Piratecat's Updated Story Hour! (update 4/03 and 4/06)

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There is a delightful pair of Planescape adventures by Monte Cook named "The Great Modron March" and "Dead Gods." I don't want any spoilers in this thread, but suffice to say that the modrons (creatures of pure law that do everything like clockwork) began their march around all of the outer planes more than a hundred years early. The Defenders started the adventure and went to go watch hundreds of thousands of modrons marching across the Outlands. Watching all the hangers-on and other tourists, they looked at each other and said, "You know, I don't really care why the modrons are marching. There's lots of people here; I bet one of them will figure it out." Then they went back to Sigil, and eventually home.

I could have cried.

So now, when things get slow, one of them turns to the others and comments, "I wonder what those modrons are doing about now." Bastards.

- Piratecat
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Piratecat said:
So now, when things get slow, one of them turns to the others and comments, "I wonder what those modrons are doing about now." Bastards.

Maybe the modrons can march through the White Kingdom. ;)


We played tonight, with fellow board-member Gargoyle (James Garr, of Chainmail Bikini Games) guest-starring as a great Agar. This game had combat, puzzles, loot, roleplaying, and diplomacy ~ everything you could ask for! Highlights include:

- KidCthulhu rolling FOUR consecutive natural 20's in a row (that's a 1 in 168,000 chance, incidentally) with her PC's new rapier!

- TomTom with a bad psionic headache

- Raevynn with "canal cough"

- Agar peering into an endless void

- Nolin surrounded by rings of field mice, bunnies, birds, deer, hyenas, and dire lions as he sings to the animals on the Beastlands

- Beaching a pirate ship

- A visit to Ioun's tower

- And some extremely disturbing news about the new undead General in charge of the church of Aeos!
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Fade said:

Isn't that fact that he's, well, an undead priest of a sun god disturbing enough?

That's pretty disturbing. To Mara, who had a 20 minute meeting with the skeletal knight, it's even more disturbing that his name is General Aleax. Presumably the original. And now Mara has to make a choice: support her friends, and be deemed a heretic, or support the church, and betray her duty. Especially since it appears that Sir Malachite has had his holy order disbanded, and might technically be a heretical knight himself....

Things are about to get interesting.

- Piratecat


First Post
In response to the comments

1. Yes, the undead formerly known as Aleax is indeed a distubing, and inconvenient occurence. We know PC is up to something, but don't know quite what yet.

2. The impromptu concert for the animals was fun, although the dire rhinos and dire lions did get into a bit of a fight after Nol finished. We sang "we're going to the zoo (where we'll rip the bars open and free all the animals)"

3. I think the "pay to watch" thing is a great idea. If only PC hadn't signed on with Bugaboo's franchise. But now we have to give him a cut of the take...

4. Four 20s. It was miraculous. I'll probably fall down the stairs and break my leg today, having used up all my luck.


Originally posted by Alaric

What i want to know is the story behind the name Defenders of Daybreak? Was everyone's favorite adventuring party saving a commune full of idealist priestesses?

Got it backwards; the town was named after the group! Cadrienne founded the town with the survivors of a shrinking orb that had left them shrunken for two generations (Dungeon Magazine's Chadrathar's Bane. This is also the adventure where Nolin was killed by inch-tall goblins while wearing the cloak of the phoenix, precipitating his rebirth and future phoenix-hood.) When they broke the orb, all the creatures affected by it returned to full size, most of whom had NEVER been full size before. The ratriders were especially confused.

"The Defenders of Daybreak" name came from the group's repeated confrontation with a nasty little Imbindarlin cult known as the Brotherhood of Night. Obsessed with extinguishing the sun and bringing on endless night, this group was the Defender's primary bane for years. They sacrificed TomTom's bodyguard (and almost his uncle!), they opened up a gate to shadow underneath the capitol, they started a civil war using doppelgangers as agents, they parleyed with mind flayers, they killed the King, and ultimately they pulled a star from the heavens and sent it hurtling at the planet. Not nice folks. The Defenders have led a movement amongst the other churches to once again eradicate the cult, and it seems to have been quite successful.

Of course, Nolin's legend lore indicates that the people who first unleashed true ghouls in the underdark were Imbindarla (Goddess of undead and the dark things in the night) worshippers. Cult members too? Unknown.
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First Post
Piratecat, please edit the above post. The pronoun "they" has an unclear antecedent.

Just for the record, it was the Brotherhood of Night who did all the bad stuff, not the Defenders. We stopped them from doing those horrible things.

It took us five or six years of real time to play, which is a long time to focus on a particular task and had a lot to do with the original group's sense of identity and purpose,and PC threatened to complete the campaign at the end of the comet cycle because he foolishly thought we were done.

I'm not sure what changed his mind, because I left after about year five, but I think his solution was to realize that while we were done saving the world from endless night, there were still a lot of other things to save the world from out there. That was about five years ago by my count.

