When we last left our heroes, they had been “rescued” by the Fey Queen, Danu, who put them ashore on an island that they soon realized was Brea’s Garden from old Cesvani legend. Their early exploration of the island showed that something strange was going on. A hag had somehow interrupted the “proper” transfer of power from the island’s sleeping Lord and Lady to their mortal avatars and had gained much of that power herself. She had corrupted some of the island’s fey and the party had been attacked twice already. Some of the fey, however, were only bound to their particular areas of the island and not yet corrupted. These fey had provided bits information and had asked favors in exchange. The party was deciding if they should take on another task to gain the favor of another faction of the island’s fey as we ended the last session.
Spoiler Alert: This session is heavily influenced and based on the adventure Beyond the Crystal Cave, both the original (UK1) for AD&D and the 4e version which was part of the D&D Encounters series. I’m going to depart from my normal format to say a few things about this before diving into the session recap.
Once I had hit upon this as one potential “out” for the party from being stranded way out at sea (yes, there were other options that would have happened if they had declined Danu’s offer…who’s to say if they would have been better or not), I decided to use the 4e version as the primary inspiration. So far, with 5e, I have used modules from all prior editions of D&D in this and our Side Quest campaigns except for 4e. So far, all of the “conversions” have pretty much been on the fly and have been relatively painless for me. So I was curious about 4e’s convertibility.
Mechanically, I don’t think the conversion is a big deal. Instead, what has really jumped out at me is the structure of the adventure particularly in comparison to the original UK1 version. The structure of the 4e version is, essentially, a series of scripted encounters while the original was much more open. There is, for example, no overall map of the area covered in the adventure for the 4e version; instead, only encounter maps. The original is pretty much the opposite with an overall map but not many encounter maps.
This, of course, isn’t an indictment of 4e…there are LOTS of published D&D adventures that are highly scripted (adventure paths anyone?). The difference is just how blatantly scripted the 4e version of Beyond the Crystal Cave is in comparison to its predecessor and I’m finding that to be rather jarring. Perhaps it is a result of it being a D&D Encounters adventure and I probably should have considered that before I started using it. Regardless, I’ve found it difficult to run because it is largely a scripted plot rather than a situation. I’m sure I’d have just as much difficulty with an Adventure Path.
It has been so long that I had kind of forgotten how much the adventures I ran back with 3.5 and 4e both needed to be prepared or strongly scripted…at least for me…to run relatively effectively. Despite running 4e for a year and 3.5 for a number of years, I never ever really got comfortable running things on the fly in those games. I’ve largely lost interest in overly scripted games. 5e, and I guess this is the point of all this, has been really easy to run in a non-scripted fashion. I probably should have given the 4e version of Beyond the Crystal Cave a closer look before committed to using it (even if it was just a committment to myself).
Oh well…in for a penny in for a pound, right? We pick up with our heroes, particularly Isenthorne, deciding if it is worth engaging in carnal activity with a satyr to gain favor with his lord, take on a different task offered by the satyr to gain his lord’s favor, or to simply carry on with other tasks on their to do list. So, obviously, I’ve departed from the script a bit…the encounter with the satyr in the adventure certainly doesn’t include one of the PCs being pimped out by the rest of the group. 😉