After loving the setting of Dark Sun since it's release and keeping up to date pretty well on all content released for it, AND UNFORTUANTELY never ran any Dark Sun yet for varius reasons, and it's about to change, lol. Anyways, I've ran like, 20 premades in a row... as I tend to fuse them together pretty well into an ongoing thing, after a certain one catches my eye after looking to create my own adventure and looking into premades for inspiration. And with that in mind, just to get the ball rolling, I've decided to look into Dark Sun pre-mades for inspiration, and picking one and building around it, and my decision is "Revenge of the Marauders".
As it's currently made, at it's pre-made level, it is a massive intimidating mobile awesome citadel, with a "sneak in, retrieve, and sneak out". And has never addresses to the players what the Mul lich's plans are with the Blood Jewel, and without the guide in the beginning mouthing off a flood of information about the origin of everything, that never gets across. As is it's basically just a short dungeon crawl in what I feel could be a great centerpiece of a larger adventure, but I need some help brainstorming a bit with others that are familiar with the setting.
Starting off with it's location, that can be relocated pretty much anywhere (cough, mobile citadel, cough), and not that it's incredibly relevant, but I'm going to be upping this from level 5 to 13, lol. This is what I have in mind as a VERY BASIC skeleton of a synopsis broken down into chapters:
1. Starts in a city, some roleplay, meet an important npc (maybe a sorc king for whatever reason?). Find veiled alliance and learn of the Blood Jewel and it's rumored location (ruin somewhere) 2. Travel to location, involving two different skill challenges for travel through different terrain or something, with a stop inbetween at a wilderness fort or frontier town with a Dark-Sunny quirk. Get ambushed by templars, PCs find that they were ratted out by someone that they associated with the Aliiance and are in search of magic. 3. Arrive at location, shortish dungeon crawl, rooms filled with already dead creatures. Mul Lich made it to there first and has already got the Jewel in his posession within the citadel. 4. PCs return to frontier keep/town empty handed and contemplate how to report back to Alliance since they are now wanted in starting city. This is when they meet the NPC from the premade who explains that he's been aboard the Citadel as a spy and kickstarts the Premade portion, leading them to sneaking aboard. 5. Once aboard and a few encounters in, I want it to be more complicated than just sneak in, take it, and leave. I want them to sneak on, not be able to get it, and not be able to get off. Instead they're forced to remain hidden aboard the citadel as it moves, relocating to the lich's next area. In this case he doesn't take a season to examine, but from time to time checks it out during the trek. 6. Some time is expedited, perhaps a skill challenge to see what they can learn from sneaking around inside the citadel as it moves, as well as keep up with stealing food and water as stowaways, perhaps with success being finding/hearing enough clues to grasp an idea of the lich's plans with the jewel and where they're headed. Perhaps failure actually ends up with them being found out, overwhelmed, and made prisoners in the tower for future experiments, perhaps even the character who accumulated the most fails recieving a curse-experiment that can't be releived until back at a city. 7. The citadel reaches its destination, and some kind of opportunity arises for them to sneak out and into another ruin or location devoted to the Dust Kraken following the lich and Jewel to the final chamber with minimal difficulties. In the case of them being imprisoned, they could be beaten into submission (unconsious), prepared, and taken into the place to the final chamber where they would be sacrifices for a grand ritual. They either catch up to the lich right after his ritual finishes (in scenario "A" he doesn't need sacrifices, it's just a way to get them out of imprisonment and continue the adventure in scenario "B"), or wake up right before they are to be sacfrificed (though somehow the main event still happens...?). 8. A boss fight of sorts happens when the lich awakens an avatar of the Dust Kraken and it's entry into the location is causing the place to fall apart round by round. The encounter is primarily against the lich, while all of them flee the room and through the ruin/location. As combat continues, the avatar continues wreaking havoc causing the place to be breaking/sinking into silt pits below it's foundation, and cuts off the entry way into the place, forcing the PCs to go into other parts of the ruin. With the lich dead, they are forced to explore this new corner of the dungeon. 9. The avatar has died down somewhat, though occasionally as they go through this dungeon crawl, the ground continues to shake and walls occasionally break from tremors of the avatar nearby (I imagine the avatar being similar to my profile pic and burrowing around in the sands beneath the temple/whatever. So, dungeon crawl here with a few options/routes to take that all lead to the same end point, where once the PCs find an alternate exit, the avatar strikes. 10. Actual grand boss fight, the hallway they rush down to leave to the outside world suddenly breaks apart as a mummified tentacle busts through the wall/floor, dropping the hallway section down to another deeper, more desolate and uninhabited and sand-filled layer of the dungeon. They fight the kraken that was summoned by the lich, and with it now dead, the mul lich dealt with, and the blood jewel in their posession, it's time to make it back to the veiled alliance (in a different, now closer city where they're not wanted).
