Hello all! Welcome back to Always Split the Party. I am, as before, Jim the DM.
I was preparing for the second session of my Storm King’s Thunder campaign, and I figured I would take a moment to post a quick overview of the setup I am using for the campaign. It’s a short overview of the various factions, major quests, plot points and characters that I have in the campaign. I run through a way the story could go (emphasis on could), just for my own benefit, so that I can get an idea of the timeline of events.
I don’t actually expect the characters to proceed in the way I set out. With the four subplots I lay out happening simultaneously, along with the usual side-treks that occur in campaigns, I would be really surprised if the final product looks anything like this overview. Still, laying it out this way has benefits for me. So, without further ado, here is my overview of the setup I am using for Storm King’s Thunder.
*disclaimer*: I am changing quite a bit from the standard Forgotten Realms setup, as well as much of what is written in the book. Just FYI.
Overview of Storm King’s Thunder
The Savage Frontier has always been a place of danger. Outside the walls of the castles, cities, and fortifications, hideous beasts roam through the wild, fierce barbarian tribes hunt through the frigid tundra, and enormous giants and dragons battle one another for dominance over the lands of their ancient, and forgotten empires. For thousands of years this frontier has seen many kingdoms and the greatest of these was the giant empire of Ostoria. The Colossal Kingdom was mighty, stretching from the Spine of the World to the edge of the Shining Sea, and from the Sword Coast (and beyond) to the the Sea of Fallen Stars.
However, not in three hundred millennia have the giants done ought in Faerun. Isolated in their various kingdoms, they keep to the Ordning, the last organization of giantkind established by the All-Father Annam, during the Dawn Age. With this organization of giantkind, Storm Giants rule unopposed, followed by Cloud Giants, Fire Giants, Frost Giants, Stone Giants, and finally, Hill Giants. Giant-Kin, such as ogres, ettins, and the like, fall under even Hill Giants in order of supremacy. The highest of one order is lower than the lowest of the next highest order. A king among Frost Giants would still be required to bend the knee to any Fire Giant he met…which doesn’t sit well with any but the dullest of giantkind. Due to the fear of the All-Father, and the reprisals of the Storm Giants, the Ordning has remained undisturbed since the Time of Dragons.
Now, however, peace has been shattered. With the near return of Tiamat, the Dragon Queen, to the material plane some ten years ago, a great upheaval has occurred. Annam has shattered the Ordning, as punishment for the giants and their complacency. They did nothing to aid the small folk in their battle against the Devil Dragon, and so must face trial. With no organization, all of giantkind now seeks mastery, each in their own way. The kings of the giants have put plans into motion to capture supremacy over the Ordning, and prove themselves worthy, both to other tribes and to Annam, to rule giantkind. This spells disaster for the small folk of the Savage Frontier, and perhaps beyond…
What is Happening in the Savage Frontier
A) The Ordning has been shattered and giantkind is running amok, trying to accomplish great deeds in order to prove themselves worthy of ruling the new Ordning that will be established.
B) The Various Tribes have different plans:
1) The Hill Giant Chief Guh is trying to make herself as big, physically, as possible, by eating everything she can get her hands on.
2) The Stone Giant Seer Kayalithica seeks to remove all traces of the small folk’s settlements in the Savage Frontier, one stone at a time.
3) The Frost Giant Jarl Storvald seeks the Ring of Winter, a powerful artifact that is said to be able to bring about the Age of Everlasting Ice.
4) Duke Zalto, the Fire Giant, seeks pieces to Vonindod, the Colossus of Wrath, a massive construct that, once assembled and repaired, could cause immeasurable destruction on the cities and peoples of Faerun.
5) Countess Sansurri of the Cloud Giants believes that by finding a long-lost trove of dragon magic, she will become supremely powerful, and will be able to finally knock Storm Giants from their perch of dominance, and claim rulership herself.
6) The Storm Giants are in chaos due to the disappearance of their King, Hekaton, the death of his wife Queen Neri, and the infighting of his three daughters, Mirran, Nym, and Serissa. The Storm Giants might be able to reestablish control over the other factions, if civil war wasn’t about to break out.
