Wednesday, September 1, 2021

High Level Work

September 1st, and the kids are off to school (at least till noon) for their first day of the school year. It does feel like summer's over...and I'm not terribly sad about it. Autumn has always been my favorite time of year.

I wonder if I'll still feel like that when they're grown and gone. 

*sigh* Melancholy thoughts.

Got through the soccer weekend...our matches went 6-0, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 and we came home with the trophy. My kid was a beast. I'd rather watch my own children play soccer then watch the Seahawks; funny how that it is. The drive back wasn't nearly as bad (three-and-a-half hours as opposed to five). 

Spent several morning hours Monday and Tuesday writing my adventure for Prince's contest. Got the thing done by the afternoon (no small feat considering everything else on my plate, including preparations for the start of school). Ended up being about ten pages (plus maps). I am, of course, less than happy with how it turned out, but that was going to be a proofreading, no chance to edit, no chance to play test. Plus, me being me, I'm usually less than thrilled with my published work. Usually.

However, I'm not the judge of the matter. Prince's plan is to take the best eight to so submissions and compile them in a single book which will be sold (I believe) for charity. He received double that number...including my own humble work...which gives me a 50-50 chance of making the cut. 50% of being my first, published AD&D adventure. 

First days indeed. Never did complete that module for my B/X Companion.

[yes, I realize I did that thing for Patrick's adventure writing contest. That was more a challenge of inserting content into a predetermined format than creating an adventure from whole cloth]

For the interested folks: the adventure is a "short" excursion for high level (10th to 14th) characters. Originally conceived as an invasion/sacking adventure, the scale of the contest had me pare down the thing to (more or less) a single dungeon...a return to a location that had already been invaded/sacked, but that had more secrets to reveal. Spurning the usual demon cultist thing, I turned to the OTHER big baddies of the MM...the give me my adventure theme. I ended up using just about every "lawful evil" monster in the book.

Except beholders. I haven't written (or used) an adventure that included a beholder since I was 12 years old. One of these days, I'll go back to that particular well...

10th to 14th level is an interesting range of player characters. Generally, AD&D characters have hit their "name" level by then, and the experience point needs have leveled out (no pun intended). That is to say, a 10th level fighter needs just as many x.p. as the 14th level fighter to advance. Likewise hit points differences are far more compact between such characters (a +6 difference between a 12th and 14th? That's hardly a single dice roll difference, especially considering CON bonuses). 

Spell use, special abilities (especially turning), and access to powerful magic items DO, on the other hand, represent a significant difference between high level and the low-mid range, and these are the major hurdle for the DM seeking to create significant challenges for high level characters. However, AD&D is as much a resource-driven game at the high levels as it is at the low levels...all of these miraculous powers have their limits, even (and especially) in Advanced D&D.

This is why I found Prince's contest so particularly exciting. Use by the book monsters and magic items. Limit yourself to a single edition. Considering these constraints, and whether or not simple monsters could be made dangerous for high level characters in the space allotted (20-30 "rooms")...especially with my own personal constraint of a Lawful Evil-themed adventure (no vampires! no demons! no red dragons!)...well, now, THAT was a challenge!

[I know Alexis will be gritting his teeth at all this alignment talk. The adventure was written to use AD&D RAW...those were the design parameters. The adventure can still be run without alignment, and very little "fun" lost]

Much of the adventure's design was inspired by (or stolen from) my activities over the summer: Yellowstone, the Lewis & Clark Caverns, Fort Casey, and Orcas Island, as well as various blog posts and news stories I've been reading. The two levels of the temple are clearly modeled on the U.S. National Cathedral. Reflections on lies and hell and musings on how to make devils "interesting." Anthony Huso's essays on high level play. Etc.

[nothing related to Covid, Afghanistan, or politics (thank goodness). I've enough of that]

And despite my being "less-than-happy" with the quality of my writing, I'm fairly happy with the results of the design over all. I'd like to run/test it...and my kids are certainly excited to play it (they wanted to play test it before I emailed the thing to Prince; unfortunately, I was working with a tight deadline). Of course, they don't have high level characters, so I'd have to make some pre-gens for that to happen, and that is a tall order: you're not just talking a few stats and an equipment list, but followers and henchmen and strongholds, etc. Because those things are a part of "high level play," too.

[one might consider such NPCs as "bonus" hit points, attacks, and spells]

But we'll get something done. Probably not this week (still finishing up our Blood Bowl I'm coaching school soccer again). But soon...before the month is out.

Anyway, if the adventure does make Prince's cut, folks will be able to access it once he's done with his compilation. Otherwise, I'll give the thing a couple polishing passes and make it available myself. Just for fun. Just dipping my toe in the adventure-writing arena. See what people think, get some feedback, etc. I mean, why not?

By the way, the module's name is Hell's Own Temple, altered from a longer (and more pretentious) title. It is "modular"...that is, designed to be dropped into any campaign (well, maybe not a landlocked one, as it takes place on an island), so long as the campaign's run with first edition AD&D. The adventure is written using ONLY the PHB, DMG, and MM; no other books are required...and, in fact, I strongly suggest NOT using additional rulebooks when running it (especially not Unearthed Arcana). 

I will, of course, let people know when it's available.
; )

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