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Archive for April, 2010

A Brief History of Valt

                I thought it best to provide a brief synopsis of the history of Valt.  This is by no means comprehensive, but it does provide a summation of the formative events of the world’s history to the current game-time.  Note that periods of history are measured in alternating cycles of ‘Light’ and ‘Dark.’  These periods of time are not static, for instance, and one Dark or Light may not be equal to another in time.  History usually records a ‘Light’ as beginning when the last of the Tutuen-Nietwe (or Thousand Horrors) is banished from the material plane, and a ‘Dark’ as beginning when they are again released.

                The two systems of dates are Solaram Conflicti (tracked backwards from the birth of Kogorak) and Tempesti Reconstus (tracked forward from the birth of Kogorak) although smaller cultures may use alternate dating methods.  The Valt year is 360 days long, with each year consisting of twelve months, divided into three ten-day long weeks.

The Long Dark

                The Long Dark is the name given to the time before gods or men walked the surface of Valt.  The creation of the world is a mystery to those who dwell upon it, and even the gods themselves do not know the answer to this riddle.  What is known is that the being known as Silduggis dwelt in or upon the world long before any other being came to Valt.

                The first being to arrive in Valt was a god known as QuassinMemk, or ElfFather.  He is typically credited with fathering the elven race as a whole, as well as their deities.  Little is known about him now, as each elven religion describes him differently.  He was most certainly a warrior of some stripe, for he came to Valt while fleeing a lost battle with his ancient nemesis, CugyeNuvek, or OrcFather.

                Different religions tell this tale differently.  Some say that QuassinMemk was fleeing after being bested on the field of battle, desperately racing through the folds of the multiverse, when he stumbled across the world of Valt.  Others say that he had been ambushed by treachery, and withdrew to a hidden corner of creation that he had long ago heard rumors of, in order to lay a counter ambush for his rival.

                But the ElfFather and his personal retinue arrived on Valt just the same.  They found it a world devoid of life, and they set out to scout it.

                Now Silduggis (whose name in Elven means ‘Nothing Eyes’) was already in residence in Valt.  His origins and true nature are as elusive as those of the world which was his home.  But whether he was a god cast into a celestial prison for some unimaginable crime, or merely a mortal wizard who had become so powerful that he was unable to die, and outlasted even the stars themselves, he dwelt in Valt alone.

                Silduggis watched ElfFather and his people for a time, and when he had taken their measure, he attacked them.  He dealt them grievous harm, and ElfFather and his servants fled Valt, sorely wounded, with some of their number left dead.

                OrcFather arrived soon after, seeking his rival, his own bodyguard and personal warriors in tow.  Silduggis again attacked them, and again they fled.  Too wounded to fight one another, the ancient gods went their separate ways, leaving the darkness of Valt for another time.

                And Valt was quiet for a time.

The First Light (??)

                The OrcFather and the ElfFather were both figures who nursed powerful grudges.  They recognized the value of a world where none of their competitors lived, and they thought long and hard about how to take it for their own.  But they had taken the full measure of Silduggis, and though they admitted it to no one, they each knew the Dark One could destroy them if given the chance.

                Each of them sought allies, other gods and other races, to participate in an assault on the world of Silduggis.  Those allies in turn sought allies.  And eventually, some of the races who had no allegiance to either orcs or elves traded information with one another, conspiring to cause both invasions to occur at the same time.

                An army of gods and mortals appeared in Valt in what seemed to be the blinking of an eye.  Silduggis, powerful though he was, could not slay them all.  (Although it is said that the first mortal being to set foot on Valt died, and every member of his race, as well as every one of their gods which had come with them.)  And so, he fled, fled through the openings to the multiverse that the other gods had created in order to bring their people through.

                And thus did the First Light begin.  The first mortals spread themselves across Valt, spreading to the far corners of the world, exploring its lands and its seas.  Valt was, at that time, a dark place.  It had no sun, no moon, and no stars.  Nothing grew from the ground.  No living things walked there save for what the gods had brought with them.  And so the gods themselves filled in these roles as best they could.  ElfFather became the sun, OrcFather became the moon.  Other gods set about to create growing things or animals to eat.

                But Silduggis did not rest, nor did he flee to find another hole in which to hide.  He travelled, transversing worlds with an ease that no god could match.  When he returned, he returned with an army of his own, an army of things hideous to behold and maddening to understand.

                The elves say that Silduggis was forced out because he did not understand mortals, or because he had forgotten.  They say that he went to a thousand worlds, and in each, he lived for a year as a mortal.  At the end of his journeys, he returned to each world and found the thing which (while not necessarily the most powerful) struck the most fear into the hearts of the mortals there.  He returned with this army, which the elves call the Tutuen-Nietwe, (or Thousand Horrors) and unleashed them upon the mortals of Valt.

                So began the First Dark.

The First Dark (??-1657 SC)

                This army struck from the shadows, moving in the unseen areas, each in his own way, seeding fear and chaos.  Silduggis himself did the same, disguising himself as a mortal, so as not to be recognized by the gods who had taken his world from him.  He attacked them individually, slaying a great many of them.

                In those times, there was no afterlife for the dead in Valt.  There was, instead, merely a fathomless darkness which existed in between all things.  This darkness would consume the soul of any creature who died within its reach, forever destroying it.  When Silduggis returned, the darkness responded to his command.  It spared any he chose, and instead returned them to life.  This allowed the Tutuen-Nietwe to return over and over again, while each of their slain opponents was gone forever.

                ElfFather realized that he could not win this war, not while he and the other gods had to divide their time between war making and the tiring task of being the sun, and the stars, and the grass, and the trees.  He gathered together the few gods who he could, and they left Valt, promising to return with allies, and the proper support that the world needed.  Other gods left of their own, once they realized that the first to explore this plane had fled it.  Those who remained were destroyed.

