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drunkonduty

A world building exercise

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I think folks have brought up a number of interesting ideas regarding this possible location setting. Allow me to add a few thoughts:

Let's assume for a moment that there are many types of undead in the kingdom ranging from traditional zombies and skeletons, to Ghouls and Apparitions, to Vampires and Litches. The former being devoid of independent consciousness, the middle being driven by basic / animalistic desires, and the latter being fairly comparable to humans. If we don't want to make this kingdom comic-booky evil, then they have to see in themselves and this state of affairs some positive merits. So, what if the positive merit is that "A good life leads to a good Unlife"? 

Folks who come back to life as the former two categories are somehow impure and thus, in a butchered Buddhist sense, must be cleaned through #eternal labor. By doing so they honor their ancestors and provide for their progeny. In this way, the (un)dead are a sacredlized member of a family. It is the family unit, in a Confusion sense, that owns the body. It is the role of the head of the house to maintain the (un)dead and to bring prosperity to their family and honor to their name. Destroying an undead worker isn't merely an issue akin to breaking someone's TV, it is as if you have killed their father and perhaps eternally doomed that person / family. An act so heinous that forced 'incorporation' of the offender / offender's family, might be the only reasonable recourse. This could also be a great plot hook idea (PCs break this sacred law / one family is trying to expand their control by 'incorporating' another). 

This would help one build in very strong familial ties and power bases and help prevent a monopolistic Emperor Litch from just having a kingdom of pure undead. This bond making and value also explains why families don't just send out their undead members off to war for greater aquisition. They know who these folks are and share some kind of bond with them. And risking their eternal servitude and honor risks one's own post-death chances. Obviously it will happen just as fathers have sent sons into battle, but it is generally for some greater cause that could bring honor.

This society, one in which struggle, hard work, and familiar devotion are paramount might see incarnations of the second kind (Ghouls) as expressions of a life lived in greed, gluttony, lust, or any other deadly sin. This eternal hell might instill a work ethic hardly seen in any other population. Why don't they merely go on vacation forever and leave all the hard labor to their dead family? Because doing so risks your eternal soul. You may become one of the outcasted dead. Perhaps the presence of such an undead creature in a family line is equivalent to a mark of Kane on the whole family. If the wider public finds out, they risk ostracism or perhaps incorporation into the imperial line. Only there, when-in they can serve the whole of the glorious kingdom can the tar of sin be washed away eventually and their souls allowed to move on. This is why the Emperor is so important: only he can wash clean the befouled. Only he can keep the kingdom safe from the deadly sins. Thus he serves not as an all powerful figure to be feared but as an eternally nurturing healer and protector of his kingdom. 

It is, of course, the conscious sinners (Vampires and other fully sentient undead that embrace some baser urge like hungry) that occupy the greatest attention by all. Their ascension isn't just a deep smear on the family line but an eternal curse. An infection of flesh and society that must be purged with the holiest of lights. No one abides the vampire kin. So great is their blemish that the kingdom has gone to war with its neighbors under the explicit banner to eradicate this scourge thought to be ruling or being protected by the rulers of that kingdom. Destruction of such a foe is of such great honor that whole familial lines can be lifted to great heights by one member's heroic deed. 

The last group would be the litch (or litch like character). Someone not bound to some baser urge/sin and fully conscious. These souls do NOT become the eternal rulers of their family. These are the chosen of the kingdom. The only one's whose life could truly justify presence before the Eternal Emperor. These are his children. The Eternal Emperor can bear no children of his own but is blessed with abundance in his line. Should an emperor ever fall, it is from these select few that the new emperor is chosen. Perhaps it is like the system of Cardinals picking the next pope, perhaps it is whomever can seize power the fastest, perhaps it is a person chosen by the previous emperor. Indeed, while we call the Emperor Eternal, his lifespan is short (maybe only one additional lifespan). But the role is Eternal and thus the title. Having one's family member in the Eternal Court brings great honor in society and the Emperor's family is given extreme privilege. 

