Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Neverwinter: Year of Deep Water Drifting 0 - Initial Brainstorming

One of the secrets of my version of Neverwinter and the feature simply known as the Chasm is that it hides an aboleth city, specifically the city of Golismorga stolen nearly wholesale from Paizo's 3.5E Savage Tide adventure path.

The aboleth of Golismorga are in a state of petrified slumber caused by the withdrawal of all moisture from the city due to, in my game not the Paizo version, the potent elemental rune magic of the long-dead dwarves of Haunghdannar.

(First mentioned in FR5 The Savage Frontier, Haunghdannar was a dwarven empire around 4,000 years before the current timeline and gave birth to, inter alia, the Madbeards which I have interpreted as a group of dwarves who delved too deeply into primordial elemental magic and went mad as a result. The dwarves of fallen Haunghdannar later played a role in the formation of the empire of Delzoun. The dwarven PC in my Neverwinter: Year of the Ageless One campaign is of a bloodline that ties into both of these dwarven empires.)

Without moisture, aboleth enter a stone-like state that combines petrification with suspended animation, a state they refer to as the Long Dreaming and the aboleth of Golismorga have been in this state for roughly 4,000 years.

Unfortunately, the dwarven PC in my main Neverwinter game was able, because of his bloodline, to absorb the power of the rune magic of Haunghdannar... and while that gave him a potent ability, he has not yet realised that, in doing so, he has removed the only power allowing Golismorga to sleep. Moisture and water are now able to return to the aboleth city and many of the aboleth are slowly awakening. And while I plan to use this development in my main Neverwinter game, I was also thinking that it makes an interesting backdrop for a different campaign that I am calling Neverwinter: Year of Deep Water Drifting.

(In the Roll of Years for Faerûn, the Year of Deep Water Drifting, aka 1480 DR, follows the Year of the Ageless One, aka 1479 DR.)

I plan to draw a fair amount of inspiration from the aforementioned Savage Tide adventure path and also from the 2E boxed set mega-adventure Night Below. And while the presence of the aboleth will ensure it has an aberrant theme, I also want a strong elemental/primordial theme, particularly in relation to the element of water which also ties in nicely with the name of the year and the campaign itself. I suppose this means it will also draw some inspiration from Temple of Elemental Evil.


One key design constraint will be that I only want to run the campaign for the Heroic Tier which means finishing by level 10 or 11 or so. As my version of the aboleth are level 8 monsters - consistent with their 8 hit dice prior to 4E - this makes sense from the point-of-view of the roster of monsters, especially as I want the aboleth to represent the final challenge. And while I do not yet have a specific synopsis in mind, I can see the campaign unfolding along the following lines:
  • The PCs travel by ship from Waterdeep to Neverwinter and come under attack en route by a sahuagin Chosen of Umberlee and a kraken. This is also an excuse to show the players the fantastic cover art from Lair Assault: The Talon of Umberlee (seriously, click on the link if you haven't already seen it) and have what will hopefully be a very visual combat involving the kraken's tentacles and a tough solo sahuagin.
  • The Bitch Queen will be angry with the PCs' defeat of her Chosen and they will be "welcomed" to Neverwinter by some Umberlee-worshipping pirates and will, ultimately, have to take the fight to a temple of Umberlee constructed out of a ruined lighthouse.
  • The next challenge will involve the wererats of the Blacklake District whose lair includes part of the old Kraken Society tunnels and even a devolved kraken. This may still be a tie-in with Umberlee - perhaps the wererats have expanded into piracy - or they could be stooges of the newly awakened aboleth who seek knowledge of a changed world as well as slaves.
  • The House of Knowledge soon beckons. It has become a temple of Cyric and the Cyricists are trying to discover lore that will free the Prince of Lies. Part of what they have learned involves freeing primordials and various other manifestations of elemental evil.
  • Following a lead discovered in the old Kraken Society tunnels or in the House of Knowledge, the PCs realise they need to travel to the sunken dwarven city of Barrhindlun which lies beneath the Sea of Swords somewhere west of Neverwinter and Leilon and there recover the Water Rune of Haunghdannar so that they can use its magic to return the city of Golismorga to slumber.
  • The final adventure involves a descent into the Chasm facing the aboleth and their servantrs until the lost dwarven temple of Moradin is found and so the PCs can enact the ritual which will restore the magic of the Water Rune of Haunghdannar.
I realise that's fairly loose and, in parts, difficult to make sense of if you are not me but I suppose it all boils down to three primary threats:

