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Running Greenest in Flames – Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Part 2

Chapter 1: Greenest in Flames

First a bit of background info – the first chapter of Hoard of the Dragon Queen sees the party arriving in Greenest in time to see the Cult of the Dragon and their allies attack the town. I’ve made the town affiliated with the Caravan city Scornubel, which is itself part of Elturgard (both are too far away to give aid to Greenest obviously!).

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Reading through this chapter was not a good start for me. The map of Greenest is missing the key, which would have been useful – I was able to figure this out to a certain extent later, but it wouldn’t have hurt. So here’s the key, according to my understanding of the Missions (see below).

  1. The Keep (Seeking the Keep)
  2. The Old Tunnel (The Old Tunnel)
  3. The Temple to Chauntea (Sanctuary)
  4. The Mill (Save the Mill)

Another thing the GM needs to be aware of is possession of the Monster Manual. Despite evidence to the contrary in the text, you will need it. The first time I ran it, you have to constantly keep referring back to the stats of Cultists, Acolytes, Kobolds etc. And they’re not detailed in the book, whereas the Dragonclaws and Drakes are.

Completion of Greenest in flames took two sessions of four hours. However, I decided to dispense with the missions to a certain extent so depending on the GM, the sessions could be shorter. See below for my thoughts on the missions part of the chapter.

Ideally one of the PCs should be friends or have a close relationship with Sergeant Markguth – perhaps he’s a lover/brother/father – and his family. As GM, weave in whatever soap-opera threads you can 🙂

The Keep

For a start the keep is pretty heavily fortified in my game, and is pretty much keeping the town safe from the Dragon attacks by the fact that there’s quite a few ballistae mounted on its battlements, and Lennithon (the Dragon) is now wary of such things (see The Dragon below). They’re also pretty organised – given where they are, it’s not unknown for them to be attacked by monsters, Orc hordes, etc.

Running Away

Okay. The PCs see Lennithon (and possibly the Cult forces) and think “Screw that!” and leg it. All is not lost: they either discover the camp in Chapter 2, or (more likely) blunder into it and get captured. Obviously they won’t get Chapter 1’s XP or milestone, but its a good way to get them on track –

The Dragon

Lennithon, the Blue Dragon is less than enthused about the raid itself. As a female blue Dragon mother, her eggs are currently sitting securely in the Dragon Hatchery (Episode 3). At least, until the PCs turn up… She’s young, cautious, and isn’t really all that interested in risking herself unnecessarily – she’s not getting any treasure or any real benefit from the raid. She already been badly scared by a ballista bolt that stung her quite painfully. If she takes 24 HP damage, she’ll retreat – in my game the PCs loaded a ballista with dwarf spirits 😉
Most of the time she’s using her breath weapon and frightful presence to terrify the Greenest defenders and distract them from the Cult’s raid. Her breath weapon is enough to kill a PC she hits so you may want to apply the Reign of Fire approach to a Dragon attack. While the dragons concerned breathe fire, the whole movie has some great ideas for staging dragon encounters (although the film features them as semi-intelligent beasts, albeit cunning ones).

Essentially, the Cult of the Dragon have “air superiority” in Greenest in Flames. The PCs would be wise to keep a low profile (see The Raid, below). If they don’t there’s a good chance some of the party won’t make it. That breath weapon is hard damage, and the dragon herself can easily pick up a PC and drop ’em. Even at higher levels a dragon attack is a terrifying event – there’s a huge variety of ways to kill incautious PCs.

