Monday, 11 June 2012

Dark Weavings - Incorporating the Crystal Shard

Why, when I detest R A Salvatore's books?

I am a fan of the original Crystal Shard novel by R A Salvatore. While it never made me want to play an emo drow, an emo ranger, a drow ranger or even a drow ranger with two scimitars (after all, I preferred the Lawful Evil human Prince Rann from the War of the Powers double trilogy when it came to warriors wielding a pair of curved blades [and which pre-dated the Drizzt phenomenon by a decade or so]), it made me want to run an adventure incorporating the titular Crystal Shard. (And, really, it was only the books after the first double trilogy which were utter crap. Unfortunately, R A Salvatore is the George Lucas of fantasy writers: he got off to a great start then devolved into a parody of his former self... and he really shouldn't be allowed to invent his own character names.)

The most important point about the Crystal Shard for me is that it can create crystal towers and allow the wielder of the shard to move himself and his forces between those towers. This would be a perfect artefact for an organisation like the Zhents to control because it would allow them to move their forces - and even their mercantile cargoes - safely and swiftly and then, unlike a fixed portal, the shard tower can be collapsed to prevent pursuit.

Of course, according to Forgotten Realms canon, the Crystal Shard has a weakness: it draws its power wholly from the sun. Without the sun's rays shining upon it, it is powerless. However, when thinking about Elturgard and its second sun, the Companion, this weakness can be mitigated against because the Companion provides perpetual sunlight.

According to the novels and, in-game, Volo's Guide to All Things Magical, the Crystal Shard possesses a range of other powers but these are not particularly importantly in the context of my campaign's requirements. I also seem to recall that it is supposed to be a splinter from the shard of evil that created the Abyss. This latter piece of information definitely suits my purposes and caused me to start considering how to include the Crystal Shard in my Dark Weavings campaign.

Inspiration from the LFR Epic Adventures... and a Dungeon Adventure

The third LFR Epic adventure, EPIC3-3 The Tangled Skein of Destiny, involves the consequences to Lolth's astral demesne, the Demonweb Pits, being pierced by a fragment of the abyssal shard of evil. This causes the Demonweb Pits to unravel as they seek to "migrate", as it were, back to their birthplace in the Abyss. Lolth is effectively powerless for a time as she attempts to weave the Demonweb Pits back together.

This plot was instigated by Graz'zt as part of a plan to weaken Lolth and, for in my campaign at least, part of a plan to take the drow as his own people. As Graz'zt is basically the Big Bad Evil Guy behind every plot and plan I have for my version of the Forgotten Realms this suits my needs perfectly.

Also, I have always wanted to run the adventure, The Harrowing, by Monte Cook from Dungeon 84. I think I can combine these ideas with those I already have for the Dark Weavings campaign so that I now have an extraplanar adventure set in the Demonweb Pits after my already-planned equivalent for D3 The Vault of the Drow: Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits, here we come!

Putting it All Together

(I am basically ignoring the post-Crystal Shard novel history in favour of my own version. Ahhh, the joys of determining your own canon.)

After the events of the Crystal Shard, the titular artefact was lost in the snows of the North. In due course it was found by drow from Menzoberranzan before making its way to the drow arcanists of Sshamath and, ultimately, to a follower of Graz'zt.

If the Crystal Shard can be implanted into one of the key locations of the Demonweb Pits, the entire plane will unravel freeing numerous imprisoned tanar'ri which Lolth used to power her ascent to greater power as well as those drow and other souls that worshipped Lolth in life.

The effort to stop the unravel and then rebuild the Demonweb Pits will prevent Lolth from exercising her formidable powers for a number of years and her followers will not be able to use their encounter, recharge and daily divine powers during this new Silence of Lolth. In other words, it will ensure that drow society is ripe for infiltration by cultists of Graz'zt, particularly when - thanks to his imprisonment and impersonation of Waukeen - the Dark Prince is also able to grant divine powers.

