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    Bugbear in the Playground
    Gnome Alone's Avatar

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    Nov 2010
    Cat Food Island

    Default Shells & Shades: A Portal Fantasy with Soul Possession Campaign Idea

    Hi-diddly-ho Playground-arinos:

    I'm posting this not primarily to ask advice, though if any occurs to you, I am open to it.

    I mainly wanted to show off what I think is a cool campaign idea, mixing portal fantasy a la Alice in Wonderland, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and The Magicians (I mention those specifically to establish the tone I'd set for the campaign; sort of a dark desperate fairy tale, grounded in real suffering but also revelling in the sheer joy of what going to another world engender) with the remnants of an idea I had where the PCs are all "psychic parasites" like Rondeau from Tim Pratt's Marla Mason series, only their goal is to take over the world by possessing people.

    This will all make more sense once you've read what the campaign will actually be; I wrote it as a wizard's monologue, and sent it along with all else between my ~~~ lines as the introduction to the campaign.

    But my second reason for posting is that it will be some time before our group is ready to do it; my brother and I alternate DMing two long-running 5e campaigns, and occasionally we do a session of a 3.5 E6 campaign when neither of us are ready with the others.

    So...if anyone likes this idea enough to use it, you're welcome to do so. I'd love to hear how it goes.

    It's gonna be a 5e campaign, but I don't think that's relevant. It should be easily transferrable to other systems. The only non-D&D TTRPG I know how to run is Savage Worlds. Maybe that would work better for this. Although I dunno, I think it has a pretty D&D feel.

    Ok, without further much ado about nothing:


    Shells & Shades:
    The Shades of Earth

    This campaign requires something a little different: you must make two characters. One will be a standard D&D character, Level 3. The other will be a “real world” character with no need of stats.

    On the plane containing Earth as we know it, your characters are all having near-death experiences. This can be whatever you want; a drowning child, someone on failing life support, someone being strangled, a heart attack victim, etc. (I’d first thought to require that all be teenagers, so everyone could learn important after-school-special life lessons. However, that is: a) cheesy, b) hard, c) not exclusive to teenagers.)

    “Greetings. Let me explain briefly where you are and why you are here.

    “The realm of Oerdaire [editor’s note: working title, open to suggestions] is beset by a necromancer using a strange technique. Whenever our soldiers or mercenaries ascend the wizard’s pretentiously renamed Mount Lonlideath, he sucks out their souls with foul, demonic magic, saving some for his own purposes and rolling the rest back down. So now we have a veritable army of technically alive, soulless automatons…except automata can be programmed to do something.

    “Thus, you come in. The wizard of Remény Keep - who is I, standing before you! - has summoned you from another plane of existence. You are Outsiders, which is what we call such a creature - and take no offense, for we are creatures, one and all. And as Outsiders, the necromancer will be unable to sunder your souls from your bodies. Or rather, from these bodies - for as you shall see in the looking glass once I conjure werelight, we have summoned you into some of the previously empty shells of our fallen comrades.

    “Before I outline what I propose, let me enlighten you: I was able to call forth your shades specifically because the veil between our worlds is the thinnest during this time, and because you yourselves were…almost beyond the last veil when I brought you here. Know that I did not arrange it this way to threaten you. I am simply telling you that that is why you are here, why I was able to summon you in the first place.

    “The deal I propose is that if you take up these bodies like weapons and use them to destroy the necromancer, I will send you home with an infusion of…I suppose you would call it “life energy” - sufficient to pull you back from the brink of death when you return. For the time-speed difference between our worlds is vast, and even now you are balanced on the knife’s edge between this world and the next, and on this precipice so shall you remain teetering for one of our years, when I will be able to send you back to your own world.

    “Unless you wish to depart at once and risk whatever fortune’s wheel spins your way. But even now the time grows short. Choose swiftly.”


    Whoops, almostways f'rgot, here is the wee coda I sent to the potential players, containing a bit more explanation:

    So, one aspect I think might be kind of interesting is that instead of raising the dead when a PC bites it, the Earthling “shade” finds a new Oerdairean “shell.” Thus everyone can roll up as many Level 3 characters* as they want as backups. I will almost definitely do some too, because that sounds fun as hell to me.

    Also, the monologue wizard didn’t say so, but the obvious in-story benefit from doing it this way is that then they don’t have to train you guys into being fighters and wizards and whatever; since those things take years just to get competent at, let alone good. Thus you can just use the fighter’s muscle memory or the accessible parts of the wizard’s brain to know how to prepare spells. Etc.

    So, anyway, that’s the gist of it. I wanted to make it kind of simple and reminiscent of a fairy tale, aside from the high-concept premise. Again, bearing in mind that we wouldn’t be likely to do this any time soon, any thoughts? Advice? Interesting farts you’ve farted?

    *However, for the sake of sanity, you’d maintain XP levels across shells. Thus each empty body is “Schroedinger’s Shell” - hm, weird that this guy was a Level 5 Ranger today would have been a Level 4 Ranger last week!
    Last edited by Gnome Alone; 2021-11-28 at 08:16 PM. Reason: Included coda to PCs

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