Greetings. Tomorrow I kick off my new D&D campaign. This information is what was provided my players in advance, setting the stage for this campaign. I thought I’d share this just for grins. This is just the background. They don’t get a map – if they want one they will have to draw it up.
What has gone before…
The earliest stories of the Before Times are of great monsters that roamed the world and the gods that fought and killed them and each other. The stars touched the realms and the lands were in turmoil. The Before Gods commanded the waters to rise and the skies to burn as they fought each other and the great monsters in a cataclysmic battle known as Torraggnok. The people of the realms went under the mountains to survive, carving out entire cities and living there for generations as the gods and creatures waged war across the world. It is called the time of the Long Dark when Barbarian Kings conquered and fought at the feet of the gods. When the rumbling stopped the survivors emerged from their catacomb cities to find the world had been remade. Gone were their homes and cities of old. It was a new land, new mountains, forests were beginning to grow from the seeds of Tevestar, the last of the ancient forests to survive the Before Times. It was the time of tribes and rebuilding, and it lasted for many cycles as the land was re-tamed and the things that were lost were rebuilt.
Some fifteen generations from the Long Dark there was a period of prosperity, the Uthan Age. The Elves flourished as did the Dwarves. Great cities rose like Aspur and Thane. It was the age of magic, a time of great wonders. The first Herdmeet took place and the Gray Riders connected us all. It was the age of the old gods. For ten generations the world prospered. The Titans came to meet with men. It was an age of hope, where new powers of magic were discovered and tamed.
Mankind was united under a king and the twelve realms were as one. It was in this age that the Church of the One came to be. The struggle between those that worshipped the Before Gods and those of the One has gone on for centuries. The Church of the One has grown the most strong in this struggle but has never been able to purge the believers of the Before Gods.
As the druids of Dirken Wood say, “the universe seeks balance.” While the light shone, the shadows grew. It was the Dwarves who awakened it first, found in the deepest mines of Vrath, an ancient evil long imprisoned was freed. It turned the dwarves against the Elves in their War of Fire and Stone. The Faceless Evil summoned the dead to walk to earth in many forms. Fear returned to the realms, as did the creatures thought banished – including the dragons.
The Faceless Evil found form in Serhath Dorn, one of the Lords of Men. Consumed in blackness, he formed alliances with dragons, lizard men, orcs and the dead themselves under a red-lined black banner. He sought to conquer the realms and rule as Overlord. He fought with the dwarves, taking the underground city of Sabithtur. He drove the Elves from Kigon Wood, burning it to the ground and unleashing its powerful magics to wreak havoc on the world. Mankind fought him in a series of battles but the darkness seemed to consume the light.
The last king of man, Ansil Albinson the Swift and King Ulsil forged an alliance between man and the Titans under what has been called The Banner of Gold. The surviving dwarves under Randall the Late, joined the Great War, as did the Elves. The Church of the One with its religious orders – the Knights of the Cross, the Knights of the Grand Sepulchre, the Order of Lys, and the Orders of Saint Julian and Michael the Just joined the battle lines as well. They lured Serhath Dorn into the trap in the Gellesian Fields and when he laid siege to the castle there, they hit him from all sides. The battle dragged on for week. The great gash opened and the blackness was driven into it, cast into its dark pits. But the cost of victory was massive. The Titans departed the realms. The alliance shattered with the eventual death of King Albinson who perished without an heir. The realms became run by the Council of Regents. The dragons, the few that survived, are believed to have fled to the west and were thought to have died out until recent years.
Mankind, at the urging of the Church, has turned its back on magic – some towns banning it. Much of this came from the Druid Wars that followed the Great War. The Church attempted a purge of the druids, labeling them as heretics. Many were slaughtered during the inquisition that followed, along with any possessors of magic power. Led by the Grand Inquisitor, Maliqui the Light, The Druid Wars (The Wars of Righteous Purification) were both religious and to purge magic users. The College Arcane at Tessdrake Falls disappeared altogether, along with all of its citizens, leaving only moss covered rubble during this period. Even now, the bitterness between the druids and the Church run deep. Most communities are indifferent to druids, but not the surviving orders who have even resorted to assassination to kill druid leaders. Tales of druids leading bands of robbers who steal from the church and distribute to the poor are told in taverns everywhere, making people wonder if they are indeed true. Even to this day the druids and the church are at bitter odds.
The Dwarves, deeply embittered by their losses in the war, went to the east to the mountains said to be there, returning to their underground cities. The Elves returned to the old forests but kept close relations with the realms of man. Relations with them and the Centaurs remains cordial, but there is a feeling that man has squandered the victory over the Army of the Black Banner.
