Sunday, 16 May 2010

In which the DM loses his way, the party have fun, and plot is glossed over

Over the next 2 scenarios, I produced filler material while trying to work out where the entire campaign was going. Now filler scenarios can be great fun. If used correctly and adequately disguised. Which, alas, I did not. In the case of our role-playing group it was more akin to throwing a child in the deep end of the pool and shouting 'SWIM! I'M OFF TO GET A CUP OF TEA!'

Here's a quick rundown of the 2 scenarios:

Assassination and Ghost towns!

Our band of heroes had been assigned guard duty after the adventure in Vue. They were escorting local nobles back home after a summit. Lys and Larisse were seeing off a female dignitary to her home city 'off-screen' due to Phil and Sophie's absence, while Tez, Ethanuel and Shoohey were helping out guardsmen and an arrogant, cocky 'Prince John' character. Cue some dialogue with the guards about how the guy is an idiot and all-round greedy sod. Lys arrives on scene, his charge being ushered into her city by Larisse as it's a female-only zone. Suddenly: CONVENIENT AMBUSH! Goblins appeared out of the bushes alongside the road, quickly dispatched by several rounds of combat. The goblins call out the big gun – a troll! Due to abnormal luck this two was quickly dispatched much to my DM chagrin. Just when you don't want it, players have a tendency to roll absurdly high, killing off big bosses, gutting the villain that you spent 4 months working on and generally making your climatic reveal something less than climatic (see the ending to G.I Joe: Rise of Cobra as an excellent example of the anti-climatic reveal). A couple of failed perception checks and my unsubtle shoe-horning meant that no one noticed a couple of snake-man assassins kill off the foppish noble and escape into the trees, leading our mighty heroes on a long run through the forest to find a burnt out village with a tolling church bell at its heart. Upon entering the church they find the assassins dead and themselves transported into a ghostly realm. *Panto ghostly sounds cue here...*

Meanwhile Larisse, suddenly dissolved into thin air at the lady-city, guided along a strange spirit journey by a mysterious trio of little girls and catches glimpses of the future. She emerged from her own grave and it just got weirder from there.

In the ghost village, we found it populated by long-dead folk from about 60 years previous and the villagers explained to the newly arrived heroes that they were massacred by a company of corrupted knights returning from duty in the East. Our heroes made the most of this interlude to relax (a memorable moment is Rob passing strength checks on natural 20s, resulting in Tez juggling 2 barrels of ale and a villager) and unwind (Ethanuel was his lecherous self and bedded a young maiden in nearby barn).

Larisse showed up in the village just in time to see the sky turn crimson and hear the thundering of hooves. The knights had arrived to re-enact their part in history. The three young girls stood before the assembled heroes and explained that this could not be changed but that they were instrumental in the coming war of nations. The knights charged the mass of peasants, both sides evaporating with unearthly screams, leaving our heroes back in the real-world facing off with 3 knights, one of which looked suspiciously like a plot hook. Tall, unhelmed, blood-red eyes, maniacal grin = future, possibly recurring villain. Cue botched attempt to instill a sense of mortality in our heroes and then end of adventure.


DM Note: I really had high hopes for this adventure. Unfortunately my tight schedule with work, a now pregnant wife, and driving lessons meant I ad-libbed half the thing resulting in a basic plot held together with forced plot hooks (like the noble dying no matter the actions of the party, the weird spirit journey of Larisse just to get her involved in the story, and the recurring villain developing the power to fly off as a raven when reduced to 1 hit point). Note to self – write events up well in advance to stop this happening again.


Haunted mansion and inability to schedule!

The following scenario was lifted and tweaked from a certain gaming book for a certain role-playing system. Our heroes were returning from their ghost town debacle, only to find a dying noble by the roadside who promises them riches if they return his body to his family nearby. Not forced in anyway, no. *Cough-cough*

Cut to our intrepid adventurers carting the poor man's body back to the family manse, meeting a strange family who all appear incredibly creepy. Then the party split into 3. Which became sodding awkward as it dissolved into ad-libbing again. And this was a scripted adventure!

DM Note: Alas, an important problem with role-playing campaigns is real-life. Not everyone has the time to devote to these things as they are extremely time-consuming. A typical session with our particular band lasted around 4 hours every evening. Add to this the fact we were in different time-zones and 3 of our party were usually one hour ahead and we ended up with late evenings, cranky mornings and scenarios running over months! A sad fact that can never be helped, it is to a DM's credit if he can keep his story going cohesively while handling missing players and conflicting schedules. Alas my lack of experience I think may have shown through...especially when I created recurring characters that weren't meant to be there, and forced daemonic possession on a player with no warning. All of which may get retconned.

Cut to a lot of bungling about a haunted mansion, ghosts, the reveal that the head of the house is a crazy necromancer and the sexy daughter is a brainwashed vampire, and that covers the story. Oh and I had Tez sleepwalk in his underwear and get possessed randomly. Not quite sure what happened with that. We'll move on...

After defeating the villain in short order (which was becoming an annoyingly regular thing. Note to self – get a bunch of villains next time.) the heroes discover a brainwashed Guild member and manage to use their words and a large number of diplomacy successes to get him back to the Guild.


And there we have it – 9 weeks, 2 scenarios and a bunch of dangling plot threads and I had no idea what do with. Who's the man with the red eyes? Why do ravens keep cropping up? What was the point in possessing Tez? Would we have to write out Lysimakos, while Phil settled into a new job, new house and , indeed, new country? Would there ever be any repercussions to what happened in the first scenario in Vue?

Some quick brainstorming with Rob and a close friend, Alex gave me the answers. That and 4 weeks between scenarios helped out a lot. And that'll all be in the next blog!






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