I had this idea to do a sort of "Super Friends" style adventure (or "Gardner-Fox-Era-Justice-League" style if you're hardcore like that), where the group breaks up into teams to simultaneously deal with various menaces.
The experimental (for me) bit was that I wanted to make each "thread" of the plot involve completely different sub-rules, or at least challenge the different teams of players in totally different ways.
I like things in the game that serve to differentiate the characters from each other through action--like this one's the strategist, this one's the brute force, this one's the puzzle-solver, etc. (I know this sounds kind of like the "roles" in Type 4 D&D but really it's a little more than that--it has more to do with play style and personality than what you actually do in a team fight.)--so it's important in this set-up that the nature of the different sub-challenges be laid out for the party in advance and that each player got to choose which sub-challenge to take on.
There are obvious downsides here--in order to make it happen you have to railroad the PCs into the plot a little harder than I usually like, and of course it involves Splitting The Party and doing "cut scenes", which is a pain for reasons I probably don't have to explain.
So it was an experiment.
After the party successfully returns from a quick errand for the Cult of the White Web, the Cultists declare that the party's retrieval of this thingy makes them The Chosen Ones and say that, according to The Prophecy, they are the ones destined to save the world etc. etc.
The Cultists lead the party through a forest of dead trees to a cliff looking down into a valley.
Down in the valley is a great wargame-scale battle in the ruins of an ancient city, (I start hauling out the minis and scenery)("holy shit" they say)"It's just packing material from the microwave" I say)...
...but all the participants in the battle are motionless and covered in webs.
The cultists explain that 4,000 years ago Gorth The Unfathomable (evil wizard) was trying to take over the world with his army of witches and abominations and the forces of good united against him blah blah blah and anyway point is that Gorth was about to win the fight so the Spider Cultists wove a spell that froze the battle in time for 4,000 years and it's been sitting here in the forest ever since.
During those years, the Cult of the White Web has been studying the battle and running magical simulations and trying to figure out how to defeat Gorth when the spell finally expires. (Which is like tomorrow at dawn of course.)
They've decided that only one strategy can possibly defeat Gorth (all aboard), and that only The Chosen Ones (the PCs) can enact it. So fucking cheap, I know, but bear with me...
And That Strategy Is...
One team must go into the enigmatic Temple of (I don't think I ever gave it a name, actually)...
...discover that which is spawning Gorth's army of abominations--whatever it is--and destroy it or plug it up or make it consider a career change or whatever.
This is the puzzle dungeon part of the adventure, low on fighting, high on me explaining weird architecture and the PCs trying to figure out how to get past it.
Connie (dwarf ranger) and Satine (gnome alchemist--test-driving the character class) took that one.
A second team must direct and aid the remnants of the outgunned anti-Gorth army in the field, and destroy Gorth's forces (using these mass combat rules)--or at least hold off the enemy until the other teams succeed. (Nobody asked why the Spider Cult didn't just use their 4,000 years to recruit another, bigger, army peopled by soldiers who also didn't want the world taken over by an ancient lunatic, or why a pair 1st-level elves with a couple hit points each--Mandy and Frankie--were supposedly going to be better generals than, say, a general, but if they did I'd've just said "Hey, that's the Prophecy, ok?" If it's good enough for the founding myth of the entire United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it's good enough for me.)
The third team has the unenviable job of distracting the mighty Gorth (who stands in the center of the field, directing his forces from atop a giant hand...
...which I represented with an upside-down one of these...
)...so that Gorth is unable to direct, heal, and buff his own forces.
This dangerous task was taken by our pal Joe--mind-bendingly plucky non-adult-industry newbie--and nobody else at all. Good luck with that, Joe.
So how did it go?
Did Connie and Satine manage to find the source of Gorth's hideous abominations?
Was the test-drive of the alchemist class successful?
Did Mandy and Frankie have the strategic chops to rout Gorth's army?
Did D&D manage to stretch itself to handle wargame-style combat rules?
Did Joe get Bigby's Crushed into a pile of 1st-level dust immediately or just very, very, very quickly?
Did I manage to DM this mess with any semblance of aplomb?
Find out tomorrow, on the next episode of Super Fr...I mean, D&D with Porn Stars...
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