Its Fiendish Friday, so here’s my final preview of the upcoming Life and Death Zarth Edition scenario book, which is currently on pre-order and out on general release next week.
In a nutshell Life and Death is my attempt at doing a post-apocalyptic fantasy world in the style of George Romero’s Day of the Dead films with a large dollop of Clark Ashton’s bleak take on Swords and Sorcery. Except with me being all Fighting Fantasy “You are the Hero”, the players have the opportunity if they dig deep enough into the adventure to find out why the world is full of shambling undead.
L&D was originally a D100 adventure for OpenQuest and specifically, my attempt at making an open-ended adventure where the players could still make choices and drive the plot depending on them. I wrote about this in a post I made to support the OpenQuest Bundle of Holding and the Crypts & Things conversion still holds that structure. It’s not a dungeon crawl, but more a location based adventure where each location is described in broad terms, enough to get the GM going and answer basic questions, a list of who is to be found there and then a series of events that could happen there if the appropriate triggers are satisfied. It’s a sort of story based sandbox. I give you the blocks and the players actions put them together. I’ve run the scenarios multiple times and no run is the same.
Pit Demon by David. M. Wright
Let’s delve deeper into the adventures:
Joining the Guild of Treasure Hunters. This is a one-page mini-adventure. It’s a tribute to the sort of introductory adventures you got in old RQ2 campaign boxes, such as Entering Pavis, where the title reflects exactly what happens in this straightforward adventure. Sit down and play through the adventure and let your players basics of the rules and ease them and yourself into the setting. This adventure gets the player characters signed up the Guild, which gives them a rationale for working together and a ready-made patron for the adventures ahead, who isn’t some bloke they’ve met down a tavern or a high-level character who has a vice like hold over them.
The Dust of Eternity. This my take on the traditional sorcerer’s tower adventure, with Zombies as the main protagonist. I made sure that every NPC and monster in the adventure is a person with a personality and rationale behind their action. A lot of this came from the “Monsters are People too” articles from back in the 80s. Those short essays that held the central realisation that NPCs weren’t just stat-blocks waiting to be hacked apart, but had personalities and motives just like the characters! Another inspiration came from playing far too much of the first-person shooter Bioshock, where the zombie like antagonists wander around moaning and streaking about things to do with their previous life, which brings about a weird morbid fascination that even these monsters have feelings and thoughts which deepens the sense of horror. I also wanted to write an adventure where the players don’t win if they fight their way through and just collect treasure.
Dead Pot Country. This is a small location based setting. The characters are lured there for a number of reasons, a breakdown of which is given in the setup of the adventure. On the edge of the dried-up valley that dominates Dead Pot country itself is the village. Things are not happy in the village. Bandit chief and his men have taken over the village and have forced them to look for relics of the ancient dead civilisation that used to flourish in the area. Will the characters help the villagers break free or will they side with the Bandits for quick and easy access to the valley? Once in the valley, the characters must navigate the cyclopean ruins of the dead river civilisation which is haunted by gangs of undead monsters and guardians. Finally, they find their way down into a dark underground labyrinth were rulers of Dead Pot Country wait for them in the darkness.
Life and Death. This is the truly epic adventure of the book, which is served up in four parts. It’s like a film in three acts. The first act sees the characters arrive in the village outside the gates of Miraz, a militaristic city state. During this act, we learn the character’s motives for coming here. Perhaps they are here to make their fortune as a mercenary, rescue a loved one or seek to help destabilise this tyrannical city which is currently suffering from a plague. They spend a night in a “hostel for visitors” since the gates are closed until morning. This allows them to experience Miraz’s culture first time, and prepare them for the state of fear and suspicion they will encounter inside the city. Then the second act focuses on what is happening in the city. It gives a rundown of the city’s culture, the current situation where one-third of the city is overrun by a Zombie plague, a guide to the city’s main locations, with events that can happen there, and a cast list of everyday citizens and various movers and shakers. The last act takes them high into nearby mountains where the source of the city’s power, an iron mine, is the centre of a struggle between three factions seeking to control the destiny. There deep in the mine system the characters finally come in to contact with the enigmatic force that will decide the fate of their world itself. The final part of the adventure is a section about how to bring the adventure to a satisfying conclusion for the players, no matter what rambling route they have taken around it.
Previous preview posts about this adventure book:
Life and Death Zarth Edition is currently on Pre-Order on the D101 Games webstore and will be available by the end of next week.
Life and Death Zarth Editon – cover by Jon Hodgson