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Worldbreakers: Episode 1

Posted by Telemergion, 31 July 2013 · 386 views

eberron rpg worldbreakers story
Inspired by vhesper and because I said I would do it I submit for the approval of the Midnight Society my long running and hopefully ongoing campaign. In this episode we meet some of the characters who will become very important to the plot and one guy who really won't. Probably. Also bugs.

The game takes place in the Eberron setting but I have taken a number of creative liberties with it, sometimes because I completely misread the book and then decided to run with it, and also used a lot of the lore because I often had no idea where or what my players would choose to do so I left them many story hooks. There are spoilers, likely, so if you don't want to hear about plots and intrigue I advise you to cover your characters' eyes and ears.

Worldbreakers: Episode 1
First Tremours of Destiny

Our story takes place in the world of Eberron: a land of wonders and adventure. The camera hovers over the continent of Khorvaire or as many of its inhabitants know it, the known world. Centuries ago much of it was ruled over by the Kingdom of Galifar. Upon his death 5 great nations were born to be governed by his children. As you might expect things eventually went downhill and the five nations erupted in a massive war that lasted 100 years. Four years ago there was a terrible morning when the sky was lit by violet explosions and the nation of Cyre, the home of science and artistry, ceased to exist. Now it is shrouded by fog and no mortal dare enter its borders. After this tragedy the surviving nations came together and 2 years ago signed The Treaty. It ended the century long war and brought a tenuous peace to the land. It also granted rights to many of the outsider races such as orcs and goblins, making them full citizens of Khorvaire and no longer monsters to be slaughtered and killed without a thought. Smaller nations, home to these outsiders, have begun to grow up around the 4 remaining nations, and a new era of prosperity and growth has come to Khorvaire. But many believe it will not last.

The camera closes in on the centre of the continent and shows a nation of rich farmlands, sprawling forests, and bustling cities. This is Breland, one of the remaining nations. It is ruled by King Boranel though he does not often sit upon his throne. He is an adventurer at heart and wanders his lands spending time with the people rather than be locked up in his musty castle. While he gallavants about the nation is guided by the wise hand of his regent and brother, Kor. Breland, even during the war, has always been an accepting home for those who had none. It absorbed a large portion of the refugees from Cyre despite years of conflict across the border they shared. Adventurers too have long known that if they could make it anywhere it would be in Breland with is vast unpopulated areas to explore and its generous and accepting townsfolk. That is why our heroes have come here.

The camera zooms in again to a small town called Havershire - little more than a collection of buildings along a trade road - and on an inn called The Flowing Taps with its warm, welcoming lights and energetic music. It is not the nice inn in town, but it is the one where work can be found for those who desperately need it and are willing to go to great lengths for it. Sitting in the inn are the principle players.

Sulking at the bar sits a dark haired and lean young man with a permanent scowl on his face. He nurses a glass of hard alcohol. His name is Raine and he hails from the lands to the Northwest called the Eldeen Reaches. Pristine forest homeland to giants, druids, and the progenitors of lycanthropes, the Shifters, it suffered terribly during the Great War. Raine himself is both Shifter and Druid but he no longer can call the Reaches home because another nation, Aundaire, invaded his homeland and claimed it as its territory. Now he lives filled with anger with no purpose other than survival and a growing greed within his heart.

Sitting at a table in the centre of the floor is another young man dressed in armour and with a sword at his side. His features are not quite human, though none in the bar can figure what they might be otherwise. The Brelish rurals couldn't know of the rare bloodline in the nation of Karrnath that imbuded its bearers with powerful elemental magics. This man's name is Magnus and he is Genasi. Shamed when his father fled from the battlefield and stripped of his station he too has no home and with no war in which to regain his honour he has chosen to live by his sword, hopefully happen upon the small chance of making a name for himself as an adventurer, and secretly hoping to one day find his father to mete out punishment for that unforgivable crime.

Standing in a corner observing it all as he leans upon his spear is Jareb. He's an Aasimar avenger and don't get too attached because he's not really important.

The comfortable hubbub is silenced as suddenly the inn's foundation shifts dramatically. The timbers groan, drinks are knocked from tables, and people scream and scurry about in a panic. As quickly as it began it stops and an uneasy quiet descends. Then the door, which has sunk several inches into the ground bursts open with a thunderous crash. Frightened eyes see a solid metal foot clang against the doorframe as it is lowered from the devastating kick it just administered.

"Is everyone alright?!" the dwarf that is connected to the foot cries out. He is slightly past middle age for a dwarf with a blonde beard turning to grey but his eyes sparkle with intelligence and energy without being diminished by his years. Short and fat even for his race he stomps as carefully as he can with one metal leg into the inn, helping people to their feet. This is Garradur "Ironfoot" Thra'duum, a Dwarven artificer and retired adventurer, and his backstory is even more tragic than those written above - it might be the most tragic - but he was a DMPC sent in to heal the party so we won't get into it until it's important. He is, however, way more important than Jareb.

"I was walking on th' street an' I saw th' whole buildin' shake." Garradur rumbles. "I had ta come in an' see if anybody be hur - innkeeper! Yer floor's separating from th' rest of it!" He points out a corner of the building that has fallen further than the rest revealing a dark recess underneath. "Be tha' yer cellar?"

"No..." the innkeeper frowns. "The root cellar's out back." He looks over the assembled forms in his common room. "Alright, I know there's a bunch of adventurers here. Who wants to earn a few gold and go down in the hole?"

There were only three such persons willing to take a paltry reward for such pitiful endeavours. Garradur went with them because he felt sorry for the young ones and figured they needed the benefit of experience and perhaps someone with knowledge of structural engineering and dungeoneering.

Down into the hole they went, introducing themselves and discussing their various abilities and tactics as they went. Raine revealed that he could turn into a large black cat and he scouted ahead at the edge of the light that just emanated from Jareb looking into the darkness. Suddenly there were beset by enormous insects! They fought long and hard, delving deeper into a dizzying maze of tunnels, fighting off the nightmarish mutations, and wondering just what could have caused this. Finally they stepped into a much larger chamber with a deep hole in the middle and saw the rows and rows of enormous eggs. The softly glowing phosphorescent orbs combined with observations about the tunnel's size were the clues needed to identify that the Taps inn had a serious pest problem: ankhegs.

The colossal arthropods burst through the gorund moments later seeking to protect their young from the intruders. The ragtag crew nearly died but somehow managed to defeat the mated pair and they destroyed the eggs. Raine's keen senses, however, picked up that there was light emanating from a small opening at the bottom of the hole. Curiosity led to ingenuity as they used a combination of rope and a magical trampoline supplied by the artificer to descend safely. Squeezing through the tunnel, this one naturally formed in the rock and too small for ankhegs to get through, they found another chamber. This one was brightly lit by a glowing moat of water than encircled a stalagmite of rock upon which sat a shining crystal. Those in the party trained in arcana gasped as they recognized it was a Khyber Dragonshard - a rare and powerful stone. Along the walls of the chamber were letters as tall as a man carved into the rock. No one recognized the script.

Sitting along the wall was a skeleton. Jareb and Garradur searched the body for clues and found a few pages of a journal. Much was eaten away by moisture but a few remained enough to know that this was a shardhunter who had found his way here looking to get to the deeper recesses of khyber where shards are able to be harvested. He found this one, strangely close to the surface and not surrounded by the usual lava and terrible evil beasts. He translated the runes on the walls before deciding to attempt crossing the moat. Words were in draconic and read as follows:

I leave this for those who are prophecied
Your world will end as ours did once
The curse of fate shall find its bearer
When four enter only three can leave.


While Jareb and Garradur pondered this, Magnus and Raine were inspecting the moat. Magnus tried throwing a rock into it only for the stone to bounce off an invisible wall of force. The two discovered it ringed the moat but only went about 6 feet up. Just as Garradur and Jareb were coming to the conclusion that maybe the shardhunter had died trying to get at the shard Raine declared "I can totally jump that" and then did so.

Landing on the small centre island he reached out a hand and picked up the shard. Immediately he was wracked by searing pain and he collapsed. The shoulder of the arm that had touched the stone burned and he ripped his shirt off to see a brand slowly forming across his skin there. The pain eventually subsided, the glowing water's light dimmed to blackness, and the shard crumbled to dust in his hand. Under the light from Jareb Raine stumbled across the now shieldless moat and permitted Garardur to inspect him.

"Boy, ah don' know how ta tell ye this, but ye got yerself a Dragonmark."

Indeed, somehow Raine had been marked with the arcane sigil reserved for those of House Tharashk, the Mark of Finding. Marks like this were mysterious birthmarks unique to bloodlines. No one knows exactly how or why they exist, though speculation links them to the ancient dragons said to have been the first civilization since they are similar to the draconic language. The marks can show up at birth or sometime during a bearer's life and even full blooded members of the family may never manifest one where distant cousins can produce shockingly large examples. Generally the larger and cleared the mark, the greater its power. Never before had our heroes heard of a mark manifesting on a non-family member, let alone a different species.

Stunned by this news and their heads in turmoil over what implications this might have the four adventurers climbed out of the hole and back into the inn. Mechanically they collected their reward from the innkeeper and went to bed upstairs only to sleep fitfully and dream of dragons.

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After the long-winded story post I think I'll follow these up with a bit of GM Commentary.

