Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Man At Arms

The Splintered Realm - Sat, 03/02/2019 - 00:13
I've got notes going for several projects at once here, so thought I'd share one thing. This is a draft of the human man-at-arms. It's a human fighter type, but Tales of the Splintered Realm is going to avoid 'generic' classes, so this will be one of many variations of the classic fighter.

Human Man-At-Arms
Starts with: Medium Armor, Heavy Weapons, Shield Use, Two Weapons, Two-handed Weapons
Level 1: +1 STR; +1 to all weapon damage rolls
Level 2: +1 DEX; +1 to all weapon attack rolls
Level 3: +1 STR (+2 total); +1 attack per round (2 total)
Level 4: +1 DEX (+2 total); +1 to all weapon damage rolls (+2 total)
Level 5: +1 STR (+3 total); +1 to all weapon attack rolls (+2 total)
Level 6: +1 DEX (+3 total); +1 attack per round (3 total)

He's a high offense medium defense fighter. I think he'd be fun to play.

Weapons of War & Fortune Within The Arthurian Mythology For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 03/01/2019 - 17:05
There drew he forth the brand Excalibur,And o’er him, drawing it, the winter moon,Brightening the skirts of a long cloud, ran forthAnd sparkled keen with frost against the hilt:For all the haft twinkled with diamond sparks,Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-workOf subtlest jewellery."The Passing of Arthur", one of the Idylls of the King   Excalibur is the sword that seemingly Needles
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On the Sunless Citadel Stroll

Hack & Slash - Fri, 03/01/2019 - 14:00

I've played a lot of adventures. I've never been able to easily find out what happens in an adventure without playing it. I've always wished someone talked about the adventures that they've been through, not so much a review, but a commentary. This. . . is that.

The Sunless CitadelI had just moved to this city for the first time, and was back in college. I was working a terrible phone support job for an internet service provider, with weird and shady people. That redhead was named Scarlett, and that story is one for another time.

I spent all my free time at work getting little dribs and drabs of information about the new third edition of Dungeons and Dragons on Enworld. It was going back to the dungeon. Any race could be any class. Dungeons & Dragons things were miraculously still being published.

It was a heady time.

I ran this module for a group of friends, as my first experience running third edition. It was a well-designed linear adventure. The part nobody remembers is that there's an evil tree sprouted from a stake used to kill a vampire, protected by an evil druid, that blooms two evil fruits with seeds that create twig blights.

There's a couple of quick and minor encounters on your way into the valley, with enough distraction to lull the players into a sense of security. They checked for traps the first time, the second, and the third, but the fourth was a pit trap they walked into. Well done. The maps are pretty interesting and  although very linear, they at least nod to creativity, expansion, and multi-level adventure.

It's early in the life cycle, but the module clearly pushes a certain model of play, remember where the squares are, success is determined by checks (with a nod to some behaviors), and a strong board "game-like" feel and structure. It's easy to see how this eventually developed into the baroque Pathfinder, where the system itself handles all vagaries of play, being a precision model that answers all questions for the dungeon master. 

The Citadel ProperOnce entered, there's a magically locked door to the left, and the dungeon to the right.

The magically locked door is a sequence of chambers that only give the slightest nod to options. They can have the key, The knock spell (which requires a third level wizard in this first level adventure) or they can succeed at a DC 36 (!) Strength check. It's unlikely anyone would have a +16 bonus to their strength at first level. At the end you find a troll and some treasure.

Once you give up and go the way you are supposed to, you meet Meepo. Everyone remembers Meepo, he went on to some measure of fame. He only says two things:

"The clan's dragon. . .  we've lost our dragon. The wretched goblins stole Calcryx, our dragon!"
"Meepo don't know, but the leader does. Meepo take you to meet the leader, Yusdrayl, if you make nice. Grant you safe passage, if you promise not to hurt Meepo. May be if you promise to rescue dragon, leader make nice to you, answer your questions."
After this point, every adventuring group in the world pretty much teamed up with Meepo. He walks you through the Kobold sector. You can kill everything in these ten or so rooms, or follow meepo to the boss.

You could free some goblin prisoners on the way, but the adventure says you probably shouldn't. The goblins will lie and flee and double-cross players. See, the kobolds are the good guys and the goblins are the bad guys, and just go along with it.

The kobold territory consists of "Down the 60' hallway". Once that immense distance is traversed, they meat the Kobold leader, Yusdrayl. She gives a quest, retrieve the white dragon and offers the key to the earlier area, and she lets you know about the evil guy downstairs. She is standing in front of an altar with some minor magic items on it, and I've seen more than one party turn on the Kobolds at this point. Many don't, which means Meepo accompanies them on the rest of the adventure.

Even though there's a door that leads straight through to the goblin main encounter, they encourage you to go the back way, so you can adventure through the entire goblin section of the dungeon. The only way the shortcut is taken, is if the Kobolds are all killed.

You have several fights against rats and detritus. To get into the goblin area proper, you have to assault a small wall down a caltrop filled hallway. Once you get past that, you find some prisoners, including a 2nd level Gnome Fighter/Cleric named Erky Timbers who's super eager to join the party.

In a room adjacent to the main path, you can find the little tiny mini white dragon who likes it here. You'll have to fight him without killing him to bring him back to the kobolds.

Did you know they intentionally understate the difficulty of dragons in 3.x so that fighting them would always seem tougher than equivalently difficult monsters? Think about that. Monte Cook designed the rules so that players AND the people running the game would be surprised when the monsters were way more powerful than they said they were supposed to be, because they are dragons. Why not list them at their actual difficulty level? The answer to that is so that the difficulty would be a surprise to anyone who relied on those levels.

Then there are two large rooms that have lots of goblins in them (A 'main' encounter) with a shaft leading to Part II of the dungeon.

All this is fun and fine for an introductory module. People like to succeed and feel useful. There are optional side areas, but the adventure leads you by the nose. On the plus side, the fight with the hobgoblin boss takes place with a giant eighty-foot deep shaft in the middle of the room. 

There's a lot of text, too much, about attacks of opportunity. Don't forget attacks of opportunity! Nobody wants attacks of opportunity. Certainly not these goblins. No sir! They'll flank, but not if they have to take those attacks of opportunity. Memento Aoo.

Down a Shaft to Part II of the dungeonThe grove level is also basically a straight line. You can go north and head into the—undescribed in this module—'underdark'. You can go east and north, or you can head south which loops around to east and north. You follow the module from there straight to the end.

You fight some goblins, worms, one shadow, and skeletons; each area, another few opponents rush to kill you as you attempt to reach the 'boss chamber' at the end of the dungeon. After killing goblins guarding a gate, you stride forward into the penultimate encounter, and slay ten of the evil twig blights all at once, introduced two at a time.

The evil druid boss has some conversation options, mainly explaining everything going on. When the conversation options are exhausted, he exhorts you to surrender. When you predictable refuse you fight the boss, the tree, some more twig blights, and a few adventurers who came here earlier and failed, becoming slaves to the evil tree. Maybe the players can figure out destroying the tree will free the captured adventurers by killing them, allowing you to defeat them without chewing through their hit points?

It was fun, the fights in 3.0 were fun. It very much instilled the idea that dungeons are limited spaces and should be 'cleared' completely, extracting all the treasure and experience. I find that the games I play in are both more difficult and challenging in the sense that it's a lot less likely you'll survive a straight combat, and have enough and large enough spaces that exhaustively exploring dungeons doesn't occur.

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The Cursed Fairylands of X2 Castle Amber by Tom Moldvay - More OSR Clark Ashton Smith & Arthurian Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 02/28/2019 - 22:52
"Trapped in the mysterious Castle Amber, you find yourselves cut off form the world you know. The castle is fraught with peril. Members of the strange Amber family, some insane, some merely deadly, lurk around every corner. Somewhere in the castle is the key to your escape, but can you survive long enough to find it?" My review & overview of Greg Gorgonmilk's latest Clark Ashton Smith book Needles
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Chaos & Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique In X2 Castle Amber (Château d'Amberville) By Tom Moldvay

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 02/28/2019 - 15:53
"Trapped in the mysterious Castle Amber. you find yourselves cut off from the world you know. The castle is fraught with peril. Members of the strange Amber family, some insane, some merely deadly, lurk around every corner. Somewhere in the castle is the key to your escape, but can you survive long enough to find it?"The Lion & Dragon Rpg system has been one that's been on my mind for a Needles
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The Bridge of the Damned: Under the Bridge

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 02/28/2019 - 14:37

Hello friends! Happy Torchbearer Thursday! This post has been cross-posted with my Bridge of the Damned Kickstarter project. Please back it if you’re interested in seeing the finished project!

The amazingly talented Kurt Komoda sent me some concept sketches of the Bridge of the Damned cover yesterday and I wanted to share them with you.

Working with an illustrator like Kurt is a real treat. He’s able to take my jumbled thoughts and turn them into something breathtaking.

Here’s the art direction I gave him:

The dungeon is a broken, fortified bridge. I’m attaching some references. WRT the concept map, you only really need to pay attention to the sketch of the bridge at the top.

There is a calcified skeleton of a giant lying half covered in the river. In my mind’s eye, you could mistake it for a jumble of rocks in the water until you look at it just right. The giant’s skull forms an island in the river. In the adventure a water spirit, a nykr, was trapped inside the skull as a sort of spirit prison in ancient times. Even though it’s trapped, the nykr’s song lures people to drown themselves in the river.

I’m envisioning some adventurers in a skiff on the water. We can see part of the broken bridge and the giant’s skull. A mist is rolling in and sea-draug, spirits of the drowned are rising from the water to attack the adventurers.

Above you can see how those ideas are coalescing in Kurt’s eye.

I love the energy here, and I especially love the giant’s skull under the bridge! It’s not how it was originally positioned in my initial idea, but I really like this composition and it’s inspiring me to think differently about how to use it in the text of the adventure.

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Cryptozoic Will Demo Upcoming Games at GAMA Trade Show 2019

Cryptozoic - Thu, 02/28/2019 - 14:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment today announced that it will demo several upcoming games at the GAMA Trade Show, March 11-15 at the Peppermill Resort in Reno, Nevada. At Booth #325, Cryptozoic will feature two soon-to-be released titles that use its new Gryphon card game engine: Challenge of the Superfriends Card Game and Rick and Morty: Look Who’s Purging Now Card Game. In addition, Cryptozoic will show the long-awaited DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth and Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: ANNIHILAGEDDON Deck-Building Game.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Solar Trek: The Amok Trigger

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 02/28/2019 - 12:00
These are the voyages of the exploratory vehicle, Enterprise...

In 2262, Dr. Leonard McCoy discovered the continuation of outlawed genetic practices among certain prominent families of Mars. This was revealed when Enterprise's first officer, Commander Spock began experiencing drastic mood swings and neurologic pain. Neurochemical triggers made Spock seek to return to Mars, regardless of his orders to the contrary.

The cause of his condition was an engineered gene sequence, created in the 21st Century by Martian geneticists for the purpose of making arranged marriages among their people compulsory and binding. The small, modified human population of Mars practiced arranged marriage for purposes of genetic diversity and promotion of genes critical for survival in the partially terraformed Martian environment to come over the next century. An unidentified family member of Spock's betrothed had introduced the genetic sequence through use of a viral vector when Spock was in his teens. The reasons are unclear, but may have had to do with Spock's father's diplomatic position.

T'Pring, Spock's betrothed, was absolved of any wrongdoing in regard to the genetic manipulation, but she did instigate a trial by combat that could have resulted in the deaths of one or more Space Fleet officers in order to be free of her obligation to Spock.

Dr. McCoy was able to repair the genetic damage to Commander Spock. His efforts led to a greater understanding of historic Martian gene-engineering techniques.

Flip Through: Martial Arts Handbook Pathfinder RPG

Gamer Goggles - Thu, 02/28/2019 - 04:31

In this Flip Through Matt Takes a look at the Martial Arts Handbook for Pathfinder.

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

I’m always happy when the martial arts gets more love.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review of Curse of the Crimson Throne

Gamer Goggles - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 19:18

Curse of the Crimson Throne

Published by Paizo

Curse of the Crimson Throne made its debut back in March of 2008 starting with Edge of Anarchy and ended with Crown of Fangs in August of the same year.  This adventure path is among the earliest of Paizo’s publications.  In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, It was in March of 2008 that Paizo announced the Pathfinder RPG. The revised edition of Curse of the Crimson Throne was published back in December of 2016.  It has been updated with a few changes to expand story and reflect the rules supplements and changes made over the years .

First, this review is well as free of spoilers, I hope.  I really hate spoiling adventures and in many places it will seem like I give you hardly any information.

Curse of the Crimson Throne is set in Korvosa where the royalty never lives to old age and never manage to spawn an heir. . The King recently expired and the queen is about to take the throne. This really sets the stage for what is really a big sweeping narrative that starts by putting the players against a crime lord.  They eventually experience plagued cities and have to deal with the corruption of the queen.

In researching the Curse of the Crimson Throne, one harsh critique I discovered is that the opening of the story requires all the pc’s to have a tie ( a trait) that connects them to the crime lord.  The revised edition doesn’t do much to change this from what I can tell.  Honestly, I ‘m not sure it really matters. Since this is an adventure path and your pc’s are embedded in the story for the next 20 levels does it really matter?  Now a creative GM can easily overlook it by doing just about anything to create a connection like maybe the pc owes the crime lord a gambling debt.

The other critique I found is that the adventure is very 3.5.  The revised edition has done some things to account for this like using the supplemental rules that have been made over the years.  I even noticed one of the NPC’s is a vigilante. Now without playing I can’t attest to the way magic items are given out, but I suspect it hasn’t moved that far away from the influence of 3.5.

There are more than a few things that Paizo has done right in Curse of the Crimson Throne.  The first of which is it isn’t dungeon after dungeon like so many modules can be.  Because the story, world events, and the NPC’s  truly grant an epic feel to this story.  The best part is how early they introduce the villain and keep the villain involved through out the story.  I have also discovered that Paizo also changed the way events unfold to smooth out some of the transitions.  Chapter 4 has been reworked so players can have more interaction with the Red Mantis and the Grey Maidens.

So what is bad about Curse of the Crimson Throne?  Not much, the worse part is that a GM really has familiarize herself with the NPC’s to avoid any hiccups that might occur later in the story because of a potentially untimely death or other story influencing event. As mentioned before their is a lot of treasure.  I don’t think this is a problem if you modify things.  Give players things with limited uses.  Limiting the number of uses an item has is one of the best GM rules I can give you.  It forces the players to think about their actions instead of rampantly abusing the tool (magic item).

After reading Curse of the Crimson throne from cover to cover I really think that this is a great story as presented, but the revised edition gives a sand box feel to the region of Korvosa.  Which makes it more valuable, in my opinion, because once you have run the adventure you can still use the book to write your own adventures.  I recommend checking out the players guide and getting the Harrow deck before running this adventure path.  There is also a ton of information in the Paizo forums about the adventure, if your’e a gm looking for tips it’s the place to go.


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Pan Tangian Dreams Within OD&D's Gods, Demi Gods, & Heroes By Robert Kuntz and James M. Ward For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 18:23
I was quietly taking a trip down memory lane thumbing through OD&D's Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes by Robert Kuntz and James M. Ward  again. Its been a long while since I'd perused the the Melnibonéan Mythos from Michael Moorcock's Elric novels in the book. Then I noticed something I hadn't seen in many years. The section on the warriors of Pan Tang inMelnibonéan Mythos section; PAN TANGNeedles
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The Wild Weirdness of D3 City of the Gods by Dave L. Arneson and David J. Ritchie For Old School Campaign Construction

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 16:11
'The PCs journey 4,000 years into the past to the land of Blackmoor! The party of adventurers are sent to the City of the Gods by the leaders of Blackmoor to acquire divine magic, either by bargaining or by stealing it! "So over the weekend I looking over D3 City of the Gods by Dave L. Arneson and David J. Ritchie & thinking about the Egg of Coot (again).  D3 has always been a bit ofNeedles
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5150: Fleet Commander Bat Rep from Mack

Two Hour Wargames - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 15:51
Mack, the author of 5150: Star Navy, jumps in with a AAR of the upcoming 5150: Fleet Commander. Check it out!

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Wednesday Comics: Storm: Vandaahl the Destroyer (part 2)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 12:00
My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues with his adventures in the world of Pandarve. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: Vandaahl the Destroyer (1987) (part 2)
(Dutch: Vandaahl de Verderver)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

When last we left our heroes, so kids on the water planet had just released a conqueror from another universe from what was supposed to be his eternal prison. One of his first acts is to zap Ember.

Back in his home universe, scientists inform the Lord Judge than sentenced him, that Vandaahl the Destroyer might well be alive, having slipped through a wormhole instead of being killed in a black hole. They decide the only decent thing to do is retrieve him, rather than let him lay waste to other words.

Vandaahl has already started by laying waste to the tree settlement, though he allowed the people, including Storm  and friends, some time to escape first.

With Vandaahl on the loose, Storm decides they must warn the people of Pandarve. To help him get off world, the Water-Planet people summon dolphin-like creatures that tell them of a waterspout leading off planet.

The vessel the people of the Water-Planet give them isn't made for long space voyages, though. Luckily, they run across a large trading vessel before their supplies run. They're able to get a ride.


Primal Chaos & The OSR Lovecraftian Legacy - A Very Different Ecology Connection For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 06:46
"Before the ocean and the earth appeared— before the skies had overspread them all—the face of Nature in a vast expanse was naught but Chaos uniformly waste.It was a rude and undeveloped mass, that nothing made except a ponderous weight; and all discordant elements confused, were there congested in a shapeless heap!"When it comes to old school games & OSR games Chaos has been an on Needles
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5150 Fleet Commander Battle Report - Hishen versus the Gaea Prime Planetary Defense Force

Two Hour Wargames - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 01:59
“Captains; I expect you to do your jobs. Engage!”Your Captains move their ships, fire missiles, launch fighters or torpedoes and preform damage control. That is not your job!Your job is to decide where and when to engage the enemy, and more importantly, when to cut your losses and leave, while keeping the fleet in being. In 5150: Fleet Commander, the rules are made to reflect your job. Command a Task Force or Fleet; not a few ships.Be a Fleet Commander, not a Captain!*****************************************************Played this 10 ship per side battle using Power Point and the counters that are provided. Playable with minis, counters or even on Power Point.

5150: Fleet Commander is compatible with 5150 Star Navy and uses the same ships with the specifications rolled together and mechanics streamlined allowing you to fight large battles in a reasonable amount of time. Designed to be played solo, cooperatively against the game or head to head.
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Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part VIII)

Torchbearer RPG - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 17:21
Atilla and his Hordes Overrun Italy and the Arts (detail), between 1843 and 1847, Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix

Hello friends! Today’s Torchbearer Thursday post is a couple days early (we’ll actually probably have another post on Thursday). It has been cross-posted with my Bridge of the Damned Kickstarter project. Please back it if you’re interested in seeing the finished project!

You can catch up on the project here:

In the last update, I shared some details of the Runungs, a Bjorning clan that lives on the southern side of the Bridge of the Damned. In this update, we’ll take a look at the Saxalings, a Gott clan that lives on the northern side of the bridge. As you’ll see, the two clans share a turbulent history. A treasure, precious to both clans, has been stolen by raiders who are using the ruined bridge as a base of operations.

The Saxalings

The Saxalings are a Gott clan that owe fealty to Tancred the Fair, greve of the southern march of the Gottmark (formerly the Bjorning jarldom of Vanskrdal). During the Gott conquest, Saxaling Chieftain Hincmar and his warriors seized most of the Runung clan lands north of the Jotnarsbru, including Kviholl, the personal holding of the Runung chieftains.

The Runung Chieftain Grima and his household were caught unaware by the rapidity of the Saxaling advance through their lands. Grima and many of his huskarls were slain, and much of the Runung regalia fell into Saxaling hands. The Saxalings adopted some of those seized treasures as part of their own clan regalia.

Ishildis, daughter of Hincmar, is now the Saxaling chieftain and rules much of the land along the northern bank of the Vimur River from her hall at Skyholl (formerly Kviholl).

For nearly two decades, the curse of the Bridge of the Damned has prevented passage across the Vimur River. As a result, most skirmishes between the Gotts and the Bjornings have taken place at sea, where the Bjornings hold the advantage. The Saxalings have grown slack in guarding their southern border.

Recently, Bjorning raiders somehow managed to evade the curse and cross the river. They attacked the nearby village of Saxatoft while its lord, Ridder Fulk, was away at Skyholl. The raiders plundered and burned Fulk’s manor and stole a precious gold buckle that once was part of the Runung regalia and now is part of the Saxaling regalia. The theft has damaged Saxa Horse-killer, the Saxaling ættir (ancestral founder and spirit of the clan), and the Saxalings are desperate to get the artifact back.

A Viking age buckle discovered in Ågård, Denmark Saxatoft

This once bucolic holding is currently a battle-scarred mess in the wake of a recent Bjorning raid. The manor has burned along with some of the fields, many of the stock animals have been driven off or slain, and numerous thralls have taken to the hills. The holding must be set to rights before it can be used as a settlement. Most of the people of Saxatoft are Bjorning and Græling thralls owned by several Gott peasant families, all overseen by Gott nobles of Fulk’s family.

Town Rules

Skills: Peasant, Rider, Steward
Traits: Pragmatic, Proud
Alignment: Unaffiliated
Haggling: Ob 3
Telling Tales: Ob 3

Available Locations

Flophouse, Home (equivalent to Flophouse), Inn, Market, Manor (burned), Shrine, Stables, Street, Tavern

Saxatoft Laws
  • Frightening a mare that is with foal is a criminal act. Punishable by whipping and a fine (Ob 2 Resources test).
  • Defamation of the Gott overlords is a criminal act. Punishable by whipping and three days in the stocks.
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PRESALE: Classic Mera DC Bombshells: Series 3 Vinyl Figure (for Pickup at Emerald City Comic Con)

Cryptozoic - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 17:00

Mera is going for that classic look! This is your chance to own the Classic Mera vinyl figure when it premieres at Emerald City Comic Con 2019! You can make sure you get this limited collectible by purchasing it now and then picking it up at Cryptozoic’s Booth #1233 during the event.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

5 Tricks for Creating Brilliant Dungeon Maps From Will Doyle

DM David - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 12:00

If you played the Dungeons & Dragons adventures Tomb of Annihilation or Storm King’s Thunder, you adventured through dungeon maps created by Will Doyle.

In an episode of the Official D&D Podcast, D&D’s principle story designer, Chris Perkins, explained why he called on Will. “I realized I would not be able to justice to the maps unless I brought in someone to help. There’s this wonderful collaborator, a freelancer named Will Doyle. He had done some work for me back when I was editing Dungeon magazine and I was always impressed with the style of his maps and the amount of effort and devotion that he put into them. I’m very, very meticulous when it comes to map creation, and he has those same qualities.”

In Tomb of Annihilation, Will mapped and designed the adventure’s centerpiece, the Tomb of the Nine Gods. He made Acererak proud.

Will’s maps attracted notice when his adventure Tears of the Crocodile God appeared in Dungeon issue 209. Chris Perkins called the adventure one of the best to appear in the magazine. You don’t have to take his opinion alone, because I agree. Chris has only worked professionally on D&D for decades; I have a blog.

When I gained a chance to talk with Will, I asked him for a secret to making a great dungeon map. He gave me five:

1. Cross the map with a river, rift, or similar connecting feature.

Will recommends splitting your dungeon map with some kind of central feature that characters can travel. Tomb of the Nine Gods includes three connecting elements:

  • An underground river links sites on the first and fifth levels.
  • A grand staircase and vertical shaft connect the dungeon’s first five levels.
  • An underground lake spans the fifth level.

During players first hour exploring the tomb, they could easily find all these features.

These features connect many rooms and passages, giving players choices. Instead of forcing players along a linear path, the dungeon teases explorers with perils and routes to discover. In a study of designer Jennell Jaquays’ dungeon maps, Justin Alexander explains how a well-connected dungeon gives groups agency and flexibility. “They can retreat, circle around, rush ahead, go back over old ground, poke around, sneak through, interrogate the locals for secret routes. The environment never forces a pre-designed path.”

