View Full Version : Investigator Plot Ideas for a Lovecraftian Steampunk D&D setting

2010-04-30, 02:07 PM
So I'm starting a game, below is a bit of backing and flavor:

The PCs are going to start in a gnomish dominated steampunk empire. However, the world outside of one particular sub-continent is mostly inhabited by aberrations. There is some aberration influence on the area though, so there are cults to Elder Evils and other such things. The idea of arcane magic is slightly flavor altered and is more a kin to H.P. Lovecraft's magic where in his case the knowledge for magic is gained by pacts with devil or demons and sometimes aberrations (So instead of Sorcs having the dragon blood flavor it is devils and demons). Diving magic functions the same but the Gods are much less powerful on this planet in contrast to Toil. There are a higher number of psionics then perhaps in other settings.

The level of technology is steampunk as mentioned with airships being present and early black powder firearms and black powder bombs and such.

There is an aspect of colonization where the gnome empire is expanding into the mostly wild and wood elf forests and there is a bit more in the way of racial tension etc. Elfs are basically second class citizens, even the high elves are seen as being suspect to barbarism. There are multiple origin stories for the elves each with their own bias. The gnomes like the idea that all elves were barbarians until they came along to try and civilize some of them, but after a colony experienced what was basically a magical nuclear explosion they were seen as hopelessly ignorant. The elves have their own myth of infighting and splinter groups who returned to nature. Some occultists ascribe to the notion that most races were brought to this planet from various other places by other beings (Neogi). Other theories each with there own bit of validity. Ironically the Orcs and Half-Orcs are see in higher regard, perhaps due to the better relations with the Orc tribes to the north. Elan are present but their origin in my campaign is they were created by the Ilithad for them to control and watch over their experiment. the experiment being, letting the former slave races escape and observe their actions so they can better deal with threats when they try to rebuild their empire (I'm taking more of the second edition concept so more ancient or from the far realms less future time travelers as is in LoM, though the far realms concept of time would be different so... but that's not as important).

I may incorporate revised Spelljammer stuff. I've found a good 3e Spelljammer book that has rules conversions but not sure what aspects of the second edition time line I'm taking as it is kind of hodgepodge and hard to sort out. But what i am sure of is that this is another planet and is in the same 'verse as forgotten Realm's Toil, Greyhawk etc. So Spelljammer stuff may come into greater focus later.

And political intrigue! The ruling imperial family has no heirs and the senate families are vying for power (the senate appoints a family from their ranks to the throne and unless something goes wrong the family stays there, at the head of the senate and the military). Also the empire has had a period where they were conquering nearby gnomish kingdoms and some were absorbed as senate nobility or kept their lands but are now regents and understandably some families are still bitter. The Empire started from a peaceful agreement among some kingdoms but has gotten a bit more despotic and warlike over the years. There are still independent kingdoms but the Empire still can basically keep them in line.

Anyways, I have a fair amount written on the history for it on a private wiki and can elaborate more if needed. This is just a crude and rambling overview.

Since I'm not asking for specific world building advice the general outline is just there to frame the advice I'm looking for.

One of the PCs is going to be a P.I. and the game will be set up more episodically rather then an epic (though it could turn into one). So I'm looking for just general ideas for plot hooks that would fit, so cults, organized crime, demon shenanigans etc. I have an opening cult kidnapping scenario that sets things up and later on I have a serial killer investigation involving a gnome mad scientist, and intellect devourer and a sentient construct :smallbiggrin:

So if anyone has any random idea to throw out that could spark some bigger ideas I'd appreciate it.

2010-04-30, 03:50 PM
Sounds fun.

Now, while I'm not sure this is exactly what you are looking for, try this on for size: A cabal of sages and paladins left on an expedition into the wilds to try learning more about the aberrations about 10 years ago, then more or less dropped off the map. While a large portion of the expedition died in the wild, those that survived were driven mad, with the sages becoming either fleshwarpers or alienists, and the paladins falling and becoming blackguards. Recently, rumors have surfaced that one of the members is living in a border town. When they arrive at the town, no body remembers hearing the name before and many of the townsfolk have been augmented with grafts from various aberrations, though no one seems to think this is strange.

I think that last part could be the most fun to play with thematically - have the people either just be completely ignorant to the rather severe body modifications that are going on, or have them view it as a complete non-issue, both of which I think could be creepier than having it viewed as a badge of honor.

Lord Loss
2010-04-30, 04:46 PM
This is almost exactly the same as the campaign I'm putting the characters through right now. Expet for the gnomes only have a few towns, and the steampunkness is slightly reduced. Still though, freaky.

Here's what I'm doing:

Trips from town to town are very risky. You can easily be wiped out by aberrations. The main city is home to a cult to an elder evil. If the players do not stop them quick enough, they will unleash a swarm of Kython upon the town and the PCs will be forced to flee by airship. The leader of the cult is a changeling, meaning they are many NPCs already met by the PCs.

The reasons there are psionics and aberrations in my campaign is because the world's most powerful arcanists banded together and opened a portal to a mysterious plane which they could not acces without a portal and they knew little about. This was the Far Realm.

In 27 second 94 % of the world's population had been eradicated. The last remaining arcanist closed the portal, trapping himself inside.

Here are a few novels that could inspire you:

H.P Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness (and many other books by Lovecraft), Skulldugerry Pleaseant (Read Book 3, the other ones don't much pertain to the subject).

2010-04-30, 07:08 PM
I like the ides of the expedition and the town and I could use both ideas in my world not necessarily connected though. The people in the expedition could have been one of the various groups that have been trying to tame the frontier and stumbled upon a Beholder relic (the valley used to be full of them until the Ilithad wanted their little experiment and pushed them out or far underground with an army of Elan and controlled Thri-kreen). SO they could have found a relic and gone mad (using a sanity system) and brought back the relic to the main city or it found its way there somehow. I could whip something up with that.

The town is a nice touch too and really Darth-Igo kind of already has that aesthetic and i could expand on that there or have a small town around there where something has all the town beholden to it and no one sees anything wrong.

@Lord Loss: That may be a bit too epic to start with. I probably should have mentioned this game is starting a bit lower, level 3-4. But I love your world building background with the far realm. I have been kicking around the effects of portals to the far realms. And could have that scenario be a threat the PCs would have to deal with, probably not with as dire consequences.

Yeah I have read a lot of Lovecraft including that one. I should re-read to ge some more ideas though. I'll check out Skulldugerry Pleaseant, Book 3 though, haven't herd of that one.

Thanks :smallbiggrin:

Lord Loss
2010-05-01, 08:13 PM
My campaign's at level one. For now, the PCs are relatively unable to travel from town to town and need to be happy with stopping minor cultists and undead / very, very minor abberations. Right now, they're killing the monsters in a haunted asylum run by a strange abberration that is obsessed with hands...

2010-05-01, 08:59 PM
I've nothing to contribute right except a small plea: the setting sounds pretty awesome, so I (for one) would really like to see a campaign journal on these forums, both from Ostien and Lord Loss, if you have time and energy to write one, or if you can get one of your players to write one.

2010-05-03, 10:17 AM
@ Lord Loss:

I did have a rudimentary idea for a sanitarium/asylum where the sanitarium is still up and running but strange things are happening. The setup I had for the place is:

Off on the west side of the city, which was the heart of the old Gearseg Kingdom, stands the Pickman Sanitarium. The sanitarium is a rehab of the Pickman estate. The Pickman family was a noble family back in the Gearseg kingdom that was known for their artistic aptitude. Over the years before the merging of the empire the Pickman house fell into disrepair and the family itself has all but disappeared. Some of the paintings are still hanging in the sanitarium, though some of the patients and the staff have been known to cover up some of the paintings and store away others all together.

And yes the reference to Pickman is intentional :smallbiggrin: Perhaps I could do something where one of the workers uncovered a stash of paintings that had been locked away and disturbed them causing the creatures depicted to "come out." The worker would slowly go insane and eventually be gruesomely murdered.

I donno if the plot is too obvious though.

@Greenish: I do like keeping campaign journals and would be happy to post them. Also one of my players is the unofficial stenographer of the group whenever she is a player and not a DM, so there is a possibility of a DM journal and a players one that I could post once things get rolling.