The Railway Station Haul

by Gabor Lux

Description and contents: The Railway Station Haul refers to the contents of my backpack 22nd September 2003, which was stolen from my train in Déli Railway Station, Budapest. In addition to rulebooks and supplements, it held my Wilderlands folder, a thick collection of game writings and character sheets. Since none of these materials existed in duplicate, their loss represented such a major blow to a campaign in its prime – just beyond The Garden of al-Astorion and only a few sessions from entering Dark Tower – that it folded pretty much instantly. My interest for 3.0 D&D never recovered; we switched to the proto-version of Kard és Mágia, and shifted our attentions to the “secessionist party” – the gang of misfits and evildoers who no longer wanted to, or could associated with the generally good-aligned (although violent) primary group. In a respect, the change of pace was not all bad: the escapades of the new group, although their adventures only lasted a few, if very dynamic and event-filled sessions, showed me the true power of chaotic picaresque adventures, and influenced the freestyle gameplay and general irreverence of Fomalhaut.

The Railway Station Haul includes:
Rulebooks and modules: 3.0 D&D Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual, The Tome of Horrors (original edition), City State of the Invincible Overlord (1999 Greg Geilman reprint), Ready Ref Sheets, and an almost complete set (!) of original Wilderlands Campaign Maps (minus World Emperor, I’ve never had one of those).
Replaceable homemade stuff: 3.0 NPC Stat Sheets (my heavily edited, printed and bound version of DrSkull’s famous stat cards), printed and bound encounter tables (1e DMG, converted into Excel tables with No. App. statistic added), bound draft versions of what would become campaign map writeups for The Wilderlands Boxed Set, a copy of The Wilderlands Gazetteer (a homemade guide I made for my players with art liberally borrowed from Savage Sword of Conan),
Legacy items: Two years worth of character sheets, including the living, the retired and the dead from Tomb of Abysthor, Rappan Athuk, Kauran, Warwick and more (seriously, imagine losing that sort of thing), plus player handouts, sketches and notes.
Miscellance: A book I got for my birthday the previous day and an expensive umbrella.

