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WotBS Here we go again! Planes, the Burning Sky, ancient Orcs, evils and more

Lylandra

Adventurer
Hey y'all, after having finished my epic WotBS Pathfinder camapign for two players what feels like an eternity ago, I'm about to DM yet another version of the WotBS saga. Only this time it will be in 5e for 5 players total. But I don't want a simple rinse-repeat from my old campaign, since that would be kind of boring. Especially as one of the players has already played WotBS (my husband, who played Cuin'halar, the Taranesti dervish/magus in the original). So I want to shake up and refocus my campaign a bit and add some twists. Which may or may not include a bigger focus on the original story of Toteth Topec and the planar mechanisms surrounding the Burning Sky effect and the elemental spirits involved. I already have some ideas on what to keep and what to chance, which have led me to some questions regarding the original setting.

First the characters/players:
A bunch of good friends, some seasoned players, some newbies (1 D&D/PF/WotBS veteran, 1 4e veteran interested in both RP and fluff, 1 newer RPer with interest in both fluff and crunch, 2 newbies who mainly are in for the fun). They are most likely to play the following cast of characters:
  • human sorcerer from Sindaire who knows how to accidentally torch stuff (she will be most likely besties or rivals with Katrina...)
  • half-orc fighter (commander) whose parents are exiles from Ragesia
  • halfling druid who may or may not also stem from Sindaire
  • West Wind monk
  • mystical descendant of Eshu, human (not decided on a class yet, and doesn't know if the relationship is in blood or spirit)

Then the ideas so far (there will be some random stuff from my OC I made canon, so don't get too confused):
  • No elves present, so I will cut down the whole Shaaladel/Taranesti background to whatever interests them. Also, this will most likely lead to no bigger role for Rhuarc or Syana respectively
  • I will keep my Dasseni structure with Queen Steppengard and the proxies/Lords&Ladies. They are too much fun. Unfortunately, no Dasseni PCs so far.
  • I will also keep my ideas regarding some key Ragesians like Guthwulf (maybe he'll have more to do this time) or Magdus. The commander will have quite the fun with Signus and Magdus.
  • I want to tweak Pilus to be more interesting/involved/conflicted. He's the master of one of my PCs after all. Maybe utilize the brothers' rebellious past in Sindaire/Ostalin?
  • Same could apply to Lee Sidoneth. Maybe I'll let him survive somehow?
  • I'd really love to make 41 a fully-fleshed out 4th (or 5th?) villain. I imagine him to be an anti-Toteth Topec who wants to become one with the world for selfish reasons. He's a spirit that can trade soul parts and possess... maybe like Sijhen minus tentacles?
  • I'd really love to have a trillith-inhabited PC again. But I'm not decided on who to choose. The sorceress would be the no-brain choice, but she already has a tie-in in form of...
  • the Flamebringer Dragon! The player is in for a fire-theme and I can imagine linking each of them to one element, thus mirroring the story of Toteth even more: Eshu's descendant would be earth, the sorceress is fire, the monk is air and the druid may be water. Either she or Torrent.
  • So I'd also really like to expand on the Elemental Spirits theme
  • Leska's origin. I know she is meant to be from someplace between Shahalesti/Ragesia, but she could be originally from the border to Sindaire, which would give her an easier access to the myth of the Aquiline Heart. Could also be a link to the original Aquilinians? Still she'd need a reason to hate Shaaladel
  • I'd love to do something with the planes, but I don't want to go fully ZG setting.

The questions I have regarding the original setting:
  • Who are the elemental spirits truly and how are they linked to their respective planes? (if at all)
  • Are there esoteric spirits for the other 4 planes (time, space, life, death) or do they not exist?
  • How does the Burning Sky effect work? I know that there is the plane of fire bleeding into the Astral plane in the Great Wheel cosmology, but is the same thing true for the new-ish (A5E) cosmology? What is the suggested cosmology?
  • Toteth Topec. What is history and what is myth? What happened to him? What about his family & his friends? We know about the Pyromancer's tomb. Is this the Pyromancer? (in my OC, I ruled it is)
  • Is there more information on Sindaire? Right now, I envision a place filled with small duchies who are led by one elected Exarch (think Holy Roman Empire minus holy and roman and... well, empire) Did the Aquilinians once play a role in this?
  • Who ruled in Dassen before Steppengard?

And I think that's it for now. I'd be really happy if someone hint wink could help me out ;)
 

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If I were doing WotBS again today, I'd certainly do things differently. Heck, I was just this past summer working on a pitch for a novel trilogy to try to flesh it out more.