The Lolth-worshipping House Zauvirr of Sshamath has obtained the Crystal Shard. The artefact is effectively powerless within the darkness of the Underdark but a cultist of Graz'zt has managed to persuade House Zauvirr to use it as the price of obtaining Zhentarim aid in repelling the advances that the Shar-worshipping Netherese are making in Sshamath.

The Zhents of Darkhold are delighted with their new acquisition - the price for sending 500 Zhent soldiers to Sshamath in the service of House Zauvirr for a year and a day - because it has the potential to revolutionise their ability to move their soldiers and their trade goods. In addition, if combined with the Companion the Crystal Shard would never be in darkness and this its utility would effectively double.

Graz'zt believes that the Zhents will ultimately over-stretch themselves in relation to their use of Crenshinibon and that Elturgard will mount an effective retaliation. His ultimate goal is to manipulate the forces of good into taking the Crystal Shard to the Demonweb Pits and planting it there to weaken Lolth. It will take time but, unlike the other abyssal powers, the Dark Prince possesses patience.

The Factions of Sshamath

Council of Blue Fire

Sharns, spellscarred.

Council of Darkness


Council of Lolth

House Zauvirr and clerics of Lolth.

Council of Wizards


The Crystal Shard - from Volo's Guide to All Things Magical

(This is for AD&D Second Edition.)

Crenshinibon the Crystal Shard is an ancient relic of chaos and evil. This vile artifact appears as a 1-foot-long, four-sided, pulsating crystal that is tapered like an icicle.


The Crystal Shard was forged by a conclave of seven liches millennia ago in a distant crystal sphere. The forging consumed the seven; Crenshinibon stole the magical strength that preserved their undeath to fuel its own first flickers of life. A tanar’ri lord, Errtu, was present
at the creation of Crenshinibon, but was hurled back to the Abyss by the burst of power that heralded the artefact'’s coalescence. Errtu presumed the crystal had not survived that explosion until it stumbled across the shard’s trail centuries later with the discovery of a crystal tower, Cryshal-Tirith, whose pulsating heart was the exact image of the Crystal Shard. In the interim, Crenshinibon had molded countless bearers into iron-fisted tyrants and orchestrated military onslaughts to deliver its purpose of destruction in many worlds. Before the fiend could recover the relic, it was seized by Al Dimeneira, a solar of the Upper Planes. Errtu was banished to the Abyss by the aasimon, but the angelic being could not destroy the Crystal Shard. It burned his skin terribly, and he was forced to hurl the relic across the planes, hoping it would never be found.

Crenshinibon came to rest in the snow of a bowl-shaped dell deep in the northern mountain range on Toril known as the Spine of the World. There it lay for centuries, sought for its strength by many evil lords, including Errtu—, but found by none. The Crystal Shard was eventually discovered in the Year of the Crown (1351 DR) by a weak-willed apprentice wizard by the name of Akar Kessel who stumbled across the relic after being left to die in the snowy wastes by his erstwhile allies, several wizards of the Hosttower of the Arcane in Luskan. Under Crenshinibon’s influence, Kessel gathered a servitor army of goblinkin, trolls, and giants. Errtu had noticed a surge of power in the Realms hinting at the artifact’s location and eventually managed to take advantage of a faulty summoning to the Prime Material Plane to arrive in Icewind Dale and seize the artifact. Kessel, warned of the fiend’'s impending arrival by Crenshinibon, convinced Errtu to serve as his general with the promise that the tanar’ri lord could seize the relic after the human died of old age, —a relatively short amount of time to the immortal Errtu.

Spurred by the Shard'’s malignant intelligence, the self-styled “Tyrant of Icewind Dale” then turned his army against the humans of the Ten Towns and the dwarves of Clan Battlehammer in his bid to carve out an empire. Kessel and his army were eventually defeated by the humans and dwarves of the region with the aid of several adventurers who later formed the Company of the Hall. Crenshinibon was buried under half the snow on Kelvin’s Cairn, entombed with the late, unlamented Kessel by an avalanche of its own creation.

