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The Tiger Roars
Back in Black

Fade to Black (?)  by Kenton Kilgore
Last time, I mentioned that the campaign went off the rails when the player-characters got their hands on too many technological terrors.  I was intent on rectifying that appalling situation at the next gaming session, except...

…except there was no next gaming session.

Why?  Well, there was no big blow-up between characters, no “player rebellion” against wrongs (real or perceived) committed by the DM.  No histrionics, no drama.  No one moved away or died or anything like that.  People—me and them—simply got really busy.  Real Life, the dreaded nemesis of gaming, prevailed in that way it always does.  Weeks went by without another get-together, then months.

“If You Build It, Maybe They’ll Come, Maybe They Won’t”
As a DM, I like to think that if I build it (as Field of Dreams suggested), they will come.  I poured a lot of thought and effort into bringing back AD&D: reviewing the old rules, tossing out what didn’t work, crafting stuff that would be better, making adjustments when the new stuff didn’t work out as well as planned.  Streamlining combat and spellcasting, balancing the races, making some classes more interesting.  Drafting new adventures and modifying old adventures so that rookies and veterans would enjoy them, even at low levels.  Conjuring up a unique campaign setting and setting in motion an overarching story to keep the players intrigued and eager to participate.

I like to think that I have that control, but I don’t.  No DM ever does.  D&D is a group effort, and if, for any reason, the group (DM and players) can’t make it happen, then it doesn’t happen.  I invested a lot of sweat equity, we had some good gaming sessions, but we couldn’t sustain it.  I hope I don’t sound like I’m blaming the players, because I’m not: we all just had more important things to do with our limited time.

What Is And What Will (Probably) Never Be
It’s been over a year since my gaming group got together, and it looks like we will never reconvene.  If you’ve been following this series since the beginning, I’d like to share with you where I intended the campaign to go, just so you can see how the movie, as it were, ends.

After the adventure aboard the S.S. Expedition, the party was due to run into some human cannibals from the town of Ashe.  Said cannibals would be low level fighters wielding firearms in a scene blatantly swiped greatly inspired by the film The Road.


"You see these guys--yes, they do have the guns and the truck. What do you want to do?"

Assuming they made it past the cannibals, the party was expecting to tramp towards a place called “The Gate,” which they expected would be some way out of Lonelylands, the otherworldly place where their characters had been trapped for so long.  To get to “The Gate,” they would need to pass through the territory of a previously-mentioned baddie named Oth, whom I imagined as some sort of evil, melancholy, exiled giant or titan (!) of great power.  Directly clashing with him would probably be a mistake, but they might run into Oth’s Woman, a sinister, slave-taking servant I envisioned as sort of like Spiral from the old X-Men comics.

I was sensing, however, that the players were becoming somewhat fatigued with Lonelylands, so I was ready to spring something new and unexpected on them.  Literally stepping into the campaign world (via a doorway through space/time) would come Mr. Claudio Bartholomew of the Red Faction, a group they had heard mentioned before.  Bartholomew would express his gratitude at having finally located the player characters, and then offer them escape—and a job.

Wait—What?
Bartholomew works for an “interdimensional organization” called Adventurers Unlimited™, of which one division, the “Red Faction,” specializes in “the acquisition of rare or sensitive objects and materials, and the restoration of same to their rightful owners.”  Basically, the “Red Faction” is a good-aligned treasure-hunting operation who finds lost/stolen magical and/or technological items at the behest of their clients, who are carefully screened to ensure that 1) they are not evil; 2) are the proper owners.

The “Red Faction” hires highly-skilled, capable, trustworthy adventurers with good morals on a retainer basis, so that when necessary, the Faction can contact them and rely on them to carry out a mission on almost environment, world, or dimension.  The “Red Faction” is but one small part of Adventurers Unlimited™, but the only one who deals in “acquisitions and recovery”: the “Blue Faction,” for example, “corrects space/time variances.”  Other factions—Green, Yellow, Orange, etc.—exist as well.

The “Red Faction” is opposed in its efforts by several organizations outside Adventurers Unlimited™, notably The Collectors, Inc.  The Collectors pay more to their operatives, but they don't share the Red Faction's fussiness over who their clients are, what they're tasked to retrieve, or the methods used by its employees.  So, yeah, they're a bunch of amoral/evil dudes who would be competing with the PCs--or trying to lure them to their side.

For a change of pace from the grimdark Lonelylands, the first mission for the Red Faction that I was going to send them on was a scaled-down version of the classic AD&D module, Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan.  As for why the PCs had ever been in Lonelylands in the first place, Bartholomew was going to reveal to them they were formerly powerful employees of the Red Faction who had angered the management of The Collectors after twarthing their ventures one too many times.  Unable to directly kill the high-level PCs, the Collectors had gone back in time and arranged for them to be shunted off to Lonelylands when they were younger and vulnerable.  The Collectors use Lonelylands for a variety of purposes, and ridding themselves of underperforming employees and meddlesome rivals is one of them.

And so, the campaign would have tooled on from there.  I was planning adventures in a variety of milieus: Al-Qadim, the Young Kingdoms of Elric, the twisting streets of Lankhmar, and several other venues, too (perhaps a trip across the Elemental Plane of Water?).  Such, apparently, is not meant to be.          


The world of Elric has long been a favorite of mine....

Is That The End?  And Is It So Bad?
I've had other campaigns that fizzled out, but none have had, I think, such promise as this one.  Nor did any previous ending seem so...final.  I never thought I would be done--like "never play it again"--with AD&D, but this may be it.  Not that I don't love the game: I do, very much so.  I would restart the campaign again in a heartbeat.  But to play, one needs players, and distance and schedules and circumstances have disbanding my group.  I don't know where--or if--I could find others.  

And maybe that's not so bad.  AD&D has been a big part of my life for many, many years, but  all things must  pass eventually, and perhaps it is time.  We'll see.

More Black in Black

Posted February 2012

Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle