So Ive come to the point in many of my games where I just dont know what to do or how to continue. The characters have slain the aspect of Nerull and taken his heart. The heart is going to be taken to a druid grove in the wilds to the south. But something has happened to the druids and they are unable to perform the ritual to ban the aspect of Nerull from this plane of existance. But I dont know what and its driving me crazy!
Any ideas they are willing to share? Everyone is 6th level, I have a wizard of Pelor (who is lawful good and acts like a paladin) 2 rangers and a cleric of Pelor. Brain storming would be fantastic! Thank you in advance!
Let the ritual complete as per the PCs' goal, and start a new adventure?
Perhaps to get some fresh ideas into the campaign, have the players flesh out some of the PC backgrounds and long-term goals, and take inspiration from meshing their ideas into your campaign setting.
Alternatively, just browse the deities list for likely, perhaps temporary, allies of Nerull, who might be able to throw a spanner into the works. Or enemies that would have a great use for the aspect's heart. It sounds like it has some limited power to control Nerull himself, so a pretty juicy prize to steal it (via the now corrupted senior druid) and use it in some alternative ritual, perhaps to channel Nerull's power elsewhere, or even as a bargaining tool for another evil cult ("you can have the heart back, after your forces have attacked the temple of Pelor . . .")
Perhaps the instant the heart entered their territory, it's dark influences tainted the Druids. A bunch of blighters running around trying to destroy the very thing the swore to protect could make for an interesting adventure as the PCs try to cleanse the area of the evil influence on their own.
Kill him. Doesn't matter how. Maybe he has a heart attack. Maybe he's a 1st-edition level 1 wizard who got a long string of really good bluff rolls until one sad day when he was attacked by a housecat.* However it happened, he's dead - and (this is important in a D&D universe) for some reason not resurrectable.
He's critical - can't proceed without him. He's gone. How do you arrange for the plot to proceed anyway?
Also look around the NaNoWriMo.org site for stuff on writer's block. Hey, I'll even help you cheat on that: a link for the google search. (I got the "kill a critical character" idea from nanowrimo several years ago.)
* Yes, in 1st edition AD&D a 1st-level wizard potentially could be one-hit killed by a housecat. It took a low roll for hit points in character creation, and maybe a critical hit...
"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
Let the ritual complete as per the PCs' goal, and start a new adventure?
I second this, finishing a quest is a win, win situation for everyone at the game table. Unless you have some really compelling story reason for why the druids cannot complete the quest (which I assume is the reason for the post and at the heart of your question), then let the druids complete the ritual, complete the Pc's quest and celebrate thier achievement in the game narrative, role play a party.
Or.., the reason the druids cannot complete the ritual is because they need special mistle-toe, picked from the slopes of the Pickled Pete's Peek, near where the Stone Giants practice cross valley bowling. A quest for a ritual spell component just screams out to me in the situation you give.
But for me I would go for the completion of the quest and all the good feelings that comes with the completion of a difficult quest.
Perhaps assassins killed the druids, as per their employer's (cleric of Nerull? Recurring villain?) orders. When the PC's try to complete the ritual, they are attacked by the same assassins.
If they beat the assassins, they can complete the ritual, find out who was trying to kill them, and have a nice big juicy plot hook to follow.
If they fail to beat the assassins, they could get caught and then have to fight out of the employer's HQ in order to complete the ritual. Alternatively, if they fail to beat the assassins, they could escape the fight and find out about the employer.
But something has happened to the druids and they are unable to perform the ritual to ban the aspect of Nerull from this plane of existance. But I dont know what and its driving me crazy!
As an aside, the "why is this happening?" isn't a question you have to answer right away. I find myself frequently alowing events and pcs to become part of the campaign with no clue how they all relate until much later. So while my players are trying to figure out "why the ritual didn't work" or whatever - I am too. In fact, when I'm in that mode and my players are trying to figure out what is going on, sometimes they will postulate a better idea then I would have thought of then I just run with it. They never know that it was their idea in the first place - they just end up feeling really clever.
Man so many good ideas I dont even know where to start! Thanks everyone!
I think the followers of Vecna will be tailing them on their journey into the wilds. They will try to infiltrate the camp or set up some kinda of ambush to steal the heart. If successful they will have to flush out thier hide out to get it back. If unsuccessful theres some extra exp involved and puzzlement over why Vecna would be interested in such an item.
...Perhaps to get some fresh ideas into the campaign, have the players flesh out some of the PC backgrounds and long-term goals, and take inspiration from meshing their ideas into your campaign setting...
I like his one, and that's one of the tools that even the best DMs will overlook from time to time: the PCs' character sheets, and the background information written there. Pull something that you haven't looked at before or resolved already from two or three character sheets, and try to think of a way to tie one or more of those items together, and to the current plot.
If you really get stuck or painted into a corner, this advice has served writers well for decades: "When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun Wand of Magic Missiles in his hand." — Raymond Chandler
Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
"Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
"Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri