Saturday, December 1, 2007

10 Campaign Ideas #3

Someone requested that I update, so I've started digging up alot of different notes from these past several notes and making them presentable. By the way, I don't think I've mentioned this here before, but with brainstorming threads like this I almost always have more to an idea than what I write here; if you want me to elaborate on something, maybe give some more details or stat things out, ask.
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Jonah and the leviathan. The PCs are crew on an exploratory sea voyage, when they get eaten by a MASSIVE sea monster (Think in terms of miles/kilometers) and find that there is another world inside- an ecosystem of strange man-zized symbiotes and glowing fungi as well as civilization in the form of the descendants of other groups of survivors. Escape is supposed to be impossible; for most of the people in this civilization, the outside world is nothing more than a creation myth. And perhaps other, more sinister sentient beings exist in this realm- beings with long lifespans and large plans, plans involving seizing control over this massive creature and using it for their own ends...
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"I'll see you in hell"- there's more to the expression than you might think. Here's how the theory goes: there's a layer of hell reserved for those who, while bastards guilty of many a sin, still had some sort of morality that drove them to seek justice for individuals who tended to make them them look like angels by comparison. Well guess what? Whether you killed that son of a bitch or he killed you, you're *both* somewhere in this desert wasteland. And while there's plenty of suffering to be had here- heat stroke, hunger, all manner of horrible bodily harm- there's only one thing that can really take you down, and that's your nemesis. What happens after you die again is anyone's guess- maybe you go to somewhere that's *really* bad, or maybe those kooky bastards who think we're in some kinda purgatory are actually onto something.

Oh, there are demons; take the civilized ones who wear clothes, pass you by on the street and hang out at the bar. They're reliable folk- always in it for themselves and they don't make no bullshit about it, so if you think one's your friend then you deserve to get sold out. It's the feral ones who're the nasty pieces of work, rip your guts right out if you're not careful- stay outta the wastes and hope the town you're in can hold it's own if a pack or two pays a visit. But in the end, stranger, it's like they say- Hell is other people.

(Note that this may have a western feel, but it still works with both fantasy and modern-day settings).
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The players are U.S. Navy personnel serving belowdecks on an aircraft carrier during a WWII battle in the Pacific, when a series of explosions throws them into darkness. They manage to crawl out of the wreckage, band together and start working their way through the shattered decks to get out of the ship- but as they go, they start encountering strange bloodstains and the like, followed by freaky creatures (Try going for a combination of Silent Hill monsters and the cursed crew of the Flying Dutchman in Pirates of the Carribbean). Eventually they make it out onto the deck, only to confronted with a collection of horribly wrecked battleships and carriers. For now, no avenue of escape offers itself; they can try making their way to other ships, searching for one that's still operational or salvageable even if it means using a PT boat. No life rafts are in sight- it could be that they were all unconscious for some time, and that any other survivors already fled long ago. The game plays out similar to a post-apocalyptic survival scenario; the creatures are belowdecks on almost every ship, but only emerge during the night. For added tension, the players find themselves gripped with a deep and pervading sense that the water of the open sea is not safe to touch with your bare skin.

There are two possible explanations for what's really going on: That some supernatural force was either disturbed or brought into play during the battle, and wound up destroying both sides, or that the players are actually dead and in a sort of purgatory, where if they manage to survive and overcome some personal symbolic barrier they may continue to the afterlife, but if they sink down into the water they'll be trapped in the crushing black forever. If the latter is the case, perhaps the creatures will brutally savage the players but never actually kill them.
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14th century Earth: Medieval Europe is invaded by another world. As GM, you know the world is roughly the equivalent of a D&D setting except that it 1: Has no humans and 2: Has been taken over by Illithids in the service of Thoon, who are now directing their various subverted forces through gates that emerge deep within the wilderness. Humanity is forced to match ingenuity and relatively advanced technology (Gunpowder, crossbows, full plate armor) against forces of orc barbarians, elven archers, halfling sabotuers, half-tamed beasts and monsters, and much more. The attacking forces burn towns to the ground with fireballs and alchemist's fire, leaving nothing but ashes in their wake.

