Way of the Wicked

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Who wants to be a hero, when it's so much more fun to be wicked?
To the Vale!

Be the Villain

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How many times have you saved the world? I’m serious. In all interactive entertainment – computer games, roleplaying games, maybe also live action games and choose your own adventure games -- how many times have you personally saved the world? I suspect that the answer is “too many times to count.” I know that’s my answer. Welcome to “Way of the Wicked”. Here, the PCs are not trying to save the world. If anything, the world needs saving from them. In short, you have before you an evil campaign.

It is common wisdom in certain circles that evil campaigns never work out. It may sound like fun to be the bad guys but inevitably, the old saw goes, such games always turn into brutal player versus player vengeance fests. If the players do not simply assassinate one another, then they likely wander the world murdering everything unlucky enough to encounter them. If, miracle of miracles, they manage a motivation beyond repetitive carnage, the campaign is still likely to fall apart in the face of just how hard it can be to come up with an inspiring wicked scheme. Evil games, the naysayers contend, suck.

They have a point.

Evil campaigns face a raft of problems that conventional ‘good guy’ campaigns never have to wrestle with. If you are playing a pack of noble warriors, devout clerics and loveable scoundrels with a heart of gold – you may squabble, but there is little chance of such squabbles coming to blows. And while your game still has plenty of carnage, you do occasionally meet someone else who is inarguably also a good guy and roleplaying will break up the monotony of murder.

And who needs a complex plan as a good guy? You have a simple plan – smite evil! How liberating! You work together, defeat monsters, accumulate treasure and levels and maybe by the end of the game save the world. Again. It sounds wonderful.

And it is. That’s a fine formula for a campaign. It’s such a great formula that I’m sure that if you have been playing RPGs for more than a year or two that you’ve explored that road probably more than once. In “Way of the Wicked” we are going to travel a darker road. We are going to put together an evil campaign that works. This entire endeavor is dedicated to the proposition that evil games don’t have to suck. Yes, they take a little more thought and preparation than a typical campaign. But when done well, they are immensely satisfying. Towards the back of this book, you will find an essay dedicated to helping you, the Game Master, overcome the well-known pitfalls that seem to plague the typical evil campaign. Read it. Take it to heart. Hopefully, it will help you overcome the usual points of failure.

Why bother? Why not always play good guys? The short answer – it is fun to be the bad guy! It’s fun to menace the populace in black spiky armor and to call forth the powers of hell to do your bidding. Bad guys get all the best lines. Bad guys have style. Bad guys get to laugh maniacally as they plot the downfall of those fools who dared oppose them!

In this campaign, we try our best to put the pitfalls behind us. Here, the forces of evil have a reason to work together. Here, the forces of evil have a purpose beyond simply murdering everything they meet. Here, we provide you with what we hope you agree is a pretty neat wicked scheme. This book is the first of six “evil campaign” toolkits that together will show you how to be the best bad guy that you can be.

So take a break from saving the world. Take a break from restless farm boys and loveable scoundrels who unite to fight an ancient evil. Put on your best black hat and get ready to walk the Way of the Wicked. By the time we’re done, the world will tremble in your wake.

You

Welcome to Branderscar

In the kingdom of Talingarde, many crimes may send you to Branderscar Prison, but the sentence has but one meaning. You are wicked and irredeemable. Each of you received the same greeting when you arrived. You were held down by rough hands and branded upon the arm with a runic F. The mark signifies ‘forsaken’ and the painful scar is indelible proof that each of you has betrayed the great and eternal love of Mitra and his chosen mortal vassals.

Condemned, you face at best a life of shackles and servitude in the nearby salt mines. Others might await the “gentle” ministrations of the inquisitors so that co-conspirators may be revealed and confessions extracted. Perhaps, some of you will be spared this ordeal. Perhaps instead you have come to Branderscar to face the final judgment. In three days, the executioner arrives and the axe falls or the pyre will be lit. Through fire or steel, your crimes will be answered.

You have all been chained together in the same communal cell dressed in nothing but filthy, tattered rags. Manhandled and mistreated, any finery you once possessed is either ruined or long lost. No special treatment has been given any prisoner – male or female, commoner or noble – all of the forsaken are bound and imprisoned together. Your feet are secured by iron cuffs tethered by one long chain. Your arms are secured to the wall above by manacles. A guard is posted right outside the cell day and night. Little thought is given to long term accommodations. At Branderscar, justice comes swift and sure.

Escape seems hopeless. You have all been well searched and every attempt to conceal anything on your person has failed. And if you could somehow slip your bonds and fly out of this prison, where would you go? Who from your former life would want anything to do with the forsaken? Despised, alone and shackled – all that you can do now is await your doom.

For each of you, your old life is over. For each of you, hope is a fading memory. For each of you, justice will be fairly meted. And who can blame fair Talingarde after what each of you has done?

