I use scenario/adventure titles all the time. Used correctly, they can put players into the correct frame of mind to react in the “right” way to the events in a scenario, conceal the identity of a villain until or hide a plot twist until the big reveal, heighten the drama of a situation and/or raise the expectations of the players. At the very least, they provide a referent ‘index’ to the events that occur in the course of the adventure. They can also add to the flavor of the campaign, reinforcing genre elements.
Many of the same methods and criteria that are used for naming campaigns are also relevant to naming adventures. Double or even triple meanings, exaggerations, heightened drama, metaphors and use of nouns, taking synopsis phrases out of context, and so on, are all valid tools to be used.
The heart of this article are a hundred-or-more (!) examples, with discussion of where the name came from, how it relates to the adventure, and – where appropriate – why it is an especially apt title. I’ve organized these by campaign, so that the campaign notes provided in the previous part of this series can be helpful in providing some context.
Some of these adventure titles will be discussed in more detail than others (mainly because it takes time to boil adventures down to a one-sentence synopsis, while I can cut-and-paste from more detailed summaries in next to no time)!
The Adventurer’s Club
The first three adventures in this campaign occurred before I started co-refereeing it. The adventure titles were one of the touches that I brought to the campaign…
- “Ghost Ship” – Synopsis: A series of ships have mysteriously vanished in Haiti. Others report sighting a ghost ship before narrowly escaping. The PCs are hired to solve the mystery. The insurance investigator who hires them is then killed by “Zombies” (drugged voodoo cultists). PCs romp through haiti having fun with Voodoo priests and Zombies in what appears to be a power struggle between Voodoo cults. The Ghost Ship turns out to be a fake by the Haitian military to enable them to gather the naval forces required to stage a coup, backed by rogue elements in the US Military. Commentary: The title got the PCs thinking along supernatural lines, an impression reinforced by the “Zombies”. What was basically a political thriller with lots of double-crossing and betrayal was given a lot of color and flavor by the supernatural overtones. The scenario ended with a slightly ambiguous note as the PCs hear of another ghost ship sighting after the fake had been exposed and put out of business.
- “St Michael & St George – Synopsis: The “Order of St George & St Michael” is the British equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition, a darker, quieter, more secretive, and far more insidious organization than its continental counterpart. Most don’t even know of its existence, and they have no direct contact with the church authorities. Membership includes some of the elite of the British Peerage. The existence of the organization comes to light when a former member leaves his memoires to the British Library on his deathbed in a fit of conscience. The Director of MI5 (and secretly a member of the Order) needs to retrieve them before his ‘extracurricular activities’ are discovered, but he can’t use his regular people without revealing his hand. So he calls in Paper (one of the PCs) who in turn involves the rest of the Party. Commentary: Not a title we were completely happy with. It does contrast the sanctity of the two named saints with the villainy of the organization acting in their name, and it again implies a strong supernatural element in what turned out to be a spy-thriller – again full of betrayal and subterfuge.
- “Teutonic Metaphysics – Synopsis: This was a mission to recover “Teutonic Metaphysics” by J Michelet, London 1928 (1st edition) with marginal notes by Alistair Crowley. There is a Bishop about to be made cardinal, Yugoslav name, and placed in charge of the Vatican Library; the Adventurer’s Club is concerned about his fascist connections and rumors that he is an occultist. Commentary: Once again, a title that hints at the supernatural, but the players – wary from the last two scenarios, when similar hints turned out to be red herrings – immediately discounted that, an opinion reinforced by the revelation that the title refers to a manuscript. As a result, the PCs were considerably surprised when the curse of ill-fortune that comes with the manuscript (which they had dismissed) turned out to be true – everything that could possibly go wrong on the mission, did, starting as soon as they got their hands on the manuscript!
- “Heisenberg’s Nightmare” – Synopsis: Several Volumes are missing from the Club Library, an investigation is launched and the library assistant (Honeydew, one of the players’ favorite NPCs) is stood down while the librarian (Mrs Hobbs) is re-cataloging the entire library herself. One of the missing volumes contains information on an atomic weapon: “The Hydrogen Bomb”. The FBI is called in to investigate officially. Through contacts, the club learns that someone is offering the manuscript for sale in Denmark. When they get there, the PCs find that the document has been purchased by German Agents and is en route to a castle run by the SS. PCs have to follow it into Nazi Germany and secure it from the castle – then get out of Germany with it. After recovering manuscript PCs return to club FBI has established that Honeydew’s locker has been wiped clean of fingerprints – either someone is trying to interfere with the investigation or the theft was by Honeydew herself. Commentary: The “Hydrogen Bomb” mentioned turned out to be exactly what it sounded like, much to the surprise of the players, who thought we were being clever again – Heisenberg had gathered together a summary of all atomic knowledge then existent, from Szilard to Rutherford, only then realizing that he had spelt out exactly what research, theoretical breakthroughs, and engineering solutions were needed to construct the terrible weapon. This was the first time we had made Nazis the central villains of the plot. A classic “chase the Macguffin” but the players never expected us to lead them through Berlin to a Schloss via SS Headquarters. Getting out of Germany afterwards was even more action-packed than getting in had been.
