Category Archives: Adventure Sketch

Themed Fantasy Tavern Week: Titan’s Keg

Legend has it that the Titan’s Keg is partially built out of an actual keg of mead once owned by a titan, or at least a very large giant. This idea is reinforced by the fact the Meadhall section of the tavern has a deep, pleasant honey-mead scent permeating its wooden exterior and, of course, the barrel-like appearance of that section of the building.

(Art by Warpaintcobra)

The truth is more prosaic, though arguable interesting in its own right. The Titan’s Keg sits in a section of town reserved for residential shops and guild offices–places where people both live and work as crafters or representatives for crafters. The only enforcement mechanism for this vague zoning law is that shop signs must be approved by local crafter guilds, and to discourage public houses they don’t allow signs for inns or taverns. To get around this, the owner of the Titan’s Keg bought scrap wood from a shipyard wrecker, and used it to add a room to his home that had a keg-like appearance. The fact the wood came from a ship that had be damaged in a storm and hundreds of mead barrels had broken in its hold and soaked into the wood was a happy coincidence, though now the owner stains the interior wood every year with alchemical compounds that reinforce and restore the honey scent.

In addition to being a tavern and home, the Titan’s Keg is also the guild-independent shop of Ruvald Hain, an alchemist who specializes in food and flavoring. because his arts could be used to mask the taste of poisons (which he never works with), the Alchemist’s Guild and Herbalist’s Guild both insist he should pay them vast sums of money to oversee (and in his opinion, spy on and copy) his work. In defiance he refuses to join or work with either guild, and thus is only allowed to work in, sell from, and buy materials in his own building. The Titan’s Keg brings in most of his revenue (his experiments in flavors often leading to popular, often limited-time, drink flavors such as cheery mead, orange-blossom red wine, and the startlingly popular lime beer), which Ruvald spends convincing customers to bring him alchemical reagents for him to buy without doing business outside his building.

(Art by ratpack223)

The Meadhall of the Titan’s Keg is kept clean and brightly-painted. A cauldron is always on the fire, though patrons have learned to confirm it’s cooking food before dipping themselves a mug of its contents. The interior arches are lined with shelves that have serving plats and steins, but also various alchemical agents Ruvald doesn’t have room to keep in his residence. In fact, Ruvald’s personal possessions often end up scattered about, and regulars keep an eye on them to make sure no one makes off with anything important. Often, the unmarked bottles simply have flavor essences and preservatives but not always, and only Ruvald knows which is which.

Ruvald has a small, but dedicated staff of halfling and gnome cooks, bartenders, and servers who keep the place running smoothly more in spite of him that with his help. They also double as his alchemy assistants, housekeepers, and bookkeepers. He pays them well, but most work for him as a kind of informal apprenticeship, picking up culinary and alchemical knowledge by observing and assisting him. They keep the Meadhall open most hours, but if Ruvald is sick or sleeping after several days of work, they may insist everyone “keep it down” so he can recover.

PATREON
If you enjoy any of my various thoughts, ideas, and posts, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).

Themed Fantasy Tavern Week: The Rise and Fold

I’m looking at pulling a ton of my personal campaign notes, from up to 22 years ago, into actual for-sale polished products (maybe on Paizo Infinite, maybe just as rules-light, map-, art-, and flavor-heavy pdfs on OpenGamingStore and DriveThru –anyone have opinions on which you’d rather see?).

That includes a TON of material I wrote on locations for 3.x/Pf1/4e/Wizards & Warlocks games–some as part of old professional projects that ended up not happening, some for home campaigns, some for my previous online efforts before this blog. While a great deal of that material really needs the conext of a world or city to link it to, some stand on their own pretty well as drop-anywhere fantasy locations.

Especially the taverns.

Throughout this week I’ll be putting out short descriptions of four Fantasy Taverns. they are designed to be unusual and interesting, the kinds of places PCs gravitate towards, investigate, buy, or turn into regular hangouts. (Wednesday will be an Owen Explains It All article tying-in to the show recording Feb 14th.)

None of these are as complete as I’d produce as for-sale products (which would include exterior shots, interior shots, and maps for each one), but if you like these snippets, let me know and maybe I’ll add some polish to the bigger entries of my old material and turn them into a professional product. The longest entry is the first one, and the rest are currently more written sketches. But, if they are popular enough, I can easily do another week worth of entries from Feb 21-25.

