Sunday, February 24, 2013


The History of Dragonsgate, Continued

Previously, we had established the skeletal frame of major historical events in Dragonsgate, heaping on a few embellished details here and there. Nevertheless, we're still very much operating in general terms, not specific ones. So, for today, we'll be examining the elements previously explored (but in-depth and with more connections to the greater timeline of the world) and narrowing in on some more specific events. Essentially, we'll be identifying lots of Proper Nouns in the grand scheme of things.

To recap, we had the following things already pegged out:

1. The Great Mishap (some great Lovecraftian horror that summarily stomped on everything)

2. The War of the Nine Wands (because how badass does that sound?)

3. The Northern Exodus/Genetic Ark (this one is a bit peculiar and might actually be eliminated – if that were the case, then we'd still need to figure out some way to explain the sudden appearance of new races and people after the Great Mishap obliterated the majority of them).

4. The First Council of Nations

5. The construction of the Librams and the War of the Librams (now we have two major historical wars, and I'm starting to feel like I'm relying on a war as a major historical event too much – other things do happen, too, from time to time).

6. The Maradi Incursion (the spread of the people of Marad from the southern reaches up into the mid-latitudes).

7. The Andujan Unification (the nation of Andujas was originally a fragmented series of nation-states and feuding territories)

8. The division of the Kingdom of Algard into Windmarch and Seagate (a crisis of succession, perhaps).

I've also cobbled together a list of artifacts, entities and holidays that will help me reverse-engineer other important events and occurrences. These will mainly serve as some filler to draw from in an effort to connect the dots. Some of these won't be used, but they can come in handy in a pinch. Sometimes it's pretty useful to have a list of NPCs, items, locations or other incidental specifics (local holidays, the name of a tavern or local authority figure; in this case, we have a little bit of everything:

- The Legion of the Unbreaking Ring

- Althurn's Monolith (a mysterious, jade slab discovered in an archaeological expedition)

- The Sacred Peace

- The Black Iron Wand, probably associated with the War of the Nine Wands

- The Swords of Casadholm/Blades of Corruption

- A Planar Overlap (cosmic phenomenon)

- Shadowfall

- A significantly devastating blight/drought that crippled the power center of several of the nations (or perhaps predecessor nations to the current ones in Dragonsgate) that had to be corrected through great effort or the intervention of some outside force).

- A significant meteorite or comet impact widely associated as a religious sign or divine Advent.

-Crystal Day

-Third Moon

-The Parade of Bells

-The ancestral Dwarven blade known as Stonebreaker

-The Siege of Barad Isra

I also want to try and think of ways to include a significant undead threat/scourge that can serve as a major antagonist or at least serve as a looming danger in the backdrop. It's always a good idea to seed at least a few potential opportunities for chaos and discord. As I've mentioned before, something needs to happen relatively quickly in any campaign or story; failing to catalyze the occurrence of something dramatic and/or interesting will risk the possibility of losing the attention of some or all of your players (or your audience). By creating several threats (agents enacting their own schemes, whether they're evil outright or just simply at odds with the players), you give yourself numerous chances to steer the story toward, depending on what your players' interests are gravitating toward. As a good rule of thumb, if none of the players are biting a potential hook you've devised, don't use it, even if you're particularly fond of it. Player disinterest is the poison that will destroy even the most carefully crafted campaign.

Additionally, I want to try and reasonably integrate dragons into this campaign setting. They're usually a fantasy staple that I try to avoid using in my games (specifically because they are so pervasive in classic settings). Given that the world is called Dragonsgate, I feel like I'm morally obligated to include them. Maybe the plane could serve as some sort of casablanca that the dragons fled to after some other event elsewhere. Perhaps dragons are deities from another plane whose worshipers eventually stopped believing in them as their numbers declined (infighting amongst themselves would probably b the most likely reason). Maybe they fled to Dragonsgate, finding the world charred, battered and broken by the doings of the Lovecraftian horror and decided that this would be a good place to make camp. I'm actually liking this idea quite a bit. Also, if the dragons are deities, then they would be a suitable explanation for the 'reseeding' of new lifeforms on the shattered planet – essentially creating a new world and new worshipers for themselves. Well, that worked out well. I've simultaneously figured out how to explain the rise of new creatures in the vacuum after the Mishap and allowed for dragons to have a reasonable presence in the world. I'll still say that, as deities, the dragons would be reclusive and only rarely directly intervene (at least in dragon form) in mortal affairs. Also, given that dragons are so easily able to change their form, they could easily masquerade as mortals great and small. I kind of like the idea of a king of one of the nations actually being one of the dragon gods. Kind of creates a lot of interesting possibilities.

Alright. So, getting back on track, let's move through our 8 points from above and try to get everything resolved into a cohesive matrix of historical goodness.

