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Notebook Leavings

A hodge-podge of random campaign concepts

I’m going to be totally up-front here: you deserve a better blog post than what you’re about to read. On the downside, this month has been devoted largely to revising the Chimera Core Rules to version 2.1, and, as usual, my OCD precludes any chance of wrapping up that sort of project with anything resembling rapidity. On the plus side, Chimera 2.1 is complete and due out tomorrow, so that puts that particular effort to bed and lets me attend to some backburner projects that deserve some love.

Regardless, and as a consequence of my lackluster time management, I decided to plunder my commonplace book and cherry-pick some of the more promising ideas to share. Here, then, is a smattering of unrelated notes that I hope will be entertaining to most, if not useful to some.

Corsicanish Brothers

The concept is two brothers who fight better as a pair than singly. In mundane terms, this could be the result of extensive training as a pair, so that they anticipate each others moves and can thus complement each other in the press of combat. Or, this could be the result of some magical effect, probably bestowed upon the brothers during infancy (maybe even a prophecy of some sort). Either way, they fight normally when alone. But when they fight within, say 10′ per level of each other, they each gain +4 to hit in melee (In Chimera terms, that means each makes his Fight roll at DL –1 when paired).

Incremental Fission Pulse Weapon

This is a heavy weapon for squads of sci-fi troops. The IFP fires a particle beam, but the nature of the fission power core allows variable damage at variable range. The weapon’s power source must be enabled before firing. If fired that round, the beam has a range of 2″ and does 1d4 damage. However, if allowed to “heat up” for a few rounds, the wielder can extend range and damage as shown:

Rounds
Damage
Range
Rate of Fire
Overheat Chance
1 1d4 2 4 10%
2 1d6 4 4 20%
3 1d8 8 2 30%
4 1d10 12 2 45%
5 1d12 24 2 60%
6 1d20 36 1 75%
7 1d30 48 1 90%

At the end of each round a shot is not made, the GM must determine if the IFP overheats. If this occurs, damage equals the current damage die to all targets within a medium blast radius (centred on the weapon’s wielder). If you’re using the Chimera gear quality guidelines, each point of quality reduces the chance of overheating by 10%. After a shot is discharged, the weapon reverts to 1d4 damage, as if it had just been powered on.

Stone Folk

How about a race whose affinity for stone is so strong that their buried dead must be in physical contact with natural rock? Dwarves are an easy pick, but this concept is appropriate for hill nomads, mountain people, or maybe a race of builders who create all kinds of amazing structures out of stone. Maybe their lore supports this practice because it prevents the corpse from rising as undead. They might bury criminals or unpopular leaders in sand as a sign of disrespect, then “cap” the grave with a sealed, stone mausoleum to trap the corpse inside if it does rise. Mmmmm…special eternal torture…

Sick Sight

A side-effect of some terrible disease might allow the victim to see into the ethereal plane. There, he can see incorporeal creatures, maybe ancestors, and probably some cool stuff that sages and academics would love to know about. Unfortunately, by the time the victim gains this sight, the disease has reached an incurable stage, and the poor patient has only 2d12 hours to live. I suspect a group of learned hospitaliers would shelter such unfortunates, giving such comfort as they can (and furiously writing down everything) until the patient passes. There might also be evil sorcerers who kidnap people and purposely inflict them with the disease when they want answers to ethereal questions.

Lidless Eye Cult

I think this was from a bad horror movie, but what about a cult who kidnaps people for sacrifice. Before they begin the ceremony, they remove the victim’s eyelids. Gross, yes, but what does it say about these sick bastards? Maybe they kidnap only unbelievers, and this is their way to ensure that the victim “sees” the True Way. Or maybe they believe that the True Way is recognisable only in the afterlife, through a vision granted only to the worthy—in this case, removing the victim’s eyelids is really just them being helpful. Based on this practice, interesting questions come up about the cult’s perspective on light/dark and illusion vs. true-sight.

I Can See for Miles

As a world hook, you might consider a setting where only land above a certain elevation is habitable. Sure, the lowlands could be flooded, but you want PCs to explore, so think about other reasons why people can live only at high altitudes. Maybe the lands are safe, but only for part of the year (because of tidal surges that ultimately recede). Maybe there’s a blanket of pollution, smog, or radiation that poisons all living things below it. Maybe the lowlands are habitable, but not in a way that most people could cope with: the radiation mutates the living, the pollution imposes a really high mortality rate, the smog makes crops poison to highlanders. Meanwhile, back in the highlands, people might live in domes for protection. They might have improved lung capacity (bonus vs. Fatigue rolls). They might also have religious groups who constantly warn of the infidels who were punished by the gods to live in the hellish lowlands.

