More water has flown to the sea, and it’s time to jot down some thoughts regarding Irongate once again.
As I’ve mentioned before, I design adventure, not just a city, because a city without adventure is not particularly exciting behind the table.
This post will be a bit scattered because I will write down all the thoughts I’ve had in the meantime.
The Nature of Adventure
Throughout the campaign, the PCs will have the power to determine the destiny of Irongate, which is the crux of the adventure. As we’ve established previously, the city lost its empire in a war and its status as the sole trading hub between Kali states and the rest of the world. This has led to a threat of famine, as the current land cannot support the city’s needs. Although I haven’t determined the source of additional food yet, it’s clear that the supply of food will eventually run out, and this could even be the first adventure.
The king’s curse, brought about by the “Itza-Zipopan Open Seas Peace Treaty,” has caused him to direct resources away from rebuilding the city and restoring the glory of the Itza empire. Instead, he focuses on suppressing and persecuting relatives who want to restore the city. Yunu Itza, a relative of the king, has already attempted to overthrow him, but the king managed to quell the rebellion. Yunu is currently held captive in Iron Palaces, while his son Kzalpa leads the rest of the rebels in the mountains.
At some point during the campaign, the players will have to choose a side, and their decision will shape the fate of the city. At the moment, the possible choices seem to be the following:
- The PCs ally with the king. The empire is unlikely to be restored, but there will be many internal struggles. Perhaps the PCs can somehow break the curse?
- The PCs ally with the rebels and lead the king’s overthrow. They are likely to start with the secret murder of Nene and other important officers. Will they eventually try to restore the empire? The new opponent will be Zipopan again?
- The PCs find some other party to ally with (e.g., Asteanic merchants, Roadic pirates, or some other major city-state) and use that alliance to establish their own regime. The opponents are likely to be both the king and the rebels.
- The PCs do not participate in city politics, and things will go as they go.
Broadly speaking, whatever the PCs do, it falls into one of these four categories. This means that the following preparations are needed:
- Metaplot of what happens if the PCs don’t intervene.
- Short action plans for all parties. The GM can use these as a basis even if the PCs do something unexpected.
- Character sheets for the parties and a number of palaces/dungeons.
Overall, the campaign is essentially sandbox-style.
One thing that currently bothers me is that no thread currently points towards the emergence of a powerful BBEG. Rustking and Nene are not super warriors, nor are the rebel leaders, and I am still not sure if I want to bring the god-lich to the game as an enemy.
The beginning of the adventure and who are the PCs
I haven’t fully decided yet how exactly the PCs will first get to know the city, but it seems to me that I will already tie them to the city from the beginning, i.e. they have some home, relatives/friends, rivals, etc. there, already at the start of the game. To do this, I will use cards or let the players choose. Both approaches work.
A personal connection to the city raises the PCs’ motivation to deal with its problems and not just leave when the problems (hunger, city battles) start to become overwhelming. Of course, this means that before the city becomes too problematic, the PCs need time to deal with their friends, acquire assets for themselves in the city, and in every other way start feeling the city as their home. So the city should be more friendly towards the PCs at the beginning of the campaign (or at least partially).
However, this approach presents the challenge of the players knowing little about the city while their characters have lived there their whole lives. One solution could be to have the PCs return to the city after a prolonged absence. Or something else?
- Friends and rivals’ cards.
- Find a reason why the players know significantly less than the PCs.
- Beginning adventure. I prefer it when all campaigns start with a clear task right away. In this case, getting to know the city happens organically because the task leads them everywhere.