Monday, May 14, 2012

Bizarre Plot Arcs: The Gateways Beyond

In an ongoing series in which I occasionally post some notes on the stranger plot threads I worked up (and sometimes even used), I offer alternate story arc for the paragon plot for the 4E campaign that I was running up through last year.

Mark (alias Stondar), I don't think you read my blog, but if you do stop reading, everything below is a spoiler for you! Even though you guys pursued an entirely different storyline set in the Xorian Wilderness, the plot bits below are still revealing.

The rest of the world will wonder who and what all these beings are in the plot below (the stuff that isn't tied to Planescape/Sigil, anyway). The characters and plots tie to the region of Therias in the Realms of Chirak (described within that mighty tome, as well). All of the key figures, including Khaelos, Morrigan, Aspylion, Thaldyron and Thalion are ancient spirits, survivors of the apocalypse who served as the generals of the fallen gods; they each tried to steal divinity and found it forever out of their grasp, and so now they each play mortals as pawns, to manipulate them into harnessing the divine energy found within the "etheric pools" which are said to have been formed from the blood of the god Gerigos.

Anyway, the important detail is I have something to blog about which is already written. Also, keep in mind this was intended as a story arc for 4E, demonstrating that no edition is immune to overly complex and mythic story arcs, if you are but willing to push it to the limit, one more time.

The Gateways Beyond: Paragon Level Planar Campaign Arc


   Khaelos the Bold has sought refuge in the city of Sigil, where he knows that his more powerful brethren among the Spirit Lords can not find him. He has divided his essence equally between his astral self and the corporeal form of a shadow rat, and uses this to masquerade his quasi-divinity from the Lady of Pain.

   Khaelos needs a way to return to Therias that will insure the Spirit Lords can’t once again imprison him. To this end he has conspired to discover some means in the outer planes by which he may return, warded against their spells of imprisonment. Attached to his champion Stondar, he has insured that the dwarf did not return home like his companions, and is now working day and night to find clues as to how he may insure his own freedom.

   Some weeks in the City of Doors are spent with constant searching and toiling as the Shadow Rat form works through agents to study ancient tomes and lost librams of lore, seeking out some clue as to how to reverse his fate and return home, triumphant. He stumbles across something unexpected, a vague reference to an ancient word of power, the fabled Code of the Tetragrammatron. With this word of power, Kaelos could achieve true divinity in the planes….and perhaps even reawaken the soul of Ga’Thon once more.

   To get the ball rolling, the rat hires an astral corsair named Zernadas (an eladrin rogue) and his ship, the Eternal Night to begin the journey. Ostensibly the purpose of the trip, made manifest by the shade-patron (created by Khaelos’s magics) Garnagas the Wise (a tiefling scholar), is to travel to a remote Astral Dominion known as Naelandras. There, it is said the ancient Nurimites dwelt in eternal splendor, a race born out of the magnificence of the creation of the First World. Garnagas contends he is a scholar who wishes to study the ancient ruins of this grand race, but the truth is that Khaelos thinks the ruins hold the key to uncovering the Code of the Tetragrammatron.

The Plot of Baelisko

    Meanwhile, the rogue githyanki overlord Serathys has unexpectedly entered the fray. The spirit lord Baelisko is, like Khaelos, a thousandspawn, but unlike Khaelos he long ago managed to subdue his innate compulsion to carry out the will of Ga’Thon. Baelisko hires Serathys and his small fleet of githyanki vessels to carry him through the astral sea, to seek out Khaelos and stop him once and for all.

    Elsewhere, four of the Spirit Lords have determined that Khaelos has escaped, and Morrigan, Aspylion, Thaldyron and Thalion have assembled to determine how to bring Khaelos back from the planes and imprison him once more. They have sought out the services of a small company of mercenary angels, the Steel Wings of Kharyldor, led by the ancient general Metaron to find Khaelos and his crew and return them.

   Amidst all of this, there is a fourth entity involved in the matter: an unstoppable sorcerer turned in to pure energy, contained within ancient armor, called the Herald of the Sleeping Dark.  Surrounded by fanatical cultists who seem to follow mindlessly, suffused with potent chaos magic, this seems to be some sort of entity being manipulated by or in service to the beings of the Far Realm, and it too seems interested in Khaelos’s discovery.


1. The Code of Tetragtrammatron exists, and a clue can indeed be found at Naelandras. Indeed, it may even appear that the code was what destroyed that ancient civilization. The evidence points towards the last of the race’s kind fleeing to a realm beyond even the Far Realm, to a domain of an entity known as Ea…alias Io.*

2. Io has the secret of the code but protects it, for the code can unmake all of existence if it is revealed. It is not so much a prescription for godhood as a key to unraveling existence and then remaking it in the image of the code-reader. Only a “Blank Slate,” a being of pure a priori existence with no imprinting of this universe upon its mind could read the code safely. An innocent being, essentially.

3. The Herald of the Sleeping Dark** represents an unnamed Far Realm entity (in this case the being called Yaggath), one of the so-called Star Gods that seeks to burst forth in to the mortal realm and unmake existence.

4. Most lesser beings can’t even begin to contain the power of the Code. Most will simply be extinguished and then absorbed by it; only true gods can even have a chance of surviving an attempt to read it. Khaelos believes he has a chance, if he can use his shard of the chaos stone to imbue his mind with sufficient divine force.

So this plot never took off, due mainly to the fact that I wanted to keep the campaign centered on Chirak proper and not cavort off into the planes. Mark has noticed that when my campaigns migrate into the planar realms (Planescape style or otherwise) they tend to stall and return later as reboots, so I realized this could have to do with the fact that I simply wasn't as interested in planar adventures as I thought, and so I scratched the tale above and went with something a bit material.

*Io, alias Ea, continues to exist in a sort of spiritual form at the edge of the known universe, beyond even the Far Realm. This is one of those "big reveals." Especially if you are dragonborn.

**The Herald of the Sleepind Dark demonstrates how I get a theme/name concept in mind and if I don't use it when I intend to it eventually morphs into something I do (ala the Temple of the Whispering Dark).

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