Knight in tarnished armor
Dragonlance: Key of Destiny Adventure Path
For my first FATAL & Friends review, so I've decided I'd pick an adventure I have lots of experience DMing, with plenty of fond (and not so fond) memories. Basically, in the early era of 3.5, Wizards of the Coast granted permission to Sovereign Press to make Dragonlance sourcebooks as 3rd Party Supplements. The main book proper (Dragonlance Campaign Setting) is a WotC property, but the rest are the work of Sovereign Press, Cam Banks, and other hardcore Dragonlance fans. A lot of the game mechanics were... questionably balanced, at best. But it was notable for updating the original Chronicles to 3rd Edition format, D20 stats for Kender
Basically, the Key of Destiny Adventure Path is a series of 3 books (Key of Destiny, Spectre of Sorrows, Price of Courage) where the player characters (the heroes of the story) discover a priceless elven music box, the Key of Quinari. Created in the distant past of the Age of Dreams for the benefit of dragonkind, Quinari led the spirits of fallen dragons to their resting place with her song. After her death her lullaby was preserved in this music box, it's true purpose forgotten over time to become a childhood nursery rhyme among the Silvanesti nobility. After coming into possession of it, the heroes are led along by a series of vague prophecies, wise women and soothsayers, and the machinations of Ansalon's major evil factions to discover the Key's true purpose.
The adventure overall is good, but I don't think it's aged particularly well. It has a lot of interesting locations along the way, a retinue of cool villains opposing the PCs (including a lich leading an army, a genocidal Dragon Overlord, and a lovelorn ghost elf out for revenge), and memorable fleshed-out NPCs. But on the other hand, it makes assumptions that the PCs will go along with the plot on the flimsiest pretenses, and the myriad problems of high-level combat in 3rd Edition really start to show in the latter 2 books. Still, I feel that the positives of the books deserve to be shown, and I hope that you enjoy reading this as much as I did running it.
Adventure Prologue: The Sylvan Key
Our introductory adventure is notable for being in the Campaign Setting book and not the Key of Destiny proper. It starts out in the frontier city of Pashin in the nation of Khur, where the Silvanesti Elves were forced northward by a minotaur invasion along with the Dark Knights (who were betrayed by the minotaurs). Under the control of the Dark Knights, Pashin is not a friendly area for the elven refugees, who are all forced... somewhere, and the riches and valuables of Silvanesti's cities are being sold and traded by opportunists. Even though the town is effectively under military occupation, there is a breakdown in the discipline and morale among the Knights' ranks. Pegrin, a dark knight deserter, managed to smuggle the Key of Quinari out from the elves' royal palace and is now camping a fair distance outside of Pashin. The PCs are given several hooks as to why they'd be in the area (former Dark Knight, refugee, etc), typical stuff.
The adventure's first encounter, Afflicted and Persecuted, involves a group of drunken louts accosting Kelwick and Mayleaf, a Kender father and his daughter, accusing them of theft. They're innocent of his accusation; in fact, they're Afflicted Kender, robbed of their childlike wonder and insatiable need to steal due to trauma, and the thugs really just want to shake them down (who'd believe a Kender?). If the PCs don't intervene, the men will attack, only to be broken up by the city watch. If the PCs help defend Mayleaf, Kelwick will offer to help them out in the future.
As a first encounter, its effectiveness will depend mostly on whether or not your players really hate Kender, but it's obvious that the PCs should give them a helping hand and I think it will work for most groups (it did for mine). It's not really connected to the rest of the adventure, more of a way to show off how desperate things are in Pashin. Unfortunately there are no stats for Kelwick and the city guards, meaning that the DM will need to improvise.
The next encounter, Enter the Herald, happens whenever the PCs are in a large public gathering or inn. Word spreads fast around town that the legendary bard, the Herald, is visiting. His tales are both legendary and eerily accurate, possessing knowledge of Ansalon's most notable battles and heroes. Normally I don't go much for boxed text, but I feel in this instance it's pretty great.
Basically the Herald tells of the War of Souls. It was the last major event in the Dragonlance book series, where Takhisis (Tiamat in other campaign settings) stole the world away from the other Gods and became the sole major divine power. The cosmological shift ended up adjacent to an alien world full of titanic dragons (the smallest are bigger than the eldest wyrms of ours), and five Dragon Overlords came through and conquered much of the continent. Mina was a gifted priestess of Takhisis, who led battles against the Overlords (who were not very fond of Takhisis).The Herald is a human male in his mid-sixties, with white hair and a trim beard. He speaks with an Abanasinian accent, gesturing delicately and hushing the gathered crowd.
