Not that I really have any advice, but you have done a nice job of writing up the ground level effect that all the crap of the last generation or so of troubles has wrought in the region. Honestly, it's just a slight step above being stuck in one of those crappy northern regions overrun by Iuz's hordes or the remnants of the Great Kingdom. What a lousy place to live Greyhawk is. Still you did a good job of describing the effect on the ordinary people of the region. Maybe that will tug at the players' heartstrings?
Yes, the powers beyond control are basically kind of like Lovecraft's Outer Gods and are not really going to be mentioned beyond weird names in incantations and stuff like that.
Vis a vis the other worlds and planes, I'm not sure, but certainly trying to rebuild its personal empire.
Other GKs potentially around is an idea that intrigues me, but I wonder if that is unecessarily complicated. On the other hand I've seen that theme work, even as a potential distraction where either the evil ancients are a) rivals or b) loved ones.
The forces of good are the ones that wrought the final magics, but they more or less took advantage of the defeat of Nephren-Ka by its own hubris.
It's more or less the latter, kind of like in Middle Earth, in The Land, etc.
I hope you enjoy your gf's birthday and that the movie is fun, thanks for taking the time!
Trying to come up with answers to the questions.
1. The ancient evil being is one of the Acheronian Giant-Kings--a powerful demigod like being whose empire was defeated according to legend by humans who rose against it but also by it's own arrogance--calling upon powers it could not control and destruction raining down upon it, enabling its defeat. I'm choosing the name Nephren-Ka for the time being because I like it. The aim of this evil being is to resurrect its power and glory and gain vengeance. The Crafters were Acheronians. I'm imagining that in some fashion the Giant-Kings almost vampirically used the essence of people to maintain their power.
2. There were ancient good races that helped humanity but these have mostly degenerated or ascended in some fashion. Magical items of power they crafted on humanity's behalf remain in the world in hidden places or as relics of various kinds. I picture this as being more of a rebellion than a powerful opposition.
This is what I have come up with so far.
Both of the posts by Set and Rezdave make a lot of sense vis a vis the gods. One thing I thought of as well is the occasional adventure to gain magic, knowledge, etc, and reminders that the evil powers don't directly interfere either. So that makes a lot of sense as far as that goes.
Thanks for the link to your other game btw Rezdave, it looks interesting.
So here are some elements I'd like to try to put into a metaplot and see what I am able to come up with.
1. Who is behind the Count? I was thinking of legends of ancient civilizations alluded to in the game and wanted to have a being kind of like the acheronian sorceror in Conan. Basically this would be like a demigod or very powerful cambion like creature who is currently at the mercy of the Count but is plotting against him. In the meantime the Count's sorcerors are using the being's knowledge.
2. In keeping with the homage to the pulp era authors I love so much there ought to be some kind of ancient civilization that is attempting to 'rise' in response to the Creature's resurrection or awakening. So there might be modern devotees to whatever power this represents, or even other beings that are minions of the Creature that will respond.
3. So I guess what I'm interested in in terms of metaplot is evil vs. evil with good caught in the middle.
4. Another element I'm curious about is the development of the good metaplot--does this entirely depend upon the heroes? It doesn't seem to and yet it's often presented that way. It does seem to depend upon their initiative though. For example in many stories it seems to be up to the heroes to build up a coalition of otherwise wary or hesitant people to fight against the evil.
Very cool, thank you.
I agree about Stormbringer, that's a good point. The final taunting line is disturbing for that reason. I don't know if you've read the Corum books but there's another factor that I wanted to mention but forgot to before. The lieutenant or antagonist who in and of their own right has an agenda to pursue that is closer to home for the heroes. Here I am thinking of Saruman/Wormtongue, Glanyth in Corum, etc. In a sense it seems that just because the metaplot is revealed does not remove the personal element. Have you made use of that in your games? It strikes me that that is done in STAP with Lavinia's evil brother, who is in the story right up till the quest into the Abyss.
Another point is the cosmology. In STAP doesn't the presentation of the cosmology make any good deities seem almost irrelevant? Like supposing I do the evil vs. evil plotline (let's say it's a great wyrm lawful evil dragon vs. an evil demigod) what in the world have the pcs' deities been doing all along? I'm kind of leaning towards an Iliad like perspective in which they are for some reason not supposed to interfere too much...
