Game Day: Campaign’s End

Broken Land, my lunchtime D&D 5th edition campaign, is ending. Begin in 2015 and consisting of 25 1-hour episodes, the campaign is about to hit it’s finale.

It’s a strange sensation. I’ve run a lot of campaigns over the years, but there aren’t a lot of them that have had a true finale. Gone on hiatus? Yes. Absorbed into other campaigns? Yes. Slowly drifted away because of dwindling interest? Yes.

But ended? With a climatic confrontation between the protagonists and their long running antagonist? That’s a much rarer thing.

Broken Land replaced one of those long suffering hiatus campaigns, Blood and Oil (a Day After Ragnarok campaign). We’d just had some new players join the group and switching to a new game – with new rules – was a good way to start everyone off on the same foot.

At the time 5e was still new. I was running Obsidian Frontier, another 5e Greyhawk campaign and figured I’d save prep time running a second campaign in the same time and place. That helped for the first year or so but eventually they diverted the point where I was prepping for two campaigns with little crossover.

The seeds were planted for the campaign’s end.

The main storyline of Broken Land involved the necromancer Selchaine and her quest to find the Crystal Shards of Charax. These shards, the remains of a crystal skull used as a phylactery by the demilich Charax, promised to open a gateway to the undead-ruled Fading Land of Necros. The party’s mission was to stop her … or at least to reclaim the shards for themselves.

They and their “i’m not a necromancer” wizard Erdan had the Jawbone of Charax in their possession before it was stolen by Selchaine’s minions. The necromancer attempted to compel Erdan into becoming one her servants by forciably tearing out his eye and replacing it with a necrotic one that sent its vision to her. Erdan rebelled, ripping out the eye and living with the disability rather than serving the necromancer.

Now it’s all come down to a final confrontation between the surviving party members, led by Erdan, and the necromancer. They will meet in an ancient vault beneath Lightbringer Keep, where the Skullcap of Charax resides and where Selechaine seeks her final victory.

Plotting the End

I’ve found writing the final adventure for this campaign to be surprisingly hard, mostly because it is the end. I don’t need it to be Death Star-exploding conclusion, but I would like it to go out on a satisfying note. That’s a challenge with any campaign, but with my lunchtime it has to be done in an hour.

What I’ve settled on is the ending that would have happened if this had been the conclusion of just another chapter in campaign … but taken up a notch or three. Recent developments in the campaign contributed to this; we had one player character die in the previous session, and another decide she could not accompany the heroes in confronting (or perhaps joining forces with?) the necromancer.

As a result we have two new characters joining going into the final confrontation:

  • A cleric of Nerull and follower of the necromancer who has a last minute change of heart and turns against her mistress.
  • A paladin who’s banshee source was slain in a prior encounter

That makes things even more interesting than they would have otherwise been and — I suspect — would help make the final episode suitably climatic without any help from the Dungeon Master. For my part, my intention is to set up things so that both the PCs and the villain can achieve their goals … and let the dice fall where they may. Broken Land already has the highest PC death count of any 5th Edition game I’ve run; it would be entirely in keeping with the campaign for the villain to be triumphant while the player characters fade to black…

What Comes Next?

The campaign is ending but the game group is not. Our lunch time games will continue with Princes of the Apocalypse, the Temple of Elemental Evil-inspired adventure path for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. That, however, is a column for another game day.