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Gruesome deaths, arcane wards, ancient rituals, and an old bridge: a 5E & Pathfinder 1E adventure.

Head on over to Indiegogo and back Burials of Teganshire!

Burials of Teganshire is a module for level 1-3 characters that can be used in any campaign setting (commercial or homebrew). It is the first module of the Circle of the Blood Moon adventure path that will take characters to level 10, through a long campaign filled with complex encounters and ancient mysteries. 

A few things that are important to us in the design of this adventure:

Adventure Campaign Setting Agnostic

We wanted to propose a module that can be inserted in any campaign world. The Kingdom of Lothmar is our own setting, and in the appendix of the module, we provide guidance on how to play this adventure in this setting. However, we designed it so that if you want to play the module in your own setting, you totally can.

How do we achieve that?

First off the action of the module is local, it spans an area of about 15 miles wide, that you can easily plug into your preferred setting. Also, we made sure to strip any lore or NPC behavior that would not be applicable to most settings, offering the possibility to play it as it is, or DMs to add their custom lore-specific content to their liking.

Heroic Story Centric

We want players to feel like heroes. Our modules are tough and complex because players do not like to feel their progression is undeserved. Nothing beats a party of players cheering at each other after a tough battle.

We also believe that actions should have consequences and our modules include many different possible endings based on how the players behaved. Compelling stories are supported by motivated and plausible NPCs. We have designed this module so that every NPC’s motivations and perspectives are described, giving DMs the tools to bring the environment to life.

What You Get with Burials of Teganshire

Burials of Teganshire comes with:

  • Complete monster statblocks as part of an original bestiary
  • DM guidance on how to play the main encounters
  • Detailed motivations and perspectives for all NPCs
  • Immersive detailed maps, also available in digital format for VTT or prints

Burials of Teganshire

 

Burials of Teganshire Post 10 of 30

Here at Griffon Lore Games, we’re big fans of grim, gritty hard fantasy.

That isn’t navel-gazing, nihilistic, and “subverting expectations.” In other words, heroic fantasy. A DM can attach heroic fantasy to any game world, and most line of products, and I encourage you to do so. Genuinely heroic fantasy is all about choices and the consequences of decisions. Decisions made not to advance a narrative but to do what players believe is the right thing given the circumstances and what they know.

First, let’s talk about Hollywood, the comic industry, and the book publishing industry shooting itself in the foot, first. I call it—the Triad of Suck.

The Triad of Suck

Hollywood’s Two Decades of Crap

Current RPG products, for the most part, have avoided the pitfalls expounded by Hollywood’s fascination with navel-gazing, nihilistic fiction since the early 90s. By its very makeup, a fantasy RPG game is composed of players running PCs, in a story of their own or the DMs making. Since milquetoast conflict doesn’t sell RPG products, players, by and large, play in an environment where the stakes are significant, conflict abounds, and heroes live and die by both their choices and the whims of the dice. Since it’s a game, players recognize dice whimsy as part and parcel of RPGs.

It’s not all bad in Hollywood, but a lot of it is. Then there are the books.

Genre Book Publishing’s Two Decades of Crap

Current RPG products, for the most part, have avoided the pitfalls expounded by traditional book publishing’s fascination with navel-gazing, nihilistic fiction since the early 90s. By its very makeup, a fantasy RPG game is composed of players running PCs, in a story of their own or the DMs making. Since milquetoast conflict doesn’t sell RPG products, players, by and large, play in an environment where the stakes are significant, conflict abounds, and heroes live and die by both their choices and the whims of the dice. Since it’s a game, players recognize dice whimsy as part and parcel of RPGs.

Is this sounding familiar? It’s not all bad in traditional publishing, and independent publishers have rushed to fill in the gap.

But a lot of it is self-serving, non-entertaining drek. Then there are comic books.

Comic Book Publishing’s Two Decades of Crap

Current RPG products, for the most part, have avoided the pitfalls expounded by comic book publishing’s fascination with navel-gazing, nihilistic fiction since the early 90s. By its very makeup, a fantasy RPG game is composed of players running PCs, in a story of their own or the DMs making. Since milquetoast conflict doesn’t sell RPG products, players, by and large, play in an environment where the stakes are significant, conflict abounds, and heroes live and die by both their choices and the whims of the dice. Since it’s a game, players recognize dice whimsy as part and parcel of RPGs.

Detect a pattern here? It is, indeed, the triangle of suck. And the commonality between the three is the departure from the hero’s journey.

The Hero’s Journey is the Foundation of Conflict

And without foundation, all the fun factors in a fantasy game have no root. In a narrative, the hero’s journey is about the conflict that drives character growth.

In a D&D game, it’s all about the opportunity to overcome the conflict as a game. Players will grow their PCs as players will. Either they progress their PC through role-playing, or they don’t. This is where “DM as a referee” is better than “DM as a story-teller.”

Now I know what you’re thinking. We’re talking D&D, and D&D is a game, so where do the foundations of mythology come into play?

When Campbell was describing the hero’s journey, he wasn’t pulling a trope out of his butt—he was explaining life writ large via an archetype, a distillation, of if you will, of legend and mythology. Ignoring it, making fun of it, wishing it would go away, is only a blip in the grand entertainment universe. It’s never going to change because it’s human nature, stamped with the approval of Human History.

But, the “Triad of Suck” did impact D&D, less for what it did, but more for removing the concept from gameplay and game design.

Hitting (multiple) Rock Bottoms is the Hallmark of the Journey

The Hero’s Journey in graphical format:

Graphic provided by wiki commons

See the Abyss? That’s the low point that makes what’s next all the more delicious. How applicable is the singular hero’s journey to D&D? If a DM uses it as a blueprint to a campaign—highly relevant.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’m talking about a STORY-TELLER CAMPAIGN when D&D is a GAME. SHAME ON ANTHONY. But that’s just it—you can use the format in an open-world, sandbox, player-driven campaign. It just needs some thought. Let’s use two examples.

Two Examples of the Hero’s Journey in Player-Driven Plots

Example One: Count Torc Mac Ceti

The PCs are the vassals of a stern, but highly-supportive, wealthy, and influential baron—their lands’ border another Barony, one Count Torc Mac Ceti. The PCs are in charge of the crossroads town Kamshire, and Torc Mac Ceti has made several inquiries that he would covet the PCs alliance—but the PCs, involved in a series of adventures for their baron, have declined him thus far.

One day the PCs receive word that one of their woods in now infested with a rather large green dragon. Indeed, the dragon sends them word he would like to meet with the PCs (gulp). The dragon seems like an amiable fellow—he cleaned the woods out of monsters and bandits (something the PCs always meant to do). In return for a safe wood, he requires, uh, a cow. A fat cow. Once a month. And a barrel of wine. To go with the cow. PCs are left with the impression this dude is old (and a bit lazy) and would rather avoid conflict.

Now, the vast majority of the players will think this dragon is an impressive addition to their PCs’ lands. And obviously, if the DM wanted to use the dragon to kill them all, then he would have done so. A dozen cows and barrel of wine a year for a dragon buddy? Heck yeah!

Aaaaaand there it is.

Several months go by, and the relationship works. Sure, the dragon has an evil streak, but then again, the PCs are no choir boys themselves. To protect their baron, they’ve gotten their hands dirty. The dragon sends word—he’s captured a wanted criminal, someone the baron has been looking for. The PCs take delivery of the rascal and give the dragon a magic item as thanks. This relationship seems good. Healthy even.

And then one month the dragon says, hey. This month I’ll need a virgin maiden instead of a cow.

the dragon

Whoops.

Now, the PCs refusing the dragon or not, it doesn’t matter. If they deliver the virgin, the dragon screams, “She’s not a virgin!” as he drops her body in the town square and destroys Kamshire. If they fail to deliver the virgin, the dragon attacks and destroys Kamshire. If they try to kill the dragon, he is way above their league, TPKs the party, and destroys Kamsire. It’s a dragon. They are mid-level PCs. If they die, the bewildered baron, their liege brings them back, using up all his influence with the church to do so. Or the PCs roll new characters—1st Level survivors of the Terrible Dragon.

