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Setting Design Report, Part 20: Kicking the Tires

As always, you can find all of the posts in this series here.

Warming Up the Engines

After about six months of poking at this world (which I still haven’t named – shame on me) I’ve decided to try running a game set in it. Fortunately, assembling my PC group wasn’t all that difficult. I have the members of the group I’m in on Saturdays with Grant (Grant, his wife Krissi, and our player who likes to stay anonymous online) and added Jenny, which is cool because I haven’t gotten to game with her much. Once that was assembled, we sat down to discuss underlying assumptions, lines and veils, the flavor of story we wanted, and so on. The results turned out a bit differently than I’d expected, but I still think the resulting game is going to be fantastic.

Even Better Than What I was Expecting

As anyone who has been following the series has probably noticed, the setting is split pretty dramatically between Good and Evil, and I had originally expected some fairly black-and-white PCs with a lot of motivation to go find the nearest Grim City and start taking it apart, either from within or without. That is, at least so far, the implied default story arc of the setting. What I got instead (and should have expected, given the quality of the players I recruited) was a party full of much more complex and interesting PCs. Speaking of those PCs, meet them!

  • Traven Chandler: Our anonymous player actually got the ball rolling by creating a character from a large family that’s associated with The Church and is very plugged into the “kindness and charity” side of things, but has a hard time with that himself. He’s still very motivated to fight the darkness of the world, but he wants to actually fight it. You know, with violence. He also decided to make this PC something of an “undercover good guy” with a fearsome, criminal reputation and a refusal to work for free … because he pays what he gets forward into his next effort to fight against evil. His huge family is in on the ruse and will cover for him, but doesn’t buy the fearsome rep. He’s a human ranger with the monster hunter archetype.
  • Hala: Grant made a wood elf monk with the way of shadows archetype who has spent most of her adult life working as a breaking and entering specialist for organized crime and has come to the decision that she’d like out. Because of long elven lifespans, she likely has several decades’ worth of criminal connections and entanglements.
  • Kallista Cimeries: Krissi chose a tiefling paladin who is a sober drug addict and an ex-soldier of one of the Grim Cities. Her PC is trying to earn forgiveness and atone for her past through good deeds and helping those who need it, but her former employer probably won’t just let her go. We haven’t figured out exactly what she’s addicted to or how long she’s been sober, but it’s definitely been a struggle for her character.
  • Eteri: Jenny will be playing a raptoran bard who left home in a rage after her father sold the family business (a used car lot) to an unscrupulous large company. She still maintains contact with her brother, but there’s a pretty serious estrangement there with her parents. And due to the technological limits of the world, it may be some time before she gets a chance to start working on that estrangement.

In addition, during the back-and-forth leading up to the “session zero” planning discussion, a bunch of talk of motorcycles lead me to suggest that perhaps a four-person motorcycle gang would make an interesting group template, something the players all latched onto pretty quickly. In fact, they’ve all got specific motorcycles picked out already, which is a really cool bit of visual detail. They also were unanimous in their interest in the Yuthi desert region.

Homework Assignments

Because all four players gave me such interesting PCs, all of whom have some interesting hooks in their pasts, I’ve asked all four players for three NPCs with names and relationships to their PC by the time we have our second session on May 9th.I’m also having them work up their PCs using the virtue-based alignment system I created back at the very beginning of this.

The Starting Line

For the first session, I had to stretch myself a bit. I was initially expecting the PCs to start in a town in Laraloch-Thistivuel, and do things to fight against the influence of Alchova or maybe even try to find a way to bring down its fiendish overlords.

It appears my players gave me more credit than I was giving myself, because instead of some traditional heroic archetypes with combat stats, I got four very interesting characters with flaws and (in a couple of cases) some pretty deep wounds from their respective pasts. I was surprised, delighted, and a bit honored to have been handed so much dramatic material without even asking for it, really – and the homework I assigned was out of a desire to do justice to these amazing characters. (I did joke about feeling like the whole party needed a hug, though.)

Based on the player group’s wishes, I wound up creating a small desert town for them to start in. I would love to go into some detail about this town, but I can’t, because at least half of my players read this blog and it would spoil some story stuff I want to reveal. Suffice it to say for now that the town (Lostant) has a bunch of people with interlocking lives and various things that will create adventure, drama, or both. More importantly, it’s located in the larger region the PCs were most excited about.

I cannot wait to see what my four wandering troubleshooters on motorcycles are going to do to change this place. I suspect some of the locals will be very surprised by what happens.

As always, I am interested in any feedback or questions you have! I’ll probably be posting play reports once we actually get started.


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