With the peace after the Druid Wars came the rise of the guilds. Most towns have several guild representatives – stone masons, smiths, and even the thieves and prostitutes. Guildsmen stand by each other, protect each other, and wield more power than the Lords give them credit for. Guildsmen all carry some sort of identifying coin or trinket that allows them to prove they are members, with some having secret handshakes or code words. It is said that crossing the guilds is to flirt with death.
Mankind is ruled out of Suras, an ancient castle to the south west. The regents meet there for a half year and administer the affairs of state on the realms. The castle is said to be in disrepair, a symbol that there is no ruling monarch…something that the regents want to reinforce with the people. There are occasional squabbles between the Lords but for the most part they stay united, though it is believed that each covets to wear the empty crown.
What little you know…
You have only traveled as far as four days ride in any direction. Your village, WhiteRock, is a tolerant community. As a child you most likely went north to the edge of Gellesian fields to the north with your father’s as a rite of passage. Magic is shunned in your little community. The priest and friars are not tolerant of its use but most of the citizens are willing to look the other way. Not so in other communities. There may be people in your village that still worship the Old Gods, though not openly. The sway of the Church is ever-present.
Your land liege is Lord Andrew Sklaver (nicknamed Sklaver the Schemer) who rules from Karn of the Rolling Hills. He is said to be feeble with age and it has been many years since he visited WhiteRock. Cardinal Frakes visits the village far more than your Lord which is testimony of the influence of the Church of the One. The Church’s Lord Victar rules out of Kasseron City to the east – said to be a magnificent city of golden domes and steeples…though most of the locals gripe that the gold has come from their tithes. Some even question the motives of the church, especially in the suppression of magic study or use. Then again, those that question the church often live to regret it.
Light barges navigate the Redrun River which also propels the mill in the village. It is a happy community, quiet, peaceful. The village has two taverns in it – The Gilded Dagger and the Bloodstone Inn. Of the two the Gilded Dagger is the most reputable. The church maintains a small monastery where it produces mead for resale, all to raise funds for the Church of the One. The stone bridge over Redrun River has been recently rebuilt after a flood two years ago weakened it. The village has an old wooden palisade wall surrounding it, based on stone and mortar. Defense is not thought of much since it has been generations since WhiteRock was in any serious danger.
There has been an increasing number of people passing through WhiteRock from the north. They are moving south with claims of raiders and bandits having driven them out. Rumors abound with the refugees that dragons have been seen in the skies and that the dead have begun to walk the realms once more. Most laugh at such claims, since dragons have been gone for centuries. The disgraced religious order, The Sisterhood of the Sword, is said to have returned…though the Church’s Lord Victar denies that (they refuse to even acknowledge that the order ever existed in their official histories). The monks at the Temple of Time in the far south have not offered any insights or proclamations as of late. The Order of the Fang at the Keep at the Fangs of Kraylor (The great gash) have issued requests for volunteers, something rare and pointing to problems there.
There are a small band of druids living in the woods outside of town who you have come to know. The Church shuns them when they come to town and it can be tense, but most citizens see them as harmless…despite the fact they worship what locals call, “The Before Gods.”
There is an abandoned silver mine to the north of your village and you and your friends were involved with the killing of an Great Owlbear that had been using it as a den two years ago, making you big fish in a small pond. The locals have respect for you, even if you are not perfect citizens. You did the community a favor and that is not easily forgotten in a small village. When there’s trouble, like that recent big fight at the Bloodstone Inn when a party of half-orcs tried to go on a robbing spree, you were called in to help apprehend them. You have found you like the thrill of the fight, the lure of adventure – but you are in the wrong place to explore that urge.
Other things of interest:
Sisterhood of the Sword
Known also as the Priory of the Blade – the sisters were, for centuries a religious order of female warriors that were sworn to defend the king. With the death of King Albinson the Swift they became a militant group within the church. No one knows what happened, but five years ago they were declared heretics by the Lord Victor. Their three monasteries were burned and the ruins marked as desecrated land. The church maintains that the Sisterhood of the Sword was all killed or captured, but rumors abound of some survivors living as mercenaries – or worse. Another rumor exists that the Church of the One purged them because they had learned a great secret, one that could bring about the end of the Lord Victar’s reign.
The former sisters are considered subject to the judgement of the One God and criminals. All wear a tattoo on their right arm of a pair of crossed swords.
