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Offline azimuth

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Kaern, the Doomed City - Suggestions Please!
« on: April 13, 2004, 10:42:47 AM »
This here is a FRP campaign idea that I've been working on.  Any suggestions or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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Kaern, the Doomed City

Herein Lie The Memoirs of Airen Ettan, High Prince of Kaern
On This, The Third Day of the Second Month of Changing Leaves
In the 48th Year of Our Lord Tobias Ettan III

The twenty-eighth year of my father’s rule was a very good time for our people. I was only twelve years old, but I remember it vividly. We were a happy, peaceful folk in our remote kingdom, perched on the side of the tallest mountain in the Elvarda range, great Kaerus herself. Our enemies were few and far between; the treacherous conditions kept any intruders or attackers at bay. The only dangers we needed fear were landslides and blizzards, and we were well prepared for such eventualities, having lived on our mountain home for untold generations.

We are a by trade and profession a mining people, and though we are the closest to the heavens of any of the folk in the Colored Lands, we are at home underground. There is not a Kaern man, woman or child that does not know the way about our caverns, even while blindfolded. The river-folk of our neighboring kingdom, Haitayr, say that Kaern children are born with dirt under their fingernails. We would almost agree – our slightly swarthy complexions and dark hair make us seem preternaturally dirty, in any case, so it is difficult to argue.

When our hands are not clutching hammers and pick-axes, however, one would most often find them raising flagons of ale. Our nearly one hundred days of celebration during the year, honoring the gods and the coming and going of the seasons, are often excuses for us to perfect our brewing skills, which are second only to our abilities in mining. Foreigners can rarely stomach our brew, however, because it is made from various lichen and fungi that grow in the caves beneath our city. Kaern celebrations last for many days, allowing our hard working people some respite from the toil of mining.

Often during our celebrations my father, King Tobias Ettan III, would be found regaling to the children the tale of how he single-handedly drove off a barbarian raid of our town during his first year of rule – the number of barbarians would grow with each retelling – or perhaps he would be sharing a pint with the townsfolk, laughing and singing as loudly as any of the commoners. His relationship with his people, unfortunately, was not indicative of his family life; he was a cold and commanding father and husband. My mother, Lyta, pretended not to notice the comings and goings of his many mistresses, and seemed not to be affected by his harsh tones when we were all in private.

My father was a just king, and always was respected by his subjects. Crowned at the age of twelve after his parents were tragically killed in a landslide, he was the youngest king to come to rule in the history of our people. Until he reached the age of manhood, however, his aides would make most of the decisions. When he was old enough, he realized that one man in particular, a magician of some power named Rashaad, had been usurping the king’s power for his own ends. Rashaad was later banished to the barren wastelands to the north, never to be seen again. This act garnered much acclaim from the townsfolk, and solidified my father as a respected leader.

My mother was much more concerned with raising us children rather than dealing with issues of state, however, and did not let any of the servants wait on us for fear that we would become “spoiled�. She wasted no time in our youth teaching us etiquette, all manners of schooling, and most importantly, chivalry. My youngest brother was only four, however, when Mother became ill with the Black Fever. She was bed-ridden for nearly two years before she died.

My father became even more distant with my mother’s death, and spent all of his time and energy planning our mining operations. Every waking moment that was not dedicated to our celebrations he spent conferring with the mining scouts and surveyors, inspecting the operations of the pick-miners, and watching the progress of the Arc-miners – our elite group of men who are able to bore through the earth using magical power.

Our people’s toil is not without cause, however, and our passion for mining not unfounded. Beneath the Elvarda Mountains, and especially Kaerus, lay untold troves of treasure – not of gold, or jewels, but of the substance only known as the Red Ore. The Ore is the lifeblood of our people, and our only source of revenue and trade. It lies hidden in every meter of the outstretched fingers of our caverns, so plentiful that it is in the very food that we eat and the water that we drink. Its strange properties are valuable to every people in the Colored Lands, from our kin in Haitayr, to the Tree Whisperers of the southlands, the Tall Ones of the Tarnus Fields, and the Blue Folk of the north.

Appearing much like hard reddish clay, the Ore seems inert and no different from any other substance found in the earth. When fired at extreme temperatures, however, it becomes harder than iron, and can then augment and strengthen those with magical power. Its full capabilities are not yet known, but its presence here has…changed our people. We are, some say, more attuned with the flows of the Essence than most. Spells do not affect us as well as they do normal folk, and for that we are often feared and hated. It was because of the Red Ore that our city has thrived for generations, but it is also because of the Ore – and my father’s obsession with it – that our kingdom has experienced the troubles that it has since my younger years.

Raymus, my father’s eldest brother and the ruler of the Haitayr river-folk to our north, fed my father’s obsession, always pushing him to have his crews dig deeper. He was convinced that the Ore had some sort of a nexus deep in the earth, and that the secret to the strange substance was within reach. I would hear their arguing from my chambers late into the evening when my uncle would visit; Raymus would always be commanding my father to dedicate more men to the tasks of exploring and excavating the Ore.

My uncle Neifa, my father’s younger brother and trusted advisor, gave me the first indication that our kingdom was in any peril. He took me aside during one of our celebrations and spoke in worried tones about my uncle Raymus and my father, and their obsession with the Red Ore. He said that it was a danger to our kingdom, and that their greediness would be their undoing. I was only eleven years old at the time, but those words have stayed with me in the years hence. Soon after his warning, he was killed in a cave-in while inspecting the deeps of the mines.

As the oldest child of four, it was my responsibility to think for the future of our kingdom, though as an obedient son I did not want to go against my father’s wishes. I watched as he drove our already hard-working miners to exhaustion and death, forcing them to probe ever deeper into the bowels of the mountain, searching for deposits of the Red Ore. For the first time my father’s people became resentful as they watched their fathers, brothers and husbands die for the endless conquests into the earth.

Months later, a clan of cave-dwellers was found in the caverns sixty miles north of our city. A people we had never seen before, they seemed to live as savages and spoke no language we knew. Short, wiry, with dark reddish skin, eyes black as obsidian and menacing sharp teeth, they began attacking our miners, slowing their progress dramatically and killing several men each day. When my father heard of this he became furious, and declared war.

A company of three hundred men made up of miners, warriors and magic users were sent to destroy the Cave Dwellers. The battles lasted for months – it appeared that we had underestimated their fierceness and numbers. The death toll climbed sharply as our men neared the Cave Dwellers’ underground city, and our people began begging my father to pull them back. He ignored their pleas and sent two hundred more.

So obsessed with affairs under the ground, my father was, that he did not see the threats from outside our kingdom. As our battle with the Cave Dwellers neared its climax, my uncle Raymus led a swift attack on our city, crippling our defenses and making off with much of our stores of the Red Ore. My father, furious at the betrayal, called back the forces from the caves and prepared a counter-attack on Raymus. This is when it happened.

Two days after Raymus’ attack, as our troops were still amassing in the city, one of our watchtower men spotted something in the sky approaching our city. As it came closer it was apparent that not an airship or some other man-made device, but a beast of some sort. It came to rest hovering thousands of feet above Kaern, and we saw it in all of its terrible glory.

It was a creature no one had laid eyes on before – a gigantic crimson bird, but not really a bird, because instead of feathers it was covered with dense scales. Its wings must have spanned hundreds of feet, for with every beat the air rushed through our city with the force of many gales, and the ground shook as if to tear the castle apart. Lightning arced from its gruesome talons, and a horrible roar came from its gigantic beak. Ballista bolts had no effect on its hide, and our spell-casters were powerless against it.

It swooped down, and with one terrific blow destroyed the castle’s tallest tower, raining wood and stone down upon us. We knew that we were helpless against the beast, and began retreating our forces into the citadel and caves below. The lightning from its talons burnt our remaining warriors to a crisp, and it continued to crash against our walls until the entire city collapsed in on itself.

Only six hundred survived the attack; luckily everyone in my family was spared except for my younger brother (who had wandered out from the citadel to view the gigantic beast), but we were trapped beneath the ruins of the city. With most of our Arc-miners killed in the attacks it took us nearly a month to reach the surface, but when we finally did we found what we did not expect – the beast had stayed to roost on our fallen city, guarding it as a gigantic winged sentinel. He killed everyone that attempted escape, and collapsed the tunnels that we had created to the surface.

With all of our forces either dead or crippled, we could do nothing but regroup and concentrate on the essentials, such as water, food and caring for the wounded. Though in the twenty years since the attack we have rebuilt our people and our forces, we are no closer to reaching the surface. Every attempt to escape has been blocked by the beast, leading to more bloodshed, and many think that he will eventually collapse the caverns and kill us all. Thus Kaern is no longer known as the red jewel of the mountain, but we are called a Doomed City by our own people. Apart from the Cave Dwellers and the Great Beast, none know that we still live beneath our rocky tomb.

Since the attack my father has become a virtual recluse, speaking to almost no-one and eschewing most of his duties as King. Cha’tha, the leader of our military forces, spoke for him until I reached the age of manhood, at which time I was given the power to rule. Cha’tha has become like a father to me through these many years, and has inspired me beyond measure.

