This Train is Bound for Story… Part 2

Last time we talked about some high level ideas around trains and plots and such… This time, I want to see if I can apply it to an idea I’ve been toying with for an Age of Phaedrus adventure…

(Here’s the last article.)

I can’t speak to anybody else’s campaigns but my own. Everybody has their own ideas on how to set up worlds, history, and adventures. But I did some pondering a few months ago about a series of adventures set in a relatively unexplored part of the Phaedrus world. It starts simply enough with a cry for help from a small town.

Long before the PCs arrive on the scene, there is history – track being laid for future ideas to build upon…

Dollarphotoclub_64193964 (Small)“Along the edge of No Man’s Land lie cairns posted at regular intervals. The tribes of the Open Lands make sure those cairns remain spiritually blessed and secure as protection from the undead forces wishing to creep out of the Fallen Kingdom of Bede – the Land of the Dead. The tribes patrol the edges and keep watch, acting as a minimal early warning system should the King decide to rise again.

Also in the Open Lands are several free cities – nation states of sovereign space that rule their own people. One such city is Ebol, a small town built at the edge of what was once a monastery before the Fall. The Brotherhood of the Hearth built their home around a giant fire pit. Each night they would light a great fire to their gods and speak aloud in poem and song of great deeds. They were storytellers of great renown in Bede, with a vast collection of tales to tell visitors. Dignitaries would travel for miles to sit and listen to the Brothers’ stories.

But when Bede fell to the ravages of time and the power mad, the civil wars that followed tore the world apart. Agents of peace were among the first to perish during that struggle. Some of the Brotherhood retreated to other parts of the world and the nomads seeking forgotten knowledge may have taken some of them in. But the Monastery itself was destroyed – first by fire, then by barbarians and bandits… Then, for a time, nothing disturbed the place. The spirits of the dead were left in peace.

When the people of Ebol founded the town, they cared little for the history of the walls still standing – only that there was building stone – lots of it – free for the taking. And for the last decade they have brought stone from the old place and used it for walls, foundations, and whatever else they needed. Not much remains of the old monastery beyond the rough outline and a few free standing walls.

About a week ago, workers went about their business, knowing that they would eventually run out of usable material from the ruin. But they were excited to find a buried cellar beneath a pile of rubble they’d cleared… until they opened the doors and something attacked from within.

A few brave men and women attempted to drive away their attackers but were brutally harmed in the attempt. One was mortally wounded and several retreated to recover from deep, savage bites and claw marks.

And yet, none of them could see their attackers or describe what they’d seen and heard. It was as though their minds simply refused to accept whatever they encountered. The lone priest and pair of herbalists did what they could to aid the injured, but other than rough observations of the wounds themselves they have no further clues as to what enemies they face in the ruin.

The people of Ebol, though hearty and willing to work, are not warriors. They sent a townsperson to the closest Gnomish outpost in the city of Aran with a message for any able bodied adventurers.

The message reads – ‘Adventurers Wanted. Creatures attacked from nearby ruin. Need immediate assistance to save the freetown of Ebol. Modest pay offered for actual help. Serious heroes needed. Come soon.’

‘Modest pay’ immediately turned off all the big name heroes. And “actual help” hinted that a few may have attempted to swindle the townsfolk in the past.

And here you are… Welcome to Ebol, friends.”

This offers a few distinct “stations” to explore on the storyline.

  • Aran – Freecity large enough for a gnomish outpost where the PCs begin
  • Ebol – Freetown with a small population seeking help
  • Monastery ruin – Not far from Ebol
  • No Man’s Land – In the distance

We could go a bit further then, breaking things down.

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  • Aran – PCs meet here looking for work. Gnomish outposts often have “Help Wanted” boards and act as a central hub for dispersing information.
  • Aran – PCs ask around, get some idea of where Ebol is. Perhaps outfitting for a journey of a few days. 5 days on foot or 2 riding fast on horseback.
  • Aran -> Ebol – Encounter a small trade caravan returning from Ebol. They had delivered supplies and were bringing money back to Aran. Get a few rumors about the attack.
  • Ebol – PCs arrive and are immediately noticed. A guard fetches whatever council member is awake at the time
  • Ebol – Set up camp outside town or get settled at the Common House, a simple inn/tavern that serves multiple purposes
  • Ebol -> Ruin – Scout ruin upon approach?
  • Ruin – No tracks. No sign of struggle. No indication of where the people of Ebol were attacked
  • Ruin – Find buried cellar. Attacked. Discover ritual circle
  • Ruin – Perform ritual or investigate and discover link to Bede.
  • Ruin – Discover they’re being watched
  • Ruin-> No Man’s Land – Follow arcane watcher towards No Man’s Land
  • No Man’s Land (Cairn) – Fight group of undead
  • No Man’s Land (Cairn) – Meet nomads (help if needed). Learn of other, similar attacks
  • No Man’s Land -> Ebol – Report.
  • Now what?

That gives more of a module-based approach to this first adventure than I wanted. But we could loosen things up by designing it in terms of a series of scenes…

  • Enter PCs – hook with note from Ebol – exit Aran
  • Enter trade caravan – rumors
  • Enter Ebol – meet leaders who ask for help – exit Ebol
  • Enter Ruin – fight beasties – follow trail (actual or arcane)
  • Enter Ebol – report?
  • Enter Cairn – fight beasties – meet Nomads
  • Enter Ebol – get paid
  • Next chapter

Yeah, I’m not sure that’s any better. Still pretty area by area or step by step…

Apparently I need to toy with this “train” idea a bit more…

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