D&D Suicide Squad

Posted: March 22, 2010 in campaign concepts, D&D
Tags: , , ,

If you ask a soldier to tell you the foundation of the Nerathi Empire’s strength, she’ll describe its mighty legions, led by centurions and knight-officers trained in the Imperial War Colleges. If you ask a mage, he’ll expound on the lore and puissance of the Akademeia Mysteriium. Inquire of a priest, and the beneficence of Pelor, Erathis, and Bahamut will be cited. Ask a politician, and expect to hear a long discussion of the Emperor’s Council and the Congress of Satraps.

But if you ask someone who actually knows the answer, they’ll say the secret of the Empire’s strength is the Ritual of Rehabilitation. (Unless they don’t intend to murder you, in which case they’ll almost certainly lie.)

While the origins of the Ritual are long since lost, its potency is such that those of the Council privy to its existence believe it to be either the final gift of an ascending Nerathi archmage, or a dark boon from The King Who Crawls himself. Its working is oddly simple, and once performed its subject cannot work against Nerath in any deed, and is compelled to obey the Emperor and his proxies on pain of instant and painful death.

The Ritual is reserved for criminals sentenced to death, but possessing talents of use to the Empire. Under the direct administration of Knight-Commander Walla Ramandus,  they are repeatedly sent into hideous danger in service of their King… but the few who survive for five years are set free. In Ramandus’s presence, these criminals are always referred to as the Redemption Regiment; amongst themselves, they’re the Suicide Squad.

Mechanics of play:

  1. All players, including the initial DM, create 2-3 different characters they’d be interested in playing, at a level decided upon by the group (1st is the default). Use of the Character Builder and the inherent bonuses described in the DMG2 are recommended to make this process relatively quick.
  2. The initial DM chooses an adventure to run from Dungeon Delve. (Other sources will work, but the stuff in DD seems ready-made for this campaign structure.) If there are three or fewer PCs, pick an adventure of their level; 4 or 5, an adventure 1-2 levels higher. [EDIT: Sounds like the Delves are harder than I’d thought; using at-level delves for large groups and level-1 delves for smaller groups could be the way to go here.] Use the hooks provided to explain why the mission is vital to Nerath’s survival. (Of course, the occasional “Why the hell are we even here?” mission can help set the mood.)
  3. As a group, the players each choose a PC to play. If they haven’t already, they should figure out what the PC did to end up in the Squad. They should also come up with one thing outside of mere survival that drives that character — the more melodramatic, the better! — and get a general sense of what the PCs think of each other.
  4. Run the delve, with the DM trying to make it as bloody as possible. If things go pear-shaped, the surviving PCs can try to retreat, but they — or their replacements — will keep getting sent back until the job is done.
  5. After the mission is complete, they’re a Player’s Turn à la Mouse Guard, in which the players get to call for scenes in which they address their melodrama, deal with a PC’s death, investigate some oddity revealed during the delve, or just get into loud arguments with Ramandus.
  6. Decide who’s gonna DM the next session, and call it a night.

Potential issues to be addressed in play:

  1. What happens to those who do their five years?
  2. Are the known effects of the Ritual the only ones?
  3. How do the missions and attitudes of the Regiment PCs change when they hit the paragon tier? The epic? Or will your Regiment be limited to those tiers from the start?
  4. If level 30 is the apotheosis for the characters, is there a similar one waiting for the Regiment? Will it herald Nerath’s canonical fall?
  5. Who or what is Walla Ramandus? As the one consistent NPC, she will likely be played differently by different DMs: make this a feature, not a bug. Maybe she’s just a well-trained and canny swordmage, maybe she’s a fallen exarch, maybe she’s something else entirely. What she should never be is satisfied.

—–

This is a campaign I’m definitely interested in running/playing, for reasons I’ll explore in a later post. It is, of course, completely ripped from DC Comics. Comments, questions, and critiques are welcome.

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Comments
  1. Ben Fierce says:

    It reminds me a bit of the Rune RPG with the switching DMs and excessively dangerous sessions. Maybe look to that if you want to add some competitive dungeon-building to the mix.

    • Jim DelRosso says:

      Interesting! Did Rune provide some kind of resource-allocation system for what the GM could throw into the dungeon?

      • Ben Fierce says:

        It did, though the specifics escape me. Essentially a point-buy system where traps, monsters, and other complications had a set cost.

  2. Joshua says:

    I realize this is the Suicide Squad, but I’d be leery of the suggested adventure levels you’ve used here. The Delves in the book, balanced for 5 characters, are already stacked against the players in most cases (and they say as much in the book). Hitting players with a delve even one level higher than theirs is going to make TPKs almost a certainty (barring a total bugout…but then the next team to get sent in still has the same problem). I’ve run several of these and the players have yet to survive any of them except the level 1 Delve. With that level of lethality, there’s nobody (or almost nobody) around for the Player Turn section of this idea.

    Rather than picking an adventure of a higher level entirely, I’d recommend just boosting the level of one or two of the encounters within a delve of the characters’ level. So bump a normal encounter up to a hard, but don’t bump the whole delve up a level.

    I get the “Suicide” part of the idea, but for the Player Turn aspect to work, there’s got to be at least some non-TPKs. Otherwise you’re just running delves, with no player’s turn, no drama, no fights with Ramandus. Delves seem to be pretty damn lethal as written, especially if the GM’s out for blood.

    • Jim DelRosso says:

      Huh. I didn’t realize how deadly the delves were. Duly noted — in fact, I’ll go back in and edit the post.

      The intention is for TPKs to be reasonably rare, but for PC death to be reasonably common. Also, players should feel comfortable switching between their PCs between sessions just because they feel like: one of the reasons I didn’t recommending coming up with the Melodramatic Hook — to steal the name as well as the concept from Feng Shui — right off the bat is so that they can weave the Hooks for their later characters into the ones already established.

  3. Keith says:

    One thing that might be interesting which we did in a rotating BW game. In it we created one character and his circles characters (and any others that showed up from circles tests). Then when the chair rotated you could not pick anyone from that pool, only people from any of the other pools. It created some interesting dynamics as different characters were explored differently by the different players. Kinda like different writers helming story arcs in a comic.

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