View Full Version : Need ideas to keep my campaign interesting!

2013-01-27, 12:05 PM
Hi folks, I'm currently running a pathfinder game with a few friends of mine and I could use some help with the story.

Here's the story so far. Its based very loosely on the campaign I wrote here. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=12357819&postcount=3)

In the pathfinder setting, a group of dwarves are manning an ancient abandoned dwarven stronghold built in the shallow darklands underneath the Hold of Belkzin during the time of the Reaching for the Sky. Two hundred years ago, this small group of dwarves, led by a dwarven prince with a divinely inspired vision, left their homeland and plowed through the orcish tribes in the Hold of Belkzin and located the darklands entrance that led to this stronghold.

They reached the stronghold and fortified it. Since then they have been holding the stronghold for 200 years against encroachment from many darklands races including Drow and Deurgar and are holding off against the Orcs on the surface. Only the prince and some of his trusted confidants knew the details of why they were here. The rest of the dwarves didn't know, but trusted that Torag was guiding their prince.

Recently, they lost their prince to a drow raid and are trying to figure out what his mission, indeed their mission, really is. They figured out that the prince wanted a Macguffin from the stronghold which would be extremely beneficial to the dwarven race. This Macguffin couldn't be moved without some very long ritual which has been secretly underway by the dwarven clerics for the last 200 years. The ritual is almost complete, but once its done and the Macguffin is removed, they have reason to believe that moving it will unlock the prison of Chemnosit (http://pathfinderwiki.com/wiki/Chemnosit), one of the terrible spawn of Rovagug.

To further complicate matters, the drow have recently found out about the Macguffin and really want to get their hands on it. They managed to secure the help of the Deurgar and the Orcs in mounting an all out assault against the dwarves. The dwarves know they can't hold for more than a couple of months at best. They can't leave the Macguffin behind hoping to secure Chemnosit's prison, because they know the Drow will take it once the dwarves vacate the stronghold. They also can't just take it and run, because they don't want the responsibility of loosing Chemnosit on the world. The solution they arrived was to take the Macguffin when the ritual is complete, but prepare to fight Chemnosit if indeed he does get released. To that end, they sent a few capable dwarves (the PCs) to the surface to find the followers of Sarenrae (http://pathfinderwiki.com/wiki/Sarenrae) in hopes that they could help them against Chemnosit, or at least give them some insight into how to combat him.

The PCs were born in the stronghold and this is the first time they leave the darklands. They have a vague understanding of the usual mistrust between the dwarven followers of Torag and the followers of Sarenrae, but seem to be willing to put that aside, given the circumstances.

They have just arrived on the surface and are currently doing a side adventure they stumbled into. I expect it to be done by next session. After that, they'll go looking for followers of Sarenrae. They think that some followers of Sarenrae are in a forest about 2 weeks travel from where they are, and that's where they'll be heading.

I know that I want success, partial success, or complete failure to be in the PCs' hands, but I'm not sure how to go about it. Once they approach the followers of Sarenrae, they can:

* Convince them (how?) to help in the fight against Chemnosit, which will be difficult given the logistics of moving a large group of people into the darklands, though not impossible.

* Get some key advise on how to combat Chemnosit (like what?)

* Get told off by the followers of Sarenrae for messing with Chemnosit's prison and sent on their way. In which case, I'd like to give them another option for securing help/knowledge from the surface.

The PCs are on a deadline, so distant or prolonged missions on the surface are not possible. All I currently have in my head is to fall back on the boring option of "Take this special sword, it is the only weapon capable of striking true against that foul creature." but I'd rather not use that. Also, I don't want to make it easy for them to just recruit the followers of Sarenrae for this fight. It needs to be difficult. Even if they do, what can the followers of Sarenrae bring to the fight that the dwarves can't, especially since the fight will likely take place underground.

In case it matters, the PCs are all playing martial characters between 8th and 9th level. The only magic they have is in the form of one of the PCs having just taken one level of inquisitor (http://www.d20pfsrd.com/classes/base-classes/inquisitor).

