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Help for a Rusty DM Badly in Need of Some Mental WD-40

Enkhidu

Explorer
OK

Right before the Rat's Nest crashed I had posted basically what follow's over there in the hopes that some Bastardly help would arise, but with time closing in and that treasure trove of DMing goodness gone on hiatus, I decided to bring it here for some more general critique. Hopefully y'all can bear with me while I set the stage:

By the way, if you are one of my players, or even one of the stooges that my players can press into service to get a gander at this stuff, now's the time to vamoose.












1) The Situation: Our group's regualr DM has gone on baby hiatus until spring at earliest, and the general consensus of the group was that I should probably take over DMing duties (as I have more experience behind the screen than everyone else). So, on fairly short notice I cobbled together a bunch of ideas I had for a campaign world and started running with it. However, after deciding on the basics (like geography, political entities, money system, religion, races allowed - things that you absolutely know are going to come up) I ran out of steam. After some hemming and hawing, I decided to try recycling some very old material (including some of the 1E classics that thankfully aren't familiar to most of the group) and starting everyone off at 7th level (because of the abbreviated time I knew we would have and to give both players and DM some breathing room - I didn't want to "accidentally" slaughter the PCs right off the bat and 7th level seems to be the most "survivable" of all the levels).

2) The Adventure: To kick things off, I started the PCs (a druid, a ranger/DWS, a cleric/paladin, and a cleric/monk) out on the frontier of an empire that's pushing its boundaries, and promptly smacked them in the face with the news that over the past two weeks several of the outermost farmsteads have been pillaged and burned, with no survivors left behind (for good measure, I made sure that the druid had a contact in area that didn't show up for their monthly get together to give them more impetus). Like good little PC's they set out to find out the why's and wherefor's, and they followed a trail that led deeper into the wilderness even farther away from civilization. Here is where I dropped in the first of my oldies - a mod from Dragon #73 called Forest of Doom.

I changed a bunch about the mod (replaced the bugbears and quaggoths with goblins across the board, took out the drow completely and replaced them with githyanki led by a foursome of very twisted elves, added a bunch of lesser-flesh-golem-like creatures, etc), but mostly simply so I could A) set hooks for things I knew I wanted to incorporate later and B) make it fit within the my home-brew more tightly. At this point, they've progressed almost to the end and I'm short for time to answer some of the bigger questions. That brings me to...

3)The Problem: At this point, I know that I want to lay the following hooks:

A) the Elves are indicative of how elves are in this campaign (ageless "perfect" beings that believe themselves to be as far above other races as other races are above animals; needless to say they aren't elegible to be PCs) and this particular house of elves is actively pursuing "culling the herd" in this part of the world (unless of course someone finds out and stops them).

B) This House of elves has allied itself with a cult dedicated to a being akin to the Elder Elemental God and bent on forcing its way into this reality to consume it.

C) The Goblins used by these elves were being supplied by one of the generals of the Empire (who has his own agendas).

D) The Gith are a merc force contracted by the Elves. These Gith hail from a group that currently has in their possession the Fedifensor (yet another old Mod from Dragon that I hope to use).

Here's the big problem: I'm having a hell of a time comin up with hooks that will be effective without being blatant or cheesy.



So, that being said, have you guys got any ideas?
 

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threshel

First Post
Hmmmm...It's hard for a DM to insert player info without it seeming blatant. My first suggestion is to look for any chance that the players have to uncover it themselves. Are they in the habit of interrogating prisoners? Play it up, but have the right nuggets drop. Finding communiques is another good one. It may seem cheesy (hey look, you found a note with the "next thing" on it), but villianous schemes organized on a larger scale than half a dozen participants require communications and logistics.

If you're too far gone for the players to "initiate" these discoveries, then I'd suggest some communiques that contain the nuggets, along with a pile of others that are fool's gold. It shouldn't seem so blatant if they have to figure out what's misinformation and what's truth.

I hope this helps,
:)
J
 

Rel

Liquid Awesome
Enk, I wouldn't dream of failing you in your time of need. But my family just got home and I gotta go eat dinner. I'll be back to you later tonight or in the morning.
 

maddman75

First Post
Enkhidu said:
3)The Problem: At this point, I know that I want to lay the following hooks:

A) the Elves are indicative of how elves are in this campaign (ageless "perfect" beings that believe themselves to be as far above other races as other races are above animals; needless to say they aren't elegible to be PCs) and this particular house of elves is actively pursuing "culling the herd" in this part of the world (unless of course someone finds out and stops them).

