Author Topic: Good Intentions: The Road to Hell  (Read 4777 times)

Xeviat

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Good Intentions: The Road to Hell
« on: April 15, 2016, 04:18:04 AM »
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The blackness of oblivion lifts to the antipodes of searing heat and frigid cold. The sounds of metal and mail clang in the distance, nearly drowned out by the lapping of water. You drag your stiff, aching body out of the icy water, which drys instantly in the hot wind. A fireball blazes overhead, exploding near enough for you to feel the heat upon your face. Horror runs down your spine as you realize you have no idea how you got here, where here is, and who you are.

"You're awake," a voice sounds behind you. You spin around and are greeted by a skeletal figure standing atop a gondola. "Welcome to Hell."

After doing well with my first (and still going) Roll20 campaign (a 5th Edition update of the 3E D&D mega-adventure "Red Hand of Doom"), I'm getting started on another. What started as a desire to run a high level game has begun to take shape, and I need some help getting it off the ground.

The players are going to wake up upon the banks of the River Styx with Charon as their guide. I intend the campaign to take the player characters through the Nine Hells on their quest to ... I don't know.

So far, the most detailed character is a Tiefling Paladin of Vengeance, so I think I'll be using him to drive it forward for a bit. Depending on what drives him, I'll have to figure out what happened to bring him and his companions there. I'm thinking someone has stolen the Holy Avenger, and/or someone close to him was sacrificed to Asmodeus. After reading about Asmodeus former identity of Ahriman, twin brother of the god of the couatls and aspect of the World Serpent. Apparently, speaking this knowledge causes someone to die within 24 hours, but you can read it. I'm delving into Planescape lore, though I plan to put my own spin on it.

Unknown to the players at first, they are Revenants; semi-undead who will continue to rise until their quest is complete. This is going to allow me to do some ridiculous stuff that I'm itching to do (I fully plan on crushing someone with a falling megalith block). Traps where someone will have to die to disengage it, sieges relying upon their immortality ... fun stuff.

What I'm looking for right now are seeds of ideas. What do you got?
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Ghostman

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Re: Good Intentions: The Road to Hell
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2016, 08:37:05 AM »
That's an awesome way to start a new campaign! Here's a couple of fiendish locations.

The Soul Trap: A cursed well that holds captured souls, already containing countless of them and ever hungry for more. It's a veritable fountain of knowledge, knowing everything it's captives ever learned. The PCs may bargain with it for some critical piece of information, but it'll try to trick them so that it can try to swallow one or more of them. This is a serious danger because it's a form of "death" that their revenant condition won't protect them from, and thus a useful way to keep the players from getting overconfident.

The Mirror House: It's a labyrinthine hall of mirrors - diabolic mirrors. The reflections may randomly grab/bite/stab at the PCs as they try to navigate their way through the narrow warrens. Invisible monsters (that can be glimpsed in the mirrors) stalk them, attempting to wear them down with hit-and-run sneak attacks. The layout of the place changes when they aren't looking. Of course, shattering a mirror brings more than just bad luck here. Somewhere in this maze lurks a gorgon that holds the McGuffin the PCs are after; presenting another death-like peril for the revenant party, this time in the form of petrification.
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Magnus Pym

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Re: Good Intentions: The Road to Hell
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2016, 12:41:51 PM »
The Book of Vile Darkness could give you a lot of great ideas.

One of my suggestion to add depth and realism would be to implicate other powerful demons (either archdemons or agents of these) in the story to give many twists and turns. Deals would be struck, treachery would happen; the players will barely win Hell.

These other demons want the downfall of Asmodeus, but they would not prefer ''fresh-off-the-boat'' demons to take his place. They'd rather it be THEY (whoever you choose to select as third parties) that take the Infernal Throne. If I recall Belzebub and Mephistopheles despise Asmodeus in the greatest possible way. Asmodeus is insanely powerful.

Magnus Pym

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Re: Good Intentions: The Road to Hell
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2016, 01:07:05 PM »
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...The 4th edition Demonomicon establishes that Pazuzu's most powerful and secret ally is Asmodeus. In the new default setting, Pazuzu aided Asmodeus in obtaining a sliver of the shard of pure evil that festers at the bottom of the Abyss. The sliver became Asmodeus's signature Ruby Rod, which the angel used to slay the god he served. Those few who know of the ancient deal believe that the King of Hell has yet to repay Pazuzu for this "favor".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pazuzu_(Dungeons_%26_Dragons)

Steerpike

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Re: Good Intentions: The Road to Hell
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2016, 01:31:28 PM »
If this is set in the standard D&D cosmology, the Blood War is a rich vein for adventure details. I sort of picture the Lower Planes in D&D as, like, Mad Max + Dante + Heart of Darkness - war and its ruins everywhere, gangs of deserters and mercenaries (Yugoloths, fallen celestials), escaped souls of the damned fleeing torture, armies of infernal warlords carving out fiefdoms, just whole platoons that get forgotten or lost in the endless carnage.

I feel like a lot of puzzles and challenges should be based around suffering various torments. Like a door that only opens to a key crafted from the bones of the one using it. A bridge whose toll is an eyeball ripped from your head, set among the vast, roving mass of eyes of the fallen cherubim that guards it. A town where bottled screams are currency.

For inspiration, if you are not familiar with the works of Wayne Barlowe, Zdzisław Beksiński, and, of course, Gustave Doré, they are all very useful sources for hellish imagery.

EDIT: What kind of campaign format are you envisioning? Big epic adventures with an overarching plot? Sandbox? Hell as a huge, unending dungeon-crawl? Maybe a hex-crawl type format?

Xeviat

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Re: Good Intentions: The Road to Hell
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2016, 08:50:04 PM »
Standard D&D cosmology, definitely. I'm ordering some Planescape books to help out. I've got the 3E Book of Vile Darkness, Manual of the Planes, and Deities and Demigods to help out.

Ghostman: those are some cool ideas.

Magnus Pym: Definitely. Aiming them at the big bad guy himself would be interesting. A group of heroes in Hell can be a disruptive force if their aimed right, enough for one of the other Devil Lords to swoop in. Demons want to sow confusion amongst the Devilish ranks, so they could have to take a detour to the Abyss to get some help from one of the more reasonable Demon Lords, like Grazzt.

Steerpike: Yes, yes, and yes. Definitely looking for big epic adventures with an overarching plot, but a bit of a hex crawl could be cool. The hells are effectively infinite, so their quest could take them everywhere.

Since the players are suffering memory loss, I'm not even making them come up with too much. I just want to know their character's personality and what kind of things drive them. Their first goal will be figuring out why they're in hell. Did they do something wrong? Are they looking for something? Only after they uncover that will the real adventure begin.
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Xeviat

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Re: Good Intentions: The Road to Hell
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2016, 09:47:58 PM »
I do need a quick little mechanical idea: How do I reward the players for hanging onto their good alignment? I want to test them, put them out of their element, but make the players rather their players be good than neutral. Some kind of defense bonus against fiendish magic?
Endless Horizons: Action and adventure set in a grand world ripe for exploration.

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Steerpike

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Re: Good Intentions: The Road to Hell
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2016, 10:05:00 PM »
Quote from: Xeviat
Standard D&D cosmology, definitely. I'm ordering some Planescape books to help out. I've got the 3E Book of Vile Darkness, Manual of the Planes, and Deities and Demigods to help out.

This will be money well spent. The old Planescape books are, for my money, some of the best roleplaying products TSR ever put out. TONS of useful adventure ideas, locations, and NPCs, plus gorgeous artwork, excellent writing, and a surprisingly cerebral approach.

Quote from: Xeviat
I do need a quick little mechanical idea: How do I reward the players for hanging onto their good alignment? I want to test them, put them out of their element, but make the players rather their players be good than neutral. Some kind of defense bonus against fiendish magic?

Since this is 5E, what about tying Inspiration to specifically good acts?

Xeviat

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Re: Good Intentions: The Road to Hell
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2016, 01:06:39 AM »
Inspiration would be a good way to do it. Pretty WoD too at that.
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sparkletwist

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Re: Good Intentions: The Road to Hell
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2016, 01:05:06 PM »
I am not a big fan of player character death and I find your solution innovative. I wonder, though, players being players, how do you plan to keep the game from devolving into grim slapstick comedy?


Xeviat

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Re: Good Intentions: The Road to Hell
« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2016, 05:40:56 PM »
Quote from: sparkletwist
I am not a big fan of player character death and I find your solution innovative. I wonder, though, players being players, how do you plan to keep the game from devolving into grim slapstick comedy?

A little comedy could help lighten the mood, lest it turn into an existential crisis of morality. I'll likely have to OOC chat with the players about what tone we all want.

My current thoughts are that I'm going to have puzzles and challenges that are going to rely upon the fact that the players can get back up after a few hours of going down. But I may find a way to hammer home that it still hurts; maybe Wisdom saves to willingly push one's self into a trap, for instance. I'm definitely down for suggestions.
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Steerpike

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Re: Good Intentions: The Road to Hell
« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2016, 09:55:16 PM »
Quote from: Xeviat
maybe Wisdom saves to willingly push one's self into a trap, for instance.

I must say that I really don't like this idea, because it really compromises player agency.

Quote from: Xeviat
But I may find a way to hammer home that it still hurts

This is an interesting question. One way might be to leave newly-resurrected characters exhausted (as per the condition) to some degree, or with ugly injuries that heal very slowly. Or maybe every time they die they lose an ability score point (there'd have to be some way to earn these back - maybe good deeds & redemption?).

BTW, have you played the game Planescape: Torment? The protagonist has abilities similar to the ones you're describing, and death & self mutilation are central "mechanics" in getting places and solving puzzles.

Xeviat

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Re: Good Intentions: The Road to Hell
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2016, 03:05:55 AM »
I've definitely played Planescape: Torment. Three times, once as each class. I'm stealing some ideas from there.

As for the Wisdom save thing, it would mostly be a "delay" rather than a hard no. Imagine a trap of whirling blades. Someone's got to throw themselves into it, but they might not be able to do it right away and if it takes someone too long to do it they could be in trouble.
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sparkletwist

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Re: Good Intentions: The Road to Hell
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2016, 04:12:40 PM »
Quote from: Steerpike
I must say that I really don't like this idea, because it really compromises player agency.
Of course, I agree with this.

My personal thought is along the lines of Steerpike's-- characters should feel the effects of the terrible things that they are put through, and that can help inform how far they want to push things. One way to do it mechanically would be to give the PCs double HP, but have progressively greater penalties below half; at this point, HP stops being any sort of abstraction and their body is actually being destroyed bit by bit. It might turn into something of a "death spiral," but I feel like it wouldn't be as bad because staying above half is like playing the game normally anyway.