Ye Olde GM
I was working on this idea on another forum site. It has a smaller audience, including some members that I recognized from this one, but with more subforums to help readers find relevant content that interests them. So if you're a fan of a particular edition, game, or campaign setting, you don't need to wade through a sea of the content aimed at the most popular or current game system.
After receiving positive response and encouragement (while taking my time to polish and work on my writing skills), I've decided to share this project over here. My approach will be a little different, however. At the time this post was written, it is still a continuous work in progress, and I'm writing quite a lot. It's already a hefty to read with multiple topics to cover. So, instead of planning for several large posts in one thread, I will eventually post the various topics in their own threads.
Even though I am writing specifically for 4th edition, most of the information here is usable with any version or game system. I don't think I need to explain that, but it seems people sometimes forget. I hope to convince others that an older edition is still a viable option, no matter which one you prefer. We don't need tools, or support, or permission, if we have the books and the desire to continue enjoying them.
Your responses and participation let me know that I'm not just talking into the void. It's time we start showing more love for 4e, and for all the other editions we loved playing before, and would love to play again.
After acquiring my own physical copy of Madness at Gardmore Abbey, I began thinking of how to expand it into a full-length, Heroic-tier campaign. Like many Dungeon Masters before me, searching through forum and blog posts lead me down some familiar avenues, hoping to find inspiration and ideas. With maybe a handful of exceptions, I found mostly lists of other published adventures. There was barely any discussion beyond the order to run them (which was usually obvious going by the level of characters recommended). Or, how to create better plot hooks so the players didn't feel like they were going from one random adventure to the next.
My search uncovered many places where these lists were repeated over the years, offering little or no variation whatsoever. I had decided that anyone with access to the same library of products and an equal skill level of "googling" could have come up with the same sequences on their own. That lead me to come up with my own path, and try to do things a little differently. To begin, I should lay out my goals, as well as my own personal criteria.
I want to expand the Reavers of Harkenwold adventure into a longer campaign arc that will cover character levels 1-5. I also want to incorporate more plot hooks to tie the adventure more directly into my next planned campaign, the aforementioned Madness at Gardmore Abbey. Together, the two campaigns should create a larger storyline with greater continuity. It will take more work and effort, but that is the kind of preparation that I personally enjoy. I hope it will help and inspire others who have searched similar avenues hoping to find more than just a list.
Note: This thread is intended mostly for DMs. There are SPOILERS for the adventures in this thread. Proceed at your own risk.
As written, Reavers of Harkenwold (RoH) was designed for characters of levels 2-3. That means I need to either expand or create content to cover levels 1, 4, and 5. One of things that makes RoH so great, however, is that it starts off strong and continues through to its climatic finish. So it makes sense to let the adventure itself begin at level 1 rather than find something else to awkwardly fill the introduction of everything to come. That means the adventure must also be prolonged until the expected conclusion, which will see the characters at level 5 instead of 3. But have no fear! It can be done.
Aside from the expected range of levels in play, there are a few points I want to keep in mind:
- Maintain a Theme: The campaign focuses on the liberation of Harkenwold from the Iron Circle. I will need to maintain this theme even while the players are directed towards various quests and excursions that don't always wave the Iron Circle banner in front of their faces. At the same time, I don't want to beat them over the head with constant threats.
- Foreshadowing The Next Story Arc: Characters should find clues and plot hooks that will hone their expectations for what is to come. NPCs will need to do more than just point to the next place on the adventure path. The transition from one campaign to the next should be seamless and natural, not forced. And it needs to feel like the players made the decision themselves (or at least agree it is the best/logical option for them).
- Beyond 4e: I've been running and collecting published materials from every edition of the game for years. I am also familiar with other fantasy RPGs and settings, like Pathfinder. I don't need to invent new things or be more original than the last product. That's just more work that has probably already been done for me, if I know where to look. A good idea can be recycled and retold to a new audience that has yet to experience it for themselves.
With all this in mind, I already have some ideas that I am ready to divulge. But I am a slow and meticulous writer. It will take me days to write them down and a few revisions before I am ready to present them publicly. Hopefully by the time you are reading this, everything will be ready and available to peruse. In the meantime, the discussions below will be available to engage with me, and other readers, to offer additional insights and ideas.
A Little Research and a Big Discovery
According to his blog, Richard Baker originally wrote Reavers of Harkenwold as the first in a series of adventure products for a new H-P-E adventure path. The project was cancelled, as we know by the lack of its existence in print, but not before Baker completed writing his assignment. However, the adventure would later be re-purposed for the D&D Essentials Dungeon Master’s Kit. As Mr. Baker explains it, "(Christopher Perkins) took the adventure I’d written for the 96-page 4e adventure format, and boiled it down to its new size and purpose."
The entire blog is an interesting read. What I find most interesting (and relevant to this thread), is that there were 32 extra pages that had been removed to fit the shorter, published format. We can speculate about what we missed in that original version, or hope that Mr. Baker will reveal his secrets to us one day. But then I made a second discovery in an unexpected place.
Mike Schley was one of the cartographers for the original adventure, and it appears that most of his work was carried over into the revised module. When I went to his site to purchase the map bundle for Reavers of Harkenwold, however, I found two new maps that do not appear in the published version of the adventure! (If you click on the images below, they will take you directly to his online store where you can purchase them for yourself.)
The maps are labeled, pointing to two featured locations in the first part of the adventure: Toadwallow and the Catacombs of Dar Nystiere. Just by the size and labeling, we can infer that Baker planned these locations in his original version. But these unpublished maps suggest more encounters with more areas to explore. These were closer to dungeon crawls commonly seen before the shorter, delve-style dungeons designed exclusively with Essential Tiles products became the standard.
Despite not knowing the exact details of what was lost, even if it were not missed, a competent Dungeon Master should be capable of repopulating these dungeon locations for their own games. Of course, more encounters generates more treasure, more experience points, and more adventure for the group. That alone should provide at least one more level of play for the campaign, if not two. We shall see.
In my opinion, the maps are a great boon for anyone who wants to expand this adventure. It may not be a blank canvas, but it provides an easy spring board to get more out of this adventure with less work. More than any other product from this time, I feel RoH had the most room to expand and improve. And these maps are practically handing it to us.
At this point, I'm gonna turn the discussion over to the forums. I already have some ideas on what I want to do. If the interest is here, I will be sharing them as well. But I want to hear some more ideas out there. I can't be the only person that has thought of this. So I would love to hear how others expanded this adventure, or others in the series in their own campaigns!
1: Expanding the Iron Circle || Part I: The Iron Circle || Part II: The Iron Circle (cont.) || Part III: The Fell Court || Part IV: The Ashmadai || Part V: Gardmore Abbey
2: Building the Adventure Outline || Part I: The (Original) Adventure Synopsis || Part II: Just Add the Starter Set || Part III: The Revised Synopsis (Part I) || Part IV: Regarding Eladrins, Elves, and Goblins || Part V: TBA