This is a transcription of an idea posted by Kasumi to a thread on rpg.net which details a mission-based concept for running a sidereal campaign. I find it particularly brilliant, so am transcribing it here so I don't have to search the forum entries ever time I want to find it. - Wordman
Well, my Sidereal campaign is a little unconventional, but to simulate the fact that they're employees, yet still give them control over the flow of things, I use a bidding/bribery system for mission-based play.
I'll write up a bunch of missions, each one having a letter of instructions from the Sidereal or God requesting the mission, a sealed envelope with my session notes in it, and a reward card, which they can trade in on successful completion of the mission for the rewards mentioned on it - usually artifacts, manses, specific favours, extra backgrounds and the like. I put all that in an envelope, give it a deadline, and then draw five sets of coloured stars on the front (all rated one to five):
- Yellow for travel distance/general importance of Journeys
- Blue for the likely amount of socializing
- Red for the amount of action
- Green for the amount of puzzles/investigation/occult
- Purple for the rough chance of character death
Since generally the PCs don't have time to do all the missions, a combination of what sounds coolest to them, and which division assigned the heftiest/most useful (from the players' POV) reward actually gets done. They're working within the bounds of the Bureau, they're even introduced to its corruption, but they get to control the flow and direction of the game while they're at it.
They also have nice tacticle props, and a pile of envelopes marking their achievements.
- 1 Ratings
- 2 Experience
- 3 House Rules
- 4 Kasumi's Examples
- 4.1 The Worrisome Desolation of Blackwatch Redoubt
- 4.2 The Curious Rathessian Speculation Affair
- 4.3 The Troublesome Anomaly of Sijan
- 4.4 The Twice Golden Imperative
- 4.5 The Audacious Infiltration of the Cold House
- 4.6 The Delicate Matter of the Five Thunders
- 4.7 The Fruits of Negligence
- 4.8 The Frightful Oddity in Pherenike's Garden
- 4.9 The Shadow Beneath Lintha Sails
- 5 The Terrifying Revelation of the Vengeful Murderer
- 6 Other Examples
These are pretty general, and I've changed my mind about them a couple of times - they're also a bit tied to my campaign, Violet and Yellow particularly - no-one cares about Ride, so I don't factor it in to Yellow, and the Loyal Servant Plan changes Violet greatly (since "certain death for 1 PC" isn't necessarily death if they can be medivac'ed). I also haven't done any fives, yet.
These are the destiny projections for the missions, too - sometimes they're wrong, sometimes, the PCs do crazy stuff that makes them wrong!
- 0: In Heaven
- *: In city with gate
- **: Up to a week's travel
- ***: Significant travel and/or likely to be a lot of Sail rolls in play (as opposed to getting there)
- ****: Long way from any gates, Sail rolls crucial to mission success
- *****: Malfeas, the Underworld, or Sail rolls crucial to Destiny itself.
- 0: No contact with beings likely to socialise
- *: Some socialising posible, likely with little impact.
- **: Social results may optionally contribute to success of mission
- ***: Mission requires social rolls/stunts to succeed.
- ****: Highly political mission entirely revolving around social success.
- *****: "Convince Mnemon not to be Empress and support V'Neef"
- 0: No action whatsoever.
- *: Action restricted to some athletics rolls or knocking over Extras.
- **: Likely to be some non-significant combat, other action stunts could help.
- ***: Battle almost certain.
- ****: Indiana-Jones athletics stuntfest (running, leaping etc), major confrontation, pitched battle against large forces (Dynasty Warriors)
- *****: The siege of Minas Tirith
- 0: No need to engage brain.
- *: Some clues might be picked up, but nothing essential.
- **: Problem solving/investigation helpful but not necessary.
- ***: Problem solving or investigation plentiful or necessary.
- ****: Mission primarily based around problem solving/investigation - Mental primaries will shine.
- *****: Discovering the Akuma behind the fall of the Sidereals.
- 0: Utterly safe (most missions in Heaven)
- *: Potential for some wounds.
- **: Potential for serious wounds, small possibility of death.
