Our group started a new campaign on Saturday: We are playing the “New” (ish) Labyrinth of Ruin campaign. I've played as a Hero in prior campaigns, bur this was my first time playing as Overlord. It was made extra-difficult since my goal was to treat the game as a Role Playing game. This was going to be an experiment.
Descent was designed as a “dungeon crawler”, but is actually better described as a turn-based tactical combat game. My goal was to use the Descent campaign encounters as the “combat” portion of the play session, and to do some real Role Playing between sessions to develop the bare-bones campaign story a bit better. Mission goals and objectives would be presented in Role Play and the players would describe their actions in more detail, rather than “I move forward three spaces and (roll dice) hit the orc for (roll dice) six points.”
I had prepared a long history of the game world that laid out generations of history. My goal was to allow the players to have a rich backstory to develop their own characters from, rather than coming up with something fresh out of thin air. Unfortunately, I had a beloved pet die last week, and that really had a pretty major impact on my mental well-being. All of the great ideas I had in my mind were pretty much squashed flat and it was really hard for me to get into the story mode. This spilled over into the first session. Rather than telling a grand tale of intrigue and magic, I fell back to merely reciting the words I had written on the page. It wasn’t horrible, but I was not able to completely come up with the mystique that I was shooting for.
(I used the simply amazing Runiverse “fluff” files compiled by Steve Williams to put this together. It’s not official, but it should be!!)
After the world was set before them, I asked the players to choose an archetype. I stressed that it was not necessary that they have one of each archetype and that, in fact, it would probably be preferable if they were missing one or two and doubled up on others. I told them that they would be gaining a “non-player” character during the campaign that would fill any missing roles. After a short discussion, they selected their archetypes and ended up with the tried-and-true one-of-everything combination. I was a bit disappointed in the apparent lack of initiative, but it did happen organically, so I can’t say that they didn’t think about it. It was a conscious decision, not a default position.
Once archetypes were chosen, each player was given a card that described the four classes available within that archetype. Each player individually deliberated over the role they wanted to play. After they selected a class, they were given their starting class cards, and allowed to review the purchasable skill cards. Amazingly, not a single player asked if they could go back and choose again. I think this shows how much effort they put into their initial selections, and not trying to min/max the party makeup.
(I used the incredibly useful Hero Selection Guide to get to this point.)
After classes were chosen, I gave each player free reign to select a character within their archetype. I reminded them that there was going to be a strong Role Playing emphasis on the game so they should pick a character that was going to complement both their style of play and one that they could personally identify with. Two of the players were able to make a quick decision, within only a few moments. I knew the Warrior archetype would take the longest since it has the most character sheets available, and the warrior player slowed this down a bit by choosing to read each and every Hero Ability and Heroic Feat on every card.
The group that we ended up with are:
Trenloe (the Strong) – Berserker
Augur Grissom – Disciple
Kirga – Treasure Hunter
Leoric (of the Book) – Geomancer
After this phase was done, I asked all of the players to come up with a short character history and their individual motivations for coming to the adventure site. The looks on their faces varied from shock to terror to amusement to mild disinterest. Despite getting blindsided like that, they all came up with extremely good descriptions. Some were stronger than others, but they did not have much time to come up with their histories and they wanted to be consistent with the world I had already presented. I’m sure that many of these character break “cannon” for the Runiverse setting, but since we started out with an unofficial world backstory anyway, what does it matter?
Trenloe was a fighter in the undead army of Waqar Sumarion. He hated being undead and one day he fell behind his patrol. An (unspecified) miracle occurred and he was restored to life and began to fight for the forces of good. But his memories and dreams are haunted by the atrocities he had committed in his past so he flees to the comfort of alcohol.
Augur (the player running Augur is going to make him into a female dwarf) was a young dwarf who grew up in The Forge but always wanted to be an warrior, but was only taught simple healing skills as a child. As soon as (s)he came of age, (s)he went out into the world on (her) own, armed with only the countless sayings of (her) wise old grandmother.
Kirga is the daughter of caravan hired muscle who relocated to The Forge in hopes of cashing in on the dwarves near-monopoly on high-quality armor and weapons. She is extremely skilled with a whip and can use it not only to grab items from afar, but is able to spot weaknesses in other’s armor and has an quick eye for finding quality items.
Leoric was a professor at the University of Greyhaven when he was “invited” to take an extended sabbatical after expressing a bit too much interest in some of the younger students.
I have invited each player to expand on their backstories and will post them in this thread as they are developed.
As promised: here is the first player Role Playing character background story.
