The Sage Welcomes You

So, here you find a blog about life in general, but with a focus on family, games, books and creativity. Other "stuff" will creep in from timt to time.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Old and New Combined: A Vision for New D&D Adventures (Part 1)

When I wrote the epilog to the Nine Vessels of Magic campaign, it was to conclude the our adventures.  I wrote an end of sorts to everyone’s story.  It was a narrative set some two hundred and seventy-five years after the conclusion of the campaign.  

Caladin remained dead, entombed, perhaps to be called again to service in another age.  Daniel van Rigir, Cheltenham and finally Degius Le Gudrius had succumbed to old age.  The epilog was written about a year after Degius’ death.  Daniel founded the City of Freedom at the edge of a new forest begun by The Druid (a guest star who had been in a few of the adventures).  A hinted at dread foe, the Githyanki pirate Kal Thard, never made another appearance and instead passed into obscurity, leaving Daniel to his life’s work.  Daniel, in the epilog, had died with a happy family around him.  Cheltenham had had a distinguished career as a diplomat and warrior, and had left behind a martial arts school, specializing in the great sword.  Degius had been raised to the nobility of the imperial court and given charge of the imperial library.  He and Krystella had children and grandchildren.

The epilog left hanging the narration of Lady Antani Pendragon (née Luventar), as she remained lost, and her husband, Mordred Pendragon, continued to search for her and the child that he hoped had been born of their union.  He searched even though he seemed to live without hope of ever finding them.  Sir Lars Amoril had retreated from the world, and spent his life in contemplation of his god, Solonor Thelandria in retirement.  Lars, as a High Elf, could expect to live another four or more centuries, contemplating peace and the divine.  Krystella Le Gudrius (née Entuluvan), the narrator of the epilog, was about four hundred and forty years old, young for a Grey Elf, who could expect to live eleven to fifteen more centuries.  At the end of the narrative, it was implied that Krystella contemplated taken her own life to join Degius in the afterlife. 

That was the story that I wrote to conclude the campaign, and that is canon.  We are not going back.

However, in the world of fantasy, that does not have to be the end. 

We have the wonderful question, “what if . . . ?”

To set the stage for this, let me state a few of my thoughts on what inspires me to go forward on the foundations laid by my old campaign.  As pedantic as my quest theme was, there were a lot of good bits, and some connections to the materials of the lore of Dungeons and Dragons, that a few years later opened up into whole new areas of play.  

I had played with planes and parallel worlds, with the gothic tragedy of the Arthurian Myth, and I had taken the player characters into space.  In 1987, none of those things were full blown settings, though the elements were coming together.  New settings, from which the Nine Vessels of Magic campaign did not benefit, included Spelljammer (published 1989), Ravenloft (the original module was 1983, but the full blown setting fully developed as the demiplane of dread came in 1990) and Planescape (published 1994). 

Also, Greyhawk went through some major revisions, and my world had been, if not Greyhawk, a reflection of it.  The Greyhawk Wars (released in 1991) postulated a huge regional conflagration that advanced the timeline in Eastern Oerik (the Flanaess) and then reshaped it into a new set of narrative realities in From the Ashes (published in 1992).  This was further changed, refined, and updated in the new Greyhawk Player’s Guide (published 1998), which again advanced the timeline.  The original timeline setting had begun in Common Year (CY) 576, the Greyhawk Wars beginning in CY 582, From the Ashes (in the aftermath of the wars) was set in CY 586, and the new Greyhawk Player’s Guide was set in CY 591.  Also, there was a whole Living Greyhawk Campaing, and many thousands of players experienced adventuring from CY 591 to CY598.  Materials about the setting abound.

Finally, AD&D, though still played, is an ancient artifact.  Second, Third (and 3.5), and Fourth Editions of the game have come (and many still play each of those editions) and somewhat gone.  However, the newest version of Dungeons & Dragons is Fifth Edition, and it is a very good, solid platform for play which I like quite a lot. 

In re-imagining the foundations for a new set of adventures, I could incorporate the now accumulated lore of almost thirty years into my back story (at least the parts I remembered, or had notes on, or that seemed to fit).  I would build it to play in the modern and evolved rules of the Fifth Edition of the game.

What would that look like?

So, to start with, here is my “what if.”