  • The followers of Umberlee who are aggressively trying to assert Umberlee's dominion over the sea while elemental chaos is being unleashed by at least two other factions.
  • Cyricists who want to free Cyric despite the fact that even their experiments along those lines unleash elemental evil.
  • The aboleth who want even more water to pour into their city so that more of their fellow aboleth can be awakened.

I further realise that reads very much like a railroad... but it's meant to come across more like a framework on which to hang the rest of the campaign.

Neverwinter: Year of Deep Water Drifting 0 - Introducing the Player Characters DRAFT POST

For more than a year, I have been posting ideas on this blog relating to my plan to introduce my wife's family to RPGs - and D&D specifically - via a game set in the Forgotten Realms. Most of those ideas have related to my plans for a campaign set in the Silver Marches but, as I prepare to return to my Neverwinter: Year of the Ageless One campaign, I find myself thinking about Neverwinter again.

As their experience of RPGs is limited to the online game DotA and their only knowledge of tabletop games relates to playing cards (seriously, they have never even played Monopoly or chess!), I decided some time ago to do was create pre-generated characters and then let the PCs choose either from the short description that I will give them or simply because they like the miniature. And, yes, in each case I have made sure the character is inspired by a miniature that I own. If I am going to wean them off passive entertainment then I need to make this as visual and "touchy-feely" (aka kinesthetic) as possible so that means minis, battlemaps, and lots of pictures which I will show on the laptop as we play.

As I did the characters, I realised how well they would suit a game set in Neverwinter so I made a few more changes and then wrote an introductory adventure (which I will post next) involving their journey from Waterdeep to Neverwinter and then their arrival. It seems that they're going to be upsetting Umberlee the Bitch Queen right from the get-go....

Because of the importance of roles in 4E, I've basically created three "mandatory" characters that cover the leader, controller, and defender roles. That said, I think they're probably the most interesting characters and most likely to end up being the primary protagonists. The strikes then become the "optional" characters and can fill the fourth, fifth, or sixth slots in the party.

The Controller, Defender, & Leader

To begin, here are the "mandatory" characters:

Anchor

Anchor fills the party's leader role. He is an unaligned male warforged tactical warlord who wears chainmail, carries a heavy shield, and fights with a warhammer. Anchor is a devout follower of Gond.

His character theme is Ghost of the Past and his background is Travelling Missionary.

Created in Lantan. Woke up and started to walk. Climbed an anchor chain and took Anchor as his name. Blah, blah, blah.


Lalaskra Hawklin

Lalaskra fills the party's defender role but, judging from my past experience with fighters, she will also be filling a secondary striker role with regular decent damage. She is a lawful good female human weaponmaster fighter who wears scale armour, carries a heavy shield, and fights with a longsword.

Her character theme is Disgraced Noble and her background is Cormyr (general).

Lalaskra was dishonourably discharged from the Purple Dragons following the treason of her commanding officer, Lord Scar Cormaeril. She was far from guilty but the Purple Dragons needed a scapegoat other than a really senior noble. So she lost her commission and her honour and now she seeks to recover both.

Yeveldra

Yeveldra fills the party's controller role. She is a good female human witch wizard who wears cloth armour, and fights with her staff which is also her implement. Because of her staff expertise feat, the staff is actually a reach weapon in Yeveldra's hands.