Trenloe the Strong
Old and Cold. It seemed as if that was all he felt any more. Sitting on a stone bench in an alcove of the Cathedral of Kellos, he the took a deep swig from the half-empty bottle of brandy in his hands. The red and gold armor of his new "god" Kellos comforted him much less than the hot liquor as it slid down his gut. He could feel the alcohol start to dull the memories of his past. It felt like centuries since he had last felt warm. He muttered aloud as he took another long drink. It had been so long....
Trenloe was born poor. His parents were sharecroppers working the lands in central Terrinoth, outside of King Daqan's capital. As he grew from a babe into a young boy, he would often marvel at the power and might of knights and soldiers that would pass by his farmhouse window, off on errant missions. He would daydream of the day that he would become a soldier and visit far off lands.
One night after Trenloe had grown into a young man, he was sleeping in a nearby barn. Hordes of marching soldiers streamed past on the road. Trenloe did not know what was happening, but he knew this was his chance to become a soldier. He grabbed his meager possessions and ran out to join their ranks. At first, the soldiers laughed at him and told him to go home, but his perseverance finally paid off. The Captain of the force told Trenloe that if he wanted to join their numbers, he would have to swear an oath of loyalty and would be expected follow any orders, no matter how strange or unexpected they might be. Trenloe quickly agreed and swore the oath. Little did he know that he had just volunteered in the army of Waiqar Sumarion and was about the attack the city that had been his lifelong home.
During the fight, Trenloe had little choice. His oath compelled him to take up arms and he fought his way into the city square along with others in his new company. Suddenly, a great ring of light exploded form the top of tallest tower in the city, the one belonging to the great wizard Timmoran Lokander. Bright flecks of glowing power streamed away in all directions. All fighting stopped as the combatants on both sides craned to look skywards at the display of power. As the light faded from the sky, Trenloe heard a great voice in his mind, swearing never to rest until all of the Stars were collected. All warmth left him, and he became undead.
Over the next few years, his un-life was one never-ending battle. The Elder Kings rule came and went. The Rebellions changed the names of places, but the land endured and so did Trenloe. Not all the Stars had been found and Trenloe's curse sustained him. The Dragonlords came and new wars erupted, spurred on by Trenloe's master. It during one of the final battles of the Dragon Wars, that mere happenstance gave Trenloe a second chance.
His company had been assigned to guard an old ruined Temple of Kellos not far from the site of his upbringing. He was assigned to watch duty on a crumbling wall when the army of the Free People attacked. A Dragonlord that had been hiding within the Temple burst forth and breathed fire on army. Trenloe was set alight by the dragon's fire. Knowing that it was his doom, he jumped off the crenellations into a deep pool of water, hoping to extinguish the burning fire. But this was a Temple of Kellos and the pool was a blessed spring. As his body plunged beneath the surface, the magical fire of the Dragonlord combined with the fading power of the sacramental water. His head broke the surface and he gasped out the first real breath he had drawn in nearly five thousand years.
The battle soon ended and a Knight of Kellos found Trenloe's now-living body next to the pool of water. It was proclaimed a miracle and Trenloe was immediately made into a Knight. He was taken back tot he Free City of Carthridge and given quarters in the Cathedral of Kellos, and equipped to fit his new station. But the memories of his past un-life never left him. He had committed untold atrocities in the service of his Master and those memories weight heavy on him to this day. He only took comfort in two things: fighting and drinking. Little else interests him.
He channeled his self-hatred into combat training and quickly became one of the strongest fighters on the Cathedral training grounds. He used his great strength to overpower opponents, rarely missing a strike. (Ability: reroll one power die on each attack.) He would often fly into a rage in melee, doing additional damage to his foes. (Skill: "Rage" gain +1 damage.)
When he can no longer fight, Trenloe seeks refuge at the bottom of whatever bottle he can find. Luckily, the sacramental wine used by the church was always on hand, and "convincing" the wineseller to include a barrel of brandy in the deliveries was the least of the sins that Trenloe carried on his conscience.
It is this broken Knight that comes to the Pylia Encampment, searching for... something.
Sorry about your pet.
You guys might also want to try D&D 4th edition...which is basically roleplaying Descent, haha.
(Many are not a fan, but I am, probably because I've always been a touch more mechanically minded than pure roleplay.)
There's a supplement book for it called Dungeon Delve also, that has 20 'missions' you can run your group through as one-offs.
I would even predict that translating any full Descent campaign into D&D 4th would be perfectly possible. Even the maps. (same 1" scale)
I would even predict that translating any full Descent campaign into D&D 4th would be perfectly possible. Even the maps. (same 1" scale)
Indeed, I did exactly that a few of years ago (in 1E, of course.) It was one of the major reasons I had for compiling the aforementioned Runiverse Fluff document in the first place.
I imagine the process would be even easier with 2E campaigns.
@OP: Sounds like you guys are having fun here! Keep us posted. =)
I got my second player submitted character backstory!
Kirga is the daughter of caravan guards. As you might expect, Kirga learned early on the many tasks such a life would entail. More often that not Kirga would serve as lookout for her family. Kirga was extremely observant for her age, but she had trouble keeping her hands to herself.
As she grew older, she became more and more dishonest. Much to her delight, a somewhat oblivious merchant named Kendal ignored Kirga's penchant for trouble. He taught her everything there was to know in the art of appraisal. Kirga, of course, used what he taught her to delve into the art of forgery.
As Kirga grew into adulthood, she became bored with the limitations of the nomadic caravan life that kept her from further developing her forgery techniques. She packed her bags and headed out for the long-abandoned dwarf citadel, Koganusan.
Kirga had a lot of fun looting that citadel over the next few years. She had quite the pile of plunder when she was done, but, despite her best efforts, she could not figure out how to create passable knock-offs of the dwarven inventions. She decided to go schmooze with the only dwarves around, and struck a course for The Forge. (She may or may not have robbed everyone she encountered along the way.)
Turns out, the dwarfs had been waiting for someone like Kirga to come along. They bought the items she had salvaged from Koganusan, and they also hired her to help preserve their monopoly of all the best dwarven creations. Any thefts of dwarven goods were reported to Kirga, and she gleefully “repossessed” the items and brought them back to The Forge in exchange for quite the fee. Kirga was also sent out to the old dwarven citadels to retrieve what the dwarves didn't feel like trudging out to get themselves.
Della Kolmud, a matriarchal guild master in The Forge, developed a fondness for Kirga. Della started lavishing quite impressive rewards on the treasure-hunting orc. One of those rewards was a rare Dead Man's Compass (Item: gain 1 movement point if within 3 spaces of a search token.) but other that, no one knows for sure. It has been said that she carries a nasty amulet of warding though (Ability: monsters can not target her if there are other heroes closer to that monster and in its line of sight.)
As for fighting techniques, Kirga tends to prefer dwarven fire bombs and exotic range weapons. Her current weapon of choice is a deceptively ordinary-looking whip. If you're dead-set on inviting her to this thing of yours, I'm sure she can handle her own, but try to warn the other people you invite that Kirga is a bit impatient and pushy. (Feat: Use during another figure's activation to immediately perform a move action.) Also, it would be in their best interest if they left their heirlooms at home!
The third character backstory was emailed to me this evening. Complete with footnotes! (Some taken from the Runiverse "fluff" document.) I'm so impressed I present it here with no edits whatsoever, complete with typographical and grammatical errors, as emailed to me.... My Hero players are really getting into this so far!
Leoric of the Book
My original goal for Leoric is to show a man who has not fallen from grace, but he does not managed to uphold his ideals gracefully. He tells himself he follows his Hippocratic oath, but he’s just going to use stone shapes and earthquakes to kill when he has to, and it’ll only make him more bitter. Originally interested in the natural world thanks to his bright parents (a), he later turned this lust for knowledge to medicine, anatomy, and fixing people. This is mostly because despite all of his virtues, he was 10, and he sincerely believed the world was going to end.
Of course, he still believes the world is about to end. He waited out the intervening years first in the cloister dedicated to Kellos. His fondness of myth and legend did lend itself well to Kellos, and he did sincerely wish to do something good with his talents. However, due to the hierarchical nature of the church Leoric’s formative years saw him prematurely defrocked (b), with bitter feelings on both sides. He couldn't turn a blind eye to what he now knows to be ordinary politics and administrative ‘graft’ in the biggest center of worship in the baronies, and his superiors could not tolerate someone who diminished the church in the eyes of the community with his arguments, challenges, and lack of discretion.
They still call him Leoric of the book to mock him for being a failed priest, and it does bother him.
Despite the fact the church had to kick him out some of Leoric’s fellows and mentors did see some potential in him and did not wish to see it wasted. Without his knowledge, an old mentor managed to speak to an acquaintance of his at Greyhaven University (c). Leoric had applied in one of his bitter phases a year prior, but lacked any real patron to fund his studies. With the holy father’s endorsement and a few books concerning the Elder Circle (d), our unlikely protagonist received a patron under the condition he do some rather serious undergraduate work on studying the Elder Circle. As a moody young man, Leoric was already familiar with the site in passionate detail.
He believed it to be ancient and enduring, holding together a greater mystery he had never puzzled out. Spending time there was also a good time to brood, which he did a lot of early on. But it made him forget for a time that the world was ending, and he was grateful. Out of this obsession you what eventually steered him towards geomancy.
During the following years, as an undergraduate, a fellow, an associate professor, and other such humiliating offices, Leoric watched his old patrons fade from the scene. However, his esoteric field at least gave him a niche, and not many of his fellows were both experts on religion, and willing to criticize the practices of the faith. He was reluctant to learn ‘useful’ applications from the occult stones he had studied, imbued with power from generations of blood spilled, incantations made, and sacrifices accepted. His only escape from the politics of the university was working on his great work that will establish him as a Runecaster and to be left alone. He did not know what it would be, but he found reasons to travel far and wide. He did not mean to be gone so long, but he took an ecclesiastical variant of the Hippocratic oath (e) in the cloister. While he is not bonded to any power or god, he takes it all the more seriously for that.
Learning to bend great arcane powers to defend yourself without doing something that repulsed him was truly a challenge, and time consuming. To explain his exceptional practical wisdom, I wanted to work in lots and lots of historical anecdotes to give him color. I’ll probably wish to make some up on the fly, but I had some basic ideas.
He was a vizier to an up and coming (failure of a) Sultan. He mostly was an exotic foreigner, and added to the prestige of his homely court. He tried to help, but he found it a harsh, confusing land, which often brought out man’s worst nature.
+ He was press-ganged by deserters and outcasts who sought opportunity in a land still recovering. This establishes the fact he’s a coward, and was willing to be intimidated if it meant he was stabbed by these men he met by chance. However, he learned something about crime, economics, and surviving outdoors. I wanted to work in with Kirga that we might have crossed paths before, and Leoric used Kirga as a distraction to escape, or as a way to set up the brigands to fail miserably and die. He was pretty bitter and shameful, by the end.
+ He was an intended sacrifice when he ran into some scoundrels who seemed to be willing to buy him drinks and listen to his stories in Nerekhall (f). Turns out, they had made some sort of esoteric magical error and wouldn't be able to sacrifice him at all. Feeling a distinct loss of face in front of the junior professor of Greyhaven, they let him go. The fact they could do something so callous and attend class the next day reminded Leoric of his own school, and contributed to his eventual disenchantment with his life there.
+ A broad category could be defined by his experience as a mercenary, or adventurer. He still feels the doom and gloom from when he was 10, so he doesn't worry about risk when it’s only a potential part of a job. So he’s been reckless, he’s survived, and he learns. He tries to share his wisdom about being beaten, cursed, impaled by traps, falling down pits, betrayal, etc. This lends him an air of humility that would have been godly and pious in the cloister. He’s old enough now he can laugh at that, and who he was, but he still hates pit traps.
I think I’ll call it there for now, two pages is a lot of backstory. This is mostly the stuff I was toying with working in on the fly, but it might make the game a bit easier for you if you already know what it is I’m drawing on. To wrap up the last part before the adventure briefly--
When he did finally come back to the school, he could take care of himself. And he was ten times worse than he ever was in the cloister. Perhaps his age was catching up on him, maybe he is rather preoccupied after learning about some strange rumors concerning upheaval and magical intrigue back in Cathridge thanks to that absentee Daqan Baron "Lord" Zachareth. He declares he’s found a new lead, and he takes off as part of his graduate runecaster work. All the while knowing that considering the circumstances he left under, he’ll never be able to go back.
And he may be okay with that.
(a)Bright, like scribes, not wizards
(b)They told him he could not become a priest
(c)Greyhaven: Best known for the Universities of Greyhaven which have, for generations, been the paragon of magical learning and knowledge of the arcane. Runecasters the world over have learned how to work their magics here. [D1/RtL]
Also houses the Shadow Academy, an underground magic school in Greyhaven, run by Kral the Bone Lich and offering to teach young wizards the forbidden arts in exchange for a piece of their soul. [RB/Web]
(d)Elder Circle, the: A old set of stones arranged in a circular pattern in the Carthridge Downs. A strange cavern is hidden beneath. [D2: The Ritual of Shadows (Q)]
(e)Or some variant that makes him reluctant to use the supernatural to hurt. Directly.
(f)Nerekhall: Another center of arcane lore, although not as prestigious as Greyhaven. The wizards in Nerekhall are not as shy about researching the darker arts - such as necromancy - as their counterparts. This cavalier attitude towards the darker arts has been known to cause trouble from time to time, however. [D1/RtL]
I just found this post. I marked them all to come back and read later. This is exactly what I've been wanting to do and people keep telling me to go play DnD.