May 11, 2014

D&D Campaign History - Part 4

Tags: Games, RPGs, D&D

This final part of my high-school D&D campaign’s history starts with the player characters rich, powerful and famous. While at this point the party only had four members, each was around level 10-11 and loaded down with magic items. Together, there were few creatures in the world they couldn’t crush. Challenging the players was becoming difficult and ridiculous (witness the hordes of hell that finished part 3 of this history). As a group we took a break for a year and fought the Kafer War in 2300AD instead. Then returned, refreshed, and reacquainted ourselves with the characters:

  • Greymarel - an alcoholic wizard
  • Kur-Tas Kai - a war priest of Kiri-Jolith, and the organiser of the party (if not de facto leader)
  • Talin - a brave, but occasionally foolhardy, ranger
  • Raven - a huge brutish warrior with spiky armour to match his demeanour

At this point I made a mistake. I should have arranged ever more outrageous adventures, making a virtue of how completely overpowered the characters had become. What I did was make them join the aristocracy and started the Test of the Warlords module. In this characters are elevated to landed nobles in the newly colonised northern reaches of a local empire. Each player controlling a small barony in the larger kingdom. Thus the campaign became more a strategy game. The players would spend their time managing their domains, building castles and handling court intrigue. The map of their holdings is below, the little solid squares represent the character’s castles. There was the occasional battle to liven things up (a giant incursion led the players to run through the classic Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl adventure). However, on the whole it was clear the players weren’t particularly interested.

With the game looking like it would fall apart, I had to change tack quickly. I adapted Howl of the North for our game and we went adventuring again. By this stage it was 5 years since those first days in my bedroom. I had finally (just before the end) decided how the game world worked. Magic came from the presence of incredibly powerful magic beings that mortals called “gods”. Originally there were no “gods” and little magic in the world. Then a relatively powerful (by the standards of the age) mage called Phren correctly worked out the universes cosmology and created a magical beacon to summon “gods” to the world. His plan was to use the increase in magic to ascend to godhood himself. The beacon took the form of 5 swords, that when joined would blaze in magical fire throughout the multiverse. To protect himself against malicious gods, Phren created various anti-magic swords. It was one of these the players used to close the portal to hell in the previous part of this history. Phren’s plan worked, he ascended to immortality and the “gods” that answered the beacon became the world’s current pantheon (including Kiri-Jolith, the party’s cleric’s god). Then the swords forming the beacon were scattered.

So the swords in the “Howl of the North” module became Phren’s beacon swords. The players were tasked by Kiri-Jolith with recovering the swords in opposition to a chaos cult that had already started their collection. The current gods didn’t want any more immortals taking an interest in their fiefdom. The characters were not informed what purpose the swords served as the gods were worried the powerful players would try to use them to ascend themselves. This allowed me to have some fun with the players. One of the swords was located in the possession of another powerful party of evil adventurers. As the players came close to victory in battle over this party, the opposing evil cleric called upon Takhisis (the evil god known to be in direct opposition to Kiri-Jolith) to save them. Takhisis promptly appeared, slew the remaining members of the evil party and then told the players they were doing good work. This lead to over an hour of the players debating what the hell was going on - one of my better moments as a DM.

It was also to be one of my last moments as a DM. Just a few weeks after this, the game ended as the players became to busy with other things to play. We never restarted.

So here is what I planned would happen next. The players would succeed in collecting all the beacon swords, but in the finale become surrounded by an army of overwhelming force, including people with some of Phren’s anti-magic swords. Unable to escape, they are be prompted by a sage traveling with them to combine the swords as the only path to salvation. Once combined, the swords glow and storm clouds gather (very cliched). The players feel a presence and are told their enemies will be annihilated. The army surrounding them is slaughtered, the presence fades. After dismantling the swords, the players journey home. Little do they know a new chaos “god” has entered the world.

When they arrive home they find a battle raging. Another nearby empire has invaded and the King has fallen ill. Rallying the troops in the King’s absence, they push back the enemy forces. Then they discover a shadowy group of wizards is leading the invading army. The players personally infiltrate the opposing camp to neutralise this controlling force. While doing this they realise Bandance (an ex-party member who left in part 2 of this history) is leading the enemy wizards. They defeat the wizards and the army, but Bandance escapes. With their domains in ruins, the players decide to leave their titles behind and track down Bandance. Although this also leads them to the new chaos god!

And that is the end, both in reality and fantasy.