Adapting WRATH OF THE KOBOLDS to Popular Settings

The WRATH OF THE KOBOLDS series puts a band of low-level characters directly into the path of a kobold warlord bent on recovering his race’s lost glory. The modules are out and available for D&D 5th Edition, Pathfinder, Swords & Wizardry, Savage Worlds, and Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, and I hope you’ve got your copies, either digital or physical.

In each module I include a section about adapting the adventure to an existing campaign setting, as I’ve tried to make them as generic as possible in order to fit into as many settings as possible. This is both a blessing and a curse – sure, it would be nice to actually tie the adventure into a setting specifically, but then I’m locked into that setting! I’d rather keep things as generic as possible and provide advice on how and where to stick it in the many published settings available.

Hence this blog post! It’s a long time coming, so I apologize for that, but it’s also a bit of a bear to write. I’m going to look at several of the more popular settings, both classic and currently in print. This includes: Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Mystara, Eberron, Golarion, and Garweeze Wurld. Before diving into each one, let’s take a quick look at the key aspects of the WRATH OF THE KOBOLDS setting that need to be adapted into an existing setting.

  • City of Cresthill (gnomish city). Featured in WK0 Night of the Mad Kobold, Cresthill was built as a gnome city because kobolds hate gnomes, and I honestly think gnomes get a bit of the shaft when it comes to published material.
  • Town of Ormkirk. A small isolated community that is featured in both WK1 Caves of the Kobold Queen and WK3 Revenge of the Over-Kobold. Out of the way, relatively small, located along a little-used trade route are the elements I’m looking for here.
  • Talon Hills. These are the hills featured in WK1 Caves of the Kobold Queen. Rocky hills where kobolds live, seems pretty straightforward.
  • Liverswood. This is a forest with a gnome librarian in it, but ideally it would be a bit away from civilization. Introduced in WK2 Curse of the Kobold Eye but also fits in with WK3 Revenge of the Over-Kobold.
  • Ruins of Silvergaeral. Featured in WK2 Curse of the Kobold Eye this is a gnomish city lost in the mountains.
  • Wild Mountains. A generic mountain range that is featured in both WK2 Curse of the Kobold Eye and WK3 Revenge of the Over-Kobold. Ideally would already have tribes of kobolds living in them.

Those are the big elements in the series that need to have analogs of some kind for the modules to work as best as possible. Let’s look at each setting and see what we can connect!

Forgotten Realms

Ed Greenwood’s brainchild from before D&D was a thing, Faerun has seen a lot of love from the official channels for many years, and for 5th Edition is the default setting for the Wizards of the Coast produced adventure modules. There are a lot of places to choose, but for me I would look at the Sunset Mountains and the Far Hills. (Note: I’m using the map from the 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting hardcover book.) I know the Realms underwent a lot of changes in 4E and that a lot of those changes were then reversed for 5E, so ultimately I think this area probably still works. The town of Hluthvar, north of Iriaebor, could stand in for Ormkirk nicely. Honestly, I would use Cresthill as a trade city on the River Chionthar between Iriaebor and Scornubel exactly as is!

Eberron

Published as a new setting for 3rd Edition after an exhaustive public search, Eberron is the work of Keith Baker, and in it he blends sword, sorcery, and steampunk into a wonderful mashup of fantasy pulp. Lightning trains, living spells, intrigue, and more adventure than you can shake a stick at can be found across the continent of Khorvaire, and certainly the machinations of a kobold warlord fit right in with the setting’s sensibilities. I would look to Zilargo as a broad setting, and then choose either the northern or southern end of the Howling Peaks (the northern end sits in Breland with the southern end exists in Zilargo). Zilargo is the kingdom of the gnomes in Khorvaire, so it makes thematic sense to choose that area. Ormkirk can be placed as is in the hills leading to the Howling Peaks easily enough, and the history of the gnomes of Silvergaeral can be worked into House Sivis’ own backstory. Liverswood can be placed in the forest south of Reven as well, and I think you can use Tzanthus for Cresthill without any problems. (Note: I’m using the Eberron Campaign Setting hardcover book for 3rd Edition as my source and map.)

