This is the OOC thread for Artist of Sharn. It's spiffy and the following good gentlemen are going to be losing their sanity in future:
Mr Rose - Half-Orc Ranger/Rogue (Striker)
Unexpected Monkey - Human Warlock (Striker)
Terrendos - Half-Elf Sorcerer (Striker)
Rius - Kalashtar Cleric (Leader)
TSI|Awesome - Kobold Wizard (Controller)
We have an In Character Thread here
Those who succumbed to madness
DVG - Changeling Bard (Leader) - Eaten alive by Black Dogs and something worse.
Kakos - Human Avenger (Striker) - Tried to save Eve... but the monster was too quick and she lost him somewhere on the streets of Sharn... streets that soon became endless...
Terrendos - Tiefling Bard (Leader) - Stared into the darkness and could not take the darkness staring back...
Visiblehowl - Kalashtar Paladin (Defender) - Went missing into the broken world....
Mars - Dwarf Fighter (Defender) - Took up a special position in the Sharn Watch after the cleansing of the Cult of Shoggoth.
The Glorious Dead list. Characters whom, in any campaign I've run have been permanently killed in gameplay.
Abigail - Half-Elf Avenger (Striker) - Couldn't handle the ocher jellies jelly or the ongoing acid damage. Shipwrecked on the Dark Continent.
Calfrune - Razorclaw Shifter Druid (Controller) - Clubbed to death, literally. Shipwrecked on the Dark Continent.
Drexel - Half-Elf Paladin (Defender) - What happened in the forest stays in the forest. Dark Rain.
DVG - Changeling Bard (Leader) - Eaten alive by Black Dogs and something worse. Artist of Sharn.
Frost - Shifter Runepriest (Leader) - Garroted by a shadow and his soul consumed. May he rest in pieces. Marauders of the Astral Sea.
Fuzzbutt - Minotaur Barbarian (Striker) - Clawed down by a dretch and then ingloriously fried by lightning. Marauders of the Astral Sea.
Mongoose - Half-Orc Monk (Striker) - On the ground bleeding to death when the constructs sword finished the job by removing his head. Shipwrecked on the Dark Continent.
Woshor the Unknown - Genasi Swordmage (Defender) - Figured he could solo a solo, he couldn't and was stuffed into a trap to stop the gas. Tides of Dust.
You will need:
Maptools beta 63
The 4E Players Handbook
The Eberron Players Guide
So I was thinking to start at 10am my time, which would be 11pm on a Friday night for Mr. Rose. This is because I want one day in the week I can sleep in a bit and Saturdays is it.
It's 6:30 PM US eastern time Friday Night.
It's 5:30 PM US central time Friday Night.
Sessions will be four hours long, though if people are keen I will be happy to keep playing for longer. I have another game though afterwards so I can't play for too much longer
The Artist of Sharn
Those gathered within the crowded lecture hall rented out from Morgrave University shifted uncomfortably within the tight seats, normally reserved for students and not those of the nobility. Arranged in front of them were the lifelong acquisitions of the late Ian Escelle, his estate being sold off at auction after the tragic deaths of Ian, his wife Gladriel, his son Arasim and his daughter Ophelia. Formerly a very rich family, the Escelles fortune was founded on the retrieval and sale of artifacts taken from deep within the continent of Xen'drik. Ian Escelle, like his father, kept the family tradition and had numerous successful expeditions retrieving some highly notable artifacts like the Sword of Lost Souls and the Crown of Thorns. Ians success rate for finding such artifacts in Xen'drik was unparalleled, partly due to the fact he was an accomplished swordmage and artificer more than capable of holding his own against the horrors of the dark continent.
It was one such trip to Xen'drik that proved the beginning of the end of the Escelle family. Ten months ago Ian departed for Xen'drik on the hunt for artifacts from a recently uncovered temple. The temple had developed a particularly foul reputation, with those who dared to enter never coming back again and even if they did, they were reduced to nothing more than cannibalistic monsters. Upon hearing of the temple, Ian seemed to treat the news and rumors like a personal challenge to his own abilities. In almost record time, he assembled an expedition and traveled to Xen'drik by airship heading straight towards the temples known location. Turning to those family and friends who were there to say goodbye, he boldly declared that he would be back "Within three months or less if there was nothing worth finding!" - words that nobody present could ever forget.
Although far from his family in Sharn, Ian never failed to send letters to his beloved wife Gladriel on a montly basis. Approximately three months into his expedition, no letter had been forthcoming to Gladriel and nobody in Stormreach had any contact with him either. Holding out hope it was just a mistake or oversight, those left behind in Sharn simply waited at first for weeks, then a month and soon several months with no word. A rescue expedition funded by Gladriel also failed to return and soon nobody, not even the bravest adventurers, would dare to help from the reputation for failure that surrounded such secondary expeditions. After several more months had passed and when Gladriel had given up all hope came remarkable news from friends in Stormreach - Ian had returned!
However, joy at the news soon turned to horror upon learning of the circumstances of Ians return. Ian had returned alone with not a single member of his expedition making it back with him. The only clue to their fates was his incoherent screaming and ranting about the "moving carvings", but ultimately none of his rantings were intelligible enough to provide any solid insight. Other than the mysterious fate of those who followed him was the fact he carried with him but a single object - a gold and bone bound tome - that appeared to almost "bleed" a black inky substance from the pages. Nothing anyone could do could wrench the book free from his clutches as if it was bound to his very flesh. With no idea what to do, Ians friends in Stormreach sent for Gladriel to retrieve her husband so she could hopefully seek help in Sharn.
It was over a month before Ian regained enough of his composure to speak and function independently. The accursed book he had bought back was forever at his side, ocassionally dripping its black ink upon the floor and other surfaces. Their young daughter Ophelia would often take to collecting the substance and would use it to draw her crude drawings with it - much to her mothers utter disgust. Ian for his part took little heed of his family, becoming especially cold and distant with his wife Gladriel and usually constrained himself to his study, now equivalent to a heavily armored fortress. Barred with heavy cold iron doors, scrawled with warding runes and the holy symbols of nearly every faith of Khorvaire Ian would very rarely leave the room - highly uncharacteristic of the man.
Nobody truly knows what happened to Ian and his family, but close friends say that Ians actions became more and more erratic over time. Of these actions, one in particular was well known in the general community and involved Ians numerous dogs, having been apparently related to a friend by Gladriel directly. Ian had always had a passion for breeding many varieties of dogs and loved his animals dearly. Rumor has it that one night the animals became extremely panicked and would not cease barking. Ian told his family to wait in his study and shut the door, urging them not to open it for any reason unless he said so. Huddled together with the children, Gladriel could only hear the yelps of pain and the sound of a blade hacking through flesh again and again. A few hours later Ian returned covered in blood and patches of dislodged fur, mumbling over and over to himself "Mercy...I did it out of mercy...". By the morning all of the 63 or so dogs the Escelles owned - many of them champion breeders and a great number of pups - had been killed and were dragged off to burned the next morning. The slaying of the Escelles dogs especially upset young Ophelia who ceased speaking and confined herself to her room from that point on.
Gladriel became prone to mental breakdowns, Arasim refused to acknowledge his father anymore and Ophelia had taken to talking to an imaginary friend, barely speaking to the rest of the family. Ian for his part seemed oblivious to any of the chaos around him and if anything became even more erratic. He would shout at and even hit his wife and children from time to time - things he had never done before. The servants became increasingly afraid of his varied moods and obsession with the book. With the Escelles home life collapsing around them and friends becoming increasingly concerned, it seemed as if things couldn't get worse - but then everything went silent for days at the Escelle mansion. For six long days, nobody had heard or seen the Escelles or their servants. A neighbour, concerned for their safety made the trip over and went to investigate. He soon found the front door open and the first of the servants within the main hallway, shredded into pieces. Holding back his morning breakfast rapidly ascending up his throat he went for help and the Sharn Watch rapidly descended upon the Escelle estate.
They soon found many more bodies, torn apart by some kind of animal and yet absolutely no indication of any forced entry. Many of the victims had been shredded alive in the rooms they attempted to barricade or hide in - yet not once was the barricade or door seemingly disturbed. There was utterly no indication of any forced entry into or even out of the room. Then there was the study, Ians "Fortress" within his own house. Completely barred and magically sealed, it took the efforts of numerous artificers to finally crack the magical and physical protections to open up the room. Despite the horrific mess inside the sealed room there was almost no sign of the family at all. Clearly a massive struggle had occurred within the room due to the clear bloodstains and marks from spells that covered the floor and walls, but no bodies were anywhere to be seen.
