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Strawman
2009-07-25, 02:27 PM
I always thought it would be cool to play a whole campaign as low level characters, so I came up with a setting that would make that possible.

Basically the whole thing takes place in a world where level-draining monsters are in control of populations. Either the monsters are sentient, or they are all being controlled by some outside force. The monsters patrol the streets and countryside like policemen, but instead of enforcing laws they level drain anyone over level 5.

Obviously a lot of people would be very angry over this kind of oppression. However, it is difficult for even a huge group of level 5 or lower level people to overthrow a huge group of level draining monsters.

The adventuring party could be on a quest to find a way to destroy the level draining monsters. Alternatively, the party could simply be trying to survive in a world without level 6 or higher heroes. If a dragon attacked a town, who would stop it? Players would have to use unconventional means to surmount classic challenges.

Yora
2009-07-25, 02:39 PM
You should look at E6, which limits the maximum character level to 6th. Characters can adavance bejond that, but don't get any more levels.
There are some threads on various boards about how that affects society and powerful creatures.

Cieyrin
2009-07-26, 11:54 AM
Having level-draining beasties running about keeping people low seems rather unrealistic, as how would one know that the character in question is level 6 or higher? There's no clear indication in-game of sheer character power, other than watching them do stuff. If they don't outwardly appear high-level, who is to say that they are? It seems like a game in which people would invest in Bluff and be somewhat low-magic, as well.

If you want a campaign where dark forces are in control, essentially that "Evil has won," I'd suggest looking into the Midnight Campaign Setting.

Them's my 2 coppers. Take as you will.

Yora
2009-07-26, 12:01 PM
Well, the Githyanki queen kills every githyanki that reaches level 11. No explaination how she does, but even official autors thought it works. ^^

Strawman
2009-07-26, 01:24 PM
Having level-draining beasties running about keeping people low seems rather unrealistic, as how would one know that the character in question is level 6 or higher?

Thanks for the advice. I guess if I try to get the idea running I'll first make and change some rules and spells. I'll have an easy means of determining level that cannot be deterred by bluff, and I'll make sure there are no low-level abilities or spells that would break the system I am setting up.

Darcand
2009-07-26, 02:19 PM
before you put the work into it, run it by your players, alot of folks see the lower levels as just something in the way of getting to the higher ones.

Once you have that under control remember that in a few of those lower levels a few classes get nothing but hitpoints. You might bump up feat production to one per level, give some extra skill points....

Lord Loss
2009-07-26, 03:44 PM
Give them an LA +1 (Template or Race) and make the Drainers (New Creatures?) keep em at lvl 5!

Siosilvar
2009-07-26, 04:03 PM
Basically the whole thing takes place in a world where level-draining monsters are in control of populations. Either the monsters are sentient, or they are all being controlled by some outside force. The monsters patrol the streets and countryside like policemen, but instead of enforcing laws they level drain anyone over level 5.

Hmm... you could do it, I guess, with a giant tower on top of the world's tallest mountain that periodically sends out a evil energy wave that instantly and irrevocably level-drains anyone over level 5. This also solves the problem of knowing if they're level 6 or over; the magicówait, idea.

The "energy wave" I was talking about? nighttime. This also explains how vampires and the like are stronger at night and weakened or destroyed when they are exposed to the sun's positive energy wave.

Strawman
2009-07-26, 04:25 PM
I really like the spoiler idea that you posted Siosilvar. I am thinking of making the whole campaign take place in a giant enclosed city, so there would be a variation on your idea. This spoiler contains the variation and a lot more I came up with for this campaign setting.



Nighttime would be simulated in the city, and it would last fifteen hours a day. The false nighttime would be caused a huge stone with runes on it hovering over the city. The runes would project an epic-level spell that would drain the levels of anyone over level 5.

The people in the city have been in their current situation for generations, so they cannot remember what stars look like.

The runes also prevent people from being able to communicate with their gods, so divine abilities are limited at night. Alot of class redesign would be need for divine classes.

Vampires and similar nocturnal monsters would be strengthened by the runes.

The city would be over a hundred miles in diameter, and fully functional without any interaction with the outside world.

I can think of two major quests for this setting. One is a search for an artifact; Everflowing Potion of Greater Restoration. The other quest would either be finding a way to destroy the runed stone hovering at night, or finding a way to destroy the city's impregnable walls.

