Hell's Vengeance and Agency


Hell's Vengeance

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

So I've read the first book of Hell's Vengeance now, and I can't help but feel the major difference between Hell's Vengeance and Hell's Rebels.

Hell's Rebels almost immediately puts the players in charge of a rebellion, the players have agency and call the shots. They decide a lot of the plays they're going to take, yes it's a little bit of an illusion, but players are in charge of their own destinies right away.

Hell's Vengeance can not wait to put a leash on the players, swear a Hellfire Compact and be subservient to another character. Players don't feel much like they have agency when they are ordered to do this, or accomplish that and deviating too far will bring trouble upon them.

I understand the very legitimate fears of an all evil party turning on itself, or just going on just destroying everything in site. Ironically this is evil attempting to uphold the status quo instead of upend it. So thematically it makes sense.

But what I want from playing a villain, is the chance to cut loose. Is the chance to upend the status quo because the status is not quo. I want to build a tower with a great burning eye atop it, and defend it from those bleeding-heart heroes, and then cast a spell that literally makes their hearts bleed. I want to build a death trap with an unnecessarily slow dipping device into a pool of acid immune piranhas while I walk away to press the button on my doomsday device.

I want to recapture a lost Chelish territory and then decide to keep it for myself... because I'm eeeeeevil.

I want Agency. I want to be the Mastermind.


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Nobody is a mastermind at first level. This is the first book. It might end up letting you get more control later. It will feel better because you'll be shucking off the chains.

Liberty's Edge

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This AP is all about working *within* the Thrune hierarchy. A hierarchy by definition means being subservient to other people.

Editor-in-Chief

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Largely what Philo and Samy said.

"Be evil" is not the plot of the Hell's Vengeance Adventure Path any more than "be heroic" is the plot of any past AP.

Those who want to create an evil empire (of any form) might be better suited playing Kingmaker with an evil tinge.

If I had the compare this AP to any previous one in play-style expectations, I'd liken it to Skull & Shackles. In that one you play pirates. In this one you play rising stars in an evil empire.

If you'd like a different evil campaign—evil Kingmaker, perhaps—my biggest suggestion would be to check this one out and help us prove that the occasional evil campaign is just as viable an AP as any other.


One good thing I read is one of the authors did say that the players are in no way required to sign the Compact but it does lead to 'bigger and better things'. (More contracts with bigger payouts.) But I'm stating right now there is no chance in Hell (pun intended) of me signing ANY contracts in Hell's Vengeance for ANY reason. My character doesn't need Abigail's permission to do their "job", if the rest of the party wants to sign up, cool, grats. But F-that and I'm glad that choice is there.


There's a way to do that xD its called making a homebrew game and DMing. Building your tower and trying to fight off do gooders is basically the DM's job. This game is different because the players are playing badguys. They start off as hired goons 1-4. They have to earn things in the proper villian hirarchy
Lv 1 - Goon
Lv 2 - Named Thug
Lv 3 - Reoccuring Saturday Morning Villian
Lv 4 - Evil Theme song
Lv 5 - Legion of Doom member
Lv 6 - Major Villian


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You might enjoy Way of the Wicked.


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Or help support this. Bit more player freedom I imagine. You get to cut loose and overthrow your dark mistress, if you want it that way

Kingslayer AP

John


Samy wrote:
This AP is all about working *within* the Thrune hierarchy. A hierarchy by definition means being subservient to other people.

This answer amounts to "but it sucks INTENTIONALLY, see, that's different". Who in the whole world has "working within a hierarchy" as his power fantasy? Particularly a power fantasy of the darker, unrestrained sort. Way of the Wicked used working for an evil BBEG boss who forced you into signing a contract of loyalty as a build-up for eventually blasting him in the face and taking his stuff. I somehow doubt this AP would let PCs overthrow the House of Thrune.


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FatR wrote:
Way of the Wicked used working for an evil BBEG boss who forced you into signing a contract of loyalty as a build-up for eventually blasting him in the face and taking his stuff.

And that worked very well for Way of the Wicked. That doesn't mean it's the only kind of villanous story you can tell, though.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, PF Special Edition, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps Subscriber
FatR wrote:
Who in the whole world has "working within a hierarchy" as his power fantasy? Particularly a power fantasy of the darker, unrestrained sort.

How about those with an alignment listed as "LE"? Subverting those above you to do your bidding so that they take the fall whenever it inevitably comes back to bite them, while you remain the puppetmaster in the shadows as a "lowly" (but well-paid) advisor/whatever. Or maybe so you can seize the reins for yourself and become a brutal dictator.

If your alignment is more on the C or N side of the spectrum, you still have plenty of possibilities. So you're chaotic? Go ahead and sign that contract if you're absolutely required to, then proceed to completely ignore it and do your own thing. I don't see how having a boss and contracts in a thematically Lawful area where the plot involves being agents of the existing government based largely on the strictures of Hell reduces player agency; it's just a setting. There are numerous ways in that setting to express your character, regardless of your alignment.


Tammy would rather have a fall guy, then do it all herself, the more the better.


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Who could have guessed you'd be an underling when you're meant to play someone in service to Cheliax, the Empire of Devils. The Lawful Evil capital of the campaign setting. The birthplace of the Hellknights and the Sisters of Golden Erinyes. The place with the Lawful Evil Sorceress Queen who's closest adviser is a Pit Fiend. The place that mandates by law the worship of Asmodeus, the god of Tyranny.

In big bold letters.

Must have been a shock.

Liberty's Edge

FatR wrote:
This answer amounts to "but it sucks INTENTIONALLY, see, that's different". Who in the whole world has "working within a hierarchy" as his power fantasy? Particularly a power fantasy of the darker, unrestrained sort. Way of the Wicked used working for an evil BBEG boss who forced you into signing a contract of loyalty as a build-up for eventually blasting him in the face and taking his stuff. I somehow doubt this AP would let PCs overthrow the House of Thrune.

Not everyone who plays Evil games does so as a power fantasy.

And hell, even if you do, the Evil game I played in, we started out as errand-runners for the people in power, too. By the end my LE Drow Bard had his own empire, and without ever betraying his superiors.

I'd be deeply shocked if you don't wind up as some of Abrogail Thrune's most trusted and relied upon subordinates by the end of the AP. Is that quite as good as having your own empire in a power sense? Maybe not, but frankly only one PC would wind up in that position anyway, so you're no worse off than the other PCs would be in that situation.


Nothin' says Abby ain't gonna end up face-down in a canal as part of "Continuing the Campaign," but this has always been booked as a "crush the rebellion" AP. You wanna carve off an empire of your own? Evil up Hell's Rebels.

Liberty's Edge

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Saul Gallows wrote:
Nothin' says Abby ain't gonna end up face-down in a canal as part of "Continuing the Campaign," but this has always been booked as a "crush the rebellion" AP. You wanna carve off an empire of your own? Evil up Hell's Rebels.

Or Kingmaker. No reason you can't be Evil for that one.


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My main complaint is that there is basically nothing the PCs can do to slow down the rebellion. Every event they are gaining 3 or 4 RP, and at best they can take some very OOC actions for characters in their positions to reduce it by 1, every once in a while, or spend like 5000 gp for a reduction by 1.

Nothing that normally helps reduce rebellions actually helps here.

If Thrune was this ineffective at preventing or putting down rebellions, they'd have fallen a century ago.


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Agency in evil campaigns is a tricky thing. I've run a number of evil campaigns (not in pathfinder, but the principle is the same). One thing I've learned is that right from the outset you and the players need to enter a contract (ironic, I know) to engage with the story in a way that doesn't disrupt the story that's meant to be shared.

In truth this contract exists within good campaigns as well, but we've all played those games so often that the agreement not to chase (usually) every overly described squirrel that they come across just goes without saying. Evil games need that contract to, but because evil is so often viewed as "freeing" players often ignore the deal and pee in wells "just cause" like that proves their wickedness. Sometimes this is a lack of experience with understanding the kind of evil that is patient and plots, and other times it may simply be a lack of maturity. Those two problems need to be resolved in different ways, or if they can't be then it's best to avoid evil games. The experience problem is best handled demonstratively with higher level NPC that use the players early on and inadvertently (or purposefully; depending on the campaign) tutoring the players in effective evil that lasts rather than just another flash-in-the-pan mass murderer. The second problem is somewhat more challenging to fix, as maturity isn't something you can just give someone. I usually start by pulling the player aside and talking to them to make sure they are enjoying the game overall, then gently encourage them to be a little more participatory in everyone else's fun.

All that having been said I suspect that the first one or two books in this path may be going for that "tutor" modus operandi.

Sovereign Court

Agency? LE characters *want* to be recognized by their organization. They live for all the people whispering stuff as they go by... stuff like "this horse must have cost him a fortune!" or "no wayyyy *girlfiend! that necklace must have cost her man at least 9 months' salary!!" They are petty and overly concerned by what people think of them, i.e. the complete opposite of CG characters, who don't necessarily shave their armpits because society expect them to. It's a crime against humanity, man! Burn your bras, ladies! :)

*pun intended :P

Sovereign Court

clarifications...

lawful evil

chaotic good


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

What the PCs are doing in The Hellfire Compact is conducting counterinsurgency operations, as they lack sufficient resources (especially as low-level characters without access to Leadership) to effectively impose martial law.

Spoiler:
Once they relieve Rhona Staelish, they essentially become the law enforcement for the town. This gives them positions of authority, but also requires them to act responsibly with that authority.

Again, without sufficient supporting resources, abuse of authority (or even the appearance of such) is pretty much guaranteed to increase unrest (especially if it's blatant); even with supporting resources, imposing an "iron-fisted rule" will (based on real-world history) eventually fail (usually within a generation at most). If the players want to "cut loose" when playing evil, then Skull and Shackles is probably the better choice (as they only need to keep their crew(s) of cutthroats satisfied, rather than a town of citizens); Kingmaker, while allowing the PCs to be evil rulers, still requires those rulers to act within limits to retain their positions of power (see above on abuse of authority).


F. Wesley Schneider wrote:


If I had the compare this AP to any previous one in play-style expectations, I'd liken it to Skull & Shackles. In that one you play pirates. In this one you play rising stars in an evil empire.

I felt exactly this by reading the Campaign Outline. You'll start as a minor thug and will become Queen's most important force.

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