Ramon’s Guide to Alternate Realities

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Upside Down, I have heard of this.  I hope to never go there.

The multiverse is already a confusing concept.  Now, couple that with the concept of parallel realities?  Your hurting mind now roars in a throbbing migraine at the thought.  But, believe me, such things are fact.  Many can attest that traveling through time is just the creation or accessing of a different reality.

Author’s Note: Oh boy, here’s a complicated concept I’ve been eager to tackle.  Also, here’s a chance to pay homage to various What If articles/adventures as well as fan-created takes on settings and lore.  Also, what if The Grand Conjunction succeeded?  Strahd and Azalin aren’t even the worst of it!  And, save for one published article or concept; all these make homage to some work of sci-fi or horror.

 

On Alternate Realities

Accessing them should be impossible, no?  After all, you belong to your reality and another you belongs to theirs.  Well, it should be that way.  But, a brave (barmy) group have scholars have been researching into a planar secret that the very multiverse conspires against.  Research shows that the Prime itself is divided by a curtain.  All things of the material exist in the prime.  However, not all things within the prime are so easily accessed.  This powerful veil separates timelines and different versions of the same world.  Piercing that threshold allows one to break into other dimensions, other versions of the Wheel perhaps!  And more astonishing, credence to the theory of cosmologies that diverge from normalcy of the Great Wheel itself!  Imagine the variations and alterations, frightening to consider.

These crafty but mad researchers consider all means of concepts, some which have wielded results.  The first are “analogue planes”.  In theory, a cosmology should have any number of overlapping elements.  It’s just a twist on the Great Wheel in the end, right?  For example, a traveler readied for the Positive Energy plane might use their planar traveling spells and vortexes of the Inner Planes as a means of tapping into another analogue, Irian the Eternal Day.  While similar in many ways, Irian is very much its own plane of life and hope.  However, its interactions with positive forces are similar enough that a canny planewalker can latch onto it and find the fabric in the Prime itself to make the jump.  However, this is extremely dangerous.  Attempting to leap between similar planes can strand one in a horrible purgatory demiplane that mixes some elements of both planes, but exists in a void space surrounded by no where.  Escape from here should prove extremely challenging, as this void is more secluded than the Astral or Ethereal.  This has lead researchers to consider it might be the much maligned “Ordial Plane” concept, a plane of belief itself.

For those not wanting to risk a jump between planes, some have taken it upon themselves to use the Prime itself to make the transfer.  These techniques are far more rare, but have proven reliable.  Those who straddle away from the Phlogiston of Wildspace may find themselves in endless emptiness.  However, those lucky enough while stranded may cross over to another reality.  This can be caused by numerous magical effects attempting to kickstart the spelljammer colliding with a barrier of reality itself.  This mixture literally pulls the vessel out of one dimension and into another.  A less extreme version can be handled through typical planar magical research.  However, these spells require knowledge of leylines and reality weak points.  Attempting the latter isn’t just dangerous for the traveler, but dangerous for reality itself.  Too much exploitation of these cracks can cause dimensional bleeding between the two points.  If left untreated, these bleeds can lead to the two folding in on each other in a positive scenario.  The alternative?  Some thing both realities become erased or pulled into a lifeless space of nothing, choking out all things unfortunate enough to be sucked in.

 

Escape from Primordium

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It seems the Doomguard are still in quick pursuit.  After all, some secrets are best forgotten about.  Well, time to lay low in this elemental tinged wonderland, right?  Oh so wrong.  It would seem I’m likely not welcome in Sigil for a while either, lest I spend my time with the Sinkers’ enemies.  But, there is much to chronicle, even as a fugitive of sorts!

The ferryman of the streams of flame was more than happy to provide aid, especially after learning I made enemies of the Sinkers as well.  It turns out that many are displeased by the demise of the maelstrom guardians, especially since they were servants of Elemental Good.  Yes, Elemental Good, the opposite of the dreaded Elemental Evil that haunts the minds of many.  However, since Primordium is a strange place of many wild features; several other creatures prove to be far less friendly.  Flying snakes of fire, mud creatures traveling like the wind, a rain of acid slimes somehow “falling up” from below.  Many proclaim that there is a reason for all of these creatures and their surroundings.  I’m still confused.  But, such is the way of elemental experiments.  Take heed, this is their private laboratory.  Save for the elementals who ventured out to their own destinies and planars/primes claiming their own territory, this ancient place continues its strange tests and creations.

