Session 6 Notes (DM Only)

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Hi Crystal Cavers,

Session 6 has a couple features worth pointing out:
1) More role-playing
2) Barkburrs

More role-playing
You may have noticed by now that there's a lot of opportunity for talking in this season. Most sessions introduce you to an NPC and expect you to interact with that creature on some level--but not necessarily use your high Charisma character to influence said creature. This way, I'm hoping everybody gets a chance to chime in and play the "character" part of their character, figure out his or her personality, and generally just have fun playing make-believe. I have nothing against combat, of course, but a big part of the Feywild (and this season) is about exploration and imaginitive play. Hopefully you're experiencing an extra dose at your table; I'm hoping that the abundance of role-play scenarios that don't depend on dice rolling encourage even some of the shyest players to come out of the corner and get involved. The next few sessions will continue to offer those role-play opportunities. On a personal note, I find that nothing grounds me in the world more than interacting with NPCs. After I've done that for about 3 sessions, I usually have a good idea who my character really is and how he will act; before that it's guesswork, theory, trial, and error.

The barkburrs first appeared in the original UK1 module, and were also included in the AD&D Monster Manual II. Their lignifying poison can turn a creature to wood, and eventually into a forest creature as I recall. The original draft was a bit more punishing in this regard, as it included a lignifying disease. Since the Fountain All Heal at the end of the adventure can cure all ills, the disease was simply meant to make the players sweat; anyone who completed the adventure would have it removed anyway. 

If there are questions, I'll try to pop onto the boards and answer them on time.

Finally, we've come to a point in the season where explaining the concept behind the initial draft might be worthwhile as "design notes" for those interested, though they have no bearing on the adventure you're playing. Think of these as a bonus feature on the season dvd, alternate cut, or first spec script. Again, they won't provide insight into how to run any particular session, so they're strictly here as an extra for anybody who's interested in the design evolution of this Encounters season. Warning: Major spoilers follow.

In the first draft, the situation on the island was a bit different. The following rundown sums up the how's and the why's of the events that took place in the adventure's backstory. This is information you'd learn gradually and piecemeal throughout the season, up until session 8 where it would all be re-presented to the players in a single package (at the Water Palace, where Orlando will possibly be slain by the son of the Cat Lord). Here's the whole shebang:

Porpherio & Caerwyn were lovers. Caerwyn was the daughter of the Green Lord and Porpherio was the adopted son of the Summer Queen. When the lovers were married, the Green Lord gave them the island as a betrothal gift. At the center of the Palace of Spires flowed the Fountain All Heal, a magical font that granted wishes and cured all ills. The fountain was to be theirs so long as "Caerwyn's husband loves her." The Green Lord and Summer Queen then warded the Palace of Spires against all other archfey so that none of the great powers of the Feywild would seize it from their children.

One day, the witch Xacsoryth and her half-fiend son, Cambion, were shipwrecked on the isle. Xacsoryth convinced Porpherio to employ her in his service as a soothsayer. But when Xacsoryth learned of the fountain, she plotted to steal its power and take over the island. She played on Porpherio's doubts, showed him misleading visions, and caused him to believe that Caerwyn was unfaithful to him (with her son Cambion; she showed him a vision from session 11 where Cambion prepares to wed Juliana, but more on that in a minute). Porpherio forswore his love to Caerwyn (a la Othello and The Winter's Tale) and lost power over the fountain. In grief, Caerwyn poisoned herself and died. Xacsoryth framed Porpherio for Caerwyn's death. Then she took over the Palace of Spires, though she still lacked a way to control the fountain. Porpherio hid for 8 days in misery before he snunk into the palace to where Caerwyn lay entombed beside the fountain. There he stabbed himself in the heart. He only wished he could have it all over to do again (Romeo and Juliet in reverse).

