Thursday, January 13, 2011

TMGS II: What Might Have Been, Part II

Proceeding with the breakdown of the aborted TMGS-II, when Act I ended, the party had just entered a portal into another dimension in pursuit of a priestess of Moander.

Act II: The False Prophet
The party arrives in Veronsport, a moderately-sized town with cobbled streets, an assortment of wooden houses, and a large, but empty, port jutting out into an endless sea. Yet a pall of darkness hangs over the town, and the sky is tinged with a sickly green. Although there are people on the streets, the majority keep their heads down as they go about their business. The grass, trees, and shrubs around town, while technically alive, all look sickly and discolored.

The basic idea of the alternate dimension was to create a world in which the players would be very uncomfortable. Everything they “knew” about Faerun would not apply. The power structures and conventions would be different, the pantheon would be new, and monsters would have powers they would not expect. Maybe a few goblins would come at them and the player would assume it was going to be an easy fight only to have several fireballs hurled at them because "goblins" in this dimension are more powerful than on Faerun. My supreme hope was that I could get either Jonny Ree or someone like him to make me one or two odd monster models that would be a complete mystery to the player.

The alternate dimension also served as a warning as to what might happen to Faerun if the player did not succeed. In other words, I could eventually destroy it with absolutely no repercussions to the player’s world, but seeing that destruction adds urgency to the primary mission. There are now real consequences for Faerun if the party doesn't keep Moander dead.

Finally, the PC will pray here through a dialog with his/her holy symbol, since there will be no Tyrran altar. Although spells will be restored as normal, any attempt to ask Tyr a question during prayer will be met with silence. Eventually, the player will realize (or be told) that Tyr’s presence on this dimension is too weak (due to lack of worshippers) to be able to physically manifest and take an active role in this adventure as he did during TMGS I.

After some investigation in Veronsport, the player eventually learns the following:

1) The power centers in town are the mayor, Lord Roberts, and the Church of St. Cuthbert, headed by Deacon Holden LaRue.

2) Moander has slowly overtaken the entire realm. Everything beyond the gates of Veronsport has been absorbed by The Wasting, a creeping manifestation of Moander’s power that rots everything in its wake. Villages overtaken by The Wasting are now ghost towns filled only with rotted vegetation, decayed buildings, and bleached bones.

3) The townspeople have managed to keep the Moanderites at bay due to a well-trained militia, the determined resistance of the Church of St. Cuthbert, and a location on an easily-defendable peninsula, but there is little hope the town can resist The Wasting much longer. Already the initial signs are manifesting that the town is coming within its thrall (see the plants for examples).

4) The richest citizens who had boats or could afford to book passage have already fled the city. Although there is no other refuge on the continent, there are several islands far out to sea that no doubt have several years left before being overrun.

5) Several years back, there was an old man who spoke of the coming of Tyr’s Champion. Because Tyr was largely unknown in this dimension, and those who knew of him knew him to be a deity that had “died” here many years before, the man was derided as a False Prophet, mocked, and spat upon at every opportunity. He vanished some time back, although no one can really say when or even remember much about the circumstances of his disappearance. The player will be referred to Deacon LaRue for further information, as the Deacon was about the only friend he had.

At the Temple of St. Cuthbert, the player discovers that Deacon LaRue is away for the moment. If the PC asks about a Moanderite High Priestess that recently came through, the Cuthbertians will only say they know nothing. If the PC asks about The False Prophet, the Cuthbertian priests will note that they remember such a character but he spoke exclusively with the deacon. However, the church library does contain the False Prophet’s diary; Deacon LaRue had insisted that they save the document. If the PC reads the diary, they will learn – among other things – that The False Prophet had discovered the whereabouts of Moander’s decayed heart.

If the player approaches Lord Roberts, the mayor will note with interest the presence in town of some powerful adventurers and will only comment that he might have need of them shortly. This might allow for a sidequest from the mayor. Otherwise, it is obvious he is too busy planning the town’s final defenses.

This leaves the player to explore the town and engage in other sidequests. If they try to leave through the front gates, they will only be told that the gates are closed by order of the mayor in order to prevent any encroachment of The Wasting.

At some point, the St. Cuthbertians will send for the party. When the group returns to the temple, they will learn that Deacon LaRue isn’t simply away; he actually led a small elite band on a mission to strike at a nearby fortress that serves as the Moanderites’ forward base for their assault on Veronsport, but no one has returned. At this point, the St. Cutherbertians are convinced that something is wrong and would like to task the party with investigating the Deacon’s fate. They will also note that the fortress is likely to be where the High Priestess the PC is pursuing went (assuming the PC has revealed their mission here). Either way, the Cuthbertians point out the fortress’ locations and give the party a pass to leave the city.

The player quickly finds that his/her characters’ strength and constitution slowly decrease as long as they are within the Wasting, although the PC can restore these attributes with restoration spells. (However, the attributes will immediately begin to decrease again after the spell restores them.) Also, the Moanderite fortress – and anywhere else inhabited by the Moanderites – is free from this effect and the losses will cease so long as the players are within these buildings.

