Phil over at The Chatty DM , inspired me today. He has a series of posts this week about ending a campaign. I have not read them yet, but the idea of ending a long campaign inspired me. PCs often face a recurring “big evil” during a long campaign. They begin by thwarting its low-level minions and advance until they eventually face the beast itself. Over time the PCs advance and rise to the level of national heroes. Finally, as the campaign winds down the final battle approaches. The PCs are the only thing standing between happy-happy joy-joy land and the dark empire of doom. The battle is joined with flame, magic and steel.
The PCs lose.
Either the PCs all die or some survive and go underground to lead the resistance. The campaign begins anew with the PCs as low-level characters, fighting against the dark empire. No longer honored by the population, they are feared as “rebels.” Perhaps the high-level PCs are now providing missions to their low-level brethren.
This idea appeals to me for a couple of reasons. It is a nice break from the dungeon crawl and gives the PCs some real role-playing options. Killing the enemy is part of the campaign, but winning hearts and minds is a better long-term solution. Making the evil empire “more modern” will make the campaign more realistic. Sauron has hordes of flesh-eating Uruk-hai. Not much room for role-playing in that environment. To my mind, a clean, polite government that makes the train system run on time is much more evil. They still do evil deeds, but they always have an excuse and a smile on their face.
Compare these two events:
Rampaging troops slaughter an entire village and burn it down. The smoke, visible for miles, draws throngs of curious locals to witness the carnage.
A disciplined military cordons off a “nest of rebels” and quietly gathers up the villagers in the dark of night. The villagers march into the darkness and quietly disappear…forever. Reports of a “rebel slaughter” circulate to explain the disappearance.
Both have the same net result, both are evil. Yet, the second scenario builds goodwill among the population and defames the rebels.
The PCs face an enemy that they cannot defeat with a sword. They have to convince an apathetic population to resist a government that is acceptable to the man in the street. I have visions of PCs giving rabble-rousing speeches, printing leaflets and otherwise politicing to change the evil government. Of course, they can also assassinate a local official or saboetage something.
Sometimes the good guys have to do bad things for the greater good.
Just a thought.