There were several ways I could have dealt with the complete derailing of the first Doctor StrangeRoll adventure. If you don’t want to read back through older entries, basically, the PCs burned down the adventure locale before finding the necessary clues that would lead them to the second part of the adventure. In a video game, this would lead to a “Non-Standard Game Over.”
Fortunately, in a tabletop RPG, short of the DM or the players quitting, there doesn’t have to be a non-standard Game Over.
Option 1: Give them the clues they need, pretending that they actually discovered them (and withheld the treasure they would’ve found) and proceed with the adventure as written.
Option 2: Mark the Low-Level Adventure Phase a “Fail” and move on to the Mid-Level Adventure Phase of the Basic D&D DoctorStrange Roll campaign.
Option 3: Throw up my hands, moan and wail that my players have ruined the game, call the Doctor StrangeRoll Campaign a total loss and play something else, like HackMaster.
Option 4: And Now For Something Completely Different–This is the option I chose. The PCs were hauled in front of the town council of Saltmarsh and offered a choice in leiu of punishment for burning down a house that someone was going to move into and renovate.
The council told the PCs of the smuggling ring they disrupted by utterly destroying the secret hideout. They were given a choice: help the town track and destroy the rest of the smugglers on the high seas, or go to jail. If they helped hunt down the smugglers, they’d each be pardoned and receive a 500 GP reward.
They finished their business about town and boarded the ship at dusk, as instructed. The Serpent’s Kiss set sail to intercept the smugglers (they had some idea of their route). That night, a storm battered the ship. The relentless storm battered the ship for days until finally, it ran aground and the crew was killed.
Our intrepid heroes (the PCs) were now marooned on…the Isle of Dread*.
By the time they regained consciousness, the weather had cleared. Since they didn’t know where they were, they went about collecting supplies from the wreckage and the deceased crew of the Serpent’s Kiss. Among the items they collected was a note and map stuffed in the Captain’s rutter. The map showed the outline of an island, with only the coastline detailed. The note told of a central plateau containing vast treasure. They debated over the true motivations of the Captain, wondering if he was really interested in stopping the smugglers after all.
They spent hours collecting supplies until a loud roar and the breaking of marsh trees alerted them to the presence of a large predator seeking tasty morsels.
While their first instinct was to flee, the instead held their ground and fought the terrible lizard. Herrick had the idea to lure the beast toward the ship and perhaps goad it into charging the figurehead, hopefully impaling itself on the broken timbers jutting out. Both he and Kilos were nearly bitten in half before the beast fell.
They celebrated their victory by binding their wounds, butchering the giant animal, and discussing various uses for its head (carry it between two pikes like a canopy, stuffing Wikki and Pat (who were still unconscious from the shipwreck) into its maw to frighten them when they woke up, etc.
In the end, they simply trudged south through the marshes. Pat recovered well-enough to carry the still-ill Wikki. For days they slogged through the marshy terrain, climbing trees each day to determine if following the coast was still the best strategy or if there was something to be gained by heading inland.
More days passed, and a few more large reptiles avoided, before the marsh turned into jungle and then mountains. After a day of navigating the mountainous terrain, they found a river to follow deeper into the heart of whatever land they were on. Following the banks of the river proved to speed their travel considerably (and Kilos and Herrick were chagrined that they left the t-rex head behind; perhaps it could’ve been used as a raft!). Finally, they found a plateau towering 3000′ above them and a rope bridge leading from part of the mountains above the river to the plateau.
They made camp at the mountain-side of the bridge. What dangers and riches await on the other side?
*This has the advantage of preserving the mystery of what they were supposed to find and do in the rest of the “haunted house” and UK1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. Since they have to play the adventure again with AD&D, then with AD&D 2nd edition, then with Pathfinder, and finally with D&D 4E, at least one of the play-throughs will have new stuff to discover.
In preparation for the new phase of the adventure, I bumped everyone up by 5,000 XP. I wouldn’t normally do this in campaign play (unless I was doing a time-skip of several years), but for the Doctor StrangeRoll campaign, it’s more important to be able to experience the classic adventures as written through the “eyes” of each edition than any sort of continuity. The whole shipwreck thing might be a little contrived, but at least it’s a little more natural than just giving them all the clues they inadvertently destroyed and say “Here’s what you WOULD’VE found if you hadn’t burned down the house.”
The next session of Doctor StrangeRoll will be on April 20th. We’ll most likely be returning to the Star Wars campaign for that session.