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Evil Adventures in an Evil World
Author: Alexander Wallis
System: d20 Dungeons and Dragons
Requirements: For characters of evil alignment - or good characters looking for a struggle...
Virtue itself is a danger in such a place...
A merciless campaign setting including faction and adventure concepts, capable of coping with both good and evil aligned PC's.
As with my much debated 'The World Tree' campaign - this is only suitable for DM's who already have an imagination, just need a few 'sparks' and don't expect me to do all their work...
Includes some adult and sexual themes which some may find offensive or blasphemous.
Introduction to Campaign Concepts
Perhaps too much religious tolerance is the heart of the problem...
There is scarcely a faith with does not uphold some vice or other as a creed of practice. From the seemingly harmless self-flagelating Priesthood of Ven, to the utter decadence of the Church of the Virginal Flame, through to the blood-letting orgies of the Estranged Brotherhood...
Or perhaps it is the elevation of commerce over the rights of the individual. Sprawling markets deal their merciless trade in human flesh, providing slaves for service, sex, sacrifice or whatever the vice suits the buyers whim...
It could be the lack of role models, the strange and exotic punishments dreamed up for criminals and the sport that is made of the deaths of lawbreakers...
Then again it may be that the only work for a mercenary looking to make a living largely consists in advancing the causes of decadent politicians, insane necromancers or 'brute squads' which serve as mobs for hire...
Sure - it's easy to blame the environment - but you can't help but sympathise with a party whose core values are merely staying alive, keeping off the 'death lists' of various factions, and trying to make a few gold...
Oh... and holding onto to what few scruples they have left.
Running Adventures in a Corrupt World
When civilisation is not built around ethics, but the elevation of 'false' principles such as commerce and social caste, when tolerance is given to any act committed in the name of religion and anyone can be bought at a price - there will be plenty of meat for adventure regardless of player alignment.
How to cope with evil aligned characters has sometimes been a stumbling block for otherwise versatile DM's - but the secret lies in creating an environment where everything is hostile and evil is constantly competing with evil. This avoids situations where the PC's have nothing better to do than commit crime. It also provides them with a steady influx of adversaries who are not necessarily just good-aligned heroes.
However such a civilisation can provide an equally dramatic background for 'good' characters or a party of mixed alignment.
Setting up for adventure, the immediate scenario...!
For the sake of continuity and the long term development of stories and NPC's - I suggest that the PC's find themselves in the employ of a specific master - someone whose schemes, enemies and allies they can come to know intimately - and who is capable of rewarding their services well.
Such a person is Septimus the Black Alchemist. A man of magificent intelligence and whose innate wit endows him with a sense of natural authority. In appearence he looks not unlike Julian Sands in the 'Warlock' movies. A fascade which hides his true age and less glamorous features.
Septimus wishes to take Alchemy beyond the purile transmutation of lead to gold, and purify his own body into an immortal undying state. To do so he requires than several alchemical conditions be met. This will require hired swords...
Some Adventure hooks in the employ of Septimus...
Adventure One - Soror Mystica
Septimus requires a woman of pure heart to help him with his alchemical operations. Such a girl is Sister Ivory of the Church of the Virginal Flame. Sister Ivory takes confessions in one of the faith's humble chapels, this involves the purification by fire of the sinner (a process which is only fatal if the repentant soul is insincere). The PC's are hired to kidnap her. However the Paladin of the Virginal Flame also has ambitions on the Priestess, in fact he intends to persuade her to join him on a crusade, so that he can rape her whilst away from the chapel.
Adventure Two - Holy Seed
The hermetic knowledge of Alchemy was originally gained from angels in return for sex. Hence Septimus seek understanding that is only available from an angelic being. Naturally he doesn't want to get his own hands dirty so the PC's must perform the ritual and then appease the appetites of an exalted being.
Adventure Bookends Three and Four - Calination and Dissolution
Septimus seeks the eternal undying flame and also water of utter purity. These would make suitable final treasures in off-the-shelf dungeons - or you could develop your own adventures around these items.
Adventure Five - Seperation
Septimus wishes to seperate his spiritual form from his physical for a period of three days. But he must do this without actually tasting death. Luckily the Empire is at constant war with a horrific forth-dimensional race, some of which possess powerful 'spirit swords' capable of knocking the spirit out of it's shell (leaving an empty flesh husk for their offspring to occupy!). A nasty and very dangerous retrieval mission awaits...
Role-playing and character development
There is much cope for character development in a campaign of this kind. The PC's should be faced with constant ethical questions and need to have a good grasp of their PC's identity. How far will they go? Will they be led further towards evil or will they strive to help themselves and others towards the light? The progression of the mythic anti-hero can be explored here... consider the relationship between the virtuous Gabrielle and the anti-hero Xena as an example of an roleplaying dynamic that would work interestingly in this kind of campaign.