|◄Eamon adventure #277|
|Native format||Web (Eamon Remastered)|
Malleus Maleficarum is an Eamon adventure authored by Keith Dechant, the creator of the Eamon Remastered system, notable for its special effects, its support for conversing and trading with non-player characters, its multi-stage plot, and for being the most recently released Eamon adventure. Malleus is also the first all-original adventure written for Remastered.
In correspondence with Huw Williams in 2020, Dechant recalls that he learned about the 15th century book Malleus Maleficarum the previous summer and that it gave him the idea for the adventure. "Rather than going with the overused 'damsel in distress' trope," he writes, "I decided that the damsel should be a fellow adventurer and the person in distress should be her grandmother, because older women were among the people most frequently targeted by witch hunts." He chose the name "Cobalt Front" for the villains both because the name hadn't been used before and because "cobalt seems like something that [anti-magic] equipment might be made from."
Dechant enjoyed building the system for speaking and trading with non-player characters, but also found it challenging because of the number of possible combinations and permutations that his code had to account for. ("What if Maya gets critically hit in the first fight? Can you still complete the adventure without her? What if you get arrested, escape prison, and have no gear and no money, but there are still monsters to fight? That kind of thing.") Dechant also had fun populating the ruined castle with a variety of plant-based monsters.
A novice guild member named Maya tells you she's worried that her grandmother, a healer and practitioner of magic, is in danger from a band of religious fanatics who have taken control of her home city of Virrat. You agree to help her find her grandmother and the two of you travel to the city where armed members of the militant Cobalt Front are harassing and arresting anyone suspected of using magic.
While lounging around the Main Hall between adventures, you got to know a young novice adventurer named Maya. She comes from the Duchy of Virrat, a nearby agricultural region which has experienced a recent trend of religious fervor. One day, she finds you in the tavern and pulls you aside.
"Have you heard the news from Virrat? The Duke has issued a decree outlawing all magic in the entire land. My grandmother, Ainha, is a healer in the capital city. She sent me a letter a week ago, saying she was worried about the bands of religious fanatics that were starting to roam the town. They're arresting all the magic users they can find, accusing them of witchcraft. She was talking about leaving town, but I haven't heard from her since then."
Maya continues, "I'm worried something has happened to her. I'm leaving in the morning to go there to try to find her, and I could use a spare sword for defense. Will you join me?"
You have really taken a liking to your young adventurer pal, and she certainly doesn't have the training to take on a band of fanatics by herself. You quickly agree and pack your bags to head out of town.
It takes three days to reach Virrat City. As you ride, you see more and more armed men wearing blue religious tabards over their armor. They act more like an army than a band of fanatics. You start to see signs of struggle and burned houses in some of the farming and fishing villages along the Tovesi River. It only gets worse as you approach the capital.
At the gates of the city, freshly painted signs have been posted warning, "No mages allowed, by order of the Cobalt Front. Magic use is punishable by death!"
You arrive in the city square to find a crowd of townsfolk and a large band of white-cloaked fighters. Four women and one man are being led to the stocks by the inquisitors. As one young woman is brought forward, she struggles free of her bonds and shouts some arcane words. You sense the tingle of magic growing in the air. Before the spell completes, an inquisitor lands a swift kick to her ribs. Gasping for breath, she is forced into the stocks. As the latch closes, the magic dissipates from the air as if a switch has been thrown. The crowd of onlookers cheers riotously.
You grab Maya's arm and the two of you slink away to the south end of the square. "I don't like the looks of this place," you say. "Let's be very careful."
You begin at the south end of the bustling Grand Plaza of Virrat City with exits in all directions and members of the repressive Cobalt Front on patrol. Avoid using any magic spells or brandishing magical weapons in the presence of members of the Front since doing so will likely land you in prison. Remember that you can can talk to most of the people you meet (e.g.,
TALK TO MAYA); some have valuable information, and what they say sometimes changes over the course of the adventure. Remember too to save before major encounters; the enemies you meet aren't pushovers and even with allies at your side you may sometimes need to take a mulligan.
Maya whispers that her grandmother's house is outside the east gate.
- Follow Water Street east, passing first a tavern, then the city's prison, and then an inn before reaching the east gate. Outside the gate near the road is Ainha's house, now burned and vacant. Talk to Maya to learn that a friend of her grandmother's lives on the southwest side of town.
- Return to the plaza and head south across the bridge. Chat with the food vendor; she'll mention that the Duke outlawed magic "after the horrors that happened in the old castle" and that a terrible swamp monster now lurks in its vicinity.
- Follow Main Street south to the intersection, then east to the end of Harvest Street where an old man is being hassled by a couple of thugs; once driven off, the old man says, "Thank you for rescuing me. I don't know much, but I wager the Cobalt Front is after more than just arresting mages. I'm going to leave town for a while until this blows over. If you can find a way to drive the Cobalt Front from Virrat, come meet me at the standing stones outside town. I might be able to find something valuable to give you in reward."
- Travel back west, through the intersection, all the way to the other end of Harvest Street, and enter the single lighted house to the south. Inside you'll find an old woman named Talia, a friend of Maya's family, who confirms that Ainha is in prison. She says there's a safehouse just south of the farmer's market in the small town of Lieto, a few miles west of Virrat, and that the people there may be able to help (if you given them the password "Owlfeather"). She also gives Maya a small healing potion.
- Make your way to Lieto by going back to the town square and taking the road west out of town, then heading north at the intersection. A pair of bandits camped along the roadside will try to waylay you; defeat them and collect a spear, a crossbow, and (most importantly) an iron key. Keep following the road north and west until you reach the small market town of Lieto.
