I've been road tripping for the past week, riding my motorcycle up from the Southwest to the Pacific Northwest. Over the almost 1900 miles, I went through plenty of wilderness and parks and I was struck with an interesting idea for a campaign. I'm going to start this out with some basic ideas and directions to go on, but I really want to flesh out some of the factions in the future.
As a GM, I love creating the stories in which adversaries are anything but black and white. Sure, there's times when a villain needs to prove a point (like that time the hostage takers in my superheroes campaign chucked a hostage out a 10th floor window after the players failed their stealth checks). Sometimes, though, there's much more to a villain than mere power-grabs and money. I have designed this campaign for Breachworld and it can take place anywhere in the Civilized Lands described in the core book and it's supplements or anywhere else on Earth that is.
Since the Fall, Hot Zones have cropped up around Breaches. These are areas where the flora on the other side of the Breach has somehow seeded, pollinated, and grown on Earth's side of the Breach, creating entirely alien environments in the immediate vicinity of the Breach. There are individuals who view The Fall as well-deserved for humanity's indiscretion and use of science without understanding the consequences. While some merely try scrape by, others use strength and salvaged technology to impose their will on a populace. Others, believing the very use of technology is what brought about The Fall, strive to protect the natural order and the Earth, including the unique, strange, and sometimes frightening, Hot Zones.
Stories of groups leaving to explore Hot Zones and never returning abound, though it's never clear why they disappear. With no one having the free time to discover why, they often fall into legend, story, and rumor. Sometimes, they are forgotten altogether, remembered only by their descendants, if any, and sometimes by myth or the oral history of their people.
As an introductory campaign, the players might be members of a community which has come under siege by some unknown ailment or beast. Whatever is happening, the very survival of the small village - the characters' entire world - is at stake. The players have been chosen to seek out a cure or the source of this siege by the town elders (or council, or whatever means of governance you prefer to use). Failure means certain death for their friends, family, and loved ones.
Here's a few possibilities:
- Disease. The townspeople have begun falling ill and several have died in past few weeks alone. The players have, so far, managed to avoid becoming infected and are therefore the strongest and best suited to undergo this mission. The town doctor has managed to develop a vaccine using an alien plant which grows only in a nearby Hot Zone. The players need to retrieve as much as they can so he can produce enough vaccine to inoculate the village.
- Siege. A nearby Hot Zone has unleashed a small army of extremely hostile Reptilian Raiders. The town has developed a weapon that can send the Raiders packing, but they need a rare crystal from the Hot Zone to power it. The players need to go into the Hot Zone, retrieve a crystal, and bring it back to the village.
- Mining. A local mechanic has discovered a new way of powering devices which is far more efficient and increases the effectiveness by 15% or more. He needs the players to retrieve a special ore from a nearby Hot Zone that he needs to build the circuitry necessary to help power the town's defenses.
Regardless of the task, the players should need to be required to enter some kind of wilderness or Hot Zone region and obtain some kind of resource and the town's very survival should depend upon their success.
A number of people have undergone explorations deeper into the same region, but never returned. The resources at the edge of the Hot Zone or region have now been exhausted and an excursion deeper into it is required.
A loosely knit organization known only as Wardens have an operative who has named the region his protectorate. The organization has no central authority, operating as like-minded individuals. Wardens believe The Fall was brought about by man's own folly and strive to prevent the same from happening again (or what's currently happening from getting worse). They view the Hot Zones and natural order of life to be sacred and protect it from exploitation. A single Warden often oversees a large area, leaving some resources to slip through the crack, but any exploitation is viewed negatively and the Warden will react.
Depending on the Warden, they may attempt negotiation or diplomacy to turn the expedition away. Others are more devious, conniving, or simply value their ideals over any other life and sabotage or murder as a means to saving their protectorate.
Here are a few potential ways to use this antagonist:
- The players are approached and politely asked to leave. There is no threat, merely a warning that the area is sacred and protected. Negotiation may work, but if the players ignore the warnings, strange things start to happen - a vehicle breaks down, missing equipment, strange weather. All are the work of the Warden.
- The players begin their expedition and are almost immediately the victims of sabotage. The Warden uses deception to misdirect blame to a member of the expedition (shift it to an NPC if you want to be nice or start making one of the players look bad if you want to be a little more adversarial and your players can handle it).
Ultimately, any number of things could happen. The players could appeal to the Warden's sensibilities and negotiate a fair trade of what they need. They could also kill or run off the Warden, only to have him return later, and with backup. There's lots of options here.