[Let's Read] The Key of Destiny Adventure Path

Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User
Dragonlance: Key of Destiny Adventure Path



Introduction

For my first FATAL & Friends review, so I've decided I'd pick an adventure I have lots of experience DMing, with plenty of fond (and not so fond) memories. Basically, in the early era of 3.5, Wizards of the Coast granted permission to Sovereign Press to make Dragonlance sourcebooks as 3rd Party Supplements. The main book proper (Dragonlance Campaign Setting) is a WotC property, but the rest are the work of Sovereign Press, Cam Banks, and other hardcore Dragonlance fans. A lot of the game mechanics were... questionably balanced, at best. But it was notable for updating the original Chronicles to 3rd Edition format, D20 stats for Kender
, creating an entirely new Adventure Path set in Dragonlance's 5th Age at a time before Pathfinder started cranking them out monthly, and Legends of the Twins, an excellent sourcebook discussing time travel and parallel realities for campaigns (kind of like those Alternate Earths in superhero comics).

Basically, the Key of Destiny Adventure Path is a series of 3 books (Key of Destiny, Spectre of Sorrows, Price of Courage) where the player characters (the heroes of the story) discover a priceless elven music box, the Key of Quinari. Created in the distant past of the Age of Dreams for the benefit of dragonkind, Quinari led the spirits of fallen dragons to their resting place with her song. After her death her lullaby was preserved in this music box, it's true purpose forgotten over time to become a childhood nursery rhyme among the Silvanesti nobility. After coming into possession of it, the heroes are led along by a series of vague prophecies, wise women and soothsayers, and the machinations of Ansalon's major evil factions to discover the Key's true purpose.

The adventure overall is good, but I don't think it's aged particularly well. It has a lot of interesting locations along the way, a retinue of cool villains opposing the PCs (including a lich leading an army, a genocidal Dragon Overlord, and a lovelorn ghost elf out for revenge), and memorable fleshed-out NPCs. But on the other hand, it makes assumptions that the PCs will go along with the plot on the flimsiest pretenses, and the myriad problems of high-level combat in 3rd Edition really start to show in the latter 2 books. Still, I feel that the positives of the books deserve to be shown, and I hope that you enjoy reading this as much as I did running it.

Adventure Prologue: The Sylvan Key

Our introductory adventure is notable for being in the Campaign Setting book and not the Key of Destiny proper. It starts out in the frontier city of Pashin in the nation of Khur, where the Silvanesti Elves were forced northward by a minotaur invasion along with the Dark Knights (who were betrayed by the minotaurs). Under the control of the Dark Knights, Pashin is not a friendly area for the elven refugees, who are all forced... somewhere, and the riches and valuables of Silvanesti's cities are being sold and traded by opportunists. Even though the town is effectively under military occupation, there is a breakdown in the discipline and morale among the Knights' ranks. Pegrin, a dark knight deserter, managed to smuggle the Key of Quinari out from the elves' royal palace and is now camping a fair distance outside of Pashin. The PCs are given several hooks as to why they'd be in the area (former Dark Knight, refugee, etc), typical stuff.

The adventure's first encounter, Afflicted and Persecuted, involves a group of drunken louts accosting Kelwick and Mayleaf, a Kender father and his daughter, accusing them of theft. They're innocent of his accusation; in fact, they're Afflicted Kender, robbed of their childlike wonder and insatiable need to steal due to trauma, and the thugs really just want to shake them down (who'd believe a Kender?). If the PCs don't intervene, the men will attack, only to be broken up by the city watch. If the PCs help defend Mayleaf, Kelwick will offer to help them out in the future.



As a first encounter, its effectiveness will depend mostly on whether or not your players really hate Kender, but it's obvious that the PCs should give them a helping hand and I think it will work for most groups (it did for mine). It's not really connected to the rest of the adventure, more of a way to show off how desperate things are in Pashin. Unfortunately there are no stats for Kelwick and the city guards, meaning that the DM will need to improvise.

The next encounter, Enter the Herald, happens whenever the PCs are in a large public gathering or inn. Word spreads fast around town that the legendary bard, the Herald, is visiting. His tales are both legendary and eerily accurate, possessing knowledge of Ansalon's most notable battles and heroes. Normally I don't go much for boxed text, but I feel in this instance it's pretty great.



The Herald is a human male in his mid-sixties, with white hair and a trim beard. He speaks with an Abanasinian accent, gesturing delicately and hushing the gathered crowd.

"I am known as the Herald. The memories of Krynn are mine to know and share. In my dreams I have lived many other lives, I have led men into the battle on the sides of both good and evil, I have fought dragonback and wielded the mighty dragonlance. I have lived, love, and died a thousand times. This eve, I will share some of my tales with you.

The crowd begins to shout. "Tell of Human! Tell of Raistlin and the Dark Queen! Tell of Lord Ariakan's fall among the minions of Chaos!" A steely gaze from the Herald silences the crowd once more.

"I have another story for you this evening," the Herald intones. "I shall tell you this day of a young girl named Mina and of a great war, one fought not over control of Krynn but of the souls of its people.
Basically the Herald tells of the War of Souls. It was the last major event in the Dragonlance book series, where Takhisis (Tiamat in other campaign settings) stole the world away from the other Gods and became the sole major divine power. The cosmological shift ended up adjacent to an alien world full of titanic dragons (the smallest are bigger than the eldest wyrms of ours), and five Dragon Overlords came through and conquered much of the continent. Mina was a gifted priestess of Takhisis, who led battles against the Overlords (who were not very fond of Takhisis).

This is a good way, I think, of informing the PCs of the world's recent history, and delivering it via a noted storyteller makes it flow well into the game. Unfortunately, the Herald is biased against the Dark Knights (who served under Mina) and presents them in an unfavorable light. The crowd gets increasingly angry at the Herald, booing and slinging mud and eventually turning violent into an all-out bar brawl!

This encounter, like the Kender one, is also "beginner level," where the patrons attack with their fists (non-lethal) and there's very low chance of PC death. It (and the first encounter) also acts a way for DMs to see whether or not they're meddlesome heroes who can't keep their noses out of trouble. The adventure path is banking on this option, as it rewards PCs for acting altruistically both in terms of game mechanics (experience bonus) and "role-playing" (favors, grateful NPCs, etc).

If the PCs managed to subdue enough patrons (about 6) and/or protect the Herald from danger, the grateful bard is shocked once he sees the PCs' faces. Basically he came to town to deliver an important message he had in a dream, that a key meant for them has fallen into the wrong hands. He explains that it's a valuable elven artifact stolen by Pegrin, a former Dark Knight and disreputable man who will doubtlessly abuse it if it is not taken back.

This is the first of several "it came to me in a dream" sequences from important NPCs. Unfortunately this one comes out of left field and does not really impart much in the way of useful information for the PCs. Are we really supposed to trust a guy's dream? If the PCs don't immediately head out, then one of Pegrin's men will steal something from the PCs, preferably while they're asleep or at the inn. Do you hear the sound of that? It sounds like a choo-choo train! All aboard the railroad!

Regardless, the Herald has learned his lesson and only spins good, positive tales of the Dark Knights from now on in Pashin. For a legendary bard, he sure isn't good at reading his audience. :p

Pegrin's camp can be found with the help of Kelwick, or gathering information around town. It's a sudden and unexpected increase in difficulty for 1st-level PCs.



I don't think those measurements are to scale...

See all those tents? The 3 Fs are Two-Men Tents, As are standard sentries, and B are night sentries, for a total of 6 bandits. They're all 1st level warriors with Toughness and maximum hit points, and can be quite a challenge. Add to that Pegrin being a 2nd-level Barbarian, a sorcerer for hired help (who's a teenager and has low morale), and a second in command with a Rogue level and you've got 9, count'em 9 potential enemies all at once. Obviously discretion is the better part of virtue, and if their leaders (Pegrin and the Rogue) aren't killed they'll doubtlessly come looking for the PCs if they steal the Key. Pegrin himself is a tough man who can hit hard when raging (+8 to-hit with longsword, 1d8+7 damage), and the sorcerer has a scroll of sleep. When I ran the session I either had to tone down the opposition or encourage hit-and-run stealth tactics. A mostly-warrior party short on sneaky types and spellcasters will fare far worse here.

If the heroes manage to subdue Pegrin's men and get the Key (along with some other treasure), they'll find it a delicately crafted music box which the Herald can confirm is what he dreamt of. When wound up it plays a song as the handcrafted woman performs a slow dance. Only Bardic Knowledge works on identifying it, revealing that it's supposed to guard something legendary. The music box itself is a receptacle, its true power known only when one can masterfully sing the melody themselves.





Thoughts so far: A rather short adventure which could be improved in parts, but given that it was added at the very end of the Campaign Setting book I figure they didn't have much to work with. It serves as a nice introduction to the setting and 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. It takes some work in terms of adventure hooks and motivation, but nothing too major.

Next time, the Key of Destiny book proper
 
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Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User


Key of Destiny Adventure Path, Book One, Chapter One: Finding the Key

The first book in the series is meant to take characters from 1st to about 7th level. By the time the PCs finish up the introductory Sylvan Key adventure, they should be at 2nd level. The introduction is also where we get the whole shebang on the Key's history.

Basically, in Dragonlance, the Elves are the race created by the good-aligned Gods of Light. Before they had a nation they consisted of fractured noble houses. The great leader Silvanos managed to unite all the houses and found a new elven nation in the great forests of southeastern Ansalon. Dragons already lived within the woods, and did not take kindly to this encroachment upon their homes. Thus began the First Dragon War. This battle lasted for 350 years before the 3 Gods of Magic (the moons Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari) intervened to help the elves by giving them the Dragon Orbs (known as Orbs of Dragonkind in other settings) to control the minds of the 5 species of chromatic dragons. The elves secured victory with these powerful artifacts, and founded the nation of Silvanesti.

