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Old Feb 12th, 2023, 06:15 AM
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Zar - Reluctant heirs - (WIP / Need feedback pls)

Game NameReluctant heirs
Game SystemDnD 5e
ThemeReluctant heirs of the damned
FlavourMedieval Dark Fantasy, Undead, Horror and Urban adventures
Campaign SettingThe world of Zar Most townsfolk doesn't know the history of the world. But those with ranks in knowledge history and religion will ask me for details about the past and the gods, you will the material in that pdf. There's also in the document an overview of the races allowed for that game.

Plot Background
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Castle Calamor
Inora, formerly known as the city of legends, or the city of wonders among other names, was the former capital city of the Wyzlar empire. Located in the Forest of Mist by the shore of the Great Pristine Lake, the city was founded during the migration of the elves into the world of Zar after a long journey from the astral plane. During the Age of Stars, Inora was considered by many to be the pinnacle of elvish knowledge, culture, and civilization, as well as the new seat of power of the astral throne.

The white stone towers of Inora were predominantly tall and graceful in appearance, some took the shape of fantastic creatures or heroes of old. Natural structures of wood and plant life formed by powerful magic were among the most breathtaking in all the world. Skybridges, towers, and elegant treetop dwellings were all connected like a spider’s web. An immense cathedral was built with azure marble and cerulean crystals in the honor of the goddess Ludia and contained two hundred rooms, most of them decorated with wall panels replicating star and sky charts. The emperor's colossal palace was decadent with hundreds of rooms. Yet the most precious building of all was the Grand Library, where a copy of the accumulated knowledge that the world and beyond had to offer could be found there. There was also an expansive set of dungeons that ran underneath the city, which were interconnected with many of the subterranean dwellings for the slaves.

During the disasters of the Age of Ruins, such as Negamor’s rampage and the slaves' uprising, Inora was destroyed, and only piles of rubble and inspiration for countless bedtime stories remained. Inora’s proximity to Negamor’s Horn, a cursed mountain of black quartz, and the toxic Swamp of Oblivions that surrounds it made it an undesirable location for resettlement. Overrun by monsters, the frozen forest and Inora’s ruins became a no-man land for decades.

After a century nature prevailed, and the forest took over most of the remains of Inora. Monsters migrated to the four corners of the world, making their number manageable in the ruins. Treasure hunters and adventurers risked the journey to Inora ruins more often, hoping to find elvish powers and knowledge. This renewed interest in the region led to resettlement in the Forest of Mist and an unexpected discovery.

On the summit of a tree-covered mountain by the Great Pristine Lake, a castle in prime condition was discovered by Randorian settlers. Castles have not been seen for centuries by human eyes. Since the elvish empire was destroyed no warlord ever had the resources and manpower for significant architectural endeavours. The place felt unnatural, but the adventurers were brave and couldn’t help themselves from entering the mysterious building.

At dawn the adventurers returned from the castle, with intriguing stories and treasures. They mentioned that they were hosted by the lord of the castle, a man called Leoric. He served them a feast and offered them furs, gold and as much food as they could carry in exchange for bringing a message back to their community.

Leoric told the explorers that everybody was welcome to hunt in the forest, fish in the lake and settle in the region. His only request was that the mountain and castle Calamor were to be considered sacred ground and off limits. Returning home, the Randorians spread the story and most didn’t make much out of it. Yet, the settlers felt compelled to go back to the castle after a harsh winter to seek their neighbour's help. Asking for food to save their village, Leoric offered his visitors a deal. He was willing to feed the surrounding villages in exchange for manpower to search for books, documents and works of art from the lost ancient elvish empire. According to him, those could be found by digging and exploring the ruins of Inora in the vicinity. This was the beginning of a long relationship between the castle master and the leader of the surrounding communities.

Over the years, Leoric became known as the Archivist and provided food and resources as the Randorians focused on digging and searching for elvish relics, exploring dangerous dungeons and asking for more and more favor from the Archivist. This arrangement worked well over generations and a town called Cambria formed on the ruins of Inora, a few kilometres away from the castle mountain. The settlers who made the deal with Leoric led the large community and lived a surprisingly long life. Except for the occasional disappearance of people who made the mistake of wandering around the castle, the town prospered and in a couple of centuries became the first city on the continent since the fall of the elves.