The Raise and Fold

Officially, The Raise, a Public Parlor and The Fold Alehouse are two different businesses, and indeed they have two different owners. It’s not even known if the owners like each other–they are never seen together or speak of one another–but they obviously have some kind of arrangement to benefit both establishments.

But since the two businesses are the top floor and bottom floor (respectively) of the same building, and a tab run up at one must be paid off before purchases can be made at the other, and they both feature gambling and drinking, people just call them The Raise and Fold, unless greater specificity is needed.

(The Raise and Fold, art by 3drenderings)

The Raise, A Public Parlor

“The Raise” is run by Gyster Feirn, a half-elf poet and scion of a winery-owning family who seems to have been stuck with the tavern to wait from him to “season” over a few decades before being allowed to benefit from any other familiar businesses. Feirn is genteel and runs a small, expensive, selective establishment where from dusk to dawn there is always a table of high-stakes As-Nas being run by the house and buying 20 gp/glass drinks is part of the cost of participating. In addition to socializing and playing cards, numerous deals are made within the parlor of “The Raise,” often including the buying and selling of “opportunities,” which range from the rights for caravan goods stolen by bandits (which you can buy for coppers and the gold… but then need to go recover yourself), to ancient maps, logbooks from sunken cargo ships, and debts due to be collected from grumpy dragons or infamous wizards.

Feirn acts as host and card dealer more than proprietor. Business issues are generally handled by the quiet, taciturn dwarf Drun Ironnail, who rumor suggests is related to the owner of “The Fold,” though no one who would know is ever willing to talk about that. Drun is a very minor spellcaster, using cantrips to clean and brighten the room and fetch drinks, spending about as much time in the tiny “back room” (where money goes and drinks come from) as in the parlor which takes up most of the upper floor. No one else seems to work for “The Rise,” though if anyone starts trouble, “cudgelers” from “The Fold” quickly stomp up the stairs to deal with it.

“The Raise” is kept bright, clean, and fresh-smelling, with comfortable and high-end (though mismatched) furnishings, warm carved wood tables and posts, and is set up more like the sitting room of a minor noble than a pub or gambling house. Pillows, books, flowers, and teapots are common, with many patrons appreciating a hot tea chaser and a few sweetcakes to go with their fine wines and expensive card games. Small trays of foods keep easily, including sweets, cheeses, nuts, and dried fruits, can be purchased along with a vast and ever-changing wine, mead, and spirits list.

(The Raise Parlor, Art by Digital Storm)

No one gets into “The Raise” unless they are a member, the guest of a member, or are recommend by Maridern of “The Fold.” Anyone who makes trouble or can’t pay their debts are banned from “The Raise,” and directed to “The Fold.”

The Fold Alehouse

The Fold is much lower in asperations than it’s upstairs neighbor, but is also shockingly much, much larger. Though from the outside it looks to take up only a single lower story, in fact “The Fold” has 5 lower levels, which have rooms for for private meetings and parties, storage, cooking, living quarters for its owner and her “cudgelers,” a small infirmary, and a vault (in the middle of lower-level 3, with no exterior wall that doesn’t have a room on the far side). Lower levels are always guarded, and are heated by brick stoves connected to the main kitchen fires.

(Lower level stove in The Fold, art by Ralf Kraft)

However, most patrons never go below the main level, which is the open “Aleroom,” a dark space light by candles (which seem to glow more than their flames should suggest), with sturdy wooden furnishings designed more to survive a brawl than provide comfort. The walls and floor are stone, the room more thick wood (though any loud commotion from “The Raise” can clearly be heard), with a few fire pits, a serving station and a secure counter and door where cudgelers watch for troublemakers, and keep anything the Tavern’s owner, Maridern decides not to let patrons hold on to while drinking.

Maridern is a older dwarven woman whose face has been compared to an dried potato… a comparison she doesn’t mind. She’s an ex-adventurer, though no one is sure how long ago or what her area of specialty was, and she retired to “the Fold” when her bones creaked more than the doors she’d burst through. She runs her Alehouse like the stern grandmother of a rowdy family, shamelessly admitting she has favorites who get better deals and care than typical patrons, and if someone doesn’t like it they can drink and play tiles elsewhere. In addition to a diverse crew of staff (which Maridern treats as her grandchildren–for good and ill), there are a half-dozen “cudgelers,” enforcers of good behavior that are trained to use their cudgels to make a point without killing anyone. At least, not anyone who behaves after getting cudgeled once.

