The End Is the Beginning
The adventure begins!

Our campaign began on August 9, 2008 with an adventure entitled “The End Is the Beginning,” serialized in podcast episodes 1–3. Seven heroes from the city of Stormhaven, which sits in the middle of the Moonshale Sea, supported by four huge pillars, found themselves swept up in a wave of events that threatens to engulf the whole world. On the last day of the year 677, as Havenites reckon the years, several of the PCs were busy aboard an antique ship called the Broken Promise, the very ship in which Palanas Rockhammer had found the city of Stormhaven hundreds of years earlier. Now serving as a civic museum for Stormhaven, the Broken Promise traditionally sailed only once per year, as part of an aquatic New Year’s Day parade. Half-elven warlord Tyria Silverspray was then employed as the assistant to Erthic Rockhammer, descendant of Palanas Rockhammer, curator of the shipboard museum, and nominal captain of the Broken Promise during its annual voyage. Tradition dictated that a descendant of Palanas’s first mate, Illias Seawillow, be randomly chosen to serve as the honorary first mate on the Broken Promise’s ceremonial sail; this year, the lot fell to Lithian Seawillow, an elf ranger. Sturm Brightblade, a human blacksmith and fighter, had the honor of supplying the Promise with some necessary metalwork, which also brought him to the ship. The rest of the so-called “Honor Crew,” sailors chosen by lottery to serve on the Broken Promise during the parade, were NPCs.

Elsewhere in Stormhaven, human rogue Alanso Heslock had been hired by the leader of a minority religious group to scuttle the Broken Promise during the parade. In order to accomplish this, Alanso stole the lottery ticket from one of the NPCs chosen for the honor crew, and impersonated him to try to get on the ship. An eladrin wizard named Berrian, who suspected that his parents’ death had been engineered by the dwarf who contracted with Alanso, tailed Alanso to the Broken Promise. While all of this was happening in the Driftdowns, human paladin Jacques de Villaret was heading for the cathedral to pray, having just begun a leave of absence from his paying job as a sea agent for a Stormhaven financial concern.

At sundown, everything changed. Strange humanoids resembling fish or frogs began climbing out of the sea and swarming across the lower layer of Stormhaven. Think zombie apocalypse, but with kuo-toa. High above, on the upper layer of Stormhaven, strange flying fungi attacked the city’s defenders. In a cavern that couldn’t possibly exist—since upside sits on a disk of solid stone—a coven of cultists chanted strange rituals. And something—something from beneath the sea, embraced one of Stormhaven’s four pillars with unbelievably large tentacles and pulled—pulled hard enough to make all of Stormhaven lurch to one side.

Through a series of events, our seven heroes found themselves drawn to the Broken Promise, if they weren’t there already. The paladin, Jacques, was teleported to the Broken Promise by Gretchen Van Fleet, Stormhaven’s most powerful wizard. Then Gretchen, reading a powerful spell from a scroll, teleported the entire Broken Promise, with all hands aboard, somewhere far away from home.

The Broken Promise reappeared on the open sea, in the middle of a thunderstorm. Unfortunately, some of the frog-fish humanoids and flying fungi were caught in the spell’s area of effect, and were teleported along with the Broken Promise. The creatures apparently perceived Gretchen as the greatest threat, and two of the flying fungi immediately seized her and plunged her beneath the raging waves. Before she disappeared beneath the sea, Gretchen told the PCs to keep the promise and save the city by going to a place whose name starts with /k/ to find something called The Book of Life, said to contain a ritual by which the PCs could “drown it back to sleep.”

The PCs successfully defeated the remaining creatures, but now faced an unfamiliar ocean with unfamiliar comrades and a mission given by the mysterious Gretchen—a mission that could well determine Stormhaven’s ultimate fate.

The Wellspring
the deserted island with a water elemental

Our second adventure, “The Wellspring,” was recorded on August 30, 2008 and aired in episodes 4–9. After several days floating on an unfamiliar sea half a world or more away from their home in Stormhaven, the PCs found themselves running low on food and drinking water. Dropping anchor near a small island, the PCs discovered there the ruins of a simple tribal village with a well fed by pipes, obviously much more advanced than the technology represented by the village’s other structures. Tracing the pipes up the hill at the center of the island, the PCs discovered a hilltop temple lying in ruins. The PCs explored the temple, awaken its undead guardians, and unknowingly summon a hopping mad water elemental—but they survived these challenges and collected enough water and fresh food to carry them further along their journey.

Isla Calipha
think "Pleasure Island" meets "Soylent Green"

Episodes 10–13 present our third adventure, “Isla Calipha,” recorded on September 20, 2008. Sailing more or less aimlessly over an unfamiliar sea, the Broken Promise happens upon a large C-shaped island that turns out to contain a casino-style resort. After a night of R&R, the PCs begin to investigate various suspicious elements of the place—and to ask questions about the Book of Life. The PCs’ suspicions are raised further when they see other ships arriving at Isla Calipha, but not leaving—and then they discover that they themselves cannot leave, because the bay’s exit magically redirects traffic back into itself! The PCs come to realize that Isla Calipha’s management are very bad people, and after disabling the magical device that prevents ships from leaving the bay, the PCs bring down the current leader before they make their escape.

