Saturday, 25 December 2010

Rise of a Dark Sun - Yet Another Rethink

Yet Another Rethink

While I have been writing up my outlines for the Black Age of Bane campaign, I am finding that I keep coming back to the wonderful picture above which is from the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide for 4E and was created by William O'Connor.

I want this picture to mean something in this campaign. It spends a lot of time on my various desktops because I like it that much.

These are the key things I want in this campaign:
  1. The primary threat remains the Zhentarim of Darkhold.
  2. The campaign should take place in three acts, for lack of a better term, with the second act ending with the darkening of the Companion, the second sun that rises above Elturgard. The third act should see light restored to the Companion.
  3. The first act should include gnolls as the primary threat. (Zhents will, of course, also feature.)
  4. The second act should include orcs as the primary threat. (And, of course, Zhents will continue to feature.)
  5. The third act should include shadar-kai (including krinth), shades and related shadow creatures as the primary threats.
  6. There should be a big set piece battle at the end of the second act as a prelude to the darkening of the Companion. I need to create some suitable rules for mass combat, probably involving a skill challenge with History as the key skill.
  7. The party should, at least once, infiltrate Darkhold.
Besides these key elements, I also think I want to include the following:
  1. There is a triad of evil behind everything: Cyric, Shar and Graz'zt.  Cyric is looking for additional power to fuel his escape from his prison, Shar continues to work toward the end of everything and Graz'zt is looking to supplant Bane and take over the portfolio of tyranny with the support of both Cyric and Shar.
  2. I like the idea that the item that will allow the Companion to be darkened is a shadow seed, a congealed mass of the remains of the Shadow Weave. This idea comes from the LFR adventure Shades of the Zhentarim. As per the LFR adventure, the artefact needs to be recovered from the ruins of Zhentil Keep.
  3. Perhaps the PCs are hired to recover the shadow seed, travelling via portal, and are successful in its recovery but it is then subsequently stolen from the church of Amaunator that hired them to recover it?
Here's a rough outline of the sequence of adventures that could be played through in act one:

Adventure One: The Lost Temple of Bane
A Zhent war mage searches for a lost temple of Bane believing that it contains a portal to one of the treasure vaults of Zhentil Keep. The PCs end up following the war mage into the temple but fail to stop him from travelling through the portal. They do, however, discover writings about the Black Age of Bane and an artefact of the Shadow Weave, the shadow seed.

Adventure Two: The Ruins of Zhentil Keep
The church of Torm or church of Amaunator (as appropriate) that met the party in adventure one, hires them to return to the lost temple and travel through the portal to stop the war mage from recovering the shadow seed. The adventure is very similar to the LFR adventure that inspired it; in due course, the party must ascend the great chain to the Temple in the Sky and there defeat the Zhent war mage and the gauth guardian of the shadow seed (rather than an elite artillery 5, I will probably make the gauth a solo artillery 2 or 3) before returning to Scornubel by portal.

Adventure Three: The Shadows of Scornubel
There is a gap between adventures two and three where the PCs can do "other things". WHile they may earn money, they do not accumulate XP per my experimental rule that XP is only earned for completing each adventure. The shadow seed has been stolen from the church of Torm or Amaunator by skulks and the party is hired to recover it. They enter the shadowy underworld of Scornubel which is populated by skulks, xivorts and cultists of Graz'zt. The shadow seed is not recovered but the trail leads to the Reaching Wood.

Adventure Four: Citadel of the Dark Tree
The Zhents of the Reaching Wood lair in an enormous hollowed-out tree (per the 1E Dragon adventure The Dark Tree). The shadow seed is also not here but the party discovers that the Zhents are behind the aggression of the gnolls and that something big is planned (as in, the summoning of a lesser aspect of Yeenoghu) to unite the gnolls of the Reaching Wood into a large army.

Adventure Five: Call of the Carrion King
Act one concludes with this adventure. Zhent Cyricists and gnoll shamans have joined their powers to summon a lesser aspect of Yeenoghu. The party must fight the Carrion Conventicle and then defeat the Carrion King before he can absorb more power and, more importantly, before he can unite the gnoll tribes behind him in a great army of slaughter.

