View Full Version : Starting off a new Campaign soon; Criticism and Advice wanted

12-30-2011, 12:15 PM
So basically here's the rundown (I am excluding much of the details that would make this sound a little more interesting): An orc druglord named Grush has been kidnapping young human women of the city of Core, breeding with them, and raising the half-orcs in his operational base. Last week, however, his newest and most jaw dropping victim is Serrina VanHalsen, princess of the city. A reward of life of luxury within the VanHalsen castle is being offered for anybody who can bring the princess back safe and alive and who can bring Grush back dead. Fliers stating this are around town, and the PC's see it and go off to King Fileas VanHalsen to retrieve Serrina; All the while, however, a band of Elves is after the same goal (These elves are not evil, even by the PC's perception; just a little in the way.)

Fileas informs the PC's that a funeral for a half-orc is being held today, and that Grush may be there. As the PC's arrive, they are greeted by an orc dressed in flamboyant clothing, guarded by 4 halforcs. As it turns out, the orc is Grush, and makes a deal with the PC's: He will meet with them, given they can beat the half-orc guards he has on his sides. So Grush slips away, and the Half-orcs are left to take care of the PC's.

A map of directions leading to Grush's hideout is found on the bodies of one of the fallen half-orcs. When the PC's get there, Grush's hideout is a complex maze-like area. Various journals and entries lead to hints as to what is going to come and what his goals are, such as how he desires human women and half-orcs for their loyalty and intelligence, and drawings of a giant bird flying in the sky. The door to Grush's room is locked by 2 keys; found on bodies of Half-Orc guards and magic users found in the various rooms, such as the kitchen, and the study.

Grush's room is large, with an open roof. When they enter, it is just Grush and Serrina, who appears to be pregnant. Grush tries to reason with the PC's that they cannot attack him, for he is the father of the next prince of Core. If the PC's agree, skip down to the next paragraph. If not, then Grush and the PC's enter combat. Grush is a level 3 Orc fighter/ Level 2 Orc Sorcerror. Even if the PC's win or lose, the outcome will be the same; If Grush would have won, the PC's do not die, just get down to unconsiousness. If the PC's would have won, a spell is casted from Grush that immobilizes them.

Grush smirks adamantly as he calls out, "Take them away, my great beast!" A Roc will fly down onto the field and take the unconscious/immobilized PC's away. When they gain consciousness, they are in a strange foreign world, far from Core. I plan on basing this world off of Latin American history, with Mayan and Aztec-based rituals in the settlement that they find while wandering. Here, Oracles are highly revered, and can see from across the world. Eventually they speak of a war raging in the largest settlement in the world; Core.

This game starts off as a simple task; Retrieve the Princess and get the life of luxury. But as they are on the other side of the world, Oracles speak of changes in their home, and the son that Serrina bears is the ticket Grush needs to get into power. The PC's go through many side-quests and challenges that will help them get home and draw the story together (Such as gaining trust of four head monks to pass through the mountains, and joining a pirate's crew.)

I would like to hear some feedback, whether it be "Your game sucks," "Good idea, but heres something to change..." or "This doesnt make sense!" is up to you. I would mostly like help on two major areas.

Area I - What are some tasks that the PC's could face once they are out of Core? I do not plan on making them stay in the Mayan-civilization for very long, but I do want to incorporated some real-world cultures and ideas into the world that is so strange from Core.

Area II - What is something to substitute the Roc as the beast taking away the PC's in the beginning? I just don't think that the Roc suffices. I would love to hear some ideas, be it a Purple worm or some magical beast.

Thank you for reading, and please, feedback?

12-31-2011, 12:00 AM
1. If the players feel rushed for time (like, "We've got to rescue the princess before something bad happens!"), they may not search bodies - which means they won't be able to open the door at the end.

2. Why a maze? Why would he LIVE there?

3. The thing that bothers me the most is the railroading. No matter WHAT they do, they are sent away to a foreign land - and if they had chosen to fight, it matters naught over what tactics they use or anything like that. Why play if the DM is going to decide how it's going to end?? (please refer to the multi-page debate on railroading on this site!)

4. Grush will have to be old... old enough to not only sire children, but to have them grow up to be adults and trained as (insert class here). Even WARRIORS would need at least 14+ years to be ready to fight (considering quick aging of orcs). Sorry, but the science doesn't hold up.

5. Why don't the PC's see the roc (or whatever) before the end? It's close enough to hear Grush, why can't they see it? Those things are big enough to carry off ELEPHANTS, they gotta see it!

