We are right at the very end of the Rod of Seven Parts boxed set! The group has 6 pieces, and the final piece is in the plane of Pandemonium, guarded by a demon lord named Miska the Wolf Spider.
We had left off with the heroes arriving at the Citadel of Chaos (where Miska is trapped) and Drizzt Do'Urden making a surprise appearance. He's a bounty hunter, hired by the Raven Queen's son (long story).
Avoiding a Slog: I knew I wanted to have one of my patented "break the rules" sessions, where I run an event that only kind of/sort of sticks to the rules. I do this in the interest of keeping things moving.
I first started doing this in 4th edition, a game where every encounter takes at least an hour. The group always liked it when I'd just have them make a few roles rather than going through a tedious exercise in dice rolling that really had no consequence.
I'm always paranoid about pacing. I don't want people to get bored. In this session, I planned on throwing 5 waves of monsters at the heroes, and I didn't want it to be a slog.
Planning It Out: So I sat down and wrote myself a list. First, I figured out how many NPCs the group had with them - 50 or more! The group was leading an all-out assault on the bad guys.
Each wave was one round. One each character's turn, something special would happen. Then at the end of the round, there was a special "mega turn" linked to a particular character.
Also, each character had an NPC paired with them, who could also do stuff on their turn.
- Lilia (gnome warlock): She had the group's pet blink dog, Good Boi. They've had this dog since just about the very beginning of the campaign.
- Seraphine (human cleric): Strahd von Zarovich. My favorite NPC! The soul of his beloved, Tatiana, is in Seraphine's body.
- Winthrop (shadar kai druid): Twinthrop. One time, Winthrop grew a second head. Now it inhabits a suit of wind armor.
- Aralee (sun elf fighter): Reeves, a guy she was engaged to who ended up in Hell, until the group rescued him.
I'll go over wave 1, so you can see how this works and then decide if there's anything from this approach that might help your game.
Wave 1: Spyder-fiend type: Kakkuu. They have mangy wolf heads, can bark and howl, and weigh 300 pounds.
We rolled initiative. That determined who got which mini-scenario. Lilia rolled highest, so she went first.
Lilia: As the 75+ spyder fiends charged the heroes and their army, Lilia saw a guy named Jaundice Pilsner (top notch NPC name, IMO!) get into trouble. A spyder-fiend used a strand of webbing to reel him in. It was up to Lilia and the blink dog to save him. If Lilia rolled bad, Jaundice was dead!
Lilia was able to save the dude with the help of her trusty blink dog. Basically, in these scenarios, one die roll tells the story. Although a good/clever idea always succeeds, for the most part.
Seraphine: The cleric saw that their weird friend Emalica (from the Chris Perkins adventure, "Umbra") was chucking snakes at her enemies. She keeps the snakes in a baby carriage. A spyder-fiend used webbing to try to send the carriage hurtling over the side of a wall to the ground hundred of feet below.
Seraphine was unable to help, and Strahd was too busy protecting his beloved Tatiana to help a bunch of snakes! Poor baby snakes.
Aralee: The group had befriended a mechanical dragon while going through Blades of Terror, in the Eberron setting, where they got the third piece of the rod. The dragon was flying around, but a bunch of spider-fiends used webbing to pull it to the ground.
Aralee ran over and successfully stabbed the fiends. Her wobbly ally Reeves did, too. He has amnesia, so I roll to see what he likes and doesn't like. Aralee handed him "Swish", her magic sword. Reeves didn't like the sword. Was awkward.
Winthrop: One of the group's oldest friends is a vistani named Markus Nerl. He started off the campaign as a lecherous coward, but the group has brought out the good in him. Winthrop saw that Markus was protecting a fallen ally, but was in way over his head. Winthrop and Twinthrop kept him alive.
The came the MEGA TURN. This one dealt with Winthrop, so he actually went twice in a row. Drizzt, in the chaos, waded through the combatants and attacked Winthrop, hoping to knock him out and bring him to the Shadowfell. Drizzt did PILES of damage, but Winthrop did not go down.
Drizzt ended up being swarmed by spyder-fiends. In later rounds, the group saved him, healed him, and befriended him.
We did about two hours straight of this, and I think it went pretty well. I was able to work in a bunch of story moments, including a betrayal which Aralee took hard.
Risking Strahd: I'm not sure exactly why I did this, but I decided to put Strahd's fate in the group's hands. I love playing Strahd and having him chew scenery, but a lot of the group kind of hates him and Aralee actually punched him a session or two back.
So a pit fiend beat him up, and told Aralee to finish him off. Aralee had a hard time deciding, but ultimately chose to let Strahd live because Seraphine cares about him. I think Seraphine has some special plan for him, actually.
This session was a bit of a risk, but it worked out well. I gave it some SPICE and now we are all set to enter the final area of the whole boxed set!