In my campaign world, a lot of big bad guys are out of the picture:
- Orcus was killed for good in my Planescape campaign.
- Tiamat and Bahamut merged to become Io, the god of dragons, in my Scales of War campaign.
- Lolth is trapped in a gem owned by one of my players, a result of a campaign that used material from Expedition to the Demonweb Pits.
I've got it in my head that Eclavdra has taken Lolth's spot, but that isn't official. I like to say that nothing is official until you say it out loud in a session.
I've been making up children of Tiamat to put in her place. I have considered using Takhisis from Dragonlance, but that feels sort of cheap. I want the players to feel like they really changed the world, and replacing Tiamat with a creature who is virtually the same doesn't feel right.
Demon Army: I'm running a blood war campaign, where the heroes get involved in the war between demons and devils. This bundle is full of adventures linked to Wrath of the Righteous, a path all about a demonic invasion. I assume there will be tons of stuff for me to plunder!
This adventure here is a Pathfinder Society event. Pathfinder Society is their version of the D&D Encounters program and from what I can tell it really kicks ass.
This is a full pdf complete with art and graphics. The D&D encounters adventures have no art and are on blank paper. The Paizo store-game stuff looks 10 times more polished than the D&D events.
As a DM, when I am handed a glossy booklet with art and professional maps, I know that this is a serious thing. I need to dig in and really prepare this adventure! The art helps me to visualize the adventure and it helps raise my level of enthusiasm.
I think that the mood of the DM has a massive impact on the session. If you don't care or you don't want to be there, it's really going to show. I think most of us have been to a con or an event where the DM running it just picked up and started reading the adventure ten minutes prior to the start. They limply fill a four hour time slot and often they look for an excuse to end early.
So, when someone hands me an adventure that is a black and white stack of papers stabled in the upper left corner, it's hard to get too excited. If they don't care enough to shine it up a little bit, why should I care?
Spiffing It Up: I'd like it if each D&D Encounters adventure was made like an old module. Color cover, an interior with some kind of background and design, and a snappy, clever adventure.
They could make them print on demand, right? DrivethruRPG offers that for old D&D products now. That way, encounters DMs can grab a pdf for 3 bucks or buy a printed version for $10 or $12. If I like an adventure, I'm buying the printed version and I bet a lot of other DMs would do the same.
If you look through the Player's Handbook and the Dungeon Master's Guide, you will see a lot of art that is covered up or obscured. That art is essentially brand new to us. They can reuse that art for these encounters adventures, right? Here, check this out:
Check out page 59 of the DMG. It's right there. In that book, we have a close-up view of the mountain and the top of a waterfall. We can only see about 35% of the actual painting!
There are hundreds of pieces of 5e D&D art that we've only seen parts of. That means that when you place this art in an encounters adventure, it feels completely new and fresh. It feels like somebody cared enough to try to make it look good!
One more. Check this out:
Here's the cover to a recent D&D encounters adventure:
No art. It's a title page. Not enticing at all. OK, let's use the art:
War With Demons
This adventure is about a horde of demons laying siege to a city. It is meant to be run at events where multiple tables of players all play in the same scenario.
The Worldwound is a big rift, a portal connected to the Abyss. The only thing that stops demons from pouring through are the wardstones, magic pillars that destroy any demons who try to cross over. They prevent any kind of teleportation or magic from crossing either side.
Begin: It starts off with a massive pile of adventurers mustering to go on some kind of expedition. Suddenly, there's an explosion. The city is under attack! The group teams up with an army of holy crusaders to fight off a demon army.
Threat Levels: The heroes get to choose which area of the city to defend. Each area has a threat level, with different effects For example, Threat level red means the bad guys get +2 to all their die rolls! Green means the heroes get a +1 to all die rolls.
Each player has aid tokens, which can be spent to get magical healing, effects of a lesser restoration, temporarily enchanting a weapon, etc. They can pass them to another table of players, too.
Missions: There are a ton of missions for the group to pick from. A lot of them feel a bit flat to me. Here are my favorites:
- An NPC ally has summoned devil minions to help fight the demons. The crusaders get angry. The heroes must handle this situation before it gets out of hand.
- Retrieve a cache of holy weapons before “unscrupulous looters” get to them. Unscrupulous looter should be an NPC type.
- The heroes must screen refugees and root out any demons in magical disguises.
- I really like this one. The group goes to a tower and are handed crossbows with enchanted ammunition. Their job is to snipe flying demons! I think many players would love that.
It goes like this. A swarm of tiny demon-birds devour the organs of a massive creature and reconfigure it’s corpse into a hideous, multi-legged walking pillar. It is a mobile tower made from a massive corpse, a walking "flesh mansion" animated by tiny fiends.
The heroes end up on a wall firing ballistas loaded with cold iron weapons. Demons press ladders against the wall and try to climb up and destroy the ballistas.
War Scenes: There's actually a section where the heroes are in the middle of a major battle, fighting alongside crusaders against demons. Any time a character heals or assists a crusader, they receive a magical boon with a variety of beneficial effects.
Taking Out Targets: The final section involves the heroes standing on a wall looking down on a massive battle. They see about twelve targets. They get to choose four and and go kill them.
Each target is an NPC with a unique story. Most of them are powerful demons like glabrezus and nalfeshnees. My favorites:
- Baroness Ajagnagarl: A glabrezu who wears a necklace of crusader helms, each representing a virtuous hero she corrupted.
- Sunderheart: A creature known as a "woundwyrm," a dragon who has become corrupted by the Abyss.
- The Whispering Valkyrie: A corpulent demon who races around, devouring souls of the feshly slain and drinking in the memories of their sins.
- The Cavorting Court: Glabrezus who are bedecked in a dazzling array of fine jewelry. They mess with crusaders by animating the corpses of their freshly-slain companions.
Overall: This adventure is good, but it feels like they could have gotten more out of a lot of the encounters. I expected more cool stuff like collapsing buildings, exploding magic things falling from the sky and running from barricade to barricade, advancing on enemies who are in a fortified position.
I did like the idea of defending a wall where the bad guys climb up huge ladders to try to get at you. That sounds like a lot of fun. Same with firing magic ballistas at enemy hordes.