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D&D 3E
Artifact Based Campaign 
7th-Oct-2004 11:58 am
The campaign I'm developing has an adventure centered around the characters searching for the six orbs that maintain the balance of the world (air, water, fire, earth, positive, and negative energy planes each possess an orb), and as other adventures that revolve around finding different artifacts, I'm trying very hard to make everything have a variety so that they don't get bored ("Oh look, here we go, to get yet another orb.") Does anyone have any ideas on how to keep artifacts interesting, and also, do you have any original information/content for these six outer planes?

X-posted to _roleplayers_.
7th-Oct-2004 11:59 am (UTC)
Maybe make the artifacts different pieces of a larger item that, when united, do some incredibly cool stuff?
7th-Oct-2004 12:06 pm (UTC)
They bind a seal together, and when the six are collected together, the seal breaks. They have a unified power like that. I was just worried that, like the classical D&D artifact of the staff that is in nine pieces (I forget what it's called but it was in several things published by TSR), the players would get bored before collecting all the pieces. I know that's an issue a DM I use to be a player with had when he ran an adventure surrounding that staff.
7th-Oct-2004 12:17 pm (UTC)
Are you thinking of the Rod of the seven winds?


I'd suggest get ideas from the classic method -- steal them. Steal them from anywhere and everywhere.

Dozens of computer games are based around the artifcat collection/series of challenges (or similar premise) goals. Final Fantastys, Legend of Zelda, Myst, Diablo II, etc. Look arounnd and steal some ideas. Same with novels/fiction series. Take a look at the Dr. Who _Key of Time_ meta-series.

Also, during each quest, make sure there are side quests. Not every adventure has to focus on the 'get the orb'. Villages will need saving. The PCs might ahve to choose between getting the orb now and letting a village be sucked dry by a local band of orcs, (but by then, the assasin who has it may have figured out more about its life stealing ability. Or perhaps the assasin may fall to a vampire, who can put it to better use).

7th-Oct-2004 12:35 pm (UTC) - Orb quests
You need to vary widely how each piece is located, acquired, and used. Some ideas:

Where is it?

  • in the bottom of a deep dungeon (typical)

  • at the bottom of the sea

  • on one of the Four Hundred Islands

  • in the busy throne room of the king's main palace

  • in the stomach of a remorrhaz in the northern wastes

  • on a necklace worn by the master of the assassin's guild

  • somewhere on the third plane of the Abyss

  • in a halfling's pocket somewhere

  • in a protected and guarded display case in a museum

How do they find it?

  • a legend describes where they were created and sent

  • use magical divination to get hints about their current locations

  • rumors abound about how one of the orbs is being used

  • stories of pillars of fire in the East suggest the Orb of Fire is there

  • an NPC offers to tell the party where an orb is if they'll do something for him

  • another party of now retired adventurers saw it (or hid it!) and must be tracked down

  • a riddle on an old tomb wall hints at the location of the Orb of Air

How do they get it?

  • kill some monstrous guardian (tried and true, though clichéd)

  • travel to a hostile clime on earth (under water, the frozen north, a jungle, a bunch of little islands in the ocean, a desert)

  • travel to a hostile clime not on earth (an elemental plane, an outer plane, the astral plane, an alternate prime material plane)

  • negotiate with someone for it (trade, barter, diplomacy, begging, intimidation)

  • get something else that can be traded for it

  • perform a herculean task for someone in exchange for it

  • impress someone for it (feats of skill or artistic beauty, befriend or seduce someone)

  • steal it without the owner knowing

Most importantly, focus on what happens along the way. The journey is as important as the destination.

For example, the Orb of Air is lost in a deep lagoon on an island in the middle of the ocean. The island is one of hundreds in the chain. The orb creates a perpetual water spout that the local primitive tribes worship as a deity. They protect the area as a sacred place but there are air elementals there to help. The party has to track down a retired rogue, now 80 years old and on his death bed, because he is rumored to have lost the orb on his adventures. He is expected to die soon of natural causes and the party must rush overland (and avoid encounters that slow them down) to get there before he dies. His mind is failing but eventually the party can puzzle out that he lost the orb on one of his island adventures. The rest of the party didn't know he had the item, but they know where they went. Unfortunately, they're all dead, but speak with dead can be used to question the other deceased party members.

Once the party determines which island chain, they must figure out which island and get there. It's a dangerous area full of headhunters, cannibals, shamans, juju zombies, water dragons, and pirates. They might go from island to island, having one adventure after another, picking up vague clues about the orb. Eventually, they'll learn about the tribe that worships the water spout, and check that out. They can meet with the tribal leaders and try to talk them out of the orb (not likely), or try to steal the orb. It's a hard task, since the orb is a 12-pound crystal the size of a bowling ball and it's half-buried in sand at the bottom of a lagoon, forty feet deep. It's also guarded by vicious air elementals. There might even be some kind of djinn (can't remember which is air-related). The native tribe's shaman and the rest of the tribe will do what they must to keep people away from their sacred lagoon, too.