The PCs are all young men and women in noble families, whose lands are the first to be attacked. The game begins with them encountering signs of the incursions- large numbers of strange tracks in the woods while on a hunting party, or the ashes of a small village with a strange weapon or two to be found. After the suspense has been built up enough, they run into a medium-sized force (a hundred orcs led by an elvish mage, for example) and must flee for their lives. When they finally reach their estate, they find that few are willing to believe their fantastic story.

As the campaign moves on they lose their lands to the invading forces and are taken in by the king, who offers their families a chance to reclaim their titles and new lands if the players serve well as field agents. Adventures might include guarding fleeing bands of refugees, accompanying and advising a team of royal assassins on a mission to take out a particular warlord (since until now they've only dealt with humans), acquiring the spellbooks of more and more powerful mages so that humans can keep learning more magic, and so on. A further development could be figuring out how to free the grunts of the invading forces from the control of their illithid masters, gaining allies in the fight and thus a fighting chance.
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A colony ship is thrown off-course when its FTL malfunctions, but has enough power to get themselves to a system with potentially habitable planets- only to be faced with a fully-inhabited D&D-style world. Elves, dragons, medieval society, the works. The ship lands, and attempts to stay on good terms with the locals; more and more members are taken out of stasis to keep things running, while the captain wavers on whether to pursue their original mission or just stay in the city-state that's beginning to establish itself around the ship. Players work for the ship's leaders- they could be medieval adventurers, members of the ship's crew, or a mix.
A big question here is how to handle humans- do they exist here? If not, that makes the explorer's presence all the more novel, and it's the version I recommend. But if they do, that then begs the question: How long have said humans been here? If history says they showed up a few centuries/millenia ago, maybe they somehow came from earth; and if they've always been here and the tech level never changes like in most D&D settings, perhaps this is where Earth's humans came from. And if that's the case, maybe there's a deity that keeps the tech level from advancing like in the Forgotten Realms. Such a being wouldn't take kindly to these visitors...
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The PCs are invited to join a new sort of venture- a mass adventuring expedition, where a caravan of merchants, healers, etc. serves as a mobile base of operations for ten or so adventuring parties who go out and explore. The caravan normally journeys for about a week, then stops for a week in a promising area- more if the region is both secure and potentially lucrative. Everything is handled in a largely democratic fashion, though the expedition leader has the final say. The destination of the expedition is a big factor; you could, as expected, have it be an unexplored jungle region like the stuff of pulp adventure. The players would be up against angry natives and mysterious guardian constructs as they explore remote ruins of a lost civilization- or raid the intact temples of a still-thriving one. To shake things up more for a higher-level game, you could have the expedition be to more dangerous locales like the underdark (because raiding drow cities for fun is the best idea ever) or another plane (because the nine hells are a fine substitute when Menzoberannzan's booked). Don't forget that this allows for politics, intrigue, and even “murder on the orient express”-style mystery if some of the other adventurers are particularly backstab-inclined.
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The party goes adventuring in some unexplored realm- this could quite easily be combined with the previous idea, if only to give you more npcs to kill off- and begin to be stalked by some hidden menace. Mutated humanoids, perhaps, surprisingly stealthy and organized as well as being led by some huge monstrosity. The keys to the horror during this first segment are isolation and an enemy that's only barely glimpsed- in fact, I'd suggest you consider *never* revealing them in their entirety, except maybe to someone who has accepted that they're going to die and has no hope left.

