An Empress Betrayed: Introducing Afton

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series An Empress Betrayed

…and now, dear reader, the childhood of Afton the Elven Mage. When she was 8 years old, a band of High Elves came to conscript her father into the Army. Rather than hide in a tree trunk with her mother, Afton jumps out and tries to fight off the brigade single-handedly. The captain of this Elven unit has his eyebrows singed by Afton’s child-sized fireball, and is impressed. He decides to conscript her as well.


The Army gathers to fight a huge dragon, a nightmarish beast of both red and black scales. The Army is decimated in minutes, and Afton’s magic bounces off the wyrm’s skin harmlessly. The dragon’s tail swipes through the ancient oaks like tissue paper, and Afton and one other child from her village are buried beneath the timbers. When the smoke clears, Afton and Lagor are the only two survivors.
After living in a Wild Elf village for several years, Afton comes across a gruesome scene in the forest. A human caravan has been destroyed, all of its members slain. All valuables have been picked clean by some unknown thief, but Afton finds a magic wand of unspeakable power among the rubble. Instead of keeping it, she travels to the nearest human town to try to find its rightful owner. She eventually finds him; she gives the wand to Allbright the Ancient, a wizard of enormous power. Impressed by her selflessness, he takes her on as an apprentice. After years of tutelige, he tells her that he’s taught her all he can, and encourages her to make her own way in the world. Allbright promises to remain her staunch ally.

 

As Afton travels to the Sarpadian capital to participate in the tournament, she finds herself in a tavern. Overhearing the local’s conversation, she is flabbergasted: she hears the name of her father mentioned! Not only alive, but a famous dragonslayer? Although she did not find his body after the dragon attack all those years ago, she assumed he was dead just like all the rest of the Elves. But these townsfolk speak of him in fear, as they are afraid of his ‘dark magic’. After asking for a bit more information from the townies, they begin to get curious. “Why do you want to know?” they ask. Afton elects not to tell anyone her true identity until she can find out more about this “DragonLord”…

 

Next week: The adventure officially begins, as the party travels to the Forests of Ultair (where the Ambassador was last seen) to gather clues. Ultair is one of the Brother Kingdoms. It used to be one Kingdom, but when the king died, the twin brothers split the land down the middle and created two kingdoms… Comment below and I’ll send you the map…

 

-Uncle Andy

Cage of Thorns: Introduction

Each foe holds the key to the other’s demise…

The wizard blew the dust off the map, then peered over his glasses at the parchment. It was filled with islands, each floating in a nether sea and connected with dark curving lines. His mind raced. “Can there be a pattern to the lines?” he wondered. Just as his finger traced what looked like a hexagon, his hand slid off the end of the map. It was then that he realized it; both ends of the map were torn away. The black lines extended off the page in both directions. Where are the missing pieces? How many Realms of Edeos are there?

 

The Cage of Thorns: 
a Realms of Edeos D&D 4E adventure for 3-6 PCs Level 7-10 (Heroic 3 tier) written by “Uncle” Andy Schiller
. 
Spoiler Alert! If you are playing a character in The Cage of Thorns, DO NOT READ THIS unless you want to spoil all the surprises, and take all the discovery out of your game.
 Playtested at Total Escape Games, Broomfield, CO, June-August 2011.
 Cartographer: Andy Schiller. 
Original Edeos Concept by: Josh Robillard and Andy Schiller
.

 

This game can be played in 4 sessions, with each session being 3-4 hours. It is a great way to introduce new party members to each other, and makes an excellent story seed for an ongoing campaign.
 This adventure provides a great premise to start a new group, and to introduce the PCs to each other. It also provides a recurring theme that will take Level 1 characters nine more levels to complete.

 

Each PC spends the night at a different inn. In the morning, they all regain conciousness in a jail cell. Having never met each other, the PCs are forced to form an alliance. “Who teleported us here, and why?”. “How do we escape?”.
The party finds themselves in the lair of a quartet of ill-tempered outlaws: a disgraced knight, a necromancer, an assassin, and a shadow priest. The ‘four foes’ have plenty of minion guards. These four evil-doers are capturing unwitting travelers through teleportation as they sleep, and siphoning their essence into a “death gate”. When 1,000 souls are captured and stored, the outlaws intend to summon an other-planar being to do their bidding.
Of course, none of the brigands trusts each other. The shadow priest has a magic item that will immobilize the assassin, if the need arises. The assassin has a chisel that negates the wizard’s arcane spells, that he keeps hidden. The wizard has an instrument that stuns, then weakens the fighter, in case of confrontation. And the fighter has an item that will blind and silence the shadow priest, that he keeps on him at all times.

 

If the PCs can learn this, they can use it to their advantage to take on the ‘four foes’ one at a time.
Inside the cell with the party is a skeleton. A brief search of the corpse reveals a diary. In this book, the deceased adventurer writes about being teleported into this jail cell numerous times, with his comrades. He describes escaping this dungeon by climbing through a pit of sand, and making plans to defeat “the 4 foes”. Of course, it doesn’t say how, except for some cryptic clues about a glass shattering ritual, and an harmonic hammer. The diary warns against “taking the southern corridor”, which resulted in losing his entire party. It also eludes to a giant cage, which he escapes by shrinking to the size of a mouse, and fitting between the bars. He talks about escaping a second time through a labyrinth of blades.

 

After escaping, he was teleported into the jail cell again. On his third abduction, he escaped the jail cell by playing a ruse on the guards. In his wanderings through the dungeon, he came across a chasm filled with a river of molten lava. It does not say how he crossed it. Across the chasm he stumbled upon a huge, glowing glass cylander. It seemed to radiate dark magic. Perhaps his mind was just playing tricks on him, but the thought he saw the faces of his friends inside the jar.
The PCs can smell food as they sit in the jail cell. However, the guards do not bring the party nourishment. The party has no food, and keeps getting a -2 for each 8 hours spent without eating…

-Uncle Andy

An Empress Betrayed: Introducing Valcora

“The companions returned to the Throne Room, victorious in their mission to free the Emissary of Ultair. Her Majesty stood stoically, facing the party with unblinking eyes. Wondering why the Empress was so still, they approached cautiously. Before them was poised a statue in the perfect likeness of Brelia. Her face was frozen in a pleading gaze, her hands raised as if to shield her eyes from a bright light. To their horror, they suddenly realized that in their absence, the Empress had been turned to stone…”

The first meeting of the companions is tonight, in beautiful Longmont, CO. In the group so far, we have three 4E Level 1 characters:

  • Valcora – a Dragonborn Cavalier, played by Angela
  • Afton – an Elven Mage, played by Shasta
  • Delsior – a Satyr Bard, played by Andy

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As a child, Valcora disobeyed the direct orders of her parents, and ran into a burning building to save her two brothers. Unfortunately, she could carry only one of them, and had to leave the other behind. Upon exiting the collapsing home, her mother gave her the ring off her finger, saying “No matter what happens, make certain that you bring this ring to Master Simon.”

Her mother then ran into the flames to rescue her still trapped son – but neither emerged. To this day, the brother she saved is bitter toward Valcora, as if it was her fault that they lost both a brother and a mother.

Years later, Valcora is in the Young Cavaliers program, learning about military discipline and defending the Empire of Sarpadia. During this time she takes an oath to obey every order she is given by her superiors. One evening, as she is walking past the Royal Alchemist’s tent, he commands her to enter. “Drink this!” her orders, handing her a green, frothy potion.

Obeying the order, she drinks it without hesitation. The liquid burns her mouth and throat, as well as the inside of her skull, and the back of her eyes. Lightning shoots upward from the ground, and scars her with a purple streak from the bottom of her right ear, down her throat, and across to her left armpit. She is now spell-scarred for life. Sometimes the purple streak glows with a ghoulish light when she gets angry, or when she is in the midst of battle, but she does her best to hide it beneath her collar…

Later in her teenage years, Valcora is constantly teased by her rival, Xanth. He is a handsome human Cavalier, who pokes fun at her spell-scar and constantly tries to embarrass her. During a parade, she finds herself in several situations where she could push him in to a mud puddle, or embarrass him in a speech at an awards ceremony. She elects to do neither, taking the high road of honoring fellow knights. Upon graduation from the academy, Xanth pulls her aside and commends her on holding back, and a delicate truce is declared between the two as they both attempt to move up the ranks as Knights…

As Valcora takes her first assignment as a knight, her father dies of old age. Being a Knight himself, and having served decades faithfully for the Empire, the Dutchess of the Grey Mountains commissions a statue in his honor, to be built on the burned out ruins of the family home. The land is cleared, but before the project can get started, Valcora decides to take the budget for the project and give it to poor hungry children instead. Cleric Peltanis visits Valcora personally, and thanks her for the donation. It is more money than his charity has seen for three decades! He promises Valcora “If you ever find yourself in need of a favor from the Brotherhood of Light, name it, and I will see that it is yours.”

Spirits high, Valcora walks the streets of the capital city as a celebrity. Roses pelt her from every direction, and dirty children and street urchins jostle for a touch of her cape. But the reverie is shattered as she passes her old home where the statue was meant to be – a merchant named Jardan is now building there, having bought the land from the Dutchess for ONE GOLD PIECE! Angered by court politics, she demands to know how her family’s land can be sold off for pocket change, but she is dismissed by a wave of Jardan’s hand. “Finders keepers, loosers weepers! You should have kept it, you fool! But now its mine and there’s nothing you can do about it!” he says with a crooked grin.

DM note: Valcora role-played several non-combat situations as a child, which formed her backstory and personality. Without rolling any dice, we developed a clear picture of her motivations, allies, rivals, incomplete quests, and home city. As a DM, I plan on drawing these out as the story unfolds…

Tune in next week when I introduce Afton, the Elven Mage… Write a comment below to ask about the childhood non-combat encounters (I call them decision points. Remember “Choose Your Own Adventure?)

 

-Uncle Andy