Forced Foreshadowing

Having defeated the giant stone spider monster, the players expected to be marched through the streets in a parade with flowers and money and maybe some kind of reward.

Boy were they wrong.

While they fought the monster, the city guard was notably absent, as was the team of adventurers that worked for the rival dragon, the rival dragon that was supposed to have controlling interest in the town and clandestine peerage over it’s Prince.

When they returned to the city, they found their rivals waiting at the gate, and they were given 24 hours to dissapear.

You may immediately think that is very harsh. What you are not aware of is that the players are mixed up in a game of Dragon Xorvitaal, and lethal conflict between pawns is not only normal, but expected. That 24 hours head start was a gift and a token of respect.

Their rivals wanted them gone so they could investigate why their town guard, a well paid mercenary group called the Ebon Spear, had chosen that moment to stay in bed instead of acting against the spider, but the players didn’t know that.

They decided to take the deal and boogie.

They met up with their wizard friend (remember naked mage?) who, in an entirely forced and contrived coincidence, was entertaining a visitor when they arrived, their dragoness patron, Inshallah the Silver.

She and Audrafinn the archmage were discussing current events and we’re glad to see the players. The sky was opening again and the demons were coming back… soon. It was unclear how soon.

Now, this demon invasion I had been hitting them with as ham fisted foreshadowing as I could, and I needed to bring that to the fore.

Audrafinn explained that she had built her wizard tower to observe the Demon Wastes, the blasted and corrupted lands left over from their last invasion, and she told them the sky had opened again, but only just a crack.

(Ominous Music)

Inshallah told the players that in times of great threat the dragon game could be “paused”, so that all pawns could focus on a problem that threatened the world, and by extension, the game itself.

She said that she had already contacted the Games Master and a great council of dragons had been called, all of the local players at once and their best pawns, to discuss the Pause.

As her best pawns, the players were going to accompany her…

They flew in the back of the dragon, a feat of wonder and awe that was glossed over in favor of getting the PCs back to the part where they killed stuff. Decending into the northern desert, they saw the location they were heading to.

Beneath them was a platform, a natural stone mesa made of reddish stone. It was over a hundred feet across and possibly two hundred feet tall. On the top, waiting for them, was a colossal ancient gold dragon. Inshallah explained to them as they landed that this was Grendontorth, the Games Master.

The Games Master was forbidden to play, she explained, but his rule was unquestioned. He was a cleric of Io, the draconic god of neutrality, and the meeting place was holy ground, consecrated to Io. No one dared question Grendontorth here. Even if they did, he was still an ancient wyrm gold dragon.

The rest of the dragon players arrived shortly after the heroes did. There was a green dragon that refused to look anyone directly in the eye and was pointedly trying to look bored flanked by lizardfold, a spastic little bug-eyed white dragon with a twitch and a cadre of barbarians, a fang dragon clad in full plate and nursing fresh wounds on his legs and chest and traveling with an ogre, and lastly Thanadrukk, the black dragon, the players nemesis, accompanied by the same party that had been hounding them the entire time they were staying in Bechamel.

The cast had assembled, and the Pause was announced, to much grumbling and complaining from the dragons. Business concluded, the dragons mostly left, leaving the players, Inshallah, Grendontorth (who lived there and wasn’t leaving) and Thanadrukk.

They chose not to talk to him, even under flag of truce.

Unsure how to proceed they asked Grendontorth if he had any ideas. The dragon told them that while he was not allowed to play the Game, he still had agents in the world, and he had instructed them to figure out a way to stop the demons.

He had this idea that if the Elochian gnomes could be found, their magical talents could be used to either seal the tear or at least assist in battle against the invasion once it broke through.

Armed with this knowledge, and facing a ticking clock, the players decided to set off and find the gnomes!

Erasmus’ Daughters

“Come, child. Sit next to me.”

The little girl looked up from her dolls to see the old woman sitting in the bench in her playroom. She knew the old woman simply as “Nanny”. She had always marvelled at how the old woman’s skin seemed so thin and tight on her face, and had noticed that she always wore the same faded, blue dress.

She quickly scrambled to obey, clambering up onto the bench next to Nanny as she had been told. She smoothed down her plain homespun dress and adjusted the tiny white kapp bonnet that held back her hair.

“Your father has trusted me to raise his daughters for a very, very long time. I know your father is a distant man, and doesn’t spend much time with you. I had hoped you might want to know more about him.”

The girl child wiggled in her seat and nodded. Nanny always told the best stories.

“Your father, Erasmus, is not crazy. You must remember that. When you get older a lot of people will say he his, but he’s not. Those people just can’t understand the depth of what a grieving father will do.

“When you were younger,” Nanny paused and scrunched her brow, as if trying to count the years, “…much younger, your older brother, Charles, was lost at sea. Your father didn’t react well. The clerics said that because there was no body, there was no way to bring him back from the dead. It was a dark time, and your father spent a lot of time and money trying to rescue your brother from death.

“In the end, he couldn’t find a solution. In his grief and rage he cursed the gods that wouldn’t help him, and vowed not to lose any of his other children… ever.

“Many men have made similar vows, but Erasmus had the money and skill to try and actually make it work. You see, magic is a pathway to many abilities some would consider… unnatural.

“He studied life, death, undeath, and the true nature of the soul. It was to protect you, you understand. He found a way to keep you from ever leaving him.

“To do this he started two projects. The first would give you a new body if something ever happened to you. The second would make you live forever and never grow old.

“But something amazing happened. When you…your older sister, I mean, went through the ritual to make …her… live forever, the copy body woke up.

“Erasmus was pleased, and surprised. He loves you very much, and has enough love for you and all of your sisters, no matter how many sisters you have.”

The little girl scrunched up her face. “That does ‘viable’ mean? Daddy said I was viable.”

“Oh, that means he loves you,” the old nanny continued, her neck creaking quietly as she nodded, “That means you’re really his daughter.”

The child pondered, “Nanny? Where do babies come from?”

Nanny laughed, a sound like a dry cough, “Babies come from the workshop. You know the big metal door with the red X on it? You must never go in there. You must never see where the babies come from.”

The child’s face brightened, “But I want to see, Nanny! Can you sneak me in there, maybe? I so very much want to see.”

Nanny shook her head, and for a moment looked off into space, “I can’t do that, little one. Erasmus forbids it.” She paused for a moment, “I cannot disobey Erasmus. You’ll understand when you’re older.

“And when you are older, if you stick to your training and your schooling, your father will put you through the ritual too, and you will become immortal.

Nanny frowned, “It will hurt… a lot, little one, but you will be ready. Your father will prepare you.

“When you get old enough you will come of age, and on that day you will get a new everlasting life, and a new sister too.”

The child nodded her head, not entirely understanding, and scratched at the bandage on her abdomen. Earlier that day she had had a procedure done, when her father had called her ‘viable’. She had lost one square inch of flesh, a bit of intestines that she would never miss.

She was so excited to grow up!

(This is a bit of worldbuilding for my Aoela player. They didn’t give me much to work with, just something about an insular family with a Necropolitain tradition. I hope they like it!)

Elsarime

The frozen city of Elsarime was once the prosperous island nation of Iwi Tapu. It was a land full of bountiful natural resources and sun kissed and bronze skinned natives. They went to bed one night and woke up the next morning in the Bastard Lands with the beginnings of frostbite.

Shown: Former tropical paradise

They discovered their entire island chain had been transported along the feet of a massive mountain range, far in the frozen north of their new world. They literally almost died.

They quickly began burning whatever wood they had stockpiled and felled additional trees for fuel. They upgraded their grass skirts for the warmer furs of the local animals. Regardless, they were fairly doomed in the long run, and they knew it.

What really saved them was divine intervention. The goddess Ahi, once a minor deity in their pantheon, became the center of their new culture. They discovered that idols to Ahi actually generated heat, and a small effigy (something the size of a toaster) could heat an entire hut.

The Iwi Tapu became monotheistic almost overnight.

Reaching out, they established trade with the confused dwarves in the mountains around them, trading skilled woodwork for metal weapons and armor and adopting their alphabet for writing. It was from these initial jumbled encounters their name was changed in translation to Elsarime.

