My "The Perils of Elkridge" campaign. Ideas?

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Alrighty, so, to begin, at one point in time, near it's release I ran the Dungeon adventure "The Tyrant's Oath": www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/d... My cousins had come down to visit from MI to here in SC, and I decided to grab a random adventure from my folder, and it was this one. I cannot stress enough how much I believe this to be the absolute best adventure I've ever ran since I began DMing D&D in 2002. Anyways, I've been dying to re-run it for my actual weekly gaming group, and then found that it was actually part of a trilogy by the same author, the other being called "Force of Nature". If you plan on playing in either, there is most definitely spoilers ahead. 

The Tyrant's Oath takes PCs from 6th, to 7th, and Force of Nature takes the players from 9th, to 10th. There's an initial one as well that starts at 3rd called Remains of the Empire, but I'm going to start at 6th, since Remains seems a bit irrelevant in the trilogy's story.
   A very brief synopsis is;

- Players come to random valley, meet roadblock, fight bandits, find out they answer to a Skarn Felstorm.
- Either they go to a monolith in the swamp they can see from a vantage point, or straight to the town, Elkridge.
- SWAMP: They make their way through explosive brambles, then find cultists of Zehir taking captives to the monolith, fight ensues.
               - They approach the monolith, but cannot. Volley after volley of arrows drives the PCs off. They meet "Kylar Felstorm", Skarn's sister. They return to town.
- TOWN: They arrive in town to find it under bandit oppression, they are taken in by Vlayn Felstorm. They find Skarn is a bandit queen, daughter of Vlayn, and sister to Kylar. 
- Skarn sends bandits to get the PCs, she wishes to meet with them in her fortress up on the mountainside.
-They meet, fight ensues in a training pit to prove their worth to her. She is impressed.
-Vlayn rides in on horseback saying the cultists came into town and abducted Kylar, and that she needs to realize it is time to go to war with the cult in the swamp.
-Skarn agrees, and goes with the PCs up to an altar of Kord higher up on a peak, they all engage in prayer.
-The PCs ride with the bandit army into the swamp and massive epic battle ensues in form of a skill challenge.
-During the fight, they are able to slip in the temple, fight cultists, and go to lower room of 2-room dungeon.
-Fight the yuan-ti leader and Kylar, kylar has turned to the cult and was trying to lure Skarn to save her so that she would join, not the PCs.
TYRANT's OATH END

Force of Nature;

-PCs head back to Elkridge, levels later, find earthquakes. Skarn has become "lord-protector" of the town, rather than an opressive overlord, and the bandit army has been established as the town milita.
-Trace source of earthquakes to an ancient eladrin shrine in the woods, yuan-ti are attempting to destroy it and open a rift to the Feywild.
-They do, and a gargantuan "Sovereign Elk", and archfey, emerges and plows through the forest at walking pace, headed straight for the town, and the Fortress. 
-They find they can do nothing to the Elk.
-They venture into the feywild and learn the Elk's origins. Long ago it was an eladrin, he assumed the elk form when he had an epic encounter with a naga exarch of Zehir. He trapped it in a cold iron prison that exists simultaneously on the material plane and the feywild. Him touching it is the only way to open it and release the naga. The yuan ti ventured into the feywild weeks back and drew blood from the elk, and now use it to control it. Eladrin chick gives PCs blood as well.
-They return to the material plane and follow path of destruction left by elk.
-They find some of the town destroyed, but not so bad. Elk has continued to Skarn's old fortress (now a copper/iron mine) where the prison lies underneath.
-Epic battle of fighting the yuan ti and then bonding with the elk, entering it's subconsious, and purifying its mind of the yuan ti and snaketongue taint. He realizes who he is again, and returns home.
 FORCE OF NATURE END

I tried to keep it short, I really did. lol Anyways, I've added some of my own other favorite parts from other adventures into here as well. In the tyrant's oath, after they fight for Skarn, but before Vlayn arrives, I've inserted chapter 2 of 3.5's "The Red Hand of Doom". What happens then for me, is Skarn aggrees to go after the cultists, but know's her numbers are not enough, and tasks the PCs with rallying the native elves to the southern wetlands to the cause as well. The PCs travel south, skill challenge to find the elves. Meet them, and do their task; Kill a dragon that's settled down in the area in the ruins of the old capitol, sunk in the lake. When they do, the elves agree to join the final battle. The PCs return and Skarn then takes them up to Kord's shrine and so on. The elves show up mid battle when the skill challenge is looking grim for them and counts as a success. They arrive on their giant owl mounts raining down javelins and arrows as a kind of air support.

My other change is between the two adventures, It's mostly going to be expediting it, saying oh you're 7th level? You're 9 now. But midway, I'm throwing a "Dungeon Delve" at them from the book. The Snaketongue Cultist one, lol. In this mid-time between the adventures, I've deemed the time is called the "Snaketongue Purge" in which the players, as well as Skarn and her men, have been scouring the region for any stragglers left of the cult and their yuan-ti masters, having "Force of Nature" being the last ditch effort of the last of their numbers.

Now throughout all of this, The PCs end up seeing Elkridge a lot, their HQ technically. They also see "Starsong Hill" The elven encampment in the marshlands, as well as "Ironwood Spire" an eladrin settlement in the Feywild. I'd like to figure out how to include one more thing though. I'd like to drop "The Crossroads" ( www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/d...), a little place created for The Chaos Scar. Really small place, three buildings (trading post, house, and barracks/inn), and a large tower with cages hanging on it with people in. The Crossroads is where people go to sell black market goods, trade slaves, etc, stuff that's not really lawful. 

I want to include it because they get to visit 3 "towns" and all are kinda "goody-two shoes" places, so I want them to go to one "town" where it's completely different. It's simple just to drop it into the region, simple as drawing a dot on my map, but I need ideas for what PC incentives could be to go there.

At what point in the overarching story seems to be a reasonable time to visit such a dirty place? And why? I don't feel as if anything should be put in anywhere in the Force of Nature adventure, it's all about a huge threat, and a time limit, everything's a pressing matter. Whereas The Tyrant's Oath can be a bit slower, rallying the peoples to overcome a growing threat, culminating in a final epic showdown. There's also the between time I have to work with the "Snaketongue Purge" section of the overall adventure as I call it.

So, this has been really long. Apologies, but I needed to get this initial information out before I could actually ask my question, lol. Where can the Crossroads go in? Where would you put it? What are some reasons you could see the PCs going there with these events going on?

 
Dark Sun! Dark Sun! Dark Sun! Dark Sun! Dark Sun!
the bandit army has been established as the town milita.


This would be my hook. Maybe they discover some of the old bandits have a hard time dropping certain darker habits, and they need to sell their loot someplace. This could be as common as overhearing a conversation or even a quest to help find the culprits who are up to no good. As you say there will not be any opportunities during Force of nature, why not have them arrive back in the town after Tyrant's oath, then find the link to the bad town and when they return from the town start Force of nature? Could also help with the leveling dilemma.

I have never played any of these so not sure but that's how I'd do it.
Hmm, that could be good. It's not really de-railing the storyline, but it gives them a chance to go to a new locale not anywhere else in the adventure and is still relevant to everything, and is ultimately caused by their actions. 

I've thouroughly read through "The Crossroads" for the Chaos Scar, it's meant for Level 2, but I'm upping it to 7. It's basically a little "backdrop-setting-place" with a few encouters typed up IF the characters bring combat into it, so theoretically it could be all roleplay. The general jist of the Crossroads is a large Trading Post no one seems to own, simply a building where brave merchants meet to trade goods under the law, and a thing called the "Gibbet", a large 40' tall post with poles branching off, each with a cage with a person trapped in or dead in it. There's also a house for the only resident, a tiefling who uses psionics to determine how much an item will be sold for in the future, using that to appraise items for a small cut of the transaction between people, also he has stolen goods that he's cool with pawning off. And lastly there's a section called "The Boneyard", basically just a bunch of unmarked graves and shallow pits where they toss the corpses out of the cages when one needs to be cleared for a new person. It seems various people put people who have wronged them in the cages so they die a slow death. And that's really it for the place.

What kind of dark habits where you thinking? I think I like the idea of maybe weapons/armor meant for the new militia coming up missing, as well as a few of the bandits/guards not showing up for their shifts. Maybe the PCs do a little skill challenge in town to see if they can get info from townsfolk on what they saw? Ultimately leading them out of town headed towards the Crossroads?

Also, I think I'm positioning "The Crossroads" in the region so that it's not very out of the way when they go from Elkridge to rally the elves. So if they want to swing by and check out the place then, it's cool, and if not they'll see it for the first time later on. Perhaps even if they go there initially, when they return they might be on bad standings with people there. Hmmm...

Does the armor/weapons thing sound good? Or do you have any other cool suggestions?  
Dark Sun! Dark Sun! Dark Sun! Dark Sun! Dark Sun!
Yes I think the armor/weapons would be good. If you want something more advanced you could go for a kidnapped person. But NPCs sometimes bring out the worst in people Frown so going with the stolen items seems a safer bet.
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