Friday, March 27, 2009

Fantasy Campaign Summaries

A little bit of a recycling day again today-- stealing from the Libri Vidicos wiki. A while back I started to write summaries of all the major campaigns set in my fantasy game world. I got a little ways through them. I thought I'd post what I have, in hopes of pushing myself forward on the next couple of batches-- so here's part one of two that I have. Some of you have probably already seen these.

Anonymous First Continent Campaign (1986?)
Rob, Paul, Eric and others
Maybe a dozen sessions

Most of this campaign took place in Gallerain and Cainsar, two opposing halves of an island nation on the first continent. The group handled standard questing in the southern part of the land, until Paul managed to get himself arrested by the northern army. His escape ended up being a huge riot that sparked an invasion of the south by the north. The group continued on and decided to head to the mainland, crossing the great bridge. In the course of this, Rob's character managed to summon the Mana Blade (an item they'd been sent to find) and accidentally caused serious damage to the bridge. The group were eventually recruited by the power of Death to fight against Murkavan, whose penchant for stealing souls had become a problem. I can't remember exactly why that campaign ended.

Gameplay/Memorable Moments: Most mentioned above. The scene on the bridge stays with me pretty well and had strong echoes later on. Rolemaster hadn't yet exploded beyond the first Companion book, IIRC.

Introduced: The First Continent, used the Lythic Gods, first appearance of one of the twelve swords of power, first use of the Powers, the Greyholders and their magical civilization and constructs, introduction of Murkavan and Damizier (who in turn had been taken from an earlier campaign), first and last use of hobbits as a serious race, introduction of the Vagyr and Aslani.

Great Forgetting Mini-Campaign (1987?)
Amy, Eric, Paul, Paul H., Karen, and Rob
Gurps modified
Maybe four sessions?

The group awoke in a glade with no memory of where or who they were. After fighting off armored monkeys armed with mana staves they made their way to civilization. They slowly began to discover their abilities from half-remembered talents and the equipment they possessed. Eventually they discovered that they were a group serving the Prince Llewellyn d'Aragon. They had been imprisoned by a sorceress named Sensailia Itatain in her extra-dimensional prison. Their capture had been at the command of the Thonak a dark figure who apparently the Prince had been gathering forces to fight.

Memorable Moments: For a short game and an experiment, I enjoyed this quite a bit. Rob had a brilliant moment in a duel that will live with me forever. Some of the background threads here would get played out later on. There's a tragic backstory with the shapechanger character who has been the Prince's boon companion and loves him, but never tells him. D'Aragon's own story-- his love of the Aoniaen mage-- would get played out tragically in a later campaign. That's probably one of my all-time favorite behind the scenes sub-plots.

Gameplay: Players weren't provided any background or character sheets. They had to figure things out as they went. I wanted to try a game that kept the players in the dark. To that end, I had only the most basic notes for myself. I spent an afternoon drawing a two-part map of the continent and writing in names. I didn't expect to do anything much with this-- that it would be a throw-away, but I needed to be able to have a basis to improvise from. The game went well but conflicting schedules ended up shooting it down.

Introduced: Introduced the geography and nations of the Second Continent (although I had put this together with the first game yet), introduced the basic idea of the Thonak as a Sauron-like figure though different in that he seemed more accessible, first appearance of the Shapechangers, the cultures of several nations came to be basically defined-- Atlantae and the archers, Miremal's old school nobility, the violent northmen of Altland, and the strange magical people of Aoniae.

The Thonak Campaign (1987-1989)
Eric, Rob, Paul, Amy, Art, Doug, Carl, Kenny, Barry, Cat*, James*, Charles* Dusty*, Scott H*, Jason* (*--brief appearances).
Two years, with bonus sessions, and weekly games

Simlain Glantri joins an archeological expedition that unearths a site related to Robert of Erewan's project, The World Machine, and The Three. They're ambushed by Thonakian agents and Simlain manages to collapse the tunnel to close the site. He heads to Aoniae to learn more, and is hired to go with a larger group, including Kari Lionspaw to explore a site on the lost islands. They find the original location of the Council of Lux and much of the history of magic. The group decides to remain together and heads back to the continent. There they become entangled in battling various Chaos Cultists and their conspiracies in Gilden Hur and Miremal. They travel to Ylaruam to follow leads, only to end up battling in a Nithian Fortress. Unfortunately they forget afterwards all they learned there, including who summoned the Thonak.

