Averoigne in Dungeons & Dragons
So I will be running an adventure set in Averoigne next month after the Super Bowl is over and football season comes to an end. The game will be scaled for tenth level characters using Pathfinder RPG and should last about five to ten game sessions. As I talk about character creation with some of my gaming buddies I have come to realize that many people haven’t heard of Averoigne. So here is a quick primer to explain Averoigne as it appears in my Immortals campaign set on Mystara (the home of Original Dungeons & Dragons).
Averoigne is a mythical forest in France haunted by witches, vampires and werewolves. It was created by the author Clark Ashton Smith and detailed throughout eleven of his short stories. Most of the tales in the Averoigne cycle were published in the pages of the sci-fi fantasy magazine Weird Tales in the 1930’s. Clark Ashton wrote many other stories and contributed to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos with his elder god Tsathoggua and Hyperborean cycle. The name Klarkash-Ton is Lovecraft’s pun for his friend and correspondent Clark Ashton Smith. Tsathoggua features prominently in Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu RPG and would later become a major cult in Necromancers Games many excellent products for D&D 3rd Edition. If none of this is familiar to you then you have been using the internet wrong. I have linked some of the key subjects throughout this document to help get you caught up.
“It’s from N’kai that frightful Tsathoggua came — you know, the amorphous, toad-like god-creature mentioned in the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon and the Commoriom myth-cycle preserved by the Atlantean high-priest Klarkash-Ton.”
—H. P. Lovecraft, “The Whisperer in Darkness”
The church of God exists in Averoigne and those who worship dark gods or practice black magic are burned as blasphemers and heretics. Yet the church has very little power over supernatural forces, and in some communities the priesthood is corrupted by the forces of darkness and sway of old gods. When something unnatural happens in Averoigne it is noteworthy, and causes alarm among the populace who look to the church for reassurance. This is not a realm of high fantasy, but rather more like a twisted version of Grimm’s fairy tales. It is a world where the spirits of the forest take lone children to live forever with them within trees or beneath still pools. Where the piping of a satyr in the deep woods is that last thing you would ever want to hear, and probably will be. Many of the sorcerers of Averoigne worship dark and malignant versions of the old Greek gods, they way they were portrayed before they were adopted by the Romans. Lust and greed are central motivations to the characters of stories set in Averoigne, and through these vices they touch upon the baser and more primal forces that lie in wait to consume them.
Averoigne came into my D&D campaign when I ran module X2 Castle Amber (or Chateau d’ Amberville). In the adventure the characters investigate a castle that had mysteriously come into their world in the past, and then vanished again. Now upon its return, shrouded in amber mists, the bold adventures head into the castle and become involved in a curse that they must end to return home from the lands of Averoigne. Unraveling the mysteries of the curse involves travelling all across the countryside of Averoigne, through gothic churches and deep haunted woods, across dark moors and even through gates that lead to different times. When the curse is lifted, Étienne d’Ambreville, the lord of the Chateau, is released from his imprisonment which is death itself. He then goes on to resume his duties as the Headmaster of the Great School of Magic in Glantri on Mystara. Every time I run a group through that module I pick new adventures from my library to fill in the gaps and individualize the experience for my players. With this next venture into the shrouded forests of mythic France I will be chronicling all the adventures that I have set there and focusing on getting one character in particular, out of Averoigne and back to his home world of Mystara.
Gradmick Woodshadow was an elf of the forest of Alfheim on Mystara. He lived a privileged life, being the son of the clan holder and having a natural talent for magic; Gradmick wanted for little and spent his days learning ways to extend his personal power. Everything changed the day the Shadow Elves attacked, and Gradmick’s family was suspected of being conspirators with the subterranean invaders. Gradmick and his aides fled Alfheim without knowing his father’s fate. Gradmick spent some time in human lands adventuring with a group of explorers and learning necromancy and fire based magic that were very rare in homeland of Alfheim. When he heard that the Shadow Elves had invaded his homeland and saw the masses of elven refuges that came to the humans asking for help he decided it was time to return. When he reached his homeland he found it a very different place, dark and sinister and unwelcoming to strangers. Finally coming upon his old clan hold of Shadow Tree, Gradmick faced a champion of the clan lord in a duel of magic, which he won with the use of his unorthodox magical arsenal. The Clan Lord revealed himself to be Gradmick’s father and told him that Shadow Elf blood ran through his veins and always had. Gradmick Woodshadow re-examined his whole life and stayed in Shadow Tree for a while to contemplate his next move. This is when he learned of the amber mists in New Averoigne, Glantri.
It is known that Étienne d’ Ambreveille had come to Mystara through the amber mists and that he, his family and their entire castle had disappeared through the mists after the founding of the great school of Magic many years ago. Gradmick had to know if this mist could be harnessed as a source of power. He went with his old group of adventuring buddies and together they entered the amber mist, and opened the portal to Averoigne, and there they solved the puzzle of the curse and returned home, but Gradmick was left behind. He fell in love with the Enchantress of Sylaire and willingly stayed behind to study alchemy with her and be her consort, no matter how much the others insisted, he would not be swayed…