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Prequel adventures


Smokestack
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I am about to begin storytelling my campaign again. My group is 6 players. We rotate GMing. And rotate games. Starwars, a homebrew super hero game, pathfinder, Dresden, and others.

 

My game is a pathfinder game in a home brew world. We play basically like seasons in a TV series. So there is a large gap between seasons while others GM.

 

In Season 1 of my game I had the players play 1 set of characters half way through. Then midway I had them make new characters and play in the same region but from a different point of view. They got to see everything that the first characters caused or did not see. Then at the end, I let them choose between both groups which characters were their "main characters" and combined those to fight the final battle... their secondary characters are now NPCs... and still part of the world. 

 

The "gimmick" worked pretty well, and everyone had a lot of fun... So now in season 2, I am thinking of other things like this I can do. I have decided to do prequel adventures. Basically I am doing a one off adventure for each player, but set 15 years or so in the past when the characters are kids. They will get info or gain allies that will effect things I put in the game later on. Like a childhood enemy might turn out to be working for the big bad at the end... Or the secret tunnel they played in as a child might be a good may to sneak in the castle... basically like a flash back episode where the character remembers something important. But instead of saying "hey you remember this... they will have actually played it... 

 

So I am looking for advice. The players will know that they cant die.... as they are alive later on as adults... how do I make it exciting without the threat of death?

 

My players are as follows

 

Bergrim- Barbarian/Oracle (big muscle guy)- he will be marrying an inportant PC this season

Kaya- Barbarian/Cleric- She is actually Bergrims sister, but due to the two party thing mentioned above Believes Bergrim to be an imposter, She found a relic suit of armor and several barbarian tribes believe her to be the "Red Queen" fortold to lead them to freedom...

Samiel- an elven arcane trixter. The elves in my world are xenophobes and because he left elven lands he is all but shunned by his people. 

Mazrim- a werewolf lord. (this was a 3,5 conversion) He is a savage progression dire werewolf

Dovilla- A new character and new player to the group. A sorcerer (prestige class is Sentinel of Bherrai, another 3.5 conversion)

 

I am sending out an intro e-mail to each player to set them up for the prequel adventure. I will post each intro below. I have only completed 2 so far.

Edited by Smokestack
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Here is the first one. Mazrim, the werewolf. 

 

Every year on the Winter Solstice all children of 13 years (puberty) are gathered for the ascension ceremony… The Huntmaster presides over the ceremony and Reads from the Litany of the moon. The hunters dance around the fire in a ritualistic dance signifying the first hunt.

Not all children inherit the gift, and the ritual is designed to trigger the gift in those who possess it. And to weed out those who don’t…;

Your ascension day was a special one. The Scar witch, tribal Shaman and keeper of spells, had foretold that from amongst your group would come the next Huntmaster. Everyone was understandably excited. Most thought it would be Dusen… He was the biggest and strongest of your generation… He had already gained great reputation as a hunter despite his age… Dusen was a braggart and a bully and constantly taunted and harassed you. You were somewhat scrawny and was not expected to bare the gift… Amongst the others were Vuk, your cousin, Ognjen, your best friend and Dusa, the girl you loved…. 13 others were of age as well.

One by one they were tested… Vuk did not inherit the gift, but was of blood, a Skin walker. Although not a full werewolf, he and his family were proud… Of the 13, 11 did not gain the gift or the blood… normal humans… The Huntmaster explained that there is no shame in being human… The gift lives inside he says so one day a child or grandchild may inherit the gift… The other 2 also were blooded, skin walkers…;

Ognjen stepped up. He was a large boy and his father a powerful hunter. The huntmaster read the rite, and Ognjen changed… His feet turned into paws, his nose stretched to form a muzzle… A wolf stood were Ognjen once stood. The  people erupted in thunderous applause… Those that did not change clapped as well, but you could see the sadness in their eyes. You feared that would be you as well.

Next Dusa stepped forth… As with Ognjen she transformed into a wolf. Her parent howled in approval… That left you and Dusen. Everyone was mumbling that they knew Dusen would be the next Huntmaster… As obviously it would not be you… a runt….

