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Arkhemedes
07-22-2009, 09:52 PM
This thread will be used for background information on people, places and events that are pertinent for the Dead of the Night PBP. The following maps show the area of the Core of Ravenloft where the campaign takes place, the first one being the northeast section, the second one being the northwest section, and the third one being the southwest section. Please do not post here as this thread is intended solely for the DM to provide information. For any comments or questions please post in the thread Dead of the Night: Comments and Questions.

Arkhemedes
07-24-2009, 10:22 PM
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Ravenloft...

A Brief Primer for the Realm of Dread*

Beyond mortal senses, beyond your reality, there lurks a boundless plane. It permeates your world and fills the void between worlds. It is the border between the lands of the living and of the dead. There, mind and matter become one; thought and passion, fear and yearning, can become more tangible than iron. It is the Ethereal Plane.
Somewhere, lurking deep within those etheric mists, a dark and nameless dimension is ruled by dark and nameless powers. Some say it is a prison for the damned; some say it is a crucible to test the virtuous. Others simply call it home. It is a land of mist and shadow, love and death, sacrifice and seduction, beauty and horror. It is a land of whispered fears made manifest. It is the Realm of Dread.
Perhaps you have sensed its touch. At the bidding of the Dark Powers, tendrils of the ethereal Mists that bind this land reach out to caress the Material Plane. They stroke the skin at the back of your neck when a creaking floorboard warns that you are not alone in the dark. Their invisible fingers crawl down your spine when inhuman shadows rustle at the edges of your vision.
The Mists do more than merely caress. The Dark Powers are drawn to innocence and villainy, to loathing and desire, to obsession and to despair. They seek out squandered dreams and inner demons. They savor the decay of the spirit. Their Mists snatch up fiends at the moment of their ruin and steal upon heroes in times of doubt.
To what end do the Dark Powers add these souls to their tarnished collection? To torment them? To purify them? None can say, for few souls drawn into the Realm of Dread ever leave to tell the tale. Yet perhaps you will soon learn for yourself, for tonight, the Mists have come for you.
Welcome to the Land of Mists. Welcome to the crucible of virtue and the spoils of damnation. Welcome to the Realm of Dread.

Welcome to Ravenloft.


To put it in very basic terms, Ravenloft is a collection of realms or domains, ranging from as large as a large kingdom to as small as a mansion and its grounds or even smaller. Each of these domains is in some way connected to a monster or villain known as a Dark Lord who is at the same time the realm's master and prisoner. These Dark Lords, the vast majority of which had no designs on becoming such, were, for the most part, either drawn into the Mists unwittingly or wandered into them on their own. When they did so, typically one of two things happened: a portion of their home world came with them, ripped from the very fabric of the Material Plane or, more commonly, a replica of their home world formed around them. In both cases however, this "home world" became twisted in ways, sometimes subtle and other times not so subtle, by the Dark Powers of this world. And while the Dark Lords were granted certain powers over their domains they are also tormented by these same domains in ways as varied as the Dark Lords themselves.

Some of these Dark Lords are the actual political rulers of these domains while others have no political power at all and are even hunted by the citizens of their domains. One thing they all have in common however is that the vast majority of the citizens and visitors to these realms, have no idea that they are Dark Lords or even know what a Dark Lord is. In fact, for the most part, these citizens are even unaware that the Dark Lords are monsters of any kind. Part of the reason why this is so is that the Mists have an effect upon the minds of those who live in the Dread Realms, which even newcomers eventually become susceptible to, that causes them to lose interest in the mysteries of their lands, including lost histories and other inconsistencies or apparent contradictions of which there are many (Adventurers are a different breed however and are effectively immune to this mental apathy).

This means that, probably more than any other campaign world ever created for D&D, the difference between player knowledge and character knowledge is often vast. In fact, there are some domains in Ravenloft where the people might scoff at the idea of vampires, ghosts and werewolves - something that every player who has ever played Ravenloft is well aware exists (at least in Ravenloft). That is why players of Ravenloft must keep in mind and have a clear understanding of the difference between what they know and what their characters know. And it is because of this fact that a new player to Ravenloft can be the best kind, for a new player doesn't already know it all, and most things in Ravenloft are a mystery to him or her - as it should be. And it is for this reason, in part, that I intend to say very little else here that your characters would not know. I would also ask that those who have no intention of ever DMing a Ravenloft campaign, to please refrain from reading any material about Ravenloft unless it is specifically intended for players. To do otherwise would only spoil some of the fun and surprises. However, I will add that should any player do so anyway, it would give them no benefit here, because I will use nothing in this play by post that could be ruined by an over inquisitive player or even a DM who is knowledgeable about Ravenloft.

