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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default Heralds of Armageddon (campaign)

    So I'm working on a campaign. The reason for the campaign was someone asking on a form "how can I make it reasonable for PCs to be riding dragons into combat". Everything else sort of serves that purpose.

    I've been kitbashing a world to put this campaign in. Some tropes as yet:
    1. Ancient Doors into pocket dimensions.
    2. Reincarnation: Destruction and Rebirth.
    3. WW2-esque era geopolitical powderkeg.
    4. Farming vs Herding societies.
    5. PCs riding friking Dragons.
    6. Magical-Industrial revolution.
    7. Colonialism.

    Because you should start at the beginning...

    Albion is a fantasy UK/Dutch and the initial employers of the PCs. They have a trade disruption problem caused by pissing off Fantasy-Atlantis, who summoned a storm cutting off a major trade route. So the PCs are supposed to secure a land-based trade route to bypass the storm (by one of Albion's internal factions). Initial attempts to survey this route met with the surveyors not coming back; so the PCs are sent in to figure out what happened/scout the route.

    The goal is for this to be a T1 exploration adventure, where the climax opens up a T2 "indiana jones/tomb raider" worldwide race to find a bunch of maguffins (each within a Door, behind which is a Dungeon).

    I'm not fixed on details yet.

    My plan for the Climax is to find a cult trying to birth a Dragon egg. Dragons are just legends (long extinct). If things go according to plan (tm) at the climax a pseudo-random PC (I'm thinking a charisma check modified by distance from the egg when it hatches?) gets bonded to the newborn Dragon. Because I don't want the problem of a combat-capable baby animal dying, the Dragon will manifest as a tattoo on the chosen PC: Dragons hatch and form a symbiotic relationship with another life form, and only over time get their own body. Their spirit can only manifest as a body for a short period of time at birth.

    The hatching of the egg is a Herald of Armageddon, or so the Dragon cult thinks. The T2 Macguffins are ... more eggs. Finding and bonding them to other PCs is the T2 plot. (leveling up beyond T1 requires more than just XP and combat and practice in-world and in-game. Getting said Macguffins is how the PCs will gain levels, literally when it happens they gain power equal to a character level. This aligns game-fiction incentives with in-world incentives.)

    So I have Dungeons (Doors to pocket dimensions of trap-filled treasure) and Dragons (the Macguffins), which makes me feel fuzzy.

    Back to the T1 plot. Here is what I have.

    A relatively small colony base. Albion has a treaty with the locals. Like all Road and Wall people communities, it is located on a ley line nexus, which provides fuel for the magical wards against the dangerous wilderness. Resupply arrives by ship.

    There is a clock against which the PCs are racing. The faster they do it the better. But (a) it is on the order of weeks/months, and (b) I'm intending to use gritty rests, so each "adventuring day" is about 10 calendar days. So not a super tight clock.

    There is at least 1 other smaller fishing community nearby. Maybe a pirate base as well? The pirates would trade with the locals, and raid further out (you don't piss where you eat).

    A side quest is a Gnome working on a Gnomish Positioning System that needs the PCs to reach certain points to calibrate the device.

    The primary quests are to find out what happened to the previous expedition and scout out the route.

    This is supposed to be a L 1 to L 5 adventure. While not tied to it, aiming to mimic the DMG official advancement rate seems like a plan.

    L 1 to L 2 is 6 medium encounters (50 * 6 >= 300)
    L 2 to L 3 is 6 medium encounters (+100 * 6 >= 900)
    L 3 to L 4 is 12 medium encounters (+150 * 12 >= 2700)
    L 4 to L 5 is 16 medium encounters (+250 * 16 >= 6500)

    Using encounter points instead, easy encounter are 1 point, medium 2, hard 3, deadly 4. (Using XP it is a total of 6500).

    At level 1, I'm granting a bonus feat and an extra HD; this should boost character level power by about a level in T1. So instead of 50/100/150/250 budget for medium it will be closer to 100*6/150*6/250*12/350*16 budget.

    If I use 100 XP as a T1 encounter unit, getting to level 5 requires about 100 units. Encounters can vary from 1 to 7 units each. Easy-deadly at each level is:
    L1: 0.5-2
    L2: 0.75-3
    L3: 1.25-5
    L4: 1.75-7

    So we have a 0-4 0.5-0.75 point encounter "freebies" for level 1. Past level 1 they are not suitable challenges, unless combined.

    Then a shell of 1-2 point encounters easily reachable from home base. (The first 6 points of encounters should be 2 or under point encounters).

