The Well of Heroes
Straight-up theft. I confess. That’s what I did, people. I stole an idea right out of the Scales of War adventure, “The Last Breath of Tiamat,” in Dungeon Magazine #175 by David Noonan.
You see, since 2008, I’ve DMed two Fourth Edition parties from level 1 to level 30. That’s huge. We did it twice in six years. You know how many things you could accomplish if you did them for three hours once a week for six years? You could learn a new craft or musical instrument. Bake a whole bunch of pies. Take your significant other out on many fun dates. Watch many different TV series on Netflix. Play through all of Skyrim. Get buff at the gym. You get the idea.
Anyway, that’s not to say you should do something other than create a totally unique story with your friends. That’s the best way to spend time, in my opinion. However, at the end of all things, when Orcus the Demon Lord of the Undead’s corpse lies crispy and headless upon the ground or when you’ve saved all of Eberron from rakshasa princes planning the return of Bel Shalor, you want to feel like your character’s actions and story are lasting. You want a legacy.
So I stole. And I have no bad feelings about it. Never feel bad about stealing a great idea, folks. It saves you time and it’s a form of flattery. Game designers have been stealing from each other since chess and checkers. I assume you’re reading this blog because you want to steal from me. Do it. Please. It would honestly make my day.
Anyway, for my purposes, I stole a cool idea that happened at the end of the Scales of War adventure path, which was a series of Fourth Edition adventures designed to take PCs from level 1 to 30. The final adventure’s last words were options for the impact Scales of War could have on your next campaign world. Here’s the option I stole.
So I had an other-worldly entity invite my players to throw objects into the Well of Heroes. I did it twice, actually, once for each campaign. Both times, stuff got chucked and fun was had. It was a great way to make the PCs legacy feel like they had an impact that wasn’t going to fade away once the campaign was done. Or so I thought…
Some of you are already shaking your heads. I know, I know. David Noonan even says, “This option breaks the fourth wall a bit.” Now I have a 12 items, some from the Nentir Vale campaign setting and others from an Eberron game, that I need to work into a story and I don’t want it to feel forced or cheesy. Will it cheapen the world I’m building to have the players find objects that tie into other heroes from worlds unknown? How would their new characters know the history of the old characters in-game? Will their new characters even need the same kind of equipment? What about the avenger who dropped her holy symbol of The Silver Flame down the Well, how can I justify that in a world without The Silver Flame? Oh yeah, and one player who was in both campaigns went abstract with it. In the Nentir Vale campaign he played a star pact warlock and whispered the true name of his star down the Well. In the Eberron game, he cried a single tear into the Well for his lost love. Really cool at the time, but… what am I supposed to do with that now?
I was in a rough spot. If I didn’t have the objects show up, it would cheapen our previous games and those PCs would lose a piece of their legacy. If I did include them in the new world, they run the risk of cheapening that game. Also, to make matters worse, I recently recorded a podcast with a few of my players. We were talking about connecting the material plane cosmologies of different D&D worlds. For instance, Forgotten Realms’ material plane would have a portal to Eberron’s material plane and visa versa. For the most part they all thought that material planes should stay away from each other. They didn’t want to travel from Eberron to Forgotten Realms to the Nentir Vale or anywhere else. They thought that approached hurt the integrity of both worlds. It’s a safe bet that seeing pieces of their old PCs’ gear show up in my new homebrew world would be equally off-putting.
During my recent brainstorm with Andrew, he threw another idea out there. What if the objects from the Well of Heroes landed in this new world when it was just beginning to form? Rather than remain objects, they were absorbed into and morphed the world around them. Andrew, like David Noonan, had his idea straight-up thieved by me. Well, he offered it. I just took him up on that.
To me, this seemed more acceptable, and frankly, way cooler. The items didn’t land in a pile at the end of a Well of Heroes. They traveled through the Well into the place where worlds are made and influenced what happened there. The old items aren’t shoehorned into the new world. They’re a living, breathing part of the world that have been there from the start.
For instance, a lightning staff thrown down the Well of Heroes by a dragon magic sorcerer becomes a perpetual storm of arcane lightning that defends a nest blue dragons. Here’s a list of what my players threw down the Well of Heroes and a musings on what each might be.
- Staff of Ruinous Lightning – a perpetual storm of arcane lightning that defends a nest blue dragons.
- Ritual scroll of Raise Dead – an altar within a cavern that can restore life to any remains placed on it as per the true resurrection spell. Once it is used the altar disappears and reforms somewhere deeper in the dangerous cavern.
- Healer’s Brooch – a special hot spring where a character may bathe once per day and receive the effects of the heal spell.
- Staff of Time – a tree with purple fruit, when consumed, gives the creature an extra action once per turn for a minute. During the duration of this effect, the character is also considered intoxicated.
- Shield of Barrier Sentinels – becomes a grove of oak trees that prevents creatures from attacking each other unless they make a DC 20 wisdom saving throw. Once one creature saves it can attack others and others may attack it.
- Holy Symbol of The Silver Flame – a small mountain from which a precious silver can be mined that is particularly devastating to lycanthropes.
- Magic twin bastard swords – enormous, twin cacti that grow needles which can be turned into magic arrows.
- Armor of The Silver Flame – a swamp under a perpetual Protection from Evil effect.
- Dawn Warrior Dagger – a canyon where fire, lightning, cold, and acid have no effect.
- A portal gun – An Underdark cavern with a portal that may teleport six creatures anywhere they’ve been with a DC 20 Intelligence check. An unsuccessful check results in random teleportation.
- A single tear, shed for lost love – a waterfall that when gazed into will reveal an individual’s romantic future.
- The true name of a star – thousands of diamonds line a canyon deep within the ocean floor. When thrown these diamonds explode with starlight on impact, doing radiant damage.
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January 27, 2014 @ 2:58 pm
At a Very Large and Famous consulting company at which I used to work, the line was “Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery.”
January 27, 2014 @ 3:08 pm
Diplomatically put, sir! And man is it true. Please, come rip off my ideas!
January 27, 2014 @ 3:45 pm
This Andrew guy sounds like a real genius!
January 27, 2014 @ 4:27 pm
Wonder who left this comment…