6. You haven't written a campaign arc, you've written a book - and no matter what the characters want to do, they have to follow YOUR plan. Sorry, but I like more of a "sand-table" approach, where if the PC's get ticked that they got tossed into Aztec-world, they could decide that the Princess wasn't worth it and they could decide to head in the opposite direction.

12-31-2011, 01:29 PM
Um ... yeah. Where to start.

If your goal is to get the PCs into Mesoamericaland, just start play there. Or, at the very least, let them know what's going on beforehand, what with the shift in tone.

As to what they do there, look at *why* the PCs are there in the first place. Are they trying to get back home? Are they looking for a MacGuffin to defeat the Big Bad? Plan around those. If you want a better grasp of real-world Mesoamerican life, pick a specific culture (they're not exactly mix-and-match; sort of like lumping all non-Greco-Roman cultures into "Celts") and do a little library work.

The roc as plot-device? Maybe. Might be better to use the labyrinthine lair to prep a ritual at the center - the time it takes to navigate gives the ritualists the time to spring a portal trap, sending them to Mesoamericaland. Makes it so the Big Bad is one step ahead of them, which is a plus.

The half-orc bit? Yeah ... "Problematic" doesn't quite seem strong enough, for something like "rape your way to conquest." I'm not sure any critique here can save the idea, 'specially if its core element (challenge to the throne) can be done by other means (and it really, really can). Could try something along the lines of "Grush is the half-orc, cast aside by his nobleman father, and prepping an orc invasion to claim a throne rightfully his". You still have all potential order-of-succession issues*, but with far, far less implied (or explicit) sexual assault (as low as none).

*Either way, the kingdom wouldn't necessarily acknowledge a half-orc as a legitimate heir, due to any number of factors (race and/or sanctity of union being chief objections). But that's really not my criticism here.

01-02-2012, 03:04 PM
To continue with sascha's wonderful advice, something I did once was similar to what you are trying to do... BUT, I asked the players. "Hey, you guys are generic quasi-European, medieval adventurers. Would you like to explore Native American culture? How do you wanna get there?"

What we decided was to start play, and just as they were all getting to third level (2.9999th level), they were hit by an uber-BBEG boss that teleported them away... to the Upper Midwest in the US, with the Sioux Indians (it's what I knew at the time). Everyone knew it was coming and they were accepting of this situation. They arrived in the middle of a large bonfire in a Sioux ceremony and hit third level at the same time.

Of course, with nobody to train them for new feats and such, they had "open" slots, and all chose Native-type feats and skills. It was a lot of fun.

I also ran a campaign where I made changes to a PC without telling the players the reasons - and they got ticked and rebelled - totally scrapping the campaign.

My recommendation is to talk with them to see if they WANT to play in Maya-land.

02-29-2012, 10:25 AM
I personally dont see it as that bad- lol! There are many ways to skin a cat and while I am not fundamentally opposed to Malruhn/Saschas suggestions Im not sure you have to make major story changes to implement this campaign. Im not a huge fan of "rail roading" and I wont get into whether or not its "right" here- but I will say that in my experience for my group I have found that when used sparingly it can be quite effective as a necessary evil. Some of the our best campaigns have come from a rough shove in the right direction- lol!

There are two things I really like about this:

- I think it would be very neat for the PCs to engage this low level thug only to have him evolved into a ruling power when they get back. The whole city can operate on a fundamentally different level. Crooked guards, more criminal element, women in general in fear of Grush's favour. The PCs can go to old haunts and what not to find theyve completely changed in their absence. The elves that were opposing them to begin with could be heading a secret rebellion as they are also aware of the half orc princes dark secret. As for dethroning the Orc- it would require more guile than simply axing him when they got back as hed be in the public spotlight, well guarded and have exponentially more resources. If the device that he "raped his way power" is too bullish you could tweak it and have the princess supporting him, albeit unwiitingly manipulated through Grushs sorcerous prowess. Play up how especially charismatic and cunning he is even for an orc. He could adopt a woe is me persona to gain sympathy with the populace- why do people persecute me simply because Im an Orc? Lots you can do here.

- Second it actually sounds like theres tons of room for "sandboxing" on the way back from mezo land. You can make up for the initial railroading with opportunities to secure their own preferred methods of travel and influence and change the landscape on the way back.

The half orc children as soldiers angle is tough to swallow. You could say its some kind of magic or something but the science doesnt add up and its not (imho) the most credible plot element. Id say the one half orc infant with the princess is sufficient to galvinize Grushs reputation as obsecenely evil, manipulative and cunning. Again its your call but if there was one thing Id re-evaluate thats it for me.

