Below is a summary of the campaign I have been running for D&D. Almost every name is a reference to a game or somewhere in the real world with some importance to me. Catch them all to win a prize!
Prologue (DM specific worldbuilding)
Hundreds of years ago on the island country of Izalith, a traveling apothecary found himself in the capital city of Eldborg. It was here that he had settled in with his wife and daughter, for a number of years. As time passed, historical records that show his daughter had contracted the Black Scrawl - a disease which caused a magical rot to manifest along your veins, starting at your fingertips until it finally reaches your heart resulting in death. As it twists and travels, it leaves marks that appeal to be written in a language akin to infernal, but any translations are seemingly gibberish.No cure has ever been found; only salves to ease the pain or blades to escape it altogether. For as long as they could, they tried to hide signs of the disease on their daughter as they researched every tome, asking all the elders, and praying to every power they could reach. Eventually, the town noticed symptoms of the disease, and soon began to demand their removal, for fear of the gods that had deemed her fit to die with the cursed infection. He was furious that they did not band together to help him, and thought only to save themselves. He swore his revenge on the city as he gathered his belongings and headed north to the woods outside of the rural town of Antioch.
In a few months time, his daughter passed, and the tragedy caused him to go mad. The gods may have taken her, but he was determined to take her back no matter the cost. At nights, he set to the catacombs of the town, and began practicing necromantic magic. No matter how he tried, his dark magics couldn’t bring back anything with a soul. After numerous attempts to raise more than flesh and bone, he had his first lust for power. He raised enough to be able to begin an assault on the city of Antioch. It was within this town’s library where he found a seed planted from some demon or devil: a grimoire detailing the path to becoming a greater being.
It was here that he put the captured townspeople to use. He sacrificed all of them to build up dark energy, and found himself still lacking. Casting aside the last shred of humanity he had remaining, he sacrificed his wife to dark magic. Her life energy was channeled into a freshly exhumed remnant of his daughter to act as his phylactery. Now his family would be eternally bound to him. At this moment, with the once proud city of Antioch razed, a dark army at his command, and newly ascended, history gave him a name: Aghanim, the Lich.
In a cruel twist, even with his new powers, he still didn’t have the ability to raise back his daughter. He saw fit to construct a temple in Fox Lake south of the town. Here he placed the lures for the Kuo Toa to come and worship the statue he had crafted in hopes that their strange magics could bring her back to life as a god. To protect his most precious phylactery, he devised a magical stone that could not be pierced by the tools of man, and cocooned it inside.
Meanwhile, the city of Eldborg had begun mobilizing forces to take back the city in the north. They assembled a small army, led by three brave heroes. They assaulted the now cursed city. As the army dealt with hordes of the undead, the heroes charged the spire where Aghanim had made his home. Without as much of a second though, the Lich was able to kill two of them outright. The third hero saw this, and prayed to the Gods to guide his blade. Spell after spell reflected off a holy shield as he walked towards the monster, and he drove his sword into his chest. In that moment the gods transported both of them away to a plane of ice, where he rests until this day. The dead from the battle were buried again the catacombs, which were sealed away.
Introduction for the players
The cocoon with the Lich’s phylactery changed since the day he was banished, and radiated a holy energy. This energy allowed crops to flourish, for creatures to grow hearty and live long, healthy lives, and was a boon. For many years after, Antioch became the central location for crops and soldiers for the town of Eldborg. Because of the nature of this, the cocoon became known as “The Egg of the King”. Over time, people forget what was housed inside of it, and took the egg as a blessing for their town.
However, in the past few months, the townspeople grow ill, crops wither and die. What were once forests dense with animals have grown sparse, and the townsfolk are worried. The Egg of the King has lost a shimmer, replaced by a dreadful miasma.
The commoners fear for the pestilence, but the wisemen know the truth:
The Lich is returning.
To the north the fmall town of Jovi is being overrun by the undead. A force of soldiers has been deployed to work as a literal ‘skeleton crew’ killing off the undead as they rise from their once peaceful graves.
To the south, Fox Lake has seen an influx of strange creatures traversing into its murky waters. These include the curious Kuo Toa, but sightings of things more exotic have been reported - chuul, hags, and even dragons have been seen to make the pilgrimage from the shores to the lake. The Kuo Toa have been seen kidnapping anyone who leaves the safety of the town, never to be seen again.
And to the east a quarry has been overrun by Kobolds who have fled from their mountain homes, driven out by some unknown force.
The land is in turmoil, and the mayor of the town has put out a bulletin for any interested adventures: save our town.
The heroes adventures
Basically, the premise of our adventure was simple: More Dungeons. More Dragons. We had played in a group where highlights of the sessions were: discussing ingredients in an inn’s soup, selling a sword at a market, figuring out why a horse is sad, trying to hire hookers and ultimately failing. Some of those could be pretty neat, but all of them took over an hour. So we wanted to have a group that was more ‘action’ focused. Because of this, session 1 through 3 was a dungeon, sessions 4 through 7 was a different dungeon, and sessions 8 and 9 were yet another dungeon. Know who was at the end of the second dungeon? A dragon. We had everyone set up a character for combat: a Nightwing inspired rogue, a forge cleric named Princef Taaanx, and a half orc fighter. They were soon joined by a moon druid halfling, whose party had all passed away in the first dungeon.
The first dungeon was set in the town of Jovi. A false tombstone lead way to a long abandoned crypt, inhabited by scores of spirits, ghouls, ghosts, and skeletons. On an ornate tomb was a fragment of a pendant that almost radiated evil. After clearing out the tomb, they returned to town where they learned about the mystic properties of the talisman (most of them are dumb as rocks - combat focused party after all). It is linked to the Lich, who is still alive, and will allow them to open the Egg and gain access to the phylactery. Its evil powers were radiating, causing the dead to rise from their grave.
In the south at Fox Lake, creatures from deep below the sea were congregating. They were stealing travelers to offer as strange tribute or bizarre rituals. The party found a mechanism that had the temple rise from the water, allowing them access. Here they found an fully grown black dragon, sitting on a pile of offerings from the Kuo Toa...including another piece of the pendant. His avarice was strong, so he would only accept a trade of something equal or greater than the broken pendant. Failing that, he would accept a sacrifice of one of the townspeople (they had initially thrown out the head priest who confronted them when they tried to enter the town carrying a pendant that radiated evil so strong it could wake the dead. To this day they still think he was a dick to do that, and I’m not below letting them have a grudge). The cleric re forged a cursed weapon they had found into a replica of the piece of pendant they had found, and offered a trade to the dragon, which he accepted along with some additional gold.
Finally, they found their way to the mountain caves in the north where a cult dead set on bringing the Lich back had set up rituals. They exsanguinated villagers, turning their life force into jewels they could use to summon demons who knew of Aghanim’s whereabouts, and who also had the power to free him. They had improved on some traps that kobolds had set up to waste time for the party while they talked to a Nalfeshnee. After it was sent back to hell, the party finished the pendant, and saw a vision of the Lich, surrounded by weeping willows, with a sword still stuck in his chest (this is important! I don’t know if they party recognized it, but it is!). This was effectively the end of the first act. The second act is going to be them going through a temple to find a portal to Frostfell (the elemental plane of ice), then an adventure in Frostfell searching for the Lich.