As I think most DMs do, I’ve been using this homebrew campaign to start to flesh out my own D&D setting. I mean, the Forgotten Realms are fine, Dragonlance is one of my very favorites, Eberron and Dark Sun are great. But I think most of us have a world in mind that is going to be different from what exists, in some way or another. This week was the first time in months I was able to do some actual, serious development for this, so I think some of what I’ve written now is going to start showing up more and more in this campaign itself.
Mordora, tiefling warlock-wizard
Alkar, elf mystic-artificer
Max, halfling bard
Zavin, human paladin
Samzon, half-elf rogue-cleric
The City of Pearlmouth, on the Coast of Splendors
Planar Collegium, a wizarding university
A Smuggling Cove, outside of town
The Story So Far:
With Mordora accepted to Planar Collegium in order to begin her studies in the arcane arts of wizardry, the rest of the group stayed close by the tower, just in case she needed their help. Samzon, rejected from the school (being an Arcane Trickster is not the same as being a wizard, after all), began a vengeful sprinkling of gunpowder around the school grounds. Unfortunately, he noticed, the soil around the building seemed to absorb the gunpowder and bombs he planted, sucking them deep into the earth where they could not be retrieved.
Within, Mordora found herself greeted by a school porter and shown around the tower. It was far larger within than it should have been from the outside. Clearly some type of strange magic going on – who knew with wizards? She was introduced to the seven professors of the university, one for each of the schools of magic except for necromancy, which they frowned upon. Mordora’s eye was caught by the one tiefling professor on staff – an illusion wizard named Tysus Delainne. The headmistress, an elf named Lestarielle Cloudfall, also was unavailable for the time being.
Mordora was told a few ground rules: the morning and evening meals must be taken at the school, with the students and faculty all together; studies must be completed promptly and accurately; and students were not permitted to speak to or interact with the school’s servants after their orientation was complete. This last rule baffled Mordora – why couldn’t she talk to them? And if she couldn’t talk to them, how was she supposed to tell them what she needed or wanted?
The porter showed her to a dark gray slate hanging from the wall with several pieces of chalk – identical boards hung in every room in the tower. Requests could be written down on the boards, and would be magically sent to the servants, who would respond, and typically quite quickly at that. With a quick telepathic note to the others, Mordora internally promised that she would investigate this further.
Meanwhile, the rest of the group were attempting to find a way into the tower. When Mordora waved a hand out of her window, the group were unable to see it, indicating a definite magical barrier around the building. Samzon attempted to Blink through the barrier, but was quickly expelled from the force field as soon as he had crossed over. Zavin and Alkar posed as Mordora’s porters, bringing her furniture for her dormitory, but a servant came to the door to greet them and took the furniture from them before they could progress further.
Max and Mordora sent in several animals – a squirrel first, which entered without issue. A pigeon, which similarly was permitted within. Then Dogstein, wearing his Collar of Intellect, who was not permitted through. On a hunch, Max temporarily removed the Collar of Intellect, and now Dogstein could enter without further issue. Determining that the barrier must be based on Intelligence, they filed this information away for their eventual break-in. Mordora telepathically asked a servant a few questions – she determined that it was, indeed, some kind of undead (unusual for a school that claimed to frown on necromancy), and that it was not permitted to leave the tower.
Also wanting to test something, Alkar tripped the servant so that it fell out of the building, just to see what happened. Much to his surprise, the servant tumbled to the ground, limbs sprawling, immediately and completely drained of “life”. They all stepped back from it as guards were called – even more surprising, the guards did nothing about the obvious dead body before them. They chalked it up to “weird wizard stuff” and wanted nothing to do with it. The nearest staff member – Tysus again – explained that the servants were simple golems, which could occasionally malfunction, which is what must have happened here.
Until they could work on their next plan to get inside the tower, the party decided to acquaint themselves with their counterparts in the Shiprunners, the local thieves and smugglers guild. They met Embrishan, an elven leader who had been working with Nico to set up a new network of contacts for the Thorn. They met a poisoner, a ship captain, a smuggler, and perhaps best of all, they met Old Sam, owner of the Simple Pleasures inn and tavern. Simple Pleasures was a hub of criminal activity in Pearlmouth, and it would be the ideal place to pick up some extra work.
They were informed of a smuggling ship called the Stingray, which had been operating within Shiprunner jurisdiction without paying their cut to the guild. The party eagerly agreed to dispatch the renegade smugglers, meeting them at a hidden-away cove they used as a hideout, two days’ travel away from the city proper. Hitching up their wagon to Wup Wup the zebra, with Samzon at the helm, the group set off to their destination, enjoying a decent trip along the way. It was early autumn, and a cool breeze rolled in off the ocean, golden sunsets shimmering over the waters. Mordora, having asked for a leave of absence from the school, studied frantically the entire way, knowing she’d be given an arduous test upon her return.
When they reached the cove, they watched and waited for the Stingray to return, which was expected within a day or two. Early on the second day, they saw it approach, a small sloop, clearly heavy with goods. Between the effects of Water Walk and Pass Without Trace, the group was able to approach the ship quickly and unnoticed, stepping lightly on the waves to reach the Stingray before it moored. Most of the party snuck onboard, climbing up unnoticed still, even despite the water dripping on the deck.
Mordora transformed herself into a vision of Umberlee, the evil sea goddess, the Bitch Queen herself, to demand the crew’s cargo. Meanwhile, Max and Alkar planted an explosive charge on the ship, ready to be triggered when necessary. Samzon and Alkar made magical (and delusional) wind and water effects to enhance Mordora’s illusion, as the captain came out to greet her. The captain was pleasant, though not entirely convinced that Umberlee herself was before her, until the sound of a hurricane rose all around her, unheard to all the others.
While the tiefling-in-disguise spoke with the captain, the rest of the group dug through the precious cargoes, ultimately not finding that much of value. They found a couple of spell scrolls, an enchanted fertility statue, a small amount of coin, and some large crates of perfectly ordinary goods (including several full of nothing but elegant, leather-bound tomes of romantic tales – not worthless, but not valuable enough to bother with). Finally, “Umberlee” allowed the captain to continue sailing (unknowingly without some of the most valuable items aboard).
Once the rest of the party had gotten off the ship, still walking across the surface of the waters unseen, the explosive charge was lit, and the Stingray was quickly sunk to the bottom of the sea. Less fortunately, the sailors were mostly quite decent swimmers, who managed to escape the explosion and the sinking ship without too much trouble. They were all quickly dealt with, including the captain, who saw the final visage of Umberlee before she died.