Magically Enhanced Sites - Crossroads, Backroads and Mythals
Many spells and items ward and protect areas. But these are typically shadows of the most powerfully warded sites: crossroads and mythals. Guards of a sort protect both of these places, and few can employ their magic without the favor of those who stand in the way.
Crossroads and Backroads
Behind the world, hidden from eyes that don't know where to look, mystical roads of geomagical energy crisscross the face of Faerûn. These fairways belong to no one, though the fey have long guarded them. Druids know their secrets, as do some bards.
Nonfey know only about small sections of the backroads, thoroughfares that connect two locations. For game purposes, nonfey can only enter the backroads at a crossroads and travel one-way to a specified destination. The travel is instantaneous. You step onto the path, and a heartbeat later you emerge at the backroad's destination.
Druids have mapped the locations of some crossroads, though an unquantifiable number of them cover the world. Some druids have likened the backroads to folds in the world's fabric. These pinches bring two points together that would normally be much more distant if measured on a flat plane.
Travelers enter and leave backroads at a crossroads. Crossroads are invisible. They don't correspond to real roads or paths. Backroads and crossroads both have acquired a legendary status. Not everyone believes in them, because they cannot be seen or felt; traced, or tracked. They seem extraplanar and yet they're not. Only those of the purest fey blood understand them completely, and the fey keep the secret to protect the backroads from corruption.
Only druids and perhaps some fey can create new backroads, by use of the create crossroads and backroad spell. For that matter, only bards, druids, and fey have mastered the ability to find backroads. They do so by learning one of the druidic mysteries, the detect crossroads spell.
Backroads can be used for:
Communication: The user must specifically request communication rather than travel. If the user successfully coerces the guardian (see below) then a whisper, monologue, or shout travels along the backroad and sounds at the destination as if the user were standing there. If the user moves more than. 30 feet away from the crossroads, the communication ends and the user must renew the request. Druids have intricate meeting schedules by which they share news and updates in this way, spreading announcements all across Faerûn.
Travel: Backroads work similarly to portals, in that they allow the user to travel through them, almost instantaneously, from one crossroads to the next. When a user steps onto a backroad, she disappears as if walking through an illusionary wall and appears in the same way at the other end.
Surprise Travel: There are stories that a wandering minstrel performed a magnificent piece near a crossroads, then turned around and unwittingly walked onto the invisible backroad. The guardian presumed, perhaps negligently, that the bard was requesting permission to use it. She granted, the request. And the bard, by fate or manipulation, walked unprepared onto the backroad. These stories all end in mystery.
Backroads cannot be used for:
Spying: Backroads do not allow the user to see or gain any bonus toward viewing its destination. A creature can ask the guardian about the backroad's destination, but the guardian does not have to answer.
Shooting Through: No attacks, magical or otherwise, pass along the backroads to a distant location. They hit locally as if unimpeded. Magical attacks requiring a specific target fizzle if the target steps onto the backroad before the attack hits.
The Guardian: Every crossroads has a guardian (see Crossroads Guardian) who decides whether an individual can use the backroads. Such an individual must get the guardian's permission to use the backroads. Every druid has a preferred method for doing so, be it a plea, a song, a poem, or an homage to the backroads. Each individual must make her own request, and the guardian may turn anyone down. An individual cannot toss someone else onto a backroad unless that individual has already received permission to pass. Fey have free use of the backroad - whenever, wherever, without restriction.
The guardians are created when the druid casts the create crossroads and backroad spell. If a guardian is killed, the crossroads the guardian warded ceases to function as a starting point. The opposite end is still functional, since that guardian can permit passage through, but it is now one-way.
At the crossroads, the seeker can use Charisma, Bluff, Diplomacy, or Perform to cajole the guardian into letting her travel the backroads. Trappings of civilization put a guardian on the defensive, grating on its connection with all things fey and natural.
The guardian's initial attitude corresponds directly to the naturalness of the setting. Like most NPCs, guardians can be influenced with a Charisma check. (For details, see NPC Attitudes (DMG page 128).)
|Initial Guardian Attitudes|
|*The nature ratings are as follows:|
N1: Untainted land that's very rarely touched by civilized creatures; such places as virgin forest, undiscovered grottoes, and mountain ledges.
N2: Off-the-beaten-path lend that rarely sees civilized creatures other than those native to the environs;, such places as druid groves, elven lands, and ranger-patrolled sanctuaries.
N3: Rural areas with regular but sparse traffic; such places as the lands of farmers, herders, isolated monasteries, barbarian tribes, and other such small communities of land-respecting groups.
