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What do your PCs actually do?


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At this point I am basically asking questions out of curiosity 


To what extent are your games about exploring "places of mystery" ("dungeons"), exploring the world, epic quests, politics/intrigue, romance or whatever?


OK, partly I am fishing for things I might be interested in, because endless dungeon crawling bores me to sleep, and in any case HERO isn't the best system for that, in my opinion.




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Exploring and minor quests mostly. The places which are explored are invariably dangerous because I do a "points of light" style of world.


Places of mystery are found from time to time. However, they're almost never "dungeons" because moving and removing that much dirt and rock from the ground is a herculean task which doesn't make any sense to me for most purposes.


So the places of mystery are towers, keeps, and abandoned towns & cities...with the occasional mine or caverns thrown in. 


I don't attempt to do romance because I don't want to look players in the face and tell them that I'm falling in love with them.


Politics and intrigue are sometimes a tangential part of quests but hardcore politics and intrigue bore me to tears. My inclination as a player is to kill all the politicians involved and let the gods sort them out. And I'm afraid that attitude carries over to GMing. (As a player, I wouldn't actively blow up a game that the other players are enjoying, regardless of my inclination. But I'd also let the GM know that the storyline isn't my cup of tea and find ways to fill my pockets with loot from all the interested NPC's involved. And if loot wasn't available, I'd find other ways of amusing myself as I go along for the ride.)


Now as a player "starting some intrigue or meddling in politics" is a very different thing than tolerating NPC's indulging in it and expecting me to play along nicely.


I like epic quests as a player. But as a GM, putting players through an epic quest always seems too cheesy. Even if the players seem to enjoy them, I don't feel like I'm doing a great job and I agonize way too much over what I did wrong or could have done better.

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I'm currently running 2 PF games.


In the first one the heroes are on an epic quest to find an ancient artifact from the dawn of time. Not because they want it but because they felt guilty about robbing someone (the someone was technically dead at the time and her wizard's tower taken over by a powerful demon) and want to make it up to her by giving her a present. The heroes are currently in the City of Dis in Hell looking for... gossip. The heroes want some information and the information broker they have found will swap for the name of the new lover of the Provost Marshall of Dis.


Future installments will involve talking in riddles to an ancient being. Breaking into a vault run by Beholders; this one is straight out of an old Dragon mag. Searching for a ship lost in the Astral Sea and (when found) trying to get the ship's log before the horrible monster eats them. Negotiating with agents of Chaos. Sneaking past a legion of Inevitables. And all the while in a race with agents of that original powerful demon from the wizard's tower who is also after the macguffin.


In the second one the heroes have been looking for a way to take back their fortress and protect their homeland from the nasty undeads. This involved a quest for something. They were unsure what the something until they finally found the macguffins - a bunch of powerful undead killing weapons. Along the way they chased and failed to catch a traitor. Repeatedly. Rescued a beautiful man from some sea hags and then from his Marid ex-lover. Helped a wizard achieve lichdom. Put a demon of pestilence back in its prison. They are now in negotiations with the original BBEG to kill the BBEG's boss in return for the BBEG getting the hell out of their homeland and never coming back.

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On 9/23/2021 at 12:39 AM, tombrown803 said:

Which Dragon magazine was that in?


Sorry for the late reply - but I am glad you asked. Because I had forgotten and had to look for it. 🙃


It's in DUNGEON (not Dragon) #141 - Vlindarian's Vault.


But I'm glad I went looking for it because I found another adventure (Diplomacy, meant for lvl 18 characters, Dungeon #144) I was considering using but had forgotten about entirely. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Some ideas to spice up generic adventures:

-Hostage rescue situation - either in a hot "just happened" chase situation, or a longer negotiation/investigation/infiltration type scenario

-Friendly/neutral NPCs are turning bad in some non-too-obvious way and the party has to find and "cure" them (whatever you decide that means)

-A rival group has been assigned to the same task, so it's a race to achieve the objective first and get the credit/reward

-The main mission turns out to be a trick by a rival person to get the party to do the hard work and steal the reward/credit at the end - they find out about it at some stage if they find the right clues so need to deal with that afterwards

-Collapsing building/caves put a frantic and random time factor to the mission

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Well to actually answer the question.  I tend to prefer fantasy games where the PCs are the heroes fulfilling a quest. 


The extremely rare virtually non-existent the PCs are good guy heroes that save the village/town/kingdom/what have you. 


The "we wander around aimlessly kill'in things and a'stealing their stuff" sandbox games are too boring to play as a player or GM. 


A good quest where the PCs slowly discover more and more concerning the overall plot as they resolve each session/arc. 


I have shifted to awarding XP a little different than RAW.  In addition to the regular session XP, I also award directed XP for the successful use of an ability/skill.  A player or party can also receive Perks or Disadvantages.  Rewards beyond "Ugg..me kill'em, give me stuff". 

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In my current campaign the players are on an epic quest.  They know that they have to stop a plot which will open the world of Nyonia to the plan of one of the gods who wants nothing more that war (and all the ugliness that goes with it).  I laid out the overarching quest into three parts, each part had a starting and ending point.  What happened in-between was driven by the players.  I always knew what the opposition was doing along the way.  Sometimes the players interrupted the opposition's plans.  Sometimes the opposition interrupted the players' plans.  In game time the quest has been going ~7 years.  In calendar time I think it has been going on (off and on so other GMs can run) for 4 years.  We are at the end chapter, which I expect will take a while to play thru but will be a very short period of game time.


