Expanding CM2

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Thorf
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Expanding CM2

Post by Thorf » Fri Jun 15, 2018 8:58 am

This is a topic somewhat born of frustration.

Before we get started, let me explain. I've spent a lot of time reading older modules lately. I was never able to find these when I first got into Mystara in the late 80s, nor afterwards in the 90s, so I've never played and in fact never even read most of these modules. It was 2005 by the time I was able to start tracking them down on eBay, and I bought most of them as PDFs. But my focus from that time until now has been on maps and the Atlas project, so in most cases I skimmed the modules for geographic details (mostly looking for capitalised phrases) but I didn't read the actual contents much.

This is compounded by the fact that I find adventures to be very hard reading: in most cases I find them incredibly dull and repetitive, and I find it very hard to keep slogging through them.

I'm not criticising the adventures; my problem is that I have had almost no opportunities to play for decades now, so I long ago stopped reading with a mind to running the actual adventures.

Getting back to the topic at hand, my Let's Map Mystara project has pushed me, finally, to read some of these adventures a bit more thoroughly. And at the same time I'm actively planning to start running games for my kids in the near future, so my perspective is changing.

But now I find myself with a new frustration, and I wonder if I'm alone in this: the lack of detail in these old modules.

I'm not talking about setting info (although of course I would love more of that), but rather details that would be useful for running the adventure.

For example, I'm currently reading CM2. It has actually grabbed me a bit more than many of the previous modules up to this point, as it seems to have quite a tragic story — the whole barony being overrun with undead, and the baron magic jarred and then made to betray his friends and retainers from the very heart of his realm, resulting in a massacre of almost the whole barony... It's quite sad stuff.

But it seems that none of the NPCs have any motivations for their actions — by which I mean that nothing is said of their reasons, nor even really their intentions, plans, or indeed anything whatsoever about them. Even their personalities are blank slates. When their alignment is the best marker of their personality, it really feels like scraping rock bottom.

Worse, the baron himself can be rescued, but there's no indication of what his reaction may be — it simply states matter of factly that he will be happy to give the characters any information he can. Wait a minute... hasn't he just been mind controlled and forced to destroy everything and everyone dear to him? Shouldn't he have some sort of reaction to his situation and that of his dominion? The disconnect here is huge.

Then there's the really strange revelation that Wazor the evil wizard is "Emissary of Atlantis" and "personal emissary from the High Council of Mages of Atlantis". Given that Atlantis = Alphatia (as established in CM1), what on earth is going on here? CM1 established that Norwold is ruled by the second son of Empress Eriadna... of Alphatia. It is also the source of the 1,000 36th level mages on the ruling council thing. So Wazor is working for the council, trying to overrun part of Norwold — part of the Alphatian Empire — with undead. This is really strange.

To sum up: there's a lot of great potential here, but the stuff I'd want to have as a DM — basic stuff to allow me to run the NPCs properly — just isn't there. I guess this is just how adventures were written at the time, but it leaves me wondering...

Has anyone ever expanded CM2 — or indeed any of these old modules that were a bit scant on details?

If not, does anyone have any ideas on what's going on in this adventure? I'm especially interested in the motivations of the NPCs, from the baron to the three major villains, Wazor, Korbundar the blue dragon, and Ulslime.

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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by Thorf » Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:01 am

I guess I should add that I love that there's actually an epilogue section. Even if it is a bit too short and scant on detail, it's a massive improvement on previous modules that seem to just end abruptly. This seems to be an innovation of the CM series, as CM1 also had a good section like this — even better, in fact, as due to the nature of that module it actually gave ideas for further adventures.

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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by Sturm » Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:51 am

I ran it but so many years ago I hardly remember how I framed it in my Norwold. I think I ran it while I had in my campaign a complex struggle with Alphatia divided between a traditionalist faction hostile to the Imperial throne and headed by Blackhearth and Arogansa. This faction was willing to damage the now independent Norwold allying with Denagoth, from which the dragon came. The Church of Hel was also opportunistically involved. The PCs instead intervened on behalf of Alpha and with the support of Wyrmsteeth dragons too. As one of the PCs was also a cleric of Nyx and another an Alphatian Prince, they had strong motivations to stop Denagoth, Hel and the Blackhearth faction. They succeeded eventually, barely after one of them was corrupted by Hel and they had to put him down and heal him.
The adventure, as all the old ones are, is so generic that you can do almost anything with it using the much more detailed framework fans have built for Mystara in the last years. The articles in Threshold issue #6,7 and 8 could be especially useful for the CM modules.

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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by BotWizo » Fri Jun 15, 2018 3:19 pm

We ran it a long time ago, I bought it when I was in High School.
I cant remeber much, I DMed, there was lots of hacking and slashing, since there were undead, I would have to re-read it to jog my memory now.

I do remeber a big fight scene with the dragon that was very fun for all of us, but not much after that.

I can say it has been one of my favorite module covers.
I even bought a shirt with that pic on it in the early 2000s.
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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by shesheyan » Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:52 pm

Reading old modules can be quite a challenge for me too. Its was another era and I understand your frustration. I bought L1 The Secret of Bone Hill recently in pdf because I had fond memories of it. I DMed L1 in my late teens... well lets just say that like old television series of our childhood/adolescence its best not to watch them with todays eyes. If you do, you must wear your archeologist goggles. Like Sturm said, they are so generic you can make them your own, at the cost of more work. This winter, I DMed Blackmoor's DA2 Temple of Frogs but decided against running DA3 City of Gods because of that.

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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by CommanderCrud » Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:16 pm

Funny. I tend to dislike newer modules, like all the book adventures for 5e, for the exact same reason. Too much detail!

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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by Thorf » Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:57 pm

CommanderCrud wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:16 pm
Funny. I tend to dislike newer modules, like all the book adventures for 5e, for the exact same reason. Too much detail!
Other than the Starter Set adventure Lost Mines of Phandelver I haven't read any of those, so I can't really compare. The Starter Set seemed pretty clear and to the point, though.

I'm sure a large part of my problem is lack of DM (and indeed playing) experience, which means I can't really read between the lines. That's why I find it so frustrating that there's so little detail. In CM2's case, there are vague suggestions that the bad guys should be allowed to escape and appear in future adventures, but almost nothing else detailing who they are or what they want other than their combat stats.

So were DMs expected just to make this stuff up on the fly (or at least by themselves), or was such information not even deemed necessary?

Roleplaying villains was always my weakest point as a DM 25 years ago, so I guess I've always wanted more in this respect.

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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by Raymond » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:14 pm

You could make the villains' motivation just plain old power. My players using the pre-rolled characters from M1 loved the ability to start killing all the villagers in M1 and animating them and then controlling them. The characters they started from 1st level didn't do those things. Claransa the Seer as chaotic was a bad-ass. As a team, my players were killing and animating all the inhabitants they could find on the floating continents.

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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by RobJN » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:26 pm

I never got my D&D characters high enough to play Companion level, and likewise the friend's PCs for which I DM'd. CM7 aside, I haven't read any of the CM modules, except a quick glance through Legacy of Blood for forthcoming adaptation to Thorn's Chronicle.

Villain motivations in modules can be a double-edged sword -- either it doesn't fit for your group, and thus you as the DM have to change it to suit your players' campaign history... or it isn't included, leaving you -- as Thorf has pointed out -- grasping for possible motivations.

I think they did right in leaving the villains' motivations vague-- this allows the DM to tailor it to the history of his group. You can either substitute a current ongoing villain for the one(s) in the adventure, or introduce the module's villains early, building up to the confrontation in the source module.

However, if you're just playing the module as a one-shot, it does rather leave the DM up a creek. Perhaps a "session zero" to settle the players in to their heroes? (or to let them pick their pre-gens, and tinker with any included backstory). The DM may be able to either "seed" or "tease" out motivations for the villains over the course of character generation and quick history sketches.