You could layer onto this lots of other ideas, too. What is the role of women in the society? Perhaps maternal and fetal death in pregnancy is a great shame/curse and as such women are given special protections to aid them. Slave birthing might have a stigma as it risks death from the woman and child and not all deaths are equally good. If menial labor is relatively plentiful and reliable, there might not even be much need to birth many children - indeed doing so might limit the work options for the child and thus risk his eternity. Or it could be the opposite. 

What is the war strategy like? Someone mentioned above that they might try to find way to preserve the opponent so as to not damage potential new legions. Maybe the Emperor sees conquest as his only reasonable way to increase his forces since he can not institute drafts in the same way real world nations have. And of course he needs to be seen as a strong enough figure as to maintain the order lest citizens question his right to rule. Of course the Eternal Court helps build in some popular support and give aspirational goals to the common folks who, though a life of hard work, could get into the court and maybe even become Emperor in their undeath. 

Their religion could actual revolve around the Sun and Sand. The Sun's holy might is what holds back the worst of the undead filth (vampires). The streets could shine with eternal flames meant to ward away such creatures. The hearth of a home could always be ablaze to ward off such fiends. They may even look down with repugnant scorn on human slavers. They defile the good names of their slaves and risk everyone's safety; indulging in their greed and wrath they risk their souls and denying socially beneficial labor to their slaves dishonor their family and perhaps risk other spawned horrors. In this way, they could actually be a force for some good in their neck of the woods. 

Those are, of course, just my thoughts. 

La Rose. 
 

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You might consider flipping some undead categorisations on their heads.  Skellies are often the weakest variety of undead, moving up through vampires and liches.

 

In your world skeletons might be the greatest form of undead and vampires bestial blood drinking vermin that are actually quite easy to kill.  It is never a bad thing to sometimes stand things on their heads and pervert player expectations.

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La Rose,

some great ideas.

 

I think I will borrow the one about the undead being owned by the family unit. But expand ownership to the village unit. The village head -woman or -man being responsible for the care of the "old family" (need a better name.) Certainly individual families take the time to visit and care for their own ancestors. But the village head has the final responsibility of making sure that the village makes its quotas of workers for public projects (pyramids, dams, irrigation, etc.) as well as the village's own projects.

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2 hours ago, drunkonduty said:

I think I will borrow the one about the undead being owned by the family unit. But expand ownership to the village unit. The village head -woman or -man being responsible for the care of the "old family" (need a better name.) Certainly individual families take the time to visit and care for their own ancestors. But the village head has the final responsibility of making sure that the village makes its quotas of workers for public projects (pyramids, dams, irrigation, etc.) as well as the village's own projects.

 

I'd be thinking in terms of clans rather than present day nuclear families. That would tend to blur the line between "family unit" and "village".

 

There would still be the responsibility to the state though.

 

Going back to my earlier idea about everyone being the literal descendant of the Emperor... My idea would be that he was human before he became undead, and even if he didn't have any children himself, his family/clan would have. Over the past thousands of years his human descendants would have intermarried with every other family in Kemet multiple times. So now nearly everyone, living or unliving, would be descended from him.

There would be exceptions. Some of the oldest undead might precede such intermarriage rather than being products of it, and there would always be a small section of the population who would be more or less outsiders. These might provide a fair proportion of the army (living and dead). Others would be servants/slaves, and thus count as part of their owners' families in a certain sense.

 

There would be foreigners in Kemet for various reasons too. Merchants, sailors, diplomats... They would, of course, be expected to conform to Kemetish ways while in Kemet, or the results could be worse than death. But this is only just an extreme example of the general perils of travelling in foreign lands.

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Oh the royal family are definitely descended from the Eternal Pharaoh. I think it adds extra creep factor to Pharaoh's love for their family. As for everyone having some trace of royal blood, yes. I think that's very likely. I'm sure that most of use can find some notable ancestors if we go back far enough. Difference is in Kemet you can actually go meet them.