The Ferryman, as if soaring the phlogiston of wildspace, zoomed at top speed across the magma-like river before halting before floating bergs of mossy rock. and a whirlpool of lightning in the middle.  The fiery humanoid being simply pointed to a cave system tucked between various crevasses and shelves overlooking the electric wonder.  Before embarking on their own adventure, the being handed me some sort of planar key upon stating “Abeir Toril” in some manner of common tongue.  Had this fire creature adventured on the prime before?  Doubtful.  But, to be more than aware of it?  That implies something.  Not allowing me the deep musings of thought, the sailor took off on another stream, far away from my hideaway.  Time passed and my assailants failed to arrive.  To avoid risk of being jumped at a vulnerable time, I clutched the key.  It was a simple stone with a carving of a cradle of sorts.  But, how to activate the key?  I couldn’t say.  More hours were spent studying, attempting magic and wasting time trying to piece together a possible solution.  All for nothing.  Useless!  And then, other footsteps from atop the island crags.  Hmm, surely it was them?  In a fit of jitters, the stone slipped through my fingers and into the storm below.  Salvation, lost!  But, upon contact, the shocking circle changed into a font of blue energy.  A dimension gate!  How simple!  Sometimes, one can be very intelligent to their own detriment.  When one considers countless solutions and ideas, they overlook the obvious.  Well, tally-ho, as I heard in Gothic Terra once!

 

War Torn Realms

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Ah, the prime, once again!  The Outer Known World was nice, except I had only visited a moon.  Not quite the same experience.  But, now I enter a world known to many as the Realms of the Forgotten, or Abeir-Toril.  For those unaware, the name had a meaning for eons.  It was a lamentation over how the world was once far more rich with magic.  A tragedy ruined that, but the world recovered.  However, with this tragedy, many of its connections to other worlds either weakened or fell to ruin.  Among them was actually a timeline in Terra itself!  Many people and even powers made the jump over to this world and never looked back. Ages past and much of the knowledge fell into the depths, much like these connections.  New challenges came in due time.  The Gods were punished to walk the earths for a time, causing some to fade and some new ones to ascend.  A brief plague drove many dragons mad, before the evil was quelled.  And more recently?  The war to end all torilian wars!  Casualties unlike anyone seen before, nations and lands torn asunder, even some powers lay in ruin.

Abeir-Toril, a world of faded nations eclipsed by new ones rising to greatness.  It’s a land of high heroics and great destinies.  It is here that heroes like Elminster, Abdel Adrian, Drizzt the Drow Ranger and Xan (a distant pen-pal of mine) reside!  Or, they should have.  Elminster of Shadowdale has gone silent, Adrian was assassinated, Drizzt has weakened himself in attempt to rebuild damaged lands and Xan poisoned himself to death following a terrible war.  Such is life, I guess.  But, what do I know?  The dismal skies and battlefield wreckage have clouded my mind long enough, it’s best to find more of civilization to chronicle.  But first, a few more things.

It seems Baldur’s Gate has slipped back towards its roots a little more.  “Nobles” have been forced to act more akin to the Pirate Lords that founded the city, enacting in secret and underhanded deals, importing all means of outside and contraband goods and hiring “privateers” to cause troubles off of other shores.  Many of the towns due south of Baldur’s Gate seem to have been dealt a blow from warring bands and wayward soldiers.  Evidence of occupation is obvious.  Some deserters still hide within the confines of these neutral points.  Beyond the peaks, Amn, a gem of market potential.  Or, it was at least.  A mixture of flanking enemies and revenge from the nation of Maztica cost Amn in much wealth and status.  After recuperating from many blows, there have been many efforts to reinforce the status quo.  The reintroduction of the Cowled Wizards by shadowy decree of the Council of Six has furthered this.

Beyond the road to Athkatla, a caravan approved, eager foreign merchants.  The dusty roads gave way as clouds settled.  These were no humans, but varieties of cat people, with particularly large cat based guards motioning me over.  The caravan of cat people seemed all too eager to apprehend me, accusing me of banditry.  Banditry, in my “gaudy” attire?  Poppycock!  In these trying times, it would have been great if my rakasta disguise held up.  After a brief misunderstanding and some aggressive methods of interrogation, I learned of entire kingdoms of these upright beasts.  Despite a far more dour Toril, life still find a way to recover.  But, why uplift so many animals to fill gaps?  A question for another day, perhaps.  Either way, an agreement to let me travel with them for free was in order, much to the guards’ dismay.  It turns out, humanoid cats have taken up pockets of The Shaar in through reaches of Chult to form their own tribes and states.  This has only been the cause for a number of decades now, furthered by the “Rewilding” that happened during the massive war.

