The existence of the Lighthouse is a secret to players, but they may eventually discover its location and inhabitants.
How would you use the Lighthose in a Campaign?
I ran across this thread on the Piazza & let me give you a bit of background on the 'why' of things. I've been doing research combing through forums & going over my Mystara & Greyhawk box sets. Most of this has been an attempt to put together shadow passages between the various dungeons of Mystara & Greyhawk. Not simply T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil by Gary Gygax & Frank Mentzer.
Are the connections between Mystara & Greyhawk deeper then most players realize?! I think so & poster Argentmantle goes into a very interesting background for the Lighthouse in his own campaign;
The second example is a bit hairier. The Lighthouse was used as the repository for vast amounts of knowledge... and like the Vatican, its vaults were chock full of things that were best left locked away. The characters were working for a patron who was (unknowingly) under the influence of Thanatos. They were researching a way to remove the Nithian towers. So, over the course of the campaign, they researched bits and pieces of lore. They eventually stored the Regalia of Evil, which allowed the entropic effects to twist the people of the Lighthouse, there. The final showdown took place in the 'catacomb' like storage vaults of the Lighthouse... a merry chase across the land and eventually a final showdown at the Tower of Soth. In the end, the characters had delivered the Regalia of Evil to the Tower of Soth and one of the Burrowers awakened."
That regalia he's talking about is the 'Regalia of Might' or 'Evil' which goes all of the way back to Eldritch Wizardry in 1976. They would be further developed in AD&D second edition's Book of Artifacts. These are powerful artifacts & are only a sample of the type of items found in the lighthouse.
Poster Argentmantle goes on to further define his own campaign setting use of the lighthouse, the 'regalia', & the lighthouse as campaign adventure setting ; "The Tower of Soth is one of the Burrowers that was trapped by the Spell of Preservation.
I personally used the idea that the architecture was a mixture of Egyptian (i.e. Nithian) and organic style. It was twisted but recognizable. Until the party reached the inner sanctums of the place, it was a normal building with details that were just wrong. Like the room seemed to have a recognizable 'pulse' just out of conscious hearing. Or that a hallway had a capillary effect, organically moving just a bit... enough to feel 'wrong' but not enough to scream about. As they got nearer the 'core' the level of wrong increased until the party was walking through the circulatory system of a large wormy thing.
The Nithian hieroglyphs were also a neat way to play things up. We used a cheap book that someone got at a used bookstore as the guideline. This way I could make the players have to do some work as well. The outer rooms were filled with hieroglyphs that were recognizable and meaningful, speaking of warnings, ancient hidden things, shadows in the night... but as they moved deeper into the place, they discovered that the hieroglyphs no longer meant anything and were becoming just a collage of twisted images. In the final antechambers, the walls were just adorned gross and twisted imagery.
As they brought the artifacts into the Burrower's tomb, the place began to seethe with life. Like something very old and very terrible was waking up. Unluckily, the players didn't quite get the message until they had brought the Regalia into the 'heart' of the tower. The players thought they would confront a powerful Nithian mummy or Pharoah, maybe even the agent or invested mortal form of Thanatos himself. The problem was they had fully reawakened the thing and it had started to be alive again.
I explained the situation, that they were literally inside of the monster that they weren't supposed to be in... they had awakened it fully. And it really should have digested them at this point. The reason the party ended up as worm food was because a Wizard and Priest didn't get along in character... and didn't share the pieces of information that when together gave the missing pieces of the puzzle. I applauded my players for sticking to their roleplaying... shook my head and started polling for information for the next campaign.
I like a building sense of dread and fear and than a climax of heinous evil. Basically, there is a lot of foreboding along the way, corruption, twisting, and than the truly evil stuff kicks in. When dealing with things like the Burrowers or Entropic Immortals or Evil Gods, I believe that these incarnates of evil are palpably so. I think I read too much Lovecraft and CAS for it not to be that way.
Now, onto the Regalia of Evil...
The Regalia of Evil is a trio of Evil (notice the capital E), artifacts. They consist of a crown, orb, and rod. I modified these slightly to appear like a ankh, rod, and double crown of Nithia. The party collected them with the idea of keeping them out of the clutches of Evil minions, but in truth were delivering them to a more powerful, more subtle evil that was working at the Lighthouse. Them strong nature of these things corrupted some of the staff of the Lighthouse who were involved in the running battle through the lower levels. Then the party chased the villain. They made it to the Tower... defeated him on the doorstep then carried the artifacts into the tower.
The real question is does Greyhawk also have a lighthouse as well? These entropic aligned Immortals might also be connected with their other planarly counterparts. Are these lighthouses spread across the planes as a sort of storehouse for both knowledge, magic, dangerous artifacts & more? The 'Regalia of Evil' are indicative of the sort of artifacts that we see in Greyhawk lore. These artifacts first appeared in Eldritch Wizardry in 1979 & played a role in several D&D & AD&D products over the years. They are certainly not to be taken lightly & Greyhawk's mythology is peppered with them. In fact I recalled a recent blog post from the Greyhawkery blog titled 'Infinity War and Greyhawk' from May fifth of last year.
It up points the type of world & history shattering effect that artifacts can have on a campaign. So could these lighthouses actually be locations of cooperation between the gods & the Immortals? Certain factions of godly power studying, examining, & planning to foul the plans of the followers of Entropy across the planes?!
The answer might be a resounding yes because they came from a time when the planes were truly threatened in a epic level war against Entropy itself. This means that these lighthouses might be peppered across the planes in various old school & OSR settings. This also means that the 'lighthouses' that have been abandoned for a very long time might be some of the most dangerous dungeons that player's PC's can come across.
This goes right back to the 1979 Original Dungeons & Dragons book 'Eldritch Wizard' many of the artifacts in that book specify a conflict or many battles that these artifacts had seen action in. Not only are these artifacts vital to the historical mythology of Greyhawk & Mystara but to very nature of the planes.
On Friday I spoke with DM Steve whose running a world hopping campaign in which the lighthouses play a major factor & he's using Bloat Games's SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City rules. He's been watching their latest kickstarter for SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City RPG 2 Book Quickstarter. But its going to be a matter to see if the players survive the latest zombie plague that one of the artifacts from the lighthouse has unleashed on their campaign city.
Like I said the lighthouses are not something to be taken lightly. For my own home game I've been toying with the idea of a Hyperborean god's lighthouse hidden away in Underborea in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. I would use one of the myriad of great published adventures to have the party stumble upon one of these lighthouses in Hyperborea.