Friday, August 19, 2011

Goal Oriented Excursions

Lately, I have been on my guys about goals. I keep telling them I want them to have goals and I gave them all that information and they should have goals and they ignored all my plot hooks, etc. I keep telling them, if they have more goals, I can give them more experience points for achieving those goals (I only mention this because Eric was complaining that I didn't give them enough experience for finding a shit ton of information, I'll be bringing that up later and explaining why they only got a major quest reward of experience and why it irritates me). Eric and Jeremy recently told me that their characters are totally off their game and that they've only been awake for five days and have no idea what is going on, so I need to chill.

My only response to that is as follows: I NEED INFORMATION!!1! Heh. I kid. I think the problem is that I am not being clear enough. I don't care about epic long term goals at this time. If they plan on hunting Nakmander in the south, or returning to Kusseth to clean up the streets, or want to go explore Fresgulen and resurrect the dead, good for them. None of that will be happening any time in the next five to eight scenarios, at least not anything other than planning stages and preparation. When I say I need goals from them, I mean I need to know what D'alton and Xein and Kethralzahn and Pyrel, etc, are doing tomorrow. I need the short term day to day. I need to know what they are going to do to secure their footing in Meroteth, are they going to do odd jobs, are they just going to hang out and look for trouble, are they going to leave and find a place to stay that isn't Nakmander's home town? I can't build a scenario based on "we just woke up" and I can't build a scenario for first or second level characters based on "we're going to kill shadow monsters and Nakmander and make The Bleak Tyrant return Kethranmeer to life!" 

Which is not to say that that would work. But who knows.

I'm going to talk about the quest for information now. The suggested reward amount for a story reward, which is for the completion of a major plot point (such as gaining information) is equal to the APL of the party. The APL of the party is 2. They are all 1st level characters and there are six of them, APL of one for being first level characters, plus one for there being more than four players in the party. The suggested story reward is therefore six hundred experience points. For completing the quest for information, they received twelve hundred experience points. I did so because there are six of them, and because I know levels are very important to Eric and how he perceives his character. I used my judgement and used the rules of the game as a guideline, which is what GMs do. Eric takes issue with the reward amount because in his Pathfinder game, the module rewards over four thousand experience for a similar information quest. 

The problem with this comparison is that the information in the Pathfinder module is useful and explains a lot about Harrowstone and the murdered felons and whatnot. It is extremely informative and probably has a kernel of information that we need to defeat the five felons when we encounter them as haunts or ghosts or whatever in the burned out bowels of the prison. The information in my campaign is a long collection of plot hooks interspersed with useless information, and stuff that if pursued and combined with later knowledge, might reveal a bit about what is going on with Nakmander. Basically, I made a quest to get them more quests and rewarded them double what I should have for it.  I stand by my decision and would really appreciate it if Eric doesn't complain any more about experience points, leveling, or anything else related to being low or high level. The power to level is in the hands of the group, more goals = more experience = faster leveling. That is the way I have said this campaign will go, and it will.

Now, onto plot hooks. I said I've been throwing out plot hooks left and right by the dozen and the guys have ignored/missed them. Eric said the other days that this is probably because I am not describing things clearly enough. A hook to me is just that, a kernel of an idea, something of note, possibly out of the ordinary or interesting to investigate or pursue that will lead to a quest, major or side. It is not a fully fledged scenario or quest with pass/fail criteria and a reward. It is one sentence, or a paragraph, of something I think is interesting that I hope the players will pay attention to and latch onto and pursue for future adventure and experience and cash rewards. 

Here is the information that they gathered:

Krieg Byr'ger
  • Nakmander is responsible for the disappearance of his father and the death of his mother, Morlen of the House of Byr. 
  • Kethralzahn thinks Krieg resembles Nakmander, Krieg said he'd never heard of such an accusation.  

Local Knowledge
  • Hell was renamed Meroteth.
  • All loyalists and officials of Kusseth were killed when Nakmander came to power. 
  • A three mile radius around the artifact has been blockaded for the protection of the citizens of Meroteth. Everyone stays out, except for fools.
  • Three bardic colleges have been built in the city. 
  • Nakmander ignored attempts by The Fell Peaks to reintegrate Meroteth into that country.
  • Food is strictly rationed in the city. 
  • Nakmander purged the city, kicking out citizens of Kusseth and Vyanth that did not practice sorcery, and he destroyed all Fallen he could get his hands on. He used Fell Human shamans that joined his regime to remove some citizenry identification tattoos. 
  • Youth gangs are getting rowdy and destructive, rather than productive like they are in Kusseth.
  • Two months ago, Nakmander flew directly south with a fleet of zeppelins full of soldiers and sorcererers and such.
  • Supposedly, Nakmander captured a few Whurentian dragons and brought them back to Meroteth. 

