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Ten years ago, the Ghoul Imperium of the Underworld and the vampires of Morgau marched into Krakova and conquered the kingdom entirely, establishing the Greater Duchy of Morgau and expanding the borders of the Blood Kingdom.

The undead occupation has been kept in check by resistance from the Court-in-Exile, as well as opportunistic reaver dwarves who sailed across the Nieder Straits.

But the hidden machinations of the ghouls swirl beneath the surface. Rumors abound of an even more sinister plot that threatens not just one kingdom, but the entire world of Midgard.

Empire of the Ghouls is designed by Richard Green, and published by Kobold Press. It takes place in Kobold Press’ fantasy world of Midgard.

Chapter 1: Dread Chambers of the Undercity
Episode 1: The Rampant Roach

Active Party:
Alaric, level 2 dhampir Death Domain Cleric
Bahn, level 2 kobold Bard
Garosh, level 2 trollkin Barbarian
I/O, level 2 gearforged Circle of the Moon Druid
Kovac, level 2 ratfolk Rogue

The adventure begins, as so many do, in a tavern. The Rampant Roach is a kobold-owned eatery known for its local color and succulent meats. It’s where our heroes first met one another while performing various jobs around the free city of Zobeck, and it’s where they continue to unwind in the evenings.

While some racial tension always existed in the city, kobold-hatred as been escalating since a number of disappearances around the Kobold Ghetto.

The latest victim is a young woman named Rozalyn Turnyr, daughter of the local blacksmith, Heston Straic. He recognized the dagger that was found in her bedroom as belonging to a kobold, Brik, who works at The Rampant Roach.

Brik’s uncle, Skirtal, is the owner of the tavern, and when the party arrives one evening, he implores them to help protect his nephew for 5gp each per day.

The party knows Skirtal as a kind, upstanding kobold who never turns anyone away and always serves generous portions. After asking he and Brik some questions, they agree to take the job.

Kovac gives the younger kobold one of his daggers, and Brik accepts it reverently. Bahn mocks that he’s just going to lose it like he did the other one.

The party agrees to meet back at the Rampant Roach the next day.

Brik has three wrapped lunches to deliver around the city. The first is in the nearby Collegium District, to a kobold who actually got into the prestigious Arcane Collegium. Brik is adorably flustered as he delivers her rat kabobs. Many folks give him, and the party some serious side-eye, but otherwise are unbothered.

The other two deliveries are back in Lower Zobeck.

The first is to a halfling who once worked for Skirtal at the tavern. He used to hunt for food down in the Cartways, the old abandoned mining tunnels beneath Zobeck that now serve as a hive of skullduggery. He was injured during one hunting trap, and is now retired. I/O and Alaric offer their healing skills, but it would take far greater healing than they posses, and the gruff halfling is in no mood to converse with strangers anyway.

While making their way through a tight alleyway on the way to the third delivery, Brik is grabbed by a pair of rough human thugs. They accost and tease him for being part of the problem with all the disappearances.

The rest of the party use their words and presence rather than their weapons to disarm their opponents. Especially Alaric, who elongates his fangs and casts Memento Mori, stunning one of the thugs. The display causes the brutes to quickly flee. Brik is impressed and grateful for the save.

The third delivery is to the Kobold King of the Ghetto, Koto Crag-Claw.

The party meets with a blue-scaled kobold in a trench coat and fedora who accepts the lunch on behalf of the king.

The investigator, Kwarrel, also asks some pointed and leading questions toward the group about the crime. The King is clearly concerned that kobolds are being blamed, and the City Watch has all but given up trying to solve these kidnappings.

They all agree to exchange notes some time in the future.

Empire of the Ghouls chapter 1 episode 1 zobeck

Before the day is done, Brik makes a stop at the marketplace to pick up some ingredients. The party hears some rumors and concerns from the citizenry. Some blame the kobolds, but others are incredulous that the diminutive creatures would be capable of forcibly kidnapping adult humans.

Brik’s jobs are finally done, but before retiring to the Roach for the evening, the party opts to check out the crime scene, leaving Brik at the tavern. Rozalyn’s modest home in Lower Zobeck still has glass shards by the boarded-up window, but there’s too much foot traffic in the days since the disappearances to follow any tracks.

The blacksmith comes storming outside, wagging an angry finger at the party. The party remains calm and tries to express interest in helping, but Heston’s grief has boiled into rage. He specifically recognized a dagger found in his daughter’s bedroom as belonging to Brik, as he serviced the weapon himself just a few months ago.

