2 Page Random Adventures?

What is that quote?….
There are only 7 plot devices for every metastory. Perhaps you only need a D7 

Aspire2HopeGM

I always think of adventures as all being variations of “Put the characters in a hole, throw stones as them as they try to get out.”

Your plot is the hole, the stones are the encounters and the characters attempts to climb out is the story we tell over the campaign sessions. So I make that a D1.

Of course we are all talking about slightly different things here. There is a wonderful random adventure generator I have used in the past. It was written for D&D based upon tables from the Dungeon Master’s Design Kit by TSR, Inc. You can find it over at Donjon.

I use the generator, copy it all into word and then rip out everything I don’t like. I then create the NPCs I want to play, reprising any that I think deserve another outing and from there I can start the stage dressing. That is the thing about RPGs, they are all about the people. No people then no role playing. If the NPCs are barbarians then you get an instant impression of the locations. If they are ninjas then that suggest something else, wood elves are another thing all together.

For my random toys idea, I could:

  1. Run the Donjon random generator enough times and borrow the ideas to build some d10 tables. Eliminate the bits I don’t like. Then mash up Brian’s encounter tables to make it more Rolemaster.

    or
  2. Buy the design kit myself and build a random generator myself with Rolemaster as a design criteria right from the start. It only costs $4.99 for nearly 100 pages of stuff that I could adapt.

Both options have problems. The first is that I would be using second hand random tables. There are only 7 possible ‘cruel tricks’ in the Donjon tool. Does that mean that there were only 7 in the original book? Did the original table say 1-3 no trick, then the 7 tricks were listed from 4 to 10? I personally don’t think 70% of adventures should have a cruel trick in the tale.

I also don’t really want to build a web tool. I feel I want to keep my cake and eat it. I was detail and sophistication but I also want the simplicity of a few tables and only a few rolls.

There is a part of me that would quite like to try and get the entire adventure generator on to a double page spread. That gives quite a lot of paper real estate to work on. Pages 1-2 could be Alpine adventures, 53-54 would be Waste/Barren adventures and so on. Creatures and Treasures defines 27 different environments.

Preselecting an environment would mean that I would know what monsters are viable, the weather conditions could be tailored as well.

Without having actually tried this I am guessing I would be able to fit four d100 tables, one per column over a double page spread or eight to twelve d10 tables. The Design Kit uses 22 criteria which I would have to condense into 12 or less tables. I could then combine things like Omen/Prophesy, Moral Quandary, Red Herring and Cruel Tricks into a single table. There is also the option of on an 99-00 roll twice and use both results. so they do not become mutually exclusive but also not every adventure will be driven by a prophesy and have the players face a moral dilemma.

The more I look at the Donjon tool the more I think it can be compressed into my double page spread format. If I don’t buy the Design Kit I cannot be accused of copying their work either. At most it is a derived work from a derived work with a healthy dose of Rolemaster thrown in as well.

Four d100 rolls or 12 d10 rolls are more dice than I originally intended but everything on just two pages also seems to be pretty light weight. It also does away, to some extent, with RM’s obsession with obscure codes for climate and terrain.

The last key factor is what monster to include in each environment. I could just go with my Creatures & Treasures but there are a few monsters that are in RMFRP/RMSS and RMu that are not in RM2/RMC. There aren’t many but there are some. If I put this project on a back burner until January we will have the actual Creature Law book to work from or at the very least I can work from the RMC Creature Law, which is the most restricted monster book out of all the RM versions.

I really think there could be a book in all of this somewhere. What do you think?

Itchy Adventuring Finger

When we [BriH, Edgcltd and I] wrote and released our 50in50 adventures we studiously avoided including any explicitly Rolemaster Stats (I was naughty and created a new monster or two along the way) to make them system neutral.

Since we released them we have sold over 2,200 copies.

Writing adventures is a bit of a fool’s errand as a great number of experienced GMs will always prefer to write their own adventures and almost ever adventure will need tweaking to make it work with your setting and campaign.

Since the end of the 50in50 we have had more ideas bubbling away in the background but we have not had the time to implement them. Isn’t that always the case? Ideas are easy, finishing them is more difficult.

I have been experimenting with a few different formats this year. The first is the regular adventures in the fanzine. I did two different styles. The first was a complete standalone adventure. Do you remember all those cliched starting adventures I was talking about at the beginning of the year? I wrote them up and published them in the fanzine. I didn’t include any monster stats or detailed NPCs. I just pointed the reader to the right Creatures & Treasures or Creatures & Monsters page. For the RMu I only used monsters that appeared in all editions of RM from RM2 to RMu. For NPCs I used the stock NPCs featured in Character Law for the existing versions of RM and JDales random NPC maker for RMu. In effect I did not have to publish any copyrighted material to create a fully RM compatible adventure.

The fanzine has sold a little over 750 copies so far so it is a ticking over nicely.

The second thing I have been doing with the fanzine is to create an adventure path. I start work on the 7th instalment this week and it has all been building up to The City of Forgotten Heroes. Last month included getting to the island where the city lies and past the gate house into the city. There were sea encounters, swamp encounters and the gatehouse. This month will be the library, if you can remember that far back.

Those were experiments 1 & 2.

Experiment 3 was to produce a RM compatible module. It was called The Corrupted Jungle Collection and it was a set of adventures on the coast of a jungle covered strange land. The adventure was basically a sandbox with locations the characters could visit and different factions that they may or may not encounter and at least one obvious bad girl who had nefarious plans. It has volcanoes, cataracts, jungle chases and lost ruins, what is not to enjoy?

No one is going to get rich from writing adventures but they are good fun.

It doesn’t matter what format we have used from stat-less system neutral plot hooks to standalone modules to the adventure path every single one has sold. There is an appetite for this stuff.

I see Rolemaster at its lowest point right now. There is almost nothing going on to draw in new players to the existing system, ICEs social media is woeful simply because they lack resources. The very existence of a pending new edition is a put off to some potential new players, why buy into something obsolete? And to put it bluntly we are getting older and the average RM player must be getting into peak heart attack territory.

I said at the top that many experienced GMs like to exclusively create their own adventures. All these factors, no new blood, a thinning of the ranks, the pending new edition and a lack of interest from GMs makes writing adventures for RM a labour of love and not a way to make money.

But I still enjoy doing it.

Following on from the Jungle Collection I can easily see a Mountain Collection, a Desert Collection and so on to offer mini sandbox campaign in a wide number of settings and a chance to showcase a wide range of monsters and threats from natural hazards alongside them.

A Plague On You!

I know I could do all the research myself but I thought this would be a fun post and something people could get creative with.

Here is the idea. Evil Villain (called Evie from now on) has a plan. She wants to infect rats with a horrible plague and then use the rats to infect the people and get the people to infect each other. This will bring the kingdom to its knees without Evie ever being in danger.

The biggest problem Evie can see is priest curing the sick so she has to be able to target clerics first. Get rid of the sources of magical healing and the plague becomes much scarier.

Evie is prepared to invest in her grand scheme so can research new spells, lets give her 2 years (104 weeks) to complete any spell research.

What profession would have the spells needed? What is the lowest level that Evie could be to pull this off? Is a ritual to cast the 50th level Plague on a rat and then 9th level Animal Mastery to get that rat to just nibble on hundreds of other captured rats ( you could pay peasants a tin per rat to bring you live rats so that would not be a barrier). This would give you an army of plague carriers. Further castings of Animal Mastery could be used to target clerics.

Any thoughts?

I wrote the top half last night and was then thinking about Evie and had a second idea below.

Playing wound with 50th level rituals is fairly dangerous but there is another way and this is far more horrific.

Evie buys a few hundred live rats for a bronze piece. She kills one and then on the fresh corpse she creates and controls a type 1 undead. Not a zombie or a skeleton, no, she goes for a Lesser Ghoul. This bit is a bit rules fuzzy, Ghouls are not standard created undead but a bit of narrative dark rituals and maybe trading with shady dealers in necromantic antiquities and Evie could get hold of a part of a ghoul that could be regenerated into a ghoul.

With her captive ghoul she infects the captured rats with Ghoul Rot and Bubonic plague (See Creatures & Treasures or Creatures & Monsters and even Creature Law).

This is a much easier way of getting plague infected rats.

Control Undead will work on ghouls just as effectively as created undead so we are only looking at 2nd level for Control Undead I.

If the dealer in necromantic antiquities only had greater ghoul parts available then they are Type II so a 6th level Control spell is needed.

Evie could then control a single rat ghoul and send it into a church with the intention of ‘touching’ as many people as possible. No attack is actually necessary just their touch. The disease attack is not very high so not everyone is going to become a ghoul (30% chance on a fail) or get the plague or gangrene. Ideally Evie will get into the church during a service when there would be several clerics present and then send her rat running around and try and infect as many clergy and lay clergy as possible before having the rat running over the feet of the congregation.

Statistically about 1 in 5 normal people who are touched by the rat will become infected by Ghoul Rot and 2 in 5 will get gangrene or the plague.

This is a repeatable exercise if crowds gather to beseech the clerics to treat the plague victims that is a place to release a controlled rat ghoul.

The plague is contagious as is Ghoul Rot. In three or four days you have epidemic levels of undead infestation and disease.

Could the available clerics, that would need to have the Repulsions list, deal with the exponential growth in undead? That is on top of the growing tides of plague victims and those suffering from gangrene.

At this point I am thinking of the impact of releasing one controlled ghoul rat at a time to target the clerics in a community. Imagine if that evening Evie released a hundred plague and ghoul rot infected rats into the dock district or a towns warehouse district. You average barn contains hundreds of rats that will soon be infected or become carriers.

In a city a hundred rats into a sewer system could spread Ghoul Rot and plague right across the city in three days.

The speed and scale of Evie’s plan is limited only by power points. If she is around second level then although she can cast the control spell she only gets two or three castings a day barring any spell adder or multiplier. In RMSS the power point count is much higher and she could attack multiple temples and churches in a single day.

In RMu she could concentrate on multiple rats meaning she could achieve more in a shorter time. If she picked her moment to coniside with a major public religious festival she could get much greater access to high ranking clerics.

The chance of infecting a high level cleric is slim but there is always the chance of one or some failing their resistance rolls. If you picked a day towards the end of the festivities any visiting clerics could be infected and then take the infection away with them as they disperse but before the nature of the disease is obvious. That would make it harder to find and cure the possibly infected clerics quickly and make sure you got all of them.

Whilst the plan is not foolproof it is easily repeatable and if Evie has Control Undead, Repulsions and Cure Disease she is pretty much proof against her plans turning against her.

This is my take on how Evie could bring a kingdom to its knees and it looks like 6th level would be more than adequate to have the lists, spells and power points to carry it off.

Any better ideas?

Adventure Writing

I saw this exchange on Reddit today…

Adventure Writing

Hey guys, I am writing an adventure for a campaign set on Skull Island and I was wondering what advice you guys can offer to make the campaign and adventure great. 🙂

Reply…

Don’t “write adventures”; doing that creates a tendency to railroad players. Instead, create interesting situations, with an idea of how they might develop over time free of PC interference, then throw the PCs at those situations and enjoy watching them kick over all your sand castles in new and inventive ways.

I really liked that reply. It is pretty much the approach I took in the Corrupted Jungle. There was a villain with a plan and the players may or may not thwart those plans, the villagers had an agenda, there were locations with inherent dangers but there was no actual compulsion for the characters do do anything or go anywhere. If they were completely inactive then events would over take them and they would be swept up in them.

I quite like this style. Sometimes players can become paralysed into inaction. I try and avoid any castle or tower assaults in my face to face game as my players desperately try to achieve the perfect plan with such poor information that their planning discussions simply become circular and the game threatens to break down.

With a gathering storm or wave of events that will happen regardless of the characters inactivity the characters will be thrown into a situation and they can be either proactive or reactive but the only option that isn’t there is being inactive.

Writing this sort of adventure is a strange experience. You cannot really plan a climatic scene where they face down the villain, save the prince or rescue the kitten from the well if you don’t know what the players are going to do or how they are going to react. It becomes all about planning for contingencies.

I have used this approach in the July issue of the Fanzine. The elves are doing their thing, the humans are doing something else and between the two is new(ish) NPC antagonist with their own agenda. Put enough explosive ingredients into a small space and add the PCs you hopefully fireworks will fly.

Many Coppers

Copper Sales Medal

With RPGNow being shut down, sales figures for that site have been added to those from DriveThruRPG. This has resulted in many of the 50 in 50 supplements reaching Copper level. Sixteen of them in fact, a third of the 48 published so far, and a few are not that far off reaching Silver (and close to 80% of supplements on DriveThruRPG are not even Copper). Thank you to everyone who has purchased them!

Creatures Of The Night!

Far From A Baying Crowd

Gauntlet on the Ice

Release the Hounds!

Spire’s Reach

The Angry Druid

The Cabin in the Woods

The City of Spiders

The Empty Village

The Flying Monks of the Arba-ta Monastery

The Haunted Forest

The Hermit of Castle Ruins

The Inn of Dusk

The Warehouse Heist

Tie A Yellow Ribbon

Where Eagles Dare

Lazy Worlds & Settings

For May’s Fanzine I needed something to fill the gap between when the previous adventure ended and the adventure featured in that issue started. With the recent posts about Lazy GMing I decided to take the lazy way out but it had some interesting spin-offs.

I started with a suggestion along the lines of have the characters do a few random encounters between adventures. I then thought, I hate random encounters why am I saying this?

I then came up with a table with ten entries and three columns for a person, a action and a motivation. So three dice rolls creates a stub of an adventure or a scene for the characters to walk in on. This seemed good. The results would be something like Farmer + Accuses + Murder but most GMs could work with that. The person column went from Village Elder to homeless beggar. So we had 10 people x 10 actions x 10 motivations for 1,000 possible random things going on in a village.

I not got a bit enthusiastic about this. These are so open to interpretation that they could be hack and slash encounters…

Farmer: You killed by son now I am going to kill you!

(farmer hefts his scythe and advances)

Player: I prepare Shockbolt

Or they can be nice situations to role play out. The random event, of itself, does not impose a play style.

For the GM a plot hook or random event is not really much help if they have been told role play an entire village or string of villages.

Random Villages

Using the same basic mechanism of 3x1d10 rolls I produced a table with three columns. The first was the first half of the village name, the second the last half of the village name and the last the villages primary industry. I thought primary industry was important. Once you know that it is easy to imagine all the supporting industry. If the place is known for leather working then the farmers are likely to have plenty of cows. Leather requires stitching and that requires thread. Already, we have fields of cows, a tannery, possibly old folk spinning thread in the village square. Where there are cows there are butchers. We can now start to give the players a picture of village life and give people employment.

The really curious thing was how I filled in the first two columns, the name.

I seem to be developing a bit of a thing for east Asian culture for fantasy. Here is a short list of things that I think are almost universally cool in RPGs. Himalayan style mountains, Tibetan style monks, Genghis Khan style hordes, Kung Fu Monks, Jungles, Ninjas, Pirates, ‘Lost Temples’ and finally dragons. All of those are features of this Asian culture. It also breaks the mould a bit of traditional fantasy being almost exclusively medieval European in style.

What you lose in moving away from the standard form is knights in shining armour.

This move to the east was never explicit or intentional. My regular RMC game is set in the Forgotten Realms, in the Dales region. All my online games through have a distinctly oriental feel and it is getting stronger with every iteration.

You can imagine that the name parts in these lists ended up as things like Phu, Dai and Ngu.

On my to do list is build my own setting. It has been there for a while. I am filing away copies of these things in my setting folder. I think there could be a future RMu fantasy Asian setting bubbling away somewhere in my subconscious.

But Wait…

The ‘random encounters’ so far have a village name, industries, actors, actions and motives but if the heroes are going to have a variety of side quests here the typical GM is going to want some more assistance.

I have been playing with Geomorphs recently. A geomorph in RPG terms is a fragment of a map, a bit like a jigsaw piece but one that it doesn’t matter which way round you use it. You can even flip them over and it will still fit. Most RPG geomorphs are for dungeon layouts but a few create towns and villages.

In the fanzine I have provided three Geomorph dice. You have to print them out and do a bit of cutting and gluing but at the end of it you should have three paper or card d6 with each face holding a section of map. I have included one here so you can see what I mean.

