Diving into… my first D&D campaign

I’ve been slowly re-engaging with the hobby since moving to Liverpool earlier this year and one of the things I have really had to get over is my apprehension at playing D&D. I’ve blogged about this already but in short – the game is everywhere and if I want to play regularly then it is likely that it will have to be D&D.

So when the opportunity to run a game for a group of almost entirely new players at work came up? I grabbed it. No hesitation, no grumbling about better games. We had our first session at the start of the week, which covered character gen, a little bit of world building and a single introductory scene. While we’re going to stick to a fairly traditional game I’m making use of the fact that they are new to gaming to just slide some indie approaches into it. The main one – shared world building. I presented them with the following outline

The known world is comprised of six great Empires, encircling a vast wasteland that legend tells was once itself a powerful domain. The Empires are ruled by individuals that, collectively, are known as the Immortals. It is a time of relative peace but not prosperity. The Empires are locked in a permanent cold war, to attack one neighbour would leave them open to assault by another. In response the Immortals have turned inwards, isolating themselves in an attempt to maintain absolute control over their citizens. The old ways and religions are regulated, persecuted or driven underground. Only in the wastes can one truly be free. Bands of adventurers and rebels seek out lost riches and safe havens while merchants risk their wares for the chance of greater profit. Legends and prophecy, spoken only in whispers, speak of the Immortals and their origins.

but beyond that I want them to fill in the details. Who are the Immortals, what are the Empires like, what do the rebels seek? I have a couple of ideas for world-changing events, including a few set pieces. I’m also thinking of introducing something akin to the Last Breath move from Dungeon World. That way I can dial up the lethality while expanding on elements of the setting (fictionally the move will be associated with a possible backstory for the Immortals).

I have no idea if the game will take off, or whether it will fall foul of scheduling problems and player drop out, but for now, I am looking forward to it. I’m excited about D&D, I’m excited about building a campaign and getting to introduce some new players to this weird and wonderful hobby.

Advertisements

QuicFic: Blue Sky

Blue Sky was inspired by a short Apocalypse World campaign I played in last year and is a possible epilogue for my character Farley. The apocalypse that has befallen the world is one of an apparently endless storm powered by a psychic maelstrom. The endless rain of this storm has wiped away the surface of the world, with survivors scraping by in small settlements nestled in mountain ranges or in convoys that travel the surface trading supplies for food and shelter. While the rain may be endless it all flows to the same end: the pits, gigantic circular holes that dot the planet. Their purpose, like their connection to the storm, is unknown.


 

Blue sky.

For almost a decade people had laughed at the concept, that the sky could be anything other than a faint and menacing glow. Farley couldn’t blame them, that there was something beyond the endless grey sky was only marginally less implausible than saying the rain would stop one day and the one time he’d brought that up had gotten him and Wisher driven out of the convoy they’d joined. Not that it mattered, not really. They’d both seen the truth, that the world was slowly but surely changing. The first time after leaving Erzen, they’d been circling the mountains, searching for evidence of another mine or bunker that might hold clues about the Before, about the fates of Lemma and Mencken. To be dry, even for a few minutes had been startling enough but to bodies accustomed to shadows and dampness the light and the warmth was nothing short of painful. That was the only time the sky had opened that first year but it had been enough to revive their flagging spirits and finally convince Wisher that her uncle hadn’t been broken by isolation or what had occurred in the mine. Not that times had been easy since those early days, spent drifting from settlement to squalid settlement making the runs that nobody else could or would. Farley, not quite sure what he was looking for, had ensured they never stayed in one place long. Doing so had forced Wisher into the life of a Driver and while she wasn’t quite the mechanical genius that her mother had been the constant travel had honed her reflexes and focused her intuition. While he knew it wasn’t the life that she’d have wanted Farley was sure that his sister would have been proud of Wisher none the less.