But that's just rough ideas, and there's a lot that needs finer details, and explainations, as well as what to do about the Citadel after the dungeon-craw/kraken-fight.
Much as per your introduction, I'm a Dark Sun fan who has yet to run a Dark Sun game... but I have also been thinking that the mobile fortress of Slither deserves some expansion.
However, I've taken a different tack.
I actually think it is better to run Revenge more or less as is but have the final adventure of the Heroic Tier set in Slither. In other words, send the PCs back there after they have defeated the Sand Kraken or something similar for a final encounter with the mul lich (I actually think the DDi adventure Island of Death makes a fitting prelude to this final return to Slither: simply have the mobile fortress "parked" outside) .
Hmm, first off I'm estatic I got a reply, lol, these more campaign specific forums tend to move pretty slow. And I will say that the "Return to Slither" sounds like a cool approach to it as well. And when I finish typing I'll check out the "Island of Death" is it Dark Sun specific? If not what are your ideals about where to implant it in Athas?
I do like the whole, "return" but I also am liking the idea more and more of their capture and confinement on it as well. Like, infiltrating the Death Star, then having to stow away or getting captured on it while it goes where it wants, and they have to tag along. I'd really like to make them despise the citadel that is Slither, I want them to get the satisfaction of "destroying this dungeon" that PCs can't really get out of just clearing some ruins the first time they've ever been there.
And since I'm really liking the whole capture/stowaway thing, I think I may end up doing the skill challenge for such similar to the "sneak in" one. Meaning that success or failure doesn't necessarily mean the capture or not capture of the entire group, but dependant upon the individual's checks, meaning that while they're all still stuck aboard Slither, some may or may not be captives in the prison.
My main concern however is how to press the fact that "There's too many of them here in Slither, you can't take them all, it's bes to lay low until an opportunity presents itself." While still retaining the realisim of afterwards they can simply go back into Slither after the kraken thing (after re-reading over the Creature Catalog, holy crap, the Silt Horror is EXACTLY what I imagined!) and going through in normal dungeon-crawl fashion and clearing the citadel. How come they had to lay low due to being overwhelmed on the ride to the ruins, but afterwards can go in and clear it room by room? Why couldn't they do that on the way?
I'm considering having two optional encounters inside of Slither on the ride to the ruins. One "Let's Try This Anyways" encounter, in which non-captive PCs can attempt to clear a random room on the ride, but afterwards they have to repeat the "stowaway/notgetting captured" skill challenge, though with harder DCs. And the other being "Free Your Friends", in which after a successful skill challenge to sneak/navigate their way to their friends who've been captured, a single encounter takes place where the captive PCs are held. The captive PCs would also be in the encounter as well, though unarmed and locked in their cells to begin with.
First up, sorry, but the adventure is actually called Isle of Death and it's from Dungeon 202. I thought I may have had it wrong but I forgot to check before I posted. And, yes, it is Dark Sun specific.
I can't argue with your choice because only you know your players and what they prefer so I cannot argue further against your preference for an extended stay in Slither other than to ask if your players will really enjoy it. More particular, is it going to be a choice they make or will you have to railroad them into that choice?