One of my most favorite moments of the campaign against the Brotherhood of Night was when Arcade Deltarion, fresh young mage and chief puzzle solver of the group,(and something of a social climber--naming the group so we could get good PR was his Big Idea) spent a desperate 15 or 20 minutes trying to unravel one of PC's puzzles, (while the rest of the Defenders sat around admiring the scenery) only to realize that the villain's name, Nostradis Ghend, was an anagram which we needed to unravel in order to activate the black portal.

At truly amazing speed he unanagrammed it, only to cry out, "Dread Night Snos?" whereupon Glimmer blipped him over the head and said "Dread Night's Son, you blockhead."

Dread Night Snos.

I still get a good chuckle out of that one.

Also, just of for the record, the town of Daybreak isn't exactly a commune. It swears Fealty to the Duke of Beryl and is run by an elected Town Council which reports to him and is responsible for paying the taxes. Cadrienne acts as an advisor to the Council, but is primarily occupied with founding the University of Daybreak, an institution wherein any person can find instruction in any study. But the town does have certain unusual policies with regards to communal property, and group living arrangements, and the university has a liberal admissions policy that does not discrimminate on the basis of alignment or species.
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With Brindle taken care of, the Defenders loot his cache, disabling the trap and clearing out a strong box packed with golden trade bars. They then return to the bay, heading back to the harbor to see what else the Dockside Royals were hiding in their underwater trap.

Underwater, they trigger the trapdoor that TomTom had detected, and watch horrified as it sinks 30’ and activates spiked gates; anyone stuck to the gluey surface of the falling stone trapdoor would have found themselves underwater and impaled by rusty spikes.

Swimming down, they move through a twisty passageway and enter a large, dark cavern. In it are two Large force bubbles. Filled with air, they bob near the ceiling, one holding five chests and one containing a large, paper-filled desk. Unfortunately, the force bubbles are much too large to fit out through the narrow entrance, and somehow magically popping them would expose the contents to water.

“No problem,” says Tao. “I’ll open a gate to the Beastlands and move us, the water, and the giant bubbles of loot right through to someplace warm and dry.”

“You can do that?” asks the party members (and the DM!) incredulously.

“Oh yeah,” she answers smugly, and the fabric of space rips shriekingly open. Water surges forward along with the force balls, and the Defenders find themselves sprawled on the grassy veldt, under a shockingly blue sky, in a realm of clean air and pure nature. A loud *SNORT!* makes them look up….

To see four Huge rhinos, covered with wild hair and pulsing with the rainbow-colored energy of pure chaos, charging right for them. The ground shakes as their feet hit the ground, and the Defenders suddenly know what it feels like to be in the path of a juggernaut.

…to be continued…

Next (longer!) episode: Dire Lions vs. Anarchic Rhinos! Loot aplenty and a famous ship! A new guest star for Agar! And religious developments of an unsettling sort….


The rhinos charge, heads down, horns gleaming, breath steaming in the fresh air. Before they get close enough to trample, Raevynn wild shapes into a dire lion. She thinks this might intimidate the rhinos into veering off. Unfortunately, it seems to have the opposite effect, and the rhinos veer towards her instead of away from her. Agar fires an acid orb at the alpha male, and Velendo casts tongues and then uses a greater command to command the rhinos away. It doesn’t work; apparently the rhinos aren’t smart enough to be affected, and they smash into both Malachite and Raevynn’s dire lion. The rhino attacking Malachite smites law as it impales him on the spike, chaotic energy spiking through his body as the huge horn crumples his armor. Raevynn is also hurt, hit by two of the other three beasts. Tao lifts her head from where she was flung by the water, sees the combat and swears. “I guess we won’t bother trying to talk to them, huh?” She shifts into unicorn form and tries to talk to them anyways, but they ignore her; Galanna isn’t the only God on the Beastlands, and wherever these chaos-creatures are from, they don’t seem to care about what kind of divine power she represents.

Nolin casts mass haste, and within seconds lightning flashes. Acid sprays and smokes. Swords and maces slash into rippling gray rhino hide. Impaled on a horn, Malachite slashes his sword into the rhino’s head again and again, and with a thunderous snort the rhino throws him off, staggering on its feet. The other rhinos concentrate their attacks on Raevynn. She tries to use her dire lion form to pounce on one of them, but the other beasts do their best to gore her, and within seconds she has blood streaming down her flanks. She roars in pain, and even as the bull rhino goes down, the Defenders turn to help her. As soon as she can, Raevynn wild shapes back to normal form, hoping that it might confuse the beasts. It works; one of them stands there for a few seconds, prodding her gently with its horn, trying to understand where the humongous lion went.

