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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    I'm planning/writing a campaign. At one point, they find a plot-central message in an ancient language, and at a later point they go in search of, and find, someone who knows the language. What makes this a tricky problem is that:
    1. I want the two events to be several years apart. (The first one is planned for ECL 6, and the second features a lich, and I'm planning to house-rule away the capability to progress through levels that quickly, so it comes out to a few years.)
    2. On another continent, there's the nation whose language it once was, and people who know the language are not hard to find there. If the players have good knowledge checks, they'll know that, so that places a maximum on the amount of time they can spend searching for someone to translate.

    So the question is, how do I keep them from moving the plot forward too fast by going in search of a translator too soon?

    Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Perhaps the rulers of this other continent have banned foreign travel to their shores? Maybe there is a plague and no one wants to go there?

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yitzi View Post
    So the question is, how do I keep them from moving the plot forward too fast by going in search of a translator too soon?
    1) Distract them with shiny stuff somewhere else.
    2) Make the paper seem unimportant at the time. (Perhaps have it in two languages with the one they can read stating something related to the encrypted text but fairly innocuous.)
    3) Tell the players your request for delay out of character.
    4) Hope.

    Pick one...or more than one. :)
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alejandro View Post
    Perhaps the rulers of this other continent have banned foreign travel to their shores? Maybe there is a plague and no one wants to go there?
    Neither of those really works with the story I have in mind, particularly as they are going to visit that nation eventually.

    Quote Originally Posted by Raum View Post
    1) Distract them with shiny stuff somewhere else.
    Interesting idea, but once they know there's something to be translated it's somewhat unreliable. Combined with someone doing research to find someone, though, it could work.

    2) Make the paper seem unimportant at the time. (Perhaps have it in two languages with the one they can read stating something related to the encrypted text but fairly innocuous.)
    Thing is, it's not encrypted. It's in a language that was in common use when the message was written. And there'd be no reason for the writer to put it in another language; if anything she'd want something less easy for foreigners to understand, as it was written while the nation was under attack.

    I did plan to have it look like artwork to those who don't recognize the script...the question is what to do if one of the characters does have what it takes to recognize that it's a message.

    Unless...I had planned to have "treasure" be one of the words that they can make out if they've got the necessary languages (or otherwise someone else tells them), but maybe if I have it be something more innocuous (some of the historical background), they'll sell it to a museum (or equivalent), which then eventually hires them to take a copy to the closest expert to be translated...

    3) Tell the players your request for delay out of character.
    4) Hope.
    Neither of those seem particularly good. But having it be innocuous does have potential, thanks.
    Last edited by Yitzi; 2012-02-01 at 10:57 PM.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yitzi View Post
    Thing is, it's not encrypted.
    My apologies - my profession is showing. Encrypting something is just obscuring the meaning - which an unknown language does. Using other languages as encryption was fairly common before computers. (As recent as WWII.) :)

    It's in a language that was in common use when the message was written. And there'd be no reason for the writer to put it in another language; if anything he'd want something less easy for foreigners to understand, as it was written while the nation was under attack.
    Who says an additional statement needs to be by the original writer? Historically, notes in margins and even re-using paper were fairly common.

    It sounds like you have a lot of details you don't want to publicize. Understandable, but it does make specific advice difficult.
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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    You're probably going to have to make it seem unimportant at the time (but just important enough that they don't throw it out), because there's very little players hate more than a "you can't solve it because the plot says no".

    If you're playing 3.5, comprehend languages (a level 1 spell) will read the thing without any trouble, as it's a real language. If not, it's quite likely your system will have some similar method to bypass language difficulties. Your players will be rightfully pissed off if you prevent their abilities from working because you don't want them to.
    Knowledge is power.
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  7. - Top - End - #7
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Quote Originally Posted by Raum View Post
    My apologies - my profession is showing. Encrypting something is just obscuring the meaning - which an unknown language does. Using other languages as encryption was fairly common before computers. (As recent as WWII.) :)
    Even so, "encrypted" implies it was intentionally obscure, which this was not. (As I said, she'd consider it a bonus, but it wasn't the point.)

    Who says an additional statement needs to be by the original writer? Historically, notes in margins and even re-using paper were fairly common.
    That might work with paper, but this was written on pottery (it'd have to be in order to last that long.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Savannah View Post
    You're probably going to have to make it seem unimportant at the time (but just important enough that they don't throw it out), because there's very little players hate more than a "you can't solve it because the plot says no".
    Yeah. I was planning to have it be part of the loot anyway, so having the museum buy it with the rest of the stuff should be pretty innocuous.

