Enigmatic, open, and ready to be explored and expanded.
I am not as familiar with Dune as a should be, but I LOVE this concept. I am going to be running two campaigns. One I intend to develop my own world. But if you are fine with it, I would love to use Solanthis and help you expand!
I'm happy to post stuff people may use, and I appreciate feedback/additions. Go for it, and thanks for the comments!
I disagree with your first sentence, but by all means- whatever works for an individual's campaign. Personally I'd rather eat a sock than see a GMNPC, or someone at the table, pulling the sort of things that Muad'dib did on any level (or fill the role of "chosen one" as he did).
Putting a Prophet/Savior character into the setting has far too much potential for introducing a stifling metaplot. If there's one individual who Knows The Future, then the other political factions are really his puppets... this is good for a novel, and bad for a game IMO, especially since the players cannot take up the role of this all-knower within the limitations of 4E and thusly, are also at best relegated to being his puppets, no matter how they resist.
I'm avoiding the Bene Gesserits, making a blatant Atreides "doomed to fall" house, and any sort of Muad'dib. Putting them into the setting irrevocably alters campaign plots, and also sets up a sort of GMNPC that I'm not up to making a requirement of the setting.
That said, if the purpose of a campaign is to specifically play out a fantasy version of the novels, enjoy whatever works at your table!
My intent in using a prophetic NPC actually wouldn't be to duplicate the plot of Dune -- as you say, having an NPC "chosen one" steals an important role in the game that should belong to the players. I would, in fact, be using such a prophet as a villain, in a role that draws inspiration not only from Muad'dib after he became Emperor, but also from the evil emperor in Vision of Escaflowne. The prophet NPC intends to guide civilization on a particular path, using prophecy to weed out conflicting timelines and events -- but it is a path of tyranny rather than one of deliverance, and it becomes the purview of the PCs to fight against and stop a villain who may well know their next 3 moves.
As I am running the Keep of Shadowfell (with a player who chose the Dragonborn Paladin) and wanted Behamut to be the modern title for the deity, so I have to bend continuity less to make this my setting. Also a proper true name for a draconic deity that fits easily into humanoid syllables seems pretentious, besides vowels are over rated..
Here's the first adventure I'm running. I run this on Sunday night. I have 5 players: 3 experienced (2 of them have been playing since the mid '70s, one since about 1999), and 2 relative newbies (both friends of mine, but neither have played much at all since 1st edition).
The PC's (they haven't all made characters yet) are working for one of the Noble Houses, House Nerath (remnants of the old empire, my version of House Atreides), and they are sent on a mission to retrieve the third son of the Current Emperor, a free-spirited lad whom the emperor views as silly (but in reality is not that silly. He's sort of a Scarlet Pimpernel type character). The mission is a ruse, faked by one of the other houses. This house (haven't decided on the name yet) is the big bad (can you tell I'm a buffy fan) for the Heroic Campaign Arc. They've hired a band of mercenaries, a respected organization that's been splintered in recent years (haven't decided why yet), and told them the PC's are trying to Kill the Imperial Prince. The PC's are travelling to the Prince's supposed location on a small airship, when they are attacked by (what they will think) are bandits on 3 small air skiffs. This is where it gets a bit interesting. What happens next will entirely depend on what the PC's do and how it works out for them. If they manage to win the fight and capture one of the bandits, they will learn what that merc organization believes. They could travel to the merc headquarters for a skill challenge with the Head of the Organization or they can try to fight them (although they will be seriously outnumbered). If their airship is forced to land (which is what the bandits are trying to do), depending on how the PC's are doing, they will either be captured and taken prisoner, they can try to fight back (they may or may not win, they will be outnumbered). Or the entire group will be attacked by a Purple Worm (my equivalent of the Spice Worms). Here they have a great opportunity. Unless circumstances prevent it, one of the bandits will ask for the PC's help in defeating/avoiding the worm. If the PC's help them, they will gain allies, perhaps powerful ones depending on how the subsequent skill challenge with the Merc Leader goes. Of course, one option if the PC's bypass all of this is to go to the appointed place, where they will find the Imperial Prince on a hunting expedition. This could cause all kinds of confusion (we'll see what my players are in the mood for), could gain them an ally, make them an enemy, and they could do all sorts of things here. I'm trying to be ready for any eventuality.
Meanwhile, their holding is being attacked by Imperial-looking soldiers (I don't think I will actually make them Imperial soldiers, but I may. At the very least, they will look like Imperial Soldiers). Depending upon what point the PC's come back, the attack may be at the beginning, middle, or end. There are literally hundreds of things the PC's could do here. I feel like I'm an experienced enough DM that I can improvise and handle whatever happens. I know all the major players and what their actions/motivations independent of what the PC's are doing are, so it should be easy to see how they would react to the PC's. I hope to give my players a feeling that what they do really matters.
Any comments, questions, or ideas would be greatly appreciated.
On a side note, I have been thinking about hosting some sort of blog space or webpage with info about this campaign. If there is interest, I would love to open it up to some of y'all as well to post your stories, thoughts, etc.. Of course, I'll want Clark411's blessing and will give him full credit for my version of his ideas.
Thanks for both the wonderful setting, and the good feedback, clark.
I think the idea of eladrin cities being stuck in enternal seasons is absolutely fascinating, I know a certain player of mine will absolutely love that.
The races out of the MM though, I think I might alter that with some significance. I don't know Dune the greatest, having only perused the wiki on it (I'm sure as a geek not reading Dune is some dreadful sin, but sadly, I'm guilty of it), so I'm not sure I have the attachments that you do for some of the details in the world.
I'm going to add in a possibility of there being a collection of tribes, a sort of pseudo-kingdom, very brutal and primitive, with a residuum lodestone in their territory. The kingdom finds them, and due to (mysterious circumstance...possibly an overt sign from a god?) they chose to align with the demi-humanoids instead of wage an open war against them (or perhaps they -do- wage a war, and find it to be fruitless after several years, and decide to go into a treaty...ooo, post war tensions!). Regardless of reasons, they are in alliance with this collection of tribes, which are slowly starting to filter into the cities, with mixed results. Racism and stereotyping are frequent, but having a gnoll bodyguard is starting to become vogue in certain circles, and goblinoids are starting to be shown to be excellent laborers if well paid.
While these people are not considered to be part of the true population (thus leading to an uneasy tension about civil rights), many are allowed a sort of (I can't come up with a better term than "green card' here) - some sort of document that allows them most of the rights of a citizen, but with many more rules.
There are still many tribes and groups of demi-humanoids out there that would just as soon eat/kill/maim any citizen of Solanthis as much as look at them, and this is more evident on the borders and outlaying areas - inner cities, including Solanthis herself, tend to frown on the idea that "all goblinoids are evil and coming to eat me".
This seems to be something -I- will be throwing into the campaign setting, but that is just my own personal tastes, you can take it or leave it.
I'm looking at 6 major houses in the Imperium (each with between 2-5 families), with the addition of an unofficial "dwarf house" that acts much the same as a recognized house would, and a tentative "demi-human house" that gets fewer rights, but an alliance and right to representation none-the-less.
Want the tl;dr of my posts? Read the bold text; I put it there to highlight the main points for ease of skimming.
Further an underground 'evil' (or not) Cult could spring up that wishes to explore the changes caused but the effects. They themselves have become mentally warped and seem to believe the future of the Empire is to have all beings of the Empire 'improved' by the effects. They seek to wash the Empire in the effect and change everyone, believing that once done everyone will see the truth and of course they will be promoted to their rightful places as the rulers of the 'New Empire.'
Can anybody say NOD...
I could also see that planar rifts form around the load stones... maybe they exist in enormous temple like caves. crystal residium forming on the walls and in the pools of water. but you can't stay too long... elementals and such appear in instants, with only time to rage upon miners before being swept back to elswere. sometime people fall into holes that don't exist, or fall up into a rift. and stranger things are talked of.
I may eventually move this to it's own webpage/blog, but for now I wanted to post an actual play report using this setting. We had 4 hours to play, and the first 2 hours were making characters, so we didn't get as much done as I would have liked. We're playing again next sunday, so more will get done then. Only 4 of the 5 showed up, so we had 4 players.
First, the PC's. (All first level)
Nergal, a drow Ranger (concentrates on Ranged Attacks)
Wand, a Warforged Wizard (Warforged in my version of this setting are thousands of years old: only recently have they been reactivated. This one has been activated for about 7 years now).
Gregg, a human Fighter. Big tank with a Greatsword
Lee (doesn't have a character name yet), a human Warlord.
So, we did have all 4 roles covered.
The PC's were together because they all work for House Nerath, a noble house composed of the descendents of the last empire. The Nerath holding is a smallish city of about 3000 souls, the Lodestone only having been discovered a few years ago. They were called before the Vizier (which should have been their first clue) and told that he had just received a communique from the Imperial Family. The third son of the emperor (may he live forever) has gone missing. This Imperial Prince is considered by most to be a whimsical fellow who likes to hunt exotic beasts. They want a small force to go to his last known location to find and rescue him. The Vizier refused to give them any healing potions (which they found odd but didn't follow up on). They were given a small airship (just a deck with room enough and a steering mechanism) to search out. This is a smaller airship powered by residuum licensed by the Free City of Barony. Anyway, the group came to the audience with the Vizier prepared to go. Before they left, the Drow ran back to his room in the palace and left himself a note, reminding himself who he is and that he doesn't trust what's going on (in case he was brainwashed). So the party left.
An hour or so after the PC's left, they were ambushed by 3 smaller, faster skiffs. Each skiff had 2 level 2 minions and 1 level 4 controller on it. The skiffs had the symbol of the Imperial Family on them, but a high perception check from the drow revealed that they did not look like Imperial Soldiers, as they knew that the Emperor (may he live forever) requires his soldiers/servants to maintain a certain decorum at all times. Also, the 2 minions on each skiff each had a longbow with an arrow notched and ready to go. Of course, a battle ensued. Taking the first shots, the Drow, the Warlord, and the Fighter each killed a minion. The Warforged Wizard put their airship on autopilot and began magic missiling minions. As the enemy pulled in close, the Fighter attempted to leap across to a skiff that both minions had been killed on. He rolled a 4, so I ruled that he missed. Rolling a 19 on a dex check, I ruled that he was able to grab a chain (that was attached to a grappling hook) on the enemy skiff, thereby not falling 200 feet to the ground. All 3 enemy skiffs attempted to shoot grappling hooks with chains onto the deck of the PC's ship. 2 of the skiffs succeeded. They started pulling the PC's ship downward, causing the PC's to make a reflex save. The Warforged slipped, but was able to grab the edge of his ship as he fell. Meanwhile, the other skiff attempted to shoot it's grappling hook, but as the Fighter was attached to it, the shot didn't exactly go straight. The fighter had to make a strength check to stay on the chain which he made. However, since the chain basically went down, putting all his weight on it, it tipped the enemy skiff. The enemy controller rolled a 1 on his dex check, so he fell off and took 89 points of damage, which of course killed him instantly. The fighter spent an action point to swing himself up onto the skiff, then rolled a natural 20 to take control of the skiff. Meanwhile, 1 more of the minions died. The other 2 leapt onto the PC's skiff. One was killed quickly. The drow used his "cloud of darkness power", but kept rolling really badly and missing the minion. It was killed several rounds later. The party did some damage to the 2 remaining controllers. Meanwhile, the fighter who had taken control of the skiff basically ran one of the controllers over, doing a heap of damage and knocking him off his skiff, killing him. In that act, the skiff was disconnected from the PC's airship, so it crashed after that. The Drow leapt onto the remaining skiff and did some damage to the Controller. The Warforged cast "sleep" on that skiff. The Drow was able to resist the spell, the NPC did not. The Drow tied him up. They pulled the enemy skiff over and tied it to their ship. The fighter pulled the other skiff along the other side and they tied that to the airship. The Warforged Wizard then turned their airship around and started back toward the Nerath Holding.
They woke the captured NPC up and started attempting to Intimidate him. The first 2 checks failed. The Drow got fed up and shot the guy point blank in the kneecap, and threatened to turn him over to House Nerath's representative from the Torturer's Guild (patterned after the Gene Wolfe books). They learned that he was part of a Mercenary Organization called Loks' Privateers. This confused the PC's, as Lok and his band, being a reputable and accepted band of mercenaries usually only went after bad guys. The PC's also learned that the band had been told that the PC's were trying to kill the Imperial Prince, the third son. This further convinced the PC's that they were doing the right thing by heading back to the holding. As the PC's were huddled around the steering mechanism plotting their next move, the NPC was able to escape his bond, spend a healing surge to recover from the Knee injury, cut his skiff loose, and take off. The party got a few shots off, doing a bit of damage but not killing the guy. They quickly decided it would be best just to continue to head back to the holding, turn over the skiff, and try and find out what was going on. As they neared the holding, they saw a plume of smoke, and many deathwatch guards (the warforged wizard counted 50) in battle with the Nerath Watch. That's where the game ended.