View Full Version : Campaign Hooks! - Expanding and Choosing between them

2008-07-01, 05:50 PM
I've come up with three different settings/plot sketches and I'm trying to decide which one I should go with next and flesh out more before introducing. If you have any comments, criticisms, or ideas, feel free to contribute. I might very well present it as a 3.5 PbP in these boards so in the case that anyone here thinks they might end up in one, I've used a second spoiler on the parts that won't be revealed immediately. I haven't worked out the names yet, so they are a little generic.

1) Kingdom Identity Crisis: About ten years ago there was a war between the Kingdom of US (to the West) and the Empire of the THEM (to the East). Both are lawful humanoid nations, but the conflict spiraled out of some minor territorial dispute that went way beyond the disputed territory. BRAVE WISE AND PERPLEXING (BW&P), the king of US, rode in to battle and let the Kingdom to a partial victory despite being at a comparative disadvantage against the Empire. Early on, the armies of THEM managed to hit the capital city of US - they didn't breach the wall but a stray arrow did fell the Queen of US. US turned the tide of the war through BW&P clever combat tactics, the willingness to fight amongst the people, and a strategy of total warfare epitomized by the "privateer system". The BW&P made the simple rule that any citizen of US that takes any property or life from a citizen of THEM will not receive any punishment or initial taxation for the stolen goods and on occasion, will be financially supported for their enterprises. So these privateers, who were really pirates, took control of the Northern coast, disrupted supply routes, and occupied farmlands and when THEM tried to respond to the myriad of minor incidents, they left themselves open and found their capital city, completed surrounded by the USian army. Even with such a vicious system that caused a sharp rise in the death toll, it led to the prompt end of the war, and many historians (especially those of US) estimate that the hastened end to the war actually saved many more lives. OTHER, a gnomish merchant city that controls a pass through the mountains in the South, remained out of the war on account of freedom of trade and a strong pacifistic religious influence (it'll probably be a custom pantheon). They however, took it upon themselves to negotiate the treaty between the warring nations in such a way that would leave the empire of THEM intact, mitigating the harm cause by US's total warfare, and take a temporary role as a peacekeeping force (which since has no longer been necessary). To the surprise of many, BW&P wholeheartedly accepted the terms even though OTHER doesn't have enough strategic force to force them upon US. BW&P made every effort to repair the damage and keep the peace, even at the price of raising taxes on his own citizens. Despite this burden, the populace as a whole has been overwhelmingly supportive of BW&P and united behind his command.

By the way, the privateers are concentrated in the Eastern side of US (towards THEM) and include half-giants and halflings in addition to humans. Dwarves are the much more conservative members of the nation, on the opposite side where the hills turn to mountains. I haven't decided where the elves will be, what the makeup of THEM is, and who/what is on the other side of the mountain pass that OTHER controls and trades through.

Early on in the time of the present campaign, BW&P has aged very much and has died without a clear successor. Resurrection attempts have failed due to old age, unwillingness, or magical intervention (it is unclear which) The once united and faithful nation has become divided into factions vying for power. The task of the players is to take the quests of the dueling sources of powers, play their own influence in the process, find out the true nature of the king's death and post-mortum wishers, and either prevent or win a looming war with THEM. Here's a look at the contenders for kingship:
The Reckless Son (RS): Ordinarily, there is a ceremony in which a king formally pronounces his son as heir to the throne, stemming back to a tradition by a king who preferred to give it to his second eldest, rather than his first and continued by another king, who never gave birth to any children. It has never, until now that is, been the case that a king has died without formally willing the throne to someone, but now it has and there is no precedent. This particular son, aged 28, is passed up because he is scary. After participating in the aforementioned war with a great degree of skill, and being raised hearing a prophecy about a warrior who never loses a match, RS has spent the last ten years challenging famous champions to duels and winning. In combat, he acts quickly and butchers his opponents with very little theatrics, but even those who are repelled by his mannerisms have to admit that he has (thus far) met the words of the prophecy. RS has gained somewhat of a cult of followers due to the prophecy, and the ideological parallel between his father's total warfare strategy and RS's lack of mercy. Being incredibly arrogant, it has never occurred to him that anyone else would be heir to the throne, but the late king had previously made his disgust clear and refused to conduct the ceremony until RS stops what BW&P would refer to as "barbaric games".

The Quiet Daughter (QD): At the age of 16, the princess is a little younger than many would prefer for a ruler, but even more importantly, has no interest in the part. A mediocre wizard, but an insatiable lover of books and knowledge, QD doesn't socialize much with people and doesn't believe she has the capacity to lead. The few calls for her to take the throne she has dismissed and politely refused.