One of the things I've done in working with the Chronicle's *ahem* borrowing of D&D adventures is to make the villains more than just cardboard cutouts, to be beaten so the PCs can get the loot. The damage they and the other villains inflict on the heroes is somewhat personal, giving the heroes ample reason to pursue the villains and ensure their defeat. The very fact that Bargle has cut a deal with a demon in exchange for powerful Old Magic only adds to his crimes of murder and kidnapping the girls from and around Threshold for dangerous magical experimentation....
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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by NPCDave » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:38 pm

Thorf, I raised these questions a few years ago in the Let's Read Mystara thread over on RPGNet, and Blacky the Blackball, author of the retro-clone Dark Dungeons, had a brilliant take on the motivations of the villains in CM2.

Quoting myself first...
The whole Atlantis instead of Alphatia mistake makes me wonder if the author, Garry Spiegle, got an earlier draft of CM1 on which to base his work, or if there were just miscommunications. Was Atlantis a working title for the new Empire of Alphatia until they chose a name, or was it originally Atlantis and they later decided to change it? What is also confusing, Wazor is a "personal emissary from the High Council of Mages of Atlantis". If that is the case why is Wazor unleashing an undead horde into Norworld, which is allied with Alphatia? The module mentions if the gate isn't shut that the undead will eventually threaten Thyatis, so that part makes sense. But was Norworld originally supposed to be a Thyatian vassal state instead? Or did the council of Alphatia disapprove of the empress' decision to have Ericall colonize Norworld? Or was Wazor acting beyond his mandate?

When the PCs face down Wazor, the intro text explains that Wazor will fight but will always make sure to escape safely if need be. It explicitly states "Make sure that the characters do not kill or capture Wazor." He has access to word of recall so this will likely happen, but then it tells us once he flees, he is out of the adventure.

So something else was planned as a follow up to this adventure, but unfortunately nothing came of it.
Blacky's take
Actually, I have a theory about Wazor.

You'll note at the beginning of the module that it's Ulslime who has set everything up, not Wazor. Ulslime is the one who has been contacted by the entities from the Sphere of Death and given the Deathstone. Wazor and Korbundar are just his mates along for the ride. Notice how it explicitly tells us that the other two don't know about Wazor's connection with the Atlantean council.

Now check out the bit in the castle where the PCs find out about the Hammer of Life - the item that can destroy the Deathstone. How do they find it out? From someone who's been Polymorphed - a magic-user spell. Then check out the bit in the village where the PCs look for the hammer. There are clues written on the wall about the location of its pieces - and the adventure says they were written by Wazor.

And given that Ulslime could have pretty much chosen anywhere in the world to open his portal, isn't it a bit of a coincidence that he opens it in the one place where there's a powerful item that can destroy the stone?

I think Wazor is acting on the orders of the Atlantean council to deliberately sabotage Ulslime's plan. He brought the hammer here (it's not just coincidence); made sure that it was mentioned in earshot of someone he could have simply killed but decided to polymorph instead so they'd be able to let adventurers know about it; and even provided clues so those adventurers would be able to find it.

When adventurers inevitably turn up to stop the plan he provides a token resistance, enough to not blow his cover, and then teleports out to "save himself".

So I don't think that Atlantis/Alphatia approves of the gate to the Sphere of Death being opened in Norwold, and I think that Wazor is acting on the instructions of that council to covertly sabotage Ulslime's plan by providing the means for a bunch of adventurers to stop it (which is a fairly safe bet - since most of the nobles in Norwold are known to be capable adventurers).
In answer to the question of why Wazor was involved at all...
Wazor was already an associate of Ulslime before this scheme started, so he was involved whether he wanted to be or not. In fact he was probably the one who grassed Ulslime up to the Alphatian council. Maybe he's always been secretly keeping the council up to date on Ulslime's schemes, or maybe this one was the final straw that made him dob him in. Who knows.

