5th edition Planescape Campaign

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Quickleaf
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Mnemosyne (continued)

KnightofDecay wrote:
The list looks good.
Besides stereotypical greek mythology monsters nothing else springs to my mind.

The only other one I could think of was the gigantes (the snake legged giants) which have been part of Greek myth in D&D since Deities & Demigods, but didn't seem to fit Mnemosyne.

Quote:
Good idea to include the darklore (and the Maeldur Et Kavurik). But as the darklores consume memories, I'm not sure if they are not rather the antithesis to Mnemosyne and her cult. You could have a darklore recurringly attack or hunt the Muses/Tabula Rasa/Mnemosynian cult or anybody else in the campaign who has "tainted knowledge and foul truths" (this reminds me of the wolf in Neverending Story). Although the darklore would not be directly connected to Mnemosyne it would definitely strengthen the memory theme.

That could work too! I was thinking they made sense as being connected to the cult because the darklores are described as being valued by fiends for the ability to absorb and transmit secrets. So they're not just about stealing it.

Quote:
By the way, I've finished my version of the Daughters of the Ligh sect symbol. But as I see it, there's currently no way to directly upload content to the site, is there?

No there isn't. I upload to my photobucket account and post the image link with [ IMG ] tags when posting pictures here.
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Adventure Sites

I just wrote up Ironridge and (assuming 500 words/page), it's about 12 pages long. Of that, maybe 4 pages is a campaign event (the opening of the Rift) which not every adventure site will have.

One thing I'm realizing is that I have *alot* of adventure sites I'd like to use that feel thematically appropriate to the story/theme, probably too many sites than I can do justice in, say, a 288 page book.

So I've got to cull my ideas a bit, and come up with a somewhat more streamlined list of adventure sites. That will probably also figuring out how much detail various sites will get compared to each other, some may only be a couple pages, others 12 or more.

Anyhow, I've gone back and made a list of adventure sites by THEMATIC GROUP. There are more, but I think these are the core sites that need to be in the book.

CODEX OF THE INFINITE PLANES

  1. Abode of the Painted Mage (Sigil) - Fallendor's house/workshop
  2. Tomb of Tzunk's Hands (Prime)
  3. City of Brass (Fire)
  4. Isles of Woe (Ethereal) - optional?
  5. The Madhouse (Pandemonium) - where Ambran the Seeker can be found
  6. ? (Abyss) - Demon Prince Nql (referred to in Eldritch Wizardry "Tzunk's fragment")
  7. ? - someplace where the "Index" to the Codex or a missing page of the Codex can be found, could overlap with another site.
.
ARCANE EYE (contemplating a name change / concept overhaul)
  1. Thieves' Maze & Guildhall (Sigil)
  2. Gatehouse District (Sigil) - smuggling/fencing at Gatehouse Night Market
  3. Curst (Outlands)
  4. Sinner's Den (Gehenna) - lair of Rakshasa / yugoloth mastermind
.
CULT OF AOSKAR
  1. Petitioner's Square (Sigil) - during the event "Death by the Wyrm" where Aola is executed
  2. Bones of the Night & Wererat Kingdom (Sigil) - quest for high priest Imendor's skull
  3. Shattered Temple (Sigil)
  4. Aoskian Sibyl (Infinite Staircase)
  5. Argathorn's Prison & Howler's Crag (Pandemonium)
  6. Aoskar's Husk (Astral)
.
INCANTERIUM (needs more adventure site connections)
  1. Gatehouse District (Sigil) - barmy ex-Incantifer held in Gatehouse, and possibly a gate to Mazes
  2. Tower Sorcerous (Demiplanes/Ethereal)
  3. Ether Rift
.
MNEMOSYNEAN MYSTERIES
  1. Civic Festhall (Sigil) - accessing secret memory stone
  2. Mount (Olympus) - optional?
  3. Mount Chrystos (Carceri) - Mnemosyne's former prison/realm
  4. Melete Sanctum (Outlands?) - HQ of the mystery cult
  5. Well of Memory (Astral)
.
UNSEELIE COURT
  1. Petitioner's Square (Sigil)
  2. Murkroot Trade Moot (Feywild)
  3. Labindoin (Feywild?) - primordial fey realm destroyed when Queen collapsed a mountain
  4. Unseelie Court (Pandemonium]
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Chapter page estimates

That got me thinking about page targets...let's see...assuming 288 pages total. By way of comparison the 5e PHB and DMG are both 320 pages, the recent hardcover Princes of the Apocalypse is 256 pages, and most publishers seem to print in signatures (bundles of pages) of 32.

I'm going to assume about 40 pages total go to art and maps (that's about 15% of a 288 page book). I'll assume the "throwaway pages" (title page, credits/legal/thanks, contents) are part of that number. Feel free to correct me if my guessing seems off. But assuming I am not too far off, that gives me 248 "all writing" pages to write with (or 124,000 words).

Chapter 1: Introduction ~ 16 pages
The Story Thus Far, Running the Campaign, Power Groups, The Factions, Codex Marks (may cut this)

Chater 2: Sigil, City of Doors ~20 pages
The Lady's Ward, Lower Ward, Hive Ward, Clerk's Ward, Guildhall and Market Ward, Under Sigil, Encounter & Portal Tables

Chapter 3: A Conspiracy of Doors ~33 pages
Adventure sites for levels 1-4

Chapter 4: The Lady's Key ~49 pages
Adventure sites for levels 5-10

Chapter 5: Blood of Aoskar ~49 pages
Adventure sites for levels 11-16

Chapter 6: Pages Without End ~32 pages
Adventure sites for levels 17-20

Appendix A: Monsters & NPCs ~40 pages
Honestly, I'll probably have closer to 50+ pages of monsters and NPCs, so I'll need to devise a way to whittle them down. Maybe by the time this project is mroe fully under way (fingers crossed) a Monster Manual 2 will be released covering some of the planar monsters.

Appendix B: Spells ~3 pages

Appenidx C: Treasures ~4 pages

Appendix D: Glossary & Planar Cant ~1 page

Index of Planar Sites ~1 page

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Yeah, the Gigantes don't

Yeah, the Gigantes don't really fit Mnemosyne. Besides I don't think that the story needs another olympian monster of such immense power.

Adventure Sites
Whew quite a list. Some thoughts:
- Abode of the Painted Mage. Do you have concrete plans for this site? Compared to the other locations this sounds rather unspectacular. I'd probably cut this site and let the PCs and Fallendor meet in one of the other locations, maybe the Isles of Woe.
- What role do you have planned for Nql?
- I'd probably cut Mount Olympus. It's dark twin Mount Chrystos is enough.

Page Count
Hmmm, my first thought was that you should reduce the pages of Chapter 2: Sigil (as on the one hand most DMs of such a campaign will probably already know Planescape/Sigil and on the other hand neither 30 nor 40 pages would be enough for this comprehensive topic). Expedition to the Demonweb Pits (which of course hasn't much to do with Planescape and is not a very good module anyway) spends 4,5(!) pages for Sigil.
But I understand that a description of Sigil just feels necessary for a project of that size.

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KnightOfDecay wrote:Abode of

KnightOfDecay wrote:
Abode of the Painted Mage. Do you have concrete plans for this site? Compared to the other locations this sounds rather unspectacular. I'd probably cut this site and let the PCs and Fallendor meet in one of the other locations, maybe the Isles of Woe.

I don't know, the name alone sounds pretty intriguing and memorable to me. In the vein as the Alley of Lingering Sighs or the Tenement of Thugs, it just sounds like Sigil to me. Not all of the planes needs to be spectacular, and there are still ways of making things interesting-- especially mages' workshops. From small beginnings, right?

This could be a relatively small but interesting site. It sounds like there's a lot of ground to cover, so unless the plan is for this to be a setpiece dungeon, it might be good to put the focus on just finding the place.

It might be easier to help decide what to keep and what to drop if you organized the locations by adventure, rather than by faction, and then decided what the key locations of those adventures are. You can still have all these locations appear-- an adventure path is a long time, and variety is good-- but you're right in that you can't explore all of them in detail. But when thinking with portals, even big sweeping planes and entire worlds can be traversed by the party relatively quickly, and you can flip through multiple planes in short order over the course of only a few encounters. I've always loved that. But in a case like this, it means you can get what you need out of a setting in an encounter or two, then move on.

I tend to agree with Knight about the Sigil section. Fold the basic description into the introduction, then add what you need during the adventures. What's more important is tone. I'd say you do want a brief glossary of the Cant and some broad strokes talk about the Wards, the Lady, the dabus, the Outlands and gate-towns, because unlike the heavens and hells or even the gith, modrons, and slaadi, those are the things that were really specific to Planescape. Not even entire books devoted to Sigil (In the Cage, Uncaged: Faces of Sigil) try to be comprehensive, and if you can let new DMs who aren't familiar with the city flex their own creative muscles a little bit (or send them running for the back catalogue pdfs), more to the better, I think.

Looking great so far!

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Sigil chapter breakdown

Thanks for the feedback guys! Definitely you've given me things to think about in terms of criteria for including (or cutting) certain sites, level of detail, and how to organize everything.

About the Sigil chapter, one of the reasons I've high-balled the page count is because I was including Sigil adventure sites & campaign events in that number. However, if I put those in their corresponding adventure chapters (Chapters 3-6), maybe I can cut the Sigil chapter back to 12 pages or so.

Overview of Sigil ~4 pages
The Wards ~4 pages
Encounter & Portal Tables ~4 pages

The Overview includes: Something very similar to the beginning of the "Sigil and Beyond" book in the PSCS, and a map of Sigil

The Wards includes: breakdowns of each of the five wards (with a sidebar or shorter section for Under Sigil?) with some of the major sites of the ward (as well as of the adventure) listed

The Encounter & Portal Tables include: Outlands Encounter table (not sure where else to put it), Sigil Encounter table with mini-tables for each ward, Portal Types, Portal Destinations, Portal Keys by Plane, Portal Tricks

I also feel like a Sigil Chase Obsctacle table could be handy, so might bump it to 13 pages.

