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Brave, New World

DF 4: Help Design the Rebel Realms

by Charles Dunwoody
Dec 12,2005

 

Brave New World

DF 4: Help Design the Rebel Realms

By Charles Dunwoody

Spoiler Warning: If you're a player in Darkness Falls, you'll want to wait until after Friday, December 16 to read this column.


















New Direction

The last four adventures and the previous work on the world of Terra before that concentrated on a fairly standard, D&D-trope filled, fantasy world. The fifth adventure will take the Darkness Falls campaign in a new direction. And I'm hoping some of you who helped me design the Dragonsuns campaign can now direct me in designing this new destination.

Final warning to any of my players. To avoid spoilers, don't read further until after the adventure that takes your characters to the town of Darkness Falls and reveals the secret therein.

Help Design the Rebel Realms

The rest of this column provides background on how a small group of rebel realms are discovered by the player characters. The column provides history and context for the existence of these realms and whom they are rebelling against. I'm hoping that after reading the provided background, some of you will help me design some cultures and possible adventures for this new realm.

Alternate Material Plane

Ever since 1st edition, I've been interested in the idea of alternate material planes. Whole other material worlds, similar to or perhaps quite different from, the standard D&D world.

As I mentioned in my first column about the campaign of Darkness Falls, I drew heavily on the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series in designing the campaign. If Terra the material plane is the Alpha Quadrant, then an alternate material plane could represent the Gamma Quadrant.

My wormhole already exists. It's called the Plane of Shadow. Traditionally, the Plane of Shadow has been a gateway to alternate material planes.

As for the Celestial Temple of the gods called the prophets (or the home of the wormhole aliens), the raptorans revere air gods, so the Celestial Temple would be a portal to their realm. But what exactly is the alternate material plane like? Before I can get to that, I need to provide some background.

Background and Bringing It All Together

The raptorans of the Lok Wood worship powerful gods of the air. Djinni, angels, and other servants of good live in the Seven Heavens, a plane of goodness and elemental air. A portal to the Seven Heavens called the Sky Shrine is said to exist somewhere in the cliff faces the raptorans live in.

The town of Darkness Falls is built where three waterfalls converge (a map, labeled as Three Rivers, of the town can be found in Races of Destiny). Darkness Falls the waterfall actually has two sets of falls, the one in the town and the one above that which leads to the plane of the Seven Heavens.

A ship sailing through the falls above the town enters an empty cave and begins to fall. Once the water is left completely behind, a portal to the Plane of Shadow opens. The ship sails through an underground river on the Plane of Shadow. Halfway through the journey, a portal to the Sky Shrine exists, but it can only be opened by celestial servants.

Travelers not taken to the Sky Shrine sail through the Plane of Shadow and out another portal. This portal opens into an alternate material plane. The Plane of Ender.

The Plane of Ender

I hope to shock my player characters with the Plane of Ender. Just as Commander Sisko was shocked when he went through the wormhole and found himself in a whole new quadrant.

Ender was once Eberron but with an Asian flavor. The ancient kingdoms of dwarves, elves, and men were ruled by daimyos, samurais, and shugenjas-all noble born landowners.

Honor was the most important trait and the Bushido Code (way of the warrior) formed an ideal to follow: honor, courage, loyalty, patience, education, and self-control. Even commoners could win great honor by becoming monks or court wu-jen. For less savory tasks, the ninja was called on. By keeping his identity secret, the ninja protected his family from dishonor.

Eberron also had the Dragonmark Houses. The Dragonmark Houses consisted of merchant guilds run by the races found in the Player's Handbook. Some of the Houses had magical powers manifest in members and they wielded great power.

In an effort to reduce death in warfare (and make a profit), one of the Dragonmark Houses created the warforged. Living constructs made for waging war.

Eberron is now called Ender. Ender is a world ruled by the warforged. The traditional races are extinct or mutated into new forms. And living constructs, not living beings, are the dominant form of life.

The Warforged

After a continent spanning war ended, the warforged were left without purpose. Two great prophets arose, each preaching a different philosophy.

