Dark Inheritance Mini-Campaign

I now am itching to run, at some point in the future, a "domain inheritance" game in ACKS. The PCs would be heirs to a haunted coastal castle and a dilapidated hamlet (Market VI, I'd say in ACKS terms). In its shadow there would be several lairs/mini-dungeons in the same 6-mile hex. There would be a "Kilodungeon" including the castle and several levels beneath it, probably culminating in a Lovecraftian monstrosity (Aboleth?) beneath sea level, not to mention nasty neighbors such as bandits. Could be a wonderful campaign. A mini-setting - so much to do in one hex and the neighboring hexes!

This will probably be an old Marquise's keep, now fallen to disrepair and haunted. PCs will end up with a potential high-value stronghold, which will need clearing of horrors - and expensive repairs.

To become full-scale lords, the players will need to conquer the castle from the eldritch horrors.
To gain the whole 6-mile hex the players will need to clear out several mini-dungeons.

My inclination is towards a combination of "Gothic" and Lovecraftian bestiary for that mini-campaign. No goblins, but possibly toad-men or fish-men, and a good amount of undead. And bandits, of course.

Potentially a vampire, but the problem with a vampire is that vampires are villains who tend to dominate a campaign, as in Ravenloft/Curse of Strahd, and I want to keep that role for the Aboleth (?).

My general idea is that in the distant past, the (now ruined) castle was home to a Chaos-worshiping Marquessa inspired by Elizabeth Báthory. After she was slain - by one of her intended victims, no less (now canonized as St. Lena of the Dagger) - her heirs continued the Chaotic tradition, albeit in other ways than bathing in the blood of virgins.

The PCs' ancestor conquered this keep, but eventually these ancestors also succumbed to Chaos worship, seeing the local Aboleth (?) as a "God".
Successful PCs will quickly get knighted by the local ruler who would be glad to have them deal with bandits (and worse) than requiring his limited military forces do so.
Of course, the Marquessa would have risen as a Ghast for the very least, it not a Vampire, in the crypts below. Now she has worshipers among the bandits and villagers, like the Aboleth has.