The city of Cambria
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The Archivist
Three centuries later, it’s the beginning of the Age of Awakening. From the ashes, the world slowly recovered from the dust clouds that were caused by the meteor swarm that scarred the world. Winter is still long, but not as deadly as it used to be. Food is scarce and most villages are a well of misery. Cambria, the region's largest trade center, attracts many migrants and continues to expand and grow. Many hopefuls come to the city each year from small towns and villages searching for employment, riches, and a better life. Consequently, the city has difficulties finding enough resources to support its booming population.

Cambrians
Cambria is overpopulated with over fifteen thousand souls fighting for survival. Putting bread on the table is a constant battle for most of the common folks. The city has its share of undesirables. Cutpurses, thugs, thieves, burglars, assassins, and lowlifes of every sort can be found everywhere. Yet most resist the temptation to follow a dark path by working hard with a strong sense of community to help each other to survive.

The average Cambria resident is a fisherman, lumberjack, excavator, miner or merchant. Hard daily work gives Cambrians a gruff exterior, a no-nonsense attitude, and a stubborn resolve to finish whatever needs to be done. People who don’t earn their keep through work such as many migrants are looked upon as second-class citizens. Cambrians are conservative and superstitious. They fear magic of all kinds, and the threats of monsters and undead keep them awake at night. Besides the biggest terror of all is the scarred moon Zenobia, to which many townsfolk give offerings to appease her anger. Many people are deeply religious, their faiths are varied and personal rather than monolithic and prescribed.

The city residents were originally a mixture of tribes from different parts of the western lands of Randor and beyond with subtly different cultures and traditions. Other substantial human ethnicities in the city include the Gaellians, who come from the south and brought in their exotic culture. Dwarves who hail from the mountains and underground cities have a major presence in the city. There are hundreds of elves as well, most of their ancestors participated in the slaves' rebellion against the elvish empire that provoked the final demise of Inora. Cambria’s culture spread over a long distance into countless villages and evolved over three hundred years into its own language, customs, traditions, religions, and architecture.

Not everyone is a free citizen in the city, there are several thousands of slaves captured in foreign lands. Most of those poor fellows are owned by the nobles and are the main force excavating the ruins of Inora. Their tasks include exploring the dangerous dungeons and caves dug by dwarves centuries ago. Convicts also pay their debt to the city with forced labor. Only the most desperate townsfolks would choose voluntary this hazardous employment.

Politics
Power in the city is fragmented between multiple factions and personalities in a delicate balance. The most prominent political body is the competing founding families who are descendants of those who discovered the castle and made the original deal with Leoric the Archivist. They proclaimed themselves nobles a long time ago. Those aristocrats are highly educated and more concerned with their own comforts than the needs of the underprivileged they hear so much about these days. For protection, each family maintains a small army of bodyguards who guard their fancy manor and assets.

The city has a mayor elected every 10 years by the founding families. The current mayor is Lord Mayor Frederik Thorn, a master of centrist politics that successfully balanced the demands of the noble, townsfolks and other factions for many years. However, he is losing control as the city is boiling, at the brink of chaos. The mayor's office runs most of the city’s institutions, such as the city watch and tax collectors.

Leoric, the Archivist, is also a significant player. He still lives in Castle Calamor after 300 years and continues honouring the ancient agreement to provide food, gold and resources in exchange for elvish relics and books. To facilitate his business, he built a gothic tower in the city named The Tribute Obelisk where his minions can trade with the townsfolks. Those who dared to interfere with those activities served as examples and paid a price worse than death. Beyond that, the Archivist only shows up at the city court to help in desperate times.

A faction growing in power by the day is the Raven Labor Union, which represents the interests of all the city's workers, excavators and miners. They have in their rank a not-so-secret arm of activists that turned violent recently, inciting revolt and riots. They are who are pushing an agenda for abolishing slavery which is lucrative for the noble families who use slaves to dig and explore the dungeon of Inora’s ruins. The city's authorities tolerate this faction as disbanding it would probably provoke an all-out civil war in the city. Other notable factions that influence the city are merchant guilds, religious cults, warring gangs, activist groups, unions, and mercenary guilds.