But if Wazor openly turned against his associate, he'd make an enemy of him (and probably Korbundar and the entities from the Sphere of Death). By secretly sabotaging the plan in the way he did, he has plausible deniability. He can commiserate with Ulslime later - if Ulslime survives - about the failure of the plan and how annoying it was to have had those adventurers turn up and stop them. Isn't that always the way? Oh well, maybe next time...
So this adventure is still begging for a follow up adventure, and Threshold Magazine is doing an Adventures and Campaigns issue in the future. Anyone want to collaborate on a sequel or follow up to CM2?

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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by ghendar » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:06 pm

CommanderCrud wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:16 pm
Funny. I tend to dislike newer modules, like all the book adventures for 5e, for the exact same reason. Too much detail!
A big difference between old school and new school.
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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by Mike » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:40 pm

I have not run CM2 so can't answer that question, but I feel your frustration.

This has been my experience with old modules too. Combat oriented modules like straight up dungeon crawls, or the pseudo-military campaign in B2 don't suffer as much because the objectives are straightforward and there is little or no backstory. It was the early steps toward adding backstory or a story-plot where the problem is most glaring. I recall B3 and X2 as egregious examples, with lots of opportunities to interact and no explanations for seemingly nonsensical facts or events.

I think back in the day we tended to let it slide because (a) we didn't know any better, and (b) our murder hobo players just killed everything before talking to it, so often the issue was moot. But more than once a player has stopped to ask why, or to read an unexplained inscription, or capture and interrogate an NPC, and I have had to throw up my hands and say I don't know... its in the module and not explained. Sometimes I can manage to improvise, but not always. Trying to detail everything in advance is a lot of work, especially if 90% of it will never be used. That's what I was supposed to be paying someone else to do, and if I'm going to do that it would be easier just to write my own adventure from scratch.

Generally what I do is treat the module as a loose outline, and improvise my own adventure within that framework. If you're trying to adhere to canonical details in the module that is harder, because you can't treat it so loosely. To a large degree, if players don't ask there is no need to explain. Still, I do try to come up with basic motives for each NPC so if I am asked, or the NPC has to make a decision about some deviation from the scripted plot, I have some basis for it.

My preferred approach for scripted adventures is to convert them into sandbox adventures. To do this, I identify or invent the reasons the plot moves the way it does, and then add those motivating reasons in the environment or background. This forces me to think through everything, and generally I rewrite the module content as crib-notes in the process. A flowchart of relationships, or or cause-and-effect is useful for running it. I'll typically rewrite or tweak NPCs and encounters at the same time. For me this process fills in the gaps and fits my preferred GM style better. It is always easier to write something I wrote than something someone else wrote, and I also find that (for me) the TSR module format is poorly-suited for finding information during play.

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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by Mike » Fri Jun 15, 2018 11:21 pm

I have not run CM2 or even looked closely at it until now. After a scan of CM1 and CM2, here are some thoughts. Perhaps they will spark some inspiration.

First, there are numerous conflicts between canon as presented in CM1 and DOTE. In CM1 we have an Alphatia which is more of a traditional empire, equal in power with Thyatis, and it is implied that Ericall would be the next emperor of Alphatia of not for his older brother. Oceansend appears to be more of a Heldannic city than a Thyatian colony. We also see a high level Glantrian cleric, which conflicts with GAZ3. In CM1 the Alphatian council is not limited to 1000 mages, it is a minimum of 1000 mages. My point is that these modules predated Mystara and some of the material is in conflict, at least in some points, so it is reasonable to alter material if appropriate to fit with later canon.

Also, in DOTE Ericall is described as an embarrassment and an ineffectual king, while CM1 presents him as a good-hearted (wise?) Duke Stefan type king, complete with a Black Eagle (Lernal the Swill) nemesis. Like Karameikos it is poorly controlled, little explored, and culturally divided.

Anyway, with that ouf of the way, here are some ideas for what could be going on in CM2, based on how I tend to interpret things:

* Wazor is trying to embarrass Ericall, giving the Council leverage to demand he be removed as king. Wazor is using Ulslime and Korbundar to give himself plausible deniability if the plot is discovered, and also profiting in the process. The plan is to demonstrate Ericall's lack of control over the territory, and make a fool of him as he tries to deal with it. In a best case scenario, undead overrun and destabilize the entire kingdom. Mages can then move in and clean it up and rule it properly. If really lucky, Eriadna could be so embarrassed at losing Norwold she is forced to abdicate.

