You’ve heard of my family, whether you realize it or not. My father is John Brown, a humble peasant and decent farmer. A common enough name and common enough profession. But, he plays a mean fiddle. Ah, now you realize who he is. That’s right, he’s that John Brown. Nearly thirty years ago, he was just known as Johnny. And Asmodeus found out for himself just what a mean fiddle Johnny plays. Ten years later, when I was just a baby, Asmodeus tried a second time for my daddy’s soul. Johnny was still the best that ever was.My daddy’s fiddle, Asmodeus’ fabled golden fiddle, was stolen just a short while ago. I doubt it was Asmodeus who did it, for though he’s a wholly evil SOB, he still abides by his contracts. Oh no, some other dark and dirty little scum got their grubby paws on it. I fully intend to track that pile of excrement down and retrieve what even the devil couldn’t get back.
Fire on the mountain, run boys, run. ‘Cause I’m comin’ to the house of the risin' sun.
Eleanor Brown is a slight girl, with long ash brown hair and large brown eyes framed by dark lashes. She favors earth tones and homespun fabrics, her favorite outfit being an ochre dress of felted wool with dark brown leather gloves and soft boots.
Eleanor presents herself as a bubbly young lady, chatty and friendly. But, behind her lovely smile is a keen mind and a sharp tongue. She had already been traveling to the nearby city in the few years before the fiddle was stolen, attempting to gain an education and rise above the occupation that she would have achieved, that of farmer’s wife.
Asmodeus, ironically the arch-devil falls into the role of both friend and foe. He wants his fiddle back and if he can use Johnny Brown’s own daughter to do it, then all the merrier is he for it.
Zarâg Zarâgad, a freewheeling dwarven merchant and Infernal scholar who runs one of Eleanor’s favorite haunts, a reading room and coffee house in the undercity. Zarâgad is friendly for a dwarf, but thinks of most matters in terms of profits.
Whatever stupid git had the gall to make off with that fiddle! Heaven and hell (and Eleanor) will converge to get it back.
Wow, thomas. This is really a full-fledged story--well beyond what is needed for a background. It's impressive.
I'm curious about some of your proper nouns.
Is Shadrim your word for tiefling?
Did you get "Caer" as in Caer Ingrath from Prydain or are you a scholar of Welsh legends?
Also, would you say Azrael is a warlord or a fighter or something else?
Thanks much ). Yeah, I'm debating stringing it into a book at some point.
And yes - Shadrim is our campaign's name for tiefling - tiefling just sounds...weak ). I'm afraid I'm not a scholar of Welsh, I just like to pull words from different languages to establish flavor. In the case of Caer Ingrath, it was Ichaer's military fortress and pretty much the central point of the Turathian army, so a suitably brooding name was required...
Azrael was actually a bard at the time - after being attached to Sybarron he morphed into a hybrid bard/warlock, and may at some point become a full warlock.
P.S. Fair warning - before getting into the "foray into arkhosia" thread, that scene isn't complete yet. T
Yeah. I did just kill your BBEG with a vorpal frisbee. Problem?
Standing before you is a tall and relatively slender deva, slightly gangly looking but possessing the same physical stillness as others of his kind. His skin is predominantly a pale delicate gray, with striking purple streaks that run from his eyes down his cheeks, and travelling towards his shoulders down his neck, and finally branching out across his collar bone fading into his chest. While he retains the ageless features of an immortal, the skin on his hands and feet show signs of hard work.
His travelling garb is that of a holy man: a simple ankle-length grey or white linen tunic, tied at the waist with a red cord belt, often accompanied by a heavy woolen cloak to protect against the weather. His movements are slow, deliberate and stately, using a long quarterstaff as a walking aid at most times; and although he carries armour pieced together from the hides of mountain animals, he only dons such attire if necessary.
The milky white eyes of the deva seem startlingly aware of his surroundings, despite their unnatural lack of pupils. His voice is one of reasoned calm, and the outlook expressed usually optimistic, but realistic. Although not overly social, he is quick to find and engage the downtrodden or neglected whether in the tavern or on the street, even if it is just to ask them the time of day or to listen to whatever it is they have to say.
Remiel was last reincarnated in 1450 DR, the Year of Holy Thunder, alone on a rocky outcrop within a stone's throw of the Monastery of the Yellow Rose high in the Earthspur Mountains. He was blessed and taken in by the mostly human monks of the monastery, taught the ways of Ilmater and local history, both of which he took to like a duck to water. While he quickly got used to his new adult body and life, Remiel became consumed by a passionate faith in Ilmater and his teachings, sensing the faint memories of his past lives joining him in his daily prayers.
