What is at stake for the PCs?

Sadras

Legend
Lives - Long standing characters with goals
Appearance - Permanent disfigurement
Prestige - Bruised ego, title loss, decreased influence
Personality Traits - Altered, additional flaws...etc
Items (Coin, Personal or Other) - Self-explanatory
Assistance (Information/Travel) - PCs wish to travel to Sigil next.
Abilities (Mechanical/Natural) - Self-explanatory
 

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darkbard

Legend
What drives the action in your RPGIng?

It has been some time since we have gotten back to the action of our game (though maybe not quite as long as your 4E game), but:

For the Drow Cleric who renounced the internecine strife of her home culture and discovered a world of stars and moonlight on the surface: will she be able to rescue her kinsman, the only remaining connection to her past, who was dragged through a portal into the Shadowfell? Will she make a place for herself among these surface dwellers, or will she be treated with the mistrust and suspicion that plagued her early life?

For the Half-elf Warlock of the Raven Queen: will he steal the heirloom family sword that beckons to him with promises of dark power, though he has renounced his family and their noble privilege? Will he learn the nature of the Raven Queen's patronage, why he was chosen by her, and make peace with the assemblage of voices from the past that hammer a cacophony in his head?

For the Half-Orc Ranger: will he uphold his vow to restore the rightful heir to the throne? Will he keep his brother from yielding to the dark forces that seek to claim him? Will he die a hero, falling in battle in an attempt to prevent some injustice?

For the Halfling Rogue: will he find a meaning, a raison d'etre of his own, outside the interests of his companions? Does he have a belief system that he is willing to make a stand for? Or is he but a feather in the wind, blown about by forces greater than he and never finding a way truly his own?

As a group: will they halt these seeming encroachments of the Shadowfell into the natural world? Or do their actions hasten a planar apocalypse?
 

pemerton

Legend
For the Drow Cleric who renounced the internecine strife of her home culture and discovered a world of stars and moonlight on the surface: will she be able to rescue her kinsman, the only remaining connection to her past, who was dragged through a portal into the Shadowfell?

<snip>

For the Half-elf Warlock of the Raven Queen: will he steal the heirloom family sword that beckons to him with promises of dark power, though he has renounced his family and their noble privilege? Will he learn the nature of the Raven Queen's patronage, why he was chosen by her

<snip>

As a group: will they halt these seeming encroachments of the Shadowfell into the natural world? Or do their actions hasten a planar apocalypse?
I'm always up for a good drow-returns-to-the-surface-of-the-world story!

What sort of Warlock is that? Fey? Dark?

What sort of system/adjudication do you use to determine what happens vis-a-vis planer encroachments and apocalypses?
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I started running a new campaign recently. "Session 0" ended up being lots of conversations instead of a defined session, but it gave me great ideas for the character such that I could plan adventures that would hook them. Then the first session instead of throwing them immediately into an adventure they organically came on the hooks of three different adventures, plus several short (<1 session) side-quests. So they are going on the adventures that interest them the most. This is a technique I continue - there's always too many plot hooks open. Some new, some existing that have grown with inattention, some that have polymorphed with time, such as a goblin problem that has turned into a rival adventuring party issue when they cleared them out.

I have ideas for character arcs for each based on backstory & session 0 that I will interweave among everything else, but I want to let them get settled into their new characters first so their personalities can crystallize and I best know how to pull those hooks.

Also my campaign arcs start and stay fairly fluid - nothing is "true" until it hits the table even if I had been planning it prior to start of play, and I'm willing to "kill my darlings" - change or even discard things I like if they won't work out for this group. I start with strong ideas what I want so I can lay foreshadowing and start to plant clues, but it can and does change.
 
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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Also something I found a while ago:
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darkbard

Legend
I'm always up for a good drow-returns-to-the-surface-of-the-world story!

What sort of Warlock is that? Fey? Dark?

What sort of system/adjudication do you use to determine what happens vis-a-vis planer encroachments and apocalypses?

I too am a sucker for a good cliche. If it ain't broke.... (In all seriousness, the only difference between a tired cliche and a rich trope is the approach one brings to it!)

