Tobold's Blog
Friday, November 09, 2012
Help us write an adventure!

Stubborn and me have an idea, a crazy plan: We want to co-author a Dungeons & Dragons 3.5/4E adventure to be published on our blogs. And we want YOUR help. No, not for a Kickstarter project funding, even if that means we are showing our age here. We just want a rather old-fashioned input of ideas. From time to time we would like to ask you, our readers, for ideas on certain questions, the best of which we will then build into the adventure.

What we have right now as a concept is that the adventure should be multi-edition, that is playable as D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, or D&D 4E. We would like the adventure to start around level 8, where the characters already have a range of interesting powers, but aren't exactly wrestling old gods yet. The settings should be compatible to any regular D&D / Pathfinder fantasy world.

The first question where we would need your input is what should the central piece of the adventure be. Around what should the adventure revolve. That could be either a fantastic location, or a fantastic item, or some atypical event. For example the Ravenloft adventure revolves around a vampire castle, the Lord of the Rings revolves around the One Ring, and my campaign start was centered around a shipwreck event.

So, what location, item, or event would you like our adventure to be about? Feel free to just throw us some unfiltered ideas.

Some unusual kind of plague? Find source, cure people, avoid it yourself ...
Search of a fallen star, with a consentual discovery of underground city filled with some creatures.
The star can open some underworld gate and hellspawns can be unleashed while several parties are searching for it, only to find out what whole world is in danger and they must cooperate with NPCs of other parties, who were their enemies an hour before. Not sure how it will play in DnD setting, but maybe you can find the way (it can give DM some tools to influence what players are doing).
Battlefields can be plains and forests in the beginnings, small caves and large abandoned underground castles in the middle, and maybe even hellscapes later in the story.
Ah cool. Kind of wanting readers to be willing, active play-testers via Blog. Awesome!

I love stuff like this.

I'll try to give you some link-love, not that you need it. ;)
One of the PCs family dies and leaves them an old deserted inn in their will, they have to travel out to the insular little village and resolve some plots about secret cultists while getting the inn ready for an opening party to which a local noble/ king has invited themselves!

(When we ran this, it was a brothel that the PC inherited, at his suggestion.)
Not sure if you've heard of the Mythic GM Emulator, but it's a tool primarily geared towards solo play - although I find it's even better for improvised GMing, like a sort of Magic 8 Ball that you can consult and interpret to create the story on the fly.

However it can also be used to create adventures in advance, in exactly the same way (in fact I've even seen people create campaign settings with it). You ask questions and apply the results, and it can throw out some very unexpected curveballs and plot twists.

The system itself requires a lot of dice rolling, but someone put together a Flash version which is much easier (and automatically tracks NPCs and plot threads). There was a discussion about it a couple of years ago on the forums, along with a link to the tool:

Search of a fallen star, which destroyed a cathedral leaving a weird blue hole. The star was a fallen angel who now asks your help to go back to heavens and save the world.

Oh and yes, he's a black guy.
Your party discovers some rune stones in a forest, spread out in a complex pattern. Shortly afterwards, you meet a druid who tells you that the rune stones do absolutely nothing, but that the local population thinks they have magical powers.

Thus begins a conflict between two neighbouring kingdoms over these rune stones. One side believes in the magical powers; the other side doesn't. The outcome of the final battle depends on whether the runes have any power at all...
Once-peaceful countryside is under attack of Lower Planes creatures. The local druid comes to adventurers for help.
There is a legendary hierophant druid of immence power hibernating in the secret place, who wields enough power to stop the invasion. The druid knows the ritual to awaken him. The problem is that the exact place of hierophant's hiding is not known, there are only cryptic hints in some ancient text. The druid also needs the protection from the Lower Planes creatures.
The adventurers must help the druid with decyphering the clues (an maybe do some geo-cashing) and escort him to the hiding place.
Once there, the druid turns out to be the shapeshifted leader of the Lower Planes invasion (i.e. the boss) intent on killing helpless hierophant. So the adventurers have to kill/banish him, and perform the ritual themselves (it could be outlined in the same ancient text as the clues to location). Of course the ritual must be performed under constant pressure from invading creatures (think of Valithria Dreamwalker fight in WoW).
A big giant dragon zombie terrorizing the lands!
One of my favourite campaigns from my D&D past was when a lawful/good party has to deal with not good and evil but shades of grey. To save our own plane from devils we had to venture to other planes and even hell itself. We found ourselves having to make pacts with demons in a war between demons and devils. We were given powerful items from the demons but they were cursed (a little like Elric’s sword Stormbringer). The focal point, could we hang on to our humanity enough but still save our beloved city from an invasion.
A story based on "Saving Private Ryan" could be interesting : a party went to try to save someone taken in a war.
Example (to be modified)
Two country are at war. Someone is stuck in the wrong end/part of the war. The party try to go from the ally army, snuk behind the scout and the army, extract the guy from their lines and go back to the correct side. The moving camp and approaching battle set a time constraint, the story is different than others, and give player a lot of freedom without modifying the overall story.
This could be a little short for a campaign, but can be a part of it.
I suggest something along the lines of the most exciting D&D adventure I experienced as a player:
Scourge of the Slavelords.

