The Keys of Heraka-at is an adventure that allows the PCs to learn the truth of the fall of the Donnerkonig, and to potentially become the new Donnerkonig.
This adventure takes place in and around a large stone outcrop near Heraka-at, the capital of Sturmhame. The adventure site as a whole is intended to guide the Donnerkonig heirs to their immediate tasks
Locations on the Map
Here I describe the major areas in this adventure location. Each is to be a significant area of interest and might be a ‘single room’ or ‘group of rooms’. I won’t fully flesh these out yet, I aim only to get a feel for the key elements and their relative location. Specific threats and non-critical rewards are similarly not done yet.
Any windows mentioned are expected to be primarily for light and fresh air, but are probably hard to see, being generally deep-set between ledges providing shelter from vision from below and some slight shelter from rain from above. As might be expected, rain and wind are not major problems here, though.
The Last Donnerkonig, or rather his ghost, is obviously very interested in the Donnerkonig returning, because this will lay him to rest. He will observe but not interfere with or assist explorers overtly. If he does so the new Donnerkonig may not have the strength or ability to hold their position, ultimately leading to their failure.
Player agency is a critical element of role playing games to me. One of the things that great dissatisfies me about most series of modules is how much they tend to need the story to progress in a certain direction. The label ‘Adventure Path’ itself rings player agency warning bells in my head — ‘path’ implies a linear relationship between the adventures.
The GDQ (Giants-Drow-Queen of Demonweb Pits) series of modules is often held up as an example of how a series of modules can be done well… but I have to admit that as much as they could be a wonderful example of sandbox adventures, they honestly don’t work for me that way. Individually they mostly aren’t bad, in that they presented as a situation, a problem to be solved. The approach to each one has some options, so there is some player agency involved in the situation… but from my perspective, there is little player agency about getting involved. The entire series is driven by “go here or else” and really no way to not find the next module.
I’ve been asked on Google+ if it is really necessary to do all of this work making graphs and thinking about things far away from the adventure I’m actually working on.
My answer is, I suppose, a mix of “not really” and “it can help”.
If I want to create a standalone adventure, I don’t have to think of what is outside it. I might make some vague references to fairly generic entities to help make it easier to fit into an existing campaign (“a local temple”, “a powerful noble”, etc.), but that’s about as far as I might go. The very nature of standalone adventures is that they don’t connect to anything.
On the other side, I know people who can design adventures of some complexity and interconnectedness without the graphs and multiple layers of relationships and so on. I think either internally they are still doing much as I am in this series of posts, but simply aren’t capturing the thoughts to paper, or they are introducing elements that may or may not be followed up on.
I used to do a mix of the two. I’d give some thought to possible links, identify them in the (rudimentary) prep that I did, and present them in play. If the players followed up on them, great, if not, that was okay too. It worked well enough, but it always felt a bit slipshod to me. I knew I was overlooking relationships and forgetting themes that could have been reinforced and strengthened the campaign.
Standalone or ongoing, many people can get by without going to the degree of effort shown here. Given more time to invest in campaign and scenario development I can get by without it, but don’t know that I do as good a job.
Yesterday I started moving from macro scale to micro scale, outlining a set of possibly-related campaigns. Now I’m digging for some more detail in Donnerkonig Heirs.
I’ll start by working on the graph for the campaign. I know I’ve got Keys of Heraka-at and four adventures to acquire the treasures needed later. I’ll be looking for at least four more adventures to associate with these. I’d like to have about ten adventures available to me, but I’m going to start with a graph of fifteen to give me the option of culling, removing adventures rather than looking for an exact fit.
Donnerkonig Heirs adventure map 1
This graph clearly has a central adventure (K) that I will take to be Keys of Heraka-at, and five branches out. The PCs should be able to find something to do. The Keys of Heraka-at may actually reveal the locations of the treasures and the PCs can go get them, or may provide some direction toward the treasures and the first step there. I’d like to see an average of two adventures possible related to getting each treasure, but allow shorter routes in some cases.
In Layers Upon Layers in the Sandbox I described how things can be linked together. Now it’s time to put it into practice.
First, I’ll map out some potential campaigns. I know of two already, The Donnerkonig Heirs and Return of the Donnerkonig, and can imagine several others. Some are possible follow-ons from Return of the Donnerkonig, which could come out of the decisions made and the consequences of that campaign, and others could be diversions from the Donnerkronig Chronicle altogether. I don’t know a lot about them because at this point I mostly posit their existence, I can flesh them out later. For now, though, the campaign graph might look something like is shown below.
Donnerkonig Chronicle campaign map
This is very high-level and somewhat tentative, showing potential campaigns around this area of the setting. At this point I don’t know much about each of these possibilities, and I don’t really need to.
The white-background campaigns are anticipated parts of the Donnerkonig Chronicle. The greyed-background campaigns are not directly part of the Donnerkonig Chronicle, but may be routes into or out of it.