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Author Topic: Campaign Assistance: Tears of the Prophet [LONG]  (Read 1487 times)

Posts: 30

« on: March 14, 2003, 12:06:40 PM »

I am presently working on a new campaign for TRoS (albeit with a variant magic system), and would love any input and suggestions you folks have to offer.

Premise:  The PCs struggle to preserve their loved ones and ambitions in a world which seems to be crumbling around them.  Doomsday cults and natural disasters point to a True Prophecy which foretells great tragedy.  Can the PCs weather the storm and protect the things they care about most?

Themes:  This campaign features duelling themes of Bitterness and Perseverance.  The bad things that happen are undeserved and unlooked for, but those of strong convictions may well be able to hold together and overcome adversity.

Background:  All magic in this world functions through prophecy.  A powerful magus has recently suffered a tragedy which cost him his true love, and in his bitterness and self-hate, he spat up a terrible curse.  He regrets what he has done, but this causes him to hate himself even more, and feel even more powerless, so he has not acted to remedy the hurts he causes.  Previously, this magus was a great hero, so many still follow him, and in some cases unknowingly aid the curse.

Inspirations:  The Deverry saga by Katherine Kerr and the Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass.  In these stories (and many others), the heroes struggle within the prophecy to fulfill their roles.  In my campaign, I intend a much more adversarial role between the PCs and the forces of fate.

Magic:  In the campaign world, all magic comes from manipulating chance and probability.  Thus, it is in some ways more subtle than the standard TRoS magic system.  Prophecy is a difficult tool to wield, but one which can have powerful and far-reaching effects.  There are four factors which determine the power and usefulness of magic:  Sight, Symbol, Sacrifice, and Time.  Sight: the ability to intuitively perceive chance and probability, it grants access to the tool of magic.  Sacrifice:  willing sacrifice provides the raw power which fuels magic.  The greater the sacrifice, the more the magic can change.  Symbol:  to use the power of sacrifice, one must forge a link between the power and the desired outcome.  The more skillful the link, the more likely one is to get what one intended, as opposed to merely what one asked for.  Prophetic words, rituals, and sympathetic magic are the most common forms of Symbol.  Time:  magic is in all places at once; the longer the time span, the less power is required to acheive the same effect, as smaller changes early on can have greater effects over time.  Time magnifies power.

Questions:  here's what I'm looking for in terms of my objectives for this post:

#1) The Prophecy:  if someone of a more poetic bent than I would care to help craft the wording of the prophecy itself, I would be very grateful.  My intention here is to pair a negative emotion (associated with bitterness) with a positive one using a verb which is also negative.  I think this will give me (and the PCs) the most room to interpret in trying to associate something that happens to part of the prophecy.  For example:
Devotion drowns in Misery, Comfort burns in Pain.
Malice poisons Constancy, and Joy yields Barren grain.
Rivalry robs Chivalry, and Glory weeps in Shame.
Hubris springs eternal.

(Rhyming is NOT required.)

#2) Magic:  I have a strong idea how magic actually works in the setting (explained above), and how much people know about how it works (not much).  

I could use advice, however, on how to apply the principles to the TRoS system.  If possible, I have no problem keeping the TRoS magic system as an underpinning, including SP and even vagaries, if that proves to be possible without having the players see that aspect.  I suspect that the main components will be quantifying the number of dice a given sacrifice & time span will grant ('though I fear whole dice may be too granular), and Symbol and Sight will provide the criteria under which those dice may be "spent".  

Alternatively, I may use the SA mechanics to judge both sacrifice and implement the mechanical effect.  Lastly, any advice within this framework for making magic powerful is welcome, since it does not have the direct power of a classical fireball mage or even a standard TRoS sorcerer.

#3) Lastly, I would very much like advice on how to run a theme such as "bitterness" without actually embittering the players or causing them not to have fun!  While the world and the premise are both grim, I would like to demonstrate to the players that all is not lost, and 'through real effort they can come through the other side.  I suspect that this will be a balancing act on my part, and any help you can give me in managing it would be very welcome.

Thanks for reading this far!  Although I tried to provide specific questions above for you to respond to, I also welcome comments of a more general nature.  If there are any points I can clarify or anything you're curious about, please feel free to ask!  Your feedback is most appreciated.

 . . . . . . . -- Eric

(Real Name: Eric H)
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2003, 05:50:39 PM »

Hi Eric,

I can't really offer a lot of help or info as far as the magic system goes, but as far as bringing out the "thematic" aspects of your game, I can give a little advice.  

Right now it seems like the abstract theme that you're looking at, "bitterness" is probably better described as something like cynicism vs. idealism or despair vs. hope, or something along those lines.  Traditionally, characters represent those themes in stories or movies, but seeing as the players represent the protagonists, the next best thing is to create characters or groups of characters who represent those abstracts and the grey areas between.

So a good method of doing this would be to clearly identify whatever it is that people are fighting over, and then to give folks motivations based around either bitterness or hope.  

To provide you with an example:  Let's say that various religious groups and cults are trying to tear down the main religion in the area, and that the PCs(or at least their families) are affiliated with the Church.  The concrete thing is who will control the cathedral, or will it be torn down?  Some of the church officials will be trying to preserve it out of hope for a better tomorrow, others will be doing so out of greed, or fear of losing power.  Likewise, in the cults, some folks will be acting out of a desire for a change for the better, while others simply want to take control.  Interactions between these folks on both sides will orient the players towards this theme, as long as you express the various motivations of the NPCs during play.  You can also play up the fear and paranoid of the church as the start to suspect the loyalties of their own people...

Second, in order to really push these motivations, use them as SAs.  A bit of fun, depending on what you make your end prophecy to being, is that you can make sub-conflicts using the SAs with various characters to sort of play out what's going on in the prophecy.  

Stuff like
-a devoted church member being lorded over(perhaps blackmailed) by a high official,
-a woman kept in a rich home is less a wife, more a slave,
-another person's jealously causes major disruption in a group,
-one of the big cult leaders is more or less a hedonist who's leading people away from planting needed crops,
-two knights fight over position while all the world falls apart
-A king or leader is plagued by a failure or shame and is unable to act
-And a new popular leader springs up, and his pride leads the conflict even worse...

Or something along those lines...

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