Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Developing a Twisted Plot Within an Adventure

One of my more recent adventures I completed for my patreon is called The Weeping Witch.  Below is the map I'm using.  A simple, but hopefully interesting, map. Three detailed areas.  It doesn't seem like a lot, but in this case the setup helps develop the plot.  Should a GM chose to ignore the setup, it is an adventure with some depth. 

Plot is usually a story element and sometimes used for adventures.  In this case, plot drives what has occurred and what will occur.  The players dictate the result. Let me use this adventure as an example.

The villagers of Scorn are irritated and exhausted.  The Harvest Moon is a few days away and each year at this time, the the Weeping Witch's cries are carried on the night's wind disturbing their sleep.  One of the precautions the villagers take is tying their children in their beds.  The cries of the Weeping Witch cause the children to sleepwalk into the forest where an abandon house sits.  

One of the children goes missing.  The villagers are suspicious.  The mother, Shara, is disliked and doesn't seem concern her son is missing.  Rumors of her practicing black magic have been whisper before, but now people are vocalizing their suspicions.  

When (if) the party investigates Shara's cabin they find, unlike all the other villagers, there are no bindings on her son's bed.  They also find bloodmoss, the villagers believe it is component of dark magics.  Shara denies everything and defies the party.

We've got the setup.  The obvious situation dangled before the party.  A witch that keeps everyone awake with her cries.  A boy has gone missing.  His mother took no precautions to protect the boy and possesses herbs that are considered to be evil.  

This is a distraction of reality, great fodder to pull your party along and give them a false sense of 'knowing' to act upon.  I like to develop these in an adventure to surprise the party, or it is a mystery to solve.  Both work out great.

The reality of it, the witch is the boy's mother.  The witch charmed Shara to watch over him.  Shara uses the bloodmoss to sedate him.  The boy is a werewolf.  If the boy is 'saved' and returned to the village he will kill many villagers.  nom nom nom

This situation lends itself to further adventures.  Allow events to unfold naturally and once a course is determined, the continuing consequences are the party's reward.  I do enjoy putting the party in the role of hero and then the result is their actions make the situation worse.  Much worse sometimes.

I use this device sparingly, it's not good to go all M. Night Shyamalan every adventure.  But sprinkling these types of situations into your game keep the players guessing.  Not to assume they 'know' what's going on until they get all the facts from every corner.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Peace Be With You Carrie

Generally I am not a sentimental person.  But after reading that Carrie Fisher had passed I couldn't shake that, "something is now missing" feeling.  Maybe it's because Star Wars was the first movie I saw with my friends, no adults.  As little guys would do, we sat in the very first row with our noses against the screen and were completely wowed at what we saw.  It was a good day.  We talked about Star Wars all the time, predicting what would happen next or if the Millennium Falcon could beat the Enterprise in a race.  Really important stuff back in the day. Carrie was apart of that discussion and apart the mythology of our childhood.  As Star Wars progressed and I hit puberty, my interest in Leia, of course, increased. I can honestly say Carrie Fisher, along with Diana Rigg were my first crushes.  I had pretty good taste for a kid.  

Tonight,  I'll put in Episode IV: The New Hope and take a stroll. Remembering the Academy Theater with the glowing, neon blue clock to the right of the screen, the smell of real butter on the popcorn and fighting with the Jujubes candies that cemented themselves to my teeth.  I'll walk down the aisle on the right hand side, my feet landing heavy because of the slight slope and find my front row seat.  And when I hear John Williams's introduction music, for a short time, I'll be that 9 year old boy who wanted to see Star Wars with his friends for his birthday.

Peace be with you Carrie.  

Friday, December 23, 2016

Funeral Games

Last night I GMed my first session using a mix of ancient Roman history and Dragon Age system and mythos.  The party were playing Etruscans, their City of Veii is burning and war is lost.  Now they are to return home and salvage what they can.  

  • +Chris C. played Ectur, a harden soldier.  
  • +Ken H played Brytan Nargald, a stealthy scout.
  • Thadius was an NPC run by me.  Their former military commander.
  • Jia another NPC, she is an apostate.
To Honor a Friend
Thadius gave the order to disband, but asked Ectur and Brytan, since they are from the same village, to help him return a friend and bury him with honor.  Both agreed.  They were returning the body to Albanum.  A village where the soldiers that stole their food are from.  Ectur was on guard that night when he was attacked and overwhelmed by three of them.  He did suffer that defeat lightly.

Empty Stomachs
Because of that theft of food the party had to decide what they were going to do for food.  Traveling in harsh winter weather was brutal even with supplies.  They decided to tough it out until they reached Albanum.  The village was a day away. 

