Finale Design Diary
Original Ending: Battle the Hags, win the day, and Mara (the youngest) thanks everyone and ends the PP.
Our Ending: Battle the Hags, Mara shows up and thank the group. Then minutes later, she confronts Aneiela alone and collects on their bargain – Mara has bounded the power of her sisters and will use Aneiela as the vessel for her power. Jericho is in position to (brutally) prevent the takeover by striking down Aneiela.
Why Change: Simple, Aneiela Asa. If you did not think she would fall to the Dark Side™ by the end of the campaign you really are a bad player. She openly displayed an evil side and the numerous sidebars with the GM seals the deal. So I looked for a counter during the campaign.
My runner-up idea was to have Nigel Harold Wittington III be the counter. The prophecy noted a human was the key to saving Carbidus and after Jericho Thunder left the group he was the only human PC left. It was an intriguing idea to have a Gilisinski on Gilisinki fight at the end, but I ultimately discarded it. I would then need to have sidebars with G$ and that would eventually become obvious as well. Plus, its never a good idea to place all your prophecy eggs in one PC basket in a tabletop RPG – that is just asking for the PC to get killed at the wrong time and there are no “save games” like in video game RPGs.
So what brought it all together? It all jelled right after the group defeated Edward “James” Low and got the Neptune’s Storm. Jericho was recovered from Low’s ship. I asked Jim would Jericho stay on the ship with Aneiela and he said “yes, he wants to see how it all plays out.” All the pieces came together.
First Piece: The problem of Aneiela’s fall – Jericho would be the one to “fix” it and be a surprise to the group. All the focus of the fight would be on the main PCs. All the crew and such would be background flavor to emphasize the desperation of the battle. That meant I could hold Jericho in reserve and not have to worry about some fluke die roll messing things up. I banked on him being a sympathetic character to the Players, hoping they would not feel cheated in any way that technically an NPC had a big role in the outcome. Jericho also made sense that if there was one person on that ship that would be keenly aware of Aneiela at all times, it would be him. He would be in perfect position to get the Drop. I could easily justify bumping his Fighting a Die (he did server under Low), and certainly he would deserve the No Mercy Edge with respect to Aneiela. Plus, since he was technically an NPC, I could spend group Bennies on him.
Jericho’s story is a powerful one. He was the leader, befell to ill luck. Hit bottom serving with Low, and then is plucked from the sea on the road to redemption. He gets his ultimate victory over a true evil and fulfills the prophecy.
Second Piece: The 4th Sister as the Villain. This was a twist more for Jo/Aneiela than anyone else. As i ran the end through my mind, something was missing. Having Aneiela fight for the Sea Hags at some point just did not run well. If she turned early, then I have one player out of the game. I wanted that confrontation to be towards the end. Making the 4th Sister the true villain solved a couple of problems and fit nicely with the existing material:
- She would not have an impact until the end. The main fight would serve as the central entertainment. The fight would serve to drain Jo’s Bennies down as well.
- In my discussion with Jo, the “evil” was always a nebulous voice. I did not have to change anything.
- It actually fits with how people came to Caribus – many people died crossing over from Earth
- The PP never focus on her. So she was known but players were not focused on all her past actions.
- Update day before the session: I reread the main story and I decided to leave it intact except for one thing – all those horrible events mares (heh) Mara and turns her to a hateful vengeance. This created a nice split – the Hags were the obvious, unrepentant evil that the PCs could slay without a second thought. Mara, while still an evil force, is an understandable one. Players may not empathize, but they can understand her path.
Third Piece: Who replaces the 4th Sister for the ending. The 4th Sister is the voice of the ending and gives the humans a chance to go home. The players being oblivious in the second session where they pick up Equias forced me to figure out another way to get the point across. The scene with the old man and Aneiela now served a second purpose – the ghost of King Anemaus would perfectly serve that role. It was easy to explain his lack of impact during the campaign as the curse limited him to lamenting the loss of his people. Now, he could do the ending.
Fourth Piece: How to deal with Aneiela at the end. The King also created an interesting option at the end. A strong scene that would provide closure for Jo/Aneiela regardless of the outcome.
Fifth Piece: Tweak to Mara. As I noted above, I did one last tweak before the session on Mara. The events in the story did happen as written in the book – she tried to stop her sisters from killing their father and failed. She was killed in prison by her sisters to seal a curse on the land. She could do nothing while the world flooded and she had to kill thousands and rip them from Earth in order find “The One” to destroy the Hags. That is a dark pull on a young soul. What struck me this morning in thinking about the session is how Mara’s journey (with that tweak) parallels Jericho’s story. Both were good, both fell as low as you can go, both were in position for their revenge at the exact same moment at the exact same time and place.
Other Random Thoughts
- I did have to think through one other issue – what if Jericho Crit Failed? The thought of the issue and solution on the way into work a week before the session. He would get a regular hit, but his strike focused much of the “darkness blast” on him. It would take him to Incapacitation: do Vigor -3 and here is your C/F Bennie