Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Building Libri Vidicos: Campaign Prep

Last week I posted an interlude piece from my Libri Vidicos campaign, a fantasy steampunk school game. Here's part of my campaign prep notes for the game, including an overwrought schedule of things I needed to get done before we played. 

The Five Houses of Libri Vidicos
Thorn, House of the Rose, Watcher of the East, Bearer of Swords
Just based on my earlier notes it seems as though this is going to be a mixed house where the head of house has interests and there is plotting going on among the lesser members without his knowing. Should probably have the reputation of being the loosest house.
Swordmaster Lorgen (Rhaglai)
Mage Keela Gold (Praxis, Templar)
Scholar Dystalla of Empty (Ylari)
Diplomat Granspathial Dusk (Gilden-Hur)
Rogue Taverner Simples (Goblin)*

Gallaen, House of Diamonds, Watcher of the North, Keeper of Lore
On a simple scale I think we can read this as the second most pleasant house, falling between the PC-driven mechanics of Darsksoul and the off-kilter attitudes of the neutral House Thorn.
Scholar Cousin Lark (Neutral City)
Swordmaster Sir Rekhavak (Aperkitas)*
Mage Esandra Morphail (Modeller, Royal Order of Engineers)
Diplomat Aeth Zizoulas
Rogue Regan Leavetake

Zaramar, House of Fortunes, Watcher of the West, Master of Concords
There’s a little bit of a toss up between Malbrect and Zaramar as to who is more dangerous. Certainly Malbrect would appear so and most obvious is about plot, but Zaramar has their own intrigues. Students of this house are not taught about superiority, but instead about the art of conspiracy, of uniting together in secrets. Therefore they have rituals and methods that are not readily understood or seen outside. Think of wheels within wheels here. One of the upperclassman projects is to organize underground groups and set them at one another. While there is a certain amount of naked ambition among the various heads of households, Kinder is perhaps the most quietly serious about someday taking that position. He understands that secrets are a form of power. However he may not see that even he is being manipulated.
Diplomat Kinder Smoke
Mage Nyessa Childewhite (Namer, Physiker)
Swordmaster Forlost Dark-of-the Fire (Shaddai)*
Scholar Ishnarod Kant
Rogue Lethe Vanevar (Sojurn)

Malbrect, House of Dawn, Watcher of the Center, Weaver of Sorceries
This is the house that should be presented as the *boo* *hiss* house in the thing. They are the bad guys—even the Rakasta has that wickedness about her—the sense of only the strongest survive. Nearly all of the students in house are nobles and the one’s who are not are the dogsbodies of the House. At least three nasty classic characters there, plus for later perhaps someone who is put upon (this could set up an interesting dynamic especially if they try to get him to join them and he ends up turning around and blowing their cover in order to ingratiate himself with the big boys).
Mage  Vansera Vlaardoen (Aoniae, Imbuation, Alchemist)
Swordmaster Vendel Regensmul (Miremal)
Scholar Taja Wraithsong (Rakasta, Offshores)*
Diplomat Master Aoechs
Rogue Brazzel Nockstorm (Crantylean)

Darsksoul, House of the Lion, Watcher of the South, Warden of Duties
This will be the players’ house. In some ways it might appear to be the most inoffensive of the houses, but Lady Fayde is not to be crossed. Saberhagen is also the instructor for the Basic Magical Theory course and amongst the jumpiest of the instructors. Assuming that people play their own gender, there is room for 1-2 more males and 3-4 more females in their age bracket. Ideally I’d like to negate the male character pretty quick—I don’t want any pets; but I can have the female characters there if necessary. Plus, I think the ladies will play off of them better in any case.
Rogue Lady Sabine Fayde
Swordmaster Bozisha Adjant (Samara)
Mage  Saberhagen (Elven-- Ordaining, Herath)*
Diplomat Lady Solothon Ormaes (Atlantae)
Scholar Ysegres Naughtsum (Math)

Then there are the most important figures for the college
The Grandmaster Gravast Direlond (Dwarf)
The Submaster Avansa Nullproof
Dean of Students Eos Deklos
Captain of the Guard Akari Bloodsoothe (Orc, Golotha)
The Master of Beasts Khelrint Lysanc (Ursus)
The High Matron Mrs. Darkbough, reformed vampire
Cook Wainscot Weft (Hobbit)
Librarian Esandra Morphail
Seneschal Mr. Arendasi
Gatekeeper Mr. Sternehof
Priest Padashan Riskwhisker (Skaven)
The Fetcher Osric

Students with familiar names from previous campaigns (keeping in mind that the PCs will also have something to say about this):

  • Wixler de Wode
  • d’Aubaine older sister for Sherri’s character
  • There should be a Thenatis (with perhaps Hawk as an uncle)
  • Reginald X. J. (Wands), Jr.
  • Jervis Ramtalathan—take out of the players’ House if Steve opts to do the gentleman thief/butler’s son.

Need an extensive list of names—perhaps best to make up a set of regional names? Drawing from the various naming traditions.

Define the five houses of the school: central naming convention, or drawn from something else. Perhaps related to a story or something.

[Terms and ideas—four years of schooling only 10 students per year per house. Time jumps. Prefects, Refectory, Dormitory, House Captains, Matrons, House Tutor, Housemaster, Commonplace Books, Proctor]

  • List of classes
  • List of notable students and the various alliances—keeping in mind the differentiation of the various years.
  • List of instructors
  • List of other staff and their roles: Headmaster, Captain of the Guard, Librarian, Cook, Head of Servants, Stablemaster and Keeper of the Menagerie,
  • Names of buildings and place—like a little city.

