What does the Well of Souls do?

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What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by ripvanwormer » Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:31 am

DA4 The Duchy of Ten describes the artifact's powers this way:
The creation of Zugzul’s Well of Souls has caused a disturbance in the time-space continuum. Throughout the 3,000 years since the event, there are now signs and portents of doom - for the very existence of the artifact is creating an alternate universe in which Blackmoor is conquered by the Afridhi, thus changing the entire course of history.
How exactly does this work? Normally alternate universes are created when someone travels back in time to interfere with history that's already, from the traveler's point of view, happened. When someone changes the course of events in their own present it's not normally called an alternate history - it's just called history. If the Afridhi forge an artifact in the present day that enables them to win a few crucial battles, why would there also be an alternate timeline in which they did not win those battles? When Zugzul gifted the Afridhi with the secrets to creating the Well of Souls, was there also a timeline in which he didn't give them those secrets? Where did the alternate timeline come from? Did Zugzul travel back in time from a future in which the Well of Souls was never made? The module doesn't indicate that, but it'd make more sense if he did.

How did the artifact help the Afridhi conquer Blackmoor? That is, how would the effects of the artifact appear to warriors battling the Afridhi at the time? There's something in the module about the Well "bringing fear to the hearts of the enemies of the Afridhi." Was this a magical fear that caused them to falter in battle? Or does the Well just alter probability so that, effectively, key characters get penalties on their to hit and damage rolls and saving throws? Is a split in the timeline an inevitable result of this kind of tampering with probability, time travel or no? Or were the enemies of the Afridhi simply killed by soul eaters? Why would an artifact whose chief power is creating soul eaters create an alternate timeline instead of just creating a lot of eaten souls?

The PCs seem to have originated in the timeline in which the Afridhi did not succeed in conquering Blackmoor. How would the alternate timeline, if allowed to come to pass, change Mystara's present day? Would the results even be noticeable after thousands of years and a world-changing cataclysm in the interim? Would the Great Rain of Fire have still happened? Might a world in which Blackmoor never ascended to the heights needed to cause a planet-shaking cataclysm arguably be a happier place, even if the price paid was a chunk of one continent dominated by a fire-worshiping tyranny for a time? How, thousands of years later, does one compare the countless souls that would suffer and die or never be born in the Afridhi-dominated timeline to the countless souls who suffer and die and millions more who are never born in the Great Rain of Fire timeline? Why even interfere with that (other than to preserve the party's own existences)?

Has anyone considered playing the module with a party that originated in the Afridhi-dominated timeline, struggling to prevent another party of time travelers from erasing the only world they've ever known?

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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Yaztromo » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:07 am

RobJN is the Well of Souls specialist...;)

Obviously the Well of Sould has been left unclear on purpose, so you can do a bit what you want...:)
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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by BlackBat242 » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:08 am

Ask Jack Chalker!

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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Cthulhudrew » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:42 am

I blame the Oards.
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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Havard » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:53 pm

Another great topic coming up! :)
ripvanwormer wrote:How exactly does this work? Normally alternate universes are created when someone travels back in time to interfere with history that's already, from the traveler's point of view, happened. When someone changes the course of events in their own present it's not normally called an alternate history - it's just called history. If the Afridhi forge an artifact in the present day that enables them to win a few crucial battles, why would there also be an alternate timeline in which they did not win those battles? When Zugzul gifted the Afridhi with the secrets to creating the Well of Souls, was there also a timeline in which he didn't give them those secrets? Where did the alternate timeline come from? Did Zugzul travel back in time from a future in which the Well of Souls was never made? The module doesn't indicate that, but it'd make more sense if he did.

The idea that Zugzul travelled back in time does make sense. OTOH, the Immortals seem reluctant to travel back to the time around Blackmoor.

Another possibility struck me when Blackbat mentioned Jack Chalker. Assuming that the Well of Souls is a reality shaping artifact. Perhaps the Well exists in all the timelines, but that the arrival of the PCs through time is what got the Well to respond by giving more power to the Afridhi than it originally did?

As to where it came from, perhaps it was brought to Blackmoor's planet by the FSS Beagle, whose crew picked it up on a different planet similar to the Well World? Perhaps it was this very artifact that caused the spaceship to misjump, sending it to a different reality? Zugzul may simply have stolen it from the City of the Gods and placed it within the reach of his mistress, Toska Rusa?
How did the artifact help the Afridhi conquer Blackmoor? That is, how would the effects of the artifact appear to warriors battling the Afridhi at the time? There's something in the module about the Well "bringing fear to the hearts of the enemies of the Afridhi." Was this a magical fear that caused them to falter in battle? Or does the Well just alter probability so that, effectively, key characters get penalties on their to hit and damage rolls and saving throws? Is a split in the timeline an inevitable result of this kind of tampering with probability, time travel or no? Or were the enemies of the Afridhi simply killed by soul eaters? Why would an artifact whose chief power is creating soul eaters create an alternate timeline instead of just creating a lot of eaten souls?
The idea of the Soul Eaters originating from the Well of Souls is worth exploring further. I also assumed the Well of Souls would be connected to the Undead. In my Vales Campaign, I had rogue members of the Wizards Cabal try to create their own Well of Souls, but as the experiment failed, it simply ended up creating Zombies. I wonder if the Soul Eater from Temple of Death came from the Well of Souls as well?

BTW, the computer game Warriors of the Eternal Sun suggests that a Well of Souls exist in the Hollow World as well...
The PCs seem to have originated in the timeline in which the Afridhi did not succeed in conquering Blackmoor. How would the alternate timeline, if allowed to come to pass, change Mystara's present day? Would the results even be noticeable after thousands of years and a world-changing cataclysm in the interim? Would the Great Rain of Fire have still happened? Might a world in which Blackmoor never ascended to the heights needed to cause a planet-shaking cataclysm arguably be a happier place, even if the price paid was a chunk of one continent dominated by a fire-worshiping tyranny for a time? How, thousands of years later, does one compare the countless souls that would suffer and die or never be born in the Afridhi-dominated timeline to the countless souls who suffer and die and millions more who are never born in the Great Rain of Fire timeline? Why even interfere with that (other than to preserve the party's own existences)?
Perhaps the Afridhi would find their own way to create a Great Rain of Fire? Zugzul would have approved! In any case, this is food for lots of speculation :)


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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by ripvanwormer » Tue Apr 02, 2013 1:37 am

The Well of Souls reminds me of this Doctor Who parody, in which they press a button labeled "win" that, if you press it, makes you automatically win... but it unravels time!

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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Cthulhudrew » Tue Apr 02, 2013 3:16 am

You know, now that you bring the topic up rip, it does occur to me that Zugzul has apparently gone missing between the days of Blackmoor and the present. Could he have been a victim of his own time altering plotting?
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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by RobJN » Tue Apr 02, 2013 4:03 am

Zugzul is a demon (demon prince maybe?) of fire, and is said to be affiliated with the Sphere of Energy, rather than Entropy.

The Great Rain of Fire has been attributed to a misuse/malfunction of Blackmoor tech. Perhaps Zugzul required a very LARGE sacrifice to attain Immortality in Entropy.... :twisted:

But that still doesn't explain the divergent universe clause from DA4....
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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Chimpman » Tue Apr 02, 2013 6:14 am

Cthulhudrew wrote:You know, now that you bring the topic up rip, it does occur to me that Zugzul has apparently gone missing between the days of Blackmoor and the present. Could he have been a victim of his own time altering plotting?
Sounds like an excellent plot line for an adventure series... Zugzul's Return... :twisted:
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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by RobJN » Tue Apr 02, 2013 12:34 pm

Chimpman wrote:
Cthulhudrew wrote:You know, now that you bring the topic up rip, it does occur to me that Zugzul has apparently gone missing between the days of Blackmoor and the present. Could he have been a victim of his own time altering plotting?
Sounds like an excellent plot line for an adventure series... Zugzul's Return... :twisted:
Hey now, that's what kicks off the second Beast Man Crusade...
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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by ripvanwormer » Tue Apr 02, 2013 6:04 pm

The Well of Souls was built with the aid of the efreet, so Zugzul might well be the efreeti patron (or one of their patrons, at least). Perhaps the Afridhi even have efreeti blood. In the Codex Immortalis he is also the patron of fire giants and of the Magian Fire Worshipers.