* The following paragraph is an excerpt from the Ravenloft Player's Handbook
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And now on to our starting place, which will be the kingdom of Darkon, a suitable place as it will be one of the more easily understood of the domains for anyone familiar with fantasy worlds, plus the fact that it is one of of the few places where demihumans are common.

Darkon

Darkon is a feudal hereditary monarchy though its only ruler for the past 160 years has been the grim wizard-king Azalin Rex who rules from his throne at Castle Avernus. Unknown to the citizens of Darkon, King Azalin was once the king of the Great Kingdom of Oerth (World of Greyhawk) back in the days when the Great Kingdom was much more powerful than it is today. It is because of this fact that Darkon is very much like the Flanaess (World of Greyhawk) and a large percentage of the population consists of demihumans. Oddly enough however, many of the humanoid races such as orcs and ogres are completely non-existent (though goblins, hobgoblins, kobolds and jermlaine are present) as are giants and many of the creatures typically found in a fantasy world.

The cultural and technological level of the kingdom ranges from the more advanced Chavalric level in the western portions to the more primitive Dark Age level in the Mountains of Misery in the southeastern corner of the land. As for religion, "Darkonian spirituality is deeply rooted in a myriad of folktales and traditions surrounding < something known as > the Gray Realm and Darkon's mythic origins", which are a bit involved to go into detail here. Many of the deities typically worshiped by demihumans on other worlds have been long forgotten about in Ravenloft, though in the more remote areas a number of these 'pagan' deities are still worshiped. However, the "official" religion, or the state religion which was basically created by King Azalin is known as the Eternal Order, and is a more rigid version of the pre-existing folklore of the people. Another religion which has recently been gaining popularity though, particularly in Nevuchar Springs (where we'll be starting) is that of Ezra. I'll say more about Ezra later.

The population of Darkon varies depending on the city, and though there are always at least some members of every race in each city they have a majority in one race as follows:
Nevuchar Springs - elves
Maykle - humans
Delagia - halflings
Sidnar - elves
Karg - humans
Tempe Falls - dwarves
Mayvin - gnomes
Corvia - dwarves
Viaki - humans
Neblus - elves
Martira Bay - humans
Nartok - humans
Rivalis - halflings
Il Aluk (by far the largest city) - mixed (no majority)

Arkhemedes
07-25-2009, 01:23 PM
Nevuchar Springs*

Nevuchar Springs has long been one of Darkon's most secluded settlements, an elven town straddling the Vuchar just a mile downriver from the revered Nevuchar Shrine itself. No reliable roads lead here, and the shallow river allows only for light craft. Just like its inhabitants, the town has changed little over the centuries. Though the elves enjoy the novelty of the occasional visitor, they are content to be left alone. Baron Thalis Redtree has quietly held his title for nearly 150 years. He is represntative of his subjects, disliking sudden change and disruptions of daily life.
Nevuchar Springs is a quaintly rustic community, awash in consciously overgrown hedgerows, ivied walls, and herbal gardens. Cottages are constructed of wood and stone, often incorporating living trees into their frames. The town was laid out around a series of natural springs and is now dominated by the Baths, a soaring marble structure surrounded by wild gardens. The Bath's mineral waters are famed for their therapeutic qualities.
The town also houses the Library Pharmacologae, an archive of texts on herbal and medical cures lovingly compiled by the elf mystics who guard the Nevuchar Shrine. In recent years, however, numerous texts have been discovered to contain debased necromantic passages. Somehow, these scrawls seem to spread independently, like blight slowly killing a tree.
With many of the regional shrines to the pagan elven gods now lying forgotten, the Eternal Order is the main religion of the town and is currently based in a macabre stone temple called the Last Redoubt, surrounded by an ancient churchyard. However, as mentioned above, there is a small community of Ezra worshipers that has slowly been growing here as well. I'll say more on the Eternal Order and Ezra later.
Nevuchar Springs' sole inn is the Riverview Rest (good quality rooms, good quality food), a large and comfortably rustic inn atop a bluff that offers an excellent view of the Vuchar. To ensure the best service, travelers are advised to subtly mention that they are just passing through as the locals discourage settlers.
The town's population is about 1100 and consists of elves (89%), humans (6%), halflings (2%), half-elves (2%) and others (1%).

*Much of what follows is quoted from the Ravenloft Gazetteer Vol III and other sources.
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The Eternal Order*

Azalin, the ruler of Darkon, constructed this (neutral evil) religion around the fearful folklore of his subjects as a tool for societal control. Darkonian tradition holds that their land originally belonged to the dead. The living stole this world, banishing the unliving to the Gray Realm, but someday, in a prophesied event called the Hour of the Ascension, the vengeful dead will return to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. The clerics of the Eternal Order worship a patchwork of death deities borrowed from other religions. Worship focuses on performing countless rituals intended to appease the dead and continually postpone the Hour of Ascension.
Symbol: A hooded human skull.
Favored weapon: Scythe

Ezra

The Church of Ezra was born in the year 666 of the Barovian Calendar, when a son of the notorious Dilisnya dynasty claimed that a divine entity, Ezra, Our Guardian in the Mists, had given him a message to spread to all the world. According to most traditions in the church, Ezra was a virtuous mortal woman who, despairing of the evils of the world, forever surrendered her mortality to the Mists to become an eternal guardian of mankind. However, the fractious sects of the Church of Ezra have been debating the true nature and teachings of their ascended patron for decades.
The original, lawful neutral sect, also called the Home Faith, is centered in Borca. It appoints Ezra's faithful clerics, called anchorites, to the task of protecting and healing her faithful, keeping them safe from the forces of evil. The lawful good sect in Mordent also teaches that anchorites must convert as many souls to Ezra's flock as possible for their own good. The mystical, neutral Dementlieu sect claims that Ezra was a goddess who abandoned her callous fellow deities to offer mortals succor, and the sect spends its time studying the true nature of their goddess. All anchorites agree that Ezra cannot protect those who do not except her into their hearts.
The Mists domain (a clerical domain) is unique to anchorites; Ezra's patronage allows them to call on the Mists of Ravenloft for aid.
Symbol: a silver longsword superimposed on an alabaster kite shield and adorned with a sprig of belladonna.
Favored Weapon: Longsword

* The two following excerpts are from the Ravenloft Player's Handbook.

Arkhemedes
08-05-2009, 12:22 PM
The Half-Vistani as a Player Character Race:*

Half-Vistani (or giomorgo, in the Vistani patterna [see below]) are the result of a union a Vistana (Ravenloft gypsy) and a giorgio (any non-Vistani Human). Unlike the other special races of Ravenloft, half-Vistani are entirely human. However, the traits they enherit from their Vistani blood separate them from normal men and women.

Love affairs between giorgio and the Vistani are often torrid and brief. The cultural rift cuts deeply, so precious few giomorgo ever grow up knowing both their parents. Most often, the Vistani parent moves on in the night, abandoning the child to the giorgio. Rarely, the tribe of its Vistana parent raises a giomorgo child. In either case, the child may be cared for but is never truly accepted. The giomorgo's giorgio family may fear that the child will develop the peculiar talents of his/her Vistani kin, and since the giomorgo is not fully "of the blood," he/she finds himself/herself unable to share entire worlds of Vistani experiences.

Personality: Broken homes are the giomorgo's birthright. Many spend their lives haunted by their youth; a rejected child often matures into a sullen and withdrawn adult. It is no small mater to straddle the cultural rift of their birth, so most giomorgo choose to adopt one culture over the other. They either adhere to the customs of their homeland or wrap themselves in the Vistani mystique. Regardless of the heritage they favor, half-Vistani tend to be passionate and pessimistic individuals.

Physical Description: Half-Vistani resemble their Vistani parents, often inheriting their angular and aquiline features, eyes and hair of deep brown or black and dusky or olive complexions. Of course, giomorgo often exhibit traits of their giorgio heritage as well. A giomorgo can conceal his/her Vistani heritage, fooling giorgio with a successful disguise check (considered minor details only). Such tricks fail against Vistani, however, who can identify those who are of the blood with but a glance.

Relations: Giomorgo are caught between two worlds; giorgio treat them like Vistani, and the Vistani treat them like giorgio. A giomorgo's outlook toward non-humans usually mirrors that of his/her homeland. It is not uncommon, however, for half-Vistani to be more accepting toward other "unwelcome" creatures, such as calibans (a very rare humanoid race in Ravenloft) and half-elves.

Alignment: In many ways, the giomorgo life mimics that of half-elves. Many half-Vistani spend their lives alienated from society and often grow to distrust authority. Giomorgo ethical alignment tends toward chaos, but they are no more inherently good or evil than any other humans.

Homelands: the Vistani endlessly wander throughout the Land of Mists, so a giomorgo may be born in any domain. The ruthless oppression of Vistani in Invidia makes a native half-Vistani rare in that domain, while giomorgo are slightly more common in neighboring Barovia. No permanent half-Vistani communities exist anywhere in Ravenloft.

Religion: Giomorgo raised by giorgio typically adopt the prevalent faith of their homeland. Those raised by the Vistani are seldom religious; the Vistani worship no deities and have many legends of their cruel mistreatment at the hands of godlike beings in the distant past. Some Vistani, particularly those of the Vatraska tribe, treat fate, the Mists and the forces of nature with a respect that approaches reverence, however.

Languages: Giomorgo have no language of their own, instead learning the domain languages of their homeland. Giomorgo who embrace their Vistani heritage often also learn patterna, the Vistani's spoken language, and tralaks, the Vistani system of trail symbols.

Names: Giomorgo raised by giorgio are often given names drawn from their homeland's cultures. Giomorgo raised by the Vistani are named in the Vistani tradition, and it is not unheard of for a half-Vistani raised by a giorgio to be named after his/her wayward parent.

Vistani Male Names: Bela, Grigori, Iosif, Karol, Ludovic, Nicu, Pyotr, Simione, Stefan, Vasile.

Vistani Female Names: Ana, Eliza, Isabela, Lela, Natasha, Papusza, Rozalina, Sofya, Ursula, Yvonne.

Adventurers: Many giomorgo become wanderers, seeking happiness in foreign lands. Many fall in with other outcasts and eccentrics during their aimless trasvels.

Half-Vistani Racial Traits

- +2 Wisdom, -2 Charisma: Giomorgo retain traces of their Vistani parent's powerful sixth sense, but as outcasts, they lack the Vistani's fierce ethnic pride.
- Medium: As Medium creatures, haff-Vistani have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
- Half-Vistani base speed is 30 feet.
- +2 racial bonus on Survival checks. a giomorgo inherits his/her Vistana parent's affinity for nature. Provided fuel and some means of igniting a spark, half-Vistani can always light a fire as a standard action, even under adverse conditions (pouring rain, gusting winds and so on). When wilderness survival depends on being able to start a fire, the half-Vistani racial bonus on Survival checks rises to +4.
- Diluted Blood: For all special abilities and effects, half-Vistani are considered human, though they do not gain the extra feat or skill point standard humans receive. Only pureblooded Vistani can use special spells or magic items with racially specific Vistani powers.
- Moon Madness: A giomorgo suffers from the lunatio during the full moon each month, his/her mind clouded by restlessness and anxiety. He/she cannot prepare spells or heal naturally during this period. On each of the three nights of the full moon, he/she must succeed at a DC 15 Will save or run wild under the night sky.
- Base Outcast Rating#: 2. A giomorgo who hides his/her Vistani heritage can reduce the base OR to 0 with a successful Disguise check (see above).
- Automatic Languages: Any domain language. Bonus languages: Any domain language, patterna (including tralaks) provided there is an opportunity to learn these. Half-Vistani often learn the tongues of their Vistana and giorgio parents.
- Recommended Feats: Alertness, Ethereal Empathy, Lunatic, Track, Voice of Wrath. [Note - I'll post info on these feats later.]
- Tribal Heritage: A player playing a giomorgo character must select a tribe from the following list at the time of creation, reflecting the branch of his/her Vistani ancestry. This tribe determines additional benefits and favored class.
Canjar: +2 racial bonus on Spellcraft checks. This bonus rises to +4 when attempting to learn new spells. Favored class: Wizard
Corvara: +2 racial bonus on Open Lock and Sense Motive checks. Favored Class: Rogue
Equaar: +2 racial bonus on Handle Animal and Ride checks. Favored Class: Ranger.
Kamii: +2 racial bonus on any metal-based Craft checks (e.g., blacksmithing). With a successful Appraise check, Kamii can identify metals and determine where any metal item originated. Favored Class: Rogue
Naiat: +2 racial bonus on Perform checks. Naiat have a base Outcast Rating of 0. Favored Class: Bard.
Vatraska: +2 racial bonus on Heal and Profession (herbalism) checks. Favored Class: Cleric.
Zarovan: Racial bonus of (1d10-1d4) to initiative. Roll at the start of each encounter. Favored Class: Sorcerer.

