Student seeks a Master



Jul 09, 2006 3:34:30
I hope this is an appropriate thread on this forum.

I'm looking to have an extended conversation in regards to DM'ing my first Dark Sun campaign with someone who has a little free time and is fairly knowledgeable.

Essentially, I need assistance in planning the course of my campaign and some basic fact checking. Perhaps even bounce a few ideas I have off of someone.

E-Mail, Instant messaging, telepathy... it all works...


Jul 09, 2006 22:44:48
Here is an E-Mail I recieved from Dirk, he suggested to me to post this E-Mail...

So anyhoo, first off you might as well post all this to the forums - there's some really good people there that'll help you out.

My responses follow your quoted text:

[email][/email] wrote:
First, let me start by thanking you. Its good to have someone to chat with about Dark Sun material... I actually own most of the Second Edition material, however, have never run a Dark Sun campaign. I'm really excited to get this one going.

Ok... for the start of my campaign... starting at 4th level

First off - is this a 2e game or are you running a 3.5e game based off of the (or other) material? I haven't played the 2e rules in forever, and really can't remember them, so should it matter I'm referring to 3e stuff here.

I was thinking of each one of the PCs working as hunters, perhaps working for a merchant house. I'm not quite clear on how the City-States get food, but I assume the merchant houses.

Working for a merchant house is a great way to get the PCs together from the start - as long as each has a "role" to play in the group, it doesn't matter if they have anything in common, are similar alignments, or quite frankly, even like each other. My current campaign started with the group as House Wavir employees, the largest merchant house out of Balic and, amongst all of the trade houses of the Tyr region, probably the most "PC friendly" - they even hire preservers (for out-of-city-state duties), so it's a perfect way to incorporate mages into the group as well.

As far as food goes, the city states primarily get their food via farms and animals raised in the verdant terrain surrounding the city-states; the cities themselves (what's within the walls) is truly just "city," while all the rural work goes on in the surrounding areas. Although a lot of their food does come via the trade houses (one city-state grows wheat while another raises livestock, so the merchant houses trade the two between those city-states, etc.), in the end "hunting" really isn't one of the methods.
Now, if the PCs are stationed out at one of the forts (Altaruk, let's's a nice crossroads fort near to both Tyr and Balic, and unless I'm confusing it with something else it's run by the Wavir/Tromblador/Rees houses of Balic and is even commanded by a known preserver), or at a client village or such, hunting would be more important as far as actual food acquisition is concerned, but it'd be a more local thing as opposed to trade related.

Instead, what I'd suggest is that, given that the PCs are "professional adventurers" as far as skillsets are concerned, you say that they're reavers - hunters whose goal is to capture exotic animals to sell to arena masters in the city-states. It's a dangerous job, but pays extremely well, and is definitely not something that a normal house guard would do - it's a job for adventurer-types. Another option would be for them to be house scouts of one sort or another; on the lookout for bandits, new oasis' or small villages for cross-country caravans to visit, etc. Or heck, they could just be the advanced guard of a house caravan, on the lookout for bandits and such (as above) ahead of the caravan that runs the same route week to week...only this time they encounter something unusual.

One morning, returning from a successful hunt, they find off the road way a mekillot skeleton with a man strung up by leather straps across the span of the ribs. As the PCs approach, they notice a recently deceased crodlu. This is an ambush set-up by sligs. After a small battle with the sligs, they will find the man dead, but with a message on his person. It is address to a merchant in Tyr.

Sounds good, although it's important to note that, technically speaking, literacy is illegal in all of the city-states for anyone other than a templar. The merchant houses *must* have some way of tracking their dealings, so it's not like there aren't a lot of literate people...but it's not something you want to broadcast. So I'd suggest that the note be obviously labeled as templarate-related, regardless of the content - since few freemen *can* read, just seeing a templar sigil would be enough for them to go "oh, hey, this is probably legal and I most definitely shouldn't have it" or "hey, this is probably legal and I bet I can make some money off of it in the Elven Quarter"...still, you get my drift.

The message is from the Veiled Alliance.

The message is written as an innocent letter, small talk about the weather and such.
This small talk is a code.

As above, I'd suggest it *not* be small-talk but instead be written as something horribly boring but still important, say a listing of sales made or something like that...but like you said, it's coded by the VA.

If there's a preserver in the group I'd go so far as to "suggest" to them that there might be a code there, regardless of whether or not they're VA - it's pretty difficult to be a preserver without at least knowing about the VA. On the other hand, just because someone is a member of the VA doesn't necessarily mean that they all use the same codes - so maybe the PC would recognize it as such, but couldn't decipher it....but it'd definitely give them a lead, and a reason to want to follow up on it.

If the PCs can read and they can find the merchant without raising suspicious, then the merchant takes the letter, pays the PCs for their trouble and sends them on their way.
(The merchant will later request their help, knowing that they were at least trustworthy enough to deliver the message.)