C) Other major factions are involved:
1) The Dragons of Faerun want nothing more than to see giantkind shattered forever. However, they know that the Ordning will be reestablished one day, and they each seek to position the giants that they each think will be best for them in charge. Iymrith, a cunning blue dragon, has infiltrated the Storm Giant court in order to sow dissension and chaos, which she has succeeded in doing. Other dragons wish to see the ordning established as it once was, figuring the devil they know is better than the one they don’t. The Cult of the Dragon still exists as a shadow of its former self. Gone are its hopes of bringing back Tiamat. Now members serve various local dragons in the hopes of achieving some sort of “glorious purpose”.
2) The Zhentarim, a ruthless criminal organization, has been looking for a way into the cities and towns of the Savage Frontier for years, but so far their efforts have been thwarted by the Lord’s Alliance, the Harpers, the Emerald Enclave, and the Order of the Gauntlet, four powerful organizations for good in the North. However, with the recent destruction wrought by the dragons, the war of the Silver Marches, and the current giant threat, the Zhentarim see an opening. Their agents have begun to flood the north, causing much conflict in an already war-torn region. Rumors even say that the Seven Swords have been sent north…
3) Behind all of this, the dragon Iymrith, the Zhentarim, the disappearance of King Hekaton, and the death of Queen Neri, is an even darker, more powerful organization: The Deep Society, or the Society of the Kraken. Ruled by Slarkrethel, an aeons old leviathan, it seeks to undermine the entire power structure of the Sword Coast, setting everyone at each other’s throats. Seeing a vacuum created by the recent upheavals, and using the Zhentarim as an unknowing arm, it hopes to destroy the Lord’s Alliance, cripple the Harpers, and set giants and dragons once again at each other’s throats.
4) The Harpers are stretched thin. Already weak from the violent upheavals of the past ten years, the arrival of the Zhentarim and their agents has pushed the Harpers over the brink. Now fighting nearly for survival, they have no power left to combat the Giant threat overwhelming the north. They need help, and are looking everywhere they can for it.
5) The Emerald Enclave was seriously harmed by the War of the Silver Marches, which they joined in wholeheartedly. With few surviving members left in the Savage Frontier, they seek now to protect what they can from all who would seek to destroy it, including, often, the other civilized factions and races in this time of strife.
6) The Order of the Gauntlet, never an especially strong presence in the North, have been wracked by schism. A heretical sect has all but overwhelmed Neverwinter, turning it from the Jewel of the North, into a place where non-humans, mages, and priests are burned for “Heresy”. This chaos has divided their once proud order. Unbeknownst to most, the leader of this sect, Andren the Judge, is a member of the Seven Swords and a willing agent of the Zhentarim. He has succeeded in turning brother against brother. Worse still, he has come to believe his own drivel, and seeks to purge the North of all that are “unclean”.
7) The Lord’s Alliance is in tatters. With the departure of both Everlund and Neverwinter from the Alliance, and the destruction of Sundabar during the War of the Silver Marches, the remaining four lords of Waterdeep, Mirabar, Silverymoon, and Citadel Adbar, have begun fighting among themselves as to what they ought to do. Mirabar and Silverymoon seek to add Luskan and Yartar to the Alliance, something Waterdeep is dead-set against. For the time being, Adbar sides with Waterdeep, (they despise the Silverans for their cowardice during the war), and the divisions run deep. The spies of the Alliance, the Gold Cloak are now turned on one another, rather than on the the real enemies outside the cities.
How the Story Can Go:
Chapter 1) The heroes arrive at Nightstone to find it in tatters after a giant attack, the Nightstone itself ripped out of the ground and shattered, fire scorching everything, many homes burned and desiccated. Left behind are goblins and hell-hounds. The rest of the goblin tribe, and the orcs, along with a few ogres, are back in the goblin cave, with the villagers. The orcs are headed back from the caves to the town when the heroes arrive at Nightstone. Meanwhile the Zhentarim, realizing that they are too late to claim the artifact, seek to establish the town as a base of operations for their endeavors in the area. They threaten the heroes to leave, before attacking. After dealing with the Zhents, the heroes must face off with the orcs, who are looking to loot whatever else they can from the town. With their fire giant masters gone, the orcs now see this as their property.
Chapter 2) The Heroes, having saved Nightstone, or left it in ruins, are told to seek out the town of Triboar, and warn them, for they have a similar stone in their town, although it has not activated. They set out for Triboar, and find evidence that the Hill Giants have been ravaging the countryside. As they pass by Goldenfields, they hear that the Giants have set themselves up in the Dessarin Hills, and that they are growing bolder and bolder. The Abbot of Goldenfields will pay them good money to destroy the threat. He will also provide them with a place to stay and food should they require it at any time. They can then engage the Hill Giants, if they wish.
Chapter 3) Arriving in Triboar they are attacked by the Fire Giant Tribe, just as the chapter describes. They fight them off, and are given the various quests toward Everlund, and the Harper’s Organization. The Harper’s then tell them that they should seek out Harshnag, a Frost Giant Giant Slayer. He was last seen in the Delimbyr Vale, seeking out the Stone Giant Enclave there. The Harpers offer to teleport the heroes there, if they agree to help, also promising to set up a teleportation circle in one location of the heroes’ choosing (preferably their castle/keep/stronghold/base of operations).
Chapter 4) Arriving in the Delimbyr, they find refugees fleeing and tales of Harshnag heading east. Rumors of his history swirl, and the heroes hear of his past. Finally, they arrive in the last place to be attacked and resist and they say that Harshnag assisted in the defence of the city, but was turned to stone and captured. He was taken by the Stone Giants back to their home, Deadstone Cleft. In order to proceed, the characters must free Harshnag. A “Stone-to-flesh” oil applied to him will heal him, and he will lead the heroes to the Eye of the All-Father.
Chapter 5) After traveling to the eye of the All-Father, they are told by the spirit of the ghost (read the area description) what is “sort of” happening, and that in order to proceed they must claim a conch of the Storm King. At least one exists, and it is held by Countess Sansurri. The heroes must claim her conch in order to find the Storm King and set things right.
Chapter 6) The heroes head to the Evermoors and fight Countess Sansurri, claiming the conch for their own. They must then return to the Eye of the All Father, where they will be told that they must use it on the shore of the Isle of (something) and that they will be shown the way.
Chapter 7) The heroes must travel to Neverwinter to find the ship that will take them to their destination, a mysterious island, known to only a few. The seas are too dangerous, and the island is too far to fly. They must “hire” an airship from Neverwinter. Standing on the shore of the island, the heroes can then use the conch to reveal the underwater citadel of the Storm Giants. Neverwinter itself is a challenge, as the heretical sect of the Order of the Gauntlet has overthrown the city, and set up itself as ruler.
Chapter 8) This chapter plays out as written. They must choose a daughter to support, and fight off the other two, and her supporters. Iymrith is revealed as a dragon, and flees. It becomes clear that the Kraken society is involved.
Chapter 9) The heroes must find and try to rescue Hekaton. They must fight Zhentarim and Kraken agents. They can either rescue him or not. Either way, they are asked to slay Iymrith for what she has done.
Chapter 10) With the support of the Storm Giants, the heroes set out to slay the dragon. If they succeed, then they will have dealt with the main giant threat, ended the upstart lords, and freed the Storm Giants to be rulers once again. There is still division, and many problems, but the small folk will not be killed by outsiders, at least. They still might kill each other.
Sidelogue 1) The Seven Swords are seeking out the heroes to kill them. With the exception of the Judge, Andren, and the 7th, the rest of them attack the heroes at whatever time seems right. Preferably when they are in the middle of something else. Finally, once they have defeated the first 6, the 7th approaches them and asks them to aid him in the overthrow of the Deep Ones in his own ranks. This should happen sometime before the heroes set out to claim the conch.
Sidelogue 2) The Lord’s Alliance is fracturing, and conflict is brewing. The heroes should see armies marshalling in Waterdeep, Mirabar, Silverymoon, Everlund, Neverwinter, and Citadel Adbar (Felbar has its own problems, as does Gauntlgrym) at the beginning of the campaign. By the time they reach the Stone Giant problems, a skirmish has broken out between Silverymoon and Citadel Adbar. By the time the heroes are making their way into Neverwinter, a major battle has occurred on the roads leading south, with Waterdeep losing. Neverwinter is fortified for war, and soldiers are wandering about. By the time the heroes make their way to Iymrith’s lair, there is an all out war in the North, with Waterdeep under siege and Silverymoon completely cut off from the rest of the world, refusing to lower its magical barriers, while Everlund and Adbar spar with each other. Mirabar is caught helplessly by political indecision, and the north begins to burn.
