Before I catch you up on what the party got up to over the last two weeks, I want to give you a quick look at one of the tools I use when building a campaign. Namely, how I find ways to make the story personal for the players, and their characters.
The best way, I’ve found, to begin a campaign, is to start small. Set up a town, and a bit about the surrounding area. Back in the first recap, I shared my set up for the story, which contained a few bits about the mythology surrounding the area, including the local mountain range, Kalem’s Spine. At the time, I wasn’t sure if this would figure in to the story or not, but it sounded cool, so I went with it.
The adventure itself was pretty generic. Children being kidnapped. Possibly Goblins. I twisted things a bit by having the Goblins be civilized, and living in fear of being discovered, giving the party a bit of of a moral quandary, cause that’s what DM’s do. We fuck with you.
Then, I sat back and waited to see how the players would handle their characters. This is the hard part, because everything that comes next depends on that.
By the third session, I had a firm idea of how the players viewed their characters, or what they were having trouble with where their character was concerned, and began building what I call their personal arcs. Basically, a personal arc is nothing more than a giant quest that might take the character their entire life to finish. Something that has meaning for them, even if it has no real connection to the overall story of their journey as heroes.
As I set these up, I put in place trigger points, a collection of events or choices I suspect the player may make that will start their personal arc moving. Learning a piece of information, looking for someone who knew them before they became an adventurer, going into a certain building in a certain town where their past waits for them with hungry teeth,and similar events can be trigger points. Once one occurs, the characters personal arc is started.
Along the way, various events are planned for, and the end result is somewhat mapped out. How the players chooses to deal with most of this is impossible to predict, so I keep it fairly loose. Usually I just focus on what the likely conclusion will be, where the player can find the answers they are looking for, who their personal antagonist is, or whatever is required of the arc to make for a compelling and satisfying conclusion. It’s all pretty free form, because players are tricky animals, and may do things you aren’t prepared for, so it’s best not to get too detailed.
Sometimes, when you are really lucky, a characters arc will tie back into the overall story you crafting. Those are the fun ones. For this group, that was Serada’s character arc. It has huge ramifications on the events transpiring in the world around the party, and how her player chooses to handle things can effect events that are yet to come.
Naturally, right after I finished setting up this character arc, Serada’s player had to drop out for a while due to work. Odds are, she’ll be back to play some more, but for now, that arc, which was juicy as shit, got put on hold.
I’ll get more into that in a bit.
When last we left our party of adorable delinquents, they had just successfully freed the kidnapped children of both the town of Marshgate, and the Goblin city of Una from slavers who had them working a gold mine, and discovered some strange portals designed to take the gold who knows where.
That fight still makes me sad. I rolled so bad, guys. Just so, so bad.
Heading back to Una with Garo, Pizo and their new archer buddies, the party had time to discuss some things, and learned a bit about the history of Una. Founded by a clan of Goblins known as the Windseeker Tribe, one of their members, a fellow named Urgart, who apparently got busy with some knowledge, and brought art and science to his clan, some 3,000 years ago.
Since then, the Goblins of Una have fended off Orc raids looking to enslave them, and hidden as best they could from the rest of the world, in fear the people of the Domain of Tassius would never accept them as equals. Many, such as Garo, feel the time ahs come to try and join the world as a civilized people, while others think staying isolated is the only way to ensure their continued survival. It’s become something of a political rift in the city, and Garo does warn the party they will be walking right into the middle of it.
What with them not being Goblins, but having rescued Goblin children, they are going to cause big shifts in the political landscape, just by being who they are, and doing what they’ve done.
They learn this quickly when they arrive at Una, a massive, sprawling city, protected by three equally huge walls. Two in the interior, and one at the edge of the city, shows how much it has grown over 3,000 years, and the battle scars along the walls show how much the Goblins have enured to remain free. These are strong, independent people that aren’t going to bow down to anyone.
Right away, they are confronted by a General who commands some of Una’s army, Junfro, an older, somewhat overweight Goblin that is firmly in the isolationist camp, and basically chews Garo out for bringing outsiders to the city, not to mention about a dozen kids from Marshgate.His fire gets put out really fast, however, when the parents of those kids are kinda happy to have their children back.
The party also watches Garo inform the parents of the ones who didn’t survive about their fate of their kids, and how heartbroken they are. As they head towards the middle part of the city, where Garo lives, they begin hearing his name being chanted by the crowd. Garo confesses that he’s become something of a figure head for the people who want to stop hiding, and this event will likely shift public opinion on the matter.
Arriving at Garo’s home, they meet his wife, Ravena, who is reunited with ehr daughter, Lily, and somewhat taken aback by their strange quests. As soon as Garo explains things, she welcomes them warmly, and the Marshgate children as well.
