A diabolical plan has come to fruition!

Lord Zardoz

Today's game was great. I managed to finish off chapter 4 of Red hand of Doom, which went quite well. Wyrmlord Kharn's dramatic appearance was somewhat muted when the players said "Whatever, where is your boss, Koth?". The players then continued to insist that Koth had to be in charge (Koth had survived and done quite well against the players on repeated occasions).

To wrap up the day, the players then decided to complete a long running side quest. Now, to appreciate the full impact of what occured, some background is necessary.

1) In the very first game, the players encounted Marcello de la Roche, a corrupt Noble who demanded the players surrender a horse to him. They refused, and combat ensued. Marcello de la Roche died. The de la Roche familiy is an old, very wealthy, and very proud family. Marcello's son then sought revenge. He was killed by the players. Then a nephew, and a brohter, and in that fashion, much of the de la Roche Family tree was pruned by the players.

2) In one of the very first games, the players suffered a TPK. They found themselves before Hiddukel, the god of Lies, Greed, and Betrayal. Hiddukel promised to restore them, but they would owe him a series of four favors. The players did a sense motive vs Hiddukel's bluff, but found that Hiddukel seemed like a completely trust worthy sort, and that the offer felt legit.

3) The kingdom of the Rhormarch had just gotten out of a long running civil war. The rightful ruler, Prince Oden, was an evil man and lost. He went renegade, but had his faction pitch in against the Red Hand armies. Duke Alric ruled justly with the consent of the royal senate / council of Nobles.

4) The Rhormarch enlisted the aid of a distant ally for military aid from the kingdom of Berhagen. They sent Sir Dietrich Hayden, the 5th Viscount of Ilfressen to command the allied forces. One of my players had a self created long standing grudge against Sir Dietrich Hayden. That players origin was that Hayden sent him on a suicide mission out of incompetence, and blamed his own incompetence on the PC. That PC had sworn to murder Sir Dietrich Hayden.

5) One of my original players left, and a new one replaced him. Much later, the players entered a bar, and among the drinkers, diners, and barmaids, one table caught their attention. There was a Pit fiend calmly sitting at the table who motioned the players over,and told them 'A mutual friend wants to have a world'. They entered a broom closet, and found themselves before Hiddukel again. The new player was shows a vision of his missing father being tortured by unseen people. (The missing father was a background arc the player had suggested for himself). That players was then presented a contract, and told not to show it to the other players, or talk about it. This contract promised the player that he would be told what happened to his missing father if he would indebt himself to Hiddukel and perform the tasks with the original players. He signed the contract.

Ok, enough background. Hiddukel asked the players to perform 4 tasks for him.

Task 1:
The players had found a master work dagger on a Red Hand of Doom torturer. They were told to take the dagger "to 3rd weapon stall on the left", and ask the smith to properly clean the blade. Then you are to personally deliver it to to a "Councilman William Kiersted of the City of Kiedel". You must do so within 60 days, or you will die. You are also instructed to tell him exactly where you obtained the dagger from (the dead hobgoblin mindbender / torturer in from the Ruins of Rhest).

What the players did not know, but could have found out: The seal on the dagger, and the note concealed within the hilt, establishes that Prince Oden’s Grandmother had an affair with Lord Archibald Kiersted. This puts the bloodline of Duke Alaric and Prince Oden into question. William Kiersted will start looking into this in order to find out if someone else has a claim on his noble title. He will then discover that the one who would have his claim would be either Prince Oden or Duke Alaric. This in turn means that neither Prince Oden nor Duke Alaric have a legitimate claim to the throne under the law.

Task 2:
Travel to the shrine of Sirrion at the crossroads of the Rhormarch trail between Boerenbach and Newyth. Dig up the firepit that is used for a campsite. Take the sealed case within and deliver it to the village of Boernholm and give it to the merchant in the employ of Frederik Buchassen.

What the players did not know, but could have found out: The firepit was made in a depression. The depression is caused because someone murdered a Herald of Illien who was delivering authenticated patents of nobility from the city of Hauptrer to Kiedel. These patents of nobility establish that the line descended from Jordan Lessen has an equal claim to the throne of Rohrmarch as that of Prince Oden. However, no known descendants of Jordan Lessen are alive.

Task 3:
To seal an alliance between the Rhormarch and Berhagen, Duke Alaric has pledged the hand of his virgin daughter to Sir Dietrich Hayden. Seduce the bride of Sir Dietrich Hayden before their wedding. Send her signet ring and the soiled sheets to Sir Dietrich.

What the players did not know, but could have found out: To secure the services of Sir Dietrich Hayden, Duke Alaric pledged his firstborn daughter in marriage. In Brecht politcs, deflowering a bride prior to the wedding hand sending the soiled sheets and signet ring a perfectly acceptible, if somewhat uncommon way to insult the honor of a rival. Doing so will kill the alliance, and cause Sir Dietrich to cancel the nuptuals. He will not back or support Duke Alaric.

Task 4:
Obtain the Rochemark Crest from Seigfried de la Roche, and present it to Speaker Ostgard of Oden. You may obtain it by any means you please.

What the players did not know, but could have found out: Ostgard family is a family that has an old blood feud with the de la Roche family. The crests are challenge trophies, basically a way for a powerful warrior to boast “Take this from me if you can”. Ostgard really hates the de la Roche family. A careful examination of it will reveal a similarity between the family crest of de la Roche and the family crest of Jordan Lessen.

Result of the Plan:
Dietrich Hayden chooses not to back Duke Alaric because the ‘unspoiled daughter’ he was promised is no longer unspoiled (task 3). This will give Prince Oden a chance to renew his challenge for the throne, since he has the backing of law and of a significant portion of the military for his actions against the Red Hand.

