I recently took a graduate class on the Age of Napoleon. Napoleon is a figure that I have heard much about but knew very little. One of the main books for the class was Napoleon: a Life by Andrew Roberts. This is a thorough biography of Napoleon that I would recommend to those who are serious about the topic. It is a hefty, 926 page book that is full of detail. One of the interesting facts that I learned is that when Napoleon conquered Italy he took vast amounts of paintings, manuscripts, sculptures, and other art pieces back to France. This continued throughout his campaigns. One of the most famous and culturally significant items taken was the Rosetta Stone from Egypt. This gave me the idea that if you are running a dungeon looting campaign, have the party be sanctioned by a conquering force to go and “acquire” artifacts of value.
|The Rosetta Stone, worth 10,000 xp|
Here is the campaign idea. The group is attached to an invading force. Perhaps it is an army liberating the land from the Lich Lord’s undead hordes. Maybe the army is just conquering a neighboring province for the king that the PCs owe allegiance. The characters are sent on missions by the leader of the invading force to find certain artifacts. They have to explore the Dungeon of Despair, avoid traps, kill monsters, and locate the mythical Sword of Soul Rending. If you need some more role-playing and intrigue, then send characters to a recently liberated town. They need to question the locals and find the Tome of Eldritch Power. They will have to search for clues while dealing with tensions between collaborators, hidden rebels, and local townspeople just trying to survive.
The main thing that you can get from this plot is a legitimate reason as to why the characters are running around and stealing treasure. Instead of being random murderhobos, the characters have some real authority behind their actions. They have a group in power sanctioning them and they have to deal with the consequences of that position. They can appeal to their leader for help and supplies. They also have to deal with mobs of angry peasants who just had their fields burned down and who don’t give a damn about the King’s Order of Writ that the characters have. This idea could easily be applied to other genres such as science fiction and steampunk. Good luck and happy looting!