* From the Ravenloft Player's Handbook 3.5
# Outcast Rating - A modifier to social skills, reflecting the xenophobia of Ravenloft's denizens. It is added to the DC, so the higher the number the worse. Humans have an OR of 0; Dwarves=3; Elves=3; Gnomes=2; Half-Elves=1; Halflings=1

Arkhemedes
08-08-2009, 01:22 PM
A brief history of the Realms of Dread from a commoner's perspective:

The vast majority of the history of these realms is unknown to most commoners, particularly if it has to do with lands beyond the one in which they live. Even much of the history of the lands in which its denizens live remains a mystery to them. This is more true in some domains than in others. And it will likely remain this way forever due to the fact the people of these realms, in general, care little for what has gone before, believing that such things are unimportant or worse, that delving into the past will reveal things better left in the dark.

But to the occasional individual who does know a smattering of history about the Land of Mists, its history, in particular that of its Core, can be divided into eight different periods, all of which are dated according to the Calendar of Barovia, the first of the realms to appear:
Pre-351: the Time Before - During the later part of the 350 years before Barovia emerged from the mists, legends say that there was another land beyond this world, also known as Barovia, where a man by the name of Count Strahd Van Zarovich led an army through decades of war to reclaim his ancestral homelands from a horde of barbarians, known as the Tergs, who had driven Strahd's family out early in Strahd's military career. After defeating the barbarians, he brought his family back and set them up in a castle which he renamed Castle Ravenloft in honor of his mother Ravena. The following year, Strahd's younger brother, Sergei, was to be wed to a girl by the name of Tatyana at Castle Ravenloft. But on their wedding day, assassins struck and slaughtered all but a few of the wedding guests who barely managed to escape. This tragic event was the cause of a curse placed upon the land and as a result, Barovia and its people were suddenly swept away by the Mists where they have remained ever since.
351-469: A Private Hell - During this period, Barovia remained alone in the Mists and existed as a so-called "Island of Terror." Little is known of this period other than the fact that early on, Strahd hunted down and killed the traitorous Leo Dilisnya, the man responsible for hiring the assassins that killed most of Strahd's family.
470-546: Outlanders Arrive - These decades are noted for having the occasional appearance of outlanders, strangers from beyond the Mists. The most significant of these were the enigmatic tribes of Vistani, or gypsies, that seemed to have a special connection to the Mists. It was also during this period when the Cult of the Morninglord first emerged in Barovia.
547-587: The Expanding Stain - After nearly two centuries of isolation, Barovia was finally joined by new domains. This period is marked by the sudden appearance of other lands both in the Core and as Islands of Terror, a trend that has continued to this day.
588-699: Scourge and Expansion - The fourth century closed with an event of horrendous devastation when in the spring of 588, a massive and violent sandstorm suddenly roiled to life in Arak's mountain passes (now a part of southwestern Darkon). by the time the storm died out, all surface life in Arak had been destroyed. The storm altered Arak's landscape, transplanting Mount Lament miles to the west to nform the domain of Keening. Both of these desolate regions were deemed cursed and have been shunned by sensible travelers ever since. The century following the Scourge of Arak was marked by explosive growth in the number of domains that appeared.
700-734: Dead Man's Campaign - Half a dozen new domains appeared during this period including Dementlieu, which would rapidly become the hub of northwestern culture. But the events that defined the era more than any other were the Dead Man's Campaign. Until Vlad Drakov, the ruler of Falkovnia, appeared, open warfare had been unknown in the Land of the Mists. As the sixth century began, however, Drakov drove his army into Darkon no fewer than four times. Every invasion ended in crushing failure as an undead army rose up and effortlessly decimated the Falkovnian ranks. Attempts made by Drakov to invade other neighboring lands also met with no success, and it was due to the many thousands of Falkovnian lives lost that the campaign was given its name.
735-740: the Grand Conjunction - According to most accounts, the Vistani seer Hyskosa first recorded his prophecy predicting a cataclysmic "Grand Conjunction" in the year 735 (A conjunction is when the Mists make a connection to other worlds and thereby draw various people and creatures into the Realms of Dread.). Over the course of the next five years, one of the six predictions in Hyskosa's Hexad came true, one every year until in the year 740, when the final two predictions came true. However, the order of the final two predictions did not fall in the proper sequence leaving the Grand Conjunction in a weakened state. On the 31st of October of that year, the Grand Conjunction took place, sending all of the realms in the Land of the Mists back to their original homeworlds, an event that surely would have meant doom to these worlds had it lasted. As it was however, the Grand Conjunction lasted no more than four days due to the efforts of a band of adventurers known as the Wanderers, who, thanks in part to the weakened state of the Grand Conjunction, were able to reverse it, sending all of the domains and their denizens back into the Land of Mists. However, when the various domains of Ravenloft reemerged to form the Core, the positioning of some were altered while others did not reemerge at all (so far as is known anyway). Due to this fact, this event is now also known as the Great Upheaval.