“The Fold” offers cheap but not watered-down drinks, simple food (leaning towards stews, meats, grains, root vegetables, and fungus), and a a rule that stealing or stabbing a fellow patron will be dealt with harshly. The second rule in the Fold is that if anything said would mean you have or were going to break the law or insult or threaten someone, you are assumed to be lying for entertainment of others. This rule is the source of many tall tales, but also allows lawmen and rogues and members of opposing factions to drink at the same table, though overlooking such statements doesn’t always last beyond the alehouse’s walls.

(The Fold Aleroom, art by IG Digital Arts)

If someone drinks until they pass out, or is knocked out, they get moved to the corner near the cudgelers, and looked after until they come to. The major pastime is betting on games of “tiles,” a dwarven dominos-like game played with square tiles with numbers on all 4 sides, and one of the 4 corners. Maridern loves teaching tiles to new players, and allows trusted players to set up coin-per-round tables, but never, ever plays or bets on the game herself.

Newcomers pay for all services in coin-in-advance, but someone clearly down on their luck, and trusted regulars, are allowed to run up a tab. Tabs in theory come due every month, but Maridern often allows token payments for those who are genuinely trying to make good. She also appears to buy debts from “The Raise,” and people not allowed into that establishment for any reason that doesn’t put them in jail are generally allowed to work off their debts (or reputation as a troublemaker) by working at “The Fold.”

Another way to wipe out a debt is to “leave your sword.” In this case something Maridern accepts as an important weapon or tool owned by the debtor is left behind, stacked up on a counter behind the cudgeler post in the Aleroom. Anyone can buy it for whatever the debtor owes (including the debtor if they come into money later), or when the ex-debtor shows up again, Maridern retains the right to give it back to them, in return for it being used to perform a service for her. Maridern has a reputation for being harsh, but not evil, and while she has given people back their swords and told them to go kill someone, in general that’s always been someone the community agreed needed killing.

The Fold is often a popular bar for mercenaries, guards, thieves, and adventurers. Maridern often directs people toward, or away, from such careers as she judges best for them, though she never insists. She also lets people coming up in the world, with money and class and manners, know that if they want, she can get them an invite into “The Raise.” Some adventuring groups have formed from tables of regular tiles players having one of their number begin visiting the Raise, then coming back with an opportunity for adventure for which they need assistance.

PATREON
If you enjoy any of my various thoughts, ideas, and posts, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).

Axes & Arcana, a Fiction Intro Snippet

I wrote this more than a decade ago. This is all there is of it– no outline, no list of names or plot points. Just the beginning of an introductory scene, likely to be incomplete forever, hanging as insecurely as the character in it.

ONE

The sound of rain splattering on the floor of the chamber was rudely interrupted by the loud clang of a three-tined metal hook bouncing through a hole in the ceiling. The hook swung on the end of a knotted rope, dancing mid-air as the rope jerked and swayed. Then the rope disappeared back up through the hole, the hook traveling with it. The hook rang like a bell as it popped back past the edge of the gap it had come through, and disappeared up into the rainy night beyond. For long moment, the chamber was again filled only with the sounds of rain falling down through the same rough opening in the stone roof, to patter against the worn tiled floor. The water pooled, then meandered like a snake in a thin, dirty stream that weaved past rusting helmets and yellowed bones strewn across the old tile floor, until it flowed with a quiet gurgle down a rock ramp corridor that exited the chamber. Even when lightning flashed its harsh brightness through the hole in the ceiling, followed seconds later by thunder, the light did nothing to illuminate the dark corridor, or show the stream’s final destination.

The metal hook banged across the rock at the top of the hole, without falling in, and was again dragged away. A muffled curse, invoking gods too dead or imaginary to be offended, echoed into the chamber and then the hook came flying into the old stone room once more. This time when the knotted rope was pulled back, a single tine of the hook caught on the lower edge of the ceiling’s hole, and the rope was tightened against it. And then, the chamber was again filled with only the gentle patter and gurgle of the rainwater.

Before long, cursing could again be distantly heard thought the ceiling’s opening. Though closer and louder than before it was no more imaginative, mostly focusing on improbably sexual positions and the dubious heritage of the architects who had chosen to build the chamber, and the complex it served as entrance to, so high in the mountains. Had the architects been around to hear such speculation they would have been filled with rage, and likely summoned demons and spectral horrors to strike down the blasphemers. But not only were they all long dead, the moldering remains of several of them actually lay in the damp room, their impotent bones scattered and once-rich garments turned to tattered rags. The architects had claimed that even in death they would defend the chamber, but their complete lack of action gave lie to the ancient pledge.