Breaking away from the cat caravan, I found myself in Waterdeep.  This place remains a metropolitan hub of many peoples colliding.  However, a beacon of hope it is no longer.  There’s mess all around to rebuild.  While much of the nation has physically rebuilt, the egos and minds of the many?  Not as much.  A Closed Lord outed and killed brutally, which sparked the war, drastically hurt the image and confidence of the land for a while.  Worse, it sparked a minor civil war before outer conflict became too great.  A common mind set for the modern era is to work hard, mind your own business and judge people based on their immediate actions; an evolution of previous schools of thought.  However, racist views have found themselves in the city more and more.  While new Lords appeared in both secrecy and in public, both parties have focused on stability and improvement of the city, lest low morale destroy it.  In actuality, the Open Lords are rarely seen at all any more.  Often, if they do make an appearance, they’ll have an amount of security that would be excessive… in a calmer time.  Structures are more fortified, precautions both mundane and magical are put in place…  Even the City of the Dead has forsaken a few traditions to ensure that even final resting places are safe.  For what it’s worth, other monstrous beings have found the city as a safe haven, even pitching in to help relief effort in exchange for a safe home.

Belong Waterdeep is an infamous sight for sore eyes, Skullport.  Rumors of its demise amidst the war were greatly exaggerated.  If anything, the notorious wretched hive has only grown to be more powerful.  Syndicates and villains of all types have found the city to be their neutral ground when addressing matters.  All means of strange beings, including fully fledged fiends and aberrants, have designated cozy meeting spots to discuss fell plans.  Much like Sigil, you keep matters of enemies to yourself and you do your business.  What the city lacks in a giant woman, it makes up for with a massive army of angry spirit skulls!  The horrors of the war only helped the “guardians” of the city recruit more assistance.  Though, maybe recruit isn’t the right word.  One establishment boasts that it holds its own dimensional gate though.  Worth a look….

Damned Red Wizards, it was a trap!  It seems the Thayans continue with their enslavement schemes.  Of course, being no mere dolt, I foiled it.  Rather than face execution, the Thayans wish to speak with me…  In short, they wished to know more about these rumors of parallel dimensions that are tied to my name.  I haven’t been subtle, in all fairness.  In exchange for my life and freedom, they offer some fascinating changes of their own.  For one, the enslaved of Thay seem to have more rights now, or potential rights.  Those who defend their masters in times of strife are afforded more liberties.  Likewise, treatment is comparatively less cruel, a miracle for Thay.  Also,  Zulkir of Necromancy Szass Tam is no where to be seen.  It seems he was plotting to overthrow Thay, but inside information helped with thwarting that.  And looking at their map, they were smaller in my own reality.  It seems this great war actually helped out the Lands of the Red Wizards.  I’m not sure if that’s more depressing than the rest of the world or not.  The current Zulkir of Necromancy seems “kinder” than the previous one at least.  Though, she was a previous leader anyway.  The Zulkir of Conjuration seemed particularly interested in getting all he could on dimensional research.  I sense bad things in the future, but a deal is a deal.  May I never return to any version of Thay.  Lucky me, they wished to use me for their first experiment.  The next universe can’t be as depressing as this one.  Surely, that’s the case?

 

 

Returned Blackmoor

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Ah, prisons.  They seem to find me.  And worst of all?  I often find myself not guilty of the supposed crimes by laws of land.  At least, I find this true.  But, when you stumble upon a secret technologically developed empire, they tend to keep their creations in reclusive hiding spots.  Despite being a land of advancements, an overwhelming nostalgia has kept the empire redolent of its medieval roots.  But, my ever gracious guards were nice enough to escort me to some incarceration facility of sorts.  And I must say, a quite spotless and advanced one at that.  Hours pass, as some ranked officer clad in pins questions me of the culture of Blackmoor.  Ah yes, the tragic nation that grew too far and too quick and suffered a cataclysm that tore apart the old world.  But, this isn’t the old world.  The lands outside of the bubble were still the frigid reaches of modern Skothar.  This wasn’t ordinary Blackmoor, but one that did the impossible…. transport itself in time!

