Tuesday, March 19, 2019

I think I might have broken my AD&D party Part 2

To understand this post, you need to read my Part 1 of this article.

The Aftermath

When we last left my AD&D party, there was roughly 3 groups all vying for the same McGuffin necklace and literally at each other throats with threats and violence. I had created this lovely plotline that put the group at cross purposes, and was hopefully going to become a bonding moment and allow the group to go forward a bit stronger, with a few lumps to show for it. I talked with a few fellow DM’s to get some advice on how to proceed, and a few suggestions floated to the top. The main outcome was the concept that, “Evil turns against itself, Good redeems its own.”  That the groups of evil going for the necklace, would not just focus on getting along on “Team Evil”.

Team Evil

Suffice to say, the party trying to keep the necklace from evil, and the group trying to rescue their friend that was being held hostage decided to meetup and work together. They did not know exactly how the whole situation would shake out, but anything was better than letting players that were actively working for Asmodeus get the necklace. They still had the moral question of, do we give this powerful item to the Sultan of the plane of fire to get back Safia, or do we sacrifice her and destroy the item outright (or at least attempt that). They were attacked by members of the local thieves’ guild, who somehow knew about the artifact. Johnny and Nico, the devil worshipers, stumbled upon and actually helped out in the combat, because they did not want the guild to get the item. After the fight though, they demanded it, and the rest of the group fled and got away from them. They actually went as far as threatening and in a minor way attacking the group to get the prize.
The group with the necklace sat around getting a moments rest in the city, and still debating the great issue of what to do. The followers of Asmodeus were confronted by a representative from the Zhentarim telling them in essence, “Hey, I’m on your side, I hired the guild to get the necklace, and you screwed me over. Let’s go get the necklace together.” The two of them look at each other, slightly abash and decide to go alone with this plan. He informs them that he has a large contingent of the guild tracking them and when he finds them, he will attack in great force and he wants them to help lead the attack. They agree to this and wait for the trap to be sprung.

"Zhentarim, I hate these guys."

Tourin, who is in a relationship with the captured NPC Safia, decides that she must save her and send the message to the Sultan’s enforcer to show up and reclaim the artifact. Things are really starting to heat up, and they agree to meet in an abandoned warehouse for the exchange. The rest of her group seems to be going along with this plan, but they still have their doubts. What will the Sultan do with this item? Will it upset the balance in the planes? Will that spill over into the Prime Material? Is one person’s life worth this risk? Either way, they head out and decide to go to the meeting, this is when the guild strikes.
While trying to avoid the public they take some back alleys to get to the warehouse, the area that thieves’ guilds know well. At a good four way stop the guild surrounds the group, keeping a fair distance, and the Zhentarim leader ask to end this peacefully. He knows this burden was thrust upon them, by another group, and he is even willing to throw in a finder’s fee to them for the item, upwards of 20,000 GP. Our stalwart heroes refuse and prepare themselves with a fight with 20+ armed men, and it is at that point that an invisible imp working for the Zhent gets the drop on the party and now holds the necklace barer, Remus, hostage with his tail to his throat. The Zhent leader comments on how he tried to do it the nice way, now it was the hard way. He also makes an offhand comment about how he cannot wait to get the item back to Fzoul, and the promotion that he will receive. This is not lost on the Devil worshipers, who realize they are being used, and most likely will be killed. They needed to deliver the prize to Asmodian trustees, the Zhentarim is backstabbing them.
Johnny slowly approaches the group, under the pretense of getting the necklace, while Nico positions himself next to the Zhentarim leader. Johnny leans into Tourin and whispers, “You owe me,” and dashes to decapitate the imp. Seeing this the Zhentarim commander orders the charge and guild members flock towards the group. Right after he does this Nico uses an unholy gift, to use Charm Person on the Zhentarim commander and has him call off the thugs, who start to leave after only one round of combat. Both Johnny and Nico know that not returning the necklace to their Dark Lord will incur his wrath, but they decide to back their friends and help save Safia.
After that, they as a group go to the warehouse and shortly thereafter the Sultan’s Enforcer, Eram, shows to collect his bounty. They go into another round of, “Is this right?” With the now former, Asmodeus followers chiming in that they are now on a hit list to save Safia, they must do this. The party’s cleric, and conscious, Wolfen, hammers the point that one person’s life might cost millions of lives. Eram threatens the critiques to silence themselves, and warns that his patience is not eternal. Tourin asks for the necklace, and Remus hands it over. There is a long and lingering pause. Eram stands in front of a portal to the plane of fire reminding Tourin of their “ironclad” agreement, “one necklace, one girl.” Tourin staring at the floor looks up with grim determination and walks crestfallen towards the towering obsidian man. When she nears him, she looks up and sprints towards the portal and hops through. Eram screams in anger and goes after her, and as the portal starts to shrink the party piles in after her and we ended the session there. The player of Tourin hands in real life were shaking, and the whole table was on their feet.


I honestly was not expecting this. I was not prepared for an adventure in the plane of fire, but here we are and I could not be happier. As a DM, I live for the moments that I cannot predict. Generally, I know the plot, and what is going on, but having a twist like this is amazing. My players are psyched, I am psyched, and the party seems like they have a common purpose. I guess I did not break it after all is said and done.

