D&D Campaign: Alternate Solutions

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jan 16, 2007

Filed under: D&D Campaign 19 comments

I designed the Mordan quest to have multiple possible solutions. Here are the ones I had in mind, and the ones suggested by others, along with my own thoughts on how well they would have worked, and what would have happened.

The players could locate and release Fiore, and use her prison on the orb, then kill Mordan in battle.

This is the best outcome, but it was the most complicated. Pat (Eomer) was convinced that Mordan’s followers were using the Mages Archives as a base, so he made it a priority to get there, which involved freeing Garret. This led them to the best outcome.

If they had not been so set on finding the Archives, then another solution would have presented itself…

Re-set Mordan’s original Prison

It was possible to sneak back into Mordan’s tomb and re-affix the orb to his casket and re-set the chains. Mordan was afraid of going back in there, and didn’t want to mess with the prison until he had the orb back. Without looking at the orb, there was no way for him to know how the trap worked. So, he had simply posted some of his (still human) followers around the site, with plans to come back and destroy the place once he reclaimed the orb.

Once the orb was in place, they players would have needed to put Mordan down. This would have been harder than in solution #1, since the orb wasn’t in a magic-proof box. It was still radiating power, and so Modan would have been more than a match for the players. They would have needed the direct or indirect help of Sagemaster or the Queen to put him down and return him to his prison.

Allow the orb to fall into Mordan’s hands again.

Bury it, trick someone else into taking it, or give it to Mordan in exchange for passage off the island. All of these would have led to the same outcome: Mordan would reclaim the Orb.

They could have dropped it into a deep chasam in the mountain. There was one such chasam in the mines that they didn’t explore. If they had dropped the orb in there, then caused a cave-in to seal it, it would have provided a temporary solution. It wouldn’t have defeated Mordan, but it might have kept him busy long enough for them to escape the island. They could also have done this by dropping the orb in the ocean, although they would have needed to be careful about getting there on a ship. (Remember the birds.)

The same is true for giving it to someone else. If they passed it off to some other sucker and then escaped the island, then Mordan would have tracked it down and killed the new owner.

In either case, they would certainly have gone back to Mar Talos to meet with Sagemaster, who would have given them a clear set of steps to take for solving the problem for good. Mordan would reclaim the orb from wherever they put it, and they would face the Lich King at full strength. He would have killed the queen and reclaimed the Citadel.

I would have needed to write a new campaign at this point, and invent some new way for the players to face him. Perhaps Sagemaster would have given them an artifact that would protect them from scrying and from being turned into gravewalkers. Using Skeeve’s description of the orb (remember that Skeeve had studied it in detail) then Sagemaster would come up with some new thing to add to the orb.

This would have been the classic quest: brave the wastelands, storm the dark tower and kill the Big Bad. It’s been done, but it would have worked.

The island and everyone on it would have been more or less wasted at that point. Ah well. Such is the life of an NPC.

What if they had gotten rid of the Orb without Skeeve studying it? They would have to be pretty irresponsible and apathetic to do that. I knew they wouldn’t. However, if I had a set of players who did chuck the orb without bothering to study it, then I would conclude that they just weren’t into the game. I’d let Mar Tesaro be destroyed, and we’d go play something else.

Destroy the orb.

Several people suggested Skeeve could get in a rowboat, go to the middle of the ocean, and destroy the orb.

There are a few flaws with this plan.

  1. Dan wasn’t really interested in throwing away his character. Which is understandable.
  2. Getting a hundred miles out to sea in a rowboat is no small feat. Maybe some magic might have helped.
  3. A hundred mile wide death spell is going to make a mess. Imagine every living thing in the sea dying. People make a big deal about the Exxon Valdez, but that only killed some wildlife which depended on the surface to live, and did so over a much, much smaller area. This would have been orders of magnitude larger than that, and it would have killed everything above and below the surface. It really would have been an ecological disaster. The ocean would have been filled with decaying fish, which would wash up on shore by the ton for months on end.
  4. The Orb was made of stone, and nobody had any idea how hard it would be to break. Even if they had a way around all of the previous problems, there was still the question of how to break it. Even if the person sacrificing themselves had access to heavy tools (say, a hammer, anvil, and maybe a vice of some sort) it wasn’t clear just how much strength would be needed to break it. Maybe it could only be broken using magic.

Still, if they managed to destory the orb it would have defeated Mordan.

For my own purposes, I was going to treat the the orb like a sphere of polished granite. Not indestructible, but not easily broken either.

Other solutions.

I would have accepted pretty much anything that made sense if they found a way around the various curses. My favorite solutions are the ones I never think of.