“Farley it’s time, the engine’s charged. We’re as ready as we’ll ever be and the storm has passed” said Wisher as she stepped in through the airlock, her suit drenched to a degree that was becoming increasingly rare. Her arrival was enough to snap Farley out of his reminiscing, it was time to replicate the stunt that had got him driven out of his home all those years ago. That first time he’d been lucky to survive, insane recklessness and the broken flow of the water under the car had let him skim the edge of the pit. Shan, his main rival in the settlement, hadn’t been as lucky and had plunged his car into the depths when he’d tried to emulate the act. By nightfall Farley was on the run, the first of many journeys that would bring him to Mencken, then Erzen and finally here, to an abandoned settlement only a mile from the nearest pit.

“Yeah, I’ll be right with you kid, just… give me a moment.”

Nodding Wisher headed back outside, a minute later Farley grabbed his own gear before cycling through the airlock into a dry and bright world that made him pause. Lemma, I don’t know if you’re up there but if you are could you dial it down a bit? My eyes just aren’t meant for this sort of light, doubt even those from the Before could handle it. Snapping on his goggles he breathed a sigh of relief as he scanned over the small convoy they’d assembled by calling in every favour they’d built up over the years. If they were going to confirm what he’d seen before Wisher was going to need to skim the edge of the pit for longer than Marlene’s hover engines would allow. Solving that problem had meant dragging Bridget, Satan and the tank out of retirement just to provide a sturdy enough anchor to tie Marlene to. All to get a glance into the abyss, to confirm that he’d once glimpsed a secret of a world long forgotten.

“Can’t shake the feeling that this is what Mum built her for, no other car could make this run,” Wisher was checking over Marlene one last time as Farley approached, talking to herself as she did so. It was a habit he was sure she’d picked up from him.

“I know what you mean, same way as no other driver could make it. Lemma always talked about how we were all cogs in a bigger machine, guess this is just them coming together at last.”

The trip to the staging point was mercifully quiet, broken only by occasional check ins as the spotters reached their vantage points. If it looked like Wisher was in trouble they’d be able to call it in while the tank could still pull her in, before she plunged into the darkness of Farley’s nightmares. He said nothing as she went through one final set of checks, he didn’t need to. A simple nod of encouragement as she settled into the drivers seat said more than his words ever could. Then he retreated to the tank, pulling a pair of headphone on as she started her run.

“Hover is at 80… 90… 100%. Anchor is secure, speed.. 45… 53 and,” there was a thunk, “we have tension. Here goes nothing…”

Silence. Inside the tank nobody made a sound. 10 seconds passed, then another, and another before Farley grabbed the microphone, panic seeping into his voice.

“Wisher… Wisher… whats happened… WISHER!”

“It’s ok Farley, everything’s ok. I’m fine, I’m just… it’s beautiful. You were right, the entire edge is metal, section after section of it, all riveted together. I’m turning on the camera, you should see it now.”

The image that fed through to the tank was exactly what Farley had hoped for, a metal edge that had clearly been constructed during the Before. The pits had a purpose, the pits had meaning. Then the image started to move, Wisher’s voice barley above a whisper as she repositioned the camera.

“There’s something else, I can… I think I can see the water level, it’s not that far below me. There’s something in it, a ship or boat.”

As the image came into focus Farley found himself staring at a ship he’d seen only once, through a portal into the maelstrom of the storm. It dwarfed even Erzen, its vast angular deck flat apart from the vehicles that moved across it. Their purpose became clear moments later as one raced across it, diving not into the depths of the pit but soaring upward into the sky. The thunderous noise it made was deafening, but Farley knew what it meant.

Mencken. Mencken, the Rainwalker, had returned.

Kyufoki no Shinden

Tsi_HayamizuThe monastery dedicated to Kyufoki, the Fortune of Earthquakes, can be found within one of the many small valleys of the Fallen Mountains. Surrounded by mines, both active and abandoned, the monks can trace the history of the monastery back to the early days of the empire and the discovery of rich iron deposits in the local region. Some tales suggest that the monastery itself sits upon the site of the first mine though the monks deny knowledge of any tunnels within its grounds. While dedicated to Kyufoki the mine is known more commonly referred to as the Thunder Monastery by the peasants of the region due to the constant booming emanating from the many forges. The construction of the forges is a recent development in the long history of the monastery, stemming from the arrival of the monk Komatsu.

Hailing from the Oriole Clan the master swordsmith was unable to completely forgo his former life and saw instead the opportunity to serve the celestial order by providing simpler items for the peasant classes. During difficult times the monastery puts its expertise to the production of farm implements, mining tools and other basic items, believing it is their spiritual duty to ensure the lower citizens of Rokugan are able to properly fulfill their role in the celestial order. Outside of these periods the forges are used primarily for the production of temple bells, amulets and other items of spiritual significance. Much of the production is undertaken by peasant apprentices who dedicate themselves to the Order for at least a year, exchanging their service for the opportunity to learn the art of blacksmithing. While many samurai approach the monks and request training in the art of sword smithing most find themselves turned away, not from an absence of skill but because their piety is found lacking by those who have have dedicated their lives to the Fortune.

Taoreta Sangaku: The Fallen Mountains

Inspired by the setting brewing occurring over at Nearly Enough Dice and having recently read through the Naishou Province supplement for Legend of the Five Rings I thought it was about time to properly flesh out the region of Rokugan I’m using in my current Unicorn campaign. Being relatively new to the setting I wanted somewhere outside the existing canon with the potential for plenty of combat, encounters with the spirit realms and numerous factions each aiming to upset the existing status quo. At the centre of the campaign lies Taoreta Sangaku, the Fallen Mountains, along which the PCs had been assigned to patrol (though originally I’d called them the Thunder Mountains before discovering those already existed within the official cannon). Ultimately the aim is to build the region into a full setting beyond that of the campaign along the lines of Naishou Province, full of NPCs and potential plot hooks.

Bridge-in-the-Clouds

Region Overview

Taoreta Sangaku, the Fallen Mountains, stretches almost 80km end to end and forms one of the many disputed borders between provinces of the Great Clans. Despite it’s treacherous terrain and limited number of crossing points the mountain range is claimed almost in its entirety by both the Unicorn and Lion Clans due to the rich metal deposits scattered across it, with hundreds of active and abandoned mines dotted across it’s lengths. The peasants that inhabit the temporary hamlets of the mines share the peaks with both friends and foe, with both the Brotherhood of Shinsei and countless bandits attracted by the isolation of the peaks. Only the southern most portion lays uncontested, controlled by the Dragon Clan Brotherhood of Shinsei who together guard and maintain the temple complex honouring Otomo Kei, the younger brother of Hantei XIV who, alongside an entire Imperial Legion, gave his life in defence of the region.

To the north of the mountains lies the great Lake Ishi, fed by the numerous streams coming off of the mountains and named after Miya Ishi, senior herald of Otomo Kei’s legion. Local legend tells that a month after the legion disappeared into the mountains Ishi alone walked out along one of the many rivers leading to the lake. Instructing the peasants to gather the nearest samurai she proceeded to the lake, where she began the ritual cleaning of her armour and daisho in preparation for her final duty. When a small group of ronin residing in the village approached Ishi charged them with delivering a single scroll to the nearest Imperial representative before requesting a second so that she could commit seppuku on the shores of the lake. Looking back towards the mountains she spoke one last time before plunging the blade into her stomach.

“We acted for the good of the Empire. May the heavens be merciful in their justice, for I bear the sins of a thousand upon one soul.”

Shirayama Toshi, the White Mountain City, sits upon the northern banks of Lake Ishi and is as disputed as the Fallen Mountains themselves. A hub of activity that has grown up around the port it is the centre of traffic in the region and co-ordinates the shipping of ore down from the mines and out to the empire at large along the Tamu River to the north. Over the years its ready access to high quality metals and quasi-unaligned status the city has attracted craftsmen, blacksmiths and merchants eager to obtain the patronage of Clan samurai and as a result the city has sprawled far beyond the original city walls, which now forms the Samurai quarter. Following repeated clashes between the Unicorn and Lion over ownership of the city control was granted to the Scorpion Clan under an Imperial mandate. With no provinces of their own nearby the Scorpion have gained a valuable foothold in the region while their reputation and limited military options ensures the Lion and Unicorn remain weary without being overtly threatened. The Scorpion, led by Governor Bayushi Saburo, have sunk countless koku into the development of the city, cementing its position as the political and economic hub of the Fallen Mountains while ensuring its success is reliant upon their continual presence.