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.


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.


50-in-50 Latest Release: Curse of the Ancient Tomb

Curse of the Ancient Tomb has the characters exploring a recently uncovered tomb. The tomb is not merely a tomb, but also a prison for a powerful, and now undead, being, and their powerful weapon. The tomb itself has dangers, one subtle but a potentially serious problem, and neither the occupant nor its weapon are remotely safe. Characters could easily run into serious problems exploring the tomb.

This is, to the best of my knowledge, the biggest adventure yet. You get 32 pages including a battle map, adventure, magic items and traps. It is the most purely Rolemaster booklet we have produced with. I would love to see a D&D players face when they read…

Warding Evil. This is a 40th lvl spell that will repel “Evil” or “Undead”. Any such within 10’ of the Ward must make an RR each round or suffer a “D” critical effect.”

It is the very thought of a 40th level spell that should give a D&D player kittens!

For more sensible people who play Rolemaster then this is an excellent little adventure!

Catch Up Time

I have been away for a couple of weeks but I am back and it is time to catch up.

When you see that list you cannot help but think how great it would be if we could have created fully statted out adventure modules rather than just plot outlines, locations and hooks.

I still think it is an impressive list especially for our first concerted effort. So to the latest pair of adventures.

First up is Time Bandits of the Motley Faire.

The Time Bandits of the Motley Faire sees the characters come across a faire that provides entertainment, supposedly without the use of magic. However, a group of thieves are also with the faire, and these thieves are using temporal magic to carry off a series of heists for which they have not been caught.


Despite the ‘Time Bandits’ reference that adventure title is not my fault!

Next is The Claw!

The Claw is an odd item that can be found in a curiosity shop. A gruesome object, the owner of the shop would dearly like to be rid of it. For the claw keeps regrowing every night. If it isn’t kept on top of, eventually the severed limb will regenerate the entire body to which it was once attached.


Once upon a time I remember a D&D ‘trap’ that went along the lines of deep in some dungeon there was a ‘market stall’ selling frozen meat for the characters to buy. The trap element was that the meat was actually frozen troll meat and when the characters defrost the meat overnight the troll regenerates and they have a surprise encounter with a troll.

This whole concept seemed to sum up everything that was wrong with D&D in the 1980s. Why would there be a market stall in a dungeon, why would the characters buy rations from anyone who thought that this was a good place to sell food and so on. There is so much wrong with this that I don’t know where to start really.

The Claw is almost a cliche of the Edgar Allen Poe style horror story. It could be a fun distraction for the party but Albert Stepfoot and his gang of street kid informers could be a useful addition to any campaign as a way of introducing story hooks to the characters.

Roll Call of Horror!

I have been thinking this week about our city of forgotten heroes, the spaces that exist between the palace, the library and the still to be laid out cistern where Octo resides.

My first thought was for a number of locations with prepared encounters, the market, back alleys and so on. I have come around to a different way of thinking though.

Herding the Heroes

Once the existence of the heroes has been registered then it is in Octo’s best interest to have the characters headed towards him. He wants them as food after all. The throne wants to extend its dominion so that too wants the heroes brought closer. So it makes sense for the undead in the city to gather around the characters rather than stay in specific zones.

As a GM then we can throw all sorts of horrors at the party but also leave an exit. The undead are all incorporeal so they can pass through walls and floors but the characters will need to use streets, gates and doors. There is nothing to stop you have undead to the front, left and right of the characters but nothing behind them. The heroes can then fall back and the hoard will follow.

We have an entire city population to play with so there is no need to worry too much about the numbers. The characters cannot kill them all.

In keeping with the idea of a truly scalable adventure I took a roll call of the incorporeal undead by class and you actually get quite a variety.

