User:Cedric/Rise of Tiamat
Rise up or bow down. Searing heat and burning brimstone hang in the air of the caldera, the abode of the YOWE of Dragons (rhymes with WOW or Tao. "YOWE" is the name for a unisex Queen/King entity; that is, when it is both Queen and King -- higher than both genders alone and united). The bones of crushed foes are its grave-yard, some of them looming overhead, turtled on their back as skeletons 50 ft high. The air is dead, there is no life around here, insects maybe. You hear only yourself -- even the stealthiest hear each fine grain of dirt underneath their feet (if walking).
The air is dead, nothing in the way of sounds at all, leaving a lingering sense of dread -- like no one wants to be here, except you of course. "Maybe you shouldn't be here," you think, but then, .......nothing seems to be stopping you.
The caldera looms below with it`s multicolored rock burned in different temperatures far ages ago. The trail is seen that leads to the cathedral where Tiamat sleeps, or does yowe? It is said that dragons don't experience day and night like mortals. That they rest with an ear out for any sound at all. ...perhaps it has already heard you or heard through you. With such an ancient beast there's no way to tell if your own hearing was made by theirs longer ago than anyone could remember. It is here you must assess whether you have come the right direction, whether you're truly ready to face the dragons that Tiamat represents. There's no tricking this one. Tiamat comes from an Age before magic, and survived with such antics far quicker than any mortal reflex. So, like Dirty Harry you have to ask yourself: Do you feel lucky?
To some, whether you take down Tiamat is irrelevant, the challenge is to come close. Pay no mind to the label of "QUEEN OF EVIL DRAGONS" to the multi-headed monster -- that's just a trick by the commoners to get you to fight it. Do you think they know the lore of dragons and their SEX!?! I can tell you that eggs are laid by a unisex form on the basis of need. You know, it's all to rile you up, so that YOU take the chance and fight her/him/it (nay: yowe). Maybe, it's even a subtle hatred of women in the realm made them use the female gender, who knows? But if humans with genitalia can be called the opposite gender because of their feelings, you can be damn sure you don't know the pronoun to be used on a dragon.
There's always some non-zero chance of learning some epic piece of knowledge, arcana, or some new experience. It's a little like taunting bigger boys than you at the park just for the chase, but these "boys" are dragons. There's some non-zero chance you'll die, too. That's always a fun challenge. Do you even know if they act as one, or does each head have their own personality? <shakes head>
Anyway, this campaign represents an epic finale culminating several months or years of gameplay. Depending on how that gameplay went and what it acheived will determine what the multi-headed dragon will look like and it`s temperament. There are 8-12 heads to choose from (fix this), and there will always be at least 3 present (never more than 8), one of which will have some non-neutral relationship to one of the players, arising as a challenge or ?? to the player.
What heads appear are dependent on the reasons your players find themselves there. Have aggression? Then the red head. Purity of heart? Then, the purple. If the gods have engaged the beast, then these are playing out through time, not just the local encounter at the moment you appear before the Well of Dragons.
Each different head has a single-syllablic name (Tiamat, then, represents three heads, of a configuration with Blue, Red, and White dominant..>???, Bahumut another three, one of which is in common with Tiamat ("maht": the blue head)). That leaves many different scenarios of game play. For example, if players did not free Thunderchaud from the Underdark (a Red Dragon), then there will be no red dragon on the multiheaded foe. ONLY dominant heads have/get names.
Sample encounter. We have a LVL 21 dragonborn rogue M, a LVL 30 fighter M, a LVL 40 human mage "Xavier Istvalen" M, a LVL 29 human barbarian F, and a LVL25 dragonborn mage M. A pretty strong group, wouldn't you say?. Let's find out how it goes...
