Age of Worms: Another Path

The only time I ran Age of Worms even mostly by the book was the first time. I ran it using 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, in Eberron, and referenced the Age of Worms Overload document to place locations and add a few extra touches to make it more Eberron-y.

I've tried running the adventure path a lot over the following years. Mostly in 4th Edition, one other time in 3rd Edition, and another time in Dungeon World. Each time I made additional tweaks, but in every case it petered out sometime during the first or second adventure.

The FrankenFourth playtest has been my second longest Age of Worms campaign (after the first): if we can get through A Gathering of Winds we'll be right where we were the first time.

I'd intended to use it as a way to easily playtest a very longterm campaign, without me having to keep planning and writing adventures while simultaneously doing a bunch of other writing and design, but there were times where I just couldn't help myself.

While reading A Gathering of Winds I made some pretty drastic changes (including putting the tomb on the Elemental Plane of Air), and it made me go back and think about changing the other adventures to follow suit.

So, in case you're considering running or re-running Age of Worms, or just want some rough adventure ideas, here's a broad strokes rundown of how I'd change everything if I were to do it all over again (and who knows I might).

The Whispering Cairn
Here the players explore the tomb of a wind duke that was constructed on the Prime Material Plane because that's just how they rolled: you were buried where you died. The party has to solve a colored lantern puzzle to gain access to the real tomb, help out a ghost boy, deal with a necromancer (and maybe find a Kyuss worm), and then find some old horns and other loot.

How I'd Change It
I'd put almost the entire wind duke tomb on the Elemental Plane of Air since it's one of the more survivable planes anyway. Instead of a map pointing out directions to a tomb that hasn't somehow been completely cleaned out (seriously, no one else figured out the puzzle or talked to the ghost kid?), the players use a ritual scroll to open a gate and gain access.

(Ritual scrolls in FrankenFourth can be used by anyone, and don't crumble when used, so party composition is irrelevant and they can come and go as they please.)

The part of the tomb on the prime material would be more like a mausoleum: just a room or two with maybe a monument indicating where and when Icosiel was slain. The players would use the ritual to open a gate, and then they're off to another plane of existence! Just imagine that: 1st-level and you're already on another world, scouring a floating sky tomb for wind duke loot.

I wouldn't even bother with the ghost kid and necromancer subplot. At least not in this adventure.

I'm thinking that instead of the generic forces of chaos, that the wind dukes could have fought the armies of Pazuzu (also Humbaba?). Or, fuck it, why not have them wipe out an ancient Kyuss cult looong ago? I forget how old Kyuss is, but maybe there was an entity before Kyuss that originally started all this worm stuff, and after being defeated by the Wind Dukes Kyuss could have tried doing something similar somewhere else (wherever The Spire of Long Shadows takes place).

That would sow the seeds for the cult of Kyuss early on: instead of the party finding a green worm near the end in the necromancer's lair, they could find preserved worms, various trophies from the Kyuss cult, see bas-reliefs of the Wind Dukes fighting undead and giant worms, and even impaling Kyuss with the rod of seven parts (foreshadowing its possible discovery and use in the last adventure).

As for Allustan, the players would need to go to him a few times so he can translate various runes, give them rituals to access other parts of the temple, teach them songs that they gotta play on wind instruments to open doors/create wind gusts so they can fly to other parts of the tomb, etc.

Three Faces of Evil
This adventure has the PCs going into an underground temple to face off against a cult that worships three different evil gods that they're trying to merge for some reason. The party goes down there, kills everyone, ends up fighting a conveniently weak merged-god-thing, and get some tangential bit of knowledge about the Age of Worms.

How I'd Change It
If I opted to have the Wind Dukes fight Pazuzu and Humbaba, that's who these cults worship. At least then the kenku would make more sense.

But, really, I'm not a fan of the Ebon Triad angle at all, so I'd scrap it and have the miners dig up an ancient temple of Kyuss. Imagine it being filled with worm eggs or jars, rotting corpses that used to be Kyuss zombies that eventually died, giving the whole thing an Alien vibe. Hell, that could be the main threat of the adventure: they end up letting a Kyuss zombie loose, and they gotta sneak around and escape the temple before it gets them and turns them into worm zombies, too.

(Ooor, go with Resident Evil: some worms or worm zombies escaped, and now the whole place is infested by them.)

At any rate the party would stumble on a chamber filled with worm eggs, and have to burn them all to avoid them hatching into a shitload of new worms.

Ragnolin Dourstone could still be working with the cult. Actually, dwarves live a long time, so he's been in the Kyuss cult for quite some time: he purchased the mine specifically so they could dig up the temple and get things rolling. After all, Diamond Lake is a shitty place to live, and a lot of criminals are forced to work there: no one's going to miss a handful of miners that end up getting sacrificed (or turned into Kyuss zombies).

Encounter at Blackwall Keep
Ideally at this point the players go to Allustan with their Age of Worms swag, and he suggests going over to a place called Blackwall Keep because he totally knows a guy that knows about the Age of Worms. Unfortunately when you get there it's being attacked by lizardmen, who have also kidnapped the person who knows Age of Worms stuff, and you gotta go on a rescue mission.

In the end you end up finding a worm-filled egg, and hopefully save the lizardmen babies and are kind of chummy with them, but the person you rescue doesn't really know all that much so then you gotta go to the "Free City" and talk to another guy that deeefinitely knows stuff about the Age of Worms.

