Campaign Development: Denairastas tricks the players

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TheQuicksilver
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Campaign Development: Denairastas tricks the players

Post by TheQuicksilver » Mon Oct 08, 2018 4:15 am

So I've been catching up on the "new" history of Barsaive at it resolves through the 2nd Theran War up to 1517TH in ED4.

My group is going to be restarting in Earthdawn again, and I want to work up a kickass campaign for them. Challenge, they know my storytelling style now, and what I'm thinking about I'm afraid they'll smell from a while away if I cook it entirely on my own.

I've got this idea about King Kovar and Iopos. The players get hired. Random odd jobs, stuff that feels pretty normal. Basically three or for solid adventures designed to just establish them with an organization and rise through the ranks of a trade organization (or something along those lines). I imagine a breakthrough moment where they discover a piece of the original Earthdawn. Nothing big, maybe a bell, remnant of a sail (this item is, however, cursed, and will come up later).

The organization is a deep front for the Denairastas, and they're using it set up a plan to make it look like the Therans are trying to bring a horror in from the astral plane to assassinate the Kovar using the Earthdawn relic. After some time, once the players have "respect" in the organization (very mobster feeling here) either they are tricked into bringing the Horror over from the astral plane, and they're made to look like Theran infiltrators, or they're caught in the process. Either way, the players find out they were being played the whole time (though they may not know if it was the Therans or Iopans) and were used as chess pieces, and now everything's been turned on them. All the evidence points at them, and maybe even another group of "hero" adepts are claiming fame for stopping them and saving the King (these heroes may or may not be Iopan infiltrators themselves - in fact, I think I like the idea that they genuinely are good guys).

Basically, I want to build a big setup to a whole "oh, surprise, you were working for the bad guys the whole time and now what are you gonna do" moment. It's not that they were simply tricked, there should be small moments that start to add up over time so that when the rug gets pulled out, they realize they sorta were the bad guys (kinda like folks that worked at SHIELD when Hydra came out. They weren't all Hydra agents, but they were basically working for them without realizing it). And the whole Denairastas subversion and espionage tactic stuff feels so perfect for that. It all builds up to this decision of what they do now? Stay and almost surely be executed? Escaped and be on the run? Find a way to convince Throal that they're just fall guys for something bigger?

So that's what I'm hoping some folks here would be interested in helping me develop, and maybe share the campaign framework out with folks. I want to set up a few relatively simple adventures to set things up, then onboard them into "the organization," come up with a couple adventures that establish their usefulness, and escalate from them. A slow-burn, long-con campaign. Anyone interested in brainstorming something like this? I could maybe set up a Google Doc to make it easier if the forum thread model isn't structured well enough.

Bonhumm
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Re: Campaign Development: Denairastas tricks the players

Post by Bonhumm » Tue Oct 09, 2018 1:47 pm

With the Iopos book due 'soon' you might want to wait for it to make sure

Tattered Rags
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Re: Campaign Development: Denairastas tricks the players

Post by Tattered Rags » Tue Oct 09, 2018 2:57 pm

I have some ideas. At work now, so I can't really flesh it out. Key points are to direct the players' attention in the wrong direction until it's too late and to make it their decision to work with the Iopan group by setting it up as opposition to someone they want to take down.

I'll hopefully have time after work to expound on all that.
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Under the Stars

Bonhumm
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Re: Campaign Development: Denairastas tricks the players

Post by Bonhumm » Tue Oct 09, 2018 5:28 pm

Maybe something like after the 1st or 2nd job they notice something odd and, investigating they get 'caught' and told this business is a front... for the Eye of Throal. So they do know something 'underground' is going on so they will 'ignore' anything weird because they know it's a front, but they think its a front for the good guys instead of the bad guys.

iduno
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Re: Campaign Development: Denairastas tricks the players

Post by iduno » Tue Oct 09, 2018 8:18 pm

If they're told by spies who the spies work for, the players probably won't believe it. If they gather their own evidence (coded or hidden, of course), they'll believe it.

