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  • A good introduction?

    Say that you are the GM for a group of players that have had zero exposure to the Scarred Lands beyond the blurb found on the back of the Ghelspad Gazetteer.

    Where does your campaign start, what character building suggestions do you give the players, and what is the initial or over-arching plot of the campaign?

    My current group of players are going to be introduced to the setting in the future (we just have to finish one of the two games we're currently not even halfway through, start up our Exalted game in its place, and then finish either that game or the other of our current games, start up a sequel to a prior campaign, and then finish the sequel or Exalted, and finally we can start up something set in the Scarred Lands), and because I've got a whole bunch of Scarred Lands products and fond memories of all of them, I'm a little indecisive as to where to start off my players in getting to know (and hopefully love) the setting.

    Plus, I just really want to be engaged in some conversation about the Scarred Lands.


    Not so noble anymore.

  • #2
    Honestly, i would start it sandboxy and then let some over-arching plot shape itself as more of the setting - and headaches along the way - are presented to (and confronted) by the party.

    Give them freedom to explore the place and meet new strange people, things & organizations on their own terms and the consequences of their successes (or failures) slowly shape up to some form of renown and from that potential recurring allies and enemies. Have you ever read or watched One Piece? Because for me it's the go-to reference example of "start with no plot, except the one that forms as the players trip one domino set after another..." in action, great inspiration for any game focused in all-around freeform adventuring and finding whole new things behind every mountain or forest (so to speak, in One Piece's case it will be isles, obviously). You mentioned playing Exalted with your group, is it 2nd or 3rd edition? Are you familiar with the "Introducing a Fact" mechanic for Lore in Ex3? I think it's something that can be very useful for group immersion in a setting and is easily adaptable to D&D or a bunch of other systems, for that matter, so would seriously recommend porting it to your game as a roleplaying tool.

    Organize a status quo of Ghelspad (or whichever continent you prefer) as you see it, keep a good idea of how local powers, big, medium, small or two-bit will respond to the actions of the party - or the actions of NPCs reacting to them, like allies, contacts, rivals, enemies and such - and as the plot threads cross themselves, something will weave or knot itself as the story advances. Make the start as rich and colorful as you can for them and let the ball roll.

    Just my two cents of opinion on the subject so far, hope it helps.

    But speaking of where to start and talking about Scarred Lands stuff one has fond memories of, what books exactly do you have? also, do you intend the game to star at what level, 1st or some other one?
    Last edited by Baaldam; 04-16-2016, 12:15 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Baaldam View Post
      Honestly, i would star it sandboxy and then let some over-arching plot shape itself as more of the setting - and headaches along the way - are presented to (and confronted) by the party.
      That is my usual go-to when the players know about the setting, or when there is zero setting information beyond what gets made up during play... I'm just iffy on using that set-up with the Scarred Lands because there are so many organizations that the players might like to be part of that don't share common enough ideals to have the party be whatever the players think sounds cool and actually function as a party, so the players would have to be playing "generic" stuff that doesn't feel as much like a part of the Scarred Lands specifically (i.e. a paladin, but not one that is being groomed to join the Mithril Knights).

      Originally posted by Baaldam View Post
      Have you ever read or watched One Piece?
      I've got some familiarity with One Piece. Read more than I watched, but didn't really get drawn in to either. I agree that it is a good example of the world around the characters responding to their presence substituting for a plot line.

      Originally posted by Baaldam View Post
      You mentioned playing Exalted with your group, is it 2nd or 3rd edition? Are you familiar with the "Introducing a Fact" mechanic for Lore in Ex3? I think it's something that can be very useful for group immersion in a setting and is easily adaptable to D&D or a bunch of other systems, for that matter, so would seriously recommend porting it to your game as a roleplaying tool.
      It was 3rd edition I was referring to, so I am familiar with the Introducing a Fact mechanic. I had not thought of adapting it to other games, but I'll certainly be giving that a serious amount of thought now, thank you.

      Originally posted by Baaldam View Post
      Make the start as rich and colorful as you can for them and let the ball roll.
      That's the crux of my indecision. There are so many places in Ghelspad alone that are rich and colorful from the point of view of what tales might begin with a small group of people living their lives in or around them, that I am having trouble selecting just one, or reconciling how I could possibly choose more than one.

      Originally posted by Baaldam View Post
      But speaking of where to start and talking about Scarred Lands stuff one has fond memories of, what books exactly do you have?
      I think I have all of them. That is, I have all of them which are available through drivethrurpg.com, and I can't remember any from back in the day that I didn't find there.

      Originally posted by Baaldam View Post
      also, do you intend the game to star at what level, 1st or some other one?
      I like to view the first few levels of 5th edition D&D (the system we'll be using) as being the character's apprenticeship, so I start characters at 4th level if the narrative is meant to be that they are fully trained and ready to set out on their own, or lower than that level if the narrative is more that the characters are "green" or unprepared yet thrust into adventure anyway (or if we are playing through the narrative of being in training still).

      I haven't decided as of yet, since it is linked to the narrative of the characters and I have yet to find the beginning of that.


      Not so noble anymore.

