RPG Campaign Plot: Search for Powder
The Search for Powder is a deadly, secret contest between the Kingdom of Axmund and Kingdom of Arcadia, both aiming to acquire the formula for gnomish fire-powder, whether by stealing it from the Iron Mountain League, reverse-engineering it, or magically replicating its effects. At the beginning, the party is approached by agents of one of the Kingdoms (whichever one the majority of the characters have past ties to, most likely) who request their aid. They are given the task to infiltrate the dwarven city of Yinunaut, in hopes of discovering some record of the formula for fire-powder. From this point, the story can split in many directions. In the course of exploring Yinunaut, the party will have many opportunities to attempt to gain the formula. For example, they might offer their services as guards and be contracted to defend a secret vault against attackers, or to travel alongside a caravan containing a fire-powder merchant. They might be able to seize supplies of fire-powder for themselves or to return to the Kingdom sponsoring them, helping them in the war. The party might even secretly turn against their sponsor, continuing to receive support from them but providing loot and secrets to the other kingdom. If the party is caught by the dwarves, they will be imprisoned and given a choice: help the dwarves defend their secrets against the party's sponsors, or die. If they agree to betray the Kingdoms, they will be sent out by the dwarves on missions to stop other infiltrators, during which they may have an opportunity to escape or discover the formula themselves. If they refuse, there should be an opportunity for them to escape before their execution. In that case, they will likely continue with their infiltration, trying to get revenge on the dwarves. If one kingdom gains the formula, they will gain a potentially devastating upper hand with the ability to effectively mass-produce fire-powder weaponry. While the other kingdom will soon learn the formula for themselves through the network of spies that permeates Aressa, it may well be too late for them to recover the war, and even if it returns to a stalemate the destruction caused will be irreparable. The party may even foresee this and choose to attempt to end the war rather than give one side the upper hand. The road to peace and coexistence will be long and hard, but perhaps not impossible.
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