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Geography of a Crossover
BESM Dungeon as an adventure for the BESM edition of Grave of Heaven

Uresia: The Grave of Heaven is the middle sibling of three, part of a themed trio of fantasy releases for BESM. It's also a kind of odd-man-out, since the other two - BESM Fantasy Bestiary and BESM Dungeon - were designed to be directly compatible, but Uresia was written out of that particular loop, with its own quirks and character.

But of course, the three are still amigos, and it's natural to consider using them all together. I've already covered Fantasy Bestiary conversions in another article, and everything written there applies here, to my conversion notes for the final release of the trio: Dungeon.

This One's a Snap -

The title doesn't fib. BESM Dungeon has a lot of background and little anime touches decorating it, but in terms of the nitty-gritty, it's a lot of rooms with monsters in. That makes it something of a no-brainer for dropping into Uresia whole, should you like to.

There are really two approaches to inserting the Dungeon into the Grave of Heaven. The first is to take the entire adventure (including the Island Kingdom of Jessenia and the rest) and simply splash it down onto the Uresia map. Let the PCs arrive there by caravel, and get right down to playing. That's the “whole-cloth approach,” which I'll address a bit more below.

The second method is to take only the dungeon portions of BESM Dungeon, and - instead of putting Jessenia on the map - putting the dungeon in an established Uresian kingdom. For a number of reasons, Temphis is the ideal location for the dungeon, and I'll explore that as the “surgical approach.”

No matter what you do, toss in a few Slime combat encounters. You gotta have some slimes. Mad Digger Slimes and Swarming Bandit Slimes frequently raid in tandem, in the subterranean ruins of Temphis.

The Goddess Lysandra

There's one significant hurdle to be jumped (or suavely sidestepped) when adapting to Uresia: The events of BESM Dungeon depend entirely on a real and potent Goddess of the Moon. Furthermore, Lysandra “protects her followers from evil” and protects sailors from shipwrecks. That makes her something that doesn't fit well into Uresia, which has no “good guy” or “bad guy” deities among its four surviving divine presences. It also makes her a direct rival to the authority of one of them - the Sea Dragon - who's awfully fond of shipwrecks.

Lysandra and the Silver Acolytes are essential to BESM Dungeon, though. There are, broadly speaking, three ways to include them:

  • Lysandra isn't Divine: The cult of Lysandra is real enough, and they've tapped into some kind of powerful magic - but it isn't a goddess. Lysandra may even be a human or Elf sorceress, pulling the silvery wool over the eyes of a lot of dupes, possibly using the power of a pre-Skyfall artifact. When using this approach, just keep in mind that references to Lysandra's divinity (and other members of her pantheon, like Moloch) are frauds - but they're real and powerful frauds. If the PCs destroy Valkyrion Dragonlord and thus “lift the curse” of the temple, they find clues that lead them further into the question of Lysandra and her source of power.
  • Lysandra isn't Good: In this version, Lysandra is a mostly-forgotten but real goddess. She survived the Skyfall, and dwells in her broken and ruined palace on the moon. Only a handful on Uresia - her dedicated cult - remembers her or believes she still exists. Moloch and the others in her pantheon are dead; the legends regarding them are twisted fragments of pre-Skyfall lore. Lysandra isn't good, though perhaps she once was. She doesn't protect anyone or anything except her devoted followers, and if they choose to think that means “protecting them from evil,” that's fine. She's half-mad (it's lunacy, of course), and most of her influence on Uresia has more to do with the will of those who draw on her power, than her exercising it willfully.
  • Lysandra is Just What She Seems: Turns out there's a Moon Goddess in Uresia after all! In quite a few Uresia campaigns, it really won't matter much. The Sea Dragon can just lump it and deal.

In any event, there's no particular need to alter Alrinach the Corruptor. Just assume that he's one of those demons that live up to the naughty-demon stereotype.

Things that Go Crunch

The new rules material in BESM Dungeon - stuff like Fine Craftsmanship for weapons and armor, Cheesecake and Evil armor, and concepts like power-leveling, might be added to any Uresia campaign to good benefit. The same goes for the handy collection of fantasy character-building templates, which make nice additions to those we've already got in Grave of Heaven (see my comments on the Fantasy Bestiary as well).

The currency and language material is specific to the world Jessenia normally exists in, but, if you're using the whole-cloth approach, those things will still apply when characters sail to Jessenia.

Coinage & Exchange Rates

The monetary treasure in BESM Dungeon has values listed in Jessenian currency. This is a very different standard from Uresia's money (described on page 43 of Grave of Heaven). In game-rules terms, the biggest difference is Uresia assumes that (as per BESM) the relationship between Major and Minor equipment is nonlinear and based on dramatic impact and real-game utility. BESM Dungeon introduces the idea that the 4:1 tradeoff between Major and Minor items maps literally to a 4:1 cash value.

The two notions reflect different approaches to gameplay. In a fantasy campaign where accurate monetary bookkeeping is introduced as a crucial element, the BESM Dungeon approach is the right one. In a game drifting closer to the usual BESM approach where money is just story-gloss, the Uresia standard for money as Personal Gear is the way to go. If applying the Uresia approach to a Dungeon campaign, allow 300 gold coins as a Major Item, instead of 100. If applying the Dungeon approach to a Uresia campaign, allow 8 Rinden Omens as a Major Item, instead of 24.