Then flame strikes, biocurrent, and fireballs slam down, along with a fiery blast from Nolin’s new psionic ring of dragon’s breath. As Mara, Tao and Malachite move forwards swinging their weapons, two more of the anarchic rhinos fall with rumbling crunches; even in death, their bodies ripple with chaos-energy. The last beast is still healthy, though, and Nolin makes a radical decision: “I’m actually going to use a weapon!” Flying above the rhino with his new rapier out, he swoops down and stabs the anarchic rhino twice.

He then rolls four 20’s in a row. One chance in 160,000, right there in front of me. And the KidCthulhu reminds me that Nolin’s new rapier is a Knight of the Horn weapon that can lignify on a successful critical, turning an opponent into a plant. I roll the rhino’s saving throws…. And the rhino gets the opposite end of Nolin’s luck.

It freezes for just a second, lifting its head, and then a huge brown trunk sprouts out of its belly and buries itself deep into the fertile ground. The iridescent horn becomes a thick branch, and its rippling gray skin shimmers and explodes into a profusion of leaves. Nolin is still hovering on his fiery wings, and below him stands a tremendous Rhino Tree.

Looking up at it in awe, someone mumbles, “I wonder what kind of fruit it will sprout?”

After healing and cleaning themselves off, the Defenders examine the huge force bubbles full of objects. One of them has five tumbled chests in it, and the other one has a desk covered with spilled papers. Checking with true seeing, TomTom notices that the bubbles seem to be filled with some kind of vapor invisible to the naked eye. Concerned about what it may be, Nolin casts legend lore on it.

While waiting, TomTom strolls up to the force bubble with the desk and manifests clairtangency. Using the sheer power of his mind to grasp them, he picks papers up and holds them up to the edge for everyone to read.

It takes him a minute to realize what he has. “Holy cow!" he says. "This whole desk is full of blackmail materials for people in Eversink!”

…to be continued… Thanks again to James Garr, Gargoyle, who played Agar!
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A detect poison spell reveals that the globes are full of poison gas. Nolin’s legend lore reveals what kind, when he learns,

  • “Lungbane shrivels,
    Not from nature,
    Chokes the flesh and
    Slays the soul.”
Good thing they figured it out, too; they were very close to dimension dooring into one of the force globes, which might have been disastrous. After several plans are checked by Tao’s use of divination magic, an easier solution is conceived. Velendo casts neutralize poison on one of the globes. A detect poison orison indicates that the spell has apparently made the air inside completely safe. Agar disintegrates the globe surrounding the five sea chests, and the gleeful looting begins.

Meanwhile, TomTom’s research using clairtangency on the desk papers is producing slow results. He finds dirt on three of the major Eversink houses, including House Clearwater. He finds proof that the youngest son of House Roaringbrook attempted to have the trade delegation ship first carrying the Defenders (and a hold full of flowstone) to Eversink sunk by minotaur pirates; apparently, he was acting to disrupt the trade negotiations between the two countries. TomTom also finds commodity bonds, a deed to a dockside bar and adjoining flophouse, a sea rutter detailing navigational instructions, a spellbook, and several other odds and ends.

When the other globe is disintegrated, TomTom begins experiencing a disturbing psionic buzzing. He quickly tracks it down to the smallest of the five chests, and he orders Mara to take it hundreds of feet away. Tao uses her helm to cast clairvoyance inside the chest, and using the darkvision granted by Agar’s spell sees a large, hairy spider surrounded by some sort of crystallized goo, almost like a fly trapped in amber. The group decides not to open the chest.

The other chests are full of interesting things, once TomTom disarms the poison needle traps protecting them. One is full of a shimmering, sliding heap of 6000 golden coins, more than 120 lbs of foreign treasure. Another contains rare antiquities from around the world: a magical tinderbox, ivory statuettes of warriors, an exquisite jade statue of a naked woman with lobster head and claws, beaded gnomish vests, halfling wooden carvings, an infernally-forged pirate hook, and various other trinkets. The fourth chest is extremely large and radiates conjuration magic; when opened, Agar and TomTom stare down into an endless void as butterflies launch themselves from the inside of the lid. In the miles of empty space they can see clouds, birds, and a deep blue sky. “Elemental plane of air,” says Agar definitively. “This is a free-standing portal. Quite valuable!” He takes a pull on his pipe, the aromatic smoke being blown away by the sharp breeze blowing from the open sea chest. “Fascinating….”

The last sea chest contains swashbuckling clothing, a parrot skeleton, a magically sharp hook, a treasure map depicting an unknown island shaped like a shark, and a solid wooden box wrapped in a Jolly Roger flag and marked with the symbol of Psorga, God of the Seas. Excited, the group tries several things with the box including getting it wet, and steps back hurriedly as it begins to expand: chunk! chunK! chuNK! chUNK! cHUNK! CHUNK! Within seconds, a huge two-decked pirate ship named “The Bloody Grail” eclipses the sky, before slowly toppling sideways on the sun-drenched grass of the Beastlands, still covered with barnacles and the ragged scars of her last battle. Nolin has heard of The Bloody Grail before – she’s infamous for striking fast and then disappearing – and if the Defenders can fix her, they now own her.