- You approach the Well, some 50ft across above a high, cathedral-like ceiling. Coins are scattered about on the floor -- offerings probably for the beast, from people who have formed a relationship with it. Your rogue thinks, perhaps, that he should slip a few of the shiny flecks, but nah, he's too tight and wired to risk stooping down and missing a possible bit of data (well-trained from his days of growing up the street). Xavier (the mage with the mask) steps up the lip of the rune-lined well and … (must look at the campaign and come back later.)
with his leather boot kicks one of the coins down into the well -- you weren't just here to turn back, right? A faint murmer is heard, as if the beast wonders to bother or not, yet the gears of the universe have spun into motion as soon as you stepped foot past the threshold, even it cannot turn away from the fate that has lead to this encounter.
- Stirring up it flies up the well which the mage listens acutely, to know how distant the beast actually is (estimated 150-200ft down) and flying rapidly. The mage is your dragonmancer and knows that the lizard is trained to see any sudden movements as threats, so cannot even back down if he wanted to. He donned the dragonmask once stepping up on the lip of the well and now he'll see if the mask was worth the price.
- Tiamat breeches the edge of the well and the red head flares back to breathe a line of brimstone-smelling fire as if rock itself were burning inside it -- a message from the beast, announcing it`s present level of agitation. The rest of the heads are looking around in all directions to see what level of threat they have to deal with, showing enough flare as to ward off any attempts at pre-emptive strikes from their puny magic. LVL 20 magic won't do much to any of the heads. The mage stands their, unafraid, perhaps a feature of the mask -- the voice in his head asking if is it enchanting him for sacrifice or does it carry in its mass the weight of the history of mortal and dragon interaction, creating a charismatic calm over him. In any case, he sees clearly, from the back of the depths of his eyes, as if the whole soul were assessing the situation. The urgency of the moment keeps him from thinking further on it, for he knows that the dragons don't have patience in such a situation. He must be ready to make his stand right there and begin the dialog before the beast takes the moment away from him.
- He makes a gesture with his hands, showing his fearlessness and reserve, his presence to negotiate, to listen. While they had encountered dragons before, something about five heads and the sheer size of the beast seems to dominate the whole moment in ways that no preparation could have anticipated -- as if Time itself was held in abeyance across the whole of the realm -- just to handle this situation, which to be sure involves a large set of the powers of the realms itself. His friends beside him are stupefied and seemed to have already dropped a load in their pants. Unlike in battle, where having multitudes of LVL20 people increases the STRength, a party is only as WISe as it`s highest-level member (barring some blessed intervention from the gods).
Does this party have the moxy? No dragon that's survived more than one Age is going to impressed by the moxy of a band of "warriors". No, what the beast needs is not moxy -- at least none that has ever been demonstrated by even the strongest and most courageous of wo/men (yaow), but something else. Something of respect. Not the simpleminded respect a commoner gives a warrior, nor even the respect a fael member gives their king or queen, but the respect a devout cleric gives to a god. That's about as close as the bard can describe, yet there is another level beyond that. Yes, this is the level that is required for perfect results: that one has cleansed away all that is impure within oneself, and is ready to stand to face their death eye-to-eye in order that they may face their life: by getting Death itself to let them pass by RAOW. Such an act would usher in another era, but that is neither here nor there.
What any party needs is an aggregated wisdom so to make an encounter intelligible and rewarding enough with beasts that cannot even speak their language. So called "draconic" should not be considered a spoken language, but a somatic one -- the art of the "dragon whisperer". The combined ability to use gesture and whatever else may communicate the exact tone of emotional reality that co-evolved between humans and the dragons. A subtle art, as the tones of an ancient dragon are not easily gathered by any mortal. It takes years -- even with a dragon ally. Think of all of the subtle experiences you've had that defined who you are now. This dragon has about a 100x more of them. It is this which is the language. So, the only true path is from the Dragonborn and the act of kolinahr.
Without said wisdom, the encounter is not likely to end well. Either the beast won't be sufficiently intrigued by your actions, or it will be sufficiently annoyed to give you.... well, if I tell you I'd be going against the stat block of the campaign book and it's their story after all. But if you DID try to force it to stir just for your personal "adventuring satisfaction", let you hereby be warned now and forever after, that such encounters have always ended, shall we say... ABRUPTLY.
