After a hiatus of more than a year and a half, my regular Wednesday night RPG group is returning to the campaign world in which they spent almost five years adventuring. During that time, they explored at least three mega-dungeons (depending on your criteria), had substantive interactions with nearly one thousand NPCs, thwarted at least four intricate conspiracies involving criminal enteprises and antagonistic polities, and finished things off by traveling to space where they defeated an ancient AI before it could open a stargate to unleash an armada of resource-hungry space dwarves. It would be accurate to say that I feel a bit of pressure to deliver an experience worthy of that legacy.
Fortunately, a combination of the choices made at the end of the previous campaign and in my work preparing for this continuation should help these new adventures feel like their own story rather than some kind of nostalgic echo of an epic that had reached its natural conclusion:
- Within the campaign, the players’ solution to the main threat against their world — that AI-controlled space station and the imminent invasion by space dwarves — introduced a new problem on the same scale that is clearly their characters’ fault. To summarize quickly, the sentient sword that they carried for hundreds of sessions manipulated them into replacing the dwarven AI with Asmodeus, Lord of the DVLs (Dedicated Virtual Lifeforms). Asmodeus then preceded to use the stargate to open a portal to hell and unleash his hordes. Meanwhile, since DVLs powered just about all known magic, spells and enchanted items ceased functioning. The last decision the players made was to begin a search for an alternate source of magic to combat the evil their actions had brought into the world.
- Outside the campaign, I decided that it would be interesting to try the B/X rules as reformulated in the Old School Essentials publications in place of the original campaign’s AD&D 1E ruleset. All the existing player characters were converted to the new system.
These two factors mean that this new campaign should be able to manage a full reset in terms of both content and form without losing the player buy-in established during their previous exploits. There’s obviously a clear goal to inspire and focus the returning characters — to fix what they broke — but there’s no obvious solution to that problem that would throttle player agency. Meanwhile, the sudden change to the in-game rules of the campaign world is echoed by the exterior ruleset change: the loss of magic is reinforced by the decrease in the power-level represented by the move from AD&D to B/X — it’s a brave new world in both realms!
Tonight is the first session of this new campaign, so it will be clear very soon if these factors help with the transition back into the Curabel campaign setting. For those interested in following these new adventures, check out the background documents on my campaign wiki — soon to be joined, I hope, by session summaries written by my players.