The Mossberg Effect

At one time, I had gotten together several women who were role-players and wanted to try out a PBEM game. after some discussion, it was agreed that they wanted to play as teens in a quirky SciFi/Buffy kinda thing. I set to work.

Origin Story (d20 Modern)

The result of my very first world-building exercise was a gated community for MiB and their families, retirees, and other trusted assets. There were to be strange goings-ons which the adults turned a blind eye to. Teens who discovered and followed through investigating these phenomenon and oddities were considered potential training candidates for the MiB program.

Of course, the children weren’t supposed to know any of that too soon. The big reveal would come later!

All I lacked was a coherent threat that would tie the episodic adventures together. That, I discovered in the storied origins of the community itself.

Mossberg is the name of the gated community where the action takes place. It is the site of a long-running experiment to restore fertility, through magic, to an otherwise inhospitable tract of land. Harold Mossberg was the lead mage behind the effort and his solution was to exploit the unrestrained vitality of the Fey realm by bonding a piece of it to the prime material plane.

As a result of Harold Mossberg’s action, the community that bears his namesake has an orchard that produces some of the best fruits in the country. Unfortunately, the experiment creates a ‘thinness’ that sometimes allows the fey to cross over to our world. Also, the energies that bleed through sometimes stimulate unusual effects on the test site.

Due to the side-effects of the experiments, the US government builds a secret facility to study the phenomenon and disguises it with a gated community filled with its front-line defenders against threats *cough* “of that nature”.

I’m sorry to say that the game never ran. fortunately, I was able to dust it off for D&D and the first adventure I ever ran in 4E.

Mossberg Reborn (D&D 4E)

All I set out to do was make a one-shot 4E game to introduce the group to the new edition of D&D. I wanted fantastic terrain and a threat with an easily understood motivation. I recall why I though of Mossberg, but I started to recycle the concept.

On the slopes of the northern mountain lay the dwarven mining town of Blackforge. Once a minor way station on the trade road that crossed the mountain to the wastes beyond, Blackforge is now booming as they have a nearly limitless supply of wood from the adjacent forest.

The edge of The Old Forest used to lay several miles west, but a year prior it began to grow at a supernatural pace. The forest edge crept across the field in a month and threatened to overgrow the town. Ever since, the habitants of Blackforge have warred ceaselessly against the new growth, cutting it down day after day.

The dwarves have organised the defense and have held the line for many months, but now mysterious night-time raiders have begun to sabotage the tool-sheds and forges on the forest border. During the day, packs of voracious lizards swarm outward to attack the lumberjacks.

The raiders were gnomes, summoned from deep within the forest to defend its borders. The new gnomish community maintains herds of lizards and giant insects that they direct against the lumberjacks day after day. The herders had Warlord-like abilities to grant an extra action to the lizard swarms.

The adventure played out over three combat encounters. Everyone was entertained and 4E was declared playable. A success!

Re-Imagining the Origin (D&D 4E)

I brought back Mossberg again for another, unrelated one-shot with a different group. The object was to explore the origin of the Old Forest’s rapid growth by making the player’s party to it. The tragedy begins in a new refugee community of Mossberg, which I placed on the far-side of the forest from Blackforge.

The Archer twins had led a rag-tag group of refugees out of the ruins of the human kingdoms and away from the growing orcish civilization that consumed them. They established the community of Mossberg with some assistance from the dwarves of Blackforge, which now have a small mining outpost in the mountains above the community.

Now the Archers are former adventurers. One brother is a warrior and commands the village’s militia. The other, Thomas, is a wizard. When the crops began to fail, Thomas gathered a few militia members together (the party) to perform three tasks which would allow him to restore the crops bt the mater must be kept secret from his brother, who did not approve of the plan.

The final, and the only relevant task for this article, was to locate an ancient tree in the forest. This tree, the lore claims, contained an ancient gate to the fey realm. Thomas asked that the party go through that gate and return with the first Eladrin (long absent from this world) that they meet.

The party succeeds, only to watch in horror as Thomas plunges a wood dagger in the Eladrin’s heart as the conclusion to a horrible ritual. The forest comes alive around them. Thomas is killed by a rough wooden spear that shot from a nearby tree, fixing him to the ground. The party returns to town to warn Mossberg about Thomas’s folly.

The Eladrin was actually a prince among his kind, set to guard the Fey side of the portal. His essence, fused with the torrent of unrestrained vitality of the Feywild has animated the forest. He walks as an ancient treant and summons other fey to his aid. He seeks to avenge himself upon nearby communities and tends the forest, making it as similar to the Feywild as possible.

Apart from the ever-growing forest and the fey, some of the wildlife of the forest is enhanced to dire or fey versions of themselves. In the second adventure (never written) an army of giant ants would attack the village of Mossberg. There were even plans for a green dragon to inhabit the ruins of Mossberg, protecting Thomas’ lore, which would provide important clues to sealing the rift between worlds.

Last, I came up with a concept for expanding the adventure. There are actually two portals underneath the ancient tree. The other leads to the Shadowfell. Between the Feywild, the Shadowfell, and the home dimension, is a crystal split in three. When the shards are reunited, they form a powerful artifact from the war between the Gods and Primordials. Though rent into three parts, the crystals are connected to each other across the worlds and that connection created the thinness that allowed the portals to exist.

Future Plans

I want to restructure the D&D version of the origin to expand upon the portals beneath the ancient tree and do it in something akin to the Fourthcore style. I’m pooling ideas, slowly, on how that may be done.

I think the ideas behind Mossberg have a lot of life in them yet. I just need to do them justice.

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~ by Hunter Rose on May 25, 2011.

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