Yesterday, as I write this, I finished up one of the longest campaigns I’ve ever ran, and the first one that took the group from 1-20. It was an awesome nearly 3 years, and I’d like to share just a little bit of it with you.
This isn’t going to be a normal post. I think its just going to be a rambly trip down memory lane with a bunch of different methods of talking about what went on, what I liked, what characters and events stick out, even what happend IRL that changes the setting and the game as it progressed. No fancy headlines or titles here.
When I first started thinking up the game, a friend of mine had mentioned a while back that he wanted to play some Old School D&D, like those days in the schoolyard or the basement or the playhouse that we had in the barn, adventures that weren’t neatly and continuously tied to each other in the modern method, games that were instead adventures that the players went out on, solved some evil or quested against some problem, and then came back to the inn at the end of the adventure and shared a few beers with the locals before going out into the wilderness again. Dungeons, Castles, Caverns, Goblin Towns, Wizards Towers. these things were what he wanted to do again.
So, I started thinking. How do we combine the two? How do I have an adventure that is a series of interconnected adventures that aren’t tied into each other and aren’t some massive plot of an evil big bad with a macguffin. So, in the Vein of Acquisitions Inc, I created the OVR: Obsidian Vault Reclamation. It was an adventuring company started by four retired adventurers who’d decided that they wanted the life and wealth of adventuring without the constant worry of death and dismemberment.
Hadruk, Nimel, Brolen and Calum were adventurers of the highest caliber, founders of the OVR and some pretty callous folk. They would hire wandering adventurers to achieve their patrons missions. They weren’t very picky, though, and often ended up hiring multiple adventuring parties in succession to go after their mission. They charged a flat fee, with a percentage going to the adventuring group, and the rest the OVR kept.
This is the agreement that the players ended up in at the start of the adventure, and they were hired for successive adventures because, much to the surprise of Brolen the dwarven paymaster, they kept surviving. Many adventures were had, and I wove a story around what they did, putting a number of possible missions in front of them, from which they would choose, and there would be consequences of those actions, often out of view and affecting their future mission possibilities.
There are two that stick out more than the others. The first one is also the first mission they went on, the Silver Mines of Meturious. They were living in Parminum, in the land of Killbar which is loosely based on Imperial Rome, and were asked to go to the neighboring town and re-capture the local silver mines, which had been taken over by some monstrous beings.
As a DM for over 20 years, I’d used a lot of low level monsters, most often the fairly basic lizardmen, goblins, and other standard creature fare. This time, I wanted to use some strange stuff, so I opted for low level Demons and Devils. As my world has some pretty strict rules about interplanar travel, I had to do something pretty interesting in order to justify the demons existence, so I thought up people-portals. A demonologist had developed a way to use a persons blood in order to open a small rift between the planes. This rift would often be temporary, as a person would often run out of blood fairly quickly. To combat this he developed healing stones, pillars of enchanted, immobile stones that would heal, just barely, an individual nearby. It was just enough to keep them alive through constant torture. Then, in order to create a continuous portal, he slit the person open naval to throat, hooked the hole open like eye surgery, and chained them to a healing stone. Demons, small ones, could then come wandering out of the person whenever they desired! it was all good fun for everyone! I’d taken a lot of time to look up Roman Mining techniques, and used them to help create a dungeon, which was a lot of fun for me, and ended up a real challenge to the players. The whole thing was a unique experiance for both the players and I, even though a throwaway enemy ended up being more of a challenge than the boss at the end of the adventure due to crazy dice and strange happenstances.
The second one is, shortly thereafter, they decided to go north, through a place called the Brakwood, to help find something for someone – I honestly don’t remember and its strangely not important for the story. Instead, when they got to the other side of the Brakwood, they found a farmers home, and his story of bandits stealing their food, so they went off to find the bandits, who they ambushed with extreme prejudice and slew many of them. In the bandits panic, they went back to the farmers house, burned it, slew most of the family, and headed to a town to the north, where they were known to shelter from time to time. The players found the devastated family and like demons of vengeance, tracked down each and every one of the bandits. Some, they killed in their sleep, some they found in town and ambushed, and others they tracked as they left town and eventually caught up to them. Each and every person who had been part of the destruction of the farm were mercilessly hunted down and eliminated, which wasn’t part of my story, part of the mission, or even something I planned on. It was something that organically grew out of the encounters and their nature, culminating with a local legend of these individuals who came out of no where, slew a band of ruthless bandits who had been bothering the people for months, and then vanished, never to return. After their mission was over, they went back south through the brakwood, and never returned. A local legend!
These missions continued for some time, but eventually, with a rotation of players, the addition of new ones and the exodus of others, I asked the group what they wanted out of the adventures we were running.
I think this is important to do every once in a while when running a long series of adventures. Taking the pulse of the gaming table is extremely important, and making sure that everyone enjoys what is happening, has a solid reason to come back each week, and feels engaged is the prime function of a DM in an ongoing series. The pulse I was taking here was: Do we want to continue with interwoven, but not interlinked adventures through to level 20, or do we want to do a campaign. It was unanimous: They wanted to play a campaign.
thankfully, I had several threads I could work with, that I had laid the groundwork for weaving with other, future small adventures, so I gave them a choice: What did they think, of the threads, would be the most fun to explore.
- The Raiding Goatfolk, and what they were up to
- The brothers, Conor and Lucas, have an ancient relic they think could change history
- There are goblins attacking towns close to the local wilderness
- The Forest to the north is spooky! Why?
Of all the things, they chose “Why is the spooky old forest spooky, much to my chagrin, because I didn’t have anything really prepared for that eventuality. It was mostly padding to make the other three choices more enticing. Silly me.
This simple choice, though, propelled them down a story path which escalated quickly into near Armageddon levels of repercussions. They found and accidentally woke an ancient, cursed mummy who realized the celestial event he had been slumbering for for centuries was about to occur. This lead to an ancient dwarven civilization of demon worshipers and undead followers to exhume their ancient Ziggurats they’d buried in the earth to protect themselves from an ancient invasion. Now, at the time of their lords resurrection, they would use the power of the celestial alignment to resurrect their dead lord and set his god-like powers loose upon the world.
The adventurers, with the help of an ancient chronomancer who has helped preserve the dwarven civilization embarked on a risky plan, to gather five heartstones from the weakest of the Risen Dwarven Rulers: The Formless Queen, The Decaying Terror, the Eyes of Scorn, the Relentless Brutality and the Ceaseless Rage. However, the Chronomancer was slain by opposing forces before he could be more than a small guide. Each ruler had to be sought out, confronted, and destroyed.
The formless Queen was in a Ziggurat that her eyes could peer into every corner and there was nowhere to hide. The Decaying Terror was trapped in an extradimensional space formed of endless corpses, the Eyes of Scorn were locked behind devious traps and malicious tricks designed to kill and maim even the heartiest of explorers, the Relentless Brutality was stranded on an island chain, building boats to ferry his army and those loyal to him across the waters to the mainland, and the Ceaseless Rage was bound in a dragons corpse and using its dread powers for his own. Once all of this was accomplished, and the battles fought with many dead on each side, they brought the stones together to perform the ritual that could stop the resurrection, according the the Chronomicon written in the future by one Halzorath, and sent back in time to help the past evade the future.
He miscalculated, however, and sent the adventurers to their early deaths, petrified by his lack of foresight. However, he did find them, eons in the future, and reversed their petrification, though with lasting scars of their ages as stone. He needed them to help stop Gromular, the Scion of Earth and Ash, child of the Demon Queen and Spawn of the Blood of Evil, that the Dwarven Empire worshiped as a god, from being resurrected due to his lack of foresight. They needed to get Demonic Silver and return to him so that they could finish their experimental Time Portal. No one, though, new where any Demonic Silver could be found, as the world itself was overrun with demons and undead years ago. the final city of the mortal world, Hopes Edge in the plane of shadow, had done all it could to find the silver, and had given up. Halzorath, had not. He knew there were adventurers who could give him what they wanted, because they had been to a sliver mine and knew where it was.
Returned to life, they made one last expedition to the mine of Meturious, returning for their final dungeon to where they had their very first. The gathered the silver and made their way back to Hopes edge, where they were presented with the dire news: There were two possible futures, and they would need to choose.
In the ritual to raise Gromular to life, the Dwarven Rulers had given over their Immense powers in order to fuel the ritual. If that ritual was interrupted, they would not lose their powers and would instead be powerful beings ruling over swaths of the land of Kasan for ages to come. If the Ritual was allowed to succeed, however, Gromular would not be able to be slain, and would only be banished to the iron Marches, where the Godswar rages and his presence could tip the balance of the war towards the Accursed Gods.
After deliberation, the choice was made to sabotage the ritual and slay, once and for all, Gromular, and deal with the Dwarven Rulers in their own time. Slaying the Scion of the Demon Queen would not be easy, though, and they would need the assistance of the blade of a god, the sword of the Assassin God that they had found in the Brakwood so long ago would do just fine. Sword in hand and plan at the ready, they assaulted the ritual site, disrupting the ritual and facing waves of dwarven defenders of Gromular, who he had pulled from out of time to attempt to prevent the disruption of his ritual. It was all for naught, however, as the group was able to overcome the great horde that defended the Scion, and destroy his very soul, eliminating his power forever from the world.
Its a short synopsis, and a strange one, but it was well worth the ride. If you have any questions or want to know more, feel free to ask, because I love talking about it. Next week, I think I’m going to give each of the characters a bit of a spotlight, talk about them a bit more, and wrap up what happens after the events. Its refreshing to look back on the game of three years and feel like it was totally worth it.
Until next time!