Hello! And welcome to the Five Crowns of Tiamat campaign! I’m going to DM this adventure as soon as Dreadnought_2 finishes up his D&D 4th edition Spellgard adventure.
FCoT (the abbreviation for Five Crowns of Tiamat I’ll be using from now on, because typing that whole phrase out again and again is a pain) will be run in the D&D 3.5 system, Waymaker edition (please read both of those links if you want to know the rules we’re using, although you only need to bother with the Core Rules section of the SRD, and you don’t need to memorize every spell and/or monster).
Before we begin the campaign, it would be only natural for you, the players, to know a little bit about the setting you’ve been living in. It’s certainly not mandatory reading, but if you want to be well-versed in the culture of the world in which you’re adventuring, you should give this a read. So, without further ado…
The World of Clara Tenebris
Mythology: The chief deity of Clara Tenebris is Aia. Aia is the creator of the world and all life (with the exception of a few meddling demigods who created their own races). Aia is said to have many aspects, or different embodiments of Aia’s power (such as good, evil, law, chaos, light, darkness, war, peace, life, death, kindness, cruelty, etc.) and each aspect has a group of Cleric worshipers. Aia created several demigods to help in the management and creation of the world. Each one corresponded to an alignment. Tov (who takes the form of an anthropomorphic lion) was the demigod of Good, Rosha (who takes the form of a five-headed dragon) was the demigod of evil, Tzadek (who takes the form of a normal-looking, white-bearded human carrying a pair of scales) was the demigod of law, Vovaehu (who takes the form of a humanoid fox) was the demigod of chaos, and Tovah (who takes the form of an old elf with a body made of tree branches) was the demigod of neutrality and nature. Each was instructed to wander the land, keeping Aia’s creations under control, but Rosha, when left to her own devices, immediately created her own race (the dragons), hid herself from Aia’s sight, took a new name (Tiamat), and devised a ritual to grow in power until she could wrest the title of overdeity from Aia’s hands. However, the ritual failed and Aia imprisoned Tiamat at the core of the earth. Tiamat has tried to free herself another three times since, but has been defeated each time, the last time by a mortal champion chosen by Aia who is known only by the title of “The Great King,” who also founded the Kingdom of Luhan (see History, below).
Other demigods, such as Fharla, King of Travelers and Roads, and Golari, Queen of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, were created by Aia at later points in time (the exact date is not known, since these creations came into being before Recorded History began).
Clara Tenebris has two major continents – Locus and Pelacos. Locus is in the West and Pelacos is in the East. Separating them are two oceans – the Sea of Arbador and the Shrouded Ocean.
The different regions of Clara Tenebris, going from West to East, are as follows:
Oluldaia: This area is said to be the first Aia created. It is a forest of huge trees, some the size of mountains. The entire forest floor is covered in thick roots. It is said that the fountain of youth can be found in the heart of Oluldaia, but nobody ever dares to go there. The forest is guarded by giant Treants and some creatures that are more powerful.
The Icy Mountains: This frigid mountain range is the home of many hill giants, white dragons, and tribes of orcs. Under the mountains dwell drow, duergar, dwarves, and other creatures commonly found underground.
Dal’hani: This huge desert is the home of many wandering nomad tribes of assorted races, from orcs to elves to the exotic thri-kreens. The desert is the origin of psionic power, and powerful Psions and Wilders claim that they have detected some form of consciousness beneath the sand. Some claim that a huge monster dwells under the dunes, and some think that the desert itself is sentient. The only permanent cities in the desert are nine city-states, ruled by seven sorcerer-kings (two of the states recently overthrew their rulers) who are each trying to (and, in some cases, have succeeded at) attaining demigodhood. Dal’hani was once part of Oluldaia forest. In the most recent battle between Tiamat and Aia, the dragon goddess managed to temporarily banish Aia from the mortal realm. When this happened, blight, decay, and destruction began to appear in the once-fertile woodland, and the desert was formed. The Great King vanquished Tiamat and managed to return Aia to reality before the desert could grow any more, however.
Luhan: The kingdom of Luhan is a savanna of rolling hills, largely inhabited by idyllic human farmers. The capitol city, Luhanan, is the most heavily populated city in the entire world. A massive metropolis built around and on top of a huge hill (Luhan Hill), it is a center of trade, government, and general influence. It is also, shockingly, incredibly low on crime. Next to Luhanan and Luhan Hill is Lake Ryna, the mouth of the Ryna River, which runs all the way through the continent and leads into the Sea of Arbador.
