Cormyr Development Rant

Discussion in 'General Modification' started by anatoliy, May 9, 2021.

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  1. anatoliy

    anatoliy Established Member

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    This post is going to be development thoughts, plans and steps taken to create Cormyr Adventure. Lot's of spoilers obviously.

    Very short synopsis
    1. In Chapter 1 Player will stumble across itinerant cleric of Mystra, who will give quest to investigate false Temple of Mystra in Wheloon. Clearing out this false Temple will grant new quest of finding out where dominated petitioners were sent.
    2. Which will lead in Chapter 2 to Vast Swamp area with lizardfolk.
    3. Then Lost Refuge facility in Chapter 3, which contains portal to Plane of Shadow.
    4. Entering Plane of Shadow in Chapter 4 Player would browse Shadow Citadel facility, Shadow Swamp camp and the Monastery.
    5. Following lead in Chapter 5 Player will enter The Black Rift area in which he will eventually enter Ritual Chamber and challenge final boss.

    The Story
    The story present in the book is quite obscure, unobvious, and hard to figure out. Moreover, setting of this Adventure is strongly tied to Forgotten Realms setting, with own pantheon and regions. I will try to lay out this story in my own words.

    The key component of the Adventure and Forgotten Realms overall is never-ending conflict between some gods. FR has a lot of gods of different rank as present in Faiths and Pantheon book. There are 30 major deities and quite of few others. In this Adventure Player need to know at least basic information about Selune, Mystra and Shar.

    Pantheon Wars
    Lord Ao created the universe which now holds the world of Toril. (Ao is out of business / unreachable grand god. Toril is kind of Earth in FR.) Eventually the shadowy essence coalesced to form beautiful twin goddess, polar opposite of each other, one dark (Shar, NE, night) and one light (Selune, CG, depicted as the Moon). Then they both produced goddess Chauntea (NG, goddess of earth, agriculture, depicted as rose) which is embodiment of Toril. Then sisters had fight and Selune tore the divine essence of magic from her body and hurled at her sister, tearing through Shar's form and pulling with it similar energy from the dark twin. This energy formed Mystra (NG, Mother of all Magic), the goddess of magic. Although Mystra is composed from good and evil magic she favors Selune.

    This all matter because mortals can use magic in FR through the Weave which is embodiment of Mystra. The Weave is manifestation of raw magic, a kind of interface between the will of a spellcaster and the stuff of raw magic.

    During eternal war between Selune and Shar, latter created alternative way of interface between raw magic and mortals – Shadow Weave. The key difference between the Weave and Shadow Weave is that latter works normally in places of Dead Magic and Wild Magic zones. To use Shadow Weave user must have feat Shadow Weave Magic (pre: Wis 13 or patron deity Shar), price -2 to Wis permanently.

    This leaves opportunity for Shar to dominate over region, where Weave does not function normally, e.g. – dead magic zones, where her minion users of Shadow Weave can easily deal with any foes.

    Nemesis
    Main nemesis of PC in this book will be dragon Despayr. But his boss lady is Esvele Greycastle – human cleric 13 of Shar. PC will not see or fight her in this book. They will encounter her in second chapter of next book – Shadowdale.

    She has a Project – create dead magic zone. First place to implement the project is Vast Swamp near Cormyr region, - the story of this book. Second project will be in Shadowdale – the second book.

    Artifact Shadow Shard is going to be used, it takes living person and tears hole in the Weave, it also transforms a victim to undead of shadowslain type. Now she needs minions and manager of the project. She picks crippled mutant young adult dragon Despayr, who was born without ability to produce acid in Breath Weapon, also could not use any magic.

    His dragon sister Tyra was slain in her lair in Vast Swamp by tribe of lizardfolk named Dragonslayer. I guess it kind of annoyed him as he defeated and enslaved the tribe afterwards.

    Esvele met and easily subdued him. She explained him that he was chosen by Shar, thus mutant, and picked the Shadow Shard from his hoard and instructed him how to use it, also bonus of Shard Breath Weapon. Dragon Despayr accepted protection and the project. He used the Shadow Shard to mutate Dragonslayer lizardfolk tribe into undead, which are now called Shadowscale. While bringing much of the Vast Swamp under his control, Despayr discovered Lost Refuge facility containing Dusk Lord's Passage portal which led to Plane of Shadows. Then he relocated his lair into it into Black Rift region.

