Ruined Metropolis

I use Obsidian Portal to plan out all of my games no matter the system, and occasionally use Roll20 for web-based game.

The basic premise of my setting is that an ancient and powerful magical civilization dug too deep into the secrets of the arcane, and unleashed a magical calamity that nearly destroyed civilization. Before there was a bustling metropolis of millions; now there are scattered communities built out of the rubble of the past.

This calamity causes the dead to rise at night making it a near death-sentence to be caught out when the sun goes down. It also warped some of the PC races into evil, bloodthirsty beings from goblin-size to giant-size. Finally, it unleashed an earthquake that destroyed or at least seriously damaged most buildings in the Metropolis.

I re-skinned the settlement types from the book. The large settlement is called Rose City, and is only accessible to those with wealth (Resources Ob 4) or influence (Circles Ob 4). It is lead by the Arbiter and his Peacekeeper forces. The Peacekeepers control several other settlements, and employe slaves to man the only farmstead still around, just outside of the Metropolis. They also have several outposts throughout the city, essentially safe points (for a small fee) so the PCs aren’t caught out at night. There are homesteads, which are independent outposts that can also be used as safe points for the PCs for a fee or influential words. Elves live in a swamp in the middle of the Metropolis’ old “Central Park”, and Dwarves live in the tunnels under the city. The “Crossroads” is the primary starting point for adventures, an independent town with its own militia. Finally there is the Cathedral, which is run by a religious group bent on finishing what was started with the Calamity–the destruction of civilization.

Many people pick through the ruins looking for items of value to trade, especially luxury items that can be traded to Rose City for food. That’s what the PCs do.

The general feel I’m trying to get for my game is that there is no “good” left in the world. Everyone is out for themselves. There are no organizations trying to restore freedom and liberty, or trying to help the poor, etc. If the PCs want good in this world, they will have to bring it themselves, and they may not even be thanked for doing so. It is deadly and dark and brutal and some of the PCs SHOULD die.

I’ve been running RPGs since I was 10 back in 1990. I essentially have been running at least twice a month until a year ago, when I took an extended break (I still played regularly). I thought I was going to come back into DMing using D&D 5th edition, and built a campaign around it. However I never pushed it to the point of starting.

Then I saw Torchbearer and immediately changed my whole campaign. This game looks like so much fun!

I’ve run two games so far. The first was just a test, using the Skogenby premade game. I only had one of my regular gaming group there, the others were people who don’t usually play with me. Uh, the PCs got their butts handed to them and had to flee back to town before the adventure was over. There were only three of them so that could have been the issue.

The second game I ran last night, in the setting described above. The premise was that the crossroads town (Haven) was holding an annual event. Groups of would-be adventurers formed into teams. Then, on the day of the event, the teams try and get the crowd on their side, and a lot of betting takes place. The team who is most liked by the crowed gets a head start. The teams need to race to a particular bandit camp, subdue the bandits and light a bag of powder (each team has a different color) on fire from the roof of the bandit camp. The camp is chosen in secret, so while of course all of the bandits in the area are alerted to the possibility of an attack, none of them know ahead of time who gets hit.

My goal was to introduce concepts to the players who, while experienced with a lot of different systems (d20, Warhammer FRP, d6, GURPS, cthulu, a handful of others), are primarily D&D players and this system is very different from D&D. Two of the PCs have enemies, so those enemies formed the core of the Silver Shields, a rival team and the only team really able to take on the PCs.

First, the teams tried to rally the crowd to their cause. The Silver Shields had 9 dice, which was intimidating to the PCs at first. I think the PCs mustered a similar number (two humans with Boasting), but got a lot more successes. The PCs won, and this played right into the Goal of one player along with fitting into that player’s belief (I can convince a crowd to do anything!).

I had a brief vignette describing a well-dressed man meeting with a robed figure, talking about “men being in place” and “starting the operation”. Finally the well-dressed man mentions soon he will obtain “it” for the master.

Back to the action, the PCs are racing through the city. One of them made a Pathfinder check to plot a course. Then I started a Flee/Pursue conflict. I gave the PCs +1 disposition for winning the head start. The players and I struggled over the rules, and screwed several things up. Still, it was fun, people describing how they were making their way through this wrecked city or hindering the Silver Shields who were hot on their tail. At one point, only one of the PCs was still in the conflict while all of the Silver Shields were up. That PC used Defend (incorrectly, but all well) to bring all of the other players back into the conflict, earning MVP for her heroic actions.

The PCs won, and used Scout to sneak up on the bandit camp. They quickly Captured the two lookouts, then flipped the script on me! Instead of using an armed conflict against the bandit camp, they did a Convince Group to try and make the bandits surrender, using the two prisoner bandits as weapons in the conflict! I did not expect this at all, but I allowed it since it made sense (hell, the police use this tactic ALL the time!). I gave them +1 disposition because they caught the bandits by surprise (they took out the lookouts). It was no contest, the bandits did not have the right skillsets to defeat the PCs in this conflict type.

When it was over, the PCs lit their bag of colored powder on the bandit rooftop. Then, they noticed a large plume of smoke coming from Haven (the crossroads) and commotion in the street below. The other teams had caught up with the PCs, and were fighting a swarm of Twisted Ones in the streets! We ended the night there after 7 turns. No one had any conditions at the end of the evening, except one who was still fresh.

It was a blast! Lots of good uses of Nature–Boasting and Singing for firing up the crowd; Running for the chase scene; Demanding for convincing the bandits to surrender. Tons of checks earned, though at times it did feel the players were reaching for reasons to use traits negatively (I’ll allow it for now).