B) This House of elves has allied itself with a cult dedicated to a being akin to the Elder Elemental God and bent on forcing its way into this reality to consume it.

C) The Goblins used by these elves were being supplied by one of the generals of the Empire (who has his own agendas).

D) The Gith are a merc force contracted by the Elves. These Gith hail from a group that currently has in their possession the Fedifensor (yet another old Mod from Dragon that I hope to use).

Here's the big problem: I'm having a hell of a time comin up with hooks that will be effective without being blatant or cheesy.

So, that being said, have you guys got any ideas?

I think C is your best bet. The characters should find some evidence that the Empire is connected to the empire. Maybe something as subtle as their payoff - freshly minted gold coins with the Empire's sign. Kind of odd out in the middle of nowhere. Maybe they'll head back to investigate, where you can play them off the different generals.

The cult could be interesting as well. Maybe they find an old shrine to the PC's god out here that has been desecrated. Following the trail of the attackers they find the elf camp, where the elves don't react kindly to vermin in their encampment.
 

The Grackle

First Post
Enkhidu said:
3)The Problem: At this point, I know that I want to lay the following hooks:

A) the Elves are indicative of how elves are in this campaign (ageless "perfect" beings that believe themselves to be as far above other races as other races are above animals; needless to say they aren't elegible to be PCs) and this particular house of elves is actively pursuing "culling the herd" in this part of the world (unless of course someone finds out and stops them).

B) This House of elves has allied itself with a cult dedicated to a being akin to the Elder Elemental God and bent on forcing its way into this reality to consume it.

C) The Goblins used by these elves were being supplied by one of the generals of the Empire (who has his own agendas).

D) The Gith are a merc force contracted by the Elves. These Gith hail from a group that currently has in their possession the Fedifensor (yet another old Mod from Dragon that I hope to use).

A)No reason to be subtle w/this one. Introduce some snooty elf NPCs and the players will instantly hate and distrust them. It would be extra cool if the elves never actually did anything themselves, they just manipulated lesser beings into killing each other off. That way they could claim innocence and technically they would be. How would your paladin handle that?

B) Hmmm... Use the party druid for this one. Have nature seem out of whack, Portents of doom, Prophetic Dreams, etc.

C) If the goblins are being supplied en masse by the empire they should be using suspiciously nice stuff for goblins. Newly crafted weapons and armor, as well as other stuff. Give the PCs a chance to notice this, and make a knowledge check to ID its source/craftsmanship. They could find the forge which leads them to the army which leads them to the general.

D)??? I Dunno about this one.



What are the PCs back stories? Give them clues in their character history that will lead them further ahead the storyline. That's always a crowd pleaser.
 


coyote6

Adventurer
For D), the githyanki could have some other item that legend says was owned by the last guy known to have had Fedifensor. At some point, the PCs acquire said item (might want to make it useful -- e.g., a magic item -- if you don't want 'em to sell it right away); then, at some other point, they learn of its history (some knowledgable-type person can see the item and exclaim, "Why, that looks just like the McGuffin of McGoogle!", or perhaps something less cheesy, and explain the significance of McGoogle vis-a-vis Fedifensor).

Preferably, they'll encounter the githyanki a few times before uncovering the evidence; then they'd have both a reason to dislike the githyanki and an idea of how to find the sword (find their HQ, search it).

Depending on the order you expect these plots to reach fruition, perhaps Fedifensor can be a key to defeating the elder god's scheme.
 
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Enkhidu

Explorer
Let's go through some of the suggestions and see where they match up with events that have already transpired in the game:

- Maddman's advice was something right out of my notes: Imperial coin is going to be found in the treasury of this tree fortress. In addition, I've already made it clear that the weaponry held by the goblins was of military quality, and that the rumor mill running in the forts along the frontier were going on about how a small group of men in Imperial dress drove a wagon full of bundles up the Reed Trail out into the wilderness. I guess that I was looking for something a little more blatant, but I guess that won't be necessary. I'm counting on one PC in particular (who's backstory includes a number of reasons for blind, unreasoning hate for this Empire) to drive investigations.

- Grackle's advice on the elf NPC was one that I think I want to stay away from for now, but will intro later when I introduce the idea that the elves are split into factions (not of goal, but of method). It's not something I would have done otherwise, so thanks for the prod in that direction.

