You find yourself standing on top of a great wall made of ancient stone. It is slightly damp and a generous amount of moss has found a home in all the cracks. A gust of wind goes by and you feel slightly chilly, you should have brought a jacket. Wait, how did you even get here? Where is this?
You look over one side of the wall and see an ocean of grey clouds. Are you in the sky? You feel dizzy and grab the edge to keep your balance. You look up to make sure the sky is still there. It is, the ocean of clouds above you is exactly the same as the ocean of clouds beyond the wall; thick, grey and silent. You look to the horizon and you can see nothing but clouds and mist. You strain your eye but cannot see where the sky stops and the ocean begins. Suddenly a voice startles you.
“Pretty disorienting, isn’t it?”
You spin around and are relieved to see your best friend in the whole world, Travis! He has a cheerful glint is his eye and a spring in his step as he walks over to you. Also, has he been working out? Because, damn, he is looking ripped. You become keenly aware of how handsome and awesome he is.
“I call it Mist World™! It’s my new D&D campaign setting. Let me show you around!”
It’s the best idea you have ever heard in your entire life, you are totally pumped and you share an enthusiastic high five with Travis. You listen intently as he points out towards the sea of cloudy mist.
“That out there is the mist. It’s an evil magical curse that has been covering the world for one hundred years. It has strange magical properties and warps the mind of anyone who stays in it for too long. Also there are tons of crazy ass monsters down there.”
A muffled gurgley roar rumbles from below, as if on cue: “GGRRWAAAAGHGHGHGHLABAAAA!”
Wait… You think. Is there ground down there?
“Oh yeah, definitely. We will go exploring down there later and you can see for yourself. For now you can throw that rock you have in your hand over the edge. You know, for perspective.”
Puzzled, you look down at your hand to see a pleasantly smooth river rock in the palm of your hand. Did you have it the whole time?
“Go on, throw it!”
You reach back and throw it with all your might. It silently arcs through the air and is swallowed by the grey. An uncomfortably long moment passes before you hear the soft thus of a rock hitting the earth.
“Yep. See? Solid ground. There is a whole world of mystery to be discovered by traveling through the mist, but first I want to show you THIS!”
Travis turns around and raises his arms to praise the sprawling settlement protected by the wall. The infinite void of mist was so mesmerizing that you hadn’t noticed before.
“It’s called Karaoke village.”
… What? Karaoke? Like, when you sing at a bar karaoke? Really? You think to yourself.
“Yes, really! My name is Travis and I do what I want. When you create a world, you can name it.”
Fair enough. You think. Wait, did he read my mind?
“Come this way! I’ll show you the market place!”
Travis grabs you by the wrist and drags you towards a flight of stone stairs that leads down to the village. When you get to the bottom you stand in front of a pair of massive steel reinforced wooden doors that lead to the outside world. A path leads from them down the hill to a small market place. There are about a dozen stands arranged in a big half circle with a stage in the middle. A band is setting up classical looking sting and wind instruments. There are several other people looking just a busy fussing around their stands and putting their wares on display.
“They are getting ready for the monthly market. It’s kind of a big deal for the people around here. Karaoke village is a boring place and they don’t get that much excitement.”
Sounds like this place needs some cool adventurers to shake things up! You think.
“That’s the spirit! Come on, let’s go see what they have for sale.”
Together you walk down the hill to get closer and you immediately notice how obnoxiously bright everyone’s clothing is. A fat bald man is wearing a bright reddish purple outfit. Seriously, shirt pants and shoes, he looks like a giant beet. You see an old lady with a mop of curly grey hair on her head clashing with the rainbow shirt and bright blue pants she is wearing. Everyone you look at makes your retinas feel stressed out.
“It’s always overcast here, nobody has seen the sky or the sun in a generation. Everything is grey and dull, they need the colors to stay sane. Trust me, you will feel the same way after you grow up here!”
You begin the imagine the backstory of a character growing up here. You think about how bored they would be, how hungry they would be for excitement and adventure. You look around, everyone in the market is either a human or human-looking with pointy ears. Maybe you could play a half-elf… You even start to ponder what weapon you would like to use before Travis interrupts you.
“They call the lady in the rainbow shirt Grandma. She has been around for, like, a hundred years. Let’s go see what she has to say!”
You saunter over to her counter to see that it is covered in giant delicious grapes. Grapes the size of your fist, with taught purple skin. They are fresh picked and still have morning dew still beaded on their surface. You can’t help yourself and you pick one up and sink your teeth into it. Juicy grapeness fills your mouth and you gain the freshest hit point you have ever recovered.
