Nasty, Evil Plots!

I like to think of plots as a mix of two completely different ingredients. The first is a really simple structure making them easy to manage, even after the first contact with the player characters.

The second is just enough chaos, mayhem and evil doings to make the plot worthwhile in completing. Assuming most players characters and party’s are good, of course.

I have always been a fan of post-it notes. I have started to write my plot structures using five post-its.

  1. Plot Hook and initial barrier
  2. A non-combat challenge
  3. Obstacles to overcome
  4. A major final encounter
  5. An unexpected twist or gateway to further adventure

The point of the post-it note is that I can stick to the page of my GM notes at the place where there could be an interesting side plot.

If the characters stroll right on past the plot hook, it goes back in my folder for another day.

There are two big gains in this, from a campaign point of view.

  1. I can create adventures separate from the actual campaign’s overarching plot. Salt them into the game sessions and let the players do what seems natural.
  2. Tweaking a plot hook to make it seem new is minor, so unused plots can be reintroduced at a different point, at which time the characters may want to bite on the hook.

This is not railroading. I am not saying “I have written this and you will play it, like or not!” It is more a case of keeping fresh options open to the characters. Every session can easily offer up three or more side quests which may make perfect sense to the characters.

The actual structure is designed to behave more like a cake than like a recipe. It is not a step by step order of events. It is more like ingredients. Just as you cannot get the egg our of a cake once you have made it. So obstacles are an intrinsic part of a great adventure.

The structure means that most character professions, if you use them, can play a role. Only one element of the structure implies a fight or battle. It could be that your barbarian struggles with all the other elements except the fight, whereas you healer may revel in everything bar the battle.

Adventures should give every character a chance to shine. Using the structure as a remember to build more than just a list of combat encounters is a useful reminder.

I like to think of it as five opportunities to be horrible to the characters, just as they are likely to be horrible to your villain. Remember it takes a lot longer to create an evil necromancer than it does for the party to kill them!

Two 10th Level Fighters Dueling With Daggers

There is a guy on one of the OSE Discord servers I lurk in that reminds me a lot of Hurin. He isn’t Hurin under a different name unless Hurin has a secret double life in Australia, but that is beside the point.

This guy is one of the big personalities in the OSR/OSRIC/DnD nerd community. He happened to say the line that is the title of this post that two 10th level fighters dueling with daggers was a low point of DnD.

It was a throwaway line but it struck a chord with me. I can see the scene being imagined as two guys, probably with 60-70HP grinding away hours doing 1d4 + strength bonus damage when they did manage to hit. In old school DnD a combat round was a minute long. This fight could go on for hours.

Except that it doesn’t.

There are two flaws in this thinking. The first is that if a challenge carries no risk and has no consequences to the character’s story then you shouldn’t be rolling for it. The other flaw was the idea that 1d4+ strength bonus was damage, it isn’t.

I will take the second flaw first. The very concept of hit points is widely misunderstood. Hit points are your character’s skill, and an element of luck at avoiding being hit or harmed. In Rolemaster terms, it would be like having a finite pool of Parry that you burn through adding it to your DB.

That description of Hit Points was in the original Dungeon Master’s Guide. It would be ridiculous to think that just because a character had had a successful adventure or two, that they could now survive being stabbed with a sword more times. Hit Points as skill at parrying, dodging and evasion make perfect sense in contrast. This is why Fighters get more hit points than Magic-Users, they are trained to parry, dodge and evade. You Con bonus is not because you are ‘meatier’ it is because fatigue can slow a person’s reactions when parrying, dodging and evading.

DnD and Chainmail evolved out of tabletop war games where typically a unit that was hit was destroyed. To introduce named heroes into that needed a way for them to have more than a ‘one hit, you are dead’ mechanic. The core concept that if you are stabbed with a sword, hit with a mace or stabbed with a dagger, you will die unless someone saved you. That is why HPs go down to -8, each describing the severity of the mortal wound.

DnD characters are binary. They have 1HP if you think of hit points as meat. If you have 1HP then you are fighting fit, if you don’t have 1HP then you are dead or dying. All hit points above 1 are burned up in avoiding being hit.

Those are the rules pretty much as written in the original DnD.

The next problem with our two 10th level fighters is the hour-long combat. Knowing what hit points are has eliminated the idea of them each being stabbed 15 times and still standing. We have turned that into an interplay with both fighters lunging, feinting, dodging.

The problem is that the first half of the battle is of little or no consequence. You cannot kill a 10th level fighter is a dagger strike. Many strikes may but the first definitely won’t.

