Arcallis: World of Adventure
In the past decade-plus that I've been running games, I've probably read close to two hundred adventures and campaigns, both professional and amateur. Most of them were junk. Here's a campaign that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Welcome to the world of Arcallis and the Prophesy of the Phoenix.
In the past decade-plus that I've been running games, I've probably read close to two hundred adventures and campaigns, both professional and amateur. Of the one hundred or so professionally written adventures, five or six of them, most notably the Challenges (Fighters Challenge I & II, Thieves Challenge, etc.) written for D&D 2 ed. and Caravan to Ein Aires written for GURPS 2nd ed., were actually intriguing enough that I ran them. I did have to change them to suite my game, my players, and their characters, but the changes were minimal.
The rest were junk. They were nothing more than garbage written for immature munchkin players of the worse sort. Adventures where EVERYONE has magical items (including beggars, kobolds, goblins, average Guardsmen, etc.), the characters earn tons of money along with (even more) magical items, fantastic races/magic/magical items/rules are introduced for that one adventure (usually something EXTREMELY powerful and useless, like the Rod of Seven Parts D&D 2ed.). Even stuff written for low level characters have more to do with boosting the characters up a couple of levels and giving the characters a bunch of cool stuff than with a plot or story. The worst of these are Dragon Mountain, the aforementioned Rod of Seven Parts, the Ruins of Undermountain (and all of it's supplements), and pretty much everything written for the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. I don't think that it's a coincidence that all of these adventures were written for D&D by TSR. And people wonder why the company got bought out: I do have to admit, Wizards of the Coast has done a much better job with D&D 3rd ed. so far.
I want a STORY with a clear beginning, middle, and end to it.
I don't know about you, but I'd rather have a compelling story, a labyrinthine plot, characters (player and none player alike) worth remembering with rich backgrounds and realistic motivations. I want a STORY with a clear beginning, middle, and end to it. I understand that these are adventures for the most part, made to be inserted into an existing campaign and not made to be turned into one. But that doesn't excuse shoddy writing, stupid plots, or anything else. Remember, these people earn a living writing this junk.
Adventures and campaigns that I've read that were written by amateurs seem to fare better in my opinion. These adventures are written by people who (for the most part) don't like an overabundance of magical items, prefer having something resembling a plot, and want to be able to continue running the same group of characters through multiple adventures instead of retiring the characters after one or two. As a result, I'd say almost forty percent were interesting enough that I wouldn't mind playing or running them. About five percent were so good that I've incorporated all or part of them into my games.
The closest that I've ever come to that Great Game was Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time adventure supplement for D&D 3rd ed. Which is awesome, unless you're not a Robert Jordan fan and don't have a clue what the rules of the world are or its history.
Never, in all the years that I've been roleplaying, have I ever found an adventure or campaign that was so well written, had a storyline so rich in character and plot development, an adventure that just had so much going for it that I HAD to run or play it. Until now that is.
Just a few days ago I was surfing the net and I stumbled upon a website written by Murray J. Towle at: http://www.arcallis.34sp.com/indexadventures.html
...munchkins will have a hard time in this world.On this website is a campaign called The Once and Reborn King set in the GM created world of Arcallis. It's written with no regards to rules, game systems, character creation, or players. In fact, it's written as a 3rd person narrative. The Game Master used D&D 2nd and 3rd ed., GURPS, Masterbook, Rolemaster, Quest and Earthdawn when running the game, which he has been running for at least ten years. Arcallis is his own creation, though he has been free in using the good parts of other games and game worlds, such as Earthdawn, Harnworld, Forgotten Realms, Al-Qadim, Birthright, GURPs, and even DeadLands. The campaign is written as a series of adventures set as chapters. The campaign tells of the fulfillment of The Prophesy of the Phoenix that will free Arcallis from an ancient evil. The characters in the adventures are written with minimal backgrounds (i.e. Journeyman Sorcerer) and no classes, although some classes are obvious and some can be guessed at. The cool part is that it's almost impossible to tell when the backgrounds end and the adventuring begins. The scenarios within the adventure are tough. Stupid characters (players), pc's who charge into combat and kill people and things on a whim, and munchkins will have a hard time in this world.
In one scenario, the pc's are sneaking into the castle of Baron Montrose, the Optimist, in order to rescue the Lady Fairchilde who has been kidnapped. They enter the castle through hidden tunnels where they are attacked by living walls. When they get to the dungeon they find the Lady and the real Baron, a man who was supposed to have died over a month ago. The party is outraged at this and decides to head upstairs and throw down on the unsuspecting Optimist and his cronies. Of course, the Optimist is expecting them, has several heavily armed and armored cronies, is a master swordsman, has recently begun studying magic, and is an Undead Horror. The Optimist beats down the party who fights a retreating battle back into the dungeons using fire magic to cover their escape. This fire burns out of control and the Optimist is seen to go down under a roof collapse. It is later learned that the Lady Fairchilde has been turned into a vampire and has made the Captain of her ship into a ghoul.
Here's another scenario. This one I'll quote directly:
"A reality storm sweeps up from the Sea of Ash over the Barrier Peaks and catches the party while camped this night. Strange arcane lightning strikes all that is animate and transports it a thousand miles in an instant. The party is swept-up and deposited in the heart of the Sea of Ash. Hot ash rains down on them from the volcanoes spewing gouts of flame into the air close by. The air is thick and hot and smells like rotting eggs. Gagging and blinded by the air, the party collects the livestock and team members and strikes out towards a ruin visible in the distance.
Along the way they are attacked by large burrowing creatures with tough skins and thick shell-like armor. The party flees into the rocky area around the ruins to escape. The ruins are a mysterious Gate-stone, a relic from the ancient past when the Atlanteans ruled the world. The Gate-stone seems to be in good shape for being thousands of years old, and the party mages, begin deciphering the cryptic runes. While the party is so engaged, the Gate-stone's guardians, a pack of Jethula, which are strange spider creatures, attack. The party fights bravely but more of the spider creatures and some other dark constructs began to arrive. Marik (a pc mage) manages to create a Gate-stone activation spell on the fly and charges the stone up and opens a Gate to what he hopes is back to their camp. It is."
This is all around the absolute best campaign/adventure that I have ever been exposed to. I cannot give a higher recommendation or endorsement than I have to this campaign. It stands as a testament to the author's skill at creating the world, running his players through these adventures, and then writing it all down in a way that anyone can relate to. I hope one day to play this campaign in this world. I don't want to GM it as I like it too darn much. Check it out and see what you think. Drop the author a line of thanks for an incredible journey.