Siosilvar
2009-07-26, 04:36 PM
Nighttime would be simulated in the city, and it would last fifteen hours a day. The false nighttime would be caused a huge stone with runes on it hovering over the city. The runes would project an epic-level spell that would drain the levels of anyone over level 5.

The people in the city have been in their current situation for generations, so they cannot remember what stars look like.

The runes also prevent people from being able to communicate with their gods, so divine abilities are limited at night. Alot of class redesign would be need for divine classes.

Vampires and similar nocturnal monsters would be strengthened by the runes.

The city would be over a hundred miles in diameter, and fully functional without any interaction with the outside world.

I can think of two major quests for this setting. One is a search for an artifact; Everflowing Potion of Greater Restoration. The other quest would either be finding a way to destroy the runed stone hovering at night, or finding a way to destroy the city's impregnable walls.



Fifteen is a rather large number, but I suppose it's reasonable. Only having nine hours of sunlight is like it always being winter.

Hmm... the gates are staffed by a veritable horde of level 5 guards during the day and vampires at night to prevent escapes?

What's the motive for this giant stone? Alien invasions? Tests of WMDs? Displays of sheer power?

Strawman
2009-07-26, 04:49 PM
What's the motive for this giant stone? Alien invasions? Tests of WMDs? Displays of sheer power?



I'm planning something a bit different. About eighty years ago, there was a very powerful wizard who hated violence. She was neutral good, and a pacifist. She wanted so much to end violence that he devised a way to limit peoples' capacity for violence. She would limit everyones' levels so that she could police them with drain-resistant golems of her own design. The golems were about level 9.

Despite her actions causing a distinct alignment shift, they worked. No violence could occur without a golem stopping it, as there were golems on every street corner.

However, she did not figure in her plan that she would get a heart attack one day. The city continued as normal after her death, until one day a group of vampires discovered the city. They also discovered that the undead do not suffer from the level drain, and that they grow stronger under the runes. The vampires gathered allies and began destroying the golems one by one. Eventually there were no golems left.

Since then many vampires and other undead creatures have moved into the city. They enjoy the steady supply of blood, and they have even set up a colliseum where they force the living to fight for the undead's enjoyment.

However, the undead do not know how the rune stone works, and they definitely do not know how to repair it. If the adventurers can find some way to disable the rune stone, the city can be forever freed. If the adventurers merely find a way to escape the city, it will remain as a haven and stronghold for evil. If the adventures figure out how the rune stone works, they can use it to control the city. This allows for good, neutral, and evil paths for an adventuring party.

Suzuro
2009-07-26, 06:29 PM
Fifteen is a rather large number, but I suppose it's reasonable. Only having nine hours of sunlight is like it always being winter.


You obviously don't live in Alaska, three months of night in the winter.

Anyways, on topic, I actually like the idea, you would have to work out several kinks, like you said, such as divine abilities. Also, I don't know how well they're going to be able to fight again vampires and the like.


-Suzuro

Dragonus45
2009-07-26, 07:10 PM
I love the idea and the backstory. And as for devine classes at night. They followers carry devine power they siphon during the in holy symbols. And while vampire are strong i wouldnt think that many of them would be there. Maybey two or three covens. More than that and they would be sharing the power. Perhaps they have the city split into who owns what. The rest are lower lvl nocturnal or undead threats.

:EDIT:ed for my terrible spelling.

Siosilvar
2009-07-26, 07:23 PM
You obviously don't live in Alaska, three months of night in the winter.

Anyways, on topic, I actually like the idea, you would have to work out several kinks, like you said, such as divine abilities. Also, I don't know how well they're going to be able to fight again vampires and the like.


-Suzuro

Well, Vampire is supposedly a +2 CR template. Against such low-leveled characters, a 2nd-level Fighter vampire could be a reasonable challenge, if you drop the level drain to only 1 level and remember that it's only with the slam attack.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-27, 12:34 AM
I'd agree that E6 is the best way to handle this due to the level-draining monsters being awkward (especially when Fort saves can restore lost levels). Also, justifying why they do it would be hard.

PairO'Dice Lost
2009-07-27, 07:57 AM
I'd agree that E6 is the best way to handle this due to the level-draining monsters being awkward (especially when Fort saves can restore lost levels). Also, justifying why they do it would be hard.

