This post is a tossed salad. I'll start by saying Tim Hartin of Paratime Design is a machine of brilliance and shining conception.
This is why, rather than start from scratch, I paid him for rights to use (and edit) four of his sprawling maps; to serve as the foundation of the final module in my current campaign arc, which (as of now) was begun many years ago!
I've honestly not yet decided whether to make this work-in-progress available to the public. I got all four maps for only $200. (You see how this works, right? You bought my module and I turn around and give that money to someone like Tim and this is how your hobby gets made. More on that in a bit.) That means even if I DON'T publish, I'm not out much. It's simply the case that I wanted the OPTION to publish, should the desire arise.
Freedom is worth a lot.
It's crazy to have arrived at the moment that I actually NEED to begin this project. I find that AD&D-style campaigns (I.e. sandbox campaigns) tend to begin with wide open spaces filled with possibility. Early on, you toss out whispers of potentially world-shattering evil: perhaps the root of all the PCs' woes. But as the goals of kings and enemies are revealed over time, the trajectory of Player Choice becomes more and more predictable. This is partly because high level characters (having gained vast knowledge of their adversaries) tend to find and/or plot a counter-strategy. They forge alliances. They cut deals to ensure the path. Therefore, although the players COULD change their mind at any time...the DM knows (with fair certainty) they will not.
Thus the time comes when you must follow through on the whispers of evil. You have to provide a destination (of sorts) at the end of the very long road. At some point, the PCs must reach their flash point.
In other words: it's conceivable that my campaign wraps at the end of this year or sometime in 2021. I know this because they are still in the middle of Geir Loe Cyn-crul, working their way toward completing the ritual for ascending the Throne of the Gods.
If they finish this adventure, the progression looks like this:
Ascend the Throne (4 sessions?)
Set out for the Sepulcher of Is'Artais (3 sessions?)
From there, access A Fabled City of Brass (will be using Kuntz's "To the City of Brass" for part of this trek!) (6 sessions?)
Once the doors to Dar al-Surur are found, they must secure the Starfire Neonate (1 session?)
Travel to the Abyss (1 session?)
Gain entrance to the Dream House of the Nether Prince and confront final darkness. duh-duh-duh-DUM! (4 sessions?)
So yeah, we play on average twice a month...so not a full year worth of sessions.
What happens after that, Anthony?
Yes, yes, we'll discuss what comes AFTER. First though, of the above adventures, Geir Loe Cyn-crul is done and published. (How to pronounce that terrible jumble of letters is included in the book!) The Sepulcher of Is-Artais (Pronounced: Ice-Are-Taze) is also done (though I have no plans to publish it). Why? It is, I feel, too specific to my personal campaign and not easily dropped into another setting. We're talking about a tardis-like ship here containing the Machine of Lum the Mad, Chemosit-like horrors fashioned after Mike Harrison's Viriconium stuff, Xag-Yas and more...
If Zjelwyin Fall had been better received perhaps, but alas, the Sepulcher is of similar vein and therefore, I think, it will remain in outline form: sufficient for me to run, but not worth the trouble of polishing to completion.
Of course, A Fabled City of Brass is finished and available...(side note, it's been brought to my attention that you can secure it for free at thetrove.net. It'd be nice if you bought my modules instead, but hey, I'm closer to the end than the beginning at this point and this way I know I'm worth immortalizing. That's what I meant earlier about your hobby's circle of life, by the way.)
Anyhoo, the final module in the sequence, which I have been putting off until I felt certain of its inevitability, is the Dream House of the Nether Prince.
It is to this task that I have been applying myself for some months already, and will continue for the foreseeable future. Better to get this right than end 7-ish years of gaming on a lackluster note!
Much of my time has been spent altering Tim's maps to more fully support the design (grueling to be sure but less so than if I'd begun with nothing). On top of this has been the idle day-dreaming and gathering of ideas for such an epic final battle (and test of will!)
A journey to the abyss, you say? To infiltrate/assault an iron fortress owned by one of the Princes? A place where said-Prince's ACTUAL physical form resides time-to-time as he projects himself into the Astral?
This is a preposterous undertaking.
I want to ask each of the characters to their face, in my best great Auntie Marie-voice, how they even dare!
But so it is. Characters are rolled that they might die.
The characters will be of 11th to 13th level by the end of Gier Loe Cyn-crul. At the end of A Fabled City of Brass I expect them to have achieved 13 at a minimum, or 14+ in some cases. Therefore, the Dream House of the Nether Prince is being designed as a level 14+ module. It is, obviously, a demon-riddled horror located on a precipice known to the hordlings as Caedis High, overlooking the Gulf of Profluo. The Ardenix (Pazunian snows) and Abfero (Abyssal winds) make reaching the Dream House implausible enough.
But to gain entry?
That's your cue, auntie!