From The Archives:

19 thoughts on “D&D Campaign: Alternate Solutions

  1. SteveDJ says:

    Could you clarify one of those alternatives — if the players had dropped the orb into a deep chasm and caved it in (or the ocean, if they could’ve gotten it there), but then had defeated Mordan, what would have happened to Mordan when he reappeared at the location of the orb? Could he survive? Could he get out?

  2. Phlux says:

    Was re-imprisoning Mordan a sequel setup? Any chance of a reunion tour for the band of heroes?

    Maybe the spirit of Fiore felt pity on Mordan, having been trapped in her former prison, and believing that none should be imprisoned as she was, sets him free. Perhaps she was embittered by her captivity and sought a new revenge, or perhaps Mordan duped her into believing he was a good guy, wrongfully imprisoned, maybe she’s just a neutral spirit and was indiferent to his evilness. There’s a lot of ways that could go down.

    Or perhaps a whole new adventure is in store for the heroes, although I think that island still could have a lot in store for them. After cities were destroyed, new ones created, enemies and allies have been made. Revisiting that island could be a lot of fun, at least for those like me who enjoyed reading the first go-around.

  3. -Chipper says:

    Looking over earlier posts, I am now curious. The curse was lifted as soon as Fiore was freed. What if the players had scooped up some of the booty in the chamber w/ Fiore? The curse was lifted a short time later (less than an hour, I’m guessing), or they could have even grabbed a couple things just after the box was opened. Of course, they didn’t know that opening the box would end the curse, but they might have guessed. Would they have suffered any sort of ‘penalty’ for grabbing the loot? Would Fiore have not taken kindly to that act & moved against them as soon as she was free?

    I find it interesting that, in a sense, the biggest challenge they faced – Mordan – wasn’t really the most important from the point of view of the islanders: the curse was. And the players ended up dealing with that almost accidentally as a sidelight to dealing with Mordan.

    Great series, Shamus. Thanks again for posting the tale & including the background info in this last post. Thanks also to your players who added comments.


  4. Shamus says:

    Nope – there would have been no penalty for grabbing this loot once the curse was broken.

    To be fair – a lot of it was heavy (Dwarven Plate mail is famously dense) and it would have been a pain to haul all of it while running.

    Still, they could have grabbed some small items, but they played it safe. I gotta admire them for staying in character.

  5. Shamus says:

    Steve: Since a pile of rocks is non-magical, Mordan could just use magic to escape. There are dozens of ways to get out of a pile of rocks – becoming etherial, teleporting, blasting the crap out of them, and various other spells that do strange things to stone. So, burying the orb would have just pissed him off.

    Phlux: I think everyone is done with their characters for now. If I did do another campaign, I’d do our first one, where Skeeve, Enoch, Lucian, and Yoeg were all level 1. That was our favorite story by far. It was a much longer campaign, and would make an even better tale than this one did.

  6. Shamus says:

    To add to my previous comment: It’s not that I don’t want to play again. I’m still hoping we get a game together at some point. A couple of the guys work night shifts now, which conflicts with my schedule. Another player went off to college. Another one is getting married. Another is unavailable on Sunday, our usual day. Sigh.

    It’s just dang hard to get five adults together on a regular basis.

  7. David says:

    I know what you mean, Shamus. My group of four people (including myself) is very hard to get together. One of the guys is only available every other Saturday. The others randomly have plans on those days. The last time we got together was around Thanksgiving, and they didn’t even finish the short adventure they were running. Oh well, we’re finally playing this weekend and I’m considering doing what you’ve done here. I’ve just gotta remember to take good notes.

  8. Patrick says:

    Dude…. I am getting married. Which is exactly WHY you must write another campaign. I gotta have a reason to get the *@%#* outta the house, or I think I might develop a perforated cranium due to high impact, lead based bullets. If I have to listen to another discussion about colors, caterers and flower arrangements I might become unstable…or turn gay…. I’m not quite sure yet….

  9. Kassious says:

    Shamus, David, I’m pretty sure you might be able to find somebody around your areas who would love to play. Anyone in the Bay Area of Michigan? >>

  10. Tacoma says:

    There are relatively few people in Michigan. Try Florida.

  11. Trae says:

    My group actually plays online in a chat room. The room holds a script for dice rolling so there’s no possible way to fudge the dice (unless the DM rolls real ones for her sneaky DM roles). We don’t do much OOC talk, and we are always roleplaying our characters, instead of just saying what they’re doing. Which disappoints me just a little, because I can’t say “Lets loot everything not on fire!”. I have to act as my character would. Granted that we wouldn’t be able to loot it all anyway because we don’t have any Mega-Capacity Storage Devices. Hard to fit an armory into a few backpacks.