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

2013-01-27, 01:00 PM
Being unfamiliar with the reason for their quest this could be simply explained that they need to recruit a cleric of Sarenrae to aid in a vital mission which they believe they can help with.

It needn't be specific but could be put down to the fact they've found evidence of a Sarenrae shrine located in a stronghold thats being threatened by darkland races and require the presence of a member of the Sarenrae faith to insure it can either be safely dismantled or sealed up since their forces can't hold onto the stronghold for more than a few months without outside aid.

if the Sarenrae church they contact can supply more than that, their help would be appreciated but time is of the essence and the dwarves (PCs) know they are taken an awful gamble making this trek in the first place.

Unless the Sarenrae are paranoid that should be enough for them to send at least a couple of followers to accompany the dwarves they might get angry when they realise about what is actually going on but at least the dwarves are giving them a heads up on whats about to happen which is more than I suspect your campaign background has provided.

2013-01-27, 08:12 PM
The PCs are on a deadline, so distant or prolonged missions on the surface are not possible. All I currently have in my head is to fall back on the boring option of "Take this special sword, it is the only weapon capable of striking true against that foul creature." but I'd rather not use that. Also, I don't want to make it easy for them to just recruit the followers of Sarenrae for this fight. It needs to be difficult. Even if they do, what can the followers of Sarenrae bring to the fight that the dwarves can't, especially since the fight will likely take place underground.

...there's a twist on "take the special sword" that I thought of earlier that's just plain awesome I thought of, although it might be a little too time-consuming.

Basically, Chemnosit was imprisoned by both a very specific process and a very specific person--an elven mage who was, according to the church of Sarenrae, affiliated with them. And Chemnosit declared vengeance upon her for this. Unfortunately, she isn't alive anymore, but it's possible that one of her descendants might resemble her just enough that the beast would consider her an acceptable substitute--various tales have suggested this might be the case...

...and if the substitute was found by Chemnosit, then Chemnosit might forego the more general wrath he's usually responsible for to focus a bit specifically on her. Buying everyone at least decades of time. Which means the dwarves and church both might need to do some searching.

Of course, the drow themselves have found out about all of this through their own sources, and they're sending people out to stop the whole finding of this descendant, periodically going to fight off the dwarves, things like that.

Which is pretty hilarious, along with the whole dwarven quest, because the descendant is a drow. One of the priestesses they're fighting, actually, and it's an artifact that belonged to her ancestor that points this out (ideally, they could just capture her, but that wouldn't be as fun), when it works for her and no one else. That artifact gives her a great deal of power, that makes outright beating her up and bringing her to Chemnosit unfeasible. They have to actually convince her to do so. Herself. And she being a priestess of whatever equivalent to Lolth Pathfinder has.

...and then, the real quest begins. XD

2013-01-28, 01:32 AM
The party goes to see the surface dwarves

Option 1: The Sarenrae have a ritual capable of binding the chemnosit. The binding requires the spirit of the chemosit to be extracted upon summons into a drawf with enough will power, charisma, or consitution. To prevent their soul from being poisoned by the beast, be controlled, and eventually released.

Opening up so much.

Option 2: The Sarenrae once met a friendly duergar with a vast knowledge of summoning who is currently living on the fringes of duergar terroritory. He may know how to complete the ritual, delay the chemnosit summoning/or defile it, or how to summon chemnosit to slay him.
(The last one doesn't solve how the pcs slaying a CR23)

Option 3: The sarenrae offer safehaven to any drawves who seek refuge in their city/temple/town. Perhaps flooding/poisonus gas/letting the dwarven forges boil over with lava or setting off some type of change reaction is another possibility.

Option 4: Chemnosit is released while they are searching for help. Luckily, it turned on the drow. But its only a matter a time before they find a way to bind the beast.

