D&D General What are you prepping for your next D&D session? (+)

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Started prepping for the follow up to what has now been dubbed "The Battle at Troll Hole" - and like I said two sessions ago, I have to prep for a session where the PCs have some choice about what to do and what order and when/how to travel - so it is very open ended. Towards that end I am posting my session notes which are representative of how I do my session prep, one to four pages of possibilities and complications that the process of developing and printing out helps cement in my head in such a way that it remains flexible and I may not end up even looking at it! Nevertheless, I find it useful to do.

If, for some reason, one or more of my players find their way here, these notes are not for you!
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I’m putting the contents of Death House into the map of House of Lament. Rose and Thorne are in the tower instead of their bedroom. The secret stairs lead to the dungeon under Death House. Designing ambient and awakened haunts more appropriate to the story of Death House. The spirit board is still in the parlor, but instead of the three scripted seances, it can be used to cast contact other plane as a ritual, contacting a random spirit out of Gustav, Elizabeth, Rose, Thorne, the maid, or the butler, whom I’ve ported over and made a Priest of Osybus instead of a Keeper of the Feather or whatever he was in House of Lament. In my version of the backstory he’s the one who got the Dursts into the occult and taught them about the vestige beneath the house. His goal was to become its avatar, but it ended up choosing Elizabeth instead when she sacrificed Walter to it. The PCs can escape the house either by killing Elizabeth (who is a wight instead of a ghast), by sacrificing someone to the vestige to appease it, or by making the butler the new darklord of the house (which I’m not specifically planning a way to pull off, but if the players come up with one, I figure he’ll let them leave as repayment).
 

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
I'm not prepping squat.

Because my players are on a ship going from Neverwinter to Leilon. And something dark and chaotic dwells in the depths and is coming.

So every hour on the hour, a new encounter happens. Not necessarily combat. Depends on how they want to play it. I've got a whole series of encounters lined up to take place. We use Roll20, so everything is all on the GM layer. All I have to do is move things onto the Token layer. In each option, combat can be avoided through, though there's usually some kind of ethical dilemma involved.

I've got the whole night planned.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
A small site adventure that will be an old lair of Acererak before he headed off to the East and became a lich. So it will give clues and bits and pieces to where the Tomb of Horrors is and some other artifacts that could put the party up against some Greyhawk death knights as well. Oh and also captive pit fiends, spectres, wraiths, ghosts, and lets not forget golems, golems, golems and more golems!
 

Prep:
  • The players are starting in a large city, so I am reading Lies of Loche Lamora and practicing to curse like the Gentlemen Bastards. I think the cursing will really add flavor for a specific NPC they are dealing with.
  • Creating two maps in Inkarnate for possible encounters.
  • Grouping miniatures by area, this way they are easily accessible.
  • Wrote some setting pieces and practiced saying them aloud so I specifically know what to highlight.
  • Wrote a few Q&A's with possible NPCs. Tried to add their flavor of answers. For example, the halfling use a lot of onomatopoeias and whistles and hand gestures. This might make for good comedic relief.
  • Ran the two encounters with a mock group to make sure they were balanced.
  • Created a player handout.
 


We're two sessions into Isle of Dread. The group has met the Tanroan villagers and got some info on what's going on locally. They also had two forays pass the wall and into the main island; once with their main characters (killed a hydra and met the Rakasta) and once with their back-up characters (they barely escaped an attack by cave bears).

Anyway, I think they're finally going to set a goal for themselves and commit to it. If they dally longer, then the adventure will find them (probably a pirate raid on one of the villages)

Without further ado, here's the adventure hooks that have popped up so far:

ADVENTURE HOOKS
Adventure Hook numbers correspond with the map

North side of the wall, Main Island
1) Find the Pale Countess ship
You currently have no leads, but I'm sure something will come up. This ship was funded by Duke Karameikos and on an expedition to establish a teleportation circle on the Tanoroa Peninsula, but was plucked from the ocean by a Roc. The Roc, on his subsequent flight home to the Isle of Dread, was interrupted by an attack from a Red Dragon. The ship was dropped near the center of the main island. Many sailors plummeted to their deaths as the Roc flew across the ocean and to the main island. All are assumed dead (but who are we kidding here, this is d&d).


2) Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
You have a good idea where it's at and could eventually find it with 1 day of searching. This dungeon comes with a warning label: Once you discover the exact location of the dungeon, you will then be forced to escape it or die trying. It's an old school deadly dungeon crawl made for Tournament play. The encounters require problem/puzzle solving skills from the player, rather than the character. Of course after you escape it, you can then attempt to return in order to plunder the rest of the temple. High Risk, High Reward, and purely optional.


3) Rakasta
Bistek, Djura, Florél, Jigo, Wilyur agreed to meet with Miku the Rakasta near the South East Tar Pits in about 22 days. One of those five characters needs to be there. You had a positive initial meeting with Miku. Djura wanted to visit Miku's outpost. Miku said he needed to report to his leader first. The Rakasta are from a nearby island and are searching for the lost shrine of their own ancestors.



Coast of the Main Island to the west

4) The Haunted Village
The Tanoroans give a decent idea of where this village is located. It's a couple of miles inland, but approachable from the ocean. According to the Tanaroans this was a thriving and somewhat isolated village that revered snakes (The Serpentes Clan). About 20 years ago, explorers from the Known World entered the village and inflicted the villagers with a deadly disease. Tanaroan traders discovered the area to be overrun with undead months after this incident. No one has returned since.



Island to the west
5) Pirates
Their home base is located somewhere on the western coast of the island. This group of pirates prey on the villagers for slaves and plunder. The leader is red haired and pale skinned, so she's probably from the Known World.


6) Pterafolk
They nest along the steep slope of an inactive volcano. These half pterodactyl and half humanoid monstrosities stand 10 feet tall and have a wing span of 20 feet. They're known to hurl javelins and pluck victims off of boats. If they can't get a meal, then they try to grab any bright & shiny objects.



Small islands south of Tanoroa Peninsula
7) Jawalaas Clan (aka Shark Clan)
Located northeastern shores of the island. These villagers worship a local power named Sekolah. They are fond of capturing/buying slaves which they use as sacrifices in their ceremonies.


8 Prattis, the lone foreigner.
His home is located somewhere on the smallest island directly south of Tanoroa Peninsula. Not much is known of this guy except that he's human, friendly, and travels alone. He will occasionally trade with the southern villages using coinage from different nations of the Known World.

Player's map with numbers corresponding to the adventure hooks
x1-isle-of-dread-6-pc-1981_kindlephoto-8277737.png
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
In the spirit of ongoing threads like, "HOW WAS YOUR LAST SESSION?" I wanted to start a new one where we share what we have prepped for our imminent D&D session as DM. Not what the big story arc is, not what the campaign is aiming toward (though that might provide context in brief), but literally what are your either planning for, planning around, or perhaps even not able to plan and have to be prepared to improvise a few different things.

You will note the (+) in the thread title. This thread will not be the place for the "how do you know what your players will do? Sounds like railroading!" type arguments. As a DM I prep for what I think is most likely and try to be ready for the unexpected. But generally, by the time it wraps up, the previous session gives a very strong sense of where the next session will go.

Unless of course you are prepping the session I am working on. For the last 8 or so sessions I have been running a long involved module, so while some prep and tweaking was necessary between sessions, mostly everything was in an established framework it was easy to work with or deviate from - but now everything is up in the air!

We're playing this Saturday, and having just completed my remix of N1 - Against the Cult of the Reptile God and achieving 6th level, they are a crossroads (both figuratively and literally). What will they do next? In what order? Where will they go? Will they tarry or will they hurry onward? Will they do something completely unexpected?