First, as background, in this new gloss on old things, what if I had just set things in Greyhawk, on the world of Oerth, in the Flaeness region of the continent of Oerik?  What would be the back story, and how would things have played out.  As I am doing this on my own, and first and foremost for myself, this first draft will not take much into account of my players, even those with whom I am somewhat in touch.

The core party is Caladin the Paladin, Degius Le Gudrius (fighter/cleric), Cheltenham (ranger/cleric), Daniel van Rigir (ranger/cleric), Antani Pendragon (née Luventar; cavalier), and Lars Amoril (cavalier; cousin to Antani).  Where were these people from in the Flaeness, where did they begin their adventures, and where else did they go?  That is important, because it allows me to weave the backstory into the greater meta-plot of The World of Greyhawk, and to build story ideas and allow for character elaboration down the line.

To begin this "what if", this is what I imagine.


Caladin was born in the Free State of Onnwal, once part of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy, but long independent.  His family was strong in the worship of Heironeous, the Oeridian god of Jonor, Justice, Daring, War, Valor and Chivalry.  He dedicated himself to the worship of that god and became a Paladin.  His father, a priest of Heironeous, sent him forth to find his own path and gifted him with a magic shield, upon which he commanded Caladin to place his own symbols, once he determined what crest he should gift to his descendants. For some time he served with a company of Dwarves, a notable minority in Onnwal.  Eventually, after adventures and tragedy, he passed across the the Sea of Gearnat and up the Woolly Bay to pass into the lands around the Nyr Dyv, which abounded with adventure and was the home area for the rest of the party.


Degius Le Gudrius, half-elven scion of a minor noble house in the Kingdom of Furyondy, grew up in his father’s castle, close to the Vesve forest (the largest hardwood forest in all of the Flaeness), and guarding the frontier with The Land of Iuz.  Deg’s mother was of the Sylvan elves, and lived with his father for some time, but returned to her forest and her people once Deg chose his path in life.  He was trained as a warrior, befitting the son of a castellan, but also chose the life of a scholar and took orders with the Elven god of longevity and patron of sages, historians, philosophers, and librarians.  Eventually he took to an adventuring life, and travelled out of the Kingdom of Furyondy to meet his future companions.


Cheltenham Half-Elf, was born in the lands of the Duchy of Ulek, ruled over by Elven nobility, though his parents, also both half-elven as was common in those lands, were of humbler origin.  He grew up enamored of the wilds, and called to the worship of the High Elven god, Corellon Larethian.  His studies took him to the center of elven culture in the Flaeness, the Kingdom of Celene.  There, he trained for the priesthood, but also became acquainted with the vast elven woods, eventually joining the Rangers of the Gnarly Forest for a time.  Eventually, with his training and knowledge in divine lore, woodcraft, and the art of war, he set off with a friend to make his fortune.


Daniel van Rigir, grew up in the rough and tumble lands of the Wild Coast, a land of petty nobles, robber barons, guildheld towns, fishing and forest villages.  As the land was prey to freebooters, mercenaries and displaced persons of all sorts, he grew up often in want, and always keenly aware of his need to be free.  He was fostered at a temple of Trithereon, The Summoner, the god of ndividuality, Liberty, Retribution, and Self-Defense.  From the temple, he passed to the company of the Rangers of The Gnarly Forest.  There he met and befriended Cheltenham, and after their time of training with the Rangers completed, they set out together, each looking for fortune and adventure.

Lars & Antani

The origins of Sir Lars Amoril and Lady Antani Luventar (later Pendragon) are closely aligned.  Both were knights of the Elvish Court of Celene.  Each came of noble High Elven family, close to the line of Queen Yolande of Celene.  Sir Lars of the Amoril family came of a line of Elvish Knights on the side of his father, Field Marshall Aldrieth Amoril, and of scholars, priests and wizards on that of his mother, Lady Yden Amoril (née Luventar).  He was the youngest of six siblings, including his two older brothers and three older sisters.  Lady Antani of the Luventar family, was the granddaughter of a Prince of the Court of Celene, Lorlar Luventar, and daughter of the famous archer, Gathiel Luventar, and Court Mage Anastasyn Luventar.  She was the middle child, between an older brother, an Eldritch Knight of the Court, and a younger sister, a devotee of the Elven goddess Hanali Celanil.

Both Antani and Lars were fostered to the Feywild and the Summer Court of the Arch-Fey.  Their training took place in the ancient fortress city of Mithredain, called the Autumn City, a place where time passed strangely, when it seemed to pass at all.  As these high elves worked with the warriors and nobles of the Fey, they gained powerful links to dimensions beyond the Prime Material Plane which held Oerth and their home forests of Celene, which they learned was a mere spot on the map of the Flaeness in the vastness of the multiverse.  Further, they each were knighted within the household of the Entuluvan clan.  While this Eladrin clan was at times a minor part of the Summer Court, it held a special privilege during the conjunction of the Feywild with Oerth.  At that time, the leader of the clan, Thormond Entuluvan, became Emperor of all Elves, so proclaimed by the High Queen Tiandra of the Court of Stars.  While there were paths and ways to the Feywild for Elvenkind to travel at any time, the decade long conjunction would bring together “The Great Elf Empire” through a nexus in the Feywild.  The difficulty was that Thormond foresaw that this conjunction would bring great danger. 

So, Lars and Antani, as wards of the Entuluvan, were particularly cultivated to respond to the danger soon to be.  Their destinies, however, were withheld by the canny Fey.  Knowledge was and is a currency among the faery, and little was shared with the two High Elven Knights from Celene.  Lars and Antani completed their training among the Fey, and returned to Celene.  From there, each in their time, they travelled to Dyvers to begin their errantry as knights.  Soon enough they became friends and companions with the others who would become the instruments of Thormond’s gambit against the dread Lich Kantorek.

To be continued . . .

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Overview and Memories of a 1980s Advanced Dungeon and Dragons Campaign

(Author's note: this is a post based on a combination of recollection and discovery of some scattered notes; I may modify it or correct and enlarge it depending on what else comes to me.  Also, this is probably interesting to no more than seven people on the planet, maybe fewer)

A long time ago, back in the 1980’s, I ran Advanced Dungeons & Dragons for my High School friends.  There was a shifting group of us, but as it finally fell out, after some comings and goings and character changes, there was a group of seven of us.  Six player characters and me, the DM.

I started people out with the basic dungeon crawl.  I quite unoriginally started with B-1, In Search of the Unknown, as the first level of my dungeon.  Other levels, carefully hand drawn, with room contents filled out in a key in a spiral notebook followed.  There was not a lot of logic to it all, but that was early AD&D.  The rooms usually seemed to be set pieces, often unconnected from one another, waiting for the entry of the player characters to trigger them.

They also had some adventures in town, some trouble with the thieves’ guild (the Monkey Guild as I recall), faced an initial incursion of mysterious humanoid feline invaders (Larry Niven’s Kzinti from Dragon 50) and some dealings with a powerful mage named Xanthius.

I was using my own “world” sort of.  I was both too cheap to purchase The World of Greyhawk materials and too proud to think that I needed them, but I was using Greyhawk Deities and was heavily influenced by Gary Gygax’s published campaign.  I never had much coherent world building, and we might as well have been in Greyhawk.

The main party consisted of:

Two High Elven Cavaliers (Antani and Lars) (each started after the write up in of the Cavalier Class in Dragon 72, and then formalized by Unearthed Arcana).

Two Half-Elven Ranger/Clerics (Daniel van Rigir and Cheltenham).

One Half-Elven Fighter/Cleric (Degius Le Gudrius).

And one Human Paladin (Caladin, yes, Caladin the Paladin).

One note on the Paladin.  Caladin came into the game because of a rules quirk.  His player had originally been playing Farl the Barbarian (who always wanted to go East).  We developed Farl after the Barbarian class was published in Dragon 63.  It was a class that got tried out a lot after its initial publication.

However, as written, the original barbarian character and the revised final version published in Unearthed Arcana, was a hater of magic.  As you will see below, that became a problem, and rather than house rule away that issue (especially since it had been a role playing point), we had the player swap Farl for Caladin.  Farl went East.

Eventually, we came to the point of needing more of a focus for the game, and thus was born my quest.  The Nine Vessels of Magic were the focus of the quest (thus the need to jettison Farl the Barbarian given the way the class was written then).  The quest was straight forward and unoriginal.  Long ago, a great Elven Wizard had forged the Nine Vessels of Magic, each one embodying one of the archetypical forms of magic, in order to help protect the Elven Realms.  Also long ago, the Vessels had been lost.
Now, a dreadful Lich, Kantorek, had discovered the lore of the Vessels and was seeking for them.  He was already massing forces for a great war of conquest against the realms of the living.  With the Vessels, he would be (wait for it) INVINCIBLE!

