Portals in Time
By Robert Wiese
The Mishap-Prone Portal
In the town of Triel in the Western Heartlands, the denizens enjoy the use of a portal that links their town to Selgaunt, the largest city in Sembia. The portal was created a long time ago by an eccentric wizard who never quite got things correct. His spells misfired, and his magic devices often did different things than he intended. The portal is a one-way portal to a park near downtown Selgaunt. The residents of Sembia are not thrilled to have the portal emerge inside their city and would have closed it down except for the mercantile opportunities. Thus, the arrival point is always guarded, and no one is allowed to use the portal without notifying the patrol in Sembia in advance of any travel. Travelers must provide details on how many and what kind of beings will travel through the portal and what their business is. This is required by treaty, and if the treaty is broken, Selgaunt is prepared to teleport a sufficient force to kill whoever is responsible for breaking it. The customers that come through the portal make it financially unwise to permanently close it now.
The portal is set in an arch inside a mausoleum-like monument in Triel. It is 3 feet wide and 5 feet high. It operates five times per day: dawn, highsun, 2 hours after highsun, dusk, and midnight. It is open for 1 minute when active. On the Triel side, it is "owned" and managed by a merchant named Conrath Isthan (LN half-elf male Exp8/Sor5). Conrath charges for the use of the portal and is responsible in the eyes of Sembia for regulating and controlling traffic. Conrath employs an elite force to do the actual work, and of course not all of them have sterling morals. So naturally there is illegal travel through the portal. This illegal travel comes from two sources: Conrath's employees making some money on the side (these travelers usually go at midnight) and those who bypass the guards and use the portal without following the terms of the treaty. Escaping criminals, adventurers, and the like make up this second group.
If this were all there was to this portal, no one would really care that much about it. But, this portal has some unique features -- mishaps, really. As noted, the creator never did get things quite right, and his portal is no exception. It was infused with strange energies during its creation and thus it has a sort of sentience about it. Further, it somehow can transport across time, but only as a fluke.
When created, the portal was given the power to summon extraplanar creatures to its defense if anything ever happened to it. This self-preservation feature was intended by the creator, but has turned out to be the source of a great many problems. Every so often, a use of the portal triggers a strange mishap. Usually this mishap is caused by someone carrying a strong magical aura through the portal, but no one really knows for sure. The mishaps are rare and happen only once every hundred years or so. The first mishap caused it to summon a creature (a balor), which inexplicably was destroyed by an unknown group of people. That was hundreds of years ago. Every mishap since has resulted in the travelers being sent back in time to the moment when the balor first appeared. Thus, a whole group of people from different times is accumulating in the past, all fighting this creature.
If you wish to introduce your PCs to the events that occur when a mishap happens, you can utilize some of the following people to help populate the battle against the balor. You can introduce them as needed. When the PCs first arrive, though, they see that the balor is already battling Cedri Fleren (LG human female Ftr8; use Khemed's stats, adjusting as necessary and that the bard Ilyna Denrys (CN elf female Brd9; use the stats for Morning Glory Blade, adjusting as needed) is on the ground nearby and about to die (-5 hit points). These other combatants are around, too: Thordek Stonebreaker, Larith Damir (NG moon elf female Wiz11; use the stats for Ashemmi, adjusting as necessary), Lilian Trinitos (CN human female Rog 4/Sor 6/Asn 2; use the stats for Selinah Varhast, adjusting as necessary).
About twenty other individuals of varying occupations are also in the area but have avoided the combat thus far; fifteen of them have come through the portal to this time by mishap and have minimal levels in varying classes. The others in the area are those who live in the time period.
If the challenge of a balor is too much for the PCs, choose a lesser demon from the Monster Manual or increase the number of people showing up AFTER the PCs have arrived. (Just keep in mind that with more people comes more things that you need to track!) You may wish to peruse the Realms Personalities area for some more NPCs or even include a few NPCs from other adventures that you've run. If these people pass back through the portal, they return to the time that they left. Alternatively, for your campaign, the malfunction could be a timed one that brings back those suffering the mishap within a certain period of time automatically. (Again, it is up to you whether anyone has ever returned to their own present time. Obviously, if someone does return, the nature of the portal's malfunction will become clear.)
How to Incorporate the Mishap-Prone Portal Into Your Campaign
Time travel can be dangerous, and only if you want your players in the past should you have them be the group for which a mishap first occurs. However, there are other possibilities.
- The PCs go through the portal for whatever reason. However, the portal malfunctions, and they get sent back to the time when the creature attempted to destroy those around it. After the battle (or even during it), they may step back through the portal to return to the present or the magic malfunction of the portal ends, automatically bringing them back in a kind of yo-yo effect. (Do this however you need to.) The time travel nature of the portal's mishaps is revealed, causing a conflict over its continued use. Should the PCs die, their bodies return to the point of departure in a manner similar to the spell teleport through time.