The Revenge that Binds…

Continuing my work with Revenge of the Serpent Queen, I’m always struck by the incongruity of getting PCs to go one way or another in a campaign world. The world of Lost Age Adventures is not quite as organized as something like the Sword Coast in the Forgotten Realms where you have some fairly major cities scattered along one stretch of civilized and explored world from Luskan on the north to Baldur’s Gate on the south. I can’t just leave signposts and send messengers along the paths chasing the PCs around with clues here and there…

Pangaea_physical_mapThe Lost Age world is deliberately vague, which offers infinite flexibility and yet causes me no end of grief.

Using the map of Pangaea from Blamtroid on DeviantArt I have a huge world to play with and have started exploring a bit. When I add in some of the geographical features from Richard Morden’s Pangaea map, I get some nicely defined mountain ranges and hills in an artistic style. But ultimately I like the level of physical detail in the Wikimedia map here.

In broad terms, as far as geography anyway, I know I have:

  • An ocean to the east (the Tethys where the Kingdom of the Open Waters lies)
  • Mountains to the north (the Mountains of Flame perhaps somewhere around the Central Pangean Mts. on the map – a place where Zithani weapons come from and the Burned Men or Devilmen come from)
  • A frozen area far to the north (beyond the boundaries of this map where the walled town of Vanguard is)
  • A broad plains area with some desert (that holds Nifton’s Inlet, Elhann, and Osbeoth’s Tower)

By now you’re wondering what the heck this has to do with the title of this blog post, and I’m getting there.

I have been struggling to find ways to connect ROSQ with the rest of the adventures so far.

Lost Age Abstract Path (1)When you have a sandbox and you’re trying to connect the dots as I’m doing, sometimes you have to make it much more abstract. It’s more like a dot to dot… Sure, we have a vague landscape in mind for each adventure… Mysterious lake. Plains with tiny forest. Plains. Swamp. Frozen north. Plains again… But for me it’s less about where and more about the story.

The trick, at least for ROSQ, is to plant enough seeds throughout the adventures that there’s a trail to follow. Some way to entice (or “bind”) the PCs to follow the trail.

Sure, I know some of that’s up to the GMs who choose to use these adventures as part of their campaigns. Connecting the dots is more for the table. But I want to make it easier for the GM to figure out how to pull those bits together.

To the right you’ll see my vague dot to dot… Really they could bounce from Fenmont straight to the Zumka Market as well, so that’s another potential path. And some of the dots have been talked about but don’t exist as adventures yet – such as Osbeoth’s Tower and Nifton’s Inlet. Those will come into the picture eventually.

But I think I’ve ultimately been making this harder than it needs to be.

A while back (in June) I came up with the idea of “The Vapors.” Imagine a group of people using natural (and unnatural) substances to expand their minds beyond the boundaries of their own plane of existence. Those few who have actually experienced other worlds may be changed forever by those experiences, but they will be in contact with things and beings beyond the ken of mortal beings.

In the Zumka (or Vakha) Market, there is a den where such people gather. They, like the Navigators from Frank Herbert’s Dune seriesfind themselves drifting by way of the smoke to the far corners of the world of the Lost Age and beyond. These individuals would work well as spies, messengers, and vessels for all sorts of interesting things.

Smoke, pyromaniac, isolated.So as our PCs progress from point to point in our vague map, we can look in on their progress by way of the Vapors. And I’m going to suggest that our PCs sometimes catch glimpses of these “aetherworldly” beings in their dreams, where the boundaries between planes are thinnest.

Some ideas that have come to mind include:

  • A glimpse of a pair of snake eyes watching in the sky of a dream.
  • Overhearing a merchant negotiating with a customer in a busy marketplace.
  • The faces of dead snake men from Serpents Below or cultists or children from The Snake’s Heart.
  • A distraught parent asking why the party couldn’t save their child.
  • The feeling of being stuck on a rock floating in the void of space, desperate to escape to a place of substance.
  • Waking up stuck in a pit of snakes only to find that it’s another nightmare.
  • Sitting upon a beautiful carpet around a hookah pipe with all sorts of nightmare creatures sharing a smoke.

All of these are deliberately vague and none of them explicitly say that the Serpent Queen is stalking them or seeking revenge. But they all tie back to earlier adventures and the strange confluence of space and time that ties all of these things together.

So the first part of ROSQ will focus not on how to get the PCs to the market city, but how to entice them to choose to go that way on their own. They may also hear rumors from other NPCs that the only place to sell things like the Snake’s Heart will be at the Zumka Market where the rich and powerful go to mingle with the rest of humanity…

Progress!

Have you used the power of dreams to entice (or haunt) your PCs and players into action? If so, let me know! I’m looking for more ideas on how to pull this together…

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