                Silduggis and the Tutuen-Nietwe began to undo everything that the gods had done.  They walked to and fro, causing living things to die and the ground to again go fallow.  They set about slaying the living creatures, or worse yet, inciting them to slay one another.  The mortal races, with no gods to help them survive in such a hostile world, turned upon one another, forced to fight for dwindling resources.

                The time of the First Dark was a time of cultural collapse.  The mortal races devolved to barbarism, and towards the end of it, even the most advanced races were little better than primitive tribesman.  Cannibalism became common.  There were few records kept of this time period, and even fewer survived, as Silduggis and the Tutuen-Nietwe destroyed the makings of their enemies whenever they could.

                But QuassinMemk was not so easily undone.  He had seen the hatred and the evil with which Silduggis pursued his war, and his heart quailed.  Nothing Eyes was unlike any enemy he had ever faced before.  His depravity surpassed even that of CugyeNuvek.  ElfFather concluded that the darkness which consumed souls was the reason he had lost, he turned to the vastness between dimensions, the empty reaches of the multiverse, to find a solution.

                In those places, through which QuassinMemk had fled long before (and arrived at Valt) the ElfFather had long travelled, as have many gods.  In the depths of those empty places, there can be found gods, forgotten or lost or fleeing from destruction.  And QuassinMemk began to seek out a very specific kind of god.

                But he was not alone in his quest.  CugyeNuvek also sought out a god.  He was convinced that if the gods beneath his command had been free to act, rather than support the living creatures of the world, that his monstrous forces would have triumphed over the Tutuen-Nietwe.  And so he sought a god of nature, who could sustain life on the world while the OrcFather waged war.

                Both gods succeeded beyond their hopes.  OrcFather returned to his people, telling them that he had found a deity, the father of other deities, who had fled a world consumed by its own outer planes.  The deity, whom the orcs called Toben, had agreed to bring his family to Valt, and take charge of the natural world there.  CugyeNuvek began to marshal his forces, rallying monster deities together.

                QuassinMemk had also found what he sought.  Among the cosmos, he found a group of five deities wandering.  While the head of their group refused to speak to QuassinMemk, the other four told ElfFather that they were a pantheon of death deities, who had seen the world from which they came destroyed in its natural course.  They merely waited amongst the cosmos for the last records of them to fade away, so that they too would die in their natural course.

                ElfFather offered to the eldest among them the chance to remain a deity, to do what he and his had always done.  He explained to them that the world of Valt had no afterlife for the dead.  He told them of the abyss that awaited the slain there.

                The four lesser deities told ElfFather that their father, Ugorcil, could not speak with him.  They said that to hear his voice was to die, even for a god.  Only they could hear his whispers and not be destroyed, for they had been made from his own essence.  And they communicated Ugorcil’s desire to help to the ElfFather.

                Then, in the worlds that they inhabited before they came to Valt, both OrcFather and ElfFather came together in common agreement.  It is said by each race that their god initiated the accord, but regardless of the truth, an accord was met.

                Their mutual hatred of one another did nothing to help them against this foe.  And Silduggis was a being unlike any they had ever seen, before or since.  The need to preserve their peoples, their need to preserve life over death, existence over nihilism, was greater than good and evil, law and chaos, and even greater than their enmity for one another.

                The two gods invaded Valt. Behind them came their allies, who took control of the natural forces of both life and death.  Behind them came their armies.  With so few mortals left, the gods easily found Silduggis, and he called together his Thousand Horrors to fight the armies of the Orc and Elf fathers.

                The battle was fierce, and in what has become to be known as the Battle of the Day, ElfFather and OrcFather stood back to back for the first time in any world’s history, and they defeated Silduggis, and cast him into the Abyss.  Once he was thrown into the darkness, they combined their efforts to create a seal which would forever bind that place, the Soulvoid, from the mortal realm.  And their armies slew each of the Thousand Horrors.  Without the power of Silduggis to free them, the Tutuen-Nietwe were sealed within the Soulvoid, alongside their dark master.

                The seal the two gods had forged prevented any being of Valt from removing anything from the Soulvoid.  It would take a god from another plane of existence to remove anything from the void, and CugyeNuvek and QuassinMemk knew of no such god who would be so foolish.  To guard against the possibility, they hid the location of the seal.

                This marked the beginning of the Second Light.

The Second Light (1657 SC-1131 SC)

                The Second Light was the golden age of Valt.  The level of culture and civilization achieved during this time has never again been equaled, and never again will be.  The people of Valt spread far and wide, conquering the natural world and bending it to their will.

                During this time, the collective life force and magical force of Valt drew several drifting planes of existence into a connection with Valt, forming a rudimentary planar cosmology.  The denizens of these planes attracted others, and soon Valt had a fully functional system of alternate planes.

                The discovery of a new type of magic item, Oumstones, would lead to the creation of magical cities, known as Oumrens.   These cities varied in nature, but were all fantastical.  Some of the cities flew above the earth, some allowed their citizenry to fly, and still others enabled anyone within the city to teleport to any location they could think of.

                This golden age did not last, however.

                The goddess Hesta came to Valt from a far different place.  She was an outcast from whatever plane of existence she came from, and most believe she had staged some kind of rebellion amongst her native gods, and been cast out for her temerity.

                Hesta came to Valt, bringing with her a collection of monsters, spells, and magic items, tools that she had used in a war of terror on her home world.  Hesta knew well the value of fear as a weapon, and her minions reflected that fact.  No one knows how Hesta managed to communicate her offer of peace through the Soulvoid, but she did.

                Hesta believed that it had always been Silduggis’s plan to use the Tutuen-Nietwe to deal with the mortals of Valt, and to destroy them when their task was complete.  She offered to free the Nothing Eyes, as well as offer her support to him, if he would give her control of the Tutuen-Nietwe when nothing remained on Valt.  Then, she would depart for her own world, leaving Silduggis alone again.

                Silduggis agreed, and Hesta freed him, claiming to her minions that Silduggis had taken her for a wife.  Silduggis has never disputed this claim.  The seal removed, Silduggis and the Tutuen-Nietwe once again walked the face of the world.