During the War, Quinari, a priestess of Paladine (Bahamut), felt pity on the fallen dragons. She used her healing magic to tend to the wounds of those fallen, enhancing her powers with soothing melodies and earning the respect of the metallic dragons who allied with the elves as a result. After the war, she and Silvanos married, and the dragons bestowed upon her the unimaginative name of "Dragon-Singer." Gloranthia, leader of the gold dragons, entrusted her with the secret location of the Dragon's Graveyard, where the spirits of all draconic entities go to die. She used her magic over the centuries to sweep away the bodies of these mighty and powerful creatures so that those with evil hearts could not make use of them. Regretfully, such knowledge was too valuable for any non-dragon to have for long, and Gloranthia magically removed all memories of the place from Quinari before her death. The melody she sung to open the portal survived in vague recollections of her mind, eventually incorporated into the wider elven culture unaware of its true power.

The true adventure begins with the PCs returning to Pashin:

The sun is setting over the town of Pashin. Already the silver moon Solinari hangs high overhead, while the full red moon Lunitari begins its ascent in the eastern sky. The air begins to cool almost immediately as the sun sinks below the western horizon; the cold southern breeze causes the temperature to drop swiftly. You can see your breaths in misty bursts as you exhale, while every inhalation brings with it both the crisp, sharp scent of winter and the distinctive mixture of refuse, horses, and countless cook fires.

Passing through the gates of the town, you see the people already beginning to close up their shops, workers heading either for home or into one of the many taverns for food and protection from the sharp bite of the winter night. You feel a strange chill, neck hairs prickling, as if someone is watching you.


Fun facts: Dragonlance's main continent, Ansalon, is in the southern hemisphere, and its three moons are the Gods of Magic, one for each of the moral alignments. Their phases effect the power of Wizards aligned with them, enhancing or draining them. There's even a calendar in the setting to keep track of this, and the Adventure Path tells of dates. Nuitari is invisible to all but the Black-Robed Wizards.

I particularly enjoy the boxed texts of this adventure; the writers are descriptive enough in the right parts but not so wordy as to essentially dictate PC actions. I won't be copying them fully all the time, in some cases just the important bits. The first one above is presented in all its glory.

The PCs are indeed being watched, but attempts to follow the one spying upon them leads the group on a wild goose chase through town, ending at the Five Dragons Inn. In reality the person is Naelathan Shadowdark, one of the elven refugees acting under orders of their leader. He too heard rumors of the Key returning, but he can't confirm anything as of now.

Chapter One is a rather open-ended section of the adventure, both to its benefit and detriment. The game makes no more mention of the Herald from the introductory adventure, so the most likely revenue of information for players is gone. Basically our heroes are meant to wander about town, gathering information on the Key itself. This is accomplished either by visiting the most notable town locations below, or through random encounters.

City Map:


As you can tell, Pashin has a MASSIVE Dark Knight presence. They now occupy the city and serve as its law enforcement in the eastern section. Basically, they're the Evil knightly order of Dragonlance; the Solamnic Knights being the Good guys and the Steel Legionnaires the more "modern" cloak and dagger counterpart to the older two. When Takhisis (goddess of chromatic dragons and tyranny) was alive and kicking, the Dark Knights were known as the Knights of Takhisis and spiritual successors to the Dragonarmies. Now they're the Knights of Neraka, majorly situated in said nation and dominated by secular mystics instead of clerics. What resistance exists against them in Pashin consists of the town's rough and tumble sorts (it was a rather lawless town beforehand), Khur tribes (loosely based off of real-world Arabs) resentful of Nerakan tyranny, elven refugees, and the remnants of the Steel Legionnaires.

The adventure encourages the use of random encounters to move the PCs along plot-wise if they aimlessly wander about town. Most of the encounters are definitely tied into the larger goings-on in Pashin, but since that they're essentially random and have a low chance per hour of occurring (10%-50% depending upon circumstance), it's not an effective method. Not to mention a few of them aren't tied into any greater plots. Personally, when I ran I just handed out what encounters I felt would motivate the PCs best. I'll list a few of the more interesting encounters and locations together, as it would be disjointed if I did them separately:

The Bazaar: That large square field to the south of town (left side of the map) is home to an impressive assortment of merchant's tents, selling all manner of legal and not-so-legal goods. Everything here is over-priced, about 125%, but bartering with a successful Diplomacy reduces goods to as low as 85%. If the PCs try to get the Key of Quinari appraised or sold, they'll be pointed to Halthorne the Wise's tent, and elderly gnome struck blind when he gazed upon the form of Chaos (primordial god of entropy and destruction) during the Chaos War. This is special enough to deserve it's own obligatory boxed text!

A small, almost non-descript tent stands near the heart of the bazaar. The khaki tent is stained by exposure to the elements. The front flap is pushed open, revealing a small, wizened figure. A gnome by appearance, although an odd one at that. Completely bald, his skin is almost the same color as the tent which frames him. His eyes seem to stare straight through you; visible cataracts have turned them a strange shade of gray. The tiny figure smiles, revealing perfectly white teeth, as he wheezes softly. "Welcome, I have been expecting you. You are seeking answers, I see. Unfortunately, the answers you seek will only lead you to hunt for yet more answers. Your path is a long one and only you can find the final answer." The old gnome's smile widens slightly. "Seek out the elves, they will provide the first answers and your next questions." The gnome turns quietly, disappearing into the tent with a soft whooosh.
Vague Prophecy Count: 2. Expect this to be a regular feature folks, cause this adventure path loves them! I'd recommend altering these elements if you run KoD, perhaps making them more specific. Otherwise your players might get tired of it quickly.

Courtesan: At night-time the prostitutes of Pashin come out to make money. Most serve as information brokers for Blackbird, the half-ogre crime lord who knows most of what's going on in town. One of the courtesans, a half-elf named Dove, propositions one of the PCs as Blackbird's goons show up to collect their earnings. Too bad she doesn't have their money.

For some reason Dove is the most restated NPC of this adventure. During 2005 when True20 was the next big thing, a lot of Dragonlance fans fell in love with it and started making unofficial fan conversions. Dove, a mere 1st-level NPC, was one of the first characters converted. Not Tasslehoff, not Tanis Half-Elven, no famous dudes. Eh, to each their own.

Now if the PCs scare off the thugs, pay Dove's debt or diplomacize their way out, they get experience for the encounter. But if they intimidate or fight them off, the rest of the random encounters in town starting 1-2 days from now will be Blackbird's goons, as the man never forgets a grudge. Dove can also tell them more about the town, including that the elven refugees have gone underground and disguised themselves as lepers to avoid notice (nobody sticks around lepers), and that the store Old Omar's Oddities is a Steel Legionnaire front.

Blackbird himself operates out of the Wounded Crow. If the PCs are filled with righteous fury and want to take this guy on, well it's not going to be pretty. He's a tough motherfucker on home base. Unless the PCs shoot off a lucky spell taking advantage of his low saves, you're probably going to end up with a TPK unless your players are hardcore min-maxers.



However, if they came to engage in some information gathering, Blackbird's willing to listen if they've got the money. His place is a classic hive of scum and villainy, home to grisly taxidermied trophies scattered about the place and mercenary bands (little more than killers for hire). In the spirit of 3rd Edition's worse aspects, there's a needlessly complex social interaction table determining the price of his information based upon the asker's race, class, and Diplomacy check, but all you need to know is that 40 to 60 steel pieces (gold piece equivalent in Dragonlance) should be enough to get all his secrets out. He knows that the Steel Legionnaire wants the Dark Knights out of Pashin, that the mayor's discretely sending help but is otherwise holed up in his mansion and letting the Knights take control, and that the elves are hiding out in the sewers (he doesn't know the specifics).

Judging by these encounters, it's obvious that we're supposed to seek out the elven refugee colony! Speaking of elves...



Lepers: This encounter takes place in one of Pashin's many alleyways. Basically the PCs stumble across a murder, a gray-cloaked figure with a curved knife crouched over a bloodied body. The picture doesn't necessarily match what's going on, don't it?

This is Aranol Nightblade, a Silvanesti elf banished from his community for a terrible crime, and he just took revenge upon the one responsible for his exile. He will try escaping once discovered; as a 4th-level rogue with tanglefoot bags and caltrops, he can easily get away. Once he neutralizes the most visible threat, he will drink a Potion of Jump and spring to the rooftops to escape. Shortly afterwards a group of elves will come upon the scene; depending upon whether Aranol is present (and thus neutralized) determines their reaction to the PCs, although they only attack to kill if they're convinced of the PC's guilt in the affair.

Despite his level, it's rather manageable as an encounter. Aranol does not want to take the PCs head on, and removing and even if he goes high in initiative he won't have enough time to drink his potion in the same round. And he's a lone Rogue, meaning that he won't have many opportunities to flank and sneak attack. Sometimes when I ran it Aranol escaped, other times he did not.

If the PCs help the elves out, future encounters with them will go easier. They'll need to leave soon as a Dark Knight Patrol is passing by. If the PCs offer to help distract them, they gain experience points equal to the Encounter Level +1, for a total effectiveness of a CR 5 creature. They don't get any experience for killing the (innocent) elves. Taking the noble path is very much encouraged in this adventure over the murderhobo route.

The last major encounter of note is Legionnaire Rebel, and just one big misunderstanding. It begins with a "peasant" named Jacob hurriedly jumping out of a building which shortly explodes afterwards. This is not what it looks like: one of the Legion's safehouses was compromised by the Dark Knights, but he doesn't want to look incompetent and tells the PCs that he's a freedom fighter who destroyed a Dark Knight munitions storage. He'll beg the PCs to help him get away, offering 200 steel to take him to the Five Dragons Inn. As is to be expected, Jacob isn't the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, so his wife sent her two sons to keep an eye on him and are now trailing the PCs. If spotted, they'll explain everything and ask Jacob to return home with them, who reluctantly agrees. The party's efforts are rewarded with a Starmetal medallion, which they're supposed to give to Klaudia the shopkeep at Old Omar's Oddities. This will show that they're friends to the Legion and earn them some good equipment as payment for services. If asked, she'll say that Jacob is now "taking a less active role in the Legion, working behind the scenes." In reality, he's going to spend more quality time with his family. Awww. :3

The other major locations (Mayor's Mansion, Temple of the True Gods, Five Dragons Inn) are relatively unimportant, little more than set-pieces and services for the PCs (in the mayor's case, Pegrin has a bounty on his head which can be cashed in). If the DM feels that sufficient progress has been made, you move on to the next story-based encounter.

