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How Does This Campaign Setting Sit With You?

Big J Money

Adventurer
This is an idea for a Campaign Setting I had, but I want to make sure it doesn't give people bad vibes before presenting it to the players like this.

The PCs are refugees from the various Realms they come from, which were subjugated by the Overlord. They are rescued to take refuge in a giant bazaar city called Lakk_Szatz'i (The Well of Worlds), which rests in the center of an unending but hidden desert Realm. Here they take an oath to become indentured Treasure Hunters to begin a new life. The Well serves as a secret trade hub in time and space, connected to other Realms via portals; through which the PCs will explore and conduct treasure recovery expeditions [via dungeons and other adventures] back into The Well for their Patrons and themselves.

(Think D&D meets Sliders or Dr. Who)

One additional part I want to get feedback on is that the PCs (called Gari, which means servant) have a list of covenants as part of their oath. Things like "Gari shalt endeavor deaily to repay their Life-Debt to the Realm and the Kumpali [King]". There are three in particular that I want to find out if people think this adds flavor to the role of the Gari, or is going too far into uncomfortable themes:
  • Gari shalt not cover their Covenant Mark whilst in the Realm
  • Gari shalt not forge close relations with a Venzi [natives of the Well]
  • Gari shalt not speak with Szatz'Dinni [local citizens] unless spoken to, without first uttering the standard trade opening, 'I wish to conduct a most-favorable transaction'
I should state that the purpose for setting up this arrangement is to give PCs a built in motive to always be looking for treasure and opportunity so they can pay off their Life-Debt as soon as possible and be able to lose their mark and become an official citizen of The Well. Outside of the Gari Covenants, they have no master telling them what to do or how to do it. They have a Patron who takes a portion of their profits, and expects them to work (they can sell their patronage to another patron if they are unhappy) but they have no rights over the Gari beyond the right to be repaid. They are allowed to keep personal wealth as long as their Patron is paid. However it is complicated by the fact that they aren't allowed to own property inside The Well (but they can own property in any other Realm where the opportunity arises). I hope the feel is more akin to being an indentured Gladiator than a regular indentured servant.

Also a reminder that the assumption behind the setting is that these refugees agreed to take these Oaths in order to be allowed to operate in The Well, but it's of course true to say they didn't have much choice because their home Realm was being subjugated by the Overlord.

There's a lot more to this setting, but I'm just hitting on the parts I think might be contentious for some people (subject of an indentured servitude class) to see what the general feeling on EnWorld is.

Edit for Clarity: "The Overlord" is in no way related to The Well. He's a being that possesses his own way to discover and travel to other Realms in order to subjugate them and increase his power. The Well of Worlds is an ancient Realm that remains hidden from him by the Kumpali's own power.
 
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Big J Money

Adventurer
This is perhaps one more fact that is relevant: This will be an OSR style campaign. Characters are extremely quick to make, many aspects of a character are randomized (except their skills), and the adventures are lethal. It's more meant to be a game when the party guages each encounter with dangerous creatures and decides how to confront them (battle, parley, retreat, trickery, etc) in order to avoid an early death. I expect characters will still likely die often, but the expedition will live on and the Patrons will make their money. So it has a rather dark streak through it, but I still plan to take it casually and light-heartedly. When a PC dies, no big deal, make a new one. Hopefully this will be the one who lives on to fame and glory and has the opportunity to become a true hero (or whatever they want to become). It's not impossible, just challenging.
 




Big J Money

Adventurer
Speaking of higher level, with this campaign I'm going to try something different with regards to resurrection magic in an OSR game.

At great cost, the PCs' Patrons can gain access to powerful and restricted healing magic that can restore limbs and potentially even life. Normally when a Gari loses a limb or is killed in the service of their Patron, this sacrifice pays off some of their debt. A limb repays 200,000 (or whatever it ends up being) and a life repays the entire debt.

However, a Gari can request that their Patron attempt to heal them using this magic. The cost is essentially the above mentioned prices, plus some interest. The chance of success increases and the interest cost decreases per PC level. At a certain high level the chance is 100%, assuming of course that the PC or their body can be returned to The Well intact.

I will likely also add a chance for a stat decrease on resurrection or successive resurrections. Or maybe a more OSR style random table where the most likely result is a bad or no outcome but there's a slim chance of a very good outcome.
 


