Monthly Archives: January 2016

Civic Duty

“I’d like to vote please.”
“Of COURSE you would! Do you want to try the new Baconacho Chips™ flavors, or just fill out the questionnaire?”
“I’d… ah… wat?”
“I know, right? It’s really true, ‘Baconacho Chips™ Kill Brain Cells!’ If you are just here for the free t-shirt, I can tell you what to vote for. Sriracha kale! It’s the ultimate Baconacho flavor!”
“N… no. I want to vote for president.”
“Oh. Fine. You have your digital ID?”
“Yes. Here’s my Facebook card.”
“No, this is an Amazon facility. We run Windows Extreme. You need an Amazon MeCode or a MicroChip™ ID.”
(Sighs) “No, I don’t. The law says any SmartCorp ID system works, and I use the Facebook card.”
“Yes, of course, the law says that. And you CAN vote with that ID. Just, not here. As an Amazon facility we’re not your official polling place, covered by federal election law. We offer the shuttle buses and voting options as a courtesy, but we only take Amazon MeCodes or MicroChip™ IDs.”
“Damn it. Okay, where is the actual polling place?”
“No idea. Over in the walk-ups, somewhere. You can Google it, I suppose. I mean not in here, of course, we have an Unfairaday cage. And I… I am unsure if Bing could tell you.”
“Great. Thanks for nothing.”
“You sure you don’t want to vote for your favorite Baconacho Chip™ flavor? You get a free t-shirt! And you could determine the course of snacking for the next four years!”
“No… no I wanted to vote for president… ”
“We ALSO have votes for ‘Darkest and Grittiest DC Movie,’ that comes with a custom Supermanic v. Badman ringtone, ‘What Will the Blunt Object™ be on the next season of Bachelor Nutshot™?,’ which offers a screaming bobblehead, and ‘Which is the Hottest Politician’s Wife?,’ which is at least political. AND comes with a free can of Rocky Mountain Dew!”
“NO! I just…. Huh. What flavor of Rocky Mountain Dew?”

Races and Ethnicities of Solstice

As the location that saw a mortal challenge the gods with near success, the only place where divine avatars sometimes walk the streets, a place of ancient power and apparently endless wealth, one of the largest cities in the world, and a major stop for both sea and land trade routes, Solstice is a place of interest to nearly every thinking species in the world. Its streets are filled with humans of all shapes and colors, dwarves from a hundred clans, laughing and carousing elves of their Spring Years getting into trouble and partying through the night, gnomes, halflings, orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, an entire grippli slum, drow famously common in the Webwood Distract, and three score other common races from around the world. But there are also races one can encounter with regularity in Solstice which are rare or unknown anywhere else. Races that are truly… alien.

Ctheph – 150-200 lb. civilized octopoids, with 4 stubby flippers along the back of their boneless bodies that allow them to (slowly) move along the ground. Able to survive both in air and water (salt or fresh), excellent spellcasters, cheerfully cannibalistic, strongly dislike fire, and covered in a thin coat of protective slime, ctheph’s native “homewater” is a large section of ocean to the east of Solstice. Feared and reviled by a large percentage of the humanoid and uriphant populations. However, since ctheph can gain racial memories by eating their elders, their culture is also now seen as a potential repository of crucial knowledge, since they lost very little of their total racial memory in the Crimson Conjunction 35 years ago.

Esigil – Sapient living runes, that can move on their own but must bond (normally with a humanoid, sometimes an idiot or mindless humanoid, and rarely with an ape) to communicate (even with each other) and interact with the world. Esigil are believed to be living spell effects created by the God-Mage as part of his plan to assault the heavens, but the race as a whole claims to have no loyalty to his ancient plan, and to have no memory of their origins. Most Esigil (the race name being capitalized any time it is in use, for reasons lost to the halls of eldritch grammar) have a short name the combine with the name of a host, through some place it first and others second. A typical Esigil is a complex rune the size of a Medium humanoids hand, and once they settle on a humanoid they are stationary until that host dies. Esigil have various ethnicities depending on the exact style of rune they represent, from the warlike erthak Esigil to the more ethereal vlenevae, but no one is sure how serious the Esigil are about these distinctions. Similarly, Esigil personalities are, according to rumor, strongly influenced by where they sit on a host body with those on the face seen as polite and thoughtful, those on the arm or front torso militant and short-tempered, and those on the lower back hedonists… but there’s significant debate about whether there is any truth to these generalizations.

Iri – Fist-sized floating snakelike eyeballs with 5-10 stingered tentacles coming off the back (where the optic nerves are for a normal eyeball). Iri are the remnants of an ancient race of larger floating eye-creatures that had some kind of central sphere and numerous eyestalks, but that race was not only destroyed by the God-Mage during one of his early conquests, all knowledge of the race’s name and its true form and powers was permanently erased from existence so that no one, not even the Gods of Knowledge, know more than scant details about them. No one is sure if the God-Mage created iri intentionally, or if their existence is an unintended side-effect of their progenitor race’s destruction.
Iri reproduce by stinging other creatures that have eyes, and sometimes one of the eyes pops out as a new iri, but they try to only do that to those about to die or close dear friends who don’t mind. Often employed as spies, librarians, and accountants, but also make good assassins, and many are druids, witches, and shamans.
Most right-thinking sentient beings revile iri as disgusting, but both elves and Esigil are exceptions to this. Indeed, some groups of elves become very intimate with iri, and see wearing an eyepatch as a small price to giving their friends the power to continue as a species. Everyone else thinks this is stupid.

Tyhnt – There is some debate about whether tyhnt even truly exist, or if they do whether they are a race, a leftover spell effect, or some form of minor conjunction. Tyhnt can only be perceived as a shift in color in an area (normally roughly 5-feet in diameter, though some are larger) which changes to look more bluish. The effect is subtle most of the time, but tyhnt are also psychic (both able to communicate telepathically and generally members of the occult character classes) and when using their powers change the area around them to be more strikingly blue. They can also communicate their presence mind-to-mind, with roughly the same range as the spoken word. Except for the use of psychic powers tyhnt can’t impact the physical world, but they are not immune to attack. Magic affects them normally, and even mundane weapons can harm them, as long as they are wielded by thinking foes. A tyhnt takes no damage from a mindless rockslide, but a sword swung with the intent to cut a tyhnt damages with through the sheer will of the wielder.

Uriphant – mule-to-rhino-sized highly intelligent woolly mammoths, with five opposed nubs on the end of their trunk that allow very agile fine manipulation. Excellent warriors and smiths. The uriphant were once native to the plateau where the Great Gnomon Spire was built, and have the distinction of being the only race to have opposed the God-Mage at every step of his empire. While a few independent groups of uriphants have attempted to begin colonies elsewhere, most of their small population remain in Solstice.
Uriphants are well-regarded by most other races, though they seem to have a special affinity for orcs and dwarves, and often act as a bridge between those two groups. Uriphant society conditions them to be suspicious of Esigil, who they see as children of the God-Mage and thus agents of their displacement from their original home, though that culture of mistrust has been significantly reduced since the Crimson Conjunction 35 years ago.

My Last Duty to the E&E

If it’s easy, it’s not a quest.
The night AFTER the AFK Elixirs & Eatery, my second home, closed, we discovered that there had been so much stuff to haul out, a second truck load was being filled by one of the owners and some volunteers. It was late, she’d been awake for 36 hours or so, the truck was filling up, and time was running out. We talked to another owner, and offered to made a run to bring the lady still working in the E&E some food, and asked if we could help grab anything.
She asked us to save the huge collection of Dragon magazines, and any props we found that wouldn’t fit in the rapidly full moving truck.
The place was at its least tidy, and the volunteer crew that were trying to fit everything left into the truck were focusing on big-ticket plasma big screen TVs, game consoles, computers, and high-end restaurant gear. Props was a distant fourth.
So, we were given carte blanche to grab what we could stuff in our car, and we promised to get it to the AFK Tavern.
That ended up being eight magazine holders of Dragon. a real greatsword, a replica sword, a replica Halo energy sword, a replica bat’leth, a Lego Death Star, a Boba Fett helmet, two shield wall hangers, a custom BFG prop, a custom Steampunk Rifle, a working toy Star Wars blaster… and I think that’s it.
It was all awesome, and I’d have enjoyed keeping any of it. But I want to support the AFK Tavern any way I can, and my mementos from the AFK Elixirs & Eatery are some menus (one signed by nearly all the staff and owners, and a lot of the regulars, as my “Yearbook” from the very last night, when I got to run the restaurant for a few hours), and two comfortable upholstered chairs.
We meant to run these things up to the Tavern, which is on average an hour drive from us, within a couple of days. But I got sick right after we got the stuff, and ended up going to the ER a bit later, and have been too sick to do anything much less make an hour-long trip. I’ve only now been able to return these items this weekend, and even though Lju did all the driving I admit it took a lot out of me.
But a quest is a quest. And this one, from the Ruins of E&E to the Vaults of the Tavern, is done.

Storytime: Chew Your Food

The funny but gross story of why my wife and my friend Carl have carte blanche to tell me to chew my food, whenever they want.
WARNING: Involves me describing a night I barfed.
In detail.
While my wife laughs in the background from the memory.

Storytime: The Power of Polite

How a train trip through the Canadian Rockies taught me the power of being polite.

Dungeon Loot of Solstice

Things recovered in the four major dungeons of Solstice (the Dark Vaults, Grand Arena, Great Gnomon Spire, and Warcogs) are often warped and influenced by the planar energies and dread magics that have gathered and focused within Solstice over the centuries. As a result, they are not exactly like typical magic items. A few are cursed, and many have eldritch aspects and origins. Rather than a +1 keen longsword, you may find a reaping +1 keen longsword of resurrection.

[In a full version of this idea there would be charts for every kind of magic item, and each type would have 30-40 different entries. This is an abbreviated version covering just weapons, and with just a few options for aspects and origins.]

When a magic weapon is recovered as loot in a dungeon, roll on the table below to see how it differs from a typical version of that magic weapon.
Table 1: Magic Weapon Dungeon Loot
. Weapon is cursed
04-05. Weapon is cursed, but only acts cursed if an attack roll made with it is a natural 1. It stops acting cursed after that fight, until another 1 is rolled. Weapon has two aspects and an origin.
06-35. Weapon is normal.
35-60. Weapon has one aspect
61-80. Weapon has one origin
81-89. Weapon has two aspects
90-95. Weapon has one aspect and one origin
96-98. Weapon has two aspects and one origin.
99. Weapon has two aspects, two origins, and a secret cult trying to steal it for use in dread rituals.
100. Weapon is intelligent. It also has aspects or origins, reroll on this table until a result gives at least one of those two properties.

How Much Do Unusual Weapon Abilities Cost? I dunno. A little. A lot? Depends on how much you want them. Roleplay it with your GM and see what they say.
I mean, how much does it cost if I am crafting them? That’s easy – you can’t craft these. They’re effects of energy leaking out of the Planar Conjunctions of Solstice over centuries. You can only find them as Dungeon Loot.
Okay, how much can I sell them for? That’s ALSO easy. They sell for the normal amount. No one trusts the powers granted by weird energy from Planar Conjunctions, so no one is paying extra for them, as a merchant. But yeah, they’ll CHARGE extra. That’s how they make a profit.
How much extra? Tell your GM you want to buy one, and enjoy roleplaying the negotiations!
I AM the GM! Oh! Why didn’t you say so?!
Then it’s however much you want! But remember, respectable and trusted adventuring gear vendors don’t deal in these things. And shady vendors aren’t going to allow someone to cast spells on a weapon just to they can identify it can feel safe buying it So when the PCs have a little adventure and find someone to buy these things from, phrases like “What’s your Sense Motive bonus?” (followed by some secret dice bouncing), and “I’ll sell such a legendary weapon to a hero such as yourself for only 1,000 gp more than a typical weapon of its kind, but I cannot promise what strange powers it has.” (followed by random checks on the Unusual Weapon Abilities chart) work great.

Identifying Unusual Magic Items
The magic properties of Solstice Dungeon Loot is not easily identifed with mere magic or Spellcraft, because it includes strange eldritch energies that are twisted and warped in ways never seen before. While it’s easy for a player to understand how a furious +1 keen scimitar of the hive is just adding two new abilities to a +1 keen scimitar, to a sage trying to identify it there is a mix of the pure magic of rage, eldritch sharpness, and the power of extraplanar insects all blended into one strange and unique weapon.

A normal Spellcraft check to identify the item will determine if it *has* aspects or origins (though not if it is cursed). Aspects can be correctly identified with Knowledge (arcane) or (religion) checks. Origins can be correctly identified with Knowledge (nature) or (planes) checks. Either can be identified with Knowledge (history) or (local), but the DC is 10 higher. The base DCs for these checks are the same as identifying magic properties with Spellcraft.

Aspects: An Unusual Magic Weapon Aspect is listed before the rest of the weapon, such as a furious +1 flaming scimitar. The power of an Unusual Magic Weapon with an aspect has been twisted toward a second (and sometimes third) function, as if it almost became a different magic item entirely. In the rare cases when a weapon with an aspect is also intelligent, it’s aspect also describes one element of its personality.
Roll 1d12.

  1. Cautious: Select one creature type from the list of ranger favored enemies. When creatures of that type are within 30 feet the weapon glows. This is blocked by anything that blocks detect magic. The wielder gains a bonus equal to their base attack bonus to Perception checks made to act in surprise rounds initiated by creatures of the specified type.
    02. Eclectic: The weapon has dozens of odd fetishes and trophies tied to it and dangling from it. Having it in hand fulfills the material component and focus of any spell for material components and focuses with no gp cost.
    03. Furious: Wielder can go into a fury once per day, for a maximum number of rounds equal to her base attack bonus. While in this fury the character has the drawbacks of rage (no spellcasting, limited skill use, no activity that requires concentration), but also gains a +2 circumstance bonus to Will saves. If the character actually has rage, instead once per day she can maintain her rage for a number of rounds equal to half her base attack bonus without it counting against her maximum number of rounds of rage per day.
    04. Overblown: The weapon has additional blades, striker surfaces, bow arms, or similar apparently over-the-top weapon elements. When the weapon threatens a critical hit on a natural attack roll of 20 and confirms it, it deals additional damage equal to its base damage dice.
    05. Prejudiced: Select one creature type from the list of ranger favored enemies. The weapon’s enhancement bonus is +1 higher against creatures of this type, and it deals an additional 1d6 damage to such foes.
    06. Reaping: When the weapon scores a critical hit against a foe, or is successfully used with Vital Strike (or higher level versions of that feat), that foe’s fast healing and regeneration cease to function for 1 round.
    07. Revealing: Can detect magic as a standard action (both to initiate and to maintain) at will.
    08. Ruthless: Can penetrate the DR for 24 hours of any creature that scores a critical hit or sneak attack against the wielder.
    09. Screaming: Can countersong, as the bard ability, using the wielder’s base attack bonus for the countersong check. By screaming. Loudly.
    10. Shifting: Weapon can become a specific, randomly determined second kind of weapon. It takes a swift action to change from one form to another. A character proficient with one form is treated as proficient with both, and can use any appropriate feats that apply to one weapon type to both weapon types.
    11. Spiderslaying: Wielder is immune to mundane and magic nets and webs (though not other forms of entanglement or difficult terrain), and gains a Climb speed equal to half base speed when within 60 feet of a spider swarm or spider of Tiny or larger size.
    12. Whirlwind: Once per day the weapon can be used to make a full attack action as a standard action during a surprise round.

Origins: An Unusual Weapon Origin is listed after the weapon, such as a +1 flaming scimitar of the dragon. The power of a weapon with an unusual origin is at least partly drawn from something connected to its name. The GM may, at her discretion, have creatures with strong opinions about such creatures treat the wielder of such a weapon with particular respect (75%) or disdain (25%), as if they were an agent or noble connected to the power source.
Roll 1d12.

  1. Of the All-Seeing Eye: Can create dancing lights as a move action at will. Wielder can make Perception checks to see anything within the illumination of the dancing lights, even if they are not in line-of-sight of the wielder.
    02. Of the Beast: Select a type of bag of tricks at random. A decorative animal shape on the weapon can be activated as that bag of tricks.
    03. Of the Dragon: Can use breath weapon 1/ce day. Select damage type below. Breath weapon deals a number of 1d4 hp of that damage type equal to wielder’s base attack bonus in a 15 foot cone (Reflex half, DC 10 + base attack bonus).
    01-15: acid
    16-35: cold
    36-50: electricity
    51-90: fire
    91-99: sonic
    100: Damage is half pure holy damage (if good or neutral) or half evil damage (if evil), and half a second type from a new roll. If 100 is rolled again, damage is half fire but deals 1d6 per base attack bonus rather than 1d4.
    04. Of Eternity: The weapon is a unique runeblade powered by its own internal self-consistent universe. It is immune to dispel magic, mage’s disjunction, antimagic field, and similar effects that would remove its magic abilities. It can be sundered normally.
    05. Of Gates: Once per day as a move action the wielder can teleport a distance up to its move rate.
    06. Of the Hive: Once per day the wielder can become a swarm of diminutive bees. This swarm has a fly rate equal to the wielder’s move rate, a base AC of 10 and a deflection bonus equal to the wielder’s base attack bonus (with no other bonus to AC applying). The creature gains swarm traits, but has no attack. It does gain the distraction ability, but the save DC and concentration check to cast spells have a base of 10 + wielder’s base attack bonus rather than a base of 20.
    07. Of Patron’s Will: If the wielder can cast spells and use hexes, whenever the wielder damages a foe with a spell or forces a foe to fail a saving throw with a spell, the wielder can expend a second prepared spell or spell slot of the same level as a swift action to also use a hex against the target (allowing the normal saving throw) regardless of the target’s range.
    If the wielder cannot both cast spells and use hexes, it gains the ability to use a single randomly determined hex (not major or grand hex) once per day, using its base attack bonus as its effective witch level.
    08. Of Resurrection: If the wielder is killed as a result of hp damage, the weapon immediately casts breath of life as a free action, except the amount of healing is a number of d4 equal to the wielder’s base attack bonus. If this restores the wielder to life, he avoids any consequence of dying (and may choose to not even fall prone). This ability may only be used once per year, and once used the weapon loses all magic abilities for 365 days (and shows no sign of having any magic properties, even if examined by wish or similar magics).
    09. Of Shadows: The weapon is constantly blurred and veiled in flickering shadows. Wielder gains a bonus equal to its base Reflex save to all Bluff checks made to feint with the weapon.
    10. Of Sigils: Wielder gains +4 to saves against language-dependent effects and spells with sigil, symbol, or rune in their title. Also, wielder treats his hp as being 50 higher when effected by power words. Once a day, wielder may choose a language to speak for 24 hours, but only when holding the weapon in a threatening manner.
    11. Of Traps: If the wielder sets off a trap without being aware of it, and the trap’s attack misses or the wielder makes a save against the trap, the wielder can absorb the trap into the weapon (preventing it from harming anyone else). The wielder can then unleash the trap on any target the weapon scores a critical hit against, forcing it to suffer the attack or make the save. The trap is then relocated to this new location, and resets normally (if it has a reset). Only one trap may be stored at a time, and the wielder has no special protection against traps and cannot absorb a trap while one is stored.
    12. Of the Warmage: Randomly select one school of spells. One per round as a free action when the wielder or an ally causes one or more targets to fail a saving throw against a spell or take damage from a spell from that school, the wielder may also make a melee weapon attack against one of those creatures (regardless of range), effecting the target as if it had been hit by the weapon on a successful attack roll.

Weird Gear: Dagger Bomb

“Because the heroes are often the exceptions.”
Dagger Bomb.
10 gp, 1d3/1d4, 19-20 x2, 10 ft. range, P.
A dagger bomb has two blades scissored together under pressure by a pin that passes through the hilt, which also serves as a reservoir for 1 dose of alchemical material or holy/unholy water. Such materials must be bought separately and take 2 full rounds to load into the dagger bomb, though once loaded they can safely be carried in the dagger bomb until used. A dagger bomb uses the same proficiency and feats as a dagger. (Potions and elixirs require more careful application than a dagger bomb can deliver, and are not effective when loaded into a dagger bomb).
When a dagger bomb is successfully used to attack a foe, the pin breaks, the blades pop apart, and the hit breaks dosing the target with the alchemical material contained. The target takes both the dagger damage, and the effects of a direct hit from the material within. No creature takes splash damage, unless the dagger bomb is used in a melee attack (rather than a ranged attack), in which case the attacker takes the effect of a splash (if any). After an attack, successful or not, the dagger bomb is destroyed.
Dagger bombs can be mage magic, with the same cost and effect as magic ammunition.
An alchemist can deliver alchemist bombs (though not extracts) with a dagger bomb at the same rate the alchemist can make bomb attacks. This works as described above.