    If you're playing 3.5, comprehend languages (a level 1 spell) will read the thing without any trouble, as it's a real language.
    So then what's the use of Decipher Script? Just for codes?

    In that case, I think I'll limit comprehend languages; it's a good idea anyway. (It is now done, and in my fix in my sig.)

    If not, it's quite likely your system will have some similar method to bypass language difficulties. Your players will be rightfully pissed off if you prevent their abilities from working because you don't want them to.
    It'll just be a Decipher Script check they have no chance of making (DC 50, with a +10 circumstance bonus if they can identify the language); it's an extremely old language, so that's justified.
    Last edited by Yitzi; 2012-02-01 at 11:18 PM.

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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yitzi View Post
    In that case, I think I'll limit comprehend languages; it's a good idea anyway. (It is now done, and in my fix in my sig.)
    Erm, no, not really. Comprehend languages lets you read or understand languages, but not communicate in them. It's useful, but not too useful as it is.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yitzi View Post
    It'll just be a Decipher Script check they have no chance of making (DC 50, with a +10 circumstance bonus if they can identify the language); it's an extremely old language, so that's justified.
    You'd be surprised what skill checks PCs can make.
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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Why not make it encrypted and have them find the clues to figure it out in bits and pieces along the way.


    NOTE: you do not actually need to encrypt it, just have what it says aS the "decryption" clues are unlocked.
    Big Ups to Vrythas for making my Avi!

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Well, your plan hinges on comprehend languages not being available. Which it will be, if you're playing 3.5. So there really shouldn't be a need for a translator.

    However, there are still plenty of roadblocks. Comprehend languages (at least in my mind) tells you exactly what was written, not the intention behind it. I kind of view it like Google Translate - magic edition. Metaphors and similes are utterly lost. If the MacGuffin's location used to be differently named, you're screwed. Pelor forbid if they're using slang or subtext or misspell a word (it's a translator, not a spellchecker). If there is another location that has the same name in a different, unrelated, language (not terribly unlikely for descriptive names such as Dragon Mountain and its ilk), your PCs may well bite the hook and run off halfway across the world looking for something that is not there. Wonderful timewaster, particularly when you add all the inevitable sidequests they will run into as the world spins onward.

    Also: keep in mind not everyone puts ranks in thematically appropriate Knowledge checks. When was the last time you saw someone with ranks in Knowledge(history), Appraise, Decipher Script, or anything of that nature (*cough*Forgery*cough*)? Seriously, don't trust your PCs to recognize that the scribbly clay thing they're holding is anything other than a fluffy treasure to be sold.
    Last edited by Ajadea; 2012-02-02 at 12:29 AM.

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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    some thoughts I had:
    1) don't stop them from trying. Maybe while they are travelling, they get lost somehow. If they are sailing, their ship is thrown horribly off course by a big storm and must now spend some time finding their way back to their original course. This could both buy time to think of other things, and can also alleviate some of that level discrepancy. You could have an entire mini-plot going with it. Even though it distracts the player from the main mission, they would probably enjoy the change of pace.
    2) Again, don't stop them. Maybe they get there no problem, but the people only speak that language, making it almost impossible for them to communicate with most commonfolk. If they have to talk to nobility/scholars/merchants, then that it a plot hook of its own.
    3) politics can easilly make things difficult. If the country they are travelling to is secluded or is not on good terms with the current hosting kingdom, traditional routes will not work very well. Instead, you could convince the players to go on a stealth mission to cross the borders without getting caught. Once across, they have to navigate a web of guard routes and military bases without support of people for a while so that they can get to a place to find help.

    None of these options stop the player from going through with such a plan if it happens, but slows them down enough that they can still gain some time and experience so that when it does happen, they can hold their own. One thing I learned about PCs is that "no" is usually an option best reserved as a worst case option (at least in situations such as this).

    Well, your plan hinges on comprehend languages not being available. Which it will be, if you're playing 3.5. So there really shouldn't be a need for a translator.

