Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

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Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:49 am

I almost called this thread “Revamping Whispers”, but it hurt too much. And it probably would have been misleading.

Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade is the fourth in a series of four “Eberron” adventures that begins with The Forgotten Forge and Shadows of the Lost War, both by Keith Baker, then progresses to Whispers, by David Noonan, before concluding with Grasp of the Emerald Claw, by Bruce Cordell.

Whispers is distinguishable from the others in that it has almost nothing to do with the main plotline, and seems to be mostly filler: nothwistanding the fact that one of the primary antagonists in the series is the Emerald Claw, and that the main villain in Wispers is a vampire, the vampire has no connection to the Emerald Claw plotline. Go figure.

Some comments by Vaelorn in this thread http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=17724, and by Big Mac in this thread, http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=17700, prompted me to see if I could tie the adventures together a little better, and maybe fix some issues that bother me about Whispers in the process.

The adventure is an event-based international chase of a fugitive, and is fairly typical of adventure design for its time. A summary follows in the posts below, with a little initial commentary. If you see any errors in my summary, feel free to point them out, and I will revise it.

The summary is written largely from the point of view of the players. If you are familiar with the module, you will note that there is a whole lot of backstory that isn’t included in the summary. That is because it is unlike that the players will ever see it, or care about it if they do see it. Backstory will only come up if it is relevant to the running of the game.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:50 am

PART ONE: And you thought they asked stupid questions at your last job interview!

1. The PCs are in Sharn. They get a cryptic letter by courier, which essentially says that an unnamed person has a job for them and they should attend at a particular address with their gear. I have to say that my players would be suspicious of an invitation like that, and would only accept it if it was the only opportunity for adventure in the offing.

2. They attend at the address and meet a gatekeeper of sorts, and have to puzzle out the instructions in the letter, except that if they can’t figure it out the gatekeeper gives them hints. If they still can’t figure it out, I guess they don’t get to go on the adventure.

3. Assuming they get past the gate, the PCs meet an officer from the King’s Dark Lanterns. He may have a job for them. But first, he wants to test them by having them fight his pet Dire Ape without killing it (since this seems reasonable to him I figure he must be a pit dog breeder or a pokemon trainer in his spare time).

4. Assuming the PCs survive they get the job, even if they accidentally killed the ape, because clearly this job requires the sort of skills that are necessary to gang up on an animal and beat it senseless.

The officer then proceeds to brief them in a two-column monologue. One of their agents, Lucan, has gone rogue and stolen a sword called the “Soul Blade”. The officer wants to pay the PCs to recover him. Lucan was human but now appears to have other abilities, and they don’t know what he is. He was seen leaving the east gate by coach, and is known to be going to Zilargo. The only thing they were able to salvage from Lucan’s notes was the word “krell”. The officer can’t use his own agents in case Lucan’s defection is part of a larger problem.

The PCs can ask questions as long as they are happy receiving no additional useful information. The officer gives the PCs a letter of credit, travelling papers and some magebred horses so they can chase down Lucan.

Preliminary thoughts: The entire job interview section is essentially exposition, with an easy forced fight in the middle in an attempt to make it interesting, all to provide the information I outlined in stage 4. That fight was probably added to inject some conflict, because otherwise there isn’t any. It is four pages that are meant to give the flavour of cloak-and-dagger but have no challenge or tension to speak of.

For example, the conflict in stage 1 is that the courier wants a tip. The conflict in stage 2 is that you have to figure out to put the paper in the “beggar’s” bowl instead of coins. There is no conflict in stage 4, only information.

It doesn’t help that the main NPC is devoid of personality. My initial thoughts at a rewrite are that the officer, who doesn’t know who to trust, approaches the PCs out of desperation. It pains him to go outside of the organization, and he has an internal battle between convincing the PCs to trust him and take the job, and withholding as much information that is top secret or embarrassing to his organization as possible.

He gives the PCs enough information and financial inducements to hook them, but the PCs need to coax a lot of the information out of him. He should probably have more information than is presented in the original, but it should be harder to get him to tell it.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:50 am

PART 2: We’re in Zilargo surrounded by gnomes, at a masquerade ball filled with intelligence agents. There will be intrigue, right? Right?

Wrong.

5. The PCs give chase to Lucan, who is being aided by his sister, Grilsha. Let the random encounters commence! Six to twelve days later, Lucan’s has trouble getting fresh horses, and the PCs catch up with him. They chase his coach, and fight his sister. Lucan summons wolves and turns into gaseous form and escapes, possibly without the PCs ever seeing them. Given that, and the presence of Lucan’s coffin in the coach, there is a reasonable chance that the PCs guess he is a vampire. The sister will also try to escape if she gets a chance; unlike Lucan, it isn’t implied that she automatically succeeds. Lucan, and possibly Grilsha, continue the journey to Trolanport.

Here we get our first major plot problem. Lucan is supposed to escape so he can be a recurring villain. However, since PCs are notoriously efficient at killing villains, the deck is stacked against them. One of three things happen: (a) Lucan escapes without ever being seen, as a result of which he is only recurring from the DM’s perspective, not the players; (b) Lucan is spotted as he escapes, as a result of which he appears to be recurring but not exactly threatening or villainous; or (c) the PCs end up fighting him, and probably kill him, and the adventure is over.

If you really want players to hate a villain, or love to hate him, he needs to do something to them – kill their buddy, kick a puppy, or taunt them at the very least. And if you have a villain present when they do that, there is a very good chance that said villain will wind up dead. This encounter fails to accomplish the former because it is too concerned about the latter, which will be a recurring theme in this module.

6. Since the PCs know Lucan is going to Trolanport, they can continue the journey. More random encounters! Once they get there, they automatically fail in any attempts to locate Lucan. If they ask about the word “krell”, they probably find out that it is the name of an Aundairan diplomat who will be at a function at the Aundairan embassy. They may also find out that it is an invitation-only masquerade ball. Surprising, the intelligence officer who briefed them didn’t figure out that “krell” was the name of an important diplomat who would be in Trolanport at the same time as Lucan, particularly since (the background tells us, and the PCs might find out) she is an intelligence operative with the Royal Eyes and a friend of Lucan’s. Intelligence fail!

7. The PCs are attacked by sahuagin muggers who have nothing to do with anything.

8. The PCs follow their only lead and presumably figure out how to get into the party. As written there isn’t much to it, which is a shame, because this part of the module has more potential than anything that has happened so far. This is the first time the players have actual decisions to make about how to proceed. Of course, it doesn’t contemplate the PCs deciding to sneak into the embassy before the party, or after the party, or directly approaching ir’Krell, or casing the guests as they arrive or leave, all of which should be possibilities in a revised version of the module.

9. The PCs find their way into the masquerade ball, probably having been forced to ditch their weapons before they do. At the same time the PCs are trying to find Lucan, a contingent of Royal Eye agents is also trying to find him, and he is trying to find ir’Krell to get her assistance. There is a timed sequence of events, which the PCs can theoretically influence depending on who they interact with and when, but for the most part that only gives the illusion of an impact, since little if any of it spills into the rest of the adventure.

10. Eventually either the PCs or the Royal Eyes attack Lucan. The PCs could end up fighting either Lucan or the Royal Eyes or both. All is for naught, though, because to quote the adventure, “The goal of this encounter is for Lucan to escape.” At least you might have talked to him this time, although you get no useful information – there might be a hint that Lucan is being controlled somehow, but that information really has no impact on the adventure. At the end of it all r’Krell tells the PCs that Lucan is taking an airship to Karrnath.

Preliminary thoughts: There are lots of wasted opportunities here. The PCs are attending a masquerade ball at an embassy in Zilargo which is attended by one former Dark Lantern agent, two factions of the Royal Eyes, and a whole lot of gnomes. And yet there isn’t a whiff of intrigue. Not a hint of the Trust, and essentially no interaction with any gnomes whatsoever. Most of the named guests have almost no personality, although there are hints of Lucan’s. The ball should feel like a pit of vipers, but instead it feels flat.

Up until the fight starts, the interaction at the ball is entirely social. Social encounters should be character driven. You need a reasonable number of distinct personalities, each with its own agenda, and each relating to at least two others in some fashion to create alliances or create tension. Those personalities should actively pursue their agendas, and try to enlist or oppose the PCs as appropriate. They should have something the PCs want, and should want something the PCs can provide.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:51 am

PART 3: At least United Airlines didn’t overbook me!

Here we give the players the illusion of choice, while simultaneously robbing them of all agency because the choices don’t matter much. Note I have reorganized these from the original presentation as the module presents some of these events out of order.

11. Lucan has already escaped onto the airship. The PCs try to catch the airship while minions dominated by Lucan try to hold them off. If the PCs succeed, they have an argument with the captain about tickets, and go to 13. If they fail, go to 12.

12. If the PCs don’t catch the airship, another airship comes along to offer a ride. The captain tells the PCs he was sent by ir’Kell to help them. How he knows enough to make up this story is unclear. If the PCs accept the ride, keep reading; otherwise, go to 16.

The captain is actually Garrow, the changeling cleric of the Blood of Vol from Shadows of the Last War, but this time in the form of a half-elf airship captain. His disguise is “flawless”, so the players will never know this (it is so flawless he appears to have fooled the bound elemental, since there is no mention of any one with the Mark of Storm onboard). It appears to be assumed that the PCs will not notice that the entire crew is made up of Emerald Claw soldiers.

Repeat after me: “A villain the players do not know about is not a recurring villain.” This despite the fact the Garrow shows up in three installments of the series and is the Emerald Claw boss.

Garrow will try to chat up the PCs and learn about House Cannith’s plans and where the other schema are, but this has no impact on the rest of the series. Since there is also no information to be gleaned from Garrow, this is a wasted conversation.

Eventually, Garrow’s airship catches up with Lucan’s airship, and Garrow puts the PCs on a skiff so they can go board Lucan’s airship. It’s not clear why he does this, but maybe he is hoping they willy flush out Lucan; the Emerald Claw wants the soul blade, although there is no reason the PCs would know that.

13. The PCs board Lucan’s airship. They can try to search for Lucan, but he is in an undetectable extra-dimensional space and has erased the memory of the only person who knows about it (does dominate really work that way in 3e?). Even if they somehow find it, if I am reading the DCs right it is pretty much impenetrable. So they can’t find Lucan. They can find his sister if she is still around, but it’s not clear what that gets you. Maybe she knows where Lucan is, the module doesn’t say. If the PCs tell the captain he has a vampire on board, he doesn’t care and won’t help or allow them to search the ship.

The GM is instructed to let the PCs continue with their pointless search “as long as it’s fun for everyone at the table,” ie, unless the players get bored and frustrated. Then Garrow decides to attack Lucan’s ship.

14. Skiffs from Garrow’s ship take boarding parties to Lucan’s ship, with artillery support from archers on other skiffs. The PCs can join the battle or keep searching for Lucan, neither is going to have much impact. The expectation is that they will try to protect the crew and passengers, since the Emerald Claw are leaving no survivors. It doesn’t matter much, since they won’t find Lucan, and all of the passengers are going to die in the next scene anyway. Lucan’s sister will fight the Emerald Claw soldiers. Lucan stays in hiding for now.

15. Lucan appears on deck and moves to escape; note it takes a quarter of a page to explain what I just explained in half a line. Garrow decides to ram Lucan’s ship. Both ships crash to the ground. Lucan automatically escapes, and Garrow gives up and also slips away. He was willing to destroy an airship to catch Lucan but apparently following him on foot is too much trouble.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:52 am

PART 4: Literally, a railroad

16. The airships crashed near Sterngate. If the players were lucky enough to miss Lucan’s airship, and smart enough to refuse a ride on Garrow’s, and therefore avoid hours of aimless conversation with Garrow and fruitless searching for Lucan just so the GM can describe an airship crash, they rejoin the adventure now. Lucan has already escaped and is intending to catch the lightning rail out of there. The PCs catch up and have to fight dominated Orien railworkers. They either manage to catch the train, or the adventure is over.

17. Assuming the PCs caught the train, the PCs can try to search for Lucan, but the Orien crew won’t let them. It seems to be assumed that this will end the matter: “The best they can do is interact with the passengers and crew and bide their time, waiting for Lucan to show himself”. Fun.

Then agents of the Lord of Blades attack the PCs, having tracked them to this point. How did they know that the PCs would ride to Trolanport, take an airship at the last minute, crash near Sterngate, and hop the lightning rail? La, la, la, la, la, I can’t hear you! A number of warforged board the train after catching up on horseback. They have aerial support from halfling mercenaries mounted on glidewings. Because nothing screams “Lord of Blades” like Talenta halflings.

Anyway, there is a fight on a train. Except it doesn’t really feel like a fight on a train, as is given away by this quote: “treat the coach carts as stationary and move the terrain around it. … the glidewings are easily fast enough to keep up.” So motion is not really a factor, and the carts themselves are essentially 1500 square foot bungalows with an open floor plan. So it’s less a fight on a train, and more a fight in the suburbs. I have some ideas how to fix this, assuming this scene makes the cut.

