The World According To Scott Free


Before I go all wordy I'd pose the question...who's intersted in reading about my homebrew setting and the campaigns I've run in it over the last several years that have really shaped and changed the world as a whole? We've talked on Gamegrene before about "setting-as-campaign" and I don't think I've ever exlained what I meant by that properly. It's a big world, with a huge timeline that I've jumped back and forth in with the various campaigns I've run. It's equal parts mine, the players, and the industry professionals who's setting ideas I've stolen and mined and woven together to make a cohesive world.

Now that I'm getting older, the campaigns and setting ideas I come up with are a lot different than when I "laid the first stone" as it were back 17 or 18 years ago. I've tried writing articles about all this in the past, but I've avoided being very specific about world details to make the articles more useful to a broader audience. In the end, I think it just made them sound pretentious. LOL. So, like a proud parent, I want to boast a bit. Heh.

I'm prompted to do this, as major events in the current campaign I'm running are having a dramatic effect on the setting as a whole and I'm feeling nostalgic. LOL.

Post away, Scott Free... go boast about your creation. At worst, no one will read it. At best, it will give us food for thought, discussion and ideas for our own RPGs.


Excellent. I'll have free time at night starting tomorrow so I'll get some stuff written. I'll likely start by going over the sources for many of my ideas; novels, prepublished settings, sourcebooks etc...and how I tweaked and changed things to make it all one world.

Thanks guys!

A late start here but another vote to wax nostalgic and hold forth on your campaign history. ;-D

Post away Scott.

Well, I finally (finally!) have a spare hour to try and write some stuff down about my setting for the interest of any bored enough to read it. I'll be getting specific about various details as I wax over-analytical about it later on. For now, I'm going to try and hammer out where exactly this setting was born and why.

When I first started running adventures, I didn't really give any thought to detailing the setting. As is the case with alot of roleplayers, the campaigns I ran (for some reason I've *always* been the GM, with any group I've ever been a part of) were generally of the "you find a dungeon, what do you do?" variety. I was 11...what can I say? I suppose these early forays into the hobby could barely be considered "campaigns" in the strictest definition, they would more appropriately be called "adventures"...except I always tried to get my players to stick to the same characters from one to the next. I lived in a small town at the time, and we were the only roleplayers we knew of, so our outside influences on style considerations were almost exactly 0.

This all changed one night when I had the villain of whatever hackneyed over-cliched dungeon my players were Monty Hauling their way through *flee to the nearby town*. My players were dumbstruck. One of them even left the table in frustration at this blatant betrayal of everything he knew this hobby to be. LOL. I wish I could go back in time and sit in the corner and watch myself pull off this amazing coup on our preconceived notions. That, and I would have brought snacks...something none of us had the loot to do at the time.

That night after the players left (one of them never to return) I sat at my little writing desk in our crappy duplex, brushed Megatron and a HISS tank out of my way, and started drawing a map. I needed to know where this town was for when the villain fled again. I had not yet reached the maturity to realize that doing this over and over again would surely make ALL my players leave in frustration, and I was flush with pride over my "brilliant strategy". Thus, Azel was born.

At the time, I was reading Moorcock. Not just the Elric stories, but all of the Eternal Champion stuff (Earl Aubec, Count Brass, etc.). To this day, it's the only fantasy I can keep down when it comes to reading material. At the time I didn't realize how much it would shape my world, but in retrospect I'm glad that it did. By the time I realized that the Elu were just the Melniboneans redux, they had changed enough on their own that I wasn't embarrased at my outright theft. That, and my players were too busy reading Forgotten Realms novels to notice my plagiarism.

I never intended at that time to continue using the same setting right through to fact the world as it is now is likely best described as a combination of two or three settings I messed about with during the years between 12 and 16. One day though I realized that something had to be across the ocean, and it may as well be this other thing I had been detailing. Why invent the world twice, right? All I had to do was take out this race and replace it with that one, change this god to that, and bing bang boom the world doubled in size over night.

That's when the PCs at the time stole their first ship. Everyone wanted to go kill a Boran or two for all the times they had been swindled by them, and now at long last they had a place to sail to find this Boran King everyone had been talking about.

I could go on, but overly-detailed campaign histories can be exhaustive to read. Oh I'll go there, no worries for those like me that actually read that kind of stuff, but I'm less than concise at the best of times so why spoil a good post? LOL. Suffice to say that when I was just getting tired of it all and considering starting afresh (around 5 years or so ago) I decided to have one last romp...enter Jacquilyn and company.

Evil PCs can be fun. Evil PCs can be annoying. Evil PCs, played well and with the right contacts, can destroy your whole world. Since I wasn't planning on doing anything with the setting anymore anyways, I decided to let them have their fun and do their worst and potentially destroy the world. Which they did. With gusto. Enter the apocolypse...

...and enter my chagrin. It was only after I allowed them to ruin what I had spent all those years building that I realized how much I loved the place. A cross-province move later, and a lack of new players to fill the empty chairs that had been left behind by our move, and my fiance was ready for our first real foray into hardcore solo gaming. This was when Asha Pembrose was dreamed up. A 12 year old girl that was the only one pure enough of heart in this blasted and forsaken place to seek out the little of the world that hadn't been destroyed and cut off from the gods. A new world rose from the ashes of the old in the wake of Asha's deeds. And new gods were born.

As they say, everything old is new again.

I could ramble on more and more...but like I said I'm less than concise at the best of times. What piques Gamegrene's interest the most? Where should I start? The gods? The cultures? The PCs? The timeline-jumping style of when I set each campaign and how I keep them from overlapping...or worse, making one groups actions seem insignifigant in retrospect? Let me know, and I'll at least try to ramble in a general direction. LOL.


Nice start. Let's hear about the PC's, SF.