Conclusion of Act One
The shadow seed remains unrecovered and this may prove frustrating but at least the PCs can feel that they have achieved something significant by preventing the gnolls of the Reaching Wood from uniting behind an aspect of Yeenoghu. The shadow seed, and the mystery of the Black Age of Bane, remain as hooks for the adventures in act two.

Friday, 24 December 2010

The Black Age of Bane - Another Rethink

The Inevitable Rethink

I'm not sure if other DMs are like me in that, once I have typed up the details of an upcoming campaign arc, I inevitably go back and rewrite almost all  of it. And I'm doing that again with the Black Age of Bane campaign.

Here's the banner I am using over at Obsidian Portal for the campaign:
One of the key visuals I want to include is that of Bane bursting forth from the shell of a banelich or a cleric of Bane. Sure, it's a rip-off of the idea of Bane's return when he burst forth from Xvim's body but my players aren't really familiar with that so hopefully it will seem fresh to them. 

My other motivation for wanting Bane to appear is that I have the very cool aspect of Bane miniature which I have been longing to use:
More importantly, I've decided I want to set the entire campaign in and around Elturgard, rather than starting in Loudwater and moving south to Elturgard as I had originally planned. Of course, I could change my mind again, but this is my plan for now.

Why Elturgard?

I've always wanted the key part of this campaign to be in Elturgard because I love the visual of the second sun, particularly what it would mean if it is darkened. And the idea that the darkening of the Companion, as it is also called, would herald the Black Age of Bane is also something that I think would resonate with the players... especially if it is their fault.

I also want to explore the theme of corruption within the church of Torm and also of Amaunator. The excellent article Eye of Justice from Dungeon 172 has given me some ideas about the corruption of the church of Torm; 2E's Bastion of Faith, in particular, has given me some ideas for the corruption of the church of Amaunator.
I'm wondering if my DMing skills are good enough to show paladins of Torm as heroic Lawful Good-types and also as less-than-heroic Evil-types. Frankly, my RP skills are the weakest component of my DMing repertoire.

Three Acts

Each act will involve five separate adventures with each adventure, ideally, covering one level.

I want to use a good mix of encounter levels in each adventure, with a particular emphasis on the use of a lot of lower level encounters. Typically my campaigns have involved level-appropriate encounters; in this campaign I want to use a lot more "walkover" encounters so that the players feel like their characters are "big shots" and also so that some encounters take only 10-15 minutes to play out (as 4E encounters can go for a very loooooooooooooooooong time).

Of course, if the players don't like this it will be easy enough to change the encounter mix on the fly (one of the many strenghts of 4E).

I'm hoping that the three acts I have outlined will feel something like the virtual three acts of Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and the Return of the Jedi.

Act One: The Coming of Strife
Levels 1-6

The adventures in Act One need to show the Cyricist-led Zhents bringing chaos and strife to Elturgard and surrounds.

Typically, they do this my sponsoring bandits etc.... In this particular case, I will have Zhents stirring up the gnolls of the Reaching Woods and the defeat of the gnolls will provide both a natural conclusion to Act One but also act as a catalyst for the Banite takeover of Darkhold in Act Two.

Ideally, the first adventure should involve an old ruined temple of Bane where the party proceed to accidentally free the banelich who causes the Companion to be darkened at the end of Act Two. Perhaps that will help inculcate a sense of responsibility when that event happens. 

(In a parallel to Star Wars, Act One sees the party strike a solid blow against the Zhents of Darkhold. When the PCs reach 6th-level they should feel like they have really achieved something [and that something may be the defeat of a lesser aspect of Yeenoghu summoned by the Zhents].)

Act Two: The Tyrant's Hand
Levels 6-11

The Cyricists in Darkhold have failed (see Act One) so the Tolak of Darkhold, Lady (placeholder), has allowed a Banite cabal to take charge. It seems that while the Cyricists were manipulating the gnolls of the Reaching Woods, the Banites were organising the goblins, bugbears and hobgoblins of the Reaching Woods and the mountains around Darkhold in order to reconstitute the Red Hand of Doom. And now it is ready to march on Elturgard.

