor Trundles.” Each wagon is a cage containing a strange beast. Each wagon has a human commoner as its driver except for the lead wagon. The lead wagon is driven by Dr. Trundles (N male human illusionist), a tall, man of indeterminate age, and his assistant Tanaroo (N male gnome illusionist) a little gnome with sparkling blue eyes.
Each monster is held within a cage of imprisonment. The cage looks like a normal circus wagon, but as long as the door remains closed and the cage intact, creatures within the cage cannot use any magical abilities, effects, or spells. None of the creature’s physical abilities are impaired, but spell, breath weapon, shape-changing, and all other magical abilities possessed by a creature are neutralized. The monsters in the cages are as follows:
- Wagon 1 – bulette
- Wagon 2 – chimera
- Wagon 3 – adult blue dragon
- Wagon 4 – lamia
- Wagon 5 – Tigerwoman (N female human weretiger)
- Wagon 6 – xorn
- Wagon 7 – gibbering mouther
The colorful circus parade comes into view. Pushing against the mob of humanity lining the main street, you see seven wagons pulled by horses. Each wagon is emblazoned with the words “The Circus of Doctor Trundles”. The sides of the wagons are made of bars–and through the bars, you see the creatures of surpassing strangeness…
A tall, skinny man with a stovepipe hat stands atop the lead wagon. He has an absent-minded look about him, and he is gesticulating wildly.
“This is the greatest… yes, the… ah… greatest show that has ever grace… ah… the world! I can’t tell you how much trouble we went to for these strange beasts of myth and legend. Why, if I were to tell you much trouble we went to… well, all I have to say is that we went to a great deal of trouble… yes, a great deal of trouble.”
At this point, the man’s assistant, a little gnome with sparkling blue eyes, climbs up on top of the wagon and says, “Let me handle this, Trundles.” The tall man looks started, then looks down at his assistant and nods, vacantly. As he steps down onto the driver’s seat of the wagon, he stumbles and nearly falls off. The gnome quickly grabs him and makes sure is safely seated, then turns to the crowd.
“Hurry, hurry, hurry!” he shouts enthusiastically. “The greatest show on Oerth is playing here for three days only! That’s right, three days only! Getcher ducats now by coming out of the circus grounds this afternoon! See strange creatures of the night, captured and brought here for your delectation and delight!
“In the first wagon, we have the incredible landshark–a strange beast that resulted from a mad wizard’s experimental cross-breeding of a snapping turtle and an armadillo with a touch of demon’s blood! It’s the only one in captivity! And just behind that, we have the strange chimera-the hindquarters of a goat, the foreparts of a lion, the wings of a dragon, and three heads! I always say that three heads are better than one, and now you can see for yourself! And in the third cage, a fine specimen of a blue dragon! Look at that expression! That creature would eat me alive in a second if given a chance. See it in safety at the Circus of Doctor Trundles! Next is the strange and mysterious lamia, with the torse of a beautiful woman and the body of a beast. Beware of the lamia’s embrace! She feasts on human blood and flesh!
In the fifth wagon, the incredibly rare and beautiful woman-tigress. Now in her hybrid form, she seems to be a mixture of tiger and human. She has two other forms as well, a full-grown tiger and a lovely human maiden. We keep her in the hybrid form because it’s safest. When she becomes a human, she is the most beautiful, the most compelling, the most incredibly attractive woman you have ever seen! Ladies, never let your husbands look on the human form of a tigress-you’ll never see them again!
Next, we have a fine specimen of the race of xorn. Look at those jaws atop his head! They’re made of stone, as is the rest of this powerful and fantastic creature! He can snap you in two with a single bite! It takes powerful magic spells to keep this creature penned up, for it can sink through solid earth and vanish before you know it!
And finally, the strangest, most fantastic beast known to mankind: the gibbering mouther! This strange beast is composed entirely of mouths and eyes! And beware the sounds it makes, for it can bring you under its spell before you know it!”
The funny little gnome pauses to take a deep breath. “See these fantastic creatures and much, much more in perfect safety at the world-renowned Circus of Doctor Trundles–the greatest show in the whole world, and, in fact, in the whole prime material plane! Don’t be afraid of these beasts, however dangerous, powerful and horrible they are. For the powerful sorcery of Doctor Trundles, wizard of wizards, mage of mages, enchanter of enchanters…” (Doctor Trundles looks up at the gnome and stage-whispers, “Speed it up Tanaroo!”)