Only one object stood out clearly among the carnage and debris within; a tome with inlaid gold for a cover and bound with bone.
Surprised at the amount of force force required to take the book from its resting place, they wrapped the book up and removed it from the scene quickly. Once more, they could find no method of entry or how whatever caused the resulting chaos defeated the magical wards that covered every surface of the room so trivially. As they stood puzzling over the mystery there was a shout from outside, which prompted the group to run out just in time to see the airship carrying the watch member with the book fall from the sky. The last thing that could be seen as the airship rapidly descended downwards until it's final resting place amongst the many tall spires of Sharn below was its elemental. Unbound and free, it was seen madly clawing its way off the ship but was held back by some unknown force until it broke entirely free. The insane elementals rampage cost many more lives until heroically put down by a group of adventurers. Of those on the airship, none survived the fall and subsequent destruction of the craft except for the book, which almost miraculously survived.
Several weeks later the decision was made - somewhat reticently - to resolve the remaining debts of the Eselle household by selling what remained of the estate and their possessions.
Those in the auction house today shifted uncomfortably as lot 345 was put up for bidding, the golden tome bound with bone that Ian had retrieved on his last expedition. Although widely believed to be cursed, the tome had ended up simply being thrown into the auction due to a lack of any solid idea of what to do with it. Attempts to read it had failed due to the lack of any actual words, runes or even magical script within the tome - in fact it was curiously blank. Having spent much of its time on a shelf for weeks without causing any further issue and all magical analysis failing to determine anything as to its nature, the tome was simply given to the auction house with the rest of the Escelle state to sell off. A noble started to raise a hand to place his opening bid, when a black and distinctly oil like substance began to leak in drips from the book. The theater instantly went deathly quiet, the only sound punctuating the silence was the slow dripping of the liquid onto the marble floor.
The sequence of events that happened shortly after the book began to bleed are confused as those few who survived seem barely able to comprehend the events that unfolded. A man, perhaps a woman or perhaps even some form of creature wearing a mask in the shape of some animal appeared within the room and began to advance towards the book. It wore a long dark coat and appeared to have a tall hat with a flat top covering a shaggy amount of greasy white stranded hair that covered much of its upper features. As it moved it drew a long thin blade that shimmered and shifted with the light while never staying quite the same shape. Lord Datiel - a well renowned sorcerer within Sharn and friend of the Escelle family who helped organize the auction - stepped forth and demanded the stranger explain themselves or risk being attacked. The figure stopped and while other guards circled around to apprehend it seemed to assess the elderly sorcerer. Even as the guards drew closer it did not seem to react or even move a single muscle, until one guard drew just close enough to its reach. With lightning speed the creature slashed with its shimmering blade at precisely neck height and took the guards head straight off his shoulders; all without ever looking in the mans direction even once.
Datiel horrified and unable to get a clear shot at the now rapidly pirouetting and dancing figure as the frightened people in the room panicked realized it was bearing down on him. Thinking quickly he called forth the power from within his blood and sent forth a terrific bolt of lighting at the figure. What would have easily slain an ordinary human being and even many monsters was trivially shrugged off by the figure. Datiels last moments were a mixture of sheer disbelief and utter agony as he was gutted on the spot. Watching Datiel die simply spread the panic further and even to the other guards, who had never seen any creature shrug off powerful magic so easily. For those trying to escape, there was to be no relief as doorknobs melted away in their hands to be shortly followed by the actual door right after. Away from the panic, the figure picked up the gold tome off its podium and rubbed the surface of the book gently. Caressing the book, it turned its attention back to the panicked crowd and then pulled its blade free from Datiels corpse.
The screams subsided within only a few short minutes and when reinforcements burst in, all that was left was corpses and the dying. The creature could not be seen anywhere and like with the murders at the Escelle mansion, there was no obvious way it had left the room - though those who survived would later claim that it had "melted" away into nothing. All it had taken was a single object, the book from lot 345 and right when most baffled by the events one of the students who came to assist saw lot 402 - a painting. Although thought of as being nothing more than a rather morbid acquisition - it depicted the massacre of a group of people - the perception of the painted scene changed to those observing the carnage before them. The scene in the painting was identical right down to the horrified looks of the individuals within it.