It is relatively easy to eyeball a battle as GM, or DM in this case, and see that Fighter 1 has a slightly better to hit number and slightly better damage due to a bigger strength bonus. Why not play the first round or two, let the Character get the size of his opponent. Ask the player how he intends to play out this fight, underhand and dirty or is it more an elegant gentleman’s duel? Now skip forward 10 rounds. If one fighter is more likely to land hits than the other then one takes four dagger strikes and the other may only take three. You can make sure that the number of hits and the damage is in line with the actual abilities of the two combatants. Now describe how the fight went up until this point. Is the other fighter the better or more skilled fighter? Is he or she using their strength to their advantage or is their speed frustrating your attempts to corner them? Tell the player what the character would know. If the character went into this thinking it would be an easy win but now finds themselves at a disadvantage they may want to change tack.

You get the player’s input and then skip forward another 10 rounds. Deal out typical damage and describe the impact this duel is having. Where was the fight taking place? In a banquet hall? In a clearing in the woods? Are there seconds standing by looking concerned? 10 more rounds have gone by, you could be down to half hits and your opponent is looking a lot fresher and more confident than you. What do you do?

By now it is possible that one or the other is at half hit points. Does that change their perception? Is the duel taking place in a larger context? Is now the time to concede honorably?

You can now skip forward another 10 rounds. At this point, you could if you wanted to, play out the rest of the combat. The banquet hall could be a complete wreck with tables upturned, benches smashed to smithereens and the floor awash with trampled food. From this point on the actions can have real consequences, the rule to not roll for things that don’t matter no longer applies.

What could have been a grinding hundred rounds of roll to hit, roll 1d4 for damage has been avoided and turned into narrative description in which the player gets to take an active part.

So What About Rolemaster?

A RM2 10th level Fighter probably has about a 100OB with dagger. Based on one rank per level of half of their sword skill, about +18 from Stat and +30 from Professional bonus.

Assuming this is an unarmoured fight in a banquet hall, just because I like the idea of food fights, with both combatants using AT1. They need about 90 to make contact with each other and about 100 to do a critical.

If they parried with half their OB and we give them a +10 Qu DB they, open ended rolls to hurt each other. One in 20 strikes will yield any damage and assuming a typical final roll of 96 + 50 at the attack roll, + 50OB – 60DB give a final result of 136 or 16ES.

Just eyeballing it suggests that you would need to do a typical 4 E criticals to take someone down, they are fatal or debilitating 25% of the time. So we are looking at possibly 1 in 20 x 4, or 80 combat rounds. I would say that the first bleeding critical on either side would finish the fight. Not so much from breeding out the penalties from lost hits would wipe out your OB, reducing your ability to deliver any damage and reducing your parry DB.

Almost all E Slash criticals do bleeding and 2-4 hits per round are common.

For all their training and experience, a Rolemaster fight between two high level fighters will actually be decided, more often than not, but the very first lucky roll.

You could even strategize for this. Fight until you have that first crit and then all-out parry until your foe bleeds out.

Looking at RMu and there is a bigger issue, passive DB inflation. Our 10th level fighters are likely to have +20 ranks (at least) in Running. By 10th level, you can have a decent Qu bonus with is x3 for DB. If you parried with +50 of your OB, you are looking at +80DB vs a +50OB, a net -30 on your attack roll. Open-ended is needed to even do hits of damage and a 96+50 attack roll yields only 4BP. I know that JDale has increased the damage in the RMu tables but they have not made 4 and a B puncture equal to 16 and an E slash critical.

I am not known for using things like exhaustion points but it looks like having to wait, a statistical average of, 20 rounds just to do 4 hits of damage. A fight like this could last three-quarters of an hour for the characters and take days of real time to play.

The chances of the fight coming down to just a lucky blow, probably a double open-ended roll is more likely than any actual skill on the part of the combatants.

This does not seem right to me.

Reading List and Dark Space

Over Christmas, I set myself three goals, one of which was to read the Call of Cthulhu rules. I had only ever played the game, never run it, so was familiar with the rule in practice but had never sat behind the keeper’s screen.

It is now the middle of Feb and I am still reading.

Alongside that, quite a while ago I borrowed Dark Space from one of the guys in my Rolemaster group and I have now bought the book from him as he has said that he will never run it.

