Adventure Tailoring: Hotel California

41 posts / 0 new
Last post
Hi everyone! I've been tinkering with an idea lately for an adventure which I could run with a small group of four PCs, and I was hoping I could get some help from the community.

The campaign is being run by a friend of mine in a particular format: he run the main storyline in arcs which typically last 3 to 4 play sessions of about 3 to 4 hours each. After each arc of his main story, one of the players steps up and runs an unrelated arc of their own, or a sidequest if you will, in which the main DM gets to play a bit. The responsibility now falls to me, but I regret to say I have absolutely no experience DMing in 4th edition.

The story is set in Dark Sun, where the PCs are part of a caravan which houses entertainers and merchants of all sorts...and all of whom are rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of the Sorceror Kings. I thought it would be a neat idea to put the others through the grinder in a situation loosely based off of the lyrics of The Eagles song, "Hotel California". Unfortunately, that is about where the idea stops. I sort of envision them getting seperated from the caravan and lost in a snadstorm, only to find some sort of uncharacteristically lavish inn at an oasis. There, all sorts of misfortune could befall them in the form of traps, manipulation, etc. If I can, I'd like to present some horror elements to the PCs as they have the tendency of using combat as a way out of everything and are not often challenged; I want to make them sweat and honestly feel like they may die. I am considering adding a long-term antagonist to this encounter as well. Lastly, I don't want it to be too obvious that the plot is mirroring the song's lyrics... they should only figure it out at the very end, as I wrap things up. Tall order, I know...

The party is composed of: a thri-kreen ranger (archer) who does obscene damage and rarely ever gets hurt (he also isn't much for discussion); a mul barbarian with a penchant for history; a revenant battlemind; and a mul runepriest. Any suggestions are welcome! Should I run this as a "Saw"-like scenario, with a sadistic and mysterious antagonist? Could it be a haunted inn, filled with spirits of the corrupt and gluttonous? I know this idea could be great, but I just need some structure and ideas on how to implement it. Help!
The story is set in Dark Sun, where the PCs are part of a caravan which houses entertainers and merchants of all sorts...and all of whom are rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of the Sorceror Kings. I thought it would be a neat idea to put the others through the grinder in a situation loosely based off of the lyrics of The Eagles song, "Hotel California".



Sounds like fun!

Unfortunately, that is about where the idea stops. I sort of envision them getting seperated from the caravan and lost in a snadstorm, only to find some sort of uncharacteristically lavish inn at an oasis.



This is where I would start the adventure. Anything in between the last session and the start of this adventure would be filled in with shared storytelling. "Tell me about the sandstorm that got you separated from the caravan and caused you to end up here..." That sort of thing. Start with action or tension - a compelling situation or question that needs to be answered, right now.

There, all sorts of misfortune could befall them in the form of traps, manipulation, etc. If I can, I'd like to present some horror elements to the PCs as they have the tendency of using combat as a way out of everything and are not often challenged; I want to make them sweat and honestly feel like they may die. I am considering adding a long-term antagonist to this encounter as well. Lastly, I don't want it to be too obvious that the plot is mirroring the song's lyrics... they should only figure it out at the very end, as I wrap things up. Tall order, I know...



All of that is a really tall order and a great idea, but inconsistently attainable. It's probably not even worth worrying about or spending too much time on. D&D's lousy at horror and 4e characters are very resilient such that ensuring "challenging encounters" is pretty much futile, at least in the sense you can put a ton of time into something only to have it turn out to be a cinch. Instead, focus on making it interesting rather than "hard." You'll spend less time on it and may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

As for plot, check out my signature for two articles that might help you out a lot. This is a great thematic location for building situations, not plot. 

The party is composed of: a thri-kreen ranger (archer) who does obscene damage and rarely ever gets hurt (he also isn't much for discussion); a mul barbarian with a penchant for history; a revenant battlemind; and a mul runepriest. Any suggestions are welcome! Should I run this as a "Saw"-like scenario, with a sadistic and mysterious antagonist? Could it be a haunted inn, filled with spirits of the corrupt and gluttonous? I know this idea could be great, but I just need some structure and ideas on how to implement it. Help!



