After almost 2 years of schedules getting in the way, we decided to officially call an end to this campaign. I’m keeping all the info up, just for reference & fun, but no new content will be added.
Below is the email I sent to players, revealing all the long-running campaign secrets that would have come out over the 30-level campaign, had it continued.
So it’s been almost 2 years since our last session of the 4E D&D game we were playing together, and as much as it pains me to leave anything unfinished, I think it’s time to officially call it quits for our game. Our schedules and lives have taken us in vastly different directions that are not conducive to being able to get together regularly. Not that this is a bad thing. Some of us have brought (or are bringing) little people (and/or little dinosaurs) into the world. Some of us have found new jobs. Some of us are in Hawaii redefining our lives. Some of us are responsible for rewriting every idiotic 5E adventure that gets shoved at stores to keep the current, completely unbalanced edition of D&D playable for in-store games.
But before I call it quits, there were some ongoing plots that I hadn’t planned on springing on you till later levels, but that I thought you might want some insight into. I enjoy littering random hints about far future plots into games, so I thought you might want to know what some of those random bits of info were in relation to. So here it is, as complete a list as I can muster of all the behind-the-scenes larger plots going on in our game, as well as many of the future plans I had.
Praxis & Akara: Much was made of the fact that you two seemed to keep reincarnating into eachother’s lives. Always there was some name connection (I like nerdy things like that), and one time “Praxis” was a hunter with 6 ghoul claw marks on her face… who called herself Lady “Six” Arpaggia (which has “praxis” in it if you read it backwards… more on backwards names later).
So you’ll remember that there was that racist human kingdom, Pax Humana. They formed their hatred of nonhumans when their beloved human rulers had their baby murdered in her crib by what was assumed to be non-human forces many millennia ago (details were sketchy). That baby’s name was Pax, meaning “peace”.
You’ll also remember that Lusemnee, the daughter of the assassin god Zehir and likely original goddess of Akara when she was Arkariel the angel, had a sudden change of heart, stopped working as her dad’s chief assassin, and was eventually murdered by her dad.
All of this ties together. Zehir sent his daughter to assassinate the baby Pax. Lusemnee took her two best archangels, Arkariel and Kalariel, with her. Kalariel was set outside, to guard against intrusion, while Arkariel accompanied her goddess into the child’s room. Seeing that the child was innocent, though, Arkariel threw herself in front of Lusemnee’s blade, which pierced both the angel’s hear and that of the baby… divinely tying their souls together. That selfless act is what opened Lusemnee’s eyes to the callous nature of her father’s tasks, that she wasn’t just killing people who deserved to die, and set her on the path away from divine assassinations (until her father caught up with her, that is… more on that below).
Lusemnee, Dumathoin, Atalantea, and the Warforged: Lusemnee wandered, lost, after that event (she even forgot her other Archangel, Kalariel, in her grief and uncertainty. She ended up finding shelter with Dumathoin, the dwarven god of secrets under the mountain. Dumathoin’s libraries had many secrets, and were also being used by a young librarian named Ioun, who was reeling with her own great loss and newly-found divinity (more on her below). Dumathoin took compassion on both, and allowed them to hide in his secret libraries, where Ioun solidified her new existence as Knowledge incarnate, and Lusemnee was able to look into possible new paths for herself. It was during this time that, to help Ioun master the impossible information in her head, Lusemnee learned to craft. Applying the cleverness she’d previously used to stake out targets, maneuver them perfectly, and assassinate them… she was able to manipulate and maneuver magic and raw intellect to form the first Ioun Stones, which helped the fledgling goddess Ioun to order her infinite thoughts.
Lusemnee found that she had a true knack not just for crafting, but for inventing and creating brand new things as well. She began working on a plan to create a new race, to make up for all those she had killed, and also to help the struggling mortal races still trying to recover in the wake of the dawn war, where the fights between Gods & Primordials had ravaged existence.