    Business Scheme
    Esvele built her business flow in this scheme:
    1. Naïve petitioners are lured to false Temple of Mystra in Wheloon (Cormyr), where they are dominated using Starry Gnosis artifact. Manager of this step is her fellow priestess Neadaenya Arthas.
    2. Dominated victims are sent to Lost Refuge facility deep in Vast Swamp. On the road they are watched by Dark Creepers in Tomb of Chonis.
    3. Lost Refuge is managed by Kithlord Thieraven, male shadar-kai sorcerer 6. He oversees petitioners are sent via portal to bleak copy of Lost Refuge on other side, in Plane of Shadows. He has formidable force in the facility.
    4. In Plane of Shadows the bleak copy of Lost Refuge is called Shadow Citadel. It is being managed by Jherremor, large outsider. Petitioners then are embarked onto Necreme boat which is led by shadar-kay ferrymaster Sithierel, who will take them via Shadow Swamp to Monastery of Ebon Dome.
    5. If the boat is not available, then petitioners could go different route through undead lizardfolk Shadowscale Warren.
    6. Monastery of Ebon Dome is managed by Zatharmas, male tiefling warlock 5. Petitioners are sent then to canyon Black Rift.
    7. The Black Rift is large canyon, which has number of bridges between two walls. Each connection between bridges is essentially encounter. Last point is Ritual Chamber on big rock island.
    8. Ritual Chamber is final boss encounter in this Adventure. It is big prison-like chamber and place where ritual of the Weave tearing is being performed by dragon Despayr.
     
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  2. anatoliy

    anatoliy Established Member

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    False Temple of Mystra
    Initial Quest of Blasphemy of Mystra
    I think the best way to begin the Adventure would be to start city map with letter from priest Tunaster Dranik at hand and quest "Mysterious Letter" – You have obtained mysterious announcement post which require meeting with T.D. in the Wyvern Watch Inn.

    It could also be sort of post board where PC could take it, but I do not like such approach. Player is more annoyed when he has to figure out initial quest. It is better to narrate and lead here.


    At this point the Player should not be able to leave the city. He can go to the Market though. For example, to buys some items which would increase diplomatic skills.

    When the PCs go to the Wyvern Watch Inn find a white-bearded man wearing a simple blue robe trimmed with white, accented by a cloak of deep blue. He also wears a blue skullcap.

    If approached, the man is initially nervous, as if ready to bolt. However, if the PCs put him at ease, he indicates he is indeed “T.D.,” Tunaster Dranik, cleric of Mystra (LG male Chondathan human cleric 3).

    Before talking to PC Tunaster will need to look nervous. I think I will make him turn sideways every second – that should do it. After the talk Tunaster should stay calm, I guess.

    “I wander, as many Mystran clergy do, seeking sources of old magic. I’ve been in tombs, dangerous ruins—I’ve even skirted the lair of a foul lich. But none of these holds a candle to the sight I saw a tenday past—a newly built temple of Mystra, here in Wheloon.”

    “Seems normal enough, eh? But there are no other temples of Mystra in Cormyr. This is big news! I’m a long-time cleric of the church. I’m in yearly contact with the organization. How is it I didn’t know I’d find a temple of Mystra here? Why don’t I, a cleric in good standing, know more of this ‘Lady Arthas’ who supposedly ordered the temple’s construction, and sited it on the ruins of the old citadel?”

    “Astonished, I immediately entered the temple, looking for answers. I made it to the outer courtyard, but was rebuffed from entering the inner areas; I was told to wait for Lady Arthas. After an hour’s wait, a man appeared, someone named Fembrys, and asked me to accompany him back to the middle courtyard.

    He wore the garb of a Mystran cleric, as I do, but something about him wasn’t right. I can’t explain it to you, but something made me . . . run.”

    “And they chased me! Why would they do that? Someone on the temple walls fired arrows at me! But I escaped. What in the Nine Hells is going on in there? I need to find out, or failing that, go to the nearest legitimate temple of Mystra and ask for aid. But now you’re here. Can you help me?”

    “I’ve already spoken to the authorities about the subject. Constal Tholl assures me that the Purple Dragons have investigated the temple and found nothing amiss. I asked him what they discovered, and it seemed they made only a cursory check of the place after hearing about strange lights and noises. I sensed his reluctance to look deeper into it has more to do with Lord Redbeard’s pleasure at the business and taxes the temple brings than with a firm understanding of what is happening within.”

