Hexcrawl High: It don’t last for long

Tomorrow’s session will almost certainly be the last one we manage to get in before Christmas and may be the last one full stop as one of the players is moving to Dublin. If it is the end I imagine its going to be anticlimactic.

Due to the nature of the campaign there is no neat or clean way to tie up the myriad plot threads that the PC’s have stumbled across and certainly no way to shoe horn in some kind of interesting capstone at the same time. On the other hand if it is to be the last session for a while, or permanently, I would like to leave it on something that feels vaguely definitive, or on an annoying cliffhanger. Due to the PC’s actually picking up on a growing threat, and dealing with it, in the last session we still haven’t actually had to use any kingdom building mechanics. Though they are inescapably going to be used in tomorrows as their settlements founding is one in-game day away.

I’d like to say I’ve come up with a cunning solution to the problems I outlined in the last few posts. But for various reasons I just havent had that much time to devote to D&D and thus I have nothing exciting to offer. So I’m going to rule with the Pathfinder version of the rules, which will be fine for the initial actions and will give me an in-game month to come up with something better (or to ignore it if we shelve the campaign). I did some minimal research/work on converting Pathfinder DC’s to 5th edition and will be going with the following:

DC 01 – 26: (DC-5)×0.75+5
DC 27 – 31: DC 21
DC 32 – XX: (DC-10)×0.5+10

Way back at the start of the campaign the very first random encounter in the campaign was meant to be foreshadowing of a growing undead threat that was slowly being released from the city of Vaalathrim which was slowly being uncovered by a receding glacier. The PC’s have learned more about Vaalathrim as the campaign went on, sometimes at cost e.g. owing a favour to an odd swamp woman. I had plans for the PC’s to find and explore Vaalathrim at some point in the campaign but I figured it would be later, past level 10 anyhow. But in the interest of giving the campaign a solid send off for it’s season break I’ve decided to have this happen sooner rather than later. Well, I’m not going to force the PC’s into it. But one of their acquaintances will be organising an expedition to the city and I’ve a feeling the PC’s will jump on it.

Which leads to two issues, one in-game for the PC’s and one out of game for me. In game travel to and exploration of the city will almost certainly take the PC’s away from their new settlement for over a month. Which will have mechanical impact on the settlement. But that’s easily sidestepped by having them higher some NPC stand-ins or simply eating the negative modifiers. The second problem is that I wanted the expedition to the city to be a sort of mini-adventure in and off itself. But as I write this I recall that on one of the maps I found (from various editions and all subtly or not so subtly different) Vaalathrim wasn’t on the glacier proper. So I could perhaps cut the travel to the city short. But, but, but, I really want to throw a nasty encounter I thought up at the PC’s during their travel. So I think I might just do that and cut the longer travel adventure short (or save it for later as theres a very important location in the campaign that’s very far into the glacier).

But even if I do cut the travel short I don’t think there will be time to explore the city in one session. Now the city is fairly lethal, in my mind, so perhaps the initial foray could be taken care of and we can drift off into a “To be continued…” Speaking of the city, as the idea to mount this expedition in this weeks session is rather sudden I don’t have anything prepared for it. Even worse, I’ve been unable to find any easily convertible adventures to “draw inspiration” from. I did find several nice city maps and skimmed through more than a few city settings (with the idea of just “ruining” them). One thing I noticed is that the predominant method of presenting cities in rpg titles doesn’t work for me. It works fine as an information source but very poorly as a useful source to use in play.

Looking at a keyed city map, figuring out where the PC’s are going, flicking to the appropriate entry and then reading it out just isn’t to my taste. It’s boring and feels clearly artificial or requires the DM to have more or less memorised the material. I was also struck by the dearth of interesting undead monsters available in 5th edition, a presumably unavoidable consequence of its drive to keep the number of books down. So my solution, such as it is, aims to deal with both of these issues.

What is my solution you say? Well, in one word, nodes.

Vent your spleen