The huntmaster summoned you both up… He drew a line in stag blood across your forehead… You were easily 1 foot shorter than Dusen and many laughed when the huntmaster had to lean down to mark you. The huntmaster starter reading the words… Your eyes were shut, your mind taken to a field at dusk, you could feel your self giving chase to the deer, your brothers at your back.. A gasp from the crowd brought you out of your reverie…; You looked down to Dusen… He was crying in shame. He had not changed, not even the marks of the blooded… He was a normal human… His face wet you could see his father leering at him in disgust. Something wasn’t right though. Why was everyone staring at you…; You obviously didn’t change as your were still standing… But wait, why were you looking down at Dusen. He was taller than you right? That’s when you realized. You had changed, changed into a hybrid form… You were full werewolf.. more than that.. You were in a form that most younglings could not take… The Scarwitch cackled and said “it has been decidedâ€. The huntmaster embraced you and said enjoy tonight, tomorrow brings pain… The Baron, Mason Murdock, came and embraced you as well… his daughter, Emma, all of 4 years old trailing behind him.

Dusen came to embrace you as well. He spoke low so no other could hear him… “I don’t know what magic you used to steal my birthright, but I will get it back and you will pay….†With that he stormed off into the forest…;

This is where we will start on your solo… You were just marked as the next Huntmaster and your training is about to begin.

Edited by Smokestack
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And here is the second one. Dovilla, the sorcere/sentinel of Bherrai. This one is longer as its a new player and I am giving background on the main villain for season 2, the Theocracy. They are anti-magic and use black powder and steam type power armor... 

 

Ophelia Mirella De la Luna Salazar. Rich, Beautiful, graceful and inordinately talented. Adored by everyone. To put simply, the girl with the perfect life. Long brown hair, soft brown eyes, her beauty inspired poetry. Unfortunately that was not you.

You were born to a very different life. It was happy once, you think so anyway. On the rare days that you don’t have to wake up with the breaking sun, your dreams drift to a time when you were happy, were loved. Your family had never been wealthy, but it was nice. You lived in a small town. It was seated on the edge of nowhere, which meant simple life… no luxuries but no real stresses either. Your father was a woodsman, and your mother stayed home with you. You were about 6, if you remember correctly. It was just you and Papa and Momma. Momma was heavily pregnant. Momma had the power in her blood, poppa had said. You had not shown any signs of the gift, but momma was sure you would get it.

It was Friday; the sun had just gone down. The table was set with the Mapah Levanah. Papa had read chapter 23 of psalms from the Torah and had just begun saying the Brachot over the Yayin and Lecham. Suddenly a boom rang out followed by smaller bangs and yelling. Papa rushed to the window. The town was under attack. Poppa rushed out with the other men of the village, but it was no use. The invaders had sticks that spit metal and fire… and belched smoke. They had long spears and metal armor… The men were killed. Your last image of your father was his head exploding… the image would haunt your dreams for ever. The women were gathered up. Anyone who showed signs of witchcraft (whatever that meant) was executed. Momma said to stay quiet. Thinking about it, it was a blessing that momma was pregnant; the soldiers looked uncomfortable and avoided her.

We were loaded on wagons… and taken to a ship. The voyage seemed to last for a year but was probably only a couple of weeks. It was hard to tell. When you finally arrived at port, you were put in a big paddock and paraded on a stage. You were poked and prodded and manhandled. You and your mother were lucky and got to stay together. You were purchased by the Salazar family. Sold as slaves to work in their household. Momma cried.

The trip to Haverbrook was actually quite exciting. You had never seen such a big city or all the rolling hills in between. There were fields of crops as far as the eye could see and working the field were the most bizarre things. Some were tended by Giants and Ogres. Some were tended by giant machines that looked like mechanical men and billowed smoke.

You finally arrived at Castlecrest. This was to be your home from now on. It was a smaller city, sleepy and quiet, and on the coast. A bluff rose up over the city overlooking the water. The town nestled below, surrounded by countryside with small farms and crops everywhere. It was raining. Looking back though it seems like it has rained every day since.

The wagon took you up the winding road that snaked up the bluff to the Sinister looking Manor perched above.

You were put to work in the kitchen in the main house. Your mother was to work here too but was out while delivering your new brother. Before momma could name him, the lord of the house did… He named him Shimshon. What an awful name… Mother soon joined you in the kitchen. You helped prepare and serve food for the master. His name was Count Roman Salazar. He was a handsome man, with a strong build, and kind eyes. His wife though was mean and ugly and always glaring. They did not have children, but many cousins and friends of theirs lived in the manor as well. One day a couple years later a girl moved to the manor. She was around the same age as you… 8 or 9. Her father had been the Count’s brother, but he and his wife had died, leaving this little girl alone in the world. You would later learn that her name was Ophelia. What a beautiful name… The Count moved her in to a private villa that sat on the edge of the bluff over the ocean. A lonely place for a lonely girl. Meanwhile your mother had been working hard to buy your freedom. Slaves did not earn wages, but were allowed to keep gifts and tips. Your mother earned money somehow at night with the male residents and guests. You did not ask for details and she did not disclose them. After 3 years of this she had managed to earn enough to buy your and Shimshon’s freedom. The joy was short lived though as she died a month later. Shimshon was placed with the male servants (an upgrade from the slave quarters). You were sent to Ophelia’s villa to be her body servant. Your duties to clean and wash her clothes, clean the villa and serve her all her meals, plus whatever other tasks she demanded.