“Anyways,” the gnome continues, “see it all tonight at the one, the only Circus of Doctor Trundles!”
The gnome begins to prance and caper on the roof of the wagon, antagonizing the landshark within. The creature, enraged, begins crashing its considerable weight against the side of the cage… again… again… and again. Tanaroo the gnome, pleased at the crowds’ reaction starts his spiel over again. Then, suddenly, disaster!
The Animals Escape
At this point, and before any of the characters can react or perform an action, the landshark comes crashing out of its cage.
It seems the magical protection of Doctor Trundles could not withstand the brute force of a bulette forever.
The bulette wheels around, glaring at the crowd, then charges toward the rear of the circus parade, tearing the sides from all the circus wagons. This action takes one round.
The characters are now entitled to an action.
In order to get through the crowd without the use of magic, the characters must push their way through a panicked mob of people running away from the parade. Each character should make a DC 10 Strength saving throw. On a failed saving throw, a character falls prone in his or her space and takes 1d4 bludgeoning damage from being trampled. Pass or fail, moving through the crowd counts as difficult terrain.
The air is filled with screams as the terrified crowd runs for safety. It should take two full rounds for characters to get in the clear. By this point, the creatures of the circus should all have escaped.
Seeing his menagerie freed by the charging landshark, Doctor Trundles begins to scream, “My pets! My pets! Please capture my pets! Don’t hurt them! Please don’t hurt them! They don’t mean any harm!”
Tanaroo, obviously the more practical of the two, shouts “A thousand gold pieces reward for each creature captured alive! These are valuable specimens! A thousand gold pieces reward! Capture them alive!”
Here are the tactics for the escaped monsters:
- The bulette, as is typical for that species, tries to charge, kill, and eat anyone within range, whatever the odds.
- The chimera, the blue dragon, and the lamia, all evil and intelligent, work together to attack anyone who bothers them. Their primary goal is to escape.
- The weretigress changes to her human form (in the second round after the cage is open). She uses her comeliness to charm any male that comes after her, with emphasis on fighters and other martial types.
- The xorn leaves its cage the first round, then phases into the ground to escape.
- The gibbering mouther oozes out of its cage and changes the ground around it to quicksand in the first round, then gibbers at anyone who comes within range. It spits at any character not confused by the gibbering.
Doctor Trundles faints and falls of the wagon as he sees his creatures escaping, and Tanaroo goes to his aid. Neither of them participates in the capture of the creatures.
True to his word, Tanaroo pays 1,000 gp to the characters for each creature captured, but nothing for creatures who were killed or who escaped. Unfortunately, this incident causes tonight’s circus performance to be called off (they have to reconstruct the cells and re-enchant them to keep the creatures inside), or else (Tanaroo) adds there would be free tickets for the heroes as well.
Once Doctor Trundles wakes up from his faint, he sees to the creatures who were captured, makes sure they are immobilized or unconscious (asking the characters for help as needed), then offers to buy a few rounds at the local tavern.
The streets, of course, are now deserted. Many refugees have fled town, and all the store owners have closed and bared their shops. But two young boys remain on the street where the battle took place, looking with awe at the brave adventurers who risked their lives to save the populace of Valls. They approach the party, hats in hand:
“Uh, sirs?” says the taller of the two boys. “Uh, excuse me, please, but can we talk to you for a minute? It’s very important.”
If the characters agree to talk to the boys, the boys introduce themselves as Garlen and Garvin of the town of Bloodstone. As you will see below, the two boys (who are actually cousins) continually interrupt each other as they talk.
“The way you took out those monsters was absolutely amazing!” says Garlen, the taller of the two.
“Yes, amazing!” echoes Garven. “Uh, well, we’ve been looking for brave heroes like you,” he continues.
Garlen interrupts, saying, “Uh, yes, but everybody we’ve tried to talk to has been too busy.”
Garven interrupts again, saying, “Too busy, right, and sometimes downright mean to use, and we’re here…”
“Yes, we’re here about our village and our people, and we need help,” says Garlen, interrupting still again.
“You’ve got to help us, we have money!”
“Right, we can pay five silver pieces a day to each of you!”
It takes a while for the characters to worm the boy’s story out of them. Here is the information the characters can get from the boys:
- The boys are from the town of Bloodstone, located in the Bloodstone Pass that cuts through the immense Galena Mountain Range. The characters have heard of the Bloodstone Pass, which was once an important trade route.
- When the sea route around the Galena Mountain range was opened up (a dragon turtle that was menacing shipping was killed), the pass became less used and the town of Bloodstone, once a thriving community, fell on hard times.