N4: Oft-traveled road areas; such places as villages, fortifications, large stone dwellings, warped landscapes, wizards' towers, and sorcerers' castles.
N5: Urban areas that sprawl and see much traffic to, from, and through them; places such as cities, free markets, and trade routes.
**The attitudes are as follows:
Helpful: The guardian allows the character to travel whenever he wants without a roll. Or each time, the character may choose to roll (with a +2 circumstance bonus) and vouch for one other to use the backroad as well. A failed roll indicates the guardian refuses the companion. Her attitude toward the original seeker falls to friendly in this case.
Friendly: The guardian lets the character use the backroad and will remember him favorably. The character receives a +2 circumstance bonus on his next attempt to court the guardian's favor.
Indifferent: The guardian lets the character pass with a successful roll.
Unfriendly: An unfriendly guardian remains suspicious and refuses to let the person pass.
Hostile: A hostile guardian believes the person to be a liar and sycophant. She doesn't let the character pass, and the next attempt to court the guardian's favor (no matter how much time has passed) faces a -2 circumstance penalty on the roll.
Invisible and difficult to notice by detect magic, crossroads may exist in any location. A few of the more famous ones are listed here. Druids and bards have spread knowledge of these crossroads among their fellows.
Arnrock Crossroads (N4): Located on the volcanic isle of Arnrock in the middle of the Lake of Steam, this crossroads leads to one in Herkemon's Hub.
Cantlowe Crossroads (N2): This crossroads is in a secured room in the Cantlowe Library Archives. The library curator lets people into the room, but warns the characters that no one has ever returned from beyond the crossroads in the thirty-five years she has worked at the university.
Herkemon's Hub (N1): Three dolmens (a dolmen is two vertical stones top.ped by one horizontal stone) mark a crossroads where three known backroads converge. The thresholds stand within 30 feet of each other on the rocky, western shore of the Lake of Steam. The backroads lead to the Wastes, Nykkara, and Arnrock.
Hermit Heights Crossroads (N1): On a peak in the Orsraun Range, this crossroads is located inside a split in the mountain face. The immense, cavelike split also contains a one-room hut made from rough wood found only in Thornwood. Druids and bards visit for the view and solitude. The temperature rarely rises above freezing, though someone keeps the firewood stocked. It connects to Thornwood.
Knightswood Nine Crossroads (N3): In a hollow, ancient tree, this crossroads stands in the King's Forest in Cormyr, near the Knightswood Nine druidic circle, and leads to Waterdeep.
Nykkara Crossroads (N1): Nykkara, the Isle of Memory, the funereal center for Calimshan, has a crossroads upon its shores, with a backroad to Herkemon's Hub.
Thornwood Crossroads (N3): A crossroads sits east of a druidic grove located in the heart of Thornwood. It connects to Hermit Heights.
Wastes Crossroads (N5): This crossroads is located somewhere in the Teshyllal Wastes of the Calm Desert. It connects to Herkemon's Hub.
Waterdeep Crossroads (N1): Located in Waterdeep, Sea Ward, in the Heroes' Garden, Waterdeep's only public garden outside the City of the Dead, this crossroads connects to the Knightswood Nine.
Bards and Crossroads
Bards have an advantage over other characters with regard to convincing guardians to allow them to pass. Guardians love music, stories, and moving performances. More bards have managed to earn a guardian's friendship than have druids. An exceptionally well-played tune will over any guardian, calling to her fey blood without mercy. All Perform checks to influence guardians receive a +2 circumstance bonus.
In ancient times, before the Weave took on its present form, the rules of magic were different. Many beings experimented with powerful dweomers that produced larger and much more potent effects than are possible today. Many minor and major artifacts date hack to these times.
A mythal is a living web of magical energy created by elven high magic. Given a primitive consciousness and a task of protecting a location such as an elven city or holy location, mythals are powerful and extensive wards that endure for hundreds or thousands of years. Designed to protect those inside and repel certain kinds of creatures, mythals use known spells, although each has a set of unique abilities that do not duplicate any known spell.
Unfortunately, like all persistent forms of magic, mythals are vulnerable to disruptions in the Weave, and the two deaths of Mystra in the past 1,700 years have damaged most of the mythals in the world, causing some to shatter and others to become corrupted. Corrupted mythals are known to produce areas of wild magic and dead magic, randomly strike invaders with harmful or healing spells, glow with strange colors, or physically alter the forms of those within them.
In addition to true mythals created by elven high magic, a number of presumptuous spellcasters have attempted to create their own form of mythals, with limited success. These constructions are usually much less powerful than a true mythal and do not last as long. Other magical effects are thought to be mythals but are actually remnants of divine manifestations or localized quirks of the Weave.