- “The Library Crimes” – Synopsis: Honeydew and her best friend (one of the PCs) go on the run against the full might of the police and FBI while the rest of the PCs set a trap to catch the real thief. Commentary: A seemingly straightforward title, it was only when they uncovered the identity of the real thief and learned that he was selling the stolen manuscripts to raise funds to buy more books for the very library he was stealing from that the double-meaning became apparent. At the end of the adventure, the FBI took over the operation of the club on the grounds of national security.
- “Flash & Richthoffen” – Synopsis: The FBI inform the PCs of intelligence regarding a Nazi super-dirigible missile – a sonic generator in the nose “loosens” the air in front of the dirigible permitting it to travel at 300 mph, and of course it is a huge bag of very flammable hydrogen. The Government can be seen doing anything about it, because the US is technically neutral, but New York is within range of the super-weapon – so they want the PCs to undertake a covert mission into the German R&D facility at Rugen Island. Commentary: This title had so many layers of meaning that some of them almost got lost in the shuffle – it was a little too clever for our own good. One of the featured NPCs was Professor Zarkov (from Flash Gordon). The “Richthoffen” angle obviously referred to the super-dirigible. The whole title was a metaphor for “Shock and Awe”. And finally, the whole thing promised to be a heavily sci-fi / space opera style pulp adventure – so it really surprised the PCs when they discovered Templar Vampires living beneath the Nazi base!
- “Southern Comfort” – Synopsis: I’ve described this adventure twice before, in ‘There Is A Hold In Your Mind…’: Solving Mental Block and in Bam! Zap! Crunch! World Conventions In Pulp so I won’t repeat it here. Commentary: This is one of the better titles from the Pulp campaign. While it is obviously named after the world-famous bourbon, the title actually refers to the Bond-style villain who invited one of the PCs to a black-tie dinner aboard his riverboat to gloat (some genuine “southern hospitality”) – putting the PC in the perfect position to break his teammates free and completely louse up the villain’s plans. But it also describes the situation of the villain, a mastermind sitting in luxury while plotting the most foul of deeds.
- “Things Of Stone And Wood” – Synopsis: By far the biggest adventure that we’ve run in the Adventurer’s Club campaign, it took the PCs deep into China up the Yangtze River where they encountered a Chinese Emperor and Sorcerer who returned from the dead and reanimated an army of stone, who could only be defeated by using the Four Elements – but these were the Chinese elements, including wood, not the western ones with which the players (and probably our readers) are more familiar. Commentary: In addition to the obvious references to the Chinese elements and the stone army, there were a number of encounters along the way with other representations of the Chinese elements, all connected by association with the title – everything from corals through to pirates. The entire adventure took close to a year-and-a-half of real time, and greatly expanded the overall scope of the campaign.
- “Scenes From The Balcony” – Synopsis: A series of miniadventures in which we looked at how each PCs life had been changed by their association with the Adventurer’s Club and their growing fame. Tommy, the aviator, test-flew a radical new type of fighter; Father O’Malley, the priest, had a murder mystery and weird-science swamp monsters; Captain Ferguson, the Sea-Captain and Treasure Hunter, was hired by the Navy to supervise the salvage of an experimental submarine; and Doctor Hawke, the Medic, got involved in a plot to use Native Americans as involuntary subjects of medical experimentation by an immoral pharmaceuticals company, which ended up reuniting the PCs as each of their solo missions came to a conclusion and the Doctor found he needed help to deal with the larger problem he faced. Commentary: The title was determined as soon as we came up with the concept of the adventure, because it described perfectly the situation in which the other players were onlookers (and freely able to kibitz) during each other’s adventures, which were carefully intertwined. Some of the internal timing of the adventures went a bit wonky, but overall it worked fine – as a one-off. For once, the adventure was exactly what it said on the tin.
- “The Dream Factory” – Synopsis: The team are hired to troubleshoot a string of mysterious accidents on the Hollywood production of a movie about the Adventurer’s Club is being filmed. One of those incidents leads to the discovery of a child-smuggling ring and a madman practicing human sacrifice in the name of the Aztec God, Tezcatlipoca. Commentary: This is the most recently-completed adventure at the time of writing. Originally an idea by Blair entitled “Hollywood Hijinx”, it evolved into a dark and disturbing tale of insanity, evil, and the tragic exploitation of children and their dreams. The title is an obvious reference to Hollywood, but it has a second and darker meaning in the way the villain is exploiting the kidnapped children as slave labor in order to fulfill his deranged dreams.
- “The Legacy Of Vigo” – Synopsis: One of the PCs inherits a castle, and a noble title – in Transylvania. The estate turns out to be beset with problems – everything from Gypsy squatters to ancient curses to ghosts to crazy weather to… well, that would be telling. Commentary: “Vigo” is Vigo Moldova – the bad guy from Ghostbusters II. The estate in question is that of the legendary Vlad Dracul, aka Vlad The Impaler, the model for the Dracula legends. Since the whole adventure is about what Tommy (the PC in question) inherits from Vigo, whose life he apparently saved in WWI without knowing it, the meaning of the title seems clear. There may or may not be more to that story, but I can’t reveal it here, since the adventure is still ongoing…
Fumanor: The Last Deity
Unfortunately, my adventure notes from this campaign have all been filed away “somewhere safe”. I’m sure they will turn up eventually, but wasn’t able to locate them in time for this article.
