Here Endeth the Campaign (D&D Out of the Abyss, spoilers)
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  1. #1
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    Here Endeth the Campaign (D&D Out of the Abyss, spoilers)

    For the interest of other DMs, and for discussion, I thought I'd summarise how my campaign ended.

    The setup is that eight Demon Lords have appeared on Toril, most arriving in the Underdark. As written, this is resolved by the characters collecting components for a spell that, when cast by the drow mage Vizeran at the Tower of Araj, will banish all bar one of them. The last, gravely wounded, remains for the characters to defeat in battle. They are expected to be level 15 by that point. "The fate of the Underdark and all Faerūn rests on the adventurers' final battle."

    Characters start out imprisoned by the drow. Two real years later, and 278 days in game, having played through levels 1 to 12, my group is finally a few weeks from the grand denouement. They have most of the components (allies, who they expect to rendezvous with, have the rest). As veterans, I have found that my party functions at about one level higher than their character level, so I have planned encounters drawn from the Out of the Abyss content, to get them to level 14. (15 will come from the final encounter.) I've foreshadowed those, so that they know what to prepare for and have some control over what they want to deal with. Too much control, as it transpires.

    They meet Grazilaxx the Mind Flayer. A member of the Society of Brilliance: monsters blessed with a peaceful, inquisitive intelligence, that have banded together to solve the Underdark's problems. Fatally, Grazilaxx has Plane Shift. In conversation, the party's Archfey Warlock, wonders if they could evade the dangers ahead by travelling via the Feywild? This dovetails neatly with his Background and Pact character backstory, and I rule that it is viable; due to the parallel nature of the planes and the terms of the Plane Shift spell. They need merely wait in the Feywild a single day for Grazilaxx to recover Plane Shift, and then can specify Araj as their destination and shift back. Better still, the Warlock knows of a safe location in the Feywild, protected by creatures of his acquaintance and overlooked by his patron (Nicnevin, Queen of Witches.)

    As DM I tell them of the risks: the Warlock knows that time can run differently in the Feywild (Time Warp, optional rule from the DMG). The party know that they have a few months in hand before the presence of the Demon Lords corrupts the fabric of the Material so severely that hosts of demons will be able to enter it and transform Faerūn into a mirror of the Abyss. (Out of the Abyss is apocalyptic, that way.) The Warlock and Bard consult and make an Arcana check, successfully gaining knowledge of the exact terms of the Time Warp (I give them the table). The worst case - a 1 in 20 chance - is that a day in the Feywild will be a year in the Material. As DM, I tell them that such an eventuality will mean certain defeat.

    The party discuss the challenges they might otherwise encounter. In particular, they fear a Zhentarim Beholder and rogue Erinyes who, due to the turn of events at Mantol Derith, have become bitter enemies. They can beat this encounter, but the party are caster heavy and feel a character death is possible, or even likely. My home rule for character death is a reroll at one level below the lowest level among survivors. Additionally, they have been warned that a TPK will mean that the campaign ends in defeat: there must be at least one survivor for hope to continue. (I note this to acknowledge that the party fears were just.) In an encounter a few character levels earlier, the erinyes - Belzeal - downed a character a turn. The combination of the Beholder central eye-ray (antimagic) and the erinyes powerful ranged attack, is lethal! Nuances, such as the erinyes being unable to enter the area covered by the ray, felt helpful... but still the party believed that the fight if joined would come down to the wire.

    I believe you know what happens, inevitably, next. The party decide to go ahead and Plane Shift, believing, reasonably enough, that a 19 in 20 chance of things being fine is as good as they will get. We have the Warlock make the roll, due to his connection with the Feywild. He throws a natural 20. They return to horror. Rolling against madness (they are trapped in a region corrupted by Orcus), all but one of the party fail their saves and suffer awful traits, such as utter fatalism or a compulsion to make those weaker than them suffer. Their other Warlock, Fiend pacted and making his save against the Madness of Orcus, calls upon his Patron to help them. Due to the Blood War between the Nine Hells and the Abyss, I rule that his lawful evil Patron might do this. I have the Warlock roll as if for Divine Intervention, i.e. d100 needing a result equal to or lower than his level. He rolls and gets 48.

    Thus endeth the campaign. In despair and darkness, at the whim of the dice.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    Right now I'm in Italy. Next year, probably Ireland.
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    Some context...

    I didn't expect the campaign to end in this way, or even in this session. I had put a lot of work into the coming days of adventure and was looking forward to DMing it. My characters were enjoying themselves and looking forward to experiencing high-level play, which can be quite rare. No one looked for this result. I will stress that I spelled out what a 20 on the Time Warp table would entail. There were no doubts (and no later complaints) from players on that score.

    I had resolved, early on, and discussed with players, that defeat was a possibility. I did not want to run a campaign where victory for the characters was inevitable.

    I had also resolved that fate would be down to the party. In this thread of time, it was their success or failure that would save or doom Toril. At several times in the campaign, such as in Gravenhollow, I let them see that they were not alone - they had allies known and unknown - but those allies could not decide the day. The party's choices and success would decide the campaign outcome.

    A single roll - a 20 - was not how I imagined it. A whimper, not a bang. How do I feel about that? Sitting and writing this, I feel it was a memorable anti-climax. I won't forget that choice by my players, and that terrible roll.

    For me, ending this campaign, begins the next. In RPG we're not bound to one inevitable narrative. The end of one thread readies the spindle for winding another.
    Last edited by clearstream; Saturday, 3rd November, 2018 at 01:59 PM.

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