This is what I am planning on based on the previous session:
  • The PCs taking up a sidetrek they ignored in favor of the bigger threat that has since progressed in severity in their absence. This involves several possible encounters with trolls (including one very misunderstood fellow who just wants to sing and make friends), a girl fleeing into the swamp, and the jerkface knight her dad wants her to marry. [This could stretch out their stay in this area 1 to 3 more sessions!]
    • As such, I stated out a few different trolls, found a map for their lair, and stated out the knight and his men-at-arms.
  • Wrapping up the logistics of the village they saved, including touching base with NPCs, reuniting people they rescued with family, and dealing with a few loose ends (like the guy who summoned them to help the town is still missing). This may also involve the party getting a couple of followers in the form of the young woman who wants the party gnome to teach her to be a wizard, and an orphan boy who parents were made into zombies and sister was fed to monsters. There is also some potential political stuff they could get involved with if they want. [Should be able to advance time to do this fairly quickly in terms of session time depending on how they want to handle it]
  • Going back to their base. They left Saltmarsh in the process of buying an old noble's hunting lodge on the edge of the marshes to covert into a headquarters. Furthermore, the plot of the final enemy has advanced in their absence - but before that they need to establish their base and deal with a potential haunting/infestation!
    • This last point needs to be set up carefully because it is going to be focus of the rest of the campaign (I think) and leads to a big conclusion. It also involves their returning to find the town preparing for a possible battle/invasion and allies they made along the way in their earlier adventures returning to help out.
    • The "haunting" is a way to make their HQ feel more like their own by setting an adventure in it where they cleanse it and feel like they have done something to claim it (besides go into debt - which they also have). I am not worrying too much about prepping this yet because I figure even if we get that far it will be towards the end of the session and I can wing it to an appropriate cliffhanger.
    • That said, I need to finish the handdrawn battlemap of their lodge and surrounding area before they get back there (I will share a pic when I am done).
  • It is also totally possible they will want to immediately follow up on some of the hooks they caught wind of during this past adventure, in which case - most of the session will be travel, and I can just cook up some potential "random encounters" to tide us over until I have prepped one or more of those.


    So that's it for me for now. . . what are you prepping for your next session?
Great idea!

I’m mostly working on the NPCs that will flesh out the region of Drooam the PCs will be in soon, and how I wil play their NPC ally’s former “owner” from when he was an arena slave, who is a friendly djinn.

I also have to sit down with the Bugbear Swarmkeeper Ranger and hash out his home in one of the more foresty fens of the Shadow Marches.

But the biggest thing is…figure out the extraplanar adventure that is going to interrupt them en route, taking them to a Shadowy realm of Thelanis known as The Dusklight, and the NPC ally’s home city of Noctus. They’ll prolly meet the Raven Queen and her sister, who are a trio of archfey.
 

Bolares

Hero
Last session the greatest fear of any DM happened to me. I'm playing in Eberron (as always) and had the next arc of the campaign pretty much layed out in my mind. BUT I've planted seeds in the characters backstory for latter in the campaign, and two of my characters (a warforged and a firbolg) had some loose ties to X'endrik (another continent that is pretty much hexcrawl country) that I planned to develop later. BUT while researching what to do next they found the idea of X'endrik VERY enticing, and decided that's where they want to go next. So what am I prepping next? A WHOLE NEW CONTINENT, and basically gonna have to restructure what I intended for the next arc and tie these two character's backstory way earlier then anticipated. God I love this game.
 

Bolares

Hero
Okay, okay, I was being dramatic. What I'm actually doing now is reading up on Secrets of X'endrik, City of Stormreach and Exploring Eberron to have better memory of the city, the continent and the thunder sea (the firbolg is a cleric of the devourer, so sahuagin will be a big part of his arc).

Also I'm planning and flashing out NPCs and choices for the players to create their expedition to X'endrik. The warforged's former owner and now retired mentor is a veteran warmage made scholar due to loosing some limbs in the Last war, and due to some arcane misshap not being able to use prosthetics (he's gonna be in a combat wheelchair) will be their patron on this trip, as he has some archeological bacjground, but leaves the party to choose guides, workers and negotiate the trip (so the players can be hands on and make the important choices).
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
Going to continue to hone this "Tomb of Slightly Less Horror than the full Tomb of Horrors" thing I have going. The 1/2 Druid/Thief was killed twice last session. Once on a door leading into the heart of the complex, a death effect trap got him. He rolled a 2 on his save. But the Cleric was able to raise him since they have raise dead at 7th level in OSE(B/X). So they spent two weeks recovering on the beach of the island they are on without many issues and his random stat loss was INT, but he wasn't very smart to begin with so no big loss. Went back in and said, "screw that, lets try that secret door". Well this one is a back way into Acererak's personal chamber and had a disintegrate trap on it. Well he failed to remove it and then rolled a 1 on his save...no raise dead on him. Now I have another few days to do some touch up work on the rest of the complex. Fill it out with more long term adventure hooks.
 

Composer99

Adventurer
My players didn't quite kill a dragon in Rise of Tiamat, and I decided he had just enough prudence to run away, but just enough pride to take another stab at killing them after a short rest. (He took one, they looted and explored and dilly-dallied.) Next session is the fight itself.