The Raid

To the Cult, this is a raid: a quick strike to seize valuables and retreat back to camp for the “Greater Glory” of Tiamat. They’re trying to cause as much chaos as possible to cover the fact that this is a grand larceny – it’s possible your players will figure this out on their own. Either way, throughout Greenest in Flames the Cult is going for “shock and awe” (or rapid dominance) – they’ve got a sodding Dragon! What they can’t steal they’ll burn, which will lead to a fair bit of “fog of war”. It’s chaotic, and the PCs may be able to “acquire” some cult outfits with a bit of stealth. If all else fails, when the group are sneaking through the smoke, Lennithon’s frightful presence suddenly looms out of the murk ahead…

The Missions

Give all the players a chance to shine in the missions, or better yet, ignore the book and use the Missions as guidelines. Don’t get bogged down in running every encounter – let the PCs come up with their own ideas, then run with it – don’t railroad them. Use whatever plot hooks you’ve already got as leverage to get the PCs to engage the Cult (and avoid Lennithon!), perhaps in a heroic fashion.

I would have found the missions something useful if I was a new GM – but I chose to ignore them. The party had a vested interest in Greenest already, and interrogated a Cult of the Dragon member before they even got to the keep.

Cyanwrath

I bungled this somewhat, and let the PCs kill Cyanwrath (although its was hard-fought!). This guy (we’ll call Cyanwrath male for this) is an utter bastard. He’s tough, he’s a Half-Dragon and he’s a much higher level than the PCs. The PCs may not volunteer to fight him, but Sergeant Markuth definitely will. His breath weapon causes 4d10 damage and he won’t fight fair – although in my game, the Blue Dragonborn Paladin started it! – and cue the Star Wars duel moment when Markuth dies… I played Cyanwrath as a vicious sod who doesn’t really care about anyone or anything. He’s bored, and really wants to kill something slowly by degrees. He can very easily open a world of hurt on the PCs – if you don’t think your PCs are up to it (if they volunteer!), he offers to take on two or more of them…

Summary

Based on Chapter 1, I’m starting to understand some of the criticism – I’d have preferred a more gradual lead-in, especially given that some of the backgrounds enmesh you in certain plots (not just the Cult of the Dragons). As GM, it’s best to try and get the measure of your players: intrigue versus combat etc. So far though my players have enjoyed themselves when I winged it.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen – Part 1 – Preparation

Prepping and running “Hoard of the Dragon Queen,”, the first part of Tyranny of Dragons took a bit of work on my part. The campaign itself has been reviewed elsewhere on the web, so I’m not really going to comment on the actual module itself, just what I did to make things workable for me, broken across a few parts by book chapter.

Character creation

Whew, D&D 5e character creation is far more straightforward than, say, Pathfinder. However as GM you still have to do a bit of work. As the PCs are unlikely to be in Greenest (but see the Hoard of the Dragon Queen Backgrounds below) it’s a good idea to work out why a group of 1st level characters may be travelling together. For this reason the first session was pure character generation and getting the group to interface (we were in a pub so it helped!). I decided to use the 4d6 (drop the lowest) method as the points-buy system just leads to “cookie-cutter” PCs.

I created a bunch of character sheet templates in form-fillable PDF format, based on the Wizards official sheet. They’re very useful for pulling a character down for a quick build if needed. You can download them here. This helped us get started pretty quickly and brainstorming into the why and wherefores of the characters.

Factions in Hoard of the Dragon Queen

The various factions mentioned in Hoard of the Dragon Queen are initially little more than a character back story tool, if you’re not planning an D&D Adventurers League game. They do provide some interesting colour though and possible plot hooks later. You can find out more at the D&D factions page. I left it up to the players to declare their allegiances or not.

Backgrounds

There’s quite a few ideas for why the PCs may be in Greenest given at the back of the book. I gave them to my PCs as a “lucky dip”, but you may want to allocate them to specific characters if so inclined. They’re worth a look as some are very interesting as back story, as well as some of the traits.

I also decided against running an D&D AL (“Adventurers League”) game, as I’d like to have a bit more freedom and so did the players. I also created some variant backgrounds for the PCs, as did one on my players, Alex. Here’s the variants we came up with:

Courtier, Variant Noble

You were either born to power or have risen to a position of small political power at the court or political arena of your choice. You may not have the ear of the rich and powerful but you aspire to it. Instead of the Skill Proficiencies for Noble you instead choose to replace History with either Intimidation or Insight.