Far from any known body of water, they repurposed their catamarans with blades, able to go over snow and ice with ease. The adopted the axes that kept them alive at the beginning as their signature weapons, wielding them either two handed or with a large round shield painted with frightful imagery.

While some of the Iwi Tapu migrated south to warmer climates, the bulk of them remained in their new home, content to see through whatever fate had brought them.

(So the name of this exercise was called “narrative super-collider”. I took two awesome nautical cultures and I slammed them together like a kid with a pair of HeMan toys. Hope you liked he result.)

Empire of the Whirling Gate

Because players have to get their katanas somewhere… (Source: https://www.deviantart.com/saintyak)

Originally a mountainous country that dominated it’s neighbors, the Whirling Gate Empire now sits in the Celestial Mountain range on the far east side of the Great Grass Sea, between the grass sea and the Koniro Ocean.

This is a very lawful and harmonious society, with extensive laws and clear heirachy. The laws themselves may not be universal, as the Empire is not one of equality, but they are uniformly enforced as they are applied to the classes and castes among the citizens.

The empire consists of the immortal emperor (who’s name has been forgotten in time, and is usually refered to as “Glorious Emperor”) who appears as a normal human man, a ruling/administrative council of Ogre Magi, an warrior class, and a working class.

These classes are not fixed at birth, and they are not tied to race. More than one dishonored Magi has been expelled to toil in the fields for the rest of his days.

The working class, and the bulk of the simple soldiery, is composed of Hobgoblins. They thrive in these conditions, and enjoy working within the confines of the society. Each of them look to their betters, and idolize the stray hobgoblins that has been promoted to Daimyo or Samurai retainers to prestigious patrons.

The ruling elite is composed of Ogre Magi, who’s various families conspire against each other to expand their power and their estates. This is for several reasons, and not just money and power.

The third race that populates the Empire is the Ko-Oni, the little ogres.

As an ogre mage grows through adolescence he absorbes the magic of the land around him, using it to grow both physically and magically. The magic they absorb runs through the Celestial mountains in the form of Dragon Lines, that emanate from the Nexus of the Lines, the Unassailable Palace, where the emperor keeps his court.

Ogre Mages that grow up near the strongest dragon lines, grow extremely powerful, becoming Elemental Lords. Those who grow up far from these centers of magic never grow into their full measure of power, becoming Ko-Oni.

Thus, the ogre mages fight and scheme amongst each other for the one thing of greatest value, estates where their children can grow to become as powerful as possible, increasing the honor of their family, and extending their legacy to the next generation.

The Whirling Gate is not a metaphor. It is a very real object that rests in the throne room of the Unassailable Palace. It is unclear if the Emperor draws power from it, or or if his power maintains it, but those details are irrelevant in everyday life.

The Whirling Gate is an massive objects some fifteen feet across and seemingly made of hammered bronze. It is composed of three rings that rotate independently in a lazy gyroscopic fashion. They are not linked in any way, but are suspended by magical energy. Withing the rings floats a field of energy of sun yellow light, far too bright to look at directly.

The one thing everyone in the empire is clear on, is that the Gate connects this life and the afterlife, and the more souls that pass through it, the faster is spins. This has lead to certain uncommon expressions in Imperial parlance, such as “charging the gate” meaning “to run headlong into death” and “meet you at the gate” meaning “I may not see you again until after we are both dead”

The Emperor, linked in the public consciousness to the gate, is worshipped as a god, and, despite his godhood being technically unclear, can grant spells to clerics. The Emperor’s domains are Law, Balance, and Competition.

KO-ONI

*+2 Strength, -2 Dexterity, -2 Charisma

*Creature Type: Humanoid

*Medium: As Medium creatures, Ko-Oni have no special bonuses or penalties due to size.

*Ko-Oni base land speed is 30 feet.

*Darkvision: Ko-Oni can see in the dark out to 60 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight, and sharakim can function just fine with no light at all.

*+1 natural armor bonus: Ko-Oni skin is tough and difficult to pierce.

*Oni-Blooded (Ex): Ko-Oni count as Giants for any effect relating to race or type. They also count as their actual type (Humanoid), and may choose whichever is advantageous to them at the time.

