Dragon 396 - Design & Development: March of the Phantom Bridage

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Dragon 396
Design & Development: March of the Phantom Brigade

by Rodney Thompson

March of the Phantom Brigade began life as a crazy idea on the way back from one of my favorite gaming stores.

Talk about this Article here.




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i appreciated learning about some of the design decisions faced in forming an Encounters season adventure. In fact, some of the challenges of the writers give room for the DMs to introduce side treks or other options which the writers must leave out.

I'm the organizer at my store and we have a strong group of regulars; this season we opened a third table and it appears we will have to open a fourth as well. Because we can rely on the players to show up or give notice when they won't make it, each DM can count on a certain group showing up each week. I've included options that apply to that group better than a rotating group due to that consistency.

gratiutous self-aggrandizement
My recent change was giving the halfling thief Merric's player a twist to enjoy. Early in the season, the group faced a copper dragon while it was young and impressionable. Merric was the only PC that didn't act threateningly toward the dragon, while the rest of the party was carefuly planning how to make a surprise attack during negotiations. Merric carefully moved close and wrestled his way on top of the dragon--mounted it with a nat 20.

As it appearred the group was intent on slaying a dragon, Moxulhar the copper shook Merric off and snarled before leaping through the open doors and flying from the balcony. However, she remembered that the halfling had bested her.

Late in the season as the group defended the keep, Merric again saw Mox flying above the battle and used a battle horn to call her down from above. She helped out a bit at the portcullis gatehouse and told Merric that she had an offer of what she wanted in return. Mox flew away to watch more of the battle play out. She returned after the party had slain the black dragon to make her demands.

It was pretty exciting to describe this dragon dropping to the ground behind Merric, placing her front claws on his shoulders and whispering her intentions to the first adventurer to beat her. Mox had seen that the party defeated both black dragons and would likely destroy Benwick (whom I had renamed Sarthane for other reasons); Mox wanted Merric to ensure that Lord Drysdale also perished with the assurance that this would open the keep to Mox and Merric to take control of the keep for themselves. The player chose on a die roll which dictated that Merric would take the deal from the dragon.

In the final fight, Merric 'accidently' sent a bolt at the dying Lord Drysdale and later plunged a dragontooth dagger in his back as well. No one really took notice considering the stealth rolls were well above 20.

As the final epilogue to the adventure, I was able to say that the rumors told of a copper dragon and a halfling that had taken control of the keep in the aftermath of Lord Drysdale's death. The group loved it, the uproar of finding out how that had all occurred was fantastic.

And that is just the sort of thing that I can include because I've got a group of players that will be mostly the same each week. However, it is also something that would be hard for the writer to include due to the uncertainty of such consistent attendance.

However, I didn't start playing D&D until 4e; I don't have the background knowledge of the calssic tales such as Keep on the Borderlands, Ghost Tower of Iverness, Halaster and Undermountain, the entire Dark Sun setting. t is great to see tidbits about that, but I just don't find that it impacts my investment.
As a DM and author for organized play (LFR, Ashes of Athas), I really like reading about how an author approaches the craft and a specific adventure. This was a really interesting article for me.

I would also like to see, after a particularly good encounter has been played, an article where the author talks about how they came up with that encounter. For example, there were some really nice encounters in the previous season. Having Chris Sims talk about the creation (and even editing) process would be really useful to DMs.

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