    Tunaster offers the PCs a sum of 2,000 gp if they penetrate the temple; find out if a profanity to Mystra is being committed, and the purpose behind it; and eliminate the blasphemers. He’ll pay the PCs 500 gp now, with the rest coming upon the completion of the quest. For his part, he’s going to travel to Saerloon to meet with his superiors at the Tower of Mystery, and he will not accompany the PCs. Tunaster hopes to find faithful there who can tell him what might be going on or who will return with him. Tunaster is fairly certain that someone there or nearby will be able to teleport him back, but if he can’t, it will take him nearly a tenday to return.

    If the PCs seem hesitant, Tunaster offers to write them a promissory note that has his personal arcane mark, which the PCs can redeem at any temple of Mystra (except the one in Wheloon, of course) for payment after they submit to discern lies spells.

    First thing – as soon as he admits that he is indeed T.D., then initial quest should complete, and letter should be destroyed. I do not want a Player to consider if he should save the letter or not. Let's say Tunaster took the letter.

    During the dialog big new quest will be mentioned first with name "Mystra Blasphemy". It should complete when all foes in the Temple are eliminated.

    If PC would agree to the quest, they would receive 500 gold or 800 if manage to convince him via Diplomacy or Bluff or Intimidate. Perhaps combination of these could lead to 1k gold.

    Investigation
    Having Mystra Blasphemy quest acquired the Player could go to the Temple map. Tunaster should have dialog option to direct Player how to reach the map.

    temple1 isometric 1.jpg

    The Temple consists of following main areas:

    • T2 – Outer Courtyard
    • T6 – Middle Temple
    • T14 – Inner Temple

    The Temple is open from morning to midnight. Otherwise, it is locked.

    Doors to T6 is usually locked, except when scripted. Inside the Temple there is open sky area T2 of Outer Courtyard, where there are always some visitors, city guards, temple guards, sorcerer, and priest Shan Thar – male human cleric 3.

    Shan Thar is talking head here, when asked about Tunaster incident he will reply following:

    "Tunaster . . . No, the name doesn’t ring any bells. You said he was cleric of our goddess? Well, I can’t say that I recall any of our order visiting recently, but there was a gentleman like the one you describe who came here some days ago though. He insisted that he be allowed in our inner sanctum immediately. We didn’t know what to think of this, but my colleague, Starweaver Fembrys, explained to this fellow that only those seeking to earn Mystra’s Sacred Trust can enter the temple’s inner sanctum. The man grew incensed and began ranting. When we tried to calm him, he got a wild look in his eyes and ran.”

    “Yes, we did chase him. He seemed quite upset and we wanted to be certain he did not do himself or others harm. But he was very spry for such an old fellow, very spry.”

    “Have you spoken to him? I do hope he is well. I don’t know why he’d want to impugn the honor of this temple. Should you see him again, please convey our apologies for any misunderstanding we might have caused, and let him know that our inner sanctum is open to him if he wishes to earn Mystra’s Sacred Trust.”

    Any mention of Mystra’s Sacred Trust will start quest "Attend Mystra’s Sacred Trust Ceremony". More about it later.

    “If you are truly interested in becoming part of the temple, and perhaps earning Mystra’s Sacred Trust, we can arrange for you to attend special three-day services that occur in the middle temple. We require a donation of 250 gp for each of you interested in trying the service. Yes, expensive, but not too much for those truly interested in expanding their knowledge of the goddess of the Weave, no?”

    There should be diplomatic option to omit the payment.

    Mystra’s Sacred Trust Sermon
    To complete the quest Shan Thar will ask PC to come after midnight. I think every night should be OK, so PC could go and prepare.

    If PC would come at midnight gates of the Temple will be open, two guards stationed at Courtyard, Shan Thar will meet them. No petitioners or city guards anywhere near or inside the Temple.

    Shan Thar will instruct them to come inside of Middle Temple, doors will be open. Inside the chamber there will be more guards and Starweaver Fembrys, male human cleric 5. He will ask again if PC are ready for the sermon. If not, they will be asked to leave immediately, give 5 rounds, or attack.

    If PC would agree, they will be asked to strip all belongings to room T7 and wear white robes. This will be done via the dialog only. After that they will be asked to wait 3 days and prey (three-day-long rite). That will impose -5 penalty vs Starry Gnosis effect.

    Probably I will make waiting via dialog. Although it would be fun to allow doing that by the Player.

    After three days at night, they will be asked to join Fembrys in T14 and close the door. After which dialog will end and Fembrys will go to the place in room T14.

    In chamber T14 Inner Temple only two guards – Shadow Guards 7 PH each will be present, and Fembrys himself. Doors to T15 will be locked, any attempt unlocking or bashing it will be met with hostility. New dialog will begin – with sermon lines.

