Pretty much universally, my players went with Option 1.
Option 1 being, make up some 250 point guys and set aside the two top-point PCs for the moment.
One conceit of the game has been that players can have as many PCs as they want - but they must run those PCs in order to interact with them. In other words, no making up Expert Loot Disposer to get you more value from your loot, Expert Healer to heal you back in town, etc. But otherwise, you can make up multiple guys if you want and pick and choose which one to run each session.
Some players did make more than one guy, not all did, but generally, people have leaned on their main character to the exclusion of all others. Vryce's player has long had a necromancy-focused Wizard ready to go, but each session that it seemed a good chance to bust him out, no one showed with a front-line fighter and he felt he needed to bring Vryce.
I think one reason was best articulated by my friend Tom - if everyone has new guys, they'll feel less like "spectators." With Vryce and Dryst around, there was simply more value in helping them do their thing than in doing your own thing. In high-risk fights only they could truly risk heads-up engagement (trolls, purple worms), and in low-risk fights it was easier to just let them handle the load (orcs, most other critters fought recently.) They were just too far ahead of everyone to make encroaching on their niche a fun way to play. Even if their niche was also your niche - you were condemned to be second-best at what you did best.
Plus it gives Vryce's player a chance to run his zombie-master, and Dryst's player a chance to run whatever crazy thing he's got in mind.
So how will we do this thing?
Everyone at 250?
Well, not exactly. Other than Vryce (close to 500) and Dryst (close to 400), and Galen (372) no current PC is worth more than about 310 points. So anyone with a character of 300 or less points, roughly, would not be so overwhelming as to make others useless. A little higher might be okay. So Honus Honusson is around 302 points - he'd be fine. So would Borriz, at 308, marginally - the real issue with him is Axe/Mace-28 makes it tough to fight at his side because he doesn't need you. Galen (372 points)? No way.
But if Galoob's player can make it (256 points) he can run him, same with Bern (265). Chuck (303 points)? Sure. Raggi - I have no idea how many points he is, but no, he's a death machine. Asher (270)? Looks like he'll be in hock to Vryce and his church for a while, but otherwise this is his side trip to try to earn cash to pay off that debt. That's a good hook for gathering a group, too - church says, you owe us, go do this thing and pay us with the loot.
In general, though, it's a great chance for people to try something new or build up the guy they have on the side without worrying about being overshadowed.
Is the end of Felltower?
No, why would it be? The game has never been solely about the megadungeon. This isn't even a break, or a B-Team. It's just a pool of adventurers with overlap with the existing group of PCs, but some of the veteran PCs aren't going to be coming. Thinking of it as an end to Felltower, a break, or as a B-Team is pretty much saying that the "A-Team" are Vryce and Dryst (and when his player is back) Galen, and everyone else is second-rate. That's pretty far from okay in my mind, because it essentially says this game of killing monsters and taking their stuff until your paper man dies is a game for 2-3 of my players and their best guys and everyone else is there to help. That even makes it sound less fun.
This is just us saying, hey, good time to admit mixing guys with a 150 point disparity isn't always going to work so well, let's not do that but otherwise keep playing exactly as before. Next session will be Session 58, it just won't be Felltower 48.
Will their adventures connect to Felltower?
Maybe even yes, literally connect.
Originally my campaign was going and then I wrote up Felltower. Since I'm going to do any side areas with Felltower in mind, I can put connections to Felltower in the new places. This means rumors, similar concepts, thematically similar places, etc. Instead of putting things in Felltower I wrote up in my conversion of B2, I'll put stuff from Felltower in whatever I convert.
Where will this take place?
Not sure yet. Depending on the setting, the players will either have an entirely new temporary base (maybe a small town near troll-plagued Molotov, say, or near the desert oasises of Morthand) or be back at the Falcon's Keep. Maybe they'll be in Stericksburg, but ranging out somewhere that isn't Felltower. We'll end up based in Stericksburg and raiding Felltower soon enough.
What about Dryst and Vryce and the others?
They'll wait. It's not a big deal. They may have learned that they don't have what it takes to crush either the orcs or the trolls right now, and need to recruit better allies. Since they're coming off a big failure and recently Felltower has torn up some of the recruiting pool, they might not able to get them.
In game, the pool of volunteers has been thinned - a lot of NPCs willing to adventure have either been killed off, went on too many dry delves, or otherwise have been discouraged. Two hired healer priests died permanently, veteran adventurer Gort was eaten, and others have made out fairly poorly. It's hard to recruit a quality party on high casualty rates and poor pay, they don't have the resources to pay bonuses or recruiters, and they can't promise much except a lot of death vs. the orcs.
Short version: they need more and better co-adventurers for Felltower, but those sorts aren't available right now. They'll have to wait.
Why not accelerate development?
In other words, why not give more XP per session to catch people up, or just start them at more points?
I don't want to do that. I want to keep playing with the same ground rules for characters we establish originally. If you want to pack on enough points to equal Vryce, you'll need to put in the 45 or so sessions his player put into doing that. No one gets a speed-up here.
Any other changes?
Same races, same templates are available. A few extras might make the list - I'm debating allowing the Swords Against Evil swashbuckler variants, but I haven't decided (after all, no one has even tried a regular Swashbuckler yet). I'm allowing a variant template or two I wrote up for publication but which I won't discuss being, well, it's for publication (my players are playtesters, basically). I made one minor rule change about gear, which I'll post about eventually.
We did amp up the pestering of one of my former players to try to get him to join the game - this campaign is 100% of what he wanted the previous campaign to be. We reached out to someone else to offer a trial invite and it's looking good. We'll see how it goes.
But yeah, it looks like while Vryce and Dryst sit around bemoaning the lack of quality adventurers to lead to their deaths in Felltower, Asher and company will be out building themselves up to that level . . . and then we'll get back to dying in Felltower itself.