If you'd like to give the approach I recommend a try, let me know and I'm happy to workshop some ideas with you. If you're prefer the more plot-based approach, I'm sure there are some storytelling DMs here that can give you ideas in that direction.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

The story is set in Dark Sun, where the PCs are part of a caravan which houses entertainers and merchants of all sorts...and all of whom are rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of the Sorceror Kings. I thought it would be a neat idea to put the others through the grinder in a situation loosely based off of the lyrics of The Eagles song, "Hotel California".



Sounds like fun!

Unfortunately, that is about where the idea stops. I sort of envision them getting seperated from the caravan and lost in a snadstorm, only to find some sort of uncharacteristically lavish inn at an oasis.



This is where I would start the adventure. Anything in between the last session and the start of this adventure would be filled in with shared storytelling. "Tell me about the sandstorm that got you separated from the caravan and caused you to end up here..." That sort of thing. Start with action or tension - a compelling situation or question that needs to be answered, right now.

There, all sorts of misfortune could befall them in the form of traps, manipulation, etc. If I can, I'd like to present some horror elements to the PCs as they have the tendency of using combat as a way out of everything and are not often challenged; I want to make them sweat and honestly feel like they may die. I am considering adding a long-term antagonist to this encounter as well. Lastly, I don't want it to be too obvious that the plot is mirroring the song's lyrics... they should only figure it out at the very end, as I wrap things up. Tall order, I know...



All of that is a really tall order and a great idea, but inconsistently attainable. It's probably not even worth worrying about or spending too much time on. D&D's lousy at horror and 4e characters are very resilient such that ensuring "challenging encounters" is pretty much futile, at least in the sense you can put a ton of time into something only to have it turn out to be a cinch. Instead, focus on making it interesting rather than "hard." You'll spend less time on it and may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

As for plot, check out my signature for two articles that might help you out a lot. This is a great thematic location for building situations, not plot. 

The party is composed of: a thri-kreen ranger (archer) who does obscene damage and rarely ever gets hurt (he also isn't much for discussion); a mul barbarian with a penchant for history; a revenant battlemind; and a mul runepriest. Any suggestions are welcome! Should I run this as a "Saw"-like scenario, with a sadistic and mysterious antagonist? Could it be a haunted inn, filled with spirits of the corrupt and gluttonous? I know this idea could be great, but I just need some structure and ideas on how to implement it. Help!



If you'd like to give the approach I recommend a try, let me know and I'm happy to workshop some ideas with you. If you're prefer the more plot-based approach, I'm sure there are some storytelling DMs here that can give you ideas in that direction.

Thank you for the suggestions iserith! I will definitely keep that in mind... and yes, I definitely see what you're saying in regards to horror. I DID plan to start the adventure off In Medias Res (explain the sandstorm after and just have them in the thick of things immediately), so I am happy that you suggested that.

Does anyone have some suggestions as to what could serve as encounters in this adventure? Any particular types of villain which could function well? Should I rock the undead angle, with a curse which must be lifted? Or a mysterious wizard's game?
Since it's Dark Sun, oath wight(s) would be mandatory in my book.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Hiram Cragnose made it his dwarven focus (life's goal) to build the greatest caravanserai ever to have risen from the Great Salt Flat. He chose great bricks of salt as his building material and over a period of many years Bittercrag (as he dubbed it) slowly rose from the endless white expanse, centered upon a crystal clear oasis somehow untouched by the salinity that threatened it from every side. His clan toiled and labored at great expense in both wealth and lives.

When it was nearly complete, the dreaded Pale Ssurrans of Shemu'el, who had long seen the oasis as their ritual breeding grounds, struck savagely and without mercy. But the Cragnose clan would not be detered from their focus and the battle raged until the white salt was crimson-stained. None would survive the carnage. As she watched her brood die and before she ritualistically took her own life, Tzivah, greatest of the ssurran dune mystics laid a curse upon the Cragnose clan and upon what remained of Bittercrag.

