Hey now Hey now. I know what you’re going to say,”Hey what the fuck man, where have you been?” I realize I have left you all hanging worse than the scrotum of a 70 year-old hot tub enthusiast, and for that I apologize but what are you going to do. Things have been sluggish on the gaming front here since I torpedoed my 5e Hoard of the Dragon Queen game as I have been slowly converting a 1st edition adventure from Dungeon Magazine #20 called “Ancient Blood”. The adventure has a nice Nordic/Norse theme to it. The conversion has been going slow, not due to it being difficult or onerous, but more just the daily grind of existence. It’s kind of weird as I haven’t been playing any rpg’s and have whittled my comic pull-list down quite a bit, but I have been playing a shit ton of video games. Popular titles have included Dragon Age Inquisition, Plants vrs Zombies Garden Warfare, Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze. Legend of Zelda A link Between Worlds and my current jam South Park the Stick of Truth. Yah you are most correct, I am one of those douches with way too many video gaming systems. It is always interesting for me watching my nerdiness ebb and flow and shift around.
I think one of the reasons that my conversion effort is at a snail’s pace is that I am not sure how jazzed I am about the adventure. On the one hand it is pretty simple and shouldn’t be too hard to run which is kind of what I am looking for at this place in time. However, I don’t know if anyone else struggles with this, but I get caught feeling like I should offer more to my players. It’s as if the linearity of a published adventurer run straight up is too constraining or a disservice to them and I feel guilty as a DM for being lazy and uncreative. Although feeling lazy and uncreative might be more tolerable than forcing myself to be more creative and having to be confronted with, what I am already pretty aware of, my abject lack of creativity. I am also kind of waiting on one of my players to be available for gaming. He is recovering from a massive hemorrhoid/anal fissure surgery and can’t sit for longer than a few minutes at a time or at least that’s what I imagine he means by “once he gets his life back together”, but perhaps I am reading too much into itJ. More to the point, I want to make sure that I know and enjoy the players for my next foray into 5th edition and gaming in general.
Regardless if I try and add some of my “vaunted” creativity to “Ancient Blood” I do need to modify some things. It’s not bad design per say but more anachronistic of the old days. The first leg of the adventure involves the party needing to transport some medicine from the starting town to a village several days north. There is, of course, a random encounter table populated by local wildlife (no monsters). The adventure specifically notes that the wildlife is not dangerous or threatening unless provoked, which it seems like the party would have to specifically go out of its way to do so. For me personally, this seems a little boring. I also don’t tend to play out travel scenes anymore. I used to when I was younger, you know the drill, describe the day and scenery, set up camp, what’s the watch schedule etc.. I was never any good at that and it always seemed kind of dry unless you had an encounter planned or rolled a random encounter. I tend to just narrate the travel montage and ask the players to tell me if they do anything or if anything eventful happened. Also the lack of threat in the random encounters seems kind of pointless to me unless you are running a really hardcore simulation. Instead I mapped out an encounter with a goblin faction doing a “smash and grab” job on the party. Will see if they can get away with the medicine and whatever supplies the players have.
The second modification centers on the challenge of the environment itself. In the original adventure the players need to travel the frozen tundra to reach an abandoned Ice Giant fortress. The writer notes that the DM should make it quite punishing on the players in terms of provisions, hunting for food, surviving the cold, navigating in snow storms and even getting up the stairs and into the fortress itself. You are directed to the Wilderness Survival Guide for rules on, well, surviving. There is also a 10% chance each day that the glazier will break with the players falling to insta death unless they are constantly tapping with poles. Then they only have to figure out how to navigate the huge gaping holes in the ice. In terms of the doors to the fortress themselves, they are incased in thick ice that requires 20 to 50 man hours to dig through with a specifier that continuous normal or magic fire will reduce the time by a half only if they have some means to make a digger immune to fire. It is also noted that other flash fire magic like a fireball is useless. All this seams meant to challenge player skill at survival in the absence of a more robust skill system. I think I will play out the struggles of navigating the hostile environment through a looser skill challenge with complications or setbacks for failed checks. 5th edition has also introduced an “Exhaustion” condition track that can be used for environmental hazards which I think will work nicely with this part of the adventure.
The last modification needed centers around the big bad. The module is based around this old Frost Giant king whose spirit is let loose to fulfill its ancient death curse on the descendants of his bitter foe. The module states that the spirit is way too high of a level for the party to even consider facing in combat unless they were specifically seeking Valhalla. So the only endgame solution that works is restoring his tomb to reset the trigger of the curse. It seems a little anti-climactic to me and I am pretty sure my players would feel a little cheated if they didn’t get to curb stomp the bad guy’s balls. I think I will still use restoring the tomb as an in combat option that might weaken the spirit or confer some kind of benefit to the party as well being required to ensure that the Frost Giant kings spirit stays put or is banished from the Midgard.
So there you have it, now back to the endless and continual grind