Don't Kill the Messenger
A few hours into the trek they were surprised to see a Roman messenger riding from the north.  The took a few bow shots at him.  Wounding him, but it wasn't until Ectur lept on his horse and shot his bow from there did the messenger fall from his saddle.  

They Killed the Messenger
Brytan quickly dispatched the Roman messenger, and looted him.  He found a disturbing message.

Ectur took care of the messenger's horse and added it to their short list of resources.  They head off again toward Albanum.  Jia begins to show signs of sickness as the fatigue and hunger were overtaking her.  

Entering Albanum
By nightfall they reached Albanum.  Ectur recognized two of the men at the gate as the men who stole their food, but says nothing.  They speak to the elder of the village, Lucanus.  Lucanus is very pleased they have brought home their brother and that the party agreed to honor him with funeral games.

Funeral Games
Brytan fought Thadius and was handily trounced.  The former commanding officer is kinda a bad ass.  And then Ectur drew the lot of facing Vargus, a larger man who was part of the thieving.  Ectur put a little extra effort into his strikes, driving the big man back, cutting swaths of flesh from his body until Vargus fell to a knee and gave the missio, the sign of surrender.  Ectur pointed his blade at him and called him out on his thievery.

Honor and Forgiveness
This accusation disturbed Lucanus and he wanted an explanation.  After hearing of the stolen food, Lucanus promised to correct this.  Later that evening Vargus arrived at the party's doorstep carrying 20 days of rations in a sack.  He came with his three daughters.  It was his attempt to show Ectur why he had done what he had done, but understood it was unacceptable all the same.  Ectur took the offer and gave each of the three children a ration of food.

End of Session

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

When the Romans Murdered the World

Here's my map for tomorrow night's game.  It takes place when Rome was in its infancy, beating up on its scrappy little neighbors, the Etruscans.  Those are the folks the Romans got the idea for gladiator games.  Romans were always good at that.  Beating up people  and taking their ideas.

What I've done is mix in the Dragon Age mythos.  Stir.  Stir.  Stir.  My players will play Etruscan soldiers as the City of Veii burns.  The end of the war.  They have lost.  And now they must make an Odyssey-like trek home.

To win the war and to become a world power the Romans willingly bred blood mages, created abominations and punctured the veil.  The land is a wasteland.  What hasn't been burnt down is covered in a never seen before winter in this region.  Resources are dwindling.  Enemies are abundant. 

For the next couple of weeks I'll take over the reigns of our gaming night to fill in for the holidays.  I'm looking forward to GMing.  Been a while.  

So we'll grab our 3d6s and keep an eye on the dragon die.  

...and the other eye in the fade.

Monday, December 19, 2016

How to Write a Swords & Wizardry Adventure While Learning to Facebook

I've been typing away, writing my Swords & Wizardry Light sandbox adventure, Hunters in Death.  I've got about 4000 words in, give or take.  How many words is the OGL?  I guess I can't count those.  While I've been writing, I've been learning the Facebook.  That's right, I said 'the Facebook' like old people say.  I've had an account for years, but never used it.  Then +Erik Tenkar busted my chops for not using it.  He said it gave a huge boost for his page views.  Well if it helped his tavern I thought maybe it could help my manor.  So that's why a bunch of you have gotten Friend Requests from me.  But what the fuck is poking.  I don't think I like that.  Don't poke me.  

One of the things I'm developing is a random encounter table, with lots of ruins. If you follow my blog you know I write micro-adventures for my Patreon.  These random encounters are going to micro-adventures within themselves.

"You fucking crazy bastard, why would you do such a thing?"

Great question.  Hunters in Death is going to be a sandbox adventure.  The Komor Forest, where this takes place, is not going to be mapped.  Like mega-dungeons, as soon as you start defining it, it loses its mystique.  I want the GM to define the area as he or she imagines it.  If you need a set of ruins a day away there they are.  Like JMS, the creator of Babylon 5 once answered a question about how fast someone can travel in hyperspace, he said "they travel at the speed of plot."  Meaning if you need something there the GM is not restricted by my map.  What the random table does iy allows a GM to create a unique experience for their players.  And could run it again with a completely different outcome.  Make sense?  I hope so.

Above are a few samples of ruins I'm drawing.  Ignore that lines.  Fricking cards I ordered all have them in them.  So until I find new ones let's just call it a quirk of my map making.  

One final note is I may have found an excellent editor to slash the shit out of my writing.  I've already given him a sample and he properly trounced with a savage electronic pen.  I will lean on him heavily to make myself look good.  He has a Herculean task in front of him.  