The saga begins...The story of the Reluctant heirs begins as a group of miserable migrants that arrive together in the hostile city of Cambria after a long journey. They find a city plunged into chaos: townsfolk are desperate and more dangerous by the day. Violence is common in the street, and riots against the city’s founding families are becoming increasingly common. Through their actions, the unremarkable migrants unwillingly attract the attention of a powerful being with great plans for them and the city. Will the heroes of the story fall into darkness? Maybe rise to become heroes and save the city? Can they escape being chosen by destiny?


About the materialThe story is completely homebrew, but I will be reusing the castle in Curse of Strahd and some material from Ravenloft. The party will most likely be invited to explore this dark lair.



Safe SpaceWhat is a Safe Space?

A Safe Space is a place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability. A place where the rules guard each person’s self-respect and dignity and strongly encourage everyone to respect others. This is a PG-13 game, and will respect all the forum rules. Let’s all respect each other and have fun!

You won't find sexual violence or child abuse in the story. I don't intend to exploit themes of sexuality, and having fully naked characters going around. I will do my best to avoid misogynist tropes of DnD, but what is a misogynist scene for you might not be for me and vice versa, so let's communicate if there's a problem. Some NPCs may be flirty or even two characters could be involved in romance; if this happens when they get into the bedroom everything will be skipped in fast forward and not described in any way. Some NPCs might be sexist, but I don't really intend to work on that theme. You will see a racist theme against the elves because they are partly responsible for the past destruction of the world. Slavery is common in the city, and exploiting the weak is a main theme throughout the game. Therefore if you are uncomfortable with any of that, don't apply and don't read the content. This is NOT a Walt Disney story, and regardless of my best effort, anything could be possibly shocking for some people because of personal background or past trauma. If I offend anyone, write me a private message and I will do my best to make adjustments.

I will have a campaign kickoff (session 0) with the players to make sure it's all understood and refine our common definition of our safe space. That will be the right place to discuss themes you would rather avoid in the game. Thank you!




NOT READY FOR APPLICATIONS, I NEED FEEDBACK PLEASE
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Zar v5.pdf (3.88 MB, 44 views)
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Last edited by MoonZar; Mar 19th, 2023 at 12:45 AM.
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Old Feb 12th, 2023, 08:34 AM
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I think if you're going to have a setting of a ruined world and a first city emerging as people scrape their way back from the brink you're going to have to spend a lot of the campaign outside the city. If you run this as an urban campaign entirely in the city you're going to lose the impact of it actually being the first city and the people struggling to make it.

My other thought is do you really need the powerful ruling being? To me, a community taking shelter in the ruins of an ancient city and trying desperately to forge ahead in a broken world is a much more unique and satisfying take for a city start and campaign local than having some powerful magical being do it.
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Old Feb 12th, 2023, 01:42 PM
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This sounds almost like a perfect Kingmaker game. I'm not sure if Kingmaker has been ported to 5e yet, but there's a lot of people unhappy with WOTC right now, so maybe PF would be your better choice. I'm not sure. I know I prefer 5e for the streamlined approach, but I was a Pathfinder junkie for a long time before that.

Kingmaker is a town building plus room for hex crawl of surrounding areas sort of campaign, which you could likely flavor however you choose. The party may not "run" the city at the beginning, but they could be the primary go-getters willing to risk the world around the broken cityscape, whether they need to go in search of resources, stop incoming attackers, or whatever there may be. I'm not sure if there's room in the Kingmaker mechanics for a despot other than the party, but you'd have to look and see. I bet it could be easily combined with the Ravenloft pieces you want to use.
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Old Feb 12th, 2023, 07:10 PM
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Thanks for the comments.

To clarify, the idea is for the PCs to make the city emerge as something sustainable and a beacon of hope for mortals. Not having some NPC doing it all and having PCs be bystanders.

The guy who people think is running the city is around since some time, he did help, but it's beyond his capability to improve the situation from there (to be discovered why). There are a lot of problems in town, such as more and more frequent rampages at night by the undead (undead is a new concept in the world, so people think they are monsters). So there are going to be hints that the source of some of those creatures is from the home of the lord running the place. Probably the heroes will have to explore his castle and have a word with him, since they were attacked before by those undead and maybe even lost loved ones. From there it depends on what the PC wants to do after they learn the truth about the castle and who lives there; try to kick the guy out, take his place, negotiate, banish, imprison? There's more to it than, it's an evil lord just having an evil appetite.


