UNUSUAL BEGINNINGS TO ADVENTURES, CAMPAIGNS, AND QUESTS
Below are to be found descriptions and entries I have created regarding unusual ways to begin Adventures, Campaigns, and Quests for various kinds of Role Playing and Tabletop Games.
Though they could also be used as the basis and genesis of other types of games as well, for example LARPS and Alternative Reality games.
I intend to provide beginning scenarios for various types and genres of games: Contemporary, Detective, Fantasy, Historical, Horror, Science Fiction, and Wargames. To name a few.
I will make such posts on every occasion I have the free time to develop them. Also these scenarios will be different from the scenarios I have developed specifically for my own Setting and World. Those will be listed separately under the Category – The Other World
Feel free to take the names of places and characters mentioned in these scenarios (or even the basic structures of the scenarios) and alter them to fit your own gaming worlds or situations. These are, of course, merely suggestions. I describe these scenarios to give DMs and GMs far better, more original and more unique methods of starting games than, “your party meets in a tavern,” or “you all hear a rumor.”
So modify and use these beginning scenarios as you will. They are meant to stimulate original situations and your imaginations, not to dictate terms and conditions.
Tonight I will begin with Four Fantasy Scenarios for beginning adventures or campaigns: Infiltration of the Fertilands, The Secret Missionaries, The Sky From Long Ago, and The Long Road to Disaster.
Infiltration of the Fertilands – The Senate of Alaria has decided to clear an area of land 7 and ½ leagues north of the city-state (an area called the Losharian fertilands) to provide timber and resources for a proclaimed public works building project, and to establish a new frontier’s garrison and outpost for the city to ward off raiding attacks by local barbarians. However three separate surveying teams and their armed recon in force escorts (at least for the second and third attempts) have disappeared when sent to the location.
The Senate has decided to send an expeditionary force of 1500 men to investigate and clear the area of potential hostiles, but before they can vote on the measure or dispatch the forces the chief architect in charge of the new building program approaches your party and asks you to undertake the task of infiltrating the target area in secret, to see if you can discover the cause of the disappearance of the previous teams. You are charged with secrecy in your mission (you can discuss it with no one) and if you are successful the architect not only promises that you will be richly rewarded in pay but that the Senate will award you tax free lands on which you may establish estates and villas of your own. He also hints at the possibility of awards (Champion of the City), public acclaim, and possibly even junior seats on the Senate.
However since the mission would be kept entirely confidential he can offer you no initial assistance other than to provide you with information on how to find the Losharian fertilands.
But he does offer you two pieces of advice. First, do not drink the waters of the fertiland even if it is rainwater which falls during a storm. And secondly, watch the rivers, creeks, waterways, and marshes at all times. They may hide dangerous enemies and hidden perils.
The Secret Missionaries – Your party is called to the Great Temple of the Sacred Hierophants after nightfall one evening. The Church of Adaltorn, the Last Hierophant, in the city of Ramara Passea has decided upon a missionary program of expansion Eastwards. They wish to convert the rich, independent merchant cities east of the river Venwaldros, which they feel would be very open to their doctrine. However to the south of the narrow strip of unclaimed no-man’s land of the Venwaldros lies the fierce (and some say cannibalistic) barbarian tribes of the Colmar Confederacy, and to the north of the river in this unclaimed area lies the Imperial outposts of the Srechalt. All of which are hostile to both the Church and to Ramara Passea. This narrow strip of land and the thin thread of the Venwaldros which passes through it is called Reedbrake (for its high and musical reeds, which go silent when anything passes through them)) and it is the only safe passage from Ramara Passea to the East.
The church has sent scouting teams of monks and priests along the river which have either had to turn back after being attacked or were simply lost, their true fates unknown.
The church is willing to produce an indulgence in the names of each of your party (meaning you will be free from both local taxes and tithes for a period of ten years), to pay you a stipend for three years, to Bless each member of your party, and to secure you Writs of Absolute Non-Hindrance from the city fathers if you can help them find a safe passage through the Reedbrake so that their monks and priests may travel securely and unmolested from Ramara Passea to the eastern merchant cities. They will also equip your expedition and provide you with river-craft, a barbarian scout (a recent convert) familiar with the Colmar, and three warrior monks as servants and men at arms to assist you.
The Sky From Long Ago – The retired Sage Geirwovan (rumored to have once been the famous Wizard Taleorstir) has sent every member of your party a formal and very decorative invitation to visit his mansion six miles from the outskirts of the Ulorian borderlands.
When you accept and reach your destination you are shown to the Sage’s Tower and observatory where the ancient and bent Geirwovan greets you warmly and feeds and shelters your entire party. After a late dinner and entertainment by a very talented female bard (whom Geirwovan identifies as his personal Bard, the Lady Yurliel) you are ushered back to the Sage’s Tower where Geirwovan accompanies you to the roof. Briefly after sunset (far too soon after sunset) the entire sky is afire with stars but of very unusual constellations that you have never before seen. Some of these constellations seem to come alive, take on weird and fantastical shapes of creatures you have never seen before, and to move about and even battle one another. Stars flare and flash, changing colors or becoming briefly too bright to look upon. The moon rings like a giant gong. The tower itself seems to shake. Comets flash across the sky and explode by impacting one another. Then the entire sky goes absolutely black and a few moments after that returns to normal, as it would appear on any other cloudless and moonless night shortly after nightfall.
