Wednesday, October 24, 2012

D&D Encounters: War of Everlasting Darkness

This happened. Happens. Is happening. Starting tonight.

I wrote this adventure with Shawn Merwin under the guidance of James Wyatt. It came in the mail on Monday and my wife said, "I don't even remember you working on that. You didn't complain about it or anything."

Because, you see, as I said last August in my brief ENnie thank-you speech, on just about every project my wife talks me down from catapulting myself into Lake Michigan while I struggle against the white space on the page near the beginning of the project and declare it all but impossible.


This project was a lot of fun and totally experimental. The idea was to create a D&D 4th Edition adventure in the style of a classic AD&D type adventure where a session might be made up of many small encounters, combat on a grid was optional, etc. I'd just finished running a handful of AD&D adventures so I was definitely in that zone at the time. It's going to be something of a departure from the traditional 4e game, but that might be a good thing. Who am I kidding? It'll be what the players and the DM at any given table make of it. I think it'll be fun. I remember putting in lots of choices, alternate ways of doing things, and inventing a few mechanics that I was pleased with. There's also some crazy "roll a die and see what happens" randomness in at least one session.

I designed sessions 4, 5, and 6 if I recall correctly. I designed an additional session (concerning werewolves!) that had to be cut when the season calendar/schedule was adjusted; it was the most tangential of all the sessions and therefore the easiest to cut from the adventure without losing anything. However, if you want to know about it, I'll reveal the details of the lost werewolf session in a future blog. (It was really, really tangential).

Perhaps my favorite session to write was session 6. Ameron of kindly says of it:

The session that stood out most for me was week 6. In this session the PCs have to help defend a town from the pending attack of a monster army. They have nine days in game to fortify the town and get things ready. Each of the town’s defenses (catapults, riders, town watch, etc.) has a battle value. As the PCs do things to prepare the town’s defenses these scores increases or decrease. When the attack finally happens the overall outcome is determined by the final battle value. The PCs being the heroes of the story have a fantastic confrontation with the monsters which has a huge bearing on the town’s final battle value, so the fate of things truly is in the hands of the PCs.

Thanks, Ameron!

While I'm sure similar mechanics have been used previously and elsewhere, I was ignorant of them, so this session was a challenge for me because I was inventing on the fly--trying to create a simple additional mechanic that would serve the session without complicating things. I was initially worried that creating a "battle value" term would confuse people (I hate to make up new terms to keep track of) but it seems like it works and you only use it in that session.

The other challenge for me was to create a siege/battle mechanic that worked differently than the one I used for The Siege of Gardmore Abbey (which you maaaaaay be seeing in real life sometime soon but I can say no more...).  It wasn't just about originality, but mostly about designing something that worked best for this session and its goals. At any rate, I was happy with it. By the way, if you're running that session or playing it, the key to success, imo, is to draw it out and play it as organically as possible--that is to say, role-play the living hell out of it. I think the structure's neat, but it's there as a skeleton for you to flesh out.

That's about all I have to say about it right now. I hope everyone has fun. 

Other news, since I haven't posted in a while:
- I wrote a big chunk for Pathfinder: Ultimate Campaign. I guess this book isn't a secret so there it is.
- Wrote a story for the upcoming Steamscapes North America; this is a Savage Worlds game put out by Pinnacle. It is probably the best thing I've ever written so far. At least in my opinion. The most finished.
- I'm working on a Dungeon adventure. For the April issue. And all that that implies. No joke(s).
- 13th Age. The Townshend. Rumor has it.
- At D&D XP last January, I announced a couple forthcoming articles. The succubus article (Fallen Angels: Ecology of the Succubus) should hit very soon in Dungeon Magazine (November).  The Wee Fey (I wrote 4 Bard Tales for it, and am super excited about them, I don't care if they are only a few hundred words apiece) should be in Dragon Magazine in early 2013. Granted, this news is old if you were at the new products seminar at D&D XP, but once these pieces are up they will be new!
- I continue to tear out my hair over personal writing projects, but this isn't news.

That's all the news that's fit to print!

Yours truly,

-The Townshend

1 comment:

Alphastream said...

Very fun to read your thoughts on this season as a co-author. I really enjoyed your preview to Gardmore and I look forward to contrasting your approach.

I'm a big fan or organized play using innovative mechanics. In my mind, that's a perfect place to experiment with D&D. I really wish more WotC designers and freelancers would check out the innovations taking place in living campaigns. The Living Forgotten Realms battle interactive "ADCP" adventures at small and large cons are great. Winter Fantasy 2013 will also host the conclusion to the Ashes of Athas campaign, which will end with a battle using unique interactive elements. Freelancers and Wizards staff should check out the Encounters week you mentioned. Really, it is advantageous for those in the business to show up at a random store and play. It can provide a lot of insight into what works well for gamers and can also provide a creative boost when you see what others have dreamed up.