I'm actually kind of fond of the “Great Mishap” name. Originally, I'd thought it would just be more of a placeholder name, but it's grown on me. The Tieflings (ie. The cursed survivors from the previous world) might view it differently than the current inhabitants, but the circumstances are still one and the same. The only important thing to note here is that knowledge of this event (from the perspective of the current inhabitants of Dragonsgate) would be limited. I think that the only way they would even be aware that there was a world prior to their own is because of the deductive reasoning of the dragons that came to the plane. In their place as gods, they would probably have their own holy scripture that would depict the world before as a bleak, horrible world that was resurrected from the charred ashes by the divine grace of these reptilian saviors. Essentially, though, the dragons don't have much knowledge of what had happened, specifically that is, other than that the world had clearly been destroyed by something. I'll say that one of the dragon deities, almost oracular in his/her ability to divine information, had used a powerful spell (vision or some other divination spell) to learn of the horror, but they would keep that information privy to only the most faithful, or even just to themselves). As far as the context of the Mishap, the evil entity whose evilness triggered the summoning of uncontrollable magic to stop him will be Maradun of the Pit a, and I'll detail him in a little while (probably in the footnotes). So, the horror destroyed everything, and, like Galactus1, decided to leave afterward, searching for other worlds to devour. The dragons came from another world and reseeded life, giving Dragonsgate a second lease on existence. Liking it so far. Eventually, we can detail more about the tieflings and the heroes they originally were, but that's getting a little beyond our goal at the moment (ie. Too specific).

The War of the Nine Wands. Sure, it sounds pretty awesome and sufficiently epic. But what the heck are the eponymous wands, and why are there nine of them? Why not ten? And why are there enough people fighting over them to be called a war? All valid questions, and I have no idea what the answer is right now. I feel a bit like George Lucas, making up the Clone Warsb for A New Hope then vainly searching for some way to include them into the plot of my prequels. I certainly don't want it to feel that pathetic, so I'll endeavor to make it a significant event that lives up to its epicness (epickness?). Already, part of my inkling is to connect the wands to the dragons. Let's say there are nine dragons, and each has a wand that is keyed to their specific portfolios of divine power. This would have to be before they've really, truly been established as a pantheon of deities, let alone coalesced their influence into a hierarchical order or official church. Maybe they didn't always get along, maybe they've been reluctant allies in the past, or maybe greed dominated their hearts at the potential of seizing Dragonsgate for their own. As divine entities, they command a pretty potent legion of servitors at their disposal, so a war could be protracted and last for eons if the gods were all about on even footing as far as power levels are concerned. Now, here's something interesting; let's say that the original gods were jaded about the obliteration of their world, but nevertheless had no intention of just packing up shop and washing their hands of it. Then these upstart dragons pop into the scene and just start digging on in. If I were a deity, my reaction would be pretty unfavorable – some wrath and lightning bolts would be involved, for certain. The dragons create the new denizens of Dragonsgate before the older gods can say “WTF?” and, finally the two groups of deities meet, exchanging some not-so-nice words. The older gods might try to convert the nascent beings to their religion (ie. Away from the dragons) and that's when I imagine the pot would boil over. I also like the notion of a Loki-esque tricksterc deity stealing the magic wands of the dragons to lend to the older deities, and thus the divine war begins. There are obviously more details to discuss about this war, but it could easily fill another several pages, and we still have a lot of ground to cover, so I'll think about having a separate post for the War of the Nine Wands. At least we have a general idea of what it is though, so that counts for a lot.

Also, as it pertains to the conflict between the Elder Gods and the Dragons, I wanted to mention a brief thing or two about the seeding of new mortal life. While I don't think that the “Genetic Arks” originally envisioned have much of a place in a fantasy setting (it feels a little too science-fiction/science-fantasy), I do like the idea of the original gods having a few “prototype” creatures that they were planning on bestowing the Flame Imperishable2 upon. That's also getting a bit beyond the scope of things, but how awesome would it be if a group of heroes found an ancient, ruined site, and saw that there were a bunch of strange, peculiar statues littering the area and became convinced that it was either the doing of a very eccentric sculptor or a medusa, only for the Big Reveal d to indicate that the statues were actually going to be animated as new creatures. From the DM POV, that is all kinds of awesome.

The next major point was the Northern Exodus/Genetic Ark matter, which I think has been sufficiently addressed, so I'll move onto the next one.

The First Council of Nations. Obviously, the event would occur after the War of the Nine Wands, well within recorded history (I'm pretty sure the War of the Nine Wands is something of mythic status, not cited as fact or a recorded event, mainly because it happened so long ago). I simply thought it was important to note because of its impact on the extant world. The Council of Nations was set up by the nation of Pazu, as I have already mentioned before. They are the consummate diplomats of Dragonsgate, and it seems fitting to have them be responsible for such a landmark event. I envision that once every year, there is a grand summit where envoys from every nation (at the nation, regional and city levels) gather to discuss matters of great importance or far-ranging gravitas. The Treaty of Zelat (one of the major cities of Pazu) is the document that binds its signatories to the protocols and provisions laid out in the treaty. Let's say that to this date, no one has violated the treaty, but Andujas has come close in the past by attempting to annex territories from Ferrago and Marad. Let's create some political tension where we can. As I've said before, it can't be all sunshine and butterflies.