- As the war with the Kingdom of Vaasa continued, the Bloodstone Pass become more and more cut off from the rest of the Kingdom of Damara. Many areas of the Galena reverted to anarchy, and out of anarchy sprang a new leader.
- Little is known of the strange, powerful leader who has built a powerful army in the Galena Mountains. His name is never mentioned, but the tread of his army is feared throughout the region.
- The little town of Bloodstone, defenseless for many years, fell under his sway early, and the people of Bloodstone have been bled white paying a terrible annual tribute in food, money, and slaves.
- Some of the people in Bloodstone fearing the consequences of rebellion have counseled submissions to external fate, feeling that the life of humankind is always hard.
- But a few, a brave few, feel the fate of the village can yet be altered.
And so Garlen and Garvin have come down from the mountains to seek heroes. Heroes to defend Bloodstone against aggression. Heroes to liberate the peasant from their oppressive yoke. Heroes like the characters who just defeated seven very powerful monsters.
The pay is not great–five silver pieces per day and room and board. But it is all the village can afford. The danger, on the other hand, is great, for the army of the mysterious leader probably numbers in excess of a thousand. Garlen and Garven know that there are humans, orcs, goblins, giants, and other creatures associated with the army. The village population numbers a thousand, but fewer than that are capable of fighting. Most of the men in the village have long swords, and some have bows. There is little else.
Additional Motivation: The Bloodstone Mines
If the characters require additional motivation before accepting this mission, Garlen and Garvin tell them about the famous bloodstone mines from which the pass took its name. Once, the mines produced stones worth over 100,000 gp annually, but one day a nameless evil awoke deep beneath the earth. From that day since no one who has ventured into the mines has returned to tell the tale. Yet, it is prophesied that the one day the mines will be freed of evil, and product wealth beyond imagining.
Additional Motivation: Bandit Hoard
Garlen and Garven can also mention that the bandits have accumulated a great store of treasure in their mountain hideaway. This is not true, but the young men don’t know this.
Garlen and Garvin plead for the heroes to help their people if the characters are still reluctant. If the characters look around for other adventuring opportunities before accepting the Bloodstone mission, they find nothing in the town of Valls. If the group refuses to help the town, the two young men leave, dejected, after providing the characters with directions to the Bloodstone in case they should change their minds. If the characters finally decided not to take the mission, this, of course, ends the adventure.
Better luck next time.
The Adventure Begins
Assuming the characters agree to aid the poor citizens of Bloodstone, Garlen and Garvin tell them that the tribute is normally collected within two weeks after the annual harvest, which is now one week away. It takes about two weeks to reach Bloodstone on foot or one week on horseback. Garlen and Garvin have no horses.
The characters may purchase any normal supplies or equipment that they can afford. All items listed for sale in the PHB are available in Valls for three times the normal price (refugees and inflation drive up prices).
Intelligent players may decide to buy things relevant to a military expedition, such as hundreds of longswords, spearheads, casks of oil, etc. Allow them to make any reasonable (non-magical) purchase. Merchants may even be willing to negotiate special prices for large purchases (but in no case less than twice the PHB price).
If players think of hiring mercenaries or additional troops, they can do so. Recruiting and organizing a unit takes one full week.
A unit of guards (10 soldiers) armed with longswords costs 20 gp per day or 140 gp per week. The initial cost to equip the guards with spears, chain shirts, and shields costs an additional 1,830 gp.
For an entire company of guards (10 units) costs 200 gp per day or 1,400 gp per week. The cost to equip an entire company of guards with spears, chain shirts, and shields is 12,200 gp.
A unit of light cavalry (5 soldiers on horseback) costs 10 gp per day or 70 gp per week. The horses, spears, chain shirts, and shields cost an additional 2,040 gp.
For an entire platoon of light cavalry (10 units) costs 100 gp per day or 700 gp per week. And the horses spears, chain shirts, and shields cost an additional 13,600 gp.
Persuasive characters may be able to convince the units to work without individual pay. No matter what, though, the characters will have to equip the soldiers.
If a unit is hired, it serves until the campaign is over, then leaves unless a good deal of money is expended to keep it permanently.
What about the circus?
If the characters attempt to recruit Dr. Trundles, Tanaroo, or the circus creatures, they get a polite, but firm, refusal. Also, the circus is not hiring at this time.
Once purchases are made, and the party organized, the characters can depart for Bloodstone.
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