New World Campaign Meta-plot & Back Story

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FOR DMs ONLY

None of this should be revealed in its entirety to the Players - they must piece together the clues.

CAMPAIGN TIMELINE

The original plan was to have two separate campaign threads: the CITYPORT and the SHIPWRECK.

PREMISE: Two parties of adventurers land on the New World.

HOW DID THEY GET THERE? Sent by ship (as part of a re-supply fleet of three ships), but a large storm (out a calm sky) scatters the fleet. One ship lands as normal at the COLONY, the other is a SHIPWRECK, the third is assumed lost at sea…

WHY ARE THEY THERE? To settle, trade or seek employment.

BASIC THEMES/MOTIF: for CITYPORT adventurers, the theme is one of culture shock: 100% humidity, bright clashing colours, thick jungle, and a race that predates humanity with one of ritual suicide. There’s also the language and cultural barrier. For the SHIPWRECK group it is one of survival. They are effectively lost and alone in what appears to be a very hostile wilderness, but what they discover may prove detrimental to the whole nation.

PREQUEL: Small trading fleet leaves Old World (three ships). Fleet lay over in island chain - pirates, possible rivalries, smugglers etc. Sets the scene. Fleet is attacked by Sahuagin and Megalodon shark under cover of a storm. One ship is lost in the storm (no PCs aboard).

CITY-PORT ADVENTURERS SHIPWRECK ADVENTURERS
Damaged ship limps into port. Will not be fixed for months. PCs wash up on beach. May be able to scavenge equipment. Players are attacked on beach by Sahuagin, or a landshark under control of Sahuagin???
PCs get acquainted with city, customs of the LizardFolk etc. Various adventures can take place at this stage. Forced to trek into jungle to find fresh water, food etc. Various adventures can take place at this stage.
Various adventures can take place at this stage. Discovery of TRAITOR’S tribe. The encounter does not end well.
A Paladin is convinced by an ANGEL (not one of the Rebels) that the CITY OF THE DEAD is an affront to his god. Taking up arms, he heads upriver to destroy the Undead. The PCs have to stop him, giving them the first inkling as to the purpose of the CITY OF THE DEAD. The PCS are pursued through the jungle, maybe with help from friendly LizardFolk (rivals of the TRAITOR)?
A COUATL arrives as an emissary of the REBEL DEVAS. The PCS begin their journey across the jungle. The PCs have run-ins with tanar’ri, HALF-FIENDS, dinosaurs. The PCs end up escaping into the plains/desert. They have no choice but to make for the Darklight beacon.
PCs arrive at CELESTIAL CITY. Tensions arise between the various celestial factions. PCs learn what the beacon is for just as it explodes… Trapped in the Darklight Beacons city by Darklight Golems, the player’s only recourse is to shatter the power crystal maintaining the beacon, After doing so the tower becomes a volcano

The explosion ends Act 1.

CAMPAIGN BACKGROUND

What has gone before

Aeons ago, when reptiles still ruled the Earth, the ANCIENTS (a race from whom LizardFolk and Yuan-ti are descended from), built a huge city in honour of Quetzalcoatl (the son of Semuanya) and his consort, Cihuacoatl. Quetzalcoatl was one of a race who later became the progenitor of all Dragons. Magic at this time existed in a raw, undiluted state and the ANCIENTS used it freely. Others who would become LizardFolk and Yuan-ti came into being during Quetzalcoatl’s reign.

One of their kind, Merrshaulk, was ambitious and wished to take dominion of all he surveyed, but was denied his ambition by Quetzalcoatl. Merrshaulk grew ever more embittered and his soul turned to poison, although he never faced Quetzalcoatl openly. Instead he researched powers, magicks, and influences that even the ANCIENTS knew of and shuddered.

Disaster struck for the ANCIENTS, when the consort of Quetzalcoatl fell ill with an insidious malaise that resisted all magicks and healing. To this day, some Couatl believe that this may have been some doing of Merrshaulk who was ever a sly and jealous one. Quetzalcoatl could only watch as Cihuacoatl died slowly in great pain.