PCs it is then. Well, first players (and you'll see why this was important to the genesis of the setting, maybe more so than characters) then I'll get to the characters next time so as not to seem long winded, when in fact I really really am and can't hide it. :P

I've been running campaigns in this setting for (does quick math in head) 18 years. A comprehensive list of all the PCs that have come and gone wouldn't just be exhausting to read, it would be impossible to write. I can't remember them all. To this day I'll dig out old binders of roleplaying stuff from the 3 different rules systems that have driven the campaigns set there and find old character sheets for PCs I'd forgotten about (and sometimes even *players* I've forgotten about!). I can however talk about the most pivotal and world shaping characters that have walked this land of mine, and most importantly the people that played them.

In the beginning, I have to admit that the actions of the PCs didn't shape the world that much, if at all. We'd all chime in with "but they *have* to, or else the players lose the sense that the actions of their characters matter!" or someone would pull out the much-overused word "verisimilitude" if someone walked into Gamegrene saying that stuff now. But, we all have to admit it; the first campaigns we ran were hardly earth shaking. The first characters our fledgling players made weren't spectacular in any way whatsoever (unless you count the infinite wand of Magic Missle we let them have, or the free Portable Hole's at 1st level....c'mon, you know you did it too, at least once).

Eventually, I managed to come to my senses in that regard and things started to really cook. I ran some great campaigns for some great characters between the ages of 14 and 17, but still none of them stand out as major players in the setting itself. I had switched from AD&D to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying as the rules system I was using (simply so I could run the Enemy Within without doing conversions...funny how at the time I found it easier to convert the whole bloody world instead of just one campaign...LOL) and managed to do it without having the flavor of the two rules systems conflict in any way. I've always generally ignored flavor text in favor of the crunchy parts so that no one elses vision interfered with my own (though obviously my creative purity is far from unsullied thanks to Moorcock and a few others).

Nevertheless, apart from Magus Vanghelm and Angus MacGregor (Bruce and Brian, may those selfish bastards rot for what they did in the bank that day) none of the characters from that time in my life stood out and went "hey world! change around me!" Those two are the main reason that merchants spend so much money on protection when taking goods from Azel to Cantobrendariel. Also, thanks to Magus, the whole "hey buddy, want to buy a bridge?" scam doesn't work on anyone anymore.

Something was missing I felt. Some critical element that I had never encountered or thought of that would make everyone at the table go "ooooo...this is immersive, I never want to leave this fictional place". Sadly, that wasn't the time of my life when I would find it.

It all really started to come together after I took a couple years off from roleplaying when I was in high school. I was a really bad kid during those days, and between *ahem* slightly less than legitimate night jobs and various other imbalances in my life there simply wasn't time for the hobby. I thought I had closed the book on my world somewhere in the middle of grade 11. Of course that wasn't the end of it though. It never is.

(and yes, this post *does* have something to do with famous PCs of the setting and the players that played them...I warned you all I'm less than concise. If it helps, just pretend it's part of my charm rather than a slightly annoying eccentricity)

I found the thing I was looking for while sitting in the park. I was hitchhiking around British Columbia at the time, trying to get space and distance from my own life so that I could figure out who I was and what I was actually supposed to be doing. I had been on the road for about 6 monthes, and my shoes were wearing out quite badly. The straps on my pack had left semi-permanent tan lines on me and I was whittling. Yes, whittling. I needed to make a little cog to replace a button on my rain coat as clouds were gathering. We (me and Troy, a guy that had sat in on one of the infamous garage-days sessions just after the conversion to WFRP rules, and was now teaching me the ropes of living on the road) heard something in the trees that seperated us and the park from the train tracks through the forest. We had let our fire burn low, but we threw water on it anyways as we weren't supposed to be making fires or camping out in the back end of the park and for all we knew it was a cop, or worse some other transient that was bigger than us.

Well, long story short, it was a deer down from the mountains. The point is, as we laughed and built our fire back up, Troy looked at me and said "we're adventurers in that game you used to play. We just had a random encounter. How many points do I get?" At first I laughed and told him "none, you failed some kind of roll and screwed up on never should have got that close anyways.".

Then it hit me like a bolt from the sky. We *were* adventurers. Or rather...adventurers were us. They're normal people in abnormal situations, and this shapes them into the abnormal people they become. The next day, me and Troy parted ways and I headed home. I needed to get a job, find an apartment, and get my RPG stuff out of storage as soon as possible so I could start running campaigns again. I guess I had found what I was searching for, levelled up, and now that part of my own personal campaign was over.

After getting my affairs settled (mainly just to have a place to put a gaming table and some money to buy Mountain Dew with) I started trying to put a group together. This wasn't a short process, as I found that what I was looking for in an ideal player had changed drastically. I didn't care about knowledge of the rules or familiarity with the hobby anymore. I wanted people that could effectively portray a normal person in an abnormal siuation and do it with class and grace rather than heavy handed acting and schlocky stereotypes. I had matured alot as a person and needed that to be reflected in not just the campaigns I was to run...but the setting itself and the people that populated it. That doesn't mean I was opposed to really over-the-top fantasy elements; quite the opposite in fact. I did need though for that sort of stuff to live and breath and not just look shiny in the package (bad analogy, but I think you're picking up what I'm putting down).

So, I raided the drama club. I had taken some of those classes in high school, and our teachers there were really good. Better than your average high school drama teacher anyways. Tara and Leon were the only ones that stuck around to make a difference in the setting though (the rest were too interested in getting high or drunk and going to be movie stars; I think most of them work at retail stores in the mall now). I didn't know it at the time, but not only would they go on to be the two longest term players I had ever had the pleasure of running for...but one of them would eventually become my fiance and love of my life as well (9 years this very day I might add...and no, not Leon you cheeky monkeys).

Why the emphasis on my players rather the characters they played? Well, this whole thread is about my world according to me...but I didn't do it alone. If not for those two, there's alot of events that wouldn't have unfolded. If not for the well-crafted and quite realistic characters they invented and then portrayed (I wish I had a snapshot of Glenn Dare the D'Gazm warlord as he forced the evil souls from that axe for example...oooooh, goosebumps all over again) the world would have been a waste of time to develop.

