Avandra's Gambit

Avandra's Gambit - Success, but not for the Heroes
A summary of events past and why I waited to continue to keep logs for my players.

This is odd in some ways. I am writing a log to a campaign that ended. Too many DM’s took a turn and the plot got lost. Or did it?
My players and I first began Avandra’s gambit about 18 months ago in the Summer of 2012. We met weekly and made wonderful progress for one of my group’s campaigns. I played games with my players, making the obvious choice often be the one that would do the most harm to the world when seen from a different perspective. As such, the players released the damaged splinter of a goddess’s psyche from a self-imposed prison…albeit a splinter corrupted by time left playing with her would-be captor’s bodies in a pocket dimension as if they were marionettes impersonating dancers at a grand ball. Their mentor, infected by the influence of the goddess Avandra’s now less than sane and decidedly necromantic powers, failed to bring the players back at the time and place they had expected. Instead they each went to different times and places of their gleaned from the misremembered fragments of their mentor’s life, some living most of their natural spans in far distant locations, among people strange and customs stranger. With his last remaining life force and sanity, their mentor brought them all back through a mirror weeks after they had expected to in their home realm, but days or rears subjective time to themselves. The peaceful fishing town they left was now infested with the undead. Their mentor, font of all of their wisdom and father of their youth, attacked them. Forced to kill their mentors decaying form, they took to the streets to escape. Escape itself became a trap for the players. I took the idea of a necromancer and made him a good guy, a savior—albeit on that to the players still looked as sinister as the archetype would suggest. As they travelled towards the gates of the town, they were confronted with signs of grissly death, desperation, and, oddly, hope. Someone in the town had scrawled words of praise for the necromancer on buildings in pain, blood, and other fluids. Though they seemed like the frantic ravings of the insane or demonic, the players would find out later that their DM lead them to have the option of slaying a true savior- not of the town- but of the greater world of Eberron.
I had the players run from hordes of undead or sneak their way past as they could. I maintained pressure on them that increasingly made their decisions near real-time, knee-jerk reactions of the hunted, rather than long debating meta discussions about what their characters should do.
When they finally caught a glimpse of the necromancer, the found him in a square before the town gates. The necromancer stood at an altar before a great construct that emitted a shield that encircled the town. Lining up before the alter, seeming under their own will, were the remaining citizens of the town. Numbering near a hundred, they stood with their heads down in silent prayer, watched over by animated constructs and priests in ragged blood-stained robes. One by one they filed up to the alter where the necromancer sacrificed them, adding their life energy to the violent field surrounding the town. I had thought the players might still try to talk to each other and the npcs to understand the situation, despite the way that I had hounded them and their choices. So far the players had found interesting ways to foil my subplots, but would they also do so to the unbeknownst potential apocalypse before them?
Fyodor, whose player tends to swing first and ask questions when loot is being divied up decided the matter. Charging through the square and startling the crowds as well as the priests, Fyodor drove his spear through the heart of the necromancer, disrupting the ritual. As the shield began to fade and the necromancer dropped to the ground, his own blood joining those of the previous sacrifices, the towns folk who had waited their turned wailed in horror. They wept and cried that the shield was to keep the undead in the town, to keep their infection from spreading. The head priest of Avandra’s local shrine was to have sacrificed the town’s people in order to create a containment field to save Eberron itself. With it gone, the townfolk had paid their lives for nothing. The uproar attracted the attention of the undead to a degree that the guards could not keep the swelling surge at bay.
My players created through their well-meaning actions to taint a goddess with a sliver of her own psyche that had rotted in its confinement, creating of some of her most devout believes in the local parish monsters capable of spreading similar taint among the mortals of Eberron, starting with Cyre. I placed this instance in the moment that created the blighted Mournland. As the armies fought in the fields that would become the blight in the usual campaign setting, I had placed the town on the peninsula nearby. The armies themselves would prove a target of notice to the undead who would then snake their way through the high grasses towards the armies who would be unaware of them prior to members of their own ranks becoming infected. As the infection spread, I placed a now lich-queen esque Avandra among the battle, growing in size and strength as the presence of her taint grew in the mortal world. As the battle turned from one army against another to one of living versus the undead, Avandra made a proclamation about her intent to remake the world in her own image, before releasing a spell that vaporized the infected, leveling what would be the Mournland, and spreading the disease through the air to the areas surrounding the blight, creating borders of neighboring kingdoms a change from political and military demarcations to that of life and death.
The players would need to become strong and find a way to defeat or change Avandra before the world was consumed by her taint. Ultimately the players followed clues that took them all across the main continent, trying to find anyone who could help break Avandra’s spreading grasp on the world. The players enlisted King’s, Gypsies lead by a fortune-telling, body-swapping, homunculus, a tower dungeon made into a town by a bad of peaceful monsters, a King controlled by an Aboleth-like creature, and a less than trustworthy tiefling bard/ardent. Eventually, they found clues of a tool of power that might be able to strike down Avandra, the rod of sever parts. Miska, the spider god that had been imprisoned and broken using the staff promised to help the acquire the parts if only they promised to use the completed staff to bring and end to his pained existence.
The players plane hopped, finding three pieces of the staff before the players began to get busy, bored, or wanted to DM themselves for a while.
The campaign died, though we still played on occasion. A year later, when we got back together to play regularly again, the players largely agreed that they missed that campaign and that it was a shame that they saw no way it could be continued again. I said, that yes, it was pretty much impossible to continue the story…and then I did. Only I did not tell the players that we were continuing the same story. As you will see in their logs, I did not tell the players where there new characters were. They were not told the world, the realm, setting, and indeed, they were brought into the game after having been held in a kind of stasis by unknown captures who were slain before they even awoke, leaving them little meta to work with spoil any surprises. I am able to write this now because, since last week, the last of the players have worked out that they are living in he same world as before. Moreover, they learned that the heroes sent to find the rod failed. Avandra’s grasp encricled the world and that the gods and primordial powers all either died or expended most of their power to defeat avandra, using mortal exarchs. These exarchs then told the power that they would keep the powers, thank you very much, and found their own religions based on their own immortal rules and that arcane, natural, and elemental power would now stem from them, the 16 priest kings (thank you Dark Sun). Moreover, the history and even presence of Gods and Primordials as they were before is expunged. When naysayers or cults are found, entire communities disappear. Magic powers are bestowed upon their users by the Priest Kings directly or indirectly. The players find out about the intervening events of the last thousand or so years from writings and murals they find in a long lost ruin of a shrine that until recently had been buried in the mountains as well as from Miska himself who is pissed that the heroes had failed in their quest and took the last three pieces of the rod whereever they went. Miska has seen been given what power the gods and primordials could to act for them in the world and to try to destroy the rule of the Priest Kings. Bearing the remaining four parts of the Rod, he has set out to do so in his own way, using his own methods, and to his own ends. It will be interesting to see what the players choose to do with this new knowledge.

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Scene 1 - the Broken Tower
time to start posting logs.

Scene 1 – Broken Tower.
Characters: Vaultsmith, Alynthalae, Ro, Zekiel
Time: dead of night.

The characters awaken in an unfamiliar location, bathed in fading blue light. On the walls around them blue sigils are fading away. As similar blue markings upon their bodies fade away, they feel as if a mental fog is slipping away. The players do not know one another or have any indication of how long they have been asleep or where they might be. Each has recollections of their last moments of consciousness, but they almost seem like a distant dream.

As the last of the glow begins to fade away, the blue light is replaced by the silver light of a full moon visible through the missing roof and floors of the tower’s shell within which they have awoken. As the players begin to move around their hear a fierce howl in the distance and a whimpering and gurgling outside the tower’s door. Zekiel moves forward, looking out the barred window, seeing the broken body of a man in mages robes strewn across a warding circle formed of the same blue light as the sigils that had bound them. The wards pulse with the blood coursing from the mage’s ruined throat. As a last gout rains upon the ground about the mage, the last of the light fades. The group can see that hey are in a small clearing in a large wooded area. In the distance they can hear the screams of a man, the howl of a wolf, and then sudden silence.

Within the tower, the group briefly checks their surroundings and begin to ask each other questions. Zekiel, a man of action, tires of their fumbling attempts at communication, and ripping a large iron bar from the door holding them in their prison, smashes his way out of the tower. As he stands heaving in the door way, Vaultsmith ghosts past him, checking the body briefly before noticing that he is being watched from across the glade by a huge white wolf. As he tries to figure out what to do, the wolf turns and vanishes into the woods ahead, from which spills the flickering light of a campfire.

Vaultsmith and Zekiel head towards the light. As the hulking frame of the barbarian and the slight thief lope towards the glade ahead, Ro tentatively emerges from the tower. She notices the mage upon the ground and rummages through his belongings, pocketing some minor gear and a small purse of coins. Lastly she finds a pair of blades hidden in the mages sleeves and rolling the body over, finds the mages implement, a small totem fetish. Somewhat reluctantly, Ro follows after the men.