Fumanor: Seeds Of Empire
With this campaign, I actually went so far as to provide a list of the adventure titles (at least for the first half of the campaign) to the players, and have kept it more-or-less up to date with short synopses of the adventure contents. The campaign is divided up into six Phases:
- Phase I: The Golden Empire – the Kingdoms of Fumanor face an invasion by the much stronger Golden Empire and select an elite force of unknown youngsters to find a solution.
- Phase II: The Caverns Of Zhin Tarn – a series of extra-dimensional explorations which reveal the solutions to many mysteries.
- Phase III: Imperial Sunset – either the PCs defeat the Golden Empire, or the Golden Empire conquers the Kingdoms of Fumanor. The title is appropriate either way. This is the current phase of the campaign.
- Phase IV: A Minor Matter Of Elves – In the course of their adventures in the Golden Empire, the PCs have learned what they need to know to begin a campaign to overthrow Lolth, who conquered the Elves in the first Fumanor Campaign.
- Phase V: Shadow-plays – In the first campaign, the Drow were liberated from the Worship of Lolth, becoming enlightened citizens of the Kingdoms of Fumanor – it says so on the tin lid. Reality is rarely so clear-cut, and attempts to release the Elves from the domination of Lolth are sabotaged by ambitious Drow, complicating the Elvish Civil War just as victory seemed to be within the grasp of the PCs.
- Phase VI: Divine Vengeance – Either the PCs succeed in overthrowing Lolth in the name of Corellon, or they fail, or something in between. No matter what the outcome, this title is appropriate. Will the party reunify the elvish population? And how will the long-lost Aquatic Elves play into events?
- “Distant Rumbles” – Synopsis: Tajik (Orc PC) is enlisted to investigate and find a way to counter the threat of potential Invaders from somewhere beyond. Together with Ziorbe (Drow NPC), Eubani (Elf PC), and Arron (Ogre NPC), he forms Tajik’s Misfits…. Commentary: This adventure title dealt with four things: The internal socio-political relationships between elements of Orcish society, the relationship between the Orcish “Nation” and the Kingdoms of Fumanor, disquieting rumors from the world beyond the Orc Tribes’ borders, and early reports of trouble that an “elite force of adventurers” was being assembled to investigate. The adventure title applies with equal validity to each of these subjects.
- “Devastation Scene” – Synopsis: Discovering that the enemy is mighty in lost arts and undead soldiers, the Party take advantage of an opportunity to (magically) slip behind enemy lines – straight to their capital city. Commentary: Possibly the weakest of the adventure titles from this campaign, it has no depths of meaning and is completely literal in interpretation.
- “Dead Hands” – Synopsis: The true scale of the problem becomes apparent when it is discovered that the Golden Empire is an empire built on the services of undead menial labor Commentary: This campaign was about getting the PCs in over their heads an foot or so at a time. Every time they thought they had a handle on how serious the situation was, another implication or complication was revealed to them that showed the enemy’s strength to be that much greater than previously suspected. The first scenario reported an invading army; in the second, it was revealed that most of the army are undead, and that the living commanders of the army have access to more powerful magic than anyone has ever heard of; and in this part, the economic implications of having virtually all work done by unsleeping, uneating, undead are revealed – as is the fact that these undead retain the mind and personality of the deceased. I also started acquainting the PCs with the social and religious ramifications. The title was a subtle reference to all these concepts.
- “Rights & Rites” – Synopsis: Deciding that this reliance on Undead labor is the Empire’s biggest Weakness as well as the source of much of its strength, the team begin to focus their investigation on the specifics. Commentary: The synopsis was obviously written after the fact. The actual plot was simply for the PCs to stir around and come to grips with the society of the enemy, looking for a weak point. In particular, this session focused on the arcane capabilities of the Golden Empire, on their Theology, and on the secondary effects on their society of the presence of so many undead. In particular, they learned that the living possess every luxury and lead lives of sybaritic excess – but that they are expected to pay for this luxury with service to the state as an undead. Again, a fairly literal adventure title, a last minute substitution for “Rites & Wrongs”, the working title of the adventure, which was intended to also go into the criminal code and law-enforcement practices within the Golden Empire – content which was pulled since it would have needed more explanation than simple observation.
- “Captive Audience” – Synopsis: The party are captured by a Mummified Temple Guard (Chrin, guest PC), which they persuade to join them. Commentary: An adventure that didn’t run entirely according to plan. The PCs plan was to invade the high temple of the capital in search of Holy Books and spiritual writings that would help them understand how the Golden Empire was able to raise undead so easily and effortlessly – and, more importantly, how to cut the puppet strings, since the Golden Empire was completely dependant on their undead workers and armies. Instead, they were captured by a Mummified Temple Guard, a zealot and minor priest, who was intended to give them more answers without lots of exposition. They were then supposed to defeat him and escape. Instead, they used some specious arguement and logic to persuade him to join them – the guest player acting completely out of character for a young idealist and zealot. Fortunately, I was able to solve the characterization inconsistencies later in the campaign. The title of the adventure actually acquired a delicious double-meaning through the PCs actions, because (while the PCs were Chrin’s ‘Captive Audience’, he was also theirs.
- “Troubled Waters” – Synopsis: Escaping from the Capital, the party trigger a massive pursuit. In dodging the hunters, they find themselves in the custody of the only group ever to fight the Golden Empire to a standstill – Aquatic Elves – and charged with treaty violations. They escape after being found guilty, and find that the pursuit has passed them by – for now. Commentary: This adventure served multiple purposes. It extended the mythology of the campaign, by revealing the survival of the aquatic elves (supposedly wiped out by the Drow long ago), laying the foundation for a reconciliation between the Elf and Drow party members. It gave the PCs an outside perspective on the Golden Empire, a third point of view, and revealed more of the history. It layed the foundations for the fourth phase of the Campaign. And the PCs had to learn to work with their Undead party member, and vice versa, with the latter lamenting his hasty decision to join them. So the “Waters” were both literal and figurative, referring to the relationships within the party and their slow transformation from rugged individualists to a team. With this adventure, Chrin reverted to being an NPC; his brief span as a PC had been an experiment that didn’t work and almost derailed the entire campaign. Chalk up another lesson learned.
- “Sage Advice” – Synopsis: Chrin leads the Misfits to a cleric he trusts for advice. That cleric points Chrin at the outlands, the only place where Priests sufficiently heretical to listen and sufficiently devout not to be slain out of hand can be found, and gives them a name. The Misfits discover that the Empire are back hot on their trail, because they are able to track Chrin. Commentary: Another fairly straightforward title at first glance, but this adventure was full of people – PCs, Non-PC party members, and other NPCs – all offering each other good advice, or trying to absorb the good advice they had received.
- “Digging A Hole” – Synopsis: The pursuing warriors of the Golden Empire chase the Misfits into a region with a number of caves. In the largest, the party find a door that can only be detected by Elven sight – and the Golden Empire numbers no elves in its population. The locks are clearly highly magical, giving rise to the hope that this may give the Misfits one or more weapons or allies against the Empire. They resolve to escape their pursuers by exploring the Realms concealed within the Caverns of Zhin Tarn. Commentary: This is the first adventure in phase II of the campaign. The title obviously refers to the idea of “digging a hole and pulling it in after you”, “going to ground”, and all sorts of other metaphors for hiding – but it actually has a triple meaning. The second meaning refers to these Caverns, and their treasures, being hidden under the noses of the Golden Empire simply because they are located in some unattractive real estate that has only ever been seen by Undead – exposing another of the vulnerabilities of the Golden Empire to the PCs. And the final, most deeply hidden, layer of meaning is that of Chrin’s true allegiances as he slowly works his way into the confidence of the team, encouraging them to dig themselves a hole that they can’t get themselves out of. This last won’t be revealed until adventure #14!
- “Air” – Synopsis: The party Explore a realm based on the Elemental Plane of Air. They ally with a Verdonne from another Plane who has been trapped here for years and recover the first of six keys needed to open the door to the seventh cavern. They discover that time rates are distorted within the Cavern Realms – and that while they were within, their pursuers have caught up and are camped right outside. Commentary: A seemingly straightforward title, but with hidden overtones, as much of the events within the plane can be described using the qualities of air – transparency, wind, fog, cloud, insubstantiality – as metaphors. This was perhaps a little too subtle, I don’t think any of the players picked up on it at the time – but, at the same time, it gave me a focal point for all my thinking, inspiration and design, so it was worthwhile. Verde is a new PC, given life by the player who had temporarily controlled Chrin (and had so much fun doing so that he wanted to join the campaign full-time). The Verdonne are closer to Ents as depicted in the Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy than they are the traditional Ents of D&D or the book, quite literally “the shepherds of trees”.
- “Earth” – Synopsis: The Misfits sneak across the wastelands between the Cave Realms without alerting the Imperial Undead to their location and enter the Cavern Realm of Earth, finding it far more densely packed than Air was. Thanks to their latest recruit, Verde, they navigate the rivers of dust and find their way to a sentient population – Dwarvlings. After a number of misadventures and a little cultural exploration, the Misfits are joined by Leif, Prince of one of the Dwarvling Clans (New PC). They discover that they are cut off from the Gods while within the Cavern Realms. They eventually find and retrieve the key, rescuing a time-lost Paladin (Julia Sureblade, PC) from a past age in the process. Commentary: This adventure was rewritten into a standalone adventure and published here at campaign mastery a few years back – The Flói Af Loft & The Ryk Bolti, so I’m not going to rehash it too much here. The same seemingly obvious meaning to the title, and the same style of hidden metaphors. This time the players seemed to get them. It wasn’t intended at the time of design that the new PCs would join the campaign, but the opportunity was certainly there and they have certainly made their mark in the campaign. A critical point to note is that the PCs learn that the Pseudo-realms are slowly breaking down, and have the potential for devastating the entire prime material plane when they do.
- “Water” – Synopsis: Find the third key. The gods find the party.Commentary: Doesn’t sound like much does it? But this was one of the most imaginative settings I’ve ever created, a totally alien environment full of strange and original creatures and a full biology. It was actually created as “an environment” more than a “location” on the theory that water is only bounded by its interfaces with other elements – earth and air, especially. The metaphors for water qualities (especially “slippery”) were just as prevalent, adding the usual additional layer of meaning to the title. More importantly, this scenario established the relationships with the new PCs and the other party members, and started arousing suspicion towards Chrin. Midway through this adventure, Leif became an NPC.
