Last week I released my fourth (!!!) one-shot adventure, The Starlight Relic. This is my fourth title in four months and I promised myself that I would take a break after launching it... naturally, I took about a day "off" from writing before starting the outline for my next adventure, so, oops! I just can't stay away.
The Starlight Relic is designed for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, as are my other titles, and specifically for level 7 characters. I had actually been asked to write a higher-level adventure and was happy to oblige! I'll take any excuse to implement interesting monsters and creatures into my stories, and it helps when the characters have a few levels under their belt.
This story is another chapter in my full campaign, A Requiem of Wings, which follows an ongoing war between angels and demons in a realm called Emberez. This is the first one-shot I've released that takes place in a different region of Emberez; unlike West Emberez — which is where A Night of Masks and Monsters and Labyrinth of Thorns are set and is somewhat Italian/Mediterranean in aesthetic — East Emberez is more Eastern European. West Emberez is the seat of the seraphic order known as the Aureum, which I can best describe as being a fictional version of the Holy Roman Empire: motivated by what they think is a holy mission to conquer the world and spread their influence. East Emberez, however, is under the control of demons, so it's much more haunted, which gives it its own charm and beauty.
The story begins in the city of Magra, which I loosely based on Prague, one of my absolute favorite cities in the world (and where I got married). Prague was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire in the 1300s, and the influence of that is still visible in much of the city, but it also has its own distinct culture that is so fascinating.
Prague is known for artisanry, such as a puppet-making, and I have a love for luthiers, so it seemed only natural to make Magra a city that attracts artisans. With that came the creation of the Magran Forest, which provides the artisans with the materials for their trades.
Once I decided to kick off the story in a luthier's shop, I based the quest-giver, a woman named Vela Kapra, off of Vítězslava Kaprálová, a young Czech composer who tragically died far too young during WWII. However, her work has influenced female composers around the world, so I'm glad to know that she is still being celebrated, and this was my version of an homage.
The characters are tasked with retrieving an item called the Starlight; Vela discovered the location in sheet music sold to her by a mysterious patron. I always love ancient folk songs in stories, so I wrote my own called "The Song of the Starlight":
O winged beings, do you hear
The voice of the forest, the trees that sing?
Where river rushes over weir
Where blue and green pour into spring —
Awaiting you is ancient starlight
O winged beings, what shades your eyes
A luminous ring or obsidian horns?
I maintain my cimmerian guise
My roses bloom among my thorns —
For I care not about your making
Your wings are hapless, mine for taking
O winged beings, come claim your gift
Lost in the willow, maple, spruce
For only you can close the rift
An outstretched hand awaits your truce —
But winged ones, be forewarned
A danger protects the thing you seek
For should my temple incur your scorn
A beast will rise, with heads and teeth...
And: a bonus! I had actually written an actual melody to accompany the song. But alas, I'm not much of a musician beyond playing some simple tunes on my fiddle. But I found a really fun app called HumOn and put together a little sample of what "The Song of the Starlight" sounds like:
There's so much more to this adventure; I really challenged myself to write a less linear narrative to give the players lots of choices. I introduce a character in this module named Sira Harisa, who I absolutely love — mostly because she's a warlock and I'm obsessed with warlocks. But there's much more to her than that, so I'm excited to hear how players interact with her.
The Starlight Relic also prominently features a runic alphabet called Dethek, which is a dwarven language that is already part of the lore of the Forgotten Realms. This provided a cool mechanic that the players can choose to use to navigate around the dangers of the forest.
In all honesty, all of my adventures are written for selfish reasons; I basically write stories that I personally would want to play. My favorite things to do in Dungeons & Dragons are explore new places, meet new people, and solve puzzles. I'm a sucker for atmosphere and lore, so I really try to evoke certain feelings and aesthetics in everything I write. I hope I've accomplished that in this adventure!
And, as always, here's one of my early moodboards for this story: