Normally, when I plan a campaign, I plan big arcs. I think about what the final destination is, and maybe a few points along the way, but I let the players determine the path to get there. A few years ago, I had a story arc planned that I was calling “The Temple of the Four Winds.” It would end with the party making a journey to the elusive temple in the clouds to change the course of the world’s trade winds. I wrote up an introduction to the arc with the intention of emailing it to my group, but we never got that far. Since then, it’s been sitting on my hard drive doing nothing for anyone. I’ve decided to release it into the wild in the hopes that someone will find some use for it, even if it’s only a small bit of inspiration. To give you a complete picture, here are a few other “milestones” I had in mind for the arc that you are free to use or discard:
- The PCs would have to find a mapmaker who could make them a map showing the temple’s location. Because the temple is located in the clouds, its location is always changing. Therefore, this would be a very special mapmaker who would make a very magical map.
- The map would require some special materials/items to make that the PCs would have to locate, and probably do some dungeon delving to retrieve.
- There was going to be some challenges in actually getting to the temple; maybe having to locate flying mounts or some item that would let the party fly. (I never came up with anything specific for this one)
- It was originally set in the Forgotten Realms, so you will see references to Fearun and Baldur’s Gate.
Again, the following was meant to be emailed or handed out at the end of a session so that players could read it at their leisure. Enjoy!
As evening falls, young woman in Acolyte robes approaches you.
“The rumors are true,” she says, bowing, “there are adventurers in town. The timing must be from the gods. Please, follow me, the oracle has much to tell you.”
The evening grows darker as you are led through winding streets to a small temple on the outskirts of town. Nestled between two houses, the tiny “building” consists of a floor, four pillars and a roof. It is so small that, if you had not been led here, you may have walked right past it, and it bears no markings of a specific diety or religion. It is lit by a single brazier that casts deep flickering shadows. In the center of the building, an old man sits cross legged on the floor. Before him sits a large basin of water. He faces straight ahead with eyes closed, as if in a trance, and does not acknowledge your arrival.
“Please,” says the young acolyte, motioning to the basin, “look into the water.”
You see colorless images flash across the surface:
A man strides briskly out of a building, casting a quick glance over his shoulder. He tucks something into his cloak and draws his hood as he calmly blends into the passing foot traffic. Seconds later, two men exit the same building with panicked looks on their faces. They pause on the doorstep and frantically look left and right, scanning the passing pedestrians. Something is said by one, and they turn in opposite directions, pushing their way through the people, still scanning for whatever it is they’re looking for. The scene fades.
You see the thief again, this time sitting in a tavern at a long communal table, having a meal. He eats slowly, and seems to be focused upon two men speaking intently at the bar, rather than the other diners pressed in all around him. The two men at the bar are both dressed regally, and seem somewhat out of place in the scene. One of them pounds his fist on the bar, angrily says something as he points at the other, and strides out. The thief grabs his cloak and exits moments later, leaving his meal half-eaten. The dirty young boy in the next seat watches him as he goes, looks around, and scrapes the half eaten food onto his own plate. The scene fades.
It is night. The thief walks briskly down the street, deftly avoiding the sparse foot traffic at this hour. He turns off the street and down a dead end alley. He pauses for a moment to watch the alley entrance. Satisfied that he has not been followed, he retrieves a hunk of chalk from his cloak and begins to draw a circle on the ground. His lips move imperceptibly as though he is talking to himself, or perhaps reciting an incantation. He scribes a strange rune in the middle of the circle. The circle and rune begin to glow faintly, and the thief smiles to himself. Stepping into the glowing circle, he pulls out a small clay amulet from around his neck. It too is glowing faintly. The man crouches down, lays the amulet on the rune, and stands back up. His lips begin to move again as he raises his foot and crushes the amulet under his heel. There is a flash of light. When the brilliance fades, the man is gone, and all that is left is a poorly drawn, mundane circle of chalk with a strange rune in it.
Slowly, colors bleed into the images, and the surface of the water stirs briefly, as though there were a slight breeze.
You see the thief again, but this time the environment around him seems… foreign. The dress, the architecture, the mannerisms – all these things are unfamiliar in the scene. He is standing in a courtyard, waiting. A man in a black breastplate and a bright yellow cloak approaches him. They clasp forearms, and begin talking. The thief is animated, and seems to be telling a story or explaining something. Then, he reaches into his cloak, and hands over a yellowed scroll. The man opens it, and slowly reads its contents. A smile spreads across his face, and the two men walk towards the entrance to a castle on the far side of the square. The scene fades.
