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[Recruitment] City of Necromancers: 4e Paragon Planar game (using PbtA oldschool emulator)

Atlictoatl

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Does anyone have some good source material on Conjurers, Summoners, or Illusionists? I'm thinking specifically of factions, civic groups, organizations, fraternities, etc. Like the Necromantic Guilds section above, though I don't need as many groups.

I haven't had any luck finding stuff on this, but I may not be conducting the right searches.
 

Dromio

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These are all interesting ideas. Let's focus first on what the Class and Primal power source for this character means. Do my thoughts above about how the Seeker translates into Freebooters work for you? If so, what is the character's function in the gameworld? Are they a protector? An assassin? Do they control the spirits as a means to an end, or do they enact the will of the spirits as an agent of them? Are the spirits relatives? Entities the character has formed pacts with? A lost tribe they made contact with? Are they the undead? Or is it all something other than these ideas?

What does "Primal" mean to this character?
Good questions, I love this stuff! I'll do my best.

"Primal" to this character means raw, unfiltered, uncivilized nature. Not Central Park nature, or Pebble Beach nature, more like Antarctic nature, or rainforest or desert nature. This fits with the "nature" orientation of the Seeker. And with the nature (hehehehe) of the Mul. The Mul are nothing if not Primal. They're survivors, they adapt, they persist through conditions that would make other races cringe.

I had missed that the playbooks were there with the rules, but looking at them now I agree that the most appropriate books would be Fighter and Thief, and Fighter more than Thief. He is definitely not an assassin, that's a calling for civilized places. I'm leaning more toward him being a protector of spirits for sure. The spirits in my head (so to speak) are most definitely not undead. Just spitballing: I wonder if we could be looking not at ghosts, but at genius loci of interplanar places of significance that have been destroyed (so nature spirits rather than the spirits of sentients)? He's carrying those spirits within him, even talking to them sometimes (and getting responses!), and trying to prevent other nodes from being destroyed. He would be in Rahesh because it's a center of knowledge and planar access. Just a thought. Or maybe instead of them being destroyed, he's a vessel for one or more genius loci as an emmisary, or maybe he's providing experiences to them.

I was 100% hoping to reskin everything but some attacks into spirit related things. We're on the same page there.
 

Atlictoatl

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Or maybe instead of them being destroyed, he's a vessel for one or more genius loci as an emmisary, or maybe he's providing experiences to them.
Your response has me thinking about what Seekers are, in general, and what it means to be one at Paragon Tier. I think you've nicely described three directions we could go in. Maybe these are all options for Seekers in general, or maybe only one of them is being a 'Seeker'. What's of primary importance is deciding what operating principle governs your character. We can decide what that means for Seekers, as a body, later.
  • You carry the spirit of a destroyed natural place 'within' you, or
  • You serve as an emissary for the spirit of a natural place, or
  • You serve as a vessel for the spirit of a natural place, providing them experiences and understanding of what exists beyond, and of that which encroaches upon them
For all of these, a Seeker as they grow in power would have relationships with more than one spirit, or with more powerful spirits. Probably both.

I think all of these options make for a compelling story. Your choice depends on whether you prefer the vengeful protector route or the more diplomatic route.

There's also an option regarding how the spirits manifest in the game:
  • You have relationships with a definite number of spirits, identified with specificity, and who have specific 'influence'
  • You have relationships with an indefinite number of spirits, and they are treated spontaneously, so we create identity and influence as it is needed/desired
Either option is valid and will be fun to play. Frankly, though, the writeup for the Seeker feels pretty personal to me, so I lean towards a finite number of spirits (or personalities, if you will) that inhabit your character. The indefinite/spontaneous route feels more like a Shaman to me.

"Primal" to this character means raw, unfiltered, uncivilized nature. Not Central Park nature, or Pebble Beach nature, more like Antarctic nature, or rainforest or desert nature. This fits with the "nature" orientation of the Seeker.
I'm leaning more toward him being a protector of spirits for sure. The spirits in my head (so to speak) are most definitely not undead. Just spitballing: I wonder if we could be looking not at ghosts, but at genius loci of interplanar places of significance that have been destroyed (so nature spirits rather than the spirits of sentients)? He's carrying those spirits within him, even talking to them sometimes (and getting responses!), and trying to prevent other nodes from being destroyed.
"I am the lightning strike, the earth's upheaval, the unruly sea. I am the bringer of your destruction."

I'd like to propose something, riffing off of what you've written.