Act Two will largely be a rip-off of the excellent 3.5E adventure The Red Hand of Doom but will conclude with a grand melee in Elturel beneath the Companion. The High Observer (or perhaps even the party) will perform a ritual to lower the Companion to the ground so it can smite the armies of the Red Hand (actually Bane's talon rendered in blood) but, in doing so, he allows a cleric of Bane/banelich-possessed cleric of Bane to touch the Companion with an artefact of darkness and snuff out, as it were, the Companion's light. Instead of shedding sunlight, now it sheds darkness and Elturgard becomes the land of eternal night.

Furthermore, the corruption of the Companion allows the banelich possessing the cleric of Bane to break free and the first thing he does is summon a lesser aspect of Bane from his own lifeforce (although, when the aspect is bloodied, the banelich returns, albeit bloodied).

(Looking at Act Two as something like Empire Strikes Back, the players should feel like the Zhents are back in the ascendancy and that their victory in Act One was not only short-lived but may have laid the foundation for something worse because now the Zhents are controlled once again by Banites and beholders.)

Act Three: The Chalice of Amaunator
Levels 11-16
The party may have defeated the lesser aspect of Bane but Elturgard is now a land of eternal night and the Black Age of Bane has begun. Over the course of Act Three, they discover that the Chalice of Amaunator can be used to create a magical substance known as liquid sun, and this can remove the corruption from the Companion.

The party may even have to travel to Spellgard to consult Lady Saharel to find this out (which would require an extensive rewrite of Sceptre Tower of Spellgard to make it suitable for Paragon-level adventurers).

Alternatively, they may be able to find this out by solving the mystery of Fort Morninglord. 

(My initial thoughts are that the Epic-level cleric of Amaunator, Daelegoth, who created the Companion fell to some of the darker impulses common to the Netherese-era Amaunatori and started to see Amaunator as a replacement for Bane in relation to the divine portfolio of tyranny. In due course, this cleric was overthrown and sealed beneath Fort Morninglord. The Amaunatori were so ashamed of the evil that he had wrought in Amaunator's name that they ceded the nation of Elturgard and control of the Companion to followers of Torm thinking that they would make better stewards of the land. However, the same darkness that corrupted Daelegoth has also created the Eye of Justice sect within the church of Torm.)

This idea comes from 3.5E's Anauroch: Empire of Shade and the adventures will be inspired by, if not plagiarised completely, that book. Basically the party will head to the ruins of the Netherese city of Synod within the Stonelands north of Cormyr and fight their way through shades and other servants of Netheril.

The final battle should be with Lady (placeholder), the Tolak of Darkhold, who is revealed to be a beholder mage named Ixathinon.

(Returning to the parallels with the Star Wars series, the end of Act Three is much like Return of the Jedi because not only do we see the Companion shedding light again, the corruption within the church of Torm has been largely removed as many of the corrupt clerics died with the corruption of the Companion and the uncovering of the mysteries of Fort Morninglord have shown the truth of what happened.)

Conclusion & Further Development

At this point, the PCs should be 16th-level. The players are probably attached to their characters and may want to take them further. There are a few options consistent with the story of the campaign up until this point:

1. The recovery of the Chalice of Amaunator may have brought the very unwelcome attentions of the Empire of Netheril. Perhaps the players will want to send their characters back into the proverbial heart of darkness?

2. The PCs have struck a mighty blow against the Zhentarim but the leader of the Zhentarim, Manshoon, still remains. What would it take to bring him down?

3A. I still like the idea of having Graz'zt working in the background. The Dark Prince wishes to supplant the Black Lord as the deity of tyranny, although I still feel this campaign theme is better explored in the context of my plans for a campaign set in the Moonshae Isles (cf Heretics of the Harlot's Coin) but I could always change my mind. (I will go back and edit in some Graz'zt-flavoured encounters to prepare for this eventuality).

3B. What if the darkness that tempted both Daelegoth and the Eye of Justice was in fact Graz'zt as part of his plan to take over the portfolio of tyranny?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Black Age of Bane - Rethinking the Tiers

Rethinking the Tiers

It would appear that 4E is playable all the way through to 30th-level and, unlike 3.xE, a DM's job in terms of creating monster and NPC statblocks for such high levels is not difficult. That said, I'm not sure if I will ever again run a group that could last that long. Furthermore, after mid-Paragon or so I think the story potentially makes less sense in the context of the campaign setting. Of course, these points are debatable but I'm thinking of designing future campaigns to last until 10th or maybe 15th-level.

Rather than design around Heroic, Paragon and Epic tiers, I'm going to break the story of the campaign down into three chapters of five levels each, thus 1st to 6th, 6th to 11th and 11th to 15th (or 16th). I'm also going to try and design one adventure per level and I'm giving some though to the level increase only coming after the adventure is satisfactorily concluded, rather than basing it on the awarding of XP. I will need to think about this particularly in the context of player expectations.

For the Black Age of Bane campaign I'm going to base these three tiers around particular regions.
  • Chapter One: This will be set in and around Loudwater and the Grey Vale or Fallen Lands.
  • Chapter Two: This will be set in and around Elturgard.
  • Chapter Three: This will be set in and around Elturgard also but will likely conclude in the Zhent fortress of Darkhold in the Sunset Mountains.
Here's a rough synopsis of the chapters:

Chapter One: Hidden Destinies

(It seems appropriate that a campaign that is based off a single sentence in the DDi mini-adventure Hidden Destinies should have a chapter named after it. That, and the basic premise of a Bane-touched child is going to be a key part of this campaign.)

The campaign begins in Loudwater. The party rescues a tiefling child with green eyes named Caom from slavers and agrees with his guardian, a noble cleric of Amaunator, to take him to the Sceptre Tower of Spellgard to learn his destiny. The rest of the chapter involves a plagiarised and shortened version of the published adventure Sceptre Tower of Spellgard and the revelation of a Banite plot as well as some hints about Caom's destiny (specifically that he is linked to Elturgard's second sun).

Chapter Two: Justice & Judgement

As a consequence of what was learned at the Sceptre Tower, the party agree to escort Caom to Elturgard where he will study under the clerics of Torm and they will try and find out what his link to the Companion is.

This chapter will also include skirmishes with Zhents, an attack on a gnoll temple in the Reaching Woods where a minor aspect of Yeenoghu will be summoned and the discovery of the Amaunatori and Tormite heresies (the Three-Faced Sun and Eye of Justice heresies, respectively) that afflict Elturgard. After cleansing Fort Morninglord, the party participate in a great war involving the Zhents attacking in sight of the Companion.

The conclusion of this tier occurs when the Companion is corrupted by the touch of Caom. As he does this, either he or a follower of Bane standing nearby splits open and a lesser aspect of Bane is revealed. When the aspect is bloodied, the original follower of Bane is revealed and the battle continues until the death.

Ultimately, the Zhent armies are defeated but the Companion is now a thing of darkness.

Chapter Three: Against Darkness

The Companion has been darkened and the Black Age of Bane has begun. The Cyricists are expelled from Darkhold by the resurgent Banites and Elturgard is now a place of eternal night.

There is hope. The Black Age of Bane can be brought to a premature end. (Perhaps this was the message that the party received in the Sceptre Tower?) It seems that there is an Amaunatori artefact known as the Cup of Amaunator (cf 3.5E's Anauroch: The Empire of Shade) or the Sliver of the Sun ([homebrew]a spear that is a relic of the Netherese-era church of Amaunator) that might be able to cause the Companion to shine once more.

This chapter thus is about:
  • determining the location of the macguffin (perhaps by sneaking into Darkhold to steal information from the Banites);
  • travelling to the location of the macguffin and acquiring it (this might even be into the Empire of Shade in a plot inspired by 3.5E's Anauroch: The Empire of Shade); and
  • returning to the benighted lands of Elturgard and then searching out the corrupted Companion before transforming it into a bringer of light once more.
With that, the Black Age of Bane is ended but perhaps it is something that is supposed to occur in the future....

One of things I really want to do with this campaign is ensure that each chapter ends on a strong note. I particularly like the ending of chapter two: the Companion is darkened and the power provided by this corruption allows for an aspect of Bane to be summoned. It's a strong visual, particularly as I have the right miniature for it, and should ideally cause the players to think that chapter three is really important as their characters have a chance to put this right.

Chapter three also finishes strongly: the Companion is a thing of light once more, vampires and other undead that had moved to the benighted lands of Elturgard are destroyed in an instant and hope is reborn (particularly if the land was cleansed of heresies and heretics in chapter two).

But I need something strong for chapter one. Returning from the Sceptre Tower just doesn't cut it. Perhaps I could have a Banite army of hobgoblins marching on Loudwater as I had originally planned? Perhaps the party's role in this could be to fight the blue dragon warlord (Arharzel Morueme) who leads this army? Would that be a strong enough finish? I think so, which makes me also think that I really need to work to compress Sceptre Tower of Spellgard into a much smaller adventure.

NPC: Dreadmaster Thendulryn Dhravn of Bane

Creating the NPC

As my plans for the Black Age of Bane campaign require that followers of Bane represent one of the major groups of enemies, I want to introduce Banites into the very first adventure. The only thing is, it just doesn't seem right that a 1st-level cleric of Bane should be a BBEG even in an introductory adventure but this is where, for me, 4E really shines with its minion, standard, elite then solo system.

A "boss" Banite to me should be around 6th-level and an elite "monster". I like the idea of Banites being controllers so I'll run with a 6th-level elite controller as my BBEG. That means he is worth 500 XP. Looking at the XP for monsters table, a 1st-level solo monster is also worth 500 XP. With that as my logical underpinning, I will create this NPC as both as 6th-level elite controller and also a 1st-level solo controller. When the party first meets him he will be a 1st-level controller, probably supported by a squad of minion soldiers, but something that can be legitimately encountered when the PCs are still 1st-level.

I suspect that when (or if) the party meets him again when they are around 4th- or 5th-level that he wil still feel like a significant threat, albeit requiring some more significant allies that 1st-level minion soldiers to provide a meaningful encounter.

Describing the NPC

One of the WotC designers came up with a handy "stat block", as it were, for creating a shorthand description of an NPC and that's the format I've been using for a while. 

However, first things first: I need a name. The 2E adventure Halls of the High King involves a group of evil Banites and is full of Ed Greenwood-created names that drip with FR flavour. I'm going to steal, in the nicest possible way, Thendulryn Dhravn. To give him his full name, he is Dreadmaster Thendulryn Dhravn of Bane, a male human cleric of the Black Lord.

Using the NPC stat block previously mentioned I note:
Key Traits: Thendulryn is cold, deliberate, domineering, haughty and ruthless (this is standard for all Banites, I think).

Goal: He seeks to learn more about the Black Age of Bane, revealed to him in his dreams by Bane's exarch, Fzoul Chembryl, and to usher in this Black Age while sitting at the Black Lord's left hand (and possibly even supplanting Fzoul from his position on Bane's right).

Motivation: The dreadmaster is a religious fanatic but he is also scarred by his experiences with the Zhentarim in his youth and particularly the chaos of the coming of the Cyricists. Basically, he is a perfectionist and only the tyranny of the Black Lord promises perfect order and perfection.

Fears: Thendulryn is terrified by two things: being buried alive (he is very claustrophobic) and falling. The threat of holding him over a dark pit or open grave can be enough to reduce him to a quivering mess.

Weaknesses:  His fears are a significant weakness, particularly for a dreadmaster of Bane, as his is overweening hubris. He believes he has been specially chosen by Bane's exarch for a special task that will herald the Black Age of Bane.

That's a start at least, although it is also horribly generic. However, it's enough to provide some ideas for the first adventure (and I can also see how he could play a role within the Sceptre Tower of Spellgard should I decide to run that adventure).

The more I think about it, the more I want to focus on his perfectionism combined with his fears and weakness. I can imagine that he has, inter alia, a pathological distaste for being dirty or for his chambers to be anything other than perfectly clean and well-organised. Such a man would definitely need servants to cater to these whims.

