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~ The Manacles ~
Part 1: A Box of Hell

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A Box of Hell, part 1 of the Manacles series I have planned, is a large tome set in the Valley of Lemuria on the coast of Xal. The player quickly finds himself immersed in a mystery surrounding the death of an old recluse. What follows are my design notes. This is a living document - I will update as I make more notes. Note that it may contain spoilers for the players out there. It is presented here in order to garner comments, questions and critiques as well as be of help to Creators out there who are looking for ideas or help getting things organized.


This is the first installment of the series. It is a murder mystery in the H. P. Lovecraft tradition.

Source of inspiration / ruleset used:

Inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft at al. I may use information from whatever gaming resources I can find, as well - such as Call of Cthulhu, AD&D, various GURPS resources, etc. Wherever my imagination takes me.

Brief story summary:

The party is drawn into a murder investigation while serving as caravan guards. The caravan leader explains that he needs a package delivered to an old recluse, Old Man Silas, located in the small village of Loesmouth. Once there, they party discovers that he has been murdered in a most grotesque way. With the cavan having already moved on the party is left to fend for themselves. Locals are divided in thier opinions. Many believe it was the PCs who killed Silas, others believe the death is due to Silas' researching things that should be left alone. The party is left to either clear thier name or face an angry mob.

Player character(s) and their limitations:

This Tome will allow the player to bring up to 5 (10 levels total) of their own characters into the adventure. 

Team members and their jobs:

 It's just me.  I would certainly love some help in the artwork department.  That's not only taking me forever, but I have very little artistic talent so things never turn out as nice as I'd like.  Cathedral tiles anyone...?

Estimated Completion Date:

Cthulhu only knows.

Story Outline (Spoiler):

Investigations reveal that Silas and his brother Enoch have been researching the location of a rumored tome of knowledge called Culte De Ghoul. Enoch believed he had found it but disappeared soon after. Silas continued the search. The last few journal notes indicate that Silas was worried about "them" finding where he lived. He had found the entrance to the tomb of the ancient scorcer Zant-ha. He believed that Enoch had entered it without him and was killed by "them".

Enoch had acutally found the entrance to the tomb long before Silas knew about it. Therein he discovered signs pointing to a secret library Zant-hu hid in his tomb guarded by labryinths of "horrors better hidden from the human mind". He investigated and was saved by a pack of ghouls looking for a contact in Loesmouth. They wanted to get acess to the eastern end of the Valley but need help in getting across the chasm to the west of town as well as needing information and accomplices. He agreed to help them in exchange for the location of Zant-hu's secret library. The two sides exchanged secrets and Enoch soon realized that he would need their help to get through the tomb. Greed soon overcame Enoch and he decided to keep the secret books of Forbidden Knowledge to himself. He offered the life of his brother, Silas, in exchange for the ghouls taking him directly there through their own safe tunnels. By the time the party arrives Silas has just been killed by the ghouls. Over the next few weeks there will be mysterious disappearances in the town of Loesmouth as the ghouls search for fresh victims. Their plan is to kill people and take their freshly interred bodies from the graveyard in order to ensure a new supply of food. Meanwhile, the townspeople are increasingly suspicious of the PCs. They may end up having to bring Enoch to justice in order to save themselves from the town mob.

Ambience/Attitude/Overall Style:

Keeping the Mythos and Gothic Horror overtones to this tome will be difficult with the heroic adventure setting of Runesword. In a setting more fully developed for Mythos gaming (Runesword by Gaslight?) a more strictly Lovecraftian tone could run through. As it is, though, expect dark gothic environments and many "hellspawn" enemies and spells.

Setting, including time scale:

Set in the current age of Eternia, somewhere along a little traveled coastline of the land. There, there is a place called the Valley of Lemuria. Walled off from the rest of Xal by high natural cliffs, this small area has been insolated form most of Eternia's history, being settled early on but mingling little with the greater population except in trade for its marine and mineral resources.

Game creation timeline, including development milestones:
  1. tilesets
  2. creature graphics
  3. creature creation
  4. item creation
  5. map creation
  6. creating encounters
  7. applying narrative, conversatinal, and plot-developing dialogs and triggers
  8. testing
    • tiles
    • combat backgrounds
    • creatures
    • items
    • maps
      • tile properties
    • playtesting

In reality I mix these steps a bit - tilesets are often created as I begin and develop a map, creatures and items get created to fit encounter ideas, etc. This is more a list of the overall picture.

Major NPC antagonists:
  1. Old Man Silas - briefly encountered, he is a figure to be seen again in the Temple of Dagon discovered in a later tome.
  2. Silas - Enochs brother, he plays only a posthumous part.
  3. Townspeople:
    merchants - armor blacksmith, weapons blacksmit, general store, potion and herb merchant, rare antiquities merchant.
    town elder
  4. Ghouls - met in the chasm as a foreshadowing of the next tome.
Minor NPCs - supporting protagonists:
Areas for play (as many as is applicable):

Name: trade route
Story relationship: Bridge between intro and begining of the plot.
Setting: Road between Port City and the Xalian interior.
Interaction with PCs (puzzles, NPCs, etc.):
Goal of area: This map contains a branch of the Skytos Guild. This adds to the area being along a major trade route and gives the characters a chance for skill development and merchant access. There's also an old hermit who can offer information and FK spells. -Need to customize the Guild hall. Change names and dialogs. (There's a good component trigger for racial reaction to be cannibalized here.)

