By Robert Wiese
The Ghost Portal
Around campfires, people tell stories of ghost ships carrying undead crews. These ships appear out of the fog and disappear just as quickly. How they are created, no one knows. Can there be anything else like this? Certainly, because one other known phenomenon appears out of nowhere. People across Faerûn report sightings of a stone circle 20 feet in diameter that shimmers like a ghost and spews forth death.
The stone circle is composed of thirty standing stones, each between 4 and 9 feet high, and large capstones that connect the standing stones. The circle is not quite complete; one of the capstones is missing, which creates a gap in the border. This stone circle is like many others across Faerûn, except for one feature: Many people say that it is not real.
Stories abound as to how the circle was created and what may have happened to its builders that would have resulted in it becoming ghostly. Some say that a whole circle of druids built and used the structure ages ago, and a horrible event slaughtered the entire circle. The perpetrators of this slaughter range from priests of Malar (with the druids following Silvanus or Mielikki) to priests of a god of terror and death older than Bane, to the army of a warlord from the Far East that destroyed everything in his path. Others may tell you that the circle contains the consciousness of a powerful druid, or wizard, or even a god. Where the circle has appeared more than once, the site is considered holy or unholy, depending on the beliefs of the local inhabitants.
Whatever the story, many an adventurer has been terrified when the stone circle flickered into existence near, or around, his or her campsite. These adventurers report that the stones shimmer eerily and resemble a ghost in their incorporeal appearance. Fog rolls through the stones as well, heightening the eeriness. Many report that shadowy, incorporeal shapes appear in the center of the circle -- first one, and then more. They rush out of the circle into the night, and, if the adventurers are fortunate, they rush off in some direction other than toward them. Some have said that, in the middle of a fight with these shadowy creatures, the stone circle has faded away and has taken the creatures with it. Whether any of it existed at all can be a question that witnesses ask for years afterward.
Within this ghostly stone circle is a portal that leads to the Plane of Shadow, or perhaps the Ethereal Plane. No one knows, because no one has studied it closely. The portal is a one-way gate; the stone circle is the exit. The origin is somewhere on the Plane of Shadow. The portal itself is a circle 10 feet in diameter. It is continuously open when the stone circle is manifested, and it is closed when the stone circle is elsewhere. The creatures that appear from the portal are usually shadowy apparitions without reality, but sometimes they have substance. A few brave sages have studied the stone circle from a theoretical perspective, and their best theories state that the stone circle is actually on the Ethereal Plane and crosses over to the Material Plane at random times. This theory also accounts for why the circle appears in different places; the sages say that the Ethereal Plane does not match exactly with the Material Plane at the same places always.
How to Incorporate the Ghost Portal Into Your Campaign:
- The ghost portal can appear in the middle of another adventure as a random encounter. Since it can appear anywhere, you can arrange a middle-of-the-night appearance and even an attack by shadow creatures. You could use either real shadows or shade creatures of any type using the shade template printed in Forgotten Realms Campaigns Setting.
- A necromancer has studied the stone circle for years in an effort to determine a pattern to its appearances (there is none). Eventually she learned that if she was "inside" one of the stones when the circle began to fade, she went with it. Further study produced the knowledge that she could control where it would appear next. She is now using it to terrorize some group or town, and they turn to adventurers for help. The necromancer's weakness is that she cannot leave the circle, so she must send minions to bring food and supplies (those that she cannot create with magic). The minions become the adventurers' way of discovering the force behind the circle's appearance, and if they can force her out of the circle then she loses it the next time it fades away. The reasons for her terrorizing the locals could be revenge, malice, or even a desire to drive them off so she can claim the land.