- ***: Likely all PCs seriously wounded, potentially one death.
- ****: At least one PC killed.
- *****: TPK.
I usually give 6XP base per session, another point for cool stunts, another point for good RP, and a third point for showing up with snacks. I also, taking a leaf from Buffy's book, now give an XP for players putting up with being shafted by powerful Solar social charms with good grace. Finally, I give an XP for +3 stunts (I give +1 and +2 like candy, but +3 rarely).
This is a fairly high XP count, but then again I run the games at rapid pace - each session is effectively a story in its own right, so they miss out on end-of-story awards (I might give one for surviving the Violet ***** mission, though), and I routinely hurl insanely tough situations at them.
I don't give XP per se out as an award, but I did give "1 free MA charm" as a reward for a particularly tough mission done for the Violet Bier - representing intense training - and Jupiter of course just offered them the Endowment for their current mission.
The Mercy of Heaven Saves the Loyal Servant Plan
Due to a stunning and unprecedented feat of astrology lead by Janusz Han, the sole member of the Silver Faction, no Sidereal is fated to be killed by a single blow while still conscious - they may only be killed by a coup-de-grace attack. Janusz Han is currently recovering from the worst Pattern Spider bite on record. (Voidstate later suggested this addition: For every health level below zero the character would have been, they must roll one paradox dice. This really makes players cautious even though they know they're not likely to die.)
The Sorrowful Empty Dojo Situation
The great masters of the Martial Arts have fallen, and many of the oldest arts are lost. No character could have a Sifu rating of greater than 3.
The Grinding Gears of Destiny Scandal
Vastly overworked, the functionaries of the Loom, right up to the Pattern Spiders themselves, are having great difficulty processing requests and prayers. Astrology is restricted to downtime, never in play.
The Disastrous Misplacement of the Golden Lights
No character could begin the game with backgrounds relating to the Solar Exalted - the location of the Gold-Friendly Solars was held on a need-to-know basis by the Gold Faction, and at the start of the game, everyone who "needed to know was dead" - leaving many who actually needed to know and didn't.
Kasumi posted a few examples of his concept in practice.
The Worrisome Desolation of Blackwatch Redoubt
This was an early mission - the star system is refined somewhat now. The four yellow stars reflects the distance from any Gates, which was significant, but Sidereals are much more mobile and sneaky than I thought. Now four stars would indicate less distance, and more a strong need for say the Sail or Ride skills - last session was 4 yellow, and involved *many* Sail rolls. Likewise, I'd now rate this mission 0 blue, since there was no real scope for socialising.
Originally Posted by Maiden of the Shelf Convention of Wood: - Causality broken at Blackwatch Redoubt, secret Lookshy fortress. - West of Larjyn, 2 weeks travel with Journeys Caste by any means but air. - Risk of battle high. - Senior officers of the Crimson Panoply taking interest. Signed, Maiden of the Shelf
The instruction letters show the personality of senior Sidereals or Gods in various divisions - in this case, the Maiden of the Shelf is a very terse, military minded individual, whereas missions assigned by Azure Blossom of Sashwan Uuwai of the Cerulean Lute tend to be much more verbose.
Originally Posted by Crimson Panoply of Victory REWARD CARD On successful completion of The Worrisome Desolation of Blackwatch Redoubt , the CRIMSON PANOPLY OF VICTORY will release to THE CONVENTION OF WOOD one of the following to each agent involved: - 1 Direlance - Training in 1 Celestial Martial Art - 1 Contract with the Sun Lions (mercenary company run by a rogue Celestial Lion) - Ambrosia equal to a Salary Grade 4 purchase
The PCs got around the travel distance very cleverly - they pooled their Salaries to bribe a senior member of the Bureau of Nature to have the course of a river diverted much closer to Blackwatch Redoubt, then used Sail Charms to get there quickly. I ran the rest of the session as horror bleeding slowly into action, as they investigated the silent and abandoned Lookshy fortress, with creepy things like rows of Gunshoza armour worn by corpses standing to attention but not attacking moving on to suits of Dragon Armour vigorously fighting the PCs while being worn by corpses that did nothing but loll about inside. Finally, they found the cause of the problem - Gerversin, the Grieving Lord, who had lead the forged and manufactured things of the redoubt in rebellion against all things flesh. They were too late to stop him from transporting a Thousand Forged Dragon into the sands of Ceccelyne, but were able to destroy him in desperate and furious battle before he could escape himself.