The PCs are captured at the begginning of the adventure (while on quest). They must escape, then survive in the wilderness against other escapees (hunger games style) and the wildlife before coming back for revenge.

What I like about it is that even a dagger becomes precious in these cricumstances.
A clutch of metallic dragon eggs have been tainted by demonic energy. If nothing is done these eggs will hatch producing a world where the alignment of the worlds dragons is no longer color coated.
Murder of a Lord by Necromancers trying to take over the kingdoms.
You could go really old school and go for some sprawling cavern complex as the central part of the adventure.
Did a little web search and came up with a fun one.

The characters are employed by a flamboyant, but mildly shady NPC to do a quest. Perhaps the group doesnt trust the NPC and investigate him, or they attempt the quest. At some critical point, they are overwhelmed by a horrific summoned crearure and fade to black.

The characters regain their senses, all together, in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar belongings, and a eerie sense of time lost.

In fact it's a year later. A level or two has been gained, alignment issues may or may not be included, but things have happened. Not good things.

The campaign is to figure it all out and fight the evil force that somehow possessed them. along with getting home, clearing tarnished reputations, repairing bad things done, etc.

Who/how this all happened, and how they regained their senses, is easily invented.

The point of the campaign is redemption. Little by little the group finds allies who believe their story, and can help them. It easily lends itself to RP of politics, religion, and being an unliked stranger in a strange land.

Some players hate control being taken away like that, so depending on the group maybe you nix losing old gear or gaining levels. But that part certainly ups the ante.
I'm a fan of special locations. Not to familiar with Forgotten Realms or any of the other D&D settings, though.

What about revolving around some major city, that then gets attacked and partially conquered by a hostile force?
Biger town.
A son of a local noble is being rude to a girl, who begs the players for help.
The noblesman son uses his father's contacts to put the players in jail, but suddenly his father get killed and he is in prisoned himself, for murder.
It's the players' choice to either make sure the youngblood gets punished or to figure out, eho's behing the murder of his father.
The hotheaded young man will often get the party into trouble and will generally make their life difficult, but should he be proven innocent, he can more then handsomly reward the players.
King's illegitimate son cons his way into the royal treasure vault and takes a ring of Dominate Person and precedes to cause chaos in the kingdom. King wants the matter resolved without harming his son. Queen wants him dead. Other royal siblings have various hidden agendas and take the opportunity to advance them.

I found this idea of a city built around an imprisoned tarrasque a few years ago, always thought it sounded interesting:
A local ruler is behaving very strangely lately. He even seems to want to ignore the disappearance of a well known and respected alchemist...Who happens to be the estranged brother of the PC...
How about keying into the motivations of the players, to give a story that tries to "lock-in" to their aspirations?

Backstory - In past (pre level 8) some or all of the team performed a minor service for an up and coming noble (or military leader or whatever, it needs a political spin though) and their history has them as performing the task exceedingly well. This gives them the start of the hero personae, without over inflation.

The initial story hook is that person's aid contacting the group to once again help, the task is a quiet investigation of, then removal of a rival political structure which has been corrupted. The trick is that not all members of the rival group are corrupted, so a scorched earth approach won't do.

They need to investigate, possible join, then cleanse the corruption. The fact that their actions also helps the "kingdom" and helps their ally mean they can see a solid good-guy path, and also have grounds for an enticing reward (cash, land, fame, etc).

As the story turns, many baddies are found as the team climb the food-chain of the organisation, also traveling through many towns and cities chasing clues and fleeing NPCs. This gives you sessions based upon finding and "completing/dissolving" each cell.

Source of corruption could be a minor branch of a subversive religion, or even a foreign empire. The point is that 2/3rd through the plot their benefactor's boss is exposed as a member too, placing the benefactor at odds with his own mission. Give the players input into how that hook resolves, thus they help shape the world and have to live in the setting after their choice.