Lusemnee took dominion of an island in the Astral Sea called “Atalantea”. I was connected via portals to a parallel island of the same name in the mortal realm, and island populated by gnomish followers of Gond, the bringer of Wonders. Gnomes on this island tended to get massive ideas suddenly (due to the spiritual connection to the creativity of Lusemnee on the island’s twin). Dumathoin was able to keep the astral version of the island secret, though, so Lusemnee could still exert divine power and receive some semblance of worship, but not reveal herself to her father.
Unbeknownst to anyone, the dwarven god Dumathoin actually fell early in the Dawn War. The primordial that defeated him, though, gained insight into the god’s nature as it devoured him, and decided to instead take his place. If Dumathoin got more secretive, nobody thought that was weird. But this is why, whenever mention of Dumathoin was found in game, it was near primordials or other elemental phenomenon… because Dumathoin doesn’t actually have angels, since he is not a true god.
But back to the Warforged. Zehir is really good as slithering into even the most secretive of places, and he soon found his daughter and went to kill her. This was right near the time of the Great Cataclysm (which I’ll also get to later… sorry, these are all inter-twined, so there’s lots of setup). Zehir found Lusemnee in the Astral Sea, and assassinated her. As her divine essence was bleeding out, though, she summoned all her angels to the island and commanded that they give themselves to her new cause: helping mortals experience the spark of creativity, and bringing that creativity to life. They all died with her, and were reincarnated into machines on the mortal version of Atalantea… the first Warforged. Creativity was so rampant on that island, though, that the island itself was also capable of forming a sort of mechanical intelligence itself… a sort of singularity. So Lusemnee’s spirit became an A.I. island of mechanical wonders. Dumathoin saw this and despaired, for Zehir would certainly realize he hadn’t fully succeeded, and would return to finish the job. As the energy of the Great Cataclysm hit, though, another god arrived to offer an alternative… Vecna, a new god of secrets & undead.
The evil sorcerer Vecna was already in the process of becoming a god, but needed allies in his youthful divinity. He and Dumathoin visited Atalantea in disguise, where Vecna pledged to combine his secret powers with Dumathoin’s to keep the island forever safe. The gnomes of the island fashioned a new mechanical hand and eye for Vecna, and Vecna & Dumathoin combined their energies (along with power of the Great Cataclysm) to fuse the two islands and lift them into the sky. Because of the danger to Lusemnee, Vecna (who has always enjoyed stealing knowledge more than just keeping is secret) arranged a field of forgetfulness, where any Warforged that left the island would forget its past and origin. Vecna also likely wanted to use the idea of warforged for his own means, which is why we saw Vecna’s lich servant trying to create “boneforged” undead constructs (in the narrated end to Mike/Karath’s story, which involved his soul & that of a warforged getting sucked into a Thayan lab).
So Atalantea is actually a flying island, shielded from sigh by the combined powers of Dumathoin & Vecna, occasionally blipping between the mortal world and the Astral Sea, drifting in both. The warforged that sometimes arrive on earth are the souls of angels in mechanical bodies that either fall off the island or choose to jump, hoping to escape what has become a trap for them, and to (ideally) send word back to the island (and the remainder of Lusemnee in A.I. form) about the state of the world. The eyes are windows into the soul, though, which is why when a warforged showed up, Akara recognized some bit of the eyes, as she probably knew that angel in their former lives.
Kalarel & the demon Mr. Lee: The rakshasa Kalarel, formerly the archangel Kalariel, was a recurring villain in our campaign. He claimed to have once been best friends with Akara, and the way he was able to push her buttons certainly suggested that they had a close relationship at one point. As I just mentioned, they did. However, Kalarel never saw what happened to his goddess. He never knew of her change of heart. He just knew that Akariel disappeared, and that suddenly his divine inner harmony with his goddess was out-of-synch.
His desire to keep killing, to be her best archangel, put him at odds with his goddess’s new path, and he did not understand how to reconcile his nature and her new desires. So he arranged to take his own life, but he failed and reincarnated. He tried again and again, failing each time, growing more bitter and more striped each time. He paid no attention to Lusemnee’s new interests or evolving nature, and instead got drunk on killing others before killing himself… repeating that cycle over and over again. During one of these times in-between lives, Lusemnee was killed, so Kalarel reincarnated as a full rakshasa (missing out on the Warforged thing), and knew that his connection to his goddess was forever severed because he could not feel his goddess anymore (hidden as she was by Dumathoin and Vecna).
