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Tag: campaigns

The Inquisitor's Library

Dark Heresy. You are the retinue of Inquisitor Lord Zane Castis, the oldest Inquisitor in the Calixis Sector. His purview is heretical documents, which — for centuries — he has collected from the hands of those who would misuse them. Generally not peacefully.

All such documents are stored in the vast ship Tabularium Bibluvio, which also serves as Inquisitor Lord Castis’ headquarters. It is a sphere, dwarfing lesser ships. The heretical archive is contained in the featureless top half of the sphere; below that, the sphere is hollow for half of the bottom hemisphere, with four mighty black pylons connecting the archive to the living quarters which make up the bottom quarter of the sphere. Shuttles and other such less important spacecraft dock on the top of the living quarters.

Over the centuries, the weight of such a convocation of Chaos and lies has literally warped the space around it. It is deeply unsafe to venture into the archive; at present, Inquisitor Lord Castis affords no other person that right. He himself communes with the texts therein on a regular basis, in order “to keep them under control.” From time to time, horrendous monsters rage down the pylons to assault the remainder of the ship. One of your duties is defense against these unfortunate but inevitable results of the ship’s mission.

Your second duty is to assist your Inquisitor in confiscating more documents. The flow is never ending. Vigilance is paramount. This duty takes you to the foulest slums of the Sector, and also to the most lovely nests of corruption. Chaos knows well how to wear a harmless face. Inquisitor Lord Castis is known for his lack of mercy towards nobility who hope to conceal their heretical studies from him.

Your third and final duty, as given to you a few months ago when you were sent to serve Inquisitor Lord Castis, is to watch him. Eventually, he will bend and break under the strain of the archive. You cannot, of course, hope to defeat an Imperial Inquisitor: the Calixis Conclave merely hopes that, in the event of a catastrophe, you will be able to get out word before your death.

Best of luck.

Trader's League

The Trader’s League does not exist. There is not a tight network of mutually interdependent mercantile interests in the South which keeps its existence secret in order to further gather advantages to itself. It does not set the prevailing market rates for commodities and luxuries alike. It does not sanction independent merchants who act against its best interests. It does not represent the single largest economic force in the known world. It does not arrange for bi-annual trade fairs to spring up, seemingly out of nowhere, in cities it wishes to favor. It has never affected a succession debate. It does not kill.

It is not the most significant concern of the Baneguard. And vice versa.

Broken Maiden

There are enough theories about the Broken Maiden to busy a university of scholars for semesters on end, so we will begin with what is known.

Once, the Maiden dwelt in the heavens. At times, during the month, she looked down upon the world with one eye. Other times, all you could see was her white smile curving through the sky. She blessed magicians with her wisdom, and was known to be the patron goddess of jesters.

And then she fell, not more than forty miles from Vain’s Rest. Among the things that are not known is the cause of her fall; we will return to this. The effects of her fall are clearer. There is a crater some miles across, and in the center, her marble body lies, surrounded by earth turned to glass. Her clothing has not decayed since she fell. Nor has her flesh.

The Broken Maiden is the most powerful source of magic known to man. By the term Broken Maiden we mean both the body and the crater that surrounds it. Some theorists would have it that she fell to save us: some mad genius created a magical source so powerful that the Maiden elected to give her own life in order to stifle it to the point where humanity could remain intact. Some theorists, who believe that she fell for some other reason, simply attribute the magical energies that surround the Broken Maiden to the Maiden’s own nature.

Those energies are dangerous. Animals enter the crater from time to time, and are inevitably transmuted. Coming close to the crater is not immediately deadly, but it is a surefire method of changing one’s life. No human lives less than twenty miles from the Broken Maiden. There are edifices much closer, both above and below ground, and many find it worth the trouble to visit them, but few spend more than a week at a time in such pursuits.

Not all of those structures, by the by, were known before the Maiden fell. Some of them seem to have grown from the sands of the desert without the need for human hands.

Vain’s Rest is conveniently located just far enough from the Broken Maiden to be reasonably safe for its inhabitants.

China, Back Then

[Game background; not to be taken as literal history.]

It’s 69 AD. The Han Dynasty rules China in the form of the hard-working but sometimes cruel Emperor Ming. He has been emperor for over ten years, and previous to his ascension, he was intimately involved in matters of state. Perhaps this is why he was so diligent and capable.

But there are shadows over his reign. It is well known that Prince Jing plotted to rebel, some years ago, going so far as to employ sorcerers to curse Emperor Ming. The Emperor resolved the issue by forcing Jing to commit suicide, and slew literally ten thousand others who were implicated in the conspiracy. It is whispered that Emperor Ming’s eunuch advisers were responsible for counseling the Emperor to this extreme act, but perhaps it was necessary in order to maintain the Celestial order and the Mandate of Heaven.

Some time after that unfortunate incident, the Emperor’s chief general was sent to hunt down the dangerous rebel known as the Jade Dagger. Much to the surprise of all, Ban Chao never returned from the hunt, and was has in fact been seen many times since cooperating with the Dagger Bandits, as the Jade Dagger’s men are known. Where there was once an annoying but ultimately ineffectual band of rebels, there is now a skilled, well-led fighting force fomenting tumult at the edges of the Empire.

And, finally, China is plagued by demons. While the Emperor’s men have always been successful in defeating demonic incursions, province by province — the eunuchs are rumored to be instrumental in these successes — it yet seems that no man is capable of pushing the demons back for good. For no matter how often they are defeated in any one place, a new infestation arrives in another province soon thereafter.

The Emperor continues to battle these shadows. He has the assets already mentioned; his current general, Guo Xun, is only slightly less formidable than Ban Chao. His twin bodyguards, Lin Bao and Lin Bo, are never-speaking pillars defending him from all harm. He is far from helpless, but he is also far from victory.

Orlando Trash Wrapup

According to the wiki, I put up the prospectus for Orlando Trash on June 6th, 2006.

“Mickey Rourke is in this movie. Val Kilmer is in this movie. It’s directed by Michael Mann, or maybe Tony Scott. But it’s not The Hunger. Luis Guzman has a role as a shiftless drifter who erupts into surprising bursts of violence.”

Hm. I never did get Luis Guzman into the movie, but in retrospect that was just as well. Danny Trejo made it in.

This is the first campaign I’ve ever run to completion. I planned for it to last about one long story-arc; this was really liberating in that I didn’t worry about handing out experience too quickly, and I didn’t worry about whether or not the world would be playable long term. I just went full speed ahead with whatever caught my eye, following the leads of the PCs, and it worked like a charm.

Things I concentrated on:

Cool NPCs. I do good NPCs, so I wanted to let that shine. (Also I’m modest.) I like to think I have a strong range of voices, and since every NPC was played by a well-known actor, it was even easier to make the characters memorable. I had to pull off imitations of Val Kilmer, Meryl Streep, and Nathan Lane — sometimes in the same scene — but I was pretty sure I could do that.

Big blatant plots. It turns out that it’s almost never a lose to telegraph stuff from a mile away, and it’s always easy to turn around and surprise players when you need to. Also, I have a tendency to automatically do mystery plots, and I wanted this to be an action flick rather than a detective thriller. So while I wrote in a certain amount of mystery, I never wanted it to be too mysterious — answers weren’t ever that far away. It is not my fault that the players occasionally decided to kill the source of the answers.

Balance between shooting things and talking. Given our approximately 3-4 hour session time, a good fight wound up taking up most of the session, as I discovered a few sessions in. That meant, to me, that the right thing to do was to throw in a chance for a good fight scene every two or three sessions. I think that worked well. I could have stepped up the fight scenes if the group had seemed to want more of them.

Player-driven. I let ’em do what they wanted, and it all worked out okay. I was ready for just about any turn of events, although I would have been sad if the group had split up. But I was ready for their allegiances to go wherever, I had spurs to push them back towards the action as needed — I was a leaf in the river of their plot interests. Boo yah.

Things I want to do better next time:

Foreshadowing. Example: in the last session, I pulled out Jack Trash’s body, and that was cool, and I showed them a letter clarifying a couple of issues. Also cool. But it would have been better if I’d pulled out Trash’s corpse in the previous session.

This goes with planning; I didn’t really have an overarching plan. I had a few key NPCs with strong motivations, and I let the world react to what the PCs do. Good for me for empowering the PCs and avoiding railroading, but it meant there wasn’t as much build as I woulda liked. I think the way to fix this is to have some cool multi-session things in mind, and remembering to drop the setup scene in there.

I’d also like to take more advantage of player backgrounds. I didn’t pay enough attention to that, particularly in Teo’s case.

But all in all? Quite happy.

Scion Settings

I’ve been kicking around a lucha libre Scion game in my mind, along with a couple of other ideas (Southern Gothic comes to mind), but I think the winner is 17th century pirates who happen to be children of gods.

We’d wanna finish up our Catholic saint pantheon, for obvious reasons. Voodoo fits well, Aztecs fit just fine. Greek gods? Sure. Norse gods? Very well, given the Norse tradition of rampaging around on boats. Egyptian and Japanese are a little tougher, but I have ideas.

And it’s not at all difficult to make Caribbean piracy mythic and grand.