Big J Money

Adventurer
I'm actually looking into the idea of creating an Interactive Fiction Choose Your Own Adventure style web app to demonstrate these concepts in order to introduce prospective players to the game. Since there is a fair amount of information here, I think it might be helpful if the process of presenting the information were more fun than just a long spiel.

Then I can tell folks, "I want to run a Fantasy RPG called The Well of Worlds. If you think you might interested, here's a link to a very short choose your own adventure game that will introduce you to the campaign".
 
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Big J Money

Adventurer
When you say it's a nope, do you mean that it just doesn't sound fun, or specifically that the indentured treasure hunter aspect to the theme is the part you find distasteful?
 


Big J Money

Adventurer
Thanks for that tip. I'll be on the lookout both for players who know anything about that series and also read up on it myself to see if there is anything to steal for an adventure or two (or some dramatic situations to otherwise set up in the campaign) :)

If it does create any confusion I can always change the name, but I am partial to it since it's descriptive of the campaign and flows well. Also, I have a translation for it in the Realm's own language (Lakk_Szatz'i) so I could refer to that translation in-game if needed. I was planning to mostly refer to the Realm by its nickname "The Well" anyway, which is about as generic as you can get.

Edit: Picked up a Kindle sample of Midnight at the Well of Souls now :) I'm always game to learn about classic SciFi I missed, thanks for your post!
 


Big J Money

Adventurer
This is a hard nope from me, and you might get some static online-- but I don't see anything wrong with it as a setting you and publish and play in.
(I'm going to try quoting this time in case the forums don't notify you without the quote)

When you say it's a nope, do you mean that it just doesn't sound fun, or specifically that the indentured treasure hunter aspect to the theme is the part you find distasteful?
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
"Here they take an oath to become indentured Treasure Hunters to begin a new life."

Why?

If all the players are on-board this can be a fine call to adventure. If the player's aren't bought-in it can get hairy. The scoundrel who would rather abscond with himself then replay this Life-Debt. The paladin who espouses liberty and see the whole system of indebted servants as effectively slavery. But still, you know your table so that's not a issue there -- as long as your player accept the premise you're good.

So it looks like lots of individual adventures. Are the portals always/regularly up and to the same places, or is where to go next out fo the character's hands?

As this well, you have a really in-game reason to allow any races/classes/etc. Heck, two players of the same race could be from different material planes and have different cultures and such. Lots of freedom. And the flip side to play with their expectations - you referenced Sliders and that did it some times. I remember one about the men being shirtless as a big crime.

The idea that they aren't allowed to own anything in the Well - does this mean that they need to keep separate equipment cache's for each realm, and anytime they go someplace new it's weaponless, armorless, material-component-less?

Question - is it just wealth, or do the patrons also gain fame and bragging rights? You could have a whole thing about betting on various expeditions by patrons, rival expedition teams that you can meet up with in other realms and may help you or may steal the idol from you, that sort of thing. And another layer.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!
This is an idea for a Campaign Setting I had, but I want to make sure it doesn't give people bad vibes before presenting it to the players like this.

The PCs are refugees from the various Realms they come from, which were subjugated by the Overlord. They are rescued to take refuge in a giant bazaar city called Lakk_Szatz'i (The Well of Worlds), which rests in the center of an unending but hidden desert Realm. Here they take an oath to become indentured Treasure Hunters to begin a new life.

That's the only confusing part. I mean, "Lets run from the Overlord! We don't want to be subjugated"... "Yay! We made it! Sure, we'll willingly be subjugated to do what you want!". o_O

I'd change the whole "take an oath to become [slave/servant]", and just make it more old-school in flavour: "Hey, you guys proved resourceful enough to get here, away from OverloardBadDude, and you have no ties to anyone here, so, uh, how about I pay you money and you do stuff for me that nobody else wants to do? I'll make it worth your while ...whaddayasay?"

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Innovative, but I am hesitant over the idea of PCs being labeled servants (my guys would loathe that) and the heavy hand of debt laid upon them. Again, my guys would hit the ground looking for a way to welsh on the obligation.

When the players start out resisting the setting, I believe you will not get the outcome you desire.

pming makes an excellent point: you get more flies with honey. Greed is a very simple, reliable, and relatable motive that sells itself. Vanity follows a close second. Whereas expecting your players to be enthused about playing a debt-ridden servant is going to take a harder sell.

