Borderlands Session Nineteen

With my homegame resuming and becoming weekly for a short period, I have precious little time to prepare. I don’t know how people manage weekly games…. (Well, I imagine they’re not doing daily quests  in an MMO for their scant free time each evening.)

Once again, I’m likely to be flying by the seat of my pants.

I’m also in the awkward position where the player whose character drove the last two sessions is absent, so this session cannot meaningfully advance their storyline. (And the next session might also end up being unrelated to them as well.)

Player Driven

I’m bring back in a player who was absent the last three sessions. Meaning my primary goal is to reintroduce them in a way that’s not entirely forced and awkward. And, preferably, introduce them quickly, so they’re not sitting around bored.

I’ve touched base with the player a few times, so they have a better idea of where the character is and can take some initiative in their introduction. They’ve texted me some ideas that I’ll have to incorporate.

As someone who normally plays a rogue, the player’s shift to a dragonborn paladin has been uneven: they were thrust suddenly into the tail end of a storyline. They seem to be taking the opportunity provided by the time skip to reinvent their character a little, finding their groove, which should be encouraged. I have to be a little more reactive, setting them up and seeing where they take things.

It will inevitably a weird coincidence that they’re crossing paths with the party again. But as the saying goes, it’s a small world. Or a small region of a Earth-sized world, since the entirety of the campaign has taken place in a stretch of land less than 725 km long and half as wide. (A little farther than Vancouver to Calgary. Or for you Yanks, a little less than Sacramento to San Diego.) And that’s including the multi-day hike through the mountains into “uncharted” lands. It seems far, but not implausibly so, and not out of line for a “hero of the realm” on a mission.

Planting Seeds

I don’t expect much to happen this session. Like the previous session, it has the burden of friends who haven’t seen each other hanging out. Given the subsequent session won’t be for another month (at the earliest) I also don’t want to start a major dungeon, immediate quest, or exploration of a major location. Details will be forgotten. The events of this session need to be largely self-contained, while also not seeming irrelevant or tacked-on. Or a distraction from the quest at hand.

If the story of the session can be tied to the returning Dragon-Paladin, that would be nice. Similarly, if I can add a timed element to events that would also be advantageous, pushing the party to get that done before continuing their current mission. I.e. something going on that needed to resolved immediately and cannot wait until they repowered the Red Mage.

This could also be a session laying the groundwork for things to come. I have a few ideas for goings on in the region, some places of interest and mystery, as well as vague notes and brainstorms for later campaign events. Nothing concrete. But anything I can namedrop now will be nice, so it doesn’t come out of nowhere in the future. That way if I decide to run with the idea it will sound familiar. Some of the session will likely also be exploring the nearby forest so we can jump right into the Red Mage’s player driven quest the following session (if they’re back). Maybe some travelling or shenanigans in the kobold city where this session will start. Again, whatever wackiness I can initiate and then watch unfold.

Post-Game Report

The Dragon-Paladin had the image of his character torturing some evildoer, where he could lay on hands and “heal” the injuries and negate the impact of the torture. Going a little Spanish Inquisition. My job as the DM was working in someone he could justifiably be torturing to the verge of death. Repeatedly. I opted for an Apocalypse Cultist.

In the past I’ve tried to work-in my world’s various cults into the story with little success. Never found a great place. Given my world is a fantasy post-apocalypse, this particular cult believe the world’s continued existence is an accident and the continued suffering of people must end. Just ahead of the game I glanced at my copy of Demon Cults & Secret Societies to find statblocks or ideas, but I haven’t really read it well enough to know where to look. (I should fully read it so I can review it. But there’s a lot of products I own or have been given review copies of that I haven’t found time to properly review.)

I have some vague ideas of future plans for an Apocalypse Cult, but nothing I want to get too much into right now. That’s a much later storyline. But I decided to lay the groundwork for that now by introducing the cults. And by stating their goal of cracking a “great seal” that will shatter the ground and usher the end of the world. Or so they believe.

I had intended to just have the cultist threat dealt with prior to the game, a previous story that ended off camera, so the session would focus on other threats & events. Pretty much reducing the surviving cultist to exposition on the existence of Apocalypse Cults. But the player kept asking where the rest of the cult was, implying he was expecting to find the rest of the cell. That was his goal. I decided to run with this, and make that the primary plot of the session: find the rest of the cultists and stop their plan. So I threw together a cultist encounter, almost randomly determining the difficulty.

I’d also had an idea for a Brigadoon-type city. With my world being very apocalypsey, it seemed fun to have one city escape into the Feywild, but forced to reappear every year due to not correctly executing the ritual. Conveniently, I track the in-world calendar and it was five days from the autumnal equinox, which seemed like a perfect time for a city to remerge. I mashed the two plots together, and had the cultists trying to sneak into the returning city in the hopes of finding the location of the “seal” they needed to break. After all, when searching for a location that’s lost to time, a magically displaced city seems like a good place to look for details. This also gave me a chance to have a few scenes in a city that survived the apocalypse. A glimpse at how the world used to be, with majestic towers and sculpted gardens and opulent wealth.

Following the time jump a few sessions back, I teased the Swashbuckler with missing time potentially tied to a trip to Faerie. With the party entering into a preserved city that was from the Feywild, I could confirm this and posit the idea the Swashbuckler was a hero of renown among the Fey. It amusingly feeds into the character’s ego (as he insists he’s the greatest swordsman in the world) but without the associated skill bump. It was also an opportunity to provide a reason he returned: to find and destroy the “Soulmonger”. Because I’m thinking of slipping the climax of Tomb of Annihilation into my homegame.

 

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