Category Archives: Mystara

Adapting Tomb of Annihilation for Mystara: Port Kastellos

I am running the campaign Tomb of Annihilation for D&D 5th but with several house rules (i.e. heXPloration) and a shift in the setting, as I have placed the adventure in the Mystara setting. This here is my presentation of the adaption so far.

My favorite D&D setting is the Mystara setting, thus I prefer to place my campaigns here, and in order to do so, some adaption has to be done, though I try to keep adaptions minimal in order to keep my extra work at a minimal.

Tomb of Annihilation takes place in Chult in Forgotten Realms, bit I have chosen to adapt it to Mystara, and have placed the area on the northern coasts of Davania, since a part of that region is not too far off the map from the adventure, as I am using the Chult map for the adventure. There is not much canon material on Davania and less on the region, that I have chosen, so new material must be added. Other fans of the setting have through Vault of Pandius created new material, but it did not fit my vision of the game, so it is not in use.

The Great Evil

In the official campaign an evil entity sucks life and souls to it, in order to become a divine being, and this is causing resurrected people to wither away.

Since my players my spot this blog post in the forays into the web, I will not reveal too much here, but in general the same curse has hit Mystara, however, the origin is of another nature, and one that the Immortals are silent about.

Another consequence of the curse is that, creatures that extend their life through magic, has also begun to wither away. This has great consequences for nations such as Alphatia and Glantri, where wizards live for a long time through the application of magic. They too are now dying, and they have an interest in finding and stopping the cause, but their foes and rivals are tempted to let the curse run its course in order to hurt Alphatia and Glantri. The Hattian Order of the Storm Soldiers for instance have in interest in stopping anyone trying to end the curse (and in the campaign the order replaces Order of the Flaming Fists).

Davania/Chult –  Some Notes

As long as the campaign lasts the map from Tomb of Annihilation takes precedence of the normal maps of Mystara’s continent of Davania, and certain cities and areas are thus changed, and some of these deals with the nature of the campaigns evil.

Hattian Storm Troopers have a presence on the continent, as they try to interfere with anyone trying to stop the curse.

Heldannic Knights are present as well (they replace Order of the Gauntlet), and they are explorers of the region – for reasons for now kept secret – in part because a strange phenomenon in the jungles stops their flying ships from working, and the knights needs to know how and why.

The wreck of the flying ship The Star Goddess is now a wrecked Sky Gnome flying ship from Serraine stranding a small colony of Sky Gnomes in Kastellos, where they patiently await the return of Serraine and try to fund an expedition into the jungle to retrieve their wreck.

Kastellos/Port Nyanzaru – The History of the City

Build on top of ruins from a former unknown civilization (remains of the Milenian diaspora into the Davanian continent; was abandoned when the empire collapsed around 50BC), the Thyatian Empire established a farflung colony here during the reign of emperor Androikus II late 400 or early 500 AC. The colony was named Kastellos, and though chroniclers mention the ruins, they have no knowledge of the builders, nor their name.

During the 700s the nation of Hule begins expanding its influence in to the northern coasts of Davania, and this isolates Kastellos and its sister colony Garganin from the Thyatian Empire, and around 750 Garganin briefly becomes a colony under Hule control, though around 800 the Yavdlom Divinarchy returns to power and wrestles Hule’s control of the region from it. Garganin becomes independent again, while Kastellos remained independent during the whole period. An influx of Yavdloms to both Garganin and Kastellos begins, and when explorers in 852 from the Minrothad Isles discovers the sea routes to Kastellos and Garganin, they describe the two city states as populated by Yavdloms.

Kastellos and Garganin enters the sphere of influence of the Yavdlom Divinarchy, and they become two satellite states culturally and politically aligned with the Divinarchy, but also still independent cities, and they become places for Yavdloms to emigrate, if they do not want to accept the governing style of the divinarchy. In Kastellos – which is called Nyanzaru or Port Nyanzaru in the native tongues of the Yavdloms – a governing style inspired by the Minrothaddian traders consisting of a council of Merchant Princes arise, and one that is at odds with the divinarchy as it openly uses divination and welcomes rogue diviners from the divinarchy.