* The wizards of Alphatia mostly ignore Ericall, using Norwold as a place to run experiments and schemes, or even seize portions of it. Wazor is chaotic so doesn't mind profiting from villainous deeds. Norwold is so large and so poorly controlled or even explored, it is a great place to build his own little kingdom. The petty fighters in charge of it cannot hope to stop him, and have no legal right to press a complaint against their betters; the Council would back his activities and claims, and even Eriadna dare not elevate the testimony of a fighter over that of a wizard.

* The Council is skeptical of Ericall and displeased with his results. Eriadna refuses to remove him, but the council got her to agree that if he fails a test, she will remove him. They have sent Wazor to accomplish this, without Ericall being aware. The test is carefully controlled per agreement with Eriadna, so the PCs are not saving Norwold, they are unwittingly saving Ericall.

* Norwold is jointly claimed and partly controlled by Thyatis (according to CM1, if not DOTE). The baron of Twolakes Vale is a Thyatian sympathizer who Ericall has tolerated (or may not even recognize) because he pays his taxes. The Council has decided he must be removed and Ulslime is to be his replacement, a proper spellcaster. This also removes the noxious Ulslime to a faraway place.

* Alphatia is a chaotic and decadent empire with a politically weak monarchy. (Weak in the sense of unruly and independently-minded nobles, who are not ruled by an iron fist.) Many of its nobility are addicted to zzonga, engrossed in personal pursuits, wasteful in spending, and supremely arrogant. If they can't be bothered to finally defeat Thyatis after taking all its land and conquering its capital city, they certainly care little for Norwold, inhabited as it is by a bunch of non-magical barbarians. Most of what does get done is because this or that wizard takes a personal interest in it, but the council is rarely united, and often internally conflicted. Wazor is an emissary of the council, but really he's the crony of a couple of council members. There are many such "emissaries" and they mostly represent the interests of a small subset of the council. Whether Wazor is working for himself or some higher ranking wizard, nobody really cares much what happens here. This could be his ticket to power and his own seat on the council, and the chance to make allies of Ulslime and Korbundar. Ericall does not dare interfere with the council or one of its representatives, forcing him to rely on adventurers to address the issue.

* Wazor has fallen under the influence of Chaos through his researches, and is acting in defiance of the council to further entropy and death. He uses his official connections to cover his tracks. He has selected Twolakes Vale for its remoteness, hoping that the evil unleashed will become unstoppable before it is discovered. If it fails, he will blame it all on Ulslime and escape back to Alphatia, but if it is successful he will become a dark lord or maybe even a lich, and with his chaotic might and his undead legions (and dragon allies) he will conquer Alphatia itself. He may be mad, but he has a plan. This option is cliched but classic.

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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by Cthulhudrew » Fri Jun 15, 2018 11:24 pm

The old school modules are definitely very light in terms of motivation, plot, and story in many cases. Even some of those that are considered the most "classic" I found a bit sketchy when I finally got to see them (the Slavers series notably, which I didn't read until much later in my D&D career and kind of shook my head at. A1, at any rate.)

On the other hand, I find there is definitely a fine line between the classic modules and some of the modules being put out currently (such as Paizo's APs). It almost seems as if they went from too little information to too much information. I think there is a good middle ground to settle into.
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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by ghendar » Sat Jun 16, 2018 12:14 am

Cthulhudrew wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 11:24 pm
On the other hand, I find there is definitely a fine line between the classic modules and some of the modules being put out currently (such as Paizo's APs). It almost seems as if they went from too little information to too much information. I think there is a good middle ground to settle into.
I agree. Modern adventures have gone too far in the other direction. Too much development is just as bad as not enough. Although, I'd rather have too little than too much. I can fill in the blanks but taking a highlighter to a module in order to find the wheat hidden among the voluminous chaff is really annoying and a lot of work.
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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by Thorf » Sat Jun 16, 2018 1:02 am

Thanks for the responses, everyone. There are some great ideas here.
Cthulhudrew wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 11:24 pm
The old school modules are definitely very light in terms of motivation, plot, and story in many cases. Even some of those that are considered the most "classic" I found a bit sketchy when I finally got to see them (the Slavers series notably, which I didn't read until much later in my D&D career and kind of shook my head at. A1, at any rate.)

