D&D General B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, and why (I think) it's great

Stormonu

Legend
Well, Moldvay had the advantage there had already been a picture drawn up (even if it was changed again), so easy enough to modify the room description based on that.

What I find strangely interesting is the symbols on the wall in the revised picture. It got me looking through the Vestiges in 3.5's Tome of Magic because I thought I'd seen that "A G L A" pattern before.
 

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timbannock

Hero
Supporter
TL;DR: I hope this isn't a threadjack -- or if it is, it's a fruitful one that adds to the conversation, as well -- but I was wondering what would you folks put on your wish list of things to update, revise, or add to B3 in order to strengthen its themes and story?

Background: I'm planning to use B3 as the basis of a one-shot for a level 1 Shadowdark adventure that's going to introduce a group of mostly all-new-to-TTRPGs players. Based on our session zero discussion about content and themes, B3 seems like a fantastic fit, but I need to cut some content and really lean into the puzzles and roleplay over combat. (Which isn't hard; B3 is already great about that.)

My Take: My take on the initial question above has been to revisit the OG version of B3 mainly, while still taking a couple elements of the later Moldvay version, and place them on a smaller, more sensible map (okay, still 2 maps: lower/entrance level and upper level). Briefly, I'm going with the following changes, but these are more of a slightly refined second draft than a final draft.
  • I really liked some of the "How I'd Run..." section from this blog, mainly that the ruby is cursed and is radiating that curse over the land outside its walls, which serves as the adventure hook: "Go to the palace and lift the curse by any means necessary, lest all the plants in the land become animated and try to kill us." (I'm not necessarily going as heavy into the fairy tale them where the PCs will be gnomes and mushroom people, though.)
  • The ruby was cursed on the masquerade/wedding night by a witch-like character who petrified a bunch of the servants on her way in during the wedding/masquerade.
  • So, most of the "inhabitant" monsters (not recent interlopers) are animated plants or animated statue-people, all cursed by the ruby's evil radiation.
  • Carthandamus and his crew are related to the witch that cursed the ruby, and want to use it for MWUAHAHAHAHA evil purposes.
  • Candella and Duchess joined up with a company of adventurers that also heeded the adventure hook (above)...but mostly because they wanted to loot the castle.
  • Unfortunately, that adventuring company included Tarvis the Cleaver (renamed Travis), who murdered the rest of the company after his mind was immediately twisted by the ruby-curse (he was already evil, so it only took a hot second for him to go bonkers).
  • Therefore, many NPC encounters are pretty much wandering ones: Candella & Duchess trying to hide from Tarvis and looking for a way out, Tarvis hunting them down.
  • The ghost of Princess Argenta is bound by the ruby, but wants it destroyed to free her...only she is bound in such a way that she will try to stop people from destroying it. Great catch-22, that. Notably, she has a bit of a poltergeist effect, creating animated minions throughout the palace from brooms, chairs, silverware, etc.
  • And thus, the encounters ultimately look like this: Entrance level = plant monsters, roaming ruby-statue people, Candella + Duchess, Tarvis. Upper level = animated furniture and other objects, more plants (in garden), more ruby-people, ghost of Princess Argenta, Carthandamus + crew.
  • Oh, and the dragon knight who married Princess Argenta was killed on the wedding night by the witch, and his dragon (a white dragon) was banished by the witch into a statue.
The existing illusions will be re-framed to sort of replay the events of the wedding night to show how the witch petrifies servants, curses the ruby, slays the dragon knight, banishes the dragon, and binds Princess Argenta's spirit to the ruby to power it for evil curse-spreading. The dragon-stuck-in-the-statue will be a puzzle that can be solved to summon the dragon to help destroy the ruby. This is one of three ways the ruby can be destroyed; the other two are gaining dominance over the intelligent sword of the dragon knight still floating around (another random encounter) or finding a magical harp in one of the rooms and finding an ancient song elsewhere in the palace designed to break powerful enchantments.

I get that's a lot. But it's not as hard a task as it probably sounds. Even just the rough draft has me 75% of the way there; I just have to place the few set encounters (Carth+crew, Princess+ruby, dragon statue puzzle, a few ruby-statue-people, a few plants, a few animated furnishings, the illusions that hint at the back story, magical harp) on new maps I've picked out (entrance level and upper level) and finalize the rest of the stuff (Candella+Duchess, Tarvis, ruby-statues, mobile plants, animated furnishings, Dragon Knight's flying sword) as wandering encounters.
 

squibbles

Adventurer
TL;DR: I hope this isn't a threadjack -- or if it is, it's a fruitful one that adds to the conversation, as well -- but I was wondering what would you folks put on your wish list of things to update, revise, or add to B3 in order to strengthen its themes and story?
Threadjack all you like.

Background: I'm planning to use B3 as the basis of a one-shot for a level 1 Shadowdark adventure that's going to introduce a group of mostly all-new-to-TTRPGs players. Based on our session zero discussion about content and themes, B3 seems like a fantastic fit, but I need to cut some content and really lean into the puzzles and roleplay over combat. (Which isn't hard; B3 is already great about that.)

