Rise of the Old Guard.

GROGNARDIA

For those that follow various RPG blogs, you are probably familiar with Grognardia, written and curated by James Maliszewski. James ended the blog back in 2012 and it looked like he was done with the project. Perhaps he ran out of creative energy, or there was no topic left unturned.

Many of his older posts are worth perusing, but as it turns out, James is back and restarted the blog after an 8 year hiatus! Since the restart he has been prolific with 309 posts in 2020 alone! We managed 1 or 2 months of almost hitting 1 post a day here at the Rolemasterblog, and that was with 3 or more contributors!

James brings a true OSR viewpoint to his writing and he has in depth knowledge of the early Golden Age of roleplaying. He’s posted several articles on MERP and has some familiarity with Rolemaster even though he’s not a fan of the system. Welcome back James!

Thee Tales of the Tarot Deck.

Tale 1. One of the more curious aspects of The Court of Ardor is the “Deck of Ardan”, a tarot-like magical set of cards. At first glance, the deck simply acts as an “org chart” for the mysterious Court and assigns members to various roles based on a playing deck. Additionally, the deck holds other powers, two of which are detailed. The first is the ability to communicate with other members of the Court featured in the deck. This can be through voice, or if chosen a visual window akin to modern “Facetime”. The second detailed power was enhanced “Channeling”–per the channeling skill in Rolemaster. Since no one I know has ever used the Channeling skill (as described in RM2), it was interesting but ultimately unhelpful. (I recently asked Terry about the origins of the Channeling skill, but that’s another blog!)

Tale 2. The Court of Ardor was not the first appearance of a Tarot style deck in fantasy that replaced the cards with characters in the particular story. It has been decades since I had read Roger Zelazny’s “Nine Princes in Amber” but I vaguely recalled the same style device being used. The book was published in 1970, so it clearly predated Rolemaster and I’m not the first that noted the similarity. Age of Ravens blog noted the similarity in 2011.

http://ageofravens.blogspot.com/2011/02/rpg-supplements-i-like-court-of-ardor.html

So was this just a coincidence or an example of convergent creativity in early fantasy? When I asked Terry, he provided this short explanation:

“Yes the Ardan Tarot was inspired by Zelazny’s books. More details I am afraid I don’t recall after all these years!”

So there we have an answer, but answers to questions I had about additional powers of the deck or further ideas on their use were lost in the mists of time!

Tale 3. 29 years after Zelazny’s book and 16 years after The Court of Ardor, a Tarot plot device appeared in another fantasy series. One that had it’s birth in fantasy gaming. Gardens of the Moon is the first Book of the Malazan and featured the Deck of Dragons. This deck of cards was both a divination tool and depicted the various members of a pantheons court. The Deck of Dragons plays a major role in the early Malazan books, but less so as the books go on and other systems replace the deck. I’d enjoy asking Steven or Cameron (the authors) if they too were inspired by Zelazny’s book; the Malazan series was driven primarily by their early roleplaying games.

Perhaps I’ll read Nine Princes in Amber again, but I’m still intrigued by the use of Tarot cards in Court of Ardor and Malazan. Zelazny might have been the progenitor of an idea that is now shared DNA in two other fantasy settings.

(Updated 1/17/21) Rolemaster Profession Review: The Astrologer

While the Astrologer has not been included in RMu, it does hold an interesting place in the minds of Rolemaster players. What was the point of the Astrologer? Is the profession even a useful PC? Why are the base lists so sparse? I decided to ask Terry if he could remember anything about the origins of the Astrologer from the early gaming days in Charlottesville. It’s been 40 years, but he did have this to say:

It was included partly for the spell-user realm symmetry (we needed a hybrid mentalist/Channeling?) I never played one; I think they are better suited as NPCs.

That’s interesting and re-affirms my thinking that some of the original RM professions were probably never gamed extensively. (Not dis-similar to the new RMu Delver). Nonetheless, the Astrologer is a profession in RM and I’ve had a few thoughts about it recently:

  1. Astrology implies a game setting that supports the concept. Sure, the Astrology spells are mostly replicated in other spell lists, but the conceit itself relies upon some systems around the sun, moon, stars or “heavenly” bodies. Does that work in all settings? Probably not. Does it work in Shadow World. Yes!
  2. Many of the Astrology spells are divination based. That can create challenges for the GM in terms of predicting future events. The more vague the information (for instance through “Dreams”) the easier, but specific info about the future may require the GM to funnel the gameplay to meet a desired, predicted outcome.
  3. The Astrology base lists need work. I addressed some of that in my blog below.