The rogue came for the bragging rights of having stepped up in its own home territory and lived (let's hope?), yet they've put their trust in the objects of power they've managed to gather, believing that the material plane can generate value for the dragon, who existed before the land's creation. The other possible flaw is how they let themselves be swept up in the politics of the situation without being the master of it.
- This all somehow enters their head, for they realized they didn't have sh*t to say and there was no chance in this hell to win. They relied on their trust of the mage for that and their own connection to fortitude. That their mage companion better know what the F they're doing, because they had no teleport spell prepared. While the mage was intelligent, the focus on finding the dragon blinds him to what happens to his other companions during the encounter. The gesture tells the dragon as much, and a bond is made, tentatively. The mage attempts to communicate in the inner planes to the dragon's heart. That he is here to reveal that he and his companions are here on a mission merely to demonstrate a willingness to cooperate but are available to <tinyvoice>listen, too</tinyvoice>. The black head suddenly looks over at his companion. And the white head understands the situation completely.
Suddenly, the party is nervous. A small shaft of light peeks in and lights up a column of the dust that has stirred since the party has entered the inner sanctum of Tiamat. The gods, sensing the tension of the situation, enter in at this point. They now must consider the fool-situation that these humans/humanoids have gotten into (arcana break: the point in which the party is nervous is the exact point in which the gods share -- the root or base of the spine and body, right at the gonads, boss) They pause, not because they have to think, mind you, but because of the utter boredom of the behavior of dullards who assume that they can waltz right into the kingdom of an ancient beast and not be considered "easy-picken's". So, once again, the gods must rouse and consider their options, with some prejudice. Do they ignore them out of their own overworked sense of justice or should they show "compassion" to keep the esteem of the mortals? They decide a middle ground -- they teleport the rogue and barbarian to a hell-hole in the Underdark: Gracklstugh city(?), where a red dragon, Thunderchaud, is in chains. And the mage is transported to an undisclosed location to think about what he's done, toying with a power he didn't understand and also getting swept up into groundless political problems of Faerun. In any event, perhaps they will all find the way to get the dragon out (the gods reason), so that STRength can continue evolving with virtue instead of this barbaric land of Faerun without the wisdom of the dragons to reign it in.
- Alas, the level that the mage needed was about 50 or more in order to sustain an encounter that was, to be sure, unsolicited, leaving a WAY to much ambiguity in such an unplanned visit between the two beings. The mage was simply not advanced enough to know how to fill in the gap, leaving the beast to do it for him. Unfortunately, the efforts of Red Wizards and others have agitated Tiamat, making this little interaction a little.... heated. and because they are using arcane tricks in order to subdue the beast it lashes out at once from three different heads, disabling the crew, leaving the mask to fall to the ground. The gods ensured that a fragment of a robe caught the metal mask so as to prevent it from losing its shape and await the next encounter. Tiamat or the soul that animates it had long since concluded that a high probability was eminent that an encounter would appear, yet the preparations were not in order. Did they die or did they get a greater teleport spell and got saved? It seems this part of the story is unanswered....
In order to pacify a 5 headed ancient dragon you have to have 5 different kingdoms in order. But the rest of that story will have to be told another time.
- Meanwhile, with the party toast, and left to the scavengers of the place (much of it the air itself), the mask sits there at the edge gleaming -- waiting for the next adventurous soul to step near....
When Tiamat starts making movements in the realms, you can be sure that the people are doing something wrong. Perhaps it's misuse of magic, perhaps leaders are killing the innocents too much, or maybe fouling the waters and forests. You don't hear of dragons setting forests ablaze, now, do you? Just villages and people. It's just a little divine payback.
This campaign is written wrong in the books. Look at that front cover. See that little wizard/warlock in the lower right-hand corner (I call him Aegwareth)? Yeah, I think each of those heads is about... a level 65 and could take you out in one round. You know this because of all of the detail and flair that accompany the size of the monster: the glowing eyes, the breath and other legendary effects. You don't get to be a legend at level 30. That was a trick of the gods to get us closer to it and learn more about it. If you had an immune system that took the form of a dragon, maybe you'd want to take a closer look at it, too.
