Personally, one of the philosophies that I accept when it comes to running a successful campaign (from both the perspectives of someone who runs a campaign and one who regularly plays in a campaign) is allowing the players the opportunity to earn what they want out of the campaign. This requires the ability to listen to the players and to integrate what they want into the fabric of the campaign.
I preface this post with this statement, because my players were all really excited, pleased, thrilled and any other positive adjective you can think of at the end of our last session specifically because I listened and allowed my players that opportunity.
The last time we left our stalwart adventurers, the party had gone back to Redwraith in good faith, taking the bodies of the slaad that they had hunted down as they had promised. When faced with several possible choices as to what to do next, the party could not ignore the fact that they had found two keys of a set of four that would open a massive door inside the Black Tower. They had to know what lay beyond.
The majority of the session, therefore, involved a systematic exploration of the rest of the Black Tower, in search of the other two keys. The newest member to join the group was killed midway through the session (that’s three characters in two sessions for the poor guy) as he decided to venture too close to a pool that everyone knew was home to a gigantic, mutant octopus. The irony of it is that the party had decided to mess with the pool rather than try to deal with a section of the dungeon entirely submerged in water — which is exactly where the final key lay hidden.
The battle for the final key proved to be the most exciting because I misread a monster description and Dn. Swibish managed to roll a successful Turn check. The party managed to attract the attention of the key’s guardian, a type of underwater mummy that would kiss its victims and send sea water rushing into their lungs. I rolled damage every round, when the players should have gotten saving throws; however, I also figured that once the creature was killed, the drowning would stop (which, according to the saving throw version wouldn’t happen). So, it all balanced out in the end; however, it also meant that the party had to gang-tackle the mummy in order to prevent it from escaping so that they could kill it before party members drowned (if it had not been for a couple of well-timed CLW spells, two party members would have died).
Having successfully procured all four keys, the party then prepared itself for a massive battle with whatever foul evil lay behind the door. Unfortunately for them, they did not bother reading all of the script inside the pyramid which would have told them exactly what was behind the door — a direct connection to the Negative Plane which was the final step in transforming oneself into a lich.
After describing what lay beyond the door and the fact that there were a pair of very loud bangs that followed, I started counting. I got to about ‘5’ when the confusion wore of my players faces and they all screamed “RUN!” At this point, I instructed the party to show me where they were gong to run. Had they taken the most direct route out of the dungeon, I would have allowed them a chance to escape; however, this is not what happened.
Rather, they got to witness first hand the destruction that they wrought. Due to the fact that there was a rip in space and time that was sitting right on top of the dungeon of the Black Tower, opening a gate directly to the Negative Plane was catastrophic for the immediate area. The two were attracted to each other like a pair of magnets and their collision wiped clean a great evil that had stood for over a thousand years.
The party got caught in the shock wave and was hurtled through time and space. At this point, I drew up a quick table of various places in my repertoire that they could end up in. A couple of our players have been asking about running a sci-fi campaign (something no one seems interested in actually running). Since I have already introduced the idea of space ships to my campaign, there were some sci-fi options on the table, one of which was the result of the players' roll.
Thus, the session ended with the party waking up to find themselves inside a metal room in an entirely alien environment, to the great delight of the table.
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