The following scenes are quick and a bit fuzzy around the edges, but still in full color. You see an army amassing, supplies being moved, a nation preparing for war. Then a beach with an army camped nearby. There are hundreds of ships moored near the shore, and then you notice small boats ferrying the army from the beach to the ships, little by little.
You see a city burning, an army slaying men, women, and children. The crest of Baldur’s Gate lies on the ground, in flames.
The images fade from the water, and it is still again.
The old man’s eyes snap open, and he looks up at you. They are milky white, as though he is blind. Perhaps he is. “The winds have changed,” he whispers. Slowly, his head bows over the basin as if he sees an image there that you do not.
The acolyte nods in agreement. “The colorless images you saw were the past. They cannot be changed. The colored images you saw were a mixture of the present and a possible future, if events proceed uninterrupted.”
Another voice speaks from the shadows. “It is important to understand what the images mean.” A man wearing officer’s armor of the army of Baldur’s Gate steps into the light. With his hands clasped behind his back, he begins to explain.
“For many years now, we have known there existed lands other than Faerun on Toril. Many have ventured into the Unapproachable East, and so we know much about those lands. However, not many have ventured to the lands across theTrackless Sea to the west, and returned. We do know that a race of barbaric humanoids live there, though not much else. We have come to call them The Unknowns. It was unclear whether they knew of our existence, until now. The colorless past you witnessed was one of the Unknowns, a spy, gathering information in Baldur’s Gate. We also know of other spies that have ventured deeper into Faerun. You also saw an army being gathered, so their intentions are clearly not diplomatic. We cannot ascertain exact numbers, but our best guess is that their invading army numbers in the hundreds of thousands.”
The man looks at the acolyte, and then back to you.
“Faerun could stand against such an army, depending upon several factors – could we convince all the countries of the threat? Could we convince them to band together? Who would cut through all the politics and lead such a force? Even if all these variables could be brought into alignment, many lives would be lost in the ensuing war. Therefore, what we seek is an answer to our problem that is more elegant than brute force.”
The man pauses, and looks at you pointedly.
“The oracle is correct when he says that the winds have changed, and the implications of his words chill me. For about a year now, the shoremen, sailors, and merchants of Baldur’s Gate have noticed a shift in the pattern of the winds from blowing generally westerly to generally easterly. This means that the invading force of Unknowns would have a wind at their back. Instead of being baffled by headwinds, the winds would bring them right to our shores, and quickly too. But what if we were to change the direction of the winds to blow westerly again, and at the same time strengthen them? This could have several consequences. The invading force could be blown off course, and die at sea. The invading force could arrive sporadically, allowing our armada to intercept and sink their ships one at a time. Or perhaps the presence of westerly winds would simply discourage their invasion altogether. After all, we conjecture that the shift in winds was what brought the spies to us in the first place. In any case, all the scenarios for shifting the winds are in our favor.”
The young woman speaks. “I know what you are thinking. ‘Changing the direction of the winds across the entire world? Madness!’
It is not widely known, but there is a way to change the direction of the winds. I do not know why the gods have deemed to change the winds, but if we are to change them back, you must go to the Temple of the Four Winds. Legend tells that in the temple, there exists a wheel, or a compass, that controls the direction and strength of the winds. Unfortunately, I have never been there, and I cannot tell you where it is. Its location is as fickle as the winds themselves, and it never stays in one place for long.”
She reaches into her robes and pulls out two vials – one is full of black liquid, and the other, green. “Find the mad mapmaker, and give him these. Guard them with your lives, for they were obtained at great cost, and we would be too late to succeed if we had to obtain more. The mapmaker can use them to create a map capable of revealing the Temple’s location at any given time. I do not know the full ritual for creating the map, so he may require more materials. I only ask that you obtain them as quickly as possible, as time is of the essence.” She then hands you a small copper bowl. “Fill this with water every evening and look into it. It might allow you to see what the oracle is seeing. We may also be able to speak to one another, though I am not always successful at those types of magic.” She looks down, embarrased. “May the gods protect you.”
The man takes a step towards the door and motions for you to follow. “Come, I have horses waiting. You must leave tonight.”