They had two arrows of dragon slaying last fight that they won't have this fight, but they still have lots of gas left in their tanks, so I'm still expecting them to win.

If they almost kill the dragon this time, though, he's running off for a good long while, since he's out of Hit Dice.
 

Yora

Legend
I'm currently making a new campaign setting. Since it's a setting tailored for classic dungeon crawling and OSE, it's actually fairly little work compared to settings for other types of campaigns or games.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
For my Eberron campaign, we just finished up a major siege at the PCs home base against roughly 10,000 demons (the PCs had about 5,000 defenders armed with silver weapons to aid them in the battle, and the team artificer made giant water cannons that would douse the demons in holy water). They then did some interrogating of a changeling assassin that attempted to assassinate Prince Oargev (right after he was crowned King of New Cyre), discovered a broken Sending Stone on their person, and invented a device to track the paired Sending Stone. Right now they're following a compass-like device to the paired Sending Stone, which will lead them to Illmarrow Castle in the Lhazaar Principalities. I'm not exactly sure what they'll do when they get their (my party is something of a loose cannon), but I'm prepping the castle and its inhabitants, both for roleplay and combat, in the case that the party decides to enter into the castle.
 

Stormonu

Legend
We just finished our Saltmarsh campaign (I ended it with the Final Enemy), so we’ll be doing one-shots for a bit.

For Halloween, I’m running an adventure in Falcovia, in Ravenloft. The 5th-level characters will escorting a work detail to a nearby farm to harvest the last crop and get it back to the capital before the next zombie moon (3 days away, it takes a day each way to reach the farm).

One of the plot twists I’m setting up is that when the PCs reach the farm, they will then play the workers they escorted, who get embroiled in a plot by the workers already there who are plotting an escape to a supposed safe haven known as Queen’s Vale.

Of course, I’m expecting the whole worker’s plan to go to hell - with a final confrontation between PCs, workers, the werewolf guards of the worker camp and the arrival of the tip of the zombie invasion…

Adventure notes, for the curious
<Note:> adventure updated with final text
Falkovia
RAVENLOFT 2021

"Welcome to Lekar, the last bastion of humanity in Falkovia. It is a battered city on the edge of Lake Kestral, and your home for the last three months. But in three days, the blood moon will arise once again, and so shall Falkovnia's dead, and the assault on the city will begin once again, as it has for the past three five years. Each of you has risen above the common ranks of survivors in the city to become overseers of the fetid masses. Yet, today each of you has been pulled from your duties - whether it is sifting through the rubble of fallen buildings to repair the city's outer wall; dredging the mud from the nearby lake to make mortar to hold together the cobbled wall; or to throw together the wilted cabbage, stunted carrots and moldy potatos that make today's soup, or to patrol the walls of the city on half a ration of soup to watch for the wretched dead to gather at dusk and wonder at the blooming moon.

Today, the queen of Falkovnia, the illustrious General Vladeska Drakov, has given you a task - to take your work teams to Morfenzi to gather the last harvest before the dead come. Without this precious cargo, an uprising of the worst sort may occur - as the starving succumb to the call of the dead and join the ranks of the unliving within the heart of the city itself.

This is a journey of three days - one day to travel the Watcher's Road to Three Points and then southward along Hunting Way to Morfenzi itself. One day for your workers to harvest the last crops, and a final day to return before dark and the city gates close to you until the blood moon passes."


Falkovnia

Party is to escort a wagaon and their work crew to the settlement ____ . There they will collect the last of the harvest and return to the city for the oncoming seige in 3 days on the new moon. It will take 1 day to get to the settlement, 1 day of collecting harvest and 1 day to return.

OPENING
Granted the following:

"Zanhed" - +1 short sword (Truth); unlocks normal locks with a touch. Faintly mutters when someone nearby is holding back information, granting advantage on Insight checks.
An Amulet that grants a +3 bonus to AC when attuned
Potion of Invisibility
Scroll of Dispel Evil and Good w/ instructions so anyone can use it
a charm that as a bonus action, turns 10 pieces of ammunition into +3 weapons for 1 day.


PREENCOUNTER
Group of 6 soldiers standing around 3 criminals who have been recently impaled. One of the criminals has become a zombie, and the soldier's crossbows cannot kill it. They are arguing about pulling the pole down and beheading the criminal. Three soldiers do not want to risk the zombie injuring them, two of the soldiers argue about leaving the body as is, only one is calling for the pole to be taken down but is getting no help - asks PCs to aid him. Up to them if they wish to do so or how they proceed.