According to Tzivah's curse, never shall Hiram and his sons rest and never shall the keystone of Bittercrag be set by their hand. Forever would the dwarves toil at their task as oath wights. A great sandstorm would bring hapless travelers to Bittercrag, and as long as the keystone is missing, they can never leave, even through death. Over the intervening centuries, an odd assortment of travelers has come to Bittercrag where they remain, living eternally, plotting and scheming to this day.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Oh WOW, brilliant! That alone gives me so much to work with... I'm not terribly familiar with Dark Sun lore (I'm actually much more of an FR kinda guy...) so this is a big help. Now I just need to set up some encounters and a skill challenge for a newly paragon-tier party and this could work out nicely. I'll keep posting here as I develop this further.
Oh WOW, brilliant! That alone gives me so much to work with... I'm not terribly familiar with Dark Sun lore (I'm actually much more of an FR kinda guy...) so this is a big help. Now I just need to set up some encounters and a skill challenge for a newly paragon-tier party and this could work out nicely. I'll keep posting here as I develop this further.



I'm looking forward to hearing about it, sounds like a fun idea!
"The real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development." -Albert Einstein Resident Left Hand of Stalin and Banana Stand Grandstander Half of the Ambiguously Gay Duo House of Trolls, looking for a partner Wondering what happened to the Star Wars forums?
Show
Star Wars Minis has a home here http://www.bloomilk.com/ and Star Wars Saga Edition RPG has a home here http://thesagacontinues.createaforum.com/index.php
Show
141722973 wrote:
And it wasn't ****. It was subjectively concensual sex.
57036828 wrote:
Marketing and design are two different things. For instance the snuggy was designed for people in wheel chairs and marketed to people that are too incompetent to operate a blanket.
75239035 wrote:
I personally don't want him decapitated.
141722973 wrote:
And do not call me a Yank. I am a Québecois, basically your better.
And the greatest post moderation of all time...
58115148 wrote:
I gave that (Content Removed) a to-scale Lego replica. (Content Removed) love to-scale Lego replicas. (ORC_Cerberus: Edited - Vulgarity is against the Code of Conduct)
Questions for further development:

On the subject of Oath Wights: the group I'll be handling has just hit paragon. Would a 14th level creature be too much to handle with minions? Is there a way to scale it down/is info for such a thing found in the DMG?

I'm thinking that the characters can be introduced to the inn with an illusion that cloaks the ruin... and the oath wights can be dwarves of the slaughtered clan, also cloaked in illusion. Those who've stumbled onto the oasis and died can be complacent ghosts, harmless spirits trapped there by the Ssuran curse and simply...existing. Only as the characters are fed bits and pieces of the history (through a mechanism I have yet to choose...) would they start to break through the illusion and see things as they are. Perhaps the spirit of the Ssuran mystic could guide them? Or maybe, since we're dealing with a salt structure, she could be a Thrax guarding the keystone?

These are questions which I've posed to iserith via PM, but I am posting them here to help spur on discussion with all of you. Let's make this thread a thoroughly organic development of a fully fleshed-out adventure!
Level 14 plus some minions should be fine for a group of 10th levels. I find that upping the CR dosen't usually make the fight more difficult, it often just makes the encounter take longer.
"The real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development." -Albert Einstein Resident Left Hand of Stalin and Banana Stand Grandstander Half of the Ambiguously Gay Duo House of Trolls, looking for a partner Wondering what happened to the Star Wars forums?
Show
Star Wars Minis has a home here http://www.bloomilk.com/ and Star Wars Saga Edition RPG has a home here http://thesagacontinues.createaforum.com/index.php
Show
141722973 wrote:
And it wasn't ****. It was subjectively concensual sex.
57036828 wrote:
Marketing and design are two different things. For instance the snuggy was designed for people in wheel chairs and marketed to people that are too incompetent to operate a blanket.
75239035 wrote:
I personally don't want him decapitated.
141722973 wrote:
And do not call me a Yank. I am a Québecois, basically your better.
And the greatest post moderation of all time...
58115148 wrote:
I gave that (Content Removed) a to-scale Lego replica. (Content Removed) love to-scale Lego replicas. (ORC_Cerberus: Edited - Vulgarity is against the Code of Conduct)
Thanks for posting the PM here. I'm happy to do stuff over PM, but I know there are a few Dark Sun DMs on this forum who might want to jump in with their own ideas.

Questions for further development:

On the subject of Oath Wights: the group I'll be handling has just hit paragon. Would a 14th level creature be too much to handle with minions? Is there a way to scale it down/is info for such a thing found in the DMG?