The Temple of Time
Said to have been built before Torraggnok, it is the oldest recognized place in the realms. An order of blind monks (The Priory of Illuminus) protect the Temple of Time and are highly selective of those that are allowed in their friary. It is said that deep under the temple is a pool of time. Those that drink of it can see any moment in the history of the world – but that such sips come at a high price. The monks maintain the Gospel of Truth, a great book of the true history of the realms. The book is said to hold the secrets of mankind and that none but the blind monks may see its hidden words.
Rumors say that the church holds little control over the Priory of Illuminus. It is suspected that the monks know all of the church’s secrets which is what holds them at bay. Many pilgrims trek to the Temple of Time each year to seek answers to life’s questions – but only a handful are ever granted access (after an elaborate ceremony). It is said that those that get their answers are changed forever, the high price for knowledge.
When the Priory makes any significant historical discovery, they issue proclamations. These usually are done at the first of the year but for the past two years, none of have been issued. Some hint that the Church may have finally made its long-anticipated move against the Priory – but that is the rumor of taverns and old maids.
Fangs of Kraylor (The Great Gash – called The Spur by the Elves and Dwarves)
The Elder Council of Magics, during the Battle of Gellesian Fields opened the Great Gash, a seemingly bottomless pit – and the armies of the undead were driven into it. The Gash is a mile across and ten miles long. It was said to have always been there since the Before Times and that the Council had merely reopened it. The cost was great, with all but three of the Council killed in its opening. A fortress was built at the edge of the Gash, The Fangs of Kraylor, and a holy order of knights’ patrol the edge of the great rift to keep would be looters out and the dead within. Membership in the Legion of the Fang is said to be by royal appointment only and is a religious order as well – one of the highest regarded postings in the realm. Their nights dress only in white representing the virtue of their paladin order. Only the purest of paladins is even allowed to enter the Sept of the Silver Blade, the heart of the Fangs fortress. Many feel that the Fangs of Kraylor are the only thing keeping the dead from surging out of the pit and back to the land of living. Others feel that is a myth spread to perpetuate the Lords to appoint guardians to the Legion of the Fang.
The Gray Riders
Cloaked in Gray, the riders mount massive steeds and are said to have a magic bond with their rides. The horses have feet that are covered in white hair almost like boots over their hooves. It is said that they chose their riders in a Herdmeet or the Thunder of Hooves, a special yearly gathering to replace the fallen riders.
The riders themselves are a form of communication, riding to carry messages from village to village. Some communities never see the same rider twice. It is considered mad to kill a rider or interfere with their duties. All aid must be rendered to riders if they ask for it. Doing so cuts off your village or community from communications and can bring the wrath of the herd. Riders and their mounts are treated with reverence wherever they go and it is considered a crime to refuse a rider and his horse shelter or food.
Aside from delivering messages, they tend to be secretive – almost like a holy order.
In the west among the Tendra Plains, is the home of the Great Herd. The herd determines who may come and go on the rolling plains. Those that defy the herd are often found trampled to a bloody pulp.
The Battle of the Gellesian Fields
Over three centuries ago this, the greatest battle in recorded history, unfolded north of your village. The battlefield itself is massive, ranging many days journey. The Army of the Black Banner was made up of the giants, the dragons, lizardmen, orcs, minotaurs, undead, and goblins. Against them rose the Banners of Gold – the Titans (The Immoral Twelve) mankind, Centaurs, Elves and Dwarves. The Black Banner had devastated almost half of the known world before an alliance could be formed to take them on. They fought in three major battles, the Gellesian Fields being the last great battle. The Black Banner laid siege to the human castle of Midden which kept their attention while the allies swept around them. The battle raged for a full week. The lizardmen routed and ran, as did the orcs. The dragons were nearly wiped out when their queen, Istabur, had her neck snapped by the Titan Annorus. The Titans won the day under gallant King Ulsil (who died fighting the dragon hoard of Iktar – the many faces of death), but their losses were such that they departed the land – so far to not return. The undead, the last faction to fall, fled to the plains to the east where the powerful wizard Amerest, leading the Elder Council of Magics, caused the Great Gash to open and consume their army whole. It was said that Serhath Dorn escaped the trap but was entombed in a special crypt under Mount Errath to the far west, guarded by four pillars of eternal light so that he cannot ever regain his power.
King Albinson the Swift died several days after the battle from his injuries and was buried in a special tomb in what is now the great swamps to the north of the Gellesian Fields. When buried there, it was a beautiful plain but before recent memory the area flooded and is now a fog-shrounded bog.
There’s more – but they don’t get that until we start! I’ll share in a future blog post. Follow my blog if you want to keep track of our campaign.