The Pirate Captain (PC): The former (mostly former) privateers have said what everyone is thinking, murder is the cause of the king's death and the Empire of THEM has its hands bloody. In addition, they were starting to get sick of paying of the brunt of taxes for goods that they were told that they had earned, in order to repair the lands that they risked their lives because they were told to destroy. Preceding the king's death, they had sponsored petty theft and burglary almost exclusively against the Empire of THEM and these activities have increased many times over in light of recent events. The PC is their leader, and still has a great deal of power and influence to make a run for kingship.

The Wealthy Foreigner (WF): A gnome from OTHER claims to be a close friend and confident of the late king, and whether or not he gains any title of nobility in US, he has enough power and influence from his merchant friends to have a say in the power politics. His foreign policy towards THEM is very much aligned with the king's activities in keeping the peace, but the nationalistic warhawks that prefer the privateers see him as a negative influence on the late king and no friend of the country. With the populace so much unified in patriotism, the prospect of having any leader not born in raised in US is a virtual impossibility.

Status Quo: In the meantime, a plethora of nobility and advisors are keeping the country running by simply attempting to do what they've been doing and pretend like its not a problem that there's no one there to make the tough decisions or check up on their progress. However, incompetence and corruption are the eventual response to defused responsibility. There is however, a number of lawyers, advisors, and historians attempting to come up with a political process that would be a fair way of selecting a successor.

Here's the secret stuff:
BW&P started the war, and ended the war generously because he was after only one thing. An artifact of great power, that he sought to protect by ensuring it got in the right hands. There is a great deals resting on whoever it is that pries it from those cold dead fingers of BW&P. As a bonus, an evil otherworldly power had placed a curse on that artifact that ultimately did in the king, the curse, of course, designed to keep an appropriate amount of chaos into the world to maximize that probability that it does fall into the wrong hands. Haven't completely decided what the artifact is, what it does, and what should be done with it. I'm thinking a sword made out of solid gold, that is, deliberately appearing to be completely useless in combat and only a pretty piece of spoils of war - that may however, move from classic to cliche if not done correctly.

THEM of course, did not assassinate BW&P, but they certainly will be paying attention to who takes power. I plan on The Pirate Captain (PC), being by far the strongest faction, because they make good villains and also I want the looming threat of war to always be on that characters mind. On the verge of such war, their will be an assassination of a major military leader on each side of the war, giving everyone a degree of pause and puzzlement. The assassin is a PTSD former commoner who was thrown into the full brutish nature of war and is now mad enough to do whatever it takes to prevent it. Of course, this doesn't prevent the war, it only makes it go into overtime. The war will very well mean that the artifact is lost and reclaimed in the wrong hands, or it goes directly to the wrong hands of the PC or the Reckless Son (RS) who is crowned king in order to be a good war-time leader. Quiet Daughter (QD) will probably also be killed off because she will learn to much and get on somebody's bad-side, probably the aforementioned evil otherworldly power or wrong hands.

2) The New World: So there are three nations sharing a large island/continent. The first, Kingdom A, has a mix of terrain features which include coastline, farmland, and mountain. They are ruled by nobility that is appointed by the clergy, which maintains a strong influence over the country. The second, Kingdom B, is a population dense conglomeration of island chains, river deltas, ports, and boats. They are a strong naval power (I'm thinking Dwarven), and find themselves increasingly in need of expansion, but no they cannot gain any ground on the other two powers of the continent on ships alone, and besides, derive much of their wealth from trade with the both of them. Then there is the last nation, kingdom C, which rules the mountains and drylands of the continent and is comprised of the ugliest and lowest types of giants: hill giants, trolls, ogres, and ettins. They mostly subside on cattle, but occasionally raid the other two kingdoms. But try as they might, and it has been tried before, the other two kingdoms just can't match the strength of kingdom C.

But then, a ship taken for gone comes back to Kingdom A with news that it was blown off course and encountered a new land mass that had never before been discovered. There are inhabitants of course, but both Kingdom A and B race to the new world in order to escape the wrath of Kingdom C and acquire as many conversions, territories, and resources as they can manage. Kingdom B has the clear advantage in naval power, but Kingdom A gets the jump on the cartography of the land and also has many more people at its disposal that are willing to colonize the new land. The natives, vary in nature from elves, artistic, friendly and isolationist, to goblins, avaricious, barbaric, and violent. The players find themselves on a boat to the New World in the start of the campaign, on their way to the fledgling colonies. I want their own back-stories to play a large part in the story. They must navigate the powers of unknown beasts, various types of natives, each of the three kingdoms including the Church, their respective colonial powers, and rogue pirates and mountain men. Appropriately, there will probably be muskets, cannons, and colonial technology.

3) Ruin: The players, from various different parts of the world, along with many NPC, find themselves mysterious transported to a world they've never before seen. There are people there, transported in a similar fashion, and there are people who appear over the course of time, for a similar reason, whatever it is. They find themselves amongst a vast and mysterious ruins, trying to survive against the elements, against the other inhabitants, against the creatures of the ruins, against the ruins itself. They are to find a way to rebuild their lives anew on the surface, or plunder deep into the labyrinth to search for the secrets to reclaim their old life. There will be Gargoyles, who are much tougher and wiser, writing cryptic messages as their forum ode (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=81051) describes.

