Saturday, February 05, 2011

Post-Apocalyptic Thoughts: A Simple Campaign Arc...

Good Evening, All:

As part of my gaming research into adding post-apocalyptic elements to my Madlands Campaign, I've been researching science fantasy post-apocalyptic games such as Gamma World and Darwin's World. (Some of this was inspired by the games I've played at Owl Con XXX, too.) Of course, in reading through some of that material, I came up with an idea for a post-apocalyptic campaign arc. Using the Nine Act Plot Structure that I'd blogged about previously, here's the core of that campaign arc. Other adventures could be worked into this structure with relative ease, adding to the overall length of the campaign arc and allowing you to focus on player-driven adventures as well. If you like any of the following content for either a fantasy game or a post-apocalyptic game, please feel free to use this as you see fit.

Act Zero, the campaign background, is revealed in small parts throughout the rest of the campaign. In this case, a mutant discovered a lost cache of knowledge, primarily about the medieval period of Old Europe. Using the lore found within, as well as his own powerful mind-controlling abilities, this mutant has taken over a warrior and turned him into its servant. The enslaved warrior has taken on the name of the Lord Protector, and is building up a kingdom under his iron fist, all at the direction of the mutant operating behind the scenes. The expansion of the Protectorate is approaching the characters' homeland, and if they do not do anything to stop it, their people will become slaves to the kingdom of their conqueror.

Act One is the opening adventure, which sets the status quo. In this adventure, we introduce the home village of the player-characters. The annual migration of a particular predator appears to have started early, as a few of the village's children were attacked by such predators, and two of them were carried off. The characters are pressed into the search for the lair of the beast and the missing children. The lair turns out to be an Ancient ruin, where other mutant beasts dwell.

In Act Two, we introduce humanoid raiders from a nearby realm, when the characters encounter a patrol. Shortly thereafter, a larger band of humanoids strikes at the characters' village, and the characters must take the fight to the heart of the enemy force in order to eliminate the immediate threat. Any captured enemies comment on the need to take this village as a refuge from the assault of the Protectorate's forces. Alternately, the characters may be assigned to guard the fleeing women, children and elderly while the rest of the warriors remain behind. The adventure here focuses on obstacles that must be overcome to get their wards to safety, until the enemy forces attacking the village are overcome.

After a few weeks of refugees traveling around the village, or coming to the village and more humbly asking for sanctuary as they flee the war with the Protectorate, we start Act Three with a visit from knights in service to the Lord Protector. They first demand the surrender of the village, then react with force when the villagers do not surrender. They can be chased out, but return with bigger forces and more powerful weapons. While the characters can defeat the Protectorate knights, they realize that they could not survive the full attention of the Lord Protector.

Act Four sees our heroes assigned a task by the village council to visit some Ancient ruins where lost treasures may include weapons of such destructive power that they will be able to devastate the Lord Protector's forces and render the Protectorate unable to successively continue their plan of conquest. The artifacts they uncover certainly appear to fit the bill, but will require that they deliver the weapon deep into enemy territory before it is activated.

Act Five could easily represent one to three adventures, as the party sneaks into Protectorate territory. The way gets harder and harder, and the obstacles more and more complicated. In the end, the party is betrayed by someone they've trusted, their weapon of mass destruction turned over to the Lord Protector himself and the characters are banished to a dungeon. It is in the dungeon at the end of this adventure that the party makes the acquaintance of a fellow prisoner who reveals the true solution to this dilemma: the Lord Protector himself is actually a front for a mind-controlling nemesis that is operating from the shadows.

Act Six finds the party breaking free from the dungeon and escaping into the undercity of the ruins that the Lord Protector claims as the seat of his power. Within the undercity, the party discovers the truth of their fellow prisoner's words, and reveals that the best way to strike at the Lord Protector is to slay his hidden master. It is in this adventure that the party learns the location of the hidden master, so that they can strike.

Act Seven requires the heroes to travel to the hidden master's lair and strike down the mind-controlling mutant. This adventure should require some form of heroic sacrifice at this point in order to actually succeed. Despite their loss, the ultimate destruction of the hidden master leaves the Lord Protector without the knowledge of his master in the upcoming confrontation between Protectorate forces and the villagers who would be led by the characters.

Act Eight is the final adventure, where the party faces down the Protectorate forces, slays the Lord Protector, and breaks the Protectorate's hold on their lands. This leaves behind a power vacuum that will eventually be filled by other enemies, but a divided enemy is much easier to deal with than a unified one.