Since literacy is illegal, this should be a good role-playing opportunity; the merchant will be worried that this is some sort of templarate (or other "enemy" trade house) trap, and the fact that it's a VA message would make his paranoia even worse.

If the PCs cannot read and start asking around, they will get more attention than they wanted. Perhaps Templars? Would need a minor foe that has the potential to get a lot worse.

A mid-level templar (several levels above the PCs, but not high enough in rank that he has much secular authority) would make for a good nemesis for the PC's - if the guy is fairly low on the totem-pole but has ambition, he'd want to keep this "promotion opportunity" from his superiors and instead rely on his own subordinates (maybe a couple half-giant guards, several 1st or 2nd level templars that get all the sh*t jobs, etc) to try and figure out what the PCs are up to and then capture them in the act so he can get credit for the whole thing.

This is sort of what I had planned out for the beginning. Let me know what you think.

Should be good for several months of play, I think, especially if you play out the time spent traveling from city to city; lots of opportunities for encounters, little side-plot distractions, etc.

Oh, and be sure to throw in at least one cacti encounter - there's nothing like an unmoving plant paralyzing half of a group to cause the appropriate level of fear and paranoia about cross-country travel, and it's something that only works at low levels (cacti aren't that high of CR, after all). Every once in awhile my group brings up the time when their entire party, save for the preserver, was paralyzed and drug into a patch of cacti by an "unknown assailant" - the preserver finally said "f*ck it" and hit the whole patch with burning hands (or something similar) to save the party.
Since then, whenever my flavor text includes the words "scattered plant-life" at least one of them instantly interrupts with "are there any cactus?"


Perhaps the DS community can help me out and give me a few other suggestions.


Jul 10, 2006 6:56:12
One of the things that I used to bypass the whole reading is illegal thing was to invent a very common Psionics item.

This item is essentially a piece of crystal with the equivalent to a magic mouth spell on it. The owner speaks into it and it gets effectively "saved". Then when someone grabs it, the crystal does a memory dump into the brain of the holder.

Hopefully I'm getting the idea across, I'm incredibly tired at the moment (isn't having a pregnant spouse great?)


Jul 10, 2006 13:25:51
Congratulations on the child, Nivek_kpk.
Thanks, not too bad of an idea. I would think such and item would be unobtainable to most people due to the cost.


Jul 10, 2006 13:45:41
It would...but the only people that are sending messages farther than they can walk probably have the cash, and in the case of your campaign idea, it'd actually work into the storyline quite nicely anyway: the dead guy has a bag of small gems on him, addressed to the particular merchant (it could have the merchant's personal seal on it rather than writing, thus bypassing any laws), but that one gem (mixed in amongst the rest) just happens to radiate magic to anyone that casts Detect Magic (or heck, give them a spellcraft/knowledge(arcana) roll, Appraise, or even a Spot check to "notice something amiss" with that particular gem as compared to the others). Since the MM would be keyed to the merchant only, it'd be a good plot twist - the PCs know that there's something special about the gem, but the only person who can activate it is the merchant in question. And, of course, if they go off asking about it, our templar villain hears about this "unusual gem" and it kicks off that part of the storyline as well.

The big thing to think about here is that the slig chieftain would have the gem(s) rather than them being on the body - sligs like that sorta stuff, so unless the gems were visible (and thus an active part of the ambush) he'd have grabbed 'em already.

And congrats/condolences, Nivek - my wife's pregnancy (and several months afterwards....then months after that until the baby slept through the night...then the baby started moving about... ) was like the first sentence from A Tale of Two Cities. Enjoy! ;)


Jul 10, 2006 14:00:48
I will be your daddy...errr, master that is!

I know all, am all, and if I do not know it (which if you were paying attention before you would know is never) and will soon rule the world and talk all who oppose me as my slaves, whom will all rub my feet!



Jul 10, 2006 14:05:31
I will be your daddy...errr, master that is!

I know all, am all, and if I do not know it (which if you were paying attention before you would know is never) and will soon rule the world and talk all who oppose me as my slaves, whom will all rub my feet!


Please refrain from hijacking threads, sir, simply because they will be reset later this evening.

We all know what happened the last (two?) times the threads were all being reset on a particular night.

Even thinking such a thought offends my sensibilities.



Jul 10, 2006 14:07:34
Thats not too bad of an idea...

Voice Stone
This stone allows for a single message to be stored for up to one week.
When storing a message, a recipent for the message is also chosen and only that recipent may recieve the message. If another creature attempts to use the stone, the previous message is erased.

Faint Telepathy; ML 3rd; Craft Universal Item, mindlink
Price 1,200cp

Just a rough version... I would enjoy some feedback on this.


Jul 10, 2006 14:10:13
Gonna repost the item tomorrow after the switch over.