Failed Paladin, Variant Soldier Rank

From an early age, you always wanted to be a Paladin. You trained hard, were properly respectful of the Gods and when the time came, you were found wanting. For whatever reason you were not elevated to the status of a Paladin. Since then you try and make up for it by training harder than the others, and retaining your Faith (or not!). You are able to access Temple Precincts where your holy symbol is recognised. Possession: You carry a holy symbol and/or prayer book as well as the basic soldier kit.

Expelled Acolyte, Variant Acolyte

You were never that attentive during lessons at the Temple and if there was any trouble you were always the prime suspect. It was a matter of time until you got kicked out or ran away. Instead of the Skill Proficiencies for Acolyte you can choose to replace Insight with Deception.

Radical, Variant Sage

The Truth is out there. Everyone’s hides it but secret organisations run everything – the Harpers, Zhentarim, you name it.. You’re convinced they’re behind everything. Instead of the Arcana Skill Proficiency, you can replace it with that of Investigation

Inventor (created by Alex)

You always were handy with tools and you liked taking things apart and putting them back together. You made a living as a tinkerer, but always spent your time on thinking of and creating new ideas.

Skill Proficiency: Intelligence (Investigation); Wisdom (Perception)

Tool Proficiency: Tinker’s Tools, Jeweler’s Tools

Equipment: Abacus, Backpack, Bedroll, Traveller’s Clothes, Iron Pot, Various bits of metal (bearings, small gears, etc)

Feature: You have a tiny animal companion that you have constructed. It is in all ways like a normal animal, except you built it from gears, pipes, steam, and fabric. Occasionally it works.

Suggested Characteristics: There was always something more to understand about the world and how it worked. Inventors love taking things apart and putting them back together again. They have a natural curiosity and exuberance about the world.

d8 Personality
  1. I want to know what that is over there! And how this works! And how that happened!
  2. I know many secrets that I mustn’t tell, but I talk about them all the time, I just can’t tell them.
  3. I know that if I present myself in the latest fashions and present myself as a modern avant garde personality, people will take my inventions seriously.
  4. There’s no point to going out if you’re not having fun. Other people never seem to appreciate my jokes as much as I do.
  5. I don’t have a screw loose, but I might lose a screw. For my toast. I understand and they don’t.
  6. I’ll be rich, independently wealthy! Someday. I just need some investors.
  7. There’s only one way to test an invention, and that’s in the field during live fire. There’s nothing more invigorating than that!
  8. I don’t say much, ideas I keep to myself can’t be taken.
d6 Ideal
  1. Empowerment: I want to make the world a better place with my inventions. (Good)
  2. Order: There’s a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. (Lawful)
  3. Change: I want to change the world with my inventions. (Chaos)
  4. Stingy: I don’t want to share my secrets with anyone. My inventions are for me. (Unaligned)
  5. Tyrant: Once I’m powerful, I’ll be able to rule everyone who wronged me. (Evil)
  6. Liar: Well, if it helps you get the job done, you’ll say what needs saying. (Evil/Unaligned)
d6 Bond
  1. I know of a famous inventor out there that I’ll find someday.
  2. I once made an invention I carry, but I don’t know how to do it again. I’m afraid if I take it apart I won’t be able to figure out how to put it together again (Work with your DM to invent the device).
  3. I know that those people want their money, but they just don’t understand the difficulties with getting things done on time.
  4. One of my companions is your sibling or relative who’s looking out for me.
  5. I have a small child or baby in your charge.
  6. I’ve got an idea for the kind of laboratory I’m going to need, and so I’m travelling around looking for all the most important kinds of equipment. I’ve heard there’s a Forge of some kind near Phandelver. . .
d6 Flaw
  1. Only the results are important. You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.
  2. You just borrowed all that money/that energy source/that device. I’m going to return it when I’m done with it.
  3. I’ll betray my closest friends for success and fame.
  4. I’m actually really lazy and don’t like doing the work required to be a successful inventor, instead I exploit people at every turn.
  5. I have deviant and illegal tendencies.
  6. Someone stole one of your inventions and has been using it in the commission of crimes. And now they are hunting you for it.

Common & Local Knowledge

It’s not mentioned anywhere in the book but as GM, you need a little bit of background in the Forgotten Realms to bring them to life – fortunately, http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/ is a great resource for the GM and players. If it helps, there’s a map I scanned on the ORC Wiki here. I’d also make sure that your players have a working knowledge of the other factions – be they the Harpers, the Zhentarim or Red Wizards of Thay. Remember that the Sword Coast is also where the Baldur’s Gate series of PC games was set. Also, the year is 1489DR – your players will ask about this, and you’ll have to hunt around for it!

Ultimately, if your players aren’t all Realms aficionados, don’t go overboard. Keep a light touch – don’t bombard new players with too much setting information. Let them find things out for themselves.

D&D 5e Demo Games: Edinburgh

D&D 5e (Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition) came out in July with both the Starter Pack and the Player’s Handbook (PHB) released at the same time. The D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG) and Monster Manual (MM) will shortly follow over the next couple of months. This probably isn’t news to most RPG fans, but what isn’t necessarily known is this: there are an amazing amount of new folk taking up the hobby as a result. D&D 5e is doing the same as 3rd and 4th editions of the popular game. Love it or hate it, D&D is by far the most popular point of entry. I suspect Dragon Age is a close second as its very accessible to video gamers – the third part of the RPG is due out soon. Compared to maybe twenty years ago, it’s probably a lot easier to understand RPGs and to get into the hobby. Video games have made RPGs popular (if not cool in some cases) and social media have opened up the hobby to a lot of people.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to this. Games fill up quickly and not everyone gets the chance to play regularly. Nor are they sure they can play or run a game. So, with that in mind, I’ve decided to team up with Edinburgh’s Black Lion Games to run some demo games of the D&D 5e Starter Set. Previous demo games, like Star Wars: Edge of Empire, were popular. It’ll probably be two slots of three hours length: 11am-2pm, 3pm-6pm. It would be running in Black Lion Games shop and it’s likely to fill up quickly. There’s a certain symbiosis to running a demo game: it brings more people into the hobby, Black Lion gain some sales, and ORC Edinburgh may gain a few new members. It will give people the chance to see the game in play even if they’re only interested in watching a game in session. As such, it should be an interesting experiment and could turn into a regular event for new RPGs. It’s a win all round.

To summarise:

  • What: Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, The Lost Mines of Phandelver
  • Who: 4-6 players, first come first served – audience participation may be permitted!
  • When: Two separate sessions – 11am-2pm, 3-6pm. 20th September 2014
  • Where: Black Lion Games, 90 Buccleuch Street, EH8 9NH, Edinburgh.

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Ronin GM! Getting a new group together

As a GM I’ve got a lot of games that I want to run and my time is pretty much limited. If I ever won the Lottery, I’d likely spend my time running or preparing games for my various gaming groups. The biggest frustration is often finding players for them – I’d love to run Cthulhutech, Shadows of Esteren, and the new RPG from Wildfire, The Void. However way you look at it, Pathfinder and D&D are usually the first RPGs that many new tabletop RPGers play. Consequently that’s what they want to play. Pathfinder and D&D are a staple (or junk food to carry the metaphor), and they often feel they encourage the “munchkin” perspective of players. We have a generation of players who have “grown up” killing other PCs online and taking their gear. As a result, many new players can often become adversarial with a GM (particularly when the GM pulls a surprise twist that the rules don’t cater for). It’s also all to easy for some new players to forget that there are others in the game, and sometimes they are indulged by new GMs (who perhaps fail to notice that no else in the group has had a chance to get a word in edgeways for the last half hour). My advice is to make sure everyone has a chance to speak, perhaps even asking more loud-mouthed players to shut the hell up (or words to that effect) so that your GM can hear…

Anyway… I’ve noticed that there are fewer GMs running basic entry level games like Pathfinder and D&D. I kicked off a thread on the ORC Edinburgh forum (you’ll need to register to see it), and we’ve pretty much come up with a few reasons why. One is GMs don’t want to run Pathfinder or D&D – they’ve moved onto other systems, and have their own RPG likes. Another is a lack of experience among those who would like to run games but up until now haven’t had the chance to play (as a GM or player). A lack of venue or players is another. Timing can be tricky, players can be fickle as well. Also a campaign is very hard work, even if it is a published one – there’s still a fair bit of work for a GM!

With that in mind, I’ve considered what might help us at ORC Edinburgh. My idea is to become a ronin GM (or roaming GM anyway). I run a few games of Pathfinder and D&D hopefully with those wanting to go on to running the games, possibly sort of mini-campaign or something from one of the Adventure Paths. They get a bit of experience playing an RPG, then I move on – “My work here is done” – starting again with a new group. Hopefully I’d be leaving some new GMs behind to continue with that group. Like the D&D Encounters series, but with a view to passing on GM skills and to give confidence to new GMs. It might also help new groups to form as a result.

This will be an interesting experiment to say the least, and would likely help the community to grow as a result. I’ll see how it goes.

Epic plot, epic campaigns

Epic campaigns are tricky to run at the best of times. I think its safe to say that most RPGs are character-driven or location focused. When I say “character driven”, I’m talking about systems like FATE where PCs can pretty much do anything with their character in return for some kind of trade off or disadvantage. It’s not an easy concept for those new to RPGs, or even those who have been playing for years. I found the Aspects of the Dresden Files RPG confusing for quite some time and still aren’t totally clear on them. It also encourages players to create a decent back story. On the one hand it very easy to create an epic plot, but difficult to create an adventure beyond a basic framework, as the PCs can go off on huge tangents from the plot. It can also lead to accusations of favoritism (sometimes quite rightly) on the GM’s part if players aren’t given their own chance to shine.

Location focused is more old school D&D. A dungeon or city is the focus of the campaign, and in itself applies restrictions to what a group can do. The characters are still important but much of their development is the result of a background created earlier, or expanded upon during session downtime. This is the easiest for a GM to run as most players can relate to it from computer games, or personal experience.

I’m planning to go back to running some old AD&D soon at ORC, which includes some higher level games – I also got in on the Rise of eh Drow Pathfinder series too -so I’ve been thinking a bit about things. Whether your game is character-driven or location focused, when the players become seriously powerful then the entire game changes. In D&D, it’s called Epic or Paragon tier – that’s a good enough name for it. It’s when your PCs can go toe to toe (hoof?) with Orcus, Vecna, or the other Bigger Bads. Wizards can warp reality, and fighters can cut through hordes like butter.

So when it comes to epic campaigns, sometimes it helps to do some of the following.

Challenge Rating

Dr. Evil: You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have?
Number Two: Sea Bass.
Dr. Evil: [pause] Right.
Number Two: They’re mutated sea bass.
Dr. Evil: Are they ill tempered?
Number Two: Absolutely.
Dr. Evil: Oh well, that’s a start

– Austin Powers

Ditch it. I’ve mentioned it before but I really hate Challenge Rating (CR). It should be used by GMs as a tool, not a crutch or other impediment. It doesn’t balance the game – especially when they started assigning CR to traps! PCs should know that running away is definitely an option; sometimes the monsters win! This outcome doesn’t always factor into player thinking as a result of CR, and the “fight or flee” option is definitely one to bear in mind for Epic Campaigns.

The Astartes Effect

“They shall be my finest warriors, these men who give of themselves to me. Like clay I shall mould them, and in the furnace of war forge them. They will be of iron will and steely muscle. In great armour shall I clad them and with the mightiest guns will they be armed. They will be untouched by plague or disease, no sickness will blight them. They will have tactics, strategies and machines so that no foe can best them in battle. They are my bulwark against the Terror. They are the Defenders of Humanity. They are my Space Marines and they shall know no fear.”  – The Emperor, the Horus Heresy Bk.1: Betrayal.

