[4E]Neutropolis: Heroes of Revolt

Those who preach from the city’s high temples will tell you that Neutropolis stands as the beacon of light upon a scarred, blighted world. Outside the city walls, there is nothing but strife and chaos.  The Goddess Erathis had laid the foundations of civility and order, and these foundations are why Neutropolis still stands. And this is why the Church remains vigilant and in control: to preserve those foundations by any means necessary. Mankind, and the other races, are flawed and subject to greed and ambition. The Fey races are born of chaos and the wild, and must be kept in line.  It is their duty to ensure that members of this great society overcomes their natural flaws, and perfect themselves into a single harmony of order.

What the clerics of the Temple won’t tell you is that even the highest priests of the faith have their doubts, and know that the system is flawed. They also won’t admit that they have grown too comfortable being in a position

What? We're talking about D&D and Revolution, it was only fitting....

of power, and how easy life is for them as the million or so citizens below their citadels toil daily for their luxuries.  They won’t talk about how their families live off their prestige, and have created a secondary upper class of spoiled aristocracy. And then there are the rumors…..that in the highest councils of elders and priests, there is a cabal that believe the experiment has failed, and the whole church serves nothing more than a means of authority. Some even speak that, perhaps, they worship a completely different being entirely.

A Campaign of Hammers and Chains

Heroes emerge in this campaign setting for many different reasons: An oppressed member of the proletariat, sick of him and his family breaking their backs day to day to provide the comforts of a false church and their spoiled children.  A former scholar of the Church, awakened to the hypocrisy and lies of the establishment and longing for the restoration of the true faith. A savage exile, born into slavery but fled long ago into the city’s underbelly in a fight for survival.  Regardless of background, the one unified principle the heroes of Neutropolis have is the fight for survival, resistance and ultimate revolution against the establishment of the Theocracy.

A Neutropolis campaign is all about life during the Revolution.  While their numbers are many, they are still heavily outnumbered by those who support The Church (whether out of position or simply fear.) The sad truth is, to many of the masses, there is no doubt in their minds that the Establishment is necessary. Generations of brainwashing by the Church has resulted in the proletariat becoming content with their lot in life, and believe they are serving a greater purpose for the greater good in their mindless routines and endless labor.  Because of this, the heroes often have to act under constant scrutiny from their adversaries.  Many adventures are centered around espionage and subterfuge, shadowy deals and stealthy maneuvers. Many characters must live double lives — by day, humble workers and servants of the order of things. By night, terrorists and criminals on the lam.

[[Personal Note: This is why I recommend leveling the characters by a general number of encounters instead of by straight XP value. The adventures and goals they set out to accomplish may take many scenes, and possible sessions over time. Also, this campaign idea is sort of schemed up with Heroic tier being the meat of it. There are some ideas for once Paragon tier is hit, but that will be covered in another article. In the mean time, just assume surviving long enough to see Paragon is a big deal.]]

The Factions of The Revolution

While the members of The Revolution are all drawn together with a united goal, there is a downfall:  The revolution can be divided between ideologies and goals, sometimes with its members highly distrustful of the others.  This has been known to cause rivalry on some issues, but rarely has led to an outright conflict. In general, the different movements within the revolt maintain a shaky alliance with each other, if nothing else for strength in numbers. Between the different factions, there are three Major Movements which are actually organized. There are also Lesser Movements, which are more hodge-podge collectives of various ideologies that are less organized but share a common belief or goal.