The Lord of Blades called for dominance and destruction over all other life on Eberron. He preached that warforged are the highest evolved form of life. He was careful to cultivate the loyalties of races marginalized by not being part of a Dragonmark House as well-the changelings, kalashtar, and shifters.

Ender taught his warforged followers to live in peace with all races. He strongly advocated having warforged serve as defenders of the weak and protectors of the common person. He galvanized the warforged by appealing both to their desire to use their combat skills and still find a place in society.

How The Warforged Came to Power

When Ender was assassinated, all evidence pointed to a strike by the very Dragonmark House that had created the warforged. The Lord of Blades made Ender a martyr and led a crusade to overthrow the daimyos and the Dragonmark Houses.

He promised the kalashtar that he would help them defeat the Quori. He told the shifters that they could destroy the Church of the Silver Flame. And he gave incentive to the changelings, encouraging them to no longer hide in shadows but to seize power for themselves.

Backed by three powerful races, the Lord of Blades and his warforged waged a war never before seen on Eberron. Chaos magic was offered to the living races serving him, and they wielded terrible weapons to win the war.

Today, the Lord of Blades has named his world Ender. He is the emperor and his daimyos and samurais are the sole rulers of Ender. No other race may be nobles or own land under pain of death.

Why Do the Player Characters Care?

The tragic past of Ender is tough but why do the PCs care? They have enough challenges to face on Terra.

Three reasons. First, the PCs need the elemental binding magic of Ender to rebuild ancient elven seals keeping Epic level undead imprisoned.

Second, the Sky Shrine matters to the raptorans and to Darkness Falls. How and in what role the celestials of the Sky Shrine will play on Terra is not yet known.

Finally, just as the PCs become aware of Ender, so does Ender become aware of them. And the Lord of Blades cannot abide the idea of another world out there dominated by men and the other four races that had made up the Dragonmark Houses.

War is coming.

The Rebel Realms

Ender is not completely dominated by the warforged. The islands of the Lhazaar Principalities contain races refusing to be dominated by the warforged. For the most part, they eke out a meager existence, running and hiding whenever warforged hunting parties come to kill and take trophies. The warforged let the realms endure simply for that reason-for the sport of hunting intelligent prey.

On the map of Eberron, you can find the rebel realms in the northeast corner: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/eb_maps/Eberron_m1.jpg

And here are the realms themselves: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/eb_maps/Eberron_m9.jpg

The realms are dominated by the elan and other psionic races found in the SRD: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=d20/article/srd35

The elan are all that is left of the five races that once dominated Ender. And they are no longer human. They mutated themselves into a new race to hide from and fight back against the warforged. In doing so they survived, but lost their ability to manifest dragonmarks and turned themselves into aberrations.

In addition to the elan, a few other races escaped the destruction of Salona, the continent of the Quori that was destroyed when the kalashtar took war to their ancient enemies. These races include the dromites, half-giants, maenads, and xephs. Thri-kreen also live somewhere in the rebel realms.

I'd like to develop cultures for some or all of these races. How do the elan react to their twisted new existence and the loss of their empire and dragonmark? What has filled the maenads with such rage? Are the half-giants descendents from humans from Khorvaire and giants from Xendrik?

And how do the races react to their conditions of everyday life? How do these races react to the warforged threat and the possibility that one day the forged may simply decide to invade the islands and kill them all? And would it ever be possible for the races to band together to oppose the warforged if they could be supported by another powerful realm?

Campaign Purpose

The fate of Ender critically affects the world of Terra. It's not a question of if the warforged will invade, but when. The PCs will be on the frontlines when it happens.

What Comes Next

I'm hoping to totally blow my player's mind with this new story arc. I imagine we will focus on Ender for several adventures and then draw some type of closure on the war. The entire campaign won't revolve around Ender and war, but a large amount of time defending Terra and exploring Ender will help shape the PCs in unexpected ways.

If I get help on designing the rebel realms, I'll post more details next month. Other than that possibility, I don't have a set idea on what I'll write about next month. If you want details on something please let me know.

Kill 'em all, let Ender sort 'em out (warforged motto),
Charlie

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