East of the city of Mutina, described in the recent IT03 “Dead Skin Masks,” lies the rival Guelph papal city of Bononia. A cultural center and of tremendous economic importance due to valuable technological innovations that enable its water mills to produce the most splendid silk fabrics in the Empire. But in addition to trade, Bononia is the closest Guelph outpost to the Empire, and is home to the splendid monastery dedicated to St. Petronius, with its splendid basilica. Having survived the nightmarish Second Era, Bononia has inherited centuries of tunnels, cells and dungeons where monks have guarded every plant and animal form, magical or otherwise, since its foundation that is lost in the mists of time.
No one knows when the classification and custody of creatures began under Bononia, except that its passageways were already ancient in the days of the ancient Etruscans, now turned into a blind and chthonic populace, inextricably linked with the depths and death. Even them, Roman chroniclers say, wondered how far they stretched, or who had created the first mazes. With the arrival of the Second Era, Roman legions of vigiles and custodes were stationed to guard these labyrinths in which nobles and senators had the oddest beasts gathered from the furthest reaches of the empire incarcerated. Even back then, physicians and scholars gathered in Bononia to record observations and more or less invasive studies of the phenomena. With Constantine’s declaration, creatures mutated by the light of the Lord began to join this vast array of oddities: renegades, heretics, and blasphemous pagans whose bodies had not accepted the gift of Faith. With the arrival of the Second Age, the age without Empire, all trace of this complex was lost. Bononia became a waterlogged ruin inhabited by unscriptural tribesmen. At its center, the monastery and basilica guarded the knowledge of reading and learning surrounded by barbarians and shapeless dark creatures. For time immemorial the world seemed lost, but still the tribes of the lost lands carried more creatures of incredible shapes to the monks and scholars who had access to the complex. Few fragments remain of the writings of this period, many cryptic and often meaningless, the product of minds where wisdom seemed lost in a cosmic realm of timeless stars and formless gods of Chaos.
With the advent of the Order of the Second Imperium and the beginning of the Fourth Age, Man regained the land of his ancestors. A great university of naturalistic studies, law, and philosophy expanded from the core of the monastery to become a town within the city, a huge complex of libraries, palaces of learning, and enormous silent rooms where scribes could copy the texts of the forefathers of the First Imperium, and try to decipher what they could of the time that followed. Unfortunately, the great floodings the storms and earthquakes of the Age Without Empire didn’t spare even the underground caverns and tunnels beneath Bononia. Even today, it is not possible to know how far into the depths one can go.
Three monastic orders were established by Charlemagne himself to oversee the huge complex. The archivist monks, of Benedictine rule, the Order of the Ophanim Sphere, normally known also as the Order of the Many-Eyed Ring, detain a millennia-old treasure of maps and scholarship. The greatest of these, Magister Ulisse Aldrovandi, compiled the largest known encyclopedia on the subject to date. Now four hundred years old, Aldrovandi is an archmage and polymath of great power, able to transform organic matter into any and every form. Magister Luca Ghini, another great magician and researcher, has distilled knowledge into texts that bring light to the world of plants and insects.
The other two orders are belligerent: the first are the guardian monks of the Order of the Guardians of St. Michael, whose symbol is a key, vowed to Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and Protection of the Faithful and Defense of the Faith. This warrior order is settled in St. Petronius and has complete mastery of the keys to the shutters, gates and sluices to flood conduits and underground operating areas. The last order, the Order of the Black Cross, is in charge of hunting and retrieving escaped creatures from the complex. Ruthless, accustomed to acting solo as unyielding monster hunters, the Knights of the Black Cross are tireless and often possess abilities beyond the realm of human.
Aberrations of the Bottomless Crypts is not only a scenario but also the first supplement to Of Iron & Thorns that describes a specific location in its general operation, administration, and day-to-day management in the territory of the Church State. Along with a brief description of the monastery and megadungeon, and its main characters, it includes a scenario for setting a quick adventure within one of the areas lost during the Night of Screams. The characters will follow the monastics on their quest to regain control of a particularly critical area that could result in the deaths of many innocent people. What would happen if the creatures swarmed into the dense streets of Bononia?
A system-neutral adventure (level 3-4th level characters for 5E), set in the dark new world of Of Iron & Thorns. Rules for adapting the adventure to the upcoming rule system will be released in the future.