Strange Aeons Backstory Chronology


Strange Aeons


20 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Recently I've taken an interest in the timeline of events in Strange Aeons, specifically with regards to Count Haserton Lowls and his journey. This was partly out of curiosity and partly out of my own predisposition to test and break boundaries. The backstory elements describing Lowls' journey are spread throughout the six volumes, often with important details stated or alluded in the middle of other events, so collecting all the information in one place proved challenging. Specific time spans are rarely given, and in many places the information is extremely vague and requires an educated guess. I've done my best to reconcile the available information and produce a generally plausible timeline of events. All times are relative to the beginning of the adventure when the PC's wake up in Briarstone.

I had fun making this timeline, and hope it's helpful for anyone else who is trying to figure out exact time spans. Also, in case anyone says it, I’m aware that if you’re playing the AP as written then the answer to the question "where is Lowls?" at any given point in time is "one to two steps ahead of the PC's". This answer is unsatisfying to me, which is why I put in the time to figure it out more methodically. With that said, I'd definitely appreciate if anyone could point out additional information I may have missed that can refine these times further.

Evidence and Reasoning:

The first question that needs answering happens to be one of the messiest. The question is "how much time passes between when the PC’s minds are sacrificed in the Dreamlands, and when they awaken in Briarstone Asylum at the start of the adventure?"

At first glance, the evidence suggests relatively little time passed. Lowls is stated to have sacrificed their minds, dropped them off at the asylum, and departed Thrushmoor all in the same day. He also drops off the Chains of Night in the care of admnistrator Lasandro at this time. According to In Search of Sanity, it didn't take long before Lasandro attempted the ritual on Zandalus to exercise his dreams, inadvertently releasing the Tatterman. The Tatterman went on his rampage that evening, and the asylum descended into chaos within 24 hours. The PC's could not have survived this long in their fugue state, so they likely awoke within a day or two of the asylum falling into chaos. This short time-frame is corroborated by the NPC Keldrin Mon in Thrushmoor Terror, who indicates he saw the PC’s (prior to their memory loss) about a week previously. This suggests a time-frame of around 3-4 days between when the PC’s lose their memories and when they awaken as amnesiacs in Briarstone.

However, there's equally strong evidence that much more time has passed, specifically with regards to cross-referencing the background of the NPC Winter Klaczka with the background information for Thrushmoor Terror. Winter arrives in Versex county with the royal accusers sent to investigate the count’s affairs, and was specifically assigned to Briarstone to interview the count’s associates (the PCs) interred there. She would have needed to have arrived before Briarstone was enveloped with its dream fog. Based on the background provided in Thrushmoor Terror, these accusers only arrive in Thrushmoor after the Hastur cultists had already taken control of the town, and the Hastur cultists in turn only begin to arrive in Thrushmoor after the Count had departed - the day the PCs were interred in Briarstone. That means that all the background story described in Thrushmoor Terror occurs between the PCs losing their memories and awakening in Briarstone. That's way too many things to have occurred in only 3-4 days, and even a week would seem too short.

Although it's tight, I do think these two lines of evidence can be reconciled. To do so I must presume that cultists traveled to Thrushmoor by magical means (some came from Absalom - way too far to travel by non-magical means), and the cult moved into full operation within days of the count's departure and was in full control of the town within the week. The accusers arrived almost immediately following this. This still means about a week passed between when Lasandro received the Chains of Night and when she attempted the ritual on Zandalus, which is a rather long delay for something that "didn't take long". However, any shorter and there just doesn’t seem to be enough time for the cult to have done everything it is stated to have done in the intervening days. Overall, my estimate is 10 days for the time that passes between the PC’s losing their memories and reawakening as blank slates.

So with the question of Lowls' headstart settled, the next question is how long it takes him to travel between Thrushmoor to Cassomir and then to Katheer? It takes the PC's 100 days to complete the journey between Thrushmoor and Cassomir on the Sellen Starling, and a brief note in The Whisper Out of Time indicates that travel by boat between Cassomir and Katheer takes "a few months". If we assign Lowls a 160 day travel time here then we have an obvious problem: any party that gains access to teleportation prior to departing Cassomir (which is very likely since the party is due to reach 11th level in Cassomir!) is almost guaranteed to beat Lowls to Katheer, and just forget about Neruzavin. This timing is unacceptably long.

A more reasonable interpretation here is that Lowls secures faster transportation than the PC's. A sailboat has an overland (or rather, overwater) travel rate 48 miles per day as opposed to the Keelboats’s 10 miles per day, which would allow Lowls to travel between Thrushmoor and Cassomir in only 21 days. He spent exactly one night in Cassomir before departing. Making similar presumptions for the leg of his trip between Cassomir and Katheer, I’d say a 15 day travel time seems about right. While a fully-sized sailboat might be a bit big for river-travel, I'm sure there's some river-going vessel of comparable speed to that.

The next step in Lowls’ journey is his research in the Mysterium of Katheer. He has three separate meetings with the overseers of the Mysterium in which he gives progressively larger bribes in exchange for more access. After getting unfettered access he spends several days researching the location of Neruzavin. After learning of Neruzavin’s location he steals the Necronomicon and uses a teleportation scroll to escape to Okeno. So how long does that take? Each meeting probably took place on a separate day, and the research sounds like it took about a week from the way it’s described. So I’d estimate a 10 days total.

The next question is how long Lowls stayed in Okeno. Both he and the gnolls kept their business brief, but chartering a vessel and filling it with provisions and slaves wouldn’t happen overnight. In addition he needed to hire separate human mercenaries. Keeping things to a minimum amount of time, I’d be more inclined to estimate a two day layover.

Now for the next tricky one: how long does it take Lowls to travel from Okeno to the Parchlands. Based on author commentary I’ve read on the forums, the exact location of the Parchlands and Neruzavin is not specified on any canonical map of Golarion. All we know is that it lies outside of the Inner Sea region, somewhere in Casmaron. Needless to say, that’s hopelessly vague. At any rate, it would take about 20 days of travel time by sailboat just to leave the boundaries of the Inner Sea region from an Okeno departure, so if we make a ballpark presumption that this represents the halfway mark then that gives a 40 day transit time.

The final stretch of the journey is one of the few cases where we have exact numbers to work with. There is a player handout in What Grows Within that details the journal entries of one of Lowls’ mercenaries. In the entry it describes that Lowls was last seen on day 20 of the expedition. Combined with another segment that indicates that overland travel through the Parchlands to Neruzavin takes 14 days, this gives us 14 days in the Parchlands and 6 days in Neruzavin before Lowls completes his rituals and leaves Golarion.

Taken together this timeline is consistent with almost all of the adventure path, and presuming the party doesn’t break sequence during Dreams of the Yellow King (the most likely situation being abandoning the Sellen Starling to teleport to Cassomir after concluding the dream quests) gives Lowls a sufficient headstart to guarantee he will reach Carcosa before the party can possibly catch up to him.

It does leave a one plot hole, specifically regarding the survivors in the Mysterium who have been waiting a long time for the PC's to arrive. Depending on how quickly the PC's complete other components of the AP, the Mysterium could have been locked down for up to 4 months prior to the PC's arriving. This is a tad long to survive in a monster-infested dungeon without food or water. However, I don't think that problem can be fixed by tweaking the timeline. Since Lowls still has two months of travel time ahead of him after departing Katheer, he necessarily requires several weeks lead over the party at this juncture. A similar but slightly less problematic example is the last "survivor" of Lowls' expedition to Neruzavin, who is just on the verge of succumbing to Xhamen-Dor's corruption when the PC's locate him. However, since the mercenaries are relatively high-level characters with PC class levels it's not unthinkable they could have survived for weeks or even months in Neruzavin.

Timeline:

Day -10: The PC’s Minds are Sacrificed
Haserton Lowls sacrifices the minds of his employees, the PC's, in the Dreamlands. This leaves the PC's in a catatonic fugue state. Lowls drops the PC's off at Briarstone asylum. He leaves a tome called the Chains of Night in the care of administrator Lasandro. Having tied up his loose ends in Versex, Count Lowls departs for Cassomir by boat before dawn breaks the following morning. He leaves the Iris Hill estate in the care of the cult leader Melisenn, who puts out a call to to the cult of Hastur to come to Thrushmoor.

Day -9: Cultists Arrive to Thrushmoor
Heeding Melisenn’s call, the first cultists begin to arrive in Thrushmoor. The first cultists to arrive do so by magical means.

Day -7: Melisenn unlocks the Star Stelae
Through her studies, Melisenn unlocks the Star Stelae and determines how they might used and empowered. She begins to set in motion her larger plans, including a spree of kidnappings and human sacrifice.

