Campaign V: Chapter Four, Mission Eighteen

Recap: The evening hours of Trivor the 13th, 1329, found the party resting after a long day of travel and research. The Burning Sun monastery was a welcome haven for all of them -- a respite from the nearly year-long quest to find Al Mudim, and destroy the vampire-medusa Alliya. Questions remained, though. The party's cleric, Aust, and a few of the others, stayed up late in the monastery -- researching the undead, and trying to find cues and clues to their quest. Without Gibbel En -- the fabled Spinstone -- the quest would grind to a halt. Their only clues indicated that Alliya took the Spinstone to distant Nabrolia. Nabrol: a theocracy ruled by the god of slaughter, bloodshed, and chaos.

For four members of the party, the evening brought release in the form of free-flowing alcohol. The tensions of indecision, the dominating quest, and the fight of a few days' past flowed away with the spirits that flowed in.

Eventually, each member of the party fell to sleep... (Or meditation, in the case of the party's elven cleric.)

Trivor the 13th, 1357 found the party in chaos.

Twenty-eight years had passed in the space of a heart-beat, and none of them had any memory of how.

War had engulfed all the world.

Though gifted with the trappings of nearly three decades of loot and power, the party knew nothing of how they had obtained it. Some of them remembered vague hints, and others had the memories flowing into them of a life they had never led.

They found out that, twenty-eight years before, the party's druid had left them in the night, as they drank or studied or caroused. N'Kara felt that the party had lost sight of the quest, and was more out for material gain and personal power than anything else. N'Kara saw only greed and avarice in the eyes of her companions, and could not stand to be with them any longer. Her druid's heart called out to her, and she had left in the night.

The next night, back in the past, saw the rise of the dopplegangers. The Inquisition used them to force the hands of some of its paladins, as it declared war against Rakore. The Inquisition hated to work with the Ogre Nations, but saw their invasion of Rakore as a means to an end, to eliminate the one nation in the world that dared openly to allow mages. The Inquisition's dopplegangers attacked the party, and forced the party's paladin, Jena, to join them. Jena was ultimately killed by the party, after she killed Xavien -- the party's sorceror.

Later ressurected, Jena went on to become the Arch Prelate for the Church of Yatindar -- leader of all the paladins, and a staunch ally of Rakore in the aftermath of the War of the Churches. Her son, Itchiro, went on to become Emperor of the Chamdoi'is, with Gunju as his advisor. For Jena, her ressurection and rebirth meant a new marriage -- to the Church of Yatindar, and no others.

After the loss of Jena, there in the past, the party decided to abandon the quest for Al Mudim. The artifact would lie hidden for all eternity, and none would find it. Even Aust's seduction by a succubus would not sway him or the rest of the party from leaving the fabled artifact well enough alone. Aust would go on to become a Disciple of Xoriah, second-in-command of the Church of Xoriah, under the Chosen, Saranella.

Seamus went on to become Grand Admiral of the Rakoran Navy, with nearly two dozen ships directly under his command, and hundreds more at his disposal. The party's bard had done well for himself in the intervening decades. It was upon him that the King of Rakore depended for a strong defensive navy in the future of 1357.

The party had awakened in the midst of war.

The flash-backs would continue, as they tried to sort out their present from their past. The Second Sister Worlds War had begun, and they were caught in the midst of it.

Over ten millennia ago, Gaeleth and two other worlds in the solar system had been at war with one another. Gaeleth had the mages and the priests. Jazed had the psionicists. Brijanis had its immortals, and uncounted hordes of barbarians. In the middle of the war, Gaeleth's mages and priests teleported her to another star, in the hopes of waiting out the war and letting the other two juggernauts beat each other senseless. Jazed and Brijanis together conspired to trap Gaeleth forever around that other star -- where she would slowly die.

Gaeleth and Brijanis orbitted a gas giant known as Maroth, and Maroth's tidal fluxuations kept their cores warm. Without Maroth, Gaeleth's core would begin to cool, and then the world would die. It's magic would be tapped out. It's gods would become trapped on a world with no followers. In short, Gaeleth would become a cold ball of mud and air on the far side of the universe.

Gaeleth's mages figured things out during their Storm Wars with the Dark God, Nathel. Working together, the mages devised a spell that would help to set Gaeleth free of its isolation some five-hundred years later. The massive spell would be so sensitive to arcane influences that any spells cast during the intervening half-a-millennium could make all for naught. Thus, the mages would be silent for five centuries. The prophets of all the gods warned their followers to give up magic, but something went horribly wrong. The mages became hunted by the churches, as the message became lost and garbled. The Inquisition nearly fulfilled its own prophecy of destruction.

Luck, and the intervention of the God of Destinies, Brigain, saved Gaeleth from its eventual ruin. The world was teleported by the massive, cascaded spell, back to its home orbit. Free of its prison, Gaeleth had no clue why it was there, or even what Maroth truly was. All that had known were dead, millennia past, or centuries ago.

Brijanis' Immortals had not forgotten. Demigods in their own right, their astronomers had watched the heavens for signs of Gaeleth for over ten millennia. With Gaeleth returned, they were determined to recapture one of the pivotal pieces in their game of conquest. For forty years they prepared their armies, and dispatched their spies. Only in the last decade did Jazed catch on to the return of the Elder Sister, Gaeleth. It's armies, too, were readied for the anihilation of the non-psionics.

Too late, the party realized that the Immortals of Brijanis knew -- they remembered -- where Al Mudim was. Perhaps it was the cause of the original Sister Worlds War, or perhaps it was merely one of the other worlds' objectives... Whatever its origins, Al Mudim was an objective that was too dangerous to be in anyone's hands. The party learned that Al Mudim was the collapsed heart of a star with metaphysical properties beyond mortal ken. The Star Heart was a weapon that could be used to destroy whole worlds -- even whole planes.

The race began. The party quickly set out to find the remaining map-piece for Al Mudim, and then to decipher the map created by all four components of the map. Gibbel En and the three map-pendants were consumed in the recreation of the map, which showed Al Mudim to be somewhere just east of Hobrimeth, and just south of Imi Isle. Utilizing one of the ancient Towers originally used to teleport Gaeleth free of the Sister Worlds War, Seamus transported his entire armada to the Hobrim Seas, to search for Al Mudim.

The warriors of Brijanis were already there, to greet them. Only a miracle from Aust -- newly appointed Chosen of Xoriah -- saved the fleet from the ravages of not one, but three tarrasques. Living water -- a massive, transparent ooze -- attacked some of the ships, as well. Finally, the party was able to snag Al Mudim from wherever it had lain through their combined faith in the gods. Unfortunately, it was too late...

A brilliant star shone in the heavens, where once Jazed had been.

As their ships cast twin shadows in the waters, one from the sun, and one from Jazed's destruction, it dawned on them how powerful Al Mudim truly was -- and why old Ye'amen al Shiral al Arak had been so insistent upon its destruction. The man that had commissioned them to begin the quest would know no rest, even in his grave. The party began to understand why they must not abandon the quest for Al Mudim...

Even as they woke in a cold sweat, at the Burning Sun monastery. In the blink of an eye, a dream had shown them the price of failure, and of giving up their quest. None felt their failure more so than Aust -- whose hand had held Al Mudim, if only for a moment.

As the monastery's bells toll dawn, the morning of the 14th of Trivor, 1329 is a bittersweet morning of defeat -- and of renewed purpose.

Back to Campaign V

XP Awarded: 0 (total to date is 27,550)

DM's Notes: This was originally intended as a beer-n'-chips session. I told everyone to put together 25th-level version of their current characters, and perhaps we would play at some future date. One of our House Rules is that, "Everyone plays, or no one plays." That doesn't rule out beer-n'-chips games, though, so I thought a high-level adventure would help distract them from the campaign's short-comings.

My wife summed it up fairly well... The players seemed greedy, as though they wanted more and more for their characters. Yes, the campaign is supposed to be fun and entertaining. It's supposed to be a distraction from the Real World. Instead of friendship and comaraderie, however, it seemed that I was running for a bunch of self-interested characters. Every time some of the guys talked to me, it was about Dungeons and Dragons, and the campaign -- and nothing else. It had become an obsession.

My wife was on the verge of withdrawing from the campaign, and Fred (with Xavien) had already decided to bow out. It just seemed there was too damned much tension at the table, and too little fun. I wondered if there was some way of showing the party that not all the power in the game was enough for them?

I let them have 2.1 million gold pieces worth of items, 25th-level characters, and whatever templates or prestige-classes they wanted. Some of them boosted their stats with many, many tomes. Others chose epic items, like the cloak of charisma +10. I even ruled that the Dread Pirate prestige class doubled the effective leadership levels. Four members of the party took leadership, and all the followers that went with them. (The party had nearly 10,000 followers! And that's not counting whatever followers their cohorts might have!) In the end, they had it all.

And it wasn't enough. They still lost.

This game's not about winning or losing. It's about having a good time. I'll give them whatever they want. Even another campaign, if they'd rather go ahead and wrap this one up. We can start again, and instead of a quest that spans the campaign, we could just do whatever... Go find a dungeon or something, here, or explore those ruins, there...

But perhaps I succeeded in renewing their sense of adventure, and purpose. Perhaps I managed to convince them that their characters are just an extension of themselves, and that they -- the players -- need to lighten up and have some fun.

That's all this is about, in the end... Having fun. Isn't it?