Prophecy & Immolation.

And what better way to move along the plot with some more boxed text! The PCs encounter an old crone in the street, who upon seeing them screeches loudly and grips one of them with fright.

Suddenly those blind eyes turn your way and the figure lets out a shriek loud enough to rival a banshee's. Throwing yourself towards your group, she collapses on the ground at your feet. Slowly, painfully pulling herself up, the crone gazes up at you with a disturbing intensity. With a low, deep moan her eyes roll into the back of her head and she begins to shudder in a grip of fever. Words begin to pour from her mouth in a whispery hiss: "The stars are set into motion, a plan both cunning and divine; beware of specters in the night, beware of unseen designs; the key you hold, others desire; protect yourself from obsession's FIRE!"
By the time she says the last word, she doubles back in a scream and burns alive with a magical blue fire. Everyone adjacent to her takes fire damage on a failed save.

Vague Prophecy Count: 3.

Proper Knowledge and Spellcraft will reveal possibiities that she was most likely possessed and/or affected by an Immolation spell, that an overflow of arcane energy burned her body from the inside out, that some spirits can kill their hosts, and that the Magic Jar spell allows spellcasters to "body hop." A bunch more questions with little definite answers, but a See Invisibility spell reveals the vague outline of a figure in the Ethereal Plane.

This book doesn't say who did this, but it was Lothian, one of the Big Bad Evil Guys for this adventure path, responsible for this, who I will talk about later. He's intentionally leading the holders of the Key along to the Dragon's Graveyard so that he can gain access himself. Of course, his overly dramatic warning causes bystanders to assume that the PCs used magic to kill the woman, and they start shouting for the city watch. If the PCs don't escape, a dark knight patrol will be on them soon enough.

The Knights will try bringing the PCs in alive, beating them to unconsciousness if necessary. The inhabitants of Pashin, unwilling to involve themselves with the Dark Knights, will not help the PCs and get out of their way. If caught, the PCs are taken deep into their encampment and stripped of equipment before being tossed in an open-air prison with manacles. "The General will decide your punishment in the morning. I'd get a good night's sleep if I were you, it will probably be your last."

Whether the PCs are caught or successfully escape, an elf will approach them.



Out of the shadows emerges a black-robed figure. Pushing back the hood, an elven face is revealed. Golden hair, cut ragged and short, frames a face that would be beautiful if not for the intensity of his features. Pale blue eyes gaze at you coldly. "If you want to get out of here, follow me."

You hear an explosion in the distance. A soft chuckle escapes the elf's lips, his head turning so that you can see a smile. "That will be my friends causing a distraction. Let's not waste their efforts, no? You've been afforded an opportunity not given by many... you've been summoned to see Shaylin. Let us not keep her waiting."
2 explosions in one day for poor Pashin. I can't imagine how the townsfolk feel about all this.

This elf is Naelathan Shadowdark, an agent of Shaylin, the elven refugee's leader. Word of the Key in their possession has reached her ears, and wants to verify the accuracy of the reports. Regardless, staying up top is too dangerous and he escorts them to a hidden sewer entrance.

Thoughts so far: This part of the review's getting long, so I'm cutting off for now. This section feels rather unfinished in parts, as it's mentioned that the Legion of Steel would help the PCs if captured, but otherwise the events in town flow together well. There's even two minor encounters involving a drunken ogre and Kender thief, who if encountered, will be found in prison and can help the PCs escape. Depending on how it's run it can be very open-ended or railroady, a rare feature in adventure paths overall.

Next time, the rest of Chapter One.
 
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Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User


Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path: Book One, Chapter 1, and Intermission



Naelathan takes the party to an artesian well and sketches a symbol in the dirt for the PCs to remember. Then he swishes it away and lowers them down into the sewers (PS1 on the map), for he must aid his friends stirring up trouble elsewhere in town. The symbol is an elven rune meaning "the path is clear," signifying the entrance to their hidden colony, and he tells them as such.

The sewers are quite the interesting dungeon. Solid ground consists of 5 foot wide walkways flanking opposite sides of the tunnels, with fifteen feet of sewer water between. The exceptions are the Ghast Lair and Leper Colony on the map, which have more room than the others. Random encounters consist of typical dungeon faire: Monstrous rats and spiders, ghouls, and the like, and all of them but the rats are monsters from the dungeon itself, usually searching the sewers for good. I like this idea, as it really adds a sense of "lived in" to the sewers instead of having it be awash with randomly spawning monsters (as for the rats, it's plausible that the place is crawling with them). There's good loot to be found amid the rooms and their monsters, the remains of previous adventurers or purloined goods in the case of goblin thieves. That is, if the PCs care to venture about the sewers.

The areas marked "secret" have the symbols on the wall, but they won't be spotted unless the party succeeds on a very high Search or Spot check (DC 20 or 24), and to open it they must trace the symbol with their finger and say "the path is clear" in Elven.

This is incredibly unnecessary; first the PCs must succeed on a high die roll to even notice the symbol, it requires information they do not possess unless they encounter elven scouts as a random encounter and earn their trust. Otherwise they won't get into the colony and the plot cannot continue forward. This was another element I altered in my sessions.

With a silent whisper, a portion of the stone wall swings in, revealing a long and narrow passageway that leads to a set of stairs. The stairs open out into an enormous room carved out of the earth, possibly hundreds of years ago. The soft radiance of dancing lights overheard create the illusion that the ceiling is a starlit sky.

Instantly the people taking up residence amid the tents and lean-tos of the chamber notice your presence. Weapons glint in the soft light like fireflies in the dark.

A tall slender figure emerges from the crowd seemingly without effort. Shrouded in white gossamer robes, her silver-white hair a nimbus that tumbles down her bared ivory shoulders, this woman seems a spirit more than a creature of flesh and blood.

"Greetings," she murmers softly, her voice barely more than a whisper. "I am the Lady Shaylin Moonborn of House Mystic. It was I who called you." A small, bitter smile briefly crosses her face, her hand rising to indicate the rest of the chamber. "Welcome to our humble home. Please, you must be tired. Follow me, I will show you somewhere you can rest and I will answer your questions."
This chamber is an ancient temple to Morgion, an evil deity of decay and disease. Its dwarven worshipers were driven out by Khur nomads long ago, remaining empty for years. Now the Silvanesti occupy it thanks to Naelathan's discovery of the place. Conditions are bad, but persecution by the Dark Knights would be worse, and many of them hope that they can reclaim their homeland soon, so they remain for the time being.

Unbeknownst to the elves, Morgion was not pleased with their occupation of his temple and struck them with a rotting plague not unlike leprosy. It is curable only via magic (and even then it's remarkably resistant). The PCs can discover this through more than a casual look upon the elven community. Even Shaylin, if asked, does not know the source. Sanitation is terrible and supplies are few, so disease is to be expected, but its magical resistance is unheard of.



Shaylin reveals her true reason for summoning the PCs, that she's been afflicted with disturbing dreams which somehow involve them. Their miraculous possession of a treasured elven artifact she doesn't think is a coincidence, either. Suddenly she falls into a trance:
There is a pattern you cannot see. Instead you must set your spirit free. Take the key to the shattered ruins, through the sands and over the dunes. Seek the answers in the sands of time, search your souls and find the sign.
Vague Prophecy Count: 4. Honestly this one remains vague for a short time, as Shaylin is knowledgeable about what the vision means. The dunes reference the lands to the north of Pashin, the shattered ruins are Hurim, once an ancient temple to Paladine and the Gods of Light. In times past one of the priests betrayed the rest to a ruthless ogre horde, and since then the place is avoided by the Khurish people, but she knows little more than that. As for the Key of Quinari, she doesn't know much, either, than that it's an artifact from the Age of Dreams and meant to unlock something great. After she answers any questions the PCs have, the party has the opportunity to rest and buy supplies from the elves and treat their wounds (although they don't have much).

If they need to leave, Naelathan will escort them out of town via a secret passageway into the badlands of Khur. As wanted men and women in Pashin and their only leads the ruins of Hurim, our heroes' journey as to the Key's mystery truly begins.

Personal Notes: The diease afflicting the elves is named Sunblight, and it has stats. It infects an elven or half-elven victim with leprosy and bestows penalties in sunlight and permanent 1d3 Constitution drain every 3d4 weeks. A very slow death, indeed. What's worst about it is that it's airborne and does not manifest immediately, and it cannot be magically cured by a spellcaster of less than 18th level. This disease plays a larger role later on in the Path, as the Tears of Mishakal are a twin set of magic items and one of the few things on Krynn capable of wiping out the disease.

Personally I would not inflict it on the PCs if an elf numbers among the party, as it can be very debilitating over the course of the campaign. I could see a DM using it as a "race against time," but it could really gimp a PC's survivability long-term.

Thoughts so far: Chapter One is hit-or-miss in places, but its strong points are good enough to forge a good game out of with some work. It's heavy on urban socialization and exploration interspersed with some dungeon-crawling at the end, and the encounters, while potentially deadly for 1st-level PCs, are overall not enough to cause a TPK unless the PCs really fuck up. And in-game rewards via experience for heroic actions are a nice touch for getting the players to act altruistically; this might sound restrictive, but it folds in well with the kind of campaign meant to be played.

Next time Chapter 2: The Mystery Unfolds!

Intermission: The Villains of the Adventure Path

I mentioned him earlier, but I'll do an expanded write-up on the major villains of this Adventure Path. I feel that telling a lot of their stuff up-front will leave people less confused about things.

The Knights of Neraka


Also known as the Dark Knights, their order was formed by Ariakan, son of the Dragon Emperor Ariakas. While imprisoned by the Knights of Solamnia, he learned of their ways and how the Dragonarmies turned upon themselves at the end of the War of the Lance. Seeking to turn the tactics of his enemies against them, he told of his plan to form a new knighthood to Takhisis once free, and she agreed. And thus the Knights of Takhisis were born.