Sidelogue 3) The city of Gauntlgrym is overwhelmed by the loss of their Fire Titan, and they swiftly dissolve into civil war. The drow begin to take advantage of it, and soon the city will be lost, if they do not receive back their titan. Further, as the fire giant Colossus grows in power, earthquakes begin to fracture the north. An eruption in the High Forest causes massive fires, and thick clouds cover the heavens for days. As the earthquakes grow worse, the fate of the north looks even more dire. The dwarves of Citadel Felbar are the only ones looking to avert doom, and they are in direct conflict with the Fire Giants. They send for the aid of the Giant Slayers.
Sidelogue 4) As the Frost Giants raid the coast, and further inland looking for the Ring of Winter, their own magic begins to spread. Icy winter blasts down from the north, threatening to overwhelm the cities of Luskan and Mirabar. The Ring of Winter must be found first, and the Frost Giants must be slain before they find it and bring about the Age of Everlasting Ice.
Character Story Subplots
Asher the Ranger: Born to the Sky Pony Uthgardt Tribe, Asher was sent away when quite young due to the infighting of the tribe. His father, a shaman of the tribe, preferred to see his son live, and so sent him into the wild on his own. Asher made his way south, and spent his life as a tracker, scout, and guide, never preferring the company of the “civilized folk” and yearning for the day when fate would cross his path again with that of his tribe. He hopes to acquire a Sky Pony of his own, return to his tribe, and make himself chief by his own hand.
– In order to find the Eye of the All Father, Harshnag says that they must travel to the ruins of One Stone, for a Frost Giant artifact lies beneath the Barrow there, and it must be used in order to enter the Temple. The party therefore travels into the ancestral forest of Asher’s tribe, and must either desecrate the holy place, something at least problematic to Asher, or convince the tribe to perform its holy rituals to allow the heroes to enter the Barrow unmolested by the Spirits of the place. To convince the tribe of this, they must complete a task. All the while, Asher will be judged, and it will be made clear to him that his father was killed by a Fire Giant.
– When they enter the Fire Giant’s Forge, they face against the Fire Giant that killed his father. His face is scarred in a unique way, caused by Asher’s father.
– Later on, when the heroes land on the Strange Isle to use the Conch, they shall find a flight of Pegasi, being overwhelmed by the native creatures of the isle. If they slay the creatures, the lone surviving pegasus will bond with Asher, it being only a pony at the time.
Rheima of the 3rd House of Velarium: Born to the elves of the Moonshae Isles, Rheima grew up in a noble family who favored scholarly pursuits. She was exposed, at a very young age, to the writings of an uncredited scholar who was convinced that there was once a powerful halfling empire, in the Dawn Age, which lived at least side by side with the Empire of Ostoria. Intrigued by this idea, she presented it to her family, who laughed it off as ridiculous. Unconvinced by their laughter, she persisted, and was warned not to pursue something so absurd, for fear of the family’s reputation. Still she insisted, and over the course of many years, alienated herself from her family and friends. After spending some time at the library of Candlekeep, in the south, and finding nothing, she has come north, on hopes that the truth might be found at the source. Her driving goal is to find some evidence of her theory, and to convince others of that truth.
Bursley the Scholar – Rheima’s uncredited source for information on Yondallheim.
Adequan of the 2nd house of Valarium – Childhood friend
Rival – Ranneth of the 5th house of Velarium
Friend – Mort Dumshire – Halfling Sea Captain of the Good Ship Trelawny and Merchant
– In the town of Nightstone, she will discover that on the inside of the cracked monolith, several “clearly” halfling characters can be found among the runes. Taking these pieces to Silverymoon will surely get her a hearing with the head of the Academy there, and time in the Great Library of Avessa. Upon studying in the library, she will find evidence that shows that the Fire Giants of Ostoria overthrew and enslaved a great halfling kingdom, and that they used their knowledge of constructs and golems in their construction of Vonindod.
– Her childhood enemy, Ranneth, is a member of the Order of the Gauntlet now, and went missing trying to find the seat of the Hill Giants threatening Goldenfields. He is currently captured at Gruud Haug.