I've run over what I consider a realistic word count for a single post in a forum topic. Tomorrow (or maybe tonight if I get time) I'll actually get around to talking about some of these famous PCs that my players (and not just Leon and Tara, though they've been around the longest) have had over the last decade. For now though, I'll leave you all with this... thing that is FAR more important than the characters is Character itself. It doesn't matter how you build it, but without it how can you understand what Joe the Barbarian is going through? Make sure to thank your players for what they bring to the table when next you sit down to game, because they do more theme and world building than you might realize (well, they should anyways...LOL...not all do).

Then, tell them to roll for initiative and start looking around mumbling "I'm gonna need more dice for this".

Good stuff, SF. I find the RL stuff and the reasons you made things happen in your campaign (changing the system, for example) are very interesting. Don't apologize for them.

You've just made me think whether I'm doing (and will do) a good job with the character I've just made for a new campaign I'm in... keep it up.

Interesting start. This is going to be fun to witness you roll out. What's next?

Well, let's go back in time.

During the first half of grade 11, all I really did was roleplay. My walls were at this point covered in maps of my setting, and had been for some time. Topographical, political, geological...there were alot of maps. I had plotlines, flow charts, NPC descriptions...all hung to the wall with tacks or nails or tape. As such, we had to start playing in my dads garage. I didn't want my players in my room where the gaming table was, so I moved said table outside. This was to be a controversial decision as some of my players didn't like the idea of "being outside", even though the garage was a building like any other. It wasn't heated...but there was a wood burning stove, so what were they complaining about?

Nonetheless, we persevered. The garage-days sessions were some of the best. To this day, whenever I talk to Bruce or Brian (the only players from that time period that I still am in contact with) we get all misty eyed about Magus and Angus and the trouble they got into.

Magus Vanghelm was a halfling. I never liked hobbits, so my halflings had always been alot more like the 3.0 halflings than anything else. Despite that, Magus was fat. He had hairy feet, and didn't wear shoes. This was not a racial thing...Magus was just a slob if you saw him when he was Magus. The real magic about Magus is that he could be anyone he wanted to on short notice and convincingly pull off the ruse...for at least ten minutes, or however long it took to leave without paying the bill. We had just swapped to WFRP as I was building up towards running The Enemy Within, so everyone had made new characters rather than try to convert the old ones. At the time we were into tougher PCs, so everyone got more than one Career (which is sorta like, but not quite like, a level in a class for those unfamiliar with WFRP). Magus was a Charlatan. It might be more accurate to say Magus was *the* Charlatan. His collection of snake oils and colored powders and deeds to property that didn't even exist was awe inspiring.

Angus MacGregor is the type you never would have pictured hanging around with Magus. He had started his life as a Roadwarden, but when he was betrayed by a local nobel and his family murdered (can anyone say "Lone Wolf & Cub"? Whenever I do, I picture Magus in the baby cart. LOL) he became an Outlaw and had to hit the road. His hometown was no longer safe. Angus had a penchant for strange garb and had a very thin and long mohawk on the top of his head. It wasn't one of the stand-up-straight variety, but rather the hang off to the side type. He also developed over time a strange need to taste the blood or flesh of any foe he defeated with his family's huge ancient claymore that had been handed down through generations of MacGregor Roadwardens (a habit that Brian summed up by simply saying "I take a bite and move on" after every encounter).

To be honest, I don't even remember how they met; but when Magus came across a dead guy in a ditch that looked just like him and had a note on him about going somewhere to collect an inheritance all hell broke loose in my setting. Any familiar with The Enemy Within campaign knows what happened next, and I don't want to spoil it for the rest of you in case you ever play's just that good of a campaign. Suffice to say that they put all their eggs in one basket, and when they didn't get the fortune they were proper upset. It was then that they embarked on a cross-country bank robbing spree. I don't know which was Bonnie and which was Clyde, but they robbed a hell of a lot of banks and strong houses. It was during this time that Maxx Ernst beame their greatest nemesis, depsite his painfully small role in the adventure as published. My first real recurring villain that wasn't plot-centric was born...a tradition I have kept very much alive since.

It was also during this time that I had my first large and real crisis as a GM. I had had problems with players and characters and stuff like that as any GM that had been doing it for 5 or 6 years would at that point. But this was different. It was more a conflict of "what type of fiction is this" or "who's campaign is it anyhow?" as opposed to "how did you get a +10 on that?" or "give Jimmy back his d20". Maybe I had crafted adventures that suited the PCs better up to this point and using something so large and prepublished without taking the time to hone it to the group caused the issue, maybe it was something else. The two of them decided that this whole threat to the country was far less important than their quest for personal wealth and they simply walked away from the plot to do their own thing. This didn't bother fact it excited me like nothing had before. It did however bother the other players who had wanted to play characters that saved the world, got the girl, collected the reward, and retired. I had to decide what was more important to my creative vision as both a world designer and GM...and I chose on the side of the criminals. The answer is simple in retrospect. Common sense's the players campaign. But the GM has to have fun too, and argueing with the players of Templars and other such law abiding do-gooders isn't that much fun when you get right down to it.

The other players were the type to miss sessions, show up late, leave early with no warning though they had known that they had to leave early all along, etc etc. Moreover, Bruce and Brian were going places "off the map" (both in a geographical and figurative sense) and that excited me. The other players got bored unless the road led straight to the dungeon. We all know the type. I told the other players that if they couldn't reconcile what was happening with their characters, and if what their characters would believably do was turn Magus and Angus in for the reward, then they should do just that. I didn't want a heap of inter-party conflict, so it was decided that their characters would become NPCs and they would make PCs that were better suited to what was actually happening in the plot. I couldn't with a clear conscience hamper what two regular and devoted players wanted to do in favor of a few tourists that didn't even show up half the time. In the end, the Templar ended up in a ditch with a Cuban Nectktie, and the other two (I can't even remember what type of characters they were...inspiring to be sure) ran off never to be heard from again, since this was the first time Angus "took a bite and moved on".

