Question number 17 on Jeff's list of setting questions is "Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?"
Answer 1: Here's one. Here's another. (If you know of other online, nicely written up secret societies/cults, please let me know in the comments and I'll add them here. I'm always on the lookout for more.) Both are all written up with just about everything I'll need to get started, except specific NPCs and an internal structure. Fitz has a simple way to make cult hierarchy easy here. I could also use Telecanter's work with factions here. Make up some NPCs, spend a half-hour or so on hierarchy and I'm good to go. Better yet, I can have some of the NPCs the PCs already know be members and put crafting the hierarchy off until next session's prep. You can also generate a cult with Brendan's generator here.
Answer 2: Well, you're actually all members of this secret society I made up. You'll be getting quests each session for your PCs to fulfill. Assassinations, retrieving evil artefacts of power from deep dungeons, poisoning wells, human sacrifice, coups d'etat … all part of your job. Once your PCs prove themselves and level up, they'll get to run the secret society in their neck of the woods. Your PCs may or may not be told what the true aims of this society are… if they want to find out for sure, they'll have to do some sneaking around inside their own society…
Answer 3: Well, you're actually all members of this secret society I made up. The goal of this secret society is benevolent: you want to defeat, foil and uproot all the nasty evil secret societies of the sort given as every other answer to this question. You may be getting quests, left alone in a sandbox to discover and destroy evil secret societies on your own, or some mixture of the two. In the general setting, your benevolent secret society may be winning, making the world noticeably safer as time goes on, losing, and you and your buddies having to lay lower and lower as time goes on, or right on the edge of victory and defeat, the outcome determined by your actions. Optional elements of the campaign might be trying to keep up a fake identity and earn a living (dungeon-crawling as a day-job?) while moonlighting with the secret society. Benevolent secret society members seem to have much lower salaries than those of other secret societies, for some reason…
Answer 4: Yep, and these guys are SCARY. They're not interested in petty, rational things like taking over countries or eradicating magic users or making the world a more pleasant place, at least for them. No, these guys want to destroy as much as they can, whether that's wakening Cthulhu and dancing in ecstasy until it's their turn to be consumed, bringing about Ragnarok or hastening the heat-death of the universe, these guys, for some inscrutable reason (which you, the player, never gets to find out, because that would make these guys less scary) want to end pretty much everything. If your PCs are interested in, like, existing, they had better stop them. Also, there's probably not a hierarchy for these guys, behind the screen; a sure-fire way to make sure you players don't understand these guys is to not have any coherent or detailed understanding of them myself. Yes, sometimes your interactions with these guys will seem contradictory. In-game, that's because of all sorts of crazy, Byzantine intricacies of this cult that your players couldn't keep track of even if they had access to the information; outside the game, I'm just messing with your heads.
Eh. This set of answers doesn't feel as helpful as the last few entries have been… can you think of any other possible answers?
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