The party heads to the desert city of Maetrage to find the meaning of the drow in their shared dream. This is the only city known to be the home of several drow in the land. The group ends up at the Buka ‘Ukan, a coliseum-like structure that is home to the largest flea market/slave trade in the world. After helping a shop owner retrieve a local debt, the party outbids the local mafia (The Rising Fall) on an eladrin slave girl. They learn from her that the Cascades, a region with the wealthiest families in all of Aestonia, is under extreme tensions. In order to get to the Rising Fall, the players head to the mines (The Deepening Stalls) to find Larg Axeforged, a dwarf that is league with the group. They experience a strange sensation in the mines and also see the name Starfire on the list of people that entered the mines that day. Larg nearly defeats the group but they get past him and to the Rising Fall. They enter the throne room to find it a mess with a large broken window and the drow leader, Elkantar Mal’Een, horribly wounded. They convince him that they are not with Starfire and he sends them after the mysterious being to retrieve a stolen stone. They get onto a ship just in time to follow him to the Astral Sea. As they sail into the sky, an arrow with a message from Graster reveals that the Misty Kingdom is under attack from two fronts.
Saturday, December 17th, 2011…$H*T WENT DOWN! This campaign hadn’t been played in over three months and the pressure had been building up. I decided to go all George R.R. Martin and make things crazy. The players have been chasing after “Starfire” for over a year (real time) and have nothing to show for it. Saturday, I practically had them run into the mysterious character. It turned into quite the chase and, as quoted by one of our veteran players, “One of the best D&D sessions [I] have ever played.”
The session went well for 3 reasons and I believe all DMs can improve sessions by implementing these very reasons.
- Last Minute Relaxation. I don’t know about you but I get very jacked up before a D&D session. This goes double for times where I write most of the adventure. Believe it or not, I actually get stressed out once in a while. I wonder if the session will live up to the hype I put behind it. Before Saturday’s session, I simply relaxed. We cleared the living room and set up 3 tables for the game. I had my own table and I must admit, having that much space really allowed me to spread my things out and relax. That put me in the zone.
- Make $H*T Happen! I wrote the adventure during the two weeks prior to game night. I revised the adventure in the two nights prior to game night. What I had originally seemed to dull and too ordinary. I had a dungeon, some combat encounters, and some noncombat encounters. The story was interesting but not enough. In the last two days, I made it enough. I had plot twists around every corner. My characters were level 20 so I made different plot lines all merge and round out. They have been chasing clues long enough and I felt like it was time to throw the book at them. So I did and it paid off. It gave us one of the most memorable nights in D&D history.
- Allowing Room For Change. I had the night go 90% the way I wanted it to story-wise. The characters met a dwarf forge-master named Larg Axeforged and tried to talk their way out of a fight but I was having none of it. Larg was a badass and strong as hell and he was going to prove that point. However, they arrived at the final battle of the night with almost no powers left, virtually no healing surges, and mentally drained. I was planning on fighting them to death or close to it. The cleric, Three, stepped forward and attempted to talk down the drow leader of the local mafia. I hadn’t planned on this leader being very diplomatic. The player had a nice soapbox and really put a point on how they were on the same side in the Starfire issue. I quickly evaluated the situation and realized the possibilities it gave me to let them live and keep the drow alive. Last minute, I allowed them past the drow and after Starfire. The drow left them with a threat and they moved on to the final chase scene of the night.
The relaxation gave me a cool head for a night of creative genius. The plot twists and crazy story left us the most memorable night of our campaign. Allowing the characters to change the course of the adventure let them feel like their effort truly let them effect things in our shared world. Everything clicked and the night went down perfectly. I hope many of your games to be as fun as this one. After all, if we don’t fully engage our imagination and draw out the fun, we are not giving Dungeons and Dragons a chance to be what it always has been.
Play. Write. Create. Enjoy. Happy gaming everyone and merry Christmas.