The Knights are guided by 3 principles: the Vision, their ultimate goal of continental domination of Ansalon; the Blood Oath, the swearing of one's submission and life to the Knighthood (and formerly Takhisis when she lived); and the Code, a complex set of laws and rules for how the Knights should conduct themselves in relation to others. They are split into 3 major orders: the Knights of the Lily, the main military arm and backbone of the Knighthood. The Knights of the Skull, divine spellcasters in charge of intelligence and security purposes. And the Knights of the Thorn, arcane spellcasters who draw power from all three moons of magic and considered renegades by the Towers of High Sorcery (the major magical power on Ansalon). The Skull lost a considerable amount of power with the brief disappearance of the gods, but they regained it shortly after the discovery of mysticism (divine spellcasting without a deity).

The Dark Knights are a regular enemy throughout much of Book One and in the early parts of Book Two, but for the most part they are unaware of the Key of Quinari's power.

Lothian, Prophecy Puppetmaster


Lothian was an elven soldier entrusted with healing the blighted land of Silvanesti in the aftermath of the War of the Lance. He fell in love with Kayleigh, a fellow soldier. She did not return his affections, and he grew bitter; “she’s fallen for another!” he thought. “Why else would she not desire me?!” He placed blame on the other male soldiers, but kept his anger hidden from the others.

A death knight came upon Lothian’s patrol, and felled everyone but him. Lothian tried with all his might to heal Kayleigh, but his goddess would not help him. The death knight offered to spare his life and that of Kayleigh’s, but only if Lothian swore allegiance to Chemosh, God of Death. He accepted.

Kayleigh’s spirit would be bound to Lothian, but both their souls belonged to Chemosh upon his death. Lothian made a bad deal in the heat of the moment, and he grew to resent Chemosh’s hold on them. He researched ways of getting around this agreement, and learned of the Shroud of Soul’s Calling. This artifact is said to be located in Quinari’s Tomb, capable of bringing a spirit back from the afterlife and out of the clutches of a God. Lothian also learned that the Tomb was located in the Dragon’s Graveyard, and he searched in vain for the Key of Quinari. It was only until the music box was brought out of the protective ward of Silvanesti that Lothian’s plans were set into action. He ordered Kayleigh to manipulate the Key’s holders on a set path to bring them to the Dragon’s Graveyard, contacting seers and using visions of a ghostly maiden in distress to direct the PCs to desired points. All of those holy artifacts gained across the adventure path? Simple, Lothian’s leading them along like puppet strings so that they’re well-equipped in the inevitable fight against Chemosh’s forces.

Before you start feeling sorry for Lothian, keep in mind that he still wants Kayleigh for himself and can't accept the fact that she resents him for all that he's put her through. Even then, I consider him less of a bad guy than Caeldor or Gellidus given that his end goal will result in breaking the hold Chemosh has over hims and Kayleigh. To him, it's survival; Caeldor and Gellidus are all about power and conquest.

Caeldor the Traitor


Caeldor's the asshole responsible for the massacre at Hurim, and Chemosh's high priest in the mortal plane. As a powerful lich, he desires the Key of Quinari as part of his plans to raise and undead army and take over Ansalon in the process. Supplemented by the bodies and souls of undead dragons, there would be no force on Krynn powerful enough to stop him.

Gellidus, White Dragon Overlord


When Takhisis stole the world during the 5th Age and the War of Souls, the Material Plane became close to a world of titanic dragons, and Gellidus was one of the five who made his way over. They set about conquering much of Ansalon, committing genocide against much of dragonkind in the process and stealing their power via grisly magical pillars of bones known as Skull Totems. Despite being fellow chromatics, they had no intention of sharing power with each other, or Takhisis, and only two of them survive at war's end. Gellidus the White, and Onysablet the Black. With the bones of the Dragon's Graveyard, he stands a chance at becoming the most powerful person in all of Krynn, possibly to rival the Gods themselves!


Quite an assortment of fiends, don't you think? I really like the idea of multiple villainous factions warring over a legendary power source, and having one of them an established power player and Big Name NPC gives a very high sense of conflict in the campaign, that what the players are doing matters on an international scale.
 

Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User


Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path, Book One Chapter 2: The Mystery Unfolds

Ideally the authors estimate that the PCs should be 3rd level at this point, 4th or 5th level by the time they reach the Shattered Temple of Hurim. This is overall accurate, although in my several times of DMing this adventure my groups did not hit 5th level that early. Very dedicated and meticulous parties could theoretically reach this amount of experience, though.



Khur is an arid nation of desert and badlands, flanked by Neraka to the north and Silvanesti to the south. The majority of its people are nomads divided into seven large tribes, with a few large cities. The PCs have between 50-75 miles of travel from Pashin to the ruins of Hurim, averaging 3 to 5 days of travel.

This section of the adventure shifts to wilderness travel, and Key of Destiny does not disappoint in this regard. Extensive detail the flora, fauna, and weather conditions of locations is present throughout the entire adventure path. It really helps the DM create a descriptive picture beyond random encounters. Southern Khur is a land of extremes, of great heat in the daytime and bitter cold at night. Clouds are sparse, leading a famous poet to describe the night sky as "a polished bowl of obsidian, scattered with a glittering spray of diamond dust." Small animals such as insects, lizards, and various birds of prey survive in the harsh lands, with some cheetahs, elephants, and other large mammals in the fertile valley between the Thon-Thalas River. Unique plant life includes the dangerous crystalline Shimmerweed, whose radiance can fascinate onlookers into docility for other predators, the dense living stones which are actually calcified petals saturated with concentrated proteins and minerals, and the Broad-Leaf which gathers moisture from passing fogs which sweep across the desert.

Random encounter-wise, the desert's relatively uneventful, usually in the form of giant ants, minotaur scouts, friendly centaurs, and bandits (who are all mounted on horseback and can thus be difficult, but a great reward for slow-moving PCs). Two of them are semi-linked as part of a mini-story: two giant eagle parents had their eggs stolen by draconians, humanoid dragon-men who broke off from the Dark Knights. If the PCs can help find and rescue their eggs, they'll be gifted with a one-use magic item: a Feather Whistle which can summon the eagles to fight for them in combat. Nifty!


Of course, given that the PCs were just dropped into the middle of the desert, they are probably in need of some supplies. Not to worry, for eventually they run into the Mikku, one of the seven major Khurish tribes!

In the distance you begin to make out the sounds of laughter, of voices raised in conversation and song.

You can spot the source of the noise. Situated in a dry gully is a large nomad encampment. Bright, colorful tents are spread like a field of windflowers, vivid even in the dying light of the setting sun. The camp's arranged in concentric circles, the largest tents situated near the center, ringing an enormous bonfire.

Most of the campers are situated near the camp's heart, where a celebration is being held. Scantily-clad figures wrapped in billowing scarves with gem-like hues dance about the bonfire, accompanied by a boisterous cacophony of dozens of instruments playing a raucous tune.
The Mikku are a tribe of performers who've traveled the length and breadth of Khur. They're camping out in preparation for the annual Khur festival, months away but no less eager for practice. They'll be friendly upon meeting the PCs, and if they do not take hostile action will be escorted by warriors to Alakar the Silent, the tribe's leader. Alakar encourages them to join in the festivities and will be happy to answer any of their questions, which are interspersed with small talk and ensuring that they feel welcome in the camp. As a sign of hospitality, they'll be offered salt with their meals. A bond of salt signifies that the guests will come to no harm as long as they remain within the giver's house (or tribe, in this case). This was actually a real-world tradition among Arabs in the distant past.



Alakar is more than happy to tell them the history of Khur and the tribes, and of Hurim and the Shattered Temple.

Basically, about 400 years ago, eastern Ansalon was dominated by the Empire of Istar. They started out as a Lawful Good theocracy who genuinely brought about a high standard of living among the people and a safe haven for the faithful of the Gods of Light. The last Kingpriest, Beldinas, became increasingly power-mad and delusional in his quest to purge the world of evil, harming countless innocents and bringing the wrath of the Gods of Light through a terrible event known as the Cataclysm. A giant meteor descended upon the capital, plunging a good portion of the region underwater and irreversibly changing the landscape.

Khur was a fertile grassland before the Cataclysm (known as the Drowning to the Khur), which created that sea on the map via huge floods. During the chaos, a single leader named Keja arose to unite the tribes and forge a new nation. After his death each of his sons split up and led their own tribes, which are now known as the Fin-Masker, Hachakee, Mayakhur, Tondoon, Weya-Lu, Mikku, and the "true" Khur).

Before the Cataclysm, Hurim served as an Istaran outpost. As more pilgrims settled, a temple was built, open to all worshipers of the Gods of Light. During the Night of Betrayal one of the priests helped an ogre army slaughter the temple's inhabitants, and a dire curse was left upon the valley. From that day since, no Khur set foot within and lived beyond the next lunar cycle. The Cataclysm generated a landslide which sealed off the valley, and no one has seen fit to clear it.

There's also a seer named Asmara in the camp, who can read the PCs futures. The DM is encouraged to make some up to flesh out their own side plots and play upon PC backstories, although 3 sample readings are provided detailing future events in the adventure path.

"And one shall stand upon the backs of nature's builders, walk across a floor that lives, and speak to a voice that is one above the many."

"A figure of fire and damnation, forged from a Dragon's blood but seeming Abyss born, stands guard over a weapon of light long since lost..."

"The dead are restless, driven by ancient jealousies and conflicts, fight in a graveyard over the soul of one believed forever beyond reach."
Vague Prophecy Count: 7. The first refers to a sapient ant colony in Chapter 5, the second towards Sindra (evil dragonspawn villain) and Huma's Lance, the third towards Lothian and Kayleigh. The things are too vague that the PCs, even if they piece it together, will not gain any special insight until they actually encounter the characters mentioned. It's more of an "Oh, I get it!" than a puzzle for the players to unravel.


