A year in the making: How can I make this reunion and imminent battle more memorable?
I’ve been DMing for my group over a year now, and while I’ve introduced overarching save-the-world plots and threw plenty of magical beasts and enemies at them, I recognize that their favorite plot thread involves a human criminal named Jandar Swill. This villain has disrupted a poor town’s mining economy by recruiting most of the workforce into his gang, which started as a fight club and has evolved into a crime syndicate that recruits NPCs from across the kingdom. The party narrowly escaped the town the first time, after kidnapping a young prince from Jandar, who was holding the prince hostage for ransom.
After completing their latest objective in the save-the-world plot, the players all agreed to return to the poor mining town and fix the Jandar problem. When they arrived, the players learned that the town is under complete control of the bad guys, ravaged by a potent drug called “gutpunch” that the gang uses to control or bribe the townspeople. They also learn that Jandar is absent, and that he’s put an insane half-elf wizard named Orel in control of the town while he’s away. Orel creates the “gutpunch” in his lab, but there is one special ingredient required that can only be obtained overseas. Jandar skipped town to visit the port city and collect the next shipment of this ingredient. He will arrive from his business trip next session.
Under Orel’s rule, gang members and townspeople alike are recruited for his experiments, most of which are done to satisfy the wizard’s curiosities. “How much pain can one endure before passing out, and does race affect this?” “How much do Dragonborn and their bestial precursors have in common - let’s vivisect and see.” Most of the gang despises Orel because of his erratic nature and disregard for their safety. The players were captured by Orel after failing to storm the gang’s H.Q. building, and he has forced them to explore one of the mine systems that wound up containing a portal to a parallel world. After discovering the portal, Orel has become obsessed with learning how to pass through it.
After some fun CHA rolls from the players, a portion of the gang members want to unionize to prevent more unfair treatment - they did, after all, join the gang to quit working in the mines. Jandar is unaware of these experiments, but he will allow them to continue because the gang’s criminal future depends on Orel continuing to produce the “gutpunch.” What’s more, I hope to introduce an “oh shit” moment when Jandar announces he will be moving to the port city to be closer to the business, and that Orel will permanently take his place as mayor of the town.
Here’s where I need help. The players just prevented an arson ordered by Orel that would have burnt down the town’s infirmary where rebels were congregating. Orel himself is busy studying portals, being a conjuration wizard who is already invested in this stuff. Jandar will be arriving by carriage at the start of the next game this weekend.
JANDAR wants to achieve a life of excess and luxury, having come from a poor background and learning how the city life is better than living in a poor mining town. He won’t be convinced by gang members to change his mind; Jandar has become the exploitative boss he once despised.
OREL doesn’t care about ruling the town. His main concern is breaking through the portal, and he believes his work is so important he will kill or do whatever it takes to make sure his experiments continue. If his life is in jeopardy, Orel will agree to step down as mayor as long as he gets to continue studying the portal.
THE GANG wants Jandar back. Some don’t want to sell drugs and pillage anymore, but form a legitimate workers union, while others want to go back to the gang’s fight club roots. They’re hesitant to follow new leaders, especially after following Orel.
THE PLAYERS want to remove Orel from power. Some want to kill Jandar. They also want to represent the workforce as a liaison to the government, making sure the gang members-turned-workers are treated fairly.
How would you DM Jandar’s return to town? He’s only visiting to oversee the transition of power between he and Orel, and then he’ll be returning to the port city. If the players make themselves known, Jandar will give the order to kill them. Orel won’t concern himself with greeting Jandar in the street, so he won’t be absent unless he’s coaxed out of the lab in the gang H.Q.
The wealthiest 691 people on earth have a net worth of $2.2 trillion, equivalent to the combined annual GDP of 145 countries—more than all of Latin America and Africa combined! […] Despite the huge quantity of wealth produced and accumulated in a few hands, the details of how so much of humanity actually lives—the numbers and conditions of the wretched of the earth—are outrageous.
Of the approximately 6.3 billion people in the world:
About half of humanity (three billion people) are malnourished and are chronically short of calories, proteins, vitamins, and/or minerals. Many more are “food insecure,” not knowing where their next meal is coming from. The UN estimates that “only” 840 million (including ten million in the wealthy core industrialized countries) are undernourished, but this is greatly below most other estimates.
One billion live in slums (about one-third of the approximately three billion people living in cities).
About half of humanity lives on less than what two dollars a day can purchase in the United States.
One billion have no access to clean water.
Two billion have no electricity.
Another part of the human condition over the past two and a half centuries of industrial capitalism has been the almost continuous warfare with hundreds of millions of people killed. Occupation, slavery, genocide, wars, and exploitation are part of the continuing history of capitalism. Wars have resulted from capitalist countries fighting among themselves for dominance and access to global markets, from attempts to subjugate colonies or neocolonies, and ethnic or religious differences among people—many of which have been exacerbated by colonial occupation and/or imperial interference. The basic driving force of capitalism, to accumulate capital, compels capitalist countries to penetrate foreign markets and expand their market share.
Harry and Fred Magdoff, “Approaching Socialism” (2005)
The state in which I reside lives on a constant cycle of boom and bust based on the mining economy and for a variety of reasons almost all the of the non sports-betting based gambling is contained within a single, giant sluice-like casino complex. It is the most depressing place on earth and sometimes when I’m feeling sort of existential I like to go there and soak up the atmosphere.