Adventure Interruptus

Tonight, I did something I’ve never done before.  I ran a pre-published adventure.  I talked about this before, but I ran into a little bit different of a problem this time around.  I’m used to pulling all-nighters.  Game sessions usually run until everyone’s nodding off or I’ve run out of material.  Due to scheduling issues, I’ve had to schedule my games on a weeknight.  And since we’re not in our teens and twenties anymore, we had to stop – not because someone was too tired or because I couldn’t pull anything else out of my ass – because someone had to be at work in the morning.  And it happened mid-game.  I’m going to talk about the first half or so of “Storm Tower”, the adventure appearing in Dungeon Annual 2009 and Dungeon Magazine #166 (D&D Insider account required to view the adventure) written by Chris Perkins and popularized by being the adventure in the second session of the Penny Arcade podcasts.  If you haven’t listened to the podcasts or read/played the adventure, some of this may not make sense to you.  Just keep pushing through, I really do have a point.

It wasn’t anyone’s fault.  Combat wasn’t too slow and things didn’t take any longer than normal.  The only problem was that everyone got too into things.  The first three hours of the session were all role play.  The PCs met John Briggs, the mayor of Briggfell (yes, I will post that write-up as soon as I’m finished with it).  And they had a lot of fun hating him.  I intentionally made the guy as annoying as possible, a boisterous former adventurer who bragged constantly about his life.  He committed a cardinal sin in the player’s eyes.  He asked them about their stories, then interrupted them to tell them about his adventure which was similar but much more dangerous, thrilling, and exciting.  I had to start glossing over the events of the night to keep them from killing him in the middle of the tavern!

After that, they got lucky.  I think I actually improved one bit of Chris Perkin’s adventure.  In it, he had an idea that Sorik Orvash would be a doppelganger, but he couldn’t figure out why he’d lead the PCs to the site if he was.  So he created this weird situation where the doppelganger is posing as a dwarf hostage who “escapes” then attacks them from behind and…it’s a bit of a mess, and I even Perkins said he wasn’t happy about it.  You can even see his desire in the podcasts to have Sorik be a doppelganger, but he couldn’t figure out how to make it make sense.  Well, I managed to.  Sorik Orvash made it back to town to tell them about the attack on the watchtower Goldenhawk.  However, Celk the doppelganger followed him, killed him in his sleep, and took his place to find out how much he’d told the city guard (Nathan Farringray of Fallcrest in the adventure, Sheriff Thiek of Briggsfell in my version).  After taking the dwarf mason’s place, he was unable to figure out a way to escape and report back to Jeras Falck without raising suspicion.  So he had to keep playing the part.  Thanks to the players setting up a watch each night (and having a Drow in the party, who is aware of his surroundings while in his trance), he couldn’t attack them in their sleep.  He figured his best move was to wait until they were distracted fighting the watch Falck set up and attacking them from behind.

However, the dwarf in the group figured out something was wrong.  The suspicion spread, and eventually they all did well enough on Insight checks to suspect him of duplicity.  I set up an impromptu skill challenge whereby they tried a combination of Bluff (to fast-talk the fast-talker), Insight, Diplomacy, History, and even Nature (the argument was made that the dwarf in the party would know about physical features of dwarven settlements or dwarven folklore to trip him up).  Once successful, they attacked him.  After a bit of torture (and a LOOOOT of Insight checks, since I had the doppelganger lie as a knee-jerk reaction), they figured out the whole story and even got some info about what they’d be facing in Goldenhawk.

All of that together ate up three hours of game time, and they hadn’t even gotten to the damn tower yet!  But everyone was having fun so I went with it.  They fought the guard set on the ground and had a curbstomp battle down below (the only reason anyone got badly hurt was the dwarven Warden decided for some reason to make his initial attack against the Chomper and then pulled it adjacent to him! In his defense, both the Mage and the Artificer did miserably on their Arcana rolls to figure out what it was, not even getting the most basic info.  But the killed all the big enemies within two rounds, and had to spend the rest of the time mopping up the bandits on the scaffolding.

At the end of this battle (and of course looting), a couple of my players realized it was almost 11 PM and, having work in the morning, needed to leave in order to get enough sleep.  I was feeling tired, but more than ready to keep going.  Unfortunately, everyone shared their opinion and I was forced to do something I really don’t like doing – ending  a session without an Extended Rest.  What this means is that there will be additional bookkeeping.  I have to put a lot of trust in the palyers.  They hadn’t used their daily powers really, so I don’t have to worry about that.  However, they do have Healing Surges to worry about.  Then there’s remembering clues seeded early in the adventure (and no, I’m not quite going to post those yet…never know if any of them are reading this, and if you know the adventure, you know what I’m talking about).  As much as I wanted to go on, I can understand their position.  I wouldn’t be happy if I had to work on four hours sleep, even if it was for gaming.  So I guess I’ll just have to go with it.

Of course, they seem to be having a bit too easy of a time so far.  And to make up for that, I’m going to have a full week to come up with new and horrible ways to make that final encounter just that much harder for them…Mwuahahahahaha!

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