Noble Outlaws

Inspired by the Templars, what about a group of once-noble knights who, failing in some grand mission, are now outlaws. I’m thinking they were supposed to guard (or obtain and return with) a sacred relic, but the relic was lost, taken, or desecrated. Now the knights are shamed for their failure, persecuted by their non-secular sponsors as heretics or infidels. Maybe they can redeem themselves by regaining the relic, or maybe they’re just a pawn in a political power play. Either way, until they find a way to show themselves again, they live in isolated enclaves spread out across the realm and even the world. The church sponsors bounty hunters to bring them to justice, but the knights still have a few allies here and there.

Tethered Drives

Without going into a lot of detail about science and physics, I’m assuming Faster Than Light (FTL) drives are expensive in any sci-fi campaign. Only the most advanced ships have them, and these are probably reserved for the military. Still, there are a lot of other ships that need to travel great distances. These smaller vessels are equipped with FTL tethers, some software interface that allows them to “hook up” with an actual FTL ship and be ferried to faraway destinations. Consider merchant ships forced to tether to government-owned tether vessels—that alone lays the groundwork for a fairly complex political/economic structure: merchants resent paying the government’s fees, military fleets could tether exploration or colony vessels (or leave them behind when their tethers fail), and terrorists could tether fireships to FTL vessels to wreak havoc. I imagine there would even be ships specifically designed to tether others—not unlike the “milk cow” U-boats that ferried supplies, food, and fuel to ships of the Kriegsmarine during WWII.

Final Words

There you have it—my lazy contribution to this week’s blog. I hope you find something of use above. Feel free to flesh it out in your own campaign, or build off it in any way that suits your setting and your imagination. If you use any of these, drop me a line—I’d love to see how they turn out.

  1. March 31st, 2010 at 16:57 | #1

    There are some great ideas there.

    Stone Folk is very fun, some good (evil?) things to inflict on character there.

    Noble Outlaws makes me think of this recent post on paladins: http://www.rocksfallblog.com/2010/03/reimagining-paladins.html

    Traveller sort of has a similar idea to Teathered Drives with battleriders but I can see some fun story ideas. However, no one out here is playing SF.

  2. April 1st, 2010 at 11:50 | #2

    I really like the Corsicanish Brothers idea. I may have to use that at some point.

  3. April 1st, 2010 at 22:05 | #3

    @Sean Holland : Good take on paladins – very much akin to what I had in mind with the Noble Outlaws. There was a show on the History Channel a few weeks ago about how the Templars were driven into obscurity, and I really like the idea of them turning into a secret society. What I really really like is the possibility that they began under cover of hospitaliers, but actually had a “secret” mission to securing relics as leverage for their patrons, who then turned against them when the knights couldn’t/wouldn’t deliver the goods. Even if your campaign isn’t about political intrigue, it’s a great back story.

    @Lord Kilgore : By all means, use it. You could extend it, of course, by applying wounds of one to the other. Another possibility is to make one really good at offense and the other really good at defence. When they’re together, each gets the bonus of the other (i.e., the total is greater than the sum of its parts). Let me know how it works out for you.

  4. April 2nd, 2010 at 10:53 | #4

    I am already using the “I can see for miles” in one of my settings for my game. Alien world where it’s only cool and dry enough for normal humans on the peaks. Genetically engineered workers/farmers/peasants are made to work at the lower elevations, giving a lovely class system.

    Now the tethered drives are something I love. Thanks!

  5. April 4th, 2010 at 15:05 | #5

    @Jason Pitre : I think the class system is the aspect of the “I can see for miles” hook that I like the most. Many bits to explore: why are the highlands better, who lives there and why? Why do the lowlands suck, who is forced to live there and why? What are the religious and political angles? Maybe the highlands are where you play out political intrigue in the campaign, while the lowlands are dungeon-filled and monster-ridden. Any ancient tech down there? Is that what caused the lowlands to be terrible? Or, maybe it’s better to live in the lowlands, but the highlanders have lived up high for so long, they forgot why their ancestors climbed up in the first place.

    This definitely has possibilities, and one could make it a localised thing if it didn’t suit the entire campaign world.

  1. April 3rd, 2010 at 12:53 | #1

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