- Once in town, go south to the market and past the leatherworker into an alley. Open the door and give the password "owlfeather" to enter the safehouse basement. Gathered inside is a group of druids led by the Elven woman Velatha who tells you that Ainha and several friends have been imprisoned in Virrat City by the Cobalt Front and face execution if they're not freed. She suggests that the magical Orb of Aquita will help with the rescue and tells you it's located somewhere in the ruined castle to the southeast. She gives you a special bag to carry it in, and also recommends talking to the wizard in the back room about finding a Wand of Defoliation.
- Enter the back room and talk to Zinnah, who'll instruct you to check his shop in Virrat to find the wand.
- Return to Virrat and follow Main Street south past Harvest Street to reach Zinnah's ransacked shop and recover the wand.
- Take the road back west out of town, but at the intersection turn south, cross the bridge, and enter the ruined castle. Defeat the kobolds lurking in the entryway.
- Enter the courtyard where a Shambling Mound waits; use the Wand of Defoliation to dispatch it, then examine the dead soldier to find an electrum bracelet.
- Go west into the ruined stable. Use the wand again to wither the vines blocking the door, then step south into the jungle and south again into the overgrown moat (inhabited by a dangerous crocodile).
- Head east along the castle's ruined south wall. To the east is an old bedroom; use the wand to dispatch the Assassin Vine and gather the valuable fire clover. To the north is the castle keep, guarded by a treelike Reaper. Defeat it and climb the stairs into the tower where you'll find a stone altar overgrown with vines. Using the wand to clear the vines will reveal the Orb of Aquita! Put it into the bag for safe keeping.
- Travel back to the safehouse in Lieto and deliver the orb to the thankful Velatha. She reveals that the orb was part of a failed druidic experiment meant to improve crop harvests, and suggests using it to free the prisoners in Virrat.
- Return to Virrat (being sure to keep the orb concealed in its bag) and go to the east gate, then follow the narrow north alley as it snakes between the city walls and the prison.
- In the worksite on the north side of the prison a wooden door blocks your entrance. Take the orb from its bag and speak the magic words Velatha taught you ("IRKM DESMET DAEM"); the wood will grow and warp, leaving a gap for you to enter.
- Inside the prison and doors east and west, and stairs leading down. The west room is the prison warden's office: break into his desk to find an indecipherable letter.
- Descend the stairs into the dungeon and kill the two prison guards, collect their keys, then go south to kill an inquisitor who's torturing a bound woman. Free the woman and check all the cells, freeing prisoners as you go. (Ainha is in the cell just west of the stairs.)
- Return to the main level, open the locked double doors, and exit through the prison entryway, dispatching the warden on the way.
- Go to the safehouse in Lieto and give the warden's letter to the mages. Reading its contents — the Cobalt Front's plans to take over the entire kingdom — the mages are galvanized into action and say they'll accompany you to the Duke's palace to share what they've learned.
- Travel back to Virrat and go north through the Grand Plaza to reach the palace courtyard. The Head Inquisitor and his three subordinates will bar your entrance into the palace so you'll have to fight your way through. (The inquisitor will seize any magical weapon you draw, so attempt to Blast him and battle will ensue.) Defeated, the Head Inquisitor will drop his valuable Sword of Righteousness and a mechanical magic detector.
Alternatively, you can first do battle with the soldiers at the south end of the plaza and free the prisoners who will then aid you in your battle with the inquisitors.
- Enter the Duke's palace and Velatha will share the letter spelling out the Cobalt Front's plans. Incensed at their treachery, the Duke orders his forces to move immediately against the Cobalt Front and drive them from the city, then rewards you with a thousand gold coins and a sumptuous feast. The mages for their part pledge to use the orb and wand to clean up the effects of their failed growth experiments.
- The next day you remember the words of the old man you helped on Harvest Street. Travel to the stone circle west of Virrat and find him there; to show his appreciation he'll give you a ring of protection.
- Head home by leaving through Virrat's east or south gates, or west from Lieto.
If at any point you run afoul of the Cobalt Front and are thrown into a prison cell, you can escape through the window with the help of your wizard cellmate. Though the authorities will confiscate your weapons and armor, you can acquire new ones from the weapons merchant in Virrat City and the leatherworker in Lieto, and can recover your original gear later in the adventure. Should your companion Maya ever take enough damage to be knocked unconscious, Ainha will take her back to the safehouse in Lieto to recuperate; if Ainha isn't present, you can carry her there yourself.
The adventure takes place in the Duchy of Virrat, a fertile agricultural region whose capital is situated on the Tovesi River about three days' travel from Evenhold. The small farming village of Lieto, also part of the duchy, lies a few miles northwest of Virrat City.
The Cobalt Front is headquartered in the land of Nival.
- Malleus Maleficarum is the Latin title of a 15th century treatise on witchcraft that endorses the torture and execution of witches. The title translates in English to "Hammer of Witches".
- The Wand of Defoliation was a vital artifact in the 1991 D&D computer game Gateway to the Savage Frontier.
- The wizard Zinnah recalls wielding the Wand of Defoliation against a Venus Flytrap ten years before in Grunewalde. The Duchy of Grunewald was first seen in Pat Hurst's 1986 adventure Grunewalde and described in Hurst's Eamon Gazetteer; Dechant says he included the reference to it because he liked the name. A man-eating Venus Flytrap previously appeared in the 1980 adventure The Cave of the Mind by Jim Jacobson and Red Varnum, and in The Adventurer's General Store by Ryan Page.
- The incantation used to activate the Orb of Aquita — "IRKM DESMET DAEM" — is an unexplained nonsense phrase that appears on a dungeon wall in the 1985 adventure game The Bard's Tale. A similar phrase in Bard's Tale II, "samen nghoint", is an anagram for "means nothing".
- Dechant drew inspiration for his placenames from maps of Finland.