Best campaign derailments?

Pathfinder Adventure Path General Discussion

Every once in a while, warnings about campaign derailment pop up in the forums, but always talking about it like it was a bad thing.

I want to know (and did some searching for existing threads but didn't find anything), has anyone ever had a campaign (AP or otherwise) derail and it turned out for the best? Like, everyone including the GM had a blast as a result?

I'll submit this example to start things off, although in this case, it was the GM doing it on purpose to customize the AP. Note: Linked thread contains Curse of the Crimson Throne spoilers.

Yes, in one of the Kingmaker games I ran the campaign went completely off script in the middle of book 2 and it turned out excellent. I had put together my own random encounters, and seeded the region with additional encounter sites, and the group got entwined with politics and adventures having nothing to do with the actual plot. I ran the game off of what they were doing and how the world would react, until it was basically a homebrew sandbox inspired by Kingmaker. The game was a blast and I ran it for almost two years before wrapping it up.

Hrmm... got several of these. Some of which I caused as a player because I like... creative solutions.

A WotR game I have running now got pushed off course a bit in between book 1 and 2 when the player got their own demiplane/brothel from a Deck of Many Things and ended up becoming the submissive in a rather tender and loving BDSM relationship between her (tiefling erodaemon ancestor daughter of Desna) and an imp (lvl 14 wizard that's a Thassilonian enchanter from a past RotR game).

Another RotR game had a little diversion when the warlock's girlfriend (Shalelu), was kidnapped by a crucidaemon (More Deck of Many Things shenanigans) and they had to take a trip to Abaddon and a trap filled temple to Charon.

Then there was the custom campaign where my sorceror, instead of wiping out a colony of puppeteers they were paid to kill by a dwarven settlement, instead allied with said puppeteers (we were undead so immune to the mind-control shenanigans) and took over the dwarven settlement.
I also managed to get the dwarves to basically nuke about a hundred acres of forest in that game too by having my imp familiar popping holes in their airships and they went just a wee bit overboard trying to kill whatever it was that attacked them. Afterwards I managed to become a very old dwarven wizard's best customer and a dwarven ally because they never realized I caused both of those incidents.

Hrmm, there was the short lived RotR game where my imp wizard managed to convince all of the goblins in Thistletop to join him and make Nualia and Lyrie part of a brothel/slavehouse.

Yet another RotR game, was playing an Android... ended up raising Shalelu as some kind of unique ghoul after I accidentally killed her with wild magic, and the wizard that raised her was a apparently a proponent of Sorshen and so Shalelu was some sex-eating undead... thing. Yeah.

Another game, probably my biggest derailing, we happened to have acquired an artifact that housed an epic lvl wizard (who was totally insane) that when we tossed into a carpet of devouring... well then we had a carpet of devouring possessed by an insane epic lvl wizard. Well, fast forward a bit and we're searching this mountain with these seven ancient keys a 20th lvl Lich gave us to open an ancient epic door that barred undead, so we could get inside and get him a recipe for something. We get the door open, and two of our four party members are inside the vault and I and the other are outside, watching for kobolds (Tucker's kobolds...). One of the players insides picks up something in the center of vault and the door closes, and the keys are gone from the lock.
I get annoyed about losing treasure and throw the artifact possessed carpet of devouring by an epic lvl insane wizard at the ancient artifact extradimensional gate door.
Yeah.... that wasn't the best idea I've ever had. However, I did accomplish the feat of destroying two mountains, separated by about 1500 miles and accidentally creating an ever growing sentient epic lvl wizard black hole about a mile underground on the planet. We might've had a new quest after that.

Then there was the time I raised a coastal city and about a 20 mile radius of land and ocean around the city up a straight mile, leaving a massive cavern and some f*$$ed up shipping lanes as the ocean decided to form 'water hills' by playing with a chaos artifact and the d100 being... a d100.

Heh, then there was the time I drew 13 cards from a Deck of Many Things (classic) and got 15 wishes out of it, two castles, a luckblade (with 2 more wishes), 3 +10 equivalent weapons and a +2 to every stat and like 150,000g. At lvl 6.

One of my Skulls and Shackles games I ended up befriending the grindylow queen and that character had relations and carried some eggs. She worshipped Shub-Niggurath.

And recently in IG, my oracle has managed to depose Sef and become the new skulk tribe chieftess before even going into the ancient habitat center.

...I'm starting realize my DM's shouldn't let me use the diplomacy skill. Or open my mouth in character. Or ever let me within 1000 miles of an artifact.