    Once they are assembled, Fembrys intones, “Prepare yourselves to receive the Sacred Trust: You are about to look upon the Starry Gnosis. All your questions are soon to be answered.”

    Fembrys unlocks a secret compartment in the altar (Search DC 20, Open Lock DC 25) and pulls out the Starry Gnosis—a black globe, like a crystal ball gone dark—and holds it for all present to view.

    Fembrys uses the Starry Gnosis on all present while repeating the most common words of the daily chant, "Knowledge lies between the stars.”

    Every time he does "Knowledge lies between the stars” line PC will have to oppose Starry Gnosis effect.

    If the Starry Gnosis is held and the command phrase “Knowledge lies between the stars” is spoken aloud by the holder, the item’s bewitching effect is produced. All except the holder and his allies who stand within 30 feet of the activator must succeed on a DC 16 Will save or become bewitched. Those who have undergone the three-day ritual described for petitioners in the middle courtyard take a –5 penalty on their Will saves.

    A bewitched victim takes a –1 penalty on all attacks and weapon damage rolls against the holder of the Starry Gnosis, and each round on the holder’s turn, the victim must make another successful saving throw against the original DC or take another cumulative –1 penalty on attack rolls and weapon damage rolls against the holder. She must attempt this save no matter how far she subsequently moves from the holder. If the victim makes a successful saving throw before she falls to a cumulative –4 penalty, she throws off the effect and the penalties, and makes no more saves. She has successfully resisted the Gnosis.

    However, if a victim ever falls to a cumulative –4 penalty against the holder, she is affected as if by a dominate person spell cast by the holder of the Starry Gnosis. Anyone dominated is affected (by the domination and the penalty) for nine days. If a victim is freed from the domination or the bewitching, the penalty also ends.

    Command will be voiced 4 times, after which combat vs PC will begin. Any dominated PC will fight against non-dominated ones.

    Player will have option to attack or continue each iteration. PC could subdue Fembrys and try remove the curse by using the Starry Gnosis but doing so would result in exploding of the artifact everyone in 5-foot radius would take 6d6 points of cold damage.

    Even if PC would defeat Fembrys and Shadow Guards other guards will be waiting in T6 Middle Temple. By design there should be 4 level 1 fighters.

    Dealing with Fembrys and two Shadow Guards would grant two banded mails, full plate, two longswords and a heavy mace. That should allow PC to deal with guards from T6. But I think there should also be diplomatic dialog option to convince T6 guards that Fembrys commanded them to gather belongings.

    After dealing with T6 they could eliminate remaining guards in T2 Courtyard. I would gather all left-over guards there from their barracks. Or not, we'll see.

    Other Entering Temple Options
    Combat at Day or Evening
    It would definitively look like an assault, so visitors and city guards would interfere. I do not want such sub-plot handle, so it would be end-game.

    Night Break-in
    Is good option overall. Gates would be locked. So, either break / destroy the gates or unlock it.

    Bashing the gates would raise attention. After gates open, they should see welcoming party ready. Small dialog with Shan Thar, where he would laugh about destroying PC, would allow him to prepare defensive spells.

    After few rounds remaining guards would join from their barracks. I would probably also join forces from Middle Temple chamber, along with Fembrys.

    As I said before – the direct attack on a castle / facility should result in full force resistance.

    Stealthy Night Break-in
    If PC would unlock the gates stealthy, meaning without bashing them or breaking, it would allow them to attack the Temple without alarming everyone.

    Two archer guards on the walls should try to spot anyone entering. One of them should have alarm horn. Killing him before raising alarm would allow to eliminate sleeping Shan Thar and his companion sorcerer Kevrin. They would also have no time to prepare their defensive spells.

    Raising alarm via horn would direct scenario of Night Break-In option. Otherwise, guards would be sleeping in their barracks.

    T6 would be barred. So having only bashing available as option would make their inhabitants ready, nevertheless.

    Stay After Midnight
    After visitors and city guards left Shan Thar would suggest PC leaving as well. PC could start assault at will. Doing so would not give time for the cleric and sorcerer to get ready spells.

    Everything else is same as Night Break-In. It is minor feature, not sure if I would deliver it.

    Entering Temple Options Reward
    Only going through at least one round of Starry Gnosis dialog would allow completing quest "Attend Mystra’s Sacred Trust Ceremony". That should grant substantial XP reward. All other options should fail the quest.