Campaign Use

The Crystal Shard is endowed with an utterly evil, power-craving intelligence that serves the cause of pure chaos. It is still actively sought by many fiends of the Lower Planes, including Errtu, though that tanar’ri lord has been exiled from the Prime Material Plane after
its defeat by Drizzt Do’Urden. Any of these evil beings will seek out the artifact if an opportunity presents itself.

Although Crenshinibon was defeated, it was hardly destroyed or even particularly well-hidden. A skilled wizard employing widely known spells could locate the Crystal Shard and retrieve it from its icebound tomb. Alternatively, the heat radiated by the artifact might cause it to slowly sink through the snow until it falls into a deep-running stream. Fate might then bear the artifact into the Underdark to be discovered by some powerful denizen of the Land Below. If the finder bears the artifact south, it could reappear in the hands of a subterranean tyrant anywhere in the Realms. Player characters might then be forced into confronting the rapid rise of an empire in the depths that threatens the surrounding surface
world—for Crenshinibon needs exposure to the sun to employ most of its powers.


Crenshinibon is an enigma: a force of darkest evil that draws its strength from that which good-aligned beings find most precious— the light of day. For every hour of daylight the Crystal Shard (or Cryshal Tirith if it contains the artifact) is directly exposed to the light of the sun, Crenshinibon absorbs 12 power levels of energy. The artefact can store a maximum of 144 power levels at any one time, and additional exposure to the sun has no effect. Every two hours, Crenshinibon slowly loses two power levels. (The energy simply dissipates.)

The relic burns power levels to create spell effects at its bearer’'s will at a cost of one power level per level of a spell effect. Although spell effects can be maintained at night, no new spell effects may be created by the relic while the sun is completely below the horizon. When spells are cast, the ambient light of the sun diminishes as the relic actually steals its radiance.

Crenshinibon is sentient, with an effective Intelligence of 19, Wisdom of 18, and Charisma of 18. It is 100% magic resistant and immune to psionics and physical attacks. The relic prefers weak, indecisive bearers as they are easier to dominate. It desires to conquer and command
and has an insatiable hunger for absolute power.


Crenshinibon burns any creature of good alignment who physically touches it with bare skin for 1d10 points of damage per round. Even while wearing leather or metal gauntlets, a good-aligned bearer suffers 1d6 points of damage per round.

The ultimate perversion of light, Crenshinibon radiates warmth with an ambient temperature of approximately 80° Fahrenheit. It provides the benefits of a ring of warmth to anyone holding it in direct contact with his or her skin.


The bearer of the Crystal Shard can create and maintain magical towers known as Cryshal-Tirith at a cost of 24 power levels per day. A tower is created from a duplicate of the Crystal Shard that splits off from the actual artefact and expands into a gigantic edifice when the bearer (or someone she or he gives the duplicate shard to) invokes it with the command ibssum dal abdur.” These incredible fortresses can serve as a shelter and home for those who dare to wield the artefact.

Each Cryshal-Tirith can teleport without error (itself and all items and beings within it) at a cost of 12 power levels at the will of the bearer of the Crystal Shard, who also chooses the destination.

Each incarnation of Cryshal-Tirith has four palatial square-walled floors constructed of smooth, strong crystal. The first is entered via a dark hallway and serves as the main chamber of the tower and guard post. Stairs lead up from the back of the chamber to a small platform. A secret door hides a second stair that continues up to the second floor, a comfortably adorned sleeping chamber. A stair leads to a landing opening onto the third floor of the tower. This room, known as the Hall of Scrying, is filled with numerous magical scrying
devices, including dozens of mirrors, and a grand crystal throne. A small ladder leads to the fourth floor which houses the Crystal Shard (or a duplicate) and a single mirror. The relic (or duplicate) levitates in the centre of this small chamber, powering Cryshal-Tirith and any other spell effects employed by the bearer.

