Second Darkness | Episode 43 – Welcome to Armageddon
My group recently ran what was to have been the culmination of Book Three for Pathfinder’s Adventure Path “Second Darkness.” I say it would have been because we didn’t get to finish the final boss fight. However, I left it on enough of a cliffhanger that the party is already trying to schedule the next session to see how things progress.
I normally don’t do session summaries for my Pathfinder campaign, so I’ll provide a link to a summary of said Episode 43, as well as to the entire Second Darkness campaign so far. But I’d like to get into the habit of doing this to help sort ideas out in my head. I’d also like to get feedback or suggestions from others, and maybe help other GM’s who might share the same headaches I have.
My players don’t know about this page so I may post some spoiler material here. If you are one of the players in my campaign, TURN BACK NOW!!
It’s always satisfying when a longtime plot point finally resolves. An ally to the party had been abducted by the evil drow wizard, the BBEG of this arc of the story. The wizard was fascinated with transmutation magic and had been investigating old magics and demonic powers in hopes to create the perfect living weapon. When the party confronted the BBEG and he saw the ally among them, he was thrilled to see what he called his “greatest triumph.” The ally was confused until the wizard spoke a command word that violently changed him into a giant rage monster who lashed out at the nearest target. Said target happened to be the party cleric. He grabbed hold of the hero and…
… dude got straight-up Loki’d.
This AP has already been changed from what was written on the page. It started when the players latched onto a new villain, one they came to despise so much that I called an audible and made him the campaign’s BBEG. After that, things started changing all over. So far I don’t think my players have been able to tell that things had changed. Or cared for that matter.
Breaking from the “as written” railroad aspect has given me some flexibility with how things are done. My players believed that the only way to advance the story was to go from quest hub to quest hub like some online RPG. There have been occasions where they were presented with what seemed like reasonable progression routes. They’d also come up with their own ideas to pursue. All of which were not part of the core campaign path.
In each case, though, I made sure to remind them (through allies or NPC’s) that things were in progress and there were options closer to the main objective that they could look into. But they felt these sidequests were equally important. I didn’t dissuade them. I built encounters, gave them information, and once they were satisfied they came back to deal with the main objective.
There is a mentality amongst tabletop RPGers that campaigns are much like video games. Something may be threatening, disaster may be looming, but it will simply continue to loom until you pass a certain checkpoint to trigger the script.
I feel like maybe my players were in the same mindset. A few sessions ago they watched one of their allies being abducted and dragged through a portal into a shadow dimension. Rather than charge through the portal to rescue him, the party opted to go back to town. They wanted to find someone who had been in there before and get some information about what might be lurking in there. They took a few days of exploration and questing, got their information, and felt ready to make their move.
But when they got back to town, they were told that their ally had somehow been turned. He appeared to be in charge of an undead army now, and if the party didn’t surrender the army would wipe out the town. They repelled the army, or what there was of it, and discovered an invitation from their former ally to join him in the shadow realm.
During our last session, they entered the portal, navigated the shadow dimension, and met their former ally. He had been turned into a vampire, and wanted nothing more than to make the party suffer as he had suffered. “You left me to die,” he told them. “I saw you as they dragged me away, and you did nothing to save me.”
The party broke character for the most part. People who normally have their characters speak with an accent defended their actions using their normal voice. Others simply behaved very unlike their characters when they tried to justify what they did. At that moment it became clear what they had done, and what it had cost. It felt like they realized that their inaction had repercussions. Time had continued to move on for the rest of the world while they went off to do other things. Things were dynamic and not holding in place until they were triggered.
What I learned: Keep the world dynamic. If the BBEG has a plan, keep it rolling. If the players decide to take their time, maybe rest a few days to get good and ready, there can (and should) be consequences for their hesitation. Consequences are what makes every decision they make, that much more important. Their hesitation may cost someone (or many someones) their lives.
Have your players ever made a decision that ended up being much more consequential than they expected? I’d love to read it, so leave it in the comments below!
Posted on September 24, 2019, in RPG Actual Play and tagged Paizo, Pathfinder RPG, Pathfinder1E, RPG Actual Play, Second Darkness. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Second Darkness | Episode 43 – Welcome to Armageddon.