Of course, once they start looking into that evidence, the Iopans will know they can't be trusted anymore, and are set up in the way you suggested.

Tattered Rags
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Re: Campaign Development: Denairastas tricks the players

Post by Tattered Rags » Wed Oct 10, 2018 12:25 am

Okay, I made some time to write a little something down.

Humble Beginnings:
(I'm assuming that your players have Heroic Buy-In. If you have players willing to just have generic buy-in, great, but most groups at least will at least swoop to the rescue. Also, obviously, change the Names as you see fit.)
Our wonderful heroes witness some thugs shaking down a young woman Named Karlan. She works for Baeag, a local petty gang leader wanting to expand but not quite ready. He's cocksure, but only because he's definitely clever and subtle. (stat him up with high Per and Cha, with skills around strategy, planning, and deception; doesn't need to be an Adept) The thugs work for a rival criminal group, Dark Horse, run by an Ork named Crancher.
-Karlan thanks the group for helping her; she explains that those thugs were a part of a gang terrorizing the locals
-She offers to introduce the players to Baean, a community leader trying to make things better by getting rid of people like
-Baean is gracious and pleasant, offering to reward the heroes for saving Karlan
-Baean explains that he's trying to help the underprivileged and protect his compatriots from the criminal louts of Dark Horse, but his group is small and can't afford a direct confrontation (he really plays up how bad the Dark Horse people are)
-If the heroes would care to help, they could strike a blow for justice, since more Dark Horse thugs are likely roughing up people in a particular neighborhood for protection money
-Go and beat down the thugs, good job heroes, feel good about yourself! Karlan goes with the heroes and explains to the neighborhood that "Baean is happy to keep them safe. Someone else will be by later to 'see if they need anything'". Yes, the players just muscled out one protection racket for another

Things continue in this vein with a series of jobs for Baean
-a merchant is being harassed by the Dark Horse; his son was kidnapped
-rumor has a shipment that's "relief for the poor" was attacked by Dark Horse: it's actually their own ill-gotten goods, but Baean wants to steal it
-a caravan of goods that Baean is trying to protect needs guards; Dark Horse doesn't attack, but instead approaches the group with an offer

The First Twist:
-Dark Horse asks how much Baean is paying them for their work and offers to double it if they work for Crancher. They reveal that Baean is just a petty thief who used to work for Crancher trying to be better than he is.
-If they refuse, Baean freely admits that he dabbles in the shadier side of things, but he would never stoop so low as Crancher. "Why, as soon as I found out they were dealing in slaves with the Therans, that's when I said, 'Enough is enough!' and left that group. I can't abide by that sort of business, and that's when I decided to take them down."
-Sure enough, they are slavers, and Baean's next job is to free some slaves; he gives them info on where the slaves are and what the guard situation is.
-They have some downtime before the attack is to happen, or it's far enough away that they have to make camp. Whatever the case, they are approached by an agent of another group, a woman named Share (an Adept of some sort). She explains that Baean has gotten his hands on something big and dangerous, but he doesn't know just how big and dangerous it is. She thinks they are being duped; she then explains that Baean is a criminal and they've been tricked into doing his dirty work. She apologizes to them for coming late, but hopes that they'll help her get the artifact away from Baean. She offers to help free the slaves even if they won't help her; it's simply the right thing to do, and she hopes it'll win them over anyway.
-And it's a good thing she's helping, since Baean neglected to tell them that Crancher would be there, making it a harder fight than they were expecting. Whatever happens, Baean fealt he came out ahead.

