Echoes of Aoskar: A Dungeons and Dragons Story Seed

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VikingLegion
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Echoes of Aoskar: A Dungeons and Dragons Story Seed

I've run into plenty of D&D players who are big fans of one campaign setting or another and tend to not pay much (or any) attention to the rest. I grew up enamored with all the early worlds and found something enjoyable within each, never restricting myself to just one or two. But when Planescape arrived in 1994, it utterly blew my mind. Not only were the concepts, philosophy, artwork, and overall production value off the charts, but just the entire idea that non-epic level characters could adventure within the "framework" of this vast multiverse that ties it all together was enthralling to me. For decades I've toyed with the idea of creating some kind of multi-world odyssey; a story that spans several planets and settings, with Planescape as the glue that binds it.

The idea I will present in this thread could be used for a variety of applications, the most obvious being a tabletop campaign. I think it would also make for a great novel or graphic novel line. Even better, a television series, due to its episodic nature of jumping from world to world (think Quantum Leap meets Sliders). Years ago I thought this would make a terrific video game, this was when Dungeons and Dragons Online was an Eberron product only, before they added Forgotten Realms and Ravenloft zones. From what I can gather there is no overarching plotline to link those areas together, you simply click a door or portal and transport to that content. So this idea could still be viable if some studio were keen on making a game designed from the ground up to incorporate the lands of Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Darksun, as well as planar content, into one cohesive story.

Post #2 will be a recap on the story of Aoskar, probably unnecessary for most on this site, but worth putting out there nonetheless if anyone else were to wander in and give it a read.

Post #3 is where the story starts to move on from what is known in canon and present the framework for this adventure.

VikingLegion
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Post 2 (canon recap)

This will be well-known to anyone on this board, it's mainly a Planescape/Aoskar introduction for players who had little or no exposure to the setting. Feel free to skip it and move on to Post #3, I only include it for sake of completeness:

Planescape, unlike the other terrestrial settings, does not concern itself with the history and doings of one particular planet. Rather, it is a campaign that explains the basic rules of the multiverse and the connectivity of everything in it. At the heart of creation is the Prime Material Plane - a dimension where all the familiar worlds - Oerth, Krynn, Toril, Athas, etc. reside. Surrounding that are the Elemental Planes of Fire, Earth, Water, and Air - the building blocks of creation. Still further out lie the various Outer Planes - realms of the gods that are more about thought, belief, and philosophy than physical or geographical constraints.

At the very heart of the Planescape multiverse lies the interdimensional city of Sigil - a place that is apart from, and yet connected to, every other plane or planet within the D&D universe. Sigil is ruled by the enigmatic Lady of Pain, a being so inscrutable even the designers don't know precisely what she is. What is known is that she brooks no interference in her city, often flaying alive those who offend her (blades are a constant motif in her aesthetics) or banishing them to The Mazes - an undefined nether-realm jail that none have ever escaped from. Think of the economic and military advantages one could gain from controlling a city that is literally linked to *everywhere* - being able to move vast quantities of product or entire armies from continent to continent, world to world, in the span of time it takes to activate and step through a doorway. But the Lady will allow no such thing. She, and she alone, rules Sigil - even the strongest extraplanar creatures must obey her law. Angels and demons walk side by side down the streets of Sigil, for they know to engage in all-out warfare on her streets is to invite disaster. This is not to say that Sigil is a safe haven. Plenty of careless sods have been shivved in dark alleys, but as long as the disturbance is kept to a manageable level, the Lady seems content to look the other way.

Centuries ago, a deity by the name of Aoskar rose to great power. Aoskar is a god of portals, travel, growth and experience. His basic tenet is to always seek the horizon, never stagnate, always continue to improve yourself and see where the next road will take you. This encouraging philosophy gained Aoskar a great many clerics as well as lay-followers, and true to their nature they spread from world to world, making his faith amongst the most popular and powerful in the entire multiverse. Aoskar's faith was concentrated heavily in Sigil, and why not? A literal City of Doors is the ideal location for a religion based on travel and exploration. Eventually, in an unprecedented move, Aoskar moved to Sigil. Not as an avatar or manifestation, the actual deity himself took up physical residence in the city. Travelling through magical portals became akin to performing an Aoskarian holy ritual and his power and influence only continued to escalate. It wasn't long until a cultural shift occurred, and the residents of Sigil saw Aoskar as the true ruler of the city, and the Lady of Pain as a mere underling or aspect of him.