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      • #4
        Well, exactly due to the number of options that Ghelspad offers that i think sandbox and level 1 should work best, lets them start fresh, raw and explore locales or options before really pledging themselves to anything. Yes, options are great, but remember your players don't know the setting yet, let them wander a little, find some stuff, kill other and see what makes some prestige classes and societies tick through first brushes with some of the societies and prestige classes.

        Speaking of 5th edition D&D, do you have the Scarred Lands introductory adventure Gauntlet of Spiragos? I think it should serve pretty well as an entry level adventure and colorful first contact with the setting and maybe with setting up locale and a starting point.
        Last edited by Baaldam; 04-15-2016, 12:54 AM.

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        • #5
          I had a chat with one of my players and he pointed something out to me that I hadn't thought about regarding our most memorable and enjoyable D&D campaigns to date - those that I was GM for shared some noteworthy qualities. Namely that the characters has next to zero back-story determined before the start of play, but there was a clear plot line or at least theme at the very beginning.

          He also suggested that because I know about the setting and what the players tend to like, that I should focus on a plot line involving what I like the most about the setting that shows the players as much of what I think they'll like about the setting as possible - giving them more of a "guided tour" than a sand-box experience so that they can learn enough to know where they'd like to wander later.

          Because of all of that, I've been considering adapting the Serpent Amphora Cycle. I've only read the synopsis thus far and parts of book 0, but I'm favoring it over Gauntlet of Spiragos because it has a bit more of a concrete beginning written into it, while Gauntlet seems more likely to work better if the players don't need me to help them explain how their characters got to the beginning of the adventure.


          Not so noble anymore.

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          • #6
            Can't disagree with his logic, you certainly know your players, interests and what has worked with them better than i probably ever will. And yes, you have a good point in that Gauntlet of Spiragos does tend to require some setting up some reasons the PCs being where they are if one does not go with the "let's form a posse to rid our neighborhood of this goblinoid pest" excuse or somesuch. That necromancer "bonus antagonist", considering how nonexistent his character and motives are - though i might go with ambitious/megalomaniacal and have him trying to use some true ritual to animate the remains of Spiragos' hand in the gauntlet as an animate fortress/lab/sanctum for an objective - also calls for development to really work, so i can quite understand the appeal of a more "focused" narrative like that of the Serpent Amphora Cycle.

            Speaking of cycles or sagas, have you read the Dead God Trilogy novels? It has crossed my mind that the city of Hollowfaust can serve as crossroads of sorts between these two sagas, as it figures proeminently in at least the second chapter of the novels and Gorgons and other Mormo-worshipping titanspawn, that are at the heart of the Serpent Amphora saga afaik, figure proeminently (beside the Sutak or Glivid-autel) among the necromancers' major nemeses - though possibly not the same cabal/covens (can't really remember right now how close or far Vesh is to Hollowfaust), there's certainly wiggle room for adaptation and mash-up, i think.

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            • #7
              I'm vaguely in the process of reading the Dead God Trilogy. I keep forgetting I started reading them when I find myself trying to figure out what to do with my spare time.

              Of course, I have plenty of time (months at least, a year isn't unlike either) before I need to have a Scarred Lands campaign ready to begin, so I should be able to remember to finish reading by then and incorporate anything I find fitting into my campaign plans.


              Not so noble anymore.

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              • #8
                Me, i have something of a soft spot for Hollowfaust, in no small part due to a friend's "Gothwarts" table, where the PCs started as kids and youths meeting their apprenticeships, studies and generally messing around with the city of necromancers and its peculiarities & foibles in their spare time.

                The end result was a "slice of life" game full of independent exploration, unauthorized leaves of the necromancer's quarters to enjoy themselves (kids, it happens), raise hell and in at least one case, secretly visit one's parents and siblings (very frowned upon, as technically necromancer apprentices become wards of the state, cutting all ties to their old families), not to mention any trouble they might in their studies/jobs, like rivalries, romance and sabotage among colleagues, the orders themselves toying here and there with each other and the students to pick those they find best or most promising, personal favoritism and (supposedly) secret romances, rivalries or outright enemities occasionally brewing between masters, journeymen & women and the oldest apprentices leading to a bunch of misadventures - not to mention when threads would connect things in and outside the Faust, a sort of natural consequence of the PCs being not only necromancers but Stygian Guards, Blackshields and other stuff.

                This game really settled in the city and the Hollowfaust was quite invaluable in that aspect as the writers make a quite impressive effort in giving a detailed but expansive image of the city, the quite vibrant life of its natives, business, social functions, trades and so on, to the point that we spent the greater part of our time in the city itself - except when we decided not to and would serve in patrol duty, unofficially join friends in doing so as a way to blow out steam and bust their chops (yes, this is actually described as a custom of younger journeymen & women looking for action), join a diplomatic or trade caravan or, if you have reached master degree (level 8+), organize expeditions to collect magical components, rare carcasses, study ruins and so.

                Also great excuses to leave the city for a time after one dalliance too many with student mothers during your stunt as schoolteacher (teaching children basic reading, math & etc being one of the many civic duties of local necromancers) or the Firetusk mafia boss just found out about his daughter's drunken weekend with your necromancer and his Blackshield twin brother...

                Crazy, fun times indeed overall.
                Last edited by Baaldam; 04-16-2016, 12:13 PM.

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