Portals of Lantan
By Jeff Quick
The Lantanese government
has two great desires for their people: to let them invent, and to be
allowed to do it safely. While wars and nations raged on mainland Faerûn,
Lantan has maintained peace and noninvolvement. The most amazing facet
of Lantans obscure security is not that they stay hidden, but
that they do it without looking like theyre hiding.
In retrospect, this
is not a terrible surprise from a nation whose main inhabitants prize
trickery. The Lantanese do not erect stout defenses or possess overwhelming
offenses; they just look uninteresting and give the impression that
they are too much trouble to invade. They claim to be open and willing
to trade, but they develop obtuse entry statutes and trading policies
for nations they would rather avoid. They rarely hide, but they have
a near-bottomless supply of diversionary tricks. As the old gnome expression
says, "Always smile, but do it with false teeth."
Nowhere is this
policy more evident than the absurdly named "Welcome Gates."
The Welcome Gates is a large, clearly labeled (but never advertised)
portal leading from the Lantan Embassy in Waterdeep to an area
known as the Visitors Vale right outside Anchoril on Lantans
southern isle. On both ends, the portal is 12 feet tall, 8 feet
wide, and bordered by a metallic frame imbedded with countless whirring
mechanical gewgaws. Travel through the Welcome Gates is ostensibly free
and open. In reality, its troublesome and convoluted by design.
and their families have access to the portals whenever they it.
Residents must show a passport and proof of residence, and they may
obtain a gate pass for a small fee. The process for obtaining a gate
pass by non-Lantanese is a labyrinthine five-day affair involving numerous
forms, daily trips to various official buildings around Waterdeep, and
signatures from three to six different city officials (depending on
the stated nature of the visit).
Welcome Gate hours
for nonresidents are only the daylight hours between dawn and dusk,
except between highsun and afternoon, when they are closed. The precise
interpretation of when highsun and afternoon begin and end depends on
who is acting chief portal warden that day. Illiterate visitors
are flatly denied entry (according to the application handbook) as Anchoril
can be dangerous to visitors who cannot read warning signs.
The gate pass is
a small wind-up toy -- a tin bird with flapping wings. Portal
wardens inform visitors that the gate pass is the portal key.
The key is actually the word "enjoy," spoken in Gnome, which
a warden works into the conversation as visitors stand before the portal,
ready to activate it with their phony key.
Most of the paperwork
and runaround that Welcome Gate portal wardens require is perfunctory,
and like many gnome behaviors, a blind for the actual process. Regardless
of an applicants ability to fill out forms and follow obscure
directions, the wardens observe applicants behavior and then divide
them into three categories:
- Keep Out
is designated for known or suspected troublemakers. Portal
wardens know enough tricks to keep these types tied up indefinitely.
is someone who seems like a minimal security risk and has shown enough
interest in visiting to get through part of the application. But the
would-be visitor either doesnt have the wherewithal to wade
through the full application process, or perhaps he or she knows someone
who the portal wardens consider trustworthy to vouch for them.
- Watch Carefully
is reserved for anyone who calmly threads the bureaucratic labyrinth.
Anyone who shows enough determination to jump through all appropriate
hoops without getting discouraged or upset probably has a hidden agenda.
These people are allowed through, but a "Visitor Assistant"
(government spy) is assigned to "help coordinate" (monitor)
the visitors every action in Anchoril.
None of this behavior
is ever presented as a security precaution, but rather as a desire to
help the applicant get the most out of his or her visit to the Multifaceted
Capital, Anchoril. (The fact that other gnomes claim that Sambar, or
sometimes Sundrah, is Lantans capital is an incidental gnome misdirection
ploy. All three cities are considered to be a capital of something.)
Basic Tasks Portal Wardens Assign
When the portal
wardens want to keep out a possible threat, they first resort to some
of these basic tasks:
- Literacy Test:
The applicant must first prove that they can read and write Common.
- Proof of Identification:
The applicant must also prove that they are who they say they are.
This can include a variety of tasks, such as bringing five people
who know the applicant to vouch for him or her, getting a public official
to write a note with a bonded messenger that vouches for the applicant,
submitting to a magical test of the gnome's devising, and whatever
else the gnomes can think of. This part of the process can take several
weeks of time in itself and include several stages.
- Proof of Ability
to Survive Portals: The applicant must prove that he or she
can travel through portals without experiencing problems. After
all, the gnomes don't want to be responsible for any imbalance within
the applicant that could lead to the applicant's death. The proof
can be as simple as having a gnome representative go through a different
portal with the applicant and "testing" the applicant's
health on the other end. Portal wardens also might make it
more difficult if they choose.
- Affidavits from
Past Travelers to Lantan: The applicant must seek out a number of
different past visitors to Lantan and get these people to sign off
on official affidavits before the local (to the past visitor) magistrate.
These three different
tasks can take the applicant a long time to complete, and each can have
a series of stages if warranted. Portal wardens can easily add
on more tasks, such as requesting a Purpose of Visit form to be completed
and notarized by a gnome in a different part of the world, verifying
the identity of anyone who shows up on earlier forms, and so
Delights of the Visitors' Vale
Once visitors make
it to Lantan, they enter at the Visitors Vale. The Vale is a pleasant
bowl surrounded by low hills and is about half a mile from the entrance
to Anchoril. This side of the portal requires no key, although
the pretense of the toy bird is continued for visitors. In the Vale,
two 10-foot-tall iron statues flank the Welcome Gate. These statues
are of a male and female gnome, with the expression and posture of benign
workers, tinkering with the edges of the portal. They are, of
course, iron golems who spring to life if a weapon is drawn or if any
of the five basic elements (fire, lightning, cold, acid, sonic) magically
appear within the Visitors Vale. The golems defend themselves,
but their main order is to move combatants back through the portal.
statues that turn out to be golems is one of the oldest tricks in the
book. Anyone who pays attention knows that the obvious threat is seldom
the only threat when gnomes are involved. The vale has a flagpole at
five points around the perimeter of the hills. Beneath the huge Lantan
flag on each pole is a large metal horn, which is known as a vale sounder.
Sounders are the second line of defense, and gnome watchers activate
them only if one of the golems falls.
Iron golems (2):
hp 170 each; see Monster Manual page 109.
to Incorporate the Welcome Gates Into Your Campaign
Getting into Lantan
is tricky, and no one gets in without knowing someone who already lives
there. Some ways that PCs might break through the screen include the
- While in Waterdeep,
the PCs are approached by a petitioner with a nine-page form, half
written in Gnome. If the party has a cleric of a commonly lawful and/or
good god, the petitioner asks the cleric to verify that he is an honorable
and forthright person by means of divine power, and sign the form
in several places. The petitioner seems confused and doesnt
know why this is necessary. However, he does mention that he's doing
this so that he can visit Lantan.
- If the PCs are
an honorable lot, a gnome who seeks to be escorted from her current
location (which is well away from the Welcome Gates) to Waterdeep
contacts them. As they travel, the PCs discover that the gnome is
a target of a particularly vengeful and stubborn group of assassins.
Should the gnome die, she will give the PCs a message to deliver to
the portal warden in Waterdeep that will allow them to use
the portal. She also gives them an item to deliver once in
Lantan. What the item is, who the assassins are, where they need to
deliver it to in Lantan, and why the item needs to go to Lantan is
up to the DM!
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