View Full Version : Help me work out an opening scenario for my campaign...

2009-01-22, 09:05 AM
3.5 campaign, not actually set in Grayhawk so much as set in a world where I shamelessly stole content from Grayhawk (such as the pantheon). World history - at some point in the distant past, the Gods disappeared. Nobody knows why - figuring that out and fixing it will be the main focus of the second half of the campaign. There is no divine magic in the world, and Bards have lost access to healing spells... pretty much, no class can magically heal. However, there are some magical items leftover, and they can be activated with use magic device.

The churches remain, at least some of them. But there is no power behind the religion anymore. They are just worshiping because they still have faith, even without any evidence.

One such item is being worn by a PC. A Catfolk rogue who was left at the church of Zodal (lesser god of mercy and healing) in a small town, she learned to use this artifact and has been entrusted with it by the church because nobody else knows what to do with it. When the campaign begins, a plague (similar to Bubonic Plague) has broken out in this town. They are under quarantine by the country's army. Meanwhile, the PC is secretly curing one person a day - if she makes the UMD check - with this artifact (in the "old holy item" sense, not the game mechanics sense of the word artifact).

The townsfolk have gotten a bit unruly of late, and the church has decided to hire the most menacing guard it can find. He's ordered not to hurt anyone, just to scare them into behaving. He's a Half-dragon Spellscale Battle Sorcerer (PC #2). He stands at the large, wrought iron gates to the ancient stone church and makes sure nobody causes trouble.

PC #3 came down with the plague, and was healed of it this morning by PC #1. He's a Goliath barbarian, and is still within the church when the campaign begins.

My thought is that the campaign will begin with a riot - commoners trying to get into the church because the rumor got out that the Catfolk has the power to cure the disease. They want a miracle. Of course, with only a 40% success rate, and one use per day on the artifact, those are in short supply. The PCs find themselves trapped in the church, hoping to find a solution before the gates break down.

Meanwhile, the army has strict orders to contain the disease. If things get out of hand, they are to burn the town and everyone in it to keep it from spreading. Their commander considers the riot "out of hand," or at least enough of an excuse to torch the place and be able to return home before he gets infected. So the party finds themselves needing to escape a burning city in the middle of a riot, which one PC is the target of.

How do I play this out? They're level 1 characters, each with a level adjustment of +1 or +3. I'd like to set up some combat encounters without overwhelming them with the rioters. Also, they need to be able to escape the city somehow. I want it to end with the city burned down, and no known survivors except for the party, and possibly anyone they choose to take with them (if they choose to take anyone with them).

Feel free to suggest changes to any of this. I'm trying to plan ahead for how it will play out.

2009-01-22, 09:31 AM
If you are using the Pantheon from Greyhawk , wouldn't that Place Vecna in that Pantheon ? If so , as a campaign plot of sorts I suggest that maybe Vecna achieved his overall goal , which I believe was to kill or displace the gods for Vecna thought that there was a secrect to destroy a being no matter how powerful it was , including himself , maybe that could explain the lack of divine presence within your campaign .

Now Maybe these commoners have been rallied by Cultists of Vecna who have taken great pleasure in purposely spreading the disease around this town ,knowing that the artifact your pc holds is the town's only real hope of revival from this disease . Now the Town's people aren't evil just paranoid until they are listening to the whispers in the Tavern , the Shadows of the Night and possibly some other things that Vecna Cultists would have them listen to .

Perhaps there is some kind of Artifact within the Town that if destroyed would break the disease on the town (Through Arcane Magick of course)

And if you want the town to be in dissarray to make this possible goal harder , have people that wouldn't usually like eachother in real life battling it out in Mob Rule type Paranoid fashion .

Or Maybe have the Church have alternative Agendas than they lead on to the Pc's , Maybe the Head Cleric/Priest is actually a Priest of Vecna !

If you want the City to be burning the Entire time , Would your Pc's try and save the Temple District , or some Residencial Neighbourhoods ? Maybe they should try to help put out the fires , put if they are being targeted from the riot the entire time , borrow encounters that you have seen in 28 days later ,or resident evil or something with large numbers of feral people in a ruined city chasing after you for motivations .

Either way it is your call and hopefully I filled your head with more Ideas .

2009-01-22, 09:49 AM
Maybe I should've given more information on the world.

The story I had in mind was that Iuz found a way to prevent any planar travel to or from Oerth. This kept all the gods and demigods who don't live on Oerth from having any influence. He took out any other remaining Demigods and became god of the world, more or less...

...until some brave adventurers managed to kill him.

The shield is still up. No planar travel... no summoning for arcane characters... no access to the ethereal plane... and no divine influence at all. By the end of the campaign, I expect the party will bring the shield down and restore the gods to the world.

I like the idea of being chased through the city by feral mobs though, even if the Vecna part doesn't work.

2009-01-22, 10:16 AM
Well lets consider the initial setup.
-PCs are in town with plague
-Town is hemmed in by guards, ready to torch the place to contain said plague
-1 PC can work Magical Artifact tha cures plague

And from there you want to achieve the following
-Guards torch town
-PCs (and whoever they brought along) manage to leave town.

Possible Routes:

Torching the Place
-The army doesn't necessarily have to do it. In the heat of the summer, an accidental spark maybe enough. Especially if everyone is too sick to run for buckets of water, and/or the water supply has dried up after the army blockaded the river.
-The army commander may NOT need an excuse. He may decide that he wants to go home and torches it just in case.
-In both these scenarios, its the burning that triggers riots and pandemonium rather than the other way round. People try and leave but are cut down by soldiers. Since the rioters are not specifically after the PCs, this gives you a little more leeway. They may just have to stave off folks trying to loot the church or something, who will mysteriously come along at regular intervals in CR-appropriate numbers.

Leaving Town
-The Artifact: Maybe in times of craptacular crisis, the artifact can manifest some other power.
-Magic: Someone far stronger may teleport the PCs out. Maybe some arcane caster agrees to help them if they will retrieve some Macguffin (like his spellbook), which leads to combat encounters during retrieval.
-Hidey Hole: Maybe the PCs didn't leave right away, rather thay found some safe place to hunker down until the destruction had passed (like a secret chuch crypt). They emerge days later to a razed town, and the guards had already gone home.

2009-01-22, 10:18 AM
so... a riot is a big thing and it is usually hard to come out alive of one, especially if you're level 1. A few ideas:

1) You need at least one encounter with the mob. The players might find a clever way to bypass it but it should be doable even if they are dumb. On the other hand you probably do not want an infinite fight with any living being in town. A good idea could be having the PCs need to go to the building across the street (or square) with the street/square completely infested by the rioters.
You need to pull down the rioters since commoners are not that weaker than level 1 PCs.
- Ability scores penalties: They are sick, right? That should give them penalties to Str and Dex.
- Unarmed: most people will be fighting unarmed or use improvised weapons or weapons that they are not proficient in anyway
- Bad tactics: The mob is not trying to kill: use bull rushes and grapples a lot: they will likely fail with your PCs but grabbing the catfolk is what they would do after all...

Then there are interesting questions about haviung your half-dragon not kill the other PCs on sight... a good idea could be have the army commander plan to kill him too since he got too close to the city and is now potentially contaminated and let him discover that at a crucial point (as in: have the other guards lock him inside the city gates.

The other PCs will obviously have to open the same gate to get out and then escape together.

Hope this helps!

Avilan the Grey
2009-01-22, 10:33 AM
The idea that the army actually didn't set fire to the town; Torches and pitchforks are chliché but it would work. The army commande would proably go home and claime credit for the torching, though.

One thing is that in a world with no healing magic, the army would be very antsy to get out of dodge (just like in the real world; the soldiers and officers should know that armies is one of the best breeding grounds for epidemics anyway). My guess is that as soon as the town looks like it's too late to put the fire out, the army will march, allowing for a few to escape in the "holes".

2009-01-22, 11:33 AM
If you want to chase the pc out of town without killing them, try this:

PCs and some priests/monks/patients are still in the church and the mob closes in. The mob knows just that there is a cure and they want it, no matter what. Pitchforks, torches and other classic improvised weapens are used. The first windows are shattered by stones as the mob works up the curage to attack. A stone knocks over a lamp. The PC can probably put the fire out, but it should show them they need to get out fast. The oldest priest shows them the entrance to a secret passage. If you want them to go alone, the priest tells them to protect the sacred artifact and bring it to some high-ranking member of the church. He and the others will stay behind to cover their escape (he knows he and the others are infected and probably doomed anyway). Otherwise have them tag along.

The tunnel is old and unused since at least a few dozen years. In the parts near the surface they can hear screams and some fighting, but not enough to actually know whats going on. It leads through the katacombs to a well outside of the town, near the horses of the army. They sneak by or fight some guards. As they escape into the woods/wilderness/whatever they come ocross a vantage point and see the whole town burning, with the army preventing everyone from escaping.

Alternetively the tunnel ends in the outskirts of the town and they are found and chased by a smaller part of the mob. Their only chance is to hide or run to the army so that army&mob duke it out and they escape in the cunfusion.

Other options the Players could try:
Bluff, intimidate or diplomacy with the mob: could work, if they roll good enough or are good role players.
Bluff or diplomacy with the army: rather difficult. If they just want them not to attack it might work, especially if they calmed the mob down. But the army probably wont dissobey orders.
Attack the mob: They can take a few down, but they are not yet powerfull enough to actually achieve something against so many attackers and they should know that.
Attack the army/try to sneak past them: attack wont work, at least if they take on more than a few at a time. If they try this have them captured rather than killed, if possible. But then they have to watch the town burn down. Sneaking by could work, if all of them have some ranks in hide or they create a distraction (They made the mob attack the army?)

Encounters: 1. If you want something classic, an undead in the catacombs or some ratts. 2. A trap near the well. It is facing outwards, so it should be rather easy to see, if they are carefull. 3. Some Guards by the horses. Should be killed fast or there will be some reinforcements. Can be avoided if they sneak past them.

If your campain has a "anyone can die" style, one of the stones kills/hurts one of the patients, a priest that showed some intersting traits is maimed by the trap if they dont find it, etc.

Worst outcome: the PCs are dead, since they made something stupid and refused to be captured, the town is destroyed.
Best outcome: They not only escaped, they also talked the mob down so that the town is still standing since the army had no reason to attack it.

Just some ideas that came to mind, change/take what you want.

2009-01-22, 01:13 PM
Alright, a number of good ideas here. Thanks for that.

I don't want there to be a secret underground passage, because part of the reason the town needs to burn down is that the church has a secret underground catacombs. The catfolk found out about it while she was working there healing people, but it's generally not known about outside of the church. It'll be buried under the rubble from the fire, but accessible by the PCs later in the campaign.

That catacomb has constructs guarding it from before the gods left, and the church considers them holy. They'll only let clerics who have access to the Healing domain and are of a minimum caster level pass... which means nobody's gone in or out of the catacombs since the gods left. When the party is later looking for a cure for lycanthropy (next stage of the story), they'll come back here to delve the catacombs and see if there is anything that can help them.

If an underground passage is out though, there's not much reason they'd need to just get across the street. But maybe they can go from rooftop to rooftop. Say the buildings are set up so they have adjoining walls, and the party can jump from a balcony to the roof of an adjacent building, then find a way down the back, while the mob has to either go through a building that has a back door (negating their numbers temporarily by having to go single file), or go down the street and back to get to them. Add a disguise (if the party thinks of it) for the catfolk, and they question whether they should leave the church to follow those on the roof.

Then we have a short running battle with the quickest members of the mob, followed by finding a place to hide until the mob moves on. Then when they feel safe, they notice the fires, and have to sneak out past the army (much easier, as they have to cover such a big area). I like the idea of having to kill the guards and steal horses to escape too.

Also, the church will be encouraging them not to kill anyone... they're just misguided innocents in the town, and the soldiers are merely following orders... That'll be even better if they rescue one of the priests or something...

I think that's probably enough of a framework to go on. Obviously I'll have to play this by ear, but I want to set it up so there is definitely at least one reasonable escape route. Of course, I'm more than happy to consider any additional creative ideas you guys have.

2009-01-22, 07:49 PM
I was going to go for the church catacombs as well, but is sounds like you'll get to it eventually and that roof-tops are a decent substitute. If you want to give the PCs multiple routes or a moral dilemma, I have an idea:

The clerics advise the PCs to take the way that they know out, which is long and somewhat dangerous (I imagine this would be the roof-top scenario). However shortly after giving the option, several soldiers show up at the church to escort the trio out (before the fires take root). The soldiers have a safer route, by having enough of them, by using a chariot/horse, or by unlocking some government gate (by the way, the soldiers are quite indiscriminate about cutting down civilians, even when they approach the church). However, the PCs know that the soldiers are going to burn the place to the ground and that the peasants are already furious at the catfolk for not being generous enough with "the cure".

Either way the PCs will have some interesting encounters on their way out. If they reject the soldiers they will earn the hostility of the government who will then try to outright steal the artifact (perhaps a major general or somebody has been afflicted?) and if they take the soldier escort than they will find either that the government was just using them and waiting to betray them or that the people/clerics hold them morally culpable for the government's sins. More than likely your PCs will take the former, but PCs always like to feel like they have control over the story.