Great Auntie Marie: "How do you even dare?"
The high concept of the adventure is a stronghold that seems impenetrable at first, but is actually quite porous. Porous meaning that BECAUSE this is the Abyss there are cracks, open doors, and certain death everywhere. If this was Hell, EVERYTHING would be locked down. But not even a demon prince can control the chaos of the abyss and its inhabitants. He rules by fear and fear alone and is, to a degree, a victim of his own uncontrollable impulses.
Rather than work against chaos, the prince capitalizes on it, allowing monstrosities to revel all around him. Through this revelry, he knows (or believes) that any who approach will be destroyed or captured and tortured. Of course, the prince relies on many of his own nefarious designs to destroy those who manage to approach his immediate vicinity...and these measures show no deference. All his underlings know that death awaits them, should they stray too near; for his rage is unequaled and his private sanctums utterly forbidden. The Dream House is a place without trust, steeped in terror, and hewn from the abyss by the sheer threat and malevolence of its master.
As such I feel confident this is an adventure no one will play...except my group. Because no one runs AD&D. Look at yourself. YOU don't run AD&D. You just think about it sometimes. You're only here because you find my blogging voice cute or because you hate me. Ok, maybe you do run AD&D. But if you do, you don't run a game long enough to have characters capable of undertaking such an insane challenge.
"Convert it to another system, Anthony, and then I will!"
Also, a lot of folks have been duped into believing that the best campaigns are low-magic affairs.
"If you're character has a +4 sword, you're in a Monty Haul game and a far cry from the serious-minded individuals WE deign to play with!"
Or here's the other one I see on the internet over and over, usually posted by someone who claims to have been around and in-the-know:
"High level AD&D is a fiction. It doesn't work. All the best games are low level. Blah, blah, meow, meow."
Oh I agree, I agree. I am not serious minded! I start sentences with AND for heaven's sake. AND this is why I concur that you have no business facing a Demon Prince on his home turf. And let's be honest, if you haven't been playing AD&D for YEARS...running high-level pregens as a one-off is going to be one of the WORST, most muddled gaming experiences of your life.
Don't do it to yourself. Learn AD&D with low level characters. Run the Village of Homlet. Beat the Moathouse. To begin with a demon prince is not the way!
And this is how I arrive at my assessment that this is NOT an adventure for the masses. Because it's useless. You don't want it. You MIGHT read it. You MIGHT muse over it. But then you'll have to set it aside because there's no place for it in your game!
Plus, a friend of mine hates the title.
"Dream House of the Nether Prince sounds like a Barbie play set."
Opinions. You can't escape them. And murdering people that have them is pointless because: people still exist.
But now that you have the memo (which reads: "I'm busy working on it") you'll understand that I'm not authoring the blog post you asked for. And why.
Anthony, what is THIS blog post about?
It's about the truth, that I'm busy doing something no one wants or needs. And that if you want to run your campaign top-to-bottom, sometimes you have to spend a lot of time crafting a thing that no one else wants or needs. You're a machinist, see? And this is a custom job. A one of a kind part for that insane machine that no one but you would ever build. Everyone else has already adopted this or that, joined hands around a pillar of centered thought. And in this moment they are as useless to you as you are to them.
But do not despair. For this is a tale of wonder and joy. This is why your players come. Because at your table they find what exists no where else. And they know it.
To show their appreciation, they give you shit like this for Christmas. (Just kidding, Ricardo! I love this mug more than life)
"Anthony, how then do I make my own crazy adventures?"
Start by reading these blog posts.
"Anthony, what happens when your campaign ends?"
I don't know.
I'm NOT going to force retirement of any PC. The campaign's main arc will well and truly be finished. But characters can live on. And they may, though less often, be called upon to do things no one else could do...
The world will live on (maybe). At least some of the NPCs will live on. The campaign's arc (and possibly this particular set of characters) will diminish in importance as all things do when they become history. But the milieu has no end. Even if an entire plane is destroyed and gods fall...the milieu is so vast that it will live on.
What's certain is that I'll have been DMing non-stop for 7-ish years (since returning to the hobby) and I'll have only canceled one game? Two maybe? I might take some time to further formulate the new big idea I want to kick off. I have it well in mind. Foundations have been dug...partially. My Death By Illusion: Part 2 blog post is one small part of those foundations. But to start real, actual work on it? It is a preposterous undertaking.
How do I even dare?
A brief hiatus of "sufficient" preparation is in order. And then (I hope) we'll start again. At level zero. The high level PCs that survive the Dream House of the Nether Prince, will persist. But I WILL mandate that the new batch of characters is wholly separate from all that's gone before. They will not have access to the old group...or hand-me-down gear. At least not for a very long time...
"Anthony, will you switch systems?"
You are funny. Thanks for reading.
and happy gaming.