Greyhawk

Ahh, the classic. The stomping grounds of Gary Gygax and the original band of gamers in the Lake Geneva area. For me, it’s always held a special place – many of my own home games have been set on Oerth. For the WRATH OF THE KOBOLDS series, there are a few good options, but the one I would personally choose would be the region of the Cairn Hills and Abb0r Alz mountains, east of Woollly Bay. The area has long been the haunt of monsters and dangerous sites, so Ormkirk can be placed as is on the eastern edge of the Plain of Greyhawk without missing a beat. Likewise, Cresthill can be placed along the Selintan River south of Greyhawk City, or on one of the tributaries that join from the east. Silvergaeral fits nicely into the Abbor Alz mountains themselves, perhaps tracing routes back to the founding of Urnst on its eastern slopes. (Note: I’m using the Greyhawk regional map from the From the Ashes boxed set for my map with updates and references from the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer.)

Mystara

The Known World of Mystara came about from the Basic D&D boxed set as a generic setting to place all of the adventures in. Eventually, it was supported with a series of fantastic setting gazetteers (13 of them as I recall) each detailing one of the major nations of the core setting. I myself adapted the WRATH OF THE KOBOLDS series for own home game, so I have first-hand knowledge here! For my game I placed Cresthill on the Windrush River between Verge and Rifflian in Karameikos, and then established a little-used trade route that went west from Rifflian to Luln, skirting between the Cruth Lowlands to the north and the Radlebb Woods to the south. Ormkirk was placed on this route, so the caves were located in the Cruth Lowlands, and I placed Silvergaeral in the Black Peak Mountains. The Lost Library of Liverswood became the Lost Library of Riverfork to the west, just to the north of Black Eagle Barony. It all worked very well! (Note: I’m using the maps and details from GAZ1: Grandy Duchy of Karameikos for the setting.)

Golarion

The base setting for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Golarion has enjoyed a great deal of support from Paizo since its release. The Inner Sea Reigon (oops, the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting hardcover book had a map and the map is misspelled!) is rich, vast, and varied, and there are near countless placed to set the WRATH OF THE KOBOLDS series. If it were me, I would look to Varisia, which was not incidentally the region focused on by the first adventure path (Rise of the Runelords). It’s wild enough to have all the elements, so I would look to the Red Mountains (east of Brinewall) as the foundation. You can use Brinewall instead of Cresthill easily enough, or add in Cresthill as a sister trade city on the Steam River, and then place Ormkirk south, east of the Velashu River. The nearby Lurkwood could hold a gnome librarian, and the Red Mountains themselves could hide Silvergaeral. In this case, I would move the Over-Kobold’s Castle Kragtooth to the Stony Mountains just to get some breathing room.

Garweeze Wurld

If you know me or have read my blog for a bit, you should already know that I love Knights of the Dinner Table. I think it is the best RPG-related comic on the market, and perhaps the best RPG-related product (certainly in the top 5!). The Knights play a fictionalized version of D&D called HackMaster, which incidentally was actually released as a wacky licensed version of AD&D 2nd Edition by Kenzer & Company, and then updated to be it’s own game a few years ago. Garweeze Wurld is the official setting of the Knights’ version of HackMaster, and Kenzer & Co released a fantastic PDF product detailing the core setting. I loved it, and I actually wrote WK1 Caves of the Kobold Queen to fit into that setting first. Where did I put it? In the Shadlurian Kingdom, north and east of the Fangaerian City States! Ormkirk was originally the town of Talert, and the Talon Hills were originally the Galon Hills. I would keep it the same place Cresthill south of Talert on one of the small rivers. The Galon Hills would also hold Silvergaeral and the forces of the Over-Kobold, so it becomes less mountains and more rocky hills, but that’s fine! (Note: I used the Wurld of Aldrazar PDF for reference and maps.)

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 11 – Game Affect

Lots of stuff going on, both professionally and personally. I can’t talk about a lot of it, but I can say that the contracts are out to the various freelancers for the next full module from Cut to the Chase Games. Work is also progressing on a few 0 modules, which is exciting. But let’s get on with the #RPGaDay 2016 post for the day!

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11) Which game most affected the way you play?

A surprisingly tricky question couched in a simple form. I’ve played a lot of games over the years, but for the most part I’ve gravitated towards the big ones – D&D in all of its forms and Call of Cthulhu being the big ones. And while I love D&D and owe much of my personal experience and growth to it, I’m going to say the game that has most affected the way I play is the original Deadlands.

Deadlands was my first major deviation from AD&D and it opened my eyes in a lot of ways. I first came upon the game on a high school band trip to Chicago, where we stopped at a huge mall on the city’s western outskirts (truthfully I don’t recall the name of it). The mall had a small game/comic shop, and on its shelves I found a brilliantly hued orange book with a provocative image of an undead gunslinger on the cover. I picked it up, flipped it open, and discovered an introduction by THE MAN himself, Bruce Campbell, inside. I purchased it immediately on these merits.

I remember clearly returning to the hotel and flipping through the book, admiring the artwork while my mind raced with the crazy combination of horror and western (and I still love the epithet “spaghetti western with meat!” the book proposed in the short marshal’s section). This would have been 1999 so the book would have been the revised 2nd edition, though I didn’t know that at the time at all.

Deadlands sat on my shelf for a few years, and I think it was the summer of 2001 (after graduation) that I finally dove into the book and mechanics and started up a game. That first session was a bit rocky, and the original Deadlands rules (now referred to as Deadlands Classic) were a bit fiddly. I don’t recall the scenario itself, but I know it was one out of one of the books I had.

I was tantalized and my players were hooked, but we decided to get a few more people together and try it again. I picked a different scenario to start with out of the “Fire & Brimstone” supplement. I think the scenario was called “The Mission” and took place at a Spanish mission where something had gone horribly wrong. We played one night in a friend’s basement as the posse saddled up to figure out what was going on.

That session was fantastic. I pulled the players to the side and described their visions as they explored the haunted mission, which as I recall had something terrible in a well. The game allowed me to tap into visceral horror images and it backed up that feeling with game mechanics.

Deadlands showed me many things. For one, it was the first game I ran where the rules for the GM (the Marshal) were “allowed” to be simple. Voodoo rites, ancient sorcery, black magic, it all used the same simple rules for the Marshal (whereas for players there were different subsystems for hucksters and the like). The game taught me as a GM the basic principle of KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid! This would become an invasive part of all my games going forward.

It also married the setting to the game mechanics, and for my money no game has done it better since or before. A deck of cards was used for initiative, poker chips were used as “fate points,” and colored paper clips kept track of health by body part. Sure, things could get a little fiddly, with a character’s Wind going down with every hit, but truthfully I ended up ignoring a lot of the things that didn’t quite work at my table (Wind I just forgot about most of the time!). The game worked beautifully, and it really kindled in me a love of western movies (and rekindled a love of horror movies too!).

I haven’t played Deadlands Classic in a long time, and the company (Pinnacle Entertainment) released a streamlined version of the game called Savage Worlds in 2006 that I’ve been played a lot of over the the years. And Savage Worlds took a lot of the principles of KISS and applied them to the system as a whole, which works very well, but if I were to head back out on that ol’ dusty trail I think I would go back to the classic rules. Savage Worlds sacrifices a bit too much of the grittiness that I fell in love with for a more pulpy feel, which works very well for a great many settings – but for me, it just fails to capture that Deadlands feeling I fell in love with.

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 10 – Game Surprise

It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s Comic Book Day! Huzzah! I’m incredibly fortunate to have a significant other who enjoys comic books just as much as myself (maybe more!), though our tastes differ. What this means is a pull list that, at one point, included nearly all of the All New Marvel titles. But, I’ll be honest, Marvel is relaunching – AGAIN – this fall under the Marvel NOW label, and some of the titles are getting reboots and some are continuing. It’s enough to put a bad taste in my mouth for the whole thing. DC’s Rebirth series, on the other hand, I’m enjoying, even more than New 52 a few years ago. But I’m trying not to go nuts with adding DC titles to the pull list as well.

Enough about comics, though. On to #RPGaDay 2016 Day 10!

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10) Largest in-game surprise you have experienced?