Brik has claimed that he lost the dagger the day before while hunting in the Cartways. And others in the tavern can confirm that he was there in the tavern the night of the kidnapping.

Heston doesn’t care, and the party leaves before things escalate any further.

That evening the party decides that investigating the Cartways, where Brik lost his dagger, would be a prudent move. As it happens, Brik has to go there tomorrow, to pick up more colorful ingredients from a new supplier. The party agrees to wait to the next day and travel together.

The next day they head into one of Lower Zobeck’s many alleyways, down a flight of stairs, and emerge into the old mining tunnels beneath the city. Brik has directions on how to reach the new supplier, but neither he nor his uncle has ever met or done business with this Gantham person before.

The route quickly becomes perilous, with 10-ft pit sinkholes lining the tunnel. Thankfully most of the party is observant as hell (PP of 20+!) noticing the pits before triggering them.

Further down the tunnel they see light spilling out of a side passage. As the party triggers the pits, several human bandits come spilling out, armed with crossbows, ready to defend their turf.

I/O transforms into a brown bear and runs forward, but remains vigilant about avoiding the pit traps. Bahn uses bardic inspiration while Alaric twins Chill Touch on the bandits behind a broken wagon, including a critical hit! Kovac fires his shortbow, killing one of the bandits.

The bandits respond with a volley of crossbow bolts, perforating the bear.

Bear’s not happy. She leaps across the wagon and rips a bandit apart, then another. As Alaric approaches alongside, the bandit leader executes his escape plan. Surprising I/O and Alaric, the lead bandit transforms into a Giant Rat and escapes through a narrow hole in the wall. A wererat!?

The coast is clear and the party helps themselves to the bit of loot these bandits had amassed, including a magic silver pin (Masque Pin).

With no need to short rest the party continues down the tunnels, following Brik’s directions toward this new ingredient supplier.

A narrow passage opens into a larger corridor strewn with refuse and bones. The smell of death alerts the PCs to several moving corpses.

Bahn lights them up with Faerie Fire. Garosh charges at the ghouls, eager to prove his mettle in combat. But his swing misses, and the Beggar Ghouls pounce with their pack tactics and paralyzing claws.

The rest of the party rushes up to help. The combined might of I/O-bear, Kovac, and Alaric make short work of the emaciated ghouls.

Undead are not unheard of, but seeing them this close to the city is certainly alarming.

Their destination is just up ahead, past an unassuming door.

Empire of the Ghouls chapter 1 episode 1 lab

Kovac listens at the door, hearing some odd bubbling and squelching noises. He backs up and lets Alaric open the door, revealing an alchemist’s laboratory, with jars of liquids and severed body parts.

On the floor near the door is a bloody dead body.

Alaric pokes the body with his sword. In response, a pile of intestines with sewn-on eyeballs emerges and attacks. An undead Goreling!

At the same time, several jars tip over as more severed body parts begin animating and crawling toward the PCs.

The first Goreling critically hits Alaric, downing the cleric. Garosh rushes inside to help, only to miss and receive several nasty hits, including another Crit. Down goes the barbarian (poor Garosh).

The bear has to dash to make it inside the tight, packed corridor into the room. Kovac starts stabbing while Bahn heals Alaric back to consciousness.

One Goreling dies, but another critically hit Bahn, downing the bard.

Three crits, three downed PCS — wow!

If it weren’t for the wild shaped bear, things may have gone truly pear-shaped here. But with the bear inside the room, she proceeds to devastate several Gorelings.

It also helps that the healers staggered their death throes, as the newly awake Alaric can quickly heal Bahn.

The final Goreling finally goes down. I/O reverts back to druid form and hands out Goodberries, and the party takes a much-need short rest.

The laboratory has several supplies worth looting, including alchemist’s supplies, vials of acid, and a potion of healing.

The dead body holds a note that mentions strange goings-on nearby. Seems there’s more nefarious things happening deep in the Cartways beyond random ghouls and inept bandits.

Brik does manage to grab the supplies he needs, and the group trudges back to the Rampant Roach. They turn in the supplies to Skirtal, who thanks them for braving the dangers, and apologies for using such a shady dealer.

Just then a rock comes crashing through a front window, then another and another. Outside, a group of angry, armed humans led by Heston are yelling for Brik to come out and face justice. Tensions have officially boiled over! We’ll see how the party handles this in our next episode.

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