X12: Skarda's Mirror
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Make sure your rose-tinted glasses are on nice and tight, and prepare for a lovely walk down nostalgia lane.
X12: Skarda's Mirror is Aaron Allston's trope-subversion, in this case the mischief you can get up to with a Bag of Holding. Here, it's a Mirror of Life Trapping, but you know - same thing.
As the X- tag implies, Allston intended this for Frank Mentzer's Expert Set, levels 5-8.
|This article contains spoilers! You have been warned.|
Backstory (there's a lot of it)
A long time ago in some place far away some now-deceased demigod cooked up a pocket-dimension. (X12 is post-Masters Set so: an Immortal.) Most of the plane's native surface is a strange rock that's a perfect mirror regardless of cut, yet has the friction of concrete. There's another substance, a clear rock that looks like Onyx and is suitable for building. We assumed, overall, a particularly reflective part of Elemental Earth; once 3e mooted the Plane of Mirrors, that was suggested as an alternative. Either way the plane blocks summoning of fire and earth elementals; and the spell Mirror Image is enhanced. And there's light. Water, too - take notes, reader.
The Immortal built up seven portals to get at it, in the form of mirrors. We're unsure on details, except that His pronoun was "He", that He was Sphere of Thought, and that His last thoughts were of world-conquering "mortal dictators". As time went by, six of the mirrors went the way of most Tollers' palantirs. The seventh mirror, somehow, either wasn't lost or else it was re-found. It was believed to be a Life Trapper until "twenty years ago", when some wandering magic-user named Mallek stumbled in there himself.
Mallek wasn't a high level wizard at the time, and although his INT was high his CHA was, at most, 15 (it's 15 now), and his WIS was probably about the same 13 it is now. Whichever statistic/s his DM used to tot up bonuses for Will: when the vestige of this Immortal's last violent thoughts hit him, his brain broke. Mallek rebuilt his psyche upon those thoughts: he would henceforth be SKARDA, the REAVER. Unfortunately for everyone else, this newly-minted megalomaniac subsequently also discovered a way out. He's spent the decades kidnapping slaves from Mystara, doing hydroponics for food in situ, and (after discovering all that onyx) quarrying the ambient mirrorey rock. This entire demiplane is, now, approaching a cubic mile in size. Skarda to start his conquests in this world has recently figured upon the Duchy of Karameikos.
Two years ago, the fighter Retameron and the mage Halia, from the hamlet Verge not far south of ole fabled Threshold, scotched Mallek-Skarda's cunning plan and covered up the Mirror. But recently those two heroes fucked up and uncovered it again, allowing Skarda to send forth Mirror Fiends to grabble them into the mirror-world.
Skarda (now 11th level) is somewhat desperate at this point because all that quarrying and other messing-about has upset the demiplane's balance. We're unsure if the mirror-world hosts a direct link to Elemental Water but, the dihydrogen-monoxide does come in, one way or another, and it ain't draining out. Or at least Skarda hasn't hit on such a method yet.
Teranon and Andrya deliver the above expo to the party, begging them to come to Retameron's tower at the Verge. It is now abandoned except for monsters who've entered from outside or else escaped from Halia's lab. No Mirror in here; in Skardiat Russia, you are in Mirror! ... and so it happens that this asshole finds you snooping around and takes you "Through The Looking-Glass" (actual title of "Episode Two") into "Episode Three".
"Episode Two" isn't really an episode so much as a mini-gazetteer: describing the slave-quarters, the hydroponics, even a gladiatorial arena. Skarda also owns a palace - but Allston doesn't want you in there (reasonably, because the slaves just want out and Skarda is off doing evil in Karameikos), so there's no map of that.
Overall the mirror-world is Skarda's very own magical realm with no less than 5000 slaves, whom this bastard has penned up in that Slaves' Quarter which they call "Hell". In Episode Three the party frees itself from the dungeon; Episode Four is about freeing the slaves. Allston here allows much leeway to the party on how they might be able to do either. The slaves want to get out through the portals.
And they better git-'er-dun soon because, the balance is broken here, causing earthquake and flood.
The last Episode concerns Skarda's hit on the Duke, currently at a hunting-lodge. Which is now being overrun with thousands of newly-freed-men and various soldiers following various banners. When Skarda is confronted, and killed - his Mirror breaks, releasing everything except mirror-stuff and water onto the Duke's lodge. Which should include Skarda's treasure from the Palace, which is 15000 gp plus twelve works of art. Including portraits of women. Oh we didn't know you had it in you, you dog.
Take a note Ed Greenwood; this is how you clean up after yourself.
This module, apart from being awesome in of itself, might well be one of the most-influential modules you haven't heard of. Its theme of a "bag of heavy capacity" that is actually a habitable demiplane becomes a Big Deal in Knights Of The Dinner Table. It also inspired the Plane of Mirrors, on the assumption that any mirror might lead into something like this.