Plus, players tend to make everything fun and ridiculous, no matter how serious you try to be.
Dark World: Down with the Sickness
Cast of Characters
Jon: Dungeon Master
Patrick: Lucien Denault, Revenant Bard, can't die until he makes up for his greatest shame: fleeing during war
Kelly: Leonin Shortstock, Halfling Ranger, killed his brother and on the run
Matt: Ralodan the Alchemist, Half Elf Alchemist, learned his skills in Veiba, very curious
Will: Rugrat Emberingot, Dwarven Gunslinger, former military man, gruff boy who always smokes a cigar
Bria: Chester Deanwin, Human Monster Hunter, tortured by dark powers and a loose cannon, but skilled at his job
Michelle: Zulnundru Zanzentuni, Human Warlock, family was cursed by the Dark Lady of Death, she makes the most of it
(Some quick backstory - the main group in this campaign world is fighting in a rebellion to take back their country, Vecirith. This group of PCs is part of that rebellion, but the DM of the main campaign gave me permission to run a session on a nearby island, where I could make whatever I wanted. I decided to do a game about disease, which meant I had to build the party very carefully - no Paladins, no Clerics/Druids/anyone with Lesser Restoration. In this kind of fantasy universe, plagues would be rare, as long as low-level magic users are running around with the ability to completely heal them. If you want to run this kind of game, I highly recommend you do so with a specially-built party, or some house rules that make diseases a bit harder to shake.)
Our story begins in the rebel base of Kel Khardaz. Six low-ranking personnel received a missive, telling them that they would be sent on a mission together. After meeting each other and exchanging introductions over dinner, they reported to the rebellion leader, Captain Tawn, first thing in the morning.
Captain Tawn told them they would be travelling via portal to Veiba, an island country to the south of Vecirith. The portals could normally only travel to somewhere the party had been before (or back to Kel Khardaz), but they were fortunate that their in-house wizard, Archmage Aiduin, had been to Veiba before.
The group's mission was simple enough: speak with a local representative of the government, obtain supplies and aid if possible. The government was run by a man named Tudhaliya, whom locals treated like a God. His "Seer" would be meeting with them, and hopefully giving them a "Seal of Tudhaliya", a symbol of the alliance between the rebels and Tudhaliya. Lucien, a former diplomat of Vecirith, was a key part of the plan.
Ralodan, Lucien, Rugrat, and Zulnundru had all been here before, and they were eager to explore the city a bit. As soon as they arrived, however, a child appeared before them with a roll of parchment. In Veiban, it read that the Seer was already expecting them. They got directions to the Seer's Embassy, where the message told them to meet.
The group looked around the city a bit on their way, noticing that some of the commoners and nearly all the beggars were infected with rashes and boils. Living in such hot, cramped conditions seemed to be terrible for their health. As they got closer to the embassy, and to the actual walls of Kadesh, the density of people and scale of illness only increased.
Finally, they reached the embassy, emblazoned with the sigil of Tudhaliya, like the many temples and shrines they had passed along the way. It was by far the fanciest building they had seen here, and inside they were surrounded by tapestries, beaded curtains, and powerful incense. They met the Seer Zekeriya in a cushioned room, and took part in a traditional hookah rite of greeting.
Lucien and Zekeriya exchanged pleasantries, and the conversation was brought around to the subject of the rebellion and the seal. Zekeriya was an accomplished diplomat, and Lucien was a bit out of practice. He wasn't able to sway her to help them immediately, and she implied that Tudhaliya might be interested in assisting the rebellion's enemies instead.
However, Tudhaliya had been allies with the former leader of Vecirith, and was willing to give them a chance to prove their strength. There was a village about half a day's journey from Kadesh that was suffering from a horrible illness known as the Queremah. They were to go there and help the villagers find a cure. Tudhaliya had granted the village leader a vision that would guide them.
The group collected themselves and headed out towards the village. As they made their way past chimney-like hills, covered wagons, and bare shrubbery, they noticed a group of travelers covered in heavy cloaks, stumbling towards them. They appeared sick - but as the party got closer they realized this was no mere sickness. It was undeath.
|Delicious human flesh!|
Lucien suffered a nasty bite to the arm, and Ralodan was taken down by one of the Ghasts, however, Leonin's quick skills with the bow and Zulnundra's powerful scythe finished off the creatures before they could deal the final blow. Meanwhile, Chester and Rugrat teamed up to fill a Ghast full of swords, and Lucien made one of them run away with a Dissonant Whispers spell.
The group gathered themselves and healed up, before crossing the last couple hours of wasteland to the village of Neri.
The village was built into and around the chimney-like hills, and even from a distance it was clear to see this was a village in trouble. People languished in the streets, carrion birds circled overhead, and the town had a deathly stillness to it. The group was tailed by a three-legged dog with mangy fur, the name "Guz" etched into its leather collar. Chester wanted to keep it, but knew it was likely a carrier of this disease "Queremah".
After briefly speaking to the town's doctor, they headed for the village leader's home. The leader was named Yalim Ozan, and he was quite distressed. Though he didn't appear sick himself, they had learned from the doctor that his wife had died and his daughter was very ill. However, he was gracious towards the party, and offered them a place to stay for the night.
They told him about their mission, and he collapsed in tears. He said he had received a dream-vision, which came rushing back to him when they told him why they had come. The vision had shown him a flower on the southern part of Veiba that could be made into a cure for Queremah. The party spent the night, then set out to find the cure.
They traveled across the wastelands of Veiba, using a rough map that Yalim drew to guide them. The map wasn't great, but Leonin's skill in cartography allowed them to travel without getting lost.
They saw several strange sights along the way: a ghoul eating the flesh of a corpse, a black arrow bearing a terrible curse, a plant sickness that spread to Chester, and more. Lucien began to show signs of Queremah, likely from his bite wound. He developed rashes and some of his body parts began to fall off.
|Beautiful, if you don't mind the horrible plagues|
Finally, they reached the area where the flowers were supposed to be. They explored for a full day, gathering dozens of flowers and avoiding various oddities and dangers of the wastes. They were about to head back when Ralodan and Zulnundra realized it would be faster to teleport back to Kel Khardaz and then to Neri.
They got a bit of a grumble from the portal-scroll maker, Artificer Haylen, but they were successful in quickly traveling back to Neri. However, something wasn't right - there were no birds circling overhead, and the town was even more still and quiet than before.
They saw someone walking through the street, but quickly realized it was a ghoul. The town had been overrun! Many of the heroes were ready to rush in and try to drive out the undead, but Rugrat warned them that this was a fight they couldn't win. The numbers were just too overwhelming.
They traveled back to Kadesh, disheartened. Zekeriya was expecting them once again, and they made their way to the Seer's Embassy. Zekeriya told them that she knew what had happened, and that they had proven themselves even if fate had intervened to make their efforts fruitless. She gave them the alchemical recipe to cure Lucien, and took most of the flowers the group had collected.
She handed over the Seal of Tudhaliya, and told them that she believed in the power of hope and persistence. She wished them both in their rebellion.
However, I don't think we need to make the whole world dark to get that kind of connection, I just need to keep working on making characters that the players can get into!
Thanks for reading!