The battle was observed by a mysterious Fae calling herself the scorekeeper, who played a flute whose somber music was sound stolen from all things around her. She seemed related to the mysterious "Tourney of Gossamer and Brass" that they had recovered a few hints about.
Derek, the PC Chosen of Mars, fought valiantly, but was struck down by Gervesin, saved only by the Mercy of Heaven Saves the Loyal Servant Plan - not before his entire skeleton was turned to green glass, however, requiring its later replacement in heaven.
Having succeeded, the PCs chose the following rewards:
- Kai: Direlance, traded later for a reinforced buff jacket.
- Cadias: Contract with the Sun Lions
- Derek: Contract with the Sun Lions
- Brilliant Beacon: Ambrosia (my notes say he took this, though I don't remember him at the session - odd...)
Generally, the missions have increased in reward, danger and plot since then , though I've kept a variety of different mission types available. Heavy socialising missions have proved unpopular, mostly because the Circle lacks a Chosen of Venus and isn't heavily skilled in the area - though they've made some nifty social stunts and improved their stats in the area in support of other types of mission.
The Curious Rathessian Speculation Affair
Preventing Resplendent in a Victory of Himself, a powerful fae, from destroying an ancient financial projection machine in Rathess, which is serving as a suppresent to the Wyld in the area. Standard Indiana Jones/chase-scene stuff.
The Troublesome Anomaly of Sijan
Tangles in Destiny apparently resolving themselves in Sijan, despite Abyssal activity.
The Twice Golden Imperative
Gold Faction Mission - yellow envelope
Locate and make alliance with the Solars who destroyed Thorns.
The Audacious Infiltration of the Cold House
Black Ice Shadow, one of the attendees of the Grand Convocation, has been located thanks to the efforts of Kai - however, he is held in the Cold House, bastion of the rebellious deathknights of the slain Deathlord Eye and Seven Despairs. Recover him at all costs.
The PCs managed to sneak past the nemissary guards, spy on the rebellious deathknights (only to discover they knew virtually nothing, and that only the rarely-present Crone Reborn in the Seduction of Terror used the mansion's basement), and then persuade the mansion's ghosts to help direct them to the Labrynth below. There they defeated warstrider-clad Nemissaries guarding a free-standing soulsteel door (Cadias breaking the string on a soulsteel warstrider powerbow in order to catapult himself through the powerbow's wielder), and found the door lead to a balcony over the Well of the Void, where Black Ice Shadow was chained up. They were about to make their escape when the Crone and her concubine, Star of Dirt and Doubt, discovered them.
However, rather than violence, the situation was surprisingly friendly - Star of Dirt and Doubt revealed herself to be in fact Eye and Seven Despairs, and issued a warning - the Deathlords were hunting each other, House Ledaal and the Solars. If the Sidereals stayed out of their way, there would be no trouble, else the remaining Chosen of the Stars would be extinguished. The PCs were happy with this arrangement, but upon delivering Black Ice Shadow back to heaven, they found the Unfailingly Vigilant and Inevitably Victorious Comission into the Great Calamity had firmly fixed the blame for the death of the Siderals on the Deathlords (yaaay, Great Curse!) and most of Black Ice Shadow's evidence was ignored.
The Delicate Matter of the Five Thunders
Having discovered the fate of Blackwatch Redoubt, and that its Thousand Forged Dragon is missing, the resurgent neo-Shogunate faction of Lookshy has prevailed over the conservative heads of the General Staff, and is planning to reactivate the Five Thunders Sentai of warstriders, deep in their arsenal. Something terrible will happen if this comes to pass.
