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.
The arch-chancellor of the Wyrmfang magic academy is a tentative ally of the King, but always gets into a quarrel with him over the topic of magocracy vs. feudalism (don't seat them together).
Also, considering his temper, if you seat him next to any guest who happens to be both talkative and a fool, said guest will spend the rest of his life on a lily pad, munching flies.
comtessa Beatrix Beaufort
A socialite, sole heir to a fortune and provocatively independent, the young lady is a famous single and her suitors many. The reason why she's unmarried is that she's solely interested in ladyfolk.
She will be very pleased to be seated with ladies young, impressionable and charming - but if any of those ladies are married, their husbands will voice their displeasure at the many strange ideas the wife brought from your party.
Ambassador Sara Pemberton
The ambassodor from the Queendom of Vallermoore, like many Vallermorians in the highest positions, is a lesbian. As such, she hates being sat next to openly sexist or lecherous men. She has a crush on Lady Adara, but Lady Adara most certainly does not feel that way and so it is best that the two are not put together.
Gren is the man in charge of security for the party. As such, it is very important that he be seated in a position from which he can easily leave if something should come up. Furthermore, Gren's brother died in the last Goblin War, and he shouldn't be seated next to anyone who favors a trade agreement with our former adversaries. Also, he hates to be seated next to
Lady Catherine of Wesshire, his Wife
Lady Catherine is very finicky about table etiquette. She should absolutely not be seated next to anyone who is not certain to possess the most flawless of manners, and she should probably not be seated next to anyone who would take offense at her snide remarks about other guests. Also, considering the rumors about her and Lord Pemberton, she should not be seated next to any gossips.
Count Hobran, the Reaver
A minor noble from up north, Hobran has been invited because the king wishes to get on his good side. Anything to stop the raids! As such, despite his low station, it is important that Hobran be seated in a position of dignity. But don't put him close to anyone who would be offended by his relatively low rank!
Ever since Clay was awarded his title last summer, His Majesty has had his eye on the young adventurer. He wants Clay seated next to one of his eligible female relatives, in the hope of binding the ambitious young man to the kingdom. Like Hobran, Clay shouldn't be seated near anyone who would object to the presence of the lower classes, and he probably shouldn't be seated near Hobran himself, either. The two have history. On the other hand, they might get along well in person.
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We now come to the King's mother herself. By now, we are all aware of the grand old dame's proclivities and acid-tongued irreverence i am sure, so no matter what you do, DO NOT seat her within earshot of the "spineless, effeminate duke", "that no-good slut" the duchess, or the "bombastic baron blunder" (all her titles, not mine) and under any circumstance do not seat her next to the wine-spouting fountain. Having said that we must also make sure she is somehow front and center and able to receive the proper respect of all the guests. Good luck with her. We all know how much the young king--uhh--cherishes his senile mother.
I have actually done this in a game! There was crime and a piece of evidence was based on who sat where at infamous dinner party 20 year prior. The PCs had to reassemble the guest list and then figure out the seating chart. Lke most logic problems, and I do like to put them in my games, it was very popular with some the players and others found the end result boring.
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"Lord and Lady Brennan must sit together" really? Married couples must never sit together at fancy dinners ;)