Thursday, 12 May 2016

Who was it who was asking about destroying their campaign?

A while ago, I was reading on someone's blog a post about what it would take to (potentially) destroy the campaign-world. I can't now remember who it was, unfortunately, but it did get me thinking. Then, after thinking, I did nothing about it for ages, but I've now decided to dust down this post and put out.

Obviously, the idea of the DM just delivering an apocalypse and the PCs watching helplessly is a nonsensical one. The PCs must have some agency in all of this. So, I took the question to be about the sparking of a series of events that would, without the PCs' intervention, potentially lead to the destruction of the world.

There could be many reasons for this. A colossal being (ur-dragon, star-god, whatever) might be awakening at the centre of the world and the PCs need to put it back to sleep (or kill it). A crazed cult may be trying to melt all the ice and flood the whole world for stupid and/or nefarious purposes (or is that just too preposterous?). But, partly because I'm a big fan of the Zelda games on Nintendo, I went with imagining a D&D spin on the classic Evil-Moon-Crashing-Down-and-Killing-Everyone plot as used in Majora's Mask.

The Moon is falling
If you do nothing, the World will soon be destroyed

In three months a cataclysm will engulf the World as the Moon crashes into it, and 90% of all animal life will die within 1 week of that event
Either evil moon-beings are deliberately manoeuvring the Moon closer to the World in order to destroy it on the whim of their Mad God, or conspirators on the World are attempting to lure the Moon closer to make it crash into the World for broadly similar reasons

Courses of action:
1 – military – fit out a mission in ‘space ships’ to go to the Moon and stop the Moon-beings’ evil plan – wreck their bases, kill their Priest-Kings, destroy their diabolical Dark Energy engines etc, or find the (presumably well-hidden, far away, on the other side of the world/inside a volcano/in the Hollow World etc) sites where the Moon-worshippers in this World are trying to attract the Moon;
2 – magical/alchemical – find out what will repel the Moon and build it as a giant Moon-guard;
a)      Repulsion – find the opposite of ‘Moon’ and collect/manufacture it to push the Moon away (the PCs can discover that the opposite of ‘Moon’, alchemically, is ‘Blackfire’– Moon is silvery, lightweight, brittle and flying, Blackfire is dark, heavy, sludgy and seeping underground: ‘Moon’ equals 40% Air, 30% Earth, 20% Water and 10% Fire, so the opposite is 40% Fire,  30% Water, 20% Earth and 10% Air);
b)      Balance – perhaps there is too much Blackfire on Earth, and the Moon is being drawn to it to balance it out, so it is necessary to destroy some/a lot of Blackfire – perhaps it’s even ‘Black Pudding’ and the world is becoming infested
3 – religious/folkloric – consult the oldest myths (or Elves or Dragons) to find out if and when the Moon (-god/dess) came to the World, and how they were chased/persuaded away – then try it again

Who will be opposing the PCs:
1 – Moon-deity cults – some evil (ie they want the World destroyed, as above), others merely obstructive (it is, quite literally, their deity’s ‘time to shine’ and they’re blowed if they’re going to let some crazy adventurers stop the glorious arrival of their Benevolent Moon-Master/Mistress who would no way harm anyone, especially Believers);
2 – Lycanthropes – they’re all getting more powerful and they aren’t going to want to go back to the situation before (this might be a good way in, the PCs may over the course of some months start encountering unusually-powerful lycanthropes giving them the first clues that there’s something wrong with the moon, which will require a longer time-frame, eg 6-9 months);
3 – perhaps some rather stoical Elves who think that the Moon is rather groovy and anyway, who cares if metric kilotonnes of humans die, they’re vermin: as long as the Elves survive that’s all fine;
4 – general Chaotic/apocalyptic cults who think that the destruction will be good;
5 – maybe some Druids, for similar reasons to the Elves – wipe out the stain of civilisation and start again;
6 – some aquatic monsters (Lizardmen, Mermen, Sahaugin etc) who may figure it’s mostly the air-breathers who are going to suffer, and might actually like higher tides.

Who doesn't believe it:
1 – Rulers (who would rather not have panicked populations);
2 – Sages (who insist that it’s all happened before and it’s perfectly natural, the Moon will merely pass close to the World, silver will become more easily-available as it bubbles to the surface in sympathy, and more girl-babies will be born for a few months, but that’s all);
3 – people in general (who don’t want to worry about stuff they can’t do anything about: “Yer, well, them Wizards down at the Omniversity, they won’t let it ‘appen will they? Them’n’the High Theolect’ll sort it out, you’ll see”/”St Nogburga will preserve us, all we have to do is eat our shrews and pray a lot”).

Who will help:
1 – Alchemists (who may prove useful and earn the gratitude of Princes for once);
2 – non-Lunar cults (who quickly get sick of the Moon-mad devotees smugly proclaiming the superiority of their deities/get worried by the flocks of believers converting to Moon-cults);
3 – some military types who might be happy to launch a war with another world.

They were my notes for the idea. Perhaps if I run out of other inspiration I can start to weave some of this into it. The idea that the PCs become aware of unusual lycanthrope activity and this leads them to the conclusion that the moon is falling is one I like. I'm sure I can introduce this to my PCs at some point in the future.

It also got me thinking about how I could take the game to another world. The idea of travelling to the Moon got me thinking about the kinds of beasts that might be there, and how it might be an opportunity to use some of the monsters that don't get much love that are nestled in my rule-books and through the pages of old White Dwarfs.

Which in turn led me to consider making a list of all the monsters I have stats for and which ones actually get used... and that's when I abandoned this post first time around. That's a pretty mammoth job, going through the monster lists in Basic and Expert and Companion and 50 or more WDs of Fiend Factory (old monster showcase in WD that led ultimately to the Fiend Folio), and all the scenarios for ones that introduce new monsters, and any official scenarios that introduce new monsters like B4 and X1, and any subsequent materials I've picked up from the OSR to make a master-list... then going through again and checking which of them are actually used in all those adventuring locations and finding the ones that aren't to populate the Moon. Too big a job at the moment. One thing I do have however is an old WD scenario based on War of the Worlds that might provide a way in... and I can try and re-skin some monsters: I can re-skin Sabre-Toothed Tigers to be big fast white 6-legged moon-lizards or something. I can also start making a list of monsters that I know don't appear in any existing scenarios - Fiend Factory has loads that are only going to appear if I make them, so maybe I can make them appear on the Moon.

All that aside, another thing that made me lose interest was that there's a problem with the alchemy as well, The opposite of 'Air' in classical alchemy is 'Earth'; so another way to slice the alchemical cake (opposite of 40A-30E-20W-10F) would be 40E-30A-20F-10W. But this doesn't actually produce something opposite to 'Moon' (more or less, equal to silver). It's something heavier and shinier than 'Moon' that doesn't influence the tides as much. Platinum maybe.

Perhaps the problem is that 40/30 along one axis and 20/10 along the other doesn't work. Maybe the axes need to be balanced, in that both axes must add up to 50. Is the moon 'mostly' airy, or earthbound? Obviously, as it lives in the sky, it's mostly airy, so maybe 40/10 Air/Earth is a better split. Then, is it mostly shiny, or does it mostly attract water? I'd say, it is mostly shiny, but it's tricky in that it hides, and it still seriously affects water, so maybe 30/20 Fire/Water is a good split. In which case, the opposite is 40% Earth, 30% Water, 20% Fire and 10% Air. So something sludgy, and a bit burny. Could still be Black Pudding, I suppose.

Pretty sure I can source some moon-maps for a wilderness (I might use the one below, actually a map of Mars from 1830 I think) and perhaps I can get some weird architecture for locations... then map out a lunar hex-crawl for the party.

Just google 'beer mars map' and this poops up

Ah well. Someday, some of this might find its way into my campaign.

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