Having the birth take place as part of another plotline is just for fun, really. I got the idea from David Gemmell actually.
I wouldn't bother with wikipedia, just look up home birth stories. The thing is that unless your cohort npc is going to go to some kind of hospital in Eberron with magic-tech then it's probably going to happen with a midwife or with a priestess or something like that.
You have as usual given this a lot of thought, and answered some of my questions so thoroughly as to leave me with a lot to think about in turn. So I hope you won't take it amiss if I take your advice about the current stage of my campaign as read, and use it to plan for the current adventure stage. However as you say the main point here is metaplot. (BTW the pc party are about 9th level average) So here's a few questions:
1. Does the agency of metaplot have to be an individual being of some kind? Can it be an organization instead? I'm thinking here of the Lords of Chaos in Moorcock as an example. In the Elric and Corum series the Lords of Law and Lords of Chaos are behind the conquests and achievements of the mortal races to some extent. To a lesser extent perhaps the coalition of evil sorcerors in the Conan series that utimately clash with him directly when he becomes king.
2. Can there not also be a kind of culture metaplot? Like for example in A Song of Ice and Fire or (shudders) Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth where the existence of gods is a rather dubious thing.
3. If I'm understanding the genre right don't the best stories involve the BBEG almost winning? In a way LOTR is sorta light in that department because halfway through the story the tide begins to turn. (I'm not inviting an analysis of LOTR necessarily here) After all Saruman's advance into Rohan is halted; in spite of Sauron's capture of Osgiliath and driving the Rangers of Ithilien out the battle of Minas Tirith ends up being a catastrophic failure for the Lord of the Nazguls' army, etc. On the other hand in the Elric, Corum, Thomas Covenant series there is a brief respite followed by near total conquest.
I dunno how much you know about home births but in and of itself it can be a very intense narrative. Look some up for details and edit as necessary to fit your group. As for the other drama, I ran one in our last session in which part of the party were involved in quelling and investigating a riot in the city they were in while the other part were dealing with this difficult birth.
I have a jumble of ideas here that I'm looking over, from Dungeon issues 13, 28, 44, 46, 62. Basically it's the idea of the city being under siege from within and then ultimately from without. Essentially the Count wants to destroy the defenders' morale and possibly the city itself without ever expending his army. What's kind of bedevilling me is whether or not my plot works.
The idea is that the Count's agents use the following means to take over the city:
2. Terrorism (Dungeon 13; mysterious destructive attacks and murders that factionalise the city)
3. Hostile takeover of the thief gangs by wererats. (who are allies to the Count)
4. Using his own barbarian mercenaries to besiege the city. The wild tribes south of the city are united at least temporarily by adventurers in the Count's hire who then have them 'crusade' against the city. (which has admittedly demanded tribute from them in the form of slaves)
Thank you very much for putting up this thread.
Just to discuss a couple of specific points of metaplot for my campaign, maybe we could start with the Count himself? He's been somewhat discussed in my siege thread but I'd like to take things a little farther here.
It was the Count who ordered that an undead army should attack Exag. However he did it so that he could SAVE Exag from the attack. The pcs know this because they intercepted a force intending to do just that, and found instructions in the commander's effects. The leader of the undead force was a wight bound by magic, that the pcs destroyed. (admittedly they didn't have a lot of time to interrogate anyone at that moment) Unfortunately the pcs don't yet have solid proof that it was the Count who ordered the undead to attack in the first place, though they are suspicious.
It sounds like your world is indeed very well fleshed out. It also sounds like a very exciting campaign world to play in. One thing I particularly like is the continuity of it. I'm very curious about what your own influences are in gming.
I've been thinking seriously about your questions. I think that the main purpose behind the attack of the undead army was distraction. After all they're pretty cheap troops. The Count I had already decided wants more than to just drive the pcs' army out; he wants to be welcomed as a hero because his ultimate aim is to be King himself. I guess my question is what means is he trying to use to do that beyond politics and military activity? What has he aligned himself with?
BTW, one thing that has proven helpful is the party themselves. I felt it was all too obvious that the Count would be behind any schemes, but then it turns out that the pc group are just concerned with what's going on right now, and just think that there are twisted intrigues going on in the city.