- Threshel's ideas for the lost communiques is also something that meshes well with actual events: the PCs have already found a few pages in Gith behind forgotten behind a desk, and two stacks of papers that I thought were going to only be quartermaster style tallies (also in Gith), but just realized that I can put in much more info than I had origianlly planned. All I have to do is write them!

So, thanks for the help so far: the rust is slowly breaking away!
 

Rel

Liquid Awesome
Along the lines of what has already been mentioned, I'd probably place some kind of "forge mark" on the weapons that would indicate they had been crafted in the Empire. The coins will seal the deal, particularly if they are of recent mint.

Do the PC's know that these are Githyanki they are dealing with? Or do they just know that some mysterious mercs are working for the elves? If they don't yet know specifics, I'd try and prolong the mystery on that issue. With their Dimension Slide capability, they should be able to stay elusive if the PC's begin to close in on them.

I learned during my last campaign that if you give the PC's and enemy who is able to get away when the battle starts to turn against them that they will thirst for their destruction like a thirsty Rel thirsts for a cold beer (i.e. a lot). So have the Githyanki mercs (wrapped in cloaks and masks to hide their true identities) charge fearlessly into battle with the PC's and then Slide on out of there if things start to go badly.

Then they'll call you a Rat Bastard DM and you'll know that the rust is a thing of the past! ;) Good luck.
 

Enkhidu

Explorer
At this point, using the Gith's Slide ability has been used strictly to ambush instead of retreat, and the party has seen the Githyanki in all their rather funky glory (I played up the "alien" aspect of their appearance and gear - going as far as to say that all of their weaponry take Exotic profs to use (and vice versa) because of fundamental shape and balance problems - and will probably continue to do so as they move along -- maybe I'll make them have ties to the Cult...).

So far I've been using them as "fanatic combatants," suprememly confident in their abilities to overcome the PCs and willing to fight to the last. The PCs spent about 2.5 sessions simply fighting their way through ambushes and traps that the (mechanically inferior but numerically superior) Gith had set. About the only time they paused was when they finally found the network of magical crystals being used as foci for the Gith's surveillance network. Maybe the next time they face them I'll go with a less fanatic and more crafty force...
 

conanb

First Post
Glimpse Behind The Curtain

I like what you got going here. I think you've got a great set of villians in these elves, especially if you play up their haughtiness and total disregard for the other races. The idea that their simply cleaning up vermin should be apparant. What I would do is what The Grackle suggested and sneak in some meetings with these elves. Perhaps as a rumor that these are the people that might be able to stop this in one fell swoop. But after meeting them and fighting them apathetic about helping, unknowing that these elves are the reason the whole thing is happening. Keep dropping clues that perhaps the elves know something, slowly building up to the reveleation that not only do they know something, but are actually behind it. Your players if they're smart are going to start suspecting this pretty quickly, but don't give them any reasons to go after the elves. In fact, continue to have the elves at least be somewhat helpful if a bit off putting so your players will learn to go to them for perhaps information or healing etc. Just my two cents.
 

Stormrunner

First Post
re: the cult. Presumably they have a symbol of some sort. Eyes are always fun. Say one of the elves the PCs slay has a ring set with an eye-like stone: notable because it's the ONLY item the elf is wearing that isn't of elven make. Give it a minor magical ability, such as scare 1/day or ray of enfeeblement 3/day, so the PCs will hang on to it (at least long enough to sell it).
If they do sell the ring, a mysterious stranger shows up a few days later and questions them about it: where did they find it, who did they sell it to, did they feel any "odd sensations" while wearing it? Have this fellow identify himself as an agent of some group the PCs Don't Wanna Mess With: the King's Guard, the Assassin's Guild, whatever, so they don't just kill him or forcibly counter-interrogate him. He refuses to say why he wants the answers to these questions (in fact, he himself doesn't know: he's just following his superiors' orders. He undoubtedly has theories of his own; feel free to make them wildly off-base.)
A few months later, they notice an identical ring on the finger of a powerful nobleman - one known for his hatred of elves. Where did he get it? The nobleman won't say, and if the PCs press the issue he has them arrested for "harassing" him.
Sometime after that, they fight a group of minor evil cultists - and one of the group has one of Those Rings! (He's actually a member of the Elder Elemental Cult, "planted" in this unrelated sect to recruit their most promising members.) By this point the players are wondering "What are these things, where do they come from, who's making them?" and you can start dropping more concrete hints.
 

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