Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Castle of Dreams

(This will be an occasional series wherein I will take a bit of classic fantasy literature and extract some bit of gaming goodness from it. The descriptions that follow the poem are meant to be evocative and vague. I leave the stats to you.)

It lies beyond the farthest sea,
This castle whereonto I flee
When life and time hang wearily.
Yet though so far, 'tis strangely nigh:
Within the breathing of a sigh
One gains the walls secure and high
Of the castle of dreams.
Divinely beautiful and great,
Of pearl each dome and tower, and gate,
It stands, a hold of kingly state.
There gyving Time and Space are not,
And cares of Life are all forgot.
No breath of restless change is brought
To the Castle of Dreams.
I walk each wondrous court and hall,
Their varied treasures mine at call,

For there I am the lord of all.
If gold and gems of land and sea,
And broad estates were offered me,
I would not take them for the key
Of the Castle of Dreams.

Castle of Dreams
Suggested Monsters for level 15 D&D4e: Dream Hag, Fading Dream Fearmonger, Countess Tesyn ir'Lantar, Water Archon Waveshaper, Dire Shark, Sea Kraken, Peryton(
Runic Gargoyle), Emerald Claw, Object Mimic, Thieves Curse trap, winter nymph, Oblivion Moss, Mossling, Banderhobb, Catoblepus, Prismatic Dragon, Secret of Vecna, etc

It lies beyond the farthest sea...The adventure begins with the heroes sailing the Seas of Fate. They may be literally sailing upon the ocean, gliding upon the Astral Sea, or even experiencing a collective dream. In any case they find themselves approaching the Isle of Dreams.

Yet though so far, 'tis strangely nigh...
Question #1: Will they moor at the dock or circle around and land on the leeward side? A lone figure can be seen standing upon the old greenstone quay.

At the Emerald Dock the heroes encounter an Insane Noblewoman, Zuleikha Carvalho, whose entire crew and retainers have been shorn from her by the enticements of the Castle. She docked her ship her two weeks ago and her retinue disapeared into the Castle. She waits at the dock and demands to be taken back to civilization immediately. If denied, her histrionics are deadly. She yet commands a pair of Storm Archons. Reasoning with Zuleikha is possible, but must be undertaken delicately.

Landing on the leeward side requires special skill to navigate the rocky shoals and avoid a fight with a Kraken. There are sharks in the water. The ship must be anchored and a rowboat sent ashore.

And broad estates were offered me...
To approach the Castle of Dreams one must pass through the Enchanted Forest, avoiding lions, tigers, bears, catoblepus, banderhobbs, and boars. Strange and delightful flowers such as the black lotus, the vampire rose and the oblivion moss may be a danger or boon. Any amount of exploring in the woods outside the castle initiates an encounter with the Dream Hag in her Scampering Hut, who holds the veritable key to the Castle (Her name, Queen Rosaria), but who exacts a terrible price.

To lay the night with Rosaria is to break her curse and to take it upon oneself. Rosaria becomes a beautiful Eladrin woman. Her lover becomes a hobgoblin. She begs her new lover to leave the Castle before it consumes him. A man who has lain with the queen can expect no quarter from the Feasting Army.

The Scampering Hut is a sort of creature itself, sentient and constantly picking itself up on stilt-like legs and finding a new location to settle. He hut contains many interesting items such as a crystal ball, ioun stones, and a deck of many things.

One gains the walls secure and high...
The Living Gate demands the Name of the Rose. If the Queen Rosaria is named, the gate is opened. Within the gatehouse resides a crystal knight, the Voice of the Gate. This Knight is in a daze, only vaguely aware of his surroundings, mumbling about living a dream within a dream. The guards' quarters contain a chest that is actually a Mimic. The walls are 100 feet high and made of purple marble. The battlement crenelations host the nests of 50 Perytons.

I walk each wondrous court and hall
Courtyard of Splendor is a miasma of flittering pollen, butterflies and fairy dust. Stately crystal statues walk the paths of vibrant floral arrangements, but do not respond to words nor deeds. The hedges contain vampiric roses, oblivian moss and black lotuses. It is not necessary to walk amongst them to enter the towers or the hall. There are two towers as well as the Hall. Both connect to the upper levels by slender stone causeways. To the east is the Tower of Hubris and to the west is the Tower of Humility.

The Tower of Hubris holds a Prismatic Dragon flitting about in the gossamer foliage of her silver tree. To climb the tree to the High Bridge, one must impress the dragon (Ceiliaflora). This may be done in battle, epochal entertainment, through demonstrations great magical knowledge or acts of recklessness so foolhardy as to be respectable.

There gyving Time and Space are not...
The Tower of Humility is a shrine to the mysteries of the world, a structure that seems ever more vast at each turn. It is an Eternal Library, where every book that could ever be written lurks on infinite shelves that turn in upon themselves... tended by the Thought-Eaters, parasitic Enigmas of the Lord of Secrets. Those who enter the Library lose themselves, and only through immense powers of concentration is it possible for one to navigate the 4 dimensions of space properly to exit the tower, while fending off the tender ministrations of the Cerebral Spectres). The exit location is determined randomly:
1-front door
2-high bridge
3-a window looking out over the west wall
4-roof of the tower where the Perytons nest
5-door into the Scuttling Hut of Rosaria
6-directly into the Dungeons of the High Hall
8-an alternate dimension such as the City of Brass, the Land of the Dead, or Fairyland
The High Hall itself has three levels, Dungeon, Festhall and Throne Room.

The Dungeon is below, and may be accessed by the staircase. It is full of wailing women who weep in the darkness for their lost menfolk, who, unbeknown to them, glut themselves in the hall above. The wailing women are Banshees who may be reasoned with.

And cares of Life are all forgot...
The Festhall is full of grand warriors at table, drinking endless flagons of ale from jeweled goblets, devouring whole roasted pigs on golden plates, and singing merry songs. They do not notice that their women are long gone. If they are reunited, they will not be available to the King in His Castle, should he grow weary of his visitors. These are Eladrin Winter Blades.

The Throne Room is where the King in His Castle resides, looking out from a high window over the Sea of Dreams. The room seems to be made entirely of mirrors. He appears to be a most ancient and lordly aspect of whomever addresses him. He sits upon a crystal throne attended by his Chamberlain, a Banderhobb. The King is a Ghaele of Winter. The King demands fealty of all who tread upon his land, and if he gets it he sends them to feast with his warriors. Dissension is met with wrath and the Chamberlain summons the feasting army. However, the King is under the sway of the Chamberlain and may be released with proper intervention. When released from the Banderhobb's enchantment, the King becomes a handsome Eladrin of ageless visage. He smiles and touches his brow in humble thanks.

For there I am the lord of all...
The defeat of the Chamberlain, who flees to the Tower of Humility if pressed, breaks the horrific enchantment over the Castle of Dreams, and turns it to a place of life and laughter once again. Rosaria returns and proclaims one of the heroes to be the new king, but he must stay on the island forevermore.  If the honor is refused, then the sitting king offers generous boons.