Rewriting Artifacts Unbound/Dawn of the Artifacts 4 for my campaign

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« on: <06-16-21/1759:25> »
I've run Dawn of the Artifacts 2 and 3 for my group. They were great, but I want to wrap it up, and it's not the main focus of the campaign. I want an end that ties up loose ends, makes some sense of things, is epic, but not overly long. I'm not very happy about DotA 4. I'm not entirely happy with the two finishers in Artifacts Unbound either, so I want to brainstorm here about how to make this better.

This post will probably contain some spoilers to Dawn of the Artifacts and Artifacts Unbound, although I might be more likely to make cryptic references while assuming you already know them. If you do want to know more details about these adventures, please ask and I'll gladly explain more in the comments.

The good and the bad:

We enjoyed Dawn of the Artifacts 2 and 3. I skipped 1 because I had no interest in moving to Africa. 2 was nice because it's still fairly close to home: North America (we're Seattle based), and leads (railroads, more like) them through some pretty iconic cities. 3 I mostly ran because there's an encounter where Dutch is spoken and they pass through Europort (we're a Dutch group) and that seemed funny, but it's actually the better adventure of the two; far less railroady, and the trail of crumbs felt credible and logical. What I don't like about DotA4 is the bait and switch right at the start: they find the artifact, but it turns out to be incomplete because of some rather implausible event caused by other shadowrunners, and then they have to go through a circus of weird locations (not necessarily opposed to that, but it's a bit much at this point; I might reuse them later). I also don't like that it doesn't wrap up anything, doesn't tie up loose ends, doesn't explain what everybody wants with these artifacts, etc.

What I do like is that they're hired by Erhan directly (after being hired through Frosty the previous times), and they're hired to find the final artifact. So I've been thinking about having them find the complete artifact straight away, no bait and switch, and then send them to one of the two finales in Artifacts Unbound (The All-seeing Eye, or Two Princes).

About The All-seeing Eye, I'm not very happy with the start; the PCs getting hired for that extreme level of infiltration, far away from their home base, sounds a bit unlikely. I'd rather have them see the data leak and then get hired by another interested party. I love introducing the Black Lodge, but maybe a bit less explicit about its membership? I do like the two hits at Union Station, and the general slowly increasing chaos. There's not much of an ending though, is there?

About Two Princes, I love the idea of them witnessing the closing of the Rift, either up close or from a much safer distance, and the fallout of course. I like the idea of introducing deposed former Princes, I'm less certain about being hired by them. Shouldn't Erhan be their Mr. Johnson? Breaking into S-K at Cara'Sir is fine, but I really don't want to take them to Tir na nOg. If I go there, I want to do it more justice than that one paragraph in the book, and I think that will make it too big. I'd rather keep it more local. I do like the idea that they have an artifact and everybody is hunting them. This might be a way to bring back old temporary allies like the Virgilia and Samriel. They might not completely agree on what needs to happen with the artifacts, though.

So here's a bunch of ideas I'm toying with:

  • Erhan doesn't have the fourth artifact yet, but hires them because one of his has been stolen.
  • The leak specifies that the artifact he didn't have is one of the two acquired by the Black Lodge. Maybe he decided to split up his three artifacts to keep them safer, giving one two the Mystic Crusaders, who are all honourable about promising to give it back, but neglect to tell him they have the fourth one. Then the Black Lodge steals it from them.
  • Players read the leak on Jackpoint first, then get a call from Erhan who doesn't know who stole it, and can already inform Erhan who stole it and that the fourth artifact was also stolen. This makes the PCs feel smart and well-informed, and convinces Erhan that they're the right people for this job.
  • Like AU says, they are only in time to interrupt the second artifact handover, and missed the first. Maybe Samriel and his team already interrupted the first, but had to flee and missed the second handover because of that.
  • Of course general mayhem at Union Station, and after that, everybody is hunting them.
  • They want to get back to Erhan, who tells them to stay in DC instead, maybe already hints that he's going to give them to Ghostwalker to close the Rift. Or maybe not yet. He piece by piece informs them which groups they should consider allies, and Ghostwalker may be the last. He's probably doing tons of diplomacy and negotiation in the background.
  • During the hunt, they run into the Virgilia who just want the Sextant, and want it out of DC. They don't trust Ghostwalker or anyone else involved, but have a positive impression of the PCs.
  • Both Samriel and the Virgilia probably save them from less benevolent pursuers.
  • At some point they run into Harlequin who makes some cryptic remark about them dancing to the strings of the puppetmaster.
  • Eventually, all the artifacts end up in the hands of groups who agreed to help Ghostwalker with his ritual (which includes Draco/DIMR, Hestaby, Erhan, Frosty, Harlequin, Aden, and various Princes. Would the Atlanteans or Samriel be on board?)
  • I might involve Moreau and Nazaire from the SRM4 Missions. Not sure how yet. I haven't used them that much yet; twice I think.

What I like about this is that it doesn't really matter that much who ends up with the artifacts, making the whole thing less railroady. The PCs get in if they manage to acquire/hold on to at least one artifact, otherwise they see the disaster from a distance.

It needs a lot more detail and polish, though. And there might be better ideas that I haven't even considered yet. Any suggestions?