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Questions - Answers

KnightofDecay wrote:
- Abode of the Painted Mage. Do you have concrete plans for this site? Compared to the other locations this sounds rather unspectacular. I'd probably cut this site and let the PCs and Fallendor meet in one of the other locations, maybe the Isles of Woe.

I imagined Fallendor's home being full of magical paintings that are actually portals to mini-Demiplanes / one-page dungeons. He is a warlock (Codex patron) who the PCs want to consult to either (a) get the chant about the Incantifer connection to the Codex, (b) get a lead on Ambran the Seeker in The Madhouse, (c) bring a "page of the Codex" or the "Codex's index" to him for explanation, or (d) complete a side quest involving a missing Sensate who got sucked into a painting. I see Fallendor as being very touchy (he's only half-sane) and likely to use the paintings as a trap if the PCs take too direct an approach.

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- What role do you have planned for Nql?

I don't know. The name dates back to Gygax's mentioning it in 1974 Eldritch Wizardry. Maybe I should just drop the name somewhere but leave who the demon lord is a mystery.

OTOH 4e mentions "Garniax the Indestructible Fiend" in the Codex entry, and I'm thinking he'll be a glabrezu bound to serve the Incantifers thru the powers of the Codex.

Quote:
- I'd probably cut Mount Olympus. It's dark twin Mount Chrystos is enough.

That was my instinct too. I'll need someplace for the PCs to meet some Muses to get the chant about Mnemosyne's imprisonment though.
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Getting organized & the "Arcane Eye"

Unsung wrote:
It might be easier to help decide what to keep and what to drop if you organized the locations by adventure, rather than by faction, and then decided what the key locations of those adventures are.

Yes, totally. Right now I have sites that clearly belong at lower levels (Ironridge, the thieves' guild in Sigil) and sites that belong at higher levels (Tower Sorcerous, Sinner's Den), but also lots of sites that fit somewhere in the middle I'm not sure about yet.

One thing that's clear is the Incanterium & the Arcane Eye thieves guild need more adventure sites, even if only small ones.

Actually, the "Arcane Eye" needs some rethinking & a new name. I'm thinking of it as the "evolving power group." Whereas the Cult of Aoskar, Incanteirum, Mnemosynean Mysteries, and Unseelie Court undergo some flux but are more or less cohesive groups, I picture the Arcane Eye as a hierarchy which is revealed using the PC tiers as a guideline:

So at levels 1-4 it's a thieves' guild based in Sigil; they have insider information about the Rift due to their trade with Incanterium (and probably consulting some kind of oracle-figure too), and exploit the conditions of the Rift to their advantage. Not sure what that means exactly yet, maybe hunting memory cores for trade?

At levels 5-10 it's some other group being manipulated amidst backgroup of "Gatecrash" (portals becoming unpredictable). Possibly Daughters of Light defending communities cut off by portal malfunctioning? Or Lords of the Gloaming who came from prime after portal they guarded brought in fiends? Maybe remnants of the Tacharim from GREAT MODRON MARCH raiding Outlands burgs cut off from Sigil or doing other nastiness?

At levels 11-16 it's some other group, I'm thinking fiends of Gehenna...so Yugoloths and/or Rakshasa? They'd be invested in acquiring the blood of Aoskar as a universal gate key...or perhaps some other aspect of the dead god Aoskar is what they're after.

At levels 17-20 it's whoever is the sinister mastermind behind the Arcane Eye (or whatever it gets renamed). He/she/it would be interested in the Codex. Motives could be:

  • Something esoteric like using Codex to end reincarnation cycle
  • Conquer the planes using gates to transport armies, probably tied to Blood War
  • Learn a specific fiend's True Name
  • Forcibly summon a hated enemy via gate
  • Return spastral traveler(s) to their bodies in suspended animation after silver cords were warped/damaged
  • Use planar binding as a punishment for unruly allies or defeated enemies
.
The other powers of the Codex (banishment, planar ally, plane shift, raise dead) don't seem particularly spectacular due to them being available to mages/clerics of mid-level.
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Quote:I don't know, the name

I've to think about the Arcane Eye.

Quote:
I don't know, the name alone sounds pretty intriguing and memorable to me. In the vein as the Alley of Lingering Sighs or the Tenement of Thugs, it just sounds like Sigil to me. Not all of the planes needs to be spectacular, and there are still ways of making things interesting-- especially mages' workshops. From small beginnings, right?

Definitely! I really like Quickleafs idea of the paintings/demiplanes.

Quote:
I also feel like a Sigil Chase Obsctacle table could be handy, so might bump it to 13 pages.

I’d leave that to the DM. You can’t include/take care of everything. As handy as such a table would be, it takes away precious space which you’ll probably need for other stuff.

Quote:
I don't know. The name dates back to Gygax's mentioning it in 1974 Eldritch Wizardry. Maybe I should just drop the name somewhere but leave who the demon lord is a mystery.

That’s probably the best solution. Any other involvement would raise the question why he doesn’t play a bigger role in the events concerning his precious Codex.

Quote:

That was my instinct too. I'll need someplace for the PCs to meet some Muses to get the chant about Mnemosyne's imprisonment though.

How about the Infinite Staircase?
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Infinite Staircase & random questions

Thats a great idea. It took a quick re-reading of TALES FROM THE INFINITE STAIRCASE to find that the lillend see the staircase as connecting to places of great creative ideas, though, and enterprise. That also lets me "stack functions" on one site - the Staircase - thus saving some space by not needing to detail another site (e.g. Olympus) entirely. "Stacking functions" this way (within reason) is one of the ways I'm editing my list of sites to whittle it down some.

A couple of random questions I've been considering...

Incantifer Spells:The entry for Incantifers reads: A word of warning for anyone tangling with an Incantifer: they've had lots of times to research spells a body has never even heard of. Any suggestions? Sources that I might check out?

Rilmani: How do the rilmani act when a Rift tears in the Outlands and Mnemosyne is released? The only adventure I've ever seen them in is in INFINITE STAIRCASE, and they sort of seem to be 2nd or 3rd tier monsters (i.e. not well known), so I'm not sure if I should include them. However, with multiple sites in the Outlands and a disruption in the Balance, it makes sense they'd get involved...if only a rebellious cuprilach (assassin) acting against the non-involvement mandate of the Concordonach. They don't need to be a huge presence - not like my other power groups - but could occupy an adventure instead.

Guilds: I stumbled across mention of the Alchemist's Guild & Planeswalker's Guild in SIGIL: A GUIDE TO THE CAGE & FACTION WAR. I'm thinking of linking the alchemists to the Incanterium (and potentially to the rilmani if I use them), while the Planewalker's Guild might have some secrets about Aoskar or the Codex. How does that sound?

Arcane Eye: What's a better name than the "Arcane Eye" for a conspiracy? And who is the mastermind behind it the PCs can face at levels 17-20, and what is the mastermind's goal? I was thinking Yugoloths, but then I looked at their challenge rating in the 5e MM and found Ultraloths were only CR 13 (compared to Balors and Pit Fiends which are closer to 20), and Ultraloths are supposed to be the pinnacle of yugoloth society.

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"Capstone" Adversaries

I've given some thought to the enemies the PCs will be facing at roughly levels 17-20, the masterminds, movers and shakers. Of course, by "face" I don't necessarily mean fight in combat (this is Planescape after all)...

CULT OF AOSKAR
There is no ultimate adversary I've planned. Possibly the closest is Argathorn, an ancient black dragon (CR 21), who was once a proxy of Chronepsis and is imprisoned in Pandemonium's lowest layer with a secret about Sigil, the Lady of Pain, Aoksar, and the future of the multiverse.

INCANTERIUM
Enrizar Ahrevad, Incantifer Factol (CR 16) is meant to be encountered with underlings and could make for a good "boss fight" wielding powers of the Codex. Or he could make for a villain the PCs redeem. Or they could trick him somehow, perhaps trapping him in the Codex.

MNEMOSYNEAN MYSTERIES
While dealing with Mnemosyne is beyond stats and likely involves some moral dilemma, her proxy Antymony the Empyrean / Lesser Titan (CR 23) is a good adversary for the PCs to take on toward the end.

UNSEELIE COURT
The Queen of Air and Darkness (CR 26 maybe?) will be one of the scariest statted adversaries in the adventure. However, it's not guaranteed the PCs will fight her, as maybe they can trick/convince her to read her True Name in the Codex, freeing her from her curse. Or maybe she is permanently lost in between the planes and the False Queen takes her place with the PCs help.

ARCANE EYE
My original idea was a Rakshasa Maharaja, but I'm inclined to go with something outside the box here, like a memory made incarnate (stepping on Mnemosyne's toes yes, just brainstorming). Just thumbing thru the existing 5e monsters of high CR and here are some ideas...

Demilich (CR 18, or 20 in lair)
Balor (CR 19)
Pit Fiend (CR 20)
Lich (CR 21, or 22 in lair)
Solar (CR 21)

Hmm, I'll need to look thru my old Planescape Monstrous Compendiums for other planar creatures of similar might.... Some other possibilities from the Planescape Monstrous Compendiums:

  • Aleax - mirror doubles embodying a God's vengeance
  • Archon, Tome - probably not a good fit for the campaign
  • Astral Dreadnought - I never really understood these brutes' motivation
  • Eladrin, Tulani - sort of steps on the toes of the Queen of Air and Darkness, and probably more "fey" than I'm going for
  • Monster of Legend - hmm, could be interesting
  • Mortai - living cloud as nemesis? no, I don't see it
  • Rilmani, Aurumach - might be interesting, but might be more emphasis on rilmani than necessary
.
Some wild ideas of my own:
  • Ancient Portal Mimic - intelligent mimic is actually a portal, once enslaved by Cult of Aoskar, seeks Codex to find where it came from.
  • "Husk" Construct - a construct that was freed but feels hollow, craves memories, experiences, and knowledge of others (in the Codex) to feel "alive"
  • Ephemeral Being - shadowy "residue" of a dead/trapped creature seeks Codex to become real, like a Signer who imagined himself out of being, a dream creature that wants to be real, an escaped shade of Hades, a planewalker who suffered a portal mishap, etc.
  • Sentient Razorvine - patch of razorvine that gained sentience thru an awaken spell or some fluke, wants to unify all its "siblings" scattered across planes using the Codex.
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Quote:Incantifer Spells:The

Quote:
Incantifer Spells:The entry for Incantifers reads: A word of warning for anyone tangling with an Incantifer: they've had lots of times to research spells a body has never even heard of. Any suggestions? Sources that I might check out?