If they are 11th-level, a 14th-level creature is really no problem, especially since it's a controller and not a soldier. We can talk about what monsters are here and whatnot after we've firmly established the Dangers.

I'm thinking that the characters can be introduced to the inn with an illusion that cloaks the ruin... and the oath wights can be dwarves of the slaughtered clan, also cloaked in illusion. Those who've stumbled onto the oasis and died can be complacent ghosts, harmless spirits trapped there by the Ssuran curse and simply...existing. Only as the characters are fed bits and pieces of the history (through a mechanism I have yet to choose...) would they start to break through the illusion and see things as they are. Perhaps the spirit of the Ssuran mystic could guide them? Or maybe, since we're dealing with a salt structure, she could be a Thrax guarding the keystone?



All great ideas. As far as disseminating information to the players, I'm not a big fan of creating info and then hiding it only to be revealed by skill checks or the like (maybe). My preference is to leave the information very vague and ask the players to help me figure it out as we go. But I recognize this might not be your group's style.

Going back to an earlier part of the discussion - I can't really help with writing a plot (since I don't think that's good design), but I can help you write up the location and the situations that might take place there. Maybe even a big set-piece encounter since I have some free time this weekend. When are you running this game? How many sessions are you allotted with your rotational system?

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

There is no firmly established date yet for when I'll be running this adventure; we have one more session next week with our main DM and then we can figure it out from there. Typically, individual adventures are wrapped up in 3 or 4 sessions; however, nothing stops us from leaving dangling plot threads, meaning I could stretch this out to be a multi-part adventure.

Perhaps what I could do is have the first part of the adventure take place in Bittercrag, pitting the PCs against the dangers there? Then, depending on how they handle things, the adventure could continue to another location in a search for the keystone which could THEN be guarded by the Sssuran mystic's shade, or whatever we can turn her into (I am partial to the Thrax idea as it makes sense with the salt; perhaps she is repentant? hmm...). This would put them in control of their fates: either they lay waste to/escape Bittercrag, or they promise to release the cursed spirits. Thoughts?
Perhaps what I could do is have the first part of the adventure take place in Bittercrag, pitting the PCs against the dangers there? Then, depending on how they handle things, the adventure could continue to another location in a search for the keystone which could THEN be guarded by the Sssuran mystic's shade, or whatever we can turn her into (I am partial to the Thrax idea as it makes sense with the salt; perhaps she is repentant? hmm...). This would put them in control of their fates: either they lay waste to/escape Bittercrag, or they promise to release the cursed spirits. Thoughts?



That could work. Me personally, I like single-location adventures. I mean "Dungeons" is fully one-third of the game's name, right?

We can get creative as to what a "location" encompasses, but I like your idea of having the adventure be in "Hotel California" (so to speak) which screams single location to me. It's a hotel in the desert. Stuff's going on there, creatures pursuing their goals. The PCs show up with their own goals. Action ensues organically.

To pull this off, I think the first thing is to determine the location: an unfinished caravanserai around an oasis in a salt flat. Check. Now we need to fill it with Dangers. I define "Dangers" (with a capital-D) as groups or factions with dangerous agendas, impulses, or motivations. So let's take a look at what we have based upon our brainstorming so far:

The Cragnose Clan (impulse: to finish building Bittercrag)

The Pale Ssurans of Shemu'el (impulse: to maintain the status quo)

Bittercrag Itself (impulse: to corrupt the living)

The Guests... definitely present and possibly a threat, but I don't think they're united enough to be a solid Danger. So these can just be "monsters" or NPCs the PCs interact with during their stay for good for for ill. Individual guests should have motivations.

Does that sound about right to you? 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I think that sums things up quite nicely. Beyond the sandstorm and getting lost, what do you think of the Pale Ssuran's acting as instigators of the adventure by attempting to chase the heroes away from Bittercrag? Perhaps they are an order charged with this task?
The Guests... definitely present and possibly a threat, but I don't think they're united enough to be a solid Danger. So these can just be "monsters" or NPCs the PCs interact with during their stay for good for for ill. Individual guests should have motivations.


