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Monday, 8th September, 2008, 05:18 PM #1
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Ea - A "giths and 'thids" land for L4W
As promised, my latest work is an attempt to make a fleshed out place for githyanki, githzerai, and mind flayers in L4W. Central themes for this island are war, racial history, psionics, and destiny.
A few decades ago, in the deepest reaches of illithid society an elder brain came to know a terrible prophecy that would spell doom of its kind: the Liberator of the gith would return.
In ancient times the illithids had a grand empire that spanned worlds, but the slaves that came to be known as gith rose against them under the guidance of a legendary figure and the empire was no more. She was the Liberator, the Deliverer.
The site of Her return is now believed to have been located on a grand island and an immense invading illithid force has arrived to conquer it. Kingdoms of mortals have been enthralled and the search begun, yet soon after they have been followed by their ancestral enemies – the githyanki and the githzerai. The sundered descendants intend to eradicate the illithids and find the Liberator, though neither side will allow the other to succeed.
Now war wages between gith and illithid and gith between, as it always have been. Yet the battleground is mortal land, far removed from their planar homes. No one knows for sure if the Liberator truly will or has returned, nor what she or the three parties will do if it happens. Some say she will cleanse the illithids from time itself, others that she will be broken and become their tool to bring the end of her divided people. Most githyanki would rally under her while many githzerai would seal her away forevermore. A few dare speculate that she will unite the giths and make them one people again.
Whatever the truth, this war between masters and slaves rages as it never has before and may never will again - a confrontation to decide their fate across worlds.
The island battle field is Ea; a huge land mass bordering on continental size with more than a dozen small nations. Three dominant factions make war on each others, generally known as the githyanki armada of Neth Ar’Gith, the githzerai crusaders of Zeabutar, and the illithid Xelgonne Enclave; together they currently occupy more than half of all Ea’s lands. A few other factions also have significant influence on the war and geopolitical landscape, including the human Letheon Liberation Front, the controversial gith Reconciliation, and the mysterious aberrations of the Sign of Illiz, but these mostly operate beyond the public eye, rarely mustering more than strategic guerilla skirmishes on the larger parties.
Exact holdings vary frequently as territory is constantly conquered and lost by one side or the other, and though some kingdoms have been reduced to broken wastelands in the wake of war, a few isolated domains and city-states remain seemingly independent. A handful of major ports and cities are clinging to their sovereignty due to ever-increasing fortifications, particularly defensible locations, little tactical importance, or loose deals with one of the three greater factions.
The Imperial Armada of Neth Ar’Gith
So devoted to their cause that collective military operations have been named based on the return of the Liberator, the ruthless Neth Ar’Gith armada represents command of all expeditionary githyanki forces sent to the island on behalf of their Astral empire.
Though numerous fortresses and ground forces secure the regions they occupy, a pivotal share of githyanki military strength lies in the actual armada – a fleet of massive flying warships and a few wings of red dragons that have transported the expeditionary forces from their planar homes. Githyanki central command operates out of the Silverwind Citadel, a royal castle of the local occupied nation now rebuilt and reinforced to better serve expeditionary command. The bulk manpower consists of well-trained soldiers, but also features a great share of command over arcane magic and psionics. Non-githyankis are few and far between, though the stakes of this war have driven command of both gith races to enlist elite mercenaries – dragonborn are tolerated more than most in the armada, possibly as a special extension of the pact the githyankis have with red dragons.
The githyanki represents a merciless and xenophobic war-machine, though they remain honor-driven and dedicated. Few if any prisons are employed in their territory – they despise slavery and rarely take captives. Githyanki do not go out of their way to eliminate parties unrelated to illithids or githzerai, but those who get in their way are shown no mercy.
The Holy Crusade of Zeabutar
Though the githzerai are generally not a people of conquest and warfare, they prioritize racial history no less than their aggressive related enemies. Hailing from otherworldly homes of discipline amidst chaos, the decree of Zeabutar was made upon news of the Liberator’s coming return: To find Her and ensure She never become a weapon for neither githyanki nor illithid to wield. How exactly the council of grand masters operating out of the so-called Sanctity of Self-Realization seeks to accomplish this goal is anyone’s guess.