More than half an hour after the hook had first banged its way into the chamber, a second knotted rope was slowly lowered through the rain-filled air from the gap in the massive stone slab that served as the room’s ceiling, its lower end coiling neatly on the wet floor. A thin, nimble figure was silhouetted in the gap of the ceiling as lighting and thunder flashed across the sky above, and then his pale, exposed body slid down the second rope. He was breathing heavily and might have been sweating, though the rains lightly pelting him made it impossible to know for certain. He had a strip of cloth wrapped around his groin and another above his eyes, and leather straps protecting his palms and feet, but was otherwise unclad. He slipped easily down the rope, letting his feet and hands slide nimbly over the rope’s knots. While still a score of feet above the ground, he paused on the rope and spoke softly. The words were sibilant, soft, and yet seemed filled with great value, as if he was whispering something terrible and important.

Feis’ithifv.”

As the sounds — never designed for human lips — slipped away in a hush, a blue mote of light formed in the air beside the thin man. The mote drifted down below him, to bounce gently off the pooling water on the floor – though it created no ripples. The man watched it roll for a few feet, then come to a stop. It was little more than a single candle’s worth of light, and he had to peer through the rainfall still all around him, but he rushed nothing. Every inch of the corridor he examined from his perch on the rope, taking note of the water trickling out the only exit, the bones and armor, the cracked altar against one wall, and the smashed statue against another.

PATREON
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MoviePitch: “The Cabin at Camp Sorority Lake”

#MoviePitch #CabinAtCampSororityLake

A group of very different women, who clearly have all survived horrifying and dangerous experiences, gather to deal with the evils they’re sure are lurking near the about-to-be-opened eponymous cabin.
And this time? They’re prepared.
Ideally this would be “The Expendables,” but with actresses who have survived horror and horror/action movies.
(For example, they all take out million-dollar life insurance policies, and name each other’s friends and families as beneficiaries. But not the group themselves — no one who is going to be at the Cabin is benefitting directly).

“Is that a chainsaw?”
“Yep. Top-handle 16-inch always-start Stihl, with custom grips and fuel gauge.”
“Did you get it from… yaknow?”
“Oh, heck no, he used a stupid-huge, heavy, rusty monstrosity. Bad for combat. I DID salvage some of the links from it’s chain, though.”
“Nice!”

“So, you wear full body armor?”
“When hunting, with backup? Fuck yeah. NIJ-certified Level IV. You don’t?”
“No, I prefer stealth and mobility. I have a stab-resistant undersuit. Machete-resistant, too.”
“Tested it against power drills?”
“Haven’t had the opportunity.”

“All right, precheck. Defiled indigenous holy sites or burial grounds?”
“I mean, yes. But no more than anywhere else in this country. None of the surviving original local cultures have any specific warnings for us. I asked.”
“Toxic dumps?”
“Not that the eco-groups I talked to are aware of.”
“Illegal labs?”
“Shipping and power records suggest no.”
“Previous incidents?”
“Three recorded massacres, roughly one per generation. Just rare enough for people to forget. Always on a solstice. Like the one coming up.”
“So, cult or supernatural evil.”
“Seems likely. I have silver, jade, white oak, mistletoe, holly, salt, and holy water — in Catholic, protestant, and Eastern Orthodox flavors. And some from a guy named Giles. Oh, and bullets. Lots of bullets.”
“Sounds good, let’s go.”

I specifically wanted a mashup title for this idea, but after expanding a bit I wondered if “Final Girls” would be a better choice. But, it turns out a movie by the title already exists and is just similar enough (it’s kind of Scream via Last Action Hero; an actress’s daughter and her friends get pulled into the actress’s horror movie, giving them a change to use their self-aware trope knowledge to defeat the killer) that I think it’s better not to risk confusion.

PATREON
If you enjoy any of my various thoughts, ideas, and posts, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).

Doom has come to the Northfells!

Now funding on Kickstarter, the Skaldwood Blight Adventure Path is a complete campaign for Pathfinder Second Edition, taking characters from 1st level all the way to 20th level in a massive book over 250 pages long! A demon lord has invaded the far northern land of stalwart barbarians, righteous priests, and mysterious fey. Can the heroes uncover the demon lord’s many plots, vanquish his minions, and save the Northfells from corruption and destruction? Here is your chance to save the land!

 The Adventure Path’s setting, the Northfells, can be easily dropped into any campaign world. There’s plenty of wilderness adventure, but the Skaldwood Blight’s heroes must delve dungeons, infiltrate insular cities, and negotiate with supernatural forces for vital aid. There’s something in the Skaldwood Blight Adventure Path for every player!

 The Skaldwood Blight Adventure Path began when Paizo, Inc. developer (and veteran adventure author) Ron Lundeen set out to build a compact yet complete adventure path from the ground up on his blog at RunAmokGames.com. The pieces of the Adventure Path have now been compiled, expanded, and reconfigured into a massive book presenting an entire campaign, complete with art, maps, designer commentary, and more!
 This 250+ page book contains everything you need to run the campaign, including:

  • 20 chapters of adventure, one for each level of play, in a thrilling, danger-filled campaign!
  • An overview of the Northfells, a hard region of ice and fury. Menace lurks in every proud city-state, along every trail, and in every frost-shrouded forest!
  • Unique backgrounds suitable for any character!
  • Copious art and maps by industry veterans!

Additional rewards to unlock throughout the campaign include:

  • Additional backgrounds that tie directly into the campaign’s characters, locations, and plots!
  • An expanded gazetteer of the Northfells, the campaign’s thrilling setting!
  • A designer commentary about building the Adventure Path from the ground up!

By Ron Lundeen, Paizo’s Developing Manager for Pathfinder, veteran and fan-favorite adventure writer, owner of run Amok Games, and licensed lawyer and member of the Washington State Bar Association!

Stretch Goal 1: Northfells Gazetteer [LOCKED – $`15,000]

We’ll provide a four page, high-level gazetteer of the adventure path’s entire setting, including all the key towns the heroes will visit (and even some they won’t, giving GMs room to expand). The gazetteer also includes the dangerous forests, waterways, and mountain ranges of the Northfells, too, as much of the campaign occurs in the wilderness! A map of the entire Northfells is included.

This gazetteer is player-focused, providing tantalizing hints but no spoilers, so it’s suitable for GMs to give to their players.

More Stretch Goals To Be Announced As We Get Closer To Them

Holiday-Themed Constructs

Look, maybe you want to run a fantasy ttRPG with giant animated fruitcake warriors… and maybe you’ll just get a giggle out of my actually taking this topic seriously. But if you want to reskin some class iron, clay, and stone constructs (or any construct-type creature) into holiday-themed materials, here are some options for powers to add based on the holiday material used.

Figgy Pudding/Fruitcake: Take half damage from bludgeoning attacks. Are sticky, so they gain a climb speed.

Gingerbread: As almost 2-d, flexible creatures, they can get through spaces a creature 2 size classes smaller could, without taking any penalties. Any fire damage sets them on fire, both damaging them and causing their attacks to do fire damage.

Holly: Anyone hit by the construct, or adjacent to it for a full round, must make a mental save or move towards the person present they would be most interested in kissing (though once they take that move, all compulsion stops).

Hot Cocoa: Gains all the powers of both a fire elemental and a water elemental of the same threat level. takes double damage from bite attacks.

Peppermint: These constructs are “curiously strong.” Tracking them by scent is easy, but they cover all other scents, and after being in an enclosed space for a minute, scent can no longer pinpoint their exact location with that space.

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Adventure Set-Ups: The Free City of Delve

It can be useful to set-up a homebrew campaign to support the kinds of adventures you want to run. Want high-seas adventures? Set up a world with lots of good reasons to be on the high seas. So, obviously, want a reason for new, inexperienced adventurers to go dungeon-delving a lot? Build a campaign that supports that idea.

Here’s an example: The Free City of Delve

The Free City of Delve sits on the Isle of Acmonides, among the ruins of the Acmonidesi Empire of giants. Once a world-spanning superpower, Acmonides was the most advanced civilization, with titans and cloud and storm giants ruling over a hundred subjected kingdoms and enforcing their will on dozes of smaller species. Three centuries ago, some massive civil war set the giants against one-another, and the sub-giants (cyclops, ettins, athach, ogres, trolls, and so on) were so devastated they lost nearly all their culture.

Nearly a century after Acmonides fell, seafarers found the island that was its capitol, the location of which had been a well-guarded imperial secret. Camps were set up to loot the islands, then a town evolved as ways to loot the rest of the empire were discovered, and finally the Free City of Delve established.

The center of Delve is the Catacomb Market, built around an ancient step well 60 feet across and 2,000 ft. deep. Hundreds of channels run from various levels of the well. Each channel was once part of an Empire-wide aqueduct system, with teleportation gates bringing water in, and taking it out. For security, only appointed Tibiax, water-workers, could travel the gates. Each gate was controlled by a set of Keystones, attuned to specific Tibiax.

Tibiax were rarely giants, the job instead going to smaller subjugated peoples. The role was often hereditary, so Keystones still work for the descendants of ancient Tibiax, if first used in in the step well on Acmonides Isle.. As the Empire spanned the world, Keystones can be found anywhere worldwide. Merchants in the Catacomb Market import and buy Keystones, and prospective delvers walk the market to see if any stones will work for them. If a stone works for you, it grants potentially exclusive access to some distant part of the Empire, through the magic waterways.

Since the system was specifically designed to allow scions of Tibiax families learn the ropes of maintaining the mystic aqueducts safely, young and inexperienced individuals who first access a keystone are generally sent to a location no one has been sent to in decades or more (since those are the areas with the most failed sections of waterworks) that aren’t extremely hazardous (since the keystones are designed to find problems their attuned Tibiax can handle). The system isn’t perfect, but it means youngsters who discover there’s a Keystone that will work for them can generally gather a group of allies and explore some new part of the collapsed Empire that, though often dangerous, is rarely beyond their ability to cope with. And, they can freely teleport between that location and the step well at the center of Delve.

A a Keystone-bearing group fixes the problem in the region they teleport too through the step well, the keystone then begins to grant them access to new areas — often nes with bigger risks, and sometimes bigger rewards.

The primary trade of Delve is to equip adventurers to loot sections of the long-fallen Acmonidesi Empire, through expeditions sent through the Catacomb market’s magic waterway teleport gates. Loot is brought back to Delve, and used to fund more expeditions. While many nations would love to conquer and control Delve, so far none have wanted to risk angering all the other interested parties by trying to do so through force.

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Dungeon Name Generator

I unironically love dungeons.

Now, I use a pretty broad definition of “dungeon.” In fact, I’ve written whole series of articles about what I consider to be dungeons, in ttRPG terms.

But part of a cool dungeon is a cool name. And, I love creating name generators. So while I don’t claim this article can name every dungeon in all of fantasy gaming, it can certainly create more names than any one campaign world can use.

Using the Generator

Roll 1d6 to determine how to generate your dungeon name.

1-2: Start with “The,” then roll once on Table 1 and once on table 2.

3-5: Roll once on Table 2, add “of,” then roll once on table 3.

6: Start with “The,” then roll once on Table 1 and once on table 2, add “of”, then roll once on table 3.

Table 1 (Roll 1d100)

01-03: Azur

04-05: Bastard

06-08: Barrier

09-10: Candle

11-13: Collapsed

14-15: Crimson

16-18: Crumbling

19-20: Demon Queen’s

21-23: Demonweb

24-25: Dragonbound

26-28: Emerald

29-30: Fallen

31-33: Frostfell

34-35: Gallow

36-38: Guardmoor

39-40: Hastur’s

41-42: Haunted/Haunting

43-45: Hellspike

46-48: Hollow

49-50: Icy

51-53: Iron

54-55: Kobold

56-57: Lost

58-60: Nightfang

61-62: Nightworm

63-65: Red

66-67: Shattered

68-70: Silver

71-72: Sinister

73-75: Standing

76-77: Stonefang

78-80: Sunless

81-82: Thunderspire

83-85: Tiger’s

86-88: Trollhunt

89-90: Terrifying

91-93: Under

94-95: White Plume

96-98: Windswept

99-00: Yawning

Table 2 (Roll 1d100)

01-02: Abby/Abbies

03-04: Acropolis

05-06: Barrow(s)

07-08: Bastion(s)

09-10: Cairn(s)

11-12: Catacomb(s)

13-14: Cave(s)

15-16: Cavern(s)

17-18: Castle

19-20: Citadel

21-22: City

23-24: Dungeon

25-26: Enclave

27-28: Fane

29-30: Field(s)

31-32: Forge(s)

33-34: Fortress

35-36: Gate(s)

37-38: Grotto(s)

39-40: Hall(s)

41-42: House(s)

43-44: Keep(s)

45-46: Kingdom

47-48: Labyrinth

49-50: Lodge(s)

51-52: Manor(s)

53-54: Mine(s)

55-56: Mount

57-58: Mountain(s)

59-60: Palace(s)

61-62: Pass/Passes

63-64: Peak(s)

65-66: Pit(s)

67-68: Oubliette

69-70: Prison(s)

71-72: Portal(s)

73-74: Pyramid(s)

75-76: Redoubt

77-78: Rift(s)

79-80: Ruin(s)

81-82: Sanctum

83-84: Shrine(s)

85-86: Spire(s)

87-88: Stone(s)

89-90: Temple(s)

91-92: Tomb(s)

93-94: Tower(s)

95-96: Wall(s)

97-98: Warrren(s)

99-100: Well(s)

Table 3 (Roll 1d100)

01-03: Annihilation

04-06: the Archmage

07-10: the Borderlands

11-13: Broken Souls

14-16: Chaos

17-19: Deception

20-22: the Drow

23-25: Elemental Evil

26-28: Fandelver

29-31: the Feathered Serpent

32-34: the Forgotten King

35-37: the Frog

38-40: the Frost Gant Jarl

41-43: Fury

44-46: the Ghouls

47-49: Graves

50-52: Harpies

53-55: Hawksmoor

56-58: the Horned ________ (roll on Table 4)

59-61: Horrors

62-64: Ice

65-67: Lies

68-70: the Necromancer

71-73: Peril

74-76: Ravenscroft

77-79: The Ravenous Moon

80-82: Redcliff

83-85: Ruin

86-88: the Serpentfolk

89-91: the Shadowfell

92-94: Shadows

95: Slaughtergarde

96-98: Spiders

99-100: the Winter King

Table 4 (Roll 1d6)

01. Bear

02. Crown

03. Man

04. Rat

05. Skull

06. Wolf

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Quick Tips: Designing Adventures Backwards

If there’s one thing I think is most likely to trip up new GMs when they design their own adventures, it’s that they tend to design them front-to-back. That is, most GMs (and adventure writers) I see who begin creating adventures from scratch for the first time want to write the first encounter first, the second encounter second, and so on.

Now, that makes a lot of sense on the surface. That’s the order gamers encounter other people’s adventures in, so it’s a familiar pacing. Also, it means that if you plan to have 4 game sessions worth of adventure, you only have to do the first 4 encounters of work before you can run the first session. No need to design more than you need for the next game night, right?

Well…

Look, that works great for a lot of GMs, and if it works for you, more power to you. There are absolutely advantages to that system, and lots of ways to make it work to your advantage. But for many GMs, it means they introduce a problem and the mystery and the clues… before they know what the mystery is, or what the clues are supposed to be pointing to. That often works fine when you first introduce elements — everyone has seen the stories where the map has a big blank spot, or the detective finds mud they are sure is important, or the prophecy only makes sense after it’s fulfilled. So if you tell the ranger that yes, the site of the bandit attack has lots of wolf and goblin footprints, but on top of all of those are sharped bits of wood, as though from a whittled stick, which was done 2-3 hours after the bandit attack, players will file that away as an important clue for later.

Which is great–if you ether have a rough idea what you are doing (so you can make up clues that’ll fit in) or are good at bringing things together in the last few chapters even if you had no idea what you are doing when you leave a clue. But if you’re GREAT at coming with evocative and intriguing set dressing, but terrible at connecting them together after-the-fact, the end game of your adventures may be much more stressful and dissatisfying than you’d like.

For such GMs, writing your adventure backwards can make things much easier.

For example, let’s say you decide the end villain of your adventure is an evil ranger, who riles up local wilderness threats, directs them at farms and villages, and then charges those settlements money to “solve” the problems he’s creating. You give him a couple of personality quirks — he’s arrogant, handsome, and can whittle small wooden symbols that anger specific kinds of wildlife. You want a fight with him to end your advneture.

You want some investigation in town to happen just before that fight. So you create an event rh PCs could investigate once they are suspicious enough. You decide the ranger runs a protection racket, but a newcomer bard was becoming suspicious. So the ranger poisoned a local goblin tribe with herbs that make them battle-mad. Then he faked a note from the goblins to the bard making it seems the goblins wanted to tell the bard something important. When the bard went to where the note indicated, the herb-maddened goblins killed the bard. The ranger came by after the battle, whittling more of his magic traps, and stole the bard’s gear.

