The other day I described the Hall of the Faded Kings as — or rather, updated the description to —
This great hall is lined with mosaics showing great acts of the Donnerkonig over the centuries they ruled, from the mighty acts that established their powers, through acts during their reign, and even the diminishing acts during their decline. […] the central area, where the floor has a large mosaic of the sign of the Donnerkonig […]. From this central chamber are four others, each with mosaics alluding to stories of one of the Donnerkonig treasures.
It might be sufficient to leave it basically at that, but I think even a bit of concrete background will provide some useful flavor for the players and help realize the setting.
Cycles of History
“Cycles of History” can be a useful trope because it can be used to form a road map of sorts for those who know enough to examine history. I’ve got some notes about possible adventures to establish the power of the new Donnerkonig, and I think it might work to have them reflect what came before. These are
- Purging of the Xotan Deep (Crown of Rain, near ‘X’ on the map)
- Cleansing of Nilat Wood (Trident of Lightning, near ‘N’ on the map)
- Pirates of Savern Reach (Horn of Gales, near ‘S’ on the map… I don’t know what actually would be done, but while it’s easy to make it ‘remove the pirates’, I kind of like the idea of becoming their king… perhaps that should be a viable means of neutralizing their threat)
- Sack of Ulin (Ring of Waves, near ‘U’ on the map)
(Names may simply be placeholders; I obviously picked them so they aligned with the letters on the map for convenience. See the map at the bottom for reference, Sturmhame is at ‘T’.)
Part of the consequence of the Donnerkonig decline is that the conditions that brought about these events are coming about again. It may not be necessary to repeat these events, but the identify situations that should probably be resolved — before or after the return of the Donnerkonig, and may affect the outcome of the missions to establish their power.
I think also including a mosaic for each that provides some hint about what to expect at the place the treasure will be found will be useful. The Trident of Lightning is at Storm Mountain, so a mountain with numerous lightning strikes and the Trident at the top (said mosaic may well have storm metal in it… hmm, perhaps I should figure out the metal associations I was talking about earlier and incorporate them in each of the critical mosaics). In the Grotto of Aeshtua, provide an indication of what Aeshtua is and the sorts of sacrifices she finds appropriate.
Mosaics by Treasure
I now have ideas for two mosaics for each treasure. I think perhaps three more: one when they achieve their power and are at their most powerful, one while established but not challenged (‘declining’), and one at the end of their reign.
There is a great deal of similarity to the mosaics. This is deliberate, I want to build a recognizable pattern the players can make use of.
Crown of Rain
The Crown of Rain might have the following mosaics.
- The Crown of Rain is associated with the Sea-Swept Vault. Mosaic showing the Vault so it can be recognized when found, and provide some advice about how the Crown might be acquired.
- Purging of the Xotan Deep: some distinctive feature of the Xotan Deep, Regenkonig (the Donnerkonig who bore the Crown), the thing purged, as if captured at the time. This might be in three pieces, one with the before, one with the during, and one with the after.
- ? not sure, but probably another location in the Xotan Deep where a task must be completed to fully activate and bind the power of the Crown.
- The Palace of Rain ‘under normal circumstances’, empowered and active. May or may not present a specific event.
- The specific event that led to the Palace of Rain being sealed and the fall of the Regenkonig (rain king).
Horn of Gales
The Horn of Gales might have the following mosaics.
- The Horn of Gales is associated with the Pillars of the Sky. Mosaic showing the Pillars so they can be recognized when found, and provide some advice about how the Horn might be acquired.
- Pirates of Savern Reach: perhaps a fleet of pirate ships. Before might show the pirates pillaging Sturmhame, during shows the Sturmkonig (wielder of the Horn) neutralizing them, after shows the sinking fleet (or however they were neutralized).
- ? not sure, but probably another location in the Savern Reach where a task must be completed to fully activate and bind the power of the Horn.
- The Palace of Wind ‘under normal circumstances’, empowered and active. May or may not present a specific event.
- The specific event that led to the Palace of Rain being sealed and the fall of the Sturmkonig (wind king — closer to literally ‘storm king’).
That the Sturmkonig is one of the rulers of Sturmhame suggests that perhaps the Horn of Gales is more central to their power and/or that the Sturmkonig is the leader of the group. There are four Donnerkonig, perhaps each has a vote on major matters with the Sturmkonnig having the tie-breaking vote. All three can defeat the Sturmkonig in council, but it takes all three. This is consistent with the Pinnacle of Wind (in The Keys of Heraka-at) being the farthest from the Hall of Faded Kings, and the Pillars of the Sky being farthest from The Keys of Heraka-at.
This was not deliberate on my part, but I like it.
Ring of Waves
The Ring of Waves might have the following mosaics.
- The Ring of Waves is associated with the Grotto of Aeshtua, Serpent of the Water. Mosaic showing the Grotto so it can be recognized when found, and provide some advice about how the Ring might be acquired.
- Sack of Ulin: some distinctive feature of Ulin, Wellenkonig (the Donnerkonig who bore the Ring), and the actual ‘sack’. I’m pretty dissatisfied with this one, now that I’ve had an opportunity to think about it. I’d like to change it to something more suitable, though I’m not yet sure what that would be. Ulin being a small archipelago and the Ring having to do with waves I picture something like a tsunami or similar being involved.
