I took a break from #RPGaDay2015 to type out my latest campaign idea. This idea was inspired by the first 50 seconds of the following advertisement for Gauntlet: Slayer Edition.
Don't worry, Dave. I re-scripted my video. I will re-shoot it this weekend.
High Concept: Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Gauntlet/Diablo
The Pitch: The characters discover a deceased friend accidentally opened a portal to a demon realm. Now, they must suit up and fight their way through dungeons and armies to stop a demon prince before he brings Hell to 21st century Earth.
Overview: The characters are all college students or have good reason to all have lives that revolve around the same college or university. They are friends, through classes, majors, sports, clubs, or high school friends. All of them are well aware of the supernatural world and have a clue how to handle themselves, even if it means knowing when to run away. One night, they stumble onto a dead friend and it leads them to Hell and back. Can they stop a demon prince’s plans to invade Earth or will they fall victim and rise as one of the dead to serve in the demon prince’s army?
First Arc: The characters stumble into the situation and must decide what to do and how to do it. During their investigation into the situation, they could discover the deceased student’s Instagram feed showing what the student was doing. They then move on to investigate the Book of the Dead and what the missing page is for. As the characters move through the motions, more demons enter the Earth plane. If the characters falter in their decision to fight the demons, students come to them for aid and assistance.
Second Arc: Their research leaves no doubt as to what will happen if the portal is not closed. They must go after the page from the Book of the Dead. They can do some research into this demon prince. The research reveals potential realms within his demense. However, there is no indication as to which one the demon prince calls home. The research also reveals a wife, Astarte, and her minions are among the dead. The characters go through a montage wherein they gather arms and armor, spell books and written incantations. Will it be enough?
Arriving at the portal, the characters discover a demon spellcaster with an honor guard. He has cast a spell to make humans not notice the demons and their activities. The characters can discern this through speaking with other humans, perhaps the tough campus security guard or even one of the characters could be affected. They could also overhear the demon speaking to the honor guard about how it needs to cast a larger version of the spell tomorrow. They will need as many virgins as they can gather for a sacrifice. The power from the virgins will allow the demon to cast his net over the entire city. As soon as they can cast the spell tomorrow at midnight the following evening, the armies can start marching upon Earth, enslaving humanity. The characters’ only choice is to wade in and slay these demons while the portal into Hell shimmers in the background.
Entering the portal, the characters find themselves as a stasis point. Hallways, doors, and stairs lead away from what appears to be the inside of a castle. Studying the room reveals it is the central traveling chamber in this Hell. The characters have three main path choices from which to choose. They will need to fight and clear each level of this dungeon-like Hell.
If this is a long-term campaign, the characters are in for an old school dungeon crawl. They will need to fight through each major path in order to find the demon prince (Diablo, Gauntlet, The Temple of Elemental Evil). Each path will feature different elements. The final one features undead. There should be no doubt to the players that each level is harder, but also that there are simply too many pathways to go down. They stick to the major pathways in an effort to more quickly find the demon prince. After all, why would a demon prince scurry along in darkened, hollowed places instead of striding through the halls of his own realm. Along the way, they may discover allies who also wish to end the demon prince’s rule (e.g., humans stolen from Earth and enslaved, races from other realms who are also here to end the demon prince’s rule).
If this is a short-term campaign, the characters will need to fight creatively, pitting demons against each other, and using the element of surprise. After all, what demon underling would expect a band of human warriors to bring the fight to Hell.
If this is an one-shot, the characters find themselves in the castle of the demon prince. They will need to move quickly and decisively if they want to win the night and stop the hordes from invading Earth.
Having won through to where they think they will find the demon prince, they instead face off with his wife, Astarte, ruler of the dead. This fight will take the characters to the brink of death. One or more could die in this fight.
In defeating Astarte they discover the lair of the demon prince and rush to it. If the characters decide to face off against the demon prince, the fight is ugly. He does not hold back and nor should they. Weird magics and unholy items come to play. Did the characters bring any holy relics of their own? How will those items affect the demon prince, his powers, and those Lieutenants not already defeated.
If the characters decide to instead steal the page from the Book of the Dead, they do not get away without notice. Something will notice. If the characters pull it off without a hitch, they gain a huge lead in escaping the demon prince’s lair. In fact, with a few more successful stealth and fighting checks, they make it all the way to the portal where they discover the demon prince or his highest lieutenants await the characters.
Third Arc: The characters face their final moral dilemma. Do they cast the spell to close the portal while they are still in Hell or do they fight their way through the portal and cast it from the other side? If they cast the spell while in Hell, they are trapped until they re-cast the spell to open it. This means casting the spell, fighting their way out of the portal room, and going “underground.” Ideally, the game ends here, but the campaign could continue into a second season exploring those options.
If the characters fight through the portal to Earth before casting the spell to close the portal, the demon prince follows them through the portal. Reality warps around the portal due to the high level of magical creatures and magic in and around the portal. The characters will need to either hold off the demon prince while another character casts the spell, closing the portal or they will need to defeat the demon prince and then cast the spell, while holding off his minions. Once they close the portal, the demons and the demon prince on Earth lose access to any sort of regenerating powers. They have no way to tap into the Earth’s natural powers as the characters’ abilities allow.
a. Beginning: College student gains a page from the Book of the Dead or some other equally horrible book. Doesn’t realize what they are doing and opens a portal to another world. Something comes through, kills the college student, leaves the body, takes the page of the book, and runs off to tell is master.
b. Inciting Incident: Increase of demon activity on campus. College student found dead by character/s. A small, scouting band of demons steps through the portal and attacks the character/s.
c. Second Thoughts: Are we the right people to do this? Other “friendly” students harmed and/or come to the characters for aid.
a. Ascending Action
i. Obstacle #1: Knowledge of what is going on. Where does the portal go? How do they close it? (research reveals they need the page from the book)
ii. Obstacle #2: A demon comes through and begins spellcasting to make the locals ignore the portal. People formerly looking for help now don’t know what the characters are talking about.
iii. Midpoint with a big twist: A demon prince plans to send his many minions to Earth, unless the characters go in, gain the page from the book, cast the spell, and potentially kill the demon prince.
b. Obstacle #3: Fighting through dungeon levels, trying to determine the location of the demon prince’s lair.
c. Disaster: The characters must defeat Astarte, wife of the demon prince
d. Crisis: They defeat Astarte, but lose something in the process (e.g., hit points, magical weapon, an ally). They hear demons discussing the fact that the armies are gathered and ready to pass through the portal. They are simply awaiting their prince to lead them through.
e. Climax: Do they fight the demon prince or steal the page and run?
a. Descending action
i. Climax Continues: If fight the demon prince, they won and now have the page and must escape the demon realm before casting the spell or be trapped in the demon realm. If they stole the page and are on the run, they must escape to Earth and cast the spell before the demon prince’s army comes through the portal.
ii. Wrap up: Fight off straggler demons on Earth or if caught on the demon realm side of the portal, find a place to hide, awaiting the right time to re-open the portal to escape back to Earth.