Saturday, April 13, 2024

CM2: Death's Ride

CM2 "Death's Ride" (1984) by Garry Spiegle is a D&D adventure for character levels 15-20, set in the region of Norwold.

CM2 "Death's Ride" (1984) by Garry Spiegle.  Illustration by Jeff Easley.

The PCs are tasked by the King of Norwold to investigate the reason behind a loss of communications with a distant mountain barony.

They learn that a gate to the Sphere of Death has been opened, releasing hordes of undead creatures, and must determine how to close it.

About the Author:

Garry Spiegle contributed a letter to "Out on a Limb" in The Dragon #3 (October, 1976).  He also designed AC3 "The Kidnapping of Princess Arelina" (1984).

Spiegle is credited with development of the Companion Set dominion system and worked on the War Machine rules* with Douglas Niles.  He passed away in 2018.

*see also "War Machine revisited" in Dragon #109 (May, 1986) in which Spiegle covered naval, scouting, and artillery rules, along with a few additional refinements

The Barony of Twolakes Vale:

The Barony of Twolakes Vale, located somewhere in the mountains of Norwold.

A 3-page dominion outline is provided, along with some refinements to the dominion system.

Spiegle suggests using the barony as a template for developing other baronies, which makes me wonder if Twolakes Vale was originally designed as a sample barony.

A specific location for the barony within Norwold is not given, leaving the DM free to situate Twolakes Vale in any appropriate location with respect to the PCs own dominions.

The grid within a single 24-mile hex invites comparison with Dave Arneson's method for designing wilderness maps

Encounter Areas:

There are seven major encounter areas for the PCs to work through:

Skullheim Castle - the baronial stronghold

Westlake Road - connects the villages of Alicor, Bol, Conna, Dubla

Korbundar's Lair - the lair of a large blue dragon

Miasma Swamp - the location of "The Destroyer that Preserves"

Highpass Tower - the northern outpost of Twolakes Vale

The Battle for Gollim

Gollim Village - the setting for a war machine scenario

Temple of the Stars - constructed by a group of hermit-clerics

Unarmed Combat:

A scenario is included which "will probably have characters attacking each other, this is a good place for unaffected characters to use the wrestling system. Encourage it."

Wrestling Rating scores are provided in the NPC stat blocks.

The Sphere of Death:

The mage Wazor the Cunning, Emissary of Atlantis,* acting in concert with an evil cleric, Ulslime the Chaosar have created a gate to the Sphere of Death

*Alphatia is referred to as "Atlantis" throughout CM2, as revealed in CM1

The Sphere of Death is described as "an area either among or beyond the outer planes.  The sphere is rumored to be the source of Death and Entropy, and at least part of it is malignantly evil."

The Spheres of Power, including the Sphere of Entropy, were further described in the Master Set (1985) rules:
The Sphere of Entropy or Death is not related to an element.  Its purpose is the ultimate destruction of the multiverse.  The four other spheres of power oppose Entropy but recognize its importance in the functioning of each of the other spheres.  Entropy is the weakening of the fabric of the multiverse, rot, weathering, and dissipation.  It seeks to bring all things to a stop, causing oblivion.  At the same time, Entropy itself cannot exist without the presence of the other powers, so it seeks first to subjugate before bringing about oblivion.  Energy seeks to destroy Matter, dissipate Energy, cause Time to stagnate, and stop new Thought.

Master DM's Book, pg 11

Controlled Undead:

Spiegle includes a section on controlled undead, which seem a precursor to the rules for Undead Lieges and Pawns as presented in the Master Set rules (Master DM's Book, pgs 22-23).

New Monsters:

Illustration by Jeff Easley

Death Leech (described as native to the Sphere of Death)

Liches and Nightshades are mentioned (pg. 3) but don't appear in the adventure.  Both are described in the Master Set rules.

New Magical Items:

Hammer of Life, Mirror of Life Saving, Potion of Super-healing (was included in the Potion table in the Companion Set rules, but description was missing)

New Weapon:

Ballista (further described in the Master Set rules)

Prerolled Characters:

The prerolled characters from CM1 are included (most are 3 levels higher).

Fergus the Justifier (F18) a wandering fighter from the Kingdom of Vestland
Geoffrey of Heldann (C18) a wandering cleric from the Heldann Freeholds
Weston the Tall (T10?) a wandering thief (a "rogue")
Quillan Elm Grower (E10; attack rank G) an elf from the Forest of Alfheim
Brogahn of the Steppes (F18) a wandering fighter from the Ethengar Khanate
Claransa the Seer (M18) a wandering magic-user (a "magus") from Specularum

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