Four years went by. You watched Ophelia develop into a young woman, unaware that you were developing as well. Shimshon was very interested in the giant man-machines that plowed the fields. Smaller ones now started appearing in the Guard that paraded through the city. Shimshon swore that he would own one of these things when he was older. You thought him foolish but never laughed at him. Your blood began to show signs of what your papa had called “the powerâ€. You did your best to hide it knowing that discovery would mean death. Ophelia had a studio built near her villa. She called it a training hall. The walls were adorned with swords and other weapons. She had instructors come and train her in all manner of fighting styles. She focused on the rapier and buckler, throwing dagger and fighting unarmed. Her instructors were knights, and monks and other martial men.

Of the many visitors to the Castlecrest, none were as bad as Ophelia’s cousin, Aniella Brezzi. She was very pretty like Ophelia, perhaps more so, but lacked Ophelia’s empathy or kindness. She also took every opportunity to remind you that you were a lowly servant. Aniella had some kind of hold or power over Ophelia. Ophelia was a born leader and possessed great charm, but deflated around her cousin. The two would often spar in the training hall, and despite seeming to be her equal, Ophelia always lost. One time you walked in and caught Aniella abusing Ophelia. You dared not interfere and Aniella stopped as soon as you walked in. You asked Ophelia why she let this happen, but she just smiled sadly and patted you on the head and said… “You wouldn’t understand Doveyâ€. You loved it when she called you Dovey… Though later Aniella started calling you Dovey in mockery and jest.

One night there was a great ball. Actually there seemed to always be some kind of ball or party, but this one was in honor of Ophelia’s 13th birthday. It was this day that by Haverbrook tradition she was considered no longer a girl, but a woman. Also by tradition she was awarded the noble title of Knight… you heard the other servants derisively stating that in other lands the title of Knight had to be earned, but here they gave it away to 13 year old girls… You knew in your heart that she deserved this though.

Before the party, you helped Ophelia pick out her ball gown, and bathe and prepare. She was stunning. She looked a little sad though as commented that she wished you could come too. You though the notion funny… You at a ball? Ridiculous…;

You followed her secretly to the pavilion. All manner of people were there. Aniella unfortunately looked beautiful… You wished that she didn’t. The ball commenced. Everyone ate and danced… Then the unthinkable happened. Aniella had arranged some kind of prank that humiliated Ophelia. Ophelia ran back to her villa with you trailing behind. You came in to her crying on her bed. She looked at you with dark make-up smeared teary eyes.

“I wish I had your life! No pressure, no humiliation… Just to be able to live your life on your terms…â€

You though that her statement was wrong. She had the perfect life. You were her servant… but in that moment you realized, or let yourself acknowledge what you had always known. You loved her… more to it; you were in love with her. You steeled your courage and leaned over and kissed her square on the mouth. She looked surprised but did not break the embrace. When you ended the kiss you stood up and walked to your quarters. Leaving her alone to contemplate the significance of what had just happened.

The next day, Ophelia was not in her room. You found her alone in the gardens near the animal enclosures. You had never ventured here before and were surprised to see the extent of the savage animals that were housed here. Lions, Tigers, Gryphons, and bears. The bears terrified you. You had heard stories of bears killing whole hunting parties when you were little. A great dire bear glared at you menacingly. It looked as though it wanted to speak to you.

Later that night, the rain was more sever then you had ever known it. Ophelia had been avoiding you all day and you decided to take a walk to clear your head. The rain pressed your night dress to you. You couldn’t hear any noises except the rain. As you neared the pavilion, you saw the guards that were posted here at night, but something was wrong. They were dead. You screamed but it was drowned out in the rain. You saw some men moving near the animal enclosures. They were dressed in black and had weapons bared. More dead guards littered the floor around them. You had to warn Ophelia. You turned to run and came face to face with the dire bear. Its face was stained with blood and it’s face was inches from yours. You tried to scream but nothing would come out. The bear opened its giant maw… rows of teeth ready to snap at your head…;

 

And this is where we will start on your prequel adventure.

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They can die. The replacement characters might be siblings, children, parents, or lovers who are investigating their deaths/following their legacy etc.