But, let us speak of “True Blackmoor”.  It was a kingdom fighting multiple enemies on many fronts.  The arrival of a strange civilization from the stars prompted more conflict at first, but lead to much in the way of advancing the people.  Blackmoor grew and expanded, before it became its own empire in the stars.  However, in their own hubris, they pushed something too far.  Much of the marvelous regime was erased in an instant and banished by the Immortals.  Or rather, it should have been.  Two forces ultimately gave the kingdom a chance at escape.  The first was a crew of adventurers with the best of intentions.  Thanks to the magic of the Comeback Inn, they time traveled to not just see Blackmoor, but become its saviors.  The second?  The other results of the crew’s adventures.  The party jumped to a reality that was being corrupted by an evil race from the future, The Oard.  Their goal?  Kill all magic so their cruel methods could continue.  While defeated, the survivors found their way to Mystara, kicking off more adventures in Blackmoor. The wicked Oard turned mages mad, allowing for gradually growing plagues of chaos magic, made worse by other evils emerging in the region.  Ultimately, the Oard were foiled, but their tampering combined with the mighty heroes gave the kingdom a means out of the Great Rain of Fire.  The kingdom should have been destroyed, like much of the land.

And somehow, here it is!  It returned to Mystara, but for the worse.  What was once a state ruled by kings has been taken by an obsessed despot.  A man who was once a loyal general has become the sole God-Emperor of the land.  His own goal is immortality.  Though, given how he has essentially turned himself into a construct, through years of augmentation, he is well on his way already.  The mechanized man sits inside a built up Castle Blackmoor, as floating carriages line the skyline and busy gadgets operate below.  Culture is subdued and repressed at the hands of their totalitarian warlord.  However, a nationalistic fervor keeps spirits up just enough.  News tells that the Age of Blackmoor may come again.  Campaigns rally the masses for a new kind of war to bring Mystara back under the label of Blackmoor.  In fact, several new Immortals seem keen on this too.  How is this not known to the many lands of the Known World and beyond?  Should their plans be realized, it will spell one form or another of doom.

What shall start as infiltration and intelligence gathering will result in undermining and pinning blame, starting proxy wars.  From there, further agents of sabotage will weaken their target threats more and more.  Secret weapons and secret power will slowly fall into the clutches of Blackmoor.  Rumor has it that Glantri has a powerful magic artifact that has its roots in ancient times.  Surely, Blackmoor will be interested.  And what could come of this?  A reality erased from conflict accelerating into the Immortal realms and beyond?  A New Blackmoor controlling the world?  The last breath of an outdated society?  It’s too hard to say without even further time travel, something the Immortals of Time have long become sick of.

Surely, the Immortals themselves would panic over this?  Not entirely!  Some Mystaran Immortals are from the age of Blackmoor, even within the Sphere of Time.  While many Time Immortals frown at the nation’s exploitation, others embrace it as a trove of lost information.  Some would seek to purge the undesirable elements, such as the insane dictator ruling over the land.  Immortals of Energy and Entropy would both have use of surprisingly stable innovations, whether for expansive innovation or furthering pursuits of warfare.  Some Immortals arose from this new cataclysm that made the current Blackmoor.  These Immortals exist within all five of the Spheres, yet they remain on the side of Blackmoor.  However, many wouldn’t be against of taking up the fight against the crueler elements that infested the civilization.

Through some trickery and word play, the guards of this Castle Blackmoor assumed that I was a confused priest seeking to commune with the “holier” ways of Blackmoor.  My feigned babbling and ignorance has also painted me as rather oafish, which makes them consider me more of a danger to myself…  If it works, I suppose.  While I am under harsh scrutiny of both Blackmoorian Knights AND the priests of their religious sector, it’s fascinating to see how the Blackmoorians preserve classic religion, while making new ones.  But, one place sticks out…  The Temple of Hope, what an apt title.  It is here where a withered and gloomy priestess is ironically one of the few powerful people not corrupted by the forces of evil!  Well aware of how much trouble she could get in, the priestess chanted a powerful prayer to one of the very Immortals whose name has been used within this new Blackmoor, Khoronus.  The Sphere of Time’s power seemed to surround me mere moments later and just like that, I travel once more.  However, the forces of Entropy were close behind.  My jump through a temporal gate, distorted and warped.  As I ready to plane jump, I only hope that the date is correct.  There is only one way to find out.

 

 

Greyhawk 2000

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I find myself in another city.  The iconography, it’s quite familiar.  However, something about it is truly out of place.  This resembles Terra and its sprawling urban metropoli.  However, the writing, the style… so familiar.  Ah, of course, Furyondy!  This is, or was, Oerth!

But, this is impossible.  The admixture of gunpowder simply doesn’t work on Oerth.  And yet, there’s a massive advertisement on a wall for some firearm-like device.  Surely, this reality was caused by dwarven smiths messing with the rules of Oerth.  Though, how would the Powers themselves not get involved?  I guess it’s worth delving into.  And all these strange and alien objects.  Did the discovery in the Barrier Peaks lead to a renaissance?  Was it Dwarves after all?  Something dimensional, like the City of the Gods and Blackmoor?  It looks to be a mix of things.  Let’s explore onward then.

Well, a mixture of things seemed to have occured.  At the forefront of this revolution was indeed the dwarves.  In the eons since the Barrier Peaks were mined, the countless dwarven houses began to plan, research and blueprint at an amazing pace.  Proposals for prototypes emerged faster than could be catalogued or tested.  In fact, even the infamous branches of gnomes were surpassed and overwhelmed by dwarven busy work.  In the end, House Broadhammer proved to be the most successful in these endeavors.  From the Hellfurnaces to the Barrier Peaks, their control is absolute!  However, the United Counties of Urnst is another considerable power within this new Oerth.  The New City of Greyhawk acts as a powerbase that proves that the humans are still more than viable within this new world.  In fact, their sages and artificers allowed them to catch up to the dwarves without too much issue during the initial boom.

What of the other peoples and beings of Oerth?  Many elven nations retreated from the industrial growth.  Most found it to be a disgusting blight, with several clans turning to ecoterrorism in an attempt to retaliate.  Even the halflings turned away from much of the mainstream.  However, their reasons are cited as suffering ages of “racial stereotypes of being the small and plucky sidekick” among other offensive tropes.  As such, many communities have become insular and xenophobic.  That said, some have opened to trade networks, if only for goods rather than deeper interaction.  Two new racial identities all their own did emerge though.  The Sylvaan and the Breed emerged from what was once Half-Elf and Half-Orc.  These people in time became their own recognized race, rather than just being some human off-shoot.  While the former has some relation to elves, they only tend to align with elven nations that have either stayed neutral to modern society or have embraced it.

However, beyond these emerging new nations, new conflict stirs from the old.  While Iuz troubles the lands no more, his former region is a hot bed of strange activity.  Super weapons bombarded the Land of Iuz for days, until a rift literally ripped the demonic old man from reality.  However, the charred ground left behind was a soup of magic, radiation and more.  The wastelands also unearthed a rare mineral that proved as powerful as it did dangerous, the great Millexium!  Many movements were made to declare it illegal, but that didn’t stop scientists from trying to create all sorts of horrible wonders.  Among them is a Gibbering Mouther variant capable of sniffing the mineral out, carrying it and depositing it in a convenient place.  This Millexium Mouther is said to be only a rumor though.  But, they said the same about an incredible plasma cannon that operates on the mineral too.  So, it’s unknown now what devastation this could bring to the future, beyond the disturbing test results of the modern age.

This isn’t to say that all technology should evoke fear, beyond what many elves believe.  One creation, The Chute, has revolutionized transportation.  Originally made in Ryuujin, it allows passengers to jump folds in space for rapid travel.  Dimensional weaponry has also circumvented the issues of gunpowder in Oerth.  Save for divine secrets, guns were a dream for many travelers, especially those going by spelljammer.  However, Oerth gave back to the multiverse in many other ways.  Thanks to Wildspace Trade, Krynn and Toril got their hands on some next level innovations.  Even the lofty residents of Sigil conceded on superior craftsmanship, once they hit the planes beyond.  In terms of other defensive technology, the E98 Devil Raptor stands out as the peak for this era.  A fighting aircraft capable of breakneck speed.  It also has the micro portal capabilities of the Chute, to an extent.  Plus, it’s incredible arsenal is more than capable of making quick work of even the toughest dragon.

But, what catches my interest is the source of this Millexium, the scorched grounds of Iuz, the Daemon Scar!  My expedition team alerted me to the sprawling chaos that inhabits it; unstable weather and environments, a toxic soup composed of dark magic and technological poisons, aggressive mutated horrors and much more.  And yes, this is exactly the case.  It brings to mind Primordium, if nothing made sense… which describes the Nerathi theory of the Elemental Chaos.   Some day I’ll visit, rather than insult them…  The outskirts is guarded by a thick wall of alien vegetation, some of which carrying minds of their own.  The mutants that swarm the dense forested area are some mixture of various lifeforms, mushed and congealed into something new.  Some of the beasts prove oblivious, while others are outwardly violent.  Beyond the alien woods, a desert wasteland exposed ruined buildings and far worse creatures.  The harsh elements expose and sicken any crew less aptly prepared, but one has to when they travel the planes.  All was within our hands until a new form of elemental life sprang forth to enact its fury.  It looked like a bomb cloud, rising up from an explosion.  And then, the cloud grew a skull-like face.  This, my friends, is an elemental of radiation.  Only callousness or malice could create such a monster.  And now it chases us!  And to my luck (?), a gateway has formed…  But, beyond it?  Another wasteland?  Why?

 

 

The Mournworld (Eberron)

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I had gotten used to things being not so depressing!  Why?  Why must I be surrounded with grief, why must it follow me?  No matter, this should have been Khorvaire.  A key word is should.  What is it now?  A wasteland, much like Cyre.  This is a timeline far more brutal than what the people of Eberron know of.  Simply put, what if the whole world was affected by the Day of Mourning?  Some theories endure as to how this happened!  The Zone, as it slowly became known as, gained a sort of self-awareness.  It wanted more land, so it spread on its own.  The more prominent theory is that the event simply caused an apocalyptic chain reaction that took most of the world with it.  Only pockets of civlization are free from the curse.  For what it’s worth, I may as well visit them.

Stormreach thankfully survives.  In fact, it’s doing far better than the majority of Xen’drik.  In fact, most of the region has been consumed.  However, the infectious mourning hasn’t continued towards the surviving port city…  as of yet.  Currently, the guards at the borders have enough to deal with by fending off the abominations that crawl out of the mutated jungles ahead.  But, beyond the struggling militias and tired guardsmen lies a city doing all in its power to remain a hospitable bastion for the doomed.  Much of Stormreach remains the same, but has only expanded to unblighted territories.  Floating extensions of the city are fronted and frequented by those who fare better upon the waves.  The seafaring extension has also become an increase marina of sorts.  To those sailors forced to traverse the cursed seas, it’s a welcoming sight.

While not precisely the fault of a manifest zone, the gatekeeper druids have still taken up a valid role in aiding the world.  In fact, their efforts to quarantine off blighted lands has helped to see a resurgence in their numbers.  Other druidic sects have done all they can to ward the “infection of the land” away.  And so far?  It looks like divine conviction has actually caused a minimal change.  If it wasn’t for them constantly facing corrupted foes and former allies alike, more would probably occur.  Fortunately, the mass spreading of whatever the mourning is has weakened its grasp, compared to the concentration in Cyre alone.

The Island of Aerenal, southeast of Khorvaire, was curiously spared much of the horror too.  It is here where many of the Undying call their home.  It is also here where the Plane of Irian manifests its positive energy the strongest.  While the Blight isn’t driven by negative energy, it seems to find itself at odds with pure radiance.  This is quite curious, as I never recalled any issue with positive forces in Cyre… save for the fact that nothing magical ever really works correctly there.  It begs the question if something is directly behind the world wide mourning?  After all, this shouldn’t have happened.  And, for it to be bothered by the manifested pockets of positive power?  Most confusing.

Any other safe haven is usually a community or blip on the prime.  Beyond that?  All other havens dwell upon the planes.  Even the mighty Church of the Silver Flame saw a losing battle and established themselves elsewhere.  And when someone as them decides to change tactics, surely an issue has gotten too serious.  Save for the most inhospitable planes, such as Mabar, Kythri or others; life has found its own way to endure.  For many of the migrants, this is just a “temporary colony” for them.  Considering this is probably far from the truth, most aren’t ready to accept this yet.

