Quick lessons from the Heroic tier, and looking ahead…

Posted on September 29, 2009 by

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As my campaign progresses, we are quickly approaching the conclusion of the heroic tier of adventuring.  In fact, on our next session, I expect the pc’s to be almost at the threshold between tiers, and if that’s the case, I’ll just bump them up to paragon.  My justification in doing so is simple:  one, because my next session will feature the climax of the heroic tier adventures in my campaign, and two, because I realize I have shorthanded my players when it comes to quest xp.  I’m not going to add a few extra encounters after my climactic encounter just to get the few extra experience points that’ll put them at 11th level, it’s not necessary.

New DM Tip:  As a new DM, I ran into this quite often, where I feel like I’ve gimped the pc’s out of XP and treasure.  Be mindful of this as you plan your tiers.  If you hand-wave your wilderness travels often for example, give them xp for assumed lower level encounters that may have taken place out in the wilderness.  This is an easy way to account for missing xp along the way, or speeding up their level progression if your play time is limited.  Remember to account for treasure if you go down this route.  If you’d like, use this sheet to plan your level progression.

So, we’re finishing off the heroic tier.  What’s the plan for paragon?  First, some campaign background.  My intention with this campaign was to follow WOTC’s published adventures as much as possible.  I really liked the idea of what seemed like a showdown between Orcus and The Raven Queen.  An epic battle between a goddess and a demon lord, with the PC’s in the middle, seemed like a nice campaign to embark on.  So I ran “Keep on the Shadowfell”, but then had to take a detour into homebrew territory due to “Pyramid of Shadows” and “Thunderspyre Labyrinth” not really matching the whole Orcus/Raven Queen angle.

New DM Tip:  Remember the scope of the tiers.  As you design your own campaigns, be mindful of the heroic tier goals vs. the paragon tier goals.  At heroic, the PC’s are taking on quests with local repercussions.  Use these to build the PC’s up in different parts of the world as heroes, far more powerful than the general population, but not yet superhuman in power.  They are strong yes, but they are not quite incredibly so.

I designed a home-brew adventure in order to fill he gap created by not using the H2 and H3 adventures from WOTC.  I had some misguided Shadar-kai feel that the Raven Queen doesn’t stand a chance against Orcus, so they devised a plan to destroy the world, in order to leave nobody for him to conquer and turn into undead.  They will do this by freezing the world, as an ultimate tribute and sacrifice to their queen of winter.  The PC’s get wind of this, and move to stop the plans of the Shadar-kai.

From there, they are sent by the powers that be to face an even bigger threat:  in an ancient undead city in the mountains (Rahesh, from Dragon Magazine) there’s a library that holds a tome believed to hold The Raven Queen’s real name, something Orcus is desperate to get a hold of.  In this library the heroes will face the climactic end of their heroic tier.

So, as they progressed in fighting the Shadar-Kai, they became known in the sorrounding towns and cities, eventually leading them to take on the task in Rahesh.  Here, they’ll face a far greater challenge than ever before, and cementing their status as heroes of the land, paragons.

My intention is to pick up the Orcus storyline again with “Demon Queen’s Enclave”, so what I’ll do before they are of appropriate level to get there is run the “Tear of Ioun” trilogy from Dungeon Magazine, and a couple of other side quests.   Although they don’t have anything to do with the Orcus storyline, they fit my campaign more organically than the H2-P1 series of adventures.  The Far Realm storyline will be completely different from anything the PC’s have faced, I can tie in the goddess Ioun to the library at the end of the heroic tier climax, and the challenges will show the PC’s how different the stakes are now.

New DM Tip:  If you have a campaign arc in mind, don’t be afraid to mix and match different adventures or angles into it, thereby giving the players some variety.  Even if something seems like an inappropriate fit, you can always find a way to make it work. Look at what I’m doing, for example.  I’m taking the “Tear of Ioun” trilogy, and making it fit my non-far realm campaign by simply linking Ioun to the Library in the encounter.  If you read up on Ioun, libraries are her thing.  With a little tinkering, I can make it work.

From then on, it’s the rest of the published adventures for me, and once I finish those, then I’ll create a completely original campaign.  I just wanted the experience of running published adventures before diving head first into those waters.  And yes, I’m aware that I could have taken my advise and made H2-H3-P1 fit my campaign, but I just didn’t like the plots all that much. :p

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Posted in: 4e D&D, Gaming