The Real Good Guys(TM):
How the players go about getting "the Magical MacGuffin of Scariness" I won't bother figuring out, but the idea is that it's delivered to a group looking to keep it safe until they can either destroy it or take care of it some other way. This item can be that piece of Earthdawn or something else terribly cursed. Either way, it gets delivered to Shalaree's group, and she introduces the PCs. This group is the Iopans BUT THEY DON'T KNOW THAT. They think they're just working for the better of Barsaive. Either way, the introductions have been made.
-If the players are willing to work with them, Shalaree and gang certainly won't say "no". However, they don't really have anything right now for them to help with. They need to take care of the magical item and then go to ground for a bit to make sure it isn't found. "Hope to see you guys around."
-If the players are gun-shy, Shalaree and her higher-up are understanding. "Hey, we get it. Fool me once, shame on you sort of thing, right? Look, we're trying to do good. If we cross paths again, I hope you'll be willing to help. Right now we have other things to take care of, anwyay." And she gestures to the magical doo-hickey of death.

A few adventures later, while coming to the rescue of some town beset by Horror Constructs, they find Shalaree already there trying to help. She had two others with her, one of which is dead and the other severely wounded. She was tracking a Cult of Vestrial when she came on the town. She wouldn't mind their help with both jobs, if the players wouldn't mind. While Shalaree (and even her higher-ups) doesn't know this, but the Cult knows that her group is actually working for the Iopans. The Iopans, of course, sent word about the cult, but they never bothered to say WHY the cult needed destroyed. It's a Mad Passion; no more reason is needed.
Shalaree can go with the players or point them in the right direction and then take her wounded friend for help with plans to meet up later. Regardless, the players only get a small cell with some evidence pointing to a larger group somewhere else. Shalaree will take that information back and hope to get more leads.

Later Shalaree makes contact with a job offer to collect some True Elements. These are needed for "a ritual to destroy that cursed artifact! That's right, we think we figured out a way to get rid of it!" She's happy enough to tag along, if they'll have her. Otherwise, she's to go head up a different group collecting another ingredient, perhaps a different Element or something. When the stuff is collected, delivery back to Shalaree becomes more difficult, as the Iopans have leaked information to the Therans to draw them into the conflict. A small Theran task force intercepts the players and try to steal the True Elements. When they get back, Shalaree and gang confess that they have no idea why the Therans would attack. They honestly don't know anything about this!

Theran involvement should increase over the next few adventures, even in quests that have nothing to do with the artifact, culminating in the players being led to the Theran base of operations. Here they find information that the artifact can be used to awaken a Horror that is currently slumbering in stasis in the Astral space "somewhere near Throal". We'll leave the players to figure out what the Therans could possibly be wanting to do. Theran involvement takes a precipitous drop following this. Like, no more attacks. Yay!

Oops, the Second Twist:
A couple of adventures later, and Shalaree requests help in defending the ritual to destroy the artifact. They've gotten word that the Therans hadn't given up. Instead, they merely bided their time, and they are planning on attacking Shalaree's group's base where the ritual is happening at the next blood moon. Shalaree and company can't defend it, even if they weren't distracted by performing the ritual. They desperately need the players' help. When the night of the ritual comes, the players can set up defenses and plan for the attack. The attackers are a group of Therans mostly made of dwarves. There's some general info on numbers and abilities, but Shalaree apologizes that they don't have more intel. They were lucky to uncover this much. They do know why the attack is planned for that night: it's the only time the Therans could be sure that the artifact was at the base. It was hidden elsewhere and secretly moved.
The attack should be very forceful at first, just a screaming onslaught of weaker enemies. After the first wave, hopefully the PCs notice that the attackers are dressed in Throalic regalia, not Theran. Oops. Shalaree's intel was wrong.
She comes up from monitoring the ritual and is just as confused as the heroes. "No, no, that's not right. This makes no sense. The ritual is almost complete. We have to destroy the artifact. It doesn't matter, Thera or Throal; no one can be allowed to awaken a Horror." She tries to head back down, if the players let her. Soon, the ritual is complete, perhaps after another wave of attack or if the players parlay. If they abandon their posts and try to stop it, they find that it's too late as it's now reached a critical mass and is running on its own. Oops, again.
When it finishes, everyone who had been participating (as in, gave blood to power it) are ripped apart from the inside as twisted beasts crawl out, all tentacles and slavering jaws. Shalaree screams. Players scream. Throalic soldiers scream. Shalaree screams even more, as she's likely the closest and the first to be ripped apart by these things.