 

Beyond that, if the threat of death is the only definition of exciting and dramatic, then perhaps the definition of exciting is too narrow. There many ways to create drama without death - John Wyck's "Play Dirty" is a 2 book series (with some blogs, some you tube webisodes) about how to create drama without the constant threat of death.

 

SO they cannot die. But they can be maimed and crippled. They can have the entire moral foundation of their lives subverted. They can choose prisoner's dilemmas - to save Aunt May or save Gwen Stacy. They can choose to commit large evils or little evils, or by choosing neither, allow even larger evils to remain unchallenged. If you don't want to challenge them with Mortal Peril, then challenge them with Moral Peril. Challenge their ethics. Challenge Justice, honor, glory. And then make them live with those consequences in 15 years. And don't pull any punches. You withheld Mortal Peril and let them survive combats that should have ended their days forever, so now the consequences for simply imperiling their ethics should be worse than death would ever have been.

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 Both successes and failures should have consequences that echo loudly - Minor challenges that occur along the way should have indirect but major consequences : The whole, "I accidentally created the BBEG" trope is old and played out, but there's no reason that one of the characters' early actions that put them on their road to being an adventurer couldn't have inspired someone to eventually become a now-famous bard, or perhaps that other person failed somehow and ended up becoming a tragic tale. Even if their actions only rearranged the minor background pieces in a way that allowed something to happen or someone to do something, the end result after the butterfly-effect ripples have died out can be pretty major in changing the background of the campaign world.

 

Given that they obviously succeed at some of their major challenges that lead up to their current state, how well they succeed at them will determine the outcome of other connected events. For example, the difference between having someone they knew back then and still have contact with (or will come back into contact with) be their eternally-grateful boon companion willing to do them favors (if they succeeded spectacularly), someone who isn't happy to see them show up to collect on whatever debt they own the character (a moderate success, but it cost that other person some inconvenience), or someone with whom they actively need to parlay in order to overcome whatever ill feelings might still exist (they succeeded, but at a heavy cost to the other person or those around them).

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Reaperbryan and Mad Jack. Thanks. That helps. Moral themes have been a big part of season 1. The group started off as marshals in a valley that had a large influx of nonhumans. They initially went with the mentality that non humans are bad... But in my world alignments are not set in stone. Like a red dragon is stereotypically evil but not always.

 

So in their first encounter as marshals, they came across a group of humans fighting a wagon full of orcs. The assisted the humans and killed the orcs, later to find out that the orcs were trying to settle their family in a new land away from war. (war had ended a couple years earlier). The humans were supremacists and were killing the orcs out of racism (speciesism?) and plain evil. They did not immediately attack things off hand after that... and that was fun when they encountered the very much evil black dragon...

 

Inspiring people to do good is interesting too... I will have to see what I can come up with.

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Reaperbryan and Mad Jack. Thanks. That helps. Moral themes have been a big part of season 1. The group started off as marshals in a valley that had a large influx of nonhumans. They initially went with the mentality that non humans are bad... But in my world alignments are not set in stone. Like a red dragon is stereotypically evil but not always.

 

So in their first encounter as marshals, they came across a group of humans fighting a wagon full of orcs. The assisted the humans and killed the orcs, later to find out that the orcs were trying to settle their family in a new land away from war. (war had ended a couple years earlier). The humans were supremacists and were killing the orcs out of racism (speciesism?) and plain evil. They did not immediately attack things off hand after that... and that was fun when they encountered the very much evil black dragon...

 

Inspiring people to do good is interesting too... I will have to see what I can come up with.

So now it's easy to have the Human Supremacists turn to the heroes for help, and for Orcs to have natural suspicions when dealing with this group. 

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Reaperbryan and Mad Jack. Thanks. That helps. Moral themes have been a big part of season 1. The group started off as marshals in a valley that had a large influx of nonhumans. They initially went with the mentality that non humans are bad... But in my world alignments are not set in stone. Like a red dragon is stereotypically evil but not always.

 

So in their first encounter as marshals, they came across a group of humans fighting a wagon full of orcs. The assisted the humans and killed the orcs, later to find out that the orcs were trying to settle their family in a new land away from war. (war had ended a couple years earlier). The humans were supremacists and were killing the orcs out of racism (speciesism?) and plain evil. They did not immediately attack things off hand after that... and that was fun when they encountered the very much evil black dragon...

 

Inspiring people to do good is interesting too... I will have to see what I can come up with.

So now it's easy to have the Human Supremacists turn to the heroes for help, and for Orcs to have natural suspicions when dealing with this group. 

 

Oh man, this reminds me of the first encounter in the World's Largest Dungeon.

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