Sometimes I’m not very confident or high on my own DMing skill. This week, when my players and I returned to our regular game, I did not feel like that. When last we left, they’d been defeated, their characters were on death’s door, and it looked as if the Sons of Liberty’s attack on the city was going to happen as planned.
And then I let it all happen. The attack, the character deaths, all of it.
Step back a few months to when they were tpk’ed for the third time. We made a group decision that that was it, they’d already come back from total defeat twice, there was no way it could happen three times, so I told them to roll new characters. This is usually the death knell of any campaign, but I wasn’t going to let that happen. Three of them rolled new characters (Paul’s character survived, albeit hideously mangled). Jeremy’s is his old character reborn as a revenant and Rob and Paul are playing characters that are tied closer to the story than their originals. But it was still a very different party. I knew how I transitioned from the old party to the new one was going to make or break the credibility of this game.
I nailed it. If anything, they like the new direction better.
I wrote them a prologue so they could play through their characters deaths and I don’t mean in combat, I mean actually roleplay the deaths of their old characters. This allowed me to show them the destruction of Sharn (an event that will have far reaching consequences, it’s pretty much going to drive the campaign from this point on) and build up a reoccurring villain for later use. The villain is their old friend Black Claw, though it’s more accurate to call him “Black Claw” at this point. He abducted one of the old characters promising that he would ‘become me’. I have to admit that I’m actually not sure where this is going quite yet, but I’m excited to see how it evolves.
What happened next was I put the blame for the destruction of Sharn on one of the characters (there had been records of them knowing about the attack and they were below the city when it happened), Paul’s, the only one to survive. He was sentenced to life in Dreadhold, the Alcatraz of Eberron, and this was where the other characters came in. I placed them all on a train headed for Dreadhold all with their own interests in whether the train makes it or not.
However, the characters weren’t the only ones who had an interest in Paul’s character making it to Dreadhold. I changed things one last time. The train was boarded and destroyed by Merrix d’Cannith. He then asked the players to go to Xen’drik and participate in very illegal activities on his behalf. One of the new characters, Andy’s Alexi d’Deneith, is on the opposite side of the law from that. To handle this, I had the Deneith baron order Andy to help Merrix until he had enough evidence to bring Merrix down.
And that’s how I gave the party a new patron. At the end of the night, I had successfully revived a campaign and given my players an adventure they couldn’t wait to play again. Not bad if I do say so myself. Next week I’ll talk about surprising your players by presenting old things in new and unexpected ways.