                Thus did the Second Dark begin.

The Second Dark (1131 SC-507 SC)

                Hesta also proposed to Silduggis the idea of offering power to those mad enough to follow him.  Although the idea had seemingly never occurred to the Dark One, it proved more effective than even Hesta had thought.  There were always those insane enough to follow even one as evil as Silduggis.

                Silduggis learned the lessons of the goddess Hesta well.  He personally appeared to the wisest and most devout priest in Valt, corrupting him into service of the Nothing Eyes.  The cleric, Tantori, was elevated by the Dark One to divinity.  The three of them spread their villainy throughout the world, even corrupting a deity of knightly virtues into their service.

                By corrupting the inherent magic of the Oumstones, Hesta’s minions were able to hijack the Oumrens for their own ends, turning their magic upon their users.  In the beginning of the Third Dark, the OrcFather and the ElfFather came together, to discuss a pact of cooperation once more.  Silduggis appeared to them, and conversed with them.

                The nature of that conversation has been speculated upon for centuries, for none but the three speakers know what was said.  When the meeting was over, Silduggis returned to his armies, and the two gods of the orcs and elves returned to their own peoples.  ElfFather and OrcFather both came to their respective peoples and told them to leave.

                Some say that Silduggis explained to the two of them the true nature of Valt, himself, and the Soulvoid.  This would certainly support their actions.  CugyeNuvek and QuassinMemk both commanded their people and the gods serving them to leave Valt.  Some refused to leave, including the broods of Ugorcil and Toben.  Neither the ElfFather nor the OrcFather chose to force the issue.  They merely gathered to themselves those who chose to depart with them, and left.  They have never returned.

                In their absence, the gods who remained filled in for the missing deities as best they were able.  Other deities came in from beyond the planar boundaries, and still others were elevated from the ranks of mortals.

                Silduggis and Hesta worked their treachery slowly this time, chipping away at civilization with a methodical slowness.  They seemed determined to reduce the civilized races once again to tribal barbarians, and to then destroy them in their weakened state.  They provided aid to tyrants and rebels, seeking to tear down governments and sow anarchy.  They empowered evil nations to destroy good nations, and then directed those nations against each other, always supporting the weaker side, ensuring the greatest destruction.

                It was during the Second Dark that the Numbraran Empire came into existence.  A handful of renegade slaves rose to challenge the nation that had oppressed them.  Common folk story holds that Colsus Numba, the first emperor, led an army of slaves against the tyrant nation, and destroyed it utterly, wiping all memory of it from the face of Valt.

                Eventually, a group of heroes managed to discern the methods of Silduggis’s warfare and work against him.  The seal placed by the ElfFather and the OrcFather was still in place, and prevented anything which went into the SoulVoid from coming out again.  Those of the Tutuen-Nietwe who were destroyed remained destroyed, for Silduggis could no longer allow them to come and go from it as he pleased.

                These heroes systematically hunted down and defeated the Tutuen-Nietwe.  They hatched a daring plan, and convinced a god of heroism and sacrifice to engage the Silduggis-following god of knights.  The hero-god was slain and consumed, but this consumption invigorated Silduggis’s subordinate, reminding him of all that he had lost in his fall to evil.  The god tricked Silduggis into the Soulvoid, although Hesta slew him soon after, as well as all of his followers.

                Although their defeat came at the cost of the god of heroes, this group of adventurers had brought about the Third Light, the first age where mortals had dictated their own destiny, manipulating the gods instead of the other way around.

The Third Light (507 SC-58 SC)

                Although the Third Light was not as glorious as the Second, it was still a time of great prosperity for the people of Valt.  The nations of Numbrar, Cadram, and the Jade Islands began to stretch out their hands, inevitably coming into conflict with one another.  Lesser empires rose and fell, most quickly forgotten by the people of Valt.  A few linger on, some form of their legacy still existing to this day.

                In the beginning of the Third Light, the nation of Numbrar adopted a heavily expansionistic policy, and over the course of the centuries, held control over every nation of the known world.  The empire overstretched itself when it turned to conquer the Jade Islands, however.

                A confederation of seven kingdoms that in turn paid fealty to a high king, the Jade Islands proved to be a tenacious thorn in Numbrar’s side.  The Jade Islanders proved to have a naval superiority that far outmatched the Numbraran Empire.  Not content with ruling only most of the world, the Numbrarans focused more and more of their attentions on the war effort.

                Other lands that they had controlled rebelled from Numbraran rule, or merely declared independence and were never challenged by the driven Numbrarans.  Since each of the kingdoms of the Isles had to be conquered individually, it meant fighting a war on seven fronts.  Since all of the Numbrarans enemies to that point had been land wars, the Numbrarans were inexperienced with naval combat, and the Jade Islanders had had centuries of practice at it.

                Still, the outcome was inevitable.  The Numbrarans had the resources of an entire empire, and the Jade Islanders had only themselves.  The Empire suffered more losses, but in the end they managed to defeat each of the seven island kings, and bringing them under Numbraran rule.

                The war cost them dearly, however.  The Empire, although still a power to be reckoned with, lost much of their power.  The nation of Cadram rebelled against Numbraran rule, as did several of the border states.  Many of those smaller nations immediately turned upon their former masters, whether for revenge or for resources.

                As the Light wore on, the Numbraran Empire faced increasing difficulties with rebellions and border wars.  Eventually, the difficulty of maintaining Empire rule over the Jade Islands became too difficult to maintain.  As soon as the Jade Islanders sensed the weakening of imperial rule, they led a rebellion, winning their freedom after more than a century of oppression.

                Meanwhile, Tantori, the mortal cleric that Silduggis had converted and elevated to divinity, conspired to release his dark master.  Recognizing that only a creature not of Valt could open the seal laid down by the ancient gods who had imprisoned the Dark One, he sought to find a way to exploit this weakness of the seal.

                And he did open it.  No scholars record how this was accomplished, and the method by which Tantori once again released the Tutuen-Nietwe remains a secret to this day.