The Oligarchy of Ebondale: Luhan is on the border of Ebondale, and has largely the same terrain, but a drastically different political situation. Ruled by the Temples of Aia’s Evil and Darkness, it is a place where civilians are oppressed, borderline enslaved. Ebondale has been at war with the Ghostlord for the entirety of its existence (48 years).
The Thornwaste: The ground of this badland is covered in thorns, brambles, and other sharp, deadly plants. It is the home of the Ghostlord, a legendary Druid turned undead.
Elsir Vale: Once the kingdom of Rhestilor, this large valley is now simply an area of various forests and fields, sparsely populated, with settlements of halflings, dwarves, and humans. There are two prominent city-states in the Vale – Brindol, a military power and “guardian nation” that takes it upon itself to protect the Vale from harm, and Dennovar, a massive merchant city where trade blossoms like nowhere else (with the exceptions of Luhanan, Port Mekaeser, and Fey’ri).
Elrohir Forest: This forest is the home of the elves. It has the largest elf population in all of Clara Tenebris. The elves are a secluded race, and, due to lack of interaction, Elrohir forest has become the stuff of legends, with many of the common, uneducated people of the world not even believing that it (or the elven race) exists.
The Jex’ken: Elrohir Forest grow progressively more jungle-like as you go further East, until finally you come to the Jex’ken. It is the home of an ancient civilization of some race that has since died out, leaving behind massive and magnificent structures and pyramids. It is the home of elves, orcs, and all sorts of other jungle races.
Aerandi Shore: This shore borders the Arbador Sea. It features several shipping and trade towns, the most prominent of which is Port Mekaeser, a largely human (with a few dwarves, halflings, and, surprisingly, goblins) expansionist state that seeks to colonize unexplored parts of the world. Port Mekaeser, despite being only a small nation, is currently one of the three most influential and powerful nations in the world (the other two being Fey’ri and Luhan, with many others having the potential to become major political powers).
Arbador: Arbador is an ocean that spans the area between the East Coast of Locus and the West Coast of Pelacos.
High Arbador: In 236 RH, this giant cloud simply rose out of the water. The cloud is in the same basic shape as the Arbador Sea, and seems to mirror it completely in basic form. It is inhabited by creatures of Elemental origin, called Genasi. Nobody knows how they got there, or where they came from, and they refuse to tell. The four primary races of Genasi (earth, fire, water, and air) all loathe each other and are constantly at war. Nobody except them know why. There is a great, tall ladder that leads into High Arbador from Aerandi Shore (called the Ladder Calentine), and another ladder that leads into it from the Fey’ri on the other shore (called the Ladder Avenine).
Vandenyo: The culture on this island is similar to that of feudal Japan. They are aggressive and largely refuse to interact with the lands of Locus or Pelacos, with the exception of a few intrepid adventurers. Not much is known by the oustide world about the inner happenings of Vandenyo.
Fey’ri: On the other side of the Arbador Sea lies the home of the gnomes, a seafaring race that has given birth to more than a few famous and well-feared pirates. The gnomes of Fey’ri have an extremely powerful navy and are excellent shipbuilders in general. Like Port Mekaeser, they are an expansionist nation and are settling every area they can.
Verthicha Fai: These mountains, infested by small dragon-like creatures called drakes, form the border between the Fey’ri and Mor’ata Marsh.
Mor’ata Marsh: These marshes are inhabited by a race of creatures called Gremlins, which are the minions of an ancient green dragon of legendary power and cruelty, called Akruak.
The Valley of Seasons: This region is said to be where Tiamat fell to the ground in her first confrontation with Aia. It is not where she was imprisoned, however, and the valley is now the home of a colony of humans. The valley is surrounded by mountains and guarded by a band of Swordsages who have sworn never to let danger enter the valley. Inside the valley, time flows more slowly. One hour in the Valley is one day in the outside world. The Valley consists of four hills. It is perpetually a different season on each hill. The hill of Summer is called Erthnetora, the hill of Winter is called Onkmet, the hill of Autumn is called Grikad, and the hill of Spring is called Denag.