The Stat Block

One of my D&D joys until a few months ago was building monsters and NPCs using Wizards of the Coast's Monster Builder, one of its electronic tools accessible to DDi subscribers. Unfortunately it was too good to last: the last update created a range of new bugs that make it difficult to use and even more difficult to get a stat block in a usable format. 
I've just spent more time compensating for the bugs than I did actually creating the stat block but here it is in .jpg format. Sadly, I can't print it in the nice MMIII-style format because one of the bugs causes the icons to corrupt when printing to PDF. I've had to convert to .rtf format and, from there, print to PDF and then convert to .jpg to get this file. (Of course, until that last update this wasn't an issue at all. Well done, Wizards of the Coast; you've succeeded once again in screwing up one of your electronic tools.)

I've also statted up some sword fodder for him, mercenaries he has hired and trained to defend his person even at the cost of their own lives (probably due to some ritual fuelled hby is ability to dominate at will).

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Black Age of Bane - Initial Thoughts

Introduction & Background

The introduction for the Dungeon sidetrek Hidden Destinies says:

The church of Bane has spies in many places across Faerûn (and  elsewhere on Toril), and the clergy of Amaunator is no exception.  Verped, a Banite residing at Fort Morninglord, intercepted the original  message, and has come to a startling conclusion: The boy, Caom, is not  some unfortunate innocent caught up in unknown powers. Verped believes  him to be the subject of a long-forgotten prophecy. The boy will grow  into the greatest tyrant of this or any age, eclipsing even the Chosen  Imperator Fzoul Chembryl and heralding the Black Age of Bane.

I've been thinking about this for a while now but let me backtrack a bit first.

One of my favourite themes for the backstories of the campaigns I run is that of heresy. I find the idea of heretical movements within ostensibly Good and Lawful Good religions to be fuel for a range of NPCs, events, encounters, adventures and campaigns. 

There was an excellent DDi article written by Erik Scott de Bie in Dungeon 171 titled The Eye of Justice. It was about a heretical sect in the church of Torm based in Westgate.  

The church of Torm is the state religion in the nation of Elturgard which is distinguished by the existence of a second son, known as The Companion, created as a Epic spell (3.5e) or Epic ritual (4E) by a pre-Spellplague heretic known as Daelegoth Orndeir. Orndeir was a follower of Amaunator at a time when believing in Amaunator was a heresy within the church of Lathander. Furthermore, he was a believer in the Three-Faced Sun heresy which postulated that there were three aspects to the sun deity - dawn, highsun and dusk - and that only two could be "showing" at any one time. According to Orndeir and his then-fellow heretics, Lathander represented the dawn, Amaunator, highsun and Myrkul, dusk. Myrkul's demise meant that Amaunator should be ascendant at the same time as Lathander.

We do not know canonically how this situation was resolved before or during the Spellplague but we do know that Amaunator is definitely ascendant, as a greater power, no less, in the 4E Realms. One of the things I liked about Amaunator even during the 2E period was here was a Lawful Good deity who could just as easily be Lawful Evil (3.5E and earlier) or Evil (4E). In fact, I see Amaunator as a challenger of Bane for the portfolio of tyranny.

So, back to Torm as the state religion of Elturgard. 

It seems strange when you first read the 4E Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (FRCG) that the state religion of Elturgard, with such a powerful and obvious display of Amaunator's might by way of The Companion, should be that of Torm. Unless, of course, you also look at how it talks about a darkness sealed within Fort Morninglord (which is also off-limits on pain of death) and consider that Amaunator has a tyrannical streak within him... as do, no doubt, some of his followers.

So, what if Orndeir's heresies extended into outright apostasy and he came to embrace Bane? Perhaps he also saw Bane as the true heir of the mantle of dusk from Myrkul. If he believed that, then it would be very easy for Bane to lure him over to his side as a natural outgrowth of his believe in the (heresy of) The Three-Faced Sun.

So, let's assume that Elturgard's first state religion was Amaunatori in nature, with Daelegoth Orndeir as Righteous Potentate (as high priests of Amaunator were styled). In due course, Orndeir took to himself a more majestic title of Supreme Righteous Potentate as he sought, driven in part by the whispers of Bane, to extend his golden rule of light and law across all of Faerûn.

In due course, sometime during the years of the Spellplague, the tyrannies of the Supreme Righteous Potentate were opposed by heroic followers of Torm and, eventually, Orndeir was overthrown. So ashamed were other Amaunatori of this episode in the history of their religion, particularly at a time when Amaunator  was making an obvious return, that they agreed to pass rulership of Elturgard to the Tormites and to hide the records of this era, and an imprisoned Orndeir, beneath Fort Morninglord.

Fast forward a few decades and the church of Torm is very much in charge but, like the Amaunatori before them, are becoming increasingly strident, harsh, cruel and tyrannical. Add to this the heresies of The Eye of Justice mentioned above and you can see that Elturgard is being taken over by the whispers of Bane once more except this time it is the Tormites who are being persuaded by his subtleties.

With all of that as background, what if Orndeir foretold the Black Age of Bane as a time when the Black Lord accepted the mantle of dusk from the fallen Myrkul and which would be heralded by The Companion being changed from an eternal sun to an orb of darkness spreading night across the lands that it previously lit.

Thus, the campaign is about the Banites and the heretical Tormites and Amaunatori attempting to find a way to transform The Companion from a thing of light into darkness and, when this happens, a resurgent church of Bane unleashes its armies across Faerûn.  The first part of the campaign leads up to this key event - the darkening of The Companion - and the second part becomes about reversing this process.


Welcome to My Realms

I'm a long-term Forgotten Realms fan who was originally disappointed with the post-Spellplague version of the Forgotten Realms. However, as someone who always DMs and who was growing frustrated with the inordinate amount of work involved with creating adventures and whatnot in 3.5E, the simplicity of monster and NPC creation caused me to have another look at 4E which was followed by an embrace of the 4E Realms so that my players and I could use the electronic tools.

Nearly two years later, I've become quite a fan of the 4E Realms but there are two things I really dislike:

1. The map for the 4E Realms was, without me being guilty of hyperbole, possibly the worst map for a RPG world published in the past decade or so. It's a disgrace. Inaccurate. Blurry. Lacking detail. Truly horrid. I often wonder whether the poor quality map is another reason so few seem to be embracing the 4E version of the Realms.

2. There is no place you can really go on the internet to discuss the 4E Realms without being buried under the enormous e-turds of various professional and semi-professional threadcrappers. I don't understand this. I don't like Dragonlance so I simply avoid those threads. Why can't those who dislike FR extend the same courtesy? (And that, obviously, is a rhetorical question.)

I've decided to start a blog about My Realms, hence the rather obvious title, primarily for my own enjoyment but also on the off chance that some other 4E FR fans may see it and, in due course, start sharing their thoughts and creations.

My Ideal Campaign

One of the reasons I have started this blog is that I am trying to come up with my "perfect" FR campaign. Of course, such a thing does not exist. However, these are the things I want to incorporate in one or more campaigns:

The must haves:

  • drow (including, ideally, a rip-off of 1E's D1-3);
  • aboleth or beholders;
  • giants;
  • Graz'zt;
  • Zhentarim.
One of the reasons why I want to create the "perfect" FR campaign is that I suspect I may only have one more campaign in me as a DM. I'm at the point on my life personally and professionally - and also geographically! - where regular D&D gaming is getting to be impossible. I would love to go out with a proverbial bang, as it were, and finish a campaign using most or all of the ideas I have had swirling around in my head for a while.

As I write this updated post, it is May 2012 and I am finding that the idea of a campaign set in Elturgard involving a clash between that nation and the Zhent forces of Darkhold is the one that really appeals to me. Let's see if I can get it off the ground....

Map of the Forgotten Realms

The product of a poo-stained diaper smudged across a page.
When you look at the thumbnail version you may wonder, "How bad could it really be? It actually looks quite nice." However, it's when you try to actually use it for your games that the problems become apparent....

My Campaign Arcs

Here's the list current as at July 2012: