Plot Kitchen: Secrets of the Mountain Ranges

“The high peaks and low valleys of the mountains had always touched me in a way I cannot possibly describe. And everyone in my family thought I was crazy when I started my journey, ha!”

– From the journal of Zorlax Muggyam, gnome explorer

Pact Mountain

“The druids of the place are a cautious folk indeed. It took them quite a few lightning bolts and thrown boulders until they noticed our rain-sodden and weather-torn white flag…”

This ancient extinguished volcano towers above the surrounding peaks, his summit always shrouded in clouds of differing moods. Continue reading Plot Kitchen: Secrets of the Mountain Ranges

Story Time: The Forgotten Realms Creation Myth

The Sisters of Light And Darkness

Out of timeless nothingness, there rose dark and indistinct mists, foreshadowing of what was to come, an idea of existence, guided by a will we dare name Ao, the Hidden One.

With Time,  the mists began to change.  Out of the idea, form came to be. Into a primeval expanse, secluded from the rest of the multiverse, twin spirits were born: The sisters who-were-one, one of them of cool brightness, one of them of soothing darkness. And they existed in perfect and static harmony for eons.

Then, there was a pull. And a push. The sisters’ harmony began to flow. There was was rise, and there was fall. There was up, and there was down. There was ground, and there was above… And in between the flow, new form was created.

The sisters noticed the change. The bright one, Selûne, was curious about the things that they had created, while the dark one, Shar, was bothered by the sudden flow of existence.

But still, form was hollow, with no idea of itself. Selûne touched a form with her brightness, while Shar withdrew from it. Conscience was sparked in the form, and spread throughout its entire being.

Thus, the World was born, but it was still incomplete and only ideas pressed into form. It cried out, and Selûne nurtured it with light, while Shar watched it warily from a distance.

The World begged for warmth so that she could nurture life and living creatures upon the planets that were her body and limbs, and the two sisters became divided, as for the first time they were of two minds. Silvery Selûne contested with her dark sister over whether or not to bring further life to the worlds.

A battle ensued, and from the spirits’ argument, new concepts were born that spread into the world, and formed into being. These beings later formed into the gods of life, love, death, magic, war, and sacrifice were created, and took their part in the deific struggle.

During the battle, Selûne seized the advantage and reached across time and space to the inner core of creation, a roiling chaos of unformed elemental stuff. She grabbed a part of the chaos, which burned and eroded her divine essence. She took a fiery fragment of flame from the chaos, and set it into space as a sun, that bathed the World in warmth and comfort, and life awakened in the World.

Incensed, Shar redoubled her attack on her injured twin and began to snuff out all light and heat in order to swallow it in darkness, returning the world to a state of nonlife. Again Selûne gave of herself and tore the divine essence of magic from her body, flinging it desperately at her sister in defense of life in the sphere, creating the goddes of magic, Mystryl,  in the process.

Though Mystryl was composed of both light and dark magic, she favored her first mother Selune initially, allowing the silver goddess to win an uneasy truce with her more powerful, dark twin. Consumed by bitterness at her defeat, Shar vowed eternal revenge, and their struggle continues to this day.

Shar remained powerful, but bitterly alone, hiding in the World’s Shadow, while Selune waxed and waned in power, often drawing strength from her allied daughters and sons and like-minded immigrant deities residing in her silvery Astral Sea.

The Lords of Chaos

While the sisters fought their first eon-spanning battles, the world was unprotected, and on waves of elemental chaos, powerful beings of manifest entropy rode into the World and began to shape it into their desires. The name of their kind has been lost to the ages; the few sages who today know of their existence refer to them simply as the primordials.

The Goddesses came to a halt in their struggle, when the World was inexplicably plunged into darkness, its sun snatched from the sky by a sinister primordial known as the Night Serpent. The twin sisters and their fellow gods recognized the primordial threat and bargained an alliance. Shar wants to rid the World of all elements, returning it to swirling mists of nothingness, while Selûne and her allies wanted to protect the World’s beings from destruction and slavery.

A cataclysmic war raged over the World. The Elder Gods, led by a deity called the World Serpent, managed to win the war only with the aid of a rogue primordial called Ubtao the Deceiver. The primordials were killed or imprisoned on the far reaches of the cosmos or in hidden places in the World. In order to never let the world again experience such destruction, the goddess known as the Earthmother gave some of her essence to awaken the World’s primal spirits to keep gods and primordials alike from stepping into the World.

The primordials fester in their prisons or hide in the Elemental Chaos to this day, waiting for a chance to plunge the world back into entropy.

Story Time: The Broken Ring

After their victory over the primordials in ancient times, the gods decided to end the threat for good. In concert, they forged a great ring, a containment for the remaining and free-willed primordials, a containment for the Elemental Chaos.

On this ring, 16 “outer” planes were arranged  in perfect symmetry, corresponding to the alignment of its inhabitants (lawful, chaotic, good, evil, and differentiations between). The Outands, a 17th, neutral plane capped the trapped Elemental Chaos and hid it from the sight of the gods.

