It's been a couple years since I worked on Azag Mozu, but with hectic summer schedules it can be tough to get a whole group together consistently, and it's good to have a side-campaign in your back pocket for those game days when not everyone can make it but you still want to roll some dice. So here's the introduction to the Megadungeon (it fits on two side of a single sheet of paper) to hopefully give a lot of info in a short period of time. In contrast to the somewhat baroque dark fantasy of my Forgotten Halls mega, Azag Mozu is more a mix of Mesopotamian / Assyrian / Hyperborean / Cthulu influences.
A thousand years ago, the gods of Atheon began dying, one by one. Once twenty-one in number, only eight remained by the time the rest figured out what was happening. One of their number, Mozu, the Lord of Shadows, had been murdering the rest and assuming their power.
The remaining Seven gods moved swiftly against Mozu, but the renegade god had already consolidated his power. From his great city of Abydo, he ruled supreme over the teeming masses of those who worshipped him. Mozu offered his followers something none of the other gods would: Immortality. The war between Mozu and the remaining Seven would not be easily won.
The war raged for a century and more. During this period of savagery, two great heroes arose: Skallos, a warrior with unmatched swordsmanship, and Rehgedis, a wizard of incredible power and subtlety. Rehgedis drew upon the power of the Seven, freely given, to craft the Sword of Heaven. With it, Skallos challenged Ghorzirex the Iron Drake, chief of Mozu’s servants, at the gates of the Palace of Shadows. The defeat of Ghorzirex galvanized the forces of the Seven, and they sacked Abydo, razing the city to the ground, and pursuing the forces of Mozu deep into his subterranean palace.
Somewhere in the depths of the earth, the Seven at last faced Mozu, and vanquished him, chaining him for all time within a sorcerous Obsidian Prison. The left him behind, sealing the Palace behind them, and bade their followers dispel all memory of the location of Abydo and its dark palace.
The Tale of Sulla
In the massive trade city of Xathay, no Merchant Prince was so wealthy or powerful as Sulla Haithet. Sulla had built a massive network of shipping and caravans that trailed from the barbarian stronghold of Tresteign in the impenetrable forests of the north, to the mysterious city of Lashtuun-Ix in the steaming jungles of the unknowable south. Sulla easily secured a seat upon Xathay’s ruling Council of Thirteen, and there he sat.
For eighty years.
His rivals were growing impatient. Not only did Sulla refuse to wither and die as all men must, he looked and acted as hale and energetic as he was, at age fifty, when he first took his seat. Many whispered of witchcrafts, of bargains made with demons, and of dark rituals performed in the blood of innocents. Before long, the Inquisitors of Sinma, Lord of the Sun, slapped Sulla in chains and dragged him off to the holy city of Uthar to confess his crimes.
But no matter how painful his trials beneath the ministrations of the Inquisitors, Sulla never wavered that he had not consorted with witches or devils or any such thing. But he did have a secret. Sulla soon spilled out a tale of how he had acquired, early in his career, a map purporting to lead to long-forgotten Abydo. He gathered an expedition consisting of the most renowned mercenaries and sorcerers he could find, and plumbed the depths of the Azag Mozu, the Palace of Shadows.
According to Sulla, they fought great horrors in the depths of that dark place, but also found great treasures that he would use to found his trading empire. And he also spoke of the Black Gates: to pass beyond them was to receive the Gift of Mozu, Immortality. Of course, the Inquistors scoffed at his tale, and Sulla was dragged from his prison at sunrise one morning, and burned to death upon a pyre.
A Legend Persists
Sulla’s wild claims soon made their way, as all rumors of treasure must, into the whispers of taverns, and thieves’ guilds, and treasure hunters of all stripe. And what aging man, wealthy and covetous of extending the short life given him by the gods, did not dream of attaining immortality?
Expeditions to the Azar Mountains in search of the ruins of Abydo began apace, and soon tales of ruin and success alike began to work their way back to the cities of Atheon.
Now you, yourself, have been extended an invitation to set out with a number of your peers on an expedition financed by Naracen Gyle, a famed merchant of rare antiquities. Your compatriots assure you Gyle’s sources are good, that he does in fact know the way to lost Abydo. He even purports to have firsthand reports of what lies within Azag Mozu, the great iron skeleton of Ghorzirex, the Weeping Shrine of the Goddess Yllala, and the vast Lake Below. It is said that the Palace is not entirely of this world, but a place where the Underworld overlaps and bleed into our own world, and to sleep within the Halls of Azag Mozu is to invite Madness. But treasure is still plentiful and ripe for the taking for any adventurer clever enough and strong enough to defeat the guardians that still lurk within the maze of chambers and caverns.
Atheon is a land of deserts interspersed with fertile river valleys. Many great cities dot the flood plains, and feature massive step pyramids, gleaming palaces, and mazelike bazaars. It is a Theocracy, ruled by the seven high priests of the Seven Gods of Atheon. Atheon follows a rigid caste system where nobles and priests are at the top, craftsmen, merchants, landowners, scholars, and soldiers are in the middle, and slaves, foreigners, mercenaries, sorcerers, and menials make up the bottommost tier.
To the north is Sea of Megea and further still a land of dark forests, black mountains, and barbarians. To the south is an unbroken chain of active volcanoes, and beyond that a land of savage jungles and exotic cities.
There are no true seasons in Atheon. It is hot during the day and freezing cold at night. Calendars in Atheon are based on their lifeblood: the flood and fall of the rivers.