About this time the group’s attention is caught by the nearby standing stones, which serve as a portal to Sigil, the city in the center of the multiverse. The portal hums, crackles, and a man steps through. No, not a man… golden skin, huge white wings, pure white robes, and golden eyes like the wrath of God itself: an angel. His eye is caught by the rather unusual sight of the pirate ship toppled over on the veldt. Tao strides towards him as he turns, and he almost starts at the aura of divine radiance coming from her as well. “Greeting, sister,” he rumbles; his voice is like the clarion call of a hundred trumpets. “May I be of assistance?”

“No,” answers Tao matter-of-factly. “We have everything under control.”

“Very good,” says the angel. “My greetings to your Goddess, and my blessings on your endeavors.” With a thankful smile from Tao, he beats his wings once and swirls into the air in a hurricane of wind. Within seconds he has flown out of sight, and everyone lets out a long breath.

“Wow,” says Agar.

No one can figure out how to close the pirate ship back up, though, so they expand their unique Daern’s Instant Fortress (known as the Flickering Needle) and try to grab some sleep. They agree that in the morning a few people should walk through the nearby portal to Sigil, with the intention of selling the elemental air chest and several other items, and commissioning or buying several items that the group would like to have. Their sleep is interrupted by a group of planewalkers leaving Sigil and intending to investigate the beached ship; warned off by a Defender trying to be intimidating, they hastily head somewhere else. And eventually, although the sun has not changed position in the ever-blue sky, morning comes.

…to be continued…

Next: Bursting a bubble, a brief trip to Sigil, a visit to the Aeotian Mother Church, and a very unpleasant surprise for Mara!
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With new spells prepared, Agar pops the second force bubble, and TomTom confiscates most of the blackmail documents to bring home to his own King. (At home, TomTom is the head of The Shadowhands, an organization of psionic spies who specialize in rooting out treason and keeping the kingdom safe.) The group debates whether or not the documents should be returned to the people they are about, but it is decided that the people might be suspicious instead of full of goodwill.

“Also,” says Mara, “They might be suspicious if we try to turn over this sort of information. We don’t want them to think we’re spies. “

TomTom looks aggrieved. “Mara,” he says patiently, “I am a spy.”

“Oh, right,” she answers, looking surprised. “Exactly.” She gives him a funny look.

A trip to Sigil by several party members takes all day. They are forced to track down their factor in Sigil, a Guvnor and lawyer who they met during the great Modron March. He gladly agrees to help them, offering to find buyers for their items and to hunt for the items that they need. Nolin also hunts down his tiefling lover Telay’s old apartment; her old landlady in the bakery downstairs says that they sold most of her belongings at auction when Telay’s pre-paid rent ran out. “Can’t have the place empty forever,” the fat woman says sadly, “but we do miss the dear.”

Back on the Beastlands, Nolin tries to scry Telay, but fails. He’s worried about her. What’s she doing wandering the Underdark, anyways?

After divinations reveal the command word to close The Bloody Grail back up into a small box, the group plane shifts back to the Prime. They aim for a spot a thousand miles from Eversink, a part of the continent most of them haven’t been in for years.

Half the group (including Nolin, TomTom, Velendo, and Agar) wind walked to see their acquaintance Emperor Congenio Ioun. Five years ago, the Lord Shaper Ioun (inventor of the Ioun Stone) was discovered by the Defenders when they entered a time-trapped pass that had been relatively undisturbed since the time of the great Mage Wars thousands of years before. They had disrupted the curse and freed the Lord Shaper from essentially a permanent time stop. Since then the wizard had acted to become an Emperor, fighting a war against orcish and skeletal threats while absorbing dozens of cities into his Protectorate. The Lord Shaper still owed the Defenders a debt of honor, though, so Velendo and TomTom hoped that he would supply the Defenders with powerful resources.

The other half of the group heads south, to the magical trading city of Corsai. Corsai was originally built by genies before being abandoned, and a number of the buildings and fountains are still magical. This is the new home of the Mother Church of Aeos, moved here after its original home was overrun and decimated by nomadic orc barbarians known as the Mang. Malachite and Mara plan to see the church and learn more about the new “undead saint”, and Tao plans to hunt for her missing girdle of giant strength stolen a year ago from her by the Skaven monk T’Cri.

Coming in to the city, it is apparent that a vast army of many thousand warriors is encamped outside. The three Defenders split up; Malachite investigates the army, Tao searches for her property, and Mara heads for the Mother Church itself. She knows that a new holy writ has changed church canon regarding the inherent evil of undeath, and she doesn’t like it one bit. Learning more seems to be in order. She plans to ask the church for assistance and magical items that will help the Defenders fight the ghouls of the White Kingdom.