Strange Visitors in the Night



The characters are given a tent to sleep in for the night. During their rest a ghostly entity will approach the nearest elf or spellcasting PC (or selected randomly in the case of neither) around early morning. It takes the form of a little girl who will begin speaking even if nobody spots her.

You hear the soft, lilting sound of a young girl's voice.

“You must hurry… the winds carry the voices of many spirits, and they are crying for help. You must keep the key safe otherwise all will be lost. In the temple of the betrayed, you must find the shard of light. It shall lead you on the path you have been chosen to walk.”

Before you have a chance to respond or question the young girl any further, she rises to her feet and quickly disappears out of your tent. Suddenly, you hear a high-pitched whistling sound as the leather flaps of your tent shake wildly and a whirlwind tears through the opening.
Two air elementals suddenly manifest and attack the PCs! They strike as a warning, not to kill, and will disappear in 3 rounds if not slain by then.

Lothian's manipulation again. For someone who wants the PCs to succeed, he sure loves throwing dangerous stuff at the PCs! :p

The Mikku rush to the scene to find out what's going on, Alakar parting through the crowd with a concerned look on his face. Once the party describes what happened, Asmara will ask worriedly if the child had blue eyes, if she was Uleena.

Regardless of their response, she will stand for a bit, looking off into space (but actually looking beyond the mortal veil), before confirming her fears. "Yes, it was Uleena."

Uleena was Alakar's daughter, gifted with the abilities of a seer and trained by Asmara. She died from a landslide a year ago, the same one responsible for opening up the Valley of Hurim (if you're confused, the valley was closed during the Cataclysm and opened a year ago). Alakar will ask what Uleena told them; although he doesn't know of the Shard of Light, he believes that they are marked by the Gods will ensure that the PCs are escorted safely to the Valley for the rest of their trip (but none in the tribe will accompany them inside).

The Ruins of Hurim



The Mikku stop outside the entrance to the valley proper. There is a citrus grove to the north of Hurim the Mikku will stop at, and will wait for a week for the PCs. After giving them supplies and a back-pounding slap on the back, Alakar prays that the Gods watch over them and that they might meet again.

Hurim is where things start getting serious. Undead are present as random encounters, even at daytime (although in smaller numbers), and the curse suffuses everywhere outside the Shattered Temple with a Desecrate spell, buffing undead and evil/necromantic spells. At night an unnatural fog floats above the ground all across the valley. Monstrous scorpions, zombies, skeletons, wights, and kender are but a few horrors the PCs can expect to encounter in this forsaken place.

You read that right, Kender.

A single one-time unique encounter is with Thanator "Shroud" Grave-eyes, a Kender gifted with the ability to communicate with the spirits of the dead. The PCs find him casually talking to a skull, asking it all sorts of odd questions. What happened here, do you know my Aunt Ashe, what's your name? Scuttles? Hey Scuttles, have I told you about the time that my Aunt Ashe talked to the spirit of Fistandantalus, she said that he was a skull just like you except he still had all his teeth and...

He'll be more than happy to accompany the PCs on their travels within the valley...

AS A KENDER DMPC!!!


Seriously, Shroud is a 5th level Rogue/1st level Nightstalker (Kender Prestige Class which grants spellcasting and a ghost companion). The adventure advises the DM to use him as back-up so as not to overshadow the PCs, but that's not gonna happen. You see, a lot of the enemies encountered are undead, and thus immune to sneak attacks. His sole spell is Deathwatch, which isn't really useful in battle than pointing the Cleric on who to heal. He can turn undead 4 times a day (although he's not very good at it), and he has no ranks in Search, decreasing his ability to find any traps. What he is good at are Opening Locks (+13) and Spotting hidden objects and creatures (+13). He's pretty much built to be a minion/back-up.

The interesting features of Hurim include the entrance (RH1), guarded by a hungry pack of mountain lions. RH2's a guard tower inhabited by 2 shadows and a spectral guardian, a ghost who valiantly stands watch even in death. He must continue his duty until the spirits of his men find peace. The men who did not pass on to the afterlife are the shadow monsters in the basement. If the PCs are willing to help him, he will reveal reveal a secret compartment behind his corpse if they defeat the shadows. He thanks them and as he passes on as "his form is swept away into nothingness as if by an invisible river." Said compartment contains his private journal containing notes on the Temple, some potions, and a magic sword emblazoned with the title "Kiss of the Desert Sky." It's a +1 Shocking Burst Longsword with blue-tinted steel and lightning motif etched into the handle.

This is a really sweet weapon for the party's melee characters, and it was the favorite of my party's Barbarian for quite some time (until Book 2, if I remember correctly). From this point on, permanent magic items have been rare in the adventure. Beforehand the PCs could have gotten a +1 dagger at the Dark Knight Enclave, a +1 Rapier from Aranol Nightblade, and a +1 Bashing Shield and Oil of Magic Weapon from the Ghast Lair in the sewers of Pashin (all in Chapter 1).

As you can tell, combat with incorporeal undead can be really tough at this point in the game if the PCs missed any of these. The dagger in particularly is almost never found by my groups as escape was their first priority, while the others are stumbled upon mostly by chance. I'd recommend making these previous weapons easier to find if you run the adventure path yourself, or cut down on the number of incorporeal undead.

RH3 is a wild orchard home to a dryad who has been driven insane by the horrors she saw. She and her monstrous plants will attack the PCs if they don't depart from her domain:



Her flesh is dark and knotty like tree bark, with a thick, sickly-looking moss spreading across her limbs. Her fingers end in long, thornlike claws, and her hair crackles in the breeze like the dead leaves of winter. Her eyes glow with an unnatural incandescence as she speaks harshly in the Common tongue. "Be gone now, or your flesh shall be flayed from your body, my pretty flowers shall drink of your blood as your bones are ground into the earth beneath my feet.
Barring killing her, the PCs can complete the encounter if they cast any beneficial spell (remove disease, cure wounds, etc) on the tree, the dryad gains a new saving throw to recover from her madness. She'll be grateful to the PCs for freeing her from her torment, and will reveal the location of a small hoard of treasure she accumulated over the years.

And yes, saving the Dryad grants bonus experience points as opposed to just killing her. Heroism!

RH4 is a dry spring housing hundreds of skeletons impaled upon sharp rocks. During the ogre assault the monsters tossed the dead and the dying into the lake, sometimes to dispose of bodies and sometimes for fun. A single wraith, the spirit of one of the dead, lairs here.

RH5 is the Pathway of the Gods, a gently sloping trail leading up to the temple, flanked by ten pure white marble statues, half of them demolished and their fragments scattered about the sand. The columns once represented the five "lesser" gods of light (Branchala, Habbakuk, Kiri-Jolith, Majere, and Solinari) in pairs, and the temple itself was flanked by the Father (Paladine) and the Mother (Mishakal) at the top. There is enough sacred energy remaining within the statues to dissipate the Desecrate curse, and the PCs will notice a difference in the air, as if the terrible sense of dread is now more... distant.

The text highly recommends introducing Shroud here if they haven't encountered him, because his special ability allows him to communicate with the spectral flickers in the Temple "and thus makes an excellent guide." And if they're too low-level to go in yet, he can guide the PCs to the orchard or fortress to "show them something interesting."

Haven't our poor PCs suffered enough?

Thoughts so far: Shorter and more linear in comparison to Chapter One, this part more than makes up for it in mood and feel. Your group might have a lot more trouble if they don't have a Good-aligned Cleric in the group (unless they're experienced min-maxers who know what they're doing). If anything, the better sense of direction made this more enjoyable for me to run and my group to play, as they had a clear goal and I did not lack in description of the wilderness of Khur or the foreboding aura of Hurim.

Next time, Chapter 3, the Shattered Temple.
 

Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User
Here's the full statblock for Shroud:




Death Sight is a 1st-level Nightstalker ability which grants Detect Undead as a spell-like ability 1/day, except he does not need to maintain concentration for its duration.

So yeah, he isn't really doing anything that a Cleric or Rogue of much lower level can't do.

And I was wrong on his Spot modifier; it's 1 worse!
 

Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User




Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path Book One, Chapter 3: The Shattered Temple

This is a rather infamous chapter in the Key of Destiny for its poor use of boxed text. Ideally boxed text should reveal just enough of the scene and then the PCs react. Going so far as to narrate the PC's action and thoughts, or when so much action is happening that the PCs are essentially standing around doing nothing, is a bad thing for writers to avoid. But we'll get to that later.

The Night of Betrayal was an incident which happened 700 years ago and expounds upon much of Caeldor's backstory. It's significant to the larger plot, and the writers do a clever job of the use of "spectral flickers." Basically shades of memory from the Ethereal Plane persist in the temple; not true ghosts, the emotions of that one night combined with the curse essentially replays the scenes again and again as illusions which cannot be affected by outside forces. Through this, the PCs witness the atrocities committed and Caeldor's depravity.

Long story short, Caeldor used to be a priest of Mishakal, Neutral Good goddess of healing, peacemaking, restoration, and growth. As he grew older he began to succumb to the ravages of age, something even Mishakal's divine magic could not prevent. Over time he grew bitter, eventually seeking out other gods who would help him. In the temple room of the dark gods, Chemosh, evil deity of Death and Lord of Bones, answered his prayers and promised him immortality. Caeldor accepted his offer, and his soul was cloaked so that none but Mishakal would know of his betrayal. He struck a deal with the ogre shamans of the nation of Blöde to strike Hurim. The siege began, and as the priests' forces fell to the army Caeldor struck from within, killing the high priest and spilling his blood on the altar of the Gods of Light to weaken their connection, and then summoning fiends from the Abyss to massacre everyone else, priests and ogres alike.

So Caeldor got so pissed about getting old, he massacred everyone he lived with and began the path to lichdom. Talk about a mid-life crisis!

Unfortunately if done normally, the result will be the Dungeon Master reading a story to the players, a story which they have no control over and involve NPCs talking to each other (there's not many things more awkward at the table when the DM talks to him/herself). On the bright side, this chapter's got a lot of good magical equipment for the PCs, and two interesting NPCs whose roles I enjoy.

