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Serpent Amphora Cycle (spoiler warning for those that haven't played it)

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  • Serpent Amphora Cycle (spoiler warning for those that haven't played it)

    I've recently started running a 5th edition D&D game set in the Scarred Lands, converting the Serpent Amphora Cycle from back in the day because I've never actually used it and it always seemed interesting.

    Things are off to a great start, but because I basically ended up in the situation of having 1 day notice that I'd need an entirely new campaign ready to go (one of my players decided to go on an unexpected and indefinite break from gaming with us, and since I make each character in a game of mine actually important that meant shelving everything we had in-progress, and leaving my "up next" plans unusable as well) I've only actually gotten through converting the short into section.

    I wanted to ask all you other Scarred Lands fans out there if you have run or played these old adventures before, or are otherwise familiar with them, if there were any rough spots that came up in game play. Anything that seemed unintuitive story-wise, didn't make sense, served more as irritation than entertainment, and so on. My intent being to get myself more ready to smooth out any wrinkles that might come up so that the campaign doesn't screech to a halt because I got taken by surprise by some element of it.

    So far, we've gotten over the first hurdle well enough - the initial Asaatth attack to steal the amphora away - because I am very transparent with my players and made sure they understood that the challenge was not to actually stop the theft of the amphora because it was going to end up out of their characters' possession at the end of the scene, but to see how much of the enemy force they could take down before the last of them stole away with the amphora (and the group managed to beat down every last one that I had set up for them to fight, because of a few clever ideas and a lot of dice rolls going their way).

    Thanks in advance for any help, and feel free to discuss even if it isn't in the form of giving me advice - I'm jazzed to be using Scarred Lands materials again.

    Not so noble anymore.

  • #2
    I ran it years ago, but know it very well.

    Are you starting with the Serpent Amphora mini-module, or the Serpent in the Fold?

    There's an encounter early in the Serpent Amphora mini-module that can easily turn nasty -- The "Totems of Mormo" encounter on pages 8-9. The person on watch missed their spot/perception check (seriously, DC 20!), and the little buggers snuck into the camp. If I hadn't dropped the damage from Coup de Grace like the module suggested, 3/4the of the party would have died right there. Not the best way to start a campaign, but a great way to end one early. Ten years later I still have hand written notes in margin of the module "A CR 1 encounter should NOT result in a TPK!").

    The other challenge with all three modules is the amount of terrain covered. The party travels a lot. There's decent wandering monster charts in the books, which I also supplemented with "Wilderness in the Wasteland." I recall a large chunk of XP in the campaign came from those wandering monsters.

    One of the most memorial moments of the campaign for us was the chase scene towards the end of the third book, when the party is being chased across the Haggard Hills by the dragon. The barbarian in the party pulls the head of the hag leader from her pack (she collected trophies), held it high, and shouted to the dragon "Looking for this!" It was awesome.

    Feel free to ask me if you have specific questions or concerns, and good luck converting it to 5e.


    • #3
      Hey, Thanks for responding! I was getting worried that nobody that had run these would see my post.

      I did start with the Serpent Amphora mini-module, which we actually just finished last session, and I'm putting in a side-trek in Burok Torn before we get into Serpent in the Fold because one of my players loves dwarves and I wanted to show him Scarred Lands dwarves in more light than just the racial features.

      I did notice how deadly the totems of mormo encounter could be, but the 5th edition stats for them toned that down a bit, as did the differences between the 3.5 "coup de grace" rules and 5th edition's unconscious condition, and I lucked out that the character on watch not only beat the totem's stealth roll but also that player chose to shout and wake up his companions rather than just attack the totem he noticed.

      I've got all the books, so I've been using the wandering monster charts you mention. Travel is going to be good for us, at least for a while, because I am using the wandering monster encounters to teach the players about the setting bit by bit since they've not had any exposure to it before this campaign. Hopefully I don't lose my creativity as the campaign continues, because Scarn is actually surprisingly large. I didn't remember how large until taking a measurement to see how long the trip to Vesh would take, and finding out it was a few hundred miles when it looked so close at first glance.

      I'm considering giving the party valravens to help speed travel along later on so that the it doesn't go stale on the players, and have already set up an encounter that will introduce the players to valravens in a way that if they do end up mounted on them later it won't seem like it came out of left field.

      I'm hoping we end up with our own moments as epic as the barbarian taunt you had.

      And thank you for offering to answer specific question I might have, I really appreciate that, and will not hesitate to do so if anything comes up.

      Not so noble anymore.


      • #4
        I'd wait and see what the players come up with on their own before you give them valravens.


        • #5
          I've been running D&D in Scarred Lands since the first Creature Collection came out just before the 3.0 Monster Manual. The description of the Mithril Golem sold me. I've used content from every source book (seriously, all of them), running for about twice a month for nearly 15 years (we did take a few breaks between campaigns), hitting every meta plot, and bringing four parties from one to epic level. Despite all that, I'm not even close to running out of ideas. There is SO MUCH to use.

          Oh, what happened in your game to the ranger NPC at the beginning of the module? Did he live?
          I seem to be writing a novel about him. Would anyone be interested in reading a Scarred Lands "fan fiction" novel if I made it available?


          • #6
            rat_bastard, that's my plan. Hence why I have an encounter that is basically just one starving valraven looking for a meal and thinking the paladin's camel will taste nice, rather than something that puts the party in a position to think "let's ride these giant raven dudes" right away.

            Ketina, regarding Eochaid the ranger, he did indeed live. It wouldn't have made much sense for him not to, given that 5th edition lay on hands from the paladin can cure poison. He still needed long recovery time to be back in fighting condition though, since I converted the poison he was afflicted with as something harsh enough to not go away with just one long rest.

            Not so noble anymore.


            • #7
              I've run them several times. They definitely show their age as there are some minor setting inconsistencies with tone that was set out later (by the same author when he became line director, so I forgive Joe Carriker).

              There were a few things in Serpent in the Fold I would be wary of, especially in the early section with the Taurosphinx, as combined with Chardun's recording popping in in Serpent Amphora, you can end up with the gods looking TOO active in the wrong way. Also, be warned that there is a severe lack of any kind of treasure in those modules (outside of Huriki the Air Sword, which... unless you know it's there, why would you ever look there?). This isn't as much of a problem in 5E, but you may want to note that and look for some ways to throw in a few rewards if the players want some loot.


              • #8
                Thanks for the input, Psyclus. I've already started to implement measure to reduce the negative impact of both of those concerns.

                Not so noble anymore.