    However, there are still plenty of roadblocks. Comprehend languages (at least in my mind) tells you exactly what was written, not the intention behind it. I kind of view it like Google Translate - magic edition. Metaphors and similes are utterly lost. If the MacGuffin's location used to be differently named, you're screwed. Pelor forbid if they're using slang or subtext. If there is another location that has the same name in a different, unrelated, language (not terribly unlikely for descriptive names such as Dragon Mountain and its ilk), your PCs may well bite the hook and run off halfway across the world looking for something that is not there. Wonderful timewaster, particularly when you add all the inevitable sidequests they will run into as the world spins onward.
    I also support this statement. Sure, they get someone to translate it, which leads them halfway around the world (sidequests included), to find out that the place they were really looking for had the same name in a different language, or was pronounced differently, or something of that sort.
    Also: keep in mind not everyone puts ranks in thematically appropriate Knowledge checks. When was the last time you saw someone with ranks in Knowledge(history), Appraise, Decipher Script, or anything of that nature (*cough*Forgery*cough*)? Seriously, don't trust your PCs to recognize that the scribbly clay thing they're holding is anything other than a fluffy treasure to be sold.
    *raises hand slowly* It is true, though, that most PCs don't put much value in these skills, unless you allow them to take advantage of these skills. If you have, then I think its pretty likely, especially with a DC 50 check that they will try to find out ASAP. They may see that it is a fluffy treasure to be sold, but they will also go out of their way to find out about it if clues hint to it being rare and, by proxy, valuable.
    Last edited by Techsmart; 2012-02-02 at 12:35 AM.
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  12. - Top - End - #12
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Expecting them to not be able to decipher it is just going to lead to problems when they cleverly (or not so cleverly) use all sorts of easy solutions to that problem that exist both in D&D and in your setting.

    A better alternative would be, part of the message is just missing - there's a critical fragment that came off or something, maybe even was destroyed (though watch out for Make Whole and the like). The Lich is the last person 'alive' to have seen that part of the message, or possesses the fragment.

    That way, the part they have can scream 'this is important', and the missing part can be the thing that lets them proceed. Expect them to try to find that fragment and be frustrated when no clues emerge however. Parties in my experience don't do well with obvious 'This is a partial clue! Now, go about your business!' type things. Better for it to be subtle and seemingly unimportant, but later on they find the thing that says 'hey, that was important.'

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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    I would be wary of just hoping your players just happen to sell it to a museum or something, so maybe have them hired by a museum archivist or once they get to the nearest town, have them overheard whilst trying to off load their goods and buy it off them for double or something just as tantalizing.

    Then once they are the correct level, have that same museum archivist dude (or dudette) contact them with new and very profitable information.

    Other than that make it a wild goose hunt/scavenger hunt to find the someone who can actually translate the pot or knows the true significance of its text. Give them a reason to get it translated, like the hook for hidden treasure already stated, but then it becomes a search to find somebody who can translate the damned thing for them. Well so and so might know something about it, but the last time he was seen he was off to delve into some dangerous dungeon and hasnt been seen since. Or so and so might know, but he will only tell them once they run a couple errands for him.

    As for Comprehend Languages...well the spell says it only imparts literal meaning, and since you said it was poetry, if the message is in a foreign language and uses lots of metaphors, allusions, or references, then it should be almost incomprehensible even if translated. Part of what makes Shakespeare or Dante hard to understand sometimes are the references they make to the current events of their respective times, which thus fly right over the heads of most contemporary readers. It takes a historian well versed in the period to catch all of those references.

    [EDIT]: Mostly ninja'd :P I agree with the posts above me.
    Last edited by Book Wyrm; 2012-02-02 at 12:56 AM.

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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alejandro View Post
    Perhaps the rulers of this other continent have banned foreign travel to their shores? Maybe there is a plague and no one wants to go there?
    There was a lot of good advice here, but I think this is the best of it. The OP rejected it because there's a hope that the campaign will get there eventually. But as I read it, that "eventually" is in 8-10 levels. By that time, things may have changed drastically.

    Personally, I would make the continent have a flesh-melting plague that the rulers think was brought by outsiders. So even if the PCs want to chance the flesh-melting plague, they still have to invade an extremely xenophobic culture. That could easily set them back a few levels, especially if combined with some of the other suggestions here.

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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    If the part with the Lich is where all the good stuff is why not go straight there? If the players know there's a lich and it's way scary then they can go about developing a solution in spite of their meager frames and powers. Tell them what they're up against, then the onus will be on them if it kills them fair and square.
    Attempting to say controversial things that everyone will agree with.