Then her mother arrives. Garo has a mother in law, who just goes by the nickname of Momma, is very Italian in attitude. Even as she criticizes everything about the party, specifically them not being Goblins, she feeds them everything under the sun. Including cake. Which Garo is not allowed to have any of, because Momma is upset with him for making her daughter worry so much.
Much of what happens after their arrival at Garo’s home is to give the players a sense of normalcy. That these Goblins really are no different than the people of Marshgate. By the time it was done, they did, too, and felt a connection to Una, even commenting it was the kind of place they hoped to visit again in the future.
The next day, they set out to accomplish some tasks. Dia, Genisis, and Hera wanted to interrogate a prisoner Garo believes is connected to the kidnappings, while Halo wanted to go see if he could get Stevie out of his head, and Serada went to visit the temple of Kirranima, in hopes of understanding herself a bit better.
Nobody got what they wanted, of course, cause I’m a dick.
The prisoner turned out to a Bard by the name of Natal Abernathy, who stumbled onto Una while fleeing the husband of the woman he had recently bedded. Thinking it to be a normal city, he had used Dimension Door to get inside, only to discover it was a Goblin city. On that same night, Lily was kidnapped, and Natal was captured, leading to the misunderstanding.
Natal is an actor, and an arrogant, pompous ass, who doesn’t know a damn thing about the kidnappings. He does end up revealing that he is aware that baron Merchfort is behind the kidnappings, and even managed to record a bit of conversation on a magical device of his own creation, which shows the baron saying it must be children, as well as conspiring with a hooded figure to kill, well, everyone when their lord rises.
All of this, he offers in trade for the party getting him out of lockup, and they promise to see what they can do.
They then headed to the Platinum Library, part of a massive school complex, and met with the high magus, Marpos. From him, they learned that the portals they had found lead to a pocket reality called the Ungrim, a place associated with the myth of Kalem. Apparently, this is where the fallen gods essence can be found, tended by his faithful in preparation for the day their God rises. Tying this together with the information they got from natal, the party realizes that Baron Merchfort is part of the Cult of Kalem, and whatever he’s up to is meant to help return his God to life.
Of course, this is all myth, and nobody can say for sure if Kalem ever really lived, or if the whole thing is just some made up story about a nigh impassible mountain range. So, off they go to the Temple of Kirranima to get answers from a God’s mouth.
The head of the temple, Gwinrose, is also know as the Speaker of the Flame, and has the ability to channel Kirranima when needed. From the God herself, they learn little, as Kirranima gives them vague answers, except to say that the Cult of Kalem should be wiped out. With all this knowledge, the party heads off to meet with the council of elders to make their case for help with dealing with all of this.
Save Serada, who learns from Kirranima she is the daughter of the Betrayer and the Godslayer, a child born of evil, who’s soul was traded to Orcus, the most powerful demon of the Abyss, for the power they had. The mark of Orcus is upon her, and only Kirranima’s will keep’s Serada’s soul from being devoured, or corrupted into a servant of Orcus. Because of this, Serada decided to stay at the temple to learn how to control the constant lure to evil that goes on within her.
Serada’s player has struggled with the whole Lawful Good thing, frequently confusing D&D with video games, where you can pretty much do whatever you want and never face any consequence. So, I figured, why not incorporate that into her character’s arc? This at least gives her struggle to grasp Lawful Good some in game context, and consequence.
Hopefully, when her work schedule changes, and she rejoins us, we can see where her character arc goes. It’s cool, and it ties into the plot that is developing about Kalem.
The rest of the party met with the council, lead by a woman named Tua, who seemed pretty willing to take what the party had to say into account before making a decision. Especially after Genesis pointed out that Una wasn’t so well hidden, if both the Cult of Kalem, and the Fifth Finger, that criminal organization the party encountered in the second session, knew where they were. That really ended up being the winning argument, leading to Tua allowing Garo, and Pizo, who the party has been loathe to part with, to help do something about the Baron, so the Marshgate children can safely go home.
Oh, and they did get Natal freed, though he promptly Dimension Doored away. We’ll see if they ever run into him again.
Afterwards, they did a little window shopping, before returning to Garo’s, where they discovered they had gone off and left Ravena to deal with a dozen kids just recently freed from slavery, and as such, were rather rowdy. Pitching in, the party showed that heroes come in many forms, and helped round the kids up, get them bathed, fed, and put to bed. Afterwards, Genesis and Ravena shared some whiskey and had a sweet bonding moment.
Dia, however, began to feel the call to serve, and sought out another member of the Seven Sovereign Host, the God of booze and war, Gardain, and began preparing to multi-class as a Cleric.
Before calling it a night, and a session, the party got together and started talking about what they should do next. We’re almost at the end of their first adventure now, and only their decision of how to deal with baron Merchfort remains, though a whole world of possibilities has opened up for them. The Fifth Finger and the Cult of Kalem both remain problems they have decided to tackle, though obviously, the matter of the Baron must be attended first.
What will they do? I have no idea.
Honestly, I can’t wait to see.