Her character theme is Watershaper and her background is Auspicious Birth.

She was chosen by the water spirits of Rashemen and sent to Neverwinter as part of her dajemma, the Rashemmi rite of passage. She's quite mysterious and refuses to take off her mask as if that was some sort of fundamental piece of clothing.


The Strikers

Beyond these three "mandatory" characters, there are three strikers to choose from to round out the party:

Elassa

Elassa is an unaligned female human thunderborn barbarian who wears hide armour and fights with a fullblade.

Her character theme is Reaver and her background is Early Life - Imprisoned.

Born in blood. Adores violence. Prays to Garagos the Reaver. Killed someone at an early age and was imprisoned. Freed for slaying Red Wizards of Thay.
She is angry, violent, and bloodthirsty. Impatient. Often fails to consider the consequences of her actions. Has been paired with Yeveldra on this dajemma in the hope that she will learn a measure of wisdom and restraint.

She's lost in the city but handy in combat. 


Shallar

Shallar is an unaligned female changeling scoundrel rogue who wears leather armour and fights with daggers.

Her character theme is Escaped Thrall and her background is East Rift. While she is not from the East Rift, the benefits of this background best matched her experiences.

She was a prisoner of a sept of illithids beneath Waterdeep who were training her to be a member of their druuth (a band of doppelganger and changeling thralls that serve the illithids) but escaped with the aid of some Harpers.

Taught to revere Selûne both for her changing nature - like a changeling - and because she offers hope in the darkness.

She's an excellent party face. 


Thava
Thava is an unaligned dragonborn water elementalist sorcerer who wears cloth armour and fights with a katar or kukri.

Her character theme is Primordial Adept and her background is Cult Escapee.

Thava is deliberately mysterious. She belonged to one of the primordial cults of Returned Abeir (aka Laerakond) until she realised that the cult's goal was to unmake reality by freeing various primordials from their imprisonment. She escaped, took ship to Waterdeep, and then decided to flee farther to Neverwinter where she hopes to make her fortune.

She is easy to play.

I think this is a better picture of her:


Friday, 11 April 2014

Scoundrels of Skullport 1 - Halaster's Role

It will be a year ago tomorrow that I posted some initial thoughts about a campaign inspired by the marvelous cover art for the Scoundrels of Skullport expansion for the Lords of Waterdeep boardgame painted by Ralph Horsley, one of my favourite D&D artists.

Since then, I have given the campaign a bit more thought - I posted some further ideas toward the end of last year - but the final piece dropped into my head today. The basic outline involved slavers operating in Waterdeep and, of course, sending the captives into Skullport via Downshadow and Undermountain, and for those slaves to be destined to play a role in the creation of the Demon Weave per the Rise of the Underdark RSE that came and went with nary a trace.

Looking at the three NPCs depicted in the Scoundrels of Skullport cover art, the slavers theme easily explained the presence of the beholder - The Xanathar is a beholder crime lord and has been a significant player in Waterdeep for generations - and the illithid - mind flayers are also looking for slaves, particularly the Sept of Ill'Ghact which was revealed in Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue as being in need of new hosts for ceremorphosis in order to replenish their depleted numbers - but I was at a loss as to how to fit in Halaster, especially as he is officially dead.

However, it occured to me today that his consciousness would live on because an arcanist of his power would have made contingencies - clones, phylacteries, or even a horcrux-from-Harry-Potter-inspired multi-part phylactery - and that his conciousness in whatever form it now takes would be a valuable ingredient in the creation of the Demon Weave.

So while I am not sure how that will play out yet in the context of an adventure or adventures, at least I now know how Halaster will fit in with the overall plot. And it may be that I end up adapting the Chris Perkins-run adventures of Acquisitions Incorporated in their search for the Ark of the Made Mage into an adventure in such a campaign....


