It’s time for installment number three in the Sand and Dreams brainstorming. Since it’s been a while since I last GMed much and I’m starting simple and gradually adding layers and detail with each adventure, I hope this will act as some amount of encouragement to newer GMs who aren’t sure they’re up to all the work a campaign entails. There’s nothing wrong with starting small and working more in as you get inspired to do so.
(All right husband o’ mine, once again, this is where you go read something else!)
Recap of II. Of Sand and Dreams
(I’ll try to start each installment off with a recap of the previous one. Since I tend to brainstorm and thus wander a bit, it can be helpful to have a simple distillation with refined details.)
- Long ago, when humans populated this largely desert continent, the solar deity Aurifar aided his favored children (beings from the Elemental Plain of Fire) in tricking his human followers into opening portals such that they could invade.
- Followers of several other gods, including Tem-Et-Nu (the goddess of rivers) and Afflux, the Unsatisfied Questioner , opposed Aurifar. They stole and broke apart his followers’ most powerful artifact, one which can be used to oppose undead in a most powerful manner. In all of the strife, nearly all humans on this continent perished, save some barbarian tribes.
- When the current humans living on this continent arrived nearly 100 years ago, Aurifar showed them to the empty city Tsaipia with its fertile surroundings and clean river water. This continent is as a void to the deities from the humans’ old continent, and so lacking guidance, they willingly turned to Aurifar.
The Party of Characters
- The mage’s mother is a priestess of Afflux, and she sent her son (Abu Aia) to keep an eye on the efforts to retrieve the amulet. Her order believes the amulet is needed now, but they cannot allow history to repeat itself.
- The priestess of Aurifar (Alia) has the best of intentions and a personal loyalty to the ranger leading the party. However, her loyalty to Aurifar will sweep her up in his machinations.
- The rogue, Wadi al-Saaif, is currently an unknown factor.
- The ranger, Mabeida, is exactly what she seems for now–a young woman with a noble purpose. What choices will she make when the time comes?
- The monk, Kasim, belongs to an order dedicated to neutrality and protecting the nobility of their people. He was given to the order at a very tender age, and the only thing he has of his family is a ring of mind-shielding that his mother gave him.The original “Sand & Dreams” material involved men and women who were half-breeds–half-human and half-Jinn–and this is what he might discover himself to be.
Adventure #2: The Temple of Evening Glory
Evening Glory is a lesser deity from the supplement Libris Mortis. She is known as the Deathless Beauty and the Eternal Lover, and her followers preach the immortality of love after death. Her symbol is “an open hand, pierced through the palm with a heart-shaped hole.” Corria, the necromancer and thief to whom it fell to hide away the pieces of Aurifar’s amulet, decided to leave the last piece with the matriarch of a temple to Evening Glory; the woman was a friend of the family, and he trusted her discretion and abilities.
In designing the temple I used the Dire Press Random Dungeon Generator to generate a small level 2 dungeon, undead motif, rectangular, medium room size, packed, straight corridors, no dead-ends. I felt it was a bit large for my purposes, so I found a point about 2/3 of the way down the dungeon at which I could draw nearly a straight line across and not intersect any rooms, and I chopped off the bottom third of the dungeon.
I used the printout as a guideline rather than using it directly. I sat down with some graph paper, a pencil, and some colored pencils and re-drew the thing to my satisfaction. As I went I picked purposes for each room based on how I thought the temple might be laid out, and this caused me to occasionally re-draw doors, walls, and so on to suit those purposes. I picked and chose lock DCs and trap descriptions as I liked from the DP printout, sometimes moving them to new locations or altering them. I used the colored pencils to mark the locations of things like chests, and wherever there was an encounter I used them to put the number of creatures encountered on the relevant room. The rooms were numbered, and I put a brief description of the purpose of each room and what would be found there along the side of the map.
I plan to refer back to the original Dire Press printout for the encounter stats, and I wrote in the expected xp awards next to those encounters.
The Amulet’s Effects
The amulet was broken up into eight pieces: four interlocking pieces that, once reassembled and reforged together, will make up the amulet itself, and four inset gemstones. As each gemstone is replaced, the amulet will regain some of its powers. In this location the party should find one of the four basic pieces; it’s tucked away in a hidden chest in the matriarch’s quarters.
