This is simple, straightforward, and elegantly done. It makes me wonder what other sorts of wonders exist in such a world.
If I ever had cause to send the players out on a scavenger hunt, I would include a shard of the sun and/or the moon and then make them work to discover this place. And, perhaps, by having them go to both places they might learn something by what each says about the other. (Not that they'd want them to stop their rivalry! That would be apocalyptic :P )Go to Comment
Quick added scenerio thoughts:
- The characters do end up freeing some innocents causing the overall count to go down below 2024 number and nobody really noticed. Usually they have more than that so it isn't an issue but the years of peace have slowly limited the crimes that call for death.
- The King, after years of slowly gaining support for ending this barbaric custom, finally succeeds in canceling it for the year. Instead they pardon 2024 of the lesser criminals or simply don't kill them.
For either of those, what is the outcome of not meeting the requirement? Loss of all the battles that year? The return of Tyragorn to complete his attack? Does the king survive the year as proof that the tradition is foul or is the kingdom ruined?
- Those that believe in the curse to the depth of their bones go out and assassinate or kill 2024 people anyway regardless of the king's intention. So even if they king protects his subject from that fate, those that believe and fear the curse will simply go on a killing spree to fulfill the need.
Now he has to decide to I continue the custom and spare the innocent citizens or fight those that would defy his decision.
Awesome. I like it because there is so much you can do with it. You have a benevolent ruler that does it as a matter of course or you can get a bastard (in the attitude sense, not the offspring) that brings the torture and defilement into the main city.
Then there are so many little plots and twists you can throw around that could have as wide reaching reprecussions as you want. If they don't sacrifice then anything that happens in the world against the kingdom can be tagged part of the curse.
- Because the king stopped the killings, many small villages that are deeply superstitious start blaming any misfortune on the lack of sacrifice. This leads to an almost religous zeal backing the belief. Slowly, through self-induced hysteria they may start killing their own criminals or lynching those that are only accused of crimes in order to alleviate their own personal misfortune. All it takes is a drought "cured" by a killing to provide "proof" that it works and soon the entire countryside is deep in their own version of 2024.
-- King decides that following the decision is better than this outcome and follows through with the sacrifice. Now he needs to get word through the kingdaom. Will the believe it? Will it be enough to stop what has already begun?
--PCs could have witnessed the fixed sacrifice and be charged with bringing this word, or carry it as they adventure because they want to stop the killing. Each time they come to a village would bring possible conflict. They villages might believe their word or call them liars. A new tension and moral dilemna for the players to have decide whenever they see an injustice based on the sacrifices.
Most of what I had planned on saying was said, although I disagree with Muro should I run this I would inevidably end up throwing the players or some of them into those who got arrested the night before and end up on the shopping block in the morning none the wiser for being from somewhere else. Kudos.
It's easy to think of this as an awesome, believable superstition for a culture, but I like the idea of it potentially being very real. I'm hung up on the concept of a fixed number of deaths of each type, so cool! What if it didn't (or stopped) changing throughout the years? How would characters deal with the ensuing population explosion, and the potentially apalling outcomes Silveressa pointed out?
Very nice tale. This of course plays on the ancient concept of "Scape-goating" and is done very well. The fact that this is an annual holiday adds to verisimilitude. I also like how the festival forks, the condemned go to die, the rest go off to party hardy (some not caring, some feeling slightly weird about it, some trying hard to ignore it and enjoy themselves, some thanking their gods that *they* were not among the culled this year...etc)
If I gm'ed this scenario, i'd probably try to have the PCs on the side of those seeking to end this controversial practice, I think.
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This also gives me a bit of the "Wicker Man" vibe, for some reason. (the original one, not the nicholas cage thing)
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Also, i like the progressive ruler plot hook, but would make him not a progressive ruler, but a thieve's guild master, or some other less than moral character, who maybe (ironically) sees the "light" through this ritualistic "depravity". Just to add to the moral ambiguity a bit more. :)
An interiesting concept, although the opening tale does irk the evil gm side of me a bit. Granted the flame would not kill Sarya's bowmen now the number had been met, surely the flames would still have set fire to their equipment, and horribly disfigured them none the less?
(Granted they may not have been able to die from fire, but bieng burnt tortured shadows of their former selves for the rest of their lives, or dying from secondary infections to the burns/smoke inhaliation is how my evil GM side would make the end battle turn out, just to remind players that twisting fate does not always result in victory, merely a different kind of loss.)
Then again the truth behind the legend could well have become buried in the past and exaggerated into the current form; which is a way to hide the horrific truth.
Opening legend aside, I like the premise behind the festival, and can imagine a group of unwitting PC's stumbling into the town on festival day, enjoying the celebration only to find out later what the celebration is all about, and the hideous deaths those guilty of relatively minor crimes will be facing at the end of the festival. (Certain to spur some heroic action and tug on morals, especially those with a soft spot for good hearted rogues.)
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Fun sub, and something I can see myself using next time I run a fantasy campaign.
Quite brutal. It paints a pretty strong picture of the overall culture. I imagine a particularly paranoid ruler might get a little overzealous in defining what makes a criminal in order to be sure enough deaths occur. I wonder if these executions actually make a difference? The first success against the dragon was done through subterfuge but perhaps these executions have already been accounted for.