Campaign notebook: What I borrowed for the NaGs
While the Not-a-Gnolls campaign idea was spun out of some pretty minimal excerpts of published setting material, I borrowed a lot in the course of running it: the “file off the serial numbers, change the names, and make it yours” school of GMing.
Here’s what I remember, from flipping through my campaign binder:
- Immediately after the attack on the village, while chasing gnolls through the forest and into the foothills beyond, the party discovers hostages being sacrificed and turned into undead beings. They follow a side trail to discover a shrine built into the side of a mountain, where they discover, amongst much ick and gross, the connection from the gnolls to Malar. For this shrine, I used the latter part of the adventure Mad God’s Key from Dungeon magazine, the lovely-named “Tomb of Blood Overflowing”. I believe I used a lot of the encounters from the printed dungeon mostly as written, but redrew the map with some changes to add some things I needed.
- Back on the trail of the main group of gnoll raiders, the party arrived at their encampment deep in the forest. I used part of The Distraction, a capture-the-flag style module also from Dungeon magazine, for this adventure, though changed some things to accommodate the objective of hostage rescue.
- The party returned to town to find a trade cartel had “just happened to be sailing by” and noticed the devastation, stopping to provide aid. Oh, and, just happening to set themselves up as the martial law in the town. One character knew this group to be bad news bears from his pre-campaign background, but there wasn’t time to address that before the party ventured into a cavern complex that had been opened by the sinkhole, in search of some lost kids. This used Crown of the Kobold King, a very good D&D3.5 adventure by Paizo. This I used largely as written, with some difficulty boosts to reflect the 6-player group.
- Having saved the children from the caverns, the party had now established themselves as town heroes, and the cartel wanted to get them out of sight for a while, telling them–accurately–that the key to Nobanion’s rebirth may lie in the city of Westgate. They also had a fallen comrade from the kobolds’ dungeons, so made a side trip to have the dead monk’s order reincarnate her.
- Westgate, a wretched hive of scum and villainy in the Forgotten Realms, of course had to use material from Westcrown, a wretched hive of scum and villainy in Golarion (the world of Pathfinder). The Sixfold Trial, from Pathfinder’s Council of Thieves, is a fantastic caper story–the party stars in a play in order to be invited to an after-party at the Mayor’s house, so that they can sneak into an extra-dimensional space hidden within the house. I used some suggestions from the Paizo messageboards to expand the play from 4 roles to 6, using lines from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Sorcerer for one of the added characters. Otherwise, most of the adventure was run as written, with the artifact at the end of course replaced with a phylactery containing the soul of the recently-killed Nobanion.
- On opening the phylactery, the party was teleported to the top of a stepped pyramid inside a giant, hemispherical underground cavern, which, of course, contained the tomb of Nobanion’s original, pre-deification body. But this was all homebrew, so not the point of this post. Moving on.
- After the party successfully applied Nobanion’s phylactery to his tomb, and were surprised that the god in fact returned to life as an infant, rather than, you know, a god, they had to find their way back to the surface. Here I used The Chasm Bridge, another Dungeon magazine adventure, as the major encounter on their journey to the surface.
From that point, much more of the campaign became original content–I had accumulated lots of loose ends in the overarching plot to start tying up, and by this point we knew we were on track to becoming parents of twins, so I was on the clock to get the campaign into a parking space. My external source borrowing from that point became more piecemeal: an NPC here, a map of a keep there. I also had a lot of bits and pieces of material I’d prepped over time, but which the party hadn’t encountered, so was able to borrow from my six-months-or-so-ago self, tweaking to fit the party’s current power level and the current state of the plot.
In fact, my best borrow was perhaps the character I managed to work in who had been one of my own characters…nearly 20 years ago. But save that for later.