– Upon investigating the Fire Giant Forge, they find a tablet, with details on the construction of lesser golems that the Halflings of Yondallaheim used in the defence of their cities. While not enough to prove anything, it is more evidence for the Bard’s theory.
– When they battle the Kraken’s agents, one of them, a psychic, turns to her and says, “My master has lived for aeons, and knows all the kingdoms of the dry land and the sea. You seek one…join us, and the knowledge of that kingdom is yours.” The kraken does indeed know of the ancient halfling empire, and will give information to the bard…at a dear price.
– Otherwise, knowledge of the halfing empire comes in bits and pieces, whenever the heroes deal with ancient lore, they can come across runes and hieroglyphs.
– Imryths’ lair is in one of the ancient halfling temples, with proof and hieroglyphs throughout. It is enough to prove to anyone beyond doubt that the empire existed.
Verth Suthrasson: Born in the Time of Peace between orcs and the civilized races, the half-orc’s father was a barbarian from the Uthgardt tribe, while his mother was the chief of a small off-shoot of the Many-Arrows tribe. When King Obould was murdered, Verth was driven out, due to his half-orc nature. His own mother, Suthra, thought him too weak, and did nothing to save him. He wandered south, into the Silver Marches, and found himself begging on the streets of Silverymoon. His quick wit and clever nature was soon discovered by a promising young wizard of some repute, Garen the Young Oak. He took in the half-orc as an apprentice and spent many years training him in the arcane arts. Then one day, the half-elf vanished. Verth spent weeks waiting for him to return, but he never did. So, taking leave of his tower, he set out to find his master, which has been the driving force behind all of his actions.
– In the town of Nightstone, the wizard will talk with survivors who mention that a half-elf named Garen did pass through several weeks before, looking for clues on the nature of these obsidian monoliths. He went away after finding nothing, however. Those who knew him say that he was worried about something called Vonindod, and kept saying “It will be the end if it is finished…” He wandered off on the road to Waterdeep, and it was the last time anyone had seen him.
– When arriving in the town of Triboar, the wizard can speak with the townmaster, and learn that Garen also came here, after Nightstone, maybe two tendays ago. He met with some seedy looking people, and then vanished. The townmaster thinks that they were agents of the Zhentarim. She has no idea where he went, however. Searching the rooms of the half-elf in the tavern reveals an old wooden coin, which shows a golden goose on both sides. The Casino ship is in Neverwinter, although no one in Triboar knows of that.
– Eventually, when the heroes gain the chip again from the Storm King’s Hold, they can begin in earnest to find the owner of the coin. The wizard’s master is being held prisoner by the Zhents, (more precisely, he is being held by agents of the Deep Society) due to his knowledge of giant lore. He is a valuable commodity.
– When he is rescued, he begs the heroes to find Vonindod and destroy it before it is completed. This task he grants especially to Verth, and begs him to swear on his life.
Skalfe “Grizzled Gauntlet” Dorrsson: Coming to Gauntlgrym as a babe-in-arms, the paladin assisted in the rebuilding of the city, and became a brewer, a dull one at that, and never had a second thought that he was special. Coming of age in the new dwarven empire, he found himself experiencing visions and sights. A wonder these sights were, visions of an old, benevolent god, all but forgotten. Then one day, a clear voice told him to travel south and find the ruined temple of the god. He traveled there, and found himself face to face with the last angel of his god, a solar, who placed his hand upon his head and blessed him, proclaiming him chosen of his god, and a messenger to the world, to bring his worship back to the people’s of the North, doing good that they might know Him. With his newfound sense of purpose, he made his way back north and, hearing of trouble in the town of Nightstone, he shouldered his hammer, and set out to do good.
– Finding the town of Nightstone destroyed, the temple of Lathander desecrated, and the people in need of hope and help, he sees a vision of his god’s face appear above the town, for a moment, calling him to aid them, and to reconsecrate the temple in His honor.
– At some point, he comes in contact with inquisitors from Neverwinter, who declare him a heretic and a founder of false religions. He is attacked, and is brought to the attention of Andren the Judge, who puts a bounty out on his head.
– At some point in the journey, he finds a ruined temple to his god, and a handful of worshippers being threatened by some force. He must aid them in their hour of need.
– At some point, his god appears to him in a dream and tells him to cut the head off of the snake, to kill Andren the Judge.