Tiamat existed before Time and lives outside of it. It arose before the evolution of gender, so it is not properly a female nor a male. There are a 100 ways to meet Tiamat and finish the game without killing it, but a million more that will end in your, perhaps untimely, death.
So what's a person to do? Ditch all the clan-gathering and such and go with the dragon cult? Then you can become a dragon whisperer, a dragon mage. Because unknown to the players, the dragon's are serving a divine purpose. Whether there is a divination that can find it for you, is yet to be determined and requires coordination with the WotC.
The multi-headed dragon's not going to talk, you have to speak in gestures: subtle body mechanics that speak to the dragon and then "listen" for the somatics of Tiamat's response.
I'd imagine something like this. Firstly, there has to be a player that has at least level 40 dragon-blood. Then, the player has to know how to summon the dragon and then how to get the dragons attention/trust before the ingrained reflexes want to cut you down and take you out. It takes mastery of holding attention. This is something you must do with the eyes. Too many slip-ups and the dragon will either decide to leave, letting you come back when you're not an imbecile, or will take you out because you didn't have the relationship requried with the dragon to actually summon it.
This campaign should be a culmination after both Ice Queen AND Princes of the Apocalypse is tacked. It a major epic story arc which would take players to level 50 and beyond, and years to build-up and play. It would herald a new age. But the goal shouldn't necessarily be seen as the take-down of Tiamet. It's true purpose could be, for example, to find the One Ring -- the Ring that was snatched before it hit the fires of Sauron's furnace. You must get the Ring before Xonthal gets it.
Consider Tiamat a level 100 adventure that sits atop 2x50 level adventures (HotDQ and PotA, +Abyssal character Drzz't Dourden), which sit atop 4x25 level adventures and so forth. It's like a giant tree structure of mechanics that are required to get everything right. You effectively need to round up the whole realm -- that's 1000s of miles each direction. You're free to go straight to the dragon though, if you're impatient -- but you won't defeat it. Drzz't is the only character who knows how to speak to Tiamat (see dragons for dragonwhispering).
The Tower of Xochitl (Xonthal) is not meant to be approached. That is the meaning of the hedges. The tower is for a mage working with the powers of the dragons (Mordenkainen?), probably calling them to rain some doom. They are a test, otherwise there'd simply be an magic shield. The tower is the representation of Isengaard in the LotR -- an abode and stronghold for a hyper-intelligent wizard. The hedges entangle the players if they attempt to push through them, trapping them in brambles or dull their weapons at the injustice if they try to cut them. Players will have to navigate the hedges (a hellish task designed to tell them they're not ready for further advancement) or realize that the campaign is too tough for their PLEM.
If Tiamat rises, it will have a number of heads that is related to how wrong the world has gotten. The more wrong, the more heads -- up to 7. Also, you'll have to video link to play by at one of the heads in order to defeat it. That implies huge amounts of setup is needed just to get to Tiamat. I don't mean your video feed -- I mean the game universe will require huge amounts of buy-in just to get close (short cut: TPK). Keep in mind, they'll be protecting the whole fantasy universe.
Each head gets a round. So, choose wisely.... One doesn't just approach Tiamat like some dungeons and dragons adventure party. ;^>
The hedge maze is a test to weed out those who are inadequate. Basically the DM uses the sundial as a way to get the player's under his control. Then, the DM takes the role of the wizard of the tower, in an ultimate match between other DM groups in tournament play.
Well of Dragons
The ultimate dread-hook: the abode of a dragon. Will you step up to its edge? Tiamat (usually) sleeps about 100 yards down. Just peering over the rim is a risk. Were you stealthy enough? Are you going to call out it's name or what's your plan?
DM notes: At the bottom of the well are four masonic archways (each with a symbol of Chinese alchemy above? it?). One has lava, one has mud, one enters the plane of sky/storm, the other ???. It is not known whether these symbols are stable and fixed or whether they change.
