Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Fluff dragon

Since September my 4E Dungeons & Dragons group is playing through Madness at Gardmore Abbey, and by the time we will have finished it will have taken us nearly a year. But it isn't just the size of the adventure which is epic, it also is by far the best "sandbox" adventure I ever played. It is really interesting to see how the players can choose freely where to go, and still the overall story ends up being told in puzzle pieces that click together to give a complete image.

But if we talk about boss fights, we need to talk about the downsides of Madness of Gardmore Abbey. For some reason the designers felt they had to add some fluff encounters to the mix, combat encounters that do nothing to advance the story. And in fact feel a bit random, a bit as if somebody had picked a page randomly from the monster manual. In some cases suspiciously sequential pages from the monster vault. And one of these fluff monsters is a dragon.

As I told in my journal, I gave my players some hints when they approached the dragon's den. I simply didn't want them to open a random door and find themselves face to face with a dragon. Dragons are supposed to be somewhat special, and not a random monster encounter. And as the players didn't want to tackle the dragon right now, and have a tendency to keep boss fights for later if they can, I figured that the dragon would make for a rather good final combat encounter in the abbey.

There was just one flaw in that plan: The players have been since very early in the adventure on a quest to gather three sacred vessels to help Sir Oakley to purify the temple of Gardmore Abbey. And as written in the adventure, the third vessel they are missing is in the dragon's hoard. Which basically forces the purification of the temple to be the last encounter of the abbey, an encounter which I personally find less suited for the grand finale. I would at least want to give my players the choice what they want to do last. So I sneaked in and stole the sacred vessel from under the fluff dragon's belly, putting it somewhere earlier in the way of the players. It is then up to them whether they want to purify the temple first or want to fight the dragon first.

Either way, that combat encounter will just be to wrap up the exploration of Gardmore Abbey. The real end of the adventure will be the decision of the players what they will do with the cards of the Deck of Many Things that they found. I am very much looking forward to that, because it is a really difficult decision for the players, and not just some boss fight.


At the 'end' of this part, will they have the entire Deck? Does that impact the options they have? If it isn't giving too much away, what sort of options are open to them?

I would have thought that one of the options is giving them all to one of the ranged, magical types.
At the end of exploration of Gardmore Abbey they will have 20 out of 22 cards. And they know that the remaining cards are in the hands of Lord Padraig of Winterhaven. Obvious options would be:

1) Trust Lord Padraig to use the Deck of Many Things wisely, and give him the cards.

2) Get the remaining cards from Lord Padraig by negotiation or violence, which then leads to:

2)a) Use the Deck of Many things only as magic object (it is an implement to cast spells).

2)b) Use the Deck of Many things for its main function: Drawing a card from it, which could result in either riches or ruin.

2)c) Find a way to destroy the Deck of Many Things, as it is clearly an object of chaos.

And that is just the most obvious options.
Woah! I'm a LG Paladin and even I would need some sort of substantial quid pro quo for handing over the deck to Lord Padraig.

I'm guessing I'm not the only one that sees a similarity with a long running and recently very successful trope with New Zealandish associations?

Is there a local volcano anywhere?
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