The idea is to make most permanent magic items unique in this adventure. Some are powerful - for example the Dagger of St. Lena which allows you to backstab undead (possibly even without having this as a class power).
What do you think?
I have chosen a name to the castle (and village) of my above-mentioned mini-campaign idea: Tideborn. Here I will detail its monstrous history, leading to the present-day horror shadowing this dilapidated fishing village.
Aeons ago, long before even the reptiles ruled the lands, a fish-thing swamp up from the primordial ocean and set its abode in an underwater cave on its rocky shore. This creature, which the oldest civilizations called - in hushed tones - an Aboleth, was old even then. It set its vast mind to study the occult - as his kind are inclined to do - and learn the many esoteric secrets of the universe.
Ages passed. The great reptilian beasts came and died; seas advanced and receded and mountains rose. When Man came to this land, a cliff towered over that sunken cave where the Aboleth dwelt; the sea, thankfully enough for that beast, did not leave these shored. Overlooking a protected harbor, the cliff was an ideal spot for men to set their stronghold at, giving a defensible vantage point over the nearby lands.
Thus, men came and settled the bay, building a fortress on the cliff. They were fishermen; their lords were warriors of the seas. It was then that the Aboleth first called them. Creeping into their dreams like a thief in the night, it sparked in them a thirst for uncanny knowledge and boundless power. Many resisted the call, clinging to their old Neutral gods for protection. Others made the fish-thing into their own god. Another cult, influenced by the first, started worshiping Dagon, the Chaotic lord of fish, to gain bountiful fish from the bay. Chaos festered on this cliff, now called Tideborn Rock. The Earls and aldermen of these folk dug tunnels deep into the rock to connect their dread fort with their god's submerged cavern. There, countless innocents perished in agony, sacrificial victims to the monstrosity and to Dagon.
Then came the Empire. With sword and torch, it unseated the chaotic Earl and laid waste to his horrid castle. Imperial sappers collapsed many of the old caverns. Legionnaires burned the Chaos cultists at the stake. Law now claim this land by steel and flame. On the ruins of the old fortress, the Empire built its own stronghold and installed a Tribune to enforce the Law and guard against Chaos.
It was in the late fourth century of the Empire that Chaos crept back from its smitten caves and sent its tendrils into the then-proud castle. By then, the Tribune became known as a Marquis; the ruler of the day was Marquessa Isabel of Tideborn. Intelligent but thirsty for power, she immersed herself in sorcerous lore. As age started to show its signs, she became obsessed with her waning youth. In her dreams and whispers - sent once again by the dormant Aboleth - she found answers to her fears. She made her excavate the old tunnels beneath her castle and expanded them. She revived the old cult. Her dreams told her the secret of youth: an occult ritual involving her immersion in a bath full of virgins' blood.
Thus, Marquessa Isabel of Tideborn sent out her loyal men - all cultists by that time - to abduct young maidens. First from the town of Tideborn, then from other villages in her shadowed domain. A procession of chained young women entered the castle, never to be seen again. Some prayed to the Conquering Sun for deliverance. For a time, none came. Then, in Imperial Year 409, the Marquessa sent her men to bring her a poor but pious maiden named Lena, daughter of the village's blacksmith. Lena knew her fate and made a vow to the Divine - a vow to give her life for a chance of avenging the thousands of young virgins sacrified by the Marquessa. She hid a dagger under her simple dress and prayed. The men-at-arms who took her were complacent; maidens always came without any struggle. They did not search her, but only led her to the castle.
At midnight, a blood-curling scream came from the castle and the land shook. Not long after, Lena appeared, covered in blood, dragging her broken body to the town's church. She was covered with lacerations and bite-marks and clutched her bloody dagger in her hand. She died of her wounds, in a pool of her own blood, in front of the church altar. Every townsman knew: the Marquessa was slain. Lena's father, enraged with grief, organized the townspeople. They stormed the castle with torches and pitchforks, butchering the remaining men-at-arms. They did not find the Marquessa's body. They did find the horrors of her bloody laboratory. They soon put the dark castle to the torch.
How did that girl, untrained in war, manage to slay the sorcerous Marquessa? The Churches - both Bright and Gray - were quick to proclaim this a miracle and canonize Lena into a Saint. They renovated the old Tideborn church, with painted glass telling Lena's story of martyrdom. The Gray Church established an abbey not far from the town, where they laid St. Lena to rest and trained young women in her spirit of defiant against Chaos and tyrants.
However, the Empire of these days was no longer the shiny beacon of Law it was in its early years. It was weak and decadent; it sent weak men to govern Tideborn March. These nobles renovated only a small part of the ruined Tideborn Castle to serve as their stronghold. Soon enough, bandits came to exploit this weakness and prey on Tideborn March. Beset by several famine years, the Plague, and brigandage, the Town of Tideborn dwindled to a small village still clinging to the shore, surrounded by abandoned dwellings. The bandits then moved, in Imperial Year 424, and took the castle, unseating the Imperial noble. A reign of terror began.
Ivar Ironhand was not a good man. He was a mercenary, living by his sword. His allegiance was to coin, not ideals or particular men. However, neither was he a villain. Sensing an opportunity to become a ruler, he quickly received the blessing of the Duke of Bluewater to take Castle Tideborn. Disorganized bandits were no match for Ironhand's mercenaries. In Imperial Year 431, he conquered the castle after a short siege and became Marquis of Tideborn.
He was a fair, if harsh, ruler. His sons and grandsons were not. As the Empire crumbled around them and the Plague came once more, they reveled and feasted while others died around them. They turned to Chaos for protection from the Plague, reviving the old cults. They were, however, lesser sorcerers than Marquessa Isabel of old. They were weak; a dying Empire tolerates no weakness. And so it came to pass that in Imperial Year 507, the last ruler of House Ironhand died in the hand of his own mercenaries, who, in turn, turned to brigandage and banditry, leaving Castle Tideborn without ruler.
It is now Imperial Year 517. The Empire is dead. You are distant heirs to House Ironhand. Your land calls to you.
Will you cleanse this land from the shadow of Chaos, or become new sorcerer kings?

Sounds great and definately something I would play or even run!. Clear the dungeon because it's yours. I thought about doing that with castle Ravenloft the original I6 module. Instead of making barovia a separate plane like it became later. The castle and the lands will belong to one or all of the players. If they defeat strahd it's theirs as well as all the lands of Barovia.

Ravenloft was indeed an inspiration, as were the Darkest Dungeon computer game and the 5E variant on Ravenloft, Curse of Strahd.

You could use the Vampire still as you would like however make it an enslaved minion of the Aboleth instead, afterall it would need a competent minion on the surface.  So while it may seem the Vampire is the big bad, it would not be the case.

I would probably make her a vampiric Rusalka - a murderous undead "mermaid", of course under the Aboleth's sway. She would swim in a large bloody pool deep within the dungeon and have sea shoul minions beringing her sacrifices.


I would probably make her a vampiric Rusalka - a murderous undead "mermaid", of course under the Aboleth's sway. She would swim in a large bloody pool deep within the dungeon and have sea shoul minions beringing her sacrifices.



I'm curious about that Dagger of Lena you mentioned. What does it do in the hands of a thief? Does it increase that thief's backstab damage multiplier against undead?

In the hands of a non-thief - probably Backstab x2 vs. undead.

In the hands of a thief - increases the Backstab multiplier by 1 vs. undead, e.g. from x2 to x3.

[quote="golan2072"] In the hands of a thief - increases the Backstab multiplier by 1 vs. undead, e.g. from x2 to x3. [/quote]

Ah, that's a relief. For some reason it always bugs me when items to do with backstabbing don't stack with a thief's existing backstabbing ability.

Tideborn hex map:

The smaller hexes are 1-mile wide, the big hex is 6-mile wide.