Mara’s eyes widen at the sight of Corsai. She passes a pyramidal building balanced on a tip and slowly rotating, a fountain spurting flame, a tower made of ice. Approaching the Mother Church, she sees that the entire Book of the Sun is engraved in the wide alabaster steps that surround the huge church. She enters reverently, and prays before asking an Acolyte to find her a priest named Tolliver. She hears the distant sound of construction.

Father Tolliver is a lean, gangly cleric with a warm smile. He gives her a tour, explaining that a chapel is being ripped down to make way for a new chapel to a saint. “It’s created quite a problem in the church,” he says sadly. “With the furor caused by the…undead nature… of the Saint, the Knights of the Emerald Chapel have joined some clerics in rebelling against church policy. The Knights have thus been declared heretical and dissolved, either to be brought under the aegis of the Church Militant or excommunicated. It’s very sad.” He shakes his head. “But undead or not, he is blessed by Aeos, and we must respect His divine decree.”

“But who is this new Saint?” asks Mara. “I know he’s undead, I’ve heard that, but what is his name?” Father Tolliver opens his mouth to answer, but doesn’t get a chance, because a metallic and cold voice rasps out from behind Mara.

“Sir Aleax.”

Mara spins to see a… knight?... clad in gleaming golden armor, flashing in the mid-day sun coming from the skylight. The polished helm is clutched under one arm, a huge sword across his back. Nevertheless, Mara can’t drag her gaze away from the bone-white skull rising from the armor. The eyes are deep pits of shadow, the teeth gleam, and not a scrap of flesh remains on the old bones. ”I am he. I’ve heard reports about you. Come to my office.” The skeletal knight turns abruptly on his heel and strides away, as Mara gapes at Tolliver.

“Aleax?” she thinks to herself. “But if that’s Aleax… who’s in the sword?”

To be continued…
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Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
Rashak Mani said:
Just checked out Velendas and Malachite "character sheet"... they are very very normal... thru the PC storyhour one would think they are uberpowerful... but hey they are normal :)

I might even add that then dont have much magical stuff... nothing over the top... I know PC has another thread worried about their item choices/shopping. Their AC is quite low for their level I thought... hehe

For fun, I did a quick-n-dirty valuation of Velendo's magic items. Oddly enough, that value is much higher than it should be "by the book." According to the DMG, a 16th-level PC should have 260,000 gp value, and a 17th-level PC should have 340,000 gp. Velendo is most of the way to 17th level, so let's say 300,000 gp is about right for him.

By my calculations, he's got 383,000 gp worth of magic items alone, and that doesn't include a 48,000 gp necklace of iron body on semi-permanent loan to Mara. It also doesn't include the fact that his shield can serve as a talisman of pure good, which you could argue raises the value upwards of half a million!

Granted, almost half the value comes from one recently-acquired item. The grimrod lets you Maximize 3 spells per day, and Quicken 1 spell per day. It has a market value of about 150,000 gp! In order, the value of his best items are:

Grimrod: 150,000 gp
Rod of Security: 61,000 gp
Bracers of Armor +6: 36,000 gp
Rod of Thunder & Lightning: 23,000 gp
Rod of Authority: 21,000 gp
Shield +3, acts as an Immovable Rod: 17,000 gp (not including its power as a minor artifact!)

Those six items right there account for more than what the DMG says is the expected value of loot for a PC of Velendo's level.

No, I don't have any issues with PCat scrimping on the magic items. But I still think we're underpowered for a "typical" party of our level. We're not streamlined for offense; note for instance that of the 6 items above, two are AC enhancers, one is an escape hatch, one is only useful against undead, and one is basically a source of one easy-to-save-against lightning bolt per day.

We sure are streamlined for role-playing, though! :D



DoctorB said:
I am constantly amazed at how PC manages to challenge his high-level party in spite of their incredible abilities.

Heh - I know how you're challenging the PCs in your game and in your story hour. Generous praise!

It's really easy in 3e. Combat-wise, it took minutes to take rhinos from the MM, boost their hit dice somewhat, and slap the "anarchic" template (from the Manual of the Planes) on them. Voila! Instant challenge, and since no one knows the details of the anarchic template, not much meta-game thinking.

The real trick is challenging both the players and the characters. That is the primary reason the game has turned more towards politics in the last few years; I need challenges that are going to make the players have to think, plot and plan. I used to use riddles and puzzles, as Arcade (Bandeeto) loved them, but they tended to end up being something that one person works on while five people discuss out-of-game stuff. Nowadays, I raise the stakes and make it personal.

For instance, Mara and Malachite can have a fundamental effect on their religion's future, as well as the future of several countries... and their relationship between themselves, if you think of Mara as a more "orthodox" paladin and Malachite as part of a "heretical" or splinter group. It's all about hard choices. Even better, there are not necessarily any "right" choices, as every action has consequences. That kind of risk makes it fun for me as a DM!