Thing is, that's just the beginning. The PCs eventually escape- they get a lucky break, perhaps, and catch a ride on a friendly ship heading home. But the menace follows them. Creatures attack from the sea, slaughtering the valiant crew. The PCs barely survive and reach their home in civilization, but there is no escape. The menace keeps pursuing them, while also attacking society as a whole. See, you know how sometimes colonists would bring a species of animal along with them, and it would wind up dominating the ecosystem and causing the extinction of several native species? It's like that, but with humanity as the native species that's screwed because the Deep Ones followed you home. Great job there guys. No, no really- way to go.
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Don't go off the path. Specifically, the one path allowed to the outside world as a method of transportation through a mysterious realm occupied by a fearsome, powerful people (/dragons/giants/no one knows for sure). Said path could be a roadway, or perhaps a canal if we're going to match the pretty picture. It's an amazing journey that many a seasoned traveler will recommend you make at least once in your lifetime- the wonders you'll witness must be seen to be believed. Thing is, you must take care to never stray from the allowed region for any reason- the powers that dwell within this realm have mandated that nothing that enters can ever leave. So naturally, you'll have to figure out some way to have this happen to the PCs. A cool and heroic way to do it would be to have one of their number accidentally trespass territory (or be pushed), and have the rest of the PCs accompany them rather than abandoning them. You've got a group of travelers from a foreign realm trapped in a mysterious realm that can hold pretty much anything you want. The eventual objective could be escape (a cruel GM could, once again, combine this with the previous idea), but it certainly doesn't have to be; maybe the characters eventually come upon the civilization within this realm and are offered a chance to be incorporated within the society, the important thing not being that they've trespassed but that they not be allowed to share this ream's secrets with the outside world.
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To reverse the perspectives: Say that the players are natives in a relatively primitive culture, one that has a strong ties to the nature spirits- spirits that have protected and watched over their people for centuries. Meanwhile, colonists have landed- more than one group in different neighboring areas, each with their own differences- say one's a bunch of xenophobic conquest-happy jerks, while another is composed of pious refugees and the third is expeditious but friendly and cooperative. However, the nature spirits eventually declare that all three are a taint upon the land that must be purged.

It's a shades of grey scenario; on one hand, though some of them seem genuinely well-intentioned, colonists definitely have a tendency to spell bad news for natives. On the other hand, the nature spirits are really just trying to prevent the player's civilization from advancing and thus becoming more independent. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship with humankind, not a benevolent one. The players develop relations (friends and enemies alike) with people on both sides, and in the end the course of their people will be up to them to decide.
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Some of the fairly evil gods in a large pantheon are planning an epic backstab of a coup. One god catches on, but is caught and "killed" before he can spread the word and warn any others. But death for a god does not take as easily as it does for a mortal. In this case, the dying god was able to transfer fragments of his power and consciousness to his most devout worshipers. There's just one catch: This is, or was, a humble NG god of farming. A lower-tier deity whose most devout worshipers are those who work humbly in the fields all day long. So the players are all a bunch of level 5 commoners of various ages, with heroic ability scores but absolutely nothing in the way of an epic background beyond a parent who's a retired footsoldier or something. Each of them is a humble, pious individual; their deity helps those who helps themselves and others in equal measure through hard work. And now each of them feels a deep-seated compulsion- come to a certain shrine in a certain village, where only they will understand the ravings of a local priest who absorbed the brunt of the knowledge the god was trying to convey. The players, on the other hand, got the brunt of the power. This would likely be a Book of Exalted Deeds campaign, with players gaining extra abilities- bonus exalted feats, for example. Players must struggle to comprehend their new inner nature and unravel the mystery as they free from mysterious assailants (agents of the traitor gods sent to wipe out any potential traces of the god's power).

3 comments:

Guy Named Bob said...

I am definitely liking what I see, and would like to see more of your work.

Dagda said...

Well, then you've certainly come in at a good time. There should be several updates over the course of the next few days.

Snaglebagle said...

Found your ideas pages 1 - 3 on /tg/ 4chan. Fantastic ideas :) Planning to mix the dying god + creature escort together and see what comes out