Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Adventure 2 Recap., Part 2

So, here's the adventure I'd planned:

The first section went according to plan: the PCs bit the hooks I'd laid out for them and made very interesting arrangements to travel first to Sharn, then to Stormhome.  They hit all of the encounters I'd planned: mysterious shadow-marked assassins, lots of Emerald Claw, a bit brutal bar-fight.

On the train to Stormhome, I had prepared for them to try and jump the Silver Flame team.  If that'd happened, I had planned on trying to put an end to the fight or call a truce: after all, their leader is just as much a Lawful Good Paladin as Oargev and doesn't want to see anyone dead over some artifact, but I knew that a few of the PCs REALLY hate Thrane.  They didn't go for the fight even a little bit.  I had planned for this, and the encounter wasn't essential.

Here is where things broke down: On the trip to the Frostfell, after encountering the hired griffon-riding Shadow elves, the Airship was supposed to crash on the shores of the Demon Wastes after one of the saboteurs managed to place explosives on the elemental binding struts.  Then the PCs were going to need to fight off sahuagin on the shoreline, venture into the wastes and encounter the Plague Clans while trying to find a fire elemental to rebind to the ship, and hold off both the Sahuagin and Clans while repairs were being made, all the while giving both the Emerald Claw and the SIlver Flame a chance to catch up.  

My PCs were FAR too effective at keeping the saboteurs from blowing up the ship.  That's when I decided to introduce the Fernia Manifest zone...and the PCs basically tackled that with insane skill checks.  I wasn't about to just swat them out of the sky for no reason, and between the new PC who dramatically changed fight dynamics (Elf Essentials Ranger Controller) and the party's focus on skills after Kingdom Building, I didn't manage to challenge them enough.

The original plan was for them to, fairly easily, make it from there to the Frostfell, getting there first, and making their way across a fairly desolate waste with maybe one Frostfell encounter, to help set the stage (the Yeti and Mammoths encounter I ran).  Once they got to the Temple, they were supposed to be caught up with by the Silver Flame adventurers.  There was going to be a likely fight there that would, again, be called off, with both parties hopefully agreeing to take different paths through the Temple and see who got the stone.  The idea was that the Silver Flame would get the stone moments ahead of the PCs, but that the Cardinal in their party would take the stone, give in to the power it represents, and command his crew to kill all of the PCs.  The Paladin was going to turn against the Cardinal and be struck down for in, badly wounded.  I was going to give the PCs a chance to save an enemy, and in doing so, make a VERY powerful friend down the road (Like I said, the Paladin's name was Sir Jared Daron. He has a young daughter.)  

With the PCs getting to the Frostfell so quickly, I had to call an audible.  I crashed their ship once they got to the Frostfell.  I added Frostfell encounters.  I decided to slow them down by encouraging them to find a Fire Elemental in the temple in addition to the Heart of Flame.  Since they were going to be dealing with ALL of the Temple guardians, I figured it would take them longer, and all I needed was one or two extended rests and the Silver Flame could find them in the temple.  

They never rested, they got lucky in choosing their path in the temple and found the Heart of Flame and got out,

Originally, my plan was for the PCs (and maybe the Paladin, Sir Jared) to get back to the airship only to find their ships captured by the Order of the Emerald claw.  There they would have to free the ships and get back home, flying home with no incident.

If the PCs were far outstripping the Silver Flame, the Order of the Emerald Claw had no business up here.  I decided to force the Silver Flame encounter while the PCs were headed back to their ship, but again, my PCs took every opportunity to conceal themselves, and there was no reasonable way for them to be found by the Flame, short of DM fiat, which I hate to use.

So I just added some air-encounters on the way back to Cyre, to reinforce to them that, nabbing a major artifact under the noses of Thrane and the Order of the Emerald Claw is SERIOUS BUSINESS.

Despite my abysmal planning, I think everyone had fun and is enjoying their international rockstar status.  That's what it's all about, right?

At least I still have a team of Silver Flame adventurers to foil my PCs in the future.  

Bonus Material:
My key NPCs are generally inspired by lots of different sources.  The Silver Flame team's inspirations: 
-Daniel Dravot and Peachy Carnehan from Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King (Cardinal Dravot, Silver Invoker and "Apples" Carnehan, halfling assassin)
-Thomas of Hookton from Cornwell's The Archer's Tale (Thomas ir'Hoekton, Thrannish Expert Archer)
-Jackson "Grimjack" Grimwood from our most recent Forgotton Realms Campaign (Jack, a Brute)
-Prince Oargev if he'd been raised in Thrane, and was a few years older. (Sir Jared Daran)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Adventure 2 Recap., Part 1

Last week my PCs completed their second adventure, taking them from level 4 to level 8.  I made some huge DMing mistakes on planning this adventure, and I hope writing about them will help me remember NOT to do the same thing again.