Myrryr wrote:

{. . .}

Heh, then there was the time I drew 13 cards from a Deck of Many Things (classic) and got 15 wishes out of it, two castles, a luckblade (with 2 more wishes), 3 +10 equivalent weapons and a +2 to every stat and like 150,000g. At lvl 6. {. . .}

This sounds to me like just begging for events like what happened to Martin in Bart on the Road, that Simpson's episode where Principal Skinner has all the kids do a "Go To Work With Your Parents Day" (Martin manages to temporarily earn billions on the stock market, but due to bad timing, loses almost all of it, in the end winding up with only $500 of profit).

Weeell, that lvl 6 character is now a recurring succubus 8/Sorc 10/Wild mage 10/mythic lich archmage 10 demi-god in my Golarion campaigns named Thuruinn. S/he shows up in most of them because s/he loves f&~&ing with adventurers.

Silver Crusade Contributor

Does it count as a derailing if (a) it was a temporary side-trip and (b) planned? 'Cause for now, that's the best I've got...

Alternatively, does it count if the PCs end up on the villains' side (but still sort of on the Path)?

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Just post them anyway :-)

Unless you're worried about derailing a thread about derailment :-)

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The players ended up doing an entire adventure in reverse order. Instead of slowly engaging an army camp by camp, the party faced the army directly and participated in two major war battles that forced me to ad hoc some mass combat rules. My players had an absolute blast. One of my players said that was one of the most exciting moments he ever had in any campaign he played.

Kalindlara wrote:

Does it count as a derailing if (a) it was a temporary side-trip and (b) planned? 'Cause for now, that's the best I've got...

Alternatively, does it count if the PCs end up on the villains' side (but still sort of on the Path)?

Yar, that would count as one. I've often wanted to try a game where I deliberately set up the Nualian encounter in RotR where the party loses and instead of killing them, she coerces/forces them to help her take over Sandpoint and then you play the campaign defending Sandpoint as her new generals, and slowly help her (and the party itself) gain power. Not sure how long it'd last, but I'd probably enjoy it.

Kalindlara wrote:

Does it count as a derailing if (a) it was a temporary side-trip and (b) planned? 'Cause for now, that's the best I've got...

Alternatively, does it count if the PCs end up on the villains' side (but still sort of on the Path)?

Bring 'em on! The campaign described in the thread in the original post also did it on purpose.

Myrryr wrote:
Yar, that would count as one. I've often wanted to try a game where I deliberately set up the Nualian encounter in RotR where the party loses and instead of killing them, she coerces/forces them to help her take over Sandpoint and then you play the campaign defending Sandpoint as her new generals, and slowly help her (and the party itself) gain power. Not sure how long it'd last, but I'd probably enjoy it.

I have thought it would be cool to have the villains really think hard (in other words, the GM would have to think really hard) about how to present their case so that the PCs could find legitimate reason to see things their way, and thus end up derailing themselves from the their mission of stopping the villains. Admittedly, this would be pretty hard to do in Nualia's case, but with just a little bit of extra work it should fit right into Curse of the Crimson Throne (see link in original post), Council of Thieves (have some wannabe revolutionaries that are really nasty . . . although maybe we will actually see this in the upcoming Hell's Rebels), or Kingmaker (I don't actually have this AP, but from following a PbP I suspect that the AP as written actually does this already to some extent . . . although Kingmaker is a sandbox by design, so that shouldn't be a surprise).

In WarCraft III, one of the best parts is in the first chapter, with the buildup to Arthas' fall -- with the desperate situation created by the plague of undeath, you start seeing the situation from his point of view. Disturbing, as it should be.

Likewise, the Pathfinder web tale Certainty is one of the better and more disturbing web tales for doing this -- things are so desperate that you start seeing things from the Burners' point of view. Disturbing, as it should be.

And with that digression, more of a challenge, but more awesome if you manage to pull it off, would be Wrath of the Righteous, if you add in some of the late D&D 3.5 Lower Planes cosmology: Have some of the Demons and their cultists really believe that they are fighting to save the world from an Infernal tyranny (exemplified by the Burners and Cheliax/Devils/Diabolists/Hellknights).

