torsdag 1 november 2018

1p Adventure: House of Thousand Idols

The Rod of Seven Parts for my campaign is no rod, but relics of the Martyr King Severend. So far I've detailed the locations for the torso, the head, and the arm, with the aim of making each location as condensed and "constructed" as I can.

Today's addition is the house of thousand idols. The idea was to design a maze that is simple enough to crack for those so inclined and possible to brute-force in a non-tedious manner. My proposed solution is to use symmetric rooms with many passages and no corridors, and instead make the rooms multi-state. So the trick isn't really "do we find the way", but "do we find the right way".

To emphasize this theme, I put in slow but very deadly enemies that trigger if you don't follow the right way, and a cockatrice that can fly - and so have other movement options than the PCs - and has a petrifying attack that further limits movement.

The adventure will work best if the cockatrice is a beatable but formidable foe so that players prefer avoiding it. If they can easily kill it, the maze feel too static so in that case you might want to introduce some rival adventurers or a mother-cockatrice that arrives in 1d4 turns to maintain some urgency.

måndag 22 oktober 2018

10 weather features for wilderness encounters

As mentioned earlier, I've been trying to come up with simple setups and situational rules that make random wilderness encounters more tactically interesting without turning them into elaborate set-pieces. Turns out, the always-excellent Emmy Allen had included several in her Narrative Wargame of Chivalric Medieval Romance. Still, many of these ideas were not mechanically explicit, or included things that are hard to recreate in a game with several players and one referee. So I re-wrote the list to make it more mechanically specific. I've used ICRPG notation, so to use it with another system consider hard/easy to be disadvantage/advantage or bonus/penalty, and target to mean AC/DC/TN or any other number that you need to meet or beat to succeed with your action if you use roll-over, or a number to be added to your die roll if you play roll-under.

Also, if you're new to the series, by "board" I refer to any physical surface or visual aid used to frame and represent the spatial relations of the fictional location where an encounter or similar takes place: grid, battle mat, tabletop, graph paper map, wilderness tile, Legos, chessboard...
source: Aths-Art

Random Weather Conditions (adapted from Dolorous Stroke)

Roll 1d12 (or 1d20, depending on how frequent you want weather conditions to be.)
1. Sunrise. In the raking light of the rising sun, normal actions relying on sight are HARD for characters facing East, but deciphering petroglyphs, magical writing and seeing the invisible is EASY.

2. Sunset. Every other round, target increases by +1 (max +5) as darkness decends.

3. Clearing heavens. Every other round, target is reduced by -1 (min -3) as sun breaks through the overcast skies.

4. Searing heat. Physical actions are HARD for all characters wearing heavy armor (plate, or +5 or more ARMOR).

5. Gale. Perception checks, ranged weapon use is HARD, and orders don't carry far in the wind.

6. Blasting Winds. On a 1d4 timer, all actions become HARD for a round, and any exposed and weak terrain feature has a 1-in-6 chance of falling down.

7. Lightning storm. Divide the board in 6 sectors. On a 1d4 timer lightning strikes, hitting the most standout target in a randomly determined sector for 1d12 damage and automatic knockdown. Factors that make a target stand out:
i. elevation,
ii. height relative to neighboring elements (a Large model near Medium models, a Small near no-one),
iii. metal worn
iv. height
If no-one stands out (for example if everyone throw themselves to the ground), decide at random.

8. Lashing rain. The rain makes the ground slippery and visibility poor. Dexterity, perception and ranged weapon use is HARD.

9. Fog. Line of sight is reduced to 6 squares; beyond that it is impossible to discern friend from foe or even characters from objects. Models and terrain are deployed as markers that are only revealed when a PC is within this range and hidden again once out of range. All markers (including those representing unrevealed terrain) move at a speed of 2 squares during the referee's turn.

10. Biting cold. Fumbles occur on both 1 and 2.

11+. Perfect conditions.

torsdag 18 oktober 2018

1d8 more wilderness encounter locations

For the first set, see here

Roll 1d8
1. Scarp: A steep but low cliff runs across the board. HARD to climb.

2. Abri: A steep but low cliff runs across the board - half of the distance contains a shallow rock shelter. Character under the abri are hidden to all characters above them but easily cornered by other enemies. The cliff is HARD to climb.

3. Giant's kettles: The bedrock surface is here perforated by 2d4 deep, circular holes.

4. Stormthrows: Dead trees lie scattered here, uprooted and broken by storms or the rage of some unknown Giant.

5. Krum-woods: Battered by relentless winds or beset by some curse, the trees here cower behind each other in uneven lines, bent and swollen like rheumatic pilgrims.

6. Stunted forest: The trees here appear old yet curiously small, as if they sprouted directly to senescence. The vegetation blocks line of sight but only to small or crawling characters.

7. Mound: A large circular mound in the middle of the board. Blocks line of sight, and movement is reduced when going uphill.

8. Forking stream: An icy stream or deep ditch runs across the board, forking at the middle. Jumping across is easy, but on a failed roll the character lands off balance and must forfeit the rest of their movement.

måndag 8 oktober 2018

1d8 Random encounter locations

Most of these setups are based on locations in Judarskogen, outside Stockholm

I really like Runehammer's videos on room design. The idea of that series is to present a "room", basically a game board or grid's worth of level design, and highlight why it was set up like it was. This makes a lot of sense if you want to play with minis. Setting up a "room" or board takes more time than not doing it and includes carrying and buying extra stuff. So for it to be worthwhile, it must logically add more gameplay than overhead. Therefore, the craft of setting up a board becomes a key GM tool.

That said, there doesn't seem to be much discussion on this topic outside the aforementioned Youtube channel. Maybe this is because most people don't care about grids, or are happy just crafting cool terrain and don't mind just placing it as scatter. But probably, it is also that people who are good at it make set up their boards so instinctively that they no longer think of it as a skill. But for people who - like me - don't fall into any of the above categories, this is an attempt to continue the discussion.

Where does the encounter play out?

Playing on a grid lets you design encounters with a lot of interesting tactical options, with placement, movement, cover, half-hidden details, &c. But since players are free to go where they want and do what they please, most encounters cannot be planned in any great detail. This can create a weird discrepancy between the elaborate set pieces and improvised or random encounters that have very little detail.

As a remedy, I offer 8 dirt-simple setups that adds a twist to your random wilderness encounters.

The PCs start at one edge of the board, the monsters at another. The winner of the first initiative or surprise check decides who starts where, but each side places its own models.

1d8 random encounter locations
Slippery slope: With every move, a character must also move one sq downhill (two if dashing). Moving uphill requires a DEX roll, on a miss the character must use both hands to hold on: attacks against her are EASY.

Thickets: the path runs like an S between thickets. The thickets block line of sight and are so dense that riding or dashing is impossible, and using long weapons &c is HARD.

Criss-crossing paths: several patches of dense forest vegetation. These copses block line of sight from the outside but not for characters looking out from them.

Dark pond: a small but deep pond in the center of the board, just wide enough to be impossible to jump over.

Erratic Rocks: a field of large moss-covered boulders. The boulders are tall enough that it takes a STR roll to climb and DEX roll to avoid damage if falling, and stand close enough to allow jumping between them.

Moraine wall: uneven rocks form a natural wall across the board . DEX to cross.

Ford: A rapid river downstream a ford, running diagonally across the board. Crossing the river outside the ford requires a STR test, on a failure the character is swept downstream to the pond at the far end of the board.

Leading lines: three pairs of statues stand by the edges of a bog. Each pair indicate a leading line where passage is safe and unhindered; a character stepping more than one square out of the line is stuck and must roll STR to get out (EASY with aid, HARD otherwise).

tisdag 2 oktober 2018

1d10 bridges

Another set of hidden kingdom-style encounters.

The path you travel gradually widens to a road, overgrown with weed and rarely used but paved with the rectangular stones of a distant empire. Still, the old bridge surprises you - so stark is the contrast between this landmark and the surrounding wilderness it defiantly rises over. Built by unknown masters it appears at first to have withstood time's wear remarkably well. But as you look closer, an ominous feeling grips you.

If the tower is approached, roll 1d10:

1. The ground has sunk or the river risen, for this low stone bridge is currently two feet below the slow, clear water. In the surrounding reed lives an ancient pike of astonishing proportions. The pike (HD 3, dmg 1d6) lunges out of the water to snatch and drown its prey. Its belly is full of half-digested equipment, including a golden ring of growth (+1 CON, bearer must save or begin to grow).