Paths to Wickedness: How to Make a Villain

Preface

So, you're awake, this is good. We have taken your tools so that we can have an honest conversation.

You think we're monsters, and that may be correct, but what we are doing here is not what you would have done. You would not have offered us mercy, for you are the good guys and we are obviously monsters...

I'll let you know something secret, something you wouldn't have know had we not bested you and taken your torn, bleeding corpse and mended it and sat you here, in front of us, whole and retaining your dignity. We're not monsters. We're not bad guys, we're not evil. We're in the the business of offering hope. Hope for a better future, not like us wretched creatures devoid of hope.

I'm here to offer you a choice. Side with us and be free. You would have never offered us the choice, but we offer this to you because we're not monsters.

We're in the business of hope. Hope for the future, hope for freedom. Hope for change.


Villains

Dead Villains

Introduction

Guilty. You are a lawbreaker – the worst of the worst. Too dangerous to live amongst the good people of Talingarde, they dragged you in chains before a magistrate and condemned you. They sent you to the worst prison in the land and there they forever marked you. They held you down and branded you with a runic F. You are forsaken. You won’t be at Branderscar Prison for long. Branderscar is only a holding pen. In three days – justice comes. In three days – everything ends.

What a pity. If only there was a way out of this stinking rat-hole. If only there was a way to escape. If only… No. No one has ever escaped from Branderscar Prison. This is where your story ends.

What is Talingarde?

Talingarde is the most virtuous, peaceful, noble nation in the world today. This land is ruled by King Markadian V called the Brave of House Darius. He has only one heir – the beautiful princess Bellinda. This benevolent monarchy is heavily intertwined with the Church of Mitra, the Shining Lord. You are from Talingarde. This is your home. You have lived here your entire life. And if they gave you half a chance, you would have your revenge on all of them.

Who is Mitra?

Mitra, the so-called Shining Lord, is the god of the sun, bravery, honor, justice, charity and other such pusillanimous tubbish. The Church of Mitra is the preeminent religion of Talingarde these days. The Knights of the Alerion Order, the elite warriors of Talingarde, are a Mitran order. The monks of St. Macarius, who travel the land healing the sick and the helping the needy, are also a Mitran order. The House of Darius, the royal family of Talingarde, are devout followers of Mitra.

It wasn’t always this way. Before the Darians took over, Talingarde worshiped an entire pantheon of deities. Preeminent among those deities was Asmodeus, Prince of Hell, Lord of Ambition and Order. Now it is forbidden to worship Asmodeus. To do so is to be condemned. The Mitrans destroyed all the Asmodean temples and burned his books and priests. There are no followers of Asmodeus anymore in Talingarde – at least none you know of. Devout Mitrans will not say the name Asmodeus. He is simply “The Fallen” or “The Enemy”.

How did they catch me?

You tell us. You must pick a crime (there is a list provided below) that you were condemned for. They are only two requirements – you got caught and you really did it. It’s not surprising that the Talireans (the people of Talingarde) caught you, though. Talingarde is a fiercely lawful and good society. Crime (especially heinous crime like yours) is not tolerated.

All PCs must be evil. Chaotic evil is not allowed.

Further, every character must choose a crime that landed in them in Branderscar. They were not wrongly imprisoned -- they are guilty of their charge. There is a further requirement and it is something of an intangible quality. At some point in this adventure path every character is going to have the chance to join an evil organization and swear allegiance to the master of that organization and its patron – the evil god Asmodeus. The adventure path assumes you say yes to this chance. Therefore, you should make a character who can say yes.

The Path of Vengeance

Perhaps right now, you may be experiencing a little cognitive dissonance. This campaign is about breaking out of prison, joining an evil organization and then seeking revenge. Above, we recommend that characters be lawful evil. You may be asking yourself right now “how is breaking out of prison and getting revenge lawful?”

It isn’t.

(4e doesn't have an alignment called "lawful evil" but evil means just that.)

Lawful evil is the recommended alignment not because your character is obeying the laws of Talingarde but because your characters seek to impose a new order. This is not the campaign for chaotic loners or freespirited vagabonds. Those campaigns exist in abundance and if they are what you are looking for, perhaps you are in the wrong place. This is a campaign about joining an evil organization with a wicked agenda. Eventually, you may even come to control that evil organization. “Way of the Wicked” is a chance to play an unusual sort of character. You will play a burgeoning dark lord -- someone who will rise from imprisonment and destitution to become one of the greatest villains of this age. At first, you will be a minion in service to a sinister plot. But eventually, you will be a minion no longer. You, if you can survive, will become the master. And that is almost the definition of lawful evil.

Crimes of the Forsaken

Each character chooses one heinous crime that has earned them a place in Branderscar Prison. Besides simplying choosing a crime, you should also consider how the crime was done. Was this a well-planned criminal enterprise or a crime of passion? Did you do it alone or did you have accomplices? Was this the first time you did this crime or are you a repeat offender?

Answering these questions will help flesh out your character’s background.

This has been said before, but it bears repeating. Your character actually perpetrated this crime. You may have done it for what seemed like noble reasons. You may have gotten entangled in this criminal enterprise unwillingly. But there is no doubt that you are guilty. You have not been sentenced to the worse prison in Talingarde unjustly. You are here because you deserve to be.

Arson

You have willfully started a fire that destroyed property. To be sent to Branderscar, you didn’t start just a minor little trash fire. Your act of arson threatened a major town, city, church or castle and likely cost someone their life. You’ll be punished for your crime by facing the fire yourself.

Punishment: Death by burning

Attempted Murder

You tried to kill someone and botched the job. To be sent to Branderscar Prison, you did not try to kill just anyone. You likely assaulted someone of great importance and prominence.

Punishment: Death by beheading

Blasphemy

Either you have defamed the great god Mitra or you have been found guilty of worshipping one of the forbidden deities (who preeminent among them is Asmodeus).

Punishment: Death by burning

Consorting with the Dark Powers (Witchcraft)

You have been found guilty of summoning an evil outsider. Likely you were captured by the famed witch hunter Sir Balin of Karfeld. The last thing he said to you was, “May Mitra have mercy upon your wretched, damned soul.” If only you could get a chance at revenge!

Punishment: Death by burning

Desecration

You have violated one of the churchs, cathedrals or holy shrines of the great god Mitra. To be sent to Branderscar this was no minor act of vandalism. Instead you have done something flagrant and spectacular to dishonor the Shining Lord.

Punishment: Death by burning

Desertion

You have deserted from the Talirean military and been recaptured. To get sent to Branderscar this was not some minor or routine dereliction of duty. Instead, you abandoned your post during a time of crisis -- perhaps battle or while defending the Watch Wall. Regardless of the exact circumstances, your laziness and cowardice must have caused loss of life.

Punishment: Death by hanging

Dueling unto Death

You have engaged in a duel to the death and mortally wounded an opponent. The opponent was honorable enough to say nothing before he expired. Alas that his family or companions was nowhere near so honorable. Dueling was once common in Talingarde before the House of Darius came to power. The House of Barca all but encouraged duels of honor. Now, dueling of any sort is punished severely. Dueling to the death is a sure way to be sent to Branderscar Prison.

Punishment: Death by beheading

Grave Robbery

It is forbidden by sacred law to dishonor a corpse after it is been sealed in its tomb by a clergy of the Mitran faith. Some may not honor this ban: necromancers, golem crafters, self-styled scientists, and alchemists delving into the forbidden secrets of life and death. These ghouls can expect no mercy from the Talirean Magistrates. And by sending you to Branderscar Prison, you have received none.

Punishment: Death by beheading

Heresy

You have denied the supremacy of Mitra and been condemned for it. For this to be a crime, you were not content to keep your heresy to yourself. You tried to sway others. Likely you were captured by the famed witch hunter Sir Balin of Karfeld. The last thing he said to you was: “Mitra may forgive you yet for your lies. Talingarde will not.” If only you could get a chance at revenge!

Punishment: Death by burning.

High Treason

You have willfully worked to bring down the current Monarch of Talingarde -- the beloved King Markadian V called the Brave of House Darius. To be successfully tried for High Treason you have done more than merely dislike the king, you did something tangible to undermine his rule. Alas, that you failed at your plot and are now headed to Branderscar Prison. Treason is the only crime that is still punished by the gruesome ritual of being drawn and quartered. Your stay at Branderscar will be brief.

Punishment: Death by drawing and quartering

Kidnapping

You have abducted someone perhaps to ransom them or do unspeakable things to them. Unfortunately, you were caught and your victim was rescued (if they weren’t rescued -- you would be guilty of murder instead). To be sent to Branderscar Prison, you must have abducted someone of great importance or in a particularly gruesome manner.

Punishment: Death by beheading

Murder

You have killed without just cause and been condemned for it. To be sent to Branderscar Prison, this was no typical killing but a particularly savage and unforgiveable act. You may also have killed someone with powerful friends.

Note: You are not allowed to have killed someone in the royal family of Talingarde. You may have tried (this would instead be High Treason -- see above) but ultimately they are too well protected.

Punishment: Death by beheading

Piracy

You have been caught in the act of piracy on the high seas. This is a rare crime these days since Markadian I called the Victorious burned the last major pirate fleet to threaten these isles. Still the crime is punished harshly. Likely you are the sole survivor of your ship.

Punishment: Death by hanging

Sedition

You have attempted to covertly stir up rebellion against your rightful sovereign. This differs from high treason in that you attempted to convince others to make war against Talingarde instead of taking direct action yourself. A subtle difference to be sure. But it is the difference between receiving the swift justice of the axe instead of the slow suffering upon the rack.

Punishment: Death by beheading

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