?

 

Good point about Pharaoh not necessarily being the oldest extant undead in Kemet. Might be, might not be. That's one of those things I can decide on as the game plays out .

 

What I have decided is that the Kemeti learned the art of necromancy from Isis. She was the first to raise the dead, her husband Osiris of course. She later passed the art on to the faithful of her temple. The myth will go something like "As Isis used her art to bring the God to fruitfulness so too the art brings fruitfulness to the Black Land."

 

Being a visitor to Kemet would definitely be dangerous. Much more so than the usual perils faced by merchant travelers. I can see a brisk, although technically illegal, trade in kidnapping foreign sailors and the like.

 

I actually think slavery wouldn't be a thing. There's no need for it when you have a much more amenable workforce of skellies. Skellies don't need feeding. Don't rebel. Don't die in droves from neglect and abuse.

 

I actually get to kick of this campaign on Sunday. As the PCs are Akkadians and on the receiving end of Kemeti aggression I'm not sure how many of these awesome ideas I'll get to introduce. But I will keep y'all posted as to what I get to bring up and how the players react to it. My main worry now is that we have gone and made Kemet so interesting that the players may prefer to play there rather than Akkad. ?

 

Cheers.

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Hi there!

 

So life, the real one, has been a giant pain in the proverbial.

 

We have played one session of the game. It was mostly an introduce players to the game session, explaining rules, etc. A sample fight . A  situation in which players could use some skills. (Scouting out an abandoned town and now facing down an ogre and her children.)

 

But that was... 3 weeks ago? 4 weeks? And our next session keeps slipping further and further into the future.

 

<Sad face here>

 

If things change I will post updates!

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I just remembered - I promised updates.

 

So a little light thread necromancy. Appropos really.

 

We've played a total of 7 sessions now. The plot is actually moving along.
I think we are about to hit a major player-led change of direction,
but more of that in the correct order of events.

 

Recap - session 1. Mostly an intro session for players new to the game.
The heroes have just escaped the downfall of their
fortress, Sunwall. The actual Sunwall (a wall that shone with light that
kept the worst undead at bay) failed at a critical moment in the battle
and the undead swarmed through. The heroes escaped the rout and we begin
the game with them meeting up down the road a ways. They are attacked by
a pack of ghouls, whom they handily destroy.

 

They reach the nearest town and find it deserted. Investigating they meet
some bandits looting the town, an ogre and her children. They are
besieging the temple of Utu in which a few citizens are holding out.

 

Session 2.
The heroes negotiate with the ogre and her half ogres.
The ogres agree to leave the temple of Utu (God of Light) to the PCs
but they have the run of the rest of the abandoned town. Just to be
sure the PC face-guy convinces the ogres that there is a shitting curse on
the temple. "Go in there and you will shit yourself to death."

 

Everyone abides by the agreement.

 

While in the temple the heroes find signs that the temple has been defiled and it's magical
anti-undead wards have been destroyed. They citizens tell them that a
survivor from the rout of Sunwall arrived here about midnight to raise the warning.
BUT the heroes realise that Sunwall had only just fallen by that hour.
The "survivor" must have left Sunwall hours before that happened.
They pretty quickly jump to the correct conclusion - the survivor is a saboteur,
possibly even a traitor.

 

From the ogre incident the game has come to be referred to as The Shitting Curse.
<sigh>

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Session 3.
The PCs reach the next town along. Here they find the place packed
with refugees from town #1.  They warn the local temple of Utu
about the saboteur. They learn that he had tried to get access to the altar,
but with all the extra priests staying here he wasn't able to get any private
time in which to sabotage this altar. They also learn his name, Ferridoon.
Asking around they discover the inn where Ferridoon is staying. They decide they
want to interrogate him but are foiled by a locked door. They sleep in the
inn stable yard, along with many other refugees.

