Author Topic: New campaign world notes  (Read 4807 times)

Doktor Howl

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New campaign world notes
« on: March 29, 2021, 04:27:39 pm »
Timeline (this will be repeatedly edited)
IC = Imperial Calendar

0 IC: King Stake unites the petty kingdoms to create the Empire.  He styles himself "Emperor Stake I".
5 IC: The empire moves to pacify the barbarian tribes at the North end of the landmass (Cortland).
10 IC:  Barbarians resist being pacified, due to the popular (and powerful) druids and shamans leading them.
15 IC:  First rumors of The Six, monstrous evils that the Emperor made bargains with in an effort to finish the barbarians off.
22 IC:  Emperor Stake I dies after overindulging at a feast with his knights.  His son is crowned Emperor Pitt I, who severs contact with The Six, and everyone who dealt with them disappears.  The wars against the barbarians creak to a halt.
35 IC:  Emperor Pitt's bureaucracy is finished being assembled.  It is very efficient and leads to public content, as taxes are collected directly from the Imperial government, rather than being levied by local lords via "tax farmers".  Emperor Pitt gains a name as a builder, trying to outdo the ancients in terms of grandeur.  He succeeds to some degree.  The guilds and great merchant houses are established by this point.
71 IC:  The aged Emperor Pitt abdicates in favor of his son, who styles himself Emperor Burke.  The night of the abdication, Pitt vanishes, never to be seen again.  Emperor Burke continues his father's work, though by this point the bureaucracy has learned that it has the power to bind and loose, and begins to make and carry out plans of its own.
79 IC:  A full third of the bureaucracy vanishes in a single night, including most of the new power brokers.  Rumors are that the vanished bureaucrats were dragged into the cellars of the government building by barbarians in Imperial attire, led by the Emperor's First Knight. (The government building is built on the foundation of one of the ancient's structures.)  The empire reinvigorates to some degree. 
100 IC:  Emperor Burke falls in battle with the Northern tribes in what would otherwise be a minor skirmish.  His daughter is crowned Empress Fugue, and immediately begins a punitive war against the barbarians, regardless of clan or tribe affiliation.  Empress Fugue is not the builder her forefathers were, nor does she indulge in parties, etc.  She is driven by a need for revenge.
102 IC:  The barbarians are conquered, many enslaved.  Empress Fugue gives grants of land in the barbarian territory to reward her generals and legions.
115 IC:  Empress Fugue and almost her entire court disappear overnight, after returning to the capitol.  Within weeks (hours in some cases), rival claimants to the throne begin fighting.  Within months, the empire is torn back into its constituent kingdoms.  Most landholders in the barbarian lands are slain by resurgent barbarians (though some hold on and forge petty kingdoms, either by raw force or by making common cause with some of the barbarian clans.  The disappearance of the Empress and her court is never explained.  Late in the year, the capitol is abandoned, after multiple mass disappearances.
155 IC:  The present day.  The remains of the empire have decayed into petty kingdoms and robber barons.  The former capitol is overgrown and shunned by the peasantry.  Bandits, barbarians, and monsters roam the lands, preying on any travelers and weak communities.  Occasional mass disappearances of small communities occur at irregular intervals.



Molon Lube

Doktor Howl

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Re: New campaign world notes
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2021, 05:15:54 pm »
The Six:  Ancient vampires.  Really, really ancient (1000+ years) going back to the time of the ancients. The Six are what happens to vampires at that age.  They stop creating spawn, they become tied to a fixed location (they are fairly widely distributed, and can go no farther than 10 miles from their lair, though even that costs them in abilities), and they suffer daylight helplessness (gaining the staggered and sickened conditions), rather than being destroyed by sunlight if outside of their lair.  Inside their lair, they merely get the dazzled condition.  Their feeding changes (see monster sheet) and they no longer inflict negative levels on a slam attack, but in exchange are powerful spellcasters.  They each have at least one "Renshaw" who does not age during their service, and who are in some way "marked" by their service, becoming powerful monsters in their own right.  In addition, other thralls work for them (normally barbarians).

