Fourth Edition D&D?!!?? For a modern-era campaign?! Grey, you’ve finally lost it. Not, of course, that you had it in the first place.
I have my reasons, and they’re good ‘uns. But to explain I have to reveal a little more about Endday.
For the vast majority of people who call this tiny blue planet their home, September 1st 2009 was a day like any other. But for few – far, far too few – it was a day of madness. The first day of madness before the end.
Those few could see Them, even before They were given a name or recognised for what They were. Those few could see Them in the shadows, waiting. And They knew They were seen, and acted as only They knew how. With violence and greed and cunning and guile and blood. And the few became fewer.
Some of the few fought back, and discovered that modern weapons were powerless. A blade could cleave, but a bullet passes straight through. Some of the few found other ways, strange powers fueled by faith, spirit or pacts with who knows what.
And they fought, and the few became fewer still.
Then came day two……….
September 1st is Day One of a demonic invasion of Earth from another plane. Some people (the player characters included) can see them as the barriers between the realms break down. By Day Fifteen (or thereabouts) everyone will be able to see them, and it will be literally Hell on Earth. And that’s just halfway to Enddday.
Here’s the campaign’s Core Principles, which will go a long way toward explaining why 4e D&D is such a darned good fit.
The world will end on 30th September 2009
Unless the players do something VERY impressive, Endday is a fixed point. This is the climax to the whole campaign arc, and the events which lead up to it form the basis of the story as a whole. Exactly how it’s going to end, and what the heroes may be able to do to save billions of people, I ain’t tellin’ just yet.
30 days, 30 sessions, 30 levels
1st Sepetember to 30th September gives us 30 days, and each game session is going to represent a 24 hours. This is high-speed D&D where the characters advance a level each session meaning that on Day Eleven they’re Paragon level, and at Day 21 they’re Epic level. Yes, that ultra-fast advancement is intentional, and there’s a reason for it. But I’m not revealing that either!
(Almost) everyone else is a Minion
Pity the poor non-heroes. With precious few exceptions (ie, notable NPCS and villains), the rest of we mere humans are Minions who can be felled with a single blow from a demonic claw. That gives me, as GM, considerable dramatic license without having to worry too much about an NPC’s hit points. If an NPC is attacked it’s up to the story whether he’s down but not out, or killed outright.
Bullets don’t work
Only the power of a soul can kill a demon. A gun lacks a soul, but the strength of will behind a blade’s edge is more than enough to make a demon bleed. Anything that is directly powered by man – be it a melee weapon, bow or magic incantation – will work, but if it’s powered by chemical reaction, electricity or some other means, it’ll pass right through.
Dropping an atom bomb on a demonic horde would probably just tickle. Sorry.
What this means is I don’t need to worry about creating (or googling) firearms and modern weaponry rules for 4e D&D. A gun will harm another person, but as they’re only Minions (see above), there’s no need for damage dice anyhow. Clever, eh?
What you did before doesn’t matter (much)
Before September 1st, your character might have been a Lab Technician, Teacher, Shopkeeper, Admin Junkie, Student or any one of a thousand other professions.
That was then.
Now, you’re fighting for your life against demonic hordes using powers and weapons you can barely comprehend. A knowledge of Pop Culture isn’t going to help you.
If it fits the character concept to use a Background Option to gain a modern-day skill as a class skill, that’s cool. For example, a character who is a programmer could gain Computing as a class skill, and take Skill Training in it, or a pilot take… ummm… the Pilot skill.
Similarly, a character could take a Occupation:Petty Thief and gain a +2 to Theivery (or gain it as a class skill if it isn’t already for his chosen Class).
In 4e D&D, any skill defaults to attribute bonus + 1/2 level meaning all characters have that level in any modern-day skill checks that arise during play, with a +5 bonus if they have explicitly elected to take Skill Training (either via Background Option or spending a Feat) in it.
Powers beyond mortal ken
Who this “Mortal Ken” is, I don’t know.
About halfway through the first scenario, your heroes will become able to do things previously thought impossible. They will gain magical abilities, hear the voices of gods or wield a sword like a seasoned veteran. They will save lives and damn others, and they will fight demons. And these powers will grow. Oh, they will grow.
These things are normal. Do not adjust your set.
If it’s in the Monster Manuals, it’s a demon
Shadar-Kai? Demon. Rust Monster? Demon. Gnome? Definitely demon.
Things are breaking through the barrier between the realms, and they take many forms; few of them are pleasant. All, without exception, are demons, and must be vanquished in order to save mankind.
This gives me a whole raft of monsters to work with across all levels from 1st to 30th without having to stat or prepare a single thing. There’s already a wealth of “proper” demons in there, but I can also use the stats for anything from a Kobold (“Chattering Demon”) to an Ancient Red Dragon (“Giant Fire Demon”) should the need arise.
Things are not as they seem
But for one of my campaigns that’s not unusual, right?
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at Character Generation, Endday style!