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D&D 5E Grand Tour of the Realms - brainstorm a 5e adventure path

If Forgotten Realms is going to be the core setting at the start of 5th edition, then I think it's key to have an excellent series of adventures that show off the damned place. Not in a "and this week the Deus ex Machina will be . . . Khelben Blackstaff!" sort of way, but rather a compelling and original jaunt across a vibrant world.

First of all, you have to assume the typical player and GM knows nothing about the realms. So you have to set the scene well, and cleverly weave exposition about future locations into the earlier adventures. We're doing something similar in ZEITGEIST, but we're more focused in one city, with the rest of the world being locations to go to for a single adventure act before returning home.

For a Realms game I'd want travel to be constant. You're 'Adventurers!', so while it might be okay to have a home base for a short period of time, you should have to move on to another 'home base' every few levels.

Second of all, you need to avoid the problem the Scales of War path had, which was that it didn't seem to be planned out in advance. I'm not saying you need a plot-dense series with recurring NPCs and deep philosophical themes, but if you're making a long-term campaign, you may as well lay seeds for later events early on so there's more pay-off for people who stick with it.

Each individual adventure needs to be self-contained. There's an objective, and you complete the objective. But perhaps series of two or three adventures could have mini arcs, where perhaps you're working toward a complex goal.

Finally, it needs to tread a careful balance between showing off the world and letting the PCs be the heroes. Sometimes there should be NPCs who can help, but they shouldn't show up on their own; it should be up to the PCs when to involve allies, and the adventures should take that into account while still giving the PCs heroic things to do.


So, what would you want to see in a Forgotten Realms iconic adventure path?
 
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Kaodi

Hero
I think the Moonshae Isles would be a good place to either start or to set one of the early adventures. While the idea of " Faerie " has gotten a fair amount of play recently, I think it would be nice to see an adventure that actually played up a more holistic version of the influence of the British Isles.
 


I think you need to travel. Part of the character of the Realms is its geographical diversity - locking the AP down to one area loses that.

I think the heartlands - Waterdeep, Cormyr and the Dales - need to be heavily involved. Personally I find these regions deeply uninspiring and prefer more interesting areas like the Old Empires (when they existed), Rashemen, Anauroch, the Shaar, Dambrath etc, but the heartlands regions are so integral to the history of the Realms they'd be hard to leave out. Same with the Harpers - I generally despise both the concept and the execution, but they're very Realmsian and probably should make an appearance.

I think you need to involved more than one of the classic Realms villain groups. Again, there's too much iconic material to neglect. Perhaps some sort of overarching plot where multiple evil organisations (Cult of the Dragon, Zhentarim, etc etc, even maybe the Drow) vie for a single item/person/piece of knowledge/whatever.

The plot - jeez, it'd depend what era you took as your starting point. In general though, I reckon the key would probably be history. The Realms has so damn much of it, might as well use it. Perhaps the plot could revolve around some wizard or item with chronomantic powers, which a) would let you spend time in BOTH the spellplague era and the 'classic' Realms, and b) also possibly influence whether the Spellplague happened at all.

Or perhaps the PCs start in a small village (the Dales, presumably...), and one of the locals is a slightly creepy youngster who is prone to catching and eating small bits of wildlife. Turns out the kid can gain a certain amount of the knowledge of any creature he eats. Perhaps he's the result of a Zhent breeding program? Perhaps his sick mother asks the PCs to look after him (maybe extracts a binding promise or oath, perhaps she's actually a Zhent or a devil/angel/genie in disguise or something). Anyway, the kid runs off after being caught graverobbing, and the PCs have to go after him because they find out some nefarious organisation is after the kid to use him to interrogate even their most resistant enemies, find out forgotten secrets by eating bits of people who knew them, etc etc. And the kid gets a bit addicted to the process - keeps looking for more and more unique and powerful creatures and individuals to 'sample'. And at some point he gets killed, and naturally comes back as a powerful unique ghoul who now gets some of the power of those he eats. Maybe he snacks on a bit of a manshoon-clone? Or heads to Unther to try find a piece of Gilgeam, or some other dead god? Everyone in the Realms wants to kill him or use him, but the PCs are either pledged to protect him or else they are the only ones who know/suspect he can be 'cured' and want to help him. He can lead the PCs a merry dance all over the realms, offending all the local power groups, causing trouble wherever he goes, and eventually either provoke or become a major threat himself.