“Do you like them?” Asks Grandma.
You furiously nod your agreement as you take another bite.
“I call them Grandma’s Good Grapes™. The secret to growing them is love, and alliteration. I have been growing and perfecting my grape vines for fifty years!”
Travis pokes you in the ribs: “Because she’s old. Did you catch that part?” You pretend to ignore him and hide your mild irritation as Grandma continues.
“Why, that’s about the last time the sun came out actually. Yes, that was quite a day indeed! It lasted for almost an entire day too, some people got sunburned for the first time in their lives. I had to explain to them what it was! It was a good thing that I grow aloe plants too. You look a little young to remember that day, though. Here, have a cookie.”
Grandma produces a tray of freshly baked sugar cookies from under the table. You greedily grab a handful while she smiles. You decide Grandma is pretty bad-ass.
Just then you hear the long blast of a horn. There is a watch tower built into the walls be the doors. Why didn’t you notice it before? Someone on the top shouts down: “Open the gates!” Two young men clad in animal skin leather armor and wielding hunting spears pull against just one of the giant heavy doors. They strain to open it just far enough for a person to walk through. A single file line of their comrades returning from the hunt pour through.
Six young men and women rush in, they look shaken and some of them are bleeding. A seventh comes through the door, a huge woman clad in platemail armor. She has a sigil on her breastplate: an angry owl carrying an anvil. SHe holds a giant greatsword with one hand and she has the bloody unconscious body one more hunter slung over her other shoulder. She commands with a booming voice:
“CLOSE THE GATES!”
Her order is quickly obeyed and the heavy gate is pushed shut. She kneels and flops her cargo onto the ground. The hunters crowd around her and some people from the market run up to help and they obscure your view. You’re not sure, but it looked like the person she was carrying was bleeding from their neck.
“That big gal is Hope.” Says Travis. “Her ancestors were knights before the mist came. That owl on her chest is the sigil of her house, apparently. Nobody really remembers what it stands for. A group of brave adventurers may discover the truth of it’s meaning someday, though.”
You would be intrigued by the mystery if you weren’t so concerned for the dying young hunter up the hill. There is a commotion around her, Hope is shouting orders and a pair of uninjured young men fetch a stretcher. They load up the unconscious body and hustle in your direction. They quickly pass by and you get a glimpse of the young woman. She is wearing leather armor similar to the others, but it looks burned and it has several holes in it. She has pointy ears and freckles. Her hair is dyed green and it is braided into ponytail. Her neck has a makeshift bandage on it but it is already bright red and soaked all the way though with blood. Her face is pale and her eyes look dead.
They rush past you down the road and disappear behind a building. You wonder what her name is, and if she has a chance to survive.
“You know, I didn’t even give her a name.” Says Travis. “She might be ok though, maybe. They are taking her to Melora’s Longhouse™. Melora is the town’s patron deity, she is the goddess of like, nature and the ocean and stuff. Or something like that. Yep.”
Do you even know about your own world? You think at Travis. And what about that young woman? Did she die?! You monster!
Travis holds up his hands. “Whoa, whoa! Chill out. Let’s go find out what happened to her then if you’re that worried about it. It will give me a chance to show you some more stuff!”
Slightly perturbed, you walk with Travis down the path through town. You see several houses, some of them have children chasing each-other and play-fighting with sticks. There are people tending gardens and hanging laundry up to dry. Travis points out the blacksmith shop and the town’s main well. You pass a large field that has several people tending plants and trees, as well as some people just sitting around on benches.
“Those are the Grey Gardens™, it is where they grow most of the food for the village. People like to come and look at the colorful fruit. Because, you know, all the grey.”
You keep walking until you reach the longhouse, on top of a rocky cliff. You can’t see it, but you can hear the gentle rushing sound of the sea and waves crashing on rock. A stiff breeze comes up and makes you shiver, you really should have brought that jacket. The longhouse doesn’t look like much from the outside, just a long building made out of logs. You see smoke rising from a hole in the roof and you presume there is a warm fire inside. Travis generously opens the door for you, but before you step inside something catches your eye.
In some boulders near the cliff’s edge there is a door, fitted perfectly into the side of a massive rock. The doorway is only a little more than half you height, it looks like a little house. It reminds you of the houses the hobbits live in from Lord of the Rings, but you are acutely aware of how it is just different enough to keep Travis from getting sued. He notices your curiosity.
“That’s where Gimble the Gnome lives. He has all sorts of useful trinkets and magical items that he gets… from somewhere. When you adventure here you might find out where! Look, I don’t have time to show you EVERYTHING today. Come on, let’s check out the longhouse!”
