Monday, 5 December 2011

Shadoworld: The End of the Beginning

I am the Warden!!

Notice a bit of an absence, did ya? I have to admit, last week's "vacation from unemployment" was exactly what I needed to refresh my creative juices. While this may sound contradictory as this blog is also supposed to act as fuel for the fire, there's nothing better than running what may have been the best game of my gaming career to not only rejuvenate creativity but also give me cause to sit back and reflect.

The main purpose of this Weekend Extravaganza was to wrap up the old Shadoworld campaign once and for all. Or, at the very least, wrap up the storyline so we could indulge in the occasional return to that domain. The main theme of Shadoworld is captivity; the PCs are prisoners magically sealed within an entire world through binding shadowmarks preventing them from ever leaving the former continent of Barsaive (from Earthdawn - I just blowed it up a little more and made the Horrors victorious over the Name-givers). At bare minimum, I needed to wrap up the continuous storyline involving one PC in particular, Dorion, and his quest to free his brother, Rheece, from a lifetime of servitude to Boccob.

The kicker about Shadoworld, as I've mentioned before, was now I had to wrap up the entire second half of a campaign in one weekend. It took me seven years just to lead up to this moment and I have 48 hours to wrap it up. Amazingly, this is easier than I was expecting.

Before getting started on all the prep work (including hours of reviewing old campaign notes and player backgrounds), I made a list of the essential elements requiring conclusion in Shadoworld: The Finale.

  1. Rheece, a PC, is destined to become the Traveller, an enigmatic figure the players have met countless times before yet not since this secondary PC arrived on the scene. Well, that's because the Traveller is a time traveller who can only exist one at a time. They haven't seen the Traveller in weeks because the young version of the Traveller - Rheece - has been with the party. This exposition explains why so many events in the campaign happened, way more than I can get into here.
  2. Rescue Dorion from the pit fiend, Malakai. This is Rheece's brother. Throughout the entire Shadoworld campaign, Dorion was searching for his brother. When the two finally met for the first time in almost a year, they had 10 minutes together before Malakai snatched up Dorion and took him to a dreadful prison complex.
  3. Greiman's fate/punishment. In order to trick the brothers into entering Shadoworld, Malakai used a childhood friend, Greiman, as a pawn. To reward the pawn for his servitude, the pit fiend gave him energy draining tentacles so that he might never feel human contact again. I wanted Greiman's fate left in Dorion/Rheece's hands.
  4. Delary, a doppleganger, delivers Dorion's baby. In the very first game, the PCs escaped with the aid of an attractive young woman named Delary. Eager to become useful to someone in the group, she latched onto the most charismatic member, Dorion, and had sex with him in the back of a goblin cave. Well, turns out she's a doppleganger and, well, turns out Dorion's natural magic abilities as a sorcerer make him incredibly virile. And that baby needs to be born.
  5. The Kamouraska's return and his connection to another PC, Tsohg. This guy (a devourer, but an intelligent one, not a rampaging monster) was an old nemesis the group really latched onto, thereby demanding his return to a larger role in the future of Shadoworld. To do that, I gave him a business connection to a PC, Tsohg the necromaster (spell his name backwards).
Along the way, I had additional notes for how to make some of these events unfold. And that's all I used. Notes. I wanted to improvise this game. Keep the plot points short and sweet, choose a dungeon from my list of Dungeon mags, and let the players rock this ending. Improvising a game, to me, is a simpler and direct root allowing players to truly feel they have a handle on the campaign amongst large, detailed settings and many NPC interactions. These setting can quickly cause players to feel outnumbered and intimidated when dialogue is read aloud from the page and the DM flips through 20 pages of material. Plus, players always screw up what you have planned, so I wanted to save the trouble of too much plotting.

The Play-By-Play
Within fifteen minutes of start-up, I killed Dorion. Injected him with poison and killed him. As he made the journey to the Heavens, he learned the truth about the Traveller, his brother, and everything else in between. So too did the rest of the party ("Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice...") as the Kamouraska, freshly risen from the grave, told the PCs about the Traveller HE had learned upon his death. Where was Dorion held prisoner? Over here. What do we need to get there? All this stuff I've already paid for. When do we head out? Right away.

The remainder of the weekend was a rescue mission under the belly of an active volcano to a mechanical lab built in the heart of the spire. Half-machine templates, baby! While the rescuing PCs did their duty, I continued to play out an interaction between Dorion the captive and Greiman the guard, building up to a climax. When the final scene hit, it was the PCs (sporting full hit points thanks to loads of drunken healing potions) vs Malakai (a CR 20 pit fiend and the highest level PC was 16th) plus the volcano's guardian, the Mechanic. All the while, Dorion pleaded with Greiman to save his soul. Riddled with guilt, Greiman teleported in the way of a devastating attack by Malakai and died a peaceful, noble death.

During the fight, the PCs learned Malakai had used his annual wish against his prized collection. Should the pit fiend die, Dorion will die too. What the devil didn't realize is Dorion had been cloned by the Kamouraska - if he died, his body would reassemble in Tsohg's lab. Malakai's last recollection was having his head severed by the minotaur barbarian, Brakus. As the pit fiend disintegrated to dust, Dorion fell dead to the ground...

... and woke up a week later just as Delary gave birth to his son, Greiman. This fitty conclusion was chosen by the players and was the last word spoken in the campaign.

If I wasn't surrounded by dudes, I would have cried.

Good Campaigns Never End...
... and neither shall this one. There are still many plot lines sitting in the shadows, waiting for their moment to raise and take shape. With the success of Shadoworld's finale, the demand to start playing frequently online has renewed our desire to play this mofo. Needless to say, I had a story ready by the time I went to bed that night.

Get ready, boys, for Shadoworld: Torment.