Palladium Fantasy: a pleasant return, pt 2

In this installment, we will look at some of the basic underpinnings of my Palladium Campaign, The Houses of Winter, and its two primary stories Winter Blooms, and Long Winter Shadows. The Houses of Winter is the overall campaign. Winter Blooms concerns itself with the quest by the three ostensible heroes, Grath, Marlin Tyrell, and Kellan, to discover the truths of the past, and to forge a new future. Long Winter Shadows is a PBeM extension of Winter Blooms which was begun to detail the adventures of Marlin Tyrell, a curious, young wizard, after the campaign went on hiatus. To facilitate tales like these, the last scene played for Winter Blooms had the characters separating for an undetermined period to track down leads, and make names for themselves.

Theme

The entire campaign pretty much appeared full-blown in my mind when I stumbled across two different acoustic versions of the many-versioned Winterborn by the Cruxshadows while cataloging my EPs one night. Comparing them, my head was filled of images of a group of refugees, fleeing in the darkness across a snowswept expanse, and images of those staying behind to ensure their escape . This gave me two themes to try to work together: a lost birthright, and noble self-sacrifice. There is an additional element of all of this that I will for now keep to myself in hopes that that part of the campaign can one day come to fruition.

Setting

The initial setting of the tale was a monastery in the South East of Timiro, within the mountains which separate it from the Eastern Territories. The areas around the monastery were rife with adventure and peril, and there were as many mysteries within the monastery as the band of characters were to uncover once they took to the road.

I laid the foundations of the campaign in the destruction of a domain in the disputed territories. Few survived the cataclysm, and fewer still knew even hints of what had caused it. Our heroes, just babes or not yet born at the time of the fall of their homeland, come of age in a monastery far to the south in the Timiro Kingdom, having been delivered there at great personal cost by a handful of loyal retainers. The characters were raised by the monks, in the images of their parents, and expected to one day follow in their parents’ noble examples…. if they proved able to resist the lure and temptation of reclaiming their supposed birthrights.

Upon coming of age, the group was told of their heritage, warned that great powers may yet be seeking them out, was further told that despite that very real danger, the time had come for them to fend for themselves. The group was sent out from the monastery to make their way in the world, and to learn to survive on their own. Partially equipped, and given virtually no direction, the three youths (a man-at-arms with dreams of knighthood, a wizard with dreams of adventure, and a diabolist with dreams of regular meals and physical comfort), together with three companions from within or near the monastery (an archer, a merchant, and a summoner doing penance) set out to explore the world and the future.

Characters:

From time to time, I prefer my players to run multiple characters. I do this for multiple reasons, but primary among those reasons are the greater flexibility it provides for storytelling, and a reduction in the effect of mortality on the continuation of play. I feel that having two characters allows the party to develop more realistic group dynamics, provides greater and again more realistic ranges of specialization, and thereby a wider range of possible tales which can be told, and ultimately means that you can tell both large and small group stories by splitting or not splitting the party, without anyone losing playing time.

In this case, I had each person develop a primary and secondary character. One was tied to the overarching theme of the campaign and was of noble antecedents. The other was tied to more common roots, and less glamorous dreams.

Not all players are comfortable with this approach, and do not like to divide their attention, creativity, or loyalty between different characters. I can understand this to a certain extent, but in some games, I consider running multiple characters to be essential. Call of Cthulhu is a prime example of where this is necessary, in my opinion. To be clear, I simply mean creating and having more than one active character in the campaign. I do not mean having them in the same scenes together at all times, or even that often.

Antagonists:

At this point, the opposition is ill-defined, and menacing. The enemy seems willing to expend great effort to track down any hint of survivors or descendants of survivors of the destruction of the Domain of Winterholme, and seems well-versed in both mystic and mundane means of doing so.

Adding insult to injury, a mentor of sorts has adopted the three youths, and no one is quite certain if he is a pawn of the enemy, or a very abrasive and arrogant ally who does not deem it necessary to explain himself to a crew of young men barely able to grow full beards. What they are certain of, is that his lessons tend to be embarrassing, and he has a very annoying tendency to both be right all the time and to show up just when they need him to bail them out. Of course ,they hate him, and suspect him of all sorts of foul pasts.

From these foundations, our tale began…

In the next installment, I will look at the plotting and pacing of the adventures.

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