As you might imagine, this did not sit well with the Lady. But even still she did not directly interfere, until one day one of her dabus (a strange, blue-skinned race of servitors that perform much of the day-to-day drudgery in Sigil) donned a robe and declared himself a cleric of Aoskar. The Lady had had enough. In the blink of an eye she incinerated the high cathedral, killing the god himself as well as wiping out most of his clergy. High Priest Aola, the proxy and right-hand man of Aoskar, was instead whisked away in an instant to the dreaded Maze, to suffer unthinkable agony for the audacity of his master.


[The blasted remains of Aoskar's temple in Sigil]

There's a funny thing about deities though. See, the concept of a god is so powerful it is something that can never be truly killed. Instead, a "dead god" is banished to the Astral Plane - that silvery realm of pure thought - to float endlessly along as a "god corpse" - rocky husks that are reported to give off strange emanations and vivid, uncontrollable dreams to any who spend a significant amount of time near them. It is said that if a religion is rekindled enough, with a corresponding amount of faith energy generated, even a slain god can be brought back.

All of the above is official canon and can be verified in several official D&D/Planescape products. This is the split-point at which the story for Echoes of Aoskar picks up in post #3

VikingLegion
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Post #3 - Shards of Aoskar

Being a deity of great power and wisdom, Aoskar sensed the growing irritation his escalating influence was likely to cause with the Lady of Pain, and developed a contingency plan. Before the day of destruction, he stored portions of his power, his very essence, in several receptacles - magical crystals capable of housing slivers of his divine spark. These were given to several of his most faithful clerics, who were then instructed to disperse to all known worlds and planes of existence. They were told to lay low in the event of his destruction and to await a sign before making themselves known again - even if it took passing on the stewardship of the crystals and Aoskarian faith to future generations.

This is exactly what happened, as several hundreds of years would pass and the religion would degenerate into an obscure cult. In the present day, Aola - High Priest of Aoskar - has finally escaped the Maze, looking not a day older than when he was originally banished (a temporal feature of the Maze designed to prolong suffering indefinitely.) He immediately goes about contacting the various splinter cells of the Cult of Aoskar, gathering them for a clandestine meeting in a small pocket demi-plane, safe from prying eyes. The Cult takes this as their long-awaited sign and immediately begin plans for the resurrection of their god. They take their crystals and once again disperse among the various worlds, using said crystals to impart a pulse of mystical energy to any pregnant women they meet of the various dominant races - humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, half-orcs, dragon-born, etc. - those races that are most likely to take up the mantle of "adventurer." When these babies are born, they all bear the "Mark of Aoskar", though this will be unknown to the players at the beginning. The mark is a small birth defect in the form of a tattoo similar to the holy symbol of Aoskar (though cleverly changed enough so players don't immediately tumble to the plotline.)

These children will grow up and develop a strange sort of inherent sorcery that occasionally manifests as limited spatial magic (i.e. short range teleportation) that frequently manifests involuntarily in times of great stress and/or danger. When the time is deemed right, representatives from the CoA (Cult of Aoskar) will seek out these children and mentor them, further refining their ability. After players master short-range jumps on their own world(s) of origin, the cultists will open their eyes to the existence of other planets, and teach them techniques to slide between worlds (allowing players to link up should they choose different world/settings initially). Each young adult will soon realize he is not alone, and there are several others (both PCs and NPCs) with the same strange power living on a multitude of worlds. The CoA continues to encourage further sliding, as each use of the ability acts as something of a prayer to Aoskar, channeling a minuscule (but cumulative) amount of power to the dormant god. The ultimate goal for the CoA is to get enough adventurers sliding around continuously, building up enough energy to rouse their slumbering lord - though this will not be apparent initially to the players. There will be more than enough material for each individual world to have its own meta-plot, while the overarching Aoskarian plot continues to cook in the background over the course of several years.

[Next blurb was when I was trying to pitch it as a video-game concept to some friends]
Imagine an afternoon of gaming with your friends where you assassinate a high level Templar of King Kalak in the city of Tyr in the Darksun setting, then slide on over to Ravenloft to fight werewolves in the Howling Hills, gathering claws and teeth for a Vistani seer's spell components. Next your group moves on over to the Forgotten Realms to protect Shadowdale from a drow invasion, then jump over to some good old fashioned dungeon crawling in The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth in the Greyhawk setting. After cashing in all your loot you next slide on over to the fabled City of Brass in the Elemental Plane of Fire to purchase rare magical trinkets in a bazaar that is larger than some entire prime worlds! At the end of an exhausting night you port back to Solace in the Dragonlance world to kick back at the Inn of the Last Home and enjoy some of Otik's homemade spiced potatoes.