Adeptus Astartes, or Space Marines, in the wh40k universe are the genetically-engineered warrior elites of Humanity. They are so powerful that they can gun down or cut through dozens of opponents faster than their human counterparts. I call this the Astartes effect: when a small group of hugely powerful characters are under attack from a numerically superior force; a horde in effect (its as good a name as any). In the Deathwatch RPG (and Black Crusade), there are rules allowing for hordes and for Astartes facing off against them. It helps prevent the game being bogged down with individual damage rolls. In games like D&D, try using narrative combat – unless the PCs are in danger of being overborne or swarmed under. Narrative combat means that players and GMs don’t have to keep account of every single Kobold they hit, but still get a feel for the battle. They’re killing a number of opponents when they hit not one per attack.

Epic battles

 “…. like giants in the playground ….” John Sheridan, Babylon 5

Any Epic Campaign should have epic battles. If your PCs can plan and lead the battle even better – but remember to keep it simple initially. Keep in mind that your players perspective is that of their PCs – make them the focus, than the battle as a whole. Don’t have NPCs rushing up and saving the PCs every 5 minutes, and try and make it clear that is pure chaos on the battlefield – whether a fantasy world or the void of space. Watch movies like 300, Zulu, or the various LotR, to see how movie directors deal with this sort of thing – they focus on the characters. Don’t fall into the trap of describing the whole battle: let the PCs think they are pivotal to events.

Epic moments

“NOOOOOOO!” – Luke Skywalker, The Empire Strikes Back AND Return of the Jedi

Epic moments or “White vest moments” are those moments in films that usually have a stirring tune or strong motif. Luke giving in to his anger (Return of the Jedi), John Mclane leaping off the roof in Die Hard (which is why I call them white vest moments). Any time the character has been beaten down, to his last healing surge, and has one last witty rejoinder to say. That’s a white vest moment. The bad guys can have them too, but that’s a bit of an action movie cliche these days. If the PC is dying then let them have them one final moment to pull the trigger, disarm the bomb, hold back the enemy etc.

Plotting blocks of stories

I always have a basic plot outline, but I like to leave some things to be decided while I write. – J. K. Rowling

If you’re planning an epic campaign, make sure it can go the distance. If you’re starting your PCs off at a low level, then its worth taking a leaf out of Babylon 5‘s book and create a long-term story arc or meta plot. Maybe the setting has some meta plot already. Perhaps the villains from the beginning of the campaign gain new powers or advances as the players do, there’s clues to major event that will happen. Or the PCs are in the wrong place at the right time (maybe not right for the PCs!). Also get some ideas from your PC backgrounds and weave them in.  Perhaps the best way to do this is write down your ideas and see how they could be made to work together, rearranging them as needed. Just remember, more a few long-term plot lines (3-5 is safe) and it all goes Wheel of Time. ARGH.

Avoid Monster of the Week

If you don’t plan your campaign you’ll likely find yourself stumped trying to find new opponents to challenge your PCs. usually this manifests as Monster of the Week, when a GM throws powerful monsters at a PC party to fill the time. There are plenty of ways to keep your PCs busy: Politics; planar travel; building their castle! In sufficient numbers, even low-level monsters are dangerous to PCs – or their sidekicks. The PCs are the top of the heap at this point, but there will be others out there who will be the “Next Generation” and might be looking to get ahead.

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” – Inigo Montoya, the Princess Bride

Other adventurers are always good opponents! Not to mention enemies looking to get even – tribal vendettas, demonic vengeance, and undead retribution can all be used to rain down some payback for the PCs earlier actions. When you’re feeling really evil, one of the PCs becomes an evil NPC. That’s tricky to do as you’re pretty much killing off someone’s PC (whether they are still playing or not).

