Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Reins of Darkness

Yes, that is what we ended up calling the campaign. Everyone takes 1d8 pun damage.

To elaborate a little more on the crazy amalgam d20-system game described in the last post. Here are some notes from the initial "bring your books and brainstorm" session.


  • A “Dark Lord” rules everything.
  • The Dark Lord killed the other gods and all that remains of them are Vestiges (see Tome of Magic).
  • The Dark Lord froze the moon in lockstep with the sun. The world is in a permanent state of solar eclipse.
    • Actually, its probably just one continent in that state.
    • Also there are no tides, so sea-travel will be a bit awkward.
    • We should discuss later (or explore in the game) how anyone grows food here.
  • The souls of the dead gods were shattered and reincarnated in mortal form, granting mortals the ability to cast spells or access the memories of the dead gods.
  • Language has power. Literacy is outlawed. Those that can read can alter the world around them.
  • Characters are illiterate by default (unless their class is specifically language-oriented.
  • The Giants (Hu-Charad) have recently landed and established enclaves on the shores of the Dark Lords lands. They are nigh-undefeatable within their enclaves, but lose most of their powers outside of them. They are attempting to “civilize” the dark lands, using the native humans and ponies (and whatever) as soldiers and proxies…
  • The giant Enclaves have been established on the ruins of ancient cities in the Dark Lands.
  • The proxies of the giants are sent to reclaim the ruins of the cities and regions block by block, smashing the Black Mirrors that represent the Dark Lord’s power in the world.
  • Any reflective surface might be or become a Black Mirror, so the common folk do not keep any reflective surfaces. Armor is lacquerred in dark colors, water is deliberately fouled, glass is never used, bowls and plates are always wood. Everypony has horrible coiffures…
  • Shadow Casters all carry mirrors, siphoning power from the Dark Lord. They tend to be feared and hated by both sides of the conflict…
  • Humans, Halflings, and Ponies are slaves of the Dark Lord. Fey creatures (Elves, Gnomes, Faen) have gone into hiding, but have come out under the protection of the Giants. Litorians and Sibeccai are servitors of the giants brought with them across the sea. Orcs, Dwarves, and Mojh (and pretty much anything else with darkvision) enforce the will of the Dark Lord.
  • The giants are all insane. They get Chi-Julud (Arcana Unearthed, short answer: lose wisdom and charisma, gain strength and constitution) as a bonus feat and must use it any time they are outside of an enclave. They generally do not leave home...hence the need for PCs. PC giants are exceptions to the insularness, but still have to find a way to deal with being absofrigganlutelynuts whenever they steop outside their walls.
Not a lot that is original there, but a lot to work with. And having a lot to work with is a big plus because of the other rule we established for this game--sharing GM responsibilities.

I've had too many games dissolve and not be reincarnated because the GM had to leave for a few week for some reason (busy work schedule, sabbatical, birth of a child, injury, whatever). To avoid that, and since we had so many veteran players involved, we decided that we would rotate GMs and own the world collaboratively--no one should have to commit to running more than two or three sessions consecutively. Likewise, with so many players, as long as 5 people show up on a given day (1 to GM and 4 to play), we roll...no waiting for stragglers.

Since a few of the players, while veterans of the game, had never GMd before, we also established fairly simple guidelines for designing a session (keep it modular stupid):


  1. PCs head out to expand the territory encompassed by the Giant Enclaves. Each region (which may be as large as a county to as small as a city block) they attempt to expand into should be thematically keyed to one of the Vestiges (Tome of Magic) and will usually include one or more settlements enslaved to the Dark Lord.
  2. PCs are looking for 2 things:
    1. The Black Mirror that anchors the Dark Lord’s power for the given region.
    2. The remains (Vestiges) of the Spirit or Deity who once presided over that region. Which may take the form of a shrine, relic, monster, human incarnation, or whatever.
  3. PCs use whatever means necessary (stealth, diplomacy, magic, force of arms) to find the Black Mirror. When found, they must destroy it (means of destruction may very).
  4. As soon as they find it/attempt to destroy it, the Dark Lord becomes aware of their presence and all hell breaks loose (i.e. PCs must destroy it while fending over overwhelming and CR inappropriate numbers of monsters and evil henchman).
  5. As soon as the mirror is destroyed the land changes hands and a whole Legion of Giants teleport in and clean up the remaining beasties (so the PCs should focus on staying alive and destroying the mirror, not attempt a nearly-impossible killing spree).
  6. Once the monsters are dead, the giants immediately go into builder mode and the city literally “comes to the PCs” (so they have immediate access to training facilities, shops to re-equip, infirmaries, etc.)
  7. Destroying the mirror increases the amount of magic available in the world (i.e. destroying a mirror is the thing that lets you level up to the next level).
    • We do not track XP. Leveling is strictly goal-oriented. Achieve the goal and all PCs level up. If you can do that while avoiding every encounter--you win.
  8. If the Vestige is found and restored (means may vary), then the PCs gain access to a Heroic Path (see Midnight Campaign Setting) (GMs choice but should be at least somewhat appropriate to the Vestige). They may take that path (if they don’t have one already), or change to the new path if they had already acquired one.
  9. And most importantly, Fuck balance. Don't waste time on numbers. Make it exciting.