Your character carries the genii locorum of destroyed natural places. Early in his/her journey, they carried one such genius loci, of a local region. Over time, they had cause to take on a second, and then a third. Each subsequent place, as the character grew in power, was a destroyed place of more potency.

Now, the character carries the genii locorum of four or five places, and the most recent genii are of planar places of significance. The accumulation of foreign, wildly primal, enraged genii locorum within your psyche and spirit body is a challenge to your character to integrate. This is his/her great calling, their purpose, but it is more than the mortal frame can safely handle. To succeed -- to take on more genii locorum, to house the spirits of these great primal treasures being lost to the planes -- your character has to evolve beyond their mortal frame.

I think this might actually be your Paragon Path. At the Heroic Tier, you took on first one, then two, then three genii locorum of places on your native plane (I'm assuming it's what I term the mundane plane). When you had cause to absorb the spirit of a planar location, and of a plane you were not native to, you entered the Paragon Tier.

The PCs of this game are still at the early stages of Paragon. I'm thinking L14 equivalent. The Paragon Path for you could thus be mastering this new identity, discovering how to hold not only this many genii, but genii of this potency, without fragmenting your own identity or tearing apart your body. Crossing into Epic Tier represents attaining a heightened level of that mastery, and the ability to hold vastly more potent genii locorum.

Other Seekers, ones on a different Paragon Path, deepen or enhance their relationships with the small handful of Heroic-level genii locorum they have, becoming Death Hunters or Crimson Arrows for them. But you are a Planar Seeker, housing greater and greater genii locorum, and many more of them than Seekers who follow other paths can.

I like this for a few reasons:
  • Having a finite number of genii within you makes things much more personal. We can give them identities and spheres of influence (for lack of a better term). They can be NPCs, of a sort.
  • This gives your character a clear reason to come to Rahesh, which otherwise is a weird place to be (it's a civilization-heavy city of the undying, which is about as 'unnatural' as it gets): they're here to get better tools for functioning with multiple entities occupying their psychic/spiritual/energetic space.
  • It makes your Paragon Tier journey one of self-development and mastery, and gives you real stakes. You're operating at a planar level. You're holding these vital places. They're threatening to tear you apart.
He would be in Rahesh because it's a center of knowledge and planar access.
Whatever you decide, I think it's important that we get more specific than this, because there are lots of places that are centers for knowledge and planar access, and many of them are going to be more attuned to natural states than a vast city-state of undead. What is in Rahesh that you can't find anywhere else? Something to answer as we get more clarity on the character.

I was 100% hoping to reskin everything but some attacks into spirit related things.
(y)

If we go in the direction I've proposed above, Fighter + Thief might make less sense than Fighter + Cleric. I can now definitely see using Invoke to represent great primal energies/influences, using Disciple to represent spirit-charged Moves, you Praying/Communing with the genii, and some version of Converting. As well as the mechanic of running out of Favor equating to times when you are having trouble communing with the many spirits within and making use of their powers.

If you'd rather be a deadly agent of vengeance or otherwise be focused on Hiding in Shadows, Moving Silently, and spending Cunning to empower related moves, we can continue to discuss. But I think refluffing some of the Fighter's effects coupled with the ability to Invoke primal energy could be a really nice and representative mixture.
 
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Lysus

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Dropping in to confirm that I'm still interested. My character concept hasn't really changed since I initially brought it up, so I'll drop a quote in here.

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 think this character would be a half-drow half-sidhe that was, in herself, a result of a marriage or pairing that was a part of a pact between two groups or competing powers within Rahesh (or one within the city and another outside).
 

Atlictoatl

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Porting over my response from that thread:

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.
It would please me if the spirits your Shaman compacted with were not solely nature spirits, but also (instead? or also) spirits of the dead and undead. It seems a shame to have this whole City of Necromancers thing going one, and nobody in the group to interact with the dead or undying. Perhaps the Shaman is some admixture of Primal and Arcane.

Are there any Paragon Paths that appeal? They needn't be specifically Shaman paths. Or, separate from that, how do you perceive things being different for the character as a Paragon Tier entity vs a Heroic Tier one? That might help us track towards a PP.

I think this character would be a half-drow half-sidhe that was, in herself, a result of a marriage or pairing that was a part of a pact between two groups or competing powers within Rahesh (or one within the city and another outside).
Is she more drow or more sidhe, culturally, temperamentally, for external perception, etc. etc.?
 

Gyrfalcon

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Welcome, Gyrfalcon. What interests or intrigues about the game?

I hope you have a good time out of town.
Thanks! Things are going well (though busy) so far this weekend.