ENCOUNTER 1 - Raiders

"You have just traveled beyond the burned out ruins of the city's last watchtower and turned onto the overgrown trail known as the Watcher's Road. Years of disuse has seen it almost reclaimed by the ancient Vigilia forest, whose black woods climb into the sky to each side. There is a screech as a hawk lifts off from one of the creaking nearby tree, and not a moment later the deep bellow of a hunting horn sounds from the thick underbrush. In a flash, the way ahead is blocked by six riders - their features hidden behind the animal pelts they wear. Each rides a lean, yet powerful wolf. Ahead of them steps a tall, thick man nearly seven feet tall and dressed like the others, but wearing a helm adorned with antlers - whose bloody felt still drips from its tines. To his right and left stand emanciated and hairy men, their faces impossibly scrunched into savage, animalistic snarls. They raise their weapons, and with a low growl from the tall man, the whole company moves towards you. 'Kill the guards,' he commands, 'take the others alive!'

6 Bandits riding trained wolves, led by a bandit captain and his two shifters. They attempt to draw the PCs away from their charges so they can kidnap the workers and take them back to their lair. There are 10 slaves at the bandit's lair, under the watchful eye of an ex-captain of the guard.

ENCOUNTER 2 - Abandoned Wagon

"The muddy road opens into a rocky glade. The trees themselves seem to pull back to reveal a colorful, covered wooden wagon to one side of the road - easily identified as a Visanti's vardo. One of it's wheels has been visibly hacked to pieces and the colorful banners that adorned it now hang tattered and fluttering in the wind. A silent mare still stands tied to the front of the wagon, but its driver is nowhere to be seen. As the rear door clatters against the wagon in the stiff wind, the startled horse shivers a moment, but does not otherwise move."

An abandoned vardo on the side of the road. One dead horse lies nearby, half-gnawed to bone. The other horse is still tethered to the wagon and is a zombie. A body lies face down nearby, its face is missing (not torn off or mutilated, simply blank). The vardo has been ransacked; if the inside is investigated, there is a locked chest inside with a potion of healing, a bandana of luck and the knight card from a tarokka deck (turns into a knight if thrown down on the ground). Struck into the center of the vardo is a blood-stained silver long sword. The vardo is covered and provides better protection from attack, but is much heavier - it must either be drawn by the zombie horse or a team of 5 men of STR 12 or better.

If the party investigates the area, each PC makes a Perception check. The PC that rolls lowest (and below 15) is ambushed by a Strahd Zombie - the corpse of one of the Visanti that owned the wagon. The rest of the group is attacked by 3 boneless and a Deathlock. One round later, a line of zombies appears at the forest's edge, and 6 Strahd Zombies stride forward to join the fray; the rest not venture out into the light. After three rounds, a hunting horn sounds and the remainder turn and shamble back into the woods.

ENCOUNTER 3 - The Homestead

"Ahead in the distance, you can just make out the Tripoint, where the Watcher's Road bisects the Hunter's Way. But just ahead the woods have been cut back, the jagged stumps testimony to their sad fate. Amid the clump of hewn trees stands the half-collapsed, half-burned ruin of a homestead. Only the chimney and a few charred upright timbers remains amid the swept dirt-packed foundation, and a faint wisp of smoke escaping the stacked stones. Somewhere nearby, you hear the faint cry of a baby and the enticing aroma of bacon wafts into your nostrils."

The party nears a burned out homestead. Only a few wooden beams and the stone chimney remains. There is a strong smell of bacon in the air, and a thin wisp of smoke comes from the chimney. As the party nears, they hear faint, muffled cries of a baby or child. Hidden behind the chimney is the wife. In the nearby woods is the father, a survivor armed with a wood axe. Hidden under the floorboards is the cellar, where the family stays and the couple's young child stays. There are also hand-crafted crates stored here to gather the harvest hidden nearby.

A passive Perception DC 15 (or searching) reveals an odd blue shade to the nearby green underbrush. Examination reveals it is a bean farm (String beans, lima beans, peas) with enough that it would take a work force of 20 pickers 4 hours to gather.

Characters have to decide to leave the family behind, take them with them as workers, and whether or not to take the child (an extra mouth too young to work).