Saturday, 22 March 2014

Silver Marches: Queen of Air & Darkness 0 - A Slightly Different Take on The Winter Horde

More than two weeks ago I posted a rough campaign synopsis for a Heroic Tier campaign I called Silver Marches: The Winter Horde which grew out of an earlier attempt to try and create a sandbox campaign set in the Silver Marches. Unfortunately, it seems I am utterly incapable of creating a sandbox campaign: I need a plot or, at the very least, a metaplot but I digress....

On top of that, I also posted some ideas about my plans to create a capstone campaign, Menzoberranzan: The Demon Weave, that would provide a metaplot and a capstone for several of the campaigns I am currently preparing or playing.

As I have mashed these two campaign ideas together, I find that The Winter Horde is probably not the best name for what I have in mind; Queen of Air & Darkness is. I believe it was in the DDi Dragon 367 article Halls of the Frostmaiden (this is a legally-free download) that it was first revealed that Auril was the FR holder of the archfey title Queen of Air & Darkness. And I further believe that this title was first revealed in the 2E book Monster Mythology.

The Queen of Air and Darkness is the fey deity of magic (especially illusions), darkness, and murder. Her long-lost true name is never spoken among the fey. Her unholy symbol is a black diamond. The Queen of Air and Darkness is a bodiless, invisible being, but she can be perceived magically as a faerie with pale, angular features, blood-black eyes, and a mane of black hair. She is beautiful, but hers is a terrible, eldritch beauty that chills the bone. The Queen is cold and utterly emotionless.
Of course, the 4E version of Lolth also has fey origins as she was once an elf or, at the very least, an elven deity or perhaps an archfey. That means that Lolth would be very aware of the Queen of Air & Darkness and, in the course of seeking additional arcane might to fuel her creation of the Demon Weave, I could easily imagine Lolth's grand scheme also including a plot to steal this title from Auril.

So, what does this mean for my plans for a campaign set in the Silver Marches?

It means at least two things. Firstly, Auril and her drive to accumulate more power - much like what is implied in the published Legacy of the Crystal Shard adventure - is going to appear to be the primary plot point of the campaign.... until, secondly, it is revealed that Lolth is actually manipulating Auril, causing her to overreach in her campaign to steal all of the storm portfolio and more from Gruumsh-who-was-Talos so that, after she is weakened by Gruumsh, Lolth can step in and steal the mantle of Queen of Air & Darkness from the Frostmaiden. With this mantle in place, Lolth will be even better placed to create the Demon Weave fuelled, in part, by the natural arcane power of the Feywild.

My original plan for Silver Marches: The Winter Horde was for an adventure path of five adventures but now I think I can cover the same levels with three adventures with Menzoberranzan: The Demon Weave to serve as the Paragon Tier capstone of the campaign.

Here's my rough synopsis for Silver Marches: Queen of Air & Darkness:

Adventure One: The Darkening of the Glimmerwood
Levels 1-4
I suppose this adventure is about the darkness part of the Queen of Air & Darkness title. The other inspiration for this adventure - other than this terrific piece of art by Ralph Horsley - is The One Ring adventure The Darkening of the Mirkwood which I finally read last week.

Of course, Lord of the Rings is very different from D&D, something that the outstanding The One Ring game system models very well. But I want this first adventure - which is also meant to serve as an introductory adventure for new players! - to have something of the same feeling as The Darkening of the Mirkwood in at least two ways:

1. The PCs need to feel like they really are responsible for holding back darkness. Of course, in the case of this Rise of the Underdark-inspired metaplot, this will involve literal darkness because the goal of this first adventure is to end the pall of magical darkness that has fallen over the Glimmerwood.
2. I want to keep the monster roster fairly simple. The Darkening of the Mirkwood has goblins, orcs, spiders, trolls, werewolves (more accurately, a werewolf), worgs, and wraiths (the Nazgûl) and, with a few exceptions, I don't want to add too much to that (the exceptions, of course, being the drow that are a key part of the plot, appropriate drow minions, and creatures of magical cold that I will need to tie it into the wider Queen of Air & Darkness plot).