This is a low point for the players but a high point in the campaign world! And the dragon isn’t the real villain here, only a weapon. He’s demanded a virgin because Count Torc Mac Ceti paid him a lot of money to do so. Mac Ceti is the party’s nemesis, and he’s just getting started.

But was that organic?

Not really, but Count Torc Mac Ceti sure is a villain. How the PCs deal with such a tyrant will be interesting, considering they still don’t know the real reason the dragon went off in the first place. Killing the monstrous beast is only the start (uh, nothing personal, guys, it was just business. You’re not still mad, are you?). Depending on the direction they go, the destruction of their town, and the death of all their friends (and possibly loved-ones) was just the beginning of a terrible, terrible time.

This kick in the gut works because the DM didn’t plot the campaign.

He just plotted the PCs’ downfall. It’s up to them to crawl out of the hole—and start their heroes’ journey.

Example Two: Organic Your Way into Jail

Let’s back up the clock. The PC’s noble sponsor (let’s call him Baron Winstead) is besieged and mired in dirty politics at every turn. He’s been having the PCs do some things he can’t have traced to himself.

The players are having fun. Each adventure is a backdrop in politics and drama, and they’re PCs are getting rich in the process. The rewards go beyond the coin—the baron gives them influence, marrying one of his daughters to a PC.

And then, they get arrested and thrown into the King’s Dungeon. All the DM had to do is keep track of their legitimate mistakes, and when one was made that was serious enough, well, that was it, then. The PCs are stripped of their lands and titles, their sponsor’s hand slapped. They’re tossed in a dungeon designed to hold adventurers such as themselves, with the key thrown away.

In this example, the PCs committed crimes against bad guys but got caught—a less dramatic but certainly more organic route to the heroes’ journey than the dragon melting everyone’s face off in town with acidic clouds of doom.

And the DM has many drama options here, for example—the marriage of the baron’s daughter, a PC’s wife, was annulled and she was married off to the Count next door, one Torc Mac Ceti, and the PCs know him to be one bad dude.

This is a journey of self-discovery. In this campaign, just who are the bad guys? How do they get out of jail that they so lawfully belong in, and then what? How do the PCs go from zeros to heroes?

Beyond the Plot Tick—Failure Mechanics

Even if the DM doesn’t nudge the PCs into a catastrophe, the PCs can go on a hero’s journey by acting heroically in the face of failure. A DM needs to have both, really. He both needs to push the PCs into a state where only the heroic survive, yet give those heroes a chance for setbacks so they can learn to become heroes.

Failure Mapping NPCs

The easiest way to start planning for the PCs’ downfall is to map out what happens when the PCs fail with people by tracking dispositions: what happens when these NPCs are Unfriendly, and what happens when they are Hostile?

  • Local Nobility
  • Merchants
  • Townfolk
  • Bartender
  • Guards
  • Bard
  • Landlord
  • Innkeeper
  • Hunters
  • Thieves
  • Beggars
  • Trollops

Failure Mapping Modules

Once the NPCs are mapped to their two fail states, the next step is to map out failure conditions for every adventure, which necessitates choosing experiences where it isn’t “all or nothing.” If you possess such a module (and I have dozens), it’s easy to change the tone of the module by putting in failure conditions:

  • The PCs never get there due to a random encounter—what happens?
  • The antagonist defeats the PCs and drives them off—what happens?
  • The PCs commit a category error (they went through the adventure thinking the problem was one thing when it was another)—what happens?
  • The PCs obtain a partial victory—what happens?
  • The PCs meet all their objectives, but the bad guy gets away—what happens?

“What happens?” should be a state that adds tension:

  • The PCs stop the investment of the abandoned castle but know the escaped bad guy is going to seek revenge, probably at the worst possible time
  • The PCs clear out the castle and kill the bad guy, but on the way home, they notice flying scouts above the castle. Again. They always have the option to go back and just raze the place to the ground and fill the dungeon with lava.
  • They never made it to the dungeon, and now the ogre magi fortifies it and stocks it with armored ogre shock troops in heavy armor (ha, ha, ha)
  • The PCs capture the bad guy, turn him in for King’s Justice, only he plays a political game, and someone lets him go!
  • The PCs TPK and the bad guy get their gear and use it to terrorize the region. Hello, new PCs, you’re in for a rough ride.

Rule-of-Thumb

As a rule of thumb, adding at the minimum four conditions to a module, half successes, and half failures, to various degrees, is an excellent way to turn even the most rail-roady module into engaging campaign action. And if the PCs keep hitting all cylinders, then they should reap the rewards—and the DM should ratchet up the difficulty until a single failure becomes catastrophic.

Failure creates high stakes and tension. Successes bracketed by failures create a game table of righteous D&D. If your PCs aren’t failing their way to success—then why bother playing a game if they can never lose?

Put players on a hero’s journey. By switching a mentality to “the module is the game” to “the player’s success and failure is the heroes’ game,” organically creates a world that is a journey of their own making.

Let them fail.

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Crossbow Man takes failures personally. Without subverting expectations.


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Burials of Teganshire post 9 of 30

Let’s depart the campaign and adventure philosophy and dive into encounters. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, the Lothmar meta mimic for Pathfinder 1E. Yes, it’s a mimic of a mimic. Ha. Ha, ha, ha, AH HA HA AH MWA HAHAHAHAHA!

Ahem.

Encounter: The Old Man and the Ghost Wagon

On any road the PC party is traveling on, they find a wounded, delirious old man in the ditch. He claims that a “wagon with no horse or riders,” came across their own wagon in the opposite direction. When the animated wagon got closer, it “screeched like the damned, laughing and giggling” as it attacked the horses, and then the other occupants of the old man’s wagon.

This is the extent of his knowledge. He claims it was a “haunted ghost wagon” and doesn’t have any details of how it attacked or if the rest of his companions are alive or dead. He says the wagon took a bite of him and then yelled, “Begone, old fool, least GHOST WAGON kills you too!”

The old man is thoroughly traumatized and is suffering from post-traumatic stress. Still, PCs with a Perception check of 13 or higher will reveal that he wants to deliver a helpful description, but no longer has the mental faculties to do so. Giving him some water and tending to his wounds will go a long way into calming him down, but the old man, who says his name is “Old Jim,” is helpless if left outdoors by himself.

Medieval Wagon

The Battle Site

It doesn’t take long for the party to find the gruesome battle site: a broken wagon, two dead draft horses, and two dead men, all four mostly eaten, body parts everywhere.

A Heal DC check of 15 reveals the wounds from a large mouth with sharp teeth. A DC 20 shows sticky, goo-like substance from the meta mimic’s adhesive. A DC or 25 reveals the men also suffered from some other type of catastrophic damage, the meta mimics cosmic damage delivered by its bite. Only a Knowledge Arcana DC of 25 or more will type the damage as “cosmic damage from the void beyond.”

Wagon tracks go down the road (without horses or oxen to pull them), the ghost wagon seemingly heading back from which it came. No tracking roll needed.

Combat Encounter

The Ghost Wagon will not be hard to find. It is moving at 30 ft. per round (using its movement for both its action and movent phases). Touching it or using ranged weapons will start combat. The meta mimic, while battling the PCs will periodically go “Oooooooo!” and “Mwahahahaha GHOST WAGON WILL EAT YOU!” It also taunts any healer in the party if another PC dies, calling them a “loser” and blaming them for the PC’s death.

It fights to the death. If the PCs only use ranged weapons, it turns into its true form, flies above the archers/crossbowmen, and then turns into a wagon to fall on their heads.

The meta mimic is reasonably intelligent. If it incapacitates a PC, it will keep attacking the PC until the PC is dead.

Combat variation

A fiendish DM can dramatically bump the encounter difficulty by having two regular mimics, as chests, hitching a ride in GHOST WAGON. All three of them think this is hilarious, and as the GM, you should find it pretty funny, too.

Your players, however, as play-testing revealed, will not think it funny at all.