Think of the three starting plot elements for the game—plus a handful of Red Herrings to be played out. There’s the classic thing of fighting agents of an evil—however, we have to understand that there needs to be a limiting factor. If bad things happen, why don’t the kinds go to the adults—what is stopping them. In HP it is the alignment of outside interests that don’t want to hear anything about this.

Secret of the Libri Vidicos—there is something about the school here: it was made for some purpose—however, somehow that got changed over the years. But someone from that beginning has survived and lurks in the halls of this place. Perhaps they can discover the purpose of the place—perhaps the person who has remained does not remember themselves. There could be hints about that. I like the idea of their being a threat, something they find out about that leads to a rising confrontation eventually with an agent of figure who is in fact, the servant of some more powerful person behind the scenes.

So let’s consider each year as an arc—with the establishment of characters, the introduction of complications, and the eventually defeat of the bad guy or threat to the School.

Secret Societies, handed down through the generations—including a lost one, perhaps finding a charter or something. Their items should show them to have been joined and chosen together. But again, I need to come back to the sense that characters will be handling things, and not simply going to adults or informing their parents. A binding? Threats of expulsion? There is the thing that I remember from Blake Holesey where one of the parents of the kids has a parent who is a financier of the college but who is involved in sinister goings-on. That was a nice touch for that show and worked rather well. There are some of those on YouTube to watch for inspiration.

Other characters? I’m torn between the desire to keep the universe closed and the desire to have a kind of traveling game. In some ways this is simply a variant on the classic city game. I think at least for the first two arcs, I need to have it closed.

The structure of the game will be slightly different from a conventional campaign. First, there is the scope. This is not a traveling game (at least to start). Instead it is much more like an urban or an exploration game. In the first sense that there is a central and static locale that the characters will be living in, meeting characters in, and dealing with the ramifications of choices within. In the second sense that they will be figuring out the features and secrets of this place over time.

Second, there is the role. In our classic campaign, characters are competent and independent freebooters. Here characters are young and subject to authority figures. The goals here is not to overthrow authority but instead to make it work for you, to pull one over on it and to thrive despite their attentions. Characters also need to keep in mind reputation and social grouping—how their instructors see them and how other students see them. The various social battles of youth will get played out here, through pranks and quick-thinking more than brute power.

Third, there is the span and time of the game. Ideally, the game will be divided into sections, representing semesters and years. I imagine an arc for each year—with some sub-plots and developments—and at least one major plot that plays into the Grand Plot (notice that is written in capitals to denote its importance). If you’ve read or seen Harry Potter (and if you haven’t then get on it) then you will notice that the classic structure of each book has introduction, development, complications, conflict, definition of the actual problem, and finally resolution. Strangely, resolution nearly always comes close to the end of the semester…in good part this is achieved through the use of a couple of dramatic devices that we will be using, for example: “…but it would be a few weeks before they had the opportunity to carry out their plan,” “despite their intentions, matters of schoolwork pressed upon them and only after midterms could they come together again,” “it took them some time to make their preparations and gather the necessary materials,” “though they watched carefully Mr. S--- was always watching and after some time they finally decided to resort to a risky distraction.” And so on etc, etc. We will be doing that, so expect things to perhaps be a bit more episodic than we’ve done before. A session might begin with “several weeks/days later”—this is a GM’s fiat and a storytelling convention, so no jokes about “What? it’s dark already?!”

The have to be a set of activities which students can decided to participate in: Sports Clubs (perhaps Rugby, perhaps Wickets and Imps), Riding Club, Fencing Club, Book Club, Sewing Club, Host Club, Inventors Club, Ballroom Dance Club, Spirit Club (literally), Language Club, Debate Society, Aviators Club, Some kind of arts club, etc.

In competitions with other schools—certainly to start out with the competitions need to come from an intramural setting in order to put all of this into a context. For that reason their should only be three competitive clubs in this regard: Debate, Fencing, and a Sport. Eventually there will be an opening up of this context when we introduce the idea that there are other Libri Vidicos elsewhere. But to start we have to establish a baseline. I imagine at least two of these others have to be from the first and third continents respectively. Originally I had thought that perhaps the setting would allow to have a disguised school that the groups would compete with but let’s leave that aside shall we.

For Scott there needs to be at least two other Terratis Elves at the school—each of whom follow a very different path. One should be an agent of the Terratian powers and the other should be someone who has rejected the Elvish ways entirely. Consider carefully about male and female in this—I hate it when he makes inappropriate romantic choices and trivializes the issues presented by such characters.

So as I see it right now we have a number of PC keywords to put under the microscope: Aoniaen, d’Ambreville, Inventor, Atlantaen nobility, Roznar, Math, famous parents, Ursus, under shadow of fame, Shaddai, Chimera, misplaced in house, Terratis, Elf, idiot, entertainer,
Structures for later entries in the things—seven days left:

  • Political Statement on the West (Fri 2/2)
  • Vignettes A (Sat 2/3), B (Thurs 2/8)
  • Entry from the Almanack—List of Greats; List of Flashpoints (Wed 2/7)
  • Class Lists (Sun 2/4)
  • Other (Mon 2/5)
  • Clubs and Organizations (Tue 2/6)

GM Notes I need to make up—talk about how resolution on the part of the GM has to work. Quick reference chart for things. Quick weapon and armor chart for reference. Worksheet for NPCs. Other options for how things operate—for example my allowing Sherri to take Miniaturization as a skill and giving it to her as an add-on that counts against the three limit but doesn’t up the difficulty. Typical Edges and Narrative Use. Making Initiative Quicker.

List of Students: Who do we need to have?
Van Brooge

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