Then final big-bad can be the dissolution or expulsion of the corrupt leader, and a reconciliation of the benefactor with the new order, which includes the hero arc of the character too.
Waking up in a mental asylum with amnesia...
...and who, after years of silence, sent PC a mysterious, torn letter. PC cant make any sense of it, apart from four words: , recipe, swamp and "FOREVER!"...
heh, those three plus [insert name of city]

I was going to say that the characters should be enslaved and have to escape, but someone already said that. So instead, how about doing it Game of Thrones style?

The characters are vassals/retainers/followers of some powerful lord. He has an ally that he trusts implicitly, but who is actually working against him. The adventure starts with a sneak attack on the castle, and the adventurers must escape with the lord's heir and then protect him. To make things more interesting, the treacherous ally has made the attack look like it came from a neighboring country/local orc tribe/etc. to start a war that will work to his benefit. Everyone trusts the ally, so the characters have to not only hide the heir, but find evidence to convince people that the coming war is on false pretenses and get revenge.

Whichever story you choose, I'd love to see the adventure!
A group of villages/cities complaining about a nearby cursed town (rather large) plagued by hauntings and such and filled with morally ambigous choices... like demons are possessing the children who then act as the "security guards" of the place by quietly summoning other undead/minor planar things to deal with nosy investigators and other visiting NPCs (need other outsiders as fodder).

Do the players waste time by trying to find a way to exorcise the freaks or simply kill the kids straight out?

Another good example is a previously faithful wife from one place inexplicably left to live with her lover at the cursed town.

Note the "cursed town" is full of mostly good people. It's just that they happen to be causing death and agony to the places around. It also is a major trading post so local fiefdom doesn't want to just storm in (or are busy elsewhere/don't care).

Main cause is probably some sort of obscure minor local deity/past hero who the town worships. Lots of blanks to fill in but you can see where I'm going. :P
Oh, forgot to add possible quest hook or random event: Party is tasked by random rich guy to retrieve a stolen item by one of the cursed townians, AND/OR the thief's head for a sizeable bounty.

The thief though is a caring parent and had sacrificed said item to the local worship for protection/cure on his family.

Another one/or random event could be a small group of zealous lawful good clerics want to go in and massacre everyone for their sins.

And another: a demonic evil thing has realized she is evil and wishes to redeem herself. She is also very protective of a select few NPCs... specifically the ones worshipping/summoning the main bad thing.

One more: when the party gets close to the cursed town a cute stray, playful dog starts tailing them. The dog (possessed again) protects the party from everything. Enemies, kids, shopkeepers, old ladies, random wanderers. It will always try to kill anything or anyone that threatens (or it considers is threatening) the party. Adventurers have no control of the dog and it will never leave or fight them back. The only way to get rid of it is kill it.

I love trying to break player alignments. Ok I'll shut up now. :P
My kids cannot access the net, so I write for them :) They would like to see the adventure happen in a forest, near a ruined tower.
I hope my input doesn't come too late and that you find it even remotely original.

The party finds out about an impending invasion of their homelands and the surrounding countries. And you ask them what they want to do.

Presuming they don't want to run away (which would be utterly boring, I mean, who wants to RP a coward), they can work towards forming an alliance between the neighboring countries strong enough to stop the invasion force, or thinking payback on their countrymen who didn't accept them as adventurers, they could join the invading force and help them conquer all with their inside knowledge.

This would be the main plot-line. Further down you have some ideas of how to tackle it.

Presuming the first, you can arrange a marriage between the heirs of two of the kingdoms, the removal of the old mad king who still bears a grudge against his former foe and would never ally himself, so that his son, more open to the idea of peace, could take his place (and how the players do this task is up to them : assassinate, coup, dominate mind), stage an accident so that one ruler ends up saving the life of another. Reason with the king diplomatically telling him the old "united we stand, divided we fall" and determine him to join the alliance willingly.

But if you're playing the bad guys and working with the invaders, you can help a warring heir to power, you can sew discord between two old allies, you can end a fragile truce and make them fight each other so your new invading allies will only fight the leftovers, assuring an easy conquest.

And, if you paint the political picture detailed enough, both approaches would be possible. For example, assigning letters to countries, A and B are very old allies, B and C old enemies (and due to geography A and C have never had too much contact). D has been neutral for as long as the king lived, but he is dying and had 4 sons waiting for succession (no first born rule). E is a free city, but with vast military resources, ruled by an oligarchy. Paint the external politics diverse enough and you'll have tons of valid approaches from the players, leading to what I believe would be a high degree of re-playability.
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