The Elven Emperor, impressed by the deeds of the two Elvish Cavaliers and their companions, charged the group with the retrieval of the Nine and frustration of Kantorek’s plans, if not his outright defeat.  I decided, as I was railroading them into this, that they might also need some magical support, so I contrived to place an NPC with them, creating the youthful daughter of the Emperor as a talented magic user and having her become infatuated with one of the party members, Degius.  The princess’ name was Krystella.

I already admitted this was not the world’s most original story.

It was, however, fun.

Along the way, there were a few guest stars.  A Druid who came in and out of the story as my cousin visited, and a thief (another lack in the party), played by a friend of one of the players, but who eventually decided not to come back (or we decided not to invite him back, that is hazy).
As they sought the Vessels, they battled pirates, they fought armies of goblinoids, they played through my modified version of The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, and they ended up in a quasi-Spelljammer before there was a Spelljammer setting, as they fought Mutant Orcs on a spaceship (also heavily influenced by Gamma World).  After that ship crashed, they ended up in a quasi-Egyptian setting and gained the help of Isis (I was going through several chapters in Deities & Demigods).

As we wound down the campaign they went through modified versions of the G-Series (Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, Hall of the Fire Giant King).

I ended up throwing one character, Antani (one of the High Elven Cavaliers) ahead, into my twisted version of the Arthurian stories.  The character ended up married to my version of Mordred.  As it turned out, there was Mordred and a “Dark Mordred” (ala Dark Phoenix as far as inspiration).

The rest of the party arrived afterward, and, of course the version of the Holy Grail in this reality was one of the Vessels.  There was a Cathedral to the Grail, guarded day and night by Sir Galahad.  However, he then was murdered, shortly after the formal announcement of the marriage of Antani and Mordred.  Mordred and Antani were arrested in their quarters, a bloody dagger in Antani’s hand.  

The party participated in the trial before the King, and at that event, Mordred, seeming extremely evil, revealed the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere, and then as Lancelot sought to flee with the Queen, Mordred used magic to cause Lancelot to kill Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth.  The extreme chaos essentially cleared the room, the player characters seemingly forgotten. 

Then, in an even bigger reveal, Mordred split, with his evil-self free and the man the player character loved still in chains.  He swore to destroy Camelot and Arthur and laughed at the thought that his good twin was to die for his crimes.  He then disappeared.

The characters managed to talk their way out of Camelot, take the Grail, take the “good” Mordred.  With the help of the spirit of Merlin, they boarded a mystical ship and set sail towards their final confrontation with Kantorek.  

In that crossing, both Krystella and Mordred were lost and taken prisoner by Kantorek when the ship foundered.  The characters each received a boon on the Isle of White Magic from an Angel of Light.  Somewhere along the way too, Antani found that she was in the early stages of pregnancy.  Then they went into the final confrontation with Kantorek.

There were some individual tests, then a big combat.  In the end, Degius was dead, and Antani ended up cleaving Kantorek in twain.  Unfortunately, he was also able to break his Staff of Power which killed Caladin and caused Antani to be cast into the multiverse, lost and sundered from her friends and her true love.  

Caladin was later entombed (prophesized to return some day), Mordred and Lars set off to find Antani, Daniel and Cheltenham got Degius raised from the dead, and Degius and Krystella finally married in our quick end game discussion.  That final game was in 1987. 

In about 1988, I wrote a long epilog, from the perspective of the long lived Krystella, which narrated the end of most of the company.  That is the official and unchanged end to the campaign which became known as the Nine Vessels of Magic.  There was triumph and sadness and some things that just did not get resolved.

I have had regrets about that campaign.  It was basically the thing I had to do to get a lot of mistakes out of my system, be a bad DM to try to learn to be a good DM, and a way to experience and understand a lot of lessons that others had tried to teach me, but you don’t get until you have tried and experimented with stuff.

I also remember it with extreme fondness, for all its flaws, especially for the time I got to spend with my friends.  It inspired character art and a lot of other creativity in my friends, which was both gratifying and a lot of fun.  

After that campaign ended, we all headed out our different ways, and frictions and fractures that had perhaps always been there surfaced more.  We never got back all together to game again.  That stage of our lives was over.

And if that was all, it would still be enough.  But I am thinking of writing another chapter or two. 

And with the wisdom of hindsight, I should think a have a twist here or there to add.

I'll have more to write soon.