Some githzerai crusaders have taken to this cause as a holy meeting with destiny, the moment where the true identity of their kin will be resolved – the introspective nature of their people taken to the extreme. Not everyone holds to such devotion of the decree, but all gith have enough motivation in the fact that the hated mind flayers are nested here and need to be eradicated.
Most Ea nations conquered by githzerais have over time been stripped down to only feature sparse pragmatic necessities befitting of their ascetic nature, and the commodities channeled to support the war. The occupied countryside now features tons of hidden warcamps and monasteries, where squads of warriors, monks, and assassins enact surgical strikes at their foes. Many refugees survive when they are driven from their home, though they feel no less animosity towards this strain of giths as their cultural history and art slowly fades out of existence.
The Xelgonne Enclave
Though the illithid invasion of central Ea sparked the war, it was not as such a military campaign to begin with and few actual battles were fought when the first kingdoms fell. Like most of their kin, the mind flayers of the powerful Xelgonne Enclave work best when operating from the shadows, enthralling high-ranking subjects and using the influence of their new puppets to reach higher, until finally the effective ruling class is under their firm control. By the time the gith races had arrived in force, the illithids had extended their will over the minor nations of central Ea, gathering their strength to invade the land where it was believed the Liberator would return – the mighty human kingdom of Letheon.
The kingdom was conquered only by overt force which the enclave paid for with knowledge of its existence to many of Ea’s courts. At present, the illithids maintain as much façade within their borders as can be mustered without compromising defenses and are believed to have agents throughout the grand island. Though those who now walk within the enclave’s territory may not always see illithids in the streets, the empty looks of city captains and the sightings of enthralled monsters that patrol the wilderness leave no doubt that much is amiss.
The Xelgonne Enclave currently focuses on repelling the endless assaults from all sides, experimental programs to create enhanced battle-thralls (“perfecting the mistake that was the giths”), and infiltrating and corrupting other nations, but most importantly they are searching for the site where the Liberator should return. Some say they are progressing through forgotten trapped tombs under the mountains, others that they are scavenging the endless wild plains. A few whisper that the Liberator has already been captured and is in the progress of being turned into a perfect weapon, while others say she is hidden within Letheon unknowing of her true identity.
The central hold of the enclave is believed to be underground somewhere near the ruined royal castle of Letheon, if only by the massive concentration of military strength there. The kingdom has been greatly corrupted over the years, featuring bountiful but poisonous fields fertilized by decerebrated corpses, failed illithid experiments that have escaped, and scorched sites where gith agents have penetrated in force.
Ever since they have been known as the githyanki and githzerai the two have been at war, and to treat the opposing side as less than an enemy is a crime both punish with death. There are giths who dare reject this fundament, however, even at the risk of their lives. Such exiles are usually hunted down and killed, and most survivors live a life on the run. Some work against the eternal war, however, envisioning a time where the two people will become as one again. The Reconciliation is such a manifestation, an organization that has come to believe the return of the Liberator may be the event that can realize unity.
The Reconciliation faces many challenges on Ea, both from the inside and beyond. They have not the strength to seriously challenge any of the three greater factions, they seek to convert rather than harm their conservative brethren, they constantly must resolve irreconcilable cultural differences, and they are widely split on how to accomplish these goals and to what extent. Those who still cling close to tradition have trouble congregating with their counterparts for more than strategic planning and missions in the field, while others have gone as far as develop intimate relations that would be considered blasphemous among the armada and crusaders.
Still, the Reconciliation is growing and has had significant success in recruitment on Ea, as many giths have been swayed by the perspective that a united front can prevent the Liberator falling into illithid hands. The group works in secret beyond both armada and crusader territory, but has spies in the camps of their brethren. They live and die by the mantra “Under One Sky”, used as a greeting, a battle cry, and a philosophical pillar of belief.
