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Dungeons and Dragons: Mastermind

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It has been a good long while since I have sat down to write anything here. I've had a campaign idea swimming around in my head for a while, and I'm just about ready to start it up. This entry is mostly for my players, but also to give ideas to GMs who might want to try something similar. The basic idea behind the campaign started with a simple question: What if the party worked for the villain?

Your Friendly Oppressive Tyrant

Meet Lord Vincent. Born of noble blood, Vincent rules over a considerable amount of land know as the Shadelands. Crime is nearly unheard of under his iron fisted rule because of the harsh punishments involved for breaking the law. Taxes are high, but citizens who can't pay are generously given a set of tools and a shiny set of shackles so they can work until their taxes are paid off. They are also expected to pay for any expenses that are required while they are working off their debt (food, clothes, tools, travel, ect.) The people are hungry, and unhappy. Farmers are required to give a third of their crops to feed the military. However, the thought of mass rebellion is unheard of. Lord Vincent has been known to send spies to begin rebellions against him. The traitors are quickly and publicly executed. Nowadays, most people who would otherwise join such a rebellion are suspicious of anyone attempting to recruit them. Genuine rebellions are unable to organize.

Lord Vincent hopes that by building up his army, he can pressure neighboring regions into allowing themselves to be absorbed. To the North are the hills of Badbreaker's Pass. They have constructed a number of defenses to make it difficult for an army to march their way. The people of Badbreaker's Pass are confident that their region is unassailable, they are ruled by a patriarchal government. To the South, The Holy Empire of Thar is building up its own army. The people of The Holy Empire of Thar are terrified of the rule of the Shadelands, and are not afraid to die to defend their freedoms. To the East is New Moonhold, the region had been decimated by a plague over a thousand years ago, but by now it has risen from its ashes and has returned to its former glory. They do not appear to be prepared to fight; however, the spies tell stories which seem to keep Lord Vincent uneasy about a direct confrontation. The people of New Moonhold are light hearted, and are ruled by a democracy. To the West is the Kingdom of Drexx. The monarchy has an army that would surely stand no chance in a direct confrontation with the Shadelands; however, the damage would be great enough for the Shadelands to be unable to defend itself against The Holy Empire of Thar if they attempt a preemptive strike.

Lord Vincent has taken a secret interest in Necromancy. Few know about his study into the teachings of Orcus, as well. Lord Vincent hopes to eventually achieve immortality so that he can continue his rule indefinitely. After all, changing rulers every 60 or so years would lead to inconsistencies in the direction of the growth of his empire to be.

You are one of Lord Vincent's Trusted Lieutenants. Your job is to ensure that certain tasks get done through whatever means necessary. Officially, you are officers in his army; however, the reality is that you are all deeply involved with his covert operations. While it is true that a direct confrontation with any 1 of the neighboring regions would result in a victory on your part, the resulting retaliation from the other 3 regions would be disastrous. It is your job to weaken the other regions (or prevent them from becoming stronger) without them being aware who is truely responsible.

As a Trusted Lieutenant, you have a certain allotment of personal guard assigned under you. These are your Minions and Henchmen. When you are given a task that does not require your personal attention, you can assign your underlings to take care of the task for you. It is assumed that you spend a certain amount of time training your underlings, and they are therefore good in the same areas you are good at. Missions you are not directly a part of are handled through a skill challenge.

You start the skill challenge with a roll based on a a Command skill. This is actually to get your underlings to go along with the mission. An easy mission for them has a DC low enough so that you can't fail. A dangerous, potentially suicidal mission has a higher DC, and you may get some deserters if you fail this check. Then, it's a matter of narrating how your minions progress through to accomplish their task, and making checks as they go. You gain a +1 bonus for each minion you send on the mission, and if you have at least 1 Henchman, you gain a +3 bonus. Now, this might sound silly for some skills such as stealth, but consider this: Lets say you're trying to sneak into a castle to steal a gem that has unique properties, but you have a group of 5.
There are guards keeping watch, so my minions break off into 2 groups. 3 of my minions will start a brawl, and distract the guards away from their posts while they go to break it up. While the guards are busy with that, the other 2 will attempt to sneak inside.
You don't need to describe having every minion present all the time. Your bonuses don't change based on descriptions given, so as long as everyone is doing something to progress the mission, the bonuses still apply.

Because this game is focused on Skills, everyone gets some freebies:

You get 1 of the following skills, and you're trained in it.
  • Respect (Str)
  • Tactics (Wis)
  • Leadership (Cha)

This skill is important for sending your underlings on missions, and should use either your primary or secondary ability score.

You gain the Skill Power feat.
You gain either the Skill Training feat, or the Skill Focus feat.
This gives you a few more options when creating a character. If you select Skill Training as your bonus feat, you can pick another skill to be trained in, and it doesn't need to be in your class skill list. If you're happy with your skill set, you can chose Skill Focus to become even better at a skill you already have trained (you could do this for your leadership skill if you wanted)

The last thing to keep in mind is covert sabotage. While you are all on the same team here, there can be advantages to making someone else look bad. If you fail a mission, you could deflect some of his anger onto someone else by sending some minions to sabotage another players missions. Each minion sent to hinder someone else's missions will raise the DC by 2. You can do this by sending me a PM and letting me know. This will occupy those minions for the duration of the mission. Remember, if you have more successful missions than anyone else, you have more favor in the eyes of Lord Vincent. He will be more likely to grant you additional men, magic items, or listen to your advice. Remember, you can't overtly backstab another player; that would be treason. But if done right, you can claw your way to the top and earn the title of Lord Vincent's Right Hand Man.

When it comes time to take care of a mission personally, you can also chose to bring some underlings along. They will be fighting along with you, and will act on your initiative during combat. I'll produce stat sheets when they are needed or requested.

So, how will this go down?

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Updated 09-06-2011 at 09:26 AM by Teksura

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