Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Year of the Dragon

It is, in fact, the year of the dragon now and what a year it is shaping up to be!

My epic tier campaign is finishing out our last adventure in the Scales of War Adventure Path, which puts them directly into conflict with the mother of all chromatic dragons herself, Tiamat. Epic Tier play has gotten a lot of attention in the last year from bloggers putting up all kinds of ideas on how to address the issues around the most broken of the tiers of play in 4th Edition D&D and using all the benefits of all that iidea space along with three years of DMing experience, I’m reworking a great deal of the final adventure to give it more panache and a strong finish to a campaign that will hopefully be worth remembering and celebrating.

I’ve talked already about the issues that have come up with railroading the party, which my party actually really likes, as well as with drawing their character stories onto the rails of our game and making it a unique and special experience as we finish up and for the most part it has not taken a great deal of effort to make those changes really click well.

The Last Breath of Tiamat, the final adventure of the Scales of War Adventure Path, is going to need a little more work than my usual fare. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of good starting material to work with here. Small party of heroic adventurers infiltrating an enemy bastion, sneaking behind enemy lines through a great black gate, trying to avoid detection and seeking the means to finally defeat their greatest enemy. It is cliche, but proven. On top of that a nasty draconic ward that is essentially one or two-shot deadly that can only be disabled by defeating the draconic guardians imbuing it with power, sets up a very strong (if simple) dungeon that could be pretty cool for an epic tier party to cut their newly level 30 teeth on before facing the big momma herself.

It could, in theory, do this, but unfortunately the adventure as written just turns into a grinding battle of solo dragons that are essentially the same other than switching out damage keywords and different trappings with some flavorful hazards and traps. That doesn’t sound like the exciting and interesting end to a three year venture to me. Now I don’t want to spend a ton of time picking out what really ticks me off about this since it was obviously written WAY before people were playing at Epic level and a lot of lessons have been learned in that time. What I do want to do is show just what I did to make this adventure at the end of Epic Tier just a bit more epic.

I really wanted to keep the iconic components of the adventure all together. The setting and story is all staying, but I am going to establish a few things that will set the tone a little differently as well as set the time frame that the party has to complete the task. Tiamat is pretty much all, but defeated at this point. Her alliances have failed her, her army is scattered and her home forces are divided with in fighting as the mother of betrayal is betrayed at last. So what does a god do when everything looks down? Blow up the universe of course! I thought it would be more interesting (and this is in my home campaign cosmology so bear with me now) if Tiamat’s realm was situated in the Elemental Chaos. Sure, she is one of the divine, but if any god would be set up in an elemental infused hellhole it would be her. So given this information, I thought, if Tiamat was going to try and pull one last F U to the planes she’d probably try and take out big brother while she is at it. 

So when the party first entered her base they heard her talking in desperation to her former allies through a communication scry in her main lair. After exploring for a bit though, they hear her again echoing through the halls saying, “Fine then prepare to die you, motherless slug.” With a mighty roar, they feel the entire hall reel and buck and an enormous magma geyser infused with the full power of the elements began to not only roar, but pulsate in the center of the main chamber. They got the sense that the living volcano this domain is built upon is ready to blow, but an eruption on this scale would be larger than any ever recorded in history. With a quick Arcana check, the wizard was able to tell that this explosion will be so tremendous that it will destroy Tiamat’s palace, but not only that it would rip through the planes. After an additional Arcana, Religion, or History check they were able to tell that the target of this explosion will be a domain of the Astral Sea, but given the positions of the cosmology the Primary Material Plane lies right between the two so it would be blasted through devestating the world and leaving a giant hole just seeping into the Elemental Chaos. Essentially, and I know I’m going to have to frame this repeatedly to my players because it IS convoluted, if they are unable to stop Tiamat before the eruption of the volcanic fortress, the entire fortress will be destroyed in a titanic blaze of glory that will also devastate the Mortal World and reach all the way to the Astral Domain of Bahamut, levelling it and potentially killing Bahamut, Kord and Moradin. From what they can tell, they only have 10 hours left.

So that sets the framework for the ending of our campaign with world shattering consequences. Can the party brave the danger, defeat their enemies and save the wold one last time!?!  We’ll just have to see how it plays out.

In the coming weeks/months, I’m going to post the changes I made to the draconic guardians that the party needs to overcome in order to gain access to Tiamat and a bit after that I’ll include my final changes to the Dark Queen of Dragons herself. I’ve also got a couple of other projects I have been working on much more long term that will be popping up in the coming weeks/months and conveniently they are all dragon themed!

Thus begin the Days of the Dragons. May they be long and dangerous.

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