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Houska Castle – Adventure Seeds Pt. 3

Finishing out the 13 Adventure Seeds for Houska Castle!

Here are the links to the History & Legends post and Adventure Seeds Part One and Two.

10. Game of Death – In the mid-13th century Ottokar II sent his knights into the mountains to deal with a satanic threat.  A necromancer of frightful power had built a fortress using animated skeletons as slaves and warriors.  From there he terrorized the surrounding lands, his forces slaughtering the people and dragging their corpses back to join his undead ranks.

The knights fought a brutal battle, eventually laying siege to the fortress.  High in the tower of the necromancer they confronted the villain and cast him down, the Earth opening beneath them and swallowing the tower whole.  The knights were victorious, but they knew the necromancer was not dead.  They built Houska Castle over top of the chasm to seal him forever beneath the mountain.

Many years have passed and Europe is destroying itself in the horrors of the 30 Years War.  In the midst of this chaos the great leaders have each received a strange messenger.  Undead ravens have come bearing a challenge from the necromancer.  He has transformed the hell pit beneath the castle into a series of levels filled with traps and unholy monsters.  The necromancer will provide all the power of his dark arts to the side whose adventurers reach the bottom of the cavern first.

It is a truly Faustian bargain, but the war has already transformed central Europe into a landscape from Hell.  Besides, can anyone risk such power falling into the hands of their enemies?

11. Souls of Vengeance – When Houska Castle was built the old timber fortress before it was demolished as well as the homes of the peasants who were then forced to construct the new castle.  Conditions for the workers were brutal and scores died in accidents or from the harsh treatment of their overseers.

When the castle was completed the king brought a great treasure of gold and jewels taken from the pagans during the Northern Crusades.  He hid the wealth in the caverns beneath the castle, then ordered the remaining workers slaughtered to keep the secret.

The castle now lies empty and no priest has said prayers in its chapel for many years.  The new king has granted the castle and its lands to a group of adventures in thanks for their service, but the return of residents to the castle has caused the unquiet dead to stir in their forgotten vaults.

12. The Forgotten King – King Arthur, Emperor Barbarossa, Prince Vlad Dracula; occasionally a hero will rise up to embody the dreams of an entire people.  A warrior who achieves such power can transcend mortal life and when they are cut down they are taken into the Earth.  There they sleep until the day comes when they will once more take up their swords and lead their people in battle.  These are the Kings in the Mountains

In the 6th century such a king arose, a Celtic warlord who lead his people against the advancing Slavs.  He was a just lord, fierce in battle, and ultimately fell while holding a mountain pass single handed.  So great was his heroism that as death came for him the Morrigan herself turned the final blow aside, swept him up, and secreted him away in a hidden cavern.  There he would sleep as a King in the Mountain, waiting for the day he would once more lead his people.  But something went wrong.

His people did not stand against the invaders.  Instead they fled and the tales of the king and his deeds were lost.  Now his tomb lies forgotten beneath the mountain and Houska Castle rises overhead, it’s chapel covering its hidden entrance.  Christian prayers drift down to where the old king sleeps and have disturbed his dreams, telling him of the fall of his people and the loss of his legacy.

In the heart of the mountain the old king’s anger grows.

13. Vault of Chrome and Silicone – Ziny Flatline is the best hacker ever to dance through Cyberspace.  At 13 she’d run two megacorp mainframes.  By 16 she’d made her first smash-and-grab on the international bank-net, melting their black I.C.E. with software she’d written herself.  She dodged her first assassin less than 48 hours later.  For her 17th birthday an unknown corporate player sent her a gift courtesy of an attack drone.  She had just enough warning to escape before a missile turned her apartment building into a crater.  The rest of the residents were not so lucky.

It was all fun and games when it was only Ziny’s neck on the line, but seeing the collateral damage changed her outlook on life.  She used the funds she’d stolen to buy an abandoned pile of stone called Houska Castle and in the caves below it she set up a data vault of her own design. Then she assembled a team of like-minded hackers and they set out on a mission to fill the vault with a most unusual collection.

They collected malware of every kind.  Viruses, worms, trojans, rootkits, spyware, every piece of malicious code they could get their digital hands on.  They created the largest library of computer viruses ever assembled.  Now they take the viruses apart, examine their code, and compile new and more dangerous programs.  Their latest acquisition is a rogue A.I.

Ziny Flatline hasn’t said what her endgame is but you can bet it will be spectacular.

Neuromancer_TGN

 
 

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Houska Castle – Adventure Seeds Pt. 2

Here we go with part two of the 13 adventure seeds based on Houska Caste.

Part one can be found here and my post about the castle’s history and legends is here.

6. Lost Pagan Gold – In 1255 Ottokar II, king of Bohemia, joined with the Teutonic Knights and launched a campaign against the pagan Old Prussians.  Villages were sacked, temples were burned, and blasphemous alters were toppled.  The treasures of the old gods were seized and their priests put to the sword or burned at the stake.  As the flames consumed their bodies, the priests shouted curses long forgotten by those who followed the Christian god.  Ancient spirits of avarice and greed were bound to the gold and jewels.

Ottokar found himself in possession of a vast treasure trove, but the price for his victory soon became apparent.  Dissent broke out in the ranks of his forces.  Thieves tried to steal from the coffers.  Loyal captains killed each other over promised shares of the treasure.  The entire force was in danger of open revolt.

That night the Archangel Michael appeared to Ottokar and the next morning he gathered 12 of the most pious knights and 12 of the most spiritual priests.  The company left with the treasure, riding hard for Houska Castle where they lowered the cursed treasure into the caverns beneath the castle.  To protect the treasure the 12 knights and 12 priests were also sealed in the caverns.  Then all records of the treasure were destroyed and all who knew it’s location, except for the king, were given a martyr’s death.

The treasure remains in its hidden vault and its guardians still keep their vigil, but time has eroded their faith and the power of the old gods has slowly reshaped the undying sentinels.

7. Sellswords of Mars – The 30 Years War continues to devastate the European countryside.  After a string of defeats the company of mercenaries under command of Captain Oronto has deserted the war and turned to banditry.  After a series of raids they have retreated to the ruins of Houska Castle to set up a base of operations.

The castle had been silent for several months with no sign of the brigands.  The local peasants were begining to spread stories that the legendary beast-men of hell had slaughtered the company when Oronto and his band reappeared, storming down from the castle with new and fearsome power at their command; power so great that people believe the brigands have been hired as Satan’s personal guard.

The mercenaries now wield pistols and muskets of terrible power, whose bullets explode with force greater than a canon.  They drive fierce war beasts before them; huge white furred monsters with four arms and terrifying strength, though these beasts tire quickly and die if they spend too much time away from the castle.  Oronto plans to use his new power to carve out a kingdom of his own and put to route all the great armies of Europe.

Oronto has discovered a portal to Barsoom in the caves beneath the castle, the world of Mars created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his John Carter books.  Oronto and his company discovered how the lower gravity of Barsoom gives them great strength and speed and he launched a campaign of raids across the martian landscape.  But Oronto has no interest in ruling the dying red planet.  Instead he has collected an arsenal of radium pistols and rifles and a menagerie of fierce white apes, though the latter suffer from Earth’s higher gravity and will die if not returned to Barsoom.  He even plans to build a martian flying ship.

8. Gateway to the Borderlands – Terror stalks the forested mountains around ancient Houska Castle.  The legends of the beast-men that creep from beneath the castle seem to be true.  Boar-headed men stalk the night, waylaying travelers and carrying them off, and they are becoming more bold.

Recently isolated farms have been attacked.  The few who escape report that the monsters use nets and strange wands to subdue their victims.  People in the village believe it is only a matter of time before they will attack the village itself.

An old and noble family still lives with Houska Castle but they are of no help.  Those who have sought their aid report that the family are bewitched, oblivious to the horror around them.  Some in the village talk of storming the castle and burning it to the ground.  Others warn that this would throw the gates of Hell wide open.

Characters who discover the caverns beneath the castle, either through exploration, tracking the beast-men, or being taken as prisoners, will find that the caverns lead deep beneath the mountain and into a nightmare dimension.  They find themselves in a vast arena beneath a dark sky filled with more stars than they’ve ever seen.  In the gallery are the titanic figures of ancient and unknown gods sitting nearly immobile but with eyes burning with a cold fire.  In the center of the arena is a replica of Castle Houska, but enormous in scale and carved from an alien green stone.

All the people taken by the beast-men are found in the arena and their is a palpable feeling of anticipation.

9. They Came from Beyond – In the early 13th century king Ottokar II was marching north of Prague when a brilliant light burst from the sky.  A shining chariot of the gods in the form of a great luminous disk swept down from the heavens and landed before his host.

The king and his men stood terrified as a ramp lowered to the ground.  Emerging from the ship was a monstrous form, a great grey-skinned humanoid with almond-shaped eyes.  The creature moved down the ramp and pointed a strange device at one of the king’s knights and in a burst of heat and light the knight was incinerated, his armor transformed into a pool of slag.

The army was about to run when another unexpected thing happened.  Reflexively the captain of the king’s archers loosed an arrow at the alien, striking it between its large eyes and toppling it to the ground.  What flowed from the wound wasn’t red, but the king’s knights knew blood when they saw it.  Swords were drawn, the charge was sounded, and suddenly the alien invaders found themselves in close combat with battle hardened crusaders.  The aliens attempted to flee, but were cut down by the knights.  The flying saucer tumbled out of control and crashed into the mountains.

King Ottokar had Houska Castle built over top of the crash site to conceal the alien craft and over time the story passed into legend.  The flying saucer is now a lost tomb for the would-be invaders.  However though its systems are crippled the ship itself is still very much alive and its repair systems have not been idle.

That’s it for today’s post.  Tune in next time as we wrap up the 13 Adventure Seeds of Houska Castle.  Today’s list draws inspiration from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series, William Hope Hodgeson’s House on the Borderlands, and Poul Anderson’s High Crusade.  

House_on_the_Borderland

 
 

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Houska Castle – Adventure Seeds Pt. 1

In my previous post I talked about the history and legends of Houska Castle.  Today I’d like to offer some adventure seeds for using the castle in your games.  With Halloween fast approaching I thought that 13 would be a good number.

Let’s get things started with part one:

1. Vault of the Vampires – The ancient castle is home to an order of vampire hunters.  The corpses of vampires slain by the order are returned to the castle and their remains are cast down into the chasm hidden beneath the chapel floor.  A hidden switch causes the alter to slide back, revealing the hellish pit whose black stone walls are embedded with countless crucifixes stretching far down into the depths.  A constant whispering can be heard from far below.

Over the centuries the order has dwindled to a handful of aged monks spending their days attending to their senile grandmaster.  Some of the monks have begun to listen to the whispers from below, whispers that mock their forgotten purpose and promise rejuvenation and escape from the terrible wastes of age and madness.

2. Gateway to the Lost World – Damage to the castle causes the pits beneath the chapel to be rediscovered.  Not long afterwards local peasants report seeing the demonic winged beasts of legends.  The rumors take on a grim reality when a worker is found dead, torn apart by a wild beast and his corpse left dangling from the castle roof.

The caverns below the castle are a direct route to Pellucidar, the jungle world found within the hollow Earth and populated by prehistoric beasts.  The winged demons of Houska Castle are pterodactyls and its legendary beast men are the reptilian Mahars and their ape-like Sagoths.

3. Nazi Invasion through Time – Version A) The 30 Years War burns across Europe bringing death and plague wherever it touches.  A renegade Swedish commander ransacks the land before retreating to deserted Houska Castle to establish a base of operations.  They are never seen again.

Not long after the peasants begin telling stories of black garbed men moving through the forest.  They carry fearsome weapons, wear unknown heraldry, and the murdered anyone who falls into their grasp.  One night a nearby castle is annihilated by a massive iron monster armed with a terrible cannon.  A single survivor reports that the black clad men have lead prisoners back to Houska Castle where they are being used as slaves, helping the strange men assemble towers of steel.

Version B) The year is 1945 and the German war machine is crumbling.  Allied intelligence reports a massive troop movement heading into the mountains north of Prague, with Castle Houska as their destination.  The movement makes no sense as the location is poorly suited for a counter-attack on advancing Soviet forces.

The answer comes from a Nazi defector, a member of the mystical Thule Society who reveals that the castle is situated over a temporal anomaly.  With enough power a gateway can be opened through time allowing German forces to escape into the past where they will conquer the world centuries before the modern era.  A small advance force has already been sent back with orders to open the gate from the other side, using an array of lighting towers to fuel the portal.  When both gates are open an entire panzer battalion will be sent through.

Bonus points for running the players through both sides of the adventure.

4. All Nazis go to Hell – The year is 1941.  France has been conquered and Britain is reeling under the Blitz.  Panzer divisions range across North Africa and Soviet forces are crumbling in the face of over three million German soldiers.  The United States continues to remain neutral despite renewed U-boat attacks on merchant shipping.  The Nazi juggernaut seems unstoppable and drunk on success Hitler decides to open another front.  He orders Operation Lucifer to commence.

Allied Intelligence receives a communique from deep in occupied Czechoslovakia.  A division of SS panzergrenadiers under the direct command of Thule Society wizards is advancing on an obscure castle north of Prague, Houska Castle.  Thaumaturgical symbols are carved into the tanks and weapons and the commanding general bears the Spear of Destiny.  Their objective is to conquer Hell itself.

Whether the Nazis succeed or fail, it spells disaster for the world.  The Allies must stop the Nazis from opening the hell gate.

5. Nazis Defend the World – The year is 1945.  Mile by mile the Thousand Year Reich is crumbling into ash.  The liberation of France is underway and Soviet forces have annihilated the invading German armies.  Nazi forces continue to fight on, forcing the Allies to pay in blood for every step they take towards Berlin.  One day the OSS receives a coded message, a call for help from an unexpected source.

German forces have occupied Houska Castle since the early days of the war.  Their goal had been to investigate the supernatural forces contained beneath its foundations.  Against the protests of the aged priest they began excavations in the chapel, discovering the sealed pit and descended into it.  What followed was a nightmare of death as demons issued from the hell gate, painting the walls red with German blood.

In the end the army drove the monsters back.  The priest resealed the gate at the cost of his own life, but with his death the ritual of binding was lost.  A garrison of soldiers has stood guard over the castle ever since to ensure no one else disturbs the hell gate.

Now the garrison commander is faced with the oncoming tide of a vengeful Soviet army.  He knows they will not listen to him.  They will ransack the castle, risk opening the hell gate, and this time there will be no one to reseal it.  There are no German forces left to call for aid.  In desperation he sends a call to the Americans, praying that they will believe him.

Why yes, I do keep the B.P.R.D. on speed dial.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Fantasy, Gaming, Horror, Science Fiction

 

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