The Letheon Liberation Front
The ancient human kingdom of Letheon had long been the dominating force on Ea, but the Xelgonne Enclave changed that in less than a decade. The king had suspected the slow corruption of his neighboring nations but knew not how to counteract it, and with the arrival of the giths the illitihds changed their strategy for Letheon from subtle infiltration to open warfare.
Massive brainwashed armies marched on Letheon to consolidate control of the countryside before the giths could establish themselves on Ea, but the humans were strong of mind and spirit, and repelled onslaughts both through arms and mental assault. In the end, their king learned the truth behind his enemy and sent agents all over Ea to expose the illithid threat for what is was. When finally his mountain castle was penetrated, the king forced a hopeless battle to die in such a manner that he never himself become a tool to be used.
Now operating mostly as exiles in other nations, the Letheon Liberation Front seeks to do the impossible and regain their homeland. Though the heir to the throne was enthralled and poses as the current monarch, other princes escaped to lead the rebels and strike back when given the chance. Though they share a mutual enemy with the gith factions, relations remain mistrustful at best. What shaky alliances have been made are doomed to fail as the armada and crusaders war on each other and both desire the prize in Letheon as well.
I think Ea serves best as a Far Land since the intended scale of warfare is significant, so you want it distant enough that it doesn’t noticeably spill over to the proximate isles (the design principle of modularity). On the other hand, it is intended as a major source of origin for githyankis, githzerais, and other psionically flavored or gith-related creatures (incl many aberrants and red dragons), so you might want it close enough to reach by a long sea voyage and thus a Near Land.
I’ve tried to allow for the possibility of playing on a lot of githyanki, githzerai and mind flayer lore. For instance, the poisonous fields near the enclave’s seat of power is a reference to Torment’s Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon (2nd circle), while the phrase “Under One Sky” plays on the “Pronouncement of Two Skies”.
I originally envisioned the humans of Letheon as actually being the “unspoiled” descendants of the same humans who also became the gith, adding a sense of destiny that the giths are returning home in a way, and a sense of tragedy that these lands are being crushed by the war. I was planning to convey this idea through more than hints that the humans have strong willpower and resolve and are driven to overthrow their oppressors, but I didn’t want to be too overt so that DMs don’t have to use these elements if they don’t like it.
I tried to avoid IP worries by never directly naming the Liberator as Gith, never calling the ‘yanki-‘zerai feud the “War of Two Skies”, and so on, but do tell me if I’m overtly concerned.
Major credit for inspiration and the names of Ar'Gith and the Reconciliation goes to Azure of Planewalker.com.
Last edited by Dunamin; Wednesday, 10th September, 2008 at 10:07 PM.
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Monday, 8th September, 2008, 06:35 PM #2
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Looks interesting. I'd say Ea would have to be far, far from Daunton so as to keep the modularity. Gith can still leave Ea for Daunton (via ship, portal, whatever), to find the Liberator, escape the endless war, or whatever.
Tuesday, 9th September, 2008, 01:04 AM #3
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
You just gave me my Gityanki girl's backround and origin. She is the daughter of A 'yanki mother and a 'zerai father who are part of the Reconciliation. They spirited her away as a baby to let her grow up in peace, but trained her hard for war. Gee, can her kicker be that she IS the Liberator?! Maybe her parents died when she was young and somebody else raised her for war when her parents only wanted to teach her about peace. So many fun possibilities. The wheels are turning now!
Tuesday, 9th September, 2008, 06:28 AM #4
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Actually, I think it’s very possible to play a character that believes she is the Liberator, though it would definitely be a very dangerous game if she poses with that to the wrong people.
Consider this: The Liberator is the central prize of the war, the reason most of them came – by now, seasoned soldiers who know nothing but warring on Ea probably believe the Liberator can snap her fingers and create miracles. It’s a very real possibility that if the Liberator returns she will not be recognized for what she is (if she is), because her legend has been elevated to such heights.
