Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Twenty-Eight Adventures, Part 27: The Giant’s Tribute

I’m slowly getting close to finishing up my adventure retrospective. It’s been a busy few months; during the summer and fall I was working like crazy on Primeval Thule 5e and my new sci-fi novel Valiant Dust (coming in 2017 from Tor Books). These days I’m pushing hard on ULTIMATE SCHEME, my new boardgame. We’re planning on sending files to the printer at the end of February, and there’s a zillion things to do!

Let me take a moment to engage in some naked self-promotion: ULTIMATE SCHEME is awesome, and you should back it now at Kickstarter. It’s a lighthearted game that mixes some resource management and worker placement mechanics with a fun theme of global mayhem through villainous plots. If you’re into good Euro-style mechanics, nerd culture references, and lots of replayability, I think you’ll like it. And tell your friends, too! We’re fighting to get the word out and we can use all the help we can get.

Here’s the link: http://kck.st/1ny7Ely

Don't make me melt the icecaps to get your attention!

#32: The Giant’s Tribute
As you have no doubt noticed by now, the overwhelming majority of my adventures have been published by TSR, Wizards of the Coast, or my own little outfit, Sasquatch Game Studio. But last year my friend and occasional collaborator Robert Schwalb asked me if I’d be willing to pitch in on his Shadows of the Demon Lord project by serving as a stretch goal adventure author. Since Rob had just committed to doing the same thing for me by helping out on Primeval Thule 5e, I was pretty much obligated to say yes. But I was also real curious to see what happened when Rob managed to slip the leash and run off to do anything he wanted.

As it turns out, Rob asked *everybody* to do short SotDL (that’s Shadows of the Demon Lord) adventures, and he was clever enough to stagger out the schedule of adventures so that no one got buried early on with the landslide of adventures he arranged. My turn didn’t come up until about five months ago. By that time, Rob was looking for SotDL adventures suitable for high-level characters. Since I didn’t know all that much about the setting, I asked Rob if there was anything he felt was under-served by the previous adventures. Rob thought about it for a moment, then said, “No one’s done much with giants yet.”

So, giants it was!

I read through Rob’s excellent setting and the interesting rules set for his game, and thought hard about what a “Demon Lord” giant adventure ought to be. The classic D&D giant adventure is, of course, the G1-G2-G3 series (Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, and so on). But the giants you fight in those adventures are not really all that unnatural or horrifying. Sure, they’re big and they have lots of hit points, but they really act like big 10th-level orcs. You cut them down four or five at a time, and you feel pretty mighty about it.

I asked myself what would make a giant horrifying, and I thought about the classic giants of myth: Wicked, sinful brutes that gleefully devoured children or ground your bones to make their bread. SotDL giants are pretty stupid, but something that is big and filled with evil cunning and an instinct for petty malice . . . that’s a little more interesting. It reminded me of the Raver-possessed giants from Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant books, and I found my hook: (SPOILER ALERT) What if the PCs found out the hard way they weren’t dealing with a dull-witted brute, but a demon that had possessed the biggest, strongest thing around?

The nice thing about the format for the Shadows of the Demon Lord adventures is that they’re pretty short. A short adventure is just the right format to challenge the PCs by presenting a situation they think they understand (a giant is demanding tribute from a village), put a nasty twist into it (the giant has a demon’s magic and wickedness), and deliver on an exciting finale. If you have a chance to play it, let me know if the adventure delivers!

Next Time: Secret of the Moon-Door, the last in my series!

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