The PCs chose to complete the Five Thunders Mission, but having located the Solars, decided to have a chat with them first (and, largely unbeknownst to them, fulfil the Gold Faction mission). The five Solars had been trained to monstrous power by Ayesha Ura, who was convinced she could control them, in order to take out the Deathlords one after another. Their Dawn, Miyako, had even been trained in the Charcoal March of Spiders and Prismatic Arrangement of Creation style, and raised to Elder Essence with the Endowment charm - a scandal that none of the PCs were too happy about. They agreed, however, to escort Fatima, the Zenith, into Lookshy's arsenal to recover Miyako's first age grave goods, and in return, Miyako would not use the Sidereal Arts without permission (or "guidance"). Rukh, the Night Caste, warned them they were being spied on by Celestial Exalted with Immaculate followers - clearly Bronze. Rather than confront them, the PCs made the Lesser Sign of Mercury and quickly moved to the docks. This left the Bronze reasonably sure the Solars were in Nexus, which would later have dire consequences.
Arriving in Lookshy, the PCs set about the Five Thunders mission, which turned out to be the very best demonstration of the fact the star ratings were the respective divisions' *predictions* of circumstances, rather than hard facts. Having entered the arsenal with Resplendent destines, manipulated the Conservative observers against the neo-Shogunate engineers and taimyo in order to gain a delay, and arranged to inspect the warstriders themselves, it looked like a great Blue/Green mission of socialising and problem solving. While trying to sabotage the warstriders, though, Brilliant Beacon (chosen of Jupiter with high Savant) failed first a roll to recall any legends about Five Winds Fury, a jade Royal Warstrider, and then a roll to percieve the Unformed Fae posessing it - the first he knew about it was when it closed around him and activated.
The social/problem solving mission turned instantly into a massive brawl against an incredibly powerful warstrider that could invert the elements (its first act was to turn the air of the hangar into water). The PCs only narrowly survived - especially Beacon, who was trapped largely defenceless in a warstrider cockpit filled with lightning, trying to drag its hearthstone out with his bare hands.
The Fruits of Negligence
A mission from Lucita, indicating that the Bronze had continued to neglect Destiny in the Capital Convention, and a result of a breach, a Fae Behemoth, was swimming towards Lookshy. An excellent chance to show up the Bronze.
The Frightful Oddity in Pherenike's Garden
A mission from Azure, this mission centered around the history of oddness around the Forest Witches, a history seemingly repressed in official channels, or simply ignored. Azure's attention was drawn to it when a party of Forest Witch raiders accidently attacked a squad of Lookshy Special Forces, thinking them merely Outcastes, and was wiped out - yet their victory celebration was held anyway.
First, the PCs used their wealth to do a little job for Vanileth by bribing a corrupt censor in Great Forks, and got access to a hidden Gate in Lookshy. They then went to Lookshy, finagled themselves a special Ranger corsair with Resplendent Destinies, and sailed out to meet the behemoth. This was when things started getting nuts.
Firstly, they saw not the behemoth, but the sails of the Wood and Earth fleets - and that the Earth Fleet was transferring something to the Wood. Then, they saw a ship which clearly was under the influence of Sidereal Charms, and the figure of a Bronze rival, Sudden Thunder, on its prow. He raised his arms, and seemed to direct the Behemoth up from the deeps, at which point it was attacked by swarms of Thunderbirds lead by Bureau of Heaven gods - clear evidence of a Bronze/BoH conspiracy. The PCs charged the Sidereal boat, ignoring the Crone arriving and sailing towards the behemoth to kill off the gods.
With an amazing piece of sailing, the PC Chosen of Mecury pulled their boat in perfectly aside that of their enemies (four fellow Sidereals, though of differing political persuasion), and the remaining PCs poured across.
Instantly an enemy Chosen of Saturn engaged our brave Chosen of Mars, and their daiklaives flickered back and forth like serpent kisses, ten cuts going back and forth within seconds, a murderous ballet of kung-fu and bladework where each cut provoked a murderous countercut. Though severely wounded, the Chosen of Mars managed to cut the crossbar of the enemy sail, sending it flying into his foe's face and following up with his daiklaive through her heart.
Seeing his lover cut down, the Bronze Chosen of Jupiter gathered the very essence of creation to him, beginning to summon the dread power of the Magma Kraken. Refusing to countenancy this, the until then unseen PC Chosen of Saturn lept from the sails, delivering a vicious six-blow Tiger Style martial arts assault upon the heavily armoured sorcerer. Needless to say, the sorcerer detonated, the power of his mighty spell going out of control, obliterating the enemy ship and sending many of the combatants flying into the air.
That was when the fight really started.
You have to imagine the next six seconds of battle happening entirely in bullet time.
The enemy Chosen of Mars and another enemy Chosen of Saturn, who had been towards the back of the boat are falling down towards the concave depression in the ocean caused by the shockwave of the exploding sorcerer, occaisionally skipping down the remains of the deck of their ship, now roughly vertical. On the way down, they launch a stinging series of attacks on the PC Chosen of Jupiter, also airborne, who begins dancing on the daiklaive of his enemy in mid-air to survive. The PC Chosen of Mars, tackled back onto the (relative) safety of the now critically damaged PC ship by the *very* fast PC Chosen of Saturn just ahead of the shockwave, runs to balance on the railing and swipe at the mid-air combatants. The PC Chosen of Mecury runs *up* that blade, swinging his twin hooked daiklaives about. The PC Chosen of Saturn jumps into the water, and uses his charms and the force of the ocean rushing in to fill the depression to shoot him up through the middle of the tangle of Sidereals, razor sharp claws striking out.
- Every single stunt,* PC and NPC, from that point on, involved climbing up a foe's blade or limbs with beautiful kung-fu, so that the hurricane of assaults and defences kept the entire mass of Sidereals airborne, perfectly counterbalancing gravity, until at last the numbers of the PCs won out and their foes fell back in death, vanishing beneath the waves.
It was *freaking awesome*.
The Shadow Beneath Lintha Sails
Lintha Haqen Ronkevool has taken the opportunity to sail towards the control system of the River of Tears in the absence of the Wood Fleet, and a vast shadow floats beneath his ship. Stop him at all costs.
After resting up for a day or two in the Deheleshen Lighthouse, the PCs and the Crone chased straight after Lintha Haquen Ronkevool. When they caught up, however, just at the confluence of the River of Tears and the Yanaze, a fleet of Raksha Corsairs, filled with Cataphractoi and Fae Lions, lead by He Who Devours Patriotism, sailed into view, closing the trap on the PCs.
The trap Pherenike/Artorious set, thinking to destroy the PCs. They had no idea that the PCs would have a 300+XP Moonshadow with Glorious Carnage Typhoon along to help. Absolute carnage.
It took some fancy sailing and Mail & Steel combat to get away from the Fae, but Kai came through with the goods, and the PCs ran down the Lintha, who were hit by four kickass Sidereals and had no Fae support. Minus one Lintha ship.
The Terrifying Revelation of the Vengeful Murderer
On successful completion of "The Terrifying Revelation of the Vengeful Murderer," the MAIDEN OF SECRETS will release to the CONVENTION OF WOOD the following for each agent involved:
- An application of the Endowment Charm to increase Essence - One turn at the GAMES OF DIVINITY, which may be traded.
A few other people posted examples of their own when they yoinked the idea, and posted them to the same thread.
To: The Convention of the West From: The Celestial Monitors of the Seasons and Weather Re: The Yun Giants Auction The Yun Giants, a pair of Fair Folk Nobles, of the Island Gamelan have come into possession of a mighty artifact of the First Age, the Vane of the Sky’s Tears. An auction is being held upon their island a week from now and you are instructed to take the items we are offering and take part in the auction. In the event that you fail to secure the Vane through conventional means than do whatever is necessary to acquire said Vane. In the pursuit of the Vane do nothing to compromise our current working relationship with the Giants. Intelligence reports that the Lintha Captain Roojag Ritha, the Abyssal Bloody Child of the Endless Night, and the Realm Commander of the Dragon’s Jaws Garrison. It is vital to the security of Western weather that you recover this device.