In 965 Thyatia returns to the Davanian continent as colonies are established in the Hinterlands, but no new relations are established with the still distant Kastellos or Port Nyanzaru, however, the city still contains a considerable minority of descendants from the Thyatian colonial period 500 to 300 years earlier, and they begin dreaming of returning to Thyatis as an official colony causing a schism with majority of the city’s population. The Thyatian descendants have not been in contact with the empire for 300 years, but that is about to change.

During the latest outbreak of lycanthropy some 40 years ago as large community of Minrothaddian wererats chose to leave the islands, rather than suffer through another Night of the Long Knifes, and at the time they chose to establish themselves in one of the most distant trading ports known to Minrothaddians, and thus they fled or moved to Port Nyanzaru, where they brought their knowledge of ship building technology with them, and became famed ship builders in the city state – and no one knew, what they brought with them. The wererats seek to keep a strict control on their hereditary and infectious lycanthropy and often forbid their members to marry outside of their ranks causing much grievance and rebellion amongst the youth.

At present in the year 1004, Port Nyanzaru is mainly populated by emigrant Yavdloms and their descendants, who has left the divinarchy and set up a council of merchant princes inspired by the Minrothad model. In the city is also a minority of emigrant Minrothadians, many of whom are wererats or related to people suffering from the curse of lycanthropy. The city has a minority of Thyatian descendants many generations removed from their ancestor’s empire, though they dream of returning to the empire, which they have no knowledge of beyond tales told innumerable times.

Of the original founders, the Milenians, there are no trace, as they are completely lost to history, but the foundation of the city is build upon their city – and perhaps there are people in Kastellos or Port Nyanzaru, who knows the earliest history of the city?

More on the city and continent, as I begin my write-ups on the campaign’s game sessions.

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Houserules for Tomb of Annihilation hex crawl XP: hexPloration

I am running a Tomb of Annihilation campaign but as with my previous major D&D campaign set in Mystara, I have begun modding the game adding house rules of various kinds. Some are simply dealing with adapting the campaign to the Mystara setting, which required some changes. Other rules are for adapting the game to our play style. One such set of rules are the alternate XP-system we are using to emphasize the settings hex crawl aspect.

heXPloration

XP are gained from travelling through and exploring the wilderness.

XP gained:

  • 1 XP for exploring a mapped hex (some parts of the map are mapped before the game begins)
  • 2 XP for exploring an empty hex
  • 1 XP for exploring a location in a hex
  • 1 XP for each week spent in the wilderness

XP needed to level: 5+lv*5 – so 10 XP is needed to reach level 2, 15 to reach lv 3 etc.

Spending XP: XP are kept in a pool, that can be spent on characters in safe locations (each player has three characters).

Multiple characters and levelling: each player controls three characters. A character can be no more than two levels higher than the lowest in the trio (e.g. a character cannot reach level 5, if one of the other characters is at level 2).

And that is it. The XP-system entices the players to send their characters into the wilderness and even to take detours, as it gains them XP while they risk running into strange and unplanned encounters and risk running out of supplies.


Tomb of Annihilation – Captains of Chult

Large stretches of Chult are coasts, and with Port Nyanzaru being a port, it is an obvious choice to reach distant parts of Chult by sailing along the coast rather than braving the jungles or the sluggish rivers – but ships are expensive, so how does explorers in Tomb of Annihilation get there? By hiring transport on a ship, and in the dingy taverns of Port Nyanzaru, there are captains who offer their services for a reasonable fee.

I really like the concept of guides in Tomb of Annihilation. It may seem obvious, and yet it is so rarely done this well in wilderness adventures. Expanding upon the idea, thus allowing us to increase the scope of expeditions into the wilderness, I added Experts for Hire as mentioned in my previous post, and now I have Captains for hire. An assortment of captains, each with their own little kernel of a potential adventure, and a series of random events ranging from bad weather to weird and inexplicable phenomena. Captains of the Coasts of Chult can now be found at DM’s Guild. My previous Expedition Crew supplement was Experts of Chult, and I am considering adding a third one.