YRMV.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Also a reminder that the assumption behind the setting is that these refugees agreed to take these Oaths in order to be allowed to operate in The Well, but it's of course true to say they didn't have much choice because their home Realm was being subjugated by the Overlord.

So, basically, they were coerced, under duress.

A couple of questions:
1) How does anyone know the oath is broken? "I'm sorry, boss, but the whole thing was a bust. We barely made it out alive, and all we got were these lousy T-shirts..."

2) What happens if the oath is broken? Do loops of shadow envelop them wherever they are, and swallow them up transporting them into a dungeon that competes with the Nine Hells? Does the boss then have the right to send a bunch of thugs of questionable quality to put a squeeze on the PCs?
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I dont see any issue with it, if you are concerned maybe have the first session be their first arrival at the Well where they are offered the Deal by their Patron to take the Oaths in return for protection and the right to trade there way out of their Life-debt.

The only question then is what happens if
1. they chose not to take the oaths
2. They break their oaths
3. They choose to go back to their own realm
 

Big J Money

Adventurer
So, basically, they were coerced, under duress.

A couple of questions:
1) How does anyone know the oath is broken? "I'm sorry, boss, but the whole thing was a bust. We barely made it out alive, and all we got were these lousy T-shirts..."

2) What happens if the oath is broken? Do loops of shadow envelop them wherever they are, and swallow them up transporting them into a dungeon that competes with the Nine Hells? Does the boss then have the right to send a bunch of thugs of questionable quality to put a squeeze on the PCs?

Coerced under duress might have been a bit of an exaggerated way for me to put it. I'll fill in some more color to the shared party backstory and you can decide if it still sounds that way:
  • Before the campaign, each new PC-to-be lived in their native Realm
  • Overlord invaded said Realm and brought ruin to everyone and everything the PC cared about
  • Mysterious "benefactors" showed up to help the PC and other refugees escape to another Realm through a magical means of travel
  • Once the PC arrived in the new Realm, they were taken to refugee processing and given 3 choices to pick from: Become an indentured servant to bring service to the Kumpali's City, become an indentured treasure hunter to bring profit to the Kumpali's City, or be banished from the Endless City back to where they came from.

Answers to Questions
1) The purpose of the Covenant Tattoo isn't just to identify the Gari visibly, which grants them access to The Well (remember that it's a secret Realm that is closed to outsiders and even its name is normally unknowable) but it also has deeply magical properties. It monitors whether Gari recite their Covenents daily, it alerts the The Well's authorities when the Gari are present in the Realm, and it allows the Gari to utter the name of The Well, but only while inside its boundaries (The Well is made of a magic so old even before time which normally prevents all living beings from accomplishing this).

As far as whether the PCs are keeping the main Covenant or not (profit), one of the restrictions on Gari is that when they visit The Well, they must make plans to conduct business, pay a Patron fee, and record the activites on their Venture ledger in order to enter the city proper. Otherwise they are confined to their takta which is essentially a hovel with dirty cots and (usally) the means to make some gruel and boil water. There is a takta near every Realm portal, sometimes hastily set up. They are a place to rest, heal, and plan, but not much more without spending money.

2) The tattoos' magic is strong enough to monitor that Covenants have been recited but not if they've been broken. Suspicious activity and witnesses are the only ways to be alerted about broken Oaths.

maybe have the first session be their first arrival at the Well where they are offered the Deal by their Patron to take the Oaths in return for protection and the right to trade there way out of their Life-debt.

The only question then is what happens if
1. they chose not to take the oaths
2. They break their oaths
3. They choose to go back to their own realm

That's right, points #1 and #3 are exactly why this premise is baked into the campaign and is not optional. If the players don't like these ideas, I simply would not run this campaign until I have a group that is interested.

#2, the possibility of breaking the Covenants is definitely a possibility and something I expect. However it won't be easy and would essentially be suicide at lower levels. I haven't yet formulated what the obstacles would be, but like standard OSR stuff it would be something so difficult as to be ostebsibly "impossible", so that the players have an opportunity to come up with a plan that proves me wrong (probably something involving "OP" magic items or artifacts :) )
 
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