Pathfinder 1E Lothmar Meta Mimic

Lothmar Meta Mimic | CR 5 | XP 1,600
Lothmar meta mimic | NE Huge to tiny aberration (shapechanger)
Init +3; Senses greensight 120 ft., see in darkness; Perception +12

Defense

AC 18, touch 10, flat-footed 18 | hp 90
Fort +6, Ref +1, Will +7
Immune acid, mind-affecting effects; Resist negative energy 5
Weaknesses vulnerability to force effects, vulnerability to sonic

Offense

Speed 15 ft., fly 30 ft. (good)
Melee bite +10 (1d10+6), pseudopod slam +10 (1d10+6 plus adhesive grasp effect)
Space 0 to 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks cosmic acid constrict (1d10+6) on adhesive grasped victims

Statistics

Str 18, Dex 8, Con 18, Int 12, Wis 12, Cha 10
Base Atk +6; CMB +12; CMD 21 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Improved Initiative, Step Up, Throw Anything
Skills Acrobatics -1 (-9 to jump), Climb +15, Disguise +0 (+20 when mimicking objects), Fly -1, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +12, Perception +12, Spellcraft +12, Stealth +2; Racial Modifiers +20 Disguise when mimicking objects
Languages Common, Undercommon, Aklo
SQ cosmic shapechange

Special Abilities

Adhesive Grasp (DC 18) (Ex) Automatically grapple, those grappled cannot get free while the meta mimic is alive. Victims can make a contested Strength roll to remain in place (the meta mimic has a +4). Otherwise, the meta mimic will draw the grasped victim in range of its mouth to bite. Anyone attempting to grapple the mimic is automatically grappled in return.

Cosmic Acid Constrict: When the Lothmar meta mimic grapples a creature, it uses its strength and connection to the void to do 1d10+6 void damage. If already grasping a victim, the meta mimic can generate another pseudopod to slam other opponents. It can do this an unlimited number of times (once per round), although once constricting a victim the meta mimic will not attack it with an extra pseudopod—preferring to bite it instead.

Cosmic Shapechange (Ex) The Lothmar meta mimic can use its action to polymorph into an object (huge or smaller) it can see or sense, making an exact duplicate of the object in both form and function. It can also shapechange back into its pure form, a viscous, semitransparent blob-like cloud of smoke. Its statistics are the same in each shape (although the Lothmar meta mimic can only fly in its smoke form). Any equipment it is wearing or carrying isn’t transformed. It reverts to its true form if it dies.

Immunity to Acid The Lothmar meta mimic is immune to acid damage.

Immunity to Mind-Affecting effects The Lothmar meta mimic is immune to Mind-Affecting effects.

Energy Resistance, Negative energy (5) The Lothmar meta mimic has Energy Resistance against Negative Energy attacks.

Vulnerability to Force Effects The Lothmar meta mimic is vulnerable (+50% damage) to force effects that deal damage.

Vulnerability to Sonic The Lothmar meta mimic is vulnerable (+50% damage) to Sonic damage.

Fly (30 feet, Good) The Lothmar meta mimic, when in smoke form, can fly.

See in Darkness Sees perfectly in darkness of any kind, including magical darkness.

Greensight (120 ft.) (Su) Senses through thick plant matter as if it was transparent.

Step Up When a foe makes a 5 ft step away from the meta mimic, it can move 5 ft to follow them.

Throw Anything Proficient with improvised ranged weapons.

Description

Thoroughly malevolent, witty, and annoyingly snarky, the Lothmar meta mimic is an evil aberration from “somewhere else.” Often confused with regular or giant mimics, the meta-mimic is much more dangerous due to its innate ability to copy objects it can sense, including complex objects composed of smaller pieces, such as a wagon.

Meta mimics seem to bend the laws of physics to copy objects, and they can mimic anything from a tiny teacup to horse carriage to a wine barrel. They cannot “invent” objects to copy; they must see or have seen an object to polymorph into.

Mistaken Identity

Explorers and their like often confuse a meta mimic with an animated object or construct, that is, up until the meta mimic reveals its mouth with sharp teeth. Compounding the problem is the meta mimic will “hang out” with animated objects, mimics, or giant mimics, and striking at the most convenient time for maximum comedic effect, according to the mimic.

Cruel Monsters

Meta mimics are cruel, but only insofar as amuse itself with its morbid sense of humor. For example, a meta mimic would think it’s quite funny to suddenly lunge at an adventurer in armor standing over a pit of alligators, in hopes of having them slip and fall in surprise. Then it would attack anyone coming to rescue, or, if the adventure is alone, extend a pseudopod to help, but leave the legs to the alligators as it feasted on the “top part.”

Unknown Ethereal Origins

Little is known about the meta mimic, other than it is susceptible to force damage, lending evidence to its origin being the Ethereal Plane. While it can speak (often to taunt people that it is munching on), it never reveals anything about its culture (if it has one), origins, or anything of import. Some guess that the meta mimic originally came across an actual mimic, and copied as much as its form and attributes as it could.

Survivors of the Lothmar meta mimic describe it as having some “soul-sucking, void attack from the beyond.” They also specify that it is not concerned with its safety or any natural functions, and seems only to exist to kill, maim, and taunt surprised victims.

It is also unknown why Lothmar meta mimics are bothered and damaged by loud noises. If the meta mimic knows, it isn’t telling. They even don’t seem to have a brain or at least a normal one, and they are entirely immune to psychic damage (nor do they respond to telepathy).

When a meta mimic dies, it reverts to its non-object form and dissolves into smoke until gone.


Burials of Teganshire

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 Crossbow Man Don’t Need no Wagon


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Burials of Teganshire post 8 of 30

Let’s depart the campaign and adventure philosophy and dive into encounters. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, the Lothmar meta mimic for 5E. Yes, it’s a mimic of a mimic. Ha. Ha, ha, ha, AH HA HA AH MWA HAHAHAHAHA!

Ahem.

Encounter: The Old Man and the Ghost Wagon

On any road the PC party is traveling on, they find a wounded, delirious old man in the ditch. He claims that a “wagon with no horse or riders,” came across their own wagon in the opposite direction. When the animated wagon got closer, it “screeched like the damned, laughing and giggling” as it attacked the horses, and then the other occupants of the old man’s wagon.

This is the extent of his knowledge. He claims it was a “haunted ghost wagon” and doesn’t have any details of how it attacked or if the rest of his companions are alive or dead. He says the wagon took a bite of him and then yelled, “Begone, old fool, least GHOST WAGON kills you too!”

The old man is thoroughly traumatized and is suffering from post-traumatic stress. Still, PCs with a Wisdom (Insight) check of 10 or higher will reveal that he wants to deliver a helpful description, but no longer has the mental faculties to do so. Giving him some water and tending to his wounds will go a long way into calming him down, but the old man, who says his name is “Old Jim,” is helpless if left outdoors by himself.

Medieval Wagon

The Battle Site

It doesn’t take long for the party to find the gruesome battle site: a broken wagon, two dead draft horses, and two dead men, all four mostly eaten, body parts everywhere.

A Wisdom (Medicine) DC check of 10 reveals the wounds from a large mouth with sharp teeth. A DC 15 shows sticky, goo-like substance from the meta mimic’s adhesive. A DC or 20 reveals the men also suffered from some other type of catastrophic damage, the meta mimics cosmic damage delivered by its bite. Only an Intelligence (Arcana) DC of 20 or more will type the damage as “cosmic damage from the void beyond.”

Wagon tracks go down the road (without horses or oxen to pull them), the ghost wagon seemingly heading back from which it came. No tracking (Survival) roll needed.

Combat Encounter

The Ghost Wagon will not be hard to find. It is moving at 30 ft. per round (using its movement for both its action and movent phases). Touching it or using ranged weapons will start combat. The meta mimic, while battling the PCs will periodically go “Oooooooo!” and “Mwahahahaha GHOST WAGON WILL EAT YOU!” It also taunts any healer in the party if another PC dies, calling them a “loser” and blaming them for the PC’s death.

It fights to the death. If the PCs only use ranged weapons, it turns into its true form, flies above the archers/crossbowmen, and then turns into a wagon to fall on their heads.

The meta mimic is reasonably intelligent. If it incapacitates a PC by bringing them to 0 hit points, it will keep attacking the PC until the PC is dead.

Combat variation

A fiendish DM can dramatically bump the encounter difficulty by having two regular mimics, as chests, hitching a ride in GHOST WAGON. All three of them think this is hilarious, and as the DM, you should find it pretty funny, too.

Your players, however, as play-testing revealed, will not think it funny at all.


Lothmar Meta Mimic for 5E

Description

Thoroughly malevolent, witty, and annoyingly snarky, the Lothmar meta mimic is an evil aberration from “somewhere else.” Often confused with regular or giant mimics, the meta-mimic is much more dangerous due to its innate ability to copy objects it can sense, including complex objects composed of smaller pieces, such as a wagon.

Meta mimics seem to bend the laws of physics to copy objects, and they can mimic anything from a tiny teacup to horse carriage to a wine barrel. They cannot “invent” objects to copy; they must see or have seen an object to polymorph into.

Mistaken Identity

Explorers and their like often confuse a meta mimic with an animated object or construct, that is, up until the meta mimic reveals its mouth with sharp teeth.

Compounding the problem is the meta mimic will “hang out” with animated objects, mimics, or giant mimics, and striking at the most convenient time for maximum comedic effect, according to the mimic.

Cruel Monsters

Meta mimics are cruel, but only insofar as amuse itself with its morbid sense of humor. For example, a meta mimic would think it’s quite funny to suddenly lunge at an adventurer in armor standing over a pit of alligators, in hopes of having them slip and fall in surprise. Then it would attack anyone coming to rescue, or, if the adventure is alone, extend a pseudopod to help, but leave the legs to the alligators as it feasted on the “top part.”

Unknown Ethereal Origins

Little is known about the meta mimic, other than it is susceptible to force damage, lending evidence to its origin being the Ethereal Plane. While it can speak (often to taunt people that it is munching on), it never reveals anything about its culture (if it has one), origins, or anything of import. Some guess that the meta mimic originally came across an actual mimic, and copied as much as its form and attributes as it could.

Survivors of the Lothmar meta mimic describe its bite as having some “soul-sucking, void damage from the beyond.” They also specify that it is not concerned with its safety or any natural functions, and seems only to exist to kill, maim, and taunt surprised victims.

It is also unknown why Lothmar meta mimics are bothered and damaged by loud noises. If the meta mimic knows, it isn’t telling. They even don’t seem to have a brain or at least a normal one, and they are entirely immune to psychic damage (nor do they respond to telepathy).

When a meta mimic dies, it reverts to its non-object form and dissolves into smoke until gone.


Burials of Teganshire

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 Crossbow Man Don’t Need no Wagon

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Burials of Teganshire post 7 of 30

All it takes is several 10-minute slices of prep time per adventure to personalize the content in a module and have the PCs dive deeper into the game world as a result. Previously we covered the benefits of keeping the campaign world barony sized (or, 30-mile hex sized) for most of the campaign.

Designing adventures is a lot of work. A prudent DM, even one with plenty of development time to devote to his campaign, can also use commercial adventure modules to add to the campaign world—indeed, this is more likely than not.

When running a campaign to keep it personal to the PCs, it takes more than just tweaking the plot so it makes sense. A McGuffin at the bottom of a dungeon the PCs need to retrieve to get closer to their nemesis is a popular pastime with DMs. It doesn’t take a lot of prep for a DM to add more investment in any adventure. Let’s go over one method—spending 10 minutes at a time.

The Personalized 10 Minute Slice Per Player

In a campaign, player drives vary. Some are interested in role-playing, some just want to show up, others like the idea of min-maxing their PC, others want to live out the fantasy of being a feudal lord, etc., etc.

I have a spreadsheet that tracks each PC. It contains any background info, which includes a 5E or Pathfinder background and their backstory (and half of my players didn’t start with a backstory). I also track things they are interested in, or plot points they bring up or anything usable by a DM.

In Excel, notepad, or 3×5 cards—it only takes about 10 minutes per player to add to adventure content that is personal to the player.

Example

Player 2 is one of the players that provided a backstory, which contains information about his grandfather’s disappearance one stormy night. In the adventure, there is an encounter location that contains treasure in an abandoned desk.

The DM puts a clockwork timepiece (aka a pocket watch) in the desk that the PC recognizes as his grandfather’s. It holds some type of enchantment, too, but the party’s wizard can’t figure it out.

The DM plans to have the investigation of the watch reveal more details of what happened to grandpa, cumulating in an adventure to bring back his bones to rest next to grandma.

Another Example

Player 3 didn’t provide a backstory but has the Acolyte background. In a room discovered while running the module, the party finds a trio of bodies—all wearing the acolyte livery that the PC used to wear.

Here the DM is playing it loosey-goosey. He listens to the player’s banter and guesses about what these acolytes might have been doing before here and see if the player in question has anything to say about his time in the church. The DM files exciting tidbits from the discussion for use at a later time, picking the best outcome (it’s always great when the players add their own lore!). There are some personal belongings on the bodies, so between the time the PC returns the items to the church and the adventure, the DM has a chance to come up with additional details as needed to advance this personalized plot—the main goal, however, is to snarf tidbits from the player discussion.

The Personalized 10 Minute Slice: Locality

It’s not just the players that should get 10 minutes each. The DM should also spend some time on the intrinsic parts of the localized game world. Harken ye back to the campaign plotting chart:

NPCs should have some type of interaction in the adventure based on their motives and dispositions to the party/PCs:

  • The mayor asks PCs, on their way to an adventure and passing through the next village, to deliver some letters.
  • The blacksmith hears about the PC’s trip and asks them to show any ancient weapons or metal armor that they find.
  • Nisha, the barmaid, the girlfriend of one of the PCs, is super mad the PC is going away again, and says to come back with a present, or at least flowers, or don’t come back at all!

There should also be setting interjections:

  • Winter is arriving, and the DM decides there’s just going to be a rip-roaring snowstorm. Because, why not!
  • The PCs have been hunting quite a bit with the local lord. They run into a druid that asks them politely to dial it down before the tasty fauna loses too much population to sustain itself.

Also, interjections based on prior Party Actions:

  • The party cleared out an old wizard tower, but when they ride by it, there’s a blue light in one of the windows!
  • The PCs, in their very first adventure, helped a hurt dire wolf. Now the wolf shadows them, seemingly wanting to join them at the campfire, but still skittish.
  • There is a bit of lore that says that periodically on a clear night, ghostly wind chimes are heard in an abandoned orchard outside of the village. The PCs hear this while preparing to sally forth.

And finaly, 10 minuites for the Villan:

Assuming the current adventure isn’t directly about the bad guy, spending 10 minutes adding some detail for the PCs to discover or experience is time well spent. Example:

  • The PCs don’t know it, but the undiscovered vampire that bought a local farm is waiting for the PCs to leave so she can charm some of the critical villagers, starting with the loud-mouth barmaid that gossips about her.
  • The vampire arranges for the local priestess to be out of the village for a couple of months. A low-level acolyte that doesn’t know anything about anything replaces her, dramatically decreasing the threat of receiving a blast of radiant damage to the face.
  • Despite her best efforts, the vampire finds herself enamored with the PC Bard (of course). Before the party leaves, she anonymously sends the local bard a rare and old poetry book.

Recap

A localized campaign requires a small time commitment per adventure (commercial or otherwise), along the lines of:

  • 10 minutes per player
  • 10 minutes for the localized campaign plotting
  • 10 minutes for the villainous villain

Note that all this prep was mostly about things the PCs did, about the PCs, or the villain. Little of it had to do with lore, and really, your lore should simply be a backdrop to action and drama.

Finding sand-boxy adventures to put in your localized game world makes things a whole lot easier when it comes to the players generating content for you. But even a rail-roady type adventure will seem all that more personal—when the DM personalizes it with local, and PC, flair.

Back Burials of Teganshire on Indiegogo for some excellent local maps and start adding that bit of detail to keep your players coming back for more.


 

Crossbow Man recognizes one of the runes on the bridge as the same rune on his brother’s sword. Isn’t that odd?

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Burials of Teganshire post 6 of 30

So, yesterday was all about the bad guys—who are they and what to do they want. We had everything from a possessed sword to a dragon lich. Some people had favorites, some didn’t like one or two, and the real question on the table is—how do I bring this villain home to the PCs?

How do you make it—personal?

And this is where an open-world (and sandbox) campaign shines. Because of the organic nature of how your PCs deal with problems in a localized campaign vs. “the BBE is gonna kill everyone!” style of adventuring, it does, indeed, make it personal.

Wind up your PCs with the villain

Ever see one of those toy plushies with wheels and a windup key? Where you wind it up and then set it down? You have a vague idea where it’s gonna go, but then it just zooms, hits a wall, and careens off into a direction you were not expecting.

Yeah, that’s that plotting you want, adjusting to the PCs’ actions. Let’s give an example with a villain from yesterday, Lord Marthous the Betrayer:

5. Lord Marthous and the Lady

Lord Marthous and his wife are on the lam, hiding from the King’s Men. Lord Marthous recently found out he was the bastard son of the king and confronted the nobleman he thought was his father and also his mother for her discretion. The confrontation escalated out of control, and while fighting his step-father, his mother interjected herself in front of a mighty sword blow and died. Marthous in a rage then slew his step-father.

Hunted, despised for patricide, Lord Mathous and his wife fled but ran into a trio of paladins hunting them, the three not realizing that the Lady was a sorcerer with powers of her own. The duo slew the young knights.

Now Marthous is done running. He plans to clear his name by usurping the throne. He will replace the King, the man in his mind, the cause of all his troubles. He makes an impassioned plea for the PCs to help him. If the PCs join him, when he is successful in his plot, he will reward them with betrayal! He will blame them for the atrocities committed to ascend the throne (guilty or not) in order to appease the nobles still on the fence.

If the PCs refuse him upfront, he becomes a bitter enemy, and the King solicits their help in the dispute.

Either way, the PCs at some point will probably ask—are we the baddies?

Example Series of Events

  1. Lord Gwain Marthous, newly installed in his manor lands after his “father” expanded his holdings, awaits the arrival of his bride in his new manor home in the obligatory arranged marriage.
  2. Still moving in, short on time, men, and knowledge of the area, he hires the PCs to deal with “a particularly aggressive brown bear.” He pays them well.
  3. Said bear turns out to be a Dire Bear. And it’s rabid. It mauls the Level 1 PCs, but they emerge victoriously.
  4. Lord Marthous is taken aback at the PCs mauling. He doubles their reward and gifts them a hunting cabin in the nearby woods, an excellently furnished vacation home the PCs now can call their own.
  5. Gwain comes calling with a small cask of brandy. Everyone gets drunk. Gwain lays out three things he needs to handle, asking the PCs if they can help him out again. PCs pick one.
  6. During the adventure, the PCs have a random encounter—the abandoned campfire.
  7. Picking up the gold from Marthous, the PCs mention the campfire. Gwain tells them his falconer is overdue.
  8. Adventure ensues to find the lost falconer.
  9. No sooner than they investigate the falconer (some unusual fey thing killed him), Gwain comes to the PC in a panic. A passing merchant found his bride’s carriage overturned, the guards missing, blood everywhere!
  10. This adventure revolves around the PCs’ particular strengths, tailored for their backgrounds, prior contacts, and knowledge of the politics of the area thus far. Bandits kidnapped the Lady (paid by the political enemies of his “father”).
  11. An epic, drawn-out slugfest occurs, and the PCs return the Lady to her Lord. The Lady, who saved her sorcerer powers for just the right time, helps the PCs in any way she can. The DM uses that to save a PC’s life at just the right moment.
  12. Marthous says he can award one PC with knighthood and titled lands befitting his or her new station. He can then make the other PCs official Lord’s Men, men-at-arms with special privileges.
  13. The DM designs a small “bachelor party” adventure, complete with shenanigans and stealing the Bishop’s prized poodle.
  14. Wedding!
  15. Here the DM interjects two or three small adventures/encounters that revolve around the PC’s backstories, drives, or outright stated plans. Homebrew or off the shelf modules work well, here.
  16. Marthous finds out about his real father, and the events outlined in the villain’s description proceed.

That’s just one example of how to tie a bad guy up with the PCs, and this particular route would make Lord Marthous’s betrayal all the more painful. And Marthous is following the despot’s script: after the revolution, to preserve the state, someone must be punished for doing what had to be done, and the ones that did it must fall lest they do it again.

And let them go

A Picture of War

For Marthous’ betrayal to hit the players in the gut, they need to be invested in both him, his friendship, and the shared hardship or they all could hang for a tragic mistake. While the above is a linear progression from “Here’s an NPC” to “and now everything goes sideways,” there are numerous spots where the path wanders between a random encounter, a “pick your own adventure,” and adventurers according to PC actions/desires before the festivities start.

But, more importantly, there is a choice. And the PCs might choose to side with the King. And if they do, they have the terrible task of bringing their friend in for justice so he can be drawn and quartered for not only patricide but treason. Indeed, picking this route makes Lord Marthous all the more ruthless. He has nothing to lose and no friends to watch his back.

This is a campaign arc where there are no winners. The campaign starts in earnest with the Bastard Son’s Rebellion and should contain the majority of the campaign’s action cumulating in the only way it can: the PCs facing their former friend in a showdown for the Kingdom. It’s messy, bloody, and personal. At the end of the campaign, the PCs should be the last men and women standing. They are either the hero or the antihero, but whichever path they choose, they were not a lead-by-the-nose zeros.

And now, my friends, at the end of this arc, would be the most excellent time to introduce an outside threat—just when the Kingdom recovered from a rebellion. At her weakest, her real enemies attack.

Tomorrow we’ll go over how to pimp commercial modules to make them more personal for the players.

And for some villains with motivations other than twirling a great mustache, back Burials of Teganshire on Indiegogo today!

Burials of Teganshire

Crossbow Man would stick by his friend through thick and thin,
and betrayal would fill him with a righteous burning vengeance!

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Burials of Teganshire Post 5 of 30

So much has been said about making good villains for the D&D campaign that rehashing Villanous Design Philosophy is both superfluous and probably dull. Let’s just give you some! Here are six villans with motivations and that personalized touch to keep your players interested in the campaign world. We follow that up tomorrow with some villain integration tips—the mechanics of inserting the PCs nemesis into the game world.

Shall we begin?

The Dead Knight Harakan

The PCs Personal D&D Villains at Home

The Villainous Villains await!

1: CheryLynn, Vampire at Large

Long ago, a charismatic but lonely vampire stayed at the local inn, and, enamored with one of the peasant girls, engaged in a torrid affair that resulted in CheryLnn becoming a vampire herself. Ashamed at turning another woman into a damned thing, the master vampire fled, chased by an enraged CheryLnn. She eventually caught up to him and slew him. CheryLnn, wandering here and there, decided after a long while to research her affliction to cure it.

Lady CheryLnn is now an educated, but wicked, vampire with extensive wizard capabilities. She is convinced the path to a cure is running experiments on people related to her. After all these years, that is a considerable number of the local area’s inhabitants. All she wants is to be the girl she was so long ago and will let nothing stand in her way.

2. Ranger Gifford the Vigilante’s Sword

Witnessing a crime from a minor noble, the ranger Gifford took it upon himself to avenge the innocent outside of the King’s Law. And he got away with it. He’s been an unsung hero since, righting wrongs and punishing the guilty behind the scenes.

Unfortunately, Gifford’s actions are the direct manipulation of his corrupted, mighty longsword that whispers to him while he is sleeping, invading his dreams and replacing his original personality with one of its own choosing. Now it is turning Gifford into a captivating cult leader, to “gather the righteous for the True Inquisition.”

