This January, Tales of a GM is proud to host the RPG Blog Carnival. In keeping with the season, the theme for this month is Gates and Portals. This essay is my second contribution to the January Carnival
My campaign setting includes a network of portals scattered through the Cosmos. Some portals occur naturally, while others are the product of mages, such as the portalwrights explored in last week’s essay.
This network operates rather like international air travel: a method of travelling long distances at speed. The cities who host these trading portals act like international airports, with an exotic cast of visitors and markets full of goods from distant realms. This trait is especially true of the hub cities, such as the famous City of Doors.
Dangers of Travel
Every portal involves a degree of risk when traversing the planes. Any traveller needs to be prepared to emerge into a hostile environment. This is especially true of transient portals, where tethers have a disturbing tendency to wander, or be repositioned maliciously.
Many travellers report dizziness or nausea when crossing between planes. Some claim bouts of memory loss, or occasional false memories. An unstable portal may even collapse during transit, but it is the demon of the gate who travellers fear the most.
Abeon, Demon of the Gate
For as long as there have been portals between the planes, there has been Abeon waiting to snatch away the unwary. Few travellers who meet the Demon of the Gate live to tell the tale, yet a scattering have escaped. Most left behind companions who perished, so consider themselves very lucky to have survived.
Abeon is a large biped made of crude plates of bronze riveted together. His iron claws rip apart portals and travellers alike. Some claim Abeon eats magic, tearing through enchantments with his needle-like iron teeth. Many travellers report their companions died from green beams of light projected from Abeon’s eyes. Living matter struck by these beams is petrified, frozen in time and unable to escape the demon.
In recent years, a few travellers glimpse Abeon as they pass through a portal. These dreamlike encounters are claimed by the Collegium as evidence of their improved defences. Some witnesses state Abeon has a second face in his chest, which gnaws endlessly at the magical conduits connecting the planes.
Signs of Abeon
Collapsed portals, partial transitions and random transformations into solid matter are all signs of a traveller claimed by Abeon. Planar sailors tell dark tales of ships appearing out of a portal with no living thing aboard, even the rats were taken by Abeon. Other stories cite lone sailors who emerge from the portal on the wreckage of their ship, surrounded by statues of their former crew mates.
Master portalwrights insist Abeon only enters a poorly constructed portal. The Collegium of Planar Travel offer extravagant guarantees that their newest portals are impregnable to the demon’s iron claws. Yet, all magic is inherently unstable. Planar enchantments are among the most complex fields of arcane lore, leading many experts to doubt the validity of these guarantees.
Cult of the Demon
Over time, a small cult has built up around Abeon. Shrines to Abeon are found in most ports with a large planar portal. Sailors offer small tokens to the Demon of the Gate in exchange for safe passage. Typical gifts include bronze coins, simple bronze figurines and iron needles.
A few shrines have spawned more radical worship, usually under the guidance of a charismatic Priest of Abeon. These active cults seek more than just propitiating the Demon of the Gate. Motivations vary with the whims of the leader, but typically include calling upon Abeon to devour business rivals, a simple extortion racket on the docks or the familiar lust for power by an unhinged demagogue.
Unsurprisingly, the Collegium of Planar Travel is a vocal enemy of Abeon. Cynics note, however, that the presence of Abeon only serves to strengthen the negotiating position of the portalwrights. Concerns over Abeon sightings can lead to renewals of expensive maintenance contracts with the Collegium.
Several Herobands have pledged to thwart Abeon when his attacks threaten a beloved city. Few such Heroes return, for hunting a plane-hopping demon is no mean feat. A few cities have an open bounty on Abeon, but the demon of the gate seems oblivious to these actions of petty mortals.
Here are three plots featuring the Demon of the Gate to run in your game:
- A lone statue falls out of a portal, an expression of terror on its face. A diplomat or courtier recognises the face as the Prince of a distant realm. Can the Heroes reverse the strange transformation, and return the Prince to life, before a diplomatic crisis erupts?
- A Cult of Abeon has incited the sailors and dockers to strike, for fear of the prowling demon. The Priest demands a hefty tribute from the Merchant Guild. Is the Priest a fraud, or does he have the ear of Abeon?
- A wealthy merchant believes her ship has vanished. Agents report the ship sailed home through the portal on schedule, but has not arrived at the docks. Can the Heroes trace the ship and its valuable cargo of mana crystals?
Inter-planar portals are a great way to shorten distances in a fantasy campaign. Yet, this manner of travel is not without its risks. Abeon, Demon of the Gate, is one way to capture the inherent dangers of near-instantaneous transportation across the many planes of reality.
How would you use Abeon in your campaign? Are the Collegium in league with the Demon? What else might lurk in the gaps between the planes? Share your thoughts with fellow GMs in the comments below.
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