One last, last note.  If you're on 'the Facebook' hit me up with a friends request. I'm Gothridge Manor there also.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Big Battle at the Monteport Crossroads

Last night we had a big battle with the denizens of Monteport.  Our tactic for the past couple of sessions has been to bluff our way through encounters.  It worked. Then last night, all those groups we bluffed, came for payment.  But let's back up a little.

Last week we accidentally blew up our party.  Half our party dead.  Henchmen gone.  Except for one torchbearer and a dog.  +Ken H couldn't stomach watching to dog become cooked.  We lit dragon's blood on fire.  We thought we'd destroy the spell component.  BOOM!  All of us wounded and spell depleted.

Fast forward to beginning of the session.  +Chris C. and +Rob Conley created sidekick characters because theirs were still smoldering.  Chris made the saddest cleric ever rolled.  Rob created a loud Jewish barbarian viking.  We find a place to make camp because we need to heal and replenish spells.

First watch we hear the whisper whisper of wicked men.  The Jewish barbarian viking though he heard two wicked men.  Turned out to be 20.  Wrong to the power of 10.

Now you're caught up.

So we are facing 20 guys.  We take up positions and give it our best.  Sword strikes, arrows, spells and slings.  We gave them it our all and we kicked their ass.  Wait for it....I even rolled two 20s in a row!  I'm not lying.We saved one of the Followers of Elias.  Made him a deal.  He could return to his folks and die or learn a new purpose with our party cleric.  He questioned him about certain people and locations.  He seemed to answer honestly.  We kept him in our ranks...for now.

There was a lot of resource management after looting the enemies.

I'm sure we'll regret keeping the guy alive, but the problem we are running into now is the deeper we go the fewer resources we have.  Especially henchmen. Especially when you blow up henchmen.  We're going to have to try to recruit some of the folks we find.  Exploit the resources we find.

It's an interesting problem.  I love these kinds of problems.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

This Shit Ain't Gonna Write Itself

I've been tinkering around with micro-adventures for 18 months, maybe it's been two years, I lost count.  I'm old.  I'm at that age where I don't have memories I have recollections.  Anyway, I've been wanting to do a larger project and with the release of +Erik Tenkar's S&W Light ruleset, it got my gears going. Click the link to get a free copy of the PDF. 

I'm always tinkering with something gaming-wise.  Can't help it.  I took the ruleset and checked it out and thought what a great way to get new people involved with the game.  S&W Light has everything on one sheet of paper.  

My preference for adventures are low-level sandboxes.  I love the grind and grit of survival and taking resources seriously.  Oh crap, the mage is out of spells, the cleric is unconscious and the fighter just missed his save after eating the suspicious meat in the orc's backpack.  So because of that I thought I'd create a sandbox setting using Erik's S&W Light ruleset.

So what do I do first...probably one of the last things you should do, I made a cover for something doesn't exist.  But it looks so cool.  I decided to go with the tried and true look of the TSR adventure modules.  I found an amazing piece from Jack Holliday.  It is the center piece for the sandbox.  That picture is what inspired everything around it.  So I guess I can forgive myself for jumping ahead.  
I already shared this one Google+, but I'm doing it again.
Now that I have a rough draft of the cover I guess I should start writing.  This shit ain't gonna write itself (eww, found my title for this post).  

One of the first things I need is a location.  That location is at the edge of a big-ass, scary forest.  Gotta think of a name.  One of the tricks I use is Google translator. I use Hungarian since Ivy is Hungarian and the language has a medieval sound to it, at least to my ears.  Dark in the translation is Komor.  Komor Forest.  Cool.  Like it.  Done.  

Next I need a hub.  A place for the players to heal and sell some of their ill-gotten gains.  Since this is a frontier area there is very little in the way of resources.  I created a map for +Inkwell Ideas contest a while back and liked how it came out.  I already had a name for it, Hamlet of Hounds Head. Cool.  I like it.  Done.  

Not sure what style I'll be using in the final product, but for now this is my rough version of this map.  It gives me something to work off of.
I need to detail Hounds Head.  Six buildings.  A few features.  I decided to optimize Hounds Head's usefulness.

Hamlet of Hounds Head To-Do List
Figure out what the buildings are and detail them.
  1. The Scroll Stack - a place to get information, sell artifacts and information gathered from the forest.  Also can get magic items identified and possibly purchase a few healing potions.
  2. Ringing Anvil - can sell weapons and armor.  Buy or repair metal stuff.  He'll buy items for scrap metal to use for other tools.
  3. Valmar's Residence - leader and one of the founders of Hounds Head, ex-adventurer.  Dislikes 'the man', especially Baron Mawbray.
  4. Temple of Possimius - a temple based off of something I did for Petty Gods.  The players can get healed here, but it'll take a little more than money.
  5. (?) Inn - need to think of a name.  A place for the party to stay.  Contacts.  Information.  Also the place where Chevar is located (see People of Interest).
  6. Ingrid's Trading Post - the main place where the party can sell their extra goods.  Ingrid is shrewd and thrifty.  She won't be intimidated by adventurers.  She is a very religious woman, she has a small shrine to her god (got to figure out who it is).
Detail the features around within Hounds Head; King's Bridge, Three Paw Bridge, Trouble Creek and Three Paws Statue.