This throws up the issue of insanity in Rolemaster. I have written an article about this in the latest Fanzine. The gist of the article is about how dodgy using something as glib as a low-level neurosis spell is on a player or a player who has never experienced mental health issues trying to play a neurosis for laughs could be if you have someone sat at your table that has been struggling with their own mental health.

I don’t think the argument that a group may have been playing together for years and none of you have mental health problems so this doesn’t apply to you doesn’t stack up. People can and do hide issues for years. I know that my long term GM suffered from Schizophrenia for decades before getting a diagnosis. It is also recognized that role-players as a group have higher instances of mental health issues than the population as a whole. Presumably, the possibility of living someone else’s life for a while has an appeal. I cannot find the research right now but I think it was based upon a sampling of US role players so that may not apply globally but I cannot see why it shouldn’t. People are people all over the world.

Since writing the article in the fanzine I have been thinking about this a bit more. Not from a mental health perspective but from a game mechanic point of view.

Dark Space has two options. The first is to use Stress and Depression criticals from RoCoIII, which I am really not that impressed with. The second option is to use a new Stat called Rationality (Ra). The Ra stat is a complete carbon copy of the CoC Sanity stat and you lose Ra points depending on what the character experienced and loss of Ra leads to temporary or long term insanities, which you roll on a table. This pretty much imports all of the potential problems with CoC into Rolemaster.

The Criticals solution is equally crass. It just tells the player to play their character as either depressed or suicidal with a percentage chance of suicide each week.

I am thinking about a solution that has more shades of grey to it. We already have Co drain from the undead, could we have mental [temp] stat drain from a variety of stats. So studying some material that makes you question your very understanding of how the universe works could give you a resistance roll with your Re bonus as an assist but failure leads to a reduction in your Re stat, x number of points for every 10 points of RR failure. But, here is the first of two clever bits, if the trauma were emotional you could use In as the pertinent stat and damage the In temp as a consequence.

We can import the idea of temporary mental health issues from CoC. If you lose 20% of your remaining temporary stat in a short period of time but rather than rolling on a table what we, as GMs, do is you talk to the player and discuss how their character should react to this to that trauma. This negotiated behavior means that two characters facing the same emotional hurt could react very differently. One player could choose to be callous and unfeeling, wall themselves off from others and emotional bonds. Another player may choose to make their character desperate for emotional support.

As GM you are there and agreed with how the player was going to play this personality change. That means that you can use it to reward good role-playing. You know the criteria so you can measure performance against expectations.

Now we have a system that allows you to model different types of stress and trauma, it gives the player an active role in portraying the effects and the character gets rewarded for the player playing their character well.

You could also introduce parapsychology and psychiatry as skills and use these to restore lost tempory stats. There has long been a lack of clarity in how undead Co drain was supposed to be recovered.

Star Wars RPG?

Image result for mandalorian

Back in July of 2016 I went a bit off topic to blog about a new TV series I saw: Stranger Things. What a difference a few years make, as the show went on to become a cultural sensation and further promoted the D&D legacy into our culture.

Recently I had the opportunity to watch a new show, The Mandalorian, that has quickly become the new “It Show”. Much of that is due to the popularity of Star Wars for over 40 years, and some of it to the quality of the show.

I’m not going to review the show or risk spoilers, but just in case—spoiler alert! What struck me the most about the show was how closely it adhered to classic RPG beats. It was similar to reading a RPGLit book—the dice rolls, traditions and tropes were all right there on the screen. Some may argue that these are devices more similar to video games; that may be true but video games themselves drew from tabletop traditions. I find this revealing: for decades Star Wars was defined as following ancient mythical storylines: The Heroes Journey and classic fairy tales wrapped in a fantasy/scifi setting. But throughout the Star Wars trilogy there hasn’t really been traditional gaming mechanics. Yes, characters develop some abilities—mostly the young Jedi protagonists—but this was done through plot advancement and some handwaving. (Lukes Jedi training might only have lasted in days or weeks, and yet was the sum of his formal education in the movies).

The Mandalorian is a completely different beast. There is a serial adventure nature to the show. “Mando” finishes adventures with special alloy treasure that he brings to the “Armorer” to have forged into upgraded equipment. There are side adventures. There is new, cool equipment that gives added abilities and firepower. The Mando takes real damage, needs healing and is restrained by ammo and weapon limitations. You have temporary NPC’s (who mostly die and thus don’t have a lengthy plotline) that aid the Mandalorian for that particular adventure. I think it’s incredible that popular culture is embracing (perhaps unknowingly) a clear gaming format into a high-profile serialized event.

