• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

[Interest/Discussion] Running the 4e D&D Setting with PbtA (Freebooters on the Frontier)

Atlictoatl

Powered by the Apocryphal
Validated User
The thing that first inspired me to look up D&D in the first place fifteen or so years ago was Tales of Wyre and I've always wanted to play in a game that, at least in part, emulated that experience. I'm very much into the idea of starting at paragon tier, inasmuch as that can be said to exist in Freebooters.
I've never previously been exposed to that tale. It's extraordinary. I've spent my morning reading the first page of the thread. Thank you for that.

This is the sort of game I want, as well. (Though that sort of carefully-executed high-level demonic summoning is a sub-game specific to 2e/3e and would be harder to pull off in 4e, much less something like Freebooters.) I think what makes the Tales of Wyre possible is that those are very colorful, expressed characters with a certain degree of potency and influence, who -- while allied -- each have their own agenda born of their roles and responsibilities, in addition to their temperament and divergent perspectives.

It's 'easier' to get there after playing characters to a high level (though that takes time). It can be harder to devise such characters with a finger-snap declaration to make L14 characters, which demands -- I think -- that players be willing to dig deep to find those archetypal character concepts they've always wanted to play, but perhaps never had opportunity to. I've a couple characters like that within me who occasionally rear up -- perhaps demanding a short story beyond periodic daydreaming -- and I've found it very interesting to unlock those doors with other players on the few occasions when we've given ourselves permission to do so.

I suspect there might be two advantages we have, here:

a) we're to a large degree divorcing 4e from its 'skirmish combat engine'. Instead of codified power choices defining the character's prowess (and always falling a little short, because there's more/better stuff available at L16 and L21, etc.), we have a more narrative approach. The paladin in Tales of Wyre can be a land-holding lord because we say so, not because they've checked all of the rules requirements for it. And, because it's more narrative, we're a little further along to treating it narratively and asking questions about what it means to be a land-holding lord; what privileges, responsibilities, and conflicts arise from that, etc. Which can illuminate both the colorful, expressed character and potential game material.

b) the 4e run is concluded. All of the books and Dragon and Dungeon articles have been written. There's a wealth of lore to dig through and uncover that can inform the colorful character depiction, and we can be confident that anything not written never will be, as so is wholly open for our construction. This state is highlighted presently by the wealth of 4e Let's Reads happening on rpg.net, and the near-scholarly cataloguing and cross-referencing.

Thanks again for sharing that tale, Lysus. For anyone wondering what sort of endeavor this game might aspire to be, that's a good place to start. It's a tale made possible by the high levels of the PCs, but it's not your standard encounter-heavy, beating-down doors and felling foes on the way to saving the world type tale, so much as an "interesting week in the life of..." tale. If one were the sort of powerful being whose weeks involved high moral quandary involving the machinations of celestial entities.
 

Atlictoatl

Powered by the Apocryphal
Validated User
As for character archetypes, my current interest is something more along the line of the Shaman, though the article that popped up in one of the Let's Reads today about Warlock patrons was very inspiring. I really liked the idea of someone who had gotten a glimpse of a dark future combined with the inescapable certainty that if they positioned themselves correctly, they might be able to do something about it. I also like the idea of a character that's prone to making deals on just about any level. Coming back around to the Shaman, this seems like it might be appropriate - the shaman makes deals with the spirits of nature for services in return for some form of payment. Just as easily, this character might be willing to make deals for other forms of power with the fey, devils, dark stars, or other powerful entities. I'm just spitballing at this point, but I'd love to hear what you think.
I like it. I appreciate the moral complexity of the character.

On a quick perusal, what's standing out to me is this introductory comment in the Shaman article in Primal Power:

"You live in a world that most other people can't even perceive."

They're certainly talking about the veil between the spirit and mortal worlds, there, but I like what you're suggesting, that the world of the shaman isn't simply a world of spirits and mortals, but a world of compacts, agreements, bindings, and betrayals. The idea of a shaman who is highly attuned to those social mechanisms, and apt to form agreements with all manner of beings, is very appealing.

The different shaman builds strike me as more about mechanics than anything else, though if there's a specialty that intrigues you we can pursue it. I think I would otherwise suggest going more towards a generic shamanism. We can represent a Companion Spirit as a Follower, though I'm not sure I would want to get fiddly with special situational powers that it confers on allies and enemies. I could see the shaman narratively having knowledge of ancient compacts between its people and others and the knowledge/ability of forming new such agreements, with advantages in social situations that include observing and manipulating social bonds.

I suspect the Cleric class in Freebooters would be the best template. Disciple, Pray, and Invoke all seem to translate fine, substituting spirits (or other entities you have compacts with) for divine agency. Lay on Hands could also work. I'd probably want to refluff Convert. All of the Advanced Moves other than Missionary seem like they would re-fluff fine, and wearing spirit armor or smiting with spirits, etc. all seems very cool.

VoidDrifter's Grand Index of 4e Dragon & Dungeon Articles lists four issues with supplementary material: #372, 383, 385, 387. I haven't read any of them yet, but there might be some material there worth exploring.
 
Last edited:

Atlictoatl

Powered by the Apocryphal
Validated User
I've started looking through Spelljammer stuff, trying to ascertain more external prompts for what a Spelljammer campaign involves.

The campaign start that I'm currently thinking of is a Paragon-level game that commences in Astrazalian [link], just a few short weeks into Spring after the city has translated into the mundane plane. The characters would be commissioned by an agent of Lady Shandria to recruit mundane and fantastic allies for the city, which plans to mount a major offensive against the fomorians when the city translates back to the Feywild in Autumn, and so seeks additional forces. The party would be assigned to a small skiff, something like a Dragonfly, which could travel through the planes as well as on the planes, as needed. There would be some pre-existing alliances that need to be bolstered or formalized, as well as a mandate to develop new ones. The party would be comprised primarily of Astrazalian heroes, planar travelers who are in the city at the time of the mission assignation, mundane dwellers visiting the city soon after its arrival, and/or crew on the spelljammer ship.

In this manner, the party could have reason to adventure on the mundane plane, in both the Feywild and Shadowdark, and within the Astral Sea or the Elemental Chaos.

Does this resonate as a rich adventuring framework, and as one that interests you?
 
Last edited:

Lysus

Unbelievably Fancy Ostrich
Validated User
I'm not sure what it is about that, but something is currently failing to wholly grab me. I've never particularly cared for Spelljammers as an aesthetic element, but I don't think that's quite it. Perhaps it's the fact that we don't have any PCs actually created yet, and hence I don't feel any connection to Astrazalian as a place or the people who live there.
 

Dromio

Registered User
Validated User
I think it sounds fine; like Lysus said it helps for me to think about where my character might fit in to the "Astrazalian heroes, planar travelers who are in the city at the time of the mission assignation, mundane dwellers visiting the city soon after its arrival, and/or crew on the spelljammer ship". I kind of like the idea of being crew but I'm not committing to any character ideas at this point. :)

At first read I felt like the 'exploration' part of things wasn't there. As I read it again though I think it would be "explore to find allies, where ever they may be" with perhaps the occasional "go here and check with an existing known ally". Which sounds like it's holding on to more of the exploration theme than I thought upon first read.
 

Atlictoatl

Powered by the Apocryphal
Validated User
My interest in Astrazalian is that it seems like a quintessential fabulous planar metropolis: a fey city that translocates into another plane for two seasons of every year. I imagine a sparkling island city with all manner of sea, air, and planar vessels visiting; a center for trade and commerce, knowledge, and intrigue; and the type of cosmopolitan place that attracts the interest of diverse groups of people. Because of its nature, it's one of the few planar cities that can be visited by mortals from the mundane realm, and worthies from that realm and more fantastic planes are likely to want to visit the fantastical eladrin city, if they can.

On the darker side, once the city returns to its native plane, it is immediately embroiled in conflict and war with the fomorian agents and armies seeking to vanquish it. It's a tangible parable for the joys and freedoms that follow winter, and the stern concerns that arise with the end of summer. Even as the citizens and visitors of the city celebrate the spring with fêtes and regattas, more sober factions within the city are plotting how to best leverage their respite from war to wage it anew once the seasons turn.

It's perhaps less fantastical than a place like the City of Brass, but I like that adventuring in the mundane realm is also opened by making a place like Astrazalian a home base.

~*~

With regards to the commission, I imagine it including travel and diplomacy, foremost. There's ample room for research and investigation. Any unknowns or calamities can lead to exploration and discovery. There's also the possibility for intrigue, skirmishes, military action, and enmities/rivalries.

I'm not sure what it is about that, but something is currently failing to wholly grab me. I've never particularly cared for Spelljammers as an aesthetic element, but I don't think that's quite it. Perhaps it's the fact that we don't have any PCs actually created yet, and hence I don't feel any connection to Astrazalian as a place or the people who live there.
With regards to your early character idea, I can see a commission like this involving the activation of ancient and modern compacts, as well as the formation of new ones, and identifying and influencing the relationships and bonds between distinct entities could be a strong theme.

At first read I felt like the 'exploration' part of things wasn't there. As I read it again though I think it would be "explore to find allies, where ever they may be" with perhaps the occasional "go here and check with an existing known ally". Which sounds like it's holding on to more of the exploration theme than I thought upon first read.
That was my intent, yes. I've imagined a branching structure, where the party can initially choose between, say, a) go here and talk to this known person who is withholding their commitments, b) followup on this lead that might turn into something, and c) learn the truth of this rumor about a powerful faction somewhere in the middle of that forest that might be sympathetic to our cause.

Whether the party wishes to pursue the primarily diplomatic, investigatory, or exploratory route (in the above example) will be up to you.

And it will be important that people bring characters with agendas, passions, conflicts, and troubles to the game, so it's not just a "high-ho, high-ho, we're off to make alliances at the behest of our superiors" adventure. I can see characters with moral dilemmas about involving certain factions, ones with rifts with factions that need to be contacted, characters having disagreements about the most efficacious use of their time, and even characters who are uncertain that this quest is the right course of action.

All of that said, I am open to shifting my initial ideas for a campaign start, and am continuing to read and explore to find other themes. Can you articulate what might better grab your interests?
 

Dromio

Registered User
Validated User
My interest in Astrazalian is that it seems like a quintessential fabulous planar metropolis: a fey city that translocates into another plane for two seasons of every year. I imagine a sparkling island city with all manner of sea, air, and planar vessels visiting; a center for trade and commerce, knowledge, and intrigue; and the type of cosmopolitan place that attracts the interest of diverse groups of people. Because of its nature, it's one of the few planar cities that can be visited by mortals from the mundane realm, and worthies from that realm and more fantastic planes are likely to want to visit the fantastical eladrin city, if they can.

On the darker side, once the city returns to its native plane, it is immediately embroiled in conflict and war with the fomorian agents and armies seeking to vanquish it. It's a tangible parable for the joys and freedoms that follow winter, and the stern concerns that arise with the end of summer. Even as the citizens and visitors of the city celebrate the spring with fêtes and regattas, more sober factions within the city are plotting how to best leverage their respite from war to wage it anew once the seasons turn.

It's perhaps less fantastical than a place like the City of Brass, but I like that adventuring in the mundane realm is also opened by making a place like Astrazalian a home base.
Are there slums in Astrazalian? Dark reflections of a city of light? An underworld?

That was my intent, yes. I've imagined a branching structure, where the party can initially choose between, say, a) go here and talk to this known person who is withholding their commitments, b) followup on this lead that might turn into something, and c) learn the truth of this rumor about a powerful faction somewhere in the middle of that forest that might be sympathetic to our cause.

Whether the party wishes to pursue the primarily diplomatic, investigatory, or exploratory route (in the above example) will be up to you.

And it will be important that people bring characters with agendas, passions, conflicts, and troubles to the game, so it's not just a "high-ho, high-ho, we're off to make alliances at the behest of our superiors" adventure. I can see characters with moral dilemmas about involving certain factions, ones with rifts with factions that need to be contacted, characters having disagreements about the most efficacious use of their time, and even characters who are uncertain that this quest is the right course of action.

All of that said, I am open to shifting my initial ideas for a campaign start, and am continuing to read and explore to find other themes. Can you articulate what might better grab your interests?
I think the choices sound cool. In game it'd be interesting to find out what happens with the choices NOT picked. Would there be PvP or will the group (at least mostly) be one the same side? I'm much more interested in cooperative stuff.