Kalarel knew that the only one who could truly kill him for good (and hopefully return him to his dead goddess’ side) was the only friend he’d ever had who was better at killing than he was: the archangel Arkariel. THAT is why he kept seeking out Akara, to awaken the killer inside her and eventually set her off to kill him and give him final rest. But he knew that she’d never go for it if he told her directly, and centuries of brooding had made Kalarel quite clever & resourceful.
So he invented a new persona (rakshasa are master illusionists, remember) and became his own “rival”, the demon Lee. You’ll remember that Mr. Lee once gave the party a business card with his full name on it. He pronounced his full name, but told the party they could just call him by the shortened form: Lee. The full name, though, was Le Ralak Asah-skar E’ht Y’lter’ces. If you read that name backwards, however, you’ll see that he’s “Secretly the Rakshasa Kalarel”. Remember that I always said he wore John Lennon sunglasses? That was so Akara could never look into his eyes and see who he truly was. I also tried to have them always show up in the same places, but at different times. I was SO looking forward to the day Akara realized that, just to see the look on Valarie’s face. Oh well.
So the goal was for Mr. Lee to guide Akara to the immortal-slaying angel gear that she’d had in her previous lives, and then convince her to use it on Kalarel, whom she’d hopefully hate enough by that point that she wouldn’t question it. Kalarel’s whole run was a laugh at the futility of existence once your connection to god was gone, an extended assisted suicide attempt that required Akara’s help.
Oghma & Tharizdun, also Baba Yaga: Remember that the first god of Knowledge, Oghma, was the first to fall in the Dawn War? Nobody knew who killed her, but it started the war. Oghma, like Kalarel, was trapped by a sense of overwhelming futility. Knowing EVERYTHING, she reached that point many intellectuals do where she knew too much for her own good, where she focused on the nature of death and decay. Being a goddess of prophesy as well, she KNEW there were many futures in which all was lost. This threw her into a deep despair that actually created one of those futures. In the same way that Onslaught was created in the X-Men comics universe (professor X’s brain formed a psychic child in his head out of memories of Magneto), Oghma started to turn into Tharizdun, destroying her old self to become a god of nothingness. Her wisdom, though, knew that this was bad, and formed an offshoot “child” of her intellect that took mortal form… the witch Baba Yaga. This psychic child also got some of Oghma’s insanity, though, which is why she knew every spell in existence, but also was incredibly unstable and often couldn’t remember everything. Remember when there was a dream that Elizabeth/Ginger had, where Baba Yaga’s name was pronounced in a strange tongue, & sounded like Babua Yoghma? That was in reference to her true nature. Baba Yaga was the one who took the librarian/high priest Ioun to Dumathoin’s library, and was a big reason she became the new Goddess of Knowledge, because the old woman knew that her psyche was too fragile to trust with that kind of power/responsibility.
As god of all Knowledge, Oghma/Tharizdun was able to implant the knowledge of Tharizdun being a god that always existed in the heads of the rest of existence. Knowing most everything that could or would be done to her, she was also impossible to stop. It was only through joining in an attack with the primordials (negotiated by Dumathoin, actually, who secretly knew how to speak to both sides) that Tharizdun could be defeated and trapped. The Spider Queen Lolth spun unbreakable strands of web that Corellon infused with magic and Moradin forged into four great manacles (which Bahamut then solidified with platinum fire) to chain Tharizdun in a crystal gate that would forever keep out the Outsiders that Tharizdun had tried to summon to destroy reality. The war gods drove her to the trap, while the primordials focused their chaotic energy into her, filling her with such turmoil that she could not focus on the Knowledge contained in any one god’s head, and thus could not learn their plan ahead of time. The crystal gate was set up across dimensions, with two bonds forming a strong physical gate in the mortal realm, with two lesser variations on the gate… on in the Astral Sea, the other in the Elemental Chaos.