3. Yonson the Werewolf

Yonson is an anomaly of sorts—when he turns into a werewolf, he has a modicum of control over his great rage and viciousness. He plots to quietly take over the region, convinced that he is chosen to lead people into a better state of existence. Yonson is also motived by a series of odd images he received. After dragging a deer into a cave behind a waterfall to munch in private, he touched an old magical tablet and received a vision. Something thoroughly malevolent and destructive will be coming to the area, an ancient prophecy coming to fruition.

Yonson, in his mind, is doing all the right things, at any cost. If the PCs defeat him, they will have to deal with his nemesis alone, without the werewolf army.

4. The Dragon Duo

Moving into the local forest is a young green dragon, bent on turning the whole into a “proper wood where only the strong can tread.” Cagey, avoiding direct conflict, and devious, the green causes no end of trouble for the region.

When the PCs figure it out and decide to deal with the dragon, they are approached by a woman with a silver streak in her hair. She tells them the green is the last offspring of a famous, ancient green, and she was tasked to make sure nobody kills him before he’s able to learn the ways of men and avoid the King’s Dragon Hunters and preserve his great lineage. She claims to be a silver dragon named Missy and wants the PCs to capture the green and move him somewhere else without implicating her involvement.

If the PCs thought the green was bad, Missy is completely bad, a mighty dragon lich wanting the green for her own fell purposes. She is telling a half-truth—the green is the last of his line, but the forest contains a powerful warding stone against the undead. Missy wants to dupe the PCs to be her unwitting servants, turn the green into a lich, and destroy the warding stone.

5. Lord Marthous and the Lady

Lord Marthous and his wife are on the lam, hiding from the King’s Men. Lord Marthous recently found out he was the bastard son of the king and confronted the nobleman he thought was his father and also his mother for her discretion. The confrontation escalated out of control, and while fighting his step-father, his mother interjected herself in front of a mighty sword blow and died. Marthous in a rage then slew his step-father.

Hunted, despised for patricide, Lord Mathous and his wife fled but ran into a trio of paladins hunting them, the three not realizing that the Lady was a sorcerer with powers of her own. The duo slew the young knights.

Now Marthous is done running. He plans to clear his name by usurping the throne. He will replace the King, the man in his mind, the cause of all his troubles. He makes an impassioned plea for the PCs to help him. If the PCs join him, when he is successful in his plot, he will reward them with betrayal! He will blame them for the atrocities committed to ascend the throne (guilty or not) in order to appease the nobles still on the fence.

If the PCs refuse him upfront, he becomes a bitter enemy, and the King solicits their help in the dispute.

Either way, the PCs at some point will probably ask—are we the baddies?

6. Fey Gone Wild

Teamai, the elf druid, has in her possession a fey stone, a magical device that lets her summon fey to do her bidding. She has decided that she wants to take over her people’s ancestral lands, the place where the PCs are from. Young, idealistic, and charismatic, she wages a passive-aggressive war against the region, to have the populous rebel against the “wicked tyranny of the nobles” and replace them with her “rightful, benevolent rule.” It escalates, and people die.

PCs can convenience Teamai to stop her reign of terror or defeat her, but the fey stone has other ideas, turning to dust and seeping into her brain to directly control her (either alive or dead). Complicating matters a powerful elf matriarch shows up and pleads with the PCs to save her daughter, the rest of her children perished in war and Teamai is all she has left. And the nobles have plans of their own to protect themselves by doing away with the elves, who will respond in kind. Now, in addition to battling the fey stone zombie that is Teamai, genocide is staring at them in the mirror.

Want some more D&D or Pathfinder 1E Villains?

Back Burials of Teganshire on Indiegogo and get on some tragic villainy!

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I bet Crossbow Man thinks the monster at the bridge is the real enemy.

 

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Burials of Teganshire Post 4 of 30

Your D&D/Pathfinder games (and others, but Griffon Lore Games is currently only on these two systems) are not Hollywood.

The Hollywood-style dramatic plot doesn’t work for the D&D game table. The players may have a fantasy movie running through their heads, and the DM made have a fantasy movie in his head, but D&D is an interactive game. The story you want to tell is a bunch of friends getting together and laughing at just how bad the player rolled his wizard’s saving throws and had his PC fall into a pit of cow dung that was lit on fire, not some grandiose Game of Thrones mega-plot. That falls apart on Season 8 (ahem).

Plot Points in a Localized Campaign

“But Anthony! You just went over Characters and Setting! Now, this is a Plot post! That’s like a novel, Dude.”

Well, my friends, that’s life. More specifically, human history. There is nothing more compelling than human history. In history, we have people, we have places, and we have things that happened.

In a localized campaign, the goal is to make a small portion of the game world come alive, and “what happens in the world” should drive the “plot” of the campaign.

  1. NPCS have their motivates
  2. Players have their game drives—such as leveling their PC, having their PC get a Staff of the Magi, etc. Some players just want to show up and drink beer and roll dice. Obviously, their contribution to the plot will be small
  3. Setting changes—the king’s wayward sister rides into town. A flood. An earthquake. Bad draught. Diseased fauna. Etc.
  4. The main antagonists have his own motives

 These four localized history drivers look like this:

Now that the DM has a history of his world, shaped by players, NPCs, setting, and a bad guy, he or she can move forward with rolling dice and killing monsters. And that’s where adventures come in—a DM can run their own, pull one off the shelf, or, most likely, do a combination thereof. In a localized campaign:

  • Modules that have robust win and fail conditions fit in better than a “win at all costs or we failed the module” adventure
  • Adventure paths can offer a “road” for the PCs to drive down while the other portions of the game world churn. That is, it’s not that the PCs took care of the bad guy, it’s that they solved a problem so they can convince the mayor to back their village expansion. Or mining expedition.
  • Conflict is more personal. An attack on the village’s bridge on the trade road is an attack on the village. If the PCs don’t care about the village, because the description of it and the people in it are flat, or that they are going to “Level and Leave” then the adventure, the roll dice and kill monsters portion of your game, descends into murderhoboism.
  • Lore is only used insofar as applying detail for the PCs to add their own lore. Lore impacts everything and shapes everything. If you find your lore driving the plot, well, that’s not a player-centric game. That’s just you as a DM. Which is fine, as long as you know what you’re getting into.

The Story Thus Far

We’ve talked about avoiding giving the PCs the excuse to disconnect from the campaign world. We’ve also spoken about crunchy NPCs with minds of their own, not some convenient plot-forwarding device. Then we went over the setting, talking about maps and random encounters attached to the map.

“What comes next,” is a combination of all of that, and that’s Griffon Lore Games’ goal: give the DM a module that he or she can run with the tools that support the players feeling like it’s their game and their world, and that they aren’t just cogs in a storytelling machine to advance a plot.

Your PCs are making history. Use that history to give them conflict. Conflict causes action. And who doesn’t like an action-packed adventure?

Next, we’ll depart from the general concept of campaign philosophy and talk about villains. Because who doesn’t like a great villain? Villains are delicious. Let’s feast!

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Burials of Teganshire Post 3 of 30

Moving right along to our locality-based adventure settings, i.e., campaign play, we’ve talked about starting small and staying small. Especially with NPCs, staying local is not just some lazy DM technique, it’s the cornerstone to having the PCs shape the world around them while at the same time, instilling a sense of verisimilitude that said world has a life of its own. That’s a neat trick, yes?

The more often PCs move beyond a local setting, the more they leave behind NPCs with their own motivations and dispositions. They arrive at a new location and start over.

And I cannot stress this enough—it’s that start over that lets apathy set into your game table. Suddenly your PCs went from drama-inducing machines to (wait for it)—murderhobos.

Do you want murderhobos? Well, that’s how you get murderhobos.

Beyond crunchy NPCs with their own drama (character), the DM has a crucial tool in their toolbox, the local map (setting). Handdrawn maps on hex paper to the hyper-detailed Anna Meyer map, your local map only needs three things:

  1. A map scale to reinforce the local boundary
  2. Terrian that identifies the varied flora (farmland, forests, water, etc.)
  3. And most importantly, sites on the map for the PCs to wander into when they go off the beaten path

The Trope of Moving Beyond the Village

Before we go map-happy, let’s talk about a medieval trope—most villagers did not wander away from their village.

