Gah! No excuse! It was T-2 Hours until we had to get ready to head out for game night, first D&D night in almost a month, and I still had absolutely nothing planned for the adventure. I had apparently only prepared myself so far in my storyline, and the players had come to a fork in the road where I wanted to give them the options on what to pursue in my game. And sadly, they went the option that I had not really put much thought into. Their logic behind the decision was very sound, but was something I wasn’t expecting nor thought about.
Everything I’ve done today related to the game was merely trying to get myself motivated to craft another section of the story on the branch I didn’t expect them to take. I had done so much today to try to refresh my mind and remember things and back track — including copying and pasting my off-kept campaign Wiki from Obsidianportal.com to my own blog here. You would think re-reading all of my past work and notes, both offline and on, as well as the in-character blog journals my fiancee has written, would have given me some ideas.
Minute of desperation, I decided to look at published work. For whatever reason, I decided to glance at, of all things, Keep on the Shadowfell. Seriously, what the hell dude? You have a party of 4th level adventurers, not that far from 5th, and you decided the free introductory PDF would fit?
Amazingly, it got me off my ass as I frantically figured out how to plug it into the campaign.
1) Location change. The players were heading from a small, standard fantasy city in the woodlands (Woodfell in my Campaign) and embarking on a quest to Monolith, which you can think of as my token Ptolus/Sharn of my setting that resides on the borderlands between the civilized world and the wastelands. Winterhaven did not fit the geography of the already established map; while they would be traveling near mountains, it was more of a southern area and only a few days travel from a large sandy, dune-ish landscape. Last minute decision: Welcome to Felhaven.
2) Plot Hook Change. They were already heading to Monolith in pursuit of a young girl who had turned out to be in league with an evil cult of an evil god; has taken the party for a wild goose chase in the past, suspected to have a valuable artifact missing from the party (An unhatched Dragon Egg, in a world where Dragons are feared and hunted out.) So to hook them into the events, I had particularly nasty weather on the way to Monolith, coupled with a chance encounter with what looked like a wagon raid. Further investigation revealed the finding of a young boy, son of a merchant they had dealt with earlier in the campaign, cold and delerious and possibly dying. He rambled something about being ambushed by “little people” (Kobolds, common foe so far) and a blonde haired girl. This motivated the party to stop in the next town, get him to a temple, and to investigate the matters.
3) Nature of the town. I turned Winterhaven into Fellhaven. I was going for more Lovecraft inspired town here; very Innsmouth-esque. The players were shunned for being outsiders; the only welcoming they received from the locals was from the temple itself. I gave them untrusting town gaurds, an Inns keeper who refused to give information about the local goings on, whom after being hounded by the Warlord eventually kicked everyone out when it was obvious he was affraid to speak of the locals! Oh yeah, and suspicious public gatherings on dark stormy nights that are obvious cultish activities.
4) Changed the encounter at the Burial Site to be a bit more dramatic. Skipped all the Kobold stuff just to keep the pace of the session going; instead, I gave them skill challenges as they decided to set up camp outside of town during a bad storm. I later had them stumble on a “mining” excavation where they witnessed cultists performing some ritual, followed by the appearance of the Apparition. They actually waited until Morning for them to go away (lol) so I had the girl there talking with the Apparition after performing a Sacrifice on the missing father. Let the players fight the Drakes, had the girl escape and let the Apparition summon a bunch of Dragonkin Skeletons for minions before escaping itself.
5) Should also mention: Totally changing the Gods/Cults here to fit my world. The cult worships Thurizdun, whom is considered the creator of the Abyss and actually worshipped by Tiamat who is, in general, the antagonistic deity of this setting. The world is actually based around a conflict between an empire loyal to Bahamut and the dark armies of the “Many faced deceiver.” In my Cosmology, Thurizdun was bound to the Abyss by the wills of the Eldritch Beings (think Lovecraft again; sorry I’m a sucker) and Tiamat resides in the Abyss. The Shadowfell itself is sort of the borderlands between the Abyss and the Material world; and right now the world is close for those borderlines to be ripped open. The events of Keep on the Shadowfell is pretty much not just trying to prevent the rift to be opened, but possibly to keep Tiamat from crossing back into the material world.
6) Backstory given to the players is now: Decades ago, a mad scribe and powerful priest by the name of Kalarel appeared in the town with word that he believed an ancient burial site of a long past Dragon was near the village. Fellhaven, once a thriving trade town and agricultural center, has been on a sharp decline since the mysterious collapse of Shadowfell Keep, an established temple and outpost for the Church of the Platinum Faith (Bahamut.) The cult of Pelor has moved in to try to help the farmers during their hard times; but this soothsayer had convinced the locals their salvation resided in the hoard possibly buried with the Dragon.
Over the decades, the lust and greed for riches corrupted the townspeople, and Kalarel had begun preaching dark sermons in secret to those seeking the fabled treasure. Now, people of Fellhaven live in fear as the cult has pretty much infiltrated every aspect of the community and has managed to drive off any outsiders who come nosing around. The cult is no longer seeking the Treasure; but instead seeking to ressurect their Dragon Goddess in the physical realm. The burial site is now treated as a sacrificial shrine to Tiamat; and in the lower levels of Shadowfell Keep does Kalarel seek to pierce the barriers between the Abyss and our world to set her free.
Soo…..yeah. Butchering a lot of the back plot to fit my game, to the point the townspeople are freaks and hate the players. Like, more so. BUT the whole session was a blast, it has the players interested now in heading off to the Keep to bitchslap some evil doers (but are unaware of the antics going on!) Best part is we’ve done so much role playing in setting up the story, all of my players are psyched to be back in the game AND we haven’t even set foot in the actual dungeon yet.
But my question is: Was this an awesome practice of taking a fairly popular, introductory module and turning it into something that ties into my campaign and has grabbed my player’s attention; or, was I still pretty much a lazy bastard by doing this and I’m awarded no points, may god have mercy on my soul?