    Reaching 4-5 point encounters should require about 15 points of stuff.

    6-7 point encounters should be at or near the climax. Reaching them is 45 points deep.

    The final stuff to reach T5 and the climax is 45+56 = 101 points.

    ...

    Ok, layers and prep work.

    Introductory encounter planning.
    L1, 6 point budget.

    I'd expect the players to only use half of these.

    Say 5 0.5 to 0.75 encounters summing to 3 points total. (Expected to use half. These "age out" when PCs hit level 2; after 10 or so days, they should self-resolve or grow in magnitude). Most of them in or near starting settlement. Maybe one on the ship over? Or do I start at landing?
    5 1 point encounters
    2 2 point encounters
    Total: 12 points (need 6 points to hit level 2).

    L2 7.5 point budget, use half for 15 prep.
    Leftovers: 1x2 and 3x1
    3+2 1 point encounters (5)
    1+2 2 point encounters (6)
    0+3 3 point encounters (9)

    L3 30 point budget, use half for 60 prep. Min is 1.25, cap is 5.
    Leftovers: 2x3 point, 3x2 (the 1s self-resolve or evolve into 2s)
    3+3 2 point encounters (12)
    2+3 3 point encounters (15)
    0+4 4 point encounters (16)
    0+4 5 point encounters (20)

    63 total.

    L4 56 point budget, use half for 112 prep. Min is 1.75, cap is 7
    Leftovers: 2 5 point encounters, 2 4 point encounters, 2 3 point encounters, 3 2 point encounters.
    3+3 2 point encounters (12)
    2+3 3 point encounters (15)
    2+3 4 point encounters (20)
    2+3 5 point encounters (25)
    0+4 6 point encounters (24)
    0+1 7 point encounters (7)
    0+1 9 point climax (9)

    Total encounters required to prep:
    7 100 xp
    10 200 xp
    9 300 xp
    7 400 xp
    7 500 xp
    4 600 xp
    1 700 xp
    1 900 xp

    46 encounters to prep.

    Wilderness exploration can make up a bunch of them as "random encounters" in the 1-4 range, with the higher ones being "further out" from base.

    Suppose 2/3 of 1-5 is "random" wilderness encounters. That is 4x1 6x2 6x3 4x4 4x5 for 24 encounters.

    1. A pack of wolves led by a direwolf (maybe 3 encounters?)
    2. Mated griffons (1-2 encounter, 2+2 points)
    3. Some undead monsters caused by improper burial (maybe 5 encounters?)
    4. A skirmish with the locals (1-3 encounters)
    5. Harpies (2 encounters)
    6. Pirates/Bandits (2 encounters)
    7. Ancient Golems (1 encounter)
    8. Swarms of some kind (3 encounters)
    9. Dragon cult foragers (3 encounters)
    10. Other (2 encounters)

    That sums to 22-25 encounters.

    Leftover for "plot" encounters:
    3x1
    4x2
    3x3
    3x4
    3x5
    4x6
    1x7
    1x9

    to be continued.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Heralds of Armageddon (campaign)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yakk View Post
    3. WW2-esque era geopolitical powderkeg.
    Did you mean WW1-esque era geopolitical powderkeg?

    Which is to say, everyone's prepared to go to war, nominally trying to avoid it, but nobody's willing to back down on anything.
    5. PCs riding friking Dragons.
    I'm guessing that's the T3 section, and that the players and their dragons are now a major power in the ensuing global war?

    Because I don't want the problem of a combat-capable baby animal dying, the Dragon will manifest as a tattoo on the chosen PC: Dragons hatch and form a symbiotic relationship with another life form, and only over time get their own body. Their spirit can only manifest as a body for a short period of time at birth.
    ANother route you could go is

    1. Dormant egg
    2. Active egg and spirit is with tatooed person
    3. Emotionally mature dragon hatches

    4. Farming vs Herding societies.
    ....
    6. Magical-Industrial revolution.
    That's an interesting pair of themes to do at the same time.

    For instance, is industry dependent on agriculture (as in the real world) and are these herders about to become irrelevant?

    How do the herders deal with the monster problem? Barbarian strength, accommodation, wards?

    Do the herders have access to magical resources farmers don't? Control over the majority of land (and therefore dungeons and trade routes?
    Excuses and explanations are different.

    Sometimes when there can be no excuses we must look the hardest for explanations.

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    Default Re: Heralds of Armageddon (campaign)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    Did you mean WW1-esque era geopolitical powderkeg?
    Oh no, a WWI equivalent is in the past.