Cryshal-Tirith and its occupants are invulnerable to all forms of external magical, psionic, or physical attack. No magical or psionic effect cast within Cryshal-Tirith can affect the bearer of Crenshinibon unless she or he so desires. All spell effects cast at the tower are reflected back at the caster. Only a creature not native to the plane on which Cryshal-Tirith is currently located or those allowed by the bearer of Crenshinibon (or by the artefact itself) can locate the entrance to the tower—, an invisible door opening onto the first floor of the tower.

The bearer of the Crystal Shard can destroy any Cryshal-Tirith at will. The tower then collapses into a mound of black stonework that slowly disintegrates into dust. This also occurs precipitously if the artefact runs out of power levels. Anyone trapped in a tower during its destruction is instantly crushed to death.

Both Cryshal-Tirith and the Crystal Shard can pulse with a burst of blinding light that temporarily blinds any sighted creature who observes the pulse for 1d6 rounds. This ability does not cost any power levels. The Crystal Shard also, without draining power levels, functions as a maximum strength ring of telekinesis.

Crenshinibon enables its owner to cast numerous spell effects as an 18th-level wizard. Spell effects issue from the bearer if Cryshal-Tirith is not close by, but otherwise issue from the tower itself. All spell effects (except for those of the enchantment/charm school) appear as a ray of blindingly bright light.

The Crystal Shard can act as a powerful instrument of destruction. Its bearer can cast any offensive wizard spell from the school of invocation/evocation at a cost of one power level per spell level. All such spells have unlimited range, but are effectively limited by the horizon.

The relic can also serve as a means of manipulation; its bearer can cast any enchantment/charm spell at a cost of one power level per spell level. In addition, the Crystal Shard serves as a rod of rulership for its bearer without needing charges. Few bearers have known that every 10 successful uses of the wizard spell domination through Crenshinibon’'s magic permanently lower both their Wisdom and Intelligence by 1 point.

Crenshinibon can act as a powerful tool for scrying. The magical mirrors located on the fourth floor of Cryshal-Tirith function as crystal balls. The bearer of the Crystal Shard can cast any wizard spell from the schools of lesser or greater divination or employ the rod of rulership functions through the mirrors at a cost of one power level per spell level.

If a mirror is removed from Cryshal-Tirith, it can function as a two-way communication device between the bearer of the Crystal Shard in the mirror room of Cryshal-Tirith and anyone who stands in front of the remote mirror. Simply standing in front of the mirror alerts a bearer of the Crystal Shard that communication is requested.

By stepping through a tower mirror, it is possible for the owner to travel to a remote mirror.

The shard also facilitates magical transportation of a more conventional sort. Its bearer can cast any wizard translocational spell of 8th level or less (as adjudicated by the DM) - including dimension door, teleport, teleport without error, and gateway - at a cost of one power level per spell level.


Initially Crenshinibon communicates with its bearer via subconscious suggestions in a fashion similar to the 5th-level wizard spell dream (or its reverse, nightmare). After 1d4+1 years of moulding its owner’s personality and goals, Crenshinibon can communicate silently to its owner while she or he is awake. Although the relic cannot force its bearer to sleep, it can cast suggestion on its bearer as an 18th-level wizard at will. These spell effects can affect the bearer of the Crystal Shard regardless of any normal immunities. While the bearer is awake, she or he has a normal saving throw vs. spell, but while asleep his or her saving throw suffers a -6 penalty.

Crenshinibon'’s “suggestions” always advance its plans to foment chaos and evil and to extend its dominion over a larger and larger area. Effectively Crenshinibon can force its bearer to do anything it wishes through repeated use of suggestion spells. Finally, Crenshinibon chooses its bearer and cannot be coerced to perform any task— it can reject and withhold its powers from a bearer if it decides to.

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