I’m not sure I’ve seen another high budget show that adheres to gaming mechanics in such a clear way. Thoughts?

Devil’s Staircase: Wild West RPG

So this has nothing to do with Rolemaster, at all or in any shape or form. Devil’s Staircase [DS] is about as far away from the crunch and simulationism of RM as you can get, without playing FATE.

So why am I writing about it?

Well, I wrote the game two years ago now and it spent a year in playtesting, Spectre771 proved to be the lead playtester. I did all the layout, with loads of help from twitter followers giving free advice, in August and finally this week I have launched the crowdfunding campaign for the game.

What I really, really need is for people to spread the word about the crowdfunding. The address I need sharing is

So where does Rolemaster come into this?

I am trying three different approaches side by side at the moment.

Strand 1 is Navigator RPG. That is offered for sale as PWYW for the playtest. The money from the playtest all goes back to funding the development of the game. The approach means you need to be able to work with a drip-feed of money. We are talking very small amounts and regardless of when the books are bought you get your funds at the same date each money.

Strand 2 is DS:Wild West. This game had a year’s playtesting, there is a free quickstart on DTRPG and now crowdfunding.

Strand 3 is Plague, Famine & War. These adventures can easily be a vehicle for new professions, new monsters, new spell lists. I can remember really enjoying buying modules and they had all sorts of new things to add into my game (B/X D&D back in those days). I am extremely careful not to use any ICE intellectual property in these adventures, which makes using new monsters and magic items and all that jazz even more useful. Creating all that stuff is fun as well. Why? Because ICE released the original companions at a rate of about one a year. An adventure takes less than two weeks to create. Seven fully-featured adventures like this could contain seven new professions, seven or more spell lists, seven new monsters, and magical items. That pretty much sounds like a companion right there but you also got seven full adventures as well.

Rolemaster fans deserve new things, new toys, and new challenges. On top of that having a flow of new releases for RM makes the system seem more alive and vibrant for potential players. It is also easier, especially for new younger gamers, to find $3 every few weeks than it is to find $20-$30 for a full-on companion.

So, supporting DS:Wild West even just by sharing the link anywhere and everywhere will indirectly help Rolemaster, past, present and future.

Update Time

Yesterday City of Spiders, one of the first 50in50 adventures became a Silver best selling title on That is no mean feat. We still get sales of those adventure hooks most weeks. It won’t be long until we get a raft of them going silver.

I am going all out to complete outstanding projects before the end of the year. Ladt week I was working on my Wild West game. That is now ready to go to kickstarter. That is new territory for me. I gave had to pause that for a few days as jump through the legal hoops.

As I cannot go any further with DS:WW right now my attention has turned to Navigator RPG.

Navigator RPG

Since Friday I have completed the Star Knight meditations and Mystic Gifts. These replace the Telempath’s psions in Spacemaster. I have also converted all the equipment over from White Star to Nav and started building the Nav version of Arms Law. Ladt night I finished the last of the melee weapons tables. Tomorrow I start the ranged weapons which include bows, guns and energy weapons.

When I am working on projects like this they often seem really simple before I start. They then go through a phase where for everything one part I complete I notice two more sections that I need to do.

I am in that phase now but I don’t think it will be long until I am crossing things off faster than I am adding them.

As of today you can create a character using any race, culture, profession learn and use psionics and beat each other up using hand to hand combat and ranged attacks, even grenades and make maneuvers.

No one will die because there are no critical tables.

There are no spaceship rules, no monster/aliens/robots. The only healing is through gifts and meditations. There is no natural healing yet.

There is no universe either.

I am sure there is a lot more that I haven’t thought of but the current list is not overwhelming.

I am mentioning all this as I think I am only a week or so away from sharing what I have so far.

I do need some help though. See right at the bottom of this post if you are feeling creative.

City of Forgotten Heroes

I started to detail the city last month in the fanzine. The first month I did the marshes around the city, the city walls and the gate house on the causeway. This month was the library, complete with ghost book, the orchard and a new location called the architect’s tower.

In the October issue will be the palace, the cistern and Octomancer.

I think I will have completed the entire RMu adventure path before the end of the year. I estimate the entire thing will take characters from creation to 12th/14th level.

I mention this because I am aware that sometimes I can seem really enthusiastic about something and then it disappears from view. I don’t just drop things, it is just that actually doing the hard bit of writing it all up isn’t very exciting and having a monthly publishing schedule means that nothing moves quickly.