The holding capabilities of a decent backpack are very impressive, and now that it’s 6+ years later, I wonder how I could fit all of that in there. I did not lose The Vault of Larin Karr and Chaos Rising, since I was reading them as the backpack was liberated from above me. The next category was relatively meagre in volume, filling only one additional pink paper folder; unfortunately, the approximately 80 or 90 handwritten pages in there held a lot of the adventures I had run at that time or wanted to run in the future. These materials include:
Tower of the Tovar Tal: Unplayed scenario describing a tower stronghold of half-orc sorcerers (yeah, yeah; I was young and needed the money) next to the Lake of Temple Deeps, Barbarian Atlantis. A library, prison, final encounter with the secretive sorcerers and animated weaponry at the top, plus a few secret areas. 6 pages; I eventually reconstructed some of the map but never to its full.
Talhur’s Treasure: A “treasure map” scenario describing a six-level dungeon in the Barbarian Atlantis region, hex 3322 (near Nippuri and – in my campaign – Red Moon Pass and Dark Tower). This dungeon used relatively simple, mostly rectangular or polygonal room layouts, but introduced a lot of complications through inter-level connections leading up and down. Entry was through a multi-level shaft from a razed city, leading first to a passage that was an almost word-by-word reproduction of the example of play from the 2nd edition Player’s Handbook (although the wererats were never encountered), then a level with a marble relief depicting historical events and serving as a subterranean shelter for the city. The dungeon’s inhabitants were largely giant bugs; the cover illustration showed them battling the player characters in a rendition that made them more cute than threatening. The first level included a large tomb complex with impressive magic items; on the second level, a treasure room I thought impregnable held a fortune in monetary treasure (the characters promptly opened and looted it). As the levels went lower and lower, the decorations grew less and less ornate, and the style and themes shifted to that of a modern bunker with concrete walls and technological items (including shotgun shells and 1st aid kits); the dungeon terminated in the Underworld, where lay bent iron tracks and a wrecked cargo train loaded with metal ingots. This was one of the better dungeons of mine from the period: not overly ambitious, but very playable and just the kind of thing that’s easiest to translate into fan material. About 16 pages.
The Empty Cup: I do not recall too much of this non-Wilderlands reverse murder mystery scenario, except that the title referred both to a crucial item involved in the murder, and to the fact that it was the player characters who had conspired with each other to do the deed. I planned to playtest it and release it as a semi-commercial d20 product after al-Astorion. 10 pages.
Bifur the Axe and the Valley Temple: Notes describing the Temple of Odin on Brezal Isle, City State Map 4806. This module was developed to play out an assassination attempt in which one of the older player characters, Grey Fox (played by a guy who had a real knack for playing Vancian sociopaths), tried to join the Warwick Assassin’s Guild (run by the treacherous and beautiful Lady Avvala) by agreeing to assassinate Bifur the Axe, a captain of the guards in the Temple of Odin. The mission ended in total shambles: Bifur was confronted too eagerly; the defenders raised an alarm and Grey Fox was cut down by Bifur’s animated throwing axe. Two surviving PCs narrowly escaped the island with their lives. 8 pages.
The Castle of Odo Ragnarök: Preliminaries on stronghold of vampire lord on Wormshead Peninsula, City State Map 4306 (almost next to the entrance of Rappan Athuk). Odo had been slain in the RA-subcampaign, but his human followers, weakened and confused, lingered. 2 pages.
Isle of the Water Sprites: Violent island and dungeon scenario with sea hags and a really strange ending; this was reconstructed from memory and will be described elsewhere. 12 pages.
The Isle of the Damarah: The island right next to Water Sprites; underwater dungeon with unintelligent opponents – strangling kelp, giant clams, poisonous ebony eels and so on. A brief outline was reconstructed, but it lost a lot of the small ideas and was never run. 4 pages.
Isle of the Thousand: Alternatively titled Brignestor’s quest, this describes the island in the Winedark Sea where the fabled gnome learned the craft of building Mechanical Servants from the sage Tydnab Emyt. A description of the island, including a settlement of evil pariahs, a watchtower inhabited by orcs, and the two-level dungeon of Zamatis, an evil 6th level wizard. 10 pages.
City of the White Apes: This one would have been a shameless Caverns of Thracia knockoff somewhere in Oricha (south of Barbarian Atlantis); ape-heavy surface ruins and the beginnings of a dungeon. Maybe 6-8 pages, although it was a typically over-ambitious project that could have ended up a failure anyway.
The City of Vultures: Again, preliminaries on the City State of Kauran (Barbarian Atlantis 4502), which, in my version of the Wilderlands, was the typical sinful “Conan” metropolis with a wizard tyrant, cannibalistic beggars and the open presence of the god Set. If finished, it would have been a more expansive and ambitious sequel to Zothay; as is, the city portion was never realised, although bits and pieces ended up distributed between Fomalhaut’s Khosura and the new City of Vultures. Two scenarios I ran in Kauran included Below the City (where the deathtrap-laden tomb was originally a side-note that grew beyond its intended scope) and Thieves’ House, a bathhouse occupied by thieves and lead by the black warrior Talhur. Although I originally thought them lost, both manuscripts turned up miraculously intact in a different folder. Kauran itself has tantalised others as well: long after the theft, some of the ideas I shared about the city were picked up by Blair Fitzpatrick with my blessings, who worked them into a full city supplement he submitted to James Mishler’s Adventure Games Publishing outfit as Kauran, Snakepit of Daggers. Although these plans were never realised, Blair currently intends to release his city as a self-published product reworked for his Planet Algol campaign. If he does, it comes with my highest recommendations.

What happened to it: Lost to thieves and probably thrown into a dumpster. Coincidentally, the entire backpack didn’t contain one single valuable item that would make it worth the perpetrator’s while. Take that, urban scum!

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