Hands down, the largest in-game surprise for me came from my first big, story-based campaign, which I ran in high school. I was weaned on the Dragonlance novels (Chronicles, specifically) and enthralled with the fact that it was a series of D&D modules before it was a trilogy of novels. If they could do it, why couldn’t I? So I put together a campaign setting, Cosmic Forge, and built a story that honestly hit many of the same story beats as Dragonlance.

It was a great time and my players seemed to be invested in the game as well, which made things all the more enjoyable. This was AD&D 2nd Edition, and mages were not a popular choice for characters – they tended not to live past the first few levels and the options available to them at those entry levels were quite limited. But, one of my players – Jesse Towers – created a mage named Maverist. He was the Raistlin character of the group, though I’m confident Jesse had not read Dragonlance – he had just rolled badly for Constitution in this case!

Maverist was a member of the adventuring party that fought dragon armies, elven ghosts, and horrendous monsters, and through it all he was a … well, he was a bit of a dick. Jesse played him as a self-centered, selfish mage who knew he was destined for greater things, and he viewed the other characters as mere stepping stones on his path to power. He was an interesting, engaging character and helped to create a lot of dramatic moments for the campaign.

But the most surprising in-game moment came pretty late in the campaign. I don’t recall a lot of the specifics, but I had introduced the Hand of Vecna to the party as a major relic. Maverist became obsessed with it, and after they recovered the evil relic he volunteered to lop off his hand and attach the artifact to the stump. As I recall the party needed some information that the Hand of Vecna was supposed to possess so this was met with grudging approval from the rest of the party.

The Hand … changed Maverist. I used it to whisper suggestions to the player representing the baleful will of the powerful artifact, and Jesse took to the suggestions with particular glee. Under the influence of the Hand, Maverist became more and more brazen, and seemed to care less and less about his companions. It all came to a head in a small dungeon the party was exploring (the Lost Shrine of Bundushatur as I recall, an RPGA module released by TSR) where some calamity befell the party. When the smoke cleared, Maverist had failed his saving throw and lay dead.

And that’s when the players, sans Jesse, met to discuss what to do. It was a great roleplaying moment – as the DM I assumed the party was going to raise Maverist from the dead. They had the means, and it was another player’s character. It was assumed on my part, and not just because I had more things I wanted to use Maverist for in the campaign.

But the party decided NOT to raise Maverist, and they came together to tell Jesse about the decision. It stands as the most surprising in-game moment that I can recall, and while Jesse understood I’m pretty sure he was very disappointed. I worked later to bring Maverist back as an NPC villain, and Jesse made up a new character, but I could sense a major shift in the campaign at that point. It was thankfully towards the end, and to this day I remember Maverist and the decision made by a party not to bring him back.

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 9 – Ideal Session

Tuesday comes in like a lamb, but will it go out like a lion? Not likely. It’s only Tuesday. What does IT know? Ahem. It’s time for another thrilling installment in the #RPGaDay series!

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9) Beyond the game, what’s involved in an ideal session?

An ideal session requires one thing summed up by two words – player agency. When the players are engaged and feel like their decisions matter, they become actively involved in the events and stakes of the session. For me, this doesn’t happen very often, but when it does everything just works.

For as long as I’ve been gaming (over 25 years!), I’ve been reading Knights of the Dinner Table. I was first introduced to it through the pages of Dragon Magazine, and a high school friend turned me on to the existence of the comic book. I started with issue #19 (Heroes of the HackLeague), which still ranks as my favorite issue hands down, and I’ve been following religiously ever since. I have now every issue from #10 through #234 (the current issue), it being my largest and most complete comic book collection.

Why do I bring this up? Because I have always been envious of B.A. Felton, the GM for the Knights. He spends hours and hours working on his scenarios and his players constantly “thwart” him. I’m envious because those players – scheming Brian, simple Dave, angry Bob, and even pacifist Sara – are invested in the game and the setting enough to come up with in game reasons to “undermine” B.A.’s game. They know the source material, they know the rules, they know the setting, and they use this information to take control of the game, something that B.A. should be doing willingly but he ends up fighting every turn.