Individuals who were standing in the room at that very moment.
Almost as if they were staring at a perfect mirror of the carnage before them.
A perfect mirror that had been taken from the Escelle estate weeks ago.
Lot 402 soon became known by the name for the scene that it depicts - The Escelle auction massacre.
Five further murders have occurred in Sharn in the weeks after, with each murder becoming increasingly grisly and with its own matching painting. Each time paintings showing the scene of the gruesome killing in perfect detail, down to the smallest drop of blood to the largest object have been found. Often these paintings have been acquired days and sometimes even weeks before the killings have occurred without anyone even realizing what the significance until it is too late. The Sharn Watch has failed to find any solid leads on their suspect, who despite wearing distinctive clothing is more difficult to track than any ghost or changeling. Fear holds the citizens of Sharn as nobody is safe; he slays the nobleman, the merchant and the underclass citizen just as readily with almost no identifiable pattern - except for the beautiful pieces of artwork depicting their death that he leaves behind.
Those on the streets of Sharn have come to call him the Artist of Sharn.
And there is a ten-thousand gold piece reward for anyone who can provide information that leads to his capture or death.
In that time, it's a good idea to get an idea of the games theme and such for roleplaying your characters so here's the general information:
1) The entire
game is set in Sharn. You will be going elsewhere sometimes, but this is done so that I can really build Sharn as this fantastic over-densely populated city filled with decay, horrible plots by things best left unsaid and build a high sense of verisimilitude.
2) Here is a handy picture of Sharn to get you interested and for an idea of my thinking:
3) Character wise (but see theme below)
Monsterous races are encouraged. Eberron seems to mix things like Gnolls, Minotaurs and such forth in a more seamless way than say, Forgotten Realms (Ogres, Gnolls, Minotaurs make up the underclass of the city). So I have less problems with you wanting to play these races.
And of course, Warforged are 100% encouraged and allowed.
I don't have any restrictions really to be honest though I am not going to allow races with oversized weapons and Kobolds. You may wonder about Kobolds, but it's mostly because Shifty is just ridiculous.
Edit: I forgot, Eberron background feats or PHB2 background feats are permitted. The ridiculous Scales of War background feats are not allowed. You may not take FR background feats as well, that just doesn't make sense.
Theme is the most important part of any campaign as I have relearned when I started DMing 4th edition. When I get the theme wrong, the entire game suffers for it as I've seen with Tides of Dust (where I put Pyramid of Shadows into the game and completely derailed it). When I get it right the game just writes itself, people enjoy themselves and I find it is a pleasure to DM (Sorrow of Heaven is a good example). So I think expanding on the sort of theme of this campaign is a good idea, but without trying to ruin anything (the plot is fairly complex - hence my restriction to one City).
Effectively, the Artist of Sharn mixes Call of Cthulhu themes and elements with something akin to a Sherlock Holmes novel. Your primary role as protagonists is to more or less investigate an increasingly bloody series of gruesome murders within the City of Sharn. All the while testing your characters morality and eventually their sanity.
This game has a pretty screwed up kind of theme though, it's not particularly combat orientated either but what combat you will encounter is either going to be:
B) Horribly weird
Accounting for the fact your regular encounter is EL + 3 and occasionally as high as EL + 6. This is because there are fewer combats, but unlike other games I'm trying to make most fights either significant or just as outright over the top bananas as I can.
To give you an image, this
is what I'm aiming for with this campaigns combat.
As an idea for something to look forward to at some point
in this campaign you will be fighting down the vertical
face of a tower. Effectively, I am making many fights as over the top and pulp action as I can. I feel this fits with Eberrons theme as a whole (something also important to a campaign!).
Returning back to the issue of theme, when making your characters it should be remembered at its core The Artist of Sharn is a horror campaign, with your PCs being the protagonists in a Sherlock Holmes novel (you can argue among yourselves who ends up as Watson). This means the game has a lot of interaction with NPCs, because the things in this campaign aren't going to be in convenient dungeons you can hack through to find answers. This isn't to say you're going to be spending sessions trying to figure out what on earth you're supposed to do (as that is neither entertaining or fun), but that if you make "Wulgar the barbarian who doesn't talk much" you're going to be spending a lot of time not doing a lot.