Not really; the backstory mentioned above in the spoiler (where the undead aren't doing anything themselves to drain people, just taking advantage of it) or a few other reasons (using people for cattle, for instance) seem to be reasonable justifications to me.

Strawman
2009-07-27, 09:31 AM
I figured out what kind of monsters are in the city;



Assorted low level monsters will roam the streets. These monsters were imported for the colliseums, but the cages there are poorly maintained, and many monsters escaped.

Some allip inhabit apartments, the poor souls who kill themselves rather than continue living in such a horrid city.

Ghasts and ghouls travel in groups of various sizes (1-12) turning more people into the undead. Occasionally an entire building is full of them.

The low level monsters, allip, and ghasts and ghouls are all good for leveling up. Additionally, there is a lot of fighting between the living inhabitants of the city.

Spectres enjoy the twilight between actual night and the false night of the rune stone. This causes them to roam the city's outer walls at night. The spectres are a deterent to escape, as they are too powerful and too many to fight.

Mohrg and their zombie squads are the enforcers of the city. They are too powerful for adventurers to take on themselves, but the party can try to organize a localized uprising to defeat a mohrg they need to get rid of.

Several high level vampires run the city. They are far too powerful for the adventures to attack, so they are best avoided at all costs. Low level vampire spawn form the city's administration, and a lvl 2-4 vampire spawn (cr 4-6) will occasionally serve as a mini-boss or boss.

The city gates are guarded by mohrgs, zombies, and low level liches. Organs of living creatures go out of the gates, and luxuries for the undead come in.



I also have some unfinished ideas about how certain classes will change.



The city's temple districts only allow the temples of evil gods. Paladins and good clerics must worship in secret. Fugitive bands of divine classes roam the sewers in search of places to set up makeshift temples for a day or two.

Theif guilds are celebrated and decadent. They have some of the best buildings in the city.

Paladins and clerics do not have access to their domain spells at night. Instead they can access a new variety of domain spell during the day; long-term divine traps. These traps last 24 hours, and must be cast during the daytime. This would require paladins and good clerics to lure the undead onto their traps.

I like the idea of thieves being honored and paladins reduced to using hit and run tactics. It would not be uncommon in this setting for a paladin to take a few ranks of hide.

Cieyrin
2009-07-27, 12:52 PM
Well, the Githyanki queen kills every githyanki that reaches level 11. No explaination how she does, but even official autors thought it works. ^^

I believe it was level 17, actually, to prevent wishes, but yeah. They were more honor bound once they reached a certain ability threshold to return to the Lich Queen to rejoin the githyanki pool of souls to be reborn again. I'm aware of a couple rebel githyanki factions that are a bit higher level that were attempting to gain power enough to overthrow her, though.

As for the epic spell, you may want to keep an eye on the accessibility of the death ward (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/deathWard.htm) spell, as, if made permanent (probably by making it a magic item like a belt, shirt or mantle), it kinda trumps any life-draining, since you're immune and all. Probably attach a nondetection (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/nondetection.htm) effect to it as well, so it doesn't glow extra bright as compared the magic items normally about.

Them's my 2 coppers. Take as you will.

PairO'Dice Lost
2009-07-27, 01:00 PM
I believe it was level 17, actually, to prevent wishes, but yeah. They were more honor bound once they reached a certain ability threshold to return to the Lich Queen to rejoin the githyanki pool of souls to be reborn again. I'm aware of a couple rebel githyanki factions that are a bit higher level that were attempting to gain power enough to overthrow her, though.

Yep. Any who reached 17th were consumed; 15th-16th level githyanki became her personal guard, 13th-14th lead her armies. Since she can sense githyanki of a certain level (through means unexplained, just that she knows when you hit that point), any rebels that exist--of which there are quite few--have to decide to rebel around 13th or so to remain safe.

Strawman
2009-07-27, 01:18 PM
As for the epic spell, you may want to keep an eye on the accessibility of the death ward (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/deathWard.htm) spell, as, if made permanent (probably by making it a magic item like a belt, shirt or mantle), it kinda trumps any life-draining, since you're immune and all. Probably attach a nondetection (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/nondetection.htm) effect to it as well, so it doesn't glow extra bright as compared the magic items normally about.



Good point. I'm going to approach this from three angles.


1. The undead regularly scan for any item with death ward, or any magic ability. Although it can take time to find such items, a character rarely has time to get to level seven before being found out and disposed of.

