As Neverwinter: The Year of the Ageless One has come to an ignominous end, it's time to dust off some other ideas and put a new group together. I still want to run with 4E because it remains my favourite system, but when 13 True Ways comes out for 13th Age next year I may be interested in a new system for the first time in a while. (But not D&D Next/D&D Previous/Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition. If I want to play a clone of AD&D I will write one myself.)
These are the three campaign ideas I have been working on for a few months in between playing and/or prepping Neverwinter:
Queen of Lies
|Sefris Zul, the Queen of Lies|
Queen of Lies is an homage to, inter alia, the Temple of Elemental Evil, or at least what the Temple of Elemental Evil could have been if it was 1. elemental, 2. evil and 3. completed before it was published. I am no fan of this slapped-together-to-meet-a-deadline (and incomplete) random dungeon that held so much promise, particular when you consider how good T1 The Village of Hommlet is even after the passage of 30+ years.
The titular Queen of Lies is a Cyric-worshipping Red Wizard of the Zul family, once best known for producing the most powerful cleric of Cyric in the pre-Spellplague version of the Realms (Marathane Zul). Of course, with Bane as Thay's national religion, there is no room for over Cyric worship but Sefris Zul - aka the Queen of Lies - is seeking to change that by using sites of elemental power to disrupt reality so that Cyric may be freed.
Of course, she's insane - she is a Cyricist, after all - but her efforts are having major effects in Aglarond: earthquakes, cyclones (aka hurricanes), waterspouts, whirlpools, forest fires etc.... And, ultimately, that is what the PCs will be trying to stop.
The campaign is supposed to be for beginners so the theme is fairly basic and I am plan to begin by having the PCs escape from Thay, possibly aided by a PC wizard who is a Thayan renegade, to give them a logical reason for not only meeting but for staying together... and for hating Sefris Zul once they finally meet her.
Winter of the Witch
|Iyraclea, former Chosen of Auril|
This campaign also features some old school homages, principally to B2 Keep on the Borderlands and G2 Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl.
It's set in the borderlands of the demon-haunted land of Impiltur and involves an icy simulacrum of Iyraclea being awakened and then summoning an unnatural winter that cloaks the borderlands but is slowly expanding, fuelled by the presence of an aspect of Cyronax, the evil elemental prince of Cold.
For Iyraclea, this is about recovering Auril's favour (IMC, she is not an exarch because she failed Auril) and hopefully being restored to proper life. I also have plans to expand the campaign to finally banish Eltab and the demoncysts from Impiltur but the Winter of the Witch comes first.
And, yes, I am also conscious that this is two elemental-themed campaigns in a row. I really don't have original thoughts when it comes to D&D.
Land Under Shadow
|The Many Clones of Manshoon|
In many ways, this is the campaign idea that is nearest and dearest to me and, consistent with my other ideas, there is not an original thought to be found.
The campaign is structured around the two maps of Shadowdale - environs and town proper - to be found in the 3.5E adventure Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land. I've also added in an area inspired by the Caves of Chaos from B2 Keep on the Borderlands and, from 4E, a section inspired by the Web of the Spider Queen season of D&D Encounters.
More importantly, at least to me, is the backstory.
The short version is this: the beholder hive that was largely responsible for the creation of the original Zhentarim want "their" Zhentarim back. They don't appreciate this chaotic, fractured, Cyric-worshipping group of loosely-allied ragtag mercenaries and so they've decided to do something about it: they've awakened an early clone of Manshoon.
(I will note a couple of things at this point. Firstly, Elminster's Guide to the Forgotten Realms seems to reveal that the beholders really were the prime movers behind the creation of the Zhentarim and, secondly, I have decided that Manshoon the vampire and Elminster finally destroyed each other in the year before this campaign is set.)
This early clone of Manshoon dates back to around 1355 DR when Manshoon was, in 1E or 2E terms, about 15th-level and still trying to master the clone spell, let alone the far more refined stasis clone. As a younger and less powerful version of Manshoon, he's also far more ambitious than later/older Manshoons plus he's really disappointed (for lack of a better word) that the Zhentarim is now so pathetic and also not his. And with the aid of the beholders, he's doing something about both of these things which is exactly what the beholders want.
Ultimately, this campaign involves a sandbox set in Shadowdale, lots of Zhents and drow (and a beholder or two) and concludes with a mass battle for Shadowdale where Manshoon and some Banite clerics summon an aspect of Bane to rally the Zhent forces (who will be losing otherwise) and turn them from Cyric to Bane. That is, of course, assuming the PCs don't stop them first or, worse still, slay the aspect of Bane.In other words, it's also drawing a lot of inspiration from the adventure FRE2 Shadowdale set in the Time of Troubles where an avatar of Bane took the field against the defenders of Shadowdale.
The aim of this campaign is to capture the feel of Ed's original campaigns where the Knights of Myth Drannor defended Shadowdale against the Zhentarim, drow and beholders. In other words, it's meant to be a classic FR campaign. I hope it works out.