Have you or your players ever directly worked with the sorcerer-kings?

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Last week ended with a huge cliffhanger, something that agitates my players greatly, but in a good way. The PCs were searching in the Black Spine Mountains for what they thought was a vault that carries artifacts of immense power, and untold wealth in actual gold pieces. Mind you these PCs are still at around 12th level and were actually very familiar with the Dark Sun setting.

So imagine the expressions on their faces when, literally in the middle of nowhere, Dregoth appears with a legion of undead and begins scouring the valley for what the PCs think is the same vault they're looking for. Not only is this strange in that Dregoth is essentially one of the most powerful beings on Athas, but he is also very reclusive, at least he was reclusive.

Despite their best efforts to lie low and evade the undead sorcerer-king, Dregoth eventually corners them. Just as one of the players asks reluctantly, "do we roll initiative?", they get another unexpected visitor: Nibenay himself appears. Nibenay's been tracking the PCs for some time when they departed from his city, and I can't say why because I know my players prowl these forums, but he begins a rather violent and flashy fight with Dregoth. The PCs still had a fight on their hands and had to fight their way through Dregoth's undead minions before they finally find the entrance to the vault while the sorcerer-kings' fight rages not far away. Several attempts to open the entrance fails, and then the session ended when Nibenay appeared before them, saying, "Looking for the Ironshard Catacombs? Good. I also search for it, and I need your help."

I plan on having the PCs and Nibenay jointly explore the catacombs, assuming they agree to work with the Shadow King. But you might think, "well if you have a sorcerer-king with you, wouldn't the fights be one-sided and therefore boring for the PCs?" And since this doesn't really spoil anything I can say this: they will have to overcome obstacles jointly that the party wouldn't have been able to do by themselves. Nibenay also needs the PCs for many of the challenges in the catacombs, but most of the obstacles won't involve fighting. The majority of fighting the PCs do will still be entirely on their own, since Nibenay's aware he doesn't need to babysit them.

Thankfully this works out because none of my characters are Veilled Alliance. Actually all are either of noble descent or templars, and the templar player serves Nibenay. So, has anyone ever had a game where they either directly worked with a sorcerer-king, or at least the sorcerer-kings' roles were switched from ultimate villain to reluctant (?) ally?
Nibenay is called the Shadow King for a reason. Standing in the Shadows. I've never done anything with my players working for a Sorcerer King however they did begin worshipping an Id fiend because they thought it was Kalak. I eventually got them to do whatever the Id fiend wanted. He was going to eat them in their sleep, except that the campaign ended abruptly, it was at the school and few of them switched either to online or dropped out of school.

edit: As far as liking the idea, my players loved it.  
Ant Farm
My PC's work for Tithian not a SK but very ambitious...

Even in some official adventures PSs fight for SKs: for Hamanu in Dragon's Crown and for Nibenay in Marauders of Nibenay - in the second, actually, to help the king to eliminate the consequences of the terroristic act, commited by the Vellied Alliance to kill citizens and inflict panic.
You can also look at Dregoth Ascending.

My players started the campaign off in Altaruk employed by a fat, vain noble from Balic with investments and interests with the Houe Wavir trading post. Marauders were seizing Wavir-led caravans (for some as of yet unknown reasons) and the PC's had to put an end to the bandit's treats. Then, once their mission over, they hear rumors that a powerful figure appeared recently in the Sweet Water Oasis (my creation). This being was named the Sweet Water Stranger and as Arisphistaneles learned (being a member of the Veiled Alliance) Hamanu of Urik learned of the Stranger as well. The sorcerer-king sent one of his lower-ranking templars to investigate this claim. After some problem-solving on behalf of the PC's they eventually find the Sweet Water Stranger, but his power and life force are quickly diminished as he was captured earlier by a defiler working for Andropinis. The player's learn that the Sweet Water Stranger is named Artheos-a celestial guardian protecting the Astral Sea from the sorcerer-kings. With a final ragged plea Artheos asks that the player's find "...the Lost Temple..." and close the dimensional rift. His fleeting life force then enters the PC's and they are soon on the run from Hamanu, Andropinis and any other sorcerer-king that can feel the "Unknown Power" that lies within them. The whole plot is to have the githyanki (former ancestors of the gith) plan to tear a portal into the fabric of existance and plot to overtake Athas, in the meantime, Tharizdun manages to slip the Voidharrow into Athas. I am running two campaigns at once (one set in Nerath the other Athas) with the Abyssal Plague in the background to spice things up. All this will culminate with the player's from both campaigns helping each other to close the planar rift and stop the forces of the Abyss.
Whadda ya think?
One of my players found his PC face-to-face with Abalach-Re, she of the reputation for debauchery. In a very enjoyably uncomfortable situation, she asked the PC (a half giant cursed into being a warlock, very timid, very gullible, always tells the truth) to be his templar. When he reluctantly accepted she invited him to her palace the next day for "lunch and pleasantries". You have to know this player and his capacity for excellent role-play. Everyone was falling out of their chair with the role-play around "uncomfortable moments". It was very memorable.

That fun aside, the very clear message was that this encounter was nothing but bad news and having her aware of the party surely means trouble in the future! I use such scenes sparingly, but I think they can be a lot of fun done carefully.

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I've run a templar campaign, during which the players take marching orders directly from a sorcerer-king and the SK's high templars.

If you want to do any sort of evil campaign, or mostly-evil like templars, it helps to have something powerful hanging over the characters' heads to prevent party in-fighting.  In that case, the SK isn't something to be fought, but something to avoid angering at all costs.  It is a reminder that there is always a bigger fish, so the party had better stick together despite their natural tendencies to violence and backstabbing. 

I played the SK with an aloof, otherworldly mindset with occasional shows of immense power.  Basically the PCs were scared straight in the presence of the SK, but were happy to bicker with and plot against his high templars.


*storytime*
The players were gathered by Hamanu and sent to capture a half-elf with no real explanation.  They brought him back to the SK alive.  The SK promply drained the NPC's soul, placing it into an obsidian orb for the players to carry around.  He became the 'key' to open a dungeon, an occasional source of advice, and eventually learned to absorb life energy, becoming a dangerous artifact.  The moral is anything a SK touches should turn to ash and not even their servants or 'allies' are safe.  They are epic plot devices, and their merest whim should have major consequences for the typical heroic-tier party.

Nibenay is called the Shadow King for a reason. Standing in the Shadows.



That exact point was brought up by a player in the group. "Why is the Shadow King NOT in the shadows?!?" he asked, to which I said, "No clue, ask him next session."

I've run a templar campaign, during which the players take marching orders directly from a sorcerer-king and the SK's high templars.

If you want to do any sort of evil campaign, or mostly-evil like templars, it helps to have something powerful hanging over the characters' heads to prevent party in-fighting.  In that case, the SK isn't something to be fought, but something to avoid angering at all costs.  It is a reminder that there is always a bigger fish, so the party had better stick together despite their natural tendencies to violence and backstabbing. 

I played the SK with an aloof, otherworldly mindset with occasional shows of immense power.  Basically the PCs were scared straight in the presence of the SK, but were happy to bicker with and plot against his high templars.


*storytime*
The players were gathered by Hamanu and sent to capture a half-elf with no real explanation.  They brought him back to the SK alive.  The SK promply drained the NPC's soul, placing it into an obsidian orb for the players to carry around.  He became the 'key' to open a dungeon, an occasional source of advice, and eventually learned to absorb life energy, becoming a dangerous artifact.  The moral is anything a SK touches should turn to ash and not even their servants or 'allies' are safe.  They are epic plot devices, and their merest whim should have major consequences for the typical heroic-tier party.




I followed that campaign you did, and loved it! It inspired me to begin my first Dark Sun campaign. I don't remember her name but I liked how one of the PCs in your campaign was initially a compassionate and perhaps noble character, but by the end of the sessions I believe she came back as some undead abomination with only one, overriding instinct: kill.

My players started the campaign off in Altaruk employed by a fat, vain noble from Balic with investments and interests with the Houe Wavir trading post. Marauders were seizing Wavir-led caravans (for some as of yet unknown reasons) and the PC's had to put an end to the bandit's treats. Then, once their mission over, they hear rumors that a powerful figure appeared recently in the Sweet Water Oasis (my creation). This being was named the Sweet Water Stranger and as Arisphistaneles learned (being a member of the Veiled Alliance) Hamanu of Urik learned of the Stranger as well. The sorcerer-king sent one of his lower-ranking templars to investigate this claim. After some problem-solving on behalf of the PC's they eventually find the Sweet Water Stranger, but his power and life force are quickly diminished as he was captured earlier by a defiler working for Andropinis. The player's learn that the Sweet Water Stranger is named Artheos-a celestial guardian protecting the Astral Sea from the sorcerer-kings. With a final ragged plea Artheos asks that the player's find "...the Lost Temple..." and close the dimensional rift. His fleeting life force then enters the PC's and they are soon on the run from Hamanu, Andropinis and any other sorcerer-king that can feel the "Unknown Power" that lies within them. The whole plot is to have the githyanki (former ancestors of the gith) plan to tear a portal into the fabric of existance and plot to overtake Athas, in the meantime, Tharizdun manages to slip the Voidharrow into Athas. I am running two campaigns at once (one set in Nerath the other Athas) with the Abyssal Plague in the background to spice things up. All this will culminate with the player's from both campaigns helping each other to close the planar rift and stop the forces of the Abyss.
Whadda ya think?



I definiately like how you're going to link the two groups together eventually. So does that mean the sorcerer-kings are going to, heaven forbid, work together against the githyanki?

I was going to make a seperate thread on this but I'll just do a mini-rant on it here.

Ever since I've read Rise and Fall of a Dragon King I've had my biggest sympathies with Hamanu. I won't spoil anything from the book, but it's an excellent read. Goes on Hamanu's rather tragic and violent past and made me conclude that of all the sorcerer-kings, Hamanu is probably the least "evil". Supremely egotistical? Yep. Ruthless, even by sorcerer-king standards? You bet. Heartless? Maybe. But 100% evil? No. Actually maybe not evil at all, as the book shows with the scene with the critic lizard (won't spoil it).

As for the most evil sorcerer-king? I'd have to go with either Tectutiklay (I know damn well I spelled that wrong) or Ablach-Re. I'd include Kalak, but he's dead now, or at least he doesn't rule Tyr anymore.

We killed them all except Oronis of Kurn in my 3.5E campaign. Most of the party were Advanced Beings by then, so it wasn't quite as hard is it would have been. It helped that we had a Thri-Kreen Dragon/AB Rain Elemental hybrid in the party (who bore the name Terminus Vortexa), built on a Mind Mage/Cerebremancer/Psychic Theurge base.
My players haven't worked for any of the SK but they were in the unenviable position of deciding which SK's machinations would succeed. In doing so, they also had to decide which of the two groups of innocent bystanders would die as a result.
ive always preferred to leave the S-K's as behind the scenes pieces with subtle machinations. maybe see a covered palanquin in the street surrounded by templars, or sitting on a balcony for an arena match; that's about as close as ive ever brought a group of PCs to a S-K.

i think the setting works better with the S-Ks on top of the food-chain with nigh invulnerability. it helps reinforce the theme of Dark Sun ... the world is dying, nothing can save it. you cant fix the world, the best you can do is make it slightly less unbearable. 

these 6 (or 7, or more) beings are the most powerful entities in the world: to me, they are living 'gods' from other settings. with the dragon in position as 'god-maker', like Ao from FR.

just my personal preference.
Bane of Gnomes. "An angel of snuggles is a bad match for evil gods." -Mike Mearls (Worlds&Monsters, p.72)