Clean Up:
Well, some of the Horror Constructs flee to wreak havoc elsewhere. Some stay to get slaughtered by the Heroes and whatever remaining Throalic soldiers are there. The Eye of Throal was tipped off to Therans summoning Horrors to attack Throal. The soldiers themselves will attempt to arrest the players assuming they are the Therans. The players might try to escape. Later, of course, they all find out what happened when that slumbering Horror woke up at the end of the ritual.
Last edited by Tattered Rags on Wed Oct 10, 2018 3:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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TheQuicksilver
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Re: Campaign Development: Denairastas tricks the players

Post by TheQuicksilver » Wed Oct 10, 2018 3:04 am

Bonhumm wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 1:47 pm
With the Iopos book due 'soon' you might want to wait for it to make sure
Oh neat, I didn't know an Iopos book was on the way. Has there been a date for it floated?
Bonhumm wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 5:28 pm
...told this business is a front... for the Eye of Throal...
This would be some interesting misdirection.
Tattered Rags wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 12:25 am
Okay, I made some time to write a little something down.
A LITTLE?!?!? I kid. This is amazing. I'm gonna read through it all and see how it feels. I'll see about tossing it into a Google Doc or something and start building on it.

Tattered Rags
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Re: Campaign Development: Denairastas tricks the players

Post by Tattered Rags » Wed Oct 10, 2018 3:18 am

TheQuicksilver wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 3:04 am
Tattered Rags wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 12:25 am
Okay, I made some time to write a little something down.
A LITTLE?!?!? I kid.
Well, I only had half-a-day. You should see the Horricalcum idea.
TheQuicksilver wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 3:04 am
This is amazing. I'm gonna read through it all and see how it feels. I'll see about tossing it into a Google Doc or something and start building on it.
False modesty aside, thanks. I'd love to know what you do with it all.

Also, I went in to edit what I wrote as I noticed Shalaree's name was more consistently Sharalee (which sounds like Sara Lee), so I fixed it. While doing so, I realized I never fully used the Vestrial false leads like I meant to. Following the first attack by the Therans, I suggest Shalaree's group uncover a couple leads on the main cell of Vestrial followers. Let the players pick one to follow and Sharalee will follow the other. Either way, Shalaree's group is not quite up to the task and, while they succeed, she's heartbroken at the loss of life. It's important for the players to really care for her, if you can pull that off.

Later, when the horror constructs are alien-ing their way out of her friends' bodies and she's in imminent mortal danger, the players need to truly have a chance of saving her. But make it slim, because her death will be a way better story and hit home just how truly bad things are.

It'll also make them hate Iopos.
Adventure I'm running:
Under the Stars

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Mataxes
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Re: Campaign Development: Denairastas tricks the players

Post by Mataxes » Wed Oct 10, 2018 11:58 am

TheQuicksilver wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 3:04 am
Oh neat, I didn't know an Iopos book was on the way. Has there been a date for it floated?
No date yet, but it is in development (in fact I just got another chapter draft a couple days ago) and should be the next book after Elven Nations.

We're expecting sometime in the first quarter of 2019.
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Tattered Rags
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Re: Campaign Development: Denairastas tricks the players

Post by Tattered Rags » Wed Oct 10, 2018 5:08 pm

More thoughts on my ideas:
-Shalaree's group is being actively duped, which mirrors the earlier trickery done by Baean against the players
-Shalaree's leader relies heavily on a highly trusted source that has proven valuable and trustworthy many times, which they don't know is an Iopan agent (this is probably the best lead to follow after things fall apart)
-this agent also set up things for the group to discover on their own so not everything would point back to him/her
Adventure I'm running:
Under the Stars

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