                And this was how the Third Dark began, in secret.

The Third Dark (58 SC-423 TR)

                No earth shattering events heralded the arrival of the Third Dark.  It began in quiet, with the Tutuen-Nietwe released alongside the Nothing Eyes.  Silduggis returned to a tactic which had served him well in the past, and disguised himself as a mortal.  Living an endless series of lives in mortal guise, the Dark One could sow his evil in secret.

                The beginning of the Third Dark was marked by an increase in tensions between nations.  The minions of Silduggis spread themselves through every strata of every culture.  They corrupted members of every race, and spread a web of influence which touched every corner of the globe.  They wielded this influence to precipitate an endless series of shifting wars and alliances which involved, at some point, every nation in Valt.

                Evidence began to surface of a group of artifacts which had been left behind by the first divine agents who ever set foot upon Valt.  Ancient records called these items the Osperi.  These artifacts, research suggested, had the power to injure or even kill the Dark One, defeat the Tutuen-Nietwe, and close the Soulvoid forever.  As every nation sought these relics of power, conflicts inevitably erupted.

                It seemed as if the world was poised on the brink of total annihilation, with every country fighting every other for possession of the only items which would allow their people to survive the darkness.  Total war threatened Valt.

                It was then that a group of adventurers, thrown together from several disparate nations, stumbled across a plot involving one of the Thousand Horrors.  They followed this plot, eventually piecing together the truth:  the Osperi did not exist.  In all likelihood, they never had.  The rumors of them had been spread by the Silduggan forces in order to feed the conflicts that were already growing.

                The adventurers brought this to the attention of the clergy of Toben, who took the matter into their own hands.  They called together high priests of every nature deity, as well as druid hierophants from across the face of Valt, to a secret meeting.  In their collective wisdom, they came to the conclusion that the leaders of the warring nations would not heed them.  Any attempt to convince them the Osperi were a lie would be perceived as a ploy from a rival nation.

                And so they hatched another plan: they would take away the ability of the world to make war.  Only then could the truth be known and believed.  Combining their efforts, they took tiny pieces of their deities’ essences.  Using magics that have since been lost to the world, they combined these essences to birth forth a new deity: Kogorak, the Stormgod.

 

The Godstorms (0 SC-338 TR)

                Kogorak’s birth was an explosive event.  The mortals who had assisted in creating him were slain instantly.  Earthquakes shook the world, volcanoes spewed fire and ash into the sky, and massive waves devastated the coastlines.  From the point of his birth, a massive storm exploded into existence, spreading to encompass the entire globe.

                This storm would last for over three hundred years.

                For three centuries, the people of Valt lived in fear of the sky.  Even on the calmest days thunder boomed in the distance.  Those plants that couldn’t adapt to the new influx of water and the darkened sky died.

                For some reason, perhaps due to its divine nature, the Godstorms seemed to vent the worst of their rage in between settled communities.  Although tornados and hurricanes ravaged the countryside, the worst of the new god’s fury did not touch the cities of Valt.  This was little comfort to the citizens of these towns, who faced difficulties in supplying themselves with food and other supplies.  The populations of many communities died out, or fled to nearby communities in the hope of finding somewhere they could survive.

                Overland travel became perilous, and large troop movements impossible.  Overnight, every nation of Valt was placed into a forced armistice.  War with one’s neighbor’s rapidly turned into a war for survival.

                The Godstorms refers both to the period of time when storms covered the land, and to a specific event within them.  Roaming storm fronts which were also called godstorms (uncapitalized) brought a special kind of disaster to the world.  These storms brought magical weather, almost always of a destructive variety.  While Valt was experiencing the normal range of weather, from rain, wind, snow, and hail, the people unlucky enough to experience a godstorm saw rains of blood, wind that covered everything it touched in Faerie Fire, and even more bizarre things.

                During this time, the clergy of the nature deities moved through the world, communicating the truth about the Osperi, and trying to help those who needed their help to survive.  One by one, they began eliminating the Tutuen-Nietwe.

                Finally, the storms began to recede.  Although it would take nearly forty years, the storms eventually shrank, receding towards the equator.  Although they retreated, the storms seem to have concentrated as they went, and as a consequence, the Stormbelt has never been penetrated by any mortal being.  The closer to the epicenter of the Stormbelt the storms got, the slower the recession seemed to go.  It seems that the Stormbelt has finally stabilized, stretching nearly five hundred miles up from the equator.

                As the Godstorms ebbed, every nation on Valt struggled to regain some sense of unity.  Some nations had held large bastions of power before the upheaval, and began the slow process of rebuilding.  Some nations came out of the tragedy without the power or cohesion to continue as an independent power, and were absorbed either whole or in pieces to other nations.  Many smaller nations did not survive the Godstorms at all, and when someone finally remembered where they had been and went to check on the, found nothing remaining of the old culture.

                Although the end of the Third Dark seemed eminent, the church of Tantori managed to reopen the seal placed on the Soulvoid, and released the Tutuen-Nietwe, effectively placing the people of Valt back at the beginning of the Third Dark.

                But the deities who followed Toben, and the mortals who followed them, would not be brought down so easily.  Spreading everything they had learned about the Tutuen-Nietwe, they supplied vital information to any who would seek out the Thousand Horrors and cast them back into the void.

                The death knell for the Silduggan forces was sounded by the coronation bells for Emperor Sterron Numbra.  The paladin king led a crusade against the forces of Silduggis, culminating in a great war with the final Tutuen-Nietwe, a dragon of a unique type, in the Cadram desert.  The dragon fell, but took Emperor Numbra with him.

                And so began the Fourth Light.

 

The Fourth Light (423 TR-791 TR [Present])

                It is now the Fourth Light.

                The Numbraran Empire split into three, with each of Sterron’s sons vying for control.  Since their deaths, the empire has not unified.  At this point, anyone with a claim to noble blood could claim the throne, so long as they could compel the recognition of the heads of each of the Numbraran states.

