Friday, January 6, 2012

Life's cheap - but votes aren't

I've been throwing around some ideas for a new campaign with a new setting. While, I always abide by the ole "start small" adage - i figure I might as well have an idea of an over all setting.


Campaign idea: “Life’s cheap – but spells (and votes) aren’t”

The scene:

Grand, decadent and sprawling empire of humans that has endured for a thousand years since breaking free of an even older Elvish empire.

Things are starting to come apart – corruption is rife, the empire’s bureaucracy has taken over to the point that the real rulers are the money-grubbing civil servants and politicians who spend their entire career learning how to be a politician but have no idea how to rule.

The empire has conquered various humanoid races (Hobgoblins, Goliaths, etc) under their rule and treat them like second-class citizens (non-humans can’t vote) and does a good job of keeping the borders free of the feared barbarians and other nasties.

The Empire: Huge bureaucracy with a scheming senate and a clueless God-Emperor never seen in public. Mind-numbing laws and un-navigatable political system.

It keeps good (if distant) relations with the older Elven empire and half-elves are highly regarded as lawyers, viziers, advisers, lobbyists and negotiators.

But like all non-humans they can’t vote and are usually encountered as high-level bureaucrats.

The large army of pikemen and Wyvern-mounted cavalry police the inner lands and keep the peace while a foreign legion style force called the Outland Watch patrol the borders, keep the monsters at bay and operate as Wild West-style marshals-cum-border ranger monster hunters.

The Outland Watch: Often just called the Watch and its members referred to as Grey Riders or Grey Watchers due to their grey cloaks, the Outland Watch is the home of many non-humans, exiles, adventurers, jilted lovers and fools.

A ten year hitch in the Watch guarantees citizenship and voting rights, regardless of race. But few survive their hitch and serving riders can’t vote unless they leave the service.

Service also absolves criminals and rebels while giving them a measure of respectability.

This means a Goliath, who would only be one rung above slavehood in real life in the empire can join the Watch for the chance at citizenship and a measure of respect.

However… the survival rate for members is amazingly low.

The magic/technology: Magic is jealously guarded by the various colleges of magic, all sworn to the empire. Local wizards must have come from one of the empire’s closely monitored, screened and controlled magical academies and frequently find themselves assigned to government or military work as a way to pay off their “tuition fees”.

Wizards are also highly sought after by nobles and administrators.
Outside wizards are closely watched and sorcerers are treated with suspicious and obviously “barbarians” from the other side of the borders.

The Empire still keeps in contact with its former Elven rulers and occasionally swaps magical items or parishioners.
Odder still are the occasional items or buildings discovered from a much older race. They include structures made of a hard, brittle metal, magic weapons that can spit flame and smoke and even stories of man-machine hybrids that once served as super soldiers.

The setting: The back end of the empire. Rebellion seems to be in the air. The borders seem less stable. Taxes are rising, food is getting scarcer. And no help seems to be coming from the capital. Pcs have somehow ended up in the boondocks – are they newly minted Grey Riders fleeing a jealous lover/working off bad debts/keen to do the right thing or are they fomenting rebellion in the borderlands? Or maybe they’re just in the wrong spot at the right time?


  1. This sounds pretty intriguing. And also familiar . . . decadent empires on the slide make for great roleplaying opportunities!

  2. Admitidly the old "big empire on its way down" has been done before but it does provide plenty of RP'ing opportunity.
    Now I've just got to get a way to get my players invested in the idea