I got my grubby hands on a copy of Scepter Tower of Spellgard lately – the first 4th edition Forgotten Realms published adventure – and I just finished reading it once. Our regular DM (go Steve!) asked if I wanted to check it out and give him a DM break for a few sessions.
Don’t worry about spoilers – there won’t be any spoilers at this point; any plot-critical info I divulge will be info that players get to know fast enough.
This is the first time I ever read a published adventure – besides the compact, combat-heavy, mini-scenarios that come with the DMG and the FR Campaign Books.
I’ve always presumed that published adventures were very linear… Turns out it ain’t that bad.
There are a few plot elements, but the adventure is not scripted as I would’ve expected. You’re given back story and justifications for why this and that stuff is there – the rest is up to you.
That was very pleasant.
So, Scepter Tower of Spellgard has your adventurers try and figure out a way to get a session with a ghostly oracle that can tell the future with unerring, obfuscated precision.
The prophecy is the great reward… and probably the greatest challenge to the most important question : « so what? ».
The rest of the scenario – I won’t get into much details in this post – is rather combat-heavy.
There are a few interactions here and there, but there are almost as many fights planned as there are rooms in the whole tower and surrounding environment.
That’s not a very role playing-friendly environment.
But – hey – you get an interesting premise, a few maps and a good chunk of encounters all prepared for you – that’s not too shabby!
All that’s left for me to do is plug that scenario into the campaign I want to build and prepare a few ways for the players to resolve the encounters through some other means than combat.
Now, back to that oracle thing.
Getting a prophecy – a.k.a. a hook to further adventures – as the only motivation to conclude an adventure doesn’t sound that exciting. Not nearly as exciting as acquiring this and that item, or saving children from a burning airship, isn’t it?
Well, I say it depends on how you prepare for it.
There’s a good tip in the adventure: ask your players in advance what question they’ll be asking. This will give you time enough to prepare proper, rewarding answers. There also is a nice section to help you build prophetic-sounding answers. Awesome.
The thing that works less for me is that the characters are young – they start at 2nd level (or 1st, if you want to use their ridiculously combat-heavy addition to the scenario). Your role players might not have had the chance to deepen their characters and motivations enough to warrant them seeking an oracle for their own personal gain.
What I plan on doing is building a small adventure to bring them to level 2 and give them things to ask for.
I might throw in a patron or situation that require knowledge about the future (for a greater purpose). Some characters might end up having questions related to their back story. Perhaps they’ll want to locate a particular artifact.
An oracle prophecy can lead to wonderful things!
In any ways, I would plan on having the prophecy send the players on very short quests for more tangible rewards – I wouldn’t expect all players to receive world-shattering prophecies.
I still have much thinking to do about it but, so far, I don’t regret having purchased this adventure.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens after playing it 😛