I am running my own Tomb of Annihilation set in the Mystara setting, and there may be hidden a few references to that setting among the captains, but easter eggs seems to a part of D&D 5th edition, so it is merely keeping with the style.

 


Tomb of Annihilaton – Experts of Chult

Tomb of Annihilation is an interesting campaign module, not just because of the modern attempt to create a hex crawl adventure but also because of some the tools the adventure contains. One of these tools are the Guides. They are NPCs with well-developed personalities, quirks and secrets, and not just that they are set-up with nice handouts, making them easy to present for the players and keep in mind.

The guides may not be a revolutionary thing, but they are still something I have not seen in other hex crawl adventures. Some adventures may suggest hiring a guide and even add a few details, but having a roster and letting the players choose between these set-ups is quite inspiring.

For my ToA campaign (which is set in the Mysrara setting) I am planning on running larger expeditions with more henchmen, and thus I wanted to add more NPCs for hire, and they did not all need to be Guides. Some could be experts with valuable skills, and thus I set up a bunch a small selection of Experts for Hire. The Experts of Chult – which now can be found at DM’s Guild.

Using henchmen, that are more than anonymous torchbearers and sword caddies, is also an opportunity to add role-playing situations to an otherwise eventless trek through the wilderness. Travelling through the wilderness may present the players with obstacles and challenges, but many are dealing with savage beasts or difficult terrain, but many does not include beings to interact with, and having NPCs jog along means there continuously will be beings to interact with. The experts add skills or bonuses to skills, but getting access to these require interacting with them, and that creates opportunities for role-playing.

Experts of Chult is the first of my Expedition Crew supplements to Tomb of Annihilation. The next one is Captains of the Coasts of Chult, as seafaring along the coasts will likewise be a part of my campaign.


Xanathar’s Guide to Everything including Easter Eggs

So I went and added Xanathar’s Guide to Everything to my library, which I intend to mine for ideas, when running my tweaked Tomb of Annihilation campaign – and lo and behold, if not a reference to an old favorite D&D-module sprang forth during the reading of the book.

D&D 5th edition contains several call backs to earlier D&D-material, for instance they happily namedrop older settings in their campaign books even though the default setting is Forgotten Realms, but they also add small touches here and there referencing various characters, details, events and such from older modules. For instance the Monster Manual in the goblin section, they reference ‘Bree-Yark’ from module B2 Caves of Chaos, and in the Players Handbook a table of random items contains wines from module B7 Rahasia. And being both a D&D becmi and a Mystaran fan this warms my heart. Likewise I was pleasently surprised, when I discovered that Xanathar’s Guide to Everything caries a reference to B4 The Lost City.

In the DM section the chapter on traps includes a deadly trap found in the Lost City of Cynicideans near the graves of queen Zenobia and king Alexander. These details are all taken from module B4, including the trap. I may not get Mystara back in published form, but at least I still get some references to some of my favorite stuff.

Any other references to the B-modules in the D&D 5th edition material?


Tomb of Annihilation – Using the Mystara Setting

This fall’s great adventure for D&D is the Tomb of Annihilation, and I picked up the book with some interest. I like the idea of a hex crawl having the players to travel deep into jungles searching for lost cities and ancient ruins, but without finding everything on their first go. Instead, they will have to make multiple journeys mapping the jungles bit by bit, and between expeditions they have a home base in a large harbor town.

I like this. I do not care much for the backstory with the curse killing people, who has been resurrected and making the raising of people impossible. It is a fine, grandiose plot, but not one, that I care for, and neither does the jungles of Chult nor Forgotten Realms have my interest. That is mostly because, when it comes to D&D settings, my favorite is The Known World or Mystara. So, I want to run this campaign, and I want to run it in the Mystaran setting.

But where to place this wonderful, empty hex map filled with deadly wonders and ancient secrets?