On the other hand, I find there is definitely a fine line between the classic modules and some of the modules being put out currently (such as Paizo's APs). It almost seems as if they went from too little information to too much information. I think there is a good middle ground to settle into.
The thing that puzzled me is that CM2 does have quite a compelling story, and it's also a sandbox. So it has the hallmarks of a really good adventure. But it's strangely missing some things that I feel I would want to know if I ran the adventure — and I'm pretty sure this feeling would have been the same back in the 80s as it is now. It didn't even need a lot — just a few sentences would have cleared things up nicely. Instead it feels a bit random in what it provides, like the editors weren't proofing it with their DM caps on.

As Mike said above: "Trying to detail everything in advance is a lot of work, especially if 90% of it will never be used. That's what I was supposed to be paying someone else to do, and if I'm going to do that it would be easier just to write my own adventure from scratch." This is where I'm coming from, too.

If anything it perhaps has more setting information than the module needs, since it fully outlines the dominion using the Companion Set rules; obviously this was included as an example of those rules in action, but in terms of the adventure it's not really all that relevant.

Now, regarding 5th Edition adventures, I must confess that I find it hard to judge. The reason is that the Realms always puts me off. And I'm used to searching out and enjoying all the setting info in Mystara adventures, so this disconnect is doubly jolting for me. It basically means that any Realms detail feels like wasted space that I won't use. This is not a useful mindset, actually, and I wish I could get out of it, but so far it's not happening.

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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by LoZompatore » Mon Jun 18, 2018 1:31 am

Just in case here are my personal ideas about the whole matter :mrgreen: :

The easy theory: as stated in M1, M2 (and also in DotE I believe) there is some friction between Norwold Qeodhar and Metropolitan Alphatia, mostly due to Norwold not wishing to pay its share of taxes after the large investments the Alphatian Empire has done to develop Ericall's kingdom. So Wazor and his allies are sent to Norwold as a warning to intimidate king Ericall on the possible consequences of prolonged defiance towards the Alphatian Council by destroying one of his baronies.

The convoluted theory (I prefer this one :mrgreen: ): at the end of CM1 the crones of Krystakk speak the infamous sentence:

"Prepare to fight for Alphatia, if you want to keep your dominions. Alphatia, that is what they call it now, eh? Old as I am, I remember an earlier, more honest time, when an empire could be called by its true name. Know ye, lords, the secret name of those you serve? Know ye, lords, that you fight for the crown of Atlantis?"

Now I always found this sentence unclear, as the PCs are serving under the king of Norwold and the whole war is for the crown of Norwold, not for the crown of Alphatia. So, in my opinion, while the identification Atlantis = Alphatia is the most obvious one it could also be possible that actually Atlantis = Norwold.
Playing with the latter possibility then you could say that Wazor actually comes from a past age (before the Great Rain of Fire) where this part of the world was ruled by a magiocracy called Atlantis. Ulslime and Korbundar could be agents of Alphaks, instead, following the orders of the Black King and the Black Queen in Alphaks' Volcano.
Actually Wazor was tricked by Alphaks' minions to open the gate and re-establishing the empire of old. To add some tragic details it could be possible that all the undead people coming from the gate are actually the damned souls of the Atlanteans, which Alphaks promised to bring back to their homeland but which are nothing but a destructive horde. Wazor still sticks to the original plan in the hope to revert these undead souls to their original selves.
How Wazor came in the present time? He could have been hybernated / in magical stasis / etc. until he was awakened by Ulslime or he could have reached the present time through the Comeback Inn which is open and allowed some mixing of characters from both epochs (in the DA series it is mentioned that undercover agents of Blackmoor were sent in Glantri City and Darokin City through the Inn Between the Worlds).