Maybe you could convert some of the spells from 3rd Ed. Spellcompendium. Books like Old Empires of Faerun also include rather exotic spells.

Quote:
Rilmani: How do the rilmani act when a Rift tears in the Outlands and Mnemosyne is released? The only adventure I've ever seen them in is in INFINITE STAIRCASE, and they sort of seem to be 2nd or 3rd tier monsters (i.e. not well known), so I'm not sure if I should include them. However, with multiple sites in the Outlands and a disruption in the Balance, it makes sense they'd get involved...if only a rebellious cuprilach (assassin) acting against the non-involvement mandate of the Concordonach. They don't need to be a huge presence - not like my other power groups - but could occupy an adventure instead.

I’d have the Rilmani shut down/evacuate several strategically important regions of the Outlands (portals, realms, maybe even Gate Towns, whatever comes to your mind) and send a special strike team to handle the situation. They could make interesting sponsors for the PCs.

Quote:
Guilds: I stumbled across mention of the Alchemist's Guild & Planeswalker's Guild in SIGIL: A GUIDE TO THE CAGE & FACTION WAR. I'm thinking of linking the alchemists to the Incanterium (and potentially to the rilmani if I use them), while the Planewalker's Guild might have some secrets about Aoskar or the Codex. How does that sound?

Well the Planewalkers Guild is a natural source of any kind of knowledge regarding portals, planewalking etc. I’d keep them rather independent, though.

Quote:
Arcane Eye: What's a better name than the "Arcane Eye" for a conspiracy? And who is the mastermind behind it the PCs can face at levels 17-20, and what is the mastermind's goal? I was thinking Yugoloths, but then I looked at their challenge rating in the 5e MM and found Ultraloths were only CR 13 (compared to Balors and Pit Fiends which are closer to 20), and Ultraloths are supposed to be the pinnacle of yugoloth society.

Hmm, something along the lines of “The Eternal Boundary Plan” (after the adventure of the same name). Probably depends on what the final goal of the conspiracy is going to be.

Quote:
My original idea was a Rakshasa Maharaja, but I'm inclined to go with something outside the box here, like a memory made incarnate (stepping on Mnemosyne's toes yes, just brainstorming).

How about some kind of being created by the combined evil memories/knowledge and dark secrets consumed by the darklores? The ancient portal mimic sound great too.
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Sin Eater

That idea about the darklores is interesting! It actually made me thinking of something tangential, but I'll run with it and see what I get...I'd like to combine the tropes of the Sin Eater & the Eternal Return with this mastermind behind the thieves' guild, manipulating some other organizations, and served by fiends. 

The Sin Eater is basically someone who absolves others by ritually consuming their sins; the idea has roots in multiple cultures, is connected to martyrdom, and while there aren't any Sin Eaters in Planescape per se, the idea does seem to fit in Planescape IMHO.

The Eternal Return is the idea that time is circular, that the universe repeats itself and/or souls reincarnate and/or we encounter the same lessons until we learn them. There are several interpretations, but basically it's the Unity-of-Rings.

So I'm seeing this Sin Eater as some kind of unique fiend maybe. His motives are not to absolve, however, but to gather dark secrets. Why does he do this and how does this make him a villain? Three ideas here...

  • Dereliction of Duty: He's looking for the darkest secret of the creature which will replace him. So he is trying to escape his curse or cosmic duty. Alternately, he is supposed to be absolving souls but is instead grown bitter and seeks to abandon his role or seek vengeance on those who made him take up his role. Perhaps this process is just a greater cycle signaling the creation of a new Sin Eater...a dark inversion of the Phoenix archetype.
  • Ghost Harvester: He actually eats sins of the *living* responsible for murder (or events leading to a relative's death), so that the dead don't return as ghosts/undead. In this sense, he might have many ghosts/undead bound to him, seeing the Sin Eater as their fetter and object of vengeance. However, the summoning ritual for the Sin Eater requires very specific steps be followed, and if messed up allow him to break free, turning the *living* sinners into empty husks that serve him mindlessly.
  • Searching for the Secret: He seeks one dark secret to consume above all others - his own. So essentially he is cannibalizing himself. As a twist, maybe he is a possessor spirit or has powers of domination or can encase others in his skin/bones, forcing them to act the part of Sin Eater.
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Random thought

Just a random thought:
What if there never was a mastermind behind the whole plan? Maybe a combination of coincidences, weird myths (sin eater or others) and automatisms set the whole thing into motion - every organisational level reporting to a more obscure superior, interpreting unrelated events as orders or consequences - but at the end of the chain of command there is no mastermind, there is nobody.
Nobody orchestrated the plan, nobody is punishing underlings for their failures as it's all in the mind of the acteurs because they believe that there simply MUST be somebody behind all of this.

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Drowned memories

Could the power pulling all the strings perhaps be currents within the river Styx that have gained sentience? After a vast accumulation of lost memories, the darker currents that even Marraenoloths fear to navigate, are seeking to expand their reach through the Codex...

Their goal? To spread memories of lifetimes' worth of sins and evil to various "well of souls". These wells are hidden repositories of the gods from which they create souls for mortals. By tainting these wells with the output from the river Styx - people are being born with a lifetime's worth of memories of evil. This will give rise to mass war, strife, and terror on the primes - which will result in massive expansion of the Lower planes and hence the reach of the river Styx.

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quick answers

KnightofDecay wrote:
What if there never was a mastermind behind the whole plan?

If I were doing this in another medium - a novel, for example - that would be a cool subversion. However, in a D&D adventure context I think it would feel hollow. Also, remember I've got 5 power groups revolving around the Codex. The "mastermind" was only in reference to one of these power groups (the "Arcane Eye", but I really don't like that name), not all of them. I do appreciate that you keep me on my toes with the adventure design though!

Simile wrote:
Could the power pulling all the strings perhaps be currents within the river Styx that have gained sentience?

Interesting. Actually, that is pretty much what the darklores are, sentient oozes spawned from the Styx. I've been thinking of tying them as servants to this "mastermind."

Btw, first time I've seen you online here. Thanks for the comment Simile!

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You're welcome! :)

You're welcome! :)
Well it was just a random thought, but yeah it's probably not an ideal turn for D&D.

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Quick recap

So, I've posted a lot of ideas, you guys have laid out some great ideas, and I've been tinkering away at this adventure in the background. I though I'd sum up the stuff that is "mostly certain" about the adventure so far...

  • This is a mega-adventure (~256-288 pages) spanning levels 1-20 whose central theme is the Codex of the Infinite Planes (which may very well become the adventure's name!).
  • While it's distinctly Planescape, I'm making effort to make it accessible to people only passingly familiar with Planescape (e.g. there won't be heavy cant use, or the expectation that the DM knows obscure bits of Planescape lore). In regards to the Faction War, the adventure makes no assumptions, only mentioning the war as a sidebar.
  • The book is organized so it can be used as (1) a complete campaign, (2) discrete tier-based adventures, (3) adventure sites for an adventure of DM's own making. Thus, it occupies a midway point between adventure path & sandbox.
  • There are four potential "starts" depending on the prime/planar composition of the party: (mixed) start in Ironridge at level 2 when the adventure begins, (mixed) start in Sigil and wander around doing side quests or whatever until the DM leads them to Ironridge, (planar) start in Ironridge and do side quests to get to level 2, (prime) play the Vault of Enkaur Urmazd to get to the planes and reach level 2.
  • There are 5 main antagonist power groups after the Codex. Four of these are already set: Cult of Aoskar, Incanterium, Mnemosynean Mysteries, the Unseelie Court. The fifth group is a WIP.
  • There are "campaign events" interspersed throughout the book. The precipitating event "The Rift" is caused by the Incanterium Factol & Queen of Air and Darkness conspiring to free Mnemosyne from Carceri. It affects Ironridge, the Outlands town the PCs begin in.
.
The rough table of contents looks like this:
  • 1: Introduction - the story thus far, using this book, power groups, factions, marked by the codex
  • 2: Sigil, City of Doors - lady's ward, lower ward, hive ward, clerk's ward, guildhall and market ward, under Sigil, encounter & portal tables
  • 3: A Conspiracy of Doors - adventure for levels 1-4, involves uncovering a conspiracy that knew about Rift in advance and tracking down a thief tied to that conspiracy
  • 4: The Lady's Key - adventure for levels 5-10, the Rift causes Sigil's portals to go haywire, PCs seek out the mythical fractured Lady's Key which will restore the portals, meanwhile the Codex reaches out to them
  • 5: Blood of Aoskar - adventure for levels 11-16, the Cult of Aoskar makes its violent return, leading to various agents seeking the husk of the dead god Aoskar whose blood is believed to be a universal gate key
  • 6: "Pages Without End" (?) - adventure for levels 17-20, ?
  • Appendix A: Monsters & NPCs - pages upon pages of stats to support the story, sites, and power groups, from the lowly vargouille to the fearsome Queen of Air and Darkness
  • Appendix B: Spells - a couple conversions from Planescape, plus a couple conversions of rare spells meant to be secret spells of the Incanterium
  • Appendix C: Treasures - detailed artifact write up of the Codex, and a few uniquely planar magic items like Aoskar's godsblood, entropy blades, fiend slayers, mimirs, portal traps, and sensory crystals
  • Appendix D: Glossary - defining terms and cant
  • Index of Planar Sites - paginated index of all sites in the book organized by plane, with the challenge rating of the site in parentheses
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The 5th power group

Intially, the 5th power group was the Arcane Eye, a Rakshasa-run planar thieves' guild. IIRC I had the motive of the Rakshasa Maharajah to end the wheel of rebirth, but it wasn't well thought out.

