Iuchiban Campaign – The World Part 1
I know the Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) setting pretty well, more than well enough to run games there “off the cuff” and so it is easier for me to look at it rather than Dragonlance, which I haven’t taken a serious look at for 15 years or so. As a result I’ll be looking at the ideas for the Iuchiban campaign first.
The first thing to do is work out what world you are going to use. If you are going to use the L5R setting of Rokugan there are a lot of things to consider in adapting this campaign to DnD 4E. Rokugan is a psudeo-Japanese setting, it is easiest to imagine it as “Japan spread over China”, a huge land ruled by an elite warrior caste with limited magic. Taking Rokugan to 4E would require a lot of “refluffing” of things if not large scale homebrewing. Due to this I will not be endeavouring to transfer Rokugan to 4E, but rather use the campaign for inspiration for altering the 4E “default” setting.
The key elements of the campaign:
- Iuchiban was a powerful wizard who used magic to create undead armies and conquer much of the world. He was defeated by heroes, and imprisoned in a special tomb. He escapes that tomb using previously unkown magic and begins recruiting new followers and building a new army. By chance he is discovered before all his plans are ready, and again over thrown and re-imprisoned, this time allowing for his special powers. Iuchiban is imprisoned because he has discovered an alternate path to immortality which allows him to posses the bodies of others as long as his heart (location unkown) is not damaged. All of this happened a long time ago.
- There are necromantic cultists that worship him as a god, and follow his “teachings”.
- Even from his prison he can send messages to his followers in dreams, appearing as an “Oracle of Blood”.
- The initial campaign will be based in a city, and the later portion will be a wilderness treak and dungeon crawl.
- There are a number of special items needed to access his prison.
- The City is (in)famous for never having been conquered, but rather having conquered several armies.
- The cities major export is opium (both medicinal use and illicit use quality products).
- The city is incredibly corrupt.
These key elements give us quite a bit to work with in terms of setting up the game, and you will notice they are all very generic, rather than tied specifically into the setting of Rokugan (even though many of them are key points for that setting).
There are few monsters in the setting the major themes are going to be demons (Oni) and undead. However most of the enemies are going to be PHB races.
- One of the key ideas in L5R is that demons can be bound by name to the person who summons them, doing this makes the demon more powerful in the world, but it also needs its summoner to die to escape. This can be used easily enough, by taking existing demons and giving them new powers etc to allow for their new status.
- Another idea is that zombies can be controlled by placing a porceline mask over their face when you create them. This is easily enough explained by ritual magic in 4E, and gives the bad guys some interesting tools.
- Also undead are really scary, while zombies ideally shouldn’t get the “fast moving” approach of recent horror flicks the “Rise Again” power seen on Hobgoblin Soldier Zombies should definately be used when dealing with them. Perhaps tweaking it to make it a feature of zombies with the porceline masks, so that it will feel more like they are only killed by critical hits! (Though obviously killing 1 zombie 3 times will still work, describing that last “kill shot” as taking the head, or breaking the mask will do it as well.)
The City of Lies
In the L5R setting Ryoko Owari, also known as the Emerald City (for its green tinted walls), or the City of Lies (for the many intrigues it hides) is a major holding of the nefarious Scorpion Clan (master Ninjas, decietful politicians (even more than normal ones), those who guard the shadows of the Empire). The city straddles a major river, the wealthy merchant, and noble families on one side and the poor merchants, tradesmen, and disenfranchised on the other. There is also an island in the river between the two halves of the city which holds the “floating world” or entertianment district for the wealthy and nobles.
The city is ruled by the Scorpion Clan, but in Ryoko Owari things are never that straightforward. The Scorpion are divided into two factions, and there are a number of other factions represented among the noble houses. The following groups make up the noble families that have influence in the city and suggested 4E adaptations of them:
- Scorpion: Bayushi – the rulers of the city in title. These are politicians of the worst sort, backed by the city’s army and ninjas! They control the majority of the opium production.
- Race: Tiefling
- Favoured Power Source: Martial
- Scorpion: Soshi – the cousins of the Bayushi. They would like to control the city but lack the political capital to sieze control for themselves and so must work from the shadows. They are politicians, magic users and priests.
- Race: Tiefling
- Favoured Power Source: Arcane
- Crane: Doji – wealthy and tradition bound. This family controls many of the legitimate business not tied to the opium trade (which is controlled entirely by the Bayushi and Soshi), they are mostly polticians or swordsmen.
- Race: Eladrin
- Favoured Power Source: Martial
- Lion: Akodo – a tradition bound family of virtuous warriors. This family struggles to keep influence in a city of corruption. They are peerless tacticians and well respected for their virtue.
- Race: Dragonborn
- Favoured Power Source: Divine
- Crab: Hida – a family considered brutish by the other families. In a DnD game their money would come from adventuring which their family members are want to do regularly, which causes the other noble families to respect them little.
- Race: Goliath
- Favoured Power Source: Primal
- Unicorn: Shinjo – a family that several hundred years ago once ruled the city, until the Bayushi camly claimed it back (with no war). The Shinjo are horse merchants and well respected for the quality of the steeds they produce.
- Race: Human
- Favoured Power Source: None
- Dragon: Mirumoto – a family who have largely left worldly matters to the others, and are as monastic as they are noble. As such the other families pay them little head, which suits the Mirumoto fine.
- Race: Githzerai
- Favoured Power Source: Psionic
Player characters should be from one of the noble families, giving them standing and influence in the city. In particular after early events in the campaign they should be promoted to the position of “Emerald Magistrate”, essentially the “police of the nobility” and as such the most powerful body outside the Bayushi’s control. This makes the characters critical to the city, but not the absolute authorities, and also puts them in the middle of the cities political games, as the family with the most influence (legitimate or not) runs the city!
So at this point we have a rough outline of hte history of the campaigns major villain and how he relates to the world. We have a broad outline of the city, and some notes on how to alter things to take advantage of 4E concepts and preconceptions. We also have a few notes about monsters to help in designing encounters later on.
Next time I will take a more detailed look at the city, and make notes about things that are “must haves” to bring across.