Either way, the easiest way to include money when running the Dungeon in Uresia is to use the Dungeon values as listed until the conclusion of the adventure. Once Valkyrion is defeated and Kedi is dealt with and so on, just pick an approach to determine how heavy the moneychanger's thumb is on his scale:

  • Money is Just a Montage (BESM & Uresia standard): The PCs get a really cool montage where they have tables sagging under the weight of a feast, there are conga lines, and everyone's face gets redder and more hastily-scribbled as each frame passes, to show how drunk they're getting. Then, fade to the scene of hangovers.
  • Only Big Money Matters (Uresia Option): As above. Plus, convert all the monetary loot to a value in BESM Dungeon silver coins. Divide by 50 to get the final value in Rinden gold Omens. Round to the nearest value you like the look of.
  • The Bling is the Thing (Dungeon Option): Convert each of the three currencies (or values expressed in them) separately. Divide Jessenian copper by 8.333 to get Rinden Guilders; divide Jessenian silver by 4.166 to get Rinden silver Chains; divide Jessenian gold by 12.5 to get Rinden gold Omens.

Of course, most of the magical treasure needs no translation at all. BESM Dungeon features quite a trove of useful and interesting Items of Power that will enhance any Uresia game they appear in.

The Whole-Cloth Approach

This is simplest. Drop Jessenia into Uresia, whole. Just assume that the backdrop of BESM Dungeon describes matters of historical interest only on the local level, and - once you've decided the truth about Lysandra - just roll up your sleeves, jot some cheat-sheet notes, and get to delving. See “The Things that Go Crunch,” below, for notes on rules and treasure items.

The only question when taking this approach is: just where the heck is Jessenia on the map?

Dungeon describes Jessenia as “about the size of Ireland,” which makes it larger than Dreed but smaller than Orgalt. The kingdom closest to Ireland's size in Uresia is probably Winnow (the larger of the Boru islands is also pretty close). That makes Jessenia a bit too large to squeak onto the map unnoticed, but since Jessenia's size doesn't have much bearing on the events in BESM Dungeon, it would be easy enough to declare a slightly smaller island as appropriate for the role. The unlabeled island between Celar and Helt might serve (in which case the “New Kingdom” said to be to the south would be the Rindenland), as would the unlabeled land southeast of Sindra and southwest of Laöch (the “New Kingdom” becomes a reference to either Temphis or Koval).

Alternately, just ignore the question of placement by having the PCs arrive at Jessenia in a storm and then leave the same way -

The Surgical Approach

If you'd like to spend a little more time blending the story of the Temple of Lysandra with Uresia's background, that can be a fun exercise to while away the hours. I haven't done all the work for you, but here's a good start on surgically removing the dungeon from Jessenia and transplanting it to Temphis, instead.

Grand Duke Borcha III (“ruler” of Temphis circa 1320, when the curse fell on the lighthouse) had no less than 19 legitimate daughters, most of them regarded as “smoking” by consensus of the knights at court. Melantha might easily have been one of them. He was also just cracked in the head enough (and enough of a control freak) to use a lad's half-Elven heritage as a transparent excuse to send one of his daughters off to join a moon cult.

Temphis itself is a cultural hodge-podge with only minimal rhyme or reason, since it's an “accursed” land more recently colonized than the other kingdoms, and because it's geographically central. That makes it more similar to the mélange implied for Jessenia than any other Uresian land save possibly Sindra. Most of the geographical references can be inserted without too much change. The lighthouse isn't on a separate island; it's just along the very rocky coast west of Sword Mountain, where shipwrecks have long been a problem and where the Temphisian highlands only grudgingly give way to the sea (unless the Sea Dragon has her way someday; see page 74-75 of Uresia).

King Suthri of the Bright Hills becomes Duke Ropha VIII of the Duchy of Storms - that makes the Valkyrion issue as pivotal as the GM likes in helping establish the current shape of Temphisian rulership (Ropha won the title of Grand Duke from Borcha decades ago, and his son, Ropha IX, is the present Grand Duke).

The Knights of the Moon (page 105 of Uresia) may have ties to the Lysandra cult, as the GM likes. Certainly, if any PCs are Knights of the Moon, or associated with them, the temptation would be difficult to resist.

The Great Oak Swamp might be placed anywhere along the southern edge of western Temphis (north of those regions, things grow too mountainous to have many big marshes). Gallows Way can be penciled in without fuss. Noah's bay, the forest of Petra and so on can easily be nudged in without trouble.

BESM Dungeon alludes to many places and events (especially events) that have no real bearing on the adventure (things like the Great Plague and the Great Fire that contributed to the ruination of Black Harbour). These may be safely ignored, or developed as Uresia history, as the whimsy and free time of the Game Master dictate.

The Spider Ninja Clan belongs not only in Uresia but (I daresay) every BESM campaign, ever. Best paragraph in BESM Dungeon.

By S. John Ross, Copyright © 2004


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