After a week off thanks to an electrical storm, my completion of Death House (just another tick off my DM’s Reward Card) adventure went off as expected. While some in the party did consider sacrificing one of their own, they decided to flick the specters off, deal with Lorghoth the Decayer, and deal with forcing their way through the house now in its true form; that of a nightmarish lair meant to chop the party into bits with its scythes and rat swarms. To be honest, I thought that this session would last longer; they managed to escape in about an hour. Someone found out that brittle walls also means brittle floors, so they went from the 4th to the 3rd floor by falling through a hole made by the Dragonborn.
Of course, I make them take falling damage, until someone grabbed a rope.
I managed to tag members of the party a couple times with the scythes, but they managed to spill out the front door…
…and back into Baldur’s Gate.
As some of you would read from earlier posts, I moved the Death House and repositioned it over Mandorcai’s Mansion in Baldur’s Gate, replacing it on the plane. Having this be this haunted mansion is an excellent way to implement Death House into a Baldur’s Gate setting; using it as Mandorcai’s Mansion.
In the Curse of Strahd campaign, however, I have this be the ending:
The moment they leave the front porch, they arrive at the cobbled streets of the Bloombridge district, and they find that the mists have receded. When they turn around to see that the mansion they came out of has vanished. The area is just a vacant lot now, with green grass and chirping birds.
In the midst of the crowd who saw what was once Mandorcai’s Mansion vanish from existence, as sudden as it appeared so long ago, Madam Eva hobbled into view, joined by a couple watchmen with your 1000 gold coins each. “Congratulations,” she said. “It looks like you might be the ones we of Barovia are looking for. Perhaps I could invite you to talk to an old woman about what just happened?”
This will lead up to the Curse of Strahd campaign proper, and a bit of a quandary: My campaign party now has two campaigns to work on: Out of the Abyss and Curse of Strahd. At first I thought I’d duck back into Out of the Abyss and then get back into I6 Ravenloft 2016…ahem…Curse of Strahd. However, the party liked the part about interacting with the NPCs, which is a) something I’d like to work on, and b) more prevalent in Curse of Strahd. So the party decided to alternate between campaigns. Out of the Abyss in the next week, then Curse of Strahd after that, then back to Out of the Abyss until this campaign is completed.
Item: Scourge of the Sword Coast recap
By now I have my Thursday session on hiatus since the remaining party decided that it would be best to start a new campaign instead of just plopping in new players that don’t know what happened in the several months prior. So I shelved Dead in Thay until later. I still might need to better emulate virtual parties, after all.
Looking back at the campaign that officially ended in the near TPK with that Pit Fiend turned Archangel, there are some items that I’d like to discuss. These are lessions I learned on the way to DMing greatness.
First off before anything else, I learned a very important thing: Friend DMs don’t let Friend DMs work with Cyphers in a 5E setting. Especially Cyphers that emulate the Deck of Many Things. In fact, don’t even think of using that god-damned artifact. At. All.
Second point is more applicable to other campaigns, and eventually Æthercoil. During the Scourge of the Sword Coast campaign, they actually started a business. (It’s now run by Pancheska, a CN-aligned succubus. Or at least that’s what the general public things: Who would expect something so complex be run by a Robotic Bunny Girl?) In Living Parnast and Æthercoil there is going to be some planning of homesteads, cities, and businesses.
There’s going to need a mechanic for these scenarios. I believe that I can make a uniform mechanic inspired by Pathfinder’s Kingmaker series that come into play inbetween chapters in modules, during downtime. The basis behind this mechanic is styled similar to a turn of Magic: The Gathering:
- Untap Phase: This is where most of the stats [Stability, Economy, Loyalty, Unrest, and Build Points] are set up for the turn. Also, any assets that were used in the previous turn and sessions beforehand are (usually) returned to standby, ready to be used again.
- Upkeep Phase: This is where most of the main checks needed to be made for the turn. The Checks for Stability, changes of population, income and consumption are taken care of, and so on.
- Main Phase: This is where most of the building takes place in. The map involved is a series of 2×2 blocks with a road or ally surrounding them. Each map starts off with some pre-made blocks and you can expand some blocks as well as build on the blocks you already claimed. You can also set up businesses and services and grant related roles to various NPCs. You can only a limited number of teams that you can devote to building. (Note that it Build Teams might need more than one turn to finish building)
- Event Phase: This is a random event that pops up during the daily operation of the location, be it a home base, town, farm, business, and what not. This can be either a wheal or a woe so it’s best to prepare for the unexpected.
- Main Phase 2: You can split up the needs for the main phase before and after the Event.
- End Phase: After you finish with your planning, set your NPCs to their jobs, and have your Build Teams up and running, you can now prepare for the next session or chapter in your campaign. You might receive some reports on the road ahead, and you can buy any needed items and restock your supplies. (Of course, you might need a certain installation, store, business, or whatever built for you to do so)
I’ll be working on this for all of my projects, and I might even make a document for this mechanic in a RPG Document site. If you have any suggestions or wishing to brainstorm with me, feel free to chat with me over at Google Plus.
The third item is something I’m working on already: Improving the XP system. I’ve been working more on the Excel sheet to spread the XP among all three pillars in an RPG, [Combat, Interaction, Exploration] this is something I’ll be implementing starting with Curse of Strahd, although Living Parnast and Æthercoil will have a more finalized version of this.
Last but certainly not least is something I learned very quick when running Campaigns on Twitch: Worldbuilding is just as important as Preparing the actual module. Not only do I have to make sure that I have encounters, maps, and scenarios set up because the Hardcover modules do not give you every detail of the campaign, but you might need to make up random events, roll up some random NPCs, make sure you have a Tavern, inn, traveling merchant, or Item shop ready to offer the party when they need it. And having a randomly generated dungeon that you can modify on the fly is a good idea.
In other words, even though you should steer clear of the Cypher generator, Donjon and the alternates will be the DM’s best friend. Not to mention a One Note book to keep track of all the things you create in advance, and you will need to make them.