As the last of the large and ungainly bodies leaves the clearing, Alythalae, ignites her pixie magic and, glowing merrily, emerges from the rubble in the tower, whirring through the cold air towards her erstwhile fellow captives, keeping to the shadows of the trees.

Zekiel bursts into the camp area, eschewing any form of stealth, gripping his bludgeon tightly. Feverishly taking in his surroundings, seeking to identify anything or anybody in dire need of being broken, Zekial sees a campsite in ruin. There are dead and partially eaten bodies laying all around the camp. To the left he sees a serious of destroyed wagons bearing equally ravaged cages, their horses missing. More importantly, directly in front of him, Zekiel sees prey. Not easy prey, mind you, the wolf is easily larger than Zekiel. But as Zekiels blood rises, that hardly seems important. Just before Zekiel charges, there is a serious of howls from far off. The Wolf in front of him raises its blood-stained muzzle the sky and returns the howl before turning and bounding off through the woods. Not the be ingnored by his prey, Zekiel runs after it.

Vaultsmith saw the barbarian burst into the camp, briefly look around, then run off from the cover of the trees. When both wolf and barbarian were gone, Vaultsmith eased himself into the clearning, noting that to the right and among the dead, various equipment and supplies were strewn. Perusing the bounty, some of it broken, he salvaged packs, a few weapons, including a bow, and some arming gear. He left the food stuffs and drink as it was all fouled by wolf piss or strewn about the ground. The wolves must not have wanted to leave any survivors any means by which to easily sustain themselves or to escape if the state of the provisions and wagons were any gauge. After scouring what he though he could, he followed after the barbarian, not really sure what else to do other to follow after.

Just before he left the camp, the pixie decided to make her presence known. The fact that the thief now possessed equipment the diminutive sorceress could desperately use had no little bearing on this decision. After a very brief exchange of words and goods, the two set out after the barbarian.

Ro’s investigation of the mage’s body meant that by the time she reached the camp, noone was there, either friend of foe. Though she had heard the cries of the wolves and the answer of one from very close by, they, too were absent. As she ventured through the camp and through the trees on the other side, she found herself on a low rise above a grassy plain. Beyond the nearly shoulder high blades of grass, she could see a town in the distance, perhaps a few miles off. In the middle distance she saw the two men that had been confined with her in the tower racing towards the town along with a glowing mote. Ro also saw that they were not alone. A large number of things were racing through the tall grasses parallel to the group, looking like sharks moving through waters she had seen once in her childhood while traveling on a ship. Rather than angling towards the group however, the lines joined many, many others in bearing straight towards the town itself. If the town wasn’t already in trouble, it might be soon. How did she feel about sticking out her neck for people she had never even met – be it her fellow captives or the townsfolk? With her skills she could easily survive in the wilderness until she found her way back to home, where ever it was now. With a sigh, she began to lope down the road after the others.

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Scene 2 - Town - Fenrir's Landing
choosing sides.

Frenrir’s Landing was interesting because I wanted to make the players decide which group to ally with given minimal information. Neither was “incorrect”, but the path the players chose is less likely to cause characters to turn evil…maybe?

The players arrive in Fenrir’s Landing a few hours before dawn. The town is quiet…too quiet…whatever. Actually the problem is not that it’s quiet, its the fact that while they can’t see anyone in town, they can hear people talking and moving about. There’s not alot of light. There are a few camp fires in the bazaar, but there aren’t any lanterns on the shops or streets. The players look around and find an inn. They can hear someone inside and knock on the door. While most of the party is talking to the tired looking man who answers the inn door, trying to barter for services, Ro hears something from the ground.

Ro looks down and sees a little light seeping from a drainage grate. Crouching down she see’s a scare little girls face looking at here. Ro asks who she is and why she is down there. The girl merely asks Ro to not tell anyone that she’s down there because “they will come to get us and drag us off”. About this time there is another series of howls around the edges of town. A woman’s hand grasps the little girls shoulder from behind, pulling her back away from the grate and a stern gaze fixes upon the party before they scurry off into the darkness. Before the light is gone, Ro has just enough time to realize that the sewer is anything but a mess of sewage and trash. The room she sees is clean and bare. As her attention returns to the discussion with the inn keep, the party gains entry to the inn.

The Inn is a old and obviously carefully restored to use from possible past dereliction. Though it looks as if the Inn is quite clean normally, there are papers scattered across the floor near the desks and items on the shelves are askew. The Innkeep apologizes for the state of the village and the Inn citing attacks by a pack of wolves that the players might have heard coming in. The players ask the Innkeep, a man in brown leathers, for lodging and ask what there might be to eat. The Innkeep vaguely gestures towards the stairs saying that rooms were certainly available and they were welcome to go get cleaned up which he went next door to the bakers to see about food as they Innkeep had not recently had guests and dinner was long past eaten.