The Six offered aid to Emperor Stake in exchange for certain terms.  The aid they gave was both magical and material (friendly barbarians to guide the armies and fight alongside them as skirmishers).  The contract said that Stake winning or losing after a "best effort" by The Six did not alter the terms of the contract...Which were:  Barbarian prisoners to be handed over to The Six for troops or consumption, any ruler removed or resigned from office were taken as "Renshaws" or food (This applied to the nobility as well as the actual ruler), and that whomever was emperor 100 years after the contract was signed was also to be taken.  This ended the deal.  It also had the side effect of ending the empire.  It is important to note that Emperor Stake didn't tell anyone about this deal.  Burke learned from finding secret papers left by Stake and used one of The Six to eliminate the bureaucrats that were draining the empire via corruption, it being a very final way of eliminating problems as a whole.

The Six are not just "big-bads".  Any one of them should be on par with Karzoug from Rise of the Runelords in terms of challenge (CR20+ with mythic ranks).

The Six are all rumored to still exist, but they do not normally cooperate or even speak to each other.  When they come out of dormancy, they send their Renshaw and their troops out to gather tribute (ie, people) from surrounding villages (or in the case of two of them, they merely kidnap less people more often).  This happens about every 5 years, and can cost hundreds of lives in a region, which is one of the major reasons the entire imperial region is still deteriorating.

The Six are so ancient that they don't remember their original names, or even the first nicknames they were given.  They currently go by:

Mister Chop.
Mister Scratch.
Mister Doornail.
Mister Need.
Mistress Anguish.
Mister Crave.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2021, 05:21:39 pm by Doktor Howl »
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Re: New campaign world notes
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2021, 06:47:18 pm »
World notes:

Religion: 

The area encompassing the remaining the empire is monotheistic, worshiping the Old Man (God of cities, law, and strategy).  Clerics gain domains based on which saint they follow.  Worshipers of other gods will find themselves in a crack in a hurry, even if the imperial inquisition is a thing of the past.  Heresy consists of worshiping the Old Man without the intercession of a Saint (or of course by stepping on dogma).  Apostasy includes atheism or worshiping any other god other than the Old Man.  Outlawed cults in the area tend to worship nature spirits, fiends, and dark tapestry gods. 

The barbarian lands worship nature spirits (Druidism, shamans) with a sprinkling of the Spider Queen, fiends, dark tapestry gods and - in the case of those barbarians working for The Six, the Devourer.  In areas settled by nobles/legions from the empire, there tends to be a mishmash of the Old Man and Druidic practices.

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Re: New campaign world notes
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2021, 06:57:14 pm »
Geography:

I am using the map of the British Isles.  "The North" is everything past Hadrian's Wall.  All the smaller islands are also considered barbarian, with the exception of the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Mann, which are a different problem altogether.  Ireland was part of the empire, with none of the cultural differences that exist in the real world.  The successor kingdoms are mostly analogous to the counties of England (which were, of course, predecessor kingdoms).

Trade exists with the mainland (which is not a copy of mainland Europe), but there isn't much involvement outside of that.  The UK is large enough to encompass any number of campaigns. The Mainland tends to use the Golarion gods, who are known by their titles rather than their names (ie, The Dreamer rather than Desna).

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Re: New campaign world notes
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2021, 10:10:15 am »
Sounds intriguing. A semi-collapsed patchwork of kingdoms and scheming vampires who don't cooperate opens a lot of opportunities.

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Re: New campaign world notes
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2021, 03:11:39 am »
Sounds intriguing. A semi-collapsed patchwork of kingdoms and scheming vampires who don't cooperate opens a lot of opportunities.

Yeah, things will eventually lead the PCs to one of the vampires as a campaign capper.
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Re: New campaign world notes
« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2021, 04:57:55 pm »
Something similar is about to happen in my game, meeting a quite senior vampire. Which reminds me, I need to write more updates.

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Re: New campaign world notes
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2021, 05:42:04 pm »
The night of the abdication, Pitt vanishes, never to be seen again.

... any ruler removed or resigned from office were taken as "Renshaws" or food ...
[...]
 They each have at least one "Renshaw" who does not age during their service, and who are in some way "marked" by their service, becoming powerful monsters in their own right. 