Sparrow Thornheads: Sparrow was born far from the lands he now travels. When he was a child, a plague swept through his lands, striking down his entire tribe. As his folk died one by one, a cleric of Kelemvor, a Doomguide, arrived and tended to the dying. As each halfling passed, the Doomguide would bury them according to their own customs. Finally, all the rest passed on, leaving only the child, who, miraculously, recovered. Seeing it a sign from Kelemvor, the Doomguide took the young boy under his wing. Having the appearance of a gaunt little bird, the cleric named him Sparrow, and trained him in the ways of Kelemvor. Years passed, and the cleric died, leaving Sparrow to follow the path alone, and do for the dead the sacred office.
– When the heroes arrive in Waterdeep, they will hear rumors of the Huntsmen, the undead lords that roam the lands of the north, slaying the living and bringing them back in hideous mockery of life. Two Doomguides set out to slay them and were not heard from again.
– Upon completing the defense of Triboar, someone approaches Sparrow and, seeing the same insignia on him as his contract, asks him to deliver a saddle to the Manor of so-and-so. His buyer made the deal long ago, and just a ten-day ago asked for it to be delivered.
– Vonindod does not just kill the living. It entraps their souls in the plane of Fire, as fuel for its dread purpose. This will come out in study at Silverymoon. This should be enough to drive him to destroy it.
– He comes upon a ruined temple to Kelemvor, overrun by undead in their journey. He must put it right.
Lumi Gelgovich: When Lumi was young, in the peaceful lands to the south, he fell in love with a girl. Quite a normal girl, but a bit above his station. He wooed her unsuccessfully, lived in despondency for a time. Finally…he had a dream. A vision of fire, and smoke, the dream came to him again and again. Finally, in one dream, he saw a face in the flame, it reached out to him, and in that instant he knew that it wanted something…but that it was willing to give him something in return. Without thinking, he reached out himself and touched the face. When he awoke, he found himself branded, inside and out, with a symbol of ancient power, a Rune of Fire. He had been granted power…and he at once applied himself again to his love, this time with something to offer. She was not impressed. Or rather, was too impressed, and rejected him from fear. Now, with a new gift, and unable to find work in the peaceful south, Lumi has decided to come North, in the hopes that coin and comforts might be found for someone with his gifts.
– After the heroes rescue the townsfolk, Lumi has a strange dream. A shadow passes along an ancient hall, carven stone. Out of the shadow, several figures step, dark skinned, white haired, and carrying wicked curved swords. One holds a strange Iron Flask, carved with Runes of Holding, Fire, and Abjuration. The figures, make their way down passage after passage, killing several dwarven guards, until they arrive in a huge hall. Molten rock flows down canals and falls from great heights into cauldrons below. Sparks fly in all directions, chains grate as they haul platforms up and down. A constant and deafening hammering sound comes from all around. Suddenly, there is a flash, and the hammering sounds stops. The vision fades as sounds of battle begin. Suddenly, the flows of lava blacken, as they harden and crack. The Iron Flask in the hands of the figure flashes and the runes begin to glow. Suddenly, the vision fades. A voice booms in his head – “Do not allow this to go unpunished. Those who would use me should all be destroyed. Do this and your powers shall be increased…your desires shall be granted.”
– When the heroes get to Triboar, and find the second monolith, Lumi has another visit from his patron. When he sees the monolith, everything grows dark for him except the obsidian column, which burns white hot. He hears a voice coming from it “The Dwarves of Gauntlegrym thought to imprison me. They have paid a dear price for that hubris. Now another of the lesser races seeks to use my power for their own gain. Do not allow me to be trapped in that machine.”
– At Silverymoon, Kind, Lumi’s twin brother, is in trouble, for breaking and entering in one of the Grand Libraries. He was researching something that connects to another player. He is going to go to trial, unless the heroes do something…
– At some point, someone in their travels will mistake him for kind and some trouble will ensue.
There we go! These are pretty rough notes. As I said before, they are just an outline more or less, to help me get in the right head-space for running each session as I go. I have a further section with session notes, but I figure that’s not very interesting for you guys, so I took it out.
Alright! I hope you all enjoy reading through this, or at least get an idea or two from it.
Happy gaming all! And remember:
Always Split the Party!