Day 11 of the 30 Day D&D Challenge!
11. What is your favorite adventure that you have run?
My favorite D&D adventure was one I ran many years ago. The party had discovered a map to the location of a powerful magical artifact, one part of a five-piece staff similar to the Rod of Seven Parts. The piece they’d located was deep in an unexplored jungle and to make matters worse their main rival was also aware of its location, had more resources than they did, and had a head start.
Their rival was Morgan Blackshield, a cleric of the 12 Gods who had hunted the party relentlessly. He was a high ranking member of a theocratic nation who was going after the staff piece with a large force of soldiers. Morgan was cast from the mold of Emile Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark and I’ll be discussing him more on Day 14.
The party hex-crawled through the wilderness, having many encounters with vicious tribes of tasloi and thri-kreen, until they reached the base of a mountain range. As they climbed to the crest of a ridge they saw where their map had been leading them; a ruined city that filled a deep canyon. This was their introduction to the module I1, Dwellers of the Forbidden City.
This is a fantastic location based module with lots of factions to interact with and the party had a number of adventures within the city. Through scouting, combat, and diplomacy they learned that the missing piece of the staff was in the clutches of a group of mind flayers who ruled over the yuan-ti. The mind flayers were planning to use the staff piece to conduct a ritual at the top of a large pyramid. The pyramid complex was heavily guarded but the party’s allies knew of a secret way in. The pyramid was module C1, The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan.
Tamoachan was designed for tournament play. I had never run a timed tournament game so it would be a new experience for me and a great source of tension for the players. When they gathered for the next game session they knew they had to get to the top of the pyramid through its hidden insides. I showed them my watch and told them, “you have two hours of real time before the mind flayers begin their ritual.”
The players brought their A game. They evaded traps, solved puzzles, won their fights, and kept moving relentlessly forward. In the end they were just starting to climb the final ladder when time ran out and the entire pyramid was shaken by an explosion. Morgan Blackshield had planned a frontal assault to go off at the beginning of the ritual, throwing all his troops at the yuan-ti while he and his elite guard fought through to the top. When the party opened the secret door onto the top platform they found chaos reigned. They took full advantage, throwing the bulk of their power against the mind flayers conducting the ritual while fending off the yuan-ti and Blackshield’s guard with spells crackling in the air and blood soaking the ground.
In the end they reached the staff first, killed the mind flayers, and made a hasty retreat with their prize. They considered taking their chances and trying to settle matters with Blackshield there and then, but more yuan-ti were on their way and the enraged cleric revealed his surprise trump card; he already had one piece of the staff. Faced with those odds the party decided to use the chaos to escape, the curses of the cleric and the rage of the serpent people behind them.
This turned out to be a wonderful adventure, with my players consistently pulling off great plays. They scored their first major victory over an adversary who had previously seemed untouchable, recovered a powerful artifact, and set other things in motion that would have far reaching consequences (some definitely in their favor) for the future of the campaign. On top of that, the synergy of placing Tamoachan within the Forbidden City worked extremely well.