Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

November 10, 2014

One Page Adventurizing XP2 (part 3): Actual Play Report

About four years(!) ago, I wrote a couple of posts about a One Page Adventure format for running non-dungeon oriented games, specifically focusing on how to convert an existing adventure to the OPA format.

WELL! I finally got around to testing my theory, and ran a 5e D&D conversion of XP2: Song of the Beast Gods for some friends in Seattle. Just in case the contents of a three year old series of blog posts on an obscure OSR blog aren’t fresh in your mind, here are part 1 and part 2.

The basic gist of the One Page Adventure is: rather than run a tightly (or not so tightly) plotted adventure with certain assumptions about player interest and/or behavior–recast the adventure as a set of NPCs with opposing goals, give each NPC a set of assets (other NPCs, weapons, gold, etc) and let them pursue their goals to the best of their ability. Then focus on presenting the players with an interesting Situation that can play out regardless of how they decide to get involved.

In the case of XP2, the original setup for the adventure is that an imposter has assumed the identity of the local princess, imprisoned said princess, and intends to conduct a ritual to transform her and the rest of her city into beastmen. The hook for the adventure is a handmaiden to the real princess that appeals to the PCs for help.

Since the people I play with don’t tend toward Good Samaritan behavior, I hoped the OPA format would give the adventure a bit more legs, especially if they didn’t suddenly decide to rescue random handmaidens. I used the same basic setup from three years ago: the Evil Princess on one side, the Acolytes of the local temple opposing her, and a neutral General of the army looking to play both sides.

The other big change I made was to swap out the Evil Princess’ undead minions for Beasts, since she’s supposed to be some kind of priestess of the Beast Gods. Her faction looked like this:

Evil Princess

  • Panther (as Lion from the 5e Basic Rules)
  • Eagle (for spying)
  • Giant Constrictor Snake
  • Poisonous Snake
  • Disloyal Palace Guards
  • Ruined Temple of the Beast Mother outside the city
  • Thief at the ruined temple
  • Good Princess, imprisoned at the ruined temple
  • A handful of subtle spells (charm, misty step, disguise, etc)
  • Ear of the Senile Old King
  • Acolytes under house arrest at the palace
  • A pleasure barge (because… parties)
  • A villa run by cultists
  • 1,000gp worth of jewels, ornamented knives, statuettes of the Beast Mother, etc
  • A sacrificial knife of power (required for the transformation ritual)

Her opposition:

Acolytes of the Good God

  • Keys to the temple treasury (21,000gp in coin, jewelry and tithes)
  • A scroll with proof of the Evil Princess’ plans
  • A pious servant at the palace
  • The loyal Captain of the Palace guards
  • A desolate tomb in the city
  • Support among the nobility
  • A rich theocracy to the south, ready to invade
  • Spells/stats per the 5e Basic Rules

And the neutral party:

General of the Army

  • 120 soldiers (helmet, spear and shield, otherwise identical to the Guards from 5e Basic Rules)
  • A competent officer (as Guards, but
  • A fortified tower in the city
  • Keys to the city gates
  • 5,000gp worth of coins, jewelry, ornamented swords, badges of authority

We played a single session, and honestly… the OPA format worked even better than I expected. Why?

No worrying about the plot. Or preparing contingencies for keeping the adventure “on track”. Or figuring out how to set up the climactic encounter(s). Or how to interest the players in visiting my important locations. In short, no force. This freed me up to work on things like: cool locations, interesting creatures, cool uses for spells, exotic intoxicants, weird NPC quirks, downloading inspirational artwork to help visualize the adventure, etc.

Much less player confusion. Because all I had to do was concentrate on what the NPC goals were, the players had a much, much clearer grasp of what was going on, only a few minutes into the adventure. Zero flailing around looking for the adventure. As soon as they entered the city, the three factions immediately arranged to meet with them, suss them out as a threat, attempt to win them over (or at least win their neutrality), etc.

Logical NPC behavior. Because there was no “story”, I never had to guess what an NPC would do in any situation. All I had to do is decide how the NPC perceived the PCs’ actions, and react accordingly.