The Great Cataclysm: This was a major mystery throughout the campaign. The war between the dragonborn of Arkhosia and the tieflings of Bael Turoth was horrible, but it was both sides that caused the Cataclysm. Separately, each side found Knowledge that had been lost, and learned of these barriers that were holding back an immense power. Because each side wanted that immense power for themselves, and did rituals to shatter the barrier to gain the power. On that one fateful day, two of the chains holding Tharizdun back were destroyed, and the resulting waves of energy destroyed both nations and caused the Great Cataclysm. The crystal gate in the mortal reality shattered (creating the shardmind race), leaving only one echo each in the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos. A major plot of epic play was going to involve trying to protect these last 2 bonds before Tharizdun could be freed again.
The Lost Ionian Army: Remember that there was a whole thing with a lost dwarven army and a disappeared former king of Ionia, Bator Ironhammer, which threw the nation into chaos until King Titus Imperius and his party were able to take their dragon hoard winnings and remake the nation.
The black dragon family that killed King Bator Ironhammer’s father (and resulted in Bator’s rise to political power) in the Chamber of Crumbled Valor in the town of Ironhammer was a mother and several young. The father dragon was also there… but was something different.
That dragon, Duon-drithid, was the result of experiments by illithids in the Underdark. It is a shapeshifter who can assume the form of any creature it devours. More than just the form, it absorbs the memories of the creature, allowing it to fairly accurately “become” the creature (using an idea I pulled from a shape-changing race in Brian Sanderson’s Mistborn books).
This first victim happened to be the young Bator Ironhammer, the only “survivor” of that battle. As Bator, Duon-drithid was able to ride the political tides to become King of Ionia. Remember, Valarie, that there was a strange ghost child in the caves near where Akara’s backstory happened? That was Bator’s ghost.
When the battle at Dismalin happened, the necromancer Ssaz Tam summoned dark magics that called an evil mist to strip the spirits and souls of those present. This destroyed both armies, but Duon-drithid was able to transform and fly above the mist, devouring Ssaz Tam before flying away. This mist was the same mist that takes you to Ravenloft, but I hadn’t figured out how I was going to use that, yet.
The mist turned all present into some form of ghosts, so that even the undead armies that had been under Tam’s control lost their physical forms and became ghosts as well, though their souls were eaten by the mist (and maybe transported to a Ravenloft-type plane), so the ghosts have little to no memory of who they were. They only know that they are soldiers now.
Duon-drithid flew to Thay, where he became “Ssaz Tam” and has been working his way up that political ladder to take control of the mage-ocracy of that nation. Whether he does this out of his own ambition, or out of some mind-controlled plan from the Illithids is uncertain. What is also uncertain is how much of the devoured creatures’ souls (and consciences) Duon-drithid absorbs/inherits when he changes.
This was going to be a paragon-tier plotline, with political stuff in Ionia if the truth was revealed, as well as using some great half-illithid minis I’d picked up. Bringing in mind flayers also might have let me “uncover” some memories from Akara, or potentially play other head games.
The Stasis/Chaos Matrix: The Stasis Matrix that the crazy archmage Malachi Johnson set up in Dragon Mountain was often referred to, but seldom followed-through on. It was supposed to be containing the chaos energies of Dragon Mountain, keeping it in one place so it wouldn’t teleport dimension-to-dimension. There was also a “secret” the party learned in the Dumathoin-worshipping dwarven conclave Forgehome that said “the Chaos Matrix cannot endure”… which was a reference to that so-called Stasis Matrix. Remember that a variation of it was introduced by the IT Crowd in that crystal protective matrix put around Kyone when the Spider Queen started to take her over. However, much like the smaller version, the actual Stasis Matrix had not been functioning entirely as intended. It had certainly been redirecting the chaos energy, but instead of dispersing it, it had been storing it in a super-dense form within the crystal. My plan was for the energy to become so dense that it eventually attracted a comet at a dramatically appropriate moment, striking the capital of Ionia and creating the Chaos Scar in the mountains north of there (there was a whole 4E adventure path of 10-15 adventures called the Chaos Scar that had some stuff I wanted to run). This would kill King Titus Imperius and throw the nation of Ionia into chaos. Hopefully, by then, Gilraith Featherin would have been mayor of Altair for a while, and would have enough political clout with the military that he could get support to make a bid for the Kingship. There would be other contenders, of course, but Featherin’s Juan Peron style rise to power would be unstoppable. The hope was to do this around levels 10-12, and have the party get back to Ionia just in time for them to help out with politics, stopping chaos, etc.
Osip & Queen Mab: No secret that I was pulling heavily from the Dresden Files books for this plot about Nikolai’s brother becoming Mab’s Winter Knight. However, the idea was to have Osip be a recurring frenemy of the party, doing Mab’s evil bidding while trying to help his brother. Wasn’t sure if you were going to have to kill her or him, but I was curious to see how Nikolai dealt with it.
The Beast of Talgora: was actually the Tarrasque. Karath’s spirit ran into it in a narrated cut-scene that I ran via email with Mike. It’s rage was going to be a parallel to the headless Night Walker from Spirited Away, and I was going to have some kind of ambitious humans from Pax Arcana stealing magic from the Pool of Life, which was why the beast was more active lately. That probably would have happened in the level 15 range.
The Star League: There was a college of astronomers, astrologers, & star warlocks that I built in one of the northern countries near the mountainous frontiers. Remember one of them, Centauri, was someone the party helped for a few sessions? Well, he was going to call them in to help defend the college from a force of Kodan giants in the mountains, lead by the warlord Zur, who would have found a way to get an armad of airships for the giants. This was largely an elaborate setup so that I could directly quote the 80s sci-fi movie The Last Starfighter and have Centauri send a letter to the party that read “Greetings star-fighters, you have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Zur and the Kodan armada,” because I’m a nerd like that. But it also would have set up some really cool/dynamic fights against flying giants in airships. That would have been a late paragon-tier adventure.
The Egg of Io: This, also, would have tied into the Tharizdun plot. I wasn’t sure if the egg was going to be a thing that, when combined with Tharizdun, could create a new, whole, not-crazy god, or if I just wanted the egg’s presence in the world to make more breaches of the reality contract that had previously held the gods out of the world, but it was definitely going to be some kind of thing. Depending on the paragon paths you chose at level 11, it also might have been involved in some of the powers you received in your new classes (if any of them had weird extra energy gifts related to them).
Bane & Coventry: Was sort of a wild card. The fact that his church was gaining power in Coventry, which ended up getting overrun by Fey energy, was going to cause some kind of conflict, though I wasn’t sure what. A lot of it depended on what the party did. Maybe his church could have been used against the Fey. Maybe this would have kept Mab (who was given dominion over Coventry) in check to protect mortals in the nation. Maybe the party was going to be responsible for a new horrible church of war & conquest taking over a nation. Who knows? It was a neat angle to play, though, and I do always love screwing players over with unforeseen consequences… er, I mean “exciting plot”.
Other Adventures:* Most everything on the Bard’s Tale page had an adventure hook or two in it that I was ready to run. Some were more world-spanning than others, but all had the potential to be connected to other secrets in the world. I hadn’t figured out a way to work stories into Jessa or Jota’s character’s backstories much yet, as they were both relatively new… but I was planning on tying Jota’s character into some of the dwarven plots, and maybe having Jessa’s goliath being connected to stone elementals and having some connection to Dumathoin, or else being distantly related to some of the Kodan giants. Also, I planned at some point to have an entire session of chasing Mr. Danforth around, because KITTY.
Whew… that was a LOT. If you have other questions about stuff in-game that you always wondered, let me know. I’m certain I’ve probably forgotten large bits of stuff.
I wanted to thank you all for giving me the opportunity to set these plots in motion, and to watch as your characters uncovered and acted out bits of them. The New Altairian Heroes were pretty awesome, and I’m happy to have had the chance to help create some of their adventures with you all.