I must admit, this adventure started smaller with a similar goal but instead set in the Silverwood, however it seems that it would make more sense geographically in terms of where I want the campaign to go to actually set it in the Glimmerwood and to combine it with some ideas I had planned for that forest.

Some of the other sources of inspiration for this adventure are:
  • 1E's Forest of Doom from Dragon 73;
  • 1E's The Black Heart of Ulom from Dungeon 11;
  • 2E's The Shattered Circle;
  • 3E's The Crucible of Freya; and
  • 3E's The Twilight Tomb.
The centrepiece is a hollow tree-fortress - taken from the aforementioned Forest of Doom - built over an ancient temple of Moander. 

Adventure Two: The Corruption of Beorunna's Well
Levels 4-7
While the former adventure was more about darkness, this adventure is more about winter. Here the PCs discover that Spring has been banished from the Silver Marches and the unnatural winter is a result of the corruption of Beorunna's Well by the nalfeshnee Zukothoth who was, according to 1E's FR5 The Savage Frontier, once slain in this exact location.

So, while I know I want this adventure to end with a clash between the PCs and Zukothoth beneath Beorunna's Well, for the moment I am a bit unsure as to how to fill in the rest of this adventure. I know I want the corruption of this ancestor mound to result in the freeing of various elemental creatures and I suppose one of those will be an aspect of Cryonax. In fact, as per my original ideas in my first draft of a synopsis for Silver Marches: The Winter Horde, perhaps what gets this adventure started is Cyronax coming to the village of Quaervarr and causing the village to freeze over. However, I'm not sure if I want to see an aspect of Cryonax as only a level 4 or 5 solo monster....

I mentioned in the previous adventure idea that it might draw on ideas from 1E's The Black Heart of Ulom - an adventure in Dungeon 11 where a forest is awakened by evil - but perhaps that better suits this adventure with the titular Black Heart being the corrupted Uthgardt ancestor mound. But what is also really important from the point-of-view of the story/plot is that it becomes apparent that a faction of the orcs of Many-Arrows have broken away from King Obould and that a horde - The Winter Horde in fact - is being whelmed in Auril's name to attack Silverymoon and the cities of the Silver Marches.

Beyond the final clash with Zukothoth, the adventure also needs to end with the revelation that something else has been freed from the corrupted ancestor mound: the ancient frost titan, Gurt...

Adventure Three: Lord of the Pale Giants
Levels 7-10
While I am struggling for ideas for the previous adventure, with this final adventure I know exactly what I want, beyond what is suggested in this marvellous piece of art by Jesper Ejsing.

Just as my plans for Menzoberranzan: The Demon Weave are meant to be my homage to D1 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, and D3 Vault of the Drow, Lord of the Pale Giants is meant to be my homage to two of the original Against the Giants trilogy, G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief and G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl.

Plotwise, it involved the PCs acting as emissaries to Kong Obould to ask for his aid in stopping The Winter Horde only to discover he's essentially a king without a kingdom. Restoring his rule requires, inter alia, the recovery of his flaming greatsword which is now in the possession of the hill giant chief (G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, here we come). This is followed by an assault on the rift-fortress of Gurt, Lord of the Pale Giants (G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl) and the discovery, a la the discovery at the end of G3 Halls of the Fire Giant King, that the drow are responsible for the chaos afflicting the Silver Marches.

And, just like in G3 Halls of the Fire Giant King, there is a passage beneath the Glacial Rift leading into the Underdark....

Conclusion
While I want that final adventure to conclude with a super-obvious link to Menzoberranzan: The Demon Weave, I also want the campaign to feel like it has been successfully concluded and for the players to feel like their characters have won a really significant victory.

