Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ancient Magics in the Secret of Sinharat

Once again a thanks to the folks at Paizo and their Planet Stories line for bringing back some of the older material that I've never read. Page references will be using the Paizo edition that also includes People of the Talisman.
"There are those who doubt me, I say! Those who scoffed when I said that I possessed the ancient secret of the Ramas of long ago-- the secret by which one man's mind may be transferred into another's body." (p. 30)
The implications of this type of technology are vast and far reaching. In this story, the idea and lore are used to gather an army but that's just the naked value of it as opposed to some of the potential of it.
For example, others in the novel have indeed used the ancient secret to live for hundreds if not thousands of years.
How could that be useful in a campaign though?
Imagine the players are hunting down demons, undead, or other long lived foes. Through their live, they've developed a cadre of methods to handle these menances. Would it be the right thing to do to pass on their knowledge and lore hoping that future generations would use it correctly, or would they themselves take over the youth and insure that the fight continued on more equal terms?
Imagine that the players capture a vile slave lord. What if the players decide to use this secret of changing minds to send one of their own into the slaver's own stronghold and perhaps even bring the other players along as favored slaves?
"There is trouble coming, greater trouble than Kynon knows." (p.41)
Even as the characters are in the heart of one adventure, it's never too early to start the seeds of another adventure. Even as the players are hunting down the last of a kobold tribe, it's never to late to have the players discover a map to another lair, to discover the kobolds have allies that they sell slaves to, that the kobolds are this far south because they've been pushed out of their homelands. Always keep multiple options open to the characters so that they always have options and are aware of the challenges on the horizon.
"But one place is as bad an another when the storm wind blows, and the only thing to do is to keep moving. You're a dead dog if you stop - dead and buried." (p. 54)
In this case, the character speaking is talking of a massive sand storm. And during this storm, others take their opportunity to have a go at vengance. The sandstorm after all, does throw up a lot of cover for certain actions to be taken.
But in and of itself, it's important for another reason. It's another reminder of the power of the forces of nature. There is no armor class that can be hit. There are no non-magical swords that can cut the wind.
There are opportunities for using the mundane and making them as awesome as the most fantastic fantasy elements.
"Sinharat, the Ever-living... Yet it had died." (p. 69)
In the current edition of D&D, 4e, the core concept is points of light. Here, empires are things of the past. Allow the players to trod in the bones of those ancient empires and to gather things strange and new to the world that have been lost. In the Forgotten Realms, there are many ruins of ancients times and these make great 'living' dungeon delves that happen to occur on the surface and provide numerous options. Always make sure to try and bring ou the historical weight of the ruins, the mammoth feel of time pressing down on the ancient empires and how so much has been lost.
"This was the old city of the Ramas, and its name still has power. The people of the Drylands don't like to enter it. When the hordes gather here, you will see. They will campa outside." (p. 69)
Another elment to consider in these ancient ruins, is why are they still ruins? Is it tradition? Is it in memory of the old city? Is it haunted? Is it's location lost to time and only the unlucky and foolish wind up finding it?
"Shrill, idstant voices as of the desert pipes, raging from the cavern cornices of buildings far across the city.... The massive coral pedestal on which the city stood was indeed a vast honeycomb of tiny air-passages, and the wind forcing up through them could create this eery effect." (p. 79)
When looking at some of the reasons why such ruins may be abandonded, try to insure that when ever there is an element of the supernatural, that it may not actually be supernatural, that it may be some local phenomena.
"Whoever of the two killed the other, must himself die by Kynon's decree." (p. 96)
When the players are masters of their power and in full control of their abilities and are working like a team, there is often little that can be done if the Game Master is running encounters in a 'fair' manner that will provide danger that makes the characters think of tactics that don't involve their powers. In this example, both individuals have been threatened with death if they attack one another and one of them has been drugged so that his mind is no better than an animal. The other realizes this and now has some difficult decesions in front of him that may not necessarily be solved by strength alone.
The Secret of Sinharat provides the Game Master with a quick read, a fast tour of an ancient ruin, some survivors of an ancient race and the promise of potential immortality. What more do you need for a campaign seed?