Hmm. I wonder if a hideously transfigured undead emperor is going to show up and ruin someone's day.  :)
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Re: New campaign world notes
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2021, 05:51:28 pm »
The night of the abdication, Pitt vanishes, never to be seen again.

... any ruler removed or resigned from office were taken as "Renshaws" or food ...
[...]
 They each have at least one "Renshaw" who does not age during their service, and who are in some way "marked" by their service, becoming powerful monsters in their own right. 

Hmm. I wonder if a hideously transfigured undead emperor is going to show up and ruin someone's day.  :)

Stranger things have happened.
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Re: New campaign world notes
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2021, 06:22:39 pm »
Barbarians

Barbarians come in two major tribes, the Peloki and the Malet.

The Peloki are your standard blue-painted maniacs, and are the tribe that (some) members of The Six draw followers from.  They tend to be bad people, and worship either with NE druids, or worship the Devourer. Peloki don't tend to worship the Spider Queen, as they consider lies and disguise (aside from a purely military ambush) as dishonorable. Peloki who just aren't feeling the CE/NE thing tend to work in the kingdoms as scouts, hunters, and mercenaries.

Peloki survive by raising livestock, low-grade agriculture via slaves, and of course by raiding the kingdom, the Malet, and each other for supplies. The Peloki tend to range between Hadrian's Wall on the South to where Dundee is to the North, but borders to them are something that happens to other people.  They are not skilled metal workers, and tend to use non-metallic weapons and armor (think Huron, pre-horse), though they will use metal weapons that they capture or steal.  They fight on foot, horses are for selling or eating after being stolen.  To be captured by the Peloki means slavery, until ransomed, sacrificed, or just plain worked to death.  A slave has no means to better his condition except escape.  The Peloki view escaped slaves as sport, and it doesn't end well.

The Peloki view the Malet in much the way they view the kingdoms:  Effete subhumans who exist to be raided and enslaved.  Peloki have a particular hatred of arcane spellcasters, with the exception of bards.  They also include blood ragers and more than a few rangers in with the standard barbarian.


The Malet Live North of where Dundee is, to include the islands (Faeroes, Shetlands, Orkney, etc).  The Mallet clan structure is far more diversified than the Peloki, with adoption into a clan possible for anyone other than a Peloki (whom they kill outright on capture).  Think of them as the various Celt tribes of the UK and France.  They tend to dreadlock their hair, and wear cured hide clothing.

The Malet live off of livestock, some farming, fishing, and of course raiding.  Most clans do not practice slavery, but may take prisoners to be traded back to the kingdoms or adopted into the clan.  Malet tend to follow N druids, or use shamans for the clan, or both.  Their druids and shamans tend to get along.  Some island clans worship the dark tapestry gods.  Malet, especially on the islands, tend to have sorcerous bloodlines [add common bloodlines].  Some island clans worship the dark tapestry gods, and tend to behave as you'd expect.  The Spider Queen is sometimes worshiped on the side, because Malet are allowed to lie to non-Malet.  Malet tend to be barbarians, rangers, and the occasional fighter.  Blood ragers exist, but are rare.

While not as aggressive (read: batshit insane) as the Peloki, the Malet are very territorial and don't like strangers wandering around in their clan's lands without leave.  The few imperial lords that exist North of the line live in Malet territory, and are allowed local rule (and their lives) because they have a demonstrated ability to kick Peloki ass, and also because they don't mess with the traditions of their subjects.  The Malet will engage in trade with the kingdoms, usually by boat.

« Last Edit: March 31, 2021, 06:27:38 pm by Doktor Howl »
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Re: New campaign world notes
« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2021, 06:23:06 pm »
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Re: New campaign world notes
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2021, 05:26:22 pm »
Campaign arc 1, part 1: The Haunting of Black Cliff House

The PCs learn of a local haunted manor, which everyone - even local kids - have been too terrified to loot since the fall of the empire.  Mysterious lights and noises are heard at night, and occasionally a full blown spectral party is seen from afar.  Lit windows, "party-goers" on the lawn in outmoded dress, music, etc.