- “Fire” – Synopsis: The Fire Pseudo-realm is the least terrestrial thus far encountered, being shaped like a vast donut with variable internal gravity and pressure. It is a Stratified realm with 4 layers. Temperature differentials rise far more steeply than normal, and heat does not conduct as well as it should. The party find the fourth key, and the Chaos Powers find the party. Commentary: Once again, a plot synopsis that leaves out more than it includes. Heat, pressure, and energy were both the central properties and the metaphors for the action. Chrin is able to seemingly allay the suspicions and raise prospects for an eventual community of interest between the Kingdoms of Fumanor and the Golden Empire, suggesting a possible diplomatic solution to the main plot, but for the PCs they have become suspicious of Chrin once too often. The Chaos Powers are the central opposing force to the Gods in the Fumanor campaign’s mythology. At the start of this adventure, Verde became an NPC.
- “Negative” – Synopsis: The PCs Find the fifth key and the mind flayer who created the ecologies and inhabitants of the Caverns. They learn that he killed his research partner, who constructed the “Experimental Pseudo-realms” when the latter was about to carry the experiment to its intended conclusion because he feared that the ecologies he had created would be destroyed in the process. Commentary: Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to write this up as a full adventure, only enough to create some interesting and deadly new opponents (“Mortus Elementals”); for most of it I ran off-the-cuff, directly from my conceptual notes. I did have time to create a “map” of the realm, which I have used to illustrate this article, but most of the details have been lost to posterity. I do recall that much of this setting was about negative emotions, and that the players had been deliberately holding onto Chrin as a team member for this environment (completely forgetting that in this campaign, Mummies had been established as “Positive Energy” undead, and that he was going to be even more vulnerable to the forces and opposition here than the rest of them.
- “Positive” – Synopsis: The PCs find the final key and make the choice of whether or not to deep-six their undead Guide. Commentary: As the commentary to the previous adventure makes clear, the PCs had gotten their wires crossed really badly. Instead of the Positive Energy demi-plane weakening their undead “ally”, he was made stronger than ever. Fortunately, the figured out their mistake before making any irrevocable missteps – and, much to their surprise, Chrin did not take advantage of his heightened abilities to betray them. Perhaps they had misjudged him – again – after all? Any such deliberations were ended prematurely as the boundaries between the pseudo-planes began catastrophic breakdown, Mortus Elementals tearing a hole into the positive energy demiplane.
- “The Laboratory Of Tenga Mort” – Synopsis: The PCs use the six keys to create a new world from the cavern realms under the direction of the Gods, who plan to use it as a hidden fortress in their ongoing war with the Chaos Powers. But all the plans go into a cocked hat when Chrin betrays the party and the (PC) Cleric is possessed by the ghost of the dead Mind Flayer whose experiment they are completing, delaying the final act of creation long enough for the Chaos Powers to contaminate the new Material Plane. Verde is trapped in the forming reality, using his powers over fate and luck to protect Leif’s people (and the other inhabitants of the demiplanes, he can’t be selective) during the merging process. Commentary: This adventure could have been subtitled “relationships in a petri dish” and still been consistent with the theme of the main plot. The PCs learn more than anyone in their world has ever known about the origins and formation of the Prime Material Plane, the origins of dungeons and the weirder beasties that inhabit their world, and how the primal forces interplay. They also discover that Chrin has been deliberately leading them away from the help that they need, and that the only thing that they had convinced him of (refer Adventure #5) is that the PCs were potentially dangerous and subversive and should be removed from the inhabited regions of the Empire as quickly as possible. In effect, he has wasted over a month of their time – but, in the process, they have recruited new allies and learned to work together far more effectively. The entire plotline is about the ethics of experimentation, the assumption of responsibility, and a collision of faiths.
- “Columbus Verde” – Synopsis: The PCs enter the new world in search of their missing teammate. They discover that he was successful in his attempts and that after a period of anarchy, a new ecology is forming. When they discover Leif’s people, they learn that many years have passed since the Merging Of Realities and become embroiled in a murder mystery. Leif realizes that if he leaves again, he will never be able to return without imperiling his people – but honor compels him to remain with the team. Commentary: This adventure changed a lot between initial conception (when Verde was simply going to insist on the team exploring the new world) and what ultimately transpired. The title lost much of its meaning in the process, though its secondary meaning – of “exploring Verde” – remained valid, just cryptic. This was very much a “price of victory” piece, wrapping up loose plot threads so that the campaign could move forward into Phase III, and a title that reflected that would probably have been more appropriate in the end. Heck, even “The Rule Of Lore” would have been an improvement, since the myths and legends surrounding the party were fundamental to the reshaping of the Society within the new world. Oh, well.
- “Broken Bonds & Lost Worlds” – Synopsis: The misfits resume their travels through the Golden Empire, learning that Chrin was taking the long way round, seemingly intentionally. Meanwhile, Leif is coming to terms with the destruction of the world he knew and his first encounters with the outside world are not quite what he had come to expect. Commentary: The “bonds” are bonds of trust, and the bond of mission objective to plan of action. Everyone needs to figure out where the team goes from here, but they can’t wait around to do it in the Caverns – Imperial Forces have been drawn back to the area around the gates by the massive discharge of magic that created the New World, which leaves them no choice but to plunge right in. They also learn that the Lich template makes Beholders really nasty. In the course of the adventure, Leif reconnects with the party, and the party discover that the plan appears to still be sound, and everything gets itself back on track. This adventure marks the start of Phase III of the campaign.