It's sort of liberating to say to yourself, "this point is a fulcrum; what the PCs do has far-reaching effects. They will decide the future of the campaign, and the world will change based on what they choose to do." It keeps my world from becoming static and totally predictable. This same sort of choice happens with NPCs too, so it isn't entirely PC-centric.

Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
Piratecat said:
an exquisite jade statue of a naked woman with lobster head and claws

I would Strongly recommend against anyone holding this statue and saying Blibdoolpoolp... :D


Sito Rotavele

First Post
Piratecat said:

It's sort of liberating to say to yourself, "this point is a fulcrum; what the PCs do has far-reaching effects. They will decide the future of the campaign, and the world will change based on what they choose to do."

Actions have consequences. Not to increase his hat size, but this is one of the things that PC knows best and does best - for the world at large, for the party, and for individual characters.

Sometimes the actions and consequences are planned. Velendo was ordered by Calphas (was this a direct order, Sagiro?) to release an evil cleric that had been imprisoned in the temple of Calphas. That cleric caused a critical distraction to our enemies at a critical time.

The whole White Kingdom adventure is rooted in how we, as a group, handled an encounter that wasn't part of the main mission at the time (If we open that can of worms again, I promise to move it to Siala's early DOD thread at the appropriate time). And furthermore, that encounter happened (wait for it) FIVE YEARS AGO in real time. Waiting that long to drop the other shoe adds realism - actions have consequences in his world and those consequences multiply and get bigger over time, just like they do IRL.

Without pumping his ego too much, that's a big part of the reason I still like to tag along vicariously with the group. PC tells stories with creativity AND realiasm - that's hard to do by itself. But the real trick is patience. Letting his players get around to some cleverness he's created on their schedule - that make you feel like you're writing the story too.


Kosh said:

What exactly is Sigil?... By my guess, it's a plane of some sort... At first I thought it was a place on the prime, but I'm doubting that now... This whole time I've been reading the references to Sigil, but never did it occur to me that I didn't know what it was...

So fill me in!...

Sigil is from 2e Planescape; it's the city at the center of the multiverse. If you picture the outer planes in a great ring, with the Outlands (the plane of neutrality) in the center, Sigil is a city shaped like the inside of a tire floating above the top of a infinitely tall mountain spire. Accessible only by portals and forbidden to the Gods, Sigil is a place where creatures from all over the multiverse congregate. Devas and demons may pass each other on the street - warily - and almost anything can be found there, for a price. Sigil is largely controlled by factions, philosophically-oriented power groups that act to further their own causes.

It's a damn cool place. Follow the link in Ashy's .sig for the Planescape 3e site. In addition, you can download ESD's from WotC, with .pdf's of all the relevant planescape material.

And to get back on topic, time to link more of Littlejohn's art (from www.davidhendee.com)!

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The skeletal saint strides into a beautifully appointed office, with tapestries depicting battle scenes and religious tableaus lining the walls. Mara follows closely behind him.

“Those are very beautiful,” says Mara, looking at the tapestries. “What are they of?” Sir Aleax’s head swivels to see if she is joking. She doesn’t appear to be. It’s hard to tell when a skull is frowning, but Aleax manages to give that impression.

“Those two are excerpts of the Book of the Sun,” he says, sounding disapproving. “This is the Angel Aubros with his fiery shield. This is his Holiness Lantic at the battle of Nar Veglin. These on the far wall are scenes from my own history. There I am entering the caverns at Abrundin; that’s a bad likeness of Morak next to me. There is an image of me as a boy, first hearing the call to service. Perhaps religious education is not what it used to be, Mara Thornhill, but I was trained to know my history and religious lessons.” Sir Aleax sits down behind a large mahogany desk, his armor clanking as he pulls himself into the chair. The noon sun coming through the skylight reflects off of his armor, sending golden fragments of light across the room.

"I've heard reports about you. You have the title of Commander. You have led armies against the Necromancer Kings in the Sephanic Plains. You were instrumental in acquiring funding for the Church through the great lending houses of Eversink. You travel with Sir Malachite, of the former Emerald Chapel. On the battlefield you have the reputation of being brash, aggressive and fearless. Why are you here?" The shadows where Sir Aleax's eyes should be hold Mara's gaze, and his voice is precise and steely.

"Well," Mara stalls, thrown off balance and picking her words carefully. "I’ve never been to this Mother church before, and I wanted to meet you. We’re planning a dangerous campaign against undead, and I wanted the church’s advice. But first, if I may ask, why is there an army camped outside of the city?”

“I am now the head of the Church Militant, and that army is made up of the elite from our flock,”
he answers. “Clerics, paladins, warriors, devout mercenaries, all recruited from the Church or from the standing armies of Lord Ioun. Soon we will launch the military campaign that will eradicate the Necromancers and their skeletal hordes for once and all.”