If you take the images and use an editor to flip or mirror image the images you can create 6d6 each of which can have four orientations. That is a massive amount of variations. In the example village I used three images in a triangular formation with the bottom image half way along the two above it.

The thing with visual maps like this is that they are open to interpretation. In the bottom corners of the 2 face above I can see a couple potential churches, one a western looking church and the other a ziggurat style one. The 6 looks like a market but is that a bandstand?

What started out in the fanzine as a one liner of give the characters some random encounters ended up taking about a quarter of the entire magazine and with random people, places and maps.

On the condition that you do not roll all this stuff in front of the players there is no reason for them to ever know that they are ‘between’ adventures at all. If the GM is good at improv, and most are, there is great potential to turn some of these little hooks into full blown side quests.

So this is my contribution to Lazy GMing, a thousand random villages, villagers and adventure hooks.

Adventuring Clichés – Revenge

This is one of those classic starting adventures. Someone has done something bad to the PCs or their family and the characters are out for revenge.

What I am wondering is how we can stretch this out to a nice round 10,000 exp per character?

This post could get a bit rambling and contradictory as I have planned nothing and I am just writing off the cuff.

The first thing that is a challenge is how to bring the characters together in the first place. My gut instinct here says the characters need a mentor. I am picturing a Jedi master type NPC. This has two advantages. The first will be slightly controversial. I am going to suggest that we give the 1st level characters 60DPs worth of hand licked skills. So a fighter PC gets ranks in core fighter skills, the ranger gets core ranger skills and so on. This is the training provided by their mentor. It is also the boost that 1st level characters need to make RMu more competent.

The second advantage of the single mentor is that he represents the closest thing that all the characters will have as common family.

This would entail a bit of extra work by the GM but it is also an opportunity for the GM to make characters, cultures and professions unique to their setting.

I think this is a useful exercise for the GM to think about how skills are used to create cultures and professions.

So the start of the adventure would be the kidnapping of the mentor. This is an opportunity for investigation and a more role played session. We can bring in non-combat skills.

If I am writing this I would make the investigation a percentage action based investigation. The longer the characters take to find the clues as to what happened and who was responsible the greater the headstart the bad guys have.

I know this is not strictly how RMu is expected to work but I think this is better, especially for 1st level characters. If you go for pass/fail skill tests for finding clues and identifying the culprits then it is entirely possible that the adventure ends here and everyone can roll a few crap rolls and then go home.

The clues that the characters find should suggest that their mentor is still alive and was kidnapped. The footprints left by the invaders contain lots of sand which suggest that they came from the local beach.

The kidnappers have indeed captured the mentor and have made their way to the beach. They are waiting for a boat to whisk them away.

Ideally the characters should arrive before the villains escape. If they were really good at the clue finding then they should fall upon the villains while they are still on the beach awaiting a launch to get from a ship in the bay to the beach.

If they were averagey then they arrive as the villains are loading their captive into the launch and they get very little time to plan and act.

If they were slow at finding the clues and putting the pieces together then they arrive as the villains are pushing their way through the surf as they make their escape.

There are two options here. The first option is that the mentor can be rescued here and he will identify the villains and charge his students with exacting his revenge. Option two is that the heroes have to mount the rescue on the ship.

There are great deck plans available for free from Rooster Games.

I am thinking that the villains send two launches to the beach, one to collect the kidnapped mentor and one to provide a rear guard. Unless the characters are exceptional then the mentor is whisked away. The rear guard launch provides the characters with a way get to the ship. The players can be given an opportunity to plan how they are going to take on a launch full of bad guys without destroying the boat.

Now the characters hopefully have a boat and a way of getting to the ship holding their mentor captive. They will also hopefully have some sailor style uniforms. The challenge then becomes can the characters get on board the ship. The attention would be on the captive so this would give a window of opportunity to get on board.

The challenge is now that one party of PCs vs an entire ship is simply not viable but what if the ship was actually simply a charter and the real villains are only paying passengers? This would even the odds a great deal and the ships crew would more than likely throw up their hands and not want to get into a fight between factions.

There is then a big fight and the characters obviously win and defeat the kidnappers. They are bound to want to interrogate survivors.

It turns out that these guys are simply mercenaries hired to commit the kidnapping. The real villain is a mysterious stranger in a port up the coast.

This would then prompt a conversation with the characters’ mentor about is old rival and the bad blood between them. How this rival went to the bad and had sworn to slay him and his students [the characters].

It would be too much to ask for the characters to take on this evil double of their own mentor but it could turn out that the mysterious stranger in the port was not the evil mentor himself but one of his students.

The characters then travel to the port, track down the villain try and defeat him.

I think we could then offer the GM a number of branches at that point. If the evil mentor had a ‘party’ of students and each one had a dark scheme to try and defeat the good mentor, a sort of competition or right of passage then we have an extended set of adventures.

So far we have had an investigation, conflict on the beach, conflict on the ship, investigation in the foreign port and finally conflict against the evil student. That would be a four significant story goals and/or session goals. The reveal of the evil mentor and the conflict would be a campaign goal. That is probably be enough to level up the party.

Having skimmed read this back I also think that the conflict between to two mentors could be due to the evil mentor making a choice to dabble in demonic trading. Doing the demons bidding in exchange for power and forbidden knowledge. The good mentor could be human and the evil double an elf which would then fit into the Elf Demon vs the Human Demon theme.

This could be the first adventure. From here we could send them to the temple ‘dungeon crawl’ as a side quest because they had heard a rumour that one of the evil mentors students had journeyed there to consult the priest at that temple.

The Murder of Crows encounter could be run before, on the road from the port to the temple, or after the temple adventure. Thus stringing the three adventures together.

By the time they have finished this, the murder of crows and the temple they would be around 3rd level and had two demonic adventures.

This is beginning to sound like the start of a campaign.

The City of Spiders Now a Copper Seller!

Copper Sales Medal

The City of Spiders, one of the first supplements published in the 50 in 50 series (there are still some more left to publish; I’m working on finishing off one that Brian sent me but damaging my back, my arm, my shoulder, my finger and Christmas have all got in the way!) has just reached the Copper best seller rank on RPGNow.

This is the first supplement to achieve a best-selling metal rank, although when RPGNow sales are merged with DriveThruRPGs in a month or so, many more are going to achieve this.

So, thank you anyone who bought this supplement. If you haven’t, well here’s The City of Spiders on RPGNow. Showing off its shiny new medal!

Gauntlet on the Ice – Now With a Hex Map

The 50 in 50 (yes, they aren’t quite all done yet) adventure hook Gauntlet on the Ice has just been updated with a new hex grid version of the battlemap in a second PDF.

It’s taken some time to get to this point, but if you have the adventure hook already, and are subscribed, you will have got a message about the update.

Figuring out how to get the hex grid to actually work has been a bit of a problem, but I found something that looks like it does the trick. It is, of all things, a font.

So, feedback on this is appreciated. If it looks good to everyone the rest of the adventures with battlemaps will be updated too.


RPGaDay 2018 Day 11: Wildest Character Name?

This is well timed!

How about The Invincible Mage Eric the Terrible!

Eric is, or should I say was, the cause of much pain and suffering in our latest 50in50 adventure.

Following on from BriH’s 40th level spell and Rolemaster statted magic items in the The Curse of the Ancient Tomb this adventure has a new Rolemaster statted monster, the Velociraptor, the star of the first Jurasic Park movie.

You can tell by the stupid name that I wrote this but I assure you that this is a fun single page adventure and fully justifies getting out all those really cool dinosaurs from Creatures and Treasures.

I Am the Invincible Mage Eric the Terrible! sees the titular mage summon dinosaurs in order to terrorise a town. Sadly for Eric, although the summoning goes to plan, controlling the dinosaurs does not. Which leads to the characters having to deal with a town overrun by large, carnivorous creatures that are eating everything in sight and destroying much of what they see. Game stats for a velociraptor are included.

This is aimed at d100 systems but is generic enough in nature to be adapted to others.

And…

I almost forgot but the Rolemasterblog Fanzine Issue #16 was released this week. It is all about adventures and adventure writing.  It touches on a undead adventures with “The Magpie Crypt” and a unique monster in The Cave of Horror. There is also an essay on The Faerie  Orchestra inspired by a real place in Iceland that could be a source of several adventures.