You know, Rezdave, not everyone likes onions OR ogres--on the other hand people do like parfaits. But good point.
There's something really insidious about the idea that the pcs may have destroyed villains who were actually rivals of the Count or even of the ultimate mastermind. I'm going to work with that to some extent, because it implies really long range thinking and evil cunning.
Wow...that's an amazingly thorough answer. You also wrote two cool story outlines. I can't help but wonder if you've ever run an alternate Tolkien history game, it sounds like it would be lots of fun.
You make a very good point about the key questions, and I very much appreciate the explanation of metaplot. I guess I don't have a clear idea and in fact that's why I've kept the Count, who is the main antagonist as far as teh pcs know, in the distance, referred to but almost never seen.
I also now see what you mean by looking at STAP. It starts out as being the pcs choosing which rich patron in Sasserine they want to be employed by, then going on this journey to claim the riches that is their employer's inheritance, and only gradually discovering that there is a pattern to all their encounters. So thank you very much for the clarity you've given me. As you say, that is worth more than an exchange of encounter ideas. Thank you again.
If anything I feel drawn to the sense of antiquity, mystery and the sinister that is in RE Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and Lovecraft, so I may toy around with some of those ideas.
I think i've come up with the first scenario.
Background; the senior candidate (whose title is quaestor) has a lovely and troubled wife; he has treated her cruelly. He comes from a jumped up family while hers is ancient but poor (due to her father's unwise spending) and simply wanted to marry her for her family name. It has only gotten him so far; he has a chance to marry the beautiful and ambitious daughter of a wealthy knight.
The Quaestor also has a concern. Recently detractors jeered at the fact that his star gladiator and charioteer win SO many contests. It is either that there is no fit challenge for them or else the contests are rigged. One of his announced intentions to win the adulation of the people is to hold arena events on an auspicious day. But the word is being bandied about that it will be boring.
A final important piece of background: the star gladiator is the wife's lover.
One of the pcs receives a message from the wife to the effect that the gladiator has dragged her off to a lower class tavern and that she is frightened; could the pc possibly come and escort her home?
When the pcs arrive they find a lot of drunkeness and debauchery, but also some serious gambling going on. What they don't realize is that two nasty gangs have staged this for the gladiator and the charioteer, knowing their penchant for roistering and gambling, and intend to at the very least badly wound if not kill them in what will seem to be a tavern brawl. One of the gangs is led by a slave taker who intends to kidnap the wife and take her to a rich and decadent man in a faraway city.
Ultimately the pcs may discover that it was the Quaestor that was behind it all, but then again they may not.
(this is what I have so far.)
I agree with those who are saying that they should find out for themselves, but I also agree that it is a little harsh to deliberately punish them. What I did in my campaign was have a couple of really cool butt kicking clerics show up. For example, imagine someone who's like Ash from "Evil Dead", or Clint Eastwood in "Pale Rider". In my campaign I had one of the clerics show up not so much as deus ex machina as a welcome hand when the party were being overwhelmed by ghasts. The party still had to fight but I described the heroic actions of this cleric, who didn't outclass them but certainly fought ably alongside them.
Thanks for further help. I'm trying to decide how to use any or all or none of my already placed in opponents.
1. Undead. Granted the pcs sent a whole bunch to final death in their last adventure, but there are still a few roaming around that got out of the Exag battle.
2. Wererats. Again, a cult of them smashed by the pcs, but who is to say who survived or just didn't get met?
3. conservative, corrupt or xenophobic nobility. The rather decadent and wealthy nobility of the city were generally treated pretty well when the pcs conquered the city in the princess's name, but who's to say what they're really thinking...
4. Thieves Guild. I was at a loss as to how to figure out all the ins and outs of the Thieves Guild without just repeating myself--I'd already done the "Bill the Butcher" type in the last city they were in, and also the Longshoremen of their native city. I finally came up with rival gangs duking it out discreetly in the seedy parts of the city.
5. Assassins Guild? What assassins guild? Basically the various cults, gangs, and a few talented individuals provide this service.
6. The King's Army. The princess the pcs are backing for the throne, who is having these elections in the name of normal life to appease the people, has a big problem: her brother wants to keep his throne. The Count leading the army disbanded the militia for the harvest and is now waiting till it's war season again, but will be up to whatever dirty tricks he can think of. The undead army and the cult of wererats as allies proved to be a wash however, so he'll probably be trying to think of something else.
So in a way I'm almost reluctant to provide a bunch of new baddies unless they're cool story-wise as background for the already introduced ones. I'm wondering, Rezdave, if that was what you were suggesting.
Tammeraut's Fate is one of my favourite adventures, and I DID run it with really cool results. One of the best parts of it is the classic 'trapped in the crappy building by undead with the half crazed survivors' part. There's nothing like having npcs go "We're all gonna die!" to liven up a game evening.
Interesting settings for city backgrounds:
- China Mieville's Basg-Lag
Also try this link:
The above link will help you actually just take encounters wholesale, and several of them are urban encounters that I think will be helpful. I have used lythia's free downloads a lot, and actually some of the writing there is better than the published material I've paid for!
The encounters include affairs of honour, damesels in distress, mysterious cult like activity, kidnapping, guild conflict and so on. While most as mini adventures or encounters would be suitable more for low level characters in D&D there's no reason why they can't be used as npc introductions, or as hooks for adventures.
The gargoyle idea is nice. What would be kind of cool if you're using the gothic European motiff is to have them actually on the buildings and for some important or significant buildings to have the actual monsters instead of just statues. Maybe imitators want people to THINK they have gargoyles. Maybe they're even relatively rare and no one can be sure if the gargoyles are watching and listening, or if they're just statues. Or you could leave it all just a big mystery, get the pcs used to the idea of 'yeah, there are gargoyle statues on the buildings. No, we tried 'detect magic' a dozen times. It's all baloney. Hey, did that one move....?"
Thank you VERY much for all the ideas. This is what I've come up with so far...wouldnt mind hearing what others think of this...
This is the first adventure I was going to have. The pcs are told by one of the candidates that he intends to hold a public event to impress the citizens, including music, a race, a gladiatorial event and a bestiarii type event. It turns out that The patron of one of the opposition candidates intends to humiliate the pcs' candidate by ruining it. I was thinking the following would be done to try to do this:
1. a bard in the employ of the opposing patron slanders the pcs' candidate.
2. The Thieves Guild has already been bought by the opposition (the pcs didn't mention any intent to get in touch with them and showed little interest in doing so) and so are used as spies and thugs. They intend to start trouble in the stands, ideally causing a riot or ruckus enough to ruin things.
3. The opposing patron also has brought in at great expense opposing teams (gladiators, racing team and monsters for the arena) that will clearly pwn those of the pc's candidate. However they have risen in status enough that it would be bad for them to get into the arena themselves. They need to somehow stack the deck against this.
Anyway I'd appreciate thoughts, ideas, refinements on this and so on. Thanks very much.
The pcs are saviours of the city! However rank hath its problems as well...The adventure I'm planning for them involves the pcs' patrons asking them to help make sure three candidates for magistracy get elected. I was hoping I could get some suggestions but also a critique of the structure of the adventure.
1. The pcs are invited to a dinner party by their patron, who introduces three candidates. They are the guild master of merchants, an inexperienced young knight of great intelligence and an experienced finance officer who has run tax/customs/public works. The pcs as foreigners cannot run for office but are known to be wealthy and are heroes to the public; they will (ideally) act as support and protection for these politicians.
2. The finance officer is running for an office that will enable him to to some extent control the elections of the other two. His intention is to have some sports events and other public spectacles to gather attention before the first stage of the electoral process.
3. Following this a public oration is necessary, to be held in the market place of the city district running the election.
4. After this there is an announcement of the gathering of representatives of the city guilds and fellowships of free citizens of non-aristocratic rank. A Censor, a high ranking magistrate, is appointed to determine who may legitimately vote and who is counted as a voter.
5. At the public gathering there is a debate between the candidates.
6. Finally, there is a vote for candidate.
What I'm trying to work out is what kind of challenges the pcs might face, and ideally I'm hoping people here can offer me things outside of my box of thinking. Thanks very much for any help that is offered!