 

That night they are attacked by a bunch of thugs in the Ferridoon's employ. To add to
the fun the Ferridoon begins summoning undead right into the fight, amidst all the
civilians. In the ensuing panic the villain escapes.


Session 4.
The heroes are tasked with getting the traitor and then scouting out the Kemeti army;
where are they, what are they doing?

 

They track Ferridoon back to town #1. There is a big throw down in which the heroes
are once again foiled by locked doors. Long story short: the villain escaped. Only barely,
but near enough is good enough. :D

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Session 5.
The heroes decide to rest up in the town. They soon discover that the ogres
are still in town. The face-guy manages to convince the ogres that their being back
in town and making an inn their own is okay and very much in the spirit of the
agreement made in session 2. Flim-Flamboozled the ogres retreat.

 

Later, when the ogres realise they have been made to look stupid they come back and attack.

A fight ensues. The paladin kills the boss ogre and the rest break and run.

 

Session 6.
The heroes return to Sunwall to scout out the enemy army.
The party ranger is able to overhear a conversation between the villain who
led the assault on Sunwall, Lord Iniquitous, and his minion, Lady Syn.
I describe Lord Iniquitous in such a way that the players are now calling him
Lord Rasta Byron. I consider this a win.

 

They learn that LRB is looking for something called the Tablet of Enki
which will supposedly lead him to something called The Dooms of Ra. Also, LRB
doesn't want the Eternal Pharoah to know what he's up to. Ooooh, plot points.


They also learn that LRB considers Ferridoon to be "a complete arse." All the players love this.

 

By better knowledge of the fortress layout the heroes are able to find
the tablet of Enki before the bad guys do. They escape quietly into the night.

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Session 7.
The tablet is a highly stylised map with a bunch of hieroglyphics on it.
It is clearly only half of the tablet. It has a jagged broken edge and LRB
clearly referred to it as "the other half of the Tablet of Enki."

 

Unable to translate it themselves they head for the capital city and a sage
to help them. With a letter of introduction the chief librarian is met and
very happy to help. She provides translations, and offers to introduce the
halfling sorcerer to her single daughter. We then leave the heroes on a small
cliffhanger: The Lord High Inquisitor shows up and wants to know who are these
people who are accessing proscribed texts?

 

As of this session the players have learned a little of the Kemeti attitude to
necromancy and the dead. They also learned that Kemeti believe the Akkadians
to be Tiamat worshippers. The Kemeti consider Tiamat the equivalent of Apep,

th serpent which tries to destroy the sun. The paladin (of the sun god) is most annoyed.

 

I learned that the only player to take notes in Session 6 heard me say "The Dunes of Ra."
Hmm. Okay. Much less portentous than the Dooms of Ra. But I see how it happened.
The paladin's player heard me say "The Dudes of Ra."

The GM is most annoyed.

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On 7/26/2018 at 9:40 PM, drunkonduty said:

At this juncture I should point out that the game is pathfinder and the official rule is that it's negative energy animating the corpses.

 

The proper HERO move is to play Pathfinder with them for a bit and then convert their characters to HERO so they can experience the superior gaming system.  Fantasy HERO > Pathfinder.

 

Just out of curiosity.  Pathfinder 1.0 or are you doing the new Pathfinder 2.0 play test?

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Pathfinder 1.

 

Yeah, I've thought about converting things to Fantasy Hero. But I don't think my players would handle a system change mid-game.

 

Luckily this campaign is intended to be short lived (unlike most of the games I run which are usually no set end date/sandbox sorta things.) When it's over I'll suggest a change of system.

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I find a change of system is often most easily accomplished when a session did not go well because the players felt a bit constrained by the rules.  You then go back to the session and say - I would like to try that adventure again with a different system (one you think would handle it better).  If you are right you have good evidence that a system change for the next campaign might be a good idea.  🙂

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