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Brave, New World

Chapter 5: Secrets and Black Dragons of the Blight

by Charles Dunwoody
Feb 10,2005


Brave, New World

Chapter 5: Secrets and Black Dragons of the Blight

By Charles Dunwoody

I've received a lot of great feedback on this column. Thanks everyone who has responded to my e-mails and posted here.

This month, I want to tackle the first dragon kingdom. But first, I'd like to introduce some secrets my brother, Tim Dunwoody, came up with for the dwarves and drow. Since Tim was my first DM and got me into gaming, working on this column with his help has been great. And these two secrets really propel the campaign forward I think. Thanks Tim!

Dwarf Secret

One of the dwarven kings holds the "powerful and evil artifact" that the Dark Goddess used to slay the Sun God. This artifact is a sphere of annihilation. The king does not want anyone to know this (obviously) and he also wants to destroy the artifact. Only his most trusted advisors know about it. A secret society of dwarves has originated that is dedicated to gaining knowledge about the artifact and how to destroy it.

I like the dwarf secret a lot. Thinking that some evil villain got the jump on the sun god and knocked him to earth by attacking him with a sphere of annihilation is terrifying!

Tim likes to incorporate ways for the player characters to uncover the secret. He suggests having the dwarves' secret society discover the location where someone or something built the evil artifact. They dispatch an expedition to explore the place. The dwarves run afoul of whatever is still guarding the place, and the PCs are sent to rescue the dwarves. Which leads us to another secret.

Drow Secret

The drow are the ones guarding the place of creation. The PCs can also find out that the drow not only created the sphere with the help of the dark goddess, but they also created a talisman to control it. This talisman is the key to not only controlling the sphere but also to destroying it.

Now we're getting somewhere. We've talked about bringing back the sun god in column two. If the first step in doing that is destroying a sphere of annihilation, then we've set up the first stage of what could become an epic campaign (assuming the player characters choose to follow the clues and unravel the secrets).

I also like the idea that while the PCs go after the drow, someone steals the sphere of annihilation. The PCs now have a talisman to control the sphere but no sphere itself. Tracking the sphere down and getting it back may mean the PCs have to face a villain armed with a sphere of annihilation and who is willing to use it. I can hear the evil cackling of the villain (and DM) now!

We'll get into more seeds of adventures as we move along. While I savor imagining a villain armed with a sphere of annihilation, let's move on to the first dragon kingdom.

Realm of the Tyrant

The first dragon empire up for discussion in Dragonsuns is the realm of the black dragons. According to the Monster Manual, black dragons are cunning and crafty as well as malevolent. Alignment is listed as always chaotic evil.

The black dragons have a kingdom that adjoins and actually enters the Blight. It lies southwest of the large lake in the middle of the map and north of the southern mountains in forests now turned to jungle and swamp (http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/eberron/Khorvairemap_72dpi.jpg). Neither dragons nor humans know for sure if the black dragons serve the evil goddess, work with the aberrations, or serve as their own masters.

The answer is all three. The black dragons scheme and claw to gain power, and the powerful dragons may be allied with the aberrations or even a follower of the dark goddess.

Currently, the most powerful black dragon has chosen to go it alone and reject both the aberrations and the dark goddess. He has a council of three other black dragons that help him rule the fetid swamp and jungles of their realm. Because of his power, this dragon also has the service of the dracha (http://www.montecook.com/images/SSI_Q105.pdf) living in the realm and has built an army known for cunning and cruel violence. The other black dragons call their leader the Tyrant.

However, other black dragons only follow him if it suits their purpose. Individual dragons pay lip service to his rule if he and his council are in sight, otherwise the black dragons attend to their own schemes and plans. Black dragons caught working against the Tyrant are visited by the council and an army of dracha. A visit of this sort usually ends in the death of the offending dragon.

Elves Revisited

Ace Calhoon suggested changing the scholar and explorer elves. I have taken one of his suggestions and modified the elves of Dragonsuns as follows:

Scholars: Focused by their grief, these elves have given up their kingdoms. Sparing no time to sustain themselves, they rely on their dragon masters for all things as they strive to restore the sun by any means necessary (even if it means placing a dragon on the sun god's throne).

Rule Option: scholars use the statistics for gray elves found in the Player's Handbook.

Explorers: These often solitary elves attempt to cope with their loss by learning all that they can about their new world. They travel from place to place studying and cataloging all plants, animals, and natural events.

Rule Option: the explorers' favorite class is druid not wizard.

The savage elves currently remain the same(http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/columns/brave15dec04.html).

All the elves of Dragonsuns are aloof and may even come across as uncaring or even dangerous. In the eyes of many non-dragons, the scholars are actively working to harm everyone but their masters. The explorers care more for nature than the war against the dark goddess. And the savages are focused on grief and mourning, turning their backs on everyone else.

Threats to the Tyrant

Threats to the Tyrant's kingdom include the intelligent creatures of the Blight and elves. Most sentient beings would not want the lands the black dragons have defiled, but it would suit both the drow and the aberrations if they want to establish a foothold outside the Blight. So far, the dracha armies have been able to keep the Tyrant's realm sovereign.

The only elves the Tyrant counts as subjects are the scholars ml). The Tyrant treats the scholars as slaves, eating those whose research doesn't appear to be advancing. The Tyrant himself sees himself as the next god and wants the scholars to find him a way to elevate him to immortality.

Savage or explorer elves are seen only as food. Any elves not serving the Tyrant must live in hiding and be prepared to fight for their lives if discovered.

Adventure Seed: Using the Realm of the Tyrant

Tim suggested an adventure idea that would embroil PCs in the cutthroat politics of the black dragons. In this case, a black dragon suspects that the dark goddess has the power to defeat any god (see the drow secret above). Since the black dragons want the Tyrant to become a god, they send one dragon after the dark goddess's clergy. If he gets caught, the Tyrant and his council will denounce him as a rogue dragon.

This black dragon drops out of the skies and demand that the PCs attack a local temple dedicated to the dark goddess. If the PCs are low level, the mere presence of a dragon should be motivation enough. Good aligned PCs can be coerced to act by threat to an innocent. Neutral PCs can be bribed. Whatever works. The point is that the PCs will hopefully question why a black dragon is working against the dark goddess.

Whether or not the PCs follow the dragon's lead at the very least the party knows that something is amiss between at least one dragon and the dark goddess. The dragon should be named and known to the party; or otherwise have a distinctive trait, like a horn missing or a scarred wing. Later in the campaign, the DM can plant a rumor that Scarwing the dragon was seen in an area in which yet another temple to the dark goddess was recently destroyed. Hopefully, the PCs will follow up on this on their own. They could learn of the dwarf secret above from this black dragon.

Next Month

More on the dragon kingdoms and how the Dragonsuns work.

May you always roll a 20 when you need it most,

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