Is there a recommended reference to give a baseline knowledge about the setting? It sounds like there would be plenty of politics and factions and possibilities in such a city, it'd be fun for me to start spinning things in my head.
 

Atlictoatl

Powered by the Apocryphal
Validated User
Are there slums in Astrazalian? Dark reflections of a city of light? An underworld?
I don't know. Are there? :)

I suspect there are areas that are not as wondrous as the most wondrous areas. There's probably a foreigner's quarter. Maybe multiple foreigner's quarters, for different kinds of foreigners that might not otherwise get along that well. Some of those might be bright, others seedy or as grimy as a fey city can get.

There's probably a sanctioned area for less savory sorts, that is ruled over or monitored in some manner. Even (especially) the fey need a place where spies and thieves and ne'er-do-wells feel comfortable hanging out. The problem with Astrazalian, though, is that an uncontrolled 'underworld' (in the criminal sense) gives too many avenues for true agents of the fomorians to infiltrate the city. So I suspect it's a controlled arena; one in which spies are monitored and tracked. Some spies are let into the city, so the enemy thinks it is infiltrating, but they're always watched. I'm imagining a Thieves' Guild guildmaster or some other King of the Seedy Streets, who's a nasty fellow/gal but who's ultimately on the side of Astrazalian (and might even be on the Council, secretly).

In the Feywild, there's definitely a Feydark surrounding the city. I'm not sure if there's an Underdark there in the mundane plane, but possibly. It's on an island, though, in the mundane realm.

I think the choices sound cool. In game it'd be interesting to find out what happens with the choices NOT picked. Would there be PvP or will the group (at least mostly) be one the same side? I'm much more interested in cooperative stuff.
That list isn't meant to be exhaustive. More illustrative.

PvP? Probably not. But I'm reading Lysus' referenced Tales of Wyre, and is does a quite good job of illustrating that when you have PCs who are close to L20 (in 3e), they have individual responsibilities, beliefs, and agendas that might occasionally put the PCs at small odds to each other. So, they might not like it, and they might do everything they can to maintain their friendship, but the paladin might need to distance themselves for a time from the arcanist, because the liege lord they owe fealty to is being pressured politically to imprison the arcanist's close friend and confidante, an NPC who dallies frequently with devils, and for the moment tensions are too high for the paladin and the arcanist to be hanging out socially. How exactly they resolve that 'conflict' is part of the game.

Is there a recommended reference to give a baseline knowledge about the setting? It sounds like there would be plenty of politics and factions and possibilities in such a city, it'd be fun for me to start spinning things in my head.
Astrazalian is mentioned in the Manual of the Planes, Heroes of the Feywild, Dragon #395 (Sword Guards of Astrazalian). There might be other references? There's a bunch of Feywild-relevant Dragon articles. Are you familiar with VoidDrifter's Grand Index of Dragon & Dungeon Articles? The article that I linked duplicates much of the information from the Manual of the Planes, though not all.

But there's not that much detailed information. It's pretty much wide open for us to invent.

~*~

What other campaign starts occur to people? Off the top of my head, there's these:
  • mortal plane heroes venturing into the Feywild for the first time
  • planar people venturing into the Feywild or the mundane realm for the first time
  • day-in-the-life of experienced planar travelers
  • people fleeing from an Astral prison
But those are all more situations than something cohered.
 

Atlictoatl

Powered by the Apocryphal
Validated User
Eh. I might be coming around to an Underdark races campaign, if people really want that, though I'm still reluctant to set it all in the Underdark.
 

Atlictoatl

Powered by the Apocryphal
Validated User
Interest check. This has been a fun thought exercise for me, but it's not eliciting the kind of conversation I'd hoped for. Are there elements of an engaging campaign idea in any of this material that we could start working towards a game with, or has this been a neat idea but you are moving on to other pastures?

As a (related) aside, if anyone's looking for inspirational material, I'd recommend checking out (or re-reading) VoidDrifter's [Let's Read] 4e Racial Supplements. In the first two pages of the thread, it discusses excellent Dragon articles on Tieflngs, Bladelings, Hobgoblins, Gnolls, Genasi, and Drow.
 
Top Bottom