Silver Crusade Contributor

All right, here we go. Questions welcome, etc. :)

Carrion Crown, sidetrip to Cheliax:

Adrissant attempted to force each PC to make a sacrifice. For one, it was knowing that ghouls were attacking her family caravan, and choosing whether to go and help. For another, it was his greatest treasure. For Lyra, a devil revealed that her childhood friend had been sacrificed to Hell, and only selling her own soul would save her friend now. After escaping the scholar's test and doing some divinations, as well as dealing with Countess Caliphvaso (whose majordomo gave them the identity of the perpetrator), they headed to the Chelaxian city of Ostenso.

Lyra's player wanted a backstory with some homophobic aspects not normally present in Golarion; I decided that this was a darker aspect of Arodenic Cheliax. So, her hyper-traditionalist father had exiled her with promises of torment for this friend if she blighted the family name. Now she had to go home to save that friend, and deal with the Hellknights of the Pyre - her father's order.

I've already written quite a bit about the foes involved tonight, so I'll do myself a favor and just link that post.

They met with some Hellknights after a bit of poking around. They explained that they had evidence to support their claims that the Paravicar was tampering with the order's forbidden secrets, and some Hellknights escorted the party there. First they fought the Paravicar - an arcanist (unlettered arcanist/occultist).

Then, they learned that he'd been devilbound - they fought his advodaza possessor in the library. While they did this, some of their number were busy freeing bound outsiders before the Hellknights put them to the sword. They'd already banished his ghaele bodyguard in the first fight. Another banishment went horribly wrong for a beautiful succubus oracle named the Fulsome Queen, who was liquified on her way back to the Abyss. They successfully freed a marid and a lillend as well, sending them out to hide along the coast with a promise to plane shift them home later.

Eventually, the advodaza fell (three fully-powered scythe crits in one round!), bathing Ileosa and Thanos in his tainted blood. Exploring the area, Lyra and Tessara found a secret passage, where they found the Paravicar, risen in a clone. He summoned a Huge green dragon(!) to hold them off while he dispelled their dimensional anchor and teleported away.

After some tension with the Hellknights, they returned to Ustalav, where the Paravicar had had his revenge on the Countess's majordomo. They resurrected him in thanks for his help. In return, he provided them with aid in finding the childhood friend's soul - in Malebolge, being prepared for transformation into a chortov.

They bound an erinyes to serve as their guide, plane shift being an inexact science. Her reward, in addition to payment, was to be the head of her rival, the Ashen Angel. (She got a kitten instead.) They went, they fought, they conquered. The Angel, for all her armor and her giant hammer, sundered Lyra's mirror of guarding reflections before going for the kill. I was hoping to destroy her weapon instead, but she kept it sheathed.

I ruled that the broken mirror caused its bad-luck effect on the sunder, and one baleful polymorph later, they had a very angry kitten. (They later used a wish from that marid from earlier to make it irreversible.) Lyra's friend was still stuck in the soulstuff, though, and they'd never get her raised in time. Using a Harrow-card clue, they assembled seven types of love, forging them (and her soul) into a glorious glaive for Lyra (a converted Shelynite). When I run CotCT, I might put this glaive in place of that Path's artifact weapon.

According to their divinations, they had very little time left to stop the Carrion Crown plot; so they hurried back to Ustalav to ready themselves for Virlych. As for the Paravicar, he sought shelter with Adrissant... who converted him into a worm that walks at Renchurch. (He's currently barraging the party with visions of Lamashtu whenever they rest.)

I don't talk about this campaign as much as the others (for reasons that will become obvious). It started dark, and got... weird. Aaand pretty NC-17. I'm leaving out the worst of those details, but... again, weird.

Council of Thieves, derail edition:

The campaign currently has only one PC - Chitramaya Pallavan. Vudrani vishkanya, diva actress, ninja-turned-mesmerist, total lunatic with hallucinatory episodes, and possible daughter of Father Skinsaw, Chitra is the ultimate unreliable narrator at this point. She started out CN, quickly was obviously CE, and was later changed to LE by Avazhi's atonement.

With her ability to reincarnate her most devoted followers as rakshasa-spawn tieflings and raise their maimed corpses as beautifully sculpted, undecaying (but still faceless or headless) zombies, she's created a secretive cannibal cult that worships her as a goddess. Her merest touch carries a deadly poison, constant and uncontrollable. She alters others via that poison, in a decidedly nonbinary way. And by day, she's the diva of Westcrown, known for scandalous interludes with the noblewoman Chammady Drovenge, Archbanker Avazhi Serafiele of the Bank of Abadar, and most recently, the Lord-Mayor, to whom she is engaged.

