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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Legend4ry Plotting: A DM's Challenge

I've been bad lately, loyal follower(s) and I realize it. I've not posted in awhile, and that sucks. Alright, so let's move on, no one wants to read an apology about how I've been busy or whatever.

So I've been writing lately. I am doing NaGaDeMon, but admittedly I've been slacking. Like, way bad.  Life has been lifey, and some things come first. One such priority is my on-going 4e D&D game with my newbs that I taught to play last August. The DORX crew (Dox, Oran, Razul, and Xune) are coming up against some pretty big hurdles. This has been my first time running a custom campaign (layered over the pre-existing Nentir Vale,) though I've written many half-baked campaign ideas from my involvement in 3.X onwards.

What makes this campaign bigger and harder, is that I'm using a lot of the design philosophies toted on these very pages. Hit the jump to see what I mean.

First off, the campaign is hitting the Heroic Tier ONLY. This makes for some interesting design choices not only for encounters and magic items, but in terms of the scope of the story itself.

To give a quick run down: Orcus is trying to enter the Material Plane and has somehow silenced the other gods. Divine magic is now dead (save for in Winterhaven, which is somehow protected by the aura from the nearby Keep) and the gods are truly silenced. Most cities and villages have been overrun by the Undead and Demonic (and sometimes Demonic Undead) hordes of Orcus that are sweeping the lands. The only cities that remain are Winterhaven and a rebuilt Fallcrest. Fallcrest was rebuilt by a non-Divine knightly order called the Order of the Beyond who serves as police to the Vale and Fallcrest itself.

Basically, the world has turned to shit. Silence of the gods and fighting Orcus is typically a pretty Epic Tier affair, but as I don't quite dig the math behind Paragon and Epic Tiers, I've decided, my like with Legend4ry D&D, to keep it Heroic Tier only.

I've had to de-level monsters, rebuild monsters from scratch based on larger ideas, build magic items, etc. Basically, everything from the top to the bottom has had to be customized. I want the players to feel powerful in an otherwise bleak and deadly world. And hell, it is damn bleak and deadly. 

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One of the things I've been toying with, as mentioned here previously, is simplified stat blocks. You can see the evolution of this idea with my Dungeon Crawlin' Kobolds post and Legend4ry Monsters: Stat Blocks post. To the left is a stat block for a simple guard at Fallcrest. While likely the Beyonder won't come into play, having a simple stat block was easy to make and easy to implement. At the very worst, I can refluff the stat block on the fly to be something else or more generic.

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Speaking of customized magic items, it has been a learning experience. I'm trying to balance upping the deadly nature of the campaign world with the power of the party. While normally Legend4ry play is all about the deadly, this story also tries to balance deadly with telling a story. This isn't your typical Fourthcore dungeon crawl and doesn't try to be. One idea that I'm toying with is giving the party Action Points every encounter. It gives  me the opportunity to up the ante on encounter deadliness, while empowering them to be more heroic. To balance this out, some monsters may be more prone to have Action Points, and this gives me the justification to throw down a monster Action Point on the fly if needed. 

Thus far it's been quite the adventure. The story is progressing nicely, and without handing out any spoilers (some of my players do read my blog, after all) things are about to get intense in the next session.

Until next time,

You can follow me on Twitter @Sorcerer_Blob or via the hash-tag #legend4ry. You can also find my blog and others at the Fourthcore Hub and at the RPG Blog Alliance.

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