Adventure Log: Dungeons and Dragons, Part 14

The party was invited back to the governor’s estate to help interrogate Paul. The stories of the wizards crafting a gate were corroborated, though it sounded like Paul either didn’t agree with or didn’t believe the reasoning of his compatriots. Either way, it was a spirited argument and too many available teleport artifacts that caused the malfunction, opening the gate maybe a third of the way and casting Paul into the Interface. Paul wasn’t imprisoned, per se, but he was held in an office in the administrative district of Third City for safekeeping.

That morning, the adventurers had received an invitation to a meeting with one Peramus Marth. Marth implied in the letter that he was deeply involved in the magic item trade and wanted to speak with the group which had been his most deep-pocketed client in some time. The meeting took place in the dockside tavern which the governor had earlier mentioned was going on sale, it turned out the building was owned by Marth. After sitting down, Marth revealed that he had actually procured all of the items the group bought, and was interested as to how they had come across such wealth and treasure.

When Elliot told the stories of the dungeons within Glebhavern and how they had started to repopulate the city, Marth perked up. It wasn’t long before he revealed his true identity: Symond Kavidar, the emperor’s oldest son. His ‘contact’ West in Prelate lands was the Emperor himself, hiding out in exile and making his living as a magical appraiser and exporter. Symond peppered the group with questions about Glebhavern, and also got more information than he expected about his mother. In turn, he revealed what he knew about his two younger siblings: Rosa had studied to be a mage and joined some sort of revolutionary group, while Folke headed north to the Talnar and left his old life behind for a new one of bardic wandering. Of course, Rosa’s fate caused no lack of interest.

The party went back to the administrative district to speak with Paul. Paul confirmed Rosa was in the group, a rare halfling redhead. She had attended the Mage’s College before the war, so had some training before joining the group and finishing her wizardly education. Paul paused. He remembered a detail Elliot shared when they spoke earlier. “Did you say there was a partially built fairy gate in one of the college labs?” When Elliot assented, Paul went into a flurry. That was likely where the group was heading next, though there would be sometime before they emerged from the Feywild. It was time to ride north.

The group bought horses and set off north, back to Glebhavern. The trip had only the slightest of detours; there was a blue dragon occupying the cave complex that the marid named the “Shah of Kavish” had lived in before the party dispatched him. There was a nice conversation, but the dragon, young as he was, wasn’t particularly hostile. Nakaru, his name was, was asked to guard the road and allowed to take plunder from bandits and brigands. Too young to feel authority over the party, the dragon assented, as he was allowed to keep his nice new cave. From there, the party pushed through to Glebhavern and the Mage’s college, though they took a brief detour to inform the regent Sybil what they had learned about the siblings.

It wasn’t long before they arrived in the lab that Paul’s sympathetic pendant began vibrating. The group had arrived. Knowing they didn’t have much time, Elliot led a charge to block all the entrances except the one the wizards would come through and get some spells up. After the group came through the door, It was 1-2-3: Blockade the door, cast “Silence”, and with the help of some fey invisibility, grapple Rosa, the obvious VIP in the group. One of the other wizards carefully withdrew parchment and pen, and began the negotiation process. Once the wizards had separated themselves from their spell components and spellbooks, Elliot let down the spell and released Rosa.

Celendir, an Eladrin who was the one who got paper, explained that there is a horrible corruption spreading through the Feywild, caused by the avatar of the Laughing Maid. Unsurprisingly, the avatar was the woman who many of the adventurers had seen while stuck in the Interface between Planes. Apparently when the two planar gods, the Laughing Maid and the God of Eyes, cast part of their power into avatars, these were tainted, with the Lawful God of Eyes having his avatar tainted by chaos, and the Chaotic Laughing Maid having hers tainted by law. The avatar of the God of Eyes lost some of his ambition and became a trickster bard, while the avatar of the Laughing Maid desired to make the entire Feywild submit to her whims.

Needless to say, the effect on each plane was a bit uneven; even though it turned out the party had met the avatar of the God of Eyes before, his impact on world events was either minimal or subtle. Breaking the Interface between worlds would let the two planes equalize and contain the taint of both avatars, but while the Feywild would be helped by this the Prime plane would see an apocalyptic outgrowth of Fey chaos. Being that there had recently been an apocalypse the wizards didn’t see much to lose, but the adventurers, having a more ground-level perspective, disagreed. It seemed that the two groups were at an impasse until Celendir had a gleam in his eye. The party were, without a doubt, adventurers. The corruption and the monsters plaguing the feywild, even the avatar herself, were ostensibly mortal. If they could cross into the other plane and neutralize the threat themselves, there would be no need to open a window and let the forces of Law and Chaos equalize.