Great Gnomon Spire of Solstice

The most visible and well-known landmark in Solstice is the Great Gnomon Spire, a massive tower standing exactly one league high (15,840 feet), with a base half a mile in diameter and a spire that is (reportedly) a quarter-mile across. The Spire, as it is commonly referred to, is the anchor for the most powerful Skyward in Solstice which prevents any creature from flying more than 60 feet from a surface anywhere in the city. Roughly halfway up the Spire the strength of this ward increases to limit flight to 30 feet from a surface, and for the upper 2-3,000 feet flight is impossible. As a result reaching the top of the Spire is only possible by fighting through the traps, guardians, wards, and denizens of its hundreds of levels and is very rarely achieved.

The God-Mage built the Spire are part of his overall Necropolis, and it acts as the shadow-casting menhir of the city’s original function as a planardial. Like a sundial it shows the position of various sources of power and energy. Unlike a sundial, rather than cast a single shadow, the Spire casts eight – one a typical shadow cast by the sun, and seven others of various colors (crimson, bronze, gold, viridescent, azure, amethyst, true black, and the glowing white anti-shadow). Each of these progresses based on the relative position and strength of inner and outer planes, shooting out at different speeds, lengths, and darknesses. When one or more of these “shadows” lines up, it indicates a Planar Conjunction.

In addition to the Great Gnomon Spire’s obvious power as a tool of planar observation, the God-Mage had designed it to perform thousands of other arcane functions, and filled the interior with vast and complex mystechnological relics, summoning chambers, soul forges, rune repositories (which are believed to be the true origin of the sentient living runes, the Esigil), teleport circles, gates, portals, and communing halls. All of these he guarded with his famed Spellborn living magics, devilbound traps and objects, and the dreaded ethereals (filchers, slayers, and trapmasters), hundreds of which are believed to survive to this day (though mostly lairing in the upper levels).

To add to those risks, since the God-Mage no longer maintains his planar rituals and machines, many of his connections have broken inward, allowing quasielementals, astral roamers, and things of pure chaotic evil from the farthest reaches of the Abyss to invade inward into the Spire. Some arrive entirely by accident, while others are agents of powerful otherworldly master who seek to take control of the Spire for their own purposes.

The lowest fifty levels of the Spire have long since been cleared out and secured by agents friendly to Solstice and mortals, with the bottom two dozen housing numerous consulates, churches, guilds, and their related shops and barracks. The 36 levels above that are claimed and held by a few divine Avatars, several mortal archmages, champions, high priests, and heirophants, a pride of sphinxes, a choir of angels, a well-monitored house of devils, and a lich known as The Librarian that fully admits that it is a force for eternal evil, but also points out its not in its best interest to oppose to powerful defenders of Solstice, or risk the destruction of the plane of existence it happens to dwell on.

It is forbidden for anyone to attempt to move above these 50 levels… without a sponsor. Every guild, avatar, and denizen that the two Astrologer Guilds of Solstice acknowledge as owning a place in the Lower Fifty can sponsor an expedition by an individual or group to venture higher into the Great Gnomon Spire. The purpose of such expeditions is supposed to be to keep the various forces running amuck in the upper levels from ever taking control of too much of the structure, and to continue to explore the mysteries still undelved from the God-Mage’s time. Because of the work of the ethereals, the original machines of the spire, and the forces of Abyssal chaos, upper levels of the Spire are always in flux, making any trip up a risk, with the highest levels those that are the least well-scouted as well as the most changing and most dangerous.

Since sponsors are held responsible if an expedition causes trouble or damage that spills into the Lower Fifty or Solstice itself, most sponsors only allow experienced groups passage up, and only to deal with specific threats they believe to have arisen, through divination, rumor, or gut instinct. However some patrolling must be attempted, and as the fortunes of the denizens of the Lower Fifty wax and wane, sometimes a powerful group buy or bully sponsorship in order to undertake an expedition for their own goals… and such groups sometimes cause problems that force other groups to sponsor additional expeditions to fix what has been broken, unleashed, or awoken.

As the base of the Great Gnomon Spire abuts the Grand Arena, and is close to many of the known Dark Vaults and Warcogs beneath the city, it is assumed that connections exist between these four common adventuring areas, though if they do they are either well-guarded secrets, or temporary affairs that exist only during the proper conjunctions.