Good Luck, Nasri, Daimyo of Rainstorms and Daimyo of the Season of Air, General of the Aerial Legion
Note from Blossom of the Midnight Wind: You are not to, under any circumstances; reveal that you are a Sidereal to any of the other bidders. In the event that any one of them finds this out, you must eliminate them.
Reward: On successful completion of this mission, the Bureau of Weather will release to the Convention of Water one of the following to each agent involved: - Ambrosia equal to a Salary 4 purchase - Exceptionally fast travel to anywhere in Creation once. - A level 2 Air or Water aspected manse in Creation. - One jade or star metal short power bow
Convention of Water: Gods whose time has yet to come are being assassinated. Response is critical. Two Abyssal Exalted in the service of the Beloved Daughter Crushed by the Embrace of the Abyss are responsible. Have access to sanctum-accessing sorcery and superior stealth charms. Please eliminate.
Mesio Kanata The Violet Bier of Sorrows
Reward: On successful completion of this mission, the Violet Bier of Sorrows will release to the Convention of Water one of the following to each agent involved: - Mesio Kanata’s weaving of one astrological effect. - An audit performed on one celestial divinity. - An invitation to join one of the special conventions. - One use of a borrowed Crimson Armor of the Unseen Assassin
Pirates of the Wyld
Oh, blessed of the Five Maidens I beseech thee! The Dragon-blooded pirates Ossissa and Eos threaten the continued well-being of those who dwelt in the West. Through their frequent raids on Guild shipping they have brought about a disruption in the ability of the people to gain the pleasures which insure wholeness of body and spirit. While the pirates would not normally be a problem that the Guild or Realm could not deal with themselves, they have allied themselves with the Fair Folk and base themselves in the Wyld. Discover a reliable way to get to their lair so that a proper fleet might be set loose to find them.
Maya, Minister of Pleasurable Sailing The Cerulean Lute of Harmony
Reward: On successful completion of this mission, the Cerulean Lute of Harmony will release to the Convention of Water one of the following to each agent involved: - Three nights with a god or goddess of love or pleasure. - Training in Sorcery. - A single access to a place outside of time and fate for the purpose of training. - A pair of hearthstone bracers
The Lintha Pirates
For generations the Lintha Pirates have served as a scourge on the Seas of the West. They have worshipped the Yozi, and the Primordials before them, with a fanaticism that was otherwise only seen in the demon generated from the Yozi’s own souls. Now, in this time of chaos, they must no longer be allowed to continue as they stand. They must be brought to heel, sundered and destroyed so that they and their Primordial mistress may never threaten the West again. This will not be an easy task, but it shall set back the Primordial’s plans for the West many, many centuries.
Ruvia, Captain of the Golden Barque
Rewards: On successful completion of this mission, the Golden Barque of Heaven will release one of the following to each agent involved: - Manta-class sky ship (only one available) - The usage of the Endowment power, raising Essence by one permanently. - A permanent raise of Salary to 4. - A level 4 Celestial Manse - The crafting of a level 4 artifact of the agent’s choice.
Corruption in Heaven
Chosen of the West, it has come to my attention that someone in my Bureau has been causing the destruction of the cities that serve as a bulwark against the corrupting influence of the Wyld. The No Moon Lunar, Shadows-For-Eyes has been getting information from this traitor, and using it to completely eliminate cities and their populations. Find out where Shadows-For-Eyes is getting this information. Wun Ja, God of the Shining Metropolis Director of Humanity, Divine Witness of Human Works and Deeds
Rewards: On successful completion of this mission, the Bureau of Humanity will release one of the following to each agent involved: - Star metal sufficient to make three levels worth of artifacts. - An unemployed god to serve as a servent, agent, or bodyguard. - The recovery of special materials suitable for creation of an artifact of level thre or less. - The ability to, three times, call upon the hospitality of any city god in Creation.