With that in place, it’s easy to see how the Ps get involved. Locals think the attacks are getting worse, and that the ranger isn’t enough to deal with them anymore. They hire PCs to help, but the PCs keep finding evidence of an unseen figure behind the attacks. You can have them fight some maddened animals the ranger sends after them hoping the PCs will be killed, have them ask folks what might have riled the animals, get told the new bard asked similar questions before being killed by goblins, seek ut the bard’s hidden notes because the bard was already onto the ranger, get pointed at the ranger, want to find the bard’s loot so they search the ranger’s hut and find it, then confront the ranger. Easy.

It may not solve all adventure problems, but often working backwards from the end is the easy way to decide what clues and story beats the PCs will find as they move forward through the adventure.

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ShadowFinder Mundane Gear Rules Preview

Yesterday, I previewed a new type of feat coming in the Starfinder Infinite ShadowFinder book. (And the awesome cover!) Today, I’m teasing some general rules designed to cover the use of everyday mundane equipment.

[H2]Mundane Equipment Rules

Not everything listed as mundane equipment has detailed descriptions or specific rules associated with it. Mostly, this is because I assume we all know what a smart phone, alarm clock, and ball-point pen are. I certainly could go into excruciating detail on how long  a line, in linear feet, you can draw with the ink in one ball-point pen, and the differences between disposable ones, refillable, and collectable. But I decided not to do that.

Because I don’t want to.

Seriously, modern gear mostly doesn’t need a ton of rules behind it. You have a pdf ruleset you had to be online to buy, so you have access to the Internet. If you need to know how many ounces of ink are in a typical ball-point pen, or the burn rate of scented candles, or if polypropylene rope floats (hint: it does), you can take 15 seconds online to look it up.

But while many games may end up needing to know one of those things, once, in a specific weird circumstance, the overwhelming majority won’t need to know any of the rest of the trivia I could fill a modern equipment section with. So, I don’t want to take the time, or space, or make people read through it all, just to cover the rare corner case with well-defined facts and rules.

Instead, I’d prefer to give some general rules on how to determine if a character’s effort to use a piece of equipment in a specific way works. That puts the GM and players on roughly the same page about the chances of success when you try something off-the-wall, and can be used regardless of what mundane equipment is involved. ShadowFinder is about facing weird threats in mysterious circumstances at strange locations, not careful tracking of modern mundania.

[H3]Professional Use

So, what rules DO I think make sense for modern gear we’re either all familiar with, or able to easily look up with the marvel of online search engines? Simply put, rules that determine if a character can successfully do what they want with a piece of equipment. To keep that short and simple, I’m going to use Skill checks as the baseline for gear success, breaking into XX easy steps for the GM to go through.

[H4]1. Is There Already A Rule For This?

Often, players will just want to use their equipment as a way to do typical adventuring things. If the attempted use is already covered by a Starfinder rule, just use that rule and assign a penalty or circumstance bonus as seems appropriate. Given how tight the success math is for most tasks, if you can attempt something with a piece of gear, it likely shouldn’t take more than a -2 penalty for being an off label use. Similarly, circumstance bonuses can be a little as +1 or +2, and should very rarely go above +5.

For example, E.Z.Wren is in a Parasol Consolidated Industries office waiting to talk to a compliance officer about evidence E.Z. has uncovered about PCI violating various consumer safety laws. Suddenly, instead of middle management, four chemghouls burst into the room. E.Z. makes a made dash for the conference room off the office, and gets inside and locks the door. But the chemghouls begin hammering the door, which won’t hold them long, and the only other way out of the conference room is the windows.

On the 23rd story.

E.Z. wants to smash a window open with a chair. That sounds like an improvised weapon, so the GM just treats the chair as an awkward club with a -4 penalty to attack rolls as with the standard improvised weapon rules. It takes a few swings, but E.Z. breaks one of the big window panes, and now has access to the outside of the building.

Unfortunately, it’s an all-glass sides modern high-rise and E.Z. doesn’t have any climbing equipment with him. Obviously, the building’s exterior isn’t perfectly smooth, but it seems likely to be a “relatively smooth surface with occasional handholds,” as defined by the Athletics skill (which covers climbing), so the GM rules it’s a DC 25 Athletics check, and given the height (240 feet, the GM decides), E.Z. would have to make a lot of checks to successfully make it to the ground.

[H4]2. Can The Equipment Be Used This Way?

(There are more steps obviously, but this is a TEASRER PREVIEW, not an entire rules section!)

(Yes, there really are commercial sledgehammers available off-the-rack that are that big.)

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