Three Maidens of Bingen
Author(s): Joseph M. Isenberg
Setting: 2nd Century AD, Moguntiacum Germania along the Rhein River
Appears in: Horror Stories From The Red Room
An adventure for the Invictus setting of Call of Cthulhu, the investigators must travel along the Rhein River, from Mainz to Bingen, to discover what exactly is blocking river shipping, a disruption that is being blamed on river pirates and restless German tribes and which threatens to reduce the province to starvation or even full-blown frontier war.
Spoilers - Keepers Eyes Only
Players should not read any further.
An adventure for the Invictus setting of Call of Cthulhu, this scenario caters for an average sized group of investigators who must travel along the Rhein River, from Mainz to Bingen, to discover what exactly is blocking river shipping, a disruption that is being blamed on river pirates and restless German tribes and which threatens to reduce the province to starvation or even full-blown frontier war. While the Roman leadership in Moguntiacum suspects that a band of river pirates, or an enterprising Germanic leader, is seizing ships and blocking the river at a narrow point, the truth of the matter is that a Roman engineering work has unleashed some terrible Mythos entities to prey upon the locals.
The scenario itself is far longer than the plot demands, but in short, three Deep Ones (the "maidens") were long ago banished to a river island, where recent Roman construction of a lighthouse has broken into the Maidens' prison; they now disrupt shipping, sink boats, and eat sailors. The investigators should be able to easily follow the vaguely railroady clues from local folklore to find the "maidens" hiding under the lighthouse tower on the island, and dispatch them in any of a handful of direct ways (violence, bargaining, etc.)
- Map of Germania Superior
- Handout 1: Request for Help
- Handout 2: Extracts from Pliny’s Natural History
- Handout 3: Extract from The Divine Claudius’ Carthaginian History and Language
- Map of Region of Bingium
- Handout 4: Extract from The Odyssey
- Handout 5: Diary of Terentius
- Map: The Tower on Mouse Island
Locations: Germania Superior, Moguntiacum, Mainz, and Bingium, 2nd Century AD
Tomes and Artifacts:
- Gold Crown (nothing special about it beyond prompting adventures)
Campaigns / Scenarios: Invictus
List dedication, trivia, images, anything else of note.
- "Mouse Island" and its tower are a real location in Germany, and the scenario was inspired by a visit to the site. Some archaeologists think the tower might possibly have Roman foundations, or maybe not. If not, it certainly has medieval foundations, because an archbishop of Mainz, noted for his cruelty, was eaten alive there by a plague of mice. The second inspiration for the scenario was from Wagner's Rhinemaidens, who may have been located in the area.*
Comments to Keepers about this scenario; Possibly how to run it successfully. Keep general DISCUSSION on the talk page.
Setting: The scenario includes detailed notes for adjusting the exact time and place in Roman history. There's really no reason this basic scenario couldn't easily be adjusted to suit any frontier setting up to the 20th century (a Dark Ages, Weird West, or colonial/imperial era setting such as in Africa or China or along the Amazon river would all work equally well as Invictus; any ancient settings such as Sumeria or Mesopotamia or Egypt should work just as well; Japan or pre-Columbian America should also work as a nice alternative. All that's needed is a setting with a frontier location where a team of investigators might be ordered/hired to investigate mysterious vanishings and ship raids to set the actual scenario up.
- This scenario doesn't seem to be bad, but it does lack any subtlety or surprises, and it does take a few pages to finally get started. The details of the scenario are solid, if direct and unsurprising (it's basically a monster-of-the-week "bug-hunt" with no real plot twists); if not for the lack of any sense of cosmic horror, this might be a fine (though fairly paint-by-numbers) introductory scenario for a new group of players.
- Most keepers can probably read the first couple paragraphs, then skip through to the first page with a map on it, and not miss very much, except painstaking notes on changing the setting or plot hooks to suit the party; most of the rest of the adventure can probably be skimmed to get the relevant points: there are no real plot twists or complications, and the scenario's first paragraph plus the handouts/maps/illustrations and the stat blocks at the end of the scenario provide just about all the information needed to run this scenario.
- Interestingly, the Three Maidens are actually fleshed out as individual characters with different personalities - a nice touch, and possibly a first, especially for an otherwise generic Deep One scenario. Experienced and creative keepers may get the most enjoyment out of adjusting the scenario to give each of the Three a chance for the investigators to talk to her alone, as well as in a group, so that the conflicting personalities and unique motives and berzerk-buttons can come into play while the investigators try to convince all the monsters to do something they might not all want to do to resolve the scenario peacefully.
- In that spirit, perhaps a keeper could alter the default scenario so that the Three Maidens, once freed, parted ways: one stays on the island to lure ships to a siren-like doom; the second hangs out near a German village on one river bank near the island to lure lonely male travelers to their doom; the third sees her escape from entombment as a second chance at life and is now trying to live a peaceful life as a recluse in an abandoned cottage on the opposite river bank; persuasive investigators might work with the most peaceful Maiden to convince all three to leave the province in peace or to all abandon lives of violence and destruction, while more rash investigators may botch the job by attacking one maiden and end up fighting all three....
Dependence on Halloween: Unlike most other scenarios in the monograph series this scenario came from, there are no references at all to Halloween in this scenario.
Sequel Plot Hooks: Really there's nothing here that demands further exploration, as-written, but the scenario does suggest that the Deep Ones or Three Maidens may return in future scenarios if the investigators do not completely eliminate them, and also includes some (not particularly exciting) hints at ways to introduce side-plots involving Nyarlathotep and Shub-Niggurath and a couple NPCs that the scenario offers as candidates for recurring characters for future adventures. The maps could be an excellent resource for building a campaign around this area, though the town and surrounding countryside are a relative blank slate with few hints provided for adventures to fill the area with.