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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    it might be easier to have the discovery of this Plot Critical Tablet, or rather it's message, be done by someone else rather than the players. just give them the tablet, tell them a local art collector whould pay X hundred GP for it, and let them forget about it for 10 levels. then, one day out of the blue, the art collector contacts them, saying he hasd reason to believe that the writing on the tablet is very improtant, and that they need to go to DistantLand to get it properly translated. maybe he's been able to partially translate it (enough to pick up a few hints of whatever is on the tablet is supposed to tell the party), and he thinks that they are the people to go sort it.

    the other option is to push back the collection of the tablet till they are the right level. if your insistant of it being in location X, maybe have it stolen during the coruse of the adventure by someone who knows what it says and doesn''t want the players to find it. then have it turn up at a later date (or have a few adventures spent chasing the thief).
    Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an` Tommy, 'ow's yer soul? "
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  17. - Top - End - #17
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Quote Originally Posted by Savannah View Post
    Erm, no, not really. Comprehend languages lets you read or understand languages, but not communicate in them. It's useful, but not too useful as it is.
    Except that it makes half of Decipher Script useless.

    You'd be surprised what skill checks PCs can make.
    Not with low splatbook use and a skill that nobody bothers to optimize.

    Quote Originally Posted by Toofey View Post
    Why not make it encrypted and have them find the clues to figure it out in bits and pieces along the way.
    Because the backstory is that the writer meant for it to reach, and be read, by a close ally, so she wouldn't encrypt it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ajadea View Post
    Well, your plan hinges on comprehend languages not being available. Which it will be, if you're playing 3.5. So there really shouldn't be a need for a translator.
    I'm using a houseruled fix anyway, so I just limited comprehend languages in that fix.

    However, there are still plenty of roadblocks. Comprehend languages (at least in my mind) tells you exactly what was written, not the intention behind it. I kind of view it like Google Translate - magic edition. Metaphors and similes are utterly lost. If the MacGuffin's location used to be differently named, you're screwed.
    That's a good one. Unfortunately, they'd still know "there's a treasure buried at so-and-so", so it would move things forward too quickly.

    If there is another location that has the same name in a different, unrelated, language (not terribly unlikely for descriptive names such as Dragon Mountain and its ilk), your PCs may well bite the hook and run off halfway across the world looking for something that is not there. Wonderful timewaster, particularly when you add all the inevitable sidequests they will run into as the world spins onward.
    Interesting idea, but not one I'm likely to go with.

    Also: keep in mind not everyone puts ranks in thematically appropriate Knowledge checks. When was the last time you saw someone with ranks in Knowledge(history), Appraise, Decipher Script, or anything of that nature (*cough*Forgery*cough*)? Seriously, don't trust your PCs to recognize that the scribbly clay thing they're holding is anything other than a fluffy treasure to be sold.
    Which is why the natural place to sell it will be somewhere that will eventually ask them to find a translation anyway. (The original plan was that the guy they sell it to recognizes the language but can't read it, but this way will work better with the new plan.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Techsmart View Post
    some thoughts I had:
    1) don't stop them from trying. Maybe while they are travelling, they get lost somehow. If they are sailing, their ship is thrown horribly off course by a big storm and must now spend some time finding their way back to their original course. This could both buy time to think of other things, and can also alleviate some of that level discrepancy. You could have an entire mini-plot going with it. Even though it distracts the player from the main mission, they would probably enjoy the change of pace.
    Another interesting idea. "Time to think of other things" isn't an issue; I haven't started the campaign yet. Might be worth considering.
    It's overland travel, though (across a mountain range); ship travel doesn't come until later.

    2) Again, don't stop them. Maybe they get there no problem, but the people only speak that language, making it almost impossible for them to communicate with most commonfolk. If they have to talk to nobility/scholars/merchants, then that it a plot hook of its own.
    Interesting idea, but in the "modern day" Elven is commonly spoken there, so that won't work. Also, I don't want them to travel to the other kingdom until after they've spoken to a particular individual from there (who is who they're going to meet when they encounter the lich).

    but they will also go out of their way to find out about it if clues hint to it being rare and, by proxy, valuable.
    It'll seem to be a historical artifact. Valuable to buyers, not to adventurers.

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    Expecting them to not be able to decipher it is just going to lead to problems when they cleverly (or not so cleverly) use all sorts of easy solutions to that problem that exist both in D&D and in your setting.
    Could be; I might have to do some on-the-spot revision.

