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Monday, March 9, 2020

The Seventh Piece of the Rod of Seven Parts




Right now, I have a group that is one the verge of pulling off something I've wanted to do for decades. They have obtained all seven pieces of the rod of seven parts, a legendary D&D artifact. They have played through what I think is the coolest way to do it - each piece was in a different D&D setting!

They've gone to Eberron, Waterdeep, Barovia, Sigil, you name it! One setting I had thought about using in this campaign was Al-Qadim, but frankly that would take quite a bit of work. I decided to set it aside because I know that when I finally use it, I want to do it justice. I love Al Qadim, and I hope someday to run a huge 5e campaign in that setting.

This is the fourth time I have tried to run the Rod of Seven Parts. The other three times ended in failure.

Attempt #1: I ran this in high school for my group at the time. We tried playing through the boxed set adventures. The first adventure, "At the Golden Cockatrice" went fine. But then I tried to run the adventure with the fire giants, and the group got frustrated because they were too low level to deal with it head-on, so they abandoned the whole thing.

Attempt #2: I had bought The Lost City of Gaxmoor, the 3e adventure by Gary Gygax's kids. I thought it would be cool if the pieces were spread out in the Gaxmoor. I tried to run this in a old school, lethal way, where death at low levels was likely. The group hated this idea, and we only played for one session.

I have never had a problem with my character dying, so I was a bit surprised at how much the group hated the idea of a high lethality game. I learned not to try to force a group to play in a style they aren't into.

Attempt #3: In 4th edition, I had three players each make a high level character. Each could choose one artifact to have. One took the Eye of Vecna, and another took the Hand of Vecna. They began searching for the pieces of the Rod of Seven Parts and successfully obtained the first two pieces, but when they tried to merge them without following the proper procedures, the pieces scattered. They gave up the quest after that.

So.. all previous attempts had ended in miserable failure. But this 5e group has persevered, and now are in the plane of Pandemonium, playing through the final encounters in the old 2e boxed set.

I should note that I've been writing about the rod for a long time, all in preparation to run this thing again.
Army of NPCs: The group has an army of NPCs with them. I guess I could have had all these NPCs present in the final battle with Miska the Wolf-Spider, but I don't know how I could make that interesting.

I whipped up a special room with 6 doors, each of which could only be opened with a corresponding segment of the rod. Each door issued forth a magical effect linked to the power of a particular segment of the rod.

The 6th piece has hold monster as its special power - so it activated a trap that held all everyone int he room. The group only had moments to get out of the trap themselves and get into Miska's final area before the doors sealed again. It worked out just fine, but I feel like there's probably a better way to handle the "army of NPCs" in a better, more organic way.

Miska Stats: I based Miska's stats on the stat block in the DMs Guild Rod of Seven Parts 5e product. I double-checked the numbers, using kobold fight club to see what monsters are a suitable challenge for the group. Monsters from Volo's Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes seem to be a bit more powerful/effective, so I borrowed from them.

I was worried about the final encounter being an anti-climax. Way back when I ran The Shackled City (converted from 3e to 4e, which is a whole story in itself), my final bad guy was way, way too weak and I didn't want to repeat the mistake.

There's a lot of ways the final battle can go. After all, the group's goal is to get the seventh piece - not necessarily to kill Miska.

As it has played out, the group is indeed in a battle with Miska. I think some of them forgot about his poison blood. The ranger actually shot him with an arrow point blank and his blood almost hit her. His blood is what shattered the rod of law in the first place! His blood, if it touches you, will drop you to 0 hit points if you fail a DEX save!

We had to stop in the middle of the battle, but right now the group actually has the fully-assembled rod of seven parts and is fighting Miska the Wolf-Spider.

Whatever happens, I'm beyond pleased to have finally run this all the way through with such a great group. It's so hard to find just the right players. I got really lucky this time around, and I'm definitely looking forward to the next session!

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