Portals of the Moonstars
By Dale Donovan
The Moonstars are one of the most recent and most covert secret societies to appear in Faerûn in decades. Born in the tumult of a fall-out between several senior Harpers, the members of the Moonstars now operate independently of the former group, though they share many of the same goals. Led by the iconoclastic Chosen of Mystra, former Master Harper, ex-Lord of Waterdeep, and incredibly powerful and knowledgeable mage, Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun, the Moonstars have spent the last few years establishing their own intelligence network, including agents, spies, informants, adventurers, and a system of portals to allow them fast access to any part of Faerûn. This series details several of these portals, their surroundings, and possible plots that your Forgotten Realms campaign's PCs could be caught up in should you wish to add the mysterious Moonstars to your game. Enterprising DMs could also take the details of the portals and plots here and assign them to any other secret society in Faerûn or your campaign.
Before the details of the first Moonstars portal are given, review the following brief description of the order's history.
In 1370 DR, Senior Harpers Bran Skorlsun, Obslin Minstrelwish (the Seneschal of Twilight Hall in Berdusk), and Belhaur Thantarth (Master of Twilight Hall) uncovered evidence implicating Master Harper Khelben Arunsun of making deals with the Harpers' archenemy, the Zhentarim. Khelben admitted that he did indeed make the deals he was accused of, and he promptly resigned his position in the group, as did his wife and fellow Chosen, Laeral Silverhand.
These events caused many repercussions. The three Senior Harpers listed above became worried about other "traitors" in the ranks of the group, and they begin investigating many "suspicious" Harpers and their activities; some of their critics use the term "witch-hunt" to describe the trio's tactics. As a result of this internal investigation, some Harpers have quit the group, either to join Khelben's Moonstars or to disappear from the life of an agent completely.
After his resignation, Khelben gathered his closest allies about him and founded the Moonstars, known as the Tel'Teukiira in Elven. One sagely member of the group has located one reference to this Elven term in Amagal's Tome, an ancient elven text of early Cormanthor. In that usage, the term Tel'Teukiira refers to those who "will come hidden and in many guises and faces. They dwell in shadow and speak in omens, yet they shall bring about waking dreams and save us from the Three Threats Who Wait in Darkness, the Prefects, and ourselves." No one within the group claims to know what this means, although many suspect Khelben knows and is being typically closed-mouthed about it.
In the years since the "Harper Schism," most of the individuals aware of the circumstances have fallen into one of three schools of thought:
1. They trust the Twilight Hall trio and believe that Khelben has indeed betrayed them.
2. Some trust Khelben by past reputation or personal knowledge and accept that he is up to something long-term that will be made clear in time.
3. Some have ignored the schism and wish only to continue doing good work in Faerûn, ignoring in whose name they supposedly perform their deeds.
How to Incorporate the Portals of the Moonstars Into Your Champaign
The key to introducing and using the portals detailed in this series lies in the DM's handling of the Moonstars secret society. (Of course, the portals could be added to a Forgotten Realms campaign without the link to Khelben's secret society, but the series assumes DMs use the portals to either introduce the group into the game or vice versa.)
As mentioned previously, the Blackstaff runs the Moonstars in a much different fashion than the way in which the Harpers are organized. The Blackstaff wants regular reports and does not desire his agents to take any "unauthorized" actions, unless innocent lives or the secrecy of the group is at stake. Players (and their PCs) who are familiar with the more laid-back, hands-off approach the Harpers have taken in the past (that too recently changed with the "hunt" for traitors amidst their ranks) are likely to bristle at being told what (and what not) to do by any NPC, even one as formidable as Khelben Arunsun. DMs should discuss with their players the possibility of the PCs being recruited to work for an NPC-driven organization before any such event takes place in the game. Ideally, this discussion takes place away from the game table, where everyone is an equal and can freely toss ideas and possibilities along. If the players agree that taking the campaign in such a direction could be fun, DMs then have to determine the depth and length of the PCs' involvement with the group.
The Moonstars could ask the PCs for their aid in just one specific circumstance. DMs can take this opportunity to tie the campaign's history into the present plot. If the PCs were particularly successful (or failed spectacularly) against a foe in some previous adventure, they then could be considered to be experts on the situation with which the Moonstars seek their aid. Alternatively, if the PCs have spent time in any of the cities mentioned in this series, then DMs can use the hooks given in each entry. After this adventure is completed, the Moonstars and the PCs go their separate ways, though the PCs know they have new allies in their ongoing battle against the forces of evil.
The Moonstars could send the heroes on a trail run of sorts, which is a relatively simple mission without dire consequences should the party fail to meet its goals. If the PCs do well, they could begin an ongoing but informal relationship with the group. Both the Moonstars and the heroes go about their own agendas, but when one uncovers information or knowledge the other might find useful, those details are shared. A variety of favors of the other party could be exchanged as the Moonstars seek this book or that magic item in trade for a certain treasure map, magical healing, or even a rescue from dire circumstances. If the heroes succeed in an amazing fashion, they could be asked to formally join the Moonstars; note that this invitation is likely to come only from the Blackstaff or Laeral personally. Meeting one (or both) of these modern-day Faerûnian legends could be a roleplaying highlight of the campaign.
This last option is the most difficult to implement. Once they join the group, Khelben feels it's well within his authority to order the PCs about. Chaotic or neutral heroes may not enjoy being bossed around by any NPC, so be certain to play this aspect of group membership lightly. Khelben simply doesn't care what the PCs do in their own time, as long as it doesn't endanger the Moonstars. Any act that could be considered evil earns a stern reprimand and an insistence on restitution; a second such act means a visit from a high-level member of the Moonstars. Continued acts of this ilk earn the Moonstars member expulsion, a magical erasure of Moonstars-related memories and information, and perhaps more. Similarly, any group of PCs with a past track record of such deeds is unlikely to ever be approached by the Moonstars in the first place.
Regardless of how the PCs' first mission turns out, it's a certainty that Khelben or Laeral has at least one official Moonstars tracking the heroes during it, evaluating their performance, and reporting back to the Blackstaff or Laeral regularly. If the heroes notice this, under no circumstances does the Moonstars agent reveal his true reason for following them. Overzealous PCs could try to kill the Moonstars agent for his lack of cooperation without knowing who it is they're doing away with. That, in Khelben's own words, "would be unfortunate."
Explore the portals of the Moonstars.
About the Author
Dale Donovan is a 14+-year veteran of the gaming industry, during which time he edited Dragon Magazine, wrote or edited many Forgotten Realms products (along with every other roleplaying line produced by the company, be it TSR or Wizards), moved from rural Wisconsin to suburban Seattle when Peter Adkison of Wizards saved TSR, and served as a Managing Editor. Since going freelance, he has worked for Steve Jackson Games, Guardians of Order, White Wolf/Sword & Sorcery, and Wizards of the Coast, among others. He loves RPGs, horror and fantasy fiction, comics, movies, most every kind of music, and his lovely wife and wonderful daughter.