Saturday 7 January 2012

Lost in the Labyrinth: An Alternate Storyline

It's almost time to wrap up my Thunderspire Labyrinth series, and look to new things. Amongst other more mundane resolutions (see: waistline), I've committed myself to gaming more this year. I want to play a complete campaign of Gears and Gunpowder in ten parts, one session per month, and get our main H-E campaign as close to Epic as possible. I want to play more, write more, and - most important of all - submit more. This month is a bit of milestone for me, as I've got my first published article coming out in Dungeon magazine! It's really given me the kick I need to take this stuff more seriously, so here's hoping you'll stick around for the ride.

So. Thunderspire. Thus far all we've done is re-imagine a few of the NPCs. Now it's time to take the bull by the horns and look at the adventure as a whole. As far as encounters go, I think it's got some of the best so far. You'll have a fun job converting everything over to MM3 maths, but beyond that it's all pretty cool, especially the Well of Demons. No, the biggest problem, I think, lies with the story.

As written, you've effectively got three "acts". The first ends at the Chamber of Eyes, where we learn that the McGuffin (the captives), has been taken to the Horned Hold. The second act takes us from the Horned Hold to the Well of Demons. However, the link into Act 3 ("Interlude 2") is somewhat clumsily shoehorned into this section. Paldemar - this dude we know nothing about - decides to destroy us, because "we could pose a threat". When we take the fight back to him, the chances are we'll miss his big plan completely. After all, the only clue seems to be a bull's head floating in a vat...

When I played this, I kept the same sequence of locations, but shook up the story. My main changes were:

  • The captives are now Lord Markelhay's daughter and her servants. Sure, it's "Rescue the Princess", but it adds a whole lot more gravitas to the chase.
  • The enemies are the Mages of Saruun themselves. For years, they have been trying to unlock a door at the heart of the labyrinth, and now they hope to trade Markelhay's daughter for the key.
  • Behind the door is, you guessed it, a primordial. If they manage to open it, all hell breaks loose.    

I'll be the first to admit it's not particularly original, but in my defence I was looking for that "classic D&D" feel. Not to say it doesn't have a few neat flourishes - final battle in a chamber containing a moving map of the labyrinth made from smoke? Yes, please!

Anyway, see what you think. I like to think it holds together better as a narrative, at least. 


  1. W. Doyle has struck again! I am starting to find that my favorite bits of D&D floating about have your name on them. First, adventures with Pixies, and now this! Clearly it's time I hunted all of your creations down.

    Thank you so much for "Lost in the Labyrinth"! I had just days ago killed off Lord Markelhay in a doppleganger adventure as a prelude to pulling the PCs into Thunderspire itself. This is a perfect twist on what they are surely expecting to be a typical, "evil mages are behind it all" story. Brilliant!

    Strong work, sir.

    1. Hey, thanks for the kind words, that's really made my day!

      Funnily enough, some of these ideas made it into my gonzo dungeon crawl "The Rolling Tomb", which just came out in Dungeon 215 (the "holographic map" of the dungeon, and the shifting passages, in particular).

      Glad you liked the pixies adventure, and hope your delve into Thunderspire Labyrinth proves as successful as ours was - definitely one of the high points of our HPE campaign.


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