The new characters were made, and their players showed up even less. They weren't bitter over the in-game falling out...inf act to my surprise they didn't even care. That's when I knew that they weren't my type of players. I made the decision that I would just run for the two of them, and everyone else could go find another group. The fact that there wasn't another group in town didn't really bother me at the time...I was too excited with the possibilities in front of me to feel sympathy for them.

In addition to influencing the way that area of the world guarded their wealth and transported it, Magus and Angus (and of course their players, Bruce and Brian) shaped the world in a much more profound yet subtle way. By actively being invloved with the setting, rather than using it as a tool for the collection of XP, they had vindicated me as the world's designer. They had justified all the work I had been doing by buying in and responding to things as real people would, rather than playing out an ego trip for the sake of away-from-the-table gratification. More often than not, we'd sit around on non-game nights and talk about how the things they had done weren't cool at all. In fact, they were downright diabolical. It was only while at the table, dice in hand, that any of us revelled in it. This gave me perspective on real world interactions and reactions. It also brought a moral compass to my world that had been severly lacking.

You see, I've never been a big fan of religion. Neither were Bruce and Brian. My setting had gods, but they were ill-defined. No one ever played clerics or priests, and none of my adventures revolved around gods or their followers. That all changed with Magus and Angus. When the law was unable to stop them, surely someone else would...and I figured religious zealots were the perfect antidote to their cold uncaring methods.

Of gods really sucked when I first designed them. So, after a couple failed attempts, I just used the Warhammer gods as the stats for all that kind of stuff were already in the books I was using. I always regretted that decision, but it was the most expedient at the time so I stuck to it. All that changed many many years later when Tara bought me The Book Of The Righteous for christmas. That's neither here nor there for the post at hand though.

In the end, Angus died at the hands of a particularily hungry Jabberwock (only to rise again from his shallow grave for a reunion session years later), and poor little Magus was eventually murdered by his bitter rival Maxx Ernst (he didn't rise, but did make an appearance as a ghostly NPC in the same reunion session, following Angus around making small talk with him despite the dangers unfolding around the group that night). Their deeds were not sung by any bards, no maidens mourned their passing, and most people didn't even remember their names. To be fair, mosst people had never heard their names to begin with.

But to this very day if you walk into any bank in Scola, you're not allowed in if you approach bearing arms. And no one buys bridges without going to inspect the site first.

While Magus and Angus were the first PCs that genuinely influenced the world around them, they were far from the most influential. As I previously wrote about, I went through a vast change in my personl life that led to the First Epiphany of Scott, which changed the way I looked at world and campaign design. After that, and with the new players in tow, I set out on a mission to make the word "campaign" mean something new. I set out to make the world live and breath through the actions of the people that lived in it, be they PC or NPC. The two would not collide and become one for some years however.

The characters that eventually did that more than any others are now infamously referred to by the players from that time as "Jacquilyn and Company". To say that the myriad of PCs in between Angus and Magus and Jacquilyn and her less-than-merry band were inconsequential would do them a disservice. Ryna and Denny for example changed the face of technology forever, which changed the setting completely (they were inventors; and while that may seem like a boring campaign, it really isn't once people start hiring thieves to steal your blueprints, and a device you waaaay over sized starts to form it's own gravity once you sped it up too fast and ghosts move in downstairs of your workshop). Glenn and Raye finally defeated Maxx Ernst (who by now had become something else entirley) and broke the back of the worship of the Lord of Murder. But really, to get an idea of how much players can change a setting just by being themselves under an allowing GM, we have to look at Jacquilyn and Company.

First a breakdown of the party. The "company" in Jacquilyn and Company was made up of; Dimarus (played by Shaunce), a barbarian from the Plains of Tarq that been sold into slavery and then sold again, only to later gain his freedom through service to the Toscan Empire during the Gnoll Wars against the Queen of Amn; Gavin (played by Leon), an Elu'sar (which is a race just enough like the drow for you to understand them without me going into exhaustive detail...something I'll do later when the time is appropriate and space is allowing) who had also been raised as a slave amongst humans...he didn't really know how Elu'sar were supposed to act, though he had these instincts he didn't understand, whih is why Jacquilyn took him under her "tutelage"; and Jacquilyn herself (played by Tara...who it needs to be mentioned is the exact opposite of Jacquilyn in real life, whih is why she was playing the character to begin with). Jacquilyn was cruel and unpredictable, even for an Elu'sar princess. That was the reason she was given a sloop and told to leave the city of her birth in the first plae. Delicate political situations at home demanded she be kept as far from the city as possible. It was exile, but they had sold the idea to her in such a way that she was proud to serve as an ambassador for her race amongst the human lands. There were a couple other PCs that joined and then left the party as the campaign progressed, but these three were the major players in this part of my settings history. Had any of us known how it would turn out, maybe different choices would have been made. But then it wouldn't have been as good a campaign by far.

It all started innocently enough...sure they were all evil, but it was predominantly a swashbuckling campaign if you can belienve that. Sailing over the bounding lanes getting into trouble and a wee bit of piracy. Gavin wanted to become a well known thief, Jacquilyn wished nothing more than her next duel, and Dimarus just wanted a job when he showed up on the docks after the other two stole a new ship. Things started to change though when they fell in with some demon worshippers that later led them to serve Socothbenoth and Nocticula. As depraved as the potential inherant in that was, it was made worse by the deception lurking in the background. Little did they know at the time, but an eons old plan was coming to fruition around them and they would play a central role in it.