 

While this wasn't my first session as GM it was fairly early on and was the first real session I'd done in DnD4E. I'd fooled around with it a bit but mostly just character creation and the odd random encounter for myself and a couple friends to try out our builds. This was the first time I'd considered making a longer running campaign out of it and I honestly didn't know where I was going to go with it or if it would even work for my crew at the time. 2 of my players were still very new to RPGs and while we'd enjoyed the random crazy fun you can get into in a high PL Mutants and Masterminds game I wanted this to be a lot more about the intrigue and dungeon crawling aspects of the game.

 

So we did a very simple setup. I started them in an inn not because I couldn't think of other places but because I wanted the new players to experience DnD. Inn's are just where you start. I wanted to get right into the dungeon crawl to see how they'd take to it so I dropped them - literally - into it. Turns out they took to it really well. They were super nervous and cautious as they crept through the map I'd made and were suitably shit-pantsed when the ankhegs showed up and tried to eat them.

 

But I knew if I wanted this game to continue I needed a hook. Not the usual adventure hook designed for the party, I'd need to hook one player. Raine's player is notorious for being the bad-boy of the group. If anyone is going to be a shit disturber in any situation it's him. He plays exclusively characters of questionable alignment and morality, usually dipping from chaotic neutral into chaotic evil depending on his mood. He's also the one who commonly asks "why would I stay with the group?"

 

So in this case I gambled. I knew Jareb, whose player is painfully cautious at times, would never go near the fancy rock before investigating the writing and would be even less likely to after reading the translation. Magnus might have been tempted but he lacked the athletic ability. Raine, player and character, cannot resist something shiny if I put it in front of them so of course he went for it.

 

How this plays out in story will be revealed next episode but from this point on whenever Raine asked "Why would I stay with the group" I could always fall back on "Because you're now the MacGuffin!"

 

Heavy handed? Yes. Rookie mistake? Possibly. Effective? Only partially.

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Glad I could encourage you, though you have a better gift with writing than I do. The best thing I liked about 4th edition was the ease of creating characters. So much so, that when I started my campaign, I focused on each character for one level and then brought them all together. So for instance, one of my players wanted to be a Tiefling Sorcerer. So I had him be a youngest member of a noble house who was going to go out and make a name for himself at a town some distance away by ship. So I created a set of npc's to travel with him and passed them out to all the other players. Then I played a session with them for the ships voyage. By doing this for all the characters, they were able to experience the various classes before the campaign started. One of the players even kept the one of the NPC's, liking how it played out better than his own concept.

 

The other cool thing by using this concept was that I could run the games out of time. One player wanted to play a Elf Ranger, but wanted me to create his character. So I created all the NPCs like normal and gave him a Elf Ranger character. The scenario was that the Elven Queen had been murdered and her child stolen in the night, so everyone was out tracking the killer. The group ended up grabbing the child from some drow, but what they discovered was that it was a plot from the Queen's sister, so they had to escape into hiding... with his character - fast-forwarding 15 years. I made sure and give every character a plot hook that could be explored or not later in the campaign. 

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Thanks for the compliment on my writing. As one of my few skills it's nice to know people appreciate it.

 

I know exactly what you mean about 4E character creation. I honestly loved the system for that aspect alone. I can't tell you how many characters I rolled with it but it's easily the largest collection in a single system. Everyone got to do awesome stuff and it was always interesting to see how far the rules would bend before they broke.

 

We would still be playing it to this day if combat hadn't bogged down so badly which was partially the system with all its powers that necessitated a battle grid and partly my players treating it like a wargame because it was on a battle grid. That and I needed a system where it was much easier to improvise everything. 4E was pretty good for being able to flip through the book and find challenges appropriate for the party's level but once again the grid reared its ugly head because having fights in a vaccuum is no fun but having to plan out an interesting map is also hard.

 

Your game sounds awesome. I have to say that again. Maybe my writeup was fancier but I am seriously impressed with your DMing and a little jealous. I did something similar in this campaign as well in that I too had a hand in character creation for just about every character. We spent a lot of time figuring out how they would fit into the world and where they were from, what they wanted, and what was stopping them. As we played and people began to look at paragon paths and epic destinies I worked everything in to a character specific arc for each one where they would achieve their goals and earn their build options in the game.

 

Honestly as awesome as that plan sounded and as fun as it's been to write and play it was a huge undertaking and it also weakened certain elements of my game. My players realized their characters were so integral to the plot that I couldn't allow them to die (permanently) and that's reduced a lot of tension I might have had in fights.

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You will notice in my Rise of the Godhands a lot of new characters being introduced and falling by the wayside. I run my games at our FLGS so I learned a long time ago not to hang my plots too tight. In fact, some of the events I don't go into detail on in the writeup are handled by player turned npcs just to handle some plot points off screen (as it were). 

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