In round 5 the warforged kill the driver (what if the PCs are there to stop them?) and the lightning rail comes to a halt, at which point Lucan pops up long enough to be seen, and escapes to go hide in a Dhakaani ziggurat.

The ziggurat is an ancient Dhakaani temple to some demon or another. Which is interesting, since I thought the Dhakaani was a more or less atheistic society (I think the sixteen-god religion was post-empire) – does anyone remember anything about this?
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:53 am

PART 5: The room has a monster. The monster attacks on sight. There is no treasure. Rinse, repeat.

18. The PCs cross a lake to get to the zigurrat. This takes about a third of a page to explain, and the font isn’t exactly huge.

19. They enter a square room with columns. A cloaker attacks the PCs on sight. It runs away if injured. There is no treasure. This takes about half a page to explain.

20. The next room is a square room with an altar in the middle. The altar has a hidden compartment that is empty. If the compartment is opened, everyone falls in a pit. This actually has a classic hint that the party can pick up on which telegraphs the existence of the trap: the altar has chains attaching it to the ceiling which prevent it from falling into the pit. Despite being one of the most interesting rooms in the complex it has the shortest write-up at a quarter of the page, which should tell you something about how much information is really required to run a good encounter.

A note here about readaloud text. Once upon a time readaloud text, where it existed at all, was the same font as the ordinary text and was only distinguee by being in a box. We called it “box text”. By contrast, I find the italic font in these 3.5 adventures more difficult to read from the rest of the entry. I’m probably just getting old, but when you combine this with the fact that the readaloud text if often very lengthy, and contains no information that is really relevant, I am in the habit of skipping it entirely. As a result, it was only in re-reading this entry while drafting this post that I noticed the existence of the chains, which are not mentioned in the GM section but which are critical information for the players to have. I am curious if this is just my problem, or if other people experience it too.

21. The next room is a square room with pillars and a stone table. A zombie minotaur attacks the PCs on sight. It fights to the death. Well, “death”. There is no treasure. This takes about a third of a page to explain.

After this room the players encounter one of the only choices in the module. There are stairs. They can go up or down. If you go up, go to 25. Lets go down first.

Going down, there is another choice: keep going down, or take a hallway. Lets go down the hallway to 22.

22. The PCs enter a hall with lifelike statues. Gricks attack them on sight. They will try to run away if they are nearly dead. There is no treasure. When running away the gricks try to slip through a crack in the wall that leads outside. Note this is the first mention of the crack in the wall; there is no mention of it as an alternative entrance when the PCs are trying to get into the ziggurat.

All of this takes third of a page to explain. I should note that in each of these instances there are no stat blocks, only references to Monster Manuals, so the verbiage is pure explanation and readaloud.

Even the designer seems to know that there could have been something more interesting here. “Seeing humanoid statues often makes veteran D&D players worry about medusas and cockatrices. But sometimes a statue is just a statue, and the PCs instead have a straightforward fight with gricks here.” In the tactics section we are told that the gricks simply rush the PCs, so nothing interesting going on there.

Lets keep going down.

23. The PCs enter a square room with hanging tapestries and a dais in one corner which has drums. An animated mallet beats the drums and serves no other purpose. There is standing water in the chamber which is difficult terrain. There is an otyugh which attacks on sight. It fights to the death. There is no treasure. There is a secret door concealing a shaft which goes straight up to area 26, probably 100’ above. Half a page to explain. The map shows a door to the next area.

24. This is a large rectangular room with lots of sarcophagi. The door to the room is stuck. There is standing water in the room which is difficult terrain. There is an ochre jelly. It attacks on sight. There is treasure, which includes a potion of levitate, which might come in handy if the party decides to scale the shaft referred to in 23. If Lucan escapes to here, he can use a sarcophagus to sleep in. And wait for the PCs to come kill him, I guess. A third of a page entry.

Time to take the stairs back up to the areas we skipped.

25. This is a rectangular room with three summoning circles in it. There are cracks in the wall. There are centipede swarms which come out of the walls and attack on sight. The summoning circles don’t work, but the centipedes refuse to enter the centre circle. There is no treasure. One quarter page.

26. Lucan sits on a throne, brooding. There is a secret door concealing a shaft that goes down to 23. Lucan attacks on sight. He will try to escape down the shaft. Lucan’s treasure is his gear and the soul blade. Maybe half a page.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:53 am

One more post reserved in case I need it. Go ahead and discuss, if you want.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Vaelorn » Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:43 pm

Nice summary so far! But... damn I liked that adventure... :(

Well, it's probably more accurate to say that I liked the set pieces like the airship chase and the lightning rail assault. I guess it just needs a better way to link them together...
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Tue Apr 25, 2017 2:51 am

Well, lets see what we can do. I will make an effort to keep the airship encounter and the lightning rail encounter, because they probably are what attract most people to the module. I prefer the masquerade ball, myself.

OVERVIEW OF PLANNED REVISIONS

Basically I want to fix three things: (a) the lack of connection to the other modules in the series, (b) the lack of player agency, and (c) possible errors and tonal inconsistencies with the Eberron setting.

Making a stronger connection

Given that the main villain is a vampire, and the Emerald Claw is present, and the main villains for the series is the Emerald Claw, and Lord of Blades agents are present, and the Lord of Blades is a secondary villain in the series, we should be able to connect the module to the rest of the series without too much trouble.

Let start by looking at Lucan. Lucan was a loyal Dark Lantern agent who is now a vampire. What did not appear in the summary, because there was no way the PCs could have learned it, is that he was turned into a vampire deliberately by a Sharn vampire, Calderus, who sends Lucan to seal the soul blade. This happens offscreen, and Calderus never appears again.

So how about we try this instead. Lucan was investigating Emerald Claw activity in Sharn. He gets caught by the Emerald Claw, who seize the opportunity to make him into a double agent by having a vampire turn him. Vol did it to Kaius, there is no reason to think the Claw wouldn’t use the same tactics when appropriate.

Lucan is still loyal to Breland in his heart, but cannot resist the compulsion that a vampire lord can place on its spawn. He discloses many secrets of the Lanterns, including that they possess the soul blade. The Claw then sends him to steal it and bring it to them. So now we have a tie-in, and unlike the previous backstory, we will make an effort to make it both discoverable and relevant to the adventure. And I think I have figured out how to do this, which I will outline in the next couple of posts.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Wed Apr 26, 2017 2:05 am

Increasing player agency

The fundamental problem with Whispers as a module is there are very few opportunities for players to make decisions that have any real impact on the adventure. In part this is because of its structure as a chase story. The PCs go wherever the villain goes, and the villain always has to escape or the story ends. So how do we correct this problem? I have three suggestions:

(a) give the PCs a reason to keep going after Lucan is captured;
(b) provide the players with meaningful choices as to modes of travel; and
(c) provide a variety of choices for the players at “waypoints” like Trolanport.

Making it OK to catch the villain

Starting with the first, even in the original backstory, Lucan is not really a villain, he is a victim, forced to act against his loyalties by forces with their own agendas who dominate his mind. With our new backstory, he could still have, locked in his head, the intelligence report on the Claw that he wants to give, but is prevented from giving. He knows about their operations, and if the PCs capture him and break the domination, he can provide ample reason why they need to continue going to thwart the Claw.

Furthermore, instead of making the Dhakaani ruin just some random place near the lightning rail when the driver is killed, we can make it the actual destination, perhaps a center for some Emerald Claw plot, for which they need the soul blade. Or perhaps Kedran d’Cannith hid copies of the creation pattern and one or more of the schema in the Dhakaani ruin, and the soul blade is the key to finding them, or unlocking the vault in which they are hidden.

Perhaps the soul blade is infused with some of the sentience of the Xulo Pattern (maybe it was created during experiments with the schema), and wants to see the schema and creation patterns brought together. It dominates Lucan, overriding the domination of the vampire lord (just like in the original story) and is forcing Lucan to go to the ruin so it can be restored. The blade will try to conceal its malevolence, “freeing” Lucan from the vampire lord’s influence, and trying to use persuasion on Lucan rather than force.

The party doesn’t know this when it sets out, but Lucan knows at least part of it, which is why he is trying to get to the ruin. He also knows that the Claw is trying to find the ruin to retrieve the schema, which as a Dark Lantern he wants to prevent. If the party captures Lucan and frees him from domination (I would suggest giving the party an item that would do this in an earlier adventure), he tells they party why they have to keep going, and use the same contacts he was going to use in order to get there.

Travel Options

Next we provide choices for various means of travel. Trolanport is a port city. Sharn is a port city. You can get to Trolanport from Sharn by travelling overland, by airship, or by sea. Lucan travels overland and has a pretty good head start; the only reason the PCs catch up in the original is because Lucan can’t find fresh horses in one town. On the other hand, travelling overland offers the only chance of catching Lucan on the road because neither a sailing short nor an airship are likely to see him on the road, let alone pull over so you can get out and catch him.

The point is that it should be the players deciding how to chase Lucan, not the GM. The GM’s job is to recognize the pitfalls and benefits of each method, and adjudicate the consequences of the players’ choice accordingly. The module’s job is to provide the GM, in an easy to find format, the information necessary to do so.

A table of costs and travel times from Sharn to Trolanport would be a good start. We might also assume that if they take an airship they will get to Trolanport before Lucan but cannot catch him on the road, while if they go overland they might be able to catch him, depending on the choices they make for mounts, travel time, etc., but if they fail to catch him they will definitely get to the city after him. I am not sure of the relative travel time by sea; my rough estimate is that the party would get to Trolanport ahead of Lucan, but not by much if you used a sailing ship instead of an elemental galleon. The trip by airship would clearly be better than sailing ship, except that we know there is a Claw airship kicking around, so maybe there are agents at the Sharn docking tower that the party would rather avoid.

As for random encounters, they are fairly pointless in this scenario. The original module had lots: 10% per hour while travelling, 20% per hour while camping out, for up to 16 days. Which would be fine for a hexcrawl, but is pretty heavy for a chase adventure.

The point of random encounters is to create a risk of consequences if characters take certain actions, the most common being actions that increase travel time. This isn’t really an issue here (moving slowly punishes itself in a chase scenario), so there is no point in having random encounters unless we need to adjust the incentives to choose one mode of travel over another.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Thu Apr 27, 2017 4:31 am

Preparing Situations, not Plots

The third matter to address is agency at the waypoints, notably Trolanport and the Ziggurat. The best way to address this is to remove the plot, and instead provide a situation that might give rise to the intended plot, but is flexible enough to give rise to something else just as good or better. I would explain how this works, but it has already been done: http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/4147/roleplaying-games/dont-prep-plots. The follow-up articles are good too.

So instead of forcing a plot (PCs look for Lucan and fail, find out “krell” is a person, find out person will go to ball, figure out how to get into ball, spin wheels at ball until fight breaks out, lose Lucan, get information on where he is going from ir’Krell), we set up a situation which might look something like this:

PCs arrive in Trolanport. They may get there behind Lucan, ahead of Lucan, or with Lucan as a new ally or prisoner. They know that “krell” is an Aundairan diplomat in Trolanport, because Lucan told them, or because the intelligence officer who hired them isn’t incompetent. If they snoop around about ir’Krell, they probably find out about the masquerade ball, but they might also try to see her ahead of time, or stake out the embassy watching for Lucan to arrive or leave.

Ir’Krell is loyal to Audair, but also friends with Lucan. Whether he is with the party or not, Lucan will want to contact her, and she will want to help him, but she will also report to her superiors, who want to capture Lucan. She is conflicted and will try to walk the line between both loyalties. The Royal Eyes who are sent to capture Lucan want him alive, and consider the ball a good place to corner him (but will consider other options if that does not pan out). Meanwhile, elements in the Karrnathi embassy are agents of the Emerald Claw and on the lookout for Lucan, and will also be present at the ball. If the LoB has learned of the presence of the party in Trolanport, they will have forces outside the city and send warforged scouts and stealthy constructs in to spy on the party, because they want to capture the party to find the location of the known schema. The Trust knows more than everyone would like, and less than they themselves think they do: the Trust wants to keep a lid on any violence, and protect Zilargo’s interests. They will be trying to gather as much information as they can in order to make that decision.

Let’s also throw a Cannith agent in the mix, who wants to ascertain what the party is doing while it is moonlighting for the Dark Lanterns; the PCs may not know that Merrix is their hidden benefactor, but he is feeling some ownership over them. If the Cannith agent (who may even be Elaydren) learns the truth about the soul blade and the copies of the schema and creation pattern, she will immediately charge the PCs with retrieving them. She probably wants the soul blade too, which may place the PCs in a conflict between two patrons; or Cannith may petition the Lanterns for its return, since it has now been identified as Cannith property.

If Lucan is still dominated he wants to get to the Dhakaani ruins to assist the Emerald Claw. If the PCs have freed him from his domination he tries to convince them to go to the Dhakaani ruins to get the schema before the Emerald Claw do. He/the party needs something from ir’Krell – money, transportation, equipment, information – before they go. How they go about getting it is up to them.


Instead of mapping out the order of events, we simply have the NPCs respond to events according to their motivations and personalities. In order to support the GM in this, the adventure needs to map out the NPCs using entries that are concise (so information is easy to find and review) and evocative (to activate the GM’s imagination and make the information easy to absorb and remember).

The Trolanport section of the module is eight pages of small type; I am betting that using this method the ball could be covered in a couple of pages, leaving room to expand the Trolanport section to aid play for the periods before and after the ball. This will make up for the 30-odd random encounters you are no longer having on the road to Trolanport.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:53 am

Travel Options Part II

Now, people still want their set piece airship and lightning rail battles, but we want the PCs to have freedom to choose their travel options. But this probably isn’t an issue because if Lucan is not with them, he will choose to travel by airship, and the fastest way to follow him is by airship (there being no lightning rail in Trolanport); and if Lucan is with them they are probably trying to beat the Emerald Claw to the Dhakaani ruin. Moreover, there may be warforged waiting for them outside of the city, which the party may know if they captured any warforged spies, so travelling overland may not seem very appealing.

So, let’s say the ruin is near the lighting rail line between Sterngate and Starilaskur, within walking distance of the track but hidden in the Seawall Mountains. The fastest route is likely to be to take an airship to Zolanberg and lightning rail to one of the villages that isn’t on the map but is near the ruin. So you get an airship component and a lightning rail component.

And if worst comes to worst and the party takes a ship to Korranberg and the lightning rail from there, you may have to sacrifice your airship vs. airship battle and instead have an airship vs. lighting rail battle, which could be just as satisfactory. Or airship vs. sailing ship.

In other words, don’t get fussed about forcing the party onto that airship, there is plenty of action to be had in other arenas.

Endgame

So, assuming that the Party and Lucan, either separately or together, have made it to the Dhakaani ruin. We have 8 rooms in total, with seven forced combats and one decent trap. Although there are in theory two potential loops, one is poorly explained and only available going in one direction, for no apparent reason, and the other is impractical to use other than to extend the duration of the final battle; in other words, they are loops that are unlikely to constitute meaningful choices.

To make this a bit more interesting to explore, I am going to apply a sort of Moldvay dungeon stocking model in reverse. For those not familiar with Moldvay’s method of stocking dungeons, IIRC it originated with the Moldvay box set (which I may or may not have actually played), and allows for the generation of encounters that are not all, strictly speaking, monster encounters. It also allows for a certain amount of empty space, and a bit of weirdness, so you never quite know what will be behind the door. And it makes for a nice break from making every room a combat encounter with a monster that attacks on sight and fights to the death.

The general premise is, when determine the contents of a room, you first roll 1d6. There is a 2-in-6 chance of a monster, a 2-in-6 chance of an empty room, a 1-in-6 chance of a trap, and a 1-in-6 chance of something “special”, which means anything that doesn’t fall into the other categories – a puzzle, a fountain with weird properties, a teleport pad, etc. – often something that tempts players to take risks and push buttons.

If you roll anything other than “special”, you roll another 1d6 for treasure. The chances of finding treasure are 3-in-6 for a monster room, 2-in-6 for a trapped room, and 1-in-6 for an empty room. Treasure in an empty room probably isn’t just lying around, it may be hidden and possibly trapped.

There are seven monster/combat encounters, already, and I want to keep those more or less as is. I am going to redraw the map at some point, adding seven empty rooms to match the seven monster rooms. There is already one decent trap room, but I am going to add 2-3 more with mundane traps. I will add 3-4 “special” rooms, at least one of which will be a triggered version of the mundane traps with hints as to how they might be detected and avoided. In all, the 8 room dungeon is going to become a 21 room dungeon. One of the trap rooms will get a treasure, and one of the empty rooms will get a treasure.

Since I’m redrawing it anyway, I’m going to turn it from a temple into a tomb or mausoleum. Hobgoblins worshiping an evil demon is kind of every-setting-except-Eberron, and I think it would be more interesting to focus on the history and culture of the Dhakaani Empire. So lets say the main floor is a museum or memorial, once open to the public, its cases now smashed and rotted away, with murals or bas-reliefs depicting the life of the emperor, his loyal minotaur companion always by his side. A secret door leads to other rooms and stairs going up and down. I will keep the exit to the grick lair and make it detectable from the outside, and put all of the opportunistic monsters (gricks, otyugh, oozes) on the lower levels. The upper levels will hold the emperor’s tomb, with the expected traps and maybe some vermin like the centipedes, and the minotaur as a guardian. There also needs to be a way of getting by the minotaur without fighting him, since the Claw/warforged will be in the emperor’s tomb.

In lieu of the boss fight against Lucan, I’m going to have the Emerald Claw present in the tomb, or maybe the LoB agents, I’m not sure. So depending on whether Lucan has joined the party, it will either be the party and Lucan against team monster, or a three way battle between the party, Lucan, and team monster.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Vaelorn » Fri Apr 28, 2017 7:29 pm

This is looking great! I definitely like the idea of multiple encounter options for travelling.

The Dhakaani mausoleum idea seems much more plausible. Would you need a resident 'final boss' at all though? Why not just a 3 way fight between the PCs (maybe with Lucan), the Emerald Claw (also maybe with Lucan) and the LoB? There could be opportunities for the PCs to lead either side into the various trapped rooms, prepare ambushes and so on. Or keep the minotaur as a wild card.

Maybe a piece of the schema/pattern was hidden in the Mausoleum. Instead of a Soul Blade, maybe the Emerald Claw turned Lucan so that he would steal information (in the Dark Lantern archives) that identified the hiding place. So it's a race to the mausoleum. The Soul Blade itself also has no connection to the rest of the series of adventures, and the creation pattern can have as many parts as is needed. And if Lucan was turned by an EC vampire we don't need the Soul Blade to corrupt/dominate him anyway...
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Sat Apr 29, 2017 12:06 am

I was intending that there be no boss fight, but a showdown with the Emerald Claw or the LoB - but not both, at least not against each other, since in the next installment, Grasp of the Emerald Claw, it is shown that the LoB is willing to ally with the EC if it will achieve their objective of bringing the Xulo Pattern to life. It would be easiest to make the EC the final encounter here, but I am leaning toward making it the LoB, just because the EC play a much bigger role in Grasp.

So the emperor remains dead, and his supporters ensured that he stay that way out of respect, while animating his ally to forever protect his tomb. But there is a back door, and Kedran d'Cannith found it - that way I can place the minotaur between the party and the final room where the schema are hidden.

(As an aside, the EC/LoB alliance in Grasp also made me want to play the LoB as a little more sophisticated than usual. I have always like the idea that the LoB was actually Arren d'Cannith, and it occurred to me that he may still have some support within Cannith, perhaps even from Merrix. It would explain why Merrix works to betray Elaydren in Grasp and arrange for the loss of the schema. I am going to keep this in mind when I design Cannith's motivations in the Trolanport section, and what information is available to the LoB after that. It would be a real addition to Grasp if the LoB and the EC were uneasy allies, mistrustful of each other, and it was possible for smart PCs to play them off against each other while exploring the giant ruin.)

I am leaning toward making the soul blade a product of experiments by Kedran d’Cannith upon an incomplete set of elements from the Xulo Pattern, and nicknamed the "soul blade" because it has been infused with a portion of the Xulo Pattern's intelligence, or "soul". It is therefore motivated to bring the elements of the Xolu Pattern together, and the blade knows that some of the parts of that pattern are in the ruin because that is where Kedran hid them, possibly in a container for which the soul blade is a key. The EC/LoB are trying to find the ruin, or break into the container, to get the schema contained there; Lucan and the party want to get the schema before the EC/LoB but also carry with them the means by which the EC/LoB can steal it.

I'm trying to modify as few encounters as possible because I don't play 3e, I only learned it well enough to make conversions to 4e. So I can't build encounters, I either have to reorganize existing encounters or give the reader ideas as to what elements an encounter should have. If I feel ambitious I might provide some 4e stats though.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Fri May 05, 2017 4:38 am

So, I'm going to take a stab at roughing out some revision notes. I was thinking about putting them in another thread, but they're going to be pretty rough, and revised from time to time, and I'm going to invite comments and editorial suggestions, so I may as well flesh it out here.

I'm going to move the focus from an event-based adventure to a character driven adventure. While there will still be a default pattern of events, it really only reflects what happens if the PCs don't interfere. If the PCs do interfere (and if they aren't, I don't know why the players are playing an RPG), the GM is going to have to wing it based on the character information I provide, which will hopefully seed their imaginations.

As a result, there is much less stress on how events are likely to play out, and much more stress on the NPC’s motivations, personalities and resources. The GM needs to keep track of what information would be available to the NPCs, and when, but needs to expend no energy on keeping players “on track”.

This presentation also assumes that GMs are familiar with the system and edition they are playing, and can make judgment calls regarding the adjudication of actions, the appropriate skills to be used in situations, and the appropriate target numbers for skill checks. As a result, there will be little if any discussion of mechanics.

I'm still working on a "Situation Overview" which will replace the "Adventure Synopsis" from the original, so I will launch into the Adventure Background. Just keep in mind the revision still assumes a start in Sharn.

ADVENTURE BACKGROUND

A month ago, Lucan Stellos was a loyal member of the Brelish elite intelligence and covert operations organization known as the King’s Dark Lanterns. That is, until he was captured by the terrorist group he was investigating, a cell affiliated with the Emerald Claw.

Torture eventually revealed to the Emerald Claw that Lucan had other uses, and a ritual was used to change him into a vampire, compelled to do the bidding of those who created him. Against his will he spilled his country’s secrets, including the existence of the soul blade, an ancient sword of Dhakaani manufacture whose properties were unknown to Breland, but guessed at by the Emerald Claw.

Lucan was sent to the Citadel to steal the blade. However, unbeknownst to his new masters, the blade was possessed of a subtle and malevolent intelligence, which purported to free Lucan from his bindings, only to enslave him again for its own ends. For the sword was once possessed by Kedran d’Cannith, and came to self-awareness as a result of experiments by him on components of the so-called Xulo Pattern, and desires nothing more than to see the Pattern completed.

To that end, the blade compelled Lucan to slay its guardians and flee with it toward a place, known to the sword, where Kedran hid several fragments of the Pattern. Before doing so, he planted false evidence that he was only one among a number of traitors within the Lanters. He has left behind shocked and puzzled colleagues, and is hunted by the Emerald Claw, agents of the Lord of Blades who are also seeking the Pattern, and the agents of rival intelligence agencies who see his defection as an opportunity to ply him for Breland’s secrets.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Fri May 05, 2017 4:46 am

PART 1 – JOB OFFER

Delete this entire Part and replace it with the following:

The adventure is assumed to begin in Sharn, some time after the events of Shadows of the Last War. The party is being watched by Viorr Maelak, who is looking for an opportunity to speak with them unobserved. They are also being watched by a party of warforged allied with the Lord of Blades, who are looking for an opportunity to gain intelligence about the whereabouts of the schema.

There is a good chance that Maelak and the Warforged will have become aware of each other. Each will try to make contact with the PCs without the presence of the other. If the PCs are running errands through the city, have this happen at an appropriate location; since both factions are looking for similar conditions, it is entirely possible that the Warforged will attack the PCs and Maelak will enter the fray to help them out. Otherwise, if the PCs are sticking close to their home base, have the factions force the issue there, or at any other place they frequent.

Maelak is willing to enter a tavern or other public place to make initial contact, but will be cautious about where he is before providing classified information. He will also advise the party of their Warforged tail if he knows of it. If the PCs are skeptical of Maelak’s credentials or authority he is willing to meet with them at the Citadel, ostensibly in relation to some other case he is working on.

The Warforged will enter any public place where they will not stand out too much, but will not attack. They are, however, prepared to invade the PCs’ rooms if no other opportunity presents itself.

Viorr Maelak

Viorr Maelak is a captain in the Dark Lanterns, with all that implies. Earnest but measured, he is fiercely loyal to Breland, and troubled by Lucan’s apparent defection. He wishes to hire the PCs to retrieve Lucan and the soul blade because he is concerned that others within the Lanterns may be aiding Lucan.

Maelak knows he must brief the PCs somewhat but is reluctant to provide information that may compromise the Dark Lanterns or its reputation. The information he knows is stated below. Information that is stated in bold he will freely provide; information that is stated in normal type he will provide only with some persuasion; and information stated in italics he is unlikely to provide unless the PCs are very persuasive or he has a very good reason for doing so.

* Lucan Stelos is, or was, a respected agent of the Dark Lanterns
* Lucan disappeared two days ago

* Lucan worked in counterintelligence, gaining the trust of enemy agents, finding out who they worked for, and exposing spy networks
* Lucan is trained in disguise and techniques of stealth and evasion.
* There is also reason to believe that Lucan’s abilities have been augmented in some way, but Maelak is not certain how. They do know that he was able to command an otherwise loyal agent to assist him, he shrugged off attacks that should have brought him down, and was able to scale walls with unnatural skill.
* At the same time as his disappearance, a powerful magic item called the “soul blade” was stolen
from a compound in the Citadel.
* There is reason to believe that Lucan took the weapon.
* Lucan was privy to many of Breland’s secrets. Now that he is in the wind, it is likely that other intelligence agencies will try to scoop him up.

* There is evidence that Lucan wasn’t working alone, and that there may still be traitors in the Dark Lanterns. Lucan may have planted the evidence to hamper pursuit by creating just this uncertainty, but Maelak cannot take that chance. He is very reluctant to reveal this information, and if asked why he isn’t using his own agents he will simply say that he has no agents available at this time.
* He wants Lucan alive so he can determine who Lucan is working for and what he has told them. He also wants to know what Lucan knows about any other traitors, if they exist.
* Lucan attempted to destroy all of his personal papers, but a fragment survived with the word “krell” on it
* Neya ir’Krell is an Aundairan diplomat and possible intelligence operative. She and Lucan have had contact in the past.
* Neya ir’Krell is known to be in Trolanport, Zilargo.
* Lucan was last seen leaving by black coach via the eastern gate, on the road to Zilargo
* Lucan also has a sister, Grilsha, in Sharn, who has also gone missing.

* Any member of any group that carries on intelligence or clandestine activities could by Lucan’s enemy or ally.
* The soul blade is a longsword, with a spit tip and jagged edge in the hobgoblin style, with a large ruby in the pommel. It radiates a powerful evil, and the mages studying it did so while exercising extreme caution. The party would be wise to take precautions when handling it.

Maelak has the following resources available to help the PCs:

* he will pay 2000 gp each to return Lucan alive, plus 500 gp each for the return of the sword (or an amount appropriate to the game system if you are not playing 3.5)
* he will provide letters of credit for Houses Orien and Lyrandar to be used for securing transportation
* House Vadalis will provide magebred horses and remounts, where available
* he can give them travel papers identifying them as working for the King of Breland and allowing them to cross any international borders
* He can provide false identification papers for anyone who would have problems if identified by any other government in the Five Nations
* He can be contacted directly at a Sivis message station by speaking stone, which messages will be delivered directly to the Citadel. Messages to the Citadel are delivered without charge to the PCs. Note that messages by speaking stone travel at a rate of 1 mile per minute. It is about 750 miles to Trolanport on the 3e map, or 500 miles on the 4e map, so messages take 12.5 or 8 hours, depending on edition.

The Lord of Blades Warforged

The warforged working for the Lord of Blades are led by a warforged rogue named Kukri. Kukri is a stealth model of warforged, trained as a rogue. She has a visceral hatred of the common races, but is disciplined enough to be able to conceal it (having no facial expressions helps) and to make rational decisions despite it. Kukri is skilled in interrogation techniques, and plans to subdue and capture one or more of the PCs to determine what they know about the schema, and the location of the schema and Elaydren d’Cannith.

Kukri is aided in this by a corps of warforged scouts. They have more than one goal in the city, so not all will be deployed to target the PCs, but they will increase the number available if Maelak is detected and they expect him to be present when they attack.

In addition, the Warforged have an agent within Cannith South. A warforged working for someone high in the house is sympathetic to the Lord of Blades and leaks information to his agents. They do not currently have access to information regarding Elaydren, but other information learned by Cannith South will be in the hands of the Warforged within a few days.

If an attack goes against them, Kukri will flee rather than be destroyed. If Kukri survives the warforged scouts will continue to tail the party but will not engage, and will note if the party leaves the city. If Kukri dies the cell will fall into disarray until another leader can be assigned, and the departure from the city will go unnoticed.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Wed May 10, 2017 12:51 am

GM Advice for Running this Part

Where the PCs encounter Maelak and/or the Warforged depend on the PCs’ activities. You should have enough information above to determine when and where the PCs will likely encounter each. Both Maelak and Kukri should be played intelligently in accordance with their objectives and the information available to them – including whether or not they are aware of each other’s presence.

If the PCs are spending a lot of time on bridges the Warforged are not above hijacking a skycoach and trying to kidnap a PC by forcing him or her onto it. The bridges from the outer districts to Central are long without a lot of places to run and hide; warforged on soarsleds can land on either side of the PCs to block them in, and a skycoach can pull up like a black SUV or panel van.

If the Warforged succeed in kidnapping one or more PCs, then your players get a bonus side-trek while they try to escape/rescue their colleagues.

You are going to have to come up with statistics for Maelak and Kukri. Remember if Kukri is aware of Maelak’s presence and the likelihood that he will support the PCs, Kukri will pad the warforged strike force with forces to compensate. If the game system you are running has any level appropriate constructs that can fly, assume Kukri deploys them to scout or join in any attack; the PCs are in Sharn, any activities should have the flavour of Sharn, and if the PCs are not prepared to deal with flying creatures they have no one to blame but themselves.

Getting out of the City

Once the PCs have agreed to work with Maelak they can make whatever arrangements they need for supplies and transportation, whether or not the Warforged encounter has happened yet. They may also want to do their own research, including viewing Lucan’s and Grilsha’s living quarters. Let them do this, but allow Lucan to gain more distance on them the longer they delay.

Lucan’s quarters are a spartan one bedroom studio apartment with a small hearth for cooking. It includes what appears to be an empty picture frame (which is actually an empty mirror frame); careful searchers can find a shard of broken mirror beneath it.

Grilsha’s quarters are a more richly appointed one bedroom apartment with a small kitchen and breakfast nook. A number of formal gowns have been tossed onto the bed, and formal shoes are scattered near the bedroom closet. An amulet of freedom from domination (which I just made up; use an existing magic item if you can think of one) will be found hanging on her vanity’s mirror.

If the PCs talk to any of their Cannith allies about the soul blade, or do the appropriate research, they will find that it once belonged to Kedran d’Cannith. Inquiries about Lucan don’t turn up much, but if the PCs ask the right people they may find that they are not the only ones looking for him, and that one of the people inquiring had a tattoo of a green claw half hidden by his shirt cuff.

The three obvious routes of following Lucan are by airship (which takes ___ days to get to Trolanport), by magebred horse (which takes ___ days, assuming an animal bred for speed), elemental galleon (which takes __ days), or sailing vessel (which takes ___ days).

Garrow and the Jade’s Fury are moored at the Lyrandar Airship Docking Tower. If Garrow met the PCs in Shadows of the Last War he will recognize them, although they will likely not recognize him in his new guise. If the PCs take an airship, he will follow; otherwise he will leave a day later after he has resupplied.