Geirwovan then takes you back into the tower where each of you feels weird and uncanny, as if you have just witnessed something unnatural, supernatural, and/or very spectacular and unnerving.
Geirwovan makes no comment and ignores all questions to explain and instead spreads out a series of complex maps upon an antique drafting table and begins to explain how rewarding it would be and how much you would all benefit by reaching a particular destination. One he repeatedly shows on the different maps. (The maps are also all filled with odd glyphs and scripts and indicated locales you have never heard of or seen mentioned before.)
Then Geirwovan tells you of the fabulous riches, both mundane and magical, that can be found at that destination though he will not describe the particulars nor disclose any details about what else may lay at the destination. He tells you that if you will go to that location then you will understand what he means and that you will understand what you saw in the sky. He asks only two things: 1. that when you arrive you do what is appropriate, and 2. return to him all that you find so that he may examine it and then he will keep only one article, a small silver coin of unremarkable design. You may keep all else that you find and there will also be another reward awaiting you upon completion of your expedition. If you agree then he will hand you one of the maps which he says will guide you unerringly to your destination but that you must never venture from the route it dictates for the map is untrustworthy otherwise and you may find yourselves lost in such a way that you will be unable to return. He also offers to allow you to take his bard Yurliel with you if you so wish.
The Long Road to Disaster – The Lord of Merchants and Commander of the Merchants at Arms have called your party to the Tent of Foreign Prizes in the Agora of Kroipos to discuss an urgent matter. They explain to you that they have recently (within the past year) opened up a new trade route to the Far South, through the desert of Samorah, that they call the Elidian Road. (Elidia being what some rumors declare to be a semi-mythical and legendary city of peculiar and unique wealth located in the Far South.)
Within the past six months no fewer than four separate and well-armed caravan trains have been ambushed and destroyed or lost. By what the Commander describes as a well-organized, large, ruthless band of experienced brigands, raiders, and thieves.
Searchers and follow up teams have only recovered small bits of debris or valueless remains from the ambushed caravans and the losses to merchants in the area have been sunstantial and heavy indeed. Armed scouting parties sent by the city have discovered nothing and have been of almost no help.
Only three survivors have escaped thus far, two from one caravan (the first attacked) and one from the second caravan. No other survivors have surfaced or are accounted for.
Both the Lord of Merchants and the Commander of Arms ask if you will entertain shadowing the next caravan to be dispatched along the Elidian Road to see if you can discover who is responsible for these raids and possibly help save the caravan from being plundered and destroyed. If not can you then follow the attackers to discover their identities and base of operations so that a military force can be dispatched to kill them all.
Neither wants you to be part of the armed military and merchant force of the caravan so that if the attackers arrive in overwhelming force you may survive and bring back invaluable Intel on the parties responsible. They only want you shadowing the caravan unless it is obvious you could actually safely protect and rescue the caravan if it is attacked. Both Merchants promise you will be richly rewarded for your efforts. Though neither will describe precisely how or in what form.
After the meeting the Commander of the Merchant at Arms leaves but the Lord of Merchants pulls your party aside in confidence and tells you that his nephew will be accompanying this caravan in order that he may be trained in commerce. As is the custom at his age. This being his Voyage of Initiation. The boy has instructions that if the caravan is attacked he is to flee to the safety of your group or if necessary you are to rescue him and flee after discovering what you can of the enemy. He promises to reward you separately for this action and he tells you that aside from his nephew and the head merchant of the caravan no one in the group will even know of your existence or that you shadow the train. So he says it is imperative that the caravan not discover your presence either. You must also never mention this side deal involving his nephew. Especially not to the Commander at Arms, who would consider such actions cowardly and dishonorable.
He also tells you that he has personally interviewed the three survivors of the previous attacks. One is now dead of unknown reasons, one is in a long sleep from which they will not awaken (coma), and one appears to be mad. But before these things happened the survivors described weird things occurring during the attacks and despite the Commander’s opinions to the contrary the Lord of Merchants is not at all convinced this is the work of brigands or caravan raiders. In fact he says that he does not believe any raiders are involved at all. But he will not elaborate on his suspicions.
He will only say that he once read a passage in a book in the Far South that said that long ago the skies were poisoned by an unknown creature so that ghosts and dead men rained upon the living.
Also, feel free to suggest your own ideas in the comments below, or tell me if you’d like to see Beginning Scenarios for certain types of games, particular subject matters, or for specific gaming genres.
This is a sort of parallel post to one on Easter Eggs that I will post here later on.
Today a buddy of mine sent me a link to an Army video on Hyper-Realistic Tactical Training. (Think of it as a kind of live-action wargame involving TSS/Transferable Skill Simulations. I cannot herein reproduce the link because the link has since been extinguished, probably due to security REASONS.) He knows that I’ve been active in experimenting with and developing gaming related training techniques for a long time and thought I’d enjoy the video. (I did by the way. I had never seen it before.)