Additionally, there is an insanity score and mechanic being used in this campaign. I'm just neither going to explain it or even tell you just how far over the edge you've gone. Things will however start "happening" to you over a long period in the campaign (so you're unlikely to see any effects in Heroic tier as an example) and it's up to you to decide (rather than the behind the scenes mechanics) if you really are nuts or not (But then, as you can't see those behind the scenes mechanics, how do you know?
). For example you might see or hear things and perhaps you fight imaginary monsters while the rest of the party screams at you for help. Perhaps you've been talking to a secret "contact" the other PCs don't know about, who happens to always be right and then turns out that when you get caught by the other PCs they have no idea why you're talking to yourself.
Or why you're covered in blood.
But ultimately you can either sort of embrace the craziness, seek help, try to stoically fight off what is happening or perhaps you feel you're too far gone. There is always the easy way out in a city filled with incredibly high towers....
Before continuing it's worth noting this is done to enhance the games theme, increase the feeling of desperation as the plot moves forwards and provide interesting roleplaying opportunities. It's not designed to deliberately screw you over or make the game artificially harder. I've run Call of Cthulhu for many many years (the RPG) so I have a good understanding of how to make such mechanics fun and not detrimental or worse, taking control of your character away from you unfairly.
To return to what I'm getting at the more you think about the sort of themes and build a character to mesh with those the more everyone will get out of this game. There is still a lot of thumping things in the face and "kill things, take their stuff", but unlike other campaigns I've run don't be so hung up on things like role. If the party is 3 leaders, a defender and 2 strikers that's fine. You aren't facing a lot of multiple combats except in some circumstances (and they are certainly not multiple hard encounters one after the other), so potions and second wind will go a long way. Ideally a defender and leader is probably the two only classes I think you would want at minimum, but you can probably live without them (albeit, the encounters are generally pretty hard but I've designed a lot of them with being single shot encounters - there is probably a lot more down time equivalently in Artist of Sharn than in my other campaigns).
Oh and this is a pretty horribly violent campaign, given that it starts off about a deranged serial killer and goes from there. You have been warned
We should hopefully have a thread about Eberron for those curious to know more, but basically Eberron is a pulp action movie version of most typical fantasy worlds. They had a pretty big war recently that lasted over a century, ending only a couple of years ago when one of the combatants exploded horribly and the other nations basically decided they didn't want to explode either. After a conference to work out how to make peace, they split the original five nations into twelve smaller ones and are currently in a cold war situation, where anyone might be plotting to restart it.
Sharn is one of the major cities and is pretty magically enhanced. Using geothermal energy (it's built on a Volcano) and the labor of lots of monstrous critters like ogres, they basically have this massive vertically built city on an area roughly the size of central part in the US. Due to the fact its built mostly straight up, flight and other means of magical transportation are rather important for getting around (see above picture). There are portions of the city that are actually floating well above others and they have quite a lot of magic schools and similar. It reminds me a bit of a final fantasy type city, filled with a lot of magitech stuff (airships with bound elementals to power them for example) and odd people. This is partly what attracted me to using the city to begin with (plus its decrepit undercity: perfect for this sort of campaign).
Also, it has cockroach monsters that rip their way out of peoples flesh and eat them. I think that's pretty damn awesome no matter what way you cut it.
6) Final stuff
Okay I'll shut up for now. Basically, we'll be beginning in July and you are welcome to just ask me questions and similar in the thread. You don't have to wait for the EPG to come out, you can build an artificer or warforged character using the rules they have released. If you want to update these characters once the book comes out simply feel free to.
You start with fresh level 1 characters.
You have 500 starting gold
And no, that is not a typo.
As I'm viewing you as very tightly important to the plot narrative and such, make sure you make your mans how you want. If you say, want to play a Psion in July when they come out choose another class like a Sorcerer or similar. Then just retcon your Psion over your existing character (perhaps changing equipment if needed) and we'll pretend it was always like that. You're characters are a really important part of the story, so I'm not really wanting a lot of chopping and changing of PCs unless you die horribly. Dying horribly is always good for the narrative