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The Criminal Underworld

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 100
Though it can benefit from the use of other elements, a campaign set in the criminal underworld is fundamentally built around the tensions from the Relationships and Loyalty, Measures and Countermeasures, and Bargains and Compromise elements. The importance of maintaining a positive public appearance keeps a noble from engaging in too many illicit activities, but a crime boss isn’t limited in this way. In the criminal underworld, the relationships a character builds and her loyalties and reputations are the main things keeping her alive. Adventures exploring the criminal underworld tend to involve nongood PCs with a central goal of acquiring money and power. However, it is certainly possible to have a group of well-intentioned outlaws in the vein of Robin Hood fighting against a corrupt government or trying to aid the oppressed. In this case, navigating the criminal underworld is even more challenging and dangerous, as the PCs might find that their moral qualms make bargaining and building trust and reputations among other criminals more difficult.

An engaging criminal campaign often involves heists, cons, and other underhanded antics. In these cases, the Measures and Countermeasures element rises to the forefront, and the PCs must scout adversaries’ defenses and come up with a plan to circumvent them or exploit their flaws and weaknesses.

In a campaign with this theme, the hidden world of criminals lurks under the surface of even the most harmless places and people. A benevolent group of healers who cross national borders to help cure disease outbreaks might contain an element that smuggles in illegal alchemical substances. A sheriff renowned for eliminating most of the gangs in a city might have been working under the patronage and assistance of the gang that stood to gain by taking over its rivals’ territory and operations. The PCs, as people in the know, experience this secret underbelly wherever they go and live in this shadowy realm of murky morals. Even if they start with good intentions, it is easy for them to become cynical about the world around them.