This is a Dungeons & Dragons campaign being played by J, K, S, and L, with Brent as the DM.
Eldeshi is a small world, and the story centers on the kingdom of Hanaa, which is a major part of the spice trade.
The world includes underground cities and ruins (think Moria), as well as beautiful mountain kingdoms (think Rivendell).
There are no sentient non-human races. There are a few wild, weird beasts on the periphery. Dragons are mythological beasts.
There are no generic zombies, no vampires, and no demons in the Judeo-Christian sense.
Pieces of fantastical old technology are scattered about the world. They range from laser pistols to crashed ships. These require engineering to fix and make use of.
Magic actually consists of nanobots controlled by the human mind. Humans used to have perfect control over these nanobots, but over the centuries, mutations have made mastery of magic rare. Anyone can learn a few basic spells like Light, but only about 10% of the populace can progress beyond that, and of those, less than 1% become powerful spellcasters.
These nanobots have created a sort of animism. Objects possessed for many years by one person become invested with nanobots that can make the item pseudo-sentient, or more powerful if used by the owner, or more powerful if used to complete one of the owner's missions, etc.
Hanaa was a prosperous, comfortable, and relatively remote province of the eastern Kerala empire centuries ago. Kerala's collapse caused Hanaa to evolve into its own independent nation. Its plentiful natural resources, particularly its rich veins of metal, made it powerful. However, multiple wars with greedy outsiders have kept its military exhausted and unable to expand the country's borders.
Its first major war started 200 years ago with rich Kineshi traders from the far east. While the Kineshi opened up trade with Hanaa and made it a massive center of trade, they wanted to take over. This started an on-again, off-again conflict that dragged on for 80 years, with Golden Pavan trading hands several times. It ended with the taking of the Kineshi Five Towers and immolation of all Kineshi in the capital. The Towers were since rebuilt into the Five Towers of Magic.
The second conflict began 50 years ago and lasted for lasted 12 years, in which Mustafa Ali attempted to expand the nearby caliphate of Tsolyanu into Hanaa. He attacked Hanaa several times, succeeding at first. However, he was faced with so many riots combined with problems back home he was forced to retreat. He attacked Hanaa several more times, but was ultimately undone by his overextended war.
Hanaa is currently in the middle of a power struggle between the Astalon and Jask clans. Emperor Darven (Jask) IV died 3 months ago in the Battle of the Looms, putting Giren Astalon on the throne. Giren Astalon is the only person with any remote blood claim to the throne still alive, except for the moderate claims of his half-brother Dozle and his half-sister Kycilia (they were born from a different mother).
The Emperor lives in a vast palace with a huge number of servants in the capital city of Golden Pavan. The imperial court is a city unto itself, and anyone associated with it receives the royal tattoo–a stylized, curved dragon–on back of their right hand. Imperial servants (which includes local magistrates and chiefs-of-police) receive an absurd number of perks and must be treated with respect, though there is growing unrest about this.
The palace borders a lake, and opposite it each House has built a Summer House, each of which contains a grand veranda and docks. House business – especially that which requires representatives of multiple houses – is conducted here, under the colorful House banners.
Due to the Tsolyanu Invasion and occupation two generations ago, there is a large contingent of Tsolyani in Hanaa generally and Golden Pavan specifically. Ashran clerics frequently ride Golden Pavan's canals.
There are several major and minor houses of Hanaa. The following list is not complete.
Nuvania is nestled in the low mountains north of Hanaa. Further north are the frozen mountains of the Zem.
Nuvania benefits from lush and fertile land, making it a major exporter of wine, mutton, and essential oils used in many potions. Combined with its hilly terrain and its peoples' firm pacifism, no battles have been fought here for over two centuries.
Its bustling capital city, Sharn, is home to many thriving guilds, societies, and clubs. It's a prosperous, cosmopolitan place of solid, unassuming architecture, governed by the Guild Council.
Samarjya is run by the Empress, who is in her 20's. The prior empress died in the Battle of the Looms. She has a husband from Watu.
There is also the Matriarch, who is a Founder. She is immortal and goes through multiple cycles of lucid and crazy. She is currently in a lucid phase. She is kept away by attendants, who themselves have various attendants. Their names remain the same as new people take on the same role.
The country is divided into eight provinces. Roughly speaking, each great house controls one province. The houses work more like corporations, combining feudal society with a corporate structure. Pepole are often loaned out to other Houses, and each House has many contracts between them for services.
Slavery operates more like indentured servitude. You can supposedly work your way out of it, but almost nobody does.
People live in circular houses of at least 4 stories. Each family lives in one “townhouse” within the building. Each House has its own building, then other buildings are organized by profession.
The central building in the capital contains the remains of the ship.
There's a strong prejudice for traditional gender roles, which favor women in more active roles in this society. Men are expected to be nurses, teachers, diplomats, and low-level soldiers, but they are not considered good tacticians or generals.
Traditionally, marriages are common law, with no official ceremony. The man generally lives back at home and raises his sister's children. However, not everybody does that. And increasingly society favors couples that stay together. At higher echelson, couplings are more arranged.
Childhood is communal and very safe. A lot of childhood is spent in hands-on training, helping with the actual work of the clan.
It's expected that people are married by their late teens or early 20's, because you're expected to establish a profession before you start a family. The society favors smaller family units.
An empire south of Hanaa, Tsolyanu consists of a number of largely independent principalities that pledge allegiance to the Seal Emperor. The empire builds sakbé roads and ribats (fortified hostels / retreats / monasteries) in return for the principalities' loyalty.
Tsolyanu is a strange country: a sweltering, fecund jungle filled with stone cities teeming with people in the south, and a parched desert of scattered nomads to the north. Its culture is equally strange. All its inhabitants live in clans that perform certain trades, and even priestly and military organizations function as clans. Thanks to the environment, the Tsolyani know no nudity taboo, though elaborate clothing implies high rank.
Slavery is widespread. Slaves are captured from nearby kingdoms and taught the native Ashra religion (see below) in the hopes their families will convert, but claims of conversion are treated with suspicion and a slave typically requires a superheroic act of faith to be set free. Children of slaves are not viewed with such suspicion and, if they demonstrate Ashran piety, are usually freed upon adolescence.
The official religion of the country is Ashra, an arcane religion of many practices and beliefs. It has one primary text, the Book of Ebon Bindings, and about a dozen minor works stitched together by its 101 prophets.
Ashra teaches (among many other things) the importance of meditation and learning simple magic. All Ashrans use magic to create small lights, read occasional surface thoughts, and such. Healing arts are very highly prized, and Ashran clerics are often very skilled sorcerers and healers. In fact, the term “cleric” usually refers to a Tsolyani sorcerer with knowledge of healing spells.
Ashra lists 20 gods in all, split between 5 Lords of Stability, 5 Lords Change, and their consorts. Tsolyani believe in all these gods and sacrifice to them to varying degrees.
The current Emperor, Hyder Ali, is a harsh many of 70 years. He wants to expand Tsolyanu. The Tsolyanu general Kettukal hiMraktine won many slaves during the War of the Looms, and Ali wants more.
However, Kettukal has been banished to a small outpost of the empire due to political maneuvering between the priests and the royalists. They are at a stalemate.
Every month, all youths who turned 16 in the previous month are sent to harsh training camps, where they begin 3 years of service in a clan or priestly legion. After 3 years, they can continue military service; the best of these are selected for the Seal Emperor's Omnipotent Azure Legion.
Kinesh makes up the bulk of what was once the large Kerala Empire. Today, Kinesh consists of 25 prosperous city-states, each ruled by a king or queen and a council of merchant families.
Several hundred years ago, representatives of all 25 city-states signed the Pact of the Eastern Peoples, which formed the Kineshi League (or the League of the East). This League provides a basic universal legal agreement among all members with regard to trade, so that if one member signs a trade agreement with an outside nation, it will generally be honored by other members. This allows Kinesh to act as a generally unified whole, though of course there are many disagreements and arguments in practice.
Kinesh's rich natural resources, particularly its swamps and forests, provide ingredients for most of the herbs, potions, and poisons of this world. Also, its south coast is ideal for growing grapes, and much of the continent's wine is grown here. Combined with the native Kineshi wanderlust, Kinesh has become a wealthy region of merchant traders going back many generations.
Several major city-states of Kinesh include Azor, Barqan, Gan, Hanesh, Phamea, and Toara.
This is a cold, mountainous land in the north of the continent, ruled by Brigit's mother. Her main adviser, Akar, told Ahjay where to find Brigit.
Watu was originally a colony of Samarjya, technically. is technically considered to be an autonomous region of Samarjya. Its people sees itself more as an independent entity with its own government. They have a similar society, but Watu is more progressive. Watu has all the maritime power, with a very powerful naval fleet. They do not have a lot of natural resources, particularly grain.
Men are treated more equally in Watu.
Slavery is simply indentured servitude, to a certain number of years.
Level 3 Barbarian
Brigit is one of the Zem from the wild, cold north. She is actually the daughter of Darven III (the recently-deceased emperor's father, who was a well-respected leader whose ship was caught in a storm and sank only 5 years into his reign).