In D&D, we dial this trope to 11. Not only can you run into hostile people who don’t like you if you wander away from the village, but you can get eaten by a monster! PCs should be romanticized by the locals—like men-at-arms, traveling bards, couriers, and traders—PCs for good or bad are the people with the gumption to wander beyond the beaten path in search of fame, fortune, and honor. Villagers will think they are either unique and heroic, or unique and foolish. Either way, the PCs are starting to leave a stamp. What they do starts to impact NPC motivations.

The Local Area Map

All those things can occur in a barony-sized chunk of land. Make it a large barony, 144-square miles, and that is a fantastic amount of land, from a medieval perspective, even on horseback. Or, a DM can go old school and use a single 30-mile hex, a whopping 779-square mile chunk of land. Personally, I like the hex grid method. It’s Greyhawk-like, and I love me some Greyhawk.

Adventure Sites on your Map

How many adventure sites do you need? I suggest a different approach—how many random encounters do you have, and how much conflict do you want to articulate ahead of time? In a localized campaign, PCs are generating conflict and solving conflict. A DM needs room for expansion, so putting down twelve areas with a paragraph description, with the idea of creating twelve more as the campaign progresses, is a viable campaign (linked adventure) plan. As a DM, you need both the flexibility for the players to wander a bit, but also the ability to add a location, based on players generating encounter locations for you.

Picture this scene around the table—an innocent conversation between players.

Player 1: “That eff’n mimic was annoying. I hate those things.”

Player 2: “I wonder where it came from?”

Player 3: “Somewhere needs to receive all the fire.”

DM: (secretly writing notes)

And thus, the Great Mimic Breading Ground (heh, heh, heh) in the abandoned wizard tower basement (of course it was a wizard) was born. Player 1 secretly loved everything about the adventure. Player 2 regretted opening his big mouth. Player 3 enjoyed having her PC buy a wagon full of oil barrels. Player 4, the Druid, was sure annoyed with the resultant forest fire. Player 5 was eaten by a mimic and later picked a place on the map of where his new PC’s ranger uncle had a hunting cabin.

Random Encounters on your Map

Just as crucial of generating encounter sites (and an encounter does not always mean combat), the DM should have Random Encounter Tables ready to go, the number dependant on the landscape and people therein:

  • Village Random Encounter (rats, ruffians, drunkards, lost dog, belligerent guard, etc.)
  • Road Random Encounter
  • Woods Random Encounter
  • The Other Woods Random Encounter
  • Lake Random Encounter
  • Repeat the above, except at night

Etc. Random Encounters are an essential tool in the DM Toolbox. It’s the mechanism in which the randomness of dice gives the game world a chance to interject itself as an entity, rather than careful plots, narratives, and plans. When they are location-based, they are just as important, if not more, than the static encounter placed there.

In a game world, “stuff happens.” There is a trifecta for localized campaigning, each as important as the other:

  1. DM created encounters
  2. Player generated encounters
  3. Random encounters

Consider random encounters the Game World having a say, and your gameworld needs to make itself known in a localized campaign.

Map-Based Random Encounters — Frequency

There are several methods for encounters, here are the rules we frequently use, rolling for an encounter when:

  1. The players are moving from point A to point B
  2. Players arrive at point B
  3. Every four hours
  4. Players do something that generates attention

Encounters happen on a d12 if the dice shows an 11 or 12. On a 12, the DM makes the encounter more difficult—adding a monster, making the NPC more belligerent, adding environmental effects such as rain or fog, maximizing monster hitpoints, etc.

Map-Based Random Encounters — the Table

Spending time on the encounter table is worthwhile, and there are several different ways to do it. My favorite method is a list from 2 to 20. Roll 2d10, and run the encounter indicated on the dice.

What to put on the table? It should be specific to the day/night cycle and location. Coming up with the 2 to 20 encounters, in 2020, is easy. If you’re having trouble, take encounter tables from anywhere–the web, old modules, your notes–and mix and match while putting in your own flair.

In addition to monsters, I always have:

  • Mystery encounters (“you come across a campfire still smoldering, but no one is around”)
  • Odd encounters (“riding a large centipede is a tiny sprite, complete with reigns and a tiny saddle”)
  • Helpful encounters (“an apple tree with fruit ready for picking”)
  • Fauna encounters (“several deer are nearby, oblivious of your presence”)
  • Weather encounters (“an odd shift in the wind carries with it the hint of rain”)

The Local Map: Beyond the Village

So we’ve talked about the map, tropes, and placing encounter locations and leaving enough room for expansion, so now let’s talk about the map itself. We’re going to use an Anna Meyer map from Curse of the Lost Memories.

The Lost Barony of Wailmoor Map

Click on the Map to Embiggen

This map has some locations therein outlined in the module. Even if you didn’t want to use the module, a DM could purchase the map separately. There are some exotic locations, a castle, a temple, tors, obelisks, a bog, etc. There is plenty of room on this map for the DM to place to expand.

And this is where Griffon Lore Game location maps are a cut above. With the amount of terrain detail on the map, the map itself generates encounter ideas due to its gorgeous precision. A flying monster can rost on top of one of the tors, or a rebel wizard can have a secret lair underneath it. Just by looking at our maps, the DM has a greater understanding of what the localized campaign physically looks like and can add his or her own flair accordingly.

And we’ve stripped this map of detail from 300 DPI to 96 DPI so it can display on the web. You can get the 300 DPI version at our web store.

Switching maps, here’s a web version of the local map in Burials of Teganshire.

Burials of Teganshire Local Map

Click on the Map to Embiggen

If I was adding an encounter to this map, you know what I would do? I would place an location on these three little river islands:

  • Haunted camp-site, where the ghost of Marylou died in a flash flood waiting for her lover—who was with another woman
  • Beligenant giant freshwater pistol shrimp
  • Sunken treasure—a chest containing a magical folding boat
  • The secret place where the horse-lord of Harasdra likes to fish with his buddies

And that was just a tiny portion of the map. This is a localized campaign map for sure, and it’s spectacular. Back Burials of Teganshire on Indiegogo to add it to your collection!

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Go on, Crossbow Man. Step on the bridge.

 

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Burials of Teganshire Post 2 of 30

Yesterday we talked about Player Character investment in the game world, adding extra sauce to the Player Characters’ adventuring shenanigans. Detail about the immediate world adds verisimilitude. By keeping things local, PC actions have a significant impact on the game world until, after a while, it is their shaped gameworld.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Localized Campaigning, the Map Post, but let’s dive into products that take Non-Player Character descriptions to the next level–Griffon Lore Game’s very own Curse of the Lost Memories and Lenard Lakofka’s The Secret of Bone Hill. In the trifecta of Plot, Setting, and Characters, it’s the NPCs that can make or break your adventure backdrop.

Welcome to Restenford, home of the crunchy NPCs

Lenard Lakofka’s The Secret of Bone Hill is an excellent example of cramming a metric RPG-ton of roleplaying goodness into a sandbox. Indeed, there is an entire blog dedicated to ruminations about the location.

There are town and surrounding area maps, but it’s the NPCs (along with a good DM) that makes adventuring there come alive. Lakofka went out of his way to present NPCs with motivations, flaws, and secrets. He also had a list of rumors, both false and true. And the factions presented therein could generate conflict and drama with the PCs merely visiting one before the other. Restenford is The Village of Hommlet on steroids.

As I recall:

  • The Baron was a good man but had his flaws, such as greed.
  • A wizard rents one of the castle’s towers, so he lives there but isn’t necessarily the Baron’s man
  • The Baron’s wife is a priestess with her own life outside of her marriage
  • His daughter wants his position
  • Retired vets that watch over the town their way complete with vigilante justice
  • The spies
  • Some crazy dude with a split personality, one good, the other thoroughly evil
  • Etc.

Crunchy. The NPCs of Restenford are crunchy. They seem to generate conflict just by existing, and conflict makes drama and drama makes for great D&D. Stuffing such into the small environment makes Bone Hill a perfect module to model a sandbox location for low-level PCs base of operations.