My Take: My take on the initial question above has been to revisit the OG version of B3 mainly, while still taking a couple elements of the later Moldvay version, and place them on a smaller, more sensible map (okay, still 2 maps: lower/entrance level and upper level). Briefly, I'm going with the following changes, but these are more of a slightly refined second draft than a final draft.
  • I really liked some of the "How I'd Run..." section from this blog, mainly that the ruby is cursed and is radiating that curse over the land outside its walls, which serves as the adventure hook: "Go to the palace and lift the curse by any means necessary, lest all the plants in the land become animated and try to kill us." (I'm not necessarily going as heavy into the fairy tale them where the PCs will be gnomes and mushroom people, though.)
Shadowdark uses gold for XP, no? That makes for a game a lot better suited to the tempo of the module as originally written (orange one, not green one which dungeon of signs is discussing). PCs go to a strange place, loot it, and get stronger. That risk/reward calculus incentivises PCs to avoid fighting, negotiate with NPCs more, and come up with creative solutions to challenges rather than mechanical ones.

However, it doesn't fit as well with the heroes on a quest hook you describe. It fits with a more general "Hey, legend says theres a giant ruby in the old ruined palace full of wierd stuff, you're adventurous types, you should go check it out for fun and profit."

That's not to say there shouldn't be a curse radiating from the ruby, which PCs could gradually discover, but the encounters in the palace are more compelling if they're uncanny and whimsical rather than actively hostile. You could have a great one shot without neccessarily expecting the PCs to solve the curse during it.

  • The ruby was cursed on the masquerade/wedding night by a witch-like character who petrified a bunch of the servants on her way in during the wedding/masquerade.
  • So, most of the "inhabitant" monsters (not recent interlopers) are animated plants or animated statue-people, all cursed by the ruby's evil radiation.
  • Carthandamus and his crew are related to the witch that cursed the ruby, and want to use it for MWUAHAHAHAHA evil purposes.
That all tracks.

  • Candella and Duchess joined up with a company of adventurers that also heeded the adventure hook (above)...but mostly because they wanted to loot the castle.
  • Unfortunately, that adventuring company included Tarvis the Cleaver (renamed Travis), who murdered the rest of the company after his mind was immediately twisted by the ruby-curse (he was already evil, so it only took a hot second for him to go bonkers).
  • Therefore, many NPC encounters are pretty much wandering ones: Candella & Duchess trying to hide from Tarvis and looking for a way out, Tarvis hunting them down.
This is a great way to tie these NPCs together. It would also be a great place for the players to get introduced to the curse, if you didn't include that as part of the hook.

  • And thus, the encounters ultimately look like this: Entrance level = plant monsters, roaming ruby-statue people, Candella + Duchess, Tarvis. Upper level = animated furniture and other objects, more plants (in garden), more ruby-people, ghost of Princess Argenta, Carthandamus + crew.
The bubbles in the pool at 1D, the whistling marble snake in room 29 of the 2nd floor, and the protectors in the guard tower are some of the best encounters in the module, mainly by being unexpected and odd. I'd be careful not to cut too much in the interests of making the module more coherent.

The existing illusions will be re-framed to sort of replay the events of the wedding night to show how the witch petrifies servants, curses the ruby, slays the dragon knight, banishes the dragon, and binds Princess Argenta's spirit to the ruby to power it for evil curse-spreading.
As I say in the OP, the best thing about this module is its intriquing ambiguity.

You don't actually want to tell the players what happened. You do want to have a story in mind--otherwise you're just doing mystery box BS--but you want to drip out that information as hints and give the players the opportunity to come up with their own explanation. That way they get to actively participate in the creating the fiction, even if their guesses are wrong.

Introducing the witch in the illusions would work well, but having the illusions prvide the whole backstory would give too much away.
 

Well, Moldvay had the advantage there had already been a picture drawn up (even if it was changed again), so easy enough to modify the room description based on that.

What I find strangely interesting is the symbols on the wall in the revised picture. It got me looking through the Vestiges in 3.5's Tome of Magic because I thought I'd seen that "A G L A" pattern before.
AGLA appears in medieval and later magical charms and on talismans, and might be a Goetic or Kabbalistic notarikon for ʾAtā gībōr ləʿōlām ʾĂḏōnāy, "Thou, O Lord, art mighty forever." This one looks like Dr John Dee's talisman.

The 3.5 Tome of Magic draws heavily on medieval grimoires.
 

timbannock

Hero
Supporter
Threadjack all you like.
Great points, all! I agree that I framed this quite a bit too far on the side of "5E heroes on a quest" and need to lean more into what makes Shadowdark strong. I think the simple change of reframing the hook and making the spreading curse more of a background element that might come out later in the adventure works really well. I'll definitely implement that.

I never liked the guard tower, but I agree that the bubbles and a few other encounters are worth preserving. The bubbles is one I'm really interested in keeping, but didn't quite see a way to do so and keep this thing contained to a one-shot, but I think just having it be its own weird thing in one room should be fine.

