Thursday, January 28, 2010

The School Campaign: Examples from Libri Vidicos IV

Another part of example materials drawn from my own steampunk fantasy school-based campaign. As I talked about in the first post on this topic, Libri Vidicos strongly centers the school as the campaign premise. It has run well over the last two and half years, with some of that strength coming from a dynamite player group and some of it coming from the player group being willing to buy into the whole HP inspired premise- working and playing with those genre conventions. We've just moved into Year Three and I provided some ominous prologue bits for the the players. These echo the prologue vignettes I did for the first two years.

Somewhere in the dark places

“If I may...” Began Lady d'Ambreville.

And of course the thunder cut off her words. She wondered a how much of that was deliberate, how much an echo of his master's temperament.

“I'd been expecting you earlier.” Said Mr. Y- quietly.

“Situations, changes, and I have some other news to report to you. But I have a question first.”

“Go on.” Mr. Y- finally turned to look at her and as always she found herself looking away.

She hesitated, angry at herself for the reaction. Then she finally spoke, “Would you consider this a victory then?”

Mr. Y- looked out across the stone courtyard, the storm handing around it. “A victory? Yes, not a complete one and I'll admit it is not exactly as I wished it. I had hoped for perhaps another year of secrecy, another year to put things into motion, but with magics such as these one can never count on things to fall out where you would wish.”

He paced a little, moving forward past her. “I'd hoped for more distraction, but we've gained much from the death of the Grandmaster. It will take their new leader some time before she can get her house arranged. And she has less of an idea of what is happening than the Dwarf did. Her agendas will aid us. Other things have fallen more to my liking there as well...”

Jacqueline followed slowly, waiting a beat before pressing her point. “What about Souldain? He was there...”

Mr. Y- stopped again. “Souldain was expected in part-- and he'll be back now more readily at the table. Now we know he lives and he'll be in fear again. He can't have Libri Vidicos exactly as he wanted it. Besides he'll have to come back, since we have something he wants...”

Mr. Y- gestured over to the raised platform, where Jacqueline could see the woman standing, the flashes of the storm silhouetting her. The d'Ambreville was relieved she was so far away; even as one of the Undead, that one bothered her. Not that the other agents didn't, especially Mr. Y-'s equal, that which had been Gallaen. But that was was simply broken, this other was wrong.

“But you said you had news...” Mr. Y- spoke this darkly, some threat lying behind it-- a demand for explanation of her tardiness.”

“Yes...it seems our little friends from Darsksoul went to Khinsai, and met with one of the Nithians. Then, after having done that, they traveled to Algasane's lands. They survived that, but apparently our allies were there as well, though they've said nothing of it.”

“Interesting...” Mr Y- held the note for a time. He gestured and within a moment some of the others had appeared. “Not entirely unexpected that they would look there-- we are allies of convenience, after all. We offer them a share in what is coming and tway to turn the circle to their advantage. But we have to wonder about the students. They've proven to be more resourceful than I'd given them credit for.”

“I've underestimated them.” He looked around to see if any would speak to his admission of fault. “That ends now.”

She who had been Gallaen walked forward. “Even if it means...?”

He broke in before she could finish the question. “We will make or break him this time. Time has come around full circle and we will not be stopped when we are so close.”

And the dragons swept overhead again, their wing beat the beginning of the drum beat that everyone could hear pulsing now.

“We still march in shadows, but soon the third will be among us and then we will strike in daylight, and nothing-- especially not a school of children, will stop us.”

In the Grandmaster's Chambers
Avansa Nullproof emerged from the chamber, she'd hoped for a moment to rest and compose herself, but she could see from Master Aeochs' presence that she'd have no such luxury. She looked and saw her Assistant Headmaster propped in a chair, leafing through papers and shaking his head.

“Master Simples, so good of you to finally join us.” She said and moved over to the chair opposite, sitting to hide her unsteadiness. Aeochs silently moved the tea service over close by her arm.

The goblin looked irritated. “My plans for the summer were set before I was roped into this position and if I recall correctly from our discussions, you encouraged me to go, said everything would move as we'd decided...and now I'm looking through all of this. So many changes, beyond what we'd discussed...”

She cut him off. “The situation has evolved...” Nullproof took a sip of her tea, strong and hot. It calmed her a little. “I made changes as quickly as I could. There was not time or means to contact you. We can negotiate on the adjustments as the semester commences.”

Simples held forth one sheet of paper. “I notice a strong shift in the teaching staff. Retirements and former instructors brought in. There's something of a pattern in those shifts, if I may be so bold.”

“Even Master Direlond cleaned house when he took this position.” Nullproof tried to keep anger out of her voice. She'd been expecting this confrontation, but hoped to be more ready for it.

“Yes, but Direlond emerged from a civil war which nearly tore this school apart. Those instructors had struck against the school itself.”

She set her cup down. “I think we face nothing less than that now, Master Simples. If Libri Vidicos is to survive, she needs people who can be trusted. And as Grandmaster of this school, that means I need people in whom I have faith. People who will look to the greater good of these things instead of turning to flights of fancy, radical shifts in policy and dangerous interventionism. Libri Vidicos has stood as it has because it has maintained itself. When it has reached beyond itself, it has been dealt blows. I will not have that again.”

The goblin paused. “Ah, a compelling case. So that is why you called The Warlock back? Banned by Direlond and an outsider who has not been in the school for years?”

Nullproof slowed herself, she'd walked into that gambit too easily for her liking. “There is no one better suited to maintain the internal security of this school.”

Simples nodded. “Just so, just so. You know I recall those words being used to describe Tyrenski...and we found his body stuffed underneath a bed just before everything went haywire. Before Darsksoul...”

“Stop.” Nullproof held her hand up. “We can have this argument all day, but I do not have the time or the stren...patience for it.”

Simple's face shifted. “You been at the chambers...I'm sorry, I should have known. Did you learn anything more?”

“No.” Nullproof shook her head trying to keep the lie away from him as much as she could. He would know she wasn't telling the full truth, but they'd come back to that later. “I'm unsure of why the school gave us no candidates this year. Luckily we had enough on our own lists to create a class. Mostly the wealthy or the highly placed, with a handful of others our scouts spotted. At least this year there will be fewer to draw on the scholarship fund.”

Simples frowned, seeing her evasion, but as she'd hoped, not wanting to press her on the topic. He rose from the chair. “Well, we'll come back to these matters later,” he raised the sheaf of papers. “I'll want so concessions from you in the future. And I'll want to full story of what you have seen.” He bowed curtly and left the room.

Nullproof sank into the chair, finally allowing herself to relax. Aeochs silently glided around into her vision.

“The Warlock requests authorization, a full remit and allowance for what needs to be done.” As always, he kept any judgment or inflection from his voice.

She thought a bit, thought on what she'd seen. Thought about the letter Direlond had left for Darsksoul, and the one he'd left for her. Had he seen his own destruction? Was his game still playing out?

“I want to remain apprised, but...tell him he has it,” she said wearily.

Aeochs left and Nullproof waited a bit. Would she tell him? Tell him what she'd seen. How she'd seen the Grandmaster who would follow her and had been terrified....