The Warlock is a Vestige Warlock, with the vestiges being various souls under the Raven Queen's care, the aforementioned "voices in his head" (to go along with the Ghost of the Past theme, with similar implementation).

PC success or failure at declared actions (often of the Skill Challenge variety) with regard to salient narrative elements determines whether the planar encroachment waxes or wanes, with the ultimate question of apocalypse unknown to any of us. It may never come to pass, manifest after several years (in the game world), or blacken the earth next week (should the PCs attempt many Shadowfell-related tasks and routinely fail at their checks).
 

Sadras

Legend
For the Halfling Rogue: will he find a meaning, a raison d'etre of his own, outside the interests of his companions? Does he have a belief system that he is willing to make a stand for? Or is he but a feather in the wind, blown about by forces greater than he and never finding a way truly his own?

Interestingl,y we have a halfling sorcerer at our table and he too follows the interests of his companions and the overall campaign storyline with no actual belief or purpose of his own, whereas every other character - 2x humans, an elf and a pair of half-elf siblings all have a greater calling or some fleshed out background that drives their own journey forward.
 

darkbard

Legend
PC success or failure at declared actions (often of the Skill Challenge variety) with regard to salient narrative elements determines whether the planar encroachment waxes or wanes, with the ultimate question of apocalypse unknown to any of us. It may never come to pass, manifest after several years (in the game world), or blacken the earth next week (should the PCs attempt many Shadowfell-related tasks and routinely fail at their checks).

I should probably say a little more about this. Again, it's been months and months since our last session, and I had only begun working out the details of how this works, but my general idea is to borrow the Clocks mechanic from Blades in the Dark. I have several clocks of various unclicked slices (anywhere from four to eight) running, and whenever a significant salient skill check fails (or, even more likely, the group fails a related skill challenge) I check off a slice of the relevant clock. Also, a relevant PC success can tick off a slice of the clock should their successful action contribute meaningfully to bringing about the Shadowfell Apocalypse.

Example: I have a six clock for Weakening Passage betweeen Planes. If the Cleric attempts to use Religion in battle against creatures with the Shadow keyword and fails, that will check off a slice of the clock. If the PCs fail a larger skill challenge of similar structure and import, I will check off two slices on the same clock. And if the PCs attempt to use a ritual to shift through the shadows for faster travel, that too will check off a slice of the clock, even though there is no attendant failure. (The latter would only be the case if before the ritual was enacted the PCs were aware of and agreed to the trade off.)

Then, if and when all the various related clocks are filled, the Shadow Apocalypse becomes real.
 

darkbard

Legend
Interestingl,y we have a halfling sorcerer at our table and he too follows the interests of his companions and the overall campaign storyline with no actual belief or purpose of his own

I wonder if this is related to what I say above about cliches and tropes. Whereas many other races have a number of compelling tropes associated with them in literature, folklore, and so on, Halflings have nothing really beyond the hobbits of LotR and Tasslehoff the kender of Dragonlance to build from. The former examples are rather specific in their motivations (destroy the ring, protect master Frodo), while the latter has very little built-in motivation (unless one counts annoying other characters--and thus their players--as motivation).
 

Sadras

Legend
I wonder if this is related to what I say above about cliches and tropes. Whereas many other races have a number of compelling tropes associated with them in literature, folklore, and so on, Halflings have nothing really beyond the hobbits of LotR and Tasslehoff the kender of Dragonlance to build from. The former examples are rather specific in their motivations (destroy the ring, protect master Frodo), while the latter has very little built-in motivation (unless one counts annoying other characters--and thus their players--as motivation).

I believe you have struck the nail on the head - my thinking was along similar lines, I just didn't post it because I was trying to prevent a situation where a dozen posters replied informing me of how their halflings at their table have their own purpose and/or backstory. :) But you have articulated it well by highlighting the only two instances (that I can think of) where fantasy literature/meia provides us with something (however meagre it may seem).

Oh and there is Willow of course (my profile pic being the obvious clue) :D
 

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