She was betrothed to someone, but not feeling it at all. She then ran away to the underground part of the capital city. She used basic survival skills to survive there until she found someone she could seduce for their armor and weapons. She then murdered that person, only then noticing the tattoo revealing the victim was part of her family.
She then went crazy and ran to a different part of the city and trained in hiding.
Her vision: She is crowned empress of Hanaa, and she knows it will only last 7 days.
Level 3 Fighter
Mahiya comes from Samarjya, a matriarchal society. Her house researches and makes use of old tech in warfare, particular siege weapons and defenses. Her country invaded Hanaa but did so in a way that nearly tore it apart. She is sent to Hanaa as a peace offering / mild hostage.
Mahiya takes the Juice of Saphoo, which increases the power of one's nanobot usage (and, over time, colors the whites of the user's eyes blue). She needs it about once a week before going into withdrawal, which causes stomach pain, blurred vision, and a decrease of nanobot power. Saphoo is quite expensive back in her country, but moderately priced in Hanaa.
The Samarjya Empire has heard of Brigit and sent Mahiya to find Brigit and install her on the throne.
Her vision: Samarjya's legions march off to war, knowing that they will all die.
Level 3 Custom Class
Orphan of a Tsolyanu warlord. Now works for House Maudling. It has worked its way up to a position of power and effectiveness.
Lord Maudling has heard this rumor of this daughter of the throne. He wants her as a puppet, hoping she'll be a good ruler.
His vision: He stands over Lord Maudling's body as the life drains out of it, holding the murder weapon in his hands.
Level 1 Rogue
A street rat along for the ride, who has many aunts and uncles.
His vision: The sky is filled with dragons. They breathe fire and the earth is caught ablaze.
Each player starts each session with one Plot Point. A player can spend a Plot Point to add one fact to the world. Players can gain more Plot Points for cool role-playing.
At the beginning of each session, one player should give a brief retelling of the previous session. That player's character gains inspiration. Any player that wrote up a session report for the previous session gains inspiration.
Player-characters level up for every 10-12 hours of play, instead of using traditional XP.
We started with Ahjay and Mahiya, arriving at Brigette's remote court to discover that the princess had run away from home a few years ago (a fact which had been kept secret from the outside world). They attempted to get information from an ice-cold queen.
As Ahjay and Mahiya left the castle and headed towards the city that housed Brigette, she was approached by her master, who announced that it was time for her initiation. He sent her down to the warrens beneath the city to be initiated.
She entered a small, square stone chamber. Murals decorated the walls, and a sarcophagus lay on the opposite side of the chamber. She approached the sarcophagus (ignoring the murals), and it vanished and was replaced by an old woman.
The woman said, “Who are you?” Brigette thought for a moment, then replied, “Who's asking?” The woman said, “I am she who tests. Who are you?”
Brigette paused for quite a while, pondering this question. She finally said, “Look, I'm here for this initiation, just let me pass.”
The woman let her pass, revealing the entrance to a larger chamber with the real sarcophagus. Unfortunately, the chamber also contained a large spider. This led to our first combat encounter.
The spider hurt Brigette badly in its first blow. The other adventurers then entered the fray, and the sorcerer cast a lightning blast that nuked the spider.
The party then explored the rest of the chamber, discovering a side room that contained two mummified bodies and a large crate. Unfortunately, the crate was also being watched by a swarm of rats, and in fighting them, the barbarian lost the last of her Hit Points.
While waiting for the barbarian to return to consciousness, the sorcerer and fighter investigated the chamber in classic D&D style, and discovered hints that the two corpses had been lying in wait for the barbarian. They then popped open the sarcophagus, finding a magical sword that was meant for the barbarian. At this point, the barbarian woke up, there were introductions all around, and the barbarian took the sword.
As they left, I felt like the encounter hadn't been dangerous enough, and I wanted them to encounter some human enemies. They were confronted by a cult who accused them of desecrating this holy place and demanded that the party give back the sword they stole. The fighter attacked them, and a battle ensued.
The cultists was led by a mage leading 4 mooks with scimitars. Brigette had to stay out of it. The others fought bravely but Mahiya was knocked unconscious.
The barbarian then lifted the sword above her head in an attempt to intimidate the cultists. It glittered with an obvious magical attachment to her, like it really belonged to her. The fighter took the opportunity to also attempt to intimidate the now bloodied mage to yield. The mage did.
The party was now able to glean some information from the cultists, and even offered a job to the most sarcastic one, who accepted. The group now has a hireling, Ned!
Ahjay and Mahiya explained their mission to Brigette, and she provisionally agreed to go with them once her initiation was complete. They then returned to her master to get more information.
The group formed a plan: return to Golden Pavan and find the midwife who initially spread the rumor that Brigette is royal.
They found the midwife, who was in a surprisingly large and comfortable townhouse with several beefy guards. The midwife looked at Brigette for a long while, then ordered the guards to attack and charged the group. A fight was on!
But this was no ordinary fight. The midwife was actually a doppelgänger. After a few minutes of fighting–and the thugs did a very effective job of making the fight dangerous–the party confronted the “mid-wife,” who revealed herself to be an android left behind by the old Founders and forced into this charade by someone named “Dread.”
The party rounded them up and sent them back to House Maudling, but as they traveled on a barge on one of Golden Pavan's many canals, beams of light sliced off the heads of two of their captive thugs.
Ahjay and his men hunkered down with shields around the midwife and remaining thug, while Brigette leapt into the canal and made her way up to the sniper's position. She slashed at him with her sword; he leapt out the window and disappeared into the crowd, but leaving behind a small, lacquered red claw.
The party then received instruction to descend into the mines beneath the city in search of an old piece of Founder technology that “had the potential to change the balance of power forever.” They were now joined by a wanderer.
They party immediately encountered rust beetles. The wanderer backed into a corner and up the stairs. The party was doing a fine job of containing the rust beetles, so she had nothing to do and didn't want weapons.
As the party wiped out the remaining rust beetles–including a nest of them which the party torched as quickly as possible–the wanderer snuck out and left. She paid a street urchin to inform the party's patrons of what was going on, but the street urchin was way too interested in the story and snuck down into the mine.
The urchin got them good deals on the contents of the rust beetles' stomachs (lots of interesting metals in there), and replacements for their rusted weapons and armor, from the urchin's various “uncles.”
During this, Elle wisely shifted her urchin's relationship to the group, becoming less needy and more interested in being a productive member of the group. When the party descended into the mine again, Elle's urchin became a torch-bearer.
The final sanctum was guarded by squat, dwarfish “underdwellers”: one boss, two warriors, and two trained wolves.
The party approached down a long corridor which widened into a large room (which itself turned out to have a few access corridors wrapping around it). The two warriors crouched behind each corner where it widened, firing with shortbows, then sent in the wolves, while the boss remained out of the torch's range throwing javelins. The party hunkered down, which allowed the wolves to do quite a bit of damage. After a few rounds, the wolves were called to disengage and ran back into the darkness.
The party advanced, and the underdwellers kept pace, firing at them as much as possible. The boss advanced and engaged in hand-to-hand combat with frequent scimitar attacks. Meanwhile, the wolves would occasionally run in, bite, then in their next turn disengage and return into the darkness of the access corridors.
The large room contained an active teleportation portal on the floor. The party managed to push off the defenders long enough to get to the portal, with the urchin crouching next to walls and running across the battlefield to keep safe. The urchin actually got to the portal first, followed by Mahiya. Brigette came up next and, in a fit of barbarian curiosity, poked the portal with her sword. The sword was immediately sucked into the portal.
The urchin then tied a rope around his waist and leapt into the portal. I had not anticipated this. The urchin found himself in a dark room surrounded by glowing eyes. One pair of eyes approached, revealed itself to be a large metal dog, and greeted the urchin as the “Chosen One” and asked when he would begin “the purge.” The dog was disappointed to find that the urchin had not been “prepared” and sent the urchin back through the portal with promises that his “time would come.”
The party finally finished off the rest of the underdwellers, and decided to pack up what they had. They loaded up a wagon (thanks to another of the urchin's “uncles”), and as they brought it through the streets, another beam of light arced towards them.
Each of them received a vision. Mahiya saw her looking out over her empire's legions going out to war, knowing they all will die. The urchin saw the sky filled with dragons and fire. Ahjay saw himself standing over the dead body of his lord, a knife in the Captain's hand. Brigette saw herself being crowned empress, knowing it would only last a week.
Rat ran up to the front of the wagon and yelled at the driver to drive as fast as possible, while leaping on a horse and whacking its hindquarters. The wagon began to accelerate, and the envoy jumped inside.
Brigette charged into the building, while the captain of the guard positioned himself between the wagon and the shooter and sent his personal eagle after the shooter. The shooter fired at the eagle. Unfortunately, he hit, and the eagle fell to the ground.
The barbarian now made his way into the shooter's room, with the captain not far behind. They chose a full frontal attack, and the shooter jumped out the window and teleported away. This time, Rat was able to see the shooter teleport.
At this point, the wagon was rocketing away down the street. The captain and barbarian decided to leave it and report back to the captain's home, House Maudling.
The barbarian was summoned to see Lady Kycilia, the emperor's half-sister and the Commander of the Army. The captain and Ned went along. This was an intriguing political move; the barbarian's blood could put her in direct competition for the throne.
Kycilia offered the barbarian a deal: perform some jobs for Kycilia and get a reputation as less of a threat to the throne. The barbarian said she was above such things, which shocked everyone.
Kycilia then cleared the room except for her and the barbarian and laid her cards on the table: Kycilia was willing to back the barbarian against her half-brother in a fight for the throne. Kycilia didn't want to rule; she was happy to let the barbarian rule. But she needed assurances. The barbarian agreed to investigate the theft of bodies from a military mausoleum.
Meanwhile, the envoy and the Rat had arrived at the neutral storehouse. The envoy decided to tinker with the stargate and learn what she could about its use. We established that it can open up portals to other lands (whether they were otherwise unexplored areas of this world or places on other worlds, was unknown).
The Rat decided to wander around the storehouse. We had previously established the existence of “metal men”–very rare old androids, most of them defunct. She stumbled upon another one, which was tied up. She decided to untie it and climb up it, then pop open the hatch, climb in, activate it, and tunnel through the walls and up into the city, then run for the hills.
Rat found a cave system, which contained a strange temple, which itself contained a glowing pentagram and a nearby shaft of light. Rat hopped out of the giant robot at this point, but kept his pilot suit on (which fit him).
One of the things Rat had stolen from the storehouse was a pouch filled with tiny humanoid shapes made out of some kind of putty. As Rat approached the pentagram, the shapes wriggled slightly.
Rat poked and prodded the pentagram and the shaft of light with the small figures. A figure that went into the pentagram vanished (teleported to the lich's lair). A figure placed into the light woke up and started talking. It had no specific memories, but it had a vague sense that it needed to be “born,” and it asked to be named.
Rat excitedly named all nine remaining figures, then took them into the pentagram. He found himself in a dark chamber with half a dozen bubbling green vats in the floor, and zombie-like shapes shuffling around.
The others pursued Rat, and were even able to use their adventuring gear to rappel down into the cave system ahead of the Aridani soldiers.
With considerably more difficulty, they made it to the dragon temple. Mahiya managed to open a channel to the robot's AI, which opened up communication to Rat via the pilot suit.
Back inside the dark chamber, Rat found bodies floating in the vats, and discovered that speaking any of the nine names caused individual bodies to twitch and gurgle. Then Skarro, a lich, arrived. He was completely self-confident, and was _fascinated_ by Rat's ability to control these creatures.
So Skarro raised all the bodies in the vats, and invited Rat into his innermost chambers, where he showed off his main prize: the Looms.
The Looms sat in pools of lava, next to a stone walkway and a dais that contained a table, 3 chairs, a workbench, a bookcase, and a bed.
Skarro also showed off a huge chamber where he kept both his minions (the “Waterborn”) and the Woven humans. The latter had facehuggers on them, to brainwash them. Conveniently, the chamber also had its own summoning circle.
The Rat then told the others to come in; they raced to the main chamber. Mahiya had to climb onto each Loom and manipulate controls that were on the other sid. Mahiya had to climb onto each Loom and manipulate controls that were on the other side of the Loom (right over the lava), being steadied by her companions who held onto a rope. This worked fine until Skarro–who had been monologuing in the other room–realized what was going on and charged inside, and the companions on the ground attacked him. Nobody quite put two-and-two together on that one, and Mahiya fell into the lava.
Fortunately, she managed to scramble out, though badly burned. Meanwhile, Rat had directed his ten Waterborn to wake up the Woven and send them all (hundreds of them) through the summoning circle as quickly as possible.
Skarro was now in full rage mode. He blasted Mahiya, hurt Ahjay badly, and killed Ned.
Rat demonstrated that the ten Waterborn he'd sent through (the nine named one and the unnamed one) responded to him, though they couldn't disobey a direct order from Skarro. Rat made a rousing speech to the ten named Waterborn, who held off Skarro while the rest attempted to escape. They did so.
The heroes and Waterborn raced through the teleportation circle, to find themselves in a huge mansion.
Let's make sure all character sheets are up-to-date. We at least need to figure out Ahjay's skills (and what he's got as a Fighter) and Brigette's saving throws and skills.
Brent would like to change Death Saving Throws to Unconsciousness Saving Throws. When you drop to 0 or fewer HP, 3 successful Unconsciousness Saves brings you back to consciousness (and a natural 20 always does). No danger of death.
What does Briget want out of each of the other PCs?