View Full Version : Ambitious New Campaign

Viscount Einstrauss
2007-04-03, 02:56 PM
I'm mostly doing this for my own benefit while brainstorming the flow of a new campaign I'm about to start in less than two weeks. It appears that I'll have around 8-10 players and between them access to nearly every 3.5 book in production, a few dozen maps, and hundreds of different miniatures. The plan is to make a highly memorable super campaign that is equal parts challenging gameplay and deep storyline/roleplaying. Only two players are truly new to this, but the other players have vowed to be their caretakers. All are highly interested in this rather ambitious campaign.

Variants Used
I'll be using the classic variants Character Traits, Character Flaws, Armor as Damage Reduction, Vitality and Wound Points, Reputation, Honor, Taint, and Sanity. Other variations will include limiting class selection (more on that later), compounding the Two-Weapon Fighting and Two-Weapon Defense feats into a single feat each, and removing racial restrictions from all class selections. Feats, weapons and the like, however, will retain any racial restrictions.

I'm going to grant the fighter, paladin, ranger, and barbarian classes a new class feature. They'll acquire "alternate forms" that scale similar to a druid's Wild Shape. Fighters will be able to turn into golems, paladins will turn into archons or angels, rangers will turn into dire creatures, and barbarians will turn into lycanthropes. Fluff-wise, the fighter won't actually appear to change any, he'll just get the beneficial stat changes. The paladin will actually turn into a celestial form that still appears to be him/herself. The ranger and barbarian will completely turn into the creature of their choice for the duration of the ability.

The PCs
At the start of the first meeting characters will have to be created. Character creation, however, will be handled rather differently. I'll begin by handing out ten slips of paper called "Destiny Shards" among the players, each taking one. Each will confer a particular backstory segment unique to them and a couple starting stat adjustments. These Shards will be-

1. Older Twin Sibling- You come from an extended lower class family and are the elder sibling of the person with the Younger Twin Sibling Destiny Shard. GOLD -5, HONOR -1, MONOPHOBIA, FORTITUDE SAVE VS. DISEASE +2, 2 BONUS SKILLPOINTS
2. Younger Twin Sibling- You come from an extended lower class family and are the younger sibling of the person with the Older Twin Sibling Destiny Shard. GOLD -7, HONOR -1, BATHOPHOBIA, FORTITUDE SAVE VS. DISEASE
3. Urchin- You are a homeless orphan, cared for in an orphanage. GOLD -10, HONOR -2, NYCTOPHOBIA, -1 CONSTITUTION, BONUS FEAT, 5 BONUS SKILLPOINTS
4. Outcast- You come from a small middle class family and are generally ignored by society in general. HAPHEPHOBIA, BONUS FEAT
5. Lover- You come from an upper-middle class family and are romantically linked to an NPC. GOLD +2, HONOR +1, ORNITHOPHILIA, +1 CHARISMA, FORTITUDE SAVE VS. DISEASE -1
6. Cleric's Child- You come from an upper class family and your father is the town's head cleric. HONOR +2, HADEPHILIA, MANIAPHOBIA, +1 WISDOM
7. Knight's Child- You come from an upper class family and your father is the town's Captain of the Guards. GOLD +5, HONOR +2, PYROPHOBIA, XENOPHOBIA, BONUS FEAT
Others to come later.

After this, the players may proceed to picking their race and point buying stats (set at 25). Their first level must be taken as one of the following NPC classes- Adept, Expert, or Warrior. Also, at least one rank must be placed in a craft, perform, or profession skill. Their total skill level in their highest of those skills will determine their starting gold.

In addition, the following two levels will be in one of the three generic classes- Expert, Spellcaster, or Warrior. Afterwards, they may attempt to gain a tutor into a new class for further levels, though they will require an appropriate knowledge skill rank (5 ranks) to enter them (all regular melee classes will need martial lore, arcane spellcasters will need knowledge: arcana, divine casters will need knowledge: religion, nature casters will need knowledge: nature).

The primary pantheon will be devised from old Celtic mythology. Classes that previously required a particular deity not found in this pantheon will be altered to require one of the Celtic deities.

Beyond this, the players will themselves become a recognized Rank 1 deity within the game world. The players may choose their domains, alignment, etc. as they see fit, though they are forbidden from leaving the Outer Plains due to the trip being too taxing for such lesser deities. The players may increase their Divine Rank, but must do so by acquiring followers. A player must be a Rank 16 or higher deity in order to physically enter the Material Plain. This will be rather difficult, if not entirely impossible, in this campaign.

