View Full Version : Help me with a concept?

2013-06-27, 10:35 AM
So I'm preparing a campaign, which shouldn't start until September. I have a concept, I'm not entirely sure what to do with it.

We're doing 3.5e with homeruled patches that basically aim to prevent a full-on Tippyverse (plus other things to balance the actual game, but irrelevant here). Essentially, while it is possible for dedicated mages to have local impact on the area they inhabit, it is much harder for an individual to just reshape the world (e.g: dropping Teleportation Circles all over the place, chain-gating Solars, infinite loops, etc.). Magic is therefore very significant but the basic world paradigm still largely follows traditional medieval fantasy tropes. Kings, nations, wars, seedy undercities, commerce and caravans, what have you.

Powerful mages can make a significant impact on areas they inhabit, most easily by blasting through a kingdom and claiming it for their own, but are impeded by the Covenant, an old agreement between the hundred most powerful magic users in the world or so (give or take, all level 15+ mages, to give you an idea of the population distribution), that basically states that mages must stay out of politics - in the broad sense. No warmongering, no taking out heads of state, no standing behind a figure of power and winning all their bets for them. This is enforced by a cadre of, I guess, 5 to 7 of the very strongest mages, who have the authority under the Covenant to sanction those who step out of line, with the explicit support of the rest of the mage community, who will if necessary be called upon to hunt down the offenders.

A point about divine magic: it exists, though gods have a far less direct approach than in traditional D&D material; however I anticipate that NPCs will stay closer to the archtypal support guy, and therefore have little impact on world affairs. A level 20 NPC cleric would, for instance, buff and heal the crap out of an army, but they won't be gating CR26 monstrosities or freezing everything in a hundred-mile radius repeatedly, causing a whole continent's crops to fail. PCs will still have the option, if that's their inclination, but by default only arcane magic will be influential in the setting.

Anyway. Here's how I see things begin.

The PCs are members of a ("The", really) thieves' guild headed by one of those top 100 mages, escorting her as she joins the others for their 10-yearly general meeting. This happens, conveniently, in the middle of a dead magic zone the size of a small country (in fact, it is a small country). A while ago, the initially distrusting guys who started the Covenant decided it'd be safer to meet in a place where they were all pretty much useless, and then I guess tradition just kept it going. Anyway, meeting takes place behind closed doors with the PCs out, but then a mysterious third party organization decides to slaughter all the mages, old-school style. The PCs' guild leader somehow makes it out, and the adventure begins for realsies.

Now, the arcane world is mostly decapitated. Nobody else escaped from the slaughter, but not everyone went in the first place, so there is still a handful of really badass mages who know someone's out to get them. Some are in hiding, but a lot are going to be looking for payback. I'm envisioning that since the PCs' guild leader made it out, the bad guys frame her for the whole affair (in fact, they may have let her go on purpose just to have someone to pin it on, and the head of a thieves' guild sort of sounds like a likely character). She may be pretty powerful, but having a bunch of equally powerful mages on her tail, plus being branded public enemy n1 in most countries, should keep her busy (just so that she can't just handle all the stuff the PCs are going to do). As a first arc, I'm planning to have the PCs carry out an exfiltration from the dead magic zone (with a largely useless high-level caster), only to get back to base and realize that word's already out that she's the prime suspect. The vast majority of the guild got offed and a few bad guys are waiting for them. Short NPC battle between the enemy mages and the leader, who maneuvers them into teleporting somewhere else, taking them out of the picture for a while - I can just make up some other stuff if things don't go that way, but the plan is definitely to take the guild leader out of the picture so that the PCs can shine.

Whew! Long introduction there, sorry.

What I need help with is the following:
- Consequences: how does the world react to losing basically anyone who can cast 8th and 9th level spells? Assume that pretty much any leader of a major magical organization is down for the count. On a side note, losing all the wizardly ICBMs means that any beast horde or demon invasion becomes significantly more of a problem. Should that come into play or is it over the top?
- What are the remaining wizards likely to do?
- Motivations: why did the bad guys off all the wizards in the first place? I know, that's kind of a big deal and I should have that down already but I'm drawing a bit of a blank. I'm thinking cabal of three; one opportunistic, "might makes right" flunkie, one good guy gone bad (grew up in the slaving pits of some distant land that basically lives off selling people, now that he's badass he wants to wipe them out but no dice, said the Covenant), but I can't figure out the motivations of the leader. The prior two seem a bit petty: perfect for sidekicks but not for enough the boss. Bonus points if he has a personal beef with our PCs' leader.
- What are the objectives of the PCs? Of course in the end they'll do whatever they want, but I'd like to have some likely ideas to stay a step ahead of them. The obvious path is to attempt to a) escape death, b) rehabilitate said guild leader, c) figure out who did what and why, and finally d) put an end to all that mess, but maybe there are more creative avenues.

Thoughts? :)

2013-06-27, 11:11 AM
I really like this idea for a campaign, it sounds like the PCs could work this in several different ways.

A better way to play it though might be if news of the covenants demise took a while to get out to the populace, low level quests might involve them trying to stop people who are trying to spread the news or to cover up what happened.

Once the news is out then keeping their boss safe will be a concern, maybe others in the guild actually believe the rumours that the boss is behind it and the PCs need to weed out the dissenters.

The PCs could also be sent out on Damage Control, stopping mad wizards creations that no longer have a master, help a settlement that relied completely on its resident mage for safety and security, generally clean up the fallout that these mages left behind.

The few surviving mages might meet elsewhere in secret to make plans, they could either decide to change the rules and seize power, or maybe some of the ones who survived were the perpetrators, aiming for leadership all along.

The perpetrator may be a powerful spellcaster in their own right, possibly a high level undead mage who couldn't join the covenant due to being unrepentantly evil and needed a scheme to get them out of the way as they were the only ones that could truly threaten him.

Maybe killing the mages was more than just to get rid of them, maybe it was part of a ritual to bring magic back to the barren country, or for something more sinister.

Also does your campaign have any possibility of these mages being brought back? Maybe some other mages had assistants who managed to smuggle their remains away to revive them.

2013-06-27, 11:48 AM
I like the way you think, lots of good stuff in there!

Yeah, important clarification: there's no revival, resurrection, reincarnation or any other come-back-from-the-dead tomfoolery in this game. Once you bite the bullet, it's over for good. (For those wondering: rules were adjusted a bit to give PCs a little more leeway. Yes, it does remain a bit on the lethal side. Players compensate with increased tactical thinking and generally not being idiots, I meet them halfway by not being a **** with encounters or rolls. It's all good)

2013-06-28, 06:17 AM
Such a large power void will need to be quickly filled.

Think of all the countries that would immediately start wars if all nukes in the world disappeared (India vs Pakistan, arab countries ganging up on Israel, etc.).

Remaining wizards will look for security - either forming new covenants, or looking for protection of strong rulers (and what would a ruler do being handed one of the last few nukes in the world?).

The extermination of all the top-level mages is an extremely interesting campaign start, but it might be difficult to pull it off believably. If so many powerful men get together the security should be overkill.

My advice is to have the PCs be kept well away from the initial action, e.g. staying at a tavern at the foothill of the castle where only the mages enter. In the middle of the night they see the castle collapse or go up in flames. When they go to investigate they encounter their guild leader and focus on getting her to safety, only later will information surface on what went down in the castle.

As for motivation for the BBEG - I'd go for the Well-intentioned Extremist trope (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WellIntentionedExtremist). One (or more) of the top 100 mages (or someone from 101-200th place) want(s) to change the world for the better (get rid of wars, disease, feudalism, introduce a utopian society ruled by mages, etc.) and this can only be done if the conservative covenant is eliminated.

2013-06-28, 06:32 AM
I like this idea, but if you want this to be believable that their head did it
and since it's a rogue build, I suggest that you make the leader a beguiler/shadow mage build to make it more believable that she would 1. enchant and charm mages to fight one another, 2. shadow conjuration and shadow evocation. That way it'll make it more believable .

If you want to make "well-intentioned extremist organization" I would look
toward making Inquisitors from PF they only get 6th lvl spells but there are archetypes you can put in place to make them basically mage slayers in their own right. It adds nice fluff and a good REASON why there isn't resurrection so easily available for them, I would probably restrict the pc's from taking cleric/oracle classes to further provide background history as to why most of the divine types were wiped out. (maybe a war between the arcane casters and the divine casters and that's why the truce was made between the arcane casters to begin with.) Inquisitors could be the remains of that since they believed that wizards subvert the very nature of the god's wills and must be dealt with.

Not all the wizards will go into hiding some will take advantage and think that the pact was violated (those who did not attend but heard rumors of the guild leader's treachery) so they will 1. start claiming land for themselves, 2. hunt down the guild leader. 3. Just go wild.

2013-06-28, 05:19 PM
I like this idea, but if you want this to be believable that their head did it
and since it's a rogue build, I suggest that you make the leader a beguiler/shadow mage build to make it more believable that she would 1. enchant and charm mages to fight one another, 2. shadow conjuration and shadow evocation. That way it'll make it more believable .

OP wants them to die in an anti-magic zone.

I'd also go with the well-intentioned extremist. I'd probably go for someone who made some pact with evil outsiders which required him to slay the mages, because they tricked him into believing they could resurrect his recently-deceased wife/daughter/sister/same-gendered lover in return. (Just because there isn't a way for resurrection in your universe, doesn't mean people aren't going to look for it. Compare our world and the Philosopher's stone ;)) Struck with grief, he failed to see through their tricks, and is now hell-bent (pun intended) to fulfill his part of the bargain, to see his <person of reference> again.

2013-07-01, 02:23 PM
Your boss bad guy could be an aristocrat whose grandfather and father have been plotting for 50 years to get rid of an incompetent, unrealistic, untouchable, smarmy, ill-bred, disruptive, disrespectful, and downright suicidal gaggle of old women who DARE say "no" to a highborn. And it was his privilege to complete the task handed to him. The sort of thing that only a close-knit well-bred family of means can accomplish -- it's what we're FOR! Bunch of arrogant rabbits--imagine trying to ambush the top 100 knights in the realms? You'd be lucky to escape! But mages...corralled cattle!

2013-07-03, 03:42 AM
Yes, but then you cannot under any circumstances name him anything of the scheme <Element> <Title>.