No putting up with rude PCs. Every DM has had a player mouth off to a local power broker, but been unable to react appropriately, because the adventure requires the players to be allied with him. It also allowed me to treat PCs according to their perceived social status. Two of the characters were rich, charismatic strangers bearing gifts, and they got treated like important people. The other two characters were grubby looking adventurers, so they got treated like hired help or low-born dogs!

Rewarding player skill. The few fights (or near fights) arose organically from the actions of the players. This meant that when they screwed up, they got punished for it (attacking the Evil Princess on her Pleasure Barge, for example). And when they were daring or careful, they prevailed (using stealth and speed to leave the city before the alarm was raised, allowing them to crush the gate guards).

How the adventure played out…

We started with the PCs traveling with a caravan across a desert, low on water and tempers fraying, so the caravan master called a halt near the ruins of a temple to rest and decide whether to turn back or continue. He asked the players to check out the ruins to make sure there were no bandits or other nefarious people lurking about, and they were hailed by the Evil Princess’ Thief servant, a barefoot, scruffy character peddling the veiled handmaiden as a slave.

The players were relatively uninterested in the handmaiden, even after the Thief tore her veil off and revealed that she was quite beautiful, if exhausted from the privation of being imprisoned for several days without food or water. One player took offense at the Thief’s general demeanor and treatment of the haidmaiden, but held off murdering him long enough for the Handmaiden to appeal to an Elf PC for help (she was half-elven) and briefly outline her plight.

The players observed a huge eagle perched on the ruined columns of the temple and were correctly suspicious (it was keeping an eye on the Thief to make sure he carried out the handmaiden’s punishment). They bargained the Thief to 150gp for the handmaiden, and the Elf used an illusion to make 50gp appear to be the correct amount. Then they rested and broke the news to the Handmaiden: they planned to go back to her city and see how they could profit from her information about the imposter Evil Princess.

The next day they parted from the caravan, talked their way into the city, met with the General (bearing gifts). He told them his desire was for stability, so he required that they did not stir up trouble in the city. He also briefly described the power struggle between the two factions as “an argument between priests” and promised to get them an audience at the palace.

As they entered the city, the High Priest of the Good God’s funeral procession went by–it seems he was tragically bitten by a poisonous snake. They also noticed the temple to the Good God was closed and appeared to have been the victim of mob violence, something about a sermon critical of the Princess’ new faith in an old Goddess known as the Mother with a Thousand Children, the Moon Mother or the Beast Mother, depending on who you talk to.

They met the King at the palace in the afternoon, were offered the use of a private villa by a functionary (Evil Princess’ asset) and invited to a party she was giving the following evening on her pleasure barge. Helpful servants (i.e. cultists) at the villa gave the PCs information about where various intoxicants and other necessities could be found in the city.

That night, the dwarf PC snuck into the precincts of the closed temple and narrowly escaped being killed by a panther. He was able to determine that the temple treasury was locked. The next day was uneventful, and that night the party henchman, a fighter, stayed at the villa to keep the handmaiden from being discovered, while the Elf joined the party underway on the barge in the middle of a lake in the middle of the royal park (where he was warned not to enter unescorted). The party Halfling swam to the barge to keep an eye on things from the shadows.

During the party, the Elf told the Evil Princess he knew she was an imposter. She admitted it, but proposed they become allies, telling him there were a pair of priests at the royal palace that she could not move openly against. If he and his warriors were to dispose of them…

The Elf didn’t trust her, so he drew a dagger and attempted to kill her, hoping that a single blow would end her life and expose her true shape–but the Princess was faster. She grabbed his wrist in a surprisingly strong grip, and he retaliated with Shocking Grasp before her guards could react. The Princess screamed in agony, but was not killed, so the Elf quickly Levitated into the night sky, turning Invisible before the guards could mount an attack (or any eagles in the vicinity). The Halfing swam for shore, and they met on the street near the villa with the Dwarf, where they decided it was time to leave the city.

On their way out, they stopped at the temple to see if they could break into the treasury. There was no sign of the panther, so the Dwarf made quick work with his lockpicks and they discovered 21 chests of 1,000 gold pieces and other valuables. The Dwarf was dispatched back to the Villa to retrieve their mounts and they beat a hasty retreat to the city gate. Luckily, the Princess had not managed to mobilize her assets to stop them, so they made short work of the soldiers on duty and fled into the desert, richer than their wildest imaginations… and shockingly short on water and supplies.

But that was a problem for tomorrow…

Keep the Pressure On

The one thing I would do more/better next time is keeping the pressure on. Since the action only happens in response to NPC and PC activity, it’s important that the NPCs are always active. For example, the General was too passive–after the players convinced him to let them move freely around the city, he didn’t do anything. I would have him reach out to them immediately to perform some service related to the Situation. In addition, I waited until the Evil Princess had talked to the Elf before having the Good Acolytes appeal to them for help. I should have had them send one of their assets to contact the party as soon as they finished their audience with the King. Basically, you want the players have all their options laid out to them as soon as possible, so they can make a definitive choice and you can start moving their enemies against them.

But Did It Work?

It worked amazingly well. As I predicted, they didn’t care about the handmaiden’s problems, all they cared about was how they could benefit. If they had killed the Thief and moved on, that would have been fine with me. The Evil Princess would have marked them as enemies, and dealt with them after she finished consolidating her power in the city (I also had a dungeon beneath the ruined temple handy). Had they allied with the Princess, I had a game plan. Had they allied with anyone, I had a game plan.

If they did the unexpected, like attacking the Princess in the middle of her pleasure barge and then fleeing, that was no problem either. You can be damn sure the Princess is going to be furious when she finds out that they absconded with the treasure she was planning to steal from the Good God temple, once the Acolytes were out of the way. She is going to pull out all the stops to try to get that gold back.

And they haven’t got enough water…

November 5, 2014

Using Class Warfare to make commercial products

The entire text of Class Warfare is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 license. That means you are free to take that text, reprint it, redesign it, and use it in your own products, with a few caveats:

1. First, because it is an Attribution license, you must give credit to the original author. In some cases, that’s me, but in other cases, it’s not. I’ve tried to be meticulous about where I’ve used the text of other peoples’ works, so you can look up the originals yourself. Some of these moves I’ve used verbatim, some I have partially rewritten (although it should be noted that in places where I have borrowed an idea and written a new move completely, or used no original language, I have not indicated the source of the idea, since it is the unique expression of an idea that is subject to copyright). So, it is possible that this could become complicated! I am not a lawyer and I don’t know the exact, proper, legal way to do this, but this is my reading of the license:
1a) If the material is from Class Warfare and no additional author is given, credit the material to me (Johnstone Metzger) and say it’s from Class Warfare.
1b) If the material is from Class Warfare but has been reprinted verbatim, you do not need to credit me, you can credit the original author only.
1c) If the material was rewritten for Class Warfare but has another author, you must credit the material to both them and me, if you borrow it verbatim.

The 4.0 license asks for a link to the original source, but I don’t think that’s really necessary, since the text isn’t available for free online or anything (so what would you be linking to?). To be honest, I’m just using the cc-by-sa license because I want people to share what they make if it’s based on my work, and I’m not usually this super-meticulous about which moves come from where, either. Most of the time I just say portions of the text come from Dungeon World and leave it at that.

So, if you are worried about getting it wrong, don’t be. People releasing their work under a Creative Commons license do so because they want other people to use it, build on it, change it up, or take it in a totally different direction, the main deal here is credit where credit is due—so please, at the very least, just try and credit all the people you borrow from, and if you get it a bit wrong, it’s not the end of the world.

2. As mentioned above, because it’s a ShareAlike license, if you use this material in your own work, you must release that work under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license, so that others can use what you have created. Basically, it’s a way to enforce that spirit of mutualism that we have going with Dungeon World products so far. You can also use a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike license instead, if you like. And listen, if you have any problems with the 4.0 license specifically, get in touch and maybe we can work something out.

3. I haven’t used a NonCommercial license, though, and nobody I’ve borrowed from has either. That means you can sell the work you create which uses this material and you don’t have to give a single dime to the people you borrowed from. That’s right! Just give credit where it’s due and you get to keep all the cash.

One thing to note, however, and this is a matter of etiquette and manners, not the legalities of the license: I don’t think it’s cool to reprint entire sections of somebody else’s work unless they’ve already released it for free, or they give you permission. For example, I made Truncheon World primarily for myself, and didn’t offer print copies for sale until I got permission from Sage and Adam. Everything in that book (except a few things I added myself) was and is freely available, for no charge (and the stuff I added is free now, too). But I wouldn’t do the same thing with a book that didn’t have a free version, and I would probably look down on somebody who did. Re-using stuff is cool, but put your own spin on it! You should be making a new thing out of old things, not just repackaging old things so they look new. That’s just my opinion, though, I can’t speak for anybody else. Even so, I made Class Warfare because I want you to use it, and to create your own things. I’m just over here trying to make things that will help you have fun (and hopefully make enough money in the process so that I can keep doing that), so you can help other people have fun too.

EDIT: Also, one other clarification I should make, I guess. The TEXT of Class Warfare is released under a creative commons license, not the pdf itself. If you want to copy the entire text and do whatever with it, be my guest. Redoing the layout’s a pain and a half (I know because I did that for Truncheon World), but if you want to, knock yourself out! If you want to share the pdf with your group so you can all make characters, great, that’s your call and not really my business. But if I find the pdf uploaded to a file sharing site, that’s not covered by the creative commons license, and I’m going to send them a take down order, simple as that.

October 14, 2014

Class Warfare

Alternate Character and Class Creation Rules for Dungeon World

CW_cover_image_loresWhat is Class Warfare?
Class Warfare is a rules supplement for the Dungeon World role-playing game that provides an alternate and expanded system of character creation. It can also be used to create new character classes, just like those provided in the original rulebook. How Class Warfare does this is by breaking down the Dungeon World character class into smaller pieces—like specialties and archetypes—and showing you how they fit together.


See a preview of the Rogues section HERE.

A specialty is a collection of special abilities that describe one facet of what makes a character’s interaction with the rules of the game unique. Think of it as a shtick, perhaps, or a set of skills, even. Each specialty is approximately one-third of a normal Dungeon World character or character class. The Ranger, for example, is an archer, a hunter, and someone who has an animal companion—three special abilities. In Class Warfare terms, each of those is a specialty.

Each specialty is categorized into one of five different groups, called archetypes. These are general character “types,” that include: adventurer, disciple, magician, rogue, and warrior. Your archetype helps determine your damage die and your maximum hit points, and puts a few limits on which specialties you can combine together.

Basically, it means that if you focus on combat-oriented specialties, you end up with high damage and high hit points, which makes fighting an attractive option for you to take. If you focus on magical powers, you’re much less good at delivering blows or shrugging them off, even just using the basic moves. This encourages you to use your magic and stay out of fights.

Building a Character
You create a starting character by choosing an archetype and two or three specialties. But specialties can also be used as compendium classes, so there are ways to learn new abilities outside your original character concept if you undertake certain quests or perform certain feats. You are not limited only to the choices you made during character creation.

Why did I make this book?
To get rich, of course! Ah hahaha! So funny. In all seriousness, with Class Warfare, I had three primary goals: to make something that would be useful for both myself and other people in creating characters and in writing new classes; to give enough options that it could be used on its own and not just as an example of a new system; and to make it good for at least a little bit more than just initial character creation.

1. A Useful System of Doing Things
I wanted to build a system that breaks down class creation into small but logical pieces. This allows for more nuanced customization of existing character classes, and also gives people a way to make something new and unique that can be used in a game right away, without them having to tackle an entire class all at one time.

Hopefully, this system also gives people some insight into how the classes in Dungeon World balance spotlight time, effectiveness, and the number of moves characters have in relation to each other. Dungeon World is often less transparent than its parent, Apocalypse World, is in this regard, but a lot of people are coming to Dungeon World first, without any reference to other games that are “Powered by the Apocalypse.” Lots of rules design and play discussions that would help new players and GMs are scattered across various forums and private conversations, and aren’t easily accessible to people who weren’t there at the time. If this books can distil some of that knowledge and communicate it, great!

2. A Vast Array of Options
As much as I wanted the system to be easy, I also wanted it to provide plenty of options. The basic Dungeon World classes are already easy to use—the problem is that you only have eight options to choose from! Each of the five archetypes in Class Warfare has between 14 and 21 specialties to choose from, and you can also take one specialty from outside of your archetype. This alone leads to hundreds or even thousands of interesting characters. And then you can always write your own specialties, or ignore my archetypes altogether and build new custom classes out of whichever three archetypes you like. It’s not like I can stop you!