Now, in the forty-eighth Year of my father’s rule, our forces are amassing once again and we are attempting escape – but instead of upward, we must forge downward, into the bowels of the caves. Our only chance lies in defeating the hordes of the Cave Dwellers and finding a way out through their city. Our new generation of children, bred in these dark caves and raised on lichens and fungi must fight for our people’s solidarity, for the warriors who survived the attacks are now too old to carry this burden. I have appointed Cha’tha, wise in the ways of mining and making war, to train these youngsters. Our kingdom’s future lies in their hands.

Offline MoonHunter

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« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2004, 01:32:39 AM »
This is a nice lead in for the campaign, but you will need to better document everything for us to help you work on the world.  

So as I understand it, this is an all Dwarven city (though we don't have to call it Dwarven), which is currently beseiged by some monster above and a tribe of subterrainian primitives below.

There seems to be no help coming from above, though you have this ore material that everyone wants... you think someone would be coming to your rescue if for no other reason than to get more ore.

The King is insane for some reason. So there might be a plot around that

The population has been crippled by the warfare and thus does not have enough craft skills to support themselves. (Though how those people got lost, rather than minors and warriors, is vague).  Do you have an all female city these day?  

They have enemies on the surface, but why bother with those since the giant monster is blocking off the surface. Or is the monster, which has destroyed army units, defeatable by a set of adventurers?

So what will characters be and what will they be doing?  Is the purpose of the campaign to "get out", "get out and get help", or find a way to evacuate everyone out of the city?

As per types, the soldier warrior types should all be dead. So no fighter types. What do you see as a character?  

As for the ore, is it changing people to have powers... you alluded to that.. yet made no mention of it.  

Also, what is stopping them from digging laterally in other directions?
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Offline Strolen

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Kaern, the Doomed City - Suggestions Please!
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2004, 03:03:11 AM »
Great story and pretty darn interesting for a stand alone setting. But when reading a story that is what we do, we are just spectators. Do you have specific questions or just looking for thumbs up or thumbs down? Thumbs up, I say. Enough going on to make it interesting but there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

OOC then, why did the creature attack them and make its home there? Just a good place for a roost or is there more to it.

Definately curious about the lateral digs as Moon said. Those that dig can surely dig in any direction they want...and in 20 years they could probably dig a hole through the other side of the mountain if they wanted.

If it is just a roost for the 'dragon' then they can simply build a fortress somewhere else to base their trade.

If the ore is so important to the economy then even enemies of the 'dwarves' would have cause to kill the 'dragon' and either take over the mines for themselves and kill them in their weakened state or kill the 'dragon' so the ore trade can be reopened. Where greed is concerned, one monster isn't going to stop nations from getting the ore.

But, if there is another place that has this ore then the lost of one mining nation isn't going to severely cripple them so they can leave them to their fate knowing that they can always go back there and kill the monster if they run out of ore in other places.

When they have to retreat farther into the caves it seems that the war with the other folk would have increased and become a major threat. There would probably have been some kind of stand-off developed where the 'dwarves' guard and know they can go no further down their old tunnels. Still shouldn't keep them from digging in any other direction, including straight up from wherever they are to get out of the tunnels if they desire.

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Offline azimuth

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Kaern, the Doomed City - Suggestions Please!
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2004, 09:30:01 AM »
Thanks for the feedback and the thoughts, both of you -- I apologize for dropping this "treatise" in the forum without additional background.  This was intended as an introduction for possible players, and doesn't give a very good overview of the world or campaign focus.

The Colored Lands, as it is called, is inhabited by many folk, some of which are mentioned in the excerpt.  The people of Kaern are not dwarves, but shorter and slightly dark-skinned humans.  The Blue Folk of the north are river-elves, the Tree Whisperers are forest-elves, and the Tall Ones of the Tarnus Fields are men.  The other lands are to the west of the mountain range upon which the city sits.

The focus of the campaign, at least within the first few sessions, will be the training of a new group of warriors, mages and arc-miners (those who mine through the earth using magical power).  As they increase in skill, the attacks of the cave-dwellers will become more severe and they must help defend the city.

After the attacks have been repelled, it will be decided that they must travel through the caverns, rescue miners that have been captured, drive back the cave-dwellers and find an escape route through which the remaining Kaern people can be evacuated.

A quick note on your questions: They could try and dig out in another direction, but they fear that the beast which still roosts on top of the city will attack them.  Every attempt to dig themselves out has resulted in the loss of life, and since they have no remaining experienced Arc-miners (up until now), it is much more difficult to attempt excavation.

Now, we're getting to a "spoiler" point in the story:

When everyone is evacuated from the mountain they will attempt to regroup, but it is readily apparent that something is wrong.  In the 20 years since the Kaern people have been trapped underneath their city, Raymus Ettan (the uncle who betrayed them) and Rashaad (the exiled magician) have joined forces and, using the stolen Ore, conquered much of the peoples in the Colored Lands.  In fact it was Rashaad that summoned the huge beast to destroy the city of Kaern in the first place.

Probably at level 5 or 6 by now, the heroes of the story must help their people find a new place to live, defend themselves against the Haitayr Enforcers, defeat the beast that destroyed their city, and eventually liberate the peoples of the Colored Lands from Raymus and his Haitayr cronies.

-----

I realize this is a lot to take in, so I'll just shut up and let anyone who wishes to comment to do so.  Thanks again for the thoughts and I'll try to answer any questions posed.

-Jon

Offline azimuth

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Kaern, the Doomed City - Suggestions Please!
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2004, 09:44:53 AM »
Just a quick note on the other questions that were asked:

Quote

There seems to be no help coming from above, though you have this ore material that everyone wants... you think someone would be coming to your rescue if for no other reason than to get more ore.


True, there is more Ore in the caves beneath the city, some of which has been mined by the remaining Kaern people in the 20 years that they were stuck underground.  But as I mentioned in the "spoiler" section, the other folks of the Colored Lands had their own necks to worry about.  Also, with Raymus having a monopoly on Ore, he doesn't want anyone else to get at it.  The creature is safeguarding his investement.

Quote

The King is insane for some reason. So there might be a plot around that


Definitely.  He has become a recluse due to his failures to his people.  We'll see what happens when he gets back out into the world and finds out what his brother has done.

Quote

The population has been crippled by the warfare and thus does not have enough craft skills to support themselves. (Though how those people got lost, rather than minors and warriors, is vague). Do you have an all female city these day?


Most of the skilled tradesmen were killed in the initial attacks.  Some still survive, but most of the able-bodied men were used to try and fight the creature and were killed.  The rest were children who, now 20 years later, must learn the skills and grow strong to save their own people.


Quote

They have enemies on the surface, but why bother with those since the giant monster is blocking off the surface. Or is the monster, which has destroyed army units, defeatable by a set of adventurers?


Yes, as I mentioned in post #2 they will have to try and defeat it.  After Rashaad finds out that they are alive, he will surely use the creature again to attack them.

Quote

As per types, the soldier warrior types should all be dead. So no fighter types. What do you see as a character?


The older generation is mostly dead, but the children have grown up.  So we will have fighers, mages, arc-miners, and most other appropriate classes.  I haven't come up with a definitive list.

Quote

As for the ore, is it changing people to have powers... you alluded to that.. yet made no mention of it.


In game terms it means that they will have more defense against magic.

Offline azimuth

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« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2004, 09:52:51 AM »
And from Strolen:

Quote

Great story and pretty darn interesting for a stand alone setting. But when reading a story that is what we do, we are just spectators. Do you have specific questions or just looking for thumbs up or thumbs down? Thumbs up, I say. Enough going on to make it interesting but there are still a lot of unanswered questions.


Thanks!  I know there are a lot of unanswered questions but I will try to address as many as I can.  I'm just looking for any feedback you might have about making the story/setting better or "tighter".

Quote

Definately curious about the lateral digs as Moon said. Those that dig can surely dig in any direction they want...and in 20 years they could probably dig a hole through the other side of the mountain if they wanted.


As I mentioned, they had lost most of their Arc-miners, which is the primary way that they dig.  It is much faster than traditional digging with picks and spades.  All of the previous attempts to get out to the surface have roused the creature, who attacks and kills the miners.  They are also afraid that he will further collapse the caves and kill everyone remaining inside, so they don't want to risk it.  The other direction is downward, which is slowed by the cave-dwellers.

Quote

If it is just a roost for the 'dragon' then they can simply build a fortress somewhere else to base their trade.


They can if they can get out!

Quote

But, if there is another place that has this ore then the lost of one mining nation isn't going to severely cripple them so they can leave them to their fate knowing that they can always go back there and kill the monster if they run out of ore in other places.


Sort of like the Spice in DUNE, the Ore only exists within that area of the mountain range.  There is a relationship between the cave-dwellers and the Ore, but I haven't decided on that yet.  Suggestions?

Quote

When they have to retreat farther into the caves it seems that the war with the other folk would have increased and become a major threat. There would probably have been some kind of stand-off developed where the 'dwarves' guard and know they can go no further down their old tunnels. Still shouldn't keep them from digging in any other direction, including straight up from wherever they are to get out of the tunnels if they desire.


There will be a stand-off in the third or fourth session of the game, where they will have to drive the cave-dwellers back.  As I mentioned, most of the Arc-miners were killed as well as most of the strong men.  Now that 20 years has passed, all of those who were able-bodied men are older, and the young people must take over.

Offline Strolen

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Kaern, the Doomed City - Suggestions Please!
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2004, 10:36:22 AM »
Thanks for replying and answering the brainstorms...

I am not convinced of the fact that the 'dragon' would be able to find all the tunnels that the dwarves would be able to create to get to the surface. I think you definately need to allow them to have a few well hidden tunnels that allow them to escape their tunnels and perhaps get word from the outside. It is just too far to reach to say they are entirely trapped. Perhaps the mad king has an elite and loyal force that he used to get to the surface and get info or something.

Also, since there is a unified 'evil' of the wizard and the uncle those few that may have escaped the caves to get info from the outside world would have this information. Because of their linked causes I would think there could be a thriving, but dangerous, blackmarket or at least underground trade in this ore amongst the allies. Having this ore for the good guys would be a very important factor on all sides and perhaps the mad king is doing this on the side with his elite force while his son rules the dwarves. That could be a reason the 'dragon' 'finds' all the caves, because they underground smuggling routes get found and the 'dragon' is sent to destroy them. That would give me a feasible answer to why the general population believes they are trapped.

If they weren't trapped, would they leave? Maybe, probably, and the 'mad' king can't have that. He also has to have freedom to operate his blackmarket trade. So he becomes a recluse, the arc-miners are scarce (perhaps there are more then the population knows) and he uses this to smuggle ore to the outside world. His madness might just be that he doesn't trust his people with this secret and the outside NEEDS the ore, so he must sacrifice his people to stay in the mines to help the world.

Sort of rambled on that idea a bit, but it gives a little depth and when the characters find out about it then the whole situation sort of makes sense.

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Offline azimuth

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Kaern, the Doomed City - Suggestions Please!
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2004, 11:12:46 AM »
I see your point, but if they are able to dig a tunnel out, what stops the population of Kaern from simply escaping many years earlier?  The idea may work if the focus is them trying to get their city back, but the original conception is that they have been cut off from the rest of the world for many years, and everyone else has been concerned with the threat of the Haitayr so no one comes looking for them.

Once they escape, or find out what has happened, suddenly they have a purpose again.  Raymus has become powerful in their absence and they must defeat him to restore peace.  Also, they too have the power of the Ore, so they are more able to stand against the agressors.

Your idea about the smuggling is interesting, though.  Perhaps they could continue mining in their city once they have been liberated and start an underground trade to the other races, even if the monster hasn't been defeated yet.  They should also have significant stockpiles that were gathered since they were trapped.

Offline Strolen

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Kaern, the Doomed City - Suggestions Please!
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2004, 11:27:04 AM »
I am just stuck on the inability of being able to make any tunnels out. Might just be me though. When a group of people make their living out of making tunnels, they would be able to figure out something, even with only a few arc-miners.

And just because they have a tunnel out doesn't mean the entire city is going to egress. They aren't going to just get up and abandon their way of life and all the work, not to mention the ore, and just leave it all behind.

How big is this group of people. I at first thought nation, then as you spoke of only sending a few hundred to protect them I brought it down to a small town size. Is it hard for them to have offspring or do they move out? Just wondering how their size is kept small when before this they had no real enemies to keep their numbers down.

I think it will make a great adventure, but I want the details. :)

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Offline azimuth

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Kaern, the Doomed City - Suggestions Please!
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2004, 11:54:10 AM »
Heheh.  Honestly, I am hoping that my players will be able to suspend disbelief that the Kaern people were unable to dig their way out for 20 years; that they will be responsible for this and many other tasks as I mentioned above.

Talk about a lot of weight on your shoulders, though -- they have to not only liberate their own people, but everyone else in their corner of the world, starting from nothing.  I hope I don't overwhelm the players/characters.

As far as the numbers on the Kaern people, I haven't given it much thought.  Probably several thousand at the beginning, cut down to about 1,000 people at the time of the 48th Year?  I'd think that the harsh conditions and lack of much nutrition would keep their numbers down -- perhaps some of the Kaern children would be likely to say "screw this" and move to the Haitayr or somewhere else, instead of spending most of their time underground and living on molds and fungus.

Quote

I think it will make a great adventure, but I want the details.


Thanks, I'll try.   :D

Offline azimuth

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« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2004, 10:58:48 AM »
I may have to begin developing this further, since there's a chance that I will be running it this summer.  Any additional comments would be appreciated.

-az