How I'd Change It
When I ran this in Eberron, Blackwall Keep wasn't really near anything, so I'd have the Keep actually get overrun, and soldiers show up at Diamond Lake to requisition more soldiers to help try and take it back. But, one or more soldiers is infected by Kyuss worms, and ends up transforming in the town.

Since Allustan is so big on these Wind Duke tombs, he's also picked up a bit of knowledge about the Age of Worms, and if the players have gone to him at all (which they should have), they might have learned about both, making them the best suited at dealing with the zombies (maybe Allustan and a character with alchemy work out some sort of worm cure/suppression potion).

The characters help deal with the zombie invasion, and are then asked to help out the soldiers at the Keep. They go to the tower, find it overrun with lizardmen, and help retake it (or the lizardmen just chucked in jars filled with Kyuss worms, so whatever soldiers are in the keep are worm zombies now, or the worms grew in size and are now more like giant snakes that try and swallow you). If there are lizardmen there and the PCs lose, they get captured and brought to the lizardmen lair.

The lizardmen lair would be built in and around a ruined Kyuss temple, which is where the lizardmen learned how to create the worms themselves: you could have prison cells or pits filled with Kyuss zombies and worms. Maybe a high priest of Kyuss is also there, and he's in control of the tribe now: the attack on the tower were merely a way for them to test their new worms (which grow in size instead of dying off), see how they perform.

The Hall of Harsh Reflections
Party goes here to talk to Eligos, who doesn't actually know about the Age of Worms but will look into it. In the meantime the players get framed for murder, are arrested, and then have to escape from doppelganger jail. Somehow during the escape they end up going into the sewers and find a mind flayer lair, where they find a message or something that lets them know that someone named Raknian wants them dead.

(I actually forget if or how the players are exonerated for the murder, and later get into the Champion's Games without getting arrested all over again.)

How I'd Change It
Since there's a big library in the city, Allustan suggests going there to try and dig up whatever they can on the Age of Worms. The good books require a certain level of social standing or membership to get access to, so they end up having to visit Eligos who will do their research for them (maybe Allustan has to go with them in order to vouch for them/impress upon Eligos the severity of all the bad shit going down).

I'd scatter a bunch of worm eggs about the city, so when the PCs are exploring them in search of the mind flayer's lair they stumble across at least one. Could also have swarms of worm-infested undead rats and/or hobos (what about a wererat-turned-Kyuss-zombie?). You could have the city essentially suffering from a Kyuss worm plague, with parts of the city closed off, everyone on edge and some people even leaving.

Rather than a convenient paper trail linking things to Raknian trying to have the PCs specifically assassinated, they just learn from interrogating a cultist, or maybe following cultists trucking worm-eggs around, cultists abducting people and bringing them to the arena, or that mind flayer mind clone thing that something is going on in the arena.

The Champion's Belt
Thanks to the mind flayer being very organized, the party knows that Raknian wants them dead, and so they enter the Champion's Games to...I dunno, fight Raknian?

But, between fights the party hopefully explores the place, and eventually finds a giant worm monster that isn't a Kyuss worm but something pretty close that barfs up zombies. The whole point of this is that Raknian is trying to complete a ritual that requires the worm-thing to eat a warrior and that will turn him into a death knight.

Why he doesn't just drug Auric (or some other warrior) and feed him to the damned worm thing is beyond me.

How I'd Change It
With so many people in the city dying and coming back as undead, everyone is looking for a way to even momentarily forget how shitty life is, so of course they'd flock to the arena. I figure the party could be sponsored by Eligos, but Eligos could have Ekaym still do it, and you can still do the missing sister investigation.

Here, the players don't immediately suspect Raknian, and Raknian doesn't know who they are (unless they did a bunch of stuff to make him notice them), so they can join the games without Raknian doing what he really should have done, which is to have the PCs gutted in their sleep and told everyone that they chickened out or whatever and got disqualified (or feed them all to the worm thing because, hey, who knows, maybe he'll get death knight powers right away).

Of course, the sewers could also connect to underneath the arena (it'd be how cultists are taking worm eggs and planting them throughout the city), so the PCs could just as easily skip doing all the fights and just infiltrate it.

The party explores under the arena to find an actual giant fucking Kyuss worm. Like, the ones on the Wayne Reynolds Age of Worms poster:

So the party can deal with that and get a taste of what's to come in The Spire of Long Shadows. Raknian wants to be immortal, even if that means becoming an intelligent, free-willed Kyuss zombie creature, and the only way to do that is offer up a bunch of sacrifices to the giant worm.

Now, since the city has already seen a bunch of Kyuss zombies and worms, people have died, parts have been quarantined, and so on, when this thing bursts out of the ground and starts eating everyone (especially if Raknian is all excitedly shouting at it to eat Auric), the whole audience is going to know something is up, forcing Raknian to flee the city in a hurry.

I'll post about A Gathering of Winds after we've finished it. Since I'm running and changing it now I'll be able to go into much more detail, similar to what I did with The Hall of Harsh Reflections.

If you're curious about FrankenFourth and/or Dungeons & Delvers, you can find public alpha documents here and here respectively.

Dungeons & Delvers is also on Kickstarter now: check it out, and if it looks like something you'd enjoy give it some support!

The Rogue is our latest alternate-addition to the Dungeon World core class roster. If you want something different and/or more flexible than the thief, be sure to check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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