Gods of Solstice

When the God-Mage’s vast necropolis-in-construction was revealed to be a complex plan to invade and take control of Heaven with an army lead by his 100,000 terra-cotta monsters during the Prismatic Planar Conjunction, the gods of the multiverse took notice. Though his assault ultimately failed, it remains unclear if the God-Mage might not have succeeded if so many of his mortal servants had not turned against him when his true plan was discovered. The mortals who inhabited the city of Solstice, which grew out of the remains of the God-Mage’s launching pad, came to work against the remaining elements of the God-Mage’s plan in order to survive, but could do little to tear down the powerful Astrologos Configurations, Clockwork Orrery Chambers, Great Gnomon Spire, or other structures the God-Mage had built to perfectly predict and channel the Prismatic Conjunction. In short, though unlikely, it was possible some mortal might someday attempt to recreate the God-mage’s assault on the Outer Planes.

Obviously, no deity could allow this.

But neither could they all intercede directly. Thousands of deities took notice of the assault on the concept of godhood itself, representing millions of philosophies which often directly contradicted one-another’s plans and preferences. When scores of omnipotent beings all attempted to change the remnants of the God-Mage’s edifices, not only did their efforts neutralize each other, they weakened the bridge that normally divided mortal and divine powers.

In short, they made the risk greater.

And so the Intercession Compact was reached. No divinity would be allowed to directly affect anything within Sanctuary or any area within a radius equal to the farthest point that could be seen by the sharpest-eyed mortal from the top of the Great Gnomon Spire under the best conditions. Agents, priests, and temples could act and draw upon their gods power within the normal limits of mortal ability, but no god could take direct action.

However every god, from every pantheon, would be allowed to send a single mortal avatar, no more powerful than the most powerful mortal, to observe and act within Sanctuary. If such an avatar was lost, it could never be replaced. Nor could such avatars take any action beyond the sphere of the Intercession Compact.

Scores of avatars now reside within Solstice, often as semi-divine heads of churches or local potentates of boroughs of the city. They rarely act, both because to do so is to invite other avatars to oppose their actions, and because the loss of an avatar can never be replaced. But in rare moments an avatar may bring its considerable power to bear on its foes… or use it to ensure no mortal ever again attempts the feat of the God-Mage.

Of course there are hundreds of gods who have yet to assign an avatar. And there are mortals who dare claim to be avatars, and avatars who conceal their true status and go cloaked among mortals.

In some cases this means gods unheard of anywhere else in the world have powerful followings in Solstice, because a powerful avatar resides there. In other cases gods common and popular in distant lands are scoffed at within Solstice, as their avatar is dead (or has yet to appear), limiting the god’s ability to impact life within the city.

And, rarely, a god in its infinite wisdom decides its best choice for an avatar is not something at the height of mortal power, but a lowly adventurer, no more powerful than a fresh recruit, who may have only an inkling of its true nature…

Elves of Solstice

During the Crimson Conjunction, 35 years ago, every humanoid over the age of 75 in Solstice (and surrounding lands for thousands of miles) was killed by the Fiery Time of the Necrologer, and none could be restored to life through any means. While the loss of scholars and wise folks of society as a whole was devastating, some races were more seriously impacted than others.
Orcs and half orcs barely noticed. Humans lost only their most wizened and experienced, but most positions of authority remained filled (though many by those with less long-term experience than might be desired). Dwarven and gnomish societies were devastated, as most guild leaders, matriarchs, kings and great heroes dropped dead with no warning. This is still seen as a dark time by these races, who struggle to regain the lore and experience stolen from them.
Elven society simple ceased to exist.
No elven adult survived. The majority of the race was caught in the Spring Years, physically adult enough to care for themselves but still incapable of long-term thought and short on reasoning and empathy. Worse, for decades this continued, with the entire race essentially ruled by the elven equivalent of teenagers, driven by hormones and spur-of-the-moment decisions, in some cases backed by birthrights of vast wealth and eldritch power inherited from those who had known better than to use it.
More than half of all elven nations, guilds, and families imploded within a decade. Those that survived either did so through sheer wild abandon, or due to allies who felt compelled to honor centuries-old alliances and pacts. But even now, elves are still a race of younglings and the oldest of them would only know be considered the most junior of adults. Elves are eternal children, and have been for decades, and have embraced the clothes, jewelry, piercings, slang, and devil-may-care attitudes of teenagers in a nonstop party that threatens to drive other races crazy.