2. Fallen trees and other debris has piled up against this sturdy bridge, turning it into a dam of sorts. The overflowing water forms a roaring cascade that makes passage perilous.

3. Hundreds of crows have gathered on this bridge, forming a heaving mass of deafening noise and black feathers. Like the lazy pidgeons of a city, they move only reluctantly for passers by.

4. On the far side of this bridge, a knight sits atop his horse still as if sleeping. As soon as anyone sets foot on the bridge he stirs, lowering his lance to charge.

Enchanted Knight: HD 4, Lance (dmg 1d10), Shield (+3) and Sword (dmg 1d8).

5. Scattered across this bridge are the planks, tarps and ropes of a broken cart. Throning on this debris, a golden chalice gleams - curiously clean and standing proudly on its foot.
Hidden under the debris is a great snare, set by a bloated troll that lives under the bridge and used for pulling anyone approaching the chalice into the river below to be suffocated and eaten.

Fishing Troll: Large, HD 2, fillet knife (dmg 1d6, bleeding +1). The fishing troll rerolls HP each round.

6. A section of this bridge is missing, but it appears someone is working on its repair for tools and sawdust litter the bridge and a system of ropes and pulleys secures a gangway hanging suspended over the hole. The gangway is damp and worn and easily rocked, but the sturdy wood supports the weight of a horse.
Four outlaws (HD 1) hide nearby, ready to cut the rope that suspend the gangway and plunder the corpses. At the bottom of the river is 1d10 gold crowns that the outlaws have failed to salvage.

7. At each head of this long bridge is a tower, where a black portcullis blocks passage. An intricate construction allows the them to be lifted one at a time, but only from the opposite bridgehead.
In the far tower rests a raid of harpies, anxious to not let anyone near their plunder. In 1d6 days, they will be gone.

Homebound Harpies: HD 2, flying.

8. A crone has set up shop on this bridge, selling salves and potions and remedies for broken hearts. She is friendly and knowledgeable, but acceppts only the barrowmen's coins.

9. Time has withered down this bridge to the point where it is little more than a moss-covered arc over the busy brook far below. Three ropes dangle from its crest, old but with nooses still intact.

Downstream, the remains of three women can be found along with a silver amulet of the Old Faith (+1 WIS, wear the skin of an animal to learn its tongue). A skinless beast (HD 3) will begin hunting the bearer in 1d6 nights unless the remains are properly buried. However, with a christian burial the amulet's magic wanes after one use.

10. In the middle of the bridge is an enormous ogre, clad in iron and maille it reclines on a heap of plunder and appears to be napping. A large dog rests by its side. Tethered to a large iron pot and a split-open heaume, it produces a terrible noise that will wake the giant if it moves.

Hrud, the half-giant: Giant, HD 6, AC +8 (wrought iron), stone sword (dmg 1d14).
Millud, the hound: HD2, AC +2 (fur), dmg 1d6.

tisdag 25 september 2018

1p adventure: The Bone Keep

Covered in perpetual mist lies the ruins of a keep, the site of an ancient battle. Who fought, and for what cause, is lost to time, but the ground is thick with broken bones and rusted war-gear that tell of terrible casualties. Reality is thin here, and a sinister presence stalks the ruins. Drawn here by the terror of the ancient massacre, it reaches through from the shadow realm to feed on the souls of the living. To this keep of mist and bone you’ve come, seeking a relic of great power.

Perhaps you can atone for what your own swords have perpetrated, by readying them once again...

The Bone Keep is a small adventure location, heavily inspired by Runehammer. Because of this, the entire keep is designed as a "room" in ICRPG parlance, meaning that it is meant to be played on a board. I've used the D&D adventure grid because I have it and it fits on my table, but you can use whatever. The important thing is just to set up the board so that the characters cannot walk in straight lines between the grove, the central tower and/or the far tower, and that the skull piles are in choke points.

The basic idea of being chased by evil mist while avoiding stepping on undead comes from a room outlined in the Fire & Ice-series. However, unlike in the ice room, the evil mist does not freeze the character but draw them into a mirror world or sorts. The idea is of course to get even more play out of a single board.

