Campaign Twists

Saturday, August 2, 2008 - 9:30 PM

So, next in line for my valiant dnd campaigners is an adaptation of Nicolas Logue's 'Library of Last Resort'. As much as I tend to enjoy Logue's material, this one didn't really touch me at first; it seemed to be a very straightforward (if dramatic) dash across rugged wilderness to slay this monster or that in order to gain access to a boss fight and the big Plot Cookie. Sometimes those adventures have their place, certainly, but the recovery of some piece of ancient lore utterly forgotten by the rest of the world seemed to warrant something a bit deeper.

This is particularly true when you take a look at my playing group. Though they enjoy a terse combat from time to time, they are really there for the character interaction, the plot, the unwinding of the riddles and the strategy. I knew that, as is, I could make the scenario exciting, but I didn't think they'd really appreciate it as much as other groups.

So why not just come up with something different?

First and foremost, I like to give credit where it is due. I modified quite a lot of the 'Prince of Redhand' adventure, but it was still the Prince of Redhand. The two portions of 'Library' that hooked me were as follows: the notion of a library of lore literally encased away from history, and the notion that it was druids that created it, not the usual wizardly scapegoats. These were Logue's ideas, and so the basis of the adventure stays to credit him

The idea of the library outside of time very much intrigued me. I thought about this quite a bit. The Lodge of druids responsible for it, I decided, were caretakers of knowledge of all kinds, and locked away all of the material in the library because it was horribly dangerous to know, or horribly useful. How they figured out a way to lock it up wasn't important to the general plot, but the impact of what happens to the world when the library is opened is... you see, when the Library of Last Resort is accessed, you better absolutely NEED the information you want, because there's no such thing as browsing. ALL of the information in the library is returned to the world at that moment. Facts are reinserted into historical books, books written and vanished reappear as if they'd followed the path they would have if they hadn't been removed from history, and so on. Stories that would have been told over generations are suddenly remembered by people who would have known them.

That's what I call earth-shaking magic, and that sort of decision (do we dare open the library? do we really need what we think we need from here?) is exactly what my players love to deal with.

So, rather than set it up as a series of combats, I decided the set encounters were going to be with druidic sects that had been removed from the world as well, for some reason or other. Perhaps they had teachings which were in danger of being wiped out. Perhaps they were traditions that were frightening and violent, in compared to other druidic groups. Whatever the reasons, the Elders who watch over the Library will send the players out to contend with these groups. A different trial would be warranted for each of them: win the respect of, convince another group, outright battle this group, and so on. This is done so the characters can prove themselves worthy of the library, but also because the Elders want them to see first hand what else they'll be releasing into the world.

Part of telling a good story is telling a story the listeners want to hear, but keeping it twisting enough that it grows into something new for them, something new within them. This particular arc is going to be very significant for the group, being the culmination of over a year and a half of plot buildup, and I certainly want them to feel the weight of that.

Edit: I wrote this a while back, but didn't want to post in order to preserve surprised for my players. I'm now posting this shortly after the first actual session at Tilagos, and the interparty debate over some of the decisions to make was the fiercest I've seen it in a long time. They've also had a lovely time exploring some of the unusual druidic traditions lurking there.

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