As the design evolved, I realized a couple things:

1) A name change is needed. "Arcane Eye" competes with the "Incanterium" as a magic-sounding name, and it also competes with the "Elemental Evil Eye" which was just a theme in the latest PRINCES OF THE APOCALYPSE adventure.

2) Rakshasa aren't a distinctly Planescape monster. I want something that feels truly Planescape, that the minute you hear about it you can see it belongs in this universe, and that its motives for seeking the Codex are coherent and believable.

What I've instead come up with is a conspiracy with a hierarchy that roughly follows the tiers of play. At levels 1-4 the PCs encounter the thieves' guild arm of the conspiracy. At levels 5-10 they encounter groups being manipulated by the conspiracy (e.g, Daughters of Light / Lords of the Gloaming). At levels 11-16 they encounter fiends serving the conspiracy (the Rakshasa and the Sinner's Den gambling hall can appear here). At levels 17-20 they face the mastermind.

I suggested this mastermind be a "Sin Eater" figure. The good interpretation of sin-eating might believe that the sin is taken from the world and prevents the Lower Planes from gaining another soul (though it could also be argued it removes the burden to be upright in life). The evil interpretation might believe that the sin gives the sin-eater power and maybe curses the soul to never find the afterlife, thereby denying a potential soul to the Upper Planes. True to Planescape form, this "Sin Eater" wouldn't fit neatly into the monster types...it's not undead, it's neither celestial nor fiend...it's something else...

As a twist incorporating some of your guys' suggestions, the mastermind might not be in control in the beginning. Instead the fiends are. However, the Codex calls to the mastermind in his dreams, leading to him taking over what was previously a fiendish conspiracy with the help of his Darklores. So the mastermind is compelled to seek the Codex, but perhaps is not entirely sure why he seeks it...at first.

Maybe the mastermind was imprisoned in the Codex but escaped?
Maybe he is mystically bonded as the "Index" of the Codex?
Maybe the soul of the "greatest sinner" is trapped in the Codex?
Maybe he intends to march his fiendish armies using the Codex?

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Tzunk

Great recap!

Could the mastermind be Tzunks consciousness seeking to reunite his scattered body parts?
His historical connection to the Codex would explain why it calls to him in the first place. Bit by bit he understands what has happened since his defeat and finally takes over the fiendish conspiracy.

Although Tzunk is rather a Greyhawk than a Planescape persona this seems very fitting to me - Unity of Rings.

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Re: Tzunk

KnightofDecay wrote:
Great recap!

Thanks, I think it's good for me to stop and do a "reality check" to make sure I'm not making things too complicated and to keep myself on track.

Quote:
Could the mastermind be Tzunks consciousness seeking to reunite his scattered body parts?
His historical connection to the Codex would explain why it calls to him in the first place. Bit by bit he understands what has happened since his defeat and finally takes over the fiendish conspiracy.

Although Tzunk is rather a Greyhawk than a Planescape persona this seems very fitting to me - Unity of Rings.


You know, I had thought about having the "Spirit of Tzunk" be a part of the story...and for some reason I discarded the idea. It's a great thought you've got though! Oh, wait, I remember my thinking was that I already had the Incantifers and their Factol filling the "Mage" archetype so I assumed having Tzunk be a major player would be too many mages adversaries.

But you've got me rethinking that now!

If I did use Tzunk, well his consciousness, I wonder how a disembodied consciousness would look or if I should have him be a floating head / demilich? I usually think of the mind/head as the seat of consciousness. Of course, his identity can be concealed because he might appear to be a mimir or maybe players will laughingly assume it is the Head of Vecna. So this suggests that Tzunk's Head escaped wherever it was imprisoned by the efreet, who I imagine are eager to make sure his head is returned to its prison. I see Tzunk as the archetypal megalomaniacal wizard, so his reason for seeking the Codex is (a) be reunited with his body, and (b) magic powerz!

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First-impression responses,

First-impression responses, not in order:

2) I would maintain that rakshasas are not a classic Planescape monster, but they should be, as a perfect fit for Gehenna. The perfect Planescape adventure to me is not the one that combines all the starting pieces into one cohesive whole, but one that starts off poking around in some forgotten corner of the planes and then brings something new to the table.

That being said, the races that Planescape probably does the most for, compared to other settings, are yugoloths and modrons, followed by slaadi and githzerai. I think a body'd be forgiven for coming to the setting not knowing much of anything about guardinals, eladrin, gehreleths, or rilmani, but they aren't given much more to do in Planescape. The archons (and other angelic aasimon, ie. devas, solars, etc), the baatezu and tanar'ri are all major players, too, but that carries over across all of D&D.

I think yugoloths and modrons have gotten enough attention elsewhere, and I don't think Limbo is the right fit for this adventure. You could play up the fact that a lot of evil-aligned graybeards are a little scared of the guardinals, but I think detailing the rakshasa and their place on the planes would be an interesting move. You could update the debunked ideas about 4e's devas reincarnating into rakshasa. Maybe it's not devas of the kind we've reverted to as of 5e, but the concept of reincarnation, along with the Eternal Return, I think that offers up some interesting character possibilities that haven't been touched upon much in Planescape. Delve into some eastern mythology, why not? The Indian pantheon is detailed in On Hallowed Ground, and while you're in that general geography, the Palace of Judgment is a *fantastic* adventure site.

1) I actually don't mind Arcane Eye as a name, and I do want to keep stressing that I think it's important to Planescape that not everything be as distinctly, er...'branded' as in another settings. A frequently recurring theme is that everyone has more in common than they think, that the lawful modrons are just as incomprehensible as the slaadi, that the tanar'ri are more regimented and the baatezu less united than both sides like to pretend, and the factions often frequently muddy their own messages. What's nice about 'Arcane Eye' is that it doesn't give away their importance. It starts off sounding like just another thieves' guild, which is probably to their benefit. The guild itself isn't important, but rather the mastermind, and from the sound of things, the PCs aren't even meant to know there is one until many, many character levels into the sessions. Names are important, but ideas, moreso.

If you go with reincarnation as a theme, maybe the reason the mastermind doesn't know at first why he's doing all this is because he's a reincarnation of somebody else. And maybe, tying back into the Will of One-- once, a long time ago, he was the One. And he dreamed all this, in all its wonder, in all its horror. And now, he awakens to his old memories to find he's no longer the One, but if he can just regain the power of the Codex-- which he (or she!) wrote-- he can set it all to rights...

...except that maybe he's not the One, maybe there is no One, maybe anyone can become the One with enough belief, maybe he's a fallen power who's only deluding himself, maybe none of this is true and/or he's just completely off his head, etc, etc, eg. whatever suits the party's and their respective factions' beliefs.

Or something else. Just spitballing, now.

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Tzunk, Rakshasa, Thieves' Guild, and the Codex

Unsung wrote:
And now, he awakens to his old memories to find he's no longer the One, but if he can just regain the power of the Codex-- which he (or she!) wrote-- he can set it all to rights...

Oh man, you have no idea how tempted I have been to include the "author/creator" of the Codex in the adventure. I ended up figuring that if I defined it that would (a) answer a D&D mystery that is maybe best left unanswered, and (b) defeat the point of the book being written by many hands (under the influence of the book's malign will). It's so tempting, but I should probably resist going there.

Anyhow, piggybacking off all these thoughts...

I have this image of a rakshasa holding the head/skull of Tzunk in its inverted claws, contemplating fate and death in a Hamlet-like pose. Rakshasa in 5e are devils who escaped the Lower Planes (and specifically the Nine Hells) with a ritual that allowed them to take on physical forms in the Prime Material Plane. If killed on the Material Plane, a rakshasa's essence returns to the Nine Hells to reform a new body in months or years; this process is described as torturous and agonizing. So it's possible there is a group of rakhsasa who want to perfect this ritual so the reincarnation isn't so terrible, or maybe share it with other devils (IIRC there was a Dragon 326 article that mentioned the "Rakshasa Election"), or maybe they realize they were wrong and seek to undo the ritual to end their tortuous existence. I could see these rakshasa studying the boundary between the mortal & immortal in an attempt to accomplish their goals. This could lead them to study of Tzunk, who gained immortality from the Codex...

So maybe the thieves' guild sends agents to wherever the efreet have hidden Tzunk's head, getting intelligence from the rakshasa about its location. If the efreet were savvy they probably would have dumped his head in the River Styx, the Negative Energy Plane, or somewhere place equally inhospitable. So these planewalking thieves manage to get the head, though I suspect something would go wrong (e.g. Tzunk tricks them into the efreet's traps or outright mentally dominates them). The guild passes the head onto the rakshasa who think they've got the key to their answers now. However, Tzunk's Head begins to remember who he was, and his power surpasses the rakshasa who find themselves being manipulated by the head until its clear Tzunk's Head is in power. And then he goes after the Codex.

There's a few more things I need to work in (how the darklores are drawn to Tzunk or otherwise end up serving him, and how he or the rakshasa manipulate other organizations / factions during The Lady's Key), but that seems to be a nice start.

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Codex as a mystery box

I agree that it's best not to explain the origins of the Codex. JJ Abrahams has a great talk on the power of the mystery box: https://youtu.be/vpjVgF5JDq8

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I actually mean it more as a

I actually mean it more as a meta thing than a definitive explanation, something that compounded the mystery rather than really resolving anything. Even if the mastermind character were to believe it was true, and even if their belief were to alter reality and make it true-- it wouldn't prove anything. It couldn't, because entities like the Codex and the One change the facts by their very existence. The point is that the Codex, like the one, might by their very nature defy an easily pointed-to beginning or ending. The mastermind in this scenario wouldn't necessarily actually be the first author of the Codex or the One-- although he still could be, as much as anyone-- but absolutely would be someone who's convinced himself he was both of those things, and possibly more.