Thanks everyone for all the suggestions. You are all hitting the nail on the head: keep the adventuring interesting. Pax, btw, specific question for you: do you find that having pcs rewarded with lands in different locations has any effect on play at all?
Balific-Graa: I like the idea of complications to new position. As you'll see below I'm going to make use of that one, thank you.
Varianor: I love the notion of enemies past coming back to haunt them. "Use of a mere 'hold person' spell...could have knocked me over with a feather. And did!"
Filmguy: So are you going to have the Powers of Sasserine grant them titles or something like that, or will it just be a general recognition of virtue?
Anyway I was thinking of the pcs having responsiblity working rather well; in fact I wanted to use that as a basis for urban adventure. What I'd like is to have them involved in helping with the election of 2 or three junior magistrates at the behest of their patron. (a candidate for the throne)
When you're dealing with higher level/sociallly high ranking pcs what are ways of rewarding them that can keep the game still interesting? (btw thanks to all those who helped with my undead threads) Let's say the pcs are the heroes of the hour and yet they want to go on gaming, and there are rivals to deal with and still enemies to beat. I'm talking in terms of rewards at the end of adventures, given to them by important npcs or whatever.
I like the idea of a literal fog of war, that's a clever one. One thing after another so I haven't gotten round to the actual adventure yet but there's been some preperatory discussions.
There are btw some troops in the army, about 300 or so, who are hardened veterans.
What we ran most recently was a brief adventure in which the pcs managed to win the allegiance of the Exagers and get access to the pyramids. Anyway at last reports the undead army is on its way so I need to do some more careful planning.
Does twilight cover the darkness/lack of sunlight rules for wights and wraiths and such?
One thing I almost forgot: you MUST now and then describe zombies as people. Don't say "You see a zombie in a suit and tie approaching you" every single time. Sometimes it's going to be obvious, but at other times, especially from a distance, describe them as people. Especially if it's someone they know or saw before. Saying "You see an elderly woman approaching you struggling with her purse. Seeing you she reaches out a hand..."
BTW, I was thinking about your Umbrella scenario, which sounds very fun btw, and thought you might find this helpful: http://www.geocities.com/eviloverlord668/afmain.htm This is a link for a fan site for All Flesh Must be Eaten, the zombie game, and you might find this useful.
You certainly are an unsung hero--you have often given me excellent and well thought out advice that has been very helpful!
I may have a few more powerful undead, seemingly indistinguishable from the horde around them issuing commands or using spells. Perhaps I would have two 'shifts'--a nocturnal and a diurnal one...
One thing I definitely intend to do is to depict people being either dragged away dying/wounded or else dead...to fuel the undead army. That was a very creepy and good idea.
I would appreciate it if anyone else has any ideas for actual battle encounters.
Thanks Rezdave, very good points so far. I like the idea of a huge army of zombies backed by one or a few more spellcasters who remain hidden. How would the pcs be able to detect what's going on?
Perhaps then what I need to figure out is not so much the big large scale battle encounters--I might have those reported at first to the pcs via npc runners or lower level spellcasters or the like--but rather as the wall breaches or other problems while the pcs are trying to organize things and also do the actual adventure in the area.
I'm trying to come up with a series of attacks/events for a general campaign event: (and would appreciate suggestions.) What I'd ultimately like are elements that would suggest a gathering force large for attempting to assault the city, trying to get in. The pcs have an investigative mission to do involving the pyramids but I want this as a major distraction.
1. Exag is being occupied by the pcs. (for those aware it is being set in my undead war campaign and is a path along the way of the 'Rescue the Queen' adventure.
2. The city is much as described in Dungeon, but now add on about 1,200 troops including:
3. Perrenland embassy has become an allied Trade Envoy setup, but is basically the same.
4. Green Welcome element removed entirely.
5. Yak-Folk are changed to being part of the wererat cult in my game. (So for example Banfar has a cane with a cat's skull instead of a rat's skull for flavour)
I've come to believe psionics is 'either or' Either you are in a world where magic exists or a world where psionics exists. I have to admit as well that I've never seen them used in a game/fantasy world context where they didn't annoy me in some way. The limitations idea makes magic, the magical more interesting.