You see, at this point I had already incorporated the Book Of The Righteous as my pantheon of gods. The creation myth in that book was so uncannily close to the one I already had for my setting that it bled together nicely. Kador, the oldest and first god, had been betrayed by the other younger gods and cast down to Hell becoming Asmodeaus. He had been working on a plan since then to get back what he considered his birthright...the world and everything on it. Part of that plan, near it's end, was to bring about enough chaos and destruction in the world that he could garner the power necessary to break the Compact (an agreement he and the other gods had signed that stated the gods could not directly influence mortals) and return to the world he had helped create. Part of this great ploy was using the agents of chaos to bring about this state, meanwhile making them think that their actions were their own, and not truly serveing the leader of the forces they fought against in the Blood War.

Eventually, after much hooplah and death, Jacquilyn and Company found themselves in Stormhaven. It was the seat of the Global Senate Of Men, a fledgling organization that sought to bring some degree of harmony and peace to a world that was quickly becoming caught up in protracted land and sea wars between human nations. The Global Senate dearly wanted to keep the Toscan Empire from attaining complete dominance of the seas, and the Toscans wanted the right to police the worlds oceans as though they were in charge of it all. Enter into this the confusion, betrayal, and mayhem wrought by these three madfolk and you have a recipe for disaster.

Now, certain Celestial individuals and groups had noticed the rise of conflict around port cities and the like (including the complete eradication of several Boran trading posts in the Boran Straits) and dispatched their servants to investigate and take action. It was in Stormhaven that they caught up with the PCs. The battle was fast, painless almost for the PCs, and quickly forgotten by them.

It did not go unnoticed for Bizrin of Pale however. Bizrin was an Elu'red (think wood elf and you're about a third of the way there) who had grown up in the courts of the Elu'chil (a cold race incapable of most emotion, whom the Elu'sar were descended from) as a swordsman dueling for their entertainment. He had become the greatest artist with a blade they had ever seen and after 999 years they allowed him his freedom. He had used that freedom to fish, his sabres buried beneath his cottage in the deep woods of Lindorie Provensa. You and I may not like the idea of fishing every day for 600 years, but that's exatly what he did until his life changed permanently due to the PCs.

Bizrin's greatest and dearest friend was a Hound Archon that would join him once a month to fish by the brook near Bizrin's cottage and share pipe weed and talk of his adventures in service to the Celestial Choir...which Bizrin found fascinatiing. When he didn't show up one time, Bizrin thought nothing of it. When the next month he didn't come either, he started to worry. When a week later another Hound Archon came to tell Bizrin of his friends cold blooded murder on the steps in Stormhaven he went immediately for his shovel...and the blades buried beneath his home. With haste he made for Stormhaven and tracked Jacquilyn down, for it was she that had weilded the rapier that took his dear friends life.

Sadly, he arrived on the pier just as their ship was sailing away, their work in Stormhaven done. The Senate had attempted to reject the Toscan bid for dominance of the seas, and they had responded by sailing more ships than anyone had ever seen in one place over the horizon to let everyone know that what Toscan's want Toscan's take. It seemed a genuine World War was just around the corner, so Jacquilyn and her crew had decided to leave before anyone started poking about at who the various parties had been associating with lately. Mission accomplished, now let's get out of town.

They laughed and poked fun of him while he simmered on the dock. They had never seen him before, but knew he must be another do-gooder that thought he was something special. They continued on with their mad schemes, while Bizrin chased them from one end of the world to the other. Many times he and Jacquilyn met in battle with no clear victor (has anyone seen the 1977 film with Carradine and Keitel called The Duellists? it was this film that influenced the relationship between this PC and NPC). All around them, the world was crumbling into chaos and despair but all that mattered to Bizrin was revenge.

Eventually, the other shoe dropped and Kador returned. He rewarded these unwitting allies well, and Jacquilyn left to the Abyss to continue her depravity in a place better suited for it. Gavin went on to do rather unremarkable and forgetable things, mainly because he was such a good thief that his reputation kept shrinking while his profits rose. Dimarus chose as his reward unending battle, which was granted in the form of two portals which faced each other across a large field. One led to Hell, the other to the Abyss...and Dimarus stood immortal between them, laughing.

Kador, who was now and had been for quite some time Asmodeaus, went on with his plan. He first destroyed two thirds of the world and sundered it from the influence of the gods with The Veil, almost exhausting his power (he was not Kador anymore after all, and eons of lieing to himself had taken it's toll). He then attempted to recreate the world as *he* would have made it without the other gods around...and was spent. He barely planted the seeds of life in that barren place when he disipated into his base components. In his monumental pride he had not realized that such a feat was even beyond him. An unthinking being taht had become next to nothing, it seemed at the time that Kador who became Asmodeaus was finished.

But what of Bizrin? The poor sap realized at the last that had he focused instead on trying to help right the wrongs that the PCs had commited instead of pursuing someone that didn't even remember his name most of the time he could have stopped it all. He could have saved the world. Crushed by grief, he too seemed to dissappear into history as a minor player at best.

All this would change 2 million years later in the world grown from Asmodeaus' half planted seed. But Asha's tale is not this one, and at this time it seemed the stories of both Asmodeaus Who Had Been Kador and Bizrin of Pale were over.

Then, two years later in Real Life, I purchased the Midnight campaign setting and had my second epiphany as a GM. All the stories and PCs and late nights and dice rolls and stained character sheets...these were the tools. The *setting* is the campaign; and it's never over.

Now that my busiest week of the year is over, I'll be able to get back to this soon.

Can you believe that in addition to attempting this thread, I've recently started compiling every bit of information I have in my head or on paper into one cross referenced setting binder...split into four different time periods and indexed by topic? Not only that, but I'm soooo old school that I'm insisting on writing the whole thing by hand, just because I like the authenticity and character of ink on paper?

I think I'm insane...anyone know a good secretary that's looking for extra hours?

Yes, you are insane :)
You DO know that computer documents can be printed out? using ink...on paper...

I'd think a cross referenced document like that would be asking to use something with hyper-links, no?