Those primordials that were too powerful had to be contained on the planes, in the reach of the Gods. Many primordials were imprisoned on Carceri, the prison plane, others in remote layers of the planes of good deities, some were hidden in the maelstroms of Limbo.

Like the Abyss, Limbo and the domains of the Slaad were too difficult to control, so whole segments of the new outer planes had to be granted to them.

Under the influence of the symmetry of the ring, the Elemental Chaos was slowly divided and formed into the “inner” planes: 4 elemental, 4 paraelemental, 2 energy, and 8 quasielemental parts, diminishing the raw chaotic powers of the primordials that remained free in the multiverse.

The Gods could then tap the power of the Inner Planes to build magnificent realms on the Geat Ring, and the various pantheons of gods worshipped on similar worlds even shaped additional connections and crossroads between several dominions and allies of the Gods, calling them fancy names like The Great Wheel, The Great Road, Tree of Worlds, the World Ash, Styx, The River Ma’at, or The Twelve Hours of Night.

For eons, the world remained in this order as it was imposed by the gods. But then a series of events turned the tides in favor of the primordials, who stirred in their seemingly eternal prisons.

The Shattering

The machinations and powers of primordials like the Greek Titans and demon lords, plus the interference of aspiring Asmodeus, rogue gods, and some meddling mortals, changed the balance of power lately in favor of the primordials.

The Spellplague

For example, a world called Abeir-Toril was rocked by a cataclysm referred to as the ‘Spellplague’. The world’s deity of magic, Mystra, who spanned the world with a field of magic called the Weave, was slain. The Weave was created to limit this world’s magic, so that mortals and immortals alike could not access the power of raw magic, with some exceptions.

Abeir-Toril had also been known as a main battleground between gods and primordials in ancient times, and many primordial corpses and prisons were contained on this world. Mystra’s Weave also hid the primordial prisons and barred their raw, elemental influence from the world.

Mystra had been slain several times in Abeir-Toril’s history, but this time, her essence was so utterly destoyed, that the Weave ceased to exist. Raw chaos and magic raged across the lands, slaying wizards or driving them mad, the ground was raised, lowered, or thrust into the air, and, unknown to many, the primordial prisons of old were uncovered, their influence slowly starting to taint the surrounding lands.

As a result of this rise in power, the inner planes suddenly started to flow into each other again, unlocking their entropic potential, and expanded. The ring of the outer planes unhinged, and the great ring fell apart. The planes were rocked by chaos and destruction, but the deities and other denizens of the planes were able to keep much of their realms and dominions safe.

When the chaos cleared and the mists lifted, the gods had transferred their homes to the Astral plane,  floating like islands in a vast sea, while the primordials and demons once again consolidated their power in the reborn Elemental Chaos.

  • The Ethereal plane, was dissoluted and enveloped by the Elemental Chaos, while the planes of Shadow and Faerie assumed new positions in the order of the cosmology.
  • Sigil in its function and features was unaffected, but many portals became broken or switched destination, especially those targeting the Elemental Chaos. The central parts of the neutral Outlands and its spire still float somewhere in the endlessness of the astral sea, and on the chunks of matter orbiting around it, new towns and life springs up around portals leading to the scattered divine dominions, similar to the ‘Gatetowns’ of the former outer planes.
  • While some worlds, especially those with many portals, suffered greatly, most worlds were protected from the planar tumults by divine intervention or other powers like the primal spirits of the world.

Still, the primordials power is not great enough to challenge the gods, as many are asleep, imprisoned or wait to be raised from death, but they are back on their feat, and the cosmic game with prime worlds as its prize, is on again…

Story Time: The Cult of the Eye

Unlike others, Dragash was not desperately screaming and thrashing.

He, orc chieftain of the Dwarfskull tribe, was shackled to the altar of Gruumsh. He did not fear what was to come, because he had prepared for this very day for years in his battles against the dwarves of the caverns above. The tribe shaman towered over his restrained form, raising a ceremonial spearhead and chanting to the One-Eyed God. Right now, he would thrust the stony blade into Dragash’s right eye, scarring him irrevocably, but uniting him with his great god in a way no creature but an orc could possibly understand.

The spearhead came down, and pain filled Dragash’s world. Every muscle of his body hardened to fight it, and Dragash managed to suppress the screams that would spell out his pain and rage. His inner being had to become with the rage of  Gruumsh for the ritual to complete!

Continue reading Story Time: The Cult of the Eye

Plot Kitchen – Tales of the Astral Sea

“The multiverse is filled with wonders. The raw creation stuff of the Elemental Chaos contains endless possibilities, just like the belief  of mortals forms the Astral Sea in infinite ways…”

— Asmai, Genasi Scholar

Anubis – Guardian of the Dead Gods

Yet another world had forsaken the ancient gods… No more would anyone send a prayer to Ra, Osiris, Isis, Thoth, Set, or any of the others.

His conscience reached out into the endless starry expanse of the Astral Sea, and felt a turbulence, as venerable Nut and Geb finally joined the ranks of the dead divine corpses floating about aimlessly.

Not for the first time, Anubis felt disturbed, even threatened by the course of events in recent eons. Already, he saw the power of the Pantheon fading, and his own realm crumbling.

As a power of transition to another state, he understood well: It was time for him to find a new place in this multiverse, before his essence, too, would be destroyed like the others’.

He walked out to the empty shells of divinity, and decided to give up his divine existence, for a new and sacred duty awaited him in this place. An ancient oath came from his lips, as he bound himself to the shells.

From then on, he would be known as the Guardian of  their sanctity.”

The Mulhorandi/Egyptian Pantheon already faded into obscurity on many prime worlds. Anubis,  guide into the afterlife, saw as more and more of his allies faded from existence. He decided that these gods should not be forgotten and should get their due respect even in their death, so he proclaimed himself guardian of all the dead gods.

He and his minions walk the corpses of dead gods floating in the Astral Sea, and slay any who dare to defile the remains of the Gods. A particular thorn in Anubis’s side is Tunarath, the githyanki city built in the petrified body of a long-dead god.

The Archangels – Marshals of the Divine Host

The powerful immortals known as the archangels (sometimes called The Seraphim) were once servants of the gods, who gained their independence, a stronghold, and a small host of servant angels of their own as a reward in their endless efforts against the primordials at the Dawn of Creation. The archangels do not usually serve only one god, but divinity as a whole. They do favor, however, deities who are good or at least cooperative.

  • Gabriel is the Grand Herald of the gods, and the most powerful of the Archangels. He is also responsible for selecting souls for birth, and has influence on the lunar tides and waters of the world.
  • Raphael is a healer and sage, and it is said that for those who come to his fortress he either heals any injury or answer any question.
  • Michael is a warrior of great strength and has a inspiring personality, and he is said to have never lost a battle. Many titan lords and even a few primordials fell to his powerful sword.
  • Uriel is an introverted mystic, and he rarely stays in his stronghold, instead wandering the planes searching for signs of the ‘end of the world’. When that time comes, it is said that he will be responsible for gathering all existence for some form of Final Judgement. Rumor holds that Uriel also has the power to bring final death to immortal souls.
  • Samael is a loner and mercenary, and has few contacts to the other archangels. His tactical skill is valued by many deities, and he serves them willingly for the right price and as long as elemental creatures get hurt in the way. His army is a small squadron of powerful immortals with unique powers.

Most of the time, the archangels follow their own agendas, but when the Astral Powers are threatened, they join their powers to crush their foes. Traditionally, Samael is not seen as a part of The Seraphim by the other four, but when need arises, they call upon him and his tactical genius.

Ilsensine – The Great Brain

The illithid reputedly have their origin in the Far Realm, but unlike other farspawn, illithids also have a mortal, worldly part in their physiology, as their tadpoles are implanted into humanoid bodies. Maybe its their partly mortal origin or their psychic power, but some mind flayers openly give worship to the entity known as Ilsensine.

While not the creator of illithids, Ilsensine sees mind flayers as the entities most worthy of dominating the universe. Ilsensine is obsessed with gathering knowledge of all varieties, and its ganglia stretch to every corner of existence, tapping into all the knowledge of the universe. [*]

God, primordial, or horror of the Far Realm… No one exactly knows what Ilsensine is, where it comes from, or what it looks like. Rumors abound, yet still more and more creatures with psionic powers give credit and even worship to this powerful enitity of mental might.

The Caverns of Thought

In the middle of the Astral Sea lies a dominion known by the local githyanki and planewalkers as ‘Center’.  Rocks and nondescript badlands slowly rise towards a column of stone in the middle parts of the dominion, the Spire. This Spire is reputed to be infinitely high, and old planewalker rumors hold that Sigil floats atop of it.

In all of Center, the ground is highly morphic, and responds well to transmutation and teleportation magic. Rifts and portals to other astral dominions, to the World and its mirrors, as well as the Elemental Chaos and its Abyss are common, which makes the location very valuable, but also highly dangerous to travelers.

Ilsensine resides in Center, and his realm is known as the Caverns of Thought. In close proximity to the Spire, huge cavern mouths and small crevices lead down to a network of tunnels filled with mindless thralls working the tunnels and defending them against intruders.

Those who can withstand Ilsensine’s mental dominance, which rises with every step deeper into the tunnels, and defeat its collection of thralls from all races and places of the planes, have told of uncounted riches and magic artifacts discarded by the thralls, who no longer have any need for them.

Those who succumb to Ilsensine’s will are never heard of again.

The Cranium Rats

In the planar metropolis of Sigil, a very special breed of rats dominates the sewers and catacombs below the streets. These rats have relatively huge brains which sprout from their heads openly.  As soon as some of them gather in one place, these rats develop special mental abilities and psionic powers to defend themselves. Cranium rats are said to be a creation of Ilsensine, his personal spies in the City of Doors, working towards goals only understandable by their master.