This post contains spoilers for Tatters of the King. My players shouldn't read on, nor should you if you intend to play this campaign.
You've been warned!
On the plus side, the non-player characters are written in exhaustive detail, so the Keeper has more than enough information on their personalities, goals and methods to play them in an organic way and respond to the players' actions. In that sense at least, Tatters of the King is quite a well-written scenario. I made a decision early on to ignore the heavy-handed plotting and run the campaign in a more sandbox style, and the strength of the NPC detail has made that quite easy.
Until the players met Lawrence Bacon, that is.
Bacon's one of the key antagonists, a member of the inner circle of the cult that the players are trying to defeat. What is supposed to happen is that the players fight and kill him, and then, as a result of his death being reported in the press, receive a clue about the cult's whereabouts. The delay between the fight and the news of Bacon's death being published gives the cult enough time to get on with their ritual to bring the city of Carcosa to Earth, leading to an exciting finale as the players rush to get to the cult before the ritual can be completed. It's quite a well-written climax, with lots of interesting choices for the players, and the appearance of Carcosa is quite evocative; I was looking forward to running it.
I could have stopped all this. I could have had Bacon resist their attempts to subdue him, but it would have involved fudging rolls and undermining their very sensible plans. I could have had him resist their attempts at interrogation, but again their approach was a good one and I couldn't have blocked it without being unfair. I could have the ritual happen early, despite their cleverness, but then we're getting into Quantum Ogre territory. Besides, it was fun to play through, and that's the point of the hobby at the end of the day.
It is just not in my nature as a GM to fudge things to such an extent, but I'm left with the problem of delivering a finale to the campaign. There's nothing in the book about what to do if the players are clever and efficient and turn up early to the party, but that's fine as I can make it up for myself; the bigger problem is that sneaking up to the cultists and bashing them over the back of the head before they've had a chance to summon a single byakhee doesn't seem like much pay-off for months of play.
Perhaps I am worrying too much. One of the more interesting aspects of the cult is that a key member -- Alexander Roby, the asylum inmate who involved the players in the first place -- isn't a villain in a traditional sense; he does want to bring Carcosa to Earth, but only so that he can live there, and it's his colleagues who want to use the city to then summon a Great Old One. As written, the climax involves the players having to figure out how to remove Roby from a place he considers to be more or less heaven; the most efficient way is to kill him, but can the players get past the rest of the cult to do so? Even if they do, can they make that choice?
It's a good, meaningful ending, and it more or less remains intact in my version of the campaign, except that it won't be taking place against the backdrop of Carcosa. So my gut reaction is to let it all play out as it will, but I worry that it won't be enough of a dramatic ending for my players after all the work they've put in. Am I concerned over nothing?