The Keys of Heraka-at: Adventure Background

A-Z 2014 KJust as well I slept on it. The Keys of Heraka-at looks like it went from “single adventure” to “opening of a two-campaign bundle”. I don’t have all the details yet, I’m feeling for the shape of it, but here’s what I’ve got so far.

It will be building on and making some minor changes to GreyKnight’s suggestion from a few days ago.

“The island is named Stormhame. The ancient line of the Thunder Kings once harnessed the potent magical energies of the skies in this place, and kept the surrounding areas under their rule. Although Stormhame’s influence has waned since the end of the Thunder Kings’ line, they are still a big player: they are active in the political arena, and the island also remains the home of the Shrine of Ferocity and its priests.”

I’m going to make a small change to an assumption most people might make from that description: the Donnerkonig (‘Thunder Kings’ in German is evidently ‘Donner Könige’, so this is a reasonable anglicization) not necessarily of the same family. They found it a useful fiction, and they were in the best position to see that their offspring were able to inherit their power, but ultimately it was truly a meritocracy, based on ability and worthiness.

And at the end, the Donnerkonig were not worthy.

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Kobold Kommandos

A-Z 2014 KIt’s been a long week of short nights, and frankly I’m exhausted right now. I’m going to finish this raspberry tea and crash for the night. I’ll come back in the morning to write about the Keys of Heraka-at.

For now, enjoy one from the archives, Kobold Kommandos: Princessesssss. This is a session report from a friend of mine, telling of a particularly seat-of-the-pants session.

I have since had confirmation from another friend who played in this sesssion and says that even as well-presented as this is, it still doesn’t quite capture how epic the session actually was.

I think the DM and the players should be commended for how they did here. This is the sort of thing memories — legends — are made of.



This particular anecdote is called “Princessesssss” locally (spoken in a particularly squeaky reptilian voice), because role playing Princess-obsessed kobolds for what became eight hours straight really gets to a guy after a while.

We ended up with a party of Kobolds when the group was exploring the concept of Level Adjustment, a D&D thing that fills the same niche as paying points to play a kewl race (only you pay character levels). One player was flipping idly through the Monster Manual hoping for inspiration when he stopped and asked if Kobolds get bonus levels. The DM quickly ruled “no”, but everyone was so tickled by the idea of Kobolds with class levels that suddenly we had a party of four kobolds.

Kobolds with class levels are dangerous things.

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Jumbled Adventure Structure

A-Z 2014 JI have talked in the past of how I dislike linear scenarios and adventure paths. A friend has described strongly-linear games as “walking in a painted tube” because you can see what you are presented, and your only real choices are to go forward or maybe to go back.

As a general rule, for such scenarios to ‘work’ the PCs have to stick somewhat close to the plot. Deviating from this plot can disrupt the adventure and potentially invalidate prepared material. ‘Derailed’ is the term often used for this circumstance, for good reason, and many consider it a bad thing. I have seen advice in many places about how to prevent this from happening and (sometimes ‘gently’) guide the PCs back on-course, and I have seen advice to mitigate the impact of the PCs’ actions on the plot, and…

Wait. Mitigate the PCs’ actions on the plot? Let’s call that what it is, “stripping player agency”.

Okay, let’s don’t do that. Instead, let’s use a structure that doesn’t depend on players following a particular path. Better yet, let’s use a structure that gives players choices that can change how the scenario plays out.

In other words, don’t plan for a particular story to be told, write the ‘story’ after that tells what happened during.

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Joachim Baas, Pirate Hunter

A-Z 2014 JAbout ten years ago I played in a campaign based on the Warhammer setting. We were operating out of Mordenheim, nominally working for a “Mr. Graf”, a businessman with broad contacts within the community and an almost-explicable amount of wealth because of it.

My first character, Jerris the Toolsmith… well, evasion doesn’t work when you fail your Reflex save, and that much fire is bad for a third-level character’s complexion. His cousin swept up the ashes and took him home, and my next character was Joachim Baas, assigned to provide transportation and ship-based support in dealing with some business- and merchant-related difficulties at sea.

Joachim Baas

Wave of Manaan, Sea Ranger, Scourge of Pirates, Captain of the Kestrel.


Theme: Priest of Manaan, lord of the sea and sailor’s doom [in the 'this is fated' sense, not necessarily 'you gonna die']. Has a reputation for being dangerous and generous to his crew — sail with him and survive, you will likely be rich, sail with him and die, your family will be cared for…. (Also, Secret Imperial Agent.)

Threats: Hunts pirates and slavers, fights Chaos (self-preservation, and because Chaos-allies often are involved with piracy and slavery), secret agent of the Empire in working to bring Mordenheim under the Imperial Hand.

Rewards: Knowledge of and access to the Temple of Manaan, can often be persuaded to take on sea-based missions if they align with his purpose [your family was killed by pirates or taken by slavers? Entirely possibly he'll hunt them down for you].
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Imagination, and How I Fake It

A-Z 2014 II have a very structured mind. I have been told that I am remarkably adept at organizing information and making sense of things.

I never been told I have a great imagination, and honestly, I can’t disagree with that assessment. It’s a bit of an inconvenience when designing things — I can build almost anything, once I know what it is, but deciding what to build is a challenge.

My brain categorizes things and looks for patterns. A useful ability professionally, but when I want to design something, to be imaginative, it gets in the way because I keep falling back on the patterns. When I my campaigns fall in a rut they fall a long, long way, far enough to lose cell phone coverage.

That sucks, so I have developed a toolkit that hopefully helps me avoid that. I describe the five major components of it below.
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