  • Phantom (I) 2nd
  • Ghost Minor (II) 3rd
  • Mara (II) 2nd
  • Revenant (II) 3rd
  • Shadow Lesser (II) 4th
  • Specter Minor (II) 5th
  • Apparition (III) 6th
  • Corpse Candle (III) 7th
  • Fire Phantom (III) 5th
  • Ghost Lesser (III) 7th
  • Headless Ghost (III) 6th
  • Specter Lesser (III) 10th
  • Corpse Lantern (IV) 10th
  • Ghost Wolf (IV) 10th
  • Shadow Greater (IV) 8th
  • Wigth Minor (IV) 10th
  • Wraith Lesser (IV) 10th
  • Ghost Greater (V) 15th
  • Specter Major (V) 15th
  • Wight Lesser (V) 15th
  • Wraith Greater (V) 15th
  • Lich (VI) 20th
  • Wight Major (VI) 20th

So far we have detailed three major encounters, the captain of the gatehouse, the librarian and the ruler in the palace.

Party Power Captain Librarian Ruler Minion
Low Revenant Lesser Shadow Specter Minor Phantom
Mid Specter Minor Lesser Ghost Lesser Specter Apparition
High Specter Major Wight Lesser Wraith Greater Shadow Greater
Very High Wraith Greater Wight Major Lich Specter Major

The ‘Minion’ column is for when you want to add some additional canon fodder to an encounter so the for a low level party the gatehouse keeper would be a Revenant with some Phantom guards but for a very high level party it would be a Greater Wraith with Major Specters manning the walls.

The rest of the undead roll call can be used for creating variety. If you party are mainly first level then most encounters would be Phantoms but they should be able to handle a lone Revenant or Minor Ghost.

With encounters there are really two ‘end conditions’, win or retreat. We want to drive the players towards the palace or the cistern system so you don’t want to kill your players but you can keep adding more and more foes to an encounter as the combat attracts attention.

We can group the undead into little random encounter tables…

Low Level – 1d6

  1. Phantom (I) 2nd
  2. Ghost Minor (II) 3rd
  3. Mara (II) 2nd
  4. Revenant (II) 3rd
  5. Shadow Lesser (II) 4th
  6. Specter Minor (II) 5th

Mid Level – 1d6

  1. Apparition (III) 6th
  2. Corpse Candle (III) 7th
  3. Fire Phantom (III) 5th
  4. Ghost Lesser (III) 7th
  5. Headless Ghost (III) 6th
  6. Specter Lesser (III) 10th

High Level 1d10

  1. Corpse Lantern (IV) 10th
  2. Ghost Wolf (IV) 10th
  3. Shadow Greater (IV) 8th
  4. Wigth Minor (IV) 10th
  5. Wraith Lesser (IV) 10th
  6. Ghost Greater (V) 15th
  7. Specter Major (V) 15th
  8. Wight Lesser (V) 15th
  9. Wraith Greater (V) 15th
  10. Wight Major (VI) 20th

Magical Weaponry

There is one topic we haven’t mentioned yet. This is particularly important for the lowest level parties. None of these creatures can be hurt without magical weapons.

If you need to give each character a magical weapon before they have even a chance of survival then there are a number of ramifications.

If these are being ‘given’ then who is the giver? Do we now have a quest giver?

As almost everything here has no treasure then are these weapons the party reward, but paid in advance?

How much power do you want to introduce to your game?

The least powerful magical weapon is probably one that has no bonus but is x% lighter than standard though magical means, not just superior quality.

Other great low level magical weapons are ones with a few uses of self healing type spells. So a Daily Item with heal 1-10 twice a day or Clotting I. That is not going to really going to shift the power balance of most games.

Another option, and one I particularly like is to enchant the characters existing weapons. So for example all their weapons are enchanted so they are +15 vs Undead until the next full moon. This boosts the low level party but also self moderates. This idea does also imply a quest giver and one with access to plentiful magical skills to enchant these weapons.

With mid and higher level parties one would expect most combat oriented characters to have at least one magical weapon, surely?

Brokedown Palace

The title above is a song by Grateful Dead which I thought was very apt for this post.

So we have a magical throne that urges one towards the dark arts and necromancy. The last human ruler of the city of forgotten heroes was very magical and it was them that caused the throne to be hurled down into the deepest well, or more accurately a cistern, where it should never be found again.

If we are dealing with a lower level party then I would suggest that a Revenant (3rd level) takes the place of the king or queen.