"The Guests" could be multiple factions, some of them quietly at war with each other. The PCs could actually witness a guest of one faction murdering a guest of another faction... and then the next day see the murdered guest walking around and scheming with his allies.

Also, figure out how the "never leave" works. Can the guests go outside, say go swimming in the oasis? If so, what if they start determinedly walking north? (They travel for an hour and arrive back at the oasis?) If not, what happens when they attempt to open what should be an outside door, or look out a window?
"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
I think that sums things up quite nicely. Beyond the sandstorm and getting lost, what do you think of the Pale Ssuran's acting as instigators of the adventure by attempting to chase the heroes away from Bittercrag? Perhaps they are an order charged with this task?



I wouldn't worry about that so much in terms of prep. It's a logical (and likely) outcome of the Ssuran motivation above, which is to say, the PCs will probably start meddling and disrupting the status quo in which case the Ssurans would intervene, whatever that means in context.

You mentioned the sandstorm - I like the idea of the Ssurans being the sandstorm. If their goal is to "maintain the status quo" then taking the form of a sandstorm to keep people in as opposed to keeping them out would follow. Oh! What if when the PCs start meddling and getting close to helping Cragnose finish Bittercrag, the Ssurans simply stop the storm in hopes the PCs will leave. Imagine what a cool choice that would be for the PCs! (Getting ahead of ourselves though... this is not stuff we need to plan. In fact, we shouldn't plan for it per se.)

"The Guests" could be multiple factions, some of them quietly at war with each other. The PCs could actually witness a guest of one faction murdering a guest of another faction... and then the next day see the murdered guest walking around and scheming with his allies.

Also, figure out how the "never leave" works. Can the guests go outside, say go swimming in the oasis? If so, what if they start determinedly walking north? (They travel for an hour and arrive back at the oasis?) If not, what happens when they attempt to open what should be an outside door, or look out a window?



The guests could certainly be multiple factions or some of them loosely aligned or various shifting plots. That should be evident when you define each guest's motivation. I'm not sure I'd make them a Danger for prep purposes, not right away. They might elevate themselves to that based on what the PCs do, but initially, I don't think it's necessary. It'd just be another moving part to manage and we've already got three which in my experience produces a lot of interaction. (To the OP: When I post the Danger and "moves" for these later today, this should be clearer.)

You're right about the "never leave" part. I might be inclined to bring the players in on this. The sandstorm itself should present a threat, but I'd hate for it to be a situation where the PCs don't have the choice to up and leave, braving the sandstorm and leaving it to the dice. So I might just ask for the players to buy in to the fact that "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." How would you handle this?

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Hmm... the "never leave" part is tricky... OH! I could have them assigned to investigate the disappearance of one of the caravan's scouts, which could lead them to the hotel. Then, while there, they could attempt to solve the mystery as they gradually learn about Bittercrag's sordid history. If the PCs are assigned to a mission, they would be less inclined to leave immediately, but they would have the option to do so. If they try to leave, however, it could anger the undead residents.
Hmm... the "never leave" part is tricky... OH! I could have them assigned to investigate the disappearance of one of the caravan's scouts, which could lead them to the hotel. Then, while there, they could attempt to solve the mystery as they gradually learn about Bittercrag's sordid history. If the PCs are assigned to a mission, they would be less inclined to leave immediately, but they would have the option to do so. If they try to leave, however, it could anger the undead residents.



If your usual approach for your group is "quest-based," then sure, that'd be reasonable. My approach would be to say, "You're here, tell me why." Why will often be obvious based upon established fiction up to that point and/or the players will come up with new ideas to explain it which may indicate things they are interested in and want to explore now or later. If, for example, in their explanation they bring up House Shom's involvement, I'd make a note of that and be sure to feature House Shom in some way either in this adventure or another one in the future.

Since the actual reason why they are at the caravanserai is not very important for the prep, we can table that for now. I'll post some specific information on the Dangers later today. I'd still like to hear advice on involving the players on "staying put until" without necessarily constructing some kind of plot device to "keep them there."

