And so it was that in honor of the queen’s 50th year of rule, word was sent to all corners of Isildia: heroes needed. And heroes did come; the bravest dragon knight from the dragon wall, the cleverest wizard from Royal Pines, to the most devout clergymen from the Grand Temple in Scalar. Likewise from the Brollwoods came the quickest Elven archer, from the mines west of Royal Pines came the strongest Dwarven axemen, from the Halfling Hills came a plucky swordsman and from the waters of the Western Ocean came a great Gnomish navigator. Dwarven armor and elven blades, magical trinkets from Gnomish vessels, all blessed by the clergy of Ishtar and enchanted by the wizards of the world’s preeminent arcane university were gifted to the heroes, donated and paid for by the greatest of the noble trading houses of the nation. By decree a week of celebration was held, with festivals and feasts held in honor of the Queen and the heroes. Heralded as the scions of humanity against the ever-present threat of the dragons, the citizenry of Isilidia rallied to their banner. As the heroes progressed through the streets of Scalar they were greeted by thousands of cheering citizens, encouraged along their way to destiny and epic battles against the ancient foes of the great nation of Isildia. Sages arrived from all across the civilized world to bear witness to perhaps the greatest assemblage of humanoid talent since the last dragon-war.
But this is not your story. You are not playing the greatest swordsman, the most powerful magi or the most fortunate Halfling. You are not the child of a Goddess, and the oracles have not prophesized your destiny. Your Dwarven armor is made of plain steel, not mithral and your elven blade is dull and worn. You are a nobody, a has been or a never was. Your story is one of conspiracy, for your character is one of only a handful of people to know that the band of heroes is perhaps the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the goodly folk of Isilida.
As fireworks explode above the reveling throngs of celebrants on the streets of Scalar, deep within the bowels of a dilapidated castle on the Queen’s estate, the grand conspiracy was hatched. Instead of the smell of freshly baked sweet cakes and smoked meat for a feast, the smell of the mildew and death permeates the large room where the party gathered. The controversial new arch-bishop of Scalar, his assistant and the arch-wizard in service to the Queen, and Queen herself are the only ones to know the truth, that the much celebrated band of heroes is a mere diversion.
The party is charged with a simple task. Get the five Dukes who rule the Duchies of Isilidia, as well as the demi-humans leaders and rulers, to sign Charters of Fealty, agreements that grant the Duke the right to rule in exchange to absolute fealty to the Queen, agreements which last for only 25 years and are soon in need of renewal. Historically Dukes have agreed to sign such charters in exchange for a token quest on the behalf of the Queen’s men – however the state of politics in Isildia imply an increased difficulty for you.
At present, Isildia risks splintering apart. Fifty years of unmatched prosperity has seen Isildia become the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the realm. Scalar remains the social and cultural capital of the 13 eastern nations, while Royal Pines in the west of Isildia has become an economic driver for the region, and is now a metropolis of its own. Royal Pines seeks additional autonomy from what it considers its detached rules in Scalar, while traditionalists and noble houses in Scalar chafe at the responsibility of protecting the nation with insufficient support from the upstart in Royal Pines. Meanwhile the regions in the between have prospered little, and indeed in many cases resent the growth in Scalar and Royal Pines, while they maintain subsidence farming lifestyles. In the south, revolutionists and royalists from Kereneth are fermenting unrest. While in the north of Isildia, peasants live as serfs under brutal conditions, prompting some to question how much better off they are as compared to servitude of the Dragons. Political conditions suggest that the party will struggle to convince Dukes and other leaders to swear fealty to Isilidia with a Queen just barely keeping the nation together.
A battle between traditionalist elements of the church and more open-minded clergy plays out in proxy battles in Isilidia – those who welcome the training of magi and those who abhor the arcane arts. In the mountains, once proud Dragonknights have struggled to keep standards in the face of fifty years of peace. Now Dragonknights leaders are the second and third children of nobles, used as a social status, rather than accomplished veterans. In hushed tones in alleyways and basements, people whisper about sightings of dragonborn, and stories are told of dragonsworn infiltrating key positions across the land. Few believe the tales, but street prophets gladly scream that the dragons have returned in large numbers, and apocalyptic warnings of the end of times are becoming more frequent. Sages and scholars argue that the internal strife in Isildia, and the more frequent reports of the agents of Dragons is likely not a coincidence, but rather a dire warning of dark days ahead.
Out of Character
Against this backdrop – your characters have been selected to form a heroic band to ensure the fealty of Dukes and other leaders in secret, while the greatly trumpeted band of heroes ferret out and distract the Queen’s enemies. Many heroes answered the Queen’s call, but only a few were selected. Your character has been questioned and tested to ensure unwavering loyalty to the Queen, nation and mission. The party with its motivation aligned, and mission clear are about to set off on an epic journey, likely to be studied by the Chroniclers and the tale told in taverns for years to come either as the champions of a wise Queen, or the foils of a foolish Queen.
The last game suffered from a weak plotline and a non-cohesive party. Much time and effort will be spent ensuring that the plot is non-trivial, and the players have strong reasons to work together and clear goals to achieve. We will work together, and help each other craft strong character concepts that are both fun to play, and work well together. The plot can be twisted to match the style of game people are interested in playing. Over the coming days and weeks, I’ll put out some more background information (reminding folks about racial variants in this world, the nobles as children of the Gods, religions, organizations and factions) and answer any questions you might have about the game, as well as get feedback from you about what you’d like to see the game include. To help get started on character backgrounds, I’ve posited a few questions which together comprise an incomplete list of things we should discuss with each other in the coming days.
Questions for Character Development:
What deeds is your character known for (with or without other members of the group) that resulted in your character being selected for this critical mission?
What aspect of your characters personality has caused your character to accept the invitation to join the group?
What person, place, or belief motivates your character to risk his life on this mission for the Queen and country?
Does your character have a working relationship with any religion, organization or faction?
Which faction, organization or religion does your character have an antagonistic relationship with?
What region of Isilidia is your character from? What event or personal experience made you leave your home and brought you to Scalar? What is your character’s current connection to the nation of Isilidia at large, and also your home region?