Rumors: 
1.  The few vagrants that have wandered into the place have never been seen again (true).
2.  Earl Black Cliff was one of Empress Fugue's favorites, a young dashing man and a famed duelist known for his gala parties (true).
3.  The Earl was with the Empress's retinue when it vanished at the Emperial Palace (true).

The truth of the matter:

Earl Black Cliff was Empress Fugue's spymaster.  He maintained a team of talented soldiers and wizards that conducted special operations for her.  The team was made up of people who either "died or were disgraced" to erase their identities.  The parties were sometimes real, and sometimes a complicated illusion (one of the more powerful wizards in the group placed programmable illusions on the house, usable by any who knew the command words) as was desired for intelligence purposes (sometimes the noise was useful for covering over some of the more unsavory deeds - some of which have left actual haunts - that were committed by the team.

When the Earl disappeared along with the Empress, most of the agents went looking for her.  None ever returned.  The sole survivor in the house is a feeble old man (this all happened 40 years ago) who knows the command words for the house.  Loyal to the last, the wizard Ericol still seeks to determine what happened to the Empress and the Earl.  Ericol, not being the nicest sort, has filled the already trap-ridden house with undead and other nasties to guard the place while he works.  Ericl is rather a nasty bastard, in fact, and plans to become a lich to continue his search.  He is in fact in the process when the party arrives.  Obviously, they'd better stop the ritual.


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Re: New campaign world notes
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2021, 05:43:15 pm »
Campaign arc 1, part 2:  The Oracle of Repton

Having found notes in Black Clliff Manor concerning failed attempts to contact the "Oracle at Repton", the PCs need to search there to see if they can find  any clue concerning the disappearance of the Earl and the Empress.  If the PCs are more mercenary in nature, the notes also mention the Oracular Gem which aided the oracle's visions and is described as an enormous emerald.  The notes do not say where in Repton the oracle resided.

Rumors:

1.  The city of Repton was overrun and sacked by Peloki barbarians a few years after the fall of the empire.  It has since been rebuilt (true).
2.  The oracle was destroyed alongside the rest of the city. (true)
3.  The oracle herself escaped the sack, and continues to live in the area, incognito (false).

The truth of the matter:

The oracle and her protege were killed in the sack of Repton, tortured to death by Peloki (and some imperial traitors) in an effort to find the gem.  Her body was cast down the "wailing pit" in the oracular halls (The Peloki were terrified of the wailing).  It is there were the gem was in the first place.  In the aftermath, the halls have filled with vermin and the angry spirits of the oracular staff.  Should they get to the bottom of the pit, they will find that the oracle hasn't been resting easily, either.  During the fight, she will accuse them of being "Mister Doornail's servants".  No other clues exist.  Remember that the party doesn't know about the elder vampires.

The gem itself is non-magical (it was just a focus for the oracle), but as large as described.  The party should have some fun trying to sell it, the same way a person with no connections would have fun trying to sell a duffel bag of cocaine to gangsters.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2021, 05:46:23 pm by Doktor Howl »
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Re: New campaign world notes
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2021, 03:47:14 pm »
I have a hankering to drop a Western plot into this.  I mean, it will be suitably dressed up to be D&D, but still a Western plot.   Not sure at what point in the campaign this will take place.

So far, I've been considering plots like:

1.  The Unforgiven.
2.  Streets of Fire (that is too a Western, so shut up).
3.  A million ways to die in the old west.

I am open to suggestions on this one.

Also, I kinda want to do a "True Romance" style adventure concerning the emerald from the 2nd adventure, but ran as if it the movie was set in Venice, circa 1580 CE.
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Re: New campaign world notes
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2021, 04:52:37 pm »
I have a hankering to drop a Western plot into this.  I mean, it will be suitably dressed up to be D&D, but still a Western plot.   Not sure at what point in the campaign this will take place.

[...]

I am open to suggestions on this one.


Seven Samurai.  (Yes, it's a western.  You can pretend I said "The Magnificent Seven", if you prefer).

Your ancient vampires already raid villages periodically, so let's say one of the more remote villages gets advance warning, and desperately tries to recruit the party to defend them.

If this happens in winter, the villagers won't be able to "just run away" without starving/freezing/getting picked off one-by-one.
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