Amusingly, I don’t know what the end of the adventure path is. I am not entirely sure how to get from the past bit I have written and the point where the characters save their world and defeat the BBEG.

I am sure it will come to me. I have 7 weeks to think of it and get the characters from where they are to where they need to be in time from the final climax in December.

I wonder if I will complete the adventure path before RMu is released? It is supposed to be in Nicholas’s editing queue now. How long will that take and the same goes for art commissioning and layout.

On September 22nd there are 100 days of 2019 left and we were promised RMu in 2019.


What I could do with is a bit of help coming up with witty and graphic critical descriptions.

At the moment I have need of the following critical tables. Puncture, Slash, Krush, Fire, Unbalance and Impact. I would really appreciate some suggestions for the criticals. There are 120 entries on a critical table and I have six to do giving 720 lines to come up with.

All help will be greatly appreciated. Just comment below.

2 Page Random Adventures?

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


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.

  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?

The Mirror Tells Her Lies

Way back last year sometime I did a direct comparison between RMu, RMSS, RMc/RM2 starting PCs and those of other d100 systems like vsDarkmaster and BRP.

In all cases the starting skill bonuses were within a handful of percentage points of each other. To all intents and purposes you could play any adventure from any game system using any rule system and things would work with little or no changes. When I say little change it would be things like Zweihander has no #hits or hit points so you would have to fill in the blanks or you would need to know what AT to assign to the actual armour descriptions.

This only works with starting characters. As characters level up or advance they diverge rapidly. Zwei characters barely change for great blocks of time, BRP/OpenQuest/Runequest has characters improving across the board by by a few percent at a time and Rolemaster has stepped progression with each level but that could be two ranks plus profession bonuses. In the early levels RMu’s DB inflation has not really kicked in either.

By sixth level RM characters are toting around core skills over 100 including skill, stat, profession and some minor power items. Many d100 games max out at 100 so never break that ceiling.

Seeing as almost noone is writing adventures for Rolemaster AND Runequest conversion rules were published in the back of the RM2 C&T books we can mine Runequest/OpenQuest/BRP adventures for modules, cool locations, NPCs and so on. On DTRPG there are nearly 250 books in the RQ/BRP/OpenQuest categories.

What prompted this post was an adventure I saw posted on Kickstarter. It is the book named in the title of this post The Mirror Tells Her Lies. What made it stick out was this bit of the description…

“The Mirror Tells Her Lies” takes full advantage of this quality. It is a take on the moral quandaries faced by PCs, in a place where all the dark places of their souls will be used against them. It is a short adventure, playable in one to two sessions, designed for experienced characters and players who love roleplaying their characters as opposed to hacking away at everything they see!

Nearly all Rolemaster players and GMs are experienced. An ‘experienced’ RQ/BRP/OQ character is only the same as a 3rd or 4th level RM character. That means the adventure is quite possibly a good one for experienced players playing lower level characters, old heads on young shoulders.

If you can get the knack of doing the conversions to your preferred version of RM then I think these adventures could be a great source of inspiration. The adventure above is by Michael Hopcroft and is fully funded. It also says that it is the first of many. Lots of potential adventures there then!

Cities of Hârn

We have an English saying, which is in the same sort of vein as Murphy’s Law ( Anything that can go wrong will go wrong ) and Finagle’s Law ( hope for the best, expect the worst ). This one is to describe something as ‘just like busses, you wait for hours for one and then three come along at once.’

I know I have already posted today but I just got an email about the Hârn kickstarter and it fired two thoughts.

The first was that plenty of people seemed to like Hârn as a rolemaster setting. The whole thing being d100 based made adopting material fairly easy and the harsh realities of Hârn fits well with those that like their Rolemaster gritty and dangerous.

The second was the way that people, even to this day still reuse the Pete Fenlon maps and floor plans from the old MERP books as they have never found anything better.

Keep those floor plans in mind when you see some of the images below.

So I had an email from James Eisbert at Columbia Games, the publisher of Hârn promoting their kickstarter, Cities of Hârn.

You can check it out yourself here

But it is this sequence of images that got me…

If we look at that last panel in detail you can see how they have atomised every possible common form of door, ladder, stairs and surfaces. That is going make setting difficulty mods pretty easy.

I also liked the whole zooming in from city to building to interior scope.

If you world need maps and cities then I think one could do a lot worse. If you buy in at the $1 level you get the first PDF immediately which I think is fair. For a dollar you get to see what you would be buying into.

It looks good value to me.

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. 🙂


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.