It'd be interesting to look further into both the creation of the Well of Souls and the rise of the Magian Fire Worshipers from the point of view of the efreet.

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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Havard » Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:48 pm

RobJN wrote:
Chimpman wrote:
Cthulhudrew wrote:You know, now that you bring the topic up rip, it does occur to me that Zugzul has apparently gone missing between the days of Blackmoor and the present. Could he have been a victim of his own time altering plotting?
Sounds like an excellent plot line for an adventure series... Zugzul's Return... :twisted:
Hey now, that's what kicks off the second Beast Man Crusade...
Not a bad idea, although Zugzul is an Immortal of Energy rather than Entropy. I would assume his relationship with the Beastmen would be more complex than a mere patron?
ripvanwormer wrote:The Well of Souls was built with the aid of the efreet, so Zugzul might well be the efreeti patron (or one of their patrons, at least). Perhaps the Afridhi even have efreeti blood. In the Codex Immortalis he is also the patron of fire giants and of the Magian Fire Worshipers.

It'd be interesting to look further into both the creation of the Well of Souls and the rise of the Magian Fire Worshipers from the point of view of the efreet.
Thanks for reminding me about the connection between the Efreeti and the Well of Souls. If I had remembered that I would have incorporated some fire elemental creatures in the previous chapter of my Vales Campaign. Although I suppose the wizards had not figured that part out at the time.

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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Le Noir Faineant » Wed May 08, 2013 4:29 am

My dear viking, I am disappoint.

The Well of Souls was the core of the Grim Winter campaign, and was also featured in "The Promised Land". You should know, because you helped Mant nuke it with the swanboat.


Essentially, IMC, the Well is a planar portal to the Abyss, with all, ALL that comes with it. That was my interpretation, however.

In BM canon, the purpose of the WoS is never quite defined, though I conveniently, and rather in sync with the concept that many of the Arnesonian filler terms are references to 70s sci-fi literature,
planted some seeds that might connect BM's Well with the novel "Midnight at the Well of Souls", by Jack Chalker. But that is really just my interpretation - canonically,
we do not have any substantial info on Arneson's treatment of the duchy of Ten.

Actually, I always took the WoS as one of TSR's later additions to the setting - a rather pointless plot seat, nothing more. :)


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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Havard » Wed May 08, 2013 2:14 pm

Le Noir Faineant wrote:The Well of Souls was the core of the Grim Winter campaign,
Yup. :)
I was adressing Rip's questions about how the Well of Souls was adressed in the published material.
we do not have any substantial info on Arneson's treatment of the duchy of Ten.
You can learn quite a bit about the Duchy of Ten from the FFC and Garbage Pits of Despair. DA4 is the most extensive source on that realm. Some fans make a big deal about how Dave Arneson expressed frustration about how DA4 was not sent to him for approval before it was published, and how he planned to take it in a different direction. While this is true, I personally have no reason to believe that the actual Duchy of Ten would have turned out very differently if Arneson had had a more active role in writing it. Most likely what he had intended differently with that module had to do with the progress of the Afridhi invasion and the character Ran, who is noticably absent from DA4. But I have seen nothing that would suggest the Duchy itself to be portrayed differently.

Actually, I always took the WoS as one of TSR's later additions to the setting - a rather pointless plot seat, nothing more. :)
Possible, although I have yet to see the notes from Arneson that Ritchie wrote the DA modules from. The Well of Souls sounds very much like it could have been on a list of magical items/artifacts/treasures. Whether it was originally connected to the Afridhi or not is hard to say, but overall Ritchie's main job seems to have been to connect the various locations, characters and kingdoms into a consistent plotline for a new group of PCs.

The Afridhi Queen was a player character from Arneson's campaign and barbarian invasions from the west were a frequent occurence. The Well of Souls explains why the Afridhi are interested in conquering the realms around Blackmoor and offers a means to defeat the invading hordes.


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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Le Noir Faineant » Sat May 18, 2013 7:13 am

Ah, I missed this one. Of course, I know about the situation; I am curious if Starmorgan, etc. are really Arneson's creation,
or if the entire territory east of the Misauga was just sandbox for his players. Are there any accounts of Arneson running games in the Duchy?