The party will also find the matriarch’s journal, which will be in a chest (not hidden) in the room where she prepared to receive visitors to the temple. In it she describes day-to-day events at the temple–including Corria’s visit, how he gave her a wrapped parcel and entreated her to safeguard it with all of her resources, and how she tucked it away. Within a week after that she describes various odd events that began to happen at the temple. Clerics reported having odd dreams in which they saw the goddess beckoning her to them. Or they dreamed of the temple enshrouded in mist and disappearing into the earth. Residents of the temple began to fall ill with a strange wasting disease, one which no one could identify or affect. Finally one of them died and returned as a zombie–one that the clerics could not command–and the matriarch decided she must flee the temple. The last note indicates that she planned to go to the temple of Tem-Et-Nu to seek aid (this will eventually lead the party to another piece of the amulet).
What happened to the temple?
Evening Glory is a lesser goddess of love and undeath. My current theory is that a servitor of Nerull, a quite evil and much more powerful deity of undeath, decided the matriarch and the temple inhabitants could not adequately protect the piece of the amulet from Aurifar’s minions, and thus they cursed the inhabitants in order to make them into more “fitting” protectors. The matriarch, being favored of Evening Glory, did manage to escape, but she was prevented from retrieving the piece of the amulet, which by that time she had tied to the goings-on. More of her story will be found when the party encounters a temple of Tem-Et-Nu later.
The party of characters
As the story progresses I want to work more personal material into the plotline and the adventures, enriching the detail of the characters’ lives. Abu Aia will most likely feel sorrow for those who served at this temple–they were denied the chance to preserve themselves according to the rites of their goddess and were instead turned into creatures of Nerull. He knows some details about the religion of the goddess but will be loath to admit it unless necessary.
Alia will feel only revulsion at the thought of anyone who worshipped an undead deity, and will not be able to comprehend the difference between Evening Glory and Nerull, conceptually.
Wadi will have an interest in finding this temple of Tem-Et-Nu, but I haven’t figured out why yet.
Mabeida is of a more practical bent. She loathes undead in general, but if Evening Glory’s followers are less of a threat than others’, that matters to her. She’ll want more information on what’s going on here. Things will start to not add up to her here.
As for Kasim–well who can say what will go on in a PC’s mind? However, since some of Evening Glory’s allies are fire elementals, I think he will feel warm and welcomed near her altar, and may get some temporary bonus to reflect that. In other words, the first stirrings of his inheritance will show.
I admit, I love toys, and I kind of got inspired by the GM of one of the two campaigns I’m playing in right now. He loves randomizing treasures to a certain extent. He’ll do things like pre-prepare a handful of “chests” (small wooden boxes containing lists of items and money amounts, etc.), and then put three out on the table and have us choose one when we find a chest. So, I’ve been pre-preparing various such things. I find there’s a certain boost and challenge to both GM and player creativity when you randomize the resources the party comes across to a certain extent. You (and they) never entirely know what they’ll have to work with, and that makes things particularly interesting! The more creative your players, the more fun this can be. You can always make sure to add anything specific you want them to have into the treasure when they open it.
I even have a box of little folded scraps of paper identifying various potions they might come across, so whenever they identify a potion they can pull it from the box. I put certain things in there in greater quantity (such as cure light wounds), and not everything in there is a magical potion (there are metamagic components from “Unearthed Arcana,” random other liquids, alchemical compositions, and so on).
We have a couple of “maps”–which is to say, grids of squares appropriate for running combats on. One is 22″ x 34″ and the other is 24″ x 24″. We went to Home Depot and picked up a piece of plexiglass to put overtop, which means we can use wet-erase markers to draw and re-draw walls, obstacles, and so on. We also picked up a first few minis, because I have to admit they really make combat clearer. We did wrap the edges of the plexiglass in masking tape, which I highly recommend, because they can be a bit sharp.
I hope to get the matriarch’s “journal” (or at least key entries from it) written up before the adventure runs so I can hand it out with the rest of the contents of the chest rather than simply describing it.