- “The Garden of Shimono” – Synopsis: After the trouble they had in town, the Misfits head cross-country. But trouble is never far away when you’re on the run! They make good time until they enter an Estate that is besieged by Demons every night. Commentary: Both the previous adventure and this one feature the everyday life of ordinary citizens of the Golden Empire. I felt it was important to highlight the reality that some problems were universal to both societies. In rescuing the owner of the estate (the sole survivor) from his possessed daughter, the PCs earned a genuine ally in their struggles. The title conveys a slightly Asian flavor, an important element in the Golden Empire that has been occasionally lacking in descriptions so far. In particular, the estates resembled those of an Asian garden, and that association is deliberately reflected in the title of the adventure.
- “On A Larger Scale” – Synopsis: The Misfits, with the help of their new ally, have to prevent an alliance between the Elves and Golden Empire. The Gods warn them of an instinctive belief that such an alliance must be prevented at any cost. As the negotiations continue, the potential implications and outcomes become more and more dangerous and disturbing, and the party begins to discover the reasons for the Gods misgivings. Commentary: This adventure suffers from the most awkward of circumstances – a title whose significance was forgotten when the time came to write the adventure scenario, and which is therefore irrelevant to the actual adventure that took place. While I have since remembered what that significance was to be, that irrelevance means there is no point in discussing the particulars; instead, I would rather focus on the potential pitfall of being too clever for my own good, in hopes that others can learn from the mistake. For heaven’s sake, if you think of a subtle and especially clever title for an adventure, write down that meaning before you forget what it is!
- “Specter Of Defeat” – Not yet played, so I have to keep this secret – sorry! That said, the title suggests that things will get even more critical. When the PCs began their investigation, they estimated that they had between one and three months before the invasion began. It’s now been about eight weeks, so it doesn’t take a great deal of insight to guess what this scenario is all about!
- “The Last Samurai” – Not yet played.
- “A Summons Of Strife” – Not yet played.
- “The Hidden” – Not yet played.
- “Knocking On Heaven’s Door – Not yet played.
- “Wrack And Ruin” – Not yet played.
- “Imperium Redux” – Not yet played.
- “Any Landing You Walk Away From…” – Not yet played. The final adventure in Phase III.
No adventure titles have yet been assigned for phases IV to VI. Note that the big finish to this campaign actually takes place in the “Fumanor: One Faith” campaign, listed below.
Fumanor: One Faith
The One Faith campaign – at first glance – has a far more linear structure. But, looking a little closer, and you will find that the Campaign is about to split into two, one character going one way, while the other two have a series of isolated adventures unrelated to the main plot. The following adventures were part of the first phase of the campaign.
- “Surfaceworld” – Synopsis: The Drow Gallas leaves the tunnels in which he was raised and makes his way to Fort Sharpfang (capital of the Outer Kingdom), where he is recruited by the Inquisition. Commentary: This adventure was all about Gallas experiencing the world above the tunnels for the first time, with all its quirks. He is also surprised to discover that some Elven traits have emerged in his bloodline after his people’s recent experiences in the Underdark when the Matriarchy was overthrown, their deception (that Lolth still ruled) having been exposed in the previous Fumanor campaign.
- “The Silver Palms” – Synopsis: Gallas receives his first assignment. He joins the Silver Palms (a group of adventurers based on members of the Knights Of The Dinner Table and Black Hands), and gets to know them while the party is en route to retrieve The Red Masque, a legendary artifact of incalculable value. Along the way, they recruit a Bard named Sebastian (PC) and one of the members of the Silver Palms becomes host to a Chaos Power. Commentary: The name of the group is both a play on “The Black Hands” and on “Sweaty Palms”, a condition that the Silver Palms reputedly suffer from when confronted by large sums of gold.
- “The Grave Of The Prince Of Lies” – Synopsis: Based on the excellent adventure from 0one Games, free from DrivethruRPG. It turns out that the Silver Palms don’t actually know where the Red Masque is, just where to find a clue to where it might be – in the icy tomb of an Undead Dwarven Prince who was seduced, then betrayed, by a Drow Priestess. Commentary: The module’s backstory was incorporated (with some modification) directly into the campaign history because it fitted almost perfectly. That is acknowledged within the campaign by preserving the title of the original module.