With different names for each dragon color, there are many different endings and interactions possible. Each head has a yin name (and appearance) and a yang name (and appearance). The YIN names often will have horns. The yang name sometimes has a single horn at the snout. Horns could signify dominance in that head, but the knowledge is still being divined by Xavier/Cedric.
When the dragon is protecting it's land, the head is yang. When the universe (including ours) is protecting the realm, the head is "YIN".
When evil is dominating over good, choose the yang (Man>GOD) name. When laxity is dominating in a quadrant, entropy starts forming and threatens the order of the land. In this case, those the YIN name (YHVH>Man). Yin, despite the feminine associations is not the weaker, it is merely an ordering to life itself.
So the first name shows when evil or destruction is in excess while the second name comes when the basic (atomic-level) order is lacking creating ennui in the lands. (all names tentative for now)
- Albino dragon (rare): W(t)izd (Tao) shows up when people just want to kill dragons or at a boundary (transitional) area between when Yowe wants to interact with our (real-life) world.
- Red: Raz (Man>God), Thran (God>Man), Raz might appear, for example, when PCs choose evil over good (hurting commoners, for example). Thran, would not appear, but when man is being weak.
- Orange: Han (Man>God), Neh (God>Man)
- Yellow: Ba or
- Green: Ya (YIN), Yah (Yang)
- Blue: (YIN) Shə or just (Man>God) uh (or the "a" in Ti-a-mat); the schwa: Ə
- Purple: Mut (YANG), Pad (YIN); YANG or "Mut", if you're destroying the RPG arch-purpose; "Pad", if you're destroying creativity (YIN)
- Black: Qah (Goddess>man), hatred from the animals
- You don't want to take out Tiamat until you're ready to close down D&D itself, that's some estimated 20-30 years into the future -- about the time when they close down sports lolz. Until then, there are many interactions to be made, from learning to speak with dragons, advanced arcana about magic (like marrying fire + water), being wiser than a bludgeoning fool, developing political acumen, understanding of the gods, finding hidden pockets of intrigue that only the dragons know about, etc.
- Under the Well of Dragons, there is a 100+ mile long tunnel, ending in stone arch-work at the Dark Lake from where Tiamat slakes it`s thirst every once in awhile.
- The ultimate way to play this, is for tournaments. Xonthal is a test to get the DMs to be pitted against each other in a wizard's war where the player's are like the arms and head of the DM's player character. This decides which party gets to visit the Well of Dragons.
- Little does the campaign book say, but the dragon mask offers no advantage to handling the dragon -- it is purely at the service of the gods who made it so that YOU would respect the dragons. Lo and behold the poor soul who wanders into the Well of Dragons thinking the dragonmask makes Tiamat its friend. (Burnt to a crisp, charred to the very core.) He didn't believe in the gods.
- The winner of these battles gets pitted in the ultimate confrontation with the Tiamat. But to win there is a master plan that would span 3 years of game play. But in the end, the prize would close up 40 years of the game.
- This is the grande finale of the whole D&D canon. It is not expected for anyone to finish this campaign for 20-50 years. By finish, i mean getting the experience, wisdom, constitution, and power to actually, well, I won't spoil it for you.... But may it suffice to say that finishing this campaign finishes D&D itself -- meaning the whole world of epic fantasy comes to grand ending. You earn the title "Ultimate Braven Warrior". What world will wait after that will surely be something more than dread suburbia and strip malls. May it be a world of enchanted forests, beautiful maidens, noble men, and magic.
- A good DM helps the dragons see through the game into the player's soul and re-presents them -- for they represent the four corners of the game universe (four heads) as well as boundaries of the universe-at-large (up to four others as well, but then your ass is toast in the real world), so can use us and peer into our world at times, when appropriate to hold the order of each.
- At the bottom of the Well of Dragons, beyond the portal to the muddy corridor that leads to a Dark Lake, you encounter a ragged man stuck in the mud. His bones are sticking out, but he can talk, barely. You find out that he's the mad arab, that character running for his life around in the tales of H.P.Lovecraft and necronomicon. He MIGHT give you his journal holding the codes to madness immunity.