    Which is to say, everyone's prepared to go to war, nominally trying to avoid it, but nobody's willing to back down on anything.
    I'm guessing that's the T3 section, and that the players and their dragons are now a major power in the ensuing global war?
    So there was a major world war. One side lost.

    Relatively recently, an important component of the balance of power changed drastically (the mostly elven land ... left. There aren't any people left.)

    So now the defeated power of the last war is growing in strength (but not yet strong), and the remaining allies of the last major war are nervous and not ready for conflict yet.

    The dominant faction that has taken power in the defeated power are more than a bit evil. Providing me with Indiana Jones antagonists for T2.

    Another route you could go is

    1. Dormant egg
    2. Active egg and spirit is with tatooed person
    3. Emotionally mature dragon hatches
    Sure, but that still leaves the Egg as an annoying bit of cargo. And something you risk breaking. I guess I could make dragon eggs nearly indestructible?

    I don't know if I want to do "Dragon Prince" protect the egg for 10ish levels before they can have a young adult dragon (power scale wise) or whatever. And eventually dragging around N eggs.

    4. Farming vs Herding societies.
    ....
    6. Magical-Industrial revolution.
    That's an interesting pair of themes to do at the same time.

    For instance, is industry dependent on agriculture (as in the real world) and are these herders about to become irrelevant?

    How do the herders deal with the monster problem? Barbarian strength, accommodation, wards?

    Do the herders have access to magical resources farmers don't? Control over the majority of land (and therefore dungeons and trade routes?
    So there are two "kinds" of people in the main continent; the People of the Road and Wall, and those Free under the Sky.

    Road and Wall civilizations rely on harnessing ley lines and nodes. They use ritual magic to do intensive agriculture within a "safe" distance of settlements and defend their houses and settlements with magic that resists, well, monsters and the like. Their roads go along ley lines, and are reinforced by shrines and rituals along the way, with weaker defence against monsters while on it.

    Those Free under the Sky make bargains with local spirits and creatures to defend them against the monsters in the wilderness (or avoid said monsters attacking them), and tend to move as needed based on omens and portents to avoid those they cannot survive.

    Road and Wall civilizations align with Lawful. By Lawful, I mean loyalty tends to be towards institutions (not lawful stupid). A Lawful loyalty would be to the Crown, not the person sitting on the throne.

    Free under the Sky civilizations align with Chaos. By Chaos, I mean loyalty tends to be towards individuals (not random wargable). A Chaotic loyalty would be to the Chief, not to the rules of succession.

    The (world design) reason I have behind the "intense not extensive" Road and Wall civilization pattern that is I want both high populations and specialization, while also having wilderness being nearby to explore in. So instead of vast tracts of farmed land with the occasional forest of the high middle ages, you get enclaves of vibrant civilization, threads between them, and rich wilderness to adventure in.

    Free under the Sky provides a non-"barbarian" non-city population; they have solved the problem of a D&D world differently than the city folk do. They do occupy more of the world than the Road and Wall civilizations do, but at less density.

    This is the pattern on the "starting continent". The other two continents have different solutions to the problem. (In one, we have TRex riding dinobois herding behemonths). But that is a late T2/T3 problem.

    ...

    As for industrial revolution, the coming Armageddon has caused Doors to start opening, and from those doors ancient magical secrets are being extracted. An accelerating magic-industrial revolution is resulting, also part of the destabilization of the geopolitical situation. The losers of the fantasy WW1 are producting warforged by harvesting soulwood from the now-abandoned Elven forests, for example. Most nations are working on Airships. New techniques of casting spells and blessing more followers with divine power are being used. Someone figured out how to become a lich, and is converting an out of the way corner of the world into an undead kingdom, hoping to grow fast enough to avoid being crushed when the world figures out the horrors going on there.

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    Default Re: Heralds of Armageddon (campaign)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yakk View Post
    Oh no, a WWI equivalent is in the past.
    Okay, I was just thinking that the word "powderkeg" implies the WWI situation, and the WWII wasn't so much "sparked" as intentionally and strategically started.

    Sure, but that still leaves the Egg as an annoying bit of cargo. And something you risk breaking. I guess I could make dragon eggs nearly indestructible?
    I was thinking that they would be stashed someplace safe. Maybe they would even fly to their person once they hatched.
    Excuses and explanations are different.

    Sometimes when there can be no excuses we must look the hardest for explanations.

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    Default Re: Heralds of Armageddon (campaign)

    Some thoughts on locations.

