Portals in Ruins
By Robert Weise
The Assam Portal
Standing as the northernmost city on the Shining Plains, Assam is controlled by the two larger cities to the south. Those cities, Lheshayl and Ormath, appoint the ruling council for Assam, and the council appoints a mayor. Assam is a trade city, and efficient but uninteresting times are the norm for this somewhat isolated city. That is, until recently.
A little north and west of Assam sits some ruins of a village or town left thousands of years ago by some civilization. The ruins comprise only the remains of walls of buildings for the most part, but two intact structures remain as well. Adventurers and other treasure seekers looted them long ago, taking whatever treasure they might have contained, and no one had paid the ruins much attention for centuries. They were just there.
A group of adventurers stopped at the ruins for a night and found a secret chamber in the larger of the mostly intact buildings. Within that chamber they found a portal. The report of their discovery has set the country afire with speculation and conflict, because the portal opened to a spot in far-off Kara-Tur, near a Shou city of moderate size. The portal is a one-way gate, continuously active, and marked by an arch about 15 feet across and 12 feet high. The chamber in which it resides has since been demolished to ease access to the portal, as the trade potential of this portal is immense, and everyone wants to make the most coin possible from the discovery. One enterprising trading group sent a representative through to Kara-Tur to establish a post there. The group sends goods through the portal on mules, and the representative communicates magically with his firm as needed. This one firm is not the only user of the portal. Several groups send things through to Kara-Tur, and more and more have lined up to take advantage of the "shortcut to the far east." Plans are even in the works to make a return portal. Thankfully for Assam, word of the portal has not spread outside the Shining Plain, but that will happen far too soon for everyone's comfort.
The members of the ruling council of Assam disagree on who should have control of the portal, as well as any user fees to be generated. The conflicts grew large enough to have spread back to Lheshayl and Ormath. In the meantime, the mayor of Assam has appointed an official to the new post of gate warden, with duties to record who uses the portal and what passes through. The gate warden must also collect such user fees as the ruling council sets. This person is Malgoriam, and he assiduously fulfills his duties.
Malgoriam: Male human Exp6/Sor4; CR 10; Medium-size humanoid; HD 6d6 plus 4d4; hp 23; Init +1; Spd 30 ft.; AC 11 (touch 11, flat-footed 10); Atk +6/+1 melee (1d4/19-20, dagger); or +7/ +2 ranged (1d4/19-20, dagger); AL LN; SV Fort +5, Ref +4, Will +10; Str 10, Dex 13, Con 11, Int 13, Wis 13, Cha 14. 5 feet 7 inches; age 29.
Skills and Feats: Appraise +7, Bluff +10, Concentration +6, Diplomacy +14, Gather Information +8, Intimidate +12, Knowledge (local -- Vilhon Reach) +7, Knowledge (nobility and royalty) +7, Listen +9, Profession (politician) +11, Sense Motive +7, Spellcraft +7, Spot +3, Alertness, Dodge, Extend Spell, Great Fortitude, Spell Focus (Enchantment).
Sorcerer Spells Known (6/7/4; base DC = 12 + spell level): 0 -- daze, detect magic, open/close, prestidigitation, read magic, resistance; 1st -- comprehend languages, expeditious retreat, message; 2nd -- detect thoughts.
Malgoriam is a petty official's petty official. Viewing politics as a way to get rich, he entered the government of Assam as early as he could get a post. He served without distinction but with great energy, and when Mayor Tempest needed to appoint a gate warden, Malgoriam maneuvered himself into the post. He has realized his dream with this post, as the trade through it will only increase and everyone sending anything through has to pay the user fee. Since he collects the fees, he inflates them beyond what the government requires and keeps the extra gold.
The bureaucrat is thin and sniveling, caring only for himself and his own prosperity. He cares nothing for the plight of anyone using the gate, and those who offer a sob story or try to talk him out of the fee get charged an extra "I have to listen to your whining" fee on top of the usually inflated fees. He has three "subordinates," who are really thugs, and if there is any trouble over the fees, he calls them to do any fighting that might be needed. They are always 4th-level fighters (use NPC stats on page 53 of the Dungeon Master's Guide).
How to Incorporate the Assam Portal Into Your Champaign
- If you want to take your campaign to the Far East, or mix in some Oriental elements, this portal can connect your PCs with the world of ninjas and samurai. The characters could have to go through the portal to find a missing merchant, or recover some stolen property. Once there, they will no doubt run into other adventures while waiting for the return portal to be completed.
- Once the return portal is complete, who can say what horrors might pour through it from Kara-Tur on missions of conquest. The characters could be hired to defend the portal itself from unlawful use or from whatever might come through.
- The conflict in Ormath escalates, and a noble is found murdered. Was his death really related to the newly found portal, or is there some other cause? The characters can be pulled into this mystery either by direct hire or by happening on the body. They could inadvertently have clues to the killer, or could have clues that the killer planted to divert suspicion away from herself. It could be that the killer must be sought on the far side of the portal, or closer to home (say, the murdered person's sibling).