Anyway the video reminded me of a technique I use both in-
game(s) and in training scenario development that I call Situational Enrichment.
You might think of situational enrichment as the non-combat version (or parallel development version) of Hyper-Realistic Immersive Training.
It has a couple of objectives, but this is basically how it works. You take a non-combat situation, but one highly charged, and interject the players into this situation without warning. The situation will be filled with a veritable plethora of challenges, obstacles, and enrichments. Usually these enrichments will be multi-layered, have various applications, will sometimes compete against each other (in nature, or for the player’s attention), be in continual motion, and have some immediate or demanding application.
The point of an enriched environment is to provide a high level of stress and potential danger without anything that might necessarily induce a combat situation. It will simply be that the enriched environment will be filled with so many potential problems, devices, articles, objects, creatures, movements, events, etc. that are all happening either simultaneously or in quick succession that attempting to react to everything available might very well produce exhaustion, or information, observational, and functional overload. Plus a well-enriched environment might present so many “potential dangers” (regardless of whether the dangers are real or not) that to the player it seems as dangerous if not more so than a standard combat situation.
One of the advantages to this kind of situation (among others) from the point of the DM or scenario developer is that you can test the participants’ reaction capabilities, see how they react to conflicting and/or multiple stressors, and to conditions of “overload.” The advantages to the player are manifold, but include learning to handle high stress situations that do not involve combat, improvement of observational skills, learning to organize reactions to environmental demands (conducting environmental triage), improvement of mental capabilities and problem solving abilities, and so forth and so on. Plus such situations are usually very interesting and fascinating to both develop and play through.
You do not want to inflict conditions of Situational Enrichment on players continuously as they can become mentally exhausted, just as protracted periods of combat or unknown danger can also take a mental and psychological toll.
But used occasionally and judiciously they can, I think, provide a fascinating enrichment experience, and serve as a great training scenario for future actions.
Let me give an example of what I would call an Adapted Gaming Enrichment Situation.
Situation: (this is a situation I have actually used before) The players have been moving through a set of underground ruins. It has been a relatively long time since they encountered any creature or real danger or threat. They are walking down a seemingly ordinary corridor when suddenly there is a blaring din, like several horn blasts going off simultaneously. The noise does not abate but only grows louder over time. At about the same time the walls begin to pulse and glow in a variety of different colors, and it can now be seen that the walls are covered in complex and strange glyphs and designs. As the noise gets worse the walls glow more fiercely until the light becomes almost painful. Fire erupts behind the players and seems to run along the floor, ceiling, and walls. Smoke begins to accumulate along the ceiling and the temperature rises. From the fiery ceiling suddenly erupts a huge swarm of buzzing, flying locusts, all alight. They are careening crazily towards the players. Forced forwards by the fire and the burning insects the players tumble into a room ahead that is also blaring non-stop and whose walls both pulse and seem to bleed. The locusts begin landing on the players, threatening to set their clothes afire. There is apparently a pool of water ahead but as the players move for it a large flesh golem erupts from the water and it can now be seen that the liquid is corrupt and foul. The golem does not attack but screams relentlessly, gesturing wildly at the players and a corner of the room in which lies a man, seemingly a fellow adventurer, moaning in pain and severely wounded. As the party watches some of the locusts swarm around the golem and it and the pool catch fire. The pool was actually filled with some type of highly combustible liquid, not water.
The golem screams even more loudly and rushes towards the wounded man. Before he can reach him the floor drops away spilling both the golem and the man into some type of pit. The players can hear the man is crying and begging for help, but just barely due to the intense and relentless blare. Many of the blocks upon the floor begin to heat, but some seem dark and cool. The air begins to shimmer and several characters vanish from sight, only to wink back into view ten to twenty seconds later. The ones who disappeared swear that it was the other players who actually disappeared. This continues at random intervals until one player reappears in different clothing, and with different possession than he had before.
Suddenly three doors appear which might allow escape from the room. One is on the ceiling and is apparently made of stone and metal. One is on the floor and has already caught fire. One is on the wall on other side of the pit where the golem and man disappeared, and has a demonic like face with a horn for a mouth. The din seems to be absorbed by the mouth of the monstrous face but any time the players try to speak or communicate with one another the demon mouth also instantly absorbs their words. Suddenly the din is gone but there is no noise at all as the face mouth absorbs all sound.
How would your players react at each stage of such a scenario or situation? What would they make of it? How would they attempt to solve such problems, and in what order? What would they fear might be happening?
The point of an enrichment environment however is not necessarily to do any physical harm to the players at all. It is to misdirect, exhaust, and test them with seemingly dangerous, bizarre, and confusing situations. Although occasionally I will throw in a trap or series of them or a real fight in the middle of such a disordered or over-stimulated environment.
However the example I just used was one of “Stress Enrichment.” You can also enrich an environment in any number of ways, such as providing so many amazing, wonderful, and valuable things, all operating at once that the players have a difficult time sorting priorities and modes of reaction.
Anywho, that’s some of the ways I use situational enrichment. Do you do something similar or related, and if so, how do you o about it? Can you cite examples?