An obvious choice would be the major hex crawl adventure for D&D becmi, namely The Isle of Dread from module X1 The Isle of Dread (1980), which is an obvious choice, and I could simply just use the map from X1 with the adventure from Tomb of Annihilation, but I have already explored The Isle of Dread, and it could be interesting to try some other area.

Tomb of Annihilation itself suggests The Savage Coast, but they are probably not thinking of module X9 The Savage Coast (1985) but rather the (sub)-setting later published for AD&D 2nd edition The Savage Coast (based on the expanded material from the articles Voyage of the Princess Ark), but even though the region is called ‘savage’ it is far from unexplored or inhabited, and adapting Tomb of Annihilation to this region would require a lot of work, if I want it to stay true to the Mystaran setting.

There is, however, an interesting alternative. South of the Sea of Dread lies the continent Davania, and though parts have scarcely been colonized by Thyatis, it is at least from the view of The Known World unexplored lands, that are vaguely known, and near the Serpent’s Peninsula on the opposite side of The Serpent’s Sound the continent of Davania is somewhat shaped reminiscent of Chult area from the ToA book, which means that I can use the map from ToA without it being too far off, and that saves me time.

The coastal city being used as a base in ToA will be replaced with its Mystaran equivalent – there is actually one on the continent of Davania in the right place – called Kastellos. The name could indicate a Thyatian origin, but its position is just next to the Yawdlom Divinarchy, which means that I can keep large parts of the material from ToA and add materiale from the box set Champions of Mystara, which describes The Serpent’s Peninsula and The Yawdlom Divinarchy.

Adapting ToA to Mystara

The Mystaran Tomb of Annihilation plays out in the harbor town Kastellos on the continent of Davania. The town was originally a Thyatian colony, but Thyatis was unable to maintain its control of the city, and soon a large part of the population were newcomers from the Yawdlom Divinarchy seeking adventure. The city still has a large minority of Thyatians, and both traders from the Minrothad Isles and Thyatis pass by regularly keeping Kastellos in the orbit of The Known World-region.

Besides Thyatians and Yawdloms, Kastellos is home to a thriving colony of wererats, who arrived from Karameikos, as well as a large group of skygnomes stranded here, when their skyship crashed, and they are waiting for the flying city of Serraine to pass their way again. Elves are rare, but the few that are here, are mostly forest elves from Karameikos and sea-elves from Minrothad. Dwarves are here as travelling artisans, and the few hin finding their way here, are mostly hin pirates from the coasts of The Five Shires. Small groups of tortles from the Savage Coast also call the northern coasts of Davania for home, and they can be seen in the streets of Kastellos. Davania is home to nomadic tribes of Rakasta – some are related to the Rakasta from Isle of Dread – and Lupins. This should give a hint as to which playable races will be used in the campaign.

I am right now in the process of adapting ToA to run it in the Mystaran setting. This is first post in a small series of posts about adapting ToA, and fitting its backstory and plot into the existing framework of Mystara.


#RPGaDay2015 – Day 24: Favorite House Rule

rpg-a-day-2015Today the challenge in #RPGaDay2015 is favorite houserule, and I will pitch in with a few thoughts on my own. Houserules are interesting but sometimes also controversial, but to my mind most controversies around house rules are related to how they are broadcast to the group, and the purpose of houserules. To some a houserule is used to mend a perceived flaw in the system, whether there is a flaw or not, and careless applied houserule might in such instances make the game less appealing for the other players thus hurting their game experience and creating a controversy.

Day 24 – Favorite Houserule

I like houserules, and we use them a lot. We usually play with two kinds of houserules: 1) Campaign house rules (tailored rules) and 2) Houserule of the day.

Tailored rules are houserules, that are added to the campaign to make the rulesystem help focus on certain aspects of the game. In a Mystaran D&D Glantri campaign, where all the characters were wizards attending The Great School of Magic, all XP were gained from passing courses in magic, not from killing and looting, which forced the players to divide their time between attending classes and going on adventures.

