In the city of Neth, the painter Bashir al-Barati has not been seen for several days. His house is said to be haunted, as is the abandoned market that lies beneath it. Will a party of brave adventurers destroy the nightmare incursions before they spread further, or will the city fall to corruption?
Deep inside the Spritewood, hidden from the sight of civilized eyes, there lies a secret market, where monsters meet to trade their ill-gotten gains. Under this canopy, the angry dead return to life and the living change , unwilling, into beasts. But if you can reach the market safely, a brand new world will open to you. What is it you seek? Alchemical wonders, history’s greatest mercenaries, or magic to challenge even gods themselves?
The only question left to ask is: what did you bring to trade?
A Market in the Woods includes 13 monster entries, describing a hidden marketplace, some of the inhuman beings that gather there to buy, sell, and trade, as well as a few schemes that may or may not be unrelated. Each entry is illustrated in full colour and may include different variations of the monster, random tables, adventures, dangers and their grim portents, custom moves, items, locations, plot hooks, secrets, and more.
Like MM1 and MM2, A Market in the Woods contains previously-released Monthly Monsters material that has been revised and expanded, and adds more illustrations and content.
A Market in the Woods is available in print and pdf from DriveThruRPG. The pdfs are halfletter digest size (5.5×8.5″) and 112 pages. One version has full-colour backgrounds behind the text while the other has black text on white pages. The print book is US trade size (6×9″) and 112 pages.
You can also buy the print book on its own from Lulu.
Battle Between the Worlds is a set of rules for running one-shot Dungeon Planet adventures. You get new characters with truncated, personalized rules and a bunch of adventure situations to choose from. The GM still has to know how to run Dungeon World, but you can play using only this document.
The character sheets include illustrations by George Metzger, Juan Ochoa, Mike Jackson, and Nate Marcel.
Because I wrote these quick start rules primarily for the upcoming Space Wurm vs. Moonicorn (still not done!), I am releasing it as Pay What You Want.
The print version is available from Lulu.
Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration.
Done well, adventure scenarios are an incredibly valuable tool for people playing rpgs. And yet they are never as popular as core rulebooks or player-oriented expansions. If I break down time spent writing adventures versus the profits they have made so far (over the course of a year and a half in a few cases), the best-case scenario is about minimum wage (which is CAN$10/hour where I live… I think). Obviously, if you have a large customer base, they way Pathfinder and D&D do, adventures can actually make enough money to pay for the people involved. But even in those cases, the rulebooks are still where the real money is.
So, what are adventures good for? Advertising.
1. They help sell other books, especially core rules.
If someone runs Island of Fire Mountain for their friends, and their friends love it, what happens? Do they all rush out and buy Island of Fire Mountain? No, they rush out and buy Dungeon World. Now, I’m all for helping out friends of mine but getting paid minimum wage to advertise someone else’s game (or do anything, really) is still a crap job, any way you cut it.
Take a look at two successful adventure-based business models: Goodman Games and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Both of them have gone from just adventures to also producing their own core rules, which I’m pretty sure sell better than adventures do. Not only are people more likely to buy adventures if they have a proper set of rules to go with it, but people also like to buy core rules. If you’re adventures don’t sell well enough to make a profit on their own, but they keep pointing people toward your other products that do, they’re worth the investment of time and effort (and by “worth it” I of course mean monetarily).
Just like rules expansions and supplements, adventures are a form of support for a game. Lots of people find well-supported games (and game lines) more attractive. Firstly, it (usually) means they will be able to do more things with one game simply by spending money and doing a little reading, instead of having to make everything up themselves (which can be especially time-consuming when it comes to designing rules). But also, if someone is already interested in a core game, good supplements and adventures work to grow and reinforce that interest. Bad supplements don’t tend to have the opposite effect because people can ignore them and concentrate on the ones they do like, or if they reinforce someone’s poor opinion of the game, that person is probably not going to be a customer (or repeat customer) anyway. A bad supplement flops on its own, a good supplement builds the brand.