You step inside and see that it is all one giant room. The first part where you entered looks to be an infirmary, there are beds with the sick and wounded lined up against the walls. A few people wearing acolyte robes are rushing about, tending to the injured hunters. Farther down you see a fire trench dug into the floor down the middle of the room. It is filled with pleasantly warm burning logs and coals. Several spits and pots are set up, you get a faint whiff of several delicious meats and stews being prepared. At the very far end there are many benches set up facing the wall. There is a giant sculpture of a sea shell mounted on the wall.
“That’s where they gather to worship Melora and give her offerings. Look, here comes the high priestess now!”
A tall slender woman with a fair complexion and pointy ears walks closer. She is wearing beautiful flowing white and blue robes. You notice that they are stained with blood, you look behind her to see the young green haired hunter from before. She lays dead from her wounds. The priestess announces to the room that her wounds were too great, and that her spirit is now in the next plane. The room is filled with tears and sunken hearts. You choke up too, and admit that you were hoping she would be ok. What kind of a horrible person would create a world like this? Your fists tighten and you glare at Travis.
“Cool, huh? Her name is Amena.”
I thought she didn’t have a name! What are you trying to pull here!
“What? No! The priestess, the priestess in named Amena. What were you thinking?”
The dead girl, you dumbass!
“Oh. Hey, if characters didn’t die, then the danger wouldn’t be real, right? Don’t worry about it, she was just an NPC. I got lot’s more of those.”
Anger wells up in your heart. This will not stand! You reach for your d20 to roll initiative:
“Whoa whoa whoa! Alright, fine. If you want her to be alive so bad, why don’t you roll her up as a player character? Give her a backstory and, you know, a name. I may allow her to survive her wounds if you meet me half way. I can’t do EVERYTHING around here!”
You are intrigued by the suggestion, but still hang on to your d20. Your mind spins with ideas and possibilities for a new character. You are rudely interrupted, however, by Travis shoving you forward.
“Never mind that right now! Look over there, I want you to hear this.”
The injured hunters kneel in a circle around Amena. She holds up her hands and magical blue energy begins to swell and swirl around her. You sense she is casting a healing spell, but she is holding back for some reason. Then the hunters speak in unison:
“This is my promise to the goddess Melora; I vow to protect the wild places of the world from destruction and overuse. I vow to atone for my ancestors sins and bring balance back to civilization. I vow to hunt and destroy the abominations of the mist to prove my courage and worthiness. I do not fear the savagery of the wild, I do not fear death. I will live in harmony with this world and I vow to earn your forgiveness so that you may disperse the mist with your divine wind.”
Amena seems satisfied and responds to them. “Then receive this gift from Melora, may it keep you strong.” She releases her spell and a golden healing light washes over them. Their wounds magically heal and some color returns to their faces. They thank her for her blessing.
“Did you catch all that?” Says Travis. “They believe the mist is divine punishment for civilization growing too large. If you travel outside the walls you will find miles and miles of ruined buildings and streets. It’s been overgrown by nature and horrible mist monsters, though. Anyway, their belief is how they reconcile living in a world like this. Gotta have hope!”
Travis puts his hand on his hips, clearly proud of the world he has created.
“Come with me, I have one more thing to show you!” Travis snaps his fingers and you find yourself instantly teleported outside the walls, standing in the thick of the mist. You are surprised by the sudden oppressive humidity and thickness of the air. You cough and hack. You try to calmly pace your breathing, but the mist stings your eyes and you can’t seem to catch your breath.
“Oh yeah, sorry. Here.” Travis produces a small magical glowing gem from his pocket and places it in the palm of your hand. It is refreshingly cool to the touch and you feel it’s magical energy create a field of force around you. The mist is pushed back about ten feet all around you in a perfect circle. You can breath clearly again.
“Yep, this world has all kinds of cool magical stuff hidden in it. Why, I bet Karaoke Village has something like this hidden away, somewhere. Perhaps one day soon a group of brave adventurers may discover it and walk the very path we are walking right now. Come on!”
Travis walks off boldly into the mist and you follow him. He leads you over uneven cobblestone streets, ruined by a hundred years of tree roots and weeds. There are half-collapsed buildings everywhere. You see cracked stone monuments to people you don’t recognize and you even come across a couple of skeletons lying in the gutter.
As you walk your movement is contested more and more by increasingly thick overgrowth. You find yourself wading through waist high grass as more and more structures pass by. Travis leads you on a confusing and convoluted path, you have passed so much you aren’t sure you could find your way back. You hope Travis knows where he is going as he confidently leads you deeper and deeper into the urban jungle.
A few minutes pass and the urban jungle starts to look more like a regular jungle. You enter a straight up forest with giant trees. They have trunks that are as thick as a car, and you can’t see the tops of them thanks to the mist. Huge clumps of hanging moss are all around you and the ground has turned to sticks and rotting foliage.
“Shit, I thought it was over here…”
Is he lost? How do you get lost in your own world?!
“Hey, this is complicated, ok! I created a lot of stuff, just give me a second to look at my notes.”
Travis magically produces a notebook from somewhere and beings to flip through pages. He promptly drops it and papers scatter on the ground. Some of them blow away along with a slight breeze.
“Damnit! Hold on… get back here!”
Travis fumbles about trying to gather his pages and you sigh to yourself. This tour has gone on for a long time, you are starting to get hungry. You wander around for moment and inspect the bark of the nearest tree, for lack of something better to do while you wait. Heck. You think to yourself. Heck. Heeeck. Heeeeeeeeckssss……
You feel a whisper in your mind, a whisper that isn’t in your own voice. Where is that coming from? You look around, but you feel light headed. You trip on a tree root and fall onto the muddy forest floor. You feel a bulky presence walk forward to stand over you. You look up.
Before you stands a massive stag. It has thick fur and stands as tall as a horse. It has a full impressive set of antlers that have grown in the shape of a pentagram. It locks eyes with you and your body turns to jelly. It’s eyes are mesmerizing, you hear a soft buzzing and a wave of darkness washes over you.
It is so beautiful, you couldn’t ever possible bring yourself to harm it. Your body is paralyzed anyway, and you watch helplessly as it rears back. It lifts it’s front hooves above your skull, ready to trample you.
A rock hits it in the face.
It stumbles back and shakes its head. The spell is broken and you feel a surge of adrenaline take you. You jump back to your feet and reach for your weapon… oh wait, you don’t have one. Travis runs up behind you.
“Damnit Hexdeer! Not now! Get the fuck out of here!”
He waves his arms at it as he runs toward it. The hexdeer digs in its feet and lowers its head, pointing his antlers forward. It strafes back and forth with Travis as he tries to scare it away.
“God damnit! I said get out of here, Shoo!”
Travis jumps up and down and stomps his feet. The hexdeer jumps in the air, kicking his legs behind him. He suddenly gallops off, but makes eye contact with you one last time as he disappears into the forest.
Travis dusts himself off and walks up to you. “Sorry, that wasn’t supposed to happen… yet. That was a hexdeer. It’s got arcane powers, and casts hexes! Get it?”
You roll your eyes. It was cool until he described it.
“Anyway, I found where i was trying to go. It’s right over here, come on!”
Together you walk through a bit more forest and come upon a huge clearing with an even bigger castle. The mist has gotten thicker and you can barely see it.
“Sorry, hold on.” Travis waves his hands around and the mist clears up a bit. You see the towers of the castle stand as tall as the trees, and it has a massive pair of stone wings! They are outstretched, like the castle is about to jump into the sky and take off, or like it is a bird trying to look threatening. It reminds you of the wings on the angry owl sigil you saw on Hope’s breastplate.
“Cool, huh? Why would you build a castle with wings? How was the world different one hundred years ago? What was the point? The mystery!”
You admit it is pretty intriguing.
“See the mist coming out of it?”
Travis points to the drawbridge and you notice a slow steady fog pouring out of the mouth of the castle. Is the mist coming from here? Is it possible to get rid of the mist if you do something in that castle?
“I bet so, but you will have to play in my world to find out. Hey, thanks for taking the time to take a look at Mist World™ with me. I appreciate your time, I had better let you get back to browsing Facebook.”
Travis looks over his shoulder and you hear another faint buzzing sound.
“Damnit hexdeer, come back later!” Travis’s face goes pale. “Oh, no! Ok, it’s time to go. Here come the knife hornets.”
You turn around as the buzzing grows deafeningly louder. You see a swarm of human sized wasps with giant stingers and angry faces. Each one of them holds six freshly sharpened knives, one for each leg. One of them screams at you: “DIE MAMMAL!” The swarm descends.
“Shit shit shit shit shit!” Travis waves his arms around wildly and the story suddenly ends.
You find yourself back sitting in front of your device, casually browsing the internet. Your imagination tingles and you can’t wait to show up to the first session and create your character. You already have an idea of the first thing you will do…