Just brainstorming...
 

Jiggawatts

Adventurer
PC's stop the spellplague adventure path.

Starts in Waterdeep, goes through the Heartlands, Cormyr, the Moonsea where the PC's run afoul of the Zhentarim, to Calimshan, Mulhorand, all the way to Thaymount for tea time with Szass Tam.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I, too, believe it should be one where you get to travel the Realms a bit.

I think I'd start in Shadowdale with a minor adventure - probably something against orcs. At the end of that battle, they discover the orcs were using an elvish artifact called the Farstone they had absconded with from Myth Drannor. The Farstone lets those that possess it summon creatures from another plane.

From this point onward, the characters find themselves followed by agents of the Zhentarim, who seek to make the character's lives difficult, if not outright attack them and attempt to take the Farstone for themselves.

They learn (probably from Elminster) that the Farstone is actually one of seven such stones (6 stones plus a keystone) that formed an extradimensional doorway that once stood in Myth Drannor. They are urged to take the stone to Waterdeep, where it can either be sold or the location of the other five stones might be known. At least one other stone is known to be held in Waterdeep, in the possession Khelben Blackstaff.

The characters then travel the Black Road through Anauroch to Waterdeep. There are several encounters on the road to Waterdeep, including a brush with Phaerimm agents who'd like nothing more than take the Farstone. A "side quest" reveals itself in the discovery that Shimmerhaze (a blue dragon) has acquired a Farstone in his treasury. It turns out the dragon was destroyed by the Phaerimm's forces, but the stone was not recovered - leaving it open for the party to recover if they can defeat the agents of the Phaerimm.

Arriving at Waterdeep, they learn that the artifact's twin was absconded by Halaster and taken into Undermountain. During the item's theft, Halaster unleashed a bevvy of strange creatures into the city who need to be retrieved. The party has opportunities to collect the bounties on several of these strange beasties, but their primary goal should be to penetrate Undermountain and recover the second Farstone.

Braving Undermountain, the characters should eventually locate the artifact's twin in Skullport. In return for the Farstone, its current owner parleys for the characters to return an intelligent Flameskull wizard to Icewind Dale. To sweeten the deal, the party is told about the treasure horde of Icefang the Invincible, who apparently holds in his horde another Farstone.

After delivering the Flameskull to Icewind Dale to protect a village, the party becomes involved with defeating Icefang the Invincible (a white dragon), who has intimidated an entire village into raiding and cannibalism in the dragon's name. In Icefang's labyrinth cavern, the characters discover an imprisoned genie. In return for his freedom, the genie tells the characters about a "wicked" Calimshan Shi'ar who holds the Farstone's keystone.

The characters travel to Calimshan to locate the Shi'ar holding the keystone, to learn that he's not as bad as the genie made him out to be. In fact, though he holds the keystone, its magic was stolen by Efreet who wished to punish the Shi'ar for his hubris. However, the Shi'ar knows that the magic of the keystone was imbued into phoenix ash and taken by the lead Efreet back to the City of Brass. He's been acquiring information on how to breech the estate in the City, but can't travel there himself as the Efreet Lords have banished him from the city.

After retrieving the ash and activating the artifact, the Shi'ar tells the party the last remaining stone is hidden in a special grave in the Great Rift in Shaar. The party must travel there and brave unhollowed ground to find the Sunken Tomb, where lies the last Farstone and the evil dragon Nightfang the Decayed (a black dragon).