*Shadow Affinity (Ex): In areas of darkness or shadowy illumination (including magical shadow), a Ko-Oni gains a +2 racial bonus on Hide and Move Silently

*Favored Class: Wizard (Conjurer) or Rogue. A multiclass Ko-Oni ‘s wizard or rogue classes does not count when determining whether he takes an experience point penalty for multiclassing. However, only one of the classes can be ignored.

(I couldn’t decide if this is LA+1 or +0. Let me know what you think.)

Elochian Gnomes

Elochian Gnomes generally have large eyes, straight hair, thin facial features and pale thin skin. They take their name from their city, Elochia, and carried from their old world the most advanced magitech found in the Bastard Lands.

That’s a Tleilaxu, but close enough for now. (Source: https://www.reddit.com/user/Gun-it-is)

Implants, rideable golems, enhanced armors, eternal wands and fantastical flying conveyances all stem from Elochian innovations. Their golem corps were unrivalled on the battlefield and even their rank and file soldiers were equipped with magical weaponry.

The city of Elochia itself was a marvel. The fortress city floated above the ground, and when the patchwork of the new world was created the entire city was plucked out of the air and transported whole to it’s new home.

The gnomes were, of course, unhappy having been stolen, but their mobile position allowed them to adapt quickly, and they set themselves to escaping back to their old homeland.

With their only hope laying in they magical prowess, a minor gnomish god of technology, Mancer, became their focus of worship. He, in trade, blessed them with the secrets of greater craftsmanship.

They set up a series of ground stations where they could dock and resupply and trade with their new neighbors.

The entire time they considered themselves above the problems around them. They kept to themselves, insular and isolated, trading the services of their golem corps for alliances and supplies.

Then the invasion came, the demons found a weakness in the barrier between their world and the prime material, and exploited it, tearing open the space between the two and allowing their bloodthirsty horde to pour in.

The heroes of that age rallied together, calling on the nation’s to band together and stand against this new threat, and the gnomes gave their response in a grand fashion.

Instead of deploying their golem corps in their glorious array, they enacted the escape plan they had been working on the entire time.

A crackling field of energy whipped around their floating city and with a flash of light they disappeared.

The world was not theirs. The gnomes, without their ties to any place or group, hadn’t adopted the new world as their own, in the same way the terrestrial races had. And, when the new world was in crisis, they simply left.

They left behind relics of their having been there, as well as the various bases had used for trade, but where they went, and how they went, was to this day a mystery.

They did leave behind one unlucky band of gnomes, the fourth light golem lance, that had been deployed to the city of Elsarime in the far north and had not returned in time. They returned from their mission to find themselves without a home.

They joined the battle against the demons and aquitted themselves well, and afterward the survivors retreated to the most substantial settlement the Elochians had created, the Fortress Peregrine, in the Peregrine Mountain Range.

They continued to export magical items, but it was clear the greatest craftsmen among them had left with the city.

ELOCHIAN GNOME

*+2 Intelligence, -2 Constitution.

*Humanoid (Gnome).

*Small: As a Small creature, an Elochian gnome gains a +1 size bonus to Armor Class, a +1 size bonus on attack rolls, and a +4 size bonus on Hide checks, but he uses smaller weapons than humans use, and his lifting and carrying limits are three-quarters of those of a Medium character.

*Elochian gnome base land speed is 20 feet.

*Aura Vision: An Elochian gnome can read the auras of an enchantment. After one minute of handling an item or concentrating on an environmental effect, the gnome may determine it’s magical properties as if he had cast detect magic. The range of this effect is touch.

*Weapon Familiarity: Elochian gnomes may treat siege weapons as martial weapons rather than exotic weapons.

*+1 to caster level when creating magic items.

*Favored Class: Wizard. A multiclass Elochian gnome’s wizard class does not count when determining whether he takes an experience point penalty. All golem pilots have a minimum of one wizard level to interface properly.

*Level Adjustment: +0.

(I know, as a rule, there are no +2 Int/LA +0 races in core 3.5. Rules were meant to be broken)