I’ve read a few articles on the topic, notably Wizards’ article about revenants. The particular idea that I’m trying to work with is… that a Total Party Kill (or similar happening) does not grind the party to a screeching halt, but rather becomes a new turn.

In my Hell Campaign, the list of characters the party can use is made up of characters that have died or been killed during the last 1.5 years of the campaign. It’s a side-campaign that has a goal that must somehow be accomplished for the main campaign to viably continue. There are three parts of this campaign that I wish to be different from the norm. The first is the foundation, the view of the world and of hell. The second is the subtle effects the world itself has on the characters. And lastly, but most interestingly, is the cruelty inherent to the world.

Some awaken, while others have been wandering for decades and centuries. It’s a world that mirrors their own, but somehow feels off, slightly wrong, or uncomfortable. Perhaps the sky is a hue too sickly, or the sounds of footsteps echoes too ominously. Blood runs from the eyes of the fountain statue in the middle of town and no one bats an eye. This is my world’s foundation.

Of the possibilities I plan to explore is how the actions of a powerful party affects certain parts of the Underworld. Allies and enemies long since defeated may have been changed drastically in unlife. Certain powerful fallen may have grown even stronger in the Shadowfell. One of the most powerful messages I wish to convey in this campaign is that though everything may seem the same, everything is different…

On the topic of the characters, each PC is vaguely aware that they have been killed, with their own opinions on the matter. This hell has been warping certain facets of their personalities in the shape of character flaws. These are roleplaying tools that should prove interesting. One flaw that I highly look forward to is a young Dwarven girl that was unfortunate enough to strangle her elderly father and clan leader to death. One of her character flaws is that in times of stress, she seeks to strangle a living creature. Further, it remains a flaw because such an action is ironic to her nature.

Body mutations, race changes, inability to use the abilities of their previous class, peronality changes… everything is permitted, as I am an advocate of character death able to change a character entirely. Further, going along with the subtlety of the setting, I think much will work out. For example, a character previously a Warforged has been brought to hell, but is succumbing to a curse of flesh. Another character has developed a fractured personality, one that is near-opposite of his normal one. Using the example in the previous paragraph, there is much offsetting about a sweet, young girl, tears running from her eyes, slowly and unwillingly twisting the neck of a small mammal.

Finally, each player knows of the campaign’s cruelty. The goal of the campaign, for each PC involved, is the chance to return to life. Each and every character have lost hooks, stories that could not be finished, because they could not fill the role. It pleases me greatly as a DM, because I would love to pick up some of these stories again and be able to finish them with a satisfying ending. It also pleases me to see players feel strongly about their happenings, with a desire to fulfill their goals. The creature that lives, I foresee, will be responsible to fulfill the wishes of his fallen comrades.

Because I am a humorous DM, all of the PCs involved are actually related to one actual player. So regardless of who will “win” and who will “lose” along the way, we will make that player cry. Oh, and the campaign will be epic.

How have you made your players cry, recently?

-Lancar

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PCs like stuff. During levels 1-10, good times are had when level 1-10 items are found and level 1-10 NPCs are befriended. Example: when the party has slain the level 2 wyrmling dragon, amongst its collected treasure is a Fire Ring. Now you can make fire for free. You have saved the cobbler’s daughter (also amongst the wyrmling’s treasure). Now you can have your shoes repaired for free. Anyway, awards and stuff keep players happy. And keeping players happy has fooled many a party that they have a good DM, so I’m not going to stop trying now.

Well, the group I have been DMing is in mid-Paragon tier. Realizing this, I also found it necessary to make stuff up and to do it quickly. Like my last post, this is a list of extra features granted to certain PCs to further develop their PC’s feel and flavor. The following list is particular to the current party I’m DMing for:

  1. Every one or two sessions, the Warforged Fighter finds an animate construct ally willing to join his cause. Sometimes, several. Many allies are blatant one-dimensional character rip-offs (which is why we can put so many in the story). Starscream is a Mimic that can turn into an airship.
  2. The Tiefling Artificer has an ability simply called “Artifice Knowledge”. He knows just about everything about any famous artificer or scientist. Ever. Some stories of why he knows what he does are more interesting than others. Most reasons are just stupid, I’m sure.
  3. Though the Warlord finds fewer and fewer allies, the ones she does find are more and more powerful. In two of the last major arcs, powerful, heavy-hitting skirmishers class enemies stopped in the middle of Combat Scenes with a something amounting to “hey, I recognize that opal ring!”
  4. The Warlord has also found out that her half-sister is a Karrnathi general. Upon first meeting, her sister commissioned for her new armor and a weapon, similar to her own in style and quality.
  5. The Elven Mage that lost his powers and became a Berserker can now use his Athletics score in place of Arcana. Unbeatable.
  6. Awhile back, the party journeyed to the plane of Thelandira, where the Elven Mage’s family was originally from. They welcomed him back with open arms, celebrating his return, and forcing him to stay in his family’s ridiculously large Elven tower with his beautiful fiancee. The bed was humongous and there was a gigantic flat screen TV with a satellite subscription to just about everything. And a Playstation.
  7. An NPC noblewoman joined the party temporarily. The Ranger is a princess. There was at least one pillow-fight and a sleepover.
  8. What, that’s not a benefit? Uh. Well, two chapters ago, Princess was in charge of a small 200-man army of bloodthirsty, Baphomet-worshipping, rip-and-tear Minotaurs, loyal to her bloodline.
  9. The Dragon Sorcerer is in a love triangle with two of the Knights in Bahamut’s Draconic Court. Three if you include another dragon that’s in love with one of the aforementioned. Four if he’s gay. No wait, five.
  10. Oh, the Dream Mage got his character married. And I promised him I wouldn’t use his wife for character blackmail. That’s a pretty good benefit.

Well, that’s my creativity, summed up for the past few weeks. If you are inspired, good. I’ll write again. Sometime.

-Lancar

Unique PC Features

29 August, 2010

Here at the Jaela Daran Fan Club, we go above and beyond what is expected (many times crossing into the unnecessary). As a DM, I encourage dropping or retraining items and features that are constantly forgotten or don’t see enough use. This is especially bad in 4th edition, in paragon tier and above, because of the sheer amount of immediate interrupt powers, monster passive abilities, and PC situational feats. You have a feat that does +1.5 damage against aberrations but only while bloodied and concealed? You deal 3 damage every time you push, but only have one item daily that pushes? You forgot what Improved Warforged Resolve does, again, you worthless automaton?!

"If only I had a way to get both temporary and real HP as a minor action!"

Anyway, I’ve found that if a player enjoys a situational effect, they remember it more often. This includes both features of their character builds and roleplay benefits that they earn. Here’s a list of boons granted to my PCs that actually saw constant use.

The Fall Down the Stairs Spell

A quest reward from a powerful mage, its in-game effect was to nullify the ridiculous regeneration and damage reduction of a particular enemy. Its visual effect was to make the guy look like he fell down several flights of stairs. When the fated combat encounter began, the players were pleased to see that in the center of the game map… was a flight of stairs.

Dynamic Hair (Passive)

A power granted by an eleven master of wind magic, this spell allowed the Sorcerer’s hair to move dramatically, as if there was a perfectly-timed breeze, or they were walking through a door into an air conditioned room. I’d imagine that female PCs would be able to pull this off better and sexier.

Neverending Mug

While not really a feature, I believe this deserves a mention. I pulled this one from a 3e sourcebook. It’s a mug that generates a random amount of ale per day, usually good for one person. Could be a holy dwarven relic. At least one person in an average party will enjoy this thoroughly, if not more than one.

Wrestling Federation Championship Belt

This item didn’t even do anything. Really. But once the Warlord got his hands on  certain belt in a treasure hoard and declared it to be this, battles started including flying elbow drops, pins, and dropkicks. And of course, it also included quoting the Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, the Rock, etc. It was awesome.

Ritual Assistant

The elves gathered by the fire, discussing what had to be done. Finally, they gathered the arcane components and asked all those having arcane knowledges to stay. All others were to depart, so not to disturb the ritual. The Orc said to the elven leader, “I’ll help too.” Matter of factly, the elf looked at the berserker and responded with, “how the hell are you going to do that?”

While dressed in nothing but a loincloth and ritual paint, the Orc Berserker had the ability to assist in rituals. Most of the time, it was by chanting “ooga-chaka” repeatedly and pumping his two-handed axe up and down in the air. Mechanically, I let him use his Athletics check, so he was frighteningly as good, in most cases better, than all the other ritual-assistants.

Closing

As a DM, when you understand a PC enough, you know what he can and can’t do easily. They develop certain traits, and soon, you start accepting them. Once the Warden rolled a 1 against that candelabra, everyone at the table accepted that he had a hard time hitting inanimate objects. The rogue that I play is a crossbow bolt magnet, and that fact is proved over and over again, every time enemies with that weapon type come into play.

Extra features make things more interesting, and gives the PC and the party something to talk/laugh/tease/complain about.

If you’re here, post a comment if you can think of a unique PC feature that isn’t in the rulebooks, but everyone at the gaming table accepted. Thanks for reading.

-Lancar