Vowing to return her to life, Quetzalcoatl commanded the ANCIENTS to research spells that would return her to life. Although they were troubled, they did as he requested -as did Merrshaulk, who watched and plotted. Although it took a century the arcane ritual was finally ready. It would be huge undertaking requiring a portion of life essence from every ANCIENT, or so it would appear. What none of the ANCIENTS knew was that Merrshaulk had corrupted the ritual in small but significant ways. The result would be to make him immortal, and turn him into a god.

When the ritual began, Quetzalcoatl immediately perceived that something was wrong but by then it was too late. Life energy suffused Merrshaulk, but as Quetzalcoatl flew at him in a despairing chance to prevent Merrshaulk’s apotheosis into a god, some of the crystals being used in the ritual were shattered. The results were catastrophic.

The ANCIENTS were drained completely of their life energies, shrivelling to husks. An entire race was almost entirely wiped out, bar a handful of individuals. Merrshaulk was trapped between the Abyss and the Prime Material plane and bound in eternal stupor. But his mind remained ever sly and devious and spoke to his followers in dreams and prayer. He urged them to go out and become strong in the world. They became the Yuan-ti.

Quetzalcoatl was a creature of huge emotions and passions, and already in mourning: a deity of some note by this stage, this event was to shatter his awareness into the various aspects that the Illuminated now worship today. The ritual robbed him of his sanity, but not before he ordered that Merrshaulk be entombed to sleep forever and ever so that his evil could not be loosed upon the world. After ordering this, Quetzalcoatl flew into solitude and went into a sleep of aeons.

The ANCIENTS now had a problem. Merrshaulk could not be killed, but could not be allowed to use the negative energies suffusing the area. They built a huge fortress city on the site to prevent the Yuan-ti from ever returning to free their lord, but they knew that the dark energies would forever flow from the rift created by the ritual.

Instead they built a number of towers in remote areas that could used to "vent" this energy without harming anyone. These towers reacted like flares, leeching off the excess energy so that Merrshaulk remained forever in a torpid state - they also acted as a beacon for travellers, as they pulsed dark energy into the sky. It was to be their last act on this plane of note on this plane as they died out not long after, leaving only their LizardFolk attendants. The towers were guarded by GOLEMs and other magical constructs that in turn used the Darklight energy to maintain the city.

Millennia later and only two beacons remained. Attracted by the radiations of negative energy power, a group of Celestials arrived in the area and setup an outpost in the mountains, never realising that they would shortly be unable to leave. They were unsure as to the source of this energy, so elected to stay and study this vortex of pure evil.

Around two millennia ago, one of the beacons was sunk beneath the waves in a volcanic eruption - the "blowback" of energy permeated the region for miles around (this is what makes the detect good/evil spells and powers fail). It also effectively imprisoned the Celestials. They suffer searing agonies (and a wasting contagion) whenever they leave their outpost.

The LizardFolk now knew that without some way of leeching off the energy they were doomed, which is how the CITY OF THE DEAD came into being. Every year a warrior society sends its members to compete in various events of physical and martial prowess. The winners then ritually sacrifice themselves and become the LizardFolk Guardians (Darklight Undead). When an OVERKING dies, a ritual is performed that resurrects them as a Lich.

The Present Day

Hungry for power, a member of the Illuminated has forged an alliance with the YUAN-TI. THE TRAITOR now plots against the OVERKING. As a representative of one of the Southern Jungle tribes, he is secretly forming an army of HALF-FIENDS with Demonic (TANAR’RI) help there.

The YUAN-TI have returned to the city, with their more human-appearing members taking positions within the colony. Their Abomination masters have drained the some of the Undercity and have begun to perform rites destined to eventually release Merrshaulk. A number of humans have been duped into the cult as well.

In the CELESTIAL CITY, the PLANETAR ANGELS are planning a strike against THE DEAD CITY, convinced that this is a source of evil, not the Abyssal Lord beneath. Having sworn an oath to obey the ANGELS, the COUATL have reluctantly decided to intervene directly. They and the REBEL DEVAS believe that the CITY OF THE DEAD is there for a reason, and have misgivings about the attack.

Additionally, the Baatezu (Devils) are starting to take an interest in the area. As the Blood War continues to rage against the Tanar'ri, the addition of another Abyssal lord to the forces of the Abyss could prove a major problem. They may already have agents in the area.