Maps:









The Shattered Temple was once a grand place, a pyramid-shaped sandstone structure hewn by dwarven masonry. Despite its location in an out of the way location, great care was given to its planning, as it was one of the few Istaran temples in the region and the Empire and Khurish people both take their religion very seriously. Almost all of the rooms succumbed to the ravages of age and no maintenance, but many of its magic rooms and traps persevere. It is now inhabited mostly by oozes, vermin, and the undead.

The complex is very large, but has little in the way of inhabitants both living and dead. For a dungeon it's rather empty, but it makes sense for this forsaken place.

The party gets a first taste of the spectral flickers at the entrance (ST3):

A loud shout rises on the air, piercing the calm night with an alarm. "Ogres!" Suddenly, the sound of heavy booted feet, followed by the echoing war of bloodthirsty warriors, drowns out the sound of the alarm as a horde of ogres tears their way up the temple steps. One burly ogre, his tusks wet with crimson blood, leads the pack, pausing long enough at the temple entrance to swing at the tall, smiling statue of Mishakal with a single mighty blow. Bending over, he lifts the cracked marble head of the goddess from the ground and hefts it over his head, releasing a booming warcry that is quickly picked up by the other ogres in the valley.
As far as flickers go, this first one isn't so bad. It's far enough away from the PCs for the events to transpire, and it's frightening enough to players who don't yet realize that it's an illusion. My party immediately fled into the temple, hoping that they could hold them off somehow.

Yet another flicker follows up in ST5, this time detailing the ogre leader slaughtering the first resistance of a priest of Paladine.

A young human, Khurish by the looks of him, dressed in loose white robes holds forth his right hand while his left graps the silver medallion of Paladine around his neck.
"Paladine, hear my word, grant me use of your holy sword!"
A glowing blade of the silvery light springs into being in the young priest's hand, which he holds with determination, if not skill.
An ogre turns the corner from the stairs and the young priest leaps forward, the silvery blade leaving a glowing trail of light in an arch as he shouts, "in Paladine's name!"
The ogre cruelly laughs as he brings up a booted foot, kicking the young man in the stomach...
"Kiss your god goodbye, little man," the ogre growls before raising his club overhead and bringing it swiftly down towards the priest's head.
I cut out a few lines but you get the gist of it. The boxed text reads like something straight out of a novel, and while it's very evocative to read, doing so out loud to players loses a lot of its feel. Especially when you do it again and again, with longer ones even!

Libertad's Notes: Personally I cut down a lot of the boxed text to the bare grist, generalizing it as a one-sided slaughter of carnage. I was more descriptive when it came to Caeldor, considering that he's the star of the show and the one I want my players to remember.

One of the doors in said hallway is a Mimic, but this one's far from a stereotypical monster. The mimic (who has no name), is actually part of a scholarly expedition. His partner's an aranea (spider woman) named Anasana, a scholar and worshiper of Chislev the God of Nature. They both figured that with the recent opening the valley that the curse had been lifted, but they were wrong. The room that the mimic is guarding is the former High Priest's Locutory, used by him and Anasana as a resting place in the Temple. Together they hope to find knowledge of what happened, and possibly a way to put the spirits to rest and lift the curse. Anasana's in the library (ST25), on the fourth floor.

I really like this addition; adventuring monsters who can be reasoned with and might cooperate with the PCs, and in part inspired me to try my hand at playable monster PCs with the Savage Species rulebook.

ST8 is the High Master's Locutory, filled with cobwebs and monstrous spiders and spider swarms. A tough fight for PCs without fire or area effect attacks, but the treasures in the egg cocoons include a few nifty magical items (wand of cure light wounds, some scrolls, and a swan feather token, among pearls and art objects).

ST10 A is a storeroom of food, with metal rods with permanent chill metal cast upon them to make the room cool; ST B is the other storeroom of the corpse of a former thief filled with a centipede swarm. He has an old map marking some secret doors with "X" signs and a wand of find traps (5 charges).

ST14 was the dining hall; there are many skeletons inside but no signs of battle. The doors were blocked up and an Ogre Mage cast a cloudkill spell to gas the inhabitants. The spectral flicker which occurs describes this event with 44 half-lines of text (the book's text fits into a small 2-column format), but still. ST15 is the kitchen home to a powerful Ochre Jelly which guards some more magic scrolls and a 1st-level Pearl of Power. This nifty item allows a spellcaster to regain one of their prepared spells they prepared and cast within that day (1st level only for this one)! The previous chapters were light on loot, but the Shattered Temple's really picking up now!

The hallways of ST16 and the third floor is home to a gelatinous cube. Anasana summoned the ooze to the Temple with her magic (there's no spell in the adventure or campaign setting which does this, it's a flavor thing) to prevent other monsters from bothering her. She effectively corralled the creature to the hallways by placing an alchemical solution known as oozebane in front of many of the doors and stairs. It's a powder that dries out liquids quickly and damages oozes the same way holy water harms the undead.

ST19 is the infirmary, its injured inhabitants slaughtered by the ogres. Another flicker details how a priestess held her ground before dying as the laughing ogres converged on one of the bedridden men, who now haunts the room as a ghost. In his delusions he'll attack the PCs perceiving them as ogres, but if anyone casts a healing spell upon him he returns to normal and casts a heal spell upon the party before departing on the River of Souls (The young priest stretches his hands as he turns his eyes to the heavens. "Light bringer, gentle healer, goddess wrap these heroes in your embrace, ease the suffering from their face.")

Our Introduction to Caeldor, one really bad dude

ST20 is Caeldor's chambers. In life he was a high priest, and since he was collecting and doing evil shit he put up a magical trap on it (Symbol of Pain) and placed a divine marking in the Ogre language saying "protected by the dark gods." An important flicker happens within:

A rather distinguished, coldly handsome middle-aged man with pale skin, piercing black eyes, and white-blonde hair, stands in the center of the room, apparently lost in thought. His body is lean, almost to the point of gauntness, and the pointed goatee on his chin gives him an almost sinister air, particularly when combined with the intensity of his features.

He's dressed in pitch black robes, with small ivory skulls decorating the hem. His hand is wrapped around the medallion around his neck as he gazes off into the distance. Suddenly, he nods his head and speaks in a low, whispery tone.

"Yes Chief Korblack, tonight is the night. I shall take care of the high priest and the temple's defenses. All you and your horde need worry about are the guardians."

...

The figure falls silent again, apparently listening to the Chief's response. "You may keep whatever treasure you find. Such things do not matter to my master or myself. Now I must go and prepare for the evening's... events. When you have cleared the temple above, meet me in the Shrine of Darkness on the lowest level. There you will receive the reward promised you."

The figure releases the Medallion from his grip, revealing a grinning skull motif. "Time to put on my last disguise." Speaking a chant, the black and copper robes bleed their color away until they're pristine white and blue, emblazoned with the symbols of Mishakal.

...

Leaning over, he pulls a black-bladed dagger out of [the chest]. It writhes like a snake as he tucks it among the folds of his robes and walks towards the door with purposeful strides.
The stuff I cut out was more talking with the ogre chief over preparations for the attack and him unlocking the chest with a spell. Caeldor's personal possessions are in his chest, also trapped with choking dust, of holy tomes and magic scrolls. But a secret compartment contains a tome bound in human skin detailing the rites of Chemosh, and a skull-shaped black candle (Neutral Evil Candle of Invocation), a block of Incense of Meditation. The candle's fucking overpowered if you have an evil cleric in the group (or someone with a great Use Magic Device bonus), so I'd take it out just in case. Overall some really valuable stuff for 4-5th level PCs to find.

ST25's the library, home to Anasana:



"Well, it seems as if I am not the only one whose curiosity has been piqued by the temple's reappearance. Welcome, fellow explorers, my name is Anasana." Her voice is warm and heavily accented and her tone seems sincere.
Anasana will be happy to share information with the PCs, although she's keen on keeping hidden her true form (a spider creature). She's not interested in fighting to the death and will flee if she cannot overpower the PCs. She can tell them why the spectral flickers are occuring, and that there are guardian statues watching over the lower levels (she did not progress past them). If asked how to "cure" the place, she'll mention that removing the impurity is beyond her means, that it requires the Tears of Mishakal at the very least, a pair of artifacts lost since the Age of Dreams. They were said to be created by Goddess herself and fell to the earth when the first murder occurred. The Tears have the power to ease the spirits of the dead and grant them peace. They work best together, but rumor has it that one of the Tears has been corrupted by Chemosh's touch.

Guess which artifacts play a significant role in Book 2!

ST26 is a secret armory opened via a hidden panel in the wall. It has masterwork equipment, holy water, and a magic Bead of Force (it can explode and trap creatures inside a magical sphere).


Lower Levels

Floors Five and Six are guarded by a Permanent Guards & Ward spell, which locks all doors shut with an Arcane Lock spell, barring non-magical lock picking (although the ogres smashed through most of them). The Grand Hall is protected by two animated statues of the deities Paladine and Mishakal, who will part ways if presented with a medallion of faith of one of the Gods of Light. The spectral flicker here details the priests' last stand against the ogres. The battle's going against them, but suddenly out of the double doors burst forth a swarm of skeletal insects followed by a pair of devils wrapped in chains. Caeldor nonchalantly walks out from one of the shrines, unnoticed by the new monsters, and closes the door to the massacre which unfolds. He came from ST29, a shrine dedicated to the evil gods, clad in polished obsidian, terrible statues of the deities of darkness, and overall just looking all evil as fuck. The surviving ogre chieftian makes his way in, talking to the statue of Takhisis/Tiamat telling that his brethren were betrayed. The statue comes to life and consoles him, telling that he will make up for it in the afterlife as a servant and that his revenge will come eventually. She looks over to where the PCs are, an evil smile on her face: "Yes, vengeance shall not come from my hand...but from yours!"

:eek:

What a twist!

There's also a room for the Gods of Balance (Neutrality) and one for the Gods of Light. The magic in the shrine of Light does not work, having been desecrated by Caeldor's actions. The blade he used to kill the high priest lies on the ground. It's a cursed item which will try possessing the wielder, biding its time to kill one of the other PCs at the most opportune moment.

