Lodestar is an odd beast. Telling a story live for two years across thousands of words online, and scores of tabletop games it’s easy to get lost in the thickets. At least I know I often did, and at least nominally I was in charge of the story. Killervp asked for some Lodestar related blather, so I’m obliging. These are 5 things that the players either never knew, didn’t notice, or never encountered. Some of these are missed plotlines, or NPC backstories — or just things that I thought about a lot in the shower, but never actually mentioned in-game. Now that I had some time and distance from the story, here are a few things way back in the freezer of Lodestar.
1. The Precursor Homeworld
Oh, man. This was going to be amazing. Admittedly, this was part of the ‘Machine Unleashed’ end of Act 3. [More on that later in the list.] After a few failed attempts to defeat the Machine, the crew of the Lodestar was going to discover a hidden cache of Precursor knowledge [through clues in the sadly neglected Arkanic Computer, Carbunkle.] and discover Teon’s notes reconstructing the route back to the homeworld, along with the Song of Change that would have finally unlocked the Lodestar’s sleeping heart/psyche. [LEVEL FIVE!!!] The whole ship was going to gain an Interstellar Travel Mode in epic Flight of the Navigator fashion and the crew would have gone on last ditch quest across the stars.
There they would have encountered the Dark, the nebulous force of ultimate evil that forced the Arkanics to flee to Aufero. I don’t know what it is, but it scares the shit out of me — so, definitely nasty. Making their way through a shattered planet, finding lost technology and twisted Precursor-spawn — fleeing from the ultimate negation, the destroyer of all. They would have no chance of defeating it, but would have found something that allowed them to defeat the Machine. A glimpse into the larger cosmic battle beyond their own world — and foreshadowing for the next tale in Aufero.
2. Shadar Logoth
Ah. My unabashed crib from the Wheel of Time series. In Jordan’s first book, it’s a lost city filled to the brim with an ancient evil. In middle school, it really fascinated me, so I wanted to have it in my game world.
Immediately after the crew saved Talitha from the Shadow Knight in Brom, they had to deal with the temporarily-riderless and wounded Giant Roc, Bird. The druid managed to tend the creature’s wounds through and pulled a sizable stone chunk out of one of the bird’s wounds. A quick inspection revealed that it was overloaded with negative energy, a clue that the party could investigate to lead them to Shadar Logoth. They would have found an open conduit into the Umbral Plane, and the remnants of Izus’ battle with a large manifestation of shadow creatures. The players didn’t really miss much, but it was an opportunity to learn a lot more about the Plane of Shadow much earlier in the campaign.
And, of course there would have been a dagger with a ruby in the pommel.
3. Enton Blake, Scion of the Neclord
Early in the campaign, I ran a ‘murder mystery’ adventure styled around Murder on the Orient Express. The main point of it was to introduce a new antagonistic group, the Seafoam Trading Company. The somewhat-evil multi-national conglomerate that controlled most airship and naval commerce in Aufero. There were about eight red herring suspects, and unfortunately I made the clue to who was the real killer too hard to notice. So, they had their ‘drawing room scene’ and accused one of the Vice Presidents of Seafoam with the crime under the evidence that he was an evil dick. He was evil, and they had a good fight — but he wasn’t the killer.
The real killer was that guy’s nebbish secretary, Enton Blake. I wrote a ‘confession‘ of sorts here on the blog several months later. And he was a vampire.
If they had uncovered the true killer, it would have served two purposes.
It was a neat link to the old campaign that spawned this game world. The Neclord was a master vampire who nearly toppled an entire country with his schemes. The old heroes had quite a time dealing with him, so I liked the nod to the old campaign.
Enton was the only Scion remaining — the only Child of Zed to survive the purge by the Forces of Light. His mission in life was to keep his existence a secret, as he slowly prepared over many, many decades the return of the vampires. Not quite sure whether he was going to resurrect the Neclord, or BECOME THE NECLORD HIMSELF. MWAHAHA.
Hey, you know what? It can still happen! Thanks, heroes!
4. Nyver Moonbeam and Jan Wise.
Sometimes you have a really cool backstory for an NPC or villain.
Sometimes you are just about to open your mouth, and lay down some narrative jazz and blow the players’ minds.
Sometimes the players kill that NPC or villain. Right. Before. The. Reveal.
Early in their career, the Lodestar crew did some work for a local crime lord in the city of Flenelle, a Dark Elf known as Nyver Moonbeam. They uncovered the edges of some sort of nefarious plot he was hatching, and decided they needed to take him down. They enlisted the aid of an alcoholic ranger named Martin Wise, who had a serious grudge against the crime lord.
When the party went to face Nyver, it was in the wreck of an abandoned galley that had been turned into a saloon. He had a female bard chained to the wall, forcing her to sing for him in between intermittent bouts of torture. The barbarian freed her, but they wouldn’t learn much about her until later.
As mentioned, the party made quick work of the nefarious Dark Elf. The only little nugget of the backstory I managed was his dying words to the ranger.
“You know I really loved her.” Nyver sighed.
“It don’t mean a damn.” Martin Wise replied. “And you know that too.”
So, yeah. Here’s the big backstory. Martin’s daughter, Jan fell in with Nyver early in his career. She was his lieutenant, and eventually his lover. The wrinkle was that the dark elf had a predeliction for causing pain, an inescapable compulsion. Jan allowed herself to receive the brunt of his abuse in an attempt to help him work through the condition. I don’t think she enjoyed it, but she was a willing participant.
Enter her father, the renowned ranger and adventurer, Martin Wise. He rolls into town and finds
bruises and scars on his little girl, and immediately commences to tracking down her villainous boyfriend. An epic duel erupts, Jan gets caught in the middle, she dies.
Ironically, much of Nyver’s sado-masochistic leaning is broken in this event. He still feels the compulsion, but then he will see Jan’s face on his victims and stop. His bard prisoner had some clues to the effect.
Martin started drinking, and didn’t stop. He even sunk to the level of taking odd jobs from Nyver’s growing criminal syndicate to make ends meet. He had some ale-soaked thoughts about working his way close enough to the dark elf to get revenge, but they didn’t amount to much.
5. The World of the Machine
The other way the last half of the campaign could have gone. The entire first arc of the game involves the discovery of the Shadow Plane — and some sort of being trapped within that is frantically trying to break into our world. Through travel and investigation the Lodestar crew learn that the trapped entity is a giant machine, built by the Precursors to destroy the evil that filled their homeworld. In typical Frankenstein fashion, they made it a wee bit too powerful. A large portion of the race’s population sacrificed themselves to create the Shadow Plane and imprison the machine.
The big moment at the end of Act 3 hinged on two options. Will the heroes stop the Machine from breaking free, or will it run amuck across the globe?
To my chagrin, the heroes succeeded.
But, oh. The Machine. It was going to be so freaking sweet. Just stomping its way across the world, crushing cities to dust. The party was going to need to ally themselves with Seafoam [and maybe the devils and Izus] to even have a chance to survive long enough to get to the next leg of the adventure.
I just loved the idea of spending over a year building all these communities, cities and countries — then pulverizing them. Admittedly, the 13 Day War that came later did just as good, but it was going to be a giant robot!
A GIANT ROBOT, PEOPLE.