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

It seems to me that a Hotel California scenario needs a plot device to keep people there. Not because you don't want the adventure ending prematurely, but because not being able to leave is a part of the lore you're basing the adventure on. In other words, just giving the players motivation to stay doesn't do the trick. There's something about the place that keeps anyone from leaving, whether or not they want to. Finding a way out would then be one goal for the party.
It seems to me that a Hotel California scenario needs a plot device to keep people there. Not because you don't want the adventure ending prematurely, but because not being able to leave is a part of the lore you're basing the adventure on. In other words, just giving the players motivation to stay doesn't do the trick. There's something about the place that keeps anyone from leaving, whether or not they want to. Finding a way out would then be one goal for the party.



The sandstorm-you-can-never-escape would be the obvious (too obvious?) plot device to keep the players in Hotel California. You go north, you get turned around, you end up back at the hotel. Same thing if you go south. It's a bit heavy-handed for my tastes, but it'll work. I think it runs the risk of coming off cheesy without player buy-in.

Having a goal that can't be easily attained just by showing up would be another. "Find the NPC" or the like, where the NPC is in a hidey-hole somewhere or some condition must be met before he can be found which requires exploration and/or interaction.

The best thing, IMO, is to get the players to define their goal there, provided you've got enough fiction from the rest of the campaign. If you got nothing to work with, the above two would work. In an adventure like this, the DM doesn't really care if they solve the "problem" of Bittercrag. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. So placing the keystone for the oath wights might be something the PCs decide to do, but it needn't be their only goal there or the goal they start with.

What else might encourage the PCs to stick around and "never leave?" 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

With this group? Honestly, nothing would convince them to stick around besides the need to complete an assigned mission, or being forced by outside means (the curse/sandstorm/whatever). An alternative that I've considered is that the PCs could be brought into the curse only to an extent... meaning, they COULD leave, but it is possible that they keep getting brought back later for further adventures. Maybe the layout could change each time?
What else might encourage the PCs to stick around and "never leave?"



I guess what I'm trying to get at is that it shouldn't be just the PC's who never leave. NPC's wandering into this place shouldn't be able to leave either. At least, that's the idea that the song seems to carry. 
With this group? Honestly, nothing would convince them to stick around besides the need to complete an assigned mission, or being forced by outside means (the curse/sandstorm/whatever). An alternative that I've considered is that the PCs could be brought into the curse only to an extent... meaning, they COULD leave, but it is possible that they keep getting brought back later for further adventures. Maybe the layout could change each time?



If they are okay with quest-based stuff, then that's what I'd probably do. It works if they buy in. That's not much different from them just saying what the quest is themselves (another form of buy-in without the horror of rejection). 

I thought about your other idea in terms of a curse or disease earlier. Slapping it on them as a "gotcha" might not be taken well though so I've been trying to think about it from another angle. Nothing's coming to mind yet. As above, I may table that till later since ultimately it's not too important for prep purposes.

EDIT: @JTheta, yeah, I took NPCs not being able to leave as a given. 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Idea for exploration before I forget about it: Situation set "In the Master's Chamber" where guests gather for a feast. Pink champagne on ice (terrain power/consumable). Maybe the keystone that's missing is meant for this grand chamber which surrounds the oasis in a dome or something.

Edit: Mirrored ceilings - some kind of terrain effect, monsters with ray attacks that bounce or something.  

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Interesting take on mirrored ceilings. I was thinking something along the lines of an enchanted room that would randomly spawn hostile minion copies of the characters in the room from the ceiling who would try to "replace" the guests. The mirror trap would be controlled by some solo creature that is resistant to metal weapons but vulnerable to natural weapons / magic ("They stab it with their steely knives but they just can't kill the beast")
Interesting take on mirrored ceilings. I was thinking something along the lines of an enchanted room that would randomly spawn hostile minion copies of the characters in the room from the ceiling who would try to "replace" the guests. The mirror trap would be controlled by some solo creature that is resistant to metal weapons but vulnerable to natural weapons / magic ("They stab it with their steely knives but they just can't kill the beast")



You know, before I looked it up earlier, I thought that lyric was "steely eyes."

I like this idea. 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I like the idea of the mirror trap, but in regards to weapons, my character (who will not be present for the battle) is the only one who actually possesses a metal weapon. Perhaps that lyric could be incorporated in some other way?
Heh, I didn't even make the connection between "steel" and the lack thereof on Dark Sun. This will forever be why I like collaborative storytelling. I simply might not have made that connection, obvious though it seems now. "Steely knives" now seems like something way more interesting and important element to include.