"I am known as the Herald. The memories of Krynn are mine to know and share. In my dreams I have lived many other lives, I have led men into the battle on the sides of both good and evil, I have fought dragonback and wielded the mighty dragonlance. I have lived, love, and died a thousand times. This eve, I will share some of my tales with you.
The crowd begins to shout. "Tell of Human! Tell of Raistlin and the Dark Queen! Tell of Lord Ariakan's fall among the minions of Chaos!" A steely gaze from the Herald silences the crowd once more.
"I have another story for you this evening," the Herald intones. "I shall tell you this day of a young girl named Mina and of a great war, one fought not over control of Krynn but of the souls of its people.
This is a good way, I think, of informing the PCs of the world's recent history, and delivering it via a noted storyteller makes it flow well into the game. Unfortunately, the Herald is biased against the Dark Knights (who served under Mina) and presents them in an unfavorable light. The crowd gets increasingly angry at the Herald, booing and slinging mud and eventually turning violent into an all-out bar brawl!
This encounter, like the Kender one, is also "beginner level," where the patrons attack with their fists (non-lethal) and there's very low chance of PC death. It (and the first encounter) also acts a way for DMs to see whether or not they're meddlesome heroes who can't keep their noses out of trouble. The adventure path is banking on this option, as it rewards PCs for acting altruistically both in terms of game mechanics (experience bonus) and "role-playing" (favors, grateful NPCs, etc).
If the PCs managed to subdue enough patrons (about 6) and/or protect the Herald from danger, the grateful bard is shocked once he sees the PCs' faces. Basically he came to town to deliver an important message he had in a dream, that a key meant for them has fallen into the wrong hands. He explains that it's a valuable elven artifact stolen by Pegrin, a former Dark Knight and disreputable man who will doubtlessly abuse it if it is not taken back.
This is the first of several "it came to me in a dream" sequences from important NPCs. Unfortunately this one comes out of left field and does not really impart much in the way of useful information for the PCs. Are we really supposed to trust a guy's dream? If the PCs don't immediately head out, then one of Pegrin's men will steal something from the PCs, preferably while they're asleep or at the inn. Do you hear the sound of that? It sounds like a choo-choo train! All aboard the railroad!
Regardless, the Herald has learned his lesson and only spins good, positive tales of the Dark Knights from now on in Pashin. For a legendary bard, he sure isn't good at reading his audience.
Pegrin's camp can be found with the help of Kelwick, or gathering information around town. It's a sudden and unexpected increase in difficulty for 1st-level PCs.
I don't think those measurements are to scale...
See all those tents? The 3 Fs are Two-Men Tents, As are standard sentries, and B are night sentries, for a total of 6 bandits. They're all 1st level warriors with Toughness and maximum hit points, and can be quite a challenge. Add to that Pegrin being a 2nd-level Barbarian, a sorcerer for hired help (who's a teenager and has low morale), and a second in command with a Rogue level and you've got 9, count'em 9 potential enemies all at once. Obviously discretion is the better part of virtue, and if their leaders (Pegrin and the Rogue) aren't killed they'll doubtlessly come looking for the PCs if they steal the Key. Pegrin himself is a tough man who can hit hard when raging (+8 to-hit with longsword, 1d8+7 damage), and the sorcerer has a scroll of sleep. When I ran the session I either had to tone down the opposition or encourage hit-and-run stealth tactics. A mostly-warrior party short on sneaky types and spellcasters will fare far worse here.
If the heroes manage to subdue Pegrin's men and get the Key (along with some other treasure), they'll find it a delicately crafted music box which the Herald can confirm is what he dreamt of. When wound up it plays a song as the handcrafted woman performs a slow dance. Only Bardic Knowledge works on identifying it, revealing that it's supposed to guard something legendary. The music box itself is a receptacle, its true power known only when one can masterfully sing the melody themselves.
Thoughts so far: A rather short adventure which could be improved in parts, but given that it was added at the very end of the Campaign Setting book I figure they didn't have much to work with. It serves as a nice introduction to the setting and 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. It takes some work in terms of adventure hooks and motivation, but nothing too major.
Next time, the Key of Destiny book proper