We’re taking a departure from the rules development side of the blog for Red Scar Development 03. Mark Barber of ‘Steps to Deliverance‘ fame has joined the team and written a guest blog to introduce the plans that are afoot!
Development Blog 03: Beyond Deliverance
Fantasy RPGs have stood the test of time for several decades now, with a reported spike in popularity in recent years. Following news that Mantic’s Kings of War setting will soon be a world open for exploration and adventure in this format, fans of the game across the globe have already been showing their excitement with a steady stream of social media comments. However, I’m even more excited than them because I’ve somehow wangled my way into an opportunity to write for it!
So, what am I doing, where do I begin, and what’s the process?
My task in all of this is to write a campaign aimed at a party of good or neutral aligned player characters (PCs) which will link a number of adventures and span an extended period of time within the game. After chatting through a few options with the fine minds at Red Scar, we decided to come up with a campaign which will thread in and around the events occurring in the Kings of War novel ‘Steps to Deliverance’. Doing so will give the players an opportunity to have an indirect involvement with some of the key events in the novel and allow them to interact with some of the established characters.
With that in mind, the first step I’m undertaking is the planning of a rough story arc for the players (and that’s currently Top Secret!), which includes the setting for the campaign itself. Given that the novel is set in the rural northeast of Basilea, that is the obvious place to start. Fortunately, there is a good amount of reference material to draw from in the core rulebooks for both Kings of War and Vanguard, plus some contained in previous sourcebooks. The map of Basilea lays out the basic geography, so, with Mantic kindly approving the plans and schemes I wrote in ‘Steps to Deliverance’, the next step is to delve a bit deeper into the area of the world the players will find themselves in during the course of the campaign.
The Shining Bulwark
The Hegemony of Basilea is a rather unique place. Whereas the Kingdoms of Men are classed as ‘neutral’ in their alignment, the Basileans are most definitely ‘good’. This is backed up with the history of Basilea; a faction who are literally the chosen people of the Shinning Ones — the good deities of Pannithor. We also know that Basilea is a nation of great wealth, power and security. So, in a nation favoured by the gods themselves with securely defended borders, is there really any opportunity for adventure?
The answer is yes! Very much so.
Starting with the most obvious threat, the Abyss itself — the figurative and literal gateway to hell — is northeast of Basilea, and not by that far, marking this part of the noble country as the closest to the Abyss and therefore the most under threat from attack. The mountainous terrain in the area makes it difficult to build an extensive wall of defenses, so there are always gaps that Abyssal or orc warbands can exploit to cross the border. Though this doesn’t mean that the spawn of the Abyss or hulking orcs will be found wandering the streets of Basilean towns, it does mean that they are well-placed to cause havoc and mayhem; the sort of calamity a group of heroes would be required to stop. The Abyssals have a long reach, however. Anybody familiar with Vanguard will know they can and do make use of arcane portals to travel great distances, so it is possible for the Abyssal threat to appear in the very heart of Basilea in smaller numbers.
If Abyssals and orcs aren’t your thing, the opening Kings of War novel revealed that the foothills and mountains of the region known as Tarkis are also home to networks of subterranean barrows and burials sites, many filled with treasures from ancient civilizations. But the trouble with the dead is they don’t always stay that way. This region of Basilea has a history of troublesome undead roused from their slumber by greedy adventurers. And then there are the Nightstalkers who murderously haunt the isolated farmsteads, manor houses, and mines of rural Basilea. In short, there’s plenty for the up-and-coming adventurer to warm up their sword arm against!
Now, all of that is useable information for anybody who wants to plan a Kings of War or Vanguard campaign involving Basileans and their host of enemies. So what makes an RPG different? In RPGs, there’s a lot more to the game than just fighting. To dig deeper into that element, I needed to scratch my head a bit more about what day-to-day life is like in Basilea.
Lending from history, there are certain themes running through the societies of both classical and medieval Western Europe and, judging on the aesthetics of the Basilean military, that seemed a pretty good place to start. Whilst the Hegemon retains overall control as the head of state and the head of the church combined, there is also a democratically elected Duma who theoretically represents the people’s will. So, even with a democracy of sorts in place there is a dictator-like figure at the top, and this fits in rather nicely with a caste system built on social status being heavily influenced by birth.
Does this matter in an RPG? Absolutely! Players may have envisaged an anarchic society where physical strength and martial aptitude allow their character to say and do as they feel — and other campaigns may very well delve into this type of setting — but that isn’t going to happen in Basilea. In a secure state with a strict class system, the law is the law. Even in a situation where it is enacted by corrupt individuals, the PCs will have to be clever in how they conduct themselves socially. In other words, if you are thinking of creating a powerhouse barbarian character armed only with a greatsword and a mullet, think twice before committing! In this setting, those social and intelligence-based trades and Keywords will really come in handy.
To sum up, we’re in the early planning of this part of the Kings of War RPG, but right now we’re looking at players roaming the very frontiers of a civilized and affluent nation, fighting the good fight against a host of evil adversaries as well as being caught up in the politics and power struggles of a society on the very fringe of the Hegemon’s authority. Success will depend on skill in combat, the aptitude to survive the harsh environment, and the social skills to exploit situations as they present themselves in the fickle local politics of the area. But, it is early days! We are always open to suggestions, ideas, and comments, so if there is anything you really want to see in this campaign or, indeed, any other, please contact Red Scar.
We hope you enjoyed Development Blog 03. We’ll keep you informed on progress!