Dark Glantri Revisited
by Andrew “Cthulhudrew” Theisen
Havard originally suggested I revise my [http://pandius.com/darkglan.html, Dark Glantri (by Cthulhudrew)] idea from the Vaults of Pandius for this issue, something I'd always wanted to go back and do more with. The original article was a suggestion of how to bring elements of horror into existing Glantri campaigns and NPCs. During development, the revision took quite a different turn; I hope you enjoy.
Wicked children beware
Lest the bandy-legged men in their ebon ships
Whisk ye away to a land of night
Where volcanoes spew pus in the poison sky
Where the Black Flaem command their demon hordes
In the land of Dark Glantri
-Glantrian fairy tale
Dark Glantri is a very real place, though its inhabitants do not call it that. Most have never even heard the name Glantri, in fact.
Its history begins millennia ago, when the distant world of Alphatia was destroyed in a conflict between the Followers of Fire and the Followers of Air. The latter, the so-called victors, fled to Mystara in their great skyships, settling a sparsely inhabited continent they named after their homeworld. The Followers of Fire, too, would eventually reach Mystara, though only after centuries of wanderings through the many planes of existence.
Through countless leagues and centuries, the ranks of the Flaem (for such did the Followers of Fire name themselves) gradually diminished due to deaths, exhaustion, and dissension. One such split occurred when a wizard named Cipraien, claiming to have seen a heavenly new homeworld in his dreams, acquired a sizeable following. He led them through myriad, strange planes, until they could go no further- for their interplanar spells suddenly failed them.
Finding themselves on a cold, alien planet beneath the shadows cast by a black sun, they turned on Cipraien. The wizard had finally descended into madness from the horrible voices in his head, and he was dispatched by those he had betrayed with false visions of paradise. The Flaem then turned their attentions to their new home, which seemed like something from a bad dream. Such was precisely where they now were- the Realm of Nightmare itself.
The creatures that lived there were horrific, and deadly poisonous. The natural laws of Nightmare were wholly different from those they once knew. They found most of their magics diminished in strength; some- such as their fire magic- ceased to function at all. Never a terribly martial race, the Flaem nonetheless found some small solace in their weaponry, which proved as effective against the Nightmarish creatures as those creatures were against the Flaem.
The Flaem seemed doomed, but then a powerful wizard among their number sensed a strange energy signature in the land nearby. Investigating, he discovered to his surprise that the nearer he got to the source, the more effective his magic became. Leading his people to the very heart of its source, they founded a capitol, which they named after their savior, Malijn.
The Flaem transformed their environment as best they could, and found that they could even affect those most immune to their otherworldly magics within the boundaries of “Normal” magic. They enslaved the peaceful natives, the diaboli, and rebuilt their empire. Though they could not expand without limit, due to the magical restrictions upon them, they nevertheless began to transform and dominate their immediate vicinity, and the Magocracy of Malijn was established.
A little more than a century ago, there was another major influx of humans to Malijn when a castle and its surrounding village suddenly appeared in the miasma shrouded eastern valley. The rulers of the village- the d'Ambreville clan- would spend most of their time locked within their castle (for it seemed to retard their aging process), but their servitors and descendants proved very fruitful and established several settlements in and around Malijn. Though the Chateau d'Ambreville disappeared a few short years ago, the d’Ambrevilles had long since established a sizable presence in the realm.
The most significant event in Malijn's recent history occurred about 30 years ago, when a diaboli revolt led to the establishment of civil rights for that race, and the creation of a new satrapy, under the control of the diaboli clan that brokered the peace between the revolutionary diaboli and their human masters. Tensions still simmer between the two groups to this day.
The ball of light flickered as it hovered before him, fed by the mysterious energies he channeled into it. There! Angus McGregor thought, Something manifests! The shadows at the edge of the chamber seemed to move of their own accord. A vague shape took form; human-like, with massive claws and tentacles bursting forth from its breast. The child-wizard drew more rads from his focus crystal, pouring them into the spell. The shadowy figure gained more substance as it wavered, frozen, stuck between realities in the corner. Satisfied with the experiment, Angus broke the spell, casting the room in darkness and dismissing the shadowy form. Did his fellow Brethren know of this side-effect of the Radiance? He wondered. And would he tell them if they did not?
The source of the nation's power is, of course, the Nucleus of the Spheres beneath Glantri on the Prime Plane. The same engines that once allowed the ship to travel immense distances by warping space and time now serve- after its magical transformation- to allow it to warp the space between planes itself, and provide a region of Nightmare in which magic works the same way it does on the Prime. The closer one is to the center of the Nucleus' power, the more strongly that magic works.
Subsequently, Flaemish society evolved along similar lines to that of their cousins in Glantri; the most powerful magic-users have their domains located closest to the Source, while the least are on the outermost fringes of its radius. Within 120 miles of the capital of Malijn, spells of 5th level and lower function the same as they would in Normal space. Within 100 miles, spells of 6th level and below function normally; within 80 miles, 7th level, 8th level spells within 60 miles, and spells of 9th level function within 40 miles of the capital. (See Metaphysics of Nightmare sidebar).
The magocracy is led by a council of 5 magi, the most powerful rulers in the land. Beneath them are the destards, nemads, vaders, and satraps (in order of most to least important). The City of Malijn is located in the heart of the magocracy, and is considered neutral ground, with the domains of the Five spaced directly around it.
Of the current ruling Five, Magus Leskin (wizard 32) is the most powerful, having mastered command of both Fire and Blackflame; he is the only member who can still directly trace his ancestry to the founder of the nation. Leskin has agents active in Glantri seeking to learn more about the Radiance.
Maga Hephzibah (wizard 28), the lich-queen, is rumored to keep the still-beating hearts of her former lovers in her own unliving breast. Her domain is one of the most lively and colorful, as she constantly imports creatures from the Prime to populate it; her vampire rose garden is a beautiful - if deadly- sight to see. Hephzibah’s chief opponent is the parasitic Maga Aechte (wizard dream-vampire 26). Aechte’s domain is bleak and more nocturnally active than others; a large ghast population resides there. Magus Fernaguut (wizard were-hellpig 25) and his lycanthropic clan rule the eastern reaches. The most recent magus, Magus Jherek Virayana (wizard 27) oversees his realm from a floating palace. The other magi acknowledged Virayana’s defeat of the previous ruler, and regard him with respect (and great suspicion).
Notables among the lesser rulers include such personalities as Vader Euraud d'Ambreville (wizard 12). A harrowing encounter with a kyton in his youth permanently afflicted him with severe body dysmorphia. His appearance is never the same twice, as he constantly alters his appearance cosmetically and surgically in search of the perfect beauty. Most of the body parts he has replaced did not come from willing donors. Satrap Clyphart (diaboli wiz 8) has the newest and most distant domain in the realm, forming an uneasy border with the nomadic diaboli clans to the west. Nemod Gheenkin (wiz 11) has close ties to Maga Hephzibah; he is also well known for his cultivation of highly addictive substances, both Normal and Nightmare. The representative of the Leng slavers in Malijn, Hetman N’Skendh, enjoys an unprecedented amount of power in the city.
In the centuries since their arrival, the outermost boundaries of the Radiance's effective range have grown slightly, allowing Malijn to expand its territory across the land. There are only a few wizards in Malijn who know that the source of magic lay on another planet in another plane of existence. Few in number, too, are the Glantrians who realize that the increasing influx of Nightmare denizens to their land are connected to the Radiance. As more and more power is drawn from the Nucleus of the Spheres, the closer the two worlds are drawn together. This is a situation that could have more dire consequences than any realize.
The voices were always loudest at night.
They were never as bad as in that other place, Gaston d'Ambreville thought with a shudder, but they were getting worse. He hadn't told the rest of his family; they'd only send him back to the sanitorium. He would simply endure his mania. That was his curse- his art was never quite so powerful, so emotive, as when his head was filled with sussurations.
And so he painted. As the voices filled his dreams.
The Magocracy of Malijn is populated by mixed groups of humans and diaboli. Among the former, the most prominent are the original Alphatian settlers. The strangeness of Nightmare has not left them unmarked; their coppery skin tone has taken on a metallic sheen, and their irises are white while their scleras express a wide range of colors. The d'Ambrevilles and their relations are the next largest human ethnic group; it is conjectured that pacts the d'Ambrevilles made long ago with a certain alien entity on their original homeworld of Laterre is what has helped them to thrive in Nightmare, but has expressed itself physically as a result. Their features tend to wide eyes, small ears, and grayish skin. Humans from other Prime cultures exist in Malijn as well, though they have not yet bred true enough or in large enough numbers to form distinct ethnic groups.
