First, Iâ€™m using a published adventure for this leg of the campaign, but the group doesnâ€™t know what that adventure is. Please donâ€™t tell them if you recognize it.
Second, because this is a published adventure, my accounts are going to have spoilers in them. If you start to recognize this as the adventure youâ€™re playing â€“ or going to play â€“ you may want to avoid reading on.
Last Sunday ((Yes, a full week ago – I’m almost caught up now.)) was the latest session of the Storm Point campaign. Two sessions in a row with a full roster of players – I’m going to get spoiled if this keeps up ((Not a bad problem to have.)).
I’m continuing to run the published adventure for the group, and I have to say, I’m kinda liking the freedom it gives me and the players. That may seem like a kind of counter-intuitive sentiment, but it’s true. Normally, I only have time to prep a couple of encounters per session, and I then funnel the party towards them. I try to keep a pool of three or four generic encounters on hand for when the party goes completely off my map, but those often don’t fit the story as well as I might like, and prove distractions. With the published adventure, if the party goes somewhere I wasn’t ready for ((As they did this session.)), it’s still right there in the book, and I just ask for a couple of minutes to read it over and refresh my memory.
That means that, not only am I ready to game with minimal prep time, but also that I don’t have to funnel the party towards the adventure in the same way. They get to go where they want, and find the adventure waiting there for them. This may not be news to anyone else, but it’s been a long time since I’ve run a published D&D adventure that works this well ((Most of the published ones I’ve run in the past three or four years that have required almost as much prep and herding as a home-built adventure.)), so it’s a pleasant surprise.
Anyway, when we left our heroes, they had just crossed over into the Feywild. That’s where we picked up this time, and they followed the trail they found through the strange, dark woods to a ridge of dark rock. On top of the ridge was a jumble of buildings, and a cave cut into the base of the ridge. Beside the cave was a strange, taunting poem carved into the stone.
After deciphering the poem, and talking things over – all the while keeping watch for the monsters they were sure were going to pop up at any moment – they went into the cave, where they found three statues – Maiden, Mother, and Crone – blocking the route through. Each statue had a hand extended.
This prompted some more discussion – statues in dungeons almost inevitably come to life and hit you, after all – and Milo finally decided to put a silver piece in the hand of the Crone statue. Sure enough, the statues came to life, but only to step aside and allow the party to pass. The cave opened out into an overgrown garden in at the bottom of the cliffs that supported the buildings high above them.
Instead of pushing on through the garden and discovering the main way into the building complex, they scouted around and found a tunnel into the cliff face that I had overlooked when prepping for the session. It led them up to a building that I hadn’t read over since the first time I had read the whole adventure, but I asked for a bit of a pause while I quickly looked over the description of the area, and then on we went ((This is what I mean by the freedom. No extra prep for me, no false restrictions on player action.)).
The room they found themselves in was an irregular cave-like structure with walls made of the jumbled bones of thousands of creatures. There was a statue in the middle of the room ((This one didn’t come to life. Just sayin’.)), and a grey angel ((I couldn’t remember what these are supposed to look like, so I described it as looking like the death creature from Hellboy II.)). Well, the angel got the drop on the party, and then his buddy showed up. The necrotic attacks, coupled with the life-draining magic of the room, made the fight somewhat tougher than I think either side was anticipating, but they managed to defeat the evil creatures and make it out of the room to a rope bridge where they could rest a little.
And that’s where we left it.
I’ve been trying to boost the pace of these games a little, so that we get more, and more varied, things done in a single session. In that respect, I’m pretty happy with this session. There was exploration, puzzle-solving, and a combat, and we got it all in in about three and a half hours. Ideally, I’d like to speed up the pace of combat, but that would require everyone actually paying attention to the game when it’s not their turn, so I don’t think that’s terribly realistic in this group.
Still, a GM can dream…