Name: path down into the valley
Story relationship:
Interaction with PCs (puzzles, NPCs, etc.):
Goal of area: Watch the terrain become more bleak. Character comments. Graveyard for Loesmouth adds atmosphere and foreshadows Old Stone Church

Name: The Crypt
Story relationship:
This is accessed by a cave entrance in the "Path down to the Valley" map. It represents a side quest and may hold a secret research area Silas used hinted at in Silas' journal.
Interaction with PCs (puzzles, NPCs, etc.): This small dungeon will feature puzzles and traps over combat.
a) central chamber - crown-shaped magic helm, star gem, scroll of fireball- large bas-relief on the wall showing warrior wizards in the process of forcing vaugely humanoid amphibians back into the sea. In the background is a bizzarely-shaped rock formation. The formation resembles a hand or claw reaching up from the depths. The party will notice that there is a small hole at the top of one of the warrior's helm, as if something is missing. There are 3 sarcoghi in the room. Placing the gem from casket 2 in the bas-relief will open the hidden door on the south wall. One casket contains a Shade. The second has goodies, and the third will release the Lich Lord (who wears the Crown of the Lich Lord).
b) "The Weapons Room" - The door to this chamber can only be unlocked by using the Box given to the party at the beginning of the Tome (how?). This large room contains several pedistals. Above each, suspended in shafts of an unsettlingly green-colored light, is a powerfull magic weapon. When one is taken the party is teleported away. The Weapons Room will be forever locked - the party gets only one choice.

Name: Old man Silas' house
Story relationship: Central to plot development.
Interaction with PCs (puzzles, NPCs, etc.): Clues found in journals and occult texts. Very few, if any, creature encounters.
Goal of area: Finding Silas' body, investigating his death. Secondarily, finding new items.
Notes: for the journals and such to be found, see the style of writing in The Looking Glass.

Name: Loesmouth
Story relationship: Villagers will blame the "strangers" for the death of Silas.
interaction with PCs (puzzles, NPCs, etc.):
1. blacksmith - buy basic weapons and armor. Can order better items with waiting period. NPC's: blacksmith and assistant. It would be cool if I could work a blacksmith like in Throne of Darkness - you give him weapons and he could re-work them into better things.
2. general store - hard tack (dried food that will last), clothing (minimal armor), unique set of high-end magic items on request. Gotta have a place sell the party's treasures.
3. inn - Rumors and legends from various locals. Buy food and drink (heals slightly, spoils after 3 days). Rent a room to rest (1 in 20 chance of being robbed, check if party wakes).
4. town square - Rumors and legends from various locals. At night, the party may encounter ghouls. If not, locals will talk about someone who disappeared or graves that have been disturbed.
5. Residential areas - mostly people annoyed at the intrusion. Should be some conseqence for attacking people 6. A couple of empty houses on the west end of town- to reward exploration.
6. potion and herbalist - herbs and potions from an old hag.

Name: The Chasm
Story relationship: This is the area that the ghouls have been using to travel into the eastern Valley. It will be the finalie as well as offering access to the caverns of the cthonians (below).
Setting: A deep chasm to the west of Loesmouth stretching from the northern cliff wall down to the sea. It closes access between the eastern end of the Valley of Lemuria and and western end.
Interaction with PCs (puzzles, NPCs, etc.): Meeting with the ghouls party.
Goal of area:

Name: Caverns of the Cthonians
Story relationship: small enclave of Cthonian-style creatures.
Setting: a small set of caverns using my Darcrealms setting.
Interaction with PCs (puzzles, NPCs, etc.): random lovecraftian creatures and items. There are some other exits in the eastern Valley's cliff wall.
Goal of area: just for hack-and-slash fun. foreshadowing and early development of the Darcrealms.

NPCs & Monsters:

Friendly:  Not too many.  A few locals in Darceath Moor

Neutral: Most of the locals of Darceath Moor and some in Loesmouth.

Minor: Crypt Thing: undead scavengers found in crypts and such. Shade. Giant rats, ghouls.

Unique Items & Relationship to story (if any):
  1. Star Stone of Mnar (aka Star Stone) - protection against Mythos creatures.
  2. Crown of the Lich Lord: found in a crypt side-quest. Party finds clues in Silas' library about secret research area set-up in a room found in the tomb of a fallen scorcerer.
  3. The Box: The package the party is given to deliver at the beginning of the Tome is a small metallic puzzle box (looking much like the infamous Hellraiser box). It will initially appear solid and seamless. Notes found in Silas' house reveal that the box is actually an elaborate key to be used in a certain lock found in Zant-hu's tomb. In fact, it is the key to the "weapons room".
  4. new scrolls that allow a person to either use it to cast the spell if in combat or learn it if not. Learning it would be based on Arcane Knowledge and Forbidden Knowledge skills. In addition, if the scroll's spell is of the same type as a character's spell skill (ie, a character reading a Betrayal scroll who has the Greedspell skill) the PC gets a bonus. If the PC already knows the scroll's spell it cannot be learned.
  5. Library of book items for use in Silas' library, the secret room in Zan-Tu's tomb ana Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. Look up The Net Book of Books as well as catalogs of occult and new age bookstores. Most should be worth $50-100 with a few being like a Book of Skill, etc. Need more volumes of the 666 Essays of the Damned as well.


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Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn.

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