Wednesday, July 20, 2022

#JULYGANTIC: Storm King Adjacent Adventures

 At this point we've spent a goodly amount of time talking about Storm King's Thunder and the DDAL adventures that go along with it:

In Stealing Storm King's Thunder part one, we looked at stealing the giant lords' lairs for use in your home game.  Then in part two we examined the metaplot ending of SKT, again with an eye toward stripping it for parts.

In Running Parnast, I looked back on the tier one modules from Season 5, and then we also took a look at the tier two Hartkiller's Horn sequence - which I haven't run.

Now for one last stop on the Storm King's Railroad!  A look at some scenarios that are related to the whole epic plotline...


DDEP05-01, The Iron Baron, sees the PCs infiltrating a fire giant facility in order to rescue prisoners and sabotage the eponymous Baron's efforts to build a pair of immense magma bombards.  You can see how thematically this rolls right along with Duke Zalto and his mecha.  Disguised as mercenary caravaneers, the PCs make their way into the complex and then split up with different goals by level.  Tier One groups (levels 1-5) are charged with freeing prisoners; Tier Two groups (6-10) sabotage the forge portion of the facility.  In the final sequence, the lowbies fight the Captain of the Guard on the way out, and the mid-levels face the Iron Baron himself (and lieutenants).  

I think you could absolutely run this as less of a con event and just use a single PC group, the maps, and the encounters, and let the PCs figure out how they want to sabotage the place themselves.  Keep in mind that part of what makes the epic fun, though, is the multi-table aspect...when I played through The Iron Baron at a con, I remember the tension in the air as each table waited for the others to pass inspection and not blow everybody's cover!

The encounters in this one are fairly straightforward, but played with an eye toward stealth will be even better.  Yes, there's a salamander and some hell hounds.

I don't mind saying that this is the coolest thing that happened to any of my DDAL PCs, and if I ran 'The Iron Baron' in some non-5e system I would absolutely still use this on the survivors.


DDAL05-08 and -09 are the two-part Tier Three sequence that lay the groundwork for some of the shenanigans later in the season. Cloud giant nasty Baron Rajiram seeks the secrets of the tower of Durlag, a dwarven hero - and the PCs must delve into this trap-riddled place and the tomb below to stop him.  Oh, and the tower is made of special stone populated by dwarven spirits, and reflects magic.  It's a race into the tower ahead of Rajiram's forces.  Regrettably this adventure takes what I call the "Undermountain method" of challenging higher-level characters, and that's by making half of their cool stuff not work.  You can't teleport or phase within the tower, etc.  While there are reasonable in-world explanations for why a magic architect would set things up this way, it definitely serves to neuter PCs, and in a canned scenario like this, the PCs don't have the opportunity to prep/research/avoid the neutering at all.  There are some puzzle-traps, and plenty of nasty threats - invisible assassins, slaads, a beholder zombie (!), a nutty druid, invisible stalkers, nalfeshnee demons, more slaads...what is the theme here?'s a mish-mash.  Reminder that this is not a plane-hopping wizard's tower, it belonged to a dwarven hero with the nickname 'Trollkiller'.  

Part two, the tomb, has some deathtraps and devils.  Similar statuary throughout the tower and tomb will carry some clues if the PCs are good observers or are spun up on their dwarven religion.  When the characters try to leave after exploring the tomb - hopefully after recovering a macguffin - they're jumped by agents of Baron Rajiram.  All in all, this two-parter really does nothing for me.  


DDAL05-14 and 05-15 are the next Tier Three pair of adventures.  Your patron went to the ruined wizard school because the ghost of the wizard who founded it has been seen again - and he supposedly knew something about (giant) rune magic.  When she went to check out the school, she never came back etc etc.  PCs show up, fight some giants, and then delve into the chambers beneath the school where the wizard hid.  When you get down there you get to fight a vampire AND your patron, who has been charmed by the vampire.  That's a pleasant surprise I wouldn't have expected.  As the PCs depart, sky pirates approach, which leads to the second adventure.

In the second adventure, you'll be excited to hear there's a guy you have to protect because he is KEY to the adventure, since he controls the teleport portals in and out.  Your assignment is to stop the pirates from looting the library.  Pirates and nagas and sudoku golems, oh my!  I don't think there's anything to recommend this sequence, it's mostly a bunch of pirate fights, none of them particularly interesting.  And there's almost zero Actual Giant Content, which might actually serve as a nice break if you're playing through these in order, but for our looting purposes is a disappointment.


DDAL05-18, The Mysterious Isle, and DDAL05-19, Eye of Xxiphu, bring back the threat of Baron Rajiram the cloud giant pirate, and provide the only Tier Four (levels 17-20) content for this Season's regular (non-Epic) play.  Interestingly, these are the two scenarios in Season Five that actually relate to the Kraken Society stuff in SKT.  An artifact from the ancient aboleth city of Xxiphu is now in the hands of a morkoth who has hidden it on the mysterious isle.  The cloud giant Dworkin (lieutenant to Rajiram) seeks the powerful Eye, so we're off to the races.

I get that there's limited time and a certain expectation of format in organized play, but SO MANY of these scenarios have a ham-fisted "your patron sends you to do this distant thing because it's metaplot important" beginning.  In this case, after your patron takes an expository dump, she issues extra magic items (surely a sign this is going to be rough?) and then mounts you on bronze dragons who give you a ride to the adventure.  Wasted opportunity: the dragons have neither names nor personalities, but you're encouraged to talk to them.

When you get close to the island, there are aquatic elves with intel on the giants, then sharks attack.  Lots of possible combats on your way to the island, as multiple factions want the Eye of Xxiphu.  There are some pretty clever setups here with some of the combats, combining threats, illusions, and traps.

It is imperative in this adventure game that nobody explore, get lost, or fail.

You'll encounter plenty of sahuagin loyal to the Kraken Society who are here to take the Eye of Xxiphu away from the psychic illusion-casting morkoth who runs the place.  When you succeed, the magic of the Eye teleports you home, but unstuck in time, so you arrive in the past when your patron is much younger.  You'll have to go back through the portal and fix things, but thankfully that portal will stay open long enough for a long rest first, thank the 5e Gods!

When you get back, the Eye has screwed up magic so that some of your standard powers don't work right, or at all.  I hate this Undermountain nonsense, it is NOT appropriately writing an adventure aimed at high-level characters to throw their powers out the window.

Kudos to Merric Blackman for the 'Tooth of the Damned' encounter here, which contains a reference to Black Dougal.  Otherwise the scenario has more traps, combat, illusions like the first part since we're still dealing with the morkoth.  There's a neat bit with the PCs potentially piloting crystal golem bodies.  After the morkoth is dealt with, the PCs chase the cloud giant wizard's skyship, mounted on the dragons.  Okay, this suitable high-level crap, although it would be more meaningful if the characters had negotiated with (or dominated) the dragons instead of having them handed to them... but at this point I'm not going to complain.  PCs on dragons chasing a skyship, let's do this.  Your patron's pseudodragon helps by flitting about and granting advantage to each of you in turn.  I don't know how I feel about that kind of a forced "I'm helping!" gimmick.  Aren't the NPCs doing enough in this adventure?  This final battle is big, a little convoluted, and going to be challenging to run.

I think there are things worth stealing from this pair of adventures if you're willing to strip out the NPC theatre.  The underwater illusion-supplemented fights are intriguing, and the massive end battle will be memorable.


DDEP05-02, Ark of the Mountains, has the PCs trying to stop the cloud giant pirate Rajiram and his flying galleon by exploring an ancient dwarven flying ship (the Ark).  Rajiram wants his runestone back - it was probably located by PCs or their allies during the Durlag's Tower adventures in the Tier Three sequence.  As an epic, just like with The Iron Baron, Ark of the Mountains is designed to be run with multiple tables at varying levels, as the different PC groups investigate different decks of the ship, etc.  Far as I can tell it might run fine for a single group as well.  The gimmick here is that the Ark is in mid-combat with Rajiram's galleon, and you have to explore the old ship to get the weapons functioning again, that sort of thing.  The ship has guardians and traps - and in addition, giant boarders from teh galleon will show up as well. Because it's a multi-table epic, you'll also have baddies wandering around the ship (ie from table to table).  Time for some chaos!

Much of it is adjusted by party level, but there's some crazy stuff here regardless

There are four sections of the ship, and the adventure wants your group (or each group, if it's run as an epic) to complete three of the quests in order to 'win' and allow the Ark to defeat the sky-galleon.  I have to admit, I'd be inclined to run an adaptation of this.  

Best DDAL handout ever?

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