The first purchased campaign that I’ve ever ran was The Night Below. It was a rather lengthy adventure that had three major acts, the first of which occurred in a small county. The campaign kicks off with the characters tasked with delivering a message to a small village. At the inn of the small village they are informed that the innkeeper’s daughter has been kidnapped, and they are offering a meager reward for her return. The story unfolds from there. The county has quite a few different problems, but things slowly funnel to a threat from below.
By far the most memorable aspects of the game were the character interactions. In this campaign, the heroes were a mixed bunch: There was a paladin of suffering, a prankster cleric, a fighter wanting to be a leader, a greedy wizard, and an elven ranger.
The prankster cleric was Drast Silkenblade, played by my brother. He had a penchant for getting into trouble, and having Phillip, the paladin of suffering, pay for the crime: either by a few days in the stocks, or dolling out financial compensation. But, hands down, the greatest moment was witnessing Drogan Blackfire, a potent fighter seeking to lead this rag-tag band, turning to Drast and saying, “Every time I mention tactics, you spit in my face.” To which Drast responded, without pause spit.
As characters died and the interest in crawling through dungeons waned, the game collapsed. It seemed we were more interested in the above ground interactions than delving deeper into hostile territories where the only ones to encounter were enemies.
Reading through it again, I find myself drawn to the sandbox approach of the first act of the adventure. There are lots of locations, and plenty of reasons to travel to each of them. And as the characters gain interest in the happenings in the county, they can’t help but be drawn into a conflict with Ranchefus, a cleric of some wicked god and leader of cadre of bandits. Eventually, the characters must take the fight to him, and in doing so, they learn of an even greater threat.