Conceptually what is an Astrologer? For me, the Profession invokes ancient magic, star-cults, sun based worship or Zoroastrian magic rather than “horoscopic” mumbo jumbo. The Zorastrians were seen as a priesthood and called Magus or Magi, so it was a combination of religion and magic. In Rolemaster, Astrologers are Channeling/Mentalism hybrids, but you could make the argument for Channeling/Essence given their “star-fire” powers.

The Astrologer was a prominent feature in early MERP products and shown in color coded city maps using red fill with a question mark for Seer/Astrologer. Clearly, Peter & Co. saw a need for Diviners in their early campaigns even if those professions were left out of the MERP ruleset. As an NPC, the Profession adds an air of mystery and exoticism and would be a useful resource on occasion. As PC, it’s not clear that the Astrologer would be that effective.

In other “Profession Review” blogs I offer up more specific spell lists and remedies that I think would fix or focus a profession. With the Astrologer, I have some ideas but the verdict is still out. Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Combine the Seer & Astrologer Profession. They both have a divination aspect and consolidating the base spells lists would tighten up the spell abilities.
  2. Tie the spell lists into some type of astrological mechanism. For instance, why not have some spell lists tied to the Sun that can only be used from Dawn to Dusk, others that can only be used at night under starlight and a list that can only be used when the Moon is full. (see next item).
  3. I haven’t reviewed the Moon Mage in a while, but Astrology includes the “Sun, Moon and Stars”. Why not roll the useful and usable MM spell lists into a fleshed out Astrologer. Moon Mage is a goofy name anyway.
  4. In conjunction with #2 & #3, an Astrologer could be an interesting Profession using Shadow World. With 2 prominent moons (Orhan and Charon) that are the home of the Gods, and other planets in the Solar System, there is a basis for building the Profession around orbital mechanics. I’ve already experimented with Essaence cycles and lunar orbits in Chapter 3. It might be cool to develop unique spell lists for different moons, planets and the sun that only work during portions of their orbit in relation to Kulthea.
  5. Currently, I use Astrologers as a subset of the Phaon clergy. They act as Priest-Astronomers and justified their use of Sun-Fire spells. I think using Astrologers as Priests of Phaon in Shadow World, or Priests of a “Sun God” in other settings makes sense.

So just a few thoughts on the Astrologer. Has anybody played one as a PC?

Everyone Loves Handaxes!

While I have rarely been a player over the last 35 years, when I do get a chance I build a character more on my aesthetic than taking a min/max approach. In fact, I typically play a Monk so I don’t have to worry about equipment, magic items or loot–a carryover from my early D&D days.

As a Warrior Monk or my second choice, a Rogue, I invariably chose hand-axes as my primary weapon. I’m not sure I’ve looked at the hand-axe attack chart in years, but again, I don’t worry about the efficacy of the table; I’m more interested in the how it fits my character role. So why are hand-axes so great?

  1. They are cheap and ubiquitous. As a functional tool, hand-axes will be found in virtually any society or setting so acquiring the weapon won’t be too difficult.
  2. They can be thrown. What is better than having a solid melee weapon that can be used for a ranged attack? 2 skill development costs but only 1 inventory item.
  3. I use my Weapon Specific Modifiers instead of Rolemaster’s general combat modifiers, so hand-axes are small with lower penalties for most actions.
  4. They are light, so you can carry more than 1-2. Very helpful when you end up throwing one at a target!
  5. They are a tool, so they can be used to chop and cut things, knock people over the head etc.
  6. Damage is respectable, about the same as a mace or other smaller 1h weapons.
  7. They can look very cool. There are tons of fantasy images of hand axes as well as real historic weapons that are have a visual impact.

For my Warrior Monk Caylis (featured on pg 62 RMU Character Law!), dual wield hand-axes were the go to weapons when MA Strikes weren’t viable.

Does anyone else choose weapons that might not be the most potent or is just an interesting character bit?

Styles types of viking axes and their history(2020 updated)

Expanding “Core” Rolemaster Systems in Shadow World

First, that’s a confusing blog title, but I couldn’t think of a better description for what I wanted to discuss!

So what do I mean by core systems? In Rolemaster, these are groups of skills that are the underpinning of a Profession(s) and typically cost 40-60% of DP per level. In Rolemaster, the core systems are combat & magic. Arms Law and Spell Law.