                The Jade Islands are unifying themselves, focusing on their own conflicts.  While they determine their own internal pecking order, they aren’t involved with the affairs of the rest of the world.

                The nation-city of Fassett, isolated by geography and other travel hazards, remains the wealthiest in Valt, although since the insurrection by the malenti who fashions himself the Scaled Emperor, it has become a land of tyranny and oppression.  It is technically at war with every civilized nation, although all of them continue to trade with Fassett, and the geography of the land makes it almost impossible to invade.

                Cadram, the desert Empire, was briefly overtaken by the southernmost of the Numbraran splinter-states.  They threw off imperial rule, and have since started a war of aggression with all Numbrarans, as if the empire were still one.

                The southernmost nation on the Numbraran continent, Jheira, has isolated itself, trying to avoid the war drums that sound in the world beyond them.  They were conquered along with Cadram, and they rebelled alongside their fellow slaves.  Since then, they have adopted a national policy of non-involvement.  Any attempts at aggression towards them have met with brutal retaliation, and for now they are a target with more anger than national resources, which keeps them safe from their neighbors.

                The island nations of Zhun and Shotan busied themselves rebuilding their respective countries.  Now, they focus on trading with their neighboring countries.  Although both have had expansionistic policies in the past, they both seem content now to build a constructive trade economy.

                The forces of Silduggis are quiet for now, although they are certainly still active.  Most disturbingly of all, Nothing Eyes himself was never cast back into the Soulvoid, and remains in the world, hidden amongst the masses of mortality.  The eyes of any man, monster, or beast could be housing the darkness of the void, and the eternal hatred of the Dark One.

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Krislos– A former thief from Devies, Krislos’s life was spared by Julium, and now he has to find a new way to make his fortune.  He was the human face of Vuthalitrix’s operation.

Vuthalitrix– A young adult black dragon, Vuthalitrix left more questions in his wake than answers.  After it was revealed that he had organized a drug ring, grown by fiendish myconids and sold to the thieving guilds of Devies, Natalia and her companions slew the wyrm.  However, mysteries remain behind him, such as ‘How did he summon Mushroostopheles to the material plane?’, ‘How did he know so much about the criminal element of Devies?’ and ‘Where did the eggs in his lair come from?’  DECEASED

Mushroostopheles– A half-demon myconid sovereign.  Mushroostopheles is very old, and records of his existence stretch back at least five hundred years.  Any myconids he spawns are fiendish myconids.  He was part of Vuthalitrix’s plan to distribute narcotics, until Natalia stopped them.  He was killed by Natalia and Roan, although as a summoned creature, he has only been banished to his home plane, and almost certainly bears a grudge as only a demon can.  BANISHED.

Uliver– An arcling wizard.  Older and wiser than Raelan, he knows the young wizard through association with Raelan’s deceased master.  He has lived to become so powerful by avoiding opportunities to use his power, and is far more inclined to run from a fight.  He specializes in translocation spells, although he is known to throw caution to the wind when it comes to using Teleport vs Teleport Without Error.

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Game 8

So the eighth game is completo, and my loving and adoring girlfriend has posted her synopsis on her blog here.

To sum up, my girlfriend linked up with Julium.  The two of them followed up a lead to the drug dealers in Devies, only to be bushwacked by the drug dealer, Krislos.  After dealing with him, the two of them followed his information to a meeting between two mercenaries hired by Krislos, and the servants of those who were producing the narcotics.

After defeating them, they discovered the drug producers were in fact fiendish myconids, spawned by a half-demon myconid sovereign named Mushroostopheles.  (Yes, that was his actual name.  Burn in hell haters, I did that joke just for me…)  They rounded up the last of the natural myconids and went to engage the fiendish ones.  After slaughtering the fiendish myconids, they engaged Mushroostopheles, but were in turn engaged by his financial backer, a young adult black dragon named Vuthalitrix.  (Draconic for ‘Black Armor’)

Retreating from a losing battle, they managed to lose Vuthalitrix by charging through an area rumored to be the territory of an ancient dragon of indeterminate breed.  They arrived back in Stilldale and raised the alarm, summoning their other friends.

Eventually Vuthalitrix did arrive, with Mushroostopheles in tow.  The mushroom demon attacked the graveyard, in order to use his animation spores to create some shock troops.  Natalia and Roan engaged and killed the demon king, while Vuthalitrix used the opportunity to attack the gathered townspeople.

Natalia and Roan returned and slew the black dragon, with Raelan delivering the final blow.  The next day they went to the dragon’s lair and looted the dragon’s hoard, leaving the lair in the posession of the few natural myconids who had survived.

Finally, Natalia returned to her tree, only to find Sorval lurking in wait for her.  One Geas/Quest spell later, Natalia finds out that Sorval intends to use her to kill Raelan.  And that’s where we called game.

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Players in Valt have two races of my own devising to choose from as player races.  I present here the first of these: the gravekin, a race of humanoids with the taint of undeath running in their veins.

Gravekin

Gravekin are children of those who have trafficked too closely with the forces of death.  Scholars debate whether they were originally the offspring of undead, through some perverse magic, or rather the descendents of those who dealt with the other side of the veil once too often.  Gravekin themselves do not know the true answer, and if they do, they keep it to themselves.

Records of the race’s existence go back several thousand years, although no mention of them has ever been found prior to the Third Dark.  Gravekin do not always live together, although they do occasionally form small communities.  In accordance with its magical nature, the race is capable of breeding with any humanoid, monstrous humanoid, or giant of Small to Large size.  (Presuming both of the parents can complete the act safely) Any child born of such a union will always be a gravekin.  Gravekin numbers are kept low, however, due to their unsightly appearance and general nature as loners.

Personality:  Gravekin are usually outsiders, existing apart from normal society, although always a vital part of it.  Gravekin are not offended by those who spurn their company, knowing that the services they provide are needed, and when those who ignore them today have need, they will be back.  And for them, that is enough.  Amongst those who call them friend, or each other, they are gregarious and friendly, often displaying a morbid sense of humor.  When out among others, they tend to adopt a somber, reflective demeanor that projects a sense of seriousness in others while keeping them at bay.  Rarely, a gravekin will go the exact opposite route, deliberately trying to be as morbid and creepy as possible.