Miscellanea:

The Deathstone can be destroyed only by the Hammer of Life and it is quite strange that both magical items are in the same place (albeit the Hammer of Life is divided into three parts). In order to explain this I'd say that the cleric that created the Hammer of Life came to the Twolakes Barony before the PCs following his quest to destroy the Deathstone but he was ambushed and slain by Wazor in the elder's hut of the village of Conna (see CM2 page 19), shortly before the arrival of the PCs. The magical item proved impossible to destroy but Wazor managed to split it into three parts, giving each part to a group of guardians to be moved away from the barony. The PCs arrive when the three groups are still inside the swamp and should be able to intercept all of them. The message written with the blood (of the slain cleric and the village elder) was left there by Wazor for his two companions.

The "close gate" scroll on page 21 has the seal of Atlantis on it. Oddly enough it can be recognised by the PCs only if they also took part of the events of CM1. This makes little sense if Atlantis = Alphatia, as the PCs should know very well the seal of Alphatia. Anyway, by keeping this theory, the scroll with the seal could represent a major evidence that the Empire of Alphatia is behind the Deathcloud (assuming that no clue about its originators was provided so far). This could pave the way to the open rebellion of Norwold of M2 module. If Atlantis = Norwold then the seal is just a way to stress Wazor's role in the opening of the gate.

Notice that on page 3 it is said that if left unattended, the Deathcloud will spawn undead (including opportunistic ones) until all Norwold and the "Empire of Thyatis" (possibly the area surrounding Norwold as per Mater Set map) are overtaken. If Atlantis = Alphatia then the Deathcloud might just be a way to get rid of rebellious Norwold and of the hated Thyatian enemy (albeit it is unclear how the Alphatian will handle the easternmost third of the continent of Brun when it will be filled with undead). If Atlantis = Norwold maybe the lands to be overtaken correspond to the extent of the ancient empire of Atlantis.

Hope you can get some inspiration by these!
;)

ripvanwormer
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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by ripvanwormer » Wed Jun 20, 2018 12:48 am

I imagine that the Temple of the Stars from CM2 was built by the same ancient race as the Temple of the Dawn from M5 Talons of Night: the Nithians, who constructed temples named after astronomical phenomena wherever they traveled. They should both clearly share architectural features with other Nithian ruins, and similarly named temples should be found elsewhere: a Temple of the Dusk, a Temple of the Moon, and so on, each perhaps linked by a forgotten network of portals if only the keys could be found, portals that once allowed the Nithian Empire at its height to access many other planes. Maybe there were twelve temples, each corresponding to one of the Twelve Hours the barge of Rathanos travels through in his journey through the netherworld each night, beginning at dusk and ending at dawn when it reemerges into the world of the living and resumes the sun's journey through the daylit sky. The Temple of the Stars fell under the sway of Thanatos cultists in the time of Nithia's corruption, and it is their secrets that Ulslime wishes to uncover. Perhaps the planar bleed of Pyts into Norwold is an unintentional result of his meddling into forces he didn't fully understand.

A campaign might involve the PCs recovering each Nithian temple and restoring the network of portals. Perhaps the portal in the Temple of the Stars could be restored to its original purpose rather than simply being closed, becoming a useful way to travel and trade rather than a threat to all life. Maybe that was Ulslime's original goal before he became swayed by the temptations of evil.

The plot of CM2 is superficially similar to the plot of the 4e adventure H1 Keep on the Shadowfell (link goes to PDF copy of the adventure hosted on the official Wizards of the Coast website). You could adapt ideas from H1 Keep on the Shadowfell to expand CM2, if you like.

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Sturm
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Re: Expanding CM2

Post by Sturm » Wed Jun 20, 2018 10:18 am

This idea about the temples is very interesting. I would be tempted to make them even more ancient, maybe Oltecs, or even re-utilized by several civilizations but dating back to the remote past of Mystara, maybe creations of dragons.

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