Councilman William Kiersted will oppose this, and in order to prevent Oden from taking the throne, will give his recently discovered evidence that puts the Princes claim to the throne in doubt, a Dagger with evidence that has been verified, which puts the claim of Oden in doubt (See task 1). When asked why he withheld this information, held off revealing this because Duke Alaric’s claim would be damaged as well.

But wait, there is more! The missing father of the new player shows up. He warmly greets his son, and does not look at all like he has been tortured. He is wearing the vestments of a high ranking cleric of Hiddukel. He tells his son that he wants to personally thank the players for making what follows possible.

With no one having a clear line to the succession, the noble council must select a new king. The recently rediscovered patents (task 2) will reveal an alternate bloodline, but there are not descendants alive of Jordan Lessen. Kiersted will have the Priest of Gilean examine all known royal crests.

When they go to examine Ostgard, the priest will recognize the similarity between Jordan Lessens crest, and the de la Roche challenge crest (task 4). Further examination will reveal that Jordan Lessens son was deeply in debt, and sold the title to Ancel de la Roche. This means that the de la Roche family has the strongest claim. They will also discover that Rachel de la Roche has chosen to marry Dietrich, who will take the name Dietrich de la Roche.

The point: I sent the players on a side quest that helped the de la Roche family ascend to the throne. The insult to Sir Dietrich Hayden drove him to accept a marriage proposal from the de la Roche Family. The family they are fueding with is now the royal family. The mortal enemy of one of the players has been declared king. And one player was just betrayed by a missing father he had been searching for for years. On top of it all, because someone in the de la Roche family worships Hiddukel, Hiddukel now has a corrupt and greedy royal family with a legitimate claim to the throne of a powerful kingdom.

The moral of the story: Never, under any circumstances, enter any sort of bargain with Hiddukel, the god of Lies, Greed, and Betrayal.

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Lord Zardoz


The seeds of the whole plan were set in place long before I had any idea of what would grow from them.

The first meeting with Hiddukel was the result of me wanting a way to avoid a TPK. Low levels in 2nd and 3rd edition are a pain in the ass for me to run, because I am a very tactical DM, and the PC's are so fragile. I decided that having the players appear in the afterlife before a god and striking some sort of bargain to return to life was the way to go. It gave me a way to justify DM Fiat in the event I screwed up and killed the party. It also made a god an interactive part of the campaign rather than a background element, and gave me a general purpose plot hook to dick my players around with. The decision to use Hiddukel fit my plans since a big part of his portfolio is bargains that screw over those who deal with him.

Later on I got the idea of trying to pull off a 'Xanatos Gambit' after spending too much time reading TV tropes.org (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/XanatosGambit). I was not sure how to do it, but I figured it would be worth giving a shot. The end result is not quite a Xanatos Gambit, but it does set Hiddukel up as one hell of a 'Chessmaster' villain. (see http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheChessmaster?from=Main.Chessmaster). The only thing I lacked was something to give the players a sense that they were opposing the very villain they were helping. I am not at all disappointed though.

The plan fell into place as a way to tie together a bunch of otherwise wildly unrelated plot threads that existed in the campaign world. The initial setup called back to an encounter that happened during the very fist adventure of the entire campaign. It uses a highly effective villain group, the de la Roche family, that was introduced in the very first combat adventure of the campaign. It takes place during the Red Hand of Doom adventure, and uses a treasure item within the adventure. It takes advantage of two player created origin back stories and makes them integral to a long running campaign arc. It takes a campaign specific world detail, the civil war and political conflict between Prince Oden and Duke Alric and makes it something beyond a secondary background element.

Most important? It was a plan designed from the outset to screw over my players, and to have them do all the legwork and heavy lifting needed to make it happen.

I must confess that I am just way too pleased with myself.



I wish my plot lines could be as complex. But my players demand simplicity or they would just look at me with "?" all over their innocent faces..

Well done for pulling it off. It was a master stroke.

Lord Zardoz

I wish my plot lines could be as complex. But my players demand simplicity or they would just look at me with "?" all over their innocent faces.

In my experience, trying to plan something this complex from 'Day 0' will often end up backfiring due to unforseen circumstances. It will just become too difficult to introduce all the factors in a manner which will not tip your hand too early.

What does work though, is just to take a whole lot of notes as you run your typical campaign. Any NPC's that your players manage to interact with in a memorable or entertaining manner is worth keeping track of. Any origin information that you were given should be kept track of. After any given adventure, make note of which significant NPC's are still alive. If you start at 1st level, by about level 7 you should have a number of elements from previous games that provide minor plot hooks. Once you reach that point, all you need to do is have your 'Chessmaster' villain take advantage of all of them at once.

Now all you need to do to convince your players that you are a truly unholy bastard is bring all of them into play in a manner which is plausible and makes sense within the campaign world. Set your players up to undertake actions that they know will have an effect, but do not make the full effect of those actions obvious. If they want to know what is going on, they are going to have to make a direct effort to look into it. Make sure to tie in as many events that happened in game as you can justify. Players will never remember what an NPC told them, but they will remember that time they won a bar fight and left the loser tied upside down to a tree with no pants. Having that guy show up again several levels later will mean something.

My players knew that cutting a deal with Hiddukel was probably going to be dangerous. My players were getting pretty suspicious when they completed the first two tasks and nothing spectacularly bad happened. One of them even figured out that all of those tasks had something to do with the nobility. But when I presented them with tasks that had them act directly against people they were hoping to screw over anyway, none of them really questioned it.

If you have a game where the same faces show up from time to time, and you have a couple of surviving villains dangling around, you have all the tools you need to make your players wish you grievous bodily harm. All you need to do is just tie it together.


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