After the party deals with the family, a pack of 3 starving dire wolves , led by a dire wolf attack.

If the party decides to pick the harvest, 2 skeletons, 2 zombies covertly attempt to attack the pickers, while a swarm of zombie limbs and a Zombie plague spreader attack the PCs. On the 3rd round, a diseased Hill Giant enters the fray, attempting to make a meal of anyone that gets too close.

ENCOUNTER 4 - The Crossing

"Your travels along the Hunting Way have brought you to the Dragon's Bridge, the stone bridge that is the only way over the dark, swift current of the Drogach River. To your dismay, the stone bridge has fallen, its powerful arch collapsed by what looks to have been an action rearguard action to deny the enemy its use. But hope remains, for a rough trail leads down beside the huge flagstones to the river's edge. Across the thirty-foot span the trail picks up and rejoins the road. But slightly to the south, along the line of the river's current lay the teeth of the bridge's fallen rocks and a mire where broken wagons and bones alike like silent and staring on the far shore."

The party arrives at the bridge an hour away from the settlement. The stone bridge is out, with the supports still in place, and a littering of large rocks nearby (looks like the bridge was deliberately collapses by a rear-guard action). Well-worn wagon tracks lead down the slope to the right of the bridge, and a muddy expanse on the far side, littered with broken wagon parts shows evidence that crossing attempts (not all of which were successful) occur here. The river is 30 feet wide, swift and about 10 feet deep (though wine-dark)

The party must secure the wagon to float it across, deciding who will be aboard and who will swim/wade across. It takes three successful DC 15 Strength checks to get the wagon across. Three failures means the wagon is swept against the rocks and crushed. Each individual failure means the wagon drifts downstream, off-course and closer to the rocks.

Swimmers must make two DC 12 Athletics check to swim/wade across. One failure indicates the swimmer is swept toward the ghoul's pit. Two failures indicate that the swimmer is swept to the ghoul pit and dashed against rocks, taking 3d6 damage.

Hidden amid the wreckage on the far side is a pack of 4 ghouls and their pet Catoblepas (arrives to the fight a round after the zombies), waiting to ambush those who make it across. There are also 4 Strahd zombies on the near side if the party arrives at night, who attack as the party investigates the area or as they start their crossing.

Pit Treasure: [200 cp, 9,000 sp, 2,100 gp, 120 pp, 13 50 gp gems] in a bag of holding, 10 arrows +1 scattered about, and one of the ghouls wears a robe of useful items.

ENCOUNTER 5 - The Arrival

"At the back of the Stonespine Mountains lays the farm known as Morfenzi. Set upon a hill, on one side the Drogach river protects it, and the Mountains fall like a protective arm around the rest. A great two-story hall stands at the back of the hill upon which the farm rests. A fence of woven, gray and ancient timbers stretches towards you, enclosing the crops behind its protection. Smaller, simple wooden houses have been erected against the fence walls at both sides, and the faint wisps of chimney smoke slowly spiral upwards from each. You can already see workers retiring from the fields as a pair of scale mail dressed guardsmen approach you, their heads shaved bald, their beards trimmed neatly and a single different rune etched into each of their foreheads."

The party arrives at the settlement. The workers are tired, hungry and have been worked to exhaustion by the Sergeant-at-arms and his liuetenants, who appear well-fed. In truth, the Sergeant is a werewolf and his lieutenants are shifters under his thrall. He invites the characters to dinner, attempting to turn them to his cause. He intends to use the workers to load the harvest, then abandon them for the return back to the capital. He has been keeping two (ghoul) horses in the barn to pull the wagon, and tells the party he intends to use them to return with the crops back to the capital city as a hero.

ENCOUNTER 6 - The Dream

"You awaken to the sound of a women's scream - perhaps Beth's! Grabbing your equipment and hastily making your way outside into dawn's light, you witness a terrifying sight. The palisade of the farm is surrounded by the dead, standing in thick waves that stretch all the way from the river to the mountains. The other workers, who were already working in the fields, stand agasp, struck in terror. That is until Benjimin rushes forth, a bloody scream on his lips and his tilling hoe held high - which he plants into unlucky Zanna's forehead. As Zanna slowly slips to the ground, the zombie horde snaps to attention, champing their teeth as they take a thunderous step forward and begin to chant. Instinctively, automatically as each of you gazes at your comrades you know - only one of you can survive. The other workers draw tools up as weapons as Benjimin had, and the fight begins in earnest..."

