I am an occultist by nature, and I have a big thing for good versus evil, especially when evil is at it's strongest. I suppose that in most games, when you're playing Dungeons & Dragons, the folks with the greatest advantage are the Player Characters, this just isn't true in my games. I see no fun in having an over powered group of bullies, running around fighting things that quite honestly don't stand a chance against them. Not that I don't fake die rolls, or say that my badguy missed when in reality it didn't. Killing characters isn't my idea of a good time either. There is a dance going on within my mind, a ballad of good vs. evil at a point in time when it is very important that good triumph, but nobody said that it was going to be easy.
I make no bones about my style, I'm challenging, but without being impossible. You have to be open with your players in regard to this, they have to know to use their own judgment. I know DM's where if you are surrounded by an enemy army, then the only option is to slaughter them down to the last man! This is not my way, the player has to know when he's been routed and when to surrender, when to hide, and when and where to pick his/her attack.
The necromancer stands before you with an army of skeletal warriors . . . no, not my style. An army of undead, as far as the eye can see slowly marching into the city, the local priest leading all of the villagers to protect the gates while the PC's have to find what they want before the village is over powered . . . now we are getting somewhere. Sure the PC's can stay and fight . . . of course they'll die along with everybody else that is guarding the gate, but they have that option.
I'm getting off track though, SATAN!!!! I came upon this concept while playing RAVENLOFT, they got this deal called the Dark Powers, it's not really a guy or an NPC, it is more of a force of nature. The crunch of it is that every time a PC does an evil act, depending on the severity of the act, there is a percentage chance that this act will attract the notice of the dark powers, ranging usually from 1% to 10%, the update to the Ravenloft Champaign setting called "Domains of Dread" has the best list that I've ever seen on when to apply this check. However, the system really didn't work in practice. I had a game go sour once and the PC's thought that it would be more fun playing with the Dark Powers then with the dungeon that I was running. The dark powers would REWARD a player for being evil, of course it was a trick, the further down the path of evil that one wandered, the more hideous that one became. The rewards ranged from infravision, to super strength.
Modifying things on my own, I DID like the idea of a devil-type creature that controls all of the evil minions, not as an NPC would, but as a force of nature. I did like the idea of dark powers checks, however no rewards. Evil shouldn't get any rewards, only misery in the form of curses. When a player screws up, which we all know happens from time to time. I remember one time when I just didn't think while playing a wizard once, and cast a fireball into a crowd of people to shoot one guy. These things happen, it's what makes the game fun, always getting that learning experience from creating huge screw-ups! It did screw with my character for a while, all of those people, he saw them in his nightmares for years and it drove him to be a better hero because he had to find a way to set it all right . . . well, the best that he could. One evil act has HUGE consequences, even if the act in question was by mistake.
The Satan figure is nothing that the PC's will ever be able to deal with 1-on-1, he's not a real guy, it's a dark presence that if you do you're research you might be able to discover a plan which has taken centuries until it reached a point of being noticeable. Maybe a bloodline that he's suffered just to create a warlord of such cruelty and raw rage that he himself is a weapon of mass destruction. He creates plagues and breeds evil creatures that mock us . . . but for what purpose we just can't fathom!
The Satan figure in a nut shell, keeps the heroes on the side of good. If they fail, they become his property. He is all powerful, he's every where! He is the unspeakable creature of the night that makes men shutter. He is the fuel that keeps my game world alive and kicking every day. Wars end, villains come and go with the tide, but evil is eternal.
Having a world that is just barely hanging in there, with a satanic force that's ultimate goal seems to always be just one move away from completion does a ton of the DM's work all on it's own. One of the hardest things to do is making the heroes of the past as cool and as mysterious as the villains of the past, with the Satanic force you can accomplish this. I also love the idea of cabals, mysterious organizations that secretly run the world, normally I keep at least one cabal of each of the alignments, of course I keep the true goals of these groups a secret. The facts are that the Satanic force has infiltrated all of them at one point or another, and now they all unknowingly do his bidding.
How does this relate to player characters? That is up for you to decide, you can give him control of all of the magic . . . it all comes from him. Every time a spell is cast there is a 1-5% chance per spell level of losing a piece of yourself to the devil, this I find keeps magic mysterious and gives it a sense of danger, btw, if you haven't figured it out yet, magic in my world is really limited, and not something to be taken lightly, if I give you access to a + weapon, then you best take REALLY good care of it.
Is this unfair? I don't think so, like I said, I study the occult and I run magic in my games extremely close to how I perceive it, not exactly mind you. I like mystery and to create a sense of wonder, even for players who have played the game their whole lives. We DM how we ourselves would like to play the game.
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