Sunday, September 6, 2020

Descent Into Avernus Character Introductions and Prologue

The Se'Kai campaign has come and gone and we've since started our next campaign, which will be in the Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus prewritten module. As in, that Baldur's Gate. I like this for a couple reasons. I like prewritten modules because it does a lot of the heavy lifting for worldbuilding and scenario planning, leaving the DM with session-by-session planning and trying to make sure the players don't completely break the game. I also like this because I'm not going to be the DM. While I enjoy being the DM, I like being a player more. It's worlds less stressful, as my main responsibility is my own character, and not being obnoxious to the other players. Well, within reason. Instead, DM responsibility is being passed to Ammon, Bubbles' player. I like the fact that we can pass DM responsibilities around the group. It gives everyone a chance to play and run games that they are interested in, and everyone has such different DM'ing styles that the change of pace is quite refreshing.

Anyway, with a new campaign comes new characters and a new scenario, and we actually had what is called a Session 0 as a way of settling how the party ended up together and what's going to be happening for the first few sessions.

We'll start with my character, Seliph Lyesryn, an Aasimar paladin, which is super exciting because I've never played a paladin before. Following that will be the backstories of the other characters as written by their players.

Played by Me

Seliph was born to a single woman by the name of Elaine Lyesryn in the slums of Baldur's Gate. His father, a Nephilim by the name of Sariel, was nowhere to be found, be he alive or dead. Though Seliph had few if any memories of his father, his mother Elaine swore that he was never a bad person.

Elaine's family was not well off by any stretch, her parents having passed away years ago. She was able to support herself and her son by cooking at a local tavern. The family made do with what little they had, but one day when Seliph was a teenager, his mother fell ill. In need of a higher income to support his mother, Seliph enlisted in the Flaming Fist, an organization dedicated to law enforcement within the city. However, during his tenure with the Fist, Seliph found him strung along on grunt assignment after grunt assignment, acting as little more than a thug, forever chasing a promotion that would never come, while any pay raises he got were minimal.

However, in the hopes that things would eventually get better, Seliph pressed on without complaint, until eventually his mother's condition deteriorated and she passed away. Overcome with grief, Seliph resigned from the Fist not long after, to the chagrin of his friends, who quickly made themselves scarce, not wanting to be associated with a quitter. With no other real attachment to the city of Baldur's Gate, Seliph left.

He spent the next several years drifting as a mercenary, until by chance, he encountered a Paladin in his travels. The older man, a human by the name of Calvin Kent, took a keen interest in the young man, who he could see was weighed down by far more than someone of his age should carry. He promised that, no matter how dark things got, there was always a chance things could improve.

Seliph questioned the man further, and the man said that his oath as a paladin was the Oath of Redemption, which vested in him the responsibility to see that every life he touched was changed for the better, that evil could be redeemed, and that good would always triumph.

Seliph eventually returned to Baldur's Gate, doing various odd jobs, until a chance encounter at a bank set him on an adventure that would take him to Hell and beyond.

Played by my wife Karin

The Night They Met

Kalista was slinging one drink after another at the bar. She had had a bad day until she happened upon some easy money, which had practically fallen off the belt of a wealthy merchant as he trotted his horse down the busy city street. Now she could treat herself to her favorite medicine. The only annoying thing was a set of eyes across the room that wouldn’t go away.

Kallista was used to the stares, the whispers, “devil’s child... don’t get too close.” There weren’t many like her in this city. The humans have feared tieflings for longer than she can remember, and treated them like criminals. Is it any wonder she became a thief?

With a sigh, Kalista slammed down her current glass, and locked eyes with the man who was staring at her. He was seated at a table against the back wall, with parchment scattered around him as if he’d been working. He did not shy away from Kalista’s gaze.

Slowly, she unfurled a long pointed tongue from her lips. Her brow furrowed down to her nose. She revealed her sharp canine teeth, and let out a “HISS!”

The color drained from the man’s face and he gasped. Perfect! Just what she wanted. Kalista picked up her glass again to finish her drink.