Major Movements:

  • The Brassfire Union: The Brassfire Union is a new movement that has emerged in recent years, drawing its members heavily from the proletariat workers of the City. Their goals are to completely overthrow the Church as heads of state, as well as to abolish the aristocratic gentry of their influence, and give power back to the workers and the citizens of Neutropolis.  They frequently attempt to demonstrate their power by organizing labor strikes and disrupting production for much of the City’s industry; although often times they have been met with extreme hostility, including having their organizers captured and publicly executed by The Church for being “Agents of Chaos.”  While these executions have garnered some more followers, the Union highly discourages the practice of martyrdom. Instead, they have been organizing and plotting conspiracies of mechanical sabotage in hopes of production stand-stills with minimal witch hunts.
  • The Brimstone Compact: There are two things outlawed to the lower class that the Church was allowed to keep, on the basis of “control”: Arcane Magic, and Tieflings.  Tiefling children born to the proletariat are often killed, or kidnapped and taken to be raised in the monastery and church orphanages.  In the families of the Aristocracy, which remember are family lines of priesthood, Tieflings are accepted (but often sort of viewed as black sheep of the families.) One time, a few of these “bastard” children of prestige got together and decided, in rebellion to their family names, to form a cabal of arcane magic and witch craft. Over the next few years, their numbers would grow to include any young member of the aristocracy looking to cause some problems for their stuffy, old-time patriarchs.  In time, some members would be found out, and they would be exiled and disowned by their families, stripped of their privilege and forced into the labor of the Proletariat (pending they weren’t just killed for heresy.) The families may disown them, but the Compact never forgets their own, and now this secret society of magic and mayhem is beginning to grow amongst the lower class.
  • Disciples of The Code: Not everyone who devotes their faith to Erathis is corrupt and misguided. For many, they are trained  in the ways of the Church but later in their adult lives come to recognize the hypocrisy and corruption of the teachings of her code. Many lose their faith, but others heed a call that they must somehow correct the system in order to preserve “The Code”, another term for an archaic formula the practioners of Erathis study to maintain civility. Their belief is that the true path towards civility is progress, and that Authority and Law are just as counter productive to progress as Chaos. Members of this movement range from rogue scholars and excommunicated priests, devote followers in the Proletarian class and even members of The Church who secretly maintain their office in hopes of creating change. While they are eager for revolution (since sometimes you have to take apart a machine in order to fix it), many other movements are hesitant to support the Disciples out of their general distrust of the faith to begin with.

Lesser Movements:

  • Anarchists/”Free Willers”: There are many revolutionaries who do not subscribe to a single ideology, but simply just desire for their freedoms.  Their motives and actions are their own, but they do have a sense that there needs to be a drastic change for the better. A lot of them may not have a sense of what a better solution for Neutropolis could be, but they’d be damned if the current establishment is the best they could do. And they refuse to sit quietly about it. To them, to go out fighting would be better than to die in service to a corrupt establishment. While they may not have any unifying ideologies or belief system, many Anarchists have gathered in the various slums and ruins that outline the borders of the City. Some have even established small communes and hideouts throughout Neutropolis. It may be a rough, day to day fight for survival…but it’s at least a life they chose.
  • The Undergrove: What little city dwellers know is that outside the walls of Neutropolis, there are whole pockets of civilization that live amongst the chaotic wilds.  The Priesthood often refers to these people as “Savages”, and often sends out crews to capture and attempt to “civilize” these folk (which usually means building a labor camp in their homelands and forcing them into slavery.) Often times, the Savages (like Orcs, Minotaurs, Goliaths and others) are sent back to the City to work in the most extreme conditions that even the Proletariat do not suffer. Keeping the forge-fires of the factories burning, maintaining the sewers and horrific mechanical contraptions that work underneath the city…a true nightmare.  However, there are places that over time have simply broken down, or disasters have closed them off. The Church simply deemed them beyond repair, and often abandon these tunnels and areas. Many of the Savages fled to these parts, and with the aid of spirits guiding them, have somehow managed to create a strange, alien and beautiful forest grove that stretches for miles underneath the city. The rumors and legends of this place refer to it as “Undergrove”, and many have attempted to adventure to its depths in order to enlist the aid of these primal peoples.

Next week, I’ll go into more depth and detail about The Church itself, including the various branches and armies it uses to keep the Masses under its toes. I’ll even shed some light into the sinister nature of the men who sit at the top of the power pyramid, and might even give some plot hooks to start off some ideas for adventures. In the mean time, feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I’ll hope to address them in a post by mid-week.

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