Day -5: Fort Hailcourse Sacked
Melisenn’s allies, the Skum of nearby Lake Encarthen, agree to attack Fort Hailcourse and slaughter the humans there. The Magistrate is replaced by a shapeshifting outsider.

Day -3: Accusers Arrive and the Tatterman comes to Briarstone
The Royal Accusers arrive in Versex county to investigate the activities of Count Lowls. They begin their investigation and find that the count is no longer present in Thrushmoor. They are turned away at Iris Hill and decide against storming it.

One group of accusers, lead by Omari, goes to Fort Hailcourse to force an inspection. They are ambushed and slaughtered by the Skum and cultists. Another group of accusers, lead by Winter Klaczka, is sent to Briarstone Asylum to interview the Count's associates there. She has a meeting with Administrator Lasandro, but does not gain immediate access to the patients she wishes to interrogate.

Separately that same day, Administrator Lasandro performs the ritual from the Chains of Night on Ulver Zandalus, inadvertently releasing the Tatterman. The Tatterman goes on his first killing spree that evening.

Day -2: Briarstone goes to Hell
There is an earthquake centered on Briarstone, collapsing significant parts of the structure. At the same time, the Tatterman’s murders cause an outbreak of ghouls and doppelgangers in the building. Zandalus, under the influence of the Tatterman, forms the Apostles in Orpiment, and begins creating Oneirogen to shroud the asylum in a dream fog.

Day 0: The PC’s Awaken
The Tatterman attempts to murder the PC’s in their dreams, but fails due to their wiped memories. They awaken to find Briarstone in chaos, and the adventure begins.

Day 11: Lowls arrives in Cassomir
Haserton Lowls arrives in Cassomir and meets with Miacknian Mun, who agrees to join Lowls and help in finding Neruzavin.

Day 12: Lowls departs Cassomir
Lowls and Mun leave Cassomir for Katheer the following day by merchant ship.

Day 27-29: Lowls arrives in Katheer and Bribes the Overseers
Haserton Lowls arrives in Katheer, and arranges a meeting with the keepers of the Mysterium. He is rebuffed. The next day he arranges another meeting, this time with a hefty bribe, and gets supervised access to the Mysterium. Still displeased, Lowls arranges another meeting the next day with an even bigger bribe and gets unsupervised access. He begins research in earnest.

Day 30-36: Lowls Researches at the Mysterium
Lowls and Mun pore over tomes to deduce the location of Neruzavin, along with any other information they need at this time.

Day 37: Lowls obtains the Necronomicon
Having obtained the location of Neruzavin, Lowls commits one final act in the Mysterium: stealing the Necronomicon. Using a scroll of teleport he escapes, abandoning the Mysterium and its occupants to their fates. Due to Lowls’ corruption by Xhamen-Dor, fiendish creatures and corruptions take hold of the Mysterium and it is sealed off to protect the city. Note that Lowls can no longer be safely scried upon at this point, as the Necronomicon provides its owner rather powerful protection against that.

Day 38: Lowls meets with Biting Lash
Lowls meets Biting Lash and arranges for a chartered ship, pack animals, supplies, and slaves for his expedition to the Parchlands. The gnolls are deeply uncomfortable with Lowls and keep their business short.

Day 39: Departure from Okeno
Lowls hires additional mercenaries and departs Okeno for the Parchlands via his chartered ship.

Day 79: Landfall in the Parchlands
Lowls makes landfall in the Parchlands and begins his overland journey.

Day 93: Neruzavin at Last
Lowls arrives in the city of Neruzavin and begins his exploration.

Day 99: Departure to Carcosa
Lowls completes the last of his rituals to transport himself to Carcosa. This is the last he’s seen by his hirelings, which are succumbing to the effects of Xhamen-Dor at this time.

Overall I quite like this timeline, as it represents a rather graceful middle-ground in terms of making it possible to catch up to Lowls. If you play the AP as written and spend the full 100 days on the Sellen Starling then such an interception is impossible; in order to catch up to Lowls the party must choose to abandon the Sellen Starling, a conscious act of breaking the campaign's boundaries. That's a nice balance that feels right to me. If my PC's play the campaign as written then the backstory flows more-or-less without issue, but if they want to break the sequence then there's ample opportunity to do so.