Of course, a corridor could also serve as a connecting feature, but such features feel dull. Rivers and the like add variety to dungeon travel. “You row down the river, rope across the rift, fly down the magic wind tunnel, which makes it fun and memorable,” Will explains. “In play, it’s also easier to say, ‘let’s go back to the river and try another route, rather than ‘let’s go back to that long corridor and try another route.’”

2. Show the final room first.

Will suggests revealing the player’s final destination early in the adventure. Perhaps this location shows the locks to open or a task to complete. Such designs set the characters toward their goal and gives the adventure focus.

While more video games use this technique, a few table-top adventures follow the pattern. In Tomb of Annihilation, both the Lost City of Omu and the Tomb of Nine Gods make finding the players’ goal easy, but both send characters searching for keys.

In Storm King’s Thunder, the forge of the fire giants has massive, adamantine doors that lead from the mountainside directly to the hall of Duke Zalto, the players’ target. But to reach the Duke, the characters probably need to climb 1500 feet and battle down through the mountain’s interior.

If the final room is a metaphor for a visible goal, many more adventures start to follow Will’s advice. For example, in Curse of Strahd, Castle Ravenloft looms visible through the adventure, but the players learn they must gather certain artifacts to stand against Strahd. Teos Abadia drew inspiration for his adventure DDEX2-13 The Howling Void from Will’s Tears of the Crocodile God. The characters enter an elemental node where Earth motes float like aerial islands. Players can see the node the must reach to stop a ritual, but they will visit others to weaken their foes before a final confrontation.

3. Give players goals that compel them to explore.

Linear dungeon adventures come from designers who only plant one goal in the dungeon, usually its villain and its hoard. Players have nothing to find but the end, so authors feel tempted to put all their ideas along the path to the end.

Instead, Will designs his dungeons with elements that draw characters to explore.

For example, the dungeon in Tears of the Crocodile God draws players with several goals. First, the characters aim to save four human sacrifices wandering the dungeon. Second, the dungeon’s four areas include clues that enable the characters to confront the crocodile god. As a bonus, this premise leads the characters to hurry to rescue the sacrifices before the dungeon’s monsters and traps claim them.

In another example, Tomb of Annihilation sends players chasing five wandering skeleton keys.

4. Make the dungeon a puzzle.

In the D&D Adventurers League scenario DDAL07-14 Fathomless Pits of Ill Intent by Eric Menge, the dungeon becomes a puzzle. Early in, players find a puzzle that unlocks a portal to the main villain. Players must explore the dungeon to find the keys to the puzzle. This design combines two of Will’s other suggestions: It shows the final room first and and draws players to explore. Plus, the adventure turns the dungeon into a puzzle. Tears of the Crocodile God mixes a similar brew with its scattered clues.

Most dungeons will follow this suggestion less rigidly. Perhaps the dungeon merely works as something to unravel, location by location. As an inspiration, Will cites the levels of the Doom video game. To progress, players must find a series of keys. Each key brings the heroes deeper into hell.

5. Give each level a distinctive theme.

The Doomvault from Dead in Thay

In larger dungeons, flavor the levels or areas with themes that add variety and make regions seem distinct. This practice dates back to D&D’s second dungeon, which sprawled under Castle Greyhawk. Gary Gygax included levels themed around types of monsters.

Large, contemporary dungeons such as the Doomvault in Tales From the Yawning Portal or Undermountain in Dungeon of the Mad Mage feature stronger themes. For instance, Doomvault includes areas bubbling with slime and oozes, overrun by underground gardens, and corrupted by the far realm.

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Battle For Far Go - The 'Famine In Far-Go' Adventure by Michael Price War Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 02/25/2019 - 18:23
"Far-Go is dying... the people are afraid... the animals are wasting away... the crops are withering the fields. No one, even Arx Skystone, the high priest, knows what has caused Far-Go's misfortune.YOU are part of a group of young adventurers about to begin the sacred Rite of Adulthood. The last hope of survival for Far-Go rests with your party. On your journey to the Forest of Knowledge, youNeedles
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