2. Items with both death ward and nondetection are expensive enough that low level character in a poor city could almost never have one. The restricted trade in and out of the city adds to this problem. The occasional leader of a thieves guild might have one in secret, but it would be extremely difficult for a PC to get, as the guild leader would be above level 5. Also, the high level vampires regularly search the more powerful people in the city, to make sure that no one becomes strong enough to stage a coup.

3. There are groups of rebels who cast death ward on each other often enough that they can avoid the effects of the rune stone. However, it takes two casters to maintain one person's level, and they all have to be casters. The vampires crack down hard on these groups, so the groups are always small and one the move. Members of the group rarely get above level eight before being killed by strong undead forces. Also, the undead set up small traps that dispell enchantments like death ward all over the city, and if death ward is lost for even a moment the rune stone can affect a character. Those same traps can be used by rangers or other savy players to trick an enchanted undead enemy during battle.

The few characters above level 5 would probably be important in any campaign involving this setting.

The epic spell rune stone causes all level drains to be permanent. I mentioned a quest for an Everlasting Potion of Greater Restoration earlier, but I think that it will make more sense if levels cannot be restored at all.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-29, 11:00 AM
I just had another idea; in d20 Modern, Advanced classes, which are like normal D&d classes but you have to take at least 3 levels in a weaker Base class to take them, only go up to level 10. Would using those classes without Basic Classes work for what you want? ( http://d20resources.com/modern.d20.srd/ )

Strawman
2009-07-29, 03:44 PM
I just had another idea; in d20 Modern, Advanced classes, which are like normal D&d classes but you have to take at least 3 levels in a weaker Base class to take them, only go up to level 10. Would using those classes without Basic Classes work for what you want? ( http://d20resources.com/modern.d20.srd/ )

Those classes are cool, but I think the main appeal of this campaign setting would be using the classic classes in a way that they have not been used before. What does a player do when their fighter is stuck at level 5 and regularly going against larger and larger groups of CR 6 enemies?

It will definitely be a difficult and death-prone setting, but I think that I am only going to alter the base classes just enough that they are not useless during the first five levels.

If I ever try to make a steampunk version of this campaign setting, I'll definitely use d20 modern and your idea though. A level 5 techie will have just enough power and versatility.

Cieyrin
2009-07-30, 01:58 PM
Yep. Any who reached 17th were consumed; 15th-16th level githyanki became her personal guard, 13th-14th lead her armies. Since she can sense githyanki of a certain level (through means unexplained, just that she knows when you hit that point), any rebels that exist--of which there are quite few--have to decide to rebel around 13th or so to remain safe.

I do recall an 18th level githyanki wizard having a small hidden enclave in the Astral Plane from the War crossover issues of Dragon and Dungeon. Not sure when he escaped the Lich Queen's service, though.

@Strawman: the whole point of having nondetection on such a magic item is to make it seem like it's nonmagical and it would appear to be so, as well, if the creator has any sense. If they fail to detect it, they'd have no indication that they failed and not have to suspect such. If you want to get really paranoid about it, you can have Nystul's magic aura cast on the item on a regular basis as well, given the spell lasts for days and won't turn up at all as magical, no check required. It's probably a cheaper option than Nondetection, though it won't defeat Identify or Analyze Dweomer (if the vamps are regularly running around with Analyze Dweomer, we got other problems <_<;;).

As for keeping somebody warded with Death Ward, I hope those guys are using Extend Metamagic Rods, b/c that spell only lasts in minutes. I hardly see anyone being warded 24/7, even if it were extended. You'd need some kinda clerical order devoted to keeping somebody under that kind of protection, which is why I recommended the magic item route to avoid such craziness. Sure it's a bit costly but it's far more feasible than having a bunch of level 7 clerics and level 8 favored souls burning all their 4th level spell slots to keep one guy above the level cap, let alone doing it in city. A wand of death ward is more feasible than that.

Plus, I kinda figure any PCs involved in said campaign would probably be part of an underground resistance who potentially have access to such things, though possibly only lending them out, as opposed to be given them. I could see a black market for such items as well, though they'd probably be at least twice or even triple cost to get. Just saying that the possibility of acquisition is there at least gives your players the illusion that they'll own one. Plus, since you have a forced level cap, anyways, Wealth by Level is gonna be totally thrown out of whack, in any case, so characters would probably be trying to fall back on powering themselves up with magic items and spells.