As the story begins, each of the players will be introduced, one by one, to their lives in a small mountain community called Cloudwatch. On the first played day, they are all 8 years old and on their way to school. After a mostly fruitless day where the players will be taught some basic philosophy, creature physiology, and survival lessons (all of which will be relevant to either the many campaign variants I'm using or to future events, READ: Foreshadowing), the group will be on their way out when they discover the dead and mutilated body of a classmate that failed to show up that day. The adults of the community will quickly shoo them away, but some of their other NPC classmates will suggest investigating on their own due to how odd the wounds looked- like some wild animal had torn into him.
The more frightened students decide to go back to the school to do some reading on animals in the area, while the braver ones want to try tracking it down. The players may decide to try either. The studious ones will deduce that the wounds were probably made by some sort of large feline typically found down at the base of the mountain, possibly driven up due to a lack of resources during the unusually arid season. The trackers will find a path leading into an old shack on the outskirts of town, stacked with the half-eaten corpses of several children, none looking familiar. Upon the two groups meeting back up, they'll realize that this parallels one of their favorite stories- "The Hungry Lion".
The adults in town will refuse to listen to this, calling it nonsense. The shack from before, if they seek it out, will be empty save for a dead pig if they try to check it again. Still, the adults begin building a wall around the town to keep out any future wild animals.
Time will skip ahead four years. The players are now 12, and have gained a level. Two of their classmates were discovered dead just yesterday, hung up, skinned alive, and half eaten. The remains sort of reminds them of the incident four years ago, but the hanging and skinning is new, and certainly doesn't match up to "The Hungry Lion". Either one of the players or an accompanying NPC will obtain this book nonetheless in an attempt to see if there's a connection between these murders and the other one. There's a stranger in town that seems a little shifty, and there's rumors that he was also around four years ago. This rumor will lead them to a knight from some foreign lands that has a perfectly reasonable alibi for both situations. There will also be rumors that a part of the fence around town was destroyed the night before. This is true- however, it was destroyed by a fallen tree that would have made climbing in impossible for any creature that couldn't have gotten in before then already. There are animal tracks near the murder again, but these lead back to an old, half-blind dog that had found the bodies in the first place- likely not the killer.
Further investigation will reveal that the children had been checking around that abandoned shack recently, still not convinced over what had happened four years ago. Once the players enter it this time, it's again filled with child corpses. Then, two lions will jump out and tear one of their classmates apart. The players will have to fight them. Satisfied that the lions had been the cause of all this trouble, the children will meet an old man that claims to live there. He's not sure how the lions got in, but he helps the children clear out the shack and bury all the bodies, including their friend. The players are given the skins of the lions as proof of what had transpired, and go back home.
The adults agree that the lions must have caused all of this. They also go to check out the shack they mentioned again. However, they don't find any old man. They instead find the dug up remains of the classmate that was slain just that day in the middle of the shack, with writing on the walls in his blood- "I CAN SMELL YOU NEAR".
Time skips ahead one final time, four years further and one more level up. The players no longer attend school, but misfortune keeps striking their old classmates. Random and inexplicable death claims them one by one, until it's down to the players and four remaining NPC's. They all realize that their deaths have been extremely unusual and that whatever it is that's hunting them specifically wants children their age. Tales of similar problems have come from other towns. The teens realize that this can't be the work of any ordinary beast, and was instead likely the intelligent and diligent work of either several killers or a single magical one. Research says they were born under the sign of the New Lion, which only comes once every 80 years. Further research shows that something just like this has happened twice before that was noted- around 80 years ago, and around 160 years ago.
The only clue the players have to work on is that shack. It was supposedly destroyed a few days after the incident four years ago, but the players will find the shack still standing. Inside, they'll once again find bodies, but this time also a set of stairs leading downwards into a crypt. The crypt will be full of lions and strewn with corpses collected over the years. At the bottom, however, won't be a lion.
A young, feral man dressed like a lion will be waiting for them there. Around the room they'll find several tools that he likely used to murder all those people in their town, the carefully kept and apparently wearable skin of an old man, and some sort of large magical sigil on the floor that resembles the stars in the sky, with the New Lion carefully outlined. The man yells incoherently about wanting to live, and attacks the party along with a few lions that will finish off the other four NPC teens. Whether they mean to or not, this will end with the man's death- the arrival of the PC's has activated the sigil on the floor. An arcane shockwave is sent out that kills everyone else remaining after a few rounds of combat. The players fade away, then find themselves standing in the middle of some kind of sanctuary in a forest. This will end the first session.

Further plot developments- this world that the players are in at the end here isn't the same one that they were in before. The stars are similar but different, notably lacking the New Lion constellation. This is because they're actually in the New Lion constellation itself, called there unknowingly to be manipulated by the Wild King, a lion-motif ruler who can call young people destined to great power once every 80 years to this world. He is, in fact, the Lion in the story "The Hungry Lion". He manipulates these teenagers every 80 years into finding and activating several divine pools around the world (many deep in enemy territory) in order to extend his own life. He also has a secondary agenda for them this time, which he's been working on for a while- that young man back on their world that was killing people was actually an agent of his that was breaking down their will through tragedy and paranoia in order to hypnotize them so that once they meet a certain other king in the other world at the right time, they'll automatically kill him. Naturally, the players don't know this has been happening.
Further down the line, regardless of what becomes of the prior storyline, that world will begin a divine apocalypse after eight months of their arrival. It will be unstoppable. The only choice the players will have for survival will be to leave the planet. There will be two options for doing so- either phasing through the planes via a planar gate, or finding the damaged Smalljammer hidden on the planet. I'm sort of meshing the planet travelling aspects of both Planescape and Spelljammer for this. If they take the gate, they'll find themselves in Faerun. If they take the ship, they'll eventually be forced down due to the damage on the Smalljammer to a planet overrun by pirates. The storyline will diverge greatly depending on the choice, though since both worlds still exist in the same ideal space, both are accessible later on.
More to come, of course.

2007-04-03, 05:09 PM
Sounds absolutely terrific. I want to DM this. Any chance you might flick together a text-file with the rest of the plot and any important NPCs and send it to me? :smallbiggrin:

Viscount Einstrauss
2007-04-06, 12:09 PM
Sure, no problem. I've got to finish fleshing everything out first, though. New campaign and all.

2007-04-08, 08:44 PM
Sounds interesting. Could be perceived as a bit railroady here and there, but plenty of potential.

2007-04-08, 09:56 PM
I like the idea of starting them out as kids. Kind of Fable-ish. I've toyed with forcing PCs to start out as NPC classes myself, but have never actually run anything this way. I must say, that first part sounds really creepy, and from the description alone I could see the huge potential that this has. Best of luck with this. I hope it turns out well.

One question, though. Are you using a lot of races (i.e. at least what's present in the PHB). If so, the two sibling backgrounds might be a little restrictive (i.e. I doubt a player that wants to play a dwarf fighter will want to play alongside a player that wants an elf wizard). If your players are mature and/or experienced enough, I'm sure this won't be much of a problem.

Also, how will you handle character death? With the unique setting, it doesn't seem feasible that a player's new character could be found hanging out in a bar. Just bringing up a couple points that you may or may not have thought about.

Viscount Einstrauss
2007-04-08, 10:08 PM
I haven't quite figured out the death angle yet. I've been toying around with completely removing the ressurection spells from the game. Usually I have a sort of playable afterlife where the player has a solo mission trying to come back to the Material Plain, so I might just do that again.

As for the races, I already talked it over with my players and determined that all the characters are human. However, this is only a cosmetic thing, so I'm going to allow them to pick any non-LA race they want to play as (except warforged, for obvious reasons) and they'll get the stats as though they were that race, though they'll still look, age, and be counted like humans. I'm mostly just leaving this option available to them, though, since it looks like everyone's going to want to be a human for the versatility.

2007-04-08, 10:42 PM
I really like the setup, I think I mght try something like that myself in the future.
Can they return to their own world at some point?

Viscount Einstrauss
2007-04-08, 11:02 PM
Eventually, though the world they come from is quite different. It's completely uncharted and no planar gates connect there. Furthermore, it's a serious problem to the multiverse- it radiates intense magical gravity outwards that's slowly shifting and destroying the rest of the universe as it works its way inwards towards the center. The destruction at New Lion will be only the first of many unless the PC's find a way to stop the wild power of their home, which might also destroy it.

For added fun, I'm toying with the idea of bringing back all of their classmates, but relocating each one across the multiverse. They won't be "real" so much as "necessary", a way of dividing up the unbridled power of their home planet by seperating children imparted with some of its massive energies across the universe. In other words, they'd be copies of the original children with the same memories and everything, but different souls that might deeply effect them.

2007-04-09, 08:06 PM
Just to give you a little bit of encouragement, I had nightmares about your backstory last night. Maybe that's a lesson to stop going through the message boards at midnight.

Viscount Einstrauss
2007-04-10, 04:39 PM
Thanks. I'm really looking forward to running this one, since I've never tried winding a narrative this tight before.

Some of my players would like me to eventually introduce gestalt, while some of the others don't. I just had a crazy thought for this- I'm going to introduce a combination system. Two of the PC's (and ONLY the PC's) will be able to combine together as a gestalt character for a number of rounds equal to both of their levels combined once per day. I figure that'll keep things nice and interesting.

Combining will heal all vitality damage, I figure, but not wound damage. The gestalt will have a vitality and wound pool of both characters combined, unusual for gestalt. However, when they split, each character will get half of any vitality/wound damage incurred during the gestalt done to them. So the mages still have to be careful when combining with their tank friends for the defensive buff.