More on the Borderlands

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As I mentioned in my last post, I’m running a campaign in D&D 4th Edition using the Keep on the Borderlands adventure. Earlier this week my group entered the final “Season” for this adventure, and I figured I’d make a post about it because I thought the ending scenarios are pretty cool and demonstrate some of the neater things about 4th Edition.

Fair warning: Spoilers ahead.

Throughout the Keep on the Borderlands adventure, the PCs meet up with a couple of different NPCs. The first few weeks have the adventurers trying to track down Ferdinand Ronnik, who is rumored to be heading up a cult of Tiamat. Eventually it’s revealed that this is a plot to distract the PCs from the real threat, and Ronnik is innocent. Well, in the final chapter Ronnik shows up as an ally that the PCs can recruit to their aid if they let him live. In addition, the PCs also face a young Copper dragon in an earlier section of the adventure, and he can aid the PCs during the final chapter of the adventure. The final chapter also includes important encounters centering around Avendra, an NPC who is said to be the priestess of a temple in the adventure, and also Lord Drydesdale, who is the lord of the keep and who the PCs interact with a few times.

I should mention that the final chapter of the Keep on the Borderlands adventure is actually all one large battle, with an army of Lizardmen led by a black dragon attacking Restwell Keep. In fact, I think all of the encounters in the final chapter except the final one feature allied minions who are guards of Lord Drydesdale. In general I found the whole concept and execution pretty cool. I definitely love that it is bringing back characters seen earlier in the adventure, as it lends an air of consequence to events that happened before. Lack of this feeling of consequence is by far my biggest gripe with similar RPGA adventures, by the way.

The encounter I ran for our group earlier this week was focused on the defense of the main gate of Restwell Keep. The encounter called for wave-after-wave of minions scaling the walls, while a larger beast attacked the gate and attempted to bust through it. I mentioned before that we’ve had some attendance issues in the game, and for most of the game I was playing a PC Warlord (in addition to DMing). One of my characters also was previously playing a Paladin character, but then decided to switch to playing a Ranger. We also had a Psion who showed up for one session but hasn’t been back since. I thought it would be a cool idea to incorporate these former-PCs into the encounters in place of some of the generic, unnamed guards.

So one of the things I did this week to bring even more “consequence” to the encounter was to replace one of the mook guards manning the walls with the former-PC Paladin. This did make the encounter a bit easier, so I also got to throw in some more enemies. More enemies made the encounter itself seem even more large scale – double bonus for me. The only issue I had with this particular encounter is that as a DM it’s difficult to run: 10 enemy minions, 2 important monsters, 1 important allied NPC, 6 allied minion NPCs, and 5 PCs. That’s a lot of initiatives to keep track of. Fortunately the encounter went pretty smoothly due to the 4th Edition implementation of “minions” which freed me up from having to keep track of HP for something like 30 different enemy/allied characters.

I’m looking forward to next week where I get to place my former NPC, the Warlord, in the thick of the action with a huge mob battle raging all around. I think the idea of incorporating former PCs as NPCs in this fight is personalizing the encounters in a way that’s really fun. I also feel more open to bringing up the scale/challenge of the encounters with my Warlord character in the mix since I can always have him use his Inspiring Word power if anyone gets in deep trouble.

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