If the PC survive this arc, it's totally a kingmaker kind of game from there if the PCs want to run the city. I'm familiar with the pathfinder module and i think there's homebrew 5e somewhere on the net. But not sure i will use those rules, let see...
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Old Feb 13th, 2023, 02:13 PM
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Paizo have actually converted and released Kingmaker for 5e, so as a basis and starting point for rules and mechanics you could do a lot worse…
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Old Feb 26th, 2023, 06:12 PM
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Please feedback are welcome to help me improve the premise. Thanks.
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Old Feb 27th, 2023, 09:05 AM
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From my perspective, there is a problem with how they refer to it: entry high learning curve?

This is essentially a new setting, which is fantastic. However, potential PCs are supposed to be "townfolks" who have been here for a while, so they know a lot about the city. The city, as it is mentioned, is big and overpopulated, where people are struggling to survive, meaning that the actual environment is an intricate mix of alliances, groups, and organizations, some of them good, some evil, some lawful, others not, etc., etc., etc.

So it will be difficult for DM to create the basic, albeit very rich and vivid environment. Then you need players who are actually willing to go through all that, absorb it, and not get lost. Add to that the fact that this is a PbP game, and, from my experience, the RPG Crossing pace of the games I've played is... at the fastest, crawling.

That, I would say, is the biggest issue that you face in the technical aspect of the game.

From my perspective, whenever you introduce a new setting, a nice technical trick is to make the PCs as unfamiliar with it as the players. So perhaps not the townfolk as PCs, but newcomers searching for a better life?
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Old Feb 27th, 2023, 11:55 AM
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What feedback are you seeking, MoonZar? You don't specify in the advert.
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Old Feb 27th, 2023, 06:07 PM
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Will add specific questions in the ads, but A7ice did it perfectly.

Quote:
From my perspective, whenever you introduce a new setting, a nice technical trick is to make the PCs as unfamiliar with it as the players. So perhaps not the townfolk as PCs, but newcomers searching for a better life?
This is wise, i was thinking of that too. Maybe its better to discover the place little by little, otherwise they need to know everything if they lived there for years. Good point.

Yes its also a good point that its a lot of work to deliver details of an original setting. I have 20 yrs of material to offer, the problem was always to rework it to post it here.

Maybe its too much work for the player to read and learn the setting... but the whole background of the world explain the story for the campaign. Maybe instead i can adapt a world people know.
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Old Feb 27th, 2023, 06:29 PM
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Hey Moon!

I tossed some comments in the secret bubble below. Mostly just the normal grammar and typo things.

I'll do another read through, and skim the world lore, to comment on the premise.

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Old Feb 27th, 2023, 06:33 PM
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Gaijin did survive a campaign in the original setting of Zar, was my first HoF award. Thanks for the feedback old buddy.
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Old Feb 27th, 2023, 07:52 PM
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DM: Will strike questions as I answer them in the advertisement. Thanks for all the good points.

Didn't survive nearly as long as I would have liked! Leaving early is one of my more significant RPGX regrets.


Alright, on to the feedback. This is some initial reactions, but I'll come back later once I've had time to digest:

 
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Old Feb 27th, 2023, 10:28 PM
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Thanks Gaijin, will continue development based on your comments. Many good points.

But yeah you do make a point that the common folks don't know anything about the past ages, they only know about Inora, their hometown and some legends and myth about Zenobia, Negamor and the other big names of the story.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2023, 07:27 AM
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@Gaijin

Thanks again, i processed the spelling mistake and reworked The Adventures begin block.

The next step is to develop the city and process a lot of the feedback.

Quote:
Alucard from Castlevania
It's one of the shows that awaken my taste for dark fantasy and vampires. Yeah Alucard was cool.

@A7ice

I will do what you suggest, and present this as the PCs are migrant arriving in a city in chaos.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2023, 03:08 PM
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If you are thinking along the lines of 'PCs are newcomers to the city', which gives an easier entry point to new players, maybe there are some other options apart from simple migrants which can give your PCs stronger connections to the unfamiliar city.

Given the gothic theme, perhaps they have received an invitation from a benefactor or a relative to come to the city, or perhaps the reading of a 'will' of a recently deceased but wealthy family member. This could give them a common base of operations from the outset, a smaller group of NPCs with stronger ties to their character and perhaps even a common task.
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