World Knowledge
  • Shadow monsters have been sighted in The Beast Lands long before Nakmander even left to search for the artifact. 
  • Meroteth's borders only extend as far as the bolts of sorcerous energy from the artifact can reach.
  • Camp Osfell, once a Kussethian military outpost, has been taken and retaken by Kusseth and Vyanthnem over a dozen times in the past ten years, and is basically a burned out ruin with troops in it.
  • Before Nakmander brought back the artifact, Meroteth only survived Kusseth's retaliation attack by massive outpourings of sorcery from the populace of the city.
  • Kusseth has made an agreement of sorts with Serethnem and been allowed to rebuild sections of their steam engine tracks through the desert.
  • After Cenn's death ten years ago, the reavers have split into multiple bands with conflicting ideologies. 
  • Tribes of Uncout and Greenskin Abraxens from The Beast Lands and The Wild Lands have begun trying to expand north into The Fell Peaks and Vyanthnem.
  • The Fallen Empire discovered a massive deposit of wolf-iron in the north of their country, which has led to increased attacks from Volungshemle, and to better armed Soulless and undead.
  • The Rankethlek rebelled and founded Steeltown and have been able to hold of The Fallen Empire's attempts to retake their city.
  • Whurent has become aggressive of late and has attempted to expands its borders using huge, steam belching, war machines.
  • Nine years ago, some manner of catastrophe devastated the Necropolis, the capital of The Fallen Empire of Man, and some force cut a swathe of destruction through the city, finally blowing a hole in the southwest wall of the city. 
  • In the past five years, fewer and fewer Children of Volung have been working as mercenaries.
  • A sorcerer and his cabal of cultists have been making attacks on The New Empire.

Arcane Knowledge
  • The new bardic colleges of Meroteth have incorporated sorcery into their curriculum, something never before done. 
  • When Nakmander first returned with the artifact, it shot long, sustained bolts of white lightning, now it shoots short bolts that only seem to scare off shadow monsters, rather than destroy them.
  • Shadow creatures came to Meroteth along with the artifact and they seem to be attracted to it.
  • Sorcerers in The Known World have noticed that it is easier to control sorcery in the past few years, it still rebels and causes catastrophe, but less often.
  • Divinations have become more costly in the past ten years, and many soothsayers have died or disappeared in the past few years. 
  • The bardic colleges of Meroteth have incorporated sorcery into their curriculum.

  • Told of Daun'mok, the Fell Human witch doctor that helped bring Nakmander back to full strength after his wounds. Showed up before Nakmander returned from Kusseth though, as if he knew.
  • Before Kalarel was booted from Nakmander's cabinet, they were researching ways to stabilize sorcerous items, and also were attempting to create some manner of flesh-based Soulless to supplement Meroteth's small armies. 
  • Told of how Nakmander had a vision of some kind, and immediately set to murdering soothsayers and diviners in the city. 
  • Informed Xein that, yes, sorcery can be used to control people's minds, and that was primarily the focus of the entire sect of sorcery dedicated to enchantments and charms. 
  • Told them that Kethralzahn was a Rankethlek, not a Soulless, and Soulless can easily be healed or ressurected by necromancy, assuming their is some remnant of their heart reliquary left. He has no idea what Rankethlek are or what animates them or how to bring back the dead, though there are mighty spells of sorcery that can restring the strands of fate and alter reality itself and such a spell could likely do anything the caster desires, even bring back a machine man. 

Other Random Stuff That Came Up
  • The soldiers and sorcerers of Meroteth that patrol the center of the city use silver rods of glowing radiance to direct the bolts of power from the artifact at the shadow monsters.
  • Shadow monsters are huge and semi-insubstantial and they bring a primal fear and deathly chill with them. Despite all this, they are not necromancy fueled undead creatures.
  • Kalarel Nerk'mef supposedly used to be a sorcerer of some skill privy to the secrets of Nakmander's regime, he may know things about the artifact. He frequents the Cantering Carthorse and is a victim of booze and gambling.
  •  Nakmander has a scar on his forehead now.

On that list, there are twenty or so bullets that I would consider to be plot hooks. I told Jeremy this, so I'll say it here. Camp Osfell in the World Knowledge section, all I say about it is that it has been taken and retaken and taken back by Kusseth and Vyanthnem over a dozen times in the past ten years. What does that mean? It means chaos. There is fighting and desperation and opportunity there. Soldiers are going to be worn out and the fortifications are going to be run down. It means the soldiers of Kusseth need help defending, and the soldiers of Vyanthnem need help assaulting. Or vice versa, who knows who holds the place at this moment. It is an opportunity is what it is. The goal is that the players will read that, understand that there is chaos and anonymity at Camp Osfell, and perhaps they might be able to aid one side or the other against the other side. It is a little itty bitty hook designed to nudge them there if they are looking for work. 

Looking at another place on the list, we see that Nakmander went to Whurent and brought back dragons. This immediately raises sixty or so questions in my mind worthy of investigation. Why did he need dragons? How did he get them? Does this mean he and the Dwenoren are allies? Did he steal the dragons from the Dwenoren? Where are the dragons? What did he do with them? Did he take them south with his airships, or are they in the catacombs beneath Meroteth? Were they young dragons to be trained and bred, or old ones to be used for some unknown purpose? Ok, not sixty, but it is definitely something I am curious about and would be if I were a player.

I dunno, those are some thoughts I guess.

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