Episode 78: Paradisia, A Lawful Good Kingdom

This month, Roger and Mike consider what to do once the adventures are rich beyond even their wildest dreams, try to avoid the boring bits of game prep, and experiment with an actual play recording.

We mentioned

Dragon Warriors, The World’s Largest Dungeon at the Bundle of Holding, Corporation at the Bundle of Holding, silver-fork novels, Nyambe: African Adventures, a book about fraud, Reign, GURPS Cabal, GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Treasure Tables, GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 1 Glittering Prizes, GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 2 Epic Treasures, a recent Oglaf comic (caution, other comics are very much NSFW), US names by birth year, anthropodermic bibliopegy, and Cthulhu Confidential.

We have a tip jar (please tell us how you’d like to be acknowledged on the show).

Music by Kevin MacLeod at incompetech.com.


Were you pleased with the result of the experiment?

In the first campaign that I ran in my fantasy setting Gehennum (then called Jehannum) the PCs were set the task of obtaining the Sword With No Name as the bride-price of a princess whom one of them fancied (long story). Research indicated that this must be in the hoard of the dragon Chlorophane, which was most likely on the other side of the planet. They had to do six impossible things to get into his lair, where they found him sleeping on a pile of gold and jewels six metres high and twelve metres in base radius. They got away with the sword, with three-quarters of them still alive and one completely uninjured. Unfortunately (i) they put out the dragon’s fire to cover their escape, and that pissed him off (2) he overheard with dragon hearing the magic word that opened the magic casement that opened from their castle to a ruin twelve stades from his lair, and (c) Chlorophane was a magician.

So, a couple of resurrections later the PCs had (I) a big wedding coming up, (b) a bitterly resentful emperor as the father-in-law elect, (3) a large but overgrown estate with a dilapidated castle that they were obliged to garrison, (iv) a desperate need for quite a lot of cash, (§) the decomposing head of a very imposing reptile, and (VI) a bit of an idea about where there was an island with a cave containing a mound of the readily-negotiable.

Getting there without a charmed magic casement was a bit of a trick. The PCs had to chase away the younger dragon that had taken up residence. It turned out that the dragon, being vain, had built his stack of loot with the pig iron and bronze tripods in the middle and the gold, silver, and objets d’art as a comparatively thin shell on the outside. The PCs ended up paying the iron and bronze to a fleet of ship-elves as freight to get the gold, silver, and objets’ d’art shipped to the port nearest their home, carried to their castle, and stacked up in the basement. There were 880 packing cases of it, each quarter of a cubic metre. It didn’t all fit in their basement: they had to re-occupy an abandoned Elvish bailey fortress in the next valley to stack up the overflow.

The rest of the campaign consisted in large part of dealing with the political fallout that the mere rumour of their wealth produced. During the civil war that ensued they once had to give up their castle to an enemy army: five thousand men looted their castle and each carried off all the gold he could carry. The army was destroyed and they PCs were not appreciably poorer.

Towards the end the figured out that one of their problems could be solved by using a legendary item called the “Crown of Rhadamanthus”. A hired scholar traced it into their hoard. They sighed, and took on a small god in hand-to-hand combat as the easier task than finding a particular object in their money-bin.

A great time was had by all.

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Twenty characters.

Sorry - I’m away at UK Games Expo and gave Mike the text from the download site to post, but I didn’t cut that bit out.

On balance I think we liked The Fathomless Sleep without being utterly in love with it. More when we get to the end.

What did I do? What did I do?

And you can judge the results of the experiment for yourselves over the next several weeks.

So far I’ve managed to forget to give the name of Dex’s employer when she first arrived and at one point (which I hope Roger will edit mercifully) I got totally lost though I think that was the fault in the scenario as published. There were some good bits of roleplaying and storytelling though.

You failed to notice and correct my error. I’ve now fixed it.