Gravekin tend to occupy places in society that are apart from others, and they can be found pouring over dusty old tomes, tending to the grounds in ancient temples, or even digging graves in a cemetery of the tiniest hamlet.  Whatever jobs they take or niches they occupy, gravekin gravitate towards professions that are involved with scholarly pursuits, or death and the dying.

Physical Description: Gravekin are of a roughly similar height to humans, with slightly slimmer builds.  They are usually pale, with bleached, brittle looking hair.  Up to the age of adolescence (17 years) a gravekin appears like a normal human.  Beyond that age, gravekin begin to display signs of decomposition, as if they were corpses rather than living beings.  This is a slow process that continues throughout the gravekin’s life, and by the time they reach the end of their natural life spans (somewhere between 250 and 400 years) they resemble skeletal beings covered with only a thin sheet of stretched parchment skin.  Other signs of decomposition, such as rotted flesh, bloating, milky eyes, and the loss of cartilage tissue such as noses and ears are not uncommon.

Gravekin tend to prefer clothing which resembles funerary garb for most races, in dark browns, blacks, and grays.  Their clothes tend to be professional, with a slightly faded and worn look to them.  They frequently wear hats, and they love jewelry with religious iconography, whether or not the jewelry is depicting their own god.

Relations: Since gravekin most usually tend to be scholars or preparers of the dead, they get along well with the races that believe in preserving knowledge and the bodies of their ancestors.  Gravekin can be found living primarily amongst humans, although they get along quite well with gnomes and dwarves.  Elven funerary customs differ from subrace to subrace, and most of them do not believe in preserving their dead, and so they and the gravekin find it difficult to see eye to eye.  Halflings and Gravekin do not bear each other any animosity, although they have almost nothing in common with one another.  They find similar difficulties in getting along with half-orcs.  The only race that the gravekin find they have an active dislike for is the arclings.  The attention seeking antics of the loomblooded seem gauche to the gravekin, and they find the arclings to be obnoxious.  For their part, the arclings consider the gravekin to be stuffy, morbid, bookworms, with one foot in the ground.

Alignment: Due to their tendency for stability, organization, and preservation of both the knowledge of their ancestors and of the ancestors themselves, the gravekin tend towards lawful alignments.  Like dwarves, adventuring gravekin tend not to fit this stereotype, as they are the outcasts of even their own society.

Gravekin Lands: Gravekin have no lands of their own.  Once they held dominion over mighty necropoli, entire cities of tombs where people would bring their honored dead from leagues around in order to have them enshrined, but these cities have been sacked or destroyed.  Now, only one remains, in the Cadram desert.  Occasionally gravekin will form enclaves of scholars to preserve and pass on knowledge.  These universities are rare, however, and usually in some manner of geographical isolation.

Religion: Gravekin do not have their own deities, rather, they worship the deities of whatever race they were born to.

Language: Gravekin speak Common, plus the regional language of their homeland.  Gravekin love languages, and try to learn as many as they can.  They value dead languages the most.

Names: A gravekin born to other gravekin is usually given the name of a dead person, taken from a tomb or burial marker.  Gravekin born to non-gravekin use the naming conventions of their parents.

Adventures: A gravekin adventurer is usually motivated by wanderlust.  After all the death that surrounds them, many of them feel a call to go out and experience what life has to offer.  Others are motivated by whatever religion they belong to, placing those tenets above the race’s obsession with dead lore and dead people.  A rare few take up death as a crusade, seeking a cause that will allow them to inflict death on as many people as they can.

Gravekin Racial Traits

  • -2 Con, +2 Wis, +2 Cha: Gravekin have a strong sense of self, and are both perceptive and reflective.  However, the progressive degeneration of their bodies takes a toll.
  • Medium-size: As Medium-size creatures, gravekin have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
  • Gravekin base speed is 30 feet.
  • Low light vision: Gravekin can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination.  They retain the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions.
  • +2 racial bonus on Knowledge: History and Knowledge: Religion checks.  These are areas of study that all gravekin find themselves drawn to, and they can’t help but pick up some knowledge of the topics.  A gravekin may default these skills, making a roll even if he possesses no ranks in them.
  • Automatic languages: Common plus one other, either the regional language of their homeland (if raised amongst gravekin or humans) or the racial language of their parents (if raised among a non-human race)
  • -2 on saving throws against spells from the school of Necromancy.  There is a taint of death (or perhaps undeath) running in the blood of the gravekin that calls out to practitioners of death magic.
  • Favored class: Cleric.  A multiclass gravekin’s cleric class does not count when determining whether he suffers an XP penalty.

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 When Ugorcil, the god of death, established the courts of the afterlife, he established a series of mandates, which became the unbreakable rules for the death, dying, and the dead.  One of these rules was that no one would be returned to life with their memories of the other side fully intact.  Before leaving the court of Ugorcil, one of the beings there removes the memories from the mind of the person being resurrected.  Tragically, this process is not perfect, and usually results in either damage to the person’s life force, body, or mind.  Also possible is the lingering remnants of memories buried in the subconscious, which nonetheless cause lingering psychological effects.

When a PC returns to life in my game (through Reincarnate, Raise Dead, Resurrection, etc) they do not suffer the normal ill effects (no loss of Con, no level loss)  Instead, they must roll upon this table, the Resurrection Mishap Table.  Also called the ‘How Do I Get Screwed Table’ and ‘The Ground’s Gone Sour Table’ as well as my favorite, the ‘Come Back Wrong’ table.  The rules are simple: the player rolls once (or the DM rolls if the player has access to this table) and the DM looks up the result.  If it is appropriate, he fills in the player.  If it needs to be kept secret, he does so.  The effects of this table should be nigh onto impossible to remove.  (Although they might be counteracted.  A roll that results in a lost feat doesn’t mean the player is forbidden from ever retaking that feat at a later level)  Removing effects like this should require a major undertaking for a church or clergy of a god of at least greater status, and not listed as an enemy to any of Ugorcil’s children.

