Excerpts Archive | 11/20/2009
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Excerpts: Plane Below: Orders out of Chaos

In today's Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos preview, we enter an order dedicated to the famed Temple of Elemental Evil.

Orders out of Chaos

With the exception of the most potent efreets, the powers that dwell within the Elemental Chaos are rarely more organized than the plane they call home. The constantly changing nature of the plane and the great distances between communities prevent control over multiple populations. Those leaders that inspire cults aren’t interested in cooperation between sects or in forming larger faiths. The nonnative inhabitants of the Plane Below must expend so much time and effort on survival that they have little energy or motivation to pursue other goals.

Yet as a source of unimaginable power, the Elemental Chaos calls to groups of individuals who seek to explore and to exploit its depths. A few examples of Elemental Chaos-linked organizations follow. As always, pick and choose the details you are fond of, or let them inspire you to create groups of your own.

The Cult of the Elder Elemental Eye

The Temple of Elemental Evil: Nearly every sage, priest, or adventurer has heard its name whispered in rumors and legends. It has been destroyed more than once by the forces of good. Just as many times, it has risen from the rubble to plague the world.

The Temple of Elemental Evil is but one symptom of a deeper malady. It is the holiest site of the Cult of the Elder Elemental Eye, a horrific organization not fully understood even by its own worshipers. The cultists are not highly organized, and internecine struggles for control of the temple are constant. Still, if one sect can impose its will on the others and raise the group to prominence once again, it can direct the cult’s awesome resources to end creation in any number of ways.

Cult of the Elder Elemental Eye Lore

Arcana, History, or Religion DC 15: The infamous Temple of Elemental Evil was the heart of a religious sect that terrorized the surrounding regions. The group hired bandits, consorted with demons and evil powers, and caused much destruction before it was defeated.

History DC 20: The Cult of Elemental Evil arose multiple times, and the temple was destroyed and rebuilt at least twice.

Arcana or Religion DC 25: The so-called Cult of Elemental Evil was in fact a sect of worshipers devoted to Zuggtmoy, a foul demon of slime and fungus. The elemental trappings of the sect were an attempt by the demon lord to attract a wider array of followers. When Zuggtmoy’s aspect was slain during a raid on the temple, Zuggtmoy’s followers lost faith, and the demon turned her attentions elsewhere.

Arcana or Religion DC 30: Zuggtmoy was merely a pawn in a larger game. She was not the true power behind the Temple of Elemental Evil. The Cult of the Elder Elemental Eye was the ultimate threat, an organization worshiping a primordial entity of enormous power. The name of the cult’s master is unknown, but rumors indicate that other primordials have cooperated with it, including Imix, Lord of Fire.

Religion DC 40: The title of the Elder Elemental Eye refers not to a primordial but to the Chained God, Tharizdun—the mad, figurative father of the Abyss. That he is the power behind the Cult of the Elder Elemental Eye is a fact known only by the sect’s highest members. Not all worshipers of Tharizdun are members of the sect. The cult represents only one group of mad fanatics, albeit one of the largest and most infamous.

Organization

With little organization and no unified leadership, the Cult of the Elder Elemental Eye has never reached its full potential. Still, its members work tirelessly, clandestinely seeking ever more power for their evil patron. Their ultimate goal is to bring Tharizdun into the world—a event that would be catastrophic for the entire cosmos.

Leader: Only a few faction leaders have a chance to attain dominance over the sect. Falrinth, a male human wizard, is an ancient fanatic who has already survived two separate offensives against the temple. Dein, a male stone giant warlock, believes that natural humanoids have no place in the cult except as slaves. Karreska Redhand is a female orc druid whose older half-sister, Smigmal, was a sect champion until she was slain.

Headquarters: The Temple of Elemental Evil is an enormous stone edifice with hideous carvings and demonic gargoyles, constructed and reconstructed in varying styles over the years. The temple contains multiple passageways to the Abyss and the Elemental Chaos, as well several pockets of the Plane Below made manifest in the world.

Legend tells that the temple exists in both the world and the Elemental Chaos, two spiritual halves of the same structure kept separate by planar boundaries. According to the tales, if the two temples were ever brought into conjunction, they would form a permanent, enormous conduit between the planes. Dimensional boundaries for miles would waver and blur, opening the way for a massive invasion of demonic and elemental creatures.

Hierarchy: The cult’s hierarchy is simple: Whoever has the power leads. All worshipers are devoted to the spread of elemental evil as a concept, even if some of them direct that devotion to different entities than others do. This common goal keeps the cult operating.

Members: Although its leaders are usually skilled warriors or elemental spellcasters, the cult accepts anyone. Worship of Tharizdun isn’t required to join, nor does the cult incorporate only such worshipers. The selfish, the bitter, the ambitious, the anarchic, and those who dabble in forbidden lore are all drawn to the cult. Evil and obsessed, they seek power at the expense of nonbelievers and are welcomed with open arms.

Many cultists aren’t natural humanoids. They include elementals desiring power over the world, giants seeking the return of their lost empire, and demons reveling in the chance to destroy.

History

When the Cult of the Elder Elemental Eye first arose is impossible to say. Worshipers of Tharizdun, under his various titles, have existed since the end of the Dawn War. When the temple was first built decades ago, it appeared to be dedicated to the destructive powers of the elements, but was in fact faithful to the demon Zuggtmoy. Even then, some members secretly revered the Elder Elemental Eye, working to steer the sect to their own purposes. Were they instrumental from the beginning, manipulating the demon into founding the cult? Did they come along later to take advantage of what Zuggtmoy had begun? So secretive is the sect, and so varied the accounts of its factions, that none can say.

Goals and Methods

The cult’s ultimate goal is to fray the boundaries between the world and the Elemental Chaos (or the Abyss) and thus free its dreadful patron. It seeks to increase the power of its members, especially its leaders, while offering worthy sacrifices in hopes of granting its master enough strength to break free.

What it lacks in organization, the cult makes up for with determination and sheer power. As a group, the cultists are extremely potent and learned. On more than one occasion, they have succeeded in summoning horrific beings to the world.

Cultists engage in various schemes. These plots have included imprisoning powerful entities and indoctrinating them, using magic to drive entire populations mad, transforming powerful creatures into elemental beasts, and weakening the boundaries between the world and the Elemental Chaos. All the while, they have deceived large groups, including other cultists, into worshiping and sacrificing to one entity while believing that they serve another.

Adventure Ideas

Just the words “Temple of Elemental Evil” can get your players raring to go. For those who still need convincing, here are a few ways to get their characters involved.

The Cult of the Elemental Eye adds an elemental theme to an entire campaign. Its servants and thralls can appear at early levels, gathering sacrifices or competing with the characters for magic items. At the paragon tier, the characters might struggle against higher-level priests and various elemental monsters, perhaps even making forays into the Elemental Chaos or the upper levels of the Temple of Elemental Evil. Heroes at the epic tier can delve into the temple’s depths and take on the demonic or elemental powers to whom the sect’s factions are devoted.

Excerpt Schedule

Monday Friday

November 16

Skill Challenge: Reasoning with a Slaad

November 20

Orders: Elder Elemental Eye

November 23

Artifacts: Wave

November 27

Holiday

November 30

Locations: Pandemonium Stone

December 4

Locations: Plains of Rust

December 7

Creatures: Dust Devil

December 11

Masters of the Elements: Ehkahk