Stoneheart Valley + Sword of Air: The Mystery of Corian Help! *long*

I'm working on getting my Stoneheart Valley + Sword of Air game prepped, and the entry of the game actually begins as the players attend Corian's funeral.

Yes, I killed Corian before the game began. I also made him much older, and made him have his life's work be locating the Sword of Air. He was obsessed with it, with the history of Aka Bakar and everything. 

Corian's history is very similar to how it is in Stoneheart Valley and The Wizard's Amulet--stole an amulet, awakened into his sorcerer bloodline, etc--and after leaving his Uncle's apprenticeship under bad terms, he adventured, until he bought himself a manor in North Wall District of Bard's Gate and set himself up as an occult detective, researcher, and occasional crafter of magical things. The chaotic good sorcerer made a small reputation for himself, enough that he was known to be reliable by Andrigor and Clylyria, although had yet to formally join the Fellowship of Note. 

Unfortunately, he died of an incurable disease. Which is crazy, of course, but that's where the mystery begins.

Where I need help is the Clues. I believe in the "Three Clues" way of making mysteries in RPGs, so I'm trying to figure out the clues, and then the Red Herrings to accompany them.

Clue #1: Corian's Research

All of Corian's accumulated research on the Sword of Air, Aka Bakar, and all his correspondence with others, including other researchers, has vanished. Of course, this research was stolen by agents of Kayden, with whom Corian was corresponding with by letter about the Sword of Air. Kayden thought he was getting too close uncovering it--he was gettin close, but not as close as he could have been had he and Kayden been working together. Kayden, then, decided to have him killed.

He did this by hiring F'arin Du'n to infect him with a very special disease, one that would prevent him from casting spells, and quickly debilitate him. The disease is, essentially, magical, incurable, super-Ebola, and can only be drained from the blood of a demon found on Orcus' home plane. Kayden summoned it, bargained for it, and got the disease through no small danger to himself. He bought F'arin Du'n's services to administer the disease in secret through several intermediaries in Bard's Gate, and the disease further distances himself from the murder, becoming Red Herring #1.

Once Corian succumbed, several of his friends found him gasping and slowly dying on his doorstep, trying to get out, nigh-delirious. One of these friends is a young cleric of Thyr (one of the players). Of course, the cleric brought Corian to the Temple of Thyr in Bard's Gate, but none of the clerics could cure the disease. Corian died several days later, in pure agony as his organs and brain melted. Corian, before he succumbed, left his life's work, his manor, and his accumulated treasures to several of his contacts and employees (the rest of the party), including the young cleric, in the hope that they would carry on his research.

The murder weapon leads, through various investigations, to the wizard Irtep, and the adventure Irtep's Dish (I cannot wait for my players to read that man's name....).

The stealing of the research and correspondence had another purpose, from Kayden's point of view. It removed the remote possibility that someone would connect Corian with Kayden; this is why he settled on the disease, because it would leave Corian's abode's magical defenses down, so his agents can break in. The party might be able to learn this by bargaining with the Beggar's Guild or the Shadowguild.

Red Herring #2

This red herring won't come up until a few sessions in, especially when they begin investigating in earnest after dealing with the issues of the manor, the inheritance, and other various things. It will be revealed that Corian's Uncle, whom I have named Bastion, is in Bard's Gate, and has been for several weeks--including when Corian became ill. Of course, Bastion is a horrible, racist, sexist, abusive prick, but a powerful and potent wizard. I fully expect the party to pounce on this information, but there is no evidence to connect Bastion with Corian's death, save that they were once master and student. There is also one player who wants to be related to Bastion and Corian, so that makes it doubly fun.

Clue #2 & Clue #3

This is where I'm drawing a blank. Not sure what to do with these, which is where I need your help! Can anyone suggest more clues that would work? I had an idea of having Du'n leave a "calling card", even though if that was his thing, Kayden would have paid him extra not to, but I have no idea what to do otherwise.


To continue the Stoneheart Valley plotline, the group will be asked by Corian's final wish to return his amulet to Eralion, as his final request. This leads them to looking into Eralion's location. I've moved Feriblan to Fairhill, and made Vortigern the one responsible for Feriblan's insanity. I also made Vortigern a cultist of Orcus, who is attempting to rise in ranks and gain entrance into the Stoneheart Mountain Dungeon and the Temple of Orcus there, just to tie things together more firmly. Vortigern will be apologetic, of course, but has no information on Eralion's current location. The party can investigate otherwise, but Vortigern uses the time to plan with the orcs that occupy the Eralion's Keep--he tells them a party of adventurers possess the amulet, and that they should attack the town, steal the Crucible of Freya, and use the act to draw this party of goody-two-shoes towards the farmstead nearby, where Vortigern will ambush them. Of course, the orcs do so, and the party gets ambushed, and then has to track the orcs back to the Keep...and then deal with the fact that the Crucible is being pissed on by the orcs inside. If Vortigern survives, he'll be there, too. The party will find a map that leads toward the Stoneheart Mountain Dungeon and the Valley of the Shrines among Vortigern's things, with instructions from....the leader of the orcs, whose name escapes me right head there once they gain access to Eralion's tomb. Then, the party will have to deal with the orcs and the keep at mostly full readiness, but I like to truly challenge my players.

Sword of Air comes back in later when the party starts digging into the sword, basically starting from zero; Kayden makes contact with them in the guise of a "friend of Corian", and says that he has some "new information", which was really stolen from Corian and combined with what he had. That leads into, basically, the entirety of Sword of Air, which I'll need to read through again before I plan more.

Clue #2: Cat's footprints found somewhere (in spilled flour or something) in Corian's place [Steve checking up on D'un's work]. This clue will be entirely meaningless until later, of course, but at that time would serve as circumstantial evidence connecting the murder to Kayden.

Clue #3: An eyewitness (i.e. the mythical beast that doesn't actually exist in Miami according to the show Dexter--I mean seriously, that guy could drag a sack of corpses down mainstreet and have a 0% chance of being witnessed by anyone other than another main character who just coincidentally happened to be passing by--but I digress). You can see a decent example of how to set up this type of clue in the adventure "The Hidden Huscarl" in the book. Anyway, he can start you on the trail to find Farin D'un. Maybe the witness even saw a strangely attentive cat lurking around the scene a few hours later to further connect it to Clue #2.


Just some ideas. :-)

Oh, awesome. Definitely going to use these; I like the idea of including Steve this early, too, to set it up. Maybe Steve went along as "Kayden's eyes and ears", since Kayden's flackies think the cat is just his familiar, after all--of course, Steve going along was really Steve's idea, but Kayden can't see that. 

Also, that's why I stopped watching Dexter after the first season.

michaelsandar's picture

I don't see a way to use spoilers, but that is one impressvie... cat.  After a year and a half of our home game, the PC's just finally realized his stance in the plot.  If you do introduce him early - and I highly recommend it - keep it small.  I often had Kayden be exasperated by his familiar, not quite making him the befuddled wizard as he is still very powerful, but certainly unaware of Steve's true potential.  All the better when the curtains are finally drawn back later.

Yeah, I'm looking forward to that reveal. 

I actually had an idea while sitting in Starbucks earlier, and that was using Myrean (the ghost in the Bard's College area) as the witness! She already tries to stalk and torture Du'n, and has reason to want to help the party. It'll be fun, because I plan on having her be completely mute.

Is there details on how Du'n killed her and I've missed it?

I was wondering; how much does the average scholar know about the legend of Aka Bakar? I'd love to write up a slim little thing, written by a scholar 100 years ago, that tells the "common knowledge" version of Aka Bakar's life--omitting the fact that he was corrupted by the sword, he killed his family, betrayed his nation to the hobgoblins, etc.

I'd love a little "bullet point" summary. One of my few complaints about Sword of Air is that the knowledge of the story is spread everywhere throughout the book. >.<

michaelsandar's picture

I very much wanted the Sword of Air to be the "long game", and therefore any info regarding Aka Bakar has been very, very hard for my players to find.  That said, there are a couple of really good leads.

1) The Shaghaspondium.  This is Cerannan's spellbook and folio which contains both his mad scribblings and a map to the Faergotha Plateau, and the island where Aka Bakar's tomb is. If the party decides to hire a sage or comes up with a spell that could piece information out of the mad writings, they can also get some clues about a cat being involved and I used it as a springboard for a home-brew adventure, sending the PC's off to the tomb of Margon.  The story of Margon and Alycthron is hidden in the SoA book too, and is really kind of cool.  They were contemporaries and friends of Aka Bakar who assissted him in his later days before they were eventually killed, sacrificing themselves for the creation of the Wizard's Wall.  The adventure I wrote included a tomb that held some of Margon's personal effects, but he was killed before he was able to complete it.  Amongst his effects were links to Aka Bakar's past, information that he was Khemitan, and a couple of clues regarding the keys / fountain in Aka Bakar's tomb.

Unfortunately, all this requires finding the petrified Cerannan on the plane of Shadow!

2) The Library at Elise.  By the time the PC's reach Elise, they should have a few key words to look up.  Personally, I like the idea of sages, it's a great money sink.  We play S&W, so the cash on hand tends to get pretty high since gp=xp.  So sages get a lot of use as they spend their hard won cash.  This is the perfect place to put an ancient dusty scroll that drops a few hints, but they need to be on the right track, and have the right keywords.  I thought of it much as those old Ultima games, where you had to ask the right dialogue keyword to get a decent answer, and the more specific word you could get, the better the answer.

Searching for:

Sword of Air - general. A powerful magic artifact created to protect the land. It granted it's weilder great battle prowess and could turn him into a veritable whirlwind of death

Aka Bakar - general. A powerful warrior-wizard from another land who once ruled the land of Arcady along with his wife. He was known to have had the sword and lost a war against hobgoblins.

Aka Bakar (homeland) - uncommon. From the land of Khemit, Aka Bakar took a wife, Rekki, from Akados, and had three daughters named Alyx, Alana, and Asoka.

And so on, keeping the sages with General, Uncommon, and Rare.  Cost and time to discover the info would vary, and they may need special permission to see some of the older books and scrolls.

3) Sorten and Kayden.  It's possible that these two could give up some information, but it would be incredibly one-sided, particularly if they know that the other is looking for the Shaghaspondium or the Sword itself.  And frankly, much of their information is wrong... what Steve feeds Kayden is mostly lies, and Sorten wants little to do with it after the loss of Cerannan.

You're right though, things are a little scattered.  The best info can be found on pages 253 - 255 in the PF version.  It's the beginning of the Tomb of Aka Bakar chapter.  Also, check out the info for the following areas: Feirgotha Plateau, Toh Kristael, SM-5 the old City, The Burial Mounds, SM-9 the Tower


Okay. The mystery has evolved some, and I need to lay it out so it makes sense in my head. I have no DM friends who isn't going to be playing this who's brain I can pick, so you guys are all I have.

Step 1: Corian is murdered by Kayden, via a disease of Orcus, which can only be harvested from the blood of a very specific demon. The demon is named a Ba'shelnoth. The disease is called Sentience Dissolution. This murder weapon gets exposed to Corian, who succumbs. The disease's symptoms are: A., unable to cast spells; B., organs melting; C., death; D. soul eating, meaning that the person killed by this can't be resurrected or contacted, outside of a wish spell. The murder weapon choice is two-fold. Firstly, it prevents Corian from readying his defenses on his home, leaving it vulnerable to thieves; secondly, it becomes a red herring, leading the party to investigate the Cult of Orcus instead of Kayden or anyone working for him. This, of course, is made all the worse by dealing with Corian's last wish, that of delivering his amulet to the wizard Eralion. The party discovers that Eralion is dead, exposing the amulet's existence to Vortigern, who worships Orcus. Vortigern tries to ambush the party by getting his orc buddies from the Keep to raid the town and leading them on a wild goose chase; I'll probably change the Thugs that go with Vortigern to be Orcs from the Keep instead. They survive that, go to the Keep, retrieve the Crucible, and fight [the head orc at the Keep who's name escapes me] and Vortigern. On [the head orc] and Vortigern are two pieces of information; firstly, on the Orc, is a letter from Korashag (is that how it's spelled) saying that the emissaries to the King Ga'awootar have sent word that an accord has been reached, and the combined gnolls and the forces of Orcus will march on the city of Bard's Gate soon; Vortigern has directions to come recieve benediction from Orcus at Korashag's hands in the Temple of Orcus in the Valley of the Shrines. This will make the party go, "Oh, shit." and try to do something about both. 

Step 2: Kayden creates a Simulacrum. This Simulacrum is one of two people; one of Sorten's apprentices, or, possibly, Cerannan himself. This Simulacrum hires a well-known, but foreign thieving band, led by the enigmatic Mr. Smile (a villain I've always wanted to use, but never had the opportunity to). Mr. Smile and his band of thieves are hired by the Simulacrum, and given a down payment of a figurine of wondrous power; in reality, this item does nothing more than create a plane-hopping portal for Steve. Steve helps out Mr. Smile in Corian's home, locates the secret entrance to the basement that Corian had built, which holds his laboratory and his secret library and study--along with all his notes and correspondence, which includes correspondence with Kayden. This infiltration after the fact was witnessed by the ghost of Myrean Dyrin, who had been watching it while stalking F'arin Du'n. She witnessed both Du'n's act of murder, as well as Mr. Smile's entry into the building, saw Steve, and followed them to their hideout (or perhaps didn't, not sure on this yet). At the same time, Bastion, Corian's uncle (did he have a name in Corian's backstory from The Wizard's Amulet? I need to go reread that, along with everything else), arrives in Bard's Gate. Bastion needs to be doing something questionable with something and someone questionable, perhaps selling a magic item to the Shadowguild? This needs to somehow lead to dealing with Du'n, killing him and ending his existence. I have no idea how to do that yet.

Step 3. The Simulacrum delivers the information to Kayden, making sure that he's seen by at least some who are unrelated to Mr. Smile's band; perhaps he stays as the Wizard's Familiar in Bard's Gate, allowing himself to be witnessed there, under an assumed name. Investigating further, they somehow learn the Simulacrum's "real name", and perhaps connect it to Sorten--and then learn about the fact that Sorten and Kayden are at war, both being Archmages. This makes for an interesting dynamic--the party then could contact Kayden, offering to help in exchange for a shot at Sorten, which Kayden would be more than willing to offer, using the party as his weapons and/or scapegoats against Sorten--and they'll probably have the cursed figurine of wondrous power that can summon Steve when needed to make it even more interesting. This means that Kayden is much more involved, and much more intelligent than presented in the book. Kayden lets them know that one of Sorten's apprentices--Cerannan--was spying for him, and discovered that Sorten was searching for the mystical and legendary Sword of Air, implicating Sorten with motive to take out Corian. The group gets to go get Cerannan, who can't be contacted via magic--because he's petrified in the Plane of Shadow, which the player's can learn via legend lore--and bring the Shagaspondium (is that how it was spelled? Don't remember; also, that name is a mouthful and I might want to change it to be less of a mouthful) out to be studied. Then, of course, the party gets to discover the location of the Tomb of Aka Bakar; the party goes, "Oo, shiny...." and uses the sword for a while. Unfortunately, it's a terrifying thing (assuming that they even get the real one) and makes it obvious that it must be destroyed. Kayden suggests maybe checking the library in Elise if they haven't already--where he has Steve plant knowledge there taken from the combined research of himself and Corian. The party "discovers" this on their own, and, of course, it is Method A, i.e. the "Bad" option to destroy the sword. 

Step 4. The party gets to try to destroy the thing by going to Tsen, and possibly discover that it's a Very Bad Idea. Of course, hopefully they discover that it's not a good idea to destroy the Sword of Air that way, which makes Kayden rather angry; he forsakes the clever approach for the violent approach, sending many conjured--including more of those plague demons--to kill the party. They deal with those, and probably deal with Kayden, with Sorten's help if they left him alive and realized he's not a bad guy at whatever point they realize that. Because Sorten is an Archmage, after all, the party would benefit from the sneaky approach, re: sneaking into Sorten's tower to get to Cerannan. 



Okay, poke holes in my mystery. Help me build it up!


EDIT: The Violet Brotherhood is the same as the Black Brotherhood, yes? It's mentioned that Du'n works for the Violet Brotherhood, but they're only mentioned twice in the book, while the Black Brotherhood owns the Shadow Masks.

Violet Brotherhood is different from Black Brotherhood. Check on Banth and Drexlir for some other members of the small group.  Crane was more powerful than any of the Violet Brotherhood's sorcerors but could not prevail against them working in concert and paid the ultimate price for his arrogance.

The Violet folks are affiliated with Tsathogga. Typical worshippers of this dark god include them.

Okay; so, since Du'n works for the Violet Brotherhood (the doppelgangers), in order to locate him, they'll have to deal with the Violet Brotherhood, who won't take kindly to the party going after their pet assassin. 

How do you think it would be best to approach that part of the mystery?

Can't be too easy, since they're doppelgangers, after all. The party will, of course, want to avenge Corian, take out Du'n, and figure out who hired him (assuming they don't learn this from Mr. Smile that their common employer is the Simulacrum of [one of Sorten's apprentices]). Going after the the Violet Brotherhood might also intrigue the party into investigating Crane, which leads to his Citadel (which means I'll need to buy Quests of Doom); there may need to be some clues in the things of the Violet Brotherhood regarding this. 

The smart way Kayden would play it is by compartmentalizing the operation; Du'n should be unaware of Mr. Smile, and vice versa. The only common element should be the Simulacrum between both branches of the operation. 

Part of me wants to make Du'n someone important in the city, a decently well-known noble, who wears a mask that uses alter self to change his identity (although, if I recall correctly, he already has a hat of disguise). It seems to me that Du'n would cultivate those sorts of identities; like an evil, nasty version of Merinath.