Houserule of the day is a favorite among my players. In this instance a rule is introduced, that only applies for one session (unless it becomes such a succes, that it becomes a permanent feature of the campaign). Houserule of the day is a specific rule introduced to support a certain event or feature during a session (just as when an episode of a tv-show is filmed entirely in black/white or as a muscial). One such houserule during the wizard campaign was A Night at the Opera, where the wizard students when to a yearly major opera and the action alternated between the story of the opera and the backstage intrigues among shady wizard nobles.

In this case the rule was: Everytime you want your character to do something at the opera (a clandestine meeting, conspirering, gaining intel etc.), you must play a scene from the opera, and the scene must last two minutes.

This meant that the action alternated between the play on the stage and the intriques behind the stage and among the nobles on the balconies at at opera house, and we had some great fun at seing the players act out the different roles of the opera struggling to keep a scene lasting two minutes (this required a lot of repeating the same lines “I love you … I love you … I looooooooooove you …” giving the events on the stage a feel of being an opera play).

So the opera house might have been a favorite, but mine would in this case be the following:

Play a scene, gain a bonus

This is the most basic version of the scene, but we use it in a variety of ways. In The Great School of Magic campaign, the rule was formulated as follows: Play a studyscene with another play to gain a bonus to pass an exam.

Passing exams was the source of XP and thus levels, and the players would do their best to gain as many bonuses to these rolls as possible – and one source was studyscenes. In a studyscene the player’s character would be studying together with a secondary character belonging to another player, and what happened during the scene was open, and was mostly being used to develop characters and explore aspects of their personalities. It allowed the players to shine, and was important for the development of the characters.

We use this kind of houserule in many different versions, and it works great to put a focus on the small things, but stille those that develop characters and settings.


A New XP-system: Exploration-based Rewards

Recently I noticed, that Erik Mona does not like the experience point system – and thus have created his own system – and it reminds of how I have been doing XP myself.

On the good old pre-2000 days, you killed an orc and gained some XP. You might get 50 points or so, and only needing a few thousands, then that was ok. Unless you played D&D becmi, where an orc gave 10 points, and your first level fighter needed 2000 to go up a level. Then collecting treasures became really important.

But even with the increased XP values of monsters in AD&D, once you needed 10.000 or even more XP, killing a few monsters granting some hundreds XP or so resulted in bookkeeping XP just felt meaningless. This also began being reflected in scenarios, where you huge sums of XP were being granted for reaching the end of a module, and in some cases whole levels were granted (making it even less meaningful to collect XPs for killing a few orcs).

With this slowly deteriorating system for granting XP became still more useless, many began developing new ways of granting XP, and when 3rd edition came around a new shiny model were introduced, and an even shinier one with the 4th ed rules.

Since XP is such a nice thing to drive the game, as it quite literally is an award, you can use it to tell the players, what you want to reward them for. Kill monsters and bring home treasures! Complete modules! Use your class based abilities! For surviving encounters (as Erik Mona suggests)! Spending your money at the inn between adventures (as I saw suggested years back)! Roleplaying! (An always nebulous one for who is to gauge “roleplaying”, and you might end rewarding extrovert or charismatic players or players for ‘reading’ their GM?).

Attending Class, Gaining XP

I just recently ended an eight year long campaign about a group of teenage wizards at The Great School of Glantri. Xp were not granted for killing monsters or picking up treasures, nor were they granted for ‘good roleplaying’, but instead for attending classes and passing exams, and everytime you had enought to level up, you had to pass a test. Failing exams also gained XP, as you still had learned something.

The system worked great. It gave the game a good focus – we are at school and need to balance fun and adventuring with actually attending class, and what to do, when a great adventure presents itself the night before exams? It also gave us space to explore, what happens at wizard schools and how does it feel to attend one?

