D&D 4e: PC Guidelines

Read the setting, then come back here.

For the last 137 years, the ancient Gold dragon called Kardossian has watched over the children and grandchildren of the Blossom — the last heiress of the once-mighty Dalriadan empire. Six times he has watched a royal heir ride out to reclaim the empire, and six times he has wept tears of pure myrrh at the news of their deaths. For most of the last ten years, he has lain coiled around the Bastion of Storms, the residence of the current heir, Prince-Royal Erendius, and his Princess-Mother Eleanora of Aquitin. Now the boy is ten, and six years, eight, or ten at the most, some ambitious general or warlord or wizard of the court will turn his head with tales of Dalriadan glory, and he will sail off with great ambitions — and likely return only as a charred hand like his father, or a severed head like his grandfather, or an urn of ashes like his great-great grandfather. The hopes for a renewed empire recede in the minds of the people.

But Kardossian has stirred from the Bastion of Storms at least once to your knowledge. For once, when you were alone, in a solitary part of the island of Karsica, you heard the rush of great wings, saw the flash of gold as the mighty tail coiled into a great circle around you, felt the heat of breath on your face like a hurricane, smelled the cinnamon and bitumen and cardamom of his breath, and heard his whisper: “I choose you as a Champion of the Dalriada. Restore the empire.” Then the noise like a thunderclap, the force of earthquake as Kardossian took to the sky, the sudden pounding of blood in your head as your legs collapsed beneath you. The dragon marked you for great things that day, and destiny has brought you opportunities for glory, fame and greatness.

Your PC is one of the Heroes. You can be a loner, a guy with a gray sense of ethics, a mysterious outsider with a complicated path. But dragons just don’t choose badly, and the oldest living good dragon in the world said that you were a good egg when no one was watching, and you recognize others from time to time who’ve also been singled out by the last emperor’s greatest champion. But just because you’ve been singled out doesn’t mean you can’t go bad somewhere along the line, either.

Make your character normally. If you’re human, you’re of a family with some claim to being a pure-bred Dalriadan family from the mainland, connected to the ancient Senate or the lesser Knights even if you’re now a goatherd by profession (a lot of refugees a century and a half ago). You’ve got one heirloom tool of some kind, in addition to your basic 100 gp equipment package; no specific magical items, though the object has some glamour to it (it glows on the night of the full moon or something like that). You were reared on stories of Dalriada’s glory, and you long to restore it, even if only to fulfill your own personal ambitions or out of fear for Kardossian’s vengeance.

If you’re of another race, you’re part of the small community of non-humans on Karsica or in the mainland town of Harles — which are, as far as anyone knows, the only surviving pieces of the Dalriadan empire in the world. The elves and the eladrin have been cut off from their homelands and principalities for more than a century; the dwarves have been cut off from home for more than five decades. Halfling communities of pearl divers, fishermen and marsh clam-diggers have flourished on the island all the time, but the sea-going sense among them is strong. The Tieflings (called the Tieff) are few in number and forced into limited roles while living in special quarters in most cities and towns, while the even smaller number of Dragonborn serve as the Emperor’s personal military and the island’s principal police force and coast guard. Nearly all of the races recall that life was good under the Dalriadans, but nearly all of them also have stories about their own empires, and their own ages of glory. The next age need not be a human one.

Write down some of your connections to family and community, and to your family’s history with the Dalriadan Empire. Was it a good thing for you and yours, a poor thing, or a mixed bag?

Then, choose two destinies: the one you might have been destined for before Kardossian whispered to you; and the one he foresaw for you on Fate’s winding road. During the course of this game, you’ll have several chances to change paths, but for now it’s an either/or choice.

5 comments

  1. Very Cool.
    Captures the Points of Light and lays out /why/ the player-characters are the heroes (and subtly implies that having an angry dragon after you if you decide to be less than heroic is a Bad Thing).
    I am also considering the concept of heirloom items.

    -Barak

  2. I think the setting/framework is pretty good. I’ll also say I’ve read a *lot* of fantasy so “Lowly kitchen boy tapped to restore the lost Golden Age”, is kind of familiar. Not that it isn’t fun, just familiar.

    If you’re thinking of running this for your students, it’s probably fine. If you’re running it for older gamers, think up a couple nice twists.

    I might suggest that each PC gets visited by the Dragon *and* by the Lich-King (or whatever Devil equivalent you have). Each offers their vision of the PC’s destiny. Further, one of the visitations was private and one was very public. Most people got a public visit by the dragon and private visit by the lich-king but some people got it the other way around. So now you’ve got PCs marked down as tools of the undead when they know they’ve got a better fate and vice-versa.

    Finally, a few dozen people got visited, not just the PCs. Aside from providing a pool of back-up PCs (just in case), now the Court is terrified of these “Chosen”. In order to get keep them away from the island and out of local politics, various faction heads organize groups of Chosen into hero bands and send them out into the world to accomplish various tasks and “prepare the way” for the resurgent Empire (all in the name of their Patron’s faction of course). This gives the PCs a distant boss to give them some direction, a built-in set of rivals (the other hero bands) and when they get a bit higher in level, they’ll have chances to get back into the Palace and get involved in some courtly intrigues — which provides lots of tough challenges where PCs can’t just bash their way out.

    later
    Tom

  3. It’s a good suggestion, and I’ll formally incorporate that into the document if I ever get to run this particular D&D game. Do you like the setting and the framework so far?

  4. Possible edits:

    Go Big on those destinies both ways. It’s not “Restore the Empire”/”Live out your days as a poor rancher”, it’s “Restore the Empire”/”Sink Karsica in fire, steam and darkness”

    You might also want to pick some attribute your character has that can blow up either way to help fulfill your destiny. If you’re a mage, you might have “Curious” as an attribute. That can blow up for a good destiny like “Recover the lost spells of Alexander the White” or it can blow up for a bad destiny like “Become a corrupt lich-king”. The attribute not only helps you roleplay your character but it also means every time you play it up, you’re also directly playing up your destiny (good or bad). If your Curious Mage has the opportunity to find another clue to Alexander’s lore at the cost of making a deal with a demon — that’s an interesting scene.

    later
    Tom

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