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Well, after 10 months, we finally finished Conquest of Bloodsworn Vale... but my players didn't know it at first! They didn't realize that I was reading to them from Dungeon magazine behind that GM screen, so I decided to try to make it seem like I was still reading from Conquest. I think it was more than half a session before my son burst out "You're running a different adventure, aren't you?"
And running this different adventure provided many surprises. For a long time, I worried about shoehorning Chadranther's Bane (from Dungeon magazine issue 18) into the campaign, and it seems that I did it so smoothly, my son incredulously asked "How could this adventure have been written before Golarion was created?!"
And how badly have I been wanting to run Chadranther's Bane! For the last 10 years, I've been in suspense, wondering exactly when and how the players would figure out what was going on, and what looks they would have on their faces when they did. Now I finally know, and the answer surprised me greatly. A couple of weeks ago, as I prepared to run the adventure, I thought "Ah, the players will figure it out right away. And when they do, they might get so mad about it that they'll quit." I was wrong. After the disaster struck, I ran an entire session before my son figured it out! Two days ago, when I began the second session, I mentioned a certain little detail (which, admittedly, I should have mentioned in the first session), and my son burst out the answer in surprise. And far from being mad, he exclaimed "That's neat!" And he proceeded to make many choices that were totally NOT what I had expected, leading the story in a direction that surprised me greatly; Chadranther's Bane is more free-form than a typical D&D adventure.
(Because this post came out so long, perhaps I should mention that if you just want to skip to the punchline, you can click on this link.)
When I ran Conquest of Bloodsworn Vale, I kept throwing in hints about events to come in Chadranther's Bane. Take Oakbrow, for instance. I was getting a little frustrated that no PC had the Track feat, which often seems necessary in a wilderness adventure. So I resolved that the next time Burning Sky (my "DMPC") levelled up, he would get Track, and a rank in Wilderness Lore, even though he wasn't that kind of character. It just so happened that shortly after I made that resolution, the party contacted Oakbrow, an NPC druid who knew the area well. So I role-played Burning Sky talking to Oakbrow, asking "How do you go about following tracks?" Oakbrow said "It is, of course, a difficult skill, but there are a few simple tricks that sometimes work." And he taught Burning Sky about the beauty of nature. Afterwards, Burning Sky talked a lot to the party about the subject. He said "You see that little worm? It's not a worm at all. Look at it closely. It's a snake!" (I had done some research on the web, and found one venomous snake only 240 mm long! The Barbados threadsnake - which constricts - can be as little as 10 cm long.) My son gave me a baffled look, clearly stumped in guessing how this could possibly be significant to the game.
Or for another example, I had two "random" encounters with Tasloi. Instead of using goblins, I wanted the party to get the idea that the Tasloi, while pathetic fighters, were excellent climbers. At night, while half the party was asleep, the Tasloi would quickly climb down from the trees, attack, and scramble back up the trees when the going got tough.
Here's yet another example. When Oakbrow sent the party in the direction of the main boss' fortress, he mentioned that there were convenient wayhouses left over from Chelaxian times, and recommended one particular wayhouse that was on the way to the fortress. I read from the magazine about how the party felt miserable plodding through heavy rain, and the wayhouse was a welcome sight. I made it sound like I was going to run an encounter there... but I didn't! The party passed a nice, peaceful night at the wayhouse! And like I said, as I ran this, the players seemed to think it was part of the Bloodsworn Vale adventure, having no idea that I read it from the magazine behind that GM screen!
And here's a fourth example: After the PCs finished off the final boss of Bloodsworn Vale and headed back to their home base, they encountered a band of hostile hobgoblins and made short work of them. When looting the hobgoblins, the party found, among other treasure, something mentioned in Chadranther's Bane: "a tiny, perfectly proportioned suit of plate-mail armor, only half the length of a man's thumb - an exceedingly fine reproduction of the real thing, though it [was] rusted and dented as though by the jaws of a large animal." My son figured it had once belonged to a fey creature, and even wasted an hour of the party's time trying to trace the hobgoblins' path, thinking it might lead us to fey, before we gave up on that. He completely misinterpreted that clue!
Finally, back at Fort Thorn, the party got assigned the job of searching a certain area of the forest where scouts were disappearing - and from which, in fact, no human(oid) had returned in decades, although some animals had. And the players STILL thought it was part of the Bloodsworn Vale module! So they headed to that part of the forest and found another wayhouse, which I mapped in great detail... but I mapped it on the one-inch-square-delineated paper I use for tactical encounters, to fool the players into thinking that there was simply going to be a battle there. I asked the players to show me exactly where on the map each character was (e.g. this PC is sitting in this chair, that PC is standing on the floor here,) so I could plan the next battle, but the players had no idea what was coming!
And the following week, after all that preparation, I ran the encounter in which the poop finally hit the fan. (After this point, the spoilers for Chadranther's Bane become very major.)
After getting to the bottommost platform and regrouping, the party explored this strange world, with high windows, a giant fire, and other surroundings that still baffled them. An entire play session passed without the players figuring it out! They were wondering if some crazy god had transported them to his home plane for his amusement; maybe they were on a giant chessboard or something.
Well... you could blame it on an omission that I made by mistake. The following week (that is, this week) we ran the next play session, and I told the players "Maybe I should have mentioned that the platforms are grainy. In particular, the bottom platform is so imperfect, there are cracks large enough that that you could put an entire leg into one, and you have to tread carefully to avoid them."
And that's when my son figured it out. He burst out "WE SHRUNK!!!" He then figured out all the clues (except the suit of armor)! I turned to my father and asked him "What do you think?" He said "It's possible." My son made clear his certainty, rattling off clue after clue. The platforms were the floor, the chairs, the table, and the rafters. The giant fire was in the fireplace. And so on.
But the suspense isn't over yet. My son then made many choices of where to go and what to do that were totally NOT what I expected. (I was planning to relate to you our further actions in the adventure, but I feel this post has gone on for too long already. Maybe I'll go on with our exploits in some other post. Suffice it to say that when I related the legend of Chadranther, I incorporated it into the history of Nirmathas, which helped to convince my son that it was a Golarion adventure.) I've been re-reading parts of Chadranther's Bane with the new developments in mind, and I still haven't decided how to handle certain parts of it.
Congrats to you and your party on the finishing up and having that combining startup of those 2 differing adventures.
For instance, what convinced me to go all the way to 3.0 - and never play AD&D again - was an Al-Qadim conversion document. (You can find it here next to where it says "Al-Qadim Conversion Manual, v1.00".) The Hakima and Sha'ir classes gave interesting new options for PCs. But if a player really wanted to play a character prohibited by the campaign, I would hate to forbid it.
And while I'm at it, good to have them free fan-adapted stuff for that classic Al-Qadim setting out there. ;)
I don't really play 3.0, but my next homebrew campaign, if it ever takes off, will be a horrid mix of 3.0 , 3.5 and PF, depending on my preferences... for instance the skill system, and the class skill bonus will be from PF, but for most spells the authoritative edition will be 3.0 where they got the least nerfing...heck, wish and some similar spells might even go back to AD&D 1 for the authoritative wording, if it's more interesting than the guidelines in the more recent versions...