After all, it may be that we stop the campaign at that point and end our experiment with D&D/RPGs or start a fresh campaign or simply take a long break because, as rewarding as D&D/RPGs can be, they also require a fair bit of effort unlike most forms of entertainment which are far more passive in nature.

Hopefully, though, we will push on so that I can finally cross D1 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, and D3 Vault of the Drow off my gaming bucket list....

Sunday, 16 March 2014

(My FR Metaplots 1) Menzoberranzan: The Demon Weave 0 - A Brief Introduction

The week that 3.5E was released I began two different FR campaigns set in two different parts of FR - the Silver Marches and the Dalelands - for two groups of players with the members of each group never having met any members of the other group.

In both cases, the machinations of Shar involving her Shadow Weave formed the metaplot of both campaigns although, in both cases, that became known much later.

Sadly, due to my need to move countries for business reasons, I was not able to bring either campaign to a completely satisfactory conclusion and so I was never able to run my idea for a capstone game: I was going to bring the two groups together, have them meet in the Demonweb Pits, and have to co-operate to find and defeat the campaign's BBEG: a drider daughter of Lolth who was going to slay Lolth during her Silence and bring the drow under Shar's dark dominion.

I still rather like this basic idea and it's probably behind a lot of my metaplot thinking for the campaign I am currently running and the ones that I am in the process of planning.

If you have been reading this blog you will probably have noticed that I target everything toward the Heroic Tier. All versions of D&D - including 4E - seem to work best mechanically at these levels plus living in a different country to my players (although that will soon change as it seems I have made some converts here) means I want the campaign they are in to come to a logical and satisfactory conclusion after a reasonable length of time in the hope that it might tempt them to commit to either a new campaign or an extension of the existing campaign.

Like a lot of DMs, I have a soft spot for the drow that is completely unrelated to Drizzt and R A Salvatore's neverending series of Drizzt schlock. I can remember reading the 1E Monster Manual for the first time and being entranced by the hint of an underground race of mysterious and evil dark elves and then discovering a year or so later that they had actually been detailed in three adventures - D1 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, and D3 Vault of the Drow - as well as 1E's Fiend Folio.

Sadly, I never had a chance to run the original trilogy of drow adventures and it remains on my gaming bucket list. However, the ideas from WotC's Rise of the Underdark storyline - as half-hearted and poorly-executed as it was - particularly in relation to the Demon Weave seem to provide a FR-specific way for me to finally run D1 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, and D3 Vault of the Drow albeit with Menzoberranzan replacing Greyhawk's Erelhei-Cinlu.

Essentially, I see Menzoberranzan: The Demon Weave serving as a low- to mid-Paragon Tier capstone mini-campaign that can be played as the conclusion to pretty much any of the Heroic Tier campaigns I have been posting about and/or preparing. And all I would need to do is convert sections of D1 Descent into the Depths of the Earth and D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa to serve as the journey through the Underdark to Menzoberranzan and then draw on 2E's Menzoberranzan boxed set, 4E's Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue and D3 Vault of the Drow and I will have a suitable framework on which to build the final part of the adventure. The only question remaining: how do I depict the Demon Weave and make it into an obstacle which the PCs can overcome?

More on that in another post.

Return to Neverwinter: Year of the Ageless One 5 - What If I Converted to 13th Age?

I mentioned in my last post that the primary reason for the delay in restarting this campaign was because the restart will be the first time we have played online, (I didn't quite explain this last time) the most influential player has never really used Skype, and that same player has admitted that he simply doesn't like change.

For my part, being conscious of how easily that mindset can turn into the passive-aggressive wrecking of a game session, I'm conscious that 4E can be difficult to run online because of the emphasis on grid-based combat (and I am going to cheat and use real miniatures and battlemaps and simply display them with a webcam!).

That has me thinking afresh of 13th Age as an alternative ruleset that, with its tactical yet grid-free combat, might work out better online, particularly when I refuse to put the effort into actually using a virtual tabletop. (I quite like change but I don't see the reward for effort from using a VTT so I've lost interest in that as an option for running a game.)