Personally, outside of my internet endeavors, I have run this module in the duchy:

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Not sure what was the Blackmoor connection I saw back then, since this was, what, eight years ago, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. :)
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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Havard » Mon May 20, 2013 9:50 pm

Le Noir Faineant wrote:Ah, I missed this one. Of course, I know about the situation; I am curious if Starmorgan, etc. are really Arneson's creation,
or if the entire territory east of the Misauga was just sandbox for his players. Are there any accounts of Arneson running games in the Duchy?
I personally am more interested in finding out stuff about Blackmoor than finding out what comes from Arneson and what comes from other people. However, I wrote a long answer to these questions over here. This thread is really about the Well of Souls so maybe we should get back to that? :)

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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Yaztromo » Sat Aug 17, 2013 3:33 pm

Hello, by chance I was reading the second gamebook of the Forbidden Gateway serie (Terrors out of Time) and I encountered a "Well of Souls". The underlying theme of Forbidden Gateway is Lovecraftian, but this book in particular recalls quite a bit Stephen King.
I don't know very well either of them, but I wonder if some other Piazzan knows if there is a "Well of Souls" either in Lovecraft or, maybe, in Stephen King's work.
It might give some hint or insight.
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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Havard » Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:11 pm

Yaztromo wrote:Hello, by chance I was reading the second gamebook of the Forbidden Gateway serie (Terrors out of Time) and I encountered a "Well of Souls". The underlying theme of Forbidden Gateway is Lovecraftian, but this book in particular recalls quite a bit Stephen King.
I don't know very well either of them, but I wonder if some other Piazzan knows if there is a "Well of Souls" either in Lovecraft or, maybe, in Stephen King's work.
It might give some hint or insight.
Not familiar with that one, but it is interesting to see Well of Souls appear in multiple places. As Blackbat mentioned above, Jack Chalker's novels are very likely where Arneson got the name from, but we can never be sure of course.

Interestingly, a Well of Souls also appears in the Mystara based Video Game, Warriors of the Eternal Sun, where the Well is located in the Lizardman Swamp in the Hollow World. Although Mystara assumes to be Blackmoor's future, I somehow doubt that it is the same Well of Souls as the one Zugzul gave to the Afridhi though...

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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Yaztromo » Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:18 am

Anybody more familiar with Lovecraft than me knows if it's also in his world?
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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Cthulhudrew » Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:13 am

Yaztromo wrote:Anybody more familiar with Lovecraft than me knows if it's also in his world?
Nothing comes to mind. Souls aren't really a terribly Lovecraftian concept; he's more about alien horrors, actual physical cosmic entities, and the terror that comes from the inability of the human mind to comprehend them. Not so much on the idea of morality and transcendence to the spiritual realms.

On the other hand, I could definitely see it being an area that Stephen King might have delved into at some point, but I'm only familiar with his short stories; haven't ever really been able to sit through his novels.
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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Yaztromo » Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:27 pm

Ehm... any Stephen King experts available to cast some light on this???
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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Yaztromo » Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:30 pm

Havard wrote: Not familiar with that one
If you like gamebooks, I'd definitely recommend that serie (of just two gamebooks..)
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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Yaztromo » Fri Sep 13, 2013 8:08 pm

I found another Well of Souls mentioned in another gamebook :o
It's the Sword of the Samurai (Fighting Fantasy). This time, as you can guess, the background is Japanese mythology and there is a Well of Soul mentioned... :roll:
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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by Le Noir Faineant » Wed Sep 25, 2013 6:55 pm

The term "Well of Souls" was first made prominent by an author named Jack Chalk(-er?) who wrote weird fiction in the 70s.

Now, the "magic well" trope was most prominently featured in "The Wishsong of Shannara" in the 80s. Since this book was released in 1985,
it might have influenced Ritchie, at least. But alas, since IIRC, the Well's powers are never defined in the module, we might never know... :)
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Re: What does the Well of Souls do?

Post by ripvanwormer » Mon Jul 25, 2016 2:11 am

What if the Mouth of Death from M1 Into the Maelstrom, the volcano with a vortex to the Sphere of Death in it that Alphaks uses to send a toxic miasma across Norwold, is the Well of Souls? Or a recreation of it?

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