But, what of the rest of the world?  What was once the zone is now the default.  None the less, countless “waste stalker” guilds have taken it upon themselves to not only try to rid any influence from a region (with little results), but salvage any important artifacts and information from the rest of the world, taking it over to various safe havens.  The counter to these forces are bandits, mad cultists who worship the apocalypse, mutated horrors and countless anomalies.  What is particularly uncanny about the bandits is that most of them don’t seem affected by the oppressive and horrible forces of the mourn.  Even bandits who’ve been interrogated under capture aren’t sure how they’ve been spared.  They’re only sure that those who were went mad and became cultists or became one of the many mutant horrors to roam the wastes.  Despite worthlessness in information, many have tried to use them to find either a cure or an immunity to the wasteland’s effects.

As for me?  I’ve volunteered for treatment by a mixture of priests and artificers in Stormreach.  My mission?  Join the stalkers in recovery of Xen’drik artifacts, while checking for untainted survivors.  Surely, this will be no problem.  The team had little issue for several hours, besides fatigue.  Early onset illness would have befallen normal people from within a zone.  But, it seems the experiment was a fortunate success.  The second day actively involved searching ruined buildings, former temples of Vulkoor among others.  Mutated Dark Elves seemed to be the worst of our worries for during that time.  Quori monoliths deep within Giant ruins radiated with a particular dark magic, as if empowered by the endless blight.  Those who got too close found themselves overwhelmed with madness.  Healers and physicians were needed, tending to them for several hours.  The dreaded traveler’s curse seemed to be muted thanks to the treatment too.  It’s unknown if any circumstances could bring this cure to another timeline.  Then it emerged from the burnt out husks of many trees, a spatial anomaly encircling some recently lost civilization.  Fellow stalkers?  Survivors?  Reluctant evacuees?  More bandits?  Unknown.  All that is known is that our luck has kept up so far.  Feeling particularly brave, I offered myself to test the anomaly against our cure.  I crept near before unleashing a spell to study its magic.  It seems that anomalies were different from the rest of the blight.  Its energy swept me up, wracking my body with a crackling alien energy.  Before my screams echoed through the jungles, poof!  I was ripped from this space.  Surely, the stalkers I left behind were mortified, but I’ll never know.

 

 

Grand Conjunction Eternal (Ravenloft)

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The Mists?  Again?  Why?  No, wait… something about this seems different.  I can’t place it yet.  These surroundings, I’ve been here before.  But, there has been a change.  All the same, this is without a doubt Barovia.  The old gate pass stands up ahead, with Old Svalich Road guiding me on my way too.  Well, may as well find out what happened.

The Village of Barovia, it’s somehow worse now!  How?  I don’t know!  I tire of endless terrible realities, but I’m only convinced that the primary realities I’ve visited aren’t so bad after all.  The village itself is mostly desolate.  Raving and ravenous minions of Count Strahd roam the streets like hungry dogs.  Innocents that aren’t driven to horror are likely in isolation.  However, this version of Barovia seems more advanced.  Printed paper seems to be available, even weaponry associated with more advanced domains.  However, those are more are mostly strewn about the ravaged streets, amidst many corpses.  The workings of the Mists are mysterious indeed and chilling.  If the calendar used within the demiplane is to be believed, it has been nearly 4 centuries since Strahd touched the Prime Material.  This gives a land much time to evolve.  However, a changed land mixed with the powers of the Devil Strahd?  Unimaginable.  It seems that while he succeeded in breaking the curse of Tatyanna, that isn’t enough.  He desires to kidnap any woman that reminds him of Tatyanna.  Is it madness?  It is a reaction to his own curse?  Unknown, but this monster has only grown more desperate.  And given how his undead forces have upgraded to muskets and pikes, it’s safe to say that they don’t wish to negotiate with me on this matter.

After a mad dash to the ruins of Vallaki, the best course of action seems to be simply escape.  Much to my luck, dimension travel still works in the Prime.  I guess these Mists are more merciful or more likely, they have somehow stretched thin.  Well, it seems these stretched mists still have much in the way of Mists.  Attempts to escape from one nightmare lands me in another.  A vengeful Hazlik strikes back against Thay, Meregoth unveils cruel and horrible magical experiments for Alphatia in a bid for power, Soth’s outbursts and lamentations against all Krynnish denizens in his way, Azalin’s hordes take much of the Bone Marches to expand his wicked magic.  However, the evil that infects these worlds… it’s not so much driven by banality or elaborate epic quests.  No, this evil is more personal, more relatable.  It’s something that could easily grab you.  And worse, corruption from the Mists is at your door step.  Dare I say, things seem more similar to Gothic Earth.  Except, it would seem the worst of the Planes seems enticed by the Mists too.  I hear more rumors of diabolism in the shadows, entropic devotees of chaos, nihilistic death obsessionists and more.  These things existed prior, but now they feel validated in their horrible choices.