Detail a few People of Interest in Hounds Head.  Folks not tied to particular building, but will or could be encountered frequently.
  1. Korby the Kobold - already have him detailed.  A compulsive collector who hangs around the hamlet, sells his stuff for coppers and has a love/hate relationship with Fang (a dog).
  2. Chevar - a fancy talking fighter who is attempting to establish a branch of the adventuring guild in Hounds Head.  If he gets the funding, having an arm of the adventuring guild present would benefit Hounds Head.  Valmar doesn't like it, but sees the potential in Chevar's idea.
  3. Tangenta - no idea yet, just like the name.  
So I have a lot of stuff to do for a simple six building hamlet, which doesn't include tying in the adventures to the people.  

Back to Komor Forest.  I am not planning (I reserve the right to change my mind) to draw a large map.  I want the GM to use the amorphous nature of an expansive forest to be a concept and not defined.  If you need the cave to be two days away, its easy as saying "the cave is two days away".  Plus this allows the GM to devise what is in what direction and situate the adventures in any way he or she wishes.  

Another feature I'm adding is a random encounter table.  The random encounter table includes entries that are locations or creatures, all of which can be developed into adventure unto themselves.  Most of the random encounters are unique.  The GM can roll once or twice as the party travels through Komor and encounter an old ruin or a hunting party of hoogamites (I have no idea what a hoogamite is, I just made them up).  

And then the adventures themselves.  The main adventure is the Hunters in Death, which I have a rough idea what it will be, but I'm not gonna tell you yet. In addition, I'll write at least four adventures for the GM to use as she or he wishes.

The idea is to have a setting that is easy to digest and get players involved quickly.  It gives me a place rich with exploration, discovery and enemies to overcome.  It also has a history to it to give the area depth and a way to tie together what is found and fought.  

I have a lot of work to do.  My to-do list long, but I like where it's headed.  

I'll end this post with another amazing piece by Jack Holliday with a quote I remembered by Ernest Hemmingway.

Click to enlarge.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter Last Day

As of this posting there are 16 hours remaining in +Douglas Cole's Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter.  It's reached its funding goal and two of its three stretch goals.  There will be an ebook layout and there will be full color artwork.  He's $650 shy from a custom cover.  

Doug Gets Interviewed
Doug was interviewed by the Tome Show podcast and went into detail about the development of this Kickstarter and the content within Dungeon Grappling.  If you are interesting in hearing an in-depth discussion about the project please check out the podcast.  

Why to Get Dungeon Grappling
I believe it'll be a great addition to anyone's gaming table.  It adds depth to combat situations and role-playing possibilities beyond a drawn sword.  Not every combat needs to be kill or be killed.  Okay, most of the times it does.  But there are times when good barroom brawl is called for, not a body count. Maybe the group needs to get information, send a warning, knock a cocky youngster down a peg or two, wrestle the bomb detonator away, disarm a would-be robber and so on.  

Dungeon Grappling, while dungeon is in the name I can see it implemented into any genre, especially modern day settings.  You could run with the Dungeon Grappling system in countless situations.  So it's not for the dungeon and tavern.

Doug's shared one of the fill colored pieces of artwork for the Kickstarter and it looks fantastic.  

Doug's got himself an impressive stable of artists working on the book, full color spread.  It's going to be impressive once it's done.  

The buy in price for the PDF is $5.  That's more than you spend at McDonald's at lunch.  If you want a print version it's $18 + $5 or $6 for shipping.  For Brazil I saw it was like $23 for shipping.  I have no idea what the hell is going on there.  I think Doug's price points are spot on.  There are options for buying multiple print and PDF copies.  

I've had the pleasure of watching Doug develop his grappling system.  He and +Peter V. Dell'Orto offered to run an article about grappling in my zine, The Manor.  From there he's expanded it and refined the system.  I've been privy to copies of Dungeon Grappling as the Kickstarter campaign has progressed and I'm impressed with the quality and usability of the system.  Congrats to Doug on a successfully run first Kickstarter.  But there is still a few hours to get in on Dungeon Grappling.  Check it out, listen to the podcast and then throw a fiver or more at the Kickstater.