The Plane of Fire or Apocalypse Rio de Janeiro  

*P.S. I can see people’s post already about, “Wouldn’t they just die going into the plane of fire?” I have two points on that. One, depends on the source. I am using the Al-Qadim books on genies and they seem to say that there are plenty of areas in the Elemental Planes that are habitable for humans like the City of Brass. Two, I guess I could just start the session and say, “Ok, after that amazing session and dramatic moment….you are all dead. Sorry, you’re in a lava flow. Let’s roll up something new.” How fun is that?

P.S.S. This is our Obsidian Portal link, if interested.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

I think I might have broken my AD&D party Part I

I mean we’ve all been there, right?

You have a grand plan for a new plot hook, and it takes a left hand turn in an unexpected direction. Normally, these are the moments you live for in D&D, the unexpected. You do not generally expect it to break the entire game. I play a lot of different RPGs, and for most of the 4e years, I dropped Fantasy RPGs all together and focused on Indie/Story games. I learned several story troupes and tricks, the main one being, form triangles when creating relationships. My game has been running since the beginning of the school year (About 7 months), we play weekly for about 4 hours, and the occasional Saturday for 7 hours, so we have some time invested. I have a current group of six players using AD&D 2e, and I wanted to run a plot where they were at cross purposes and see how they resolve it. I assumed loyalty would win out, and personal ambition would be put aside for the greater good. I was wrong. This is how I broke my game.
I have one character, Hex, who murdered a guild wizard and was cursed for his crime. He was no longer able to use beneficial wizard magic or items, he also lost his ring finger in the process. Over the course of the game his character has become bitter, and his alignment has basically been all over the place. He is very hard to predict, one minute he is crying he wants redemption, the next he is attacking a small boy with a large sword. He constantly saying at the table, “I want my magic back…” I never bothered with it, because a) he did it to himself, b) he rolled AMAZING stats, like nothing below a 15 with multiple 18s, his character was already better than everyone, the lack of items was not hurting him.
Next, Nico comes into the equation, he is a decent character with good ideas, and very bad luck. The party constantly gives him crap, but his plans are solid, but his dice are cold. I decided to tempt him with more power, luring him into an Asmodeus cult, with the slightest boost in power. It was not too difficult to lure him, the cult just treated him with respect, and gave him the praise that he wanted. Asmodeus being who he is decided to have his agent, Nico, make an offer to Johnny. Asmodeus would suspend the curse and allow him to use magic again, but he had to join the cult, and had to retrieve a sacred necklace and get it to his agent. Did I mention he regrew his finger, but it is now a devil’s finger? I mean, how could this go wrong?

I mean who wouldn't love this guy?

The part had recently stumbled upon, and rescued a group of NPC adventurers. They decided to escort them to the next major city, and from there would part ways. One NPC Lyrissa, a Harper, had stolen a sacred necklace from the Zhentarim and fled with her party. Most of her party died when bounty hunters caught up, and that is when the PC party rescued them from imprisonment. She decided to seduce two members of the party, Remus and Thorne, to form a bond with them, hoping they would help her get the necklace to safety. Remus and Thorne are best friends in the game, and do not have a clue that they are both in a relationship with the same woman, I had to add that little touch of drama. This group actually has the necklace, and wants to keep it from evil.
Lastly, there is Wolfen and Torin who are also looking to get the necklace as well. Torin was in a relationship with an NPC named Safia, and she was kidnapped by the Sultan of the City of Brass for an old debt that has not been repaid. Torin agreed that she would get the necklace and return it to the Sultan to repay the debt, but in the meantime Safia remains locked in the dungeons of the Sultan’s palace. Wolfen is a kind hearted cleric that just wants to help Torin rescue Safia, who is a well-liked NPC by the whole party. I thought this would be a strong motivating factor for the group, but again I was wrong.

Doesn't look all that bad?

Here is how I thought it was going to play out. Each would be vying for the necklace, and they would have to make some hard choices. Their long track record together and general friendships would keep the characters from coming to blows. Eventually they would realize that a beloved NPC was trapped in an extra-dimensional prison, and would agree to help. I would lay some guilt on each of the parties about the decision they are making and off they’d go to rescue their companion, the group stronger in the end for going through this trial. Asmodeus would be angry, and thus they would have made a new enemy for me to use in the future. Once again, this is what I thought would happen.

What I got was the cultist literally wounding their friends, and telling them, “If you don’t give me the necklace, I’ll fucking kill you.” Keep in mind that character has been a cultist for under 2 days in game time and 2 hours in real time, converts are the most extreme in all religions! The party with the necklace fleeing for their lives and on the run from PC and NPC groups looking for the McGuffin. The last group pleading with both sides that their friend, companion, and lover is trapped in an inferno laden prison and that they all needed to sit down and talk. They are all at each other’s throats, and I put them there, expecting they would do the heroic thing in the end, but Satanist be doing Satan things. The actual PC holding the necklace, Remus, is now being referred to at the table as Frodo.
This is where we left the session and I think I played with my toy to the point that I broke it.  Each group has told me that they have a secret “plan” and that they want to talk with me in private. As long as this remains a game, and the players do not start fighting outside the game, I am willing to watch it burn down. Maybe at some point they will get their act together, and come back together. I did tell them this campaign would end no matter what in about 2 months, at the end of the school year. I was hoping to bring it to a grand finale, but such is life.

Actual Picture of my Campaign