I've got some revising to do! Thank you for your feedback.
 

squibbles

Adventurer
Great points, all! I agree that I framed this quite a bit too far on the side of "5E heroes on a quest" and need to lean more into what makes Shadowdark strong. I think the simple change of reframing the hook and making the spreading curse more of a background element that might come out later in the adventure works really well. I'll definitely implement that.

I never liked the guard tower, but I agree that the bubbles and a few other encounters are worth preserving. The bubbles is one I'm really interested in keeping, but didn't quite see a way to do so and keep this thing contained to a one-shot, but I think just having it be its own weird thing in one room should be fine.

I've got some revising to do! Thank you for your feedback.
Ya, happy to help.

And you're welcome to post more of your ideas here, or to say how it goes when you run it.
 



TL;DR: I hope this isn't a threadjack -- or if it is, it's a fruitful one that adds to the conversation, as well -- but I was wondering what would you folks put on your wish list of things to update, revise, or add to B3 in order to strengthen its themes and story?

Background: I'm planning to use B3 as the basis of a one-shot for a level 1 Shadowdark adventure that's going to introduce a group of mostly all-new-to-TTRPGs players. Based on our session zero discussion about content and themes, B3 seems like a fantastic fit, but I need to cut some content and really lean into the puzzles and roleplay over combat. (Which isn't hard; B3 is already great about that.)

My Take: My take on the initial question above has been to revisit the OG version of B3 mainly, while still taking a couple elements of the later Moldvay version, and place them on a smaller, more sensible map (okay, still 2 maps: lower/entrance level and upper level). Briefly, I'm going with the following changes, but these are more of a slightly refined second draft than a final draft.
  • I really liked some of the "How I'd Run..." section from this blog, mainly that the ruby is cursed and is radiating that curse over the land outside its walls, which serves as the adventure hook: "Go to the palace and lift the curse by any means necessary, lest all the plants in the land become animated and try to kill us." (I'm not necessarily going as heavy into the fairy tale them where the PCs will be gnomes and mushroom people, though.)
  • The ruby was cursed on the masquerade/wedding night by a witch-like character who petrified a bunch of the servants on her way in during the wedding/masquerade.
  • So, most of the "inhabitant" monsters (not recent interlopers) are animated plants or animated statue-people, all cursed by the ruby's evil radiation.
  • Carthandamus and his crew are related to the witch that cursed the ruby, and want to use it for MWUAHAHAHAHA evil purposes.
  • Candella and Duchess joined up with a company of adventurers that also heeded the adventure hook (above)...but mostly because they wanted to loot the castle.
  • Unfortunately, that adventuring company included Tarvis the Cleaver (renamed Travis), who murdered the rest of the company after his mind was immediately twisted by the ruby-curse (he was already evil, so it only took a hot second for him to go bonkers).
  • Therefore, many NPC encounters are pretty much wandering ones: Candella & Duchess trying to hide from Tarvis and looking for a way out, Tarvis hunting them down.
  • The ghost of Princess Argenta is bound by the ruby, but wants it destroyed to free her...only she is bound in such a way that she will try to stop people from destroying it. Great catch-22, that. Notably, she has a bit of a poltergeist effect, creating animated minions throughout the palace from brooms, chairs, silverware, etc.
  • And thus, the encounters ultimately look like this: Entrance level = plant monsters, roaming ruby-statue people, Candella + Duchess, Tarvis. Upper level = animated furniture and other objects, more plants (in garden), more ruby-people, ghost of Princess Argenta, Carthandamus + crew.
  • Oh, and the dragon knight who married Princess Argenta was killed on the wedding night by the witch, and his dragon (a white dragon) was banished by the witch into a statue.
The existing illusions will be re-framed to sort of replay the events of the wedding night to show how the witch petrifies servants, curses the ruby, slays the dragon knight, banishes the dragon, and binds Princess Argenta's spirit to the ruby to power it for evil curse-spreading. The dragon-stuck-in-the-statue will be a puzzle that can be solved to summon the dragon to help destroy the ruby. This is one of three ways the ruby can be destroyed; the other two are gaining dominance over the intelligent sword of the dragon knight still floating around (another random encounter) or finding a magical harp in one of the rooms and finding an ancient song elsewhere in the palace designed to break powerful enchantments.

I get that's a lot. But it's not as hard a task as it probably sounds. Even just the rough draft has me 75% of the way there; I just have to place the few set encounters (Carth+crew, Princess+ruby, dragon statue puzzle, a few ruby-statue-people, a few plants, a few animated furnishings, the illusions that hint at the back story, magical harp) on new maps I've picked out (entrance level and upper level) and finalize the rest of the stuff (Candella+Duchess, Tarvis, ruby-statues, mobile plants, animated furnishings, Dragon Knight's flying sword) as wandering encounters.
Well this is inspiring! I've not had a lot of motivation for GMing at the moment, but Shadowdark and this module really sparks my interest.
 

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