This campaign serves as a playtest for version 4 of the game. I am now working on version 5. I try not to change rules mid playtest, but I learned a lot out of this running. So I might have them convert the Heroes to version 5.
I had the players start at level 1. They have been rapidly advancing in level. It is a group of seven players, but on average four players, a session can make it. At this point, the Heroes range from level 5 to 2. These level range because of missed sessions and deaths. Two Heroes have died, and their replacements started at Level 1.
The Heroes begin in the Summerland territory. Until two hundred years ago, this area was apart of the Seagod Kingdom. The northern region of the kingdom started to convert to the Music god. This eventually lead to a civil war known as the Brinestone Revolt. At the end of the revolt, the nation had two breakaway regions. Summerland was one of those regions and became a federation of city-states united by their faith in the Music God.
Then 180 years after their independence, the eastern Five Crown Empire invaded by sea. Summerland quickly fell. It is now a colonial state of the Empire.
With shifts in political power and trade, Summerland has been having booms and busts economies as different cities and region adjust to the far away whims of the Empire. The land is under the control of four governors who plot for Imperial favors.
The Railroad Part of the Story Beginning:
The Heroes began as people of Mayway Valley, a district of Summerland that has suffered under Imperial rule due to their traditional trade routes being made obsolete.
Each player got to choose their race. I did ask for them to be a diverse party, so everyone picked different classes. As some of the players have since died, their new Heroes do have some overlaps in race and class. I haven’t cared, I just wanted them to start off on sound footing.
All of my runnings, I give the players some character background restriction. In this case, I gave them the following:
- They needed to play disenfranchised people of the Mayway Valley. Coming from a poor family or families that have lost their wealth.
- Each needed to be someone who would willingly travel to Pe’dock in the hopes of a better life.
These restrictions are not too severe. But they force the party to have similar backgrounds and motivations. They are playing poor people seeking to better their lives. Some of the players started off knowing each other, while others were traveling by themselves.
There was only one Hero that I had to work extra to get into the party, but then he was the first to die. And in the second battle! When a Level 1 Hero gets 4 hits in a round, it is hard for him to survive it.
So at Level 1, the Heroes were stragglers of a Dwarven caravan traveling to the city of Pe’dock. Pe’docks promise of prosperity and jobs thanks to the Empire expanding the harbor. The road to Pe’dock was once a lifeline of the Summerland Federation. Now it is forgotten. The Empire is a naval power, and all trade is now by sea.
The Plotted Adventure Begins:
On the way to Pe’dock, the Dwarven caravan was attacked by goblins. The party got separated from the Dwarves who march on ahead. With a member of the party poisoned, they retreated to a village they had passed days before.
The villagers healed them. They told the Heroes that the goblins invaded their forest a year ago. Since then twelve of the villagers have died. They have suffered because they traditionally hunt the forest for food. The town passed around a collection plate and offered them the puny award for their help. The party agreed to help the village and started their war on the goblins of the forest.
After a couple of fights against the goblins, the Goblin Chief wanted to talk to them. The goblins were only in the forest because a Mage has displaced them from there bog. The Goblin Chief promised a treasure of stolen Dwarven weapons and armor if the party would get rid of the Mage so they could return home.
The party followed the goblin instructions and traveled to a lost temple in a bog. There they fought the minions of an Echo Mage until they came to an agreement with him.
The Mage had been stuck here for a year. In a secret dungeon under the temple, his Imp companions had betrayed him. Now, the Imps were trapped inside, but he could not get to them. Perhaps the party could… so the party made a deal.
He promised them the loot of the temple if he could just get an item of the spoils. It was agreed. The party entered the dungeon and killed the Imps. They had a fortune in gold treasure! But then the Mage betrayed.
Years Later… So Starts the Fox Hunt style adventure.
One of the party members “woke up.” He was being tortured by some Nagas over a piece of treasure he had pocketed in the dungeon. He escaped and came to realize that for the last three years, his memory and personality had been wiped. With his memory and energy restore, he remembers the Echo Mage betrayal.
