Tomb of Annihilation: AL campaign planning

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The Quest of the Week schedule for Adventurers League got an update today, and it has something special in it… Tomb of Annihilation modules! They’ll start running in September, and some of them have some particularly evocative names:

  • DDAL07-01 City on the Edge – Tier 1 (lvls 1-4)
  • DDAL07-02 Over the Edge – Tier 2 (lvls 5-10)
  • DDAL07-03 A Day at the Races – Tier 1 (lvls 1-4)
  • DDAL07-04 A Walk in the Park – Tier 1 (lvls 1-4)
  • DDAL07-05 Whispers in the Dark – Tier 1 (lvls 1-4)
  • DDAL07-06 Fester and Burn – Tier 2 (lvls 5-10)
  • DDAL07-07 Rotting Roots – Tier 2 (lvls 5-10)
  • DDAL07-08 Putting the Dead to Rest – Tier 2 (lvls 5-10)

Looks like the dinosaur race event from the hardcover will make its way into the smaller modules in some fashion! I’m sure the storyline will have some Tier 3 content as well, but not in the Quests of the Week (or not in 2017 anyway). The filler weeks will focus on the Elemental Evil storyline, but that one doesn’t inspire me for whatever reason.

Campaign planning

Episodic play fits me best because of travel requirements for my job (around 1/3 of the time). Right now, I usually run Rage of Demons on Monday nights and Tales from the Yawning Portal on Thursday nights. Every other Sunday, a friend runs a homebrew campaign in which I play, and my kids and I go to a nearby FLGS on Wednesday nights. So for my own AL games, I will probably wind down the RoD campaign in favor of ToA. However, I would like to keep my YP campaign going because the dungeons provide so much delicious fun. I don’t expect to run The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan until we start the ToA season, since it fits Chult so thematically.

This means that, starting in September, a “normal” week (uninterrupted by travel or other events) will include:

  • Monday: Tomb of Annihilation storyline (DM)
  • Wednesday: Lost Mine of Phandelver or other AL modules (player)
  • Thursday: Tales from the Yawning Portal (DM)
  • Sunday (alternating): Home campaign with friends (player)

That seems like not enough, but in reality that is plenty. Between family, game prep, and other hobbies, running two AL “campaigns” and playing in two others already might have me at the limit.

 

Review: Shackles of Blood

Thomas-Morus-Nicolas-Gueudeville-Idée-d'une-republique-heureuse_MGG_0351.jpgMy Rage of Demons campaign moved on to DDEX3-02 Shackles of Blood. This adventure continues the theme of “The Deep Threat” in the Rage of Demons storyline. This is a more traditional adventure in which the characters investigate some missing halflings near Hillsfar and run into some complications from the local tyrant’s enforcers. If you run this for a group of friends, this adventure can provide a lot of opportunity to explore important social issues. (Of course, don’t take this approach if you run it for a public group, such as via Adventurers League!)

Spoilers follow, but the bottom line up front is that this adventure is worth the trouble.

Continue reading

I only know one way to love things.

I only know one way to love things: throw myself into completely, maybe even obsessively.

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When I’m looking for a new pastime

That has an obvious dark side to it: at some point, I often tire of the thing and cast it aside, at least temporarily, once I’ve finished devouring it intellectually. I crave that sense of newness, of exploration. (Earlier in life, I feared that would apply to relationships too, but we recently celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary.) Continue reading

Review: Harried in Hillsfar

As a way of easing myself back into playing D&D “publicly” (i.e. not just for my kids or solo), I set up a couple of mini-campaigns on Roll20 to run according to Adventurers League rules. This way, I would have an easy time finding players and also an excuse for doing so in an episodic, open-table fashion.

DD_Out_of_the_Abyss_Rage_of_Demons_symbolThe first of these two campaigns follows the Rage of Demons storyline. Rather than run Out of the Abyss as I’d initially planned, I decided to run some of the Expeditions adventures from the Dungeon Masters Guild. Specifically, I first chose “Harried in Hillsfar” (DDEX3-01) because Wizards of the Coast had made it available for free via Dragon+.  Also, I’d wanted to check out that particular storyline as it had both the Underdark and demons, with a heavy dollop of madness mixed in.

That particular module consists of five scenarios or “mini adventures”. WotC seems to think each of those should run in about an hour each. In my experience, they take about an hour and a half to two hours each. The setup for the adventure overall focuses on the rantings of a madman. Somehow, the players realize he is actually prophesying, and they turn that into clues that lead to five separate scenarios. That felt really weak, but I ran with it anyway because, with a public group, we didn’t really have time for an in-depth “session zero” to get the group together. I would have liked a better introductory hook.

The scenarios themselves vary. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, the first two felt too much alike: go to a farm and discover a mystery, then halfway resolve it by trying to be heroes. (That first scenario nearly led to a TPK – some of the demonically-affected creatures can present a significant combat challenge!) The third scenario felt even more disconnected from the overall storyline. However, I really liked running the fourth and fifth, and the reactions of the players (especially to scenario four) indicated that they really felt immersed: creepy stuff was happening and they had to work to figure out how to resolve things.

Grabbing it and making it your own will allow you to deal with that rough setup, which is mostly just a problem in the way the AL set up this particular content. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend running this as an adventure. Think of these instead as five encounters (or maybe just the last two) that you can drop into your campaign to foreshadow some great evil stalking the world or just to set the tone with demons and undead and cultists.