Celebrity Game Table
The World of D&D Chainmail Hits the Gaming Table
By Chris Pramas
Photos by Jess Lebow

About ten months ago, I decided to start a new D&D campaign. I hadn’t run a D&D game since the Dragon Fist playtests, and I was keen to see how running the new edition of D&D was different than playing it. By this point I had been working on the Chainmail setting, The Sundered Empire, for a year already. I decided to set a roleplaying campaign there to give me an excuse to flesh the world out on a weekly basis.

I knew right away that I wanted a good hook to get the characters together and keep them bonded as a group. I took some inspiration, as I often do, from Hong Kong action movies. I decided that all the characters had been students of the same master, learning their craft at Istvan’s School of the Adventuring Arts. Not all the characters knew one another but they all had a common loyalty to the school and to Istvan.

My initial batch of players and their characters were the following people:

Jess Lebow (Wizards of the Coast book publishing) as Grubal, a fighter from the People’s State of Mordengard. Jess loved the idea of socialist dwarves, so he made up a righteous champion of the dwarf people.

Nicole Lindroos (ex-White Wolf, ex-Cheapass Games, currently of Green Ronin Publishing) as Phae, a human paladin of the Shield Mother. Nik based her character on an old co-worker, whom she described as "the only lawful good person I’ve ever met."

Jim Bishop (ex-Wizards of the Coast, currently working for Bioware) as Hali, a sort of Sufi mystic as interpreted through the sorcerer class.

Evan Sass (ex-Rubicon Games, currently Green Ronin’s webmaster) as Vas, an elf ranger.

As you can see, this group was a little unusual in makeup. Namely, the party lacked both a cleric and a rogue. Some special planning was required, especially on those occasions in which I used pre-published adventures.

Campaign Kickoff

The campaign began with the characters back at their old school for the first time in years. Istvan made introductions where appropriate and then got to business. He was sorry to relate that one of his former students had turned down the path to evil. This man, Luxor (why yes, I had just been to Vegas!), had been a paladin of Stratis, the god of war whose death sparked off the war that is tearing the Sundered Empire apart. With his god slain, Luxor had had a crisis of faith and had fallen from paladinhood. Now a blackguard, Luxor was putting together a band of evil cohorts to enact a mysterious scheme. Istvan was saddened that one of his students would fall so low, and he felt angered that Luxor would take actions that would sully the school’s name. He asked the party if they would hunt down Luxor and either sway him from his evil course or stop him before his plans could reach fruition.

The party’s first destination was the estate of the Lady Jeschute, Luxor’s former lover. They thought that she might have some insight into Luxor’s whereabouts. Too bad for them that the blackguard got there first. By the time the PCs arrived, Luxor had installed a green hag, who posed as Lady Jeschute with a change self spell. Once she had seated the PCs for a lavish dinner, an ogre knocked the door to the kitchen open and threw a scalding cauldron of "soup" onto them. The party discovered that the real Lady Jeschute was imprisoned in a magical coffin, for purposes unknown. Now they had two goals: deal with Luxor and free Lady Jeschute.

Luxor’s End

My initial plan had been to keep the Luxor story going as long as possible. I figured it’d be the common plot thread that held the campaign together. I soon ran into a problem with the players though. They were totally obsessed with tracking Luxor down and tried to figure out how each adventure fit into Luxor’s grand scheme. Now I had planned to have a bunch of adventures only tangentially related to the main plot. I found, however, that the players were extremely unwilling to "waste time" on side adventures while Luxor was at large.

Consequently, I decided to resolve the Luxor plot sooner rather than later. Before that happened, the group’s complexion changed slightly. Jim Bishop left Wizards of the Coast and Seattle for a job at a computer company, and Patrick Swift replaced him (Wizards of the Coast Customer Service stalwart), who rolled up a wizard, Quin, to replace Jim’s sorcerer.

After many months of adventures, the party tracked Luxor down to an abandoned border fort on the outskirts of Ravilla (the elven empire). They had by this timed figured out his dastardly plan. He had been in touch with a fire giant who had invented an "alchemical powder" that blew things up real good. He planned to take barrels of this powder into one of the elven cities and blow open one of the sealed-up gateways to the Abyss. This would allow a horde of demons to pour into the heart of the elven empire. Luxor deemed this suitable vengeance for the death of his deity.

The final showdown was a great deal of fun. I had mustered a set of completely painted miniatures for the finale, and I already had a suitably impressive castle model to use. The players made a half-hearted attempt to reason with Luxor and then spells started flying. Grubal, the dwarf "people’s champion," tumbled through some of the opposition so he could flank one of Luxor’s henchmen. Unbeknownst to poor Grubal, he moved right near where Luxor was lurking invisibly. The next thing Grubal knew he was being hit with a sneak attack with Luxor’s unholy hammer. Can you say +5d6 damage? Ouch.

Even though I completely forgot to unleash a summoned pack of hellhounds like I had planned (I had, as I often do, hidden the figs in a box so I could surprise the players; this time I fooled myself!), Luxor and his minions gave the PCs a run for their money. Grubal was one hit away from oblivion when Vas used precise shot to place an arrow right in the blackguard’s eye. The honor of their school was saved, along with the elven empire.

The PCs found the key to Lady Jeschute’s coffin on Luxor’s body. Once she was freed, Lady Jeschute told the PCs that her family’s ancestral horn had been stolen while she slept. If the horn were not blown on the first day of spring, her lands would fall fallow. Being the heroic sorts, they have agreed to help her find this horn. Of course, all is not as it seems. Since the campaign is still going on though, that’s all I’m going to say about it!

New Prestige Class

When the PCs got to 6th level, some of them wanted to experiment with prestige classes. Jess liked the master samurai from Sword and Fist, but we agreed that it wasn’t really appropriate for his character. We therefore decided to create a new prestige class called the people’s champion, using the master samurai as a base. The first five levels of this class are below.

The People’s Champion

The People’s State of Mordengard is not your typical dwarf kingdom. Just over a hundred years ago, the dwarven people rose up and overthrew Hakon the Tyrant King. With Hakon and nearly the entirety of the nobility dead, the dwarves decided to chart a new course. The established a people’s state, abolishing forever the idea of kingship and nobility.

The people’s champion is a dwarf that has taken these ideals to heart. He defends the dwarven people from threats internal and external, spreads the fires of freedom to new lands, and generally embodies the revolutionary spirit of his race. It is not always an easy path, but the people’s champion knows that he’s helping to build a better world.

Hit Dice: d12

Requirements
To qualify to become a People’s Champion, the character must fulfill the following criteria:

Base Attack Bonus:
+4
Feats: Cleave, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (warhammer or maul)
Race: Dwarf

Special: To become a people’s champion, a dwarf must swear to an oath to redistribute at least 50% of the money gained to those in need. Similarly, a people’s champion must always heed the call of Mordengard, should the People’s State need aid.

Class Skills

The people’s champion’s class skills (and the key ability for each) are Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (Mordengard History), Sense Motive (Wis), Tumble (Dex). See Chapter 4: Skills in the Player’s Handbook for skill descriptions.

Skill points at Each Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Table 1-1: The People’s Champion

Class
Level

Base
Attack Bonus

Fort
Save

Ref
Save

Will
Save

Special

1st

+1

+2

+0

+2

Tumble bonus, Great Cleave

2nd

+2

+3

+0

+3

Revolutionary Spirit

3rd

+3

+3

+1

+3

Supreme Cleave

4th

+4

+4

+1

+4

Hammer of Revolution

5th

+5

+4

+1

+4

Propaganda by Deed

Class Features

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: People’s champions are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, and with all types of armor and shields.

Tumble: At 1st level, the people’s champion gains a +2 competence bonus to Tumble skill checks.

Great Cleave: At 1st level, the people’s champion receives this feat for free.

Revolutionary Spirit: The dwarven people would not bow to the will of the Tyrant King, and the people’s champion similarly refuses to knuckle under to threats and hostile magic. A 2nd level, the people’s champion receives a +4 enhancement bonus to Will saves against Enchantment spells or spell-like abilities and to saves against. fear effects.

Supreme Cleave: At 3rd level, the people’s champion receives this feat for free.

Hammer of Revolution: When the people’s champion wields a hammer two-handed, he adds double his Strength modifier to damage rolls.

Propaganda by Deed: The people’s champion is not a talker but a doer. He inspires fervor in his allies by deeds of valor, not with flowery words. On the first round of a combat encounter, the people’s champion can call out an enemy champion to fight in single combat. The exact definition of an "enemy champion" is up to the individual DM, but any such champion should have a CR of at least the people’s champion’s character level and should be an important NPC.

If the people’s champion bests the enemy champion, all allies that witnessed the deed gain a +2 morale bonus to attack and weapon damage rolls for the rest of the encounter.

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