And for those interested, yes, this table is based on the one found in ‘Heroes of Horror’ although I have expanded mine from twenty-five entries to one hundred, and only use twenty-three of the original ones in the HoH supplement.

Since I can’t figure out how to post the file to this page, I provide a link to it here.

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Hamus Merstin– A human bounty hunter, Hamus was contracted by Lady Lorel Renger to pursue and kill Grugor. (and Natalia if possible) Later investigation would reveal that he was unafraid to use any and all methods at his disposal to arrest or kill his targets, and was in fact wanted in Devies for murder. (A case of mistaken identity)  He hunted with his partner, a worg, and a pack of normal wolves the two of them had trained.  When they attacked Grugor and Natalia, all of them were slain save for one of the normal wolves, whom Natalia took as an animal companion. DECEASED

Vaectorfinyairuxo– Vaector is not an NPC of mine.  In point of fact, I have lifted him (personality, stats and all) from the Draconomicon (page 252) and am completely unashamed.  One of the hardest lessons I had to learn as a DM was to not be afraid to be unoriginal.  Vaector is a green dragon, and an old one at that.  His driving curiosity gets the better of him, however, and those who can fill him in on what is going on in the area stand a good chance of surviving an encounter with him alive.  But still, there must be some reason that an ancient evil dragon would allow a goodly druid to walk his territory unharmed…but he is open in admitting that there are beings that he feels Natalia would be far more interested in killing (and far more capable of killing) that HE has a vested interest in seeing dead.  But the question becomes, can you ever trust a dragon?  And do you have any choice?

Al-Nobor– While in the Astral Plane, destroying a Githzerai monastery (and freeing Allista Renger in the process) Natalia, Grugor, and Roan happened to discover a large group of prison cells.  From one of the cells they freed a mercane named Al-Nobor.  The grateful mercane offered them assistance in return for helping him reacquire his stolen equipment from the Gith.  After completing this task, he used his own innate racial abilities to flee the collapsing monastery, leaving the adventurers to their fates, although he gave Raelan permission to summon him at a later date for the purpose of discussing the buying and selling of magical goods.

Vri-go-Jin (He who Hates)– Vri-go-jin is a Githyanki wizard that Natalia encountered in the Githzerai monastery.  Leading the Githyanki assault on the temple, Vri-go-Jin attempted to pierce enemy lines and finish off their leadership.  Unfortunately for him, he encountered the three adventurers first.  Vri-go-Jin used a shatterfloor spell as a last resort, and was last seen plummeting unconscious into a heated Gith on Gith melee two stories below.  DECEASED

Steam Bitch- Although Natalia has yet to learn the name of this Steam Mephit, she has given her the moniker of ‘Steam Bitch,’ an apt description.  Typical of her kind, Steam Bitch was first encountered by the group searching for Raelan, after having been conjured by Sorval to the Prime Material plane.  She was slain, and sent back to her native elemental plane.  Natalia encountered the imperious elemental again, however, in the Gith monastery, where she had once again been summoned, this time by Githyanki wizards, along with her fire and ice mephit parents.  Natalia and her friends once again proved up to the challenge, banishing Steam Bitch and her parents to back from whence they came.  BANISHED

Turlurzed- Turlurzed is a Githzerai, and the leader of the monastic contingent of the Githzerai temple that Natalia destroyed.  Along with his companion Mazrathune, he was sacrificing living beings (preferring psionic ones) to an artifact which used the sacrifices’ psionic energy to power a series of arcane defenses for the temple.  Tragically for the Githzerai, the artifact was also providing gravity and structural integrity for the building, and when the artifact was destroyed, the building itself collapsed in a matter of minutes.  Although the majority of the Githyanki would have escaped on their astral carracks, the Githzerai would have been slain to a man.  DECEASED

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A brief guide to the NPC’s that are important to the game so far.  In no particular order:

Grugor– A half-orc from the Cadrane mountains.  Grugor is a barbarian, although his normal demeanor is calm and easy-going.  Natalia has theorized that he is more cheerful than the average orc because his rages allow him an outlet for the aggression that lies in the hearts of the orcish people.  Grugor is a simple man, with simple desires.  He enjoys picking fights and showing off his impressive physical skills.  His skin is forest green, his hair is black, and his eyes yellow.  He is taller and slightly more slender than the average half orc, and keeps his hair in a loose ponytail.

Roan Cholke– Roan is a cleric of Silthen, the goddess of motherhood and happy families.  Those who see the short, slender woman walking around unarmed and unarmored and think that they have found an easy target are in for a shock, for Roan has been trained in the unarmed fighting techniques found within religious orders.  Roan is unsure of what she wants to do with her life, and is currently serving in a temple of her god and waiting for some kind of sign as to the path she should take.  She is soft-spoken and invariably calm.  She (like most Numbrarans) has dark skin, ranging almost to olive.  Her hair is brown, as are her eyes.

Raelan Harascine– Raelan is perhaps the scariest of all possibilities: an apprentice wizard with access to all the spellbooks and tools of an archmage, but without the experience or wisdom to use them correctly.  He is at least smart enough to recognize that he doesn’t have much in the way of common sense, and makes sure that he masters the spells he has inherited before trying to use them.  Raelan is in many ways a typical teenage boy: he is emotional, swift to judge, and anxious to kick some ass and make his mark on the world.  On the other hand, he is all too aware that he is expected to act in the role of a wizard, without ever fully being prepared for the responsibility.  He buries his fears beneath big talk, and in the finest tradition of wizarding everywhere, blazes ahead without always understanding what he’s doing, and making half of it up as he goes along.  Raelan is short and gangly, paler than most Numbrarans, with black hair and blue eyes.