It is at this time, with the characters having acquired the last Farstone, that a shadow-corrupted force of Zhent agents make their boldest strike attempting to take the Farstones for themselves. Whether victorious or defeated, the characters learn that the Farstone portal only works when placed as the entrance to a tower without windows or doors in Myth Drannor. These attacks escalate until the stones are stolen or the characters reach Myth Drannor.

Finally, the party travels to Myth Drannor to discover that Deathflame (a red dragon), a handful of Cult of the Dragon sycophants and a group of Thayian wizards has finished constructing a Shadow Portal (the opposite of the Farstone Portal - it transverses time, not space) and traveled to the lands beyond. By combining the Shadow Portal and the Farstone Portal to thwart the evil plans of the dragon, the party finds itself on the Layer of Absolute Night in the Abyss, where they must confront the Nightlords (Shades from ancient Netheril), who engineered the creation of the portal in an attempt to subvert the destruction of ancient Netheril.
 
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This is not just an FR comment, but a general plea for whatever first adventure WotC puts out.

It's fine to start with an adventure against orcs, but please WotC, do something novel. Like, I dunno, the orcs are still rampaging savages, but they've got a goal other than just slaughter. There's a monster coming up out of the ground where they live, and so they need steel weapons to kill it instead of stone and bone. Or maybe they're trying to kill a heretic half-orc preacher who's converting other tribes to more peaceful ways. Or maybe two young warriors are vying to see who can kill the most humans so they can get the chieftain's daughter.

Something that lends itself to PCs interacting with NPCs, and having an option to solve things some way other than 'kill them all.'
 

TarionzCousin

Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
I would start in Cormyr. It's full of Ed Greenwood's original ideas and the starting point for some of his own campaigns (Evenstar Castle, if I recall correctly). It's a fairly simple medieval, pseudo-European, chivalric kingdom.

About level 3 the PC's begin trekking across the Western Heartland, ending up in Baldur's Gate at level 5 for tea and cakes.

Hit Calimshan at level 7 or so and become intimately acquainted with their Thieves Guild. Explore the Jungles of Chult, maybe help the Lantanese solve a mystery.

Hop a portal to the Dalelands to fend off those pesky Drow. Then spend some quality time cuddling with demons and devils in Myth Drannor until level 11 or 12.

Now you're ready to fend off the Red Scourge of Thay in Aglarond.

Waterdeep has the answers the PC's need, and begins the intermittent treks into Undermountain and Skullport. Welcome to level 17.

A quick shopping trip to Silverymoon turns into an extended exploration of something stirring beneath the site of Hellgate Keep. It leads the PC's to the Star Mounts and from there, to the Outer Planes. Level 20 has arrived.

After that, planar adventures mixed with world-impacting events. Details escape my tired brain right now.
 

Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
I think the main question is what the final enemy is about. They could for once leave the gods exist in peace and not end a FR AP in one or more Realms shattering events and the gods slaughtering each other.
 

Derulbaskul

Adventurer
Let's start with Manshoon as the villain.

What his goal? How about wiping out all the deities of FR. To do that he needs to unleash Pandorym.

He's got the Zhents as his own private army and perhaps he has convinced the Cyricists in the ranks that he is working with them to free Cyric from his divine prison.

Some quick bullet points:

Heroic Tier

  • Cormyr and the Stonelands (maybe become Baron of the Stonelands).
  • Bullywugs (progenitors of the slaadi in FR).
  • Zhents sowing chaos and also seeking out primordial relics from bullywug ruins in the swamps of the Stonelands.

Paragon Tier

  • Giants (something like Revenge of the Giants without the seriously stupid astral giants).
  • Slaadi.
  • Elemental Chaos.
  • The Pandemonium Stone is summoned to Faerun.

Epic Tier

  • Imaskari lands.
  • Pandorym's lair from 3.5's Elder Evils including a battle with Manshoon
 

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