The effects and uses of true mythals are a mystery in today's Faerûn.
Sages argue about the number of true mythals, but the most popular number is twelve. The following is a list of known mythals and sites with effects similar to those of mythals.
Myth Drannor: The most famous of mythals, Myth Drannor is best known as a death trap, for its mythal has become corrupted and the place is infested with demons, undead, and members of the Cult of the Dragon.
Myth Glaurach: Built near what is now Hellgate Keep, this site was overrun and destroyed by orc hordes long ago, and exists now as little more than vine-covered rubble and a few sewer tunnels. Adventurers sometimes go there to draw upon its rumored ability to repair and restore charges to magic items.
Myth Ondath: Built upon the ruins of Ondathel, the City of Peace and dedicated to Eldath, this city and mythal was destroyed in a magical winter brought on by a woman known as the Ice Queen, her siege army, the lich Vrandak, and a powerful magic item known as the Gatekeeper's crystal. The powers of its mythal are lost to history.
Myth Dyraalis: Located in the Forest of Mir, this city boasts a mythal that prevents it from being seen (even by magic) except by elves, gnomes, and perhaps a few other sorts of creatures. Those who cannot see it are teleported to its opposite side should they cross its boundaries.
Myth Unnohyr: Once an elven stronghold in the Forest of Mir, its mythal became corrupted and now acts as a wild magic area by day and a dead magic area by night. Healing magic within its boundaries instead inflicts mummy rot upon its target. Little remains of its original buildings, and it is unknown if the treasures of the elven nation of Keltormir still exist under its bramble-covered mounds.
Myth Ihynn: A tomb city for elven heroes slain in battle with giants and other monsters, Myth Rhynn is ancient, and even the elves aren't sure when it was founded. The mythal was to protect their spirits from hostile magic and allow them to exist with their beloved forests. Now its mythal is decaying, causing elves who approach or enter it to become nauseated and animating the bodies of any other dead creature within its bounds. It is known to be inhabited by will-o'-wisps and the lichlike remains of a mage who now commands the city's undead.
Myth Lharas't: Built within Amn as a sanctuary for non-orthodox worshipers of Selûne, Myth Lharast became a safehold for benign lycanthropes. Despite this peaceful beginning, it collapsed in a battle between a cabal of local evil wizards and a powerful force of lycanthropes under the control of one of the mythal's creators. The city was blasted out of Faerûn by the power of Selûne, and now exists as a demiplane approachable only on nights of the full moon. The descendants of its long-ago opponents still live, hunting for a means of escaping.
Myth Nantar: The only mythal known to exist underwater, Myth Nantar rests under the waters of the Sea of Fallen Stars. The city is inhabited by elves, merfolk, tritons, and other races. Its mythal allows surface and aquatic creatures alike to breathe within its bounds, lends strength and endurance to elven inhabitants, and bars most evil aquatic creatures from entering. Few know the actual location of the city, and few have the ability to reach it if they did.
Myth Ijscar: Little is known about this mythal city except that it was built on the isle of Lantan, allowed its inhabitants to fly, and was destroyed at some point. The Lantanese don't reveal any hints about its location, so they either don't know or are good at keeping secrets.
Myth Adofhaer: This city of sun elves in the High Forest was magically shunted out of Faerûn to protect its inhabitants. They and the city itself wait in stasis until certain conditions have been met, and none know what those conditions may be.
Elven Court: This temple city was built on the ruins of the old Elven Court after the fall of Myth Drannor. Located southeast of Myth Drannor in the forest of Cormanthor, its mythal was similar to that of Myth Drannor, preventing the entry of drow and demons, guarding against fires, and so on. It is believed to still exist, although it is probably a city closed to all but elves.
Shoonach: Built around the seat of the former Shoon Empire of Calimshan this is not a true mythal. Shoonach was made by powerful wizardry but not actual high magic. The ruins encompass two cities and several smaller settlements, and the magic that envelops them consists of areas of wild magic, a ward that prevents its numerous undead from leaving, spells that slow ranged weapons to a crawl, and metamagic effects that maximize fire magic, minimize cold, and prevent divine necromancy spells from functioning. The place is also inhabited by large numbers of evil humanoids.
Herald's Holdfast: While the architects of this area are unknown, it has been confirmed that this is not a true mythal. This fortress has magic that prevents entry by orcs and negates certain kinds of magic. Located near Silverymoon, it has withstood attacks from mages, orc hordes, clusters of beholders, and even the tarrasque.
Undermountain: The many layers of spells placed by Halaster block teleportation, scrying, and cause many dead magic areas. They do not comprise a true mythal, but rather hundreds of smaller, specialized effects.