Thursday, December 31, 2009, 9:02 AM
Being a tiefling born amongst a guild of thieves is not so uncommon. Born a virtuoso talent favored by the Archfey Tiandra under the same circumstances is a little more unique.
Growing up, Zomandus learned the family business and quickly became one of the family's highest "earners". Young and fresh-faced, he was quick with his hand and even faster with his wit and could easily dupe the most skeptical of rubes.
What he achieved with the rudimentary instruments, crafted from street junk, made him a corner favorite in the Tavern District. His other guild fellows could easily pilfer purses and other valuables while he enthralled the audiences with his performances.
The higher authorities in the guild took exceptions to these antics. Zomandus was becoming too high profile, even drawing the attention of the city nobles. Attempts to curb Zomandus's playing were futile. As he grew older, the youth began to spend less time amongst the guild, and more down in the Market District at a small theatre.
His parents cautioned him not to become too involved with the artisans there, that nothing good would come of it. But Zomandus couldn't resist. In his heart he was not a thief; he was an artist.
Soon after, some friends found him actually performing on stage with the actors, and they told the thieves' council, who ordered the theatre burned to the ground. Many of Zomandus's new friends died in the fire, and the young tiefling's wrath when he learned of the plot was unmatched.
It wasn't long after this event that other members of the guild began disappearing. At first the council thought it might be a rival guild, or perhaps a secret detachment of the city's royal guards. But Zomandus's mother soon realized only one person could be responsible. When she confronted him, the young artist couldn't conceal his anger and confessed he wanted to bring down the guild as revenge.
Overcome with love for her son, she tried to smuggle Zomandus out of the city, but was caught trying to leave the guildhouse with her son. In the struggle, Zomandus's mother killed a member of the council, giving him a chance to escape. The cost was her own life.
Hunted by the people he once loved, Zomandus left the city and made his way to a land, far away from where he grew up. Tired, hungry, and almost dead, Zomandus wandered through a dark forest and into the bright beauty of the Feywild.
Quickly captured by an Eladrin guard and brought into the gleaming Summer Court, Zomandus thought himself dead. When the Summer Queen Tiandra herself came to Zomandus, he was certain she was an angel. But as she told him that she knew of the theatre burned to the ground, and that one of the dead was actually a past mortal lover of Tiandra, he realized that he was still alive.
She was responsible for his transport into the Feywild, moved as she was by the young boy's tragic plight.
Tiandra took Zomandus under her tutelage, and the tiefling learned music, poetry, and magic from the greatest Eladrin artisans in the Feywild. He flourished under Tiandra's approving eye as he wrote sonnets and plays and wonderful songs filled with both the vibrancy of life, and the melancholy of love lost.
It was only a few years, a blink in the eye of the Fey, that Zomandus became restless in the peaceful court of the Summer Queen. When he approached his patron about returning to the Natural World to make his own way, she was not surprised. She granted his request, and told him that he could return to his new home at any time and be at peace.
Now, Zomandus makes a name for himself as one of the greatest bards and playwrights in the land. He tirelessly documents his own legacy, and spares no expense at seeing these works performed. From tavern to royal courts, Zomandus is dedicated to making his art known throughout the land.
News of his fame has not gone entirely unnoticed. The guild where his family once lived has not forgotten the bard's slights against them, and is determined to bring the renegade to their own kind of justice. Zomandus is aware of this, and always has eye on the door and an ear to the ground.
A typical artist, Zomandus will work for hire. Although he routinely contracts out his services and performances for others, he keeps creative control of his own epics, and one day envisions owning a grand theatre (perhaps to replace the once-loved playhouse of his youth) where he and his hired company of players can provide shows, operas, and matinees to the masses.
Until then, he dives into adventure with whatever party of outcasts he's joined with vigor, knowing that his next great masterpiece could be down that next corridor or behind that door.
Friday, November 6, 2009, 2:45 PM
"Uther!" the village woman called after her young tow-headed son, but he had already wandered too far down the alleyway, searching for the small puppy he had seen at market earlier today. He was so intent on his search, he initially mistook the long red tail coming from behind the barrel as that belonging to the dog.
That is, until he saw what the tail was attached to.
"Who are you?" The child asked the tiefling dressed in a long brown coat with shiny silver buttons. The stranger's head whipped around quickly, glowing yellow eyes wide with surprise, but the look quickly changed to a smile.
"Well hello there little master." the tiefling said. "And what are you doing here in this dark alleyway?" The long lute strapped to the tiefling's back thrummed quietly as he moved.
"I'm looking for a puppy. What are you doing here?" Uther asked, and the stranger's face changed into a frown. Then, as quickly as the shadow passed across his face, it disappeared.
"I haven't seen your puppy, little master, but I'm playing a game."
"What kind of game?" the little boy asked, becoming excited at the prospect of something fun.
"Hide and seek. Do you know how to play that game?" the boy nodded his head. "Well, then you know it's very important for me to stay hidden, so they don't find me."
"Who are they?" Uther asked, leaning in closer to the tiefling.
"'They' are the family of young farmers from this village, and they are not very happy with me right now, so I have to stay here until they go away."
"Uther!" the boy's mother's voice echoed down the alleyway, and the boy quickly turned his head, and then turned back.
"Now listen, little Uther," the tiefling said, "if you can help me, I have a nice shiny gold piece for you. You could even buy your own puppy with that much money." The boy nodded enthusiastically. "OK, good. Now what I want you to do is..."
"There he is!" a loud voice boomed down the alleyway. Three large, muscular forms emerged from the far side of the adjoining alley, each carrying a short sword. The tiefling stood up and moved the boy gently to the side, slowly drawing his lute around before him.
"This is the last time some fancy adventurer comes into our town and tries to woo our women..." The tallest and broadest of the three men said as he approached.
"Gentlemen, I assure you that I was merely discussing the weather with that young lady in the market. If she herself was stricken with affection from my loquations, then I assure you..."
"Enough with your fancy tongue!" The second man said, waving his weapon in the air at the tiefling. "You may be able to smooth-talk your way out other situations, but you won't escape us! Now prepare for battle." the three men set their shoulders and brought their blades close into their torso, arms tensing.
"Very well," the tiefling said, turning a tuning knob on his lute. The tiefling's strong tail gently pushed the frightened young boy back, behind the barrel. But his curiosity couldn't prevent the obvious danger that swirled around the child.
As the three young men lunded in unison at the stranger, a powerful burst of music spilled out from the tiefling, filling the alley with a blast as powerful as thunder, and blowing the young farmhands back in a cloud of dust. Their ears rang as they picked themselves up, and as the strongest one charged back at the tiefling, a soothing melody crept into his muscles, causing the tension to go slack and his legs loosen underneath him. He fell to the dirt ground, his face calm and serene in a deep slumber.
The second man lunged with the tip of his sword at the tiefling, but it bit only air. A dischordant barrage of notes filled the man's head, causing him to stumble forward past the stranger and knock his head hard against the mason wall on the far side of the alley. Stunned and disoriented, the young man slouched against the wall.
The third farmhand was the youngest, but he was also the quickest. He leapt forward as the tiefling was turning around, knocking away the magical instrument with one hand and wrapping his other arm around the stranger's neck. Pulling with all his might, he caused the tiefling to lose his balance and go careening across the alleyway. But, as the young man pulled up his short sword to bring to bear, the tiefling's apparently empty hand drove into the man's shoulder, which exploded into brilliant pain.
A dagger appeared in the tiefling's hand at the moment of impact, and bright blood began gushing from it. Weakened, the man collapsed onto the dusty ground.
The stranger quickly went to work. After relieving the attackers of their weapons, he picked his instrument up off the ground and played a soft and restoring tune that closed up the wounds of his assailants. It also seemed to cause them to go into a restful slumber, and they were soon piled up against one another snoring. The tiefling liberated a bottle of wine deep from one of his many bags, and poured it lightly over the three men before crooking the half-empty bottle in-between them.
"There." The stranger said. "Now people will just assume their stories the venturous tales of the drunken, and the wounds they suffered casualties of their reverie." A soft shuffling sound made the tiefling turn around quickly, dagger brought handle-up, ready to fly from his skilled fingertips.
The young boy Uther stood amazed at the stranger, and his jaw hung agape. Never before had he seen such amazing skill and deft use of magic, and he was clearly in awe. The tiefling smiled widely. He dug into his pockets and pulled a shiny gold coin from his pouch.
"As promised my young master Uther." The tiefling said. "A gift from Zomandus, the Prolific."
"Uther!" The young boy's mother's voice was now very near, and when Uther turned back around, his mother was running down the alleyway, her face full of concern. She grabbed the boy by his shoulders.
"Where have you been? Why didn't you come when I called?" She asked, but the young boy could only grin. He showed her the gold coin he had been given.
"Where did you get that?" She asked, but he could only smile.
"Somone gave it to me!"
"Well, so then it is yours." Uther's mother said, clearly taken aback by his excitement. "What do you plan on doing with it then? Are you going to buy that dog you keeping talking about?"
"No," Uther said, indignant. Then his face broke out once again into his huge smile.
"I want to buy a lute!"
Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 1:53 PM
Power is shared in Olora not so much by geographical territories, but by domains of influence. These could either be contiguous landmasses, a scattering of island nations, or even neighborhoods inside large cities. However, each domain falls under the general governance of its power base (usually racially-based).
Each domain has a centralized government and military force, and each one of these domains is represented at the Council of Crux, located in the Gleaming City. How these domains interact with one another are often determined by the current intrigues of the council.
Urandi: Domain of Steel Elves
The theocratic government of the remaining Steel Elves is headed by the venerable prophet Griesh and his holy council of cardinals. They confer new laws by way of prophecy, and the pious Steel Elves follow suit.
The civilization of Steel Elves, who refer to themselves as the "Children of Urandir", is mostly made up of tradesmen, officials, and aristocrats. They value power and wealth, as well as strength of arms and weaponry. The rich have servants by the score, made up mostly of "lesser" races of humans and other humanoids they previously kept as slaves.
Steel Elves hold most other races in contempt, but do so silently. They have begrudging respect for dwarves and dragonborn, whom they see as equals.
Travel through Urandi is limited, although main thoroughfares carry caravans from neighboring domains. These shipments are tarrifed when they enter, and they carry certificates showing payment they must represent at various checkpoints. The security in the domain of Steel Elves is very good, since the lands in between cities and settlements are patrolled by the prophet's personal knights, called the Sons of the Elendar.
Jamatra: The Savage Tribes
During the Third Age's reign of the Steel Elves, humans were enslaved en masse along with the other humanoid races. As a result of centuries under the yoke, the humans have forged a strong bond with the orc, hobgoblin, gnolls and other primitive races of humanoids, even inter-breeding with them in some limited cases (causing the rise of the sub-race of Half-Orcs, which are prevelant amongst the tribes)
The nation of Jamatra is a result of the treaty the Steel Elves struck with the other races at the end of the Great War, and the newly-freed slave races were given a land mostly bereft of resources to eke out an existence. However, with support and succor from the Elven and Halfling Domains, the land of Jamatra has been transformed into a thriving collection of nomadic tribes and villages with lush forests and bountiful farms.
Jamatrans are distrustful of Eladrin and Urandil alike, for the scars their races still bear of their servitude. They are warm-hearted and fond of the Forest Elves and Halflings, and often inter-mingle with these races. While openly accepting of the dwarves, their mistrust of the primordial nature the dwarves have assumed is thinly veiled. While they hold no grudge against the Tiefling and Dragonborn Domain, they also are not as warm to these races.
Sheali: The Forest Elves
Making the important distinction between the Elves of the Natural world and the invading Steel Elves, the Sheali regard themselvse as the "natural" elves of this world, and have strengthened their ties with the primal spirits even stronger. They have a strong alliance with the wide-spread network of Halfling nations.
Fyrion: The Tiefling and Dragonborn Conglomerate
The tiefling and dragonborn coalition is the one that is most puzzling, but also the one domain that seems the strongest (next to the dwarves). Ancient enemies, as legend says since the birth of the world itself, the invasion of the Steel Elves caused these two forces to come together and unite. The mastery of magic inherent in the Tiefling blood, combined with the honor-bound warrior nature of the Dragonborn are natural compliments to each other.
The militaristic order of Dragonborn and the merchant oligarchies of the Tiefling work in concert with one another and form a cohesive collective.
Monday, November 2, 2009, 2:44 PM
The world of Olora is a home-brewed campaign I have been kicking around in the back of my head for about a year-and-a-half; right around the time I started gearing up for 4th edition to come out.
The themes behind the world were a world with a history of strong racial and religious conflict, and the dawn of a new age where long-warring factions have come together to unite in a new unified community.
After getting and reading through the 4th edition rules, especially the new race breakouts and the updated pantheon, this campaign idea hit the back-burner. It was simply that was too far-reaching for an initial 4th edition campaign. I wasn't ready to launch such an ambitious affair, and I didn't want my players to suffer as a result.
But, with the closing of my first "experimental" campaign, I'm ready to take some time off and re-group. My first impulse when Wizards announced their Dark Sun plans for next year was to jump back into Athas with both feet, but this little campaign world has been nagging at me... so it's my hope that with a little exposition here, I might gather the guts to develop my ideas more.
So, here goes...
Olora Campaign Setting:
It is the dawn of the Fourth Age of Olora, into a new world where ages-old animosities are supposedly set aside, and the armies of the past have joined together in solidarity and a new civilization is built up on the ashes of destroyed kingdoms.
The Steel Elves
At the end of the Second Age, a movement came to the fore-front of the Eladrin living in the Feywild. The prophet Griesh uncovered ancient tomes declaring the existence of a forgotten God, Urandir of the Elendar. He declared that the Eladrin were the rightful rulers of the mortal world, and the lesser-lived beings were untamed and ignorant races that needed to be controlled before they destroyed the world with their warring ways.
Legions of Eladrin abandoned the Feywild and invaded the natural world in force, enslaving the humans and orcs who dwelled their. These Eladrin shunned their peoples' love of nature and worship of Corellon for their new God Urandir, and created vast cities of stone and steel. They forged great weapons of war and massive works of slaughter. Their love of the machinations of battle led the free races of the world to name them the Steel Elves.
The Tiefling and Dragonborn kingdoms set aside their ancient differences and forged an alliance to combat the invading Steel Elf forces. They managed to maintain their borders of their homelands, and forge uneasy cease fires with these new conquerers.
Children of the Elements
At the same time the Eladrin suffered their theological split, the dwarven nations were undergoing a similar transformation. The collective priests of the dwarven temples, the paladins and other divine warriors all suffered a simultaneous loss of their God-granted powers. Visions struck the highest members of these orders, powerful dreams of the death of the dwarven Gods.
As the dwarves mourned the loss of their race's pantheons, the lore masters began searching for answers to the long-lost question of the origin of their race. As they dug deeper into the libraries and vaults of their past, traces of lost tribes of dwarves with strong links to their elemental origins were revealed.
Great expeditions were launched to discover and re-connect with these tribes, and they were found. Envoys of the mighty dwarven nations reunited with their Azer cousins locked deep within their volcanic vaults. Greetings were sent from the frozen lands of the Ghaz dwarves, and treaties were signed with the mountain-top tribes of the Straum. These dwarves then assumed the name of Tyrn, to represent their elemental ties to the Earth.
The dwarves then realized their primodial origins were not lost, but only slumbered. These dwarven nations united under their elemental history and established a unified nation of primordial dwarves; no longer hiding away from their history tied to the Elemental Chaos but embracing it.
They forged a link with that realm gave them power enough not just to withstand the invasion of the Steel Elves, but to gain the respect of the pious Elendar.
The dwarven nations forged great magicks together and literally buried the bodies of their Dead Gods deep within the mountains to the North of their kingdoms, and bestowed that name to the newly-formed range of high peaks and treacherous valleys.
The Wild Races and the Revolution
The Elves and Halflings of the world hastily retreated into the vast forests of their world, where the invading Steel Elves had little appetite to follow, and established an insurgency against the invaders. Although they lacked the great organization of these conquerers, their knowledge of the forest and allowed them to avoid capture and enslavement.
They contacted the tiefling, dragonborn, and dwarven domains and forged alliances with them, and though the established kingdoms did not risk open war with the Steel Elves, they secretly sent resources to the Elves and Halfling tribes to help fund their efforts. The raids on the outposts became more frequent, and little by little the united tribes began encroaching on the territory the Elendar had established.
Freed humans, orcs, and other humanoids joined together with their elven and halfling liberators and grew greater in number, until the Steel Elves could not maintain their domain any longer. The Great War had begun
The End of the Third Age
The war stretched from one end of Olora to the other, and no race was exempt, not even the nomadic Goliaths or the reclusive shifters. Even the gnomes and remaining Eladrin of the Feywild were compelled to cross into the natural world to take up arms against the Steel Elves to defeat their zealous cause. Millions of souls crossed the threshold into the Shadowfell, even so that the Shadar-Kai race native to that plane could not abide by the influx of undead and lost spirits.
Finally, after years of open war and blood-soaked battles, a peace was struck. The Steel Elves agreed to free their enslaved masses, and in return they would not be eradicated. The theocratic government of Urandir would secede the majority of their territories to the races they enslaved, and would build a united city on the edge of the territories where all the domains converged.
The Gleaming City of Rymorai was built in the bay of Angels, and all the races joined together to aid in it's construction. An envoy from each one of the kingdoms, including the newly-formed government of men and orcs, convened in the center of the city called the Crux, and goverened the city and their new unified legion of kingdoms.
Dawn of the Fourth Age
Almost one hundred years has passed since the Great War. The government of Rymorai still prevails, although tensions still exist. The Steel Elves of Urandir still hold much power, and although they give lip-service to their talk about equality, the human and orc lands of Jamatra are still plagued with poverty and plagues. The tiefling and dragonborn alliance shows signs of fraying, and the united tribes of the dwarves shield their true motives more and more from sight of the council.
It is a land of adventure and conflict, where the shadows of ancient evil are still cast over the land. The scars of war are healing, but the wounds still mark the surface of Olora. And know truly knows what other evils have been awakened by centuries of warfare and strife. Olora is a place of great beauty, but also one of great danger, and the future of the land is always uncertain.
Thursday, October 22, 2009, 10:37 AM
With the final session coming up, I've been going over the past year-or-so in my head and looking back at how I handled my first 4th edition campaign, and I have some mixed reactions as to my job as Dungeon Master.
On the plus side, I think I've done a pretty good job creating a "living" atmosphere to the city of Fallcrest, and made some pretty exciting adventures and environments along the way. I enjoyed working up the struggles between different factions of the politics of the city, and how the heroes interacted with them. I set the character's off on a long series of adventures, all leading up to... well, that brings me to my next point.
In the past I usually have a grand story line, tying adventure to adventure, all leading up to an exciting climax. This time, however, I didn't really start out that way. It was an experiment, with a new group of players, and I was still working out the kinks of the new system. As a result, the feel was more episodic than over-arcing. The result of this was that while there were many good small rewards, there didn't seem to be any long-term goals.
I spent a lot of time stringing the party along to a destination that remained unknown to me, even up to the last session we played this past week, when I introduced a new enemy the players hadn't heard of. Their reactions, understandably, were confusion. They had been following the clues I had been giving them, thinking they were leading up to one "boss" encounter, only to find that the DM had pulled the bait-and-switch.
This is because I spent a little too much time listening and trying to respond to my player's assumptions about where they were going, and not enough time implementing the story-line I had originally planned out. The result was shifting the end-game midcourse, and having to bring in characters that were unexpected to the players.
I also feel like there were some things I failed to adequately adjust to with 4th edition. And that word is "gear". In previous campaigns, there wasn't such a variety of magical items for players, and they were mostly limited to armor and weapons. Now, however, with a more MMO-style of gear D&D has adopted, there's much more stuff the players want.
So I was lacking in giving these rewards out, and I didn't do my due diligence on handing out things the party wanted; just the things I thought they might like. And because of the frenetic pace of the campaign, rushing from one disaster to the other, I didn't give them enough in-game time to go shopping for these items in-between adventures.
While I could pull the DM-card and say "magic items are more rare in this world", I won't do that. I'll take my lumps, and hope the party forgives me.
I'm looking forward to wrapping up this campaign, while still leaving the potential for returning to it. It was an exercise, for both me and the players, and allowed us to really get into 4th edition and learn a lot about the new system. I'm also looking forward to turning over the DM reigns for a while and slipping into my character and enjoying someone else's stories.
But the lessons I learned here will not be forgotten, so when I do return behind the screen, things are going to be done differently... and hopefully better.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009, 9:41 AM
About a year ago when I started my first 4e campaign, I made an off-the-cuff decision to use the prepared campaign setting of Fallcrest from the Dungeon Master’s Guide. My initial thoughts were that I would eventually move on to my own world, to be created later.
However, as I started diving into the setting, I realized that this “canned” region was a lot deeper than other introductory settings provided in previous editions, and that there was a lot to be done in this little frontier town.
As I started my party of players on their way, I quickly devised a theme for Fallcrest, and for what had quickly grown into a full-blown campaign theme. I wanted to create a “Wild West” flavor for the setting, where people were liable to go postal on just about anyone, and that there were very disparate personalities there that did not always agree. But, when they as a collective were threatened from an outside force, they would all band together and unite.
Fans of the HBO show “Deadwood” would probably recognize and understand the flavor I was going for. Rough, violent, dark, and filled with lots of intrigue and shadowy dealings. As I started to sketch out character profiles for the NPC’s, and what I planned on doing with them, I was again pleasantly surprised to see how much stuff the DMG gives you as far as hooks and possibilities. I easily had a paragraph plus (which I eventually turned into a full-blown Codex for the players as a PDF) on each location and person of interest, and took little time in introducing the group to the different areas.
Plans for my own home-grown world are still percolating on the back-burner, and with my new found passion for Photoshop and Fantasy Cartography (thank you Zombie Nirvana), I definitely want to flesh my world out. But, in the meantime, I am having a lot of fun filling the Nentir Vale with exciting locations and dastardly villains for my group as they reach the Paragon Tier.
I can only hope that once I scrape together the funds for Dungeon Master’s Guide II , it gives the same amount of loving care to the legendary city of Sigil. Who knows? There are plenty of ways to get into the Cage from the Natural World… and more than likely, one of them might just be secreted away in a corner of Fallcrest.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 10:12 AM
Scoundrel Paragon Path
Requirements: Bard - multi-classed with Rogue
Your reputation precedes you, and usually not in a good way. You are not so much renowned as infamous, and tales of your exploits have a tendency to follow you like a bad rash.
With an emphasis on deception and exaggeration, the Scoundrel uses his ability to weave tales of great deeds to escape the most dire of situations. His natural ability to talk his way out of trouble also helps his allies in some situations, and he can use his natural gift of gab to extend benefits on and off the battlefield.
The Scoundrel is a lovable cad, that kind of individual that can't help wandering into deeper waters than they should, and blessed with an uncanny gift to escape peril almost as easily as they can get into it.
Paragon Path Features:
Bald-Faced Liar (11th level): When you make a Bluff check, roll twice and take the higher result.
Divertive Action (11th level): When you spend an action point to take an extra standard action, you can create a diversion as a free action (PHB ph 183).
Majestic Movement (16th level):
When you use your Majestic Word, the target of your word can also shift a number of squares equal to your Charisma modifier.
Paragon Path Powers:
Fake the Advantage: Scoundrel 11th level Encounter Power
You slyly dip to one side, exposing your foes' weaknesses and allowing you to get the upper hand
Attack: Charisma vs. Reflex
Hit: You gain combat advantage against the target until the end of your next turn.
Stunning Song: Scoundrel 12th level Daily Utility Power
You unloose a dizzying barrage of sonic power, overwhelming your enemies' senses, leaving them reeling from your song
Close Burst 5, Targets enemies
Attack: Charisma vs. Will
Hit: 2D8 + Charisma Modifier psychic damage, and the target is stunned (save ends)
Miss: The target is dazed (save ends)
Shadow Shield: Scoundrel 20th level Daily Power
Your dark and melancholy ballad weaves wisps of darkness around your allies, shielding them from the eyes of your opponents as they move around the battlefield.
Close Burst 5, targets allies
Effect: You and allies within the burst are covered in shadows that move with you. Targets gain +4 bonus to AC and Reflex until the end of your next turn.
Sustain Minor: The effect persists