Arkhemedes
12-19-2009, 11:40 AM
Maykle

Maykle is a predominantly human community that sprouted up around a natural harbor on the Vuchar just downriver from the Khourx. The sleepy town is a transfer point where regional crops are gathered and shipped via the Vuchar or the cobbled King's Highway, which begins amid a collection of warehouses on the eastern bank. Maykle is also a waypoint for travelers continuing to and from upriver communities.

A crude wooden palisade encircles the warehouse district for caution's sake against marauding goblins and such, but the heart of Maykle remains unfortified, comfortably shielded by the river. Maykle's buildings are blocky structures of red brick; interior walls are plastered, but Mayklemen prefer to leave exterior brick exposed. Most houses are a single story with steep, thatched roofs, but larger buildings are topped with black slate shingles. The baronial manor overlooks the gently sloping common green where festivals are held. The Ward of Perdition, the local temple to the Eternal Order, stands atop a low hill to the east.

Maykle's most significant landmark is Clangor Asylum, home to more than a hundred tormented souls from throughout Darkon. Clangor's tallest towers peer out over the entire town from behind the asylum's walled grounds. Founded by the great-grandfather of it's current director, Dr. Quintin Clangor, the asylum is now Darkon's largest mental institution. Clangor's alienists favor differing treatment methods.

Indeed, the prominence of Clangor Asylum has produced a common phrase: "mad as a Maykleman." Most locals are decidedly eccentric, though the cause is unclear. Some folk blame strange gasses flowing down from the Foaming River in the mountains to the southeast, while others insist that invisible imps or fey must be whispering in people's ears.

Arkhemedes
02-05-2010, 09:51 PM
Game Timeline

Day 1, Thursday, October 3rd, Year 741 of the Barovian Calendar: Alden, Amber and Cissinei arrive at Ardmor's Inn and Trading Post where several guests of the inn are killed by Rudvarien the doppelganger.
Day 2, Friday, October 4th: Victim's at the inn are buried. Zeliex, Sebastian and Leon arrive at the inn.
Day 3, Saturday, October 5th: Group travels by barge to Maykle where they officially form the Knights of Shadow and Zeliex is killed by a vampire. Rune then joins the group.
Day 4, Sunday, October 6th: Zeliex is buried. The group is joined by Matt. Shortly after leaving Maykle, they kill Matt and bury him. Vlin joins the group and they come upon a gypsy camp where their fortunes are told.