With all of the recent discussion of fine works of literature for the past few months, and because I don’t want to read Brideshead Revisited too fast because I’m actually really enjoying it, I felt it was time to inject the “nerding” back into thisnerdinglife. For this reason, I’ll now talk about the current state of the Dungeons and Dragons campaign I’m running, as this is extremely important information that all of you folks at home need to know about.
This is the second “season” of D&D that my group and I have played through. The first one, which we started not too long after 4th Edition’s release in 2008, ran until last year, and it still influences our current games to this day. The first campaign was called “The Bouncing Barrel Chronicle,” and detailed the adventures of bouncers at the eponymous drinking establishment, found in a small town named Harlan’s Folly in a PoL (points of light, 4th Edition’s nearest thing to a defined campaign setting) world.
Eventually, smaller skirmishes against soup-dwelling monstrosities and the disgruntled goblin chefs who love them, dragons who want to destroy a brewery and kruthiks plaguing a dwarven freehold grew into a large scale conflict pitting the PCs against the Sons of Pelor, a racist paramilitary group that wanted to ensure human supremacy on the continent. The Sons of Pelor organization was run by a man named Aloysius Stendhal, aided by his “spell-sniffer” grand vizier Levitz Thaumaturge. In a series of guerilla warfare sorties, the party was aided by Lyra Grimsdottir, a mercenary commander whose body was encased in a gigantic suit of armor, picture that of a Warhammer 40K Space Marine, but about twice as big (the party would eventually come to realize that she was a Tetrarchian Guardsman, more on that later).
The Pelorian War, as this conflict came to be known, came to an end with the climactic Battle of Harlan’s Folly, where the forces of Pelorian aggression were routed after Thaumaturge was killed (but not after he took the life of Binwin Underhill, proprietor of the Bouncing Barrel) and Stendhal forced into hiding. We took some time at this point in the campaign to run some classic D&D adventures.
The party fought its way through S2- White Plume Mountain, which I did almost no work to modify, just replacing the monsters with their 4e versions (or a reasonable facsimile of), as I wanted to try and replicate the original experience as well as we could. Unfortunately we found that the original maps did not lend themselves well to 4e’s dynamic fighting mechanics, which require a fair amount of space for some effects and powers.
Still, the charm of the old-school adventure definitely rubbed off on the group, as they especially enjoyed Snarla the werewolf and the spinning tunnel behind which she lived, as well as the men who lived in the anti-gravity river room, not to mention the crab who protects the magical trident Wave. The story reason for all of this old-school awesomeness, I decided, was time travel, and in deciding this, I was in fact setting the stage for the campaign to come, as the party stealing the evil wizard Keraptis‘ ill-begotten weapons would kick off the First Lich War and change the campaign’s history. After White Plume Mountain, I briefly flirted with using the “boons” system, a 4e replacement of sorts for magical items (which I despise), in having the party compete for the position of Reeve of the Western Territory, which had the Divine Right of Kings boon attached to it. Unfortunately, the party cared not for roleplaying any sort of political entanglements, and this gambit failed.
So we returned to the old-school with I6 – Ravenloft, a move that would, more than anything, set the mood for Season Two of the campaign. And that’s where I’ll leave off today.