Descent is my favorite game. When Road to Legend was first announced, I was stunned by the idea that it could get even better. Then reality set in. I've made it through an entire campaign now and the game is not without its problems. I enjoyed it immensely, but it loses something as compared to vanilla Descent that I would like to try to get back. As I perceive it, there are a lot of limitations to the campaign as presented in the rules, so I've brainstormed with a friend who runs his own campaign across the state and come up with some ideas to modify the game to suit our needs. When developing these rules, our goals were as follows...
1) Increase hero rewards to rebalance the campaign. Balance can be severely out of whack. I know that this is group dependent, but in my group, the OL was dominant throughout and it disheartened the heroes at times.
2) More action on the overland map. Make travel easier and increase the total area explored.
3) Decrease the grinding feeling of the dungeons and the three-level format.
4) Have more things happen in a global sense within a single session. Make the campaign move quicker within each session so that a continuous narrative can be maintained and the thread of the campaign is not lost between sessions.
5) Add some motivation for the heroes so they have goals that they are driving towards.
6) Put a little tension back into the accrual of conquest and the death of the heroes, more akin to what you get in vanilla Descent.
And, to support those goals, we came up with the following rule changes, in no particular order:
1) Lieutenant upgrades do not happen automatically when the campaign level increases. They cost 5 XP per lieutenant and must be purchased as a weekly OL upgrade. This helps to balance the increased number of weeks that will occur.
2) Gold markers in dungeons are now worth 500 instead of 400. This helps the heroes grow more powerful and be less limited by money.
3) There is only one level per dungeon. No more of this three levels in a row grinding crap. The heroes get the final dungeon level reward (4CP, 250 gold) for finishing the single level dungeons anyway. There is an exception for rumor, legendary, and island dungeons. They will be two levels each. Heroes will receive the lesser reward for the first level (2CP, 100 gold). The Overlord's keep will have three levels total, including the Avatar's lair. This should increase time spent on the overland map and help improve the CT ratio between the heroes and the OL.
4) The OL deck does not reset between dungeons. It is maintained exactly as is when a dungeon is concluded. The OL is allowed to keep up to 3 cards from his hand and the rest are discarded for threat. He then rolls one power die. On anything but a surge, he discards one of his in-play power cards. The others remain for the next dungeon. He also discards half of his remaining threat and saves the rest for the beginning of the next dungeon. The happens at the end of every dungeon, so it will be every one or two levels. There will be a new item for sale in towns (Ioun Stone?) that allows the heroes, upon purchasing it, to force the OL to completely reset his deck, including redrawing treachery cards, losing all his threat, discarding all power cards, discarding his hand, and reshuffling. It will cost 500 gold. This is a best-guess estimate of its relative worth for now. I figure that it's worth at least the price of a silver treasure to possibly get that Crushing Blow out of the OL deck. The Overlord can also voluntarily reset his deck at any time between dungeons (for example, to redraw treachery cards).
5) We will use randomized treachery. The OL will draw cards equal to three times his current treachery level in each color. He will then select his cards from this subset and add them to his deck.
6) If heroes do not perform an action during the game week, they can move +1 trail on the overland map. No training, restocking, battling lieutenants, or entering dungeons is allowed if they do this.
7) One lieutenant per week can move +1 trail, but cannot perform any other functions if he does so, including attacking the heroes.
8) If the OL ever amasses conquest equal to two times the cumulative value of the heroes in a single dungeon level, the heroes are automatically ejected from the dungeon and unable to reenter.
9) Sea of Blood only: Treasure maps are, according to the normal rules, given to the heroes as a reward upon the completion of the third level of a dungeon. You must have four treasure maps to enter a buried treasure site and dig. This will be changed so that the maps locations are discovered in the same way that rumors are (at any town's tavern for 50 gold). They will, however, be placed differently and you may have more than one available on the map at once. Exact logistics are TBD, but I'm thinking that they will be limited to island levels and will require the completion of both the island and the dungeon level.
10 and 11 are still very vague and are going to require a bit of legwork on my part. I have to flesh out the details before we start. I'd like them to simplify down to a fairly basic game mechanic, such as the rumor dungeons do, yet provide a goal to work towards for both sides. They may turn out to be entirely unnecessary.
10) Subplots will be added. The OL can try to accomplish smaller tasks on the overland map in order to receive a small boost. The heroes will have similar subplots, but more often than not, they will simply be trying to stop the OL from completing his. For example, quest items could be added that do not affect the main plot, but rather give the OL the "Focused" upgrade for free if he returns one of them to his keep.
11) Dungeon levels will be fixed locations. They will make sense and be part of a continuous story and the heroes will be able to get some small amount of information about any dungeons that fall within one or two trails of their current location. Exactly how, I don't know yet. This is just an idea to help boost the roleplaying game aspect without adding any actual roleplaying.
Again, 10 and 11 are just ideas. I will definitely be using the rules propsed in 1-9, though.
I realize that the above changes will not work for every group. The game is so complex and the experiences with it so varied that a single ruleset cannot completely satisfy every player. Hence, the customization that I propose above. Hopefully someone out there will think that the game could be improved in the same way that I am proposing to improve it. If not and this experiment works out for my group, then perhaps it will serve as inspiration for another group to modify the campaign in their own ways to make it as satisfying of a gaming experience as I intend to have for my second go-round.
If you have any suggestions or you see any pitfalls that I may not have thought of, please feel free to post!
Also, stay tuned to the Sea of Blood forum for session reports. We start on the 20th and play approximately once a month.