Monday, 25 July 2016

"Do you hear the people sing?" - Turning Dungeons and Dragons into Rebels and Revolutions.

I love this picture and it directly inspired my Rakshasa. 

My party have left the womb-town that started my campaign (leaving it an impoverished, depopulated ruin in a considerable constitutional cross with a huge chunk of the city centre magically transported to the Abyss...) for pastures new. I expanded my map from the town-level to the continent-level, and added a rough hodge-podge of D&Disms: powerless ceremonial emperors, honour-obsessed river-pirates, reaving tribes of giants fanatically devoted to killing the gods themselves and of course a city-state ruled by a tyrannical Rakshasa Despot: Loquista.

It was that hook they bit, and they declared their goal to be overthrowing Teshei, Despot of Loquista.

Now, it would be exceedingly easy to just roll this as a straight-up, door-kicking adventure where they bum-rushed the Palace and killed the Rakshasa. Loads of official adventure paths essentially work on that premise. I thought that would be enormously disappointing, and wanted the prevailing morally grey themes and skulduggery of NORTH CORNER to continue.

To that end, I decided I would run this as a lengthy series of adventures with the city as a sandbox. to successfully overthrow Teshei's regime will be a long process. Attached is the word document I'll be updating to track the progress the party makes with their stated plan: use assassination to precipitate a civil war among the leading figures on the Council of Ten and then seize control of the city with some armed help.  This will hopefully function as a sort of urban West Marches: players will push into dungeon-style assassination missions (an excellent way to be able to run a realistic dungeon which is time-limited - good look taking a Long Rest there) and record the general progress of the rebellion though these bulletins. It gives a great opportunity for the three pillars of play to be interpreted differently - and I'm always someone who finds the city fascinating but skip over the wilderness in my campaigns with maybe a single token random encounter. Characters make drama; one struggles to have drama with a wind-swept steppe or mountain range because D&D by and large glosses over the difficulties of traversing it.

I've had a great time organising some of the homes or bases of the eccentric Cambion aristocracy of the Council of Ten - and I'm looking forward to concretely asserting that players have that session and that session alone to assassinate a figure. If the session ends, the night or social event is over and their opportunity is missed. Correspondingly, the knowledge and threat represented by the Secret Police will increase. As the Secret Police wax, consequences will be dire...

Eventually, they will have to decide to call in their favours and try to trigger their coup or revolution. Then it's little flags on the city-map as full-scale war is launched - with the players able to jump in to urn the tide only at key points.

One thing I love about this is it gives the D&D proletariat - a maligned tribe of victims, quest-givers and faceless extras - a chance to be an integral part of success: winning over the people through acts of heroism or charity will bolster their numbers for when the barricades arise.

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