Mara knew that a few years back the lands near Corsai had been overrun with orcish barbarians named the Mang, until the entire orcish army – more than 100,000 soldiers and war ponies – were struck down in the space of two weeks by a disease that affected only orcs. This happened too late to save the three countries that the Mang had overrun and burned to the ground, but early enough that the Mang didn’t cut a swathe across the entire continent. After the “orc rot plague” decimated their forces, outside necromancers noticed what was happening and moved in… harnessing the massive death energy to build themselves skeletal armies of deadly bow-using orcish skeletons riding on bone ponies. The necromancers chose a defensible home, settled in, and slowly expanded their borders while striving to wipe out the Church of Aeos once and for all. Led by Lord Ioun, the refugees counter-attacked, and the war has raged since. Mara used to be a Commander in that war until the Church Militant detached her from duty and sent her to Eversink on a mission to acquire funding.

Now Aleax has commanded that the final push is coming… a strike at the heart of the Necromancer Kings’ city states themselves. For Mara, who had planned to ask for help in the form of undead-fighting magic items and war clerics, the timing of the Church Militant’s crusade is extremely poor.

Mara explains that she had intended to ask for help for her own mission, against the ghouls of the subterranean White Kingdom. “I know them well.” Removing his armored gauntlets, Sir Aleax makes one skeletal hand into a fist. “I died stopping them the first time. But this, Commander, is more important.”

Mara wrinkles her eyebrows at him, and asks, “But why? Can you help me understand? It certainly doesn’t seem so from our perspective. The ghouls are driving out most underdark races and are gaining momentum. If they aren’t stopped now, they’ll soon break out onto the surface.”

The skeleton leans forward, and Mara can see the polished bone of his spine descending down into the darkness of his armor. He looks at her for a moment, as if weighing a decision. “You deserve to know. What I’m about to tell you is a military secret. Spread it inadvertently, and you risk the failure of the entire military campaign. The ghoulish advance at this time is nothing more than a distraction, engineered through communication between the Necromancers and the King of the Ghouls in order to divert our attention and dilute our forces. As a result, you are needed here, not there.

“The Necromancers have an orb sacred to Imbindarla, the forever cursed Goddess of Undeath. It is a foul object of power that allows them to directly control many thousand of undead at once. We have learned that if this orb is destroyed, it is likely that all existing undead will be destroyed for thousands of miles. Not just the skeletons, but the ghouls as well. It is a weak chink in their armor, a vulnerability, and the ghouls appear to be desperate that we don’t exploit it. In destroying the orb, I myself will most likely be destroyed, but that is a small price to pay. Aeos has altered his own teachings in the Book of the Sun to allow us to accomplish this task, and we, the church, shall not fail him.”

Sir Aleax leans back into the sunshine. “It is unfortunate that the Knights of the Emerald Chapel have picked this time to challenge church doctrine. As a result, the Chapellars has been dissolved. The members of the Order have been given a choice: stand in the light of the sun, or be riven from the faith and stand in shadow. The Knights may join the Church Militant with full rank and honor, and many have. Some have chosen to resign their commission and leave the Church’s service, forsaking their powers and duties. None will be permitted to represent the Church otherwise. They, like you, Mara Thornhill, will have to make a choice: do you follow your faith in the Church, or do you choose to disregard the Holy Writs, and be banished thereby?”

Sir Aleax looks at Mara.

To be continued…


Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
But the question that should be on everyone's mind is:

How did the ponies die?

I mean, the plague only killed orcs, but now there's an army of orc-skeletons riding pony-skeletons. I'd think the ponies would have been fine. Plenty of good grass out there what with all the fertilizer, so they didn't starve. Ioun should have swooped in and claimed all that good pony stock for himself, in the weeks/months before the Necromancer Gang moved in.

So who cares about "Sir Ghouleax" and his army and all. What's the secret behind the Mystery of the Pony Massacre?




The ponies, Mr. Wise-ass Sagiro, were herded and captured by both refugees and the Necromancers. The Necromancers got the lion's share of them. They then killed them en masse, using the life energy to power more spells. When that was done, they reanimated the corpses to give the skeletons something to ride!

So there. Nyah.

The Book of the Sun has a passage in it unilaterally decrying all undead as an abomination of the faith. This has been rewritten to account for Sir Aleax. One can only imagine that he has passed the most rigorous tests possible, administered by the clerics of Aeos, before such an extreme step would even be considered. The Knights of the Emerald Chapel, at their heart, refuse to consider the change in the Book of the Sun as legitimate. Thus, while they consider the rewriting of scriptures to be heretical, the Church feels the same way about their refusal to follow holy edicts.

So far (in the story hour), Aleax's skeletal origin - and how he can be in both his body and the sword at the same time - hasn't been explained. Perhaps it will be soon! As for Malachite's powers, when we start the game tomorrow night, he's on his way upstairs to confront Sir Aleax himself....
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No update today; we're playing tonight, and I have a bunch of prep work to do, in addition to actually trying to work! So in lieu of that, here is an email Sagiro sent me the night after Mara's player (Sagiro's fiancee') came home from our one-on-one role playing of the meeting. I think you might enjoy it. I'll neither confirm or deny any conclusions he makes, but it's fun to read.