The spectral flicker shows Caeldor come into the room, a look of concern on his face. He tells the high priest that a traitor compromised them from within. Still kneeling in front of the shrine, he asks who. Caeldor kneels down and whispers into his ear, "me!" and stabs him in the back.

But the priest has one last trick up his sleeve, as he lay dying he calls upon the Gods of Light to sanctify the room, triggering a powerful gust of wind which nearly flings Caeldor out of the room as he jumps away in time. A young priest, a mere boy, is unnoticed and flees into the room shortly after Caeldor leaves, unable to heal the dead priest. He asks the Gods of Light what he must do; a soft chiming sound answers his prayers as he's bathed in light, and as if in a dream he walks away from the altar filled with new resolution.

The reliquaries and sanctums (ST32-35) don't have much except for a free Commune spell for Good-aligned Clerics once per year, and a secret reliquary (ST35) with two candles of invocation (Lawful Good and Chaotic Good) and an incense of meditation.

The young boy Neran confronts Caeldor in ST38, the Sepulcher.

The Betrayer stands before the large sarcophagus, his hands held high as he gazes up, his voice echoing through the chamber as he offers a prayer to Chemosh.
“Dark God of Immortality, He Who Stops Death, I devote myself to you, in body, in mind, in heart, and in soul…”
As the Betrayer repeats his prayer, he does not notice the door opening or the young acolyte entering with the glowing short sword in his hand. In the same vein, the young acolyte does not seem to notice the large skeletal creature lurking in the shadows of the crypt.
“Halt, Betrayer!” the acolyte cries out.
Startled out of his prayer, the Betrayer turns around, his eyes gleaming from behind his skull mask as he stares at the young man. Suddenly, the Betrayer begins to laugh, a cruel, mocking sound that causes the acolyte to tremble.
“Ahhhh, so you are the one who would face me, Neran? You have not even put on the white robes of Paladine what makes you think you can stop me from completing my ritual?” The Betrayer shakes his head, clucking his tongue.
“Ye…yes, Betrayer. I shall be the one who will bring you before the gods for Justice,” Neran replies softly, clenching his jaw as he takes a step forward, rising the short blade before him.

..

The fiend roars as the holy light blinds it. Before the fiend, or the Betrayer, can respond, Neran rushes forward at a dead run, the blade held forth as he skirts around the fiend toward the evil priest. Time seems to dilate, the moments stretching out as Neran lunges forward with his sword…
…as the Betrayer yells out a final, desperate phrase…
…as the fiend turns and swings is glaive toward the boy’s unprotected back…
…the Betrayer’s body jerks as the glowing sword pierces his chest with enough force that the blade embeds itself into the stone sarcophagus beneath him…
…Neran screams in pain as the fiend’s weapon slices through his spine, tossing him to the side where he collapses in a faint…
…the fiend roars in victory as he turns and swings his weapon once more toward the injured boy…
…Neran closes his eyes, clutching his medallion with a bloody fist and whispers something that only his god can hear…
…a brilliant explosion of light explodes out from the acolyte’s body, throwing the fiend across the room as a golden radiance infuses the walls.
As the blinding light fades, the Betrayer lays lifeless upon the sarcophagus, his body pierced by the holy blade. Neran lays on the floor, a peaceful look upon his features, his spirit already carried away to join with his god. And a fiend summoned by the Betrayer howls in rage as it finds itself trapped in a crypt by the last words of a hero who history would remain unknown for many, many centuries…
That blade used to kill Caeldor is the Shard of Light, a +2 Holy Short Sword and minor artifact. Its blade is transparent like glass, lit from within as if sunlight has been captured inside. Against evil creatures its bonus is +4, and deals double damage on a normal hit against the undead (and allows the wielder to deal critical hits against them!). Twice per day it can shed daylight as per the spell, once per day create a cone of light which dispels all illusions (true seeing), and can ignore nonliving matter once per day as it transforms into a brilliant energy weapon.

But before they can get the Shard, they must overcome the Bearded Devil, one of Caeldor's summons, within the sarcophagus. He'll spring to life and attack them as they pick up the Shard. He's a tough cookie, with a reach weapon and spell resistance, but a well-rested and prepared party can take him down without much trouble.

This adventure path hands out artifacts like candy. With the Shard and the Key of Destiny, our Priceless Artifact Count is at 2. In my campaign it was used by our Rogue, who immensely enjoyed its ability to pierce through heavily-armored defenses and be able to do something against the undead (I houseruled that Sneak Attack works against these creatures as long as he uses the Shard).

Once the PCs remove the Shard of Light, Caeldor's form crumbles to dust. His skull mask is his phylactary, which will teleport to a far-away safehouse of his if touched by a good-aligned creature. In reality, the sword kept his soul trapped and dormant, and in several days he will reform.

So Lothian hoped to guide the PCs here so that they would learn of the atrocities of Chemosh's minions and the location of a blade so that they might fight his minions better (Lothian knows that Chemosh has desings on the Dragon's Graveyard, but little beyond that). BUT, in so doing he inadvertently unleashed the spirit of Caeldor, now the most powerful minion of the deity on Krynn. Now that the PCs entered the Temple, Chemosh witnessed what they did, and guides Caeldor to build an army and retake the Temple in time, in addition to getting the Key of Quinari himself.

Looks like someone fucked up big time.


Anasana will be intrigued to hear of what they discovered, but will personally disturbed at the events. Regardless, she'll choose to remain until the PCs leave, after which she and her mimic companion will leave as soon as possible.

Aftermath

As you finally reach the fresh, open air outside you feel a burden has been lifted off your shoulders.

"You have found it," comes a soft voice from behind you, a voice you've heard before. Turning around, you see the strange apparition of the young girl Uleena, who stands there gazing at you with those strange blue eyes that know too much.

"You must hurry, for the sands of time are slipping away swiftly... the shard of light is a key, a key that will allow you to find what you seek in the ruins of a city that once felt no fear, but now lies beneath a shadow of fire and death..."

Without waiting for a reply, the young girl turns and disappears into the depths of the temple, leaving behind only a faint scent of lilac floating in the air.
The ruined city of which she spoke is Kendermore, once the home of the Kenders before Maylstryx the Red Dragon Overlord destroyed it. The once-fertile region around the city has been warped by the dragon's magic into a barren wasteland known as the Desolation. The Mikku tribe the PCs reunite with can tell them as much, and will offer to escort them to the port city of Ak-Khurman, where from there they can sail to Port Balifor which stands at the edge of the Desolation.

At this point, the characters may being feeling manipulated, and may actively begin rebelling against being forced to go somewhere as dangerous as the Desolation and Kendermore. The may wish instead to pursue a different track to reach the Desolation, cutting through Khuri-Khan and Delphon instead of crossing the Bay of Balifor.

The Mikku will suggest that not only is Ak-Khurman the closest city of any kind, it is held by the Legion of Steel and thus friendlier to the PCs, as it is rumored that the Khan is seeking an alliance with the Knights of Neraka.

If Shroud escorted the characters through the Shattered Temple, he will depart from the characters here, choosing to remain in the ruined valley for awhile longer. Alternately, if Shroud did not go into the Shattered Temple with the characters, once they emerge outside, he will eagerly approach them, wanting to know everything that happened within. As the characters leave, they will see the kender nightstalker gladly heading into the ruined temple, seeking out some ‘ghosts’ of his own to talk to.
This is indeed an alternative route, but truly rebellious PCs might wonder why they're going through all the trouble in the first place. One of my groups began to tire of the goose chase, but they went on because what are they supposed to do, just give up? Although it's understandable, given that there's no sense in writing a huge portion of the adventure which may not be used, and the PCs are wanted by the Dark Knights in Pashin, after all (word could've traveled via carrier pigeon of them as fugitives).

Thoughts so far: The Shattered Temple's spectral flickers need to be either altered or remade so that the PCs don't feel like they're just watching the DM read to himself. That, and the Candles of Invocation need to be removed as they can be really powerful in the wrong group. Otherwise it's a fine dungeon crawl with good rewards your PCs might enjoy.

Next time, Chapter Four: Across Sand & Sea. Port towns, rough and tumble sailors, seafaring, and urban adventure shenanigans!
 
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Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User


Intermission: Dragonlance 101

As Key of Destiny is closely tied to the world of Dragonlance, I feel it necessary to expound upon the setting. Already I've made mention of various people, places, and events which hold significant weight in the campaign setting.

Dragonlance Lexicon is a very useful and navigable wiki, sustained by a community of devoted fans.

Spoiler: Show
The world's history is divided into Five Ages by scholars. The Age of Starbirth was before the rise of civilization, beginning with a conclave of primordial entities known as deities working together to create the world of Krynn. During this era the spirits are given physical forms, creating the first dragons, elves, ogres, and humans. The Gods of Light grant them the ability to enjoy life's pleasures, the Gods of Darkness ambition and desire, and the Gods of Balance free will.

The Age of Dreams details the beginning of recorded mortal history, and sees the rise of the earliest civilizations. Lots of stuff happens in this era. Ogres, elves, and humans founded the first civilizations; the Graygem of Gargath (housing Chaos' essence) is cracked and unleashes wild magic into the world, resulting in the creation of many new monsters and races; elves war with dragons in the First and Second Dragon Wars, and the first mages use their magic against the serpents. The horrific loss of life from unrestrained magic leads to them forming the Order of High Sorcery, to act as a stewardship and regulator of those gifted with arcane magic to ensure Ansalon's safety. Takhisis attempts to conquer the continent with an army of dragons during the Third Dragon War, but is banished from Krynn by the legendary knight Huma Dragonbane and the silver dragon Heart.