Please pardon the quick shotgun of ideas.

Leska could be from the border of Ragesia and Sindaire, but attended 'wizard school' or whatever in a city between Ragesia and Shahalesti, and that city is the one Shaaladel razes.

The idea for the elemental spirits was that they're sort of just big creatures that maybe got that big because they were originally only kinda sorta big, but they had a strong connection to one element, and then they used the energy of that element to do stuff and get bigger. (Yes, I clearly put a lot of thought into them, as you can see.)

Digging a bit deeper, my high school-era AD&D 2e game used the Tome of Magic rules for elementalist wizards, and one of the players was a white-haired water wizard named Victorious, which started the tradition of me having white-haired water spellcasters with names that were normal words. When 3e came out, one of the first things I 'published' was an 'elemental guardian' prestige class, which I designed for my friend so we could convert to 3e. That gave birth to a conceit about there being four elemental guardians who each had an apprentice to take over, and that they had to balance the energy of the world. (And later the idea that Toteth Topec was the first one to figure out this was necessary; he was basically the Avatar in orc form, able to use all elements.) But only the four classical elements.

I did the 'Elements of Magic Revised' book in 2004, which used more elements and set up the Life/Death/Space/Time suite, but when I started work on WotBS in 2007 I didn't include that. I drew upon it for ZEITGEIST, though. Then Toteth switched into being the guy who led the Ancient orcs to set the world's place in the cosmos.

Re: the burning sky effect and planes, WotBS used basically the default 3e cosmology where teleportation magic briefly went through the astral plane. I don't think O5E (original 5e) defined it the same way, and thus A5E (Level Up) didn't specifically say you need the astral plane to teleport. But I guess it still sorta works.

Toteth Topec is, like, the biggest unofficial link between ZEITGEIST and BURNING SKIES which Russ has said aren't the same world so wink of course they aren't. But I could totally give you the full unofficial history of the world from the dawn of time, including some kinda silly migration to justify, for instance, why we have 'white' people in both the WotBS continent and Lanjyr, and why southern Lanjyr and the Temple of Echoed Souls both have 'black' people while the southeast is sorta 'south Asian,' and Ostalin has 'east Asian.'

Anyway, it's late now. I don't have a ton of info about Sindaire at all, or Dassen pre-Steppengard. I was sorta thinking of having Sindaire be a colony of the Clergy established before the Great Malice, and then left to fend for itself. (And then WotBS occurs around the year 300, and the replacement of the Aquiline Heart triggered the break of the link to the plane Avilona.)
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
A few musings:
  • Life/Death/Space/Time does make an appearance in the temple of echoed souls.
  • I got the feeling that Steppengard was the first king of Dassen. Before him, the duchy was the biggest government construct in Dassen, and the dukes/duchesses met as a council.
 

emeraldbeacon

Explorer
I got the feeling that Steppengard was the first king of Dassen. Before him, the duchy was the biggest government construct in Dassen, and the dukes/duchesses met as a council.
Same. There's a clear point that Steppengard created the Ninth Land for himself, marking a notable shift from the old ways. There may have been a ceremonial title of "King," but I imagine it only served to denote who was the chairperson of the council of lords... Steppengard took that title, and gave it teeth.
 

Bill T.

Explorer
One thing I did in my second go-round was to draft my wife to take Torrent's responsibilities in the early part of the game — the opening pitch at the Poisoned Apple, leading the way to Seaquen, etc. You could see if your husband wants to do the same sort of thing. This keeps the size of the hangers-on to a manageable level. It also gives you a back door into getting the heroes to pursue different options than your last group did: If the heroes climbed the Glaskeel Cliffs last time, ask you husband to push for the road; if the threesome fled for Gallo before getting imprisoned by Nina, make sure they stick around.

Something else I did in Gate Pass was to change the escape plan. Instead of the heroes riding out of town on horseback, I had them "volunteer" for duty at one of the watchposts south of the city, then destroy it from the inside well after dark. I think my motivation for doing that was to avoid the "Diogenes charms all the guards" plan, as that didn't make a lot of sense.

One thought on the planes: Given how the burning sky was supposed to work, I'd think the Plane of Shadow would become a popular place, just as an alternative way to get around. You might think about how you can play that up: Instead of teleporting couriers, send them through Shadow, for example. That's more expensive, just because the spell level is a bit higher, but it still might be interesting, and it makes more sense than turning the heroes into red dragons to have them teleport.
 

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