There was once a Blackrazor redshirt named Zilanderan. A strange man, Zilanderan claimed to be part of a larger, near-infinite multiverse of alternate realities. He’d excitedly talk about how this multiverse interacted with this, the Prime Material Plane, boring his cohorts to tears until something happened to break the tension.
Alas, the eccentric warrior-mage was never able to fully realize his dreams of dimensional travel, as he fell storming the resurrected Temple of Elemental Evil, was captured by some of its clerics, and had his soul fed to the imprisoned god known as Tharizdun. Consumed by an evil imprisoned by the gods themselves, was believed to be gone beyond all hopes of resurrection. And, in truth, he is.
Or at least that version of him. For in truth, Zilanderan was right. There were other realities. Other Material Planes. And other Zils.
I was bummed when Zil died, but I’d always had this idea that there couldn’t just be one Zilanderan. When Wizards of the Coast released the Book of Nine Swords — a Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition book that anticipated 4th Edition (and some aspects of 5th), I knew I wanted to try out the new mechanics. I also wanted to explain how something as radical as swordsage could appear in the conservative realm of the World of Greyhawk.
My answer was — once again — that he walked out of the whirling energies of the multiverse. This Second Iteration had no knowledge of the First. Where the First’s alignment was Chaotic Neutral, this one was Lawful Neutral.
Born an oprhan on the Alternative Material Plane known as Aerth, the Second Iteration was given to a mystical order of arcane monks known as the Order of the Sapphire Blade to be raised as one of their elite warriors. The monks taught him how to achieve the Moment of Perfect Mind, allowing him to remain calm in the middle of mental maelstroms. They demonstrated how to leave his foes speechless through manifestation of the Sapphire Nightmare Blade. They even demonstrated how to gain insight into defending himself against a single foe through the Stance of Clarity.
On his 17th birthday, the Order elevated Zilanderan from Novice to Acolyte, and he undertook his first questing missions with his teacher, a powerful and wise swordsage named Shalzar. At first, these missions took him to elemental ruins scattered throughout his homeland, the remains of great temples raised to ancient and terrible gods in past ages. They then took the planes beyond, where he and his sensai traveled to such fabled lands as the City of Brass, where Zil learned the twin secrets of the Burning Blade and Wind Stride from an ancient effreti named Aznen, the fortress of Zthan on the Demiplane of Twilight, where he learned the clinging shadow strike and shadow blade technique from its seneschal X’torn, and the many-doored city of Sigil, he learned how to achieve the vital recovery of his body through his mind while waiting for an audience with the Lady of Pain.
When he and his master Shalzar returned to Aerth from their travels they found a terrible cataclysm had befallen the land, indeed the entire plane. It had been shattered, broken into free-floating mountain-sized chunks of land that swirled in a wind-blasted abyss. Their entire reality had been shattered, torn asunder by demons spawned by pure chaos. The creatures were Entropy made real, and they destroyed everything they touched.
They would have been lost if they had not chosen to emerge into the remains of Aerth through one of the few bastions of law to survive the planar destruction: the Sapphire Citadel. This was the self-same fortress on whose doorstep Zilanderan was left all those long years ago, and it was from here they had left on their journey along the Sublime Path.
It was nearly Zilanderan’s tomb.
The Brothers were ecstatic to find that two of their number had return, and they celebrated by raising Zilanderan to the rank of full brother in the Sapphire Blade. The celebration was short-lived. The Chaos Demons massed and launched an all out assault on the citadel. The battle raged for nine days, and despite reinforcements by the Great Order of the Diamond Mind, the Citadel could not stand. Dozens of Brothers fell to the demonic horde, and more were gravely wounded before they could retreat.
Among these was Shalzar, who lay dying on the blood-splattered Emerald Field of Xen. With his last breath, as his life fled through a demon-haunted wound, the teacher demanded his student swear and an oath to learn what had destroyed their home … and to learn how to stop it.
In the years that followed, Zil became obsessed with what he came to see as the pillars of the universe: The Nine. He began seeing the nine in everything; the nine disciplines of the Sublime Way, the nine aspects of morality, the nine gods of Aerth’s pantheon. He sought the true names of the Nine, believing that if he could accomplish this task, he will gain the power he needs to bind and perhaps even destroy the demons that ravaged Aerth.
This quest finally brought him to the Prime Material Plane and its world of Oerth. It is a journey that cost him dearly. His own alternate reality was all but consumed by demons when he stumbled across an eons-old temple and the ritual needed to transport him to the one true universe. The spell brought him to the Prime Material Plane, and its planet of Oerth, but it cost him most of his power and knowledge. He managed to keep only the purest sliver of himself … and the knowledge that something must be done to stop the demons from finding and destroy this true reality.
Unfortunately Zil’s backstory was longer than his adventuring career: he died fighting a goblin king in the wildest of the Pomarj at second level.
Zilanderan was resurrected a third time as a chaotic good wizard NPC for our Planetorn playtest campaign for Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. This latest iteration of Zilanderan was an agent of Obsianus House in Sigil, the City of Doors. The House itself was a manifestation of the Obsidian Tower, an arcane order focused on defending the Prime Material Plane from extraplanar invasion.
This iteration of Zil was from an Oerth … but not the one my group adventured in. Whereas in their world the Obsidian Bay was conquered by an alliance of the Scarlet Brotherhood and the Dark Circle, in the Third Iteration’s the city was destroyed by an invasion of slaads.
The Third Iteration arrived in Sigil telling tales of how the forces of Entropy destroyed not only Obsidian Bay, but the entire Material Plane. Concerned, Jith Vendhzar — master of Obsianus House — dispatched mages back to the Prime to discern what happened for themselves.
The Prime was intact, a fact which proved whatever Zilanderan mnight believer, he was in fact from an Alternative Material Plane. Zilanderan’s experienced proved to be prophetic. Reports of invasion and destruction began to trinkle in from the farthest reaches of the multiverse, reports eerily similar to Zil’s own panicked stories. The wizard was sworn in as an agent of the Tower and charged with leading up a task force to investigate the strange invasions.
To that end, he has begun assembling groups of Planetorn — heroes who’s homes had already been destroyed by the rising wave of destruction. Zil began dispatching them through Sigil’s many portals to obscure demiplanes, distant planar locations, and even alternative realities as a way of learning about the threat they faced.
Alas, the course of Zilanderan continued. The Planetorn campaign only ran for a handful of sessions before we realized that Dungeons & Dragons 4th Editionwasn’t going to work for our group. The Third Iteration was left in limbo
What’s next for Zil? We recently resurrected the Planetorn storyline for Nuke(m)Con (our home grown game convention). The story assumed that the heroes of the original campaign prevented the rise of the Entropic Lords and thus saved the multiverse from destruction. I never determined what happened to the Third Iteration but I’m inclined to say he didn’t make it so that I can come up with something unique for his Fourth Iteration.
I haven’t settled on what that character might be. I’m tempted to create a devote of Murlynd, a hero god and the World of Greyhawk’s only gunslinger (gunpowder doesn’t work on Oerth … but it does work for Murlynd). I’m also tempted to try playing him as a barbarian, which would be hugely different from anything that he’s been before. The only thing I know for sure is that there will be another Zilanderan. He’s probably doomed to die yet again … but that’s part of the fun.