I'm working on the Dangers now. Should be up tonight sometime.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Here's something I worked up for a Danger to describe Bittercrag itself, a cursed place with an agenda of its own (based on Dungeon World front/danger design):


BITTERCRAG (Cursed Place: Shadowland)
Impulse: to corrupt the living.

Grim Portents
• Reveal the Keystone
• The mission bell rings
• The heroes just can’t kill The Beast

Impending Doom: Impoverishment. Characters are entrapped by Bittercrag, possibly forever, abandoning that which is good and right. Undeath soon follows.

POSSIBLE ACTIONS
• Vomit forth a lesser monster
• Spread to an adjacent place
• Draw the attention of a curious party
• Grow in intensity or depth
• Leave a lingering effect on an inhabitant or visitor
• Hide something from sight
• Offer power
• Dampen magic or increase its effects
• Confuse or obfuscate truth or direction
• Corrupt a natural law

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

That sounds just about right, I'd say... I envision this place being somewhat like the hotel in "The Shining", only with more physical dangers.

I might set up a scene or encounter in a weird garden but with several plants/bushes that are slightly smoking and giving off “a warm smell of colitas”. I would use them as terrain effects in that if a player starts their turn adjacent to a plant they need to make an endurance check to resist the effects.


 



  1. dazed-your mine is blown as you ponder what if DOG was spelled CAT

  2. immobilized-you uncontrollably sway to some funky beat in your head

  3. weakened-you are overcome by the giggles


 


dc 24+:   you smoked but didn’t inhale no effects


dc 18-24: contact high choose one condition save ends


dc  17 and below: you just bogarted the bongwater choose 2 conditions save ends


 


more traditionally you could have the character role randomly to determine conditions


 


I would then populate the encounter with some monsters that used forced movement, reflavoring whatever monsters I wanted into lizards or whatever horrific creatures you can find in the dark sun creature catalogue

Hilarious, freudpimp. I wasn't going to go there, having already posted a "hookah" terrain power earlier this week.

Ricochet, what books to you have access to in terms of encounter building? Do the DMs share a DDI account by chance?

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

No DDI unfortunately, but I may very well get an account for myself. I've got core books and that's about it, so I think it'll be a good investment. Anyhow, it won't be an issue, so any book you can recommend is fine.
Haven't forgotten about this - just been a bit busy. I should have some more stuff up today and over the weekend. I'm thinking of running a Dark Sun game sometime next year, so this is all good stuff for me to think about and work on.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

The Pale Ssurans of Shemu'el (Arcane Enemy: Ancient Curse)
Impulse: to ensnare.

Grim Portents
• The storm intensifies
• Tzivah, the Dune Mystic appears
• A crack in the keystone

Impending Doom: Tyranny. The keystone is destroyed and the curse is strengthened. Those who are trapped are trapped forever.

POSSIBLE ACTIONS

• Learn forbidden knowledge
• Cast a spell over time and space
• Attack a foe with magic, directly or otherwise
• Spy on someone with a scrying spell
• Recruit a follower or toady
• Tempt someone with promises
• Demand a sacrifice

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

The Cragnose Clan (Ambitious Organization: Misguided Good)
Impulse: to complete the construction of Bittercrag no matter the cost.

Grim Portents
• The informant bleeds
• Master Hiram calls for a feast
• The keystone rises into position

Impending Doom: Destruction. The keystone is placed improperly, causing the storm to tear apart Bittercrag and destroy everyone and everything in it... for a time.

POSSIBLE ACTIONS

• Attack someone by stealthy means (kidnapping, etc.)
• Attack someone directly (with a gang or single assailant)
• Absorb or buy out someone important (an ally, perhaps)
• Influence a body of control (change a law, manipulate doctrine)
• Establish a new rule (within the organization)
• Claim territory or resources
• Negotiate a deal
• Observe a potential foe in great detail

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

CAST

Cragnose Clan
- Master Hiram Cragnose
- Mistress Merob, Hiram's wife
- Pallu & Jehiel, their children

Pale Ssurans
- Tzivah, Dune Mystic
- The Beast

Bittercrag Itself
- Salty Lot, the bartender 

"Guests"
- Twisted Tiphani, a tiefling performer
- Mercedes of Balic, a Senator's daughter
- The Captain, an elven dune trader (possibly the head of the same caravan the PCs are with, but from 30 years ago)
- The Night Man, the belgoi bellhop
- Various dwarves attached to the Cragnose Clan Danger
- Various other "guests" as needed 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I figure there will be some big scene or situation "In the Master's Chambers where they gather for the feast..."