Suspicious of an Innkeep wearing leathers, the pixie, Alynthalae tries to hide on the body of the Innkeep. Failing to really do so, the man is aware of the pixie and attempts to coax her into staying, but Anlynthalae insists on going with the man next door. (I hadn’t anticipated this…consequences, consequences).

The “innkeep” and Anlynthalae go next door as the adventurer’s start rummaging in the Inn and checking the stairs to the roof (Vaultsmith and Ro go up). Innkeep knocks on the next door in a complicated pattern. The sound of rummaging and cursing inside stops. After a brief silence another series of knocks answers Innkeep. Inkeep knocks in a different pattern after glancing at the pixie and as the door opens a woman, also wearing stained leathers, asks them to come in. After Alynthalae passes the threshhold she is pushed in and the door is slammed and bolted. Alynthalae pulls her daggers and readies a spell as the two argue briefly before pulling weapons. Innkeep snarls that Alynthalae should drop her weapons if she wants to live right before she levitates him toward the ceiling. The woman charges Alythalae but she dodges away.

Meanwhile, Vault Smith is still on the roof observing the town. He can still hear the sounds of curses and rummaging from the shops and the occasional glow of light from a window, but nothing seems obviously wrong. Just as his eyes are wondering across the way, movement out of the corner of his eyes show that a pack of wolves is fleeting from shadow to shadow around the building at the edge of the square and among the carts in the square.

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Scene 2 - Combat

Vaultsmith motioned for Ro and the others to come upstairs. As they filed onto the roof, Vaultsmith motioned to the growing number of shadows in the square. As they watched, they heard from the shadows across the way a shout of “There’s one now! Get it!” shortly followed by the clank of a crossbow and the startled cry of pain from one of the wolves in front of the Inn.

As the sides formed up between the “villagers” and the wolves, I asked the group who, if anyone, they should back in the fight. The players argued, in character, as to who was “good” and who was the enemy. the argument started to grow heated before Ro decided that she’d help the wounded wolf. As she plummeted from the roof, Ro changed into a wolf herself using wild shape.

About that time the woman in the baker’s shop threw her mace at Alynthalae, trying to knock her out of the air. Instead, as the mace shattered the glass, Alynthalae flew sped through the whole in the broken pane.

The party now all outside minus the barbarian who had been downstairs, the combatants looked more formidable than first thought. The wolves were a not just like the large wolf they had seen injured, large hulking bipedal wolves, along with a smattering of other demi human shapes crowded the shadows. The people they saw were dressed much like the Innkeep and “baker” in travel stained leathers. Some wore chipped and rusted armor or chain shirts.

Another bolt from a crossbow hit Ro as she attempted to communicate with the fallen wolf and those around her. As the men holding swords rushed the wolves and the feral shapes in the shadows lunged forwards, the adventurers sought to bring their own weapons to bear. As his party members readied themselves, Zekiel stepped from the Inn’s door. Seeing one of the men in armor carrying his family sword, Zerial flew into a berzerker rage, barreled towards the man, throwing the bent iron bar into the mans face just before they engaged. The bar impaled the man, missing his head but piercing his breast. Zekiel roared in triumph as he secured his family sword from the man’s convulsing fingers.

As the battle raged, a shape emerged from the shadows of the wolves forces, a tall, willowy woman with white hair and fetishes hanging from both her tresses and robe. As she stretched out her arm and barked a command lightning danced from puddle to puddle in the bazaar, killing the men closest to her pack.

The adventurers likewise tore their way through the men, as the wolves made of manflesh red rags and bone scraps. A grizzled man and a tall woman emerged from the side of the men and denounced the sorcerous and her pack, “Your people, once we find them all will be food for the new pantheon!” Zekiel hacked at the woman while Vaultsmith placed an arrow in her breast. Between the two the woman fell before her spells coalesced around her. The man stepped away from the firelight “I WILL have them”.

The few remaining men, seeing their leaders either slain or fled, likewise attempted to run. As the last men avoided the teeth and claws of the woods, he looked back in triumph. As he did so a tall woman with large horns upon her head stepped out in front of him. Turniing back towards the fields at the edge of town, he ran straight into her outstretched greatspear.

As the last sounds of the dying were muffled beneath the sounds of flesh being rended and bones cracked under powerful jaws, a small woman rushed from a grating in the ground, running towards the wolf with the quarrel in his side.
“Father!”

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Scene 3 - Frenrir's Landing
Dances with Wolves
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