1.7a The Struggles of Stelmane – Setup

This adventure remixes The Struggles of Stelmane by Matthew Whitby*. While that adventure is fantastic, it’s set at too high of a level to really be useful during a typical Descent into Avernus campaign (levels 6-7). It’s also entirely linear, with just 3 scenes that lead from one to the next. Please do pick up a copy though, it’s only $2.95 and has maps for Stelmane Villa which we I’ll be referencing (which I’ll be calling Stelmane Manor).

Design note: This content has not been play tested at all. Everything else on the blog I ran in my own Descent into Avernus campaign… however the campaign was placed on indefinite hiatus before the PCs finished the Vanthampur Manor. As such, you may want to double check the encounter balance!

Setup

Duke Belynne Stelmane is still recovering from a stroke she suffered recently and hasn’t made any kind of statement about the refugee crisis or fate of Elturel. Most expected her to step down from the position if she does not recover soon. However, the truth of what happened to Stelmane could spell the end of not just Baldur’s Gate but perhaps the entire Sword Coast.

This adventure should take place after the PCs have dealt with the Vanthampur family. They likely will have killed Duke Thalamra Vanthampur in the dungeon under her home and recovered the Infernal Puzzle Box which will have them soon travel to Candlekeep to discover its mysteries.

Yet despite rooting out the cult, the city of Baldur’s Gate is still in turmoil. Grand Duke Ravengard is missing presumed dead during his diplomatic mission to Elturel. Duke Portyr was publicly assassinated by a Zarielite cultist. Duke Vanthampur was discovered to be the head of the cult and killed/arrested (likely by the PCs). This leaves Duke Stelmane as the only standing Duke – and despite her health she wishes to put an end to the chaos in Baldur’s Gate and uncover an even greater threat.

Background Information

  • Duke Belynne Stelmane is one of the Council of Four, the rulers of Baldur’s Gate.
  • Stelmane recently removed herself from political appearances and public affairs. Rumours abound that she had a seizure from stress that resulted in a partially paralyzed face, speech difficulties and mobility issues.
  • In truth she was attacked by a mind flayer named Grukt.
    • Grukt is part of an advanced scouting force tasked with gathering intelligence and taking over the political leaders of the city before the full attack (See: Baldur’s Gate 3 trailer).
    • The original target was Athkatla in Amn but following the Bhaalspawn saga that plan was temporarily put on hold (See: https://baldursgate.fandom.com/wiki/Illithid_Correspondence ). With the mind flayers, now once again possessing the ability to use nautiloid spelljamming ships, they made a move on Athkatla once again.
    • The Gith learnt of the attack and intercepted Grukt’s nautiloid ship, which crash landed leaving him the sole survivor. The invasion of Amn ruined again, Grukt in a singular moment of independent thought decided to target Baldur’s Gate instead.
    • With the Gith on his tail, the mindflayer managed to make a final jump of the crashed ship onto the sea floor of the Grey Harbour in Baldur’s Gate.
    • Having successfully escaped his pursuers, Grukt managed to build up information about the city by use of water breathing spells and the extensive sewer systems developed by Duke Vanthampur.
    • Grukt learnt of the four Dukes and plotted to use psychic domination to take control of each of them to prepare the city for invasion.
    • Learning of Duke Stelmane’s diplomatic mission to Amn, Grukt set up an ambush in the remote Cloud Peak mountains. He had hoped to ruin the mission to further weaken Baldur’s Gate, and then return to dominate the other dukes.
    • Unfortunately for Grukt, Belynne managed to fight back and prevent the psychic domination, resulting in a ‘psychic flareback’ effect.
    • The flareback has left part of Grukt’s psyche inside of Stelmane’s mind – weaking Grukt’s mental powers and giving Stelmane disturbing insight into the mind flayer’s plans.
  • Stelmane abandons her mission to Athkatla and returns to Baldur’s Gate. In poor health she hides away and tries to complete her duties without leaving her home.
  • Weakened, Grukt has changed tact. He has been building an army of intellect devourers and creating a group of humanoid thralls. Once enough of them exist he plans to assault Stelmane Manor and kill Duke Stelmane – which he believes will return his full power.

Note that this scenario does not require the use of any other elements of my Extra Content, such as the Journey to Baldur’s Gate, Outer City Murders or Assault on Stormshore Warehouse. You would likely want to establish Duke Stelmane as the only remaining Duke (with Duke Portyr having been recently assassinated) but it wouldn’t break the scenario if he is still alive or if his daughter Liara Portyr has taken his position.

Scenario hooks

There are several ways to kick things off, which will vary based on the actions taken by your PCs.

  • If the PCs have been working for the Flaming Fist, the current leader (Liara Portyr perhaps, or her father if he’s still alive) might be asked to arrange a meeting with Ollin Wrought. Wrought is Duke Stelmane’s aide and wizard.
  • If the PCs have been in contact with the noble patriar families then they or The Watch will ask the PCs to meet with Ollin Wrought to assist Stelmane with a very important matter.
  • If the PCs have got involved with The Guild, Genamine Kopali, kingpin of the Seatower district asks Nine-Fingers Keene to send the PCs her way – there’s strange happenings in the sewers with people going missing or becoming strangely blank minded as if charmed.
  • Mortlock Vanthampur knows about the troubles in the sewers, as Genamine has also been feeding him any information she gets too – which Nine-Fingers wouldn’t be happy to find out. Mortlock thinks that whatever it is, it must be bad if even The Guild are afraid.
  • If the PCs have been largely independent, Ollin might try to contact them directly. Through Stelmane he has the funds for divination spells to locate them if necessary.

In any situation Ollin Wrought would want to meet with the PCs at the Blade and Stars tavern in Eastway district. He considers this an out of the way location, where adventurers wouldn’t draw too much attention, and should things go wrong then his mistress Duke Stelmane is far removed from the danger.

Nodes

  • The Blade and Stars Tavern
  • Stelmane Manor
  • The Sewer Keep
  • Dusthawk Hill
  • The Underwater Nautiloid
  • Proactive node: Mindless Thralls

Design note: Originally, I had intended to have the Stelmane/Grukt attack site as a node, as it was to be located ‘somewhere north of the Black Gate’. However, in developing this adventure further it made sense to try and tie it into Baldur’s Gate 2 more which had Amn as the attack destination. I think this enriches the scenario by allowing it to tie into existing lore, but more importantly it makes Baldur’s Gate a target of opportunity for the mind flayers after a failed second attempt on the city of Athkatla. This lessons the feeling of ‘everyone just wants to attack Baldur’s Gate for some reason’ that otherwise existed for me.

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5 comments

  1. I’m happy the posts are back! I’m playing through the Outter City Murders and I gotta say, my players are loving! The Smilling Boar with those funny food names were the star of the session, so many lauhgter! Thank you very much.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Ronald, glad that you and your players are enjoying the extra content.

      I nearly didn’t post the funny food names for The Smiling Boar… thinking it perhaps too crass and inappropriate. Yet, I think sometimes these touches of levity and joy can help create a really stark contrast to the darker moments, such as the gruesome nature of the murders.

  2. I’m from Brazil, so I had to translate to our language. So imagine the characters arriving at the same time as Jentha was screaming to old mad morgane: “Granny Morgane! Come and get your fantastic pair of bangers! It’s time for you to eat, I even made that sausage in a hole you like!”

      1. Oh man! Really well. I added one more for a drink, they asked for ale, so Jentha brought the “Orc Milk”. There was a brief moment of pure silence, and then the player, “DM.. did It taste good?” after that, everybody asked for lots of love sausages. It was a blast.

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