That way madness lies, as The Plane Truth demonstrates.

...Maybe that's *too* meta, but that's what I was going for.

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Good stuff! Tzunk FTW

@Simile Yes, the power of the mystery box! Love it.

@Unsung Gotcha, I should have guessed that was where you're coming from! You've got a great feel for the setting.

I'm thinking of going with Tzunk (as the mastermind of the Arcane Eye) after all, but since he's basically a megalomaniac, I'm not ruling out that he might believe himself the Author of the Codex! The idea of Tzunk trying to put himself back together again is too good to pass up, and he is the oldest name associated with the Codex in D&D history.

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Pale Lantern District (Arcane Eye)

Most recent thing I've been working on is the headquarters of the Arcane Eye thieves' guild in Sigil's Hive Ward.

Its called the Pale Lantern District, a labyrinthine tangle of buildings, footbridges, elevated walkways, and secret alleys running along Whisper Way from the edge of the Gatehouse District to Laughing Cat Alley. The Arcane Eye is the power behind the district which is a den of scum and villainy. Pale blue floating paper lanterns are found throughout the district, their light revealing invisible creatures as per faerie fire; whatever enchantment fuels these lanterns does not function outside of the district. Hive dwellers know that the sight of a pale blue lantern means one is near the Arcane Eye's territory. Without guides it is almost guaranteed a creature will become lost here; guild rogues learn a trick of navigating based on the silhouette carvings on each lantern, but the guild also employs a few minotaurs indebted to Old Greycloak who flawlessly find their way.

The key areas in the district will include...

1. Guildhall - Where Old Greycloak the blind tiefling guildmaster is based. This includes the thieves' training grounds, their treasury and accounting records, a "throne room", and a portal to Gehenna (where the fiendish masters reside).

2. Canal of Curses - A tributary of the Styx flows thru the lower reaches of the district, but instead of stripping away memories it strips away good fortune, and sometimes curses bubble up from its depths. The canal connects to Sigil's sewer system and provides the guild's rogues with a secret means of accessing nearby wards. It is also where they make contact with their wererat allies controlled by Tattershade who is on the guild's payroll. Somewhere in the depths of the underground canal, a marraenoloth is rumored to ply its filthy waters.

3. Dagger Eyes Arch - The "official" entrypoint into the district, it has a clairvoyance sensor perpetually hovering above it that was cast by Old Greycloak and has become permanent. There may be some kind of puzzle to learn secret messages hidden in the many engraved eyes on the arch.

4. Den of the Lotus Eaters - Run by the cambion Selderaaz, this appears to be an opium / lotus eating den, but in the lower chambers are stolen sensory crystals with taboo, forbidden, or just evil memories in them. Very likely a clue will be located in one of the crystals here.

5. Laughing Cat Alley - A foreboding deadend alley with garishly painted murals of vaguely feline mouths that glow in the dark, and at night when creatures come near animate as per magic mouth to issue purring laughs, exclamations of mock surprise, and other semi-sinister mono-syllable expressions. On the crumbling brick wall at the end is the painted image of a wildly colored archway. This is in fact a portal used by the guild to dispose of bodies & "problem people"; it leads to Trickster's Delight in Carceri, and the key is a sly chuckle of one who realizes the truth too late.

6. Nimrist's Warehouse - Where the guild stores its stolen goods. Because they deal in enslaved species, abstract things (memories, shadows, etc), and vile sometimes dangerous spell components, the security here is tight. Probably minotaurs or maybe even a maelephant. Numerous extradimensional vaults are used to store "hot" goods, thus foiling divination attempts. Nimrist, a fiendish gnome, runs the warehouse with an eidetic memory.

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Monster Lists

Since I'm getting into some adventure site writing, I put together these monster lists for each of the 5 power groups to help with my design...Also (like everything I'm doing) it's a work-in-progress.

Arcane Eye
DEMI-PLANE (Chapter 6)
Demilich (CR 18 or 20 in lair; MM) as Tzunk's head
Darklore (CR 4)

GEHENNA (Chapters 4 & 5)
Rakshasa (CR 13; MM)
Arcanaloth (CR 12; MM)
Nycaloth (CR 9; MM)
Maelephant (CR 8)
Cambion (CR 5; MM)
Hell Hound (CR 3; MM)

THIEVES GUILD (Chapters 3 & 4)
Cambion (CR 5; MM)
Old Greycloak (CR 4)
Shadow Demon (CR 4; MM)
Atanishan "The Gambler" (CR 3)
Minotaur (CR 3; MM)
Guild Rogue (CR 2)
Wererat (CR 2; MM)
Thug (CR 1/2; MM)

Cult of Aoskar
Ancient Black Dragon (CR 21; MM)
Mummy Lord (CR 15; MM)
Maelephant (CR 8)
Faction Agent, Signer (CR 4)
Aoskarite (CR 3)
Mummy (CR 3; MM)
Gargoyle (CR 2; MM)
Mimic (CR 2; MM)
Death Dog (CR 1; MM)
Mephit (CR 1/4 to 1/2; MM)
Cultist (CR 1/8; MM)

Incanterium
Enrizar Ahrevad, Incantifer Factol (CR 16)
Elder Incantifer (CR 11)
Glabrezu (CR 9; MM)
Incantifer (CR 9)
Shield Guardian (CR 7; MM)
Invisible Stalker (CR 6; MM)
Mage (CR 6; MM)
Flameskull (CR 4; MM)
Nothic (CR 2; MM)
Spellhaunt (CR 1)
Homunculus (CR 0)

Mnemosynean Mysteries
Empyrean (CR 23; MM)
Muse (CR 14)
Gynosphinx (CR 11; MM)
Lillend (CR 8)
Medusa (CR 6; MM)
Ghost (CR 4; MM)
Mnemosynean Mystic (CR 2)
Harpy (CR 1; MM)
Giant Owl (CR 1/4; MM)
Cultist (CR 1/8; MM)

Unseelie Court
Queen of Air and Darkness (CR 26?)
Lady Shalizeh Windshadow (CR 16)
Widdershins (CR 9)
Night Hag (CR 5; MM)
Gray Jester (CR 4)
Will-o-wisp (CR 4; MM)
Shadow Demon (CR 4; MM)
Bramble Faerie Swarm (CR 3)
Nightmare (CR 3; MM)
Wight (CR 3; MM)
Ghast (CR 2; MM)
Ghoul (CR 1; MM)
Yeth Hound (CR 1)
Skeleton (CR 1/4; MM)
Zombie (CR 1/4; MM)
Quickling (?)
Spriggan (?)

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Campaign Hooks: the Big Picture

I worked on Chapter 1, the intro, today. Came up with 4 campaign hooks a DM can use or mix/match to give the players a stronger sense of investment in the campaign. These include The Lesser Evil, Marked by the Codex, Quest for Power, and The Secret Order.

In The Lesser Evil, the PCs have some evil nemesis (it can be one the DM chooses, something from a past campaign, one of the big bad guys in the Codex adventure, or whatever fits the group best). To defeat their nemesis, they seek out the Codex which describes their nemesis' secret weakness (e.g. True Name). The question of this approach is whether the Codex is actually the lesser of the two evils, or the greater.

In Marked by the Codex, the PCs are mysteriously marked by the Codex (in much the same way Fallendor was in Cook's DRAGON short story). Figuring out what the marks mean and undoing them before it is too late drives the PCs. Each mark has a minor unique effect that affects their planewalking; for example The Portal Key mark makes a PC a living portal key to any portal leading to one particular Outer Plane.

In Quest for Power, the PCs are after the Codex for themselves. This is a hook for a predominantly neutral or evil aligned party. The theme resolves around the price of power, and what motivates the PCs to seek power, and should be rife with temptation.

In The Secret Order, the PCs belong to a secret order sworn to find and destroy (or safeguard). I'll list a couple potential groups from various campaign worlds...the only one I can think of now is the Lords of the Gloaming (GREYHAWK). With this hook there are unique bonds the players can choose from or roll randomly, the bonds explaining their character's personal connection to the Codex.

Hopefully this makes the adventure versatile for a variety of gaming groups. Especially when it is combined with starts that accommodate all planar, all prime, and mixed parties.

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Looks good! Nu further

Looks good! No further comments from my side right now.

So the Codex Marks will be optional?

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Yes, the Codex marks will be

Yes, the Codex marks will be optional.

I'm trying to make this as toolkit/sandbox friendly as I can, while at the same time have a compelling interwoven campaign story binding everything together. I'm very happy with how the modular design is working.

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"Reverse engineering", A Name, Page count, Aoskarites

Reverse Engineering Design
I feel like my adventure design is becoming more and more like reverse engineering. For example, I'm thinking about the various villains' plans and backgrounds, and what that implies for the flow of the game. From this I'm beginning to devise "escalation / plan of action" flowcharts for each power group, divided roughly by the 4 level tiers (1-4, 5-10,11-16, 17-20).

A Name
Also, I've decided since the Codex plays such a central role in this adventure, to bite the bullet and make that the adventure's name: Codex of the Infinite Planes. I like that it is a pretty readily recognizable D&D artifact, it makes it clear what the adventure is about, and that it's a call back to "Tales of the Infinite Staircase." Since I'm going whole hog with the Codex theme, I was thinking throwing in a few sample pages of the Codex in an appendix could be great player handouts...most likely these sample pages would have to do with specific things the PCs would seek to learn from the Codex within the confines of the adventure.

Page Count: Too Many Monsters!
So far I have about 58,000 words written. I'm estimating my target to be around 150,000. I noticed that already my monster conversions are taking up way too much space (~20,000 words or 40 pages). This is not because I'm especially verbose, but because of the sheer number of monsters I'm drawing upon. I can save a lot of space by trimming the faction agents stats, though definitely those are handy for the DM to have.

