PLEASE NOTE: What follows are my personal notes for our latest campaign, somewhat adapted for the unfamiliar reader(notes about places, etc). If something is unclear, comment about it, and I will be happy to amend the entry to clarify for you.
Merxes of Gremos
Merxes is a powerful, passionate and charismatic evil wizard. He was banished from his homeland of Gremos, where he was a distinguished member of the ruling elite, for inciting servile insurrection and attempting to overthrow the government. He barely escaped with his life to seek his fortunes in the Desolation.
FYI: The Desolation: An unexplored and dangerous portion of the world, separated from the civilized world by a large mountain range that acts to isolate the area. Filled with all manner of savage creatures, it is the home of the world's most dangerous and awesome creatures, including dragons, elementals, demons, and so on. You had better have your stuff together when you enter, otherwise it will be the last thing you do.
He is a human, approximately 40 years of age, of average height, weight and build. He has a long flowing bushy beard that is almost dwarf-like in it's fullness. He looks more like a thin barbarian without his robes on. He is of almost god-like intelligence and charisma.
He is a man of unsurpassed leadership ability, inspiring people to rally to his cause with unending loyalty, even without the use of magical abilities. He can make even the most evil of plans sound reasonable. It is this charisma and oratory ability that makes him such a horrific force to be reckoned with.
His current goal is to destroy the Kingdom of Gremos, in order to carry favor with the immortals, as he one day seeks to join their ranks, his quest in life. He realizes that this feat, the destruction of Gremos is all but impossible without the aid of many loyal troops and/or some controlled troops, as well as the help of some like-minded wizards to aid his cause.
He seeks to accomplish this goal in two major ways. First, he will create an army of the undead, a group of loyal followers who will fight to the death in the accomplishment of his goals. For this task, he seeks the Connivance of Mortality, an artifact for creating and controlling the undead to form an army.
However, he also needs dead troops to fill the ranks, which means that he needs as many dead creatures in a single location as possible to make it feasible. For this second task, he intends to unite the warring factions in Kedion under a single banner to attack first Ceriloth and then Firalin. This will have three effects. First, it will mean that he weakens the nations around Gremos, second, it will mean he does not have to personally arm the troops (they will be armed when they are reanimated), and third, his army will ONLY be defeated if all of his troops are physically annihilated.
BRIEF WORLD NOTES
These (very brief) notes are provided for a sense of geographical and political understanding.
Gremos is a small magocracy, filled with powerful wizards and their servants. South of Gremos is Kedion, a large area filled with every manner of evil creature, mostly left to their own devices because they can't organize enough to be a threat. Ceriloth is a fun-loving nation next door to Kedion(to Kedion's west). Firalin is the militaristic nation to the north of Ceriloth. They are, size differences aside, in the four corners of a large continent, more or less.
The Connivance of Mortality
While surviving the Desolation, he learned of the Connivance of Mortality from a portion of it that he found, a book called the Book of the Bleak. The Connivance of Mortality is an artifact that would allow him to create and control massive amounts of undead creatures, providing he can assemble all the pieces. There are 10 pieces to the device, scattered throughout the lands.
The Scepter of Visualization (in Firalin)
This powerful magical device allows its wielder to see across vast distances, even across continents. This is used in conjunction with the Rod of Transmission to allow information to be transmitted back and forth that would allow an army to be controlled.
The Gauntlet of Soiling (in Firalin)
When this item is placed on consecrated ground, the result is that ground becomes de-consecrated, and any dead buried in that ground come to life as animated corpses. They do not obey the person wielding the gauntlet, but it does awaken them. If the gauntlet is placed upon sacred ground, it de-consecrates the ground, and passes on disease to anyone coming in direct or indirect contact with it. Furthermore, given enough time, it changes living people into zombies.
The Scarab of Ruination (in Firalin)
The Scarab of Ruination is a device capable of bringing forth the evil in any demi-human creature, although it does not allow for control. Their outlook stays the same with respect to the law, but their moral compass goes awry. Only a good creature may retrieve it from it's resting place, however, a measure thought to prevent evil creatures from gaining control of it. This device is used to turn normally moral creatures to the path that the evil user deems important. It isn't a control device, per se, but helps get normally sentient people to see things your way.
The Ring of Programming (in Ceriloth)
This ring allows for the undead creatures to understand even complex military commands, allowing them to respond to them as a normal army.
The Shield of Animation (in Ceriloth)
Combined with the Armor of Vigor, this shield allows the user to reanimate dead creatures. The shield is worn on the back so as to not get in the way of other activities.
The Armor of Vigor (in Kedion)
Combined with the Shield of Animation, this shield allows the user to reanimate dead creatures. The armor is magically enhanced so as to not get in the way of spell casting.
