Monday, March 8, 2010

Black Rose, Part 2

Continuing on one of the things I need to figure out is how Ravenloft and Aldea come together.  This is a two-parter really.  I need to figure out game-wise how the fit; is Aldea pulled into Ravenloft, is Ravenloft slowly seeping into Aldea?  And I need to figure it out story-wise; what event caused this to happen.

To start with I want to go back into Aldea's shadowed past.

Dread Exiles
We have all been told the tale of how the Exarchs of Shadow had been defeated at the hands of the Gods of Light. We were told that they were locked away with their only means of accessing the world was via the Shadowgates or through subtle influences in the world. This is mostly true, but there is much that is unknown. Even in Kern, the greatest scholars of the Lich King had not discovered all of the Exarch's secrets, nor were they willing to give them up so easily.
But it is not the end of their story, but only the beginning.

So I have decided is that the Dark Powers of Ravenloft are the Exarchs of Shadow.
Sure it removes some of the mystery. I have them trapped here, physical forms destroyed, they can only pull in other creatures that have a significant amount of evil/shadow to them.
They are not able to be selective though, nor wish too, so they end up scoping all sorts of innocents in with them.

Their Goal? Escape of course. There are Shadowgates that lead to Ravenloft (often Mist shrouded), but very few that lead out. And even then the Exarchs have an even more difficult time leaving than do the Dark Lords. What is their plan? Use the likes of Strahd and Azalin to replace them in their prison? Or are they experiments on how to escape? Maybe even the Exarchs are no more than spoiled children and are pulling others to share their prison because they can? Who knows. Just because I have ID'ed the Dark Powers doesn't mean I need to detail their motives.

So now that I have established that the Dark Powers are part of Aldea, this opens me up to lot of tinkering. Since this is their "native" land they should be a bit more powerful and that power is translated down to the Dark Lords. Regardless of how Aldea and Ravenloft come together one of the side effects will be that Dark Lords can now leave their realms. They are not as powerful in other Realms and often at the mercy of the other Dark Lords, so even though they can "move about" few of them rarely do.

Now the in-game event that caused this.

The Lady and the Captain
Queen Jaellin in her first five years as Sovereign has become known as Queen Jaellin, The Beloved (3 years before the present day of the Core Book). Her temperament has been easy, her laws just and fair and her rulership everything that Aldisians would want. Though talk began, most likely rumors spread by the agents of Lord Sayvin that the Queen may be unfit to rule since she had not produced an heir to her legacies or even named her Consort. While an heir had no extra claim to the throne, as Sayvin himself could attest, it was considered to be proper behavior. In a dark jest she became known in some circles as “Queen Jaellin, the Unloved”.
The Queen was no fool. Her calm and rational demeanor disarmed most people and lead others to assume she was still a simple girl. Her mind was sharp and she knew of these rumors, the trouble was she was beginning to believe them herself.
During one of her outings to visit the outlying communities, she was joined by her royal guard. The Captain of the Guard, a young dashing rogue of a man that felt his duties to protect the Queen included disobeying her orders. They spend a long trek where they infuriate each other for days until their party is attacked by agents of Lord Sayvin. Her guard defend her heroically, but to no avail. She is though taken by her Captain and they are pursued through out the forest. They fight, fear and eventually come to fall in love. She is brought back safely, to surprise of Lord Sayvin and then to shock of all she names her Captain as her Beloved and Consort. They were happy for many years.
In this romance think Victoria and Albert. The young queen and the dashing prince consort. As their love grew, the land prospered and Sayvin grew darker. In a few years he discovered the means to get what he wanted.

Blood and Roses
Lord Sayvin had made a deal with the Dark Powers based on a scroll he found in Kern. The scroll gave him the means to enchant a crossbow arrow that would kill instantly whomever it struck (and deliver that soul to the Dark Powers) and give Sayvin what he most desired. This is Ravenloft, his displeasure at not being chosen Sovereign has turned into a blinding hate and jealousy.

Sayvin chooses the night of the Queen and her Consort's Anniversary, he crept into their bedchambers and prepared to kill the Queen. As fate would have it he missed the Queen in her lover’s embrace (yeah total symbolism here, but the ultimate horror in Aldea would be the horror of your beloved dying in your arms) and the arrow hit her Captain (yeah…I need to name the guy) instead. Jaellin screamed, Sayvin roared, and the Dark Powers laughed. Jaellin in a fit of insane rage summoned every ounce of power she had as an emerging Adept and as the Sovereign of the Land and struck down Lord Sayvin, blowing his body with blast of pure eldritch power. His body was never found with most claiming he escaped. Most claim that because the alternate choice was their Queen, Jaellin the Beloved, murdered him in a sorcerous rage.

That night the pact formed by Sayvin and the Dark Powers failed to complete. Jaellin was supposed to die but did not. The Dark Powers savored her pain and were allowed to come into the world just very slightly. As his reward, Sayvin was given what he desired. He was made the Dark Lord of Aldea and was cursed to the form of a Shadow.

During the day, when the sun is bright, Jaellin’s ministers rule the land in her name. But at night the land is ruled by Dark Lord Sayvin, only most people do not know this. They only know that the lands are more dangerous and evil seems to have the world in its grip. And the Queen? In the years since the attack she has said little and is rarely seen in court, and never outside the castle. She mourns and it seems the land mourns with her.

Today the Queen is still loved by her people and older residents remember the bright young girl she was and what promise she held for the land. But many feel like she has abandoned her duties and even life itself. Some, though not many but loud enough to be heard, say the Queen is a witch and this current situation is her fault.
There is unease in the land, monsters that were once only found in fairy tales are now found on the roads between towns. Strangers walk the lands now, with odd customs and accents. Once, such people would have been welcomed in Aldea, given a place to sleep in exchange for their stories of other lands. Now people turn their heads and no one is welcomed.

This in and of itself would be enough to get any character invested in the idea that Aldea is a beacon of light and hope motivated to find out what was going on, but this is Ravenloft and I have one more nasty dagger hidden in my sleeve.

The Company of the Hart
To do this I want characters deeply invested in what is going on. This is an "oncoming darkness" tale and things are not going to get better, they are going to get worse. Unless the PCs can do something about it. What can they do? That is the mystery to be solved. In the meantime they are also tasked with ridding the night of all the foul creatures of Shadow now invading the lands. I am imaging a small company of adventurers chosen by destiny to to Aldea's Champions. How? Here comes that dagger.

The characters are thrown together because some are in the Queen's court and others have found the Golden Hart in the woods with a black arrow in it's heart. They bring this to the Queen who immediately recognizes the arrow as of the same kind that killed her Beloved. The first task of the new group is to find the magical Rose that will heal it. After this quest they become an elite group answering only to the Queen and their job is to stop the oncoming darkness.

This allows me the court intrigue that I think/feel will be needed for this game, allow the Heroes to have access to various parts of the country they might need and give them first hand observation to the Queen's depression and the key to unlocking the truth; that this really began with the murder of the Queen's Consort by Lord Sayvin AND the fact that the Queen has withdrawn not just because of her lover's death, but because she herself feels tremendous guilt over using her own power to "kill" Sayvin.

That's where I am at so far.

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