A brief summary of the adventure as it happened: Prince Oargev and the Heart of Flame
The PCs found out about two fortuitous opportunities both taking place in the next month.  First, House Thuranni was selling maps and notes that led to an ancient temple that contained an artifact of amazing, pure magic called the Heart of Flame.  They would sell copies of this information to any and all comers.  Later in the month, House Lyrandar was quietly looking for an impressive expedition to hire out their first for-hire airship expedition.  They specified that they wanted high-profile passengers on a mission of impressive scope.

The PCs decided to take the train, incognito, to Sharn to purchase the information.  While there they discovered that both the Silver Flame and the Order of the Emeral Claw were trying to get their hands on the documents.  They'd already missed the Silver Flame, but they actually arrived at the bar where the contact was selling the info while the Emerald Claw representatives were inside, purchasing.  They killed the Emerald Claw guards waiting outside the bar, they were drawn into a bar fight, which they used as an excuse to take out the Emerald Claw guards inside the bar.  They then let the Emerald claw commander and his bodyguards walk out of the bar, with the info as they went in and bought the info themselves.  On their way out, they were attacked by the remaining Emerald Claw operative, and managed to defeat them, though one messenger got away with the expedition information

They then took the train to Stormhome, the Lyrandar base.  On the Train, they discovered that they shared both destination and goals with a group of Thrannish adventurers, led Sir Jared Daran and Cardinal Dravot.  The Silver FLame party thought they would stand a good chance in hiring the Airship because Sir Daran was the grandson of a much beloved Keeper of the Flame, and Dravot was an up-and-coming Cardinal.  Since Oargev was in disguise, the PCs said their best claim was that they had Istav, the Prince's cousin.  Istav and Sir Daran came to the agreement not to fight it out on the train, and to be adversaries in the pursuit of the Heart of Flame, but whatever happened, to make sure one of their two nations received the Heart, NOT the Order of the Emerald Claw and Karrnath.  The PCs at Stormhome successfully negotiated the rights to the ship and convinced Lyrandar to sneak off without immediately informing the other parties of their departure, giving them a head start.  They sent a best wishes bottle of alcohol to Sir Daran, who, I think, they legitimately liked.

They decide to take, not the quickest route, which would have taken them directly over the capitol of the Demon Wastes, but the next quickest, which skirts the Wastes for a while and then heads north to the frozen isles south of the Frostfell, their destination.  Along the way they fought off Griffon-riding elves with strange shadow abilities who tried to sabotage the ship, they tracked a huge Fire Manifest Zone that, had they entered, would have empowered their Fire Elemental, allowing it to break free, they discovered a mole on board who was sending updates to the Emerald Claw on the ship's location, and finally, they fought against creatures of elemental ice that disrupted their fire ring and caused the ship to crash on the shores of the Frostfell.

The PCs lost no time marching directly to the temple (along the way fighting more ice creatures and a yeti mammoth hunting party), and then rapidly finding their way to the guardian of the Heart of Flame, obtaining the gem, and getting the heck back to the ship.  They stopped for nothing--they didn't even finish exploring the temple.  On their way back to the ship they saw, and hid from, the Silver Flame expedition, having just arrived by boat, making their way to the temple.  They escaped on their repaired ship and flew over Aundair and Breland to arrive directly in Thrane.  Along the way, shadow elves tried to infiltrate their ship once more and Talenta Halfling mercenaries attacked them just out of Metrol.  They arrived vistorious, national heroes.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

More Prophetic Poetry

Work is totally eating my face right now.  I'd planned on writing a detailed post-mortem on the campaign's second adventure, which ended last night, but that's not going to happen.

Instead I'll leave you with two more poems of prophecy that are dropping hints at the events that will lead to the Mourning.

In the forests of our mighty land
Ran deer, flew birds, stalked wolves, and swam the fish.
More things exist than e’er we’ll understand
And if we understood, well might we wish
To unremember things that we have learned
For there are things no man was meant to know.
But things once seen into our minds are burned
And force us, our innocence, outgrow.
Seek not the secrets locked behind the trees.
Seek not to know the things that nature’s hid.
For seekers will be brought unto their knees
For seeking that which nature has forbid.
But in these days no nature can be found
When forests stand on curs├ęd, mourning ground.

Above our heads the windows to the planes
Look down and teach us things we’ve not been shown..
Amidst this nation’s trials and campaigns,
They offer comfort that we are not alone.
When we look to Siberys above,
Lighting up the clear and darkling sky,
We see the source of flame, and war, and love,
A home for beasts, for dreams, and those who die.
Even when all allies leave our side
And enemies surround on every shore,
Above is where our allies all reside
And with their guidance we’ll win every war.
The night they turn their faces from our land
Will mark the night our end is close at hand.