Twilight 2000 had a playing card based method of deciding NPC personality and motivation. Draw 2 cards, and the highest was their primary motivation, the lowest their secondary one. Clubs = violence; Diamonds = wealth; Hearts = fellowship; Spades = Power.

Aces and face cards had special meanings that were variations on the theme of the normal suit. e.g. Ace of Diamonds was Generosity, will give their stuff to anyone in need.

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As far as I remember, jokers were mad (good or bad), appearing like a second card draw. That’s definitely my inspiration for the tarot thing.

What did they do if the two cards were of the same value, rather than one being higher and the other lower?

I played, years ago, with the idea of designing a soap opera game where the mechanism would be playing cards rather than rolling dice. I figured clubs for fighting and physical feats, diamonds for money, hearts for love and emotional appeals, and spades for intellectual, professional, and skilllful acts, including shooting a gun. Never worked out details. . . .

As I recall it (and it’s way too far past my bedtime for me to look it up now) CASTLE FALKENSTEIN uses a similar categorisation of cards to drive its skill/combat systems. I never quite groked CF though there were some cool things in it. How long you hung on to your cards and how many you could hold in reserve was obscure to me, even having read the rules.

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From Falkenstein:

Hearts => emotional and romantic activities
Diamonds => mental and intellectual activities
Clubs => physical activities
Spades => social and status-related activities

They also aspected differently for sorcery:

Hearts => emotional and mental
Diamonds => material
Clubs => elemental
Spades => spiritual and dimensional

I’ve just had a look at my T2K Referee’s Manual, and the situation isn’t mentioned.

(The jokers weren’t in T2K; they showed up in Traveller 2300. Which also says nothing about what to do in the case of a tie.)

Nor does Traveller: The New Era.

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The first time I saw anything addressing PCs retiring or moving on from the adventuring biz was in the Tunnels & Trolls rules:

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There are various stubs in AD&D (original DMG) that suggest material about retiring has been removed. I think the BECMI D&D set had stuff about it, with Companion mentioning running a holding and Master talking about running empires, but that was more along the lines of “…as part of your progression towards eventual godhood” rather than retirement per se.

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I think that the transition from murder hobo to king or high priest is a transition from a fundamentally action based campaign to one of intrigue and politics.
If it doesn’t appeal then play the new blood that the old PCs recruit to do the wetwork.

Yeah; while I don’t like to get explicitly meta, I think it wouldn’t be out of place for the GM to lay that out and see what the players want.

Such a change is kind of a campaign yes/no and then macro/micro pair of meta choices. So big that it deserves a new Session Zero.


Late stray comments in passing:

  • Heading off to an island somewhere to set up your own idea of a worthwhile kingdom is indeed more Wild West than Traditional Europe, as we mostly ran out of exploitable frontier and unexploited islands fairly early (until Columbus). I do remember the Canary Islands, though, where the Spanish did basically set out to start expanding into open space. They took decades to knock over a few stone age tribes, and generally made a pig’s ear of the project. Settlers of Catan is wildly romantic…

  • I know that Ken Hite regards the Conan saga as written by Howard, in toto, as describing a personal tragedy. Conan spends the early stages of his career as a wild and free barbarian, disdaining all those weak, soft, civilised men with their laws and compromises; then he does indeed actually conquer a kingdom of his own – and spends the rest of his life tied down, enforcing laws and compromising.

  • Merlin brought Stonehenge over from Ireland, Michael. Wales is merely where bits of it were brought from in dull quotidian reality.

  • And talking of taking chips off things… As I recall, Glorantha has the fantasy equivalent of that huge block of gold which is actually acting as a moderator on a reactor; a damn great lump of supernaturally valuable stone, in the middle of a desert, which is actually a weight which is keeping The Devil pinned down and thus preventing him from doing all manner of horrible things to the world. But, supernaturally valuable stone. Taking one little chip off isn’t going to make any difference… The local anti-Chaos fanatics presumably do fairly extreme things to anyone carrying a geological hammer within ten miles of the location.