Strawman
2009-07-30, 05:39 PM
I'm beginning to think that having plans for each type of magic avoidance of the rune stone might get overly complicated. I've figured out a different way to approach it that would also allow for an interesting quest.



The rune stone detects all magic items in the city that are capable of preventing the rune stone's effect. The rune stone transmits that data to the golems that were originally there to protect the city. The golems would confiscate and destroy the items.

The golems were destroyed, but one high level vampire realized what information was being transmitted to the golems, and she kept a broken torso of a golem. Through the torso she can find out where any resist-draining type items are in the city. She gives this information to enforcers who destroy the items.

The high level vampire keeps the golem torso under close guard, as it is the only one left. If the players could destroy or steal the torso, the undead forces would have a much more difficult time finding problematic magic items. The location of the torso is at the heart of a very difficult dungeon, the danger of which is increased significantly as the high level vampire goes there once a week.

Jergmo
2009-07-30, 10:51 PM
*Raises hand* Why not just lower the XP gain so people level slow and have higher level folks be really rare?

Strawman
2009-07-31, 12:40 AM
*Raises hand* Why not just lower the XP gain so people level slow and have higher level folks be really rare?

I don't really have a particular reason not to, but for some reason my personal sensibilities prefer the idea of an arbitrary level limit. Especially one that can be overcome by completing an extremely difficult quest.

Cieyrin
2009-07-31, 10:36 AM
The only issue with the Torso I can see is, since it's left in the dungeon, it would only tell you where it was when detected, not where it's gone since then, as I have no doubt an artifact can break through a non-epic caster's Nondetection spell. The thing is, they'll know the general location of where it was but will have to go looking for the rule-breaker on their lonesome, which runs into the problem of detecting the item once they get there, provided it's still in the vicinity, as said item probably doesn't detect as magic due to Nystul's Magic Aura and Nondetection.

I suppose you could try to control the access to spell components in the city if you want to get right down to it but that's circumvented to an extent by Eschew Components, which leaves you right where you are now, though probably with a Spell Component Black Market in the works as well. You could outright ban casting in city and make it a crime punishable by imprisonment or death or undeath for those without license to do such casting.

A couple more things to think about with your idea. I'd just accept that there is probably some way to finagle a way around the rules set up and just go ahead, rather than try to cover all the possible contingencies involved. All it'll end with is giving someone a headache, probably yourself, and half the fun of doing these types of campaigns is trying to creatively solve the problems, some times in unexpected ways. I'd just go with the flow of it and be pleasantly surprised when your players come at the problem in a way you weren't expecting.

Them's my 2 coppers. Take as you will.

Strawman
2009-07-31, 10:43 PM
I'd just accept that there is probably some way to finagle a way around the rules set up and just go ahead, rather than try to cover all the possible contingencies involved. All it'll end with is giving someone a headache, probably yourself, and half the fun of doing these types of campaigns is trying to creatively solve the problems, some times in unexpected ways. I'd just go with the flow of it and be pleasantly surprised when your players come at the problem in a way you weren't expecting.


Good advice. I was getting a bit caught up with my Batman-esc planning and forgot that creativity in the players will be a good thing.

Also, I'm thinking about having the city set up as a part of a larger campaign. In order to retreive some powerful item or information, the players have to sneak into the city. I think the level drain will be... unexpected... if not flip-the-board-I-hate-the-DM-ish. Anyway, it'll be a nice break from high level gameplay if I time it right.

Cieyrin
2009-08-01, 09:43 AM
Well, make sure they're not too far beyond your level threshold if you do. No one likes leveling down.

DonThelonious
2009-08-02, 02:33 AM
A couple of thoughts...

Rather than just saying Vampires are in control, why not have an aristocrat society made up of necropolitans (LM).

Another thing is you say the level cap would be 5. Right?
Death Ward is a 4th level spell, so minimum level to access it would be 7th. Since nobody but the undead can advance beyond level 5, only the undead would have access to that spell. You might consider having a necropolitan or some sort of other undead NPC who runs some sort of rebel alliance with access to those kinds of spells, since in a setting like this there is bound to be at least a small group of 'rebel' undead.
Maybe make him a cleric of Pelor just for the irony.

Just some of my thoughts.