Plot Theme: Servant of the Lady

Themes are a delightful little tool for characterization and customization .

Today, I am playing with a theme from the other side of the table though. The concept of a a plot theme is a characterization tool that the GM gives to the characters in a story rather than something that players choose at character creation. This gives GMs a tool for customizing the tone of the game and how the world interacts with the players using existing rules.

A Plot Theme could be anything from being knighted and gaining the “Knight of the Realm” theme to a resurrected character acquiring a “ghostwalker” theme. Regardless of where it comes from or what it does, it would be something long-term that is attained in play in accordance with the story. Plot themes can easily replace other plot themes, but you should take care before replacing a player chosen theme lest you undermine their character. You could instead stack a plot theme on top of another theme (the players must then chose which benefit or power to utilize if any). The plot themes function mechanically the same as other themes, but may be more limited or more impressive than standard themes as the GM dictates.

In my game, the players are tools in a much larger struggle. To help tie in the themes and give them something cool for their efforts, I am giving them a plot theme.

Actually handing them a printout with the details serves as both an “A-ha!” moment as a veil is lifted and an “oooooh!” moment as they discover new potential powers. The theme intentionally doesn’t have powers at every level reflecting the limited scope of this “sponsorship” and to keep it as a supplement to character options rather than becoming a full characterization option. This theme is also meant to synergize with tokens we are using at my table (for completing a major event or doing something Excellent, they get a token which can be spent to add +1 to hit, +1 AC, +1 skill check, etc).

The game is pulling many elements and themes from the Planescape campaign setting. If you are unfamiliar, then you might do yourself a favor and check out Planescape, one of the coolest campaign settings. Ever.
This plot theme pulls the inspiration for it’s powers from the lady herself. She is known for controlling all portals in Sigil, even actively shifting the terrain around to her whims. She flays those who displease her with a thought. She also will create endless maze pocket dimensions (like a planar oubliette) for those that are too offensive to simply kill. A number of the abilities involve spending healing surges to activate them as both a thematic element and as balancing tool.
Without further ado, here is the plot theme from my game:

Servant of the Lady

Her Serenity, the Lady of Pain, doesn’t directly have servants, she doesn’t have worshipers either (she has been known to flay cutters foolish enough to do so), but she has on occasion indirectly conscripted berks to do her bidding. Just because she doesn’t venture beyond Sigil, doesn’t mean her influence stops there. Her reach extends well beyond the cage.

Building a Servant of the Lady
You don’t become a servant of The Lady by choice, berk. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay well clear of her to begin with. If you’re lucky, you’ll never see that cold serene face or her sharp plumage, but if she wants a body for something, don’t think her will is escapable. The alternatives are not so amazing.

Build your Character as normal. With the GM’s permission you may add the Servant of the Lady theme to your character. At the GM’s behest you will add the Servant of the Lady theme to your character. It will supersede or supplement an existing theme as the Lady wills it.

Servant of the Lady Traits
Secondary Role: Controller
Power Source: Arcane
Granted Powers: You gain Painful Favors and
can learn and use Portal rituals

Servant of the lady powers
The following powers are available to any character who has chosen the Servant of the Lady theme.

Painful Favors
Servant of the Lady feature
The notion of no pain no gain, is sometimes more literal than you’d like, berk.
EncounterArcane
No ActionPersonal
Effect: Spend a healing surge (but regain no hp) to reroll a die. The second result must be used even if lower.
Special: This power may be recharged by expending a favor token.

The oubliette

Level 3 Encounter Power
Planar detour
Servant of the Lady attack 3
Your opponent stumbles into another plane and returns after hours of wandering, moments later.
EncounterArcane
Standard ActionClose Burst 5
Target: One creature
Hit: The creature is teleported a number of squares up to your highest ability modifier and is dazed until the end of your next turn.

has doors,

Level 6 Utility Power
Fortuitous Passage
Servant of the Lady utility 6
Sometimes you stumble into an unexpected portal; sometimes it’s a little too convenient…
EncounterArcane
Move ActionPersonal
Effect: You can teleport a number of squares up to your primary ability modifier and then shift 1 square.
Special: This power may be recharged by expending a favor token.

but there

Level 9 Daily Power
Flay
Servant of the Lady attack 9
Your thoughts razor sharp, your eyes like daggers, you flay them with your mind.
DailyArcane
Standard ActionClose Blast 5
Effect: You spend a healing surge but regain no hp.
Target: Each enemy in blast
Attack: Primary Ability vs. Will
Hit: 2d6 +ability mod damage and the target takes ongoing damage 5 (save ends).
Level 19:
Hit: 3d6 +ability mod damage and the target takes ongoing damage 10 (save ends).
Level 29:
Hit: 4d6 +ability mod damage and the target takes ongoing damage 15 (save ends).

are no keys.

Final bits

Between plot themes and boons (which I’d like to play with more before I talk about them at length) alone, we have some excellent tools. Despite any noise out there, 4e D&D is still a great tactical rpg with great tools for the DM.
For your convenience, here is a 1 page pdf of the Servant of the Lady theme.

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4 Responses to Plot Theme: Servant of the Lady

  1. j0nny_5 says:

    Nice post. I’m just about to do something similar in my campaign, but hadn’t realized it was a Plot Theme until just now. Thanks for the insight.

    • 4649matt says:

      It was a bit of prestidigitation on my part; I just put the name Plot Theme to the concept I have been playing with. I imagine others have been playing with similar ideas (I saw something similar done with a game dealing with heroes replacing the four horsemen).
      I’d be curious to see what you come up with.

  2. j0nny_5 says:

    What program do you use to get the Power Format effect?

    • 4649matt says:

      For my pdfs I have been using MS word. I spent a chuck of time getting tables close enough to the WoTC format that my neurosis were satiated.
      For the page, I am using xhtml tags. Recently I have been utilizing the template found on this Obsidian portal site as a base. You will likely have to edit the xhtml manually as WordPress.com doesn’t always play nice.

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