Now, Knights of the Dinner Table is a comic book and these characters are ageless specters of a gaming world that (for me) never existed, but they offer ideas on how I can spur my players into owning their decisions and becoming more invested in the game.

One thing that helps, I think, is to provide maps to the players. World maps, specifically, to give them the same sense of scale and proportion that the GM has. This is one of the reasons why I tend to gravitate towards pre-made campaign settings (my current game is a 5th Edition version of Mystara’s Known World). Providing overview information on the nations, powers, and major communities of the setting is imperative as well. Personally, as both a player and a GM I find walls of historical texts about a fictional game world to be uninspiring – I’d much rather see the punched up versions of the current state of affairs, as it’s A) easier to remember and B) easier to convey. Mystara is good for this as there’s a wealth of information and maps available (Vaults of Pandius is a wonderful site for this kind of information).

Anytime I can help foster player agency, even at my own detriment, I will do so without fail.

Monday Workload 8/8/2016

I thought it would be a good idea to let people know what’s being actively developed at Cut to the Chase Games – I know I enjoy these kind of glimpses into the design process that other companies do. I’m going to try and post up a quick rundown of what’s on the plate for CttC Games for the upcoming week, so why not start with today?

  • TG0 Depths of the Croaking Grotto: This will be the next release from Cut to the Chase Games, introducing the MEMORIES OF THE TOAD GOD series. It will go up as a Pay What You Want title for 5th Edition, Pathfinder, DCC RPG, Swords & Wizardry, and Savage Worlds, and I just got the cover back from Matt Morrow. It’s pretty freakin’ sweet.
  • BF0 Fortress of Fear: I’m tinkering with this ghostly themed module to serve as precursor to BF1 Tower of Skulls. I really like the way I’ve got it designed right now, I just need to finish the keyed locations for the fortress itself.
  • BF2 Crypt of Bones: This one is the next module in the LORD OF THE BONE FIELDS series, and I’ve got it mapped out currently. Just need to dive into the details.
  • Blog Post for WK Series: This week I’m hoping to get up a blog post with tips and suggestions for adapting the WRATH OF THE KOBOLDS series to the various campaign settings.
  • Art Contracts for TG1: I’ve got the editor working on TG1, and I hope to get the contracts out for cover and interior art this week. Just like with the WRATH OF THE KOBOLDS Kickstarter, I want to have TG1 done completely before the next Kickstarter launches. Oh yes, there will be another.

Those are the active projects currently taking up my main brain processes!

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 8!

New week, new day, new #RPGaDay 2016 post! On a personal note, this is my last week at my current job – I move on to a new venture next Monday. That’s very exciting, but for this week I anticipate much boredom, as I don’t want to start any projects and I’ve been working on documentation for what I do for the last 6 months. Oh well. More time to work on the next series of modules and new #RPGaDay posts!

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8) Hardcover, softcover, digital? What is your preference?

My answer I think closely hews to other people’s, which is “depends on the book and the need.” I love hardcover books for the most part, and I’ve switched to them for my fiction reading over the past few years. I like the heft and weight of a hardcover novel in my hands, makes it feel somehow more substantial.

For RPG books, I like physical versions AND digital versions. At the table I would always prefer a hard copy of the adventure or sourcebook to reference, but for every other time I’m OK reading on my iPad or a computer. For the physical copy of the RPG book, I actually prefer softcover and spiral-bound, something you don’t find in published materials! Another reason why I want to get a digital copy with my books so that I can have a spiral-bound version made and I don’t have to worry about marking up my original.

Spiral binding allows the book to be laid flat and that is invaluable at the table. I like saddlestitching for the same reason, though having looked into that personally for my own books I can attest why it’s not something you see much of anymore (I guess big printing houses aren’t set up for it cause the cost is outrageous!). On the shelf, though, give me a hardcover RPG book any day of the week. For example, I backed the Kickstarter for Lost City of Gaxmoor at the level to get a hardcover and a softcover version, and on the shelf the hardcover version just looks nicer.

Yeah, I know, it doesn’t actually matter. But still it’s nice to look at!

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 7!