Exploration-based Experience

For my D&D retro-clone the focus is on exploration. I have been reading and playing a a bunch of the old, really old modules, and one thing that separates them from the 90’s modules is absence of the detailed narratives to draw the PCs through (especially thinking of the Ravenloft and Planescape modules here), and from the 3,5 material, where you go from encounter to encounter. In the older material you explore areas. You map dungeons, you fight monsters, avoid traps and meet weird things, ancient things and strange things. There are plenty of empty rooms, and sometimes there is a room with a large bed and a lady’s hat for no other reason as to pique the players’ imaginations.

So for my D&D retro-clone (previous design posts part 1, part 2) I want an XP-system, that rewards the players for exploring dungeons, for poking their noses into the next room and the next room and the next room again.

This is what I came up with.

The Adventure Points System

For each room investigated the party gains 50-100 Adventure Points (50 for fairly harmless dungeons, 100 for average dungeons).

For each wonder and mystery encountered the party gains 50-400 points. Mysteries can be an enchanted lake, an illusion covering a room or some other supernatural effect. Wonders are the wonders experienced in the dungeons, as finding an ancient wallpainting made by a long forgotten artist, whose art touches your soul, or it may be a natural rock-formation in a grotto of great wonder.

For each trap encountered is gained 50-400 points – and half that much if the trap is avoided or otherwise not triggered. So if you find a pittrap, but never activates it, or disarm a crossbow-trap before it is triggered, you gain less, than if you fall into the pit or get shot at by the crossbow-trap. The basic idea is to entice the players to touch the red button, knowing they will only get half, if they disarm the red button instead of triggering it.

Adventure Points for exploring, for wonders and mysteries, and for traps are rewarded, when the PCs leave the dungeon and have time to rest briefly. Each PC present gains the full amount (four characters exploring eight rooms each gain 800 adventure points).

For treasures brought all the way home, the players each gain a share of adventure points equal to the treasure brought home. The four characters have borught home treasures equal to 500 gold, so each character gains 125 adventure points, however one of the characters hid a gem (value 50 gold) for himself. That character gains additional 50 adventure points, as he does not share the treasure.

The adventure point table

  • Level      Adventure Points
  • 1                             0
  • 2                     1200
  • 3                    2400
  • 4                    4200
  • 5                    6000
  • 6                    8400
  • 7                 10800
  • 8                 13800
  • 9                 16800
  • 10              20400

So far

I have tested the Adventure Points with several groups, and the great thing is that it works as intended. It makes the PCs open every door and stick their head into every nook and cranny. Since monsters don’t reward any Adventure Points, and combat with them generally slows exploration down, the PCs are just as willing to negotiate and use trickery to avoind fighting monsters, as they are to pick fights, and plenty of things are left alive, as long they grant access to more parts of the dungeon.

The extra points for mysteries, wonders, and traps also ensures, that the PCs are less likely to avoid set-ups and potential dangers, as being exposed to these, grants more Adventure Points. The players are eager to explore and map dungeons, to push on and take just one more room, because they are certain to gain points (every room grants points, whether or not any monsters, traps or any other things are present, so picking just one more room is a calculated risk).


DECEMBER RPG BLOG CARNIVAL – On Death’s Threshold

I will attempt to resurrect my blog by joining this months blog carnival – Heroes, Living & Deadwhich Runeslinger recently announced.

To day it is just a brief story about how mechanics and rules shape play, and for us created a heroic moment in old campaign.

It was a D&D 3rd ed. campaign in the Mystara-setting.

Three characters were by means of planes and portals stranded in the far end of their home world, and they had to travel immense distances to reach their home, northern end of Norworld. Near the end of the journey, they had reached the Northern Reaches, a viking-like realm consisting of the kingdoms Ostland and Vestland, and the Soderfjord Jarldoms. One of the three characters, a warrior-priest originated from Ostland, so the three travellers decided to go visit his old family, and here they became involved in an intrigue, where a family were outing the others through holmgangs and duels. The family had hired a berserker to represent them in duels, and then they challenged the other locals to duels in order to steal their lands.