The Age of Might sees the rise of the human nation of Istar, protected by the clerics of Paladine during the Third Dragon War. The elven nations impose an isolationist policy, while the dwarves forge underground kingdoms and war with the ogres. Istar becomes a theocracy and Ansalon's major power. In the Kingpriests' zeal to wipe out Evil, the church enacts increasingly oppressive measures, from enslaving "evil" races to outlawing arcane magic and worship of the Gods of Balance, and even managing an order of mind-reading inquisitors to punish those thinking evil thoughts. The Gods of Light become increasingly disgusted with this state of affairs, withdrawing their divine aid and spells, but they do not change. Eventually the Kingpriest views the Gods themselves as tolerating evil and sets forth on a magical ritual to ascend to godhood himself. Paladine sends thirteen prophetic warnings to the people of Istar, all of which are mistaken as the work of Evil. Istar's crimes are punished when the Gods of Light send a meteor down upon their capital city. Landmasses are torn asunder, freak weather spreads across the continent, innumerable lives are lost, and all the Gods withdraw their affairs from the world. This horrific tragedy becomes known as the Cataclysm.

The effects of the Cataclysm are felt for nearly four centuries in an era known as the Age of Despair. The Empire fractures into independent nation-states, plague and famine is endemic, governments and infrastructures disintegrate, banditry is rampant, and starvation among the dwarven nations leads to the Dwarfgate War as a significant portion of the above-ground population is denied entry into the nation, as food supplies are low. These exiled dwarves are now known as the Neidar (Nearest), or hill dwarves.

Takhisis brings the sunken temple of Istar to the surface and uses its Foundation Stone as a divine conduit to the world. As it is not whole, she cannot manifest on Krynn. She is the first deity to bring divine magic to mortals in this era, and her forces bring law and order to significant sections of eastern Ansalon under the banner of the Dragon Empire. Supplemented by magic, monsters, and dragons, they become an international power and set about conquering the rest of the continent. This event, which comes to be known as the War of the Lance, is part of the original Dragonlance Chronicles. The Heroes of the Lance bring knowledge of the Gods of Light and Balance back to Krynn and discover the secrets to forging the mighty Dragonlances. Eventually the Heroes lead an army against the Empire, kill Emperor Ariakas, and prevent Takhisis' summoning into the world.

The Empire dissolves, but the Blue Dragonarmy manages to hold onto a significant portion of territory. Ariakas' son creates an order known as the Knights of Takhisis and begin conquering much of Ansalon. The Irda ogres break open the Graygem of Gargath in desperation, unleashing Chaos into the world. Forces of good and evil alike are destroyed the primordial gods' spawned minions, and they unite against the monsters in an event known as the Chaos War. Eventually Chaos is banished from Krynn, and Takhisis moves the Material Plane away amid the confusion. Now she is the only deity with a connection to Krynn, beginning the Age of Mortals.

The Age of Mortals sees the absence of divine and arcane spellcasting, now that the Gods are gone. New forms of magic are discovered after Chaos' release, which draw upon one's inner power. They are primal sorcery and mysticism, respectively. No longer are mortals dependent upon deities for magic. Five titanic dragons from a neighboring plane enter Krynn and begin conquering significant sections of it. Takhisis takes the form of the One God and instills her power in a mortal named Mina, who joins the Dark Knights as a cleric and leads their forces against the Dragon Overlords and kills two of them with the aid of divine magic and a dragonlance. Raistlin Majere uses a time-traveling device to form a link to Krynn and help the Gods return. They strip Takhisis of her divinity, making her mortal, but so too to Paladine to keep the Balance. Takhisis attempts to kill Mina in anger but is killed by an elf in love with Mina. Mina takes the goddess' corpse in her arms and leaves, swearing vengeance upon the elven race. Clerical and wizardly magic return to the world (although primal sorcery and mysticism still remain), and only two Dragon Overlords yet live.


Spoiler: Show
The Knights of Solamnia are a chivalric order which has ruled the nation of Solamnia since the Age of Dreams. They are dedicated to the service of the Gods of Good and the protection of their nation and Ansalon, and produced some of the greatest heroes upon Krynn. They live by the ideals of the Oath and the Measure. The Oath is "Est Sularus oth Mithas," or "My honor is my life." The Measure is a set of instructions and rules on how to live the Oath. The Knighthood is separated into 3 orders: the Crown, the Sword, and the Rose. The Crown is the backbone of the order and teaches, loyalty, obedience, and assists in the training of squires. The Sword is comprised of warrior-clerics, crusaders, and teach courage, heroism, and faith. The Knights of the Rose are tasked with the Order's administration and exemplify honor, wisdom, and justice.

The Knights of Takhisis have been discussed above in the first intermission under the "Villains" section.

The Legion of Steel is a knighthood formed around the Chaos War. They are dedicated to justice and mutual aid, holding the sacrifice of Steel Brightblade as a role model. Steel's adoptive mother, Sara Dunstan, received a vision from her deceased son to form a new knighthood to protect the people of Krynn. She drew upon the ranks of Solamnic and Dark Knights disillusioned with their order's failures and sought to not repeat their mistakes. They are the "Neutral" knighthood of the game, and are less hierarchal and more open to roguish activity.


Spoiler: Show
This organization is one of the most dangerous and venerable in the world of Krynn. It was formed under the guidance of the 3 Gods of Magic, who then taught mortal apprentices the art of High Sorcery. Wizards were split into 3 separate orders, each following one of the three Gods and wearing uniformed robes. They are the White Robes, Red Robes, and Black Robes. Wizards as a whole are governed by a Conclave of mages from each order, and they established five towers to aid in the learning and teaching of magic. Only the Tower of Wayreth still stands after the Age of Might. In order to prevent high-level spellcasters from running amok, the Order sends a message to any wizard of sufficient power (5th level or higher) to visit a Tower and take the test. If they refuse, they must never progress beyond simple basic spells or be branded a renegade and be hunted down by the Wizards. Failure in a Test often means death, so it is never taken lightly.

The Wizards do not regulate or impose these standards upon Clerics, who are instead managed by their respective deities. Wielders of primal sorcery (sorcerers in 3rd and 4th Edition parlance) are viewed as potential threats to magical stability, and are expected to join the Order and take the Test if they attain sufficient power or become Renegades. The Red Robes are the most conciliatory towards primal sorcerers, viewing them as an interesting new avenue of magical attainment.


Spoiler: Show
The 3 original races are elves, ogres, and humans, the children of the Gods of Light, Darkness, and Balance respectively. Ogres are like their standard monstrous counterparts: stupid, large, and brutish, cursed to have their ugliness match their hearts. A reclusive civilization of good-aligned ogres known as the Irda live on a chain of islands to the north of Ansalon. They are more cerebrally-inclined and have a knack for all kinds of magic.

Humans are the most diverse group in terms of physical appearance and culture. Generally they are separated into Civilized (urban, agricultural) and Nomadic humans, although these are more indicative of cultural background than technology levels or population sizes. For example, the Khurs are generally considered nomadic but have several great cities.

There are five major ethnic groups of Elves. The proud, authoritarian Silvanesti, their close cousins the more opened-minded Qualinesti, and the hunter-gatherer and druidic Kagonesti. The aquatic elves are the Dimernesti and Dargonesti, who live amid the waves and can transform into seals and dolphins. Dimernesti live closer to the surface amid coral reefs and sometimes trade with port towns, while the Dargonesti are extreme isolationists.

Silvanesti elves are technically good-aligned, but they exemplify many of the worst tropes of elves in fantasy fiction. They are arrogant and insufferable, viewing everyone else as lesser people, tried to "domesticate" their Kagonesti cousins through slavery, and are more concerned with isolating themselves as the world outside burns instead of trying to make it a better place. Later 3rd Edition supplements made them Lawful Neutral in alignment, because let's face it, being "good" is really stretching it.

There are Goblins, who aren't much different from their counterparts in other settings, believed to be the intermixing of elf and ogre blood.

The dwarves remain largely the same, underground, clan-based, heavily bearded, and distrustful of wizards. They are separated into mountain dwarves (inhabitants of the underground kingdoms), hill dwarves (those living above), dark dwarves (exiled mountain dwarves who are generally evil and very pale-skinned), and gully dwarves (said to be the crossbreeding of gnomes of dwarves, very stupid, and live in squalor all over Ansalon).

Minotaurs were a race of exiled ogres transformed into anthropomorphic bulls by the Lawful Evil god of vengeance, Sargonnas. Before the Cataclysm they were the slaves of dwarves and Istaran humans, but won their freedom after hard-fought battles. They live amid the islands of Mithas and Kothas as warriors and sailors, valuing an intricate system of honorable combat. In recent years they sought to expand their empire eastward beyond Ansalon, and into Silvanesti and other realms of eastern Ansalon.

Gnomes mostly live on the Isle of Sancrist. In the Age of Dreams they used to be human worshipers of Reorx, but were changed into their new forms as a curse for arrogance. Now they live on the Isle of Sancrist in a technologically advanced society. They are the archetype of the absent-minded professor, consumed with desire to expand their knowledge via all manner of field-testing, yet often experiment for the sake of it without regard to future consequence. They are one of the "comic relief" races of Dragonlance.

Kender are short people created by the Graygem when curious gnomes examined it. Kender have inborn traits of intense curiosity and fearlessness, with no concept of private property and a love for travel. Their most annoying habits include the picking up objects to examine known as "borrowing," only to forget about them later, leading to 28 years of disruptive player behavior justifying PC actions as "role-playing." They're the 3rd comic relief race of Dragonlance (the first being the Gully Dwarves).

Draconians were created from the eggs of metallic dragons in an unholy ritual. They are humanoid dragon-people with latent traits of their metallic brethren, and served in Takhisis' army during the War of the Lance. They managed to gain their independence after discovering the location of female draconian eggs, and one of their generals Kang defected and formed the draconian nation of Teyr. The eggs of chromatic dragons created the "Noble Draconians," good-aligned and much rarer counterparts.

Draconians' signature abilities are their Death Throes, activated upon their death which can include an explosion of poisonous gas or flames, turning to stone and catching bladed weapons inside, and similarly inconvenient effects.


I might include more, but I feel this covers a lot of the major setting points for now.
 

Davies

Registered User
Validated User
This is really well done. Way back when, I asked Armchair Gamer whether he was planning on doing a Let's Read of any Ravenloft modules, and he expressed doubt as to whether one could do that. It's interesting to watch someone demonstrating how to do so.
 
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