Imminent Peril

“No sleep till Brooklyn!” – Beastie Boys, No sleep till Brooklyn

Players love their PCs to have magic items, equipment, feats, and powers. They scream blue murder when you take them away – especially if an NPC uses a spell like Mordenkainen’s Disjunction upon them (a spell that strips items of their magic PERMANENTLY). That’s a bit extreme but there’s a strong reliance on these to balance the game at higher levels, providing buffs to the character’s stats. Feats and Powers are nearly staggering in their complexity and variety at higher levels in epic campaigns. Unfortunately this can slow things down immensely (D&D 4e can be very slow sometimes), but when you’re running a epic campaign there’s one thing you can do: use imminent peril.

Imminent peril can be anything from the PCs being hunted, a constant running battle, or being unable to sleep or recharge their powers. An encounter that continues with reinforcements flooding in means that you’ll likely have your players getting worried as their Healing Surges creep down, their powers are used up, and their ammunition depleted… At some point one of the PCs will fall, possibly fatally and at that point you can give the PCs their way out if they committed themselves to hanging around! Sometimes, surrender or fleeing is the only option.

Location-focused games can add another facet: the environment. Places like D&Ds Ravenloft or the Abyss have a lot of magic-resistant creatures who also use magic items themselves. In the Dark Sun setting, the world itself can kill the PCs through dehydration or exposure.

Epic Campaigns & Failure

“A very small man can cast a very large shadow.” – Varys – Game of Thrones

Sometimes things go wrong for the PCs. This should be a fact of life at high level campaigns: the actions of one individual can sometimes have a huge affect. Londo Mollari (Babylon 5) stops caring. As a result the galaxy is plunged further into war by his actions. What about Isildur choosing to keep the Ring of Power in Lord of the Rings? In the latter example, that’s a very good illustration of what can happen when things go wrong for PCs in a epic campaign. A simple choice to keep the Ring after the Dark Lord had fallen, like the PCs looting the fallen 🙂  – what if they fail to destroy (or decide to keep) a cursed item like the Hand or Eye of Vecna?

Would Elrond have attempted to kill Isildur for the ring to destroy it? He was a “party member”, and we know Boromir and Galadriel were tempted by the ring too – it’s not uncommon that former NPCs, allies or even PCs may turn on their former comrades (in fact that’s common practice in games like PARANOIA or BLACK CRUSADE.

Of course the most spectacular fall from grace is reserved for those who hold themselves to the highest moral standards: Paladins and Jedi, I’m looking at you. For them to fall from grace really is the stuff of epic campaigns. Whether its for love, revenge,  or the fact that they doubt themselves: their fall and possible salvation really can be rewarding to run.

Hail to the King

“A new power has arisen” – Saruman, Lord of the Rings.

Even if your PCs have got lands and titles they still need to hold onto them. Politics can be subtle intrigues, a knife in the dark, or it could brutal civil war if the lands and titles were held by someone who does not look kindly upon the PCs. The Nobility may regard them with contempt or fear and the PCs will find themselves involved in some form of politics. It’s not unlikely that a PC could end up as royalty or even married. As we know from Game of Thrones, wedding feasts are great fun for plots! It also possible that the PCs become the new tools of oppression, setting up another Dark Lord (possibly even one of them). All the time spent fighting the establishment and they have become the establishment.

Death is not the end

Despite the reluctance of many GMs to kill off higher level characters, there’s a possibility that the PCs may reach some form of apotheosis or ascension in an epic campaign. They may even become some form of demi-god  or aspire to be one – consider liches or even Raistlin Majere in DRAGONLANCE, or the Ancients in STARGATE SG-1. The journey to the point of apotheosis should be full of trials, and should not come easily. It’s also possible that a party can go walking the Planes, Kung-fu style on their own Long Walk. Planar journeys can be a lot of fun for epic campaigns!

So there’s my thoughts on epic campaigns. I hope you’ve found them useful or thought-provoking at least.

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