No sooner had the ale slid into her mouth before it came spewing back out. The man was still staring! A trembling hand hovered over his heart now.

Kalista slammed the glass back down, shattering it this time, and lunged from her seat. In a drunken rage, she stumbled toward the man. Her claws hit the table while her long tail whipped his papers away.

“And what the HELL are you starin’ at!?” she spat.

He blinked and stammered for a moment. “I-I’m sorry! It’s just. You’re… you’re beautiful.”
Weeks Later

Raoul brushed Kalista’s long dark hair with his fingers. “So beautiful,” he whispered in her ear. Kalista smiled. She rested her head on a straw-filled pillow, designed to protect the bed from the stab of her ram’s horns.  “I never thought anyone would say that about me,” she admitted.

“And I never thought I’d be so lucky in love.” Raoul grinned as he pulled his lover closer. Her blood red skin seemed to shimmer like a flame in the candle light. Kalista never had a need for candles, as she could always seem to make her way in the dark. But for Raoul’s delicate blue eyes, she lit several in her room. She wanted him to see her. She wanted to hear how beautiful she was, every night since that day they met.

“Do you really mean it? That you love me?” Kalista whispered.

“Of course, my darling.” His slender fingers began to trail a delicate line down her side.

“Then I can tell my mother about us? And we can go to your home next time?”

Raoul paused. He removed his hand long enough to scratch the stubble on his chin. “I need to take care of a few things before that can happen.”

“What things?” Kalista’s golden eyes narrowed slightly.

“Don’t worry about it.”

“But Raoul. I still know hardly anything about-“

“Kalista.” He stroked her cheek softly. “I love you. We will be together every night, I promise you.”

“Raoul-.” She was interrupted when his lips met hers.
The Next Night

Kalista stayed up until sunset as had become usual. She wished her mother good night, and listened for the sound of snoring from beyond the door, then crossed the hallway to light the candles in her own room. After waiting a while, she opened up a small chest from under her bed, and looked through a collection of “scavenged” treasures. Perhaps tonight she could dazzle Raoul with a jeweled necklace across her bosom, or some crystal earrings. It was difficult to know which he would prefer. Should she wear both? Or is that trying too hard? 

She decided on none of the jewelry, considering Raoul showered her with praises of her beauty no matter what she was in. She replaced the chest under her bed, and snuck quietly outside to continue waiting. The moon and stars were out in full brightness. Raoul was usually here by now. What could be keeping him?

Panic started to creep into Kalista’s mind. Had she done something wrong? “It’s because I asked about going to his house, isn’t it? Where is his house?” She assumed it was somewhere in the same quadrant of the outer-city where she lived, considering they seemed to frequent the same bar.
Suddenly, she heard it. Screaming. Not too far away. Kalista took off running in the direction of the sound. The train of her silk night robe fluttered in the wind behind her. As she rushed down the streets, she saw movement in the distance. A large shape was moving away from the scene like a shadow. Was a mob? The screaming was coming from an old woman nearby.

“Ma’am! What’s happened?” As Kalista moved toward her, she rounded a corner where a blaze of light took over her vision. A wooden hut was in flames.

“Not the children!” The old woman wailed. “Not the children!”

Kalista froze. “There are children in there?”

 “Yes!” She sobbed. “The children shouldn’t have to die for their father’s crime!” The woman flinched suddenly, and stared at Kalista, her own eyes seeming to adjust through the tears and fiery light. “He took a whore, a demon like you!” she shouted, pointing at Kalista. Then she hurriedly hobbled away, crying all the while. “Not those poor, poor children.”

A shaky breath escaped Kalista. “No,” she told herself frantically. “No, it can’t be him. Not Raoul. No!”
The next moments happened in a blur. Her claws, breaking down the heaps barricading the door. The heat, smoke, and flames that engulfed her as she busted through the entrance. The bodies. Four of them. Huddled together there in the center of the floor, motionless. A man, woman, and two small children. Kalista grasped at the man, lifting his face from where it was nestled against the others. She saw it for only a second, before the flesh began to bubble.  Black patches singed and took over his cheeks. 

