Thursday, February 6, 2014

Campaign Call: The Ruins of Vanor

The following is the campaign call that went out to the players in my gaming group (with a few edits along the way), announcing the first campaign to run in Hrimgate: the Ruins of Vanor.


Vanor was once a mighty city, capital of a vast empire that stretched across the continent of Boreas. Built up and glorified by witch-kings of old, the teeming metropolis held close to 500,000 people within its indestructible walls. No land or people throughout Boreas were untouched by the Imperial yoke or the light of the Unconquered Sun.

And then the end came, in fire, blood, and iron. With the humbling of the last Vanoran witch-king, Celsus the Proud, the Empire shattered into pieces. Conquered peoples tossed off the yoke, provinces broke away or collapsed, and the flow of tribute and treasure ceased. The rump heartland of the Vanoran Empire fell into decay and ruin, its location only vaguely and infrequently remarked upon as it was swallowed by the mists of time and almost forgotten.

But deep within the Beast Lands of Arborea stretching along the northern coasts of the great Inner Sea of Boreas, the derelict corpse of the Vanoran metropolis and its rump population of 35,000 people remains. And it is your home.

You are born, live, and die in the decaying shadows of imperial greatness.

Vanor is a dead city of shattered glories and crumbling colonnades, of broken and defaced statues littering old causeways and decrepit porticoes on the Campus Marcianus, of collapsed basilicas to the Unconquered Sun looming over the city from forlorn hilltops in the Celian Heights, of inscrutable monuments to past imperial progress squatting amid the empty shells of the rat-warren apartment buildings of the long-ago mob in the Via Interius.

Vanor is a living city of hardy survivors struggling to endure amidst the ruinous blight, of wonder-workers and prophets preaching the miraculous and the Liturgy of the Unconquered Sun while cultists and witches practice and perfect more ancient mysteries, of Slezan Knights of the Sacrosanct Militant Order of the Holy Dungeoneer proclaiming the Great Reclaimation to scourge the city of its diseased ruins, of brave hunters who range out into the surrounding countryside to stalk the chimeric monsters of the Beast Range or battle the horse lords of the Centaur Wood.

Vanor teems with forgotten treasuries, lost libraries, saints tombs, and ossuary crypts, all waiting to be plundered for their relics and rewards. Gargoyles leer down from the weathered cornices of imperial triumphal arches in the Velabrum. The living dead crawl out from the great imperial necropolis on the Esquiline Heights and shamble through the ruins in search of flesh at the behest of the King-In-Bones. The Sabine Sisters stalk the Overlook, searching for the blood of the innocent or the unwary. Collapsed aqueducts and breached walls define and dissect the urban landscape and speak to the majesty of its past.

And over this dead and living city of old looms the Seven Tombs on the Seven Hills of the Seven Witch-Kings of Vanor.


You are a member in good standing of the Collegium Fossoribus (aka the Digger's College) in the ruined city of Vanor. As a group, the Diggers are dedicated to the exploration, reclamation, and renovation of the ancient city's ruin sprawl. The College has grown quickly from its origins in the recent past, and has in the last few months taken over a ruined temple along the Broadway in the Campus Marcianus district as its main headquarters (the Diggers Hall), putting it squarely on the front lines against the beasts, rotters, and lawless gangs that bleed over from the nearby ruined Overlook district.

Recently, the head of the College, John of Tharsensis, has asked you to take part in the most important Digger operation yet. To date, the Diggers have mostly focused their energies on targeted delves into the ruins, avoiding the hill-tops with their witch-king tombs while searching the low areas in between for treasure and information. This has been helpful and profitable for the group overall, but now is the time to push further.

Your mission then is to establish a Digger outpost in one of the ruined city districts, a foothold from which deeper delves into the ruins can be launched and reclamation efforts can begin.

Vanor is an old school dungeon crawl through a living, urban megadungeon in a cultural and social milieu that is roughly late antique/early medieval Europe. This means the vagaries of faction politics will be just as important as dungeon crawling skills in navigating this campaign. We will be using ACKS as the core rule system, absent some of the more persnickety domain management aspects (instead we will be using a modified version of Kevin Crawford's An Echo Resounding to manage such matters when we need them).

The campaign is designed to be rather open-ended, in that you are free to take the campaign in any number of directions as you progress through it (your initial mission is just the start; where you go after that is up to you all). Time will pass on a monthly basis during the campaign (just like the Rainy City structure), so there will be plenty of long-term scope for you to plan for and play with. The city, its environs, its people, and its factions will all develop, change, and act as you interact with the city over this time frame, and you will have a lot of leeway to reshape the city in your attempts to rebuild this ancient and fallen capital.

Image Sources:

Image #1: Kenilworth Castle, England (link).

Image #2: Fantasy View with the Pantheon and Other Monuments of Ancient Rome, Giovanni Panini, 1737 (link).

Image #3: Fantasy Church Ruins (link).

Image #4: Dark Ruin Wallpaper (link).

Image #5: Guild Wars 2 Concept Art by Levi Hopkins (link).

Image #6: Fantasy Dark Wallpaper (link).