I asked the players before the campaign started if they wanted to play in an epic campaign, they said yes.  They know that success is possible (so is failure).


What makes this more fun is they are playing at a critical historical moment in the overall timeline.  I say that because a previous campaign I ran in Nyonia takes place 1000 years later and they are in the middle of something that changes everything on Nyonia.

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So what do my player characters do? Well in one game they are caravan guards going from one civilization to another through a sea of grass and hostile tribesmen. 

In the other game, they were chartered explorers heading into the East to document what they saw. 

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There are a lot of Youtube videos explaning the "Bronze Age Collapse", a climate-related catastrophe that almost sunk WWEstern civilization before it had a chance to get going -- as the breadbasket states of the "Fertile Crescent" dried out. Mesopotamia was apparently hit particularly hard.

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I like to have a mix of activities for the players in all of the adventures. There obviously needs to be conflict (combat), but I like to throw in history, mental puzzles (solving patterns to open gates, translating old runes), and a good mystery to solve. I particularly like games where everything isn't black and white. Maybe the group has to work with a shady character to reach their ultimate goal.


Multiple challenges give the characters with other noncombat skills a chance to shine and contribute to the game.




I've ran a lot of groups through various settings, but my all-time favorite was a gritty, low-fantasy, almost-horror game where the players were members of a road patrol that traveled from the plains into the mountains near the end of their "deployment" and found themselves in a little mountain village on a cold, rainy Autumn night. It turned into a mystery right away as a local came into the inn asking for help finding his two missing children. So, it was back out into the dark woods and pouring rain to try and find the kids.


I like to set a good atmosphere for the game, so I played a rain and thunderstorms recording at the same time as the "Sleepy Hollow" movie soundtrack in the background. 



There were lots of details and events occurring in the village, but the main plot is that a number of the village women were witches and had summoned something in the forest nearby that was preying on the villagers.


It was fun with the party members trying to figure out who was good and who was bad in the village, but then turned spectacularly deadly for about 80% of the party when they tried to force their way into the thorny grove hiding the old stone ruins...


This old Ravenloft artwork was my inspiration for the creature taking the children and others.




I've actually considered writing a book based on this story.



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15 hours ago, assault said:

The previous world having been destroyed allows for some interesting survivals. Potentially including some of the reasons for that destruction...

Ah :O you might be giving me too much credit in a way. 

Actually,  my most recent campaign was born of panicked speed and laziness. The gaming group I am in hadn't gamed in over a year and a half, suddenly they had time and wanted to try to start up again. I asked them what setting they wanted (Forgive me, Hero Board gods, they wanted a Pathfinder game),  and they rather nebulous. With THE Weekend coming up, I flittered back and forth from established setting to established setting, a bit irked that some I liked had under gone abuse in the name of edition swap or some story progression that was forced on it. One city that we used to use as an HQ in our old games, for example, destroyed via novel... gone. I could ignore that, but did I want something different to throw them off a bit, blah blah, mind going back and forth.


Then I realized that the 'destroyed town/city' or even 'lost kingdom' was a classic bit, and why not lean into it? Borrowing shamelessly from Marvel's Battleworld, I made the trademark violating, copyright infringing , cut and paste mess  of the Antiquary aka the Magpie. The Magpie/Antiquary was a God that was banished, trapped to a world devoid of sentient life. Further, he was denied the power of creation. Suffice to say, the poor sap got very lonely.

He found however, that he could steal what others discarded, even beyond the barrier. That which would be lost to others, he would claim, bring over to HIS world. 

So I took Tilverton from FR's Cormyr, and placed it near a huge forest with some rivers. Alfheim from Mystara was thrown in... I took the city of Troy from the Iliad and plopped it down 'way over there', I took a fallen city from the Ryria Chronicles and it's people and put them near a mountain range. Heck, I even stole the shire when I realized technically the idea that the Hobbits would eventually become men (If one believes Gandalf's musings) and thus would be destroyed as a community, though the hobbits WERE very surprised to find their homes were now beach front property on an ocean shore. Just for nostalgia, I  used it as an excuse to bring  Cynidicea from the old module "The Lost City" to the Surface with the people there freed of their drugged dream state.


Then I tried to figure out what three hundred years would do... some progressed fast, some went slow, some were wiped out. Most were focused on survival so exploration was not on their mind at first.  Some gods could pierce the barrier (It was the Magpie's prison, not theirs) , so you could have Apollo and Lathander glaring eat each other. Geography changes cultures (I never said, but I do think at least some young Took may have discovered the glory of surfing) but it takes a few generations for that to kick in.  So 300 years after the theft/salvation, our PCs are under orders to explore and survey for their kingdom.   The game is somewhat comical at parts (The battlecry  of the Shire is 'The Hobbits the Hobbits the Hobbits! Guard Guard Guard') but they've  had fun so far.



EDIT: For those of you wondering why you're reading a Wall O Text, blame L. Marcus, I told him NOT to ask :P


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Other than limiting yourself to fantasy (which you had to do for this game), that sounds so very much like our game nearly 40 years ago-- the one I begged for indulgence with to prove that Champions could do any genre.


One brand new world with features and regions lifted from every genre.


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