  12. Dimas says:

    I’m new to this site and I’m sorry for the 2 year late post on this, but I believe I found a great solution. Dwarves can craft explosives (Or at least my DM let mine do so), so you could wrap the orb in dynamite and fling it into another plane and close the gate. When the orb explodes and sets off the death spell why would the party care? They just solved the problem with few or no moral/retribution/suicidal/issues. I try to think of elaborate solutions like this because my DM always loved the way I found an easier than possible way around his puzzles while always staying in alignment and character. The only issue I’ve had recently is that I can find no DMs in South Carolina. D&D practically doesn’t exist here.

  13. kaladorn says:

    I run or play in several RPGs (D&D, Stargate SG-1, Wild Talents, and Chaosium’s Call of Cthulu) on and off over Skype. It isn’t as good as F2F, but with players scattered across 3 cities and now with young kids (and a new player or two in a different country!), F2F just isn’t as easy. Sometimes our F2F still involves Skype for some of the team.

    Also, KloogeWerks is worth checking out, if you want to do the map with fog-of-war thing. It does the die rolling thing and other stuff too. Like any tool, a bit of a learning curve.


    It’s not free, but the DM can buy a floating license pack for clients and this allows one DM to run muliple games with players who don’t need to pay for a license.

    My own D&D campaign currently comprises 2-4 sometimes active branches from the original game world. The original 2nd edition game was gamed in for … by 2010, 20 years. We’ve moved the new branches into 3.5 and I may move them into Pathfinder. I’ve seen in excess of 20 players and probably heading towards 40 characters in that time. I’m working up a special memorial patch for my players and hope one day to find a digital portrait artist to do a full fledged portrait of the full character panoply of the world.

    All in all, 20 good years with good friends.

  14. Boobah says:

    Dimas, I see some problems with your plan. First, I don’t get the impression that this is a Warcraft-esque high-fantasy with a dash of steampunk. Most don’t have explosives, except in the way of magic.

    A second, more important objection? These guys are only around level five. Generally speaking, you don’t have access to other planes by your own magic at that point. Even assuming these other planes exist in Shamus’s world.

    There’s a third objection, but it’s more of a meta thing: If it could’ve been safely destroyed on another plane, the most likely candidate for the job available to the players was the Sagemaster, and if he could’ve he’d’ve probably done that instead of merely imprisoning the lich during the backstory.

  15. Dimas says:

    Thank you Boobah for the constructive criticism. You’re right about the lack of planar travel spells at lower levels, I had not thought about that issue or the possible non-existence of the other planes. The explosives could still be possible though. Dwarves do enough mining in their everyday lives to eventually stumble across explosives. They tend to have a higher level of technology at their disposal than other races. As for Sagemaster, maybe he just wasn’t very creative back then. It’s very easy to miss such an idea when pressured with such an enormous task. Either that or I like the Harpell family from Forgotten Realms too much and must include a measure of insanity wherever I go. If you have any further issues, I will be willing to debate them further with you.

    1. Bryan says:

      Just one. I’m not sure flinging the orb into another plane would have been enough to save Skeeve (the owner) from the mass death spell, etc. which would still be centered on him.

  16. Moridin says:

    Getting it into another plane probably would’ve worked, though. Not as in blowing it up, as in giving it to(say) a solar to handle. Considering that this is a relatively low-level world where 5th level characters are considered pretty powerful, I doubt that Mordan(whose level was likely in early to mid teens) could’ve done much after that. Actually, they’d just needed to go to any of the upper planes and explained the issue to first being to come into sight. It would’ve eventually ended up in the hands of a being powerful enough to deal with the problem.

  17. thumper69 says:

    OK, question…Since they put the orb INSIDE the magic box, can’t Mordan reclaim ownership? This would return him to full power. The box was designed to hold a non-corporeal nature entity. Thus, Mordan’s nature being very different, he might be capable of escaping wards not designed to hold him.

    Also, my solution. Find a trustworthy NPC who is already dying. Create a magic hammer and chisel to destroy the orb. Place the orb in a vice, on a boat. Put the NPC on the boat. Have him accept ownership of the orb. Give him the items to destroy it, and a poison that will allow him time for 1 action after he drinks it. Use magic to speed him 100 miles out, with instructions to drink the poison and destroy the orb when the boat stops. Let’s face it, no rangers or druids in this crew, so they’re not likely to be thinking of oceanic ecology.

    1. Joe the Rat says:

      Good stuff, Shamus. Makes me miss the old days.

      Thumper: That depends on whether or not he’d have to reform first. Lich dies, all power returns to phylactery. Power from phylactery reforms body. The catch here is that Fiore’s prison keeps the phylactery from releasing power – and I doubt Mordan would have been as powerful in relation to the spirit of an flippin’ mountain to leak any juice – much less enough to reform a body. Even if he did reclaim ownership, he couldn’t form a body – all of his power is trapped in a magic-holding box, buried under a mountain. He’s not going anywhere. They’re just lucky it actually worked.

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