Next point. The Construction (and War) of the Librams. There's been a lot of major conflict already, but this would be the first protracted conflict in living history. I think that this could be tied to the creation or intended creation of a magical/arcane order attempting to create easier (but still regulated) access to magica power. Or it could be the unearthing of several ancient texts that pose a danger to the world much like the horror once did. So, these could be sources of potent magical energies that have some significant risk to the people of Dragonsgate. Still, this one is making me scratch my head a bit, so this might have to simmer for a while.

Lastly, we'll discuss the (a) Maradi Incursion, (b) the Andujan unification and (c) the separation of the Algardian crown into that of Windmarch and Seagate. Each of these regions is going to have its own history that might be a bit beyond the scope of things in the immediate task of our worldbuilding efforts, so I'll try to paint these in broad strokes, leaving the finer details for articles that are essentially profiles of the individual nations.

The Maradi Incursion. Marad stretches beyond the map that we devised originally, probably going for another 250-300 miles into the south, where the caliphate terminates at the sea. Seems logical to me. Anyway, the incursion represents the time in history where the caliphate stretched its reach to the north, annexing territories held by Andujan warlors and petty nobles, prior to the concentration of power in Andujas proper (we'll talk about that below). The incursion was eventually halted when the Andujan nobles managed to put aside their squabbles and feuds and unite against a common foe. After the Andujan unification, Marad was unable to maintain its momentum northward, but was too strong to be driven back. Ever since, there has been a sort of cold war state between the two, the only factor that prevents all out war from igniting being the Council of Nations. It should be noted that the Council was probably established as a means of halting this conflict before it could escalate further (and to prevent it from happening again). It should be mentioned that Andujas and Marad are both signatories of the Treaty of Zelat.

The Andujan Unification. As mentioned above, the unification was directly in response to the Maradi threat, and the nobles of Andujas and their factions looked past their differences, establishing an elective monarchy with an Emperor voted into office by an Imperial Diet comprised of representatives of each of the cities and noble territories. The Emperor was advised by a council comprised of the Dukes and Duchesses of each territory under his or her control. The laws governing the office were drafted hastily in order to match the threat of invasion, and as such, there are loopholes and exceptions to the system that have yet to be addressed or exploited (fortunately). In many ways, the entire system is an experiment, but its success in driving back the threat from the caliphate made it an extremely popular effort in the country and has contributed to it taking a firm root.

The splitting of the Algardian Crown. I've prattled on for a while now, and I'm starting to run out of steam for this particular effort, but I know that I want this to be some sort of crisis of succession. There are numerous historical precedents for this, and as such, it seems like a logical option. The King of Algard passes away unexpectedly (without a direct male descendant) and there are two potential heirs, both having strong claims to the throne. A protracted political crisis ensues, and the nation is nearing the point of civil war as the factions of either heir bristle at the other's claim. A pact is eventually reached, and administered by the nobility of the land, the crown's territories are split into two realms, that of Windmarch and Seagate. Oddly enough, to this day, the two nations remain staunch allies, probably because there was no blood shed over the matter and both of the claimants did get what they wanted – a crown and the title of King.

That pretty much sums up our exploration of the history of the world, now that we've figured out the most important stuff. Next time, I think we'll start profiling the nations of Dragonsgate. Should be fun! Also, I'll start exploring some of the other random elements from my miscellaneous list at the beginning of the post - they should fit better in the individual nation profiles anyway.


a. Coming back to Maradun of the Pit and the Legion of the Unbreaking Ring from my list of random knick-knacks and goodies, what if his disciples found a way to bring him back? It's a tale as old as villainy itself – the villain that comes back from the darkness to resume his EVIL CAMPAIGN OF VILE VILLAINY, usually only for the sake of villainy itself. Given that whatever events have unfolded in the past, if he were to be brought back from the dead, it would be the players' first time encountering him as a threat, so it feels like less of an abusive trope and I'm comfortable with throwing it into the mix. As for the Unbreaking Ring, why not have it be an adamantine bauble that lends some significant reserves of arcane power to the villain. In a way, it's the One Ring, but much less of a plot device (see MacGuffin). There always has to be a source of power for the villain, and considering that this artifact possesses its own wellspring of magical energy that is beyond the purview of the tieflings, that gives Maradun a significant advantage in plotting his plots. What exactly he's up to, who knows, but he might have a keen interest in harnessing the destructive potential of the horror that caused his demise previously.

b. The Clone Wars. A famous example of unsuccessful retconning or retroactive story engineering. It's pretty clear that Lucas didn't have too firm of an understanding what happened in the Clone Wars, only that he made it up to sound like a cool backstory element in A New Hope. That's entirely my opinion, however (as a caveat).

c. Loki

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