Against a Backdrop of War

‘The Wrathful Dungeon’ is the working title of my megadungeon project. This dungeon doesn’t yet have a single concrete, planned level. It has no denizens. It just has an idea. A mechanic.

Really, it just has a gimmick. But I can’t get it out of my head.

The problem with the Wrathful Dungeon is that I’m not ready yet. I’m not a good enough dungeon/game master to run the Wrathful Dungeon with the level of care it would require.

And so, I’ve created a backdrop for the project. A way to build up to it gradually, with a story to give the PCs in the meantime.

For two years, the Crown of Chillagoe – comprised of the kingdoms of Cracow, Ballandean, and Horn Island – has been torn apart by civil war. In the tiny country of Raglan, the war seems like a faraway dream to most.

After wintering in Castle Sticht, the Baron of Raglan moves his household to the town in the valley of Frankland. Frankland, with the coming of Spring, plays host to deserters from both sides of the war, as well as the disenfranchised citizens of the surrounding counties and baronies.

With the new year, Frankland learns of the horrors of this civil war.

This intro is written to introduce major players and locations to the dungeon/game master, and the players, and to create questions for them to ask. Something I want of this project is for it to make myself a better, more experienced game master.

I’ve run a handful of sessions of various games, and I’ve spent the better parts of the last few years reading everything I come across about game mastering, worldbuilding… everything I found relevant to the hobby. So as a secondary goal, I want for this project to help other beginning game masters with all of the advice I’ve read being taken into account.

The questions that this introduction begs; they don’t have definite answers. Not all of them that I’ll list here. Some will have partial answers – I’ll fill in the rest, but I want for other beginning GMs to fill those parts in too, with their own answers.

With no further ado, the worldbuilding begins.

 

What is the Crown of Chillagoe?

The Crown of Chillagoe is a composite monarchy. The larger realms signed in treaty to the Crown are the kingdoms of Cracow, Ballandean, and Horn Island. There are also smaller independent realms such as Raglan which have signed to the treaty, but which are not large enough to have their own stake in the civil war.

If you wish to change these names, go for it. This, like anything else in this project, is at most a suggestion, and never a command. This is to help build a backdrop world, to tie the player characters in and give them a stake in the world. More on that later, though.

Who is the monarch of the Crown of Chillagoe?

The Crown of Chillagoe, in my version, was established maybe three hundred years ago. The current monarch is dead, and has no successors. In fact, he died at the age of thirty, shortly after his wedding to the Princess of House Pelion. She is now Queen Apparent, though neither government of Ballandean, Cracow, or Horn Island wish to support her claim to the Crown of Chillagoe.

In your version of Chillagoe, you might have an ancient Elvish monarch, or a Dwarvish usurper. Maybe these are all human kingdoms, and Chillagoe is the first real human effort to expand their influence in the world.

Be creative, but don’t go overboard. You only need to know a little about these characters. They won’t be showing up any time soon.

Why is there a civil war?

With the death of the King, the Crown of Chillagoe should have been passed along to a male heir, but none had yet been produced. To the best of people’s knowledge, the new King and his bride had not yet consummated their marriage.

This provided the “legal” basis for the rejection of the Princess as Queen Apparent.

The true reasons behind this rejection, however, come from ages past. This civil war is something of a border dispute. The Matriarch of House Pelion (the Mother of the Princess) wishes to restore the borders of their ancestral lands. This would affect a large portion of the Kingdom of Ballandean, and part of the lands of Cracow.

This has been seen as an affront to House Ophir, who are intricately entwined in the politics of Cracow and Horn Island. Their influence spreads throughout the Crown of Chillagoe, and ever since the engagement between the late King and the Princess of House Pelion, Ophir has been plotting the downfall of Pelion.

Enter the modern governments (which are ruled by kings and queens, of course) of Ballandean, Cracow, and Horn Island, who are in constant debate over whether to even reestablish the Crown of Chillagoe – the only thing they can agree on is that the ancient Houses should not be in power.

Caught in the middle, geographically, is the independent Barony of Raglan.

Why is Raglan untouched by war?

For whatever reason you wish to propose, Raglan is of no consequence to the war effort from any side. It has a small population, for starters. Or, at least, it will be designed that way by me.

Its land is of no more value than any of the surrounding lands, agriculturally. Its rivers do not feed anyone other than its own inhabitants, who are enemies to nobody involved in the war. It is, perhaps, geographically an unsound location to stage an invasion from, or to pass through it is maybe too long.

Personally, I like a more political approach. And so, it will be because of fear that nobody attacks the Barony of Raglan. They wouldn’t risk the Baron’s wrath.

The Baron of Raglan, in my version, is a vampire. He isn’t interested in petty evil. He isn’t interested in greater evil. In ages past, he was Count Sticht, who founded and built the great castle where he now spends his winters.

Now, he is Baron du Cane, who lords over the whole domain as a shepherd to his human followers, keeping them healthy in exchange for the occasional tithe in blood and taxes. Not that this is known by them.

The Baron du Cane is one of the most charismatic leaders in all the Crownlands, and his ability to work the politics and the politicians of the land has lead him to a position of safety. He truly has no enemies, and so Raglan has been kept safe.

That’s my version, and I’m sticking with it.

Who are the Player Characters?

The last question comes. How do the PCs tie into this world?

Well, as I said, this is just a backdrop world. It’s there, intended to have only the level of detail that I’ve created so far. The Baron of Raglan is likely to be encountered by the PCs, so he has a fair bit of information. Frankland should be similarly developed.

The other major political structures exist only in minor detail to set up the basis of a world, but not for them to be an inhabited area yet.

A civil war gives the PCs the perfect setup for tension. Something made them come to the safety of Raglan.

Perhaps they fought on one side of the war. Perhaps they fought on the other side. Perhaps one PC fought for Cracow and another fought for House Ophir, and after coming to realise they were disgusted with the war, they decided to band together. They still have strongly different beliefs, but they stick together despite that because their belief in peace for the sake of peace is stronger.

Whatever the case, I want my PCs to come together in a set of short adventures to cement their relationships.

So, that’s the first post in this series. Everything that’s been said so far is subject to any change. I look forward to exploring it further with you all. Next time, maybe you’ll learn the secret of the megadungeon.

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