The Book of Laif
Defending the pacifists from the goblins

Following up on a rumor they picked up on Isla Calipha, the PCs set sail for the island of Karnathi in our adventure “The Book of L’aif,” recorded on October 4, 2008 and presented in podcast episodes 14–19. When the PCs arrived on Karnathi, they found a pacifist society being exploited by a gang of goblinoid pirates, led by the bugbear pirate captain Urlglar the Vicious. The villagers revered a legendary hero named L’aif, who laid down his weapons to pursue a life of non-violence. Urlglar wanted to raid the temple of L’aif in order to find relics of L’aif early career as a warrior, but had little success before the Broken Promise arrived at Karnathi. Our heroes drove Urlglar and his gang away from the island, then went on to explore the temple themselves, “retrieving” L’aif’s armor and weapons in the process. The temple did indeed contain a Book of L’aif—a biography of the hero and a summary of his teachings—but it did not yield the Book of Life, the artifact that the PCs were seeking.

Feed the Dead
aka "The (first) one where PvP broke out"

Episodes 20–27 presented our Hallowe’en 2008 adventure, “Feed the Dead,” which we actually played on November 15, 2008. On the night we played our previous adventure, “The Book of L’aif,” the player who ran the rogue Alanso Heslock was absent, so inside the story, Alanso remained behind when the other PCs went to the Karnathi village and then on to the temple of L’aif. At the beginning of “Feed the Dead,” the other PCs learn that Alanso snuck aboard Urlglar’s ship during their absence, that he overheard some of the crew talking about going to a village called Perbendarahaan, and that he planted a corrosive device in the hold of Urlglar’s ship. As the Broken Promise sailed toward Perbendarahaan, they passed the remains of Urlglar’s ship, floating uselessly on the sea with no signs of life. Upon arriving in the village of Perbendarahaan, the PCs participated in a holiday festival that involved symbolically feeding the dead by laying out baskets of food in the local cemetery. Later, as the PCs tried to get some sleep in the square, the symbol became reality as they found themselves attacked by a seemingly endless horde of zombies. Fleeing into the city’s sewers, the PCs spent the night battling gelatinous cubes, otyughs, alligators, and yet stranger beasts. Upon returning to the surface, the PCs surprised me by fighting amongst themselves and then attacking some of the locals, resulting in the death of the sheriff and leaving the paladin Jacques unconscious in the villagers’ care while the PCs, banned from the city, returned to the Broken Promise. I had intended for the PCs to visit this island, have a zombie-themed adventure, then go somewhere else … but they ended up staying on this island for the next three adventures.

A Rite Most Foul
spoiler: turns out everbody's a cultist!

At the end of our previous adventure, Jacques de Villaret lay unconscious in the streets of Perbendarahaan, while the other PCs returned to the Broken Promise. In our adventure “A Rite Most Foul,” recorded on November 29, 2008 and presented in podcast episodes 28 through 36, Jacques’s shipmates learn from the Maepkang, a group of tribesmen indigenous to the island, that the village of Perbendarahaan had been established relatively recently by mysterious outlanders who were digging beneath their city to find some sort of ancient temple dedicated to dark gods. As the PCs dined with the Maepkang elders, word came from the Maepkang’s monkey spies that the villagers had finally broken through into the temple complex, and that they planned to sacrifice Jacques to an ancient evil at the stroke of the next day’s midnight! The Maepkang showed the PCs a mysterious door, inscribed with what looked like a mind flayer’s head, which they believed might provide an alternative route into the underground complex. In fact, the complex was much bigger than anyone supposed, comprising an entire underground city. The PCs survived two ambushes from extradimensional and undead creatures with some sort of interest in the underground city and managed to rescue Jacques from the cultists of Perbendarahaan. Meanwhile, Maepkang warriors captured the village on the surface, and confined its populace within a hastily-constructed barricade.

A trip to the library quickly becomes death-defying platform-leaping

After a long break for the 2008 holiday season, our campaign resumed on January 19, 2009 with “Microcosm,” which aired in podcast episodes 37–42. Exploring the ancient city beneath Perbendarahaan, the PCs chanced upon a mysterious cavern that mirrored the shape of the standard D&D 4e cosmos, with three levitating islands representing the Feywild, the Natural World, and the Shadowfell. On the Feywild rock, the PCs failed to respond properly to a challenge posed by a dryad inexplicably living there, though they managed to defeat the dryad and her myconid companions who apparently defended that platform from unauthorized visitors. Upon searching the island, the PCs found a small stone inscribed with the name “Olathoë.” On the Natural World’s analog in the microcosm cavern, the PCs faced some homunculi guarding a stone gazebo, and found a stone inscribed with the name “N’kai” as well as an eldritch book that turned out to be the campaign world’s version of the Necronomicon, or Book of Death! This book holds vital clues to the whereabouts of its opposite number, the Zoënomicon or Book of Life, the object of the PCs’ overarching quest.