Some of the people they meet will stick with them for safety and order, others will take everything they have with no force to punish them. For the most part, however, there is no societal system, there are just people that you meet, and places that you discover. If I'm feeling adventurous, I may decide that all the players start out separated from each other, and they may or may not meet each other and when they do, it might not necessarily be for the purpose of joining together. I expect to make this world a harsh one, so if I do it right it may be a horror campaign (I've never done one before, they last thing I want to do is encourage power-gaming).

Here's the secret stuff:
You may or may not be underestimating the size of the these ruins. Maybe you aren't, but I'm probably going to strongly limit travel magic so it seems like its larger. Here are some places that will be in it, all of which blend into each other:
The Stone Plains: Hard stone floor and open sky, as far as the eye can see. That's what awaits those who actually make it to the bounds of this gigantic ruins. That is, of course, have scaling the massive wall that rounds it. The Stone Plains are worst than a desert, because nothing could grow. It takes about three feet of digging into solid stone to reach rocky and infertile soil.

The Endless Tower and the Endless Pit: Two structures, same concepts. The former reaches infinitely into the sky, and is marked by a set of spiral stairs and window slits, with the occasional room (most of the low ones have either been inhabited or picked clean). Is there anything that lies at the top? What happens if you break apart the foundation? The latter is somewhere underground, and no one has ever been able to find evidence of its bottom. There is however an inlet from here to The Quakes.

The Villa that was: Beautiful spires and perfect columns are tarnished and crumbling. The numerous canals that run through the former city are all dried up and more than a couple of people want to do know where the water went. The desiccated sewers intermix with the rest of the underground ruins. Naturally, most of the settlers, gangs, and other populace that doesn't wish to explore below gather here. It isn't much, and what it is doesn't stay that way for long.

The Labyrinth: Exactly as it sounds. It connects almost every part of the ruins in someway or another, but you have to navigate through not only the mazes, but the puzzles

The Quakes: The only source of life other than confused humanoids (and gargoyles). This is named the quakes because as deep as it is underground, it can always be detected by its rumblings because they are cause by often large, burrowing creatures. While most of the time these creatures are detected elsewhere, most everyone believes there is a source.

The Grinder: A ruthless gauntlet of deadly traps complete with a trail of corpses from failed adventurers. It occurs to one that with so much space and stone, that there would be easier ways to hide a great treasure. So why build the traps? Do they guard, or did the owner simply thirst for blood?

But the big question is why all this is here and what can be done in it. I haven't quite decided yet, but I have a couple of ideas:
After the Afterlife: Someone broke the afterlife. Angels and demons battling (erm... good and evil outsiders respectively), but always living immortally. No one ever won, but sometimes got the upper hand when recruits came. This is why some of it is good (the Villa and Tower) and some bad (The Grinder was actually a torture chamber). But then someone destroyed the part of the structure itself that gave them immortality, and mostly destroyed each other. The PCs and everyone there are dead people who are left cleaning up the mess. Unless of course, they break the cycle and repair what's broken deep inside (where things really start getting magical and sublime). Then things go in overtime as everyone around them transforms into avatars of good or of evil:

Evil Building: Actually, the building is a giant creature of stone that gains power from the death of its inhabitants. Deep in the underbelly there is an "organ" that keeps it alive and an "organ" that controls its psychic ability to summon people to it. The former holds the secret to rebuilding life, the later to regaining it.

The Mad Philosopher: Life gives you two options: death, or a meaningless existence- or so says the mad philosopher The perils of the structure represent the former, and the never ending features of the world represent the latter. Dismissing the puzzle as impossible to overcome, is last act of hope (ironically) in humanity is to use his wizardly powers to see if there is an individual who can find what he could not, in a world rigged to make this horrible conclusion a stark reality.

The End Again: A terrible and powerful creature destroyed the inhabitants of the place long ago, after being summoned as a result of the places evil rituals taking place in this bizarre temple. Now it draws upon the souls of the dead to summon up new victims, periodically destroying all its life every twenty years or so. Can this band of no bodies draw upon the dark secrets of the original inhabitants and their own courage to break the cycle?

2008-07-01, 06:13 PM
They all actually look interesting, I like the after the afterlife version of the Ruins, followed by Kingdom Identity crisis.

2008-07-02, 11:51 AM
The ruins are a great idea, I may try something similar for a campaign I'm going to start. The after the afterlife and the Mad Philosopher both sound like good explanations. Maybe you could try having a powerful wizard be the creator, making a "test" for the inhabitants of the world, then once he is stopped (or the pc's escape) they could appear in a new world scenario with an empty world, as everything was taken by the wizard, and the pc's are left to fend for a new city/life.