Tag Archives: roleplaying

5 Tricks for Perfect Portals

This months blog carnival is about gates and portals, the jam to fantasy roleplay’s bread and butter. Let’s throw it open and jump right in!

1. Build Drama

Gates and portals build drama because they have potential. Something behind the lock is forbidden, and by putting a door in the PCs way you’ve wrapped a big pink bow around it. Make sure that whatever is behind the door doesn’t waste that built up tension. When a door is unlocked, the plot should advance.

2. A Level-Up Reward

In the same way, a door can be a prize. If the DC to open a door is too high for the party now, or they need a key, it lets them know that they’ll be coming back later. Give them a hint of what’s behind it to really wet their appetites.

3. A Gate to a New World

Did you ever watch Stargate? I love the idea of stepping into another world. Portals give you limitless options, so use that to really shake things up. Don’t just send the party off to a hotter climate, send them to a different planet where they can truly discover the meaning of the word “alien”.

4. Change it Up

Forget iron-bound doors around every corner. Change it up!
What would a door to the fey realm look like? Would it have wings? Would an earth elemental even bother with doors, or just shape the earth around itself?
What if a door was the reanimated skull of a long dead monster, all too happy to open up wide?

5. The Door is the Journey

Everything comes together when you make the door as much a part of your story as the main NPC or boss monster. Stargate did it well, so here’s a clip.

Remember, every door is a chance to tell a story, so tell thrilling tales.

Fantasy is full of memorable doors and portals. Do you have a favorite? Or one from a campaign? Please tell us about it in the comments.

Flaming Centipedes of Doom!

Adventure, adventure and more adventure. That’s what we have for you today. Fight a flaming centipede on behalf of the Dragon King, challenge the forces of the Abyss on behalf of humanity or build your own epic encounters. All this and more in today’s epic post.

Inspired in Japan
Last week we met with a nasty goblin, and the week before that we fought an oni. This week we have Dragon Kings, singing gold fish and flaming giant centipedes.

My Lord Bag of Rice is a story about a brave samurai who faces off with a giant centipede to save the kingdom of the Dragon King. As a reward, he gets an ever–full bag of rice and earns the title “My Lord Bag of Rice”.

Scene 1, a bridge over a narrow lake, much like Lake Biwa, the original setting for the story. Across the bridge lies an imperial sea dragon, who is looking for a way to rid his kingdom of a giant centipede that invades his lands nightly, killing his children. If the party attacks the dragon, he fights them for a few rounds before extoling them for their great bravery and asking them to join him.

Worm! I shall step over thee!

Scene 2, under the waters of the lake. The dragon invites the party to his underwater palace. As they follow him down, the waters part magically for them, keeping them nice and dry (and saving them from Swim checks). If you need some mechanics for this, you could have the dragon give them a pearl to swallow that surrounds them in a bubble and acts as if he had cast Water Breathing on them for 24 hours.

While in his palace, the Dragon King throws a banquet for the party, with all kinds of fishy creatures serving magnificent dishes or providing entertainment. This needs some thought, because you want to paint the right picture and create a sense of awe and mystery. It’s also going to be a very different game if you have a druid in your party; if you do, this is their chance to really shine.

By the way, if you need some water tiles for this scene, check out our Sea Tiles on Drive Thru RPG.

Scene 3, evening in the underwater palace. The Dragon King alerts the party about the coming centipede, which can be clearly seen coming down the mountain because of its flaming eyes and glowing legs. To keep things simple, use a CR appropriate centipede and keep the fire aspect of it purely cosmetic—this is fantasy, after all.
Pick a map that gives the party some time to rain down missiles on the monster, while it uses its 40 foot speed to come on like a freight train of flailing legs.

For treasure, an appropriately themed and scaled Cornucopia of Plenty could work well at the right level. Otherwise, you could easily make up the treasure quota with bags of rice, a nice bell and bolts of silk.

Treasure!

This adventure has two big monsters, so make sure that the CR of the centipede is the higher of the two. Also, how is this centipede making his way to the Dragon Kings palace? Centipedes don’t swim or breathe underwater right? This is a good opportunity to set up a recurring villain, someone who can cast a few spells to make things happen. This villain doesn’t even need to show themselves yet, giving you a seed for your next big, Japan themed adventure.

Avernos Unearthed
Humans—that self-serving race who do more damage in their short lives than all the minions of the Abyss could in a lifetime of elves. Yet there is some hope, however slim, that this chosen race may realize their place at the head of the coming battle. Pray they do, before it is too late.

Avernos Wiki

Rising Phoenix News
Last week’s post mysteriously disappeared into the netherwebs. We’re blaming it on a kobito ninja server invasion, although it probably has something to do with the auto post not running properly (or that’s what the kobito ninjas want us to think). As a result, you get two posts from me this week, happy reading!

Campaign Journal
Since I’ve been writing a bunch of Pathfinder encounters—four this month—I thought I’d share a little about my creative process. Encounters make up the heart of an adventure, so building great encounters is worth the effort.