The Shrouded Shore: The waves at the shore of this ocean are so huge that they destroy and drown anything short of a heavily fortified castle. The waters are always shrouded in mist. Every expedition across the ocean fails, and explorers that attempt to cross the perilous waves are never seen again.
There are also a number of other small regions that I haven’t listed, but they’re mostly just uninteresting territories of Luhan.
Additionally, there is a third, largely unexplored continent in the south, titled Arentem, the edge of which seems to consist of jungle. It was discovered recently and the central coast has been colonized by Luhan, with Ebondale possessing a small settlement at the far west of the continent, the Fey’ri Gnomes establishing a town in the east, and Port Mekaeser launching several ships full of colonists, planning to land somewhere in between the current settlements. So far, the only sentient creatures they have encountered are a race of griffon-riding humanoids called Mechantatrixes, who seem to have a special bond with the element of lightning. Nobody has ventured beyond the very edge, however, and the whole continent is somewhat shrouded in mystery.
History: Clara Tenebris, the World of Light and Darkness, is a young world. The first known written language (that of Luhan), and thus history itself, only goes back 500 years (the elves had written language long before this, but they kept theirs a secret, and the gnomes, who also had a form of written language, only contacted Locus in 35 RH). The first historical event recorded is the coming of the Great King, who forged the Kingdom of Luhan and drove back hordes of Tiamat’s evil forces. Other notable events in the history of Clara Tenebris include:
The Separation of Lord Rhest (3 RH): The the kingdom of Rhestilor secedes from Luhan.
Akruak’s Birth (15 RH): The green dragon Akruak is born in the Verthicha Fai.
The Death of the Great King (18 RH): The first ruler of Luhan dies while away in the Icy Mountains with his personal entourage of knights (who also died).
The Meeting of Locus and Pelacos (35 RH): Gnomish sailors from Fey’ri discover the continent of Locus, across the Arbador sea, and set up diplomatic relations with Luhan.
The Founding of the Sublime Way and Martial Theory (79 RH): The two most influential martial arts styles in all of Luhan are created.
The Oath of Protection (92 RH): A guild of Swordsages, called the Denag Allegiance, swears never to let danger come to the Valley of Seasons.
The Rise of Zarl (123 RH): Urikel Zarl, a powerful Druid of demigodlike power, blessed with unusually long life, rises to power in the border region of Rhestilor and Luhan. He leads a tribe of lion-worshiping nomads.
The First Trial (157 RH): A swarm of gremlins comes out of Mor’ata marsh and attempts to conquer the Valley of Seasons. Their leader is an ogre-sized gremlin named Garron, the greatest champion the gremlins have ever known. They are repelled by the Denag Allegiance, however. Garron leaves Mor’ata in disgrace and wanders into the Verthicha Fai mountains to live the life of an exile.
The First Era of Piracy (163 RH – 332 RH): Caltoniar Briacer, a Gnomish admiral, is expelled from the Fey’ri millitary for misconduct. Furious at his rejection, he gathers a band of cutthroats and builds a ship, with sails died red, called the Shydia Baelaeli (Old Gnomish for Bloody Vengeance). For the next ninety years, he loots and pillages the coast of Pelacos, makes occasional raids on Arbador, and intercepts every ship he can that crosses Arbador waters.
The Discovery of Academic Magic (227 RH): Five of the finest minds in the whole of Luhan discover that magic can be learned, as opposed to inherited like a Sorcerer.
Port Mekaeser is Founded (228 RH): Outcasts from the nation of Luhan found the city-state of Port Mekaeser.
The Fall of Zarl (230 RH): The kingdom of Rhestilor attempts to conquer Zarl’s nomad tribes, massacring them in a surprise attack.
The Coming of the Ghostlord and the Fall of Rhestilor (235 RH): Urikel Zarl, bereft of his tribe, undergoes a horrible ritual that turns him into a lich, an undead abomination. In a show of spellcasting prowess only equaled by some of the most powerful of Aia’s demigods, Zarl turns the region of plains that his tribe inhabited into the Thornwaste. Taking on a new name, the Ghostlord, he creates an army of spectral lions, forged from the souls of his dead subjects, and leads them in an attack on the kingdom of Rhestilor, resulting in its total destruction. He comes into possession of all of Elsir Vale.
The Rising of High Arbador (236 RH): Aia, appearing on the earth for the first time in Recorded History, creates the cloud that covers all of Arbador Sea.
The Wars of High Arbador (237 RH – Present): This event denotes the beginning of the various battles that took place/are occurring among the Genasi in High Arbador.
The Dal’hani Revelation (239 RH): Moastera, history’s most powerful Psion, discovers that there is some form of conscious thought dwelling under the desert dunes.
Vraath Rebellion (240 RH – 252 RH): Lord Amery Vraath leads Elsir Vale in a rebellion against the Ghostlord, and reclaims it. Over the course of the coming years, Lord Vraath attempts to unify the Vale as one country under his rule, but is unsuccessful and eventually dies in a Forest Giant raid on his castle, Vraath Keep.
The Second Trial (248 RH): Garron descends from the mountains with the dragon Akruak, now fully grown and large enough to bear the giant Garron on his back. Suddenly revered by the Gremlins once again, he leads a second attack on the Valley of Seasons. The Denag Allegiance repels the attack once again, but just barely. Garron is reinstated as ruler of the Gremlins.
Caltoniar Briacer’s Death (255 RH): Briacer is slain in a raid on Port Mekaeser. His destruction is celebrated in port towns all across Locus and Pelacos. However, the Shydia Baelaeli continues to sail, now under the command of Caltoniar’s daughter, Londi Briacer, who is just as ruthless and a powerful Warlock to boot.
The Founding of Omaria Castle (280 RH): Adventurers from Luhan attempt to set up a castle on the border of the Shrouded Shore. They hire the most skilled stonemasons in the world (mostly Fey’ri Gnomes and Dwarves from the Icy Mountains of Locus) to build the fortress.
Akruak Comes to Power (321 RH): Akruak, now the world’s largest known dragon, overthrows Garron and forces him into exile in the Verthicha Fai again, crowning himself overlord of the Gremlins, who he now treats as slaves. He does not have the same interest in the Valley of Seasons as the gremlins do, so he forms a treaty with the Denag Allegiance agreeing not to attack the Valley if they don’t attack Mor’ata. No trouble has come from Mor’ata Marsh since, but everybody suspects that Akruak is simply mustering his forces in preparation for an attack that could conquer all of Pelacos.
The Destruction of the Shydia Baelaeli (332 RH): Londi Briacer is finally killed by Fey’ri millitary, and the Shydia Baelaeli is burned, marking the end of the First Era of Piracy. A map is discovered among Briacer’s personal belongings that denotes the location of a mysterious body of land supposedly the size of Locus and Pelacos put together. Preparations are made for an expeditionary voyage to this area.
The Lost Expedition (336 RH): Ten ships sail for the mysterious continent discovered by the Shydia Baelaeli and never come back or are heard from again. All attempts to scry on them fail.
The Fall of Omari Castle (390 RH): After having survived the conditions of the Shrouded Shore for more than one hundred years, Omari Castle finally collapses in a huge tsunami.
The Discovery of Arentem (440 RH): A second expedition into the southern waters of Arbador is launched in an attempt to find the lost continent, and this time, it is successful. The continent of Arentem is discovered.
The Founding of the Modern Temples of Aia (483 RH): The current system of Aspect worship is devised (due to the fact that Clerics of different alignments and philosophical views couldn’t cooperate).
The Second Era of Piracy (496 RH – Present): Wenson Morce, a well-respected Fey’ri nobleman, learns that his family is descended from the Briacers. He disappears one night and steals the preserved ashes of the Shydia Baelaeli. He gathers another crew of outlaws, builds a new ship (with the Baelaeli’s ashes symbolically included), takes on the new name of Donic Briacer, and begins terrorizing port towns again.
The War of Chapels (499 RH): The Temples of Aia’s Darkness and Aia’s Evil declare war on the others and secede from Luhan, forming the Oligarchy of Ebondale.
You Embark on your Quest (547 RH): FCoT begins!
RH = Recorded History
Anyway, that’s the basic outline for my setting. It’s not much, and it’s certainly not very detailed, but I think it will serve well enough for the adventure I’m planning. Let me know if you have any recommendations or questions. Also, please let me know if you would like to see anything in particular in the adventure (whether it be a certain type of monster, or a character from your backstory, or just a general request, or something else) so I can plan for it before we start.
Your (Future) DM,