Thursday, July 23, 2015

D&D: Expanding Mordecai’s Monster

The Mystery of Mordecai’s Monster” is finally out from ENWorld’s EN5ider magazine.  That’s awesome, of course, and I’m super-pleased with the way that the adventure came out.  In its final form, “Mordecai’s Monster” is a svelte done-in-one (or maybe two) adventure that GMs can run for their groups without an over-long commitment to the storyline.  I like that.  Writing it that way was a serious challenge for me, and I’ve got to give a lot of credit to En5ider’s editor James Haeck for helping smooth out some of the rough edges.

"The Mystery of Mordecai's Monster" from EN5ider,
available on Patreon.
My natural tendency is to write longer form stuff.  By force of habit, I tend to embed future story hooks into my storytelling, and I did that with a lot of the stuff for “Mordecai’s Monster” as well, though most of the purely excess story-stuff wound up getting cut, both to preserve economy of space and to keep the damned narrative on track.  The purpose of this post, then, is to show would-be GM’s how to expand “Mordecai’s Monster,” either to make the adventure a little longer or just to show how the adventure’s setting, the village of Caer Lucan, fits into a larger world.  You don’t have to use any of this, obviously, but if you’re interested, here’s some of what go left behind.

The Shipwreck.  In its final form, “Mordecai’s Monster” doesn’t spend much time dwelling on how or why the PCs find themselves in Caer Lucan.  As written, it’s sort of assumed that the party is there on a mercenary contract, but when I ran this for my actual gaming group, I had them on a ship bound elsewhere when their ship gets wrecked by a storm.  They washed ashore in the woods about ten miles south of Caer Lucan and were immediately attacked by the orcs from the first encounter.  This gave them a vested interest in the mystery from the first moments of the campaign.
Copy blurb for the adventure.
The Elves of Mirror House.  Only a little bit of Caer Lucan’s racial tensions survived into the final draft of the “Mordecai’s Monster.”  In my home game, the animosity between the baron and the dwarves was much more pronounced, and I exacerbated these tensions by adding an elf house called Mirror House to the hinterlands outside Caer Lucan.  In my home game, neither the elves nor the dwarves care much for the human governmental structure around Caer Lucan—or in the Kingdom of the Western Isles in general.  Neither the elves of Mirror House nor the local dwarves consider themselves subject to human laws, and neither thought the baron was a particularly effectual leader.
James seemed to like this plotline, but it’s ultimately irrelevant to the story.  The dwarves were cut from a clan to a couple, and the elves never made it into my draft at all.  If you decide to use the elves of Mirror House, my recommendation is to use their bodies first.  Have the party stumble across the corpses of an elf patrol, and then let the players bring it up in conversation with the baron.
Evans’ Fiancé. I brought a player into our group a few weeks after we’d started playing, and by way of introducing her, I made her Evan’s fiancé.  She decided that her character was a half-elf named Chloe, the bastard daughter of a noble of Mirror House and one of the more prominent human women in Caer Lucan.  According to the player’s bio, Chloe’s birth nearly started a war between Mirror House and Caer Lucan, but now the baron hopes to use her existence as a means of making peace between his village and the elves.  How?  By marrying her to his son.
This hook worked brilliantly.  If you need an NPC for whatever reason in your game, I highly suggest adding Chloe to the adventure.
Undead Orcs.   Much is made in the adventure of the Monster’s experiments with orcs, goblins, ogres, and other monsters.  I would have expanded this theme given more space, but as it was, we only see these experiments a couple of times.  The one encounter that I really wanted to add but couldn’t was a mixed party of orcs and undead orcs, with a Wisdom (Insight) check revealing the living orcs’ revulsion at working with the bodies of their undead kin.  
If you decide to use the orcs from the first encounter before the PCs reach the village—as I did—then you’ll have the space to add this encounter into the space where I currently have the first encounter.  Note that this added encounter doesn’t need to be hard.  It serves merely to add a layer to the rest of the unsettling nonsense that occurs later.
Takaziel’s minions.  Takaziel is an aquatic creature.  This was done by choice because of the proximity of her lair to the open sea.  I considered giving her some servants, either merfolk or sea elves or something like that but ultimately decided that it wasn’t relevant to the story at hand.  However, if you plan to use her again, it might make sense to given her some minions.
Lilith by John Connor.
A classical take on the
succubus archetype
Looting the shipwreck.  In the adventure, Takaziel doesn’t offer the PCs much.  However, if you shipwrecked the PCs, then you can use her aquatic nature to your advantage.  Have her offer to help the party recover its gear from the bottom of the ocean.  My plan was to follow up “Mordecai’s Monster” with an aquatic adventure based entirely around this idea, but I’ve not gotten around to it yet.
The Succubus.  There was supposed to be a succubus trapped in a summoning circle in the depths of the Monster’s lair.  The idea was that the succubus was tempting the Monster even as the Monster was taunting the party.  I flat ran out of space, unfortunately.  I realized that she wasn’t going to fit when I was doing my initial outline and cut her before figuring out whether she was going to break out in the middle of the final battle or serve as some kind of infernal NPC to lay hooks for a follow-on story.  My preference would be the later—obvious—but it kind of depends on what you have going on in your campaign.  If you don’t use the thing with Takaziel and the shipwreck, but you do want to continue the story, I recommend adding a succubus and some kind of infernal cult in and around Caer Lucan.
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