Among the diaboli, there are the natives who still live free and peaceful nomadic lifestyles outside the borders of Malijn, and those who have embraced the alien society of the magocracy, and seek to be a part of it. Such creatures are considered traitors at best and unnatural abominations at worst by normal diaboli. Those sentiments are closer to the mark than many suspect; the largest family of diaboli in Malijn, and the chief instruments of the liberation movement, the Fendqr family, has long interbred with the foul devils of the Nightmare Outer Planes. They seek to impose their unnatural order on the rest of diaboli society with the help of the humans. The Fendqr are noted for having a more reddish skin tone than other diaboli clans.
Other denizens of Malijn include the mysterious Denizens of Leng, who bear a similar sort of appearance to the diaboli. The lands of the d'Ambrevilles suffer periodic gremlin plagues- they breed like rabbits in Nightmare, and even express a wider range of sub-species than are encountered on the Prime. Nightgaunts and Malferas are uncommon but greatly feared; bakhtaks and alps roam the lands, as do ghouls and ghasts (who are more intelligent and civilized than their Prime counterparts). Then, too, are the were-hellpigs and parasitic dream vampires. Attacks by the linnorms, powerful dragons of Nightmare, are rare but devastating.
Perhaps the most deadly threat in Nightmare comes from beings who don't even have a physical presence there. The Burrowers, alien intelligences of immense power, were locked into stasis beneath Mystara's crust millenia ago by their Immortal opponents. Yet though their bodies remain useless, they still dream. On the Prime, their dreams can only reach the minds of rare individuals- artists, poets, madmen. In the realm of Nightmare, they know no such boundaries, and can communicate more directly with the realm's inhabitants, tempting them with thoughts of power and dominion. One such creature, calling itself Hu'dhakrtana, is particularly active in Malijn, and his cultists, led by the diaboli Syg (cleric 9) seek opportunities to travel to the Prime and gain more information about the Radiance. Sometimes alien minds from even more distant lands can reach through Nightmare to the inhabitants of Malijn.
Adventures in Dark Glantri are best suited to higher level campaigns (9+), given the nature of the opponents and the plane traveling involved. Dms wishing to involve their Players of lower levels might be advised to start by having slight incursions of lower level nightmare creatures into the Prime as a way of foreshadowing later adventures.
Some plot hooks for getting PCs started in a Dark Glantri campaign:
The PCs are hired to investigate the disappearance of an NPC (perhaps one with personal ties). The trail leads to a group of denizens of Leng on a slave trading mission in a nearby settlement. The PCs must get aboard the slavers black ship (either through force or infiltration- perhaps posing as slaves themselves) in order to cross over to the realm of Nightmare. There, they must scour the streets of Malijn to find their missing person.
The PCs are approached by a Glantrian wizard who is studying the increasing appearances of Nightmare creatures in the land. He wants to send them through a portal he's created to figure out the cause. Their investigations will take them to the heart of Malijn and back again to Glantri, as they learn that the Nucleus of the Spheres itself is to blame.
Dream Vampire* (Traumpyr)
7**- 9** (M)
1 touch or special
1d8 + Wisdom drain or special
1,250 - 2,300
Monster Type: Undead, Enchanted (Very Rare)
A form of undead unique to Nightmare, traumpyrs are parasites who roam the night, feeding on the dreams of the living. In their natural form, they are gaunt, pallid creatures with faces twisted in haunted expression, but they are rarely seen this way, as they prefer to cloak themselves in a myriad of different forms.
Abilities of Traumpyrs
Like vampires, traumpyrs are immune to sleep, charm, and hold spells, and can only be hit by magical weapons. They are more powerful shapeshifters than vampires, with the ability to use polymorph self at will, once per round. They also possess a permanent ESP effect that they use to examine the minds of their prey, often taking the forms of those things most desired or feared by their victims.
Traumpyrs regenerate 2 hit points per round. They do not take gaseous form like a vampire if they reach 0 hit points, but they will often take a form that will allow them to flee combat if they are in danger of reaching that point.
The touch of a traumpyr drains 2 points of Wisdom in addition to regular damage. Like a vampire, the gaze of a traumpyr can charm; any victim meeting its gaze must save vs. spells at a -2 penalty to avoid being charmed.
Creatures slain by the traumpyr will return as traumpyrs under the control of the slayer within 3 nights.
The oldest and most powerful traumpyrs can move between the Nightmare and Normal dimensions at will, 1/day.
Weaknesses of Traumpyrs
Traumpyrs are halted by the sight of a holy symbol, but in Nightmare such things are rare. Mirrors have a much stronger effect, paralyzing the creature for 1d4 rounds as it is confronted with the reflection of its true nature. Traumpyrs are not hindered by sunlight (or the Nightmare equivalent of daytime) and may go abroad as normal, but they are stuck in the form they last took prior to sunrise, and cannot use their ESP again until nighttime.