    A better alternative would be, part of the message is just missing - there's a critical fragment that came off or something, maybe even was destroyed (though watch out for Make Whole and the like). The Lich is the last person 'alive' to have seen that part of the message, or possesses the fragment.
    Thanks, but the significance of the lich isn't to the message itself; it just so happens that the closest translator went on a mission to deal with some undead, and it was a bit bigger than he expected.

    Quote Originally Posted by Book Wyrm View Post
    I would be wary of just hoping your players just happen to sell it to a museum or something, so maybe have them hired by a museum archivist or once they get to the nearest town, have them overheard whilst trying to off load their goods and buy it off them for double or something just as tantalizing.
    They've got a standard contact.

    Then once they are the correct level, have that same museum archivist dude (or dudette) contact them with new and very profitable information.
    I was thinking of a mission to go find a translator.

    Other than that make it a wild goose hunt/scavenger hunt to find the someone who can actually translate the pot or knows the true significance of its text. Give them a reason to get it translated, like the hook for hidden treasure already stated, but then it becomes a search to find somebody who can translate the damned thing for them.
    As I said, the problem is that there's a whole nation of them at about twice the distance of the intended translator, so that makes things a bit more complicated.

    and since you said it was poetry
    Actually, it isn't.

    Quote Originally Posted by ClothedInVelvet View Post
    There was a lot of good advice here, but I think this is the best of it. The OP rejected it because there's a hope that the campaign will get there eventually. But as I read it, that "eventually" is in 8-10 levels. By that time, things may have changed drastically.
    Could be...there will be certain events in that kingdom at the time they find the message which would get them all excited; the question is how that becomes difficulty of travel. I might be able to get something to work though, at least as a backup plan.

    Quote Originally Posted by Totally Guy View Post
    If the part with the Lich is where all the good stuff is why not go straight there? If the players know there's a lich and it's way scary then they can go about developing a solution in spite of their meager frames and powers. Tell them what they're up against, then the onus will be on them if it kills them fair and square.
    Because the whole idea is that they're going to rescue someone who didn't know what he was up against.

    Quote Originally Posted by Storm Bringer View Post
    it might be easier to have the discovery of this Plot Critical Tablet, or rather it's message, be done by someone else rather than the players.
    The tablet should be discovered by them (it's how they get into the whole business), but the message probably won't. Good idea.

    the other option is to push back the collection of the tablet till they are the right level. if your insistant of it being in location X, maybe have it stolen during the coruse of the adventure by someone who knows what it says and doesn''t want the players to find it. then have it turn up at a later date (or have a few adventures spent chasing the thief).
    An idea, but it's the beginning of the real plot of the campaign, so I don't want to make it too late, and having it stolen is a problem because it's among the loot for the campaign and having that all stolen would really annoy the PCs. Unless it (and a bit more) was looted before they got there...that's an idea.

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Update: I've done a bit more thought on the overall pacing of the campaign, and decided that just under two years will be sufficient (I'll probably have the boss be a vampire instead, although if the party's strong they should be able to take a cleric-lich at level 10, since they'll be 6 PCs plus 4 NPCs of a slightly lower level.) That way, I can have roughly 8 months from when they find the tablet in the early summer until it's travelling season in the mountains, another 6 months to travel, and then they find that he's left adventuring...after a few months they find out that he may have blundered into more than he can handle, so they do some research (which is its own adventure) and then go to rescue him.

    Thanks for the advice, though.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    I hate to ask, but do you also houserule Teleport and the like? That could easily cut down the travel time, and it would become available a bit before the levels you want them to reach. It might also lead to them skipping the lich quest entirely and teleporting into that continent (disguised as natives, if they find out about the xenophobia first; otherwise, blind).

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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Teleporting was one of my main motivations for adjusting the scheduling; it becomes available level 9, and by that point they should be in the same general area. Teleporting to the other continent is really not feasible until the range limit is removed by Greater Teleport; by that point, they should already be there.

    That said, I do have a houserule to prevent offensive usage of teleport, in the form of an extremely nasty spell that can turn teleportation into a protected area into the sort of mistake you're lucky to survive.

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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yitzi View Post
    An idea, but it's the beginning of the real plot of the campaign, so I don't want to make it too late, and having it stolen is a problem because it's among the loot for the campaign and having that all stolen would really annoy the PCs. Unless it (and a bit more) was looted before they got there...that's an idea.
    what i was suggesting was that the thief take the tablet, and only the tablet, form the PCs, in a way that screams "this tablet is a Mcguffin!" to any seasoned roleplayer.



