PFBB Campaign Idea – The Long Winter

About a year ago I posted some ideas on a Pathfinder Beginner Box campaign (which you can read here, if you’re interested), which threw out some ideas for house rules and the like.  This post builds on those ideas, fleshing out a campaign setting in greater detail.

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The Long Winter campaign is a fantasy post-apocalyptic setting using the Outdoor Survival map (once used as the wilderness map for early OD&D campaigns).  This is a depleted world, in a diminished age, with interesting implications for the structuring of society, military activity, economics and trade and, ultimately, adventuring.

So, a bit of background.  Centuries earlier an event known as the Cataclysm, the result of an apocalyptic war between the Old Empire and a distant rival kingdom, laid waste to the land.  The Rain of Colorless Fire (yes, I’m totally stealing that from Greyhawk) and the Spells of Ending destroyed nearly every major city, killing countless people.  And those not killed by the invoked armageddon soon faced the onset of a precipitous winter (a sort of magical ‘nuclear winter,’ if you will).  This was the beginning of the calamitous Long Winters, whence countless others, caught unprepared, starved and froze.

The Outdoor Survival Map

The Outdoor Survival Map

This region is beset by long, dark winters followed by relatively short growing seasons.  It is during these all-too-short seasons that the remnants of civilization must prepare for the coming winter.  Food is scarce, goods are scarce, and labor is scarcest of all.  Settlements tend to be small (the largest city on the map has but a few thousand inhabitants).  These isolated settlements are surrounded by a howling wilderness dotted with the ruins and relics of the Old Empire, and home to starving monsters that must themselves prepare for the coming winter (usually at the expense of the civilized).

The PCs will have about 6 to 7 months of adventuring time, depending on how close they’re willing to cut things (being caught in the wilderness by an early winter could be lethal).  Winter is spent mostly indoors, or at least in established settlements, providing lots of down time to prepare for the next adventuring season.  Town adventuring is also a possibility during winter, though in all likelihood winter will probably be adjudicated in an hour or so of play time.  But during the adventuring season, adventurers will have to acquire enough resources to support themselves during winter.

This is also a materially poor region.  Most treasure will not come in the form of coins and gems, but rather in the form of luxury goods that people can use: salt, spices, wines, tobacco, ingots of workable metal, etc.  Values for goods will vary from settlement to settlement dependent upon their specialties.  For example, one city may be the best place to buy alchemical goods, another the best place to find masterwork weapons, and a third the best for acquiring mounts.

Population levels are fairly low.  The totality of humanity numbers approximately 10,000, spread throughout the region.  Dwarves and elves number in the hundreds each.  The PFBB doesn’t include halflings, but I may add them.  If I do, they’ll number no more than a few hundred.

Set against them are the starving hordes of chaos (in the OD&D sense of Law vs. Chaos): tribes of orcs, goblins and worse, along with a multitude of monsters, and exactly one black dragon hidden somewhere on the map.  Orcs and goblins generally aren’t the farming type, so they’ll spend the short warm season raiding settlements and taking captives/food stock (they don’t mind a bit of cannibalism, if that’s what it takes to get through a rough winter).

Large armies are unheard of.  If all the forces of civilization combined their might, they could field approximately 1,500 professional soldiers, and perhaps a militia levy of another 1,000 or so.  But fielding such a “vast” force has never happened, and never will, as concentrating these disparate “armies” would stretch the region’s logistical capability to the breaking point (to say nothing of leaving so many settlements exposed and unprotected).

Far more common are small warbands, numbering in the dozens or scores.  A large “battle” might feature a hundred people total, accounting both sides.  Humanoid races spend the entire warm season raiding, but the civilized races typically have but a short marching period between planting and harvest, a month or two at best.  Military campaigns, such as they are, must be concluded swiftly, as every free hand will be required for harvest and the coming winter’s preparation.  As such, punitive expeditions into the wilderness are all but impossible, leaving, perhaps, a niche for foolhardy adventurers to fill.

Over time I plan to fill in the details with more posts.  Maybe someday I’ll actually be able to run this campaign. 🙂  Cheers.

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7 Responses to “PFBB Campaign Idea – The Long Winter”

  1. The Bane Says:

    Oh, after reading this and the linked post about using BB for a setting play, all I can say is, “Make it happen Capt’n, and do it via Play-by-Post!” As always, awesome sauce!

  2. The Bane Says:

    Sorry for the double post, but it just occurred to me why I like this idea so much. It reminds me of a setting, which I can’t find online again, that someone proposed where – ‘for whatever reason’ – humanity was driven underground in small enclaves and ‘chaos’ controlled the surface. Supplies were sparse and people used rendered fat candles as currency as I recall. The mantra as I recall was something like, “Light is Life”. Adventure was in the form of savaging the surface (VERY risky) and finding additional caves, tunnels, and dungeons to inhabit.

    • EdOWar Says:

      That actually sounds like a pretty cool idea for a fantasy apocalypse setting, and neatly turns the usual dungeon crawling tropes on their head. It’s also somewhat reminiscent of a fantasy version of Metro 2033, which is another idea I’ve spent a little time tossing around.

      Thanks for commenting. 🙂

      • The Bane Says:

        No problem. It was a really awesome setting idea. Had basically a three cast system, if I recall correctly, where there where; the adventures who found new places to expand to, the protectors/expanders who occupied and cleared the found places, and the crafters/general populace that fixed it up. I think I saw it on a now defunct blog. 😦

        So, when should I expect the play-by-post to start, or should I have to run one now that you got me all excited about a setting like this in PFBB!? El Oh El.

  3. David Jenks Says:

    I’ve never tried a PbP before (that one time doesn’t count–the DM was atrocious!)….but I’m in.

    It’s all up to you, now, Ed.

    😛

  4. Tiorn Says:

    Nice! With such a short adventuring season, time could really fly by. Especially since the PCs would be expected to help with putting out crops or bringing in the harvest (or both). Characters could be aging faster than they are leveling… which brings up retirement (from adventuring anyhow). lol

  5. EdOWar Says:

    Thanks for the enthusiasm guys. I have tried running a PbP game before, and it went rather horribly. That style of gaming doesn’t suit me well, I think.

    However, please feel free to borrow any of these ideas and run with them on a campaign of your own. And if you do so, I’d love to hear how it goes, so please keep me in the loop. 🙂

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