Saturday Seed ~ 84 (Fantasy)

This seed was envisioned for Palladium Fantasy, but there is really nothing about it which requires one particular fantasy game or another. This seed is a sort of addendum to my posts for this month’s RPG Blog Carnival, and stands as an opportunity to provide a somewhat gritty chance to strive for or turn from heroism to your players.

The Seed

A noble warrior of great renown and prowess, on a mission of great importance, has failed. Falling to the effects of a coward’s poison, this paladin speaks of his regrets, his task, and his last wish as he lies dying in the mud and blood beside a road littered with the bodies of his enemies with only his lowly squires and retainers to hear his pain-slurred words.

Planting the seed

There are lots of was to use this, and the best will be to strip it of the story elements below and use it with your own group’s characters should one or more of them fall in battle. Shift the focus from the remaining characters, if any, to the henchmen and hirelings of the band and let the last moments of the characters play out before them, leaving difficult choices before the hired men who thought all that they would be called to do would be to tote loot and split firewood.

Regardless, the seed will play out with the players in the roles of normal men and women whose sole abilities are day to day living. They are not fighters or leaders, they are workers and simple folk who witness the deaths of great warriors, and are the only ones present to hear their last words.

The Details

The paladin, long a faithful servant and protector of the people, manages to express three thoughts before expiring in the muck along the edge of a nameless road headed nowhere.

First, he regrets avoiding the company of his childhood love during his few periods of rest.  His love had chosen to wait for him, foreswearing love as he himself had done. Although he had chosen to lead a life of celibate dedication to a cause, nothing in his oath forbade friendship. With the clarity of approaching death, he learns to regret and realise he had wasted love in fear, and caused pain to someone utterly undeserving of it.

“Staying away was not strength, it was foolishness and cruelty.”

Second he speaks of the mystical map, orb, and key he bears and how they must be returned to the King’s Magi now that his mission has failed and the Enemy has been freed. Without these artifacts, all hope of rebinding the Enemy will be lost. He makes no demands, and lays no charges, but the agony in his voice speaks clearly to his great wish that someone take up his banner and return the artifacts to safekeeping and their role in the war.

“What will they do without the Three? Will my failure cause the fall of everything I have given my life to preserve?”

Finally, he expresses a wish as his time among the living draws to a close. With his final breaths, he speaks of a quiet place near a lake in the northern part of the realm where he buried his mentor when that great man passed on, and where he had hoped to spend his own twilight years.

“This ditch is to be my grave? So be it… so be it…”

What’s going on

Nothing and no one must force or otherwise compel the hirelings to enact the wishes of the dead. If the players opt to do nothing, so be it. If, however, they choose to seek out the childhood love to share the paladin’s regret, and if they seek to return the artifacts to the King and his advisors, and if they take the paladin’s remains north to the lake where he had dreamed of ending his days, then… make them remember these choices. Make it hard. Make them want to quit and help expose the reasons to keep going. Expose them to perils which may very well end the trail for many of them.  This should be an epic journey of hardship, physical challenge, mental challenge, combat, and fear. It should be the sort of thing any normal person would abandon, or never undertake in the first place. Cost them much to do what is right, and if they succeed give them nothing except the satisfaction of doing what they set out to do.

Later, in an entirely different session, long enough removed from this one that it has faded from immediate memory, advance time to when the survivors are old and are near then end of their own lives. As a scene in the background of other urgent matters, have the players’ new characters witness the stirring of some local event in a small dirt town in the middle of nowhere. Give them the roles of the hirelings once again, briefly, as the King himself, also old and infirm, comes to them and without word or preamble, kneels before them in the dirt three times, saying thank you as his forehead touches their feet.

Once this simple ceremony has been completed (if the players allow it to be) the king will ask each for a wish he can grant as a means of partial repayment for their past service to the nation.

Their reply will determine whether or not they have the mettle of heroes.

Enjoy~

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