Hello and welcome back to the RPG Blog Carnival, which I have the honor and pleasure to host during August. The theme, inspired by one of my campaigns, is «Location, location, location» and now it’s time to talk about that with a more general approach. You’ll see, mystical power and mysterious devices are at the center of many fantasy tales. In M:tG, from which I draw too much inspiration, we see such devices all the time: the Golgothian Sylex, the Mirari, the Helvault, even the end of the Implicit Maze that made Jace Beleren the Living Guildpact, among many others.
All these artifacts are all unique in what they do within their own storylines, and unique in why our heroes and villains run into conflict in order to control them. There is one, though, that I feel very close culturally. I’m talking about the mysterious city of Orazca, where the mystical Immortal Sun resides. Orazca is based on the legends surrounding «El Dorado», which have changed themselves over time, as it went from being a man, to a city, to a kingdom, and even to an empire. Today I will tell you what you may not know about Orazca, hoping that you can use it as an example of an important location in your campaign not as a space, but as a motivation.
Stake your claim
The merfolk of the River Heralds and the humans of the Sun Empire have shared the continent of Ixalan for ages, sometimes warring, sometimes in an uneasy peace. But outsiders—first the treasure-hungry pirates of the Brazen Coalition and now the sinister fleets of the Legion of Dusk—have disrupted that delicate balance of power. And as the Legion of Dusk seeks to conquer Ixalan, all four peoples are catapulted into a desperate search for a golden city and the treasure it holds.
Ixalan is a whole world waiting to be discovered. Ancient ruins from the Sun Empire’s heyday can now be found, overgrown and half-buried, in the depths of the jungle. Sacred springs infused with magical power well up from high mountainsides. Hidden coves hold pirate treasures stowed by captains long forgotten. But what brave explorers really want to uncover is a city made of gold.
Because deep in the heart of Ixalan’s verdant jungle lies a treasure beyond imagining. Secure in the ancient golden city of Orazca, the Immortal Sun is an artifact of mythic power that promises boundless wealth, the strength of empire, command over nature, and eternal life. For centuries it was only dimly remembered, veiled in legend, but now legend has become reality, and all the peoples of Ixalan seek the Immortal Sun and the power it promises. They will stop at nothing to claim it for their own.
Orazca is the grandest ruin of the ancient Sun Empire, the glorious golden city that served as the empire’s capital for many centuries, and tribute from across the breadth of the empire was brought to adorn its palaces and temples. Gold adorns nearly every building in the city, and jade inlays reflect the influence of the ancient merfolk who shared the city with the humans of the empire. For centuries, the earth was closed up over the golden city, hiding its secrets and its treasures—but now it is opened, and the struggle for control of its power has begun.
Dominate the opposition
Orazca was abandoned after emperor Apatzec Intli was gifted the Immortal Sun by its guardian and misused it. He wielded the artifact without any wisdom or restraint and the city was ruined. The Immortal Sun was taken away from the humans and gifted to the merfolk River Heralds instead. It still remained in the floor of the Sanctum of the Sun of the Tower of Triumph. The Sanctum was guarded by Azor’s Gateway.
The merfolk River Heralds had taken it on themselves to defend the Golden City since they believed that no one should have the power that lay within. To protect its secrets, they only vaguely knew where it was, but not the exact location. They had been making sure no one would get there for centuries. In the end it was Kumena, one of their own, who breached the security and became the first person to reach the golden city in centuries. He seated himself in the Threefold Temple at the pinnacle of the city, awakening the city and the creatures within. Among the creatures which had been held in stasis during Orazca’s long hibernation, were the enormous elder dinosaurs, each one of them embodying a different aspect of the magic of the land.
What happens next is beyond the focus of this article, and you can find it following the Ixalan storyline in the Wizards website.
Rule the city
The Immortal Sun has different meanings for the very different peoples of Ixalan. Each one with their own culture and history, they also want the marvelous artifact for their own reasons.
Emblem of Identity. For the people of the Sun Empire, Orazca is the historical birthplace of their nation, the spiritual birthplace of their race, and the symbolic embodiment of their national identity. For the current emperor, reclaiming Orazca would mean reestablishing the empire’s role ass the dominant power on Ixalan and asserting its right to rule the land, conquer the River Heralds and drive the invaders away.
Source of Eternal Life. The Immortal Sun is closely linked with the Legion of Dusk’s religious beliefs and their earliest history. It was hidden away for centuries in a monastery, a destination for devout pilgrims who wished to taste its life-giving powers. After it was stolen, its last caretaker dedicated her life to finding it and then sacrificed herself to become the first vampire so she could continue her quest.
Weapon of Nightmares. In the legends of the River Heralds, the Immortal Sun was the weapon that the Sun Empire used against them during a failed war of expansion. Their history tells of an artifact of pure evil whose only purpose was destruction and that dis lasting harm to the jungle. Thus, the idea that anyone want to retrieve such a weapon is abhorrent to most of the River Heralds.
Power of Plunder. No ancient lore ties the pirates and swashbucklers of the Brazen Coalition to the Immortal Sun, and they have no memory of ever possessing it. But just as they plunder the treasures of the other peoples of Ixalan, they have plundered the mythology as well, and they hope to plunder the golden city. Some of them hope for personal power, some dream of immortality, some want to wield a terrible weapon against their enemies. And as if that weren’t enough, the Immortal Sun is hidden in a place called the golden city, which sounds like a treasure worth plundering!
And here’s another take-away lesson: the most important location in your campaign may be a journey and not its destination. Treat it as such depending on your own needs, of course, but don’t dismiss it too early, or you’ll be denying your players the chance to grow close to a particular location.