For a mid to high level party I would like to use a Lich. There are three suggestions here.  If you don’t have stats for Sprectre771’s ex-wife we will have to discard the first option. So we are left with two possible Lich ‘builds’. For are hack and slash game a Lich Magician is the most aggressive version. The magician base lists lend themselves to straight out blasting combat and there is plenty of more devious lists to challenge an entire party.

The most fun version if you have the time to role play it out is the Lich Sorcerer. The fun a GM could have with the Transferal and Subjugation spells (Soul Destruction 8th and 11th levels)

A Lich is a 20th level foe and spell caster on its own territory, this is a major opponent.

The Palace

I would like to see the party being surrounded and pushed back and back by overwhelming numbers of undead spectres, ghostly figures. Finally, with their backs to the gates of a palace there is only one place they can go and that is into the palace grounds and the undead don’t follow.

Any experienced players are going to know they have just gone from the frying pan into the fire but right there and then they have a moments respite, a moment to regroup and treat wounds.

Behind the party a palace stands set in dead and withered formal gardens.

It is here that the party can find the actual location of the throne. You could play so that if the party were to simply ask for Lich about the throne then it will tell them that it was thown into a bottomless cistern so no one will ever sit upon it again.

As the party enter the palace there is one ante chamber and then the hall. The most notable thing about the hall should be that there is no throne but a clear place where one had stood. That is a clear and obvious clue.

At its simplest this could be a straight fight with the Revenant/Lich and then search for clues for the location of the missing throne. It will be much more interesting to up the role playing tension here. There is one caveat. As a GM you should read up on the Revenant and what it wants and how it acts before introducing this element to your game. RPGs are meant to be fun and suicide is a serious subject. You should play this in the right way for your group. Alternatively you can swap out the Revenant for either a lesser or greater Shadow (4th or 8th level). I rather like the Shadow alternative as it adds a touch of the vampire palace to the adventure.

The location could be under the palace or at another site. Right now I am inclined to put the throne below the palace.

Thinking about the entire module we have here the party could simply be tasked with retrieving the dark artifact from the city, maybe before some dark agent gets it first. They are told it is referred to as the kings seat of power before the city fell to an undead army. They should be able to find more information at the city library. So the party have to get into the city (gate house or the marshes), visit the library (wight’s domain) and the palace (Lich/Octopus). Between these location we can have a number of semi random encounters. These are easily scaled to the party level. So one to take place in back streets should the party decide to go that way, one for a market place, square or plaza and a third on the city walls. So where ever the party decide to go they will meet a prepared encounter. Then on the way out the party will meet another prepared encounter on the streets of the city, as they now have a cart and heavy load to move and the final encounter is the original gate house with the spectre.

Is that enough?


Kill The Priest

Kill The Priest sees a corrupted priest unleashing a creature to look for a religious relic. The creature is now on a quest to kill any and all powerful female priests of the deity in question. The priest is themselves a dupe, and the characters must stop the creatures and the priest.

This adventure has a Terminator style villain who just keeps on coming. It uses the Black Stalker from C&T in the role of Terminator but the priest in the title is a definite manipulator in the background.

Even if you don’t buy this booklet, look up the Black Stalker (RMC C&T pg 79, ENTITIES FROM OTHER PLANES). Awesome foe and one that deserves to grace every campaign at some point!

I do accept that this adventure has a high chance of killing a PC, at least once. The black stalker has +30 initiative, a 180 OB and a slaying weapon. One top of that they have armour that encumbers as AT4 but protects as AT20 and a cloak that adds +50 to Stalk and Hide, oh yes, the regenerate as well.

If your party is up around level 15 or higher then this is a chance for the GM to play a ‘monster’ to the absolute limit of its abilities.

It is not all about hack and slash though. There is an evil plot going on here that you can weave into your game style be it political intrigue or broad strokes.

The game that inspired this had the black stalker coming back on a weekly basis and the players had no end of trouble defeating it. The highlight, for me, was when one character tried to keep and use the black stalkers weapon which was actually slaying against that actual character. The player was happy enough using a sword that had +30 to initiative until he fumbled really badly and delivered a slaying critical to himself!