Aoskarites
Lastly, I realized upon re-reading Doors to the Unknown that the dwarven prophet Garamundi, the former Will of One high-up Origax, and the last priest of Aoskar Aola (from PS:T) form the leadership triumvirate of the Cult of Aoskar. From the current stats I have (Aoskarites for Garamundi & Aola, Signer Faction Agent for Origax), none of them have a CR greater than 4. Thus, I've had to look elsewhere for challenges associated with the cult at high levels; this led me not only to the mad black dragon Argathorn (ex-proxy of Chronepsis), but also to the idea of a sequestered monastery of Aoskar somewhere on the planes...which I decided needed mummies as the main inhabitants led by a mummy lord (CR 15). The idea of mummies as keepers of secret sacred lore cursed to slumber until disturbed seems to make sense given Aoksar's story.

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Aoskarites

Just a personal suggestion: while the mummified Aoskarites can have basic mummy stats (or not), I would suggest making (the majority of) them something inhuman just to make stand out and perhaps feel ancient. For example: mummified lizardmen with tails, tri-lateral humanoids with three arms and a tripod of legs, etc. You don't need to explain what they are if you don't want - you can just imply that they are a now-extinct race that worshipped Aoskar

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Re: Aoskarites

Yeah, good idea. I actually was thinking of them being two-faced, that is, having a face on the back of their heads. Much like the whole "Janusean angels" idea I pitched in the Bytopia thread. And since they're mummies they can wear golden masks leaving it a mystery whether it's just a mask or is there really a second face each one has?

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A Conspiracy of Doors - the 1st adventure

In light of the new ideas and central theme of the Codex, I'm looking back at my rough ideas for the first adventure (for levels 1-4), and I've noticed some areas that need re-thinking...

The basic premise: The PCs witness the tearing of a Rift in the planes over Ironridge, and after fighting for survival, discover that a tiefling thief knew the Rift was going to happen in advance. They learn more about the thief in Dwarven Mountain where she was engaged in high-stakes gambling and stole something using the Rift as cover for her theft. While there they deal with her accomplice. They track down the thief to Sigil, tangling with the Arcane Eye thieves' guild and wererats serving Tattershade. Whatever the thief stole leads them to the Infinite Staircase where an oracle of Aoskar gives them insights into the nature of the Rift.

Dilemmas

1. Does the Rift "work" for the story?
Some of it seems a little jarring maybe, like going from a disaster zone town to a dwarven "casino royale" gambling hall with a jovial atmosphere. Does leading with the Rift seem too "loud" for a Planescape game? Does it diminish anything that comes after? Or does it work to drive the story?

2. Why do the PCs care about the Rift?
As it is right now, the players could say "a rift in the planes and we're level 2? forget this town, we're out of here." In other words, it carries the same problem as a goblin attack on town - it is an impersonal threat that doesn't involve the PCs' ambitions or beliefs. While that sort of thing works for some campaigns, it doesn't seem particularly Planescape-y to me. So I am contemplating a way to tie the Rift to the Codex that the PCs can be aware of. Since the Codex is the main campaign hook, making it obvious that the Codex has something to do with the Rift is more likely or get the players' attention. The thing is, how can I present that connection? A few ideas shooting off the hip...

  • The Codex "speaks" to the PCs telepathically or while they're unconscious right after the Rift opens.
  • A fractured page from the Codex lands in town, blasted from the artifact by the force of the magic used.
  • An old sage in Ironridge reveals that even the powers of the gods is insufficient to cause such a calamity, only an ancient artifact - the Codex - could be responsible.
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3. How did the thief (and the Arcane Eye) know of the Rift in advance?
This is a BIG question. My thinking is the Arcane Eye sells spell components to the Incanterium, so Old Greycloak (Arcane Eye guildmaster) has a working relationship with Enrizar the Incantifer Factol. Would it make sense for Enrizar to warn Old Greycloak that he planned to create a rift in the planes? Seems like the sort of thing you'd want to keep secret. So maybe Old Greycloak figured out what Enrizar was up to thru spying and guesswork? Even so, how could he predict that the Rift would be the result of Enrizar casting a spell on the Astral to break the prison of Carceri? And how could he know it would open above the Outlands, and specifically above Dwarven Mountain and Ironridge?
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4. What did the tiefling thief steal from Dwarven Mountain?
Previously I'd settled on it being a string from Faerinaal's Harp with some important story in it, but I'm re-thinking that in light of the new ideas. Let me review some pertinent bits of information:
  • The Arcane Eye guild deals in vile spell components, wizard's spice (a drug), forbidden magic, enslaved magic species, and abstract things that normally can't be stolen (e.g. shadow or memory). It's also no stretch to imagine they're involved in the illicit soul gem trade coming out of Dwarven Mountain.
  • The thief is Old Greycloak 's daughter, and might be working toward her father's personal agenda: Old Greycloak was touched by the Codex, cutting out his eyes in an attempt to stop the visions, and he seeks the Codex to end his nightmares.
  • Whatever the stolen thing is, it will lead the PCs to the Aoskarite Landing on the Infinite Staircase; this suggests that the stolen thing is of significance to the Cult of Aoskar. For example, the skull of high priest Imendor...which could later be stolen from her by wererats.
  • The thing is something that could plausibly be held in the treasure vaults of the dwarven god Vergadain.
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Dilemmas

Quote:
1. Does the Rift "work" for the story?
Some of it seems a little jarring maybe, like going from a disaster zone town to a dwarven "casino royale" gambling hall with a jovial atmosphere. Does leading with the Rift seem too "loud" for a Planescape game? Does it diminish anything that comes after? Or does it work to drive the story?

I don't see a problem here. The Rift is definitely a rather "loud" start for a Planescape game but as a strange planar phenomenom it fits quite well. The switch from disaster zone to jovial gambling hall atmosphere is also very interesting as it emphasizes the isolationistic nature of the dwarves as well as how weird planars may act in general (especially from the perspective of prime characters).

Quote:
So I am contemplating a way to tie the Rift to the Codex that the PCs can be aware of. Since the Codex is the main campaign hook, making it obvious that the Codex has something to do with the Rift is more likely or get the players' attention. The thing is, how can I present that connection? A few ideas shooting off the hip...

Hmmmm, I wouldn't do that. Planescape lives from a certain sense of wonder and suprise - such an obvious connection between the Rift and the Codex would imho take away lots of Planescape atmosphere and interesting roleplaying opportunities for the PCs.
You could include a fractured page from the Codex but the players shouldn't know what it is.

Quote:
So maybe Old Greycloak figured out what Enrizar was up to thru spying and guesswork? Even so, how could he predict that the Rift would be the result of Enrizar casting a spell on the Astral to break the prison of Carceri? And how could he know it would open above the Outlands, and specifically above Dwarven Mountain and Ironridge?

Well, sometimes it's just sheer luck/coincidence. Old Greycloak probably expected something big would happen. And when his daughter witnessed the first signs of the Rift manifesting in the Outlands (clearly the work of the Incantifiers meddling) the Arcane Eye reacted quickly and modified it's plans.

Quote:
4. What did the tiefling thief steal from Dwarven Mountain?
Previously I'd settled on it being a string from Faerinaal's Harp with some important story in it, but I'm re-thinking that in light of the new ideas.

I actually still like the idea of the harp. It's connection to other elements of the story is not as obvious, as say Imendors skull, but it's definitely there (Seelie/Unseelie-connection, memory-theme).
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I'm loving the Pale Lantern

I'm loving the Pale Lantern District, and the Portal Key mark is a hook for a whole adventure (or series of adventures) just on its own. Mummified monks are an awesome idea, but I think Palomides is right, and that you'll want them to be weird. Still carry over the Janusean two-facedness, but also add in some distinctly inhuman body types. Makes it more inexplicable and creepier, and I think that's what you want to play up whenever it comes to Aoskar-- the mystery, knowing full well that you're not going to solve it in this adventure. Always leave them wanting more, right?

re: Monsters, you've done all the work on writing those monsters, so it's a shame not to use them. Maybe offer them as a free pdf supplement to the adventure, with alternate encounter builds and GM's resources (cheat sheets, maps) for running them? The precedent's been set elsewhere, and even WotC's gotten in on the act as of Princes of the Apocalypse.

Now, as for your last questions:

+1 to everything Knight said.

1. Jarring is not bad. Loud is not bad. See: the end of the first adventure of The Great Modron March.

2. I don't think you should make the presence of the Codex too obvious. In fact, I'm not sure I like the idea of naming the adventure path after it, or making it too central. The Codex ties everything together and is arguably the root cause of all these events, possibly intentionally. But I liked that it was an indirect force, and that the villains were all after it, rather than it being this domineering presence that constantly looms in the background. A little more holy grail, and a little less One Ring. With maybe a touch of Maltese Falcon thrown in.

As for the Rift, it's easy enough for the adventure to follow the PCs wherever they go, like it or not. If they run screaming from the Rift, maybe they run into the thief on their way out of town and get enmeshed with the Arcane Eye. If they turn to the Rift and try to fight it/fix it/save people from it, then the dwarves are grateful and go out of their way to bring them in on the mystery that needs solving. If they're from the prime, then the Rift is an obvious threat to everything they know and care about, and if they're from the planes, faction ties (or faction blackmail) give the DM the liberty to simply *tell* the PCs why they care about this.

If PCs are going to go running back under their rock every time a high-level threat rears its head on the planes, they're not going to get two steps out of the first portal in Sigil. You want to break their assumptions early. Just because a thing is completely beyond their ability to deal with it going strictly by the numbers, doesn't mean they can't find a solution. They've got to think laterally. With portals, in fact.

3. Well, this goes back to reverse-engineering. If the Rift opens over the Dwarven Mountain, is there any particular reason why it does? Did anyone, including Enrizar, know that something was going happen there? If so, then as you mentioned, spies and guesswork. Luck goes a long way.

If not, then maybe it's mostly coincidence as KoD suggests. Or... Maybe this is actually how and when the Arcane Eye becomes aware of the Incanterium. Maybe it's the other way around, and the Incantifers have been keeping tabs on the Arcane Eye, knowing that they're searching for the Codex, too. The Incantifers have one or two of their own in the Eye, under the guise of sellspells, and a few independent wizards using the guild as a supplier.