Raoul’s blue eyes and stubbly chin rolled out of her grip lifelessly as she screamed an unearthly howl.
She dragged each body out into the street, though it was far too late to save them. She fell to her knees and held the skeletal form of Raoul, which continued to burn, as the wooden hut completely collapsed behind them.

Kalista did not hear the voices of villagers in the surrounding homes, opening their windows to shout in response to her cries. She didn’t see them coming out with weapons, or feel the debris being thrown at her. Only when the tines of a pitch fork collided with her arm, did she look up to see an angry man yelling, “Demons be gone!”

It was then she saw, she was becoming surrounded. The villagers, they were blaming her. They wanted to kill her. Kalista got up, she wiped away her tears. She bore her teeth, and claws, and she fought her way out, and she ran for her life.

“I don’t know how this happened,” she thought. “But I will never let it happen again.”

Played by Joshua Johnson

Jerrod Anton Faust had always dreamed of magic. As a young boy, he saw a magical performance when a circus passed through his city. Awe and wonder filled him as he watched the magic user's display.

His father was a reasonably-wealthy merchant in town. After a great deal of pleading, Jerrod convinced his father to help fund his pursuits. While they couldn't afford private tutelage, they had enough to enroll Jerrod in a scholarly cloister. He spent much of his teenage years as a page. In between his duties, he would spend his time learning. While his focus was always on magic, he also tried to be well-rounded, studying many other disciplines and fields.

As his age and knowledge increased, so did his standing within the cloister. He began to go by 'Anton,' feeling that it better reflected his knowledge and desires. He gained many valuable insights from mentors and colleagues. And his own insights came to be valued as well.

But magic eluded him.

His studies on the mechanics of spellcasting were exhaustive. He studied every school and tradition. He sought out tutelage from wizards within the cloister. But after years of effort, his greatest magical achievement was being able to cast Prestidigitation - a string of mere parlor-tricks. His magical mentors could only conclude that Anton simply lacked 'the gift.'

But Anton refused to accept it. He delved deeper into the libraries. He experimented and researched. 

Eventually, he began a deep study of ritual magic. Its functionality with almost-no requirement of the user seemed promising. Perhaps he could overcome whatever deficiency lay within himself by relying on outside forces. And it was these studies that led him to the Tome.

Within a nearly forgotten section of the library, Anton found a book. It had no title, no entry in the catalogs, and was written in an alien tongue. A few illustrations in the pages were the only hint that it even belonged among its fellow books on rituals. But, Anton felt undeniably drawn to the Tome. Maybe this was the final secret to unravel...

His initial inquiries brought about concern and unwelcome questions from his colleagues. So Anton kept his work secret - learning the language of the Tome (deepspeech) and decoding the rituals he found within. And after several years of work, he was ready to perform the ceremony that would change everything.

Anton doesn't entirely remember everything that happened that night. Whenever he tries to remember details it feels as though his mind is on fire. But what he clearly remembers, and can never forget is that he made a deal. That night he made contact with something beyond mortal comprehension. He glimpsed behind the curtain, and something else met his gaze - Something basking in the un-light of blackened stars, feasting with insatiable hunger on the gasping final breaths of dying gods...

Anton woke in his bed the next morning. Fearing what may have happened, he removed the Tome from its hiding place in his chamber. But it had changed. It no longer contained the rituals he had studied and performed. It contained secrets within its changing texts - secrets and power. Anton could cast spells.

His powers were initially very limited. But his colleagues in the cloister were impressed. Impressed enough to grant him the title of Professor. Impressed enough to ask questions. 

Questions that Anton knew he couldn't answer - What's, Why's and How's that would expose the awful truth.

So he lied.

"It's something I'm still looking into." "The results currently contain too much unaccounted variance. I'll get back to you when I've refined the data further." "I've sent my research to colleagues in another city. I'd hate to spread my procedure before it can be independently verified."

Lies grew. Justifications withered. Other researchers were unable to replicate his results. As the tangled web of deception strained ever closer to the breaking point, Anton knew he couldn't keep it intact. So, Professor J. Anton Faust ran away.

He was supposedly seeking out "sites with appropriate properties" to "properly and definitively corroborate or disprove his findings." But it was just another lie - a desperate bid to buy time. Trapped between a truth he couldn't face and a lie he couldn't maintain, Prof. Faust wandered from place to place. He would try to set up a new life, but always moved on when his crumbling lies seemed about to catch up. And always he felt the Thing's eyes on him, and read its words and demands in his Tome.

Professor J. Anton Faust has been running for several years now. In service to himself, he has told more lies than he can number. 

In service to this alien entity, he has done many things that he regrets. But he's also seen what disobedience brings.

He knows that he is a fraud. But, he presses forward with determination. Perhaps someday, he will find a way to undo his desperate deal. Perhaps someday, he will uncover the secret that lets him take back his life. Perhaps someday, his magic will be his own.

Perhaps someday, he won't have to lie anymore.

Until then, Faust continues to study. He searches for information in the great libraries of the world. And he scours the Tome for secrets that his eldritch master may have left unhidden. His may be a desperate effort - the longest of shots. But Professor J. Anton Faust never gave up before. And he will not do so now.

Narcissa "Sissy" Delacroix, played by Brianne Anderson, is a 14-year-old girl from our world who was pulled into the Forgotten Realms by her patron as a means of escaping an abusive household. Once she found herself in the city of Baldur's Gate she eventually ended up joining with Kalista and Faust as they planned their heist to steal a certain important book from the vault in the bank of Baldur's Gate, which Faust intended to use as a bargaining chip to get into the library of Candlekeep. I'll edit this post as I get more info on Sissy, but at the moment she finds herself incredibly busy taking care of two children, so we'll take what we can get.

The plan went off almost without a hitch, until Kalista shouted something along the lines of, "That's what you get for always trying to keep tieflings down!" as they escaped from the bank, guards hot on their tails (no pun intended for Kalista's sake).

Seliph, who just happened to be passing by at the moment, thought to himself, "Something's up, maybe I should help...nah, it's the bank, the Fist has them covered, this ain't my problem anymore," as Kalista and Sissy dashed past him.

As the rest of the guards continued chasing after the two thieves, the head guard broke off to start shouting at Seliph. "What's the matter with you, you let 'em go! Look at you, you could've stopped them with one hand tied behind your back!"

Seliph glowered. "I'm just a normal citizen. If you need this taken care of, call a professional. The Fist are always looking for people to beat up. Just leave me out of it." The amount of disdain Seliph had in the one word could have poisoned a dragon.

The head guard stalked off in a huff, cursing about how "normal citizens" don't care about the hardworking people anymore, now he's got a bunch of paperwork to file and he has to talk to Captain Zodge, blah blah blah.

At the name Zodge, Seliph took a moment to reconsider his stance. If Zodge was the one who was in charge of the Flaming Fist now, that could spell trouble for anyone who got caught up in this mess. Of all the memories Seliph had of Zodge, none of them were pleasant. All of them were of a petty, power hungry brute of a man who put on a good public face but would resort to all manner of underhanded tactics to accomplish his goals.

"Maybe I better track those thieves down and talk to them. That paladin was right. Everyone deserves a second chance, and hopefully making good use of that second chance will keep as many people possible in this situation still alive."

It didn't take long to track the thieves to their hideout (one only had to follow the shouting). Seliph didn't even bother knocking, instead opting to just open the door and let himself in. What he let himself into was a panic.

Long story short, the book had disappeared, and Seliph found himself the thing that put a sudden stop to a shouting match about where it went. And, because in D&D nothing bad can happen without something worse following, a group of Flaming Fist guards had been tailing Seliph, who was now being treated as part of the heist despite having nothing to do with it. The four of them were to be taken before Captain Zodge to face judgment for this crime. And so our story begins...

No comments:

Post a Comment