    New quest "Notify Tunaster about Sacred Trust" would be added. Tunaster would be very excited and would ask continuing the effort of clearing the Temple. Also, after big quest complete, notifying the authorities would make them very happy and they would grant sermon participation fee refund. Moreover, having bluff would allow PC to get more cache.
     
  3. Sitra Achara

    Sitra Achara Senior Member

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    Sounds like a fun module. I stopped reading midway to not spoil myself too much ;)
     
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  4. anatoliy

    anatoliy Established Member

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    Sure, no problem :)

    There is a FB group: D&D 3.5 and D20 System | Facebook, where many interesting questions and issues being raised and answered by experts. Also from time to time someone would post questions about Cormyr Adventure.

    Looking back when I started running this Adventure 2 years ago with my group I understand, that I missed some fun opportunities to add for this game. I missed that because it takes a lot of effort to parse this obscure information presented in the book.

    I thought preparation, business design of this module for ToEE implementation would "kill two birds with one stone" by adding my way of laying out the story, quests and possible situations. And perhaps some new DM would appreciate that as well.
     
  5. anatoliy

    anatoliy Established Member

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    False Temple of Mystra 2
    Repeating Assault on the Temple
    Until Lady Arthas is slain there will be respawn and repercussion from the Temple boss – Lady Arthas.

    After first and subsequent assault on the Temple after 8 hours gates will be restored, and guards respawned. Between 8 and 3 days – half guards and Fembrys substitution will be present. After that, all equal staff will be replaced. All respawned forces will have no experience reward nor loot after elimination. Gates will be barred permanently, and all forces present in first chamber. During the day city guard will be patrolling the square before the Temple, no dialog. It would be possible to break in only during a night.

    Before 8 hours passed from leave of the Temple after initial assault there will be no changes in the map.

    Player would have to consider options – either continue assault without resting or rest but loose resources without loot and XP during fight with half guards.

    Player could produce this conclusion only if he would reload save game. Which, in my humble opinion, is not very user-friendly approach. I think a letter from Lady Arthas to Fembrys and Shan Thar should be easily found (either on body of Shan Thar or in his room) which should state the concept – I'll request for reinforcements to arrive within 8 hours if any assault would take place, - precaution after Tunaster incident.

    Assassin Ambush Sub-Quest
    The book has nice loot and XP encounter, which should take place if Lady Arthas started revenge after first Temple Assault if 8 hours past.

    I would implement it as following – when PC return, they would see Temple Gates barred. Small boy would spawn near Gates and immediately start dialog, in which PC would get letter message and boy would indicate that some nice-looking lady gave this message to him, then run off.

    The letter would state following: "I can help you sneak into the temple, but they are watching for me. Come meet me in an hour at 23 Impil Street, on the east side of the river.". The content would be presented as dialog with option "Wait and go there".

    I consider using VIGNETTE_06_Neutral_Good map for that. Should be fun and rewarding experience.

    Legal Issues
    Authority
    One of the reasons why I have not yet stated or even decided how the city Wheloon will look, and which maps I'm going to use is the requirements to the city.

    The obvious requirements to a city would be to have resting and quest meeting place – a Tavern, resupply place – market or general shop, health services – a church, hospital or even wandering cleric, and authority, if needed.

    The easiest way would be to use small village from unfinished Crypt of the Everflame module but having big Temple and Assassin Ambush sub-quest would look weird and out of place.

    Second option would be to create a map from Fort like terrain.

    And third option would be to reuse Sumberton, - city we created for SGoS with @Shiningted . Some additional work would be to clear SGoS related dialogs. But the plus is that Gates area in Sumberton has some unused building, and I could designate it for the Lord Redbeart place. Hommlet's Village Elder Main map could be reused there.

    Interaction with Authority
    PC could talk to Lord Redbeart before talking to Shan Thar. In such case LR should indicate that they already investigated report from Tunaster and found no issues. No further investigation would be done.

    PC could also talk to LR after talking to Shan Thar, insisting on wrongdoing from the Temple. In such case LR would point out that any unwarranted aggression against the Temple would lead to imprisonment of the PC.

    Imprisonment means End Game.

    PC could talk to LR after initial assault, but before kill of Lady Arthas and having Lady Arthas letter. This would lead to imprisonment immediately and End Game.

    PC could talk to LR after initial assault, after kill of Lady Arthas and having Lady Arthas letter. After presenting the letter LR would request from PC to investigate more. Meaning – clear out the Temple. Perhaps that could be new Quest from LR with funds as reward.

    After clearing out the Temple there will be more talk to the LR as he will give new quest to continue investigation out of the city. More about it later.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2021
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