A whole week of daily posts. This is kind of a big deal for me! It’s nice to have something like #RPGaDay to keep up the momentum. Weekends are always the hardest for me as they tend to be the busiest, and while this weekend was no exception I was able to find time in the evenings to get up a new post. And now, on to Day 7!

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7) What aspect of RPGs has had the biggest affect on you?

The biggest draw that keeps me coming back to tabletop RPGs again and again can be summed up in a simple word: storytelling. I love stories, and I love creating and sharing stories. The ability to weave a tale of adventuring glory, of swords and sorcery, and heroic deeds and dastardly villains, with a group of people – often close friends – has had the biggest affect on me on both a personal and professional level.

For, at the end of the day, what do physical things matter? Not much, really. We surround ourselves with material things, and I am certainly no different there – I love collecting books and games of all sorts. But always I try to keep an eye towards how can I use this in a story. For generations and generations, humanity has survived and thrived because we can share stories with one another, whether it’s about a danger that needs to avoided, a lesson to be learned, or about that time the party of heroes broke into Orcus’ palace and stole his wand. These are the things that stick with us long after the dice stop rolling.

Writing a novel or short story scratches this itch, to a certain degree, but in those circumstances I am creating the narrative and responses wholly in my own imagining. Playing an RPG lets me cut loose with some wild ideas and throw them out for other people to react to – did they glom on to the plot hook about the pirate ghosts or did they go “meh”? When the dice start flying and things get dirty, players come up with some amazingly inventive ways to “win” and defeat the bad guys, often taking me completely by surprise. I’ve learned over the years not to pre-judge how I think a combat is going to go, my players always find a way to surprise me (both good and bad!).

This shared storytelling experience is the aspect of RPGs that has affected me the greatest, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s the reason I write modules and adventures, and the reason I belly up to the table week after week.

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 6!

Sheesh! I almost let Saturday slip by without an #RPGaDay post. That wouldn’t do, no siree, that wouldn’t do at all. My goal was to get 31 days of RPG stories and thoughts posted up in August and by golly I’m going to give it the old college try!

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6) Most amazing thing a game group did for their community?

That’s an interesting question. I’m sure there are stories out there about gaming groups coming together to pull for some lofty and noble goal, such as ending world hunger or something, but to be honest none of them over the years have had a lasting impact on me. Certainly my own gaming group hasn’t organized anything amazing for the community – or at least not in any big flashy public event.

I will say this about my own group. In high school, we met every Tuesday and Thursday after school at our local library, Hennepin County Library Westonka Branch. We got to know the librarians, and convinced them to let us use the meeting room on those days, assuming there wasn’t anything already schedule there. It was a fantastic space – lots of table space, lots of chairs, and an environment where we could really be as loud as we wanted. Not that we were super loud, but when you’re facing down demons, dragons, and fiendish traps, the heat of the moment can get pretty exciting.

Because of where we met, we ended up helping out with the library book sales, which were held in the same meeting room so we were out of luck for those weeks. But we would occasionally help setup the tables, get the books laid out, and do our best to give back a little bit to the institution that was so instrumental to our upbringing. I’ll be honest and say for me personally I wish I had done more – looking back I don’t recall a lot of times actually volunteering, which makes me a little disappointed in myself.

Was it amazing? No, but it was something that we were able to do. I do recall helping out the librarian, Bill, that we worked with a lot, doing a lot of small tasks just keeping the library up and running. Again, I’m a bit ashamed that I didn’t step up more. Ah well, can’t change the past right? We can only learn from its mistakes and try to remember the stories.

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 5!

Huzzah! Friday at last! I’ve got a lot of things swirling around, both professionally and personally, but whenever Friday comes I get a sense of hopefulness. I can’t imagine I’m the only one, and for me it’s fitting that my regular gaming group meets on Fridays now. (Summer’s are tough, though.) Let’s dive into another story for #RPGaDay 2016!

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5) What story does your group tell about your character?

Another tough one considering I’m behind the screen for the vast majority of the time. And, when I do play, I actually tend to fade my character in the background and enjoy the scenario, letting it unfold as we move along. The adventure is more interesting than my character for me so my own character moments are not memorable for me.