Does that help?
7th-Oct-2004 03:03 pm (UTC) - Re: Orb quests
WOW, you just gave me a huge starting point. I actually like a lot of those ideas. Thanks a bunch! Nothing like someone setting a flame under your imagination to get the flow of creativity rolling. :-)
7th-Oct-2004 01:13 pm (UTC)
what if the orbs are all magicked to look like something else? one of them could be magicked to appear to be a living being, an npc. eventually they meet the npc, learn that not only is the npc not real but they have to kill him or her to get the orb, then let them try to convince the npc that hey, you really aren't a real person, pinnochio, you're just an old artifact and we really really need you, so...
7th-Oct-2004 01:20 pm (UTC)
That is an AWESOME idea! I think I like this one the best, although...

Thanks to everyone for your input; all these ideas have helped a great deal!
7th-Oct-2004 01:25 pm (UTC)
- Why don't you make it hard to keep opposing orbs together.
- Or as the group collects more orbs the orbs develop their own intelligence and personality - they may or may not get on with the players. The orbs could whisper that it's a baaad idea to put them together.
- Have intellient beings trapped in the orbs which want out and accuse the players of trapping them unfairly.
- Carrying the orbs could start to effect the players. The player carrying Fire might start to tan, or get red hair, suffer from fevers or you could encourage them to have a fiery temper.
- Have another group also start hunting for the orbs, try and avoid them being one hit wonders and have them as reoccuring villians/rivals.
- Have someone try and steal (hopefully) succeed to steal one
- Have the players found the orb of air yet? I'll use this as an example. Have the players find the other "real" orb of air. That'll worry them
7th-Oct-2004 02:54 pm (UTC)
There's actually another group (they can be labeled "villians" if you will although they just have alterior motives) that also is after the orbs. I was planning on having each side having the opposing orbs (three orbs each) by the end somehow, although I don't know...

Thanks for the advice!
7th-Oct-2004 02:46 pm (UTC)
Make the visually bizarre, as well.
The Negative Energy Orb might be a yellowed skull, sitting blindly in an alcove somewhere in a catacomb.
The Fire orb might be, say, a coal that never goes out - or a smoking-hot chunk of obsidian, laying in the center of a natural spout of fire somewhere underground.
Glass occasionally forms with bubbles in it; indeed, some places have started making art with this. Why not have the Air Orc be a 'worthless' ball of glass so shot through with bubble of air as to look like boiling water frozen in time?

That sort of thing - not to mention the Orbs having very specific effects on their environment...
The Negative orb might not spawn undead, but rather make things crumble away; if it does cause undead to arise from the baneful energies, picture how much more interesting it might be if the floor underfoot is rotted to the point of being a fatal trap, and chunks of the roof fall loose with the slightest disturbance?
7th-Oct-2004 02:51 pm (UTC)
That's really interesting! The only thing is, as the Manual of the Planes states, I was aiming for the Negative Energy plane to be a more neutral location with sections of neutral evil areas, and I wanted the orb to, in itself, be neutral, as well as the other orbs...so it couldn't fester undead, but rotting is definately not something baneful so much as just a symbolism of deterioration.

Thanks for the advice!
7th-Oct-2004 03:16 pm (UTC)
You could give the orbs some kind of ambient effect that can be harnessed by its owners. Taking it away could have serious consequences to the community...

Fire idea #1: A small valley in a normally frozen region enjoys year-round warm temperatures because the Fire Orb has been buried there. Taking it away will bring freeze the valley, and force most of the people there to relocate. (Kinda stolen from the Icewind Dale series).

Fire idea #2: The orb is kept in an inactive volcano, keeping the temperature high enough for a large colony of salamanders and other heat-favoring creatures.

Water: Dropped into a well, it keeps the water table filled. Wells in desert areas never run dry... as long as the orb remains.

Air: The Air Orb could be used to sustain atmosphere in a place where there normally isn't much to speak of: lowest levels of the Underdark, underwater, on a high mountain, or even in outer space.

Earth: The properties of the Earth orb are being used to purify metals, and make even the work of the worst smiths into "masterwork" quality. Whether it's dwarven master craftsmen, or barely capable goblin smiths, they're not only making tons of money, but throwing the balance of power.

Negative idea #1: The life-draining properties of the negative orb are being used to keep some unkillable monster (tarrasque, primary witchlight marauder, etc) in "stasis". If the orb is taken away, the monster will awaken. The locals might agree to give up the orb if the PCs find a way to kill the creature.

Negative idea #2: The other idea is for the orb to have fallen into the hands of a lich or vampire, who is using it either to augment its own powers, or to raise an army of undead.

Positive: The life-giving aura of this orb would make it very popular with the creators of golems and other constructs. Any golem created within the aura has enough intelligence to understand normal commands and converse, but is still immune to mind-influencing spells.
7th-Oct-2004 03:20 pm (UTC)
Good ideas, I think this twist.
8th-Oct-2004 07:15 am (UTC)
To expand on the pseudo-NPC idea, maybe one of the orbs can form the actual physical core of an intelligent, good-aligned construct or undead--and if it's removed, that construct or undead is destroyed permenently.

To put even more spin on it, make that construct/undead the main protector of some sort of important good-aligned place, and without it always around to protect that place, well...
8th-Oct-2004 09:26 am (UTC)
I was thinking of having the negative orb inside the skull of a powerful lich (and it obviously gives him this power) or possibly even a dracolich, but I like the twist on it being inside a good sentient being as protector rather than an undead tyrant.
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