One or more of the Warforged will try to follow and catch the PCs if they travel overland, and will try to book passage on the same ship as the PCs if they take an airship or water vessel. The PCs may lose them, but if more than 4 hours pass since the PCs lost the Warforged, the warforged will post two scouts at each of the main docks and Lyrandar Tower (in which case one will book passage and the other report to Kukri), and at Wroann’s Gate (in which case they will follow but will be a few hours behind as the scout will have to report in. A warforged who books passage with the PCs will not initiate any contact with them, but will report back via Sivis message station once they get to Trolanport.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Sat May 27, 2017 1:54 am

PART 2 – TROLANPORT MASQUERADE

Ignore the random encounters table in the original adventure.

If the party travels by sea it has no encounters. If it travels by airship, and the PCs are spotted by Garrow, he may send a raiding party in the first day (but will not ram the PCs’ vessel), but thereafter he falls behind because he has only one Lyrandar pilot, who can’t run the vessel for more than 12 hours per day.

If the party travels overland, it may have an encounter with Warforged if the warforged catch up to them (although the warforged will only have ordinary horses), and it may have an encounter with Lucan if the party can catch up to him.

Road Battle

This will take place it the PCs catch up to Lucan. Do not give Lucan bad luck to force this to happen; if the PCs are going to catch up they need to do it according to their own plan. Assuming this occurs on the road, the soul blade will attempt to force Lucan to use the strategy set out in the original adventure. However, the PCs should be allowed to spot and follow him if the circumstances and player choices allow it.

The PCs will also note that Lucan’s movements appear erratic whenever he tries to act against the blade’s wishes (such as abandoning his sister). The domination will end if Lucan is ever separated from the blade, but the new possessor will have to contend with

Since Lucan is a potential ally of the PCs, his level should be downgraded to make him equivalent to the PCs.

Capturing Lucan

If the PCs have forgotten that their orders are to bring Lucan in alive, Lucan will have guessed as much and will remind them. Moreover, Grilsha will have figured out by now that he is being controlled, and will use that information to plead for Lucan’s life if possible.

When Lucan is separated from the soul blade the domination by the blade will end, but the control by the person who made him a vampire will kick in, and he will plot to retake the blade and return it to the Emerald Claw.

This probably will not look much different to the PCs than control by the blade, and Grilsha will certainly know that he is still controlled. She will mention the amulet of freedom from domination which she left on the mirror, which she purchased for Lucan but was unable to force upon him; she will ask the PCs to do so if they have it.

If freed from any influence, Lucan will be anxious to return to the Citadel to report on the Emerald Claw plans. He will tell the PCs that he knows the Emerald Claw’s plan and must report immediately, but will not confide in them unless they convince him they are working for the Citadel and can be trusted. If they do convince him to trust him, he change tactics and insist that they all go on to Trolanport together.

If Lucan is returned to the Citadel he will be debriefed and after a delay the party will be sent to Trolanport without him.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Vaelorn » Mon Jul 03, 2017 7:21 pm

This is really good stuff! Any ideas for the rest of the adventure?
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Wed Jul 05, 2017 12:46 pm

Yes, I had something really ambitious planned for the Trolanport portion but I haven't had time to work on it. I'm probably going to scale it back a bit or I'll never get it done. It will include, at least, a fairly substantial NPC roster and at least a couple of new locations.

I really dislike that in the original the DM is supposed to make up some investigative stuff that actually has no impact on the game other than to find the existence of the masquerade ball, so I want to have a couple of options for figuring out ways to get into the ball, or even contact people outside of the ball. So I want to provide connections to security and the catering company, and maybe to get information on some guests. I figure the owner of the inn where they are staying, the tailor where they will get their formal outfits, and other vendors who sell masks, jewelry, etc. are good entry points.

Its also intrigue in Zilargo, so I want to include at least one element related to the Trust and Zil culture.

The PCs also need a reason to approach Neya even if the Lucan plot has resolved itself, so I am going to make her a scholar with knowledge that points them toward the ziggurat at the end of the adventure. Its a chokepoint, so I need a few options for leveraging information from her or other ways for them to potentially get the information. I should probably also think about what happens if the PCs fail the adventure.
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Big Mac » Sun Oct 08, 2017 5:27 pm

I really like that you are doing this.

I've added a link to this topic from the Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade article on The Book-House on The Piazza.

How is that Trolanport stuff going? Are you still inventing new locations or looking at ways to cut things back?

Have you had ideas about what to do with the investigation stuff that leads to the masquerade ball yet? I like your idea of parallel paths, but figure it would also be good to let people that do investigation stuff have their time in the spotlight. Have you found a way to make it more involved with other parts of the story?
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Re: Revising Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade

Postby Beoric » Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:04 am

I figure at a minimum Trolanport needs a Golden Dragon Inn, an upscale inn, a tailor where they can get appropriate clothing for the ball, a jeweler where they can get masks (and jewelry if they wish), and a lightning rail station. The published adventure already has an airship docking tower. As is my ordinary practice, I will also set up all of the businesses adventurer's normally frequent. Then I will set up connections among the various proprietors - I have a spreadsheet that makes suggestions of this sort, I think I have discussed it in a different thread.

The standard businesses will have rumors/hooks pointing to the key locations and about the ball. The people at the key locations will have connections to the party goers, with the possibility of some interaction with the partygoers before the ball; as well as connections to the caterers and security, and leads to score invitations. So, lots of ways to try to get into the ball.

Off the top of my head, the proprietor of the Golden Dragon Inn will know about the ball; be able to refer the party to the tailor and jeweler; and have connections to the security as well as more shady connections if the party decides to go that route; also, a bard in the attached tavern will complain that the auditions for the band at the ball were rigged. The maitre'd at the upscale place will also be able to connect the party with the tailor and jeweler, and will have more information about the ball; the chef is also catering the event; and some of the guests of the inn are attending. The jeweler might be induced to hint at who he made masks for, and what the masks are. The tailor can give information leading to contact with some partygoers before the party, but only if the party does him a "small favour" - which ends up embroiling them in a dispute with his neighbor, gnome style.

The major partygoers will all have agendas, some of which can be met at the ball by the PCs, which helps the PCs win influence, figure out who is who, and get the information they need - identifying Lucan if that hasn't already been dealt with, learning that Lucan and/or the LoB are searching for Kedran's schema, and learning their likely destination.

Cannith will have a presence, and if they learn of the party's involvement with the Soul Blade they will want it and any of Kedran's other artefacts recovered on behalf of the House. That should create a nice conflict with the party's orders from the Citadel. Information learned by Cannith will eventually leak to the LoB, resulting in encounters with warforged on the road.

Ir'Kell is much more likely to help if Lucan is there, but if Lucan is there both Aundairan agents and Trust agents will try to capture him, and to prevent the other from capturing him. The Aundairans will try to take him quietly at the embassy, while the Trust will try to take him on the walk home. The Aundairan agents will also try to prevent ir'Kell from contacting him.
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