Friday, March 20, 2009

The Monastery of St. Gaxyg-at-Urheim

The monks of Saint Gaxyg (popularly called “the Gray Monks,” after the color of their habits) were a Lawful order that undertook devotions, good works, and scholarship in equal measure, thereby winning them the esteem and affection of the folk throughout the land. So zealous were the monks in defending the realm against the depredations of Chaos that they established a monastery upon the crags of Urheim, under which existed a series of caves that not only spawned foul aberrations but whose supernatural taint drew monsters and evil men alike to itself.

The monks valiantly embarked on a generations-long project of cleansing Urheim of its contagion by venturing deep into its subterranean recesses to confront its denizens with holiness, magic, and steel. As part of their plan, they worked the very stone itself, giving it a Lawful pattern and sanctifying it in the name of St. Gaxyg. Slowly but surely, despite the cost to themselves, the Gray Monks did more than just contain Chaos; they pushed it back, defeating it in its very lair, in the process amassing items of mysterious origins and magical potency, along with other treasures, all of which they either put to good use or stored away, lest they fall into the wrong hands.

While the monastery stood strong, it was a beacon of light in a darkened world. Pilgrims flocked to it in order to venerate the memory of the saint in whose name the monks labored and to gain spiritual edification from their example. Novices regularly entered the monastery, swelling their numbers and ensuring that Law carried the day in the battle beneath Urheim. Many warriors pledged themselves to the monks and joined them in their great task, which further strengthened their cause and led some to believe that the Chaos beneath Urheim might finally be defeated for all time.

Alas, the taint of Chaos touches all things, even a bastion of Law, such as the monastery of St. Gaxyg. After several centuries and a succession of weak abbots, the Gray Monks grew indulgent, preferring wealth and influence to wisdom and piety. Slowly, the blasphemous spawn of Urheim reclaimed the caves as their own, pushing the monks out and reversing the hard-won victories of the centuries. Rather than fight them, as had their predecessors, the monks simply warded the entrance to the underworld and settled into a comfortable laxity. No longer exemplars of law and goodness, the wealth of the monastery aroused the envy of local lords, who eventually sacked it, putting the remaining monks to the sword, and seizing their treasures. Greedy though they were, these lords knew well enough than to disturb Urheim, leaving it safely warded by the holy magic of St. Gaxyg.

Chaos still issues its siren call, drawing evil beings, both human and otherwise, to Urheim. Rumors have spread that someone -- or something -- has found a way to enter the hidden caves once more, seeking both the wealth and evil power they reputedly hold. If true, the darkness the Gray Monks once fought could escape its prison and pour out across the land, heralding a terrible future ...

25 comments:

  1. I like where this is going!

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  2. Sounds very cool!

    nb at the end "Greedy though they were, these monks knew well enough than to disturb Urheim" - should be "these lords knew" I think.

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  3. Definitely a good way to start...interesting but not overbearing! I like it.

    Two comments:

    1. Maybe some fo the monks are still out there, seeking to make up for the failure of their order.

    2. My useless quibble: being the monks of St. Gaxyg, shouldn't they be "Grey" friars rather than "Gray" friars!!

    Great job!

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  4. Great job indeed. Very interesting start. Keep up the good work.

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  5. I love it! It sounds like a really cool place to raid... I mean, explore! :)

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  6. Very cool back-story. My group is only a few sessions into my current campaign, but thanks to your posts, I find myself getting more and more excited about my next campaign, which will be a mega-dungeon.

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  7. touch of hubris aside, I like the way you don't over-sell the monks' fall: it's quite possible for me, as a player, to wonder if I'm reading The Truth or a lord's version of it. Why does it go wrong? Because their holding back chaos is like resisting the sea with dikes or a cancer with constant vigilance. Nice.

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  8. richard said: "Because their holding back chaos is like resisting the sea with dikes or a cancer with constant vigilance."

    I agree completely. The monastery's background oozes the same feeling of impotence against Evil that made The Village of Hommlet such a great module.

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  9. Haven't I heard this story before?

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  10. I'm particularly happy about being able read this as a quasi-metaphor for our industry.

    Will there be a tormented ghost-abbot named Emulb? Will there be a villainous lich-witch named Eniarrol?

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  11. I'm particularly happy about being able read this as a quasi-metaphor for our industry.

    ...I heard the monks awoke the demon Asbroh, who's greed is said to be insatiable. :)

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  12. nb at the end "Greedy though they were, these monks knew well enough than to disturb Urheim" - should be "these lords knew" I think.

    Fixed. Thanks for catching that.

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  13. 1. Maybe some fo the monks are still out there, seeking to make up for the failure of their order.

    Count on it.

    2. My useless quibble: being the monks of St. Gaxyg, shouldn't they be "Grey" friars rather than "Gray" friars!!

    That's a very good point I hadn't considered. Instead I chose "Gray" because it's an obvious anagram.

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  14. Haven't I heard this story before?

    Issue #1 of Fight On! perhaps?

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  15. I'm particularly happy about being able read this as a quasi-metaphor for our industry.

    Believe it or not, that aspect of it was genuinely unintentional, or at least sub-conscious. I wrote the original adventure from which this whole idea sprang literally within hours of hearing about Gary's death last year. It's possible, in my mourning my childhood hero, that I channeled emotions I wasn't really aware I harbored, but I didn't do so deliberately.

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  16. that aspect of it was genuinely unintentional

    oh man! I've just been reconsidering the whole thing through that lens and thinking what a great, self-deprecating, deeply Gygaxian anti-manifesto of oldschoolism it makes. This is one of those cases where I'd be inclined to just smile knowingly and say "go on..." as my players came up with baroque layers on top of my bare bones plot.

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  17. Believe it or not, that aspect of it was genuinely unintentional, or at least sub-conscious....

    If I were more verbose, I could probably weave a PhD thesis out of that, but alas. :D

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  18. Read Anathem? (speaking of monks and sacking..)

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  19. I like how the warding turns out to be a bad idea... but does that mean that reopening it would be the best thing in the long term.

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  20. That's a very sound premise for the existence of a megadungeon. Bravo!

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  21. Read Anathem? (speaking of monks and sacking..)

    Can't say that I have.

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  22. I like how the warding turns out to be a bad idea... but does that mean that reopening it would be the best thing in the long term.

    That's of course one of those questions for which I won't be providing any answers. It's up to each referee to decide in his own campaign.

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