A good twenty years passed, and although his quiet life of reading, discussing, praying and physical labour was rewarding, a part of Remiel knew that there would come a time when he would have to move on. One of his elderly priestly mentors had sensed this early on, seeing the voraciousness of Remiel's hunger for the texts and teachings of his faith, something he had known himself as a young man. Bit by bit the tutor pointed the deva in the direction of texts that discussed the paths and lives of particular Ilmateri faithful, those who had attained closer connections to the deity through the study and mastery of the divine magic the Gods used in the creation of the world and the war against the primordials.
As the years went by, the tutor taught Remiel his own knowledge of the invoker's art, and eventually helped Remiel to enter his own personal covenant with Ilmater around five years ago. As the monastic community gathered for the swearing of Remiel's covenant, the deva could feel the presence of his deity and the distant memories of the Astral Sea stirring within him. The ceremony proceeded, the community proud of their immortal cousin, blessing him as he made his oaths... but for Remiel, the clamour was all inside his head, so many of his previous lives shouted forth praising both Ilmater and the pantheon of other deities he had served over the centuries. As the pact was sworn, to the onlookers the divine magic surged forth from the pale flesh of the deva, a radiance that wracked his body with pain although no cry was heard. Remiel collapsed, and recalls none of the after direct aftermath of his oath, except a rapid recovery in the monastery infirmary accompanied by a renewed awareness of the all of the gods' presence in all things, and the surging divine magic now at rest in his soul.
In the last few years, Remiel developed his control over his new found powers, aiding the monastery in its every day tasks with increasing ease. More and more, he began to look forward to the arrival of monks returning from travels, bearing news of the area to be recorded in the monastery's extensive library. Much of the news is troubling: the increasing ruthlessness of the Frostmantles; political opposition to the church of Ilmater; the advancing forces of the brutal Warlock Knights; and rumours of worse sufferings abroad, including cults worshipping demons and primordials. Remiel knew it was time for him to leave the safe confines of his home, say farewell to his brothers in faith, and descend to the valleys below to work in the name of Ilmater.
Harmony was once the priestess of Yeenoghu for her clan. The Ashclaws occasionally raided a nearby human city for sacrifices to their demonic god until a paladin from out of town rallied the townspeople to strike back. Most of the tribe was slaughtered in the attack-the rest were imprisoned. This paladin was hailed as a hero, but in truth, he was a servant of Orcus, who destroyed the gnolls only to please the Demon Prince. He sacrificed each prisoner, one-by-one, to his dark lord, until only Harmony remained. That night, trapped in her cell, she renounced Yeenoghu, deeming him to weak and not properly protective of his subjects. Then, a dark star in the night sky whispered to her in her dreams. It asked only for a vow of service, and in return, she would gain enough power to escape. She accepted, and in the morning, killed the paladin with a blast of fell magic, then escaped.
She wandered the world for ten years, nurturing her powers. Along the way, she found two things: the worship of Torog, and her only friend, a shadar-kai bard named Shiro. The two take up adventure wherever they can find it, while all the while hoping to avenge those she has lost.
Harmony wants nothing less than to kill Orcus and Demogorgon to take their mantles and become a Demon Prince(ess). She also wishes live with Shiro forever. She is quite aware that these goals conflict (as Shiro worships The Raven Queen and she wishes to reign over Undeath). She has no resolution planned.
Part of her vow of servitude to that dark star involved her body becoming a vessel for that dark force from beyond all known realms. It hasn't happened yet, but she knows she only has so long to complete her goal.
The paladin that massacred the Ashclaws yet lives. Orcus has assigned him the task of murdering Harmony, and granted him a small army of ghouls to aid him in his task.
Shiro is a shadar-kai from a small village called Onefeather. An unknown force attacked while he hid. Only he survived. He feels as though he betrayed his friends and family by living like a coward instead of dying a warrior. He rejects Harmony's feelings for him, and is confused by his own.
Squishy is Harmony's familiar. He is a Tiny Gelatinous Cube. Harmony doesn't remember manifesting him "(I think he's always been here."). Shiro finds him repulsive. Harm thinks he's cute.
Horn of Orcus was a human worshiper of Orcus. He was nearly killed by Harmony many years ago. Now, he wishes to finish what he started with her. His teeth are pointed, and his skin rots-evidence that he is becoming a ghoul.
Harmony has no impulse control. Door? Open it. Bar wench mouthing off? Slap her. Meat? Eat it. Shiro looking particularly... *ahem* "appealing"? You get the point.
Harmony has a barbed set of tongue piercings running down the center of her tongue. They are quite new, so she'll often sit there, feeling around her mouth with her tongue instead of paying attention.
