Racial Portals of Faerûn
By Ramon Arjona
In Lantan, the deity Gond guides the gnomes who worship him to greater and greater technological achievement. The gnomes, in turn, venerate the god of invention more completely than any other race or region in Faerûn reveres him. While gnomes outside of Lantan pay homage to Gond, in Lantan the deity's church is dominant and his message of constant improvement and invention has taken deep root.
The gnomes of Lantan have been responsible for a number of inventions that have gained great popularity on the mainland, from children's toys to useful, labor-saving devices. Other inventions have remained confined to Lantan because they lack mass appeal or because they are too dangerous to be allowed into the hands of the untrained. Few inventions, however, will match the power, elegance, and sheer audacity of the Lantanese Portal -- or at least few will match what its maker envisions the portal will become.
Created by a team of highly trained gnomes, led by a gnome called Bartok Silverhammer (a specialist in interspatial dynamics), and funded by the Gondar clergy, the Lantanese Portal is unique in a land filled with oddities -- some would call it an abomination. Bartok and his crew intend to create the first nonmagic portal in the whole of Faerûn. The Lantanese Portal, or the LP as it is more simply called, is identical to the portals described in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, except for the following details.
First of all, the LP is not finished. The team has a temporary magic portal working through the confines of the one that they hope will replace it eventually. The future nonmagic portal will not radiate a magical aura. As such, the spell detect magic will not reveal its presence, or so Bartok hopes. Though it's currently a magic portal, Bartok and his team are working on a set of tremendous steam engines, which were designed by Bartok, that will replace the magic version of the portal. As such, the LP cannot be moved -- both because of the magical stricture preventing it, as is the case with most portals, and also because the apparatus that provides power to the LP is too vast and complicated to be moved. Even now, the steam engines and their use are tied into the functionality of the magic portal due to the way it was created (see below for more on the "keyed" aspect of the portal). Dispel magic, gate seal, and Mordenkainen's disjunction will eventually become useless against the LP, or so Bartok believes. However, a disintegrate spell (or other spell that destroys objects) could conceivably damage a part of the LP's mechanism and prevent it from working until it can be repaired. It would certainly ruin the current keyed aspect of the magic portal.
At this time, the magic LP leads to a single destination: a desolate region of the Mulhorandi Dust Desert. Bartok believed this would be a safe target that would not needlessly jeopardize life and property. Bartok also believes that he can overcome the stricture common to magic portals that prevents a destination from changing once the portal has been created. His technicians are working on a device he calls the difference engine which, once complete, will allow the nonmagic version of the LP to be reprogrammed to target different destinations with each use.
Such a massive project is not without its pitfalls, however. First, the LP can currently be considered a malfunctioning portal, per the rules in the Forgotten Realm Campaign Setting. It works as intended only about half the time, with dire consequences resulting the rest of the time. Several teams of intrepid gnome test subjects have been dropped far off from their intended destination, and one team was killed outright. Still another team of test subjects disappeared after passing through the LP and have not been seen or heard from since. The LP is also a random portal. Any successful use allows 1d6+3 creatures through. The LP then does not function for 1d6 days.
Further, the portal is keyed, for all intents and purposes, so that only Bartok and his two closest associates can activate it. This is not a design feature of the LP. Rather, it is a result of the device's immense complexity, which currently only Bartok and his disciples can grasp. Should Bartok's dream come true, though, and the portal become completely nonmagical in nature, he knows his users will require training to run the machine. In the meantime, even in its magical version, the portal requires some key actions in terms of what switches to pull and which buttons to push to gain the end result of a rush of a precisely measured amount of steam pressure against one specific section of the portal's metal archway. As a result, learning to activate the LP requires close observation of the actions of Bartok or his associates.
Should Bartok succeed, he will have achieved an immense triumph for Gond and gnomekind by creating a portal that is nonmagical and that can be reprogrammed to target new destinations based on the desires of the technicians using it.
How to Incorporate the Lantanese Portal Into Your Campaign
- Bartok activates the LP, which malfunctions, sending a team of gnomes hurtling into the PCs from apparently nowhere at an extremely troublesome time -- in the middle of combat, for instance, or while the PCs are in the bath house. Once the gnomes and PCs get over the initial shock, the gnomes attempt to enlist the PCs in helping with their long journey home to Lantan. They offer the appropriate technological marvels as incentive. The gnomes are reticent to discuss the LP directly. While Gond's dogma encourages the free exchange of information, these gnomes do not want to allow knowledge of the LP to fall into dangerous or untrained hands just yet.
- Bartok activates the LP at the same time that a follower of Set activates the nearby Mulhorandi portal. The two portals conflict with each other, causing a significant breach in the fabric of reality. This begins with simple things, localized to the Dust Desert, at first -- but quickly the effect begins to spread. Dead magic and wild magic areas appear at random, spread, and disappear. People become invisible for no apparent reason, or are subject to random polymorph spells. The PCs must get to the root of the problem and find a way to set it right.
- Bartok activates the LP, and it malfunctions. It sends a team of gnomes through to their destination, and the PCs are brought over to Lantan. Once again, this should occur at an extremely troublesome or embarrassing moment. The PCs must now find their way home from Lantan -- not an easy task, since Bartok isn't keen on letting them go with sensitive information about the LP just yet.