I'm definitely interested in digging into the Nentir Vale worldbuilding & lore within PbP, and seeing how that is explored in a game that's driven less by tactical combat mechanics than D&D 4e. My best play experiences with PbtA games have been when scene-setting moves & narration introduce cool bits of scenery or NPCs to interact with, and the Nentir Vale offers a lot of opportunity for that.

I should let you know, Gyrfalcon, that one of the people who was an active participant in the previous Discussion thread for this game was developing a concept for a Shaman character, and I've given priority seating in the game to those folks who've been talking about the game for a while (all of whom are now present, barring the player in question). I didn't mention it earlier, because I wanted to confirm that they were still planning on applying with that concept.

Given that, are there other character concepts that interest you?
Um, oops? Sorry.

A lot of my concept behind Hemlock is setting up a contrast & tension with the Raheshi powers-that-be -- wilding as a species distinctly not suited to the transition to undeath, Primal source character leaning into the 'nature spirits aggressively opposed to the undead' flavor, but Hemlock in particular has a backstory & mindset of channelling that inborn hostility towards the villains & darker elements of Raheshi society so is (grudgingly) tolerated. Shaman would be a good class fit, but for class+power distinction I could also work with Druid, Warden or potentially Avenger or Invoker of Melora. Does that seem like a good path?
 

AndersGabrielsson

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There's a number of those PPs that could probably lend themselves to longevity. To both the Demonskin Adept and the Essence Mage, for instance, biological age may no longer hold much meaning.
Essence Mage looks like a good fit. The focus on using multiple elements at the same time fits very well with how I imagine him.
 

Atlictoatl

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EVERYONE, PLEASE READ

A lot of my concept behind Hemlock is setting up a contrast & tension with the Raheshi powers-that-be -- wilding as a species distinctly not suited to the transition to undeath, Primal source character leaning into the 'nature spirits aggressively opposed to the undead' flavor, but Hemlock in particular has a backstory & mindset of channelling that inborn hostility towards the villains & darker elements of Raheshi society so is (grudgingly) tolerated. Shaman would be a good class fit, but for class+power distinction I could also work with Druid, Warden or potentially Avenger or Invoker of Melora. Does that seem like a good path?
I'm raising this as a response to your post solely because you're describing here a thoughtful, strategic approach to designing a character for the setting, which gives me opportunity to address something that might be cropping up. It's not at all directed explicitly or solely at you. I could say the below much more succinctly if I was addressing you alone, but I want to make sure it resonates for everyone as they think about their character concepts. Thanks for approaching things in this way, and for giving me the opportunity to delve into this point for everyone.

~*~

I've written about this game seed in three places (this thread, the Discussion thread, and the Games I'd Like to Play thread), so my apologies to you all for perhaps not adequately delineating the thrust of the game here, in the most important place to do so. I wrote a novella as my introduction, up above there, and it's probable that thrust got lost in all the verbage.

The primary thrust of this game is one of exploration, discovery, and diplomacy.

As such, I've constructed Rahesh, the City of Undeath, as an evocative place to launch from. My intent with this for the 'contrast & tension' of the game is that we have a group representing a city of necromantic practices -- a city so feared and mistrusted due to its nature that it was embroiled in constant conflict, until it had enough and removed itself from the plane -- out in the world and the planes, seeking to re-establish or create anew relations after more than a century of being removed.

While there can certainly be differences amongst the group in how you perceive and relate to Rahesh, a core feature of the game premise, IMO, is "a bunch of necromancers walk into a village...". It's absolutely interesting if the communities you visit are treating you as a monolithic group, and you all have different allegiances, represent different factions, may even be an outsider on some level or have concerns yourself about the direction or makeup of Rahesh, etc. But I'm concerned that the game loses cohesion if the basic premise becomes "a group of adventurers walks into a village...".

To be clear, I don't foresee much of the game happening within Rahesh itself, and if most of you are outsiders to Rahesh in some fashion, or in some sort of conflict with its nature, we then have a completely different game. We can certainly talk about having a different game, but I'm unsure how to have a game focused on exploration/discovery and interacting with the people you meet if we have a group that isn't bound together by something thick. You need an organizing principle for why you're traveling together and going place to place, and it's hard to not start defaulting to 'save the region' type reasons for that, because that's so strongly inculcated into D&D. And I want a character-driven game, not a plot-driven one. We're not here to save the world, or protect a community from expansionistic tyranny, or anything like that. I hope we're able to make deeply interesting characters with complex motivations on the aggregate who are out in the world in common cause encountering new situations.