    1. The shrine (with a door) the dragon cultists are using to incubate the egg.
    2. The Free under the Sky local camp(s).
    3. The Pirate Encampment.
    4. Catacombs down the ancient well (because fun).

    NPCs:
    1. Free under the Sky people
    2. Dragon Cultists in town
    3. Pirates and Pirate contacts in town (as noted, Pirates don't **** where they live).
    4. Privateers base (as opposed to pirates, these are licensed!)
    5. Gnomish Positioning System tinkerer
    6. Scholar looking into the Draconic legends
    7. Only survivor of the previous expedition
    8. Local clergy in charge of maintaining the wards and crop blessings (such as they are; mostly fishing).
    9. Fisherfolk.
    10. A blind fishmonger.
    11. Homesteader outside the wall.
    12. Rangers who guard wood harvesting expeditions.
    13. Local captain of guard.

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    Default Re: Heralds of Armageddon (campaign)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yakk View Post
    4. Catacombs down the ancient well (because fun).
    Catacombs are indeed fun but they are also exactly the worst place to dig a well (after trying to dig up into the sky). Maybe a new well that (oops) found an ancient catacomb?

    3. Pirates and Pirate contacts in town (as noted, Pirates don't **** where they live).
    I'd imagine that locally they'd be known as merchants, or maybe "merchants" with a wink and a nudge.

    1. Free under the Sky people
    I'd imagine there's potential for an interesting priest/ spirit ambassador there who could lay out some bewildering rules of behavior in the wild (only cross the creek in the direction of the sun; when leaving the sand pit, brush the sand off your boots back into the pit; the wild dogs won't attack if you're singing James Brown songs.
    Excuses and explanations are different.

    Sometimes when there can be no excuses we must look the hardest for explanations.

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    Default Re: Heralds of Armageddon (campaign)

    An idea: use, modify, or ignore as you like.

    Twelve dragons survived dragon-wars in ancient times and a prophesy that they would save or condemn the world in the distant future caused them to build 12 pocket dimensions in which to sleep away eternity so they could be there at the end.

    Each of them created a key to their private domain which, when broken, would mark the breaker with the dragon's personal sigil. The egg-shaped objects were warded to avoid breaking until exact conditions were met.

    Once marked, the character may begin to telepathically communicate with a dream-consciousness created by the dragon. As the character achieves level 2 in the Dragon Dreamer PrC the youngest physical form of the dragon that you want in your game manifests. When it 'sleeps' it fades away, and when wakened it takes a round to materialize. (Limit uses per day?)

    At each new level of the PrC the dragon gains an age category, and everything that goes with it.
    (The DM may skip some age categories so the PrC only requires 5 levels, or make a 10 level PrC.)

    When the Dream Dragon hits the top age category it fully wakes and enters the material plane to do what was prophesied, either inhabiting the former dream-body, or replacing it.

    This will allow the dragon to 'age' fast enough to finish the campaign with the characters who started it without resorting to weird magic that ages dragons without aging the rider. It will also allow ynung, vulnerable dragons to come back to life. You could even do a graduated scale for summoning, such that a very young dragon can be summoned 3 times per day but older ones can only be summoned 3 times per month, with the death of the fully wakened dragon being permanent.

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    Default Re: Heralds of Armageddon (campaign)

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    An idea: use, modify, or ignore as you like.

    Twelve dragons survived dragon-wars in ancient times and a prophesy that they would save or condemn the world in the distant future caused them to build 12 pocket dimensions in which to sleep away eternity so they could be there at the end.

    Each of them created a key to their private domain which, when broken, would mark the breaker with the dragon's personal sigil. The egg-shaped objects were warded to avoid breaking until exact conditions were met.

    Once marked, the character may begin to telepathically communicate with a dream-consciousness created by the dragon. As the character achieves level 2 in the Dragon Dreamer PrC the youngest physical form of the dragon that you want in your game manifests. When it 'sleeps' it fades away, and when wakened it takes a round to materialize. (Limit uses per day?)

    At each new level of the PrC the dragon gains an age category, and everything that goes with it.
    (The DM may skip some age categories so the PrC only requires 5 levels, or make a 10 level PrC.)

    When the Dream Dragon hits the top age category it fully wakes and enters the material plane to do what was prophesied, either inhabiting the former dream-body, or replacing it.

    This will allow the dragon to 'age' fast enough to finish the campaign with the characters who started it without resorting to weird magic that ages dragons without aging the rider. It will also allow ynung, vulnerable dragons to come back to life. You could even do a graduated scale for summoning, such that a very young dragon can be summoned 3 times per day but older ones can only be summoned 3 times per month, with the death of the fully wakened dragon being permanent.
    Relatively close, but as I have full control over dragon magic and biology, I don't need them to be "adults" in pocket dimensions.

