The Second Great War and other stories

The War of the Burning Moon

A previous tabletop game.

The War of the Burning Moon was so named because the final battle took place on the moon, and the deific energies released during the battle made the moon seem as though it were burning for several days.

Reader Note

The following is a mostly-accurate account of an actual campaign I ran from 2010 to early 2016, from level 6 to 36.

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Chapter 0: History

Several hundred years ago, a cult summoned a being from not just anothet plane, but from outside the Multiverse itself. Fortunately, when it arrived it was stripped of power, because they had inadvertently summoned a Numen, or a sentient avatar of the distilled non-sentient essence, of corruption. The being, which called itself Barlow, was completely and irredeemably evil, and had the ability to corrupt anyone, regardless of status or even divinity. To make matters worse, the initial breach caused by the summoning itself began to widen. Fortunately, an alliance between [[Anora]] and [[Mialla Parnia]], both then mortals, managed to seal Barlow’s powers away from him and seal tight the breaches opened during the summoning. Barlow could not be defeated without sending him home, so they were forced to seal him away too. The breach was sealed behind five crystallized chromatic dragon hearts.

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Chapter 1: Barovia

Of the final heroes of the war, only Keaton was there at the very beginning. He, along with a few others whose names are now lost, entered [[Barovia]] at the behest of the town’s burgomaster (mayor) to defeat an invasion of undead, one that ultimately ended with the (re-) death of the vampire lord Count Strahd von Zarovich. The majority of the events that took place had little to do with the War. The pertinent details are as follows:

  • Keaton met and fought alongside another of the heroes, Dareloth, during this time.
  • The two of them also met and fought alongside the Martyr, whose name has been lost as part of her martyrdom, during this time.
  • The two of them also met, fought with, and were ultimately abandoned by an elf and dwarf, named Tyrce and Bruenor, respectively. They elected to join Strahd’s vampires of their own free will.
  • They discovered a magical mirror, deep in the depths of Strahd’s castle, that enabled the user to travel anywhere he wished within the Multiverse.
  • After Strahd’s death (along with the two traitors), a shadow demon named Lucian took control of the mirror (see previous) and managed to invert it to summon a seemingly-unlimited supply of demons through it. The Heroes and Martyr managed to destroy the mirror before too many demons made it through.

After the demon invasion was averted, a dragon attacked the castle, but he was killed in relatively short order. The party chose to backtrack to his lair, promises of dragon treasure dancing in their minds.

Towards this goal, they enlisted the help of Lörennia Naïlo, the third heroine of the War. She guided them through a lizardfolk-infested swamp and onto the Dragon Plains.

Near the edge of the Dragon Plains stood the first Green Arrow Fortress. They were the last outsiders to see it intact.

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Chapter 2: Nightfang Spire

After retrieving the treasures from the dragon’s lair, they were contracted by Lörennia Naïlo (who did not accompany them) to determine what had happened to the last patrol of Green Arrow trainees she had sent to the area around Nightfang Spire.

What she did not tell them was that she was more worried about the Ruby Heart, the crystallized heart of Ashardalon the red dragon, who Anora had slain as part of the sealing of the breach several hundred years prior.

The pertinent details are as follows:

  • The party found that another vampire lord, this one named Gulthias, was beginning a cult of undead revering the departed Ashardalon.
  • Gulthias was siphoning off the Ruby Heart’s power to revive his undead worshippers.

The party destroyed Gulthias and his cultists, but the Ruby Heart shattered when he died due to his connection with it.

Thus the party returned to the Green Arrow Fortress, only to find it under attack by dragonspawn. They almost managed to fight them off, but the Emerald Heart was destroyed in the battle, vaporizing a significant chunk of the attacking force and the Fortress itself.

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Chapter 3: Heart Failure

After the destruction of the Green Arrow Fortress and the Emerald Heart, Lörennia left the area to bring the surviving Green Arrows to the Twin Cities. Meanwhile, she asked the party to bring a warning to the Black Spire to the north, a warmage college and home of the Onyx Heart.

When they arrived, it was almost sunset. The master of the college greeted them personally, gave them a tour of the Spire and allowed them to stay the night.

They awoke to the rush of dragon wings and fire. The Firelord Tulak Azuri had arrived upon the shadow dragon . The party followed Tulak Azuri through the trap- and monster-infested halls to the top, where they discovered the Onyx Heart already overloaded with energy and moments from detonation. Keaton saved the remainder of the Spire from destruction by focusing the destruction up instead of out in every direction.

Soon afterwards, the party was summoned to a tribunal of gods, accused of orchestrating the destruction of three gemhearts. Anora appeared as their defense counsel, and managed to get them acquitted. In exchange for this, ghe party agreed to defend the Diamond Heart, located in the High Temple to Anora in the city of Saltmarsh.

When they arrived, they found the city literally teeming with the undead. Not just zombies, but far more powerful specimens.

Barlow’s undead horde had arrived, led by none other than a revived vampire duo of Tyrce and Bruenor.

After six days of successfully holding back wave after wave of undead, Barlow finally became angry enough to do the job himself. Bursting through the chapel’s doors in a rage, he literally dismembered the high priest of Anora with a single kick and proceeded to crush the Diamond Heart with his bare hands.

