Our next D&D game is Friday night. Weeee!
This time we’ll be missing our Archer as Franky will be working during the evening (he’s an environmental technician and takes reading of various samples such as medical gases in hospitals). I’ll need to adjust the difficulty of encounters accordingly.
The last game was mostly a harsh, session-long ambush between the PCs (with a missing tank, our 1/2 dragon Barbarian) and a group of Yugoloth Mercenaries.
It was clearly established that the Yugoloths are truly powerful bad guys that the characters are forced to consider as a significant threat to their survival.
The game also featured some hints that the Drow were on the move underneath the city and had started raiding Elven neighborhoods and Temples in Ptolus.
So this week, from a crunch perspective (encounters, treasures, possible locales for fights), everything is ready. I have several encounters ready and have enough to fill one and probably two session. I also have quite a few ideas as to where each encounter could be used, with alternates depending on player choices.
However, from a story perspective, I face quite a few challenges to make this week’s game more than a series of stringed fights:
The Adventure’s plot:
First, the adventure’s plot is flimsy as written and shows clear signs of railroading.
As is, the adventure uses the threat of Drow attacks on elven settlements to get players moving and enter a mysterious one-way portal (but that the players don’t know about) that strands them in Sigil, the core city of the Planescape campaign setting. Then the players must more or less deal with the proverbial devil to get back by performing various tasks.
Said tasks uncovers ‘something‘ that is pretty serious… for the Outer Planes.
All I can say is that it involves killing a lot of demons.
The adventure’s biggest failings, I think, is to make that ‘something‘ seem important enough to engage the players to want to stick around. I can assure you that if used as written, my players won’t.
I’ve already mentioned in a previous post how I intended to hack the adventure’s setting by having all the Sigil action moved to Ptolus.
At that point in time I still hadn’t given serious thoughts on how to make the players care about the adventure’s plot. I was also struggling on finding a way for my Campaign’s chosen bad guys (The Neutral Evil Yugoloths) to act like a more pervasive threath than through direct fights against the PCs.
Luckily, in the last few days, things have started to come together in the back of my fiendish DM mind and I think I might be able to pull something cool.
I’m making the Yugoloths a party of that ‘something‘ brewing in the Outer Planes. Furthermore, the PC’s game world will become a central part of the Yugo’s plans.
I’m going to take Planescape’s core philosophy of ‘Belief can shape Reality’ to heart and make the fate of the player’s world and its place in the metaverse depend on what the players achieve in the adventure. Since this is undoubtedly going to be my last D&D 3.x campaign, I have absolutely no qualms about doing the most horrible things to that homegrown game world I use since I have been 13 and which my players have shaped through countless cross-system campaigns (A D&D, Gurps and D&D 3.x).
The Mark of Evil
I also want to start impregnating the game with a creeping feeling of corruption and despair associated with the slow, but inexorable encroachment of a highly focused and and more resourceful force against a wounded, war-torn world.
- I’m going to start having key NPCs die (and strangely stay dead)
- I’m going to start the unraveling of the very weak social balance that resides on my world (think “The Crow”).
- I’m going to shake up Ptolus’ political landscape and have players take sides.
- I’m going to show clear signs that the Yugoloths are not just pulling shadowy strings but are in fact arriving in the world by the million!
The goal is to show that the solution to the campaign’s problem (i.e. the world’s survival) does not lie with direct action in the world!
This is going to be fun!
A Coincidence again? What a Coincidence!
It’s all well and good to annihilate the world (or threaten to do it) but for the players to care about it all, I need to establish as many links as possible between them and the surrounding world. As I have written numerous time, the best shortcuts to achieve this is to make use (and even abuse, if done in a cool enough way) coincidences.
I think this is becoming my favorite RGP trope.
For the next sessions I plan to bring into play:
- The Mysterious thief that tracked down the fleeing Yugoloth in the 2nd session.
- The F…ing genius Troll they met in the same session.
- The Elven temple where it all started
- The Spriggans that have pledged their souls to Lilliee by giving her each a finger.
All theses are elements that the players interacted with and around which some key choices were made. By bringing them back I hope to reinforce the player’s sense of belonging and relative comfort in the upcoming tumultuous times.
Bringing it all together
So practically speaking I’ll write a series of Plot Hooks and I’ll allow the players more freedom than they are used to to make them discover the adventure’s premises. This is a marked departure from my usual, very directive and linear style. But I want to try this at least once and see the player’s reaction. I’ll have one directive scene ready (‘the door bursts open and X pants and tells you you must follow him…’) in case we all flounder in Roleplaying Stupor.
I look forward to tell you about it.