- ? not sure, but probably another location in the Ulin Isles where a task must be completed to fully activate and bind the power of the Ring.
- The Palace of Waves ‘under normal circumstances’, empowered and active. May or may not present a specific event.
- The specific event that led to the Palace of Waves being sealed and the fall of the Wellenkonig (wave king).
Trident of Lightning
The Trident of Lightning might have the following mosaics.
- The Trident of Lightning is associated with Storm Mountain. Mosaic showing the Mountain so it can be recognized when found, and provide some advice about how the Trident might be acquired.
- Cleansing of Nilat Wood: some distinctive feature of Nilat, Blitzkonig (the Donnerkonig who bore the Trident), and the actual ‘cleansing’. As with the Ring of Waves I’m not entirely happy with this one, and I wonder if Nilat, a forest, is really the best place for this one to be centered. I do know that I don’t really want everything Trident-related to be at Storm Mountain.
- ? not sure, but probably another location in the Nilat Wood where a task must be completed to fully activate and bind the power of the Trident.
- The Palace of Lightning ‘under normal circumstances’, empowered and active. May or may not present a specific event.
- The specific event that led to the Palace of Lightning being sealed and the fall of the Blitzkonig (lightning king).
Clearly some more consideration is needed in order to fill in the details. As mentioned above, that the four chambers are so similar in their contents is deliberate, to provide a pattern for the PCs to work with. I’d like to have each mosaic provide useful information to the players, while at the same time being insufficient on their own. The first and third mosaics have information to help their quest, the second may be useful for resolving or avoiding problems in achieving power, the fourth might provide some guidance for applying power later, and the last might be a warning.
I’m quite open to suggestions for the third mosaic in all cases, since I haven’t really nailed those down (and in principle don’t need to yet because I don’t need the information yet), but I think I’d like some idea what will come.
Pretty much all the place names are open to change. They were made up on the spot so they aligned with the node letters on the map.
I haven’t really put much thought into the mosaics representing the Donnerkonig as a whole, either. I had thought to come up with of their exploits and use them, but I may get rid of them. I think I’d still like something informative and useful in the main chamber of the Hall of Faded Kings, though.
Speculation on your question marks, maybes, and dissatisfieds (because I can’t help myself sometimes):
The Sea-Swept Vault could be a secret treasure trove of the Regenkonig, hidden in the deeps. It’s built from turquoise stone and the inside is lined with marble and silver décor. Secretly, the Vault serves a dual purpose: it also sits atop and seals the way to the place where the Thing lies trapped eternally. At least, that was the plan…. The exhausted Crown of Rain can be re-energised atop the nearby Bel Tiss plateau, when the monsoon rains come.
Sack of Ulin: perhaps it was sacked by Aeshtua, wielding a tsunami to wash away her foes. The Sunken Monastery became sunken around this time, for related reasons (maybe as part of the sacking, maybe they were innocent bystanders). The full power of the Ring can be bound at the Golden Reef, with the telepathic aid of the wise and ancient Anemone of Light.
Perhaps Nilat is an ex-forest: now a desert (this doesn’t geographically fit with it being at node N I guess, but I’ll continue). There are traces of storm metal (fulminium?) in the dagger-like rocky outcrops throughout the area, and lightning flies between them every so often. Some of the desert creatures have learned to take advantage of this. The biggest rock outcrop is known as Qil-a-zev, The Lightning Nest. It is riddled with caves, and through these passages thunderbolts crackle all hours of the day. It is said that somewhere deep in the heart of Qil-a-zev flow rivers and lakes of lightning.
Perhaps the Pirates of Savern Reach are descended from Sturmhame’s ancient navy, who became disillusioned with the governing councils that sprang up after the end of the Donnerkonig and struck out on their own. Now, the descendants of those ships have had to resort to piracy to get by. Perhaps a new Sturmkonig could stir their hearts….
Atop the drenched Rock of Savernus, one can reach a narrow place where the winds are reflected into a tight knot of elemental power known as the Tumult. Here the Horn of Gales could be reborn!
PS: typos sighted:
* “Blitzkonig (wave king)”
Thanks for catching those typos, and the suggestions. I’ll need to reread them and ponder when I’m a little more awake.
On the form of the mosaics:
Perhaps rather than having 3 separate mosaics for each item representing similar elements needed for the quest, make a single mosaic for each ‘konig which begins at the rise of each of the ‘konigs and progresses through the history of each as related to the respective item. The mosaics could have been started in the salad days and progress to demise, each period being done by a different artist at a different time. The needed elements could be worked into the time line of the mosaics.
I may be misunderstanding (entirely possible, it’s been a long week already). First mosaic I described was how to find it, second is something done with it that demonstrated its power, third was actually gaining full power (the start of the three you mention, I think), fourth is ‘normal operations’, no longer ‘great’ in the same way, last is the end of the period of greatness, such as it was. It sounds like the last three are much as you describe.
I think he means a Bayeaux-style mosaic along the length of the wall, with a sequence of things that progress smoothly into each other without real frame boundaries. E.g. for the Rain, the mosaic starts on the left showing the Crown in a sea-swept vault, and progresses through the Crown’s retrieval, the Purging, the binding of the Crown, the Palace of Rain active, and thence to the fall of the Regenkonig.
Yes, that is what I meant.