Back in Miremal they follow the threads of the Chaos leading them to Rykel. Tragedy strikes when dopplegangers the group summoned accidentally some weeks before catch up and slaughter their allies and friends. In Rykel the shapechanger of the group goes looking for trouble and finds it, resulting in her demise at the hands of the Thonak, and forcing the group to flee through a questionable route. That route puts them in the deeps of Gundabad where they meet Alvacan and Kamien, two half-drow, and some of d'Aragon's allies who have been scouting the area and trying to learn the Thonak's weaknesses. They escape via magical means to Aoniae where they barely manage to flee the local authorities who take d'Aragon's lover from them in exchange for their safe passage.

The group continues their work in earnest, trying to gather the means and resources to battle against the Thonak. Even the Assassin's Guild becomes their ally in this rising battle. After several adventures and misadventures, including blowing up an archmage by accident, the group finds themselves split over direction. They start to battle one another until a companion they'd picked up some time ago reveals himself-- he'd come back from a future where the Thonak had won. Pushed by the the group eventually joins fully with d'Aragon. The high Priests of the ten Lythic Gods will channel all of their power to strike the Cabatura, splitting the Thonak and sundering him into three aspects. A group will need to be at each of the Thonak's other fortresses to strike down those aspects. D'Aragon leads his company to the Red Citadel, the ten Paladin's go into Skavenblight, and Glantri's company fight in the Black Tower. All are successful, but at a price. Glantri and another die, and can only be brought back at dear cost. The Thonak is destroyed and the forces of Miremal and Atlantae march to finish off his scattered allies.

Memorable Moments: Like the other later long campaigns, too many. Simlain developing layered spells to make a gun with a bullet that expanded, Paul's cooking, Paul's mucking with everything, Paul's less than heroic death, fighting the Vampire Sheriff, Barry laughing as Rob died, Carl's freak out after seeing Art's character heroically die fighting a beholder, “There's a demon in your sewers, man”, Rob's Lionspaw shoes, the creation of the giant wheelbarrow, Barry throwing randomly throwing the seeking missile and having it fly across the continent, going through the Nithian fortress and then forgetting they did it and wondering where they got all the stuff, the tragic death of Renate, “So...what do you do?”--“Do, I don't do anything”, Barry unable to stop laughing as Rob's character almost died in a trap, Kenny summoning the Dancing Goddess to nearly destroy a town, Carl's mute character smarting off to people, killing the doppleganger, and the big climax all-night session that brought the Thonak's destruction at a price.

Gameplay: First really sustained use of the Gurps rules. We were working from pretty much just the basic rules and Gurps Magic. We did get passive defense as a concept horribly wrong. I'd done a lot of pre-work for the game, sketching out the various cultures. At this point I still envisioned several different competing pantheons, but those got written out or downplayed over time. I borrowed source materials from the Known World series for both Ylaruam and Aoniae which worked pretty well. I also built Gilden-Hur and Miremal heavily around the high gothic medieval material from Warhammer Fantasy. That material helped me shape the threat of the Thonak and the idea of Chaos as contagion. In particular I used the Shadows over Bogenhafen, Death on the Reik, and Power Behind the Throne modules pretty much as they were. The first two went really well, but the got cut short by player intervention. The low-power level of Gurps really lent itself to the sustained threat of death or injury. The original game was just a little thing I did with Eric and Charles, and then I decided to expand it. We had several players come in for very short times, but we still ended up with a really full table.

Introduced: The history of the Thonak, Chaos, Aoniae's strange society, the Council of Lux and origin of mages, the Eternal Three, the World Machine and Robert of Erewan, Amalacht and Miremal's long history, the Save Knoran College, richer sense of the Lythic Church, the Chossum Elves, the Nithians, the Makistani, the Twelve Swords of Power, Half-Elf Paths, various new races, Crantyle's structured wars, the Drow and their weird history, the Gnollish pranksters, certain xenophobias, the Skaven.

The Cairo Campaign (1989-1990)
Ellen Green, Chuck Jones, Patrick Nashawaty, and three others whose names I have to look up.
About five months

Magitori, a centaur druidess; Ike Visigoth, an Atlantaen Archer; Rex, a lizard man; Roach, a thief; Nudor, an Elven mage and a couple of others are hired to explore ancient ruins. Their first tasks are handled easily, but then the come up against an site in Kislev that nearly kills them. At the same time, forces are clearly working behind the scenes-- resulting in the group unwittingly supporting a Chaos Cult's efforts to destabilize Kislev. The group returns to Miremal with some of the treasures from their last expedition, only to discover that they've managed to released an ancient bound artifact blade known as the Unmaker. For the moment it remains sealed. The some of the group wants to hand the blade over for safe-keeping, while others wish to secretly bargain with rebel mages of the House of Edige in exchange for power. All of that is for naught, as the blade ends up being stolen by another faction of the mages. Lord d'Aragon, recognizing the danger the blade poses, sends the group to follow the thieves.