Another great Runehammer idea is to provide a location specific but general search table that you roll on no matter if the perception check or referee ruling indicates you "found" something or not. As the entire adventure basically takes place in "combat time" - there is always a threat present - there is a pressure to always perform combat-oriented tasks. By providing a search table you boost the reward for searching, thus gently tilting the risk/reward balance in favor of this non-combat activity in a less arbitrary way than if you were making up rewards on the spot.

You can download the adventure here.

måndag 3 september 2018

Adventure: Vale of Oblivion

 I took the key elements of The Buried Giant and made them into encounters. To turn them into an adventure, just place the numbers 1 though 16 in any region on your campaign map or use them for a quest. The original setting is mythic Britain, but you can easily reskin it to fit your world.

Encounters 1-16

1. In a shallow pit lives the she-dragon Querig, breathing a pacifying mist that seeps out into the entire region. Her hoard of roman gold is small by dragon standards, yet sizeable for this meagre land. Save or be unable to attack it. Once bloodied, the dragon will gasp for air and suddenly memories of old wrongdoings and suppressed animosities will flood the minds of all nearby characters. If killed, the denizens of the valley will be overcome with murderous rage for seven days and seven nights.

2. The legendary knight Gwain, well past his prime, traveling on the mandate of a long-dead king. The knight is on a perpetual quest to rid the region of monsters, but age has rendered him forgetful, clumsy and lacking in resolve. He is seldom in the right place at the right time, yet he keeps patrolling the roads like he has done for as long as anyone can remember and occasionally kills a beast. Together with a good mood and a genuinely helpful nature this still makes him well liked by the locals.
(The absent-mindedness and clumsiness is an act: the knight's true mission is to protect the dragon).

3. Four orphaned children living in the cottage of their dead parents, herding goats. Each day, the younger siblings bring all gray goats to graze, while the white ones stay behind to be fed poison by the older siblings. The children plan to use the poison-fed goats to kill the dragon and claim its hoard, to revenge the parents that it ate.

4. Reed-elves. They drain life for sustenance and want the weakest member of the party; if s/he is extradited, the rest are free to leave unmolested.

5. A small pond with refreshing water. Skeletons of massacred children litter the shores, barely covered by heather and soil.

6. A Ferryman. For a few pieces of Tin, he offers to row to an enchanted island just of the coast. All passengers must answer three questions truthfully and they must travel in separate boats - the sea is too rough. The ferryman makes no guarantees that passengers will arrive at the same location - considerations of weather and of tide - but surely capable and loving companions can find a way to reunite?

7. A mountain monastery, swarming with birds of prey. Many pilgrims come there to seek advice from the sage Jonus, widely considered the wisest man in the region. The monks keep a monster in the cellar, feeding it dissidents. To absolve themselves from this terrible sin, the monks chain themselves to a grate and offer their naked bodies for the birds to claw and peck.

8-9. Soldiers serving Lord Brennus, standing guard by a bridge [9. crossroads]. A warlike stranger has made a hidden camp nearby; if spotted, he asks the PCs to smuggle him across the bridge. He has nothing to hide, he claims, but prefer not to disturb the Lord's peace or be caught up in the bureaucracies of passing a guard post while being an armed stranger.

10. A cockatrice
. It petrifies any humans it encounter with its stare to injects them with poison, after which it crawls away. A petrified victim recovers in 1d6 hours, but any unwed man bitten by the beast must save. On a miss, he becomes obsessed with finding the dragon and live as its guardian and lover; on a hit, it is just a vague yearning.

11. An old crone
, bitterly following a man with old-fashioned clothes who has made camp in a ruined villa. She complains that the man tricked her husband into his boat and that now she cannot find him. The crone wails and curses and tries to harass the ferryman into leading her to her husband; but the man maintains his innocence, for he only carries consenting passengers in his boat.

12. Trolls.

13. Two ogres.

14. An elderly couple, slowly traveling form their home in burrow-town to the monastery (7) to seek counsel about a son they haven't seen in years. They have poor eyesight and suffer from mild dementia, but something in their stride suggests a prouder past.

15-16. Two villages: one in burrows (15) dug under a hill, the other built from planks and shielded by a palisade (16). Once, the villages waged war on another but hostilities are now a thing of the past.