On Thursday, Aug 9, I will be kicking off this AP with my group of (very) experienced players. I have read almost every post here and know about the big issues, but as I have not yet read beyond Shadow in the Sky, I would really like to know what if anything I can do in the way of foreshadowing or laying additional groundwork for the problems found in Book 5. I know one big thing I could have done is have the party all be elves working for one of the elvish factions, but elves are not favored by my players and there is no way that would fly. I do plan on making the elves less callous toward the PCs, but that is some way off. My players already know they will ultimately be facing drow and are looking forward to an Darklands focused game, but that is about all they know.
So, if you had the chance to run all of SD again, what would you do differently early on so that the AP hung together better? Is there something I can do now that would make the rescue of book 5 more easily doable? Is there some events, side quests, exposition or the like I could add in during the first 3 books that make the fixing of book 5 more easily accomplished?
For reference, I believe the party will consist of:
Dwarf Wizard(specialization: tbd)
Oread Oracle (mystery: stone)
Aasimar Cleric (diety: tbd)
Everyone has dumped Cha, of course, which means most things will be resolved in the group's typical play style - at sword point. The group tends to be mercenary in outlook and I am certain they will chafe at the "do it for the good of all" expectations laid upon them later in the AP, so I know I will have to sweeten the pot somehow.
I really really appreciate all suggestions!
What you could do is sell to your players the idea of a preemptive strike
If they are cold hearted scoundrels as the first books seem to assume, make it clear that the drow consider the characters know too much and will eliminate them if the PCs stay in Riddleport ( Having a called demon comes after them by example would be a good way to stress this to the players). The only way to be sure is to kill before be killed! Self preservation is a wonderful thing ...
We're about to run it for the first time, and I told the PC's to make characters that were kinda shady urban types but could be inspired towards redemption/heroism in time. The party make-up probably going to be:
Half-Elven Crossblooded Sorcerer (Fey & Infernal) / Wizard (Enchantress) who, after the one level dip, will specialize in charm/compulsion type spells and illusions. She figures to try and play the next two off of one another for her affections and serves as the party 'face'.
Half-Orc Rogue (Scout & Thug) / Fighter wielding a massive earthbreaker, kinda the brute of the group specializing in massive amounts of non-lethal damage.
Elven Rogue (Knife Master) who's quick and lethal, more cerebral in his approach than his Half-Orc rival - kind of a 'thunder and lightning' approach between them.
Halfling Bard (Archivist) / Halfling Opportunist serving as he master locksmith/trapsmith of the group and their font of esoteric knowledge. He finds the love triangle as amusing as it is foolish, preferring to pursue wealth and antiquities rather than romance.
I have some small concerns about this party having adequate firepower - they're going to have to be smart about how they engage the enemy for certain, but it will be interesting how well they can use the magical abilities of the Wizard to manipulate their foes. As you go on I'll be interested in hearing how things go, what problems you might encounter along the way. I figure I'll give them NPC help when the opportunity crops up for it from time to time.
Really really really get them to like those first couple of elves they meet.
I forget their names, but the Shin' agent and (?)Shalelu(?) should be quote important to the players. Consider a half-elf replacement for some forlorn angsty time goodness.
Don't play up riddleport, by all means, and get them heading towards "find the baddy" motivation asap.
If you can get them to really hate Drow, all the better.
Finally, consider book 5 to be a dungeon crawl. Queen is sympathetic, but overtly powerless, unless the pcs can vanquish the "advisors" holding her politically hostage.
Thus, no super-silly talking time, but a bunch of elf-killing hero action.
I'd also drop the jobs/punishment bits of Descent into Midnight, and have them used as a "troubleshooting hit squad" by the drow.
I agree with psionichamster that hating the bad guys can be a useful motivation. Especially if you can manage to get a recurring villain who always ends up getting away, like Vanthus Vanderboren in Age of Worms.
By the way Lich-Loved, I notice you haven't posted here for quite some time. Welcome back!
I tried to run this AP five years ago and things just broke down. Player drama was the main reason but the amount of time, gold, and effort invested into Riddleport then just abandoned never to be seen again really rankled my players.
I'm rerunning this AP for a different group. I've done two major things to it. We're halfway through book 3.
First: replace the first adventure entirely. I replaced it with some old 3.5 3rd party thing I had lying around and rewrote it so it takes place in Riddleport. It introduced Riddleport but didn't leave the PCs with the feeling that they were going to be using the city as a home base. I still used the Gold Goblin but made Vancaskerkin a crimelord and had the PCs work for a rival faction that wanted Vancaskerkin's title. "Just break into his office and bring back what evidence you can find and you will be greatly rewarded..."
Second: revamp Elven society. I had the Shin'Rakorath introduce themselves as "the sword arm of the Winter Council". The elves know the Council as branch of government that works alongside the Monarchy. I modeled them after a particularly harsh l'Academie francaise in that they're a group working to maintain racial and cultural purity (and keep the drow secret). It's just that the common elf has no idea how far they'd go...
Yes this means I had to re-plot book 5. I was perfectly fine with that.
Thank you all very much for your help! I will kick off the campaign tonight, so here is the plan...
- I have already prepped my players about Riddleport and the campaign in general so that they do not get overly invested in the place. Having played a previous AP, they are (grudgingly) willing to accept some "guidance" on how the story unfolds.
- I like the idea of having the PC's pitted against Vandercaskin. I believe betrayal is a fine thing to do to a party, but it gets old if done too much. It's about time the PCs betray someone in an AP. I believe I am going to have the PC's work as agents for Clegg Zincher to dig up dirt on Saul. It ties into the story (Zincher wants Vandercasken to fail and suffer) and it gives the PCs a motivation to take the ridiculously low-paying work Saul is offering them. If they were being paid on the side to ingratiate themselves to him, it keeps them hanging around him and trying to look like they are doing what he has asked. It also is additional motivation for Saul to eventually wipe out his new "partners". I can change up the Foamrunner scene so the rogues are not Zincher's men, to prevent the PC's from interfering with one of Zincher's operations.
- They are really going to like the first elves they meet
- Given my player's detest for elves, I am going to redo book 5 into something like Free the Queen (aka "elf-killing hero action") as psionichamster suggests. I believe it would better suit my group. I also really like the idea of the "elven racial purity" angle as ANebulousMistress suggests. I am going to keep these ideas on tap and see how it blends as I near book 5.
- I am going to make the Drow very nasty in an atmospheric sort of way to build up drow hate.
Thanks again for all your suggestions!
Thanks for the welcome back. I have been around, lurking for the most part, but will probably be more vocal now that I am running another AP.