Depending on what option they pick choose a quest line.
For option one choose a set of trial & tribulations that will test their heart and stats to ensure they have a chance of resisting being taken over by the chemnosit. For option 2 locate a ranger or mage to discern where the duergar lives. Option 3 head back to their superiors with no help while in desparate straights. Option 4 the earth shakes and fire erupts from the surface. The drawves seek counsel on how to defeat their foe. Perhaps instead of a sacred sword of truth. They are tutored by an old drawf who fought chemnosit in ages past. Have the duergar or drow already confine chemnosit in preparation for taking control of him.
( Give all the drawves the bonuses of the spell foresight when fighting chemno) or additional bonuses.

I mean really, there are so many things you can do.

Or give the PCs slivers of every option. Truly allow them to find their fate. I like to improvise and allow my pcs as much freedom as possible. Of course there are major plot changing events that will ensue based upon their decision even if it "stops" the big bad chemnosit. That's choice. No wrong. No right.

Try to use riddles and puzzles not just fighting.

2013-01-28, 05:10 AM
Thanks for the input folks.

@Hopeless: That's a neat idea, but it would have to be PC initiated. They also run the risk of just adding two hapless Sarenrae priests to the death toll when Chemnosit rises since they weren't prepared to fight him.

@AgentofHellfire: That is a great idea and a nice way to extend the sequence of events, but execution might become contrived if the PCs don't buy into it. Also, like you said, that would take much longer than the time they actually have.

@Noctani: Thanks, many great ideas here! I especially like option one. Like you said I might just mix it all together into a mishmash of possibilities and let the PCs create their own destiny, or seal their own fate.

Thanks everyone! I was having some writer's block and that gave me a lot of food for thought. Exactly what I needed.

2013-01-28, 05:47 AM
I'm assuming you already have the stats for the Monarch Worm, but here's Chemnosit's stats for redundancy. (http://www.d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/magical-beasts/spawn-of-rovagug/chemnosit-the-monarch-worm)

2013-01-28, 08:21 AM
How about this: Before Chemnosit was imprisoned last time, a powerful magical mirror was created as an emergency weapon against him. It never wound up having to be used (it was a backup in case the sealing ritual didn't work), but in theory it should be capable of turning Chemnosit's gaze attack back on the worm himself. For extra spiciness, have it currently be in the possession of the drow, but they don't know what it's really for (it can be used to cast at-will Spell Turning in addition to its main function).

2013-02-13, 05:18 AM

I finally ran the campaign finale, with ideas inspired by Noctani's post. The players loved it!

Here's how it went down in case anyone is interested.
First, for the meeting with the followers of Sarenrae, I decided to use an NPC the players had already ran into a few of times, a powerful drow wizard who had orchestrated the alliances between the Drow, Deurgar, and the Orcs. He also had a lot of information about what the dwarves were up to. As such, he decided to sabotage their attempt to gain the help of the followers of Sarenrae. He did that by posing as a dwarven envoy from the dwarven settlement of Highhelm, which is a center of dwarven politics on the surface.

When the PCs arrived to meet with the high priest of Sarenrae, they were suprised to find that he already knew of their situation and was currently meeting with some envoy from Highhelm to discuss that very subject. They were invited to that meeting and allowed to make their plea for help, and were shocked to find out that not only does this fellow dwarf know of their plight, but is also lobbying against them.

He makes the point that whatever benefit this Macguffin is, keeping Chemnosit locked in his prison is of far more benefit, and messing with the Macguffin is dangerous. He calls them fools too long in the Darklands to understand the effect of their actions, and that releasing Chemnosit would bring disaster that would affect everyone, even people on the surface. He urged the priest of Sarenrae to not help the PCs.

The PCs put their best diplomacy faces on and started debating the subject, trying to prove that their need is genuine, while the "dwarven envoy" was trying to shoot down their points one by one. Eventually, after a lot of verbal oneupmanship, the PCs were able to convince the high priest of Sarenrae to help. They were able to play on the hope that this help would be the first step in demolishing millennia of mistrust between the Dwarven followers of Torag and the followers of Sarenrae.