When it comes to scrying on Lowls, it's important to note that he possess the Necronomicon from days 37-99 of the adventure, rendering him highly resistant to scrying attempts for the duration. Lowls is vulnerable to scrying before and after that point (though after that point he’s no longer in Golarion). This does mean there is ample opportunity for the party to perform scrying attempts on Lowls during the research period of Dreams of the Yellow King. It is plausible that the party will reach 9th level before the 36th day of the adventure, raising the possibility of a scry-and-die attempt (although to be honest, confronting Lowls in the Mysterium while its magical defenses malfunction sounds awesome).

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thank you for doing this. This will be an invaluable reference to GMs.


Not to punch holes in your work but there is a very simple solution here, nothing is set in stone. Things are intentionally vague so you can work them to your needs because some parties will ardently hound Lowls, opting to invest more money and effort to speeding up their travels while other will take a slow approach to better arm themselves for coming battles. Tracking Lowls exact journey is unnecessary tedium that the AP encourages you to gloss over, much like it encourages you NOT to track the charges on the Star Stelae. Understanding and certainty actually play counter to the themes of eldritch horror. In fact, while it might seem unreasonable for events to always line up, these coincidences and lapses in logic play to the very notion that events are being orchestrated by a greater being who has taken interest in Lowls and the PCs and is manipulating events in subtle ways to ensure they work out just as a play must be perfectly staged and executed.
Really, I just assume that Lowls simply has access to anything the PCs do and thus moves at the same relative pace including extended breaks to resupply or study new mysteries.
But there's nothing stopping one for altering events to their own desire. The only thing that should impede you orchestrating an encounter with Lowls in the Mysterium is the possibility one of your PCs kills him even if that requires a string of natural 20s, Murphy's law is always in play.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I really like the Lowls fight in the Mysterium idea. It would really spice up the 4th book.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
grandobsidian wrote:
Tracking Lowls exact journey is unnecessary tedium that the AP encourages you to gloss over

As I said, if you just want to run the AP as written then the answer to "where is Lowls" is "one or two steps ahead of the PC's". If that's how you want to run it that's perfectly fine. I personally wasn't satisfied with that, and wanted to figure out exact timing based on the information provided. The backstory information, though scattered and vague in some places, is actually pretty comprehensive when collected together and that made it a fun exercise. Tearing things apart at their most technical level is a sign of affection for me. I wouldn't have spent my time doing this if I didn't like the Strange Aeons AP.

grandobsidian wrote:
Understanding and certainty actually play counter to the themes of eldritch horror.

It's not like you're going to show the PC's this info, it's primarily for the GM's purpose. If the party is scrying on Lowls on a daily basis to acquire additional information then they're going to get a nasty surprise on day 37 when he gains the Necronomicon's protection. Alternately, getting caught up in the unexpected bit of chaos at the Mysterium certainly works as a source of uncertainty.

Even setting aside scrying, the PC's might simply ask NPC's when these events happened. These are basic questions that the NPC's involved should be able to answer fairly accurately. It's a completely natural question for the PC's to ask how long ago the Mysterium was closed off, and there's nothing wrong with wanting a consistent timeline that actually lines up.

Yakman wrote:
I really like the Lowls fight in the Mysterium idea. It would really spice up the 4th book.

I'm strongly leaning towards running it that way if circumstances allow. We'll see how my party approaches it. It does mean that a modification to the plot hook is necessary for parts 5 and 6, but a captured Lowls is a great vehicle to deliver that hook, along with some misinformation on the side (I would run Lowls himself as a non-combatant who only flees or cowers to encourage his capture. Plus this sidesteps the issue of statting him). If interest is waning then this also gives me a clean stopping point.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Dasrak wrote:
Yakman wrote:
I really like the Lowls fight in the Mysterium idea. It would really spice up the 4th book.
I'm strongly leaning towards running it that way if circumstances allow. We'll see how my party approaches it. It does mean that a modification to the plot hook is necessary for parts 5 and 6, but a captured Lowls is a great vehicle to deliver that hook, along with some...

yeah... I dunno if I would do it that way.

To me, the stuff in Okeno just kinda falls flat. It's a gnoll fight up a tower and... yeah, after the asylum, and the skum, and the dreamlands, and the Mysterium... and the upcoming stuff... it's just... not there. And, imho, all the stuff in Okeno could better be handled without any combat.

Now... a captured Lowls Hollow One might be fun - but you could also take the opportunity to slot in a small WEIRD adventure - the magical chaos following Lowls' escape actually does send the PCs to... i dunno... Hyperborea or Aucturn or Australia. Actually play around with the Call of Cthulhu stuff described in Book 6 maybe? When the adventure concludes the same weird energies that shot them there bring them back to the Mysterium, where they make an escape.