After resurrecting the party, Anora sent them to secure the last remaining gemheart, the Sapphire Heart, located near Port Clemency. Anora sent them an artificer pirate with a flying ship to bring them there and back as quickly as possible.

Along the way, the Martyr was captured by the forces of Barlow at some point.

When they reached Port Clemency, however, they found it in the iron grip of fallen archons. With the help of several others in the local resistance, including a psion they had fought alongside for a short time back in Barovia and one of Strahd’s former vampire mistresses, they managed to break the archons’ hold on Port Clemency.

The archons retreated to the Canted Spire, a silvery tower that also housed the Sapphire Heart. The party invaded the Spire just before a wave of undead led by a (once again) revived Tyrce and Bruenor. Barreling ahead of the undead, they came across evidence that the tower was an enormous Voidship, capable of flying across the breach between the Multiverse and the Far Realm.

In the depths of the Spire, they found the leader of the archons, a solar possessed by none other than the shadow demon Lucian. After a brief battle, he caused the Sapphire Heart to detonate.

With no gemhearts left to protect, the party returned to Barovia, chasing after the Martyr.

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Chapter 4: The War of the Burning Moon

During their return to Castle Ravenloft, the party was attacked by interplanar assassins contracted by the alienist Ventriklava, working under Barlow’s orders. They achieved partial success, in that they forced the pirate and crew to a crash landing. The party was forced to walk the last twenty miles or so, giving the remnants of Barlow’s forces time to lay siege to the town.

Fortunately, once they arrived the party managed to cut through the forces surrounding the town and debilitate their leadership. Remembering the mirror that could be used to travel anywhere, the party travelled as quickly as they could to the Ravenloft crypt, where it had been housed.

Once they arrived, a climactic battle took place, one during which the Martyr was sacrificed and her very identity was destroyed to repower the mirror. With Anora’s direct and personal intervention, only Barlow and his four closest allies escaped through the portal to the Moon, where the most stable breach was located, before being annihilated.

Anora then called on the few allies she had managed to secure for this moment: Bahamut the Platinum Dragon, , , and Igni the primal god of fire. Between them and their assembled forces, they managed to turn Barovia into a wasteland merely by their presence.

Meanwhile, Barlow had called on the gods he had managed to personally corrupt to his cause: Nerull the god of death; , , and Amurru the primal god of earth. They assembled on the moon to protect Barlow and his remaining minions while Barlow attempted to stabilize the breach and enter it.

The resulting conflagration could be seen from anywhere on the Material Plane. The party managed to survive the deific energies thrown about with minimal casualties, but they arrived at the breach too late to stop Barlow from entering, along with his four minions.

Soon after, the overgod Kronos arrived. With overwhelming power, he forced the war to end almost as quickly as it had begun. After ripping the knowledge of what had happened from his subject deities’ minds, he destroyed the corruption Barlow had introduced and bade the heroes enter the breach, to what he called the Far Realm, to find and destroy Barlow. He claimed that no creature with deific power could travel between the Multiverse and the Far Realm without being stripped of all its power, due to a barrier he had enacted called the Aegis. He then made an exception for the druid Keaton.

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Some Terms:

Numen (n.): A sentient avatar of a non-sentient essence of an abstract concept. Often inscrutable. Barlow, for example, is the Numen of Corruption, although his power had been stripped from him by the Aegis. Destroying a Numen does not affect the essence itself; rather, the essence creates a new avatar eventually, one usually with no continuing memory from the previous Numen. Notable exceptions to this last rule include the Numens of History, Vengeance, Knowledge, and Reincarnation, though others are possible. There are theoretically infinite Numens in existence throughout the Far Realm.

The Far Realm: a place where time (as it is normally conceived) does not exist. Hence, those entering the Far Realm at disparate intervals may arrive together, while those entering close to each other may arrive at widely differing times.

The Numen of Time: Also known as Kronos, the overgod of the Multiverse. He has separated the Multiverse from the rest of the Far Realm in order to let his abilities work properly on it, without disruptive influences from beyond.

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Chapter 5: The Numen of Games

Upon exiting the Moon Breach, Barlow and his minions found themselves in the realm of the Numen of Games. Due to Barlow’s corruptive abilities, the Numen of Games struck a deal to let Barlow go free in exchange for one of his minions, the shadow dragon Verathaxunax.

Some time later, the party entered the Numen of Games’ realm, and it began its first game.

The party was split up and given exactly what they wanted out of life…with the exception being that they could not communicate with each other. After a short while, they figured out it was all an illusion, and they moved on to the second game, an obstacle course.

The obstacle course was quick yet grueling, and the heroes were given blessings by the Numen of Games as prizes. During the obstacle course, however, the heroes also found a young Anora, who had accidentally fallen into the Breach while attempting to seal it hundreds of years before their own time. They helped her escape, which explained her willingness to help them after she was deified. Potential paradoxes averted, the party and Anora moved on to the third and final game.

The final game was a chess match, played with a variety of creatures as the pieces. The opposing King was, of course, the shadow dragon Verathaxunax. After a long and grueling game, Anora managed to land the final blow on Verathaxunax, and the game came to an end.

Anora left to rejoin her own timeline, while the rest of the party was granted a single wish each. Unanimously, they all chose the ability to return to their own time and place in the future at a moment of their choosing. Wishes granted, the party was gently placed in an adjoining reality.

The War of the Burning Moon
LorenniaNailo LorenniaNailo

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