The Doom of Sarnath
or "The one where we [freed an angel who] sunk an island"

Our adventure “The Doom of Sarnath,” recorded on February 6 and 21, 2009, appears in episodes 43–48, the PCs continued their exploration of the microcosm cavern by jumping over to the Shadowfell analogue. Naturally, the PCs failed to give the appropriate countersign to the island’s undead guardian, so a fight ensued. Thereafter, the PCs found another stone, this one inscribed with the words “The Tomb of Yig.” By studying the Necronomicon further, the PCs learned that everything they thought they knew about the origins of their world—the standard D&D 4e Dawn War mythology—was wrong. The gods and primordials had not fought one another at the beginning of the world; rather, the gods and the primordials had banded together to oppose entities that the Necronomicon’s author, Abdul Al-Hazred, characterized as the Great Old Ones. The gods and primordials together succeeded in driving most of these Great Old Ones back to the Far Realm by composing the Ritual of Repulsion, recorded on a scroll that came to be known as the Zoënomicon, and by forging an artifact called the Godslayer Shard to power the ritual. Some of the Great Old Ones or their servitors, however, managed to shatter the Godslayer Shard into six pieces. The pieces themselves were indestructible, but the Old Ones’ servitors hid them around the world before the gods and primordials won their final victory. According to Al-Hazred, some of the Great Old Ones still reside in the material world, sleeping beneath desert sands or at the bottom of the sea, waiting for the day when the stars will realign, reawakening the Great Old Ones in the material world, who can then open the gate for their companions to return from the Far Realm and once again dominate not only the material world, but the astral sea and elemental chaos as well.

After leaving the microcosm cavern and exploring the city further, the PCs found the city mostly to be abandoned, though a hive of hungry kruthiks—which Lithian had heard scrabbling around in their tunnels, mistaking them for rats in the walls—did ambush the PCs. In a large fortress complex, however, the PCs made another startling discovery. Although most of the prisoners had long since died or been taken away, one remained: the angel Vrandelia, an exarch of Io and a combatant in the true dawn war. Years of isolation had driven Vrandelia insane, though she managed to give the PCs some valuable information and a few magic items. Jacques managed to free the angel’s spirit from its tether to the remains of her body, upon which Vrandelia immediately began destroying the city, bringing it down around the PCs! Most of the PCs managed to make it back to the surface, but Dra’kith, the Dragonborn Warlord, was buried in the rubble.

City of the Pirate Kings
A bar fight leads to new party members and sinking a ship

In the spring of 2009, the Stormhaven campaign went on a long hiatus while we playtested material from Player’s Handbook 3. We resumed on May 30, 2009 with our adventure “City of the Pirate Kings.” You can hear this adventure in episodes 49–53. Looking for some R&R, the Broken Promise sailed into the harbor of a town marked on the maps the PCs took from a library in Perbendarahaan as Chilangogo. The locals, however, call it “Scalabar.” On their first night in Scalabar, the PCs got involved in a bar fight, spent the night in jail, and then found themselves entangled in a web of intrigue involving a murder at the center of a rivalry between a gang of crocodilian humanoid pirates, the kroola, led by the self-styled Pirate-King King, and a gang of goblinoid pirates led by—you guessed it!–the PCs’ old foe Urlglar the Vicious. Near the end of this adventure, the PCs boarded a vessel they believed to be Urlglar’s flagship, and defeated its defenders—or at least the first wave of its defenders.

Clash with the Pirate Kings
Our heroes sunk the wrong ship and Lithian issues an Arrow of Friendship

On June 5, 2009, we recorded the second adventure in what you might come to think of as our “Scalabar Trilogy.” Episodes 54–59 present that adventure, “Clash with the Pirate Kings.” The adventure began with the PCs still aboard a bugbear pirate ship moored in Scalabar harbor. Thinking it to be Urlglar’s flagship, the PCs searched the ship, trying to find the map that Urlglar’s rival, Kap’n Kruncha, believed Urlglar’s men had stolen from his own flunky, Old Sharkey. The adventurers did not find the treasure map, but they did liberate some loot and one captive, a Asiatic-looking elf who remained comatose through the entire encounter.

Just as the PCs were ready to abandon the pirate ship, the Research Unit of the QWRTH Institute, whom the PCs had met back in the adventure “Feed the Dead,” stepped out of a mystic portal. This time, however, it appeared to be in great distress, and was being pursued by a pack of fell taints. The appearance of the Research Unit and the fell taints ignited another battle which raged around the adventurers while they tried to escape from the boat they had set aflame.

Separated from their newest ally, S3rv0, the crew of the Broken Promise and their hired guide Zebith made land and hid overnight in the woods outside Scalabar. Upon examining the loot they had taken from the pirate ship, they learned that they had scuttled not Urlglar’s ship the Wavegouger, as they had hoped, but the Headreaver, commanded by his chief underboss, Captain Gnash. Meanwhile, Scalabar had gone into “lockdown” mode as soon as pirate-on-pirate violence was suspected. While attempting to make contact with a group of indigenous caravaners, the PCs ignited a conflict among themselves that spread to a fight against a group of Scalabar guardsmen. This adventure ended with four such guardsmen lying dead on the road to scalabar, about a mile from town—the last of whom managed to blow out a warning call on his horn before expiring.


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