Master's Chambers Map

I'm imagining Bittercrag as being a small cluster of buildings rather than one big building. The Master's Chambers sits atop the actual oasis as shown. Above is a gaping hole in the (mirrored?) ceiling where the keystone would fit. It is obviously unfinished.

All the white area is salt. The throne in the chamber is also made of salt.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

This all looks interesting so far... Sorry I haven't been posting much in my own topic, but I've been really busy with work lately. I'll try to tinker with this stuff more later this week. I'll keep checking this out and documenting my thoughts, but I won't be adding material for a few days.
This all looks interesting so far... Sorry I haven't been posting much in my own topic, but I've been really busy with work lately. I'll try to tinker with this stuff more later this week. I'll keep checking this out and documenting my thoughts, but I won't be adding material for a few days.



It happens! No problem. The adventure's in the can as far as I'm concerned - I could run the adventure with just this material. (The benefits of prepping a situation and not a plot means you often have a lot less prep, plus it's more robust.) This amount of material feels like 2 to 3 4-hour long sessions to me, but as with any location-in-motion, it can vary.

The only thing left to do really is write up the motivations of the individual NPCs/monsters (or point them back to their Danger impulse), gather some stat blocks, and maybe sketch out the whole compound other than the Master's Chamber. Also, flesh out some unique terrain features (mirrors on the ceilings) and items (pink champagne on ice).

I'll leave this idle then until you or someone else adds something.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

The Cragnose Clan (Ambitious Organization: Misguided Good)
Impulse: to complete the construction of Bittercrag no matter the cost.

Grim Portents
• The informant bleeds
• Master Hiram calls for a feast
• The keystone rises into position

Impending Doom: Destruction. The keystone is placed improperly, causing the storm to tear apart Bittercrag and destroy everyone and everything in it... for a time.

POSSIBLE ACTIONS

• Attack someone by stealthy means (kidnapping, etc.)
• Attack someone directly (with a gang or single assailant)
• Absorb or buy out someone important (an ally, perhaps)
• Influence a body of control (change a law, manipulate doctrine)
• Establish a new rule (within the organization)
• Claim territory or resources
• Negotiate a deal
• Observe a potential foe in great detail


Iserith, I kinda like your LiM Dangers (did I get that right?) and I like your (Dungeon World) approach to dynamic locations very much. Actually, thats how I do it too, just... a little different.

Question: regarding possible actions - is there a reason you´re using actions straight from DW, instead of defining your own?
Iserith, I kinda like your LiM Dangers (did I get that right?) and I like the your (Dungeon World) approach to dynamic locations very much. Actually, thats how I do it too, just... a little different.

Question: regarding possible actions - is there a reason you´re using actions straight from DW, instead of defining your own? 



A few reasons. A lot of it has to do with the fact that the work's already done for me and thus it cuts down on prep. As well, it keeps me from writing the plot. All of those "generic actions" have meaning in context, but not enough meaning on their own for me to push a particular outcome. When it's on me to come up with an honest repercussion to the PCs' actions (or inaction) or when it's time to inject some tension, I just consider the context and go down my list of possible actions until something jumps out at me. Then I run with it. If nothing jumps out at me, I ask the players questions until something clicks.

For example, if the PCs make friends with The Captain and through that interaction learn some sinister secret about Bittercrag or the Cragnose Clan, and the PCs let it be known through use or by confronting someone, then it might be obvious, in context, that the Cragnose Clan Danger will "Attack someone by stealthy means (kidnapping, etc.)." The next time the PCs go looking for The Captain, he's missing. "Gosh, he said he'd be in the Master's chamber for the feast..." If the PCs don't find him, it's possible the informant bleeds (grim portent).

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Sign In to post comments