In any case I think you have a solid basis here and I just dont see any sweeping changes as being necessary. Its all about the feel and rhythm you're comfortable with. You should be using the gaming tools and story to accomodate your vision of the campaign not vice versa. Very open ended dynamic worlds can be extremely rewarding but kick the door in, carrot on a stick adventures provide a whole other level of visceral entertainment. With any luck you could balance the two for an adventure that brings out the best elements of both at a pace your comfortable with. Have fun, flesh it out- let the ideas marinate into a stewy goodness. Good luck!

03-04-2012, 06:35 PM
1. If the mechanics of siring an army get in the way of the story, you could give your villain a property that allows him to build a greater amount of loyal subjects/warriors with being a vampire or some other creature that spawns. Or you could give the villain some sort of fiendish ability or ally with some demon or devil that allows his offspring to advance in age quickly.

2. I would be wary of the railroading and avoid it if possible. Give enough clues to the PC's so they will end up where they need to be. If they start going in a total different direction, allow them to do so but let them lead to your same scenarios (with some modification.) However, sometimes, the PC's need direction and thats what helpful NPC's are for ;).

3. Write the scenarios/encounters as open ended. When you need a specific NPC/villain to make it to the next encounter be sure to stack the deck in their favor--more mooks and minions to throw at the PC's so they stay busy and don't have the opportunity to stop your villain from carrying on his major plans (though, they can and should put a dent in some of his short term plans).

05-02-2012, 11:42 AM
If the Orc blood is a problem then you could make the BBEG a Tiefling instead. That way he can be almost as long lived as an elf and have made alliances with the dark powers to create his army of demon-spawn. It would also allow you to give him unexplained plot powers to teleport the party around the world to mezoamericaland.

05-04-2012, 06:40 PM
Area I -
Including enough detail to keep things real is an important task of world-building. By introducing your PCs to a completely different situation, you've doubled your workload. Advice: keep your gameplay area in the New World very small. The PCs tasks to complete, and way to get home, should all be found inside the small area you designate as the roc-destination. Say, one village only.

Area II - I realize I'm condoning the situation by saying this, but you'd be better off having Grush drug your PCs and throw them onto a caravan headed for the New World. But if Grush is the kind of guy whom the king won't send his army after (even to rescue his own daughter), he probably DOES have a roc at his beck and call.

05-14-2012, 08:21 PM
A good DM allows for a sandbox. A great DM railroads the players without letting them know they're being railroaded.

Establishing a rulership through the use of your children is possible, but difficult. Brute force wouldn't work so well, however, taking a note from history and having your children married into other powerful families would create alliances and power.

05-24-2012, 01:03 AM
King David was said to have 300 wives and 600 concubines. Assuming he did nothing else and the lot was particularly fertile...

Yet we see only two sons mentioned.

Frankly if you need him to have a loyal army, not an issue, it is so.

HOWEVER: I agree, you are not writing a RPG scenario you are writing a book. Never predetermine the results of any encounter. IF-THEN statements are fine. I use lots of them. IF the PCs kill the horse THEN the bad guy cannot leave quickly. IF the PC take more than ten days THEN the princess is no longer a virgin. I avoid WHEN statement because when doesn't always happen.

I write open ended, no solution predetermined problems wreathed with IF-THEN statements. As a player nothing pisses me off more than findiong out that X was predetermined to happen no matter what I did. Why did I do anything?

01-17-2013, 05:03 AM
I dont really agree with this being a rail-roading type of campaign.
Or at least it doesnt have to.
The planned part of it, is a prequel to the actual campaign.... meso-american-whatever stuff.
Yeah you are railroading them to the Aztec part of the play, but to be honest, it doesnt sound like more than 1 session tops, maybe only a session to me.
Then there is a rough plan, oracles to give them a "quest" and parts / riddles / stuff that needs to be solved / done to get back home.
If the pc's decide to say screw it, we dont want to.... then you have to improvise.... but you still have loads of great ideas.
They can still meet some pirates and join their crew, or stop them cold, or take over the ship.
Also just because other groups do not like railroading, noone says this persons group does not.
I've been in sessions, where we deliberately ignored the standard "old white haired robed guy at the inn" who was offering a quest to whoever wanted it, and invented our own quests. But i have also experienced groups that expected the gm to have the story planned out, and just having to follow the clues leading from a-b-c.
I kinda have to believe the gm have enough knowledge about his group to know if they would like a Linear Plot Line = Rail roading, a Plot Tree = Loads of ways to get to the main plot, or Sandbox = free form stuff.

But yeah.... the orc and the half-orc children is a bit of a long shot, unless he has somekind of access to age halting magic or the like.
And the rape part might be too much for some, again its about knowing what the group wants / can handle.