After battling through several odd monsters within The Wasting, the party finally assaults the Moanderite outpost and destroys the garrison there. Deacon LaRue can be found in some cells, where he will reveal that the High Priestess did, in fact, stop by for a sliver of Moander’s divine essence, but she has already procured this and returned to her own plane of existence. In addition, in case the player didn’t read the diary, he will reveal that the False Prophet had found the location of Moander’s heart. Finally, the deacon will volunteer that The False Prophet “disappeared” from Veronsport when he sailed across the sea some years before. He had been an old and sick man and, having won no new converts to Tyr in Veronsport, he had given up hope and retired to the Isle of the Dead to die.

As the Priestess now has a divine sliver of Moander, the only thing left is to stop her from fusing it with Moander’s heart, and the only person who knows that location is The False Prophet. However, obtaining a boat to the Isle of the Dead in a port devoid of ships will be difficult.

Back at Veronsport, Deacon LaRue will consult with the party and Mayor Roberts about using the Mayor’s personal yacht. The mayor will note that the destruction of the Moanderite outpost has bought the town a few more days, and in thanks, he will agree to loan the PC his yacht... on two conditions: that the PC allow the entire remaining population of the town to use the portal back to Faerun once their mission is complete and that Deacon LaRue join them on the journey to The Isle of the Dead. It is assumed the player will agree to this, and they will be able to depart for the Isle of the Dead with Deacon LaRue in tow.

The Isle of the Dead was to have been very much like the old P&P module “Isle of Dread” complete with dinosaurs, dragons, oversized animals, and a lost temple. The party would consist of six or so 13th-14th level characters at this point, so the challenges would have to have been pretty tough, and this area would have been organized something like Saleron’s Gambit Part IV.

After several adventures, the party penetrates to the depths of the temple to find a single skeletal figure praying at an altar to Tyr. The figure will rise, address the PC as Tyr’s Champion, and then tell a strange story.

In life, he was a devotee of Tyr living as a hermit on Faerun and spending most of his days on a mountain in prayerful meditation and solitude. One day, Tyr came to him in a vision, saying there was a mission uniquely suited to him. He was to proceed through a portal into a new dimension in which the last Tyrran had died decades before. Because there were no Tyrrans in this alternate dimension, Tyr held no power whatsoever there, but if he were to go to that dimension, his existence would allow Tyr to grasp the slimmest of toe-holds.

(Note that in TMGS I, when Tyr talks to the PC on the snowy mountain during the Trial by Tyr's Justice - when the ranger companion is looking for them - Tyr will mention that Malar was able to enact his plans in secret partially because Tyr's attention had been drawn to Tethyr and a distressing situation developing on another plane entirely. This was yet another presaging of TMGS II.)

The False Prophet briefly attempted to win converts to Tyr as a means of increasing Tyr's power in this dimension, but his primary mission was to keep an eye on the Moanderites, uncover the location of Moander's heart, and determine when and under what circumstances the Moanderites would attempt to raise him again.

Eventually, it became obvious that The Prophet would fall asleep before Moander's plans came to fruition, but instead of allowing him to die, Tyr converted him to unlife. The Prophet needed to live long enough to maintain Tyr's miniscule hold here. In addition, because Tyr's power here is not enough to manifest at will and state the information directly, the Prophet would be able to pass to the coming Champion the information he had gleaned about Moander's plans and the location of his heart.

Next, he will present an arcane text to the PC that details how Moander’s heart is being guarded by twelve Cormanthyrian baelnorn (good liches) in the ruins of the ancient city of Tsornyl in the depths of the Forest of Cormanthor. Finally, the False Prophet will note that his life’s purpose is now complete and that he has earned his rest, and his bones will simply collapse to the floor as a portal opens behind him.

The party can use this portal, but Deacon LaRue will note that the PC made a promise to Mayor Roberts about saving the people of the town. The player will be able to return to the town and use the Moanderite ring to reopen a portal to Faerun in town or else they can give the ring to the Deacon, have him return, and use the existing portal. Ideally, returning to the town will lead to a tougher Act III – as the Moanderites will have more time to prepare – but add a few resources in TMGS III, as the party will be able to save a few more people from the Moanderite siege there. Whatever path they take, the party is on its way back to Faerun and Deacon LaRue leaves the party for good.

Note that Deacon LaRue, Mayor Roberts, and the refugees from Veronsport would have all played a role in TMGS III, but that’s for another time.

Next Post: Act III: The Heart of Decay


Corey Holcomb-Hockin said...

Sounds great :)

Shatiel said...

Great story! A pity we'll never be able to play it but thanks anyway for telling :)

nicethugbert said...

Tiberius, you have a talent for linking theory to implementation, form to function, role to class, and weaving a tapestry of ideas then making it so.

Please don't deprive the player base of the fruits of this much needed talent.

Besides making modules, I think you should alpha test them. Doing so just long enough to impart some of your perspective on the budding module would be a great help.

Mr. Reider, Kamal, and Lugaid of the Red Stripes are all making class based modules. I'm sure they'll do a great job. But, I'm sure they'll do even better with a like mind to work with.

Plus, you could help introduce a little more dimension to more general modules by helping to flesh out the NPCs, companion's, and PC's roles a bit more than usual.

You could be a President among Presidents. C'mon, you know you want to sign that statement, state that signing, and lob the nucular football. You can't help yourself. Best of all, you can do it in your spare moments; just a little consulting on the side, Presidential style.