Thanks for the suggestions. I never got to run "Into the Maw" when I was running STAP, because the group fell apart, but it was always a favourite of mine. I already did run Graymalkin Academy which is one of the better adventures put out by Dungeon in my opinion; it really made the Dungeon Crawl idea work well.
I'm going to sift through the adventures you suggested but I'm inclined to think that I want a proper palace of some kind...
I like your poem. The cool thing in a way is that I've never used anything like an ultraloth in my games, though I've wanted to. My group doesn't even own any monster manuals! I'm fortunate in that. They'll wonder "What's an ultraloth?"
I think what I'll do is have the destruction of the holy places be linked to being able to move the wheels within the hidden temple. That way it makes sense why they are taking some time to do this, why they're proceeding in the way that they are.
This btw also ties into my undead apocalypse thread; that the portal created that opened the way for the evil to spread is limited and fragile still. .
So my plan I think is to do this: borrow an element of Age of Worms or two (Ebon Triad for example) and have this major difference: the following kinds of undead exist.
1. Liches. These are among the only undead that choose to be undead. Typical liches.
2. Zombies. These unfortunates are the dead who are restless; they inhabit their own living shell, barely able to function, tormented by their limited senses and abilities, desperately craving the flesh of the living without knowing why. They are tools for those who rule the undead.
3. The demon inhabited. I've hinted before in my game that there is something really sinister about ghouls, ghasts and wights. So this is it: otherwise formless outsiders in the service of the dark triumvirate inhabit souls of the dead when they can, turning them to evil purpose. The bodies need to have been violated in some manner (usually through some kind of awful death) in order to pave the way for another evil spirit to come into them.
4. Sometimes the evil spirits are able to come through to the world as shadows, the closest thing to a form they really have.
5. shades/ghosts/phantoms etc; in this context these are the disembodied of the restless dead--they do not truly rest.
Another thing I am going to do is this: in order to prevent a body from rising again a priest/priestess needs to do proper blessings (as per the spell, not a mere rite) on hallowed ground or else the body needs to be completely destroyed.
Blood Stained Sunday's Best: I like the twist you're offering--especially if I use most of Pax Veritas' scenario! The Queen would be literally hiding out, not knowing where to go or who to trust.
Pax Veritas: I very much like this, but does BSSB idea still seem to work for you? I realize it's a total twist on things but I have one question--why haven't the traitors just killed the king and queen? Might there be a reason for this, or are they just being typical villains?
I'm going to suggest modifying something else--the evil priests are pretending to purge the city of blasphemy and decadence, when in reality they are only doing that on the surface. Decadent and weak as the city temples have become, in reality the temples themselves are still places of power originally meant to prevent opening the very sort of portal the city governor is trying to open! So this will also explain why it's taking a while to do it.
I like btw the idea of the adventure starting in the palace and ending up on the other plane.
Yummy thanks from the Queen, that made me smile!
Overall I like the encounter ideas and trap ideas, it sounds really good! Thank you very much for the help!
One possibility is to make this area genuinely humanocentric; make the other races unusual and have in mind the idea that in the greater kingdom or whatever it is that the duke might be a part of that such beings don't exist.
In my own campaign world most of the surface world is overwhelmingly dominated by humans and human society. Elves, Dwarves, Yuan-Ti, Lizardfolk, Goblins and so on are dying races, limited to isolated regions or scattered small populations. Most humans have heard of them but never seen them. So you might suggest that this kind of thing is the reason for the duke's racism; possibly the area was conquered by the duke himself or the duke's forbears. Narnia under the Telmarines is another example of this kind of thing. Perhaps there is a similar situation in which other races are hiding out from the duke's rule.
Palace of the Silver Princess is a great idea--as you say it would have to be re-described as an active place rather than as a ruin but it's a good start.
Pax Veritas: thanks very much for the offer to help! I'm probably running a game this Saturday night.
These are some elements in the palace so far:
1. Paranoid, fanatical King Akhirom (midlevel aristocrat/warrior/priest)
2. Queen Glaphyra, imprisoned. (low level aristocrat/priestess)
3. Priests of Dispater
4. Royal Guardsmen
5. Sycophants, toadies, functionaries and slaves
6. Wererat Cult.
7. Undead lurking around.
8. Possible strange monsters lurking in out of the way parts of the dungeon or sewer system.