Monday, September 30, 2013

Autopsy of a recent campaign

My last campaign turned into a megadungeon.
This autopsy is inspired by a recent discovery of a memory stick under the couch, filled with various versions, which I used to use for display purposes.
The map is a bit of a compromise, as it shows many levels and number of 
alterations, a product of spellcraft.  The odd green marks the unexplored.
It wasn't really meant to be a megadungeon, but just kind of drifted that way.  What was meant as a weak starter dungeon turned into a much longer adventure.  The party seemed less interested in various story stubs and quests offered to them, then "finishing" what they'd started.  Most likely in part a result of not needing to go looking for new adventures, my fault, and part a result of the limitations of an after work game, where everyone wanted as much action as possible.

The original scenario had them coming together has treasure hunters, a party of the moment put together in order to plunder an ancient treasury.  I was currently experimenting with a magic system which required wizards to kill other wizards to advance levels, compensating them with a bit more power at low levels.  The idea was to change the normal power arc which wizards enjoy in most campaigns,. where they're often close to worthless at low levels and then come to dominate combats.   Yeah, everyone who I explain this to goes "uh oh like Highlander then?"  which is a close enough explanation to go with.

Purple denotes underearth entrances and arch ways.  So that
set of purple dots is the jakes, but the lines on the bridge 
are arches. Green crosses are tree trunks. A black pixel is
usually a pillar, heavy rains make stoa popular.  
First was a half-elven mage, Nadia, her mixed blood a product of the revels at the local Lake Goddess temple.   A witch of the Norse path who required blood for her spells and could eat only raw flesh. She was currently apprenticed to an elderly wizard at court and feared that his death would be quickly followed her own as without his protection someone would be sure to challenge her to improve their own power. The royal court is a bloody place, filled with temperamental nobles and hotblooded fighters.   Now just off her wizard's tower, a decaying half ruined structure of great age at the center of the palace, was the old abandoned hall of the Mad King.   The Mad King being the centerpiece of an ancient legend of kin slaying and betrayal, which nearly exterminated the dynasty. The old hall was filled with enough ghosts that even the the holiest of clerics had given up trying to cleanse it and had long been replaced by a hall which was much more resplendent.   It was rumored that the king's treasury lay somewhere beneath it, if only one could find a way beyond the ghosts.

 Her friend and protector was a journeyman Smith, Tercius, who in this world is a wizard in his own right.  A class which has no need of mage blood to increase in power, but who had as a goal enough money to make his own way in the world.  His power was centered around fire, iron, and making.   His limitations were a pathological fear of water and the need for his hammer to spell cast.   His help in the plot would be needed to smuggle the other adventurers into the palace, despite his lawful good nature.

The ghosts of the Mad King's Court made the third member of the group a necessity.  Durzan, a young Celtic warrior, recently in from the Big Green.  His barbaric tattoos and ill manners won him few to no friends in the great city of the iron men. The Big Smoke is not always a friendly place to the wild men of the forest, who remind the lords that their peasants and servants were once free men. His value is priceless, as this swordsman has a charm which wards off ghosts, the shrunken head of his gr'gr'gr' grandfather, which he wears on a thing about his neck.   He claims the head speaks to him, telling him stories of the distant past, when the bronze-wielding Celts ruled the land and the Lady of the Lake was unfettered.

The fourth member of the party was an oft-drunken dwarven heretic, who has fled the Mountain Kingdom one step ahead of the Order, the religious police who enforce the orthodoxy. He lived a squalid, chaotic life in the slum known as Dwarftown, fearing to leave the sanctuary provided by the Red-Fisted Earl.  Handbills promising a reward for his arrest hung in the Dwarf Embassy and he did not have the money to bribe the king's emissaries.  His healing powers and knowledge of the underground will prove of value in the cellars of the old palace.

The last member was the fixer, the schemer who put together party.  An acid-footed mage of the Saahtakan or Babylonian path, he sought naked power to protect himself from his own master, an ill-tempered magician who refuses to explain just what happened to the last half dozen boys who were his apprentices.

Greed united them all.
Everybody got a page of back ground &
 some  little maps of their neighborhood.

This looks like a lot of work, but I have the city mapped already, so it  is just a matter of getting back stories down on paper. A fair amount of the NPCs & rumors are cut and paste.  As I've mentioned before, this city is something I did over a long period of time in small bits.  I know some people store up adventure modules, but I have a file cabinet full of those sorts of notes, and didn't use many of them.  Too much last minute tinkering is always required for such things. You know how it is, you do most of the plotting for an adventure while drawing the map. "Oh this is where the troll goes."  "Here is where a gnome sell potions."

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