Out heroes decides to end this, and the warrior-priest volunteers to confront the berserker in a duel to the death (and resurrection is extremely rare in the campaign, ie. we did not use it). Dice were rolled, and the berserker did good. He whittled down out hero’s hit points, and got him down to 0 HP. From here the hero could either surrender and be healed and thus survive, or he could spend a half action and fall down.

As he is on his knees, he decides, that an attack is the only option, and using his remaining action, he not only hits his opponent, but his rolls a critical success, confirms it, and succeeds in bringing down his foe to -10 hit points in one blow, thus decapitating the berserker, where after he falls unconscious on his defeated opponent.

No dice were fudged during the events. It was just random dice rolls, and then the structure of the rules, that allowed us this epic moment, where the hero is on his last knee, and then succeeds in killing his foe with one blow before he falls unconscious. It was an awesome moment, and not one easily forgotten. Neither was it a moment, we had anticipated.


Playing CM7 The Tree of Life (old school D&D)

So I have not been too busy on this blog, where as I spew out posts on my Danish blog. Sometimes I wish I could just send them through a translate-machine, but in no way are services like google translate able to translate longer texts in a meaningful way, but here goes. Here is a little on my roleplaying archaeological project, which is playing old D&D modules. As of know we are playing D&D BECMI and the module is CM7 The Tree of Life from 1986.

I spoke of the module earlier, but having played a few more sessions, two things become clear. One is that the elves have tremendous resources available. The group contains four ten level elves (that is more or less fighter 10/Wizard 10) and a wicca/shaman centaur (using the supplement PC1 Tall Tales of the Wee Folk) since a healer was necessary in the group. Little do they fight in combat, but mostly just bombard their targets with fireballs, lightning bolts, ice storms, hold monster, charm monster, magic jar, polymorph other, dimension door and telekinesis. Many encounters are solved in this manner in round one.

For a scenario designed to this huge amount of spell casters, several encounters are poorly designed. For instance one encounter is the elves scaling a cliff to investigate the nest of a roc, and the section contains a lot of notes of how the roc will attempt to grab the climbers and drop them off in the surrounding forests etc., but as the roc came flying, it was eliminated before its first attack round. An invisible medusa and her Invisible Servant was eliminated in much the same manner. Invisibility does not protect from a bombardment of fireballs.

Secondly a part of the scenario is the characters picking up 12 medallions to open a mysterious thing. The problems are partly that they do not know why, and they do know that the villain also wants it opened. So are they helping the villain by collecting the medallions or doing the right thing by getting there first? And what is at stake? – they do not know, so they do not really know if it is important. Also the medallions are hidden in a huge forest. There are often 20 miles or more between each location (and no horses are available), and so there is a lot of travel only interrupted by wandering monsters.

So what began as a fascinating scenario about saving a dying Tree of Life and battling an evil wizard and his army of orcs and humans, has been reduced to a grind of picking up items. I hadn’t imagined it would become reduced to a grind. Boring, sadly, it is.

Another trouble with the module is that several encounters contains inaccessible information, such as when the text reveals that the hydra wanted to annoy the Narwhale and the Nymph and thus stole the Nymph’s medallion, but then the hydra was killed by the mage, who took all of their medallions, thus leaving the PCs with a unsolvable mystery – why is the Nymph angry at the Narwhale? But then again the PCs met the Nymph – a watery monster – as it was about to drown one the evil mage’s knights, and they thus assumed it to be a monster, not a guardian of a medallion, and they killed it. So even though there was a mystery, it never entered the game.

Story vs Game

The story is about the elves mobilising the creatures of the forest to battle the evil wizard and his armies. Ages ago the wizard drove away the elves, but he was unable to plunder their sanctuaries, and now a small band of elves has returned to access the sanctuary to save their holy relic. During their travels they ally themselves with the denizens of the forest.

But what we experience around the table is the PCs travelling a huge forest to collect 12 quest items, but often they do not know what exactly they are looking for, nor do they know, when an encounter is a potential ally – for instance the griffins and the roc were potential allies, but the hydra and the manticores are enemies. The wizard, his armies and the grand story is far away.