Her eyes are a piercing pair of golden points with slitted pupils, though sometimes they will change appearance. Sometimes as subtle as a minor tone change, all the way to pupils changing shape and colors rapidly changing, or even emmiting dim light.
Shaman: "Why doesn't the squirrel shoot the wizard?" DM: "Because the last squirrel who tried to shoot the wizard missed, then was pulled out of his tree and incinerated." Wizard: "He has a point."
Early in the morning, one Bethany Honeyham found herself chasing an escaped pig into the wilderness. Being a gnome, Bethany's legs weren't much longer than the pigs and she chased it for some time before halting suddenly at the scene of a recent skirmish. Seeing many dead drow among the bodies, Bethany worried for her safety and turned to leave, but she stopped when she heard the sound of a baby crying. Nervously picking through the corpses, she discovered that it was a male drow infant. Deciding that she couldn't leave him there, she picked him up in her arms and hurried back home.
She informed her husband, Windsor, that they would adopt the child if nobody came to claim him, and he agreed, as he always did with his wife. And nobody came to claim him. Windsor felt that this was probably for the best, as drow inquiries regarding a missing baby were likely something best left to the imagination. And so they named the child Erland Cinder Honeyham and resolved to see to his upbringing. Although their pig ranch was closer to human lands than any other, they even set about teaching Elven to Erland as they felt it was appropriate for him to learn his native tongue. But as he grew older it turned out that he was always most at home speaking Common.
Raised with three gnomish siblings, he was teased and bullied while he was small. Later he began to outgrow them and thought to fight back, but their invisible reprisals frustrated him. Eventually, in a fit of fury, he lit up his older brother with Darkfire and proceed to beat the snot out of him. The bullying stopped.
His pleasure with the discovery of the powers granted by his heritage was offset by the onset of recurring nightmares. He would sometimes wake screaming. Distant neighbors, never entirely happy about the adoption of a Drow in the first place, complained that his screams "somehow" alarmed their animals. One morning one of the neighbors found a mutilated squirrel in the forrest and claimed Erland must of done it in the middle of the night. The Honeyham family objected to this baseless accusation, but it was clear that most townsfolk silently suspected that it was true. Even Erland found himself wondering if it were true. He never remembered his nightmares, but always woke with a horrible feeling that some dark force wanted him to do horrible things. Harmful things.
Eventually a group of mercenaries arrived in town. They said they needed someone who knew the area and could guide them to a nearby mountain. The job was simple and they offered decent coin. A neighbor's boy was almost chosen, but when they learned of Erland they immediately insisted on him. Erland agreed. Once at the mountain, they offered him additional coin to accompany them into a cave as a torch bearer. "In case the torch goes out, you have good eyes," they explained. Again, he agreed. And his torch did indeed go out, as did all the others when the vampire attacked. By the time it occurred to Erland to light up the foe with Darkfire, half the group was dead. In the end the mercenaries won by stabbing the vampire with some sort of magic sword, but with only four survivors, all wounded, some quite badly. Erland dressed their wounds and helped them to the surface. They offered Erland yet more money to help them back to their main camp. Once again, he agreed.
The mercenary leader, upon hearing his men's story, thanked Erland for saving his men and said if there was anything he could do for Erland, he had but to name it. Erland said he wanted the magic sword that killed the vampire. The mercenary leader laughed. "It didn't actually kill the vampire. It's a special magic weapon we were given for this job, and it trapped the vampire inside it. Such weapons are rare indeed, and giving that to you is out of the question. But listen, you have skills we value. I'd like to offer you a job. Join us. We'll teach you the sword arts and show you the world. It's late in the day now. Stay here with us tonight and sleep on it. Give me your answer on the morrow."
In the morning, the mercenary leader returned, and he didn't look happy. But this unhappiness was not directed at Erland. "Before you give me your answer, I've reconsidered the matter of the magic sword. Join my band, and it will be my gift to you." Erland, not being exactly thrilled with his life as a pig farmer in a town that suspected and feared him, was quick to agree. He hurried home, informed his family of his decision, and left to begin his new life.
Erland was informed by his new comrades that "Honeyham" wasn't sufficiently intimidating name for a mercenary, and they called him by his middle name instead. In no time at all, Cinder was reduced to Cin, which sounding like "Sin" immediately stuck to him like glue.
