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Campaign

So far I've come up with several different ways to run this campaign setting: player vs. player, free-form traditional, guided traditional and the grand tour.

Player vs. Player (400 points)

Believe it or not, this is how I originally intended to use this setting.

Each player is given their own island and 400 points to spend on a character. Most of these points are intended for Allies and Wealth, as befits a ruler of a kingdom. Serfs may be purchased with money (treat them exactly like slaves). Taxable/draftable citizens may be purchased as unwilling allies.

As for islands, players get to choose any uninhabited island.

The basic assumption is that each of the new rulers have just recently risen to power or haven't been noticed by anyone yet.

I suggest setting aside about an hour of time each week for each player for a results of last week/planning session, as well as a few hours of group time for interaction between them (likely battles) and announcement of publicly known news. Each real week could cover one month of game time.

Appearance rolls for Allies can be treated as reliability rolls. Treat the roll in the normal fashion for tasks that can be taken care of in one session, but for multi-session tasks, make the normal roll to give them the instruction in the first place and make another roll for the next session to determine if they followed through.

Failed appearance rolls for following through can indicate the NPC failed to achieve results in some fashion. It doesn't mean that they failed in their duty; it may indicate that they were delayed while traveling due to weather conditions, a badly drawn map that caused them to get lost, or were accosted by bandits. Any convenient excuse is fine.

Battles between armies could be handled by pairing representative groups from each army for a battle. This would determine the results of the over-all battle. I haven't yet figured out how to handle special units.

Free-Form Traditional (100-250 points)

The PCs are adventurers, members of the League of Adventurers or not, as desired by the players. The main events of the campaign are simply background information. They happen as written, unless the PCs do something to change it. At most, the background serves as an occasional adventure hook.

The Monsters For Hire option deserves a look for this type of campaign, if you want something a little different.

Dungeon Fantasy

Islands of War could easily be used as the setting for a Dungeon Fantasy campaign. More detailed character creation rules for adapting this setting to Dungeon Fantasy are here.

Guided Traditional (250+ points)

As above, the PCs are adventurers, only they're members of the League and are handed most of their missions in this manner. Their missions should be about half-and-half regular adventuring and special missions intended for political effect.

This type of campaign will bring the PCs into contact with the various nations of the Archipelago on a regular basis, possibly with disastrous results. One big part of this, unless the PCs are very careful, will be making an enemy of Dia Tempest and the armies of Haven, as they ruthlessly expand their territory.

Eventually, this campaign should climax with the PCs storming Necropolis and killing the Black Hand. At this point, the game of cat-and-mouse with the Black Crown begins, as he attempts to capture their souls for his work, having proven themselves by slaughtering his underlings (by this point, they should be 400+ point characters).

Begin this campaign by running the players though the organization of their party. While they're forming the party, the NPC that sponsored them in the first place will point out the role that is least filled in their group and suggest “a fellow who just happens to be perfect.”

Their sponsor should be one of the many false identities of the Black Crown. The guy he suggests is one of his other false identities. He's recently grown bored and is attempting to insinuate himself into the party as a form of entertainment.

He'll fit whatever niche is required, but will always appear young and eager, willing to accept a meager half-share of their treasure and pay. He will play this role to the hilt. Build a character sheet for him that is a subset of the Black Crown's skills and advantages. He will have no issue with taking a beating or even allowing his current body to be destroyed, due to the magical ring he wears (very powerful ring of regeneration). The various magic items that he wears are enough to pull off the deception, even the appearance of death, and the raising there-from, as may be required. He's also an expert with illusion magic.

The point is to establish him as a close, trusted, loyal ally though the entire campaign, right up until the end. If he grows to respect them enough that by the point the tables have turned, he will be willing to give them fair warning before he begins hunting them, say, while the party is standing over the corpse of the Black Hand. If they mistreat him along the way, he'll simply turn on them at some point in the future, attempting to capture them one by one.

If desired and fitting with your style of play, go ahead and hand their ally's “character sheet” over to the players during combat, to make them think he's just a little one-off fellow thrown in to fill the party. You could even go so far as to let new players run him for a session or two, as least until they've built their own character.

Grand Tour (250+ points)

This is very similar to a combination of the Free-Form Traditional and Guided Traditional approaches.

The NPC “ally” discussed above (the Black Crown in disguise) takes on the form of a seemingly harmless and helpless noble name Lord Arthur Bellaby. He hires a group of adventurers (the PCs) from the League to protect him as he travels. They are to deliver him safely from place to place, but he'll often be busy (and safe) with matters of nobility, allowing more free-form adventuring on whatever island they happen to be on, such as dungeon crawls, exploration, etc.

He pays the party extremely well, at least three times what he thinks the going rate is, although with bargaining, he's willing to go as high as five times. He is fabulously wealthy and cares little about how much he spends, often practically getting robbed by merchants.

The first adventure with him will be attending the Coronation of Dia Tempest. This is the event that marks public awareness of Haven's new policies toward other nations, as the next thing she did after ascending to the throne was announce her plans to begin a crusade to convert others to her religion. In addition to their normal pay as body-guards, Lord Bellaby will provide all the PCs with appropriate attire, theirs to keep. If the group has female characters in it, he'll choose to keep the most attractive one on his arm for the evening, with the rest of the group as his “entourage.” This character will receive 10% extra pay for the night, due to the extra duty of pretending to be his date.

This actually sets the time-line of the campaign about six months earlier than is standard. This particular adventure may be inserted into one of the more traditional approaches by having a random minor noble decide to hire them for the event, “just in case.”

If there are no female characters in the party, Lord Bellaby may instead be Lady Audrey Bellaby for the sake of the story. This should make little difference, but is helpful for always keeping one of the PCs on the arm of the noble at important functions, such as plot-related special events.

Eventually, as war breaks out, Lord Bellaby will be going on diplomatic trips attempting to sow seeds of peace where he can. Thus, he will require the continued services of the PCs as he travels. At certain points, he will stop off for vacations and other side trips. In this fashion, you may introduce the PCs to various characters though out the Archipelago.

In combat, Lord Bellaby will attempt to cower and hide, allowing his body-guards to do their job, but often accidentally getting in the their way or causing some other problem (tripping them with a stray foot, using one of them as a human shield by grabbing their back, stumbling into a PC thief while they're hiding, etc). If the PCs insist on training him in the arts of self-defense, he will require some persuasion (an influence roll), but will eventually be grateful they insisted. He will desire to learn some form of unarmed fighting skill, but will learn a common weapon like a knife or club instead, if no one with appropriate skills is available.

These adventures (presented in the required order) are important to the story-line of the Grand Tour.

Adventure Story Notes
Clearing the Gnomish Mines Gives the reason the Tinkers will voluntarily support Haven
Coronation of Dia Tempest Introduces Lord Arthur Bellaby (alternatively Lady Audrey Bellaby)
Introduces the campaign's first major villain, Dia Tempest of Haven
Establishes a number of important details behind the scenes
One of these details is the brainwashing of Captain Gunderson of the League's Governing Council
Gives the PCs their first chance to change the flow of the story, if they're paying attention
Royal Succession Gives the campaign a continuous background thread
Lord Bellaby will send the PCs the Isle of the Three Kings
He'll also volunteer to raise the boy that would be king, if they ask
Beginner's Luck Indirectly introduces Charda, the leader of the Goblin Legion
She is Dia Tempest's cousin and will become quite important later on
Return of the Nine Keeps the PCs busy on Medusa Island, while the League of Adventurers deals with Captain Gunderson's string being pulled by Dia
Civil War The PCs come out of the Cave of the Nine, only to discover that things have become a huge mess for the League
The King's Party Lord Bellaby recommends the PCs for a job in the royal court of Theris
This turns out to be another big social event, like the Coronation
"Yellow Submarine" This should put some emphasis on the fact that the Tinkers are backing Haven
The Gnomes started building submarines to side-step the Courier trade embargo

Ethereal Pain (a.k.a. Post-Apocalyptic)

This variation takes place in the magically devastated void produced by the Black Crown after his ascension to god-hood. His experiments eventually consumed nearly the entire demi-plane.

The environment itself has become unnaturally polluted with dangerous mana that produces a continuous, low-level disintegration effect that constantly washes over the exposed exterior of anything in the void. This results in 1 damage per minute of exposure, ignoring DR. It also means that most places are a High Mana Area, with a few particularly dangerous areas being a Very High Mana Area. In these spots, it becomes 1 damage per second. If the mana level can somehow be reduced to Normal, this becomes 1 damage per hour and if reduced to No Mana, there is no damage. Anything with a positive SM multiplies the damage by SM+1, due to it's greater surface area. Please note that this effect can be held at bay by armor that covers the entire body (something transparent will have to be used for the eyes and/or face). The armor will take the damage instead, unless it's somehow immune.

Additionally, the separation of the demi-plane and it's ethereal border has almost completely failed. There is still extreme difficulty entering. What this means is that in nearly all respects, the demi-plane now resembles the Deep Ethereal plane, except that there is a great deal of white and blue light emanating from the ether itself. This is due to the powerful magical field discharging into the ether, causing it to glow. Illusory creatures and objects will gather proto-matter into themselves and function as though they were real in this void.

What few survivors around are extremely hardy and magically talented, naturally immune to magic or produce powerful mana damping fields. One example is the inhabitants of the Moon, who naturally produce a psionic mana damping field that can reduce the standing mana field to nothing. Unlike most of the Archipelago, the Moon is still intact, but no longer phases to/from an ethereal state.

There are a few permanently stable locations still standing in the void: Crystal Atoll (the Cystalllinus protected their land with magic), the Modron Cube (the modrons knew the catastrophe was coming and prepared against it) and the Moon. There may be others at the GM's discretion, but stable locations in the void should be rare. They also lack a color curtain (see below).

There are, however, quite a few temporarily stable locations. In essence, the collective memory of the land of the Archipelago has absorbed a great deal of magical energy and it's memory of the way it once was manifests as bubbles of the way things were. These bubbles are surrounded by a color curtain almost exactly as though they were demi-planes. However, it should be noted that they're entirely Illusory in nature. The interior is protected from the disintegration effect and all conditions inside, including the mana level, will resemble the particular memory that's being recalled by the land. There's even a border ethereal plane in most cases. The bubble's contents can be disbelieved from inside, because the bubble's color curtain separates it from the ether.

Things can be taken from these bubbles and this is how some of the survivors make their living: by raiding them for supplies, usually by killing the Illusory inhabitants and taking their equipment. Some of them go even further and actually eat the inhabitants.

The memory bubbles can manifest anything from any point in the demi-plane's past, prior to the magical apocalypse that turned it into a void.

Eventually, they always collapse and anything still inside will be dumped into the void, unprotected. Oddly enough, this includes the inhabitants and any loose objects called into being inside the bubble. Eventually everything disintegrates unless protected.

Very rarely, a powerful wizard of the past will manage to survive and make their way into the void, unaware of what has happened or where they really are. Occasionally, even magical monsters can be found wandering the void. Most starve to death.

Most equipment in this campaign is made of meteoric iron, the only substance that's naturally immune to the disintegration effect of the void, due to it's immunity to magic. Magical items are extremely rare, because they require the Shatterproof enchantment just to survive.

Additional Pages for Ethereal Pain

  • Descriptive Aids - Prepared descriptions of various things in the void, to aid you in getting a feel for the campaign.
  • Unique Locations - List of locations unique to this campaign.

Additional Ideas

Flashbacks

This is an option that can be tacked on to one of the other campaigns.

The basic idea behind this is that from time to time, the PCs will come across people or situations that remind them of something from their youth, leading to a flashback. These will usually take the form of a short adventure or encounter, but might occasionally be full-length adventures.

This will require the players to build present-day and past versions of their character.

They do not have to have all the same disadvantages; they could start the young version with more, requiring them to buy them off as they progress. Or they could have fewer disadvantages, acquiring Phobias and/or Vows as a part of the story. Voluntarily acquired Disadvantages give the character the appropriate number of extra points to spend.

The players or GM will have to make a copy of the initial version of the present-day character sheet. The young version will have to become more like this copy as they progress and grow. However, in order to prevent player boredom/frustration, the present-day version will earn the same number of points as the young version. With the GM's permission, the young version may gain something entirely new and the older version gets it as well.

The D.I.D.

The League employs a Damsel in Distress for hire, mostly for training purposes. This would be Minda the Immortal. She's a young woman that happens to be immortal and Cursed. This should provide the young would-be adventurers with ample opportunity to rescue her without worrying about her dying, thus providing lots of practice for the real thing.

The League often uses her in dangerous training exercises.

If running this with a small group of players, Minda could easily be developed into an addition to the adventuring party, filling a niche the PCs don't.

She has multiple character sheets in the Files section. Minda the Immortal is her original state, suitable for flashback sessions. There's also 250 point, fighter, mage and rogue versions of her for regular sessions. Eventually, I'll provide other developed versions of her, such as a priest, etc.

Why is She Immortal?

Minda is a goddess. She looked over the edge of her cloud and then jumped, hitting the ground head first, from ten thousand feet. She hit so hard that she lost her memory. This was intentional.

She has many aspects and is worshiped in multiple religions for those separate aspects. To change from one to the other, she must lose her memory. Her “parents” are a pair of angels that have been assigned to look after her on the mortal plane. They have since gone rogue and do not want her to regain her memory, because they like playing the part of humans.

Here's a list of the various aspects and the religions associated with them, along with the type of character she becomes when associated with that aspect.

Aspect Religion Character Type
Empathy Sisterhood of the Healing Hands Healer
Entertainment Bard
Magic Mage
Night/Thievery Rogue
War Fighter

As the Damsel in Distress (for flashbacks), she has not yet chosen an aspect.

The players should not be told any of this, since Minda doesn't even realize it. However, it will eventually become a part of a few adventures: she lost her shoes (a heavily magical pair of high heels) when she hit the ground, as well as her riding goose (a normal-sized immortal goose she stands on the back of to fly around), which is still searching for her.

Benefits

  • Players get to explore their PC's personal history, in-depth.
    • Without having to figure it all out from the start.
  • The GM can use flashbacks to introduce allies and enemies of the entire group.
  • Allows the introduction of time-traveling plots that affect both versions.
  • The PCs could encounter Sora of the Crusaders of Light.
    • They can meet her in a flashback as an old woman.
      • She'll die right before their eyes.
    • Then they can encounter her as a (reincarnated) young woman in the present day.
    • More info on Sora and the Rayna clan is available here.

Drawbacks

  • Longer than normal character creation.
  • More planning for the GM.
    • They'll have to keep track of young and old versions of important NPCs.

Suggested Use for League Members

  • All PCs are relatives of adventurers.
    • Unusual Backgroundallows changing this.
      • Require them to pay points for this, because it involves extra work for the GM.
      • Vary the points according to how different their background is.
  • Ten or Twenty years of difference between young and old.
    • Yes, the players can choose to have started their training as children.
  • Issvarti of the Knight of the Post is their sponsor.
  • The PCs were trained mostly by Issvarti and their relatives.
    • Their relatives spent quite a bit of time in the Knight of the Post.
      • They're good friends with the folks that run it.
    • Some examples of Issvarti's frightening training style.
      • He'll force them to get into bar-fights.
        • By claiming one of his charges insulted a (drunk, probably surly) patron of the tavern in a whispered conversation.
        • He'll break up the fight if they get cornered.
        • Dungeon Fantasy 10 would be helpful for populating the tavern.
      • He'll dump them in the middle of a Gnomish mine field.
        • Getting out alive is their training.
      • He'll drop them in the woods, alone, without any gear.
      • Issvarti's Goblin Run is a possible flashback adventure.
      • Issvarti might send them on simple jobs from time to time.
        • The Gem Show might work.
        • He could send to pick up the League's weekly supply of strawberries from the Strawberry Empire.
          • Without Issvarti, this is very dangerous, since the Empress is a xenophone.
    • If they die, Issvarti will get them brought back, free of charge.

Friendly Rivals

It might be fun to setup a group of NPC adventurers as friendly rivals to the PCs. The Terrible Trio would be a good fit for such a role, especially if the PCs are all male.

This could be fun if combined with the Flashback option, as the rivals can show up, act like jerks and then the PCs have a flashback, showing them why they're rivals.

Monsters For Hire

This is an alternative to running Islands of War with a League of Adventurers group. Monsters For Hire is rival adventuring company that was recently formed to fill a niche unfilled by the League.

Such a PC group would be composed entirely of members of non-human races.

This would require a different style of adventure, however, requiring adventures with a non-human bend of mind, such as helping a dragon get rid of a group of pesky Quicklings that are stealing it's hoard little by little. Many of the standard dungeon-delving adventures could be used, as well.

Planescape

Islands of War would make an interesting home base for a group of planar adventurers, as this would allow the opportunity to discover that their home is not on the Prime Material Plane (it's actually a Demiplane with stolen bits of Prime worlds shoved into it). However, please note that the characters living there are Primes, because the essence of the Demiplane itself is the Prime Material.

Planar visitors can easily be fooled into thinking they're on the Prime unless they visit the Tatters or try to enter or leave via the Ethereal Plane. The Demiplane even has astral connections, which is quite unusual, but is an inherited trait from the stolen chunks of the Prime. Also, weapons enchanted inside are treated exactly the same as if they came from the Prime.

Things are further confused by the fact that the inhabitants of the Demiplane think they're on the prime, up to and including some very powerful wizards, as those that find out find tend to find out the hard way and are usually unable to return. The most knowledgeable sages know that there is a powerful barrier of some kind preventing plane-shifting in, but do not know how it was put in place or why.

There's a portal to Sigil in the Lost Gardens, triggered by carrying petrified adventurer blood through a particular hedge arch (petrified adventurers don't trigger it; the blood has to be petrified separately). The same can be used to activate it from the other side, as well. The Sigil side is the front door of a small cafe near the Civic Festhall.

There's another portal to Sigil in the door way of a seedy bar in a run-down area of Medusa. The key is having a black eye. It's one-way and leads to the doorway of a seedy bar in the Hive. This can be particularly confusing because the interior of the bars are filled with the same kind of clientele. More than a few drunken Primes that have just finished with a brawl have walked into Sigil without realizing it, only to find themselves stranded after spending everything they brought with them on bub. Some of these didn't even survive the bar itself, because they tried to settle their tab with an illusion (see the next paragraph; the bartender is a Signer).

It should also be noted that most of the common money used in the Archipelago is actually Illusory (anything minted on the Green Isle, to be exact). This can become a big problem for the PCs if this fact is discovered. It could be especially entertaining to have a Signer point this out to them after they've already accidentally peeled several merchants! They're likely to get in trouble quite soon after this.

Illusory characters from this setting will likely have no end of trouble with Signers disbelieving them on a regular basis. They'll also have trouble with planes that have detrimental effects on illlusion magic, such as Mechanus. In this example, they'll effectively become Insubstantial and appear mostly see-through for the duration of their visit, but the usual effect of being disbelieved won't happen. The locals will completely ignore them, however.

If you're going to run the campaign this way, Planar races shouldn't require an Unusual Background unless you intend the party to be all Primes.

One final note: the page on Moral Alignment may be helpful and/or necessary for a Planescape campaign, due to the nature of the Outer Planes.

Character Sheets

Files

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