Dark Archive

I was under the impression that teleportation with the Necronomicon was impossible. Wouldn't that lengthen the timeline a bit?

Shadow Lodge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Lowls' connection to Xhamen-Dor lets him get around that restriction.

Link

Grand Lodge Contributor

Yakman wrote:

To me, the stuff in Okeno just kinda falls flat. It's a gnoll fight up a tower and... yeah, after the asylum, and the skum, and the dreamlands, and the Mysterium... and the upcoming stuff... it's just... not there. And, imho, all the stuff in Okeno could better be handled without any combat.

Now... a captured Lowls Hollow One might be fun - but you could also take the opportunity to slot in a small WEIRD adventure - the magical chaos following Lowls' escape actually does send the PCs to... i dunno... Hyperborea or Aucturn or Australia. Actually play around with the Call of Cthulhu stuff described in Book 6 maybe? When the adventure concludes the same weird energies that shot them there bring them back to the Mysterium, where they make an escape.

I like this idea. I'm a long way from even starting this AP, but I'd already picked up that the Okeno/gnolls segment would be a bit of a letdown and have been looking for a replacement. I'm very much in favour of upping the WEIRD and hadn't even considered using the stuff from the Concluding the Adventure section. Thanks for the inspiration!

Grand Lodge Contributor

Interestingly, Valley of the Brain Collectors (from the Iron Gods AP), ends at around the same level that the PCs should be when dealing with the gnolls in Okeno. I think it might be fun to do something with the Dominion of the Black aliens instead of the gnolls and it wouldn't require much tweaking, although there could be a danger of mixing too many confusing elements since the DotB are generally enemies of the Mythos.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Shaun Hocking wrote:
Yakman wrote:

To me, the stuff in Okeno just kinda falls flat. It's a gnoll fight up a tower and... yeah, after the asylum, and the skum, and the dreamlands, and the Mysterium... and the upcoming stuff... it's just... not there. And, imho, all the stuff in Okeno could better be handled without any combat.

Now... a captured Lowls Hollow One might be fun - but you could also take the opportunity to slot in a small WEIRD adventure - the magical chaos following Lowls' escape actually does send the PCs to... i dunno... Hyperborea or Aucturn or Australia. Actually play around with the Call of Cthulhu stuff described in Book 6 maybe? When the adventure concludes the same weird energies that shot them there bring them back to the Mysterium, where they make an escape.

I like this idea. I'm a long way from even starting this AP, but I'd already picked up that the Okeno/gnolls segment would be a bit of a letdown and have been looking for a replacement. I'm very much in favour of upping the WEIRD and hadn't even considered using the stuff from the Concluding the Adventure section. Thanks for the inspiration!

well... it's not the gnolls aren't WEIRD. i mean... these are bipedal hyena slavers. you can play up the inhumanity and insanity of it. i just don't think it's a compelling combat situation.

Grand Lodge Contributor

Yakman wrote:
Shaun Hocking wrote:
Yakman wrote:

To me, the stuff in Okeno just kinda falls flat. It's a gnoll fight up a tower and... yeah, after the asylum, and the skum, and the dreamlands, and the Mysterium... and the upcoming stuff... it's just... not there. And, imho, all the stuff in Okeno could better be handled without any combat.

Now... a captured Lowls Hollow One might be fun - but you could also take the opportunity to slot in a small WEIRD adventure - the magical chaos following Lowls' escape actually does send the PCs to... i dunno... Hyperborea or Aucturn or Australia. Actually play around with the Call of Cthulhu stuff described in Book 6 maybe? When the adventure concludes the same weird energies that shot them there bring them back to the Mysterium, where they make an escape.

I like this idea. I'm a long way from even starting this AP, but I'd already picked up that the Okeno/gnolls segment would be a bit of a letdown and have been looking for a replacement. I'm very much in favour of upping the WEIRD and hadn't even considered using the stuff from the Concluding the Adventure section. Thanks for the inspiration!
well... it's not the gnolls aren't WEIRD. i mean... these are bipedal hyena slavers. you can play up the inhumanity and insanity of it. i just don't think it's a compelling combat situation.

Sure they're weird to us, but to PCs in Pathfinder not so much. I want to take the players to places and do things that would feel wrong in other campaigns, but will be appropriately disconcerting for this AP.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder Adventure Path / Strange Aeons / Strange Aeons Backstory Chronology All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.