The party awakes the next morning to a scream. Running outside, they see the workers standing around, staring into the distance. A purplish-black wall surrounds the edge of the settlement, and as the morning fog clears it is apparent that the wall is shoulder-to-shoulder zombies, their hellish eyes glowing yellow as they stare at the living within the settlement. With a battlecry, one of the workers rushes forward, hoe in hand and plants it directly into the head of one of his coworkers. As the stunned worker falls, the entire wall of zombies takes a single step inward. A sudden, supernatural realization washes over all within - only a lone survivor will escape and their only chance is to slay everyone else. Full PVP engages, with the zombies taking one step closer each round. Slain PCs rise as zombies the next round (HP restored to full, can't use abilities that require concentration, when reduced to 0 hp again make a Constitution save DC 11/damage taken or destroyed).

When one PC is left alive or the first zombie PC is destroyed, the characters awaken to find it was a dream.

ENCOUNTER 7 - The Others
Switch to the Survivors. The foreman of the workers has put together a plan to escape the work camp and flee to the Valley of the Queen, also known as Paradise Valley, a place devoid of zombies and with laden orchards and gardens. The PC survivors are enlisted to aid implementing (or interfering) with the plan to escape. The workers attempt to dissuade involving the PCs as "The Queen's Beloved", and them being in league with Vladeska sending them here to be abandoned once the work is done - or worse, to be slain.

Part I - the Map
Group one must sneak into the Sergeant's office and steal an old map of Falkovia, which shows the location of Paradise Valley. However, the Sergeant keeps his "favorite" Strahd zombie in the library, his sister, who will attack if disturbed, and who the Sergeant will severly punish if she is harmed. Interestingly, the book the "sister" is reading discusses the truth behind Vladeska's rise to power, and her betrayal of her brother and the army of Falkovia to Strahd von Zoravich.

Part II - the Keys
Group two must steal the keys to the main gate from the main lieutenant, make copies of them and forge a spare set in the blacksmith's camp. The keys must then be returned without being noticed.

Part III - the distraction
Group three must set fire to the fields in three different areas. They must 1) get brandy from the Sergeant's store, steal matches from one of the guards (who smokes) and avoid the patrols to set up the fire bombs and set them to go off simultaneously via signal.

ENCOUNTER 8 - A brush with the horde
As the Survivors get outside the settlement, they find themselves amid the incoming zombie horde. The survivors must sneak, combat or otherwise get past three waves of zombies, and a subcommander who is a former Falkovian legionaire.

ENCOUNTER 9 - Against Authority
The survivors reconvene only to face the Sergeant Vjorn Horstman and his lieutenants, who reveal themselves as werewolves (x3 Werewolves and the Sergeant is a reskinned Werebear). Just as the slaughter is about to begin, the party's PCs arrive to engage the sergeant.

ENCOUNTER 10 - The Horde
The remaining survivors find the tunnel that leads to Paradise Valley, however, zombies surge from the underground entrance. The survivors are ambushed by ghouls and driven towards the horde. As they get near, they discover a disguised side tunnel across the river-like horde. They must battle their way through the zombie horde to the far side, scale the cliffs (with undead on their heels) and make it to the tunnel, where they find an ancient welcome carved in the doorway that welcomes to the passage to Paradise Valley - and to "please close the door behind you". Once inside, they must seal it shut.

ENCOUNTER 11 - The Passage to Paradise Valley
The survivors must navigate the dark passages (unlit, but the proper path is laced with candles to indicate the path). Eventually, they come to a vast chasm with a single rickety bridge across. They must cross the wind-swept chasm to reach the far side, which consists of a huge carved stone archway and stone doors. The doors are enscribed with a cacophany of names, but no other exit is visible. However, there is a pool to one side, lit by a strange light from within. If characters swim to the underwater source, they find it is a long tunnel that leads to sunlight, but within its flooded depths are several drowned bodies. Characters must make five successful Athletic/Constitution checks to swim to the far side. The bodies are drowned ones, but they have been tied to the walls, and only attack to grab a character if they fail at one of the Athletic checks.

