Several people have expressed interest in the campaign story to date. So here are some elements of the current campaign that might be interesting, possibly a source of inspiration, to other GMs out there.
The party recently discovered that many of the dungeons of Fumanor were byproducts of an Illithid Wizard who wanted to learn how to construct new prime material planes so that he could better understand the mechanics of how the real universe worked. To this end, he created new pocket realities, usuallly using caverns to contain the experiments.
He partnered up with another Illithid was an experimental biologist who would populate the created environments with new and strange beasties. The pocket realities had a habit of going ‘boom’ after a while, but often not before some of these strange creatures were released into the surrounding environment; the strong survived, the rest died off.
Millennia ago, the physicist-Illithid started working on his greatest creation: a new, full-sized prime material plane. This involved the creation of a number of microplanes which would be coalesced into the new realm of existance. Within each, the biologist of the pair created stable, unique, and original ecologies with every creature an original species. This was the first time that he had succeeded in creating stable, self-sustaining ecologies, and the unique nature of the environments made them achievements of which to be especially proud.
When the time came to complete the experiment, these would be destroyed, and when that moment approached, the biologist refused to go through with it. The two fought and dealt each other mortal blows from which they would not recover.
Cinegatrum (the biologist) fled, taking with him the partial spells that would unite the realms, contained within magical keys, which he scattered in each of the microrealms, but not before these spells were partially activated. (Illithid magic ALWAYS needs to be contained within something physical in this campaign).
Over the years since, the dimensional barriers that seperate these micro-realms from the prime material plane have begun to erode and decay, just as had happened with every other microplane the pair had created. Nature abhors inequality in this sort of thing, so the barriers that surround the prime material plane itself had begun to fail due to the disruption, to the point where any sufficiently-violent realease of energies (10 dice of fireball or better, or equiavalent) risked tearing open a portal, which the Chaos Powers could use to enter despite the best efforts of the Gods. (Ziorbe, the Drow Rogue and brains of the party, has figured out that there is more to this story but hasn’t yet had time to get his thoughts in order. That will became important later.)
One result of this effect has been that in the “One Faith” campaign, the Inquisitor PC has had his hands full dealing with one Chaos Power after another, and has actually witnessed one coming through such a portal, without understanding why it was taking place – only the immediate ‘how’.
The Campaign Context: In-Game events
Meanwhile, back in the “Seeds of Empire” campaign, the PCs had discovered and started exploring the Microplanes in hopes of discoving weapons, magic, knowledge, and/or allies that they could use in their fight against the Golden Empire, the vast Empire built apon the faith Beneck Wu, which the PCs are still learning about. They DO know that the empire is built on undead, that the populace live lives of abject luxury, doing no more than they want to do; they have figured out that in this society, the more civic service one performs voluntarily while living, the higher the rank the undead receives apon his death and ‘ressurection’.
The Golden Empire is poised to invade Fumanor, it was their scouting missions (which overran a number of small orcish tribes) that first brought the Empire to the 3 Kingdom’s attention. That invasion is now only 3-7 weeks away (the Golden Empire doesn’t rush these things, they don’t have to) by the PCs best estimate. (You can read more about the origins of the Golden Empire in this post.).
They had turned a Mummy Priest of the Church Guards, named Chrin, to their cause. This turncoat was leading them to a renegade Priest who might be the nexis about which a schism within the Beneck Wu faith could be formed, bringing about a religious civil war within the Empire – the PCs best bet for putting a stop to the Golden Empire’s activities, at least for the time being. But Chrin had turned out to be a mole in their ranks; he had not been turned from his faith, he simply removed the party from where they could disrupt the church’s activities. What’s more, a particularly subtle Chaos Power who had been masquarading as one of the Gods acknowledged by Beneck Wu had been boosting Chrin’s powers for some time, unbeknownst to the rest of the party.
When Chrin’s true loyalties were revealed, the bottom fell out of the party’s plans and they have to reconsider their entire game plan, having used months of critical game time with not a lot to show for it! (Talk about your deadline pressures…). But first, they had some housekeeping to deal with.
It’s important to realise that the Gods were learning about all this at the same time that the party were; the quasi-stable planes created by the Illithid, Tenga Mort, were previously unknown to them. Nor are they interested in taking sides in the conflict between the 3 Kingdoms and the Golden Empire for reasons that the PCs have yet to understand. They sent a representative, one of their new armies of footsoldiers (the first Celestials) simply to investigate why they kept losing touch with one of their priests – the party had quickly discovered that they were cut off from Divine assistance within the microplanes.
The Celestials are the Divine response to the Godswar in which so many of their number had been killed off; the remainder having united into a single pantheon (that’s what the first Fumanor campaign was all about) and each deity had been given vast portfolios to manage. To do it right, they determined that they needed assistants, or they would be left to fight from a purely defensive position, their entire effort focussed on damage control.
When the Gods found out about the microplanes and the plan to join them into a new prime material plane, they quickly hatched a bold plan – by Consecrating the new creation in their name, they would create a bastion and fallback position that had never been weakened/infiltrated by the Chaos Powers. This would be a stronghold against their enemies. They did not realise that the Chaos Powers had discovered it not long after them, and had subverted Chrin.
The PCs beseeched the Gods to protect the lives of those living within the microplanes during the coalition process – which was always part of the God’s plan. But they needed at least some worshippers within one of the Microplanes to give them the foothold through which to exert their powers. So one of the NPCs returned back to the Dwarvlings (with whom the party had allied during their exploration of the Microplane of Earth) to convert them, while the rest made their preperations. The Gods also demanded a quid-pro-quo: the party would have to enter the new plane and consecrate it in their name.
It was at the critical moment of completing the spell that Chrin made his move against the party, while the Chaos Power who had been manipulating the Mummy awakened the Ghost of Tenga Mort, who posessed the party Cleric. The rest of the party were distracted, dealing with Chrin, and didn’t realise what had occurred until Tajik (the Cleric) erected a Wall Of Stone through which the ghost (and his Chaos Power ‘sponsor’) could pass, and the rest of the party could not.
When the Wall was eventually torn down, and the party healed up, they entered the new Material Plane, to discover that because of the compression of energies within, which were still unwinding into new space-time within the plane, a time-dilation effect meant that the ghost had a decades-long head start on them. Slowly, this effect wore off as the new universe expanded. The party completed the promised consecration, and went in search of the Dwarvlings, unsure as to what they would find.
It transpired that Verde – the NPC (ex-PC) who had gone to convert the Dwarvlings – had been waiting for them for over 120 years…
What’s more, the passageway between the worlds was unstable; the PCs could not linger. They had some fun interacting with the new society, which is now the most mechanically-advanced race known to exist, had more fun with an amorous Dwarvling Princess (now Queen Mother) who had been persuing a romantic liason with the Elven Warrior, Eubani, since their first encounter, but who was willing to settle for a carnal relationship. They had more fun when Eubani was accused of her murder, and even more ‘fun’ when it transpired that the Ghost of Tenga Mort had corrupted some of the Dwarvlings to the worship of the Chaos Powers. This was now a genuine prime material plane with all the problems of the old one; it would not be the bastion that the Gods had wanted, instead it was a whole new battleground for the Gods and Chaos powers to fight in.
The party cleared Eubani and departed, only to discover that the Golden Empire had been attracted back to the region by the incalculably huge release of arcane power used to create the new realm. The portal closed behind them. The PC’s next move was to find a way to get past the 10,000 undead soldiers and accompanying officers that were encamped on their doorstep and searching for the source of the arcane release.
Our last session of play
Which brings me to our last session. The PCs attempted to use invisibility and flight potions provided by Verde to fly over the top of the army and get away. They had not reckoned on Beholder Liches leading flights of winged skeletons and zombies! One used an antimagic field to shut down the effects of the potions, then the other two took it in turns to zap the party with Chain Lightning. One NPC (Ziorbe) was killed, the other NPCs were (mostly) down to 30 HP or so, and things looked pretty grim. Julia (an ex-PC Paladin variant) used one of her more exotic anti-undead abilities which amplified the effects of a Cleric’s turning ability. This ability uses the Cleric as a temporary vessel of the Gods (whether the cleric likes it or not), and it killed off the skeletons and zombies in a single blast of divine might, weakening the Beholders to the point where they were easy prey for the rest of the party. So massive was this release of Divine Wrath that the rest of the army failed their morale checks (which, for undead, is saying something) and fled. The PCs took the opportunity to vamoose in the opposite direction. That’s where the campaign is up to.
The party now have to regroup, reconsider their entire strategy in the face of the deceptions of Chrin, and put their new plans into action. Instead of 3-6 months time for planning and action (which they had when they started), they now have only 3-6 weeks, and another month or so after that which will be bought with the lives of the Kingdom’s residents, so time is definitly breathing down their necks at this point.
They know that they will definitly need Ziorbe’s talents and insights to see them through, but they also have to work out how they can ressurect him, and deal with whatever the Gods will require as a quid-pro-quo.
From the GM standpoint, so far, I’ve set up the campaign situation, I’ve distracted the PCs long enough to raise the tension to breaking point, and now the fun really starts!
The campaign only runs for 6 months of the year or so, before it makes way for the other (concurrant) Fumanor Campaign, “One Faith”. I’ll do a writeup of that sometime for those who are interested. So that’s where the campaign stands, at least until December.