Gates and Portals: The Guardian Awaits

Once again I explore the RPG Blog Carnival topic of the month… Gates & Portals (hosted by Tales of a GM). This has been another fun topic to explore and today we’ll take a look at those guards protecting these doors, gates, and other portals through the realms…


As you arrive at the gate, there is often a guardian or two to greet you. Some may be inanimate. Some may be quite animated. I suspect that it depends as much on your apparent intentions as on their feelings towards visitors. But if you know your PCs are approaching an important gateway, it might be good to learn a bit about any guardians who may be waiting there.

Examples of gate guardians from mythology

cerebrus-smallMyths and legends are a great place to get some ideas about guardians of popular gateways.

  • Cerberus, guards the gates of the underworld in Greek myth
  • Charon, the boatman, acts as a gatekeeper ferrying only those souls who can pay across the river Styx
  • Janus, God of Beginnings and Endings from Roman myth
  • Hel guards the realm of the dead with her blood-soaked dog Garmr in Norse myth
  • The many Door gods from Chinese myth and legend protect the domains of those who worship them
  • And many, many more… break out the Bulfinch’s Mythology folks!

They’re probably not all out to get you, but at the game table that doesn’t seem to be the case very often!

Making your own gate guardians

Some questions to ask:

  • Are there any guardians?
  • Are they animated or inanimate?
  • Why are they guarding the gate?
  • Who are they or what do they represent?
  • How long have they been there?
  • What do they look like?
  • When did they appear? Do they ever take breaks?
  • Where do they appear?

Some examples

After only a little thought a few ideas jumped out at me pretty quickly…

Guard of the Maze

On the edge of the Seven Lands lies a prison few have seen to talk about and fewer still have survived to be released. The Prison Guard stands tall with two faces – one facing behind him watching the crack in the Wall of the World for anyone trying to escape and one watching forward for any new prisoners seeking entry. Once inside, those admitted find a strange maze of a pocket dimension where time seems to pass normally but physiological changes stop beyond breathing and aging (prisoners don’t need food or water). The many passages twist and turn back upon themselves for all eternity but it is rumored that there is a way to find your way out.

By the rules of the prison, a prisoner may be released if the same person comes to retrieve them, but people in the outside world tend to forget. Prisoners may have a length of their sentence and then will be released by the guard when that time is done. A few have been rumored to escape, but the guard can summon stone hunting dogs from the wall to bring them back alive or dead. Most prisoners lose their minds inside or are broken physically by one of the lunatics who have gone mad before them.

Black hole in spaceThe Black Hole Gate

When the first explorers found the gate to the Edge, they were overjoyed. A place of nearly infinite resources and alien hosts willing to share it with them. But as with all new ventures, the “new universe” smell wore off and the Edgerati as they call themselves decided they didn’t want more riffraff falling through the wormhole into their galaxy, so they set up the Fallen Gate Station with a group of men and women willing to indenture their time to ensure space in the Edge for themselves and their families. The Fallen spend anywhere from 3 years to a decade or more working the Seam and keeping people out who don’t belong.

The station itself has grown over the years and the staff has changed dramatically, but the mission stays the same. And as the universe gets smaller and resources more scarce, the drive to sneak through into the riches of the Edge has become very enticing to the desperate. Many have tried. The remains of their ships are reclaimed and help the station grow stronger and stronger with each attack. The station itself resembles a hodgepodge of technology from all over, bristling with energy cannons and rail guns, lasers and missiles. And the small fleet that protects the bristlecone is fast and dangerous, ready to take on any newcomers who come knocking at the door.

Stich, Abbildung, gravure, engraving : 1863.Rufus, Lord of Junk

Standing at the gate of the Savage Lands Salvage Yard, chained to a post, is Rufus. He’s a giant Rottweiler with a taste for blood. At least that’s what the sign says. He patrols the grounds off leash when the day is done and the gate is locked. And you may think that because of his size he’s not a smart dog, but you would be wrong. There have been stories of thieves attempting to break in to the Shangri-La of junk yards only to find themselves amputees serving jail time when they got out of the hospital. And those are the lucky ones…


Thanks for reading!

Be sure to check out the rest of the conversation about Gates & Portals and check out the carnival archive for more inspiration!

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4 thoughts on “Gates and Portals: The Guardian Awaits”

  1. Hi Fitz,

    Another great contribution to the Gates & Portals Blog Carnival, hosted at Tales of a GM.

    I especially liked your description of the Prison Guard with two faces, a link back to Janus, the inspiration to this month’s theme.

    Thanks for sharing

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