If the latter is the case, then maybe the Arcane Eye are there to witness the Rift in part because Enrizar wanted them there at that time. Then maybe it's only later that the Arcane Eye realizes what's up and gets out from under his skirt to be their own power. As you've pointed out, the Arcane Eye's role in all this is evolutionary; they scale to the players' level.

4. I like the harp, too. Actually, even if the Queen of Air and Darkness has a diminishing part in this campaign, which sounds like it's the case, then I like the presence of both the harp and the Queen even better. They remind the players that they're only seeing fragments of a much, *much* larger world(s). In another setting, you travel to the bowels of the city to meet some shady informant, or hike across hill and dale to the estate of minor noble just for some crucial bit of trivia that you must have if your quest is to succeed. In Planescape, you meet with the *Queen of Air and Darkness*...for some crucial bit of trivia that you must have if your quest is to succeed. I love that.

Not everything has to fit together perfectly. In fact it's better if you leave some big, obvious hooks for later, even if you have no intention of using them at the time.

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Re: Dilemmas

Thanks for the comments guys! I will respond to everything, just first thought I'd tackle this...

Unsung wrote:
2. I don't think you should make the presence of the Codex too obvious. In fact, I'm not sure I like the idea of naming the adventure path after it, or making it too central. The Codex ties everything together and is arguably the root cause of all these events, possibly intentionally. But I liked that it was an indirect force, and that the villains were all after it, rather than it being this domineering presence that constantly looms in the background. A little more holy grail, and a little less One Ring. With maybe a touch of Maltese Falcon thrown in.

I like your last line there, I think the best way to use the Codex is definitely more holy grail with a touch of Maltese Falcon, touch of the One Ring, and smidgen of "It's a Trap" ;) There is no question it plays a central role in the adventure, and that's intentional. Thing is, nothing quite ties everything together like the Codex, so if I don't name the adventure Codex of the Infinite Planes, I'm not sure what to name it! Maybe that will become clear later on...

Unsung wrote:
3. Well, this goes back to reverse-engineering. If the Rift opens over the Dwarven Mountain, is there any particular reason why it does? Did anyone, including Enrizar, know that something was going happen there? If so, then as you mentioned, spies and guesswork. Luck goes a long way.

My current thinking is that the only planes obviously connected were the Astral (where Enrizar & the Queen cast the spell) and Carceri (which was the target of the spell freeing Mnemosyne). The Outlands entered the equation because it is the plane that balances everything out, as a form of metaphysical blowback, thus the Rift opening there to bring the imbalance in the planes to the attention of the Balance-seekers; there's definitely an element of the Invisible Hand of Destiny at play. As to WHY Dwarven Mountain / Ironridge exactly, I don't have a good answer yet.

And that bothers me. Too much nonsensical stuff and players throw up their hands in frustration, stop caring to ask questions. Given the backstory I have, you'd expect Curst to be affected rather than some podunk trading town at the foot of Dwarven Mountain. A few ideas about WHY Dwarven Mountain / Ironridge...

  • One idea is that something about the orichalcum mines under Ironridge (which I describe as having inherently anti-magic properties) acted as a lightning rod for the Rift for some reason.
  • Another idea is that there is some echo of the Codex in the region (e.g. a torn page, a creature marked by the Codex, a fiend who escaped the Codex), and the Codex uses the Rift to seek it out. That probably is too much "sundered people/objects" going around though.
  • Another idea is that there was a massive number of deaths caused by the spell creating the Rift, and if these were neutral aligned souls they'd go racing for the Outlands (in the form of astral searchers). Of course, that implies there were a bunch of people on the Astral to be killed by this spell in the first place, which sort of defies the common perception of the Astral. Unless there was a big sacrifice required?
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Unsung wrote:
If not, then maybe it's mostly coincidence as KoD suggests. Or... Maybe this is actually how and when the Arcane Eye becomes aware of the Incanterium. Maybe it's the other way around, and the Incantifers have been keeping tabs on the Arcane Eye, knowing that they're searching for the Codex, too. The Incantifers have one or two of their own in the Eye, under the guise of sellspells, and a few independent wizards using the guild as a supplier.

KnightofDecay wrote:
Well, sometimes it's just sheer luck/coincidence. Old Greycloak probably expected something big would happen. And when his daughter witnessed the first signs of the Rift manifesting in the Outlands (clearly the work of the Incantifiers meddling) the Arcane Eye reacted quickly and modified it's plans.

Yeah, I like that. The Incanterium is keeping tabs on the Arcane Eye, using them for components, but suspicious of them. The Arcane Eye is mostly in the dark, just looking for the next big score, though Old Greycloak realizes something big is happening among a particular cotorie of wizards (maybe he doesn't even realize they're the Incanterium yet). He suspects they have some connection to the Codex which he seeks to undo his curse, but no evidence. Thus, he advises his top agents (including his daughter) to be on the lookout for some kind of big ritual magic and for opportunities to use it to their advantage. His daughter Atanishan just happens to be in the right place at the right time, at Dwarven Mountain because she is a prolific gambler; when she realize what is happening with the Rift, she takes advantage of the chaos to put her theft into motion.

Unsung wrote:
If the latter is the case, then maybe the Arcane Eye are there to witness the Rift in part because Enrizar wanted them there at that time. Then maybe it's only later that the Arcane Eye realizes what's up and gets out from under his skirt to be their own power. As you've pointed out, the Arcane Eye's role in all this is evolutionary; they scale to the players' level.

So, this assumes Enrizar is somehow *able* to predict the "metaphysical blowback" of the spell/Rift, right? And wants the Arcane Eye to witness the Rift form as a demonstration of power to try to get their allegiance (and cow them)?

KnightofDecay wrote:
I actually still like the idea of the harp. It's connection to other elements of the story is not as obvious, as say Imendors skull, but it's definitely there (Seelie/Unseelie-connection, memory-theme).

I think the harp is interesting for sure, but what the tiefling gambler Atanishan steals needs to lead the PCs to Aoskar's Landing on the Infinite Staircase. It needs to lead them there, because the Aoskarites have info about the ancient portal chamber (which is a driving point of adventure in later tiers of play).

With the Clarion Harp (instead of Imendor's Skull), it probably makes more sense for the harp to be in Dwarven Mountain thematically as Vergadain is a bardic figure. However, the Clarion Harp is more tied to the Eladrin, Arborea, and the Court of Stars, and has no connection to Aoskar.

So if I use the Clarion Harp (or string taken from it), then the question is: how does this tie into the Aoskarites?

If the tiefling gambler Atanishan is after something for her father Old Greycloak, then it's likely the harp (harp string) has some connection to the Codex. So what I'm looking for seems to be a bardic tale captured in a string of the Clarion Harp that connects Aoskar/Aoskarites and the Codex.

It would probably hint at an adventure site pertaining to the Codex (i.e. Abode of the Painted Mage, Tomb of Tzunk's Hands, City of Brass, Isles of Woe, The Madhouse).

It would also have some mystery that would make the PCs seek out the Aoskarites for answers.

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Getting the PCs into Dwarven Mountain?

Just realized that if the Rift opening in the Outlands is not predicted (so the tiefling gambler is acting spontaneously using the distraction to her advantage) then what is the reason the PCs seek to enter Dwarven Mountain?

Before I was thinking that they'd follow the tiefling's trail, trying to figure out how she knew it would happen in advance. However, now all I'm left with is a vague notion of seeking "security" from the astral searchers in Dwarven Mountain.

Hmm. Maybe there are certain signs Old Greycloak tells her to watch out for? So the Rift being torn isn't an all at once thing, but there are certain subtle early warnings that can be spotted if you know what to look for?

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Quote:As to WHY Dwarven

Quote:
As to WHY Dwarven Mountain / Ironridge exactly, I don't have a good answer yet.
And that bothers me. Too much nonsensical stuff and players throw up their hands in frustration, stop caring to ask questions. Given the backstory I have, you'd expect Curst to be affected rather than some podunk trading town at the foot of Dwarven Mountain. A few ideas about WHY Dwarven Mountain / Ironridge...

Do you really need an explanation why the Rift opens above the Outlands? I don't think so. Planescape doesn't need an explanation for everything.
Your campaign looks great so far, so don't worry! The story includes so many intriguing details that I can't imagine anybody to be frustrated because not everything is explained down to the smallest detail.

Quote:
Just realized that if the Rift opening in the Outlands is not predicted (so the tiefling gambler is acting spontaneously using the distraction to her advantage) then what is the reason the PCs seek to enter Dwarven Mountain?

Many options. A good aligned party could bring injured victims of the catastrophe to a temple inside the Dwarven Mountain. A trade-oriented party could be hired by a dwarven merchant to accompany him and his wares back into the safety of the Mountain. Maybe they are seeking information by a dwarven petitioner...

Quote:
So if I use the Clarion Harp (or string taken from it), then the question is: how does this tie into the Aoskarites?

All you need is a song. A good example would be the song "Swami of the Spire" from Michael Shanleys Planescape album "Twelve Planar Burgs" which he linked as a free download several years ago.
Love that song

...
You've never killed a star
You've never littered marks
You're pretty good in those regards
You've never felt the pain of aching every day
And even though you weren't glad you took your pain
You've never lied to Thor
You've never launched a nuke
You've never broken truce with alliance for gold
You've might have left in spite
You've might have cried in rage
But never lost sight of that which really matters
You've never spawned a hell
Except maybe your own
Yet how easy it is to take a portal back
You might have been reborn, into some lesser form
But as it gives so that you might know the joy of progress
You've never hung a verse
You've never slighted god
You've never slashed the virgin face of infinity
So if you've twisted time
Or if you've mocked up space
Or if you've killed a man
Or if you've stole a taste
Everything you did was totally preordained
You've never missed a step
You've never wronged a turn
You've never had to worry
So stop

Songs of the Endless Planes or something like that might make a nice title for the campaign too, softly hinting "The Codex of the Infinite Planes".

