Of Illness and Undeath

Okay, being sick all week and falling behind on work is one thing.

Being sick and having to call off our monthly trip to friends in Virginia to play D&D because we worry that at that date we’d make the entire family (including kids, and that would be mean) sick over Christmas is rotten. I was really looking forward to seeing them this weekend. 🙁

In good news, Selene’s healing up nicely. Her big scabs are coming off and revealing a narrow strip of wound underneath, which is much smaller, so we’re treating it sparingly with hydrogen peroxide, keeping her collar on (although several times now she’s somehow managed to untie the gauze tie and slip it off, clever minx that she is), and looking forward to things healing up enough that she can have her life back to normal again!

On the plus side I now have “Libris Mortis” for D&D (arrived this morning!), so I should be able to work on more of the arcplot for the campaign I’m creating.

I have a very organic way of building campaigns; it’s just the way my mind works. I think it’s partially because of the ADD, which makes it difficult for me to build things in a linear, focused fashion. Here’s an example of how I started out the current campaign:

I kept things simple at first, because I haven’t GMed in a while and was feeling a tad uncertain of myself. I went to the Dire Press tools collection (one of my favorites anywhere!) and used the random dungeon generator to generate a level 1 desert-themed dungeon (dear husband of mine, if you’re reading this, now is the time go read something else!). I read through it, altered anything I thought needed altering, added a few specific items I wanted the party to find, made notes of the number of xps the party would get for each encounter or challenge, and so on.

My husband made things easy on me as far as getting him involved (yes for the moment this is a single-player campaign) by playing a monk of an order loosely based on something from a novel he was reading not all that long ago; essentially, members of the order are charged to protect members of the nobility, and they are expected to remain utterly neutral and devoted in their charge. This means I can fit him into nearly any plot just by finding someone for him to protect, which is pretty cool. Anyway, one of the things I did first was come up with his charge, a young noblewoman (a ranger with a hatred for all things undead) whose parents believed that she would need protecting while she and her expedition went out into the desert searching for something (they underestimate her a bit, but hey; she doesn’t mind some extra firepower!).

I’m using the “Sandstorm” supplement for D&D, however, the city the main party is from was established less than 100 years ago by people from another continent, and they’ve yet to explore much beyond the fertile coastal area of this continent. They certainly haven’t explored the desert much yet, which allows me to introduce Sandstorm material gradually. However, the deity of Aurifar–a lawful-neutral solar god with a strong dislike of the undead–has shown himself to them, and the monks’ order (as well as the state-sponsored religion) follows him. The party also includes a cleric to Aurifar.

The first little hidden underground hideaway the party explored was pretty much just a small ruin, mostly inhabited by desert animals and one lone undead (a ghast if I remember correctly; I’d look it up but my arms are pinned by a cat). In the room occupied by the ghast was a treasure chest, and one of the items in that chest was a map–a map that the monk’s charge picked up immediately and clearly had been hoping to find. The party was rather the worse for wear at that point, so they headed back out for the night to camp, hoping to clear the place out in the morning. That’s where we broke for the night, and that’s about all I knew at the time.

I’d figured out by this point that the ranger’s antipathy for undead (chosen randomly at the time) and Aurifar’s dislike for the undead (I chose Aurifar for the monks’ deity because his personality and alignment seemed appropriate to their mission at the time) were not coincidence, nor was the fact that Aurifar had chosen, of all the local desert deities, to immediately reveal himself to the intruders on this continent and take them as his own followers. This meant that whatever the arc-plot happened to be, it would involve undead. Also, since I love that aforementioned dungeon generator and wanted to be able to use it at least for the first series of adventures to make my life easier (things have been too busy lately to allow me to come up with all my own stuff), that meant the first series of adventures had to be appropriate to dungeon settings–which works well with undead, when you think about it.