Julium Colsus Numbra– The second son of a Numbraran noble, Julium’s path in life was supposed to be set.  In the ancient tradition, as a second son, Julium joined the Numbraran military.  After a successful campaign in the ongoing war in faraway Fassett, Julium finished his term of service with no idea what to do with the remainder of his life.  As he looked around, he saw the once mighty Empire he claimed fealty to in shambles.  Divided by ancient squabbles into separate kingdoms, the people separating into increasingly isolated and smaller communities, the Numbraran nation seemed as if it were heading to annihilation.  Julium began to wonder if the damage was irreparable, or if the nation could be reforged into the glory that it once held.  He began to study the ways of war and diplomacy, of command and culture.  Realizing that he needed to begin at the basics if ever he was to be the one man who could rebuild his society, Julium went into seclusion in the wilderness, in order to build himself into the man he wished to be: the man who would be Emperor.

Alesander– A werewolf who lived in the Stillwood.  Once an adventurer, he contracted lycanthropy in defense of the town of Devies, and went into hiding after the disease warped his sanity and morality.  He preyed on livestock and the occasional traveler, until his fateful run-in with Natalia.  DECEASED

Lord Renger– The Lord Mayor of the town of Stilldale, Lord Renger thought that he had settled into a happy retirement after decades of military service.  But in order to protect his psionicist daughter from the depredations of the Gith and other extraplanar entities, he has been forced to join Julium’s schemes for ascendancy.  The Lord Renger is an aged man with an aura of command and wisdom, who does not appear to have suffered any physical ailments from his advancing years.

Lady Renger– The mother of both Allista Renger and Grugor, the Lady Renger was a sorceress who worshipped the evil Silduggan goddess of the moon, Hesta.  Using magic to control her husband and through him the town of Stilldale, the full extent of her evil has yet to be uncovered.  When she discovered that her brother Alesander had been slain by a druid, she launched a plan to exact her revenge.  This backfired, resulting in her greataxe-related death.  DECEASED

Allista Renger– All teenage girls feel the confusing combination of recognizing their individuality as adults, their isolation from childhood things, and their connection to the adult world.  This combines to make them feel completely alone, as if no one understands them.  Allista, however, is perhaps the only teenage girl in centuries to be able to make the claim “No one understand me” and be correct: she is a psionicist.  Due to their rarity, along with the fear that the common folk have of them, and the propensity for both races of Gith to abduct and kill them, she is quite likely the only psion from one of the humanoid races she is ever going to know.  Attractive in a homely and bookish sort of way, most people are put off by her lack of empathy or interest in the world around her.  This isn’t due to disinterest on her part, its just that if she wants to know something about someone, she will just pull it out of their heads herself.  Allista has no clear desires of her own, and appears to go through life as a neutral observer.

Vueliss– An elven hierophant druid and leader of the Spruce Circle, Vueliss has long harbored a grudge against the nearby Numbraran communities.  Situated between greater Numbrar and the Wasted Lands, Vueliss has stated that the purpose of the Derrikol forest (and the druidic circle) is to keep the civilized world out of the Wasted Lands.  He seems to pursue a very active defense in that regard, and has attempted numerous times to destroy the city of Devies.  Although Natalia has yet to meet him, it seems everyone has an opinion of him.  As an interesting sidenote, in the lucrative business of criminal bounty hunting in Devies, Vueliss is the number one most wanted criminal, carrying a bounty on his head of two hundred thousand gold pieces if brought in dead, and half a million alive.

Virbiene– A half elven druid who lives just north of the Stillwood, Virbiene intentionally puts on a demeanor of weirdness, hoping to protect herself by putting off those who would get close to her.  Her only friend is the gnome ranger, Rosco.  She is part of the Spruce Circle, although she is not allowed to live in the Circle’s lands.  Vueliss harbors a special hatred for her, which may have to do with a family connection: it has been suggested that she is the product of a rape, and that her mother is Vueliss’s daughter.  She has conducted harassment of travelers and the citizens of Stilldale in a similar fashion to her grandfather’s campaign against Devies.  She is likewise wanted as a criminal, but with a substantially smaller reward.

Rosco– Rosco is a gnomish ranger whose territory in the Derrikol Forest is adjacent to Virbiene’s and Natalia’s.  Little is known about him, only that gnomes have been seen traveling to and from his territory, and always returning in the direction of the Cadrane mountains, where it is rumored a secret community of gnomes is hiding.

Gudger– Gudger is the sterotypical ranger of Valt: a burly, hairy mountain man.  He wields two axes and travels with his companion, a giant alligator named Boots.  He makes his home along the Derrikol River, which he patrols to prevent incursions from the monsters which populate the far side.  He is uncouth and abrasive, and peppers his speach with as many swear words as he can squeeze into the conversation.  Like many rangers, he has no use for social niceties, but is more than happy to provide whatever he can to aid others.  Grugor has provided much in the way of regional information to Natalia.

Sorval– The former apprentice of Raelan’s dead master, Sorval has been scouring the forest looking for Raelan’s tower.  As a Conjurer, she has unleashed an unknown number of extraplanar minions to the material plane, all searching for Raelan.  Its only a matter of time before her destructive actions force a showdown between her and Natalia.

Gatrix- After claiming the title of wizard of mirrors, Gatrix immediately set about teaching what he knew to others.  After successfully training more than a dozen wizards, Gatrix built a tower on the hidden shores of Lake Sendren.  Gatrix struck a deal with the fearful (and hateful) druids of the Spruce Circle.  In exchange for them peacefully allowing him to settle in their forest, he altered all his wards to make druids immune to them.  As such, druids alone can find his tower, and everyone else can walk right by it and never see it.  Tragically, Gatrix was slain by an upstart wizard who challenged him for his title.  DECEASED

Gury– Gury is a druid, and a member of the Spruce Circle.  In point of fact, he is the only one to show any sign of kindness to Natalia.  He is a good person, who honestly desires to make others happy.  Other than a penchant for nudity, he has no character flaws.

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