One other question, does your campaign have an overall goal and/or overall BBEG?
I can't really comment on your ideas for skill challenges. I can't seem to make them work the way they are described. I largely ad lib mine getting the players to describe their actions and calling for a relevant skill check (or the other way around). Have you run many skill challenges? Are you able to make them interesting or even exciting for the players?
I do like your ideas of being prepared for the capture of one or more of the PCs. That could make for a really interesting session of play.
Anyway, this post probably hasn't been too helpful. If you are able to describe your campaign's overall goal and/or BBEG I'm sure I can come up with something better.
Ah, I just read over Isle of Death (no worries, I had 0 problems finding it, lol), and it seems pretty cool. I'm intrigued in running it, but my whole thing at the moment is to come up with my own stuff after running like 30+ premades since 4E began, lol.
It's going to have to be railroaded, but, my players like that. They like being it kept simple, and saying this happens, then this happens, and they just coast along for the ride enjoying the story and trying to live through encounters. And when it comes to dungeon crawling where they have multiple options/routes, they just hug the left wall no matter what. I do like putting in choices though at times where it doesn't de-rail the adventure, but they still get the occasional choices to make, the whole "illusion of freedom" in tabletop RPGs.
I've always ran campaigns with overall goals and BBEGs in the past, but this last batch of campaigning I've done (they started at 5th, now at 11th) has been "complete this adventure arc, start new one" with no real overall goal or main bad guy that doesn't exist outside an individual arc. So it's more of a "these are the various tales and accomplishments of this heroic party" rather than "Here's the story of how they saved the universe and killed the emperor." lol. I've grown tired of massive storylines and BBEGs, and all the background planning in the last 11 years of DMing, since most campaigns end abruptly due to the random TPK, or someone proposing the idea of a new setting, or wanting to try a new system as a one shot (then never going back to the original campaign but starting anew). And as a DM, running a long-term adventure from say even 1-15 is a long freaking time not to actually play as a player character. I love DMing, but I do want to play every now and then. So, I'm done with overarching villians and plotlines, lol.
As for Skill Challenges, I'd say I've ran well over 40-50 skill challenges, lol. I've tried running them ambigiously in the background, and tried letting my PCs try actions and associate skills with their actions, but that largely has failed. They basically want me to say "SKILL CHALLENGE" and then list their options, and in all truth, that's the way it's worked best. It falls short on realism, but it takes much less game time and eliminates all confusion. I say "Name of Skill Challenge" and a brief description of what it represents. The one player will use a dry erase board and ask all the primary, and secondary skills. He lists them, then goes around the table asking everyone's modifiers and makes a quick "chart" on the dry erase board and determines who's best at what, then going around the table, they all do what they're most likely to succeed at. I love the concept of skill challenges, but they require a lot of ad-libbing (which I've always been terrible at), imagination of the players parts, and them somehow coming up with ideas that don't de-rail the skill challenge/adventure. It's been about 2 years since we've simply done the dry erase board thing. Not looking back, lol.
And I'm hoping so, regarding the capture of one or more PCs.
As for my overall goal/campaign, they've actually been in a very classic fantasy world of mine (pretty standard classic feel was the point), and they've been in the Feywild in the past, and I've told them time passes differently there, and hour in the feywild could equal a single minute in the material plane, or could be years. They went in for 6 days Feywild time and it had only been a day in the material plane when they returned. My current adventure I'm running them through (King of the Trollhaunt Warrens) has them enter the feywild at the end, and it ends there. Though when they return to the material plane it'll have actually been 1,000 years and is now known as Athas. So essentially they've been playing in the Green Age of Dark Sun.
I'm tryig to come up with more to add to what I've got listed above in numbers as "chapters" of the adventure. So far the only thing I've added is their first "step into Dark Sun" is going to have them arriving at some sunwarped flats (I think) and will be walking through a rocky section and will notice even the stone seems nibbled on. Then will be attacked by hungry sunwarped Dune Reapers . I'm also still trying to decide what city to have them arrive near...