3. Utility Beyond Just Character Creation
I also wanted to encourage people to use these specialties as compendium classes, adding them to existing characters in the middle of play, or using them to extend a character’s game-life beyond level 10. That’s why I included fiction circumstances with each one that would allow you to add it to your character later. It’s only a little thing, but hopefully you find it useful or even inspiring.

How Complete or Definitive is Class Warfare?
Not at all! Just because this book is already super-thick doesn’t mean there aren’t tons more things that could be added to it. Most of the character class material from Dungeon World is included in this book. There’s a bunch of stuff from extras that Sage and Adam have made and some of the compendium classes that were included as kickstarter bonuses—mostly stuff that is available for free, just like Dungeon World itself is. There’s a good deal of my own previous material, including material from Ghostwood Haunts, Island of Fire Mountain, and Lair of the Unknown. Of course, it’s presented in a different format here, just like the material from Dungeon World.

I’ve also included a few moves from other third-party creators—but not a lot. If you want, sometime, I can tell you how I think the classes from Inverse World or Grim World break down into specialties and how you can use them with Class Warfare. But that material isn’t in this book, even though it’s creative commons. You should get it from the people who created it, not from me!

Also, I didn’t want to stray too far from core Dungeon World concepts. It’s true that many people get bored by the “D&D fantasy” genre, and you see new classes that feature drives and backgrounds, freeform spellcasting, or bonds with NPCs. But I wanted to stick to using alignments, Vancian spellcasting, and the four traditional fantasy races. Ultimately, with this book I’m just trying to add more options to the Dungeon World rules, not redefine how the game works. I can do that with other books, yet to be written. After all, this book isn’t supposed to be complete or definitive. Class Warfare is not a destination, it’s a departure point.

Class Warfare by the numbers:
670 starting moves and advanced moves, 526 pages, 227 race moves, 167 spells, 94 illustrations, 84 specialties, 3 different indexes.
$16 for the pdf via DriveThruRPG,
$28 for the print+pdf combo via DriveThruRPG (6×9, white pages, #50 thickness),
$20 for the print by itself from Lulu (6×9, cream-coloured pages, #60 thickness).



The pdf comes with a blank character sheet, but if you don’t like it, you should check out the sheet Brennen Reece made. If you like that one, also take a look at Brennen’s other Dungeon World character sheets.

October 10, 2014

The Caves in Print

The Caves of Moreau County is now available in print, click for details.

Bird Brain

October 6, 2014

Terrors of the Ancient World – Preview Video

I made a Youtube video of me looking through the print version of Terrors of the Ancient World, so all y’all could see it and know what it looks like. Hopefully it makes you want to buy a copy!

September 29, 2014

The Caves of Moreau County

moreau_county_coverpic-1The Caves of Moreau County is an adventure module for Labyrinth Lord (i.e. B/X). The various sections of this dungeon are random and modular — there is no mandated way for them to fit together. You can generate the actual structure of the dungeon before you play, or do it during the game, partly in response to the players’ decisions.

The dungeon consists primarily of beastmen in caves with a few twists and buried secrets. It is a fairly dark adventure, written from the perspective of murderhobo PCs. It’s gritty, horror-saturated old school fantasy, in case that is or isn’t your bag. Or just check it out for yourself, since you can get it for free if you want to.

This module was created to be a proof-of-concept prototype, to see how well this format works, and what needs to be done to make it work better. As such, the text is released under a Creative Commons license and the PDF is offered here as Pay What You Want. Monetary support goes towards creating more role-playing game materials. If you enjoy this module, you might also consider purchasing some of my other books, if you haven’t already.


The Caves of Moreau County is available in PDF from DriveThruRPG.

And in print from Lulu (6×9, staple-bound, cream pages, B&W printing, US$10).


Some Design Notes:
Because this is a prototype made in preparation for a larger project (related to my Monthly Monsters project on Patreon), I don’t mind critiquing it or offering my thoughts on how it could be done better.

The sections in The Caves of Moreau County are fairly small, mostly limited to one room each. I think this would work better with larger sections, maybe small collections of rooms, or several rooms that comprise the lair of a particular monster, or a type of monsters. So, probably something more akin to a series of modular one-page dungeons, though many sections would be smaller than your typical OPD, I would think.

There’s only a few connections between rooms—the ritual room leads directly to the tomb of saints, for example—and only a few rooms lead back to rooms that are already on the map. I’d like to insert more connections of that sort, including secret passageways, and links between different dungeon levels.

In general, this is also a fairly small dungeon, with twenty rooms and only a few different types of monsters. More variance in the wandering monster tables would definitely be a plus.

September 12, 2014

Terrors of the Ancient World Wallpaper

Digital wallpaper of the cover art:

August 7, 2014

Terrors of the Ancient World

mm1Last year, I started a Patreon thing in order to make monster manuals with a friend of mine, because he can draw real good and I can write pretty well. So we make two monsters every month, and now, finally, we’ve put some of them together into an rpg book.

Terrors of the Ancient World is a monster manual for the Dungeon World role-playing game. It has over a dozen monsters, illustrated in full colour, along with all the things that make Dungeon World unique, like fronts and dangers, custom moves, and a fiction-first focus. There’s also a new character class, the Satyr, and plenty of adventure hooks, items, NPC ideas, and even a few locations.

This is NOT just a reprint of the Monthly Monster material. Terrors of the Ancient World contains plenty of new material, corrections and edits, and new illustrations. Monsters that were originally illustrated in black and white are presented here in colour.

Please Note: Although the monsters we release every month as part of the Patreon campaign include versions for both Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord, this book contains only material for Dungeon World and is designed to highlight the particular strengths of that game. It is not compatible with Labyrinth Lord in any meaningful way. There will, of course, be a Labyrinth Lord compatible book of our monsters that presents them in ways best suited for old school fantasy role-playing, but we are still working on that.

WHERE TO GET IT: From DriveThruRPG, click this link.

The pdf is digest-sized, full colour, 107 pages, for US$15.
The print is US trade-sized, full colour, 108 pages, for US$30 and comes with a free pdf if you want one.

There might be a Lulu option in the future, but I have to look into it.
There might be posters of the cover art in the future, but I have to look into that, too.

July 28, 2014

Writing Dungeon World Adventures: Some Tips

Lots of people have made adventures and scenarios for Dungeon World other than me. Joe Banner, John Aegard, Josh Mannon, Marshall Miller, just to name a few. There’s adventures in both the Grim Portents and Mondo Sotteraneo magazines, and then there’s fronts and dangers and stuff in Grim World, Inverse World, and Pirate World.

But I have published the most adventures so far. So probably I’ve learned a few things?
Maybe. Here’s what I can think of right now. Or maybe these are, like, my “opinions, maaaaan.” Whichever, you decide.

A front is just an organizational tool. The real meat is the stuff in a danger: type, impulse, impending doom, and especially the grim portents. Description, cast, custom moves, and stakes are cool and everything but you will do that stuff anyway if you want to and you won’t if you don’t. How you lay out the dangers and their grim portents—the way the DW book shows or some other way—doesn’t really matter, as long as the GM can understand.

I like to include suggested scenes with my grim portents. It is one thing to say “the bandits attack the sheriff” on the grim portents list, and it’s another, more useful thing to suggest how and when they might go about doing that. Give the GM ideas, that’s what your adventure is there to do.

There is a right way to do this and a wrong way. Don’t leave something blank if you’re just going to have to invent it later. If you leave a blank spot on your dungeon map and then when the PCs get there you still don’t know what’s there, that’s a sub-optimal use of your prep time.

Instead, when you are the GM, you should leave blanks so you can incorporate suggestions and ideas that the other players contribute. If they tell you they are exploring this dungeon because the Sword of Matrivhor is supposed to be there, don’t just ignore that and plow ahead with your Shrine of Klogh dungeon that has nothing to do with swords or Matrivhors. Put the sword in there somewhere, instead of, or in addition to, the stuff you thought up beforehand. Or change it to the Shrine of Matrivhor and have the PCs find it already looted, with the sword missing—and a clue that will help them find out who took it. Then continue adventuring.

Or, leave the treasure blank in your prep and make sure to ask the players why their characters are raiding this dungeon—what great treasure do they believe is located here?

In short: When you ask them for stuff, use that stuff later.

If you’re writing an adventure, though, how do you encourage this?

The point is that it’s not just a collection of random, disparate things. You have a collection of people, places, things, and situations that actually work together, play off each other, and interact in ways that you have already decided on (and hopefully some unexpected ways, too).

So: try to leave blanks in later parts of your adventure, but put questions in the beginning that will generate the information you need to fill in those blanks.

For example, there is a scrying pool in Island of Fire Mountain that shows the PCs what life is like for the people they left behind to come to this tropical island. This is one reason why you are told to ask the players where their characters come from and what things are like back home—so you can show them what has changed.

Another example: PCs go into a dungeon. Ask them what they fear might be down here, or what they expect, or how they feel vulnerable. Ask them what they think the creatures down here are like, from the worms in the earth to the trolls they are trying to rob. Later on, when they fall into the mutagenic pools in the abandoned alchemical laboratory, use their earlier answers to describe how their bodies mutate. They become the things they feared would be down here.

Give the GM questions to ask, things to wonder about. Make them somewhat connected to the stuff that you are presenting in the dungeon. This can be a hard thing for many GMs to come up with, so if you give them stuff they can do right away, those questions can become the seeds of inspiration.

In general, I make the assumption that the PCs are unfamiliar with what is being described in the adventure—the people, places, and things—so I try to describe all the stuff that I think is important. The world around the adventure is what I leave up to the GM to either invent or to ask the players about. I also try to include options for the PCs being familiar with the people, places, and things in the adventure, but this is not my default, mainly because this is a fantasy game, so dungeoncrawling and monster fighting and chasing after fleeing thieves are going to be more common than family infighting and small-town romantic shenanigans.

A few other tips:

The goons at the Something Awful forums decided to add tactics to the monster stat blocks, and this is a good idea. One instinct and some moves alone don’t always tell you what lengths a monster is willing to go to, when they might decide to turn and flee, or what would motivate them to attack the PCs in the first place. Listing tactics beneath their moves is a succinct way to communicate this info. Also, if you put NPCs in your adventure (monsters or people) you should probably give them a motivation of some kind, so the GM doesn’t have to invent one. The GM’s job should be to role-play the how, and spend less time inventing the what, which is why she bought your adventure, after all.

Joe Banner puts little sidebars in his adventures, with interesting and useful pieces of information that might be the results of the PCs spouting lore about the things they encounter. This is a good idea! I didn’t do this in any of my adventures, but I should have.

This works better for spout lore than it does for discern realities, I should add. Discern realities results should be right there in a description of the location or situation, but spout lore results can come from sources far afield. Also, if you have answers ready and don’t have to do too much thinking, it encourages players to use spout lore more often, because they know they can count on it actually being useful.

I’ve written this mostly of these assuming you want to write adventures for other people to use, but these are also tips you can use for your own adventures. If you’ve run even just a few of your own adventures or DW campaigns, you probably have a good idea of what you find easy to improvise during a game and what you probably need to prep for. So skip the tips that don’t help you do that prep. Most of these things don’t really rely on each other.

July 10, 2014

Vertiginous Infiltrators, a science fantasy monster

infiltratorMy Patreon project is producing more free monsters! This is a science fantasy monster. You can find it in pdf form with stats for Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord on the Patreon site:
Dungeon World Vertiginous Infiltrators
Labyrinth Lord Vertiginous Infiltrators

Grown in vats by unlawful geneticists, the vertiginous
infiltrators are perfect copies of the Sargosyalan race, able to mimic
the mannerisms and behaviours of anyone they could observe.
They were deployed against the Sargosyalans and quickly took
over key positions within that race’s leadership. Not only did they
capture vital military resources for the Xalvorians, but the paranoia
these double agents created within the Sargosyalan ranks was a
setback they could never recover from. Within a few short decades,
a war that had rages and stalled for more than a century was over,
and no true Sargosyalan remained alive.

With their homeworld and all their colonies overrun by the
Xalvorian overlords, the vertiginous infiltrators are all that is left of
the Sargosyalans. Undying, they continue to serve their masters,
infiltrating the societies of other alien races—but no subsequent
success can compare to their original triumph over the beings they
were made to mimic.


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