We gamed our second session of the Pellham Campaign on December 6th and it went off without a hitch. It was a joy to run and seemed to be a hit with my Players, too. I got to run with my PCs goals and use ideas from the modules that I picked as the basis for this campaign. In running this game, I may have discovered the best way for me to run modules. It was great!
Two things came into play from the Players’ side of the table. Firstly, I got to introduce part of James Andari’s work on The Prophecy. Before James (Adran’s Player) had even seen a copy of the Prophecy, he came up with five ways the Prophecy could be fulfilled. They are 1) Llywelyn could simply reappear, 2) Llywelyn could return through a blood relative, 3) Llywelyn could return in the form of someone who shared a similar history and ideology, 4) someone raised outside Pellham would come take the throne just as Llywelyn was and did, and 5)Llywelyn could be stored to “life” by a powerful druid or necromancer. I used this framework to introduce a Claimant to the Throne. Secondly, the “Sons”…I mean the “Soldiers of Anarchy,” took out their first target. The SoA is a movement (started by Vadis Mal and Stone (played Brandon Mokofisi and Steven Goff, respectively) dedicated to freeing slaves and punishing slavers. The Soldiers of Anarchy took on and eliminated their first target, a kidnapper and pimp named Joshua. Cool things.
On the GM’s side of the table, I got to expound a bit on a landmark in the city of Widdershin (the Pillars of Nimra) and hint at a future plot line (Stephen, heir of Llywelyn). I had a blast dropping new NPCs into the game, but I am still bad at giving them names (ergo: Thug and an unnamed dwarf). I, also, discovered a few things that help me run canned adventures and this should be the bulk of my post.
Firstly, I need to look for modules and adventures that can be easily sandboxed. Since C3: To Find a King was written as competition module, it comes in easily separated sections and each section details a completely different area. I can place those sections where I need them in my setting and use them, when the Players reach them. This gives me set pieces which I can build around. Throne of Evil is a historical romance turned into a D&D game. While the adventure itself is nothing more than a dungeon crawl with a single wilderness encounter and an espionage paint job, it is filled with historical backstory and little bits of lore scattered through the text. By blending the backstory in Throne of Evil with the backstory of To Find a King, I can fill in blanks in both stories and use them to better fit into my world.
Secondly, using two or more canned adventures gives me a better way to foreshadow events and expand my Players’ view of the world. In To Find a King, the PCs have to chase down “The Evil Party” who has bought their prize out from under them. In the module, there is no reason given for why the Evil Party (while the NPCs have names, they are listed in the NPC section as “Evil Party”) wants the keys. With the information from Throne of Evil, I could provide a reason. My Players already didn’t care for Lord Mortimer, a member of the Sovereign Council, because of his sudden discovery of a lost heir of Llywelyn, but when they found Robert Mortimer’s seal upon Blackleaf, a member of the Evil Party, they knew he was a villain and are waiting for the day to give him pay back.
Thirdly, doing everything I can to make the module personal to the PCs and their Players gives it depth and allows for actions not covered in the modules. Vadis was sold into slavery after his family was betrayed in a power grab in the city of Krell’s Gate. Malcom Evinter, Lord Krell, was the one who betrayed Vadis Mal’s parents. While Vadis believes his parents got what they deserved, he won’t trust Lord Krell. The elf Blackleaf becomes Adran Blackleaf, childhood rival of Adran Silverleaf, thus a member of the Party has a reason to fight from the word “Go” or a chance to parley with a known “frenemy.”
Fourthly, by using the ideas of the various encounters instead of the written encounters, I can make these events seem more organic. The encounter with Lord Krell is very complicated and involves delaying tactics and traps, but when I ran it, I used it as a roleplaying opportunity. I kept all the pieces; I just used them for different tasks. It really is all about stealing and adapting.
So, my readers, do you have any suggestions for me on this topic?