This looks interesting. OTOH, another Gamegrene semi-regular has recently hit me with an assignment and a flood of source-text of his own, and I have sworn by my Higher Power, whom I choose to call The Lone Ranger, that I will give his material the attention it deserves... so I may lag a bit in commentary.

*blinks* I never really thought of how fallen villians and NPCs might interact...but then again, I suually see them as more destroyed than foiled. I'm tyring to get less on that, though. And it's very good to see how well it's working and has worked for you, to give me an example that it can actually work.

Markedly Impressedly yours,

Oi vey...believe it or not, I haven't forgotten about this. And the best part is coming next! After talking about Asha Pembrose, Fleur Raymer, and Dierdre Cambridge-Drac (any Freeport fans recognize that last name?) I'll be pretty much done going on about PCs and how their lives shaped the world for good or ill.

After that, I'll split a bottle of wine with my ego and decide where to go from there.

Almost a year later, and I still haven't forgotten about this. It's been on my mind constantly, but I've been building a business from the ground up (which has almost tripled in size and revenue in the last 12 monthes), running sometimes up to three campaigns at a time (well, not all at a time, but weeklies and monthlies), moving again (into one of the hotel properties I run) and a host of other stuff beside.

The nice thing is that alot of folks have found Gamegrene, or returned to it, in the year I've been absent. The next three parts of this are almost done being written. So catch up and then get ready for some more.

Asha Pembrose was (and in her own way still is) the most influential character ever to live in my setting or grace my life. She was originally going to be an NPC in a very ambitious campaign that me and Tara were going to co-GM. When that fell through (mainly due to me being super-picky about who I wanted sitting at the table with us), Tara suggested she play her as a character in a solo campaign. We had lived in Calgary for awhile, and hadn't really found anyone we wanted to game with, so I said sure. Then she hit me with the right jab to the chin. She wanted to play Asha in the setting her last character and company had destroyed. Not during or after that destruction...just a few years before in some out of the way place where it wouldn't overlap events from the previous campaign.

It's a really big place, my setting, so I said sure. We transplanted Asha to my own setting and I cobbled together some adventure material from issues of Dungeon that Tara hadn't read yet.

At this point I wasn't investing too much into planning this campaign, as I was still working on the other one in hopes that the right group would somehow just materialize in front of me one night. I intended to sort of ham-hand my way through an introductory scenario and then find a way to bring it around to the Shackled City adventure path that was showing up in Dungeon at the time. "Easy peasy, done by dinner," I thought. That's when Tara hit me with the left hook...she had decided it might be cool to rewind Asha back to her backstory, when she was 12 and had just gone to live with the witches in the woods. I had to place the woods somewhere. I had always intended for that to be some place that existed only in the backstory until it mattered. Plus, I had to rationalize a 12 year old girl going on this big long epic quest. That part wasn't too hard, a character is their level no matter what age they are. In fact, I found myself thinking it would be cool to see a 12 year old girl kicking ass on bad guys. We placed a hometown, placed some woods, and I made some alterations to my initial intro adventure and we were ready to go. We set a date to begin play (the following Monday I believe), and went back to watching Firefly DVDs.

That weekend the entire world changed.

I found myself browseing my FLGS, and saw this thing called "Midnight". Intrigued, I picked it up and flipped the book over in my hands to read the back. I remember thinking "this binding sucks, I'd destroy this thing in weeks". Reading the back I found myself thinking, "so, this is what would happen if Sauron won...hmmm". That doesn't describe it very's far more original a setting than that makes it sound. But for those unfamiliar with the setting, it kind of sums it up well enough. A dark god rules, people are oppressed, evil priests called legates wander around making life hell and killing magic users. You get the idea.

Oh yeah...and orcs. Armies of them. And *they're* the ones in charge.

I carried it around the store...a weird habit I have at game stores...if it's still in my hands when I go to leave, then I haven't found anything better by then and I buy it (an expensive habit to be sure, because I can carry alot of books all at once and the rule is only limited by what I can comfortably carry under one arm). That day Midnight made the cut.

I dove in to it that night when we got home and that's when I had the Second Epiphany of Scott. The *world* is the campaign. You see, as I read it, everytime it mentioned Izrador (the settings evil god) I thought about Asmodeaus and how he had destroyed the world because of Jacquilyn and Company. When it mentioned The Veil (the big magic-whatsamawhatsit cloud that cut off the world from the other, kinder, softer gods) I thought of how Kador Who Became Asmodeaus would have done something like that too to keep the other gods, whom he hated and was hated by, from messing with his playground. And when it mentioned the mysterious stranger that came and spoke to Aradil, the Witch Queen of Eredane, right before she went mad and declared war on the darkness that lurked in the north as though she finally understood something no one else knew.....I thought of Bizrin of Pale.

I yanked out a coil notebook and began scribbling things. I tore paper into bookmarks. I dug through a box in the closet and found old notes, old maps, old planning notebooks. I didn't do these things in that order mind you. I sort of did them all at once. Tara sipped her martini on the couch and watched me with a raised eyebrow.

"Good book?" she asked calmly.

"Mhm," I replied.

"Should I ask?" she asked me.

"We can't play Monday," I said, "How about the following Friday? I need some time with this."

"Sure baby," she replied, smiling the smile of someone that knew her character was in trouble and loved it, "will i still get to play Asha though?"

"Yeah yeah...but 2 million years in the future."

"Oh," she said, and took another sip and went back to reading.

By Wednesday I had everything I needed converted, and had found a way to use the Midnight setting at a different point in it's timeline than the one the setting book described (before the orcs actuall ytook anything over). By Thursday night I had the initial adventure planned out far better than it had been. By Friday afternoon I knew how to segue into the Shackled City adventure path and how to make it fit with the changes I was making to the setting. By Friday night I had found my dice.

The campaign that followed was far too long for me to describe in detail. I tried writing it on a Midnight forum once, and had to stop. I've never felt that campaigns make good stories out of context. So much only exists at the table on game night that rehashing it later is never as good. I will however describe some point form type stuff that really made this campaign me, to Tara, and especially to the setting.

It first needs to be mentioned that this campaign made me cry. On more than one occasion. Tara too...more often than me. On one occasion she flung her books at me and stormed out of the apartment. She came back half an hour later, and when I asked her if she was going to be okay she replied, "Where'd most of my dice go? Let's get back in to this." Her breathing was still ragged, so I knew she hadn't calmed down...she had just come up with a plan. I helped her find her dice, and Asha went back to trying to rescue her half sister from slavers.

Asha started out simple. A simple girl from a simple family that was taken at age 4 to study in the woods with some other simple girls. Witchery, they called it. It was a compliment, and most families celebrated it when their daughter was taken by Sanis, the woman that watched over and protected the girls in the woods. Asha's family seemed relieved.

Her father was an extremely poor cobbler (ie: shoddy, but broke too), and her mother smelled of tobacco and watered-down whiskey. That was really all Asha could remember of them. That, and that they didn't want her. Each year the other girls went to visit their families, but Asha had no one. No one that is but for Cotton, another girl like herself that had no one. Cotton had been abandoned on the streets of her home city shortly after her birth, and so though all thirteen Maidens of Gamaril Wood were considered "sisters", when Cotton and Asha said it to each other it meant more to them. As it turned out, they were indeed half sisters. They shared a father; and he was more than a bad cobbler, he was a wanted criminal hiding out in Asha's home village. He is really irrelevant to the story though, though some of his ex-associates who kidnapped Cotton later in the campaign were not. It was they that had Cotton when Tara lost her mind that night.

There I go again...almost writing things out in detail as they happened and then stopping myself as I realize I don't have that kind of time. Asha eventually led her sisters, though she was the youngest. She was the most powerful by far (PCs always are, right? LOL), so it was natural. Being a natural order, they had no issue following her lead in most things. That would all change far in the future, but for many years Asha was the bright little star of their constellation. On the night of their shared graduation, a prophecy had come true...Asha had found the legendary Silver Acorn and the Temple of the Lost Gods. A stranger came to them that night, shining like a silver star and speaking in hushed whispers that shook the trees with his immense power. Sanis bade them sit and listen, for his words were the most important they would ever hear. He told them the truth of the world. he told them of the Old Gods and the Sundering. He told them of Jacquilyn Winchater and her cabal of mindless villains. When he was done, the stanger left...and Asha never saw him again.

Tara actually flinched when I said that name. Jacquilyn Winchater, her last PC. I think the flinch may have been her anticipating that her last PC would now be her big bad evil guy in this campaign...not a pleasant prospect (she was wrong of course; though Jacquilyn did show up faaar later, when Asha was a goddess in her own right, it was more as a warning than a confrontation and the two decided to just stay as far away from each other as possible). It was then that recognition dawned on her and she realized that this was *Bizrin of Pale* standing before her. She got goose bumps and shivered...and leaned in closer to my GMs screen.

While in Vihnosh (a city in my setting that took the place of Cauldron from Shackled City), Asha learned of the darkness that lurked in the North. It had been beaten back twice...well, thrice actually. The third victory was not the Erenlanders though, as they had thought. It was Izradors. The greatest victory of all...he let them win to lull them into security, that their own eventual decadence could be used against them. Religious accountants, known as legates, had slowly made themselves useful to all the eladers of the land. When the time came for izrador to play his final ace, they froze all the Erenlanders assets and showed their true selves...preists of the Shadow.

So many great nights of Asha finding the corrupt paladin Alek Tercival clawing at a stone crypt to escape, his fingers broken and bloodied. He thought he served angels of the old gods, but in fact it was hags using him as a puppet of Shadow. If someone had told me then that this man would one day be Asha Pembrose's husband I would have laughed. He was a "throw away" NPC. One that was there just to show that even good guys can get jerked around by the Shadow. His role was to heighten tension and breed paranoia. These days, 3500 years later, he's Lord Alex Tercival Slayer of Gods and King of Angels...and the Tercivilian church are the most feared warriors in the world.

So many tear inducing when Weiss Giantblooded, a terrible monster of a man who ran with a cut throat gang of rapists and murderers, saw Asha almost slain in a bloody battle that ended with her a hairs breadth from deaths door while her familiar (a wolf named Vex) fought off the attacker that remained alive. Weiss followed her back to Vihnosh, and accosted her at the gates. He told her that he saw her heart, and he knew he was nothing. He demanded he be judged for his crimes and be found guilty and executed by righteous people like herself, for all he could hope for before going to Hell was to die at the hands of ones as pure as she. The Teraketh church that heard his lengthy confession (which was awful and terrible...he was a bad bad guy) laid their swords down at their feet when he was done; sign that he was found innocent on account of true repentance. Presently, Weiss' tomb was robbed by an associate of Tara's current PC to get a legendary hammer that they needed to break down an ancient door. A door that Weiss himself had erected. Plundering the ancient tomb of a Knight of Asha wasn't something that Tara's current character set out to do...but you do what you have to sometimes, and what you want to the rest.

So many surprises when Asha met her first Legate. Ophedius was evil as they come. Young, ambitious, powerful, handsome. As Asha hid in some bushes outside of Redgorge, having just rescued Cotton during an attack on the town by the first wave of the Shadow's forces right at the beginning of the Final War of Shadow, Ophedius came upon her. She didn't know yet that Legate's can sense magic being used, and the small spells she was weaving to keep her and the catatonic Cotton (they were really *Bad* kidnappers, and their idea of fun with the 14 year old girl they had in their possesion changed Cotton forever) hidden made her stand out like a beacon to his legate senses. Just outside the small copse with his orc bodygaurds, he called to her over and over, laughing in a charming way whenever she wouldn't answer. At last he said, "listen little poppet...if you won't come out and face me that you may be judged worthy of being a legate like me, or cleansed for your impeity and heresy, then we have one other option. I can leave..."

Asha lit up. She had bested this handsome young man...older than her by 5 years at the most...and her and Cotton could flee once they left!

"...and return to Redgorge. What the Shadow would have done to you, I will do tenfold upon this place that sheltered and aided you."

Knowing she should come out, face this enemy, Asha hid and cowered and shook and cried. She was undone by her fear of this young man and the orcs that he seemed to command like dogs despite them outnumbering and outpowering him by far. That night, Redgorge burned and blood flowed freely in the streets. Asha hid in the copse and bawled her eyes out watching, while Cotton just rocked back and forth with her arms around her shins...the darkness inside her slowly simmering and waiting.

It never occured to me that Asha would fall for Ophedius. Even after meeting Alek and realizing her feelings for him while they traversed the devoid pocket dimension of Occipitus (which eventually became her home plane, named Gamaril after the woods she always considered her true home) she never really got over Ophedius. He plagued her and taunted her as an enemy and sometimes as an erstwhile ally (despite Alek's objections) throughout the campaign. Once he even sacrificed himself to the Legates that were right behind them as they traveled to the other side of the world out from under the veil, to ask help of the Gods in defeting Izrador.

In the end, he turned out to be crazy, not evil. Not "bwa HA HA!" crazy...but realy truly mentally ill. After not seeing him for a decade, and secretly hoping that he had found peace or death in his quest for power at all costs, he turned up one day. He had seized the Colorless Lodge, an order of psions, and led them in an attck on the Inverted Pyramid, the foremost magical institute at that time in the setting. He came to Asha to tell her "look what I've done!" the way a proud friend would brag about a promotion at work.

That's when she saw it after all these years. The utter madness and hopelessness in his eyes. She whispered, "You poor man, " with tears in her eyes, and with a thought she took his life. No fanfare, no battle, no initiative rolls. She thought it, and he dropped dead in midsentence. His last words were, "But I never got to...", and then Ophedius was no more. She trapped his soul in a small clay pot that she wore around her neck for ever after that. It may sound anticlimactic in the reading, but it was one of the single most powerful scenes in the campaign...period. Me and Tara both had to stop playing and go to the pub. We both shed a tear or two. She didn't know Asha was going to do that, even after playing her for years at that point. I *certainly* didn't think she had it in her. We were both in shock.

Eventually, Asha defeated the Shadow. Enemies became allies, allies betrayed her and themselves, friends died. It was long, and it was the saddest thing I've ever gamed through. Izrador wasn't defeated, but instead healed back to Kador...the god he started Asha, who had become the new Goddess of Redemption.

And a new age began. The Age of Man. Good and Evil were chased from the world forever to be replaced instead by selflessness and selfisness. The old gods were rejected by man in favor of the new ones that had risen and the world was never the same again. Do What Thou Wilt had become the whole of the law, so that man could choose his own path...the way Kador had always wanted it.

At Asha's side, serving as the God of Selfishness, is Ophedius. His madness was a thing of the flesh, and learning the ways of godhood along with Asha (he was around her neck after all, and in death still far smarter than any living man), he had come to see that and had healed himself. Alek stands with the armies that left the old gods side at the gates of Hell to keep that Evil from tainting man forevermore. Ashans and Ophedians make up the majority of worshippers amongst men, and most don't realize it's actually one religion with two faces...Selfless and Selfish.

And to this day, no one knows whatever happened to Bizrin of Pale...again.

Even while typeing this i got misty eyed (or more a few times). It was just that powerful of a campaign. I would never run a campaign that heavy and dark ever again...I got it out of me with that one. It was four years of my life, me and Tara gaming at least three times a week for the duration...sometimes until the sun came up, sometimes longer.

It was the most important campaign I've ever run for a few reasons:

1) My setting no longer has Good and Evil. It has good and evil, but no more big E or big G.

2) It changed the pantheon of gods to one that I myself created out of NPCs or Asha. I had always wanted my own pantheon, not one from a book. The one from Book of the Righteous was amazing, but it was just something expediant. Now I have my own, one that players understand intrinsically without looking things up in books.

3) It set the stage for a new era of gaming in the setting. I was worried that was done with because the last group had ruined the whole place. Now, I have a new sandbox to play in that's alot like the other one with some very important differences. Everything old is new again.

4) It showed me how powerful gaming could be. I've seen alot in my years roleplaying, but the number of times I had to wipe away tears just to keep running were too many to count. The corrolary to this is that I have mastered the art of the poker face in any campaign that is not as emotionally charged as that one...and none ever will be, to be sure.

5) It showed me something I had never seen in my life way from gaming and I see all the time now...small beauties. I grew up very jaded due to my upbringing (quite unpleasant), and Tara could tell me all she wanted about how easy it is to find simple pleasures in life but it never hit home. Seeing her play Asha in such a desolate place, and still find simple pleasures in things (as she had to) taught me a very real life lesson.

6) This is probably the most important one...I learned how to run a very mature campaign handleing things that I would not normally have included in a campaign, and handleing them well. The *handleing them well* part is key. So many things we talk about on this site (rape, insanity, name it, it probably came up at one point or another in this campaign) were things that I just didn't handle in game until the length of this campaign. I grew up alot as a person during this campaign, and I'd like to think that at least a bit of that was due to the camaign itself. Many forums or websites or gamers make the mistake of thinking that "mature" means you included it. That is so far from the truth. Including it, including it believably, and handleing it well make your campaign mature. the next campaign, starring Fleur Raymer as the PC, could never have happened if not for the lessons I learned while running this one.

This was the hardest part...writing about Asha. Maybe someday I'll endeavour to write the whole story here, but not until I'm an old man. In the meantime, I still have a number of rather important PCs to talk about before I start really disecting this thing we call "gaming" by examining individual key elements and putting them up against the bigger picture.

I need to have a smoke and a bourbon. I miss Ophedius.