SIDEBAR 1: Metaphysics of Nightmare
Whether using the Mentzer cosmology, wherein Nightmare is a part of the Prime Plane, just dimensionally shifted, or using other cosmologies, where Nightmare is its own plane or demiplane, one thing that should remain the same is to keep its nature bizarre and utterly alien to the PCs. To that end, this article makes some assumptions based on Mystara “fanon” lore- to wit, that it has its own distinct elemental planes. The author has also made some extrapolations based on canon sources as to how Nightmare might affect so-called “Normal” magic.
The elemental planes which make up Nightmare are Blackflame, Vischor (sometimes called Bitterflow), Terro (sometimes known as Fallowrock), and Miasma (aka Reekwind). Blackflame, of course, should be familiar to Mystara fans as the clan relic of halflings. The others are the Nightmare equivalent of Water, Earth, and Air. A full accounting of the differences is beyond the scope of this article, but among said changes, Miasma is poisonous to non-Nightmare adapted creatures, and Terro is organic matter as opposed to the non-organic matter of Earth.
Within the boundaries of Nightmare, Normal magic is strangely affected. In some cases, as with the diabolic, Normal magic has no effect on Nightmare creatures; other Nightmare creatures (such as Malferas) have greater resistance to such magic.
This article assumes a greater effect on Normal magic cast within Nightmare. In general, spells of 4th level and below function normally, while higher level spells are unpredictable. Sometimes they do not function as intended, and other times they do not function at all. Spells that affect the standard elements (Air, Fire, Water, Earth) are among the latter. Spells that allow contact with or travel to other planes (gate, travel, commune, contact outer plane) only reach the Nightmare equivalent of those planes, and do not allow travel back to Normal space.
In any event, whether you use these rules or your own, the main objective with a Nightmare campaign is, again, to play up the alien-ness of the realm.
SIDEBAR 2: Horror and Dark Glantri
The realm of Nightmare is, quite literally, the stuff that bad dreams are made of. Whether PCs are traveling to Malijn, or merely being forced to entertain visitors from that frightening realm, Nightmare is a great way to introduce elements of horror into your Mystara campaign. Though PCs face off against monstrous creatures on a daily basis, the very nature of Nightmare creatures and the Burrowers can give even the most experienced of adventurers pause- and possibly cause them to lose their minds altogether.
There are several ways to deal with horror and sanity in-game, regardless of which system you are playing in. Both D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder have OGL sanity mechanics that are available online, and Geoff Gander wrote an article on the Vaults of Pandius that covers the same in BECMI games. Any of these systems should be fairly easy to use, regardless of what rules system you play with.
Sanity for BECMI games: http://pandius.com/insanity.html
Sanity for 3.5/d20 games: http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/campaigns/sanity.htm
Sanity for Pathfinder games: http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/mastery/sanityAndMadness.html
Of course, any horror games are best supplanted with inspirational material. This article introduces many concepts from the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft and his contemporaries, notably The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. Clark Ashton Smith, another Mythos writer, has long had a hand in Mystara canon as the land of Averoigne, home of the eccentric d'Ambrevilles, was his creation. His Zothique Cycle would be a great source for Nightmarish inspiration. Among other sources of inspiration to the author of this article: the Hellraiser movies of Clive Barker, the artistry of H. R. Giger, and the Wonderland of C. S. Lewis.
[http://pandius.com/phantas.html, Secret Crafts: Phantasmer (by Cthulhudrew)]
[http://pandius.com/relwor.html, Immortals, Religion, and Worship (by Giulio Caroletti)]
[http://pandius.com/blkflame.html, Halflings and Blackflame and Glaurants (by Cthulhudrew)]
[http://pandius.com/nmreelem.html, Nightmare Elements (by Rodger Burns)]
[http://pandius.com/nightdim.html, The Dimension of Nightmares (by James Mishler)]
[http://pandius.com/aratsym.html, Nightmare Megalith (by Travis Henry)]
Dark Glantri Revisited banner by A. Theisen (original artwork)
Leskin: [http://aterribleidea.com/108-terrible-character-portraits-gallery/, copyright Jeff Preston, Creative Commons License 3.0, modified by A. Theisen]
Were-Hellpigs: [http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/prehistoric_life/tv_radio/wwbeasts/making_of6.shtml, copyright bbc.co.uk, modified by A. Theisen]