    The heralds are dragon eggs, often stored away behind Doors. Dragons are fundamentally magical creatures.

    The ancient wars aren't called "the dragon-wars". It was basically an apocalypse that formed the world everyone lives in; the universe is already post-apocalyptic.

    I don't intend to use a PrC type mechanism. Rather, as I intend for every PC to end up partnered with a dragon, I'm just tacking on "oh, and you have a dragon, and the bond does X" on top of standard advancement. I have mechanical plans for this, but it is after T1. Those who bond a dragon earlier on will get a relative power boost, which will level out as more PCs do. Almost all of the boost will be campaign-phase specific instead of personal advancement based.

    Even though I intend on significant power boosts over standard D&D characters as part of the bond, going much past Young Adult level of capability in their dragon-mount would warp the game a bit much. Somewhere between Young and Adult is where I am aiming for the mounts to reach.

    The PCs can and will face down older dragons as foes or allies, but not mounts. I do like the idea of at least some of the dragons hiding behind Doors, and influencing events. Some may want to work towards Armageddon, some may want to work against it.

    I should toss out a planned cast of major players and arcs.

    T1: Factions of Albion. Dragon cult. Pirates. Free under the Sky. Local Lord.
    T2: Rival Egg-Hunters and their sundry and shadowy backers. Triton (Ruler of Poseidon) optionally.
    T3: Crown of Albion. Lich of the Arkhosian wastes. Mad Mages of Wadour. Empire of Zwerge.
    T4: Dragons. And DRAGONS. Surviving T3 and "Wizard behind curtain" BBEGs.

    T1: Exploration and Discovery of the plot.
    T2: World-spanning dungeon delves for MacGuffins in the prelude to WW2. (Indiana Jones)
    T3: Global Magical Warfare and the Bells of Armageddon.
    T4: Armageddon.
    Last edited by Yakk; 2021-10-16 at 08:53 AM.

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    Default Re: Heralds of Armageddon (campaign)

    Plot thread ideas...

    * The Pirates could hook into the "Vikings" who recently started breeding Wyverns (lesser dragons).

    * The trade route the PCs are here to establish is going to be opposed by at least one other Albion faction. Also Zwerge agents, and maybe other (nominally friendly) nations to Albion.

    * My original plan was to make this a relatively small fishing colony. I could rotate it and make it an "exotic" cosmopolitan hub? Would allow for more intrigue. Then the deal with the local Free under the Sky would be why they expected the trade route exploration to work, and possible betrayal would be why the PCs are here to investigate? Like, more Casablanca-esque.

    * Core story elements for T1.
    - Free under the Sky people had an agreement, evidence seems to indicate they betrayed it, but they didn't.
    - Dragon Cult is the hidden factor that caused the previous expeditions to fail. So by investigating/reestablishing the trade route, they "run into" the Dragon Cult.
    - Local scholar looking for the same thing the Dragon Cult has possessed provides exposition.
    - Gnomish Positioning System gnome asks players to calibrate her invention. She can show up in later plots if she works out. Also, the spots she asks players to calibrate her device at just happen to contain useful stories.
    - Pirates/Wyvern-Vikings (fact they have Wyverns is not known yet), hope to increase trade through here. So even though they are nominally hostile, some of them are helping. I think I might drop "pirates" and go with "vikings" to describe them, also helps distinguish them from privateers.
    - Introducing a Zwerge bad guy here seems like good forshadowing for T2/T3. Get the players make that mapping. (Zwerge is the "Germany" of the fantasy pre-WW2 scenario. The current Thane-in-waiting's clan is the rough Nazi-equivalent; the old Thane's death is the trigger to kick off World Fantasy War 2)
    - At least one mention of Triton's forces. They are the reason why the trade route is needed (the siege storm), but meeting at least someone connected in "person" seems like a good idea.

    "Zones" nearby:
    * Ley line pass (what PCs are trying to scout)
    * Valley of the Dragonshrine (later along the pass; where the railroad is trying to aim the PCs. But not too soon, need to have content to get them to L4 at least)
    * Hills of the Free Peoples (early along the pass)
    * Viking base (optional?)
    * Lowland forests (can put lower level wilderness encounters here?)
    * Coastal beach? Second settlement? (Spot to meet Triton's forces?)

    Need NPCs in town. But that will depend on how small/large I make the settlement. Hmm.

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