Are there any other of these core systems in Rolemaster that are embraced by a Profession? In non RMU editions of Rolemaster it’s my opinion that there is only one other core system used to build a Profession: the Thief, which is built around Subterfuge systems. Now, the subterfuge system is really a handful of trope skills; there is no “Subterfuge Law” that fleshes out this system, but one could certainly be made. How would that look?

  1. Subterfuge. Without falling down the rabbit hole of RMSS skills, the predominant subterfuge skills are probably: stalk/hide, perception, pick locks, and disarm traps. Key secondary skills are trickery, disguise, pick pockets and a few others. For me, that’s a great starting point for “Subterfuge Law”, an expansion of these skills into a full blown core. There are probably 4-8 professions that are already built in various supplement or could be built. A few of the top are Thief, Assassin, Spy, Con-artist, Magician (the trick kind not the spell user). Those 5 alone represent interesting variations of subterfuge and could be great additions to a party. There is enough of a foundation to expand the skills, add gameplay material and build a “Subterfuge Law” of 30-50 pages.

Rolemaster also has the kernels of several other systems that could be expanded or developed, for another set of Professions. The framework, ideas, skills and spells are sprinkled around the original rules, companions and supplements, perhaps the most significant of which is the Alchemy Companion. AC is a fantastic resource and while I would reorganize items, and “de-spell” much of the material, the information is there. So what are these other systems?

  1. Engineering. For a lack of a better category name, “Engineering” includes sciences, mechanical engineering, alchemy (chemistry) and crafting/building. I want to note that these skills would not reside in spell lists (that would fall under the magic system) and does not include enchanting magical items. (Although it would entail fabricating items that could be enchanted). These skills encompass engines, gears, automata, springs, mechanical devices, chemical interactions, explosions, complex devices, alloys, composites and similar production. I believe RMU has moved in this direction with the Delver, but unfortunately, imbued most of the skills and abilities through spell lists rather than mundane skills and lores. However, this also includes the fabrication and use of already enchanted materials (laen, ego etc). Are these skills and sciences enough to support a PC or NPC? I think so, but it’s certainly dependent on the setting as well. The skills, technology, devices and crafts can easily be fleshed out with existing materials in RM supplements, and would make for a versatile and interesting character. What professions could be based around an Engineering Law? Tinkerer, Delver, Inventor, Sapper, Armorer, Gunsmith, War Engineer, Alchemist (for clarity, I use “Enchanter” in place of the traditional RM Alchemist profession).
  2. Herbalist/Pharmacist. Rolemaster was one of the first, if not the earliest games, to introduce a robust system of herbs & plants that provided magical or pharmacological benefit. Of course this was driven by Middle Earth’s depiction of Mirenna /Mirgalen and King’s Foil, but is now a integral part of RM in general and built into Shadow World as well. Would anyone play a “Herbalist”? Both Animists and Druids have low Herb Lore skill costs and herbs are part of their professional DNA, but I’m promoting the idea that “herbs” could be expanded into a core system akin to combat, magic, subterfuge or engineering that could also anchor new professions. There are already many categories of herbs: medicinal, enhancements, poisons, healing, and antidotes. This can be expanded into cooked or mixed “food” products: breads, spirits, beers, wines or other plant/food based formulae. Rare recipes and formulas would provide for unique non-magical effects similar to spells. I think with enough expansion of the “herb system” it can become just as viable as the others and support a character built. Some Professions built around “Herb Law”: Animist (revive the name as a non-magic user), Witch (again non-magic), Herbalist, Brewer, Pharmacist, Physician, Apothecary, Druggist, Poisoner. Some may see these professions as better NPC, support roles, but many also saw the original Astrologer, Alchemist, Lay Healer and Seer as poor PC’s as well. A fleshed out 30-50 page “Herb Law” could broaden the scope of these professions and provide examples that could fire the interest of players.

Assuming that Subterfuge Law, Engineering Law and Herb Law were developed and became equal pillars along with Arms Law and Spell Law, I believe it would add to Rolemaster as a game system and change new gamer’s perceptions of RM. Another benefit is increasing the role of non-spell users and non-magical skills. I think the trend of encoding every new ability or skill as a spell only increases the advantages of casters and devalues regular skills in general.

These aren’t new or novel ideas, it’s just a matter of re-organizing information and EMPAPHIZING these cores as a inherent part of Rolemaster. Sure, hack and slash adventures will probably revert to the offensive abilities of a fighter or magician, but in a more expansive campaign these skill sets could add more depth–and fun!

So, let’s tie this into Shadow World. For those that are familiar with the setting, SW has an extensive range of technology from ancient Althan advanced tech, to tech/magic fusion used by the Worim and Jinteni to current advances in tech from Namar-tol (sky barges and gunpowder), Sel-kai (bicycles), clockwork devices, clip-bed dart guns etc. These groups and societies will have “Engineers” and similar professions to develop, built and use this technology. (Reminds me of “Gnomes” in some D&D settings). In low magic settings, RM Engineers could fill the gap and replace the use of magic-items with cool tech.

Herbalists also have a major role in Shadow World. SW has adopted and expanded RM’s herb list and Terry has introduced new herbs and substances in subsequent publications. Useful herbs can be seen as either natural with medicinal or beneficial properties or “magical”, Essaence-infused flora. Many of the populations in SW are low tech indigenous cultures that would rely on natural remedies rather than high level healing spells. Expanding and creating “Herb Law” adds yet another core system that builds upon Rolemaster and adds to SW world-building.

Per the comment below, here are some rough diagrams that I used.

Fig. 1a. This is how I see RM in it’s current form. On the left you have “Arms Law” which is robust combat system that support non-spell users. On the same side, but not quite as robust or organized is subterfuge skills which are the core of the Thief profession. Finally there are all the skills that are used in Arms Law, Subterfuge and elsewhere that can be drawn upon by all Professions with varying costs. On the other side is Spell Law. Under the umbrella Ment/Chan/Ess and the hybrids, you basically have spells that mirror or replicate everything on the left side. Add in the Companions and support material and you basically can achieve any physical, combat or skill effect with a magical spell. Whether you see that as a feature or a bug of the system, that makes all mundane, non-magical abilities only necessary for the handful of non spell users.

Fig. 1b. This is a more simplistic diagrame of RM. You have Arms Law & Spell Law that draw from a pool of skills contained in Character Law. This diagram implies a balance between Arms and Spell.

Fig 1c. This is a more nuanced view of Rolemaster. You still have Arms Law and Spell Law, but there are secondary support systems that have more robust rules: herbs, making and using magical items, healing and the bundle of subterfuge skills. Below that are miscellaneous skills of varying utility, design, purpose or value.

Fig. 1d. This shows my current mental model for this blog. I’ve defined 5 core systems that make up the core of certain Profession types/groups. All of them draw from the a shared pool of skills.

Print on Demand: The Death of Collectible RPG Books?

Evolution of Arms Law « ICEWEBRING

With a resurgence in RPG’s I am wondering what the impact of the new generation of gamers would be on classic collectible RPG products: modules, supplements, rule sets etc.

I was able to amass a collection of “Old School” products in the late 90’s early 2000’s when role-playing interest had died off and I bought out the inventory for several game stores. Before eBay we didn’t have market pricing on rare or interesting products so I was able to accumulate new shrink wrapped MERP products, parchment ICE material, old Midkemia supplements and most of the 1st edition AD&D modules at bargain basement prices. Those products from the early 80’s were pure nostalgia with simple line drawn artwork, heavy stock paper and cruder presentation.

The first demand bump I saw was after the announcement for the first Lord of the Rings movie. MERP products, already out of print but of great quality (it was reported that the movie designers used ICE MERP products extensively) started increasing in value. Then OSR started manifesting and the early D&D products started to grow in demand. Early second tier materials: Midkemia, Loremaster, HARN and Judges Guild also added value in the early 2000’s.

Has the demand for these supplements faded? A quick check on eBay shows that Court of Ardor sells for $70 or best offer–with the map. The hardcover edition of Minas Tirith, an amazing product is now only $80! What about ICE? Early products can be bought for prices far lower than 10 years ago.

Given the ubiquity of DriveThruRGP, the availability of out of print products in PDF form and a younger generation that is more open to paperless products; will new products ever become “classics” in the future? There does seem to be value in some ICE print on demand products that are no longer available, but in general prices seem stagnant. As original gamers get older, will these early books lose their allure?

BHanson’s 2020 Year in Review.

It’s that time of year where we look ahead to a new year and review what, if anything was accomplished this past year! For me, this was truly a lost year and when I look back at early 2020 blog posts I can barely remember writing them. Strangely, the pandemic and the resulting shut down of my businesses actually freed up a lot of my time; but psychologically it was very hard to write or be creative. So how did the year look?

  1. Blogging. I wrote a total of 27 blog posts; or 1 every other week. Not bad compared to other RGP blogs but not what I would consider amazing output.
  2. Topics. One theme this year was a harder look at various RM Professions. My take on Rangers, Bards, Druids, Warrior Mage, and Mystic. Peter and Hurin added their own posts and I thought it was a fun to have everyone’s perspectives.
  3. Spin Cycle. I’m also a fan of re-purposing MERP modules for Shadow World. The SW “DNA” is imbedded in these early ICE products given that Peter and Terry had their hands in both lines. This year I tackled Umbar (one of my favorite all-purpose supplements), Assassins of Dol Amroth.
  4. Most Engagement. My blog post on the aging RM gamer demographic, “Thoughts on Mortality” garnered 22 responses.
  5. RMU. Another year has come and gone with RMU just around the corner. Will 2021 be the year?
  6. ICE. The ICE website and forums are down again (3 times this year?). This time, the site has been down to the point that google in no longer indexing it for searches! Is that bad? Right now the Blog and the Discord Server seem to be carrying the water for Rolemaster gamers. Personally, I don’t get a lot of utility from Discord, but it seems like a solid resource for gamers seeking games online and the group adventure project appears to be moving along which is encouraging.
  7. Master File List. I had the time to post up a list of most of my uploaded files here on the Blog. I didn’t include the BASiL material, and it needs updates. Unfortunately, most of the links go to the RM Forums, so right now it isn’t that useful.
  8. Other 2020 Completed Projects. From a writing standpoint, 2020 was a below average year for output. I put some finishing touches to Priest-King in May and handed it off to Nicholas for further editing. Will it ever get published? Who knows, but it’s out of my hands. I also posted up a shrapnel/swarm critical chart, a handful more Mentalist spell lists, an Essence list, The Book of Pales, completed the user versions of all 5 chapters of “Legends of Shadow World” and have put out 2 or 3 new adventures for 50 in 50 Pt II. I think the total uploaded output was around 100 pages.

Looking ahead. 2021. I’m already well underway on several new projects and finishing up long gestating ones.

  1. Legends of Shadow World Omnibus. I’d really like to format this for RMU once it’s finalized. I think the new system needs support material and no one has really tackled a 50th lvl adventure for Rolemaster. I’m going to consolidate all 5 chapters, polish things up, add a scoring system for each chapter so it can be used for tournaments and will look into 3rd party artwork and floorplans. I’m happy to pay for the work but I’m always hesitant when it comes to Shadow World material…
  2. Empire of the Black Dragon. This was originally part of Priest-King, but to keep the size reasonable and avoid any serious canonical disputes I split it off. It had been siting at 50 pages for years but I’ve been plugging away at it. Ultimately, it will be Part III following the last adventure of Priest-King and combined with Part I: The City of Nontataku. This module is basically 5 fortresses so it’s layout intensive.
  3. Mentalism. 2021 will be the year for me to put out the rest of BASiL: Mentalism.
  4. 50 in 50 Pt 2. I got off to a slow start but have 10 out of the 25 complete or drafted. I just need to focus on them for a week to catch up.
  5. SW Channeler Players Guide. I’m excited about this–I consolidated all of the SW religious spells, religion material and added more player specific information to help flesh out Priests in Shadow World. It’s averaging 5 pages/diety so it should finish up around 60-80 pages!

So, a look back, a peak ahead. Hopefully we start climbing out of this pandemic over the next few months, ICE gets back up online, RMU is published and Terry finishes up Emer IV. That would be a year.

Legends of Shadow World Chapters 1-5

I had a handful of people looking for the final chapter of my Legends of Shadow World series. If you are not familiar this was an experiment with a few purposes:

  1. Write a tournament style module for RM that could be used as a 1-shot adventure or for use at conventions.
  2. Test the viability of high level (50th lvl) roleplaying with Rolemaster.
  3. Give the players a chance to play some notable characters featured in Shadow World books and be involved in a “major” event in Kulthean history.

Some of the chapters include stat blocks, but I refrained from adding them in the last chapters. I think now, I want to wait for the RMU ruleset to be finalized and see if ICE has any interest in me fleshing it out as a RMU/SW product.

With that said, if anyone has any interest in adding a map, floorplan, battle map, illustration or art to this, let me know. I think a finished product with artwork, printable character sheets, maps and added narrative could easily hit 50 pages. From a tourney standpoint, if the players can move quickly and avoid lengthy battles then the entire series can be played in 4-6 hours.

Finally, thanks for the people that sent me feedback and thoughts. You can message me via the RM Forums (if they go back up) or email me at bhportland at yahoo. If you get a chance to play it, have any thoughts, ideas or feedback I’m happy to hear them.

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2021.

Happy Holidays with a BASiL Stocking Stuffer!

It’s been a few years since I’ve posted up a Christmas themed spell-list. Since it’s been a particularly trying year and the ICE Forums are down once again I thought I would post one here on the Blog.

I’m finishing up a usable version of Chapter 5 of my “Legends of Shadow World” tournament module. This final encounter takes place in the north of Kulthea, a desolate realm of ice and snow which takes me back to my early years as a player in the Iron Wind. I was also thinking of Terry’s upcoming module in Wurilis–he mentions introducing a new race or culture of Snow Elves. All of this led me to finishing up a widowed spell list I had in the master BASiL file–“Arctic Law”. I see this as a cultural list or even a natural list for “Snow Elves” or similar magical races. This one isn’t as light-hearted as “Santa’s Ways“, but a useful list that could add some flavor to your adventure or campaign.

Enjoy and have a safe holiday season!

Things are not what they seem…

Some things are not as they seem : arma

After writing adventures for over 35 years, one of my goals is to try upending my players’ expectations. Coming up with a new monster, adversary or spin on standard adventure tropes doesn’t truly challenge my players; most who have been gaming for decades.

For me, the discipline is not just “one upping” the group or seeing them through an adversarial lense (GM vs Player), but to literally challenge their long held perceptions that create standard encounter reactions that might as well be behavioral tics.

If you’ve read some of my 50 in 50 Adventures, you may see where I’m going with this post. For instance, in The Cabin in the Woods, appears to be a straight up bandit encounter, but there is a “more than meets the eye” aspect. In The Hermit of Castle Ruins, the typical foe may not be the villain the villagers think he is. Feldaryn’s Flying Ship introduces one of my favorite NPC tropes: the mysterious mage who is NOT as powerful as the players assume. (Because every old man is tattered robes must be a powerful mage in disguise!) I could go on with most of my other adventure hooks–most have some twist or reversal that will require the players to think on their feet or change their viewpoint.

Here are a few of my favorites:

The Usual Suspects“. I’ve only done this once, for a stand-alone adventure. But basically one of the PC’s is actually the bad guy! In the process of chasing down a shadowy figure, the group actually eliminates the bad guy’s opponent, or recovers an object needed by the baddie. The fun is watching the player try and manipulate the group’s decision making to his/her benefit.

“Friend not Foe”. Similar to The Usual Suspects, this is the simple idea that the MOB is actually a good guy, friend or potential ally of the group. What happens when they rush to combat and kill someone that should have been a friend?

“The Burden of Power”. While all players are in an endless quest to level up, advance their characters wealth, abilities and equipment, there could be a cost to that. If the player possesses a famous weapon, what stops NPC’s from attempting to steal the object, challenge/kill the PC to acquire it or attack the group when they are injured and at a disadvantage? Does being powerful also make them a target from rivals, adversaries or less powerful NPC also trying to level up? It’s one thing to obtain power, it’s another to hold onto it!

“The Sting”. I’m surprised how easily it is to con my players. Feldaryn’s Flying Ship is a good example of using a mysterious character to manipulate and fool the players into doing all sorts of things–many to their detriment. When my players get complacent, greedy or foolhardy I know it’s time to bring in a “Sting”. Nothing sobers them up like losing a treasured item, having their wealth taken in an elaborate ruse or being used as pawn’s in someone else’s ambitions.

“Paranoia”. One of the harder plays to run successful is the subversion of a PC. Whether they are tainted, charmed, possessed or similar, it relies on the good faith and roleplaying ability of the players. When it works, it’s fabulous.

“Fools Gold”. A long arduous quest for a mythical object. What could be more tropey than that! What if the object was never powerful, magical or valuable. Maybe it was a hoax, or a story twisted over time, or maybe the object held is a counterfeit–the original having been stolen long ago.

“Job and The Capricious God“. I’ve written a lot about Channeling/Priests. What if the God is just an asshole? He/she blocks spellcasting randomly, enacts hardships and curses of the player(s) to “test their faith”. The follower can not rely on anything and must take extreme steps to please his diety. How will the rest of the group react when they realize they are joined to a cursed player–who could drag the group into one disaster after another!

“Dopplegangers”. What if the player or players had someone pretending to be them? This foe was causing harm, hurting their relationships or reputation or taking credit for their triumphs. What would the PCs do if they were framed and pursued by the law? That could be fun?

So those are just a few ideas. I’m curious and interested if other GM’s have tried to subvert their own adventure narratives. What are your ideas?