Yesterday saw the wrap up to two campaigns around here. My friend Derek finished out his All Flesh Must Be Eaten mini-campaign and did a nice write up on it. You can find his post here: Final Flesh and Retrospective. And I finally wrapped up my high fantasy campaign which used our homebrew rules. If my notes are correct, we started that campaign 4/29/09 and played through last night- 8/12/12- with bi-weekly sessions. That group's been together since 1995, with myself and at least three core people staying the same throughout. Because it runs on Sunday, we do get more bumps of schedule than usual- I'd estimate one in six or seven sessions we miss.
The group chose this campaign frame from a list I put together for them (you can see a post on that here Next Campaign Survey and Next Campaign Survey: The Numbers). This setting is a strangely hacked version of Glorantha, with a lot more high fantasy elements as well as the homebrew rules. The group had played through two previous campaigns in the setting, one in essentially in the same place as this one- Pavis and the River of Cradles in the Valley of Prax. I started the group out as kids, destroyed their village, and then jumped forward seven years in time. The players drew random life events in the meantime which they had to work into the narrative of what they'd been doing (evil master, lost love, betrayal of someone else, find a magic item, etc). The long arc of the campaign was revenge on the Godchainers who destroyed their families. The other trick to the campaign was that each player made up a god- they would be the last representatives of that divinity. Part of their goal would be to create and tell new stories of their god through their own actions, thereby adding new aspects and powers to them.
I'd originally built the campaign and the system to play out over about a year of play. However, we had two players leave the game after a blow up, resulting in a table of four. I immediately brought in a new player and I don't think we even missed a session in the transition. The change ended up being great and removed a lot of the negative energy which had been circling the table. However, the change-over did mean I needed to extend the campaign in order to give the new player some time and arc. And the group kept doing interesting thing all the way through- fights, festivals, dungeons, contests, social gatherings, hunting for food, destroying the Clanking City, etc. They discovered eventually that the world was caught in a kind of collapsing loop- a cycle of repeating events. The Godchainers who had destroyed their village were in fact themselves, or another timeline of themselves, which Arachae Solara had wrapped back on itself to try to repair the damage. It was fun and epic and generated more great stories than I can tell.
I'll only tell one before I do a brief recount of the end session. The new character who joined the group was named Deeds Unworthy. His god was a hidden god, one always overlooked, but who quietly took care of other tasks for the gods. As a result, Deeds had a benefit/curse that he was always overlooked- which made him an excellent scout and thief. But that effect extended to his party members, and often when he did heroic actions or saved the day, no one would/could notice. They ascribed it to their own actions or to happenstance. It was a brilliant concept that the player, Scott, played to the hilt. It was also his reason why he could join the group in mid-campaign. He'd always been there- they just kept forgetting about him.
DANCERS AT THE END OF TIME
The group had to defend Pavis against the assembled forces of the Godchainers, but they also realized that they needed to Heroquest in order to truly put an end to the cycle. So they gathered all the allies they could and left the city to venture into the Heroplane- though without a story to follow, which made that quest all the more dangerous. We did a couple of sessions of that storyquesting- as they passed through the Blue, White, Red, and Gold gates to reach The End of Time. I'd used those colors as symbols throughout the campaign- for example the mentor gods who'd rescued them originally were associated with them and there were four Emperors, one of each color, struggling for dominion. They faced less combat and more social and moral choices along the way and finally reached their foes. They emerged into an open arena, the sky above collapsing downward even as the Gold Wheel Dancers flitted through the heavens and extinguished the stars. In the arena they faced the remaining four evil duplicate Godchainers, four potent henchmen, and five dragons.
That's the group at the bottom of the image emerging from the entryway- five PCs plus two NPCs. They spent their surprise round using their magics and skills to assess the situation. They noted the twelve cubes- three each of the four colors (red, blue, white, and gold). From this they realized that the Godchainers had used those to activate their plan. Fighting the bad guys would have to take second chair to getting around the map and dealing with those.
Which they started to do- drawing the attention of dragons and adversaries. They figured out that they need to touch all three of the cubes of one color to dispose of them- meaning they had to split up across the table. Players pulled out all of their abilities, talents, and some of the magic items they'd squirreled away. They also discovered that dealing with one of the sets summoned allies to them- characters from previous campaigns returned to aid them in this battle. Alan's former character, the haughty summoner Boshra returned and summoned an Elder Thing from Beyond the Void to tie up one of the dragons.
There you can just make out the Elder Thing soul-kissing the red dragon at the lower left. The group pressed on, taking down one of the dragons, nearly losing one of their NPCs, and destroying the Gold Emperor. Fight, blast, run, destroy cubes, more snacks, desperate gambles, spend drama points....
...and finally, evading the remaining two Godchainers and three dragons, the group went for the Green final stone and shattered the chains of time. The seven Pharaohs who had come before them sacrificed themselves to save the group from a final wrath. Then the figure of Siem, the Blue Child, appeared before them and offered them a choice: return home as children with their village intact, as if this had not happened and with the Godchainers erased from time OR return from where they had left, from Pavis, their most recent home. They chose Pavis almost without hesitation. They found themselves on the walls at night. In the distance they could hear the singing and celebrations- Pavis had survived the siege thanks to the many allies joined together by this band who served seven little gods.