- “Reap The Whirlwind” – Synopsis: While following the trail of breadcrumbs to the next clue to the location of the Red Masque, Kardles (Dwarven Cleric, NPC, one of the Silver Palms) is contacted by the image of Dis The Destroyer, a Chaos Power so evil that even the other Chaos Powers locked him away, who offers him the deal of a lifetime. Kardles is “seduced by the Dark Side”, thinking he can act as a spy against Dis and betray him later – or stick with him, if it looks like Dis will win. The party’s travels take them through a village where the connections between some of the current problems become clearer – the Church’s divisions have been systematically weakening the economy of Fumanor, which has forced some of the current unpopular decisions, which is what is seeding the rebellion. The Golden Empire, in internal terms, is irrelevant; if it weren’t them, it would be the Goblins or the Elves or whatever; some threat would reveal the underlying fragility of the economy. As the team approach the town of Khom, Kardle’s deal with Dis is revealed, though he doesn’t know it, as he seeks salvation; and the power that Dis has over him is also made clear to the rest of the party. Commentary: The title derives from the proverbial phrase that suggests that those responsible for an event will experience the consequences of their actions, a form of natural justice or Karma. In the context of the adventure, the relationship of the title to the events should be fairly obvious, but as it happens there are multiple such events within the adventure, not just the encounter between Dis and Kardles. Each character (both PC and NPC) experienced something that would qualify, as did a couple of NPC priests that were encountered en route – but the encounter with Dis was the one of most significance to the campaign overall.
- “Khom Back Again” – Synopsis: The party reach the town of Khom only to discover that it is surrounded by a bubble of disrupted time, in which the past and the future collide. They confront Dinosaurs, and Cultists, and past victims of the cultists, and finally an encounter with a 21st century druid and his pack of cybernetic hounds (the ultimate ecoterrorist) before discovering that the entrance to the hiding place of the Red Masque is only accessible from one brief interval of the past. They also learn that the temporal disruptions were part of the imprisonment of Dis, but his attempts to break free had spread the temporal disruption to the surrounding districts. Commentary: This adventure’s title is a misspelling of the name of a hit pop song from the 70s by an Australian band, “Daddy Cool” and it obviously relates to the temporal shifts. These got quite hairy for a while as the PCs would be focused on one threat, only for a new threat to appear from a different era in a different direction and get a new surprise round against them. Dis’ imprisonment was with a twist on Heisenberg’s uncertainty – Dis could localize his awareness in space (but would have no idea what time frame he was in) or he could localize his awareness in a particular time, but only by not knowing where he would find himself in space. All his dealings with Kardles had been from the distant past, reaching into the future in an effort to bootstrap himself to freedom.
- “The Burning Sage’s Demesne” – Synopsis: Based on another free module from DrivethruRPG, this one by S.T.Cooley Publishing, The Burning Sage’s Demesne required a bit more work to integrate with the campaign history and with the situation at Khom but it was ultimately well worth the effort. The primary change was in making Dis the power ultimately responsible for the background events that led to the creation of the dungeon. At the last possible moment, Kardles saved himself from damnation and rejected Dis. Commentary: The basic story from this module – a tale of love, betrayal, revenge, and grief – was changed almost beyond recognition during the adaption process, but the actual module barely changed at all. Once again, the title pays homage to the source material.
- “The Red Masque” – Synopsis: The PCs disband the Silver Palms and take the Red Masque through Goblin Territory to the province of Viscount Asher under an assumed identity. They then use its recovery to ingratiate that cover identity with Brother Thaloran, a priest of considerable standing within the region, and who is amongst the most outspoken critics of the harsh taxation. Viscount Asher, with the assistance of the PCs, will then determine who amongst the priesthood are organizing the bandits of the region and gather evidence against them. They then have to Blackmail those church members with the threat of exposure of their activities to the Viscount (a mandatory and immediate Death Sentence) into travelling with Gallas to Ortin, the capital city of the Kingdom Of Fumanor, and there to confess and submit – quietly – to the judgment and punishment of the Archprelate. Commentary: Throughout their journey to Viscount Asher, Dis was attempting to tempt both the PCs and throwing encounters in their way (and even throwing some encounters into their future paths in hopes of persuading them that they needed the power of the Red Masque. (They still haven’t figured that out completely, but it’s now too late for them to do anything about it, so there’s no harm in letting that particular cat out of that particular bag). Somehow, using the Red Masque will set Dis free.
- “The Brown Heart” – Synopsis: Two of the PCs from the original Fumanor campaign now occupy positions of great authority within the Kingdoms (as NPCs). One suspects that a third has been murdered for possession of a powerful artifact that the team had recovered, so she ‘borrows’ his ace investigator (Gallas) to investigate. Gallas and Sebastian discover that many of the problems besetting the Kingdoms of Fumanor are being caused by the Druids, who are nowhere near as unified in belief as they had assumed in the past (refer Flavors Of Neutral – Focusing On Alignment, Part 4 of 5. The current leader of the Druids was the head of an unstable coalition of forces, barely holding his leadership together. In the course of their mission, they met and befriended an Ambassador heading for the capital of the outer Kingdom (Arazal, a new PC). In return for his assistance, they agreed to escort him. Between them, they were able to establish that BriteOak is actually a non-supporter of the policies of Ceriseth (the ex-PC, and a Moderate) but is doing his best to follow those policies out of loyalty to his mentor. They prove that one of the more radical factions had betrayed and killed Ceriseth and arrange for the leader of the rebel faction to reveal his actions, temporarily preventing a further escalation of trouble from the Druids. Commentary: The title of this adventure has multiple layers of meaning. Not only does it reflect the “eco-credentials” of the Druids, but it refers to the “heart” (moral centre) of BriteOak (who is, essentially, an animated half-tree). Thirdly, it describes the autumnal setting of Briteoak’s Grove, the central site of the action of the Adventure; and, finally, a “brown heart” is somewhere in between a “Good heart” and a “Black heart”, reflective of the Neutrality of the Druids – neither good nor bad, but somewhere (actually, many somewheres) in between.
- “Monastery” – Synopsis: Arazal’s mission is an offer to negotiate an alliance between the Kingdoms and the Jal-Pur, a nomadic desert people gifted with high magical abilities that are only vaguely understood by the Kingdoms. The demand includes a poetic but vivid description of the person who the Jal-Pur insist on accompanying the diplomat, a description that matches Gallas to a “T”. Eager to accept, the Kingdom gives Gallas and Sebastian some new orders – ensure that the negotiations succeed, at any cost. Their first stop: the Monastery which is the most remote settlement within the Kingdom and closest to the Jal-Pur to collect the diplomat who will rendezvous with them. During the trip, the PCs encounter strange and wondrous events – corridors of wild magic encapsulating zones of dead magic – without understanding the cause. Commentary: There are times when we are all alone with what’s in our heads, and that’s the real meaning of the adventure title: each of the PCs encounters something on the trip that is uniquely personal to their past, present, and future. Each faces a choice of some kind that will define, or redefine, their characters in subtle but long-ranging respects – and has to make that choice alone, with no help from the other PCs. They also meet an Ogre, Arron, who is being sent to join a young Orc Priest named Tajik in a bold attempt to gather direct intelligence on the impending invasion by the Golden Empire.
- “The Sands Of Blood” – Synopsis: The PCs meet the Ambassador and find him to be a most disagreeable, even blunt and acerbic, character. But as they journey with him, and he interrogates Arazal about the Jal-Pur, they begin to realize that the Jal-Pur prize honesty and forthrightness above all else, and “diplomatic language” was one of the barriers that prevented and strained alliances with them in the past. The Ambassador is probably the perfect representative to the Jal-Pur. At the negotiations, all goes well despite the open opposition of some Jal-Pur tribes; a list of outstanding issues to be resolved is agreed apon that is mutually acceptable. Just as the negotiations are about to begin in earnest, both the Ambassador and the Matriarch of the Jal-Pur are killed under suspicious circumstances. Arazal is appointed the representative in negotiations and first ambassador to the Kingdoms (despite his being the wrong gender) and Gallas is ordered to represent the Kingdoms, leaving Sebastian as the lead investigator into the murders. It turns out ultimately that the killings were carried out by the Golden Empire in an attempt to sabotage the negotiations. A treaty is ultimately agreed between the two and the party set out to return to the Kingdoms.
Commentary: A straightforward adventure title because the situation carried enough drama without need for subtle overtones.
- “Goblin, Goblin!” – Not yet played. This will be the final adventure for the unified party.
Strand 1: Gallas (plus 2 temporary PCs)
- “Shoot The Messenger” – Not yet played.
- ~Adventure is not part of this strand~
- “Let Not The Left Hand Know” – Not yet played.
- ~Adventure is not part of this strand~
- “The Subversion Of Thom Elias” – Not yet played.
- “What Price, Freedom?” – Not yet played. Temporarily reunites Gallas with Sebastian and Arazal.
- “Everybody’s Human” – Not yet played.
- ~Adventure is not part of this strand~
- “Heretics To The Left Of Me, Heretics To The Right” – Not yet played.
- “Jailbreak” – Not yet played.
- ~Adventure is not part of this strand~
- “It’s Only Politics” – Not yet played.
- “Death Of An Icon” – Not yet played. Reunites Gallas with Sebastian and Arazal.
- “Broken Chains” – Not yet played. Begins the buildup to the campaign Climax.
- “Grand Theft” – Not yet played. The big finish. Teams Gallas, Sebastian, and Arazal with the members of Tajik’s Misfits (refer “Fumanor: The Seeds Of Empire” above) in final battle with Lolth and Dis.
Strand 2: Sebastian & Arazal (plus 1 temporary PC)
- ~Adventure is not part of this strand~
- “Meanwhile…” – Not yet played. Teaser: An old friend finds trouble when Sebastian comes to visit.
- ~Adventure is not part of this strand~
- “Sebastian’s Groupie” – Not yet played.
- ~Adventure is not part of this strand~
- “What Price, Freedom>” – Refer Strand 1 entry, above.
- ~Adventure is not part of this strand~
- “The Higher Standard” – Not yet played.
- ~Adventure is not part of this strand~
- ~Adventure is not part of this strand~
- “The Lost Chord” – Not yet played. The final adventure in Strand 2; Sebastian & Arazal will reunite with Gallas for adventure 22.
Out of time and still with several campaigns and about a hundred more adventure titles to analyze. So, I guess there’ll be a part two to come in a couple more weeks. I’ve adjusted the title of this post accordingly..
- A Good Name Is Hard To Find
- The Wellspring Of Euonyms: Name Seeds
- Sugar, Spice, and a touch of Rhubarb: That’s what little names are made of
- With The Right Seasoning: Beyond Simple Names
- Grokking The Message: Naming Places & Campaigns
- Hints, Metaphors, and Mindgames: Naming Adventures (Part 1)
- Hints, Metaphors, and Mindgames: Naming Adventures (Part 2)