Tuesday, 9th September, 2008, 06:32 AM #5
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
That would also allow us to make gith quite rare and give us some flexibility dealing with psionics etc. should the books be adopted.
Also, while I love this sort of thing, the whole psionic transplanar invading psionic armies thing could put off some gamers who prefer a more "traditional" world.
If we want to step up and bring Ea closer to Duanton for either a shorter period or a more extended period (maybe a mini-adventure path around paragon tier) the degree of sophistication they currently have works well. It's possible they could open portals or similar.
I also like the idea of having a powerful transplanar empire because it operates as a nice offset to the Imperium. Arcane/divine magic vs psionics; mind control vs persuasion/social controls; eladrin vs illithids works for me.
I force people I barely know to borrow Torment from me and play.
Appreciate you thinking about the IP issues. WotC has been so weird on IP stuff oaver the past few years. Hopefully it'll be better in 4th. They are supposed to produce some sort of "fan site rules" soon. I hope it's not draconian. That would be supremely annoying.
One thing about Illithids
Tuesday, 9th September, 2008, 07:31 AM #6
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I agree on pretty much everything you said, Graf (thanks for the compliments by the way).
I was also thinking intellect devourers and neogi might be thematically appropriate as intermediaries between thrall and illithid, but they’re not in the first MM.
The unimind idea is very interesting and could serve as a nice basis for an Ea campaign. I have lots of ideas for plot concepts at the moment, so I’ll probably run a gith adventure or campaign for my first L4W game.
Last edited by Dunamin; Tuesday, 9th September, 2008 at 07:38 AM.
Tuesday, 9th September, 2008, 07:57 AM #7
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I... agree with you about Neogi and Intellect Devourers. That's the sort of direction that I was headed. They both have a bit of baggage though and, of course, no rules, per se.
If I could put it in a sentence: Illithids are the "big evil" and are served by patsies; so lower level threats (thinking like levels 3-5) would involve, generally speaking, fighting "good people turned bad by mind control".
It's fantastic, from a tragic drama standpoint. But DnD players will, generally speaking, prefer to fight evil guys at least for "final fights". Obviously you can punt a bit, and have evil-mind-controlled-wizards-who-were-evil-before or corrupted-githyanki; or "astrally projecting illithids who are much weaker" or something like that.
Or we could work to create something like the blues, (the psionic goblins from 3.x). Improved version of an existing evil race (somewhat like ogre -> ogre magi).
There's a lot of goblinoid material but goblins are solidly "entry level".
They could be psionic enough to be powerful, but not so psionically gifted to be a threat.
You will probably see a lot of interest if you run a gith related game. Just a hunch.
Tuesday, 9th September, 2008, 08:26 AM #8
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
You can even mix such groups without having to worry about whether it makes sense for them to work together. They're enslaved: they're usually there simply because the illithids thought it would make an effective defence.
Classicly evil critters may actually be more frequent at the borders, since efficiency takes particular precedence here (and a mentally coordinated squad of orcs would work wonders). War is very often about tragic drama, however, so I think there's ample room to have "old friends turned foes" moments.
"Astrally projecting illithids" sounds like a nice explanation for using a delevelled mind flayer.
Tuesday, 9th September, 2008, 09:30 AM #9
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
OK. I put Ea up on the wiki.
I tried to restructure it so it reads like the view of someone from Daunton; probably with mixed results.
I haven't (I don't think) added anything outside of your initial post.
Tuesday, 9th September, 2008, 12:56 PM #10
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Also, with Ea being here in the mortal realm, the Githyanki and Githzerai lose one of their biggest advantages- near immortality. In previous editions, they lived only in the Astral/Etheral (one of those) where time didn't pass. So they only aged when they went raiding in the Prime. Not sure if the current Astral Sea is timeless like that or not. Since they are kind of cut off from their main empires anyway it would change things socially some I would think. Maybe alot more focus on procreating to keep up the force of fighters needed for the war to continue?
Gotta get to work for now. I'll come back and post more later if I think of anything.
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