The survivors of the Children of Westcrown are gone, evacuated in secret by Calseinica once she realized what her best friend was doing. The Morrowfall will be following her soon; as the only good member of the group at the time of its finding, it was closest to her, and Chitra's buried lead box is no match for the reawakening Eagle God's will. The few Children who remain are too far gone to seek escape. Gorvio, whose infatuation for the young actress led him too deep into her clutches, is now her maidservant. Amaya is now a Resplendent Soul, one of the reincarnated (which could make Jade Regent really interesting).

The high priestess of her cult is Skarx, the first to be reincarnated and to devote herself to the mad vishkanya. Her death was faked; none of the Council conspirators know of her true fate. Slaves, purchased under a secret identity, labor every day beneath the Rego Cader to excavate a great complex for the Halcyon Order of the Argent Hand.

Chitra also has her daughter as companionship - Abha, a rakshasa raktavarna. Chitra's body produces a pound of liquid silver each day, which she feeds to the rapidly growing silver serpent. By day, Abha rides along as an exotic necklace, watching, learning, and urging her narcississtic mother down the dark path.

Somehow, there's also still a Path.

Council of Thieves, stuff related to the actual Path:
Chammady has been grooming Chitramaya as a Council agent for some time; there's also been an erotic element, although some of that comes from a little accident with Chitra's poison. Chammady is not pleased, and has Chitra hunting for a way to set things right.

Avazhi, on the other hand, romanced her more organically, as it turned out they shared certain interests (enslaving people, torture, giant piles of ill-gotten gold, etc.) They may marry once the Lord-Mayor is gone, as that marriage is fated to not last long (by Chitra's hand). She is the closest to being trusted with Chitra's secrets.

Way back during the Cornucopia, Chitra snuck off a little early. It was said that the Lord-Mayor's daughter was a big fan of hers, yet she wasn't at the feast. She and the lovely Aspexia Arvanxi hit it off quite well. Recently, Aspexia revealed that her attempts to marry up had succeeded, and she was going to be the future Queen of Korvosa. She'll be leaving soon... assuming she gets out before the Twin does. So... my CotCT might have a different flavor of masked assassin-cult. :D

As for her name, she'll be getting a name change, for her own protection. She'll take it from her favorite play, of course. I've been playing with alternate history-type stuff here - the name of the bard in Carrion Crown isn't a coincidence.

Chammady hasn't shared her knowledge of the upcoming event at Aberian's Folly with Chitra; however, when the time comes, it'll be Chitra leading the way into the Nessian Spiral in search of Liebdaga the Twin. Of course, hopefully the future Queen of Korvosa has already departed by then.

I don't know yet how Books 5 & 6 will go. Chitra's no fan of Ilnerik - seeing her father among the vampires didn't help - and he might flee entirely, only to reappear elsewhere. As for Chammady and Eccardian, not sure yet. Chitra might save Chammady from the infernal contract only to enslave her. She might let Chammady rule publicly while the Halcyon Order grows. Or she might kill them both and go hang out with Belial (a running joke is that Belial is watching her with approval).

Anyway, I know this is so long. Sorry. Hopefully I didn't scar anyone too much.

Kalindlara, the council of thieves derail edition sounds almost like one of my own games that I run for my solo players haha. Awesome stuff.

MANY years ago, I was in an AD&D dungeon that was set in Middle Earth after the War of the Ring. The party was exploring Dol Guldur on some mission or other. About halfway down, we found ourselves at a big pair of double doors made of mithril. Being engineers, we got out our calculators, computed the volume of mithril in said doors, and realized that these doors alone could buy a kingdom! At that point, whatever noble mission we'd been on went out the window, and our sole focus became dragging these doors back to the surface. And a very interesting thing happened: the party that had always been about sharing out loot equally and giving magic items to whoever could make best use of them, suddenly became consumed with greed. If someone got cornered by a pack of orcs, the others' attitude was "one less person to divide the money with". The DM was incredibly frustrated, but the rest of us had a blast. And needless to say, we didn't survive to enjoy that kingdom we planned on buying.

I made a mistake concerning the Diplomacy rules in my Runelords game... but given the fact the Trolls ambushed the party and the Diplomat of the party hadn't a chance to talk to them ahead of time, I'm not counting it against her. Also, I made a mistake with the rules.