The Helm of Domination (in Kedion)
Along with the Crown of Dominion, this device allows for the overall control of the undead once reanimated.
The Rod of Transmission (in Gremos)
This rod allows its wielder to transmit information to undead creatures over vast distances, even across continents.
The Crown of Dominion (in Gremos)
Along with the Helm of Domination, this device allows for the overall control of the undead once reanimated.
The Book of the Bleak (WAS in the Desolation)
This book is both a guide to undead reanimation and their control, as well as a history of the Connivance of Mortality. It gives the reader the understanding necessary to wield the connivance, and provides the necessary information to control an army of the undead.
This book fell into Merxes' hands, and has provided him with enough information to go searching for the rest of the pieces of the Connivance. He currently has this book in his possession.
The War of Decay
In order to accomplish his goal of continent wide war, Merxes must convince Trelimond Kedia, the "leader" of Kedion, to allow Merxes to raise an army from his population. He is currently in negotiation with Kedion to allow him to do this. He cannot reasonably magically charm the powerful leader, so he must offer him something that he desperately seeks.
What Trelimond Kedia seeks is world domination. Merxes will put him in charge of the entire continent once he has defeated the Kingdom of Gremos, having no further use for earthly possessions, having achieved his goal of immortality.
His plan consists of convincing the leaders of one faction (the orcs in the west) to meet among themselves, whereupon he will charm all of them(magically) into cessation of violence. Then, he will meet with the leaders of the opposing faction (the goblins and hobgoblins in the east), and likewise charm them to cease the violence. He will promise them riches and wealth beyond their wildest imaginations, and they will believe him. This will ripple down to affect the population as a whole. The process will probably take a year or so to completely subside the violence between the factions. They will then meet in Bu (the Kedion capital), settle their differences, and proceed on a grand war that will mobilize everyone to attack Ceriloth, their weaker neighbor to the west.
However, he must also enlist the aid of many powerful mages to directly combat the wizards that inhabit Gremos. To this end, he uses the famed Trove of Wonders, found in the Grandmaster's Tower in the capital of Kaern. They may plunder whatever they desire from inside it's supposedly limitless walls if they help Merxes, a huge incentive to wizards who live their entire lives and never get to see the wonders of this vault of magic.
Once this war begins, Merxes will command the army from afar, reanimating the dead as the living creatures are killed. His army will grow as his enemies are vanquished. In order to continue this war to it's necessary conclusion, he MUST have the Connivance of Mortality completed assembled. Once he has this built, he will believe himself to be all but unstoppable.
He will begin the war before he has all of the pieces, so that when the Connivance is fully assembled, he can reanimate the dead behind the current army in a leap-frogging fashion. In this way, he will always ensure that the actual living soldiers would never be in a position to be a threat to the undead soldiers he is creating, there will be too many of the living soldiers that will already be dead.
The only possible way to bring this threat to it's knees is to either kill Merxes (that would be incredibly difficult, given his use of the Connivance of Mortality) or find the Niwrad, a powerful magical artifact with the capability of the absolute destruction of other magical artifacts, thus reducing the army to the living creatures that are left. Located on another plane, this device would be the result of a great quest to seek it out, and only granted by the immortals to those deemed worthy of its use.
The characters must use the Niwrad to destroy the Connivance of Mortality, and then must defeat Merxes and what remains of his army.
Since Merxes can't risk being captured or killed personally, he has hired a group of hungry adventurers to carry out his tasks. Armageddon's Engineers are the servants of Merxes, a group of evil adventurers seeking their own fame and fortune by accepting the mantle of Merxes' tasks. They are the direct competitors of the PCs, and whenever Merxes is up to something, you can bet that Armageddons Engineers are right in the middle of it.
There are various members of this group, and they are led by a pair of cunning and evil spellcasters, a priest and a wizard. To back them up, there are three huge fighters, named The Shamed, The Damned and The Blamed, respectively. Accompanying this core group are several assassins and another priest and wizard, who perform their duties as required, but are considered secondary to the core group.
Our campaign started out with several "getting to know the PCs" adventures, to get their feet wet, and solidify their tactics as a group.
During this time, Merxes has already begun to use AE(armageddon's engineers), to gather portions of the Connivance of Mortality. He was also working to settle the Kedion Hordes and unite them. Things began to take shape.
It was at this time, the PCs noticed certain strange things were happening. Small instances of diseases and plagues were popping up to weaken the strong nation of Firalin, there had been several historic sites plundered without rhyme or reason that the PCs could discern. They were curious as to why the sites were chosen for plunder, and they investigated. To their horror, they found that these were the resting places of pieces of the Connivance, and they were now missing. Someone was trying to get the Connivance back together, and it has but one purpose, to raise an army of the undead.
They searched for pieces of the Connivance to prevent this, and succeeded in finding several of them, only to find that they were double-crossed by what they percieved as a minor influence on the campaign, a traitorous member of the Ethian Council(the ruling council in their home town). They found they no longer could guarantee that any of the pieces were NOT in the hands of Merxes, at least the ones they knew of.
They set out to find the remaining pieces as quickly as possible, and found their path was inextricable crossed with AE for many of their journeys. Many incredible fights ensued, with some ending in defeat of AE, and some ending in the defeat of the PCs, but always, one side managed to limp away to fight another day.
Then the war began, throwing the entire continent into upheaval. The only known pieces remaining of the Connivance were deep behind enemy lines, behind millions of orcs and goblins and other, more dire, evil creatures that had joined the side of Merxes. They had to get to those pieces, at least one of them, to stop Merxes from accomplishing his goal.
But alas, they were too late! They were approaching the last resting place of the final piece, and the dead surrounding them suddenly sprang to life! They were surrounded by a forming army of undead, Merxes had completed the Connivance, woe be cast upon the world! He must be stopped! But first, the PCs had to get out of the way of the army of the undead. Run away! They did, and lived to fight another day. Our tale continues...
After a bit of research, they discovered the Niwrad, an artifact of legend that would undo the magic of the Connivance. They began to search in earnest for the Niwrad, before the war could reach the conclusion of total world destruction, and hopefully before their home nation of Firalin was utterly annihilated.
After searching multiple outer and inner planes, they managed to secure the Niwrad after a quest worthy of the gift bestowed upon them.
Returning to the Prime Material plane with the Niwrad in hand, now it was simply a matter of finding Merxes, who had remaining mostly hidden throughout the entire time of the war. Where could he be hiding? Divinations and Communes were undertaken, and Merxes location was discovered, protected by many fearsome allies, and, of course, the entirety of Armageddon's Engineers.
Would they defeat Armageddon's Engineers and use the Niwrad to end the curse of the Connivance of Mortality that Merxes was wearing at the time? Would they defeat Merxes himself, and then finish off the army he had raised? I'm not sure, you'll have to find out for yourselves...
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? Responses (4)-5
I don't normally rate "save the universe" type plots too highly, mainly because hey are usually so unbelievable (?? if the local Mr Evil is so uber-powerful that the kings' army can't defeat him how do you expect half a dozen disparate adventures to do so ??).
However, in this case (somewhat unusually) it does appear that a small group of dedicated heroes could affect the outcome where a whole army might fail. The trick (from the GMs point of view) is to break this down into a whole series of sub-plots, effectively running the main plot as a campaign arch. In fact the plot (as written) almost begs for this approach.
Each of the parts of the Connivance of Mortality can easily become a scenario (recover or destroy it before Armageddon's Engineers can find it), as does the Niwrad (Merxes would certainly want to locate and destroy this).
There is also room for a little political intrigue (if that's your players' bag) designed to prevent, or at least limit, Marxes' attempts to recruit allies. Trelimond Kedia would not entirely trust Marxes (nobody ever fully trusts a turncoat) so it should be possible to poison his mind against the villainous mage, similarly at least some of the wizards tempted by his offer of looting the Trove of Wonders might be swayed if reminded of Marxes' duplicity.
It should also be possible to disrupt his planned alliance with the orcs, goblins, and hobgoblins. After all, these races are all traditional enemies, not only of man but of each other as well, so a cleaver party might easily convince them that they have been betrayed, if not by Marxes then by Kedia or one of their supposed allies.
Individually none of these would stop Marxes completely of course, but each would weaken him. The war is going to happen whatever the PCs do, but the more they do the less likely Marxes is to win.
All in all, a good implementation of an old idea that manages to avoid the normal cliches - 4/5
The only thing I would of asked was that the main NPC was actually posted as an NPC and linked back to the plot.
The items being written up would of been nice. This is more of a campaign set up that a specific scenario. It might be more functional if it was broken up into a number of scenarios linked together by the NPCs and the Items.
I second both MoonHunter and Dragon Lord here, except I do like 'save the universe' plots. In my opinion this campaign is not terribly innovative, we have seen undead armies and disassembled artifacts before. There is a lot of DnD heritage here, the rod of seven parts and X number of DnD campaigns, as well as a taste of Diablo.
I do think this will be playable, experience tells me so, and I like the build up of the campaign. The execution is well planned and I bet most players will remember this campaign for a long time. It is all dependant on how the individual scenarios are built, but from your notes they seem well executed. You could possibly post those scenarios as plots and link to them from here, though I realize that is a huge effort and not likely something you have the time to do.
Overall 4/5 with one point subtracted due to the lack of originality.
Good sub with excellent comments. Agree with whats been said. Looks like there are a few goodies to be plundered here as well.