ENCOUNTER 12 - Paradise Valley
The characters reach Paradise Valley, where they find a green land with fruit-laden orchards and well-tended gardens. There are houses, but they are abandoned. No one seems to be here, but there are no zombies - the characters have made it!
Wanted to just follow up on this, we played this game last weekend. Four players, we all had a blast. Lots of props and atmosphere to bring the game to life, and everyone seemed to enjoy this one-shot romp.

I had added an encounter prior to #1 that was a RP introduction to the state of Falkovnia; It helped to established the character's loyalty and consider the state of extremism - do they empathize with the "criminals"? Do they "do their duty" and execute the zombie or let the zombie "suffer"? Do they bother risk dealing with the potentially infectious zombie at all?

Youtube playlists

Scenic backgrounds during the game:

Background game music:

Beyond that, the characters had a hard fight in the 1st encounter, and almost had one of their charges abducted. They avoided encounter #2 and for encounter #3, after an initial stand-off with the husband, made an agreement to return on the way back to pick the crops there (leaving the family with more than enough for them). On encounter #4, they explored the far side of the river and had the party split facing the "ghoul pit" - but a fortuitous casting of entangle saved the isolated members from a nasty fate. Encounter #5 worked effectively well; the players were sweating bullets as they mayhem was taking out everyone (NPCs) around them; one player tried to pass it off as a dream sequence and avoid combat (which I expected might happen), but when it didn't just suddenly "end", even they got drawn in. I actually got applause for how well it worked in subverting their expectations. Encounter #7 went pretty much as expected; what was on the surface fairly simple had the players nervous when they undertaking the tasks with former NPCs who could be killed with 1, maybe 2 hits. Encounter #8 was fairly easy worked through, but the excitement was building as we reached the climax with the epic fight for Encounter #9. Unfortunately, by that time it was getting late, so we narrated through the remaining encounters. The party got to Paradise Valley, but the barbarian character had taken a bite from the Sergeant, and true to Ravenloft, we ended the session with the barbarian quietly hiding the wound from the rejoining others, noting nervously to himself "tis but a scratch."
 
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Mallus

Legend
I'm prepping a new campaign setting: The Arc. It's not a planet or a plane, it's a arc of unbreakable adamantine 1333.3 leagues long, and150 leagues wide. Or so says the Book of Specifications written by Boaz the Builder, one of the seven Immortals who made the world for the Twenty Peoples (the Ikosothropos) and brought them from the Left Behind.

Right now I'm in the 'naming stuff' phase: the Heptahieron, the Boreal Seat at the City of Aspens, the Devil City of Mahinyu-Belial, Megakrianion - the Fortress of the Dome, Drogoproposkon - the Dragon's Demesne, and so on. Eventually I try my hand at a map or two.

Anyone got a recommendation for tutorials on using the Roll20 DM tools?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I'm prepping a new campaign setting: The Arc. It's not a planet or a plane, it's a arc of unbreakable adamantine 1333.3 leagues long, and150 leagues wide. Or so says the Book of Specifications written by Boaz the Builder, one of the seven Immortals who made the world for the Twenty Peoples (the Ikosothropos) and brought them from the Left Behind.

Right now I'm in the 'naming stuff' phase: the Heptahieron, the Boreal Seat at the City of Aspens, the Devil City of Mahinyu-Belial, Megakrianion - the Fortress of the Dome, Drogoproposkon - the Dragon's Demesne, and so on. Eventually I try my hand at a map or two.
That sounds cool!
 

Azzy

KMF DM
I'm getting ready to start an Eberron campaign. I already have the first adventure planned out, so I'm working on the second adventure. But since the question is about the next session...

I have the players in the city of Sharn, taking a job to escort a person of interest from one part of the city to a safehouse in another part of the city. Unfortunately, when they go to meet up with the person of intrest, they find him dead and narrowly missing the assassin. That's the prologue that kick things off. Since their failure is not their fault, they will be tasked to find a different person of intrest in Aundair and convince her to return to Sharn with them (because everybody likes escort missions 😏). There will be an attack (by a third party unrelated to the assassin), likely a chase, and the potential for the PCs to learn that there's more than meets the eye than just escorting old scholars to safety.
 


Li Shenron

Legend
We're in the middle of a long adventure that was prepared in advance, so not much to prepare story-wise, but I have a new batch of my action/spell-cards printed out that needs laminating... trying to find the time to get them done before the Xmas holidays when we'll get to play again next.
 

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