But, one ghost story seems to never die in my travels.  The Tale of the Lost Colony.  I find myself drawn back for some reason.  And yet, here it is.  It has returned to the world.  What was once a deserted and cursed land has awakened from the grave.  Settlers and traders quake in fear, for the ghost settlement haunts again.  In truth, it’s not haunted.  No, the grabbed up colony has returned in full.  While the witch hunts and Governor Orvird’s paranoid colony is worrying, they’ve been good at keeping to themselves.  Something that hasn’t?  The Cabin within the Woods.

 

The Demonic Dread

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This accursed place, born of the Dark Witch, enhanced through demonology and unleashed through oblivious hubris; this is a place of ill omen.  Should the irresponsible unleash this time, its dread curse could be unleashed to anyone.  While The Lost Colony of Dawnsveil could fight back, the rest of the world need not be so lucky… especially when the forces of mist work against them.  Well, if I am to do one thing to help a doomed reality, it may as well be this.

The creaky cabin, as wicked as before.  But, something’s wrong.  I’ve been beaten here.  A wagon rests, with horses tied at a stable nearby.  A faint light glows just within the windows, as a storm beckons from beyond the hills ahead.  It’s probably too late.  A fantastic phantasmal force erupts from somewhere in the woods, cracking and smashing trees in its path.  In flat seconds, glass from a side window is smashed and a shrill scream pierces through the gusty outdoors. A leaping kick flings the door nearly off hinges, as the ghoulish site returns.  A room of victims possessed, corrupted, turned into puppets of the darkness!  It begins again!  Just like before, all the weapons in the cabin were as they were previously left.  However, the possessed creatures of dread were just as powerful and cunning.  The night consisted of a battle of not just wits, but reflexes and sheer brute force.  The violence to dispatch them, inhuman, grotesque, maddening.  Those terrible sights, seeing them twice burns them into my mind.

The howling winds batter the doors as the very trees conspire against the cabin under demonic influence.  The book, they want the book!  My only hope is to destroy it.  The fireplace!  With a swift chuck, the grimoire plopped upon the flaming logs.  An abyssal screech emits from the demon tome, as the quaking and shaking around the cabin grows in ferocity.  Tree limbs grab the demonic corpses after busting down doors and shattering windows.  A calm passes amidst the battering winds… before an amalgam of flesh and evil energies barrels through the front door.  Dead horses, dead people, plant matter, wrapped into an unholy scion given purpose by the evil tome.  It still burns as its new hell spawn writhes in pain.  Killing it was unlikely, but stalling it to keep it away from the book, possible.  Over minutes, the book was too disfigured and burnt to function, as the death-pile became erratic.  My chance to flee.  The twisting and gnarling woods wanted one final blow against me.  But, it could get no such luck.  However, the force returned.  The surge of energy, from where the horror started both times.  It hunts in rage.  And I?  I keep running, it’s all I can do.  No magic will aid me, no tricks will stop it.  All I have is survival instinct.  How far can I keep this up?

I ran, but to my horror?  I found myself back at the cabin…  The fire I spread to burn the damned place down?  It stopped.  At least the chaos beast was still dead.  But the book, the damned book!  While charred, it hovered with fell might toward me.  The face meshed against its binding twitched with malice and loathing, as the pages flipped open to recite its own incantation.  A new doorway out!  Not just any, a planes gate into the past!  With last bits of magical reserve and force of word, I shove the book back in its meager and weak state.  My knowledge of planar travel is vast, but as to redirect portals and planes themselves?  Not sure!  With a quick bit of spit and makeshift ingredients, I did all in my own power to translate the spell in a different direction.  A one-use jump to simply put, elsewhere.  My sources and energy depleted, I magically shoved the book back one final time, as it flopped to the ground.  The force behind me, stopping in tandem.  And with a final bit of consciousness, I descend once more… into the depths.

 

IMAGE SOURCE: Stranger Things – The Upside Down; Claudio Pozas – Elemental Safe Zone; Lauren Bennett – Fantasy Wasteland; Dune Book Team – Caladan; Wayne A Reynolds – Greyhawk 2000; Andre Tarkovsky – Stalker (1979); Clyde Caldwell – Ravenloft; Sam Raimi – The Cabin (Evil Dead)

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