First I get a concept. This usually comes from a map or monster that I really like. Specially, I look for an interesting twist that will make for a fun and memorable encounter. Maybe the party has to fight off some orcs, but the orcs are actually fleeing from an owl bear. Maybe that owl bear is a druid trapped in that form because of a failed spell. Maybe the party all get turned into owl bears and get to rampage through the orc camp! Whatever happens, it’ll be better than just fighting a bunch of orcs.

I’ll then calculate APL and set up the encounter. At this stage the concept may change a little. I might find that an owl bear is too challenging for my 1st level solo player, or that I need an orc chieftain to fill out the ranks. Maybe I’ll even have a little wiggle room for a small trap or another monster that will spice up the mix. Maybe that owl bear has a goblin “rider” hanging on for dear life.

Next I’ll set out the encounter in point form, something like this:

  • Orc party (6x orcs) appear up ahead on the forest path. They rush the PCs.
  • Orcs try to get past party, fighting if they must.
  • Five minute breather for party to recoup. If not hit hard, scrap this.
  • Raging owl bear storms down forest path. Screaming goblin (Knuckle ‘Ed, lvl 1 warrior) clutches at its back.
  • Perception checks to notice medallion around owl bears neck.
  • Fight with owl bear. More perception checks to notice medallion.
  • If defeated, PCs find medallion (transmogrifies to an owl bear). Owl bear is actually Gunther Firth (level 4 druid).

The last thing is just to flesh things out. Build NPCs, stat out the traps, decide what treasure will be up for grabs and so on. Rinse and repeat for all the encounters that make up your adventure.

Have fun.

That’s all from me until next week.
Tell Thrilling Tales

Superheroes - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

Names without the Stupid

Making fantasy names is a bit of an art and something that GM’s need to do regularly. I have three methods for creating names that I want to share with you. These I call the History / Attribute Method, the Fermented Method and the Foreign Languages Method.

Memorial Panel by Labattblueboy.

The History / Attribute Method of Name Creation

Places:
Many places get their names from either a prominent feature of the area or from the area’s history. New York was the “new” York and Cape Town was the “town in the Cape”. I like to name my towns in the same way, hence Willowton would be a town with many willow trees, South Fort would be a fort in the south and so on. You might feel that names are too basic when created like this, but you effectively achieve two things: you have an easy to remember name and it’s linked to a fact that adds colour to the location. Hobbiton, from JRR Tolkiens Lord of the Rings, is a good example of this type of name.

In a recent session, my players were passing an area of unmapped land so I had to create something on the fly. I came up with “Gold Bridge”, a pirate port city ruled by the pirate king Duke One Eye. The players never actually entered the town but later I went to my notes and added in some details, including how it got its name. This is an easy way to flesh out your own world one step at a time.

People:
The same can be applied to people, and old Duke One Eye is a good example. Do yourself a favour and watch Hot Fuzz and take note of some of the villagers’ surnames. Names like Thatcher, Cartwright, Cooper and Skinner are all occupations, but can be great links to what the NPC is all about too. Why not have a villain called John Butcher, or an NPC called Mr Slain? This kind of name can say something about the NPC or about the history of the character’s family.

Things:
A magical item can always be named after what it is. The Ring of Speed, the Bow of Death, the Sword of Flame and so on. If we get a little more creative we can take it a step further and call the same items The Quicksilver, The Widowmaker and The Inferno. Add in a little history about the item and we get Quicksilver of the Ancients, The Fallen Widowmaker and Inferno of the Spitting Sands.

The Fermented Method of Name Creation

This method uses several steps. First, take something from your surroundings as inspiration. I have the air conditioning remote near me so I’ll start with Air Con Remote. Now I want to change that to come up with a person’s name, so I’ll change it slightly to become Aaircon Renmot. It’s still too similar, so my next iteration is Aair Renton. Voilà, a person’s name is synthesised from the humble air conditioning remote. This method does take more time and I’d advise  letting your list of names sit for a day or two, just so you can have another go at them when you are in a different frame of mind.

Places:
Try and use changes that will in some way reflect the place you are naming. You might, for example, want something that sounds dwarvish for your dwarven city.

People:
Like in the example of the air conditioning remote, you’ll probably want two parts to the name. You can use different sources of inspiration to create the name. Keep at it until you find a name that fits nicely with the NPC, as it will inspire good role play and help players remember the character. You don’t want “Captain Bunny Slippers” to be the name of your big bad NPC at the end of the quest.

Things:
Things should be pretty easy to name, we could have the Ring of Asusuma (Asthma Inhaler), Sanshasses’ Bow (Sun Glasses) and the Blade of Cruthix (Chopsticks). The point is that you can use anything to create anything, just go with something you feel works for you and your players.

Foreign Languages

Having foreign sounding names may seem important to you, but if you need a name quickly then remember that you could always say something like: “Her name means ‘Silverleaf’ in the elven tongue”. If you have more time to devote to creating names I suggest drawing up a list of names to have handy for when you need them. Don’t forget Google too, there are loads of lists out there for you to scavenge from. Google Translate is particularly helpful for getting names from other languages such as Latin.

Have any great names to share? Leave a comment and let us know.