You... you... rat... Bastard!

Mara's player and I spent all night and most of this morning speculating about what's up with this new "Sir Aleax" leading the Aeosean Church Militant. If you ask Velendo, the whole thing smells as rotten as a 'sinkish summer.


* hundreds of years ago, Aleax was killed down in the Underdark, but the main strength (and driving force) behind the White Kingdom was not destroyed. Thus, some pretty powerful undead leaders and/or necromancers have had HUNDREDS OF YEARS to work foul magic upon Aleax's bones. Then, suddenly, an Aleax skeleton shows up "wandering the plain," passes some tests, and gets put in charge of the war effort against the Necromancers. Hmmmm.

* Coincidentally, "Sir Aleax" decides (and I'm sure he *claims* it was a hard decision) to disband the Knights of the Emerald Chapel -- the church's strongest anti-undead force. At a time when they *should* need all the anti-undead mojo they can muster!

* Galanna herself has proclaimed that "Sir Aleax" is not what he seems. Well, he *seems* to be the spirit of a great Aeosean hero reborn just in time to lead the faithful. If he's not that, then what? And what *good* purpose could come of deception here?

* Furthermore, IIRC, Tao cast Commune and asked if the new undead Aeosean was a danger to Mara and Malachite, and the answer was "not directly, and not yet." Given that Commune answers are specifically non-misleading, it's clear from that answer that "Sir Aleax" is indirectly a danger to one of our Paladins now, and is going to be a danger to the other at some time in the future. If "Aleax" is really legit, why would that be?

* And even more Galanna evidence: in Tao's Audience, she was told that her mission to destroy the White Kingdom was now one of necessity, and not just of "duty" to T'Cri. How can that be reconciled with "Aleax's" claim that we'd be "wasting out time, pursuing a diversion?"

* The timing seems funny. "Aleax" claims that the advance of the White Kingdom in the Underdark is a diversion, to draw strength away from the Necromancer's stronghold on the plains. But we know from our experience with the Skaven that the White Kingdom's underground steamroller was moving long before the Necromancers even *had* a ground force near Corsai. There's no way they could have known at that time that we'd eventually free Congenio Ioun, and that Ioun would then wipe out the Mang with a disease and create a huge surface undead army. Given the chronology of the events involved, it seems *much* more likely that "Aleax" is the diversion, syphoning resources away from a potential underground assault. (Question: Nolin's vampire warned the White Kingdom 6-8 months ago. When was the first recorded sighting of "Sir Aleax?")

* We have Sir Aleax with us right now! Why would Aeos countenance something as warped as dividing Aleax's soul into two vessels, one of them undead?

Here are the arguments I can think of that support the legitimacy of "Sir Aleax":

* Surely *somewhere* in the Aeosean church is a 9th level cleric who has cast Commune to get answers about "Sir Aleax." If the answers indicated he's a fraud, wouldn't that have been made public? [Counter-argument: If Mara or Malachite could cast Commune right now, and did, and learned "Aleax" was a necromancer's puppet, who would they tell? Who would believe them? They'd probably be arrested as a heretic and their words hushed up or denounced as heresy. For all we know, this may have already happened within the church to others.]

* When Galanna said that Tao's "task" was "necessary," she *could* have meant "Breaking the Spine of the White Kingdom in any possible way, including helping "Aleax" in his ground assault." (And not necessarily via our impending subterranean plunge.) [Counter-argument: Why would Galanna be vague in such a potentially disastrous way during an Audience with one Her more powerful mortal servants?]

* The most powerful wizard we've ever met, Congenio Ioun, seems satisfied enough with Aleax's authenticity. [Counter-argument: we have first-hand experience that Ioun is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. A scam that could fool the most powerful leaders of the Aeosean church could probably fool him as well.]

Given all that, Velendo is leaning toward this conclusion: "Aleax" is an elaborate Divination-proof construction of the leaders of the White Kingdom, worked on for centuries, at best meant to distract the Church of Aeos from the real underground danger, and at worst meant to lead the armies of Aeos into a trap wherein they'll all be slaughtered to bolster the undead ranks. In all likelihood, "Aleax" *thinks* he really who he says he is, to better foil any possible discovery of his true purpose. Given Galanna's warnings, I think it's vital that Velendo arrange a meeting with Ioun, to warn him that "Aleax" may very well be leading them into a trap.

Did Velendo ever get his Commune results from those questions about Dylrath and Teliaz? He desperately wants to cast a Commune to learn the truth about "Sir Ghouleax," but doesn't want to pester Calphas more than he has to.

Nothing's ever simple, is it? ;-)


Interesting, eh?

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