    Because the backstory is that the writer meant for it to reach, and be read, by a close ally, so she wouldn't encrypt it.

    that, in and of itself, doesn't stop the text being encrypted. If i was sending a vital message to a close ally, one that i was genuinely worried about someone else reading, them i would use a cypher. the only reasons i would not are:

    a) time contraints. not enough time to encode the message and/or decode it. if they had time to bake it into clay, i'd say they had time to go though encryption.
    b) no pre-arrenged cypher codes. In a time of war, I'd argue that one would be available, even if it is a very simple one ("replace every letter with the one that follows it in the alphabet")


    Here's an idea: the text is encoded in cipher of the ancient elves that was widely touted as "unbreakable". However, in the intervenving centuries, the trick for breaking it has been discovered, and the code is crackable. No one has thought to try cracking it, however, because the code was so well known to be "unbreakable" that no one even bothered to try and break it.....until now.

    (this has happened in real life, by the way.)
    Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an` Tommy, 'ow's yer soul? "
    But it's " Thin red line of 'eroes " when the drums begin to roll
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it's " Thin red line of 'eroes, " when the drums begin to roll.

    "Tommy", Rudyard Kipling

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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Now, you said the writing will be on pottery, which gave me an idea, take it or leave it, but why not have the pottery contain something, i.e. a plant in a pot with some scripts on it.

    If the herbs are beneficial, they will carry the plant around with them and suddenly someone will recognize the script on it as so-and-so language, they can't comprehend it, but they know what language it is, and then you can make the plot-hook land whenever you want.

    Quick suggestion would be that the leafs of the plant, when eaten freshly picked of it, grants a lesser vigor effect, 1hp pr. round for 10 rounds.

    The plant grows a new leaf every day and can have up to 10 leaves at a time.

    Most roleplayers I know would carry that pot with them until the end of time for the free healing
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    Quote Originally Posted by Storm Bringer View Post
    what i was suggesting was that the thief take the tablet, and only the tablet, form the PCs, in a way that screams "this tablet is a Mcguffin!" to any seasoned roleplayer.
    It could be a possibility, but it's too hard to get it stolen from them before they sell it, and also why would a thief want it? (The treasure it leads to is user-specific, so any enemies of the intended users would want to destroy it rather than just steal it if they knew what it was, and anyone else would have no use for it. Unless they simply don't realize that it's user-specific or think they can trick it somehow...I don't really want to go that approach though.)

    one that i was genuinely worried about someone else reading
    But she wasn't; had the messenger not been attacked by a dragon, it would have reached the target with no trouble at all.

    b) no pre-arrenged cypher codes. In a time of war, I'd argue that one would be available, even if it is a very simple one ("replace every letter with the one that follows it in the alphabet")
    Even if there were, the ally was a political ally; he had no military position and so would not know any pre-arranged military codes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Iceforge View Post
    Now, you said the writing will be on pottery, which gave me an idea, take it or leave it, but why not have the pottery contain something, i.e. a plant in a pot with some scripts on it.
    It's an idea, but if I decide that I want them to know it's a message later then I've already got a plan for that, and having herbs useful enough to be worth keeping but not game-breaking or obviously contrived would be annoying.

    Quick suggestion would be that the leafs of the plant, when eaten freshly picked of it, grants a lesser vigor effect, 1hp pr. round for 10 rounds.

    The plant grows a new leaf every day and can have up to 10 leaves at a time.
    Way too contrived-looking.

    Most roleplayers I know would carry that pot with them until the end of time for the free healing
    I don't see why...you could get better "free healing" off a bunch of pearls of power level 1 simply by using them to recover (and then reuse) CLW in one of the cleric's spell slots.
    Last edited by Yitzi; 2012-02-05 at 12:48 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yitzi View Post
    I don't see why...you could get better "free healing" off a bunch of pearls of power level 1 simply by using them to recover (and then reuse) CLW in one of the cleric's spell slots.
    Because you're blowing cash on Pearls of Power/CLW Wands/Healing Belts, and blowing precious spell slots for healing spells. All the plant needs is water and sun.

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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yitzi View Post
    I'm planning/writing a campaign. At one point, they find a plot-central message in an ancient language, and at a later point they go in search of, and find, someone who knows the language. What makes this a tricky problem is that:
    1. I want the two events to be several years apart. (The first one is planned for ECL 6, and the second features a lich, and I'm planning to house-rule away the capability to progress through levels that quickly, so it comes out to a few years.)
    2. On another continent, there's the nation whose language it once was, and people who know the language are not hard to find there. If the players have good knowledge checks, they'll know that, so that places a maximum on the amount of time they can spend searching for someone to translate.

    So the question is, how do I keep them from moving the plot forward too fast by going in search of a translator too soon?

    Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.
    Long story short, if they're at all aware of the importance, you can't.

    D&D simply offers too many ways to deal with languages. This is something fixable with a core level 1 spell, or two skill points.

    If this is what your plot hinges on, make it hinge on something else.

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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Fragment the message. "The treasure is hidden in" and then a crucial word or phrase is missing (with an obvious chunk cut out of the pottery) and make them go search for that once they get the rest translated.

    I kinda skimmed the thread, maybe it's been mentioned.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craft (Cheese) View Post
    "Creativity is the art of knowing how to hide one's sources." - Original quote, DO NOT STEAL.

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    So the message was written while the writer was in an area under attack? You could make the message a Magic Mouth in a foreign tongue that only activates under specific conditions. Or hide the message with Illusory Script. Or Secret Page. Then you have only to figure out why they'd keep the item and what circumstances would bring out the message. Like the dwarven map of the mountain in The Hobbit, which has writing only visible under certain astrological conditions. If you want to ensure they keep it, it could be something like a pot of Keoghtom's Ointment that generates 1 use per week, to a maximum of 3 uses held, or something like that. Nice enough to keep, but not that big a deal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    Because you're blowing cash on Pearls of Power/CLW Wands/Healing Belts, and blowing precious spell slots for healing spells. All the plant needs is water and sun.
    And time.

    The Pearls of Power, on the other hand, require only time (and one first-level spell slot, but that's quite affordable.) You do need to shell out the cash to get them in the first place, but that just means they have value; it's not something that a group would never give up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tyndmyr View Post
    Long story short, if they're at all aware of the importance, you can't.

    D&D simply offers too many ways to deal with languages. This is something fixable with a core level 1 spell, or two skill points.
    The level 1 spell needs to be modified. Speak Language, on the other hand, only works for "common" languages, not obscure (to most people) ancient languages.

    Quote Originally Posted by Incom View Post
    Fragment the message. "The treasure is hidden in" and then a crucial word or phrase is missing (with an obvious chunk cut out of the pottery) and make them go search for that once they get the rest translated.

    I kinda skimmed the thread, maybe it's been mentioned.
    Problem with that is that then they still will need to get it translated early, and the translator provides the next hook.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grelna the Blue View Post
    So the message was written while the writer was in an area under attack? You could make the message a Magic Mouth in a foreign tongue that only activates under specific conditions.
    The person who wrote it wasn't a bard or wizard. Also, the condition she would've used would be reaching a particular individual who's long dead by now.

    Or hide the message with Illusory Script. Or Secret Page.
    Same problems as before.

    I think I'll just drop the plan to involve a lich unless it turns out to be a strong party.

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    The message could be under a glaze that dissolves under certain conditions. Either it was deliberately hidden with the intent that the recipient would know how to uncover it, or someone much later on just thought a cheerful purple, green, and orange color pattern would be nicer than some funny looking foreign script and it is accidentally uncovered by some GM fiat.

    If you want to keep things simple, though, maybe when they make their appraisal roll, they could realize that it is in a foreign script, but only certain characters are still legible. A native speaker could probably interpolate what the [smudged, faded scratched] characters are meant to be, but a first level simpleminded spell could only decipher characters that can still be clearly read.

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    Default Re: Looking for DMing advice (campaign pacing issue)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yitzi View Post
    The level 1 spell needs to be modified. Speak Language, on the other hand, only works for "common" languages, not obscure (to most people) ancient languages.
    Speak Language has no such restriction.

    Long story short, you're relying on a lot of assumptions that the system does not share. You could hack at the system every time it disagrees with you, but this makes you look like you're arbitrarily railroading the PCs into a pre-determined solution. Which...honestly, is kind of the case.

    Instead, consider how to include within the message something that is a challenge they cannot normally yet overcome. Perhaps the message is incomplete, perhaps the message does not take them directly to the final goal, perhaps the message is valid, but as it is not directed to them, it makes assumptions about the listener's knowledge that are not valid for the PCs.

    In short, don't add rules, add plot.

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