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If it's a coincidence

If it's a coincidence Atanishan is there when the Rift opens, then it's a coincidence and there's no reason for Enrizar to have arranged for them to be there. But if you were still looking for a reason for Atanishan to be in Dwarven Mountain at just the time when the Rift opened, then if anyone knew it was going to be there, I think it's more likely the Incantifers than the Arcane Eye. That's all I was getting at.

As for how the Incantifers knew, and why they'd want to direct the Arcane Eye in that direction-- again, maybe they know about Old Graycloak's run-in with the Codex, and they're aiming the Eye at Vergadain's treasury precisely because the guildmaster's needs and their own align perfectly. For now.

More later.

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Mystery and detail in adventure-writing

KnightofDecay wrote:
Do you really need an explanation why the Rift opens above the Outlands? I don't think so. Planescape doesn't need an explanation for everything.
Your campaign looks great so far, so don't worry! The story includes so many intriguing details that I can't imagine anybody to be frustrated because not everything is explained down to the smallest detail.

Thanks for the vote of confidence :) I tend to overthink things with my writing because I dread underdeveloped poorly conceived stories (and adventures!).

I think you're right that not everything needs an explanation. It's like Palomides and Unsung were saying about Aoskarite mummies - make them weird simply to emphasize the mystery and alienness of Aoskar who died a long long time ago.

It's not that I don't see the value of mystery - on the contrary, I think it's essential and that especially true with this Planescape adventure I'm writing. When I introduce something into a story I shy away from doing it for purely aesthetic reasons; having the aesthetics is important (especially in Planescape), but to me the primary reason for introducing a story element is its function within the story.

For example, I have the Pale Lantern District which is oozing with atmosphere and the floating lanterns and opium den / lotus eaters den are aesthetic choice. However, they also serve a function: The floating lanterns prevent invisibility (strategic functionality), and hint at the Incantifers having a connection with the thieves' guild (as it was the Incantifers who made the lanterns). The lotus eater den has an NPC addicted to lotus blossoms who the PCs may need to extract as a rescue mission for intelligence, and the lotus blossoms are harvested from Carceri hinting at the guild's agents in Curst.

That's not to say that the players will necessarily learn all this, but the option is there if they do start asking questions or digging deeper.

For example, I could see a point later in the campaign, once the players know who created the Rift and why, when they might ask: Well, if the Incantifer Factol & the Queen cast the spell in the Astral to break Mnemosyne out of Carceri...why did this cause a tear in the planes in the Outlands?

My answer ("because Balance!") amounts to hand-waves planar mumbo-jumbo, but maybe that's ok. If I write an NPC who is a planar sage or an NPC oracle, then I can include this tidbit if the PCs ask the question.

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Incantifers & Arcane Eye connection?

Unsung wrote:
As for how the Incantifers knew, and why they'd want to direct the Arcane Eye in that direction-- again, maybe they know about Old Graycloak's run-in with the Codex, and they're aiming the Eye at Vergadain's treasury precisely because the guildmaster's needs and their own align perfectly. For now.

Maybe I'm just not grokking what you're saying, but how do the Eye's and the Incantifer's goals align?
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The Incanterium already HAVE the Codex after Enrizar recovered it from the Plane of Fire. They seek to unlock its secrets for a magical apotheosis of sorts. I mean, unless I say that after Enrizar used the Codex to open the Rift it planeshifted somewhere randomly, so that way the Incanterium doesn't start with the "king card" so to speak.
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Old Greycloak is seeking the Codex but isn't sure yet the Incanterium has it. He seeks the Codex for a personal reason to rid himself of its curse.
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plates

For example, I could see a point later in the campaign, once the players know who created the Rift and why, when they might ask: Well, if the Incantifer Factol & the Queen cast the spell in the Astral to break Mnemosyne out of Carceri...why did this cause a tear in the planes in the Outlands?

----

How about Planar fault-lines? The Outlands is riddled with planar fault-lines where the equivalent of planar tectonic plates meet. Rather than the plates being based on the earth crust floating on a sea of magma - the Outland plates float on a sea of belief.

Taken further the rings on the Outlands represent the balance of planes built from beliefs in opposition to each other. A sudden surge brought about by a change in one of the planes, can result in an in-balance of the the Outlands belief-plates. In this instance it manifests as an eruption.

Taken even further... perhaps the role of the Rilmani is to mitigate planes going out of balance. In other words, keeping the Outlands belief-geography as stable as is possible. Perhaps under the Karamel (spelling?) the Outlands was rife with eruptions, sudden shifts in belief-plates, and had a much more active belief-geography...

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I like your idea, Simile.

I like your idea, Simile. That would also be an interesting way to integrate the Rilmani.

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Re: Plates

Awesome @Simile, that works for me!

I actually have an Outlands encounter table which includes floating earthbergs (I think that's the name WorC has been going with) left over from parts of the plane that rently slid. The idea of Outlands "belief-plates" shifting according to violent changes in other planes makes sense, reflective of its role as the Plane of Concordant Opposition.

Initially I conceived of the Rift as a tear in the sky because that made sense for an Astral connection and a swarm of flying astral searchers. Maybe, however, making the Rift a chasm in the ground better fits the "belief-plate" concept, which might make more sense for the connection to Carceri thru which I can have low level enemies slip thru at first (vargouilles, terlens, devious petitioners). Hmm. Or maybe it's both a tear in the sky & a chasm in the ground?

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Duplicate post

Duplicate post

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Planar Breach & ideas

I just converted the Precipitate Breach spell from 3e's Planar Handbook, which I'm using as the basis for the spell Enrizar and the Queen cast to fracture the planar boundaries of Carceri and free Mnemosyne. And I realized something.

It requires a lot of jade dust. And in my version, you can control which plane you open the breach to with a special costly focus (so in this case it was a focus suitable to Carceri).

Well, the Arcane Eye are components dealers (at least part of what they do), so Old Greycloak may have gotten wind of a coterie of wizards buying up a LOT of jade dust. Old Greycloak, as an arcane trickster & dealer in components, would know that jade dust is used for spells like magic mouth & programmed illusion, but it's only used in such quantities for planar breach. So he's anticipating something big.

He warns his top agents to keep an eye peeled for planar phenomenon that belong on one plane occurring in another plane. While he might be ignorant of the "planar belief plates" in the Outlands, most of his agents out of Sigil are either in Gehenna or the Outlands. It just happens to be his daughter Atanishan who is in Ironridge (on her way to steal something from Dwarven Mountain) and notices signs of the imminent Rift.

Some signs she might notice that are out of place in the Outlands are:

  • Monsters from Carceri or the Astral (in small numbers)
  • A Carceri petitioner in the Outlands
  • Roads from town become impassable due to various circumstances, reflecting Carceri's "Prison Plane" trait
  • Areas where creatures move very quickly (i.e. Like in the Astral where you move 3 x Intelligence score in feet.
  • Astral Psychic Winds
  • Unusual celestial activity and/or ground tremors

For DMs starting their group in Ironridge before the Rift opens, I will list these unusual conditions that they can include as foreshadowing.

Anyhow, Atanishan takes the hint and realizes she is at ground zero for where the planar breach is going to occur. She slips into Dwarven Mountain where she is a known gambler, waiting for the chaos to strike and make her move to steal...

...a string from Hwyrr the Clarion Harp. This particular string holds a bard's tale about a soulless paladin in The Madhouse in Pandemonium who rants of the Codex of the Infinite Planes (Ambran the Seeker from DRAGON magazine). Old Greycloak wants it because it is a link to the Codex.

However, Aoskarites also want the bard's tale in the string because the soulless paladin is said to be the only one to travel to a site called Howler's Crag and return "alive." Howler's Crag is significant to the Aoskarites because the dead Phoenix god of portals/planewalkers of that site they believe was an incarnation of Aoskar.

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Thanks

Thanks, glad you can use the idea.

> maybe it's both a tear in the sky & a chasm in the ground?

Both. Why not have a tear from below the ground reaching in to the sky?

Another option is to visualize the tear as glass that has had a heavy impact from something blunt. There are hair-line cracks from the centre point (where one tear/whole can be found) and in places where the cracks meet weak points, other minor tears have formed.

The Rilmani appear at some point to contain the cracks with Resilient Spheres, but they state that it's a patch solution and not maintainable long term. Curiously Spire Buttlerflies are effective in sealing the smaller cracks, however most grey beards believe that these butterflies may be extinct.

Quickleaf
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Simile wrote:Both. Why not

Simile wrote:
Both. Why not have a tear from below the ground reaching in to the sky?

Like a curtain?

Simile wrote:
Another option is to visualize the tear as glass that has had a heavy impact from something blunt. There are hair-line cracks from the centre point (where one tear/whole can be found) and in places where the cracks meet weak points, other minor tears have formed.

Yes, that's how I initially had conceived of it in my own head. The idea is that the Rift is not a steady state thing, but is slowly getting worse. It might not be like your whole windshield shattering for thousands of years, but the cracks are growing.
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I had actually tied this into the Astral conduits (and a githzerai guidon mentioned in PLANES OF CHAOS & the Entrope monster from PSMCA 3). The idea was that conduits are like pinholes in the multiverse, and that if enough things started to punch holes in the fabrice of the planes then something catastrophic could occur. However, 5e doesn't mention astral conduits in the DMG, so I might have to ad-lib that part a bit.
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Anyhow, one of the story elements I'm contemplating (depends on if I have space) is the PCs dealing with some of the underlying " planar instability" issues that were exploited to make breaking the prison of Carceri (and by extension the Rift ) possible. So, the Rift is this unexpected development as a side effect of the spell (or perhaps it's a unique catastrophe created by the Codex, or both). These quests might include stopping the githzerai in Shrak'kt'lor from using the guidon which is disrupting the fabric of the Astral, Entrope hunting in the Plane of Fire, or preventing some Titans from "widening" the shattered part of Carceri that touches the Rift so they can escape. Probably what I'll do is try to find existing adventure sites I am using and introduce these quests into them.

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