The high priest of Sarenrae, a rather jolly, if old, red haired halfing, was so nonchalant about the whole thing that, when he finally decided in the PCs' favor, the Drow wizard was infuriated and lost his temper, blew his cover, and attacked them. The drow didn't stay long, just long enough for an ally of his to show up, this ally was an adult red dragon that has been waiting nearby in case the negotiations break down. The dragon attacks the PCs and the high priest, while the drow teleports out of there.

The PCs, with help from the high priest, defeat the dragon, then wait while the high priest communes with Sarenrae to see what kind of help she can offer.

I had decided that Sarenrae would help them by giving each of the three PCs a gem. Each of these gems is capable of removing one of Chemnosit's key abilities and transferring it to the PC instead. They were:

Gem one: Transfer Chemnosit's Frightful Presence
Gem two: Transfer Chemnosit's Hungry Gaze
Gem three: Transfer Chemnosit's Earthquake ability

The idea was to remove the big abilities that would have precluded the dwarven army getting involved. Any of these three abilities could have destroyed the army's grunts outright. Without them, they at least can stand next to Chemnosit and try to fight him.

Once a gem is used on Chemnosit, it would stun both him and the PC. Then it would transfer the ability to the PC, and put him in a dreamscape in which he must fight a contest of wills with Chemnosit. If the PC succeeds, the ability is removed from Chemnosit and supressed. If the PC fails, the ability is still removed from Chemnosit, but starts manifesting in the PC himself instead.

I won't go into describing the details of the dreams themselves, but I'll say that each one had a theme tied to the ability it removed. To win the contest of wills required having paid close attention to the ritual that the high priest of Sarenrae performed in front of the PCs, which included a lot of foreshadowing and clues.

The PCs, armed with the gems and a few clues, managed to get back to the dwarven stronghold in the Darkland with only a few encounters along the way. The ritual to move the macguffin was completed and the fight started. First they fought some of Chemnosit's spawn (reflavored Purple Worms) and then they fought Chemnosit himself.

The force fighting Chemnosit consisted of the PCs (10th level), 3 high level dwarven NPCs (7th, 7th, 11th), and about 100 battle hardened dwarves (3rd level) plus several dwarven priests, including their high priest (7th level).

The PCs started the fight by using their gems. Chemnosit was stunned for a while, as were they, while they each went through their individual contest of wills. The PC that had the earthquake gem succeeded and the ability was removed from Chemnosit and supressed. The PCs that had the Frightful Presence and Hungry Gaze gems failed, so the ability was removed from Chemnosit and started to manifest in them.

For the ones that failed, I ran it as follows:

"The ability is inside of you, fighting to get out. It has gained momentum and its only a matter of time until it is released. You can fight it, but the best you can do is slow it down."

Systematically, it meant that the ability starts as being suppressed. Every 1d3 rounds, they have to make a will save. The DC starts at 10, and increases by one every time they pass their save. Every time they fail, the ability uncontrollably and irrevocably manifests, but only out to a range of 5 feet. Every additional failure increases the range, out to its normal maximum.

That allowed the PCs to decide whether they wanted to join the fight and risk affecting their comrades with the fear+gaze, or whether they wanted to flee and risk the dwarves losing the battle without their assistance.

They decided to stay and help, sweating every save as they fought Chemnosit. They were making very little headway until one of the PCs used a Wish spell (the only one they had all campaign) to stop Chemnosit's considerable regeneration temporarily so they could finally put him down.

Once he was down, they had him gated to a different plane, getting rid of him, for now...

The PC that succeeded his test of wills left with the dwarves, macguffin in tow, heading back to their original homeland on the surface with their mission completed. The other two PCs stayed behind until all the dwarves evacuated, then made their way to the surface alone, keeping a large distance between them to avoid affecting each other with Chemnosit's auras. They've been fated to roam the land hoping to find a way to remove these curses from them while avoiding accidentally causing harm to others. Not a pretty fate. The players loved it though.

Thanks everyone for your ideas and input!

Kol Korran
2013-02-13, 10:14 AM
just read the finale, and I wanted to say- very, very, VERY nicely done! sounds like it was awesome! kudos!:smallwink:

2013-02-13, 06:38 PM
Well done indeed.