As it happens, all was not lost, and the fountain responded to his wish. It carried the souls of Porpherio and Caerwyn along its course to where its tributaries entered the world through the Crystal Cave. There, they were reborn from the time each had perished. Since (in this version) 1 day on Porpherio's Garden was 10 years in the world, Caerwyn was reborn 80 years ago (as the elf Julianna) and Porpherio was reborn 20 years ago (as the human Orlando). In the UK1 module, the fey in Porpherio's Garden are utterly convinced that Orlando and Juliana are the lovers reincarnated. In the new version, they absolutely were. They had been born into feuding families, but nevertheless fate had conspired to reunite them. They met again for the first time, fell in love again for the first time, and ran away together to a place where they heard that wishes could come true. Stories of the wish-granting oracle in the Cave of Echoes led them on. However...

On the island, comparatively little time had passed. When Oran heard that Porpherio had murdered his daughter, he arrived upon Porpherio's Garden with a host of his followers and, grieving for his daughter, he demanded blood. He sent Basalt, son of the Cat-Lord (Basalt=Tybalt, "more than prince of cats") to track down and slay Porpherio. Outraged by her consort's impulsive behavior, Tiandra arrived with her own troupe to halt Oran in his hunt for her son, whom she was sure had been misjudged. For days, the archfey feuded. However, neither of them could enter the Palace of Spires they had warded against all archfey, and where the witch had taken refuge.

Their feud affected the land beyond the Crystal Cave. Cold snaps in summer, sudden rains, scorching days in winter--the world outside the cave suffered, crops died, and the friendly peace that had existed between the humans of Crystalbrook and the forest fey sundered as each struggled with the other for survival. The 8-day feud of the fey on Porpherio's Garden lasted the better part of a century in the world, and caused the fight between Crystalbrook and the Sildaine. (It's also torn straight from A Midsummer Night's Dream: Titania and Oberon are fighting over a human boy Titania has adopted and it's doing the same sort of thing to the world). 

At any rate, this is why Crystalbrook and the Sildaine were fighting. This was why Oran and Tiandra were at war and why they were present on the island, each still searching for Porpherio. This was why Orlando and Juliana are thought to be Porpherio and Caerwyn (i.e. they are). When Xacsoryth learns that Caerwyn (Juliana) has somehow returned to the island, she seeks to marry him to Cambion. The condition for mastery over the wishing fountain was that "Caerwyn's husband love her." Cambion's unholy lust for Caerwyn will more than satisfy that condition. Once Cambion has power over the fountain he can share it as he will with his mother. (Once again stealing from Shakespeare here, but this time The Tempest: Xacsoryth = Sycorax, witch mother of Caliban, who was shipwrecked on the island with her half-devil son; Cambion = Caliban, who lusted after Prospero's daughter Miranda). 

This version used all the encounters from the original UK1 Beyond the Crystal Cave but tied them together in a fairy tale comprised of different Shakespeare plot elements and characters, just as the original UK1 had done, only cranked up to 11. You didn't need to know the references to understand the adventure, but they were there. Overall, the heroes were looking for Orlando and Juliana, learning about the situation as the adventure progressed. In the end, the heroes would decide what to do with the lovers, should both of them survive up through Session 13.

Echoes were a major theme in the adventure. Since UK1 used the "Cave of Echoes" I played upon that theme a bit. Juliana and Orlando are "echoes" of Porpherio and Caerwyn. The feud between the archfey (over a human and an elf) is "echoed" in the world by the feud between the people of Crystalbrook and the Sildaine, whose leaders, Tamora, and Illyrian (Carric in the final), are "echoes" of the archfey. In the Crystal Cave (via the broken glasses and furniture and the Oracle) and on the island, the characters encounter "echoes" of Porpherio's and Caerwyn's lives wherever they go. 

Coincidentally, the story in this version probably resembled Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as much as it did any of Shakespeare's plots. In the end, Orlando and Juliana don't recall their lives as Porpherio and Caerwyn. They only have the example of what happened to live by, and learn from. They got their wish to start over, and only they (and the PCs) can decide what that means, and what form that new beginning will take.

There it is.