Court of the Mad King
About the campaign.
In the Court of the Mad King is a campaign I have agreed to DM for a gaming group which has recently been introduced to D&D 4e and which was a little disappointed in the lack of role playing opportunities that seemed to be present and curious about the skill challenge system. As such, the campaign is intended to be focused more on role playing opportunities and less on swordplay, although that of course does not diminish the peril in the least.
As for the skill challenge system itself, after investigating the skill challenge system crafted by WotC and reading an excellent statistical analysis by Stalker0 at the enworld.org forums, I have opted to subject my players instead to the Obsidian Skill Challenge system (Also devised by Stalker0).
As opposed to being a world spanning adventure, adventures will focus on the castle itself and the surrounding city of Greatkeep.
Without further ado . . .
Hello and welcome to the court of King Rayson, known to his enemies and too many of his friends as the Paranoid King or simply the Mad King. It is not without reason however, as rumors of his illegitimacy are a constant shadow over his head, and his often incompetent leadership has earned him no love among his people. His reaction to the situation has only exacerbated his problems, as the threats of his being overthrown and the knowledge that few would think twice about his dethronement has led him to be a cruel and paranoid tyrant to those who he believes are acting against him. However, since he has few close friends and most hearty souls are too terrified to serve him lest they accidentally draw his ire in some way, he offers great rewards to those who can maintain his trust.
That is where you come in. During your adventuring career in which you have all worked together for some time, you came to the city of Greatkeep where King Rayson resides. Having heard rumors that he needed help and offered great rewards, you took up the call and entered his service expecting it to be temporary. The work was not especially difficult (Not as dangerous as fighting dragons at any rate), and the rewards were generous. It was not long before you learned of his cruelty and madness, but the rewards were enough to keep you in his service until you gradually came to the realization that you were now indelibly in his service, and even the act of fleeing his side would incite his anger and he would call for your death, however far you may run. You stood out most prominently for having survived as long as you have, as so many of your contemporaries have been killed as he grew paranoid of their ability, some even at your own hands.
A trap crueler than any you ever imagined seems to have been sprung. Serve the king badly and he will have you killed in the belief that you are deliberately trying to undermine him. Shine too brightly, and he will grow mistrustful and believe that you may depose him. Flee from his side, and he will fear that you have learned something and are now plotting against him from hiding. It seems it is not a matter of if you will die in service to the king, but when. Unless you can find some way out . . .
King Rayson: King Rayson seized control of the throne almost two decades ago, taking power from a well meaning but ineffective bureaucrat partly through a show of force and partly through a much disputed claim to an ancient royal lineage over the land. The transfer of power was taken largely in stride by the citizenry who had no particular passion for their monarch and certainly lacked the resources and will for open rebellion. While his rule originally took a fairly light handed approach to his citizens, a combination of blunders on his part and growing rumors of his illegitimacy cause disquiet to began to ferment in the area.
His not very well kept secret is that he is personally quite inept, and relies heavily on both Queen Halian and Saigon to advise him. His awareness of his own inability also fuels his paranoia, and he is furious at those who he perceives ridicule him by outshining his every action as he is with those who fail him. So far however you have all been able to walk the fine line of appeasement.
Queen Halian: A vain Eladrin Warlock with a well earned reputation for cruelty sitting to the left of the king. Her royal scepter is in fact a magical rod with a reputation almost as fearsome as her own. How and when she met the king is a matter of much dispute, but many believe that it was only as a result of her influence that he was able to ascend to the throne. She is in fact one of the major causes of upset among the people, as she maintains an opulent lifestyle, which places a heavy burden upon the peasants who ultimately support it.
Her not very well kept secret is that she has little respect for King Rayson, and is frequently undermining his authority to serve her own ends. So far however she has not defied him openly.
Saigon: A Tiefling Wizard and the king’s closet advisor standing to the right of the king. Like the queen, his association with the king goes back before his ascension, and it is believed that he played a significant role in its success. Now he remains in the shadows influencing the king and even events around the region through a network of shady contacts and a nearly unanswerable diplomatic force.
His not very well kept secret is that he does indeed have ambitions to overthrow both the king and queen, and is locked in a power struggle with Queen Halian as they try to remove the other and have near exclusive access to the king’s ear for themselves. So far however their power struggle has not been violent or overtly hostile.
Greenly: A human fighter of considerable prowess and fierce loyalty. He has been in the king’s service since before his ascension to the throne almost 20 years ago and has remained steadfastly by the king’s side. He serves the king without question and is frequently asked to aid the party in performing the king’s work. While he does this extremely well and has saved your lives on a number of occasions in the past (and been saved in return), his loyalties are first and foremost to the king, and not with you. Perhaps nothing illustrates this schism better than the fact that while he spends more days than not with you, his sleeping quarters have remained near those of the royal chambers, while yours are kept together somewhat farther away.
Either Greenly does not have secrets, or he is better than everyone else at keeping them hidden.
Princess Grace: A half elf of exceptional beauty, combining the best features of her eladrin mother and human father. Born shortly after Rayson took the throne, she is well liked by the people and the king is well aware of this fact, often using her as a representative for her ability to defuse dissent among the people. In fact, he is trying to arrange her marriage with one of many nearby powerful barons, but she has a tendency to dislike the suitors he selects. This is partly because she’s aware that he is using her as a political pawn, but also because she has fanciful notions about love.
Her not very well kept secret is that these fanciful notions have led to frequent dalliances with attractive young males, elves especially. When the lovers are discovered she manages to shift the blame quite successfully onto them and the people who were supposed to have been looking after her well-being. So far however you have managed to keep her dalliances under wraps when it was necessary for you to do so.
Haven: A Dwarven Artificer with a boisterously friendly, yet subtly enigmatic personality. He takes great pride in his work as the king’s smith, producing carefully crafted works that would make any dwarf proud. He readily lends his services to the king, queen, advisor, and anyone in the court who has the resources to pay for the supplies he will need. Recently, he has also taken it upon himself to equip the castle with mechanized and magical defenses, and it is becoming increasingly common to see automatons patrolling the castle alone or beside guards. While he loves showing off his latest trinkets, he does not speak about works in progress and violently loathes interruptions while he is in the middle of his work.
His not very well kept secret is that he has a hidden lab somewhere in the catacombs of the castle where he is working on a project that is likely seditious, dangerous, or worse. So far however he has managed to keep whatever he is working on down there under control.