So I’m going to cheat a bit and use a story about an NPC I created. This goes back to the late 90’s, 97 or 98 I think, when we were running my Cosmic Forge campaign. This was a sprawling epic story ripped directly from Dragonlance, but I filed the serial numbers off and created my own setting, so it was special to us. Early in the campaign, when the characters were roughly 4th level (this was AD&D 2E so levels came slow), the party was captured and thrown into the city jail by the forces of the Red Dragon Highlord.

One of the NPCs I created as a lackey to the Red Dragon Highlord was an elf fighter/mage named Gaelvus Highwind. He was evil to the core, no subtle nuances here, and to show it I had him steal a treasured object from one of the players – a girdle of hill giant strength, the weakest of the giant girdles (Strength 19 it conveyed as I recall) but it was the most valued item held by the elf fighter of the group (Gilthas Oakleaf).

If you want to get a party to hate an NPC, have them steal something like this. The player, and subsequently the rest of the party, hated Gaelvus Highwind with a surprising ferocity. They ended up tracking down the elf fighter/mage, which was coinciding with their tracking of the Red Dragon Highlord, and in the ruins of a mountain stronghold they confronted their hated foe. I think it was Gilthas Oakleaf who faced off against Gaelvus Highwind on the ramparts of the castle while a great battle raged below, the rest of the party focusing on rescuing captured slaves. Gaelvus Highwind was defeated, falling seemingly to his death, and I let Gilthas get his girdle back. (There’s a title for a surreal movie – How Gilthas Got His Girdle Back.)

Of course, Gaelvus Highwind came back, but I think my players still remember the name of that elf fighter/mage who stole something from them.

 

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 4!

Train kept a rollin’, all night long …

That’s how I feel about #RPGaDay even though it’s only day 4, I have to keep up momentum in order to stick with this regular update. Also it keeps me coming back to the Cut to the Chase Games blog which is a good thing. I’ve got a few blog posts started that I’d like to finish up in the near future that relate directly to the WRATH OF THE KOBOLDS series, for now I’ll keep up with these #RPGaDay posts.

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4) Most impressive thing another’s character did?

I’ve had a lot of players pull off some pretty impressive stunts in my games over the years. But an event that’s stuck with me for over 15 years now I would say takes the cake. After attending my first Con of the North (in something like 1998?) with my friends/gaming group, we were all in the mood to throw down some dice and play some D&D. I had picked up a large collection of Spelljammer material (which I had NEVER heard of until then!) but I wasn’t ready to play it. Sailing ships flying through space in crystal spheres with illithids and beholders and neogi … I needed time to process it all!

One of the other things I picked up at that Con of the North was a graph paper pad (a nice one), so with little prep I threw together a map and called Lair of Flame & Fire. It was the volcano home of a tribe of fire giants and the characters, hastily assembled but eager to play, were charged with clearing out the lair. Why? Who knows? I do know that our regular group had a few extra players who had played before but had not with us (due to conflicts, we played on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the public library after school).

Anyway, I had put a very large chamber in the Lair of Flame & Fire with a river of lava cutting through the center. The characters fought a band of fire giants, and though they were triumphant they had taken some hits. One player had been knocked unconscious, and I think it was the cleric, because the party had no other means of reviving the character. The group must have consisted mostly of fighters, rangers, and thieves, because they did not seem to have much mage power behind their next decision.

The party looked at the lava river, which was bout 20 feet across, and were debating on how to get to the other side. I ruled that the lava was about 15 feet down the sides, so they came up with the idea of throwing a javelin with a rope attached and then climbing across it. (Like I said, they didn’t have much magical assistance.) Everyone agreed, but then the question came down to – what about the unconscious character?

One brave player, Nick Oak was his name I think, declared that his character – who had a girdle of giant strength of some type – was strong enough to throw the unconscious character. Everyone else consented, so I had him make an attack roll with the body to hit the safe ground on the other side.

He rolled a 1. The body hit the side of the ledge and slid down into lava, where it was consumed. I laughed so very hard, and I think everyone else did as well (even the player whose character it was that died).

It was a great moment, and one that I think I’ll remember forever. The most impressive moments for me stem from failure!