Thursday, 13 September 2018

The domesticated dungeon (part 1): Welesbur's life and work

So, here we are again. If your players have played “People die at the fair” (or “death at the fair” in its first edition), they now have the outer side of the portable hole, and are sole owners of Welesbur’s dungeon.
The dungeon is a commodity most heroes would cherish: never camp again, never have to carry dry rations, and no need to pay for the Inn, no more worrying about the weight of their equipment; nothing to stop or slow down the adventuring.
But the dungeon is a source of adventuring on its own. In people die at the fair, some questions were left unanswered. Who really was Welesbur, why did Talak Naho want him dead,who the hell is Talak Naho, what about the face –crushed statue, what is the strange amulet and of course, where the hell is the dungeon, geographically?

Welesbur's life
For what the heroes know about Welesbur, he was just an itinerant trader, specialized in magic items and other oddities. But the existence of the dungeon, and the portable hole should tell them otherwise.
First his real name was Dorian, and he was, in fact, one of the greatest minds of our time. He was a wizard, a scholar, and a Wiseman, but most of all, he was an inventor. Not the kind that have one idea in its life and just rides the success, no. Welesbur had an idea every twelve minutes, and most of those where good, when they weren’t revolutionary. A quarter of the spells commonly used today are, one way or another, the result of Welesbur’s work. But most of all, the guy invented a totally new kind of magic, Glyph Magic.

One of the apprentices (his name lost to the mists of time) Wanted fame and power, but Welesbur wasn’t the kind. So he took the spells and went out into the world. He died soon after, for he wasn’t that good, and some of the fire based glyphs he tried to demonstrate weren’t tuned yet. But Glyph magic was out there, and with it, Welesbur’s name.

At first, he enjoyed his notoriety, for it enabled him to work with anybody he chose, but soon it all became too much for him. Conferences, diners, social calls, this wasn’t his thing, that impeded his work. So he vanished. He changed his name (to Welesbur) and nobody saw or heard about him for more than two years.

Those two years, he used to get down in the Dungeon, and carve himself a piece of it. He went down to level 6, and searched for the perfect spot. He finally found it, by creating a war between the local deep elves empire and their lizard men slaves. He took advantage of the confusion to isolate a small piece of the dungeon and seal it from the inside. He then installed his lab in there and began a discreet life on the road.

He started working on a new project, linking the magic of wizards with the one priests use. This capacity priests have to tap their power from gods or demi-gods intrigued him and gave him an idea: all wizards know their power is limited by the concept of channel.; to cast a spell, one must open a very narrow channel between reality and the Magic pool; the power used, and thus developed by the spell is limited by the size of the channel and the pressure of power that the wizard is able to control. Welesbur himself knew he was one hell of a wizard, and even he couldn’t manage more than 50 MP a day, on a good day. But what if you could open several channels at once? What if you could open several channels at once? Say one per pool and one per god? Imagine the kind of power you could muster!

He started working with priests, but they soon stopped, for the idea of tapping a god without asking kind of scared them. And by himself, being totally ignorant in the mysteries of faith, he was stuck. So he started again, on another foot, and decided the right way was experimentation. He summoned a Hellion (a semi-god to be precise) from Coal hell, bound it in a powerful circle, and experimented on it. But this proved a dead end too, mostly because it is really difficult to work with a coal hell resident growling and insulting you all day long. One day Welesbur lost his cool and the following argument resulted in the collapse in room 10. Welesbur took it as a sign he wasn’t on the right track, and started all over again, but as most geniuses do, he just… forgot to clean the lab.

That is where Talak naho gets into the story. He is… hum… Let’s say a wiseguy, from the baronies. Well, he’s not from the baronies, but he hides… hum… lives there. Welesbur met him in shady circumstances in a shady bar in the XXXX Barony, and they made a deal. Naho was to furnish Welesbur with an actual piece of a god, that is to say a piece (say an arm) of a sacred idol actually venerated nowadays. Welesbur hoped to use it and the active faith attached to it to reach for the concerned god. He wasn’t precise enough and ended up with an actual piece from the idol of the waves, from the actual temple of the deep on the island of Makuda; the cultist there… let’s say they don’t kid with revenge, and do never shy in front of blood. Moreover, their God was a Dead one, entombed in the darklands, and as such, very dangerous to stir. He got rid of the arm (somewhere on the rock), and refused to pay what he owed Talak naho. But the gangsters had started a war with the cultists, a war they ultimately won, but Naho put the blame on Welesbur. He sent some of his guys to capture the mage and his stuff, for he wanted to make him work through his debt.
Welesbur didn’t want to work for Naho, for anybody in fact, and had a new project in mind which he didn’t want to abandon nor delay.So he rushed to his lab and cast the last spell of his life.

That is where the heroes came in.
Glyph Magic
The basic idea was to create spells that would last longer, with no effort. And that would not occupy the caster’s mind continually. The first tries were unsuccessful, until Welesbur went the way of the auto-recast: Spells that do not need to be maintained because they actually recast themselves every once in a while. To make that happen, the magic energy needs to be trapped, so the same power could be used again and again, like a perpetual motion thing.   

Finally, it succeeded, using three spells bound together into one: the first to produce the effect, the second to capture the power (the actual glyph), and the third to recast the whole thing. Welesbur then added a trigger mechanism, a fourth spell that would detect circumstances and turn the loop on or off. Then it was just a matter of simplification and streamlining.

The first actual glyph spell lit a candle in the privy on entrance, and put it out when you left. This may seem ridiculous but it was a magic revolution. Welesbur and his two apprentices of the time worked even harder after this trivial success, and soon had a series of glyph spells ready to use. And then Welesbur went on to another idea.