My Monday campaign took an interesting turn this week. The heroes were settling accounts with the Horned Alliance (a tiefling thieves' guild) when they pushed two villains into the gears of a gargantuan contraption called a time prison (an arcane device built by a dragonborn mage for the Dragovar Empire — think of it as a creative alternative to the empire's current prison system). The contraption began to malfunction, causing "stutters" in time that wreaked havoc with the initiative order. Despite valiant efforts to stabilize the machine (read: skill challenge), it exploded with chronomantic energy and hurtled heroes and villains alike three years into the future.
This isn't my first use of time travel in the campaign, but it's the first time a group has traveled to the future. On top of that, there's a good chance they'll be stuck there for the rest of the campaign. It's afforded me a rare opportunity to imagine what has transpired in the heroes' absence and to surprise the players by challenging their perceptions of where the campaign is headed. The revelation is compounded by the fact that Jeremy Crawford's character was not present for the session. Ergo, his character was not blasted into the future.
I've said this before in many forums: No Dungeon Master should contemplate using time travel without tremendous forethought and a poopload of prep work. It can seriously eff up your campaign. If it's not telegraphed, your first reward will be the wide-eyed "oh sh*t" look on the players' faces. Then comes the reward of pulling back the curtain and showing what happens to a world deprived of the adventurers' interference.
Here are a few spoilers for those who enjoy reading the campaign chronicles:
The Sea Kings United: To ensure their survival, the feuding Sea Kings have united under a single flag . . . the first time this has happened since Draeken Malios briefly united the Sea Kings at the Battle of the Roiling Cauldron. So who's the One King To Rule Them All? Here's a hint: He just got out of prison.
The Black Curtain Parted: The biggest mystery of the campaign is what lies beyond the Black Curtain — an impenetrable barrier of darkness that has been slowly engulfing the world. While the Dragovar Empire struggles to hold itself together, a secret kingdom wiped from the annals of history sends fleets of ships through the barrier to wipe the Dragovar Empire off the map.
The Knights Divided: The Knights of Ardyn, once viewed as the greatest threat to the imperial throne, have become the Dragovar Empire's best hope of survival. However, Ardyn's knights are stretched thin holding back the ravenous tide of the Far Realm-corrupted Myrthon Regency to the west, the conquering fleets to the east, and the evergrowing kingdom of Skaravostrym.
The Baronies Betrayed: The eight barons of Bael Nerath have put aside their petty squabbles and conceded to a fateful meeting that will ensure the survival of humanity. However, one of them has forged a secret alliance that could destroy his rivals in one fell swoop.
I look forward to seeing which plotlines get the characters hooked and which ones fall by the wayside!