The trolls attacked, and after one player dropped a fireball into their midst, the Sorceress stepped up and rolled a 19 for Diplomacy. She was an Imperious Bloodline with a high Charisma and several Feats that boost Diplomacy and Intimidate... and rolled high enough to drag the Trolls from Hostile to the highest level of friendship in one go.

She then talked them into helping the group fight the ogres trying to destroy the dam. Made sense to the trolls... and then a horrible outcry was heard from the dam. Everyone rushed out within four rounds... and found Black Magga was assaulting the 18 ogres attacking the dam (I chose to have the dam not yet break, and the breakage would have been caused by Magga while the group was on the dam).

First round of combat, with five ogres left alive, one troll runs up to Magga to attack. One Critical Attack of Opportunity later left the troll Energy Drained and then at negative hit points... in essence Magga sucked the life force out of the troll and ate its remains.

The rest of the Trolls promptly went "Nope! Nope!Nope!Nope!Nope!Nope!" and ran away as fast as they could. =^-^= The PCs went on to kill Magga, partly because she was distracted fighting the last of the ogres, and also partly because the party burned Hero Points left and right to overcome spell resistance and managed in three rounds to kill Magga - just as she decided "okay, time to flee!"

The dam? Survived intact.

The Diplomacy Derailment was absolutely amusing and we still get a chuckle over Nope Trolls. :D (Also, the Sorceress has gone on to start Intimidating every single foe she attacks with a spell. Her favorite spell being Strangling Hair. I've calculated that if she rolls a Natural 1, at this point in time (level 12), she'd leave Karzoug intimidated at least one round - +30 to her Intimidate. Mind you, the Sorceress is a short blonde Jadwiga who fled Irrisen because her cousins felt her use of kindness and diplomacy to get people to work harder was a threat to their power. So short beautiful blonde who can freeze a level 20 Transmuter from ancient Thassilon with a glare.)

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Another derailment that was hilarious was back in 2nd edition AD&D, the Night Below campaign. I was doing a side quest as well of an ancient wizard/priest who was seeking to become a god. And the players kept thwarting his plans left and right... which led him to realize his efforts to break out of prophecy (he would achieve Godhood only to be struck down a moment later) were doomed to fail. Being one of those GMs who doesn't like unthinking two-dimensional villains, I tried to think like someone with a 25 Intelligence and 25 Wisdom (which would be probably akin to a 40 in Pathfinder terms).

This was the line of thought: Everything I do to break this prophecy fails. The moment I achieve Godhood I will be struck down and die. This sucks! Though... I'm already immortal and extremely powerful... I'll lose all of this.

Wait. I'm immortal. I'm extremely powerful. Why do I have to become a God? What is the point of Godhood, especially if I die afterward?

That's it! I quit!

The next game, I had a ominous moment when the Wizard appeared with his lazerus (unkillable) assassin before the party. They were starting to drop bricks because they'd never directly faced the wizard before. They were expecting to die, as they were around 11th level.

The Wizard says "I quit. I'm not interested in becoming a God anymore. Here's all the artifacts I collected to become a God, and this is how you can destroy them. Now I'm going to go on vacation. Goodbye." He walks off with his assassin and they teleport away.

One player asked in a plaintive voice: can he do that?

Best. Moment. Ever. And a perfect derail. =^-^=

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In our Mummy's Mask game I decided to introduce a shop owner, at first his name was simply Haqim and he sold items and was quite passionate about this. As a joke the group was warned he did not react well to trickery. His catchphrase is "I'll give you a good deal but if you cheat me I'll gut you like a fish." which lead to a joke that his shop is actually called "Haqim's all in one wonderporium...
...and fishmongers."

One of the group wanted to sell attack dogs to another adventuring party but was told he didn't sell them. Expecting that to be the end of it he rolled diplomacy to find a place so thinking on my feet I came up with Qabar an old Catfolk merchant who sold dogs because "I'm a cat, and I hate them." he had a half elf assistant who shines like fire. Assuming they would just buy the stuff and head on they insisted on returning to Qabar multiple times and so his backstory was born. An ex-paladin who fled his homeland to protect an Assamair half elf child he found in the arms of a dead angel from the forces of Chelliax he fell from grace, sacrificing his religion by doing whatever it takes to protect her. In the game we're playing at the moment I've just finished a sidestory in which a group of Cheliax inquisitors led by someone who acts and sounds remarkably like hans gruber came for him. I don't think the group expected an NPC I made just as a one note joke to actually have a backstory so complex and deep.

Still if the PC's are willing to invest into the story, it should be rewarded as such.

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