RPG Blog Carnival, July 2014 - Invasive Species

This month’s theme on the RPG Blog Carnival is Invasive Species.

To me the most invasive species I have ever played as a DM were the Skaven from Warhammer RPG. I mean, there are certainly others that could be construed as more intrusive, but this is perhaps the best campaign I ever ran.

It was during the years of 2000–2003, and we played at a local comic shop in the back room. It was pretty cool, because the back room wasn’t that big and only had the single table; but that’s where the microwave and candy and soda machines were and I was young enough that foodstuffs of that quality were part of my fare. Besides, there was an Apollo’s Burger just up the street, and those were the best burgers ever.

Technically, we weren’t playing Warhammer RPG, but a hybrid of it and D&D that I had brewed. Still, it was pretty visibly D&D so I tell people it was a D&D game, but the setting was most identifiably stolen from bits of Warhammer’s Olde World and the Scarred Lands campaign from Swords & Sorcery.

The Campaign Premise

The main villain behind the campaign were the undead. In most worlds, the undead are nothing more than a foil without really any reason for existence, other than for perhaps immortality of deranged wizards. In this arc though, I had determined that undead were trying to survive and establish themselves. They viewed themselves as the superior “race” and the next step in evolution. (Their rationale for superiority is that they don’t need food or emotions, but may subsist solely on drawing from the negative material plane.)

Straightforward enough. However, it wasn’t strictly undead vs. surface races. The underground races were being pressured as well. Among these were the Skaven, or better known as rat-men. I prefer the name Skaven. It just paints a more grim picture.

The Players in the Scene

Whereas rat-men are most often were-rats, the Skaven are products of warpstone, or a chaos imbued rock. They also are extremely nefarious.

In our campaign the Skaven were playing both sides in a masterful manner. I’m not sure how I did it, but I was able to really set the plots in motion. The Skaven would show up at the last minute and save the party and allies, but the party would also find evidence that they were involved in the undead invasion. The result was that the party was never quite sure what to make of them.

In addition, I was, for the only time in my GMing career, really able to voice act the Skaven in a really creepy manner. Raspy lisps and a few hand gestures and the players shivered often.

Invasion

As it were, the Skaven are just as sneaky as their less evolved counterparts. Just as rats are opportunists in war, so are the Skaven. The Skaven managed to infiltrate the criminal elements and selling arms and information to both sides.

See, the undead had the “noble” cause of survival vs. extinction, since all other races see them as an abomination vs. their own (delusional?) view of themselves as evolutionary pinnacle.

Finale

With the initial nemesis vanquished, the players were able to finally determine the true nature of the Skaven, and set up elaborate ruses to trap their leaders and cut the head off the rat so to speak.

Probably the best campaign I’ve ever run, with perhaps the exception of the B4 (The Lost City) campaign I ran in middle school, but that is another story.