The DM's side of converting to 13th Age is fairly simple: stat blocks are even simpler in 13th Age than in 4E and that's really the bulk of what I would have to do. As for the PCs, here are my thoughts:

Level 6 male human barbarian|warlord
Theme: Neverwinter Noble

13th Age quick conversion:
Level 2 male human barbarian Tribal War Chief
One Unique Thing: I'm the heir to the Crown of Neverwinter and yet raised by the Uthgardt to be a war chief of the Black Lion tribe.
Backgrounds: Uthgardt barbarian leader by blood and by ability +5, hunter of orcs +3
Icons: Uthgardt Barbarians (positive) 2, Lord Neverember (negative) 1

Level 6 male half-elf bard
Theme: Dead Rat Deserter

13th Age quick conversion:
Level 2 male half-elf bard
One Unique Thing: I'm a wererat.
Backgrounds: I survived the streets of Luskan by my wits and by my songs +5, I'm pretty sneaky when I'm a rat.
Icons: Dead Rats (conflicted) 1, Harpers (conflicted) 1, spare 1

Level 6 male eladrin wizard
Theme: Iliyanbruen Guardian

13th Age quick conversion:
Level 2 male high elf wizard
One Unique Thing: I have recovered the secret of bladesong and my sword is my wand.
Backgrounds: student of spell and sword in Silverymoon +5, ancestral memories of Iliyanbruen +3
Icons: spare 3

Level 6 male dwarf fighter
Theme: Heir of Delzoun

13th Age quick conversion:
Level 2 male dwarf fighter
One Unique Thing: I'm one of the righful heirs of Delzoun but my ancestry goes back further: to the Madbeards of the lost realm of Haunghdannar.
Backgrounds: I fought aberrations in the darkest depths of the Underdark +5, I learnt my race's history from the stones themselves +3
Icons: spare 3

Frankly, I could probably drop the Icons completely and simply focus on the One Unique Things and the Backgrounds which I find really flavourful. I seem to have captured the essence of these characters in only a few lines: what a great system!

I'm not sure if level 2 is the right level. Level 3 probably makes more sense, particularly because I think the PCs will probably go from level 6 to level 7 after the next session. Anyway, this is largely a thought exercise because I think we're all pretty committed to 4E for now... and with an influential player who really doesn't like change, perhaps the answer to him not liking change is NOT to suggest even more change.... :)

Return to Neverwinter: Year of the Ageless One 4 - Restarting with a Bang!

I am seriously hoping that Neverwinter: Year of the Ageless One will be restarting some time before the end of March, which means some time in the next couple of weeks.

After a few false starts it suddenly dawned on me why the players weren't following through with their commitments: this will be the first time that we will be playing online and they don't like change!

Anyway, we discussed this - it seems I was right - and, once some business and personal commitments are out of the way, we should be right to restart. Before the end of March. This year. I hope.


Clearly with a delay of so many months the onus is going to be on me to deliver something special, and this is going to be made more difficult in that this will be my first time DMing online. And I live in a Third World country with unreliable internet (to be fair, everything is unreliable here including water and electricity) so there are lots of things that could go wrong. However, as in real life in relation to things that matter (and not just a hobby), while you have to be mindful of things that can go wrong, ultimately you simply have to just do it, as corny as it may be to quote Nike's slogan (but the slogan is right).

My strategy insofar as restarting with a bang! is concerned is essentially twofold:

1. I want to make sure there are strong visuals so the encounters I have planned have fairly strong art associated with them. 
2. There needs to be a real sense of achievement at the end of the session.

The Visuals

Firstly, the PCs are currently at the bottom of the Chasm in the city of Neverwinter. They have explored the Dark Ziggurat and slain two aboleth (including a runepriest of Ghaunadaur), numerous skum, a gelationous cube, and a number of troglodytes.