A fairly unsurprising consent developed among the party: they would head to the Feywild and vanquish the corruption themselves. There were just a few bits of housekeeping to take care of before leaving this dimension, possibly forever. First, given Rosa’s connection to the Imperial family and to the party’s existing commitments in Glebhavern, the majority of the party’s dungeoneering gains were handed to Rosa and Celendir to administer, for the twin purposes of researching tools to help the party fight the corruption and helping develop Glebhavern into a redeveloped city. Second, the group wanted to find Fallon the Bard, now revealed to be the avatar of the God of Eyes. Rosa established a telepathic link with her brother, who had been traveling with Fallon under the name of Escrime the Bard. Both of them, somehow, had ended up in a tavern in Port O’Rock, and were causing a commotion. As if to emphasize the vagaries of fate, the tavern was the Horrible Revelation, Elliot’s old workplace. Either way, it was time to close the circle on the party’s adventures and return to Port O’Rock.

Getting into the city proved to be…easy? Rosa had an Imperial signet ring, and Elliot had a memory for the projectile characteristics of most of the guards on the wall. The adventurers gained an audience with the elders, who didn’t really know what to make of Rosa…but also weren’t really prepared for what they technically had been telling the populace they’d been waiting for. There’d be time for politics later; for now it was time to go to the bar. Jethro, Ander, and Elliot all took shots of Jethro’s Tullamore Dew for strength on their way in, and the flawed magical brew immediately took effect. Elliot grew yet taller, Jethro started yelling, and Ander called lightning into the bar, striking himself and the two bards.

Fallon looked at him quizzically, while Escrime was struck to the ground. Fearing regicide, Hugh immediately healed him, which just made Fallon chuckle. Fallon also asked for a shot of the brew, and Jethro complied. The deific avatar vibrated with the effects of the arcane alcohol, and ended up pulling a sword out of his mouth, which he handed to Elliot. Elliot tried to ask about the avatar’s role in fighting the wickedness of his counterparts, but got mostly dismissals regarding the whims of Fate. “You all are clearly fated to be part of this,” Fallon said. “Otherwise, it’s doubtful the other avatar would be toying with you. Besides, I just gave you a sword so sharp that it can cut through planes. Sounds like Fate to me. Just go outside, point the edge skyward, and swing up as hard as you can.” Not getting any further answers, Elliot complied, and cut a hole in the fabric of reality. The wild, whimsical, and intense meadows of the Feywild sat on the other side, with a brown and grey dead hill in the distance being tracked across by a massive iron machine. This seemed to be the edge of the corruption. Elliot checked with the party one last time, and together they stepped through the portal. After Elliot stepped through himself, the portal closed, and they were alone in a new and strange world. Where the corruption came from, why the avatars were created in the first place, and the purpose of the strange Challenge of the Gods that they had stumbled across were all questions that would have to wait, or be answered somewhere in this strange and alien plane.

As anyone who has seen the last season of Game of Thrones can attest, ending something faster than you expected is a significant challenge. Sometimes, you have to drop plot threads you thought were important. Other times, you have to spit out a whole lot of information really quickly to catch everyone up. Yet other times, it may require the use of a deus ex machina or other plot device to put the characters in the right place at the right time with the tools they need. This campaign used all three.

One of the players in this group is an officer in the Navy, and he was faced with an 8+ month deployment towards the end of 2018. Given his prolonged absence and my cooling interest in continuing the campaign, I spent the latter part of the summer and the early part of the fall accelerating the game into a conclusion. As is seen in the above sessions as well as the last two sessions we covered, a lot happened really quickly in order to get to something resembling an ending. And that ending, even, kind of dropped things: the characters stepped into the Feywild to face the oncoming storm.

The game ramped to this ending so quickly because of the impending attendance issue, but this being the last Adventure Log also has to do with the general level of interest in the campaign. While the worldbuilding and hexcrawl elements held my interest for a while, the writing I needed to do to make the world more dynamic wasn’t happening. The biggest mistake I think I made in this campaign was that my eyes were bigger than my stomach: Things like the Challenge of the Gods and the pirate bargain to sail to goblin lands could have been really interesting if I had written them to happen within 3-5 sessions as opposed to the dozen-plus sessions of rollout both of those events got.

Another big issue was that game’s initial focus on exploration, which drew a lot of enthusiasm, faltered. I had written more of the world map in the latter part of the game, but none of it got explored because the focus of the game had turned to the relatively small area we started in. This is all right, and others have warned that you can pack a surprising amount of campaign in a relatively small space, but my focus was split.

Overall, this game was all right. The players had fun, and I was able to remind myself of the appeal of D&D. That said, in considering how the game went and how I’d want a fantasy game to go in the future, I’d probably choose a different system next time. I spent a lot of time at the beginning of this campaign trying to tweak and prod D&D into something a little different, and ultimately I didn’t succeed. While some of the rules changes, like the slow healing variant rule, made a significant and positive change to how the game felt, the things I was interested in doing were, realistically, further afield than the D&D system wanted to go. I’m more than likely to return to fantasy in one of my upcoming games, but using a different ruleset. Considering how differently fantasy can play out when the mechanical assumptions are different, that could even make a good campaign for another Adventure Log!

Want to know more about what’s going on? Check out the previous Adventure Log here, or start at the beginning.

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