The mercenary leader, as it turned out, was very right. The vampire had not been killed. It was very much alive and trapped within the weapon. Sometimes he could feel a desire within it for blood. Sometimes, when looking at the reflective flat of the blade, he got a feeling that something was looking back out at him. And sometimes, rarely, it seemed to speak into his mind. Sin realized that this was likely the real reason the mercenary leader had become willing to part with the weapon. It was essentially cursed. But Sin didn't mind. When he kept it close, it seemed to prevent the feeling that the other dark force was trying to invade his mind, make him hurt his loved ones. He stared sleeping with the sword clutched in his arms. The nightmares stopped. And while the sword wanted blood, sometimes badly, it didn't especially seem to care how much, who suffered, or where the blood came from. It could come from bad people. Animals. Erland himself. The sword was easy to please.
As much as he liked his new sword, he did not trust it. It seemed to want him to go places where powerful wizards resided, or forgotten empires once stood. Erland became convinced that the vampire trapped within the sword was trying to engineer a situation in which he could free himself. So most of the time the sword's rare words fell of deaf ears.
The cursed sword said it's name was Unvalus, but Sin ignored that too. He called it Savior.
And here's my inspiration for that background, and a bit about the game he's a part of.
Back when 4e was still very new, my playing group had finished with the Keep On The Shadowfell, which was our introduction to 4e. Our DM said he wanted to continue on with the Thunderspire, but told us we had the choice to continue to play our old characters (the stock pre-generated characters that came with KotS) or roll up new ones. I asked if any of the Monster Manual races were on the table. He responded that they were, but instructed us that we would have to explain how a "monster" came to be interacting with the more civilized races and adventuring, and further cautioned us that many "normal" people might adversely react to our race. Most of us jumped at what we expected to be a rare chance and immediately started planning our new 4th level characters.
This was all before the Adventurer's Vault was released. Paging through the PHB for magic item ideas, I noticed the Lifedrinker Weapon (PHB page 235). I tried to imagine what a weapon like that would be like. Imagining it to be somewhat of a vampiric blade, rewarding its wielder for bloodshed, I had the kernel of the idea that turned into Savior.
After writing my background, my DM was so taken with it that he ran with the idea. He'd actually have the sword speak into my character's mind from time to time, encouraging certain actions. He even wrote up a concordance sheet for it as if it where an artifact, and I had to track how often it tasted blood. If it was happy, I gained bonuses to things like Perception, but if it became unhappy I'd take penalties to Diplomacy. At the bottom end of the scale I might even attack my allies, but since I could always keep the sword somewhat content by drawing it across my own flesh for 1 HP worth of damage once a milestone, I was never really worried about the worst-case scenario. Every step of the way, my DM was improvising great scenes full of flavor to complement and build upon my background.
Once we were chasing an enemy who looked like he was going to get away. He was the leader of a bad crew, and we wanted to take him alive for questioning. I couldn't reach him in time, so I threw my sword as an improvised ranged weapon. There was an ally standing between me and the enemy, and my DM looked at me meaningfully and said "You don't want to roll a 1. You sure you want to try this?" I said I was going to roll anyway. I rolled a natural 20. My DM turned to the other player and told him that he ducked in the nick of time, allowing my sword to fly over his head. "You feel it part the air an inch above your head. It feels as if death itself is passing you by." When it struck the enemy, he was described as as withering into a blackened, desiccated husk before our eyes. As his body fell and struck the ground, it shattered into chunks reminiscent of charcoal and ash. My group turned on me, shouting "WTF?!? You said you wanted us to take him alive!" I didn't want to admit that I had no idea what was going on, so I instead replied "I changed my mind."
My group became increasingly edgy about the sword after that.
Things got a little more intense when I eventually got dropped by a strong enemy and failed my 3rd death save. Rather than dying, I stood back up, but with no control over my own character. I'd been taken over by Unvalus. A Hunger of Hadar actually parted around my body rather than touch "me" as I walked through it, and I was later found hunched over the body of a powerful NPC enemy we had been hunting. The throat was ripped out and I was drinking his blood. I snapped back to the real world when an ally forcibly poured a healing potion into my mouth. Then I started vomiting the blood I had been drinking a moment ago. Spectacular, I thought. I could not have asked for a more exciting, flavorful game. My allies? Yeah, they started talking in secret behind my character's back, arguing about when they should hold an intervention for me and convince me to lose the sword. But they also convinced themselves to have that intervention some time "later", because "that sword is pretty useful." I laughed and laughed.
Once we finished the Thunderspire, my DM took a break. When we eventually resumed the campaign with the same characters, my DM wasn't using a module anymore. He was inventing his own plot line and setting. One where my vampire had escaped from the sword and was trying to destroy the world. And he's been doing a pretty good job of it so far. And so my sword became the BBEG. How cool is that? How often does a background inform the plot of a campaign?