I raise this point now because it seems as though the character ideas being proposed have been in subtle or overt opposition to the necromantic nature of Rahesh. Which makes sense for a game set in the City of Undeath, exploring what it means to be a planar traveler within the city for reasons of your own. I'm not sure that it works as well for a premise of Raheshi envoys out making contact with the outside worlds.

That said, there's certainly room for one outsider-type character. Given the amount of development already invested, it seems that should be Dromio's character, and there's a proposal out for a good tie-in to Rahesh... the character is dependent on Raheshi technology, for now at least, to not be ripped apart by the forces inside of them.

And you all don't need to be 'necromancers', per se. Or even deeply embedded citizens of the city. Ander's sorcerer who has lived in the city for the century+ of its removal is a character who has place in the city, who has likely found factions to work with/for, and who has certain allegiances to the city. That can work.

But I think it is important that your characters have a 'place' within the city, that they're more in alignment with Rahesh than not, and that they're able to participate in some fashion in the central concept of "a bunch of necromancers walk into a village...".

My intent with this for the 'contrast & tension' of the game is that we have a group representing a city of necromantic practices -- a city so feared and mistrusted due to its nature that it was embroiled in constant conflict, until it had enough and removed itself from the plane -- out in the world and the planes, seeking to re-establish or create anew relations after more than a century of being removed.
Given this, it might make more sense to remove the remaining Raheshi footholds within the mundane plane, namely the Port of the Dead and River's Reach. It probably makes more sense to say that those were geographic locations where Rahesh once held power, that have been taken over by Sarthel in the century+ of Rahesh's absence. Traders and supplies probably still come through that route, but it's done furtively. And Rahesh may have made sure to bury armies there that can be easily raised, should they desire to return and retake their former holdings.

As such, new forays into the outside world (of which the party is one) will be making a fresh imprint on that surrounding world, as Rahesh hasn't truly been heard from for 'lifetimes'.

Thoughts?
 
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Atlictoatl

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Thanks! Things are going well (though busy) so far this weekend.
That's good to hear!
Um, oops? Sorry.
No, there's nothing to apologize for. You couldn't have known. Please take my apology for blocking your idea.

A lot of my concept behind Hemlock is setting up a contrast & tension with the Raheshi powers-that-be -- wilding as a species distinctly not suited to the transition to undeath, Primal source character leaning into the 'nature spirits aggressively opposed to the undead' flavor, but Hemlock in particular has a backstory & mindset of channelling that inborn hostility towards the villains & darker elements of Raheshi society so is (grudgingly) tolerated. Shaman would be a good class fit, but for class+power distinction I could also work with Druid, Warden or potentially Avenger or Invoker of Melora. Does that seem like a good path?
I think, with two of the three concepts already proposed being Primal characters, that it's best to not have more Primal-sourced characters. I'd personally love to see some Divine-sourced characters, though Melora is not a god that would have much of a place in Rahesh. If you want to avoid Vecna, Erathis, and Sehanine, there are certainly other gods who could have a minor toehold there. Avandra, Kord, Moradin, Lolth, Torog all make some sense. I'm open to pitches for others. My preference would be that Divine characters explore the three main gods of Rahesh, in order to better cement the realization of 'Rahesh' as a concept, but I understand that inspiration is a fickle companion, at best, and sometimes moves in tricky ways. I'll trust that you can find a tie-in regardless of which divine preceptor you choose, if you do go the Divine route.

I realize the Primal and Melora impulses were in large part in response to what you were trying to set up for contrast with Rahesh. No worries, there, I really respect that that was your approach to constructing a character, and hope you're similarly strategically motivated inside of my reset in the post above.

I'm definitely interested in digging into the Nentir Vale worldbuilding & lore within PbP, and seeing how that is explored in a game that's driven less by tactical combat mechanics than D&D 4e. My best play experiences with PbtA games have been when scene-setting moves & narration introduce cool bits of scenery or NPCs to interact with, and the Nentir Vale offers a lot of opportunity for that.
Very cool. Me too! it's worth noting that I'm uncertain how much we'll be within the Nentir Vale, specifically, though I do absolutely think we should visit some of its places. As a planar campaign, we're likely to go elsewhere. So, 'Nentir Vale' in terms of the name for the broad 4e setting (yes!), and the actual Nentir Vale (some).
 

AndersGabrielsson

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Thanks for taking the time to clarify!

Your mention of Sehanine has given me some new ideas I need to consider. To be honest, my Sorcerer idea started to feel a little hollow and I think I need to look at something new to keep from creating a character I won't have fun with.
 
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