I will remind them where they are by using this piece of art from the Neverwinter MMORPG:





As they delve further into the Chasm, they will come across a plaguechanged landscaped that looks much like this - earthmotes, plaguefires etc... - which then gives way to a crystal sea of blue obsidian, where the immense heat of the fires of the Spellplague simply melted the stone and turned into something like a sea of glass. This idea, of course, is inspired by the glass sea that appears in the classic 1E adventure Lost Tomb of Martek... and anyone familiar with that adventure will not be surprised to see that the following creature will eventually burst up out of the obsidian sea:




And while this picture doesn't show the spray of blue obsidian shards that accompanies the creature's bursting forth from below, I do have the appropriate miniature and, combined with a Paizo battle map of an underground cavern, I think the visual will be strong enough to excite the players.

Of course, the PCs are only level 6 and purple worms in 4E are for mid- to high-Paragon Tier. So, I have gone back to 1E and taken their hit dice, 15, and started with a normal monster of that level. And level 15 normal monster in 4E has the same XP value as a level 7 (probably 6 but I won't check) solo monster so that's what I have gone with for an appropriate challenge for a party of fairly powerful level 6 PCs. Here's the stat block:


While a single solo creature is considered to be a boring 4E combat, I think with some interesting terrain effects - slippery glass, spellplague energy that can be tapped with Arcana checks - I might be able to make this one work, and it should be a good first encounter after a multi-month delay.

Crossing the sea of obsidian is the only way for the PCs to reach their final destination, a lost temple of Mystra which is the source of the plaguechanged monsters that afflict Neverwinter and also the repository of the third Tear of Selûne which is the object of their current quest.

After the PCs finally cross the sea of obsidian they will see the following:



I've also been contemplating having an allied NPC arrive - Meepo, who was a kobold thief but who is now a dragonborn paladin of Selûne - with the other two Tears of Selûne that the party had previously recovered. But more on this later in the post.


The PCs will realise that this is their destination and appropriate skill checks may also reveal that it is the source of the plaguechanged menace. After fighting their way through some plaguechanged ghouls - some of which will be newly-minted ghouls and thus they will be minions - they will find themselves in a lost temple of Mystra where an insane plaguechanged ghost (sort of a cross between an allip and a banshee) will be crafting these ghouls from the remains of those buried in Neverdeath and using some sort of 4E version of AD&D's mirror of mental prowess to find them and teleport them here to her demesne. That's one option for how the ghouls are created. She could also be raiding her own temple's catacombs... or my original idea of a plaguechange deepspawn could be residing in the temple and simply spewing them forth, creating them out of raw spellplague energy.

Ideally, I want the combat with this undead cleric of Mystra - Lharaunta is her name - to be more than just a combat. I am thinking of some sort of skill challenge involving the symbol of Mystra which would still exist inside the temple and the power contained in the Tears of Selûne and this brings me to...

A Genuine Sense of Achievement


The recovery of the other two Tears of Selûne enabled the party to stamp their positive influence over Neverwinter. Recovering the third Tear will have an even more significant result; actually, results:

1. They will end the threat of the plaguechanged monstrosities that have been attacking Neverwinter and which form the primary reason for the strong mercenary presence in the city.
2. Freeing Lharaunta from her plaguechanged madness will also free her to start seeking the restoration of Mystra... and will also set her up as another ally for the PCs going forward.  

And then...


So, as I re-read this post, I can see that I probably haven't communicated restarting with a bang! very well to those who might read this, but knowing the way I run my games and how my players play I can actually see enough raw material here now that I feel confident that I can make this work. And it seems I have at least another week to polish up these ideas before I have to test them in play.


Also, this is really just an outline for a fairly railroad-y restart session. Things are going to become a lot more freeform, and potentially much more interesting, when the PCs return to the surface to receive their rewards... and also to experience the subtlety of Lord Neverember's enmity....