So, knowing that by the time the party finished out the current little dungeon they’d likely be level two, and knowing that undead is now the theme, I went back to the dungeon generator and generated a small dungeon with the following parameters:

  • Level: 2
  • Motif: undead
  • Size: small (believe me, small is still pretty darn big!)
  • Layout: Rectangle
  • Room size: Medium
  • Room placement: Packed
  • Corridors: Straight
  • Remove deadends? All

[Gaaah! Two seconds out of sight and that little furry escape artist slips her collar!]

Anyway. It generates the dungeon in the browser, and then you can save it as a file, which of course you can bring up or print whenever you like. I printed out a copy and, again, marked it up with changes, xp awards, and so on.

Next, I needed to figure out what on earth this young woman was after, and that had drawn all of these other people to help her–a quiet young acolyte of Aurifar; a polite and personable rogue with a reputation as a fence for rare antiquities; and a slightly dangerous young adept with a smattering of knowledge regarding everything from history to architecture to the planes themselves. I’d already had the random thought that the woman had studied under a ranger across the seas in the motherland, thus explaining why her family has so little understanding of her skills and mission. However she came by her hatred of the undead it must have been there–and perhaps from that mysterious teacher.

Now, I tend to think best by only half-thinking about something like this, and letting my subconscious work on it over time. So since I was sick anyway, I just brought up bookworm and played for a while, stopping now and then to take notes on a nearby piece of paper. First thought was, well, perhaps her old mentor was training her because there’s an undead threat to the old world that’s building, and they don’t have the means to fight it. I already know that I want to play with epic-level plots this time around as well as personal stuff, so a threat to a goodly portion of the world is a great place to start. Of course the buildup to that will have to take quite a long time, but that’s good for an arcplot. I’ve also wanted to play around with Jinn and some interesting fiery extraplanar stuff, which could intersect with an undead threat in really interesting ways (not to mention it goes well with a solar deity).

So assume the party is on the hunt for something that can be used against undead, something related to the deity Aurifar. What if, long ago, a powerful cleric to Aurifar created an amulet that was used to fight an undead menace on this continent? And what if the amulet was eventually stolen by a necromancer to keep it out of the hands of the good guys? It was a powerful artifact and he couldn’t figure out how to destroy it, so he broke it into as many pieces as possible and hid them away, protected by undead. Sure, the basic form of this plot is an old one, but it’s all in the execution, and I think this could come off in a fun way. At least it’s a good place to start from.

Aurifar, being the deity he is, certainly doesn’t want any big undead menace threatening the world, even if so far it’s on distant shores. And he certainly doesn’t mind using someone else’s threat to prod a bunch of people into piecing together one of his most powerful artifacts and perhaps spreading his worship as they use it. As the plot progresses I intend for him to take more and more of a personal interest in the party (as much as deities ever do, of course).

Therefore, the first ruin the party explored was the last place visited by the necromancer-thief before he died or was incapacitated (and yes, I do think he’ll be multiclassed; when you think evil necromancer, you don’t tend to think thief!). He’d temporarily stored there a map of the region that has a number of things on it, among them surely the locations where the amulet pieces have been hidden away–although who knows what else the party will run into along the way, and what other subplots will come up regarding this necromancer (I have a feeling he’ll turn out to have an interesting story all his own, that won’t be the expected–in fact I have a feeling he won’t turn out to be a bad guy at all). This map will lead the party to that second moss-covered temple, which will of course contain the first part of the amulet, and somewhere in here the ranger will explain to her new monk friend her version of what’s going on.

Another thought came to me after reading this tidbit of writing by Applegeeks’ Ananth–as Aurifar becomes more and more interested in the party, I think the desert will begin to “follow” them in little ways wherever they go. I think at first this will seem like a good thing, a sign of the favor of Aurifar. But I wonder if, as they learn more and more about the necromancer and the amulet, it’ll seem like a very mixed blessing…

Posted in Gaming
2 comments on “Of Illness and Undeath
  1. Scott M says:

    Sounds like a very fun campaign– I look forward to hearing how it goes.

    Is your husband playing one character or the whole party?

  2. Thank you! It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here.

    At the moment he’s playing one character.

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