18.2.14

How I motivate the dungeon crawl

Archer: "Why are we here?" Ax-man: "I'm glad you asked!" "Dungeon" by SebastianWagner on www.deviantart.com

In my DMing, especially in Dungeons and Dragons and its peers, I have always tried to integrate roleplaying into the dungeon crawl, rather than trying to make "roleplaying time" separate from "dungeon time". One of the ways I do that is critically thinking about WHY a group of grown men and women would risk their lives delving into a place that may or may not have treasure.

In this blog post, I will tell you how I motivate the dungeon.


11.2.14

Fantasy Adventure seeds: Because bored

Epic Adventure Idea: A wizards apprentice with a crush on the local princess accidentally inhabits the body of this guy, and makes some demands of the royalty.


 1. The second son of a king, in a land of primogeniture, will inherit nothing, unless he does something. He makes a deal with a local slave guild, trading four people and some gold for his elder brother's "accidental death". The "four people" are the PC's, who are hired by said Prince to deliver some money (the payment to the slavers) to a nearby lord. When the PCs arrive at the lord's keep (which has been abandoned for years), the slavers take the money and try to take the PCs as well. Whether they win or not, they definitely have a bone to pick with the prince.

2. Some wealthy peasants (they existed, don't worry) who own a great deal of land are having their trouble keeping their livestock, and hire the PCs to investigate. The PCs go looking for them, and return the sheep easily enough. Unfortunately though, the "sheep" are actually polymophed goblins who intend on killing many of the villagers and taking at least 13 young people prisoner. Why 13 young people? Because they have to pay for all the potions they got from a high level cleric, who intends on sacrificing the children to his/her evil god to gain the power to resurrect his/her dead family.

3. The PC's hear about a grand cleric of a benevolent, but long forgotten god. The cleric was so holy, that the church wanted his body to be well protected, so they buried him in a vast dungeon so that he may rest forever. A young woman falls ill in a large city, and her wealthy parents are searching for a cure. Other cure spells do not work though, for the young woman was so faithful to the old forgotten god that she rejected all help from other deities. The holy raiments of the cleric are probably her only hope. That and a whole bunch of wealthy nobles who wanted to ensure their salvation and cooperation with the church agreed to bury butt-loads of treasure with the body.
Epic Adventure Idea: A "good" cleric imprisoned the guy who was prophesying the arrival of this guy. If the PCs can save the prophet, he may be able to sacrifice him elf to send the god back. That is, if the PCs can get the prophet into the monster's belly...
4. A merchant's guild hires the adventures to retrieve a crystal rod from an ancient cache of an archmage. After going through that torment, the PCs bring the rod back. The merchant's guild intends to auction the item to the wealthiest nobles, and everyone from Earl to King is invited. In truth though, the rod will permanently enthrall all who gaze upon it and hear the magic words.

5. The PCs are hired by a poor ass peasant who wants her brother's murder investigated. She says that the murder lives in an old manor at the edge of town. The old manor is haunted by a soul-thirsty ghost who animated the old bat in order to lure the PCs.

6. A powerful Lich declares a cease-fire with the noble nation of holy peoples, and the PCs are hired to escort their local lord to the historic event. The Lich really does sign the treaty and everything, but the PCs over hear some high-level bishops saying "Now the Lich has fallen into our trap. Soon his power will be ours, and no one will care what we do to him because he is a monster. He hee hee."

7. A dead pope (or equivalent) of the area or nation's most powerful religion is lying in state, while the PC's are in town. Suddenly there is a huge ruckus at the funeral. The Pope has risen as a vampire and declares vampires to be good in the eyes of his god, and that mankind are to be their servants. He then disappears, assuming the PC's don't kill him. Either way, the schism has begun, and the PCs may have to choose sides.

8. A small town that the PC's are staying in is minding its own business when suddenly a great cloak falls upon the entire town. The town's inhabitants and the PCs thus find themselves in the first room of a great dungeon.
Adventure Idea: This was a bustling city, until a king jilted a wizard who cursed the kingdom, imprisoning the royals and villagers alike into the statues and masonry, and commanding them to destroy anyone who tries to free them. Their vast wealth is still buried in a vault in a dungeon under the castle, and the vault can only be opened by the royals. The story is a tragic legend in the town the PCs are in, maybe with some truth.
9. A powerful Archmage has been challenged to a spell duel to settle her case in her husbands murder by a rival Archmage. She hires the PCs to go deep into a magical jungle guarded by a mad Treant, who will slaughter any animal that his fey and plant monsters alert him two. Before they get to the jungle, the rival mage's representative offers to pay them three times as much just to walk away. If they take it, then the representative will turn the money into horrible flesh eating coin monsters once they are sleeping. If they don't then he will wait for them to return (or to hear their death screams). The Archmage needs a piece of amber from the core of the Treant, whose insides are a "living dungeon" unto themselves. Once out of the dungeon though, the rep offers them six times as much to buy the amber. If they refuse, then the rep, an animated stone golem with mage levels, goes toe to toe with them. If they live through that, then they must go through the maze of minions the Archmage has laid in place. If they deliver the damn goods, the rival archmage is defeated in combat by the defendant mage, and they are paid their payment ten fold, plus a chunk of the amber to the mage. If used as a material component, the amber turns a prepared spell into a quickened spell as is consumed.

10. A king wants his ranger back, who was captured by the local dwarven kingdom. The dwarves say that he has been accused of murdering dwarves that are passing through his forest. Assuming the PCs find the ranger, the ranger tells the PC that the dwarves are mining directly underneath the kingdom, and plan on sapping the whole castle and building afresh. The dwarves don't want witnesses.

10.2.14

My writing routine, in the style of the greats.

A la http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/20/daily-routines-writers/

I write while my wife sleeps, as there is little use in saying "I will be your's" when she can't see me. Does an I-phone stick its finger up at its owner, while occupied with its own independent wanderings? Maybe that's what an update is.

5.2.14

An example of a magic system

What secrets does this spell book contain (apparently polymorphing counterspells and potions). In my game, this might be vitally important to a PC to save an "innocent" (i.e. very wealthy) prince from a rival mage.
As a GM/DM/ST, I am ever fascinated by extrapolating the rules of a system, especially D&D's magic system. The reason I like taking D&D's assumptions about magic and fleshing them out is because, well, they are not very fleshed out at all. Like many fantasy settings, all D&D is really saying about how magic works is this "Priests/Paladins and Druids/Rangers Pray, Wizards wiggle their fingers and speak weird words, and sorcerers/warlocks just do it". That leave tons and tons of room to interpret the real reason of how magic works.

But why do I even bother explaining it? Because D&D, while not providing an explanation of magic, sort of demands one, at least in my games. Ever send your PCs on a quest to find the lost spellbook of a random archmage? Some of you may have.

Ever wonder why though? Why would a mage guild spend money, probably good money, hiring adventurers to get a book? Probably because it has some pretty awesome secrets of magic in it. But what secrets? When a PC, who probably doesn't even maintain contact with his mage buddies can crack open the 3.5 Spell Compendium and say "I learned this next," then what potency could a book have? I'll tell you, at least as far as my world is concerned.
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