He then found the other party members and woke them up too. Now the party is on a mission to get revenge on the Mage and get their treasure back.
My GM Notes on the Story Structure.
Okay, the evil Mage betraying the party is an old troupe. But I feel it is a good foundation for this story. The party is well motivated to get their revenge. It allows me to Hourglass this story building it around their desire for revenge. I do have a story I want to explore. I know they are on board because their goal is to kill the Mage.
Like most of my campaigns, I Railroad the first 1 or 2 hours to get the party on the tracks and then step back. That is how I did this one too. They were mainly running a module I wrote for the first session. The first battle was wholly scripted, and the whole session was well thought out. All the way to the Mage betraying them was somewhat planned. They threw out some surprises, but since they were going monster killing and treasure hunting it was simple to adjust.
Now that they are on a Fox Hunt, I just sit back. It is a Sandbox where their goals are clearly defined. So while they do their actions against the Mage, the players are discovering parts of the story I plan to end the adventure arc on. It is building up. It involves the Mage’s upcoming revolt against the Empire using the Nagas as pawns.
The Mage has a bunch of Sharkniod minions. These are a cross between a frog and a shark. They do a lot of damage but are not too hard to take out. Two party members did come close to dying while fighting them, so they work well as a threat. This has allowed me to get some fights in with this new creature I have designed and adding to my world. There is a whole area of the map they will infest.
The party has learned that the city of Pe’dock was built on the ruins of an ancient Naga city. And that below the city, there are tunnels that the Naga still live in. They have made an ally with a Naga Prince, but do not really know the full scope or power of the Naga. I hope to get them more involve with the Naga in the future. I have some ideas, but it will be interesting to see if they bite on it.
Nagas are also being added to my world. They will play a more serious role as a significant villain in future stories, so another chance to playtest them out.
They do know that the Mage is using an element he found in the temple to create an item to control the Naga. It is a repeat of the device he uses to control the Sharknoids. They believe that with this army, he hopes to take over the region.
They have also learned that the Mage is well connected and a personal friend of the Governor. So they know the local government is on the side of the Mage.
The Location is Important to me as a GM.
All of this adventuring has taken place within one month travel of the city of Pe’dock. They have visited two local villages, becoming friends with one and enemies of another. They have explored a jungle temple and even returned there later to gather more information.
Keeping the story and adventuring locally is crucial to me. I want to flush out this part of my world. And the best way to do this is to have a party adventure in it. They have already discovered the lore of a forgotten god, origins of some monsters, and the political dynamics of the city-state.
They have been both friends and enemies of the local goblin tribe. In the sewers of the city, they have discovered new enemies and friends. They have had interactions with the provincial governor and some Imperial agents.
I hope that the entire story arc takes places in this region. On a few occasion, they have plotted to go to Summerland and the Kingdom of the Seagod in hopes to find the Mage’s family. If they did this, it would not be a disaster but would not further the adventure.
They have also talked about making the long trip to the Five Crown Empire. This would also be a waste of time. I am afraid they might make this trip. If they do, it might put a wrinkle in the story, and I will have to adjust for it.
Currently in the Running
The party was able to kill the Mage in a battle but then discovered that it was an Echo Clone. Early they had encountered an Echo Clone, but it didn’t really click with them that he had them out in the world. They know the Mage has a powerful amulet, so they are sure that when they kill the real Mage, they can identify them by this item.
The party has been able to steal a key component in the Mage’s plans. They have learned that he is out in the wilds forging his item. They have been trying to figure out the best tactic to use having this item against him. Some want to attack him during the forging while others think they should wait.
It will be interesting to see what they choose to do next time we play. My group bounces back and forth between two GM because we have such busy lives.
I missed a session two weeks ago, so they moved forward with another story that has been running for a while. This other story has been a long drawn campaign. I am in no rush to get back to my running as I have more work to do on version 5. When it is ready, we will switch back and hopefully finish this adventure arc.