10/10, will Restenford again.

The Tiny Crossroads Village of NPC Motivations

Griffon Lore Game’s Curse of the Lost Memories has a small village at the crossroads of two Roman-like paved roads:

The Crossroads Village

At the Crossroads (isn’t this a great map? Click here to purchase the hi-res and VTT version) we have three farms that supply the village inn, the lord’s manor, and the stable. There are stats for all of the village inhabitants and any noteworthy callouts. But more important to the DM are three key factors where each important PC has a:

  1. List of Motivations 
  2. “What they know” description
  3. PC disposition list (what they do if they are Friendly, Neutral, Indifferent, Hostile, etc.)

Again: Conflict causes action. Action causes drama. Drama is a thing that turns the backdrop of your adventures from a two-dimensional picture to an engaging experience using dice.

When NPCs have their own motivations, they will cause conflict with other NPCs, the PCs, and even–on occasion–themselves. Motives don’t necessarily need to be listed in a neat paragraph, but certainly used throughout an adventure or setting.

Let’s use an example, the Viscount Marris Argona from the Viscounty of Kandra Gazetteer.

Viscount Marris Argona

Marris Argona is the current Viscount in Kandra. He was appointed by the King about eight years ago after the previous Viscount died. He is married to Lady Felren, a low-level, but valued priestess.

 Argona is a diplomatic man in his late forties and has a quiet intensity to him. He is friends with the King and has a reputation of careful thought in times of peace and decisive, strategic thinking in times of strife. It was a surprise that the King appointed Argona, whose family ruled the small town of Semelen, over more prominent and experienced horse-lords when the Viscounty title was in play. Argona still faces political tension and must continuously prove to his horse-lords that the King has made the right choice.

Motivations

      • Keep Kandra safe. Maintain investment in the military to defend the northern borders from humanoids.
      • Control the witches, so they continue serving Kandra. Give them some of the lands they ask for while preventing them from branching off into a separate nation.
      • Maintain the proud and independent horse-lords’s loyalty to the crown.
      • Manage the influence of the neighboring, over-religious Duchy of Hardred. Hardred is frustrated at the low importance of the clergy in Kandra.

Perspectives:

      • The witch Kavita is both my best advisor and my worst enemy. I am scared of her.
      • The dwarves are a potent and robust power in the Viscounty. I need to reinforce their role in Kandra’s politics and use them to balance the power of the witches.
      • I am worried that the druids do not have a counter-power in Kandra. They are currently friends and allies to the Viscounty. However, should that change for any reason, I’d be in a weak position to push against them.

You can find the description of the Viscount and more in the Viscounty of Kandra Gazetteer, free to backers of the Burials of Teganshire adventure on Indiegogo.

Another example is Sir Walshan, the Knight of the Crossroads:

Sir Walshan's Motivations

Walshan has base and clichéd motivations, but they are legitimate, given the circumstances. However, the last paragraph in his motivational list is most telling–he gives PCs practical advice that, if followed, gives them an advantage in the Curse of the Lost Memories mega-module: establishing a base of operations is almost a necessity. PCs that do not do so usually wind up dead from attrition in the Lost Barony of Wailmoor.

Tying it all together

NPCs that have motivations, perspectives on their present circumstance, and listed dispositions seem to breathe independently. The DM can portray them as people that live their lives as the PC leave an area and come back.

It is a daunting task to outline an NPC (and in a module, bloat your page count). For Burials of Teganshire, we don’t list NPCs dispositions due to the fast and furious nature of the task at hand (save the bridge!). But in the follow-up module, we sure will, as if the PCS were mean to the bar owner of the Bouncing Mutt, she isn’t going to give them free beer for a job well done, or that the man in the corner keeps looking at them as if he was thinking about which PC to backstab first.

And that’s another reason to start small when starting a campaign. Fleshing out a ton of NPCs this way is an excellent way to fall asleep at your desk. A localized campaign will keep your players coming back for more, without a ton of prep work that may or may not become useful as the PCs engage the adventure.

Burials of Teganshire Adventure Module

The village of Teganshire is small, and we present a few NPCs of worth (with more to come in the next installment!). These NPCs present an aura of living there, rather than serving as a quest giver with an exclamation point over their heads. Right now, they are breathing. Soon they will be crunchy.

Purchase Burials of Teganshire by backing our Indiegogo campaign, both in PDF, softcover, or both.

Burials of Teganshire

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Give your PCs an excuse not to care, and they’ll take it every time.

Burials of Teganshire Post 1 of 30

The number one campaign killer, in my realm of experience, is apathy for the game world. Burials of Teganshire puts in the work to help a DM avoid the Shiv of Don’t Care. Go to the crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to get your copy.

Once apathy sets in, the campaign putters out. Goes splat. Deflates. Poofs in a puff of sadness (and sadness poofs are the saddest poofs of them all). Over the next several days, we’ll be discussing the player association to a campaign and ways a DM can jump on the verisimilitude bandwagon.

Start Local, Expand Slowly only As-Needed

Locality is the number one tool in the DMs toolbox to engage the PCs with the game world. Let’s talk about two products that start small and stay within local boundaries, The Village of Hommlet today and the Crossroads Village in our product, Curse of the Lost Memories, for tomorrow’s Locality Post.

The Village of Hommlet

Gygax’s The Village of Hommlet is, even after all these years (or perhaps more so), an excellent product containing maps, some of them quite detailed, and descriptions of all the movers and shakers of Homlet. Off the top of my head, we have:

  • Brune and Rufus, mostly their own faction but within the power-circle of the Viscount of Verbobonic
  • The villagers, led by the Mayor, including the Inn of the Welcome Wench
  • The Church of St. Cuthbert, which includes their generous temple
  • A Druid oversees the worship of the “old faith” and reports to a more extensive druid network
  • Evil spies for two factions that oppose each other and the powers in the village!
  • A spy for the Viscount, my favorite fake man-at-arms and actual ranger, Elmo

This cast of charters, along with the maps, descriptions of each building, and detailed descriptions where Gygax was expounding on role-playing opportunities, makes it seem that this is a real village. Hommlet has people that lead their little fake RPG lives, even when the characters are not there. Coupled with the Ruins of the Moathouse chapter, the product, (best found in the mega-module Temple of Elemental Evil), has a ton of campaign play without a lot of fluff.

Now-imagine PCs, interacting with all these people, heading next door to Nulb, and then the Temple itself.

Now take those PCs, who probably have a house in Hommlet they built, or rooming with Brune and Rufus, and for the next adventure, shift them 800 miles east. The welcoming wenches were never seen again.

Please Don’t Go!

I get it. You got a great adventure, a great map, and the village of Hommlet is a hamlet. The campaign runs well, and the adventurers are wealthy from their deceptions and shenanigans in the yon Evil Temple.

And they may not come to you and say, “Yo, DM! This little village is terrific! We should never leave!” Maybe they are thinking of that time they tricked the Earth Temple into Going at it with the Air Temple below–but all that skulduggery happened in a game world, a detailed game world.

And the PCs, by interacting with the world, have molded it, and their actions impacted everyone around them. It’s now their world, and more so than Gyax or the DMs.

 Burials of Teganshire Local MapNote the map scale. You can cram an entering campaign worth of adventures here and still have plenty of room for the PCs to make their mark.

Don’t throw away that goodness for the new shiny. Good players will care about that village (even if they want to burn Nulb to the ground and build a castle), but if the DM does not, they will soon lose interest. Apathy creeps in, and while there is nothing wrong with rolling dice and killing monsters, rolling dice and killing monsters in a fictional home makes it all the more satisfying.

Burials of Teganshire

We designed Burials of Teganshire for the DM to place just about anywhere. The module and most of the campaign (adventure path) takes place within a day’s travel of the village of Teganshire. If that intrigues you, head on over to Indiegogo and back it. You’ll get an old-school Locality introduction module.

Back us on Indiegogo for some classic, RPG good times!

Burials of Teganshire on Indiegogo Likelihood of rescuing that villager that was working on the bridge–low.

 

 

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