All that said, making adventures pay off from a business standpoint requires you to use them as advertising for your other work. Using them to push your own core rulebook is a pretty well-established model.
2. They form a body of work.
Another thing that adventures can do is make bundled sales more attractive. A collection of many adventures, or rulebooks that come with a collection of adventures, adds value at the point of sale, as opposed to when people play the game (which is what point 1 was about). Sales are attractive; people like getting a deal. If you have one product out, all you can do is lower the price. If you have a whole bunch of products out, you can also sell a bunch of them for the regular price of just one of them, and not only does it feel like a deal money-wise, but time-wise as well, because they only have to make one purchase to get everything.
In point 1, I’m saying that people who see or play the adventure and think it’s cool get pointed to the core rules. With this point, I’m saying people who are interested in the core rules see that there are adventures for it, and it strengthens their resolve to buy it.
3. They disseminate a style of play.
Aside from the business aspects of points 1 and 2, there is also the community-building aspect to consider. Adventures help teach and promote a specific style of play, which can help lay the groundwork for other games of that style. If you run Apocalypse World and Dungeon World in a specific way, both games really sing. If you run them the same way you run Pathfinder, though? You’re going to have a terrible game. Even the people who hate Pathfinder won’t like it. But not everyone is able to learn how to play AW or DW really effectively from just the core rulebooks (because people learn in different ways). The more examples there are of that style of play out in the world, the easier it is for the people who like it to discuss it and find other people who want to play games in that style. It means subsequent games built in the AW style have an easier time gaining exposure. And this is just a recent example, which I use because right now I mostly write stuff for Dungeon World. Other examples of people promoting a specific style of play in opposition to more dominant styles include the OSR, the Fate community, and the various Gumshoe games.
4. Another reason why people write adventures.
Adventure-writing is also a natural by-product of play, since most rpgs require at least some form of prep. If you’re writing that stuff anyway, you’ve got a head start on a saleable product, although there’s still some work involved (most people I know don’t make professional-looking books just in order to play an adventure once with a few friends). Still, there’s something to be said for turning your hobby into something you can release in public with a little extra effort, and many more reasons than just making money why someone would do that.
Of course, I don’t follow the whole rpg industry, just parts of it. People with more experience selling games than me might have different perspectives. I published a bunch of adventures mainly because I wanted to, but overall, that time might have been better spent (business-wise) on something else. Adventures on Dungeon Planet has consistently outperformed all of those adventures since the very beginning, and Class Warfare is already more profitable after only a couple of months. So, even though I have notes for plenty more adventures, they’re not exactly racing to the top of the priorities list.
The 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.
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.
At long last, both the DW and the River Knife series of adventure modules are complete trilogies.
A small island in the South Seas. A lone fort plagued by cannibal hordes and a race of monsters. A ship, wrecked on the rocks of the far shore, missing all its crew and passengers. An ancient city that stands in ruins, guarded by the very elements themselves, and rumoured to be full of ghosts. All this and more lie waiting for a band of intrepid adventurers. Will they bring peace and prosperity to the island, or merely line their pockets? Will they discover the secret of the lost city of Kuna Lii, or will they leave the entire world in ruins in the attempt? Come ashore, and find out for yourself!
What size is this book?
It’s 102 pages, black and white, 6×9 in print, 5.5×8.5 in pdf.
What do you get with this book?
- Inside this adventure module, you will find:
- A complete island, with numerous warring factions and a ruined city.
- New monsters, characters, and magical items to vex or aid the PCs.
- Customized starting procedures and advice about asking the players questions that contribute to the setting, while keeping the island a mysterious place for them to explore.
- A new base class: the Elementalist.
- Cover art by Robert Scott, from the Prismatic Art Collection.
- Fantastic interior art by Nate Marcel and Tony Dowler.
Where do you get this book?
You can buy Island of Fire Mountain in print and pdf from DriveThruRPG, for
$15. Or $7 if you only want the pdf.
You can also buy the print version by itself from Lulu for
Before the year comes to an end, here is a new book! Ghostwood Haunts is an introductory adventure module for the Dungeon World fantasy role-playing game. This is the sequel to DW1 Lair of the Unknown.
What’s the adventure about?
In the midst of the Ghostwood, the village of Knifesbridge holds a mere few thousand souls, but trouble enough for all. A gang of bandits preys upon the local road traffic, drug addiction spreads through sleepy village streets, and corruption at the heart of municipal politics stymies all attempts to restore law and order. Worse yet, a dead witch’s ghost seeks vengeance, and a demon waits to walk once more beneath the Ghostwood’s leaves. At the crossroads between these fronts lies and old, abandoned tower, and the secrets buried beneath it will tear this village apart.
What’s it look like?
It’s 138 pages, black and white, 6×9 in print, 5.5×8.5 in pdf.
What do you get with this book?
Inside this adventure module you will find:
- Two complete fronts with three dangers each.
- NPCs for each of these six dangers, plus more to populate Knifesbridge.
- Suggested and optional scenes that further the villains evil scenes.
- Crime, political corruption, and drug addiction.
- Ghosts, witches, and a demon.
- Maps of important locations.
- Three new compendium classes: the Bounty Hunter, the Drug Addict, and the Infernalist.
- One new base class: the Magnate.
Why is DW3 the sequel to DW1, Johnstone?
That’s a good question, Johnstone! It’s because DW2 isn’t finished yet. Look for that one in March or something. [Update: DW 2 Island of Fire Mountain is done.]
The third installment in the River Knife series of adventure modules for Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord is done. The Third Verse is a collection of four minidungeons inspired by Tony Dowler’s maps, joined together into one perilous meat grinder of a delve.
Buy the print version from Lulu for US$12. It is 72 pages, saddle-stitched, US Trade-sized, B&W on cream-coloured paper.
Buy the pdf from DriveThruRPG for US$5. It is digest-sized and includes an extra pdf with just the maps.
What is the Third Verse like?
Based on a series of old Red Box Vancouver adventures, this module includes:
- An abandoned fire temple, complete with old traps and new inhabitants (like exploding ghouls).
- The tomb of the Red Mummy, and ancient an powerful king, who had malevolent machines built all around his mausoleum.
- Those machines, churning beneath the surface of the earth, tended by automatons, sending evil spirits against the people who live above, and allowing demons to venture forth into this world at will.
- And finally, below everything, the shrine of an ancient, forgotten goddess, where the actual third verse, the solution that will cure this land of its ills, is located. But can you make it this far?
The Third Verse is not intended for low-level characters. Experienced dungeoneers only!
The text of this module is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
ALSO: I have a Patreon project for making monster manuals going on right now.
I have added new print options at DriveThruRPG for some of my books. I have not really been happy with the B&W print option Lightning source offers, mainly because they don’t do full bleed and I use bleed on pretty much all of my books except the Metamorphica.
Evil Wizards in a Cave now has a Standard Colour print option, although the book is still in black & white. It just has full bleed. The black inks aren’t quite as rich as either the B&W option or the Lulu version (which is still the best option, in my opinion), but it looks pretty decent, all in all.
I’ve added the Standard Colour option to Adventures on Dungeon Planet, but left the B&W option available, for those of you who are discerning enough to care about the difference. B&W has richer blacks, but Standard Colour has full bleed instead of white space at the edge of the pages. If you don’t care either way, I make more money if you buy the B&W version (though not very much more).
The B&W version of Lair of the Unknown still looks pretty good to me, even with that white space, so I haven’t tried to make a new pdf for a Standard Colour option for that books, although I am currently waiting to see what the Knives in the Dark Standard Colour option looks like, and I may switch that title over if it looks as good as Evil Wizards in a Cave.
The Third Verse will have a Standard Colour print option available sometime next month.