Fighting through Atlantaen armed forces, the first evidence of the Undead forces of Murkavan, and more Chaos duplicity, the group arrives in Bozisha-Dar. They locate the Edige household and make ready to invade and retrieve the item. However the clumsy execution of their plan results in one of the young sorceresses breaking the seals and becoming possessed by the Unmaker. The city is drained of magic and the Unmaker escapes. The group returns to Miremal with some prisoners who reveal that Baron Hurok may be behind the plot; the Baron is loyal to the throne but believes Miremal would have a dramatic advantage if all magic were done away with. Hurok's popularity prevents the King from acting directly against him. The group works to hunt down more evidence and eventually brings a formal accusation in the court. Surprisingly one of Hurok's greatest rivals ends up supporting him and clearing him of the charges. The King's reputation is significantly hurt and the group tries to figure out how to bring him to justice.

They travel to the keep of Hurok's rival and uncover that he has been replaced. Hurok has enlisted the aid of anti-magical demons whom he has used to control key agents. The group continues to pursue Hurok through the land, battling against his allies. Following up a lead in Crantyle, they uncover Hurok's plan-- to activate a set of Old Makistani devices designed to destroy all mana and magical based beings in the world. The devices had apparently been built as a defense against the Unmaker. They confront Hurok at the final device and manage to defeat him and his guard. This success must be kept a secret to prevent others from attemtping to use the Makistani Devices. As a result a faction of the Miremallian nobility assume that the King has simply assassinated Hurok who led the call for greater rights for the nobles. In later times this would lead to revolution in that nation.

Memorable Moments: The group either hadn't played before or had only played classic DnD so early on there was a lot of backstabbing and double cross going on, but there were some great moments. The lizard man's pet wolf he obtained later to ride around on, the group realizing for the first time that no everything is put in front of them to be fought, the tragic choice King d'Aragon had to make, the group managing to uncover a Hurokian doppleganger on the basis of Hurok's lack of taste, Roach constructing elaborate plans and rumors regarding himself, Roach making fake magic items to scare people off, the group trouncing an Atlantaen general, the series of errors that led to the Unmaker's release, the werewolf biting Hurok's head off, Magitori's weird mix of sleepiness and utter determination, Nudor's absolute alien-ness and lack of empathy as an Elf.

Gameplay: I took some rpg material with me to Cairo, most in a backpack. Of course that's the one piece of luggage that was stolen. I still had my copy of Gurps and Gurps Magic. Eric was nice enough to send me on some other stuff as well. The first game was more of a lark since some people hadn't done any gaming. In the second semester some of the new arrivals heard I ran and asked me if I would. Clearly this was a very different campaign than they'd been in before. Despite how short the campaign was, it had a nice beginning, middle and end. I should note that in between this and the previous campaign, Barry bugged me about the barriers. I'd established there was another continent and he wanted to go there. Eventually we ran a bit of that, resulting in his landing in Murkavan's territory and then leading the Dark One back to the Second Continent.

Introduced: Noble/Crown tensions in Miremal, Atlantae exploitation of the fall of the Thonak, the destruction of the Cebu, Kislev, chaos conspiracies after the Thonak, former PCs returning as important NPCs, civilization's wariness of the Druids, Bozisha-Dar, Miremallian exile communities in Sirayn, the Makistani devices, Mind-Flayers as a dead civilization, Lizard Men, Neutral City as Tanelorn, non-classic magic techniques, Murkavan's new presence, the War States as a fragment of the Makistani Empire


  1. "Art's character heroically die fighting a beholder" Ah, yes: Izan - the friendly barbarian! I had forgotten his death. Good way to die, as dying goes. I think my proudest moment with him (if I'm remembering right, and this was 20 years ago, so...) was his +4 Will roll coming in handy against some illusionist. All or most of the party fell for (failed their Will rolls against) the illusion he had cast. Izan ran through the illusion and bashed in the caster's head. Yay!

    Was that the game where Paul's character carried a forge on his back?

  2. No, Paul's next character would end up carrying a forge door on his back-- with the idea that he could make the rest of the forge on site.

    His character in the Izan game was the one who climbed across the mountain range by himself in the middle of the worst storms in several centuries. He crawled his bleeding dying husk of a body up to the dungeon only to be killed by a trap the rest of the group had gone through, but didn't have a chance to warn him about.

  3. I am laughing out loud.

    Oh, Paul...

  4. If, for the sake of curiosity, you could get together one group in toto, and bring them back for a single night of gaming, which group would it be? For curiosity's sake, because it'd include people you no longer game with.

    I definitely wonder about where some of the people I met through your group went, and if they still game. But I've only met a fraction of the people you've gamed with through the years.