Thursday, February 3, 2011

History of a DM part 2

Several years after the Banning of the Cat People, I moved to California. It took a few more years before the call of the DM Screen became strong enough to lure me back. This time around I tried to keep it epic but open-ended; there were no balance-ruining PC races to select from, and the good guys and bad guys were clear-cut. I took a dash of Arduin, a pinch of Cthulhu and sprinkled Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying liberally throughout. Thus began the ill-fated Betland campaign.

Returning the the trope of 'eldritch races', I selected the Cthoi, a quasi-Lovecraftian, underground race which became an amalgamation of the Old Ones, the Deep Ones, and magic-based biotech. I also determined to add a profound fey element to this campaign (I'd been reading lots of George MacDonald at the time).

I decided that the Cthoi would take the role of the hidden enemy in the campaign. A predominantly human kingdom, Betland, would find itself besieged by hordes of orcs lugging immense cannons from mountain passes which once belonged to the Dwarves. An unceasing tide of humanoids poured forth, supported by the alien power of magical artillery.

On the other side of the conflict, I introduced a new, non-standard religion in the form of the Old Wood God, a neutral, druidic creator god. Though well known as a benevolent patriarch, his followers were rare and powerful. A few took on elemental traits and became Scourges; channeling vengeful elemental spirits to clear the taint from their hallowed grounds.

These Old Wood God druids began appearing in greater numbers along the southern borders of Betland, taking up a strange defensive formation against some unseen force. Somewhat ent-like and not given to elaborate speech, part of the campaign would involve decrypting their obtuse and infrequent communications.

The main thrust of the campaign was, of course, to save Betland from destruction. The immense cannon would turn out to be warpcraft weapons created by the Cthoi and bartered to the orcs in return for surface-dweller captives, upon whom they would experiment, creating new and loathsome monsters to set loose in the world above. The cannon themselves would do the Cthoi's work of weakening the fabric of reality, making it easier for their archived monstrosities to punch through from warpspace. To stem the threat the party would travel from hot spot to hot spot, investigating the strange new threat coming from the overrun kingdom of the Dwarves.

It started off well enough. The party took the bait and chased all over Betland helping the forces of good defend key positions and taking odd missions to retrieve intelligence from still-contested battlefields.

It all went foul when they were dispatched to research a "metal tower" in the southeast which was rumored to hold "powerful magical weapons" which might aid them in the war. Thus my segue into a modified Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. The party arrived outside the spaceship only to discover evidence that the enemy had preceded them. Orcs with laser rifles? This is not good!

I think it was during the second game when the party thief decided to see what those big, red, glass-covered buttons were spread all over the derelict ship for. He broke the glass, pushed the button, set off the alarm, and bots came rolling in. The fight became protracted and the police bots appeared, downing the entire party with sleep gas grenades.

That was the last time we played.

Lessons Learned:
1. If you give the party an opportunity to derail the campaign, they will. I chalk it up to our close relationship to monkeys.

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